The Sun News » FrankTalk - Voice of The Nation Tue, 06 Oct 2015 11:06:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My kidnap story (II) Wed, 30 Sep 2015 00:41:34 +0000 But for the fact that I had given my word last week to do a concluding part of this piece, I’d have rested it for other more pressing “matters of urgent national importance”.]]>

But for the fact that I had given my word last week to do a concluding part of this piece, I’d have rested it for other more pressing “matters of urgent national importance”.
How could I, for instance, still be talking about a kidnap episode that is nearly two weeks old when several ‘more important’ people like Chief Olu Falae had been kidnapped and released (with the ransom situation getting curiouser and curiouser)? How does the kidnap of the civil-servant wife of an ordinary journalist begin to figure, when Buhari is back in America, after a trip to France? When the president has just released his list of ministerial nominees, to beat the September deadline? After all, since it was in the US that he told us the list would come at the end of September, it was only proper that he went back to the US to release it to us.
So, it was not as though the non-stop drama that is Nigeria stopped running simply because my wife was kidnapped. No! People died, babies were delivered, and Bayelsa PDP unanimously returned Hon. Seriake Dickson as its candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial election in the state, while the APC in the state lived up to the predictions that it would implode as soon as the guber primaries are conducted. Now, I can’t even, in all honesty, say there was a party primary at all.
How could I still be talking about anything else other than the unheard-of arraignment of sitting Senate President Bukola Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal?
On that dizzying trial of the Senate President, however, I’d beg to be allowed to reserve my comments, because the issue is already subjudice. I’d rather align myself with what Saraki told his colleagues at the resumption of plenary yesterday: That the trial is not unconnected with the fact that he is, today, the president of the Nigerian senate against the wishes of a few people outside the senate chambers.
I also feel a lot of what is going on has to do with our winner-takes-all approach to politics. Unlike such other democracies as India, Italy and, until the last general elections, the UK, where it is often difficult for one party to form a government without going into alliance with one or two other parties, the APC has yet to come to terms with the fact that the majority it enjoys in the two chambers of the legislature (more so, in the Senate) is so slim that it cannot achieve much without making huge concessions to the opposition PDP. We can call Saraki all the unprintable names for all we care; we can spit into the air and collect it with our face over Ekweremadu, but the fact remains that APC, as it is today, cannot install a senate president that the PDP does not approve of. And if the ruling party decides to go for broke, it must remember that it is only by convention that the party with the majority is allowed to produce the senate president – it’s not a constitutional directive. So, if Saraki is kicked out, nothing stops PDP senators from nominating one of their own for the post of senate president. And you know what? Buhari must have to work with such a PDP senator if he eventually wins.
I know how painful it can be for a ruling party, that its government would have to be represented at the ECOWAS (or is it Commonwealth?) Parliament by an opposition party chieftain. I can feel the pain of a Buhari government having to submit its budget to Ekweremadu; I can imagine the constitutional amendments that are key to the CHANGE agenda of the APC government having to be subjected to the whims and caprices of a PDP Deputy Senate President – who is the automatic chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment; I can feel APC’s morbid fear of the capacity of Godswill Akpabio (a first-time senator who was unanimously elected Minority Leader), but the ruling party must always remember: It could have been worse.
I feel, now is time to cut our losses and move on, so that the change that Nigerians voted for can fully unfurl. For as it is now, the economy is in comatose, everyone is afraid to release money, because of the president’s body language. Businesses are reluctant to enter into any serious commitments. The era of siddon look has returned. The only businesses that seem to be booming for now are armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom.
That, of course, brings me back to the topic of today’s piece, which is just to say a big thanks to friends, colleagues, family, bosses, mentors and the army of readers of the Franktalk column, who showed me so much solidarity.
Few minutes after I called Femi Adesina, my former MD and now spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari, on that fateful day, I was unto IGP Solomon Arase in a flash. Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Mr. Eric Osagie (who would have a dastardly encounter with robbers a few days later) further escalated the incident and call for assistance. Soon, the lines were buzzing: Mike Awoyinfa called and was in the house a few hours later (not minding that he was preparing for a book launch the next day; Tony Onyima who succeeded Awoyinfa as MD soon arrived with Chief Charles Odunukwe, Madam Oby (widow of my mentor, Dimgba Igwe). The calls were ceaseless: Chief Segun Osoba and his wife, Beere Derin Osoba, Col. Abubakar Umar, Prof. Maurice Iwu, PDP’s Prof Alkali, Olisa Metuh, Anyim Pius Anyim, Rt. Hon Aminu Tambuwal, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Sunday Dare (for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu), Paul Ibe (for Atiku Abubakar), Mallam Garba Shehu, Hakeem Bello (Raji Fashola), Semiu Okanlawon (Gov. Aregbesola) Gov. Ayo Fayose, Kayode Fayemi, former Imo State governor Ikedi Ohakim, the representative of the governors of Enugu and Ebonyi, my friend Vitus (of Concerned Imo Professionals), my kinsmen from Ezeala Odugom and Abo-Amaise in Imo State, my immediate family, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon (GOS), Sen. Smart Adeyemi, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo (Ifeoma di niru), Sunmi Smart-Cole, my brother, Pharm Nnamdi Obi,  etc.
There were also Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his SSG and my brother from another mother, Tunji Bello. Then a call and a load of prayers from Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia. My friend and Countryman Governor, Rt. Hon Seriake Dickson, would not be deterred by electioneering. He has spoken to me, on three occasions since then. On one instance, we were comparing notes over the kidnap of one of his staunch supporters.
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who calls himself ‘pensioner governor’ called from abroad. A few minutes later, former Delta State Speaker, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, was on the line. His brother had once been a victim too.

To be continued next week.

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My kidnap story (1) Wed, 23 Sep 2015 01:54:12 +0000 In the part of the country where I come from, there’s a saying that when an old man survives a life-threatening illness only for his child to suddenly die immediately after, such an old man has not really survived.]]>

In the part of the country where I come from, there’s a saying that when an old man survives a life-threatening illness only for his child to suddenly die immediately after, such an old man has not really survived.
That was the only analogy that came to my mind in the wee hours of Monday, September 14, 2015 when I realised that the sons of the devil, who visited that morning had left and were shooting their way through shouting neighbours, as they sped off in the speedboat that brought them.
They fled with my wife, automatically rendering me useless. I could not cook. My children could not go to school. There was nobody to remind me to eat or take my drugs, let alone serving breakfast in bed (no matter how I annoyed her the previous night). The wet towel I forgot on the bed remained there for three days. Nobody went to hang it and ‘abuse’ me later. Even when food was bought for me, the usually uncooperative appetite took flight. I could not run the washing machine. Nor clean my room. Everything remained as the marauders left it, until, thankfully, my wife returned. Mine is not a housewife, but whoever says a housewife does nothing than sit at home needs to have his head examined. My body remained at home but my soul and my very being was kidnapped with my wife.
‘Babe’, I called out, expecting my wife to answer “Stevoo” from wherever she was lying down. I dashed into my bedroom, and then, into hers. But there was no sign of her. I also dashed to her prayer room in the penthouse. She wasn’t there as well.
Now, unlike most men who would look out for their children in such circumstances, I always look out for my wife. Not that I don’t love my children, though. I do. Very well. But I also know that none of those children was there the day I was prostrating and rolling on the ground, several years ago, for my Owu (Abeokuta) in-laws to give me Toyin’s hand in marriage. Then, I always have this morbid feeling that I could always have more children. But another Toyin? Naah! So, in the entire house, my first real love remains my wife.
I began to fear that the hoodlums made away with her. While lying facedown on the floor of my sitting room (with the nuzzle of an AK-47 permanently brushing against the back of my head), I’d heard when the hoodlums asked my wife to get dressed, after having ransacked the whole house. They had taken her away. My heart sank.
Moving like a zombie, I looked for my wife under the bed, beneath the upturned pile of clothes, inside my wardrobe, inside her own wardrobe, in the bathroom and even on her shoe-rack, calling out her name as I did. I even dashed outside the house to see if the iron lady in her had driven her outside on the trail of the robbers. She could do something that ‘stupid’ in desperation.
It was only after I’d convinced myself that they took her away that I now went into one of my children’s room. My heart sank as I also met the room empty. Could they also have taken my children and their lively little cousin, Toriifeoluwa, who was staying with us? Several thoughts crossed my mind. I turned the handle of the bathroom door. It was locked. I opened it, and there they were. All four of them. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I hugged all of them at the same time. Blood was dripping from the head of my last born – six-year-old Samson, unto his white pajamas. Obviously, a piece of glass flying around from the several glasses, decorative vases and other home appliances, which the robber-cum-kidnappers smashed as they turned the entire house upside-down, had cut his head. But Samson refused to cry. Although the children were all hysterical and crying (at the same time) when the hoodlums broke in through the window, after pulling down the burglarproof, they all maintained perfect silence in their toilet ‘cell’ throughout the over-30-minutes that operation lasted.
After intermittently beating and brutalising me, even where they held me at gunpoint in the sitting room, they had blindfolded me with a Goodluck Jonathan campaign scarf, which my friends at TAN had given me (with a track suit) in the futile hope that I would don them in the build-up to the last presidential election. I never did, even though I had sympathy for Jonathan. But the scarf finally came to ‘good’ use that evil morning. They blindfolded me with it, marched me outside the house, but suddenly changed their mind and brought me back inside. I guess, they reasoned that if they took me away, my wife might not be able to raise the N100 million ransom they would ask for.
The rest, as they say, is now history. But I’m tempted to divulge a bit of what my wife told me about how they treated her like a queen in the swampy jungle they kept her. In the middle of nowhere. How she said she would not eat the mamaput food they were eating, and how her captors had gone out of their way to get her food from a fast food joint (food which she ultimately refused to eat). She talked of how they would look at her skin and tell ‘madam forget this journalism thing wey you dey talk. Una get money. See your skin. Shey na abroad una dey live before?
And then there were those dreadful phone calls. And the threat to kill her. The threat to send me a sample of her finger. And the insistence of the kidnappers to talk to nobody but me, knowing that was the only way the play on emotion could work.
Then there were also the crank calls from all manner of 419ers, hoping to capitalise on my misery to demand their own ransom. At least, three other groups claimed they were the ones with my wife.
I wouldn’t know how the police and the DSS (those silent but very efficient security operatives) did it, but my wife came home. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and his team had assured me she would come home that night. And they were so sure that they were in my house to receive her. They remained there from about 10:00pm to about 4:00am (about one and a half hours after she came in). From the moment the incident happened, Owoseni was with me on phone almost every other hour. If he couldn’t, he’d ask his subordinates like Frank Mba of Zone E Area Command, ACP Garba of Zone D, the OC SARS or even the Okota DPO, CSP Etim, to so do.
I can’t tell it all in one piece. A book would better capture it. Then, I can divulge the roles played by former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who kept making all manner of calls and monitoring the situation from outside the country. Then there is Mr. Eric Osagie, who proved to be more than just a boss. His is not just a friend. He’s a brother. And The Sun family – from the topmost board and management to the cleaner. Again, they have proven that one’s best friends are usually at the work place – even if we play office politics sometimes.
I don’t want to mention names, because I will miss out key names – names like Dame Comfort Obi who, even before this incident, watches over me like a mother-hen, Chief Nay Accentual (SAN), my brother, Ache Obi (SAN), Chief Charles Odunukwe (whose wife cried like it was her sister that was kidnapped), Nnamdi Okonkwo of Fidelity Bank, my friend, Festus Mbisiogu, Chinasa Nwaneri, Okey Ibeke, my brother in-law, Okwudili Nwosu, the Globacom family – led by my brother, Bode Opeseitan, Akin Fadeyi (my brother from another mother), Emeka Opara, Funso Aina, Kufre Ekanem, Edem Vindah, Vivian Ikem and their Heineken/Nigerian Breweries team, Barr. Hadiza, Gbenga Adefaye, Emeka Izeze, Debo Adesina, Segun Adeniyi, Eniola Bello, Kayode Komolafe and all my media fraternity members – including print, electronic, social media.
Now, after my wife’s numbers, three other numbers come into my head in times of danger – Orji Uzor Kalu’s, Femi Adesina’s and Eric Osagie’s. By the time I called those three lines that morning, I knew I could breathe easy. They took up the problem like it was theirs.

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Why I’ll never declare my assets Wed, 09 Sep 2015 02:12:46 +0000 If it took President Muhammadu Buhari, a man of alleged little material means and celebrated austere lifestyle, all of 100 days to publicly declare his assets, I can then imagine how difficult this asset declaration business really is.]]>

If it took President Muhammadu Buhari, a man of alleged little material means and celebrated austere lifestyle, all of 100 days to publicly declare his assets, I can then imagine how difficult this asset declaration business really is.
And to make matters worse, not a few people are impressed by his best effort. There is total disbelief in the camp of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for instance.
Less than 24 hours after it was made public, there is no talk of the fact that the president is worth just about 10% of the total worth of his vice. And since there are no fecund imaginations, as to whether Osinbajo would still be richer than Buhari at the end of four years, I would also not think along that line.
The debate around Buhari asset is not even that we now refer to someone with N30 million cash in the bank as ‘poor’ – May God make all of us this poor. Amen.
The talk is about what our president could possibly be doing with two ‘mud’ houses, how 150 heads of cattle became 250, how an alleged N1million pre- campaign bank balance grew to N30 million after the election. Or is it that while other public-office-seeking politicians lose money during election, our dear Buhari made money instead? That’s some miracle!
And that is not the only miracle of this asset declaration exercise. There is also the miracle of how houses suddenly sprouted in Kaduna and Abuja, for a president who was supposed to have only one house in Daura. Luckily, Buhari never told anyone such lies by himself. It was all a fabrication of those desperate to market him to the Nigerian voter – the same people who erected billboards to either announce feeding of pupils in public schools or list things that PMB would do in 100 days. It was those people, and not Buhari, who obtained our votes by trick (not withstanding that Buhari benefitted from the fruits of their lies).
Surely, this asset declaration thing is a no-win situation. If you’re not accused of under-declaring, then it would be that you over-declared, to make provision for what you would steal while in office. Either way, you’re branded a liar. So, even the PMB, whose biggest claim to public acceptance is integrity, is now been called a liar, all because of this pesky asset declaration thing.
But the truth is: it’s almost impossible for anybody to totally and completely declare all they have without being faulted from one corner or the other.
For instance, I know someone who genuinely forgot he owned a whole building in a certain Lagos neighbourhood. He so forgot that for more than eight years, the caretaker of the estate became the de facto landlord, collecting rent and never remitting same to a landlord who was more concerned with other choice property. It took a fatal face-off between caretaker and tenants (and a major police case) to remind the landlord he had such a property downtown.
There are also so many others living in Lagos and Abuja but who have since forgotten that they own a plot of land or two bequeathed by them by some benevolent grand uncle, somewhere in some village. It’s usually long after you’ve submitted your asset declaration form that these assets suddenly float to the surface. Your old mother could even have bought it in your name without your knowledge. Yes, while your father buys property in your mother’s name (and uses her as his next of kin), she buys hers in her children’s names – using them as her next own next of kin (having long concluded that her husband would die before her, I guess).
If we genuinely poor people (who are not ‘poor’ with N30 million bank balance) are unable to declare our assets to the last set of spoons and plastic cups, we should not bring down the roof simply because a VP forgot that he has a few other cars he’d probably not driven in the last six months. Something would always be left out.
Even if you declare you have one wife (which is questionable), you can’t say for sure, how many children you have sired. And those are huge assets in our clime. But those “assets” would only become manifest in the fullness of time – when we’re dead and are about to be buried. Suddenly, children (who are always splitting images of ourselves and, therefore, never requiring any DNA test) would begin to surface from all the many towns we’d moonlighted at, while sowing our wild oats. It’s almost impossible for some of us to completely declare our ‘assets’.
Even if I declared my assets before my children alone today, it would still be faulted. For one, my children do not believe any of the cars belongs to me. Any day I decide to drive any car other than my old Toyota official car, one of the kids is sure to ask: ‘Daddy, where are you going with Mummy’s car?’
For sure, several things get mixed up between our wives and us. Some of the things we claim are ours are actually theirs, and vice versa. I guess, that is why the PDP people are now insisting that the President’s wife (who is not a public officer and therefore not expected to so do) equally declare her own assets, so that we can put this celebrated ‘poverty’ of the president in proper perspective.
But one thing makes me happy in this asset declaration brouhaha: it has succeeded in diverting our attention from the issue of PMB’s lopsided appointments.
And since we’ve forgotten, I’m not going to dig up old issues. Let me, however, confess why I have refused to come down hard on the seeming lopsidedness. It is for a rather selfish reason: With PMB appointing a retired soldier to head the Customs, who says a serving journalist (like me) could not be appointed to head the police – even if to just oversee Zone 2, headquartered right here in my Lagos backyard?
So, when all manner of career customs officers started calling my line penultimate week to complain about how their career paths had been truncated with the retired Colonel’s appointment, I directed them to the Public Complaints Commission and Office of the Public Defender. No be my head dem go take break coconut! Tufiakwa!
I’m keeping my chances open and would not let anybody spoil my name before the president – not when there are still more than 2,000 appointments to be made. No way!
Maybe, by the time PMB is through with the appointments, and my name isn’t on any list, then I can take up the fight (and say I’m fighting for the rights of ‘my people’ – whoever they are). Or is that not what all the politicians condemning and supporting PMB’s appointments are scheming for?
Meanwhile, what language did an asphalted road speak the last time you drove on one? What part of the country does steady power supply come from? Is the hunger that attacks the belly of the South Easterner different from that which ravages the stomach of the North Westerner? Mtcheew…
My position? Those appointing only their northerners have a problem. Those calling for appointment of southerners have a bigger problem. Those claiming the appointments were based on merit need to have their heads examined. And those acting as though Buhari has done what no other person has ever done should ask our more discerning Niger Deltans how the concept of ‘Ijaw-nization’ of the dividends of democracy came about.
The only genuine protest here should be that CHANGE must not be distorted to mean a chance for one group to get even on the past misdeeds of another group.

