The Sun News » Insights - Voice of The Nation Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:24:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Buhari, people’s pin-up president, falters Wed, 02 Sep 2015 01:26:00 +0000 The national outrage that erupted soon after President Muhammadu Buhari announced last week, the names of people he appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Chief of Staff, and the heads of other government departments was indicative of the level of public disappointment with Buhari for failing to reflect geographic or regional balance in the people he appointed. Public indignation over the appointments is justified.]]>

The national outrage that erupted soon after President Muhammadu Buhari announced last week, the names of people he appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Chief of Staff, and the heads of other government departments was indicative of the level of public disappointment with Buhari for failing to reflect geographic or regional balance in the people he appointed. Public indignation over the appointments is justified.

When a president continuously appoints people from one section of the country to serve in his government and marginalises other regions, he sends the strong message that people in other parts of the country are unfit, incompetent, unqualified, inexperienced, and do not measure up to his benchmark for appointment into his government.

It is remarkable how merit has now become a catchphrase used to defend the president’s lopsided appointments. I have listened endlessly to the ludicrous line of reasoning advanced by people who constitute a choral group that consistently recites the song that appointments made by Buhari could not be faulted because they were based on merit. How self-serving? In previous governments when appointments were somewhat balanced, the same people who are now lecturing us on the virtues of merit-based appointments, cried endlessly that the federal character principle had been murdered.

Buhari’s previous and latest appointments remain clearly biased and a slap on the wrist of people in the southwest, the south-south, and the south east parts of the country. Leaders of the APC from these regions who worked hard to put up the APC in a position in which the party successfully overthrew the dominant People’s Democratic Party (PDP) must now be feeling slighted by the asymmetrical nature of the region of origin of the people appointed by Buhari to serve in his government.

When leading politicians in the PDP and other opposition parties identify Buhari as a bigoted politician, they will point to his biased appointments as evidence to back their accusations.

It is disingenuous to assume, for example, that people in the southwest, southeast or south-south are unfit to serve in Buhari’s government or that they lacked higher qualifications and experiences compared to those in the president’s region of origin who were appointed on the basis of merit. Suddenly, we no longer see value in the need for the president to reflect federal character in his appointments.

Another point that needs to be cleared up quickly is the propaganda that, if Buhari should reflect federal character in his appointments, it would mark the enthronement of unskilled, unqualified, and incompetent people in government. That is decidedly a false premise. When people ask Buhari to reflect federal character in his appointments, they are asking him to consider the multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition of Nigeria’s population. No one is asking Buhari to pick unqualified and inexperienced people from the southeast, southwest, and south-south regions. Buhari should look closely and nominate qualified and competent people from these southern regions because, surely, these regions have many highly educated, experienced, and professional people.

A former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, expressed his disappointment over the lack of balance in the geographic origin of people most recently appointed by Buhari to serve in various capacities. His views are consistent with public opinion on the issue. Tsav said: “I see the appointments as lopsided. Nigeria is too big to have majority of the appointees from one section of the country.  We have competent people in every part of Nigeria. For that reason, he (Buhari) should spread the appointments to every part of Nigeria…”

The same sentiments were expressed by the chairperson of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai. He made it quite clear that Buhari’s appointments to date had favoured people in the president’s geographic region probably because that was the region that gave Buhari the largest number of votes in the last presidential election. However, he also pointed out quite correctly that: “In Nigeria today, we have competent people all over the country, no doubt about it… We have people with university education and working experience all over the country. So, we are not in dire need of competent people because they are everywhere.”

Tsav’s comments are apt in the same way that Yakassai’s arguments are sound. The notion that Buhari’s appointments are based on merit lacks validity. It is a dishonest and hare-brained line of argument to push. It is absurd to argue that Buhari has been picking people from the north based on merit. What that wacky argument suggests is that the north is more endowed with qualified and experienced people who are fit to serve in government compared to other regions of the country that, presumably, lack qualified and experienced people. No one region of the country has a monopoly of qualified and experienced people relative to other regions. To argue otherwise is to turn reason on its head.

The pre-election campaign slogan that hoisted Buhari as a change agent is now flawed. We all seem to associate change with positive development. That is a misconception. Change can also be negative, such as the kind of change that Buhari has been making in appointing people from one section of the country to serve in his government. It seems that the change promised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the general election campaigns has turned out to be skewed, unsustainable, and antithetical to national development. And this is coming so early in the tenure of the current APC-led Federal Government.

In appointing his officials, Buhari must not ignore the sensitive feelings of people across the country. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. And as regionalism is a major feature of politics in the country, these sensitivities must be respected. By asking that these sentiments be considered in federal appointments, the public is not asking Buhari to install second-rate people in his government.

A presidential aide who was obviously worried by the widespread magnitude of public criticisms of Buhari’s latest appointments, gave assurances that Buhari would still reflect geographic balance in his remaining appointments. That statement must be taken with a great deal of doubt. How could Buhari correct the imbalances in his earlier appointments when he is almost running out of options? Would Buhari balance his appointments by nominating all his ministers from the southern regions that have been marginalised? If he were to do so, he would counteract the constitutional requirement about the states of origin of federal ministers.

There was even a hint of arrogance in the presidential aide’s tone when he said needlessly that Buhari had the right to appoint people to serve in his government. Yes, Buhari in his capacity as president has the right to appoint people to serve in his government. However, the right to appoint people is not a right that should be abused or misused. In exercising his right, the president must be conscious of the need to ensure that officials of his government are selected from across the country, not just from one part of the country.

Suddenly, Buhari, the people’s superstar president, is beginning to look fallible.

Re: Who can stop Oshiomhole, the Saint from talking?

I have read your piece with the above title. Inasmuch as I agree with you that as a member of the “committee set up to critically examine the accounts of the NNPC and the Excess Crude Account”‎, Oshiomhole should have refrained from making public comments about the people whose activities the committee is investigating, I beg to disagree with you on the glowing tribute you’ve paid to Adesina’s tenure as Agriculture Minister.

As Minister of Agriculture, Adesina superintended a massively fraudulent exercise that he called “telephone for farmers”. This was a conduit through which he siphoned up to N60 billion from the Nigerian treasury.

As I write this, there is no one in my agrarian state of Benue that got a phone from Adesina’s Ministry of Agriculture. And I know that telephone is neither an agricultural implement nor input. To, therefore,‎ expend such a huge amount of money on it smacks of nothing but corruption. And the searchlight shall soon beam on him. But till then, Oshiomhole should minimise his public utterances.

Orngu Titus 

Levi, let me commend your apt description of Oshiomhole and his indiscreet use of words against his perceived enemies. I thought I was the only one who had been worried by Oshiomhole’s use of indecent language against people he perceives as his enemies. In comparative terms, Oshiomhole does not come anywhere near the profile of the internationally respected former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

There are clear processes in our system to be adopted in prosecuting people who are suspected to have engaged in corrupt practices. These legal procedures are respected by enlightened minds in Nigeria and these are very few in the nation’s leadership bracket.

It has become a common practice by our political leaders to misuse power when they suddenly find themselves in positions of authority. A Yoruba adage says that no one can see the back of their head but other people. Let us wait patiently to watch the closing scene of the drama in which Oshiomhole is the main character.

Lai Ashadele (

]]> 0
Who can stop Oshiomhole, the saint from talking? Tue, 25 Aug 2015 23:54:25 +0000 Judging by the way Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole has been speaking in the public space, the language he uses, the authoritative air he exudes, the ease with which he has been pouring scorn on everybody associated with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, you could see that Oshiomhole is yet to rid himself of that baggage of a militant labour leader for which he was known. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), you must remember, is the platform through which Oshiomhole rose to become governor. ]]>

Judging by the way Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole has been speaking in the public space, the language he uses, the authoritative air he exudes, the ease with which he has been pouring scorn on everybody associated with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, you could see that Oshiomhole is yet to rid himself of that baggage of a militant labour leader for which he was known. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), you must remember, is the platform through which Oshiomhole rose to become governor.
Ever since the election of Muhammadu Buhari as president on 28 March 2015, Oshiomhole has been speaking like a certified activist, an itinerant campaigner for the All Progressives Congress (APC), and an anti-corruption watchdog of our society. This has prompted the question: What is it about Oshiomhole that makes him carry himself with the swagger of a knowledge dispenser?
Ever since the onset of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the Edo State governor has used spiteful, angry, uncomplimentary, and harsh words to criticise former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whom Oshiomhole has accused endlessly of mismanaging the economy. Oshiomhole’s allegations have become a part of the ongoing attempt to demonise everyone who served in the previous government. Those allegations fit nicely into the mood of the nation following the APC mantra of change and anti-corruption campaign.
In an interview published in the Vanguard of last Sunday, 23 August 2015, Oshiomhole continued his attack on the integrity of Okonjo-Iweala. Oshiomhole said caustically about the former Finance Minister: “Okonjo-Iweala is a failure; there is no question about that. She cannot withstand rigorous public scrutiny and those she was having these transactions with they are alive and they are all talking, some of them are even singing. So she should know that the umbrella is no more there to cover and everything is open now. More revelations will come out; much more will come out.”
Elsewhere in that interview, Oshiomhole said of Okonjo-Iweala: “She just pretends because she worked in the World Bank and that does not mean angels work in the World Bank. The World Bank has had cause to sack some of its officials, so what the hell are people saying just because she worked at the World Bank.”
I think it is a bit irresponsible for a privileged man to sully the image and uprightness of a woman who served her fatherland to the best of her abilities. Even if Okonjo-Iweala erred as Finance Minister, Oshiomhole should not dismiss with a tar brush and in a sweeping and rash manner all her positive contributions to the nation.
In making all the allegations against former federal officials, Oshiomhole has cast himself as the only virtuous person in the country. And that cannot be. Although Oshiomhole sees himself as a public prosecutor and defender of the nation’s conscience, one problem with that presumptuous image is that a public prosecutor who makes running allegations in the media without furnishing the public with irrefutable evidence to back his claims, or without initiating action to prosecute those officials he deems to be corrupt, could be seen to be attempting to influence the outcomes of a government’s probe panel that is investigating financial misconduct against top officials of the Jonathan administration.
Sardonically, Oshiomhole’s comments against officials of the Jonathan government must be regarded as prejudicial because he is a member of a four-person committee set up by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in late June to critically examine the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Excess Crude Account (ECA) managed by the Jonathan administration. The investigation is aimed to sort out what happened to the staggering N3.8 trillion that was not paid into the Federation Account by the NNPC between 2012 and May 2015, as well as the $2.1 billion that was alleged to have been taken away from the ECA without authorisation.
By his endless criticisms of former officials, Oshiomhole may have foreclosed what the committee to which he belongs is likely to find even before investigations have commenced or concluded. This is quite odd. It is unthinkable that a member of an investigating committee should make comments that are likely to play into the hands of former officials who could be found culpable. Even at that, a committee lacks the power to pronounce former officials guilty of corruption until the allegations have been tested in a proper court of law. That is why we are a democracy, not in a military dictatorship.
Not done with trading allegations and counter-allegations with Okonjo-Iweala, Oshiomhole has shifted his critical searchlight to fall on Dr Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Jonathan’s government, whose Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) was criticised by Oshiomhole as a swindle. Now Oshiomhole has met his match in Adesina, who is president-elect of the African Development Bank (ADB). Adesina did not hold back in matching Oshiomhole measure for measure, insult for insult, hard feelings for hard feelings.
Adesina told Oshiomhole that he committed an executive blunder in his misunderstanding of the impact of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan government. In his response to Oshiomhole’s criticisms, Adesina said: “It is grossly unfair for Governor Oshiomhole not to recognise that ATA of 2011 to 2014 was Nigeria’s equivalent of the ‘green revolution’ that took place in Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, where new highly productive varieties of rice and wheat, and the chemical fertilisers that helped them achieve their potential, led to a doubling and tripling of yield and self-sufficiency. Particularly troubling is the fact that a political leader of a State as enlightened as Edo State could feign ignorance at the fact that the number of integrated rice mills, needed to produce parboiled rice, preferred by Nigerians, has grown from just one in 2010 to 24 in 2014.”
Adesina continued: “Equally worrisome is the fact that he (Oshiomhole) is unaware that our parboiled rice milling capacity increased from 70,000 metric tons to 800,000 metric tons…  As the chief executive of a state so blessed with natural resources so highly favourable to productive agriculture, Governor Oshiomhole ought to think rather on how to make Edo more enterprising. In doing so, an area he is expected to be more interested in, should be agriculture.”
Adesina has done well to advise Oshiomhole to focus on effective administration of Edo State, to empower the people, to curb poverty, to renovate decrepit infrastructure in the state, to boost agricultural production, to assist medium scale businesses, and to undertake industrialisation of the state. These issues constitute an agenda for the remaining few months of Oshiomhole’s tenure.
By taking on Adesina, a man who is highly regarded and respected as one of the ministers who performed productively in Jonathan’s administration, Oshiomhole has made a big mistake and exposed his inadequacies, and indeed his character flaws. His attacks on other public officials is not about raising accountability in government to a higher level but a deliberate tactic to divert public attention from the failures of his government in Edo State. Surely, shouting and criticising previous government officials is not the best way to kick-start Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign.
There are laws in our society that stipulate how people suspected of corrupt practices should be apprehended and prosecuted. That is how things ought to be done in a government that proclaims itself as a respecter of the rule of law. State governors are expected to act and reflect the huge responsibilities assigned to them by the high office they occupy.
Although it has become fashionable for everyone to criticise Jonathan and his officials since Jonathan was defeated in the last presidential election, it will be misleading to sully the image of everyone who served in that government. Yes, corruption was rife in Jonathan’s government. Yes, there was unprecedented abuse of office by many members of that government. Yes, there are questions about poor financial accountability and impropriety by officials of Jonathan’s government. But all these and more should not imply that everyone who served in Jonathan’s administration was a thief, a swindler, a fraud, or a pretender. To reach that conclusion is to expose the level of hollowness into which the accuser has fallen.
It is often said that people who live in glass houses should never cast stones. Let me end this by refreshing Oshiomhole’s memory with something he did in the public sphere nearly two years ago that raised questions about his capacity to govern a state. In late 2013, Oshiomhole yelled at a woman who was selling her goods along a major road in Benin, the state capital. He was outraged that the woman, Joy Ifijeh, hindered traffic by displaying her wares on the kerbside. He accused the woman of breaching Edo State’s laws against street trading.
The woman was so shaken by Oshiomhole’s anger that she went down on her knees to plead for leniency. Oshiomhole snubbed the woman’s pleas. When the poor woman told the governor that she was a widow who deserved to be pitied, Oshiomhole’s response shocked the entire world. He hollered at the woman in one moment of uncontrolled anger: “You are a widow. Go and die!”
A few days after the terrible impact of that moment of lack of judgment sank in, Oshiomhole and his aides rallied quickly to invite the woman to Government House to rectify the damage through a hastily organised morning tea. During the tea drinking session, Oshiomhole said to the woman in a remorseful tone: “When you put your things on the road, a vehicle can run into you and they have killed some people like that and that was why I said if you are a widow do you want more people to be widowed? But when I said go and die, that one was said in a fit of anger. And I am really sorry.”
This goes to show that Oshiomhole, even in his attempt to project himself as a symbol of righteousness in Nigeria, is fallible and not exactly as immaculate as he would like the public to perceive him.

]]> 0
Universities of indiscretion Wed, 19 Aug 2015 01:31:05 +0000 There is a damning report, published in the Punch of Thursday, 13 August 2015, that documented a culture of sexual harassment, fraud, academic dishonesty, and plagiarism that have undermined the image of Nigerian universities as centres of high quality teaching, research, and learning.]]>

