Tag Archives: opinion

Rome was Not Destroyed in a Day

Rome was Not Destroyed in a Day

By Simon Kolawole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Not My Herdsmen, By Ose Oyamendan

Not My Herdsmen, By Ose Oyamendan

It’s confusing because the herdsmen of my childhood only carried long sticks and concealed knives. I’m told they now carry AK-47s, like warriors in some devastated countries in the Middle East. And, that makes me wonder – who are these herdsmen? They definitely are not my herdsmen, the herdsmen of my youth.

I’m reading tales of herdsmen, tales that feels like sermons from the devil’s altar. These are not your night time reading. With each gory picture and video, I feel like we’ve been temporarily transported to someone else’s hell.

The tales have left my jaws permanently slack like a punch-drunk boxer. I’m stunned because I know these herdsmen. We were friends who passed each other in the fields or waved at each other from the train on the way to school. As a high school kid, I always looked forward to seeing them the moment the train rolls out of the station in Ibadan on the long trek up North. Some people had the northern star, we had had the herdsmen. They were both constant, one in the skies, the other in the field.

In boarding house, we sometimes played truant during afternoon siesta. We will prop the bed with pillows and clothes and cover it with a bed sheet as if it’s a human at sleep. Then we will wander into the fields and savour our freedom for an hour or so. That was where I encountered my first herdsmen. It was around the Harmattan season, one of those lazy afternoons when the bitter night winds hover just behind the hills. That was when I met my first herdsmen up close and personal.

They were a mystery to me. They moved around in batches. In class, we had been told that they migrated all the way from the North in search of food for the cattle. Back then we thought the North started somewhere between Sokoto and Maiduguri. But a Youth Corper who taught in the school confided in us that when it comes to herdsmen, the North of Nigeria stretched far into Chad, Niger, Mali and most likely farther!

I loved the herdsmen. They had kids my age. I envied them because I would have loved a bit of a nomadic life but here I was trapped in a prison called boarding school, and just to confirm our state of imprisonment, we had assigned uniforms too.

They do not speak English and I do not speak Fulfude. But, we communicated. The older herdsman offered us a cheese delicacy that was a delight, in comparison to the drab pap and bean cake we had for breakfast earlier. For several weeks, we would go into the fields and watch group after group of herdsmen drift past.

I loved their nomadic life but I used to feel bad for the kids my age. The nomadic life could not have been an easy one. When we did the school mini marathons, my legs would be sore for a whole week. How could these kids my age walk thousands of miles, through different terrains, for several months a year? There has to be a better way.

I knew those boys would prefer to be home or near home, around people who understand their language, ate their food and shared a communal bond with them. I knew they would like to go to school. I knew they would like to sit at the feet of a cleric, learn the holy book, go back home to their mother’s cooking, then lay under the moonlight to count the stars. I was only 10 but I knew life had to be better. Now that I am much older, I know what that was – a failure of leadership. In all my travels outside Africa, I’ve never seen herdsmen walking for thousands of miles to graze. So, why in Nigeria, the self-styled leader of the black race?

But, back to my first meeting with herdsmen. They do not speak English and I do not speak Fulfude. But, we communicated. The older herdsman offered us a cheese delicacy that was a delight, in comparison to the drab pap and bean cake we had for breakfast earlier. For several weeks, we would go into the fields and watch group after group of herdsmen drift past. Sometimes we played with the cattle. We will slap their thighs and sign songs that they will be in our belly come the next Eid or Christmas.

I’m told that if I do that today I’d be shot. It’s confusing because the herdsmen of my childhood only carried long sticks and concealed knives. I’m told they now carry AK-47s, like warriors in some devastated countries in the Middle East. And, that makes me wonder – who are these herdsmen? They definitely are not my herdsmen, the herdsmen of my youth. What changed in the last thirty years that has turned the loving herdsmen in search of a living into plunderers and terrorists?

Whatever it is, the people need answers and not politics or inaction. The people are already suffering and dying from poverty, bad roads and poor administration. Why add the herdsmen’s menace to the list?

The kid herdsmen of my youth will be men now, most likely the elder herdsmen. I can’t seem to imagine them with Ak-47. You gotta ask, what turns an innocent boy into an adult terrorist? What went wrong and where? I have racked my brain for answers and I can’t find any. I would be hard on myself but then I remember the federal government with all its might doesn’t seem to have an answer either.