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Probe, cockroach and the jury of fowls Tue, 25 Aug 2015 23:58:23 +0000 Unlike many people out there who expect President Muhammadu Buhari to fix all of Nigeria’s problems, I have since scaled down my expectations to a one-point agenda: fight corruption.]]>

Unlike many people out there who expect President Muhammadu Buhari to fix all of Nigeria’s problems, I have since scaled down my expectations to a one-point agenda: fight corruption.
For me, if, at the end of four years, Buhari can battle corruption in Nigeria down to 40% of what we currently have, he would already have become our best president ever. He does not have to do anything else. It would be just like the biblical injunction of “seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and everything would be added unto thee”. So, PMB, seek ye first a corruption-free Nigeria, and everything else would fall into place. Refineries would begin to work, fuel queues would disappear, roads would become motorable, mobile coffins would no longer take to our airspace, public power supply would improve, hospitals would work, lecturers would go back to the classes, strikes would reduce, brown envelops would become history, rigging would disappear, neighbouring communities would stop slaughtering each other over dubiously determined boundaries, courts would suddenly begin to give justice and not just judgment. Indeed, every ill bedeviling our country today is rooted in corruption.
However, fighting corruption through extra-judicial means, like we’re now pushing PMB to, is actually a form of corruption in itself. For instance, going by the utterances of those championing the call for probe of past government officials, you’d come away with one impression: that they already know who is guilty and who should be in jail.
It reminds one of the proverbial jury of fowls, where no cockroach can ever escape the guilty verdict. Where the only judgment it can ever expect to get is the death penalty.
There appears to be something wrong about the process. We must not use evil to fight evil.
Not too many people are in any doubt that Mai Gaskiya is credible and means well in this war against graft. But he could make a few honest mistakes – mistakes that would not be as a result of any selfish agenda.
That is why it is the duty of all of us to keep eternal vigilance and nudge him here and there whenever we notice him going off track.
But such interventions are being interpreted to mean we’re trying to shield Goodluck Jonathan from probe. This is the danger of the times we now live in. Anybody who is not chanting ‘jail Jonathan! jail Jonathan!! is instantly branded enemy of the state or beneficiary of yesteryears’ sleaze.
But then, it would be wrong for all of us to join in this emerging trend of convicting people, even before we have put together a file on them, let alone taken them to court. We shouldn’t get carried away and do things that would come to haunt us later.
Of course, that is not saying we should not probe Jonathan’s administration. No! In fact, I believe that is the only way we can truly move on. So, even if the probe of Jonathan’s administration is a witch-hunt, let it be. Let Buhari help catch the ‘witches’ now, somebody else can come later and go after the wizards.
Yes, President Obasanjo and all the other leaders before him deserve to be probed as much as Jonathan, but we have to start from somewhere. The scientists say we usually have to go from the known to the unknown. In this case, the ‘known’ is the Jonathan regime, which is still fresh, and on which we can still lay our hands on the files.
It is from probing how Jonathan and Deizani Allison, swallowed all our oil money that we might get to know when the aberration started, and what used to be the situation under Obasanjo who was his own de facto petroleum minister. It is from probing how Jonathan could not get the refineries to work in six years that we might accidentally discover how the Obasanjo administration laid the foundation for this monumental failure, by giving contracts for turn-around maintenance of refineries to incompetent cronies, including truck drivers. Let’s probe Jonathan! For, by probing how Jonathan and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala ‘chopped’ our Excess Crude account and depleted our foreign reserve, we would also get to know a thing or two about what really happened in the debt forgiveness deal of a few years earlier. By Jove, let the probes begin!
When we probe the FCT, the land swaps, the dubious land allocations, the benumbing demolitions, the fetish called Abuja Masterplan, the Centenary City etc., at some stage, we would be forced to look beyond the administration of Senator Bala Mohammed.
Another reason why I want this probe so badly is that as soon as we start, it would assume a life of its own. Not even those who instituted it would be able to rein it in again. And by the time we’re through with it, we would probably have only Buhari still standing. Even at that, he’d be standing on one leg. But we would have recovered a substantial amount of our stolen monies.

…Still on Gov. Dickson

By Francis Agbo

……Continued from last week

Governor Dickson’s insistence on a different kind of politics has produced a new paradigm of governance. His desire to chart a new trajectory of probity and accountability in the governance of the state, take Bayelsa to the world and the world to Bayelsa through tourism and good governance, fortify the Ijaw nation, particularly Bayelsans, through free and compulsory education, deliver concrete developmental goods to his people through critical infrastructure, map a post-oil future for the oil-rich state through strategic investment in agriculture, wrest control from those who had stagnated the state and plunged it into insecurity for over four years, as well as his zero tolerance for corruption, crime and criminality have been the defining characters of the Dickson administration
So ambitious is the governor’s investment in the agricultural sector that the state is now dotted by large-scale agricultural plantations that produce rice, cassava, plantain, vegetables, and palm produce in industrial quantities.
The overarching logic in these investments is the imperative of giving Bayelsa, which the governor calls the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation, an economic future outside the volatile matrix of oil. Dickson is clearly gambling on the belief that catalytic interventions by government, no matter how capital-intensive in the present, pays off in the future and establishes a durable baseline for value creation and prosperity. The governor may be legitimately criticized for taking a gamble and for being an impatient practitioner of the science of development, but the vision that undergirds that gamble is rooted in sound economic logic and in the best standards of public service and a stubborn refusal to privilege the desires of the elite over those of common folk.
Surely, Dickson has solved the problems of the state; indeed Bayelsa is still a work in progress. But Dickson has restored much of the lost glory of the Ijaw nation and is poised to continue this mission of reclamation as his legacy unfolds into a second tenure that he has clearly earned.
So, on December 5 this year, Bayelsans are expected to renew their social contract with Dickson when they go to the polls to elect a governor.
•Agbo wrote in from Yenagoa

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Bank debtors: Other people’s money Wed, 12 Aug 2015 00:53:24 +0000 I spent the whole of last week, and good part of the last two days too, scanning through the lists of chronic debtors published by different banks. I’m still in shock. ]]>

I spent the whole of last week, and good part of the last two days too, scanning through the lists of chronic debtors published by different banks. I’m still in shock. My name was not on the list. It was just the name of one ‘big man’ after the other. The one that had the name of a debtor company always had one identified rich man as director.

So, how come my name is not on any of the lists, despite that I’m owing about three banks a whooping N2 800,000? Or is it that my total exposure amounts to ordinary ‘change’? Well, this is the era of CHANGE.

If you doubt me, ask Buhari and APC!

In fact, I was already two months in arrears of repayment and had been expecting the worst all of these past six weeks that the banks had been threatening. I would suddenly wake up in the night completely covered in sweat (despite the relatively cool weather of this period). I’d have been having nightmares. I would be dreaming of bank debt collectors using those their ominous ribbons and sticky tapes to cordon off my apartment, arresting my relations and holding them as collaterals for the N136,000 that I’m owing one particular bank. And I would heave a sigh of relief as soon as I realized it was a dream after all.

Then I would begin to wonder how all these debtor ‘big men’ move about without a care in the world. Or is that why some of them suddenly die of ‘brief illness’?

A few years back, I was interviewing one billionaire when the issue of the annual Forbes list of world’s richest people came up. He dismissed it with a wave of the hand. I thought he was just being his flippant self, but he shocked me with his next statement: “Look, in Nigeria, the only rich man is Adenuga (Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr.). all the rest of us are just owing banks and spending other people’s money. Only Adenuga is spending his money”.

Incidentally, Adenuga was not listed by Forbes that year. But that statement has remained in my subconscious ever since. Of course, I wouldn’t know how much of that utterance was informed by the envy of my billionaire interviewee’s not being on the list.

Again, a few months ago, I represented my MD at a gathering of some entrepreneurs when the issue of bank facility came up again when a businesswoman whom I respect so much revealed that she had never as much as taken an overdraft from the bank before. She had a way of cutting her coat according to her cloth and had never owed her workers salaries of failed to meet her statutory tax obligations. But her colleagues, many of whom were in areas of as much as five months of unpaid salaries and tax remittances, had a good laugh at her. How did she expect to have a credit history with her bankers? As if that amounted to better business acumen!

Yes, they say the world is run on credit, but must we borrow for the sake of borrowing? Is it not this joke that some of our governors have taken too far? Is that not why a state that earns less than N3 billion monthly (in both IGR and federal allocation) would be contemplating a N50 billion and N100 billion bond? Even when it is clear that it would take no less than 60 years to pay back the principal sum, let alone the interests?

Now, when I remember that people like Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Shema and (until his last year) Aliyu Wammako ran their states without borrowing a kobo from anywhere, I became baffled. But, I guess, that is why I had the anointing of F9 in mathematics and have never understood ‘balance sheet’ beyond placing sheets of paper on the table and they stay balanced, without tumbling over. Of course, it’s not that my teachers at the LBS did not try. They tried. It’s just that I’m blessed with a thick skull. Of course, even that has its own advantage: when robbers shot at the head a few years ago, the bullet bounced off.

But, back to the bank and their debtors. Is it not instructive that it’s one big man after the other that are putting up rebuttals and denials? Saying they are not owing anybody any dime? Well, the banks can come for me. I’m owing. They’re free to publish my name. but I know they won’t. I’m just an ordinary plebian, and there are different rules for the rich and the poor.

When a poor man owes, they would come after him like bloodhounds. Of course, they would come for everything – including your pot of soup, raw foodstuffs, half-empty crate of beer, your tokunbo fridge, kerosene stove, half-upholstery chairs, Formica-covered centre table, side-stools, turntable, stylus player, radio/cassette recorder, rubber carpets, spoon, cup, plate, empty pots and window curtains. But that would not be all: the would also have their eyes on the old Dotson car you’re probably using for Kabu-kabu to put food on your family’s table. They won’t spare the sewing machine your wife got as wedding gift from her poor family when you wedded some 15 years ago. The same fate would befall the ‘family mattress’ your father in-law proudly presented to you ahead of your honeymoon with his daughter. God help you if your children’s school bags are in sight, they would carry those ones too. And despite having taken away every pin that you own, they would still use some giant padlocks (reserved for maximum security prisons) to lock and seal up the apartment, not minding that it is actually a rented apartment and, therefore, your landlord’s property. The visit of the bank debt recovery team has always meant trauma for the poor, honest man.

And then, you suddenly remember all you had to go through to secure the loan in the first place. You remember that the banks had demanded that you go get the birth certificate of your great grandfather and also fish out the marriage certificate of your grand parents. They’d also asked you some very annoying questions – like if madness runs in your family or whether your great grand uncle died of diabetes. After that, you would then have to fill triplicate copies of some 15 or more forms, and sign authorization card after authorization card, until your signature becomes glaringly ‘irregular’. Yet, they would not allow that you thumbprint. But that does not still mean that they would give you the meager N200,000 loan you’re looking for. And if by any stroke of luck they give you, they would send consultants to help you do the spending. Of course, you’ll also pay the consultants from the loan. Incidentally, if anything goes wrong (like an unforeseen flood sweeps away the farm on which you invested the money), the consultants would never put in a word for you. At best, they would excuse themselves from the team that would come to fife your belongings – but you can be sure that they would be in the background telling the debt recoverers that you still have a family land that was not captured in the original list of collaterals. And even if they sold everything that belongs to you on this earth, they would still cook up the books in such a way that the amount realized would still fall short of the N200,000 you borrowed (which, by the way, they would have padded up to  two or three million naira – in some mind-boggling compound interest abracadabra).

I have been an indirect victim of this banking evil. A few years back, one near-distressed old generation bank almost sold our family house in Kwara, a property comprising three modern bungalows. Reason? There was some N250,000 left of an old N2 million loan on a failed project, on which the bank had served as financial advisers.

Incidentally, when we rallied round and liquidated the debt, the bankers still came up with another trick: there was a pending N70,000 insurance premium still hanging on the house, and for that, they reactivated the bid to sell. Not one, but all three buildings. It was curiosity that made me dig deeper into the matter. And it turned out that someone inside the bank already had his eyes set on the choice property. And he wanted to take it for virtually nothing. That is the cross of the poor man.

This CHANGE will sure have to trickle really down!

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Buhari: Two months after (II) Wed, 05 Aug 2015 01:29:05 +0000 Last week, I reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that the two months within which his All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to fix the Boko Haram malaise had elapsed. But much as I got plaudits for that]]>

Last week, I reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that the two months within which his All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to fix the Boko Haram malaise had elapsed. But much as I got plaudits for that piece, I also got on the wrong side of some Buharists who have yet to come out of the pre-election mode. I got branded ‘bastard’, ‘nincompoop’, ‘ethnic jingoist’ and all.

Now, that is the new problem we have on our hands. Right before our very eyes, some people are already deifying Buhari. He can do no wrong. And anybody who points out where the president might be going wrong is immediately branded an enemy of CHANGE – much the same way critics of Uganda’s Gen. Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s were tagged (Milton) Obote men and summarily wasted.

But we must not lose sight of one fact: both critics and supporters of Buhari are agreed on one point; that this might be our last chance to get it right in this country. Everybody wants a CHANGE from the way we’ve always done things.

Incidentally, while we were at each other’s throats, the president was in Cameroun, conferring with a certain Paul Biya. And the Camerounian president took former Goodluck Jonathan to the cleaners over the Boko Haram menace. Now, this is the same Biya who has ruled Cameroun for almost 40 years. The same Biya who thought Boko Haram was a purely Nigerian problem and refused to co-operate with us, even when it was clear that the insurgents would launch attack in Nigeria and flee into Cameroun, where they were guaranteed a safe haven. The same Biya who refused to co-operate with us until the French government dragged all of them to France (in the last days of the Jonathan administration) to read the riot act to some of our francophone neighbours? Paul Biya, of all people, does not have the moral right to say anything in this regard.

But rather than Biya and Cameroun, my concern this week remains the long awaited first cabinet of President Buhari.

I, for one, just can’t understand why people (especially, the opposition PDP) are making so much fuss over the perceived delay in constituting the cabinet.

I’ll not join in this stampede. And it is not just because I feel it would be very unfair to push a 73-year-old man the same way we would want to push a 50-something year-old. No!

For one, if indeed, the president wants to cut down on the number of ministers and ministries, one would naturally assume he would be going against the grain of the constitution, which stipulates that at least, one minister must be appointed from every state. That makes 36 ministers in the least.

So, if Buhari wants to work with only 19 ministers, as has been touted, it then means he might need to get back to get back to the National Assembly with this proposal, for approval – if he does not want to commit an impeachable offence with his very first cabinet.

Now, if the National Assembly is only just settling down to work – as a result of the unnecessary crisis instigated by the APC against APC, it’s only proper to expect that the real task of appointing ministers would only just begin this week.

My only discomfort in all of these is that I expected that a Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and, probably, an economic adviser would have since been appointed – the former, to help organize the running of government and the latter, to give the business community some inkling about the policy direction of the new government (as against the current situation whereby everything has been put on hold as everybody is looking up to Buhari for direction). I even expected that by now, a proper role would also have been defined for the likes of Gen. Dambazau etc. But we’re all waiting. All of us (including the subsidy cabal).

The problem with appointing ministers, I think, is that Buhari has set the standards too high. He seems to be looking for ministers who are a replica of the Buhari persona. He wants a minister who, like Buhari, would not want to have one house in his village, and then have two or three or four others in Abuja, Lagos, Dubai, South Africa, London and America. He wants a minister who would not oppress the rest of us lesser mortals with his/her ministerial majesty. He wants an appointee who would be averse to the lure of flying private jets and keeping a harem of concubines at ‘base-stations’ scattered all over the country. Of course, there is no such prospect – definitely not from among the partisans.

So, PMB might need to lower the ‘cut-off mark’ for this integrity thing, if he genuinely desires to recruit his ministers from Planet Earth. For, not even in Barack Obama’s country would he get anybody to scale the high hurdles he has set on the path of aspiring ministers and appointees.

If those good people were so easy to come by in the first place, we would not have gone to dig up a 73-year-old Buhari to elect president. We would simply have settled for any of them as presidential candidate. It is because there are no two Buharis that the political parties (ANPP, CPC and APC) kept going back to Daura for presidential candidate.

If, as we are told, as many as five prospective SGF candidates have already failed the integrity test, it is then becoming increasingly clear that ‘Saint Buhari’ must find a way of working with the sinners who surround him  – or the job would eventually overwhelm him.

Come to think of it, whatever happened to the shadow cabinet that was flaunted before us ahead of the polls? Long before the APC secured the presidency, it already had a quite impressive shadow cabinet. How come all those candidates so touted, and who put in everything to bring about the Buhari presidency, are no longer suitable for appointment into the cabinet?

Another garland for UCHE OBI (SAN)

It was only a few years ago that Uche Obi and I would sit down and compare notes as undergraduates. He was reading Law at the Imo State University while I, having failed to meet the cut-off mark for Law at UNN, was reading Mass Communication.

Then he looked up to his big brother and mentor, Barrister Raymond Obi (Mba ama onyeukwu). But Uche had more interest in Corporate and Commercial Law, where he continues to shine like a million stars. His signature is on many mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, oil and gas deals, real estate and even boardrooms. Even the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Capital Market Solicitors Association and allied operators can testify to this.

I always knew he was headed for the very apex of his profession, and I even fantasied on the day he would become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). I never knew the day was just around the corner.

So, as the very best of the Law profession in Nigeria stand up to be counted on September 21, 2015, UCHE VALENTINE OBI, my own brother, in whom I and all my kith and kin in Umuozu, Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State, are very well pleased, will be among them.

At least, those of you detractors of mine who think my forebears only sired numskulls like myself can now hide their faces in shame. For we also have brilliant people in our family. And mind you, now that we have a SAN in the house, I can now go out in full force to look for trouble, and dare anybody to go and sue me.

Uche, I know your late father, Chief Michael Obi and mum (whom we fondly called ‘Miss’), and the likes of Chief Bede Ezeogu would be smiling down from heaven right now. Shine on, brother! Big congrats! We’re still going even higher.

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Buhari: Two months after Wed, 29 Jul 2015 02:07:24 +0000 Finally, the House of Representatives yesterday conjured a way to make Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila Majority Leader. I’m happy for him - and for his backers too.]]>

Finally, the House of Representatives yesterday conjured a way to make Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila Majority Leader. I’m happy for him – and for his backers too.

Now, I don’t know Gbajabiamila, on a personal level, but a few friends and I toasted and drank to his health yesterday. We were happy that the APC lawmakers, even in their anger and determination to assert their independence, still had the presence of mind to avoid biting the fingers that fed them. The very essence of the emergent APC and the sole shoulder that bore the burden of the opposition party for so long.

It was good that while feasting on the delicious dish now before them, they spared a thought for those who assembled the ingredients, gathered the firewood, started the fire, placed the pot on the tripod and stirred and stewed with the broth until it was done and ready to eat.

As we celebrate, however, let us also spare a few moments to reflect and take stock.

Without the hand of  (Esau) Tinubu seen in the candidacy of (Jacob) Gbajabiamila, the new Majority Leader would probably have emerged Speaker. He was the candidate to beat. It was until when his camp began to over-reach itself by insisting on not only making him Speaker, but also determining who emerges Senate President in the upper house, as well as all the principal officers, that other lawmakers began to baulk at the seeming imposition.

Now, it is not like such imposition is totally new.  No. In fact, it is the norm in the traditional ACN constituency of Gbajabiamila’s APC. And it had always gone largely unquestioned. But at the level of national politics, things essentially assume a totally different hue. There, decisions of ‘elders’ are regularly questioned and dissent does not always tantamount to political hara-kiri.

