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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Heritage of Edo-Akures.

By:DR NOWAMAGBE A OMOIGUI

The heritage of Edo-Akures is both military and commercial. Many parts of modern Ondo and Ekiti states were part of the Benin Empire and thus many Edos traded within the territories, often living in "quarters" (like sabongari). Also, victorious soldiers often stayed behind to rule over small dominions, leaving behind descendants born of local yoruba mothers. Those who remarried Edos retained their links. Those who did not, tended to get assimilated into the Yoruba tribe - preferring to benefit from the status of a majority tribe as the influence and power of Benin declined. Prior to recent developments, this interaction resulted in the development of a unique language (a cross between Akure-Yoruba and Bini) which is almost lost.

To appreciate the role of Edo-AKure (or Bini-AKure) one must first understand that there were two main axes of trade within old Benin. One was called "waterside trade" focused along creeks and the Benin River involving Itsekiris (as middle men) and white men. The other was called "upcountry trade" which occured along three axes: (a) Ekiti-Ilorin (b)Ishan (c) Afemai. Each group was organized into trading associations with the Oba as patron. The traders of the forest (called "Ekhen-Egbo") were the group that operated in Ekiti country all the way to Ilorin. Their main bases were at Usen and Akure. Each trading association was highly organized and even had its own Odionwere. Ilorin beads were particularly valuable in exchange for brass carvings, salt, guns, matches, tobacco, necklaces, palm kernels, woven cloth, leather, ivory etc.

In Benin there was also a small group of so called Akure-Bini
chiefs. The role of this community of Bini-AKures has been significant. For example, when Ovonramwen signed the treaty in 1892 with Vice Consul Gallwey, the sole interpreter was a man called Ajayi who spoke 'Akure' dialect of yoruba and translated to Edo.

Before that AKure played an interesting role in providing
one of the first challenges to Ovonranmwen in 1889 when the Deji tried to make ceremonial swords without approval. A warrior was dispatched to settle the issues - which was done. [Oba Adolor earlier intervened in a dispute between Ekitis and Oyos - based on historic alliances between Benin and Ekiti]

The role and regimental seniority of AKure-Bini chiefs came under scrutiny during the trial of Benin chiefs in 1897. One of them called Osague had been identified as the individual through whom Ovonramwen allegedly sent a message to Ologbose and others in Ugbine not to kill Phillips and his party. But in retort another Benin chief claimed that no-one could take orders from an "Akure-Bini" chief. The British rejected the plea.

But more importantly, in April/May 1897, when Ebohon and Ologbose were organizing resistance to the British a large number of Akure refugees enlisted to support Ebohon. In the period after the deportation, the Usen-AKure axis was the focus of intense competition between Lagos traders and Benin based British officers who had long term plans for the development of Rubber plantations.

Later on when the monarchy was restored in 1914 the Benin community in Akure made strenuous efforts to reestablish ties with the Oba. They were stopped by the British. A tribute they had sent to Benin was actually returned!

However, the role of "Akure" in Benin politics was to show itself again and again. In 1918, for example, when Iyase Agho Obaseki had a fall out with Eweka II, it was widely rumored that arrangements had been made to import poison / juju from Akure to eliminate the Oba. Again, in 1937/38 during the serious water-rate crisis in Benin, Chiefs Oshodi and Ezomo were accused of conspiring with one Fagbemi (a native doctor in Idanre, near Akure) to make poison for the purpose of liquidating Akenzua II. As a matter of fact, correspondences were discovered (by telegram) necessitating a full inquiry authorized by Bourdillon. Oba Akenzua initially hired the services of a Yoruba lawyer called
Alakija - before the matter was settled out of court.

One of the most famous Iyases in Benin history was called
Okoro-Otun. His original name was Omokhua. He was born in Benin in
1819 but moved to Ekiti land very early, where he became highly
successful as a trader. He, however, visited Benin in 1904 and
predicted that Aiguobasimwin would some day become Oba. His prophecy
came to pass. During the period before he finally returned to Benin in
1915 as the Esama, he fought in the Ibadan-Oyo conflicts and Ijaye
wars. In 1921 he was appointed district head of Ehor. When Akenzua II
became Oba he made 'Okoro-Otun' Iyase in 1928.
Unfortunately, Okoro-Otun clashed with Akenzua II over a number of issues one of which had to do with wearing beaded head dresses of Yoruba origin. This summary is meant to illustrate how and why
Akure-Binis (with a heritage dating back to the trading association days) were generally successful, politically well connected and wealthy. Many families re-emigrated back to Benin bringing not only their skills and business contacts but also (in some cases) their new religion - Islam, acquired through contacts with Nupe jihadists. This 'community' became known as 'Edo N'akhue' - to connote the link to a great migratory commercial (and diplomatic) heritage.

Hence the names like Yusuf, Bello, Giwa and Dawodu - along with other Yoruba names (and arabic influences from Ilorin). Dawodu, for example, is a corrupted form of Daoud - the Arabic translation of David. Of course it is entirely possible that in old deep Bini (or "acure" dialect) it had an acquired meaning - such as "first son". Note that "pure" Edo names typically begin with the letters A, E, I, O, U. But of course there are many modified Edo names that begin with other alphabets.

Although the description "Edo N'akhue" may be perjorative (when used to describe someone whose behavior is stereotyped as slippery and unreliable), the Edo-Akures are the equivalents in Benin of the descendants of prominent American families, for example, who spent most of their lives abroad as diplomats and multinational businessmen. They are a vital and bonafide part of the complexity that is Benin.

In modern Nigeria, certain administrative delineations reflect these old historical links with the Ondos/Ekitis. The Benin-Owina River Basin Authority, for example, covered old Bendel and old Ondo states. Until it was disbanded, the old 4th Infantry Brigade of the Army was similarly deployed. Most recently, one of the zonal offices of OMPADEC based in Benin-City covers Edo, Delta and Ondo states.

Regards,

NAO

****************************** ******************************

Note the following in the attached write up:

a) Chief Okoro Otun was made the Iyase of Benin by Oba Eweka II after the death of Chief Agho Obaseki who died in the early 20's. He was born at Uvbe village near Abudu. He was one of Oba Eweka's II "foot soldiers " in the struggle for the restoration of the monarchy. He is fondly remembered as OBA MU IYASE KOMI-the Oba has given me the title of the Iyase ( a mixture of Edo-Bini and Akure- Yorubaialects. His house is at Sakponba Road, Benin City, opposite St. Mathew's Cathedral, Benin City. His descendants simply go with the surname IYASE or Iyasere.

b) At the restoration of the monarchy in 1914/15, Oba Eweka II encouraged and lured many of the Edos in Akure and other Yoruba land to return home and help him rebuild the remnants of the ancient Empire. Chief Okoro Otun was one of the "returnees".

C) Oba Akenzua ascended the throne in 1933/4.

