Tag Archives: opinion

The Danger of Islamophobia

Opinion: Why Islamophobia is so dangerous
By Imran Awan, Special for CNN

Birmingham, England (CNN) – Whether it’s Mohammed becoming the most popular baby name, or one in 10 babies in England being Muslim or the fact that halal meat is being served in Pizza Hut, a Muslim story always tends to generate more heat than light.

Indeed, Islamophobia is often perpetuated by fear and a sense that Muslims are taking over our jobs, our homes and our lives, thus leading to a polarising society and the so-called clash of civilisations.

And it’s common to see issues such as the name of Mohammed being used by the far-right into vitriolic hate against Muslims. Take for example the Daily Mail headline in January 2014: “One in 10 babies in England is a Muslim: Those practising the religion ‘could soon outnumber actively worshipping Christians.'” The article, which was accompanied by an image of two Muslim women wearing the face veil, showed this pervading sense of online anti-Muslim hate emerge with comments such as: “Surprise, surprise, ban the burka now before its too late!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and “This has to stop this is a Christian country the next thing Shariah law.”

Improving media practices and media responsibility on portraying and reporting fairly on Islam and British Muslims, without bias or discrimination or intent to incite anti-Muslim prejudice, is important. The media must provide a more responsible, objective and proportionate way of reporting on stories.

Unfortunately, though, the stories above are not isolated. In The Sun last year an article entitled, “Ramadan a ding-dong,” again provided a sensationalised and biased viewpoint that seeks to undermine all Muslims and portray Islam in a negative light. As a result, we are seeing British Muslims as a group suffer as a result of bad journalism that fuels extremist and far-right fringe groups such as Anjem Choudary and Muslims for Crusades.

Sadly, stories such as these help to create an atmosphere that has demonised Muslims and fuelled an anti-Muslim narrative. Indeed, such reporting and representation of British Muslims also helps create the framework for the “othering” of communities and in particular may influence people’s perceptions of Muslims, especially when combined with lazy journalism that fails to correctly represent the true facts of each case.

Let’s not forget, for example, the story from 2010, when windows were being covered up at a central English leisure centre. The Daily Mail headlined its story: “Swimmers plunged into dark after council covers swimming pool windows ‘to protect Muslim women’s modesty.” The council revealed later though that the requests to black out the windows had not come solely from the Muslim community.

And we also know from previous studies looking at media coverage about Muslims, in particular post 9/11, that the weight of news stories — even if individually factually accurate — often stereotypes Muslims in an overwhelmingly negative light.

For example, a study conducted by academics at Cardiff University found that the majority of news coverage post-9/11 about Muslims was negative. Their research into media coverage of British Muslims found that at least two-thirds of newspaper articles were focused around stories on terrorism.

These stories often used the words such as “militancy” and “radicalism” to depict Muslims in an overtly negative fashion and were a product of a wider anti-Muslim prejudice which they found across British newspapers. Interestingly, they also found that common adjectives used to describe Muslims included the words “‘radical,” “fanatical” and “fundamentalist.”

So whether it’s getting stories factually incorrect or describing Muslims as a security threat, there is clearly a backlash against Muslims online and offline with threatening comments that are both extremely inflammatory and promote Islamophobia.

This negativity is framed within the construct that Muslims are dangerous people, and creates a “them vs. us” mentality that can be highly damaging for community relations. Now is the time for action to reverse this trend, and as Mehdi Hasan suggests, “sanctions for dishonest and demonising press coverage of Muslims” might be one way to ensure that we start to see a balanced coverage that does not demonise or stereotype Muslims.

Editor’s Note: Imran Awan is deputy director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University. He is co-editor of “Policing cyber hate, cyber threats and cyber terrorism,” and “Extremism, Counter-terrorism and Policing.”

Source: CNN

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How Nigeria May Collapse in 2015 By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

How Nigeria May Collapse in 2015

By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

“Nigeria has a very high ranking on all the lists of the most-unstable countries in the world. Last month, a UK-based risk analysis firm, Maplecroft, grouped Nigeria with the worst ten in Africa. Heading the team of most-unstable nations are Somalia and Sudan. Others are South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt. The ranking looked at conflict, terrorism and political pressure.”

Forget the urban legend that there is a United States CIA’s plot to fulfill their purported prediction that Nigeria would cease to exist in 2015. If Nigeria collapses in 2015, the country to be held responsible, besides Nigeria itself, is Saudi Arabia.

Correct Me If I am Right
Before you raise your hands in protest, it won’t be for the reason you think.

Nigeria has a very high ranking on all the lists of the most-unstable countries in the world. Last month, a UK-based risk analysis firm, Maplecroft, grouped Nigeria with the worst ten in Africa. Heading the team of most-unstable nations are Somalia and Sudan. Others are South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt. The ranking looked at conflict, terrorism and political pressure.

In another list compiled by Foreign Policy Group and Fund for Peace in 2013, Nigeria was ranked 16th in the world with a 100.7 points on the failed state index. The index indicators are factors like demographic pressure, human rights, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimization of the state, public service, security apparatus, factionalized elite and others. 

The good news is that Nigeria is also on the list of the highest growing economies in the world. Some of the richest people in the world are Nigerians, too. So, all things being equal, the economic factor will balance out the instability factor and allow Nigeria to soldier on beyond 2015. In fact, that is how Nigeria has been soldiering on, defying all predictions of doom. When Nigeria last visited the precipice, which was during the civil war, it was able to pull back and survive, thanks to the oil boom that followed.

In his speech during the declaration of his interest for a second term, President Goodluck Jonathan touted Nigeria’s economic growth as one of his accomplishments. At 7% growth per year, Nigeria is one of the top performing economies in the world. The president gloated, “Nigerian economy is on the right path.”

Nigerian economy is not on the right path. In fact, it is in distress. Even the eternal optimist, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is beginning to sound the alarm bell. 

Here is how we got to where we are:

You must have heard of the declining crude oil price. Unlike past fluctuations in price of crude oil, this one is so bad that everyone is going to feel the effect. If the austerity measures announced by Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala have not affected you directly, the recent devaluation of the Naira would.

All these are happening because Saudi Arabia is locked in a mortal fight to destroy the US crude oil production. Experts believe that the United States, with its 11 million barrels production a day this summer, became the world’s largest oil producer, beating the former number one, Saudi Arabia. Most of America’s new oil is produced through fracking, an exploration system that extracts oil from shale rock using the process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This process of splitting rocks using high-pressure liquid is expensive and is believed to be profitable as long as crude oil price is high.  The thinking in Saudi Arabia is that allowing crude oil price to fall below $60 a barrel will knock off the US shale production.

At the last meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, in Vienna, the cartel failed to do what is needed to increase price – that is, cut the production quota of each of the 12-member countries. While Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, and Ecuador pushed for cut in production, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE opted for retention of the current production quota. That failure led to a further drop in price of crude oil to a five-year low. At $72 per barrel of Brent crude, Nigeria’s oil is now selling below Nigeria’s 2014 budget benchmark of $77.5 per barrel.

What this means is that Nigeria will find a way to make up the short fall in revenue. Technically, nothing will be going into the Excess Crude Account until oil price recovers. And whatever was there has been all but depleted. Initially, Nigeria raided its External Reserve to support its expenditures but that move was not sustainable. That led to the decision to devalue the Naira and reduce pressure on the Central Bank to keep burning dollars in foreign reserve in support of the Naira.