The problem, as a friend jokingly noted, is that the people who were in the South-west, playing Ludo, and celebrating themselves as grandmasters, suddenly got thrust to Abuja, only to discover that the game has changed from Snakes-and-Ladders to Chess and Scrabble. It was not what they’re already used to.

I believe all the talk about not reading the party’s letter, openly and unabashedly narrowing down principal offices to individuals, the botched meeting with the president at the International Conference Centre, the aborted removal of Oyegun, the vote of confidence, the deliberate misinterpretation of the concept of party supremacy and the president’s declaration that he was ready to work with anybody elected by the lawmakers were all part of the national political Chess game that seemed to have taken the South West APC unawares.

This ‘setback’, notwithstanding, now is time to move on. Now is time for the APC leadership and the Presidency to allow the National Assembly (both the Senate and the House of Reps) get to work.

Much of the CHANGE agenda of the new government lies in working harmoniously with the National Assembly. And there’s no way the APC can make headway if it insists on sacking the leadership of the senate and antagonising the PDP lawmakers.

APC must bear in mind that there is very little it can achieve in the Senate without the PDP. There can never be a two-third endorsement of anything without the backing of the PDP. So, to think you can throw out Ike Ekweremadu or Saraki or any other principal officer is foolhardy. The best thing is to learn from this experience and move on.

Meanwhile, time is going. Nigerians are getting impatient. Today, for instance, is July 29. Ordinarily, there is nothing spectacular about this date, but today makes it exactly two months since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office (and five whole months since March 28, when we voted for CHANGE).

Incidentally, but for the dastardly attack of Boko Haram insurgents on yet another Borno State town on Monday, and early Tuesday, which claimed some 25 lives, I would probably not have remembered that this was the same Boko Haram which, we were promised, would become a thing of the past within two months of an APC presidency. So, could someone, please, help me remind PMB that two months have passed! Welcome to reality, Mr. President.

I remember pointing out that whoever made that pledge, to stop the insurgency in two months, either did not understand the enormity of the problem or had an existing understanding with them, which he was not telling us about. But then, many people read that submission from a partisan perspective and began to accuse me of calling Buhari a Boko Haram sponsor.

I know many of these pledges were made without first thinking them over, especially when we needed to throw in everything to upstage the fumbling PDP, but I just want to remind us that we have yet to overcome the Islamist insurgents.

Of course, I know, it’s not easy. That is why I won’t remind the president about the promise to pay unemployed graduates N5,000 monthly upkeep. Nor the one million jobs that were to come in the first year of his administration. I’m also not looking in the direction of international crude oil price, which our president has yet to stabilise.

Mr. President, although you gave no time frame on the issue of exchange rate, may I also report that those Bureaux de Change operators are still sabotaging your most honest efforts to get the dollar to exchange for one naira to the dollar. In fact, it was the pilgrims board that started this sabotage. Instead of the agreed one-to-one rate, the board approved N160 to $1 for intending pilgrims. And now the parallel market has taken it a notch higher. Only yesterday, with the month of July now in its Passion Week (the week before payday, when most honest salary earners are down to their bottom dollar), I whipped out two 10-dollar bills I’d been saving, for the rainy day, at the bottom of my portmanteau (yes, unlike the PDP government, I actually save for the rainy day) and headed for my neighbourhood bureau de change – which is actually an open space right in front of a filling station. And you know what? I could not believe my ears when my Mallam told me the going rate was N241 to the dollar. My $20 fetched me a whopping N4,820!  Wow! That would go a long way, especially, in these trying days, when Buhari appears to have locked the treasury in Abuja and gone to bury the key in his Daura farm. I can’t shout.

But I would not say Buhari is slow, or not working – simply because he has not appointed ministers. Or fulfilled those pledges which discerning minds knew, from the day they were made, would never be met. Nah!

Even if all Buhari achieved in the last two months was just getting Obama to say those nice things he said about our president and country last week, I think we have good reason to celebrate.

Like I’ve always said in this column, I’m not one of those stampeding Buhari to appoint ministers. In fact, I would say appointing ministers is all about creating jobs for the boys, to compensate those who helped deliver the Buhari Presidency. So far, the DGs, Perm. Secs and the civil service structure have been running the MDAs, and I don’t think there’s anything the president wants done that cannot be done. So, the president might as well take all the time.

My only grouse is with this idea of his looking for those who would pass the integrity test, or denying the fact that the search has already taken too long.

To be concluded next week

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Welcome back from America Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:48:29 +0000 As you’re reading this, President Muhammadu Buhari would probably have returned from his four-day working visit to the United States of America where he, among other things, probably consulted on who and who should make his cabinet.]]>

As you’re reading this, President Muhammadu Buhari would probably have returned from his four-day working visit to the United States of America where he, among other things, probably consulted on who and who should make his cabinet.

For instance, although we’d always speculated that we might not see any ministerial list from Buhari until sometime in September, the president waited until he was in America before he confirmed it. And his reason? Even Barrack Obama did not have his full cabinet until several months after he first took office. Therefore, three months is not such a long time, after all, to wait for our own full cabinet. If Obama did it, then it must be the right thing to do. Hehehehe!

Yes, we now have to consult the Americans on everything, including what food to eat and when to eat it. We are now America’s latest ‘good boys’ in Africa – even if we humour ourselves by claiming we’re partners. You only need to look at the balance of trade between Nigeria and the US to shock you back to reality.

Of course, I had my reservations when this trip idea was first announced.

Surprisingly, it was not because I thought Buhari was going there to get himself a gay lover. Or pick a drag queen as wife number two. Nah! Apart from the fact that he would have to traverse the entire length and breath of America to see a woman that could compare to our dear Hajia Aisha, I was assured that if Buhari (in a Nigeria that is flowing with more beautiful women than all of America can boast of) could stick to just one wife, then, not even all of America’s plastic-made-perfect beauty queens could sway PMB.

I did not even fear, as some misinformed Nigerians alleged, that PMB would strike a deal to make a u-turn on our stand on LGBT in Nigeria.  No! It’s not that they wouldn’t try, though. But that is one score on which I can vouch for Buhari.

I wasn’t even alarmed that they lodged Buhari at Blair House, where even his tea would be bugged, or where, as my mischievous friend suggested, somebody in the White House (only a few metres away) could sneak in at night to try a quickie. God forbid bad thing! But in this era of gay marriage (when two countries have respectively, and officially, declared that adultery and incest are no longer criminal), one’s imagination cannot be blamed for running riot and imagining things.

Keeping our dear PMB at Blair House, therefore, somehow reminds me of married friends lodging their mistresses in hotels and guest houses a few streets away from their own matrimonial homes, and ‘Nicodemusly’ sneaking out to moonlight whenever their wives’ backs are turned.

Now, don’t ask me how I know all these things, if I don’t do them? Well, let’s just say; “I don’t talk to the press”.

So, if everyone is celebrating this American visit of Buhari’s, why am I not so excited?

I know I must either be stupid or naïve, or both to be so disposed, but there is just something in me that has simply refused to jump over the moon about this visit of PMB to Obama’s country.

I guess it has to do with the fact that I have been listening to the wrong people lately. In fact, in the local beer parlour in my neighbourhood – where patrons become patriots after just a few bottles, and make such great analyses of national and international politics that would leave the professor at the Institute of International Affairs and NIPSS green with envy, we did a detailed discourse of this American trip.

As we staggered home that evening (most of us having taken enough bottles to compensate for the ones we missed during Ramadan), it was clear that two schools of thought had emerged. While one school insisted PMB went to beg for arms (to fight Boko Haram), the other school swore he went to beg for alms (to feed the hungry Nigerians he inherited from Jonathan).

But, jokes apart, this US trip opened my eyes to how and why governance is such a huge strain on the public treasury in our country. To begin with, it gave me an idea into what a typical presidential entourage looks like – for I stumbled on a list of those who went to the US with the president. There were 38 of them, excluding PMB, members of the state house press corps and security details. It is safe to assume that all of them were there on Nigerian taxpayer’s money.

Now, don’t raise the alarm yet. First of all, it is with thanks to Buhari’s insistence on transparency and openness that we even got to know this much, in the first place.

Now, if a usually austere PMB ended up with this huge entourage, one can only imagine what obtained before now. There would have been the Advance Team and, depending on what tickles the fancy of those in the corridors of power, an army of female undergraduates – especially, now that we’re through with both Lent and Ramadan.

That is what really drains our money, not the few hundreds of thousands of Naira we pay to our public officers by way of salary. That is why, rather than slashing salaries, I would prefer that we double (or even quadruple) the salaries of our public officials and stop the allowances and estacodes instead. That’s where they really bleed us to death. And to confirm that the problem is not really the salaries, you can see the way they’re all slashing their salaries to score cheap political point. But, that’s story for another.

Of course, true to expectations, we would soon begin to see some positive outcomes from the US trip. That would be reason to celebrate even more. What they’ll not show us, however, is the cost of this US assistance.

That is why the way we’re celebrating this visit reminds one of a headline “Bush throws another bone to his British dog”, which I read in the heat of one of the many White House romance with 10 Downing Street ahead one of the many Middle East misadventures, for which America needed to create some semblance of Allied Coalition.  It was the cynical British media’s way of ridiculing the master-servant relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

It made a mockery of UK’s lapping up of every phlegm thrown up by the US. Nigeria is now playing that erstwhile British role so scorned by the local British press. And you know what? We’re enjoying it. Even celebrating it.

Of course, I can’t deny that there’s this feel-good sensation of PMB and the ruling APC swinging, in six weeks, what Jonathan and fumbling PDP really couldn’t swing in six years. But that’s as far as it goes.

But I won’t start by asking us what we benefited from the trip, because I know we benefited a lot. It’s just that the cynic in me keeps looking out for where the catch is. Where we would have to pay! And how much we’d have to pay. As they say, there’s no free lunch anywhere – not even in Freetown. We’ll be naïve to assume America has no selfish interest buried beneath the prints of the many MOUs, IOUs and bilateral(?) agreements that must have been signed.

Of course, this is not saying that we should not enter into such agreements. We have to. With our present predicament (especially, economically) we would need help to get back on our feet. It’s just that it’s not every help that we must accept. I know we have to give what we have to get that which we need, but we must not act like the proverbial pregnant woman who donated her birth canal to charity, forgetting that the child would have to be delivered at some point.

So, I’m more concerned with what we are offering for this US ‘help’. Is it Crude Oil? Does that still hold strong bargaining power with Shale oil and fracking? Are we to host a US Military base? Provide market for US weapons and military hardware? Remember, every aid comes with its own conditions? Where does that leave our sovereignty? I’m just thinking aloud!

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Lamido in the dock! Wed, 15 Jul 2015 00:40:39 +0000 ON July 9th, 2015, Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State was docked on a 28-count charge of alleged corruption and related offences. ]]>

Three persons seized the thunder from Franktalk this week, with their respective intellectual interventions on three burning issues.

The first person was my colleague, Ebere Wabara, who responded to a series of obviously syndicated articles, traceable to one Ethelbert Okere.

Although the articles claimed to be seeking a truce in the believed ‘war’ between two now-former-governors of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Chief T.A. Orji (his estranged godson), they were obviously an Ethelbert Okere-co-ordinated onslaught on the person of Orji Kalu. They appeared like a crude effort to justify a media brief funded by T.A. Orji.

But if some of us lacked the gift of appropriate foul words to best describe the Okere intellectual pretensions, it’s not so for Wabara, a wordsmith with a repertoire of such words. And he put it to the best use I’ve ever seen (Daily Sun, July 14, 2015 – Page 20). There’s nothing more to add, except to say that Wabara has called a spade by its name.

The other issue had to do with the perceived slowness of the Buhari government. Another friend, Utibe Ukim, settled the matter by way of a joke. He said: “Nigerians are too difficult to please. When Buhari came in 1984, he was in a hurry to fix Nigeria, he grabbed some drug couriers, promulgated a decree to try them, convicted them and executed them – that was alongside arming soldiers with horsewhips to whip Nigerians into line. But Nigerians condemned Buhari, saying he treated them like animals and abused their fundamental rights. They gladly welcomed his ouster. Now, Buhari is back, older and wiser, and is taking all his time before he does anything. He is consulting everybody, and is determined to first read the several hundreds of pages given to him in handover notes and transition committee report, before he as much as appoint basic aides. And Nigerians are also complaining that he’s ‘Baba Go Slow’. Haba! What can this Buhari do to please you people?”

The third issue has to do with the travails of Alhaji Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State, whose achievements (in terms of physical developments and the intellectual narrative to development) in that very poor state, stand him shoulder to shoulder with governors of derivation-earning oil-producing states. The thank-you Nigeria is giving to Lamido is a date in court and a curious adjournment that would keep him in prison custody for months.

But I could probably not have articulated the thoughts better than the article below, sent in by  ADAGBO ONOJA, a mutual friend of Lamido and I….


ON July 9th, 2015, Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State was docked on a 28-count charge of alleged corruption and related offences. He was subsequently remanded in prison custody till September 28, 2015. He might have been granted bail along with his two children by the time this piece is published. As his chief publicist for 10 years, spanning his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs and the first half of his eight years in the Jigawa Government House, I must certainly be one of the most concerned about this. Notwithstanding the rupture and my exit from the government in June 2012, I feel touched and deflated by this turn, ideologically speaking. How a ‘PRP Governor’, as he permanently reminded himself, could get entangled must worry all those who related with him politically.

But mine is not a sentimental solidarity with Lamido or an uncritical condemnation of him. Rather, I am more concerned with the mystery of fateful entangling, one way or another, for scions of Lamido’s tendency. That, for me, is the matter for deep reflection. In the case of Dr. Bala Mohammed, one of the finest brains behind the Abubakar Rimi regime, it was through physical violence in 1981. Dr. Bala Usman, another very fine brain, this time behind the Balarabe Musa regime, died of malaria attack in 2006. For Balarabe Musa himself, it was impeachment in 1981. Now, Sule Lamido is in the dock, a drama whose outcome – winner or loser, might not be as important as what seems to be the contradiction at work that scions of a tendency so peopleoriented somehow never manage to get past one or the other several temptations, traps or mechanisms of the system as shown above. The case of Lamido is very interesting.

In 1999 when Obasanjo made Lamido the Minister of Foreign Affairs, his first main political appointment in life, some members of the public worried whether he was a good fit material for the portfolio.  His reply was that he knew he wasn’t an NIIA product but he was a product of a tendency that understood what diplomacy can be about. His own worry was a different one: how nothing compromising should ever come from either he or any of us his aides. Although he did annoy quite a number of people by his carriage and his artillery language, he remained within limits – in terms of a political office holder’s conduct.

In 2007 when he surprisingly got drafted into Jigawa governorship contest, won and subsequently invited me to join him, the first three days were devoted to a single question: how would a ‘PRP Governor’ in 2007 add value to the Rimi/Balarabe Musa landmarks in the Second Republic and raise the stakes of performance in office in Nigeria? Till today, the PRP governors in the Second Republic have no equals in the conception and operationalisation of political power in Nigeria. Rimi leads in this regard as the one whose government gave birth to the observation of May 1st as Labour Day in Nigeria. Before his government, there was nothing like that in Nigeria. And his is not like what obtains today whereby leaders talk endlessly in ethno-regional or religious terms. To Rimi is also the credit of raising the minimum wage above that of the federal authority then, again a contrast to the ethno-regional discourse of federalism in Nigeria today. As governor of Kaduna State in 1979, Balarabe Musa put on the table of public policy in Nigeria an agro-industrial strategy that is still referential. These were the benchmarks after which Lamido sought not just to model his regime but also surpass.

And it was the reason our first three days of my arriving in Jigawa turned out to be critical sessions between him and I initially, before a Lagos journalist with radical roots joined us. That was how his inaugural address titled “Expanding the Frontiers of Democracy in Jigawa State” developed. Only he, I and the Managing Director of a printing press in Abuja ever knew anything about the content of that inaugural speech before it was delivered on May 29th, 2007 at what is now Aminu Kano Triangle in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital. For many years thereafter, it remained one document that he returned to read, commending me each time he did, forgetting how he was also editing it with text messages even when we were set to print.

The logic of this narrative must be obvious: it must be an issue for the whole society to reflect upon for a journey which started on a high minded ideological note like this to end with its leader in the dock on charges of alleged corruption. I think the society is already doing this, as we can see in the diversity of the reactions so far. While some people see it as nemesis for a Lamido, others see differential treatment in the initial refusal of bail while others suspect vendetta, although the question of vendetta by whom will be equally complicated: by the Jonathan regime or the current one? Anyway, the issue is not being perceived in a restricted technical sense of whether he stole money or did not. It is the sort of storm or a sensational drama Lamido who fancies himself as some generalissimo would love being at the centre, except that this drama is for real and is playing out in the cold reality of the dock. It connects to the theory of problematic fate for scions of the radical tradition in the North. Where is the problem? Is it in the nature of populism or in the nature of the individual populists and their psychology of power?

What message has this for President Buhari who though has no formal connection with Mallam Aminu Kano and the radical tradition is, nevertheless, the face of populism and even on a grander scale in Nigerian history? Would he see any connection between the fact that Lamido started in a very determined manner, transformed Jigawa from a frightening hamlet in 2007 to whatever it can be called today but only to end in the dock just as he (Buhari) who resisted corruption throughout was still brought down in 1985? He is very lucky to have a second chance to, hopefully, unmake the past. But can he say his greatest worry now is not how to undo the multi-trap system that is glocal before a Buhari paradox? Some thoughts for food!

*Onoja is a former media aide to Gov. Sule Lamido

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Buhari performs first miracle Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:57:29 +0000 After 40 days and 40 nights (it’s actually 39 days) on the saddle, President Muhammadu Buhari has performed his first miracle: He has conjured a mind-boggling N414 billion out of an otherwise ‘empty treasury’. ]]>

After 40 days and 40 nights (it’s actually 39 days) on the saddle, President Muhammadu Buhari has performed his first miracle: He has conjured a mind-boggling N414 billion out of an otherwise ‘empty treasury’.

‘Bailout’ is the catchword. And now, our errant governors can return to their old habits. There’s now plenty money to spend again. The party can start afresh. Yes, the bazaar is back!

A whooping N413.7 billion. Another N250 billion (in the least) coming from the Central Bank, in the form of soft loans. A restructuring of commercial loans amounting to about N660 billion, with the Federal Government set to serve as guarantor for fresh loans that the states may procure from commercial banks. The governors have definitely got back their groove. The spirit of the prodigal is set to return.

