Category Archives: opinions

Rome was Not Destroyed in a Day

Rome was Not Destroyed in a Day

By Simon Kolawole

Sadiq Daba, the actor, ran into some serious health issues recently. He cried out for financial help to undergo foreign treatment. Pronto, Nigerians reacted overwhelmingly. But wait. I did not hear anybody talk about Daba’s religion or ethnic group. The people who tweeted and retweeted his appeal for help, and those who contributed money, were certainly not from his village. I was so so so so so happy. It confirmed, yet again, my pet theory about Nigeria — that we do not hate each other. We are just victims of the unending political manipulation of ethnic and religious identities for selfish gain. Evidently, ordinary Nigerians have the “Nigerian spirit” in their DNA.

My grandmother, God rest her sweet soul, shaped my worldview when I was a little boy growing under her care. She had this amazing ability to be so proud of her Yoruba heritage and at the same time celebrating the best in people of other tongues. In the days of Operation Feed the Nation, launched by the military government of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo in the late 1970s, we planted tomato, maize and spinach in our garden. One day, when the tomatoes were ripe, Mama told me: “Have you noticed that when the tomato in the north is out of season, our own is due for harvest? That shows you God wants us to live together, to complement each other.”

I did not understand much of modernised agricultural practices then — I would have argued with her that you could have both tomato species all-season! But, forget my mischief, she was so broadminded. It must have rubbed off on her offspring. When my father’s younger sister wanted to marry a Muslim, she maybe thought Mama would not like it. As I was told, my aunty introduced her fiancé as “Moses”. It was only when their children (that is, my cousins) were being named Hakeem, Sherifat and Ibrahim that the family realised “Moses” was actually “Mustapha”! Mama, I was told, laughed off the trick with a rhetorical question: “Were we not all created by the same God?”

Indeed. I have met extremists and chauvinists from across religions and races. I am yet to hear anyone declare that we were not created by the same God. One of the most astonishing things about life, to me, is the fact that although we can choose to be Muslims or Christians, and so on, nobody can choose to be Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba or whatever. We just woke up one day to find ourselves as members of one ethnic group or the other. It was not our making. So why should you discriminate against me, and hate me, on the basis of an ethnic identity that is beyond my control? Is it my fault that I was born into a family that was clearly not my choice?

In this “mindsets” series, my goal is to challenge the way we think about Nigeria. I am fully persuaded that since we have been doing things the same way for ages and we have been getting essentially the same results, the time has come for us to challenge our fundamental assumptions and thinking — and begin to consciously do things differently. As many commentators, analysts and public speakers have been pointing out over time, we need to reform our mindsets. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. A mind moulded with hate, prejudice, greed and inordinate ambition will produce nothing but hate, prejudice, greed and inordinate ambition.

In the first part of this series, I wrote on “The President Nigeria Badly Needs” (January 7, 2018). I challenged our obsession with seasonal political calculations and permutations. We build our hopes on false dawns and heat-of-the-moment excitements every four years — and end up with more of the same. Something has to change. In the second instalment, “The Spirit of Lagos That Nigeria Needs” (January 28, 2018), I revisited the now rested “Spirit of Lagos”, a reorientation campaign by the TBWA Consortium, in partnership with the Lagos state government. I said Nigerian leaders and the citizens need to cultivate new mindsets to be able to build a new Nigeria.

Today, I am going a little bit practical on how we can renew our minds. There is a saying that Rome was not built in a day, a proverb originated by the 19th century English playwright, John Heywood, who also gave us immortal expressions such as “out of sight out of mind”, “better late than never”, and “the more the merrier”. He said Rome wasn’t built in a day “but they were laying bricks every hour”. This, in some sense, tells us the value of consistent hard work, perseverance and conscious efforts at construction. If Nigeria is going to change, therefore, we must alienate those who see themselves, first and foremost, as ethno-religious champions. It all starts in the mind.

But, pardon me, Rome was not destroyed in a day either. It took ages to build the city but took a much shorter time to destroy it. Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 AD. In three days, they looted, burnt and wrecked the beautiful city. That hastened the collapse of the Roman Empire. Same thing applies here: the destruction of Nigeria by ethnic champions and religious bigots will not happen in one day — it is a gradual, steady process. That is why we the people must guard our hearts jealously before we are recruited into the hate brigade under different guises. Those already recruited can decide to desert straightaway. We need to build, not destroy.

My suggestions. To start with, do not participate in the sharing of messages and materials that are clearly intended to preach hate and prejudice. Saying “shared as received” is pure hypocrisy. You can be critical of leadership without attacking or disparaging their religions and ethnic origins. As a matter of principle, I do not share messages that are clearly meant to spread hate. It is a duty I owe my conscience. We all have terrible things to say about other people. If we do not allow love to guard our hearts, we will keep adding fuel to fire. Therefore, before you press the “send” or “forward” button, ask yourself: what is my motive? Unto thyself, be honest.

Also, do not feed your children with hate and prejudice. Fill their hearts with edifying things. A senior colleague of mine, a Muslim, married a Christian, who then converted to Islam. He told me he once engaged the services of a cleric to teach his children the Qur’an every Sunday. One day, he overheard the cleric telling the children not to drink from the same cup or eat from the same plate with their aunts, who were living with them, because they were “infidels”. My colleague fired the “afa” on the spot. He remains a devout Muslim, sure, but he saw danger and immediately quenched it. This kind of hate messaging certainly fuelled the mindset that birthed Boko Haram.

This is how hate works: it focuses on what divides us rather than what unites us. If there are Qur’anic verses that say Muslims should love and care for Christians, the hate merchants will focus on where Christians are called “infidels”. If there are verses in the Bible that say “love your neighbour as yourself”, the messengers of hate will focus on “what fellowship does light have with darkness?” There is nothing you want to justify with the scriptures that you won’t find. If you truly have love in your heart, you will focus on the verses of love. The God that forbade eating four-footed creatures is the same God that ordered Apostle Peter, in a trance, to kill and eat! To the pure all things are pure.

And this is how prejudice works: because Chief Obafami Awolowo did not declare Oduduwa Republic in solidarity with Biafra in 1967, every Yoruba is a traitor — including the one that was born early this morning. Because an Igbo chap was arrested for 419, every Igbo person — dead, living or unborn — is a fraudster. Because Barkin Zuwo struggled with speaking English, every northerner is an illiterate; in fact, no northerner has a brain. Because of the insane activities of ISIS and Boko Haram, every Muslim is a terrorist, including your friend. Tragically, there are people that the only thing they can see in you is your language or religion, not the content of your character.

Let me quickly say this before I shut down my laptop and take a stroll: it is very difficult to resist the message of hate and prejudice in a society already polluted by manipulative politicians, their overpaid sidekicks and our inept leaders. I know. When everybody is saying there is casting down, it is very difficult to go against the grain and say there is lifting up. You just go with the flow. But maybe the “casting down” gang is not as big as the “lifting up” brigade — just that the latter has been intimidated into silence. They must begin to speak out. Rome was not destroyed in a day. Those working to destroy Nigeria neither sleep nor slumber.

