Tag Archives: opinion

​If Nigeria Finally Breaks up… 

If Nigeria Finally Breaks up…

By Simon Kolawole

I hate divorce. I have been using an Airtel mobile line since 2001 when GSM services were launched in Nigeria. And even though they have changed their name from the original Econet to Vodacom (for about five minutes) to Vmobile to Celtel to Zain and finally to Airtel, I did not consider “porting” for one day. In fact, I still have my original Econet SIM card in my locker. I reluctantly changed it when I bought a smart phone and needed all this nano stuff. I have suffered a lot of discomfort with my 0802 in 16 years — poor network, dropped call, overbilling, failed roaming and slow data. But through it all, I remained committed to my choice. Such is my attachment to relationships.

Let me now contradict myself. Recently, I walked into a branch of Access Bank Plc to close my account. As I completed the formalities, left the banking hall and the door closed itself behind me, I was broken-hearted. I had been banking with them since 2004. I used to love the bank and their services so much that I became an unpaid marketer. But after struggling in the last one year to resolve issues on my account without luck, I painfully told myself divorce was inevitable. I believed I had done all within my power and, for my sanity, I needed to move on. And so it is for many relationships — they collapse because divorce is about the only option left.

So here you have my dilemma: if indeed I hate divorce, why did I end my 13-year-old relationship with the bank? Why am I enduring one relationship and discarding the other? Double standards? Hypocrisy? These two experiences will come handy in today’s discussion, which is on Nigeria’s strained nationhood. Many of my friends have often challenged me — and even mocked me — over my opinion that Nigeria can work and that we should remain one. They say that I’m being naïve, that I’m playing to the gallery, that I’m trying to be “politically correct”. I doubt if these categorisations describe me well. I write out of personal conviction. And, well, I hate divorce.

There are ongoing calls to dismantle the Nigerian federation, ongoing for decades actually. These calls are presented in different formats and with different motives. There are those who genuinely believe that for Nigeria to make progress, it needs to balkanise. I have come across people who argue sincerely that Nigerians don’t belong together and our differences are too sharp for us to forge a workable nationhood. But there are also those making these calls purely for political gain — not out of any authentic conviction. I’m also super convinced that some opportunists are riding on the back of these agitations to fight back at President Muhammadu Buhari.

My argument against balkanisation, or divorce, is based on my relationship with Airtel. Even though things get bad at times, I have not ported to another network because I am not sure I will be better off. Telecom operators in Nigeria face similar challenges: high capital replacement costs, poor power supply, unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure, lack of security for equipment and facilities, persistent fibre cuts, multiple taxation, inability to raise tariffs to defray increasing costs, and so on. All these hamper their operations. Changing from one network to another guarantees nothing. I would rather stick with the devil I know than the angel I don’t know.

The same thing applies to Nigeria. Most Nigerians suffer from the same challenges: no water, no power, no security, as well as inept and corrupt leadership, starting from our local government areas. But we have been programmed to think our problem is someone from another part of the country — hence the campaign for divorce. I have randomly asked ordinary Nigerians from all “tribes and tongues” about their most urgent needs and their answers are so similar. They all complain about bad roads, bad schools, bad medical care, bad electricity supply, bad everything! People complain about their council chairmen as much as they complain about their governors.

I do not know of any state in Nigeria where the children of a governor or a minister attend public primary and secondary schools. I do not know of any governor that receives treatment from a primary health care centre closest to their mansion. North or south, Yoruba or Fulani, Muslim or Christian! The leaders take good care of themselves. In the national assembly, the lawmakers are sharing money and cars like kolanuts — and I am yet to hear that a Muslim senator or a Christian house member rejected his own. What this tells me is that it is not one part of the country or one religion that is the problem — it is the human beings we call leaders. How does divorce resolve this?

There seems to be an assumption, or a settled notion, that the moment we break up, the people formerly known as Nigerians will, like magic, start enjoying abundant flow of water, 24/7 security, excellent primary and secondary education, great medical care, unspeakable infrastructural development and all that make human beings feel like human beings. I wish I could share in this optimism. There seems to be this prevalent logic that balkanisation is the magic formula to the inept and corrupt leadership pillaging Nigeria at every level. I wish I were this optimistic. The Nigeria I see is under attack by political vultures, regardless of their ethnic and religious identities.

Most Nigerian politicians, I dare say, are genetically and endemically of the similar quality. If Nigeria finally breaks up and we are still ruled by the same hardened criminals who rejoice in oppression — their greed and wickedness undiluted — the gory tale of the latter house will be worse than the former. It will only lead to the restructuring of our suffering. It will only lead to the multiplication of the sorrows of our people. I know many people who have ported from one mobile network to another only to regret it shortly thereafter. You would hear them say: “This one is even worse!” Just as the telcos are alike, so are our problems alike across the 36 states and 774 LGAs.

It was very easy for me to close my account with one bank because I knew I could enjoy better services elsewhere. This is no counter factual. I have accounts with other banks and I have been enjoying better services, so I was not leaving the known for the unknown. Rather, I was moving from a known bad service to a known better service. I had tasted and seen before taking my decision. If I have this assurance with balkanisation, if I have tasted another part of Nigeria and I am sure things can only get better when we break up, I will certainly stop being naïve, stop playing to the gallery, and stop trying to be politically correct. I will wake up and smell the Utopia.

