Sunday, 31 March 2013

INTERVIEW: Obasanjo, El-Rufai and I — Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar bares it all


Obasanjo, El-Rufai and I — Former Vice Preside

31 Mar, 2013
Atiku Abubakar was the Vice-President during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration between 1999 and 2007. The founding member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party shares his experience in the party and the privatisation exercise under his leadership in this online interview with LEKE BAIYEWU
As a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, why did you leave your party for the opposition Action Congress in 2006?
I had to leave because I was pushed to the limit. You know what happened during that period and we don’t have to go through it all over again. A scheme was introduced, by which I and my supporters were removed from the party under the guise of re-registration. Of course, the bigger scheme was to ensure that I did not succeed my boss (Olusegun Obasanjo). You saw how the cards were stacked against me to pursue my presidential aspiration under PDP. They had me suspended from the party, even beyond the length of time permitted by the PDP constitution. The party rejected and flouted all courts orders in respect of my rights as a party member.
Events were unfolding rapidly and I had a deep conviction that with the help of the courts, we could establish a precedent to ensure that no one trampled upon the rights of citizens – not just I – and got away scot-free. I was eventually compelled to seek alternative platform to prove this point and to advance my aspiration. That was how I joined others to found the Action Congress.
Why did you later dump AC to go back to the PDP, despite your vow never to do so?
Don’t forget that I was among the founding members of the PDP. I was forced to leave the party and I joined AC then because forces in the party (PDP) were ferociously determined to frustrate me at all costs. However, when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was elected as the President, he initiated the policy of reconciliation and appealed to aggrieved members to return. The committee for this purpose was headed by former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme.
I invested energy, time and political capital in the formation of the PDP and, therefore, because of that sentimental attachment, I responded to the policy of reconciliation and returned to the fold. Should you blame a child for reconciling with his parents after he ran away over disagreement? The circumstances of my departure from PDP are well known to Nigerians. When I returned, I did so to promote the growth of what I helped to build in the first place.
Basically, the destruction of internal democracy in PDP made me to leave the party against my will. You are aware of the policy of de-registration of certain party members by the former President. My supporters and I were the target of this hostile and anti-democratic policy. I was between the rock and the hard place and, ultimately, I was technically expelled from PDP by the hand-picked party national executives. It is, therefore, unfair for anybody to describe my departure from PDP as opportunistic, considering the insurmountable and deliberate obstacles laid on my path by the former President (Obasanjo) and the party national leadership.
When you were the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation and also as former Vice- President, you were accused of selling major public corporations to political office holders, including yourself. One of such is Pentascope. How true is it that the privatisation process was shady?
These allegations are not new. The interesting thing is that those spreading these allegations couldn’t come forward with any iota of proof against me. You forgot that I was accused of selling African Petroleum to myself, using a front. However, when the facts eventually emerged in respect of this particular allegation, my traducers were disarmed and were forced to retreat. Indeed, I was the most investigated public office holder under the former administration and, if this allegation was valid, it could have been conveniently used to bring me down and tarnish my name. Thank God I survived this smear campaign, just like others before it.
The Senate conducted a public hearing on privatisation under my leadership as the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation. That was the best opportunity for those accusing me of selling public assets to myself to come forward to prove the allegation. Surprisingly, they never did because they relied mainly on hearsay. A cabinet member in Obasanjo’s government, who was promoting this idle rumour, was eventually left looking small because he didn’t have the facts to substantiate his allegations against me.
On Pentascope, one would have expected your paper to direct the questions to El-Rufai himself. The Pentascope scandal was one of the issues investigated by the National Assembly and it accused El-Rufai of ignoring wise counsel by imposing the company on NITEL. Despite proven allegations that Pentascope was not financially capable and technically competent to handle NITEL management contract, the former Bureau of Public Enterprise Director-General ignored public outcry and forced the Dutch company on NITEL. Before the coming of Pentascope, NITEL was making an estimated N100bn profit annually. However, as soon as Pentascope took over, NITEL’s profits were nose-diving incredibly. With telecom stakeholders, the National Assembly and the Nigerian public insisting that the imposition of Pentascope on NITEL was ruinous to national interest, the Federal Government eventually cancelled the management contract against El-Rufai’s desire. I had no hand, absolutely, no connection or knowledge of how that company was brought into Nigeria.  Curiously, El-Rufa’i avoided the Pentascope issue in his book, “The Accidental Public Servant.” Therefore, if there is anybody to explain the details of the Pentascope scandal, it is El-Rufai himself. The fact of the contract are like this: Obasanjo agreed with the NCP that the former BPE DG was wrong not to have disclosed his interest and that he had failed the test of transparency by not disclosing that his brother was on the board of Motorola. I know you are very familiar with the laws of the federation. You know, for instance, that it is a very serious offence to fail, refuse or neglect to disclose your interest whether directly or through someone else, in dealing with such an important transaction. But, the President in his wisdom decided that the contract be split into three, with each of the contenders, Motorola, Ericsson and the Chinese company – I think Huawei – taking a portion. As if to vindicate the NCP, by 2007 when we left office, the two others apart from Motorola had completed their own contracts. You can go and find out if they (Motorola) have finished.
El-Rufai, has challenged you to explain what happened with the NITEL GSM contract that Motorola lost to Ericson, despite the American company submitting the lowest bid? What is your explanation?
Personally, I dislike the idea of exchanging words with the former FCT minister over this issue. But for the sake of your question, I would like Nigerians to be smart enough to read between the lines. Why does the former FCT minister treat the Motorola issue with such persistent personal bitterness? Why is he making it a heavy matter? Anybody can play to the gallery and deceive the people. Transparency is a key issue of conducting any business, including privatisation. Conflict of interest is inconsistent with transparency. If you are a privatisation head and you have a relationship with a particular person connected with one of the companies making bids, it is a moral and legal duty to disclose that relationship or interest. Pretending that you have no relationship with the person who is rooting for a particular bidder is not altogether tidy and transparent. If he had no interest in a particular company for sentimental reasons, why is he making too much fuss about Motorola losing the bid? Did El-Rufai accuse me of promoting Ericsson because I had any connection with the company directly or indirectly? If, indeed, I had promoted Ericsson for personal interest, Obasanjo wouldn’t have let me get away with it. He would have exposed me and disgraced me, and even ordered my prosecution.
Why is it that these corporations have relatively failed, despite being run by private investors?
I don’t agree with you that privatisation has failed altogether, despite the challenges some of the new investors are facing.  The GSM operators in the country are doing well, despite their challenges caused by infrastructural problems in the country. Look at banks and ports, they all are doing well. Some of the new investors are finding difficulties, maybe as a result of the scope of the challenges or ill-preparation. Some of them have resorted to asset stripping rather than restoring the companies to functional state and start production to create jobs, such as the Ajaokuta Steel Plant. Large-scale privatisation is relatively new in Nigeria and some of the new investors appear to have swallowed more than they can chew. But the privatisation exercise under me was a narrative of huge success, not of failure.
How could the proposed amendment to the PDP constitution seeking to make President Goodluck Jonathan the sole presidential candidate in 2015 affect your ambition?
As a loyal PDP member, I am keenly watching this development and could do anything within democratic means and internal mechanisms of conflict resolution to tackle this challenge. As the ruling party that boasts to be the largest in Africa, the PDP should set standards for internal democracy which should be a template for other parties. In fact, they (members) should not only be proud of its size but also of its credibility in the eyes of Nigerians. Promoting the principles of democracy is the bedrock on which the PDP was founded in 1998 by like-minded Nigerians. Therefore, any attempt to stifle internal democracy, make level playing field impossible and imposing a candidate on the party before the elections would damage the perception of the party. I am happy that the National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, has been speaking along these lines. President Jonathan is entitled to seek the party ticket but that doesn’t mean others should be shut out completely through a party constitutional amendment. This amendment is unnecessary because it would set precedents that would undermine the democratic principles to which the party declared to be committed. Nothing gives us psychological satisfaction and ease better than winning fairly. With this amendment, however, can the PDP improve its public perception and convince fellow members that it is committed to fairness, transparency and a level playing field in the conduct of its internal affairs? If we don’t reject this amendment now, it would produce problems in the future that the party may find too embarrassing to handle. This effort to amend the constitution to please the ambition of any individual is in bad faith. In fact, it defeats the whole purpose of the policy of reconciliation and re-uniting aggrieved former members.
If the PDP goes ahead with the amendment to make Jonathan the sole candidate in 2015 without primaries, would you be tempted to join the All Progressives Congress as you recently applauded the merger of opposition parties which aims to oust your party?
Provided PDP members are free to vote according to their conscience or personal convictions of what is right, the amendment may face tough opposition. The sanctity of the democratic principles on which the PDP was founded should not be sacrificed on the grounds of expediency to gratify the ego of individual leaders. Should we mutilate a whole legal document by which a party is run for the sake of anyone else’s ambition or ego? President Jonathan can throw this hat into the ring, if that is what he wants. It is important, however, that the process of his nomination by the party should be open, fair, just and transparent. The contest should be conducted through open primaries. Other party members should be allowed to participate in the primaries. If they ultimately lose to Jonathan through a fair contest, they will embrace and congratulate him. What is wrong with open primaries or level-playing ground? Amending the PDP constitution for the sake of making President Jonathan the sole candidate is absolutely unnecessary. Exclusion in the nomination of candidates amounts to imposition which is inconsistent with democratic practice. I have read all manners of arguments by proponents, saying that the American system gives the option of first refusal to the incumbent and that the PDP should do the same. That is very misleading.
In the first place, it is not true that American incumbents are not challenged at party primaries; there is no such rule in the United States. The late Senator Edward Kennedy mounted a vigorous challenge against the then incumbent Jimmy Carter. Although Carter won, the contest went down to the wire. It was resolved through a vote at the nomination convention of the Democratic Party. On the second aspect of your question, I wish to make a clarification. As a loyal PDP member and as one of the founding fathers, I couldn’t have said the emergence of APC is good for the death of PDP. What I said in Ibadan was that, with the emergence of APC, a two-party system seems to be unfolding in the country and that this development is consistent with my advocacy for a two-party system in Nigeria. I never said the merger of opposition parties as you alleged is good for the ouster of PDP from office.
Can you shed more light on the controversy surrounding your membership of the PDP Board of Trustees?
On my alleged removal as a member of the Board of Trustees of PDP, I do not wish to engage in speculation. No one has communicated such decision to me yet. It would, however, be unfortunate if it turns out to be true. As I said, it would be a setback for the policy of reconciliation embarked upon by the Alex Ekwueme-led committee. This move is like undoing the positive outcome of what Dr. Ekwueme had achieved in that respect.
Is it true that President Jonathan signed a one-term agreement with the North?
With the zoning policy of the PDP virtually dead, talking about agreements at this point is somehow a tricky issue. I am not sure I am in the right position to talk about what you call the one-term agreement. Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State recently referred to that agreement or understanding. A gentleman’s word should be his bond. I contested against Jonathan during the 2011 PDP presidential primaries and, therefore, anything I say now might be subject to misinterpretation. Because of this fact, I don’t want to belabour the points about agreements or understandings. I am, however, primarily concerned about the image of my party in the eyes of Nigerians. Changing rules or the constitution of the party for the sake of expediency is not my idea of honour. If we conveniently live in denial or pretend that the party didn’t reach any understanding on anything, then who would take us seriously? How can you be a beneficiary of something and later pretend that the policy that put you in office is no longer relevant? The emergence of (House of Representatives) Speaker Aminu Tambuwal against the party insistence on zoning was a consequence of abandoning principle for the sake of expediency. With the election of Tambuwal as the Speaker, following the party’s declaration that zoning was dead, the PDP leadership was morally disarmed to prevent the emergence of Tambuwal as Speaker in the so-called breach of zoning policy – the same power sharing formula, which the party declared dead. Such is the consequence of hypocrisy.
The election of Tambuwal was a most embarrassing moment for the PDP. If you rejected zoning for the nomination of President Jonathan, what moral right do you have to tell lawmakers to elect their Speaker based on zoning, which you discarded?
When people are blinded by expediency, they hardly foresee the consequences of opportunism. Today, the President is from the South-South geopolitical zone; Vice­-President, North-West;  President of the Senate, North-Central;  Speaker of the House of Representatives, North-West; Chief Justice of Nigeria, North-West; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, South-East; Deputy Senate President, South-East;  and Deputy Speaker, South-East. This wasn’t the intention of the abandoned zoning policy, but we have to live with this unpleasant reality because of the myopic attitude of some people. The South-West is today crying very loudly about marginalisation, thanks to the abandonment of zoning for the sake of expediency. This issue is not about Atiku but about the imperative of sustaining arrangements that would guarantee every section of Nigeria access to the nation’s highest public office. We have been called names by people that benefitted from this arrangement. Zoning had successfully achieved the objectives of equitable power sharing. If anybody now says zoning is not good, that wouldn’t change the reality of its benefits. The arrangement had significantly reduced the fear of domination by any section or group over others.
Would you, as a president grant amnesty to Boko Haram?
If I were the President, I would have no hesitation to throw the ball into the court of the Boko Haram leaders. As was case with the Niger Delta militancy, I would declare amnesty for the sect members with a deadline within which to surrender their arms. With the expiration of the deadline, if the sect members don’t lay down their arms, then my government would be in a better position to face its critics that accuse it of not taking the initiative. The deadline for the surrender of arms would show whether the Boko Haram fighters want peace or not.
Do you see the revived Peoples Democratic Movement as strong enough to stop Jonathan from winning election?
I have nothing personally against President Jonathan. The issue here is about principle and internal democracy. This is not about PDM; it is about a struggle to entrench internal democracy. Should we destroy everything internal democracy stands for just for the sake of forcing anybody into line to support only one contestant? The PDP, like any political organisation, is a convergence of various political interests and forces that came together to form the party, as it is today. I would work together with all stakeholders within the PDP to bring about positive change from within PDP. This issue is not merely about PDM. The principle behind my struggle is beyond the PDM.
via Punch