There is a damning report, published in the Punch of Thursday, 13 August 2015, that documented a culture of sexual harassment, fraud, academic dishonesty, and plagiarism that have undermined the image of Nigerian universities as centres of high quality teaching, research, and learning. The issues raised in the report, even though they are well known, have blemished our tertiary education institutions and destroyed the notion of academic integrity.   Universities are established to advance teaching, learning and research, and to assist in community service.
These objectives can never be achieved when academic staff turn their institutions into centres of corruption, human rights abuses, criminality, and militancy — all of which contribute to disrupt attainment of the core objectives of the universities. The quality of teaching and research in universities can never be improved under the current environment in which corruption and sexual abuse of students are widespread.   Professor Peter Okebukola, a former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), outlined the unflattering range of accusations that have become the butt of cynical jokes about the quality of teaching, research, and learning in the universities.
He said: “The large proportion of forged certificates and transcripts paraded by supposed graduates from our universities; spurious data reported by some researchers in the system in papers submitted to international journals; instability of academic calendar; high incidence of examination malpractice; and the number of degree mills (unapproved universities/programmes), form the basis for this accusation. If we pluck out these blights, our global rating in academic integrity will be elevated.”
I regard university academics and researchers as professional colleagues. However, when it comes to abuse of academic integrity, a line has to be drawn so that colleagues who cross that critical line should be punished severely because they bring disrepute not only to their institutions but to their innocent colleagues who work in the universities.   Universities are not set up to trade in fraudulent practices, to exploit and harass their female students, or to train sexual predators who seek out female students arbitrarily for sexual abuse. The long-held notion that male university staff use female students as a means of satisfying their lewd and indecent sexual obsessions has been elevated unfortunately from that rarefied realm of tittle-tattle to the plane of actuality. That is disgusting. The point has to be made that female university students deserve respect and are entitled to their fundamental human rights not to be held hostage by the universities in which they are expected to receive moral lessons as part of their knowledge acquisition. No student should ever be turned into a university lecturer’s fodder for sexual gratification.
Senior university administrators, regardless of whether or not their own universities were implicated in previous investigations, should be ashamed to be associated with a higher education institution that has deviated from its core objectives.   Anyone who has not read the report published in the Punch edition of Thursday last week should endeavour to do so. When I read the report, it felt like my entire being had been violated. Something drastic has to be done urgently to restore honour to our universities.
It is not only Nigerian universities that are guilty of these sleazy practices. Polytechnics, colleges of education, and even secondary schools have all contributed to the decomposition in academic standards. However, my focus is on universities. The other institutions will be scrutinised at a later date.  The breakdown in quality university education is being facilitated by a persisting culture of widespread fraud, corruption, and intellectual property theft (plagiarism) that has become institutionalised ways of living and doing business in tertiary education institutions. Sadly, these despicable practices were not the grounds for which Nigerian universities were widely respected across the world five or more decades ago.
Stakeholders in the higher education sector, including the National Universities Commission, and the Federal Ministry of Education must rise to stem the growing outlandish behaviour of university staff. It does not matter whether only a handful of university academic staff are involved in the criminal behaviour. It does not matter whether junior staff are the only ones incriminated in these grubby, crooked, and immoral practices.   What is bad is iniquitous. These practices must be condemned and eliminated from higher education institutions, in particular universities that are perceived as places of knowledge development. Whether it is university staff engaging in exploitation of their students through sexual harassment, whether university teachers overreach themselves by selling their lecture notes and compelling every student to buy the commercialised lecture material, whether it is university students violating the rules of fair conduct of examinations, whether students engage in certificate forgery in collaboration with their teachers, these reprehensible practices are inexcusable, unjustifiable, appalling, and have contributed to sully the image of Nigerian universities.
Our system is too rotten, too debased, too morally sloppy, too wasteful, and too inept. It is a system that operates on a tradition of mateship in which culprits are overlooked and rewarded while victims are made to feel guilty, abnormal, and showing characteristics of paranoia. Owing to that system that tolerates corruption, fraud, and sexual exploitation, many students have died many times in silence because they believe it is better to absorb injustice than to complain and be found guilty of “false allegations” against academic staff.
This is precisely why it has become difficult to identify, punish, and eradicate elements in the university system who believe they are above the law and have the licence to behave anyway they like. For how long shall parents, students, guardians, sponsors, higher education regulators, and the government tolerate a situation in which the quality of university education continues to plummet in tandem with the standard of morality among academic staff?
I have often wondered whether Nigerian universities are conscious of the disreputable image they emit in the public sphere. Vice-Chancellors and senior administrators of universities ought to be worried by the despicable behaviour of their staff. Corrupt staff constitute not only an embarrassment to their institutions, they also pose serious threats to academic integrity. When people speak ill of universities, it tends to rob off on the character of the good and bad staff.  Following allegations of unparalleled levels of corruption in universities, the Federal Government moved in 2012 to intervene in order to stop the rot. Whether the intervention of the government made any difference is highly contested. In February 2012, the Federal Government published its response or “white paper” with regard to the reports of the visitation panels that investigated 26 federal universities.
The visitation panels uncovered extensive abuses of the university system which included evidence that universities often supervised programmes in which they had absolutely no convincing expertise. Government response to the visitation panels’ reports picked out Vice-Chancellors as the inventors of the widespread exploitation of the system. The report showed the Vice-Chancellors randomly set up spurious offices and single-handedly nominated their mates to supervise the positions. That was a clear case of senior university administrators giving special treatment or preference to their friends. The chaotic style of selecting staff to head non-existent departments or units infringed on the universities’ policies and procedures. It undermined the selection of qualified staff and privileged the elevation of poor quality staff who cannot oversee effective management of the departments and units into which they have been appointed.
While I admit some universities have adopted zero tolerance for academic dishonesty, many others look the other way when complaints are brought to the attention of senior university management. One university and certainly not the only one that has shown zero tolerance for academic dishonesty is the University of Calabar (UNICAL). In 2013 the governing council of the university imposed severe penalties on 15 academic staff who were found guilty of academic deception.   The university dismissed four staff members for perpetrating plagiarism. One academic staff member was expelled for financial fraud. A report in The Guardian of Saturday, 16 March 2013, noted that 10 staff members were downgraded because they published “their works in fake or cloned journals and proceeded to submit same and obtained promotion in the process”.
On a general level, many universities are known to breach rules that guide appraisal of academic staff. There is no way that fairness in performance evaluation of staff can be achieved in a university system that allows some staff members to cheat or to mount frivolous claims in order to rise in the institution. When academic fraud and corrupt behaviour are not punished severely, hardworking and law-abiding staff members get the message that such dreadful behaviour is probably acceptable to senior management.
There is something fraudulent when the elevation of academic staff is based on false, unproven, and deceptive achievements in innovative teaching, scholarly research, and outstanding service to the community.  The Federal Government and the National Universities Commission must pay close attention to how vice-chancellors and their senior officials are administering universities in the country. Too many cases of academic dishonesty, sexual abuse of students, staff compelling students to buy their lecture notes or fail their courses, examination malpractices, and certificate forgery underscore the urgent need to reform the rotten university system. These abuses are growing and they have to be stopped.

]]> 0
EFCC, exhausted anti-corruption agency, awakens Wed, 12 Aug 2015 00:50:41 +0000 Is there any reason why a diminished Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has woken up suddenly from a long period of slumber and realised there are corrupt ]]>

Is there any reason why a diminished Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has woken up suddenly from a long period of slumber and realised there are corrupt politicians and public officials who should be invited for a “chat” or long-form “interview” as part of investigations into allegations of corruption preferred against some people? It is instructive that, for the six years that Goodluck Jonathan served as president, the EFCC sat dormant and watched as corruption and corrupt officials flew past its headquarters.

Why did it take the EFCC so long to rise to its responsibility as the anti-corruption watchdog of government and society? Why did the EFCC realise all of a sudden that corrupt politicians and public officials that it could not touch six years ago are now fully grown for interrogation? It is odd to see the EFCC accelerate the pace with which it has gone against people suspected of corrupt conduct. What is driving the EFCC’s new-found enthusiasm to go after corrupt politicians and public officials?

The first point to make about the increased pace of activities at the EFCC headquarters is that the agency has realised that with Muhammadu Buhari as president, the damning philosophy that encouraged every government agency to do things in a slothful manner in the spirit of “business-as-usual” over the past years will no longer be tolerated.

In the prevailing climate of change, EFCC boss Ibrahim Lamorde and his senior officials recognise they have just two options staring at them — to reflect vigorously the new government’s anti-corruption principles or be prepared to lose their jobs. While the first choice is easy to implement, the second is certainly not something many people would like to impose on themselves. Nobody in a privileged senior position in government would willingly throw away their job and source of livelihood. This perhaps underlines the heightened tension in Abuja, in particular the long list of politicians and public officials who are waiting at the EFCC head office to be “interviewed”  not for jobs.

Could anyone say with a high degree of confidence that the increased movements in and out of the EFCC offices in Abuja could be evidence of the agency’s higher commitment to interrogate and apprehend corrupt people? I would argue the EFCC is engaged in a publicity stunt that is designed to impress Buhari, to convince the president that the EFCC is collaborating with the government to recover billions of money stolen by politicians and public officials from government coffers.

If Lamorde and his senior officials were so antagonistic to corruption, they would not have been inactive during Jonathan’s government. Defenders of the EFCC often argue that, during Jonathan’s administration, the agency could not act forcefully against corruption for two main reasons. The first reason is that the agency was starved of funds by Jonathan. The second point is that Jonathan’s body language did not encourage the EFCC to go after corrupt governors and politicians who were in the same party as Jonathan. While the two reasons are well-founded and compelling, they are not sufficient grounds to justify the EFCC’s lack of interest in corruption in the six years of Jonathan’s government.

If Lamorde and his officials were genuinely committed to rid the nation of corrupt practices by politicians and public officials, they could have resigned their appointments on the basis that the government they were serving were undermining their efforts to curb corruption. This is what principled men and women would have done. It is therefore not a sound argument for Lamorde and his officials to claim that they could not perform during Jonathan’s government because they did not receive the support of the government.

Nigerians are now bemused to see the same EFCC that could not bark and bite during Jonathan’s regime suddenly barking, biting, threatening, and holding suspects on interminably long periods of interrogation. The public has reason to be suspicious of the large number of people who have been apprehended by the EFCC since the onset of the Buhari presidency. Knocking on people’s doors, sending out innumerable invitations to people suspected of corrupt conduct will not change the way the public perceives the EFCC.

The EFCC’s recent episodic arrests and detention of some alleged corrupt politicians and public officials since the inauguration of Buhari’s government have not spawned acclamations from the public. Genuine commitment to eliminate or reduce corruption in our society cannot be achieved through erratic arrests and questioning of suspected corrupt officials. Most of the arrests are based on uncorroborated allegations of corruption from just about anyone who cares to write to the EFCC.

Even as Lamorde and his officials try to impress Buhari, the public believes the EFCC has never lived up to public expectations or the objectives for which it was established. The EFCC, we must note, is severely diminished in terms of its inability to access sufficient and valuable human resources, inability to gather high quality intelligence, and inability to generate sufficient funds to investigate, arrest, and prosecute all those who engage in financial fraud, including businessmen and women who live a false life of affluence underpinned by fraud and sleazy business practices.

The fact that corruption is still widespread in our society has conferred an adverse vote of confidence on the ability of the EFCC to deal with the gigantic beast known as corruption. The enduring notion that corruption has become the approved way of doing business in Nigeria says a lot about the capacity of the EFCC to curb the culture of corruption across the country.

The cataclysmic failure of the EFCC to seize, prosecute, and secure guilty verdicts against fraudulent high profile politicians and public officials has reinforced many people’s perception of the anti-corruption agency as a deeply troubled organisation that has no clear strategies or map with which to tackle the challenges posed by corruption to national socioeconomic development. That is the tragedy that has engulfed the EFCC. An agency of government that has no idea about the direction in which it is headed is like a ship without a captain drifting and floating in the ocean.

As I have argued previously, an anti-vice bureau that is funded and supported with tax payers’ money must live up to public expectations and the basic objectives that informed its establishment.

One celebrated corruption case that slipped through the fingers of EFCC officials some years ago was the discredited former Governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori, who was later arrested, tried and convicted in London. The guilty verdict in London that was passed against Ibori for money laundering and other associated offences in February 2012 exposed the weaknesses in our legal system. Ibori’s conviction showed that corrupt politicians whom we idolize in Nigeria are not as immaculate as we see them.

In our legal system, some people are above the law; they are untouchable and cannot be prosecuted. Consider this. When the House of Representatives set up an ad hoc committee to probe how the oil subsidy revenue was used or embezzled by several business corporations, what emerged was an astounding corruption scandal involving Farouk Lawan, chairperson of the House panel investigating the fuel subsidy fraud, and oil magnate Femi Otedola, who was accused of offering $620,000 bribe to Lawan so he could influence the panel’s report and prevent any indictments against Otedola.

Although the case is still in the court, the EFCC did not show interest in the case in the early days of the scandal. At the time the scandal broke in the public domain, the EFCC claimed that no one had brought the matter to its attention. Almost about the same time, the nation was jolted when it was revealed that a small group of senior public officials, including a permanent secretary, had been involved in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the government of N32.8 billion of police pension fund. Again, the EFCC dithered for quite a considerable time before getting involved in investigations relating to this stupendous crime. These two cases confirm the public opinion that our society is calibrated into two layers comprising people of unequal political and financial abilities.

Let us give the EFCC credit where it deserves. The anti-corruption agency has been successful to a certain extent in arresting and prosecuting peopbe regarded as the “small fish” in the ocean of corruption while the “big fish” swim uninterrupted and unhindered. Previously, the EFCC boasted that it had convicted some prominent public figures such as Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha (former Governor of Bayelsa State), former Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun, bank directors, and other business people. However, given the pervasive level of corruption in Nigeria, these few cases remain a drop in a deep sea.

In fact, in November 2012, EFCC chairperson Ibrahim Lamorde acknowledged in the presence of members of a Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes that his organisation has been singling out petty criminals and advance fee fraud scam masters, thus confirming what everyone knew for a long time. In defence of the undistinguished achievement record of the EFCC, Lamorde accused the judiciary of hindering the agency’s determination to arrest and prosecute the big players  in financial crime because, in his assessment, the judiciary collaborated with criminals and their defence lawyers who used legal technicalities to evade or prolong court trial.

Lamorde told the Senate Committee in 2012: “We have an example of a case we charged to court in 2006; for this very case, we have gone to the Supreme Court twice on just interlocutory applications. They will file this, the judge will overrule them, they will go to the Court of Appeal and lose there, but they will still go to the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court when they lost, they will be asked to go to the trial judge for the case to continue.”

There is no question that the judiciary had become an impediment to the EFCC’s efforts to prosecute and convict politicians and public officials accused of financial crimes. Lamorde’s view is that, if Nigerians want the EFCC to succeed as a productive anti-corruption organisation, the agency should be accorded extra legal powers to search, chase, and arraign criminals anywhere in Nigeria. Sadly, such an extraordinary power can only be granted by the National Assembly and the Federal Government. Unfortunately, the National Assembly is still grappling with internal discontent by members.

]]> 0
Buhari: Change makers on ‘honeymoon’ Wed, 05 Aug 2015 01:26:11 +0000 Ever since Bola Ahmed Tinubu, leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), remarked that President Muhammadu Buhari deserved to go on honeymoon rather than be hassled by growing demands to lift the]]>

Ever since Bola Ahmed Tinubu, leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), remarked that President Muhammadu Buhari deserved to go on honeymoon rather than be hassled by growing demands to lift the pace of governance, the public sphere has been dominated by animated discussion of the implications of that comment. In his earnest defence of the president, Tinubu argued intensely that Buhari deserved at least 100 days of seclusion and quiet space to focus on, brainstorm with himself, and formulate his government’s programme of action to deal with the immeasurable problems that confront the nation.

Those who defend Buhari claim the president doesn’t need ministers to excel in office. They say that, after all, Buhari has been performing extraordinarily very well with the negligible assistance of permanent secretaries and heads of departments. What a superlative argument!

If I were Tinubu, I would stand by that statement. Buhari deserves to be on a “honeymoon” because the task of rebuilding Nigeria in the face of the growing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, the challenge of renovating an economy wrecked by disingenuous members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the task of fixing the rapidly depreciating value of the naira, require a long period of isolation and meditation by the president. Who can argue against Tinubu’s impeccable case for Buhari?

Since the key objective of Buhari and the APC during the election campaigns – the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan – has been accomplished, it is proper that Buhari should take a break, a much desired rest to recover the energy he invested in the fight against Jonathan and the PDP. A man who created history by unseating a serving president in Africa’s most populous country should be congratulated and sent on vacation rather than deal with those heckling him with complaints about the sluggish pace of his government.

Let us be serious for one moment. At a time of national disillusionment fostered by 16 years of undistinguished political leadership by the PDP, it is odd that Tinubu, who headed the APC’s mantra of change, should relegate the serious business of governance to the back-burner by suggesting that Buhari needs a long period of nap before he can start to grapple with matters that require urgent and priority attention of the president. Surely, whether Tinubu’s statement was conceived to be figurative or literal, it did not fit with the current mood of the nation.

Tinubu’s statement has offended rather than mollified a restless and worried public. How can a public that has seen no significant change from the government, a public that has been demanding that Buhari must sit up to govern like a statesman, as he was packaged and presented during the election campaigns, be impressed with Tinubu’s sloppy comment? If the PDP destroyed institutions of government and left office with little or no resources to rebuild the country, as senior APC officials have claimed repeatedly, isn’t that reason enough for Buhari to commit to work hard during the day and night, rather than tender repeated and monotonous excuses why he should be seen as “Baba slow and steady”.

It is paradoxical for anyone to argue that Buhari must go on holidays when the nation is weighed down with problems of unimaginable magnitude.

If Buhari and Tinubu have been listening carefully, they would have heard the citizens yelling for redemption from the president because Buhari and the APC promised to deliver the nation from the financial lawlessness and endemic corruption entrenched by the preceding PDP governments.  In the past four months, the question has been asked frequently: when will the APC transform Nigeria into an El Dorado, that imaginary land where everyone shall wield and enjoy equal political power and wealth?

The longer it takes Buhari and the APC to start making a difference in the lives of ordinary people, and to get the economy that has been stalled since the beginning of this year moving again, the more likely the citizens will deliver a damning verdict against Buhari. The public is likely to view Buhari’s slow speed as evidence of the president’s inattentiveness to the welfare of the citizens. When people are hungry, you cannot alleviate their hunger through never-ending promises. Buhari has been promising everyone that his best is yet to come and yet there is nothing in the horizon to show when or how soon the long-expected change would arrive.

The national optimism that followed the election of Buhari nearly five months ago is fading fast. Everywhere you look, you will find forlorn faces. Everyone you talk to, the common narrative is that nothing is moving in the country because everyone is waiting on Buhari to constitute his cabinet and to roll out policies that will drive economic revival. Despite growing national cynicism about Buhari’s capacity to govern effectively and successfully, the APC leadership appears not to be listening. Everyone in the APC has been singing the same chorus about why we must see Buhari as the man ordained by God to rescue us from the penury and hardship imposed on the nation by the PDP. While there is consensus that the PDP years were clearly a disaster, there are also huge national expectations that Buhari can overturn the lethargic and corrupt practices of the PDP governments. Four months is time enough for the APC to start to show us the stuff of which Buhari and his dream team are made of. More action and less talk, please.

So far, the APC leaders continue to tell Buhari that it is alright for the president to take all the time, after all, President Barack Obama of the United States took as much time to constitute his government. No one seems to bother that Nigeria is in distress or going under.

Let me reinforce this point. Four months is certainly enough for the president to set up the full machinery of his government. It is pointless to argue that because it took President Obama four months or so to set up his cabinet, it is alright for Buhari to imitate the US president’s style. The comparison is worthless and illogical. Buhari should not see the United States as a template to be adopted in Nigeria.

What is okay for the President of the United States may not necessarily serve our national interests. There are many reasons why we cannot compare Nigeria with the United States. The US is far more economically developed than Nigeria. Politically, we cannot compare our institutions and parliamentary system with those of the US. While the US has more states than Nigeria, the US also has a larger population than Nigeria. Other indices in which the US performs far better than Nigeria are unemployment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). So, it is unwise for Buhari to make unnecessary references to, or comparisons with, the United States.

In an interview published in the Vanguard of 25 July 2015, the chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, tried to justify why Buhari is deliberately slow in making crucial decisions, and why the APC is happy with Buhari’s performance. Odigie- Oyegun said: “… there is the need for us to be cautious, given the fact that this is our first experience in governance. There is the need to be careful given a totally different nature of our manifesto and the social welfare promises that were made to the people to be sure that those the president wants to bring in to execute these policies, which are dramatically different from anything we have experienced before, are also dramatically different, they understand what is required to be done, are passionate about what is required to be done and have ideas about what is required to be done. Once  prime appointments are settled, things will move. The issue of insecurity is being addressed, the war on corruption has started in various parastatals; the government is already very well on steam.”

With due respect, the APC chairperson has given the unbelievable impression that the party did not expect to be in government, that the party was suddenly thrust into power, and that the APC is just learning how to govern. That is appalling argument, to be quite frank.

Reader’s reaction

Re: Fixing the President’s inconsistencies

Levi, no matter how long a man hides his true essence, he would goof someday to reveal it in public. That informed what happened to President Muhammadu Buhari when he made the statement openly that he would dispense more of the national funds to areas that voted for him during his presidential election. And that was the same “saviour” who said at his inauguration that he was for Nigerians, no matter the level of their contribution to his emergence as President.

Buhari’s body language was exposed when he appointed service chiefs which showed a larger number of appointees coming from the North while the core southeast that voted massively for the PDP was completely marginalized, without a single officer from that zone considered for any service position.

