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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

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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.

On Ohanaeze’s six-year term proposal…

On Ohanaeze’s six-year term proposal…

Former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme

By Simon Kolawole

So how can we have a much better Nigeria, a country we can proudly call our own? The debate continues. The dominant line of discourse has been that of “restructuring Nigeria” and there are certainly different shades of the argument. I was fascinated by the communiqué of Ohanaeze Ndigbo at the end of the South-East Summit on the Restructuring of Nigeria in Awka, Anambra state, last week. The socio-cultural group put a number of proposals on the table which, going by the mood of the participants, can be considered unanimous. The proposals are not completely new, just that most are now attaining consensus among the leading lights of the restructuring campaign.

Among other things, Ohanaeze demanded a constitutional conference backed by law, a new constitution that is “truly federal” to be produced by a Constituent Assembly and adopted through a referendum by the people of Nigeria for “legitimacy and validity”, and the repeal of Decree No. 24 of 1999 by the National Assembly to void the current constitution and enable a new one. The group proposed the retention of the presidential system and bicameral legislature at the federal level. Ohanaeze wants the current geo-political zones to be the federating units with their own system of government, although it prefers uniformity for “ease of transaction” and “comparability”.

The Igbo outside the south-east zone — such as Anioma in Delta state and Ikwerre in Rivers — who desire to be united with their kith and kin should do so via a referendum; it should be voluntary, Ohanaeze said. Every region will have its constitution; if it conflicts with the federal constitution, the latter will take precedence. This is not too far from what obtains under the 1999 constitution in which there are exclusive, residual and concurrent lists. Ohanaeze proposed that if states would be federating units, then the south-east should get an additional state for the sake of equity. It proposed removal of local governments from the constitution – each region should decide the local structure it wants.

Ohanaeze proposed a single-term tenure of six years for presidents (and, by extension, governors) and five vice-presidents, one from each geo-political zone other than the president’s own, and that each VP should have supervisory powers over key ministries. In other words, there should be federal character and quota system in picking VPs. Ohanaeze further proposed rotational presidency, another aspect of federal character, and went further to recommend something similar at the state level: there should be rotation of governorship between senatorial districts — or whatever sub-structure is eventually adopted at the regional level. This, it said, is in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.

My interest today is the six-year tenure. It is not entirely new – the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme proposed it some 22 years ago. He, however, wanted six vice-presidents, not five, with a proviso that if the sitting president dies, resigns or is impeached, the VP from his or her zone will step in and complete the tenure. If we had had such a provision in the 1999 constitution, the tension caused by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s fatal illness in 2009-2010 would have been avoided. Some political analysts still believe that the death of Yar’Adua and the ascension of President Goodluck Jonathan to power in 2010 wounded the north, poisoned the body politic and we are still paying the price.

Jonathan, meanwhile, also proposed a six-year single-term tenure after winning the 2011 presidential election. His argument was that re-election bids often heat up the polity. He also said it would reduce INEC’s electoral expenses as polls would now be held at six-year intervals. His proposals were met with cynicism, especially as it was interpreted to mean he wanted to be in power for another six years rather than the four he was elected to do. When he spoke in Ethiopia that he would do only one term if elected, he was perhaps hinting at this; but he denied planning to be a beneficiary of six years. Critics said he was plotting to stay in power for seven unbroken years. The proposal died in no time.

Nevertheless, the six-year tenure proposal being promoted by Ohanaeze Ndigbo has its merits. One, a six-year tenure will guarantee that presidency goes round the geo-political zones, thus addressing issues of marginalisation. Imagine we had a six-year tenure arrangement since 1999: south-west would have had it till 2005, the north (east, west or central) would have carried on till 2011, the south-east or south-south would have had it till 2017 and it would be back to the north by now. It would be predictable. As things stand, Ndigbo are convinced there is a conspiracy to keep them out of the No. 1 position. Only a transparent arrangement of this nature can ensure that every part of Nigeria is guaranteed a shot.

Two, when presidents (or governors) have only one opportunity to perform, the rational ones will put in all efforts to write their names in gold within the six years. But when there is the possibility of a second chance, they may be busy settling political IOUs and plotting to survive power games in order to bid for a second term, thereby paying little attention to quality governance and instead accumulating funds to get re-elected. Most governors are still trying to settle in by the time it dawns on them that another election is around the corner. They then lose focus and delay or avoid critical decisions in order not to offend voters. Reform is very difficult when you are eyeing a second term in office.