It’s 2018, politics is in the air. The elephants are stomping across the nation and the poor folks are suffering. The case of the people and the herdsmen just ups the ante. But, must Nigerian leaders always look at things from the all-empty or all-full glass of political calculations? Isn’t it time to really dig into what went wrong and how it can be fixed? If we can’t go forward, why not go back to a time of peace, a time when these same herdsmen will politely ask if they can drink water from your well?

Or. Maybe its time the government tells us what kinds of herdsmen go about carrying AK-47. Or, why in a country with laws and law enforcers, are ordinary citizens allowed to carry weapon around as if they live in a failed state? Are they fleeing Boko Haram militants or the Libyan militiamen who found themselves with too many weapons after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi?

Whatever it is, the people need answers and not politics or inaction. The people are already suffering and dying from poverty, bad roads and poor administration. Why add the herdsmen’s menace to the list?

Please follow me: @iam_ose

Culled from Premium Times. 

What manner of third force?

What manner of third force?

By Emmanuel Oladesu

What manner of ‘movement’ is being launched today in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)? Can the coalition fly? What are its prospects? Can it overtake the discredited Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and abort the dream of the crisis-ridden All Progressives Congress (APC) to retain federal power in next year’s elections?

In the opinion of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed. President Buhari, he advised, should not seek re-election next year. Also, both the APC and the PDP should not produce his successor. His reason: the two parties have outlived their usefulness.

Obasanjo’s remedy is that only a coalition of ‘willing’ Nigerians can salvage the country in 2019. As his associates throw up the ‘Third Force,’ can the new group make a difference? Will it change geo-political calculations? Does the so-called ‘Coalition for Nigeria (CN) offer hope?

Indisputably, Dr. Obasanjo may have done a scanty spade work before unfolding his agenda. Thus, the movement is springing up in a hurry, barely a week after he released his highly inflammable “special statement.” Unlike the PDP, which metamorphosed into a virile party from the G-34, and the APC, which came into existence after critical deliberations and agreement involving the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and sections of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and PDP), the CN emerged from Obasanjo’s bedroom.

Observers believe that the new political group may be facing a gloomy future. At birth, it is jaundiced. Nigerians were taking aback by its composition. It is the same of the same. There is no line of demarcation. There is no fresh blood. It is still the old wine in a new bottle. In the final analysis, only aggrieved acolytes of the former leader are involved in the new show. Thus, public enthusiasm is waning.

He who comes to the equity must come with clean hands. The key leaders of the CN are politicians who were associated with PDP’s 16 years of failure. These men of yesteryear shared in the blame for the impunity that had characterised governance. The spent forces, rejected party functionaries and disgruntled PDP stalwarts are seeking relevance. But, Nigerians are not assailed by collective amnesia. Since the motivation is from Obasanjo, many credible Nigerians may distance themselves from the enterprise because of the former president’s perceived history of personal agenda and self-interest decorated in the garb of public yearning and aspiration.

Do the arrowheads parade intimidating credentials of honour and integrity? What ideology is driving them? The proxy leader is a beneficiary of election rigging, who was kicked out by the temple of justice for vote stealing. He will be working in tandem with a vocal scholar and an expert in prevarication from the Northcentral, a former governor from the Southeast struggling to bounce back into reckoning on the false platform and another ex-governor from the Northwest, who is standing trial for corruption.

The implication is that, although Obasanjo has used his stature to swing public opinion against the Buhari administration at a time Nigerians are protesting the mishandling of farmers/herdsmen clashes in Benue and some other states, his message may not be swallowed hook, line and sinker as no credible alternative platform is being offered to compete for power with the two main parties.

Since the CN is made up of PDP leaders, what can they offer that the PDP has not offered? Are CN members the messiahs Nigerians are expecting? How popular are they in their states? Can Dr.Obasanjo successfully mobilise the people of his ward in Abeokuta during elections? Who will listen to the new foot soldiers? Can the coalition become a formidable party? Can it even meet the criteria for registration by the electoral commission before next year’s polls?

If Nigerians feel that the third force may not lead them to the promised land, they may start to have a rethink. In fact, many critical minds are re-dissecting Obasanjo’s statement. Although the Benue killings left a sour taste in the mouth, the government has not completely failed the nation in the area of security. The recent killing of troublers of peace in the Southsouth, including ‘Gen.’ Don Wanny, meant that a lip service is not paid to security. Besides, Boko Haram is being pummeled.