I will like to say something though. Some things happen in this country that get me angry and make feel maybe balkanisation is the way out. I hate it when some people think they own the country and their wishes must always prevail. At such times, thoughts of balkanisation cross my mind. But then I realise that as it is in Abuja, so it is in the states and local governments. There is hardly any part of Nigeria where some people don’t behave arrogantly and leave others feeling marginalised. My fear then is that the more you break up Nigeria, the more you magnify local differences and awaken latent conflicts. What was not a big issue before sudden erupts and gets a life of its own.

I have many examples to cite. In Oyo state, Oke Ogun are complaining about being relegated in the power equation. In Ogun state, the Ijebu want their own state. In Lagos, the Awori have been grumbling. Funny enough, someone once told me that when Awo was premier of the Western Region, he was busy developing Ibadan with cocoa revenue from Ondo! For years, Nsukka people complained of marginalisation in Enugu state, the same with Ukwa/Ngwa people in Abia state. In core northern states, Christians complain that they are denied state sponsorship of pilgrimage as well as appointments and land to build churches. Balkanisation hardly eradicates conflicts.

For those who genuinely believe breaking up Nigeria will suddenly lead to competent and patriotic leadership, where is the evidence? What is fuelling this ecstasy? As I had no hesitation in closing my bank account because I knew I was moving to a better place, I will also have no hesitation in changing camps if better leadership is assured in a balkanised Nigeria. No sane human being will want to live in a country full of rancour and tension if he has the assurance of living in peace and prosperity in another. But what is that assurance? And why should divorce always be the first option in marital conflict? What is the guarantee that your next spouse will be better than the current one?

Culled from ThisDay

​Not too young to run? That’s only half the problem

Not too young to run? That’s only half the problem

By Yemisi Adegoke, Contributor  

In certain schools of political thought, from time to time, the elite classes drop crumbs of hope to pacify the masses. These crumbs are dropped to propagate the belief that a shift is underway that will eventually lead to real political change. The passing of the Not Too Young to Run Bill, is one of those crumbs.

Passed by the Senate last month, the Bill will lower the age of qualification for political aspirants running for presidency, governorship and other political offices. For the office of the Presidency, the age of qualification has been reduced from 40 to 30, Governorship from 35 to 30, Senate from 35 to 30, House of Representatives from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly from 30 to 25. The Bill will also allow for independent candidates to run for office, sidestepping the need for political parties.

Though the Bill still has some hoops to go through before taking effect, the move by the Senate has been lauded by many as a sign of change, even a positive ‘call to arms’ for the youth, showing that the upper echelons seek to promote equality and level the playing field by encouraging young people to take a more active role in society.  

Following in the footsteps of Nigeria’s example, the UN’s Envoy on Youth has partnered with other agencies in a bid to take the Not Too Young To Run movement worldwide. And in theory it makes sense. According to the UN, there are more young people in the world now, than ever before, and approximately 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 . In Nigeria, over 60% of the population is under the age of 25. The median age of the country is 18, placing it in the top 20 youngest countries in the world. If population estimates are to be believed, this is a trend that is likely to continue.

But these numbers aren’t reflected in the country’s politics, with Nigeria’s leadership much older than the population. The current president is 74, the vice president is 60 and the senate president is 54. Of the 105 listed Senators on the NASS website, none are in their 30s, the youngest is 43. After a reportedly strong youth turnout in the 2015 election, it would seem obvious that the passing of this Bill, would only strengthen the youth, but will it?

Youth participation in politics on every level is important and should be encouraged, but just like old age is not necessarily an indicator of wisdom, youth alone is not an indicator of the potential for good governance.  There is a need for the country’s leadership to reflect its populace, but just as an older politician can be out of touch, corrupt and inept, so can a young one. Nevertheless, anything that will increase the impact of the youth in politics is surely worthwhile, unfortunately, the bill in and of itself will likely do very little to change the current order and politics will still remain very much in the grip of the elite.

A 2015 research paper into the cost of politics by Adebowale Olorunmola shows the exorbitant costs that come with wanting to serve the nation. To run for office, the current president paid a whopping N27.5 million (N2.5 million for expression of interest and N20 million for a nomination fee) the opposition candidate would have paid N22 million. In a country where the minimum wage is N18,000 a month and 70% of the population live below the poverty line, it’s difficult to see how the office of the president is a realistic ambition for the average citizen, talk less of a young person.

Governorship fees are just as outrageous, totalling N5,500, 500 for the APC and N11,000,000 for the opposition. The “cheapest” option is a run at the House of Representatives which under the APC costs N2, 200,000 and under the opposition N2,400,000. Calls to increase the minimum wage have fallen on deaf ears and the youth unemployment rate is at an abysmal high, so how can we honestly suggest that the playing field has shifted even remotely?

