The Sun News » Columns - Voice of The Nation Thu, 26 Nov 2015 14:49:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Nigerian constitution a fraud against itself Thu, 26 Nov 2015 00:19:44 +0000 WE do not rate men by their achievements. These things sometimes come to men by luck. Perhaps, we should know. We ourselves have done things, some singular things, by sheer serendipity, plain old luck. Rather and more advisedly, we rate men by the cour­age with which they confront our human, all too hu­man mortality. In [...]]]>

WE do not rate men by their achievements. These things sometimes come to men by luck. Perhaps, we should know. We ourselves have done things, some singular things, by sheer serendipity, plain old luck. Rather and more advisedly, we rate men by the cour­age with which they confront our human, all too hu­man mortality.

In fact, the whole curriculum and essence to philosophy is in the question of death, of man bat­tling against his mortality. Whether it is of Pythago­ras, whether it is of Professor Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, all are the stories of man, the awakened man, contending with his mortality. Like Obierika the thinker-character in Things Fall Apart, the great mind is forever wondering: Is the Biblical promise: Don’t ye know ye are gods? false, a fraud? Perhaps, it will not be out of place to remark that wanting to be Caesar and or president is the response of the men who have no great brains, who think being god, be­ing immortal, is in being muscular, almost with an army to command. Poor Caesar, god is too sublime to have form or wear boots. Or be sheriff.

And just by the way, Pythagoras thought the keys to eternal life and our hedge against mortality were in numbers. He was right, only he didn’t or couldn’t find or found them. But he left us in the course of his fruitless search for numbered immortality, those principles and inspirations, which are the basis of mathematics as we know it.

Now, Professor Ben Nwabueze is in autumnal years. He is frail and in geriatric health. But this same great one, Nwabueze, is at his library working in re­morseless fury as if he has just come into puberty. One thing is suggested here by these exacting men­tal exercises of Nwabueze. It is that like a Buddha, Nwabueze has brushed aside and transcended the very flesh, is become immortal in the truer meaning of the word. He is now all work and essence. That is the highest state of being we are allowed as man, as god-man, to say things the way the Indians will put it.

To read his noon sparkling thesis in these his grey years is to remind ourselves that he must be one of the greatest men of our, or indeed any age. And to think that the lucidity of Nwabueze’s mind, at his grand old age, reminds us of the clarity of Socrates at conference with his executioners. That itself is to suggest that Nwabueze might be at mightier works than a Socrates was at that hour. Socrates was hold­ing brief against those who wanted his head, even as his younger disciples like Plato, looked on in dis­belief. But unlike Socrates, Nwabueze’s is to defend the future of the youths, his disciples and the follow­ers of democratic plurality and order – directly. He is our and not his own attorney. Socrates, at least, in a very material if restricted sense, was arguing his own case. But Nwabueze is arguing for the future he wills to bequeath, without, perhaps, taking a share in it. True philanthropy was never made greater than this.

So, it is no news that we follow Nwabueze as duty any time he writes. And he wrote recently: The sage writes: Assigning duties or functions to minis­ters (1) PUNCH 12-11-15 Ben Nwabueze. And we were both joyful and troubled. Joyful that Nwabueze is reassuring us that it is not life, the life that matters but the courage with which you smash through her.

And in reading him we are again reassured of the ancient truth known all over the civilised world. And that is that the life of the mind is the high life, is the higher life; and that the library is the holiest ground known to the gods, and the greatest scene of the greatest adventures and or battles ever fought by man. Of course, the school and or its libraries since Plato’s academy have often come with an overarch­ing sign. It reads: No thugs are allowed in, please. By that Plato meant those who could not subject them­selves to the symmetry, logic and beauty in geom­etry. These others who come as politicians, as nation­alists, as fools and godogodos all go out to seek raw, uncooked and thuggish power, to be thugs. It is thus the commoners, who think there is ukazzi soup in leadership, in power and pomp. Actually, leadership has been for the blockheads who have nothing bet­ter, certainly nothing mental, to accomplish. Leader­ship has been for they who cannot, like Nwabueze, sit still in a library, read and control the universe, to quote Perelman the Russian mathematician. At Har­vard when my uncle was there, for instance, if you left the faculty to go and beg for votes or leadership, mates will be wondering how this blockhead did get in amongst us in the first? Leadership is for lovable fools, not for the people of the book, of the libraries, as the prophet characterised the best of humanity, the best like Nwabueze. Go to China… and thus said the prophet.

And the sad part. In the said essay, Nwabueze writes:

A minister and a ministry are thus vastly differ­ent things, which cannot be equated one with an­other. It could not have been the intention of Section 147(3) or of the makers of the constitution that there should be as many ministries as there are states, say, 50, 100 or more than that!! In terms of costs, the to­tal personal emolument of a minister is only a small fraction of the total recurrent expenditure of a minis­try, with its multitude of functionaries.

With all due respect we hold that the phrase; it could not have been the intention of Section… or of the makers of the constitution, does not arise at all. That constitution was a forgery, a lie against itself. That constitution was hoisted on the rest of the coun­try by a section of the country and or the military wing of that part of the country acting on the behalf of the said section.

As we write this, there is no known Yoruba man dead or alive, who was privy to the authoring of this alleged constitution. And if the Yoruba, apparently or feint joint-heirs and winners of the Biafra-Nigeria war were studiedly excluded, then you can imagine the fate of the rest of the nation. That is to say, there was no Igbo man no Ijaw man, no Ishekiri man, no Ibibio man, no Urhobo man, who knew anything about the alleged constitution.

And the drama of deceit and fraud was further emphasised by the maliciousness and added fraud that General Olusegun Obasanjo, who apparently received the surrender documents was elected into power and or office without his ever having sighted the constitution, which was literally forged at his back and the back of his people.

So, the constitution was not just a lie against it­self, it was not just a forgery, but was a malicious fraud. At this point it will be curious to speak of the intentions of the makers of a fraud, a lie, a forgery, as if any good can come out of evil and maliciousness.

Well, we have treated this matter some exhaus­tively in our 2013 book, Minorities as Competitive Overlords. Very well, what we have to add for em­phasis is that even if it makes legal sense, it is philo­logical, historical, psychological and philosophical nonsense to canvass intentions of forgers as if there can be bread baked out of stones or champagne pressed out of dysentery.

Any way, the forgers are alive and well. Rath­er than crack our legal heads, we should confront them, the northern generals who hoisted the forgery on the rest of the nation and ask them what exactly they mean by this forgery. Even more: Shall what is forged in a dictatorship stand in a democracy? And unless the matter is resolved by returning the making of the constitution to its constituent makers, all al­leged elevation is, to use legal jargon, null and void. Nigeria, simply put, has no constitution. Nigeria is a jungle and will remain so until we all jointly and constituently civilise it.

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Eternal lessons of Audu’s death Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:40:52 +0000 IT is when tragedies, such as the sudden demise of Abubakar Audu, occur that some people start reassessing their lives and thinking about death. Ordinarily, it is not in the nature of man to always remember that this life will expire someday. Strangely too, man even thinks that he is the ]]>

IT is when tragedies, such as the sudden demise of Abubakar Audu, occur that some people start reassessing their lives and thinking about death. Ordinarily, it is not in the nature of man to always remember that this life will expire someday. Strangely too, man even thinks that he is the controller of the universe by the way he does things and reasons. He makes plans for the next 100 years – how he is going to conquer the remaining planets and build castles in the air. Some humans weirdly see themselves as indestructible – too powerful to be challenged by any mortal. But the unpredicted exit of the Prince of the Niger has jolted many back to the realities of this ephemeral life.

How many people would still have such voluptuous and vain mindset about life after Audu’s passage into eternity? I doubt. This was a man on the threshold of fulfilling his dream of becoming governor the third time! He was governor first in 1991/92, again in 1999-2003, and the third attempt this time did not eventually materialise.

What else could have stopped him from mounting the podium the third time to be sworn in as governor if not the long hand of death? At the last count, he was leading in the Kogi State governor- ship contest by as many as over 41,000 votes. Just when everybody that tallied the results as they were being collated had already concluded that Audu had won, the Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha (Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi), punctuated it with the announcement that the election was inconclusive.

The cancellation was occasioned by the cancellation of 49,000 votes in 91 polling units across the state, which was higher than the number with which the late Audu led his main challenger, Governor Idris Wada.

Sources had rumoured that it was the news of the inconclusive election broken to Audu that precipitated a change in his health condition, leading to uncontrollable perspiration; and before anybody knew what was happening, he had died on the way to the hospital. I am sorry to state here that there was no truth in the rumour. Prince Audu died at 6 a.m. on Sunday – several hours before the commencement of the collation of the results.

For me, this is the worst and strangest piece of news I have ever heard in recent times: That a man was leading in an election and about to be declared the winner and he died! Nobody believed the news of his death when it first broke. Some thought it was fairytale. I thought the same way too. But as the minutes led to hours and nothing changed people started believing the news was true.

I know many people doubted the news because they never ever thought Audu whom they saw probably a few hours before his death could die just like that. But that is life for you! Nobody is sure when his or her time would come. It is all in the hands of God.

For anybody who knew Abubakar while alive it would be impossible to think he would die the way he did. He was a kindhearted man – full of life. He cherished life and led it in full. One would have thought that the way he led life with all the opulence and candour at his disposal that, at least, death would have been merciful unto him.

I must confess that even as I wrote this piece, before his burial on Monday at 1.15 p.m., I was still thinking that somehow something would have happened to change the news. At a point the social media came up with a story that Audu was not dead, after all. Many in their frustration believed it and started jubilating.

There was drama at his residence at Ogbonicha where cleric spent hours praying for him to rise from the dead as Christ did. In their desperation, hundreds chorused ‘Allah Akbar’ as the cleric delivered his supplications to God to do a miracle. Nonetheless, in the end he could not come around. And that was when it dawned on them that the situation was irreversible.

Who had the powers to blame those that still prayed for him to rise when it was clear that once one sets out on the journey to the world beyond nothing would ever reverse it? I do not blame anybody because the suddenness of his death was enough to cause such hallucination.

The crowd at his burial was huge. People came from all walks of life to witness the interment of one of the greatest sons Igarra land had ever produced. They looked disconsolate and inconsolable. The atmosphere around the place was somber and melancholic. Women and children wept uncontrollably. The youth were irate and threw their hands into the air, as if asking God to send thunder to consume the ‘wicked’ that might have caused the death of their illustrious son.

In all that happened that fateful Monday, one thing stood out: Audu had gone and gone forever. If it had been possible to raise him from the dead the outpouring of emotions would have done that.

But God knew why it happened the way it did. And nobody can question him.

Audu’s death has raised many questions already. One of these questions is: Was his demise a mere coincidence or was it premeditated? Anybody that asks this kind of question is not mistaking at all.

Many Nigerians are befuddled and stupefied by this sad incident. I, for one, am speechless and heartbroken.

I spoke with the late Abubakar Audu a day before his death. Yes, I did. After all, he had been a close friend long before he became governor of Kogi in 1991/92 under the National Republican Convention (NRC). We were together in NRC. While he was governor I was at the House of Representatives. It was a friendship that transcended ethnic and religious boundaries.

I was in Lokoja last week – precisely on Tues- day, a few days to the election – on a private visit and paid him a courtesy call. We exchanged pleasantries and reminisced on our past together. He was his usual warm and friendly self, exuding some vivacity as we threw banters. He recounted his plans for the people of Kogi and how he would transform the state into a 21st century Eldorado.

I believed every word he spoke, because I could feel and see the passion and sincerity in his eyes. His mission statement was explicitly captured by his manifesto.

Nonetheless, there was nothing to belie the fact that death lay some four days away, as we dined and wined! Nothing, I repeat! He did not tell me of any debilitating condition or ill-health that would have signposted his sudden death.

Many people may not know this: Audu was a very jocular and lively person. There was never a dull moment whenever one met him.

He looked forward with eager expectation to his return to Lord Lugard House in Lokoja. I am sure he had put everything in place to make the return if his dreams had not been cut short. Death where then is your sting? This ubiquitous death, why did you take away our beloved Audu the way you did?

My greatest worry now is what happens to the impending mandate freely given by the people of Kogi? I refer to it as ‘impending’ because if not for the inconclusiveness of the election, he would have been declared the outright winner; and everything pointed to it. If this had happened, Section 181(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended would have taken effect. The section states: If a per- son duly elected as governor dies before taking the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, as governor, the person duly elected with him as deputy governor shall be sworn in, as governor and he shall nominate a new deputy governor who shall be appoint- ed with the approval of a simple majority of the House of Assembly.

By this provision, his deputy would have taken over the mandate and nominated his own deputy who must be approved by a simple majority of the vote by the state House of Assembly. As it stands now, it will be difficult for that provision to be applied in this circumstance.

So, what happens next? I have asked this question because I am worried that we might have a constitutional crisis on our hands. The present constitution or any law for that matter did not envisage what had happened in Kogi. Who would have thought that a candidate would have died the same day his victory in an election was to be announced? It is only God that would have envisaged that.

In my assessment, the situation is graver than many people think. What if the man that came second in the election claims victory, what will happen? Is it not possible that Governor Wada, after the seven-day mourning his government declared to honour Audu, could lay claim to the mandate? In fact, anything is possible.

But if I were asked, I would advise that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) goes ahead and conclude the election. If in the end All Progressives Congress (APC) emerges victorious, then Audu’s deputy should be allowed to hold the mandate and let Section 181(1) apply. What if Wada wins, will APC accept defeat? Would it not be blamed on the death of Audu?

The situation, in all intent and purpose, is truly dicey. As it stands, both candidates have secured the mandatory 25 per cent in two-thirds of the local governments in the state. What either of them needs now is out- right majority.

I am afraid of Section 141 of the Electorate Act, which does not allow anybody that did not fully participate in an election to be returned duly elected. In this case, what hap- pens if APC decides to substitute? This section, if applied, strictly would make it difficult for APC to do so.

What of Sections 33 and 36 of the Electoral Act? Section 36(1) deals with the death of a candidate, while Section 33 sets out the right of a political party to substitute its candidate who has withdrawn his candidacy or has died. These are undisputable obstacles that must be surmounted by APC.

INEC is under the imperativeness of the law to conduct the Kogi governorship supplementary election 14 days from the date it was declared inconclusive by the Returning Officer. What this means is that INEC can go ahead and stage the election oblivious of the fact that Audu is dead.

This places a huge burden on APC: Has it duly informed INEC officially about the death of its governorship candidate? At the time of writing this piece, APC is yet to do so. Probably it was waiting for Audu to be buried first before embarking on this process.

It is important at this juncture to ask if the Doctrine of Necessity could apply in the present circumstance. It was applied when President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office to make way for then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to assume office. The circumstances differ this time round, but there is an urgent need to do something very fast to avoid the creation of unnecessary lacuna in Kogi State.

I know that the Doctrine of Necessity was a creation of the Military Junta in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It is strange that it is being used in a democratic system as ours. So, I do not think it can be used this time round.

Some commentators have also advocated that the Attorney-General of the Federation should approach the Supreme Court for advice on how to resolve the intricate situation in Kogi, occasioned by Audu’s death. However, this is not as easy as some people look at it in view of Sections 232 and 233 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The limited spectrum of Section 232 makes it impossible for the Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction in the matter. It cannot, in a simpler form, hear the matter directly as it is not the court of first instance. The only three instances where the Supreme Court can assume such a jurisdiction are in the case of a dispute between the National Assembly and the President; the National Assembly and any state House of Assembly; and the National Assembly and any state of the Federation.

By implication, no case can be taken directly to the Supreme Court without first passing through other courts below, except in the instances given above. So, going to the Supreme Court to seek redress cannot work.

The only option left for INEC is to approach the Federal High Court, in line with Section 251(1)(q) of the Constitution. The Federal High Court can then invoke the referral clause under Section 295 of the Constitution. This is the only way the Federal High Court can refer substantial questions of law to the Court of Appeal for interpretation. From the Court of Appeal it can now progress to the Supreme Court for further adjudication. Anything outside of this is an exercise in futility.