On the American side, the fall in oil price has been a foreign policy political weapon. America’s lack of dependence on foreign oil means that it doesn’t have to worry about every little crisis that flares up in the Middle East. In other ways, the fall in oil price means that countries like Russia, Venezuela, Iran and Syria are under economic pressure. That helps America’s foreign policy entanglements with these countries. Iran is being forced to stay on the table to discuss its unclear ambition by a combination of sanctions and falling oil price. Russia has lost over $100 billion from falling crude oil price and is under severe economic pressure that it is moderating its ambitions in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. In Syria, ISIS that has been financing its campaign of terror from illicit oil sell is now having difficulty selling oil in a world market that is glutted. For Venezuela, America doesn’t have to worry about the radical leftist government in the country when declining revenue is forcing the government to deal with a growing number of disaffected citizens.

Given these economic and political conditions, there is little interest in America or Saudi Arabia to see an increase in oil price soon. What this means is that Nigeria must brace itself for a crude oil price that could fall below $60 a barrel. In trying to calm the fear of Nigerians, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala assured Nigerians that the country would withstand crude oil price of $60 a barrel.

But what about a $20 dollar a barrel price of crude? Will Nigeria still stand or will it collapse? If by next year the price of crude oil falls to $25.42 a barrel that it was in May 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo’s started his first term as president, Nigeria may collapse. Here is why.

Lets begin with Nigeria’s budget. Nigeria’s budget can be divided into four parts: statutory transfers, debts services, recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure. In 2014, Nigeria budgeted N4.64 trillion. This is divided as follows: N399.7 bn or 8.61% for statutory transfer, N712 bn or 15.34& for debt service, N2.43 trillion or 52.35% for recurrent expenditure and N1.1 trillion or 23.7% for capital expenditure.  The United Nations Development Programme recommends 70% of the budget to Capital Expenditure and 30% to Recurrent Expenditure.

In the last ten years, Nigeria’s budget allocation has not come any close to the UNDP’s recommendation.  The best we have performed in the last ten years was in 2010 when Recurrent Expenditure got 56.77% while Capital Expenditure got 40.23%. Actionaid Country director, Hussaine Abdu, lamented about Nigeria’s inability to produce a progressive budget in line with UNDP recommendation. “No country develops under such provisions,” he said, “because what grows a country or builds the economy is the amount of investments you are making on infrastructure and other structural issues that you require to strengthen your economy.”

Looking at what the government could do with the current economic austerity, the budget would be a good place to start. With debt service taking up 15.34% of the budget, recurrent expenditure at 52.35% and statutory transfer at 8.61%, the only place that the government has room to maneuver without having to fire workers or upset bureaucrats, is in capital expenditure. So instead of increasing it, the government may be forced to decrease it further, never mind the recent non-budgeted ordering of N9.6 bn cooking stoves.

In the last four years, crude oil price has hovered around $100 a barrel. The Nigerian government has been swimming in petrol dollars. Looking at government figures, economists determined that Nigeria’s total crude oil sell came to about $470B in all 5 years of President Jonathan’s administration and $489B for Yaradua, Obasanjo, Abdusalami, Abacha administrations combined. Adjusted for inflation, the numbers are $488.8B for Jonathan and $594B Yaradua, Obasanjo, Abdusalami, Abacha combined. The boom is reflected in the budgets, too. In 2004, Nigeria’s budget was N1.79 trillion. In the last year of Obasanjo’s administration(2007), Nigeria budgeted N2.26 trillion. But the lowest budget in the last 5 years of Jonathan’s administration was N4.2 trillion.

The additional money did not just come from the revenue from crude oil. Nigeria’s gas production within this same period has tripled. In his declaration speech, President Jonathan reported that, “in terms of gas supply, we have grown from less than 500 million cubic feet per day, 4 years ago, to about 1.5 billion cubic feet per day currently. Our goal is to attain 4 billion cubic feet per day, over the next 4 years.”

These increases in revenue had not translated into a stable economy that could withstand a shock as normal as a change in oil price. In fact, as more money came, Nigeria became more unstable.

If there is a worst time for Nigeria’s economy to be in distress, it is now. With the insurgency in the Northern Nigeria, each day causing more havoc, creating more victims, more destructions and more distrust in the economy, Nigeria is potentially coming face to face with that perfect storm it has avoided for decades.

If Nigeria collapses in 2015, don’t look anywhere else for the blame; put the blame where it belongs- squarely at the feet of Nigeria. In the last 15 years of democracy and relative peace, Nigeria had a chance to build a strong economic and political base. But like all the other opportunities the nation has had, we squandered it. For so long, Nigeria has been in denial about the unsustainability of the corruption within its system. In time of boom, the nation can endure the waste, but in time of austerity, corruption will eat up what remains of the nation.

In January of 2012, a presidential committee on public service reform discovered that top government officials in Nigeria take home N1.126 trillion a year in salaries and allowances – out of a national budget of N4.6 trillion. These public officers constitute just 0.013 per cent of Nigeria’s population. They include 108 senators who each make over $1.7m a year. That alone is $183.4 million (N28 billion). Then the 360 members of the House of Representatives each takes home over $1.2 million, which amounts to $432 million (N65bn). Again, each state governor collects an average of N200 million naira a month just as security vote. In a year, they each get N2.4 billion naira. So, our 36 governors take home N87 billion naira on security votes alone every year. Add our 38 ministers and ministers of state, 100 plus heads of federal and state agencies, over 432 state commissioners, 774 local government area chairmen or caretakers, almost 10,000 councilors and you will understand where the N1.126 trillion goes.

Nigeria had a chance to trim down this N1.126 trillion waste but the leadership of the country, who are the beneficiaries, did not have the will-power to do so.  Like the N260 billion naira spent from 2009 to 2013 on ex-Niger Delta militants, these wastes are nothing but hush money paid to postpone doing the right and difficult things needed to birth a modern sociopolitical structure that is fair and balanced, a structure that is sustainable in the long run.

Sadly, the day of reckoning is here.  The consequence of Nigeria’s self-denial is staring us all in the face.

A ministry of finance committee led by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede looked at the subsidy claims of 2011 and discovered that the Federal Government had overpaid importers and marketers of petrol by a whopping N430 billion naira. In 2012, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala proudly announced that Jonathan’s government had recovered N29 billion naira from oil marketers out of N234 billion certified as stolen. Whatever happened to the rest of the stolen money? Have we stopped paying subsidies two years after? Of course, not.  Whatever happened to the promise to retool and repair our refineries? How much did we waste trying to repair our refineries? How much are we paying in subsidies today? Shouldn’t the subsidies we are still paying be coming down now that oil price is falling?

You will think that those handling our economy will be answering these questions publicly. But no, they are not. We are beneath them.

The subsidy scam is part of the elaborate corruption industry that feeds the mammoth Nigerian unsustainable structure. It has become so entangled in the fabric of the nation that a half-hearted attempt at disentanglement will result in chaos. What could not be done in a time of economic boom cannot be done in a time of economic crisis. A lot of people in Nigeria have been fed fat by corruption. In crunch time, as the nation tightens its belt, the corruption industry will morph and move and when pushed hard will marinate the nation and serve the country for the forces of destruction to eat up.