High fees aside, we cannot ignore the grip of corruption and godfatherism on virtually every level of Nigeria’s politics. “Godfathers are mostly instrumental to the emergence of virtually every successful candidate from whichever state they control,” reads Olorunmola’s report. “The godfathers are typically above the law and able to mobilize support, money and violence for candidates.”

With such a firm grip on power that shows no sign of diminishing, how then does lowering the voting age factor into making politics more fair, or political office any easier to attain?  It doesn’t.

If youth participation in politics was really important, then as well as reducing the age of qualification, why aren’t fees being drastically reduced to represent the wage structure of the country? Why aren’t there more avenues for young people to learn what good governance entails through internships and fellowships?

Reducing the age qualification without tackling any of these other major barriers to office is just another crumb from the elite to help uphold the belief that change is afoot, when it’s really just another smokescreen.

Source : The Guardian 

Weep not Ozubulu: Our vultures have come home to brood

Weep not Ozubulu: Our vultures have come home to brood

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo Weep not Ozubulu.

We weep with you. Ozubulu, you are not alone. We are with you. We are you. What a man sows, he shall reap. We taught our youths ruthlessness. We filled them with the love of money. We had no jobs for them. We catapulted them far and wide.

We sold ancestral lands to procure visas. They besieged South Africa with greed. They didn’t find milk and honey. They took to bloodletting, drugs and violence. They menaced their hosts.

When the South Africans raised their brows, we called them ingrates. We reminded them how we fought Botha and De klerk, for them. When they sought to take back their streets, we called it xenophobia.

Our vultures,Ozubulu, have come home. We used to purge ourselves of thieves and robbers and drug dealers. We used to find repugnance in ill gotten wealth.

Now, our moral compass is lost. We threw away Amadioha for Jesus. But it is with money that we have pitched. We have lost our souls. So our boys leave the village empty, and head to south Africa with only desperation.

They come back with bags of money , blood and drug money. And we fall over them. We no longer have taboos. They will build huge mansions and they will become sign posts. “When you get to the red and white castle, you turn right….”

At Christmas, they are the peacocks. We gather and envy evil. They donate to the church and they are made knights. They build roads and become role models. They give cash handouts and the elderly shower blessings on them.

The elderly, they have become as impressionable as children. They mock conscientious youths— – “look at your mates!”

The children watch and imbibe the wrong values. We have blurred all the lines, we have chosen blindness.

With us, no philanthropy is dubious. So drug lords become chiefs rather than thieves. They are venerated. Women want their daughters to marry ‘ndi south,’ as they are fondly called.

Men queue up early in the mornings at their gates. They are not really there to beg for fish. They go to beg that their sons are taught how to fish in the deep waters of South Africa; that they are taken as apprentices; that they are shown ‘the way.’

They want their own to ‘make it’ like others. It is written, money destroys the understanding of the wise. It must be worse in Nigeria where there are many booby traps and no social safety nets.

You can retire from the senior civil service into delayed pensions and abject penury. So values can be mere niceties.

That is why we ask no questions. We refuse the urge to ask questions. We know the answers. We don’t want to know. They are businessmen. They are kind-hearted philanthropists. They are children of God. Fathers once prayed that their sons took the oath of celibacy. And became catholic priests. Now, they pray that their sons make tons of money and build huge cathedrals. And everywhere you go, you are confronted by synagogues built by the filthiest of men.

The idea that God can be settled has fuelled unbridled covetousness. Bishops gather and consecrate churches built by men of the underworld.

They, like their counterparts in politics, give the glory for the triumph of evil to God.

The Bishops don’t just turn the church into a den of thieves, they dismantle the moral framework of the society. The Bishops have provoked many to call for the return of Amadioha. The Bishops lay hands on the heads of the gangsters. The gangsters lay hands on the weary pockets of the bishops and leave them heavy laden. The exchange is completed. The Bishops will then lapse into esoteric theology to deaden their conscience. They will remember God said, judge not! Because that would allow them to close their eyes to the filth. They will proclaim: ‘All have sinned.’ That would allow them to pinch their noses and forget the stench.

They will say the church is a spiritual hospital. So in essence nothing and no one is too rotten.

So the rotten money bags are sinners on the mend. Their offerings are cleansed and clean.

The Bishops and the gangsters all remain lords. They wont say –- ‘whatever you sow you shall reap.’ Because that would mean that a foundation laid with the blood of others would have a bloody appetite.

They are men of faith. Only with their eyes shall they behold the works of the wicked. They have covered themselves and all generous donors (partners) with the inexhaustible blood of Jesus. They won’t tell themselves that Chinua Achebe said that whoever takes an ant infested firewood home invites lizards for lunch.

They won’t, because they are not of this world. They are the citizens of Zion. Whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven .

They won’t tell anyone about the day Jesus chased out money changers from the church. Because that would mean their own quit notice.

They won’t tell that on that day, Jesus actually knew that all had sinned and fallen short, yet he chased out only money changers. He chased out those who had corrupted, perverted, the purpose of the synagogue.

Weep not Ozubulu. You paid the price. Yours are the handwriting on the wall. The forerunner of that which is to come.

Wily politicians cannot be relied upon to confront a demon that frolics with bishops.