Ayo Olukotun: The Ever Dangling Axe Of ‘Fuel Subsidy’ Removal


The Ever Dangling Axe Of ‘Fuel Subsidy’ Re


The Nigerian government and people have been fighting on several fronts lately. There is the rising insecurity underlined by the virtual siege laid by Boko Haram to the northern part of the country in the midst of apprehension of a southward shift in their activities. There is too the blot on our international image occasioned by the presidential pardon of a former Bayelsa State governor, Depreye Alamieyeseigha; and there is the ever-rising social tension deriving from escalating unemployment and worsening state of the quality of life of Nigerians. As one journalist put it recently, living in Nigeria is one of the most expensive propositions around the globe but the quality of life is also one of the most depressing.
As if our plates are not already full, government officials including President Goodluck Jonathan warned recently of yet another impending hike in the price of fuel, raising the spectre of a likely shutdown of the country by labour and civil society groups. The official hint came on the heels of a ruling by an Abuja High Court in a case filed by Bamidele Aturu to the effect that government should not tamper with petroleum prices under the guise of deregulating the downstream sector of the oil industry. The Peoples Democratic Party, hardly famous for pro-people social policies, was sufficiently jolted by the timing of the President’s statement that it openly disagreed with the intended increase in fuel prices.
It is not entirely clear why government is contemplating not so long after the seminal national and international upheavals that greeted the precipitate increase in fuel price at the beginning of last year.  So apparently confusing is the recent threat considering that Nigerians have yet to recover from the effects of last year’s increase that at least one columnist, Tatalo Alamu, has openly speculated that there may be some sinister forces in policymaking circles scheming to compound the current national distemper and running crisis. In another setting, kinder and gentler, government would have found it necessary to explain to the electorate what it did with the proceeds of the “subsidy removal” of January 2012 beyond the entirely cosmetic palliatives  of the Christopher Kolade-led SURE-P programme. But we are apparently not so favoured.
Apart from that, and considering that fuel subsidy removal constitutes a tax with ripple effects on the entire economy, it ought to have been considered necessary to educate the people ahead of any such increase — seek their consent that is — and demonstrate how government has notched up in transparency and stewardship to the extent that Nigerians will be willing to further entrust the management of the so-called subsidy funds to it.
To be sure, the arguments for and against the so-called subsidy removal have been over-rehearsed but it should be of interest, nonetheless, that the notorious lack of transparency in the oil industry has done nothing to allay the fears of citizens that subsidy earnings, assuming that there is indeed a subsidy, are not merely going down into a bottomless pit and the black box of prodigal lifestyle by those in government.
There is also, of course, the argument advanced in respectable quarters that a subsidy exists only in the context of the arithmetical sleight of hand by which government calculates the production cost of petroleum; which is why it is interesting that after several removals of the so-called subsidy, there appears to be so much more to remove. Even if by some miracle, the current ominous threat to increase the suffering and poverty of Nigerians is carried through, a few months down the road, we will be bombarded with another round of subsidy removal.  It should be clear that what is going on is an attempt to address fundamental moral and political crises by constant resort to arbitrary taxes irrespective of their consequences on the quality of life and well-being of those who are called upon to, as it were, subsidise a spendthrift political elite.
Obviously, a genuine road map out of the paradox in which an oil producing nation imports fuel for domestic use from several other oil-producing nations would have been the building of refineries that work and the domestication of the technological capacity to refine fuel for domestic use. It should be of interest in this respect that our much smaller neighbour, Niger Republic, which got into the oil business some seven years ago, has already built its own refinery and is even offering to Nigeria the possibility of being one of our suppliers of refined petroleum. Virtually every other oil-producing country has driven its economy in the direction of self-sufficiency making it unnecessary for them to subject their citizens to the dangling axe and nightmare scenarios of the so-called subsidy removals. Factor in this connection,  that Venezuela, one of the countries from which Nigeria imports fuel, has not increased the price of fuel since 1999 while Nigeria in that same period must have removed its so-called subsidy nearly 10 times!
Let us restate it: Many of the advanced democracies subsidise in varying degrees several sectors of their economy in the overall interest of the welfare of their citizens.  Whatever the narrow economic arguments against subsidy, it is clear that several countries around the world, have not abandoned it. What discredited subsidies in our context was its bizarre conversion into a long playing racket involving oil merchants, political acolytes of the high and the mighty as well as technocrats, all of who were having a field day at the nation’s expense. It is this never-ending corrupt wheeling-dealing that government ought to have had the courage and guts to stop rather than driving Nigerians further against the wall. Apart from some token measures taken against the oil merchants in the aftermath of last year’s massive protest, pretty little has been done to reorder the cycle of primitive accumulation that characterises the oil sector.
Ayo Olukotun (ayo_olukotun@yahoo.com)
Article culled from Punch

