Tag Archives: Nigerian politics

Herdsmen Attacks: Nigeria on the verge of implosion – Tony Nyiam

HERDSMEN ATTACKS: NIGERIA MAY EXPL

Series of socio-economic challenges facing the country including problems of insecurity and other social vices have been traced to lack of visionary leaders in the country.
Making this submission in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, Colonel Tony Nyiam (retd) lamented that Nigeria has not been blessed with visionary leaders either in the years past or at present.
“Except for late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and to some extent, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nigeria since independence has not been blessed with visionary leaders, and this is why Nigeria has not made much progress in her 57 years of nationhood. Sadly, some of the people who emerged as leaders are not only parochial, they are weak, ineffectual and lack focus,” the former military chief involved in the Gideon Orkar’s attempted take over of power in 1989 declared.
Nyiam also spoke on other national issues including the Fulani herdsmen attack in Benue State, which led to loss of several lives, the controversial 1 billion dollars deduction by the Federal Government from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram, President Buhari’s leadership style and restructuring of the polity. Excerpts:
Some Nigerians have expressed concern about the recent killings in Rivers and Benue states, especially that of Benue where suspected Fulani herdsmen were on rampage attacking and killing innocent villagers. Do you see this as a good way for the nation, pining under so many challenges to start the New Year?
To me, what is responsible for all these crises all over the country can be traced to lack of visionary leadership. Except for late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and to some extent Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nigeria has not had visionary leaders, and our government is not hinged on vision, it is like having or taking action without reasoning. Reasoning controls actions. Nigerian leaders both past and present who are still alive should seek forgiveness from God for bringing the nation to this sorry state. Again in the case of Nigeria, we also need to seek spiritual rejuvenation because these things happening to us or taking place are not ordinary, they are not physical. To get things right in Nigeria, we have to restore the principles of justice, fairness, truth, equity, liberty, compassion and also our leaders should see to the general well being of citizens so that the objective of governance can achieve the desired goal. The objective of governance in Nigeria should reflect the thinking of the popular French philosopher which says greatest happiness to greatest number of people. Today, can we say that greatest number of Nigerians are happy? Obviously no, and this is why there is a need for our leaders to be visionary. Governance should be about greatest happiness to a greater number of citizens. Once a government or leaders lacks vision, anything such government or leader does will not work.
The New Year speech by President Buhari was a disappointment. First, his speechwriters were insensitive to the yearnings of majority of Nigerians. His speechwriters were also arrogant to mislead the President to think that he can lecture Nigerians on what they want by saying that the problems with Nigeria are processes and not structures. That statement lacked intellectual depth in the sense that Buhari’s speech writers should have told him that processes are pre-determined by the system in which processes work.
Processes or actions doesn’t operate in isolation, they are always context- bound. It is the structures that determine the processes, and effectiveness of processes, but processes do not exist on their own, they are always determined by the system in which the processes are being conducted. To that extent, Buhari’s speechwriters didn’t do Buhari a good job.
Secondly, Buhari needs to do what General Ibrahim Babangida used to do when we used to work with him. When you write a speech for Gen. Babangida, he would now engage the speechwriters in a discussion in order for him to have a good knowledge of the speech he wanted to read. It is wrong for Buhari to just take any speech they gave him to read without he, himself, having knowledge of what he was reading or about to read. I also believe that it was wrong for Buhari to say that it is ethnicity that is dividing us. But I believe that is wrong, rather our diverse ethnicity should have been an advantage to make Nigeria a very strong nation.
Are you saying that ethnicity …
(Cuts in) …  I know that Nigeria is made up of different ethnic nationalities, but what I’m saying is that, that diversity should have been turned into an advantage. The President should not have been emphasizing the ethnic diversity issue as a problem for the nation in his address. We should have been able to transform our diversity into a source of strength. Again it is wrong for President Buhari to have dismissed calls for restructuring. For Buhari to have made such dismissal, it means that Buhari has been grossly misinformed about what restructuring is all about. The problems we are having all over the country now are a consequence of lack of appropriate governance. That’s why we have these recurring clashes between the Fulani and host communities.
Buhari also appeared to have been misinformed about the clashes between Fulani herdsmen and host communities or Buhari and his aides are deliberately twisting the whole thing to  be as if the clashes are between Fulani and host communities. This is wrong. Fulani herdsmen are the aggressors. They are invaders. They are the ones unleashing violence on host communities, killing and maiming innocent citizens.
But the impression Buhari and fellow Fulani apologists want to create is that there are clashes between two parties. No. Clearly, it is the Fulani herdsmen that are the aggressors. They are the invaders. We should be able to call a spade a spade.
We are talking about invasion by Fulani herdsmen, and here our Inspector-General of Police is saying that it is a communal clash. What a shame. This mischievous and dubious talks by government officials like the Inspector-General of Police will not help matters. When there is an assault on an individual, then the person who assaulted the other party can’t now turn around to say that it is a fight between two parties.
To pretend that invasion of Benue communities by Fulani herdsmen is a communal clash is very unfortunate. In fact there was a prior warning about the invasion, and the state governors, Samuel Ortom cried out and the irony of it is that the governor of Benue State and the President belong to the same party, yet the President couldn’t do anything to forestall the attack by the herdsmen.
Why should Buhari order the Inspector-General of Police to go and fight well -armed herdsmen, whereas in minor cases involving militants and even demonstrators in the Southeast soldiers were deployed by the Federal Government? This amounts to double standards. Why this double standards? I think Buhari should help himself. Buhari through his own actions is undermining his own government, through his utterances, actions and inactions.
Where non-state actors like Fulani herdsmen are defying government, even defying Buhari himself is very sad. It’s been said that Buhari is even the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen, but, be that as it may, another leader of Miyetti Allah group has come out to condemn the invasion by Fulani herdsmen. What this means is that some people in the Miyetti Allah Association also believe that ultimately what some of these herdsmen are doing is not good in their own interests in the long run. Buhari’s frequent reduction of clear cases of the violent and sophisticated armed Fulani herdsmen invasion of other people’s lands, farms and communities to a case of two communities or two parties fighting is grossly unfair to the Middle Belt communities who have always been the victims.
Like I said in an earlier interview, Nigeria is cracking already and if we failed to do the needful now, it is a matter of time before the nation suffers implosion which may have terrible consequences. The only way to avert looming danger is for us to carry out restructuring. Things have never been this terrible. Nigeria is being turned into a killing field, and yet they tell us that we have a government in place, but what kind of government is that, that can’t protect lives of citizens, or what kind of government is that, that values lives of some citizens more than the others? Buhari should not pretend that he doesn’t know what restructuring is all about or believe that he can run away from restructuring. It is either we restructure or we suffer an implosion.