Three, an incumbent president going for second term has an undue advantage. The heads of all the agencies central to the conduct of elections are appointed by the president, from INEC and police to DSS and sometimes the military. The incumbent also has incredible access to resources. It is a frightening war chest no individual or group of individuals can rival. It was not an ordinary feat that Jonathan was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 – that is why we still consider it to be historic. In the history of Nigeria, incumbent presidents were always returned no matter how poorly they performed in office. A single-term tenure can, to some extent, reduce re-election desperation.

Now where do I stand? Pardon my intransigence, but we are only discussing this because of the perennial failure of leadership in Nigeria. There is a reason for the provision of two terms of office for governors and presidents. The carrot of a second term is supposed be an incentive for the incumbent to perform and then be rewarded by voters with another four years for a job well done. As we say in Nigeria, “one good term deserves another” (whoever coined this aphorism deserves a medal). However, we have seen people spend eight years in office with little or no impact on the community despite the hundreds of billions of naira at their disposal. Thus, the aim of two terms is defeated.

The other side of the coin, though, is: what happens if you have a competent and patriotic leader, someone who really inspires confidence and is committed to fairness, justice and equity, someone who is actually delivering the goods? Under the single-term tenure, there will be no reward for the hard work! Not just that, there is a fat chance all the good work will be disrupted and discontinued by their successors who will want to prove to the world that they have their own ideas. I think we are assuming that our leaders will always underperform in office, so we want them to get out of office as quickly as possible through single-term tenures. We may end up throwing the baby away with the bath water.

In sum, Ndigbo appear to be shut of the No. 1 position in the land, something that they think can be resolved through a system that guarantees power rotation among regions within short intervals. My view has always been that no part of Nigeria should feel isolated from power; the political system must ensure that everyone is fully represented and integrated. Every part of Nigeria must be given a fair shot at presidency. It is good for the peace of the land. Without federal character, things would even be worse. We could have a cabinet that does not have a single south-easterner and no law or principle would have been broken. Federal character guarantees that every state is represented.

Having said that, I like the sound of the one-term proposal, but you know my position: it is not the solution to the Nigerian conundrum. It will address one problem – that of political equity – but it will not guarantee food on the table, 24-hour power supply or drugs in the hospitals. Nothing is inherently wrong with our system but everything is wrong with the operators. Until we address the leadership deficit ravaging every nook and cranny of Nigeria, until we have leaders who are irrevocably committed to development, we will remain stuck. One term, two terms, six years, eight years, presidential system, parliamentary system, regionalism… none of these things will turn Nigeria to Dubai on their own.

Finally, if the one-term proposal will help institute what I call “development as a relay race”, I’m in. That is, successive administrations will treat government as a continuum and carry on with the good ideas they meet on ground. My biggest admiration of President Buhari since he came to office three years ago is the commitment to completing some of the projects and ideas carried over from Jonathan. As a Nigerian, as a student of development, I looooooove it. Politicians and partisans won’t like it – for them, politics always comes first. All I want to see is a prosperous Nigeria built on sound ideas. That’s why we must keep the national discourse alive and robustly debate every proposal. Imperative.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
BUHARI VS OBASANJO

In the 2011 presidential debate organised by NN24 and moderated by our own Kadaria Ahmed and CNN’s Jonathan Mann, Candidate Muhammadu Buhari promised to probe the “$16bn power expenditure by PDP from 1999 to 2007” for which there were no bright results. Seven years later — and three years after finally becoming president — Buhari has “re-opened” the file. Not many think Buhari will actually probe former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his erstwhile supporter turned traducer. There is an unwritten rule that former Nigerian leaders are untouchable. However, something tells me that the rule will be broken someday. We are getting closer and closer. Equality.

MILITARY VS AMNESTY

I don’t know who is advising the Nigerian military, but if I were in a position to advise their advisers, I would say they should tell their clients to pipe low in their war against Amnesty International. There seems to be this feeling in the military hierarchy that AI can be intimidated into silence. It won’t happen. The international human rights organisation, set up in 1961 “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end abuses of human rights”, has survived the most brutal military regimes all over the world. I would suggest that we deal decisively with the issues of rape, extrajudicial killings and other abuses by Nigerian soldiers. We will be the better for it in the end. Commonsense.

