The Sun News » Broken Tongues - Voice of The Nation Thu, 30 Jul 2015 00:07:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Buhari on honeymoon? Wed, 29 Jul 2015 22:26:20 +0000 Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State, has just alerted us to a hard reality- that is that President Muhammadu Buhari is on honeymoon. Consequently, Tinubu has admonished Nigerians to let Buhari be because he is enjoying a well deserved period of rest after fighting hard to wrest power from the ruling Peoples [...]]]>

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State, has just alerted us to a hard reality- that is that President Muhammadu Buhari is on honeymoon. Consequently, Tinubu has admonished Nigerians to let Buhari be because he is enjoying a well deserved period of rest after fighting hard to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democtratic Party (PDP) and its sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan.
We need not, realistically speaking, fret about the load of excuses wafting out from the government of  Buhari or from those around the corridors of power. They are not, altogether, unexpected. They can only come as a shock to those who built castles on air over the expectations from a Buhari presidency.
The major point of departure between concerned Nigerians and Buhari is his slowness. Nigerians are complaining that the president, like a computer device, is still booting, months after assumption of office. They  are worried that it is taking too long for the lights of the administration to come on. The people had expected Buhari to constitute his cabinet so that his government will take off, but the president will have none of that. He said he will wait until September before he appoints ministers. The president was in the United States trying to justify this position. He told us that even Barack Obama wasted time in forming his cabinet when he was elected president of the United States of America for the first time.
Before then, Buhari was in South Africa where he told his audience that there was a limit to what he could  do at his age. He was, in a sense, telling those who were expecting much from him to climb down from the high horse. He was as frank as possible here. But his lieutenants felt that he made a mistake and decided to twist his true confession out of context. But it did not work. Nobody was taken in by their sophistry. The fact remained, and still remains, that Buhari has confessed to being incapacitated by age.
I do not blame Buhari here. In fact, I excuse him on this score. Age is a great limiter. All of us are witnesses to what age can do to mortals. It robs humans of poise and vitality. Buhari is not an exception. His prime years are long gone. He is tottering to the end of his tether. So it goes without saying that he cannot be as vibrant as he used to be.
Just as Buhari’s media aides complicated his innocuous remarks about his age with their misplaced defence, Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has stepped in to defend Buhari’s slowness and inaction. But he has introduced a comical dimension to what is supposed to be a serious national discourse.  Tinubu said Buhari is on honeymoon. He said the president needs a minimum of 100 days before he can take off. According to Tinubu, that is the norm the world over.
I am tempted to say here that Tinubu was being deliberately jocular on this issue. He set out to trivialize the serious business of statecraft by speaking the way he did. But he almost diverted our attention from the joke that was his intervention when he took us through his excursion on governance and statecraft. We know for a fact, contrary to his assertion, that it is not the norm  for new governments to go on honeymoon for a minimum of 100 days before putting their acts together, irrespective of the way they came into office. The truth of the matter is that any new government, anywhere in the world, that has a plan of action cannot go to sleep for as long as Tinubu will have us believe before waking up to action. Suggestions such as that of Tinubu reduce government  to a joke and an arena for mundane entertainment.
But Tinubu  could not have spoken from the heart. He does not believe what he said. He probably set out to complicate issues the more for Buhari. In fact, I smell mockery in his tone. It is possible that he is mocking Buhari for going it alone; for not making him part of the decision-making process in his administration. Buhari will be the worse for it if he continues to remain on honeymoon in line with Tinubu’s suggestion.
But the real problem with Buhari is not necessarily his slowness. It is the lack of a programme of action. If we excuse him for one, we cannot excuse him for the other. In fact, it is not out of place to say that one is a consequence of the other. Buhari is not practising slowness for the sake of it. He is slow because he has no programme of action. If he has one, he will not keep it in the cooler and go on honeymoon as Tinubu would have us believe.
But those who are making light of Buhari’s inaction must not forget that the president is not on this mission alone. Leadership was thrust upon him by a rebellious cabal partly led by Tinubu. If Buhari fails, the cabal that foisted him on Nigeria also fails.
Having wrested power from Goodluck Jonathan, the cabal must realise that power is not grabbed for its own sake. Power must be put to a useful use. Nigerians who reposed confidence on Buhari on account of his tough posturing as military head of state are expecting him to wrought some magic on the system. Buhari, no doubt, has no magic wand. But his backers, at least, expect a modicum of performance from him.
But that performance, if it will ever come, will be long in coming. It is so because the expectation from Buhari was founded on false grounds.
When he came as military head of state, Buhari cut the image of a social reformer. He took up arms against corruption. But his method was woefully flawed. He engaged in a lot of illegalities in his bid to track down the corrupt. He was not known to have drawn any plan of action. There was no development agenda. He just breathed down on the people. The bravado did not last. Within 20 months, Buhari was shown the way out. But because his regime was cut short by a coup d’état, many felt that the tough-talking, unsmiling military leader would have wrought some magic was he allowed to stay. That was the sympathy that trailed Buhari up to the 2015 elections.
The sympathy for Buhari was heightened by what some Nigerians saw as Jonathan’s complacency. The people complained that corruption was tearing the nation’s soul apart. They lamented that terror was sweeping them away from their homes. Jonathan, to be fair, did a lot to tackle these menaces. But the people felt that his best was not good enough. They said that a certain Buhari who, some 30 or more years earlier, wanted to bring corruption to its knees was the right man for the job. They  also felt that the tough-looking General of the Nigerian Army, though retired, would be in a better position to deal with terror in the land. It was considerations such as these that won for  Buhari the  sympathy of many.
But the stage of sympathy is gone. It is now time for action. Buhari is being looked upon to deliver. The people want their expectations to be met. They want the president to bring down the walls of terror. They want him to stamp out corruption. Can he? Will he? We will get to know when Buhari returns from honeymoon.

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Obasanjo on the South South Thu, 23 Jul 2015 00:20:35 +0000 FORMER president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is not letting up on his derision of the South-South region of Nigeria. When he had cause, in 2013, to write the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, he remarked that Jonathan was behaving as if he was elected into office by his Ijaw ethnic group. He went further to say that Jonathan [...]]]>

FORMER president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is not letting up on his derision of the South-South region of Nigeria. When he had cause, in 2013, to write the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, he remarked that Jonathan was behaving as if he was elected into office by his Ijaw ethnic group. He went further to say that Jonathan might be the only Nigerian president of Ijaw extraction given what he saw as his (Jonathan’s) ethnic disposition.

Since he released that tumultuous open letter to Jonathan, Obasanjo has stopped at nothing in his scathing criticism of Jonathan. As far as Obasanjo is concerned, Jonathan’s performance in office as president of Nigeria was mediocre. It was below average. Many do not agree with Obasanjo on this score. But he has continued to insist on it.

But Obasanjo has gone a step further. He is saying that his low rating of Jonathan is not for him alone. It is for the entire South-south region that produced him. When, a few days ago, Obasanjo spoke as guest lecturer at Benson Idahosa University in Edo State, he remarked that “the performance of Jonathan while in office will haunt the people of the South-south region for a long time to come.” In other words, Jonathan is the face of the South-south. He is the yardstick with which the region can be measured.

Obasanjo’s insistence on Jonathan’s performance as well as his linkage of it to the South South is rooted in history. It is a product of familiar prejudices and shibboleths. We know that the South-South region does not exist, in fact. It is an artificial contraption hobbled together for purposes of administrative convenience. The people that make it up are strange bedfellows. They have no historical or cultural ties with one another. What affects one may not, necessarily, affect the other. They constitute the people that are classified as indigenous peoples of southern Nigeria.

Since the military got consigned to the barracks in line with their constitutional mandate, Nigerians have been taking stock of the damaging effects of military incursion into politics. They have also been working out the arithmetic of which region of Nigeria has ruled for how long. By the time, Obasanjo was leaving office as president in 2007, the South-South was the only region of Nigeria that appeared the most disadvantaged in terms of who had attained the most commanding political height in Nigeria. For this and some other unspoken considerations that best served the interest of Obasanjo, he opted for a South-southerner from the Ijaw ethnic stock to occupy the country’s number two position. The lot fell on Goodluck Jonathan who was then governor of Bayelsa State. Obasanjo and his cohorts did that to compensate the minorities of southern Nigeria.

However, chance was to play a role in the political equation. Umaru Yar’Adua, whom Jonathan was serving under as vice president, died. An opportunity had presented itself to Jonathan. He became the president. The scenario suggested that those who gave the southern minorities the chance to get to that level should go the whole hog by electing Jonathan as president. The idea was to compensate them for their life-long association and support for the northern power brokers who had always held sway in Nigeria.

By this token, Jonathan’s presidency was not borne out of the struggle or sweat of the South- South region. It was a compensation; a mere concession. To a large extent, therefore, Jonathan was in office at the pleasure of those who made it possible in the first place for him to become the vice president and, eventually, the president. In this regard, those who threw up Jonathan believe, rightly or wrongly, that his failure or success must, inextricably, be tied to his people and his region. His emergence was also a way of saying to the people of the South-South: We have given you the chance to occupy the office of president. So, you will have no justification to complain again about being shut out from the commanding heights of Nigerian politics.

Going by this overview, it becomes easy to see why Jonathan faced a tough challenge of reelection. Those who made him felt that the southern minorities had taken their turn. One term in office was considered enough for them. After all, their benefactors reasoned, they did not struggle to get to the presidency. It was a mere award. They should, therefore, be content with what they got.

Jonathan has since left office without a whimper. He has retired into a private, peaceful life. His South-South region is not complaining. The people raised no voice of protest against the gang-up that saw Jonathan out of the presidency. Their disposition is worse than that of a defeated people. A conquered people can, at least, show signs of fatigue after a tortuous struggle. They can, at least, display anger and disappointment. They are entitled to depression. But you cannot see any of these in the disposition of the people of the South-south. They seem not to care a hoot about Jonathan’s ouster. This, to a large extent, confirms our earlier suggestion that the people of the region have this disposition because there is nothing binding them together.

But Obasanjo seems to be interested in drawing their attention to what they never thought about. They never imagined that Jonathan’s performance, whether good or bad, would be linked to them. They also never realised that they should have rallied round Jonathan when it mattered most. They left him as a political orphan. He had nobody to intercede or intervene for him. That may partly explain why Jonathan threw in the towel. A General does not go to battle without troops. Jonathan had no troops. So, he had to back out of the imminent crisis that loomed large in the horizon.

Since Obasanjo believes that Jonathan failed, he would have the people of the South-South believe that they failed. But there is something sinister about Obasanjo’s insistence on forcing this point of view down the throat of the people of the South-South. Obasanjo wants to associate them with the stigma of failure and non-performance. He also wants to associate them with complacency and low acumen. The whole idea is to stigmatise them in this way so that they will not, in future, seriously lay claim to the office of the president.

But before Obasanjo diverts our attention from the facts of the matter, somebody needs to remind him that he is not in a good position to assess Jonathan. As the president of Nigeria, Obasanjo’s performance was not sterling. Nobody has ever associated Obasanjo tenure with any glorious achievement. When, for instance, people accuse the PDP of wasting Nigeria’s 16 precious years, they are invariably pointing fingers at Obasanjo who alone spent eight of the 16 years. The problem here is that Obasanjo is talking without listening. He should come off that grandstanding especially in the light of the fact that Jonathan is not even responding to his diatribe.

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The fury that never was Thu, 16 Jul 2015 00:32:52 +0000 ONE of the stories making the rounds at mo­ment is the signal of distress, which former militants who operate under the umbrella of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) recently sent to President Mu­hammadu Buhari. The ex-militants want the president to intervene in their plight. Essen­tially, they want Mr. President to [...]]]>

ONE of the stories making the rounds at mo­ment is the signal of distress, which former militants who operate under the umbrella of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) recently sent to President Mu­hammadu Buhari. The ex-militants want the president to intervene in their plight. Essen­tially, they want Mr. President to use his good offices to ensure that the beneficiaries of the presidential amnesty programme are not left in the lurch. Their major worry is that the al­lowances of their members, home and abroad, which may have been suspended under the new political dispensation, are not being paid to them. They want a bailout in the same way the president bailed out the distressed states of the federation. They also want the president to sustain the amnesty programme and save them from imminent penury.

But we can hardly make good sense of the present beggarliness of MEND without remind­ing ourselves of its combativeness and audacity in the recent past. We must recall that MEND was one of the Niger Delta militant groups that took to sabre rattling in the build-up to the 2015 general elections. Of course, the most petulant of them all was the Niger Delta People’s Vol­unteer Force led by Mujahideen Asari Dokubo. The Niger Delta groups spoke in unison about their expectations from Nigerians. They wanted Goodluck Jonathan to be reelected as the presi­dent of Nigeria. Theirs was not an appeal. It was peremptory. They demanded it. They threatened that if Jonathan, their kinsman, was not re­elected, Nigeria should expect a recrudescence of militancy in the Niger Delta. They had no apologies. Jonathan’s reelection was, for them, a condition that must be met if Nigeria must witness peace in the years ahead.

The belligerent disposition of the Niger Delta groups did not go unnoticed. Nigerians squirmed with discomfort over their threat. Concerned Nigerians were ill at ease with it. Some Nigerians in the mould of TY Danjuma even asked for the arrest of the Niger Delata elements that were threatening the peace of the country. Danjuma was, however, shouted down, owing to his selective application of the rules governing peaceful coexistence. He was reminded that some northerners like Ango Abdullahi, Junaid Mohammed, Isa Kaita and Adamu Ciroma had promised Nigerians blood and sorrow if Jonathan was reelected. When these northern elements spoke, Danjuma was probably in a trance. When he woke up with the condemnation of the threat from the Niger Del­ta, he was quickly reminded that he was mak­ing an illicit jump. He could not gloss over one infraction and take absolute note of the other. That was our point of departure with Danjuma and we promptly told him so.

In the face of the reckless threats from the North and the Niger Delta, many Nigerians thought that the country would explode and even cease to exist in line with the 2005 pre­diction from the United States’ National Intel­ligence Council. But the election, in spite of the predictions and projections, has since been won and lost. Its outcome shows that the Niger Delta militants did not have their way. Jonathan was not reelected. The Isa Kaitas, the Junaid Mohammeds and the Ango Abdullahis won the bait while the Asari Dokubos of this world and his Niger Delta forces and sympathisers lost out.

Surprisingly, Jonathan’s loss came without a whimper. It was as if nothing happened. Nige­rians were even surprised at the turn of events. They could not understand why nobody raised eyebrows about the fall of a serving president. Where could his supporters have gone to? What about the region or ethnic group that produced him? It was such a surprise that Jonathan’s de­feat ushered in a new era of peace and tranquil­ity in Nigeria.

But analysts have since concluded that it would have been the other way round had Jona­than been declared winner. Their verdict is that the northern elements, who threatened fire and brimstone would have carried out their threat if power did not return to their region. There would have been sporadic riots and killings across the length and breath of the North. The uprising would have been spontaneous. It was already programmed to be so. But it never took place because an incumbent president, obvious­ly, was not prepared for the backlash and, there­fore, chose to make himself a sacrificial lamb.

In the face of the cold, if not cowardly re­sponse that we have witnessed from the Niger Delta, many have had to wonder why things are the way they are. In the bid to situate the true state of affairs, some have had to submit that Jonathan, as president of Nigeria, created room for his ouster out of intimidation. The argument here is that the North harassed him to submis­sion. They also point to the attacks and tackles hurled at Jonathan by former president, Oluse­gun Obasanjo. Even the anti-Jonathan remarks and verdicts that wafted out from the interna­tional community were not left out. They all co­alesced to give the Jonathan Presidency a poor outlook in the eyes of the world.

But then, there was a counter to all of this. Jonathan had on his side tough- talking lieuten­ants and acolytes who fought his wars. Beyond that, there was a counter fury from the Niger Delta. Jonathan’s kinsmen charged at those they saw as conspirators. They said the Ijaw nation would not allow one of their own to be hounded out of office.

They said they would resist any attempt to intimidate or harass Jonathan in the bid to have him give up on the Presidency.