As for me and my house, we resolved long ago that we would never feed our children with hate, prejudices and biases. These things are usually passed on from generation to generation. I resolved to follow the example of my grandmother by celebrating the best in others rather than focusing on their worst. I would rather talk about the dignity in labour you find among the Hausa, the creativity among the Igbo and the industry among the Yoruba. Accuse me of living in denial and I will accuse you of living in bitterness. Accuse me of being politically correct and I will accuse you of being self-righteous. Accuse me of being naïve and I will accuse you of being jaundiced. It’s all in the mind.



Talking about hate speech, I was presented with a perfect example on a platter of gold on Saturday. Punch quoted Professor Umar Labdo of Maitama Sule University, Kano (formerly Kano State University), as saying the Fulani are destined to lead Nigeria for a long time. He even as much as said that we should be grateful the jihadists did not annihilate local people after the conquest. To help douse the tension caused by the Fulani herdsmen crisis, which has claimed hundreds of lives, he said Benue belongs to the Fulani. I hope by the time all these professors turn Nigeria to Somalia with their reckless and insensitive utterances, they will be very proud of themselves. Tactless.

The Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) is finally here to “rescue Nigeria” from APC. In October 2005, the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) was launched by ex-PDP bigwigs such as Chief Audu Ogbeh and Chief Tom Ikimi, along with opposition figures, to “rescue Nigeria”. MDD gave birth to ACD, later AC, later ACN and today’s APC that “rescued” Nigeria from PDP in 2015. In 2010, there was the PDP Reform Group, made up of Chief Ken Nnamani, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari and Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, et al, to “rescue Nigeria”. Today, the CNM, led by Brig-Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd), is all set to “rescue Nigeria” from APC in 2019. Again.

Former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme has been buried in his hometown, Oko, Anambra state. Someone pointed out on social media that “in one week Oko has street lights everywhere, in one week the bad road from Ekwulobia to Oko has been reconstructed”. Great thoughts. My theory remains that if Nigerian leaders resolve to develop Nigeria today, you will see a marked difference within four years. If they decide that all hospitals will become world-class and there will be uninterrupted power supply and all major roads will be in good shape, you will see the results in no time. One day, we will come to the consensus that our real problem is poor leadership. Truth.

Stephanie Otobo, the Canada-based stripper, last year accused Apostle Johnson Suleiman of things. She went into lurid details, giving dates and timelines. Charged to court in Nigeria over alleged blackmail, she sued Suleiman in Canada, claiming $5 million in damages resulting from “breach of trust, breach of fiduciary relations, breach of contract, negligence, defamation and poisoning”. She even found time to record a gospel song. She has now done a U-turn, claiming she was politically induced to blackmail the pastor. Was she pressured to recant? In a sane society, she should be facing criminal charges, including perjury and blackmail, by now. But is it not Nigeria? Theatre.
Source: ThisDay


The Spirit of Lagos that Nigeria need by Simon Kolawole

The Spirit of Lagos that Nigeria needs

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State

by Simon Kolawole

You know elections are close when politicians begin to confess their love for Nigeria. Suddenly strange bedfellows are walking side-by-side, arms locked, lovey-dovey. Arch rivals and sworn enemies are dining and planning and plotting and plotting and planning. Politicians who have contributed immensely to the underdevelopment of Nigeria begin to tell us exactly what we want to hear: that the country is drifting and they have arrived to rescue us. They become our new messiahs, the patriots who love Nigeria like Jesus loves his church. I bear witness that Nigerian politicians are very good at winning power. Pity, they don’t know how to use it for Nigeria’s progress.

I don’t really care what the politicians do or say. They are politicians and must politick. A footballer must play football. You cannot begrudge a fish for swimming or a dog for barking. The headache, for me, is our gullibility. It is so easy to sway Nigerians. We are too cheap. Our memories are so tiny and so short. Yesterday means nothing to us. You will see politicians that ruined us — politicians that we cursed and stoned just moments ago — come back to seduce us and, pronto, we are back in bed with them. We hail them as the new heroes, the saviours of our democracy. Don’t they just love our gullibility! We fall too easily for their gimmicks. It happens all the time. It works all the time.

In the first part of this “new mindset” series, I wrote on “The President Nigeria Badly Needs” (January 7, 2018). I officially announced my resignation from the committee of those celebrating false dawns and getting excited over new rhetoric and new rhyme anytime a new election is approaching. I have seen it all. I am done. As I said in my resignation letter, I am no longer excited by the permutations we do every four years. My personal resolve, after experiencing so many heartbreaks, is that I will, in my little corner, continue to constructively engage with whoever holds power — and insist they use it for Nigeria’s progress.

A senior colleague asked me: “Simon, I hope you are not saying you won’t vote again?” No, sir; that is not my point. But, then, I think we even overrate the voter. People can vote for the best of candidates who will turn out to be disasters in office. We seem to assume that if we vote on the basis of merit, howsoever defined, then our problem is about to be solved. I used to say that nonsense. But I have since realised that it is one thing to vote for candidates according to your conscience or best judgment, but it is another thing for the candidates to do the right thing in office. It is beyond us. You can choose to vote them out, vote in new ones and still get similar results.

I’ve been deceived too many times. People campaign passionately about change or transformation or whatever and hoodwink us to buy into their rhetoric. They win big mandates and begin to misrule once they get the job. Let’s stop fooling around: the voter has no way of knowing who is going to perform or fail in office. I have seen underrated candidates do well when elected — and highly rated ones fumble. I have seen illiterates, semi-literates, professors, medical doctors, engineers, journalists, accountants, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, minority, Muslims and Christians hold public office, and I can hardly say the conduct of one is much better than that of the other.

So what? Shall we then fold our arms and do nothing? Shall we say we will no longer vote because we have been deceived and jilted by even the best? God forbid. But I am trying to make a point: if we have been doing something the same way for decades and the results are pretty much the same, shall we continue in it and expect progress to abound? Every four years, we get excited when we hear promises. In the end, we still import fuel, power remains on and off, the rich are still sending their children to private schools or abroad, the roads are still without form and void, kidnappers are still having a ball, insecurity lingers and cholera persists. Something is wrong. We need a rethink.

This is where the “Spirit of Lagos” comes to mind. Some years ago, the campaign was launched to promote some core values among Lagosians in the direction of attitudinal change, to engineer what was called a “new thinking in Lagos”. The campaign sought to promote four cardinal values: social justice, civic responsibility, citizenship and neighbourliness. There were conversations on radio and social media around these values. There was a series of “good citizenship” campaign, community engagement, “catch them young” contests, “do the right thing” re-orientation and the students’ challenge that encouraged conception of competitive projects and ideas.

The last I heard about this laudable project was the Citizens’ Day award that was held in May 2015 to celebrate citizens who had positively impacted on their communities. We were told it would continue, but I doubt it did. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who has performed quite impressively in office, has to revisit this campaign. It is a wonderful idea that must not die. I understand it was the original idea of the TBWA Consortium, executed in partnership with the state government under Governor Babatunde Fashola. The whole idea is “change your thinking”. As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. If you cannot change the way you think, you cannot change the way you act.

Although it was targeted at the general citizenry, in truth our leaders emerge from among the citizens. A leader with a backward mindset is a danger to the society. We must “recruit” everyone. In my first article, I argued that the leaders Nigeria needs are those who have a good mental picture of what the society should look like. It is called visioning, which I described as the “starting point”. No matter how good citizens are, no matter how sincere voters are, no matter the good intentions of leaders, we are headed in no direction if there is no vision of society. It is vision that drives action and passion. Leading without a vision is like driving without a destination.