 

There is a lot of boiled up anger and tension in the land. Our leaders should not think that all is well – No. Buhari should not deceive himself or allow himself to be deceived that all is well. He should not allow a group of servile advisers to keep on deceiving him that all is well. Millions of Nigerians are hungry and angry.
Calls and agitations for restructuring should be taken serious by Buhari, otherwise when the looming implosion eventually happens, nobody can predict its consequences, but definitely it will have a devastating effect on the nation.
Let me define again what restructuring means for the benefit of those who don’t know what it means or pretending not to know what it means, Restructuring, simply put, means an appeal for the restoration, or for the enthronement of timeless and universal principles of justice, truth, fairness, equality and engendering of a sense of belonging in all the people and nations that make up Nigeria. The issue of restructuring is an issue of correcting injustice in the land – lack of fairness, and inequality has resulted in people not having a sense of belonging in the nation. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which can explode at any moment.
The sum of one billion dollars was recently ordered to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, by the Governors Forum to tackle Boko Haram insurgency, but the issue has polarized the Forum with two governors, Ayodele Fayose and Nyesom Wike kicking against it. Fayose had even gone to court to challenge the withdrawal while Wike demanded that a similar amount should be withdrawn to tackle environmental challenges in Rivers State, what’s your view on this?
Both Wike and Fayose are right. That withdrawal of 1 billion dollars to tackle insurgency is illegal, more so since it didn’t go through National Assembly for approval and neither was it appropriated for. I fully support their action in challenging the illegality. Wike is also right in demanding that 1 billion dollars should also be released from the Excess Crude Account to tackle environmental challenges in the Niger-Delta because while Niger-Delta has been suffering over the years from environmental oil degradation as a result of oil exploration, such a measure has never been taken like it is being done in the case of the Northeast where 1 billion dollars is being withdrawn to tackle Boko Haram insurgency. In the case of Boko Haram attacks, we are talking of human lives being affected, but I also want to ask our hypocritical leaders this question, is it not human lives that is involved in Niger-Delta where the zone has been suffering from ecological disaster over the years. What is even more annoying is the fact that this money being withdrawn to tackle crisis in the Northeast is got from Niger-Delta, while Niger-Delta where the money is got or which owns the money is neglected and abandoned. This is another case of double standard by the Buhari government. Buhari’s government is a government of double standards.
Again, that 1 billion dollars being withdrawn to tackle insurgency in the Northeast as they claim will provide another opportunity for looters. To me, it is a misplaced priority for government to be talking of using the 1 billion dollars to buy new equipment in order to contain the Boko Haram war. For me, this is a wrong approach.
Buying armoured tanks, and fighter jets is a waste of time because the Boko Haram war is not a conventional warfare where two armies faced one another directly in battle. What Boko Haram used mostly now is guerilla tactics, hit and run approach. Not only that, they also used suicide bombers. Do you now fight a suicide bomber with fighter jets or armoured tanks? What kind of battle tactic or strategy do you call that? That’s very defective. This is why I said earlier that the 1 billion dollars will be looted. It will provide easy money for some contractors and arms manufacturing firms. If at all 1 billion dollars is to be released to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, that money should be used to recruit more intelligence officers because what the Boko Haram situation now require is intelligence gathering, which will make it easier for Boko Haram suicide bombers to be detected through intelligence gathering. More personnel can also be recruited for armed forces, police and other security agencies. But like I said earlier, the double standard approach of Buhari’s government will create more problem for Nigeria. Ogoni, an oil producing community has been suffering serious neglect, and has been abandoned as a result of oil exploration, and the excuse the Federal Government has always been giving is lack of funds to start the clean up project, but when it now concerns the North, they find it easy to withdraw 1 billion US dollars to tackle the problem – what a double standard? The impression our leaders are giving is that some citizens are special more than others, but this should not be so. Buhari is showing too much bias for the Northeast and Northwest to the detriment of other geo-political zones in the country. But even in the Northeast, some areas are also marginalized by this administration. Non-Kanuri areas and Chibok areas in the Northeast are being marginalized by Buhari and this is not good for our nation. Buhari should behave like a visionary leader, a visionary leader is the one that not only sees all parts of the country as his own constituency, but also ensures that he doesn’t show preference or bias towards any section.
It is indeed a very big shame that 1 billion dollars oil money is being taken from Niger-Delta that produces oil to solve a problem in the Northeast, a non-oil producing community, whereas Ogoni, an oil producing community has been suffering from oil pollution that requires a massive clean up for several years now, but that community has been abandoned by the government citing lack of funds as an excuse for delaying the clean up project, so where is justice in all these? Most of these people who parade themselves as national leaders are deceitful. They are parochial, very partial and biased. We need visionary leaders to take Nigeria to greater heights.
It is very sad that Nigeria has been bereft of visionary leaders, and the nation is paying dearly for it. With all these crises here and there, what are your fears for Nigeria?
My fears for Nigeria is that we may suffer the consequences of lack of courage or failure to take right actions by our leaders. The present state of insecurity is very worrisome. Violence and bloodshed are on the ascendancy, and agitations for justice and equality are on the rise. Our leaders should not pretend that all is well. We are in a very explosive situation. This is not the Nigeria of the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers. The situation in Nigeria today is not only pathetic but also very worrisome – the only way out, the only way to save or prevent the looming implosion is restructuring. There is no alternative to restructuring. It must also be emphasized that as a matter of urgency, we need to have a group or platform that will comprise eminent, principled and people of integrity who are apolitical that will be saddled with the task of grooming visionary Nigerians that will later emerge as the nation’s leaders.
Nigeria’s growth and development has been stunted over the years as lack of visionary leaders. Without visionary leadership, Nigeria’s quest to attain greatness or desire to be in the league of great and powerful nations will only be a mirage.
What is happening in Nigeria today calls for sober reflections. All stakeholders should rise above partisan interests and think first of Nigeria as a nation. We should all strive to build a nation where fairness, equity and justice reign supreme.