Another area where Buhari showed his bias was the issue of National Assembly leadership election. Buhari reneged on his earlier stance that he would not meddle in the exercise only for him to dump his pretences later. And what was the reason behind the transfer of Boko Haram suspects from Maiduguri to Ekwulobia prison in Anambra State, if not for undisclosed reasons. So far, despite all protests and demands on Buhari to rescind the decision, he has maintained his silence and nothing has been done to reverse the order. What does a discerning mind make of his abuse of the constitution in his bailout of some states, whose governors should have been probed for mismanagement of state funds for failing to pay their workers’ salary. Buhari approved the bailout funds without seeking the approval of the National Assembly. The most disturbing aspect of his selective treatment of issues is the decision to focus his anti-corruption probe only on officials who served in Jonathan’s government. God save Nigeria!

•Lai Ashadele ( 07067677806

]]> 0
Fixing the President’s inconsistencies Wed, 29 Jul 2015 02:05:14 +0000 The more President Muhammadu Buhari speaks, the more he exposes his prejudices against certain sections of the country and the more his media officers]]>

The more President Muhammadu Buhari speaks, the more he exposes his prejudices against certain sections of the country and the more his media officers scramble to twist the president’s words to make him appear. Can anyone, including Buhari’s assistants, really reinterpret the president’s words and decisions to make them more palatable for public consumption?

Buhari is not known to speak in tongues. So, there is no need for anyone to alter or translate what the president said or meant. Nigerians are not naive, you know. There is a limit to which the president’s assistants can regard Nigerians as gullible citizens or people who are easy to fool. When Buhari speaks in a public space, we do not need an official to put a spin on what the president said. Here is one example of how presidential assistants rushed to lessen the impact of a gaffe that Buhari committed during his recent visit to the United States.

Buhari told journalists in the US last week: “Going by election results, constituencies that gave me 95 per cent cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me five per cent. I think these are political realities. While, certainly, there will be justice for everybody, the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place.”

That was clearly a major gaffe. It shows lack of political sagacity. A president who pledged in his acceptance speech weeks ago that he would govern for everyone has exposed his bias in the way he would govern.

As soon as the presidential advisers noticed the damage that Buhari’s statement caused to his current image as the immaculate president, they moved in to bend the facts. They failed because words are like a piece of broken china. Once broken, the chinaware cannot be mended. Similarly, once spoken, words cannot be withheld from reaching their destination.   A presidential assistant who tried to clarify what the president said made the situation worse. In his eagerness to defend the president, the assistant admitted: “The President said it truly that people who gave him 95 per cent may get more attention in terms of reward and all that… What that means then is that even those who voted five per cent will get their dues and will not get things commensurate with five per cent votes.”

It is all very confusing. If Buhari said people who cast five per cent of their votes for him cannot expect to receive the same degree of attention as those who cast 95 per cent of their votes, what is the point trying to twist the facts? Apart from a likely error in the structure of that sentence, the clarification by the president’s assistants has turned logic upside down.

Those who seek to defend the president should do well to prepare him on what he should say and what he should not say in the public sphere. Once the president has uttered words openly, those words will be subjected to critical analysis.

Here is yet another example of how Buhari contradicted himself on the subject of corruption, the cornerstone of his presidential election campaign. At a campaign rally in Kaduna on Wednesday, 11 March 2015, Buhari said, as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), that he would pardon certain corrupt people if he were to be elected president. Many people were staggered by that statement.

Specifically, Buhari said that, if elected president, he would not probe corrupt leaders and politicians who were in office between 1999 and the time of his swearing in. Buhari told his audience in Kaduna: “On the issue of past corrupt leaders facing trials in various courts across the country, I would allow the courts to decide on those cases, but whoever that is indicted of corruption between 1999 to the time of swearing-in, would be pardoned. I am going to draw a line, anybody who involved himself in corruption after I assume office, will face the music.” Note the keywords in Buhari’s statement — people found to be corrupt between 1999 and his swearing in on 29 May 2015 will be set free.

Soon after he uttered those words, Buhari was condemned for presenting a spineless manifesto on corruption when the nation wanted a president who would be tough, uncompromising, and non-discriminatory in dealing with corrupt politicians and leaders.

It came as a big surprise last week when Buhari changed his position and said he would target and probe only officials who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan. No one is resenting Buhari’s determination to uncover and recover billions of money stolen by politicians and their partners in crime. The key concern is the decision to limit the probe to officials who served in Jonathan’s government. Why must Buhari start and possibly end his campaign against corruption with people who served in Jonathan’s administration?

That one-sided policy statement has given defenders of Jonathan the courage and temerity to accuse Buhari of starting an enthusiastic, systematic, and dangerous campaign of political witch-hunting directed against Jonathan. Surely, Buhari’s constantly shifting views on his crusade against corruption must be seen as evidence of lack of direction and policy on corruption.

Already, former Kaduna State Governor Alhaji Balarabe Musa has condemned Buhari’s corruption crusade. He told The Sun last Saturday, 25 July 2015, that Buhari’s narrow focus on corrupt officials was unacceptable. He said: “The right thing to do is to probe at least the administrations from 1966 when this level of corruption and criminal wasteful of resources started… For President Buhari to say that he will only probe the immediate past civilian administration is definitely not consistent with the level of integrity associated with him. In fact, this statement warns Nigerians of a return of the 1980s episode of double standard, sacred cows, vindictiveness and even fascism, where civilian governors were clamped into jail for alleged corruption.”

Buhari should have, long before now, constructed and finalised a sound anti-corruption strategy rather than shooting at only officials who served Jonathan. That narrow focus has opened Buhari to accusations of selective anti-corruption campaign.

I have heard a number of tenuous arguments made by those who support Buhari’s anti-corruption focus on Jonathan’s government. The first is that Buhari cannot be expected to probe the governments that preceded Jonathan because Jonathan had the power to do so but simply refused because he was scared of the consequences. The second miserable argument is that, because Jonathan handed over to Buhari, it is logical that Buhari should examine, with the clinical efficiency of a coroner, the ledger left by Jonathan and his officials.

These viewpoints stand reason on its head. A president who is determined and driven to end corruption would go the full length to bring all former leaders — military heads of state, presidents, governors, ministers, commissioners, advisers, assistants, and public officials — to account, regardless of the period they served.

There is no statute of limitation on corruption. There is no law in Nigeria that specifies that people who were convicted of corruption previously should be accorded state pardon after a certain period. Of course, Jonathan did this in obvious abuse of his powers as president when he pardoned former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha. But Buhari must avoid such preferential and biased treatment of corrupt officials if he wants the nation to believe in and support his fight against corruption.

Let me be clear. Yes, Buhari must be commended for starting a long-awaited battle against corruption. Yes, his probe can start with any government he chooses. But he must not start and end his struggle against corruption with a focus on officials of one government. Here is why.

Since Nigeria attained political independence, elected politicians and military leaders, including members of civil society who served the nation in various capacities, undermined the nation’s socio-economic development through rapacious and unrestrained plundering of national treasury, through illicit acquisition of government property, and through involvement in stupendous financial fraud.

Certainly, the fight against corruption will not be easy. It was a former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Mzamber Waziri, who said the reason why no government has been able to successfully suffocate corruption is that when you fight corruption, corruption comes back at you. Essentially, when government confronts officials who are unquestionably corrupt, they fight back ferociously because they have so many vested interests to protect.

Of course, Farida Waziri’s tenure was marked by serious allegations of corruption against her. It was even speculated that Mrs Waziri’s removal from office was based on the monumental allegations of corruption against her. We may never know the true reasons for her removal because President Goodluck Jonathan who eased her out of office in 2011 never outlined the cardinal sins Mrs Waziri committed that led to her removal.

Buhari must show no restraint in his battle against corruption. He must not discriminate or isolate a particular government for special scrutiny. We must keep in mind that corruption is corruption. There is no expiry date for corrupt practices to be forgiven or overlooked. Buhari cannot exempt from criminal prosecution, people who are known to be corrupt merely on the ground that it has been long since they served in government. As long as there is evidence to prosecute corrupt people, the law must take its full course.

Officials who served in various federal and state governments during and before the Jonathan era must be brought to account. Those who raided national treasury since independence cannot be more faultless than those who pillaged national resources during Jonathan’s era. A crime is a crime!

If Buhari is genuinely committed to purge the country of the culture of widespread corruption in our public and private lives, he must be ready to investigate, prosecute, and penalise severely all politicians and public officials who are found guilty of corruption. Anything less would be pointless and half-hearted. What is worth doing is worth doing well.

]]> 1
Anambra: Computer ownership by teachers or skills acquisition? Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:45:47 +0000 The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Anambra State and the state Ministry of Education are locked in a major argument over the best way to get teachers to acquire computers and develop computer knowledge and skills as ]]>

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Anambra State and the state Ministry of Education are locked in a major argument over the best way to get teachers to acquire computers and develop computer knowledge and skills as a part of professional development. The teachers see a huge conflict of interest in the government’s ultimatum given to them to buy computers and to do so from the government retailer. There is conflict of interest because a government that is forcing teachers to buy computers should not insist that teachers must buy from the same government. There are many computer vendors in the country and teachers must exercise their right to buy from the retailer that offers them the best deal.

The command issued to teachers in Anambra State by the Education Ministry does not look good. That order could overturn the relationship that existed between the teachers and the government before now. While it is a good idea by the Ministry of Education to propose to equip teachers with computer technology, however, the framework for implementing the policy is flawed.

I fear the directive given by the Ministry of Education could portray the Willie Obiano government that has been doing a lot in the state as insensitive, coercive and a bully. The government could come out of this controversy with a bruised ego and a red nose. Governor Obiano must intervene to throw out the command given to teachers. The controversy is unnecessary.

News reports suggest the Education Ministry offered the teachers a so-called “package” that contained a lot of disincentives rather than incentives to encourage the teachers to get hold of computers for knowledge and skills development. If the ministry is really committed to assisting teachers to acquire computers, there should be no directives, no use of force in the language with which the government communicated to the teachers, and there should be no setting of conditions that suggest a master-servant relationship between the teachers and the Ministry of Education.

The Secretary of the NUT in the state, Nnenna Okonkwo, told the Punch last week that one of the “conditions” given to the teachers to buy computers was that they must buy from the government at a price of N90,000. This gives the impression the government is out to make profit rather than assist teachers to buy computers at subsidised price that will be pivotal to their professional development.

Ms Okonkwo said: “We have asked them to reduce the price of the computer to N50,000 each, and that teachers who will be due for retirement in the next 18 months should not be compelled to buy the computers. We say this because government had compelled us to sign consent forms, compelling teachers in the state to buy the computers from them, only for the commissioner to withdraw from that stand last week…Some of the teachers have their own computers and somebody still wants them to buy another one; it is callous and we have rejected the plan.”

The instruction given to teachers in Anambra State that they must buy computers from the government is an injudicious, unwise, inequitable, prejudiced, narrow-minded, and imperious way to get teachers to familiarise themselves with computer technology. The decision is also thoughtless. It does not recognise the political, social, economic and structural difficulties and inequities that exist in the environment in which teachers operate. This shows the Education Ministry is totally out of touch with modern ways of getting teachers to engage with technology.

Uptake of new technology is not something that should be imposed on teachers through arbitrary, illusory, unrealistic, and one-sided order issued by a senior state government official.

Surely, computers are an efficient and effective tool for doing things better, faster and more productively. Teachers need computers that will help them to meet the challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy. However, the Anambra State Ministry of Education has decided to take no notice of the circumstances of teachers in the state.

The government must recognise that access to computers is highly limited in our environment, not only among teachers but also in the general population. Perhaps, a senior official of the Education Ministry has issued the order on the basis of a misleading assumption that, in a digital age, everyone has access to technology. That is not true. Just as there are people who have computers but are still grappling with how to use the technology, there are also people who have no computers at all and have no way of accessing the technology in the foreseeable future.

Compulsory ownership of computers by teachers, as the Education Ministry intends, will never tell us whether teachers will use the technology at all, or what they will use the computers for, or how they will use the technology. The order given to teachers to buy computers ignores the volatility in the supply of electricity across the country. Without electricity, how could teachers power their computers? Would ownership of computers by teachers help Anambra State schools to overcome the poor performance of students in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) or examinations conducted by the National Examinations Council (NECO)?

The best way to get teachers in Anambra State to benefit from modern computer technology is not through coercion but through exposing them to computer skills training, through direct government aid in the form of subsidies, loans, and financial support, as well as through regular re-training workshops. What the government should have done is to explore ways through which teachers can be assisted to acquire computer knowledge and skills and subsequently the technology. Forcing teachers to acquire computers is not the right way to go.

The government must also consider the inequalities that exist among teachers in urban areas and those in rural and remote locations. As Guillermo Delgado-P. argued in 2002, our world is “still divided between the cybernetically informed and the non-informed. There are those that would like to plug in PCs but can’t; there are those who have computers but are getting a headache from them”.

Teachers in city centres have more opportunities to expose themselves to computers either because they reside closer to areas with Internet café presence or because they are nearer to higher education institutions with Internet access in libraries. However, teachers in rural and remote locations are not as privileged. They suffer from a range of economic, social, and political deprivations. This is why we must query the rationale behind the order given by the Ministry of Education.

How does the ministry expect all teachers to be financially endowed on an equal basis? While some teachers might have the financial capability to buy computers, some other teachers lack that ability.

The government can assist teachers and schools by donating computers and Internet access. The government can also introduce free training programmes in which the teachers will be required to undertake basic courses in computer appreciation and use. Anambra State, like other states, has the capacity to equip all public schools with computers. If computers are available in schools, there would be no need to force teachers to buy computers. The government can collaborate with the private sector to provide computers in schools.

The immediate past governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, donated computers to schools in the state during his tenure. For example, in 2009, the government donated 750 personal computers to 75 secondary schools in the state. The donations were made under the government’s capacity building initiative (see “Anambra donates 750 PCs to 75 secondary schools”, Vanguard, 18 August 2009 — By the time Peter Obi left office, his government had donated well over 30,000 desk top and laptop computers to secondary schools in the state.

The question must be asked: What is the condition of those computers today? If the computers donated by the previous government are still available, one must wonder why teachers are now being compelled to buy computers. While it might be too much to expect a personal computer to have a lifespan of more than four years, the donation of computers by government must be acknowledged because the gift signifies the fulfilment of a commitment to prepare the students to face the challenges of a globalised world in the 21st century.

Provision of computers to schools must not be seen as an act of kindness by government. It is an obligation the government owes to schools. In the electronic age, state governments have a responsibility to furnish schools with the essential tools for the advancement of teaching and learning. Teachers as well as students in secondary schools must be trained to use computers to improve their education, to undertake assignments, to improve reading, writing and arithmetic skills, and to communicate with their colleagues, friends and families.

Reader’s reaction

Make no mistake, Levi, contemporary Nigeria is replete with self-bloated mediocrities who parade as geniuses, a large bunch of them elements of the military both serving and retired; and their civilian counterparts, who know next to nothing about them simply see them, albeit inappropriately, as Messiahs. In that mould belong Obasanjo, Babangida and now Buhari, none of whom was trained at Sandhurst, the foremost British military Academy. This may well explain why Buhari was seen before the last presidential election as having a magic wand for eradicating Boko Haram menace whereas he has no such wand.

Anyway, negotiating with Boko Haram is a clear-cut recipe for disaster, a monstrous gamble at best.

Benedict Gbulie

]]> 0
Boko Haram puts Buhari in a tight spot Wed, 15 Jul 2015 00:38:32 +0000 The news that President Muhammadu Buhari would be willing to negotiate with Boko Haram as a way to end the relentless bombing campaigns by the terrorists has drawn mixed reactions from civil society. ]]>

The news that President Muhammadu Buhari would be willing to negotiate with Boko Haram as a way to end the relentless bombing campaigns by the terrorists has drawn mixed reactions from civil society. While some people believe the battle to end Boko Haram’s ongoing massacre of innocent citizens cannot be won without a negotiated settlement, others argue passionately that the right way to deal with Boko Haram’s brutal crusade is through relentless military force. I am in league with everyone who advocates the latter view.

When the government says it is willing and ready to engage in dialogue with Boko Haram, the government is indicating also that it is willing to capitulate. This suggests to me that Buhari is about to beat a retreat from the war against terrorism that saw soldiers recording remarkable successes against Boko Haram terrorists earlier this year. Soldiers also successfully expelled the criminals from most of their hideouts in the forests.

Many people will be disappointed with the government’s position because that is not what the nation expected from Buhari, a retired general and former military dictator who campaigned vigorously and won the presidential election on the basis of his no-nonsense nature and his image as a disciplinarian and an austere man.

Going by Boko Haram’s record of cold-blooded murders of innocent citizens through indiscriminate abductions and bomb explosions that have claimed no fewer than 500 lives in the past six weeks, the idea that the Federal Government would contemplate sitting round a table with callous killers to negotiate an end to an uprising that Boko Haram started must be seen as absurd and revolting.

How could Buhari negotiate with a subversive organisation whose members and sponsors are largely devilish, an organisation whose objectives are as vile and repugnant as they are bizarre? Families that lost their loved ones to Boko Haram violence would be outraged to learn that the government is considering talking with the same evil organisation that caused them grief, trauma, suffering, and misery. Those who advocate negotiation with Boko Haram are doing so perhaps because they never suffered or experienced directly Boko Haram’s violence. To understand how disgusting that suggestion feels, you need to talk with families that lost members to Boko Haram terrorists.

How could Buhari negotiate with Boko Haram whose leadership is dishonest, unpredictable, undependable, cruel, and depraved. During President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, the government made several offers to negotiate with Boko Haram in order to end excessive violence and bombings by Boko Haram. As a mark of the treachery that has become Boko Haram’s character trait, Jonathan’s offers of dialogue and peaceful resolution of Boko Haram’s fatuous grievances were never accepted because the organisation’s leaders and their spokespersons were too spineless to stand up and embrace peace.

Again, on several occasions when Boko Haram suggested they were ready for a peace deal with the Jonathan administration, the offers were found to be insincere, worthless, degrading, and above all, the so-called peace proposals were stamped with unattainable and demeaning preconditions no government would ever accept.

There is even a more sensible and sound reason why Buhari should dump the  idea of negotiating with Boko Haram. Through its violent activities, the criminal organisation has blemished Nigeria’s image in the international community. Additionally, Boko Haram has done more damage to the country’s socioeconomic development than any other dissident organisation has done.

Let’s be clear here. Dialogue or negotiation will never make sense to a sadistic organisation such as Boko Haram that believes in the use of bombs to force-feed everyone to accept their quaint religious ideologies and their narrow-minded views about how Nigeria should be governed.

There are important issues Buhari must reflect on methodically, scrupulously, and thoughtfully before pushing for negotiation with Boko Haram. The first should be to decipher why Boko Haram members engage in indiscriminate killings of citizens, including bombing of government buildings, residential homes, army barracks, police stations, places of worship, schools, universities, marketplaces, bus terminals, and sport arenas just to express their displeasure with the Nigerian state.

The second aim should be to understand why Boko Haram has been unable to articulate and present its core objectives coherently, meaningfully, and consistently to the public. Boko Haram’s leaders say one thing today and shift their position tomorrow. It is this slipperiness or vagueness that has continued to confound religious and political leaders who have tried but failed to produce a road map for peace.

