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Africa is leaving Nigeria behind

Africa is leaving Nigeria behind

By Simon Kolawole

You should have seen me shaking my head in self-pity, as if somebody had just mercilessly slapped me. I had just landed at the “little” Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana, and needed to use the rest room. What I saw startled me. There were about a dozen toilet cubicles. All the doors were standing tall — none was hanging loose. I also saw a row of urinals in sparkling conditions. The rest room was so clean, so odour-free you could comfortably have your lunch in there without endangering your health. Water flowed freely. There was tissue paper in abundance. The lights were bright. Not a single bulb was bad. I used the toilet and walked away impressed — and depressed.

I returned to Lagos the day after and visited the toilets at the “massive” Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA). The first cubicle I opened nearly made me throw up. I covered my nose and retreated. I finally found one that was manageable; the door latch was gone, but since it was the minor business I wanted to do, I soldiered on. To my pleasant surprise, the toilet flushed, and I was grateful. Meanwhile, just in front of the toilets were five cleaners talking on top of their voices about the Belgium-Japan match at the World Cup in Russia. After using the toilet, I walked away depressed. We spend billions maintaining this airport every year.

This experience set me thinking again. I started my opinion-writing career by comparing Nigeria with Europe. I then began consoling myself by saying since the Europeans started their development trajectory centuries ahead of us, comparison was improper. It is like comparing the speed of a five-year-old with that of a teenager. I enjoyed the consolation while it lasted. I decided benchmark us against Asia, with focus on Dubai, Singapore and South Korea. At least, we had similar stories as at 1960 when we began life as an independent country. Comparison with Asia also left me distressed. Their pace of development is such that many Asian countries can now compete with Europe.

I decided to lower the bar further by saying that “after all, we are better than most sub-Saharan African countries”. It got that pathetic. But I have finally decided to stop living in denial. The rest of Africa is fast leaving Nigeria behind. Let me complete my airport stories before I delve into the evidence. It is only in Nigeria that you have two officials checking your passport — first by the DSS and then immigration. I have travelled to quiet a number of countries. Nigeria is just incredible. Only one official checks your passport in Accra, or any other country for that matter. What exactly is the reason for this sickening anomaly in Nigeria? Is this a cherished relic from the military regimes?

I acknowledge that some things changed after Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as acting president, paid an unscheduled visit to the MMIA. We no longer unzip our bags for searches by officials of DSS, NDLEA and Customs at check-in counters. This primitive practice has stopped. Praise the Lord. However, I still see leaking roofs at the airport, with buckets placed at strategic points to harvest rain water. I will avoid talking about the air conditioning system which works only when it pleases. This is the airport for which passengers pay $60 as service charge to FAAN, the landlords, anytime they buy tickets. This sorry story is similar at other “international” airports. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

I have written only about the Accra airport in comparison to our MMIA so as to contain my frustration. I will intentionally ignore the newly opened Blaise Diagne International Airport, Senegal, the adorable Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, and the elegant Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, Côte d’Ivoire. I do not want to inflict myself with hypertension. But the point has to be made that although we like to talk big and act big and claim to have a massive population and humongous petrodollars, we are a disgrace to Africa. We cannot even build modern cubicles for immigration and customs checks!

The efficiency with which airports are run in these other African countries is not even the main reason for this article. While the airports are important as they are central to travel, tourism and trade — in addition to marketing the image of Nigeria — I am more worried about critical things that are happening in other African countries for which Nigeria is shamelessly lagging behind. Ethiopia has launched a metro rail line in Addis Ababa. The project was delivered within six years (despite delays) for less than $500 million. It is the first light rail project in sub-Saharan Africa. It handles 15,000 passengers per hour across 39 stations in the capital city. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

God only knows the billions of dollars we have pumped into railways in the last 20 years with haphazard results, mostly buying toothpick for the price of toothpaste — to quote the immortal Dr Chuba Okadigbo. Only last year, Kenya inaugurated its standard gauge railway project covering about 470 kilometres. It took just three-and-a-half years to build. A presidential term is four years. The terminals look like international airports. Travel time between Nairobi and Mombasa has now been reduced from 15 hours by bus to only four hours and 30 minutes by rail. Imagine being able to travel from Abuja to Lagos by rail within five hours. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

The amazing thing about such audacious and well-executed infrastructure projects is not just that they ease life and business — they also create jobs during and after construction. The direct and indirect benefits are limitless. And, ironically, we do not even have to spend one kobo of our money if we get the framework right. Many African countries are beginning to understand how it works. Asky Airlines has made Lomé-Tokoin International Airport, Togo, its West Africa hub. More than 90% of the passengers are just passing through the airport for onward connection not just to West African countries but also to places such as India, US and Brazil. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

In 2005, Nigeria launched the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with a promise of “universal coverage” by 2015. That means all Nigerians, with emphasis on the poor, will be enrolled on the scheme so that they do not have to pay cash for medical treatment. Rwanda came to study our NHIS some years later. Today, Rwanda has achieved nearly 100% coverage and statistics on maternal and infant health are among the best in the world. Nigeria? We are stuck at 3% — and we got that far because of the compulsory enrolment of civil servants. NHIS is now more about billions of naira to be manipulated by government officials and HMOs. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

Maybe I should stop talking infrastructure and focus on governance. The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, during the week sacked five senior prisons bosses accused of human rights violations and other misconduct. The government said the needs of prisoners had not been adequately met and their human rights had not been respected. In Nigeria, thousands of people are languishing in police cells all over the country, routinely subjected to torture. We either deny or ignore it. Tens of thousands are in prison awaiting trial for years under the most inhuman conditions. They are transforming to living skeletons. No one ever gets punished. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

Lest I forget, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi is currently being investigated by the country’s anti-graft body over allegations that he received kickback from a $3.9 million contract. The entire cost of the contract is not even up to the pocket money (also known as “security vote”) of many Nigerian governors. In Nigeria, we can’t probe a former president much less a sitting one. In Kenya, Busia county governor Sospeter Ojaamong has been charged to court for awarding a contract that was not included in the budget. Can you imagine that? Who cares about what is in the budget in Nigeria? Just take the money and spend like crazy. We are the Giant of Africa.

