The Sun News » FrankTalk - Voice of The Nation Tue, 07 Jul 2015 01:50:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘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.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 2
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.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
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.


]]> 0
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’.

]]> 0
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.

]]> 0
The presidential election: a postmortem Wed, 01 Apr 2015 00:14:19 +0000 It is Tuesday afternoon, as I try to write this piece. By now, it is clear where the presidential election is headed. Buhari was beating Jonathan drunk. Mercilessly.]]>

It is Tuesday afternoon, as I try to write this piece. By now, it is clear where the presidential election is headed. Buhari was beating Jonathan drunk. Mercilessly.

But it was a huge task trying to concentrate and gather my thoughts together. No thanks to my Managing Director, Femi Adesina, whose office is separated from mine by a thin wall and a door.

If you’ve ever heard Femi laugh, you’d understand what I mean. Because he has an open and free mind, whenever he’s happy or excited about anything, he laughs with his whole being. Loud and from the very bottom of his belly and his soul.

Long before March 28, he’d promised me that he would be magnanimous in victory (unlike me, who threw my weight behind Jonathan, Femi threw his much heavier weight behind Buhari’s person, body and soul). And as I walked into his office yesterday afternoon (just as the result from Kebbi was being announced), he restated that promise, gave me a high-five and went into another fit of body-wracking laughter. It was infectious, so I did not know when I joined in the laughter. We briefly reviewed the results so far released, concluded that Jonathan was a goner and there was no magic the PDP could perform to stop the impending Buhari/APC victory dance.

I reminded him of our agreement at the last management meeting: That he would fete us if Buhari won while Bolaji Tunji, Onuoha Ukeh and I would fete the meeting (on three consecutive Mondays) if Jonathan won.

So, I went to my office to write, but intermittently, one of Femi’s many readers would call to compare notes and the laughter would boom again. It was a huge task concentrating. From time to time, I would go peep into his office and we would burst out laughing again. Then I ask myself, why can’t our politicians also behave that way? Why can’t they laugh over this election, sincerely congratulate the winner and move on, knowing that in no distant time, four years would be up and we’ll have to do it again? My people say, if the game escapes the hunter today, tomorrow would be another hunting day.

Of course, it is easier to accept defeat if you’re convinced you lost fair and square, but then, that’s why we have the courts and the tribunals.

Moreover, if there was any rigging out of the PDP, by the APC, it was not done on March 28. That the PDP is raising the alarm now (especially through what Elder Godspower Orubebe tried to do yesterday), it shows how shallow, slow and reactionary, the intellectual backup in the PDP is.

Around November last year, a former top brass of INEC confided in some of us that Jega had already rigged the election for the APC some six months earlier with the voter registration exercise. Of course, I knew he knew what he was talking about, having himself participated in the rigging during the Obasanjo years. But I soon lost interest when he began to reduce the thing to ethnicity, region and religion.

I told him to take his tale to Jonathan and the PDP. And he said he already did. And what did the PDP do? Nothing!

But nearly six months down the line, Orubebe mounted the world stage, in Abuja, to accuse Jega and, in the process, disgracing all of us before television cameras.

As I write this, although I can’t place my finger on the specifics yet, I am convinced that all the parties tweaked things here and there. But while the APC had foresight and was scientific about its own tweaking (through front-loading), the PDP waited till the last day to scavenge for the crumbs that were left in the South East and South South. And because the PDP is always very crude in the way it does its own things (coming from a culture of devil-may-care impunity), its tweaking in Rivers State appears to have been so crass and obvious. But I guess, prof. Attahiru Jega (and, to a large extent, the APC) smartly allowed them to get away with it because it was not going to change the direction the results were headed. The painful side of it is that it now makes it look like Rotimi Amaechi is not popular in Rivers. But he is and, I dare say, has more following than Nyesom Wike.

What Orubebe (and, by extension, PDP) did is a typical case of resorting to violence and brute force (rofo-rofo) when you suddenly run out of ideas, or discover that your opponent is more intellectually equipped for the debate.

But nothing better captures the reason PDP lost this presidential election than what happened in Abia State, a traditional PDP state from where I was expecting about a million votes for Jonathan. Rather than mobilise for the president, the governor and his bunch of ‘Abia elders’ and hirelings were busy trying to discredit former governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who they know had the capacity to mobilise more votes for Jonathan than all of them put together. But Jonathan, through his wife (whose maternal roots are in Abia), went to bed with Governor T.A. Orji. The result was that all they could garner for him was a meager three hundred thousand votes.

And to further underscore that even that figure could not be vouched for, the PDP literally had to rob APGA of two senatorial seats, including the one wrested for the outgoing governor. As at the time of writing this piece, they have simply refused to release the result for Abia North senatorial district, where Kalu, who was forced to run on the ticket of PPA (and had just two weeks to campaign), is believed to have secured a resounding victory.

Yes, Jonathan lost because his PDP simply shut out the people with electoral value and settled for political Lilliputians, sycophants and yes-men instead. He was making war with people whom he should literally be licking their boots. There is no better way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That is what we mean when we say someone is the architect of his own downfall.

But we must thank the president for conceding defeat. If for nothing else, it has taken the wind off the sail of those who were spoiling for war and just waiting for Jonathan’s body language. The polity is too tense for the president to talk tough at this point in time. I know it does not mean that PDP and all those who turned Jonathan into an industry and feeding fat on him would not want the good times to continue. But, at least, they’ll now be compelled to go about it through constitutional means, that is, the courts. But, I’m not excited about any radical verdicts from the court. The same way PDP could not stop being outsmarted in the voting is the same way that it would not be able to put a good case together at the tribunals. But these are still early days yet.

But the questions remain: What really happened? What hit the PDP? How can we suddenly lose the comic relief of a certain Mama Peace, who told us that the PDP were not ‘propagandalists’? Did the Igbo and other non-indigenes (traditional Jonathan supporters) who registered in the North but fled to their villages for fear of violence, a few days to voting, have any effect on the president’s performance there? What about those who were denied collection of their PVCs? What about the underage voters, the mercenary voters from neighboring countries? How come some people were allowed to do manual accreditation while in other parts of the country, INEC insisted on the use of card readers until a few hours to the end of accreditation?

Did many PDP governors in the North do Jonathan in? Did those who did not decamp to the APC stay behind to sabotage his re-election from inside while they sent their supporters to the PDP? Or are the governors not really as strong as we ascribed powers to them? Or was the Buhari phenomenon such a huge mass movement (moving train) that no governor could dare oppose, or try to stop? Would the situation have been different if those northern PDP governors were seeking re-election? May be, the gubernatorial elections would make us understand better.

But if all these are true, then Jonathan deserves to lose, for using his own hands to pick the very people who worked against him (or could not deliver for him) while estranging those who could, and wanted to, work for him. Those he did not sacrifice (or used and dumped), his wife made sure he never saw eye-to-eye with.

The result is that the month of March, during which Jonathanians were supposed to march on Buhari (the postponement having put paid to FeBuhari in February) turned out to be a month for the General to trample on Jonathan and march to Aso Rock.

Well, Jonathan can take solace in the fact that he has made record, as the first Nigerian sitting president, who lost an election he contested in. Secondly, he can also take solace in the fact that he is not the only sitting president that is losing election. Nicholas Sarkozy is staging a comeback in France, upstaging Francois Hollande’s leftist party.

Meanwhile, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Team Buhari.

I have never been a Buhari supporter. Placed on a scale, I felt Jonathan understood the issues at stake better and had more to offer Nigeria than Buhari. Of course, I would have had a different disposition if APC had put forward the likes of Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Aminu Tambuwal or Raji Fashola as presidential candidate. Any of them would have served Nigeria better than Jonathan (and definitely, Buhari) if they had been put forward by the APC. Of course, that was politically naive of me. For I was not considering the fact that what was most paramount on the minds of the APC leaders was how to win the election first, and that only Buhari had the cult following to swing it for them.

Now that they have won the war, they must also move on to win the peace.

Of course, there’s a bright side to this trouncing Buhari gave to me and Jonathan: Now, my friends and I who have been on each other’s throat over this Jonathan/Buhari divide can go back to being what we’ve always been: Good friends. Is Barrister Hadiza listening?

Secondly, all my other friends in the Presidency and political high places, who had not been picking my calls all these days (maybe, because, it is not good to talk while you’re eating), can now begin to pick my calls again. So, for me, it’s a win-win situation.

It’s also a big win for Nigeria: Now, we have broken a jinx. Now, we know it is possible to throw out a government we are not happy with, even if it takes us all of 16 years (and not the 60 years we feared it would take). Now, we have also restored our right, as a country, to vote for any philandering, clueless rogue that catches our fancy (as our constitution permits us to), and to throw him out when we so desire. That is the beauty of democracy we have so far been denied.

But the biggest question for me is: How would PDP, out of power, carry on? Will it disintegrate? Can it constitute a formidable opposition party? Or will its subdued members crawl and creep into APC? I can’t shout.

Next week: The task before Buhari

Buhari as Nigeria’s Abraham Lincoln

Whether he wins the presidential election or not, General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the all Progressive Congress (APC) is no doubt Nigeria’s Abraham Lincoln because of the similarities he has with the 16th President of the United States (1861-65) which I doubt any other person in the world has with him. The first is that they are both former soldiers and army commanders who led troops to battles and are dogged politicians who keep on contesting elections after failed attempts. Buhari lost the presidential poll in 2003 but returned in 2007 and in 2011 and for this year’s.

From 1832 to 1864 Lincoln contested 14 elections, won seven and lost seven. He failed in the first one which was the 1832 election into the Illinois State Legislature but he made it into the Assembly in 1834 and was re-elected in 1836, 1838 and 1840 to have four back – back tenures. But while he was a member of the Assembly he lost an election in 1838 for the office of the Speaker of the House and was again defeated in the run for nomination into the United States Congress (House of Representatives) in 1843. But he succeeded in the 1846 poll but lost re-nomination in 1848 and was defeated in the election into the U.S Senate in 1854 and in his bid to be the Vice – Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 1856. He was also defeated during the election into the U.S Senate in 1858 before he was lucky to win the presidential poll in 1860 and re – election in 1864 for a second term which tragically ended five weeks after he was sworn-in in March 1865 when an actor named John Wilkes Booth who was against the abolition of the slave trade shot him at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington on April 14. He died the next day.

The similarities between Abraham Lincoln and Muhammadu Buhari go beyond their being courageous stalwarts in contesting elections after failed attempts. Their other parities include being 1.93 meters (about 6ft 3ins) tall, gaunt and stern-looking as well as being very brave soldiers when they served in the Army and incorruptible leaders resolutely committed to championing the cause of the poor and underprivileged members in the society. The two of them also have traumatic and shattering marriage and offspring death experiences

To be continued next week Wednesday 

]]> 1
Where are your party leaders’ children? Wed, 25 Mar 2015 01:24:05 +0000 This is one simple question I want every ordinary Nigerian going out to vote this Saturday to answer before leaving home.]]>

This is one simple question I want every ordinary Nigerian going out to vote this Saturday to answer before leaving home.

When was the last time, the son, daughter, wife, sister or brother of your party leader counted among the dead or the wounded in election fracas?

When was the last time a family member of your party leader’s got arrested at the Occupy Lagos rally? How many of them got burnt down with their huts during one of those wee hour raids of Fulani herdsmen? And when the Beroms, the Agatu or the Southern Zaria people decided to launch retaliatory attacks, how many of the kith and kin of the big men got hit?

If you answer these questions sincerely, it would then dawn on you that, irrespective of whether you support PDP or APC, the only business you have to do this weekend is to go, cast your vote (and, if you would), stay and watch the counting. After that, leave the rest to INEC, the candidates, their party leaderships and the courts. For even if INEC declares a result you strongly feel did not reflect how you voted, you would not get the commission to reverse itself by taking up arms. If they say monkeys and baboons would soak in blood, you’re neither monkey nor baboon, wait and see when the monkeys and baboons would emerge from the bush to bring this about. For if you raise a finger against your fellow Nigerian, you’ve automatically called yourself ‘monkey’ and ‘baboon’.

Clearly, some people have made up their minds not to accept any result that is not in their favour. Some want to blackmail the rest of us to vote one particular way, simply because they feel they have monopoly of violence (you’ll notice I did not mention APC or PDP) and would unleash mayhem on us if we did not vote for them. Some have told us that one particular candidate cannot win unless the election is rigged. They have threatened to resist that ‘rigging’ with the last drop of their blood. Now, that’s the recipe for war.

But the fact remains that not a single one of these war mongers, heating up the polity today can survive one good dirty slap without turning up at the emergency ward.