But that was as far as it went. Jonathan’s presidency caved in before their very eyes. And there was no whimper. No outcry. Then people began to wonder. What could have happened to all the tough talk? When and how did the fire from the militants turn into a cold, impotent ash so much so that the militants are already grovel­ing on their belly to seek favour from the Buhari that they despised to no end just a few months ago? Indeed, how did Jonathan and his kinsmen turn into a bubble, which does not require any effort to burst?

The absolute lack of response from Jona­than’s kinsmen to the outcome of the elections provokes an engaging discourse on Nigeria. The militants melted into thin air contrary to the expectation of most Nigerians. Some observers have said that they merely responded to Jona­than’s body language. They hold that Jonathan disappointed his kinsmen when he created room for Attahiru Jega, chairman of the electoral commission, to manipulate figures against him. They did not understand why a sitting president should be powerless before a man he appointed into office. The feeling of disappointment is said to be so telling among Jonathan’s sympathisers from the Niger Delta that they decided to let the sleeping dog lie.

The bottom line of all this is that the hazy, furious atmosphere which once held sway in the Niger Delta region has dissipated into thin air. It is a fury that never was.

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Why are we not talking about Jega? Wed, 08 Jul 2015 23:41:26 +0000 Nigeria has just witnessed an election in which so much happened. It was an elec­tion in which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was dislodged by the new opposition al­liance, called the All Progressives Congress (APC). The result was that the incumbent president lost power to the opposition candidate. It was an earth-shaking development, which [...]]]>

Nigeria has just witnessed an election in which so much happened. It was an elec­tion in which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was dislodged by the new opposition al­liance, called the All Progressives Congress (APC). The result was that the incumbent president lost power to the opposition candidate. It was an earth-shaking development, which kept analysts and observers awake for weeks on end. They tried to situ­ate the development. They explained why the unusual happened. They are still doing so to this day.

But no matter what anybody may have to say, the victory of the opposition, in whatever way it was procured, is an un­common development in these shores. It was brought about by a combination of factors many of which have been dissected and situated.

But a very significant omission in our analysis and appraisal of the outcome of the 2015 general elections is the place of Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the elec­toral commission, in all this. It is strange that we are not talking about the conduct or performance of a man that conducted the election that brought about a radical displacement of the old order and, conse­quently, altered Nigeria’s political trajec­tory.

Until we were saddled with Jega in 2010, heads of our electoral commissions had been objects of close attention and in­tense scrutiny. We can do with two notori­ous instances.

Prof Humphrey Nwosu, the man that conducted the June 12 presidential elec­tions of 1993, has been as controversial as the election itself. As our memory of June 12 endures, so does our verdict on the role of Nwosu in the high drama lin­ger. Prof Nwosu was necessarily central to the twists and turns of June 12 and Nige­rians never failed to say so. Today, many credit him for conducting an election they consider the freest and fairest in the his­tory of Nigeria. I have always sneered at such verdict for reasons I will not bother to go into here. Suffice it to say, however, that Nwosu’s role in the June 12 election remains a major area of focus whenever that election is being discussed.

Then there is the recent case of Prof Maurice Iwu, who conducted the equally controversial elections of 2007. The 2007 elections was significant in its own way. It was the first time that Nigeria transited from one democratically elected govern­ment to another. The election that made this possible was a watershed. Iwu had a sense of elation that he was able to achieve that feat. He felt much more so consider­ing the fact that there were powerful forces that did not want that election to hold. Iwu braved the odds and ushered in a new order in Nigeria through the elections. Yet there was a cacophonous outcry in certain quar­ters against the man. Those who felt he got it wrong have never let up. They are still up in arms against him. The result is that Iwu was and has remained central to any analysis or dissection of Nigeria’s 2007 elections.

But we cannot say the same thing of the 2015 exercise, an election whose outcome will remain a major talking point in Nige­ria’s political discourse for many years to come. While we saturate the political space with issues, bordering on the unexpected ouster of Goodluck Jonathan and the en­thronement of Muhammadu Buhari, we say little or nothing about the role of Jega in the electoral coup that ended the 16-year rule of the PDP. Rather than see him as the key­note in the symphony to which the strange melody will always return, we treat him as a mere footnote in the book of intrigues that showed Jonathan the exit gate to power.

But our omission of Jega in the just con­cluded national drama may not be exactly deliberate. It is informed by two related factors, namely, the willful ouster of an incumbent president and the unexpected takeover of the reins of governance by the opposition. These two developments are so uncommon that their occurrence seems to have dwarfed any other issue that the elec­tion may have thrown up. In the frenzy that greeted the unlikely fall of Jonathan and the rise of an APC government, we forgot how all this came about. In our misplaced excite­ment, we lost sight of the fact that beyond the campaigns and the qualities or lack of it of the candidates, it was Jega’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that prepared the script that was read on Elec­tion Day.

Let us quickly remind ourselves of the key components of the Jega script that forms the basis of the story we are regurgitating today.

We saw through Jega’s smokescreen before the elections took place. He gave us a voters register that gave the North an overwhelming numerical advantage over the South. His distribution of voters cards was also decidedly lopsided in favour of the North. In all this, men and women of good­will shouted their voices hoarse, but Jega and his commission maintained a studied silence.

The same Jega created additional poll­ing units and allocated over 70 per cent of them to the North. When he was buffeted with scathing criticisms, he changed the no­menclature to something else. But he ended up achieving the same objective. That was Jega, the pretensious intellectual whom Ni­gerians gave a chance, even when his inad­equacies were too glaring to be ignored.

In 2011, for instance, Jega bungled the very first election he was to handle. National Assembly elections were underway across the country. But the problem of logistics was too telling on that day. Many polling centres had no materials to work with. It was as if Jega woke up that morning to announce the conduct of the elections. Evidence of ill pre­paredness were implanted all over the coun­try. Then, the unexpected announcement came. The elections of that day had been cancelled. You expected Nigerians to be shocked. But they were not. They gave Jega the chance and benefit of doubt they never gave his predecessor, Maurice Iwu.

It was this indulgence Jega enjoyed with Nigerians that he carried to 2015. He cashed in on the goodwill of the people and ended up taking undue liberties. By the time the elections came, Jega had en­trenched his tactic of numerical lopsided­ness. What he did on Election Day was to take it to its logical conclusion. The southern states, to which he allocated lean voting figures, were inflicted with more disadvantage on the day of the elec­tion. He ensured the allocation of insuf­ficient voting materials to them.

Then the card readers, which he made a fetish of, failed abysmally. They were not used in a number of places. What obtained instead were freestyle thumb-printing and ballot box stuffing. At the end of the day, figures were hobbled to­gether to produce predetermined results. Yet the card readers are being bandied about today as one of Jega’s innovations and achievements at INEC.

The high point of the elaborate cha­rade took place in Kano State where over two million people voted. There was no insufficiency of electoral materials. Vot­ing was smooth through and through. At the end of the exercise, Jega allocated 1.9 million votes to Buhari, leaving Jonathan with 200,000 votes. That was the way figures were shamelessly manipulated to give us the result of the 2015 presidential elections.

Going by who we are and the way we treat matters of this nature, Jega ought to come under fire for this brazen manipula­tion of figures. He ought to be condemned for giving us forgery in the name of an election. But nobody is talking about that. Jega has been left out in our analysis and dissection of the 2015 elections.

But the reason for this omission is not far to seek. The attention of Nigerians is focused more on the toppling of an in­cumbent president. It has never happened before in their shores and they seem overwhelmed by it all. The frenzy that greeted the development has obviously made every other issue pertaining to the election pale into insignificance. Jega is, therefore, lost in action. He is enjoying a convenient escape. Jega may have retired from INEC, but it will be foolhardy for him to expect that history will not re­member him for his actions. In the full­ness of time, the story of his transgres­sions at INEC will be told.

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Salary palaver: Nigerians, what happened? Wed, 01 Jul 2015 23:43:01 +0000 BY IKEDI OHAKIM “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (James 5:4). The hallmark transition of Nigeria from one democratically elected administra­tion to another is a thing worth celebrating but this [...]]]>


“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” (James 5:4).

The hallmark transition of Nigeria from one democratically elected administra­tion to another is a thing worth celebrating but this celebration of “CHANGE” has been tainted by the salary palaver. For, regard­less of the rising democratic profile of our great country, which has earned her no mean admiration from the rest of the world, her economic prospects at the moment are prob­ably at the lowest ebb in the history of her existence.

Last count, arrears of unpaid wage bills across the thirty-six states of the federation plus the federal government itself was report­edly put at over N150 billion while the con­struction industry alone is being owed over N600 billion for jobs already completed. A tale of getting and spending gone wrong?

If we must refresh our memory, the global economic meltdown between 2008 and 2010 had an adverse effect on our economy. The demand of our crude oil, our main source of foreign exchange till date, fell. The price of crude in the international market also fell as low as US$38 per barrel. This meant that states were receiving less money from the federal allocation.

Between 2011 to 2014, however, Nigeria entered into another cycle of oil boom like we had between 1970 – 77. The price of crude within this period (2011 – 2014) aver­aged US$105 per barrel. On sighting the oil boom, many of our political leaders at the state level started doubling the size of their government houses, town halls and confer­ence centres. Some commenced the building of general hospitals in every electoral ward. Cost-centred projects along highways sprang up like mushroom. The organised labour took it from there and commenced the usual struggle, leading to massive increase in sal­ary of workers across the country.

Today, none of the states is able to pay salary of workers. So, what happened? The answer is simple: We mismanaged the boom that was witnessed between 2011 and 2014. We forgot Keynes’s central dictum, which admonishes that: “The boom, not the slump, is the time for auster­ity”. We failed to save during that period. In­stead, we went on spending spree on most­ly populist projects without economic value in order to earn “groundless applause” from the people. To put it in a more familiar par­lance, nobody thought of the rainy day. Most of the states that cannot pay salaries today were only a few months ago showcas­ing their numerous “achievements” on na­tional TV. Now, the bubble has burst.

In addition to non-payment of salaries, contractors are not being paid, leading to the ongoing layoff of more than 60 per cent of construction industry workers. A polity that has more than 5 per cent of its youths unemployed but with their parents now without salary is not only a time bomb, it is also a harmattan fire. When it starts, it spares no one. It destroys everything it casts its glance on.

It is a fact that cannot be over-laboured that most state treasuries are lean due to reasons we need not go into here. Some stakeholders have chosen to characterise the situation with the phrase “empty treasury”. But my view is that we should downplay that ascription because both in content and form, the phrase “empty treasury” does not portray a true understanding of fiscal practice in a democracy.

Even where an outgoing administration leaves behind some money, it does not amount to free money to be spent because ideally, such funds are already committed to ongoing projects. And the moment the new administra­tion puts such funds into something else, there is a big problem.

Let me illustrate this with a personal experience. My administration as governor of Imo State,for example, left the sum of over N26.6 billion by the time we handed over on May 29, 2011. Of this amount, N13.3 bil­lion was the balance from Imo Development bond, which was earmarked for projects that were ongoing by the time we left office. Unfor­tunately, the new administration saw the N26.6 billion as money that was there for spend­ing and went on a binge: It embarked mostly on cost-centred projects, such as first lady’s office complex, new multi-purpose hall, new exco chambers, new international conference centre, over 80 road projects, 27 brand new general hospitals and the building of squares and roundabouts, etc. while abandoning the uncompleted projects left by us. The result today is that in most cases, neither the new projects nor the old ones for which those funds were initially earmarked have been completed.

This can be corroborated by the new administration’s press release in the Daily Sun of Wednesday, January 23, 2013, in which the state’s Commissioner of Fi­nance was quoted as saying that “the previous administration of Ikedi Ohakim had secured a bond of N18 billion for capital projects, such as roads, water and Oguta Wonder Lake, but when we came to power, we decided to prioritise our projects. Out of the N18 billion that was secured, about N6 billion had been spent and we met only N12.5 billion and we convened a meeting of all stakeholders and got their approval to approach SEC to change the use of the fund.”

The report further stated that the Commis­sioner disclosed that “the balance of the bond proceeds were channeled into critical areas of infrastructure development, such as the building of 305 classroom blocks, building of ultra-modern general hospitals in the 27 local government areas of the state and construction of vital roads across the local government ar­eas, informing that works were currently going simultaneously in the various communities.”

It is this penchant for mismatching funds that has led to non-payment of salaries and abandonment of projects, which has be­come the rule rather than the exception. In my view, it is high time we took deliberate steps to tackle the issue of abandonment of projects started by previous administrations by new ones. It is evil and it is a major root cause of our economic calamity. It leads to nothing but wasting of resources.

Abandoning projects started by a preceding administration is a product of the “what did you achieve mentality”. This mentality makes it almost impossible for a new administration to think rationally. Instead of completing proj­ects that will have huge multiplier effects, new administrations merely go for quick wins by duplicating mini road, electricity, water projects, brick and mortar structures, etc., which it can quickly complete in order to earn immediate applause from the people, who are not in position to understand the tragedy of such idiosyncrasies. According to Talmud: “It is not up to you to finish the work. But you are not free to desist from it”.

If we do not act fast, non-payment of salaries may assume the status of official policy. It is something that we must stand up against in Nigeria. It leads to economic and social calamity. I call on the legislature to come up with a bill, stipulating that salaries not paid as at when due should attract interest on prevailing bank rate until paid. Salaries should be a first line charge for both the federal, state and local governments.

Quite often, you would hear some state governors pride themselves for not borrow­ing money from banks, even while they owe their civil servants several months of arrears of salaries in addition to non-payment to contractors for jobs duly done. By not paying workers and contractors, the govern­ment is indirectly borrowing from them without paying interest.

This notwithstanding, I do not agree with the view that only the state govern­ments are responsible for the current cri­sis. Let me also state that it is not also true that state governors merely cart away the funds into their private pockets. Such a blanket view is dangerous because it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us to look at the issue through the proper politi­cal prism.

There are suggestions to the effect that government should embark on austerity measures and even sack workers. This is dangerous. On the contrary, what we need is more spending that would arise from a well-articulated economic stimulus package for the states and local governments. But since the federal government itself is also in a financial distress, it means that the country should source for funds externally once the necessary caution is applied. The funds so sourced will then be directed at stimulat­ing economic activities through increased spending.

Now is the time for the government to spend more, not less, until such a time that the private sector will be in the position to stimulate the economy. On the whole, there is something we cannot run away from: The arrears of salaries owed civil servants across the states must not only be paid but also measures put in place to make non-payment of salaries a thing of the past. It is evil and it needs no emphasis to state that non-payment of salaries poses the biggest threat to our democracy.

  • Ohakim was governor of Imo State (2007-2011).
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Buhari spoke from the heart Wed, 24 Jun 2015 23:32:35 +0000 We need not blame the publicity arm of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which laboured the other day to explain away Presi­dent Muhammadu Buhari’s soulful confession on the toll age has taken on him. We also do not need to tease our brains over the treatise on age, which the president’s media aides came up [...]]]>

We need not blame the publicity arm of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which laboured the other day to explain away Presi­dent Muhammadu Buhari’s soulful confession on the toll age has taken on him. We also do not need to tease our brains over the treatise on age, which the president’s media aides came up with in the bid to situate an otherwise unambiguous statement from the heart. They are normal interventions expected of those whose responsibil­ity it is to give the president, any president, an acceptable and tolerable image in the eyes of the public.

But the snag here is that Buhari did not ask to be defended. He did not bargain for the extraneous, even ingenious, interpreta­tions being foisted on his statement. He meant what he said and must have been embarrassed to no end, albeit inwardly, reading or listening to the new mean­ings that have been imposed on his true confession. As someone who is not given to pretences, Buhari must be wondering what the terminological drama is all about. He must be wondering whether that is what media or public relations is all about. But he appears to be learning fast the art of twisted interpretations. That is why he told State House Correspondents on the first day of his assumption of duty at the Presidential Villa that he brought one of their own – the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity – to defend him against the media. The president has come to believe that this whole thing is about defence. So, he can say whatever he wants to say or do whatever appeals to him and wait to be defended by his media aides. That is the impression his statement conveys. I am afraid that the president’s imagination is being corrupted too fast.