Taking it further today, I will argue that Nigerians must also develop a new mindset if Nigeria is ever going to progress. The “Spirit of Lagos” focused on the shared history of Lagosians: what makes it home to everybody in spite of our differences. It harped on civic responsibility and good neighbourliness: how to look out for one another, solve problems together and think as an intimate community. It aimed to promote “new thinking”. It was NOT political. I am, therefore, suggesting a “Spirit of Nigeria” movement that will promote a new thinking in Nigeria. It will NOT be political. It will NOT be about ethnic and religious affiliations. It will be purely about a shared vision of Nigeria.

Some movements are springing up ahead of the 2019 elections. Things like this do not last because, from experience, they are motivated by the fleeting quest for political power and appointments. They sell their rhetoric to us, we buy it, renew our hope and vote for them. The moment they get what they want, they disappear into the system and normal service resumes. So Nigeria remains the same. I have seen it all. It is the same old mindset at work. To get a different outcome, we must start thinking differently. The idea of the “Spirit of Nigeria” is to construct a new Nigeria, but we cannot build a new Nigeria with old mindsets shaped by hate, prejudice, greed and ambition.

It is catastrophic that many leaders and citizens see themselves first and foremost as defenders of their faith and champions of their ethnic identities. These old mindsets have to give way to the “Spirit of Nigeria”. Nigeria is so sharply divided today along ethnic and religious lines largely because we have leaders who cannot see beyond their nose, leaders who cannot be bothered about the consequences of their action and inaction — and citizens who are not any different. The saddest thing is that even the young generation has been conscripted into the destructive frame of mind filled with bile and bitterness on the basis of religion and ethnicity.

We badly need a new crop of Nigerians — leaders and citizens — who will begin to consciously make Nigeria their primary constituency. It is a mindset issue. We need leaders and citizens with a mindset that treats nationhood problems, such as the farmers/herders clashes, as challenges that have to be confronted and resolved constructively. Those working very hard behind the scenes to set Nigeria on fire — by playing up one part against the other, by stoking hate through the circulation of fake news on social media to poison our minds against one another — have to be resisted with the “Spirit of Nigeria” henceforth. “New Nigerians” must stop getting excited by these raw primordial emotions.

By the way, I am not proposing a new association (before somebody registers “Spirit of Nigeria Movement” and starts giving “best governor” awards in exchange for a mess of pottage). I am just challenging our mindsets as individuals who want to see Nigeria prosper. We need to “change our thinking”. That is what should ultimately shape the political choices of citizens and the performance of leaders. We need to stop getting carried away by the seasonal “messiah” politicking. Change will not come in one day, but if we don’t change our thinking, we will never change Nigeria. I’m convinced there is a “Spirit of Nigeria” in us waiting to be tapped.



I must confess I was shocked that an article I wrote three years ago, “Obasanjo as Nigeria’s Moral Compass” (January 18, 2015), has resurfaced and gone viral following the former president’s blistering “special press statement”. I was more shocked that those who loved the article then now hate it, and those who hated it then now love it. The Buhari camp told me in 2015 I should forget the messenger and focus on the message; Jonathan’s supporters are now telling me in 2018 to forget the messenger and focus on the message. But truth is constant, no matter whose ox is gored. I am amused watching proceedings from my balcony, cuddling my pack of popcorn. Action!


There was a time in Nigeria when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would call politicians to order for jumping the gun in electioneering. Not any longer. For instance, supporters of President Buhari have embarked on an open campaign very much ahead of time. Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, minister of communication who wants to be governor of Oyo state, has even opened a “Buhari” office in Ibadan and was about to start sharing “Buhari 2019” fez caps at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday when he was stopped. This opportunistic political behaviour was popularised under Gen. Sani Abacha, I think, and it has now become a national culture. Sycophancy.


Amid the heat in the country caused by the herders/farmers crisis, and the stoking of ethno-religious tension by those playing snooker with the delicate state of the Nigerian union, it is gratifying that some Nigerians still find the time and space to offer us wit and wisdom to calm the tempers. When Ms Ayo Obe said Cain was a farmer and Abel was a herdsman to illustrate the age-old conflict between the world’s oldest professions, I had a good laugh as well as a great insight into this eternal rivalry. But someone completely killed it when he wrote: “Obasanjo is a farmer, Buhari is a herdsman, so the battle line has been drawn.” Smart!


Tragedy visited the house of football and Lagos state government on Thursday when Mr. Deji Tinubu, special adviser to the governor, died during a recreational five-a-aside match. He reportedly screamed, grabbed his chest and collapsed. When I was growing up in the village, I would have called it “apepa” (killed by “remote control”) out of ignorance but today, with the benefit of education, I would say it was apparently a heart attack. One major cause, doctors say, is a blood clot that suddenly blocks an artery. Doctors often recommend an aspirin a day for those above 40 or those managing high blood pressure. DT’s sudden death is so, so painful. What a loss. Devastating.

Culled from TheCable

My adventure into world of sports media By Segun Odegbami

My adventure into world of sports media

By Segun Odegbami

I have an uncommon relationship with the sports media.I must tell the story again for the benefit of thousands of young Nigerian boys and girls in school (or even out of school) that may be interested in having a go in the profession.

It is a beautiful world. In this day and age of Information Technology its scope to admit and engage millions of youths with a passion for sports and for journalism is almost limitless!

For those young people that manage to convert their love and passion for sports to work in the sports media, they discover that they actually never work again in their lives because ‘work’ actually becomes so much fun!

This is my own story into that world.In the year 2018, all things summed up and with all modesty, I am pleasantly aware that I am considered a successful player in the sports media industry. My work cuts across the entire spectrum of the sports media, from print, to television, radio and even on-line.

Considering that I have never had any formal education or training in any aspect of the media except through my personal experiences and experiments, it must be comforting and reassuring for millions of young persons interested in that profession that the route to success in this sector is not laden with difficulties or impossibilities! If I could do it I assure them they could, even more easily.

So, this is my story. It is not a model to emulate but it can serve as a useful compass to have along the route for the determined, passionate youth.
I live through the work that I do in the media. I have done so for almost 4 decades since I discovered its power to provide food for my family and me. It has been an exceptional and extra-ordinary journey of discovery.

To start with, that I have no formal qualifications in the sports media does not mean that one does not require proper grounding through attending a proper institution for a journalist to succeed. That education guarantees greater success as well as a better anchor. A formal institution provides the fundamental rudiments of the profession and implants its ethics and principles of good practice.

That aspect has been missing from my own credentials, but, in time and with continuous work in a field that is still relatively virgin in the country, I have managed to make up for it even though it took drifting rudderless, many times, in the rough seas of the vast industry.Two big advantages that I knew I had going for me (and these have helped me feel confident and comfortable despite my lack of formal training in journalism) were my experiences in the game of football itself and the flair that I had for writing developed studying the Literature of English in a great Catholic secondary school, St. Murumba College, in Jos.

At school I loved reading books. I read several of William Shakespeare’s books, Thomas Hardy, Jane Eyre, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, James Hardly Chase and some other great fiction writers of that era.I became a core member of the editorial team of a gossip campus magazine during my years at the Polytechnic, where I was the editor, features writer and chief illustrator.