So, basically, all the noise they are making is in the hope that you and I (the common people) would be activated into riot mode, waiting for them to give the order, whenever it suits them, for us to go on rampage, killing ourselves and destroying whatever is left of our poor infrastructure – and, in the end, giving them the bargaining chips to go and negotiate with themselves, settle themselves and leave us to lick our wounds and bury our dead.

So, isn’t it time we let them deploy their children to fight this war, for once? After all, when they get to office, it is these same sons and wives and daughters and concubines, who end up cornering all the spoils of the office.

Only last night, as I tried in vain to get some sleep, my mind kept drifting off to what lies ahead of us this weekend. I kept painting scenarios of the morning after. What if Buhari does not win? What if Jonathan loses? Who would monitor the election in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa? Would they just sit somewhere and cook up results? What if some people insist on going to vote with their bombs?

I would  get so scared that I would intermittently interrupt my thoughts to say a prayer for the country. There is no denying the fact, there is still tension in the land. And much of it is attributable to what the politicians have said, what they have failed to say, and their general body language.

But as I tossed from one corner of my bed to another, I ran a mental check on the families of all the key politicians, who are calling the shots today, heating up the polity and threatening fire and brimstone if the result did not go their way.

Virtually all of them have their families abroad. Their children are all in choice schools in Europe, America and Dubai and South Africa. They only come home to pick up party tickets to run for offices (after their fathers have used our heads to break coconut and clear the way for them). And in the event that they are unpopular (as they always are), it is still those of us here that their fathers would still use to rig the election for them.

And their politician fathers, who stay behind in the country to cause problems have one leg in the country and one leg outside the country. All of them have valid multiple visas on their passports (that is if they all don’t have diplomatic passports). They drive bulletproof vehicles and live in fortified fortresses.

So, even if the violence they daily toy with finally erupts and claims as much as five million lives, there is absolutely no chance that they, or any of their children, would fall victim. But that is just by the way.

Depending on what side of the political divide one is, the last six weeks must have been the longest or shortest six weeks ever. While the PDP wished each week could drag to nine days, the APC wished six weeks could be compressed in to six days.

Now, we’re less tagn 72 hours to March 28. Yes, in a twinkle of the eye, the six weeks, which seemed so long a time has suddenly flown past.

Of course, I would not be saying the whole truth if I fail to acknowledge that the postponement appears to have favoured the PDP more than it did the APC. I would be lying if I fail to recognise the fact that while the APC machine, which seemed to have been primed for February 14 lost steam with the postponement, the PDP train suddenly found its rhythm, gathered momentum and is set now to finish very strongly – stronger than would have been the case if we had gone ahead with the initial February 14 date of the presidential election.

So, was this the real reason for the postponement (and not necessarily the security reasons earlier advanced)? My answer is yes and no. If the ruling party felt that it was heading for an electoral humiliation, it had every right to do all that is constitutional to save itself. Fortunately for it, the shift did not breach any law.

However, I am one of those who believe the postponement was necessary, but not because of insecurity alone. Because, even now that we’ve improved on the security situation in the North East, we still do not have any guarantees for the affected areas in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa.

Rather than security, I was convinced that, irrespective of Prof. Attahiru Jega’s posturing, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not ready for election. I was convinced INEC was on the verge of cooking up figures, forcing same down our throat and never minding the post-election consequences.

Today, six weeks after, I feel the electoral commission is now ready to an acceptable level. Although I still could not get my PVC, I feel many more people have now got theirs and we have also used the intervening period to draw attention to the anomaly and injustice that Jega seemed determined impose on us all on February 14.

Now, even when one is not satisfied with what is on ground, at least, one is consoled that the abracadabra has been reduced to a level we can comprehend a little bit. Whatever is left, we can always take to the courts and election tribunals after the election – since it is now very clear that we would end up in court, irrespective of where the victory pendulum swings.

My only prayer is that we restrict our protestations to the courts and not take them to the streets. That is also the worry of President Barack Obama and the rest of the world. That we never lose sight of the fact that we all still need Nigeria after this election.

Of course, the logical question every reader would now be asking is, where do I stand or who do I think would win. Well, several weeks ago, I argued that President Jonathan would take it by a narrow margin, but all the Buharists came after me, saying my conclusion did not tally with my analysis. So, I am reluctant to say that anybody would win, except to put on record that I have not seen any reason to change my conclusions of several weeks back.

Only last week, I had the opportunity of listening to Buhari in detail. It was the interactive session he had with ‘artisans’ in Lagos. I was listening on my car radio, as I was caught up in an end-time traffic gridlock.

Suffice it to say that I was not impressed with the outing. Buhari seems to have one answer for every question. He found a way of linking everything to corruption and insecurity. He would say: Question six is related to Question one, and he would go on to repeat what he answered for Question one. Everything from the economy to security, agriculture, National Assembly, foreign policy, health and education was reduced into a vague answer of security and corruption.

For someone like me who has since concluded that Buhari is only articulate when he’s on BBC Hausa Service (where he thinks in his mother tongue and delivers with an overdose of emotion and narrow sentiments), the outing in Lagos last week only confirmed that the things he does not understand about running a country are more than the things he understands.

I get this feeling that his handlers have coached him on what to say in public and he has learnt it by rote, and tries not to step out of line.

The few times he has tried to speak off the cuff had always landed them in embarrassing situations, like when he promised to stabilise crude oil prices and lately when he talked about bringing down the exchange rate to one naira to the dollar. Left on his own, he would also talk about retrieving and nationalising privatised public companies.

For me, Buhari’s lack of content is what we are wrongly describing as arrogance. He is not arrogant. He just does not know. He carries on as though his brain was frozen in 1983. That is why Godswill Akpabio and his PDP governors are complaining about the age of Buhari’s ideas.

Of course, the saving grace is that, as president, Buhari would have a lot of smart people around him. But that is the snag: Why punish us with the choice of Buhari when APC could simply have given us one of these its many smart people to run against Jonathan?

How Pension Reforms will count for Jonathan

By Ibrahim Sule

Pension remains a key governance issue, as governments around the world provide for pension schemes to cater for the welfare of workers, who have retired due to old age, attainment of mandatory years of service, downsize of workforce, injury or sickness.

On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Pension Reform Bill into law. That singular presidential signature, which ushered in the Pension Reform Act, PRA 2014 signaled Jonathan’s fulfillment of his promise to make life better for Nigerian workers, pensioners and their families as well as fight corruption in Nigeria’s pension administration.

It would be recalled that the nation witnessed a huge public outcry sometime in 2013 over alleged missing N24 billion Police Pension Fund, the same Police Pension Office where the Senate probe revealed mismanagement of about N273.9 billion all due to lapses in the old PRA. Atiku Tigo, a former Director in Police Pension Office, pleaded guilty in a whoopping N32.8 billion fraud.

The corruption, sharp practices, and maladministration in the old pension system resulted in irregular and, in many cases, non-payment of pensions, thus bringing untold hardships on pensioners. It was in the wake of all those that President Jonathan vowed to sanitise and reposition the pension system, which resulted in PRA 2014.

All over the world, many countries, political parties and citizens make pension administration and reform an election issue. According to a report by the US Institutional Investors, entitled: Pension Roundup: Winners and Losers, from the 2014 Election, “pensions proved to be electoral issues, either directly or indirectly, in a number of States and municipalities across the US.” For instance, Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, who successfully championed pension reforms while she was Treasurer of Rhode Island, resulting in the 2012 passage of the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act, won the governorship election on the basis of the pension reform, defeating Republican’s Allan Fung and Progressive’s Bob Healey. In Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, a Democrat and former businessman, defeated Tom Corbett, a Republican Governor, who failed to get pension reform through the legislature. Also, in Illinois, the Republican Bruce Rauner, who defeated Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, had promised to be more aggressive on pension matters than Quinn.

This trend of supporting pension reformers is not only in the US, but has happened in so many other countries across the globe. The reason is not far-fetched. Pension impacts on the nation’s economy and the livelihoods of citizens, workers and their families. In fact, one analyst described pension as “a budget-for-life” for serving and retired workers.

But it can only serve that purpose when things work well. On the plight of pensioners, an outraged Senate President wondered, as a nation, we could “say confidently that we have given our best to those who have served this country meritoriously”, describing the situation as “a blot on our national conscience”.

He added: “Every day, we hear of mind-boggling stories in the management of pension fund; how administrators of the fund are among the richest people in the country. If their wealth is from the pension fund, then, it is blood money. You cannot take away the entitlement of the old man and woman, who is looking up to the nation, believing that he or she will be rewarded for his labour and somebody believes he can feed fat on such money, you cannot live in peace.

“These people, the administrators, stealing pension funds, can never live in peace because the prayers of these old men and women, who have diligently served the country, will haunt them and their children’s children.”

War Against Corruption:

Although misinterpreted by a section of political interests, President Jonathan had declared that the nation could not successfully fight corruption by mere dramatised arrests and araignments that hardly get anywhere due to the entrenched corruption and interests in the courts or by sending people to 100 years imprisonment, but by denying looters access to public funds in the first place. But, informed analysts have posited that Pension Reform is one area President Goodluck has practically proved his critics wrong.

One instance that lends credence to President Jonathan’s view on how not to fight corruption is the case of N32.8 billion Police Pension Funds where John Yakubu Yusuf, a former Assistant Director in the Federal Civil Service, who pleaded guilty to fraudulently converting N2 billion of pension funds to private use, got a paltry two-year jail term (maximum penalty for the offence) or an option of N250, 000 fine. The implication of the ruling is that Mr. Yusuf would be retaining about N1.6 billion after paying the fine and losing the N325 million property traced to him. The ruling generated public outcry and Nigerians described it as a mere “handshake” that would encourage corruption and looting of public funds. This was possible because of the loopholes in our laws and our ailing criminal justice system.  Thus, in Nigeria, stolen monies are hardly ever recovered and the thieves hardly get commensurate and deterrent punishment.

No Longer Business as Usual

The Restructured System of Administration of Pensions under the Defined Benefits Scheme (PTAD): (Sections 42 – 49

The establishment of the Pension Transition Arrangement Department (PTAD) for the administration of pensions for pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) was aimed to end the era of impunity, tampering with pension funds and other instances of widespread corruption in various pension departments. PTAD will ensure greater efficiency and accountability in the administration and payment of pensions under the DBS as payment of pensions would be made by the Accountant-General of the Federation directly into pensioner’s bank accounts. PTADs portend solution to the outright embezzlement and national disgrace witnessed on various occasions in the system. The problem is corruption. If corruption could be numbed in the fertilizer dispensing scheme under the agricultural reform programme, why not in the contributory pension scheme? What these pensioners want is to have access to their pension and Jonathan administration has set that in motion.

Reacting to the signing into law of the PRA 2014, the Federal Universities Pensioners Association (FUPA) said that the proper establishment of the PTADs “has finally freed suffering pensioners from the heavy yokes of untimely death and massive hardship brought upon us by the various Pension Departments through acts of corruption and sharp practices. It is the shortest possible journey between us and our money”.

Offences and Penalties:

Another anti-corruption measure introduced in the new Pension Act by the Jonathan administration is the creation of new offences and provisions for stiffer penalties that will serve as deterrent against the mismanagement or diversion of pension funds and assets under any guise or the infractions on pension law.

The penalties provided under the old Pension Reform Act, 2004 did not serve as deterrents against breach of the law. Consequently, the new Act criminalizes attempt to commit an offence and imposes the same penalty as the offence.

Penalties for Misappropriation have been increased such that operators who mismanage pension funds will be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment and a fine equal three times the appropriated amount. A convicted person would refund the amount appropriated while also forfeiting to the federal government any property, asset or fund with accrued interest or the proceeds of any unlawful activity under this Act in his/her possession, custody or control.

The Pension Act also criminalizes any reimbursement or payment by a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) or Pension Fund Custodian (PFC) to a staff, officer or director upon whom a fine has been imposed under the Act. The penalty prescribed for this is a minimum of N5 million. Additionally and with particular reference to PFCs, the Act imposes a penalty of at least N10 million, upon conviction, where the PFC fails to hold the funds to the exclusive preserve of the PFA and PenCom or where it applies the funds to meet its own financial obligations (in the case of a Director, N5 million or a term of 5 years imprisonment or both).

Under the Act, jurisdiction is vested in a Court of ‘competent jurisdiction’ which includes the Federal and State High Courts including the High Court of the FCT as well as the National Industrial Court. The court is also empowered to lift the veil of incorporation where necessary to ensure speedy and just determination of any case before it.

Other innovative reforms introduced in the new Act by the Jonathan Administration include:

Institution of Criminal Proceedings against Employers for Persistent Refusal to Remit Pension Contributions:

The 2014 Act empowers PenCom, subject to the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation, to institute criminal proceedings against employers who constantly fail, neglect and or refuse to deduct/remit pension contributions of their employees within the stipulated time. This laudable provision was not in the 2004 Act.