Culled from The Sun

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Between Buhari and Kukah, Okogie, Onaiyekan et al 

Between Buhari and Kukah, Okogie, Onaiyekan et al

 
by Femi Odere


Going by recorded history, one can say without any fear of contradiction that the church (or Christendom in general) was integral to civilization as we know it. Modern laws and what is now referred to as international best practices that now pervade the nooks and crannies of the world are without question predicated on Western values and civilization. These laws and practices found accommodation with much of the world because they’re anchored on the supremacy of the humankind where morality, ethics and mores are the centrepiece. Since its advent, the church has not only been integral to the formulation of these laws and practices in accordance with its own Christian values, but it also became the catalyst from antiquity through which some of these laws and societal values were created.

It was later that the unflinching resolve of the church to redirect humanity from its barbaric dispositions towards a better civilization anchored on western values, most of which has their origins in Christianity, that the church stepped out of its immediate environment into Africa where savagery was then the norm. Therefore, the history of modern civilization that currently prevails in the African continent would not have been completed without the mention of the involvement of the church.

The interventions in state (political) matters of Nigeria’s clergy such as Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, therefore, may not be anything out of the ordinary as it can be said that the likes of Kukah are only following the footsteps of their forebears in religious activism. But the difference between these forebears and the likes of Bishop Kukah is that while these medieval personalities in Christendom leveraged on the respect that society conferred on them as representatives of God on earth to change society where good triumphed over evil, Nigeria’s clergy (for the most part) exploited—-and still exploits—-the high pedestal on which society place them to help maintain not only the evil socio-political status quo that chained down the people over which they constantly pray for their salvation and material abundance, but they also speak on behalf of the perpetrators (largely because of pecuniary gains) of these societal evils as we shall see presently.

Like his forebears, Kukah’s public expression of his views on issues of national importance is not only the result of the respect and prominence that his cassock confers on him, but also because of his command of a significant Christian troops, most of whom are probably strung out on that societal opium that may have irreversibly impeded their ability for independent thoughts.

The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie is also no stranger to the country’s ruling establishments (both military and civilian) and the Nigerian people. Cardinal Okogie is an equal opportunity societal castigator. As he’s never known to shy away from shoving it on the political class as and when due, he had also mocked the church establishment of which he’s a prominent member about some of its egregiousness.

But Okogie, quite unfortunately, has been shooting from the hip since Buhari’s emergence as the president in the fourth republic. Probably not to be outdone or outshined by both the Bishop and the Cardinal, the latest entrant into Nigeria’s dubious version of liberation theology in which its real goal is the return to status quo ante is the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese John Onaiyekan. He announced recently that he had purchased a new set of political gloves because he’s now involved in politics.

Speaking during the ordination of nine new priests recently, Archbishop Onaiyekan urged “Nigerians including religious leaders to be actively involved in politics [because] he is involved.” Going further in his declaration of his political involvement, Onaiyekan said “the leadership of Nigeria, as governed by the two major parties in the country, has not offered the people the desired change for a better Nigeria.” In reference to APC and PDP and a subtle jab at Buhari and his administration, Onaiyekan said “we have tested the two husbands now. Anyone who will tell us now that they will continue what they have been doing before will not help us.”

While the involvement in the political discourse and issues of national importance of Kukah and Okogie—-and now Onaiyekan—-of their environment is not in contention here (this should, in fact, be welcomed), the problem is the blatant and shameless hypocrisy behind their variant of liberation theology that has now gone into overdrive, most especially since the advent of the Buhari administration.

It would be recalled that almost immediately Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner of the 2015 presidential election, Bishop Kukah made a convoluted and nauseating declaration that the then president-elect should “not waste his time” in prosecuting the Jonathan administration. Sensing Buhari’s non-committal to that duplicitous and egregious statement, Kukah, hiding under the National Peace Council (NPC) commenced some sort of priesthood diplomacy to the presidential villa after Buhari’s inauguration not to discuss any policy initiatives that would guarantee protection for Christian worshippers wherever they may be in the wake of Boko Haram killing onslaughts in churches in the north, but to lobby President Buhari to leave Jonathan and the people in his administration alone because the former president had already achieved something “spectacular” —-a veiled reference to his having conceded the presidential election even before the final vote count. Frustrated that he was not getting any traction with the new president, Kukah attempted a blackmail of the president with his unsolicited reminder that “we’re not in the military era.”