All these would come in very handy later in my life, when my friend and veteran journalist now, Banji Ogundele, became editor of Sunday Tribune, an Ibadan-based, very popular newspaper owned by the Awolowo Family.Banji had moved to Ibadan from Lagos where we were friends along with other journalists including Yinka Craig, Dayo Sobowale, Phillip Phil Ebosie, Toyin Makanju, and so on.

These were friends that I cultivated through the best years of my playing career mostly in the national football team.Banji came to Ibadan needing a place to stay for a few weeks whilst he sought for his own accommodation. I offered my humble home. For a few weeks he became a part of my young family.

That’s when he found the tons of literature (magazines and books) littering my desk in my sitting room. He was fascinated and suggested that I wrote a column for his newspaper even as an active football player.I took his bait and wrote my first piece. He loved it. Did not even change a word before publishing. To see my name in print in one of the most powerful newspapers of that era was the all the tonic I needed.

That’s how I started writing on football. I wrote about my own experiences, the places we went to play, the atmosphere in those places, the other players and our relationships, what we did after matches, and slowly I started to write about my impressions and ideas about the game itself.

It was interesting writing from the heart on subjects close to people’s hearts but never seen from this completely new perspective. It was fascinating to also look at football strictly from a footballer’s perspective.

So, what I lacked in style and structure I made up for in content and literary freedom.Combining playing and writing was not easy. I could not write about my own games. So I wrote around them.Somehow, I developed a writing style that I have maintained and tried to improve upon for 4 decades.

About a year after my first column, and with Banji’s departure from the Tribune, I was invited to write for Punch and, later, The Guardian. I can’t recall why I moved between them, but I did. To write in these two high profile newspapers spoke volumes about what was thought of my writing.

Those two publications were my own school of journalism. In 1984 I transited finally to Sunny Obazu Ojeagbase’s Sports Souvenir, the first all-sports newspaper in Nigeria’s history. In 1986, at his invitation, I moved and joined Sunny in Lagos on a full time partnership basis. That was my university of journalism.

Before I knew it I was reporting matches and other sports, and went on my first international assignment to Scotland for the U-17 FIFA tournament in 1989.Whilst in Scotland, I stayed with late Ernest Okonkwo, Late Tolu Fatoyinbo and Uncle Fabio Lanipekun in the same hotel.Our conversations opened up my eyes to new possibilities in the other media. These were legends of electronic broadcasting – Ernest and Tolu on radio, and Uncle Fabio on television.

My conversation with Uncle Fabio, in particular, and his assurance that I could do well in television were the push I needed to venture into that field. The opportunity came when I was invited by Chris Ebie to present a weekly 4-minutes sports segment on Livi Ajuonuma’s The Sunday Show on NTA Channel 10 Lagos.

My first attempt after a lot of practice was a good case study for trainee TV journalists on how not to present a TV program. I received my own tutorial on the job. It was like throwing a first time swimmer after verbal lessons only into the deep end of a swimming pool. He would either learn fast or drown fast.

That week must have been the longest week in my life.By the second week, I had to be better or I would be considered a failure. My background in football always came to my rescue facing any challenges. It taught me that practice makes perfect, and never to give up until the final whistle is blown.I have to stop here for now.

Deji Tinubu Passes on
As I am writing this, the news just came in that my ‘brother’ from another mother, Deji Tinubu, that also ventured into sports journalism, more or less like me, has died only a few hours ago whilst playing a novelty football at the retreat held in Epe by the Lagos State government for the State’s Executive Council members.

The news is shattering.Deji’s wife is my ‘sister.’ She is former Governor, Tunde Fashola’s younger sister.Deji’s parents loved me like their own son and made me an unofficial child of their fantastic family.Deji represented himself as well as the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, at the 10th anniversary of my school and sports academy last November.

I can’t get over the fact that he is gone..forever!I join friends and family in praying for consolation for the young wife and children he has left behind.May he rest Peacefully in the bosom of our Creator.

Source: The Guardian


When a Nation Becomes Funeral Home The Verdict By Olusegun 

When a Nation Becomes Funeral Home

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email:

On a sunny day in January 2010, in a small town in Kuru Karama, Plateau State, a Muslim mother watched helplessly as Christian men bludgeoned and hacked to death her two young children. About the same time, in a nearby village in Fan district, a Fulani pastoralist witnessed farmers from the Berom ethnic group—his neighbours—burn his house and kill his uncle. A year later, Berom residents in Fan district witnessed former Fulani neighbours kill Berom women and children in a murderous night raid.

In April 2011, a Christian man in the Northern part of neighbouring Kaduna State saw Muslims from nearby villages surround his village and kill two of his Christian neighbours and set fire to their church and homes. That same month, some 200 kilometres to the south, in the town of Zonkwa, a Muslim secondary school student, from the Hausa ethnic group, witnessed her history teacher, a Christian, murder her father.

In each of these cases, the witnesses knew the perpetrators of these crimes, but none of the perpetrators has been brought to justice…

The foregoing are the opening paragraphs in the executive summary of a chilling 146-page report released on 12th December 2013 by the United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the orgy of bloodshed in Kaduna and Plateau States which, by the publication’s account, had claimed about 3,000 lives within a period of three years. Titled “Leave Everything to God: Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria”, the authorities, at all levels, were indicted for “taking no meaningful steps to address underlying grievances” or bring to justice those responsible for what the report described as “tit-for-tat killings” with victims targeted for extermination, “often in horrific circumstances”.

That report—which also contains useful recommendations—is instructive against the background of the mass burial last week in Makurdi, Benue State capital, of 73 persons who were gruesomely murdered by suspected herdsmen on New Year day. “For several years, these attackers have turned our beautiful and endowed land into their killing fields and the main reason has been the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, but these attacks have intensified with alarming devastation since 2011”, said Governor Samuel Ortom who vowed not to repeal the anti-grazing law that is believed to have precipitated the violence.

Unfortunately, at a time we ought to be looking for ways to restore law and order to that troubled section of our country, so many people are stoking the fire while the call for restructuring, especially at a period like this, completely misses the point. For sure, the system is creaking beneath all of us and we need to fix it but even at that, restructuring will not resolve the conflicts that are making neighbours turn daggers against one another. And to the extent that various peoples, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, will still have to live together, even in a proper federation, we must begin to look for the positives in our diversity.
I am quite aware that there are times when we may have to take sides in conflict situations since, as the late Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel warned, neutrality only helps the oppressor. But there are also times that call for statesmanship. When the lives of innocent citizens are involved, it pays for those who call themselves leaders, at all levels, to be circumspect. It is all the more important given that there is a class dimension to the perennial violence between herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt that we conveniently choose to ignore and may account for why the problem festers.

Has anybody ever wondered why in most of the killings over the years, what we are usually regaled with are numbers rather than names? That is because it is the poor of our society, those whose names command no attention and have no Facebook or Twitter accounts—expendables fit only for mass burials—that are mostly the victims of this violence while those supplying the AK-47 and other deadly weapons are secured in the knowledge that they, and members of their immediate families, are far away from the theatres of war. And that nobody would ever try to fish them out for punishment.