Corrective Actions on Failing Licensed Operators:

The PRA 2004 only provides for the revocation of licences of erring pension but does not provide for other interim remedial measures that may be taken by PenCom to resolve identified challenges in licenced operators. The Pension Reform Act, 2014 now empowers PenCom to take prompt corrective actions on failing licensed operators who by their acts of omission or commission jeopardize pension assets. This provision guards pension assets against mismanagement and/or systemic risks.

Enhanced Coverage of the CPS and Informal Sector Participation:

The minimum number of employees was reduced from five (5) to three (3) in order to expand opportunities for private sector participation and to capture wider number of employees in the informal sector.

Utilization of Pension Funds for National Development:

The reforms in the new Act also provides for the creation of additional permissible investment instruments to accommodate initiatives for national development, such as investment in the real sector, including infrastructure, real estate development while at the same time ensuring the safety of pension fund assets.

Upward Review of Minimum Rate of Pension Contribution:

PRA 2014 review upwards the minimum rate of monthly contribution from 15% to 18%. Whereas 8% will be contributed by the employee, 10% will be contributed by the employer. The implication is that workers will have more funds in their Retirement Savings Account and increased monthly pension benefits at retirement.

Access to Benefits in the Event of Job Loss:

In the event of job loss, employees will now have a waiting period of four (4) months to access their benefits instead of six (6) months. The new Act makes provision for a situation where an employee who disengages from employment or is disengaged from service before the age of 50 years, and is unable to secure employment within four(4) months, is allowed to make withdrawals from the account although not exceeding 25% of the total amount credited to the retirement savings account.

These are in addition to so many other innovative reforms. In fact, the Pension Reform Act actualised by President Jonathan administration has been described by pension stakeholders, industry watchers, and the international community as a pro-people policy and a revolution against corruption. It has also been described as a great tool for economic recovery and national development.

As the 2015 Presidential Election approaches, therefore, many believe that President Jonathan will rake in massive votes and supports from teeming millions of Nigerian workers, pensioners, Pension Associations, pension operators, Nigerian Students and several other key stakeholders. They would do so because one good term deserves another and is a sure guarantee that the thieves who had blocked such reforms in the past did not find their ways back to upturn the great milestones achieved in pension reforms by this administration. President Goodluck Jonathan re-election, many argue, is the surer way to sustain the reforms and guarantee pension security for Nigerian workers and pensioners.

]]> 2
Season of anomie Wed, 18 Mar 2015 04:07:27 +0000 These are indeed strange times. For a lot of strange things are happening.]]>

These are indeed strange times. For a lot of strange things are happening.

And I’m not talking about the successful penile transplant in far away South Africa (at least, we can now give added push to the proposal that rapists be made to donate their instruments to those who’ll use them with more discretion).

I’m also not talking about the decomposing corpse that dropped out of the wheel well of a New York-bound Arik airplane, after spending four days in there and going to America and coming back. No.

I’m not even talking about how the politicians are all exposing plots of how their opponents are plotting to assassinate them: How Jonathan wants to kill Tinubu, how Akpabio wants to kidnap Buhari, how Amaechi wants to kill Wike and how Wike and Dame Patience have sent killers after Dakuku. No!

I’m not even worried that, with less than two weeks to our general elections, and despite reassurances from the highest possible quarters, not a few people are still unconvinced that there won’t be another shift in date. I’m even less alarmed that a ruling party that has threatened to govern for 60 years (in the first instance) is now so scared of going for elections barely 16 years down the road. Neither am I curious that an opposition party, which has never won at the centre, has awarded itself victory even before the first vote is cast, and is threatening all of us not to declare a different result.

Rather, I’m worried about a certain Attahiru Jega. Or, better still, I’m scared on his behalf – since he seems to have lost the capacity so see beyond the surface.

In the part of the country where I come from, conventional wisdom has it that when you wake up in the morning and an otherwise harmless fowl begins to pursue you, the wisest thing to do is to, first of of all, run for safety. For that fowl may have developed teeth overnight.

It is this fowl analogy that readily comes to my mind as the seeming theatre of the absurd continues to unravel ahead of next week’s general elections. Of course, a lot of it is targeted in the direction of the electoral umpire and its under-fire headship. However, unlike the proverbial wise man and his charging fowl, the electoral umpire is (or is acting) unperturbed.

In fact, there is this confidence (or is it defiance?) that Prof. Attahiru Jega and his Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) exude that scares me. Despite the fact that everyone is apprehensive ahead of next week’s elections, Jega and INEC seem to carry on as though all is well.

Listening to the INEC chairman on Monday, at the town hall meeting at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, I came away with one conclusion, it’s either those of us outside INEC are too agitated over nothing, or Jega is too blind to see what we’re all seeing, or he knows something we do not know. Or, worst still, he has his mind made up on who would win what seat come March 28 and April 11.

So, when we complain about not getting our PVCs, he reels out across-the-states the percentages of those who have collected (putting it at above 80% nationwide) and reminds us that INEC does not have to deliver all PVCs before we can vote, or before an election can be adjudged free, fair and credible.

When we ask the INEC men to go beyond the percentages and look closer, to see if some people have not collected other people’s PVC and warehoused them for sinister purposes, they insist that it is illegal to collect PVC by proxy, that whoever does it would be made to face the music. But the truth remains that this law forbidding collection by proxy has not stopped it happening, even as INEC plays the proverbial ostrich and is waiting for the beneficiaries ( or victims) to come and make formal reports and file complaints appropriately. Even when one person (from Rivers State), who actually sighted his PVC at some point was later told that the card could no longer be found, Jega did not take up the case as a case study. Instead he queried the man for not making a formal report.

When we tell them that politicians are buying up the remaining PVCs that their thugs could not snatch at gunpoint, the INEC bosses say the stolen PVCs can’t be used; that they are useless to whoever steals them. They never take a moment to ponder on why the theft persists, despite INEC’s conviction that the cards are useless to the thieves. They also presume that the objective of stealing other people’s PVCs is always (and only) to use such cards to vote. Has it not occurred to anybody at INEC that there could be other uses? Or is multiple voting the only form of rigging that exists? As a politician, is it not possible that you hijack and withhold the cards of those who don’t support you? So that even if they can’t vote for you, they won’t also be able to vote against you? But Jega and company are not looking in that direction. They have their minds fixated on the old rigging system of stuffing the ballot boxes. They don’t know that as INEC is developing new technologies to  check rigging, so also are the politicians and their ICT whiz kids devising new ways of compromising the technology and circumventing it. Today, when politicians perfect a technology to jam the card readers and make them ineffective, it is not always to give them more votes through the back door. It could well be to rubbish and discredit the process and create the rationale for discarding whatever result it produces. But Jega is not looking in that direction.

We tell Jega that there is a groundswell of opposition to his remaining in office to conduct the election, and he dismisses everything with a wave of the hand. He says he’s not under pressure to resign. Yet, MASSOB, who, by the way, are not supposed to be Nigerians (and, therefore, should not give a hoot about how we rule or ruin our country), are the ones now calling for Jega to resign. And just as we were still trying to digest the MASSOB interest, their Yoruba counterparts, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) joined in the macabre dance. They too, want Jega to go.

Of course, neither the MASSOB nor OPC is working for Jonathan. It is just that pro-Jonathan elements have a way of turning up at these curious demonstrations.

Very soon, I’m sure, we will hear that the ACF (or even the stillborn Arewa Peoples Congress) has split and that one faction is also carrying placards seeking Jega’s ouster. Strange things are indeed happening!

And that is why I’m discomfited by Jega’s smug confidence. I hope we would all not have been taken for a ride before we realise what hit us on the morning after March 28. I’m really really scared

But then, there are still a few things to cheer about. If the PDP and the APC have run out of new stories to tell us, the same cannot be said of Mama Peace, our very own irrepressible First Lady, Dame Patience. She has kept up with her own rallies and, from Benue to Ekiti, through Edo and Akwa Ibom, she has continued to provide us with the much needed comic relief, irrespective of what the eggheads at ICC think. They can come back later to educate her on what their too many books say about hate campaigns and incitement. For now, there is an election that must be won, and the Dame is determined to win it.

She has continued to rub in the issue of Buhari’s age – at one point, telling the aged mother of Gov. Ayo Fayose to go pick a presidential nomination form, since it was now clear that every party is bringing out its old men and women to stand for election.

And while we were still choking on the morbid humour, she suddenly turned prayer warrior. “Fayose, I will not bring food for you in prison… Holy Ghost… Fire! We will not take food to our husbands in prison… Holy Ghost … Fire!” It was her comical way of telling the people that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari would throw people into detention if elected president. And then, she would punctuate her talk with a song and matronly dance steps. Of course, she does not need another speaker at the rally. If you allotted three hours for speeches, she can take up the entire three hours, singing, dancing, praying, cursing, just anything that catches her fancy.

In another breath, our digital Mama Peace would dismiss Buhari as “analogue”, reminding the 73-year-old APC candidate that we are no longer using “taparata”(read that as typewriter). As we say in Lagos motor parks, ‘idea is there’.

Yes, you might accuse her of murdering grammar, inventing ‘new Englishes” or even thinking in her mother tongue and imposing the thoughts on the English language, but she’s giving us the much needed soapbox that is lacking in both PDP and APC. Whoever does not like her style can go bring his own wife. After all, Buhari too is married and Osinbajo has a wife too.

]]> 1
Now, the real campaign issues… Wed, 11 Mar 2015 00:20:30 +0000 I must confess, I am among those who have been clamouring for issue-based campaign. For a moment, it sounded like a most intelligent thing to demand of the politicians and their parties, ahead of the general elections billed for later this month and next month.]]>

I must confess, I am among those who have been clamouring for issue-based campaign. For a moment, it sounded like a most intelligent thing to demand of the politicians and their parties, ahead of the general elections billed for later this month and next month.

But, sometime last week, I began to ask myself: What issues are really there for us to discuss? What with the parties practically the same in terms of ideology. Or is it not true that politicians shuffle freely between the parties?

Painfully, all we have been getting is campaign of hate, religion, ethnicity and character assassination. There was little about the real issues that I originally felt should determine how we vote on March 28 and April 11. Issues of Corruption, power, insecurity, the economy, etc.

I expected that while the PDP would be campaigning on its achievements, the APC would be riding on promises and what its star governors have achieved as well. But it would seem it is only PDP that is telling us what it is doing to arrest the general slide in the country and what it will continue to do if reelected to the presidency, the APC is just telling us how the economy and everything has gone down south, without telling us how it’s going to fix it. For it is no longer enough to say we’re going to fix it. And if you ask them how, they would refer you to their manifesto. They forget that experience has shown Nigerians that we need more than just a nicely worded manifesto to fix Nigeria. Even the PDP too has a manifesto. Today, I can’t vouch that even Jonathan knows where his own copy is, or that he has opened the booklet in the last six years.

But then, are the manifestos not really the same?  Are they not offshoots of the same document, which Bola Ige (God bless his soul) authored for both the PDP and APP in 1998? In fact, I suspect the APC manifesto might be an adaptation of the PDP version brought by decampees. Yes, APC, according to Gov. Sule Lamido of Jigawa, is populated by frustrated people from PDP – “dregs of PDP”, he called them. But what he did not know is that in the part of the country where some of us come from, we cherish ‘dregs’, especially when it has to do with fresh palm wine. It is a special part reserved for men, who are still very active in the baby making industry.

But jokes apart, I have since come to accept that this campaign might never rise beyond the present stage it is in – focusing on personalities rather than issues. The reason for this is simple: The personalities are the issue for now – more like that L’etat est moi setting.

But then, we have taken the personality smear debate beyond the ordinary. We have now entered the season of documentaries. It is a new innovation that has been brought into the electioneering.

This is the season of documentaries – or better still, sting documentaries. Political opponents are literally churning out alternate CVs for some of our otherwise respected leaders. Leaders who, instead of sitting on their butts as dowager queens and be revered as such, decided to throw their hats into the political ring. And because, they’ve thrown themselves into the fray, all manner of stamping rascals have gone to dig up wart and murk – warts which we had previously papered over, with false skins, in our desperation to preserve the reputation of some of past and present leaders.

Yes, we had to cover their secrets in order to still have leaders. That is what obtains in a country, like ours, in dire need of genuine heroes. Everyone of those we look up to seems to have a rotten secret. But we’d conveniently overlooked the rot and still propped them up – that we might still have people to look up to. That is why we still defer to such characters as Obasanjo. We know, they are nowhere near the ideal, but as we usually say in the beer parlour, ‘when the desired is not available, the available becomes the desired’.

But, increasingly, these few remaining leaders (many of whom are actually clay-footed deities in the rain) are now the subject of public ridicule – for no other reason than that elections are around the corner and they just happen to be fraternising with the ‘wrong’ party.