But let us return to the issue before us. It is true that a strange sophistry may have been brought to bear on Buhari’s state­ment. But the fact remains that the man meant what he said, that is, that there is a limit to what he can do at the age of 72. He spoke from the abundance of his heart. When he stepped out to contest elec­tion to the office of the president for the fourth time, he was not driven by youthful energy. He had none and could not be expected to have such energy at his age. He was driven, in the main, by unfulfilled dreams.

We must recall that 31 years before now, Buhari strutted on the Nigerian land­scape with a heavy load of idealism. He had struck as a coup plotter, ousting the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He said he came to make a difference, to right the wrongs of the Shagari administra­tion. But Buhari, as Mustapha Jokolo, the deposed Emir of Gwandu, and one of his allies in the coup d’état of December 31, 1983, has told us, did not know what to do with the power in his hands. He had no agenda, no blueprint. The result was that the regime sauntered aimlessly until it was toppled 20 months after by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Ever since, Buhari has been ill at ease with the Nigerian situation. He has always felt that there was something that he left un­done. That explains his fanatical disposition towards the quest for the presidency. But in the course of the long walk to the presiden­cy, so much happened. The most telling is his confrontation with age. The passage of time has stolen the fire in him. He wished he attained his present height earlier.

Besides, Buhari is constrained by a number of other factors. When the plot to remove Goodluck Jonathan from office thickened and it became evident that Buhari would become the beneficiary if the plot succeeded, a lot was done to change the Buhari persona. Efforts were made to wean him of his military and impatient disposi­tion. He was reminded, behind closed doors, that he was coming back not as a military dictator but as a civilian president, who must subject himself and his office to the rule of law. There had been occasions when Buhari wanted to be his true self. But those who insisted on having him wear a new im­age would not let him. They kept managing his temper and temperament. All this had a sobering influence on the man.

That explains why he is not in a hurry. He does not want to take any action that will give him away. He does not want something that will remind Nigerians of who he was. The way things stand, Buhari may not care a hoot if his second coming brings about a difference or not. Seeking to make a dif­ference will be too complex an exercise for him. It will pit him against vested interests. Buhari, obviously, cannot afford such incon­venience at his age.

Buhari also does not want to overreach himself. That may also explain his relaxed disposition towards the imbroglio at the National Assembly. Whereas those who still have the energy for politics are jostling and insisting that their preferred candidates must occupy certain positions, Buhari is relaxed about it all. He has expressed his readiness to work with the leadership that has emerged at the National Assembly. That is the new Buhari. He can do without avoid­able stress and hangups.

When, therefore, Buhari alluded to the constraints he suffers on account of his age, he was not making an alibi for possible fail­ure. He merely wanted to prepare the minds of those who are expecting so much from him to come off their mental flights and face reality. That reality is that he has no magic wand. He has not come to reinvent the wheel, contrary to the idealism that per­vades the camp of many of his supporters.

It is, in fact, reassuring that Buhari is freeing himself from baggage. Whereas he and his party, the APC, may have left many Nigerians with the impression that the Buhari presidency would change the country’s economic landscape for the better, the reality before us is that it may not be so. Let us recall that one of the campaign points of the APC was the strength of the Naira in the foreign exchange market. The party said that the Nigerian currency would exchange for N400 to one dollar if the PDP was not relieved of the burden of the presidency. But nothing has changed in that regard since the APC took over. If anything, the Naira is on a steeper slide. Buhari has since come to terms with the fact that he cannot enact a decree to bring about an acceptable exchange rate between the Naira and other major currencies.

Indeed, Buhari does not want to try his hands on the voodoo economics of his first coming when, instead of letting the currency to depreciate in the face of trade deficit, he tried to fix prices and banned the importation of goods that he consid­ered unnecessary. He also does not want to take steps that would look like what he did as military Head of State when he expelled 700,000 migrants in the hope that that would create jobs for Nigerians. The new Buhari does not want to take such precipitate steps again. That is why he is taking it easy. That is also why he is speaking to us from the heart. He is simply saying it as it is.


Elder Ekeoma at 55

It has not been long that I came in contact with Elder Ekeoma Eme Ekeoma, the chairman of Nepal Oil and Gas Ltd. But what struck me was not his exploits in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil economy where he has made appreciable impact.

I was also not attracted to him on ac­count of his being a ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, having been so ordained since 1995. Rather, what struck me was his sense of patrio­tism. He is a good-spirited Nigerian, who shares the passion of those who want Ni­geria to be rescued from the stranglehold of undeveloped hearts who have been championing ethnic hate and intolerance.

As someone who interfaces with Ni­gerians, mostly in the upper and middle class, I know pretty well the disposition of most Nigerians on issues of national importance. Elder Ekeoma is one of the few that I trust with the ways and means that can take Nigeria to where we want it to be.

Today, this Nigerian patriot, philan­thropist and servant of God is marking 55 years of eventful life. I join Elder Ekeoma’s teeming admirers in wish­ing him many happy returns of the day. May your days be long. Happy Birthday, Elder.


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Tale of rosy cheeks Wed, 17 Jun 2015 23:00:08 +0000 In recent weeks, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, the deposed emir of Gwan­du, has been speaking on the second coming of Muhammadu Buhari, as Nigeria’s president. He is elated by the development. He believes that Buhari’s emergence at this point in time is the best thing that can happen to Nigeria. Jokolo, a retired army officer, we [...]]]>

In recent weeks, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, the deposed emir of Gwan­du, has been speaking on the second coming of Muhammadu Buhari, as Nigeria’s president. He is elated by the development. He believes that Buhari’s emergence at this point in time is the best thing that can happen to Nigeria.

Jokolo, a retired army officer, we must recall, was the ADC to General Buhari as Nigeria’s Head of State. He was among the officers that staged the coup that ousted the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as Nigeria’s president. He (Jokolo) was, therefore, in the inner workings of the military regime that Buhari headed between January 1984 and August 1985. That being the case, it should be taken for granted that Jokolo knows the Buhari he is talking about.

But it does appear that Jokolo, in his present assessment of Buhari, glossed over what he earlier said was the bane of Buhari’s military regime. The proper thing to have done would have been for Jokolo to remind Buhari of the past so that the General would take steps in his second coming to overcome those disabilities.

Let us take Jokolo back to 2008 and what he had to say then about Buhari and his 20-month regime. In an interview he granted to THE SUN, which was pub­lished on May 31, 2008, Jokolo held that Buhari’s military government collapsed like a pack of cards, 20 months after it came into being, due to lack of vision. The regime, Jokolo said, had no blueprint. It had no programme. “By the time we took over government, we did not know what to do with the government,” Jokolo said. Going by Jokolo’s declaration, it should be taken to mean that the coup d’état that ushered in the Buhari regime was staged for the sake of it. It was a product of exu­berance. Those who planned and executed it had no good reason for their action. They were driven by sheer instinct and the spirit of adventure.

Ideally, you would think that those who seek change should have good reasons for doing so. Change is not a mantra. It should be predicated on an assumed or presumed superior thinking or agenda. You need to be convinced that what you seek to offer is a viable alternative before rail roading the unwary into it. The Buhari military regime, as revealed by Jokolo, fell short of this basic requirement.

According to Jokolo as well, inexpe­rience and exuberance led the Buhari government to set up the military tribunals that jailed people hundreds of years. It also led to the execution of alleged drug barons by the same government. Jokolo concluded that all this took a heavy toll on the popularity rating of the government. Bad publicity had to set in and the result was the early fall of the government. In the view of the deposed emir, Buhari’s regime would have lasted longer than it did if it had a pro­gramme of action and if it did not take those actions that pitted it against the people.

If Nigeria were to be a clime where people have the courage to live by their convictions, what Jokolo would be do­ing today will be to draw the attention of President Buhari to the drawbacks that led to his fall 30 years ago. The objective will be to ensure that the same man does not repeat the mistakes of the past. But Jokolo has not done this. He is, instead, trying to present us with a new man without a past. He seems to have forgotten his reservations and disappointments about the government he served three decades ago. But we know that Jokolo could not have forgotten. He is only engaging in deliberate amnesia in order to give the impression that all is well. But Buhari does not need such tale of rosy cheeks. What he needs are the facts of the matter. Situations should be presented to him as they really are.

But Jokolo is not alone in this tale of convenience. There are quite a number of Nigerians who pretend to love Buhari and whatever he stands for not because that is truly the case, but because we have a culture of falsification. We are given to jumping unto the bandwagon of victory. It does not matter how the victory was procured. It does not also matter whether we believed in whatever led to that victory in the first place or not. The truths or lies we tell are determined by convenience. We do not face facts as they are.

Seven years ago, for instance, Jokolo was forthright enough in his assessment of Buhari and the regime he ran. Today, the best Jokolo can do for Buhari is not to pretend to him about the past, but to be bold and courageous to present issues to him about their past. Such forthrightness and candour will help to shape Buhari and his present civilian regime.

However, since Jokolo has chosen to sidestep the issues, I feel constrained to go into the archives to unearth his previous convictions about Buhari. This is especially necessary given the indications that Buhari, if not properly guided, will slip into the same inertia and disrepute that saw to his fall in 1985.

Three clear weeks after he took over from Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari is yet to tell Nigerians what his plans for the country are. He is yet to roll out his agenda. There is, as yet, no blueprint for Nigeria’s reformation. Concerned Nigerians are feeling ill at ease with this state of affairs. They are asking why. This is especially so because Buhari came with a lot of promise. His party, the All Progressives Congress, harped a lot on change during the electioneering campaigns that brought Buhari to power. Now that the much advertised change has come, Nigerians are eager to see it translated into action. The people want to see the content of this change. They are worried, indeed apprehensive, that in 1985, the coup d’état, which brought Buhari to power ended up being a coup carried out for its own sake. It served no purpose. Buhari was busy trying to whip Nigerians into line when the clock began to tick inexorably towards his ouster. Buhari, probably, did not realise that there was more to government than a mere queue culture. In the absence of a programme of action, those who removed him from office had no difficulty justify­ing their action.

Is history about to repeat itself 30 years down the line? Is the change mantra which brought Buhari to power going to end up as a mere slogan? This is the worry of those who want Buhari to make hay. Since morning usually shows the day, Buhari’s enthusiasts and non-enthu­siasts alike are looking forward to those promises he flashed at them.

During the campaigns, for instance, Buhari said that he would, if voted into office, ensure that the price of crude in the international oil market rises ap­preciably. Those who know the dynamics of the world’s oil economy had a good laugh. They wondered whether Buhari was OPEC. He thought it was a Nigerian affair. He even thought that the problem was that of the PDP government of Presi­dent Jonathan. That was why he made it a campaign issue. In the same vein, Buhari promised to ensure that the Naira and the Dollar will almost be at par in the foreign exchange market. He was quick to say that then because the the value of the Naira was falling at the time owing largely to the exigencies of the period. Significantly, we are yet to see anything different in these two areas weeks after Buhari’s take-over.

But those who have very elastic sym­pathies for Buhari are asking the rest of us to tarry a while. They are suggesting that Buhari’s observed slowness is a fac­tor of age and time. They are saying that the Buhari, who left office 30 years ago, is no longer the exuberant officer who did not care a hoot about what anybody thought or did not think about him. They are saying that the man is being mind­ful of what he does or plans to do. That he wants to weigh his decisions before translating them into action. This, they say, is largely responsible for his present slow pace.

But whatever may be the case, Buhari must be old enough now to use his tongue to count his teeth. He should, by now, be able to draw a line between facts and fantasies. In other words, he is in a position to know the danger chorus sing­ers pose to any government. If he knows all this, as he ought to, then he will not be taken in by the tale of rosy cheeks that are being woven around him.

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Who owns the APC? Wed, 10 Jun 2015 23:57:10 +0000 The emerging reality within the ruling All Progressives Con­gress (APC) is an intriguing one. The arrowheads of the par­ty, President Muhammadu Buhari, and Bola Tinubu, appear to be working at cross purposes. The romance between them appears to be fading too fast. We have a telling instance on our hands. The race for the emergence [...]]]>

The emerging reality within the ruling All Progressives Con­gress (APC) is an intriguing one. The arrowheads of the par­ty, President Muhammadu Buhari, and Bola Tinubu, appear to be working at cross purposes. The romance between them appears to be fading too fast.

We have a telling instance on our hands. The race for the emergence of the leader­ship of the National Assembly is a ready reference point.

What is the issue here? Two fellows – Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara- have, against the wish of the national leader­ship of the APC, emerged as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively. The party, we were told, held a mock election over the weekend where Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila were tipped to emerge as Senate President and House Speaker, respectively. However, the party’s choice was repudiated by a sizable majority of members of both chambers of the National Assembly. They threw the party’s position overboard and went ahead to see to the emergence of Saraki and Dogara on the floor of the Senate and the House.

The lawmakers of opposite tendency, who saw to the emergence of Saraki and Dogara, did not stop there. They also made it possible for a member of the op­position Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to emerge as Deputy President of the Senate.

The ruling party, obviously thrown into blue funk by the development, is raking up muck. The national leadership, goaded on by Bola Tinubu, has thrown its hat into the ring. It is set to do battle with those it has described as treacherous lawmak­ers within its fold. The leadership has described what Saraki and Dogara have done as the height of indiscipline. It has vowed to invoke the supremacy of the party against them.

But there is a snag. President Buhari does not share their sentiments. He has, contrary to Tinubu’s position, accepted the emergence of Saraki and Dogara and has expressed willingness to work with them. Unlike the Tinubu tendency within APC, which believes that leaders of the National Assembly must be anointed by the bigwigs of the party, Buhari’s position, at least, on the surface, is that members of the National Assembly should be allowed to choose their principal officers. These differing tendencies have automatically introduced a divide within the APC.

Indeed, what transpired this Tuesday was no happenstance. The plot looks properly choreographed. Buhari, the leader of the party, was scheduled to hold a reconciliatory meeting with the opposing tendencies within the party to harmonise their positions before the inauguration of the National Assembly. But the man did not make himself available for the talks. His absence stalled the meeting and paved the way for what transpired at the National Assembly that day. It is, in fact, intrigu­ing that one group was waiting to meet with the president while the other was in the chambers of the senate, with the full complement of the principal staff of the National Assembly, electing leaders of the senate. The president could not have been unaware of the goings-on. But he must have chosen to look the other way because the development, obviously, did not go against his interest. This emerging reality tells a lot of story about the famed Buhari-Tinubu rap­prochement.

But the cordiality of their relationship appears to be taking a nosedive. Buhari, the man for whom Tinubu staked almost every­thing to see to his emergence as president, is set to be his own man. He does not want the Tinubu brand of politics where power flows from only one source. And to demonstrate his rejection of the Tinubu approach, the president is quietly shielding himself away from the Tinubu influence.

Perhaps, the first major indication that signposted the way Buhari’s mind was working was in the choice of his media team. The president chose his own men. He would not be bothered that Tinubu deployed his entire media machine and machinery to fight his (Buhari’s) presidential battle. The president does not appear to want strange bedfellows around him. He wants to know, as Chinua Achebe would say, when the rain will begin to beat him.

The immediate impression a discerning observer will run away with in all this is that the APC, which managed to emerge victorious in the recent general elections, was united by only one thing – the resolve to end the reign of Goodluck Jonathan, as Ni­geria’s president. The APC easily achieved consensus in this just as Nigerians, again according to Chinua Achebe, will always achieve consensus only in one thing – their common resentment for the Igbo. Beyond that, the party is a very divided house. Since the only agenda that brought the party to­gether has been taken care of, the party can, as well, implode and even explode. This appears to be happening already.

Another scenario that should interest observers is the consensus that a tendency within the APC in the National Assembly reached with their colleagues from the opposing PDP. Both parties, in what looks like a seamless exercise, came together to decide on who their leaders should be. The rapprochement even made it possible for an opposition party member to emerge as Deputy President of the Senate. What this means is that in the absence of the President of the Senate, the minority PDP will have one of its own control proceedings in the senate. It will be interesting to see how this will play out.

