The Sun News » The Flipside – Eric Osagie - Voice of The Nation Sun, 02 Aug 2015 17:42:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Re: Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta Mon, 27 Jul 2015 00:22:04 +0000 TODAY is the readers’ day, as I surrender this column to views and comments of readers to my last week’s piece: Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta. Please, go ahead… A sincere write-up Thank you for your sincere write-up on “Obasan­jo, Jonathan and Niger Delta.” I would buy more of Daily Sun now because of Eric [...]]]>

TODAY is the readers’ day, as I surrender this column to views and comments of readers to my last week’s piece: Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta. Please, go ahead…

A sincere write-up

Thank you for your sincere write-up on “Obasan­jo, Jonathan and Niger Delta.” I would buy more of Daily Sun now because of Eric Osagie!

…Franklin. C. Igwe, 0801-574-6133

A masterpiece

Your last issue was simply a masterpiece! The analysis you made are simply germane. Jonathan allowed himself to be destroyed by crooks. I am sure he is full of regrets by now. God bless you.

…Fabian (Seminarian) 0703-723-9598

You are detribalised

“Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta,” repre­sents a very remarkable, disinterested and mind-arresting piece that encompasses the multiplicity of unspoken facts about the failed Jonathan presi­dency, and need I say further that Eric, whom I suspect is a South- Southerner of Edo stock, is one of the detribalised few, who critically see and say things the way they are, even at the risk of being labelled as a renegade.

…Barrister Edet Essien, Calabar South, Cross River State

Obasanjo unfair to Jonathan

Eric, your piece on the above subject was a bal­anced one. At a certain age in life, a true elder does not engage in endless altercations with younger ones in the open. He settles such on personal grounds. It is obvious that because Jonathan did not play the ‘errand boy’ to his master, a usual sce­nario to his emergence as president, that is likely the reason behind Obasanjo’s consistent attacks on him.

Was it not the military that infested the polity with corruption? Who can then swear he is not culpable? Even the touted ‘saints’ amongst them, if subjected to thorough screening would fall flat on their faces. Nigerians are no fools. Jonathan was distracted by the insurgents and political op­ponents. And his media outfit failed in its duty to publicise his achievements at the right moments. But, let no one who has led Nigeria in the past claim excellence!

…Lai Ashadele, 0706-767-7806

OBJ should give GEJ a break

Re: Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta. Yes, without the past, there’s no history and the future seems bleak. Methinks Obasanjo has given Jona­than enough tongue lashes. What should occupy his mind now should be fatherly advice to the incumbent, PMB, to enable him succeed. I will also not be surprised if Obasanjo turns against his ‘newly found bride’ PMB, in the near future. Only time will tell. For Joanthan, he did his best. Shall we continue to cry over spilt milk? OBJ should give Jonathan a break!


Jonathan didn’t fail Nigerians

Jonathan can only be seen as a failure by people like Obasanjo and their like, but the ordinary Nige­rians love him and his government.

…Victor, Lagos, 0802-351-9930

OBJ as guilty as Jonathan

Eric, among majority of Nigerians, the verdict is clear: PDP misruled the country since the past 16 years, eight of which was Obasanjo’s. Between Jonathan and Obasanjo, Obasanjo’s government was more corrupt. What is his legacy in the petro­leum industry? Electoral integrity? Infrastructural development?…The man should just respect him­self and keep quiet! His vision and judgement for putting forward Yar’Adua and Jonathan doesn’t make sense. Period.


A big let down

Eric, this is one article you of all people ought not to have written at all, if you wish to keep your credibility. Only little minds listen to Obasanjo’s insults on Jonathan, that have become so custom­ary of Obasanjo, to be worthy of any comment by any serious person!

Let Obasanjo tell the Niger Delta people or the Ijaw nation what he gave them, that Jonathan took way? Jonathan has no personal presidential library in his home town. Please, people should just ig­nore Obasanjo, who is still fighting the civil war, and regards Jonathan an Igbo man.

…Chief (Sir) D.O. Nwodoh, Isi Enu Obol­lo, 0805-245-2933

Niger Delta proud of GEJ

Nigeria has a second chance after Obasanjo’s missed opportunity due to greed for power, through his infamous third term debacle. Jonathan was unfortunate to work with governors, many old enough to be his father, but they failed their peo­ple. Buhari is lucky to be older than his governors, who will not push him around. Niger Delta will ever be proud of Jonathan for not being greedy with power. He’s world hero and pride of Africa.

…Hon Ihuoma, Abuja, 0803—443-2855

He was only for a few

Dear Osagie, Jonathan belonged to nobody but a few cronies!


OBJ right on GEJ

Eric, your piece on “Obasanjo, Jonathan and Ni­ger Delta is splendid. When we watched Obasanjo expose Jonathan’s illicit acts in office, Nigerians described him as an ingrate, betrayer, wicked, etc.. Many of us, political analysts, knew that Jonathan was rather on the path of self-destruction when he went against Obasanjo. Now, it is clear to all that Obasanjo was right. Now, South-south will be made to pay an innocent price for the greed of Jonathan and his cronies. What a shame!

…Prince, 0808-381-8034

Jonathan blew his chances

Hello Eric. I read with every seriousness your article on The Sun newspaper of today July 20, 2015, back page. I agree with you completely. My heart bleeds as I write you my comment based on your write up. Our former President Jonathan blew up a God- given opportunity to be a democratic president, ( first not elected) but by divine provi­dence and later was elected by popular demand of Nigerians through voting. He wasted these chances by not reforming Nigeria sincerely and with commitment to fight corruption. But like you noted, he ended up creating few Nigerians who are today super rich at the expense of dying and poor Nigerian masses. Please, keep up the pattern of you write ups. I like reading them any time I come across one. Cheers and bye.

…Onyeka N.D Onyekand@,09023340444

Niger Delta full of credible leaders

Dear Eric,

Former President Jonathan’s outing as a presi­dent should not be used to judge the entire people of the zone. We have a lot of credible men/women that can serve/govern this country excellently.

One man’s opinion should not affect the aspira­tions of a zone and their children yet unborn.

Congratulations on your elevation!

God bless you.


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Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta Mon, 20 Jul 2015 00:27:11 +0000 WHATEVER anyone says or thinks of him, no one can accuse former President Olusegun Obasanjo of lacking the courage to speak his mind on issues: Per­sonal or national. We may not always agree with what he has to say; we may see some of his views as dripping in hypocrisy, self-righteousness and sanctimonious posturing, but [...]]]>

WHATEVER anyone says or thinks of him, no one can accuse former President Olusegun Obasanjo of lacking the courage to speak his mind on issues: Per­sonal or national. We may not always agree with what he has to say; we may see some of his views as dripping in hypocrisy, self-righteousness and sanctimonious posturing, but we can’t often fail to see the courage of his conviction in his postulations. When he speaks, he detonates a bomb, which rever­berates everywhere!

Now, Obasanjo ‘detonated’ one of his famous ‘bombs’ last week. Speaking as guest lecturer at the graduation of the Benson Idahosa University, BIU, Benin City, Edo State, the former leader took a cur­sory look at the administration of the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, and passed a damning verdict: The man failed to live up to ex­pectation despite the high hopes he was invested when he mounted the saddle of leadership. And for his perceived inefficiency, says Obasanjo, the Niger- Delta, from where Jonathan hails, would have to bear the consequences of the actions or inactions of their son, who presided over the affairs of the nation for six years.

“You can help a man get a job, but what he does with it is absolutely up to him,” the former president said, even as he revealed all he did to ensure that a Nigerian of minority oil-rich Niger-Delta extraction occupied the nation’s topmost position. Jonathan, he alluded, performed below the mark, and conse­quently succeeded in alienating other parts of the country during his administration. How would they now trust a minority Nigerian with power in the near future?

He did not exactly put the last sentence that way, but that was the import of his statement, that the peo­ple of Niger-Delta would have to live with the con­sequences of Jonathan’s action or inaction in office!

Now, you win no prizes for guessing that for a long while, before the March 28 presidential poll, Obasanjo and his godson, had fallen terribly apart that a reconciliation was virtually impossible. When he ordered his PDP membership card shredded in public, it was the last symbolic parting of ways with the man he shoved down our throats as president.

Before the above drama, Obasanjo had written an 18-page letter to Jonathan, accusing him, among other things, of running an administration crawling with monsters of corruption, and a spineless leader­ship unwilling and incapable of halting the rot; he spoke of a government that had reduced what ought to be national governance, to a village square gath­ering of clansmen and tribesmen; he talked about a president consumed with blind ambition to con­tinue in office, when it had become apparent that he lacked what it took to preside over a vast and complex nation like ours, even as he claimed the president had given his word that he would do only a single term in office.

The December 11, 2013 ‘scud missile’ also ac­cused ex- President Jonathan of training ‘sniper squads,’ to intimidate and silence his opponents in the build up to the March 28 poll.

Hear Obasanjo: “Mr President, the most impor­tant qualification for your present position is your being a Nigerian. Whatever else you may be, be­sides being a Nigerian, is only secondary for this purpose. And if majority of Nigerians had not cast their votes for you, you could not have been there. For you to allow yourself to be “possessed” so to say, to the exclusion of most of the rest of Nigerians as an ‘Ijaw man’ is a mistake that should never have been allowed to happen. Yes, you have to be born in one part of Nigeria to be a Nigerian if not naturalised, but the Nigerian president must be above ethnic factionalism. And those who prop you up as of, and for ‘Ijaw nation’ are not your friends genuinely, nor friends of Nigeria, nor friends of ‘Ijaw nation’ they tout about. To allow or tacitly en­courage people of ‘Ijaw nation’ to throw insults on other Nigerians from other parts of the country and threaten fire and brimstone to protect your interest, as an Ijaw man is myopic, and your not openly qui­eting them is even more unfortunate.”

On corruption, he said: “Most of our friends and development partners are worried and they see what we pretend to cover up. They are worried about is­sue of security internally and on our coastal waters, including heavy oil theft, alias bunkering and piracy. They are worried about corruption and what we are doing or not doing about it. Corruption has reached a level of impunity.”

Of course, Obasanjo was severely criticised then by Jonathan’s aides. They dismissed his ‘satanic’ letter as hypocritical and self-serving. My position then was unequivocal: Obasanjo had a right to his views, and Jonathan should bother about the mes­sage rather than the messenger, even as I agreed that Obasanjo should be the last man pontificating on corruption, as during his tenure, we had no detailed and transparent accounts of crude oil accruals as he doubled as petroleum minister for a better part of his tenure. I also punctured his balloon of integrity by alluding to his infamous third term plot, which blew up in his face.

So, it is not difficult to understand where Obasan­jo is coming from in his last week’s excoriation of his former protégé: He feels thoroughly disappoint­ed at the outing of Jonathan and the outcome of his gamble in imposing Jonathan on the people.

Of course, the point must be made that if Jona­than, by his estimation, performed dismally, he must share in the blame of handpicking him among the pack of well-prepared aspirants to the No. 1 office. If Jonathan had turned out well, by his reckoning, he would be basking in the euphoria of making an excellent choice. Now, the shoe is on the other side, he is striving furiously to distance himself from a journey he believes ended murkily.

The second point to note is that Jonathan did not only disappoint Obasanjo, he let all of us down, he even let the people of Niger Delta down. I am not sure he has become a hero among the people of Edo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and other parts of the region. I’m not trying to run him down or kick him because he’s down. Truth must be told: Jonathan belonged to nobody but a few cronies, whom he made power­ful and prosperous to the detriment of nation.

He came in on an overwhelming wing of good­will. The shoeless boy whose story resonated with the general folk. By the time he left office May 29, 2015, he had managed to annoy many of his staunch supporters. A good number of people who voted for Buhari did not do so solely for the sake of love for the lanky General, but more as a revolt or protest against the president, who had successfully alien­ated himself from the same people who, few years earlier, were singing ‘Jona for life.’ It was certainly a great squandering of goodwill by a Nigerian presi­dent ever.

Was he the worst president in terms of perfor­mance? That is debatable, his supporters would ar­gue even to this moment, even as they reel out a list of his achievements in critical sectors of roads and transportation, aviation, agriculture, among others. That may be so. But in governance as in life, percep­tion is everything. How Jonathan ended throwing himself up as symbol of inefficiency and corruption, few years after he was hailed as the best thing to happen to us after Yar’Adua’s demise is a study for political historians.

As to Obasanjo’s charge that the people of Niger- Delta would in the future bear the brunt of Jona­than’s outing in government, he’s absolutely right, except that those who use Jonathan’s presidency as a measure of the character and content of Niger-Delta people would not only be patently wrong, but unfair as such generalisation omits individual peculiarities.

To be fair to the former president, in the final analysis, his personal failings also had a redemp­tive component: In presiding over his own defeat in a presidential poll, and swiftly conceding defeat, he narrowly escaped being consigned to the dust­bin of history. Now, he walks tall for that electoral feat. If he manages to survive the worms of cor­ruption, crawling from the closet of his administra­tion, he can bask in the euphoria of a presidency not exactly wasted. Until the probes are conducted and he comes out clean, he can only wait with bated breath for the verdict of history on his administra­tion. Obasanjo’s verdict is only an interim report, for now.

I agree with Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, the activist-priest, when he says: “Office holding may be accidental, but leadership is earned with a leader satisfying the needs of those under his or her care.” This should also be food for thought for those currently in the saddle of leadership, as they confront the mountain of challenges facing our dear nation!

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Thoughts on ending Boko Haram’s war without end Sun, 12 Jul 2015 23:50:57 +0000 For Boko Haram, there’s no word like ‘enough’ in its dictionary. It feeds constantly and continuously on a diet of blood and bodies. There was the strong hope that with a new government in power, it would stop its war of attrition against our nation. Not so. Despite the government’s concerted efforts at rout­ing the [...]]]>

For Boko Haram, there’s no word like ‘enough’ in its dictionary. It feeds constantly and continuously on a diet of blood and bodies. There was the strong hope that with a new government in power, it would stop its war of attrition against our nation. Not so. Despite the government’s concerted efforts at rout­ing the murderous gang, there seems to be no major headway. Sadly. Since May 29, 2015, over 600 lives have been wasted. There surely must be a way out of the madness. Sometime ago, March 17, 2014, I made some suggestions on how to deal with the deadly monster, which may prove useful for the Buhari ad­ministration. Excerpts, below…

YOU are not in Iraq or a Middle-East country where bombs go off by the second, making human barbecue of those unfortunate to be caught in the crossfire of a never-ending battle of supremacy among extrem­ist groups. In those countries soaked in the innocent blood of its nationals, war is a way of life; killing is normal; bloody scenes don’t make the blood or body curl in revulsion at sights of dismembered bowels of the dead. As you watch the Cable News Network, CNN, reel gory pictures of truckloads of corpses, you wonder and ask: When will enough be truly enough? When will humanity stop engaging in barbarism, which even lower animals find offensive and repul­sive?

You are not in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia or any­where near the Middle-East. Geographically speaking, that is. But how is Nigeria truly different from coun­tries where bullets and bombs rain cacophonous songs on rooftops? How are we different from countries where news of death or violent dispatch of hapless citizens to their untimely end no longer has the degree of dramatic shock effect it ought to? Increasingly, as news of yet another bombing and deaths of Nigerians filter in, citizens’ shock absorbers are becoming weak­ened, to the extent where they would soon be shocked to the state of ‘unshockability.’

In Nigeria today, death is becoming a way of life; booming guns and grenades are fast becoming a nor­mal, daily routine. Make no mistake about it: Nige­rians are dying by the day through all kinds of means: hunger, diseases, unemployment, armed robbery, ac­cidents, ethno-religious strife and, of course, deadly insurgency occasioned by the Boko Haram sect. In all these, many are asking: What is the worth of the life of the Nigerian or rather, how much is life worth in Nigeria today? You bet, not much better than the world described by Thomas Hobbes as ‘short, nasty and brutish,’ with the average life span put at 47, 48!

Am I being an alarmist? Not so. As I write this piece, news headlines in the print and electronic me­dia scream of a 100 Nigerians bombed to death in Kaduna State over the weekend. Before Kaduna mas­sacre, hundreds had been violently killed in Katsina, Benue, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states where over 50 federal government college students in Buni Yadi, were murdered in their sleep by Boko Haram.

When you add the number of total deaths harvested since the Boko Haram insurgency took full roots in the last four years or thereabout, we could have lost over 200, 000 Nigerians (I bet it is more) to the strife. And that is even a conservative figure. Add that to the ca­sualties of the war, the living dead; those who are not dead but have suffered fate worse than death. Their loved ones, communities and livelihoods wiped out in the senseless war declared by the insurgents. You get a frightening picture of a nation at full blown war. And we ask the critical questions, which the Boko Ha­ram insurgents haven’t yet provided answers to: How many more shall die before it’s enough? When will enough be enough? What cause do these guys fight, because it is obviously difficult understanding or fath­oming what they really want or are crusading for? The group kills Christians, Muslims, atheists, rich, poor, men, women and children; bombs communities, schools, churches and mosques. Just what would ap­pease these guys? How many more shall they kill in the festival of blood unleashed on this country, before it truly becomes enough?

As I also once noted here, if all they, or their spon­sors, are doing is driven by politics, this is politics taken too far; if it is fuelled by religion, this is reli­gion taken to absurdity. For whatever reasons, this is, as Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rightly says, a devilish war, which can only lead to doom for our nation and people. Who will call these guys to order?