Still in Kenya, the public prosecutor last week ordered the arrest of two farm managers and government officials over a dam that collapsed and killed more than 47 persons two months ago. The nine government officials would be prosecuted for manslaughter and neglect of duty. Who holds anybody responsible for anything in Nigeria? In 2014, 16 young Nigerians died during a badly organised recruitment by the Nigeria Immigration Service. The minister of interior, Abba Moro, described them as “unruly”. Why not? He knew he would not have to resign, neither would anybody hold him responsible for the deaths. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

In the year 2001, poorly stored bombs went off at the Ikeja Cantonment, spreading panic all over Lagos. Over 1,000 lay dead at the end of the unprecedented mishap. President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the scene a few days later and famously asked an agitated protester to “shut up”, boasting that he was not even supposed to be in Lagos in any case. The world leader that he was, he was scheduled to be outside the country looking for the legendary foreign investors. Ain’t we lucky he came down to earth to visit Lagos over the tragedy? In the end, nobody resigned and nobody was punished over the catastrophe. That is the way we roll.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently said he ordered the inspector-general of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue state following the internecine killings in January. The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and commander-in-chief of the armed forces later said he did not know that the IG was not in Benue as ordered by him. In other news, Idris was photographed cutting a giant birthday cake and having fun elsewhere while Benue was burning. He would not resign and nobody would sack him. That is our culture. That is the way we do it here. We are the Giant of Africa. We have moved from being a role model in 1960 to becoming a laughing stock. What hit us?

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
‘REFORMED’ APC

Since last year, we have been hearing that some politicians will defect from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to form a formidable opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019. It has taken forever but it seems it will still happen with the launch of “reformed APC” on Wednesday. I don’t know how far the R-APC can go in the game, but suddenly there is a growing belief that Buhari will have to sweat for re-election. I won’t be surprised if Buhari’s camp dismisses R-APC with a wave of the hand, but that would be a mistake. I must at this stage confess that things are getting more intriguing than I expected. Interesting.

TEACHERS AND THIEVES

Think you have seen it all? Let me give you one more. The federal government launched the school feeding programme to improve enrolment across the country. From several accounts, the programme is not doing badly. But according to Connecting Gender for Development (COGEN), a non-governmental organisation, some teachers in Kaduna state are eating part of the ration meant for pupils. As a result, the ration does not usually go round. What a country. We steal from public treasury, we steal from the living, we steal from the dead, we steal from the elderly and now we are stealing from the children. Is there any country like Nigeria on Planet Earth? Mindboggling.

UNITY IN DIVERSITY

I was a guest of the Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, last weekend where Senator Ahmed Makarfi gave a keynote on “Peace and Unity: The Role of Unity Schools”. I was in the panel of discussants. One thing that I walked away with is the value of promoting national integration through the diversity that these schools offer. My wife attended a Unity School up north and has kept most of her diverse relationships till today. It is a sad commentary that Unity Schools are increasingly limiting admissions to locals, thereby defeating the original objective of promoting national integration. Counterproductive.

AND FINALLY…

This is serious. A native doctor has been shot dead — accidentally, you would add — after his customer tested “bullet-proof” charm on him. Mr. Chinaka Adoezuwe, 26, had asked his customer to test the efficacy of the charm by using himself as the guinea pig. He must have been so sure of his supernatural powers. Unfortunately, his charms failed him. I know he is dead, but if he could reverse the hand of time, he should test the bullet-proof on a goat next time. Fela once did it. When the native doctor asked to test the charms, Fela suggested using a goat. You guessed right: the goat died. You win either way: you can, after all, make goat meat pepper soup if it fails. Wisdom.

Culled from TheCable

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Ekiti: Overtake dey overtake overtake?

Ekiti: Overtake dey overtake overtake?

Sonala Olumhense

In case you have missed it, there is another political thriller on the way in Ekiti State, which this Saturday votes for a new governor.

There are 35 candidates, including former governor Kayode Fayemi. His closest rival is Kolapo Olusola, the current deputy governor and adopted candidate of the lame-duck governor, Ayodele Fayose.

Mr. Fayose, who had previously ruled between 2003 and 2006, took the office for the second time in 2014 after defeating Mr. Fayemi, who was seeking a second term.

But Fayemi’s loss was really no loss at all. In a state he had governed for four years, it turned out he had been savagely rigged out by the Peoples Democratic Party, which was in control at the centre, the controversial Fayose taking 56.34 per cent of the spoils to the incumbent’s 33.41.

Nothing might have been known about how that was accomplished but for the heroic intervention of Captain Sagir Koli, a soldier who, at great risk to life, limb and family, had secretly audio-recorded a rigging meeting of officials of the PDP in Ado-Ekiti days before the contest.

Koli, who had accompanied his superior officer to the meeting, subsequently leaked the recording, and then fled the country.

But it was irrelevant. Fayose, a man whose first tour of the governorship had involved extra-judicial killings that were confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police in 2006 and were outstanding, was back in charge. Although he was impeached for political malpractice and other offences, it was a sign of the times that eight years later, he emerged not only the PDP’s candidate, but one behind whom the party was willing to throw a lot of money and bend all the rules.

The irony is that this week, the glove is on the other hand: it is Fayemi’s party which holds sway at the centre. To that end, it is no surprise Fayose has been alleging rigging scenarios against the APC, conscious of the impunity with which his party had operated.

The more important question is whether APC can resist the temptation to “make sure” its candidate wins. President Muhammadu Buhari has already pledged to attend Fayemi’s inauguration.

In similar circumstances in 2014, President Jonathan travelled to Ekiti to campaign for Fayose, following which he sent Musiliu Obanikoro, his Minister of State for Defence, to coordinate a “winning” strategy. On the Koli tape, Obanikoro repeatedly asserts he is on a “special mission” for Mr. Jonathan.

Naturally, none of the men gathered around the table Koli taped said anything about rigging. But the government and the security agencies were well-represented, although that was unknown to the public and but for Koli would have been presented only as rumours.

For those who have forgotten, present were Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh, former Minister for Police Affairs Jelili Adesiyan, former Osun State Senator Iyiola Omisore, Anambra politician Chris Uba, and Mr. Fayose. Flush with power, they are overhead plotting to intimidate members of the APC; Fayose bullies and bribes the hapless General Momoh.

Days before that election, the Inspector-General of Police, MD Abubakar, confirmed the arrest of several persons who were allegedly found stuffing ballot boxes in a hotel owned by a PDP chieftain in Are-Ekiti, but nothing ever came of it. And then Momoh’s men prevented top members and governors of the APC from attending Fayemi’s political rally. Transportation Minister (then Rivers’ Governor) Rotimi Amaechi was forbidden from travelling by road; and APC Chairman (then Edo Governor) Adams Oshiomhole, from leaving Benin City.

Today, these are among the nation’s most powerful men, with mountains of funds and the same security forces on speed dial. Given the fractious and nervous state of the APC today—in addition to its ethical dubiousness and how much respect it has lost since 2015— can APC resist the temptation to be today’s PDP?

Of greater interest is Oshiomhole, who took his new office only days ago, just as the party began to come apart at the seams.

In an article last July, little knowing that within one year the former Edo Governor would emerge APC chairman, I wondered if he could in fact become Nigeria’s wildcard. I was commenting on the overly-generous and widely-criticised severance package he was offered by the Edo government, concerning which I had reluctantly supported his acceptance.