Chinedu Ekeke: The Narrative Of The Truly Poor


The Narrative Of The Truly Poor


EkekeCC
On my way to work every morning, I am faced with a reality quite distant from the world of twitter, Facebook, television talks-shows and media-hugging symposia. At the bus stop near my house, a group of young men, all in their twenties, are alert, awaiting arriving buses for alighting passengers. On sighting a halting bus, they sprint, with all energy, seeking exclusive claim over the loads in the boot.
Usually, they want to be able to grab bags of onions, baskets of tomatoes, bundles of vegetables, bags of rice or beans, tubers of yam, etc. But there’s no major market around, which means a considerable shortage of the goods they are out to carry. These are the wheel-barrow boys whose only means of livelihood is the luck to, first, overpower competing hands and lay claim to more of the loads, and secondly, be blessed with a client who wouldn’t want to squeeze out enormous profits from the transaction by paying too little. These young men are supposed to be part of our enormous human capital through whom we can drive growth and development. But I’ll be damned if anybody knows such people are living.
In climes where the capacity of the educated man to change the world is recognized, these boys should be in college. They should not be wasting away like they are.
I once told a story of the Saturday morning an aboki cobbler- the ones clutching whirring little boxes and plastic baskets – stopped me on my way to the ATM. He spoke in Hausa, a language I do not understand. On observing I didn’t know what he was saying, he took to gesticulation, finally passing the message across. He was hungry, and needed money for feeding. It struck me for the first time that I had not contracted an aboki to shine my shoe in over three years. That realization opened up further realities to me: even my friends polish their own shoes these days. It was possible the guy hadn’t tasted food since the previous night. How would he if he hadn’t made any sale? And if the sales didn’t come in considerable volume, how much would be available to him for feeding?
I was grateful that the last note on me could buy him a plate of food. I handed it and moved, depressed at my own realization that I’d never given a thought to these ones before.
Have we asked ourselves how a man survives on a tray of candies, biscuits and cigarettes as his only wares? The aboki whose means of livelihood is contained in a tray shops in the same market the rest of us shop, at least, for such basic things as food stuff.
Let’s go to Eko bridge. That is where our shame is laid bare. Kids of primary and secondary school age eke out a living by hawking everything thinkable in traffic. As they meander through horns-honking vehicles, they are on the look-out for when KAI – Kick Against Indiscipline – officials are coming to swoop in on them. On many occasions you see the kids racing, their wares on their heads, for safety, of self and goods. The unlucky ones sometimes get caught, and they deploy the little cash they have for bribing the KAI officials. It’s a jungle out there, and the lion has no milk of mercy for the rest in the wild.
Isn’t it an irony that some publicly quoted companies with highly educated staff as decision makers rely on illiterate boys running to and fro vehicles in traffic for their turnover and profits? From yoghurt to snacks, the traffic, whether it’s on a sunny or rainy day, is the market of the urban poor.
I once wrote the story of a Petroleum Engineering graduate who works as a labourer where they are building a house. He made a Second Class Upper in Engineering, so it’s not like he’s one of those so-called “unemployable” graduates. The last time I checked on him, even after the story I published attracted interests from good-spirited people, he is still unemployed.
Is anybody seeing the need for social reengineering of Nigeria? It doesn’t appear so.
But those who truly seek change must see this challenge as it is: Millions here are poor, and those who impoverish them are happy. This explains why a man who takes N600 million from a country with 112 million wretched citizens kicked against the payment of stipends of N20,000 to unemployed graduates. And for the sake of emphasis – because I have said this many times in the past – that character, David Mark, head of Nigeria’s do-nothing-eat-everything legislature, takes from Nigeria in one year what will pay a United States president for ten years! And the United States has payment benefits for the unemployed.
But the logic is simple: if there’s enough money to pay unemployed graduates, there’ll be much pressure on the N600 million per annum for Mark, and then the at least N160 million for each of the rest legislators. There also won’t be enough to pay for inflated contracts executed by friends and fronts of those in government. In denying the people life, the rulers bloom.
It’s crazy here.
I am a supporter of payment of a certain amount to unemployed graduates. It places a burden of responsibility on the government. Once you subject the government to such payments, then the creation of jobs, or the provision of the enabling environment for job creation, becomes an urgency in government circles.
Arguing that government cannot do it is lacking in substance, because, the real challenge is that we have refused to pay our politicians the sort of remuneration commensurate with our reality. If people in government earn the way they should, there’ll be enough to cater for the unemployed graduate. And what on earth is N20,000 for a graduate per month, anyway? Why should a governor be given over N6 billion in a year under the head of ‘security vote’ in a country that has no state police? From our excessive wastes that convert governors and legislators to billionaires, we can take care of the real poor, and the unemployed.
We therefore need a way to elevate the status of the cobbler, the barrow boy, the traffic-hustler and the unemployed graduate beyond that realm where N5000 election bribe will matter to him. How do we do that? Reduce poverty. Who has all it takes to do it? The government or the billionaire entrepreneurs. Will they want to do it? No. Where then do we go from here?
The conversation continues…
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A Good Friday Message: We will have to kill ‘God’ (#NewLeadership Series with @Chude Jideonwo)