The religious colouration of the corruption protection agenda which its most visible cheerleaders are the catholic clergy became self-evident when the respected Archbishop Anthony Olubumni Okogie joined the anti-Buhari bandwagon when he was reported to have said two years back that the president’s anti-corruption campaign would fail unless the government appeal to the conscience of the looters to voluntarily relinquish their loots. And there has been no let up in Okogie’s scathing criticisms of Buhari since his inauguration. Okogie’s own latest jab at the president was his condescending admonition, if not a rebuke—-on account of the likelihood that Buhari might seek re-election—-that the president should “respect himself and retire quietly” as he “has performed woefully.” Since Okogie did not mention how woefully Buhari has performed, one would have to leave that alone until an auspicious time. With Kukah and Okogie—-and now Onaiyekan—-one needs no further evidence of a society whose moral compass may have been damaged almost beyond repair. Cardinal Onaiyekan’s recent declaration that he has now purchased his own special gloves with which he’s ready to use the Buhari administration as his punching bag may well have completed the assemblage of the three musketeers in the priesthood.

Perhaps Onaiyekan’s willingness to get into the fray may be that he too can no longer endure another four years of Buhari because the illicit monies that used to ceaselessly flow into the church sanctuary has since been reduced to a miniscule trickle. No thanks to Buhari. While the collective resolve of the clergy to interrogate the politics of their environment (as earlier mentioned) should be seen as a welcomed development, one cannot help but wonder why these people were studiously silent during the reckless profligacy of the Jonathan years? Even if one is to assume that they may have been too busy and uninformed to recognise the bottomless perdition which the country was headed as a result of the most unprecedented corruption anywhere in the world under Jonathan, one must ask why they haven’t condemned the former president (as they did, and continues to condemn Buhari) on account of the mind-boggling revelations that has been insulting Nigerians’ sensibilities since May 2015?

Now that it’s all but certain that Buhari would ask for a second term (and he should, baring major health challenges) from the electorates for another four years in order to make it difficult, if not impossible, to revert to the ruinous path which the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) was recklessly headed, these men may have been enlisted, once again, to use their prominence in appealing to Nigerians’ religious sentiments by shouting Buhari down to submission not to seek re-election. Just as Nigerians did not yield to these voices of unreason in 2015 not to vote for Buhari, they would not be perturbed again this time by the antics of these hopelessly compromised “Cassockians” who have always been in cahoots with those that had mortgaged the country and the future of its citizens. We must be ready to stand at the barricade in these interesting times.


The President Nigeria Badly Needs

The President Nigeria Badly Needs

By Simon Kolawole

Nigerians were created for elections. We live for elections. We breathe elections. As one election is rounding off, we are already discussing the next one. In fact, before one election holds, we start doing permutations on the one after it. We are preparing for the 2019 presidential election, but already discussing 2023. Elections offer us the biggest excitement, like a kid and his candy. Who should we vote for? Whose turn is it? What are the cold calculations? It is not completely a bad idea to be in love with elections — that is a major pillar of democracy. The citizens are able to exercise their power of choice. To be excited about elections is in fact lovely.

However, for us Nigerians, elections are not seen as a means to an end; elections are an end in themselves. That is the impression I get all the time. The excitement should be about how elections can help us choose leaders that can take Nigeria out of the inglorious club of backward nations. The excitement should be about visions, about goals, about capacity. How can the ordinary people enjoy quality healthcare, sound education, constant power, excellent roads, clean water and assured security? How can food and shelter become affordable for the majority of our people? How can poor Nigerians begin to live like proper human beings?

I have taken time to study Nigerian leaders, both elected and unelected, from pre-Independence era till date. I studied not just presidents and heads of state but also premiers, ministers, governors, commissioners, heads of agencies, council chairpersons and councillors. I saw patterns. I saw characteristics. I saw high points. I saw low points. And I drew a number of conclusions. I will be discussing some of these conclusions in a series of articles. My aim today is fairly clear — I want to douse the perennial ecstasy about elections. We need to pay more attention to the purpose than the act. We are obsessed more with form than substance. We love rhyme more than reason.

Obviously, elections in themselves do not make a good or bad leader. You can vote for whoever you like — it is what the leader has in his head that will make the difference to the fortune of the country. Election-time rhetoric and sentiments serve a purpose, I won’t deny that, but they play very little role in the success or failure of a leader. So as we do analyses and permutations on who will win north-central and south-south in 2019, and where the running mate should come from, can we spare a moment to ask ourselves this question: where did previous permutations land us? Has Nigeria been getting better with every new permutation and excitement?

This is my digression today. The leaders Nigeria needs, the leaders we badly need, the ones we really, really need, are those who have a good mental picture of what the society should look like. That is the starting point. I have said this a zillion times: development does not happen by accident. We won’t stop importing petroleum products by accident. Our hospitals will not become centres of excellence by co-incidence. Our highways will not become smooth and safe through a miracle. The countries we admire today are a product of vision — that mental picture of what you want to be. Human beings sat down, drew up plans, implemented the plans and began to see results.

If, therefore, Mr. Lakasegbe wants to be president (or governor) with the single mind of making the society a better place, everything he does will be towards bringing this picture to reality. To what do I liken this? Let’s say you want to build a house. You have a mental picture of a five-bedroom storey building with a swimming pool and a garden, all rooms en suite and all that. You engage an architect and tell him what you want. He gives you a design. The quantity surveyor prepares the budget. You draw up milestones. You begin to engage the hands that will translate the design to a physical structure. Everything you do will be how to bring the house down from your head to the ground.

For Mr. Lakasegbe, ethnicity or religion wouldn’t matter so much to him in putting together his team to deliver his vision of Nigeria. Who voted for him and who didn’t vote for him wouldn’t be an item on his mind. The single mind would be like: I want Nigeria to be at a minimum of 30% level of South Korea in my first term and 60% if I get a second term. He will know that to be like South Korea, there are fundamental and foundational things that must be in good shape in critical sectors. He will automatically know that certain things are non-negotiable — education, healthcare, security, rule of law and physical infrastructure, such as roads and power.