From the foregoing it can now be seen why I stated earlier that the development in Kogi is not as easy as some people would make us believe.

The burden to lead the way in finding legal and constitutional resolution of the is- sues that will arise with the death of Audu lies squarely at the feet of INEC. It must take up the matter as urgently and pragmatically as it can to avoid aggravating the already complex situation.

The leadership of APC should move fast by communicating INEC formally of the death of its governorship candidate. Allowing the matter to drag without notifying INEC will create more problems.

The death of Prince Audu has exposed the insufficiencies in our electoral jurisprudence. For instance, I had expected the crafters of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Law to have envisaged what happened in Kogi. Probably, this is the proper time to embark on a holistic review of our laws to nip in the bud the kind of logjam we have seen in Kogi.

I feel for the family of Audu and pray God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss. Audu is irreplaceable and his place in history has been reserved, considering the circumstances of his death and monumental accomplishments.

May God rest his soul! Amen!

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Magu, new EFCC boss, faces tough times Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:22:37 +0000 IT has become something of a routine for every newly appointed chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to talk tough, breathe hard and convey the impression that he/she has incomparable track record as an unassailable anti-corruption tsar with remarkable ]]>

IT has become something of a routine for every newly appointed chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to talk tough, breathe hard and convey the impression that he/she has incomparable track record as an unassailable anti-corruption tsar with remarkable abilities to deal with difficult dishonourable officials. I am not really sure what the tough talk is intended to achieve or why they have to embellish their anti-corruption credentials. Is the message intended to convey to the public that the incumbent chairperson is superhuman, unimpeachable, and will not be soft on corruption?

I was somewhat bemused last week when the newly appointed acting chairperson of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, adopted the same template of hard talk used by his predecessors not only to announce his arrival at the agency but also to warn of a new commitment to the fight against corruption. When he assumed office as the EFCC boss, Magu said (with seriousness plastered all over his face) that he planned to wipe out corruption from our offices and living rooms. Any man or woman who could eliminate corruption from our society deserves more than a national award.

Unfortunately, despite numerous promises made by previous heads of the EFCC, none has been able to scratch the problem, not even Nuhu Ribadu, the dreaded first chairperson of the EFCC, a man who fondly and repeatedly referred to him- self as the exemplary public official equipped with the moral energy and physical strength to combat widespread corruption in Nigeria.

Notwithstanding the gap between intention and actual achievement that tainted his predecessors’ tenure, Magu expressed his iron determination to succeed, even where those who preceded him had failed. He said he would turn the EFCC around, and vowed to “ginger up the anti-corruption campaign”. He said the current environment offered the best opportunity to make the country corrup- tion-free and, therefore, every foreign investor’s number one country of choice for business investment.

These are all good intentions. The real challenge lies in converting enthusiastic plans into practical action. It is also about moving the EFCC from the plane of optimism to the platform of realism.

The problem is that we have heard all these be- fore. Days after Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri was appointed the chairperson of the EFCC in May 2008, she warned everyone to sit up because, as she put it, she was prepared to step on every- body’s toes. It was a speech that frightened many corrupt politicians and public officials. It was also a statement that cast her as a no-nonsense chair of an anti-vice organisation. Of course, the image she configured for herself in the early days of her appointment was never sustained during her entire tenure. No need to revisit the tragedy that struck her during the time she headed the EFCC. The rest is history.

Mrs. Waziri was not the only EFCC boss who was on record to have bragged about their determination to swiftly apprehend and prosecute corrupt politicians and public officials. Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer boss of the agency, was also guilty of such a bluster. Ahead of the 2007 general elections, Ribadu reacted to public criticisms of the performance of the EFCC when he acknowledged the agency had been quiet for some time because officials were waiting for corrupt state governors to leave office before they could be arrested and prosecuted.

Ribadu said the EFCC had collected a lot of evidence with which the corrupt governors would be charged to court once their tenure came to an end. He blamed the constitution for the delay in arresting the governors. He reminded everyone that the constitution guaranteed the governors immunity from arrest and criminal prosecution while they were in office. On account of this excuse, everyone waited for Ribadu and his EFCC officials to apprehend the governors immediately they quit office in May 2007. Unfortunately, nothing happened long after the governors left office. Rather than go into hiding, the former governors moved about freely.

Regardless of what might have happened in the past, this is not the time for Magu to be despondent. It is always good to dream big and to be ambitious because dreams are free. Magu should dream to take the EFCC to higher levels. To re- form the commission, he must be fearless, ruthless, innovative, methodical and ground-breaking in the way he approaches the fight against corruption.

Magu can succeed because he has everything on his side. As a pioneer staff of the EFCC and as a man referred to as “General” even though he never served in the army, he has the experience, the insights and knowledge of diverse issues that undermined the efforts of the EFCC over the years. He has also worked with previous chairpersons of the agency. This knowledge, as well as the privileged positions in which he has served in the EFCC, will be valuable as Magu tries to steer the agency to a new direction that his predecessors avoided. The challenges will not be stress-free. They will not be uncomplicated. He will confront legal obstacles. He will be confronted with political pressures, as well as demands from big businesses. The same politicians that he is expected to scrutinise will make life difficult for him and his officials.

As an experienced senior official of the EFCC, Magu must realise he is occupying a sensitive and critical position. Every action he takes to apprehend corrupt officials and politicians will earn him automatic enemies. In this context, his pool of adversaries will magnify as his group of friends will shrink. His actions, his utterances, his movements, and the company he keeps will be scrutinised by the people and the press. Everything he does will be examined critically and explained in diverse ways, most times in derogatory terms. For this reason, Magu must be prepared to take the good and the ugly sides of public assessment of his performance.

Perhaps, Magu could turn out to be the miracle man who transformed the EFCC into a genuine, unprejudiced and independent anti-corruption agency that Nigerians had yearned for many years. It could be the ideal anti-graft organisation, which the founding fathers envisaged but failed to produce in the past decade.

Magu must avoid by all means the doomed approaches used by the EFCC to fight corruption. One of the reasons the EFCC continues to suffer from poor achievement record and adverse image is the narrow operational focus of the organisation in its campaign against fraud. Over the years, officials of the EFCC expended too much energy on chasing corrupt “rats and rodents” in the society while notorious criminals as well as dishonourable politicians, senior public officials, and fly-by-night businessmen and women continued to raid the national treasury, converting national resources and tax payers’ money into their personal wealth and illegally appropriating public property.

The existing criminal culture of entitlement under which high profile politicians, state governors, local government chairpersons, senior public officials, and business executives plunder the country’s resources must be stopped immediately. No one, regardless of their social status, is entitled to use our common wealth to build illegal business empires and to furnish their private palatial homes.

Magu and senior officials of the EFCC must keep an eye out for these abuses and uncontrolled financial misconduct that have become widespread in our society. While I acknowledge that there are shades of corruption such as little corruption, petty corruption, and big corruption, I am also mindful that it is the big fish in the ocean of corruption that provide the oxygen that sustains the small fish. This does not mean the EFCC should overlook corrupt practices perpetrated by people of low socioeconomic status.

Nigerians can be hard to please. They can be difficult but they also know when public officers are doing the right thing. Nevertheless, the public will serve as a test kit to measure Magu’s performance. If he is doing well, he will know from the way the public responds to him. If he is doing badly or poorly on the job, he will also find out all too easily. We live in a society in which everyone is entitled to their view.

Magu and his senior officials must weigh judiciously and cautiously their public conduct, as well as their official and informal statements. What they do or say, regardless of the platform on which the message is conveyed, could be used against them.

The EFCC’s anti-corruption campaign needs not only a new boss but also officials who are determined to achieve results without fear or favour. The public needs to be assured that the EFCC, as the government’s frontline anti-graft agency, is well equipped with human and material resources, especially men and women who possess the energy, the willingness, and resourcefulness to tackle the hydra-headed monster known as corruption. The ability of the EFCC to achieve its objectives has been undermined for many years by poor federal funding. If Buhari is a no-nonsense anti-corruption president, as his assistants tend to project him, he must ensure that the EFCC, as a veritable tool in the fight against corruption, is furnished with sufficient funds to enable it to take the fight to the door steps of criminals.

Beyond finance, our legal system has also con- strained the ability of the EFCC to secure the conviction of corrupt officials. Legislators need to plug the loopholes in the system that corrupt officials have exploited successfully to argue their cases in court. Failing to do this means the government may have created an anti-graft watchdog that can only bark.

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Where the heck is the money? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 02:19:33 +0000 NIGERIA’S is a fascinating story of a corrupt country without a single corrupt person. In late September 2006, Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told Nigerian senators that the agency had dossiers, implicating numerous ]]>

NIGERIA’S is a fascinating story of a corrupt country without a single corrupt person. In late September 2006, Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told Nigerian senators that the agency had dossiers, implicating numerous top political officials in 31 out of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The surprise was that any state was exempt. A mere cursory look at Nigeria suffices to conclude that here’s a land run by contemptible thieves with puny minds. There’s a clear inverse relation- ship between the country’s considerable earnings and its depth of destitution, infrastructural back- wardness and environmental blight.

Nine years after Mr. Ribadu’s address to a plenary session of the Senate, the EFCC’s record of prosecution and conviction of prominent political figures remains, simply, dismal. It’s as if the thieves manage, somehow, to be invisible.

No former Nigerian military dictator or their uniformed cohorts ever fiddled with a kobo of public funds. Never mind that they live in obscene splendour, often boast a private jet or two, and sit, it seems, on a bottomless pile of cash. We’re sup- posed to allow that it’s all the fruit of their extraordinary industry and preternatural intelligence.

In his wisdom, President Muhammadu Buhari has decided that his cabinet would not be diverse enough if it did not include a fair contingent of men under indictment for corruption, or subject to active investigation. For that matter, the president’s party had magnanimously presented to the people of Kogi State a governorship candidate whose first run in the post was punctuated by an EFCC indictment.

Amazing things happen in Nigeria. We must count among the amazements this phenomenon: Nigeria is a “thiefless” zone, yet one in which nine – miraculously – billions of dollars find ways of disappearing into some black hole.

In the last two weeks, two prominent members of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration have told us, in effect, that they never filched a kobo of Nigeria’s money. From her perch in London, former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, told publisher Dele Momodu that she didn’t steal Nigeria’s money. More recently, former National Security Advisor, Sambo Dasuki, ridiculed the Buhari administration’s allegation that he steered $2 billion meant to buy weapons for Nigeria’s anti-terrorism fight into his personal pocket. Every single dollar budgeted for weaponry, Mr. Dasuki declared, was used for that purpose.

It’s not that I doubt what he and the former Petroleum Minister have said in their defence, only that I am frustrated beyond words. I mean, if nobody is stealing a thing in Nigeria, then where the heck does the money go? Accused former or serving government officials will say it’s not their job, but I’d appreciate it if some of them would be kind enough to step forward and say, “I didn’t steal, but Mr. X or Ms. Y did.” I’d even settle for a phrase less direct, more delicate: “I know I didn’t steal, but why don’t you ask Mr. X or Ms. Y.”

Former President Jonathan famously pro- pounded the idea that stealing wasn’t corruption. I’d like to hear some of his associates declare, “I’m not corrupt – ask GEJ; I merely stole a few hundred million dollars.”

I hope the lighthearted mode of these meditations does not overshadow the profound gravity of the subject. Corruption anywhere is no joking matter. In Nigeria, it is a corrosive agent, misshaping every aspect of Nigerians’ lives, rendering their present grotesque, their future grim.

Two weeks ago, I received an email from Charles Majomi, a Nigerian based in the UK. He entitled it, “Great is the thing that knows itself.” His words brought home, in a cogent and moving manner, the palpable, if hardly examined, costs of corruption. I asked his permission to share his words with my readers. Here goes:

“The adage with which I titled this email is not an unfamiliar one to students of Eastern philosophy. It expresses a truism that is relevant in the Nigerian context because the problem of corruption is one rooted in lack of self-awareness and the self-respect that results from that.

“A drunkard stumbles around making a fool of himself because he is blissfully unaware of his surroundings, or the judgments and condemnations being heaped upon him by onlookers. So are Nigeria’s corrupt politicians drunk with the intoxication of money derived from their corrupt practices are unaware of themselves as national and international actors.

“Ensconced within their bizarre world, they are shielded from ‘knowledge of self’ by the armies of sycophantic opportunists, who shower them with unearned accolades and praise their buffoonery to no end. Within their bizarre world they lavish themselves with the trappings of wealth suited to the likes of men like Bill Gates, who had built their fortunes over a lifetime of hard work. So re- moved from reality are they that they forget why they were elected to political office in the first place, they forget who they were or where they came from—they live and operate in the land of cuckoo.

“We have heard all the stories about corruption, we have been lectured, incessantly, on the mechanisms, the opaque structures, the collusions, the offshore accounts, the undeclared assets, the front men, the unfulfilled contracts, etc., etc…but what about the consequences? At the heart of these out- rages are tragic consequences: The child genius that will never know his/her potential; the doctors that will never be; the road accidents that should never have been; the suicides, the murders, the frauds…in fact, the whole plethora of human tragedies that were and are a direct consequence of these corrupt drunkards.

“Maybe, just maybe, focusing on the ample tragedies that occur in the daily lives of ordinary Nigerians, as a direct result of these ‘leaders,’ is a sure way of placing the proverbial ‘mirror’ in their front, so they can truly appreciate (for all to see) the bloated, disfigured drunken monsters that they have become.

“I had the pleasure of meeting you in London. I believe that you would be doing a service to Nigerians by focusing more on their plight, as a causal consequence of the looting, rather than on the daily and increasingly perfunctory thieving activities of these guys…We know what they are doing, what is less known is the collective and personalised fallout of their actions.”I couldn’t have stated it more eloquently.

• Please, follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

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How to wisely spend Buhari’s N5000 Tue, 24 Nov 2015 02:12:35 +0000 I DON’T know about you but I’m excited about the prospect of the monthly five thousand naira promised to some twenty five million Nigerians. At least, I would now have to take that burden out of my own lean budget. And I don’t have to be sending recharge cards to folks, who normally ]]>

I DON’T know about you but I’m excited about the prospect of the monthly five thousand naira promised to some twenty five million Nigerians. At least, I would now have to take that burden out of my own lean budget. And I don’t have to be sending recharge cards to folks, who normally resell the cards to raise dough. Some people may even be smart enough to start a success story of theirs from the seed money. There are many possibilities. That is why I was disheartened the other day when Senator Phillip Aduda was shouted down when he raised the matter on the floor of the senate. And I don’t always support the burly Abuja-breed, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator but I was one with him on the issue.

I later understood that his All Progressives Congress (APC) colleagues booed him because they believed there was blackmail in his submission. I really don’t know about that. I mean what is so black mailing about reminding people of their promises? And that is one of my many pains with the ruling party. It appears it has bitten off too much than it can digest. And now, in the face of reality, the APC wants to play hooky by bringing up all sorts of excuses.

First was the silent denial of the promises by the new Doyin Okupe; then the appeal to reason (“you know we have too many problems”); then the outright refusals to shameful roundabouts like in the fuel subsidy matter.

But while many Nigerians want to quickly move on without bugging the new government with many reminders, one issue that won’t go is the N5000 matter. This has clearly become the albatross of the administration. Now, I don’t know why the APC made that promise because they really didn’t need to make it. After all, they were already enjoying a cult following and the campaign was doing very well. Nigerians were almost in agreement that sixteen years of the then ruling party was enough. Many voters didn’t even bother to know the meaning of the acronym “APC”. All that mattered then was the dislodging of a party that, for many, was synonymous with all that is wrong with the third world. In the long months before the general election, many were prepared to vote for Satan himself than remain in the PDP stranglehold. It was indeed not for the love for the new party and its candidate but for the abnegation of the old order and its helmsman. So, yes, the new party was coasting home to victory. The almighty United States of America even tacitly supported it and the international body language suggested change was desirable.