The church must redeem itself. When advertised fraudsters became traditional rulers and governors and legislators, we knew we would pay handsomely.

When we sent out boys and grinned as they sowed tears and blood in South Africa, we knew we would pay heavily.

We know the chickens would come back home to roost, one day. They, their guns, the drugs, their blood thirstiness and the violence.

Chickens always come home to roost. Our vultures are coming home to brood.

Weep not Ozubulu. We weep with you.

My deepest condolences to the victims.

Culled from Vanguard

Jonathan’s house as metaphor

Jonathan’s house as metaphor

By Paul Onomuakpokpo | 

So former President Goodluck Jonathan house was plundered? While this is a personal misfortune to the former president, it serves as a fortuitous reminder to both the leaders and the citizens of the demands of nation building amid the despoliation of the national patrimony by those paid to watch over it.

At the outset, we need to state in unequivocal terms that our humanity is by no means vitalised by the troubles of others or what the Germans would identify as Schadenfreude. At the same time, we owe no fidelity to the philosophy of not speaking ill of the dead which deprives us of the reflection that could yield useful lessons for our own lives. Thankfully, in this case, we do not speak ill of a dead Jonathan but a man who has not yet passed the bloom of life and still has so much ahead of him. You need not doubt this – think of Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Donald Trump who offered to serve their nations in their seventies and the point becomes clear.

Jonathan’s four-bedroom duplex in Abuja was stripped bare of all valuables. These included six television sets, three refrigerators, one gas cooker, furniture, electronics, toilet and electrical fittings and internal doors and frames. The suspected masterminds of this larceny are those charged with the responsibility of guarding the house.

Jonathan has publicly confirmed reports that the house was burgled. But this public confirmation might have been spurred by the need to dispel wild speculations about the caches of luxuries in the house that threw into stark relief his implacable acquisitive character. This public acknowledgement only came after he had reported the case to the inspector-general of police who did not waste time in arresting the policemen who are suspected to have committed the crime.

In these climes, shoeless children of impecunious parents leave public office as wealthy citizens. Indebted ex-convicts leave public office and become owners of secondary schools, universities, posh hotels and vast land. Even those with dubious certificates end up becoming richer than their states after leaving public office. Against the backdrop of the massive corruption that is said to have bogged down his administration, Jonathan may not be considered different from other political leaders. He may not have only this house lying idle somewhere in Abuja. The policemen had the freedom to burgle the house simply because Jonathan has not been living there. This house may not even be as important to Jonathan as other property he has. Yet the sense of outrage that has compelled him to report the case to the police cannot escape our attention.

The former president did not say that because the house was not important to him, he would not protect it by making those responsible for the despoliation to go unpunished. Now, let’s strip this of its innocuous character and we are confronted with the national tragedy that has robbed us as a people of development. If the former president could be so concerned about his house, which apparently is serving no purpose, why do our leaders find it unthinkable that the citizens protest when their nation is pillaged by those put in place to ensure its prosperity? In this case, those citizens who say that others should not complain about the plundering of the commonwealth are complicit in the wrecking of the nation by their supposed protectors.

The nation suffers ruination at the hands of its leaders when due to the mismanagement of its abundant natural and human resources, millions of the citizens are rendered jobless. Daily, these are confronted with an increasingly bleak prospect of starvation and lack of educational opportunities. Again, there is plundering by the leaders when the oil resources of a section of the country is used to develop other parts of the nation and enrich only some people who have access to power through the allocation of oil blocks but those whose environment is degraded by the exploration and exploitation of the oil resources are neglected. Amid this, like the plundering policemen, the leaders continue to steal the nation’s funds and take them to foreign nations where they buy choice property with part of the funds and stash others away in coded bank accounts.

Our leaders are outraged at the complaint of the citizens that their nation is being plundered leaving them to be consigned to socio-economic fringes of the society. When Ken Saro-Wiwa complained about the marginalisation of his community while oil companies and the leaders were colluding to feed fat on its oil resources, he was swiftly executed. The south-south agitators who took off from where Saro-Wiwa stopped are being branded as economic sabotuers with the threats of eventual liquidation by the government hanging over their heads.

Yes, let’s shed off the infantile exuberance of the Igbo youths. What is left are a people who are not oblivious to their marginalisation in a country where they should be equal partners. Yet they are told not to complain about this injustice. And not even restructuring which is the middle course that their elders, the south-south and the south-west have embraced holds any appeal to the oppressive leaders.

Even in our educational institutions, students are taught not to complain when it is obvious that the leaders have plundered the system by their refusal to fund it. They are not to complain that they are learning under trees and standing to receive lectures. They are not to complain that they are in schools rendered squalid by dysfunctional water and electricity systems. If they violate this sacred injunction – do not complain- they are quickly sanctioned through suspension or eternal expulsion.

Like our current leaders, Jonathan as president would have dismissed the complaints of the citizens about inequality in the polity as the ranting of those who crave to be admitted into the inner sanctum of political power. He would never have brooked the impudence of a citizen that would make him or her to complain about the plundering of the nation. Forget the fact that he initiated a process that led to the report of the 2014 national conference. What should haunt him is that he failed to seize the momentum and start translating the laudable recommendations of the conference into reality. We need not rule out the possibility that if he had implemented them, there would have been a better security system that would have rendered his property invulnerable to the machinations of sentinels-turned-burglars.