In picking his core team, he will go for those who can make the dream come true, not people he owes favours. In building your house, you can afford to do favours in hiring labourers, but you cannot do favours in engaging engineers and builders. That is your core team. Good enough, there is no state, ethnic group or religion in Nigeria that does not have competent and qualified people, so Lakasegbe can still achieve balancing without sacrificing merit. Every decision, every policy will be geared towards realising the vision — not moving away from it. Even when he wants to adjust his plans to accommodate new realities, the single mind remains to achieve this vision.

Anyone in the team who is not helping the vision will be shown the exit door. Remember, the mental picture will get distorted if his helpers are not on the same page with him. Pruning and weeding is a continuous, natural process. Remember, too, that he must assess his goals and milestones to be sure the vision is on course. He will not steal or waste resources — or look the other way — because he surely knows every kobo is vital to the realisation of the vision. The determination to deliver on the vision, in spite of challenges and hindrance, will continue to be the biggest motivation. You don’t stop building a house because some “omo onile” are disturbing you.

This vision will be marketed as a national vision, as everybody’s vision, not his sole property. Selling the vision, planting the vision and sustaining the vision include having all hands on deck. Many leaders fail when they make themselves the Alpha and Omega of the vision. At that point, they fail to groom successors — they see themselves as the only one who can do it and tend to want to perpetuate themselves in power. Lakasegbe’s vision should be such that if he will do only one term, whoever succeeds him can carry on. A country like the UK has changed prime ministers several times in 11 years, yet the system is unshakable. That’s how to build a proper system!

In the history of Nigeria, we have not lacked visionary leaders. And that is a ray of hope. However, there has always been a major failing somewhere. Some got consumed by personal ambition, arrogance or greed. Some did not know how to play politics pragmatically in order to take hold of power at higher levels and be in a position to help change the country. Some were so self-centred they wanted to be all-in-all and therefore failed to groom a pool of successors — or help their mentees gain political power. At the end, Nigeria loses. We plan, we implement haphazardly, we fail. We take one step forward and two backward.

I am sorry to disappoint you if what you were expecting was an analysis of presidential candidates and my recommendation for 2019. I am aware that there are hot debates over President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, etc. I have passed that stage. I am no longer excited by all the permutations we do every four years. I am a young man but I can claim to have seen it all. My personal resolve, after experiencing so many disappointments, is that I will, in my little corner, continue to constructively engage with whoever holds power. They must use it in the interest of Nigeria’s progress.

I throw this challenge at the civil society: a lot of non-partisan work needs to be done in-between elections to hold the elected to account. We currently don’t do this well. We fall asleep after each election, waiting for the next one. The pressure to deliver is not really there for our leaders. Maybe we make an assumption that they know what to do and are deliberately failing. Well, if they don’t know, we have to put them on the right track. If they fail, we will all suffer the consequences. We usually say if a leader performs poorly, voters should get rid of him in the next election. Good point, but we also assume that a new leader will do better. I am no longer that optimistic.

I have resolved to encourage those in power to have a vision and a plan — if they never had any — and to pursue this with a single mind, though tribes and tongues may differ. Visioning is no magic. It is about using your brain, or borrowing other people’s brains. I insist that permutations at election times are secondary to development. I hope that in my lifetime, I will witness a Nigerian election in which our dominant ecstasy will be about visions and not emotions. I have resigned from the committee of those celebrating false dawns and getting excited over new rhetoric and new rhyme and new permutations. Once beaten, twice beaten, thrice beaten — I’m done.

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And Four Other Things…

KILLING FOR FUN

The Yoruba will say “if your dress harbours lice, your nails will continue to be stained with blood”. The ethno-religious killings in northern Nigeria have their roots in a history of intractable mutual hate and suspicion. Recently, though, things have been getting out of hand, usually between the herders, who are mainly Fulani Muslim, and farmers or local populace in mostly Christian areas. It is a case of aggression and reprisal — laced with accusations and counteraccusations of genocide. More is expected of President Buhari in tackling the gruesome bloodbath. I can see anger and disappointment everywhere over the less-than-decisive measures. Puzzling.

ON THE RICE

As usual, the one thing that drew big reaction from the New Year speech of President Buhari was his stand on restructuring. But he said something bigger that would put food on our table: Nigeria will become self-sufficient in rice this year. In simple English, we will stop importing rice. This should come with value addition, jobs and conservation of our currency reserves. Nigeria was one of the biggest importers of rice, meaning we were busy creating jobs in Thailand and Vietnam who did not even have embassies in Nigeria. Buhari must, however, remember to give credit to Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan who planted and watered the rice policy. Fairness.

RAILING AT BEN BRUCE

A tweet by Senator Ben Murray Bruce on the new Kaduna–Abuja train service has caused a storm. He said it was “entirely” the handiwork of President Jonathan. Governor Nasir el-Rufai countered, saying President Obasanjo initiated it. Both men are somewhat correct. Obasanjo conceived it (along with the Kano-Lagos rail). Yar’Adau stopped the project because initial payments were made from the excess crude account without appropriation or engineering design. Jonathan then did most of the work. President Buhari is completing it. Jonathan certainly deserves big credit. But I think we should be more worried that it took 12 years to deliver on a 200-kilometre rail. Shame.