After nearly six weeks of prevaricating, PMB, who is not usually swayed by public opinion (which also explains why he’s taking his time and ignoring all of us clamouring for him to announce his first cabinet), has finally capitulated to pressure. He has emptied our excess crude account (which Goodluck Jonathan was supposed to have cleaned out, by the way) and shaken out every dime inside the purse containing our LNG proceeds. And like the PDP before it, the APC is now set to “share the money”!

The only difference now is that everything has been put on the table for sharing – unlike before, when they only brought a fraction to the sharing-table, while the larger chunk remained under the table, from whence it vanished into private pockets.

Of course everyone, saint and sinners alike, is getting a cut. It is to cushion the effect of 16 years of PDP’s mismanagement, especially in the last two years. A monumental mismanagement that has left the country and its economy prostrate.

Of course, it’s now convenient (and fashionable too) to heap all the blame for the unpaid salaries and generally messy economy on Jonathan and the outgone PDP government. So much so that some of the re-elected governors may soon get carried away and join the we-inherited-an-empty-treasury singsong, forgetting that they actually handed over to themselves. In fact, in one particular state, where the returning governor had inherited six months arrears of unremitted pension from his PDP predecessor, four years ago, now has a shocking 54 months arrears of unremitted pension deductions. In other words, this governor did not make any remittance in the four years of his first term. Yet, he has joined in the Jonathan and PDP bashing, simply because there was a shortfall in federal allocation in the last months of the Jonathan administration.

But, if truth must be told, the precarious financial state of the states (and even the central government) is not entirely a fallout of fallen oil price or decline in federal allocation. The truth is that all the money was ploughed into prosecuting the last general elections. With a little over a year left to the elections, government at all levels (federal, state and local government) began a mindless warehousing of funds for the election. Now, that may not necessarily be wrong if those seeking election stuck to the guidelines on election funding. Rather, what we saw was governors crudely dipping their hands into the public till and throwing the money into the campaigns of their party and its candidates. Those appointed to ‘juicy’ MDAs were expected pull money from there into the party’s campaign financial war chest. It did not matter whether they were in PDP or APC. As the elections drew closer, all manner or governance and service delivery ground to a halt. Governors stopped paying contractors for already executed contracts. Worker’s salaries went into voicemail. Every energy and revenue (both IGR and federal allocation) was channeled into election and re-election.

Painfully, we’re only hearing of what Jonathan and his people did at the presidency. But, I believe we would all be thoroughly embarrassed if every governor were to open up on what the Class of 2011 bequeathed to the Class of 2015  (irrespective of whether it is APC to APC, PDP to PDP, PDP to APC or vice versa).

However, now that Buhari has decided to forge ahead and let bygones be bygones, we might as well refrain from asking any more questions as to how the states go to where they are.

But, I just have one plea to make to PMB (I’m still reluctant to use this acronym. It reminds of the post office, and our lost glory): please, as you’re releasing the latest windfall of monies, kindly release EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, BPP and just every other relevant watchdog, to follow on the tail of the monies. It is not just enough to ask the governors to “initiate projects that would meet the immediate needs of their people”. For many of them have proven that they cannot be trusted with a lot of money at the same time. Some of them would now make one trip to Lagos and return to their backwater states to reproduce Lagos’ 10-lane expressway project there – forgetting that the IGR from Ikoyi/Obalende local government area alone is more than the entire IGR of several states in the country.

Others will visit Akwa Ibom and, in their typhoid-induced vision, begin to conceptualize a replica of Uyo’s Nest of Champions – forgetting that what Akwa Ibom and Rivers get from federation account is more than what accrues to all the states in an entire geo-political zone put together.

Mr. President, if you don’t give some governors close-marking, they would begin another round of white elephant projects. They would pull down existing public buildings and erect more grandiose structures in their place. Instead of equipping existing hospitals and schools (probably built by their predecessors), they would abandon them and go on to erect their own ‘millennium’ schools and hospitals. They would sponsor Ifa worshippers on pilgrimage to Cuba. They would commission studies to search for crude oil in Adamawa. They will start funding schools in Niger Republic and Chad. They will pay contractors to dig pits across the state, and then engage another set of contractors to procure sand and refill the pits so dug. They will establish sugarcane corridor on Internet and build bridges and airports and hospitals on facebook and twitter. Just any excuse to award contracts and squander the money!

As Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), a statesman and modern day philosopher, told me last week, what we currently run in this country is “government of the illiterate, by the illiterate, for the enlightened”.

So, I can bet my right arm that, in another two years, we’ll hear that much of the present salary arrears, for which President Buhari has bent over backwards to accede to this bailout, never got paid.

But I have one consolation: and it springs what another friend said about the president. According to him, Buhari is one man who would not do anything until he’s very sure of the final outcome. So, if the governors think PMB has ‘dashed’ them free money, they have another think coming. The General would be waiting at the other end.

Last Line

When, following the election of principal officers of the 8th National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that he would only work with officers nominated by ‘the party’, many people misunderstood the him. While some took that statement to mean a reversion of PMB’s earlier stance of not interfering in the election NASS officers, others saw it as his refusal to accept the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker respectively. What they did not know is that their idea of  “party position” might be different from Buhari’s idea of “party position”, especially viewed from the perspective of a president who ‘belongs to nobody and belongs to everybody’.

For Buhari, therefore, ‘party position’ is whatever is agreeable to the majority of APC members. If, for instance, majority of elected APC lawmakers are agreed on anybody as leader of the National Assembly, them that person essentially becomes the party candidate for that position.

I guess the president is aware that some people are brandishing a dubious “party position” talisman as a magic wand that would foist the selfish desire of a small clique on the majority APC members. It is not about clothing some unpopular individuals in a cloak of ‘party candidates’ and forcing them on reluctant party members. The germane question is: when and how did the party arrive at its choice of candidates? Surely, ‘party supremacy’ is the newest talisman.

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‘Happy days’ are here again Wed, 01 Jul 2015 01:13:44 +0000 I always like to look at the brighter side of things. That is why, unlike many Nigerians, I’m neither appalled, nor alarmed at what is going on at the National Assembly. In fact, if you asked me, I would say the 8th Assembly got off to a flying start: Flying kicks, flying chairs, flying punches, flying slaps and flying Babanriga, skirts and wrappers.]]>

I always like to look at the brighter side of things. That is why, unlike many Nigerians, I’m neither appalled, nor alarmed at what is going on at the National Assembly.  In fact, if you asked me, I would say the 8th Assembly got off to a flying start: Flying kicks, flying chairs, flying punches, flying slaps and flying Babanriga, skirts and wrappers.

I must confess, here and now, that I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching the replay of the scenes. I’ve, in fact, gone back to Youtube to watch it again and again. There just has to be something to laugh about, as austere economic times stare us all in the face.

I mean, if President Muhammadu Buhari is going to take forever to form his cabinet, we might as well look up to others to provide the excitement that the CHANGE era promised. At least, until when Buhari finishes clearing the mess he said Jonathan left behind

But that is not to say I’m in any hurry to see the PMB cabinet. We live in a country where a governor operated for a whole year without commissioners. Now, the last time I checked, that same governor had still not appointed commissioners, more than six months into his second term. And the heavens have not fallen. The only baffling part of this novelty, however, is that it still has not cut down the cost of governance. If it did, that particular state would not be owing workers’ salaries.

Of course, that’s a matter for another day.

But while everyone is looking in the direction of Buhari for the CHANGE we voted for, something tells me CHANGE arrived earlier at NASS.

For instance, the Tambuwal treatment, which took the opposition all of 12 years to administer on a fumbling PDP government, took the new-opposition PDP less than 12 days to return the compliment. And when they did, it was in a double dose, potent enough to knock the new-ruling-party, APC, numb in both the Green and the Red Chambers. If this is not ‘change’, then tell me what is!

And there is a huge promise of even more exciting days ahead. Since that first day when they were inaugurated, the lawmakers have not taken their foot off the excitement throttle. Inaugurated with all the excitement and fanfare, they soon split it two viciously opposing camps, and in just four days, held more clandestine meetings than the 7th Assembly held in four years. They would return on their second sitting to deliver Nigeria’s first major democratic coup, with the election of superintending officers. Between those two landmark events, they had also smuggled a new art into the mix. They called it mock election, which as the name suggests, made a complete mockery of everyone involved in it.

To top it all, they turned old man Odigie- Oyegun into a village letter writer. And after compelling him to write the letters, they then chose not to read them, preferring to rub insult into injury by doing the exact opposite of what the old man’s letters said.

And then, they suddenly declared the floor open for a free for all. And it was more interesting than any WWF bout.

The only thing I missed in the exchange of fisticuffs at the Green Chamber was the professional contributions of such experienced pugilists as Dino Melaye, who has now graduated to the Red Chamber. But I take consolation in the fact that, with the way tempers are also boiling over in the senate, Melaye’s talents may soon come good use there too. Just observe the way the Kogi Senator bodyguards Senate President Bukola Saraki around, like a mother hen, and then you would see a man ready to draw blood, if that is what would be required to retain Saraki on the seat.

However, those he left behind in the lower house did not disappoint. Honourable men, all of them. Men with impressive résumé and enviable CVs.  Many of them are veterans of the war of the 7th Assembly, with distinction in fence scaling. Some have the anointing of picking up skirt-wearing female members by the feet and turning them upside down to display all their credentials before live TV audience. The talents on parade in the Chamber are endless. Some are gifted with transforming the clothes on others into rags and threads in split seconds, while yet others specialise in Babanriga warfare. I particularly enjoy the Babanriga fight. If you’re fast, you pull yours and use it, like a fishing net, to ensnare your opponents. But if you’re not fast enough (or get your feet entangled in its six yards of cloth, your opponent can cash in and tie you into a ball with it. God help you if you don’t suffocate or get trampled to death. Of course, there are also those who have perfected the great art of ripping seats off their screwed bases and sending them flying across the chamber, with one swing of the arm. And don’t forget, there are some of our lawmakers who graduated to the hallowed chambers straight from the motor parks. Those are the ones who entertain with real and shadow boxing. The have the sole mandate to CHANGE the fine faces of their opponents with bare-knuckle punches. Some even went for the mace. I don’t know if they came from Rivers State and wanted to use it as another weapon, or may be they were Ogun Reps who just wanted to bolt away with it.

Now, can you imagine all these happening at the same time? And somebody has the effrontery to say he’s yet to see CHANGE? Haba!

And even as we were still wondering about what manner of touts found their way into our hallowed chambers, the lawmakers brushed off our insults and proclaimed a recess for themselves. They will resume in a few weeks to collect their pay, and the first installment of their N9 billion wardrobe allowance. Surely, if they have to tear as many clothes as they tore on the floor of the House last week, one can begin to understand why they would have to be paid wardrobe allowance. My only grouse is that the senators are not tearing nearly as much clothes as the Reps, yet members of the Red Chamber would still be paid higher wardrobe allowance than those of the Green Chamber. So, dear senators, we want to see some action, to justify why we should even pay you people any wardrobe allowance at all, let alone pay you a higher amount than the Reps’.

Meanwhile, even as the roof is clearly on fire, the APC is busy hunting rats, blackmailing Saraki with the idle talk of an alleged deal with PDP to subvert the APC, it’s leadership and it’s party position.

But then, I ask, who contributed more to making Saraki senate president between the 49 PDP lawmakers who turned up for the election and the 51 APC senators who stayed away? To which party do the likes of Danjuma Goje, Dino Melaye and senators from Zamfara, Kwara, Kebbi, etc. belong? If what Saraki did is against party position, how come he is not standing alone? How come he enjoys the support of nearly 35 of APC’s 59 senators? If the representative party position was to have certain people (Sen. Ahmad Lawan, etc.) occupy certain positions in the National Assembly, how come it was only one of the party’s zonal caucuses that threw up somebody the party leadership had recommended? Or is the position of the party leadership not really reflective of what the party followership wants? Was the selfish interest of one or two persons aggregated to mean ‘party position’? And, come to think of it; if, as we are told, Saraki could sit in the Senate and still determine who the Reps chose as their Speaker and Deputy Speaker, does that not then mean that he is the kind of character needed to carry along the two houses, as chairman of the National Assembly?

And talking about the House of Representatives, where another party-anointed candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila, lost the speakership, I thought there were 210 APC Reps in that 360-member house? Pray thee, by what contraption did Yakubu Dogara contrive to beat Gbajabiamila by eight votes?

Considering that Dogara and all the other non-APC Reps (including PDP’s 144) voted for the Bauchi-born lawmaker, that would still leave Gbajabiamila with 208 APC votes. So, what went wrong? How come he could not get 180 votes? Was it a regional gang-up? Hausa/Fulani fraternity? A betrayal of the Yoruba? An Atiku agenda? A movement to stop Tinubu at all cost? Or what?

I think, instead of this current trend of isolating and bombing Saraki, the APC needs to interrogate the issue a little more, before the thin thread with which the party was sutured together ab initio finally snaps. Or else, the APC would just end up as a single-purpose vehicle cobbled together for the purpose of winning an election – a vehicle which disintegrates as soon as the election is won.

But then, an APC disintegration at this point in time would be the most wicked disservice to the person of General Muhammadu Buhari, whose limitations, in contemporary governance, were not in doubt as we headed into the last general elections. But the APC needed him to help them win that election. And now that they have won, they must help Buhari to deliver on the promise of CHANGE. It is the honourable thing to do. Any other way would be for every party chieftain and groupings to return to their pre-merger enclaves, with Buhari’s CPC group probably clinging on to the APC carcass in order to continue to keep the presidency. But when that happens, nobody should accuse the North of taking back power through the back door.

Well, one friend of mine, who happens to be in the national executive committee of the APC, jokingly submitted a few days ago, “just as the PDP is learning to be in opposition, we in the APC are also learning to be in government.” I dey laugh.

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For Barca and Heineken Tue, 16 Jun 2015 23:47:38 +0000 A few days before President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to ‘Western Germany’, where he held his now-very-famous talks with that country’s ‘President Michelle’, I was also in Berlin (for a less altruistic reason, though). ]]>

A few days before President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to ‘Western Germany’, where he held his now-very-famous talks with that country’s ‘President Michelle’, I was also in Berlin (for a less altruistic reason, though).

But my problem is: Nearly 10 days after my return, I still can’t precisely say whether I was in East Germany or Western Germany. The Berlin Wall that divided the city into two went down, even before I left the university, more than 25 years ago. So, I naively went there, thinking Germany was now one country.

But our president, whom, we’re told, is almost addicted to BBC and VOA radio stations, chose the opportunity of his own visit, last week, to remind us of the reality we’d all prefer to forget about: By 1983/1985, when Buhari was head of state, there was actually a country called West Germany. The only problem is that our president did not have any meeting with any German ‘President’. He probably met a ‘Chancellor’ whose name is Angela Merkel (not Mitchelle). But that is not nearly enough for the mockery that anti-Buhari elements on the social media have been making of the president. Everything Buhari said went with the territory – of his age bracket. And those of us who genuinely desire to live to old age must also learn to respect such slips. An uncle of mine, who died some three years ago never stopped reminding me that his daughter was married to a man from the Midwest. It did not occur to him that Midwest went with Dennis Osadebey and Samuel Ogbemudia. That it gave birth to a certain state called Bendel and that even Bendel had since given way to Edo and Delta, which are over 20 years old today. If I never for one day felt that my dear uncle was a moron for not updating the memory of his mental computer, why should I now hold it against a Buhari whose mental computer is still ‘booting’, from nearly 30 years of hiatus?

Well, Mr. President, don’t mind the social media delinquents. All you need know is that a certain Mikhail Gorbachev and one cowboy actor-turned President, Ronald Reagan (who, at some point in his later life, was so sick that he even forgot that he was ever a president of the United States of America), conspired, sometime in 1989, to tear down the borders of the West and East Germany as you knew them in 1985.

The entire area is now a tourist site. I even took pictures with mock guards at the US section of the town, at Checkpoint Charlie, as well as inside the dome-like projection of the wall paintings of the great Berlin Wall, which literally brings the history back to life.

But that’s story for another day.

Up till this moment, I still can’t really explain how my name turned up on the list of friends of Heineken, which qualified me to join the UEFA Champions League sponsors to watch the Champions League finals in Berlin, Germany penultimate weekend. Surely, it was not because I’m a follower of the Barcelona Football Club?

Or was this a reward for years of loyalty? Yes, I have had a little more than my fair share of the Heineken beer, but with the doctors permanently on my case in recent times, I’ve had to tone down a bit. Yes, doctors, like your pastor, have a way of discouraging you from the things you enjoy most. At some point, I asked the doctor if cutting down my alcohol intake also included Heineken. He said yes. I have not visited his hospital ever since. I think he needs to go back to school. If every doctor advises that we drink plenty of water, how then are we killing ourselves by an occasional glass or two of a beverage that is nearly 95 per cent water? Some people obviously read their medical books upside-down.

It was the same problem I had with the Christians, Nigerian Brewery’s Kufre Ekanem (who, I suspect, was born to sell beer) intervened and referred us to the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 14. And there it was… ‘beer’, ‘fermented drink’, ‘strong drink’, depending on which version of the bible you’re reading. Even the good book recommended it.

The knowledge emboldened me to go for another glass of ice-cold Heineken. It was a good mood to be in, ahead of the real thing that brought me to Berlin: Seeing Barcelona lift the Champions League cup for 2015.

My trip to Berlin was a once-in-a-lifetime chance of watching little god Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Iniesta, Xavi and the gang in flesh and blood. I think God Almighty intentionally created Messi to be smallish because He knew the little Argentine would become a god. I think it would have amounted to blasphemy if Messi, with all the prodigious talent in him, now had a huge frame to go with it. People might become tempted to worship him.

Getting into the Stadion Olympia (which I don’t even know whether it’s in East Germany or Western Germany, by the way) was also a rare opportunity of seeing the vociferous Barca fans (who had so outnumbered the Juventus fans on the streets of Berlin that I began to wonder if the Italians were ever going to come to the party).

But above all, it meant getting a front row seat to watch the scientific magicians from Nou Camp re-enact the magic, which I’ve seen over and over on TV without getting tired of seeing it yet again. It was an opportunity to watch Neymar play those dribbling pranks that even his teammate, Xavi Hernandez, had to complain about, saying the Brazillian wonder kid must have to show some respect to opponents. Of course, I understand Xavi’s argument and sympathy for Neymar’s ‘victims’. You can’t just dribble a world acclaimed defender as if you’re teaching him to play football. One moment, you flick the ball over him as he comes rushing to challenge for the ball, and then before he makes a quick turn to regain his balance, you push the ball between his legs and, like lightning, you are behind him and racing to his goalpost with the ball. it’s not ‘fair’. And it makes opponents mad. But that is what we paid to come and watch!  Just the same way Messi dribbled Boateng ahead of his second goal in the semi-finals –  a dribble that saw the big German defender using his own left leg to clear his other leg off balance and go crashing to the ground. Of course, that is why there’re so many fouls on the Barca duo. You can’t just stick the ball to your feet, like they’re held by some invisible adhesive tape and then begin to enumerate the opposing players one after another with your dribbling – as if you’re taking a census of how many of them that are on the field. Or, maybe, Messi and Neymar should be working at the census commission?