In such a very cosy position, the APC really didn’t need to make bombastic pledges. APC could have been realistic enough to admit that certain things would be difficult; that light won’t suddenly improve; that corruption won’t just go away overnight; and that some of the PDP methods would be copied in the war against terrorism; that the president doesn’t have a magic wand to revamp the economy. A little down to earth candour would have helped. But that is naïve of me. You don’t win elections by going about saying the truth and admitting your limitations. Except if your name was Danbaba Suntai. I was in the former governor’s campaign trail in the electioneering months of 2011 and one of the most iconoclastic things he did was to apologise for promises he couldn’t keep. In some places, the governor would practically beg to be forgiven by the electorate. He would show signs of sincere contrition, as he explained his limitations. At first, I thought the approach was defeatist and self-effacing because our people were not used to such apologies from politicians. But it worked as the electorate warmed up to him. They saw him as a sincere personality who was realistic enough to admit his mistakes and failures in a world of supermen. They promptly gave him a second mandate!

So, APC should have been more realistic about the social contract. And on this issue of five thousand naira, you wonder how they would pull it off. Even with my F9 Mathematics, I know the thing would cost N1.5 trillion annually. And although there is better transparency now (what with the President’s body language of dread), one still wonders if the exercise would not go the ill-fated SURE-P way. After all, the way to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

But that one is their headache.

Right now, let’s talk about what you are going to do with your share of the trillion-naira. What would you do with N5000? Someone says it depends on what part of the country you dwell. If, for instance, you live in Port Harcourt, N5000 won’t survive five minutes of hanging out at a joint. But the same amount may make some sense in a remote outback in Zamfara State – one of the poorest states in Nigeria. In Abuja, five thousand naira in a month is a nightmare. First, the cost of living is abnormal here. Secondly, even if you live in the backyards like I do, life is still very tough because everywhere in Abuja is still “Abuja”. Some people feel the best thing to do is to equip citizens with the right skills and then empower them with the stipends. Others believe such funds could be assigned to states on a monthly basis to revamp the SME sectors. 1.5 trillion naira can also build industries to employ people yearly.

Lining pockets with the paltry sum each month may look like a cool way to end poverty. But a closer examination shows that it may turn out to be another nightmare waiting to happen. If all that a man does is wait for five thousand naira each month, without any skills or purpose in life; what is the fate of such a creature? Money minus a proper plan is equal to poverty raised to power two. But I’m not a pessimist and I truly pray that this works better than all the previous poverty alleviation efforts of the past.

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A woman who enjoys only rape… Sat, 21 Nov 2015 23:39:02 +0000 THIS is one country so many things happen at the same time. One minute you are clinking glasses over ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram and the next more girls are abducted and more towns are captured by Boko Haram. Cease­fire disappears in angry flames of fire as more villages get consumed. One minute our female [...]]]>

THIS is one country so many things happen at the same time. One minute you are clinking glasses over ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram and the next more girls are abducted and more towns are captured by Boko Haram. Cease­fire disappears in angry flames of fire as more villages get consumed. One minute our female football team is coasting home to champion­ship victory and the next those who can’t kick a 50kobo hard rubber ball are throwing stones at the football glass house, brandishing court orders and threatening our only national football and collective happiness. And then as I prepare an altar to summon all the gods of the land to place Olympic-size curse on all these spoilers, they all return to their senses and I have to dismantle the altar. And then one day the PDP has a speaker and the next the party is speechlessly ‘Speaker­less’. Now policemen are caught in the salvos and angry crosshairs of a frustrated ruling party and a gloating opposition. Is this betrayal or political master stroke? How can you blame me if I’m dizzy and breathless from trying to keep up with so many things at the same time?

But all that don’t bother me as much as this talk of Muslim-Muslim ticket and how it will affect Nigeria’s unity and existence. A Muslim president and a Muslim vice president is not good for our health, they said. The combination will tear what remains of our national fabric to shreds. It will wipe Nigeria off the surface of the earth. It will destroy our democracy. It will be the end of us, blah blah blah. Seriously? How did we get to this point, this sorry pass where politicians tell us what is sweet in our mouth and we believe them? How can anybody tell me I am overfed when I am still in full possession and custody of my stomach? How come it is only politicians who know what is good for us and we actually believe them, after all these years and what they have done to us?

I guess when the only kind of sex you have had is the one provided by a rapist, after some time you just might begin to think that is the only type of sex that exists. And a woman who enjoys only rape is a sick woman indeed and she most certainly needs help. Nigeria is that woman, that sick woman who thinks rape is synonymous with love-making. She has been raped so much for so long that her rapist is beginning to look like a hero. She needs help, urgent help. Every Nigerian who believes that Muslim-Muslim-ticket-is-dangerous-for-our-health rubbish needs help. I know some of us, raped-to-stupor folks, are warming up to insult me for insulting them. It is still part of the sick­ness. My people say the day a mad man realises he is sick in the head is the day he starts his journey to sanity. So, I understand those who are readying their weapons of mass assault. But I’ll make my points.

Let me start by saying that I am a Christian who has no plan to become a Muslim. I have plenty of Muslim friends too. I also do not choose my friends based on where they worship on Friday or Sunday because my Bible and my pastors have established this fact; by their fruits, ye shall know them. A good man is a good man and a bad man is a bad man. So why should I befriend anybody bad just because he attends my church when I know he smokes and inhale designer evil things during the week?

Now, have you noticed that those who are playing the religion card are politicians who stand to gain plenty by and from who occupies certain positions and are likely to lose plenty if certain persons get into certain offices and positions?

Let’s look at it this way. When you need to fix your ‘tokunbo’ car, and you need a me­chanic who knows his onions, do you ask if he’s a Muslim or a Christian? Let us assume your car is a brand new N25m Honda SUV and you need to service it, do you ask for a Muslim engineer when you get to the Honda Place or a Christian one or you simply insist that they do a good job? If your wife falls into labour and you get to the hospital and finds that the doctor and midwife on duty are Muslims and you are a Christian, I guess you can reject the Muslim- Muslim ticket and wait until the Muslim doctor and Christian nurses resume before you let anybody touch your wife. I don’t know any woman who goes to Mile 12 Market in Lagos to buy a basket of tomatoes and concerns herself not with the size and freshness of the tomatoes but the religion of the seller.

If your Christian driver has wrecked your Prado and almost killed your only son, do you keep him or kick him to the curb? And if you are a member of Latter Rain or RCCG and your driver is a Muslim you can trust with millions and the lives of your children he takes to and from school, if you sack him and employ the Christian driver who is a certified wrecker of SUVs, shouldn’t we your friends haul you into a padded ward?

So where does religion fit into serious life and death decisions? This is a wrecked country that needs fixing. Some parts of it are already in the mechanic workshop and we surely need the right hands. We need a driver who will drive this Prado safely home, not wrap it around a tree. We need men and women who are sane to lead us. This country is in labour and who cares if the midwife is wearing hijab? In fact, this baby is lying in a breach position and unless we get the right midwife and doctor, we are likely to lose both mother and child.

This country needs public schools that work and lecturers that have the right tools and do not go on strike. Imagine a Nigeria where doctors do not watch patients die because we don’t treat them right. Imagine a country without Boko Haram, without violence and bloodshed. Imagine uninterrupted power sup­ply. Do we really think where a governor or the President worships is what will deliver all those goodies, lead us to the promised land? Do you, really, sincerely think a visionary President and a passionate Vice President who worship in the same church should be our problem or a nation that finally takes its place in the comity of nations?

Look at Lagos. Look at those rail lines and fine train stations, do you think I’m worried about whether Governor Fashola’s successor is a Muslim or Christian or riding the mono rail to work? I want a governor who’ll surpass Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande’s housing proj­ects. I want to go to work by train, never ever having to worry about LASTMA and VIOs. I want a safe Lagos. I want a governor who will make Fashola’s impressive record look like child’s play. I want a Lagos State University (LASU) that will have exchange students from Harvard and Yale.

We should do what is right for us, not what is right for politicians or what they think is right for us. Unless we are that sick woman who has been raped so many times she thinks her rapist is the ultimate stud.

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Biafra agitation: How we mismanage serious, sensitive matters Sat, 21 Nov 2015 23:00:23 +0000 Sectarian agitation in our country is as old as the na­tion since independence; it had been there from the time lead­ers of the component parts had divergent views on how and when this nation should get full independ­ence. When the founding fathers disagreed strongly on the structure of the federation and over whether the government [...]]]>

Sectarian agitation in our country is as old as the na­tion since independence; it had been there from the time lead­ers of the component parts had divergent views on how and when this nation should get full independ­ence. When the founding fathers disagreed strongly on the structure of the federation and over whether the government should be unitary or federal, the main motivation be­hind those demands was sectarian agitation for enhanced placement of their respective tribes. When words were not enough, leaders and their people raised the game a little higher and that was when we began to hear Araba, Opera­tion Wetie and the Biafra seces­sion bid. So for me, the sectarian agitation is not news; what should be news is our inability to learn from past experiences, which would have put us in a better position to respond appropriately to subse­quent new challenges. It is this in­ability to learn simple lessons and apply our heads and hearts to find­ing sustainable solutions that baf­fles and amazes me.

Sectarian agitation by some ele­ments from the Southeastern part of our nation has been on for some time but in recent weeks it grew in intensity. And true to my expectation, it has arrested attention and to an ex­tent become the main issue. This is so because we have become a nation whose leaders and people love to feast on the trivial and the mundane. When in power, what our leaders say and eventually end up doing, over issues they should just observe and shrug their shoulders, leave me won­dering when our nation would be blessed with highly perceptive and very matured statesmen as leaders. In every nation there would always be issues that do not deserve atten­tion at all and which at best can be left for civil security agencies to han­dle in the most humane and profes­sional manner. But where that is not enough, incumbent office holders could step up their acts through what is known and accepted worldwide in the circle of conflict resolution as “constructive engagement” with leaders of all shades in the area of conflict.

The issue of the pro-Biafra agita­tion is one I said I would not discuss on this page even though I can ad­equately tell of the frustration and marginalization they have been sub­jected to since the civil war ended on a note of ‘no victor, no vanquished’ and in spite of the fact that this group has in more practical terms contrib­uted more in building our nation into a true nation-state. My decision was not a careless abandonment of the people or their cause, neither was it a tacit approval of any desire that our great nation be dismembered; rather drawing from the lessons of history, I am convinced that we are into an era of political agitation, which for me is just a reminder that we are yet to get it right with our political architecture, particularly levels of autonomy and of course, developmental dividends such that would have made citizens see reasons to call this nation their own property. A lot of gaps still exist in the making of the Nigerian state, I don’t want to dwell so much on discriminatory policies of the past during which, for instance, states were created at the whims of narrow minded individuals masquerading as regional and tribal champions, discrimination in admission and em­ployment opportunities and distribu­tions of national largesse. We talk of peace but hardly do we stop and think about the first things: equal rights and justice. Every society where injustice exists on the magnitude that we have in this nation, that entity would al­ways boil and sometimes threaten to spill over and that would be the situa­tion until those that lead see the need to sit down to take the issues one-by-one and find appropriate solutions to them.

America passed through every problem that is posing a challenge to us, some of them were solved by legislation but the fundamental ones which included sectarian agitations for independence were handled by way of political conferences, from which enhanced autonomous status and a federal structure with an ex­ecutive presidency was agreed. In spite of those efforts and after over 200 years of nationhood, injustice is still pulling at the pillars of the American society evidenced by the hostile race relations, yet that nation has not threatened to engage any of the races in outright war using the nation’s army. In extreme cases, it uses the civil police who are un­der strict instruction to act in a civil manner. Britain has experienced its fair share of sectarian agitation. Few months back, the people of Scotland participated in a plebiscite in which they determined whether to separate or remain with Great Britain and that referendum took place after several years of agitations marked by street demonstrations and protests. While these went on, the British army was not part of the matter or resolution; I guess the British and the Americans do know that separatist agitations are not only allowed by the United Na­tions Charter which was signed by all nations but is a natural right.

It is true the Scottish failed to gain separation but the British power managers responded appropriately by granting them greater autonomy, promise of better development and assurances of their producing more Prime Ministers for Great Britain. In Spain today, the Catalonians are de­manding for a separate nation, they have political parties running on that demand and they hold sport meets some of them international in nature, even our nation has participated in some of them and the government there is not threatening fire and brim­stone, rather they are offering consul­tations and new perks and that is the way I think we ought to go. Nigeria, as presently constituted, is a blessing to the Black Race; it is God’s answer to the deliberate marginalization and dehumanization of the Black Race over centuries but unfortunately we who have been given this gift and the task have failed to comprehend what we have and what our mission is and so we behave anyhow and toy with the destiny of this great nation. Our leaders and nearly all of us don’t believe in this country; if the North had oil it would have long found its way; and if the West had enough will, they too would have gone. The Igbo till tomorrow believe they are the reincarnate of Jews in Africa and so can recreate another Zionist state in Africa, Ijaws and others have their own ideas.

I have no problem with the ex­pectations, what I get from it is that hard work and sincerity are needed to build a nation in which every part would see the reflection of them­selves. It is wrong to call people names like Obasanjo and a few oth­ers have done and more terrible to threaten to engage them in a war. The basis of our existence can be renegotiated and what we can do on the interim is to embark on mas­sive constructive engagements with leaders of all shades from the trouble spots and indeed across the nation to reassure everyone they have a stake. The issue of rotational presidency on zonal structure should be clearly out­lined in our constitution.

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Agriculture: Goldmine for Buhari Fri, 20 Nov 2015 23:24:59 +0000 In my charge to the new ministers im­mediately they were nominated by Presiden Buhari, I drew their atten­tion to the need for them to be inno­vative and creative and pursue actions and programmes that would boost the economy and enhance the living stan­dards of our people. Now that they have been cleared and sworn in [...]]]>

In my charge to the new ministers im­mediately they were nominated by Presiden Buhari, I drew their atten­tion to the need for them to be inno­vative and creative and pursue actions and programmes that would boost the economy and enhance the living stan­dards of our people. Now that they have been cleared and sworn in I have deemed it auspicious to further offer my mod­est advice on the way forward. And the way to go is agriculture. This sector, to the best of my knowledge, is a goldmine waiting to be exploited by the Buhari ad­ministration if it summons the courage to do the needful.

I recall with nostalgia the period before Nigeria’s independence in 1960 when ag­riculture was the mainstay of our econo­my. This was before oil was discovered at Oloibiri, Port Harcourt. In the period under review Nigeria was a net exporter of such cash crops as cocoa, cashew nuts, ground­nut, dates and palms, palm kernel, rubber, hides and skin, etc. In fact, every section of the country produced and exported one form of cash crop or another got its survival.

The north produced groundnuts, dates and hides and skin in very large quantities. I remember the groundnut pyramids in Kano. It was a proud sight to behold as they stood gigantically under the blazing sun. Enor­mous resources were made from the export of groundnuts to sustain the economy of the north. Where are the groundnut pyramids? They have suddenly disappeared. What is produced today is not even enough to meet local consumption.

Cashew nuts and palm kernels came from the east. They were grown in huge quantities and exported for the good of the people. Some of the palm and cashew plan­tations either lie fallow or have gone mori­bund. The Ohambele Palm Plantation in Ukwa East Local Government, Abia State is among the biggest in the eastern axis of the country. On assumption of office as gov­ernor of Abia State in 1999 we embarked on the revamping of the plantation. And by the time we left office in 2007 it had been brought back to life.

Rubber plantations flourished in the Mid­western Region then. Sufficient quantities were produced for local consumption and export. I remember the famous Michelin Tyre Manufacturing Company. This com­pany produced almost all the tyres needed to sustain the automobile assembly plants in the country then. How is the company faring now? The answer is simple: it is not fairing any better having been suffocated by im­portation of new and used tyres from other countries.