I felt that, given his unique story, he could help solve through federal law the messy problem of outgoing governors determining outrageous departure largesse for themselves. I asked: “Can he rise above narrow interests and fight for his country, bringing his brand of scorched-earth justice on every false tree and every withering branch?”

Now, Oshiomhole can. But does he see the trap ahead of him, or does he merely feel the power of the moment?

Oshiomhole arrives at a time of great decline and division for APC. It is a disease that has arisen from the same genes and weaknesses which ruined the PDP, helped on by lack of vision and willingness to pay the price of democracy.

For three years, APC forgot the mission. Worse still, it was too powerful to hear what Nigerians were saying. APC spoke to and listened to its ego.

Now that the party has glanced at the calender and discovered it is an election year, it is showing signs of stress and distress.

I don’t know if Nigerians will buy APC’s new snake oil, given all the lives and opportunities already squandered on the altar of convenience, planlessness and insincerity.

Three years later, APC’s sense of history has dwindled considerably. While other leaders in Buhari’s position speak about millions they have liberated and are liberating from poverty, the party Oshiomhole now leads brags about feeding a few thousand schoolchildren.

While some African leaders speak about building Germany-style autobahns and Switzerland-style rail, Buhari talks about dualisation of roads. While ministers and top security officials are thrown out of office elsewhere over a minor breach of civil rights, Buhari thinks he should not be blamed when he hypocritically superintends the loss of hundreds of lives.

This is the APC that Oshiomhole now leads, and it is the APC which will attempt to land big victories in next year’s federal elections. But that test, and of whether APC can see beyond its nose, begins in Ekiti this Saturday.

Given its ineptitude so far, can APC conduct free and fair elections? Fayose has lambasted Buhari’s government for three years; can the army and police, the heads of whom owe Buhari deep personal loyalty, protect the electoral process for Nigeria rather than for Buhari or against Fayose?

Culled from The Punch

Restructuring: Time for reason

Time for Reason

The Horizon By KAYODE KOMOLAFE

When politicians and social commentators say that this country has never been so divided, they are actually being euphemistic. The reality is indeed grave. For some forces appear hell- bent on setting this country on the path of destruction. Nigeria seems to be en route to Mogadishu with a stopover in Kigali.

Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, became a metaphor for genocide when in 1994 estimates of between 500, 000 and 1 million persons (mostly Tutsis) were killed within 100 days in the violence of the Hutus against the Tutsi. Hate speech was the fuel for that conflagration that drew universal horror. The good news, however, is that the dark chapter of Rwandan history is closed and the country is today a model of reform under a visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame. Unlike Rwanda, Somalia has hardly recovered from the civil war, which broke out in the country in 1988 and the subsequent overthrow of the dictator, Siad Barre, in 1991. By the way, there is no multiplicity of ethnicity in Somalia. The country is often cited as an example of a failed state under the rule of clannish warlords. The world is still waiting for the good news from Mogadishu, the troubled capital of Somalia.

Rwanda and Somalia are both instructive and sobering African stories.

Historically, there is probably no immunity against the failure of the state and the consequent national disintegration. That is why nation building is always a work in progress. Those cosy places to which members of the ruling class escape in moments of crisis are still being built by the leaders and people of the respective nations. Since the days of Plato and Aristotle, competent governance has always been a requirement for the state to maintain its integrity. A crisis-ridden country should, therefore, watch out for the signs of a failed state so that it would not unconsciously be on the road to Mogadishu, as they say.

The objective climate of insecurity in Nigeria is being subjectively worsened by the purveyors of hate in the public sphere. Lies, prejudice and hate are the effective weapons of mass manipulation. For some persons, Nigeria has simply ceased to exist subjectively even though they still operate within it objectively. Some of these elements still make billions from the poverty-stricken political economy. Yet, they speak of the country only in negative terms. These desperate forces perceive the forces of integration as naïve; whereas the real naivety is in assuming that there can ever be a bloodless disintegration of Nigeria. It’s not clear if some of the gladiators sometimes pause to do a proper scenario – building of what they wish for this country. Unfortunately, these forces of disintegration appear to be having the edge over the forces of integration. The voices of the prophets of doom are becoming more resonant.

Here lies the real danger of the moment.

Now, there is hardly any dispute about the imperative of making the Nigerian federalism work better by restructuring. Over centralization of items is simply not working. No rational person can question the elements of equity, fairness, efficiency and effectiveness as the condition for the union to last for generations. But the debacle seems to set in when you ponder the politics of restructuring. In other words, the real question is this: how exactly do you bring about restructuring? This question inexorably cropped up last Thursday in a quality colloquium in Lagos. It was organised by a highly reputable segment of the Yoruba elite, the Voice of Reason (VOR), whose motto is Agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun wo (wise men do not stand by when things go wrong in the land). The VOR’s roll of honour is unquestionably inspiring for the young men and women seeking role models. The tone and tenor of the discussion were elevated even if sometimes provocative and reckless. Significantly, these members of the Yoruba elite invited the perspectives of the elites of other ethnic groups.

In fact, the VOR has demonstrated the seriousness of the group about its purpose by coming up with an attempt at a draft constitution to articulate its position on restructuring. The document, which VOR modestly describes as a “work in progress,” is entitled A Constitutional Framework for a Multi-Cultural Society.

However, the drawback of the occasion was that the severe limitation of the politics of restructuring was patently on display. Some of the suggestions were utterly tactless and, disappointingly, these views came from those who should know better by the virtue of their experience. A lot of historical distortions and misinterpretations were freely peddled. The emotion shown by a few was indeed frightening. Perhaps, this was what prompted the wise intervention of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, who challenged the gathering to the fact that the objectives of the advocates of restructuring might be impaired by the “harsh” tone of some of the southern participants in the debate when referring to their compatriots in the north. Agbakoba suggested in the alternative a robust engagement among elements from the various parts of the country. In this respect, reason, and not hate speech, would serve the purpose.

After all, what is federalism if not a continuous negotiation among the federating units and between the units on the one hand and the centre on the other?

Even if restructuring is accomplished today as defined by the contemporary, future generations of Nigerians might still have cause to restructure the federation to serve their own purpose. Maybe, no one could envisage the future purpose now. That is why decent advocates of restructuring such as the VOR should be wary of the merchants of hate and practitioners of anarchy. You cannot go far on the road to restructuring with a penchant for insulting people of other ethnic groups. That is not the way of decent negotiation. And you simply cannot restructure without being imbued with the spirit of negotiation in a complex setting such as Nigeria. It is only reasonable to learn how to play the politics of restructuring right.

So those who play with the fire of the fault-lines of ethnicity and religion are doing a great disservice to the cause of restructuring. A peaceful restructuring cannot be achieved by the cynical manipulation of religion and ethnicity.