For me, therefore, it was not just enough that Barca won, it was more of how they won. The Barca team that filed out in Berlin on June 6 was an orchestra. The conductor was a certain Andres Iniesta. Like Mr. Philips (whose sympathy was with Juventus) pointed out, grandmaster Andres Pirlo tried to do likewise for the Italian side, but then it was an inspired Barca side that the Old Lady came up against in Berlin. The only thing that could have stopped Barca on that day was God, but on that day, God decided to simply sit back to enjoy a good game and watch what his creations made of the gifts he gave them. Of course, He knew Barca would carry the day.

Now, nearly two weeks after that fiesta, it has dawned on me that what Heineken did could actually approximate to corporate social responsibility. It’s no longer about sinking boreholes and giving scholarships alone, you know? Heineken has definitely taken it a notch higher. There’s a lot of social responsibility in bonding with your staff, customers, dealers and business partners. There were over 5000 persons on the bill of the beer makers in Berlin. Nigeria, it would seem, had the highest representation in all of Africa. Even at the level of Heineken staff, it was clear that many of those running Heineken operations around Africa, and a few other places, are Nigerians. What better way is there to be a responsible corporate citizen?

People came from Burma, St. Lucia and such other countries that you would normally never hear of. Heineken went to dig all of them out. And they all mixed and flowed with their bosses from Amsterdam like they were all equals. Heineken is like a family and not really a workplace. You grab a seat at the disused WW11 airport venue of the pre-match rendezvous and begin to sink your teeth into the tantalising burger in your hands, oblivious of the man perched on the edge of your table downing a glass of beer between mouthfuls. But he’s the chairman of the company’s board in one of the over-70 markets and countries represented at the event. I would look up from my meal to wave at Chief Kola Jamodu and his wife, seated a few seats away. Chief Jamodu would slap my back and exchange banters each time we ran into each other at the hotel where we all stayed on the fifth floor. Now, that was a rare privilege of breaking into the Heineken Family. Chief Jamodu is the chairman of Nigerian Breweries, brewers of Heineken in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, wherever did we get this impression that beer makes you develop big tummy? The only guy I saw with a big tummy in the group came from Burundi. And you know what? He was drinking red wine, not beer. Yes, it is also not true that you must drink beer to work at Heineken. Long live Barca! Long live Heineken.

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Saraki: Poetic justice in the Senate Wed, 10 Jun 2015 04:44:41 +0000 Does it mean that the APC did not learn anything from PDP’s fumblings all these past 16 years? Must APC make all the mistakes PDP made before it gets its bearing? Was the change ‘we’ voted for not for a change of the system? ]]>

Does it mean that the APC did not learn anything from PDP’s fumblings all these past 16 years? Must APC make all the mistakes PDP made before it gets its bearing? Was the change ‘we’ voted for not for a change of the system? Or did we elect to change slave drivers while remaining in the same plantation? How do we describe the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara? Democratic Coup? Treachery? Sabotage? Conspiracy? Betrayal? Over-confidence on the part of the APC leaders? Political naivety? Over-interference gone awry? Did the party leadership ascribe so much importance to itself (as the ruling party) that it chose to fix a meeting in total disregard of the schedule of the National Assembly? Or did the falcon simply stop listening to the falconer?

I may not have the answers to all these posers, but a careful analysis of what transpired at the National Assembly yesterday would surely provide a few insights.

But I must begin by pointing out that those of us who had closely followed the politics of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – beyond the pages of the newspapers, that is – had gone into the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections with certain things as given. One of such ‘givens’ was that, if the party won the majority in the Senate, then Bukola Saraki would be its anointed candidate for Senate President. That position was literally cast in stone. He had made the most sacrifice. On one occasion, he had stepped down from the race for that office. On two other occasions, he had also stepped down from contesting the country’s presidency, including the last APC primaries, to pave the way for the eventual emergence of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as candidate, and later, president.

But just as we thought the Senate Presidency was Saraki’s for the asking, APC began to play certain pranks we’d always thought were a preserve of the PDP – that uncanny talent to self-destruct and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Or making a promise, without any intention of keeping it. Some people within the party’s leadership soon began to play God, and all manner of other names began to pop up for the position we all agreed was Saraki’s. And the names were being thrown up by the same person/people who had authored and endorsed the plan to give Saraki the post.

I had initially thought it was in keeping with the APC tradition of creating the semblance of a fair and open contest, even when it was clear that the candidate had emerged (or would emerge) by consensus.

But it soon became a very serious issue. All manner of warped and spurious arguments began to be thrown into the mix – even when none of them endeavoured to place the contributions of the three frontrunners to the Senate where they had been members for, at least, two terms. That would probably have given Saraki too much advantage. So, the backers of these other candidates rather settled to focus on the mundane and the ridiculous.

One such curious argument was that Nigeria could not have a Muslim President and a Muslim Senate President (as if any of us gave a damn). But the politicians, presuming all of us to be fools, kept harping on religion, as a way of pushing the candidacy of George Akume. When it became obvious that Akume could not fly, they threw up the ‘zoning’ trump card. They ‘zoned’ the post to North-east (with Sen. Ahmad Lawan in mind). But then, they had to find a justification for it: They said it was zoned to the geo-political zone that gave the next highest number of votes to the party – the North-west, having produced Buhari. Curiously, this was the same APC leadership, which (while trying to justify its likelihood to marginalise the South-east in sharing of political appointments), told anybody who cared to listen that the zone shut itself out of the Senate Presidency by not returning Chris Ngige to the Senate (or, at least, producing one APC senator). I dey laugh o!

Then there was the mother of all goofs: The purported mock election organised at the weekend by the party’s NWC to pick a consensus candidate for the senate presidency. Expectedly, the curious mock election produced Lawan. But I immediately knew all was not well, when it turned out that only 33 senators-elect turned out for the mock vote. Now, if the APC, which had the majority of 109 senators-elect, could attract only 33 (barely half of its senators-elect) to that all-important event, then there was obviously fire on the mountain. But the party refused to admit it.

But it would seem that the real reason behind all the contradictions and inconsistencies, which the APC leadership felt we were all too stupid to understand, was a thoughtless desperation to stop Saraki whose popularity and perceived financial and intellectual independence is said to be giving some people the shivers.

Of course, when the APC saw that the chances of imposing its own choice of candidate on the Senate was becoming increasingly bleak, it scheduled an emergency meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari for 9:00am yesterday – even when it was clear that the lawmakers would go into business by 10:00am. That was yet another contradiction: President Buhari had told us he would not interfere in the process of producing the leadership of the National Assembly, why was he now being dragged into it?

Now, I wouldn’t know if that meeting genuinely held, eventually, or whether it was not their attending the said meeting with Buhari that made some APC senators-elect unable to rush back to the chambers in time for the elections. Before they came back, Saraki had been elected unopposed. The 18-or-so pro-Lawan senators-elect, who were in the chambers could not even afford to vote. And to further rub insult into injury, the minority PDP also produced the Deputy Senate President.

Then, the Green Chamber simply followed what happened at the Red Chamber. The favoured candidate of the party, Femi Gbajabiamila, was narrowly pipped 182 votes to 174 votes by Dogara, who the party did not want.

Maybe Gbaja would not have lost if the party had not over-reached itself with its unbending resolve to shut out certain people from the race for office. This so backfired that party endorsement suddenly became a poisoned chalice

But, of course, nobody in any of those two chambers was in doubt that what actually happened, vis-à-vis the election of leaders, was a proxy war. Many of those who voted against Gbajabiamila and Lawan did not do so because they faulted the credentials and capabilities of the lawmaker from Lagos, for instance. No! They simply voted against a party they saw as fronting for the interest of just one man. Something tells me if the party had backed Saraki for the Senate Presidency, it would have gotten the Speakership for Gbajabiamila on a platter.

Basically, therefore, it was APC’s obstinate insistence on imposing candidates that saw it inadvertently leaving its fate in the hands of PDP, even when it was clear that the new opposition party would back whoever the ruling party did not want. Was that not how Tambuwal and Ihedioha came about in the 7th Assembly? Simply put, the old warhorses of PDP saw the chink in APC’s amour and went for the kill. They could not miss. It’s a game at which they have been tested over and over.

But rather than see this as a victory for PDP or a self-inflicted bloody nose for APC, Saraki’s emergence is rather a victory for democracy, for independence of the legislature, for change and a better opportunity for President Buhari to deliver on his campaign promises. But let’s not lose sight of one fact: Saraki is still in the APC, not PDP. It is just that the God of equity, justice and fairness gave him that which He had long ordained and which had been agreed upon in both heaven and earth. It’s called poetic justice.

So, rather than talk about sanctioning those who went against party position, it would be to the benefit of the APC to swallow its pride and find a way of working with the new leadership of the National Assembly. Even Saraki would be foolish to think he can function effectively without the support of the APC.

Anything short of this, then the APC might break up, even before its government actually takes off.

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Shutting down ahead of May 29 Wed, 27 May 2015 04:07:09 +0000 I learnt that President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, wants us to drop the “General” title as soon as he’s sworn in on May 29. Now, that’s a tough one!]]>

I learnt that President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, wants us to drop the “General” title as soon as he’s sworn in on May 29. Now, that’s a tough one!

I just hope there will be no penalty for those of us who would be too dumb to quickly comply? Or else, some of us would have to rot in jail for the next four years.

For one, we’ve already come to know our incoming president as GMB (Gen. Muhammadu Buhari), much the same way we accepted the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan as GEJ, and the one before him as OBJ. In fact, the acronyms go as far back as IBB. Or even farther into the politics of the First Republic.

At some point, OBJ’s handlers began to package him as  ‘Chief’ Obasanjo, to make us forget the “General” title. But we never really did. Buhari’s case is more difficult to accept. Unlike OBJ, which came from ‘Obasanjo’, for instance, “General” is embedded in Buhari’s GMB.

I think the title by which we address Buhari should be the least of our worries now. For, as we say in the motor parks, the inscription on the body of the commuter bus should not determine whether or not we board the bus.

Certain titles have, over the years, become second nature to certain people. The hood does not make the monk. Even if Harvard University were to award Nasir el-Rufai a professorship today, he will remain “Mallam” Nasir el-Rufai. The same thing applies for Nuhu Ribadu. It did not matter how many times Aminu Kano went on pilgrimage to Mecca, or whether or not he was no longer teaching anybody anything, he remained “Mallam” Aminu Kano till death. Is it only the deference to the ancient stool of Kano that has compelled all of us today to make an addition to the new emir’s name? Otherwise, he was just SLS (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi). We could not even humour him with “Mallam” or “Alhaji”.

So, for Buhari, once a General, always a General. It is history. It is a heritage we should be proud of. Of course, we will try to adapt to his new titles, but I doubt that four years (or, at most, eight years) of elective office would change nearly 50 years of military history. What is in a title after all! Or does the president-elect think the “General” title would keep reminding us of things he would want us to forget?

Well, as my stubborn uncle would say, on this “General” matter, I’ve already shaved my own head, in readiness for imprisonment. Luckily for me, my office is already in Kirikiri. They don’t need to send any Black Maria, or police escort to get me. They can just sentence me in Abuja and I would report, by myself, at the other side of Kirikiri. It’s only a 20-minutes stroll from my office.

But, rather than Buhari’s titles, I’m more concerned with the scary problems that stare him in the face, with less than 48 hours to May 29. For one, the subsiding fuel crisis, is only a tip of the massive iceberg of a prostrate economy. Frightening scenario for which we have literally crucified Jonathan and his lackluster PDP. A situation for which we have made all manner of political pronouncements and propaganda – including that of APC leaders (who have not seen the books yet) telling the nation that the party would be inheriting an empty treasury. That Jonathan and his gang are on a last-minute looting spree. That everything that is wrong with Nigeria today is as a result of the Bayelsa-born president’s cluelessness.

Well, I have news for all of you: In another 48 hours, we’ll stop looking up to Jonathan. Everything would become Buhari’s headache. And just as we have since forgotten that many of the booby traps for today’s failings were set by a retreating Obasanjo administration, in another 12 months, we would also have forgotten that Jonathan and his retreating army of occupation planted the landmines that the Buhari administration would be exploding in the faces of Buhari and his government.

Nobody remembers that the last time our refineries probably worked was under Abacha. All we know today is that Jonathan licensed 20 refineries, none of which has taken off today. The $16 billion Obasanjo sank into power, which did not produce a flicker of light have since been forgotten. What we remember today is that several parts of Nigeria, which used to enjoy some level of public power supply have not had light for more than a month now. And to make matters worse, those of us who have since forgotten about NEPA and focused on using generators for our own IPP, now can’t even get fuel to power our own I-better-pass-my-neighbour ‘turbines’.

Well, thanks to the National Assembly, a handful of other well-meaning Nigerians, and, of course, the masterstroke from Ifeanyi Ubah of Capital Oil, the guy we love to hate, the worst is over – at least, for now.

However, many of us have yet to recover, not only from the stress, but also the physical beatings and fisticuffs we had to endure at filling stations – many of which had stock, but simply refused to sell.

I, for instance, got into church last week smelling of petrol. I had poured the last 10-or-so litres of petrol reserved for the generator into the car. I had equally turned out about eight litres long forgotten inside one disused generator into the generator that was still functional. Desperate times demand desperate measures!

In the process of transferring fuel from generator to generator, and from jerry can to car, I had spilled some of the fuel on my body. Although I thoroughly washed my hands afterwards, the little that poured on my dress could not go off so easily, as I hurried off to church.

At church, I planted myself between two beautiful girls (not intentionally o!). But it would seem the fragrance of the petrol (yes, it has to be fragrance; for only a lunatic would describe the ‘aroma’ of petrol, a precious liquid worth more than its weight in gold these days, as ‘odour’ or ‘repugnant’) emanating from my body was very strong. I could tell this by the body language of the two girls on my left. They kept exchanging conspiratorial glances, with the one nearest to me intermittently spitting into her handkerchief. By the time I opened my eyes, after yet another round of prayers, the girls had moved several seats away. Of course, I did not mind them. I only pitied them. They were either naïve, foolish or both. They must be some of those fools who go to church everyday, praying for miracle, but too daft to grab the miracle when it lands on their laps. If those girls knew what it cost, in terms of money, stress and man-hour, to get fuel in this country today, they would have been embracing me and planting kisses all over me, rather than running away from me.

Of course, to underscore the fact that I did not have an over-bloated impression of myself (and my great accomplishment of procuring fuel in these times), the young man sitting right behind me seized every opportunity to be nice to me. When my car key dropped, he literally dived to the floor to pick it up for me, broadly smiling at me as he handed it over. He gladly shared his Hymn book and bulletin with me when he realised I had none. And when it was time to offer each other a sign of peace, he just hugged me instead of the traditional handshake.

On my way out of the church, at the end of service, he was waiting for me by the door. “Bros, you get fuel? Where you buy? You dey sell? How much?” Four questions before I even had the chance to answer one!

Smart guy! Good business sense! That’s how you tell those who would go far in life. Those whose miracles would never pass them bye. I’m not going to tell what part of the country the guy comes from.

By Monday, nearly a week after that incident, I had exhausted my reservoir of fuel. My sources had also dried up. And to be able to get to work on that morning, I gladly accepted to pay N2,500 for five litres of petrol (meaning: N500 per litre). Mother luck would smile on me again that evening. A Young man friend of mine offered me 10 litres for N4,000 (N400 per litre). I happily paid, glad that I could even find fuel at all.

But the truth is: It would not cost that much even if government were to remove this dubious subsidy and still charge us consumption tax on petrol, or even impose a luxury goods tax on it.

Everything is comatose. Yet, all everybody seems to be concerned about is May 29 inauguration and handover. I pray we would still have a country to handover by then.

The PDP government no longer seems to care. And the incoming APC people are gladly helping PDP look its worst in 16 years, as if we still have another round of voting to do on May 29.

Long before now, we had got tired of discussing public power supply and bothering Jonathan and his power minister. It was clear they could not deliver on that promise (even though the reasons for this failure are also very clear, and not entirely theirs). We soon shifted our attention to generating our own power privately. Now, the same ineptitude (and cabal) that made it impossible for public power supply to work and for our refineries to refine has also ensnared the supply (and importation) of petroleum products, which have so far sustained every citizen’s private IPP.

And gradually, the country is grinding to a halt. By Monday, businesses were shutting down (albeit temporarily, with some never likely to bounce back again). The schools, which reopened just a few weeks back were all tactically closing down, with many of them advising parents not to send their children to school until fuel supply returns to normal.

Public transport buses thinned out. And the few that still operated charged cutthroat fares. The result was that fewer and fewer workers were turning up at their work places. On Monday, several banks sent out SMS informing customers that banking hours had been cut by between three and four hours. People are resorting to ATMs. But very soon too, there would be no power to activate the ATMs. Maybe then we would resort to trade-by-barter. Later, everybody would park their cars and resort to trekking. After all, many of us have been ‘trekking’ in solidarity with Buhari. It seems Jonathan’s parting gift to us is to ensure we continue the trekking until Buhari, our saviour, comes.

Incidentally, as we battle this current crisis, every one is carrying on as though Jonathan took the entire money budgeted for 2105 (subsidy inclusive), converted it to brandy and downed everything in one gulp. Or that, instead of subsidising fuel, he used it to subsidise his wife’s medical trips to Germany and her acquisition of more property. Or that the president busied himself, rollicking on whiskey while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala ‘dashed’ all the money to the World Bank, using the change on top to invest in bale of Hollandais abada she carries on her head as headgear. Or maybe, it was Diezani Allison-Madueke, who helped us to ‘invest’ the money in diamond jewelry? After all, is anything wrong if we find government money hanging on the neck of a government minister in the form of a diamond necklace? Would we then honestly say that the money is missing? Nonsense!

Nobody seems to be asking questions of the federal lawmakers who, year after year, appropriate money for subsidy but simply refuse to track the money. Yes, the same lawmakers, some of whom ganged up with the executive and the subsidy cabal to hound their colleagues, who dared to ask questions. The same lawmakers who intentionally bungled the investigation into the subsidy rip-off and made nonsense of the probe. Subsidy, no doubt, is one massive racket that involves a wide spectrum of interests, stretching from the Presidency to the legislature, the judiciary, the civil service, the PDP and even the camp of the opposition – which explains why Sen. Bukola Saraki insists that the only way out is to scrap the subsidy regime outright. For, if the incoming government retains it, it would only succeed in replacing those running the racket today with a new set of racketeers.