The suggestion by the president’s spokesperson that the government is open to negotiate with Boko Haram is one-dimensional and unwise. A government with an obligation to look after the safety, security, and wellbeing of citizens has no business discussing with an organisation that is determined to eliminate the same citizens the government is obligated to protect.

Buhari has no justification to engage in dialogue with Boko Haram leaders who have no understanding of the concept of peaceful resolution of conflicts. Boko Haram is driven by that fundamentalist ideology that shapes the members’ view about the use of violence as the only instrument to achieve their goals.

When the government signals its willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram, an insurgent group the government has been fighting against for more than five years, the message is that the government has exhausted all options and is eager to save face by calling for dialogue. The dangerous implication is that Boko Haram leaders would see Buhari as a man in a weak position, who is losing the war, and is therefore ready to accept Boko Haram’s terms for resolution of the conflict. That will give Boko Haram an opportunity to go for the chokehold, to strangle and deny the government of that oxygen of existence.

A Federal Government that negotiates with Boko Haram from a position of weakness is a threat to national unity and an embarrassment to our collective security. Buhari should concentrate on fortifying and arming soldiers. He should aim to improve intelligence gathering. He should institute measures to protect the lives of soldiers in the war front rather than expressing his eagerness to enter into conversations with Boko Haram.

Boko Haram operates on the hypothetical assumption that if they continue to claim more lives through accelerated bombing campaigns, the government might be compelled by adverse public opinion to explore peace with Boko Haram. The philosophy on which this assumption is based seems to be working effectively. This is what you get when a government fails to produce a strict and unassailable national security policy to overturn the atrocities committed by Boko Haram since the government was elected nearly four months ago. The president’s defenders might argue that Buhari is just three months in office. That argument is hollow because Buhari is not new to the position.

As a former presidential candidate in the past four national elections, Buhari must have in place a firm plan to check the violent activities of militant groups such as Boko Haram that wage war against the Nigerian state. A national security strategy designed to tackle Boko Haram violence must be given serious and priority attention by Buhari and his military commanders.

The recent official chatter about Buhari’s readiness to engage Boko Haram in dialogue raises grave concerns about the president’s capacity to defend the country, regardless of his previous record as a military head of state. The constitution invests in the president specific powers he should use to fight terrorism, to defend the territory of Nigeria, to protect the lives of citizens, and to reinstate law and order in those parts of the country where communities and villages have been emptied by Boko Haram bombers.

In his acceptance speech in April this year, Buhari identified Boko Haram terrorism as the number one challenge facing the nation. Three months on, the problem is getting worse rather than easing.

Worse still, the relocation of the military high command to Maiduguri, evidently Buhari’s new strategy against terror, has not produced the instant success it was meant to achieve and it has not given the security forces the much expected edge or significant head-start over Boko Haram terrorists. Buhari is in a tight spot.

Reader’s reaction 

Re: Anambra State ‘rewarded’ with Boko Haram prisoners

Levi, the relocation of Boko Haram suspects to Ekwulobia prison in Anambra State reeks of an intention by President Muhammadu Buhari to spread the negative effects of the insurgency to the southern part of the country for obvious but undisclosed reasons.

Watching Buhari’s actions within the first three months of his government would show his tendency to promote particular ethnic interests backed by autocratic instinct of his military background. It is a scenario that must be checked otherwise the consequences might be serious political problems that could truncate the existence of Nigeria as a nation. Could that be Buhari’s hidden agenda despite his promise to treat all Nigerians equally under his administration?

Apart from the transfer of Boko Haram prisoners to Anambra State, Buhari has taken some undemocratic decisions that call for total condemnation by Nigerians to prevent national calamity of unimaginable dimension. Here are just a few: the dissolution of the NNPC board soon after Buhari was sworn into office; and the president sticking his hands into crude oil savings without the required approval by the National Assembly as entrenched in the constitution. This was done to calm the anger of workers in those states where the governors failed to pay workers their salaries. Buhari should have initiated an investigation of the governors who did not pay workers’ salaries rather than use the oil revenue to rescue the states.

The money withdrawn from the crude oil accounts should be returned immediately and due processes must be observed, for the sake of sanity. Buhari should realise that democratic rule is more accommodating than authoritarianism. Perhaps his intention to rule like a dictator is one of the reasons he has not appointed competent and professional people to advise him on what is legal and what is unconstitutional.

• Lai Ashadele (
Phone: 07067677806


]]> 0
Anambra State ‘rewarded’ with Boko Haram prisoners Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:54:13 +0000 It started off as a rumour. Within days, the rumour has gained legitimacy and momentum leading to widespread demonstrations by civil society groups in the South-east. ]]>

It started off as a rumour. Within days, the rumour has gained legitimacy and momentum leading to widespread demonstrations by civil society groups in the South-east. The chat that sparked massive public protests was that Boko Haram prisoners were transferred from their holding place in the North to a low security prison in Ekwulobia, a local community in Anambra State.

It did not take long for the rumour to be confirmed. In the stillness of the night on Sunday, 28 June 2015, 47 Boko Haram prisoners were ferried secretly from their prison in the North to the Ekwulobia prison. Unfortunately, what was meant to be executed in secret had been blown open in the public sphere. This is not surprising. In the age of new media, it is hard to conceal spine-chilling decisions made by the Federal Government, in particular decisions that are intended to imperil ordinary people’s safety, wellbeing, interests, and lives.

In the end, no one was fooled. Unusual presence of soldiers in the Ekwulobia prison premises, as well as the odd presence of armoured tanks positioned in a quiet community that has not seen violence or warfare for many decades confirmed to everyone that Boko Haram terrorists have indeed been transferred to the low security prison in Ekwulobia.

It is wrong to use armed soldiers and armoured tanks to intimidate and restrict the movement of local people in Ekwulobia. Soldiers are not always the solution to every problem, you know. There are instances in which diplomacy has proved to be a more productive way of resolving a sticky problem. You cannot silence people’s right to express their opposition to an unfair decision that threatens their lives.

Renowned British playwright William Shakespeare said while it is excellent for anyone to have a giant’s strength, it would be tyrannous to use that power like a tyrant to bully and oppress other people. This is not the image that President Muhammadu Buhari wants to cultivate in the first few months of his government. He has nothing to lose but the goodwill and support of the local communities to gain if he could rescind the transfer of Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia.

What point or message does the Federal Government want to convey by sending dangerous prisoners to the low security prison in Ekwulobia when there are maximum security prisons that are more suitable to hold the prisoners? A prison facility holding hardened criminals such as Boko Haram terrorists should not be located in a local community with a huge civilian population.

The point has been made about the detention of Al Qaeda prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay high security prison that is far from civilian population. Why can’t the Federal Government see reason in doing a similar thing with Boko Haram terrorists who are in prison in communities with dense population such as Ekwulobia? We expect common sense to prevail. We also expect the Federal Government to apply discretion to resolve the decision to relocate Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia.

Transferring Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia prison is not right. The government must show it has no malicious intentions against the southeast by annulling the relocation of the prisoners. What is wrong is wrong no matter how the government tries to dress it, no matter how many times the government attempts to turn reason upside down.

The relocation of Boko Haram terrorists to Ekwulobia prison has exposed the contradictions in Buhari’s acceptance speech soon after his election. In that speech which he delivered on April 1, 2015, Buhari made the right noises, said the right things that suited the mood of the time, and presented himself as an advocate of peace, equity, and good governance. Now, you might wonder why a promoter of peace would sanction the relocation of dangerous Boko Haram prisoners from the northern states to a peaceful community in the South-east.

In his acceptance speech, Buhari said he would govern for all Nigerians, not only for people in the states that voted for the APC or people in his region of origin but also for every citizen of Nigeria, including people who voted against his party. He said: “I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all.” He also said: “We will govern for you and in your interests.” That was Buhari two months ago. You can now see how the man has transformed himself in just two months from a “man of the people” into a man whose popularity is waning rapidly.

When you deconstruct Buhari’s speech, you will see that nothing so far supports his propaganda that he will govern for us all and in our national interests.

Surely, the transfer of Boko Haram terrorists to Ekwulobia undermines rather than upholds Buhari’s promise that he would govern in the interest of everyone. It does not make sense to engage in excessive use of executive presidential power to suppress the collective interests of people in a local community.

There are times when you have to wonder how and why the Federal Government makes decisions that continue to baffle everyone. There is no way to justify the decision to transfer dangerous prisoners to Ekwulobia. It beats common sense. It lacks sound logic. It is indefensible. It is inexcusable. And it is malicious in intent and execution. Up until the criminals were moved to Ekwulobia, no one ever dreamt that such an action would ever be contemplated by the Federal Government, not to mention putting the thought into action.

The people of Ekwulobia, the people of Anambra State, and the people in all the communities that have common boundaries with Ekwulobia must be wondering why Buhari would allow such a sensitive decision to be implemented so soon after the inauguration of his government. It is unimaginable that a president would endorse a decision that would allow peaceful communities to be exposed to terror, a decision that has the potential to lead to the shedding of blood of innocent citizens. A president is often perceived as a judicious person. The transfer of Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia will not make Buhari to be perceived as a thoughtful and considerate president.

A number of people have argued already that the ill-informed and bewildering decision to move the violent prisoners to Ekwulobia must be driven by a hideous desire to spread Boko Haram terror to the southeast. I am inclined to agree with this idea. People in Ekwulobia specifically and the southeast in general are justified to feel that there is a deliberate plan to disturb the peace in the region, and a craving by the government to impose on the southeast the terrifying experience that people in the north have had with Boko Haram violence.

And yet another view holds that the relocation of the terrorists to Ekwulobia, a low security prison for that matter, could have the unintended consequence of providing a soft ground for the terrorists to stage their escape from a prison that is managed by ill-equipped prison warders and supervisors. This seems to be a sound view also. The government cannot claim ignorance of the pointlessness of transferring dangerous criminals to a prison that is situated in a densely populated community, a prison that is without adequate security forces and equipment. It is imprudent to embed prisoners with terrorist track record into a local community with virtually no resources to defend itself if the terrorists should strike back from their prison.

Let us be clear here: The relocation of Boko Haram terrorists to Anambra State is nothing but mischief of the worst kind authorised by the Federal Government. While impoverished communities in the southeast expect the Federal Government to help them to improve their socioeconomic conditions, what the communities have been given in return is a sinister Greek gift of terrorists who have a record of sadistic violence. Anambra State and the southeast deserve better than this.

It will be hard for the people of Anambra State and the southeast to forget this dreadful experience with the Buhari government. It is an appalling experience. Rather than bequeath well equipped hospitals and medical personnel to the people of Ekwulobia, rather than empower the people with projects that will help to make a difference in their lives, rather than show the human face of the Federal Government, Buhari has imposed fear, terror, restlessness, nervousness, and suffering on the people in Ekwulobia and the southeast states.

For a government that was elected barely three months ago, this is a very bad start. The decision to insert Boko Haram criminals into a local prison that will allow them to interact with, and radicalise, other prisoners who are serving time for minor offences is mindless and iniquitous.

The question must be asked: are people in the South-east being punished because they did not vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the presidential election in March this year? If so, the decision is discriminatory. It is ethnic bigotry by another name.

I have heard people say that the decision to transfer the Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia was made by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Even if that was the case, the argument lacks merit. Just as Buhari has been overturning some of the decisions and appointments made by Jonathan, Buhari can also overrule the decision to relocate Boko Haram terrorists to the South east. In his capacity as president, Buhari must know what is good, what is bad, and what is unfair for ordinary people.

No one needs to impress it on Buhari that the decision to move Boko Haram prisoners from the North to the South-east was wrong, offensive, insensitive, dishonourable, inappropriate, demeaning, and shameful.That decision has the potential to create inter-ethnic tension and conflict between the North and the South-east.

Buhari must show he is a listening and understanding president by annulling the decision to house the Boko Haram terrorists in the minimum security prison in Ekwulobia.

]]> 0
Audu Ogbeh and truth-telling in the APC Wed, 01 Jul 2015 01:11:41 +0000 The man needs no introduction because of his antecedents as a former chairperson of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). During the time he served as the PDP chair, Ogbeh was known as a forthright man, who spoke the truth ]]>

The man needs no introduction because of his antecedents as a former chairperson of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). During the time he served as the PDP chair, Ogbeh was known as a forthright man, who spoke the truth regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, his downfall was engineered by his outspokenness, his belief that honour lies with truth-telling rather than with fawning adulation, sycophancy or obsequiousness. It was this philosophy that informed his decision to confront President Olusegun Obasanjo with the truth about the rumblings within the PDP with regard to Obasanjo’s refusal to discipline Chris Uba, who confessed to him that he single-handedly rigged the Anambra State governorship election in favour of Chris Ngige.   When Ogbeh penned his letter to Obasanjo, he did not envisage that the contents of his personal letter to the president would be leaked to the media. In fact, the publication of that letter triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to Ogbeh’s decision to resign as the PDP chair. It was a nasty misunderstanding between Obasanjo and Ogbeh that not only soured the relationship between the two top men in the party but also led to the development of factions within the PDP.

Ogbeh fell from his enviable position as party chairperson because he was too forthright, too honest, too blunt, too decent, too trusting, and less diplomatic. Unfortunately, these are not the grand qualities for which successful politicians in Nigeria are known for. Against the background of his crushing exit from the PDP, his inability to complete his transformation agenda in the party, his public stoush with Obasanjo, and his current position as a leading member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Ogbeh spoke extensively in an interview published in the Punch of last Sunday, 28 June, 2015, about his views on how the APC could resolve the undercurrents of tension within the National Assembly, the misunderstanding between the National Assembly leaders and some members of the APC, as well the growing refusal of APC legislators to accept party directives with regard to the nomination of principal officers of the National Assembly. It was an insightful interview in which Ogbeh touched on a range of issues, confronting the party but also revisited the problems in the PDP, making indirect and direct references to Obasanjo’s perfidious ways and his dictatorial personality that did not tolerate alternative viewpoints.

Asked to explain why decisions taken by the party during the Second Republic were more binding and respected than the current situation in the National Assembly in which party members have been taking independent decisions that are at odds with or contradicted the party’s position, Ogbeh answered: “… In the Second Republic, there was a structure and the party chairman was a pretty strong person; the president deferred to him. Today, the president owns the party chairman, dictates to him or tries to, at least, before now. As a result, the culture of party supremacy has waned so badly that respect for the party is quite minimal now.”

One could pick in Ogbeh’s response subtle jibes at the way Obasanjo dominated, managed, and indeed hijacked the PDP like his domestic business during the eight years he reigned as president. According to Ogbeh, although the party system made space for a chairperson elected by the party and a president elected by people across the country, in practice, it is the president who tends to administer the party indirectly and sometimes directly. It is the president who is seen as the real power holder. In the president flows power, authority, influence, and the capacity to allocate resources. Not only does the president govern, he is also seen as the repository of knowledge. The president becomes the man to whom everyone goes to ask for financial or moral support, political appointment, or other form of aid.

When the interviewer asked whether Ogbeh also entertained the worry as other citizens do about the impact that disorganisation or instability within a ruling party might have on governance (a reference to the ongoing intra-party feud within the APC members in the National Assembly), he replied: “There has to be some cohesion, otherwise who is going to adhere to the party’s manifesto? Who is going to listen to the party? Who is going to discipline erring party members, living extravagantly, embarrassing the party and the people? The party has to be strong enough to call people to order and in the absence of that, of course, there will be a great deal of wobbling and incoherence in policy implementation.”

As a former chair of the PDP who fell out with Obasanjo and other leaders of the party, Ogbeh drew on his personal experiences to advise about the need for party harmony, greater understanding among legislators and the value of projecting the central organising policies and ideologies of the party. It was in this context that Ogbeh drew attention to the tired cliché that advocates that a house divided against itself can never stand. As the PDP experience showed in the past 16 years that the party was torn apart by widespread disagreement among members, the easiest way to contribute to the downfall of a political party is to engage in constant squabbling.

In his most dispassionate comment on the prickly problem in the National Assembly engendered by the emergence of Bukola Saraki, as Senate president and Yakubu Dogara, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ogbeh said it was no longer possible to consider expelling Saraki from the party. Ogbeh said: “It’s too late to do that. I think dialogue is the answer and I wish to God that, that dialogue had taken place much earlier. Two, calling that meeting at 9:00am when voting (for leadership positions) was happening at 10:00am was a strategic error. I didn’t know who engineered it. It was a very tragic error. Three, I think a committee should have been set up long ago to get the process of reconciliation over with. The committee not involving the party leadership but elders from the party should meet both sides in the divide within the APC and sort the matter out because the longer it lasts, the more embarrassment we get, the more the public confidence in us shakes and the more difficulties we face in governance.”

While the current rebellious behaviour by legislators in the National Assembly is chiefly the handiwork of members of the APC, other politicians in the opposition parties have also used that opportunity to create and sustain the atmosphere of instability. However, in terms of adverse consequences, the APC members will be particularly hit hard because they are seen as members of the ruling party at the federal and state levels. If there is instability in the National Assembly, many people are likely to see it as evidence of the inability of the APC to govern. If APC members in the House of Reps and in the Senate do not resolve their grievances with the National Assembly leaders, they will be hastening the rapid disintegration of their party.   When ordinary citizens look at what is happening in the National Assembly and see scuffles, unruly behaviour, and defiance of the leaders in the legislature, they are likely to conclude that the lawmakers are not interested in making laws for the good governance of the country but are driven mostly by self-serving interests. Already, many people believe that, rather than serve the interests of ordinary citizens who elected them, the legislators are looking after their own interests. Right or wrong, that view may influence how the citizens perceive APC politics, and how they view President Muhammadu Buhari and his government. Overall, these perceptions may influence public opinion and how the people will vote in the next general elections in four years. A self-inflicted injury will not only harm the image of the APC members in the National Assembly, it may also lead to negative perceptions of the APC governments at state and national levels.

What Audu Ogbeh has done in his interview is to make the point about the importance of truth-telling. He believes that it is better to tell the truth now and suffer the consequences as he experienced in the PDP rather than keep silent and watch selfish politicians destroy the party, the noble path established by the founding members of the party, and the goodwill and support that Nigerians have given to the Buhari administration in the early days of his government.  In politics, truth is often bitter. Politicians believe the longer they withhold the truth from the people, the easier it would be to govern and to continue to raid the treasury.

In many cases, this view is not always correct. Nigerians are not as easy to fool as politicians assume. The national leadership of the APC must be grateful to Ogbeh for speaking out now rather than later when the damage would have been irreparable.   Apart from matters of principles that Ogbeh highlighted in the interview, he also underscored the need for self-preservation of the APC, the party on whose platform the wrangling politicians got to their present position.