Since 2009 crude oil thieves have been increasing the amount of Nigeria’s oil that they steal. According to the 2012 Ribadu Report, crude oil thieves in 2011 stole over 100,000 barrels a day. That is over $3.6 billion dollars a year. Some foreign sources put the figure of oil theft at 250,000 barrels a day. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala in 2012 told the Vanguard newspaper that the loss to oil theft could be up to $12 billion that year.  If Nigeria had closed avenues for oil theft, that oil could be shipped abroad and refined for Nigerian use, allowing the citizens to enjoy low fuel cost like other oil producing countries when they pay for just the cost of shipping and refining.

Meanwhile, as oil price falls, the oil thieves are not going to go out of business. Instead, they need to steal more to make up for the losses due to falling price. With their children in the most expensive schools abroad, dozens of girlfriends to show the good things in life and with private jets to maintain, the oil thieves and all the other looters of the Nigerian economy, are going to do whatever is necessary to maintain their lifestyles.

In the political arena, the 2015 election is shaping up to pitch two candidates, like none that we have ever seen, against each other. Oh, yeah, they probably have met each other in a presidential election before, but they have been transformed in some unique ways. In past elections, we used to have two distinct options that fitted into our overall narrative, which was that “the best is impossible and the worst never happens.” A foreign newspaper once described the two candidates offered to Nigerian electorates thus: “one is a fool surrounded by idiots while the other is an idiot surrounded by fools.” What is shaping up for 2015 is an unpalatable option for a weary nation. The option for 2015 is simple: If Nigeria votes for candidate A, Nigeria is finished. If we vote for candidate B, Nigeria is finished. That’s a no-win situation for a country of 170 million people.

The scenarios are clear enough to those of us who care to disturb our so-called beautiful dream.

The one thing that Jonathan administration can do to reverse the impending collapse is to acknowledge in words and in deeds that what is not sustainable is really not sustainable. And that includes this government itself.

Obasanjo and GEJ: Parable of the goat seller who won’t release the rope

OBJ, the prowling goat seller

By Oceherome Nnanna

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is haunting his hand-picked former protégé, President Goodluck Jonathan, like a malevolent ghost. You may wonder why OBJ, after four years as a military ruler and another eight years as an elected president, is still butting like a stubborn, demon-possessed ram at the doors of Aso Villa, Abuja? What does he still want? What did he forget in the seat of power after occupying it for 12 years? Why can’t he just go home and enjoy his new-found affluence after his latest eight years as president during which he doubled as Minister of Petroleum Resource for six years?
If you put this question before Obasanjo he will tell you it is because he “loves” Nigeria; he is a great “nationalist”, and he cannot keep quiet when things are going wrong. He will conveniently hide the fact that he is the cause of many of our problems.
Political interests
He will not accept responsibility. Instead, he will divert attention and point accusing fingers at others, making accusations that he is also guilty of a million times over. In the process, Obasanjo succeeds in hoodwinking a few gullible, uninformed Nigerians and raises applause among those whose political interests resonate with his objective of bringing down a sitting president.

But those of us who know him probably more than he knows himself are not carried away. We know his motives and methods all too well. Obasanjo’s estranged daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo, in a letter in January this year in which she disowned her father, told us Obasanjo believes in his heart he “owns” Nigeria. President Jonathan, in his own angry rejoinder to a windy, scathing attack by Obasanjo, likened the Ota poultry farmer to a goat seller who, after selling his goat and pocketing the money, still holds on to the goat’s tether rope. In other words, Obasanjo, after handpicking and installing people in power, seeks to control them. When they refuse to be at his beck and call, he starts to fight dirty in the public square because he has come to see the Nigerian seat of power as his personal booty.
After all, he fought the civil war and collected the instrument of surrender from Biafra. We have since heard the truth about how Obasanjo fought that war. One of the civil war commanders, Brigadier Godwin Alabi-Isama, in his book: The Tragedy of Victory, actually described OBJ as a coward. In various interviews after the book was published, he disclosed that Obasanjo has bullet wounds on his buttocks. This means he was shot while running away from enemy onslaught! But he makes loud noises about his civil war “heroism” and feels entitled to exclusive freebooting on our national estate.
Obasanjo is confronting GEJ because the president is a gentleman. He could not try it with the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, who was much tougher and savvier in the game of power than Jonathan.
As sick as Yar’Adua was, he was able to curtail Obasanjo’s goat-seller mentality and keep him tightly leashed. Those were the days when people like Nasir el Rufai actually bolted to America and only returned to become a troublemaker because Jonathan is a gentleman.
This same Obasanjo troubled General Babangida when the latter was in power because Babangida respected him. But when he tried it with General Abacha, we know what happened. Obasanjo came out of jail in 1998 looking like an exhumed corpse.
Besides, Obasanjo is a master in the game of hypocrisy. He likes to call other people thieves, and he is the first to accuse another person of being corrupt. The idea is to divert attention from his own unquantifiable deeds that fabulously enriched him, both as a military leader and elected president.
Sound Sultan, one of Nigeria’s most creative avant-garde musicians, has a song he entitled: “One day bushmeat go catch de hunter“. In it he sang: “Ole de shout ole”.When you catch a pickpocket red-handed, to avoid being lynched he begins to shout: “ole!, ole!!” (Thief!Thief!!).Was it not under Obasanjo that bags of money meant to induce lawmakers to impeach a political enemy of the president were displayed in the House of Representatives? Yet he calls MPs “looters”.
When Abacha raised the pump prices of petroleum in 1994 he established the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF and used the proceeds to intervene in infrastructural reconstruction. Where did Obasanjo put proceeds of eight price hikes that took fuel price from N22 to N65 per litre over eight years? At least, Jonathan ploughs back his own increase from N65 to N97 into a fuel subsidy regime that guarantees steady fuel supply and funds for the implementation of Subsidy Re-investment Programmes, SURE-P, nationwide.
Fuel subsidy was bedevilled by corruption, but it is working. We are enjoying it. But we can’t see anything Obasanjo did with his own extra N43 per litre. Billions were sunk into the refineries but they never worked.
Billions were wasted on Independent Power Plants, but turbines were imported and left for years at the ports because they could not be moved inland. Government companies were sold for pennies to fronts and cronies. But in four years, Jonathan has laid down a clear agenda to overcome the challenges of the power sector. It is very slow-going, but is moving forward, with zero reports of corruption in the sector which is now mainly in private hands.
Yes indeed, Jonathan has his problems as a leader. He is too laid back about fighting corruption. It doesn’t seem to bother him. President Jonathan is too much in the background as my leader. I like my leaders there up front, inspiring me with words, deeds and examples. I like them tough and decisive, but always putting the interest of the nation first. I don’t like walking up front and looking back for my leader.
Thirdly, I don’t like the way Jonathan has handled Boko Haram. If he had done the needful things two years ago, we would not have the second largest number of displaced persons in the world, with parts of our territory under devilish Salafist Islamists.
I also have reasons to believe that if the Jonathan regime was given the support it needed, it would have recorded more successes than any other in our history. The quest by regional hawks to snatch power by all means, tied to the Boko Haram terror war and jackal-like opposition, have taken a toll on all of us. No regime has been sabotaged by the same people it strives to save from their enemies the way some Northern leaders have undermined the Jonathan regime. People who destroyed Nigeria in their 40 years of total brigandage are ganging up as the “opposition” to return us to where they left us in 1999, and Obasanjo has become their fire-eating generalissimo.
If Jonathan is a problem, Obasanjo created it by selecting him to pair with a terminally ill Yar’Adua, so that he (OBJ) would call the shots from Ota. Yar’ Adua and Jonathan were his “Plan B” after he failed to grab third term. I agree with former Speaker, House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’Abba, that if Obasanjo looks into the mirror he will see the trouble with Nigeria.
The goat seller wants his goat back after pocketing his profit. Well, Nigeria is not Obasanjo’s goat. The earlier he gets the message the better for him – and us all.
 Source: The Vanguard

The Lies About President Jonathan Being A Christian President

The Lies About President Jonathan Being A Christian President

BY GABRIEL OLALEKAN POPOOLA

Politicians’ desperate appeal to religion as a resort of last line of hope when confronted with firm failure is at once ubiquitous in nature and repetitive historically. Ordinarily, politicians ought not to be thugs and rogues; they ought to be leaders chosen by the larger society to administer the land on behalf of all members of the given society. The constitution and other extant laws of the land make that otherwise difficult administrative job a very easy one. Unfortunately, as events have revealed over the years, particularly in our nation Nigeria, politicians, because of their materialism and acquisitiveness, are more of problem-creators than problem-solvers.