In this respect, President Muhammadu Buhari should seize the moment by giving a coherent and illuminating response to the groundswell of opinions on restructuring. Buhari should simply go back to the manifesto of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to be properly equipped on how to engage the nation amidst the seemingly unstoppable momentum of restructuring. That is what good leadership demands of the President.

The reflections should also focus on the factor of governance. The present and real danger of insecurity enveloping the nation is an issue of proper governance. No matter the structure of the federation that is eventually agreed upon, governance will still be a factor on its own. To derive the benefits from the proposed devolution of power to the federating units, state police and fiscal federalism, the country will still need to be properly governed at all levels. It would be illusory to imagine otherwise.

More fundamentally, it is important to explode the myth that the primary contradiction in Nigeria today is the distortion in the structure of the federation. Federalism, true or false, is not the primary issue. The primary contradiction in Nigeria is class-based. The primary contradiction is neither ethnic nor religious in nature. It is manifested in mass poverty and misery as recent findings by think tanks and international agencies have only confirmed. The primary contradiction is between the poor and the rich exploiters. The point at issue is that the vertical restructuring of the federation without the horizontal transformation of the social structure of inequality will not solve the problem fundamentally. The social structure of inequality traverses all ethnic groups, regions, zones and religions. And restructuring the federation will not automatically eradicate poverty in the land.

So, it is important that the restructuring advocates should also raise their voices against the worsening social inequality plaguing the land in the interest of social justice and peace.

Culled From ThisDay

Dirty money in circulation

Dirty money in circulation

Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun

By Oshineye Victor Oshisada

Money is the medium of exchange and store of value. People describe it variously as bank notes, currency notes or simply “money”. But for the purpose of this piece, the description as “money” is chosen for prompt and lucid understanding of man and woman in the street. Bank note is the paper money that is issued by a Bank. The issue of notes in most countries is either entirely confined to or subject to strict control by the Central Bank. Currency is another name for money. A country’s own currency is that for internal transactions. Foreign currency is the money of other countries. In this country, the currency that is in circulation is “Naira”.

The poor appearance of our “naira” is the focus of this writer. For a long time now, our naira has been badly mutilated, smelling nauseatingly and in shreds, to the extent of using sellotape to stick together the pieces. In these appalling appearances, people whose lot it is to spend the money have their re-actions. Why not? To every action, there is a re-action. “Nigerian currencies are Legal tender.” By legal tender, it is meant, the forms of money which a creditor is legally obliged to accept in the settlement of a debt. For the reason of “inflation” coins have vanished from circulation for many years. If anybody holds coins in possession, it merely serves as a family heirloom for future generations. Therefore, by the expression, “legal tender”, it is the argument by concerned citizens. The currency is paid for services and purchases of all sorts. Prospective buyers are right to argue: “This money though tattered, it is the legal tender today.” The producers of the services or commodities on their parts, shall contend with a note of finality. “It may be a legal tender. But nobody shall collect sellotaped naira notes in this market or area. Give me better money.”

The buyers shall insist that the bad Naira notes must be accepted by the sellers on the premise: “It was given to me by a Nigerian. Besides, I carry no other notes with me.” In the course of these continual and fruitless arguments, three possibilities may emerge-the seller may not part with the commodity. This does not enhance good trade and economic growth. Both the sellers and the buyers are at losses. The products may remain unsold. The buyers may lose the desired utility that is derivable from the commodity. A scuffle may eventuate between the buyer and the seller. These are not beneficial to the society.

Therefore, the Federal Government, through its Central Bank, must opt for the plausibility of regularly printing fresh currency notes for people’s commercial transactions. This writer considers clean money to be one of the economic mirrors of a country. If the notes are clean, it shows that the economy is good; if it is dirty as it is now, it demonstrates that our economy is seriously sick, requiring surgical operation. By the way, if I may inquire: “Are our Federal Ministers not in receipts of these dirty notes? Are the members of the National Assembly blind to the abysmal conditions of these dirty notes? Is it not a shame to the Federal Finance Minister to find in circulation absolutely wretched Naira notes?” These dirty Naira notes are a disgrace to the nation. Some years ago, Nigerians were condemning tattered national flags flying in public places. Today, we are criticizing mutilated Naira Notes. It seems that our leaders are in love with things that are in tatterdemalions. It is a pity!

Why are the conditions of our Naira so revolting? This writer can ascribe some reasons for these. People are in the habit of rejecting these notes. But quite often, I point it out to them: “When it was in mint form, the same people made it dirty as it is now, because of the wrong style that it is handled. Invariably, rough handling contributes to the filthy appearance of our money”. For example, the market women and the bus conductors are guilty of this. It is typical of the market mummies to stock decent notes inside their brassieres, corsets and corse-lettes for keeps in the course of their trades. In that process, body perspiration moistens the naira notes. Likewise, some young men tuck naira notes inside their pairs of socks, and even their pants ostensibly for security, but in reality they are vandalized. To worsen it, some write their names and address on the notes, thinking that in course of time, the money shall return to them after a certain period of circulation. Also, some superstitious folks nip the edges of the notes believing that no spirit shall steal them from their possessions. Further, the quality of the materials used to produce our naira notes are inferior. In 2015, many of these notes that were printed and sent into circulations have today peeled off as the inscriptions are deleted and illegible. The N50, N100 and N200 denominations are the victims of this vandalisation sparing N500 and N1000 the blushes. Moreover, the Federal Government’s habitual tardiness in re-printing the notes renders them defaced and lose their original artistic beauty. That is the aesthetics. It costs money to mint and print money. Therefore very significantly, the perennial delay in passing the Annual Budget by the National Assembly may possibly contribute to the Federal Finance Ministry’s prevailing predicament. Lastly, in this country, there is too much pressure on cash, with less emphases on bank cheques for transactions. In my considered opinion, I believe that it is because of the predominantly illiteracy level which results to lack of confidence in cheque transactions. In other words, people more often than not, rely on the uses of cash and less on cheques. This creates the mutilation and filthiness on the lower denominations of naira notes.

With a pang of nostalgia, this writer remembers the colonial Nigeria era, to Tafawa Balewa administration when Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was the Finance Minister, Nigerians were enjoying clean bank notes, compared with the present. At the introduction of new notes, a song was composed: “Okotie-Eboh ko owo tuntun de; aiye ndara bowa o e”, meaning, “Festus Okotie-Eboh has issued fresh and new currency notes; the country is assuming better economic era” Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was a colourful politician in his days. He had the peculiarity of buoyancy in appearance and equally demonstrative in his gait that at any social milieu, the wrapper round his waist would be flowing behind him with the trailing tail held on by two youngsters. In the like manner, the currency notes, produced for circulation by his Ministry, were typically spick-and-span and undefaced. Today the exercise has detracted from what obtained in the days of yore. This writer is authoritatively informed that some banks are rejecting the mutilated money. The Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, must prove equal to the task of furnishing Nigerians with clean Naira notes, about which the quantities in different denominations cause inadequate balances (that is, change) for buyers and sellers.