LIBEL HANDCUFFS

Nigeria is the only country in the world where someone is arrested and handcuffed over an allegation of libel. A blogger was arrested on New Year’s Eve by the police over a publication considered libellous to the inspector-general. As a trained journalist, I know the implications of libel and I am worried by the amount of libel we publish everyday in Nigeria (I dare say no media outlet is exempt). But to the best of my knowledge, libel is a civil matter in civilised societies. It is only in banana republics that the criminal libel law is applied to the personal affairs of a public official. Nigeria is becoming a disgrace. This madness must stop. Immediatel

​The year Nigeria almost disappeared

The year Nigeria almost disappeared

By Simon Kolawole
It is time to confess my sins. All my adult life, I have never feared for the continued existence of Nigeria as much as I did in 2017. Anybody who knows me very well knows where I stand: I believe in one, united Nigeria. It is not that I am an incurable optimist or that I am the most patriotic Nigerian alive. It is just that after assessing all the issues that so easily bog us down, I have always come to the conclusion that we do not have irreconcilable differences that should inevitably lead to divorce. I have always believed that every ingredient, every resource needed to make Nigeria work is here with us. I’ve always concluded that we have been terribly let down by the ruling elite.
My stand on Nigeria — in the face of campaigns for its balkanisation along ethnic, religious and other sectional lines — has earned me plenty enemies. I know people who have stopped reading me because of that. In fact, one “egbon” I used to look up to accused me of pandering to certain sections of Nigeria as “a tactic for personal advancement, like Obasanjo (or Tinubu’s failed 2015 plan)”. He as much as said I was not a Yoruba “freeborn”. I was amused at the personal attack over differences in worldview. Of course, there is always a price to pay if you refuse to play the ethnic and religious card in political commentary, if you do not go with the flow — and that I know.
But I will be honest and confess that there were two events that shook my confidence in the unity of Nigeria in this outgoing year, so much so I got to the point of throwing up my hands in surrender and saying “it is all over”. One, the politics over the grave illness that befell President Muhammadu Buhari and kept him away in the UK for months. Two, the October 1 deadline issued to Igbo people to leave northern Nigeria because of the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. I had never been so scared about the possibility of another nationwide bloodshed and the risk of another civil war as much as I was in 2017.
Sometime in February, I was inside a bank when I got a call from a woman who lives in Jos, Plateau state. She sounded frightened. Let me paraphrase her: “There is a message going round in the north that Yoruba people have poisoned Buhari so that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would take over as president if he dies. They said the poison was placed on the curtains in Buhari’s office, that the Yoruba want to take power through the back door. The Hausa people here seem to believe this rumour. If Buhari dies, we are in trouble. They will start attacking and killing us. You know killing human beings means nothing to these people.”
I was confused. I didn’t know what to tell her. She spoke to me in a way that suggested I could do something about the rumours or the backlash that would follow if anything happened to Buhari on the hospital bed. As soon as we ended our conversation (I only said “I have heard you Ma and I will tell some contacts”), my head went into a spin. I started imagining things. If Yoruba were attacked in the north, there would be reprisal in the south-west. There would be turmoil again in the country. We could be back to the June 12 calamity of 1993 which effectively shut down Nigeria for five years. The damage to our economy is yet to be assessed and quantified.
In Buhari’s absence, things were happening at a dizzying pace. Different shades of rumours and theories flew all over the place. Far-reaching changes were effected in the military high command to such an extent that allegedly favoured northern officers. The word in town was that the military would rather take over than allow power to return to the south so “quickly”. Chief Bisi Akande, a senior member of the ruling party, issued a statement warning that what happened in 1993, when Bashorun MKO Abiola’s victory was annulled by the military, must not repeat itself.  There was fire in his eyes and his words were really clear, to borrow a line from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
Akande fired: “Let me warn today that those who wish to harvest political gains out of the health of the president are mistaken. This is not Nigeria of 1993. We are in a new national and global era of constitutionalism and order. We hope Nigerians have enough patience to learn from history. My greatest fear, however, is that the country should not be allowed to slide into anarchy and disorder of a monumental proportion.” Speaking in Lagos a few days later, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu advised the military against staging a coup, warning that “Lagos will resist you”. Those who were in Lagos in 1993 would understand the implications better.
I intensified my prayers for Buhari to regain his health and come back to Nigeria alive. This had nothing to do with the fact that I am unashamedly one of Buhari’s admirers, in spite of his obvious weaknesses. My concern was for Nigeria. If Buhari had died, the crisis would be unimaginable. Killings and counter killings. We all know that the biggest undoing of President Goodluck Jonathan, for some people, had nothing to do with his performance in office but the fact that he “usurped” power when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died. Jonathan could never do anything right in the eyes of those who wallowed in this mindset. I never wish to see a repeat in my lifetime.
While we were at it, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra was marked with pomp. The cries of marginalisation by the south-east reached a crescendo. Kanu enjoyed enormous airtime on TV/radio and lengthy inches in the newspapers. He was everywhere on social media. And then a group called Arewa youth whatever came up with the reckless declaration that all Igbo in northern Nigeria should vacate by October 1, 2017. I froze. We normally don’t run reports that promote ethnic hate and warmongering at TheCable, and I remember the editor, Mr. Taiwo George, asking my opinion on whether or not to run the story. I advised him it was too important to ignore.
I was fearful of the likely outcome of the ultimatum. If the Igbo did not quit as demanded, would they be attacked and killed in the north? Wouldn’t the Igbo also retaliate in the south-east? Would the tit-for-tat stop there or degenerate into a bloodbath that would bring back memories of 1966-67 and lead us into another civil war? My biggest fear was that even if the Arewa youth eventually withdrew the quit notice, the people on the streets might still go ahead and attack Igbo people. The group was playing a very dangerous game and toying with emotive issues whose consequences no one could predict. In all honesty, I was really, really scared.
I began to review my positions on the unity of Nigeria. In my mind, I started moving away from “One, United Nigeria” to “anybody that wants to go should go”. After all, South Sudan left Sudan. Eritrea ditched Ethiopia. Soviet Union broke up. Yugoslavia disintegrated. Deep down my heart, I still desired one Nigeria — a rainbow coalition whose strength is in its diversity. But I came to the conclusion that while ordinary Nigerians have learnt to live with, and tolerate, one another, the political gladiators — including their intellectual sidekicks — are bent on pursing the agenda of balkanisation. The political class has continued to disappoint and manipulate the ordinary Nigerians.
In the chaos though, I was comforted by the moves made by prominent Nigerian leaders to douse the tension. As a journalist, I was privy to some of the underground peace moves made by prominent statesmen. Many of them do not talk openly but are selflessly working day and night to prevent ethnic and religious conflagration in Nigeria. In the end, the Arewa ultimatum was withdrawn and Igbo were not attacked in the north. My fears melted. Well, the elites are masters of brinksmanship. Most importantly, though, Buhari did not die. I honestly can’t say if Nigeria would still be in this shape if Buhari had not returned alive. God be praised.
Okay, Nigeria has survived another turbulent year. There is peace. But the best conclusion would be that this is the kind of peace you find in a graveyard. The issues always exploited by the political elite are still there. It is only a matter of time before these sentiments are whipped up yet again in the competition for political power and patronage. We have survived yet another turbulence that tested the foundation of our nationhood. I continue to wish that the unity of Nigeria would be strengthened. I wish the agents of balkanisation would have a rethink. But I am intelligent enough to know that we have not seen the last of it. Nevertheless, I remain a believer in one Nigeria.