What about cocoa? Production of coca boomed in the western region. The popular­ity of the crop blossomed even to the point of building a gigantic building in the ancient city of Ibadan and named Cocoa House. The structure still stands till this day.

Regrettably, these cash crops have almost gone into extinction. Nobody cares about them any longer. All the attention has been shifted to oil. Is the discovery of oil a bless­ing or a curse? See what is happening to the oil industry across the globe. The price of oil has continued its downward trend un­stopped, putting many countries, particu­larly Nigeria, in serious crisis.

Nigeria’s economy is heavily threatened by the falling prices of oil. And this is so, because the governments we had had did not plan for this unforeseen development. Everybody was happy with the windfall and forgot to save for the rainy day. Now here we are in total confusion.

I have been left wondering what kinds of leaders we have had in this country – who did not think about the future. All they did was reap the windfall from oil sales and squander it on inanities. Any reasonable leader would have seen the impending cata­clysm and guarded against it. Sadly, they carried on as if the windfall would last for­ever.

Is it not a shame that Malaysia, which came to Nigeria in the late fifties to take some palm seedlings back home for study, is today the world’s largest producer of palm oil? What did Malaysia do to achieve the feat?

Painfully, nobody seems to be asking any questions about what went wrong. We move about as if all is well.

Again, is it not curious that Nigeria with all its arable land, rich soil, all-year-round weather, cattle, goats, and sheep should be importing rice, tomato puree, groundnut oil, corn beef, semovita, cornmeal, etc? Where do we think this kind of lackadaisical atti­tude will eventually take us to?

Imagine this: Nigeria even imports tooth­picks when we have huge forests across the country! We have enough forests to produce all the toothpicks we need to meet global demand.

Where are the farm settlements that served as the food production centres for each zone of the federation? Many of these farm settlements are moribund, while those still operational are as good as dead.

The experiments we performed in the ag­ricultural sector during my tenure as gover­nor opened my eyes to the huge investment potentialities and opportunities in the sector. We achieved so much in the eight years we served. We resurrected many of the dead settlements and plantations and through them boosted food production in our state. By the time we left office in 2007 our state had become sufficient in rubber, pineapple and palm oil production.

So, I think it will make all the difference if the present federal administration can act swiftly by refocusing agriculture and creat­ing the enabling environment for direct for­eign investments in the sector. I do not see why agriculture should not be expanded to the level of making it the mainstay of our economy and given the same attention as oil.

Nigeria, incidentally, has rich agricultural belts spanning the entire northern region up to the Mambilla, connecting the North Cen­tral up to the eastern axis, stretching to the Niger Delta region, emptying into the south west plane. In each of these belts is all we need to make agriculture the biggest foreign revenue-earner for the country.

One truth we have failed to appreci­ate is that the whole world is searching for food. They need to be fed. Desertification, landslides, mudslides, hurricane, flooding, earthquakes, and other natural occurrences have constantly kept the world on edge and diminished the capacity of many nations to feed their people. Therefore, the world looks at every direction from where respite can come. And Nigeria is a favoured destination.

Why then have we allowed these op­portunities to pass us by? Why have we de­voted all our attention over the years to oil, thereby threatening our very own existence to the point that we can hardly even feed ourselves.

It is gratifying to note at this juncture that Buhari, during the electioneering, promised to take agriculture to the next level in his administration’s developmental package. Gladly, he has started by nominating and swearing in an accomplished technocrat and renowned farmer, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who has, without hesitation, promised to pursue the agricultural objectives of this govern­ment with all the energy he could muster.

But I have a strategy that will make the whole thing very easy and seamless. Apart from leading to abundant food for local con­sumption and export, it will also generate employment for our teeming unemployed youth.

The federal government, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Agricul­ture, Central Bank and its investment advi­sors, should select six to 10 investors from each of the six geopolitical zones in the country that have the capacity to embark on mechanized agriculture on a large scale. Each of these investors must own, at least, 1000 hectares of land. After proper screen­ing and selection processes each of the in­vestors should be given a loan of between N10 billion and N20 billion (depending on his or her capabilities) at an annual interest rate of two and three percent. The exercise can be supervised by some foreign invest­ment portfolio managers such as S & Young and Mackenzie.

The benefits of this arrangement are nu­merous and multidimensional. They include sufficient food production for local con­sumption and export, constant generation of employment, availability of raw materi­als for our industries, ceasing of importation of rice and other items that can be produced locally, foreign exchange inflows from ex­ported agricultural products, less pressure on Nigeria’s foreign reserve, less borrowing from foreign banks and loan providers, etc.

In addition, each of the 6 to 10 investors from each of the 6 zones will generate its own electricity, water, houses for its staff, storage facilities such as silos, and other op­erational equipment to enhance production.

Indeed, everything must be done to en­sure that every bottleneck, such as third par­ties, that will encumber the process is not al­lowed. Political consideration should not be brought into the exercise. This is so because past exercises failed due to undue interfer­ence by powerful politicians in determining who got what.

What should be paramount to the govern­ment is the success of the programme, not the political affiliations to which the benefi­ciaries are attached.

The Agricultural Development Bank and other such related banks should be allowed to carry on with their statutory functions without interfering in the new programme. It is such interference and other bureaucratic bottlenecks that constituted the death-knell of similar programmes in the past.

I believe very strongly that when this new plan comes on board Nigeria will be rightly positioned to assume its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Nigeria must move very fast, just the way other nations have done, to save itself from the impending global cataclysm. It is only a fool and myopic person that would not be able to see the writing on the wall to know that all is not well with the world economy. While other nations are finding new ways of doing things our people are content with de­pending on the proceeds from oil.

For the past three years the Nigerian gov­ernment has grappled with the dwindling revenue from oil. Things get worse by the day and we sit down and watch, doing noth­ing to remedy the situation.

Many states cannot meet their obliga­tions to their workers and contractors and have asked for more bailout funds to sup­port themselves. Is this how we will contin­ue? When will the end come for this messy situation?

We must wear our thinking caps and do what is urgently required to save ourselves. The suggestion I have offered is the way to go if we are to get out of the woods. Any­thing short of it is an exercise in futility.

I have confidence in President Buhari to embrace the programme for the good of the nation and betterment of our people.


I had wanted to congratulate you last week immediately after you were sworn in as the new INEC chairman, but chose to wait until this week to allow you a little time to savour the joy of your appointment and appreciate the enormity of the challenges your new position has suddenly entrusted on your delicate shoulders.

I am sure by now you must have settled down somewhat to the reality of your new position and ready to hit the ground running.

Nigerians have enormous confidence in your ability to reposition INEC and make it an unbiased umpire in electoral matters.

What we had witnessed in the past 12 years in the name of elections was better seen than imagined. It was a period charac­terised by vote stealing, ballot box snatch­ing, duplication and falsification of results, etc. Sadly, many of these atrocities hap­pened with the active connivance of INEC officials.

The 2015 elections were adjudged to be free and fair. I agree to an extent. Despite the tireless efforts by your predecessor to deliver generally acceptable elections, we still had the usual sad incidents that charac­terized past elections in the country. Maybe this time they were less visible and lesser in number.

The introduction of card readers and other electronic gadgets did not stop desper­ate politicians from playing their old tricks. What happened in my senatorial zone (I believe it was the same situation in many parts of the country) was simply a charade. Where else on earth would somebody who lost abysmally in an election be returned as the winner? It happened in my zone where I ran for election into the Senate. Even a blind person that participated in that election knew that I won convincingly.

Today we are all in tribunal seeking the reversal of the contraption perpetrated by some INEC officials that colluded with top government functionaries to subvert the wish of the people.

I am glad that you promised during your screening by the Senate to run a transparent INEC. You also promised never again to al­low disgruntled politicians to use INEC to subvert the will of the people. Well said.

What you promised is achievable if you remain focused and selfless. God has blessed you with intellect and material things. Your career has been a huge success, considering your performance in the offices you held in the past. What else do you want?

It will pay you better to shun earthly pos­sessions and work for the enthronement of an electoral system that would be the pride of the world. You cannot afford to fail.

By so doing, you will be steadily writing yourself into the history books.

I will write you again when you must have settled down fully to the business of your new office, while wishing you all the best.

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Mike Enahoro’s swan song Fri, 20 Nov 2015 23:21:05 +0000 SO many things on my mind today. Let me start with the one who calls me “My Boss for life” and who has just started an online newspaper offering called The Boss. He wanted me to write a PRO­LOGUE, an introductory remark of a father wel­coming the birth of his new grandson but I was [...]]]>

SO many things on my mind today. Let me start with the one who calls me “My Boss for life” and who has just started an online newspaper offering called The Boss. He wanted me to write a PRO­LOGUE, an introductory remark of a father wel­coming the birth of his new grandson but I was sick. A victim of stress.

It was supposed to be a holiday but I had over­worked myself. In the end, I was rushed to hospi­tal in Phoenix, Arizona with a spiraling high blood pressure. Something I was experiencing for the first time. Thank God, I am back. I have recovered. Only that I have to readjust my lifestyle, slow down a bit and avoid some avoidable things.

Congratulations to my brother Dele Momodu on the birth of The Boss. And what a story to launch the paper! An exclusive interview with the former pe­troleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke support­ed with a pathetic picture of her afflicted with cancer that went viral. May God give her divine healing. My prayer is that even cancer would be conquered one day, just like other deadly diseases that now have a cure. May God give our doctors and scientists the cure for cancer. As I told Dele Momodu, he has set a standard and raised the bar. He cannot afford to go lower. I pray that The Boss would truly be the boss and soar to greater heights. When it comes to looking for news, Dele Momodu is among the best. As my reporter in the days of Weekend Concord, it was his story that launched the paper. Later, he gave us Ovation, a classy magazine. Now, the dynamics have changed and everything is online. Definitely Dele Momodu will succeed with The Boss.

Today, I could also have written on Jose Mourinho and how my wife barred me from watching Chelsea matches. For diehard Chelsea fans, watching Chel­sea live is the easiest way to die. She doesn’t want me to die with Chelsea now languishing at the bot­tom, threatened with relegation. Ah, life!

Life is a pendulum swinging between success and failure, full of ups and downs. One time you are up, another time you are down. One time, you are the “Special One”. Another time, you are everybody’s whipping boy. One time, you are the richest country in Africa. So rich that your leaders boast that money is not Nigeria’s problem but how to spend it. That was then. Today, the tide has changed and Nigeria is down in the pit, broke like the biblical Prodigal Son who frittered everything as if there will be no tomor­row. Now, we are faced with the curse of chop and quench leaders who did not plan for a time like this. How I wish all those looted money had been invest­ed on good infrastructure. At least we would have had something to build on. Today, we have nothing to even show that we were once the richest nation in Africa. The Nigerian story is indeed a sad narrative. A sad parable of a lost paradise.

Beloved, I wanted to write on the calamity in Paris, about the irony of the group called “Eagles of Death Metal” whose rock concert was rocked by kamikaze killers who sprayed bullets into a concert hall. May God deliver us from evil.

Chelsea. Paris. Kano. Yola. Tragedies upon trag­edies. Hot topics all. But I will save them for anoth­er day. Today’s column belongs to Mike Enahoro, one of the famous three Enahoro brothers, all of who made their marks on the Nigerian media and politi­cal scenes: Chief Anthony Enahoro, Peter Enahoro (Peter Pan) and Mike Enahoro, the legendary news anchor of NTA. The two Enahoros—Anthony and Peter—still own the record as the youngest newspa­per editors that this country has produced. At 21, Anthony edited the Southern Nigerian Defender owned by Zik. From there, he edited The Comet, an­other Zik-owned newspaper. Anthony Enahoro was the one who in 1953 moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence. His brother Peter became editor of the Sunday Times at 23 and made waves through his incisive Peter Pan column. He was 80 recently.

The Enahoro brothers remind me of the Kennedy brothers of America. Brothers, achievers and lead­ers who blazed a trail for others to follow. It is the pride and joy of every father, every parent seeing all their children excel. May your children excel. May they not be laggards. May they be the best. The other day, my friend Femi Adesina was filled with a father’s pride as he told me how his son Tobi, the small boy of yesterday is up there in the sky, confi­dently piloting Boeing 737 as a commercial pilot. To God be the glory. May he continue to soar in glory. Tobi Adesina’s story is a story for another day. I met him recently where he represented his dad at a dinner organised by Tony Onyima to honour Femi Adesina and Eric Osagie following their elevations.

I was in the UK when I heard about the passage of Mike Enahoro. A week or so before his death, I had watched him on Channels Television stealing the show at an event to mark Bimbo Oloyede’s 40th anniversary in broadcasting. It was one event that at­tracted the new and the old generations of TV broad­casters. For the new kids on the block, it was an op­portunity to meet Mike Enahoro, the man who was the voice of Nigeria—a voice so strong, so soothing, so authoritative, so credible. Like Walter Cronkite, he ruled the airwaves of Nigeria of the ‘60s and 70s, telling the news. He was our town crier in the age of television. In those days, the NTA was king. Nine o’clock was the sacrosanct hour of news when ev­erybody rushed home to watch the news delivered by Enahoro, the emperor of news who came with his big afro to tell the story of the day. Enahoro, the handsome dude who married the NTA beauty queen Julie Coker and had a son together but the marriage didn’t last. It was the good old days of Cockcrow At Dawn, Village Headmaster and Art Alade com­pering the Bar Beach Show. Today, the good times have gone and gone with the good people of yester­year. Today, all the flowers of yesterday have with­ered on the sands of time, rekindling the old song: “Where have all the flowers gone?”

At Bimbo Oloyede’ party, the new generation of newscasters flocked around the old star like budding writers around Wole Soyinka. They heard him talk and even took “selfies” with him—photos they will treasure. One of the star-struck newscasters Harriet Agbenyi of Channels recalls the evening with Ena­horo: “It’s one unforgettable night. An evening spent listening to him made me wonder what he would have been like as a young, dynamic news anchor/ presenter. He certainly had the aura and charisma with a voice you could listen to over and over. One could have learnt many things from him. Broadcast­ers are a dying breed. Many are passionate but few have what it takes to follow through and not just be a celebrity or superstar but a professional in the real sense of it. Making your mark and hoping someone will remember you fondly like Mike Enahoro who though I met just once, left a very lasting impression on my young mind.”

Her boss John Momoh recalls how “one year af­ter joining NTA, I won NTA Newscaster of the year award. And it was the first award ceremony, which shocked everyone. I had stepped into the big shoes left behind by Mike Enahoro.”

The most memorable event of that night was when Mike Enahoro surprisingly grabbed the mi­crophone and serenaded the audience with a Frank Sinatra-like voice. It was a song that brought back great memories. Little did anyone know that this was his last song, his goodbye song… his swan song. In Greek mythology, there was this belief that swans, after years of silence, sing a beautiful song to prelude their final departure. Mike Enahoro, the songbird has sung his swan song and made his exit like a Shakespearean actor. The world indeed is a stage.

Xmas Bonanza

*50 World Editors available to readers of this column @ 50% Xmas bonanza. Call Gloria on 08033445125

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It’s tough, holding onto hope Fri, 20 Nov 2015 02:16:59 +0000 THE age-old saying that “All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing” used to make perfect sense. But not any more. Given our current circumstances, what evil re- ally needs to flourish is not only good men doing nothing; what evil actually needs to flourish is ]]>

THE age-old saying that “All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing” used to make perfect sense. But not any more. Given our current circumstances, what evil re- ally needs to flourish is not only good men doing nothing; what evil actually needs to flourish is determination to assert itself in spite of the counter efforts of Good. The examples supporting this hypothesis are grimly spread all over the world. In the last one week, hundreds of people have been slaughtered in cities across Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The mass murders occurred either through suicide attacks or mass shootings targeted at innocent and defenceless people. All of these attacks occurred not because good men did or are doing nothing, but in spite of the good efforts of those among the human race that have chosen to be good. Even in our own case in Nigeria where we are struggling with a dysfunctional system, sporadic suicide attacks have continued not because of the inaction of the government, but in spite of it. Unfortunately it is becoming clear that the resilience and unrelenting determination of evil to assert itself is rising faster than the re- solve of good men and women.