From the foregoing submissions, what is clear writer is advocating is that Nigerians deserve clean Naira notes, instead of the present sellotaped “rags” that pass for money.
Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.

Before the next massacre by Simon Kolawole

Before the next massacre

BY SIMON KOLAWOLE

Quote me: the Plateau killings, in which over a hundred defenceless citizens lost their lives, will not be the last. I am not trying to be a prophet — much less a prophet of doom — but the reality of Nigeria is that things hardly change. Internecine killings have been going on consistently for the past 18 years, mostly in northern Nigeria, and there is yet no sign that they are about to end. The Plateau killings are not the first and will not be the last. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that the next massacre is just by the corner elsewhere. Without a realistic conflict management strategy in place, I can sadly assure you that we are just helplessly waiting for the next mayhem.

What sparked off the latest bloodbath in Plateau state? Predictably, truth is the first casualty. People easily take sides and always end up with so many versions of truth that you would be performing a miracle to be able to put your finger on the real thing. The initial story was that herdsmen went on the rampage in Barkin-Ladi, Riyom, Mangu and Jos south local government areas of the state. Why? An account says some herdsmen had been killed and their cattle rustled by Berom youths days earlier, hence a reprisal. Up till now, we are still not sure of the facts. We are left to speculate. My article today assumes that it was a product of the intractable herders/farmers/villagers crisis.

Initially, Mallam Danladi Ciroma, the north-central chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), was widely reported by the medial as suggesting that the Plateau attacks were “retaliatory”. He has since denied saying so, but he pointed out that the biggest issue “on ground” in the state is cattle rustling. In January 2018, after the Benue killings, Alhaji Garus Gololo, a leader of Miyetti Allah in the state, told BBC pidgin that the attacks were in retaliation for the stealing of their cows. “As we were relocating to Taraba through Nasarawa state, thieves came to steal 1000 cows from us at the border town of Nengere, so we fought them back,” he said.

There are recurring decimals of “cattle rustling” and “reprisal” in the narratives. We can thus make some general observations based on what is in the open. One, herders are losing their cattle to armed robbers. Two, herders are also losing their lives to these violent rustlers. Three, the security agencies appear overwhelmed and unable to bring the rustlers to justice. Four, the herders embark on revenge missions. Five, the security agencies appear overwhelmed (some even say complicit) whenever the herders exact revenge. Six, the offending herders are also hardly brought to justice. Overall, we have something like a mutually assured destruction (MAD) in our hands.

In every conflict, though, there are remote and immediate causes. Therefore, my one-paragraph summary does not capture all the nuances of the herders/farmers conflict in the north. Things are much deeper. A broad view of the crippling crisis will identify more triggers than “rustling” and “reprisal”. Some analysts have partly blamed the genesis on atrocious geography — desertification and a disappearing Lake Chad — which is increasingly driving herders southwards in search of fresh pasture and inevitably putting them in conflict with farmers and villagers as a result of destructive grazing practices. In addition, the Boko Haram insurgency has pushed them southwards.

That said, we also cannot ignore the fact that the grazing routes created by colonial masters have been ruined over time. The encroachment on these routes by farmers and builders has never been addressed and it is not to be unexpected that one disruption leads to another. Evidently at play is a fierce struggle for scarce resources. So at the base of these herders/farmers confrontations is an economic issue which unfortunately plays into our fault lines and inflame passions. Any analysis of the conflict that does not recognise this as a factor will be most unhelpful, and we cannot begin to think of a permanent resolution in isolation of these economic issues.

Another deadly undertone is that, historically, the north is strongly divided along ethno-religious lines, and these differences are more pronounced in the Middle Belt where the scars of wars from the 18th and 19th centuries are still being nurtured. In states such as Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna and Nasarawa, there is eternal tension between Muslims and Christians. It is very evident in the way people take sides over the herders/farmers issues. The historical fault lines are always activated after each mayhem — even by the most educated and enlightened commentators. It always generates an emotive response devoid of rationality and pragmatism.

It is also indisputable that the anti-grazing laws in Benue and Taraba have become very contentious. The “state police” (vigilante), in enforcing the law, have been accused of extorting the herders, stealing their cows and in some cases killing the herders. The herders then regroup and fight back, with the reprisals turning out to be deadlier than the original “crime”. Their victims are almost always innocent villagers. One fair conclusion we can quickly reach is that the anti-grazing laws cannot on their own resolve the issues at play. I do not know how much of impact assessment the state lawmakers did before passing the legislations. Is it worth the bloodshed? I think not.

But then we are also faced with practical questions. Should any state government fold its arms and allow herders to continue to destroy the farmlands and livelihoods of other people in order to feed their cattle? I think not. No honest human being should answer yes to that question. On the other hand, can any government stop open grazing without alternatives and not provoke repercussions? Will any herder fold his arms and watch his livestock die from lack of water and pasture? Again, I think not. I don’t think any rational person will say that is the way to go. There we see the crux of the matter. Finding a middle ground is what we are always running away from.

There are at least three realities we must face if we are to sincerely address the crisis. One, herders cannot continue to destroy people’s livelihoods without repercussions. Your right to do your business must not encroach on my right to do my own business. Two, herders are human beings and economic agents who cannot be wished away or wiped off the surface of the earth. Anybody who thinks we will stop having herders in Nigeria is daydreaming. Three, and consequently, we must find a balance between the rights of the farmers and the rights of the herders if there is ever going to be peace in the land. Any proposal that ignores these three realities will NOT solve any problem.

In the end, something has to give. Of all the proposals on ground, ranching is the most reasonable and the most appealing to me. But the nomads will have to imbibe a new breeding culture. This will not happen overnight. Teaching an old dog new tricks is a tough task. When you have been doing something the same way for thousands of years, it is a heritage you don’t want to give up. The transition period will be hard. Ranching is a multi-billion naira economy waiting to explode — with enormous benefits. Caution: states should not be forced to provide land for ranching. Only the willing should sign up. We shouldn’t attempt to solve one problem by creating another.

Unfortunately, 2019 elections are around the corner and everything is tainted with politics. This makes crisis resolution pretty difficult. There are those taking advantage of the situation to play dirty politics and will go to any length in their dangerous game. These are the moments that need genuine problem-solving. Political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, intellectuals and the media all need to exercise leadership in these tough times. Let us all remember that there is no medal to be won if we allow our house to be set on fire. We will all bear the brunt. If Nigeria is not at peace, Nigerians cannot be at peace. Comfort for the tree is comfort for the bird.