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and others pray for President Goodluck Jonathan during a pilgrimage to Isreal in 2013
State House Photo
They fail again and again where they should have succeeded; they steal where they should not have stolen; they lie where simple truth should have been told; and they deceive where acting in a straightforward manner would have sufficed. This is the tragic situation of our shameless and dishonourable politicians in Nigeria. Then, when it becomes certain that the failed leader is about to be thrown out of office, having incurred the justifiable anger of the electorates, he suddenly begins to appeal to religion. He claims that he is a Christian or Muslim; he openly identifies with some religious leaders of his proclaimed faith, and in turn, expects all adherents of the faith he bogusly lays claim to, to support him. And this just for political benefit.

This is President Goodluck Jonathan’s situation at the moment as he faces a more than cloudy presidential election in 2015. It is clear that Nigeria, a not so fortunate country with regard to qualitative leadership, is terribly divided along politically created religious fracture lines. The fact remains that no President, in the history of this nation, has succeeded, through complicit actions and inactions, in polarising the nation as much as President Goodluck Jonathan. This fact is already in the public domain. My concern however, is to expose the underbelly motivation of Mr. President’s handlers’ religious hoodwinking of Christians in Nigeria. Christians need to know that they need not rush to give support to just any leader who mouths Christianity, without carrying out diagnostic examination of such a leader. The Bible enjoins us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

To begin with, there’s nothing wrong with Christians in Nigeria giving wholehearted support to another Christian who aspires to any political office in the land, provided that the said Christian is a Christian indeed, and that he possesses leadership qualities to move the nation in the right direction. As a matter of fact, in our pluralistic nation, just anyone who, irrespective of religious affiliation and inclination, has character, wit, insight, generous spirit, self-control, resolve, honesty and a clear picture of where the nation ought to be, as well as the understanding of how to get there, can aspire to be anything in the country and get the support of the electorates.

In President Jonathan’s case, the undeclared reason for his appeal to religion is simply to take advantage of the numerical strength of Christians among the Nigerian electorates. This is sad. The rush and push currently going on in certain quarters within Christian circles in Nigeria today is totally political and shameful; and all is being done to give undue support to a non-performing president because he is supposedly a Christian. This is not the Bible. The God of the Bible, in actual sense, hounours only responsible people. He demands that leaders be accountable and faithful (1Cor.4:2).  Therefore, Christian leaders ought to help Mr. President become more accountable, and rescue him from terribly political pettiness being displayed at the moment.

Let’s consider this important question: should we even consider President Jonathan a President with Christian character? I think not! But wait a minute; am I in a position to determine whether or not an individual is a Christian? Scripturally speaking, the simple answer is yes. In Matthew 7:21, the Lord Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. The implication of this passage is that open declaration of one’s religious standing, church membership, hobnobbing with credible and influential Christian leaders, as well as financial donations to churches does not confer Christianity on anyone. In fact, the above is totally useless without the heart and attributes of Christianity. To know who a Christian is, the Bible recommends that you look at what he does, and how he does it; check his character.

And then, the Holy Scripture also tells us that we know people – genuine Christians, fake Christians, genuine leaders, not-so-genuine leaders, totally corrupt leaders etc. – by their fruits. The Lord Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:18 & 20). The Lord Jesus simply said, just look critically at people, see what they do, how they do it, check the fruits they produce, and you will easily understand where they belong. They may claim they are God’s, but when you check the fruits of their lives, you will understand to whom they belong.

The word of God then explains how a Christian – and this, all the more, applies to a leader – should conduct himself. The first of these points to be considered here is that a Christian is expected to keep his word. His word should be his bound. He should keep his promises and not be given to frivolities. This is how the Bible puts it: “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). This is God’s standard. Do what you say or promise with your own mouth. Now does Mr. President keep his word? I’m sure he does not! I’ll give some examples shortly. But before the examples, please understand that he can still be supported by those who still wish to support him; however, that support should not be based on the fact that he says he is a Christian. Not at all! This is so because he’s not a man who keeps his word, and Christians, real Christians, do keep their words.

In 2011, while going around begging for votes, these were the words of Mr. President: “I do not make empty promises in my campaign because whatever I promise to do, I had already carried out adequate study to make sure I can accomplish it in the next four years.” This was on the 27th of February in Onitsha, Anambra State. But the truth, as available to us all, is that he did promise, but then he failed to fulfill his promises.

On the 12th of March, 2011 in Abeokuta, he promised to revive ailing oil refineries and build new ones. The available fact, as at today, is that Mr. President merely deceived people into voting for him with that empty promise, because as we all know, no ailing oil refinery has been revived, not to talk of building new ones. I know his supporters can come up with a million and one reasons why he didn’t fulfill that promise; but the fact still remains that he did not fulfill his promise. Then on the 31st of March, the same year in Abuja, he promised to expand and develop the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry to provide about one million jobs. Today, we are still waiting for these jobs in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.

Earlier, in Awka on February 26, he said he would construct all the major roads which link Anambra with its neighbors; complete the ongoing aero-dynamic survey of gas in the Anambra River basin; complete the second Niger Bridge; and complete the Onitsha Inland Port. Nigerians would not be talking about generators by the time his four years in office would have ended, he guaranteed. It is about four years since these promises were made; however, if a Nigerian today does not have his own generator, it is because he is financially incapable to procure one. The promises were largely unfulfilled. Did Mr. President lack anything he needed in fulfilling these promises? Did he lack money, hands, time or occasion? None that I know. He just won’t do what he said he would do.

The above are few of the many unfulfilled promises, pledges and vows of Mr. President. I want to say that no Christian in Nigeria should be deceived into voting for Mr. President in 2015 because he lays claim to Christianity; he should simply be judged by his performance in office. He should be seen as a person – the current President of the country, who made several promises in 2011 while campaigning, and who failed to fulfill those promises – and be treated as such. This is the foundation upon which his re-election or rejection in 2015 should be based, not some useless religious mawkishness.

But then, there are other two important points we need to consider in this discourse: integrity and skillfulness. As far as God is concerned, these two qualities are central to leadership, and without them, no one in any leadership position, in the eyes of the Almighty God, could be considered successful. Hear the Bible: “He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:70-72).