2015: The Fashola-Kukah Joker

Despite my precocious interest in national politics that saw me taking active interest in Nigerian politics from a time I can barely comprehend politics, I had always drawn a line between participating and discussing.
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The 2011 elections however saw me crossing my own line. Exasperated, like many Nigerians, on the evil PDP and its hawks had been inflicting on Nigerians since it gained power in 1999, taking active part in the attempt to dethrone the malignant PDP in 2011 was almost natural. I initially aligned myself with Nuhu Ribadu, who, warts and all, is a good man and no doubt passionate about moving Nigeria forward. Later, I pitched my tent with General Muhammadu Buhari, another man I believed can do the job of extricating Nigeria from the shackles of the behemoth that has continued to feed fat on Nigeria's collective patrimony while further pauperizing the hoi polloi that constitute the vast majority of the populace. I believed so much in the man Buhari and threw my full weight behind him, committing personal resources to the cause, including working with a number of anonymous online volunteers to raise close to one million Naira to campaign for him, most notably, sponsoring jingles in more than 5 radio stations in Lagos, Oyo, Osun and River states. I practically turned myself into Buhari's campaign manager, churning out articles almost on weekly basis in virtually all major Nigerian dailies, selling the Buhari candidacy. I did this much, never because of any direct personal gain, but because of the lamentably parlous state of things in this country. Unfortunately, Nigerians were not ready for change, as a PDP candidate that must have done a great job in Nigerians' psychology, sold the 'divine theory' dummy to them. The rest is history. The result has been unprecedented insecurity in the land and festering of wanton impunity. To my shelf I returned after the unsuccessful efforts to actualize a Buhari presidency.
Somehow, the outcome of 2011 elections sealed back my interest in active participation in Nigerian politics. Save a couple of write-ups I did post-elections, one to condole with the families of the slain youth corps members, the other an assessment of Jonathan presidency after 6 months, I had maintained a siddon look at Nigerian politics. But a recent political chat with a columnist and editor of a popular Nigerian daily may have reactivated my waning interest.
My columnist friend, like me, is fed up of PDP misrule and is yearning for change. To him, General Buhari is a great presidential material who should play active part towards dislodging PDP in 2015 but from the back seat. I reluctantly agreed with him. Reluctant for two reasons. One, I doubt any other candidate can garner massive northern votes, which is important even if insufficient to win the presidential election, like Buhari. Two, I have confidence in only a handful of other potential presidential candidates the way I do for Buhari. I however agree that the erroneous ethnic and religious baggage being unfortunately thrown into Buhari's aspiration will be extremely difficult, if possible at all, to assail. Add Buhari's age to that, it becomes harder not to agree with the columnist.
When I played the devil's advocate by telling my friend that I don't see any alliance upstaging PDP in 2015, he disagreed, quickly reminding me of the Senegal example. He strongly believes that an early alliance between Tinubu's AC and Buhari's CPC can be the joker, especially when the registered voters population is analyzed into the strongholds of the two parties. On paper, this looks feasible, but this is an oversimplified fact, as a number of considerations like northern PDP governors factor, PDP's financial war-chest and tendency to compromise electoral system, widespread post-election and Boko Haram violence- induced anti-north sentiments at the moment etc constitute real threats to that permutation.
In our discussion, a number of names came up as possible opposition consensus presidential candidate in 2015. He mentioned Nasir el-Rufai as possible CPC candidate. I am not too comfortable with el-Rufai, not because he is not a super performer, but because of some deficits around consistency and association. He it was who labelled Buhari perpetually ‘unelectable’ in 2010 and just few months later turned around to be Buhari’s loudest advocate. If I give him benefit of doubt over that, it is difficult for me to come to terms with his being a former active member of PDP that took very active part in the infamous installation of Umaru Musa Yar’adua as president, and his coming back later to hurl insults on Yar’adua when they fell apart. These don’t add up for me, and an el-Rufai candidacy is less than appealing to me. Performance, which I believe he has the capacity for as evidenced in his FCT ministerial tenure, should be combined with moral consistency, to make a good leader. If however he gets the ticket, he has my vote against the PDP candidate, which from all indications, will be President Jonathan.
My editor-friend, perhaps knowing me to be a huge admirer of Lamido Sanusi, also suggested Sanusi as a man opposition can present. I immediately interjected Sanusi candidacy is a Dead on Arrival (DOA). Sanusi is a man I believe will make a great president for his courage and passion, but you see, I am always being realistic. The same false issues people, southerners in particular, have with Buhari, also hang on Sanusi’s neck – you all know the issues, even though they are contrived. Plus a more liberal-minded Sanusi does not have the popularity of Buhari even in the north. In any case, I seriously doubt Sanusi will ever consider elective politics.
Nuhu Ribadu, in my opinion, has a more realistic chance of balancing the game as opposition candidate in 2015, if CPC and ACN come together, and Buhari and Tinubu actively and honestly work for him in their respective strongholds (core North and South-West). But having being used as a cannon fodder by ACN only in 2011, I doubt the Adamawa man will trust Tinubu again.
Bringing me to Babatunde Raji Fashola. After Buhari and Lamido Sanusi, Fashola is the another Nigerian political figure I have full confidence in in doing great works as president of Nigeria. Forget about his recent face-off with Lagos doctors and few similar cases in the past, the man Fashola is a visionary administrator par excellence. Perhaps South-West’s most visionary politician since Awolowo and Akintola, and he is fast surpassing the records of Lateef Jakande, the state’s action governor in the second republic. The pace of infrastructural development in Lagos is phenomenal. I have lived in Langbasa area of Ajah-Lagos for close to three years and that was an area I never thought the government was aware is existing until Fashola’s cranes and bulldozers arrived few weeks ago, to tar the entire road network in the area. This is one of the many capital projects the man is doing all over Lagos, even in the remotest of places, while other governors are celebrating grading of a 1 km road or constructing some white-elephant fly-over bridge – and that is those who do anything at all.
Fashola is a great presidential material anyday. If only Nigerians, especially our northern brothers, can sacrifice the undeniable regional balancing for political expediency and present Fashola as the CPC/ACN candidate, with Buhari and Tinubu vigorously working for him. Is a joker that can end PDP’s rule in 2015. Apart from a guaranteed performance, the man has considerable appeal in every region. Opposition should consider this option if truly their interest is not just about wresting power from PDP but providing good governance which has eluded the country. I would have suggested a Lamido Sanusi as running mate, to check the corruption and rot in the system while Fashola faces administration, but I’m not sure the Nigerian Christians will buy this, so I nominate Reverend Father Martin Hassan Kukah, a respectable northern Christian intellectual and priest as running mate. If this option is considered, I believe we may be in for an electoral el-Classico in 2015!

Nigeria's Unbroken Democracy at 13


  By: Charles Ikedikwa Soeze.


Nigeria is currently marking thirteen years of unbroken democratic structure in the history of its fatherland without the junta's intervention. This is a symbolic celebration indeed! This is symbolic because the closest the country has come since independence, that is, 1st of October 1960 was that of the First Republic under the leadership of the late Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister and the late Rt. Hon (Dr.) Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe (popularly known as Zik of Africa) as ceremonial president that lasted for five years.

The next attempt of democratic structure under Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari, grassroots teacher and politician, first executive president of Nigeria ended after four years between 1979 and 1983. As a result, Nigerians waited for sixteen more years before democracy returned. Democracy is "a government of the people by the people and for the people". It is a truism to say that this definition has become a cliché, but it nonetheless encapsulated the very essence of democracy. It may be appropriate to say that there is hardly one commonly accepted and agreed meaning of the term. This is so because it means one thing to one person and quite another to someone else depending on each person's point, circumstances, economic and social positions. It is appropriate to say that this differing meaning of democracy is a 100 meters dash. In other words, it is a long distance race with different hurdles. The race demands stamina, sacrifice, skills and determination. We are to make sure that our democracy is well-guided so that it will not be controlled by individuals and groups who are bent on promoting their own selfish ideas and agenda. With the high level of corruption in Nigeria, bombings, maimings and killings, a popular musician (the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) definition of democracy may apply here that is "dem all crazy". Are we really not crazy? A situation where an individual will want to be richer than the country as a whole. Is this not greed of the highest order?

However, dubious human beings can do anything to get whatever they want. They do not mind embarking on people's destruction programme to achieve their aims. This is very common in the public service especially the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Realizing this fact, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a one-time military head of state and eight years as an executive president wrote in his book, The Animal called Man "man is insatiable animal as far as quest for position, power, possession, popularity and pleasure are concerned". This is absolutely true especially in the MDAs.

In any democratic structure, the press must be free and responsible. This is because it must not be organ for the articulation of the interest of only those in power but should be advocates of higher national interests. The press need to be responsible in the sense that it should not articulate interest that retard, undermine or regress the social weal and the unifying bond that holds society together and guarantees its solidarity, integrity and sovereignty. I think and believe that was why in 1787, Thomas Jefferson, years before he became the third president of the United States preferred newspapers to government. When in 1901 Lenin might have preferred newspapers to the communist party having seen them as not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator but a collective organizer; when the 39th USA Vice President called journalists “nattering nabobs of negativism”, it was to the power of these gentlemen and women of the press that they were referring.

Surprisingly and disappointing to many Nigerians is that when some of these politicians get elected, they always feel that they are in office to amass wealth. In this direction, I wish to boldly and proudly quote a sage and elder statesman, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory) for the guidance of our politicians when he said “I must say, however, that in all conscience, I felt and still feel that a truly public-spirit person should accept public service not for what he can get for himself such as profit and glamour of office, but for the opportunity which it offers him of serving his people to the best of his ability, by promoting their welfare and happiness”. Recall the late sage’s free education in the defunct western region that produced a lot of intellectuals from that area. This could be termed “talk na do”. To this end therefore, the welfare of the masses need to be adequately addressed. In other words, our politicians should imbued with Mandela’s stoicism and Caesar’s bravery in services to the people.
It is no denting and denigrating image locally, nationally and internationally to say that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of our nation and finally it is now endemic and epidemic. This, I think and believe our striking doctors in some parts of the country based their strike on improved conditions of service which is the main thing and on the surface, items of equipment to work with for the sake of excellence. It is the prerogative of all Nigerians to fight against the massive ongoing corruption in the country not only financially but other things like employments, promotions and postings that is about killing and maiming MDAs. This is a dangerous dichotomy.

It is sad and flabbergasting that in December 2011, Nigeria was ranked 143rd out of 183 surveyed countries in terms of public perception on corruption. This was widely reported on in a full assessment carried by global watchdog, Transparency International (TI). In 2010, Nigeria was 134th and astonishingly maintained its score of 2.4 out of a possible 10 marks for the 2011.

Furthermore, I know that Nigerians were flabbergasted when the Nigerian Compass newspaper in its front page of Sunday, March 6, 2011 carried on “=N= 12 bn fraud in pension office, Director General, deputy arrested”. What about the latest as published in National Mirror newspaper front page, permanent secretary, five others remanded in prison custody over =N= 32.8bn police pension fund. This is also surprising because most retirees who would have benefitted from such funds were out rightly denied because of the massive corruption of designated desk officers.
Nodoubt, Nigerian workers have been faced with series of problems, many of which arose from the oppressive and obnoxious policies of previous administrations. Happily, the current democratic administration, under the able and agile leadership of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR popularly known as “GEJ” has looked into many issues including solving the problems of massive corruption.

On the massive rate of corruption, do we agree with the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah who described Nigerian leaders as accidental leaders as reported in the Businessday newspaper of Friday 11 – Sunday, 13th May 2012 P. 24. He blamed the challenges currently facing Nigeria on the leadership of the country calling them “accidental toys” wielding power without legitimacy. Bishop Kukah made the disclosure recently at the Leadership forum organized by the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) in collaboration with the Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI). In the words of the outspoken and versatile Bishop, “Our leaders are like accidental toys. This is a country where we have never had a president that had what we call name recognition”.