Also, many now realise that Obasanjo’s comment on the economy is not totally true. While it is true that Nigerians are complaining about hardship, it is not because the government is closing its eyes. Experts have pointed out that a significant leap has been recorded in the government’s bid to revatalise the economy. The nation’s foreign reserve is increasing. The forex regime is attracting investors. Electricity is becoming stable. Efforts are on to revatalise the railways. More importantly, there is prospect of food security. The Buhari administration’s achievement in agriculture cannot be ignored. Today, rice importation is becoming a thing of the past.

Will Nigerians close their eyes to these achievements and prospects and risk their future in the hands of an inexplicable coalition teleguided by Obasanjo?

Source: The Nation


The Spirit of Lagos that Nigeria need by Simon Kolawole

The Spirit of Lagos that Nigeria needs

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State

by Simon Kolawole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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

Culled from TheCable


My adventure into world of sports media By Segun Odegbami

My adventure into world of sports media

By Segun Odegbami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Guardian


Obasanjo kisses Buhari

Obasanjo kisses Buhari

Sonala Olumhense

Somewhere, Goodluck, son of Jonathan, is laughing his head off, remembering a completely different kind of day when he was the president of Nigeria.

That was the day that one Olusegun, the son of Obasanjo, penned an open letter to him, “Before It Is Too Late,” assaulting his presidency.

But today is funny, Jonathan’s son reckons, because it tells you just how fickle Time is. Only a few days earlier, it was Muhammadu, son of Buhari, who was praising him as he reflected on that moment in 2015 when Jonathan conceded the presidential election.

The date was January, in Abuja, as the son of Buhari hosted chieftains of his All Progressives Congress (APC), during which he recalled his ecstasy at winning the presidency, specifically the moment that President Jonathan called to offer his concession.

“I went temporarily into a coma,” Buhari declared.

The fumes of power appear to have etched every tick and nick of the clock into the psyche of Mr. Buhari. “I will never forget the time,” he told his APC colleagues. “It was quarter past 5pm and he said he called to congratulate me and that he had conceded.”

Buhari’s comatose condition—his speechlessness, his frozen moments, his blanking out—must have lasted longer than he realised. Only Mr. Jonathan knows exactly how long.

But this is how Buhari remembers it. “(Jonathan) asked if I heard him, and I said yes,” the incoming president said.

It has always seemed odd to Buhari that anyone would “willingly” surrender power, as Jonathan did, a point which may become significant in the future should he seek re-run, and lose. “He could have caused some problems,” he said of Jonathan. “He had stayed long enough to cause problems.”

In his idle moments, I am sure Jonathan’s mind has wandered back to that day, wondering if, had the tables been turned, Muhammadu would have conceded to him—a younger man, a southerner, a man with no military credentials—or if he would have huffed and puffed off to yet another election tribunal swearing dogs and baboons.

But that was the past, which Muhammadu would dismiss as prologue as he took office, as if you can somehow phrase the past in the future tense or write someone else’s achievements into your biography.

I am sure the feel-good hilarity made last weekend even better for the gathered APC bigwigs. But then a new week arrived, and it was someone equally intriguing—Obasanjo—wiping it all away as he angrily dismissed Buhari as a failure and urged him not to pursue re-election.

Which is why, somewhere this minute, the son of Jonathan, must be in the middle of another guffaw, remembering the similar inferno of an Obasanjo letter that inevitably led him to that painful concession call. And that while Buhari must have been smiling from ear to toenail at that time, Jonathan knows he must be burning with rage right now.

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Elsewhere, Jonathan has identified this menace as “the boss of all bosses” imperative. That was last November, when he assessed former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s 2019 presidential hopes.

“…He would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses,” he said. “We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your peril…”

Obasanjo, it is widely-known, cannot stand Atiku, with whom he wrestled in the mud even when they occupied the country’s highest offices, and whom he treated with contempt and savagery in his last book.

But last week belonged to Buhari, in terms of Obasanjo’s dismantling of his mystique, pretences and prospects.

The import of this is that between his hatred of Atiku and his dismissal of Buhari, Obasanjo not only declared the presidency vacant, he installed himself kingmaker.