That’s the Bible talking about David. In this passage, David’s background as well as his emergence to leadership was examined. God took David from following animals and made him a King. He named him His servant and empowered him for just a reason: to feed His (God’s) people, the Israelites. Now this is one important purpose of leadership: feeding, supporting, sustaining, nourishing, nurturing, encouraging, maintaining, strengthening and bolstering the led. Can we say this is what is currently obtainable in the nation under President Goodluck Jonathan?  I think not. With the very basic requirement for meaningful living in the 21st century – electricity – almost totally missing in most homes, it is clear that the major focus of this administration is not to feed the poor, but to feed on the poor.

King David, having understood his assignment, settled down to lead his people, employing two important qualities in the process. First, he led his country with the integrity of his heart. He was a man in possession of very firm principles; wholly dedicated to his business, and displayed uncommon veracity in his dealings with his followers. Integrity requires that a leader be open and truthful. Integrity drives a worthy leader to eschew corruption and fight it. It equally demands that the leader be true to the laws of the land and not try to circumvent any aspect of it. A leader with integrity has nothing to hide from his followers, and he constantly fights and punishes, according the laws of the land, those engaged in sleaze. Can we say this is the situation in our nation under President Jonathan? Again, I think not.

Nigerians have not forgotten the recent stinking revelation of how the current Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, squandered 10 billion naira while junketing around. In the revelation, which the House of Representatives later passed a resolution to probe, it was alleged that the minister spent the amount to charter and maintain a jet for her personal use. As shocking as the embarrassing news was, the President has not found any reason to reprimand the minister for spending 130 million naira per month to maintain the aircraft in just two years. Were we blessed with a President who understands integrity and deals with us in the integrity of his heart, this reckless act would have been thoroughly dealt with. There won’t be any reason to bother you with other well-known corruption issues and cases around this government. But what is plain and obvious to all is that this is one administration that lacks integrity.

Now if President Jonathan willingly and consciously flouts important scriptural requirements and recommendations; if he chooses to scoff at the divine principle of integrity, should I then blindly follow him, simply because he claims he is a Christian just like me? This is my point. No Christian anywhere in the nation should allow himself to be sold a dummy. We should not be herded into wrongdoing simply because we have a “professing”, but in actual sense, a scripture-breaking Christian as our president. However, if an individual Christian, given his own conviction of the president’s performance and integrity, decides to vote for him next year, fine. The issue being that the Christian is voting, not because he is glad that the aspiring leader is a “Christian” and not a Muslim, but because the would-be leader is worthy and owns integrity.

The second virtue employed by David in his leadership adventure was skillfulness. Political and administrative skillfulness is possessing competence, adeptness, dexterity and proficiency in handling issues and situations in a way that avoids sloppiness, clumsiness and wastage. It is the hallmark of very capable leaders. It is a virtue that a nation like Nigeria needs in her leaders because of the inherent ability of this singular virtue to clean up built-up political muddle and clutter. Where unfortunately this quality is lacking in a leadership endeavour, as is currently the case with President Jonathan, disorder, disarray and chaos ensue. It is lack of skillfulness that causes a president to confer unconstitutional powers on ex-militants, freeing them to move around in convoys with security men, while reputable men are being hounded for saying their mind.

Imagine the one big ball of mess the nation has suddenly become, all because political and administrative skillfulness in missing. The way political issues and other sundry happenings in Nigeria have been handle by this administration really puts mud on the faces of Nigerians. It is the case of continual falling into one scandal after another, with the most recent one usually being more potent than the previous. Consider the latest in the series of misadventures of an administration void of political dexterity and steeped in error – the invasion of the National Assembly by security men.

While this act has been roundly condemned by people of wit and imagination in the country, the President is yet to see anything wrong with that assault and insult. And why would he? The unfortunate blitz obviously serves hisF purpose. It makes one to wonder whether the President have people who advise him at all. After all, even when a president is not particularly skillful, he still can tap into the skillfulness of brilliant and able souls within the country. With the way things stand at the moment, it is clear that the nation is being ruled by someone with shortage of political and administrative skillfulness, and Christians need to be reminded that God demands skillfulness in leaders that must deliver.

As a function of the above, the important question all Christians, indeed all Nigerians, need to ask before being goaded into voting based on religious or political sentiment is whether we are ready to withstand and stomach another four years of unproductive, completely messy political space dominated by shoddiness, corruption, unresponsiveness and a sense of despair never known to Nigerians since the end of the civil war. The crucial question is whether we are willing to endure President Goodluck Jonathan till 2019!

That idea, that thought alone, for me, is frightening! A president who doesn’t keep his own words, fights dirty, institutes and promotes ethnic racketeering, unable to manage rather commonplace and uncomplicated situations is, undoubtedly, not the person Nigerians need for the next four years of our national life.

Source: Sahara Reporters

Pastor Gabriel Olalekan Popoola, a former University of Port Harcourt Students’ Union Leader, worships with Living Faith Church and can be reached at gabrolap@gmail.com

Presidential Grades and Gaffes Written by Sonala Olumhense

Presidential Grades and Gaffes

Written by Sonala Olumhense

“Most of the Ministers and Special Assistants/Advisers in that government were mini-tyrants; they saw every criticism of government policy as an act of affront, the more deluded and disoriented ones among them, with their arrogance helped to make more unnecessary enemies for government. It was also a style of governance that encouraged sycophancy. The point was often made that Ministers went to the Federal Cabinet meeting only to massage the President’s ego…”

Those words were penned on May 26, 2007, just days before Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan took office, part of a newspaper columnist’s postmortem of the Olusegun Obasanjo years.
 
“The General ran a government in which he was the wisest man in the entire country. Nobody was expected to contradict him, and those who did were punished for their insubordination. Governors struggled to be in Baba’s good books. The President was called Baba: he was the father of everyone whose words could not be questioned since this is the dictate of age-old culture and tradition…”

Of the centrality of sycophancy in that administration, the author said, “When on one occasion all the Ministers in a show of solidarity with the President rose in unison against the Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who had become Obasanjo’s adversary, it was clear at last that we had a civilian dictatorship on our hands.”
The article was “Obasanjo’s Legacy (4),” by Reuben Abati, who was the Chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian (Nigeria).

Four years after those words, Abati took office as Special Adviser for Media and Publicity to President Jonathan.  In that capacity, he has blossomed in the past three years as some kind of Director of Denials: when there is something for Mr. Jonathan to deny, he calls upon the man who so well understands tyranny—mini and maxi—delusion,
disorientation, sycophancy, and presidential ego massage.  
However, if there is someone who takes presidential ego massage more seriously than Abati, it is far and away his colleague, Senior Special Adviser Doyin Okupe.  

 If Abati is the Doctor/Director of Denials, Okupe is without question the most dangerous man in the presidency.  He is the quintessential mini-tyrant described in Abati’s article, gifted with the easy ability to accumulate enemies for the president.
Okupe courts the mainstream media, but he is also heavy on social media, with particular loudness on Twitter.  That is not difficult to understand: Twitter is easy: 140 characters by which to combine praise and worship, 24 hours a day.  Okupe is the propaganda champion.  

But he is also a chameleon.  Recently, as he praised Mr. Jonathan’s so-called Transformation Agenda, I asked him: Are Mr. Jonathan 2011 electoral promises part of the TA?  

I also asked: Were Mr. Jonathan’s post inauguration vows also part of the TA?  His response has been deep silence.
But this same man, a medical doctor brought into the presidency not to heal the sick but to injure the healthy and deceive the hopeful, leads the charge to portray Mr. Jonathan as special.