Continuing, he stated and I quote “with almost every president of Nigeria, we only hear them through television. Apart from its accidental nature, there is also something reluctant (about those chosen to be leaders)”. According to the Bishop, who is also a senior fellow of the NLI, the leaders who have ruled Nigeria starting from independence have usually come to power through accidental means as opposed to an organized and established process as with other countries.

Giving a chronology of Nigeria leaders, Kukah said the accidental nature of leadership was glaring. “When you start from Tafawa Balewa and you go to Aguiyi-Ironsi. You come to Yakubu Gowon, who had just returned from London. He had not even settled down. “Murtala in a book written by Joe Garba said (to the plotters of the coup that brought him into power), I may protect you but I am not interested in the coup. According to Bishop Kukah, “Obasanjo has not forgiven him for literary saying he cried his way to power… (I think this must be February 13, 1976 my own words when a one-time military head of state General Murtala Ramat Mohammed was assassinated in an abortive coup led by Lt. Col. Buka Suwa Dimka) like a sheep being led to the slaughter. Shagari said all he wanted to be was a senator. Buhari was sometime in Jos. Abacha comes along. Then Abdusalami Abubakar came and was penciled for retirement. Obasanjo was sitting in prison. The Catholic Bishop further opined that Nigerian leaders are not groomed. They attain power “just because they happen to have connections”. However, whatever the case may be, I think our current president, an academic, administrator, politician of the highest level, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR, will be able to move Nigeria to the next level for the admiration of the international community. He needs the support of all of us which include members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). 

It seems to me that Nigerians’ should be congratulated as lovers of democracy since May 29, 1999 and for an uninterrupted democratic structure for further thirteen years. To this end therefore, one can boldly and proudly say that democracy can efficiently and effectively be practiced in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the past thirteen years has been characterized by desperation for power, political parties without identifiable ideologies, electoral violence, killings, bombings, kidnappings, prolonged and incessant electoral litigations and upturning of election results through judicial process.

Whatever the case may be, it is a truism to say that thirteen years is enough duration for a nation for effective administration. One of the biggest gains during this political dispensation is the true rebirth of the rule of law, with a freer judicial system that has restored confidence of the people in the Nigerian judiciary. Also, it is true to say that Nigeria’s democracy is still not perfect, though there is no perfection in humanity. However, one can happily say that the nation has suffered the imperfection for the past thirteen years having survived the imperfection so far and finding our ways on the road of imperfection. However, it seems to me that there is hope for democracy in Nigeria, especially if and when the political elites learn to use power for service not for destruction and respect strictly the opinions and views of the electorate as demonstrated or shared through the ballot box.

Furthermore, it is a sad commentary and abomination on our national affairs that the problem of corruption remains intractable. It has now been elevated to a prime position of a national culture. Astonishingly, corrupt officials direct our affairs and successive government appear incapable of arresting the free fall to the abyss of infamy. It is unfortunate that key functionaries, especially those under whose offices the burden rest to address the situation are its promoters. As a result, it is therefore no exaggeration to say that the key sectors of the economy have been run aground. For example, refineries are in abysmal state. Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke cites mismanagement. Refer to the National Daily newspaper of May 7-11, 2012 front page.  I think the issue of our refineries is not following professionalism. Federal character syndrome is a major factor in this direction, wa-oh! What about other sectors, if one may ask? Service delivery in the health sector is silly and laughable. Our trap and unpardonable mortality after the appropriation of trillions of Naira acts of criminality in different directions thrive while the issue of security weighs down Nigeria to the extent that some “big guys” in our society provide their own security.

Truly speaking, Chief Obasanjo proved his worth during his second coming, which many Nigerians saw as a cleansing operation. This is because Nigeria was seriously indebted to the Paris club and others. OBJ (Baba Iyabo) faced and tackled boldly the issue of Nigeria’s indebtedness to the Paris Club and others with a much determined vigour. He did succeed in a lot of them. He tried to fight against corruption through the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). These two organs, I am sure, have instilled some discipline into our system, we still have rooms for improvement. It is no longer the issue of the winner takes all. It is the view of some Nigerians that our democracy is steadily evolving and compared with other democracies around the world. I would add that there are a lot of prospects, too. However, at the leadership or top echelon, there is the need for additional work and proper interaction with the mass audience if not the talakawas. 

What baffles one is that many Nigerian politicians believe that political power is a road to wealth and security in Nigeria, the struggle for control has been problematic seeing political power as warfare instead of translating into welfare economics for the electorates. It is therefore appropriate to say that the political elites should forget about selfishness and the quest for power through “do or die” politics and go through the democratic process that is the ballot box in a most transparent, intelligent and articulate manner. In conclusion, let all of us join hands, in fact, all hands must be on the pumps with the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. GCFR to make Nigeria better and comparable to other developed nations. Nigeria will not continue to remain a developing nation after over fifty (50) years of independence. Like the Christians will say, “we reject it in Jesus name, Amen”.

Furthermore, President Jonathan has accepted to improve on the workings of the public service of the federation hence he declared during the Presidential Award Ceremony (PAC) for the first batch of winners of the National Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) business plan competition on April 12, 2012 in Abuja. Consequently, he announced that all appointments to fill the leadership of tenured public agencies shall henceforth be based on merit. This is a welcome development to avoid inefficiency and ineffectiveness at the top echelon in the public sector. This is so because once the head is rotten, all other parts of the body will follow. In view of the arrangement, we should make it a sustained standard policy and be enshrined in the Public Service Rules (PSRs) for proper guidance and appropriate follow-up.
 

Nigeria dancing on wet grave – Kukah

 by Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Hassan Kukah, has said that Nigeria is “dancing on a wet grave”.
Kukah warned that unless something was done urgently, the grave might cave in soon.
The cleric, who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday at the inauguration of the Northern Reawakening Forum, also wondered how Nigeria deteriorated to the level where it now finds itself.
He said, “It is daybreak for Nigeria. The country is currently dancing on a wet grave. We are not moving forward. The war going on now is not between Christians and Muslims or Muslims against Christians; it is a conflict between darkness and light. This madness must end.”
Kukah recalled how a Muslim saved his sister in 2003 by advising her to run to army barracks because of an impending riot.
He, however, regretted that the said sister later lost her belongings when some people invaded the area in retaliation.
The cleric said he was scheduled to be in Tunisia for a conference but had to cancel it when he heard about demonstrations in the country.
He said, “So, how do I explain to the people who begged me to come to Tunisia and I refused because of what is happening now in Kaduna in particular and Nigeria as a whole?”
Kukah regretted that about 95 per cent of Nigerians were not happy with politicians for their failure to deliver on their promises.
Also speaking at the event, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said he predicted the crisis in the northern part of the country 10 years ago.
Ogbeh, who was a former minister of agriculture would come when emirs would not be able to even sit in their palaces.
He said though he was not happy that his prediction was coming to pass, Ogbeh said there were signs that the situation could degenerate.

Why I’m still close to Obasanjo-Bishop Kukah

Foremost nationalist and Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, speaking in this interview on why and how those in government should earn the trust of the people, also dwells on why he remains a close friend of former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, among other issues. Excerpts:
It’s four months now since you became Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese. How is the challenge of being Bishop different from that of being Father?
Sokoto is very quiet, very peaceful and very warm; warm in terms of the way one has been received. It has been extremely encouraging. I have also been amazed at different delegations, people taking the trouble to personally come and pay respects.

But how is the experience of being a bishop different from a Reverend father.
It’s just like you are a member of a football team and may be suddenly you become the captain. You have to try and develop a vision, but I am not unaware that despite being the bishop, I am still the newest person. Everybody else knows Sokoto better than me.  My main interest now is first of all to explore what the challenges are together with my priests and sisters. I have had series of meetings with the various groups within the Catholic Church. I have also had meetings with members of the Christian community. Frankly, I find it not so much of a challenge; it’s been a very good experience to me.

What efforts have you made to cement the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the North-West?
I really don’t like using the words Christians and Muslims. I came to do a job, principally to be a witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I happen to be in a place called Sokoto and I consider myself a witness to these people irrespective of what their beliefs may be. The reception I have received has been extra-ordinarily warm. I have covered the four states that make up this diocese: Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto. Each of these states that I visited, I met the state governors. Where they weren’t available I met with the deputy governors. The reception, as I said, was extraordinarily warm.

Why is the condition of Nigeria getting worse in spite of our prayers? Asian countries that don’t engage in so much religious activities have better economies. How do you explain this?
That question should be the subject of a book, seriously. The reason why we are praying so much is not because we love God. The reason is that there is nobody, nothing else to cover our nakedness and our want. It is like living in an orphanage and, for me, to locate the superfluous expression of Christianity   by our people, you have to connect it to the total failure of government to deal with very basic issues, which we are now conscripting God to do on our behalf and on behalf of government.  As I often say rather jokingly, if you set out from one end of Nigeria to another, you don’t know whether you will have a safe journey. You are afraid of armed robbers, you are afraid of checkpoints, you are afraid of bad roads, the cloud of fear that drives you is what produces that obsession with relying on God for you to arrive safely. So when you get from one point to another the first thing you say is thank God I have arrived safely. You cannot say this is how to get a job in Nigeria.  You cannot say this is how to pass examination in Nigeria. You enter into the university now and you cannot rely on your intellectual capacity to graduate.  The lawlessness in our society is what produces so much prayer. But true service to God enables you to be honest, to be sincere, to be transparent.   But we have a society that is obsessed with theft; stealing is a god that is prevalent in the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are praying that they would be posted to a place they will steal money very quickly. You are now listening to politicians crediting their electoral success to a particular spiritual man of God. We don’t know whether politicians win elections because INEC has done a good job; we don’t know whether politicians win elections because we have voted for them or maybe some witchdoctor or some spiritual man has already announced that they are going to win election. The man who is stealing election is trusting God that he would steal the election successfully; the man who has lost election is trusting God to restore his mandate. This is a society that is bereft of any intellectual input in policy. That is why criminality, armed robbery, banditry, and theft are sitting side by side with churches and mosques. Being a Muslim is not just about going to the mosque, being a Christian is not just about going to church and this is why I continue to worry that we are one of the most corrupt countries, yet one of the most church-going and mosque-going communities.