The reality is that Obasanjo is an egomaniacal hypocrite. In 1999, he had the best chance of a Nigerian leader to make the changes he now seeks, blew it, and then tried to buy an illegal term. As a result, he lacks as much moral authority to his sabre-rattling arrogance as to the meaningless PhD he claimed at the weekend, the funds for which would have lit the highway for a bright 25-something old Nigerian whose work would have meant something.

Beyond that, the question Obasanjo raises is that Buhari is incapable of the office he holds and can rise no higher than he has, if he has. In 2015, Nigeria made a mistake, but it was the right mistake to make given that a prostrate Jonathan was his principal rival. It is now clear that even if he spends 20 years in Abuja, he will not summon the character, or capacity. He was a grossly-overrated advertising copy, including by me, in a situation where the PDP record up, including Jonathan, blinded so many of us to Buhari’s emptiness of content.

So badly exposed is he that the defence of Obasanjo’s charges by Information Minister Lai Mohammed studiously avoided the most significant charges, which relate to Buhari’s character, vision, personality, grasp of leadership, command and control, and willingness to accept responsibility.

Buhari has posed as an anti-corruption champion for well over a generation, for instance. But Obasanjo asked the following question: “What does one make of a case like that of (Abdulrasheed) Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?”

Mr. Mohammed did not answer it.

Buhari came into office bragging about the carnage he would inflict upon the corruption conglomerate, but has done very little, and has disobeyed court orders to publish loot recovery records since 1999.

Furthermore, almost everyone in his administration who has faced corruption allegations has received the full protection of the presidency. The weakest of ministers remains in office. No scandal is so outrageous it is not ignored. The past may be prologue, but the present has become a joke, and change has been shortchanged.

To top it all, Buhari then confesses he lacks a sense of urgency. He is in no hurry to do anything.

Perhaps not. After all, the state takes care of him. Should he fall sick, he goes to London, and should his child fall off a tree or off a motor bike, he is guaranteed the best medical care Nigeria can buy.

But what next? Obasanjo suggests a “coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement.”

Two things are wrong. First, he failed to add “the able.” And then, he wrote in himself as a participant. Worse still, it has emerged he will personally champion that coalition.

But Obasanjo is a key alchemist in a modern Nigeria laboratory for which the ex-military hegemony of himself, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Buhari, are principally responsible.

Perhaps Buhari should “dismount the horse,” but that alone will not advance Nigeria, unless others key figures riding their high horses of arrogance, complicity, duplicity and double standards, also dismount, and surrender their weapons.

A third force? Absolutely. But it is dead on arrival if it is manufactured by the one and manipulated by the other, or both.

Culled from The Punch


Obasanjo as Nigeria’s moral compass

Obasanjo as Nigeria’s moral compass
Simon Kolawole Live | THISDAY | 18 January 2015