Jonathan like other former leaders would be haunted by wasting opportunities to fix our medical facilities and roads. Yes, they might have appropriated to themselves a hefty proportion of the national patrimony to save them the perils of road travels and medical treatment at home. Still, before they go overseas to avail themselves of the medical facilities of other countries they have developed with the stolen funds they have hidden in those nations, there lurk the perils of a wobbly aviation sector that they have neglected.

Even if they all escape these, have they made all those close to them to be billionaires that they would not need to travel on the road but hop on a plane wherever they are going? Did Jonathan make all his community people so rich that instead of using the ill-starred east-west road while travelling they can effortlessly fly above it on their private jets? Or Buhari may be so rich that even after leaving Aso Rock he can still have enough funds to sustain his medical treatment in London. But has he also made everybody in his community so rich that they can equally go to London or other overseas country for medical treatment? Let our leaders keep on stealing what belongs to all instead of developing the nation. Let them keep buying houses. In the long run, what would be clear is the folly of acquiring property like the house of Jonathan that he neither needs nor lives in.
Culled from The Guardian

Does the Sultan need N700 million house in Abuja?

Does the Sultan need N700 million house in Abuja?

By Abu Najakku
Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the 19th Sultan of Sokoto, is the President-General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) and the head of the Jama’atul Nasril Islam, which combine to make him Amirul Muminin, or leader of Nigeria’s Muslims. He was appointed to the throne on 2nd November, 2006 and succeeded his senior brother, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido who died in a plane crash in Abuja.

Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar was a member of the 18th Regular Course of Nigeria’s foremost military institution, the Nigerian Defence Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1977; until his appointment as the Sultan, he was a Brigadier General. Since his ascendancy, he has travelled to the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Middle East and many other countries to speak about Nigeria’s Muslims as well as the legacy of piety, scholarship and administrative acumen of his forefathers led by the legendary Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio.

Here at home, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar has been a strong advocate of peace, communal harmony and religious tolerance. Lest I forget, he is also the co-chairman of Nigerian Inter-Religious Council which basically fosters continuing dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The Sultan has repeatedly condemned Boko Haram insurgency as anti-Islam and has told all those who kill in the name of religion that they are destined for hell. He has described begging as the trade of lazy persons rather than something encouraged by Islam. The Sultan has also dismissed the false alarm raised by those who continue to claim that there is a grand design to Islamise Nigeria.

However, in recent times, the Sultanate Council has been dogged by poisonous controversies that threaten to tarnish the good name of His Eminence. A couple of months ago, the cohesion and reputation of the Sultanate Council were put to the test by the bad blood generated by the altercation between the Sultan and Alhaji Hassan Danbaba, the Magajin Garin Sokoto, which exposed the Palace as a deal making, fortune seeking conclave. The Sultan had sought to make peace between two highly placed persons, one, his counsellor and the other a politician. The disclosure that a senior counsellor of the Sultanate had been invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer questions on a paid for but unexecuted contract in Taraba drew the attention of the public to some form of sharp practice that people never expected from those in the Palace. Mercifully, the Sultan demonstrated maximum maturity by refusing to offer any public comment on the infantile outbursts of Danbaba.

Nevertheless, the latest acts of skulduggery surrounding the purchase of a so called “befitting accommodation” for the Sultanate Council somewhere in Abuja by the Sokoto State government has horrified many Muslims. Several questions were raised when it was reported a couple of days ago that Alhaji Kabiru Tafida, a well-known fixer for the Sultan, was arrested and interrogated by the EFCC after it discovered that N700 million had been placed in his account by the Sokoto state government “for the purchase of a House for the Sultan in Abuja”. The EFCC asked why such a hefty amount of money was placed in the account of Tafida rather than “an estate agent or a contractor buying or building the house for the Sultan”. What service did Kabiru Tafida offer Sokoto state government to warrant him being credited with N700 million into his bank account?

If you recall the damaging statement made by Hassan Danbaba, quote: “A Sultan who commoditises Caliphate services with a price tag knows that I know his price, which I can as well afford, if I wanted his intervention (in alleged EFCC case)”, and now the allegation by the EFCC that “the suspect (Kabiru Tafida) has also been receiving huge funds from the government of Sokoto on behalf of the Sultan”, then we have an Amirul muminin whose reputation is headed for the gutter.

The real question is whether the Sultan really needs a house in Abuja and whether it makes common sense for the Sokoto state government to shell out a whopping N700 million for that purpose. What is it that the Sultan wants to do in private in Abuja that he cannot do in a Presidential guest house, the Sokoto state government house, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs or the Jama’atil Nasril Islam facility?