This intriguing development would have mattered were we in for real politics where the ruling and opposition parties have different persuasions and ideolo­gies. But here it does not matter because APC and PDP are one and the same thing. In fact, APC is usually taken to be a waste basket of the PDP. That is why both have no difficulty flocking together.

But the real interesting angle to all of this appears to be what Saraki and his supporters within the APC represent. Saraki was one of the henchmen of the PDP, who defected in droves during those hectic moments to the APC. Those were people who were part of everything that PDP had been since 1999. When they left the party, they were not, strictly speaking, against the party. They were against the situation in the party at that time that appeared to be strangulating them. What they did was to revolt against that tendency, using the instrumental­ity of another platform, in this case, the APC. Having achieved their objective, they can, as well, assert themselves. This is what they have begun to do.

Ordinarily, President Buhari, who has never been in league with the Saraki tendency in politics, is supposed to be uncomfortable with the coup hatched and executed by these former members of the PDP. But he is not. Having become presi­dent, Buhari is very willing and ready to free himself from the stranglehold of the tendency within the APC represented by the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Therefore, if he had to look the other way to ensure that the ACN tendency is sufficiently weakened, so be it. That appears to be the Buhari attitude to the emerging scenario within APC.

If what has happened at the National Assembly is sustained, we will come to see a situation where a sizable number of APC lawmakers will tend towards PDP. In fact, majority of them will not mind returning to PDP if that is what has to be done to ensure that the ACN tendency does not dominate the affairs of the APC. Nigerians should expect more of such twists in the years to come.

But now that a segment of the APC which represents its national leadership has received an upper cut, what does it do about the situation? Will it and can it unseat the leadership that has emerged on both floors of the National Assembly? The true test as to who owns the party resides in the way this Gordian knot will be cracked.

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Imperfect intimacy Thu, 28 May 2015 00:55:34 +0000 The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), was being somewhat naive when it asked the president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, a few days ago to work towards the implementation of the report of the National Conference held under President Goodluck Jonathan. The coalition, in a communique read by Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd.), reminded Buhari of the salient [...]]]>

The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), was being somewhat naive when it asked the president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, a few days ago to work towards the implementation of the report of the National Conference held under President Goodluck Jonathan. The coalition, in a communique read by Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd.), reminded Buhari of the salient submissions of the conference some of which include the creation and equalisation of states in the six geopolitical zones of the country, the delisting of the existing local government areas from the constitution, devolution of powers, establishment of state police, among others. All of this, NADECO said, will bring about the much desired restructuring of the country.
NADECO, a body that once fought hard in the dismantling of military rule in Nigeria,  is largely known for its progressives advocacies. And its submissions in the present instance would have made sense if things were still what they were. But events appear to have overtaken NADECO and its ideals.
To begin with, NADECO is no longer what it used to be. The body which once represented the face of democracy in Nigeria has become a shadow of its good, old self. Some of its arrowheads have moved in different directions. They now represent different and differing tendencies. For instance, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos state, is not and cannot be part of the demands which NADECO is making of Buhari. Tinubu’s democratic leaning has changed, compulsively. The focus of some of those who were once devoted to the coalition has shifted. Attention has moved from installing and entrenching democracy to rapacious and inordinate quest for power. Indeed, whatever that is left of NADECO, essentially, is a patchwork of ideals that have gone to seed.
The erosion of the ideals of NADECO is not the only issue. The agenda of those who want Nigeria restructured was defeated on March 31, 2015, the day Buhari emerged as the president-elect. It was the day those who were opposed to the popular and populist submissions of the national conference had their way. While the conference was going on, some interests in the north, especially those that were clearly pro-establishment, were ill at ease with the direction the conference was going. The likes of Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the governor of Kano state and a confirmed northern irredentist, cried blue murder. Kwankwaso was particularly worried about the imminent loss of his 44 local government areas. He and his likes were also uncomfortable with the idea of introducing the six geopolitical zones into the constitution. One of the protectors of the old order who were in league with Kwankwaso once said that the north and south should not have the same number of  zones since, according to him, the north is more populous than the south. Kwankwaso and his cohorts were also opposed to the equalization of states in the six zones of the country. Kwankwaso did not understand why the south east which he said has the least population among the six zones should have the same number of states as his north west zone. These were some of the sentiments that trailed the report of the conference.
The opposition to the report of the national conference was, however, to assume a new dimension when Jonathan made it a campaign issue. The restructuring of Nigeria, as we know, is very central to the political agenda of the south west. And it is significant to note here that Tinubu has been one of its major promoters. We shall devote some more space to this shortly. But the immediate point to note here is that Jonathan tried to cash in on the south west’s interest in a restructured Nigeria.  He therefore canvassed and preached it wherever he went across the zone. A good number of the Yoruba were attracted by it. Even before Jonathan began to harp on implementing the report of the conference, the Yoruba Council of Elders had called on him to commit himself to the implementation of the report of the national conference. It was their own way of telling Jonathan that that was a condition he must meet if he wanted the votes of south westerners. The message was not lost on Jonathan and he picked it up as a campaign selling point.
But while Jonathan was trying to make inroad in Yoruba land, using the restructuring slogan as a bait, the greater majority of the north was plotting his fall based on his plan to restructure Nigeria through the instrumentality of the national conference report. The agenda then was to ensure that Jonathan did not return so that the report of the conference would be thrown overboard. To achieve the objective, northerners who were so persuaded began to rally round Buhari. They believed that his victory would sound the death knell for the national conference. Somehow, they succeeded and the report of the conference appears to have died, naturally.
Unfortunately for what is left of NADECO, it does not seem to understand this. It cannot read the hand writing on the wall. And that is naivety writ large. NADECO ought to understand that the emergence of Buhari signals the death of the national conference and whatever report it submitted to the president.  Buhari, we must recall, was one of the many northern military rulers that gave Nigeria its present skewed structure. The lopsided Nigeria that we have today favours Buhari and his people. To expect him to dismantle the structure that he and his people worked so hard to build is the height of naivety. It is ideal taken to ridiculous heights. NADECO should therefore be wise enough to know and appreciate this reality.
But where are the likes of Tinubu in all this? Tinubu, as we noted earlier, is driven by a new and strange political persuasion. The man was once an advocate of progressive politics. That was why he relentlessly canvassed  for a new Nigeria whose structure must differ radically from what we have today. He was, for instance, the most notable voice that advocated for state police in Nigeria. He was also an advocate of some other radical changes that could bring about a new and restructured Nigeria. Tinubu never wavered in the course of his advocacy. He certainly meant business.
However, the quest for political power has landed him in a strange land. In the bid to wrest power from Jonathan and the Peoples  Democratic Party (PDP), Tinubu saw himself going into alliance with a strange bedfellow. Buhari, the beneficiary of Tinubu’s deft political manoeuvres, is everything that Tinubu is not. Whereas Tinubu wants an egalitarian society which Nigeria could be if it is properly restructured, Buhari is as constant as the northern star. He will not tamper with the political structure of Nigeria. He is a chief apostle of the old order. His idea of a new Nigeria, whatever it is, does not include the dismantling of the present decadent order.
Indeed, Tinubu and Buhari have never flocked together until political expediency forced them into doing so. But both men appear yoked together in an imperfect intimacy. Buhari, ideally, ought to respect Tinubu’s political persuasions considering the fact that Tinubu was the brain behind the alliance that brought him (Buhari) to power. He ought to make concessions to Tinubu in the area of progressive politics. But we know that Buhari will not. He does not share the same political ideals with Tinubu and not  even the manner of his emergence as president will make him change that.
The Buhari tendency will certainly constitute difficult times for Tinubu. How will he (Tinubu) , jettison his political ideals overnight in order to flock together with Buhari? This will be the real litmus test that awaits Tinubu under the Buhari presidency. Can and will Tinubu turn a blind eye to those progressive advocacies that he was known for? What does he have to say to NADECO, the organisation that he helped to set up, now that it is asking for what he has always asked for? In what way will he be of help to NADECO and its demands especially in the light of the fact that Buhari will not  care a hoot about what NADECO is saying? Is Tinubu going to abandon his flag in the bid to sustain the Buhari presidency? Indeed, how will this advocate for progressive change fare with the ultra conservative who seems to view Nigeria from only one lense? The list of questions is really long. But regardless of what anybody may say, Tinubu may never be the same again by the time he extricates himself  from Buhari’s coven.

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Igbo voted wisely (3) Wed, 20 May 2015 23:11:37 +0000 The more I offer my perspectives on the Igbo voting pattern in the 2015 elections, the more I see the absurdity and hypocrisy in the point of view of those who have argued or imagined that the Igbo got it wrong. A cursory recourse to Nigeria’s post-Civil War electoral history readily points to the fact [...]]]>

The more I offer my perspectives on the Igbo voting pattern in the 2015 elections, the more I see the absurdity and hypocrisy in the point of view of those who have argued or imagined that the Igbo got it wrong.

A cursory recourse to Nigeria’s post-Civil War electoral history readily points to the fact that Igbo is the only major ethnic bloc in Nigeria that has been shunning ethnic jingoism and parochialism in its voting pattern. In 1979, for instance, the Nigerian polity was charged to breaking point after the general elections of that year. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had won the presidential election of that year with the support of the eastern minority states of Cross River and Rivers. Their sister states of Imo and Anambra differed radically in their choice of who should be the president of Nigeria. It was well within the right of the two states of Rivers and Cross River to make their choice the way they deemed fit. They exercised that right and nobody sentenced them to eternal damnation on account of it. But that is beside the point.

What really put the country on edge after the general elections of that year was the voting pattern of the Yoruba. The four western states of the time, namely, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Ondo voted massively for the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by their kinsman, Obafemi Awolowo. The surrogate west­ern state of Bendel joined them to drive their voting pattern home. The overrid­ing objective of the Yoruba voting pat­tern then was to grab power. Awolowo was deeply immersed in the quest for power. The Yoruba and their acolytes from Bendel pursued the agenda vigor­ously. It failed and Awo and his western Nigeria supporters alleged rigging. The NPN and the ruling government of Shehu Shagari had a hell of time, trying to contain the onslaught from Awo and his UPN.

Those who have a sense of history will readily admit that Nigeria and Nigerians did not see anything strange about the way the Yoruba voted then. The country saw it as a normal occur­rence in politics. The Yoruba were not demonised for their fanatical disposi­tion towards a party whose outlook was largely ethnic. Nigerians put up with the Yoruba voting pattern. They, the Yo­ruba, were not derided for their choice. They were allowed to be and they quickly rallied themselves into an opposition.

The two Igbo states at the time, namely, Imo and Anambra states, voted for Nnam­di Azikiwe, their kinsman and leader of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP). But there was nothing fanatical about their support for the great Zik. NPP won in Imo and Anambra states but not over­whelmingly. The people of the two states were gracious and generous with their votes. They gave a sizable chunk of it to some other political parties that did not regard Igbo land as their catchment area. There was almost a semblance of federal character in the distribution of Igbo votes. The people’s voting pattern was, to a very large extent, not dictated by tribe or region. That was why they did not care a hoot that their sister states of Cross River and Rivers, which ought to have joined forces with them to boost Zik’s elec­toral chances voted otherwise. The Igbo displayed a liberal outlook through their votes. They did not operate a closed shop.

The Yoruba voting pattern did not end in 1979. It continued in 1983. Awo was still determined to wrest power from Shagari. But the NPN had become smarter. It hacked into the western state of Ondo and unseated the then governor, Adekunle Ajasin. The state went up in flames. Free style killings became the order of the day. The Wild Wild West had returned to action.

In the same way, the NPN hacked into the eastern state of Anambra and ousted Jim Nwobodo. Christian Onoh took over from him in an election that was believed to have been massively manipulated. The people of Anambra did not go to war with themselves. They showed tolerance. Nigeria had to move on, and it did. That is the Igbo attitude to politics. There is no fanaticism. There is no rigidity.

That was why the Igbo did not go parochial in the 1993 presidential elec­tion. Then military president, Ibrahim Babangida, had decreed two political parties into existence. Following a series of horse-trading within the two political parties, the West and the North produced the candidates for the election. One of the political parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) had Sylvester Ugo, an Igbo, as its vice presidential candidate. MKO Abiola, a Yoruba, was looming large as the presidential candidate of the rival Social Democratic Party ( SDP). It was a straight fight between the North and the South.

It should be noted that the Igbo, in that election, dumped their kinsman, Sylves­ter Ugo, and stood for Abiola. The Igbo did not rock the boat for Abiola because they wanted one of their own to become the vice president. The Igbo action then contrasts very sharply with what obtained in the 2015 election where the Yoruba abandoned Jonathan because they wanted one of their own to be vice president. Who then, between the Igbo and the Yo­ruba, should be charged for parochialism in their voting pattern?

What about the North? Why are we not talking about the way the North voted in 2015? Why are we not analysing the radi­cal drift in which a region that is largely PDP turned to APC overnight?

Contrary to the reasoning in certain quarters that the PDP burnt itself out and had to be upstaged by APC, the truth of the matter is that the APC did not have a magic wand. What happened was that the North had a regional agenda. It wanted to wrest power from the southern minorities represented by President Goodluck Jona­than. The North could not have achieved this objective through the PDP where Jonathan was fully entrenched. It had to use the instrumentality of an opposite platform. What was needed to actualise the agenda was for most northern bigwigs in the PDP, including the party’s National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, to sell out. They handed the PDP over to an enemy. But this was, unfortunately, unknown to Jonathan who, ideally, should have been more discerning in matters of this nature.

The coup against Jonathan by the North in the 2015 presidential election was the highest political betrayal of our time. Those who are interested in how the various political blocs voted should not lose sight of the fact that the eastern minorities got a raw deal from the North. From the time of the Biafran debacle up to the 2007 elections won by Umaru Yar’Adua, the eastern minorities have always supported the North and its agenda, whatever it was. Curiously, when the eastern minorities got the opportunity to rule, it was the North, its traditional ally, that terminat­ed its chances of remaining in power. This grand betrayal and show of in­gratitude should be of interest to those who are commenting on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. When they do this, they will discover that the only voting bloc that has displayed a large heart and a true sense of accom­modation is the Igbo whose people voted massively for the candidate of the eastern minorities who have never supported any political action or quest of their Igbo neighbours. The Igbo deserve commendation for this.

Beyond that, there is a lesson in all this for the southern minorities. They should begin to come to terms with the fact that they are very dispensable. They will always be used, particularly by the North, to achieve their political objectives. But they will be dumped when the stakes get higher. Their loyalty will never count when feudal­ism bares its fangs. That was why the North remembered nothing when it set out to deal with Jonathan whose people have, over the years, stopped at noth­ing in their support for the North.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the Igbo did not go wrong in the way they voted in 2015. Rather, they have, more than any other political grouping in Nigeria, displayed rare grace and candour.

Now that the equation has changed, those who have acted in certain ways should seek justification in their ac­tions. Those who feel somewhat guilty about their actions should not find scapegoats in others. It is dishonest to do so.



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Igbo voted wisely (2) Wed, 13 May 2015 23:00:27 +0000 Let us return to Soyinka and the derisive remarks on the Igbo attributed to him. Soyinka was reported to have said that the Igbo voted according to the dictates of their stomach, among other unsavoury remarks credited to him. He has, however, denied making the vexa­tious statement. But his denial appears cosmetic. The Nobel Laureate [...]]]>

Let us return to Soyinka and the derisive remarks on the Igbo attributed to him.

Soyinka was reported to have said that the Igbo voted according to the dictates of their stomach, among other unsavoury remarks credited to him. He has, however, denied making the vexa­tious statement.

But his denial appears cosmetic. The Nobel Laureate merely dismissed as untrue the statement, which he was said to have made while delivering a lecture at Harvard university. But he did not state what he exactly said. If he was misquoted, what was the true text of his lecture, as it relates to the Igbo and the 2015 elections? Or does his dismissive denial suggest that he made no refer­ence to the Igbo in the course of his lecture? If he did, what exactly did he say? He ought to have stated the facts of the matter rather than paper over it the way he did.