Whether or not APC leaders admit this, there are two diametrically opposed forces now seeking to strengthen the party or tear it apart. One group sees itself as the voice of ordinary people within the larger Nigerian society. The other group is pompous and believes that nothing happens within the party without the endorsement of the godfathers. While the former group represents the voice of reason and compromise, the other could easily be categorised as a club of villains representing everything that is disruptive in the party.   Leaders of the first group represent the new generation of politicians who would rather die in the service of the nation and the people than watch a select group of privileged politicians impose their personal agenda on the rest of the country. On the other hand, leaders of the second group constitute impenitent troublemakers who have carved a niche for extraordinary deception, misrepresentation of truth, and shifty attitude to national problems.   The APC leaders will be facing a long period of volatility and uncertainty if the cracks in the party are not sealed sooner.

]]> 0
Buhari: Delays, indecision hinder progress Tue, 16 Jun 2015 23:45:58 +0000 In the first few months, following the election of Goodluck Jonathan as president in 2011, two main topics dominated discussion in the public domain. The first topic was the interminably long time it took Jonathan to release the names of his ministerial nominees. The second topic that drew sustained public commentary about Jonathan was the threat posed to national security by Boko Haram terrorists, who mounted ceaseless campaigns of bombings and bloodbath in various parts of the north. ]]>

In the first few months, following the election of Goodluck Jonathan as president in 2011, two main topics dominated discussion in the public domain. The first topic was the interminably long time it took Jonathan to release the names of his ministerial nominees. The second topic that drew sustained public commentary about Jonathan was the threat posed to national security by Boko Haram terrorists, who mounted ceaseless campaigns of bombings and bloodbath in various parts of the north.

Coincidentally, these two topics have coalesced to dominate again public discussion in the first few weeks of Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure as elected president. It is now more than two weeks since Buhari was sworn into office as president and still the nation has no idea about the people who will serve in the new government. This is not good enough, given that the presidential election was conducted on Saturday, 28 March, 2015, more than eight weeks ago. Even if Buhari releases the names of his ministers today, public expectation about the swiftness with which the government would carry out business has been diluted.

Anyone who is wondering why the fuss over Buhari’s delay in releasing his ministerial nominees should understand a basic fact. Releasing the names of people nominated as ministers is a significant step in any government because it suggests the president is moving quickly to set up the framework for the government. Without ministers, Buhari’s government cannot function effectively.

No president can run a government alone. There are crucial matters of state that require ministerial approval. Without ministers appointed to serve in the government, the task of governing will be more complicated and daunting for the president. No country can expect to make progress without the valuable contributions of ministers. If Buhari continues to delay the nomination of his ministers, he would realise sooner than later that he has placed his government in reverse gear.

Another reason Buhari’s delay in releasing his ministerial nominees has disappointed a lot of people is that the nation provided him with unprecedented goodwill and support and, therefore, placed high hopes on him as a symbol of change, good government, and economic progress.

With regard to the second topic of discussion that dominated the public space, following his election (i.e. the threat posed by Boko Haram terrorists), Buhari has responded vigorously by directing that the military high command should be relocated to Maiduguri, which is seen as contiguous to the evil forests that have been used by Boko Haram as a launching pad.

In his acceptance speech on 1 April 2015 soon after he was pronounced winner of the presidential election, Buhari made it clear that Boko Haram’s rebellion remained a serious challenge to national cohesion and integration. He said: “No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram. There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency we have a tough and urgent job to do. But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”

While debate persists on the appropriateness of moving the military headquarters closer to the base of Boko Haram to confront the terrorists on their own turf, the nation is still numbed by Buhari’s inability to quickly constitute a strong team of ministers, advisers and assistants who will serve in his government.

In the manner of a man who is in a hurry to effect change in his country, Buhari hit the right notes in his acceptance speech. He spoke of the challenges confronting the nation but he also spoke about his iron will to overcome all those problems that have undercut national development. He said he was aware of the general expectation that his government would take little or no time to commence the difficult task of rebuilding a country battered economically, socially, culturally, politically, educationally, and psychologically. Buhari raised the hopes of the nation when he said: “We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle. We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do.”

Everyone is in a hurry for change. The nation has suffered irreparably in the past 16 years owing to rampant corruption, disregard for the rule of law, and a culture of entitlement that has encouraged massive looting of government property and national wealth. So, when the public expresses impatience and serious concerns that it has taken Buhari too long to get his acts together and set his government in motion, everyone should understand the context that informs that behaviour.

What Buhari may not understand is that many people see him not only as president but also as a miracle worker. People believe a president can make things appear and disappear like magic. Some people imagine the enormous resources that a president controls and wonder why anyone in such a platform cannot afford to transform the lives of citizens so quickly and provide for the welfare, wellbeing, security, and safety needs of the citizens.

While we must be realistic about what we expect Buhari to achieve, we must also scrutinise critically the loose statements and explanations that are emerging from the president’s men in their eagerness to defend Buhari when he is right and when he is wrong. Surely, Buhari has been too slow to form a government since he was sworn into office. To douse uneasiness in the public, a presidential assistant attempted last weekend to rationalise Buhari’s slow start in government. Consider this.

Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, offered last week a somewhat preposterous explanation why the president has been unable to put together the names of people who will serve in his government. According to the Punch of Sunday, 14 June, 2015, Shehu told a local television channel last Saturday that, “The President did say he would hit the ground running, but he has not been given the chance to hit the ground running because the administration that he succeeded – the Jonathan administration – did not deliver the handover notes until two or three days to the inauguration, meaning that these handover notes were submitted at a time when everyone had been consumed by (inauguration) activities.”

This explanation lacks logical flow. How could delay in the handover notes obstruct Buhari from raising his ministerial team? What a self-serving, vain, and groundless comment designed to make the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan look bad, culpable and responsible for Buhari’s slow start.

Jonathan might signify all things bad for the way he governed the country during his tenure but he cannot be held liable for Buhari’s inability to hit the ground sprinting. Nigerians are not simpletons, you know. We are not so gullible that we consume everything we are told. It is sheer folly for Garba Shehu to attempt to hold Jonathan responsible for Buhari’s inadequacies and lack of preparedness. Manufacturing excuses, deflecting blames and refusing to take responsibility for the president’s lack of action are no smart ways to defend a president who started off by aping the lethargic approach to state matters adopted by his predecessors.

Following his election more than two months ago, Buhari was expected to constitute his government and start to implement major reforms. The programme of change that everyone wanted very much has not commenced because the ministers who will midwife that change are yet to assume office. How can Buhari begin the much expected swift transformation through his slow, unremarkable and uninspiring style of leadership by indecision? Buhari cannot afford to be drawing on the irritating tradition of slowness established by his much maligned predecessors Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.

During his time, Jonathan pledged to change the nation by changing the speed with which he would conduct government business. He also said he would change the nation by implementing a distinctively different system of government. By that declaration, everyone thought Jonathan would increase the speed with which government business was handled. Not so, we later realised. In Buhari’s case, all the promises about change that preceded the election or followed the swearing in ceremony suggested that he would get on promptly with the business of governing. The nation is still waiting for the change Buhari promised.

Buhari’s delay in releasing the list of his ministers, advisers and assistants could well signal the failure to uphold his pledge to the nation. If, after four weeks, we do not see any significant change in Buhari’s style of administration, we might as well conclude that nothing ground-breaking might emerge from the president.

The longer it takes Buhari to configure his ministers and advisers, the longer it will take the government (whenever it is firmly set up) to address critical matters of national importance, particularly serious matters of state that require ministerial approval. This is why no one, including presidential spokespersons, should dismiss criticisms of Buhari’s delay in nominating his ministers.

It is not good that government business is being delayed simply because Buhari is still shopping for the right combination of men and women who will serve as his ministers, advisers, and special assistants. While it is important for Buhari to ensure that he has assembled a team of highly motivated ministers who will implement his programme of change, it is also important to avoid further delays in drawing up the list of ministers. Anything else is not good enough.

]]> 0
Boko Haram defies Buhari and predictions of defeat Wed, 10 Jun 2015 04:42:59 +0000 Sometime on 31 July, 2014, the National Council of State decided to place a deadline for the defeat of Boko Haram insurgents. ]]>

Sometime on 31 July, 2014, the National Council of State decided to place a deadline for the defeat of Boko Haram insurgents. Members of that venerated body looked at the yearly calendar and, on the basis of some unfathomable rationale, decided that 31 December, 2014, would be appropriate due date for security forces to overwhelm Boko Haram terrorists. Everyone was immensely surprised. The time frame from the date the Council of State reached the decision to the date the security forces were expected to end Boko Haram insurrection was exactly five months. 

When former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, announced to the nation the decision of the National Council of State, many people laughed mockingly, essentially because the period outlined for the defeat of Boko Haram was at odds with the practical situation on the ground, particularly in various parts of the North where Boko Haram had set up interim governments of sorts in defiance of the Federal Government.

Critics of the government and specifically the National Council of State argued that nothing had changed significantly to tilt the battle line in favour of federal forces. The question was raised: How could soldiers and intelligence agents, who had been fighting Boko Haram for the past five years suddenly find the energy and the right strategy to rout the terrorists in five months?

The decision was described as derisory and impulsive. It drew cynical comments from all segments of the population. By that decision, the National Council of State showed it was not fully aware of the enormous challenges that confronted soldiers in the war front. It appeared that members of the National Council of State were obviously intoxicated by an overdose of the drug known as patriotism when they expressed excessive confidence that the government of Goodluck Jonathan and the soldiers at the warfront would prevail over Boko Haram.

Anyone who had followed the mixed fortunes recorded by war commanders during the five years of the conflict would be apprehensive of suggestions that federal forces would overwhelm Boko Haram in five months. The time frame given by the Council of State to end the war was anything but reasonable. The nation waited in anticipation that perhaps a miracle would unfold in December 2014. Of course, December came and Boko Haram leaders and militants were not routed. They remained serious threats to national security.

Boko Haram has continued to pile more misery and agony against soldiers and ordinary citizens. Every time the government spoke about its determination to crush the evil organisation, Boko Haram became even more audacious by carrying out more deadly and indiscriminate attacks on military facilities and ordinary citizens. The more Jonathan and federal officials spoke about winning the war, Boko Haram became more daring by exploding more bombs that resulted in bloodbath in public places across the nation.

As the confrontation between the forces of evil represented by Boko Haram and the forces of good represented by federal troops lasted, neither the government nor Boko Haram was in a position of advantage to deliver that final fatal blow. The nation is embroiled in an internecine conflict with no end in sight. While members of the Council of State wished for a quick end to the conflict, the situation on the ground is far from determinable.

I would argue that the Council of State lacks firsthand experiences of the situation in the battle field to predict a date when the war against Boko Haram would conclude.  Only the war commanders who are in the war front and who have experienced the ugliness of the killing fields are really in the best position to assess the situation on the ground based on the extent of the modern equipment, weapons, ammunition, and other accoutrements of war that are available to soldiers in the battle field. All these would have to be considered before anyone, in particular bureaucrats with little knowledge of the war efforts, could set a deadline for the end of the war.

In the five years that the conflict has raged, no one side has  had an upper hand to claim total and unassailable victory. In the mindless battle by Boko Haram to capture the territory known as Nigeria and set up a bizarre government of its own, no one is free from Boko Haram’s indiscriminate bomb explosions and bloodthirsty killings. Army barracks, police stations, marketplaces, commercial bus stations, train stations, secondary school premises, university campuses, offices of international organisations in Abuja, and other places previously deemed to be safe from Boko Haram terrorism were targeted and hit.

It would amount to wishful thinking for the National Council of State to set a deadline for the conflict with Boko Haram to end abruptly in five months without a clear plan of action. No one should expect Boko Haram to be overpowered suddenly. That wishful thinking could not be achieved if there were no considerable improvements in intelligence gathering, if there were no major efforts to equip soldiers and other security forces with better quality arms and ammunition, and if there was little movement on the part of the government to increase substantially its financial commitment to the war.

By setting the unattainable five-month deadline for the war with Boko Haram to end, the National Council of State showed its simplistic understanding of the forces driving the war. Members of the Council of State made so much noise in 2014 about defeating Boko Haram but that optimism was founded only on the platform of hot air expressed by the members.

As I argued vigorously in previous essays relating to this topic, it will not be easy to defeat Boko Haram whose members had infiltrated many government departments and even the military. Jonathan once alluded to that fact, conceding indirectly that his government had given everything to defeat Boko Haram and yet the war efforts had yielded little. The key challenge remained: How do you eliminate a violent organisation such as Boko Haram that has infiltrated so many departments of government? The fact that the army high command has been prosecuting some soldiers for defecting to Boko Haram, including those who collaborated or conspired with the evil organisation in the warfront, not only confirms Jonathan’s fears but also shows how complex the war against the terrorists has become.

While soldiers are fighting Boko Haram terrorists, they are also dealing with traitors within their own ranks. When troops fighting Boko Haram have to constantly look behind their back in fear of moles in their midst, you can understand why it will not be possible for the government to defeat Boko Haram in five months.

Prior to the election of Muhammadu Buhari, many people thought the emergence of a president from the north would signal the end of  Boko Haram. While that optimism was prevalent in the public domain, it must be noted that in the last few months of the Jonathan administration, federal forces in collaboration with soldiers from neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, and Niger had recorded swift successes against Boko Haram. Against all odds, the international collaborative force penetrated the secret strongholds of Boko Haram leaders and sacked the terrorists from their notorious hideouts such as the dreaded Sambisa Forest.

It was on the basis of the victory of soldiers against Boko Haram in the twilight of Jonathan’s government that many people felt that Boko Haram would be wiped out with the swearing-in of Buhari as president. However, since Buhari’s inauguration in the past 12 days, the nation has witnessed a resurgence of Boko Haram violence chiefly in some northern states. It would seem that Boko Haram is spreading the message that, with or without Buhari in Aso Rock, the terror group would continue to be guided by their philosophy of business-as-usual.

So, Buhari’s track record and antecedents as a no-nonsense army general have not infused Boko Haram militants with fear and uneasiness. If anything, Boko Haram bombers have become more brazen, more daring, more vicious, more murderous, and indeed more animalistic in hitting whatever they choose with little or no resistance. Boko Haram may appear to be unbeatable, unbreakable, and indestructible simply because the organisation’s leadership is well served by traitors within the military who provide Boko Haram with vital information about troop movement and capability of soldiers.

Soldiers fighting against Boko Haram are trained and moderately equipped. Nevertheless, when you have double agents and turncoats working in the interest of Boko Haram rather than in the national interest, the war against Boko Haram will be complicated and soldiers will be bogged down in a battle that has no end. Some people have argued that poor quality intelligence by soldiers has enabled Boko Haram terrorists to operate and strike soldiers and ordinary citizens at will. That may well be the case but it cannot explain the continuing success of the evil organisation.

The nation now awaits Buhari’s plan or strategy to defeat Boko Haram. So far, his main plan has been to direct the relocation of the army headquarters to Maiduguri to confront the terrorists on their own turf. That decision has been criticised on the basis that modern warfare does not require the physical relocation of a country’s military headquarters to be closer to the enemy. In other words, wars could be fought or executed successfully from any location on earth. The nation expects Buhari, as a former military head of state, to achieve swifter, sustained and enduring victory  against Boko Haram. Time will tell.

]]> 0
Last rites for the PDP Wed, 27 May 2015 04:05:05 +0000 So much has been written about the demise of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), following the crushing defeat of the party in the presidential and National Assembly elections of 28 March, 2015. While it is tempting]]>

So much has been written about the demise of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), following the crushing defeat of the party in the presidential and National Assembly elections of 28 March, 2015. While it is tempting to assert that the PDP died in the hands of Nigerian voters during the elections, I would argue that the PDP died a slow and gradual death long before the elections

Among the factors that contributed to the death of the PDP were greed, arrogance, unparalleled corruption, cronyism, disregard for the rule of law, disrespect for judicial decisions and gross negligence of the basic needs of ordinary people. In the end, the same people that the PDP treated with scorn over a long period of 16 years were the same citizens who superintended the downfall of the party and also supervised the party’s last rites.

The PDP, regrettably, is now in a state of flux. It is a ghost of its former self. There is confusion everywhere. Senior officials are accusing one another of responsibility for the party’s defeat in the last general elections. There are angry exchanges among party officials who still cannot account for the blizzard that hit the party’s fortunes across the country. As evidence of the confusion that reigns within the party, PDP officials are now talking about the possibility of merging with other like-minded individuals and minor parties, an idea that would never have been entertained before now.

Some other PDP officials have also suggested a massive house cleaning designed to sweep out traitors within who worked secretly against the interests of the party and assisted in pulling the organisation down. No one knows what form or shape the PDP of the future would take. No one knows who, among the vanquished former leaders, would rise from the ashes of defeat to lead a heavily emaciated and anaemic PDP.

In the past 16 years, the PDP managed to embed deceptively in our minds a dishonest image of itself. And it was that fraudulent image that an unsuspecting nation embraced without close examination. It is therefore not difficult to comprehend why many politicians across the country were jumping freely and hastily into that congested public train known as the PDP in which many passengers were also struggling to get out.

In many ways, the PDP represented an enigma in our society. In the days when the party represented a major force in Nigeria’s political environment, many politicians talked loosely about their eagerness to die or to go to jail as long as they could manufacture through some kind of magic victory in elections. In a country in which self-preservation is the first slogan of many citizens, you will have to wonder why politicians would agree to commit harakiri or to be incarcerated just to hold political office.

Since 1999, the nation watched helplessly as PDP kingmakers abused and violated every rule that was designed for the good governance of human society. In fact, the PDP leadership demonstrated to everyone through their rampant and rascally actions that the Nigerian constitution was meant to be violated. PDP power brokers showed that they were well and truly above the law. That was until the 2015 general elections.

In hindsight, many people have wondered how the PDP managed to configure victory when defeat appeared obvious in previous elections. For an answer, I would suggest that you have to look at the level-headed godfathers of election rigging within the party, the various political mechanisms that sustained that culture of abuse, and the quality of men and women who controlled the party’s policies and programmes. Add to these the regular incidents of betrayal, duplicity, and conspiracies that marked the PDP’s internal political activities.

For many years, the PDP was torn apart by obvious contradictions but the party hierarchy managed to hide all of those from public view. For example, the PDP established rules but the PDP watched as sacred members breached those rules. Although the word “democratic” appears in the party’s official name, in practice you won’t categorise most activities in the party as egalitarian.

In a letter he published in The Guardian of Wednesday, 6 December 2006, Felix Akpan wondered forlornly: “What sort of political culture is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) bequeathing to this country?” He argued that, “since independence, no political party has so brazenly raped and subverted sacred political culture and institutions like the PDP”. These sentiments were expressed sadly nearly nine years ago. Akpan was not alone. Ever since the PDP emerged victorious in the 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential elections, the party had behaved like a disorderly organisation with no clear rules that defined acceptable and unacceptable conduct by members.