Forget the euphemism of those who claim the war is only raging in a part of the country. We all are col­lective victims of the Boko Haram onslaught. When an innocent blood is spilled in a crazy war, something dies in all of us, as Nigerians or as part of the human race. When we hear or read of yet another bomb blast, blasting hundreds away, we sink deeper in our human­ity, and the fear of an impending cataclysm grips all. So, we should never see the Boko Haram bloodbath as a northern problem, it is our collective burden, our collective shame as Nigerians, even as the devastation is worse in that region. What affects a part, invariably affects the whole!

So, what to do? I have a couple of suggestions, even if they are not original. First, northern leaders must as a matter of urgency call an emergency meeting, to honestly and dispassionately x-ray the problem of Boko Haram, which is fast turning the North to noth­ing in terms of infrastructure, investment and capital flight. The destruction that is taking place now has the tendency of setting the region almost 30 years back in all sectors. So, it’s an emergency that stares it and all in the face. Whatever the governors are doing in terms of development will amount to nothing if the Boko Haram menace is not urgently checked. This is no time for politicking with an issue that threatens the region’s very existence. This is no time for double-speak or playing the Ostrich. A gathering of political leaders, religious personages, Emirs, clan heads and other relevant stakeholders deliberating honestly and sincerely ought to be able to stem this ugly tide. Did these Boko Haram people descend from the skies? Don’t they have roots somewhere? Didn’t they grow up in communities? Don’t they have people who know them, who can appease them or appeal to them to drop their arms against their people and nation? If a meeting had been called in the past and failed to address the situation, it can only mean sincerity was lacking. It could only mean they didn’t hit at the heart of the matter. Every problem has a solution if sincerely addressed and pursued.

The emergency meeting must incorporate a Mar­shall Plan for rebuilding the north, by addressing the poverty and backwardness of the region. As Rev. Jes­se Jackson once told me in a chat, we have to fight the factors that make recruitment of Boko Haram insur­gents easy in the north. Such factors include denigrat­ing poverty and mass illiteracy. With these two factors in place, religious extremism finds a fertile soil. But the north is not the only impoverished region. Virtu­ally, all parts of the country are ravaged by poverty, I told Jackson. Yes, he agreed. But we must treat the North’s case as peculiar, in view of the dangerous di­mension it has taken. I agree.

What I am simply postulating is this: While the military continues its war to rout the insurgents, a way out could be the Marshall Plan and a sincere search for solution by the northern leaders and the federal government. It is also time for those who created the Frankenstein monster in the name of politics or what­ever reasons, to face the reality that the evil wind they sowed yesterday has birthed a whirlwind ravaging the north and the nation today..

The Boko Haram insanity started like a joke, even if was an expensive one; then, it snowballed into a small fire. Now, it has turned into a conflagration, threaten­ing to blow out our country. Boko Haram, our home-grown terrorist group, has grown not only hydra-head­ed, it has turned itself into some monstrous god, to which we tremble; to which we speak in whispers; to which we can’t fathom an appeasement as they engage the rest of the society in a war without boundary; war without rules of engagement; war without conscience. A war that defies logic and common sense. It’s time for the bleeding to stop, as our protesting mothers and women groups have demanded. That time is now!

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Re: Saraki, APC and the Assembly tangle Mon, 29 Jun 2015 00:42:15 +0000 The crisis currently rocking the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its inability to successfully share principal positions in the National Assembly among its feuding members came under the searchlight of this column last week. The failure of the new ruling party in managing its success after wresting power from the PDP and former president Goodluck [...]]]>

The crisis currently rocking the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its inability to successfully share principal positions in the National Assembly among its feuding members came under the searchlight of this column last week. The failure of the new ruling party in managing its success after wresting power from the PDP and former president Goodluck Jonathan came to the fore when members defied its directives and elected Dr. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, as Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively. It even resulted in the return of Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as deputy senate president, thus setting off a raging battle in the party. Last week’s piece elicited a lot of reactions part of which is published here.
The evil of treachery and betrayal were virtues for celebration in APC in the run-up to May 28th elections.
In 2011, Femi Gbajabiamila’s role against Mulikat Akande-Adeola for Speaker at Tinubu’s bidding, was ugly.  Femi claimed, as one of our detribalised Nigerians, his support for Aminu Tambulwal then was based on merit. We knew better. It has come back to haunt him. You reap what you sow.
However, to put what happened on the 9th of June, 2015, at the NASS in proper context, we have to go back to the origin of the APC.
The party is an amalgam of politicians with disparate interests and from different camps whose main agenda was to wrest control of power (and government) from then incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Each of the principal actors had his/her own grouse against Jonathan and they all came together with their individual ambitions.
Thus as stated, the cry for change was simply a demand to change GEJ, while every other thing remains. As my friend would say, the difference between APC and PDP may just be the Buhari factor. Every other constituent element of doctrine and personalities remain the same.
Tinubu acknowledged that once he noticed the crack between Rotimi Amaechi and GEJ/PDP, he knew it was time to act and the rest was history. Adding that “…One of the generals in the Common Sense Revolution Army, Rotimi Amaechi, is bold and willing…”
If “lack of internal democracy” was a rallying point against the PDP, how can Tinubu and his co-travellers hope to bridle the all-powerful n-PDP of all people,  most of who were godfathers in their own right even before joining APC?
As for Rabiu Kwakanso, a man who rose to political relevance on the platform of his former party — the PDP — as Minister of Defence, and a two-term governor, but ended up robbing the PDP of the mandate and giving it to a party that was not even in existence when the mandate was given by the people, he is the least qualified to moralise about discipline and betrayal.
That Rabiu Kwakwanso could describe the emergence of Saraki and others in the New PDP as “dangerous for Buhari’s administration”, regretting that the Senate President had used his ambition to destroy party discipline and should be punished, is instructive.
On APC victory at the presidential poll over GEJ and his PDP, Kwakwanso boasted thus: “…You can’t insult us and think that you will get away with it. This is democracy – a game of numbers, and that is why we went back and put Almajiris together to get about two million votes.” Arrogance and pride in shameful act.
What the foregoing shows clearly is that the APC leaders that are talking about party discipline are simply being hypocritical. APC was more a special purpose vehicle to get power than any cohesive group of men and women sharing the same vision.
Yes, “For going against their party’s directives, the APC, through its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described what Saraki and Dogara did as ‘immoral’ and reprehensible, for aligning with the opposition in parliament ‘to humiliate their own party.’ Mohammed said the two men were not the candidates of his party.”
Indeed, Mr. Osagie, you said it all: “When hitherto strange bedfellows coalesce into a strong party to wrest power, that is progressive politics. But, when a member of a progressive party teams up with the opposition or ‘enemy party’ to get power, it becomes ‘immoral’. That, in my opinion, is what is called ‘hypocrisy and double standards.’”
But Buhari, through his spokesman, Femi Adesina, has said even though he would have preferred the elected NASS leaders followed party guideline, he was ready to work with both men, “…since a constitutional process had somewhat occurred”.
Buhari is supposed to be the party leader or one whose all-important address was enough to make 51 APC senators to miss the senate inauguration, in other to give clear direction and resolve differences. Yet, in spite of his pledge to work with any one elected as a leader in the NASS, and a subsequent recognition of those elected, Lai Mohammed was busy delivering a contrary and discordant statement, insisting the party would not recognise duly elected officers. Indeed APC is a party of strange bedfellows.
Finally, on the need to grant amnesty to Boko Haram after a visit to NE, in the fashion of Niger Delta militants, Tinubu famously restated -“what is good for the goose, is good for the gander”. That should be the guiding phrase, as APC braces for pay-back time in the thrilling Nigeria politics.
Horatio Walpole (1717-1797)
“The world is a comedy for those who think and tragedy for those who feel.”
APC is exhibiting an unnecessary emotion but should recognise this whole episode as the continuation of a drama plot she had penned in 2011, ‘The Tambulwalisation of the political sphere’. This is after all, a party of great thinkers and erudite scholars, vast in political astuteness and sagacity!  This should be a very familiar terrain. This perplexity and bewilderment is incongruent with the progressive character we have come to expect.
Is the APC imploding?
In his classic historical fiction adventure -KIDNAPPED (1886), Robert Louis Stevenson narrated the story of young David Balfour, who lost both parents and had to move over to his uncle, Ebenezer Balfour, who cheated David’s father, Alexander, out of an inheritance, the House of Shaws (a partially unfinished and somewhat ruinous estate), and later attempted to murder young David for fear he might make claim to the house. On his way to the House of Shaws, David asks many people where the house is, and all of them speak of it darkly as a place of fear and evil. Jennet Clouston hurled her curse at the House of Shaws: “Blood built it, blood stopped it, blood shall bring it down.” Is the APC built on betrayal, deceit, treachery and dissent, gradually crumbling under its own weight and finally imploding?
Maybe, at last, for now, ‘The CHANGE is TRANSFORMING gradually!’.

Steve Biko

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Saraki, APC and the Assembly tangle Mon, 22 Jun 2015 07:03:48 +0000 If there’s one issue tugging at the heart of the party in power at the centre, and giving it a nagging headache, it is the Saraki situa­tion. Dr. Bukola Saraki is the recently elected president of the Nigerian Senate, and chairman of the National Assembly. Ordinarily, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, shouldn’t be nursing [...]]]>

If there’s one issue tugging at the heart of the party in power at the centre, and giving it a nagging headache, it is the Saraki situa­tion. Dr. Bukola Saraki is the recently elected president of the Nigerian Senate, and chairman of the National Assembly.

Ordinarily, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, shouldn’t be nursing any wounds or down with fever, by the fact of Saraki’s ascendancy to the third most important position in the land. He is one of the prominent leaders of his party, in­deed, if you like, one of the ring leaders, who stormed out of the then ruling, now opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to form the new PDP, nPDP, which later fused with other then opposi­tion parties and groups, to give birth to a mega party, the APC, which rumbled into power in the highly explosive March 28 general elections.

But, you are dead wrong if you have been expecting backslapping and clink­ing of glasses in the camp of the APC. Instead, the party is livid, and brimming with anger, fit to fry a thousand eggs. It is belching smoke from its nostrils, rather than rolling out the drums in celebration of Saraki’s victory at the Senate. The party is also displeased and distressed at the emergence of Hon. Yakubu Dogara, from Bauchi State, as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

What could have gone wrong, to turn the mood in the progressives’ camp from green to fire red? Sorry, you win no prizes for guessing right. The news has been in the public domain in the past couple of weeks or thereabouts: The two men are not the preferred choices of their party. The party hierarchy had wanted Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, respectively, for the Na­tional Assembly’s two topmost positions, and had even gone ahead to organise a straw poll to determine the positions.

It certainly looked like a done deal, as the godfathers backing Lawan and Gbajiabiamila, were not people anyone in the party could shove aside. One of them (Tinubu) had always spoken with oracular precision. While Lawan had the tacit support of President Muhammadu Buhari (forget the ‘I have no preferred candidate song’), Gbajiabiamila had the strong backing of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC’s financial muscleman and talisman. So, Lawan and Gbajiabiamila, and their supporters thought they were only waiting for the D-day to be crowned as the National Assembly’s new leaders. They couldn’t have been more wrong. A fly flew into the ointment. And their dreams came crashing like a pack of badly arranged cards!

They didn’t reckon with the deft politi­cal moves of Saraki and Dogara. They apparently celebrated too soon. Saraki and Dogara, in a strategic alliance with the opposition PDP elements in the National Assembly, upset the applecart and gave Tinubu’s men, a rub in the dust of defeat.

And since then, all hell has been let loose on the men. The party is certainly no more the same, at least, not the way it has been when it trounced the then seemingly invincible PDP. Different views have been canvassed on the actions of Saraki and Dogara, and what should be done to them ‘for going against their party’s directives.’

While a section calls for treading with caution on the issue, another group, maintaining a hard line stance, wants the two ‘rebel’ members dealt with. The party, through its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described what Saraki and Dogara did as ‘immoral’ and reprehen­sible, for aligning with the opposition in parliament ‘to humiliate their own party.’ Mohammed said the two men were not the candidates of his party.

There are also media reports that the ‘Lion of Bourdillon’ is literally baying for the blood of the ‘rebel’ lawmakers for outfoxing him in the game of power. He is surely nursing a bruised ego. Understand­ably! In between that are reports allegedly demanding unreserved apologies from the lawmakers, before they could be forgiven their ‘great acts of transgression.’

Where I stand on the issue is simple and straightforward: A storm in a tea cup; a needless bickering over a non-issue. It also, for me, reflects the nauseating hypoc­risy and double-standards in our polity and political parties, including the APC.

First, Nigerians must be amused when politicians in our clime talk about morality. When did morality start being a factor in Nigerian politics? There is certainly no morality in politics here! If we had moral­ity, politicians would not join party A in the morning, B at noon and C at night, and think nothing of it. Even some of those accusing Saraki and Dogara of immorality do not know the meaning of it. Some have changed parties up to four times, before berthing at APC.

In my view, Saraki and Dogara have not done the unusual. They are your typical Nigerian politician: Grabbing power at all cost, by hook or crook. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone? Who, among those raising hell, will not seek to maximise his opportunities, including dining with ‘the enemy’ to grab power? When hitherto strange bed fellows co­alesce into a strong party to wrest power, that is progressive politics. But, when a member of a progressive party teams up with the opposition or ‘enemy party’ to get power, it becomes ‘immoral’. That, in my opinion, is what is called ‘hypocrisy and double standards.’

I am not saying Saraki and Dogara have done the right thing by going against their party directive. Hell, no. My point is, what they have done is the norm here. It is not anything extraordinary. I am then wonder­ing what the hell is APC raising hell over, when the party itself had in the past been a beneficiary of party rebellion?

When my good friend, the respected Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, former Speaker of the House of Reps, now Sokoto State governor, flouted his party’s direc­tive, joined a ‘rebel’ section of the PDP and full alliance of the ACN and ANPP, to clinch the speakership position, I guess it was alright and fine by then opposition parties, particularly the ACN. Then, Asiwaju Tinubu grinned from molar to molar, celebrating that ‘rare feat of political astuteness and sagacity.’ Now, the shoe is on the other side, see who’s weeping!

In the unfortunate scenario, two lead­ers in the APC have displayed maturity and understanding of the situation: President Buhari and Chief Odigie- Oyegun, the APC chairman. Buhari, through his spokesman, Femi Adesina, has said even though he would have preferred the elected NASS leaders follow party guideline, he was ready to work with both men, ‘since a constitu­tional process had somewhat occurred.’ That, in my view, is a better and more pragmatic view to take in a situation like this, embarrassing as it may be.

Oyegun, on his part, had, I’m told, counselled against a belligerent alterca­tion with the new Assembly leaders, so that they are not driven to the ‘wolves’ in the opposition party, as we have seen happen in the then Tambuwal storm. But, statements emanating later from his party showed that he could have been subdued into taking a latter hard line posture, which will surely be counter-productive in the long run.

At the risk of repetition, this is not a validation of party men going against party directive, but a denunciation of the hypocrisy inherent in the wolf-cry of those who seek to demonise the two men for pursuing their ambitions, as if they would not do the same thing were they in Saraki and Dogara’s shoes. Many are hurling invectives at the two men, as if they have been crowned the high priests of morality. I believe truth has no colouration, and is ever constant.

My overall point is clear: We must learn to shun hypocrisy and double-standards, if we truly hope to make progress as a nation. We can’t continue to have two sets of rules or standards for similar or near similar situations. Wrong must be called wrong at all times, not sometimes or not at all, only when it is convenient for us.

LASTLINE: Having emerged lead­ers of the National Assembly, Saraki and Dogara, must ensure they give us a truly people’s National Assembly, not the ‘chop chop’ type as we know them today. A National Assembly where prof­ligacy, and aggrandisement hold sway. They must make progressive laws and defend the interests of all Nigerians, es­pecially the downtrodden. We are surely not asking for too much, are we?

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Mr President, beware of the mafia! Tue, 16 Jun 2015 10:17:08 +0000 The mafia rules every society. A small, clique of powerful individuals, pursuing their narrow, selfish interests, for the benefit of the mafia and the Mafiosi. Fact two: The mafia, like an octopus, is everywhere, in every sector, and are as diverse as the society they operate. ]]>

The mafia rules every society. A small, clique of powerful individuals, pursuing their narrow, selfish interests, for the benefit of the mafia and the Mafiosi. Fact two: The mafia, like an octopus, is everywhere, in every sector, and are as diverse as the society they operate.

What this means is pretty simple: The bigger the sector it plays, the big­ger the mafia; the more powerful it becomes, the more vicious, the more selfish and more individualistic its character reveals.

Another notorious fact: No mafia rules in the interest of the generality. Even if it pretends to, like the old Ital­ian Mafiosi, the truth is it would not be what it is if the welfare of the masses was its primary preoccupation. The rule of the mafia is antithetical to the general good of the people, which democracy seeks to promote.

Another critical point to note: Profit is the major motif and motivating fac­tor that drives the Mafiosi. Nothing more. It’s the game of cash, the game of crunch, the game of survival and the game of amassing more cash. The more money you have, the more influential you are in the Mafiosi and the society you operate.

The mafia is a kindred. It is the brotherhood. The brotherhood of power and greed. Nothing like ethnic or ter­ritorial boundary for the mafia. No East, West, North or South. The network is efficient and the link is iron-tight. Unit­ed in the pulsating enterprise of wealth pursuit usually at the detriment of the larger society, the mafia is a family of ruthless businessmen far closely knitted than the rest of the society can imagine. What joins them is far more important than what divides them.