To isolate the Sultan and corner N700 million of tax payers’ money to buy a house for his comfort is how not to learn from the revered founder of the Sokoto Caliphate? How about donating the N700 million to the victims of the recent flood in Butuku-Babba in Bodinga, Sokoto, who lost 115 houses, livestock, farmlands and farm produce for whom the governor has “approved some money” for relief, according to Hassan Maccido, the DG of Sokoto Emergency Management Agency? These citizens are not looking for “comfort” houses in Sokoto or Abuja; they just want to reconstruct their old mud houses destroyed by flood! How about bequeathing the N700 million to Nana Asma’u College of Medical Sciences being championed by Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar? How about investing the N700 million in Sokoto state’s education sector where an emergency was declared last year? How about using the N700 million to rehabilitate almajirai?

“The sixth principle (of governance) is that the governor should provide public amenities for the PEOPLE of his state for their temporal and religious benefit…….He must keep every locality in prosperity, construct fortresses and bridges, maintain markets and roads and realise for them ALL what are of public interest so that the proper order of their world may be maintained..” Sultan Muhammad Bello in Usul al-Siyasa.

Your Eminence, you are not a traditional ruler, you are a religious leader; please extricate yourself and Council from this scandal, don’t request and don’t collect this overpriced N700 million guest house from Sokoto state as you don’t really need it.