The absence of rigour in his denial makes it appear like that of the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, who denied threatening the Igbo even when he was captured on video issuing his unwar­ranted threat. I suspect that it is becom­ing customary, even fashionable, for Igbophobists to talk down on the Igbo with reckless abandon only to eat their words when the heat is turned on them.

Regardless of our doubt, we will not impose the statement on Soyinka since he has disowned them. But we need be told by the ring of conspirators, who­ever they may be, how these remarks on the Igbo came about. The statement could not have dropped from the sky. It must have its roots somewhere. Who owns the tirade? We need to know this, especially in the light of the fact that the statement in question went beyond the Igbo voting pattern in the 2015 elections. It touches as well on familiar prejudices and stereotypes about the Igbo, which non-Igbo Nigerians seem to make a fetish of.

Let us, for purposes of clarification and elucidation, focus some attention on the statement credited to Soyinka. The aspect that readily comes to mind is the tag of money-mindedness, which Soyinka said dictated the voting pattern of the Igbo in the last election. This statement, whether it is Soyinka’s or someone else’s, is a product of familiar prejudices directed against the Igbo. It is in line with the stereotypes and shib­boleths, which most Nigerians associate the Igbo with their compulsive effort to give the Igbo a bad name. Nigerians of non-Igbo stock do this effortlessly. It has long become their stock in trade.

But if we divest the Igbo voting pattern in the last elections of these prejudices, we will come to terms with the fact that there was nothing about it that had to do with money. It is trite to resort to such cheap blackmail. The fact of the matter is that the people made a choice out of con­viction. They voted against the conspir­acy of the North and the South-west to torpedo the quest of the southern minori­ties to take their fair share in the scheme of things in Nigeria. While the greater majority of the North was driven by the overweening desire to see power return to the region, the South-west was driven by the prospect of having one of its own oc­cupy the office of the vice president. For the South-west, it was more rewarding for them to grab the number two position than have someone from another section of the South occupy the number one position. Therefore, if there was a section of the South that sold out for whatever reason, it was the South-west, which opted out of what was supposed to have been a southern solidarity for reasons that were largely self-serving. The Yoruba refusal to support the aspiration of their fellow southerner should have been the focus of attention in the aftermath of the 2015 elections. The Yoruba voting pattern should raise more questions than any other issue at moment. It is a significant omission that we left this out to talk about the Igbo, who tried, through their votes, to right the wrongs of the past that have continued to haunt Nigeria. I dare say that anybody who is inventing reasons for Igbo voting patten in the way the likes of Soyinka or those who spoke for him have done is only trying to cover up the sins of the Yoruba against their fellow southerner whose people had, in the past, supported Yoruba aspiration to the office of president. Let us call the spade by its proper name and stop beating about the bush. The antics of those who want to lead us by the nose will not work.

In fact, with the rejection of Jonathan by the Yoruba for the simple reason that the vice presidential slot was dangled at them, it should be taken to mean that the Yoruba may never, in future, support the aspiration of any southerner, be it Igbo, Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Edo, Urhobo or Itshekiri to the office of president. The prospect or possibility of this is tragic for the South. This is what should worry analysts and commentators on the 2015 elections rather than the easy resort to the unwarranted denigration of the Igbo.

To underline the fact that long-stand­ing prejudice was at play in the entire scheme, Soyinka or those who put those words in his mouth, flew into the flapping wings of BIAFRA, a subject matter that had nothing to do with the elections under review. If Soyinka set out to speak on Nigeria’s 2015 elections at Harvard, I cannot imagine how Biafra crept into the discourse. On this subject matter, Soyinka was said to have accused the Igbo of a relentless and unrepentant quest for secession at worst or a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction at best. I still do not know how this came about. That is why we are saying that Soyinka should not grandstand on the issue. We need to know who owns this weighty statement.

However, while we wait for the artful dodgers to unmask themselves, there is the need to remind those who are invok­ing the spectre of secession that the Igbo are not thinking that way. Rather, they are crusading for justice. It should worry the patriotic do-gooders in our midst that the conditions that gave rise to the up­heaval of the 1960s that eventuated in the Biafran War are still very much with us. Those who claim to love Nigeria should be interested in this.

In the 2015 presidential election, Jona­than and his Ijaw ethnic group were made to look less important than Buhari and his Fulani ethnic stock. That was why Jonathan’s loss meant nothing. It gave Nigeria peace. But a Buhari’s loss would have been an earth-shaking event. It would have brought blood and sorrow to Nigeria. Today, Nigeria is at peace because Jonathan, a man from nowhere, lost the election. The country would have been set ablaze if Buhari, the sheik from somewhere, had lost. This is lopsided Nigerian­ness at play. What this means is that Nigeria is enjoying peace today at the expense of Jonathan and the ethnic stock that produced him. That is not how it should be. Nigeria should enjoy the peace that everyone will be at ease with, not the peace of the graveyard that is being forced on the disadvan­taged group that Jonathan belongs to.

Those who have a sense of justice loathed the way Jonathan was being hounded out of office because of the belief that he comes from nowhere. His people do not matter in the scheme of things in Nigeria. That is why nobody is talking about the way the Ijaw voted, or the way the South-south voted. No. The way they voted does not matter because they are regarded as a people of no consequence. What matters is the way the Igbo voted. Their vot­ing pattern matters and that is why revisionists are heating up the polity on account of Igbo voting pattern.

But the Igbo had a reason. They rec­ognised that the tiny Ijaw group or any other minority group from the South deserves to be supported in their quest for the office of president. Since Jona­than, one of their own, was thrown up by fortune, it is only right and just to support him so that the people he rep­resents will not continue to feel left out in the scheme of things. The Igbo have been in the wilderness and they know how it feels and what it means to be discriminated against. The Igbo do not want the injustice that has been hold­ing them down to become the national order of things. To support Jonathan, in a way, would reduce the telling effect of injustice in the country. To reject him would amount to perpetuation of injustice and the old order. The Igbo, wisely and patriotically, voted for the former. By so doing, they toed the path of justice, equity and good conscience.

To be continued

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Igbo voted wisely (1) Thu, 07 May 2015 00:20:04 +0000 The more some of us try to stay away from commenting on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, the more we are drawn into it by armchair analysts, who do not recognise the role of contraries in hu­man progression. Since March 31 when President Goodluck Jonathan decided to cede power to General Muhammadu Buhari, [...]]]>

The more some of us try to stay away from commenting on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, the more we are drawn into it by armchair analysts, who do not recognise the role of contraries in hu­man progression. Since March 31 when President Goodluck Jonathan decided to cede power to General Muhammadu Buhari, I have read a number of jejune commentaries, which tended to give the impression that the decision of the Igbo to vote for President Jonathan was wrong. Such commentators have argued that the Igbo should have gone the way of the North and the Yoruba, who joined forces together to deliver Buhari in the March 28 presidential election.

I completely ignored such commentaries because they were lacking in both logic and commonsense. The commentators were largely juvenile enthusiasts, who lack the large heart or the sense of proportion to properly evaluate the outcome of the presidential election. Because they were patently uninformed, I dismissed their interjections and intrusions for what they were – pathetic displays by a band of cho­rus singers whose brains had been rendered partially dysfunctional in their frenzy to jump unto the victory bandwagon.

The howlers, no doubt, are entitled to their fancies and fantasies and they have had a field day, practising their art. But it has become evident that their theat­rics have blossomed into an out of stage concert. That is why they have succeeded in drawing into the fray the likes of Wole Soyinka.

Soyinka, a Nobel laureate and a once respected voice in the affairs of Nigeria, has been quoted as saying that the Igbo put their votes where their stomachs take them. Soyinka was also reported to have ac­cused the Igbo of suffering from incurable money-mindedness, as they would stop at nothing in their quest for personal financial gain. It was also reported that Soyinka said this: “The Igbo remained unrepentant and resolute towards their strategic objective of secession at worst or a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction at best.”

If this tirade actually flowed from Soyin­ka, then I cannot but conclude that senility can actually shatter the mental composure of someone who was once great. A Wole Soyinka who had, over the years, been ‘resolute’ (to borrow his own word), in his quest for a just and equitable Nigeria, has suddenly become a turncoat. I will elabo­rate on Soyinka and his ill-advised derision of the Igbo nation. But before we return to him, I must say that it has become absolutely necessary to put the Igbo action in the 2015 presidential election into proper perspective.

The point must be made, regardless of the outcome of the elections, that the best politi­cal step the Igbo have taken in recent years is their pattern of voting in the 2015 presi­dential election. In that election, the Igbo, perhaps, for the first time in recent history, were able to identify their interest, and they went for it. Before now, the Igbo were in the habit of belonging everywhere and belong­ing nowhere ultimately. They shared their electoral votes among all manner of political contenders so much so that it was difficult to ever identify where the Igbo belonged. Such a situation never helped the cause of the Igbo as a people or as a group. The people could not be associated with any defined or defin­able political movement.

Significantly, all of that changed in 2015. What that means is that the Igbo are on the road towards self-rediscovery. A people whose republicanism made them behave like sheep without shepherd have finally found the tree for the woods. They have shepherd­ed themselves into a formidable flock and are set to reclaim their God-given destiny. That is the point they made with their votes through the 2015 elections. Today, the Igbo can beat their chest and declare “ this is where we belong”. There is a whole world of dignity in a people knowing where they are coming from, where they are and where they are going. The Igbo have done this much through their votes. There is something noteworthy in the fact that the Igbo are being discussed today for their political decision. It underlines the fact that a people, who want to be respected or reckoned with must be known for something. That is the point of Igbo voting pattern in 2015. The people had never been this cohesive in post-Civil War Nigeria. The lesson to be learnt from this by one and all is that the Igbo are overcoming their disabilities. Certainly those who do not wish the Igbo well are bound to squirm with discomfort in the face of this Igbo Renais­sance and that is what is happening today.

Anybody, especially a non-Igbo, who tries to demonise the Igbo for their political deci­sion is saying that he is teaching the Igbo how to be human beings. You cannot, no matter who you think you are, be wiser than the Igbo as a people. Anybody who imagines that is engaging in grand illusion.

I really pity those who are raging that the Igbo voted the way they did. I pity them for lack of knowledge and understanding. I also pity them for their narrow-mindedness. Anybody who has basic knowledge about the way societies function will appreciate the fact that every group or segment of a country cannot toe the same line of action in any issue. Some are bound to look left. Some others may be inclined towards look­ing right. That is the natural order of things. Tendencies, sympathies and idiosyncrasies must differ from one person to another and from one group to another. To expect that everybody must act alike is to imagine that there is only one shade of colour in the entire universe. The universe has diverse hues and patterns. And so are the human beings in it. To aspire towards uniformity is not only a grand illusion, it is a stupid and senseless quest.

If we apply this to the Nigerian election of 2015, we will be saying that all Nigerians could not have voted in the same way. The North had its reason for voting massively for Buhari. The Yoruba vote for the same Buhari was driven by a certain motive. In the same vein, the Igbo had their reason for voting for President Jonathan. The northern and Yoruba groups could not have been right while the Igbo are wrong. Anybody who says the Igbo are wrong is viewing the world from one lens and that will be the worst form of parochialism. If the Igbo are wrong as some elements in our midst will have us believe, it is because Jonathan lost the election. And if the Yoruba and northern groups are right as is being touted in some quarters, it is because their preferred candidate was returned elected.

Perhaps, there would have been no issue if Jonathan won the election. Those who are deriding the Igbo today for voting for Jonathan would not have seen anything wrong in the action of those who voted against him. It would have been normal for any group to vote the way it wished. When it is convenient to single out a people or group for vilification, then there must be something narrow-minded about the action of those who have made such selective vilification a way of life. There is everything wrong in any judgement that is procured from this lazy stereotyping.

But it is easy to see why the howlers are excited. They are already looking towards a situation where the Igbo will be shut out of the commanding heights of the Buhari administration, owing to the poor votes they returned for the All Progressives Congress (APC). The thinking here is that the Igbo, who have been struggling to find their feet politically are sinking deeper into non-recognition. Again, to see the situation this way smacks of parochialism. The Igbo should lose nothing on account of their voting pattern. In a plural society such as ours, pattern of voting cannot and should not be used for distribution of political offices. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) never did that for the 16 years that it was in the saddle. Key politi­cal positions, both at the governmental and party levels, were shared among the six geo- political zones. Each zone had what was due to it. There was no time any zone of the country was discriminated against, let alone shut from government or party administration on account of who they voted for or did not vote for. That was why the greater part of the North, which did not vote for Jonathan in 2011, was not subjected to any form of discrimi­nation or vilification. Nobody criticised or derided them for voting the way they did. If anything, they benefitted more from the administration of the president they did not vote for.

The APC, which will take over the reins of governance in the weeks to come, must borrow a leaf from the inclusive zoning pattern of the PDP. Each geo- politi­cal zone must be given what is due to it under the new dispensation. Rather than discriminate against the Igbo for voting massively for PDP, those who feel awk­ward about it should begin to work hard towards securing Igbo votes in the years to come. Demonising them for voting according to the dictates of their group interest is wrong-headed.

To be continued.

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Sticky tales around Diezani Thu, 30 Apr 2015 00:58:00 +0000 The witch-hunting that may herald the new order in Nigeria may have begun. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, may be the first victim. She appears to have been programmed for an ignominious exit from office. She drew attention to this when she blew the lid last week. Her story was that oil cabals [...]]]>

The witch-hunting that may herald the new order in Nigeria may have begun. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, may be the first victim. She appears to have been programmed for an ignominious exit from office. She drew attention to this when she blew the lid last week. Her story was that oil cabals were after her. They want to package and sell her as a fraud to Nigeria and the world on account of the running battle she had with them.

The minister had to blurt, out following the recent and ongoing media scrutiny that had been directed at her and her office. Before now, Allison-Madueke had been the butt of dangerous insinuations about the alleged sleaze in the petroleum industry. But she had, at every turn, rebuffed attempts to present her in bad light. However, her detractors seem to have acquired a new impetus, following the outcome of last month’s presidential election. The government that Diezani serves is on its way out. The set-up has created a veritable fertile ground for all manner of mischief.

In recent weeks, for instance, a number of allegations have been woven around her neck. We have been told that $700 million was found in her private residence. But we were not told  who carried out the search as well as when and where the incident took place. Then, since some people have continued to insist that $20 billion was missing from government’s coffers, a brand new story is being woven about the fabled amount. And the story is that $17 billion out of the $20 billion has been traced to a Zenith Bank account and that Diezani has negotiated to return the money to the Federal Government.

Of course, many of us are already familiar with tales that the minister is seeking asylum with some foreign countries and that former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, is negotiating a soft-landing for her. There is, indeed, a diet of tales surrounding the activities of the minister. But she has dismissed all of them as hogwash. She has also gone ahead to tell the world that some powerful operators in the oil industry are behind her travail.

In her bid to move Nigeria’s oil and gas sector away from insitutional and insitutionalised corruption, Diezani said that she stepped on a number of big toes. She is proud to tell us that millions, if not billions  of dollars, have been taken out of the hands of multinational oil companies and their subcontractors and put in the hands of Nigerians through the local content policy. This bold step may not have gone down well  with those who had been feeding fat from the oil sector. Diezani feels satisfied that she is on the right side of history. But her detractors will not let her be. And that appears to be the reason for the renewed critical searchlight being beamed in her direction.

Perhaps, it was in the light of the fictive tales being woven around Diezani and the so-called missing $20 billion that Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the president-elect, is getting unduly excited. Buhari was reported to have said a few days ago that he would inquire into the alleged missing $20 billion when he assumes office. In Buhari’s understanding, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was sacked as the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for telling the world that $20 billion was missing from the country’s coffers. It would have been surprising to hear Buhari say this if he was not engaged in a one-minded pursuit of his fancies and fantasies. But because he and others like him have programmed their mindset to achieve a given objective,  Buhari’s belief is in line with whatever that objective is. That is why he has chosen to believe what he considers convenient.

But those who do not want to stand truth on its head know that Sanusi was not sacked by anybody. He served out his tenure. He could not qualify for a renewal because he was playing dangerous politics with the office of CBN governor.