Are you saying the situation is helpless or how do we get out of it?
It is not a helpless situation but time is not on our side. People are getting increasingly very angry and feeling very frustrated. Government doesn’t command the kind of loyalty and respect that it ought to command. Ordinary citizens don’t trust government. I think government should win the trust and confidence of ordinary people.

After the elections in April, Southern Kaduna became engulfed in violence. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Violence in Nigeria is like a sick man. One moment, there is a boil in your ear, another day there is a boil in your mouth, there is a boil in your armpit, on your toe. Violence defies geography and this is why it is so worrying. Otherwise very peaceful communities are now exploding left, right and centre. There are clouds of grievances hovering around the entire country. These grievances are based on different perceived notions. The grievances have got a lot to do with historical perception of relationship even with communities and that is why I always worry that we continue to frame this thing as if we have problems between Muslims and Christians. A lot of the problems you  have in  many parts of southern  Kaduna are purely and simply  the questions  of law and order.  It is about regulating the behavior of particular institutions. For example, a very critical question arises: how are we going to deal with the problem of pastoralists and the relationship between them and farmers? It has always been a cat and mouse relationship. When I was growing up in my little village, I knew my father had a reputation with a lot of these Fulani people because every farmer would rejoice at the thought of Fulani people passing with their cattle and deciding to settle on their farm. I mean this is what I grew up with. If you don’t have a country in which the rule of law is the driving force, people are going to do as they like.  Let me go back to where I am most familiar with. My younger one is the chief in my village. I wasn’t at home, but I read in the New Nigerian of an initiative which I thought was wonderful. In our locality, we have four different ethnic groups: Hausa, Fulani, Baju and Kulu, but we have had a problem with the Baju people, which goes back to the last six or seven years. The young man had the diligence to approach the Baju people, although we are no longer fighting. It was something that happened many years ago, but he still felt it was necessary to deal with the issues of trust. There were series of meetings they had with the community, with their chief and so on. Then subsequently they now had a meeting with the Hausa, then had a meeting with the Fulani, and then finally they decided to bring all the different groups together on the 10th of December. They brought everybody together made up of all these ethnic groups. People sat together; let’s put this behind us.  My argument is that the government will try its best, but reconciliation would never come as an external agency. People have to sit down and heal issues. With government, committees are set up, commissions are set up, nobody knows what government is going to do because government occasionally gets stuck. Those of us from outside always say we want the government to release the report or to act on it. But sometimes, it may not be politically convenient. In my view, government should support local initiatives that communities embark on.
Government must quickly get its hands around the problem before violence becomes an industry because once it becomes an industry and people invest in it you are going to have a problem but the irony will be that the more it festers, the more people who are benefitting from it directly or indirectly take advantage of the situation and then you just find the system spiraling and spiraling and spiraling. I  mean people who produce arms would have nothing to do with their arms  if there are no wars that are fought. It is not about how much money you want to spend buying equipment, it’s about how much gari we are going to put in the stomachs of our people because that is the greatest shield against violence. If you are not able to feed your people, you are not able to accommodate the people and guarantee them the basic things of life, you are going to continue to have a system of violence.

You worked closely with President Olusegun Obasanjo. Why do you think Obasanjo didn’t totally remove fuel subsidy?
I didn’t work with Obasanjo. I have never worked for anybody, any government. I have had specific assignments. I have had relationship with everybody but in the case of Obasanjo I had a relationship with him during my work with Oputa Panel and Ogoni. Also, I worked with late President Umaru Yar’Adua because I served at the Electoral Reform Committee. I have worked with President Goodluck Jonathan because we continued the work with Ogonis  up till when we  handed in our report. To come back to your question, the fuel subsidy issue is a conversation that went wrong. It is not about economics in my view, it is again about trust. Let me answer your question very briefly and tell you what I have always thought. If I were the president of Nigeria and I see that there is great potential of taking money from this area, the first thing is to appreciate that ordinary citizens everywhere in the world don’t trust politicians, don’t like politicians; they consider politicians an evil that they have to deal with. This is the truth and they should therefore appreciate that politics is to face being misunderstood. Therefore the least a politician can do is to try and earn the trust of his people. Now, given the way this election went and given the issues that are still on, given that ordinary citizens know that this process just like other processes have been driven by corruption, why do you think that you can convince a Nigerian that you take a few hundred billion naira or dollars and place here and turn your back and imagine that you will come back and find your yams there? We are used to the fact that whatever a Nigerian politician finds, he would consume. That is the psychological feeling that ordinary Nigerians have. Therefore it is wrong to assume that you will simply tell Nigerians that we are going to save this money for you and that we would take care of you. No, because we are used to not being taken care of. I would have said for example when Obasanjo left we were told that the issue of the railway for example, we were supposed to have a railway line running from Lagos to kano in 50 months, which means that by 2010 we ought to have been running it but just like everything else, when Obasanjo left, the crooks in the system who had lost out in the contract started blackmailing everybody. Then poor YarAdua cancelled the contract. It took us more than one year and then these guys re-organized themselves and came back and said okay the contract has been divided into I think three or four, in keeping with where the teeming elite are located and they now called it stand alone project from Lagos to Ibadan to Jebba and Minna and Kano has been divided and distributed but we do not know when the railways will be completed. If I were the president of Nigeria, I would have called a meeting of the people dealing with the railways, and say to them: how long do we still have to complete the rails from Lagos to Kano? If they give me six months I will tell them please can we make it two months? What do we require to complete this job? If they told me what is required to complete the job, I will be more than happy to give them the job. Meanwhile I keep mum. The first textrunning of that train, I will be on that train  from Lagos to Kano and as soon as we arrive Kano, I will stand up and address Nigerians and say to them, do you know what, you see this train, this is just the beginning of great things, because if we can find the money, you will go from Kano to Maiduguri, from Maiduguri to Yola, from Yola to Uyo, from Uyo to Port Harcourt. We will criss-cross this country with railway lines but I need the money. Nigerians would say please tell us, what do you want us to do? Ordinary Nigerians would have forgotten completely about all the stealing and looting and we could now say that President Jonathan we are sure that we can trust you, take everything that you require to do the job; but for now we have seen nothing. We are supposed to hold on to the straws that are flying in the wind and just hope that when this money is saved it is going to be judiciously used for our good.  Nigerians are saying we didn’t trust you yesterday, we are not about to trust you today, till you earn our trust.

So, you don’t know why Obasanjo didn’t totally remove the subsidy?
I think Obasanjo was probably not unaware of the social consequences of the decision when a lot of other things were not yet in place and like I said it is only right because where we are now, the government has put the cart before the horse.  It is now struggling to say this is what we meant to do and like I said to a senior government official you should learn a lesson from Lamido Sanusi and Islamic banking debate. I didn’t know that Islamic banking was what ordinary Nigerians thought it to be. I thought that non-interest banking was actually something that we needed to explore but unfortunately that project was shut down not because of anything but because there is also something to be said for timing. I am convinced that president Goodluck Jonathan has all the best of intentions, I think he genuinely means well but as this problem stands now, it is definitely not the way to go.

You said recently that removing fuel subsidy is worse than the effects of Boko Haram violence. Can you explain this comparison clearly, sir?
Frankly, I was talking of it from the point of view of the instability it will trigger. We are now at a point in which you need all the support that we can get. What we are looking for  is how to build trust and I have always argued that Boko Haram is just an aggregate of all levels of frustrations by ordinary Nigerians. It is just that in their own case, they are bold enough to kill themselves, maybe there are a lot of other people who feel resentful about a lot of things and my argument is that I think the government should not offer these people such a wonderful opportunity to create the kind of instability that we do not need. On this issue the timing is wrong, it is not that people don’t know what the issues are. People don’t need to be persuaded, we should be asking ourselves how did we get to this point in which our people don’t trust us? If the last time someone went to the hospital something happened, they left scissors in somebody‘s stomach, they now decided as a result I am not going to the hospital; showing up and promising this person that things would change is not good enough. Maybe Nigerians are wrong but this is the perception and our perception has empirical justification. We are used to our common will being squandered. You are reading the papers about how much Nigerians are buying up Dubai, how much Nigerians are buying up the beach heads of Ghana, about how much Nigerians are investing in Gambia, about what Nigerians are spending in South Africa. Does it make sense for goodness sake that here in Nigeria, we don’t have a record of a public officer being yanked off from the line and facing trial. We don’t have a record of a public officer who is serving a prison term because of what he/she has stolen. Look at what has happened in Uganda, look at what has happened in America. Every day when you open a newspaper from China to Japan to America to everywhere, look at the case of a young man who lost his job in Britain just the other day. What was the reason? He organized a party and people were dressed somehow. Everywhere in the world, public officers have a minimum code of conduct of what is acceptable or not acceptable.  It is only in Nigeria that we don’t have a single code of conduct.