Nigeria is a nation of all kinds of mafia. But two are the most prominent. Political mafia: Those who call the shots at the different strata of governance and decide who gets what and when; who becomes governor or president; who gets the ministerial job, who gets ap­pointed into what position. In the near­est future, I hope to delve extensively into the tricks and intrigues of the political mafia and how they have held the nation by the balls and the jugular, and what to do to dismantle them if our country will truly embark on the march of progress

There is also the mafia, which con­trols the economy. You know them, don’t you? In different sectors of the economy, they are the guys in starched Babaringa and designer suits, with bil­lions of naira investment portfolios, and crisscrossing the corridors of power, dol­ing out cash donations at campaign fund­raising dinners and presidential platforms where cash is the name of the game. Their vice-grip on the banking, manu­facturing, oil and gas, and indeed every lucrative sector of the economy makes this mafia the deadliest of the mafias.

Ruthless and manipulative, because of the monstrous cash at their disposal, you dare them at your own peril. They are also in the formidable class of the AGIP (Any Government In Power). Philan­thropy and subversive generosity are the tools deployed to endear themselves in the hearts of the public, to portray them as loving, caring, benevolent corporate citizens, who care for the masses, who wish for the society to grow, who create jobs and wealth for the ordinary man on the streets to flourish and live life more abundant. But that’s farther from the truth. They take more than they give; from our collective till, they have made themselves super rich, even as they enjoy all kinds of privileges from the state to continue to build empires of wealth.

They put the men in power and the leaders then turn round to empower them through all kinds of state privileges, a case of ‘you-rub-my-back, I-rub-your-own.’ The society is the worse for it. What should have been used to provide infrastructure and other social amenities is ‘scrambled and partitioned’ between the government officials and their spon­sors both in the political and economy Mafiosi. What you then have is a com­munity of deprived, dispossessed and disgruntled citizenry. A nation where citizens keep wondering in bemusement how come their rich country is a nation of largely poor citizens. The answer stares them in the face: A ruthless col­laboration of locusts swiftly and jointly attacking the honey pot. No less.

The trouble with Nigeria is not that it is impossible to have a wealthy nation providing the best services for the major­ity, if not all, its citizenry. The point is, we have a few greedy individuals who seem sworn to creating a dynasty of the super-rich, at the detriment of others who are in the majority.

Go to any part of the globe, Europe and the United States, Nigerians own the most magnificent buildings, drive the most exotic cars, have the highest num­ber of private jets in Africa, and generally live life to the fullest. But they are not more than 0.001 per cent, while over 90 per cent of their compatriots live on less than a dollar a day. We are endowed with natural resources, which a few have cor­nered for their personal benefits. We are the sixth largest oil-producing nation on earth, yet we are still battling with basic amenities of life: Water, light, housing, health care, etc.

Except for a few states, you can’t find evidence of governance, not to talk of good governance, in many others. What you have in many states is a flurry of activities, heat without fire, motion without movement. Blaring sirens going everywhere but nowhere. Excellencies who haven’t delivered excellent services. At least, not the ones we can see or feel. You weep for a nation run down by prodigal fellows, posturing as leaders.

In the 21st century when other advanced nations are talking about technological conquests, we are still weighed down by how many kilometres of roads have been constructed; how many boreholes have been sunk. By the time we finish with our roads, the rest of the world may have abandoned roads and commenced space shuttle.

While the rest of the world are united in fighting for progressive leaderships that propel engines of growth and de­velopments in their respective countries, we are bugged down by issues of ethnic and zoning consideration. We are talking about where our leaders should come from, not the character of the man who should lead Africa’s most populous na­tion. Majority of Nigerians care not if the president comes from North, East, West or South, even Ghana, Kenya or the United States of America. We just need a man who will deliver for us the good life, a meaningful life, a quality life. Poverty knows neither ethnic, re­gional, religious nor zonal boundaries. A poor man in the North is not differ­ent from the poor man in the South. He just needs a good leader to lead him up the mountain of prosperity. It matters not for him where that saviour comes from.

In a nation that should be strug­gling to liberate its citizens from the pangs of hunger and poverty, it should matter to all Nigerians what happens to our major revenue earner; how the oil resources is managed or largely mismanaged. From the unpublished and unimplemented several probe panels set up by successive govern­ments, it is common knowledge that the oil sector sits on a barrel of stench. We are submerged by oil thieves, who conservatively could have stolen over three trillion dollars.

Worse still, Nigeria is unable to account for the number of crude it produces daily. We are bleeding from all points: Bunker­ers, importers, exporters, explorers, government officials, etc. We also have the oil mafia, those who have the lucra­tive OPLs running into the billion and trillion marks. Since we all substan­tially agree that too much stealing is going on in the petroleum sector, let’s get the oil thieves; let’s police our oil resources. Nigeria’s oil mafia are the cause of the squabble going on. They have stolen so much that the little that is left, after all kinds of parasites have feasted on the oil resources, is what the leadership of the North and South of the country have been fighting over.

LAST LINE: First published March 2013, this column reflects the land­mines the Buhari presidency must watch out if it must succeed. The many mafias shadowing his government, waiting in the wings to swoop on his government for personal and selfish benefits. Could that be the reason over two weeks after he assumed the mantle of leadership, he has found it difficult to name all his personal aides? Is he being held hostage by the mafia? Time, as they say, will tell!

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Buhari and assets declaration Sun, 31 May 2015 23:03:08 +0000 The issue of whether President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy,  Prof Yemi Osinbajo, should have publicly declared their assets or not, has dominated the media and other public platforms, less than 72 hours after they assumed office as Nigeria’s new helmsmen. While some Nigerians are of the view that simply making a declaration at the [...]]]>

The issue of whether President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy,  Prof Yemi Osinbajo, should have publicly declared their assets or not, has dominated the media and other public platforms, less than 72 hours after they assumed office as Nigeria’s new helmsmen.
While some Nigerians are of the view that simply making a declaration at the Code of Conduct Bureau, as prescribed by relevant laws of the land,  was sufficient, there are others who believe that a public declaration or nothing would suffice!
In any case, Buhari, himself, had promised during the electioneering campaigns to do just that. He had also stated that he would ensure his government functionaries did same.  So, why not do what he had earlier promised?
Are the ‘combatants’ in the ongoing debate on public declaration of assets right or wrong? Where do I stand on the issue?  Before, my answer, permit me to make my point on my perception of Mr. Buhari’s integrity rating, which I am sure a large number of our people share: He’s incorruptible and abhors corruption. He won’t steal, and thieves won’t find it funny, working with him or walking his path.
Indeed, anyone familiar with the history of Nigeria’s successive kleptomania administrations, as well as the sheer greed and gluttony, which have characterised leadership at the topmost rung over the years, cannot in good conscience place the country’s new leader in that class. He  just doesn’t  belong there, in reality and perception.
If you have visited him at his private office or residence, you can immediately attest to his complete detestation of the loud and ostentatious. Even those who do not like him or his politics, cannot but admire his Spartan, disciplined, austere lifestyle and his legendary integrity, which sticks to him like a second skin.  You can conclude, without any iota of doubt or prevarication, that Buhari’s USP (Unique Selling Point) in the March 28 presidential poll, was largely his tall integrity credential.
Of course, we can debate the transparency and fairness, or otherwise, of the general elections, which threw up the Daura-born retired army General as winner. We can stick our tongues and  poke our fingers at the character of some of the bigwigs surrounding the man of the moment. Even at that, the president says he belongs to everybody and nobody. We applaud that firm resolve to break from the vice-grip of shadowy godfathers waiting in the wings to ‘possess’ him.  We can also debate that, and see how he matches his words with action in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
But, not many can debate the integrity asset of the man who has a four-year renewable mandate to lead Africa’s most populous nation. He comes across as clean as a whistle, when you compare him to Nigerians who have had the privilege of occupying  top  public offices.  A man who has variously held the positions of governor, minister and head of state, has no oil bloc, no mansions, no exotic cars or private jet to his name.  He lives as simple as the Fulani cattle herdsman:  At home with nature, and content with his simple lifestyle!
When I interviewed him  in The Saturday Sun of December 25, 2012, when he turned 70, I had asked him why he didn’t think of amassing wealth like some others who were privileged to occupy top positions?

Some of your General-colleagues became stupendously rich in office. Today, they have means. I am not a lawyer taking inventory of your assets or preparing your will, but tell me what property do you have now at 70? I am sure you have a house in Abuja, you have one in Lagos.  You have one in Daura and you have one here (Kaduna). So, if I count your property, maybe five. Am I right or wrong?
You are right, but I’m not going to read or declare with you. My assets were on record. I told some of your colleagues when they came. When Murtala/Obasanjo regime came, they made sure that certain grades of public officers must declare their assets when they assumed that office, and they must declare when they were leaving. So, when I was sworn in as governor of North East, I declared my assets.
What did you declare?
I declared, surprisingly, even the number of  my cows then. Even if they were supposed to be producing every year, but I declared them the time I was there. And when I was leaving governorship, I became petroleum minister. When I was leaving to go to War College, I declared my assets. I could recall General Jemibewon then, was the Adjutant-General of the Army. He rang me and said he was sending me asset declaration form, that I must fill it, sign it before I left for the United States. And I did. General Jemibewon is still alive. And when I became head of state eventually, I declared my assets again. So, all of us; when I say that, I mean Obasanjo downwards, those who are alive who were governors, ministers, heads of state, they had declared assets. So, if you people are serious and interested about political officers, becoming multi-billionaires, you can find out from Murtala downwards. And those of us who were not very good in making money, you should pity us.
Is it that you don’t like money?
Everybody likes money, but I am not very good at making money. Let me put it that way. I borrowed from the banks to build the house in Daura and the one in Abuja that you mentioned and the one in Kano. The bank then was Barclays, now Union Bank. Kaduna State or North Central then housing scheme and the Federal Mortgage Bank for the house I am in and AIB, which was, I think, terminated by Central Bank. So, when you go through the records, you find out that the houses I built, I borrowed from there.

So, from the above, and what we have known of him, we believe he would be quite different from others. We believe he would be prudent. Our treasury would be quite safe under the General’s watch. I believe many Nigerians believe this. So, why the furore over public declaration of assets or not? Simple: An officer and gentleman’s word should be his bond.
Mallam Garba Shehu, head of the president’s media team, says by declaring his assets last Friday, May 29, his inauguration day, President Buhari has “not only fulfilled the requirements of the Nigerian constitution, but also fulfilled the first of their many campaign promises.”
But, the question is: Has he fulfilled what he promised? The Sunday Punch in its front page story on the issue yesterday,  does not think so. It screamed: “Buhari, Osinbajo fail to declare assets publicly.”  It also brought to readers the campaign pledge of the new leader,  to declare his assets publicly.
I agree with The Punch that Buhari has not done what he promised to do.  He has not kept his word. He should immediately do the needful, by declaring his assets publicly and ensuring Osinbajo does same.  Not because Nigerians doubt  the integrity of both men,  or that they will mess around with the national coffers, like I stated above.  It is the right thing to do. A gentleman should keep his word. He must not start from the onset to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of our countrymen and women.
Of course, it is a moral issue, not legal.  By declaring with the CCB, both men have fulfilled the legal obligation, as Shehu rightly stated. But, the duo must go the extra mile by doing what they promised Nigerians on public declaration of assets.
In 2007, when then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, failed to publicly declare his assets like his boss, some of us took him on frontally.  Even the then opposition Action Congress, AC, had denounced Jonathan, saying by not declaring his assets publicly like his boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, it was evident that ‘Jonathan has something to hide.’
I wrote in the August 2, 2007 edition of this column: “True, the law does not compel the VP to publish his assets; the AC is right when it states that what is at stake bothers on morality rather than legality.  For me, it is a very simple issue, which does not deserve the present splitting of hairs. All the VP has to do is to simply publish his assets declaration form. No need getting worked up. In politics,  as Jonathan surely would know, perception is everything. If he cares about his reputation,  as he ought to, he must fight to correct the perception that he has something to hide, by his refusal to publicly declare his assets.”
For  a leader who, on his own volition, promised to publicly declare his assets, President Buhari does not need any prompting to so do, or allowing any further debate on the issue. He should publish his assets today.

LAST LINE:  If we want the new administration to succeed, we must do away with sycophants and their ilk. Let’s endeavour to tell the president the truth at all times. Buhari means well, and the least we owe him and the nation is to constantly tell him the truth. He’s human and not perfect.
We shouldn’t turn him into something he’s not: God, who  does no wrong and makes no errors.  So, when he makes mistakes like the issue under discourse, not keeping to the promise he freely made, I expect his close associates to tell him so, and urge him to do the right thing. In his interest and the nation’s.

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Akpabio: Finishing strong Mon, 25 May 2015 00:51:58 +0000 As we approach May 29 at a dizzy pace, and new helmsmen are gearing up to take over  the mantle of leadership at the center and many states of the country, I have decided to dedicate today’s column to a great Nigerian, a leader of sterling qualities and great performance,  the man who redefined governance [...]]]>

As we approach May 29 at a dizzy pace, and new helmsmen are gearing up to take over  the mantle of leadership at the center and many states of the country, I have decided to dedicate today’s column to a great Nigerian, a leader of sterling qualities and great performance,  the man who redefined governance in his part of the country, an uncommon Nigerian who gave uncommon service to his people, which he dubbed ‘uncommon transformation.’ Take a bow Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, a lawyer, super administrator and commander of the order of the Niger, CON, among other notable laurels in his kitty.
I have decided to celebrate him, because he deserves being celebrated; he has stood head and shoulder above his peers in the eight years he has been in the saddle. By his service to his people and humanity, he will surely be remembered. Just like Lagosians and Nigerians will not forget Babatunde Fashola in a hurry. Akpabio and Fashola are two of my best governors of the 2007-2015 set. In these two men, their people and Nigerians are well-pleased.
Now, it doesn’t matter whether you love or hate Godswil Akpabio; if you love or hate his politics, or you simply are uncomfortable with his guts. One thing you can’t deny him: He has certainly transformed his state, from where he met it. That’s why you can’t but applaud him as he prepares to take a bow from office.
Another reason to remember him is that he is finishing strong, and if you like, powerfully. Two weeks before the end of his tenure, he commissioned 165 ‘life-touching’ projects, spread across the three senatorial districts of the state. The projects include massive road infrastructure, a world-class specialist hospital, the Tropicana Entertainment Complex, a world-class hotel, among others. Even on the eve of his departure, May 28, he has outlined projects for commissioning. With Akpabio, there’s no stopping until the very end.
Akpabio’s story is one of miracle. For me, he typifies the typical rags-to-riches story, the stuff legends are made. He is, if you like, a Nigerian equivalent of the American dream: A man rising from zero to hero; valley to the mountain top.
Godswill lost his father when he was barely six months old. Through sheer guts, sharp intellect and God’s divine favour, he eked his way through a traumatic childhood, painful primary education and a harrowing secondary and university system, aided by his poor mum and few family members. He became a telecoms chief, commissioner and later governor,  after a very stiff opposition from several quarters, including former Governor Victor Attah. He went on to confound all those who thought he would not live up to expectations. Turning a once immobile and sedentary state and capital, Uyo,  into the pride of a nation. A place to visit, and love. A wonder city to behold, in terms of infrastructural transformation. The well-paved roads. Serene and enchanting well-lit streets. A city and state that works for the inhabitants and visitors alike.
Akpabio would never be forgotten for elevating the status of the Akwa Ibom,  from being a ‘factory of house boys and girls’ to the level where people from that part can now proudly say ‘I am from Akwa Ibom.’ Talk of restoration of human dignity and pride to a people hitherto derided, and you can’t help remembering Akpabio!
Indeed, when he mounted the saddle of leadership in 2007, Uyo nay many parts of Akwa Ibom State, was a sleepy, pedestrian city which people passed through to its then more fortunate and bustling neighbour, Calabar, Cross River State. Even though there were pockets of on going projects here and there, they hadn’t quite taken off to significant dimensions to attract national attention.  Then he swept in like a hurricane, taking the people of the state and Nigerians by storm. He rolled up his sleeves and rolled out the bulldozers, turning the whole landscape into a large construction site: opened up major access roads, ran tars over them complete with modern drainage systems,  built flyovers,  fixed dilapidated schools and made education free and compulsory for all children of school age up to the senior secondary level. Then, he tackled the infrastructure decay in  hospitals and other health care centres, providing  free medical services to mothers and children in his drive to wipe out maternal and infant mortality issues;  built an airport of international standard complemented with a functional five-star hotel to boost  the state’s tourism potentials.
The Akpabio administration is credited with the construction of over 205 roads (covering over 600kilometers) in the first four years of his coming to power, including the provision of dual carriage ways for all roads leading to Uyo; completion of four concentric flyovers at Itam Junction, Uyo; installation of street/traffic lights; underground drainage for flood and erosion control; distribution of 400 vehicles for the Uyo intra-city mass transit programme for commuter transportation; procurement of 15 luxury intercity buses for urban transportation, among others. Hundreds of brand new vehicles have equally been rolled into the streets to beef up the township transport needs.
His free and compulsory education policy which he kicked off in 2007 has yielded a shocking but positive result. From 751, 018 enrolment in the public primary school, the figure has hit an amazing 1, 396, 878 in 2010, just as student enrolment in public secondary school shot up to 318, 000 from  the 159, 280 it was in 2007. This is in addition to the construction of over 2,500 school buildings, provision of science and laboratory equipment, construction of hostels and provision of furniture to the schools.
In the power sector, the administration gave fillip to the famous Ibom Power Plant kick-started by Obong Victor Attah, his predecessor. In 2001, he signed a 20-year agreement with the Nigeria Gas Company for the supply of gas to power the plant which at full capacity is expected to generate 685 megawatts. The plant is also expected to enhance power generation in the South-South region. Significantly, the Akpabio administration completed the electrification of over 1, 400 communities which has raised electricity coverage in the state to 85 percent, beating the African and Nigerian average of 5 and 17 percent respectively. Apart from linking these communities to the national grid, transformers were also installed to service them through the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
In the health sector, the administration is credited with the building of the first oxygen plant at the Ikot Ekpene General Hospital; the construction of a Specialist Hospital at Ekim Itam; construction of five cottage hospitals in Essien Udim, Ibeno, Ukanafun, Eastern Obolo and Ika; provision of 159 utility vehicles to doctors as motivation to medical practitioners in the government service; construction of modern primary health centres in the three senatorial districts of the State; implementation of free medical services and treatment for children under five years, pregnant women, and the elderly; building of a Dialysis Centre and donation of 17 brand new dialysis machines for kidney treatment; the building of a pediatrics block at the University of Uyo and donation of a N50million as interventionist grant, among other initiatives. And only recently, he brought to the state an international specialist hospital managed by world-renowned specialists from United Arab Emirates and America.
Towards diversifying the economy of the state and in full realisation of the potentials of the tourism subsector in an emerging democracy, the leadership of Akpabio fast tracked development and growth in that sector. He aggressively pursued expansion works at the prestigious and functional Le’ Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort; the construction of the Tropicana Entertainment Centre complete with Cineplex, galleria, malls, day and wet parks, hotel and convention centre etc; provided enabling environment for the private ownership of hotels in Uyo and other major cities, amongst other initiatives.  The Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre initiative was designed by the Akpabio administration with a twin-agenda in mind: breath social life into Uyo and energise the tourism potentials of the state by erecting a multipurpose centre for tourists and residents. The complex  encompasses 18-storey 250-bedroom five-star hotel; 10,000 capacity dome; a shopping mall, a theme park, mini-storey car park etc. The idea is to create in the Ibom Tropicana a replica of the enchanting Disneyland in Florida, United States of America or a South African Sun City.
It is stating the obvious to say that without paying attention to the state’s security challenges, Akpabio wouldn’t have achieved the laudable projects he is credited with. In the recent past, Akwa Ibom used to be in the news for all the wrong reasons: kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and the like.  But not so anymore.