As we were saying earlier, the mischievous tales being woven around Diezani have started exciting Buhari. He believes the story that a certain amount of money was recovered from Diezani and that she has negotiated for a refund. That was why Buhari spoke thus a few days ago. “I heard that some people have started  returning money. I will not believe it until I see for myself.” That is the mood  around the president-elect. He appears excited by it all. It is the excitement  that he will take to office. And when he gets there, the story, whatever it is, must be made to fall into place. It will not matter how the story will be hammered into shape. The important thing is that it will be made to fit. And when this becomes the case, we will, very soon, be faced with a situation where fiction will be wearing the toga of fact.

As should be expected, Nigerians have been reacting in various ways to Buhari’s declaration that he will revisit the $20 billion saga. But Jonathan, who has been laughing very broadly with Buhari in recent weeks, must have been surprised that the General is not impressed by his (Jonathan’s) attempt to be seen to be one with the man he wants to handover power to. In spite of the broad smiles, Buhari is still very suspicious of Jonathan and his government. That is why he wrongly accused Jonathan of sacking Sanusi. That is also why he is insisting that Sanusi’s claim over missing $20 billion was true. It is also for  reasons of disdain that Buhari has for Jonathan and his government that he wants to throw aside the probes, inquiries and audits conducted by the Jonathan administration on the alleged missing fund and, instead, institute his own probe or inquiry.

I suspect that one of the strangest things, which the incoming administration will be doing will be to foist some people’s sympathies or mischief on the rest of us. If a certain breed of Nigerians closed their eyes and ears to the facts of the $20 billion alleged to be missing, then the government run by that breed will ensure that the lie it has been holding on to for years is elevated to the level of truth.

It is, indeed, strange that Sanusi’s $20 billion is still an issue in Nigeria. A matter in which a CBN governor muddled up his figures and caused more confusion in the process ought to have been dismissed as the figment of his imagination. But the mumbo jumbo was still picked up from the ashes of disinformation and dusted up so that the truth could be established.

But how did we come about Sanusi’s poisonous tale? The man had, in September 2013, written President Jonathan, alleging that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit the sum of $49.8 billion to the Federation Account over a 19-month period. The letter was supposed to be for the president’s attention and necessary action. But Sanusi had other intentions. That was why he leaked the letter to the Press. Soon, the matter became a virus in our body-politic.

Government would not leave such a grave allegation lying low. The Senate took interest in the matter and referred it to an appropriate committee. When Sanusi appeared before the Senate Committee, which was inquiring into his allegation, he told the committee that the missing figure was $12 billion instead. He was later to change the figure to $19.8 billion and then to  $20 billion. Even though Sanusi contradicted himself to no end, those whose minds were closed to the facts of the matter insisted that he was right.

It was for this reason that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance, had to call for a forensic audit on the matter. A reputable audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers has since carried out an audit of NNPC’s account and came up with the verdict that no money was missing. But this verdict does not appear to have impressed Buhari and his gang.  It did not conform with what they have chosen to believe. That is why Buhari wants to institute his own probe. He and his cohorts want to be told what they want to hear.

What should we then expect in the days to come? Compulsive and forced lies? Buhari may do well to spare himself the infamy of engaging in witch-hunting. There are many issues of national importance that should engage his attention. Vendetta and bad blood will only lead to a blind alley.

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The likes of Suleiman Abbah Wed, 22 Apr 2015 23:00:57 +0000 I am not about to join the amorphous crowd of pundits who have been commenting on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. Their postulations and declarations should be expected in an election such as the one we have just had. But I will, for now, remain where I have chosen to be, that is, [...]]]>

I am not about to join the amorphous crowd of pundits who have been commenting on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. Their postulations and declarations should be expected in an election such as the one we have just had. But I will, for now, remain where I have chosen to be, that is, to stay away from the fray and frenzy that have attended the out­come of the elections. I will, whenever I consider it appropriate, share my thoughts on the matter.

However, I am constrained today to touch tangentially on an issue that relates somewhat to the elections owing to the action President Goodluck Jonathan has just taken. I’m referring to his decision to remove, with immediate effect, Mr Suleiman Abba as the Inspector General of Police.

Even though many commentators have had to say that Jonathan should be com­mended for conceding defeat, I prefer to say that Jonathan was not defeated. He only took a personal decision to relin­quish power. If this does not make sense to you, I urge you to wait for the time I will choose to lift the veil I placed on the 2015 elections.

But if we proceed on the assumption that Jonathan conceded defeat, then we will be saying that he has shown so much grace and candour. If this should be taken to be the case, then nobody, particularly those who worked closely with him, should mock him. But the infractions which Suleiman Abba were said to be guilty of since Jonathan’s loss are suggestive of mockery. They give the impression that Abba is brow-beating the outgoing president. In fact, going by Abba’s actions, Jonathan is not an out-going president, he is already gone. That explains why Abba has taken to freestyle impunity. He has, in the last few weeks, undermined the president in a manner that suggests that he has always had disdain for the man.

Without taking into consideration how he became the Inspector General, Abba, in a reckless show of ingratitude and treachery, is already biting the finger that fed him. He has moved over to the opposite direction in the bid for self-preservation. But the former Police boss did not just stop at protecting his turf, he was also undermining the authority that brought him to limelight. This is greed and wickedness rolled into one.

No doubt, Abba’s treachery must have struck the wrong side of Jonathan. That may explain why the man exhibited the level of swiftness that is clearly alien to him. The president’s action must be an expression of disappointment. This is es­pecially so for a man who has never acted with such swiftness in the five years that he has been running the affairs of Nigeria as president.

The president’s action shows that he would act differently if he had a next time at the Presidency. But like Ezeulu, the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, who wished that there was a next time when his folly dawned on him too late in the day, there is no next time for Jonathan. If he is learning any lesson, he must be doing so the hard way. That hard way may be responsible for his last-minute change of style.

Those who know the undercurrents of Abba’s appointment as Inspector Gen­eral will appreciate better the depth of Jonathan’s disappointment. Jonathan was presented with the option of replacing MD Abubakar, Abbah’s predecessor, with a Christian as the next Inspector General. But he settled for Abba, a northern Mus­lim, as part of his deliberate policy of pla­cating the Moslem north. In the end, not only did the Moslem north fail Jonathan, people he appointed to sensitive positions on the basis of certain primordial senti­ments such as Abba have failed him the more. In Jonathan and his circumstance, the saying that reality is a late dawn has found a bold expression.

There are, indeed, many Suleiman Ab­bas in the system. Those were the people who returned more votes for the oppo­sition at the presidential villa than the mas­ter they are serving. That is what treachery is all about.

But if we look beyond Abba and other treacherous characters that populate high places, we will find internal saboteurs who take delight in pulling down houses built by others. Here, we will be talking about the likes of Adamu Mu’azu, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As the national chairman of a ruling party, Mu’azu was supposed to be passionate about the success of his party at the polls. But he was not. And it is evident that President Jonathan did not understand what Mu’azu was up to. Be­cause he was erroneously christened “the game changer” when he took over from Bamanga Tukur, many did not understand when Mu’azu started plotting the fall of the party which he superintends over.

But some few discerning members of the party have, in retrospect, noted with re­gret that Mu’azu did not organise credible primary elections within the party, a situa­tion that led to disaffection and defections.

But the real Mu’azu came to the fore during the electioneering campaigns. If you expected him to take charge of the po­litical situation, you were utterly mistaken. The man, instead, withdrew into his shell. There was no aggression in him. He lacked a sense of urgency. He was just in his comfort zone, luxuriating. He did not care a hoot about the success of his party at the polls. He was not known to have said or done something of note while the campaigns lasted.

For instance, Mu’azu, the face of his party, did not speak up on the controver­sy that raged over the plan by the Inde­pendent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to deploy the smart card reader machines for the elections. Mu’azu’s PDP had a position. It argued against the use of the card reader because of its obvious flaws which INEC, at that point in time, was not in a position to handle. Mu’azu did not disagree with the posi­tion of his party.

Strangely however, Mu’azu was seen on the day of the presidential election applauding the use of the card reader machine and praising Jega as a man of integrity. This was the day the card reader failed abysmally and messed up the election in a number of places. It was the day the card reader kept the President, the leader of Mu’azu’s party, waiting in the sun endlessly as the ma­chine failed to accredit him for voting. It was the day some states, including my state, Imo, did not see the card reader at all. In my local government area particularly, accreditation began by 2pm. We were told that the card reader had expired for the day. Yet, when Jega was reeling out the names of the state’s where the machine did not work, he did not mention Imo. That was the day Mu’azu gave a clean bill of health to Jega and his card reader.

Then you began to wonder where Mu’azu had been all the while. If he loved the idea of the card reader so much, why was his party averse to it? Why was the national chairman working at cross purposes with his party? Mu’azu’s was a clear case of a hidden and devious agenda. He was pro-opposition while serving as national chairman of the ruling party.

Mu’azu may have considered himself smart. But we are not deceived. In the same vein, Suleiman Abba may have set out to eat his cake and have it, but his bean has been spilt. His sins have found him out. Those who live a life of dishonesty hardly escape such an ignominious fall.

Looking back, one cannot but wonder what purpose the card readers have served. We were told that the device would prevent rigging. But we have many instances where electoral materi­als were snatched and result sheets filled and submitted. Did the card reader find this out? Certainly not.

Anyway, as I earlier hinted, I am not about to start commenting on the 2015 elections. There will be time for that.

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End of reason Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:35:18 +0000 The Jonathan Presidency is having its final romance with Chibok. Nigeria is marking the first anniversary of the abduction of the schoolgirls. As the government of President Goodluck Jonathan bids Nigeria farewell in a few weeks time, it must acknowledge the fact that Chibok was its ultimate Achilles heel. It was one incident that substantially [...]]]>

The Jonathan Presidency is having its final romance with Chibok. Nigeria is marking the first anniversary of the abduction of the schoolgirls. As the government of President Goodluck Jonathan bids Nigeria farewell in a few weeks time, it must acknowledge the fact that Chibok was its ultimate Achilles heel. It was one incident that substantially weakened the hold the government had on power. It remains one huge stigma that the government could not kick off. That is why Chibok remains an issue even in the twilight of the administration.

Chibok, to all intents and purposes, was invented by opposite people in Nigeria as an instrument of blackmail. It was a deliberate act of mischief directed at a government that was programmed for a fall. But government, the target of the blackmail, did not, at first, understand what all that was all about. It thought Chibok was mere happenstance. It did not realise that it was enemy action.

And because complacency was the defining characteristic of the government, it treated the matter with levity. It wanted to sweep it under the carpet. But it did not re­alise that there was a design, which Chibok was meant to accomplish. As the govern­ment dilly dallied, its enemies began to shout from the roof top. Before government could come to terms with the situation, the prying eyes of the international community was focused on Nigeria. Their attention had been drawn to the oddity. The blackmail had worked. Government was then faced with the huge task of explaining the situation. But explanations would not do. What made sense at that point in time, and even now, was the rescue of the girls.

Then, to deepen the woes of government, a group was put in place to agitate for the rescue of the schoolgirls. Bring Back our Girls agitators seized the stage. They put government on its toes. The government cried foul. It accused the agitators of work­ing for the opposition. Government was probably right on that score. But it still had the responsibility of rescuing the girls. That was the only thing that could make sense. The inability of government to achieve that breakthrough was a huge setback to it. But its loss was the opposition’s gain. The situation emboldened its detractors. Soon, government was reduced to an object of ridicule. That was the unfortunate route that the government of the day went through.

Thus, as it prepares its handover note, it cannot but remember that there was Chibok. That is why it has joined Nigerians in remembering the incident. The National Se­curity Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, has been speaking on the matter. He was reported to have said that Sambisa Forest, where the Chibok girls are believed to be holed up, will be liberated before the hando­ver date of May 29. He was also reported to have assured that the girls would be rescued before the government he is serving bows out.

But no matter what we try to say or do now, Chibok, whatever it means or connotes in Nigeria of today, has been consigned to the ash heaps of modern history. We may choose to remember the issue, surrounding the schoolgirls one year after the frenzy seized us as we are doing now. But that is how far it can go. Chibok merely spells frenzy. And that is what is going on now.

For want of what to say or do next about Chibok, Nigerians are busy theorising and pontificating over the issue. As always, they are trading blames over the delay in the rescue of the schoolgirls. The legendary failure of the government in this matter is being played up, perhaps, for the last time. That is why Col. Dasuki had to rise to the occasion. Because the government that was drowned by Chibok has not left the stage, Col. Dasuki has decided to remind us that there is still a government in place. The NSA did not go off the mark. He was only drawing attention to the efforts of the government that has been buffeted to no end over its inability to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.

But even before Dasuki gave his assur­ances, the owners of the Chibok project had already stepped forward to claim their heri­tage. Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the chief priest of the Chibok grove, has said, as he has always done, that he would rescue the schoolgirls. Even though the schoolgirls were reported to have been missing some one year ago, hope over their rescue has not dimmed for worshippers at the Chibok grove.

But then, the optimism of the Chibok pontifices beats the imagination. They seem to possess a magic wand, which is clearly distant from the rest of us. They usually approach the issue with effortless ease. They seem to be experts in counter-insurgency. That may explain why the terrorist scourge took an im­mediate nosedive the moment the presidential election went the way of the magical ‘chibok­ers’. Now, they appear set to demonstrate their magical prowess, a feat the government of the day was far from accomplishing.

Even though the worshippers at the Chibok grove are yet to demonstrate to the world the sweeping powers of their possession, the people are already full of expectation. And this brings us to the doubt that has been existing in the minds of some Nigerians over Chibok. There are those who held and still hold that Chibok is not real. They will tell you that the story is sheer contrivance. They insist that no schoolgirls were abducted. When they do not go to such extremes, they will advance certain conspiracy theories, notably, that the abduction was the handiwork of enemies of government, who would be too eager to present another set of girls and pass them off as Chibok schoolgirls the moment they are sure that such an action will suit their purpose. This, they say, will be easy to achieve since the real identity of the so-called schoolgirls is hardly known.

This is part of the confusion that surrounds Chibok. But the expectation is that all of that have to change since the real owners of the Chibok project are about to take over. One day, the incoming government will announce that it has rescued the girls. Nigerians will be­lieve them, even if the claim is false. After all, Nigerians believed all the lies of the oppo­sition during the electioneering campaigns. Such compulsive belief has to continue.

The tendency of Nigerians to believe whatever the incoming government will be telling them will be reinforced by the fact that, so far, the insurgents seem to have withdrawn into their shell without prompting. The mere pronouncement of Buhari as winner of the presidential polls has weakened their resolve to fight. They appear to be at one with the development. Thus, even before the ascension of Buhari, the terrorist elements, who are behaving like his lieutenants are already giving the impression that all is well. So, if the mere mention of Buhari is enough to douse the fire power of the terrorists, then many Nigerians will have no problem ascribing a certain magic wand to the government and believing whatever it dishes out to the people.

And if it is taken for granted that the incoming government has some magical powers, then there should be no problem in locating and rescuing the girls. Those holding them will simply reach out to their principal in the incoming dispensation and the deal will be wrapped up.

If we stretch this a bit further, we will be saying that we will not have cause to remember and worry about the Chibok girls beyond this time. There will be no second anniversary of the abduction. We will soon be saying that all is well that ends well. When that happens, we will no longer worry so much about what the situation used to be. We will rather be concerned about how the people found the tree for the woods.

That is the mood of optimism that pervades the political space. The concerned people of Borno State, headquarters of Chibok and, indeed, of terrorism in Nige­ria, took the mood of the moment to the heights when they returned their governor, Kashim Shetima, with about 95 per cent of their votes. By that action, the people of the state have passed a vote of confidence in the governor. They have simply said that he was excellent in his fight against terror. This is in spite of the fact that the man did nothing to stem the tide of insurgency in his territory. He was only adept in the blame game, passing the buck to the gov­ernment at the centre. Yet, all of that earned him a resounding success at the polls. The secret of this is the new culture of belief we are talking about. Such uncritical belief promises to be the mainstay of the new order. Reason and scrutiny may have ended with the present order.