Suddenly, all manner of documentaries are surfacing. And almost all of them are aimed at rubbishing whatever these leaders thought they had, by way of reputation. Of course, the ultimate goal is to hurt them electorally  – and, by extension, cost their party the election.

The ‘detractors’, in so doing, have produced documentaries that have entertained, educated, miseducated, informed and misinformed us, all at the same time.

But my take in all this is simple: There is nothing truthful the documentaries on Buhari, Tinubu and, lately, Peter Obi said that we did not know already. The ones we did not know, we had enough reason to suspect before now. But we have never had the proof. Secondly, there is nothing in the documentary on Tinubu, for instance, that cannot be done on every past and present governor or president. And I know that they know we know. But this is the home stretch of the race, the injury time, and everyone is throwing in everything.

But, like I was saying, if the PDP, which is in government, and which has the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau at its beck and call, knew all these, how come it had refused to arraign anybody? Why did it keep all this, just to use them to blackmail opponents on the eve of general elections? After the election is won and lost, would the PDP still prosecute anybody, assuming it wins at the centre again? Would this documentary have gone on air if Tinubu agreed to do deal with PDP to back Jonathan? Does this not go to confirm the allegation that there has never been any anti-corruption war going on? Not under Obasanjo, not under Jonathan or Yar’Adua. Has this not confirmed our worst fears; that our governments look the other way when they see clear cases of corruption perpetrated by politically corrupt public officers? That they only go after those politicians, who fall out with them?

One proverb I have used over and again in this column again comes handy, and that is: Our traditional societies usually have no issues with the children born out of wedlock (some cultures harshly call them bastards). It is only when such children begin to abuse other people’s fathers that we now ask them to show us their own fathers.

Because the APC people had made corruption stick, like a second skin, to Jonathan and his administration – and were actually on the verge of winning an election based on that, that the PDP has now dug deep into the pit of hell to throw up things we would rather forget (including many unsubstantiated lies). The aim is clear: Show Nigerians that Buhari and APC are just as rotten as Jonathan and the PDP are said to be (if not worse). So, who says the politicians are not addressing issues? They are. They just addressed the issue of corruption. The only problem is that they address the issues from the standpoint of personalities.

They have also addressed the issue of security. Yes, while the APC tells us how Jonathan is clueless about how to deal with insurgency and general insecurity, the PDP tells us about how Buhari, who served in the Abacha regime as PTF chairman, failed to say anything about the bombings and the mass murders that went on during the regime. The PDP is also quick to remind us that the states worst affected  by this insurgency are states controlled by the APC.

And then they shifted to the economy, which seems to still lie prostrate despite all the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s ‘co-ordinating’. They point to the fallen Naira, the dwindling foreign reserve, the rising debt profile, the widespread poverty and hunger in the land. Now, that’s enough to cost any government reelection. But, guess what, the PDP loudmouths are still irrepressible. Only yesterday, Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Obong Godswill Akpabio, fired a response. Reading from a recent human index report, Akpabio revealed that Zamfara and Yobe were ranked as the two poorest states in the country. He said the reason for this is that those two states are the ones that have never experienced a PDP state government since the current democratic dispensation started in 1999.

Of course, the governors also brought with them the ministers of Agriculture and Power, who confirmed that power supply is actually at the best it has ever been since 1999. Ditto for food sufficiency. Of course, it does not matter that we see most of these only in graphs and charts and PowerPoint presentations, and never really get to see the real thing. The important thing is that they are engaging us on those issues now. It is now for APC to tell us how they’ll do it differently, and better.

Simply put, nothing the documentaries said about Buhari (on whose case they went unprofessionally personal), Tinubu or Peter Obi was said for any altruistic reason. The aim was not to serve any public good. It was purely for the selfish interest of those behind the documentaries. It was specifically to make us vote against Buhari, Tinubu, Peter Obi and the party they represent.

That is why I still can’t understand the bit on Peter Obi, especially, if we insist Jonathan’s people are behind the documentaries.

]]> 0
Beyond the next election Wed, 04 Mar 2015 01:15:09 +0000 Unlike me, I wrote this piece very late yesterday. The reason was simple: I was blank. I kept scratching my head for a topic that would not border directly on the general elections - nothing on Jonathan, Buhari, Tinubu, the hate ]]>

Unlike me, I wrote this piece very late yesterday. The reason was simple: I was blank. I kept scratching my head for a topic that would not border directly on the general elections – nothing on Jonathan, Buhari, Tinubu, the hate campaigns, the repulsive TV documentaries, the barefaced lies, the mudslinging, the sick minds who want to determine the course of our nation, and all that.

I finally decided to address the issue of lack of data in the country and how this has meant that we are unable to plan anything in this country. We have a ministry of planning, which pretends to be planning when the basic thing we need to plan – reliable census figure – is lacking. Everyday, the Debt Management Office, the central bank, the Ministry of Health and other MDAs push out all manner of voodoo statistics based on faulty premise. We tell whoever cares to listen that we have a population of between 160 and 170 million, yet there is nothing on the ground to suggest that we have actually hit 100 million. Every census is is done with a déjà vu disposition. We work round a criminal ratio of 52 per cent for the North and 48 per cent for the South (a dubious arrangement foisted by a self-serving colonial government) and begin to tweak everything else to correspond with that predetermined position.

Every attempt to question this arrangement or know what the truth really is, is usually frustrated and violently opposed. That is why we would never known the religious spread of our population. That is why we would never know that the Ijaw are no longer a minority ethnic group; that the Ijaw are actually more than, at least, one of the three major tribes. That is why we would never know if there are more women in this country than men. That is why we continue to look foolish before the civilised world, as the only country in the entire world where the hinterland is more populated than the coastal areas. That is why we are doing everything to justify that more people would come out in a war-torn state to collect PVCs than a state at peace.

And because we do not have the relevant data, we are trapped in a situation whereby our football, our civil service and all are bursting at the seams with age cheats.

That is why people who went to school when their age mates were going to school suddenly turn up at public office, a few years later, with documents confirming they’re a whopping 10 years younger than their primary school classmates. The result? You see a great grandfather, bent over by age, still in the same civil service with his grandchildren and insisting he isn’t 60 yet. Long after he’s past his prime, he is still a Perm. Sec, blocking the chances of younger Nigerians and forcing them to retire even while he (the great grandfather is still in service).

The most laughable of this age cheating was the one I witnessed in the Eagles camp. There was this particular attacker whom Osaze Odemwingie used to respectfully address as ‘Bros’, but the truth was, going by the information on the data page of their international passports, Osaze was older than this ‘bros’ by one year. They call it ‘football age’. That is why someone who went to school in a North-western Nigerian school in 1960 would turn up in 2015 with a certificate from Katsina State that was created more than 30 years later, and insist that we have no right to ask questions unless we are religious jingoistic, ethno-regional champions or outright card-carrying partisans. But like I said, I’m struggling to steer clear of politics.

However, there seems to be no running away from it. Everywhere you look, it’s the same thing. If it’s not Fayose wishing Buhari dead, then, it’s APC wishing Fani-Kayode the same. But they both insist they’re misunderstood, that it is the rest of us who are not discerning enough to tell an insult when we see one. Yes, while Fayose says he’s not wishing Buhari death (even when he puts a coffin right under the General’s picture), but only pointing out the truth and puncturing the many lies of the APC, the APC, on the other hand, says it is not wishing Fani-Kayode ill-health (despite its allusion to substance abuse and rehab), but is only worried about the state of his mental health, having since concluded that it is only a sick, warped and jejune mind that can fabricate the incredulous allegations coming out of mouth of the spokesperson of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation. Well, from my little understanding of the Yoruba language, I know that insults are more impactful when couched in symbolic royal pronouns of respect and reverence.

Of course, I don’t know who to believe in all these. To me, all politicians lie. In fact, a friend once told me that the only time politicians tell the truth is when they’re calling each other thieves and liars.

But while they are at it, I intend to use the next two days to give a final push for my PVC. I’ve still not collected it. This time around, I’ll go with my international passport, just to get the INEC people, many of whom work like robots without the capacity to think, to search for my name in their system. Yes, the directive says I should produce my TVC to collect the PVC, but in a situation where I have lost the TVC, can’t the system allow me collect my PVC if I properly identify myself? Or is INEC just satisfied with dishing out figures of PVCs, which the owners have refused to come forward to collect? Even if the price I have to pay for losing my TVC is that I’m disenfranchised for the next election, shouldn’t I, at least, know where I stand? Whether or not my name is in their computer? Or are they waiting for me to register again, so they can accuse me of double registration – which can amount to an electoral offence?

Between APGA and Peter Obi

And talking about sickening documentaries, who paid for that one that ran on Peter Obi on one of the local television stations on Monday? What was that supposed to achieve?

What is the big deal about Obi saying he will never leave APGA and then leaving? Which politician hasn’t said unprintable things about one party (or opponent) in the afternoon and ended up in bed with the same opponent at twilight?

In fact, every time this issue comes up, my mind goes to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is the PDP candidate for next month’s governorship election in Adamawa. Forget what Ribadu said about ACN governors, when he was at the EFCC, or what he said about the PDP when he crossed over to the same ACN (and later, APC) or what he is saying about the APC now that he’s back to PDP. What really left me dazed was what Ribadu (who my mischievous Yoruba friends call ‘Ribadun’ – bribe is sweet) said penultimate week in reaction to former President Obasanjo’s public shredding of his PDP membership card. Stopping just short of saying OBJ was the most corrupt leader Nigeria ever had, the former EFCC czar said OBJ was also very good at covering his tracks. Now, this was the same Ribadu, who issued a formal certificate to Obasanjo, declaring him corruption-free. A clean bill of health. Hmmm, How time changes everything!

Since Peter Obi left office, his only political preoccupation has been the reelection of President Goodluck Jonathan. But the same people who refused to give him his due in APGA and literally pushed him out are the ones still demonising him for leaving. Haba! How can you possibly beat a child and still insist he must not cry? Or as my people would say: How come it is the same person who felled a tree in the bush that suddenly ran out to the road to lead the search for the culprit?

Now, if the APGA Obi left to join PDP is also on board this Jonathan re-election project, what point does it hope to score by going all out to discredit Obi, who happens to be a major face of the Jonathan re-election drive in the South-east and who is not contesting any election? What is APGA’s agenda? Or is the desperation to diminish the stature of Obi more important than the claim to support Jonathan?

Of course, this in-team fighting has been the bane of the Jonathan/PDP campaign this time around. People who should be working together for a common goal are being blinded by narrow interests. We’ve seen it in Bauchi State, where the fear of FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, has literally driven Governor Isa Yuguda up the wall. That is why hoodlums would be procured to throw missiles at the presidential rally. The insult was meant for the minister but it was on Jonathan’s face that the soot was ultimately rubbed. Yet, this was a purely PDP-on-PDP skirmish. In Bayelsa, Gov. Henry Seriake Dickson is daily being distracted from the job of delivering the state to Jonathan and PDP by none other than the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who does not want to work with the governor.

Having made it clear that she does not want the governor reelected next year, Mrs. Jonathan has literally split the PDP in Bayelsa, making it so very difficult to now deliver even the president’s home base. It is also this same interference that has put the otherwise massive PDP votes that usually come from Rivers State in serious jeopardy.

We have also seen this trend in Abia where the fear of Orji Kalu is making Gov. T.A. Orji and his hirelings willing to deny Jonathan hundreds of thousands of votes, because those votes would mean working with Kalu. The same scenario is also about to play out in the governorship election where it is now very clear that only crude rigging and outright manipulation of the final figures can return PDP in Abia. We’re now seeing it in Anambra where the APGA establishment that is supposed to be working for Jonathan is busy eroding the very base that would deliver the votes to the president.

The sum total of all this is: If the PDP loses the next presidential election, it would not necessarily be as a result of anything that the APC did or because Jonathan has not performed in the last four years. Rather, it would because the president’s team dedicatedly worked against itself. That is why I’m alarmed at what is coming out of Anambra.

]]> 0
Re: OBJ’s swan song Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:49:42 +0000 Re: OBJ’s swan song I am very proud of you and your incisive article on OBJ. I will say keep it up. My Igbo idiom says a man who went to fetch firewood full of ants should not complain when lizards invade his homestead. OBJ has lost his statesmanship for his stupid action. ]]>

Re: OBJ’s swan song

I am very proud of you and your incisive article on OBJ. I will say keep it up. My Igbo idiom says a man who went to fetch firewood full of ants should not complain when lizards invade his homestead. OBJ has lost his statesmanship for his stupid action.

- Chike Ndefo

Obasanjo will stop pontificating the day journalists start ignoring him. Who knows Obasanjo more than his children? When Gbenga and Iyabo came out smoking and throwing dangerous darts in their father’s direction, which of his other numerous children came out to defend him?