PRESIDENT WEAH
Simon Kolawole
I first heard of the name George Weah in 1988. Iwuanyanwu Nationale had defeated Tonnerre Kalara of Yaoundé, Cameroon, 2-0 in the first leg, second round of the African Club Champions Cup (now called CAF Champions League) in Owerri. They were suddenly gasping for breath as the Liberian mercilessly terrorised their defence in the return leg. Iwuanyanwu still managed to beat them 3-2 after all the drama. Weah would go on to Europe to do great things. He has now been elected president of Liberia in the most fascinating fashion — including returning to school to get university education after his first failed presidential bid in 2006. What a strike! Sensational.
ON YUSUF BUHARI
Simon Kolawole
My prayers and wishes are with the First Family over Yusuf Buhari’s motorbike accident on Tuesday night. From what we are hearing, the president’s only surviving son suffered serious injuries in the accident. Biking and car racing are dangerous sports that are not yet properly regulated in Nigeria — even though they have been with us for a while. It is usually the children of the rich who engage in these sports here. I would suggest that, if possible, the useless velodrome at the national stadium, Abuja, should be converted to a racing arena so that people can exercise their hobbies in a safer environment. Government could even earn revenue from it. Commonsense.
OIL DOOM
Simon Kolawole
The time has come for us to finally admit that Nigeria is a country like no other. It is the only OPEC member that imports petrol! It is the only country that has refineries that are not working! It is the only country that regularly spends billions on “turn around maintenance” of its refineries without results — and yet continues to hold on to those refineries! It is the only country in the world, bar warzone, where fuel scarcity and fuel queues are integral to national culture! It is the only country in the world that does not have the competence to import petrol! It did not start today. It won’t end today. That is why we are Nigerians. Jokers.

BROUGHT IN DEAD
Simon Kolawole
Nigerians have been having fun on the social media over the latest round of appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari. Far from the usual ethno-religious analysis, the interest this time is in the comical inclusion of names of dead people on the list. You call that posthumous national service! Something tells me most of the appointees were nominated in 2015 when Buhari’s supporters thought he would hit the ground running, but somebody did not bother to do due diligence before throwing the list to the media in 2017. If the list was indeed prepared in 2015, does it mean it took over two years to make it public? Killjoys.

Presidency defends presence of dead people on board appointment, says list prepared two years ago

Board appointments list prepared two years ago, says Presidency
Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The Presidency on Saturday said there was nothing “scandalous or extraordinary” in the inclusion of the names of some dead persons in the list of appointments into boards of some agencies released by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Friday.

It said the list had been prepared over two years ago and nobody could stop some of those included on the list from dying between then and now.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, gave the clarification in an interview with journalists in Abuja.

Shehu recalled that the process of compiling the list started in 2015 while a reviewed list was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017 shortly before his health challenges.

The presidential spokesman said having recovered fully, Buhari only instructed the new SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, to release the list.

He assured Nigerians that nominees who are dead would be replaced.

He explained, “This list is a historical list. It dates back to 2015. The President asked all state chapters of the APC to forward 50 names for appointments to the SGF through the national headquarters of the party.

“The then SGF, Babachir Lawal, presented the report in October 2016, one year after he was commissioned.
“The report was disputed by state governors who said they were not carried along or the list was not representative enough.

“So, the President constituted a new panel chaired by the Vice President. The panel has some governors and some leaders of the party as members. They were asked to go and review the list.

Nigerians Score Buhari 52% on Governance

Nigerians Score Buhari 52% on Governance

Bayelsa, Abia, Kogi, others get low performance ratings
Police is least trusted security outfit
Ndubuisi Francis and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Nigerians have given President Muhammadu Buhari a job performance rating of 52 per cent on governance in the 2017 national poll conducted by NOIPOLLS.

The survey was for the months of April and May 2017.
The national poll is the flagship offering of NOIPolls, the premier public opinion polling institution, which conducts extensive polls reflecting the opinions and attitudes of Nigerians on various sectors, topics and social, economic and political issues.

Unveiling the report at a press conference in Abuja thursday, the chief executive of NOIPOLLS, Dr. Bell Ihua, said the survey showed that Nigerians rated the job performance of Buhari at 52 per cent on governance.