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Re: Can Buhari fix Nigeria? Sun, 17 May 2015 23:51:29 +0000 My last week’s piece with the above headline has continued to generate reactions from readers of this column. While some be­lieve Buhari is the man who will lead us out of our dire straits, others think otherwise. Well, that’s democracy, isn’t it? Plurality of views and preferences. It’s the day of the readers. Please, go [...]]]>

My last week’s piece with the above headline has continued to generate reactions from readers of this column. While some be­lieve Buhari is the man who will lead us out of our dire straits, others think otherwise. Well, that’s democracy, isn’t it? Plurality of views and preferences. It’s the day of the readers. Please, go ahead and have a great week…

Buhari will give us a new Nigeria

God will not stop blessing you for the sac­rifices you make in building a humane society in Nigeria. I read you every Monday, and have never been disappointed for once. In fact, after reading the newspapers on the Internet, I still buy The Sun and New Telegraph, just to ap­preciate you and Oga Femi. I remember you people in my daily prayers. You people are the heroes of a new Nigeria, which our God-given Buhari represents. Remain blessed.

…Fabian Njoku (seminarian), 0703-723- 9598

He’s got what it takes

Despite the economic crisis, General Mu­hammadu Buhari will fix Nigeria, because he is bothered by the nation’s problems. He has what it takes to make Nigeria better for all.

…Gordon Chika Nnorom, 0708-464-4222

Nigeria will be great again

I read your piece with ecstasy. God bless you. Our Nigeria will be great again. You said it all, except the omission of prayers to back up the good works expected. Thank you and God bless.

Agboola Charles, Lagos, 0809-670-4115

Yes, He Can Fix Nigeria

My candid answer to your question con­veyed at the back page of Daily Sun of Mon­day, May 11, 2015. You asked: Can Buhari fix Nigeria? Yes, he can! Nothing is ever impos­sible provided there is big enough incentive. I agree with what you said in paragraph 16 of your write-up that, ‘this is not a task for one man. If Buhari owes us the duty of selfless, purposeful leadership, we equally must play our parts by doing the needful, by changing our attitudes. It is a two-way traffic!’

As for me, if we can really change our at­titude, it will not only motivate Buhari to fix Nigeria, but he will also take us to Eldorado. As for Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, please, don’t mind his inciting statements. He is a sycophant. I’m not a member of APC, neither PDP, but an unrepentant Ogboru follower in Delta State.

…Obakpomedia Pickford, Ughelli, 0806- 129-1114

He should first probe his sponsors

Buhari, as a clean man, should first probe those who spent billions, if not trillions, to sponsor his campaign, to find out how they made their money. Majority of them are serv­ing and ex-top government officials. They are the people already dictating who takes what posts, come May 29, to recoup their billions. If Buhari won’t probe them, then his failure may have started. Nigerians are watching, and we are not fools. …Jade, 0803-910-9754

Time will tell

Dear sir, I pray for long life for us all so that you will be able to answer the question, ‘how far?’ in three years time. …0805-136-2229

Buhari has no magic wand

Eric, I have reservations on your claim that ‘downtrodden Nigerians see Buhari as the ma­gician who would solve Nigeria’s problems.’ It is ridiculous to hold such a view, even when the ‘magician’ has appealed for forgiveness of er­rors he might make ahead of his taking over as president. Even his main programme of dealing with corruption is selective. Past corrupt leaders have had his pardon in advance. Only new cul­prits will have the hammer. In such a scenario, where is the magic wand when the root of cor­ruption is stuck safely to the ground? What a magic wand to expect.

You talked about his convoy obeying traf­fic and his plans to shun grandiose presidential titles. What does that add to the quality of lives of Nigerians? And to sell that as positive points in favour of Buhari? What a cheap sale! It is Buhari who will set the pace for Nigerians to follow. Nigerians are waiting.

…Lai Ashadele, 0706-767-7806

Coomasie on his own

Sir, be rest assured that GMB, unlike GEJ, who employed the services of Clark, will never patronise Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie.


Your write-up makes sense

Apart from your write-up making so much sense, you are also teaching me how to write and speak good English. God bless you, and I do hope Coomasie will read your admonition.

…Ken, 0815-939-8816

Playing to the gallery

Things like obeying traffic light is too cos­metic. It cannot change anything. It is such play­ing to the gallery that cost Murtala Mohammed his life when he was driving to work without security. …Raphael, Surulere, 0803-485-3305

He will surely deliver

Mr. Osagie, I agree completely with you. I am 200 per cent sure of Buhari to deliver on his promises. If he fails, Nigeria fails (God forbid). Anyone that wants to distract him, should be ready for the people’s wrath.

…T.abdul, 0805-053-8656

Attitude is key

Well-articulated. Please, keep up such truths in your write-ups. How I wish all Nigerians can read this and change their attitude.


He must avoid Murtala’s mistake

Well done for your piece. However, may God deliver Buhari from repeating what killed Mur­tala Mohammed, all for the sake of leading and living by example. God bless Nigeria.


Buhari can’t fix Nigeria

Dear Eric, to answer your question: Buhari cannot fix Nigeria. And a point of correction: Nigerians never expected nor believed that Bu­hari has the magic wand to Nigeria’s problems. It was Buhari and his party that boasted to Ni­gerians that he has the magic to change Nigeria. You and people like you are those who believe that he will restore our humanity. We are wait­ing for your testimonies! …0803-308-6392

We won’t accept excuses

Eric, he who engages in lies to enter a house must continue to lie, to remain in that house. The APC lied against Jonathan to get the sup­port of the masses, not considering the hectic task of governance. Now, they are there, let them perform the magic. No excuse, brother!


Writer as prophet

Eric, you are a good writer and prophet. God bless you. …0805-657-5809

Your eyes will soon be opened

In no distant time, your eyes will be opened. It is only a blind person who sees Buhari as an asset. You are wasting your time, eulogising a man like Buhari. Truly, you will soon see the point I’m making. …0817-975-4198

He will succeed if he does the right things

Hello Eric, former CBN governor said that the National Assembly consumes one-third of Nigeria’s resources. When the legislators raised dust, he defended his assertion before them – what has happened since then is ab­solute silence – the legal looting continues. What will a serious president do? Stop the looting. Money recovered from the National Assembly will pay salary for all the states, some change still available.

The so-called security vote is another arena of looting of public funds. This should be blocked or standardised. If these funds are re­covered, we can build many small refineries from it. This will eliminate the oil marketers, who have stolen billions of our Naira and for­eign exchange. These are just a few ways to recover our money with proffered solutions. The examples are many and obvious. General Buhari does not need to be a magician to re­pair Nigeria: All he needs is to do the right and righteous things. I can also save Nigeria if given the opportunity.

…Col R N Oputa (retired).

Buhari will surely turn things around for good

In the words of Ray Kio: “The quality of good leaders is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” GMB has kick-started by setting a tall order in leadership: Obeying traf­fic rules. His convoy will obey traffic rules? Amazing! Not intending to have the prefixes: ‘Commander-in-Chief’ or ‘GCFR’ after his name, Jesus! Sounds unAfrican, but we know the man we all congregated and voted for, against all odds, his record speaks for him. A man of proven integrity, an incorruptible mor­tal, ‘unbribeable’ an austere leader. As long as his DNA repels and does not agree in the primitive accumulation of wealth, the ‘looters association’s days are numbered.

…Myke Nwagu, 08033148640

Stop press hypes for Buhari

It’s amusing the way you people won’t stop these press hypes for Buhari, even when he is showing signs of more cluelessness than Jon­athan. …Bishop Zerubbabel Olu Erujeje, 0902-325-3258

No, he can’t!

To answer your question: No, he can’t. The man seems to be overwhelmed even be­fore taking the mantle. Buhari promised us good tidings of different sorts, and to wipe out Boko Haram within two months. But, in a volte face, they are now telling us that he is not a magician. That, to me, sounds hollow!

…Francis Ihezie, 0807-217-5618

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Can Buhari fix Nigeria? Sun, 10 May 2015 23:00:31 +0000 Muhammadu Buhari is no magician, even though his countrymen and women are waiting for him to commence the magic of changing their country from its comatose state to something much better, from the morning of May 29, less than three weeks from today, when he officially assumes duty as President of Africa’s most populous and [...]]]>

Muhammadu Buhari is no magician, even though his countrymen and women are waiting for him to commence the magic of changing their country from its comatose state to something much better, from the morning of May 29, less than three weeks from today, when he officially assumes duty as President of Africa’s most populous and most problematic country.

Since March 28, when he knocked out Jonathan, in one of the country’s fierc­est electoral contests ever, many Nigerians have come to see him as the magician, who is expected to pull out from his hat or bag, a harvest of surprises, the elixir or balm that will soothe the pains of our country.

Even though Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, have been screaming to all and sundry that the next leader is no magician, who will solve all our problems at the snap of a finger, we have simply refused to let that sink in. They could tell that to the wind. We couldn’t care less, as our bags of expectations are simply overflowing with a long ‘to do list.’

They can take it or leave it: Many Nige­rians, especially the downtrodden, those Karl Marx refers to as the ‘hoi polloi,’ be­lieve Buhari is the man with the magic wand to turn around the ill-fortunes of our country and people. They expect him to turn our sorrow to surplus; darkness to light by making Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, truly ‘hold power’; turn the unemployment in our land to jobs for the army of hungry and angry youths; we expect him to tackle the general insecurity in the nation, by not only routing the crimi­nal gang called Boko Haram, but also wip­ing out the evils of robberies, kidnappings-for -ransom, assassinations, and other violent crimes that have diminished the life of the Nigerian over the years. In simpler words, we expect Buhari to be the leader, who will restore humanity to our people and nation, after the vicious and vacuous years of the locusts symbolised by the ousted Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, central government.

Indeed, for many years, some of us have called attention to the plundering of our na­tion through our writings, but we were called detractors of the administration. We wrote about rot in the system, the cabal running the oil till, the squandering of our riches by delinquents and leeches in the corridors of power, what did we get as response? The egg heads of the economy led by the eru­dite Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala presented slides and power points of how the econ­omy was growing at eight percent on the average; how we were the largest econo­my in Africa after we had been rebased. We have all kinds of fancy projects like SURE-P; YOU-WIN among others. But, many know that we are surely going no­where nor winning. Only a few, fat cats have actually been winning. The faces that confront you at the bus stops, streets and everywhere, are usually faces of hun­ger, anger and frustration. On March 28, many voted for change in the leadership of the country and the helmsman, who had been leading us on a motion without movement.

Now, to the question I have heard many ask: Can Buhari fix Nigeria? Is he the lead­er who will lead us to the Promised Land, the land of our dreams, where we will be­gin to see light at the end of the dark tun­nel? What kind of leadership do we expect of a President Buhari?

Let me attempt dispassionate answers to the thought-provoking posers above, by starting from the last to the first. From what we are beginning to see, we expect a leadership by example, transparent leader­ship. Not a leadership of ‘do what I say, not what I do.’ Here are two instances: He obeys traffic lights, and says his convoy will obey traffic rules. Incredible, isn’t it? Are we in Nigeria? A Nigerian president obeying traffic rules, with all the powers and pomp of that office? That singular ac­tion as little as some may think it is, sends out a loud message that, “we will have a truly servant-leader by deeds, not words alone.”

I also understand the man does not in­tend to have the prefixes: ‘Commander-in-Chief’ or ‘GCFR’ after his name. He simply wants to be addressed as: ‘Muham­madu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.’ No more. Because, as some of those close to him tell me, the man be­lieves that once you are called president, it is implied that you are commander-in-chief. Why the ‘excess luggage’ of gran­diose titles?

He is also an austere leader. I know that for a fact, having interviewed him a record four times at his office and residence, be­tween 2004 and 2012. I have interviewed him on every issue under the sun: His par­entage, childhood, civil war, the coups and counter-coups, overthrow of Shagari government, his own overthrow and incarceration, IBB government, N2.8 billion alleged missing oil money Fela sang about, 53 suitcases, the 2003 and 2007 presidential contests against Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, re­spectively, 2011 electoral loss, among other issues. Someday, I hope to turn the exclusive interviews into a book, which should throw more light on the life of the enigmatic leader, who approximates America’s Abraham Lin­coln.

Sorry for the digression. What I have been trying to say is that a leader who is trans­parent and does not believe in the primitive accumulation of wealth would be intolerant of vampires out to steal in the new admin­istration. Nigerians are likely to key into the transparency mantra of the new helmsman. With leakages blocked, more funds would be freed to tackle the infrastructural challenges of the nation.

One fear that has been expressed has to do with some of the new leader’s henchmen, who contributed money for his campaign, some of them have well-known terrible re­cords of insatiable appetite for aggrandise­ment. How will the general cope with these men? Would they not derail him? I hope not. I pray not. This Buhari, says Professor David-West, a man who should know, will shock many of them. ‘The man can’t stand thieves and looters of the treasury. He has a strong character and resolve. He won’t let anyone mess him up.’ I believe David-West, a man I know and respect. If David-West says it, I believe him.

So, the answer to the question of if Bu­hari can fix Nigeria is already clear from the above: Yes, he can, if he can fix the treasury looters and block leakages. Yes, he can, if he will assemble a bunch of technocrats, brim­ming with ideas and integrity; yes, he can, if he will lead by example as he has already started demonstrating.

But, more importantly, to do all of these requires attitudinal change of all Nigerians: The leaders and the led, the followers. Nige­ria’s problem, we must agree, apart from large scale corruption, is basically, the issue of atti­tude. Attitude to life. Attitude to public office. Attitude to wealth. Attitude to nation. Attitude to governance. If Nigerians don’t change their attitude, Buhari’s government may not go as far as it should.

Change can only be meaningful if our lead­ers and the led change their present attitudinal disposition to all facets of life. The politician, who wins election to the National Assembly sees his new position as one that should au­tomatically enhance his material status. They have seen some people, who took night bus to Abuja, to partake in the democratic process, suddenly jump into obscene wealth and land­ed properties and exotic cars in the nation’s capital; they have seen mansions spring up in villages without commensurate labour by the new noveau rich beneficiaries of democ­racy dividends. In our country today, politi­cal offices have become the shortest route to Eldorado.

If the incoming Buhari lawmakers and ex­ecutives don’t change their attitude to public office, nothing would have truly changed. If they won’t stop their fight for ‘juicy offices’ and ‘juicy committees’, nothing would have changed. If elected officials don’t see pub­lic offices as service to the people, rather than their stomachs, we won’t witness much change.

The civil service is rotten: Workers work at their own pace, without a sense of duty or purpose. In Abuja, resumption time is gener­ally anything from 9am-10am and closing can be anytime from 2.30pm-3pm. In some other instances, many don’t even bother to show up. Yet, the government must pay them wages for services not delivered. That attitude must change, if change must be meaningful. Public sector agencies like water board, power sector operators, are something else. What we have are competent workers with poor attitude to work. That has to stop, if we want Buhari to succeed. We have other areas like Customs, Immigration, Police, among others, whose work ethics need urgent change if Nigeria must work. Even the media, my constituency, needs reorientation. We should start beam­ing powerful searchlight on crooks and other scoundrels in power, if Nigeria will move forward, to borrow the street lingo. If thieves know they will be exposed by a fearless me­dia, they will think twice before dipping their dirty fingers in the collective till. We surely have a lot more work to do if we want Buhari to succeed, if we want profound change in our country. This is no task for one man. If Buhari owes us the duty of selfless, transparent, fo­cused, disciplined and purposeful leadership, we equally must play our parts by doing the needful, by changing our attitude. It is a two-way traffic!