My parting words are to Buhari. Dear President, someone once said that leadership is not what you do every day; it is how you rise to the occasion when the occasion arises. The insecurity in the land is the biggest test of your leadership so far. Nigeria is bleeding. Mr. President, don’t let it be said that Nigeria bled to death under your watch. Be firm. Be courageous. Be open-minded. Expand your circle of advisers. Seek help wherever you can get it. Do the needful to calm frayed nerves. Re-jig your security set-up if need be. Culprits must be diligently prosecuted. Justice must be done. Another massacre is just around the corner — except we earnestly begin to do things differently.

GALLANT EAGLES

The Super Eagles crashed out of the World Cup on Tuesday after losing 2-1 to Argentina in their final group match — but I was not terribly disappointed. My frustration was that we were so close to securing the needed result when we conceded the killer goal in the 86th minute. Nevertheless, I saw a Nigerian team that played their hearts out and fought gallantly to the last drop of their sweat. I loved it. The story would probably have been different if Jude Ighalo had buried his chance in the 75th minute instead of waiting for an uncertain penalty. But that’s the way life goes. We did not start the World Cup well and we paid the price, but it was a decent outing. Kudos.

TANKER DEATHS

A fuel tanker broke down, burst into flames and killed nine people on Thursday evening. Many more were injured while scores of vehicles got burnt. The cause? Break failure, according to reports. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Anytime you come across these fuel tankers, please take a look at their state of health. Many of them don’t have complete tires. Even some tires are worn out, but they keep dragging them on the road. We have the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) which is supposed to enforce safety on our roads, and we also have certification from ministry of transport (MOT) which confirms that these trucks are roadworthy. Innocent people always pay the price. Dreadful.

THE PEACE MAKER

Here is one to shame the bigots in Nigeria. An imam in Plateau state hid over 200 people, including Christians, inside his mosque during the recent killings in the state. He did not discriminate in saving the lives of men, women and children from the killers. He did not separate Muslims from Christians. He acted as a protector to all. This is the Nigeria I love. His identity was not revealed, but God knows him very well and I have no doubt that he will receive his due reward. True religion respects the sanctity of human life. No matter how religious you are, if you don’t respect human life, you are not better than a beast. I hope our Christian and Muslim leaders will learn from this imam. Godliness.

AND FINALLY…

A presidential spokesman said on Thursday that there were more wanton killings under PDP governments (between 1999 and 2018) than under the APC administration (from 2015 till now). I don’t know the purpose of the comprehensive list of killings that was released, but I must confess that it was well researched. It was a celebration of tragedies. He seems to be a football fan: he more or less developed a league table with invisible columns for “goals for” and “goals against” to compare and contrast dead bodies under PDP and APC. I have been complaining about unprofessional public communication in Nigeria for a while but this should take the cake. Ridiculous.

Source: TheCable

Budget as a Tool of Underdevelopment

Budget as a Tool of Underdevelopment

Former Chairman, House Appropriation Committee, Hon Abdumumn Jibrin

SIMON KOLAWOLE LIVE

In 2011, a brilliant, fine gentleman from the south-south was elected into the Nigerian senate. He was full of hopes and dreams. At a dinner with journalist friends, he outlined his vision and spoke enthusiastically about pursuing “developmental legislative agenda”.

He would make a difference, he promised. Two months after inauguration, the senator came to see his friends in Lagos with his tail between his legs. He said in a defeated voice: “If development is this way (he pointed forward), we are facing this direction (he pointed backward). Since our inauguration, all we have been discussing is money, money, money. It is all about our individual account balances.”

I recalled this story as controversy broke out over President Muhammadu Buhari’s protest that the 2018 budget was severely distorted by the lawmakers with the reduction in allocations to priority projects and addition of over 6,000 new projects. The lawmakers also allocated nearly N140 billion to themselves which, God willing, will be disbursed to the last kobo since it is a first-line charge on the federation account. However, the lawmakers have stoutly defended themselves and sought to justify the alterations. They said the changes were meant to reflect “federal balance”. After listening to both parties, I am still inclined to join issues with the national assembly.

Let us first settle some arguments. One, the national assembly has the power of appropriation. The executive proposes and implements budgets but the legislature must first approve through appropriation. It is in the spirit of checks and balances. Two, the national assembly is not a rubber stamp. It is not as if the executive will send a budget to the legislature and they will just stamp it. Under military regimes, the executive and legislature were one. They were at various times known as the Supreme Military Council, Armed Forces Ruling Council and Provisional Ruling Council. They did everything at once. We always had the budget approved by January 1 every year.

Three, the representation function of the parliament comes into bold relief in the budgeting process. While the president is representing the whole country, legislators represent individual constituencies, and they have a responsibility to factor in the interests of their constituents —and in a way balance the national and the local. Four, the constitution empowers the national assembly to make laws for “peace, order and good government of the federation”. Appropriation offers a powerful opportunity for them to do this. I don’t think we need to be arguing over this. It is therefore logical and legal for the lawmakers to make inputs into the budget in the national interest.

In the national interest? Now, this is where the problem begins. Does the national assembly do anything in the national interest? This is where the argument starts. The parliament has three primary responsibilities: one, representation; two, lawmaking (including appropriation); and three, oversight. These powers are so awesome that if they were properly and patriotically exercised by the lawmakers, Nigeria would have been a much better place. Just imagine all the appropriations to infrastructure, education, health and water from 1999 till date; just imagine a proper parliamentary oversight function; and just imagine how Nigeria would have been transformed.

Based on my observations since 1999, I can safely conclude that the motive behind most budget alterations is anything but national interest. When Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, two-time minister of finance, said in her book, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous, that the national assembly was “bribed” with N17 billion to pass the 2015 budget, some lawmakers raised hell. They deliberately interpreted that to mean bribe was shared among lawmakers, but they knew what she was saying: the executive had to allow the legislature to add that amount to its own budget before the bill was passed. That was the deal maker. This year, lawmakers added N14.5 billion to their budget. Nothing new.

When the president sends the appropriation bill to the national assembly, committees invite chief executives and accounting officers of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to defend their proposals. This is usually at a high cost. Some sessions are televised live. Refreshments are served. Precious time is spent on budget defence. After the whole show when some form of agreements might have been reached, the budget goes to the appropriations committees which then, in a dictatorial manner, begin to alter the budgets. The figures are usually allocated arbitrarily. So why waste time and resources on useless budget defence sessions? What’s the value?

Has anyone ever wondered why the executive will propose a budget of N8.612 trillion with a crude oil benchmark of $45 per barrel and the parliament will raise the benchmark to $51 and increase the budget to N9.12 trillion? Setting a lower benchmark is a wise way of saving in the excess crude account so that when the rain comes falling — as it certainly must do cyclically — we will have something to fall back on. It is common sense to create a fine balance between the need to spend and the need to save so that we do not witness the kind of calamity that befell us between 2014 and 2017 again. A prudent parliament will always consider this fact with a sense of responsibility.