We will have to kill ‘God’ (#NewL


Chude Jideonwo... a competent Nigerian passionate about Nigeria
Chude Jideonwo… a competent Nigerian passionate about Nigeria
I am a Christian. In expressing that identity, I align myself with the new dispensation of Christianity that is Pentecostal; described aptly by the strategist Leke Alder as “generally creative in approach, aggressive, uninhibited and resourceful”.
I am a born-again Christian. A tongue-speaking, Christianese-loving, church-working Christian. I love God with all my heart.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria that can immediately mean that I cannot be trusted, that I have no integrity and that I will in no way act like Christ. But this is not the fault of those who see us in this way; it is our fault; us Christians who have perverted the Gospel we are supposed to share.
The way we have served God here appears to have done us more harm than good; if anything the fact that most of our leaders who are corrupt and inept are some of the most religious people you will find anywhere in the world says a lot about who we are, and explains the disdain with which non-religious people hold those who profess their faith with joy and pride.
In September 2005, a sitting Nigerian governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was arrested and detained in London by the Metropolitan Police for money laundering. They discovered about £1m in cash in his London home, £1.8m ($3.2m) in cash and bank accounts and then uncovered real estate worth an alleged £10 million.
In December 2005, the detainee jumped bail. When he emerged in his state of Bayelsa and was asked how he managed this feat, he responded, “It is a miracle”. The fugitive who had stolen state funds gave glory to God for transporting him home; for helping him break the law.
In that one statement, Alamieyeseigha captured the essence of what we have turned the creator of the heavens and the earth into – an aberration.
My friend, Elnathan John, in a piece that went viral last year and was even quoted by my pastor, Sam Adeyemi, captured the nature and character of this God that Nigerians serve impeccably:
First, you must understand that being a worshipper has nothing to do with character, good works or righteousness. So the fact that you choose to open every meeting with multiple prayers does not mean that you intend to do what is right. The opening prayer is important. Nothing can work without it. If you are gathered to discuss how to inflate contracts, begin with an opening prayer or two. If you are gathered to discuss how to rig elections, begin with a prayer. The Nigerian god appreciates communication.
When you sneak away from your wife to call your girlfriend in the bathroom, and she asks if you will come this weekend, you must say—in addition to “Yes”—“By God’s grace” or “God willing”. It doesn’t matter the language you use. Just add it. The Nigerian god likes to be consulted before you do anything, including a trip to Obudu to see your lover.
When worshipping the Nigerian god, be loud. No, the Nigerian god is not hard of hearing. It is just that he appreciates your loud fervour, like he appreciates loud raucous music. The Nigerian god doesn’t care if you have neighbours and neither should you. When you are worshipping in your house, make sure the neighbours can’t sleep. Use loud speakers even if you are only two in the building. Anyone who complains must be evil. God will judge such a person.
Attribute everything to the Nigerian god. So, if you diverted funds from public projects and are able to afford that Phantom, when people say you have a nice car, say, “Na God”. If someone asks what the secret of all your wealth is, say, “God has been good to me”. By this you mean the Nigerian god who gave you the uncommon wisdom to re-appropriate public funds.
Consult the Nigerian god when you don’t feel like working. The Nigerian god understands that we live in a harsh climate where it is hard to do any real work. So, if you have no clue how to be in charge and things start collapsing, ask people to pray to God and ask for his intervention.
The Nigerian god loves elections and politics. When you have bribed people to get the Party nomination, used thugs to steal and stuff ballot boxes, intimidated people into either sitting at home or voting for you, lied about everything from your assets to your age, and you eventually, (through God’s grace), win the elections, you must begin by declaring that your success is the wish of God and that the other candidate should accept this will of God. It is not your fault whom the Nigerian god chooses to reward with political success. How can mere mortals complain?
The Nigerian god does not tolerate disrespect. If someone insults your religion, you must look for anyone like them and kill them. Doesn’t matter what you use—sticks, machetes, grenade launchers, IED’s, AK47’s.
If you worship the Nigerian god, you are under no obligation to be nice or kind to people who are not worshippers. They deserve no courtesy.
Aren’t all of us – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hinduists, whatever we are – ashamed that this is the God that we present to the world? Aren’t we disturbed that this is what we have turned the maker of all that is good and perfect into because we will not live by the standards that he has set?
Nigerians have used God as an excuse for failure: refusing to hold people responsible for their actions because we should ‘leave it to God’, not correcting mistakes we have made because ‘that is the will of God’, breaking the law at will because ‘God understands’, declining to understand and engage the world with sophistication because we are ‘praising the Lord’ and refusing to create and innovate because, after all, ‘this world is not our home’.
But is that the nature of God? Are a genuine relationship with God and excellence in the world mutually exclusive? Does God expect us to suspend our capacity to think and act right because we choose to worship him?
Definitely not.
Some of the world’s greatest civilisations have grown hand in hand with a ferocious religiosity; the physical and the spiritual walking together, the church and the state almost inseparable for for many years.
Christianity (and I use its example because that is my primary frame of reference) became the pre-eminent thought driver for Britain after it embraced it in 1st century. Religion has played a crucial role in the evolution of Russian culture, a country that embraced Christianity in 988.
And whilst the current elite of America understandably pushes a more non-faith based national agenda, it is indisputable that the rise of America as the world’s most powerful nation happened at the height of its faith; in the nation where “In God we trust ” was adopted as its official motto in 1956. A nation built based on God and Godly values.
The evolution of religion – with wars, slavery, and death – is a subject of deep controversy even now, but that is a matter for another day. The lesson I instead seek to draw here is that religion is in fact contemporaneous with progress for many societies, and has in fact been responsible for the ascendance of most of the world’s great powers.
Contemporary nation building also indicates the same. The Emirati have delivered economic miracles even with Islam as their official state religion, proving that religion can be a liberating, progressive force. The Asian idea of God defines the way that business and politics are conducted – the East influenced heavily by Buddhist and Hinduist philosophies.
There is nothing that says that a nation cannot be Godly and do exploits; and many of the world’s religious centers, from the Vatican to Saudi Arabia are themselves models of progressive governance and the most excellent attitudes to nation building.
Even in Nigeria, the homegrown church has historically been a force for good. The Orthodox Church establishment laid the foundation for modern Nigeria, a December 2012 piece by Alder reminds us. “They are the offshoots of missionary work. They educated the people we now refer to as the founding fathers of the federation. They established the first set of hospitals and schools in Nigeria. Methodist Boys’ High School, Baptist Academy and Our Lady of Apostles Grammar School are well known examples of schools established by missionaries.
“It was the Church that educated the first set of civil servants in Nigeria. And the Church has always been at the nexus of cultural re-orientation in Nigeria. Who can ever forget the work of Mary Slessor, the diminutive nurse who fought against the barbaric culture of the killing of twins? And so when we chant about the “labour of our heroes past,” we must not forget that some of these heroes are the missionaries and the orthodox establishments.”
That sounds like the God I know and serve. A God of excellence – in the spiritual and in the physical. In the Old as well as the New Testaments he speaks continually to his character and his expectation of his children. The fruits of his spirit are a summation of all that should be good in our world – integrity, hard work, dignity, truth, humanity.
In Ecclesiastes 9:10, the bible says ”Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going” and in 2 Corinthians 8:7, it says “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you—make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too.”
This is just one of many scriptures that make the same point, all through the Bible.
When the Bible tells Christians in Mark to give to Caesar that which is his and to God that which is he is, it wasn’t referring to the perversion in Nigeria where scripture like that is used to justificaty for corruption and amoral behavior. It means that the two can co-exist – we can be excellent in our faith and be excellent with the works of our hands.
We have to kill this God we have chosen: one of mediocrity, double standards, and filth; whose sole purpose is to give us wealth and multiply our resources. Making no demands on our character, holding us to no standards and teaching us nothing, this contraption we have put together is a multi-purpose excuse for the failure that we live with every day.
Nigeria, one of the most religious nations in the world, which has become Africa’s largest exporter of Pentecostalism and one of the biggest sources of Pilgrims to Israel and Mecca has become possibly the worst advertisement for religion.
“Finally, brothers,” Phillippians 4:8 tells Christians. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
That’s the God I know. That’s the God I worship daily and that I have a relationship with. That’s the God whose Word has made me a better person and a work in progress, forging me through the fire that builds character and imparts love.
Just imagine if the Christians in Nigeria and in authority follow these simple instructions in the scripture above. Nigeria would be a vastly different country, with a vastly different destiny.
Surely, God’s heart is broken by what he sees when he looks down upon us. We need to stop disgracing him.
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Chude Jideonwo is publisher/editor-in-chief of Y!, including Y! Magazine, Y! Books, Y! TV & YNaija.com. He is also executive director of The Future Project/The Future Awards. #NewLeadership is a twice-weekly, 12-week project to inspire action from a new generation of leaders – it ends on March 31

A Roadmap For Incremental Change: 52 Things We Need To Do (#NewLeadership Series with Chude Jideonwo)