You have actively participated in major government conferences on the review of Nigeria’s constitution. What is your take on the 7-year single tenure dream of President Jonathan?
The president was just expressing a point of view. If a president wants new term of office, he would draft a bill and send it to the National Assembly. I have spoken with some of the president’s handlers that I know and they said there isn’t a bill. I have asked journalists whether anybody has seen a bill; they say they haven’t seen a bill. So, what are we talking about? It is a question whether the president has right as an individual  to express a point of view but of course it probably means if you are a president you probably do not have a point of view because you may be misconstrued but again like every other thing in Nigeria, I don’t think it’s about tenure, it is not about how long one wants to stay in power, for there are a lot of very fundamental questions relating to how people enter and get out of power and how we can make politics less of a criminal enterprise and more of an institution that people can come in and come out and how we can build a political system that really goes back to some of the principles of  building a good society. I feel like saying perhaps we should bring our politicians back to the classroom  just to let them understand that the essence of politics is how you build a good society. That is why I am saying trust is very important. You can be the most generous person in the world, you can be the most committed patriot in the world but if people don’t trust you, if your own children don’t trust you, I think it is not how much you are paying their school fees, if your children don’t trust you and you still insist in sending them to the best schools something will give somewhere.  If  I were the president of Nigeria one of the things I would try and say is okay since I am getting into this problem that I know we are never trusted how are we going to do? Let me give you an example: I was telling my priest yesterday. I said look, as a priest, I was one of you just up till four months ago and I know that as a priest we always assume that the bishop has all the money in the world, all the money in the  diocese so I want a new car. If bishop doesn’t buy it, it’s because he just doesn’t want to. This is how I used to feel. Now I am a bishop only for three, four months, I now have to ask myself, how am I going to earn your trust? So, I said okay, what we are going to do is when next we have a meeting, I will pull out all the records, everything that we have. Let everybody see. Once you have seen everything that we have, then we can start. Maybe we have more money than you ever dreamt of, maybe we don’t have as much as you dreamt of. Perception is very important. If you become a local government chairman in Nigeria today, you will know yourself that people are saying we local government chairmen are only just distributing money.
How can this perception change?
That’s what I am saying; if I become a local government chairman today or a governor or a president, one of the questions I would ask is how do I earn the trust of my people? Frankly, a president doesn’t even have to have the capacity to answer that question but this is what advisers, people who have been there before will tell you about what to do and how to do it. Earning trust doesn’t necessarily mean people like you, no. That is not the point. In fact, sometimes  the most hated public officer with time turns out to be the people that have done the best for their country. It’s like a child growing up especially now that the whether is very cold. Very few children love their mothers to be woken up at 5.30 in the morning and told to have a bath to start getting ready to go to school. Children cry their way to school. It’s going to take them another 20 years before they look back with gratitude. In the same way, I am convinced that earning trust is not the same as being liked. No sensible leader would want people to just love them. The less you perform perhaps the more likely people are going to love you. If you are going around distributing public funds to people, they may actually like you but it also means that you are writing your signature on water. Because no sooner do you stop distributing the money than your memory goes. That is why the key word is trust.

Is Nigeria’s problem spiritual or manmade?
Nigeria’s problems are not spiritual. What is spiritual about pressing a switch and seeing light? It’s science. What is spiritual about entering a train and going from point A to point B? It’s science. Our problem is incompetence and the only way we can look at the future is to look back to science. I mean religion would remain very important in our lives but that is not where we should be looking at in terms of solution to many of our problems.

You’re a great friend of Obasanjo. What is behind this relationship, because he’s one man Nigerians take pleasure in vilifying?
Obasanjo is a good friend. He came for my installation and I really appreciate that but frankly let me tell you I have been to school, I consider myself an educated Nigerian and I try to deal with human beings as I see them and the best answer I can give you is what late Stella Obasanjo said when she was asked about her husband. Stella said, do you want to rate him as a president, or as a husband? They said okay rate him as a president. She said as the president of Nigeria, I would score him about 80% because whatever he is doing I know how much sacrifice he is making to raise this country. As a father I would score him, I think she said about 40 or 50%, as a husband I think she scored him 25%, so really if you ask my relationship with Obasanjo actually; I tell the story in my book, perhaps one of the things that has brought us together is  our own passion for this country and I believe that whatever it is you may say about him, one thing you can’t take away from him is his deep love for this country. He made mistakes like everybody else but those who are fighting Obasanjo are fighting him for their own reason. Those reasons relate to business, they relate to ambition, they relate to power, they relate to contracts, they relate to all kinds of things. When I spoke at the American University, I said to Atiku, he is my friend and Obasanjo is also my friend but as a priest I believe that it  is actually the best that I can do. I cannot refuse to talk to you because somebody had told me that you are a thief. I am in the business of reconciliation and the good thing about my relationship with Obasanjo is nothing has connected me with him relating to  contract, privilege, opportunities  because these are the things that spoil relationships and many people who wanted contract or wanted different things and had problems with Obasanjo expect me to inherit that problem. I have no problem with the man. As I said we have a perception about where this country ought to be. But I would mention it to you, there are one or two things that Obasanjo  did for which I would not forget him in a hurry. I come from Kaduna State. Before Obasanjo became president, from when Kaduna state was created not a single person, not one from Southern Kaduna had ever been appointed an ambassador, a federal permanent secretary, or a minister to represent Kaduna State; not one. It was when Obasanjo became president that Senator Isaiah Balat became the first person from Southern Kaduna to be appointed a minister. He is not the first person to be a graduate. By the time Obasanjo left, about four or so different people have been appointed ministers, including Mrs Nenadi Usman. By the time Obasanjo left Martin Agwai was the chief of Army staff, he then became Chief of General staff, followed by General Lukah. When we had reception for Agwai, I was there. Obasanjo was there. I got there after he had left but I called him later on because he went from there to go and greet my late friend’s widow in her village and I called to thank him but  he said nobody should thank me because the people I appointed were the best that were available  at the time.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Still on Fuel Subsidy, Fake Subsidy


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Simon Kolawole Live!: Email: simon.kolawole@thisdaylive.com
Was I excited to see certain persons being charged to court last week over the alleged fuel subsidy scam? Not sure. But I was not unhappy either. It is just that things have gone so bad in this country that scepticism has become part of our culture. Even when we see something that looks good and positive, at least on the surface, a part of us says: “Don’t mind them. It won’t lead us anywhere.” That happens to be the reaction of many Nigerians when the suspects were charged to court. Having the sons of the chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) facing trial is by no means an insignificant development in a country where anarchy is the law. Indirectly, their fathers are also facing trial. So, for whatever it is worth, this is not an inconsequential development.

In an article I wrote in October last year, entitled “Fuel Subsidy and Fake Subsidy”, I had narrated an encounter I had with an industry player who gave me a lowdown on the crimes against humanity going on in the name of subsidy. He told me: “Fuel subsidy is the biggest fraud in the history of Nigeria.” He listed three aspects of the fraud. One, he said a fuel importer could bring in 2000 metric tonnes and claim subsidy for 8,000 metric tonnes. “The mark-up will be shared down the line,” he said. Two, he said NNPC always imports more than it has storage facility for. “So the product is stored at private tank farms. If NNPC stores 30 million litres with your farm, you don’t have to account for 10 million litres. There is a process by which you can account for only 5 million litres as long as you know how to share the proceeds of the remaining 5 million litres with those who matter.”

He listed the third aspect. “When they tell you the landing cost of petrol is N100 and the pump price is N65, it means the importer will get subsidy payment of a little over N35 per litre. There are different grades of PMS (petrol). They do not go for the same price. In the UK, for instance, the price of leaded petrol is different from that of unleaded. In Nigeria, we don’t distinguish between grades. We pay the same price. So the landing cost of the lowest grade may be N75, but the importer still gets a subsidy payment of about N35 instead of N10 per litre. Do the math. Multiply that by millions of litres everyday and you will understand the fraud. Remember too that the importers get paid for demurrage even if they don’t incur it. I can go on and on.”

When EFCC, acting on the report of the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede committee, listed the charges against the suspects at the Lagos High Court last week, I was not surprised at all. I was just angry that all the rumours and allegations we have been hearing in recent times were obviously not mere speculations after all. According to the EFCC, the accused persons obtained billions of naira for the importation of millions of litres of PMS but forged documents without supplying the product. The interesting thing is that the government officials who signed the documents to certify delivery of nothing, as it were, are also going on trial. All of them must go on trial, no matter who the father or mother or uncle or aunty is. With tempered optimism, I am very delighted that this is so and I am hoping that finally, in Nigeria, some justice will be done. I said tempered optimism.

I know what many people are thinking—the alleged fraud was perpetrated supposedly to fund political campaigns. In fact, some of the suspects are already reported as threatening to “expose” the sleaze. So many cynics will say these are just the “fall guys” being sacrificed to please Nigerians. This is exactly what I like about the whole saga. While not laying credence to the allegation that the money was indeed used for political campaigns, I am happy because the message is that those who are being used to loot our treasury should begin to realise that they will not enjoy protection forever. When it comes to sacrificing scapegoats, they will be the ones to take the hit. So they should begin to think twice. Whether you are a government official or a private sector player, never go to bed sleeping and snoring, thinking you are safe. One day, you may be called to account. The real message then is that when you are being told to do what is illegal and criminal, no matter who is asking you to do it, just say a capital NO. This idea that people cannot say NO is, at best, self-serving. People can say NO. And if you don’t say NO, you may be sacrificed when the bubble bursts.