For many years, the PDP was riven by internal disputes which the leaders described as mere family disagreements. Gradually, the number of disgruntled party members began to rise and with it began mass exodus from the party. Indiscipline was widespread among party members. With a growing band of disaffected members leaving to join other parties or retire from politics, it would be a matter of time before the PDP disintegrated like a pack of cards. This is what happened after the party was trounced in the 2015 general elections.

Despite its ugliness and flaws, many politicians continued to flock to the PDP because it was believed that membership of the party guaranteed victory to everyone. The PDP remained the fatally beautiful bride that many politicians courted. Everyone wanted to join the PDP because it possessed that inestimable talent for pulling out victory from the jaws of defeat.

Having won election after election, everyone believed that all you needed to emerge victorious in any election was to wear the “PDP” tag. Soon emerged the wry humour that if a goat was pre-selected to represent a constituency in an election, that goat was most likely to win as long as it wore the PDP label. That vulgar metaphor captured the helpless condition of opposition political parties between 1999 and 2015. No one knew how to defeat the PDP in national elections. Opposition candidates were disunited and in disarray. The 2015 general elections have changed public perception that the PDP was invincible.

Anyone who wants to gain insights into how the PDP began to disintegrate and the factors that facilitated that implosion must read the interview granted by Alex Ekwueme who was Vice-President during the Second Republic (1979-1983). The interview was published in The Sun newspaper. Ekwueme predicted in that interview, which took place two months before the general elections, that the presidential election might not go the way some conceited PDP leaders expected. Soon after Ekwueme expressed his fair-minded views, he was denounced angrily by PDP leaders who, as usual, showed their inability to take criticisms, even from a founding father of the party.

In the interview, Ekwueme spoke about how the disorder within the state branches of the PDP and the long list of angry members could undermine the chances of the party in the elections. In his view, the goal of the founders of the party that the PDP would rule in Nigeria for at least 60 years looked more like a pipe dream than a reality.

Ekwueme might not be a prophet but he read accurately the likely impact of the disruptions within the PDP on the party’s chances in the elections. He also drew on numerous cases of internal party disputes, especially within the south eastern states, as evidence that the PDP may not taste victory as it used to in previous elections.

When Ekwueme was asked how the PDP hoped to re-imagine itself in view of the numerous predicaments that had to be dealt with by the party leaders in order to position the party for victory in the elections, he said: “The truth is that the PDP as it is today was not the PDP we founded in 1998; that is the truth, I won’t hide it from anybody. It is not the PDP I risked my life to found in 1998. Now, PDP has been hijacked by people who have no philosophical or spiritual attachment to the precepts that informed formation of the party in 1998. What I envisaged for PDP in 1998 was that it would be a mass movement, satisfying the needs of the masses and having membership from all over the country.”

In a more pointed assessment of the fate of the PDP against the widening support that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) was gaining across the country ahead of the last general elections, Ekwueme said: “…What I can tell you is that the PDP will not have an easy walkover this year, as it did few years ago, seven years ago, and 11 years ago; in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 because the party is finding it difficult to manage its successes…People who founded and worked for the party are alienated by poor management of success…”

Reader’s reaction

Re: Unethical journalism and the power to ban media

Levi – Your article last week which was entitled: “Unethical journalism and the power to ban media,” was an exciting and incisive lecture on media rights and abuses by media bodies and government. Some media bodies overreach themselves in their judgment over suspected erring members. Such acts should not be allowed unchallenged.

Buhari had no choice other than to correct his aide’s abuse of AIT’s rights if he does not want to be classed a “democratic” autocrat. Most of the spokespersons of political parties are too partisan to search for knowledge on issues, as you did in your piece, before going to the media to issue unreasonable statements. Their principal concern is to do or say anything their leaders would like to hear or commend them for.

Buhari’s instant reaction to correct the error was a good stance. If he maintains such acts in governance, despite APC spokesperson’s erring threats, we can say there is a silver lining on the horizon that Buhari would promote democratic principles.

One’s fear is that humans can be deceptive sometimes, especially in the leadership bracket, to hoodwink their followers. Well, let us give Buhari a chance that he would adopt the right policies when he takes office on 29 May, 2015.

Nigerians are waiting eagerly for the promised “change” by his party, APC.


Lai Ashadele (07067677806)

]]> 0
Unethical journalism and the power to ban media Wed, 13 May 2015 01:08:36 +0000 Now that the nation has celebrated the historic victory of Muhammadu Buhari over President Goodluck Jonathan, now that we have witnessed the remarkable and ]]>

Now that the nation has celebrated the historic victory of Muhammadu Buhari over President Goodluck Jonathan, now that we have witnessed the remarkable and relatively peaceful defeat of an incumbent president in Africa, it is, perhaps, time to examine the nature of the relationship that the Nigerian press will have with the new government.

But for the timely intervention of Buhari and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the relationship between the president-elect and the media would have started on a frosty, if not, hostile note.

On Monday, 27 April 2015, news broke that Buhari’s security and media teams had banned the African Independent Television (AIT) on the basis of unspecified security breaches and alleged infringement of the code of ethics. The allegations on which AIT was banned were based on imprecise and fuzzy reasons. Since when were accredited journalists banned from covering the activities of a president-elect on the ground that they violated their own ethical codes?

Even if AIT journalists violated their own code of professional practice, Buhari’s security and media teams do not have the power to impose penalties. They can lodge complaints, which can be investigated by a professional body, such as the Press Council (where it exists) or legally constituted Media Council. Even then, the journalists may choose not to appear before the Press Council and their employers may also choose to disregard the decision or judgment of the Press Council. This goes to show the extent to which the code of ethics that guide journalistic practices is seen in many societies, as an ineffective tool to check unethical conduct. Such a code is always at the mercy of the members of that profession.

In Australia, for instance, the Australian Journalists’ Association code of ethics is  prescriptive but legally non-binding on the members. For instance, journalists who breach the code may choose not to appear before the judiciary committee of the Press Council (when they are summoned) or they can simply disregard the judgments of that committee.

One of the drawbacks of having journalists tried by their peers is that the judgment of the Press Council or adjudicating body is not binding because it lacks the force of law. In some countries, a Press Council can sanction a journalist for unethical conduct but it cannot insist that the journalist serve the punishment prescribed by the adjudicating committee. If a fine or suspension is recommended, the journalist can also ignore that sanction. In other words, a journalist can turn his or her back on the judgment of the Press Council. Similarly, the news organisation to which the journalist belongs can take no notice of the recommendations of the Press Council or professional body. For example, a Press Council cannot force a news organisation to dismiss or suspend a journalist, who has been found to have violated aspects of the code of ethics.

In some countries, journalists’ codes of ethics do not carry the same legal weight as, for example, the code of ethics that guide medical practitioners or lawyers. If a medical practitioner, for example, is found guilty of engaging in unauthorised probing of the sensitive parts of his female clients, he could be de-registered or suspended from practice for some months. To be denied a source of income or livelihood is a serious punishment.

Similarly, if a lawyer is found guilty of illegally aiding and abetting criminals and accepting to defend the same band of criminals in court, that lawyer could be punished severely by the professional body to which he/she belongs. These are measures adopted by some professional organisations to ensure that high standards are maintained by their members at all times. Any infringement of the ethical code of practice usually attracts penalties that are commensurate with the offence.

In the matter between the AIT and Buhari’s security and media teams, no one actually specified the ethical codes the AIT breached. So, it seems obvious that someone took the high-handed and utterly inappropriate and unilateral decision to ban the AIT news crew on the basis that their coverage of Buhari’s election campaigns was unethical and less than even-handed. Indeed, AIT was accused of engaging in confrontational, negative, and critical portrayal of Buhari and his party – the APC – during the election campaigns. And yet negative coverage had never been known as a sound and convincing reason for barring journalists from carrying out their professional duties.

Mercifully, following swift and vigorous criticisms of that ill-informed decision, Buhari and the APC hierarchy moved quickly to overturn the decision thereby preventing what would have been the beginning of an adversarial relationship between Buhari’s government and the media. When Buhari reversed the decision to ban the AIT news team, it became obvious the decision was taken without his knowledge or consent.

In his reaction, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, clarified that every media organisation endorsed to cover news in the country was free to cover the activities of Buhari in his capacity as the president-elect. That clarification helped to calm the growing unease among journalists and media proprietors about whether Buhari would re-impose his strict anti-press laws that he initiated when he reigned as military dictator between 31 December, 1983, and 27 August, 1985.

The assurance given to journalists and media organisations that the Buhari government will not victimise any media organisation for the way and manner it covered the presidential election campaigns was seen as somewhat encouraging, although that assurance was interlaced with subtle threats.

As a reflection of its unwillingness to tolerate sleazy and unethical practice from journalists and media organisations, the APC said: “There is a Code of Ethics guiding the practice of journalism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their duties. There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organisations, which have wantonly breached the Code of Ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organisation from covering the activities of the president-elect.”

The statement released by Lai Mohammed carried a dangerous note of threats. It seems to me the APC spokesperson is not aware that the code of ethics that guides professional journalism practice is not in general binding on all journalists. In the first place, only journalists who belong to the professional body can ratify and adhere to the code of ethics. Secondly, there is no legal force that stipulates that journalists who infringe on their professional code of conduct would be dismissed or severely sanctioned. The reason the code of ethics is regarded as a toothless bulldog is that it is non-binding. It is not every practising journalist who is bound to adhere to the code of ethics. To be sure, journalists are required to reflect the code of ethics in their practices but, as stated elsewhere in this essay, infringement is not legally enforceable.

This particular incident reminds me of two related incidents in 2008 and in 2005. When Nigeria’s broadcast industry regulator – the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) – hastily shut down Channels Television in September, 2008, on the basis that Channels Television broadcast unconfirmed news reports about then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s alleged intention to resign, the public was outraged. Public disapproval of the NBC decision was reasonable.

The NBC overstretched its authority by shutting down a private media organisation before sighting all the facts. By that action, the NBC violated the TV station’s freedom to operate in a free marketplace of ideas where truth consistently battles with fabrication. By silencing a channel of public information in such an imperious manner, the NBC management soiled Yar’Adua’s image, as a promoter of the rule of law. Incidentally, the closure of Channels Television was not the first time the NBC had used astonishing and abusive powers to punish a private media organisation.

In 2005, following the fatal Bellview air crash, the NBC promptly closed the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM Stations. What was their offence? First, the NBC claimed the two organisations broadcast announcements that suggested there were no possible survivors in the Bellview crash while air accident investigators were yet to finalise their investigations. Second, the NBC said it had to close the media organisations because the families of the deceased had not been formally notified.

Third, the NBC charged the stations for lack of professionalism in the coverage of the air crash. It claimed the broadcast stations showed close-up and tasteless footage of the crash victims’ bodies. This allegation was simply unsustainable because the NBC arrogated to itself the power to make editorial judgments about the footage that was suitable for broadcast and for public consumption. That professional judgment should be left to the editors. The NBC ignored the clear difference between tasteless footage and unethical conduct. As I argued at the time, showing images that are tasteless on television does not constitute unethical conduct on the part of journalists.

The case of the hasty ban of the AIT by Buhari’s security and media teams has raised serious questions about the level of press freedom in Nigeria, a country that regards itself as a model of democracy in Africa. The battle for press freedom is still a long way from being accomplished. While many African leaders say they support press freedom, their actions expose their contempt for the media and their lack of commitment to uphold the basic rights of journalists to exercise their freedom to report news without official interference, threat or intimidation.

]]> 0
As Buhari settles down to business Wed, 06 May 2015 01:11:42 +0000 Now that the presidential election has been won and lost, now that the jubilations have eased, President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari must settle down to ]]>

Now that the presidential election has been won and lost, now that the jubilations have eased, President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari must settle down to plan for the challenges that will confront his government from his first day in office. There are numerous problems to deal with. As president, Buhari must choose which of the problems deserve priority attention.  

The first challenge that Buhari must deal with immediately and urgently is to compile a list of men and women who will constitute his cabinet. Hopefully, this will not take Buhari as much time as it took Jonathan to configure his ministerial team. To do this fairly to the satisfaction or approval of a majority of the citizens, Buhari must consult widely. However, if he abandons that duty to godfathers in his party, he could be sending the wrong message that he is incapable of making decisions. Whatever happens, the final decision must be his to make.

Although Buhari is not new to the Presidency, there remain serious questions about the man. One question ponders whether Buhari is capable of making serious policy decisions without casting his eyes in the direction of his party leaders. Would Buhari serve as an autonomous president who is capable of understanding the problems that imperil the lives of ordinary Nigerians? What kind of men and women will Buhari give the nod to serve as ministers and special advisers in his government? These are thoughtful and justifiable questions that will inundate Buhari during his first term.

Now that he has won the election outright, Buhari must shed all the negative perceptions and commit himself to work hard to move the nation forward. What should concern Buhari is how to achieve his objectives to a point that will earn him national acclaim by the time he completes his first term in 2019. One strategy is to talk less and do more. Buhari should aim to consult with the people whose lives he plans to transform.

Buhari should identify the problems that are dragging the nation back. These include volatility in the supply of electricity, unemployment, bad roads, poor healthcare, underfunding of primary, secondary and university education, breakdown of law and order, high inflation, and widespread corruption. Buhari should not simply identify the problems. He must find solutions to the problems. These problems have persevered because previous governments overlooked them.

No one wants Buhari to become the proverbial “Jack of all trades”. Not at all. What the nation expects from Buhari is to identify the key challenges, set target completion dates, and assess his performance by what he achieved at the end of his tenure.

Buhari can make a difference by breaking with tradition and appointing his ministers and advisers without seeking the advice of state governors. When state governors nominate candidates to be considered for presidential appointment, they usually don’t nominate candidates with demonstrable track record of achievement. In the past, state governors tended to nominate loyal party members who serve the personal interests of the governors rather than the interests of the states and the nation.

Buhari must also avoid the temptation to appoint ministers on the ground that they successfully delivered their states to the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the presidential election.

Buhari should end the practice in which former state governors are appointed as federal ministers. Regardless of their skills, former state governors should not be appointed as federal ministers or special advisers. They have already served their people.

If Buhari wants to be remembered as the president who made a difference in the lives of ordinary Nigerians, he must set out an effective strategy to tackle the volatility in the supply of electricity across the country. Electricity problem has overwhelmed previous governments. Olusegun Obasanjo was in office for eight years (two terms) and despite his rhetoric about the commitment of his government to eradicate the problem of unstable supply of electricity, he achieved nothing in the power sector. Obasanjo left office and the power sector in a worst state than he found it when he became president. When journalists confronted Obasanjo with the persistent problems in the power sector, Obasanjo told them: “Anything you don’t have or you cannot get, then leave it to God.” Essentially, Obasanjo directed Nigerians to refer the intractable problem of electricity to God.

To be fair, the problem preceded Obasanjo’s government. Indeed, electricity problem has tested virtually every government in recent history. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua inherited the problem from Obasanjo’s government. Following the demise of Yar’Adua, Jonathan mounted the presidential throne and made exaggerated promises about how he would guarantee steady supply of electricity to Nigerians. That elephant promise was never fulfilled. Jonathan will leave office next month and Nigerians will continue to grapple with electricity problems. It is the same problem that will test Buhari’s government. It will not be easy and Buhari must not underestimate the complexity of the problem that will challenge his government.

Perhaps the greatest challenge that will make or mar the administration of Buhari is the Boko Haram insurgency, a stubborn problem that had existed but gained greater impetus during Jonathan’s government. Many people believe that Buhari might be the man with the right strategy to upend the Boko Haram terrorists. The nation is waiting to see how Buhari would tackle the problem. There are two widely cited reasons why Buhari might end the reign of terror that Boko Haram has imposed on the nation. The first is Buhari’s former background as a disciplinarian and no-nonsense military dictator. Another reason is his religious background as a strict Muslim, and of course his region of origin.

Based on his religious faith and knowledge of the region where he was raised, Buhari is expected to put an end to the stubbornness that Boko Haram has posed to the nation. That is only mere expectation. Ever since its emergence, Boko Haram has made the northern part of the country ungovernable and a region of abode for its officials. Within a few years, the terrorists spread their territory, capturing local governments, and sometimes over-running the administrative headquarters of some states.

Thankfully, the gains made by Boko Haram terrorists are gradually being recovered by Nigerian soldiers in collaboration with troops from neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad, and Cameroun. The table has turned against Boko Haram. Buhari can build on the successes made by federal troops in the dying days of the Jonathan government.

For a very long time, President Goodluck Jonathan dealt with Boko Haram terrorists with kid’s gloves, something that he admitted publicly when he said that his government never took Boko Haram as seriously as it should have, particularly in the early days of his administration. It was that tame response to Boko Haram violence and impunity that led to the abduction of over 250 innocent female students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.

More than one year after that appalling raid, the government still has no idea about the whereabouts of the students, their health condition, or even whether they are being held together or whether they have been dispersed to different locations. As long as the Chibok girls remain in captivity, Buhari’s government will continue to suffer the indignity of that scandal that has attracted international outrage. Buhari must find a quick solution to the plight of the students. The fate of the Chibok girls remains a blight on the image of Nigeria. It has diminished and damaged Nigeria’s image in the international community.

Buhari ought to show that he cares as a father, as a president, and as a responsible elder. He must initiate a strategy designed to locate the girls and bring them to the safety of their parents. The longer the girls remain in bondage, the more complicated their case will be and the more knotty it will be to mount a rescue bid.

One way that Buhari could deal decisively with Boko Haram terrorists is to double the financial, human, and technological resources that have been invested in the war efforts. Nigeria is at war with Boko Haram. That is a fact. Buhari should also seek to understand the primary causes of uprisings by militant organisations in various parts of the country. This knowledge should help the government to map out strategies to overwhelm leaders of criminal and terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram.

Reader’s reaction

Re: South African violence: Africans persecuting Africans

Levi, the xenophobic attack in South Africa requires urgent intervention by South African government to put it under control. South Africa has been rated first in Africa in economic terms. President Jacob Zuma’s government has two urgent steps to take right now. The first is to provide adequate security for everybody in South Africa, most especially in areas where attacks are prevalent. Efforts must also be made by the security forces to arrest suspects and to prosecute them.

The second step is to investigate the root cause of xenophobic attacks to help the government to end such criminal activities permanently. The issue of asking the South African government to pay compensation to affected African countries is for now less important. That could come later when the heat of the attack has been doused. If unemployment of South African citizens is found to be responsible for the xenophobic attacks, a law could be put in place, like in some countries, specifying the percentage of the workforce to be filled by local citizens.

Although the issue is an internal affair of the South African government, the African Union (formerly OAU) cannot fold its hands in view of other African countries whose citizens in South Africa have suffered from the attacks. What Africa needs now is a peaceful resolution of the satanic actions so that peace could reign in the continent.