Unfortunately, instead of looking at the problem holistically, everybody is taking cheap shots at Jonathan for squandering the money meant for subsidy. No one has bothered to find out that even if we ploughed our country’s entire income into the current subsidy arrangement, we’ll still be owing importers at the end of every year. Similarly, none of us wants to accept that much of the debts the Federal Government is said to be owing today on subsidy is for fuel that was never brought into the country. In other words, that we’re paying for what we did not consume.

And as the dealers and importers insisted that their silos and filling stations had run out of products, it was still in front of those same filling stations that we stopped to buy the same fuel from black marketers in jerry cans. Or was it that rather than sell at the regulated price from their pumps, the dealers would rather sell to these black market ruffians at a bigger margin – so that they could resell to the rest of us at a premium? How much of the scarcity we witnessed in the past three weeks was real and how much was artificial and contrived?

And while we’re at it, Nigeria is falling deeper and deeper into the mess. Of course, it was not out of place for the incoming APC government to be tempted to think that this was a Jonathan and PDP problem. So, rather than see the danger that the contrived scarcity portended for Nigeria, the body language of the incoming government seemed to be one of pyrrhic triumphalism.

But the truth is: The longer crises of this nature persist, the bigger the mess the APC government would ultimately inherit.

Yes, the events of the last few weeks have ensured that the Jonathan administration does not go out on a high, but it has also created a new problem that the APC government would now have to confront. So, as partisan politicians, we must know when to stop fighting. We must learn to cease flogging a dead horse

Much of the pranks the marketers and importers were playing was a direct consequence of their reading of words Buhari did not say: Would he continue the subsidy bazaar? Would he stop it? If he would stop it, how far would he go? Would he discontinue payment of subsidy and still insist on fixing the price petroleum products are sold? Would he even pay the backlog allegedly owed by the outgoing government?

Much as one did not expect the president-elect to be categorical on these issues – having not thoroughly gone through the books – his silence, in no little way, contributed to the prolongation of fuel crisis. Now, whatever money, or even, lives, that we lost to the crisis have been lost forever. We could have avoided all that.

We don’t need to shut down this country and its economy, and starve the people, before the citizenry accept the fact that the Jonathan administration has failed.

They realised that much a long time ago. And that probably accounted for why the PDP lost the last general election. We don’t have to bring the country down to ground zero to know that Jonathan did not deliver on power supply. We have always known that. And for the PDP, we do not have to turn the house upside-down simply because it would not be our job to rearrange for now – 2019 is only a blink of an eye away.

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Buhari: Advisers as adversaries Wed, 20 May 2015 01:19:18 +0000 All manner of conmen, false prophets, dubious elder ‘statesmen’, recycled public office holders, youth leaders (many of whom are only leading themselves), emergency activists and child-of-circumstance NGOs are either ]]>

All manner of conmen, false prophets, dubious elder ‘statesmen’, recycled public office holders, youth leaders (many of whom are only leading themselves), emergency activists and child-of-circumstance NGOs are either trooping to Daura or Buhari’s Abuja campaign office to submit CVs (both written and verbal) or taking the short-cut to the media houses to push out ill-digested and poorly articulated press statements. Everyone is doing one thing or another, just to get noticed – and, probably, be remembered, when the contracts and appointments are eventually being shared out.

But instead of calling what they’re doing by its name: ‘Lobbying’, they’re packaging it as some altruistic advisory.

APC is advising, PDP is advising. Professors, semi-illiterates and jesters are all advising Buhari.

All manner of contraptions are flying around as roadmaps to Nigeria’s Eldorado. And there are so many of such roadmaps that it would be almost impossible, deciding which to adopt.

In the part of the country where I come from, we have a saying that the dog which gets summoned to two simultaneous fecal meals ends up brushing its snout on the rough ground in confusion.

That dog-fate has suddenly become the lot of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whose only offence, at least, for now, is winning the last presidential election.

Since success has many friends, all manner of people have suddenly taken interest in Buhari, including even those who, spurred by Jonathan’s alleged dollar rain, swore that Buhari would never be president.

Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo put together a think tank too. And they have cobbled together yet another roadmap for the same poor Buhari. I can’t believe Obasanjo actually expects GMB to take his advice seriously. Hmm! The same Obasanjo who, as president, gathered together some of the country’s finest brains, as ministers, aides and advisers, and then turned round to tell them that he would not listen to their advice? Now, he wants somebody to take his own advice? I dey laugh o!

Also not left out are my South-east people, whom the APC insists did not vote for it (and has left no one in doubt that the zone must accept with gratitude, whatever little crumbs that fall its way from the APC sharing table – federal character or no federal character). They too are also advising Buhari.

Everyone seems to have a foolproof idea of how to make Nigeria work, including those who have had innumerable opportunities in the past to put these their great ideas to practice, but who fluffed chance after chance.

Of course, most of the roadmaps are self-serving. Desperadoes masquerading as patriots and do-gooders are coming up with all manner of proposals, hidden behind a veneer of patriotism and desire to see GMB succeed. But like all such proposals, they are done with a view to creating job for the writer – in the hope that GMB would like it and invite the writers to come in and execute the project themselves. It’s a cunning way of applying for government job. It’s an old trick we all know too well.

For Buhari, therefore, the distractions have started, even before he has fully taken over the reins of power.

In fact, with so many contradicting roadmaps, I now fear our new president is bound to get lost, irrespective of whichever roadmap he follows. In fact, I suspect he’s likely going to get lost, even by standing on the same spot. That is what these unsolicited pieces of advice and roadmaps are all about.

For some of these people, flocking around Buhari today, the “Change!” we were all chanting all along was merely for a change of the looters, not the system.

I hope we were not just clamouring to kick out the GEJ crew of ‘choppers’, just to give its rival gang the chance to also come and ‘chop’?

At the end, they would present the poor grandpa with a maze, instead of clear-cut roadmap. And when he gets lost in this labyrinth, they would be the ones jumping from one world capital to another, castigating the poor man for not listening to ‘sound advice’.

But, knowing Buhari, he’s just letting them run their mouths (it’s a democracy, after all, and it guarantees freedom of speech), even as he has his mind made up on what he wants to do. And what he wants to do can be reduced to just three simple headings: Corruption, security and economy (read that to mean unemployment or falling oil prices, if you like). Any other thing besides these three is nothing but dogon turenci. And he does not have the stomach (I did not say temperament o!) for all that.

I guess that’s why providence provided him with a vice president, who is all of teacher, preacher, public speaker and professor of law rolled in one. Osinbajo can talk the talk while GMB would walk the walk. By the time the two combine, they would have walked the talk.

I’m sure the president-elect is smart enough to differentiate between genuine advisers and adversaries. And between a roadmap and a maze. For your advisers can sometimes turn out to be your worst adversaries. If you doubt me, ask President Goodluck Jonathan.

6 years of Amnesty Programme

When I saw this photograph a few weeks ago, the temptation was to go to town with it. To publish it, and show to the whole world, particularly, the doubting Thomases in Nigeria, that the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) is indeed working. This is a photograph of some of the 177 ex-militants and beneficiaries of the programme, who are majoring in Aviation. These are pilots!

But, there was no way I could celebrate them without making favourable mention of President Goodluck Jonathan and his Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, both of whom have been the driving force of this one success story. It was in the heat of the general elections and everything was being viewed from strictly partisan standpoints.

Now, that the elections have been won and lost, however, I think one can conveniently give the Jonathan administration a pat on the back for its commitment to this programme, which was originally the brainchild of the late President Umaru Yar’adua, without being accused of campaigning for PDP.

Barely five years after the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) component of PAP, no fewer than 30,000 youths have enlisted into the programme. Out of this, more than 13,000 have graduated from vocational training. More than 2,500 of the over 4,600 currently in training are in formal education. There are 1,440 offshore and 1,095 onshore, studying courses, such as Law, Political Science, Business Management, Mass Communication, International Relations, Public Administration, Accountancy, Information & Communications Technology, Medicine, Engineering, Applied Sciences, Radio Electronics, Building & Construction Technology, among others. Is anybody seeing the template for a possible solution to the Boko Haram menace?

Most critics only seem to point to the contracts given to ex-Niger Delta warlords. None seems to look at the human capital development aspect of the programme, which, to me, is actually the biggest benefit of PAP.

But as one oil sector player once told me, the issue goes beyond training of manpower and helping them start up business and create jobs.

“The success of the amnesty programme would not be fully appreciated without a peep into the economic impact of the Niger Delta crisis pre – and post – 2009. At the peak of the crisis, many production and construction firms laid off their workers in the Niger Delta and … relocated not only from the area but also from Nigeria.

“The country lost billions of naira that would have accrued from oil revenue, even as oil and gas companies, which remained in the region with a resolve to weather the storm, were compelled to cough out a whopping $3 billion annually to secure their facilities and installations, as critical infrastructure, especially pipelines, became targets for serial attacks. Again, this propelled the slamming of an outrageous $90 million per annum premium Marine War Risk Insurance for cargo into Nigeria.”

Now, I look at these freshly graduated pilots and tell myself; these could all have been criminals, kidnapping expatriates and innocent Nigerians, attacking flow stations and blowing up everything in sight. PAP might still have a lot left to do, but it has definitely been worth the while. There must be a way of extending this phenomenon to some of the redeemable elements of the Boko Haram insurgency.

To me, that makes a lot more sense for a government that has its sight set on youth employment and empowerment. It definitely makes more sense than expanding an already overbloated civil service.

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Diezani, political accountants and our missing money Wed, 06 May 2015 01:19:27 +0000 There is something messy about oil, especially, in the ‘crude’ form that Nigeria has it: It soils whatever (and whoever) ]]>

There is something messy about oil, especially, in the ‘crude’ form that Nigeria has it: It soils whatever (and whoever) it touches. It turns saints to sinners and turns little sinners into big time devils.

Was it not because a respected Prof. Tam David-West was our oil minister that we wouldn’t  allow him accept an ordinary wristwatch gift, even when it was clear to us all that he was not the kind of person to go into any monkey business with the giver? Even as Prof. has since cleared his name, do we not still mischievously make reference to that episode?

Long before David-West came on board, there was also a certain Muhammadu Buhari, who was federal commissioner for petroleum resources. His tenure there would form a major plank of Afro Beat deity, Fela Anikulapo’s hit track, ‘Army Arrangement’. It was the controversial N2.8 billion saga. Even as it turned out to be an accounting magic (which put a value to crude oil money not earned and, therefore, not missing), was that same ‘missing money’ not used against Gen. Buhari by the PDP in the last presidential election, nearly 40 years after?

As for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, despite that every court and agency that matters has cleared him of complicity, how many of us, in our subconscious, have deleted his name from the list of PTDF crooks? Is it not PTDF that his opponents go to dig up every time they fear that Atiku could overrun them on the political front?

Even if I don’t want to name names, I also know that some people would live the rest of their lives with the smear of the oil subsidy scam, irrespective of how many panels that clear their names. That is the cross everyone who dabbles into the business of oil – crude or refined, risks bearing for the rest of his or her life. Once oil touches you, no bleach can wash away the stain.

Consequently, no amount of forensic audit, refund, remittance or whatever they call it, would change the perception that Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke ‘stole’ the country blind as Minister of Petroleum Resources, nor that she was put in charge of that ‘soup pot’ to help mop up funds for Jonathan to prosecute his re-election project.

Of course, we will not try her in formal court, lest the politically naive judges begin to ask for documentary evidence to prove our allegations, or worse still, compel a thoroughly provoked Diezani to open up and expose people we don’t want to expose, including some of those hounding her today.

We will just leave the matter in the court of public opinion, knowing fully well that all the ‘evidence’ this kind of ‘court’ needs to reach its judgement are pieces of propaganda, lies and half-truths we cunningly feed it with.

But then, Diezani did not help matters. And I’d love to see her stew in her own sauce. It was bad enough that she was annoyingly beautiful, and out of our reach – either as wife or concubine. But she made matters worse by being haughty as well. By despising the media. By despising the National Assembly. By going to court when the lawmakers wanted her to come and give account. And then, there was the issue of private jet, the N10 billion spent on chartering aircraft, her kids living like scions of Arab sheiks. She also became very powerful. In fact, too powerful. So powerful that it was even rumoured that it was she who ultimately got Jonathan to fire a fellow (rival?) female minister. So powerful that even the usually irrepressible Dame Patience Jonathan allegedly gave up on disentangling her husband, the president, from Diezani’s hold, let alone getting Jonathan to sack her from the cabinet.

I’m sure her husband, the respectable Admiral Allison Madueke, would have had more than an earful of gossips about his wife, many of which were manufactured by admirer-turned-haters and busybody politicians and contractors.

But, I will not waste valuable ink defending her. In fact, I’m still hurting over her sack of such honest and competent hands as Reginald Stanley. She definitely has to pay the price of throwing out good people and surrounding herself with crooks. But we’ll get back to that later.

I spent the whole of last weekend rummaging through the report, without making the head or tail of it. To begin with, the title alone is long enough to give any normal person a headache; “Auditor-General for the Federation Investigative Forensic Audit into the Allegations of Unremitted Funds into the Federation Accounts by the NNPC”. If the title could be so cumbersome, you can almost imagine what the content would be like.

That probably explains why most of the politicians who have been making the most noise about the report, and the indictments therein, have hardly read the report themselves. But having not read it has not stopped them from interpreting its content. Curious? Welcome to Nigerian politics. Everyone has simply been amplifying whatever their own accountants or political leaders told them the report contains.

Of course, everyone has been interpreting purely from the perspective of his own political conviction. If you’re in APC, you’ll clearly see that the report indicted NNPC and Diezani, but if you’re of PDP, you’ll see that the report exonerated the minister and the corporation.

Not wanting to be led by the nose, I decided to read the report for myself. But my best efforts came to nought. The figures kept running into each other, as I stared at them. In fact, the last time I saw so much figures written together was in primary school, when my class teacher forced us to write from 1 to 1,000 on a small blackboard. The only difference with the figures I saw last week was that every one of them represented money. Billions and trillions of Naira and dollars. Of course, I was bound to lose track. But a colleague soon came to my rescue. He presented me with an executive summary of the report – which is really no summary, if you consider the fact that even this summary amounted to 30 pages.

That is why I can bet my left leg that 95 per cent of the politicians, calling for the head of Diezani Allison-Madueke have not read it. They are all reacting based on the interpretation given by their accountants and political leaders and other such voodoo economists.

After going through the executive summary, I still came to one conclusion: All accountants will go to hell. Yes, I have heard of creative accounting. I know that the same accountant who gave you one set of audited report to take to shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (to make you, the directors, look good and hardworking) can, using the same figures, give you a totally different audited account to take to the tax people, to ensure you do not pay as much tax as you ought to pay.

So, besides political accounting, it’s almost impossible to nail the minister based on that report.

However, we must not lose sight of the fact, that the Diezani imbroglio today, represents, and reflects, everything that has gone wrong with NNPC, the oil industry in Nigeria, and our vanishing petrodollars. Everything is shrouded in mystery while we continue to resist every attempt to throw more light on it and make it transparent.

The more you look, the more you see. But the you see, the more confused you get.

In one instance, they say no money is missing. In another instance, they say money is missing. But how much is missing?

And the magic begins.

On one hand, it is $2.07 billion. On another hand, it is $4.29 billion and on yet another hand, it is $1.48billion.

As you probe deeper, you even come across a section where it was reported that NNPC actually over-remitted money to the federation account – in other words, we should be the ones refunding NNPC, and not asking NNPC to make refunds. Government magic!

Tell me if you can make the head or tail of this extract from the report: “Between 12 January and 29 January 2015, NNPC provided transaction documents, representing additional costs of $2.81 billion related to the review period, citing the NNPC Act LFN No 33 of 1977 that allows such deductions. Clarity is required on whether such deductions should be made by NNPC as a first line charge, before remitting proceeds of domestic crude to the federation accounts. If these are deemed not to be valid deductions, then the amount due from NNPC would be estimated at $2.07 billion (without considering expected known remittances from NPDC) or $4.29 billion (if expected known remittances from NPDC are considered).”

But just when we think we have enough to hang Diezani, the report throws spanner in the works. It alludes that the ‘missing’ money actually has to do with proceeds from sale of an oil block, which, I learnt, was not even sold by Jonathan administration. The report said this $1.48 billion was not really missing. It was trapped somewhere between the NNPC and its subsidiary, the NPDC. It said the money should be transferred to the federation account.

Incidentally, as soon as Diezani and the oil corporation agreed to effect the transfer, another news began to fly around town: ‘Diezani has agreed to refund stolen money’. Political accountants!

Yes, if you ever doubted that all accountants should be shot, then the current abracadabra going over the missing money should make you change your mind. For, depending on which political party is paying the accountant, or is interpreting the audit report, you can get as many varied reports as you want. And we’ll have to accept it because we don’t know better. But we know we’re being conned.

In fact, listening to the accountants and auditors, you’d think that there is really more to Nigeria’s income and expenditure than just sucking out crude oil from the ground, selling it and paying the money into our bank account. It is basic buying and selling (or better still, producing and selling). That is what we all do – from the illiterate farmer who produces and sells his produce, to the large manufacturing companies producing and selling newspaper, cement, sugar, noodles and all.

However, things assume a dizzying hue when we move this same simple process to government business. Then, the magic begins. It is then that they tell you about zero budgeting, that money once appropriated, cannot be returned if not spent. That every money that leaves the national purse must be spent, even if what it was budgeted for is overtaken by events. They begin all manner of dubious ‘retirement’ of funds. In fact, some people soon become experts in ‘retiring’ unspent government monies, and keeping the money for themselves.

They can steal every dime in the national coffers and still come up with an audited account that presents a healthy financial position. It is sometimes called bubble profit, and you’ll never get to know it until you suddenly do not have cash to meet the most basic needs. That is why state governments wake up one day and discover that they cannot pay salaries. That is why the finance ministry and all the related agencies and MDAs keep deceiving us about rising GDP, growing external reserves, single-digit inflation, increased inflow of foreign direct investments and millions of jobs created in the last three years. We only discover that we have been swindled when the finance commissioners gather at the monthly FAAC meeting in Abuja to discover that there is no money to share.

Of course, I know something is amiss. There must be a huge fraud going on at NNPC. I don’t need to look at any report – audited or unaudited, to know this. I rely on a common trend in the oil industry viz: Many of my friends and acquaintances hitherto working with various oil companies are gradually finding their way into the NNPC and its subsidiaries. Now, why would a person, whose only driving force is to make money and more money, leave an oil company (where, I’m told, they’re paid armed robber salaries) to join NNPC?