JIBRIN VS HOUSE

Now that another court of law has ruled that the legislature does not have the power to suspend members, let us hope that our lawmakers will find another way of enforcing discipline without the military-style sledgehammer. Different courts had previously voided the suspension of Senators Ali Ndume and Ovie Omo-Agege, and now Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin has been let off the hook. Dissent is essential to democracy. Senator Arthur Nzeribe was the first to be hit with the suspension sledgehammer in 2003 when Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was senate president. Let everything be done decently and in order, no matter the perceived offence. Draconian.

AND, FINALLY…

On Friday, a delegation of Nigerian female parliamentarians paid a visit to President Buhari at the presidential villa. They made a case on the marginalisation of women in Nigerian politics (an indisputable fact, by the way). Personally, I think the Buhari administration has not been gender-equitable in the distribution of important political offices. Well, the women have requested for the slot of vice-president. In his response, Buhari joked: “It’s a pity the vice-president is not here. But I believe the secretary to the government of the federation will tell him that his position is threatened.” I blame the women: they should have asked for the position of president. LOL.

Culled from TheCable

If this is Buhari’s final 29 May

If this is Buhari’s final 29 May

By Sonala Olumhense

There is a strong possibility that one year ahead from this week, President Muhammadu Buhari will be at Eagle Square in Abuja looking considerably older and sadder.

The presidential election will be held on February 19, nine months away. When he takes the microphone for the fourth time in 48 hours, it will be the formal start to his campaign for re-election.

But it will be a difficult nine months, unless the All Progressives Congress, does the unthinkable and denies him the re-run ticket.

As an observer, I am going to enjoy watching this effort to swim dressed in an agbada loaded with rocks, which is why his presence at Eagle Square in Abuja on May 29, 2019 may only be for the swearing-in of his successor.

But the issue is not in the idea of his being defeated, or in those who dare to pronounce the possibility. It is to be found three May 29s back: in 2015 when he happily took his oath of office.

Four years earlier than that, in 2011, I had taken great trouble to document the electoral promises of his predecessor, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan. As I completed my research and whittled-down the material to fill a short column, I often had the impression that Jonathan had fallen for various officials giving him to read, at campaign stops, locally-relevant pieces of paper containing hoary promises.

In retrospect, Jonathan forgot about each promise and each vow as soon as he had spoken. As it turned out, that political fraud made him easy to profile and, in 2015, to be defeated.

The beneficiary of Jonathan’s misadventures was Buhari, who positioned himself as anti-Jonathan and anti-Peoples Democratic Party, with promises of his own. He offered a new and functional Nigeria he would personally clean-up, a process he called C-H-A-N-G-E.

That is why, when Buhari speaks at the national anniversary this Tuesday, he will be commencing a nine-month long defence not only of his tenure, but of whom he really is. Because the question that must be answered is what became of change.

APC likes to frame the question as the Peoples Democratic Party, which it replaced at the federal level in 2015, trying to bring back its “evil” ways.

Any wise leader knows that your true biography is never written by your supporters but by Time. And Buhari’s is about to be written. Because over the next nine months, gone will be the manhunt of 2015 in which he was the hunter; in its place will be the manhunt of 2019 in which he will be the hunted.

Is he ready? In his corner he will have all the arms and ammunition of incumbency: the name and political recognition as the office holder, and in the case of Nigerians as a people, a certain willingness to confuse being in office with being deserving of it.

Incumbency is a wonderful weapon if a leader earns adulation or celebration in office for his accomplishments. Once upon a time, somewhere between winning the election and soon after he took the oath of office, Buhari was on the periphery of that land.

He hadn’t said a word, but he wore a certain sosorobia people called “body language,” which caused fear among public officers and made them do the right thing. Some of them even hurriedly returned public funds they had somehow found to be in their hands.

But then Buhari settled into office, and Nigerians discovered that unless you belonged to a particular political party, there was really no reason to be afraid. Corruption was a type, not a thing.

Buhari, the myth, transmogrified into Buhari, the person. Nigerians found that Buhari, the person, largely liked to talk tough in public, but no more. He could make a rule, and then break it right away and allow—perhaps even encourage—those around him to do so.