Source: Daily Trust

Hate speech, fake news and national unity – Lai Mohammed

Hate speech, fake news and national unity – Lai Mohammed

By Lai Mohammed
This theme, HATE SPEECH, FAKE NEWS AND NATIONAL UNITY, was well chosen to bring to the fore the looming danger facing our country from what has now become the scourge of our time. Though I have repeatedly called attention, at many fora, to the dangers posed by the menace of the now pervasive hate speech, disinformation and fake news, no one gave the issue the attention it deserves until it started threatening the very foundation of our national unity.
Lai Mohammed
3.It was Gina Greenlee who said ‘’experience is a master teacher, even if it is not our own.’’ I am sure many here have heard or read about how hate speech and incitement to violence played a significant role in the 1994 genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead in Rwanda. Well, it is worth rehashing here for the purpose of this discourse.
4.Anti-Tutsi articles and cartoons in the Kangura newspaper, as well as hate speech and incitement to violence on the radio station called RTLMC – Radio-Television Libres des Mille Collines (Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television) helped to set the stage for that genocide. The station was set up by hard-line Hutu extremists, and received the backing of many rich and prominent people in that country. Those who saw the danger posed by the station called for it to be shut down, but against the backdrop of freedom of speech, such calls fell on deaf ears, until it was too late. Some 23 years later, Rwanda is yet to fully recover from the impact of the genocide, triggered by hate speech and senseless incitement to violence.
5. In Nigeria today, the hate being spewed on radio stations across the country is so alarming. If you tune into many radio stations, you will be shocked by the things being said, the careless incitement to violence and the level of insensitivity to the multi-religious, multi-ethnic nature of our country. Unfortunately, even the hosts of such radio programmes do little or nothing to stop. Oftentimes, they are willing collaborators of hate speech campaigners. This must not be allowed to continue because it is detrimental to the unity and well-being of our country.
6. Disinformation and Fake News: Let me use my own personal experiences to make these more vivid. On Wednesday, 26 April 2017, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, I briefed State House Correspondents on what transpired at the meeting. I said, among others, that President Muhammadu Buhari did not preside over the day’s meeting because he decided to work from home that day. In reporting my briefing, one of the correspondents quoted me as saying the President would work from home henceforth, rather than on that day only. The reporting generated a lot of uproar, until I issued a rebuttal. This is a clear case of disinformation – which is defined as false information deliberately spread to deceive the people.
7. The following month, after I had briefed State House Correspondents on the proceedings of another Council meeting, one newspaper’s headline went thus: ‘’We do not know who will sign the 2017 budget – Lai Mohammed.’’ This is at variance with what I said. When I was asked a question relating to the signing of the 2017
budget, my exact words were: ‘’When it is transmitted to the Presidency, a decision will be taken.’’ The reporting is another clear case of disinformation.
8. Also in May 2017, I travelled to China on official assignment. I had just arrived in that country, after a long flight, when I started receiving calls from Nigeria, seeking my reaction to a story making the rounds in the Social Media, quoting me as saying that though President Muhammadu Buhari is in a London hospital, he is using Made-in-Nigeria drugs. I purportedly made the comment in an interview with Channels Television, after the Federal Government’s launch of the Made-in-Nigeria campaign in Abuja a few days earlier. At first, I chose to ignore the story, saying Nigerians would easily see the folly of it. But the phone calls from Nigeria became more frequent and more intense, to such an extent that they could no longer be ignored. I had to put a call through to Mr. John Momoh, and Channels Television promptly issued a rebuttal, saying it neither interviewed me nor carried any such story. This is a clear case of fake news.
9. Many here will also recall the quantum of hate speech directed at candidate Buhari during the last electioneering campaign. Never in the history of electioneering campaign in Nigeria has such a quantum of hate speech been directed at any candidate. This did not stop even when he won the election and became President. For instance, the
President had hardly left Nigeria for his vacation in London on 19 January 2017, during which he said he would have routine medical check-up, when these hate and fake news campaigners circulated the news that he has died. Between then and now, they have repeated similar fakes news times without number.
10. Let me be clear: all the instances I have cited did not happen by accident. No! They were all orchestrated. And who better to target than the President himself, or the official spokesperson of his government! The campaign is a multi-million naira project and the people behind this string of hate speech, disinformation and fake news are not about to stop. In fact, they will become more vicious in the days, weeks and months ahead. And what is the purpose of their campaign? Simply to discredit the government, destabilize the polity and make the country ungovernable. There is no doubt that the resurgent push for separatism as well as rising cases of ethnic and religious disharmony are all traceable to the growing phenomenon of hate speech, as well as the disinformation and fake news campaign.
11. The latest instance of this vicious campaign occurred last week. During my visit to the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) House in Lagos last Saturday, I had said that any programme tagged Nigerian or local content programme, which is meant for the consumption of Nigerians, must be produced in Nigeria, rather than in foreign countries. The hate speech, disinformation and fake news campaigners quickly distorted what I said and went ahead to report that the Federal Government has decided to ban the production of music videos and films outside the countries. Gullible and malleable commentators, many of them recruited by the campaigners, went to town abusing me and the federal government, without even trying to know the truth. Such is the tragedy of our time.
12. Now, what do these phenomena of hate speech, disinformation and fake news have in common? They are all capable of destabilizing the system, inciting people to violence and weakening the people’s confidence in their government, just like I said earlier. Let me quote how a German newspaper described this phenomenon: ‘’For a society in
which people are informed mainly through the media – and form their political opinions through it – this process is threatened when lies spread through the media. When it is no longer clear what is false and what is correct, people lose their confidence in the state’’.
13. Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Nigeria is a country of ethnic and religious diversity. That should be a source of strength, if the fault lines are not deliberately being exposed and exploited by those who are bent on setting the people against themselves, using their new-found tools of hate speech, disinformation
and fake news.
These dangerous trend is threatening the very foundation of our national unity. It is daily pushing the nation close to the precipice, perhaps more than at any other time since the end of the civil war.
14. What is the way out? We all must say NO to hate speech, either on our radio and television stations, newspapers, the Social Media, on our phones or in the public space. We must be resolute in tackling the canker-worm of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. We as government information managers must embark on a relentless campaign against these evil tendencies at our various levels, whether federal or state. We must boycott any medium that engages in hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and fake news. The regulators must also be alive to their responsibilities by promptly sanctioning the purveyors of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. Yes, our constitution allows freedom of speech and this government believes in it, but freedom of speech must not be allowed to become freedom of irresponsibility.
15. On the part of the federal government, the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has recently undertaken a series of engagements with all stakeholders to defuse the tension cause by these tendencies, and his efforts have gone a long way in calming frayed nerves, especially in the aftermath of the attacks and counter-attacks by
various groups across the country. We must replicate this kind of engagement in our various states.
16. As a follow-up to the efforts of the Acting President, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is planning a series of engagements with the media, to educate and sensitize them to the dangers posed to the unity of the country by hate speech, disinformation and fake news. Needless to say that we are also appealing to the media, the traditional media in particular, to show responsibility by repudiating the freewheeling and out-of-control purveyors of hate speech, disinformation and fake news. Unlike the Social Media, the traditional media is subject to the rigours of accuracy, fact-checking and fairness, among others. Sadly, even a section of the traditional media now apes the hate campaigners by lifting their unverified or distorted news and dumping such on their readers. This is not right.
17. A section of the tradition media is also now thriving on anti-government tendency. If you pick up copies of some newspapers, you will think the government of the day is doing nothing at all to alleviate the sufferings of the people, occasioned by the economic downturn. They ignore any positive actions of government, including the massive investment in infrastructure like roads and railways, and instead focus on anything that will make the government look bad. Instead of reporting the news freely and fairly, they have constituted themselves to an opposition bloc.
18. Let me note that it is only because we have a peaceful country that we have journalists, doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc all practising their trade. If we allow our country to be plunged into crisis just because of the antics of an irresponsible few, neither the journalists nor any other professionals will be able to practice thei
profession. This is the blunt truth. We all have a stake in this country, hence we must not allow hate campaigners and purveyors of fake news and disinformation to drag the country down with them.
19. Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you most sincerely for listening. Permit me to now declare open this extra-ordinary meeting of the National Council on Information. I wish us all fruitful deliberations.
•Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, delivered this speech at the extra-ordinary meeting of the National Council on Information, held in Jos.

​Change begins with me: The JAMB example

Change begins with me: The JAMB example

By Idowu Samuel | 

After almost two decades of energy sapping combat with corruption, Nigeria, from all indications, is still in quandary on how to effectively tame the menace. Today in Nigeria, corruption stands tall and rotund, gnawing at every effort made to subdue it. Both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the sister Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) seem to have lost track, leaving corruption to rear more hydra heads.

The two main anti-graft agencies created to fight corruption over the years do not seem to have a co-terminus approach in their war against the incubus. Sometimes, they work at cross-purposes. The EFCC, for instance, is seen to be impressionistic and egregious in the war, using the media as a tool, all along. On the other hand, the ICPC appears stoic and laid back, convinced that it could advance in the war against corruption by mere system overhaul and prevention. All the same, little results continue to trail every initiative they had put in place. Before the advent of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, corruption became virulent, holding a promise to make Nigeria history.