Given that NNPC, to avoid its staff compromising on their regulatory functions, tries to pay salaries that are competitive with what is obtained in the industry they regulate, the mad rush to NNPC from the oil companies can only mean one thing: The grass is greener on the NNPC side. Free money! It means that, unlike in the oil companies where a worker has to work his fingers to the bones to justify the huge amount he is paid monthly, the NNPC people do not have to work nearly as hard to earn the same money. That, in itself, is a fraud against the Nigerian state.

The audit report, for instance, revealed that within the 18 months covered by the inquest, the NNPC (without recourse to anybody) blew nearly 50 per cent of the $28.22 billion revenue it generated. The law allows it to so do. It has been like that since we set up the NNPC in 1977. NNPC is one of several agencies of government that make money and spend as they like, without recourse to any appropriation by the National Assembly. Dimeji Bankole, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, began a move to correct that anomaly, but everything died down as soon as he left. So, the NNPC spending arrangement remains. It will remain that way until we pass the PIB, which the National Assembly has been playing politics with for several years now.

Incidentally, the same Diezani had been championing the push to pass that law. But at some point, a lawmaker made a slip that even made me believe that they were intentionally stalling the passage. The bill, according to him, would give even more power to the minister (the minister being Diezani). It never occurred to him that Diezani would not remain petroleum minister for ever.

And that is what really annoys me in all this. Instead of looking at this behemoth holistically, we are isolating President Goodluck Jonathan and his Petroleum Minister. It means that, rather than address the problem, we are playing politics and looking for scapegoats.

But the truth is that Diezani ran that ministry and the NNPC exactly the same way we have run it since 1977. That explains why former Vice President Atiku Abubakar recently confessed that there was no transparency in the place for the entire eight years he and President Olusegun Obasanjo were in power. For those years, Obasanjo was the de facto petroleum minister. Every rot we see today was also there then. But today, because Obasanjo is now politically correct, we are pretending that the problem began in 2011.

Surely, I’d love to see Diezani make refunds, and even go to jail if she is convicted of the things we’re accusing her of today. But thinking the problem begins and ends with this one woman, or Jonathan’s administration for that matter, amounts to treating an itch, instead of attacking the leprosy causing the itch.

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In search of new Senate President Wed, 29 Apr 2015 01:34:35 +0000 Sometime around October of 2011, Sen. Bukola Saraki, representing Kwara Central moved a motion seeking an inquest into how some N240 billion budgeted for fuel subsidy was expended.]]>

Sometime around October of 2011, Sen. Bukola Saraki, representing Kwara Central moved a motion seeking an inquest into how some N240 billion budgeted for fuel subsidy was expended.

That motion began the opening of a pandora box. Sleaze that smelled to high heavens. Although N240 billion had been budgeted for fuel subsidy for the entire year, more than N800 billion had already been spent. And the year was still in its first quarter. There was more to follow. By the time the National Assembly could dig halfway into the the subsidy rot, it was discovered that although we consumed just about 35 million litres per day (which we never ever got), our government was paying fuel importers for 58 million litres, for fuel not brought in.

We’d been swindled some $6.8 billion. It was the biggest racket of all time. All the big men and oil companies and top government functionaries, and their fronts, were caught with their hands right inside the pie.

Of course, Saraki, having stepped on very big toes with his motion and subsequent crusade to ensure the country got to the bottom of the matter, had to pay a price. The EFCC was literally deployed to Ilorin on a scavenge mission. The brief was simple: Dig up every murk possible on the former Kwara State governor.

They too did not have to dig too deep before they stumbled on several forgotten corruption allegations, many of which had been investigated and dismissed for lack of substance. But the mere fact that such allegations existed was more than enough to prosecute a politically motivated anti-graft war. They went after him, rather than address the issues he raised in the subsidy scandal.

Today, while the last may not have been heard of the subsidy scam (going by what the audit of NNPC recently revealed), Saraki is yet to emerge from the backlash of the subsidy mafia’s fight-back. Today, it’s still those bogus allegations that some people (including even in the APC, which has turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of Saraki’s revelations) are using to tarnish his image. And the reason? Saraki’s name came up in the permutations for who becomes the next President of the Senate. Shame!

But, must the APC seek to diminish one of its leading lights in order to share political office? Now, they would force Saraki’s supporters to also fight back, by looking for what dirt they can dig up on Senators George Akume, Adamu Abdullahi, Danjuma Goje or whoever else his name pops up in the permutation for Senate President. In the end, the APC would be the loser for it, giving that the names coming up are some of the party’s bests. Very soon, the APC, in a bid to scheme some of its own people out of plum office, would, on its own, expose all of its leaders as candidates for scrutiny in the much trumpeted anti-graft war Buhari is coming to wage. Come to think of it, which of our former office holders, especially politicians, would survive a thorough EFCC probe? How much did we pay them in office? How come they all came out billionaires several times over? Let’s not go there!

But must APC repeat every self-destructing mistake the PDP made? Is APC, like the PDP, going to form the government and also constitute the biggest opposition to its own government?

As the schemings for Senate Presidency gathers momentum, some people within the party have even tried to sell the story of how Tinubu is backing the candidacy of one senator and not supporting the aspiration of the other. How the party leadership had endorsed one candidate and not another. Of course, I’m dismissing everything as rumour. But one thing is very sure: Very soon, they will so polarise the party this solid house Tinubu painstakingly built, over 16 years, would come crashing on all of them. And when it does, the bang would be louder than what we heard on March 28 (when Jonathan crashed) and April 11 (when the clay-footed deities that were his PDP governors came tumbling after him).

In fact, if this trend is not nipped in the bud right now, sooner or later, some people within the party would begin to question even the leadership and preeminence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Yes, they would begin to question why he should be the clearing house for everything and every appointment. The same people who did not complain, or question how Tinubu had, had to singlehandedly shoulder the enormous weight of sustaining a rag-tag opposition army and turning it into a formidable political force that has now seized power at the centre, would suddenly find their voice to challenge him now that, as the Yoruba would say, the food is done.

In fact, this is already happening. Only last week, I learnt that some two or three erstwhile allies of the Jagaban had begun clandestinely worming their way to Buhari through other contacts and desperately trying to keep the national leader out of the picture of what they’re doing. But that’s story for another day.

Back to the presidency of the Eighth Senate, I feel that rather than insisting of why Saraki should get it or why Goje, Abdullahi or Akume should not get it, the question every Nigerian (lawmaker or kingmaker) should be asking is: What should we be looking for in the next senate president?

We need a senate president, who can galvanise the various interests in the Senate (and the National Assembly in general) to achieve harmony and deliver on the APC promise of change. A senate president, who would not only help to achieve stability in the Senate and prevent a return of the legendary banana peels, but also help Buhari to stabilise his government. The next senate president should be a politician, technocrat, thinker, philosopher, visionary rolled in one. He has to be a true agent, not just because he’s chanting “Change… Change” and waving the Buhari name like a talisman.

We must not forget that some people sacrificed their own presidential ambition to ensure that the APC had the rancour-free primaries that produced the Buhari candidacy. Some others contributed immensely to knocking together the intellectual framework of the “Change manifesto”. Some were even the arrowheads of the nPDP that sounded the death knell for PDP, and dealt the ruling party that killer blow it never recovered from?

As the search gathers steam, over-bloated ego and selfishness must be made to take the back seat, to clear the way for national interest to take pre-eminence.

I don’t believe the question of religion has a place in this equation. If we’ve said it over and over that we do not mind a Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian ticket for presidential candidate and running mate, why must we begin to make a mountain out of a molehill over the faith of the president and senate president? Whoever complained that both Jonathan and David Mark were Christians? If the president and senate president were Christians in the outgoing administration, why can’t both be Muslims in the incoming regime? And, come to think of it, is the senate president a preserve of Christians and Speaker of the House reserved for Muslims?

But, jokes apart, how many of our politicians are genuine Christians or Muslims? Yes, we can score Buhari and Vice President-elect, Yemi Osinbajo, above average, but can we honestly score the others so generously? How come we are calling for balance and equity on religion, but are silent on other issues that equally need balancing – like, for instance, the fact that one of the front runners is from the same state as the outgoing senate president?

Truth is: Majority Party status apart, APC probably has the best candidates for presidency of the Eighth Senate. If merit, and not party affiliation, were to be used in picking the Senate president for the incoming senate, five, out of a shortlist of six prospects, would ordinarily be APC senators. The party, therefore, does not have to destroy itself, or dance naked in the market place, to produce one.

So, the APC should stop this desperation to inherit the curse of PDP. For the challenge ahead is more serious than just choosing a senate president, even when it is also clear that its choice of leadership for the National Assembly could be decisive on how the Buhari administration ultimately performs.

But the danger is; if APC does not play its card right and fair, the table could so turn that the few PDP senators in the chamber would end up determining who becomes APC president of the senate. In fact, if they play their card well, they could even snatch the presidency from APC. After all, anti-party balloting is not unheard of in APC, nor in the National Assembly for that matter. If you’re in doubt, ask PDP and Tambuwal.

Painfully, after the National Assembly war, the new ruling party is still going to face another war, as it tries to knock together a cabinet.

My fear is that the war ahead of APC, which is basically a battle over the sharing of the booty of electoral victory, may turn out to be deadlier than the battle to wrest power from PDP. I just don’t like the thought of it.

For sure, the battle to install the next Senate president reminds me of a local analogy I grew up with. It is the analogy of a polygamous family where the father and breadwinner suddenly died, interstate. That is what the post-2015 election scenario looks like.

Nigeria is now like a polygamous home where the father suddenly died interstate. APC, all children of the same mother, have battled the PDP, and other children of their mother’s rival wives and concubines. They have equally landed a chunky part of the late man’s estate. Now, it is time for these children of the same mom to fight an even bigger war, as they try to re-share their mother’s share of the estate. Oftentimes, the ensuing war turns out to be deadlier than the first fight with their half-siblings.

PDP as opposition party

A few days ago, I listened to PDP’s game-changer chairman – the same man who changed the ruling party in Nigeria to a whimpering opposition party – reassuring that the party would provide the needed opposition to Buhari’s presidency. In other words, that the PDP would do to the APC, exactly what the APC did while PDP was in power.

He would not be the first PDP chieftain to so  threaten. The likes of Doyin Okupe and Olisa Metuh had said similar things in different ways, with one of them, threatening to actually make things “ungovernable” for Buhari. It was a poor rehash of that infamous statement of the Buhari camp on losing the 2011 elections.

But I don’t think that threat should make Buhari or anybody in APC uncomfortable. The PDP does not have what it takes to bring that about. For one, they have not even gone to Lai Mohammed to take the crash course in opposition politicking, which Alhaji has so generously offered to give them.

Besides, having hounded out most of those who helped to found and fund the party when it was not in government (people like members of the G-13, Atiku Abubakar, Orji Kalu and many others) and pushed several others who helped deliver the votes to the party into APC, it would take a major re-engineering for PDP to continue to survive, let alone challenge anybody.

I think it was Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who once said that the only thing that held PDP together was the fact that it had government patronage to share. Now that they have shared all the money, everyone is bound to disperse.

So, where will the opposition now come from? Is it these same PDP people who were so greedy that they pocketed money released to them for their party’s campaign into their private pockets, that would now use their own private money to fund opposition politics? I dey laugh o!

They should go ask Tinubu, Atiku, Kalu what it takes to really fund party and politics without government purse.

My prediction is that by this time next year, many of those now threatening to give APC hell would be in APC. PDP would eventually be rebuilt by those from whom it was taken away by today’s political soldiers of fortune.

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Before we hang the South Africans Wed, 22 Apr 2015 00:37:51 +0000 I got my first hint of the discomfort South Africans have with fellow Africans about a year or two before the first major wave of xenophobic violence erupted in 2008. It was at a press conference with some of the artistes, taking part in that year’s Cape Town Jazz Festival.]]>

Frank Talk   

with Steve Nwosu



I got my first hint of the discomfort South Africans have with fellow Africans about a year or two before the first major wave of xenophobic violence erupted in 2008. It was at a press conference with some of the artistes, taking part in that year’s Cape Town Jazz Festival.

One of the artistes (I think it was Freddy Cole, brother of the late Nat King Cole and uncle of Nathalie Cole) was excitedly talking of how he’d never been to Africa and how that was his first visit. But one particular TV journalist from South Africa (a Black who insisted he was Coloured, whatever that means) kept interrupting him, just to correct him that he should not make a blanket reference to South Africa as ‘Africa’.

“We know we are in Africa; we have no problem with that but we like to be addressed as South Africa, so that people would know the difference,” he arrogantly tried to explain, when I took him up on the issue later. According to him, the blanket reference automatically lumps the country with places like…. (he would go on to actually name a couple of African countries).

So, what made him think a South African, who just emerged from the bondage of apartheid a few years earlier, and had yet to come to grips with the full import of freedom, was superior to a Malawian or Mozambican?

But that was not all the shock to South Africa. At the airport in Johannesburg, our traveling team of editors, a pilot and a medical doctor literally created a scene at the check-in counter when the officer, a Black lady, became so saucy. For no other reason than that we stayed beyond the one week that the immigrations people stamped on our passport on our arrival.

The truth was we had come for a nine-day programme and had a three-month multiple visa each. None of us noticed that the officer who stamped our passports on entry had unilaterally cut our stay to one week. It was only at the point of checking in that we noticed it.

Incidentally, the White colleague of this Black woman immediately saw the innocent oversight and waved us on. But the black lady would have none of it. According to her, that was how Nigerians were always coming in and refusing to leave. It was of little relevance to her that these Nigerians before her on that day were already on their way out of her country. You’d almost think she had an axe to grind with Nigerians. She would go ahead to impose the stipulated fine of 1000 Rands. Of course, we refused to pay, even when we had the money to pay. Each of us took turns to dress her down, reminding her of how we were too gainfully employed in our country to condescend to coming to take her job – and much less, the menial jobs she and her ilk though were available outside the airport.

Refusing to give her the joy of paying any fine to her in Johannesburg, I ended up paying the equivalent in Naira (then N20,000) at their embassy in Lagos, on my return. But that encounter, and the one at the press conference, has stuck to my memory. So, every time South Africa explodes in xenophobic violence, I’m never really surprised. It had always been simmering.

Ironically, however, this baseless,  blood-letting hate of fellow men is not about South Africa alone. It manifests in different shades across Africa, including Nigeria.

A few days ago, a reader sent a rather belated response to my article of two weeks ago; ‘Are the gods angry with Ndigbo’. It reads:

Some African countries do have them (possibly, a modification of  old comedy series Some Mothers Do Have Them)…. As it is with (Oba Rilwan) Akiolu, King of Lagos, on Igbo, “vote for Ambode or drown’, so it is with Goodwill Zwelithini, king of the Zulus in South Africa, on foreigners ‘to pack their bags and leave our jobs for us.’

What followed? Anxiety in Lagos, killings in Durban.

Reality dawns, and one king attempts feeble denials and calls for prayers while the other calls for an end to unrest. Too late; lives have already been lost.

How I wish someone told these ‘kings’ the limit of their powers (in modern societies)  and to bridle their royal tongues, as only good fathers do. -Dan Williams, Benin City, 08056066735

Although I have watered down the language of Williams’ reaction, a reaction that is definitely a fallout of the orgy of xenophobic violence now gripping South Africa, the meaning of his contribution is not lost on us. And that is that whatever is happening in South Africa today, could (and can) well happen right here in Nigeria.

It means that whatever inciting statement the Zulu king made that gave rise to this current violence, our leaders here have said worse things. It means that whatever violence, killing, maiming, looting and arson that is going on in Durban and its environs, our people here have done worse things. And have the capacity to do even more.

The only difference is that while the South Africans are targeting foreigners, we in Nigeria target ourselves, using ethnicity and religion to mark out our targets. But the brutality, the bestiality, the madness, the senselessness and the crude relish with which pain is unleashed on fellow humans are exactly the same.

Although I’m still watching the developments over a certain Dr. Adeniran Abraham Ariyo, the Dallas-based Nigerian cardiologist, who allegedly called for the same violence against Igbo (just to make sure that his is not a case of social media lynch mob, trying to hang an innocent man, after deliberately misrepresenting his exact words), I believe it is the same twisted mindset that makes neighbour turn against neighbour in Jos, Kaduna, Nasarawa, in Benue, Kogi, Cross River, Ebonyi, etc.

We can stretch it to include the Boko Haram madness, the Kenya university massacre as well as the recent events on the Europe-bound dinghy on the Mediterranean, where some African migrants ganged up along religion and language lines and threw about a dozen fellow migrants into the sea. That is also the reason some Nigerians can’t wait to have a go at South African interests in the country. Pray, how then are you different from those animals, killing and looting in Durban?

There seems to be this murderous South African envy in all of us. And we can’t sincerely sit in judgment of the Zulus and South Africans.

Nothing seems to drive this point home better than the responses I got to yet another article in the Franktalk column of last week, titled ‘The real Lagosians’, where I cautioned those fanning the embers of hate against the Igbo in Lagos, over their alleged voting pattern in the last general elections. It reads:

“I read your article ‘the real Lagosians’. You are politically ignorant and that is why your tribe can never produce a president in the next 100 years. The six states of the South-west belong to the Yoruba. There is nothing like Real Lagosians and non-Lagos Yoruba. Your people are ingrates. You should pack your load and head for South-east. Go and develop your area. Lagos belongs to the Yoruba. You want to come and lord it over the Yorubas in Lagos. In South-east, there are no elections. Results are written. There is plenty of violence and swearing at shrines. Then you idiots want to come and determine who governs Lagos.”

-Taiwo, 08022659928

And yet another…

“Lagos is the pride of the Yoruba people and it is the responsibility of the entire Yoruba race, spreading and extending to Kwara and Kogi states, to defend Lagos. When it is necessary, we shall do so”



As the Yoruba would ask: ki la gbe, ki le ju (what have we done to necessitate this harsh reaction)? Aren’t these over-reactions fueled more by deep-seated hate that is just looking for an excuse to explode?

Truth is: There is so much hate and bile smouldering inside all of us. While some would boil over on their own, others need just one careless statement from one leader (or even follower) to explode. We all seem to have lost touch with that little bit that separates man from the beast.


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The election (no, rigging) was very transparent Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:35:53 +0000 Unlike many people, I do not believe that the last general election was free and fair. It was only transparent. Yes! So transparent everyone could see the rigging. It was so transparent we all captured it with our cell phones. And we’ve since uploaded some of them to the Internet.]]>

Unlike many people, I do not believe that the last general election was free and fair. It was only transparent. Yes! So transparent everyone could see the rigging. It was so transparent we all captured it with our cell phones. And we’ve since uploaded some of them to the Internet.

From multiple thumb-printing (some, supervised by people who should blow the whistle) to underage voting, outright changing of final figures, intimidating supporters of our opponents, snatching of ballot boxes (wherever we were losing the ballot) and pouring the contents into the gutter, to deny our opponents the advantage, everything was thrown into the mix. PDP rigged, APC rigged. Even, little APGA was not left behind.