Therefore, spreading hate and incitements on social media can only worsen an already bad situation, especially when what started as an economy/ecology problem has now assumed ethnic and religious dimensions with old grievances and ancient prejudices being exhumed. Yet, what saddens the most is that at times like this when you need good people to stand up as voices of reason, nobody—save for people like Abubakar Dangiwa Umar—wants to be identified as either a ‘coward’ or a ‘traitor’ by the various publics we have created out of the mismanagement of our diversity. But the greater challenge is that the Nigerian state is gradually losing the capacity for its primary responsibility: security of lives and property.

In the 2013 tragedy in Kaduna and Plateau States as recorded by HRW, for instance, many of the victims of the violence were reportedly shot, burned alive or macheted based on ethnic or religious identity. Witnesses came forward to “tell their stories, compiled list of the dead and identified the attackers, but in most cases, nothing was done” said Daniel Bekele, the then African Director for HRW who added rather poignantly: “the authorities may have forgotten these killings, but communities haven’t. In the absence of justice, residents have resorted to violence to avenge their losses.”

What is glaring from that is a failure of leadership, especially at the national level. “Nigerian authorities can and should take urgent steps to ensure that the perpetrators of communal violence, including mass murder, are investigated and prosecuted, and that victims are provided restitution or compensation for their enormous losses,” HRW wrote in 2013. Of course, no such thing happened and I will be surprised if the victims of the current Benue massacre get any justice. Besides, in a milieu where the security agencies are often accused of either taking sides or not responding to distress calls at the appropriate time, it is difficult to end what has become a spiral of revenge killings. That perhaps explains why today, grieving families have lost faith not only in the capacity of the system to give them justice but also in the ability of the authorities to address the crisis in a holistic manner.

Aloof and distant, it came as no surprise that President Muhammadu Buhari could not foresee any trouble the moment the anti-grazing law was being enacted in Benue State. Had he intervened at that point by calling a meeting of all the critical stakeholders in the state, including the governor, so that a compromise could be reached by way of short, medium and long term solutions, perhaps we will not be where we are today. But he waited until everything exploded in his face before belatedly agreeing to a meeting where he was begging for peace “in the name of God”.

Notwithstanding, I consider the accusation of partisanship against the president unfair. While he may be suffering the consequences of his past indiscretion—when, as a former military leader, he led a sectional team to Oyo State on behalf of his Fulani kinsmen—there is nothing to suggest he is complicit in the current ethno-religious violence in Benue State. What he has not done, which unfortunately is quite in character with his style, is to provide the much-needed leadership that will help resolve the crisis not only in Benue but in other theatres, including Zamfara State where both the protagonists and antagonists are Hausa, Fulani and animists and where several deaths have been recorded in recent months. And we should never forget the 347 Shiite members, including women and children, who were killed and buried in shallow graves following the 12th December 2015 clash with the military authorities in Zaria, Kaduna State, even when those unfortunate victims would most likely be Hausa and Fulani, and definitely Muslims. In that tragedy too, (, the president stands indicted!

On Tuesday, the Senate gave the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, a 14-day ultimatum to apprehend the perpetrators of the Benue pogrom and bring them to justice. But it is futile expecting anything from Idris whose first response on 6th January was that “it is a communal crisis” before admonishing that “we should be praying for Nigerians to learn to live in peace with one another”.
Meanwhile, men of the Department of State Service (DSS) that you expect to be professional are more concerned with monitoring and chasing about some political pastors preaching against President Buhari’s second term aspiration with regime protection, rather than national security, as their main preoccupation. Here, let me offer a quick word: The primary responsibility of the security forces is to protect the citizenry and defend their basic freedoms. Harassment of clerics of any known faith is a direct invitation to sectarian conflict.

The question now is: What is the way forward in the still-fresh Benue tragedy?
While the proposed ‘Cattle Colonies’ will not address the challenge, given the mutual ethnic and religious suspicions that have been thrown up, I also believe that Ranching, which remains the only enduring solution, will require enormous resources, attitudinal change and take a while to institute. But the most important thing now is to bring down the temperature/heat in Benue and other states in the Middle Belt and that will not happen until the authorities rein in the Miyetti Allah men who are rationalising anarchy and vowing to take the law into their own hands.

Indeed, that the Miyetti Allah threats are being condoned calls to question the neutrality of the security agencies that are headed, as it were, only by people from a section of the country. As an aside, such insensitivity in critical appointments serves only to fuel the kind of animosity that would make it difficult for any leader to build trust and inclusiveness in a plural society. That, sadly, is the way of the current administration.

Since the primary responsibility of a functioning state is to protect the lives and livelihoods of all citizens, it should worry President Buhari that Nigeria is fast becoming a funeral home under his watch.

The Aare Ona Kakanfo!

At an editorial meeting sometimes in 2000, THISDAY Chairman/Editor-in-Chief, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, said he had information that the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) had concluded plans to burn down our Apapa, Lagos premises because our newspaper was deemed ‘anti-Yoruba’. Then he added, “Yet nobody will believe that the two people writing all the anti-OPC columns in this place are actually Waziri (Adio, the current Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI) and Segun who happen to be Yoruba.” That was at a period, early in the life of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, when OPC was posing a serious national security threat by their open recourse to violence.

However, within a few years, my path had crossed that of Dr Frederick Fasheun and Chief Ganiyu Adams, the two men leading separate factions of the organisation, such that when, in 2005, I was invited by the former to be the reviewer at the launch of his biography, I had to call the latter to inform him ahead so I would not get caught in the crossfire of what was, at the time, a violent antagonism between the duo. Yet despite my disagreement with the OPC politics that sees ethnic relations in a diverse society like Nigeria’s as a zero-sum game, I have over the years developed with Adams a friendship that is based essentially on mutual respect.

What particularly fascinates me about the 47-year old Adams is that for a man who started out with little education (he left secondary school in form three to go into carpentry), the profundity of his thoughts and his capacity to analyse complex socio-political issues are quite extraordinary; regardless of whether or not you agree with him. Even before he went back to school to earn a first degree, Adams had immersed himself in the history of Yoruba culture and people, and could engage you intellectually on any aspect. And from my encounters with him in recent years, it was also always obvious that he is both an ambitious man and a good student of power; which then explains why he has risen rather rapidly within so short a period despite where he is coming from.

However, to better appreciate his trajectory, I implore readers to find a very entertaining 2005 journal article by Oxford University Professor, Wale Adebanwi, entitled “The Carpenter’s Revolt: Youth, Violence and the Reinvention of Culture in Nigeria”. Published by the Cambridge University Press, Adebanwi concludes partly in the paper that, “What is particularly interesting in the context of the OPC, however, is not only the way in which the concept of culture is entwined with an interplay between tradition and modernity, but the way in which political entrepreneurs such as OPC leaders employ this in the trajectory of their political/cultural projects.”

Even though I promised Adams that I would be at the palace of the Alafin of Oyo last Saturday for his installation, I could not make the occasion. But he knows I wish him well. And all factors considered, I believe Adams is a perfect fit for the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.

Oye a m’ori o!


No, not in God’s name

No, not in God’s name

By Yakubu Mohammed |

The blame game arising from the Benue debacle continues – though unhelpful, but necessary in the circumstances, if only to let off steam. But what the situation calls for is a quick restoration of normalcy and the return of a lasting peace, not only in Benue State – the current theatre of madness – but all the states, including Kaduna, Taraba and Adamawa, that had been afflicted by the cattle herdsmen’s murderous engagement with farmers and the local communities.
The Monday meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari with Benue State leaders and the deployment of joint task force will go a long way in calming the restiveness in the community and the jaded nerves of the aggrieved people, especially the angry youths. The lessons learnt from the Benue tragedy should instruct the security agencies to be more proactive in future and not to wait until the damnable deed is done.