Unsurprisingly, the highest approval rating of 75 per cent was polled from the president’s geopolitical zone–the North-west while his lowest approval of 19 per cent came from the South-east geopolitical zone.

“These regional variations arguably reflect not only the voting patterns during the 2015 presidential election, but also speak to the pattern of agitations and counter-agitations since President Buhari came to power,” the survey noted.

The poll also rated the president on specific sectors on a four-point scale, where 1 stood for poor and 4 stood for excellent.

From the results, the highest average score of 2.3 points each were obtained for the president’s performance on security and agriculture while the worst ratings of 1.8 points each were for his performance on the economy and poverty alleviation & job creation.

Sixty per cent of those polled said they were dissatisfied with the president’s handling of the economy.

The poll also sought the opinion of Nigerians regarding Buhari’s anti-corruption war.
The results showed that while 91 per cent of Nigerians believe corruption is still a major issue in the country, 58 per cent were of the opinion that the president’s anti-corruption war was working, with 42 per cent responding to the contrary.

The job performance of state governors was also assessed by Nigerians.
From the results, as rated by citizens resident in each of the states, the top performing states were Katsina (86 per cent), Sokoto and Kano (with 83 per cent each), Adamawa (82 per cent), Zamfara and Jigawa (80 per cent each), Kebbi (79 per cent), Niger (73 per cent), Yobe (71 per cent) and Anambra (66 per cent).

On the other hand, the ten least performing states were identified as: Bayelsa (12 per cent), Abia (15 per cent), Delta (18 per cent), Imo (19 per cent), Borno (24 per cent), Kaduna (28 per cent), Kogi (30 per cent), Benue (34 per cent), Bauchi (35 per cent) and Kwara (38 per cent).
In terms of institutional effectiveness, Nigerians had the opportunity to assess the performance of 17 public institutions with a regular interface with the populace.

The results revealed that the top five institutions considered effective by Nigerians were the military (72 per cent), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC 65 per cent), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC 63 per cent), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration & Control (NAFDAC 61 per cent), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC 59 per cent).

On security, the poll reported that while 65 per cent of Nigerians feel safe in their localities, 35 per cent do not feel secure.

In line with this perception, about a third of the population (33 per cent) said they were aware of a robbery incident, and 13 per cent said they knew of a kidnapping within their locality in the last 12 months.

On the rating of government’s response to threats of violence in the country, 48 per cent expressed their satisfaction with the response. On the contrary, 50 per cent of Nigerians expressed dissatisfaction with government’s response to threats of insecurity, particularly amongst residents of the South-east (83 per cent) and South-south (79 per cent) geopolitical regions.

Nigerians were also asked to rate their level of trust for organisations involved in providing security.

The results revealed that the military topped the list of such organisations with 77 per cent, followed by vigilante groups and community security (64 per cent). On the other hand, the Nigeria Police were identified as the security institution with the least level of trust with only 35 per cent.

Source: ThisDay

INEC confirms double registration by Kogi governor, sacks three members of staff

INEC Confirms Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, Registered Twice

Yahaya Bello

Dismisses staff guilty of double registration, registers 21 political parties
To act on court ruling on Anambra Senate seat
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has confirmed that the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, engaged in double registration during the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in his state, effectively violating the Electoral Act.

In a statement issued Thursday night by the commission’s National Commissioner & Member, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC also said that 21 associations have fulfilled the constitutional requirements for registration as political parties.

With the new development, the total number of registered political parties in Nigeria is now 67.
The commission said following reports of alleged double registration by the governor of Kogi State in the on-going CVR exercise, the commission had set up a panel of investigation into the involvement of staff in the matter.

It explained that the initial report submitted by the panel was referred to the Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee, which made recommendations to the commission.

However, the commission said that it was constrained from acting on Bello’s culpability because he currently enjoys “immunity from prosecution”, but had ordered the dismissal of two of its personnel involved in the matter for gross misconduct.

It also ordered the compulsory retirement of an electoral officer involved in the illegal act for gross misconduct.

The statement read: “Following reports of the alleged double registration by the governor of Kogi State in the on-going Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, the commission set up a panel of investigation into the involvement of staff in the matter.

“The initial report submitted by the panel was referred to the Appointment, Promotion and Disciplinary Committee, which made recommendations to the commission.

“While the governor of Kogi State currently enjoys immunity from prosecution, the commission took the following decisions in respect of its own staff: Summary dismissal of two staff for acts of gross misconduct, immediate and compulsory retirement of an electoral officer for acts of gross misconduct.”

The commission also stated that it had registered 21 new associations that had fulfilled the constitutional requirements for registration as political parties.

The names of the new political parties are, All Blending Party (ABP), All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Coalition for Change (C4C), Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN), Justice Must Prevail Party (JMPP), Legacy Party of Nigeria (LPN), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Modern Democratic Party (MDP), National Interest Party (NIP), National Rescue Mission (NRM), New Progressive Movement (NPM), Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP), People’s Alliance for National Development and Liberty (PANDEL), People’s Trust (PT), Providence People’s Congress (PPC), Re-Build Nigeria Party (RBNP), Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP), and Sustainable National Party (SNP).

In addition, INEC said that it would soon take a decision on the re-run election for the Anambra Central Senatorial District earlier scheduled for January 13, 2018, but which has now been affected by a ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

In this regard, the commission said it has applied for the Certified True Copy of the judgment to enable it to take a decision on the Senatorial seat.

Following the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the senatorial re-run election should go ahead, the commission had slated the Anambra Central Senatorial District poll for January 13.

However, the commission said in the statement that its attention had been drawn to the judgment of the Federal High Court on the issue on December 13 and was waiting for the Certified True Copy of the ruling to enable it to make a decision on the issue.

Source: ThisDay