Nigerians found that Buhari didn’t care for performance; he appointed people who became saints and supermen: they never erred and could not be removed. Where removal was compelled by circumstances, they could not be prosecuted.

That is why part of his re-election effort must be the re-invention, or re-discovery, of CHANGE. In 2015, “change” was both the hammer and the nail; in 2019, it will be impossible to go forward unless a persuasive explanation can be offered.

Buhari runs a curious timeline. For an important part of his tenure, change was all but forgotten, returning to the headlines only when Nigerians began to question whether he had forgotten the mission.

Missing this point, in support of his re-election, Buhari supporters are pointing to his “achievements”: a project launched, a bridge commissioned, a hope expressed.

That is the wrong campaign. Buhari’s re-election is about his credibility: whom he said he would be, as opposed to whom he became; where he said he would travel, as opposed to where he has.

“If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria,” he swore repeatedly. Three years later, corruption is suffocating Nigeria. Impunity is what impunity was. The population of political criminals has not diminished.

Incumbency, when it leads to true service, is an elixir. Re-election is not a challenge. The people themselves celebrate and broadcast what has been accomplished, and they express their joy of being in the hands of such a leader.

But incumbency can also hurt. If an elected leader does poorly—or is vicious and tyrannical until it is time to ask for votes so that he can, in effect, continue to be poor and vicious and tyrannical—incumbency places a target on his back and a question mark on his forehead. Buhari will face this challenge now.

If indeed he now commences his re-election effort, I will be listening to hear if, contrary to his first three years, he reinvents himself as a man of vision and principle and integrity.

Next, the Buhari machinery has been hampered since 2015 by its lack of strategic thinking and originality of thought. While Buhari had marketed himself as the saviour, he has failed to inspire Nigerians with his expansive nationalism and boldness.

And I would be interested in whether he can separate Buhari, the president, from Buhari, the candidate. I will be looking at how he deploys the tools of state—funds, equipment and structures—which he enjoys as head of the executive branch, from the resources of his campaign.

If Tuesday is Buhari’s last May 29 speech as Nigerian leader, he will be an easy man for man and history to laugh at.

But what if he shook off the shackles…and chose his country over his fears and over life itself?

Celebrating Lagos at 51

Celebrating Lagos at 51

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode

By Akinwunmi Ambode

Exactly a year ago, Lagos State turned 50. Nigerians came out in larger numbers to participate in the one-year long celebration of the coming of age of the State of aquatic splendor. The celebrations culminated in a spectacular show on 27 May 2017 at the grounds of Eko Atlantic.

It has been one year now since those celebrations took place. We look back today, one year after, and see a Lagos that is remarkably different at 51. Infrastructure development continues to be in the front burner of our administration. From Abule Egba to Ajah, from Epe to Badagry; Lagos resounds with an endless run of repaired and newly constructed roads and bridges. From Alapere to Okokomaiko, Agege to TBS, the city breathes with lay-bys that have drastically whittled hours spent in agonizing traffic jams across the State. From Agege to Yaba, Ojodu Berger to Lekki, Lagos stares with shimmering streetlights that adorn the most populous black city in the world with glee.

The pace of development in Lagos State since last year, and indeed since we came on board, is modestly noticeable.

Yet during our campaign, our resonant message was that Lagos must work for all. We said it then and have continued to reiterate it since assuming powers that ours would be government of inclusion; where every hard working Nigerian would have a place to call home. Our message of hope knows no difference between federal and state roads: for the reclusive child of fate there are no federal or State Lagosians. All roads in Lagos, as with all other infrastructure, belong to the people.

Through the years, we have steadily repaired our State, modernizing and retooling things to the point where we now talk about turning Lagos into a Smart City.

In every way, our infrastructure is improved. Our roads are better, our mass transportation has expanded, hospitals give better care to the sick and afflicted, education is improving and more affordable housing is being constructed before our very eyes.

The face of Badagry is changing. The makeover of Oshodi will cause you to marvel at the transformation that can take place even in densely populated urban space when there is the political will and determined creativity to give the people the infrastructure they deserve. We are improving and expanding the Airport Road so that a trip to and from the airport no longer takes more time than your flight itself.