Let’s be honest about this: much of the fraud being committed in the country could not have succeeded without active collaboration between government officials and the private sector. When they want to import PMS for fraudulent purposes, they get their allies in the private sector to bring in ghost ships and deliver ghost products. From Customs to PPPRA and NNPC and others, they sign all kinds of documents to take delivery of ghosts and skim the treasury of hundreds of billions of naira. The same set of people will go to church or mosque or wherever to thank God for their ill-gotten wealth, while our people continue to wallow in heart-breaking poverty. This is a country where ordinary people are dying because they cannot afford N1000 drugs. And this is the same country where these cowboys and cowgirls become overnight billionaires by importing ghost products. No wonder, private jets suddenly became the newest toys in town.

Millions of Nigerians are being made to bear a higher cost of living through the removal of fuel subsidy because we are told the bill is “unsustainable”. Now we know where the bulk of the fake subsidy is going. I ask: is that one sustainable?
And Four Other Things...

The Aig Report
I have taken time to study the reports of the Farouk Lawan committee and the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede committee on the subsidy probe. This has further worsened my cynicism about probes by politicians. The Farouk committee report, though useful in some areas, contained too many conjectures not backed with technical and legal understanding of the issues. For instance, where the Farouk committee merely speculated on ghost ships, the Aig panel provided specific details. Intriguingly, it identified officials who took delivery of the ghost products. It was a professional job. I suggest that the National Assembly should, henceforth, try to take Nigerians more seriously.  
No Half Mast
“When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,” according to William Shakespeare. When 153 persons died in the Dana crash, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) wore black while President Goodluck Jonathan declared three-day national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast. When 200 persons were killed in the Ahoada tanker explosion in Rivers State a month later, the ministers attended FEC meeting and went about their business in a very professional way. Which means they were chatting, laughing and exchanging banters. In Nigeria, we care only about the elite. God dey o!

Water, Water Everywhere
I go poetic again. “Water, water, every where/Nor any drop to drink,” wrote Samuel Taylor. Lagosians must be counting themselves lucky that they are not counting dead bodies in the carnage left by heavy rains. Jos and Ibadan were not that lucky. China and Russia counted bodies in hundreds. Hundreds of Britons experienced dislocation. The reality is that we have entered an unpredictable phase in the degradation of our environment. All the talk about climate change, global warming and rise in sea levels should begin to interest all of us. The government cannot tackle these challenges alone. We must take our destiny in our hands by co-operating with them.
Health for the Poor
I was privileged to be a guest at the presentation of “Bridges”, a health insurance advocacy drama. The series, which is supported by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), highlights the benefits of health insurance to ordinary Nigerians. The acting Executive Secretary of NHIS, Dr. Abdulrahman Sambo, expressed hope that more and more ordinary Nigerians would buy into the policy so that they can live healthy lives. Everyone present commended the wonderful job by Project Coordinator, the resourceful and energetic Akin Fadeyi. Above all, I wish and pray that millions of poor Nigerians will overcome cynicism and apathy and take part in the scheme. It is good for their health.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Re: How To Change Government Peacefully And Make Society Better.

Re: How To Change Government Peacefully And Make Society Better
I have not always been a keen reader of Pastor Tunde Bakare’s commentary and opinions, even his preaching, not for any reason other than that I don’t take interest in his views especially as regards to Fasting’ neither have I supported or voted for him during the last general election – again not because he paired with General Muhammed Buhary (rtd) but because having followed and observed the humiliation Mr Goodluck Jonathan was subjected to before and after the death of late President Yaradua especially in the schemes of Mrs Yaradua, Aondoakaa, former Speaker of the House of Assembly – Dimeji Bankole, I made up my mind to vote against any other presidential candidate than Mr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Scouting my hourly routine on Saharareporters I was captivated by the caption of Pastor Bakare’s article, which I later learnt today was actually a sermon he delivered on Sunday in his Later Rain Church Lagos.  The title ‘’How to Change Government Peacefully…’’ was the catch especially the peacefully aspect. I couldn’t stop thinking how an African government could be changed peacefully
At this juncture my curiosity forced me to read the article. In fact I had to study it because I had to bring my cross reference Bible to be sure Pastor Tunde Bakare (PTB) was not out to pull a funny one on me by cutting and joining  bible verses to make his points. I was wrong after all as the cross references were as accurate as the message he was trying to pass across.
In the sermon I agreed totally with the Man of God. I was rather surprised on the comments some contributors were making about the article and the writer. For instance if someone was insinuating that PTB was having ‘’bad dream’’ and ‘…enraged…’’ (ifeanyi-Democracy Forever, Khumalo et al) because he lost an election, my memory could not fail me if I defend that PTB fought harder than any living Nigerian Pastor/Man of God, Iman, Herbalist or even Witch to that matter to see the same Mr Jonathan we talk about was enthroned as President of Nigeria when the so-called cabal, as Mrs Akunyili termed them, were stuck that Turai rather becomes the first Nigerian female President than Jonathan to be allowed the seat. In fact it was said that even Governor Sylva of the same Bayelsa as Jonathan openly worked against the emergence of Mr Jonathan as President of Nigeria!
It is amazing that memories are failing some people in such a short time as 12 months on the role the so-called ‘’enraged’’ PTB played in pulling us this far. It reminds me of the late Nigerian goal-machine Rahidi Yekini who was called ‘’mad-man’’, ‘’demented man’’ and all sorts of names when he was roaming Ibadan as a moving image of Nigerian sorry-football story only to be immortalised just last week by the same government that saw him roam like a ‘’demented man’’.
Two key areas of Pastor Bakare’s sermon made huge impact, which are,
1. Demon Can Rule Through Men: I agree totally. A case fresh in history was the story of Chief Theodore Orji of Abia State. Pictures of this man standing stack naked in Okija shrine chained and forced to take oath of perpetual allegiance to Chief Orji Uzo Kalu and his mother Eunice Kalu was all over the news. If those pictures were true Abian should simply ask on whose authority today is Gov Orji standing to ‘’rule’’ them. Today the situation in Abia could be a living testimony of who indeed rules Abia State.
The carriage and utterances of Mr. Jonathan implicitly points that he may be but a dangerous medium to rule Nigeria. This suspicion was climaxed at the infamous media chart he granted some weeks ago from-which he has been baptised ‘’President I-don’t-Give-A-Damn’’
a. If demons and Satan, or God at that, do not rule the world through man as Medium, why was it rumoured and reported that General Obasanjo (rtd) had to engage the services of 30 Men of God to ‘’sanitize’’ Aso Rock before he occupied it for 8 years? Am sure he was suggesting that God rule through him
b. Jezebel was a human being but demons ruled through her to the point she exhibited ‘’I don’t Give A Damn’’ attitude as we are experiencing in Nigeria today and she wanted to ‘’steal’’ the Vineyard of the helpless man, as we seem helpless to in Nigeria, before God used another Medium in the person of Jehu to crush the lesser Medium!
c. Who says God cannot use any medium to crush a lesser medium?
d. King Ahasuerus, Mordecia even Esther were all mediums the Almighty used to change the Government and the people prospered.
e. If Pastor Tunde Bakare (PTB) makes noise, as he is being labelled, so be it so long a bad government is kicked out for good and better.
2. Election May Hold Before 2015: who says this is not possible? If Mr Jonathan was sworn in before 2011 when general election should take place why can’t it happen in his time?
a. It is great the House is kicking for impeachment of this supposedly rogue federal government that have refused to remove what is clogging our wheels – corruption, how far they will go is another matter to consider.
b. It is also not out of place if the people would revolt as PTB opined as a possible last option. Historically, people’s revolt and revolution have always been instigated by the ruling and political class. What should one make in a society where N155b just vanished with evidences of where it was later found yet the rulers could not give good reason for such disappearance?
Going back to my point of commentary, I am of the opinion that issues PTB is raising are as genuine as the options available to confront them. For anyone to say that these genuine calls for change and progress are because of loosing elections is as barbaric as the result of not saying anything. And for anyone to think that the Pulpit is sacrosanct only to preaching ‘’Repent for God loves you’’ than ‘Repent or perish’’ is as laughable as poverty of ideas that seems to have overtaken most of the leaders of today. The Expo (exam malpractice) generation of early 80s who are indeed the ruling class of today seems to be making a laughing stock of the entire polity.
I do not think that the preaching by PTB or that of any Iman somewhere in Damaturu is causing as much heat to the polity as the broad day robbery of the common wealth of the nation. As a matter of fact, if 1/10 of the ‘’big’’ Nigerian preachers or Men of God as they are called, could raise the heat and their voices as PTB, may be we will get to the Promised Land sooner than 40 years!
A commentator to the article actually audaciously declared that it’s only the prayers of the Pastors of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) that would ‘’redeem’’ Nigeria. If only the donkeys could have wings them it will be easier for the merchant to get to Jericho on time! I want to believe that the commentator is not speaking officially for the RCCG because the Catholic, Anglican, Assemblies and many more have paid as much dues to saving Nigeria as the ordinary student in the out-of-reach schools of some of these acclaimed ‘great men of God’
The feeling I have is that the critique of the government by people like PTB are long overdue and should be supported and partnered. If judgement should start from the Pulpit, then call for change should actually originate from the Pulpit.
From Biblical opinion, Samuel was in the camp of Saul till the glory departed him (Saul). God did not listen to the opinion of men when he chose Saul because he (God) sees beyond what we see. Today if PTB could go all out for Jonathan to become president why should I fault him if he stands now against him especially when the reasons are obvious? Mr Jonathan should be harshly chastised to wake him up from his strange slumber! The characteristics him and his family is offering Nigeria is deeply worrisome and highly unbecoming of a President.
The mockery of PTB and his article on ‘how to change a government’ is as undoing as the intents of the mockers. There is nowhere in the entire Bible, of all versions, that Preachers are exempted from the politics of their days. A good bible scholar would exegete that Solomon and David were all Priests and Kings who carried out full Priestley and Kingly roles during their times. Ezra, Nehemiah and many more were Priests, Kings-of-sort and Warriors at same time. So its biblically myopic for one to insinuate that Priest should be secluded to the little holes of their pulpit than to even aspire, nominated or be elected to rule over the people. Understandably, there are couple of instances in the scriptures where Priests declined offers to rule as Kings but loosing an ‘’election’’ by a Priest does not amount to God not being with him or her. There are also some biblical instances where God actually sanctioned an action and decides to let it fail. Who can question God?
My point therefore remains that if God wants to use Pastor Tunde Bakare to kick or remove a diabolic regime, who are we to say no. It reminds me of what transpired when the Jewish political leaders were deliberating on how to deal with Jesus, his disciples and His teachings and one man cautioned that if indeed God has sanctioned the actions of Jesus and his people, no one can, would or will stop them. The same could be the case here!
Contribution by
Rev Ayobanna Ikeanumba, DTheo
Director, Africa Debate Institute
Johannesburg, South Africa
Email: ayobanna@live.com