52 Things We Need To Do (#NewLeadership Series with Chude Jideonwo)


I wrote at the beginning of this series about the two options for nation building that we have.
There might be more, but I see two clear choices – mass revolt or incremental change.
In the absence of a mass revolt, I said, those who seek to drive change now need to fall back on incremental change, a collection of little drops of activity by different sectors of society that will eventually deliver what some have called the Flywheel Effect. This will involve a deliberate, sustained effort to move from business as usual in the way our country is run.
It would sound like the violence that revolutions bring make them the more difficult option, but in fact the slow and steady change is the most difficult route to take, because it requires a collectivity of involvement; and a people deciding together that they will subsume short-term desire for long term goals.
Because of the nature of modern societies – large, divergent, mostly urban – this is not a simple process and usually has to be forced from the top by a leader conscious of the imperative. Which is why the choice of Nigeria’s president is so important.
As we work towards that however, there are a few things that we will need to know, to learn and to do. This brief below is by no means exhaustive, but – one for each of the 52 weeks in a year – I have done up the below as a list of some of the things that are important for our generation as we slowly engage the hard, necessary job of re-directing our country.
1 We need to keep voting – there is no alternative to choosing our leaders in the system of government that we have now; we must ensure that our leaders understand they serve at our pleasure. There is no better way to emphasise that than with voting with insight, and protecting that vote.
2 We need to test our democratic institutions with the knowledge that sometimes they will fail us, most times not even respond, but that thebest way to get a machine working is to use it. Write letters to your representatives, send a complaint to your local power authority – test the system.
3 We all have our corners where we are doing something small or big – our country can work based on a collectivity of people committed to excellence. Whatever you do, do it well. It’s the least you can do.
4 For those who control processes or systems (SMEs, associations, NGOs et al), it is important to understand that society is the sum of its institutions – build your institutions with an eye on the long term; adding value to the country in the long run.
5 For the kind of country we have now, everyone should be an active citizen. You do not have the luxury of apathy, I am sorry.
6 The media in any society is very crucial – we need media that isintelligent, fair and well funded as a people-driven arbiter and a constant framer of the issues important to citizens.
7 Speakers of arbiters, our eyes must stay on the judiciary – the guys in the courts should know the public is looking at them, and counting on them.
8 We should encourage the good guys to get into politics as candidates – politics is a dirty game, but someone has to do it and it better be our best hands.
9 Those of us who haven’t decided on non-partisan roles should joinpolitical parties and get involved in local politics and influence especially. We should also work on reforming those parties so they function properly.
10 Let’s embrace social media – it is a deeply democratizing tool, and the only one that gives even more power to the led than the leaders.
11 We should take an active interest in what’s going on at our state governments.
12 It sounds clich├ęd– but a lot can actually happen at the local government level. Sometimes they are the guys in charge of things like your roads and water.
13 We will need to build coalitions and networks – our country will not be changed through silos; we need to build broad consensus and coalitions around issues, ideas and solutions. To do this, we will need to work on our tolerance threshold.
14 We don’t need everyone to come home – Nigerians in Diaspora need to excel wherever they are so they are able to exert social and financial influence from a place of independence.
15 We must focus on our education – it is the foundation of our society and ours is a mess. Whatever else we are doing, this should be a prime agenda.
16 We must hold activists to account. Watch the watchers – like anyone else, they are not without fault.
17 Follow the money – we must always keep an eye on budgets, allocations and government spend. It’s what Western citizens do best.
18 We must embrace our faith – many advanced civilisations have evolved through a deep acceptance of their spirituality. We are a spiritual people, so we should embrace this.
19 Federal Character needs to go. It sounds great, but it hasn’t worked. It has, as Achebe said, replaced meritocracy with mediocrity, and it’s killing us. Let’s face it – if one part of the country has more capacity than the others, then we should come to terms with that and adapt it as a competitive advantage.
20 Lets praise the small strides that our leaders make so that they can do more. Acknowledging the good is not fatal to the case for asking for better.
21 We shouldn’t just focus on government – what happens in the private sector is just as important.
22 Keep an eye on enterprise – a society is driven by how much it produces and small business should be at the center.
23 Pay your taxes – enter a contractual relationship with your government.
24 Read widely – much of the poverty in our national conversation comes from our acute ignorance of how much of the world actually works.
25 Know our history – the schools don’t teach it well, but history always helps in identifying what the future holds.
26 Governments fear mass revolt. It is not to be used all the time, but we must never forget the power of public protest.
27 The organised opposition is so indispensable. Sometimes they go over the top, and calling the president a scumbag doesn’t add much value to the process, but the friction between the ruling party and the opposition is important for a free society.
28 The creative industries capture the soul of the nation – music, poetry and art. It’s not just the West that understands this – look at Asia and the Middle East. Our art captures our essence and helps us connect with it emotionally.
29 We must pile pressure on the wealthiest amongst us (young and old) to invest in our society – through philanthropy, promoting ideas they believe in, supporting causes they are interesting in, pooling ideas through working groups and think tanks.
30 There are a lot of processes that are ongoing in our country – especially as driven by civil society or led by government. We have Electoral Reform Conferences, Sustainable Development meets, Review Sessions with the National Youth Council. Get involved.
31 Don’t let cynicism win. Find out more about government-driven platforms – from YouWin! to the Lagos technology cluster. If the best of us don’t get involved in these processes imperfect as they are, we will leave them to be influenced by the worst of us. Nature abhors a vacuum.
32 Be ready to compromise. That is the one thing that should be non-negotiable. There is no one person whose “principles” are more important than a peoples’ collective aspiration.
33 Always search for alternative solutions to problems – we must resist the trap of a single solution.
34 We must avoid the temptation to be lazy – in ideas, in criticism, in engagement. Research is crucial. There is no alternative to facts. We need a society driven by logic.
35 Learn to question authority – teachers, pastors, ex-presidents.
36 If you’re a young person and you don’t have a job, then that should be your focus. Not criticising everyone you come across on social media. The only assignment you should have is yourself.
37 Let’s actually pay attention to what happens in our country – let’s pay attention to the news, and let us be curious to understand what we read. Knowledge is power.
38 Our criticism should be tempered. One of the real tragedies of our society is that everyone is criticizing everyone else, when they have no moral authority. Think of it: what right do people who work in our telecoms industry have to accuse Nollywood of mediocrity? When you think of Nigeria in that log-in-your-eye way, we will realize the time we spend criticising can be better spent looking inwards; at what we are doing ourselves. When criticism emerges, we have a responsibility to be constructive.
39 Those who want to be leaders should build their capacity. Many of us are not equipped to lead – we have to learn, theoretically and practically. What Nigeria needs above anything else is competence.
40 NO matter how bad it gets, we must NEVER give up on democracy. Even if we decide to choose a different system of governance, democracy is our best shot at making the best decision.
41 We have to set our agenda – in different sectors, we should work towards achieving some kind of consensus of what we need to thrive.
42 The only thing we have is hope. Hope keeps faith and passion alive and it is passion that translates into action. There is plenty of good around us – lets employ that to keep our hope alive and strong.
43 If you see a problem, do what you can to bring a solution to it. Most likely someone else is already do that, find that person and join in. If they are not doing it right, work with them to do it better.
44 Do not be afraid of joining government – we need to stop making that seem like a dirty thing.
45 Develop the courage of your convictions. We seem to have become a generation that plays to the gallery. Those who seek to lead it must be courageous to stand against both the establishment and our own constituency when we feel they have gone astray.
46 Kill arrogance – You are not the first person to be passionate about changing Nigeria, and you won’t be the last. The key is not the what – it’s the how.
47 Learn from the mistakes of those before us; there is much to learn. Listen more to your parents and those who have tried to change this country and either failed or given up – they made so many mistakes that we are repeating and will do well to avoid.
48 Greed kills. Kill greed. The rest is detail.
49 Mentorship is crucial. Sadly this is a tradition the generation before us seems to have killed. We need knowledge exchange and transfer. Somehow or the other, we need to create that stream.
50 Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the task of nation building, as with much else, it’s not every battle that must be fought.
51 Keep our eyes on the ball – at this stage of our development as a nation, what we need is a nation that works; that functions.
52 Keep trying. Keep pushing. Never give up. We have no other choice.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

INSECURITY: What Goodluck Jonathan Can Do


What Goodluck Jonathan Can Do


DURING 2010 Bauchi attack, there were complaints about a break down of intelligence. Residents insisted that it was worse. There seemed to have been outright ignoring of petitions people filed with the security agencies about Boko Haram. Not much seems to have changed as clinical execution of recent jail breaks testified.
A strong scent of sabotage swirls round these jail breaks as well as the attacks. We warned in 2010 Boko Haram could attack other prisons, in other cities. Did government act?
“We are saddened by the insecurity in Tafawa Balewa local government area of Borno State and the continuous killings in Jos, Plateau State,” Minister of Information Labaran Maku said then.
“Mr. President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is very concerned and has vowed to beef up security in the country. The Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, in collaboration with other security agencies, is doing everything possible to fish out the evil perpetrators. The Federal Government is ready to bring them to justice because security agencies have been deployed to these (crises) States and the work is going to be round the clock.” Where are the results?
The myriad of internal problems aside, Nigeria was paradoxically on the threshold of economic ascendancy by 2010. She was ranked the 39th strongest and the third fastest growing economy in the world.
With the terrorists taking on foreigners and the internal upheavals their attacks are capable of causing, Nigeria would have to deal with its security challenges quickly, before her economy suffers more adversity.
The focus might be on terrorists in the North East, but other crimes like armed robberies are on the increase. The attention on bombings have made the security agencies to ignore the rising incidents of attacks on our highways even in broad daylight.
Almost all points of the Lagos — Ibadan Expressway are unsafe no matter the time. The Benin — Sagamu Expressway has many points where armed robbers freely operate. Highways leading to Abuja, from different parts of the country suffer similar attacks. Kidnapping is becoming more wide spread. More needs to be done at the level of intelligence gathering. Some past security breaches left Nigerians wondering about the roles of the various security agencies. Intelligence gathering should include solutions to the challenges.
The President must attend to the elongating queue of the unemployed. He should embark on programmes that can create jobs. Government’s actions and spending should reflect a concern for the people, many of who are suffering.
Among the things that the President can immediately do is past paced development of infrastructure to enhance the security of lives and property.
Nigerians want peace. They know that security is critical to attain the greatness that awaits our country. They would embrace the search for peace, when government is willing to seek their partnership through programmes that reflect “that the security and welfare of the people” are “the primary purpose of government.”
culled from Vanguard