Which means Good must up its game, develop new strategy and refuse to be cowed by the determination of Evil. All over the world, analysts are running out of logic that could both explain what is happening and still make sense. In Nigeria, for instance, it used to be thought that part of the reason the deadly problem of insurgency had remained intractable was the lukewarm attitude of the immediate past administration in tackling the problem. But if the last administration under Mr. Jonathan could be accused of laxity in its handling of the security challenges that have bedeviled Nigeria for the last half decade, there is no evidence of such laxity by the current regime. The Nigerian military, its leadership, officers and men have shown remarkable resolve over the last few months; locating and destroying one insurgents camp after another and all but moving into the insurgents’ fortified stronghold of Sambisa forest. And yet the bombings have continued, although it must also be admitted that in far less frequency than it they used to occur two years ago.

Clearly, there is a long way to go yet before the country can be free of this deadly and inexplicable terror. It is true that the government, starting from the president to the highest command of the military have consistently maintained that the insurgency will be crushed by December, which is only ten days away. But crushing the insurgency is one thing, and ridding the country of suicide attacks on soft targets that are very difficult to defend is quite another. As the Americans, and lately the French, are learning, all the nuclear arsenal and all the money in the world may not be enough to stop suicide attackers from carrying out their deadly missions completely. One reason for this is very obvious: When you are dealing with an enemy who is ready to die gruesomely, you have to adopt more than the conventional preventive measures to tackle such enemy.

First, you must find answer to the question: What is this mysterious force that drives young men and women who have every reason to want to live to throw away their lives with such dare- devil indifference? Is it some dark spiritual ideology? Or the effects of some substance that takes away their understanding of everything except how to locate their target and destroy it along with themselves? In Europe or the West in general, it is believed that the interventionist activities of Western governments might not be unconnected with the attacks those societies suffer in the hands of whoever it is that carries out those attacks. Last week’s attacks in Paris, which claimed 128 lives, for example, was claimed by the Islamic State (IS); which gave as reason for the attack, the involvement of France in the Syrian debacle. This came shortly after the same organisation had claimed the downing of a Russian airliner, killing all 214 people on board. So, in the case of Europe and the USA, there could be some rationalisation of the attacks as being motivated by political reasons. But in Nigeria, we have no such interventionist political policies and we have to look elsewhere for explanation of why a fraction of our youth are attacking their brothers, sisters, parents, friends, neighbours with careless abandon.

Whereas the West may, among other things, have to honestly review its foreign policies (there can be no justification for terror under any guise), in our own case, the reason might be located within some dark ideological boundaries that somehow seem to appeal to the youth. An appeal that is so overwhelming they are willing to suffer a painful death to appease it. In which case, as the the military moves closer to achieving its objective of degrading the combat capabilities of the insurgents by December, the government must right away begin to put in place a machinery that will counter this deadly ideology that is wasting our future so painfully.

It is also very obvious now that the battle for peace is now shifting away from military combat to internal security dynamics. This is, perhaps, where the deployment of ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari will have the greatest impact. The Minister of Interior, retired AbdulRahman Dambazau, is well acquainted with the perilous internal security situation of our country. As former chief of the army and an accomplished scholar in defence and criminology studies, Dambazau once presented a paper where he said Nigeria had over 1,500 illegal entry points along our border with Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Through these orders, illegal aliens and arms get smuggled into the country. But even more dangerous, it is through these illegal entry points that mind-control substances come into the country. When you put all these together (illegal aliens with no sentimental attachment to the country, illegal arms that cannot be traced to anybody, and mind bending drugs that turn people into zombies), you then have the most perfect recipe for a deadly threat to internal security. And then to all these add a poorly trained, poorly motivated and in some cases, criminally minded police and immigration and other security personnel, then you know that the neutralising the combat strength of the insurgents is only half of the struggle.

Thus in addition to de-radicalisation or counter ideology programme, the government must turn its attention to the internal security structure, because now the battle is more likely to shift from Sambisa forest and its environs, to soft targets, such as crowded markets in Kano, Yola and other cities.

On our part as citizens, one thing we must never allow is to let our hope and optimism be compromised. It will be tough; it is tough hanging onto hope under the circumstances, but that is our only lifeline as we move to the second, and hopefully final phase, of the war against insecurity.

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Ghost of Biafra will continue to haunt Nigeria Fri, 20 Nov 2015 02:09:40 +0000 IF Chief Duro Onabule were an Igbo man, I am sure many people would have accused him of Biaframania. Perhaps, others would have accused him of Igbocentrism because of his profound article: “Britain toys with woes of another Biafra,” published in Daily Sun of November 6, 2015. ]]>

IF Chief Duro Onabule were an Igbo man, I am sure many people would have accused him of Biaframania. Perhaps, others would have accused him of Igbocentrism because of his profound article: “Britain toys with woes of another Biafra,” published in Daily Sun of November 6, 2015. The High Chief is not Igbo, but a true Nigerian, who chose to call a spade by its name, without caring whose ox is gored.

Yes, in the article, Chief Onabule exposed the hypocrisy of Britain, regarding Nigerian situation in relation to Biafran agitation, underlining what could pass for the double standards of this former colonialist. He highlight- ed how Britain supported the independence of some countries born out of agitation. He talk- ed about Malaysia, Singapore, Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Zambia (Southern Rhodesia) and Malawi (Nyasaland), among others.

He had stated: “Obviously, only for its self-serving economic and political interests, Britain will ever muddle Nigeria’s political problems to further relics of its political past. Otherwise, why did Britain not preserve the sanctity of the national borders of the federation of Malaysia and Singapore? On the contrary, Britain granted independence to the two countries as separate nations. Similarly, why did Britain not preserve the sanctity of the national border of the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland? Remarkably, Britain carved out three separate independent countries, namely northern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe)’ southern Rhodesia (today’s Zambia) and Nyasaland (now known as Malawi). Britain’s record of experimenting with federal form of government in its colonial territories collapsed all over.

“In flaunting its so-called record of preserving Nigerian national border, Britain is engaging in diplomatic fraud. After Nigeria’s civil war, what was Britain’s record on preservation of national borders in Africa and other parts of the world? Was Britain not a major party to the enunciation of the United Nation’s principle of self-determination for citizens all over the world? Did Britain not spearhead the break-up of Sudan into two independent nations of Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan through United Nation’s principle of self-determination? Did Britain not support the break-up of erstwhile Ethiopia into the current two independent nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea through the United Nations principle of self-determination? What therefore, is peculiar in Nigeria to make its good or bad prospects a matter of life or death for Britain? Whether Nigeria will or should break up or not will and should be the mutual agreement of its various peoples, but surely NOT in any way a choice for Britain. This intruder should, therefore, shut up and keep off.”

Chief Onabule also talked about how Britain would respect fundamental human rights in treating Scotland, Wales and other components of its present day kingdom, while being harsh on the Nigerian affairs, as it concerns self-determination. Said he: “When Britain was threatened with disintegration, the response of the central authorities in London, even if in panic, was to grant substantial political autonomy to Wales and Scotland. Even then, Scotland insisted on complete independence from Britain and two years ago, only narrowly lost a referendum to that effect. Scotland unilaterally organised its referendum instead of waiting for Britain’s grace.”

Away from Britain’s pretension, Chief Onabule also went ahead to explain why “Biafra” would continue to resonate in Nigeria. For him, “Biafra” is not only about the struggle by the Igbo in South East to have a separate state, but also protest by all sections of the country, who feel cheated, at one time and another, in the nation. He recalled how the South West and North have, in the past, ex- pressed their reservations about the way they were treated in the country, saying that their misgivings could be likened to the agitation for “Biafra.”

Indeed, Chief Onabule could not have put it better. The situation in the country has made people to lose faith and, therefore, wish that they be in another republic. The Igbo, for in- stance, feel battered, bruised and clobbered. In their frustration, they hold unto Biafra as a source of hope. It could be an illusion, but they appear not to care. As it stands, the spirit if Biafra will continue to haunt Nigeria and Nigerian leaders, so long as there is marginalisation and unfair treatment of Igbo in the country. Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, ex-gover- nor of Anambra State, is right when he said that Nigerian leaders were the ones laying the foundation for Biafra. When a people are singled out for persecution and suppression, they would feel alienated. Now the Nigerians Army has issued threat of invoking the Rule of Engagement to deal with those who are marching in the streets to protest the detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. In the coming days, the threat could be carried out and people who are exercising their fundamental human rights, to protest, in a non-violent way, may be shot in the streets of South East and South South. That’s the way Igbo are treated. When they do something, punitive measures are taken. When others do it, people see this as normal.

Today, everybody is hysterical about Radio Biafra. I do not have any problem with the government going after Radio Biafra, as the station is, indeed, a thorn in its flesh. However, how do we explain that some Nigerians, and indeed, those who did similar thing in the past, are now making noise about a pirate ra- dio station? At one time in Nigeria, there was Radio Kudirat, which was an anti-government organ. While it operated and attacked the Sani Abacha government, the majority of the elite in the South West, for example, praised and funded it. Now that Radio Biafra is doing the same thing, it must be wrong. Some of those who used Radio Kudirat against the Abacha government are criticising Radio Biafra. That’s the lot of the Igbo.

Make no mistake about it; I am not in any way campaigning for a sovereign state of Biafra. I can’t because in the event of the balkanisation of Nigeria, the Igbo will be the worst losers. Across the country, Igbo are the ones that have invested massively outside their geopolitical zones. Be it in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Ibadan and any major city in the country, the investments of Igbo, in property, industries and companies, run into trillions of naira. If Nigeria divides, all these will be lost. It will be lost not because it’s the convention that investments of nationals of other countries in nations other than theirs ought to be forfeited, but because Nigeria is a place where international convention and law of natural justice do not appear to mean much. What happened in Port Harcourt, for instance, after the civil war, when buildings of Igbo were declared, as “abandoned property” is an eye opener. Therefore, it’s not in the interest of the Igbo for Nigeria to divide.

However, I must add that the spirit if Biafra will continue to be invoked by Igbo because of the way they are treated in the country. When an Oba threatens Igbo with death if they vote for a candidate of their choice, which is different from the one the traditional ruler endorses, Igbo invoke Biafra. When Igbo are killed and their business premises looted in a protest caused by an article against Prophet Moham- med, which they have no hand in, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When Igbo cannot get Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os) for their property in some states because of the accident of their birth, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When close to 50 appointments are made by a president and no single Igbo man/ women from South East is among them, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When roads in South East are neglected and left in the most terrible condition, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When Igbo are told they committed political suicide by voting for their choice in a presidential election, the spirit of Biafra is invoke.

I believe that the Igbo man will prefer to be in a larger Nigeria, so that he would operate in a big territory, where he would feel more fulfilled by his accomplishments than to be a champion in a tiny enclave. What they demand is equal rights and justice. They want to be treated like others, and not as second-class citizens in their country. The government and Nigerians would kill the spirit of Biafra by addressing those things that make Igbo alienated: Fix their roads, provide electricity and security and provide enabling environment. And the mean thing: Concede the presidency to the Igbo. Yes, concede the presidency! In 1999, Nigeria conceded the presidency to the Yoruba to appease them for the June 12, 1993 fiasco, which explains why the three political parties at that time fielded only Yoruba candidates. What is wrong if such concession is made to the Igbo? Nothing wrong whatsoever. It will rather kill Biafra permanently.

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A record wait for federal cabinet Fri, 20 Nov 2015 01:59:32 +0000 AT last, President Muhammadu Buhari swore in his ministers to whom portfolios were respectively allotted, such that silenced traditional and potential critics of lopsidedness. ]]>

AT last, President Muhammadu Buhari swore in his ministers to whom portfolios were respectively allotted, such that silenced traditional and potential critics of lopsidedness. Almost everything key ministry went to the south – Works, Power, Health, Transportation, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Housing, Niger Delta Affairs and Solid Minerals.

The first notable change is the disturbing precedent of appointing the cabinet over seven months after the presidential elections and almost six months after the president took office. Nowhere in the democratic world does it take that long. Taking a cue from President Buhari, even state governors, who, in the past, would have commenced administration within weeks after taking oath, also took that long to form their cabinet. In fact, till now, many state governors are yet to complete forming their cabinet. It is, of course, conceded that the re- cord was set by Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who had no cabinet for seven months after he was sworn in for his first term.

Swearing-in of Buhari’s cabinet also put paid to unnecessary controversy, which raged at various stages of the ministerial confirmation hearings. Playing to the gallery, almost every senator preferred a situation where the portfolio of each ministerial nominee would have been indicated to determine his (minister’s) suitability. Such is not desirable for many reasons. First, when did senators become experts in determining who and who are capable or incapable as potential ministers? Were senators themselves the best materials as senatorial candidates of their respective political parties? The process of selecting them as senatorial candidates was in most cases manipulated by their political godfathers, who imposed them (senators) as candidates. Hence, disputes leading to litigations on who was or should have been the candidate(s) for the senatorial elections, as have been witnessed since the 2015 elections. Furthermore, did the senators not dispute the suitability of their President, Bukola Saraki, for that post?

Then, there was the arrogance of many of the senators in their wrong belief that only engineers might be suitable as minister of works, or that the only suitable ministry for a journalist is information or only a medical practitioner should be health minister or only a political scientist should man foreign affairs ministry. That is limited reasoning. Any ministerial material should be considered capable for any portfolio or he is not a ministerial material, in the first place. It is exactly for that reason, rather than purposes of decoration that a head of government (in Nigeria’s case, president or state governor) is empowered by the constitution to reshuffle his ministers as and when he so desires. Or would the president have to revert to the senate for approval to shift serving ministers to new portfolios? Or who would be suitable for the post of a president or state governor? Journalists had been regional governors and state governors. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, S.L. Akintola, Lateef Jakande, Bisi Onabanjo and Segun Onabanjo, all distinguished themselves by supervising all ministries.

Tafawa Balewa was a teacher and was minister of transport and remains, as prime minister, the most level-headed Nigerian leader. Bode Thomas was a lawyer and yet, Nigeria’s first minister of works and transport. Muhammadu Ribadu was not a soldier or engineer and was defence minister. Inuwa Wada was not an engineer and was minister of works. S.L Akintola was a lawyer and yet was minister of health and later communications. Femi Okunnu is a lawyer and as commissioner (minister) of works, will ever be credited with massive road construction in Nigeria, especially in Lagos. Of course, in very exceptional cases, a Koye Ransome-Kuti or Professor Osotimehin would be a national waste if not at the ministry of health. Equally a versatile Jubril Aminu and Tam David-West easily fitted at petroleum ministry. Both are not chemical engineers.

The wish of the senators that ministerial nominees to be confirmed must be assigned with potential portfolios will confer on the senators such enormous powers not conferred on them by the constitution. In effect, if their wish is met, Nigerian constitution would have been surreptitiously amended. In addition, such power is capable of am- bushing or rendering the Nigerian President constitutionally immobile in the choice of his ministers. Above all, if the senators are granted their wish, experience under former President Olusegun Obasan- jo was that the opportunity would be seized to ex- tort bribes before confirming ministerial nominees or passing their budget. In some cases, Obasanjo had to insist on the confirmation of his ministerial nominees, like Nasir El-Rufai and associate Professor Aborisade. Consequently, Obasanjo had to sack an education minister for obliging the demand of some senators for gratification before passing the ministry’s budget.