How To Change Government Peacefully And Make Society Better – Pastor Tunde Bakare.

Being text of speech delivered by Pastor Tunde Bakare at the Latter Rain Assembly on Sunday, July 22 2012, as a contribution to public enlightenment on the state of the nation.
Fellow citizens of our great country, household faithful at The Latter Rain Assembly, Gentlemen of the Press, and every other person present, welcome to this special occasion. At the beginning of this month, during the Father’s Day celebration, an invitation was extended to every concerned citizen of our nation to attend this special lecture – our humble contribution towards nation building.
We would like to place on the register our gratitude to God and our profound appreciation for the leadership and members of The Latter Rain Assembly for the provision of this auditorium. After all, in matters of public enlightenment, the church should be in the forefront of such efforts, going by the definitive proclamation of Jesus concerning the church.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV):14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a   lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
In addition, for those befuddled in their minds about our role in this process, let me again rely on the words of Prophet Malachi written exclusively to those in priestly garments who have forgotten their God-ordained role in matters of nation building: Malachi 2:1-9 (NKJV):1“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,” says the     LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart. 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it. 4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD of hosts. 5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might  fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked  with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity. 7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.”
For those questioning our intentions and the use of this platform to disseminate truths that will unblock the minds of our citizens and set them free from limiting thoughts that produce self-defeat, there you have it in black and white in the Holy Writ:Malachi 2:7 (NKJV): “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, saints and strangers, do I then have your permission this morning to perform this noble role of a messenger to a nation on the road to perdition and self-annihilation?
Having given me an overwhelming yes, please permit me to quickly add that, beyond the church being a lighthouse to a dark world, and beyond the role of the priest as a messenger whose lips should keep knowledge and from whose mouth the people should seek the law, there is an additional burden of the watchman and his message that is totally lost on the prosperity merchants and their crowd. Please turn your Bibles with me to the Book of Ezekiel the Prophet, chapter 33:1-20:1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ 7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 10 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”’ 11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ 12 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ 13 When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. 14 Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live. 17 “Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. 19 But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.”
I invited all and sundry here this morning because I can see the sword already upon this land – shall I then blow the trumpet? Not to do so would be a disservice to my nation and outright disobedience to God – a luxury I cannot afford. Therefore, lend me your ears.
For the sake of clarity and to keep within the boundary of the subject of our contemplation this morning – ‘How to Change Government Peacefully and Make Society Better’ – I have arranged this lecture under four major headings:
1.    WHO TRULY RULES IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN?
2.    THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IN A NATION
3.    HOW TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT IN A PEACEFUL MANNER
4.    THE WAY FORWARD
I will take the headings one by one.
HEADING 1: WHO TRULY RULES IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN?
Today, it is common practice among pseudo-intellectuals worldwide to mock biblical teachings on God, Satan and demons. But to those who are wise and discerning, it is clear that behind the socio-political and economic evils of our time lie supernatural powers.It is true that God Almighty is “the blessed and only Potentate [Sovereign], the King of kings and Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6:13-16). It is also true that honour and everlasting power belong to God. Nonetheless, in the wisdom of God who rules in the affairs of men, He allows or permits the lowest of men to occupy apex power positions in order that the living may know and hopefully learn.
The New Testament’s perspective on the grip of evil over our socio-political and economic systems comes from the Old Testament prophet, Daniel. Daniel was a young man when Babylonians invaded his city Jerusalem, destroyed it, brutally massacred his people and carried their royalty into slavery in Babylon. Later, they returned to destroy God’s temple and placed God’s sacred vessels in the temple of their god.
This humiliating horror raised disturbing theological questions: Who really rules in the affairs of this world? Who is in control of history – at least at this moment? Why are the kingdoms of this world at times so cruel, brutal, exploitative and oppressive? From the Book of Daniel come three clear answers that can help us navigate our own murky political waters and deliver our nation from imminent bankruptcy and cannibalization:
1.    GOD IS THE SUPREME POTENTATE:
Daniel 2:20-22 (NKJV) -20 Daniel answered and said “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals deep  and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with  Him.
2.    GOD, THE SUPREME POTENTATE RULES IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN AND GIVES IT TO WHOMEVER HE WILL AND SETS OVER IT THE LOWEST OF MEN:
Daniel 4:13-18 (NKJV) 13 “I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. 15 Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. 16 Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him. 17 ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.’ 18 “This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”
3.    WHENEVER THE LOWEST OF MEN OCCUPY APEX POWER POSITIONS, IN THEIR NAIVETY, THEY YIELD TO DEMONIC POWERS WHO THEN RULE THROUGH THEM:
As Daniel humbled himself, fasted and prayed for understanding, he was given a glimpse of the supernatural realm. He saw clearly that behind the socio-political and economic evils of his time lay supernatural powers.For example, in Daniel chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamt about a statue made of gold, silver, bronze and iron, each representing four successive empires: Babylonian (gold), Medo-Persian (silver), Greek (bronze) and Roman (iron). After their rule, a mere stone – the kingdom of God – brought all the evil kingdoms of this world to an end.Curiously, in chapter 7, we read that Daniel, a captive turned learned governor and president, humbled himself in fasting and prayer, seeking to understand where history was going and God’s role in its unravelling. He was given the vision of the same four kingdoms Nebuchadnezzar had seen earlier, except that Daniel saw them not as a dazzling statue of precious metals but as beasts that devoured: the lion (Babylonian), the bear (Medo-Persian), and the leopard (Greek), and the “fourth beast [was] dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong”. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left (Daniel 7:7). This fourth beast was Daniel’s vision of the Roman Empire.
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the kingdoms of this world were and are beastly, because behind them were and are evil supernatural forces. This understanding of evil as something more than natural, human or socio-political did not begin with Daniel. Israel’s first king became evil, despotic and murderous, and the Bible explains that God’s Spirit had left him and an evil spirit began to torment him (I Samuel 16:14-23).
Likewise, in the Book of Judges, socio-political evils are seen as a direct result of spiritual evil, specifically the operation of the spirit of ill will sent by God when Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men to kill all the seventy (70) sons of Gideon so that he could become king.Judges 9:22-2322 After Abimelech had reigned over Israel three years, 23 God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech…
Each of the above mentioned biblical texts and a plethora of others affirm that God remains Sovereign over His creation even when He allows evil spirits or devils to hold sway. Apostle Paul explains in Romans 1:18-32 that God gives whole cultures over to evil when humans choose to suppress truth with wickedness. This is where we are in Nigeria today. To the discerning, the nation has been thrown to the dogs of pervasive corruption and disruptive, perennial insecurity. The question begging for an answer is: Who will deliver us from this self-induced chaotic disorder?
HEADING 2: THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT
The purpose of any meaningful government is the welfare and security of the people. In our clime, neither welfare nor security of the lives and property of our people seems to matter anymore. Our malady is not new. History holds records of nations who were bled to death by their rulers and tells how such leaders were ultimately dealt with when the oppressed could no longer bear the heavy weight of their oppressive and insensitive leadership. Biblical history also alludes to this. While the people kept suffering in the midst of plenty in the days of King Solomon, who used his wisdom to satisfy his unquenchable thirst and hunger for material acquisition and outlandish women of all shapes and shades, a day came in the life of the nation when the people kicked and shouted, “We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel!” (I Kings 12:16). The rebellion did not only stand, God also rubber-stamped it and said “this thing is from me”(I Kings 12:24) — it was orchestrated by the GREAT ORGANIZED DESIGNER (GOD).
It is unfortunate that our people are crying today for change, but they are expecting the change to either fall from the sky or come from sources that cannot produce it. It is simple logic that when a corrupt leader is in office, he corrupts those he leads. This is true of a family, true of a church, and true of a nation. A corrupt father will ultimately corrupt his family as he cannot distinguish between his wife and his son’s wife. A corrupt pastor will corrupt, influence, affect and infect his church as he prioritizes outreaches, programmes and projects executed with filthy lucre flowing from the perverse and the corrupt above the spiritual welfare of the congregants. And a corrupt elected official will infect his nation with corruption. I cannot but borrow a leaf from the profound lecture delivered by Prof. Niyi Osundare recently on the state of the nation titled: ‘Why We No Longer Blush: Corruption as Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’. He said, and I quote:
“Watch out, Nigeria: a new Jonathan seems to be emerging, one who confuses cockiness with confidence, tactlessness with toughness, strong-manship with statesmanship.”