Last week, citing “facts on the ground, he declared, “…In terms of performance and achievements, no administration since 1960 when Nigeria gained independence from Britain, has done as much as that of President Jonathan.”

He immediately reminded me of another man who once observed, accurately, how the more deluded and disoriented among Nigeria’s Ministers and Special Advisers “with their arrogance helped to make more unnecessary enemies for government…a style of governance that encouraged sycophancy…”

Sycophancy is a difficult word to spell, but even Mr. Jonathan, by now, understands that some of the people close to him are sycophants.  Were Mrs. Jonathan to ask him for an example of sycophants, I have no doubt he would point one finger at Okupe.
No administration…has done as much as that of President Jonathan?   You can almost see Mr. Jonathan, turning to Mrs. Jonathan, pointing at Okupe.

You thought, for a moment, that perhaps Mr. Jonathan did something unique, something exemplary, or something profound.
You thought perhaps he read a book…perhaps to a child, or took his Ph.D dissertation in his hands to a department of agriculture to share his ideas.
Perhaps he declared his assets publicly—determined to enthrone example and presidential transparency—thereby launching an unprecedented era of accountability?
Perhaps he inherited 36 States from his predecessor, and 36 months later, still had all of them within his control?
Did he implement one of the presidential reports submitted to, and applauded, by him?
Perhaps Mr. Jonathan, upon assuming office, was stunned to discover the presidency had an embarrassing pool of jets and expensive automobiles, and swiftly proceeded to rationalise the needs of the office and sell-off the excess capacity to make the funds available for drinking water for elementary schools?
Did he walk through a shopping mall in Abuja, encouraging small businesses to broaden employment?
Did he achieve a ceasefire with Boko Haram, or end the militant group as he has promised over and over?
Perhaps some kidnappers were stupid enough to seize hundreds of schoolgirls from a school somewhere within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and he, outraged, ensured they were swiftly returned to their parents and schools unharmed?
Perhaps he demonstrated courage, literally under fire, by visiting and sleeping in one of the states under emergency rule?  Did he go to Chibok and break bread with the families whose children were spirited away under his watch?
Perhaps, unknown to us, the President wrote up a cheque, representing 50 per cent of the vast, private wealth he knows he will never need and used it to develop libraries or to offer scholarships to indigent students?
Perhaps he made his wife return her bogus earnings as Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa?
Did he give his country electricity, or did he explain why Aso Rock must buy new generators every year?
Did he persuade the people of South Africa or of Kenya that Nigeria’s presidential jets and other government toys are not used for extensive money-laundering?
Did he finally kill Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau?  Did he transform the people of Chibok, or just the citizenry of Aso Rock?
These are a few of the questions that Okupe ought to be answering in prosecuting the mission to sell the 2015 Jonathan candidature.  
Obasanjo, who rated the Jonathan presidency as “average,” was actually offering unearned credibility.  Jonathan’s administration is the very definition of a tragedy.  How can anyone define as an achievement the epochal equivalent of arson and looting?  
The bigger tragedy is that it is to Obasanjo that Nigeria owes the Jonathan administration. Seven years ago, the PDP certainly had men of presidential potential, but Obasanjo permitted them no electoral opportunity.
I have written elsewhere that if the former president must be taken seriously concerning his criticism of Jonathan, he must first apologise for inflicting him on Nigeria. In 2006, Jonathan was minding his business trying not to attract attention when Obasanjo offered him the buffet.  

As Nigeria slips from unworkable into unmanageable, we are paying for that colossal crime, driven on by ruthless sycophants who have no regard for truth or for the corporate interest.  Nigerians must respond by speaking loudly and courageously for themselves.
• sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

‘You are not a Muslim. You are a terrorist’

‘You’re Not a Muslim. You’re a Terrorist’

By Simon Kolawole

This quotable quote, more than anything else, captures my position on the Boko Haram maniacs. It is taken from Season 3 of the American political thriller, Homeland. Nicholas Brody, a retired US Marine sergeant ─ who had turned against his country, converted to Islam and become a terrorist while fighting in Iraq ─ was on the run. He was a suspect in the bombing of CIA headquarters. A bounty of $25 million was placed on his head. On self-exile in Venezuela, he escaped from his overbearing “protectors”, moved into a mosque and introduced himself as a Muslim to the Imam, who gladly received and housed him.

But not long after that, the Imam discovered Brody was a fugitive ─ declared wanted in America for terrorist activities. The Imam immediately confronted Brody, telling him to leave his mosque and shouting: “You are NOT a Muslim. You ARE a terrorist!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the missing jigsaw in our attitude to Boko Haram in Nigeria. We continue to view these thugs through Christian and Muslim lenses rather than see them for what they truly are: bloody-sucking terrorists from the pit of hell. No genuine Muslim should be proud of the activities of these demons. No genuine Christian should rejoice at the unending slaughter of the innocent. No true Nigerian should be happy that a section of this country has been turned to killing fields by deranged fanatics, who murder children and women with brainless fervour, who haul bombs into crowded churches and mosques.

For too long, we have failed to isolate these retarded adults and treat them as a different bunch of gangsters who are a threat to all of us ─ Muslims, Christians, Northerners, Southerners, PDP, APC, Jonathan, Buhari, etc etc. When this whole madness began to unfold on a large scale, we chose to treat it as a religious or political problem. To many Muslims, it was a problem for Christians ─ until Boko Haram went past churches and started attacking emirs and mosques. To many Christians, it is “these Muslims who hate us” ─ but we can now see that even “these Muslims” hate fellow Muslims. The attack on the Central Mosque in Kano last Friday is as barbaric as the one on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, on Christmas day in 2011.

To many Southerners, terrorism is a problem for Northerners. “Let them keep bombing themselves” is their terrible attitude. But they forget that the victims in Abuja, Nyanyan, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Kano and elsewhere are full-blooded Nigerians from different tongues. “Let us divide Nigeria” is a chart-buster among some Southerners ─ as if having blood-drinking terrorists next door is going to be a tea party. Ask Kenya about the al-Shabab menace in neighbouring Somalia.  Ask Turkey about the hazard of ISIS in Iraq. Ask Mali about the fall-outs from the fall of Muammar Ghaddafi in Libya. It is pure ignorance to think that leaving innocent Northerners at the mercy of these lunatics is a great idea ─ when they will eventually share border with you if your dream of breaking up Nigeria comes true.

The politicisation of Boko Haram is absolutely odious and horrendous. On the one hand, the All Progressives Congress (APC) sees it as a publicity tool to win votes by highlighting how clueless the PDP-led government is. A party chieftain once said APC would end Boko Haram within three months if voted into power. That easy? On the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been trying to demonise APC as the sponsors of Boko Haram ─ all because of 2015. And I keep saying: if PDP is sure APC is behind terrorism, is it not the job of government to arrest and prosecute the suspects? Does the PDP government have a game plan to defeat terror? Is the game plan working? That should be their preoccupation rather than demarketing APC.

For too long, we have had a wrong attitude towards Boko Haram. We underestimated the problem. We played politics with it. We have been pointing fingers back and forth. We have been propounding all sorts of senseless theories. The only theory that I understand, and I will continue to say this, is that Boko Haram is a committee of vampires. They display their insanity by hiding behind religion, but they easily lose the case when even Muslims become their prey. What point are they making by killing worshippers at a Jummat service? What God do they believe in that takes pleasure even in the death of Muslims like them? The only sensible conclusion is that these hooligans are not Muslims. They are terrorists.