The man is sick, forget about his preaching against corruption, his antagonistic attitude towards Jonathan, his moral sermons and holier-than-thou show off – I doubt if he even knows the number of children he sired.

Clinical psychologists should come out with a name for this ailment so that his family will seek help for him.

- Chief Celestine Ukauwa,

Steve, my dear, I read you as usual yesterday, primarily to have some laughter session. O yes, but for the freedom President Jonathan gave you people, you know where you’ll be by now. I prayed for you  because the bitter truth is often persecuted. Self-centred politicians, who enjoyed President Goodluck’s humility and largesse in PDP often turn into Fr. Tansi immediately light overcomes them. They often run away from light. How I wish Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and his likes will break their principles and flock with birds of similar plumage. They are in prison now.

Rose Obioma Aniagoh, Onitsha, 08073927583

“Will former President Adams Oshiomhole tear his NLC membership card” in the public? The action of Mr. Obasanjo shows to all Nigerians the mindset of those we entrust as leaders. A public display of madness.   -08064661217

Mr. Nwosu, you had a whole backpage of a national newspaper to write, but you wasted it abusing Obasanjo for exercising his right of association. Man, leave that level and raise the standard of discussion. Some of your readers are more serious minded people, if I may remind you. - Aiyekoto, 08070603524

Obasanjo: What happened?


By Ikedi Ohakim,

An avalanche of criticism has continued to trail the recent drama at the Abeokuta Hill Top home of President Olusegun Obasanjo (Baba). I am referring to Baba’s instruction to his ward chairman of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to publicly tear his (Baba’s) membership card into pieces before television cameras. Baba may have over dramatised the matter but we must look beyond that drama and see what happened as a wake-up call for an objective appraisal of how the party arrived at such an unenviable situation and what is required to urgently address it. That incident, therefore, offers a unique opportunity for sober reflection. Unfortunately, what matters to most critics was how to show the public that they could individually or collectively get even with Obasanjo

Every era has its own metaphors. The Abeokuta saga reminds me of the touchy story of Scipio Africanus, which I read in a book I picked from a bookstore at the JF Kennedy International Airport during one of my trips recently on account of its rather long title: “Hannibal and me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure”, by Andreas Kluth.

Scipio, a military strategist by his mid-thirties, vanquished the invincible, subdued Rome’s deadliest enemy, conquered Spain and Africa and won Rome’s struggle against Carthage, thus becoming the single greatest Roman who had ever lived.

As usual, his road to success drew a lot of enemies. People were determined to take him down by any means. A very grievous allegation of corruption was leveled against him. As his brother, Asiaticus, stood before his accusers in the Senate and held up the war campaign account books to defend him, Scipio got up, took the paper out of his brother’s hands, tore them to pieces and threw them on the floor. He wanted to show that this sort of forensic bean-counting in that political context and at his age was beneath him.

Scipio could not in his wildest imagination comprehend the bitterness and pettiness of a few envious senators, their refusal to see the big picture and to sympathise with the large, indeed epic vision for Rome to which he (Scipio) dedicated his entire life. He became depressed and his cavalier nature notwithstanding, yielded to bitterness.

Whether anybody likes it or not, what happened at the Hill Top country home of the former president of Nigeria is a sad commentary on the party. Worse is that many saw it coming because Baba was unmistaken in demonstrating that he was getting more and more irritated over the affairs of the party by the day. Unfortunately, many of the critics were unable to make a distinction between his criticism of the President Jonathan administration, which is a topic for another day, and the fact that the PDP, which he presided over for eight years, is now a shadow of its old self. Like Scipio, Baba might have become depressed and yielded to bitterness.

For a father to tear the birth certificate of his son out of frustration is not a good omen. It does not happen for nothing. More than 50 per cent of the current crop of Nigeria’s political elite, including this writer, is an offspring of the political dispensation shepherded by Baba. We may be justified to feel embarrassed or even get angry but at the end, it is our duty to find out and x-ray why he became so mad that he had to destroy the very evidence of his patriarchal link with us. Rather than vilify him, shouldn’t we reflect deeply and act now that the water is still at the ankle level? Unfortunately, because it has to do with an Olusegun Obasanjo over whom many Nigerians are fixated, it does appear that this wonderful opportunity may be lost.

The Abeokuta drama is no doubt a culmination of the former president’s aversion to the goings-on in the party. Even the least discerning fellow saw it coming. Anybody familiar with the way things are done of recent in the PDP would know that Baba must have exhausted every avenue to get the party leadership to listen to him. He must have been greatly pained seeing the party cascading down, to the extent that some of its officials felt unrestrained in making utterances that do not edify it. For example, a top official of the party recently said on a national television that the PDP hitherto was a party where, to paraphrase him, the monkey works but the baboon chops; but that under the new dispensation, “monkey go work and monkey go chop”. Such a cheap and pedestrian characterisation of a party that presides over the affairs of Africa’s greatest nation is nauseating.

Frankly speaking, it is hard to expect people of the standing of Olusegun Obasanjo to still knowingly remain part of such a mundane conceptualisation probably directed at his era. It is doubtful if any leader of Chief Obasanjo’s clout and temperament would not succumb to the temptation of throwing in the towel after witnessing what went on within the party during the last primary elections, for example. Baba may be condemned because he dramatised the tearing of his PDP membership card before television cameras but who is sure of the number of members of the party who have also torn their membership cards in the secrecy of their bed rooms, following monumental leadership flaws in the conduct of the December 2014 primaries which has been adjudged the worst in the history of the party. The story has been the same; from the Wadata Plaza, the national headquarters of the party, to the 36 state secretariats.

The first shocker was that in place of a properly constituted electoral panel that should have had on board seasoned party officials, the NWC brought in all sorts of people, including young ladies who had lost their jobs elsewhere but who were patronized by male officials who saw an opportunity to compensate them. For the first time in the history of the party, no appeal panel sat to hear complaints that arose from the conduct and outcome of the governorship primary elections in the whole Southeast. Although the NWC came up with the strange arrangement of constituting itself unto an appeal panel, members were not there. They deserted their offices immediately after the primaries, some to their respective states where they sought to install candidates of their own choices; others jetted abroad.

In spite of the barrage of petitions, not a single one was looked into, leaving aggrieved complainants with no option but to resort to the courts or walk away into the waiting hands of the opposition. The consequences of that are, of course, obvious. For all those states where there are court cases, hanging over the authenticity of the outcome of the primary elections and the candidates who purportedly emerged therefrom, the party has become quite vulnerable. Campaigns are going on quite alright in these states but they are more of road shows, covering territories rather than covering voters. In some states, especially in the Southeast, even some party members have decided to pitch camp with rival parties in the wake of the confusion and acrimony that followed the December 8, 2014 governorship primaries.

But, perhaps, the ugliest consequence of the shoddy handling of the state primaries is on the presidential fortunes of the party. It needs no exaggeration to state that the PDP’s presidential expectations got significantly vitiated following the primaries at the state level. The reason is simple.

The acrimony that ensued has polarised party leaders, who should have ordinarily been working together to sell the party’s presidential candidate to the electorate.

Taking the argument further, this type of scenario is as a result of the failure of the leadership of the party to come up with a better post primary election management strategy. The experience of leaders like Obasanjo should have been deployed to handle and resolve the issues. For example, the wonderful reconciliation committee, which toured all the zones before the commencement of the primaries should have been immediately redeployed after the primaries to embark on reconciliation. This did not happen, especially in the South-east and South-south where President Jonathan dominates.

The overall result is that we have a situation where states in which President Jonathan had over 90 per cent of the votes in 2011 can hardly boast of 60 per cent of that now. Take a state like Imo. Before the party primaries, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the PDP would retake the state. But today, even the most optimistic observer would not beat his or her chest on that. For many, however, it was a big illusion, after all. They did not share in such an optimism because they saw nothing on ground to show that the party was ready to fix the damage it inflicted on itself in 2011, by sabotaging the re-election of an incumbent governor. Today, it is common knowledge that even though I was the target of that internal sabotage, I am not the only victim at the end of the day. The party is also.

Contrary to popular belief, the opposition got impetus for its virulent attacks on President Jonathan mostly from what analysts refer to as the perfidy of the leadership of the PDP, as epitomised by its National Working Committee. Apart from internal sabotage which some key members of the committee have been suspected complicit in, it manifests a level of ineptitude never known in the history of party administration in the entire country. Up till this moment, some observers still marvel at how a ruling party, in Africa’s most affluent and boisterous country, could afford to lose five of its governors in one single swoop. Events since after the exit of the erstwhile chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, show that the issues that led to the exit of the governors were fundamental and not entirely dependent on Tukur’s leadership style. Agreed, more governors did not leave after Tukur’s exit but the national assembly witnessed the exit of legislators on a scale that dealt a more devastating blow on the party than perhaps that of the governors.

Needless to say, the party’s fortunes have continued to diminish even after the exit of Tukur because what led to the squabbles with the governors was not addressed. Instead, the party leadership allowed the matter to be drowned in the ecstasy of change, erroneously couched in the slogan, “Game Changer”. But if there has been any change since the coming of Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, who bears that sobriquet, it is certainly not a positive one. Instead, we have today a party, which has been in power for 16 years, gasping for breath.

Contrary to what is generally believed, the reason is not because of the fabled case of corruption or insecurity or bad economy. These are issues, no doubt, but the opposition found them more handy because the leadership of our party, the PDP, did not know how to get even with the main opposition. The strategy of the main opposition party, the APC, was simple. It showed Nigerians that it was possible to conduct rancor-free primaries. Today, there are little or no litigations in the party over the outcome of its primaries at all levels.

I am aware that I may be criticized for going public with these observations when, in my capacity as a former governor, I have the reach to make them privately. That is the crux of the matter. Do I, or several others of my caliber, really have the reach? And to whom? As I noted in an earlier outing, I petitioned the party over the conduct of the governorship primaries in my state but up to this moment, nobody has said anything to me. There is every reason to believe that my petition may have been regarded as an inferior item on the menu of the NWC. If I could be so treated with hobbesian indifference, it is only a wonder what could have been the fate of several other people who are not as privileged as I am.

Honestly, I consider it a duty to use my position to draw attention to the plight of the silent majority who Baba’s drama may embolden and also draw the attention of the party leadership that history beckons. Time is running out. In a head to head competitive political environment, precision and timing is key. More important, I belong to a section of the country, Igbo land, whose people are republican and who prefers that rules, regulations, laws and constitutions are followed and obeyed. It is under such environment that we thrive most.

One of the biggest issues raised against the PDP is that it has proved itself incapable of obeying its own rules, regulations and even constitution. The quagmire it is facing in some states today since after the governorship primaries is precisely as a result of this. It is preposterous that the party leadership has refused to heed the Supreme Court, warning in the case of Uzodinma v. Izunaso (No.2) (2011) 17 NWLR (Part 1275) per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC: That “the courts will never allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. Political parties must obey their own constitution, and once this is done, there would be orderliness, and this would be good for politics and the country”.The Adamu Mu’azu’s NWC must carefully listen to the sound of the pieces of Baba’s membership card as they tumble down on the floor lifeless.

So, is all hope lost? Certainly not. In politics, one day can reverse a fortune. Five weeks before the presidential election is long enough for our great party, the PDP, to reverse its fortune for the better. Baba shredded his membership card quite alright but there are still blank cards to write his name on once the correct things are done and I trust that Baba will accept it with his usual disarming smiles. Ditto for those who might have torn their own membership cards in the privacy of their homes. To get Baba and others to reverse themselves is a critical leadership challenge staring Adamu Mu’azu’s NWC in the face. This is the time for the real game changing.


-Ohakim is a former governor of Imo State

]]> 2
OBJ’s swan song Wed, 18 Feb 2015 00:28:37 +0000 I am in a dilemma. And my dilemma is similar to that of the proverbial medicine man who wants to stop making poisonous concoctions but would not be left alone by those desperate to taste his poisons.]]>

I am in a dilemma. And my dilemma is similar to that of the proverbial medicine man who wants to stop making poisonous concoctions but would not be left alone by those desperate to taste his poisons.

It is a sign of the times.

So, try, as much as I did, I still could not retrain myself from doing yet another political commentary this week. It is, indeed, a sign of the times. My people say you cannot afford to kill the herbalist who fortifies you while the enemies who want you dead are up and about.

With so much happening on an hourly basis in our polity, it is almost impossible to talk anything else besides the general elections and the politicking around it. While our military men are paying the supreme price in one part of Borno trying to beat the six- week deadline to secure the state ahead of next month’s election, Gen. Buhari is drawing an indescribable crowd to a rally in another part of town. Yes, the same town which the PDP campaign train had to hurry away from, following speculations of a looming bomb attack. There’s no dull moment!