President Jonathan’s combination of naivety and amorality is as profound as it is injurious to the health of this country. Can a corruption-compliant ruler really lead a corruption-free country? If change – positive change – will ever come to our clime, it will not be engineered by those who are benefitting without conscience from the present cesspool of corrosive corruption. It will and can only come from a new breed without greed and a radical opposition to corruption. True, genuine change can only come from those not infected by the present corruption malaise; it can only come from positive agents of social change who are totally sold out to public good.
HEADING 3: HOW TO CHANGE GOVERNMENT IN A PEACEFUL MANNER
Every time I have considered this subject, only one thing flows from me towards President Goodluck Jonathan – genuine pity. Anyone who has had the privilege of sitting with Mr. President, as I sometimes have, will feel the same for this simple soul who has become a victim of circumstances generated and orchestrated by his bramble predecessor, who, in his bid to be king of all trees, used his position to force on the nation the sick, the weak, and the ill-equipped in an attempt to dominate the polity and maintain his larger than life status out of office (Judges 9:8-15). So, it did not come as a surprise to me at all when, two days ago, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila cited Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution, saying that any action of the President defined as “gross misconduct” by the National Assembly was “sufficient grounds to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.” Let me quote verbatim from Friday July 20, 2012’s Punch [‘Budget: Lawmakers threaten to impeach President’] to buttress my point: Gbajabiamila had proposed the amendment to a motion before the House  on the poor implementation of the 2012 budget.
“If by September 18, the budget performance has not improved to 100%, we shall begin to invoke and draw up articles of impeachment against Mr. President”, he said.
Members shouted aloud “yes”, “yes”, “yes” and clapped for the minority leader as Gbajabiamila made the proposal.He accused the executive of allegedly breaching the Appropriation Act,2012 by engaging in “selective implementation” of the budget. Gbajabiamila added, “What we have in our hands today is a budget of abracadabra; a budget of voodoo economy.
“I like Mr. President, he is a fine gentleman, but I like my people, the Nigerian people more.”
Indeed, Mr. President may be a fine gentleman thrust into a position of leadership by circumstances beyond his control who is now facing a barrage of problems he is incapable of solving. He deserves our sympathy, our prayers, and whatever else we can honourably and legally do to make sure he gets back to his home-base safely.
Perhaps a few suggestions may change the course of our rapid descent into the abyss, since free, fair and credible election is presently alien to our polity. In all honesty, I perceive very strongly that our next general election will be better, though it may come earlier than expected.
Now, a few suggestions:
1. THE UNQUESTIONABLE GOD FACTOR: From both biblical and human history, sometimes – if not at all times – God moves behind the scenes in unimaginable ways and fosters changes that are beyond human comprehension – especially when all hope is lost. Indeed, God changes the times and the seasons, He removes kings and raises up kings (Daniel 2:21 & 22).
The same God who raised David the shepherd boy from the sheepfold and made him king over Israel, and deposed the insane King Saul, still does what pleases Him in the nations of the earth. Oftentimes, when citizens are pushed to the wall and rulers boastfully think they are irremovable due to their political sagacity and ‘matter of cash’ policy, a Jehu type of prophetic revolution is in the making. Other times, God replaces the mighty and the powerful with their own appointed palace administrators. One biblical example is sufficient for our time and our clime.
Hear the declarations of God as recorded in Isaiah 22:15-25 (NKJV):15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts: “Go, proceed to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the house, and say: 16 ‘What have you here, and whom have you here, that you have hewn a sepulcher here, as he who hews himself a sepulcher on high, who carves a tomb for himself in a rock? 17 Indeed, the Lord will throw you away violently, O mighty man, and will surely seize you. 18 He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die, and there your glorious chariots shall be the shame of your master’s house. 19 So I will drive you out of your office, and from your position will pull you down. 20 ‘Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. 23 I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house. 24 ‘They will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the pitchers. 25 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘the peg that is fastened in the secure place will be removed and be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it will be cut off; for the Lord has spoken.’”By the way, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah was a palace administrator lifted by God to the status of a king. God placed upon his shoulders the very keys of David to open and shut as he willed (Isaiah 36:3; NKJV). With God all things are possible — so he who has ears to hear, let him hear.
2.    RESIGNATION: Even for a seasoned, well-cooked and well-equipped UK prime minister like Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, the moment the people rose against her policy, she did the honourable and noble thing – she resigned and returned to the parliament before retiring from politics. Resignation is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of patriotic truthfulness. It is giving opportunity to those who can do a better job in the interest of the nation to carry on with nation-building where the exiting leader stops.
3.    IMPEACHMENT: This can only be carried out by the National Assembly and the process has begun. It may be aborted, or it may be carried to its logical conclusion. Either way, it is a worse option and carries a load of shame with it compared to resignation. Come to think of it, Mr. President should not wait for the conclusions in the court of law and the court of public opinion for the rape and atrocities committed against the Appropriation Act 2011 in respect of the subsidy scandal (a ghost that still haunts his administration and will not rest in peace until the truth is made known and justice is served). The admission of extra-budgetary spending of over N2 trillion without appropriation is another impeachable time bomb that can explode anytime. It would be a total disgrace if resignation comes after that explosion as was the case for Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal.
At this juncture, I cannot but wonder what is going on in the minds of those who falsely accused us of crying for regime change in January during the fuel hike crisis. It is the House of Assembly that is now championing same with overwhelming shouts of “yes”, “yes”, and “yes” from the floor members. History truly is lived forward but is written in retrospect. Today’s headlines and history’s judgement are rarely the same. Those who are too attentive to today’s headlines will most certainly not do the hard work of securing a positive verdict from history. Whether or not the President resigns or allows himself to be impeached is his call. In the words of Lord Chesterfield:
“A weak mind is like a microscope which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones.”
If I were Mr. President – unfortunately, I am not, and I do not envy his tottering position, but if I were he – I would give no thought to what the world might say of me, or the drum the hangers-on and political jobbers benefitting from the present chaotic disorder might be beating. I would not “give a damn” if I could only transmit to posterity the reputation of an honest man thrust into the boxing ring to fight enemies I am ill-equipped to fight, and I would therefore resign before I receive a death blow.
4.    THE PEOPLE’S REVOLT: I seriously wish and fervently pray that it will not get to the stage of a people’s revolt before positive changes begin to happen in the north and south of Nigeria. Without a doubt, if corruption remains king, violence its deputy, and insecurity the treasurer of the ill-fated status quo Federal Republic of Nigeria, we might as well write the gravestone epitaph today:
“Here lie the remains of a potentially great country whose ruin came because leadership did not give a damn; her filthiness was in her garments, her collapse was awesome, because she did not consider her destiny.”
HEADING 4: THE WAY FORWARD
Without a doubt, the catalogue of scandalous mismanagement of national resources, the unbridled stealing of public funds, and the bewildering exposure of the level of corruption in almost every arm of government as well as governmental agencies and parastatals, call for a change of guards – more so when the president has openly admitted that the security situation in the country has changed his pre-election agenda. And in spite of the president’s promises to deal with insecurity head-on, this government appears helpless because it cannot see the linkage between corruption and violence.
During the fuel hike protests in January this year, neither the threats to our lives nor the tanks that were rolled out brazenly to suppress genuine agitation against oppression, were scary to me. Rather, it was the bold placard held up in Abuja and Ojota Freedom Park by people unknown to me. The placard contained this startling message: “ONE DAY THE POOR WILL HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO EAT BUT THE RICH”; that was very scary to me, “because no nation, no matter how enlightened, can endure criminal violence. If we cannot control it, we are admitting to the world and to ourselves that our laws are no more than a facade that crumbles when the winds of crisis rise.” (Alan Bible)
For that not to happen is the reason for this message. This is no time for false accusations and counter accusations. Mr. President may be doing his best but the impact is not felt anywhere except in the bank accounts of oil vultures, his corrupt political allies and corporate cowboys. We have a patriotic duty to educate our people and we will continue to do that until light replaces the darkness in foggy minds, since education is considered a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. In the words of Henry Peter Brougham:
“Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive, easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.”
If this message does that, our expectations would have been fully satisfied.
The starting point of any great enterprise is reality. If we are all ruthlessly and brutally honest about our inventory as a nation, Nigeria requires better handling than we are presently experiencing.
May the good Lord in His infinite mercies look down upon our affliction as a people, burst the gloomy cloud of despair over our nation, and raise for us visionary leaders imbued with wisdom, integrity, justice, courage, temperance and fortitude; leaders who we can trust and who can inspire confidence in our people for the rebuilding of our nation. Let me end this message by quoting Joseph Addison:
“There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation than a want  of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country.”
May the zeal of God consume us as a people for the good of our country.
Thank you so much for your attentive ears. And may the good Lord heal, save, and make Nigeria great in our lifetime.
Once again, thank you all.
Dr. ‘Tunde Bakare
Serving Overseer,
The Latter Rain Assembly