But, it’s not an impossible task. The first step would be the reorientation of Nigerians. That’s why I have in the past couple of weeks been agitating for a reorientation commis­sion or agency or whatever name it’s called, to champion the change agenda of the new government, to lead the battle for attitudinal change in our land, across all strata. If the new leadership must succeed, they must do something urgently about changing the Nige­rian attitude.

Fortunately, as veteran journalist, lawyer, politician and social critic, Prince Tony Mo­moh, told me recently in a chat, Buhari can change Nigeria for the better because he will lead by example, and Nigerians will sim­ply key in because they are good followers. They do what they see their leaders doing, not what they have been asked to do. If Bu­hari obeys traffic rules, Nigerians will do same; if he won’t steal, they automatically know that if they steal, there would be no hiding place for them; if he and other lead­ers queue, the queue culture won’t be strange to us. If they lead with integrity, the message will be clear that this is a nation of honest people, who believe in hard work and in­tegrity. These will effectively translate into other spheres. This I believe.

LAST LINE: There is something I al­most forgot to add: Buhari must beware of people like Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, retired Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and chair of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. I say this with all seriousness and sense of respon­sibility. If care is not taken, it is people like Coomasie that will derail the Buhari admin­istration. The way he is going, he is almost beginning to sound like Chief Edwin Clarke, the Niger-Delta chieftain, who appropriated the outgoing president as his godson, defend­ing and attacking anyone who dared raise his voice in criticism against him. What Cooma­sie said when Abba Suleiman was sacked, was certainly a narrow-minded way to look at the issue. If all that was wrong with the removal was because he was a northerner, then what happens if Buhari has a reason to fire a public functionary for a northerner to occupy the position? Would he have given a damn if a northerner had replaced Abba? Such views are unhelpful at this point in time when Nigeria is trying to heal of the violent and acrimonious campaigns and elections. I have also read Coomasie also hurling tribal brickbats, believing he is protecting the Bu­hari presidency. For goodness sake, Buhari may be a son of Katsina, but he is today pres­ident of all parts, tribes and sections of Nige­ria. I hope Alhaji Coomasie is reading this?


Chuka Odom: Rising star, a Nigerian to watch

Last week at the Civic Centre, Lagos, Chief Chuka Odom, former minister of state, Fed­eral Capital Territory, as well as minister of state, Ministry of Envi­ronment, Housing and Urban Develop­ment, bagged the ‘Rising Star Award’, instituted by the Business Hallmark newspaper. This was in recognition of his contribution to the housing and ur­ban development agenda in the nation.

As his rich profile was being read by the master of ceremony, the hall exploded in appreciative applauses by the special guests and other invitees.

Indeed, many agreed that the award was not only well-deserved, it is a fitting testimony to the worthy accomplishments of Chief Odom in the housing sector as well as other areas he has been privileged to serve. He is indeed a rising Nigerian star, in private and public practices.

As minister of state, housing and urban development, Chuka is credited with, “ini­tiating the first comprehensive reform of the National Housing Policy and led ad­vocacy tours across 11 states of the fed­eration to drum up support from state chief executives in a bid to amend the Land Use Act; an effort that has been widely ac­knowledged as the wake-up call for the on­going land reform, which he initiated under the late Yar’Adua government.”

Another of Odom’s key achievement was the formation of the African Ministe­rial Conference on Housing and Urban De­velopment (AMCHUD), which he hosted in Abuja in 2008, which sought to use the platform to address the intractable issue of housing and urbanisation in Africa.

An erudite lawyer with over two decades post-call to bar experience, politician and administrator, who has held key offices as deputy chief of staff in Abia State, Com­missioner in both Abia and Imo states, minister in two key ministries of FCT and environment and housing, no doubt Chuka Odom is one Nigerian to watch out for, as Nigeria takes a step in May 29, 2015 to its next level of national development.

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In search of the good cop…  (Agenda for new IGP, Solomon Arase) Sun, 26 Apr 2015 23:29:00 +0000 Nigeria is in search of the good cop. The cop who will be a terror to terrorists; bad news to criminals and all those who insist that other citizens will not have a peaceful night rest after the hassles of the day. Every year, huge budgetary provision is made by the government in pursuit of [...]]]>

Nigeria is in search of the good cop. The cop who will be a terror to terrorists; bad news to criminals and all those who insist that other citizens will not have a peaceful night rest after the hassles of the day.

Every year, huge budgetary provision is made by the government in pursuit of the above objective. And every year, we move farther from the dream of having the good cop in our land. Sadly, the heftier the budget, the more illusory the search for the good cop turns. What an irony in a nation of ironies!

Don’t ask the reason for this paradox. We all know it: Corruption. Stealing. Looting. Those who are entrusted with providing an ef­fective and efficient policing system are also the ones killing our hopes and dreams. Except anyone wants to be hypocritical or sycophan­tic, this is not the police of our dreams; the police that makes us proud. I am not saying we don’t have a few brilliant, efficient cops in the system, who are doing the job with all their heart and might; who are literally squeezing water out of stone to tackle the menace of the bad boys. Of course, it will be wrong to say there are no shining stars in the dark firmament of the police world.

However, we have to admit that, in totality, the police system is not working; the police is weak and underperforming like many of our institutions. We have a police without moral force, only brute force; a demoralised and de­mobilised organisation; a police ill-trained, ill-fed, ill-motivated and thoroughly angry. Not at the criminals, but with the society. With me and you; with all of us unarmed, hapless citi­zens.

With their guns at the checkpoints, it’s the familiar song of ‘wetin you carry; anything for the boys.’ When the motorist proves stubborn, bullets are ‘accidentally’ discharged. When criminals strike and you make a case at the sta­tion, you have to provide money for writing sheets and biro, fuel the vehicle and provide’ logistics.’ Five minutes after an operation, and the evil men have melted into the night, the cops arrive in wailing sirens and long guns at the ready to do battle. With the men who had since evaporated into the thin air. What a dis­play of gallantry!

To change its poor image, the police high command came up with the PR slogan: ‘The police is your friend.’ Truth be told, not many Nigerians believe that. Friends don’t intimi­date friends with guns to part with money at road blocks, checkpoints or whatever they are called; friends don’t shoot innocent citizens in moments of provocation or mild arguments, even wilfully and dismiss the whole case under a bogus ‘accidental discharge’; friends don’t help suspected criminals pervert the cause of justice by not bringing them to book. With a litany of unresolved murders, dotting the police crime diaries, it will be difficult for many Nige­rians, who have been at the receiving end of po­lice misbehaviour to buy into ‘the police is your friend’ slogan. Instead, I have heard people say police is our fiend, not friend. You can’t blame them. He who wears the shoes knows where it pinches.

However, the problems of the police are both internal and external. Wasn’t it the late Afro-beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who sang about corruption and greed in the top echelon of the Force. That image of the organisation hasn’t quite changed in the eyes of the Nigerian public. It is also not helped by the fact that we have seen a couple or so police chiefs, cascading down the valley of infamy with corruption cases trailing them. Tafa Balogun’s fall from grace to disgrace easily comes to my mind, as an example of monumental corruption enveloping the police. A police IG fired over allegation of corruption is foul news to the nostrils of both the police and the society. It is doubtful if the police has, if it ever will, recovered from ‘Tafagate.’

Beyond Tafa, there have also been allegations that funds allocated to the police for sundry pur­poses have often disappeared into private pock­ets, with little, if anything, left for training, de­cent accommodation and other welfare needs of the Force, especially the rank and file. Last year, for example, over N30 billion was alleg­edly budgeted for police. It is not certain how much was eventually released but even at that, facilities at police colleges and barracks have re­mained abysmally poor. Where did the police funds go? If they haven’t being growing wings over the years, how come the police remain one of the most tattered public institutions in Nige­ria? How come the cops you meet on the streets don’t inspire hope and confidence?

A former Inspector-General of Police, Sun­day Ehindero, has called for a probe of past Inspectors-General of Police, IGPs, to find out who messed around with fund meant for the upgrading of the police. In an interview with the Saturday Leadership newspapers, Ehindero believes that would be one sure way of unearth­ing corruption in the Force and the itchy fingers that impoverished the organisation. We all must welcome the probe, and whoever is found want­ing must be made to face the music. The police institution is too important and too critical to the life of our nation to be left to wheeler dealers in or out of police uniform. If the police is weak and corrupt as we find it today, we don’t need to search far for reasons our country is fast turning to the nasty and brutish Hobbesian world.

But even as we lambast the police for its poor performance, we must in the same vein deprecate the hypocrisy of government and the larger society. We all castigate the police as if the people in the police are not Nigerians and products of the Nigerian society. The police is corrupt, but which government agency is cor­ruption-free? Corruption permeates every nook and cranny of this country: Politics, economy, you name it.

We crave a functional police, but treat cops as sub-human beings. They live in barracks that are little better than pigsties with their families; feeding is a nightmare while educational oppor­tunities are virtually non-existent. The govern­ment that fails to provide them decent wages and living environment also arms them with weapons to go tackle criminals. What happens is simple: Many cops either look the other way when evil men strike or simply turn the energy needed to combat crimes to aggressive revenue-generation because they have families to take care of. We all become collective losers in the crime-fighting enterprise

Because Nigeria is largely a hypocritical so­ciety where those privileged to hold high offices play politics with everything, everyone is talk­ing and acting as if they didn’t know the police was sick and needed urgent intensive care. We are all behaving as if we all just dropped from the skies, that we never knew or heard that the police college and barracks was rotten.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said he was shocked at the eyesore of the Police Col­lege, Ikeja, where recruits and cadets are quar­tered and trained as if they were in a refugee camp. I withdraw my statement. To describe prospective policemen, as living as if they were in a refugee camp is insulting to refugee camps. Even some refugee camps appeared neater and more habitable than the hostels and classrooms we saw on television during the presidential visit. War-torn residences appear a better de­scription. How cops trained in that environ­ment are expected to be human and humane beats the imagination. When the cops bark at motorists or appear short-fused, we know where they got their training. Even the bar­racks, as pointed out earlier, can hardly inspire anyone with a sense of duty and professional­ism.

But to pretend as if they didn’t know that all has never been quite well with the police is far more shocking than the discovery of po­lice squalor. Is Jonathan saying that before he became president, he never had anyone from Bayelsa State or anywhere in the country in the Force, who could have told him about the dehumanising conditions in the barracks and training schools? Was he just learning about the police condition? Which Nigerian, for a long time now, can swear that he or she didn’t know that the police is among the most lowly rated organisations in terms of remuneration and other packages? How many Nigerians, if they had a choice, would gladly enrol in the organisation the same way they jostle for im­migration, customs or military employment? Could that not have convinced anyone that the police profile hadn’t always been on the rise?

However, now he knows, we expect the president to declare an emergency in the po­lice, clean up the whole mess. The first step, as he has rightly done, is the setting up of a probe panel. The second logical step would have been to fire the minister of police affairs and scrap that ministry. If the premier police college could be in such shabby state, what af­fairs has he been policing? With the scrapping of the Police Affairs Ministry, it would then be easy to hold the Inspector-General respon­sible for any lapses. There would then not be this buck-passing over who controls the funds or who is responsible for the police mess.

We also expect whatever outcome of the probe to make a strong case for police train­ing, welfare and remuneration. Henceforth, the minimum requirement for entry into the police should not be less than a first degree. The reason is obvious: Fighting crimes and criminalities has become too sophisticated and only those with strong passion and com­mitment would then take the bold plunge into the Force. If salaries are enhanced, and wel­fare is assured, that is housing and education of police wards, any cop caught in the cor­rupt act would have no excuse for his action. He would be rightly guillotined: Sent to jail with the maximum punishment. The state of Georgia in the old Soviet Union is one coun­try where the above measures worked. Geor­gia, before the clean up, was the headquarters of police corruption. Then, they enhanced the image of the police through good remunera­tion and welfare incentives, and imposed se­vere punishment as disincentive to unprofes­sional conducts. The cops behaved and the story is different today. Our police could be different tomorrow if we do the right thing in search of the good cop.

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The insanity in South Africa Sun, 19 Apr 2015 23:00:45 +0000 The portrait of today’s South Africa as the bastion of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man is one that should diminish every South African, and indeed all Africans, who have witnessed the worst case of Xenophobia in recent times. Not only are Africans outraged, the world is shocked to see black-on-black violence rise to an [...]]]>

The portrait of today’s South Africa as the bastion of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man is one that should diminish every South African, and indeed all Africans, who have witnessed the worst case of Xenophobia in recent times. Not only are Africans outraged, the world is shocked to see black-on-black violence rise to an unprecedented high. Blacks clobbered to death by black South Afri­cans; shops looted and businesses shut by rampaging South African youths, demanding that fellow black Africans leave their country, because they have allegedly taken over jobs that ought to be occupied by natives.

The gory pictures of corpses on the streets of major South African streets, cracked skulls oozing blood and blood-soaked persons, running for dear lives assail the eyes and sensibilities of every human being, that you begin to wonder what devil has gripped the South African youth; what evil has come upon the land; what kind of insanity has crept into the rainbow nation.

Truly, these are sad times for that country. These are times that detract from the pomp and glory of a country all Africans were proud of, when apartheid was dismantled and the iconic Dr. Nelson Mandela assumed office as the first black president of a non-racial South Africa. As the footages of bleeding fellow Africans being pummeled by obviously deranged and misguided South African youths roll from global television networks, you couldn’t help wondering what would Madiba be thinking right now where he is. What would be going on in the minds of great South African freedom fighters like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo, Steve Biko and the others?

Surely, Madiba would be turning in his grave to see the country he fought to unite, turning against fellow Africans whose countries fought to deal apart­heid the devastating blow. Surely, South African patriots and those in the vanguard of the anti-apartheid struggle would be totally shocked to see their fellow citizens lift a hand of violence against citizens of a country like Nigeria that put its huge weight as giant of Africa behind South Africa when it mattered most. Not only did Nigeria task all her working citizens to donate towards the Free South Africa fund, our country put a hefty war chest at the disposal of the freedom fighters. Just to liberate South Africa then in the jaws and claws of the obnoxious apartheid regime.

Should we remind these misguided South African youths of Nigerian music stars like Sunny Okosuns, who sang his heart out, calling on the white supremacists to give our brothers freedom? Should they not be reminded that at a time in this country, every South African enjoyed scholarship in any institution of his choice? Should they not be told that many of their freedom fighters, including the revered Madiba enjoyed the benevolence of this country and her leaders in those trying moments, which we gave cheerfully, without grudg­es? They may be ignorant of these facts!

Stretching from the past to the present, Nigeria has played the big brother role to many African countries, providing them with financial, military, social to all kinds of support, but what does it get in return? Humiliation and contempt, and in some instances like we are witnessing now, threat to lives and death of its nationals. When the war raged in Liberia, Nigeria-led multinational forces, ECOMOG, flushed the insurgents out. But our citizens bore the brunt of the massacre that trailed the war of attrition. Is that the way a big brother is treated?

Today, South African youths that are baying for the blood of citizens of African nations, protesting job loses to these other citizens ought to be told that in other parts of Africa, including Nigeria, South African firms are at the commanding heights of the economy, carting millions of dollars back home. Yet, they haven’t been attacked or blacklisted. The youths in Nigeria are not taking up cutlasses, cudgels and bows against these companies.

Should some of those crazy South African youths not be told that they are not more jobless and hungrier than the Nigerian youths who haven’t vented their anger on nationals of other countries, including South Africa? Unemployment is at an all-time high here; youth unemploy­ment is alarming. But, no quit notice has been issued to any national, because the youth know where to place the burden of providing jobs for its citizenry: The gov­ernment. It is the duty of every government to provide jobs for its army of unemployed citizens, not foreigners or visitors. It is not the duty of blacks, residing in South Africa engaged in lawful businesses to provide jobs for the angry youths of South Africa. It is that of the South African government. Transferring aggression or venting their frustrations on fellow blacks is the height of illiteracy, degeneracy and stupidity, which must never be condoned by Nigeria and other African nations at the receiv­ing end of these barbaric conduct with the fancy name of xenophobia. It is evil and condemnable.

It is in this light that the world must prevail on President Jacob Zuma and the South African leadership to call the boys of blood to order. A decisive action must be taken before it degenerates further. The Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, who first ignited the bloody harvest, by demanding the expulsion of Africans from their land, must be made to face the consequences of his insensitive and inciting speech. If there are laws in South Africa, dealing with such hate speeches, he should have his day in the court of jus­tice. His thoughtless speech has brought violence, bloodshed and deaths to his country. Should King Zwelithini not be asking his government to find a way of tackling unemployment, which has hit 24 per cent? Should he not direct his anger at various leaderships in his country, rather than offering the lazy and unhelp­ful marching orders to hapless citizens of African countries? If South Africa won’t prosecute the King, should the Interna­tional Criminal Court, ICC, fold its arms?

President Zuma must act fast and now to end the insanity going on in South Africa. He owes other African nations and the world the duty of safeguarding the lives of everyone who lives in his country. No reason is acceptable for the termination of innocent lives.

For Nigeria, the lesson is simple and clear: Let’s create a conducive economic, social and political atmosphere back home to discourage our army of econom­ic refugees in foreign lands who, sooner than later, become the butt of violence and rough tactics by viciously envious neighbours and citizens of their host countries. We must make our country work for all. That is one task the Buhari administration must take seriously. And for citizens who have legitimate reason to do business or reside outside our shores, the message must be sent out loud and clear: Nigeria will not accept the torture or killing of any of its citizens for no just cause. Enough should truly be enough.