If it’s not about the dubious readiness for election, which INEC claimed (even when it was clear that not all the manpower/expertise needed for the exercise had been primed for the purpose and that the distribution of permanent voters card had left much to be desired), then it was the curious confidence exuded by the opposition party and the go-ahead it gave for the polls to go on as scheduled. Ordinarily, it is the opposition that should be raising alarm over the shabby preparation for the elections, but it does not seem to be too interested. It is carrying on as though it already knows the result (which is obviously favourable) and is not really interested in the process that would deliver that predetermined result. If this were to be under the supervision of a certain Prof. Maurice Iwu, we would by now be shouting, ‘wuruwuru to the answer!’.

And while all these were going on, a certain Olusegun Obasanjo, who feels he (and his interests) should always be the issue, suddenly saw the attention shifting away from him. So, he decided to do something radical. He went to run his mouth in Kenya, and then returned home to put the icing on the cake; he called a press conference to publicly tear his membership card of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

But he was smart enough to hang the responsibility on somebody else’s neck.

How do I mean? I’ve taken time to watch the video clip of the Abokuta drama over and over again. I noticed that before OBJ handed the card over to the ward chairman, Alhaji Usman Oladunjoye, he had barely restrained from doing the tearing himself. As the small crowd of cronies sang and swayed to songs in mockery of the PDP, the former president could be seen fiddling with the edge, and middle groove, of the two-leaf cardboard paper membership card. He managed to sway through the songs, and finally handed the card to the ward chairman, whom he told, in Yoruba, to shred the card to pieces.

The chairman did not need any further prompting. He gleefully went about the ‘unpresidential’ order like some one under a hypnotic spell. Like some dog thrown a fresh bone by its master.

The last time I saw that level of excitement in an old man was in a Yoruba movie I watched a few weeks ago. In that film, an evil old man whom the youths had surrounded and were about to lynch suddenly chanted a few incantations and in a calm voice, asked the young men to begin to fight themselves. The young men suddenly left the old man and descended on one another with their cudgels and machetes. Of course, it was the power of hypnosis at work. And when they had fought themselves to just one man standing, the old man then ordered that last man to begin to undress himself. And, pronto, the man so commanded began to strip naked, with this incomprehensible toothy grin permanently plastered on his face. But he was no longer in control of his mental faculties. It was the beginning of full blown madness.

I thought the guy who acted the lunatic role over-did it a bit. At some point, it looked so unreal. I felt it could never happen in real life. But I was wrong. After watching Alhaji Oladunjoye tore OBJ’s PDP membership card last Monday, with that unmissable sheepish grin, I now know that whoever wrote the script of that Yoruba movie was at the top of his game. On point!

But since this piece is not about the PDP ward chairman, and since those who later expelled Obasanjo from the PDP did not recognize the role played by Oladunjoye, I will let the poor man be.

However, I must add that OBJ did what he was legally allowed to do, if he was no longer interested in rollicking with his thieving colleagues in the PDP: return the card to the party, since the card is legally a property of the PDP. And who else should he return it to but his ward chairman?

In the future, if OBJ changes his mind and wants to return to PDP, he can always claim he returned his card to the party, as the law demanded. That it was the party chairman in the ward who destroyed the card. That way, OBJ would not be blamed for what happened at his Hilltop residence last Monday. It would not matter that he actually ordered Oladunjoye to do the tearing. After all, if he had asked the ward chairman to put his fingers in burning fire, would he have done so? And with that much excitement?

For now, however, it would seem that on this OBJ saga, PDP’s loss is APC’s gain. But I must not fail to warn the APC: you just embraced a poisoned chalice. Just pray the effect of the poison does not begin to manifest before March 28. As our elders say, the polygamous home only experiences peace and tranquility because the illegitimate child has yet to come of age.

Secondly, let me also remind Gen. Obasanjo that ‘elder statesmanship’ is not commandeered. It is earned. We, the people, choose whom to so rever. Much as age has something to do with it, it is not every old man out there that qualifies as an elder statesman, even if he spent all his working years in public service. Even among Obasanjo’s Yoruba people, there is a clear-cut difference between “Agba” and “Agbaya”.

This, definitely, is the last act of a fading force. A swan song.

But listening to Obasanjo, you’d think he dropped unto these shores from outer space just last weekend. You’d be pinching yourself: is this the same Obasanjo who was party to three national robberies passed on to us, hapless Nigerians, as presidential elections? Is it not in comparison to those elections conducted by Obasanjo that the rest of the sane world now adjudge the 2011 presidential election conducted by Jonathan the best the country has seen since the return of democracy in 1999? Is this not the same Obasanjo of the third term infamy? If there are two areas in which Obasanjo has no moral right to call anybody to order in this country, it is in the area of corruption and transparent elections – mind you, we’re trying to elect, not ‘capture’. This was the same Obasanjo who told us not to deceive ourselves by saying election is not do-and-die, because it actually is.

Today, out of power (and increasingly losing relevance), he has suddenly become St. Obasanjo.

But, like they say, one of the easiest jobs to do is being a critic, especially a government critic. There is always plenty to disparage those in government about, especially, when you’re determined never to see anything good in the government.

But it becomes a different kettle of fish if the table were to turn. The harshest critics usually make the worst administrators. In government, the most passionate of them make transform into the most odious dictators from the belly of hell.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the APC and the push to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan. Rather, I’m talking about the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

First, they tried to form and run a party, but a handful of PDP decampees came into the party and hijacked it from them. The politicians used the Labour platform to achieve their respective ambitions and dumped it soon after. Today, nobody is in doubt that, like APGA, the Labour Party (LP) has become a fall-back platform for those outmaneuvered in the two big parties to attempt to resurrect their dreams of elective office. Win or lose, they invariably return to their original parties after the election.

But that’s not really my grouse with the labour leaders. Watching how delegates of the NLC turned the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua into a boxing ring, last week, I could only come to one conclusion: Democracy is easier yapped about than practised ( the same way Obasanjo is blabbing about it today, but could not practise it in all of his eight years in power as civilian president).

Who could believe that the same labour leaders who posture all over the place as standard bearers of democracy, equity, justice and good governance – the labour leaders who talk down on us and our politicians, are just as base as the rest of us? They proved that we had, all along, been wasting our time going to recruit thugs from the motor parks, when we could simply have invited one or two labour unions, and they’d do a better job of the thuggery business (even while dressed in the best French suits and speaking Queen’s English).

And they proved just that, last week, as they reduced the national congress, where they were billed to elect a new president, into a free for all.

The aborted election had all the trappings (and shenanigans) of APC and PDP combined. There we’re decampments, last-minute stepdowns, allegations of manipulation of voters register and fake ballot papers. As with the politicians and INEC, some candidate’s names were also missing on the ballot papers. Of course, religion and ethnicity also came into play. They also threw chairs and snatched ballot boxes. The only thing that was missing was a few gunshots (and, maybe, a few improvised explosive devices, to add the Boko Haram flavour).

But, at the end, they, like their politician kindred spirits, they managed to contrive a constitutional crisis, out of an otherwise straightforward exercise. Abdulwahab Omar, whose tenure has now elapsed, was unable to hold an election, let alone, impose a successor. Now, NLC is comatose, without a constitutional head. Will they settle for a caretaker administration (an interim government)? Will former President Adams Oshiomhole tear his NLC membership card?

I am watching it closely, to know what leaf we can borrow therefrom, ahead of our general elections scheduled for March 28 and April 11.

]]> 0
The return of Valentine Wed, 11 Feb 2015 01:17:22 +0000 I must confess that I am one of those who wished, and prayed, that the elections scheduled for February 14 and 28 be shifted. However, now that the prayer has been answered, it has suddenly dawned on me that I have landed myself in another trouble altogether: Valentine’s Day!]]>

I must confess that I am one of those who wished, and prayed, that the elections scheduled for February 14 and 28 be shifted. However, now that the prayer has been answered, it has suddenly dawned on me that I have landed myself in another trouble altogether: Valentine’s Day!

I had hoped that contrived ‘election duties’ would provide a perfect escape from all the Lovers Day romantic nonsense – which is not usually very romantic on the pocket. I had lied to my wife that I would be going out to monitor the polls. And she understood – or so I thought. She probably laughed at me behind my back. Sometimes, when we men play our funny games, we deceive ourselves that our spouses are fooled. Nah! They know everything. They’re usually a step ahead of us. They only play along to make us feel smart.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it would appear madam agreed with my claim that this year’s Valentine had been overtaken by more pressing matters of state, knowing at the back of her mind that something would give.

And now that the elections have been postponed, I can no longer hide behind one finger. I can’t escape it. I can no longer pretend that, on February 14, I would be busier than Jega, Jonathan and Buhari put together – when I don’t even have a PVC that would qualify me as bonafide voter. And, smart woman, she has refused to say anything. Just enjoying herself, watching me trash around in my romantic-by-force clownings.

Incidentally, even if I had managed to get round my wife, I still had the hurdle posed by my little daughters. So, I was never going to escape the expenses that now come with the Lovers Day ritual – not now that it has become an integral part of our kiddies’ school curricular.

So, even as I was fooling myself thinking I’d outsmarted my wife on this one, the teachers at my kids’ schools still wouldn’t be outsmarted. Realising that this year’s Val’s Day falls on a Saturday (when the children would normally be at home and when the presidential and National Assembly elections were supposed to impose a restricted-movement regime), the schools have since brought forward their own Val’s Day celebrations.

So, irrespective of whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan and INE Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, were shifting their polls date, I was already cornered. My eight-year-old daughter, whose pastime (even before she could read a complete sentence) is collecting all the fashion magazines and photos she sees, has already picked the red-and-white dresses she and her big sister would wear on that day. It never occurs to her that all the designs she’s choosing are actually meant for grown women. And that’s not all. Every morning, before she leaves for school, she sneaks into my room to rouse me from sleep to remind me that I’ve yet to drop the money for the gift she’s to give her best friend.

Now, when I was their age, the only Valentine I knew was the troublesome nephew of the catechist of our local church. Even when I got to learn about Val’s Day in secondary school, it was still unthinkable (in fact, a taboo) for my parents to find out that I knew anything about such ‘immorality’, let alone indulged in it.

But now things have changed so much with the schools, that I now have the unenviable task of not only buying the gifts for my daughters to give to their little ‘boyfriends’, but I also have to drive them to the school for such rendezvous (dates, if we must call it by its name). God save us from these new-generation schools and teachers!

So, all of you men who, like me, have been resisting every attempt by our wives to turn us into romantics, there is still no escaping it this year. For Jonathan has again failed on this little promise of providing us an alibi on February 14.

My only consolation is that we are all in the same boat with him. We’re all ‘bushmen’ as far as romance is concerned. Yes, the same Jonathan, who was too shy the other day to kiss his own wife in public, would now be forced to give her a proper Valentine’s Day treat this Saturday. Now, don’t ask me how I found out about the kissing bit. All of us still remember that fateful day that the indefatigable Dame returned from her surgery in Germany, how she spread her arms wide to grip Oga Joe in a full frontal hug and plant a kiss. But courage suddenly failed Oga Joe. He could only (albeit reluctantly) give a side-face peck. Or do you think I’m getting too personal? Okay, I did not see anything o! In fact, I don’t know anything.

But, just as Jonathan does not seem to know the romantic implication of ‘reinstating this Val’s Day, which some of us had conveniently removed from this year’s budget, he does not also appear to understand the full political implications of the election postponement.

When I was joining the call for a shift, it was purely to allow the about-a-third of us registered voters, who were still to get our Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) to do so and not get disenfranchised. I was also hoping that an extension would enable us puncture all the malicious allegations about Jega’s INEC, colluding with APC to play pranks with the PVCs.

We would also put a lie to stories that, in Lagos, PVCs of people from a certain part of the country (considered potential votes for Jonathan) were either being withheld or destroyed outright. With the extra two or three-week shift I anticipated, I felt we would focus fully on this PVC matter and put it to rest once and for all. We would be able to confirm why it is so difficult for voters in Owerri North (in Imo State), for instance, to get their PVCs; to confirm whether it is true that the cards have been released to a political tendency that is hoarding them. There was also the unsubstantiated rumour that more PVCs have actually been collected in the North East, where there is the problem of insurgency and people are scared to go out or congregate anywhere, than in the South West and South East, which are relatively peaceful. It just wasn’t adding up. And I felt a shift would enable us correct all the lapses and avoid a situation whereby disenfranchised persons would now take to the streets.

But then, it would appear Jega, the PDP and the Presidency had other reasons besides the PVC. Reasons which they’re not telling us. Now, if you believe the security tale, then you’ll believe anything. Simply put, I smell a rat. But I’ve seen no evil. And I’ll, therefore, say no evil. Since they’ve said the reason is security, then security it is.