What exactly do these guys want? I have been monitoring and analysing Boko Haram’s pronouncements since the emergence of Abubakar Shekau as their leader in 2009. He has never suggested ceasefire or complained about poverty or lack of infrastructure. He has been incredibly consistence with his mission statement: to establish an Islamic caliphate and get rid of the infidels. Infidels, in this case, are not just Christians ─ who, in any case, are their natural targets ─ but Muslims who do not share their bestial brain. From the very beginning, he said he had a divine mandate to kill human beings “like chickens”. He said the Nigerian system is anti-Islam and he had a divine call to cleanse the land. He has said this again and again and again.

If we are wise enough, it should be clear to all by now that we are not dealing with a religious problem, even if it has a religious content. We are not dealing with a political problem, even though they have a political message. We are not dealing with a regional problem, even if the North-East happens to be their base. We are dealing with a security problem. A national security problem. A problem that spares no one. We saw this problem start in the backyard of Maiduguri. It became a Borno problem. It became a regional problem. They started with swords and daggers. Now they are using bombs. They started with hit-and-run. Now they are in command of towns and villages.

If we are to learn from the pattern of insurgency around the world, what we are seeing is just an introduction. Nobody knows the next frontier. Nobody knows their next strategy. And nobody is safe. Nowhere is safe. That is why it hurts me to my bones when we play politics with this insurgency. It hurts me to my soul that we cannot see beyond our nose. It hurts me deep when we introduce 2015 and regionalism and bigotry into this unambiguous national security tragedy. What we have in our hands is, evidently, a copycat of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, name them ─ funded, equipped and motivated by forces who have a global terror agenda, headlined by Osama bin Laden in the last decade.

Fellow Nigerians, I am convinced beyond reasonable ─ and unreasonable ─ doubt that this Boko Haram lunacy can only be tackled when we take away the religious and political veil from our face. We need the buy-in of every Nigerian to confront this insanity. We need the political class across the divides. We need Nigerians of all religious persuasions. We need a national consensus to cast out these devils. They are not Muslims. They are terrorists.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

ECONOMIC CRUNCH

So crude oil prices have fallen, demand for forex is on the rise and the CBN has finally devalued the naira (or, to quote economists, allowed the naira to depreciate)? We saw all these coming one day, didn’t we? We were warned, weren’t we? Yet we kept on spending like there would be no tomorrow. We were piling up travelling allowances, buying jets, building state-of-the-art (they call it “befitting”) governors’ lodges, padding up allowances, embarking on white elephant projects, looting the treasury and holding sex parties in Dubai. Who cares? Who cares about the future? Who cares? Heartlessness.

GOD BLESS FASHOLA

He sure has his critics, but you are not going to get many public administrators who understand the basics of rebuilding the society like Babatunde Fashola. The governor of Lagos has just handed over the rebuilt Area C headquarters of Nigeria police, which was set ablaze by “unknown soldiers” in 2006. It is what a modern police station should be, complete with CCTV, forensic room, finger print room, interrogation room with cameras, cameras office, communication equipment, gym, befitting male and female cells. I dare say it is the most modern police building in Nigeria today. God bless Fashola. Amen.

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY

Was it some joke? The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has fined Coca-Cola and Nigerian Bottling Company N100million because of a defective product. That is, two half-filled cans of Sprite. Now, I don’t have anything against imposing fines and sanctions on all these big companies who have gone virtually unpunished over the years. For all I care, CPC can fine them N1billion. However, what amazes me is the justification of the hefty fine by CPC. According to them, they spent N60million to investigate the case. N60million! I mean N60million! What exactly were they investigating? How many countries did they visit? Scandalous.

DIEZANI’S DIADEM

Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, last week made history as the first female president of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It may escape many of us but this is truly historic: a woman heading an organisation where the all-powerful Arabs call the shots. A women at the top of such an organisation is novel indeed. Having been the first Nigerian female executive director at Shell and first female petroleum minister of Nigeria, Alison-Madueke has hit an interesting milestone. She must use this position to raise Nigeria’s profile and clout in the cartel. Very important. Congratulations!

THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF LAGOS BY DELE MOMODU

THE BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF LAGOS
BY DELE MOMODU, Email: dele.momodu@thisdaylive.com

Fellow Nigerians, there is no doubt that Lagos is the most important State in our dearly beloved country. Once upon a time, it was our Federal capital before Abuja was carved out in what was supposed to be the centre of Nigeria. The idea for Abuja was not entirely new or original. I was told during a visit to Australia about six years ago, that the master-plan emanated from Canberra, the seat of government in that country. I used to think Sydney was the Capital, or even Melbourne. But I was kindly educated by the then Nigerian High Commissioner to Australia, Professor Olu Agbi, a Diplomatic Historian, who made sure I visited Canberra. I truly saw some similarities between Abuja and Canberra except that Abuja remains a chaotic ersatz, a shambolic attempt at emulating a masterpiece.

Despite the migration of the Federal capital from Lagos to Abuja, Lagos has continued being the nerve-centre of Nigeria, our own veritable New York.  Every Nigerian is a stakeholder in Lagos because practically everyone has one link or the other to what is probably the most exciting city on the African continent. This is why Lagos has become a microcosm of Nigeria by representing every culture, tradition, religion, socio-political belief of the nation. Lagos reflects the American dream that anyone can aspire, whether stranger or not, due to its assimilative spirit.
For this reason, Lagos has become the toast and target of most politicians. Whosoever controls Lagos has Nigeria by the neck. This is probably the only State that can snub the notorious Federal Allocation and still survive. This was tested in those days of acrimony between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Bola Tinubu when the statutory allocation to Lagos was stopped by Presidential fiat. The Governor of Lagos is as good as a mini-President. Amongst Governors he is clearly primus inter pares.  Who wouldn’t want to be in that position? This is why the battle for the soul of Lagos is going to be a Third World War, without any shade of doubt.

Let’s now come down to brass tacks and open up the anatomy of Lagos politics. Since 1999, only a particular Party metamorphosing into different parties has held sway in Lagos. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu rode on the crest of the pro-June 12 struggles and advocacy to become the Governor. He governed the State for two terms spanning eight years and was able to pass the baton effortlessly to his former Chief of Staff, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). By next year, Governor Fashola would also have served two terms of four years each and it would be time to hand over power. In theory, the ruling party in Lagos is supposed and expected to retain its stranglehold without any major challenge from the opposition PDP. But let me say categorically that it is not going to be that simple. Permit me to deliver my permutations.
The APC looks good on paper but it has gargantuan challenges ahead. The party is currently a house divided against itself and may collapse if care is not taken. The main actors are the former Governor Tinubu and his political godson and current Governor Fashola. Tinubu believes that he’s the biggest investor and shareholder in the Lagos conglomerate and as such should have the final say in who takes over from Fashola. For now, he has already picked his choice in a former Accountant-General of Lagos, Mr Akin Ambode, but this decision has produced unprecedented sour grapes and overt dissension within the rank and file of the party.
On the other hand, Fashola feels that as the occupier of the exalted seat, he should be entitled to the privilege Tinubu enjoyed at the expiration of his tenure by also picking his own successor. Unfortunately, his former boss does not agree. As a matter of fact, Tinubu had grudgingly agreed to a second term for Fashola when it became obvious that his protégé’s rising profile was too massive to be toyed with. Never mind their public comportment, their relationship has been frosty, a cat and mouse affair, and it is doubtful that they would ever agree to a consensus candidate. Governor Fashola wants his former Attorney-General, Mr Supo Shasore to succeed him but Asiwaju Tinubu won’t permit any such heresy. If it was just a mere race between Ambode and Shasore, the latter would have been a surer bet because Fashola would have thrown anything and everything to the fire. But his boss has blatantly disregarded such opportunity.