Abimbola Adelakun: The ‘New Nigerian Barbarians


When the news broke last week that the renowned writer, Professor Chinua Achebe, died, a lot of us had occasion to revisit his works; we read and reread them. We talked about his writings and what they meant to us. A lot of us owe it to him that we write in our own voices. Achebe is not described as the father of modern African literature for nothing. His classic work, Things Fall Apart, redeemed us as a people for generations to come. Where racists claim our various languages are meaningless mumbo jumbo and we needed to give them up for the civilizing power of English language, Achebe showed that our African languages are embedded with deep philosophy. And Achebe did things with words! He wrote fine prose. He wrote simply yet profoundly. He showed Africans were neither simple-minded bumbling buffoons nor barbarians.
For all his speak back, Achebe did not write a hagiography about a perfect African past. Our ancestors had their own shortcomings and one of them was the killing of twins. They were superstitious about the birth of twins. They had no way of knowing why it happened. They did not live in the times we do; they did not know what we now know. They would never have known like we did when asteroids brushed the earth neither would they have conceived that man would land on the moon one day. They worked within the limits of their knowledge. They made up superstitions to sustain the social mechanics of their times. They did not know how sickle cell endangers babies and so they created stories of Abikus. They were not barbarians; they simply did not know certain things. What they knew, they knew. What they didn’t know are pardonable.
Fast forward to 2013. We live in a so-called Information Age that we can self-righteously hold up our noses against people who lived in the 16th Century Africa. We tend to take it for granted that everybody is informed and that we are a largely sane society. We all believe certain acts of barbarism should never happen. That is why we condemn Boko Haram in the strongest of  words and some of us believe the sect members should never be granted amnesty; we speak against police brutality and that the case of Aluu Four in the University of Port Harcourt could happen at all shook the society to its roots. Those were barbaric acts that were easily identifiable and easy to rail against. Some acts are sublime but no less, insidious.
Recently, The Tribune reported that a man with both male and female organs was almost lynched in Sapele, Delta State. Why? Because the mob that was going to do so did not understand that someone’s anatomy could be unusual. And so they tried to destroy this unnamed man whose existence confounded the limits of their very limited intelligence. That is what the face of new barbarianism looks like: What you don’t understand, you destroy. Don’t bother asking questions, just grab a hammer and smash it! That solves the problem! In ancient times, people would have at least consulted the oracle but in 21st Century, folk would rather luxuriate in their own empty-headedness; ignorance is their strength, ignorance is bliss, ignorance is a badge of honour that should be worn proudly. These young men are simply unenlightened yet I would not readily dismiss them or their act. They might one day end up as legislators and governors. After all, in Nigeria, as in Charly Boy Show, anything can happen!
The image published along with the report showed spectators surrounding this man, holding up their phones, and excitedly taking pictures of this curious sight; a case of stupid people using smart phones. It did not occur to them that the same phones could educate them on the “strangeness” of this man if they gave it a chance to shine a light through their hearts of darkness. With one click on the Internet, they would find that a man with female organs is neither unusual nor supernatural. It is a biological occurrence and not peculiar to any society. In fact, if only the mob knew that the man’s problem could have happened to any one of them. Scientists tell us that male and female embryos start out the same –with a female template- but along the line, the male child is “made” by testosterone and Y chromosome (which explains why men have nipples, even though a redundant body part) and anything could have gone wrong in the process.
Some of the mob reportedly fiddled with his organs; you wonder who the freak actually is here. While the abnormality of this man in Sapele is obvious, some other peoples’ are hidden within their bodies. Such people are not even aware of any hormonal imbalance in their anatomy. Semenya Caster is an example of gender ambiguity. People like her and the Sapele man are examples that debunk the saying that everything God/nature made is perfect. Well, either nature sometimes gets it wrong, or the joke is on us. Mother Nature might be challenging us to open our minds to rethink what we call “normal.”
But while the mob’s act against this defenceless man is highly reprehensible, what do we make of the reporter who told the story? He starts the report by asking us, “Have you ever seen someone with both male and female organs?” I cannot stop wondering why it is important that we “see” before we either understand or empathise. It is patronising of our intelligence to assume that we need to “see” before we know. This is not merely a case of good or bad reporting, this is pure voyeurism. The reporter assumes he can stimulate our (sexual) interest by inviting us to be fellow voyeurs. We should join him to “see” this man as if he is a laboratory rat. Between this reporter and the people of Sapele, we “see” a high display of barbarianism that erodes human dignity. I assume this urgency to help us “see” and materialise his existence explains why Tribune didn’t even mask the man’s face. He must be crucified for what he is, what nature made of him and for where he was born. The reporter invites us to witness his crucifixion in their paper. They should have nailed him straight to the cross. It is such a shame, almost unspeakable.
- Abimbola Adelakun (aa_adelakun@utexas.edu)
Article culled from Punch

Amnesty: What’s Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander! By Abubakar Usman


What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander! By Abubakar Usman