Mercifully, and no matter how hard mischief makers try to push the view, this crisis has nothing to do with religion. It has more to do with economic survival than the pursuit of any spiritual or heavenly matter. It is no wonder, therefore that many of the cattle herdsmen have abandoned the stick in favour of AK 47, the favourite weapons of armed robber and kidnappers.
Many kidnap victims have testified that their captors were mostly those who herd their cattle in the day and do moonlighting with robbery and kidnapping to supplement. But now that kidnapping has become the most profitable business enterprise, it has taken the centre stage drawing more people into the trade. The number of these merchants in human misery has, in recent time, grown exponentially, thanks to the influx of the saints and the sinners as well and the Jews and Gentiles and the fact that despite claims by security operatives, most of the rescued victims have had to cough out princely ransom to regain their freedom.
Yet, those who stand to profit from any social upheaval, especially the professional political assassins who fish for political gains even in human tragedy, have insisted that the herdsmen killings have been masterminded by the so called jihadist urge to annihilate ethnic minorities in places like Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and Benue State. In the social media, they have been regaling us with the tales of how the Othman Dan Fodio Jihad started and who betrayed who. In addition, minutes of meetings held by the so-called jihadists to plan the next phase of attack are beginning to dominate the social media. We are even urged to boycott beef so the cattle Fulani’s economic fortune should nose dive and to deny them the means of acquiring AK 47 and other weapons of mass extermination.
Those who insist that this is the only truth of the matter fail to take cognisance of other truths like the killings in Zamfara where most of the victims were Muslims. How do you Islamise the already over Islamised? Like carrying coal to Newcastle. Agatu in Benue State has recorded more victims than what obtains in many other places, yet the populace has more than a handful of Muslims. And they were not spared by these so-called jihadists. Last year, an attack by the cattle herdsmen in Yankira, a community in Baruten Local Government Area of Kwara State left four people dead. The killers did not discriminate between Muslims and others. Yet these peddlers of fake news would not spare us the horror of their garish tales.
It is possible that Festus Keyamo, you know him…our own erudite Festus of very sound legal mind, does not see what these people are seeing. Which perhaps explains his anger when he laments the folly of fellow citizens who simply swallow line, hook and sinker any romantic tale of the bizarre. He says: “I can’t explain the kind of gullibility some people show in issues of religion and ethnicity.”
Says Keyamo: “A graduate will see a message from the wailers saying a serving minister said President Buhari wants to Islamize Nigeria and without even referring to what the constitution says about religion they will start sharing and defending. Can Buhari wake up one day and pronounce Nigeria an Islamic state without the National Assembly amending the relevant laws?”
My brother, I say that in the times in which we live, in this veritable season of anomie, there is a thin line between the rational and the utterly bizarre. I guess that it would take the likes of Donald Trump’s mental capability and the grace of God to retain one’s capacity for rational thinking and rational deduction. Anything short of that, any little deficit would be leading you to the loony bin.
Truth be told, all lives matter. It does not matter whose life, whether it is that of the cheerfully confessed animist or that of a fanatical Muslim or the one of a born-again Christian. Nobody has the right to take another person’s life. Not the Boko Haram, not the cattle herdsmen or the farmer protecting his farm against invasion. And no religion sanctions the taking of life unjustly.
When you look at it closely, the sins of the cattle herdsmen are like the ones of the Boko Haram members. When the Boko Haram adherents started their onslaught, they killed unarmed and defenceless citizens, innocent people who had no hand in the extra-judicial killing of their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, an incident which is the genesis of the Boko Haram insurgency. Many undiscerning people quickly jumped to conclusion that it was the beginning of a new Islamic jihad against Christians.
This mind-set never wavered even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. Such incontrovertible evidence includes the numerous attacks on mosques and the attempt to kill the former emir of Kano, the venerable and highly respected late Ado Bayero. Not to be forgotten also was the attack in 2014 on Muhammadu Buhari in Kawo, Kaduna on his way to Katsina from Kaduna and the killing of civil war veteran, General Mohammed Shuwa, a devout Muslim, in his residence in Maiduguri.
Today, they know the truth, and the narrative has changed. The Boko Haram insurgency is not about Jihad, it is now purely and plainly a terrorist organisation like the ISIS and such other vicious blood suckers. And it is no longer about Islamising the country and killing only non-Muslims as we were wont to believe. They now kill and take hostage any one that suits their fancy.
No, the cattle herdsmen don’t appear to me like people who are out to “complete the work of Othman Dan Fodio” as being widely speculated in the social media. These herders, with their peripatetic life-style, don’t have the fanaticism and passion for any such crusade except the love of their cattle and their means of livelihood for which they can kill and maim. Plus the fact that Nigeria today is vastly different in orientation and configuration from the situation that obtained during the time of Othman Dan Fodio.

Courtesy Daily Trust


Before Nigeria Becomes Somalia…

Before Nigeria Becomes Somalia…

By Simon Kolawole

I got a call from a senior northern politician recently. He’s generally a man of peace and often calls to commend me anytime I write on “peace and unity”. But this was a different call. His tone was remarkably different and harsh as he spoke about the Benue killings. He spared little time for the obligatory I-like-your-article ice-breaker and rushed into a conversation. “Look Simon,” he half-shouted, “you journalists must put pressure on the president to act quickly and decisively. The herders are very confident he has their back. The security agencies are treating them like kings. Our people will have to start defending themselves. Nobody has monopoly of violence.”

My head dropped. Sadness overpowered me. These are the moments that test my faith in the precariously complex Nigerian project. It is particularly saddening that the Benue tragedy has provided a perfect setting for people to play politics of opportunism (2019 is around the corner, just your know), for people to rev up ethnic and religious sentiments, for people to queue behind those they perceive to be their kith and kin. Yet, for all you care, what we need most urgently is to prevent further bloodbath. Reprisals and more aggression will only turn Nigeria into another Somalia, the global capital of anarchy. We can do without that.

The point has been well made that President Muhammadu Buhari’s reaction to the killings has been too slow and too poor. The previous killings by Fulani herdsmen in Agatu (Benue) and Nimbo (Enugu) did not merit a stern response from the president, very unusual for a retired general who keeps celebrating his exploits in “keeping Nigeria one” during the civil war. Compare his attitude with how President Olusegun Obasanjo dealt decisively with the OPC menace in the south-west in 1999-2000 and you will see a world of difference. Buhari’s fire-brigade to the latest Benue killings, apparently in reaction to so much public outcry, is seen as a reluctant afterthought.

It is not as if the Fulani have not been at the receiving end too — they were victims of massacres in Bachama, Adamawa state, and Mambilla, Taraba state, last year, in which hundreds were killed. Curiously, these tragedies went unnoticed by the national media. Photos of dead Fulani bodies did not make the front page of newspapers, neither did the killings trend on Twitter. Sadly, Nigerians have reduced human lives to football, playing home and away matches in massacre. Who scored more goals? Who killed more people? How can “my people” protect themselves? Or how can “my people” revenge? That is the unfolding story of Nigeria. What an apology for a human society!