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Royal rascality Thu, 09 Apr 2015 00:09:59 +0000 At first I took it that the state­ment credited to the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, in which he ordered the Igbo living in Lagos State to vote for Akinwumi Am­bode or get ready to die in the lagoon, was a piece of fiction. I refused to believe it because I thought that a royal [...]]]>

At first I took it that the state­ment credited to the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, in which he ordered the Igbo living in Lagos State to vote for Akinwumi Am­bode or get ready to die in the lagoon, was a piece of fiction. I refused to believe it because I thought that a royal father of Oba Akiolu’s standing was incapable of such an outburst. My refusal to as­sociate the Oba with the statement was to be reinforced by some other reports, which suggested that the monarch had denied the statement.

But I was not taken in by such sugges­tions of denial. It was difficult to accept considering the fact that the Oba was copi­ously quoted by the online medium, which broke the news. The denial did not seek to discountenance the attributions made to the Oba. Then, you began to wonder whether the reporter made up such an unsettling sto­ry. Could the imagination of a reporter have roamed so wide to concoct such a damaging tale about the Oba? That was very doubtful.

Besides, the denial, if indeed there was one, was lame and unconvincing because it did not state what was supposed to be the fact of the matter. It is not enough to deny statements credited to you, you give your denial cogency by stating what you really said as against what was wrongly attributed to you. The denial from the Oba’s quarters fell short of this basic requirement.

But all the doubt about the veracity of what the Oba said or did not say melted into thin air when the video footage of the Oba’s outburst hit the social media. I watched the Oba in flesh and blood as he talked down on the Igbo who gathered at his palace.

That, really, was an embarrassing show. I saw an Oba who could not control his anger. He threw his royalty overboard and spoke like a street urchin. That was royal rascal­ity at its most banal. The monarch’s outburst does not only sound offending to the ears and to decorum, it assaults the sensibility of the Igbo people who reserve the right to decide who they will vote for in an election.

The Oba sounded very patronising while addressing his Igbo audience. He gave the impression that their life depends on Lagos. Therefore, as the king of Lagos, he has the power of life and death over them. He told his audience that if they do his bidding, they will continue to prosper in Lagos. Otherwise, death awaits then by the lagoon. This royal rage beats the imagination. It is only some­one who is law unto himself that can dish out such reckless orders. This Oba must be the law itself.

But then, even if we leave the Igbo mo­mentarily out of the Oba’s statement and con­sider its overall import on the polity, we will be faced with an oddity, which is the intru­sion of the traditional institution into politics. Traditional rulers are supposed to be neutral on political issues. They are not supposed to hold any political opinion publicly. The ba­sic reason for this can be located in the fact that as custodians of the people’s culture and tradition, traditional rulers are supposed to be the father of all. They are supposed to pay equal attention to their subjects. Part of their role is not to anoint candidates for elections or dictate to the people who they must vote for. If the traditional institution assumes such a role, it loses the moral authority it has over the people. This is because there is no way everybody under a traditional institution can hold the same view or be of the same politi­cal persuasion. If a traditional ruler imposes his will on the people, that will be taken to be arbitrary and those who do not share his posi­tion will either protest openly or grudge in­wardly. In the present circumstance, the Oba has anointed Akinwumi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC) while rejecting Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yet, both candidates are supposed to be the Oba’s subjects. This discrimination cannot earn the Oba respect in the eyes of the public. It is a situation that cannot speak well of any monarch.

The other point is that the Oba, by engaging in such a disreputable act, has not only wasted his time, he has also disappointed many of those who used to hold him in high esteem. He has wasted his time because he did not speak to any Igbo of substance. Indeed, he could not have invited any Igbo of substance to a meeting and openly threaten his people. That will not be acceptable.

Reports have it that he had a meeting with some people who call themselves Eze Ndigbo of Lagos. It may interest the Oba to know that the Igbo in Lagos do not know, let alone recognise these foreign Ezes. They represent no one but themselves. They are of no consequence in the affairs of their fellow Igbo. It is therefore, a waste of time for anyone who has a message for the Igbo to go through them.

Even in Igboland where certain tradi­tional rulers are recognised and respected, such monarchs are not expected to tell the people who they should vote for at elec­tions. And any one of them who dares to issue such an order will only invite oppro­brium to himself. Of course, no one will listen. That is the way the Igbo are. It is, therefore, a waste of time for any one to seek to dissuade them to the contrary or try to make the Igbo who they are not.

If the Oba is angered by the way the Igbo voted during the Presidential and Na­tional Assembly elections of March 28, it will be important for him to note that no one directed the Igbo voters on who to cast their votes for. They voted according to their individual persuasions and private convictions. So, the threat will not change anything. Rather than win converts for the monarch’s candidate, the threat is capable of making the Igbo harden their stand on the issue. The threat from the Oba is therefore, counter-productive through and through. I only pity Ambode. The man who set out to protect him has, unwittingly, exposed him to an inclement atmosphere. It is only Ambode that can help himself out of this quagmire.


Ebonyi in the court of equity

Chief Martin Elechi, the insu­lar governor of Ebonyi State, may have spent the greater part of his tenure without a whimper. But his last days in office appear strewn with cobwebs. The gov­ernor first hit negative limelight when he sought to contest election into the Senate after his eight-year tenure. His aspiration was greeted with loud dis­approval by a wide spectrum of Nigeri­ans, particularly the people of Ebonyi State. They did not understand what a man in his 70s, especially an inactive one, would be looking for at the Senate. His bid was eventually frustrated.

Then he sought to anoint his successor. But again, his choice was thwarted by the henchmen of his party, the Peoples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), in the state. Their grouse with the governor was that he took his de­cision without consultation with those who, in Nigerian politics, are loosely referred to as ‘stakeholders’ . So Elechi failed in his bid again.

This failure may have been his point of departure with his political bedfellows in the politics of the state. One of such people is Dave Umahi, Elechi’s deputy, who emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the state, against Elechi’s wish. The bad blood that ensued after the fractious primary elections in the state almost led to the im­peachment of the governor. President Good­luck Jonathan had to intervene to save the old man from terminal embarrassment.

At moment, an eerie silence pervades the political atmosphere in the state. But the bubble is likely to burst sooner than later. With two days left to the governorship elec­tion in the state, Elechi and his deputy are working at cross-purposes. In fact, it is be­lieved that Elechi, though still a member of the PDP, is working for the candidate of a rival political party.

But that is not all there is to the issue. The real bone of contention is that Elechi is planning to disrupt the political equilibrium in the state. There is a gentlemanly agree­ment among the three zones of the state to rotate power. Ebonyi North took the first shot through Dr. Sam Egwu, who was gov­ernor from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by the current governor, whose tenure will expire next month. Elechi hails from Eb­onyi Central. The only zone left out so far is Ebonyi South. And that is where Umahi, the candidate of the PDP, comes from. His emergence as governor will therefore, complete the cycle of equity in the state.

Strangely, however, and to the conster­nation of the people of Ebonyi South, Gov­ernor Elechi is scheming to have someone from his Ebonyi Central Senatorial zone succeed him. This objectionable agenda has, again, put Elechi on the warpath with those who want equity in the state. Issues arising from this will play a deciding role in who emerges as the next governor of Ebonyi State, as the election holds this Saturday. But the popular sentiment in the state appears to favour the aspiration of the people of Ebonyi South. Umahi, the deputy governor, who gave his boss a red eye and went away unscathed, looks set to be the beautiful bride of the day.

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Liberating the liberator Thu, 02 Apr 2015 01:00:00 +0000 Four years ago, Rochas Okoro­cha, the Governor of Imo state, came across as a libera­tor. He had cashed in on the real and imagined weak points of the government of the day to emerge as governor. A day after he was declared elected by the Independent National Elec­toral Commission ( INEC), Okorocha worshipped at the [...]]]>

Four years ago, Rochas Okoro­cha, the Governor of Imo state, came across as a libera­tor. He had cashed in on the real and imagined weak points of the government of the day to emerge as governor.

A day after he was declared elected by the Independent National Elec­toral Commission ( INEC), Okorocha worshipped at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Headquarters of the Catho­lic Archdiocese of Owerri. That was on May 7, 2011, the day the reverred Archbishop of the Catholic Archdio­cese of Owerri, His Grace, Archbishop AJV Obinna, described as “ people’s liberation Sunday.”

Okorocha emerged as governor following the supplementary election that was arranged by INEC to deter­mine who, between him and the then governor, Ikedi Ohakim, should be declared elected after two gruelling contests. Archbishop Obinna, appar­ently elated by the manner Okorocha emerged as governor-elect, made the development the subject of his homily on that day. The Archbishop, in a way, celebrated the fall of Ohakim whose defeat he said a prominent leader of the state, whose name he did not mention, attributed to arrogance, ingratitude and superciliousness.

That was Okorocha’s day of glory before the catholic faithful at the ca­thedral. It was a culmination of his triumph about a month earlier when the governorship candidates of the various political parties for the April 2011 gubernatorial polls assembled at the Assumpta Villa for a debate. Ohakim was embarrassed on that day by an unruly crowd apparently hired by Rochas. Ohakim’s loss on that day was Okorocha’s gain.

I do not know how long Okorocha’s romance with the church lasted. But it is obvious today that he has fallen out of Favour with the church on whose back he rode to power. Four years after emerging as the darling of the church at the debate, the same Okorocha has fallen into the disrepute of disrupting the debate organised by the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the church. On the occasion of this year’s edition of the debate, Okoro­cha’s supporters, sensing a ground­swell of resentment for their master, carried out a preemptive strike. They did not want what happened to Ohakim four years ago to happen to Rochas. To stave off the impending embarrass­ment that the crowd would have meted out to Okorocha, they caused a stir. Chairs and tables were freely thrown around. People had to scamper away for their dear lives. The house of God came under attack. It was desecrated.

This desecration of the temple of worship has no precedent in the Chris­tian south in Nigeria. The catholic community in the state is still in a state of stupor. It is an incredible develop­ment which the Okorocha government ought to explain. But what we have seen instead an audacious attempt to deny the incident and join issues with the church. Somebody should tell Okorocha that any battle with the divine is a lost battle. He needs to retrace his steps so that he can be at peace with the creator.

But the church itself appears to know more than meets the eye. The Reverend Father in charge of JDPC activities in the Archdiocese said the other day that the church is worried by Okorocha’s Islamic tendencies. I do not know what some of them know in this regard, but it is a continuation of the received impres­sion that the governor is a Muslim in Christian cassock. The joke is certainly on Okorocha, not the people of the state.

The way things stand, the man who came four years ago brandishing a philosophy of rescue and liberation appears to be in dire need of liberation. He seems to need urgent rescue from the contraptions that are threatening to ensnare him.

Four years down the line, the people of Imo State have taken stock. They are grappling with a load of misgivings about the Okorocha administration. They are asking questions about the uni­versity which the governor was building in his hometown of Ogboko in the name of the state government. The project was, midway, turned into a private uni­versity to be owned by Okorocha and his Rochas Foundation. The governor said the state fund he expended on the project would be converted to a loan. In other words, Imo State government is deemed to have loaned money to Rochas Foun­dation for the establishment of a private university. The people of the state are saying that they do not understand this transaction. They are at a loss as to how the state government became a financial institution that can lend money to an individual or institution. Even if it is the case that the money expended on the pri­vate university has been converted to a loan, how much is this money? What are the terms and conditions governing the loan? Who negotiated the loan and what are the repayment terms? It is questions upon questions. The people want their governor to clarify the issues.

A great deal of concern is also be­ing expressed by the people over the Governor’s private estate in Owerri. The rapacious land acquisition that gave way to the massive estate is the real talk of the town. Those who are interested in accountability are asking questions. They want to know where all the money for the development of the expansive estate came from. Those who have a sense of proportion are saying that the estate project is brazenness of the first order.

That is not all. There are whimpers everywhere in the state about con­tractors who abandoned various road projects because they were never paid for jobs done. The result is that Imo is now a junkyard of abandoned road projects.

Yet, there are those who complain about the PRIVATISATION of the state by the Okorocha administra­tion. The allegation is that a number of the state patrimony has been sold to Okorocha’s companies or their proxies. Mr Governor, what is the true position here? The governor may do well to explain these thorny issues to the people of Imo State.

Unfortunately for Okorocha, as he glosses over these issues, a formidable challenge awaits him in the candi­dature of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and governorship candidate of the PDP in the forthcom­ing governorship election in the state.

Ihedioha, a tested parliamentar­ian and grassroots politician, looks determined to give Okorocha a tough battle. As someone who has won many elections in the past, Ihedioha appears to have a winning formula which is capable of destabilizing Okorocha and his camp.

The governor’s impending woe is not helped by the fact that his party, the APC did not have a good show­ing in the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state. The results of the elections show clearly that Imo is very much a PDP state, regardless of its titular headship by an APC government.

Only last week, Ihedioha unveiled his blueprint for the people of Imo State. Those who were privileged to be at the event hold that the agenda Ihedioha has paraded is worth giving a try. The choice between Imo people is therefore between a government that has a plan of action and that with­out any method or formula.

Okorocha has a responsibility to mend his ways. But I think that it is too late in the day. He may be losing the battle to an Ihedioha who obviously looks more prepared for governance. Certainly, the apostle of liberation is in need of liberation.

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Nigeria at the frontline Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:45:53 +0000 Last week, I was a guest of the Frontline Club, London, where I participated in an interna­tional conference on the state of the Nigerian nation. Before the London road show, I had earlier been scheduled to play the same role at the Atlantic Council in Wash­ington, D.C. The two sessions were put together by government [...]]]>

Last week, I was a guest of the Frontline Club, London, where I participated in an interna­tional conference on the state of the Nigerian nation.

Before the London road show, I had earlier been scheduled to play the same role at the Atlantic Council in Wash­ington, D.C. The two sessions were put together by government officials, dia­sporans, business people and concerned citizens who are disturbed by the welter of misinformation and disinformation about the state of affairs in Nigeria, especially as the country prepares to go to the polls.

The London event came under the theme: “Nigeria at the Frontline: A Con­versation with the UK Press.” The choice of the Frontline Club was apt in a num­ber of respects. For one thing, the club delivers an extensive programme of pub­lic events, bringing together many of the world’s best journalists, photographers, filmmakers and thinkers. For another, the club is known to promote engagement and dialogue on international affairs, champion independent journalism and provide a diverse range of training for journalists and other media workers.

It was within the four walls of this rep­utable organisation that Nigeria was laid bare. I was a panelist at the event where I, in conjunction with other panelists, spoke on a wide range of issues, includ­ing governance, the economy, security, corruption, the forthcoming elections and other topical issues about Nigeria that are of interest not only to Nigerians but the international community also.

As the theme clearly reveals, the event was more of a conversation with the Press in the United Kingdom than anything else. It featured all the major print and electronic media in the United States, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. Some of the media outfits present included Cable News Network (CNN), Aljazera, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), SkyNews, Ben TV, Arise TV, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), The Telegraph, Time Magazine, The Economist, Washington Post, New York Times, The Mail, The Times, Bloom­berg News and a host of others.

It was, by all standards, a stimulating session on Nigeria. The panelists held divergent but informed positions on Ni­geria. The presentations were first-hand information for the foreign journalists most of whom hear and report Nigeria from far away lands. For instance, weeks before the international road show, The Economist, one of the media houses pres­ent at the event, had endorsed the candi­dature of General Muhammadu Buhari. Some of the assumptions that informed the position of the magazine were simply pig- headed. They were largely borne out of ignorance. That was why the magazine erroneously stated that life expectancy in Nigeria had reduced under the Jona­than administration when, indeed, it has increased by two years. Some of the facts and figures made available on Nigeria were quite revealing. They did not only help to keep the foreign journalists better informed about Nigeria, they also humbled the virulent critics of Nigeria who, unfor­tunately, did not have their facts right.