boko haram robbersFew weeks ago, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad asked the Federal Government to grant members of the militant group, Boko Haram, a “total and unconditional amnesty” for the sake of peace in the country. The Sultan’s basis is premised on the fact that a presidential amnesty to even one member of the sect, could make others to lay down their arms for peace to reign in the nation. In reaction to sultan’s call, President Jonathan during his visit to Maiduguri said his administration would not grant members of the group amnesty until such a time the group comes out in the public to dialogue with the federal government.
Since these two prominent figures made these comments, Nigerians seem to have been divided on the justification of amnesty for Boko Haram. Although this division can be understood if viewed from different perspectives, it is quite disappointing that most of the views expressed are either beclouded by sentiments or emotions, especially on the part of those who think that an amnesty for Boko Haram will be a tragic mistake. It is even more disheartening when those who are in support of amnesty for Boko Haram are immediately branded Boko Haram sympathisers, just because they dared to proffer a solution. It doesn’t even matter to this people if you have been affected in one way or the other.
I particularly decided to write this piece following an insult I got from a fellow on twitter because I dared to ask why we should continue to harp on the use of force to fight Boko Haram when that very strategy has failed to achieve any meaningful result. It shows the extent at which Nigerians make surface conclusion rather than analysing issues with the merit it deserves. I won’t be surprised to get more of that insult with this piece, especially from those who apart from displaying ignorance, are also beclouded by sentiments and emotions. However, it doesn’t change the fact that what needs to be said must be said.
It’s been over five years since the Military were deployed to states like Borno, Yobe etc to fight the insurgency. Apart from the various atrocities which the military under the JTF have meted especially to innocent civilians in those states, the actions of the military have not succeeded in taming Boko Haram, rather it has fuelled it further. Bombings and killings despite heavy military presence are still occurring almost on daily basis. The question then is if you have applied a particular strategy to a problem for over five years without any meaningful progress, do you need to be told that there is need to employ other measures? While it is arguable that amnesty is the sole strategy that is needed to solve the Boko Haram insurgency, it is only necessary that it should be explored to see how far it can help in ameliorating the problem.
I do not live in any of those states where Boko Haram have laid siege and fortunately, I have not been directly affected by any of their atrocities, but I do not need to be or wait till I am before I seek for a way out of the evil perpetrated by these men for whatever reason, because I may not be this lucky forever. My support for amnesty is not spontaneous. I actually kicked against it when it was first suggested, but over time, I realized the need for it and that reason is not borne out of the fact that I think Boko haram deserves amnesty. Those evil men have caused untold harm against the Nigerian state and her people. Ordinarily, they should be made to face justice for their crimes and this I believe is the argument advanced by many of those who kicked against granting them amnesty, but while this has failed to bring about peace or at least succeed in putting a stop to the insurgency, it is only normal to give amnesty a try so as to prevent further carnage. After all, an unjust peace in the views of Cicero is better than a just war.
Even as some persons kicked against the amnesty, they have not been able to tell us what they think can solve the problem or at least guarantee peace to the affected people, except for a continued military onslaught whose outcome has resulted in more deaths of civilians than the Boko Haram members itself. There is no guarantee that amnesty will be all that is needed, but there is even a guarantee that the presence of the JTF in those areas affected will not stop the killing of citizens of those states. At least we have seen that for over five years.
The argument by some of these people is that amnesty for Boko Haram is not in any way comparable to the amnesty granted Niger Delta militants. What they failed to realise is that crime against a state is a crime. No doubt, the Boko Haram sect has killed countless number of people and destroyed properties belonging to individuals and the authority, but if Wikipedia’s definition of  terrorism which it says “refers to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians)” is anything to go by, then the Niger Delta militants are also liable, because they’ve also killed and destroyed properties, whether comparable or not to Boko Haram.  Although I quite agree with what the agitations of the militants were about, assuming it is true they did what they did in the overall interest of the Niger Deltans, it still doesn’t exonerate them from what many people want for Boko Haram. That is by the way though.
An amnesty for Boko Haram does not necessarily need to be the same amnesty granted to Niger Delta Militants. Fact is that not everybody in the sect will accept amnesty, especially those who are hardliners like Abubakar Shekau, but you can be sure that a good number of them will accept it, especially those who joined because their mosques were destroyed, their leaders or members were killed extra-judiciously or even those who joined because they suffered victimization from the hands of security agencies. Personally, I think amnesty for Boko Haram should come with a lot of conditions. Those who are willing for example could be asked to submit their arms; all members should be screened and those who actually deserve the gesture should be given, while those who are found to have committed heinous crimes should be made to face the course of justice. Also, the training and monthly allowance as is the case with Niger Delta militants should either be minimal or completely excluded from the amnesty package. As this is going on, a combined strategy of dialogue, improved intelligence gathering and use of force will be stepped up to tackle those who will not accept the amnesty. Gains against this terror group are even more realistic now that there seem to be different factions in the sect, as this must have weakened their ranks. There are no guarantees of success with this strategy though, but it will go a long way in reducing the number of enemies the government will have to deal with.
The government really needs to step up its responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of every Nigerians instead of playing politics with the issue. The claim by President Jonathan that Boko Haram is ghost and therefore cannot be granted amnesty is not only laughable, but irresponsible. We have not forgotten that the government told us severally that it is in dialogue with Boko Haram. We have also not forgotten that at a point, the government promised to publish the names of their sponsors which it never did. How come these same people all of a sudden became ghosts? President Jonathan said the elders of the terrorist stronghold should fish out the Boko Haram members.
When late President Yaradua granted amnesty to Niger delta Militants, he didn’t sit down in Aso rock and asked leaders in the Niger Delta to fish out the militants. He empowered his vice President, who incidentally is now the President to enter into the creeks and dialogue with the militants before they finally accepted amnesty. Dr Goodluck Jonathan as vice president then worked in conjunction with governors and elders of the Niger Delta states to dialogue with the militants which eventually ended up in the amnesty. That exactly is what President Jonathan ought to do, especially now that the vice president is also a son from the north and not to sit down in Aso rock and handover his responsibility solely to those who do not have the requisite capacity to carry out such assignment.
Until we are ready to explore as many options as possible part of which is an amnesty, we may just have to continue to live with the evils of Boko Haram for a long time coming.
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Abubakar Sidiq Usman is an Urban Planning Consultant; Blogger and an Active Citizen working towards a better Nigeria. He blogs on HERE and can be engaged directly on twitter @Abusidiqu

Musings With Efe Wanogho: The Terrorists of Nigeria!


Musings With Efe Wanogho: The Terrorists of Nigeria!


Efe Wanogho
Since the 1st October, 2010 bombings in Abuja, that signposted the berthing of terrorist activity on Nigerian shores, in this dispensation, and the consequent official reception granted terrorism by none other than the President – and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces – of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following the explosion that rocked the Police Force Headquarters building, wherein he stated that terrorism is a universal phenomenon and that perhaps it was the turn of Nigeria to experience it; terrorism has taken firm roots in Nigeria.
Individuals and groups of people have since been targeted and killed by the seemingly ubiquitous terrorists under the auspices of the broad franchise of Boko Haram. They have perpetrated unspeakable violence and bloodshed in the land and deserve not only to be condemned, but also to be served justice, whether retributive, punitive, or corrective.
Whereas the Boko Haram brand of terrorism conforms with the simplistic understanding of terrorism as the use of violence or threat of violence as a means of coercion towards some religious, political, or other end; and whereas Nigerians have rightly expressed their indignation towards terrorism, except of course, for the handful of misguided people who think that throwing money at national problems by way of amnesty or enlisting criminals in the public payroll, is still the way to go; there is an aspect of terrorism that has received minimal scorn, though it is worse than the Boko Haram brand. That brand of terrorism is not conventional terrorism, but is certainly as deadly, if not more so, than conventional terrorism.
Official corruption by public office holders is the most deadly scourge that confronts and affronts the national progress that has become increasingly elusive to Nigeria. In a manner of speaking, this brand of terrorism is that which kills Nigerians softly, with less apparent goriness and assault on our objective senses.
For elucidation, the following scenarios should suffice.
When there is a conventional terrorist attack, there is instant death and gory sights of mangled remains of victims. Let’s say about a hundred people are killed. The media is, sooner than later, bombarded by series of condemnations by government functionaries and security agents with a perfunctory vow to bring the perpetrators to book. But when there is an attack by the non-conventional terrorists who hold public office, by way of misapplication, misappropriation, embezzlement, and outright thievery of public funds; there is no concomitant outrage and indignation. This is despite the fact that the casualties resulting from the attacks of this officially-backed terrorists, is over and above those that result from the joint attacks of Boko Haram, armed robbers, kidnappers, and others, that already suffer public opprobrium.
When diseases and sundry ailments kill Nigerians because they are unable to access basic and fundamental healthcare delivery as a result of lack of drugs and equipment, lack of qualified medical personnel, or as a consequence of humongous medical bills; owing to the continued criminal neglect of the health sector, and while the political office holders live in luxuriant and imperial affluence; terrorism is at work. When a medical student is made to face incompetent lecturers in the university and has to resort to financial inducement of complicit lecturers to garner needed grades; only for him to send Nigerians to early graves upon being “qualified” as adoctor, through wrong diagnosis and or prescriptions, or through making erroneous incisions on vital organs during medical operations, for no other reason than he doesn’t know better, corruption-induced terrorism is at work.
When a political office holder neglects to release needed funds forconstruction of roads and bridges, while receiving gratification from contractors, thereby letting them get away with shoddy and ill-supervised constructions that lead to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians when such infrastructure suffer imminent collapse; officially perpetrated terrorism is to blame.
When our security agencies conduct recruitment of new intakes on the basis of how much they have been forced to part with, or on the basis of which godfather recommended them, and as a consequence we have security agents that lack the requisite competence to fight crimes and check the actions of those unfortunate criminals, which criminality is itself a function of incompetent, corrupt, and a vision-less political leadership; non-conventional terrorism is at work.
When a political office holder administers public funds as though he was administering his personal estate to the attainment of his narrow and nocturnal interests, and doles out gifts in cash and in kind to his coterie of praise singers and engage in baseless and repugnant patronage of political and economic benefactors, while the majority of the people continue to wallow in debilitating but avoidable penury; terrorism of a different kind is at work.
Innumerable instances and scenarios of the criminal complicity of public officeholders in the perpetuation of “euphemized” and not too apparent terrorism, abound in the land. It ought to be noted, and rightly so, that the goriness of a crime and the scar it leaves on our collective psyche, as in the case of the recurring violence perpetrated by extremists, is not enough to warrant its singular classification as terrorism. If someone breaks into the house of an unsuspecting family and hacks the entire family down with machetes, axes, and AK47s, leaving a horrid and disturbing sight behind; and another person visits a home as a family friend or relative, only to clandestinely cause the poisoning of the food eaten by the occupants of the household, while he is long gone and far removed from the scene of lifeless bodies that follow; no less a crime has been committed in either case. We must not reduce the severity of the crime of the one who caused the food to be poisoned, while directing our outrage solely against the one who macheted, AK47ed, and axed life out of the members of the unsuspecting family.
To do that would be synonymous to towing the inglorious path of those who justify amnesty for convicted thieves but call for the heads of Boko Haram members. It is akin to treating equal crimes of taking life, unequally.
Further, we must note that the sustenance of the AK47-wielding and bomb-detonating terrorists and their seemingly invincibility status, is largely a function of the preponderance of the not-too-conventional terrorists who populate our public and political offices across the land. For, only the presence of the right people in the right offices, acting to further the greater good of the greater number of Nigerians, can bring about an effective and definitive end to terrorism, as we presently know it.
Thus, as we steadily approach the next round of elections into political offices across the country, we must make conscious effort to prevent terrorists of any kind, but particularly the not-so-apparent terrorists, from assuming positions of authority. It must have been in the spirit of the foregoing that Plato have been quoted as positing that better is the society whose kings were philosophers, and philosophers were kings; or something to that effect.
I am @efewanogho on Twitter.