After the blame game, where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces, heal the wounds and prevent the next bloodbath? In preparing this article, I did a little internet search on clashes between farmers and herders in West Africa — in order to better understand patterns, undertones and antidotes. The findings were absolutely terrifying. On April 9, 1989, in Diawara, eastern Senegal, Fulani herdsmen and Mauritanian Soninke farmers clashed following a drought that created grazing challenges. Hundreds were killed. Over 250,000 persons were displaced. The ensuing Senegal-Mauritania Border War lasted for two years.

In March 2016, a violent clash between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in north-east Cote d’Ivoire led to 17 deaths, AFP reported. In May 2016, armed Bambara and Fulani groups clashed in Tenenkou, west Mopti, Mali, leading to 20 deaths. In November same year, 18 persons died in clashes between herders and farmers in Bangui, Niger Republic. In November 2017, nine persons died in the Kwahu East District of Ghana following clashes between Fulani herdsmen and villagers. A commenter named Yaa Nyamekye wrote on “Why should foreigners take over our lands! Fulani, Chinese and Nigerians have taken over Ghana!”

Back to Nigeria, farmers and herders have perennially clashed. As a kid in my village in the 1970s, I witnessed some of these confrontations. Herders seasonally invaded our farmlands to audaciously feed their cattle. At some point, village hunters were put on guard to repel them. Aggression, clashes and deaths have scaled up all over Nigeria in recent years. The herders are now acting lawlessly, destroying people’s livelihood, taking over public places and going scot-free. These incidents have become more highlighted under Buhari, who is also of the Fulani stock and a cattle rearer to boot. The conspiracy theory is complete.

The Benue killings, in which 73 farmers and family members were killed by herdsmen “because our cows were stolen”, have accentuated many issues. There are allegations that the president tacitly supports the activities of the herdsmen by failing to act with the same enthusiasm and determination he displayed in dealing with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The killings have also offered opportunities for politicians to play 2019 politics — the same way Buhari’s APC used Boko Haram killings to slaughter President Jonathan in 2015. Those who enjoy toying with ethnic and religious emotions are also having a ball, particularly on social media.

Beyond the politicisation of the killings, however, there are matters we need to be dispassionate about if our interest is to resolve the crisis. The immediate causes can be traced to these factors: (1) geography/ecology (2) culture and (3) insecurity. But, evidently, leadership failure is at the centre of it all. I will try my best to explain my thoughts within the space constraints. My major objective today is to call for reason. If we are going to build lasting peace, we must disrobe ourselves of the pervasive political, ethnic and religious emotions currently at play. We need an open mind. More bloodshed may look appealing in the heat of the moment, but nobody will be safe in the end.

One, in terms of geography and ecology, climate change has forced a vast majority of the herdsmen to migrate downwards in search of fresh pasture in recent years. In an essay by Malcolm Fabiyi and Adeleke Otunuga, they said Nigeria has 22 million cows that consume about one billion gallons of water per day and 500 million kilograms of grass and forage crops. Lake Chad is drying up. Desertification and Boko Haram war have combined to drive herders increasingly southward since 2012. They are seeking survival. However, this has huge security implications. A proactive government would usually anticipate the consequences and develop appropriate plans and policies.

Two, culturally, the Fulani herders are nomadic. Ranching is alien to them. In the days when there was law and order in Nigeria — and I mean in the colonial era — we had grazing routes, complete with water supply, security, tax collectors and veterinary medical facilities. Now that all these have collapsed, the herders think they have a divine right to graze anywhere and nobody can stop them. Invading farms and wrecking the economy of farmers has become very normal for them. A proactive and responsible government will work at re-orientating the herders to embrace modern practices, deploying all moral suasion strategies to deal with the inefficient, outdated nomadic system.

Three, herders are at the mercy of rustlers who ambush them and steal their cattle. These criminal gangs are hardly apprehended or punished. Our security agencies are more competent in arresting bloggers and handcuffing them for “libel”. They have little competence in protecting the citizens despite the billions they get in budgetary allocations. Herders resort to arming themselves and deploying self-help since there is effectively no government. Unfortunately, both the criminal gangs and the menacing herdsmen never face the full weight of the law. The primary reason for having a government is to prevent anarchy. So where is government?

These are the things I think responsible leadership should offer. One, address the grazing crisis. The idea of creating “colonies” will work well in some areas but fail woefully in other areas because of historical divides. Government must get the buy-in of host communities. We must avoid trying to solve one problem and creating another. I repeat: government must tread carefully. Two, the herdsmen must be re-orientated to understand that we live in the 21st century and their “roaming culture” must be within the law. They have no right to carry on as if everywhere belongs to them. If everybody does what he likes, there will be no country left at the end of the day.

Three, those who fail to play by the rule must face the law. Nobody should ruin someone else’s farms or take lives and go scot-free. Four, conflict management must be central to policies and measures aimed at solving these problems. Government should design a system of early warning and a complaint/grievance management mechanism for herders, farmers and villagers. Aggrieved parties must be able to channel their grievances in a civilised manner rather than resort to self-help. Above all, leaders must genuinely work to promote justice and equity. They must cast aside their prejudices. If our leaders keep sleeping on the job, Somalia is sure to happen to us.

And Four Other Things…


With Alhaji Ahmed Abubakar’s appointment as the DG of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the navy now remains the only security service not headed by a northerner (and for those who don’t know, chief of defence staff heads no service). Could it be that President Buhari can’t find any northerner yet to lead the navy? Even the major paramilitary services, which used to be manned by middle-belters for regional balancing, are now headed by the “core north”. I think this is a record. I’m not aware of any other time in our history when security has been so northernised. As someone who supports “balancing” because of our delicate national make-up, I’m scandalised. Insensitive.


When I heard that rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria dropped from 1.23 million metric tonnes in 2014 to 23,192mt as at November 2017, I was over the moon. It was a confirmation that our rice policy is working, I concluded. But a colleague drew my attention to the figures coming from Benin Republic: as Nigeria’s imports were decreasing, Benin’s imports were increasing. To the best of my knowledge, most people in Benin eat local rice. The logical conclusion is that Benin’s imports were meant for the Nigerian market through the land border (complete the sentence!) By the way, contrary to my assertion last week, Thailand and Vietnam have missions in Nigeria. Apologies.


And so, only 24 candidates from Zamfara state passed the 2017 November/December senior school certificate examination of the National Examinations Council (NECO). In fact, the examination was taken by only 186 candidates in the state. The governor, Alhaji Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, is also the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. He spends most of his time in Abuja and Saudi Arabia, and blames fornication for epidemics. He is a young man by some definition — he was elected governor in 2011 at 43. Maybe age is not the super solution to our leadership crisis. Yari will leave office next year, proud of himself that after eight years, only 24 candidates passed NECO. Disaster.


The erratic US President Donald Trump never has any kind words for Africa. Reported to have called Africa a “shithole” (he denied using that word but said he used a “tough” word which he refused to disclose), Trump has come under attack from African leaders. As disgusting as Trump’s words are, maybe we also have to look in the mirror. Most Nigerians who migrate to the US do so for economic reasons. If our country was working — just the basics of stable electricity, good roads, quality education, security and good jobs — who cares about America? The ultimate solution to tackling racist countries is for us to put our house in order. Trump’s words really hurt. Demeaning.