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Nigeria: A new beginning Sun, 12 Apr 2015 23:00:47 +0000 My sister, who has been liv­ing in the United States of America since 1996, called as soon as news of presiden­tial election results hit the global news media. Her voice upbeat, she couldn’t believe the news she had heard. An incumbent defeated in an election in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and most complex nation? And [...]]]>

My sister, who has been liv­ing in the United States of America since 1996, called as soon as news of presiden­tial election results hit the global news media. Her voice upbeat, she couldn’t believe the news she had heard. An incumbent defeated in an election in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and most complex nation? And the biggest surprise of all: The loser placing a call to the winner, conceding defeat. That sounded too good to be real. And like most Nigerians, at home and abroad, my dear sister saw it as the eighth wonder of the world. An unimaginable, unthinkable and seem­ingly unrealisable happening. But it happened. And the world has not stopped being dazed!

You can understand the reason every­one has been apprehensive and pessimis­tic about the general elections of 2015: Tension had run high, almost to boiling point, pre-election and electioneering periods. There were threats of violence, and blood had actually flowed freely during the campaigns. Even a couple of days to D-Day, violence and all kinds of brigandage held sway. We must also not forget the hate campaigns, the mudsling­ing and all the brickbats that went into the just concluded polls.

Then, there was the famous prediction by the Americans, of a Nigeria break up in 2015, due to anticipated violent dusts expected to be precipitated by disagree­ments and schisms from the election, which the Americans believed would eventually lead to the alleged balkanisa­tion of the republic!

Mercifully, it didn’t happen. And the world has not stopped celebrating and being jubilant. Nigerians, who were expecting a combustion and implo­sion, are shocked at the dramatic turn of events. God must, indeed, be a Nigerian. Don’t let anyone fool anyone: It wasn’t essentially the miracle of the card reader machines, the efficiency or magic of Attahiru Jega and his men, or the super-efficiency of the cops and other security agencies, tried, as we should admit, they all have. Since March 28, I choose to place our success at the polls at the doorsteps of Almighty God, touching the hearts of men (Nigerians) and using them to achieve the seemingly unachiev­able. And so be it. Because, think for a moment, supposing Jonathan had failed to concede defeat and congratulated the winner? Supposing the action of Gods­day Orubebe, an elder, who elected to behave like a kid, had triggered a riotous behaviour by equally aggrieved members of his party and the exercise was truncat­ed, leading to inconclusive results? And the winner insisting on being declared vic­torious, and rightly so. Imagine the orgy of violence and bloodletting that would have been visited on our dear country. Imag­ine the refugee problem that would have been unleashed on Africa and the rest of the world. Imagine the human casualties. The starving children. The new orphans and displaced persons. Please, let’s just thank God for rescuing the nation from the brink. If in the two years or so of Boko Haram we are still grappling with refugee and IDP issues, you can then imagine the kind of horror that would have been witnessed if the worst had happened. We should never trivialise the miracle that has just happened in our country.

And as I write this piece, a day after the governorship and state Assemblies’ polls, the generally smooth turn of events across the states gives me the feeling that the sleeping giant is about to rouse from its slumber and take its place, as truly great in the comity of nations. Incumbents in some states kissed the dust of defeat. New governors were elected. Outcomes proved bookmakers wrong. Nigeria is truly on the democratic march. After 2015, Nigeria will never truly be the same again. Incumbency factor will be truly dead for­ever. If some incumbents couldn’t save themselves in power, how then will they in future be able to handpick and install their successors in office? Only the electorate should decide who leads them, who will be their governor or senator or rep mem­ber. What is happening now, in 2015, is certainly a tip of the iceberg. In 2019, we will surely have the supremacy, or if you like, the dictatorship of the electorate, in full swing. Politicians, beware!

Of course, I am not saying everything has gone without incidence; that all has gone well, without cases of ballot box snatching, violence or alleged subversion of the people’s will. But the beauty of democracy is that there are mechanisms for redress in the law courts and tribunals. The civilised conduct would be for the ag­grieved to pursue their cause decently, by following the due process of law. But, overall, the fact that elections held largely peacefully and winners declared, gives fillip to our democratic march. Hope­fully, by 2019, all the rough edges would have been smoothened. The errors cor­rected. That is certainly the only way our democratic growth can be enhanced and sustained.

Surely, with the turn of events, our na­tion has the opportunity of a new begin­ning. Not necessarily because everything has been bad or thoroughly useless. We have to admit that we have not maximised the potentials of our nation. We are not where we should be as a nation.

For example, how can we be the sixth largest oil-producing nation on earth, yet long fuel queues litter our country? How come we import refined petroleum products because our refineries have been long dead and buried? How come we are a nation of few billionaires and millions of paupers, living on less than a dollar a day?

How come we have over 40 per cent of our youth population, including graduates, roaming aimlessly without jobs? How come we are always poten­tially developing, never developed?

Hillary Clinton, former American first lady and Secretary of State, once described us as a nation ‘too rich to be poor and too poor to be rich.’ Mean­ing: We have enough material resources in our country that ought to ensure that we have no business whatsoever with poverty. But sadly, we have created a colony of extremely poor citizens in our clime that makes it impossible for us to be grouped amongst rich nations! An extreme paradox, you may say.

The obvious interpretation of that prognosis, which we all know is that, we have been sucked dry and stolen blind by our successive leadership. Swooping on our natural resources, especially oil, these guys have simply made it a criminal habit to live large to the detriment of the vast majority.

Now, Nigeria has a new begin­ning. To stop the oil thieves, and their collaborators. To deploy the resources of Nigeria for the vast majority of Ni­gerians. To create enduring jobs for the restless youth population. In the words of the president-elect, Gen. Muham­madu Buhari, to ‘create a culture of efficiency’ in all facets of our national life. The task before the incoming president is pretty cut out for him: Stop stealing, corruption or whatever it is called. Make our nation safe again, from Boko Haram, killers, robbers and any kind of insecurity. Give us light. And clean up our nation from many, if not all, its ills: Hypocrisy, corruption, tribalism, nepotism, cronyism, cor­ruption, indiscipline, among others. A tall order? Not quite, if the new administration will have the will to do what is right. And many Nigerians believe it will. Never has an incoming administration in our recent history been so enthusiastically received as what we have now. It’s a new dawn for our nation. It’s a new beginning. A new beginning, which offers our nation a fresh opportunity to do new things, while jettisoning old, jaded ways. Yes, we can. So, help us God!


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Buhari: The Aftermath… Mon, 06 Apr 2015 00:17:54 +0000 The aftermath of presidential cam­paign, especially the kind we had before March 28, 2015 poll, is like the morning after a rancorous party: Broken bottles and plates, messed up dancehall and garbage-filled kitchen and sinks full of leftover rubbish. An eyesore that testifies to the rowdy evening that heralds the reality of the morning after, [...]]]>

The aftermath of presidential cam­paign, especially the kind we had before March 28, 2015 poll, is like the morning after a rancorous party: Broken bottles and plates, messed up dancehall and garbage-filled kitchen and sinks full of leftover rubbish. An eyesore that testifies to the rowdy evening that heralds the reality of the morning after, the aftermath.

The campaigns were more than the riotous evening described above: All kinds of hate mes­sages, calumnious adverts, poisonous words and acidic punches. War drums and threats of Arma­geddon. Pockets of violence here and there. The possibility of the doomsday prophecies coming to fruition was high. Everyone held his breath. Some with livers of lily held swift dialogue with their feet and bundled their families to their hometowns and villages, far removed from vola­tile cities and combustible enclaves, which had been theatres of war in times past.

You couldn’t blame them. Anyone who had witnessed the mass slaughter of the civil war or seen the macabre dance of blood occasioned by political violence would not wait to be told that everything would be okay this time around. Dis­cretion is the better part of valour, as the old say­ing goes.

Then, it happened. An anti-climax. No dispu­tation of presidential election results. No bon­fires. No blood flowing on the streets. No citizens chanting: ‘We no go gree o. We no go gree.’ No mass killings. It was as if a dove had descended on the nation, enveloping us with the cover of peace and tranquillity. Those you expected to de­nounce the poll results lost their voice or rather, got the tongue of peace and conciliation: No trouble. ‘Let the General have his day in the sun, and swim in the tide of victory.’ First, President Jonathan, then, governors of the ruling party and the bruised party; then, the international commu­nity, diaspora Nigerians. The world spoke in one language: Language of peace and brotherhood. Language of one nation, one people, though votes and preferences may differ. It was one moment to be proud of Nigeria, the black man and humanity. Because it was unexpected, the moment would remain memorable and frozen in eternity.

Many people have been eulogising the duo of President Jonathan and Professor Jega, the na­tion’s chief electoral umpire for what happened in our country on March 28; the latter for con­ducting a free, fair and credible election, and the former for having the grace to accept his defeat. The argument is that, if President Jonathan had failed to congratulate the winner, General Buhari, the stage would have been set for the festival of blood, which was bound to ensue from the dis­putations. The other leg of the argument is that, Jega, through the ingenuity of the card reader and PVCs (Permanent Voters Card) set the ground platform for a credible process, which made vio­lent reactions to the electoral outcome improbable. I agree only partially to the above postulations.

And here are my reasons: In my view, it is God’s, not man’s doing. God intervened at the na­tion’s breaking point, which forestalled violence and bloodletting. God only used Jonathan to fore­stall the cataclysm that would have engulfed us if violence had taken over. When God uses a man, he really has no choice in the matter. He becomes a mere instrument in the hands of the Almighty. Look at David in the Bible, the shepherd boy who slew Goliath; Samson, the man of war; Solomon, the wise king. It is God who gives strength and wis­dom. We commend him all the same for allowing God to use him…

As for Jega, we give him credit but not full credit. The erratic card readers, muddled up voting process and glaring electoral malpractices in many parts of the country, are not what should make us dress the electoral umpire in superlative adjectives. The real credit for March 28 goes to God and ordi­nary Nigerians. As I noted last week in this column, March 28 was the triumph of the Nigerian spirit, triumph of the human will to make the impossible, possible. To make the change they desire happen, in spite of all odds. In all my write-ups pre-election, I had canvassed for the voter to simply let his con­science be his guide. Let him ponder within if he wanted change or preferred the status quo? If his life was better the old way or he sought change? It was the voter’s right, I argued, to decide if he preferred a retired General, Ph.D or professor to be his president? It was not anyone’s duty to dictate to the electorate. What we saw on March 28 was largely the will of the people, even if we agree that it was not a flawless process. In the future, hope­fully, things could get better. No personal animos­ity or ill-feelings Prof!

Now, the rowdy party is over. We are faced with the aftermath. When the party is over, it becomes the duty of the host or owner of the facility to clean up the mess of the night. Buhari has emerged pres­ident-elect. In the next four years, it will be his un­enviable duty to clean up the mess in our country. At this time, it doesn’t matter whether you voted for or against him; supported him or not. What would matter for him and our nation is what he does with his mandate. What do we expect of and from him? What should be his agenda? Can he deliver on his promises? I can’t tell you I have answers to some of the posers raised above. The answer to some of the questions lies in the bowels of time.

But, here are my agenda for the General, which he should tackle if he will leave his name engraved in the sands of time. First, he must be president of the whole Nigeria, not president of APC, or president of Daura or Katsina. Even if some parts of the country didn’t vote over­whelmingly for him, he must resist the tempta­tion to ‘extract his pound of flesh’ from any part of the country for their preference in the polls. Fortunately, his acceptance speech has allayed such fears, as he has promised to do justice to all Nigerians irrespective of region, religion and gender. As an officer and gentleman, we expect no less of him. I believe we know the evil venge­ful actions or pandering to parochial interests can do to a government and a country. We saw what it did to Obasanjo’s government and how it contributed to the fall of Jonathan’s administra­tion. Once I wrote against the ‘Ijaw-nisation’ of Jonathan’s government and all hell was let loose on me. If Buhari must succeed, he must resist from day one, the many ethnic or tribal jingoists in our country who are ever ready to derail every government. I trust he will rise above this fray.

I have interviewed Buhari thrice, in 2004, 2010 and 2012, and from what he says, I believe he will be broadminded. There really isn’t any alternative to that.

Then, he must tame the ugly but familiar mon­ster, running riot over our country: Corruption. He says he will fight it to a standstill. This is where he needs the prayers and support of all Nigerians. Corruption, as we all know, is the deadliest mon­ster ravaging our land, and it is a formidable foe. We also know that Nigerian politicians haven’t changed automatically since March 28, and Nige­rians, many of whom are chanting change, haven’t changed much either. We know our Senators and House members. We know what they do in the red and green chambers. The incoming president would need all the strength and wisdom to navigate the fight and crush the deadly enemy of corruption. God help him. But, again it is not his battle alone. It is only when we support him that we can all win. As military head of state, it is easy to shove every­body into one straight line. But as civilian president, it is a different ball game. This is where he needs to completely overhaul the National Orientation Agency, to begin a reorientation of Nigerians to their civic duties and responsibilities. To live the decent life and shun corruption, and indiscipline. Fortunately, with a whistle-clean leader, who will lead by example, that shouldn’t be impossible to achieve. Still talking corruption, he must beam his searchlight on agencies of government that have been cesspool of sleaze over the years. We all know them. We must do something about them.

There are other areas we will need him to take a look at: Power, security, education, health, among others. I am sure he should know what to do, hav­ing run the race for the Number One job a record four times, with a plan of action.

Finally, and certainly most importantly, the Gen­eral must as a matter of urgency heal the land of its sore in the aftermath of the most acrimonious and divisive campaigns and polls ever conducted in the history of our nation. As soon as he settles down, he must find a way to address the fears and apprehensions of Nigerians from different parts of the country, especially in the South. He must con­tinue to reassure them that he will be president of all, irrespective of the way they voted. He should continue to show in words and deeds that he is no ethnic or religious bigot, as they had tried to foist on him in the past; that he would not rule with ven­geance or allow his party men to rub their defeat in the face of their opponents. I believe that a peace and reconciliation committee preferably headed by General Abdusalami or General Gowon, would not be out of place at this point in time. A genuine and serious reconciliation team, not the circus we saw in the past. If that is not possible, he must have cred­ible Nigerians in his team, whose mere presence in the administration, would be reassuring to all Nige­rians that the new president means business. Best of luck, General. You will need tonnes of it…


Kalu and the progressive change in Nigeria

In the aftermath of the historic March 28 Presidential and National Assem­bly elections, some Nigerians have been hailed as apostles of change in Nigeria. Surely, the All Progressives Congress leaders and members, who fought the hard way to get their candi­date elected would qualify for diadem of change agents. So should ordinary Nige­rians who braved all odds to stand by the courage of their conviction in electing a candidate of their choice. It doesn’t mat­ter if their choice was right or wrong; if they elected the right man or not. In a democracy, the decision of the elector­ate is supreme and final. I suppose that is what Americans call ‘the majesty of democracy.’

However, when elections are won and lost, it is sometimes convenient to forget some people who have played significant roles in democracy and democratisation process; who have in their own way contributed to the change Nigerians now talk about. One of such persons whose contributions are easily overlooked is Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State. Hate him or love him, no one can deny that he has made useful contribution to what is happening in our country today or rather, events leading to March 28.

Here is how: In 2007, when the then reigning ‘emperor’ Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, wanted to clip Kalu’s wings and locked him out of PDP through the so-called ‘party linkmen,’ he would not be cowed, he founded the Peoples Progres­sive Aliance, PPA, on which platform he ran for the nation’s presidency. He made an impressive showing in that race, coming third. The point he sought to make was that, no man, no matter how powerful, could conscript the political space. The PPA also wrested two states, National Assembly seats as well as House of Assembly seats in some states in the South-East.

After a while, he tried to return to the PDP, the party he co-founded with others. But the man he made governor, Chief Theodore Orji, would not let him. He again fought his way in, because of his belief that no man had the power to shut oth­ers out of a party. The battle for political space still rages in Abia State till today.

The point being made is simple: Democracy thrives when you stand firmly by the courage of your con­victions. Kalu, in his numerous battles, often seeks to make the point that democracy thrives in popular participation and plurality of views.

It is in the pursuit of his plurality of views mantra that he would not attempt muscling dissenting or opposing voices in his media group. In his news­papers, every writer is entitled to his views. You do not have to agree or share Kalu’s view points. Comments are truly free here in the real sense of the word. Facts are what will not be compro­mised. You can ask my friend and colleague, Femi Adesina. I am sure he has told his story a couple of times: A publisher and his MD sharing divergent political points and leanings, and having a hearty laugh thereafter. If that is not progressive politics, I wonder what else is, as simple as you would think it is. In the years ahead, we want to see our country rise to the level of political tolerance and relation­ships devoid of acrimony, even when we disagree. That is the way our democracy can grow.

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March 28: Triumph of the Nigerian spirit Sun, 29 Mar 2015 23:00:09 +0000 Nigerians from all walks of life trooped out last Saturday for the general elections. We can only de­scribe what happened on March 28, 2015 thus: Triumph of human will. If you like, you may call it: Triumph of the Nigerian spirit. Nigerians simply did all within their powers to make that day a reality, to [...]]]>

Nigerians from all walks of life trooped out last Saturday for the general elections. We can only de­scribe what happened on March 28, 2015 thus: Triumph of human will. If you like, you may call it: Triumph of the Nigerian spirit. Nigerians simply did all within their powers to make that day a reality, to make it happen. Indeed, were it not for the determi­nation of Nigerians, there would have been no March 28, there would have been no vot­ing, no counting and no results to await. Ni­gerians, ordinary Nigerians bagged the gold medal in what happened 48 hours ago.