Now, can six weeks make any difference in our security situation and on the anti-terrorism war? It sure can. Can we bring back the Chibok girls in six weeks? Of course, we can, even when it is clear to all and sundry that the girls may no longer be in the same place right now. But would all these make any difference on who we intend to vote for if, and whenever, they allow the elections to hold? My answer is a resounding ‘NO’. Most Nigerian voters by now already have their minds made up. Voters are angry on both sides of the divide. While some just can’t wait to vote against Jonathan, others are waiting to respond to what they see as the Buhari arrogance. For these voters, anything that can be done, which is not already done, regarding the security situation and the presidential election, is already too late.

So, if anybody in PDP thought the postponement, by six weeks (in the first instance), of the general elections would enable the party build up more favourable momentum, then such a party faithful must be thinking from the wrong end of his trunk.

Even as I feel strongly about the Jonathan project and actually want him re-elected, I fear the momentum is (was, and will remain) with Buhari. Much as I’m convinced that Buhari is not the change we need, I can’t turn a blind eye to the mass movement that his candidacy has grown into. Even if we rout Boko Haram today, it would still not change a thing.

One redhead even whispered to me last week that the projection of the Presidency and the PDP is that a few more weeks would enable Jonathan deal a mortal blow on Boko Haram, shore up his administration’s popularity and, therefore, have a trophy to take to the polls.

I agree that is possible. But I also know that the North East, which Jonathan would restore to normalcy, by so doing, is actually a Buhari territory.

Even Jonathan himself knows that the North East is essentially Buhari’s votes just waiting to be harvested.

At the moment, something tells me that in the entire North East zone, Taraba might be the only state we can safely count for Jonathan. But even that would depend to a large extent on whether the likes of Gen. T.Y. Danjuma are actually working for Jonathan or not. So, if we secure the zone, to enable elections hold there, we’d only be increasing the Buhari margin. So, Jonathan will clear the insurgents while Buhari would clear the votes. QED!

That is why I have yet to convince myself that there are many people in the PDP, who have their thinking caps on – unlike the APC, where their brains are on alert mode 24/7. How do I mean? Despite that PDP has technically shot itself in the foot with this postponement (especially, with the way it even went about it), the APC, which is the biggest beneficiary of this goof, is pretending to be shouting itself hoarse in disagreement. And APC and its supporters will keep squeezing and extracting more, until the PDP finally commits the ultimate political suicide.

Of course, that is a price the PDP must have to pay for lack of capacity – or, better still, for electing to put brawn ahead of brain. Suddenly, the same Buhari, whose candidacy the PDP felt would be a walkover for Jonathan, is now looking unstoppable. And to make matters worse, his cause has been given the best boost by PDP men – aides of the Presidency, who are pretending to be working for his re-election, but who are really working against him. Now, I genuinely fear for Jonathan, even though I’d still not choose Buhari over him.

But then, forecast in politics can sometimes be very deceptive. So, we can never find out how strong this Buhari phenomenon really is until we go to the polls. So, we might as well get it over with, instead of buying time because of a not-too-favourable forecast. For me, that amounts to conceding victory. We should, therefore, use the next six weeks to fix the PVC issue and go to the polls. As for Boko Haram, just as Jonathan inherited the problem, whoever takes over from him would also have to inherit the problem. And if Jonathan is already fixing it, he could always continue after his re-election.

But, I’ve been thinking: What happens, if at the end of six weeks the army still can’t guarantee security? Another extension? And after that? Where would that leave May 29? Or are we now looking at October 1? What about the resultant constitutional issues? Or are we not playing into the hands of those who want neither Buhari nor Jonathan and who could be working on a repugnant third option of interim government?

Well, let’s leave the Presidency and INEC and PDP and APC to worry about that. For now, let’s go celebrate love on Saturday. We’ll return to politicking after.

]]> 0
Much ado about a presidential debate Wed, 04 Feb 2015 00:58:41 +0000 What is so scary about debating? Even those of us who were crowd-shy in our school days knew the lines, even without mounting the rostrum...]]>

What is so scary about debating? Even those of us who were crowd-shy in our school days knew the lines, even without mounting the rostrum…

Good afternoon, Mr. moderator, my accurate timekeeper, co-debaters and attentive audience. I am here to oppose the motion that APC is as clueless as PDP. But before I begin, let me first define APC. APC is an outdated medicine that is in need of change. PDP, on the other hand, refers to people drunk with power…

It is that simple!

Incidentally, this simple thing, which most of us who passed through basic secondary education (and who, like the tiger, do not have to prove  our tigeritude, by looking for nonexistent certificates) are already too familiar with, is what our fathers, some of whom actually drove us, in their ‘motor car’, to school debates, are now too scared to even engage in today. They’re so scared some of them are even suggesting a debate of one person – however they intend to accomplish that!

In fact, it reminds me of another dream I had last week (yes, I’ve still not treated that stubborn malaria), where I saw that a dumb and a stammerer were invited to a debate. And the stammerer was suddenly feeling like an orator. He was rearing to go – in fact, roaring to go, knowing that, irrespective of his shortcomings, he would beat the dumb hands down. He was so sure of victory he even conceded that the dumb should also be the umpire as well as choose both venue and question and time.

But the dumb was not as daft as he was dumb. He would not fall for that bait. Despite that he periodically experienced a burst of miracle, which enabled him to stutter over prepared speeches and, sometimes, piece together as much as two minutes of off-the-cuff speeches, he would not risk a debate with the stammerer. Of course, like all vocally challenged persons, he channels all the energy he would have wasted on talking into sheer brawn and complements it with a temper that is permanently on short fuse – in fact, Taiwan fuse (I don’t want to say China fuse). He had consequently excelled as what the Igbo would call Ochiagha, also known as Aare Ona Kakanfo. And because he was all these (and more) rolled into one, he had become crafty enough to know what battles to get into and which to avoid. Yes, a good General picks his battles. He is, therefore, not likely to pick any that he is sure to lose. And since he must run the farm on his own terms, irrespective of what the chickens and goats on the farm wanted, he would go ahead to declare debating a no-go area. And he would go further to back up his position with an ouster clause, meaning: No High Court of justice (or injustice) can reverse the decision.

Simply put, debating is not one of Buhari’s strongest qualities and you’d have to put a noose round his neck to get him to do it. PDP knows this, APC knows it too, and the rest of us know that they know that we know. So, why are we boxing the wind over the issue? What’s the big deal about who is organising the debate? Would God send angels to come organise our presidential debate? Abeg, Second base o jare! Mtcheeew!!

In fact, but for a reader who asked for my views on the proposed debate, I simply would have ignored it, knowing that it would never hold. Or it would hold without, at least, one of the key players.

Rather, I had hoped to devote this space today to the discovery I made on my trip to my home state of Imo at the weekend.

It was supposed to be a burial – of an aunt, Mrs. Maria Mbagwu, but I was taken aback when the whole place was flooded with posters of various APC candidates – from governorship to senatorial, House of Reps, state House of Assembly and even local government chairmanship. In fact, at some point, the compere announced that the ground was officially an APC ground.

Of course, it was understandable; one of the sons of the deceased is an APC local government chairmanship hopeful. And to underscore the seriousness of the aspiration, even the party’s candidate for the senatorial district election, Sen. Osita Izunaso, even looked in at some point.

Now, when I add all that to all the conversations I had with different people, mostly local politicians and ordinary village folks, I came away with one conclusion: In spite of PDP’s claim to the contrary, the APC is solidly on ground in Imo. It sure will give PDP a run for its money next weekend.

But there was a trend I also noticed: Much as many of the people are willing to re-elect Gov. Rochas Okorocha (irrespective of how some of us condemn his style of administration), they are not proportionally excited about making Buhari president.

Unlike in places, such as Lagos, Nasarawa and Katsina where APC candidates enhanced their campaign posters by adding images of the APC presidential candidate, in Imo, nobody seems to be so daring. Reason? You could de-market yourself with any such (mis)adventure.

So, from the little I gathered from my political ward and around three or four councils, Okorocha will win Imo but Buhari will lose woefully there. The same situation, I’m told, might play out in Rivers State – where APC is expected to win the governorship and PDP, the presidential poll.

Of course, that is not to say Buhari has lost. Don’t even think about it! For his supporters are diehards. One of them actually lives right inside my house. Listening to me, last weekend, preach about how Buhari cannot be the change that we desire in this country, this particular relation kept nodding in seeming agreement. I thought I had won him over. But I was wrong. He patiently waited for me to finish blabbing before he delivered his verdict: Sticking out his right thumb at me he said: “The only thing that will make me not vote Buhari is if they cut off this thumb”. Now, I’m actually wishing that thumb would suddenly disappear.

Of course, it is not that he is so enamoured with all Buhari has been saying (because he has said pretty little), it is just, he insists, to contribute his little part to ensuring that Nigerians are able to throw out any government they don’t like. According to him, PDP needs to be given the shock treatment. And if we are able to throw out Jonathan this month, we are then in a better position to again throw out Buhari in another four years, if he fails to impress. It sounds interesting but my only consolation is that this particular relation would not be voting in Imo. He is registered in Lagos, just like another old colleague I ran into at the Owerri airport. He too is not listening to anything Buhari is saying but is equally determined to vote for the Daura General. According to this friend, his vote is less of a vote for Buhari than it is a vote against Jonathan. A protest against the state of the country. He too would be voting in Lagos. Thankfully! You think I’m playing the ostrich? Well, am I not entitled to my own self-delusion?

But one thing I’ve since discovered is that Buhari is not nearly as popular as the social media would want us believe. I also discovered that the fear of violence is real and that, rather than charging at each other’s jugular, our politicians should actually be talking to the mobs they psychedelically call supporters.

As I drove to office yesterday, a long standing friend, who has made it her duty to keep my back, since my days as a cub reporter, called to plead with me not to travel during this election period. She also suggested that I not only stock the house with foodstuffs to last us a few weeks but withdraw the children temporarily from school if any of them is still at the boarding house.

I was forced to ask her: “Auntie, are we preparing for election or war?”

“What’s the difference?” was her instant reply.

I did not bother to remind her that the government had decided that all schools should remain open because I was not ready with an answer to the question that is bound to follow, which is: How many of the children of those who took that decision are in these Nigerian schools? Even at that, when did government guarantee of safety begin to amount to anything? Were there no government guarantees of safety when the Government Secondary School in Chibok was reopened last year? And have the students who heeded that call returned home 296 days after?

Well, Education Minister, Ibrahim Shekarau, and all the 36 state commissioners can decide whatever they like, I am sure the parents of the pupils would do what is best for their children.

People can’t be threatening to form parallel government in the face of a ruling party desperate to hang on to power and then expect us not to be alarmed, or not to take precautionary steps.

Like Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, said on Monday, “head or tail, Nigeria stands to lose”, but one sure way of avoiding the looming catastrophe is for political leaders across the divides (party, region and religion) to bend over backwards and engage themselves. That is the only way the message can percolate down to their supporters that it is an election after all, not a war. And that Nigeria must continue to exist in peace and unity even after the elections.

]]> 0
February polls: Jokes apart Tue, 27 Jan 2015 23:45:53 +0000 We are now on the home-stretch of the race for political offices. This is the business end, so there’s no time for frivolities – which explains why we’ve become so serious we have now lost every sense of humour.]]>

We are now on the home-stretch of the race for political offices. This is the business end, so there’s no time for frivolities – which explains why we’ve become so serious we have now lost every sense of humour.

The reactions to the Franktalk of last week confirmed this to me. And I can only come away with one conclusion: We’re in trouble in this country. Jonathan’s mob is as savagely as Buhari’s. When we express fears that Buhari has a following that would not take kindly to any presidential election result that does not favour their candidate, we forget that the Jonathan crowd is not exactly peopled by gentlemen. The attack dogs are in both camps, snapping at every strange foot in sight.

I thought we could always laugh at ourselves but I was wrong. We’re no longer laughing. Blinded by the emotions of partisan politics, we now miss the joke in every funny statement, preferring instead, to only look out for who is siding with PDP and who’s with siding APC. There’s no provision for objectivity either.

So, this week, I have put jokes aside and I’m focusing only on the serious issues. And I’ll endeavour to remain on that path.

However, let me begin by pointing out that I suspect I’m about to come down with a bout of malaria. I just pray it’s not bird flu. Because, while we were celebrating overcoming Ebola, and shifting all our attention to politics and Buhari’s certificate, bird flu crept in back on us through the back door. As at last week, it had made inroads into seven states. But we’re busy looking for forensic experts to verify the genuineness of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate. Unfortunately, I can’t help them. For I have never seen a WAEC certificate myself, not even my own. When the university needed to verify my result, I went to my secondary school and my Vice Principal (Academic), Mrs. Yoloye, simply photocopied the page of the WAEC computer printout where my result appeared, signed it and put the school stamp on it. It was good to go. Till this day, nobody has doubted it. In fact, to save me the embarrassment of scratching my brain for names of my classmates, the page of result I have also contains the names of many of my set mates, with their full results. So, I don’t have to be claiming classmates, who are not mine.