Impunity rides again By Wole Soyinka

Impunity rides again

By Wole Soyinka

It is happening all over again. History is repeating itself and, alas, within such an agonizingly short span of time. How often must we warn against the enervating lure of appeasement in face of aggression and will to dominate! I do not hesitate to draw attention to Volume III of my Intervention Series, and to the chapter on ‘The Unappeasable Price of Appeasement’.
There is little to add, but it does appear that even the tragically fulfilled warnings of the past leave no impression on leadership, not even when identical signs of impending cardiac arrest loom over the nation. Boko Haram was still at that stage of putative probes when cries of alarm emerged.

Then the fashion ideologues of society deployed their distancing turns of phrase to rationalize what were so obviously discernable as an agenda of ruthless fundamentalism and internal domination. Boko Haram was a product of social inequities, they preached – one even chortled: We stand for justice, so we are all Boko Haram! We warned that – yes indeed – the inequities of society were indeed part of the story, but why do you close your eyes against other, and more critical malfunctions of the human mind, such as theocratic lunacy? Now it is happening again. The nation is being smothered in Vaseline when the diagnosis is so clearly – cancer!

We have been here before – now, ‘before’ is back with a vengeance. President Goodluck Jonathan refused to accept that marauders had carried off the nation’s daughters; President Muhammed Buhari and his government – including his Inspector-General of Police – in near identical denial, appear to believe that killer herdsmen who strike again and again at will from one corner of the nation to the other, are merely hot-tempered citizens whose scraps occasionally degenerate into “communal clashes” – I believe I have summarized him accurately.

The marauders are naughty children who can be admonished, paternalistically, into good neighbourly conduct. Sometimes of course, the killers were also said be non-Nigerians after all. The contradictions are mind-boggling.

First the active policy of appeasement, then the language of endorsement. El Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, proudly announced that, on assuming office, he had raised a peace committee and successfully traced the herdsmen to locations outside Nigerian borders. He then made payments to them from state coffers to cure them of their homicidal urge, which according to these herdsmen, were reprisals for some ancient history and the loss of cattle through rustling. 

The public was up in arms against this astonishing revelation. I could only call to mind a statement by the same El Rufai after a prior election, which led to a rampage in parts of the nation, and cost even the lives of National Youth Service corpers. They were hunted down by aggrieved mobs and even states had to organize rescue missions for their citizens.

Countering protests that the nation owed a special duty of protection to her youth, especially those who are co-opted to serve the nation in any capacity, El Rufai’s comment then was: No life is more important than another. Today, that statement needs to be adjusted, to read perhaps – apologies to George Orwell: “All lives are equal, but a cow’s is more equal than others.”

This seems to be the government view, one that, overtly or by implication, is being amplified through act and pronouncement, through clamorous absence, by this administration. It appears to have infected even my good friend and highly capable Minister, Audu Ogbeh, however insidiously. What else does one make of his statements in an interview where he generously lays the blame for ongoing killings everywhere but at the feet of the actual perpetrators! His words, as carried by The Nation Newspapers:

“The inability of the government to pay attention to herdsmen and cow farming, unlike other developed countries, contributed to the killings.” The Minister continued:

“Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country….we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done enough for herdsmen, and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crisis we are witnessing today”

No, no, not so, Audu! It is true that I called upon the government a week ago to stop passing the buck over the petroleum situation. I assure you however that I never intended that a reverse policy should lead to exonerating – or appearing to exonerate – mass killers, rapists and economic saboteurs – saboteurs, since their conduct subverts the efforts of others to economically secure their own existence, drives other producers off their land in fear and terror.

This promises the same plague of starvation that afflicts zones of conflict all over this continent where liberally sown landmines prevent farmers from venturing near their prime source, the farm, often their only source of livelihood, and has created a whole population of amputees.

At least, those victims in Angola, Mozambique and other former war theatres, mostly lived to tell the tale. These herdsmen, arrogant and unconscionable, have adopted a scorched-earth policy, so that those other producers – the cassava, cocoa, sorghum, rice etc farmers are brutally expelled from farm and dwelling.

Government neglect? You may not have intended it, but you made it sound like the full story. I applaud the plans of your ministry, I am in a position to know that much thought – and practical steps – have gone into long term plans for bringing about the creation of ‘ranches’, ‘colonies’ – whatever the name – including the special cultivation of fodder for animal feed and so on and on.

However, the present national outrage is over impunity. It rejects the right of any set of people, for whatever reason, to take arms against their fellow men and women, to acknowledge their exploits in boastful and justifying accents and, in effect, promise more of the same as long as their terms and demands are not met. In plain language, they have declared war against the nation, and their weapon is undiluted terror. Why have they been permitted to become a menace to the rest of us? That is the issue!

Permit me to remind you that, early in 2016, an even more hideous massacre was perpetrated by this same Murder Incorporated – that is, a numerical climax to what had been a series across a number of Middle Belt and neighbouring states, with Benue taking the brunt of the butchery.

A peace meeting was called, attended by the state government and security agencies of the nation, including the Inspector General of Police.

This group attended – according to reports – with AK47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments. They were neither disarmed nor turned back. They freely admitted the killings but justified them by claims that they had lost their cattle to the host community.

It is important to emphasize that none of their spokesmen referred to any government neglect, such as refusal to pay subsidy for their cows or failure to accord them the same facilities that had been extended to cassava or millet farmers.

Such are the monstrous beginnings of the culture of impunity. We are reaping, yet again, the consequences of such tolerance of the intolerable. Yes, there indeed the government is culpable, definitely guilty of “looking the other way”. Indeed, it must be held complicit.

This question is now current, and justified: just when is terror? I am not aware that IPOB came anywhere close to this homicidal propensity and will to dominance before it was declared a terrorist organization. The international community rightly refused to go along with such an absurdity.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me state right here, and yet again, that IPOB leadership is its own worst enemy. It repels public empathy; indeed, I suspect that it deliberately cultivates an obnoxious image, especially among its internet mouthers who make rational discourse impossible.

However, as we pointed out at the time, the conduct of that movement, even at its most extreme, could by no means be reckoned as terrorism.

By contrast, how do we categorize Myeti? How do we assess a mental state that cannot distinguish between a stolen cow – which is always recoverable – and human life, which is not. Villages have been depopulated far wider than those outside their operational zones can conceive. They swoop on sleeping settlements, kill and strut. They glory in their seeming supremacy.

Cocoa farmers do not kill when there is a cocoa blight. Rice farmers, cassava and tomato farmers do not burn. The herdsmen cynically dredge up decades-old affronts – they did at the 2016 Benue “peace meeting” to justify the killings of innocents in the present – These crimes are treated like the norm.

Once again, the nation is being massaged by specious rationalisations while the rampage intensifies and the spread spirals out of control. When we open the dailies tomorrow morning, there is certain to have been a new body count, to be followed by the arrogant justification of the Myeti Allah.

The warnings pile up; the distress signals have turned into a prolonged howl of despair and rage. The answer is not to be found in pietistic appeals to victims to avoid ‘hate language’ and divisive attributions. The sustained, killing monologue of the herdsmen is what is at issue. It must be curbed, decisively and without further evasiveness.

Yes, Jonathan only saw ‘ghosts’ when Boko Haram was already excising swathes of territory from the nation space and abducting school pupils. The ghosts of Jonathan seem poised to haunt the tenure of Mohammed Buhari.