Maybe, only the June 12, 1993 polls, could approximate the kind of enthusiasm, passion, drive, resilience, vigilance, concern, patriotism, exhibited by the Nigerian voter on March 28, 2015. Like in the June 12 scenario, no rain or sunshine was enough to deter the voter. No vio­lence, threat of violence or bloodshed could stop the determined voter bent on exercising his elec­toral franchise. Honestly, no one can exactly tell what the driving force was: To change things or to consolidate on what they already had? To vote for a new dawn or vote out the old order? The poll results, which hopefully will be rolled out to­day or anytime soon, will tell what the propelling force was. But, no one can deny the fact that the 2015 elections has been a turning point for our country, the voters and the electoral process.

Like I once predicted in this column, the 2015 elections will certainly define everything about our nation: The way we vote, the way we are governed; the way our leaders relate with us, the people. “After 2015, no longer will the elected take the electorate for granted. No longer will they take it for granted that they will automati­cally be elected whether they perform or not. No longer will they believe that all they need to win election is to throw some crumbs at the table or floor for the voter, or make empty unrealisable promises, just to grab votes. Those days are gone for good. The Nigerian voter has become discern­ing more than ever before.”

True to my prediction, this must be the tough­est election for many candidates since the dawn of this democratic experience 16 years ago, es­pecially for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Even in some parts of the opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC-controlled ter­ritories, they are certainly not having a ball, as stiff challenges shoot up. What is happening is certainly good for the country. This is good for democracy, the deepening of the democratic pro­cess. If we get 2015 right, we will begin to inch to­wards getting our democracy right. This I believe.

As we await the outcome of the elections, it is not the intention of this columnist to dwell exten­sively on the shortcomings in the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections, and many there were, but to simply salute the ordinary Nigerian voter for the magic of March 28. We must commend his courage, his strong resolve, his sacrifice and labour of love for nation and fatherland. The passion to be a part of the elec­toral process was simply amazing. The zeal to cast their votes and have their votes count and counted was simply unprecedented.

I saw the old, the weak and infirm struggle to be part of the exercise. Some on wheel chair, others in clutches; the aged clutching walking sticks, were resolutely committed to the demo­cratic process. Where in the past they could have thrown their hands up in resignation, they were undeterred by the vagaries strewn on their paths. Even for the strong and able, there was also the resolve to go the extra mile. Many wait­ed in the sun and rain to get accredited, even as cranky card readers assailed them. Even when they could have been provoked by the shoddi­ness of the electoral officials, the Nigerian voter kept his cool, waiting patiently to exercise his voting right. I understand that in some parts of the country, enthusiastic Nigerians contributed money to buy generators for polling units. Some turned on their car headlights to illuminate the voting centres. At other centres, many waited for over 10 hours just to get accredited and cast their votes. It was a huge leap of faith. Faith in democracy. And a commitment to protect the sanctity of the democratic process. They were well-behaved, orderly and largely non-violent. This is the new Nigerian spirit worth commend­ing.


…The military, security agencies

Driving round the city of Abuja on election day, soldiers and other security officers manned road blocks everywhere. Just like they did few days before election. But they were neither hostile nor rude as far as I observed. I commend them for what I saw. However, this is not discoun­tenancing complaints in some other parts of the country on the alleged ex­cesses, indecorous and uncivilised con­duct of soldiers and other security and law enforcement agencies. In Lagos, I heard they blockaded roads yesterday, restricting movement. That was quite wrong. Such cases of infractions and unethical conducts should be x-rayed by appropriate authorities with a view to forestalling a recurrence of such in other pending elections. We know It’s not easy supervising or superintending elections in Africa’s most ‘problem­atic’ country. But decorum should be the watchword always, as I witnessed in Abuja.

In the first place, if things were normal or all things were equal, soldiers would not be invited in the conduct of elections, a purely civil affair. But the chaos, acrimo­ny, lawlessness and brigandage or do-or-die usually associated with elections made their ‘intrusion’ basically necessary. This is hoping that as we mature and develop in our democratic process, we will see less need of our soldiers in electoral duties.


…And the lessons for Jega and INEC

Even as we commend Nigerians for their leap of faith and demonstra­tion of the uncommon Nigerian spirit of resilience in the face of daunting challenges and obstacles, we must not fail to point out the irritating lapses of Profes­sor Attahiru Jega and the Independent Na­tional Electoral Commission, INEC. If any­thing, they were quite embarrassing. And that is putting it mildly. I agree that in the spirit of celebrating the Nigerian spirit of re­silience in the March 28 polls, I should not throw much punches at Jega or INEC. But should that stop us from voicing our disen­chantment with the malfunctioning card readers that ended up disenfranchising a chunk of the voting population? Should we not tell Jega that his overreliance on the card reader was obviously misplaced? Even if it is argued that the card reader enhanced the credibility of the process and reduced rigging possibility, what would he say about polling units with absentee polling officers and other INEC personnel? What would be his defence against prevalent cases of under-age voters in some sections of the country, as shown by the Cable News Network, CNN? Who registered them? Who issued them PVCs and accredited them to vote? These are issues to ponder by the INEC boss and the electoral agency.

Am I then saying Jega failed totally? Not quite. That would be unfair to the man and his agen­cy. But he could have done better, given the fact that he had all of four years to prepare for the gen­eral elections. No rationalisation of any lapse is good enough for a sensitive exercise as a general election. This is hoping that the INEC helmsman would learn useful lessons from the March 28 exercise and make amends subsequently. In the interest of nation and democracy.


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Re: The president Nigeria needs Mon, 23 Mar 2015 00:22:20 +0000 Below, are some of the reactions to my last week’s piece on the above subject. Please, go ahead and have a great read. No, to parochial interests It is unfortunate that Nigerians easily for­get the past. They are easily deceived with lies and unattainable promises. And they fall for it. Before you consider a president [...]]]>

Below, are some of the reactions to my last week’s piece on the above subject. Please, go ahead and have a great read.

No, to parochial interests

It is unfortunate that Nigerians easily for­get the past. They are easily deceived with lies and unattainable promises. And they fall for it. Before you consider a president to vote for, what do we really need as a country? If we put selfish and parochial in­terest aside then we can think of a president Nigeria needs.

As much as Nigeria is blessed by Almighty God, both in human and natural resources, we continue to lag behind due to inept leaders. Leaders who only think of themselves. How can a country that pro­duces oil be importing finished petroleum products? A country so rich in mineral re­sources be import-dependent, railways went moribund for over 30 years and nobody cared a hoot, national carrier went comatose, Ajaokuta steel complex was on the drawing board for upwards of 40 years but you say you have past leaders. This is a country where merit is sacrificed for mediocrity. This is a country where a president had the delusion of telling his countrymen that he did not know what to do with the money the country had and plunged the country into import dependence. This is a country where your leaders imported sand in the name of fertilizer. You claim you are independent yet you depend on the value of American dollar for any of your needs.

But today in under four years President Goodluck Jonathan is changing things for good – food sufficiency is being addressed, the railways are working, Ajaokuta steel is being restored, electricity is vigorously be­ing increased, infrastructural decay is being addressed. Yet people are asking who to vote for. It is bare-faced hypocrisy. A rotten nation can never be transformed in under three years. It takes time. It is a process. People should not scuttle the process.

I am not a politician but any right- think­ing Nigerian should know that President Goodluck Jonathan is on a right track and should be voted in to continue his good work. It is not good to change a winning team.


You said my mind

Good day, sir. I read your column, The Flipside in the Daily Sun newspaper of March 16, 2015. You said my mind and that of many Nigerians, I’m sure. I’ve tried to pursue politics devoid of religious and ethnic sentiments but increasingly, it’s dif­ficult for me to continue that way. Everybody around is either talking religion or region, even people I respect. Hmmm, I wonder, will there be a future for Nigeria? It seems we are all tired of her (so unfortunate – after all she has given us). But like you said, we have allowed a noisy few to hijack Nigeria, if we don’t “pursue dem komot, then they will surely “pursue us throway”.

...ABDULHAKEEM A.G, amadongun­

Criticisms must be objective

GMB is an aberration in Nigerian politics, so also is APC, which never sees anything good in another. Let them begin by prob­ing Lagos State and Tinubu or start running documentaries on President Jonathan.Their fundamentalist approach to issues and their paranoid criticism portray them as a bunch of confused politicians.

…DR. ECHEFU, O.A, Aba, drechefu@

Nothing but the truth

Sir, your write up on above subject is the truth, nothing but the truth. I pray our contrymen and women can reason in your thought and rationality. Our country would have been the greatest nation on earth. All we need is honest leadership. Best wishes to you. Regards.

...GAZALI YAKASI, gyakasai@gmail. com

Our country has often been sharply divided

Dear Eric,

Your piece on “The President Nigeria Needs” would have served us better if you were a little bit more dispassionate. Why do you claim that the religious-regional consid­erations did not play out previously? Who were at the helm of affairs? Did it matter? Did region or religion play a part in the an­nulment of June 12 election? Check again at the dramatis personae. Eric, please, you and your team are in a position to give us a bal­anced perspective. Only then can the nation come out of the woods. Please, give answers to the following matters of national concern: Were there religious or regional sentiments when strategic national positions were filled? How come the following national institu­tions have been colonised by one region and religion? Please, supply the names/region/ religion of the past 10 IGs, Comptrollers- General of Customs, and the Chief Justice of the Federation. If all of them got there by pure merit, then how do we account for these obvious structural imbalance that makes some people to claim ownership of Nigeria while others are treated as aliens? You can extend the scrutiny to other areas, then you will understand the desperation to maintain or change the status quo. Can we have a truly issue-based electioneering campaign? Yes, if we want and if we are prepared to be honest with ourselves, and are prepared to restore confidence in the nation state. Let’s start now. …NSA EYO, Calabar, nsaeeeyo@

Away with meaningless sentiments

No sooner had I finished reading your writeup than I began praying to God for Ni­gerians to heed your sermonising advice. If not, of what use is a president who lacks the zeal and the capacity to protect the lives and fortunes of its people? A president who sees corruption as mere stealing, and who shields, evidently corrupt people and made them his close friends and cronies!

A president who cannot protect and se­cure his brethren and their revered places of worship. Most of the churches and cathe­drals in the North today remain indefinitely closed. Yes, ‘he is my christian brother, he must complete his two terms.’ I wonder and ponder, just like Rev. Fr. Mbaka, what would have been the response of our Christian brothers and sisters if a Muslim president sat aloof and watch Christians and churches bombed. Would Christians fold their arms and watch?

Unfortunately we have a good portion of Christians, who are radically behind Goodluck Jonathan simply because he is Christian brother! This madness defines how deep-rooted the issue of religious sentiment has eaten into the fabric of our political life.

Lastly, our only saviour is to seek the truth as clearly stated in the Bible, John 8:32, no matter how bitter it may taste. The earlier we heed this piece of advice, the better for us all. Long live Fed­eral Republic of Nigeria.

…MUHAMMAD RABIU ADA, Gwagwalada Abuja, rabiu6868@gmail. com

We need a bad man as president

Re: The President Nigeria Needs. Sir, the president Nigeria needs, I beg to disagree, is not the good man. The good man seeks to please even the bad man. If the president Nigeria needs is a good man, President Jonathan fits the bill, yet there is the need to seek for the president Nigeria needs. The President Nigeria Needs is the bad man, whom both the good man and the bad man fear.


Military destroyed our politics

If June 12 had not been annulled by military fiat, perhaps, the issue of religion would have been jettisoned by now. That military meddlesomeness in politics en­grained tribal and religious sentiments into our politics, in such a dimension that that without their consideration by any political party, it has lost election ahead of the polls. It took ‘controversial’ Obasanjo’s interven­tion, based on his fears that APC’s original plan to adopt Muslim/Muslim ticket in 2015 might trigger mayhem, for the party to opt for Muslim/Christian ticket in place now. That shows how deep the disgraceful tenet has gone in Nigeria’s political math­ematics. Hope for change lies in political leaders, embracing service to people in place of self.



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The president Nigeria needs Sun, 15 Mar 2015 23:00:54 +0000 ‘Nigeria is on the march again, and we are in search of Mr. Presi­dent,’ goes that popular advert, heralding Chief Moshood Abiola’s HOPE’93 campaign. The jingle concludes by chorusing: ‘MKO is our man o.’ Who wears the crown? Who becomes Mr. President in 2015? Tough question. Unlike in 1993 when it was pretty clear that [...]]]>

‘Nigeria is on the march again, and we are in search of Mr. Presi­dent,’ goes that popular advert, heralding Chief Moshood Abiola’s HOPE’93 campaign. The jingle concludes by chorusing: ‘MKO is our man o.’ Who wears the crown? Who becomes Mr. President in 2015? Tough question.

Unlike in 1993 when it was pretty clear that Abiola was as good as clinching the popular votes, even before the June 12 poll, no one can be definitive who the ultimate man will be. Whether it will be incum­bent President Goodluck Jonathan or General Muhammadu Buhari? The field is as fluid as any can be. And this is understandable: So many things have happened to us since 1993, when we had a historic election that was inexplicably annulled by Nigeria’s rapacious military gang. Elections have since descended to a do-or-die since June 12; rigging couldn’t have been more scientific. The most popu­lar candidate has no guarantee that he would be announced winner. In this ding-dong, it becomes impossible to predict who would win an election. Unlike June 12, when it was apparent, even to the blind, that Bashir Tofa was a terrible mismatch for the ebullient Abiola, who eventually knocked him silly in the election, trumping him even in his Kano homestead.

As I was saying, and like every­one can see, so many things have changed since June 12, 1993. We have so much regressed in our thought process, that 22years after, primordial and base issues we thought we had surmounted with the outcome of June 12 elections, now seems to define our electoral campaigns. How come we have become worse off as a nation, al­lowing non-issues define our process rather than concrete issues that propel development? How come issues of tribe, region, religion and zone have become so pronounced in a battle that ought to be about competence and ability to perform? How come we have allowed the anarchists, ethnic and religious jingoists in our midst drag us to the point where what seems to dominate public discourses are religion and region: North or South, and not who will best deliver the golden egg? It’s sad and certainly dishearten­ing.

Let me explain what I’m getting at: In 1993, when Abiola ran for elec­tion, no one gave a damn about where he came from; whether he was from the South or North; if he was Muslim or Christian. Nigerians simply forgot about ethnic or religious sentiments and rallied behind one man, a man of all seasons, a man of the people for the people, who seemed to encapsulate their dreams and hopes. Across the nation, the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Ibibio, Kanuri, Kalabari, Calabar, Bachama, Bini, Egba, Ijebu, Ogoni, indeed, every tribe, tongue and religion, saw one good man whom they felt had what it took to lead the country, and gave him their mandate.

It was dramatic. Enchanting. Simply incredible. A Muslim from the South- West, scoring popular votes in the Eastern Christian stronghold, Muslim Northern majority and a landslide in the South-South, traditional allies of the North. Neither religion nor region mattered. It was simply about who Nigerians felt could deliver democ­racy dividends to them.But, what do we hear now? Acrimonious debates over whether the parties should field Muslim-Muslim candidates or Muslim- Christian or Christian-Muslim, and so on and so forth. All kinds of illogical, meaningless and definitely, unhelpful arguments, in my view.

In the 21st century, when serious-minded nations are seeking out their best citizens to occupy the No. 1 posi­tion, we are bickering over where the president should come from or what religion he should profess. We are hopelessly bogged down by the section of the country or zone our president should come from.

This is where I stand: In 2015, all Nigerians need is one good man, who will lead us to the land of our dreams. A land of gainful employment for our teeming unemployed youths. A land of plenty in food and other good things that make life worth living: Decent shelter, efficient health care, quality education, among others.

We don’t need to split hairs if our 2015 president is a Christian, Muslim, traditional religionist or an atheist. Let him serve and serve us well. Any leader dutifully serving the people is serving God and doing God’s work. What is the use of having a leader or president, who professes a faith, but doesn’t live up to expectations? What’s the use of a Christian or Muslim presi­dent in a nation of majority poor and hopeless? What’s the use of a Southern or Northern president, who can’t pro­vide better life for the people he leads?

To my countrymen and women, I declare: Campaign for, and vote in a president your conscience tells you will best serve you. The man, who will safeguard your interests, provide you with dividends of democracy. Neither religious nor ethnic nor tribal considerations should ever propel your choice in 2015.

For too long, ethnic and religious sentiments have been used to exploit and confuse the people of this coun­try by the politicians and ruling elite, for essentially, their selfish goals. They play these cards, knowing that’s what easily ignites the flame and passion of the people. They tell them candidate A or B is not of their faith and tribe, so should not be voted for. They get power and exploit their offices; amassing stupendous wealth for family, friends and cronies, forgetting the masses who they have cruelly manipulated to ascend office.

Election : They are back playing the same hate song and dance. And the people, fickle and gullible, forget yesterday and become swayed by base sentiments that have no signifi­cant impact on their socio-economic wellbeing. Truly, Marx was right when he wrote, ‘religion is the opium of the masses.’ In Nigeria, we may add: ‘Tribalism and ethnicity are the intoxicants of the people.’ Our people must know that corruption and looting of the treasury wear no religious or tribal marks. Just like poverty and deprivation. When politi­cians are elected and get into office, as we have seen over and over again, they bury whatever differences they have and concentrate on the business of serving themselves and looting our treasury. At that time, neither religion nor tribe matters. But, they begin to drum up these issues as soon as election approaches. Enough of these nonsense. Only the best is good enough for Nigeria. The best in leadership and competence. When we need religious or tribal leaders, we know where to search for them. Governance is serious business for the serious-minded. A nation in search of progress cannot afford to falter on the altar of meaningless sentiments. This, I strongly believe.