The problem does not end there. It is further compounded by the motley crowd of other distinguished aspirants who want true Democracy in their party. The hard-core politicians amongst them are raising dust, railing, screaming and kicking against the imposition of someone they consider at the very best a bystander, if not an outsider, who wants to reap where he did not sow. The Tinubu/Ambode camp is responding by saying Fashola himself was a product and beneficiary of imposition. The brickbats continue.
As at the last count, about ten or more other aspirants have picked up nomination forms. This unwieldy number should be ominous to APC and Tinubu in particular.  Tinubu has, till now, failed to get them to drop their collective aspirations for Ambode. Many friends of Tinubu are worried stiff about the possible demystification of Tinubu as the ultimate powerhouse in Lagos if he continues to stubbornly support Ambode and maintain that his choice must prevail. It is sad that most people tell him what they know he wants to hear and say ugly things behind his back. They make reference to how Tinubu’s fabled war chest could not save Ondo and Ekiti States and his former kingdom is shrinking by the day because of his obstinate disposition.

There are never-before-seen frontal attacks against Tinubu. While it seems the Governor has chosen not to fight his mentor publicly, his proxies have picked up the gauntlet. Most of the former cabinet members have decided to back one of their own Mr Supo Shasore, born on January 22, 1964, with everything necessary. This has provided him with veritable political platforms across the State which he lacks as he is only a consummate lawyer and seasoned technocrat. It would be difficult if not impossible to win an election in any part of Nigeria without grassroots support and mobilisation. It is believed that Tinubu has become a third party spender and may not have the singular financial muscle of Fashola & Friends when the time comes to fight this battle.
The biggest threat to Ambode comes from one of Tinubu’s core-loyalists, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the only Speaker who has served three terms in a House of Assembly in Nigeria. He’s believed to be Tinubu’s secret weapon if politicians reject Ambode outright as things stand at the moment. Ikuforiji has a wealth of experience as he’s served under both Tinubu and Fashola and must have been privy to most of the government activities in Lagos.
There is a major hitch in Tinubu’s Ambode project which was anchored on the blind loyalty of the 57 Local Government Chairmen whose tenure, unfortunately, expired in October, and they have not been reappointed as Executive Secretaries, which was the practice in the past. Inevitably, the war of the Titans in Lagos may not only emasculate the ambitions of any APC candidate it may also badly jeopardise the chances of any APC Presidential candidate next February. The open secret fear in APC circles is that Tinubu by trade with President Jonathan if he fails to get his iron grip on APC as was the case in ACN where his word was Law. He’s being resisted and frustrated over Ambode and also failing to field his choice as Vice Presidential candidate.
The APC National Legal Adviser, Dr Muiz Banire has boldly come out to warn about the danger this issue of imposition poses to the good health of the party. Banire was only echoing the loud whispers from behind the scene. The intractable squabble in Lagos is fast becoming an embarrassment to members and sympathisers of the party who find the conflict resolution apparatus of the party most appalling. Everyone is asking why at this late hour a party promoting change does not have a list of elected delegates that can be given to aspirants for verification and authentication. The party elders are expected to intervene speedily or watch the party haemorrhage to death on the altar of vaunting ambitions.

The APC Lagos should watch out for the PDP candidate which should be a straight fight between Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Mr Jimi Agbaje. I foresee Obanikoro picking the ticket for many reasons. Mr Jimi Agbaje was the 2007 gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA), who defected to PDP. It is unnatural for politicians who have bonded together for so long to “dash” their ticket to a newcomer, as they see Agbaje. Besides, many believe Agbaje is too gentle to face the APC onslaught in Lagos.
Obanikoro has no rival in today’s PDP. He’s the most prepared politician who has gone the full gamut over the years. Born in 1957, Obanikoro joined politics as soon as he returned from his studies in the United States where he bagged a B.Sc in Public Affairs and Master’s in Public Administration. He cut his teeth as Chairman Caretaker Committee of Surulere Local Government. He won election as State Deputy Chairman of the National Republican Convention. The Miracle Governor, Sir Michael Otedola appointed him Director, Lagos State Bulk Purchasing Corporation as well as member Lagos State Football Association. He has been a delegate at all levels from Local Government Congress to State Congress and ultimately, National Convention. He was elected State Secretary of the influential Justice Forum and Chairman of the powerful Lagos Island Local Government.
Obanikoro became Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture in 1999 and was extremely close to Tinubu. He won his Senatorial election in 2003 and fought an epic electoral battle against Tinubu’s candidate, Fashola in 2007. It is not for fun that he earned the sobriquet of KORO IBO (the vote poacher). He has since been a very successful High Commissioner to The Republic of Ghana and was until recently the Minister of State for Defence.
I’m surprised that APC is about to underrate such a man by fighting a needless war of attrition when PDP is virtually ready with a candidate who knows their tactics too well. If Tinubu succeeds in picking his avowed candidate, Ambode, as APC flagbearer, anything can happen in Lagos.

Many politicians have sworn to teach Tinubu a lesson. The historians point not only to the Sir Otedola debacle of the Second Republic but the more recent events which led to the ouster of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala in Oyo State.  As I told Ambode when he invited me to a meeting, his biggest strength is also his greatest weakness. He is a fantastic gentleman with intimidating credentials but I wonder how he’s going to pacify those who see him as a mere stooge of Bola Tinubu. That is the crux of the matter.
For APC, it is morning yet on creation day.

FOR RISQUA MURTALA MUHAMMED
These are interesting times in Nigeria and I’m very excited. Gone are the days when we mostly left politics in the hands of political jobbers but it gladdens my heart that accomplished Nigerians have now seen the need for public service.
This is the reason I seriously welcome the entry of my dear friend, Mr Risqua Murtala-Muhammed, into the gubernatorial race in Kano State. A graduate of Finance & Banking, University of Lagos, with Post Graduate Diploma in Business Admin from Cardiff Business School and Diploma in Computer Application from Oxford House College, London, Risqua was born in 1969. He was under seven years old, when his father, Nigeria’s Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed , was assassinated in Lagos.
He has served in both the public and private sectors in Nigeria. He was appointed Special Assistant on International Relations and also Privatisation to President Olusegun Obasanjo. He’s currently the Group Chief Executive Officer of AMG Petroenergy Limited.
I had wanted Risqua as my Vice Presidential candidate in 2011 but the arrangement fell through. It is my fervent wish that other hardworking Nigerians would show more interest in how our country is governed so that we can have competent, diligent people to support regardless of political affiliations. We desperately need good leaders at all levels.
Best wishes, Risqua.

A TOAST TO NANA KUFUOR AT 50
One of my best friends and a very passionate reader of this column is Nana Ama, the cerebral daughter of former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufior, who turns 50 today. I know this short tribute will come to you as a surprise but it is only a token of my appreciation for your humility and kindness. I’m greatly inspired by your simplicity, knowledge and brilliance.
The great Nana, I wish you and your family a most joyous occasion today, even if we all accept your wish not to have a lavish celebration. A toast is still in order…

Source: ThisDay