In fact, it is because of this Buhari certificate thing that I suspect I now have malaria, because I have been having all manner of dreams, some bordering on nightmare. For instance, I dreamt the other day that Buhari, in order to prove to his detractors that he can actually pass WASC, enrolled for next May/June SSCE.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Just as many people out there have a right to believe what Buhari has now procured as authentic, I also have a right to believe it is a fake. Mind you, I’m not really interested in his certificates, because I still believe that with his experience and primary school certificate, he does not need a GCE to rule Nigeria. My problem is: Why declare it when you don’t have it?

Well, now that he has declared it, I think it’s not too late to get it. I think registration for May /June GCE is still on. Buhari can register. So, we give him the waiver that he must produce the certificate (a less incredulous certificate) before the end of his second year in office – if he wins.

I also had another dream – a scary one at that. In that dream some of the things that happened in our army of old were revealed to me. I learnt that the army of old actually favoured a few. When the military were in power, many of those at the helm got commissioned with ordinary Government Class Four Certificate and sat at the top frustrating degree holders and other thoroughly educated ones. They just short-circuited their careers, many of them retiring even before the rank of Colonel.

If you joined as a rank-and-file soldier and had the effrontery to use your spare time to go to school, you’d be wasting your time – and that is if you escape a mutiny charge and court martial. They’d make sure you oscillate between Sergeant and Warrant Officer until retirement age catches up with you. Meanwhile, the ‘illiterates’ who happen to be better connected went on to become Generals and Admirals. That was why many of them ruled us with the brains of first school leaving certificate holders or, at best, the brain and exposure of a secondary school dropouts. Nigeria, we hail thee. But, of course, it was only a dream I had. And it was induced by high fever

But that was not all. I also dreamt that the illiterate leaders would attend a two-week course in Sandhurst and come back with promotion, attend another two month course in India and come back, waving a Masters Degree in our faces and subsequently get double promotion. Mind you, they did not need to pass – just attendance was all that mattered.

In power and calling the shots, they would continued to loathe (and relegate to the background) all those who had proper education.

They never remembered that sometimes, the past could come to haunt the future. But again, this was only a dream – in fact, a nightmare!

But we wouldn’t be at this crossroad if Buhari had humbly tendered his primary school certificate and backed it up with 17 years (out of his about 23 years) of public service. That is the minimum our statutes require. It does not even require him to speak good English. Or even pass Primary Six. It just needed proof that he completed that level of schooling.

That is why one gossip told me the other day that Prof. Jibril Aminu, ex-this ex-that, tendered only WASC to contest for senate. He didn’t have to remind us that he is a professor several times over. He did not need to regale us with tales of his exploits at OPEC, diplomatic service, education ministry, vice-chancellorship or about how he swept prizes in Medicine at the University of Ibadan where he did not have to be thought in his mother tongue or through nomadic education.

But then, the PDP people never cease to baffle me. Why use your heads to break coconut over Buhari’s certificate? Just ignore him. Let him campaign. You just get ready the papers to go to court to prove that he was not qualified to contest in the first place, so the APC that curiously selected him ahead of Kwankwaso and Atiku would gnash their teeth in regret.

If you feel strongly about it, you can instigate a case of false declaration – I think they call it perjury. Having classmates is not the issue. The question is: Did you complete the programme? Is there a case of perjury (lying under oath) that can be established?

There’s no point trying to stop him now. In fact, Jega will cite the electoral laws that tie INEC’s hands from doing so. Buhari’s supporters will burn down this country that is half burnt down already. Let him contest – and even win – we will sort the rest out at the Supreme Court. The only problem is that we don’t even have the best records for respecting the law.

But then, why am I swallowing Panadol for another person’s headache, when I can neither vote nor be voted for, without a voter’s card?

Yes, I don’t have a PVC. So, I stand disenfranchised, ahead of next month’s elections. And, I guess, that amounts to one vote less from whatever number of votes Jonathan would get and another vote less from what Akinwunmi Ambode would get in Lagos where I vote.

Unlike most party members, I don’t usually vote along party lines. I vote for individuals. That is why I would want people like Emeka Ihedioha, Smart Adeyemi, Labaran Maku, etc. to win because I know they’ll deliver. I would also like PDP to retain Jigawa, just as I would go with Aremo Segun Osoba and his SDP team in Ogun (because of his principles and the values he stands for), even as I know that Ibikunle Amosun is not a failure.

But for the Lagos governorship, I’d be voting along party line, like I did in 2011. Yes, I nearly don’t know Ambode enough to choose him over Jimi Agbaje but the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu/Fashola political family has earned our trust to such an extent that it would now be very difficult to defeat anybody (or even, anything) flying the APC flag for the Lagos governorship. Even though I have yet to see Ambode come out better than Agbaje in any debate, I’m comforted by the fact that the APC man is not coming to learn the ropes, having been in the system for so long. Better still, he has been handed a 24-year development plan that has long been conceptualised by the APC family and is already running, under Fashola.

To make matters worse for the Lagos PDP, it lacked the courage, and boldness, to bite the bullet and latch on the non-indigene/ Igbo factor in Lagos voting pattern. The Igbo in Lagos (who, rightly or wrongly, believe they have more than a third of the voting population in the state) were grumbling that, unlike other non-indigenes, especially those from the South-West, Ndigbo Lagos have deliberately been shut out of both elective and appointive positions under the APC and its different progenitors. Of course, there have been a few tokenism here and there, it has hardly addressed the problem.

For me, that is neither here nor there; I’m going with Ambode for purely selfish reasons: I don’t want to risk anybody going back to reappraise the architectural drawings of Ago Palace Way. I just want the tempo of work on that once-abandoned road, which recently picked up, to continue, until it is completed. Secondly, I’m actually hoping to ride on the Lagos light rail very very soon. Yes, Agbaje has not said he’s going to stop the project but I don’t want to take chances, especially, when the PDP central government, at one point, even blocked the flow of foreign funding to the project.

But, I’m just daydreaming since, to start with, I don’t even have a PVC – which Jega insists, is the only card we’d be allowed to vote with. In fact, my case is so problematic that even if INEC agrees to allow people vote with the TVC, I still won’t vote. Reason? I have since lost the all-important sheet of paper.

Angry that after queuing and struggling in the sun for two straight days, all I was given was a faint photocopy-like sheet of paper, the image which did not look anything like my handsome self, I had left the TVC in the pocket of a shirt in my wardrobe. A few weeks later, when it was time to vote, I only noticed a few smudges of ink in the box originally provided for my photo image. It had degenerated even further. I was so angry that I forgot the uninspiring piece of paper in the pocket of the shirt I wore to the ‘battle front’ on Election Day. It would return from the dry cleaners a few days later as a mashed ball of paper. Ruined!

So, while others were collecting their PVC on presenting their TVC, I have no TVC to present. I first went to the booth where I registered and voted in 2011 (even though I have since relocated from the area) and the three nearest booths to the place, presented my work ID, drivers licence and international passport, but the INEC officials would not be moved. It appeared as though they were determined to deny as many people as possible the collection of their PVC. I have also gone to my local government headquarters but nobody wants to have any business with me until I present a TVC, which no longer exists. I am now tempted, like somebody I know, to just go anywhere and cook up a certificate (sorry, PVC) for them. Unfortunately, Fashola has destroyed the place we usually do such business at Oluwole, Lagos, and planted flowers everywhere.

So, without the Oluwole document factory, the only way I can ever get to vote in 2015 is if the thing is extended. Now, that is one scenario nobody wants to contemplate.

Congo DR is boiling because of Joseph Kabila’s pranks. In order to prolong his stay in office, he proposed to conduct a census before the next election. His people, already fed up with his government, would have none of it. They want him out like yesterday. They believe that a new government can handle the census bit. It does not matter to them that a proper census would lend more credence to the result of a general election. But, Kabila can tell that to Mobutu for all his people care. They went on rampage, shut down the country for four days. They eventually got their way. The same way we got our way with Obasanjo on third term.

But I, for one, would not mind a two or three week shift if it were for purely altruistic reasons. I’m not sold on the scaremongering that any shift would precipitate crisis and violence. My take is that, at the rate we’re even going now, we would still have to contend with crisis and, probably, violence at the end of this elections, even without the extension. So, why don’t we sacrifice two or three more weeks to get it right and minimise the crisis that would follow?

But that sounds like playing the devil’s advocate right now. Of course, it’s not as though an extension would amount to a haram, it’s just that we can’t vouch for what else the extension period would be used for, which could not be done since all of the past 12 months when INEC served notice of this election.

Suspicion is, therefore, what is at the base of all that is going on around this extension kite, first flown by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.  APC can’t trust PDP. PDP can’t trust the sincerity of APC’s opposition and criticism – and neither APC nor PDP has done anything to earn the trust of we the voters. So, we don’t even know who is telling the truth or who is lying to us.

APC thinks a postponement will give PDP an edge, going forward. PDP actually thinks postponement could, indeed, give it a few days more to build more favorable momentum. All are false. But if we’re not shifting, please, let’s vote with both PVC and TVC then. Obviously, the handling of the PVC distribution leaves much to be desired. We have to find a way of getting it right. If we run away from pre-election fights, what happens to post-election wars, if people, suspecting manipulation, are dissatisfied with the result or a huge section is disenfranchised?

Let us ask lawyers to explain the constitutional implications of a shift – i:e the legality or otherwise of the move. It is not for retired soldiers to threaten anarchy or begin to put ideas in the heads of serving soldiers.



Happy birthday to the Countryman Governor

As Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, clocks 49 today, I’m ashamed to report that I have yet to summon the courage to take up an offer he made to me several months ago.

While I was in Yenagoa for the Bayelsa investment summit, as well as the Silverbird Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant, I got the privilege of doing breakfast with the man they fondly call Countryman Governor. It was the morning after the events rounded off and the governor had invited the teams that worked on the projects for a review and to commence implementation of whatever was agreed upon.

For me, it was like killing two birds with one stone because the governor had also invited some prominent Bayelsans, notably King Alfred Diette-Spiff. I was meeting him for the first time as well. Now, given that I had literally been hearing the name Diette-Spiff all my life, I was surprised to discover that His Royal Majesty was still strong, erect in all his over-six-feet height, not bowed and bended by age. And he still moved with the agility of the soldier he has always being.

But the governor’s offer was not made at the breakfast table. Rather, it was inside one of the inner rooms where we had a private session. He took one look at me and jokingly asked: ‘Hope you have fully explored all the hospitality of Bayelsa?’ According to him, since the National Population Commission says Bayelsa is the least populated state in the country, he would not mind if, in another nine months, he begins to see a few fair complexioned Nwosus among the populace. He promised the state government would take care of health care for both mother and child and would also guarantee scholarship. Bayelsa under Countryman runs a free and compulsory education policy in all primary and post-primary education. It provides free books, bags, sandals (yes, in the same state where a certain Goodluck Jonathan once went to school without shoes), free bus rides. And to cap it all, he would also pay for WAEC, NECO and JAMB for all students. Then he also pays bursary. All I would have to do is just to be at my reproductive best.

So, with the massively improved security situation and near-total stamp-out of kidnapping and cultism by law, Bayelsa, under Dickson, has become such a conducive place to have and raise children.

So, the governor’s offer, I must confess, is very tempting to me. But I wouldn’t know how ‘tempting’ it would be to my wife. I’m still looking for the right words to convince my wife that this executive call to service is one I really want to render to the people of Bayelsa, President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state.

Of course, I mustn’t forget to add that my visit to Yenagoa was an eye-opening one, having last been there a few years earlier, when there was just one major road (from Mbiama Junction down to the Creek Haven Government House). Today, Dickson runs a Restoration Government. In fact, he is a man in a hurry to get things done. There’s no time to waste. Breakfast, on this particular morning, was done in 20 minutes flat and he immediately got to work, even when it was supposed to be a weekend.

That probably explains why Yenagoa has gone from a one-road city to a network of paved and interconnecting roads. Now, there are beautiful roundabouts, spiraling out into several new roads. There is an audacious flyover – the first ever in the state, and a  monumental Castle Rock Hotel, which is the first six-star hotel in the country, is nearing completion. Bayelsa is driving tourism to shame those who think this little state is all about oil. It now has, at least, three events that are now on the international tourism calendar.

Of course, there’re massive investments in health, agriculture, power and general infrastructure. I think the Country Man Governor should just take a bow. Happy birthday, Your Excellency. I’m still considering that offer o!

]]> 0