The Lekki-Epe axis was once an isolated, inactive tract of land. Now it bustles with energy, activity and prosperity due in large measure to the roads and other infrastructure our State has constructed.

We have and will continue to build bridges linking parts of Lagos that have not been linked before so that commerce, transport and communication among Lagosians will be facilitated. We aim to make this state fully integrated so that one part is well connected to any other.

All of this work is underpinned by the belief that Lagos belongs to all of us. Lagos is not an exclusive club. It is an inclusive family.

Available statistics from the United Nations confirmed the fact that an average of 86 people enter into Lagos every one hour which is the highest in the world, while the population of the State was now around 24million, with attendant impact on infrastructure and other social amenities. And the significance of Lagos to the overall economy of Nigeria itself is not what anyone would want to toy with. There is therefore the need for a pragmatic approach by a visionary government to put machinery in place to tackle the future challenges. That is what our government has been doing in the last three years and the desire destination in the nearest future is to make Lagos the third largest economy in Africa.

As a government, we are conscious of the fact that infrastructure, security, stability and partnership with all stakeholders are fundamental ingredients for tourism development. We have channeled a lot of resources into creating an enduring infrastructural architecture for the business of tourism to thrive.

In order to do this successfully, we must first build a solid infrastructural architecture that will endure. It must be safe and secure; it must provide functional and diverse venues for the arts, culture, festivals, creative industry, recreation and wildlife; and it must constantly and productively engage with its critical stakeholders.

The Tourism Master Plan is focused on Six key sectors; Culture and Heritage, Film, Art and Entertainment, Business Tourism, Nature and Adventure, Medical and Wellness, Beach and Leisure.

Qualitative education is one of the cardinal duties a government must render to its people and the importance our government attaches to education is reflected in the 12.07% of the total 2018 Budget allocated to Education. This allocation is surpassed only by that of Economic Affairs and General Public Services. Our State has always been a trailblazer in various spheres of life and in order to consolidate on the economic gains made so far, the education of our youth is paramount. We seek the cooperation of all Lagosians to ensure we eradicate illiteracy in the State, groom the next generation of leaders and captains of industry as well as position our State as the standard bearer for the nation in the provision of qualitative tertiary education.

On security, we believe that the continued prosperity of our State can only be achieved under a well-secured and peaceful environment, hence our strong financial investment on security architecture, modern equipment, vehicles and welfare to enhance the fighting capacities of our security agencies.

We have inspired Lagosians to pay taxes. In truth, Nigerians do not like paying taxes, not because they are naturally averse to taxes, but because they have been taken for a ride for too long. We have demonstrated our readiness to judiciously and efficiently manage the state resources for the benefit of the generality of our people. The positive response of our people has shown that when a government wins the confidence of her people, they will respond with decisive performance of their civil obligations. This is the essence of the social contract we made with Lagosians when we resumed on 29 May 2015.

The social contract of inclusive governance and purposeful leadership is what we are renewing with our people today that Lagos is 51; and in this month that our governance of Lagos clocks three years. We wish to assure Lagosians that our government is one that listens. Our administration does not play the Ostrich that buries its head in the sand. Ours is a responsive government that promises and delivers on inclusiveness. Yes, it’s not a perfect state because we believe there will always be challenges, but with God and all our citizens on our side we would always triumph.

I will readily admit that I am not infallible and it is an evident truism that I exhibit a different DNA and leadership style, which some might not be alienable to, but we have kept faith with our cardinal principles by consistently delivering the goods/services and making our people happy. The future of Lagos State is bright and secured.

Happy Anniversary!!!

• Mr. Ambode is the Governor of Lagos State

Where is the Nigerian Opposition?

Where is the Nigerian Opposition?
By REUBEN ABATI

Less than a year to the next general elections in Nigeria, the biggest deficit in the political process leading to that moment is the absence of a robust, virile and effective opposition. The role of the opposition in a democracy is to question, criticize, challenge, and audit the governments of the day – local and national – and make them more transparent and accountable, and even if these twin-objectives may not be immediately achieved, the opposition exists nonetheless to put the people in power “on their toes” as it were in the people’s overall interest.

This is the underlying principle of a parliamentary system of government, and even in other forms of government including a Presidential system, the opposition provides checks and balances, it is a kind of alternative government, a counterweight, providing such balance that could safeguard the integrity of the political process. But of course, what is at stake is “the conquest of power”: the opposition provides the people with a choice and ultimately seeks to wrestle power from or out of the hands of the incumbent and present a different vision of social and economic progress.