Swearing-in of ministers and allocation of port- folios also ended the unnecessary row over potential ministers without portfolio. Fortunately, all the ministers are assigned portfolios, even if some as ministers of state. Otherwise, there would have been nothing strange in ministers without portfolio. Such had been part of our political arrangement since the introduction of ministerial system in 1952 at central (later federal) and regional levels. Some of such ministers without portfolio were E.M.L. Endeley, Victor Mukete and Matthew Mbu. The system worked in the defunct three regions without any controversy

By the way, in allocating the various ministries, Buhari missed the opportunity to correct a long- standing anomaly. Any of the key ministries allo- cated to the south is as important as the ministry of Abuja federal territory. But noticeably, the appointment of the new minister remains the same pattern. Except for the first minister (commissioner) Ajose Adeogun in 1976, no other southerner since 1979 ever held that portfolio at full cabinet level. Any of the new big ministers from the south could have been allotted the federal territory portfolio without losing anything. Before Abuja, there was Lagos as the federal territory. The first minister for Lagos Affairs was Muhammadu Ribadu in 1957. Three years later, on Nigeria’s attainment of independence, Ribadu was appointed minister of defence and was succeeded as Lagos Affairs Minister by Musa Yar’Adua, who held the post till January 1966. As the federal capital territory, any Nigerian should be eligible to occupy the slot.

Equally, Buhari has set a precedent. A southerner has been allotted the powerful triple ministries of works, power and housing. Virtually, no eyebrows are raised if not cemetery silence. Would that have been the case if a northerner got that ministerial slot? Also, a single ministry of works and power? Seems unwieldy and incompatible.

• Now, governance can commence.

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Where are the Chibok campaigners? Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:41:18 +0000 SOME 584 days ago, something called Chibok crept into the Nigerian lexicon. We were told that a certain sleepy town in Borno State that goes by that name had been invaded by Boko Haram terrorists. The gist of the strange tale was that over 200 schoolgirls had been ab­ducted from a secondary school in the [...]]]>

SOME 584 days ago, something called Chibok crept into the Nigerian lexicon. We were told that a certain sleepy town in Borno State that goes by that name had been invaded by Boko Haram terrorists. The gist of the strange tale was that over 200 schoolgirls had been ab­ducted from a secondary school in the town.

The story, strange as it was, bore the ring of the familiar. It was in line with what had become almost customary – the daily invasion of northern enclaves by Boko Haram insurgents. Consequently, government, as it appeared then, did not take exception to it. Be­sides, the story resonated more with theory. How did the abduction take place? Where were the authorities of the school when it happened? What about the Nigerian security network that operated in the North East? Did they, by any means, know something about the famed abduction? Answers to these questions did not come handy. They were far to seek. Because this was the case, the government of the day, which was honed in by its effort to establish the truth of the matter, was not quick to respond to the abduction story.

That was the period of high wire politics. It was a pe­riod when the Jonathan presidency was encircled by a web of conspiracy but which was hardly obvious to the president himself. While the president groped in the dark, the conspirators had a field day. They tightened the noose around his neck. And so, because the Jona­than presidency was not seeing clearly, opposite people seized the stage. They went to the roof tops with the story of the abduction. Then the international media took over from them. And before long, the government of the day was crippled by the story of the abduction.

For those who had been characterising Jonathan and his presidency as clueless, it was as if a staple had been prepared for them. They grabbed it with both hands and devoured it with relish. A major crisis of confi­dence had begun for the Jonathan government.

Then to give the impression that the entire drama was choreographed, an emergency body called Bring Back Our Girls stepped out almost without effort. They had their assignment well cut out for them. They were to face the Presidency and create the impression the world over that the government was incapable of safe­guarding the life and property of its citizenry. In their determination to lower the esteem of the government of the day, they marched through streets and cities and finally found a permanent abode somewhere in Abuja. Theirs was a full time engagement. They were there everyday from dusk to dawn. At some point, discern­ing Nigerians began to wonder. Were the campaigners so idle that they could not find something else to do? Having drawn attention to itself as a body committed to the return of the schoolgirls, shouldn’t the cam­paigners have jettisoned the schoolboy approach and engaged the issue with maturity and decorum? These were some of the worries expressed by many. Conse­quently, many came to believe that there was more to the campaigns than met the eyes. In fact, government was ill at ease with the campaign. It had every cause to believe that it was enemy action. It was convinced that it was an instrument in the hands of the opposition to further decimate the Jonathan administration.

The trick, intent or motive of the Chibok campaign­ers, whatever it was, worked. Their campaign created a crisis of credibility for the Jonathan presidency and the international Press cashed in on it. The Western me­dia, particularly, bought the message of the campaign hook, line and sinker. The latter day effort made by the Jonathan administration to explain the situation did not sink. It was late in coming. And as is always the case in the world of politics, the opposition assumed the moral high ground. Buhari, the face of the oppo­sition, took over the stage. He told us that he would rescue the schoolgirls if voted into power. He also said that he knew what to do to stop the Boko Haram in­surgency. Yet, he would not give the clue to Jonathan. He would rather have the country crash in the hands of Jonathan than offer a helping hand. It did not matter that the entire Nigeria was faced with an evil called Boko Haram and that everybody, regardless of party affiliation, needed to be united in the war against ter­ror. And so, Buhari kept his magic wand until Jonathan crashed out of the presidency.

Then, as if to lend credence to the position that the Chibok campaigners were an instrument in the hands of the opposition, their voices went shrill the moment Buhari was declared elected by the electoral commis­sion. The accustomed fire in the campaigners burnt out in a jiffy. Within weeks of Buhari’s ascension to the office of president, the fire in the campaigners became an impotent ash. Yet, the Chibok schoolgirls were not out. Then you began to wonder what difference it made whether it was Buhari or Jonathan. What was constant was that the girls must be rescued. Why abandon the campaign because a Buhari has become the president? Was the campaign just tailored to make Buhari presi­dent and nothing more? Why did the campaign start and end with Jonathan? It’s questions and more ques­tions.

I had thought, and that was the impression we were given, that the Chibok campaigners were driven by our common humanity. They said they were concerned about our daughters, who were forcefully taken over by the terrorists. They wanted the girls back because they said it was unimaginable that over 200 teenage girls could just disappear without a trace. They said it was the shame of a nation. They said they would not leave their campaign arena until the girls were brought back. A few doubted their sincerity, but many believed them.

So, what could have happened? Have the milk and blood of our common humanity suddenly gone dry in the veins and marrow of the campaigners? Is it no longer abhorrent to imagine terrorists forcefully taking over our innocent daughters as sex slaves? When and how did the standards change? I will need one of the Chibok campaigners to address these nagging ques­tions. If they do not, those of us who are still worried about the silence that has enveloped the country over Chibok will be forced to believe otherwise. We will begin to see the campaigners as hirelings, indeed as people of little or no integrity who lent themselves out to be used for an odd job.

On the side of the government, it will be interest­ing to know why Chibok is no longer an issue. Why is it no longer urgent to rescue the girls ? Where is the magic wand that Buhari touted? Is he also clueless as they said Jonathan was? Indeed, where is Buhari’s own clue? We need to see it in action. And the best and most urgent action here is the rescue of the girls.

The government of the day should not allow us to be driven into the belief in some quarters that no girls were abducted after all. That Chibok was a fraud. That it was a well programmed instrument of blackmail di­rected at the Jonathan presidency in the push for its fall. And that it is now time to throw away that instrument since its objective has been achieved. Like the Chibok campaigners, government also needs to explain to Ni­gerians what has become of the Chibok affair. Should we continue to talk about it? Or should we consign it to the ash heaps of history?


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A memorable event at the lake Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:27:36 +0000 BREATHTAKING! That word aptly en­capsulates the description of the event my wife and I attended on Saturday, Novem­ber 14, 2015. In any case, in a pristine and little chilly fall weather, men and women in all white attires, selectively invited by Atty. Edwin Nwokocha, waited eagerly at the lake­front of the magnificent Mediterranean-like Harbor Rockwall [...]]]>

BREATHTAKING! That word aptly en­capsulates the description of the event my wife and I attended on Saturday, Novem­ber 14, 2015.

In any case, in a pristine and little chilly fall weather, men and women in all white attires, selectively invited by Atty. Edwin Nwokocha, waited eagerly at the lake­front of the magnificent Mediterranean-like Harbor Rockwall to board a boat to sail deep in the middle of Lake Ray Hub­bard, exclusively located about 23 miles east of Dallas downtown with high class hotels and diners.

With the fading daylight and thinning of the cascading clouds, the dinghy was gradually approaching the dock. The boat finally docked as the billowing clouds gave way for the clear and dimming skies lit with a constellation of stars.

Each couple walked majestically and spiritedly toward the boat with a brief stop to pose for a picture before embarking on what could be characterized as “Love Boat” reminiscent of the 1977–1987 tele­vision series set on a cruise ship on ABC Television Network, which was both com­ical and romantic. But the “Love Boat” on Lake Ray Hubbard was romantic. That was the voluptuous setting for Adaigbo’s birthday bash organized by her husband to rekindle their love and to sustain their marriage in a metropolitan area that has a high rate of divorce among Nigerians. The sensual set was apt for the family to illus­trate and educate others how to keep the candle of love burning until death.

With all the trappings of a fairytale at­mosphere, most of us who fret about water did not realize that we were sailing around the middle of the lake for hours. Perhaps we were rapt in the suavity of the immedi­ate scenic visages.

Undeniably, the occasion overwhelmed the guests who were captivated by the manner in which Edwin Nwokocha pro­fusely expressed his genuine love for her wife, a sentiment also held by Atty. Nkechi Nwokoye, who succinctly said, “It feels good and refreshing to be in an environment where love is so evident.” Mrs. Nwokoye added, “Looking at Eddy express his love to his wife so effortlessly was so beautiful and more of our men need to learn to be less guarded; a little show of some vulnerability goes a long way to rekindle affection and oneness.”

Similarly, Atty. Angie Nduka beckoned to other men to borrow a leaf from Atty. Edwin Nwokocha. She said, “Chief Eddy Nwokocha honored his wife on her birth­day in a manner worthy of emulation. He brought together the inner caucus of friends and well-wishers to express his pure and unadulterated love for his wife. The setting was very appropriate, also.

Mrs. Ukay Echebelem also offered an analogous feeling: “The event was a blast; I really enjoyed myself and I had fun. Seeing all the beautiful ladies on their im­maculate white attires with their husbands or their significant others gave me goose­bumps. Being on the boat, on top of the water, eating, drinking and dancing the old school music brings me back to the old good days when I was in high school.

It is amazing to see everyone leave the party at the same time woo!! I wish Ni­gerians in Dallas will come to event on time and end on time like Atty. Chief (Mrs.) Cordelia Nwokocha’s scintillating birthday party. I sincerely thank the Nwo­kochas for inviting me and my most cher­ished husband to the celebration.”

In the same vein, Mrs. Chinyere On­yeador, who came with her husband stated, “My reactions to Chief Cordelia Nwoko­cha’s event were so many, but I will limit them to just a few. I was so blown away by the preparations and details that went into the planning and the execution of the party that I was in awe.

It was very romantic, thought out, and meticulously planned. A true statement of love shown by an appreciative, loving and caring husband to his beautiful wife. It was indeed a party and half. My husband and I had a blast.”

Philip Odoemena, the master of cer­emony for the event opined, “The Nwo­kocha’s birthday party on the “Love Boat” was simply extraordinary, to say the least. It was different and beautiful. For the Nwo­kochas, the party was not serendipitous; it was typical of the Nwokochas on how they plan their events. Remember their three day wedding event a few years ago was a car­nival. Edwin and Cordelia always come up with ideas out of the ordinary.”

Chiming in, Atty. Austin Uke expressed, “Attorney Edwin Nwaokocha’s wife, At­torney Cordelia’s birthday celebration was a very humbling experience, but surreal as Edwin narrated how much he loved his wife and wanted a special way to honor her before finding this special way to do so. In­deed, it was special and different and it is the type of function that will stick with me for a very long time. My wife and I were delighted to be there and we enjoyed it to the fullest.”

Atty. Cordelia Nwokocha, the celebrant said with excitement, “I will never forget the evening of November 14, 2015.” “The joy of spending my evening in the middle of Lake Ray Hubbard in a “Love Boat” with close friends and family members brought tears of joy in my eyes,” Mrs. Nwokocha continued. In a candid manner, Chief Cordelia Nwokocha shared, “I have no doubt that my husband truly loves me; however, the humor he used to express his love in front of everyone confirmed what I have always known about the man I call my husband.”

She continued, “I am profoundly happy and thankful to the special guests who made the evening very wonderful.” “Words are not adequate enough to thank each and every one; I love you all and God will con­tinue to bless us all,” Cordelia concluded.


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Lessons from Ugwuanyi’s Enugu Wed, 18 Nov 2015 02:53:34 +0000 I HAVE been following the exchange of accusations in Kogi State, between the ruling PDP and the opposition APC, ahead of the forthcoming governorship election. ]]>

I HAVE been following the exchange of accusations in Kogi State, between the ruling PDP and the opposition APC, ahead of the forthcoming governorship election. Both sides appear to be playing politics with the lives and livelihood of the civil servants in the state. The bone of contention is the bailout funds released by the Federal Government to help states clear backlog of salaries. It would seem that while the government of Gov. Idris Wada is doing everything to get Kogi’s share released, the APC is pressing every button to ensure it is not released (even though it insists this is not the case). The politics of it all is that if the money is released to Wada now, he would pay the salary arrears and make the workers happy. That singular act could enhance his popularity and translate to more votes in the guber poll. But that is what the APC does not want. Both parties are denying the allegations, even as the people, with whose votes they expect to win the governorship, are starving to death. How heartless!

It was while ruminating over the Kogi situation that I began to appreciate what the Enugu State Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, told us a few weeks ago when the management of The Sun visited him in Enugu.

The man they fondly call Gburugburu noted that now was the worst time to be governor of any state. The national economy is in a very bad shape and internally generated revenue is nothing to write home about.

So, if things were this bad, how come he was not owing workers salaries like many other states?

Then, he led us into the trick. In Enugu, Ugwuanyi is running a belt-tightening regime. But the belt-tightening starts from him and other government officials, the governor’s convoy, the running of Government House (he still lives in his private house), to save the cost of an elaborate renovation of his official residence), etc.

Enugu, he said, was largely a civil service state, so the most wicked thing to do to the state is to withhold workers’ salaries, because it has a ripple effect on the entire state. “It’s when you pay workers that the markets suddenly come alive. That is when you pump money into the local economy. So, even the trader at Ogbete market knows business is dull until workers get paid.”

To ensure that this equilibrium is not upset, the governor has worked out a system whereby workers’ salary is the first money set aside as soon as the state gets its federal allocation. It is whatever that is left that the state now begins to deploy to capital projects, payment of contractors, etc.

In Ugwuanyi’s Enugu, there is no secrecy about the Tenders Board. In fact, here, the Tenders Board is essentially an expanded Exco. A town hall! Even contractors of the state are free to attend. At some point, the governor even wanted the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and some of his principal officers to attend, but they refused, citing the need to uphold the concept of separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The governor literally puts all the money on the table, workers’ salaries are deducted and then they begin to allocate the remaining funds. No favouritism.

So, if the state is already taking care of workers, what then would Ugwuanyi do with the bailout funds approved by the Federal Government for the settlement of outstanding salaries? He said that much as he needed the funds, he was yet to collect it (as at the time of our meeting) because, as a law- maker (he moved straight to governorship from the House of Representatives), he knows the implication of diverting money appropriated for one project into a different project. It’s actually an impeachable offence. So, he would not only need to get a green light from the central government, which was releasing the money, but also, the approval of his own legislature to divert the money to fix roads, for instance.

That was why I dismissed the recent allegations of financial impropriety against him as the handiwork of desperate politicians. That is why, in this season, when every other governor is scratching his head on where to get money to pay workers’ salaries, Enugu, which is not an oil-producing state and which ranks among the lowest in monthly federal allocation, is flagging off as many as nine major road projects at once. Indeed, if we remove greed, a lot can still be achieved, even in the present precarious economic situation.

That is the lesson for Kogi and other states.


Still on Biafra

SEVERAL weeks ago, a big brother of mine, Hon. Chinenye Okoro (Kryss), warned me to steer clear of the MASSOB agitations in the South East in my write-ups. That was long before the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) upped the ante some three weeks ago. I had given Kryss my word that I would.