Lai Ashadele (07067677806)

]]> 0
South African violence: Africans persecuting Africans Wed, 22 Apr 2015 00:35:31 +0000 What is happening to migrants in South Africa should be deplored by African leaders and responsible citizens. It is a clear example of Africans persecuting fellow Africans. South Africans are losing their heads. ]]>

What is happening to migrants in South Africa should be deplored by African leaders and responsible citizens. It is a clear example of Africans persecuting fellow Africans. South Africans are losing their heads. They have turned to African migrants to blame for their economic woes, their unemployment problems, as well as poor housing and transportation. One consequence of the latest outbreak of violence across South Africa is that businesses and property established by African migrants are being destroyed by criminal groups. The victims of the unrests are the same African citizens who have taken South Africa as their home.

African migrants in South Africa are being hunted down and murdered indiscriminately for no justifiable reason. These migrants are fearful of their lives 24 hours a day. They cannot trust anyone. They cannot do business as they used to. Local community members and neighbours with whom they had lived and interacted for more than 10 or 15 or 20 years have become enemies. In the current environment, no one is a friend and everyone is an enemy. It is a dreadful situation. The people with whom you exchanged pleasantries and greetings in the morning will turn into savage killers at night, wielding machetes and guns in search of African migrants to kill.

South African security forces appear to be overwhelmed. It is either they are complicit in the xenophobic attacks against foreigners or they have been overrun by gangs of youths raiding, looting, and pillaging foreigners’ properties. I do not believe the criminal gangs roaming the streets cannot be controlled by the security forces.

At times like this, you have to wonder whether South Africa has become dysfunctional, ungovernable, and anarchic. What we are seeing today is a playback of the apartheid-era discrimination under which black South Africans suffered immensely. During the apartheid era, white supremacists did not want Black Africans in cities and urban centres. Black South Africans were denied access to social services and infrastructure in cities. They were segregated and quarantined in their homelands. Today, South African black youths have turned their anger against fellow African citizens who are residing in their country. What a tragedy!

A South African colleague of mine with whom I have been exchanging email conversations about the current uprising in South Africa, says that apart from Somalis, “the other two groups who face special attention are Zimbabweans and Nigerians because they have become tagged as ‘bad’ out-groups.  Also, Nigerians and Zimbabweans are easy to find because they tend to live in large identifiable clusters in specific areas/suburbs. Some areas/suburbs are now regarded as Zimbabwean or Nigerian.”

Here is the absurdity of the current situation. The same treatment that black South Africans complained vigorously against during the apartheid era is now being unleashed on fellow African citizens who migrated to South Africa some decades ago. Some of the victims of the current violence have lived in that country for many years; they have raised children, established successful businesses, contributed to the South African economy, and some even call South Africa their home. For the younger ones who were born and raised in South Africa, the idea that they are being targeted and forced to leave South Africa, the only country they have known since birth, is outrageous and excessive. They are stranded because they have no other country to migrate to.

President Jacob Zuma has the obligation to end the unrest quickly. The longer the violence persists, the more damaging it will be for the South African economy. Those who wonder why the South African police have been generally ineffective in quelling the violence should understand that the policemen and women have their own baggage and image problems. So, the police have to shed their own problems before they can tackle the rioters. Law and order will not be restored easily in South Africa until the police and other security forces have fixed their own predicaments.

My South African colleague concurs with my views, arguing that the South African police have been enfeebled by the system in which they operate.  He notes that one key problem that President Zuma faces is that “the South African police are no longer an effective force”. He argues that many people do not regard the police as capable and effective. He believes the weakness of the police partly explains the emergence of many private security organisations in the country. My colleague argues quite forcefully that “anyone who wants a proper police job done now hires one of the private companies. So if Zuma now wants to use his police force to regain control of the streets he will first need to fix this force and its command structures”. This fits with my own analysis.

This means that the first challenge that Zuma faces is to sort out the problems within the police. Xenophobic attacks are getting worse every day in South Africa and this is not good for the image of the country and indeed for the economy. I saw yesterday a line of buses and a long queue of migrants apparently struggling to be ferried to safety. I don’t know any place that could be regarded as “safe” under the current circumstances as the violence is now widespread.

What is going on in South Africa is an indictment of, and an indirect challenge to, the African Union (AU), a continental elephant whose relevance and effectiveness has been the subject of debate for decades. Since the outbreak of violence in South Africa, many African leaders have kept quiet because perhaps they feel the crisis is an internal problem for South Africa to resolve, even when citizens of other African countries are being killed, and their businesses and properties being incinerated.

Interestingly, the African Union states as its objectives on its website that “The main objectives of the OAU were, inter alia, to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations”

As I have argued elsewhere in this essay, what is happening in South Africa is another form of apartheid. One must ask: Where are the AU leaders who pledged to “rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid”? As long as it exists, Nigerians and other Africans will continue to question the relevance of the AU in a globalised world.

I am yet to see how membership of the African Union has helped Nigeria or indeed other African countries to overcome economic problems or endless internecine conflicts. For example, Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram terrorists for years and only in the past one year did neighbouring countries move in to assist Nigeria to win back territories captured earlier by the terrorists. Membership of the African Union did not help Nigeria, for example, to overpower Boko Haram insurgency, or to surmount its trade imbalances with other countries.

Impoverished ordinary South Africans, those who suffer economic and social deprivations, are always at the forefront of social unrests in their country. These less privileged members of society associate themselves with party political promises by ANC leaders who make promises of a greater tomorrow. After years of living in the hope that their lives will become better, after years of waiting for promises by political leaders to transform their lives, greater expectations eventually will turn into rising frustrations. In that charged atmosphere, nationalistic utterances by political leaders become the tinder that inflames pent up anger and frustration.

The South African government and indeed the ANC leaders must make it clear to the citizens that the government cannot realistically provide jobs for every member of the society. Yes, the government cannot provide free housing to everyone, and the government cannot provide free food and transport to ordinary citizens. It is only in a Utopian state that these privileges can be accorded to citizens. But an ideal state does not exist anywhere in the world. South African political leaders must be honest with their people and tell them the truth.

Like any other country, political leaders in South Africa are adept at diverting attention from the main issues that confront the citizens, namely poor economy, crippling poverty, pitiable healthcare, massive unemployment, rising crime, breakdown of law and order, as well as poor quality of education. What the latest uprising will do is to make South Africa unattractive to foreign investors and this will affect the economy badly. When foreign investors are scared, when they see instability growing in South Africa, they will be unwilling to invest and this will aggravate the country’s economic problems. Unemployment will escalate as businesses refuse to hire. People will look for scapegoats to blame for the hardships and problems that threaten their lifestyle. Foreigners therefore become easy targets in South Africa.

The uprising in South Africa is driven partly by the misleading belief that foreigners are responsible for the widening unemployment in the country, that foreigners are taking away jobs from South African citizens who have been displaced and converted into second class citizens in their home country.

If time is not taken, if the xenophobic attacks on foreigners are not stopped sooner, South Africa will lose all it has gained since the country overcame the apartheid government. It will lose its image as continental leader.

The situation in South Africa is particularly distressing. This continental leader is retrogressing to its apartheid days. The ANC and the political leaders in South Africa have failed their people and indeed other African countries. Poverty is growing. Civil society is weak. In South Africa, the end of apartheid has brought a new breed of greedy political leaders. When will Africa be truly free?

]]> 0
Oba Akiolu: The limits of partisanship Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:30:28 +0000 Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos must be delighted by the outcome of the Lagos State governorship election last weekend. It was his flagrant use of foul language against the Igbo people in Lagos in his attempt to coerce them to vote for the governorship candidate of the All ]]>

Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos must be delighted by the outcome of the Lagos State governorship election last weekend. It was his flagrant use of foul language against the Igbo people in Lagos in his attempt to coerce them to vote for the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Akinwunmi Ambode, in last Saturday’s gubernatorial election that attracted public outrage and antagonism against the Oba.

Many commentators have said a lot already about the threat issued to Igbo community in Lagos by Oba Akiolu. Contrary to his traditional title and the high regard accorded to the office he occupies, Oba Akiolu has set a very bad example of how a revered traditional ruler should not behave in a public space.

Now that Ambode has won the election, Oba Akiolu must be wondering what would have happened if the election outcome went against his wishes. How, for example, would he have handled a potentially dangerous and volatile situation if some radical elements, in response to the Oba’s threats, took the laws into their hands and attacked Igbo in Lagos? That would have been the outbreak of hostilities directed against Igbo people in Lagos. Mercifully, the election result that Oba Akiolu wished played out to the relief of security agencies.

While Ambode’s victory in the governorship election may have averted violence and restored peace to Lagos, his triumph must not be attributed in any way to the threats issued by Oba Akiolu against the Igbo. Ambode was already leading in the polls long before the Oba exposed his character flaws in public view. Thoughtlessness is not an attribute you will associate with traditional rulers. By speaking in the way and manner that he did, Oba Akiolu showed he has a long way to go to appreciate the need to promote good inter-ethnic relations.

Ambode won the governorship election on his own record, not because the Oba threatened thunder and hellfire against the Igbo in Lagos. During his meeting with the so-called Igbo leaders, who visited him, Oba Akiolu even boasted that “nobody knows how I picked Ambode”. First, Ambode is not a little boy the Oba can pick and impose on voters in Lagos State erratically. Ambode is an independent man, a man of his own. Ambode is not the kind of person the Oba can dribble easily. So, the impression that the Oba picked Ambode and, therefore, would be able to influence his decisions is, for lack of a better description, utter nonsense and indeed misleading.

Oba Akiolu’s disgraceful statement to the effect that he picked Ambode and, therefore, would want everyone to vote for Ambode showed how little he understood the concept of democracy, and how narrow-minded he was in threatening the Igbo in Lagos. Here was a traditional ruler whose position required him to serve as father to all citizens, behaving like an absolute ruler, an undistinguished autocrat in a cosmopolitan city, such as Lagos.

Oba Akiolu should understand this fact: State governors are not picked arbitrarily by traditional rulers and imposed on citizens. If it were so, there would be no need for citizens to queue in the sun and rain to vote for candidates of their choice.

Anyhow you look at the video of the Oba’s clumsy tirade against Igbo people in Lagos, a video in which he looked more like a high school bully than a respected traditional ruler, you will not find a redeeming feature. An esteemed traditional ruler, such as the Oba should not swear in public. But Oba Akiolu disgraced his office by swearing by his name, the position he occupies, and the name of God and Allah. His conduct was distasteful, pathetic, and objectionable.

It is quite obvious that Oba Akiolu did not understand the concept of democracy and the right of every citizen, regardless of their ethnic origin or religious affiliation, to participate in a free and fair election of their leaders. Last Saturday’s governorship and state houses of assembly elections, just like the presidential and National Assembly elections that took place a fortnight earlier, required the citizens to vote for candidates of their choice.

Democratic elections are supposed to be open, free, and without coercion or threats issued by political leaders, traditional rulers, religious leaders, and champions of regionalism. Oba Akiolu has the right, as a free citizen, to vote for any candidate of his choice. But, surely, he does not have the right to coerce an ethnic group to vote for his preferred candidate. By issuing threats designed to intimidate the Igbo in Lagos to vote for his preferred candidate, Oba Akiolu has damaged not only the independence and high regard the public has for the traditional office he occupies, he has also harmed the image that Ambode cultivated in public prior to that reprehensible outburst.

Every traditional ruler, not least the Oba of Lagos, is perceived as a role model, a mediator, a conciliator, a peacemaker, and an arbitrator. In that context, Oba Akiolu is not required to take sides in a contest for political office between his subjects. By declaring his partisanship openly in a brusque, thoughtless and tactless manner, Oba Akiolu raised serious questions about his fitness to occupy the highly revered position of Oba of Lagos. Many people feel that by his combustible comments directed against the Igbo, Oba Akiolu showed he was not a fit and suitable person to remain in the highly respected office that he occupies.

Traditional rulers are regarded as morally conscientious. Their conduct and their utterances are seen to be beyond reproach. Through their own conduct and the interest they show in the behaviour of others, traditional rulers are perceived as principled, honourable, and unbiased. In their various positions, traditional rulers are expected to set examples that other citizens should ape. If they behave improperly or if they endorse inappropriate behaviour by citizens in their areas of influence, traditional rulers lose the respect accorded to them.

By threatening the Igbo in Lagos to vote in a certain way for a certain governorship candidate in last Saturday’s election, Oba Akiolu behaved like a politician rather than a royal father, who should look after the interests of his people. That inappropriate behaviour has attracted severe criticisms to Oba Akiolu.

A more discrete traditional ruler would not have raised the topic of the governorship election in a public forum during the time Oba Akiolu received the so-called Igbo leaders. Unfortunately for the Oba, the people who visited him were not, in a strict sense, genuine and authoritative leaders of Igbo people. So, his angry message went to the wrong messengers, who had no influence over how the Igbo in Lagos would vote in the governorship election.

The threat issued by Oba Akiolu had nothing to do with ethnicity. It had everything to do with partisanship. After all, Jimi Agbaje, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos State is also a Yoruba man by origin. It is one thing to advise members of an ethnic group to vote for your own governorship candidate but it is a different matter to threaten them with death if they failed to vote for your preferred governorship candidate. It is an arrogant threat that may backfire against the Oba, the privileges he enjoys and the way the public perceives and ranks him.

Now that Ambode has won the governorship election, he would have to contend vigorously with one problem created for him by the Oba. Many people are likely to see him as an obsequious servant of the Oba, a stooge who will be exploited easily by the Oba. Yet those who know Ambode say that he is an honourable young man whose bright political future may be determined by the extent to which he establishes his independence, and how quickly he distances himself from the Oba’s quirky viewpoints. Why, for goodness sake, did the Oba of Lagos, exhibit such level of immaturity, such intemperate anger and such lack of discretion in expressing his preference for Ambode as the next governor of Lagos State?

The Oba of Lagos is a traditional ruler. He is not, by any means, a kingmaker in politics. Ambode did not have to receive the Oba’s blatantly biased or partisan support and blessing to win the governorship election. Ambode is capable of doing so with the support of the outgoing Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, who can point to his own record of achievements and his track record in office as evidence to show that Ambode can also replicate his successes and exceed his (Fashola’s) achievements.

Oba Akiolu ought not to have jumped into politics in the manner he did. Now that he has done that and muddied the waters for himself and Ambode, Oba Akiolu must be prepared to take responsibility for engineering a controversy that has the potential to set ethnic groups in Lagos on a war path. If that happens, it must be seen as the reward for Oba Akiolu’s deep-seated hatred for the Igbo in Lagos and beyond. Those who have tried to defend the Oba in his gross disregard for the Igbo have so far scrubbed the surface and avoided the key issues.

]]> 0
Buhari: The man on whom the nation’s hopes rest Wed, 08 Apr 2015 00:31:00 +0000 The presidential and National Assembly elections have been won and lost. The losers have flagged their intentions to challenge the outcomes not only at the election petition tribunals but also at the Supreme Court.]]>

The presidential and National Assembly elections have been won and lost. The losers have flagged their intentions to challenge the outcomes not only at the election petition tribunals but also at the Supreme Court. That will be a long and arduous process. We know for sure that this will not happen with regard to the outcome of the presidential election. President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat before the final results of the election were announced.
By conceding defeat and congratulating the winner before the final declaration of the election result, Jonathan demonstrated a unique character trait, courage that is hard to find among Nigerian politicians. For that statesmanlike behaviour, Jonathan has been lauded at home and abroad because his action ensured a smooth transition of power from a defeated incumbent president to the opposition candidate. Again, that is an uncommon feature of political leaders in Africa.
Over many decades, Africa has produced sit-tight political leaders who hardly respect election results or indeed the wishes of voters. All eyes are now on Nigeria to see whether Jonathan’s successors would institutionalise the man’s heroic conduct so that it will become an established part of our political culture.
As some commentators have already acknowledged, Jonathan’s decision to admit defeat and to congratulate President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on his triumph has saved the nation from anticipated bloodshed and a long period of political instability.
While the democratic significance of Buhari’s election has been noted, some people are already prognosticating how the president-elect would govern in the next four years. It is early days yet for anyone to predict whether Buhari would be the best elected president Nigeria has ever had since independence or whether he would, like his predecessors, appear like a shooting star that glitters for a moment and disappears in a flash.
Given the nation’s experience during the terms of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, you can excuse people who are in a hurry in their expectation of immediate results from Buhari. The euphoria that blanketed the country since Buhari’s victory has driven many people to expect Buhari to hit the ground running as from 29 May 2015. We are an impatient people. And given the combined undistinguished performance of the duo of Yar’Adua and Jonathan in the past eight years, everyone will be justified to say the nation has been badly served by Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Still, that is not a sound reason to railroad Buhari into taking quick actions that could undermine his government.
One clear advantage that Buhari has over Jonathan and Yar’Adua is that he had served previously as a military dictator from 31 December 1983 till 27 August 1985 when his dictatorship was cut short by Ibrahim Babangida’s coup. Although there is a clear difference between governing a country as an autocrat and leading as an elected president, Buhari is certainly not a new comer to the presidency. In that context, the citizens do not expect him to ask for time so he could familiarise himself with the methods and machinery of government. That was what Jonathan did in the first 18 months of his government. That was also what Yar’Adua did in the first one year of his government. On his part, Buhari does not need a period of orientation to study how to govern at the highest level in the country.
Before they became president at different times in history, Jonathan and Yar’Adua were limited by knowledge of governing only at the state level. Yar’Adua served as governor of Katsina State between 29 May 1999 and 28 May 2007 before he was elected president in the 2007 presidential election. Jonathan, on his part, first served as Bayelsa State governor from 9 December 2005 till 29 May 2007 before he was elected as Vice-President to Yar’Adua. Jonathan served in that capacity from 2007 to 6 May 2010. Yar’Adua died on 5 May 2010.
Regardless of the jubilation across the nation, everyone must be patient for at least one year before making critical judgment of Buhari’s performance in government. Anything short of one year would be unfair expectations from a man who last served as military dictator exactly 30 years ago.
The first glimpses of how Buhari plans to govern could be seen from his acceptance speech. In the last paragraph of his speech, Buhari spoke like a man on a mission, like a man who understood the expectations of the citizens, and like a man who is fully aware of his obligations to his countrymen and women. Buhari told the nation: “We will govern for you and in your interests. Your vote was not wasted. This is not the first time Nigerians have cast their votes for us, and this is not the first time they have been counted; but this is the first time that the votes have been allowed to count. With the help of God, we pledge to do our utmost to bring forth the Nigeria you seek.”
Buhari also showed in his acceptance speech that he is human and that as leader, Nigerians must be prepared to accommodate his shortcomings. That is the hallmark of a man who does not want to be seen as a magician but a leader who should be respected for his moral conduct and his impartial judgments. Buhari said: “Along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, be rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of wilful neglect and indifference.”
If Buhari wants to rule like a statesman, he must avoid the temptation to cater for the needs of people in those states where he received majority support and ignore the needs of people in other states where he received low support. No state should be victimised because of the way people voted in the presidential election. If Buhari initiates and carries out a policy of victimisation against people in some parts of the country, he could be seen as playing the politics of sectionalism and regionalism. That will not bode well for Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) in future elections. In celebrating the present victory, it is important not to forget that there will be elections in the future. Buhari should adopt a policy that will help him and his political party to widen rather than narrow their areas of influence across the country.
Buhari must not, in his eagerness to show his power as president, take actions that will confirm the widely held fears in certain regions of the country that he is a religious and ethnic extremist who believes that a particular region of the country deserves more federal resources than the rest of the country. Buhari must keep in mind that people have the right to vote for political candidates of their choice during national elections. To attempt to settle scores in such a negative way or to propagate a policy of retaliation would go against everything that Buhari said he stood for during the election campaigns and in his acceptance speech.
Buhari must show through his actions and through his words that he is the president of Nigeria, not the president of a geographic region of the country. That means he should be willing and ready to attend to the needs of people from all sections of the country, regardless of their ethnic affiliation, region of origin, and religious faith. A truly great president should accommodate all interest groups from across the country.
The first challenge that faces Buhari as he prepares to take over government on 29 May 2015 is the quality of men and women he assembles to serve in his government. That will be the first test of his administration. Nigerians usually see the composition of a president’s cabinet as the first sign of how a new government plans to govern. It is also perceived as a symbol of a weak or strong government, a sign of a government that is ready to serve rather than be served by the people, a government that is willing to cater for the needs of ordinary people rather than a government of self-centred officials who are driven by their own selfish interests.
An indication that Buhari will govern for all Nigerians was revealed in the fourth paragraph of his acceptance speech in which he said: “Let us put the past, especially the recent past, behind us. We must forget our old battles and past grievances — and learn to forge ahead. I assure you that our government is one that will listen to and embrace all.”
The coming months and years will confirm or refute public fears and optimism about Buhari’s government.