Has anyone also ever wondered why despite all the budget defence by the MDAs, the budget still comes out heavily distorted? The idea of budget defence, which usually goes on for months, is for the executive and the legislature to consider the fine details and arrive at some compromise. Budgets are prepared based on the policies and programmes of a government. The executive has its priorities and goals. So, for all those things lawmakers are unilaterally inserting into the budget, how did they do the costing? They do not execute projects so how did they arrive at those figures? What is the basis for cutting down on priority projects?

Truth be told: while the executive is not blameless, our legislators have turned budgeting to an instrument of blackmail to further personal interests. Budgeting is seen as harvest season. I don’t know if this culture still persists, but the MDAs used to be extorted by the lawmakers ahead of their budget defence in order to facilitate “smooth” passage. When Professor Fabian Osuji was minister of education in 2005, his otherwise sterling reputation was destroyed when lawmakers extorted N55 million from him for “smooth” passage of his ministry’s budget. Some of the criminals went on to become governors and some are today party executives. So it goes.

It is no secret that if the MDAs can “settle” lawmakers very well, their budgets will be increased beyond their wildest dreams. For example, an agency would propose a budget of N10 billion and the lawmakers would promise to increase it to N20 billion if they can “settle” in advance. The increase will be presented as “national interest”. That is one of the reasons the budgets are always bloated every year. They extort during budget defence, extort during oversight function and extort from contractors. In some instances, they will even insist on bringing the contractors for the projects. I don’t know if these practices have stopped but that used to be the untold story.

The lawmakers actually need to examine their consciences. They have turned the concept of separation of powers upside down. They prepare their own budgets and refuse to release the details to the public. How can you perform oversight function on your own budget? Does that make sense, fellow Nigerians? It took a courageous Senator Shehu Sani to reveal to the world that senators legally take home over N13 million a month. Up till today, the house of reps has not told us how much they take home every month. National interest indeed! The lawmakers have over the years successfully arm-twisted us into accepting the so-called constituency projects.

The bigger picture we are not seeing, however, is that as it is in Abuja, so it is in the states and local governments. We focus our attention on Aso Rock and national assembly, but these shenanigans are replicated at local level. Budgets are padded and ballooned. Non-existent projects are “funded” and money shared by those who matter. MDA executives and state lawmakers are having fun with public funds and there is nobody to question them. The controllers of public discourse in Nigeria are more interested in “true federalism” as defined by them; they deliberately ignore the bazaar going on under their noses in their states and councils. So it goes.

The underdevelopment of this country is not accidental. We cannot continue to do things this way and expect progress. At some point the political elite will have to repent. If half of the budget for education or healthcare or roads actually goes into what it is theoretically meant for, we would have overcome most of our daunting challenges by now. If leadership is driven by competence and patriotism, all the oil windfalls since 1999 would have meant something more than ballooning overhead expenditure and distorting the budget for personal benefit under the pretext of “national interest”. I hope that one day, our leaders at all levels will change their ways.

===AND FOUR OTHER THINGS====

UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY

So many things sadden me about Nigeria, and one of them just manifested in the proposed training of railway engineers in China. The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) had said it would provide scholarships for Nigerian students but, as things turned out, it is only on paper. Applicants who do not have godfathers were shocked to realise on the day of interview that only those nominated by powerful Nigerians were allowed inside. This country continues to kill the spirit of its citizens. This is why resentment and frustration set in. How do you expect these young men and women to believe in Nigeria? We run an unfair system. Depressing.

GESTAPO STYLE

Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe was arrested on Friday. The general belief is that he was picked up by the Department of State Services (DSS). Typically, DSS would neither confirm nor deny. It does not have a spokesperson. We don’t know why he was picked up; we can only speculate. This is very disturbing. If a senator can disappear in this manner, what is the hope for ordinary Nigerians? If DSS continues to operate this way, I hope this will not open the door to unexplained disappearances in Nigeria for which nobody will take responsibility. The DSS needs to modernise its mode of operation. It is one thing that scares me stiff about this Buhari administration. Alarming.

SORRY YARI

Alhaji Abdulazia Yari, the Abuja-based governor of Zamfara state, has finally told us what we knew all along — that he is not in charge of his state. Zamfara is arguably the state that has witnessed the most bloodshed in Nigeria in the last three years (it is not headline news because, frankly speaking, the politicians and their puppets cannot make a Muslim vs Christian business out of it). Yari says he is giving up his position as the chief security officer of the state. Except he refunds all the security votes he has collected since 2011 and stops collecting more henceforth, we will continue to regard him as the CSO of Zamfara. This has nothing to do with fornication. Incompetence.

AND FINALLY…

Who said “success has many fathers but failure is an orphan”? The person deserves a Nobel for wise saying, if there is any such category. After Nigeria lost to Croatia at the FIFA World Cup, I saw videos on social media showing angry fans burning the beautiful Nigerian jersey. And then we bounced back and beat Iceland on Friday — and suddenly the Super Eagles are the best thing since pounded yam with egusi and bush meat. Hearty congratulations to Ahmed Musa, the two-goal hero. Within minutes after the match, memes of Musa as the presidential candidate of APGA were already trending! More heroics and we will nominate him to be UN secretary-general. Ecstasy.