Of course, I did not keep to my promise. And because of that, I’ve intentionally refused to pick this big brother’s call since last week, when I wrote “Nigeria, Biafra: Where do I belong?”

Needless to say, almost as soon as that piece hit the news- stand last week, Kryss’ warning came like a prophecy fulfilled: All the illiterate and semi-illiterate persons of Igbo land came after me, insulting everything that I hold dear. Most of them only managed to read the headline, while others read just a short quote extracted from the piece and flared up. Some, who, obviously, could not read, had the piece interpreted to them by half-educated colleagues. The result? Everything was taken out of context. How could I possibly not want Biafra to pull away from Nigeria? They queried.

Even where I dismissed the blackmail by some jingoists from other ethnic groups that the pro-Biafra agitations were the Igbo’s way of also making Nigeria ungovernable for Buhari, as Buhari’s supporters had threatened Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2011 presidential election, my Igbo bothers read the argument upside-down – and heaped even more insults on me.

My only consolation, however, was that virtually all en- lightened Igbo, who called, commended my position that all ethnic groups were better off in a united Nigeria. They noted that what I said was one truth that the protesters do not want to hear. So, for their own safety, the bulk of the elite have remained silent on the issue. Unfortunately, even that silence has also become an offence before the artisans and semi-illiterate people currently championing the protests. They believe that the Igbo elite, for purely selfish reasons, has refused to speak out and support Biafra.

Ironically, it has never occurred to the protesters that many of the elite are even more Biafran than most of those marching in the streets. It’s just that they have all been black- mailed into silence, by a mob of foot soldiers that know next to nothing about war strategy.

But my position on the agitations remain unchanged: It’s a people’s constitutional right to protest, in order to draw attention to the consistent pattern of injustice that Ndigbo continue to suffer in the Nigerian union – or else, the rest of the country would take this injustice as the acceptable way to treat the Igbo. I probably would have joined the protest if the narrative was better articulated.

Yes, I would have joined. Sometimes, in Nigerian politics, you need to make a lot of noise, display capacity for violence, and an ability to rock the boat, before you can be taken seriously.

For me, this is the essence of the pro-Biafra agitations.

It reminds me of the proverbial dog in Igbo folktale, which once noted that but for the gragra (unruliness) he dis- plays from time to time, disrespectful humans would have thrown a leash around his neck and dragged him to church, as thanksgiving offering.

The neglect of the South-East has got to a level, where the people would have to adopt a different approach. And for me, the solution is not to unleash soldiers on peaceful protesters, or even to appoint Igbo into government – whether kitchen cabinet or waka-pass FEC. But that’s story for an- other day.

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Praying for Diezani and the rest of us Tue, 17 Nov 2015 02:18:18 +0000 HAD ISIS not shocked the world by sponsoring a spree of deadly attacks at six locations in Paris last Friday, killing at least 128 people, the Nigerian social media space would have been ]]>

HAD ISIS not shocked the world by sponsoring a spree of deadly attacks at six locations in Paris last Friday, killing at least 128 people, the Nigerian social media space would have been dominated – no question – by photos released by a new medium, The Boss, of former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

In fact, one can’t say for certain that the photos of the former minister did not stand toe-to-toe in the Nigerian social space with ubiquitous images and posts about the gore in Paris. Formerly radiant, elegant and poised, Mrs. Alison-Madueke came across in the photos as physically enfeebled if not ravaged, her face gaunt, head virtually shorn of hair.

More than a month ago, Oscar Onwudiwe, a lawyer and friend to the Madueke family, had disclosed in a statement that the once powerful former Petroleum Minister was in the UK dealing with grave ill health. He’d written: “Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has been receiving treatment for cancer in the UK, which started while she was in office. The health crisis has unfortunately exacerbated in recent times. She completed months of chemotherapy just last week and she is scheduled to undergo surgery next week in London. The family has been bearing this challenge with prayers and as much grace and fortitude as possible; and would plead with all reasonable Nigerians to pray for her recovery so that she can face this allegation and give account of her stewardship. Yes, she can – and very well, too.”

Photos of the ex-minister apparently taken at an interview with Dele Momodu, publisher of The Boss, confirmed that Mrs. Alison- Madueke’s body had been remapped both by cancer and the treatment for it. To see the photos was to come to grips, at the very least, with the transiency of the robust physique that, in ignorance, some believe is guaranteed to last.

Accompanying the release of the photos were Alison-Madueke’s fierce assertions about her stewardship on former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet. In fact, her actions as Petroleum Minister had inspired considerable media scrutiny, with reports suggesting she was a pacesetter for corruption and other impunity.

Remarkably, while in office, Mrs. Alison- Madueke had ignored the media x-rays, maintaining a mask of imperturbable indifference that would not deign to respond to a cascade of damaging reports. Some three months ago, Governor Adams Oshiomhole claimed that US authorities had told President Muhammadu Buhari and his entourage about the predations of a former minister, who stole $6 billion. The governor never divulged the identity of the said greedy ex-minister. But many Nigerians on social media and elsewhere were quick to diagram the immediate past Petroleum Minister into the role of that unnamed villain.

Now, sick in London, Mrs. Alison-Madueke appears to have concluded that silence was no longer golden. Former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – who’s now the Emir of Kano – had alleged that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to deposit more than $20 billion in oil revenues at the CBN. Asked about this by Mr. Momodu, the former minister waxed indignant.

“If there is one issue I must pursue in this world, it is the biggest lie of this money. How can $20 billion disappear just like that? Where did it disappear to? Is it possible that such an amount would not be traceable? This is more painful coming from someone I considered a good friend, who should appreciate the gravity of such allegation. I challenge anyone to come forward with facts showing that I stole government or public money. I’ve never stolen Nigeria’s money…”

One appreciates that Mrs. Alison-Madueke has chosen, finally, to speak, even if her fierce words hardly cleared the air. How could such a gargantuan amount disappear, she asked. Where could it have disappeared? These are far from impressive responses. I recall that former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Mrs. Alison-Madueke had insisted that the amount that had “missed road,” to adopt a Nigerian phrase, was about $10 billion, not $20 billion. If the NNPC could find a way not to lodge $10 billion into the proper account, they sure as hell could find a way to keep $20 billion and more off the official books as well. As to the location of the allegedly missing billions, our response – as floor members of the Federal Republic of Abracadabra – should be: “How would we know?”

Let me tell you what Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s ravaged photos did for me. They reminded me of her, my, our ultimate mortality. In the end, when it’s all said and done, we will all die. That’s why I said a prayer for the former minister. I couldn’t see the photos of her devastation and remain unaffected, unmoved by deep human sympathy.

The former minister deserves good health to fight the fight she indicated she was determined to wage: One to establish that she never stole from Nigerians. But there’s already something anomalous that ought to be pointed out. Mrs. Alison-Madueke was part of an administration that boasted of being “transformational.” Why didn’t it occur to her to bend former President Goodluck Jonathan’s ear and whisper, “We need to use some of our petro-billions to transform Nigeria into a country with world- class treatment for all kinds of cancer.”

Daily, former and serving public officials announce, with no sense of shame or irony, that they are “jetting” abroad for medical treatment. Do they ever pause, these privileged beneficiaries from other peoples’ ingenuity and imagination in healthcare, to remember their poor, hapless fellow citizens trapped in Nigeria, compelled to seek treatment in ill- equipped Nigerian hospitals manned by ill- trained doctors?

I’m praying that Diezani Alison-Madueke beats cancer. After that, she must answer any legitimate questions about her management of Nigeria’s oil resources. And I’d hope to count her as a voice advocating people-oriented policies, including sound healthcare, on behalf of Nigeria’s long-suffering millions.

• Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

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In memory of our fallen soldiers! Mon, 16 Nov 2015 00:22:35 +0000 YOU are dead, yet you live. You live, even as you leave this part of the divide. No one is dead who truly lives in the hearts of his people, family, friends and comrades. We are family because you were once a Nigerian, always a Nigerian. We are com­rades, because we share in the mental [...]]]>

YOU are dead, yet you live. You live, even as you leave this part of the divide. No one is dead who truly lives in the hearts of his people, family, friends and comrades. We are family because you were once a Nigerian, always a Nigerian. We are com­rades, because we share in the mental and psycho­logical agony inflicted on our brothers and sisters in North-East, and indeed the country by the goons from hell. Many wasted and dispatched to their early graves, for no reason whatsoever. Even as you fought in the battlefront, we fought with prayers; hoping and praying for this evil to depart from our shores. Going by what has been happening in recent times, God seems to be answering our prayers: The men of blood are beating a retreat.

You live, and will continue to live in our memo­ries because you were truly the good soldier, the courageous soldier, the soldier of war, who fought to bring peace to our land. Peace has not totally returned, but news from the battlefront where you once played your brave part, before you were ruled out of the theatre of war forever, indicate that our army are giving the insurgents a bloody nose and eyes; many falling to rise no more, and many flee­ing for dear lives. So, you see, your fight has not been in vain. Your sacrifice will never be futile. Re­joice brave soldier; your comrades are doing you and us proud in the battlefield. Clink glasses wher­ever you are great gunner, for the Boko Haram guys will soon be goners!

That’s why I write this piece in appreciation of you, even though I knew you not. Even though I never met you, we meet in the heart because you have become spirit, and now belong to the ages.

In the loneliness of the earth, where your shat­tered remains lie in final surrender to the will of Almighty, you remain a hero, our hero, hero of the fight to flush out the sons of evil, fighting a war without logic, common sense or rationality.

Neither the lethal weapons of the fiends called Boko Haram nor the anonymity of the earth have been able to silence you forever. Who can silence the voice of the righteous fighting a war to keep his fellow countrymen and women from harm’s way? Who can obliterate the memory of the good soldier fighting the bad guys, but getting killed in the pro­cess? None.

As I write this piece, I confess that I was one of those who couldn’t understand why the insurgents once seemed to be having the upper hand. I couldn’t understand the reason some of your comrades were fleeing the battlefront or jumping over to neighbouring countries to take refuge, as the firepower of the renegades raged. There were all kinds of stories: Insurgents being better equipped and bearing more sophisticated weapons than our own soldiers. We heard stories of huge defence budgets that ended up in private pockets rather than being used in buy­ing the arms they were earmarked for. We heard all kinds of stories, that we didn’t know which was true or fiction. But, because the news from the battle­front was not cheery, we chose to believe that of lack of equipment and diverted funds. The logic is this: If you had better equipment or resources, why should Boko Haram overwhelm one of Africa’s most formidable armies? Why should our soldiers be fleeing the theatre of war? We were worried and concerned and angry. In our anger, we descended on you with our mouths and our pens. We hit hard at our military and defence chiefs. In one of my write-ups, I called for the immediate resignation or firing of the army and defence chiefs, for their failure to live up to the expectations of Nigerians. My heart bled, and still bleeds at the casualties of the internecine war going on in our country. I saw what was going on as sheer incompetence on the part of our military leaders.

Now, as if by some strange miracle, the tables are turning, the tide is changing. We are now reading of Boko Haram insurgents fleeing, our soldiers re­capturing cities, towns and villages hitherto in the grips of the dreaded sect. I am excited, the same way other Nigerians are. Please, flush these guys out. By your recent onslaught, you have restored the pride and dignity of the Nigerian Army. We salute you. But, like I said, we can’t celebrate just yet, until victory is complete and total. If the funds had been diverted in the past, we say not anymore. Whoever diverts army funds only feasts on blood money. The blood of the innocent slain by Boko Haram on account of poor equipment would surely cry for vengeance someday. So, let them heed the warning bells.

But, we can’t stop celebrating you our hero, who gave his life that we may live, free from the insanity of the devious sect causing us all nightmare. You must know, you didn’t die in vain. Your family and friends, and our nation must continue to see you for what you truly are: Nationalist and patriot. While others choose to destroy, you elected to build; you elected to keep your nation together and protect her from the machinations of the perverted. In my books, you have proven even more patriotic than the politicians who want to be dressed in patriot­ic robes. A patriot gives his life to his nation. We know these politicians take all the life from their nation. We know they love neither their nation nor its people.

As I salute the fallen soldier in today’s column, I’m also minded to remember the other casualties of war, those who lost family, friends and relations. Many are they who will never be the same again, even though they live. How will a man whose entire family got wiped out by Boko Haram ever remain the same even after the battle is over? Who will comfort the widow, the motherless and fatherless? Who will restore property lost, homes destroyed and dispossessed? Who will mend the broken hearts? Even when the war is finally over, another battle starts to mend the broken human infrastruc­ture. But, I guess we have to flush the insurgents out first, before we go to the next level. But, we must keep remembering them, as this is a nation that suf­fers amnesia. We always remember to forget and forget to remember.

There are also children of war, those who have been turned to boy-soldiers by the vigilante groups, to secure their territories. Time bombs waiting to explode in the future if not well managed, if you ask me. We must never forget. And for the soldier killed in battle by Boko Haram, we can never forget. Rest in peace, dear soldier, for you were man of war who fought for a peaceful nation.

LASTLINE: The federal government must set up initiative to immortalise the fallen Boko Haram soldiers now. Their offspring must be adequately compensated for the sacrifice of love their breadwinners gave their nation. No compensation will ever be too much. When people give their lives to their nation, the least the nation owes them is to guarantee the welfare and wellbeing of those they left behind. No less.


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If I were Agric Minister Sun, 15 Nov 2015 00:45:58 +0000 I HAD it all figured out; how I was going to make a difference and move things forward. I have a road map, calendar, timelines and everything needed to create wealth through agriculture for Nigeria. But here we are, the wicked have done their worst. I didn’t make the ministerial list. My detractors worked with [...]]]>

I HAD it all figured out; how I was going to make a difference and move things forward. I have a road map, calendar, timelines and everything needed to create wealth through agriculture for Nigeria. But here we are, the wicked have done their worst. I didn’t make the ministerial list. My detractors worked with some conspirators and told President Buhari not to make me a minister of the Federal Republic. Can you imagine? And I wanted to just serve my country o. Not that I’m allergic to a couple of bullet-proof cars, the occasional dinner and ride in the presidential jet with the President and a nice house in Asokoro. All that would have been really nice but now I have to live with the reality of remaining an ordinary Nigerian without escort and pilot vehicles.

However, because I’m a good and patriotic girl, I will still share my roadmap with the man occupying the seat on my behalf, the Honourable Minister of Ag­riculture and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh.

For starters, I think there is no better time than now to zone this country along agricultural lines. We can have the Nigeria Fruit Zone (FPZ) which will comprise all the states that produce fruits in abundance year in, year out. These fruits, mangoes, oranges, pawpaw, pineapple, tangerine arrive the roadside in all their beauty and glory. We price them like we are doing the farmers a favour. We haggle and haggle. The farmers in frustration call our bluff and then watch the fruits of their whole year labour rot away, the natural juice drip­ping away from the baskets on to the dusty road. Every time I drive through Fiditi in Oyo state or from Abuja to Makurdi, my heart goes out to the farmers who wake up early and toil for months only to sell baskets of huge mangoes for N2,000. As a minister, I would have gone into partnership with private businessmen who would set up fruit-processing plants in the FPZs. That way, the plants would be close to the supply of their raw materials. The farmers would get better value for their sweat. More people in those zones would find employment. And as the plants flourish, more people will return to the land. More farmers, new industries, more jobs. Everybody wins.

Next, I had plans to have National Ranches where modern livestock farming will be practised. No more overworked cows and rearers. We have uncultivated land spreading over thousands of kilometres in all directions, all over the country. We can and should put them to good use. Give the cows and goats, sheep and ram plenty of grazing land and introduce feeds that keep them healthy instead of beating them from Bauchi to Bayelsa. The cattle farmers can come together to form cooperative units, access soft loans to improve their business. Once we have all our ‘cattle in a row’, the next logical step is to bring in canning industries from in and outside the country to the Nigeria Livestock Zones. Every other thing will be added unto the nation’s purse. More cattle, better beef, more money and less stress for the farmers, job opportunities both on the ranches and in the canning factories. And you and I know that once one line of business is seen to be profitable, Nigerians make a beehive for it. By 2017, even the President would have been shocked at the number of Nigerians who would have become ‘cow and goat farmers’.