For the life of me, I will never understand how former President Olusegun Obasanjo does it. When you think he is done, he has just begun. I have watched in utter amusement how he has, yet again, wangled his way into the front page of newspapers on a daily basis. I don’t know of any other former head of state elsewhere who has turned himself into the subject and object of national attention long after he has left power. Obasanjo is always there, always scheming, always screaming. It is his luck, I must say, but, as a mere mortal, I often wonder why some guys have all the luck.
Obasanjo, amazingly, has become a god or a saint to many Nigerians. Many politicians, commentators, journalists, activists and youths who used to criticise him are now celebrating him as our moral compass. The people he has brutalised before — such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi — go to Abeokuta to genuflect to him. Even Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, of all people, goes to Obasanjo’s house to pay homage. And President Goodluck Jonathan goes to Abeokuta to kowtow to him, with two respected pastors in tow.
How does Obasanjo do it? Can anyone help me out? He has a word on every issue. He expresses his opinion so forcefully, so eloquently and so mischievously that you just cannot ignore him. He loves to criticise what he is patently guilty of. He loves to vilify anyone who does not worship at his temple. There is no accusation Obasanjo throws at anyone that he himself is not double guilty of.  He has launched ferocious media attacks against most of his successors — President Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Only Gen. Sani Abacha pre-empted him by throwing him into jail before he could open his mouth.
Obasanjo complains about corruption and Nigerians hail him. What’s his moral high ground? Can someone tell me? Has anybody never heard about the Halliburton and Siemens scandals? The damning reports are there in the attorney-general’s office. Does the name Dr. Julius Makanjuola ring a bell? Under Obasanjo, he was the permanent secretary of the ministry of defence implicated in a N421 million scandal. Mysteriously, the case was abruptly closed with Nolle Prosequi (no further prosecution) — the first in Nigeria’s history. 
Well, Obasanjo went on to set up the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), headed by Malam Nuhu Ribadu, which — in fairness — did kick the backsides of many politicians. But EFCC could not tackle Obasanjo’s own corruption: from the obscene fundraiser for his private library to his shareholding in Transcorp — a company that was getting juicy stuff from a government superintended by Obasanjo. Have we all forgotten the scandalous waivers granted to all kinds of human beings, officially defrauding our treasury billions of dollars? 
Does anybody remember that Obasanjo was in power for eight years and we kept importing fuel, with PDP financiers getting the contracts through local and foreign fronts? Forgotten so easily? Does anybody remember how much we spent on repairing refineries that kept “knocking” for the eight years that Obasanjo was in power? Does anybody still remember Obasanjo saying on national TV that he did not know the price of kerosene and it was “unacceptable” that it was more expensive than petrol? How does Obasanjo get away with hoodwinking Nigerians?
Do we still remember that Obasanjo did not resolve the electricity problem for eight years? Do we still remember the “$16 billion spent on power without results” for which Obasanjo arrogantly refused to appear before the House probe panel? Is it that we have forgotten that the damning report was killed? Do we still remember that Obasanjo did not add one coach to the railways throughout his tenure despite spending billions of dollars? Does anybody still remember how many federal highways were in terrible state for the eight years that Obasanjo spent in power? Have we forgotten the Benin-Shagamu road saga? Just like that?
When Obasanjo discusses insecurity, I cringe. From every available evidence, Boko Haram started right under his nose. If he had aborted the foetus, maybe we wouldn’t be engaged in fire-fighting today. I have heard many Nigerians say, perhaps innocently, that if Obasanjo had been in power he would have crushed Boko Haram by now. Really? How well did he crush the less complex militancy in the Niger Delta? Was it not under Obasanjo that the militancy started in 2004 and flourished?
To the best of my knowledge, militants were bombing oil installations and kidnapping oil workers with ease under Obasanjo. At a stage, daily crude oil production fell to about 900,000 barrels — from the height of 2.5m. In fact, we were later told that why Obasanjo picked Jonathan as the running mate to Yar’Adua was to appease the Niger Delta. Of course, nobody was appeased. The attacks continued until Yar’Adau offered an amnesty deal. How these facts conveniently escape us is beyond my understanding.
Insecurity? Abacha’s regime aside, more Nigerians were assassinated under Obasanjo’s watch than at any time in our history. The abridged roll-call: Chief Bola Ige, a serving minister; Chief Marshall Harry, co-ordinator of the Buhari presidential campaign in 2003; Chief AK Dikibo, PDP chieftain and ally of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Chief Uche Ogbonnaya (OGB), an ANPP senatorial candidate in Imo state in 2003; and Mr. Barnabas Igwe and his wife, Amaka, in Onitsha. The assassins were never unmasked. What is insecurity?
How did Obasanjo become our moral compass? How did he become such a highly sought-after role model? Has anybody ever managed to read the affidavit Obasanjo’s own son, Gbenga, filed while seeking a divorce from his wife on the ground of incest and adultery? It doesn’t matter? Has anybody ever taken time to read the letter Iyabo wrote to her father, giving graphic details of his megalomania and duplicity? It doesn’t matter? Has anybody ever done a recap of the blatant rigging of elections under the “saint”? It doesn’t matter?
Obasanjo pontificates on impunity and we hail him. What happened to us? Dr. Chris Ngige, as governor of Anambra state, was abducted by Obasanjo’s associates. Have we forgotten the illegal impeachment of Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja as governor of Oyo state? What about the impeachment of Chief Joshua Dariye as governor of Plateau by eight out of 24 lawmakers? For three years, Obasanjo unconstitutionally withheld Lagos council allocations because of political differences. It took Yar’Adua only a few days in power to undo the impunity.
They say, ‘Oh, Obasanjo is a patriot. He has the best interest of Nigeria at heart.’ Really? Can Obasanjo look up to heavens and say, solemnly, that he had the best interest of Nigeria at heart when he was picking his successor ? Such a character cannot be my own moral compass. With a moral compass like Obasanjo, though, Nigeria is doomed and damned.
Culled from THISDAY | 18 January 2015