Some of the interventions from the audi­ence revealed the level of cynicism and skepticism that attends matters Nigerian outside our shores. Because Nigeria has been at war with itself over the 2015 gen­eral elections, the international community has come to believe that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Again, because a segment of Nigeria, which is not properly disposed to the Jonathan presidency has held certain strong views about Nigeria, even when some of them are fallacious, the outside world has, somehow, imbibed those views and have begun to propagate them as articles of faith. It was on the strength of this that one of the foreign journalists present at the event stated that the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was sacked by President Jona­than for revealing that $20 billion was missing from government’s coffers. Yet, we know that Sanusi was not sacked by Jonathan. He was only asked to observe his three months terminal leave, which is the standard practice in the Public Service. Unfortunately, the matter was politicised and detractors of the country are holding tenaciously to it while refusing to believe anything to the contrary.

In the same vein, two or three of the journalists at the event were insistent on the full report of the forensic audit of NNPC account carried out by Pricewa­terhouseCoopers. Even though the audit report gave the Nigeria National Petro­leum Corporation (NNPC) a clean bill of health, there are still suspicions in some quarters that aspects of the report may have indicted NNPC. That is the cloud of doubt that beclouds most of government’s actions. The outside world has borrowed a leaf from our own self-doubt.

A number of panels and inquiries were set up, both by the executive and the legislature to audit NNPC’s account with a view to establishing the veracity or other­wise of Sanusi’s claims. But those whose minds had been closed to facts and figures were not interested in such inquiries. They had made up their minds that money was missing. Sanusi had said so and that was it. That is fixation of the worst order. Such disposition does not help the cause of any nation or institution. It is one of the great­est afflictions that Nigeria is saddled with.

To underscore the level of prejudice and skepticism that reigns in the minds of some of those that observe Nigeria from a distance, one of the foreign journalists asked a Nigerian government offi­cial, Mr. Mike Omeri, who was also a panelist at the event, to tell the world specifically when Boko Haram insur­gency would end in Nigeria. Of course, Mr Omeri does not know and cannot know. And, indeed, nobody can know this. The foreign interlocutor ought to know this and he, probably does. But the prejudice in him could not let him be . He had to betray his private convic­tions about the ongoing war against terror in Nigeria by asking the senseless question.

Such an attempt to set a differ­ent standard for Nigeria is part of the problem of perception, which the country faces, especially in the hands of critics of the present administration. That is why terrorism, a worldwide phenomenon which, unfortunately, has crept into Nigeria, is being treated as if it is a blight that can be kicked out in a day. Yet none of the countries of the world where terrorism rules and reigns has been able to kick it out completely. They only strive to contain it. That is the dilemma of a Nigeria that has been rendered prostrate by a rapacious op­position and their mischievous interna­tional collaborators.

Regardless of this handicap, the panelists at the international road shows in Washington, D.C. and London came face to face with this oddity. But they confronted it with confidence and high sense of maturity. At the events, facts confronted fallacies, assumptions were neutralised by practicality and prejudic­es were rendered impotent by informed discourses and analyses. At the end of the day, the audience went home wiser and better informed about Nigeria.

But after the international road shows, the hour has come. In the next 48 hours, Nigerians will file out in their millions to elect those who will lead them for the next four years. The most talked about of them all is the contest between President Jonathan and Gen­eral Buhari. All that can be said about these men have been said. Nigerians have been able to underline the fact that Jonathan has character. His method may not have pleased everyone and cannot possibly please all. But he has the drive and sincerity of purpose that Nigeria needs at this point in time.

However, whatever may be the case, we must leave the rest to the masses of the Nigerian people whose prerogative it is to decide who leads them.


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Winning the peace Wed, 18 Mar 2015 23:57:38 +0000 I remember the world of children created by William Golding in his future-haunted novel, Lord Of The Flies. In the novel, a group of children had been marooned in an island where they had no adult world to guide them. They take to their own fancies in the bid to survive. But they were to [...]]]>

I remember the world of children created by William Golding in his future-haunted novel, Lord Of The Flies. In the novel, a group of children had been marooned in an island where they had no adult world to guide them. They take to their own fancies in the bid to survive. But they were to discover in the course of their growing up that the island in which innocence once reigned had been polluted. Man’s innate depravity had reared its ugly head. And the bestial­ity of the adult world had to creep in. Greed-induced death had begun to occur. In the regret that ensued, one of them, having looked back in time and knowing why things were what they were, wept for the death of innocence and the fall through the air of someone who was once a true, wise friend.

If we move away from the imaginary and imaginative world of Golding, we will have before us a Nigeria where we can beat our chest and proclaim that we know why things are what they are.

Any Nigerian who is not blinded by criticism should, by now come to terms with the fact that President Jonathan is a quintessential innocent president who did not want to be polluted by the depravity of his environment. Even though the bestiality of the Nigerian variety stared him in the face early in the life of his administration, he chose to be gradual and methodical in his response to it. It was so because his outlook is devoid of sensation. He neither takes delight in hugging headlines nor stoking undue controversy. Where the typical public figure will play to the gallery and talk tough, Jonathan would relapse into reflection with a view to taming the situation. Reflection, as we know, slows down action. But it, ultimately, produces a salutary result that only the mature and patient can reap.

But then, how many of us understand, let alone appreciate the value of patience and tact in public affairs? Certainly not many. Whereas the typical Nigerian is deficient in matters of patience, we can safely say that President Jonathan is not afflicted by this handicap. He has the gift of patience and that is why he makes haste slowly. This approach to public affairs, I believe, has been largely responsible for the harsh criticisms that he has had to face.

However, some four years down the line, it has become necessary to situate the president and his approach properly. In doing this , one issue that readily comes to mind is the ongoing war against terror. Where was Jonathan before and where is he now? What did he know then and what does he know now?

When the bombs began to explode early in the life of his administration, not many Nigerians imagined that Boko Haram insurgency would transmute into a full blown war of extermination. Whereas many were astounded at the development at that initial stage and wanted govern­ment to find an immediate solution to the emerging scourge, Jonathan was not quick to go for broke. After what must have been a quiet reflection, the president was not disposed to taking the battle to the terrorists. He said the terrorists were only misguided and would, sooner or later, come to their senses. He did not want Nigerians to rise and kill them in return.

That is the essential Jonathan. He does not see his mission in Nigeria as that of some one who has been sent to rock the boat. He seeks to unite rather than crave for division. He sees the larger picture-that of building a united Nigeria where love and peace would reign.

This disposition may sound idealistic, even unrealistic. But that is the way the mind of our president works. You can liken him to the good shepherd whose interest lies principally in shepherding the flock and would not let any go astray. It will therefore not be out of place to say that the president was driven by good in­tentions when he appeared slow at first in confronting terror. But if he has changed his approach now, it is not because he came to terms with the reality late, it is because what was once an isolated evil has grown wings and has become truly monstrous. There is therefore need to confront the monster frontally.

In a country like ours where the polity has been ravaged by propaganda-induced skepticism, the received impression in a number of quarters is that the Jona­than administration chose, rather late in the day, to go for an all-out war with Boko Haram because of the forthcom­ing general elections. The conclusion such skeptics and cynics draw is that the administration is employing the ongoing military onslaught against the insurgent Boko Haram as a campaign weapon.

In a similar way, I have heard some Nigerians say that government reduced the pump price of petrol not because of the decreasing fortunes of crude in the international oil market but as a gim­mick to win the sympathy of Nigerians for the forthcoming elections. That is how polluted the imagination of certain Nigerians has become. They like the fact that the pump price of petrol was reduced. But rather than commend that, they will say instead that it did not go far enough. Yet, nobody canvassed for the reduction. Nigerians did not even know that govern­ment could contemplate a price reduction when it is almost taken for granted that an increase in the pump price of petrol and other petroleum products was imminent in the face of partial withdrawal of the sub­sidy regime by government. That is the damage that skepticism can inflict on the psyche of a people. But that is an aside.

The real issue before us remains the renewed onslaught against Boko Haram. Whereas everybody agrees that routing in­surgency is desirable and therefore a wel­come development, some have decided to tie this noble objective to the elections. The impression they create is that govern­ment will drop its arms or, at best, relax in the battle, the moment the elections are over. By so doing, such cynics are giving government a back-handed compliment.

We can decide here to ignore critics of fuel price reduction with their fancies, but we cannot afford to trifle with the rein­vigorated push against Boko Haram.

Before the military seized the day, the Nigerian government was buffeted and harangued to no end over the growing in­surgency in the land. Then, it looked like government was caught napping. Critics of the administration feasted heavily on this. They packaged and sold the admin­istration as clueless and clawless. It was, indeed, a very low moment for the Jonathan administration.

But we really cannot appreciate the strides the military is making now unless we go back in time and remind ourselves of the way the mind of the president was working at the very beginning. Those who still have active memories will recall that Jonathan was reluctant to deal decisively with Boko Haram at first. His response to the challenge of insurgency was pacifist. He said the terrorists were our brothers. He said there was no need going to war with some of our own. He therefore decided to appeal to them to drop their arms and embrace peace.

Unfortunately, the president’s ap­proach had the opposite effect on the terrorists. They were amused by it all. They began to see Nigeria as an easy ride. It emboldened them to commit more heinous crimes against the fa­therland. They told the world that they were out to impose Islamic regime on Nigeria. They even told the president to convert to Islam or be hounded out of office.

Then, some elements moved in and sold the idea of negotiation to govern­ment. They told government to negoti­ate with Boko Haram and grant them amnesty in the same way it did with and for Niger Delta militants. The sug­gestion tended to make sense in some quarters even when there was no basis for comparison between Niger Delta militancy and terrorism in the north. The idea was therefore not thrown overboard by government. But the real handicap then was that Boko Haram had no face. Therefore, government had nobody to interface with.

But all that belong to the past now. The Jonathan disposition at moment dictates otherwise. Like many of us, the president is convinced, more than ever before, that terrorism in Nigeria has come to stay. This being the case, he is out to deal with the scourge decisively. His resolve now is that terror must be rooted out of Nigeria. But he is always quick to add that that would not mean the end of Boko Haram insurgency. Surely, Boko Haram will live beyond the Jonathan presidency. But the salutary thing now is that Nigeria has a clear road map on how to win the terror war. Already, the war is being won. But at the end of the day, Nigeria would have won the peace, not the war.

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Bridge across divide Wed, 04 Mar 2015 23:35:52 +0000 Last Saturday, I was part of the crowd of enthusiasts that received President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Asaba, Delta State. The president was in the state for a solidarity and endorsement rally organised for him by the Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Southern Nigeria. I had, earlier in the week, been intimated of the [...]]]>

Last Saturday, I was part of the crowd of enthusiasts that received President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Asaba, Delta State. The president was in the state for a solidarity and endorsement rally organised for him by the Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Southern Nigeria.

I had, earlier in the week, been intimated of the event by Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, the former governor of Sokoto State, a man who has earned my respect for his abiding standards and principles.

As someone who understands the meaning and essence of enlightenment, Bafarawa did not just invite me to an event being put together by the Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Southern Ni­geria, he took time to educate me on what the Organisation was all about. At the end of the excursion, I was better able to situate the Initiative properly.

From Bafarawa’s expose, the Initia­tive was borne out of original thinking. Bafarawa, with a crop of like minds, had sat back to reflect on Nigeria. Like the rest of us, they did not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria was beset with teething problems. But rather than clasp their hands in resigna­tion or relapse into ignoble ease, they chose to confront the odds. They had to do this because they recognised the fact that you do not defeat a monster by running away from it. You confront it instead. It was this spirit of conquest that propelled Bafarawa and his group to confront the monster called indigeneship in Nigeria.

It is a well known fact that Nigeria is one country that does not integrate its own in the true sense of the word. An easterner who lives in the North for years on end remains an easterner regardless of the level of accultura­tion that he has gone through. The same is true of the northerner or westerner who lives outside his geographic origin. That is why groups and tribes are usually isolated and tar­geted for brutality or extermination in times of crisis in Nigeria. It is so because what marks you out is your tribe, or ethnic origin, not your Nigerianness. In other words, your nationality is secondary to your tribe. The former is subsumed under the latter. It is for this reason that many Nigerians think, not of Nigeria first but their ethnic groups. That also explains why Nigeria is usually an orphan when issues of national concern come up for consideration or discussion. People tend to move away from the centre in preference for ethnic loyalties and alliances.

To underline the fact that we are at home with this fractious tendency, no effort has ever been made in the history of Nigeria to address the issue of indigeneship. None of our post-independence constitutions has ever broached the matter. We seem to be comfort­able with the incongruity. Yet, the oddity has been one of the issues that hamper national unity and cohesion. The culture of ethnic isolation and rejection has, unfortunately, bred ethnic consciousness. Nationalism is relegated to the backwaters. This situation has not helped national integration and and ethnic tolerance.

As a career politician, Bafarawa has always proclaimed that he is not in politics to seek power. He believes that power comes from God and is of God. He says that he is, instead, in politics to serve the people. He has had the opportunity to serve the people on a number of occa­sions. As governor of Sokoto State, for instance, he left legacies that the people remember with fondness.

But Bafarawa is still thinking people. While most politicians only worry about how to grab power and use it to feather their own nest, the likes of Bafarawa are thinking about what can be, and has to be done, to improve the lot of the people. It was in the light of this that he, with the other like minds, decided to spare a thought for the northerner living in the South.

The Arewa Initiative is, therefore, a well considered action programme designed to give voice to the northerner, who lives in southern Nigeria. Many of them were born and brought up in the South, yet they remain strangers in the midst of those who have harboured them over the years. The same thing is true of the southerner, living in the North. He is not integrated into the affairs of the Arewa people. And no matter how hard he tries, he remains a stranger in their midst.

This is the unfortunate state of affairs in Nigeria. But the Arewa Initiative is poised to reverse this ugly trend for northerners, living in the South. When this is achieved, the relationship between the Arewa people and their host communities in the South will improve and this will make for ethnic harmony and national integration. Many are looking forward to the success of this laudable initiative and are hoping that a southern version of it will, some day, emerge to address the problems, southern­ers living in the North face.

The sense in this initiative came alive in Asaba on that fateful Saturday. Represen­tatives of Arewa communities in the 17 southern states were in Asaba to express their support for Mr. President. But they also used the opportunity to tell their story. Their petitions are familiar issues. They exist both in the South and in the North. But it was gratifying to note that a presidential initiative put together by President Jonathan himself is already in place to address these challenges. Unfortu­nately, their activities have been hampered by the crack in Nigeria Governors Forum. The expectation is that the second coming of Jonathan will provide us with another ample opportunity to address some of these issues that stand in the way of a united and peaceful NIGERIA.


Who is after Peter Obi?

A few days ago, I watched a documentary on Africa Inde­pendent Television. My first surprise was that Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, was the subject of the documentary. I had thought that an ex-governor, who is not contesting for any elective of­fice now or sponsoring any one for that matter, does not deserve that undue at­tention at this point in time.

The second thing that surprised me was the content of the documentary. It presented Peter Obi in bad light. Then, I began to wonder why. Is ex-governor Obi in contest for political or economic space with some­one? Why the well-crafted attempt to bring him down?

Then, I recalled that there was a time his relationship with his successor, Willie Obiano, was said to be cold, even though I did not quite know what could have put Peter and Willie on the warpath early in the day. But then, we saw both of them in a warm embrace recently when President Goodluck Jonathan visited Anambra State recently. The reports that emanated from that photo appearance was that Goodluck had reconciled Peter and Willie. Based on this, I tended to think that the documentary had nothing to do with the Obi-Obiano feud.

But the copious reference made in the documentary to APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance), the party Obi left recently for PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), sug­gested that the APGA leadership might have been behind the damaging documentary.

Then, I began to wonder why it should be so. I wondered because the APGA leadership, strictly speaking, should not be bothered any more about Peter Obi’s defection. Rather, it should concentrate on how to win majority seats in the forthcoming National Assembly and House of Assembly elections in Anam­bra State. If the party achieves this, it would have put paid to Peter Obi’s defection.

But I just hope that Governor Obiano has no hand in the war against Peter Obi. It will be unfortunate if he has. What is good for Willie is to strive to beat the record of his predecessor. All over Anambra State, I see giant billboards, proclaiming that “Willie is working.” Let Willie continue to work. He will lose steam if he begins to chase shadows by demonising his predecessor.



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