As at today, there is a ranch that supplies beef directly to my house on the day they slaughter, fresh meat, supplied clean. Now, I no longer need to go the market. What’s more, it is even cheaper than what I’d spend 30 minutes haggling over in the market. And those who buy in the open market know how both buyers, butchers and houseflies struggle to leave their fingerprints on the meat. Ah.

I also have great plans for the poultry business. That is one aspect of farming that this country can do magic with; layers, broilers, eggs, eateries, hotels, homes. Everybody can participate. Time on return on investment is encouraging. There are not enough eggs. We are still importing chicken that died two years ago, probably. The nation should have Nigeria Poultry Zones (NPZ) in all the 36 states of the federation.

Come to think of it, didn’t I write about the need for state to have farms many years ago? I have even reproduced it about three times since the piece Can’t we have federal farms? was first published. I think the time is more than ripe for this nation to have Federal Farms. Let each state pick an area of agriculture and do it well. Edo can plug in to palm produce. Cashew grows in Enugu the way water leaf grows on refuse heap. Just try and imagine how much money Enugu can start making in a few short years if that aspect of agric is corporately focussed on by the state. Imagine Osun state bottling palm wine in commercial quantities. We will make so much money from just Ogun and Lagos states at the weekends alone. The number of parties in those two states alone? Ask the makeup artistes how much they make, the event planners, event centres.

What about all those tomatoes and peppers grow­ing like mushroom in the North and how we waste them? We do not even plant enough. See why we need Vegetable Zones all over the country and the cottage factories that the banks can invest in now that they have been stripped of easy government money?

To harness all the gains from the different agri­cultural zones, I also have a design for national job creation. Corp members of the NYSC currently earn N20,000 (N19,800 after tax) monthly. Once the fed­eral farms and ranches are ready to start, instead of pouring ‘corpers’ back into the unemployment pool, the nation can reassign them to the farms for another years. It’s just a matter of amending the NYSC law. After that, those who do not want anything to do with agric can be join the labour market. But I’m sure of one thing, many of them would fall in love with agriculture and the thought of being their own men and women growing whatever they love. The one year would have also served as training period. The country would gain more than it would lose.

And now the crazy one. Cities like Lagos and Abuja are the pilot in this one. And it was supposed to be in conjunction with the Nigerian Police, FRSC and other traffic control agencies. The legal frame­work would be worked out. Here’s how it works. Lagos state, for instance, would set up a big farm. Since there are hundreds of traffic ofenders daily, the mobile courts will sentence them to between two to five hours of community service and they will be hauled off to the federal or state farm. The traffic offenders will irrigate vegetable beds, harvest okro, feed chickens, pigs or pick eggs. Free labour, reduced overhead, traffic lesson learnt. This will be a daily thing until traffic ofenders are de­livered from the demons pursuing them, by which time acres and acres of vegetables would have been planted and harvested.

I think I’ve written enough for one patriotic girl that was not made a minister. Full stop.


Re: Bloodlessly

Your piece in the Sunday Sun makes a good appetiser for my lunch every Sunday. Mean­while, the issue of self determination is an age-old one since the creation of Adam and Eve. There is no perfect peace, progress, freedom or independence if every man becomes a coun­try of his own. The need to dominate others is what drives people to want to break away from the crowd. I think the Easterners, westerners etc, have a better financial and economic ad­vantage in the larger Nigeria than a balkanised country. Do a statistics of the average life of every Nigerian and see who has the upper hand in the present day Nigeria. The Easterners, the Westerners, the Northerners have their own minorities. What happens to those people after the division? –Bs

If you ask me, I’d say there’s no need for secession, and even if need be, it won’t do the seceding state any good. Yeah, the people of South-East have been marginalised no doubt, but secession won’t be the best option. The federal government should address the injus­tice against the South-East immediately before things get out of hands. This is the only way to counter the campaign against injustice to the people of the region.

–Stanley Chukwumezie. mezstanley@


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Re: Neglect of Abia’s honey pot Sun, 15 Nov 2015 00:39:59 +0000 Peoples’ parliament Ralph I want to thank you for what you have been doing for our people. I am not surprised that you would bring to the public’s attention, the very de­plorable state of Owaza-Obehie- Azumini road which appeared in your column on August 30, 2015. You have been a crusader since your student days [...]]]>

Peoples’ parliament

Ralph I want to thank you for what you have been doing for our people. I am not surprised that you would bring to the public’s attention, the very de­plorable state of Owaza-Obehie- Azumini road which appeared in your column on August 30, 2015. You have been a crusader since your student days at the Univer­sity of Nigeria, Nsukka. The piece “Neglect of Abia’s Honey Pot” had your ‘imprimatur’, high intelli­gence, style and experience. The piece was not just about journal­ism excellence, it was more about deep knowledge about the trou­ble with Nigeria, having served Abia State in various high political positions. Our area has been mal­treated for long by both the state and federal governments and I think the fault is ours. We don’t speak out and those who offer to lead us always compromise to satisfy their selfish desires. I am happy people like you are speak­ing up. Be rest assured you have the full backing of Asa leadership and people.

Engr. Friday Ogbuji – 08036674978.

Ralph, I enjoyed the piece, “Ne­glect of Abia’s Honey Pot”. From your own observations, you can see that distortions and corrup­tion are not recent things. Nige­ria is like this today because the colonialists wanted to have their way at all cost. The Justice Mam­man Nasir Boundary Adjustment Commission was not only a fraud, it was satanic. Satan sent them to do an evil job; the objective was to disfigure the Igbo and their land and render them powerless in the nation’s political equations. Those who did this had their way but they lost the peace, they can’t enjoy their booty. They murdered sleep and so cannot sleep, the Nigeria they think they have conquered may finally disintegrate and then it would be clear that the evil men do, lives with them. Balkanizing a people and spreading them across five administrative zones is equal to genocide. I recommend that all those involved whether dead or alive be tried for crimes against humanity. As for the deplorable state on Owaza-Obehie-Azumini road, it is a desperate situation and so requires desperate solution. The people should rise and strongly make a demand. Our national lead­ers are deaf and very insensitive; they need strong tapings on the shoulder before they can stop and look. God would save us all.

Harrison – hark2002@ya­

Ralph I had occasion to pass through the road you wrote about when I went to FSTC Ohanso in Ukwa-East Local Government. No pen can describe the deplorable condition of the Owaza-Obehie- Azimini road including the one that links Abia and Akwa Ibom through Aba to Ikot Epene. A journey of usually less than 30 minutes now takes more than four hours on a good day and 2 to 4 days for a first timer who makes the mistake of us­ing his own car and cannot afford to leave it when stuck. How I pray they would go and verify things; my brother the blood of our broth­ers departed would surely cry out against the perpetrators.

– 08035626450

This is a wonderful work; your style is neither combative nor as­sertive but very persuasive. In the piece “Neglect of Abia’s Honey Pot” you were in the persuasive best anybody could be; in a lan­guage peculiar to you, you expertly brought out the points and facts and left it for the people to judge. I hope those concerned read and do some­thing with urgency. Dr. IK Ajuzie­ogu – 08030690511

Nwanne, Ndewo, for standing out for us as a people. Please I want you to draw the notice of state and federal governments that the only school in Asa land called Asa High School is now a military base. The students have been pushed out to join primary school pupils; this is annoying, ungodly and very unfair. Ugochukwu – 07055245811

Ralph, please accept my sincere sympathy over the death of 14 people from your area who died in a ghastly motor accident near Umuahia, May their souls rest in perfect peace. Amen! It is our hope that relevant authorities, particu­larly the government of the state, would finance the medical bills of the injured. As for the neglect of any area, the only avenue of call­ing leaders’ attention to such lapses is to keep saying it the way you are doing through your column, unendingly. Just keep saying it, Someday, somewhere, someone in government would respond posi­tively to your call. More grease. Lai Ashadele – 07067677806.

After reading your piece, I lost the courage to do a follow-up call because I was emotionally dev­astated. As the President of my community (Ngwobi Develop­ment Union), I know the extra burden you bear. While praying for the repose of the departed souls and a quick convalescence of the wounded, let’s continue to take to God in prayer the inhumanity of the Nigerian state to our people. Be consoled Ralph! Prof. Ogbonna – Uniuyo – 08033606233

Good write up and well-mar­shaled points. The crime against our people is huge. 08030937884

Ralph, I wish to commend you for your write up in the Sunday Sun. I encourage and advice you to do a follow up. The two roads you mentioned are indeed in pitiable state (Owaza-Obehie-Azumini and Ogwe-Obokwe-Umuekechi-Urat­ta). Let God use you to speak for us. Thanks.


Sir, the issues you raised in the piece on the condition of the fed­eral and state roads in Aba are very germane. I am not from the area, though Abian; it was a touching sight when I passed through the road from Port-Harcourt to Akwa Ibom. No road in the north is in that condition. Our state government has not been helpful on this issue as well. Even in Rivers State, Asa are­as are also neglected. Please do not stop crying out. Keep pointing out these anomies. Remember that our people say that “Oke Okpa si na ya neti mkpu obughu ka ihe jiya ha ya aka, kama obu k’uwa nunru olu ya”. Please do more editions of this piece; let’s prick the conscience of the oppressive class. Thanks a lot.

Chuks Azu – 07051019910

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 ‘Wed me in Sedona, Arizona’ Fri, 13 Nov 2015 23:00:22 +0000 SET in Yavapai County in the state of Arizona, USA, Sedona is an idyllic wonderland, a Mil­tonic picture of Paradise Lost and Paradise Re­gained in time and place. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Look at the red rocks of wonder, clayey, tower­ing like Goliathan anthills straight from an epic poem, [...]]]>

SET in Yavapai County in the state of Arizona, USA, Sedona is an idyllic wonderland, a Mil­tonic picture of Paradise Lost and Paradise Re­gained in time and place. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Look at the red rocks of wonder, clayey, tower­ing like Goliathan anthills straight from an epic poem, straight from a dream, straight from a work of art wrought by a celestial artist. So time­less. So immutable. So indestructible. Rock of ages, cleft for me!

“A cold coming we had of it,” just as T.S. Elliot wrote in his poem, Journey of The Magi. In our case, it’s “A long coming we had of it.” What a journey! We had travelled ten hours in the sky, from London to Phoenix, Arizona, the city named after the mythical bird that died and was reborn out of the ashes of its own conflagration to live forever and become a symbol of immortality and regeneration.

I first heard about the city in the song: By The Time I Get to Phoenix, a song originally written by Jimmy Webb but redone by Isaac Hayes, “The Black Moses” in the 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul, with Isaac Hayes rapping the words: “I’m talking about the power of love now…Love can make you or break you. It can make you happy or sad…In case of jealousy, love can make you mad.”

I was on this long journey with my wife to celebrate the wedding of Fela Odeyemi and his African-American love Tocke Frazier. Fela, the fourth of the five sons of Professor Olu Odeyemi (Professor of Microbiology, Obafemi Awolowo University) and Mrs. Lara Odeyemi, the former bursar of the same university, is an engineer at Intel Corporation who doubles as Adjunct Pro­fessor at Arizona State University College of En­gineering. Fela has this uncanny looks like the legendary afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He even has the same shape of head like Fela. In America where Fela, the musician is so popular, Fela Odeyemi used to play tricks when asked if he is the son of the afrobeat star.

I asked Professor Odeyemi why he named his son Fela. Has it anything to do with Fela, the rebel musician?

Not at all. “Even though I love Fela, I didn’t name him after Fela,” Prof Odeyemi says. At a time Fela was born, he had three sons and was hoping Fela would be a girl. “Initially, I wanted just one boy and a girl, but it turned out that I kept having boys. When the fourth boy came, I named him Oluwafela, meaning God has expanded the glory.”

With five boys, the Odeyemis could have given the world, a Nigerian version of Jackson Five, the American singing family group that produced the legendary Michael Jackson of blessed memory. But rather than become a musical family, the Odeyemi boys walked in the footsteps of their dad to pursue academic excellence. The first son Tunde is a medical doctor in New Jersey. The second son Kunle has an MBA from Lon­don Business School. The third son Lanre who married the daughter of the late Ooni Sijuade has MBA and MSc from Columbia University. The fourth son Yemi has an MSc in Microbiology from OAU and a second MSc in biotechnology from the University of South Florida, Tampa.

“Dad had inspired us to work very hard and strive to achieve our dreams,” Fela told me, as we drove around the city of Phoenix, getting to know ourselves better. “He always led by example. He also emphasises humility, patience and a thirst for knowledge, claiming that knowledge/educa­tion is more important than money or fame. My mum too must be commended because she has always been the backbone of the family, keeping everyone in line in the gentlest way possible. She could be tough when needed. She’s always been the protector of the family.”

Fela met his wife for the first in California when he visited there from Phoenix. They were introduced by a common friend. And ever since, they have not separated. The turning point was when he brought her to Nigeria and she was able to fit into the African culture so seamlessly, showing respect to his in-laws and the elders by kneeling down each time to greet. That was what wowed the parents of Fela. “She is such a good girl,” says Prof. Odeyemi. “She is friendly, she is sharp, she is humble and very understanding. I was so impressed by how she tried to pick up some aspects of African culture.”

I asked Fela why he opted for Sedona instead of Phoenix for their wedding. And he simply re­plied: “When you get there, you will know why.” He was right. Haaaaaaa!!! Sedona is just magi­cal. It is beautiful. It is awesome. It takes your breath away. It is one of the places on earth you must visit one day. My most unforgettable mem­ory of Sedona is waking up early in the morning and from my hotel room, watching the sun rise and God splashing His beautiful light on the glo­rious hills. No words can capture the beauty of Sedona at sunrise and at sunset.

“It is one of the very best places in the world to get married,” Prof. Odeyemi says. “I thank God that one of my children was able to have a marriage in this heaven on earth. The place is so quiet. No noise. People are doing their work, yet you don’t hear noise. It is a far cry from Nigeria where there is so much noise. Here in Nigeria, we talk, talk and do nothing. Look at the beauti­ful inter-state roads linking all of America. Why can’t we have our roads like this? Instead what we have in Nigeria are appalling roads. How can we grow our economy without something as ba­sic as good roads? Why are we like that? Nigeria needs to get back to work. We talk a lot in this country. Talk, talk and no solution.”

During their courtship, Fela took his girlfriend to Sedona for the first time and she was so se­duced by the beauty of the place to say: “Wed me in Sedona.”

Prof. Odeyemi launches 3 books

On Monday November 16, 11 am at the Air­port Hotel, Lagos, Prof. Olu Odeyemi will launch three books among which is a book on “TWO CENTURIES OF OIL AND GAS (1860-2060). A prolific writer and academic, he wrote that book because “an aspect of oil is one of the courses I teach at OAU. And I know that Nigeria depends mainly on oil. That was why I started the course on petroleum microbiology. Through my reading in that field, I got to know that the whole world is seriously running out of oil and gas. So I wrote to alert the world on that reality that oil will dry out completely in 2060.”

On whether he is not sounding too alarmist, Odeyemi said: “I am not a prophet of doom but a prophet of boom. By alerting the world like that, we will have to look for other sources of power­ing our nation. I also highlighted the need for Ni­geria and the world to focus on agriculture. Gov­ernment must review its land-use policy. Instead of saying the ownership of land is government, we must liberalise land ownership so that youths can have access to land.”

Among distinguished guests expected at the book launch are Mr. Wale Tinubu of Oando, who is the Chief Launcher, Justice E.O. Ayoola, for­mer ICPC chairman who is the chairman of the occasion and His Imperial Majesty Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II, LLD, CFR, the Royal Father of the day.

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