Months ago, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed invented an idea of how Nigeria could dig pitfalls around corruption and make it fall, at least gradually. Nigerians laughed their heads off when he came up with a catch phrase; “Change begins With Me.” He had little audience since a disproportionate number saw his idea as impracticable having hitherto, been treated to the effusive and gratifying impact of corruption. But Lai Muhammad was not acting in isolation of the expanded agenda by the government of President Buhari to battle corruption headlong. Now, that effort has started resonating positively in different corridors, and most veritably in agencies like the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

A week ago, JAMB dominated the media space with reports about being parsimonious in handling its finances for the just concluded 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE). JAMB was reported to have remitted the sum of N5 billion into the federation account being the amount it saved from the conduct of the examination. Nigerians found the feat very incredulous; believing that no agency of government had been that transparent. JAMB is simply demonstrating responsiveness to the anti-corruption posturing of the present government. The idea is that other agencies of government must be on the cue to initiate their ways and means of advancing the war, using different techniques.

If JAMB appears to have woken up suddenly with a foul mind against corruption, the starting point should be traced to the Registrar, Professor Isaq Oloyede. The Registrar, once the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, is an instant fighter of corruption. The legacies he left behind at the University of Ilorin speak volumes. Since he assumed office as Registrar, he has laboured to impress it on JAMB stakeholders that a new era where the agency’s funds must be judiciously utilised had just set in. His vows to bring a new order in JAMB ruled by efficiency, financial prudence and transparency were mocked in familiar quarters. But he meant business. At every point, he had dared saboteurs who seemed determined and desperate to subvert his every good steps and efforts. Today, his commitment to “Change” and insistence on leading by example has started paying off.

Before the 2017 UMTE, the Registrar had expressed aversion to the idea of raking in the sum of N7 billion from sales of registration forms and blowing the sum of N6.8 billion in the conduct of examination. He vowed not to spend more than N500 million for the 2017 UMTE and managed to do just that, leaving JAMB with an excess of N5 billion.

The spokesman of JAMB while analysing the cost saving measures by JAMB for the 2017 UMTE said, “Before now, JAMB budgeted for the sum of N7 billion. But this year, we have been able to prune down the cost very drastically, limiting our spending to N500 million. JAMB may not spend up to that in 2018 since it is expected to improve on the template from this year to attain this goal.

In his address to stakeholders of JAMB at a recent meeting for reviewing the conduct of the 2017 UMTE and preparations for the following year’s exam, the Registrar explained the reason he had chosen to lead by example. He alluded to the Change Begins With Me mantra of the Federal Government, stressing, Change Begins With Me campaign is not only a slogan, it is already a way of life which we believe in and which we have adopted as our guiding principle.

JAMB is not only excelling in the area of prudence, accountability and transparency. The Board has started re-inventing the future of Nigeria by curbing corruption maximally at the level of writing of examinations with more of candidates being inculcated with the spirit of hard work, self confidence and adequate preparations before every examination.

Years before now, examinations written in Nigeria at all levels had been characterized by brazen malpractices. Schoolteachers had been in collusion with invigilators and parents to allow impersonators write examinations for academically deficient students. Female students had severally been caught stuffing exam answers in the innermost part of their bodies, and had recourse to blackmail when exposed. There are reports of magic centers too, which no invigilator or examination official dared to visit during examinations, mostly JAMB, WAEC, NECO and others. The effects have been disastrous for Nigeria. Those who exploited the weak examination systems had secured employment into sensitive places, using the old power of corruption. Today, the system of Nigeria hardly runs unless oiled with brazen and sickening touch of corruption. JAMB has started changing the narrative, just as the 2017 examination it conducted was reported to be 98 percent free of malpractices.

In the 2017 examination, JAMB simply deployed Information Technology to halt corruption and all forms of malpractices. Its closely knitted synergy with GSM networks providers made this easy. Before the examination, JAMB created 642 Computer Based Test centers (CBTs) to administer examination for over 1,722,236 candidates, the highest ever in the history of the Board. Each of the CBT Centers had CCTV cameras to track down registration and examination malpractice within and outside exam halls. In the process, it was easy to weed out Centers that indulged in irregularities and malpractices. Today, all candidates must register under the lenses of the CCTV camera just as the footage is uploaded to the Board Headquarters for close monitoring and future references. Indeed, there is nothing stopping JAMB from improving on the feat it attained this year.

If other government agencies must learn from JAMB, their focus should be on necessity for immediacy in execution of plans and table-tables. For instance, JAMB has already set machinery in motion for conduct of the 2018 UMTE. In reviewing its omissions and successes during the last examination, the Board is planning to spend far less than N500 million to conduct the next UMTE. By implication, JAMB is expected to remit more than N5 billion into the federation account next year!

In essence, leading by example as demonstrated by an agency like JAMB is an unassailable way of re-inventing Nigeria. Individuals, groups and most especially government agencies should start emulating JAMB to change the narrative about Nigeria being irredeemably corrupt.

Samuel, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

Source: The Guardian