 
In doing this, the opposition may be constructive – in this regard it could even work with the ruling party or government to promote the national interest. This was the case under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao of India who once sent opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, as leader of the Indian delegation, to defend the government on its human rights record in response to allegations by Pakistan.

Rao’s party members, who felt he had no business working with the opposition criticized him as loudly as they could, but the Prime Minister felt it was more important to be bi-partisan and project a picture of national unity. It is not a strategy that has endured in India’s divisive politics. But what is known is that in other jurisdictions, members of the opposition in parliament sometimes vote on a non-partisan basis on key issues before the parliament. This may occur when the rivalry among the political parties is peaceful and there is a broad consensus that the country is far more important than the boundaries imposed by partisan politics.

For the most part however, opposition politics can be disruptive, and apropos, the strategy of the opposition is not to construct anything or offer any value but to “oppose, oppose, oppose” by any means possible to wear down and pull down the incumbent government. Physical violence, blackmail, abusive words, post-truth imagery and fake news are part of the arsenal of the disruptive opposition.

In Nigeria at the moment, we neither have in my estimation a constructive or a disruptive opposition. Whatever we have that may look remotely as any form of opposition is weak, uncoordinated, and ineffective. Our political parties are internally polarized, politics has become evil, our political leaders do not know where to draw the line, the ruling government is having an upper hand, it is committed to an unrelenting, overzealous persecution of the opposition and progressive ideas. The last time we witnessed what looked like organized opposition, even if it was disruptive, was ironically through the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2013, a number of political parties formed a synergy with civil society groups to become the All Progressives Congress, and adopting an “oppose, oppose, oppose” strategy, they managed by 2015 to get the ruling Peoples Democratic Party out of power. It was a major turning point in Nigerian politics since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

But the PDP was not prepared for its new role as the leading opposition party, just as the new government led by the APC was equally unprepared for governance. This sudden reversal of roles caught Nigeria’s main political actors napping. The APC at the centre found it difficult to even appoint Ministers: it took six months to come up with a list. In one or two states, the Governors acted as sole administrators for up to a year. There are about 80 registered political parties in the country, but these are at best relatively unknown parties.

The main political party, the PDP has been largely in disarray since it lost power. Most of its members have defected to the new ruling party, many of its founding fathers now prefer to be known and addressed as statesmen, and the party’s strong mouthpieces have all been cowed into silence by a ruling party that is wielding power like a whip. The PDP came out of power mired in a corrosive in-fighting and blame-sharing that robbed the party of its soul. It was later “kidnapped”, and then rescued, but it is not yet in strong enough shape to stand up to the ruling party, offer alternative views or organize itself properly. Who is even the national leader of the PDP? Close to the next general elections as we are, nobody is quite sure. What exactly does the PDP want to do? It is not so clear either. Is the PDP still interested in power? If it is, it is not showing the kind of determination that the APC projected in 2014.

There are PDP members in the legislature at the Federal and State levels, but their voices have not been loud enough. Nigerian politics has not been ideology-driven for a while, that is one explanation, but it is also possible that the remaining PDP members are hedging their bets and secretly planning to join the APC. This is the case because the ruling APC is now in charge of state resources – and that is a major attraction for Nigerian politicians, besides, the APC not knowing how to govern has been functioning more as an opposition party. It has spent the last three years hounding PDP members and the Jonathan administration, and making it difficult for anyone to come up with progressive, opposition ideas.

It had to take Microsoft’s Bill Gates to criticize the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme (ERGP) of the Federal Government before the PDP realized that such a document existed. The new PDP, failing in its role as an opposition party, cedes the initiative to the APC and merely reacts through statements that do not even make much impact. In the states across the Federation, opposition members often forget what their role in the legislature is supposed to be as they join the queue of lawmakers trooping to the Government House to collect favours from imperial Governors. At the Federal level, APC Senator Dino Melaye has functioned more as an opposition leader than any PDP Senator with his persistent interrogation of Executive policies and actions. One or two PDP Senators, along with some other APC members, in comparison, have since acquired a reputation for going to the Red Chamber to sleep during plenary sessions! There is no quality debate as such in our parliaments, more or less, and so the debate about Nigeria has shifted to morning shows on radio and television, oftentimes conducted by ill-equipped analysts and the hysterical crowd.