However, I am only angry that the rigging was not free and fair. While APC was very scientific about its own rigging, PDP was crude about it. That is why whatever happened in Rivers, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Abia (some of the few places it had the opportunity to ‘tweak’ things a bit) today, stick out like a sore thumb.

Because PDP had always got away with electoral blue murder, it had, since the last 16 years, failed to bring any finesse into its art of rigging. For the self-acclaimed biggest political party in Africa, it was always in-your-face kind of rigging, many of which it actually got away with, as the courts regularly threw out protestations on technical grounds, or lack of documentary evidence, or other such annoying high-sounding legal nonsense.

It has taken the opposition all of 16 years in the lurch, 12 years of Buhari persistence, nearly 17 years of persistent, lavish and selfless investment of money and material by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the emergence of a certain Prof. Attahiru Jega to finally come up with a formula to torpedo the PDP.

It was not a particularly good formula, but it worked – the height of its workability being that, for once, PDP was completely outrigged – bettered in its own game.

But, it would seem that even as we appear to know how the PDP was finally ousted, nearly every one of us is ready to pour out into the streets if anyone tries to upturn the outcome. That is why a certain Godspower Orubebe has now earned himself a place in the national hall of electoral infamy.

Indeed, Nigerians were tired of PDP and were willing to look the other way as the system was compromised. It was okay, so long as it was PDP that got the wrong end of the stick. They wanted PDP out, by whatever means possible.

And because, I can bet my bottom dollar (Naira), the PDP never prepared for what hit it, there was probably no arrangement to gather evidence to reverse some of its losses later on at the tribunals. For sure, a lot of pride went before this fall. It’s that thing our elders say about those the gods want to destroy and how they first make them mad. In fact, if any results would be reversed, it would probably be in places ‘won’ by the PDP.

But, not being a card-carrying member of the PDP, I cannot cry more than the bereaved. If the PDP had conceded defeat everywhere, who am I to insist that the process was warped? In fact, I’m sure that, as I’m busy writing rubbish now, those who actually lost the election are busy mopping up whatever is left in the treasury – in preparation for the ‘dry season’ that they would have to endure before they decamp to APC or worm their way into the new administration.

In fact, I had planned to do a detailed report on how and why the PDP lost this election, but a posting I stumbled upon on Facebook made me change my mind. It read:

“Big men who live in Lekki voted APC, you who live in FESTAC voted PDP, and when they asked you why, you said you were protesting Lekki Tollgate! Why are you drinking Alabukun for another person’s fever?”

In fact, I think I should leave PDP to either die or reinvent itself.

Our attention should shift to the APC, and keeping them on their toes, before they become another PDP. To begin with, many of the people who make APC tick today are PDP turncoats. It’s not unlikely that, like the leopard, they may not have changed their spots.

Let me start by reminding the APC that it has already won the election and should begin to deactivate from its ‘opposition mode’. Yes, the party still has till May 29 to savour its victory, but after that, the work starts. It can begin by demobilising its foot soldiers on the Internet, tone down the lies, the propaganda war and the vitriolic attack on PDP for now. It’s like kicking a dead horse.

I listened to a part of the press conference the president-elect had at the weekend and part of what I came away with, as he tried to address the issues of education and insecurity, was that he is still in battle mode. He went on and on about how corruption was so deep and how it was now Chad (of all countries) that was helping Nigeria fight Boko Haram. It has not fully dawned on him that he is now our president. If he does not come out of that mode soon, he might mount the saddle and begin to criticise the Federal Government, forgetting that he’s now the government.

But until the inauguration, and while we still look forward to a real election in 2019, let us put it on record that 2015 presented us with a most transparent rigging yet.

The real Lagosians

The elections are over and those of us in Lagos can now heave a sigh of relief, albeit temporarily. I say ‘temporarily’ because all manner of early and latter day visitors to Lagos are still shouting themselves hoarse over campaign issues.

Ideally, the apprehension over the governorship election should have died down, now that the candidate anointed by the Oba has won and the Igbo residents are still standing on dry land, instead of inside the lagoon.

That settled, isn’t it time we moved on, waving aside everything that transpired, in the build-up to the election, as part of the desperation for votes? Can’t we just take our feet off the hate-throttle and allow our mutual co-existence return to status quo before partisan politics?

Surely, there is no way we can determine which ballot paper was thumbprinted by Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa indigene or non-indigene, or even anti-APC members. But one thing is certain: APC’s Akinwunmi Ambode, who won the balloting, will govern over both the people who voted for him and those who voted for PDP, including Jimi Agbaje himself.

So, who are those still stoking the fire of Igbo votes, and no-man’s-land issue? Whoever said Lagos was a No man’s land? How come it is the non-indigenous Yoruba who keep reminding us that Lagos is a Yoruba land (as if it was ever in doubt)? How come the authentic Lagos indigenes are not nearly as vociferous? Of course, the tiger has no need to proclaim its tigeritude. How come, the social media space has been taken over by non-Lagos Yoruba (cunningly trying to allude to co-ownership of Lagos) and harebrained Igbo semi-illiterates (foolishly rationalising that their investments in Lagos should make them sons of the soil)?

So, if the owners of Lagos (irrespective of the Oba’s uncharacteristic outburst) are not contesting their heritage with anybody and if the constitution of the land has not taken away their patrimony, why would some people come from far (South-east and South-south) and near (Yorubaland) to kill themselves over Lagos? It reminds me of the Igbo parable of the two squirrels, which fought themselves to death over a palm fruit that belonged to a totally different owner.

Yes. No authentic Lagos indigene is involved in all this madness. True Lagosians don’t go about prospecting for war. That is why they say, ‘jeje l’omo Eko nlo’.

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Are the gods angry with Ndigbo? Wed, 08 Apr 2015 00:36:52 +0000 I signed off this column last week with a pledge to dedicate today’s piece to x-raying the task before president-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.]]>

Enter the Oba of Lagos…

I signed off this column last week with a pledge to dedicate today’s piece to x-raying the task before president-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. But it would seem the reverberations from penultimate week’s presidential elections just won’t go away in a hurry – what with the governorship and state assembly elections scheduled for this weekend and the Oba of Lagos, for instance, threatening fire and brimstone.
But before I get into all that, let me make one thing clear: Despite all the rabble about how the South-east has shot itself in the foot by blindly going with Jonathan and losing out, I am one of those who do not feel the zone made any mistake, let alone owe anybody any apologies for voting the way it did.
For me, this is the first time in my adult life that Ndigbo, who have never really been in charge at the centre, would not be in some alliance with the party at the centre. Even when they voted for Zik’s NPP in the Second Republic, they still cobbled out an alliance with the NPN at the centre. For the last 16 years, they have hobnobbed with the PDP at the centre, even when there were times they went with either APGA or PPA in a few states.
In all these, the lot of the zone had essentially remained the same; neglected. So, now that they have, more by default, elected to be in the opposition, why wouldn’t we let them be?
They say the Igbo have missed Senate presidency by not voting APC. Pray, where was this agreement reached before the election? Or is it just an after-thought?
Which of President, Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker or Deputy Speaker did the South- west hold in the last four years? Was the zone shut out of government? Is there any empirical proof to show that South-east, which had Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker benefitted more from the last four years of Jonathan than the South-west?
I buy the idea that it’s not good to put all your eggs in one basket, but if your eggs are very few, would it not make sense to concentrate everything in one basket and make an impact, rather than spreading yourself too thin across several baskets.
The South-east contributed less than three million of Jonathan’s over-12 million votes, why is it the Igbo votes that is suddenly of interest to everybody. The same bloc votes the South-east and South-south gave to Jonathan is what the North-west and North-east reproduced for Buhari, why is nobody worried about that? Or is it because Buhari has won? When he swept the core northern states in 2011 but failed to win the presidency, did anybody shut those states out of the centre?
Election is a gamble. The South-east lost its wager and has to live with it. But that does not make the zone brainless. Or that would mean that the over 12 million Nigerians, who voted for Jonathan are brainless and that only the about 15 million who went with Buhari have any brains. Well, that might be true, but it would also mean that over 40 per cent of Nigerians are senseless. Even if that were to be true, it would still be most apolitical for the other politically correct 5 per cent to dismiss these other foolish ones. That is the beginning of arrogance, a first step to political suicide. If you doubt me, ask PDP.
When did being in the opposition begin to translate to political foolishness? Has opposition not been the hallmark of South-west politics all these years? Did it mean that the South-west, even under Awolowo, UPN, etc. has been politically naive all these many years?
Yes, Jonathan was a popular choice with the South-east, but, as the days go bye and the election petition tribunals resume sitting, the reality of how the South-east really voted in the National Assembly election would unravel. For sure, it was not a PDP-all-the-way thing. But even if the results are upheld, it still does not demand that Ndigbo tender apology for not hopping on the APC train. That is definitely no reason for the gods (of politics) to be angry with Ndigbo – so angry that they now threaten to drown their kinsmen in Lagos.
Enter the Oba of Lagos…
One big tragedy of our country today is the depth of the gorges that have been carved into our body polity by money, religion and ethnicity. And from my standpoint, it seems nobody bears the brunt of this as much as columnists and public affairs commentators. Nothing they say or write is ever viewed from the point of the merit and demerit of the argument. It is either he/she is supporting his tribesman, fellow faithful of his faith or worse still, has been paid to push the view.
How do I mean? I followed everything my MD, Femi Adesina, had to say about Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the build-up to the presidential election – and disagreed with quite a few of them. But I never for once thought he was not writing from the position of conviction. But ask a few other people, and you’d hear how he was defending the interest of his Yoruba people. That one accusation just had to stick because they could not accuse Femi, a deacon of the Four Square Church, of trying to Islamise Nigeria.
I suffered a similar fate. Some readers would call me up and instead of addressing the issue raised in any piece, would rather come from the fact that your name makes you a Christian (not knowing when last I went to any church) or an irredentist Igbo (without knowing jack about my background). They would say my ethnic and religious biases were the only reasons I felt that Jonathan was better than Buhari.
Of course, it is also for this same reason that so many readers have been calling me from the South-east, imploring me to use my column to call the Oba of Lagos to order over his threat to the Igbo in Lagos ahead of this weekend’s governorship election in the state.
Well, I am sorry to disappoint you. I’m not qualified to call any Oba, let alone the Oba of Lagos, to order. That would amount to arrogating too much relevance to myself. Of course, my reluctance is not not just because I’m married to a wife whom the monarch can recall from my house whenever he so wishes, but that I have drunk enough Yoruba water to know that a king is the next thing to God. In fact, the term ‘Igba keji oosa’ literally translates to ‘deputy God’. The Yoruba don’t play ping-pong with their kings. Most of the kings in Yoruba land are not creations  of recent autonomous-community contraptions. Their stools go back centuries. They’re not always open to just every moneybag.

So, I beg to be excused from this errand to the king.

The best I can do is deliver, like a freeborn, this slave errand, which has been thrust upon me. And it goes like this…
For clearly selfish reasons, I have, at least, on two occasions, written in this column that while I was rooting for President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election, my vote in the Lagos governorship (if I had one) would go to Akinwunmi Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC). And I gave my reasons, which included that the last two administrations in the state had literally put its development on autopilot, and I did not want any PDP coming to rock the boat. I also said I was not comfortable with the characters around the party in Lagos. But then, I never failed to register the fact that I felt Jimi Agbaje comes across as more intelligent (and had a better delivery) than Ambode. I still feel Agbaje is a right man in a wrong party.
However, I am now reluctant to reinforce my support for the APC candidate, for no other reason than that people would misinterpret my position as having been informed by the threat issued at the weekend by the Olowo Eko, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, a man I have always admired for his frankness. He calls a spade by its name and carries himself with all the royal swag that goes with his throne. He refuses to be addressed as Kabiyesi, insisting that that title be reserved for God Almighty. He would make do with “Olowo Eko”.
But I’m sad that His Highness has thrown his very heavy weight into the political fray. Now, we his subjects are reluctant to talk as we wish or throw our small weights in whatever direction that catches our fancy. I’d wished His Majesty would operate from behind the scene, having made the first high-profile endorsement of Ambode nearly a year ago.
Now, I can’t imagine what would happen if, by any chance, Ambode fails to win. Mind you, I’m not worried about the lagoon bit. Let’s even assume that, true to the monarch’s threat (or is it curse?), all Igbo are drowned after voting Agbaje, that would still not nullify the mandate, and Oba Akiolu would still have to live with the prospect of a Gov. Agbaje. How then would they relate with each other?
Luckily, that’s still in the realm of fecund imagination.
Thankfully too, all the vassal Igbo monarchs in Lagos, who received the insult direct from source, were thoroughly cowed and left the venue with their tails literally tucked between their hind legs, but not before apologising (on behalf of Igbo in Lagos?) that the ‘mistake of March 28’ (voting for Jonathan instead of Buhari) would never repeat itself again.
But both the threat and the apology that followed can only mean one thing: That it was only the Igbo who voted for PDP in Lagos penultimate week. Bode George, Ogunlewe, Obanikoro, Agbaje and all the other Yoruba leaders and members of Lagos PDP all voted for Buhari. It was only the Igbo (stubborn he-goats, all of them) who voted for PDP and Jonathan. That is why they need to be reined in before they cause a bigger collateral damage this weekend. Yet, we live in a democracy. We’re preaching freedom of choice and change from the era of impunity. It reminds me of what Idi Amin was reported to have once said, when he was calling the shots in Uganda; that he could guarantee everybody freedom of speech, but that what he could not guarantee was freedom after speech.
So, dear Ndigbo Lagos, you are free to vote for any governorship candidate, as long as you’re voting Ambode. And, in case you’re still in the dark, the Lagos House of Assembly also has seats for APC butts only.
Now, if you were ever in doubt that the APC actually fears it might lose this weekend’s governorship election in Lagos State, then look no further than the reactions that have followed the outcome of the presidential election in the state. Yes, the party carried the day, but it appeared it had to sweat for every vote.
So, it’s either it was not only Igbo that voted PDP or there is a grand deceit about Lagos’ demographics that has gone on for too long, or both.
But, beyond all the posturing, name-calling and search for scapegoats elsewhere, the APC might have to look inwards if it genuinely desires to check the leakage that nearly cost it the presidential election in Lagos. For the Yoruba have a saying that the pest which ultimately destroys the leaf often dwells inside the leaf.
I know a Lagos local government, for instance, where nearly all the members of the immediate past council government (only one of them is not Yoruba, by the way) campaigned for the PDP, in protest against their chairman and the imposition of unpopular candidates on them by the APC leadership. I also know another local government where both the local police chief, the leadership of the local wing of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and the leadership of the residents association (all Yoruba) swore to teach the APC a lesson. Again, their grouse was the way the party leadership condoned the excesses of the council chairman it imposed on them, and turned a deaf ear to all their pleas for fair/humane treatment.
Rather than pick on non-Yoruba like myself, many of whom, by the way, never got their PVCs, the APC leadership might need to use the next two or three days to do a soul searching and also reach out to genuine Yoruba (and even Eguns), who are genuinely pissed off with the carryings-on in the party. APC, ronu!
All the same, I don’t think this royal gaffe should discourage Igbo, who want to vote Ambode from doing so.
As for me, any dispassionate person, who saw the foundation laid by Tinubu, and the structures Fashola has erected on that solid foundation, would definitely want to see the Lagos mega city project taken to the next level. That is what the Ambode candidacy is all about. I’m definitely on board with Ambode. And I don’t think this last-minute slip from the throne should make us, out of anger and ego, take a wrong decision this Saturday.

Re: Abia North Senatorial election

Last week, I got a call from someone who refused to introduce himself, but who went on the offensive as soon as I picked the call. He had read my take on “Presidential election: A postmortem” and had singled out the bit I said about Abia and the shenanigan that was going on over the result of the senatorial election there. His warped argument was that if I was commending President Jonathan for conceding defeat and accepting the result of the presidential election, why couldn’t I ask my ‘master’ (read that to mean Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State, who contested the said senatorial election on the platform of the PPA) to also accept the result from Abia North and congratulate the winner?
Which winner? Which result? I asked. But he would go on rambling about how Kalu was bent on keeping Abia in his pocket and on and on. I immediately knew where he was coming from. And because he had his mind made up, he never bothered to find out that the election result had not even been released nor a winner declared.
Till now, nearly two weeks after, that result has still not been released. Although a result written from Umuahia has been published, the INEC Returning Officer, Dr. Chigoziem Ihekweaba, whose responsibility it is to declare the result, has distanced himself from it. He said it was altered and did not reflect the actual result. In fact, he deposed to an affidavit to that effect.
Now, knowing Kalu, if he had lost that election fairly, he would be the first to congratulate the winner. For him, winning is not do-or-die, especially when Kalu was literally drafted into the race by the PPA and other supporters across party divide in the senatorial zone, who bought and submitted his form to INEC. He only went ahead because his name was already on the ballot and it was pointless pulling out.
Kalu would cease to be the political change agent he has turned out to be if he would simply sit back and watch an unpopular candidate write result and declare same as the authentic result of an election he participated in, without recourse to the actual vote tally. If the PDP did that all over the South-East, somebody had to stand up to the impunity, and Kalu has elected to do just that. to put a lie to the claim that the zone blindly voted for PDP across board.
He’s not desperate to be in the senate, he just wants the right thing to be done. He does not like being dictated to because he does not dictate to those he has power over.
On several occasions, in the build-up to the last presidential election, Kalu would read me and call to mock me that I was non-aligned, unlike Femi (Adesina). I would insist that I would pick Jonathan over Buhari, but that this did not stop me from pointing out the failings of the Jonathan administration. We would drag the matter back and forth until he would give in and say, “well, it’s your column, but read me (his Leadership Series) on Saturday”. And we would leave it at that. I would later learn that he occasionally engaged other writers on The Sun stable in similar arguments.
He would seize every opportunity to remind us that, that he was in PDP meant we must ensure the APC was not shut out of the paper. The only way I reconfirmed that we were successfully navigating that course of editorial balance was when my friends in the PDP called to protest we had ceded the paper to APC.
And because the average Nigerian politician would always seek a religious or ethnic answer to every nagging question, they put the blame on Femi Adesina. He was Yoruba, defending Yoruba interest. To them, it was even more painful that Femi was using a platform set up by an Igbo man to pursue this ethnic agenda.
It was, however, when they tried to sell this tale to Kalu that they discovered he was an Igbo with a difference.
If Kalu could go out of his way to ensure we fairly represented, and projected the APC in The Sun, despite his being in the PDP, he would be the first person to concede defeat in Abia North if the course of democracy and fair play has been served. But nobody should expect the fighter in Kalu to be blackmailed into giving up a mandate that has been freely given to him by his people, simply because the PDP has cooked up some figures.

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