Culled from ThisDay

OBJ and the ‘Ogboju’ syndrome

OBJ and the ‘Ogboju’ syndrome

Buhari and Obasanjo

By Louis Odion, FNGE

“Ogboju” is no ordinary term in Yoruba speak. It describes a false bravado by the daring in pursuit of often dubious end. It happens when the marauder is, for instance, audacious enough to turn around and blame the very crime on their supposed victim.
More and more, we are witnessing the “Ogboju” syndrome in the simmering Buhari/Obasanjo tiff. With the president suddenly breaking his own custom of silence last week by insinuating hanky panky in the multi-billion dollars power projects executed under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s watch as president, it became clear the infantry General from Daura is simply no longer willing to turn the proverbial other cheek under relentless assault by his senior professional colleague.
Since drawing the first blood with the “letter bomb” of January, OBJ has characteristically not allowed any opportunity or platform pass without peppering PMB further with invectives least expected of a statesman of his pedigree and stature.
But PMB’s own fireworks would appear to have commenced in earnest. Not only has the anti-graft agency responded by dusting up the reports of earlier probe of the $16b power deal, the Presidency further stirred things up weekend with a detailed reminder of how public institutions like the police and DSS were dragooned by OBJ to “topple” elected governors in pursuit of political vendetta. We were reminded how, in many instances, subdued state lawmakers were herded from EFCC detention camp to the assembly and made at gunpoint to impeach governors, even without a quorum.
Added to the foregoing is the whispering campaign in town linking OBJ to an alleged multi-billion dollars contract proposal involving the Mambilia power project said to have been scuttled by Buhari.
But for once, usually prolific OBJ is yet to find his fountain pen to confirm or deny this. Rather, he has since been on the back-foot, seeking portions of his latest memoirs, My Watch, as enough defence on the $16b power charge. Now, the wily witch-doctor is being force-fed generous portion of own bitter portion.
While PMB may not have fully lived up to the promise of 2015, let it however be stated that that is not sufficient alibi for OBJ to now seek to indulge his habitual narcissism by resorting to some “Ogboju” and, in the process, inflict the most brazen assault on national memory. For, as they say, that the deer suffers adversity of having its visage disfigured by a boil isn’t enough reason for the domestic fowl to appropriate the toga of the tale-bearer.
True, Buhari’s albatross in the past three years would undoubtedly include the issue of lopsidedness in appointments that have seen the South-East and South-South virtually alienated and the fact that the nation’s space remains haunted by the restless ghosts of the innocent slaughtered by genocidal herdsmen.
But each time they read or hear OBJ lampooning Buhari, I am quite sure most – if not all – of those old enough to understand things while the two-term President held sway must find themselves choked by the stench of hypocrisy, unnerved by the sheer sanctimony of OBJ’s guttural chord.
Suddenly, OBJ and his people now, for instance, want us to believe Buhari had many skeletons locked up in the PTF closet. But speaking on the same issue in January 2015, these were OBJ’s reactions to speculations against then candidate Buhari: “When we looked into it (PTF), there was really nothing amiss except that that organisation went from road-building to mosquito-net buying and all sort of things. Although there was an investigation, its report was not of any material importance. I thought that I should say it… (hoping) people will face issues rather than triviliaties.”
Suddenly, the free-flowing eulogy of yesterday has turned bitter jeremiad today.
While now dismissing both APC and PDP as “wrecked vehicles”, OBJ speaks as though the rest of us are the proverbial Bourbons afflicted by incurable amnesia. If nothing at all, he should, at least, accept responsibility for nourishing the umbrella party on the diet of impunity in its first eight formative years.
When his last-ditch desperation to grab power after Third Term came to grief in 2006, he orchestrated the rigging of the party’s constitution to proclaim himself “Life Leader” and “Head of the Legislative Agenda” in a poor imitation of the ANC model in South Africa.
As imperial president, the party leadership was made to grovel and worship at his feet.
Those who rebelled soon met sour ending. When Audu Ogbeh as national chair summoned courage to publicly disagree with him on some state policies, the then imperial majesty at the Villa personally penned a philippic. Thereafter, the resignation letter of the insolent chair was allegedly extracted at gun-point behind closed doors!
We also see OBJ’s “Ogboju” in continued denial of third term, despite overwhelming exhibits.
The same mindset is also on display whenever and wherever presented a platform to pontificate on corruption. Apparently, his guiding philosophy is: do as I say, not as I do. Who, for instance, will forget the abominable spectacle of dirty undergarments exposed over PTDF when OBJ and his deputy Atiku Abubakar chose to fight dirty.
Through the public hearing conducted, we heard how funds meant to develop the oil sector were converted to purchasing SUVs for OBJ’s concubines.
Yet, Saint OBJ continues to sermonize on morality in public office. But when he ruled, his own queer lithurgy did not see any iniquity in auctioning prized national assets and allocating oil blocs to newly incorporated Transcorp where he had personal interest euphemistically classified as “blind trust”.
When poor varsity teachers downed tools in protest of poor pay and underdevelopment of tertiary education in the country back then, sharp-tongued OBJ soon descended on them as saboteurs and hypocrites who would send their own kids abroad while shutting the school gates against the children of the poor at home. His own solution: he hastened the setting up of his own “world-class” university in Ota, obviously as alternative to those denied by ASUU.
We also saw OBJ’s “Ogboju” in commandeering industry captains and state governors to raise a whopping N7b for his personal presidential library in Abeokuta on the eve of his exit. Meanwhile, the National Library mooted in 2002 amid national fanfare never really got off the ground.
Asked recently by the Yoruba service of the BBC about the prospects of enlisting in OBJ’s political movement, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, was unsparing. Thumping his temple in a supreme gesture of denunciation, he retorted jocularly: “Then, I should have my head examined by a psychiatrist.”
So, when they say millions have enlisted behind OBJ today, the big puzzle is whether the queue passes through the street sheltering the psychiatrist’s studio Soyinka insinuated.

For Ajibade @ 60
Sani Abacha’s gun-toting goons came for TheNews lead writer Dapo Olorunyomi. But in an extraordinary show of leadership by responsibility, editor Kunle Ajibade volunteered himself to be taken away instead, following a scathing cover story the magazine published on what would become known as the phantom coup of 1995.
Of course, that self-sacrifice marked the beginning of Ajibade’s journey to Abacha’s gulag for three harrowing years in defence of truth and liberty. He chose not to keep cowardly silence in the face of tyranny.
Indeed, the chronicle of popular resistance of Nigeria’s military despotism of the 80s and 90s is incomplete without acknowledging the likes of Ajibade who showed courage under fire.
As he turns 60s, here is saying happy birthday to one of Nigeria’s journalism icons.

Much ado about Ekwueme’s medical bill
Wherever he is, Nicolo Machiavelli must be chuckling at the little drama unfolding today east of River Niger – Anambra specifically. Men, said the 15th century Italian philosopher, tend to forget the passing of a beloved more quickly than the loss of patrimony.
Machiavelli’s words are playing out in the aftermath of Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s death. What started as a gossip soon after the former Vice President was buried in his native Oko town in February finally blew into the open when Emmanuel Chukwuma, the Archibishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province and known counselor to the Ekwueme’s family, pointedly accused Federal Government officials of “playing smart” with the funds approved for the burial.
Of course, that put the Dr. Chris Ngige (who was the deputy chairman of the FG’s burial committee), on the spot.
Obviously intent on appropriating some political mileage, Ngige had reminded everyone that the government of which he is Labour minister had been gracious enough to relieve Ekwueme’s family of all the financial burden. But since the family had paid the same bill and collected receipt, it was only natural that those in the know quickly exchanged suspicious glances following Ngige’s claims.
Checks at the London hospital eventually brought some relief. Contrary to insinuations, it was confirmed that FG actually wired the said £200,000 directly to the hospital, but only after the bereaved had already paid in November. On receipt of the transfer, the hospital did the right thing by transferring the same amount back to Nigeria’s Central Bank.
What would now seem the new bone of contention, according to a Saturday Sun report, is that whereas the CBN is ready to pay in Naira, the Ekwueme family prefer Pound Sterling they disbursed to the London hospital. Small matter, you may say. But the devil is actually in the details. Of course, as a matter of sovereign pride, the government’s banker should not be seen engaged in any local transaction with forex. But the unspoken displeasure of the bereaved would likely be the fear of being short-changed when “official rate” is applied. Of course, CBN will calculate by official rate. By the time Ekwueme family approach the black market, the naira cash received would certainly command far less than £200,000.
Hmmm.