It is the country that pays the cost when the opposition is asleep, and one political party is allowed to ride roughshod over everyone just because it is in power and office. When members of the APC claim that there is no alternative to President Muhammadu Buhari, I guess they are not saying there are no persons who are better qualified than the President; rather they are saying they cannot see any organized opposition that could pose a threat to the continued stay of the Buhari government in power beyond May 2019. And by conduct, they even make it clear that whoever challenges the APC should be prepared to face the consequences of doing so. The APC mastered bully tactics as an opposition party. It continues to rely on the same tactics as a ruling party.

The gap that has been created by the absence of an effective opposition in Nigerian politics since 2015 is gradually now being filled by thought leaders. Sometime in 2016, I wrote a piece titled “Where are the public intellectuals? in which I challenged the Nigerian intelligentsia generally to rouse from its slumber. That slumber is perhaps understandable. The Nigerian intelligentsia bought into the APC project in 2014 and 2015, and wanted the PDP out of the way by all means.

Not too long ago, confronted with the failings of the APC as a ruling party, this special class has since recanted. I dealt with that in “The season of recanting” (Jan.16) but since this other article, the political space has since become more interesting with the interventions of persons like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, General TY Danjuma, Professor Wole Soyinka and the emergence of groups like the Obasanjo-led Coalition for Nigeria, the Agbakoba-led Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), the Ezekwesili-led Red Card Movement, and the Concerned Nigerians Movement led by Charly Boy Oputa. The main battle-ground in recent times however has been the Nigerian social media where young Nigerians have been quite loud in expressing their dissatisfaction with the Buhari administration. The social media proved to be a strong weapon of mobilization in the hands of the APC before 2015, now it is its main nemesis.

Useful as these interventions, this reawakening of the civil society, may seem, the value is limited except there is a formal opposition that is specifically organized for the “conquest of power” at the polls. There is a growing consensus among these groups that both the APC and the PDP are of no use, they have not yet identified an alternative political party that can engage the ruling party but I believe the point is not lost on the actors involved that elections are won or lost not on twitter but by political parties actively organized for political action. Opposition politics involves branding, strategy, organization and pro-active action. Nigerian Opposition parties seeking to dislodge the APC can work together to form a political coalition as the APC did in 2013, and even if they do not win in 2019, the country’s political process would be better enriched by a constructive and strong engagement from the opposition that any ruling government deserves.

The current infidelity of the average Nigerian politician is the biggest obstacle that I see. Most Nigerian politicians do not necessarily go into politics because of what they can contribute, but because of what they intend to take out of it. The APC would continue to insist on its self-ascribed invincibility if the best that other political parties can offer is to apologize. The PDP Chairman recently apologized to Nigerians for whatever the PDP did while in power for 16 years. I don’t know whether that is meant to be a strategy or a confession but the meaninglessness of it has been exposed by the vicious responses from the APC and how the PDP has found itself having to struggle to put in a word. The Nigerian Opposition when eventually it awakens and seeks to engage the APC must realize that the APC has a tested opposition machinery, which found itself out of depths in the context of governance, but which in an election season could assume its emotional memory state, and with the resources now at its disposal, including power, prove to be deadly.

Opposition politics is not rocket science and nobody has to travel to India, the UK or the United States to master it. In Nigeria’s First and Second Republics, whatever may have been the problems of that era, this country had a rich culture of opposition politics. Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group and later the Unity Party of Nigeria, as an opposition leader, confronted the ruling government with hard facts and figures and an alternative vision of how Nigeria could be rescued.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Malam Aminu Kano and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri – opposition figures at various times – also stood for something. Whoever wants to rule Nigeria or any part thereof should be prepared to tell us exactly what he or she wants to do and how and when. If we have not learnt any lesson, we should by now have realized that a politician wearing Nigerian clothes, taking fine photos, eating corn by the roadside, over-promising, pretending to respect women and children, distributing cash and food, claiming to be a democrat, dancing to impress, and sometimes projecting himself or herself as nationalistic may not be what we are made to see. Nigeria needs a different breed, new faces, new ideas, a new way of politics.

Source: ThisDay