Enugu guber: Ohanaeze endorses Ugwuanyi


The Enugu State chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has endorsed the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as its preferred candidate for the April 11, 2015 gubernatorial election in the state.
In a communiqué jointly signed by the state chairman and secretary of the Pan Igbo Association, Chief Eric Ebeh and Chief Fidelis Ojobo, respectively, the body disclosed that the endorsement was a fallout of its appraisal of all the gubernatorial candidates of the political parties in the state and further “consultations with traditional rulers council, professional bodies, organised private sectors, market associations, civil society groups, student unions and other stakeholders.”
The apex socio-cultural Igbo body also conferred on Ugwuanyi a prestigious title of “Ozo-Igbo Ndu Ndi Igbo/Grand Patron, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Enugu State chapter” in recognition of his contributions to the growth and development of the Igbo nation.
They added that their choice of Ugwuanyi was based on his philanthropic gestures in empowering Igbo sons and daughters through job creation and employment, human capital development and goodwill, coupled with his excellent track records in public service. The Igbo body also praised his appealing manifesto and ability to deliver and sustain the good works of the PDP government in the state as among the major reasons why they unanimously resolved to support Ugwuanyi’s gubernatorial bid.
The Pan Igbo association appealed to “all eligible voters in the state to go to their respective polling booths on Saturday, April 11, 2015, and vote massively for our anointed candidate (Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi) to take over the mantle of leadership in the Enugu State Government House come May 29, 2015.”

Reader’s reaction

Re: Another electoral body without Jega’s ineptness
Let us accept INEC’s mistakes and shortcomings. You have clearly detailed them in your piece: “Another electoral body without Jega’s ineptness”. Let us go to the post mortem! President Jonathan has emerged the best and true democrat that we have.
If the election went the other way, only God knows what would have happened.              President Jonathan’s statesmanship has defined a lot of things for us in Nigeria. He has consistently given us free and fair elections despite all the bungling by INEC. He has graciously refused to shed innocent blood, unlike most of his predecessors. He allowed arch enemies to abuse him and do all manner of evil.
We shall see what will happen in the future when they lose elections! President Jonathan has set a standard that we cannot go below: This is a lesson to all Nigerian politicians. President Jonathan indeed has brought the change that APC clamoured for. We will not accept failure and business-as-usual from them. We thank you, Lord, for a new Nigeria!
Col. R.N. Oputa (retd.), Owerri.

]]> 0
Another electoral body without Jega’s ineptness Wed, 01 Apr 2015 00:14:25 +0000 When people say the elections were peaceful, I wondered what they would say to the families of those who lost their lives in violence, in explosions in some voting centres, and the families of those who were seriously injured in hostilities generated by thugs who wanted their political ]]>

When people say the elections were peaceful, I wondered what they would say to the families of those who lost their lives in violence, in explosions in some voting centres, and the families of those who were seriously injured in hostilities generated by thugs who wanted their political candidates to win by all means. Going by the high level of thuggery and failure of the problematic card reader machines that were not tested sufficiently before being deployed in the elections, last Saturday’s elections cannot be regarded as the freest, most peaceful, and most credible, regardless of the views expressed by international observers many of whom did not visit ballot centres in remote and rural villages scattered across the country.

The most appealing aspect of the presidential and National Assembly elections was that the citizens defied all predictions about the doom and gloom that would befall voters on the election day. Regardless of the predictions, voters still came out in large numbers to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice as well as their preferred federal legislators. However, a combination of wilful actions by the INEC officials to damage voters’ wishes and the thuggish behaviour of some political party officials have ensured that the elections will be gravely adjudged to be anything but free and fair and violence-free.

In last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections, some trouble makers and corrupt INEC officials made a mockery of Nigeria’s undeserved image as the “giant” of Africa. A giant that cannot get things right in a presidential election is not worthy of the title.

Why can’t we emulate other African countries in which elections are held peacefully and freely and fairly without rigging, without killings, and without assaulting law-abiding citizens who wish to participate freely in electing their leaders? Why did Attahiru Jega, the obtuse and obstinate chair of INEC, insist on the use of card reader machines that did not undergo sufficient and fail-safe tests before they were deployed in the elections? It was shameful to see that President Goodluck Jonathan and, at least, three state governors, ran into the problematic card reader machines that could not do the job during the election.

If the card readers did not work in the case of Jonathan and other state governors, you can imagine the number of ordinary citizens, who might have encountered a similar fate last Saturday.  Although manual accreditation was allowed in cases where the card readers did not work, there are consequences. Manual accreditation of voters left a bigger room for election officials to tamper with the results and, therefore, the failed card readers allowed crooked election officials to make up for what the technology could not accomplish.

How did the nation allow Jega to get away with such inane decision? It is time that Jega and his acolytes in the ill-informed decision to use the untested and unproven card reader machines were made to understand that there is always a price for election officials, who show pig-headedness and narrow-mindedness in decisions.

As the Punch newspaper reported on Monday this week (30 March 2015), Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has already described the presidential election as “one of the most vicious, unprincipled, vulgar and violent exercises I have ever witnessed.” But this is not the first time that Jega would embarrass the nation in crucial elections. He did it in the Anambra governorship election in November 2013. In that election, so many voters were deliberately denied their legal right to participate in selecting their state governor. A similar outcome was recorded in Ekiti during last year’s governorship election.

Three days to the start of the presidential and National Assembly elections last weekend, Jega defended in a stubborn manner his decision to use the card reader machines for the elections. He said his decision was always going to be unpopular with a segment of the population, particularly those who planned to rig the elections. What a pompous and self-serving comment. Now that the card readers have arguably failed the purpose for which they were introduced during the elections, one must wonder whether Jega would admit his lapse in judgment. No one should argue that the number of cases in which the card readers failed were insignificant and, therefore, did not affect the results of the elections. That would be unsound argument.

On Wednesday, 25 March 2015, Jega said: “Let me use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we believe that we have done everything possible to ensure that the 2015 general election is successful. We are adequately prepared in terms of both logistics and manpower.” Looking back now at the widespread flaws that polluted the elections last Saturday, it should be obvious to everyone that Jega’s optimism was simply intended to mislead the nation. On the basis of INEC’s manifest lack of preparation for the elections last weekend, it would be extremely hard for anyone to believe Jega again.

In many of the polling booths across the nation, INEC officials did not arrive on time and voting did not commence according to schedule. This criminal delay meant there were hitches associated with accreditation of voters. In instances in which Jega’s much vaunted card readers failed outright, INEC officials had to resort to manual accreditation, opening up opportunities for electoral transgressions.

When the elections were postponed five weeks ago, Jega told the nation that insecurity was the chief reason why he postponed the elections. Again, evidence showed that Jega was less than honest in his claim. Rather than admit that INEC was unprepared because most of the election materials such as the permanent voter cards (PVCs) and the card reader machines were not yet in place and have not been tested sufficiently, Jega hid his incompetence under the shadow of Boko Haram violence in some northern parts of the country.

Here was a man who got virtually every financial and material support he requested from government but could only conduct disorderly presidential and National Assembly elections. Here was a man whose electoral commission was provided with colossal sums of money to facilitate smooth, free, fair, and credible elections but he ended up putting up substandard performance. Never again should the nation be saddled with an incompetent chief electoral officer who speaks before he has had the chance to assess the preparedness of his organisation to conduct free elections.

It seems to me that Jega has been living in denial of his commission’s lack of capacity to conduct the 2015 general elections. I remember vividly the national joy that marked the appointment of Jega as the INEC boss in June 2010. All that elation has disappeared following blunders and gaffes committed by Jega’s INEC in virtually every election he superintended since his appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan. By the time Jega leaves as chairperson of INEC, he would have established an undistinguished and unimpressive track record of performance that is hardly better than that of Maurice Iwu, the man that Jega replaced in 2010.

No one should really be surprised by the way Jega mishandled the 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections. The nation was given clear hints of what would unfold in this year’s elections many months before the presidential and National Assembly elections. This was evident in the governorship elections and also state houses of assembly and National Assembly elections conducted by INEC in the years leading up to the 2015 general elections.

For example, the Anambra State governorship election that was held on 16 November 2013 was damaged by too many breaches of the electoral laws. The infractions, you won’t believe, were committed by INEC officials. Following that election, I wrote an article that heavily criticised the performance of INEC. I wrote: “If what happened last Saturday (16 November 2013) represented a test run of what we should expect in the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State and the presidential election in 2015, we must be prepared for a landslide presidential election result that will privilege a presidential candidate preferred by INEC. No one should be deluded into believing that INEC is capable of conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2015. If INEC failed to conduct a state governorship election without rancour and self-inflicted disruptions, how could anyone expect the same election commission to put up a better performance across the country in two years’ time?”

That question rings true today. Two years on, rather than improve on that dreadful performance, Jega and his INEC officials put up a worse act. Last Saturday, election officials still arrived very late at some of the voting centres.

Those who know Jega would tell you the man likes to evade responsibility for the poor conduct of elections at any level. He does not take responsibility as INEC boss because he perceives himself as the phenomenal chairperson of INEC who is beyond censure.

The repercussions of the elections conducted last Saturday are yet to manifest in full. When they begin to unfold, there will be no hiding place for Jega. While Nigerians have been hailed for coming out in large numbers to perform their civic duty, INEC officials and their inanities might yet prove to be the cog that wrecked what ought to be an impressive outing by Nigerian voters.

]]> 0
Uncertain political situation on Saturday Wed, 25 Mar 2015 01:11:20 +0000 After more than two months of election campaigns, every Nigerian citizen will finally get a chance on Saturday this week (28 March 2015) to vote for their preferred presidential candidate.]]>

After more than two months of election campaigns, every Nigerian citizen will finally get a chance on Saturday this week (28 March 2015) to vote for their preferred presidential candidate. Unfortunately, this will happen against the background of election campaigns that were less than gracious, less than ennobling for the candidates, and less than enlightening for the citizens.  The speeches that marked the campaigns were equally less than lucid and gratifying.

The poor quality of the campaigns symbolises the poverty of ideas the candidates showcased throughout the campaign. The addresses presented by the presidential candidates exposed the different tones, the different character flaws, and the low level of willingness by the candidates to tolerate their opponents’ views and policies.

In light of the din and confusion that enveloped the campaigns, it is fair to conclude that voters made little or nothing of the many weeks of campaigning by political candidates and their parties. Even as the election date draws closer, many voters cannot tell you clearly why they prefer one presidential candidate over the other, or a specific policy that distinguishes one candidate from the other.

The campaigns also experienced weird and wild allegations. Essentially, spokespersons for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) engaged in a contest over which party would manufacture the most mischievous and most unusual malicious allegations that they lobbed frequently at one another. I have never seen such asinine and high level of wild allegations manufactured and marketed by spokespersons hired by political parties to advance their ideologies and policies. At one point, the election campaigns descended into exchange of abuses and name calling. When adults behave badly during election campaigns, you know they have no new ideas to convey to the public in order to win their votes on election day.

Both the PDP and the APC politicians made defamatory comments against one another. In a highly litigious environment, none of them would have been able to get away with slander. All of these go to show that both parties lacked something desirable that will appeal to voters. The feeling that dominated the election campaigns was that the more lies one political party spread about the other party, the more likely it is that the lies would stick over a period of time.

If, after weeks of campaigning, many voters still feel confused or mystified or unable to identify the key policy statements made by leading candidates, it is fair to conclude that the campaigns were full of noise and empty promises, and probably a waste of everyone’s time.

Election campaigns are meant to provide spaces where candidates can interact with voters. They are public forums in which political parties and their candidates relate with voters and get the chance to explain their policies designed to convince voters why they deserve popular support on election day.

There is a feeling among citizens that election campaigns do not determine who will win elections in Nigeria at any level. There is also the perception that the party that engages in more violence stands a greater chance of convincing voters that they have the power and willingness to govern.

As the clumsy campaigns come to an unimpressive end this week, I feel perplexed by the deficiency of common sense, honour, and diplomacy in the speeches made by the leading presidential candidates. Having listened to and consumed the campaign speeches delivered by the PDP and APC presidential candidates, I feel like I have just been hit by a bout of headache owing to numerous dubious promises made by the presidential candidates.

The campaign speeches made by PDP presidential candidate President Goodluck Jonathan and the APC flag bearer Muhammadu Buhari were exceptionally hollow and pretentious. They were evasive, insincere, mostly disjointed and unintelligible. Indeed, most of the speeches could benefit from some form of grammatical finesse. Quite frankly, Nigerian voters have been poorly served by poor performance by Jonathan and Buhari. Still, I would argue that voters have no choice between the two candidates.

Whichever candidate the citizens vote for on Saturday, they (voters) will go away not with that sense of self-satisfaction that they have empowered a brand new president who would renovate Nigeria. Each of the two presidential candidates has a huge baggage of problems. And voters must be prepared to tolerate any of them who emerges victorious this weekend. It is not an easy choice. Voting for a presidential candidate in Nigeria this weekend is a huge challenge.

The poor choice of words and manner of speech delivery during the campaigns meant that certain arguments made by Buhari and Jonathan were lost because they were delivered improperly in inappropriate environment. Jonathan and Buhari could be excused on the ground that English is not their primary language. Nevertheless, grammar or no grammar, they treated with a certain degree of triviliaty the key problems in the country as if they were no problems. Consider the growing list of the unemployed or the plight of workers who have been retrenched in a society with no social security payment systems. Consider also the growing insecurity in parts of the country. None of the presidential candidates delivered convincing arguments about how they will tackle these problems.

What both candidates did not address solidly and convincingly in their election campaign speeches is their plan to overcome the core problems facing the country such as poor healthcare, decrepit infrastructure, poor network of roads, the low quality of higher education, and others. In a free and fair election, any presidential candidate who provides unimpeachable evidence of how they plan to significantly reduce the unemployment rate in the country and provide for the welfare of the retrenched workers will be almost certain to win. However, in Nigerian elections that are usually marred by electoral transgressions, ballot box snatching, and audacious rigging, predicting the outcome of an election is as difficult and hazardous as predicting the gender of a pregnant woman’s child.

At the moment, Boko Haram terrorists are on the run, confronted by an overwhelming force comprising of soldiers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. If the security forces maintain their current momentum, Boko Haram terrorists will find their days are numbered as their numbers continue to deplete.

It is easy to understand where Jonathan and Buhari stand on questions of leadership and service to the community. They believe that leaders are born in the same way that servants are born. That is why Jonathan often makes references to his upbringing as a poor boy without shoes who rose miraculously to the highest position in the country. In other words, if he was not born to be a leader, he would never have attained his current position. So, for Buhari and Jonathan, political leaders must lead and ordinary people must continue to serve the rest. Nature cannot be changed overnight. For both candidates, there is the greater dream of a Nigeria in which there is no legislature that will nag the president, a country in which the media exist by the authority of the president, and a country in which the president has the superseding powers to decide which judicial pronouncements to honour or disregard.

Whatever happens, the challenge facing voters on Saturday is to choose between a former military dictator who claims he has been rehabilitated to the point where he sees himself as a defender of democratic values and an incumbent president whose track record in office is highly contested. May the best candidate win! We must also hope that the election will be free and fair, and that the bumbling officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not make a mess of the elections.

Reader’s reaction

Re: Buhari’s soft policy on corruption

I very well share your view on the issues raised on time and space for corruption. As you intelligently noted in your early remark, the man GMB is not being properly guided or advised on his iterations. This probably may be because he is unlike, under the military, no longer a free man. He is working with a combination of the good and the bad, the corrupt and mildly corrupt party members. To them, winning the next election no matter the odds is most important.

Can we really say a time can be placed on actualising a corrupt free Nigeria? No, for now, though with time it will be over. Let Buhari drop further talks on how he intends to tackle corruption and make the institutions work by ensuring their proper empowerment and strong legislation. Other matters will, like water, find their way! The failure of the present administration to deal with corruption is simply because 90% of the corrupt persons identified are friends of the people at the top and they make weak laws. Let us be proactive and search our conscience. A mistake made more than twice is a decision. We can do it if really we want to check corruption!

Charles Soetan

Let me commend your verdict in “BUHARI’S SOFT POLICY ON CORRUPTION”. Looking at Buhari’s declaration of pardon for past leaders, one could easily figure two possibilities. The first is an attempt to hoodwink the corrupt APC members to continue with their commitment to paddle his boat to Presidential saddle hence the granting of pardon in advance. The second is to still prove his promise to Nigerians to punish corrupt persons but from his point of being elected as President in 2015. What a fraudulent ploy!

There is a clear insinuation about Buhari’s new stance on corruption management. He has always been touted as an incorruptible leader but he might be thinking of using this opportunity, if elected as President in the forthcoming election, to suck the country’s treasury too. Buhari really shot himself in the foot by that pronouncement and that should be enough, in an enlightened polity, to stall his chances at prospective elections.

Discerning Nigerians have now seen Buhari as a pretentious being trying by all means to force himself onto the leadership saddle of Nigeria. Perhaps his case would have been a lot better if he had not earlier said he had no regrets for all the wrongs he perpetrated as military head of state.

Let any past leader who knows that he is culpable of corrupt practices put on his wisdom cap to ignore Buhari’s cheap and dangerous spurious pardon that will be set aside when the chips are down.

Lai Ashadele

]]> 0