Gongs Of War – By Sonala Olumhense


Four men were gathered around the table, each of them reeking of power, affluence and influence.
“Gentlemen, I thank you for coming to my meeting,” President Goodluck Jonathan said.  “I know the notice was short, but Patience insisted that I should call you.  And Oronto agreed with her.”
Olusegun Obasanjo shuffled impatiently in his seat, tossing the bulbous left arm of his agbada over his shoulder.  “This is what I don’t understand,” he said in his accustomed drawl.  “Do you have to conduct the affairs of State according to the wishes of a woman?”
The other two men looked away as Jonathan’s gaze of embarrassment came around.  “No, Baba, she is more than a woman.  She is always right.  She is more of a man.  I mean, she is so intelligent she is now a Permanent Secretary.”
As Obasanjo moved to say something, Bamanga Tukur cleared his throat.  “Gentlemen, the important thing is we are here, to work in the best interest of the party, to make sure we don’t lose any ground to those people who call themselves All Progressives Congress.  I have promised to dribble them like Messi, hahaha…” he laughed.
Obasanjo caught him off.  “I was wondering why you said that.  I know you were never a soldier.  But if your best weapon is a rifle, do you broadcast that to the opponent before the start of a battle?”
“But the fear of Messi…”
“Messi, my foot!  Why can’t you wait until Messi has scored two or three times?  Or for eight or nine years?  Why did your Messi not dribble in Edo State, where we lost disastrously and a common Labour leader made our party look like Boy Scouts?”
That was when Tony Anenih began to rise to his feet.  “I knew you were going to start attacking me.  I know you…”
Jonathan put his hand on that of Anenih, who was sitting to his right, restraining him.  Anenih sat down, but he continued to speak across the table at Obasanjo.  “I knew you could not resist the temptation to…”
Obasanjo burst into laughter.  “I was not even thinking about you,” he said to Anenih, gesturing towards Tukur.  “I was talking to Messi here.  He wants to dribble somebody, but he can barely walk without help.  Come to think of you, where were you two dribblers, Maradona and Messi, when we were being disgraced in Falklands…I mean, Edo?  And now you want a third term!”  He had turned to Jonathan.
The three other men looked at each other; then they glared at Obasanjo.  “Third term?” they said in unison.
Then, Jonathan, by himself, repeated: “Third term? You were the one who wanted third term in 1999!”
“That is not true,” Obasanjo retorted, banging on the table.  “In 1999, I contested for my first term.   I know people doubt whether you really have a Ph.D, but sometimes I even doubt whether you wrote your WAEC by yourself: you speak a funny English and reason like a market woman.”
“Sorry Baba, I meant in 2006,” Jonathan said, appearing to be deep in thought.
“I said, ‘Not true!’   In 2006 I merely expressed interest in the extension of my ongoing term to enable me finish some work.  That was no third term.  I was not going to run for another term.”
Jonathan’s brow appeared tortured by thought.  He was grinding his teeth.  “Okay,” he said, finally.  “But what were you going to finish, Baba?   I thought you had done everything.  You gave contracts for roads and agriculture and defence.  You set up EFCC.  You helped Anenih with his N300 billion problem.  I think you helped most Nigerians.”
Anenih’s eyes were blazing with anger as he looked at Jonathan, and once again he began to rise from his seat.  But Obasanjo would not let him speak.  “Yes,” the former President said.  “I did help a lot of people in 2006, especially you.  I helped you after the Joint Task Force recommended you for prosecution by the CCB for false declaration of assets.  But I pre-empted that and made you Vice-President!”
“But…!!!”
“But nothing!” Obasanjo shouted.  “You even recently said you are struggling to build your house in your village.  All these make you look bad, and make me look terrible because when you were indicted, the evidence included choice property in Yenagoa and Abuja, as well as a lavish seven-bedroom duplex in Otuoke as far back as 2001 that we never took back from you.  How can you in 2013 as President say you are struggling to build a house in the same village?  Does the house include a staircase to heaven?”
“Baba, it is just a…”
“You must understand why I am angry.  Last year, you said in an interview, ‘When I hear people saying corruption, corruption, I shake my head…’  Do you think I did not know you were talking about me?”
Tukur, alarmed as the meeting ran out of control, raised his hand, like a kindergarten kid about to ask a question in a noisy class.  But Obasanjo ignored him.
“Look at the people you have surrounded yourself with!” he screamed, pointing at Tukur and Anenih.  “People like Doyin Okupe,” he said.  “You dig out relics and make them kings.  Can Mr. Fix-It, who lost the election in his own hometown, Uromi, to fix a hole in his own pocket, talk less of Abuja?  The man has expired, but first you make him chairman of the Port Authority, and then of the BoT.  Why don’t you just make him chairman of the presidency?”
“I am the chairman of two powerful offices because the entire country trusts me and is depending on me!” Anenih said, scratching his head.
“They trust you?  Name one person who trusts you…and do not mention Josephine, because I will call her right now!”
Anenih was struggling with his temper.  “You cannot telephone my wife,” he grumbled, his voice dropping.
“Try me!” he challenged.  “I can even call Patience from here, except that I do not understand her English.  You have to admit, all of you, that in all those years it was I who made the party and the government workable and feared.  But now, nobody respects us.  And APC is coming for us.”
The three other men exchanged glances and spoke across the table.  “We respect you, Baba,” they intoned.  Of course we respect you.”
And then Anenih found fresh courage.  “But you must respect us too.  We are not children.”
“Yes, nobody is a child,” Jonathan said.
“Sometimes you are all worse than children,” Obasanjo said.  “Chaos in the national chairman’s home State.  In Bayelsa, even the president’s kinsmen are criticizing him for granting pardon to a man convicted for corruption.  And then you outdo yourself by challenging the Americans and the British to a wrestling match!”
“But your own people in Ogun criticized you too,” Jonathan said.  “Your daughter jumped a fence running from EFCC.  You lost elections.”
“Yes.  But I never scored an own goal.  And my team never lost when I was on the pitch.  You don’t even have an economic plan.”
“I don’t need one.  I have Ngozi.”
“True, she is more than a plan, she is a miracle,” Obasanjo sneered.  “Don’t forget you have Diezani too.  Do you think it was by coincidence I was my own Minister for Petroleum Resources for eight years?”
Tukur took off his hat and laid it on the table.  It was suddenly very hot.  “Gentlemen, please let us return to the agenda for this meeting.  Our great party is under serious threat.”
Anenih nodded.   “And we can start to rebuild the party from this very table,” he said.  “The foundation of this problem is the threat to the structure of PDP.”
Tukur nodded.  “We must support the national executive,” he said.  “We must allow the executive to function as the party’s most powerful body.”
“No, no, no,” Anenih said.  “That is a gross misunderstanding.  The national executive does as it is told by the BoT.  We cannot go forward by going back.  The tail does not wag the dog.  The NEC and the Presidency are guided and led by the BoT.”
“Yes, that is true!” cried Mr. Jonathan, as if snapping out of a stupor, and then, “No, that is not!!  As President, I am in charge.”
Obasanjo rose to his feet, gathering his papers.  “What you have all said, and the mess you have made of the party, is proof of my point.  Without me you are lost.  I want you all to go back and re-examine whether you want to succeed or fail.  And remember that failure means that some people here may well go to jail.  F-A-I-L, J-A-I-L, everyone should memorize that.  But I have to be in control.  You have to sort out who is responsible to whom.  The one at the top will answer to me in my new role as BoT Chairman Emeritus!”
Sonala Olumhense