LAST LINE: This piece was first published November10, 2014.

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In memory of the Nigerian Soldier, killed by Boko Haram! Sun, 08 Mar 2015 23:00:38 +0000 You are dead, yet you live. You live, even as you leave this part of the divide. No one is dead who truly lives in the hearts of his people, family, friends and com­rades. We are family because you were once a Nigerian, always a Nigerian. We are comrades, because we share in the mental [...]]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, we can’t stop celebrating you our hero, who gave his life that we may live, free from the insanity of the devious sect causing us all nightmare. You must know, you didn’t die in vain. Your family and friends, and our nation must continue to see you for what you truly are: Nationalist and patriot. While others choose to destroy, you elected to build; you elected to keep your nation together and protect her from the machinations of the perverted. In my books, you have proven even more patri­otic than the politicians who want to be dressed in patriotic robes. A patriot gives his life to his nation. We know these poli­ticians take all the life from their nation. We know they love not their nation nor its people. As March 28 approaches, many of our countrymen and women have never been more confused as to the right candi­date to give their votes. May God direct us aright and show us the man to give the vote. I say no more. Let conscience be the light and guide of us all.

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

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

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

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Buni Yadi massacre one year after Sun, 01 Mar 2015 23:00:16 +0000 For Buni Yadi, I weep. For Buni Yadi, the nation mourns. For Buni Yadi, humanity grieves. We weep, we mourn, we grieve the loss of innocent souls whose sun set too soon, whose flowers withered before bloom. Tears, like burst dam, envelopes a nation deep in impotent rage against a sect set on annihilating the [...]]]>

For Buni Yadi, I weep. For Buni Yadi, the nation mourns. For Buni Yadi, humanity grieves. We weep, we mourn, we grieve the loss of innocent souls whose sun set too soon, whose flowers withered before bloom. Tears, like burst dam, envelopes a nation deep in impotent rage against a sect set on annihilating the rest of the society.

As in Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’ (the title I have adapted in today’s column), all that is left after the Buni Yadi massacre, ‘is an air of solemn stillness,’ even as their death ‘tolls the knell of a parting day.’

However, unlike Gray’s dead, these were hapless, innocent lads, burning with the fire of ambition and glory. They were not vain. They harboured no guile. But sadly, all the same, got caught up on the wrong side of the world. They were born in the land of Boko Haram. That was their only sin. And that proved tragic, as we have now seen. But in death, they have become free, unlike many Nigerians, who live in dread of the dreaded militant group. They are now truly liberated from, ‘the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,’ as Gray writes.

Indeed, Buni Yadi was a name familiar to few Nigerians. Not many could tell which state harboured the rustic settlement. Until the night of the jackal, when the dogs of war struck. Bombing the town and the college of learning where young students from different parts of the federation had gone in search of knowledge. By the time they melted into the eerie night from where they had sprang like some ghosts, 29 promising students lay stone dead, wasted. Never to learn anything anymore. Never to dream big dreams or pursue any lofty ambitions. The Boko Haram death merchants saw to the end of the beginning of the dreams of our youngsters, the lads who were no doubt, part of a bright, glorious future.

Now, all that the parents, family, friends and compatriots of the Buni Yadi 29 (unofficial sources say over 40 dead students were counted at the hospital) are left with are memories of their wards; of dreams and ambitions aborted midstream; of a nation and government unable to protect lives and property.

All we are left with are a deep feeling of pain and a sense of injustice. How can a nation be so impotent in protecting the lives of its citizens, including its children? How could we have unwittingly surrendered our ‘sovereignty’ to terrorists in our land? How come we have allowed our nation to be trapped in an unending, tragic, cycle of lamentation and mourning? How come these guys with the blood mark have become so audacious in their attacks, and all our government does is roll out condolence messages, vowing to get the killers while the next hour another bomb goes off, signalling another round of mass murder, and another round of condolence messages while body bags scatter everywhere like a bazaar for the dead after a festival of blood?

From Yobe State (where the Buni Yadi massacre occurred) to Adamawa and Borno, the troika states seemed to have formed a confluence or trajectory of tragedy where blood flows endlessly like a rite of evil passage. At the last count, over 200 Nigerians (and this is a conservative estimate) could have been blown up in deadly blasts by Boko Haram in the three states in under three months. When you add the number of vehicles, property and other valuables that have gone up in smoke, the ruins from the senseless war truly leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

To say the nation is at war, as Senate President, David Mark, and other Nigerians have put it, is putting the matter mildly. Truth be told, we are facing a big war. We are facing a formidable enemy. We are confronted by insurgents that know us too well and know how to deal us deadly blows, fatal blows that have been blowing us silly and bloody. We are facing a group of people, who seem fired by what no one can easily tell or decode. When fear of death or death is no deterrent to a human being or a group of people, then we have to device other strategies to combat the menace. When a group of people have become so brazen in their attacks, striking at military, police and other security formations, harvesting military and civilian (including defenceless students, women and children) casualties; bombing places of worship at will, we have to go back to the drawing board to rethink our strategy of warfare.

What has happened to our intelligence gathering mechanism? What has happened to our security agencies’ ability to detect crimes or assaults before they occur? How come criminals are having a field day without being apprehended or their actions nipped in the bud? Something is definitely wrong somewhere! How come, as was reported, soldiers allegedly took to their heels, as guns and bombs of the insurgents boomed in Adamawa and Yobe?

Is it also true, as claimed by Gov. Shettima, that the Boko Haram fellows are better trained and motivated than our soldiers? I hate to believe so! But this is a serving governor, who governs the state in the theatre of conflict. So, he should know what he’s talking about, except he is playing politics or playing to the gallery. As a man in the centre of a raging storm, that must be some costly politics to play or an expensive joke to make. Rather than baying for his blood, he can be called upon to shed more light on his proposition. Maybe, we can begin to find our way to the answer to the nagging issue.

If, as the governor has submitted, our soldiers need more trainings and welfare, why not provide them with what they need? This is no time for blame trading, buck passing or punch ups. This is time for action, for solutions to our common tragedy. Because, as I have noted severally in this column, we all are collective casualties in the Boko Haram insanity, not just those who have lost loved ones, families and friends.

“There’s indeed the irony of war that is quite striking: when Boko Haram strikes, fear envelopes everywhere; when soldiers strike at Boko Haram, the nation is gripped in fear. At the end, as Poet J.P Clark rightly says, the casualties are most times far from the theatre of war. Since the insanity began, innocent Nigerians have been bombed to death in places of worship; travellers blown up in luxury buses; law enforcement officers ambushed and killed. Truly, war does no one any good. There will be families whose hearts can never be mended even after peace hopefully returns. Scars of this war will remain in our nation even when the drums of war become silent. Such is the nonsense of war, any war. In the words of American writer, Benjamin Franklin, “there never was a good war or bad peace.”

If as some Nigerians have alleged, Boko Haram is politics, this is politics taken to a ridiculous and devilish height. If Boko Haram is religious, then this can’t be the God, Christians and Muslims worship as Islamic and Christian leaders have denounced the operations of the sect.

If it is terrorism, as it is becoming increasingly clear, then this becomes a battle for all Nigerians, because terrorism is an internationally organised and sophisticated crime, which even super powers like the United States of America, are still finding challenging to confront.

At the end, we must rise above politics, religion, ethnicity, tribe, party affiliations or whatever sentiments to confront the Boko Haram scourge. If they appear to be winning, it is because we have all not done our bits the way we should. In places where they have struck and seemingly vanished into the thin air, the questions to ask are: Don’t they live in communities? Don’t they eat? Don’t they sleep? Don’t they have families or relations? Why can’t they be exposed? Today, it is Buni Yadi and Maiduguri. The next place and victim could be those shielding the deadly fellows. Who knows?

Never again shall we witness the Buni Yadi massacre. Never again shall we witness the mass murder of college students in their innocent slumber. If tears could bring back the dead, the Buni Yadi 29 would have arisen from their graves. We can only live with the bitter memories of the horrific night. A night to forget.

Last line

This piece, first published exactly a year today, is being repeated in memory of the slain school children of Buni Yadi. Of course, some points made may have been overtaken by time and circumstance. But the message remains the same: Killing under whatever guise is evil. Terrorism is barbaric whatever the reasons. And we all must join hands with our valiant soldiers to rout the group, causing us sleeplessness nights!


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The General draws battle line Sun, 22 Feb 2015 23:00:44 +0000 Former President Olusegun Obasan­jo, Balogun Owu, erstwhile Grand Conqueror of the Federal Repub­lic, GCFR, defeated third term General, tempestuous chicken farmer, who came broke to the presidency but ended up breaking the records as a super-rich man after eight years in power, threw what amounted to a bombshell last week. The ‘bomb’ shook the nation. [...]]]>

Former President Olusegun Obasan­jo, Balogun Owu, erstwhile Grand Conqueror of the Federal Repub­lic, GCFR, defeated third term General, tempestuous chicken farmer, who came broke to the presidency but ended up breaking the records as a super-rich man after eight years in power, threw what amounted to a bombshell last week.

The ‘bomb’ shook the nation. The media lapped it up on its front pages and prime time slots in electronic broadcast. Everywhere, it was easily the hottest topic. Were Nigerians shocked? Did they believe him? Was it a state­ment of honour or, as usual, grandstanding and playing to national gallery?

To be sure, it was high on histrionics: Obasanjo not only dumped the party on which pedestal he had climbed to power and ruled for eight years, he made a public show of or­dering his ward chairman to shred his mem­bership card!

To many who didn’t know him too well or haven’t been following his usual style, he was hailed as a hero. He had rightly punctured the stinking balloon of his party. He had rightly kicked his party in the groin. What they didn’t know was that they had just allowed the wily ex-president to fool them once more. He was only up to his usual antics. But to the few who actually know him inside out, it was vintage Obasanjo: Selling the dummy of an innocent man, blaming everyone else but himself. Not accepting the blame that he’s the one who has driven the country into the political cul de sac or quagmire we have now found ourselves.

Pray, what kind of leaders do we produce in this country? Why do they always treat the people with condescension, with utter con­tempt? Why do they ever imagine that we are dumb-skulled people who can neither think nor reason? Why do they believe that we all suffer the disease of acute amnesia, that we don’t remember anything, even things that happened as recent as last year or couple of years back?

Now, what exactly did Obasanjo say I am getting all worked up, punching hard words from the soft keys of my battle-weary com­puter? He said he was against the re-election of President Jonathan because the man hadn’t lived up to expectation, and didn’t honour his pledge of one-term? His old party had be­come a colony of illegalities. He had become a statesman simply seeking the betterment of his nation. He was gone for good from parti­san politics.

I found the whole theatrics ridiculous and laughable. Not because he didn’t make some valid points, but the sheer hypocrisy of the man sounding so self-righteous and sanctimo­nious. I found in Obasanjo’s disavowal, that of a man taking his nation on a ride as he had often done. And that’s the part that got me re­ally infuriated.

Now, let’s examine point by point, Baba’s statements. He didn’t want President Jonathan because he hadn’t lived up to expectation. The questions he didn’t answer are: Who brought President Jonathan in the first place ? Who told us he was the best man for the job? Of course, he has a right to his choice, but what he didn’t say was that he fell out with his protégé for per­sonal reasons, bordering on alleged patronage. If Nigerians will vote out Jonathan or vote in Buhari, it will not be because a certain Obasan­jo told us who to vote or not vote for. Nigeri­ans, like I have often canvassed on this page, should vote according to their conscience. They should examine the credentials of the two front runners, and make up their minds. No more, no less. I would never be swayed by a man who comes to me and generality of Nigerians with a bruised, over-sized ego, telling us he was quit­ting his former party because he had become ‘born again’; a man who is sobbing like a child denied his favourite candy. Leopards never change their spots. In my view, he is the least qualified Nigerian to pontificate on morality and fidelity in politics?

Who was the author of the failed third term agenda? Who brought in sacks of naira to the House of Reps, to impeach Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba? Who corrupted the political space with third term loot? Who fought his deputy over the brazen assault on the PTDF fund? Who was accused of dipping his fingers in government coffers to satisfy presidential mis­tresses and daughters-in-law?

A party full of illegalities? I dey laugh o! Of course, he should know and he could be right after all. But, who was the most divisive leader of the PDP? Who brought acrimonies and il­legalities to the party? Who deregistered party men, because they dared the emperor? Who brought in ‘link men’ to the party and used that aberration to knock out party stalwarts like Ati­ku Abubakar, Orji Kalu, Boni Haruna, Saraki and the others? Who employed illegalities to foist on the party unpopular candidates? Who conducted the worst elections ever in the his­tory of Nigeria?

Former American Secretary of State, Ms Madleine Albright, who monitored the polls confessed, after the April 2007 elections: “Not even in war-torn Somalia did we witness such brazen manipulation of the election, as we saw in Nigeria.” Talk of illegalities. Even the man he foisted on the nation, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, in a rare display of honesty, admit­ted that the election that brought him to power had severe flaws. But, not Baba. Not the man who would never admit a wrong, any wrong!

But, no one should be surprised at Baba’s at­tempt to distance himself from his old party. He follows what he interprets as the general mood, hoping to reap bountifully. He took a horsewhip through Babangida’s back when he thought that regime had lost its connect with the people. When IBB was on high with the people, he had superlative adjectives to describe the regime. Before Babangida, he had a smooth relation­ship with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the man he gave power in 1979. Four years down the line, he fell out with Shagari because he would not be manipulated by Obasanjo. When Nigerians began to groan under the weight of corruption and ineptitude of that government, the ‘messi­anic’ Obasanjo drove the final nail into its cof­fin, and encouraged the military to kick it out.

Gen Sani. Abacha knew who Obasanjo was and gave him no chance to meddle in his government. He was aggrieved. He began to speak ill of the draconian regime. But, he un­derestimated the resolve of the man who wore dark glasses even at night. He was promptly clamped into jail, escaping death by the whis­kers.

He sought to also manipulate Umaru Yar’Adua. He hit a brick wall. He found the op­portunity of a national outcry over the lacuna of an ailing president, to poke his rough fingers in Yar’Adua’s eyes. At the Media Trust Annual Lecture series held in Abuja in March, 2010, the former president was one of the guests at the well-attended event, which drew distinguished personalities like Winnie, the estranged wife of the former South African president, Nel­son Mandela; daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, among others. In the course of the interactive session, someone from the crowd had asked Obasanjo if he didn’t feel any pang of guilt for ‘imposing a sick man’ as president of the coun­try as his successor, and consequently dragging the nation to its knees?

Given how embarrassing the Yar’Adua saga had degenerated; seeing how mortally hurt many Nigerians had been at being saddled with a sick man as president, and seeing the envel­oping grasps of hopelessness at the misfortune of living in a country without a president, an absentee president marooned in a private hos­pital ward in Saudi Arabia, you would have expected any man of sobriety and conscience to grab the opportunity of the question to apologise for the grave error of judgment. You would have expected him to admit the tragedy of his choice. The fraud of his manipulation. You would have expected him to say: “My country men and women, I am sorry for giv­ing you Yar’Adua. I knew he wasn’t sound physically. Since you didn’t want me to have a third term and shoved me out of Aso Rock, I wanted to punish you with a sick man. But, now, the game is up. I am truly sorry. Please, forgive me.”

But, not Baba Iyabo. Not Obasanjo. Not a sanctimonious ex-president. Not a man who believes he is more intelligent, wiser and more patriotic than any Nigerian, liv­ing or dead. Hear what he said: “I knew that Yar’Adua had kidney problem and was un­der dialysis, and that he went abroad for the treatment when he was the governor of Kat­sina State. Before, I picked him, I asked him questions and he gave me the medical report that states that he’s no longer under dialysis. I asked medical experts to interpret the report and they told me that once you have had a successful kidney transplant, you can live as God wants you to live. If medical experts have said that, who am I to think that the di­alysis will fail?”

The ex-president was not done. He repu­diated claims that he had deliberately foisted Yar’Adua on the nation: “Nobody picked Yar’Adua so that he will not perform. If I did, God will punish me, because I love this country so much so that there is no reason for me to do that…For you to say that Olusegun Obasanjo deliberately picked an invalid to succeed me is an insult. I know the sacrifice that I made for this country, both in peace and in war. How can I, who has made huge sac­rifices for this country, do what will not be in the interest of this nation? Nobody picked Yar’Adua so that he will not perform. If I had done that, may God punish me.”

Now, with Jonathan, it is the same song. With his party, it’s the same style. He runs away from the problem he created. He runs away from accepting responsibility. Can any­one trust a man like that? If I were APC, I would dine with Obasanjo with a very long spoon. If APC will win or lose, it will not be with or because of the Obasanjo factor. If I were also PDP, I would lose no sleep try­ing to beg or woo Baba back. Its electoral victory or loss does not lie in a fair-weath­er relationship, the type Baba offers. The man’s electoral importance is exaggerated. I am not sure he has ever won any election in his polling booth, ward or state. He lives essentially on grandstanding. He thrives on opportunism. As his daughter, Iyabo, said in her famous open letter to her estranged dad, Obasanjo creates trouble whenever he feels he is not having his way. He believes he’s the greatest thing to happen to Nigeria and the world. He believes he is the best president Nigeria has ever produced, when all indices point to a history of hypocrisy and sancti­monious posturing. A knock out punch from a woman, who should know her dad like no other person!

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