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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tafawa Balewa in London after Nigeria declares its independence

Crawling and Wobbling - Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed

“Do not swim in shallow waters if you do not want your back to show.” Malawian Proverb.

The meticulously-planned 50th Independence Anniversary of our nation was blasted into infamy two years by criminal elements who wanted to make a statement to the effect that they have a large chunk of our political space. Since then, our independence anniversaries, events which had been marked by two generations of Nigerians with deserved pomp and pride, have been hushed affairs. Leaders who used to inspect school children parades with military fanfare now release statements and retreat further behind barricaded official residences. Now the loudest sounds we hear are those of citizens who choose to blast their grievances, or criminals after millions in banks, or of security agents who run after them. A nation which started its journey on a confident trot is now crawling and wobbling. It is uncertain how long it can stay on all fours; and it is even more doubtful if our leadership has the capacity to prevent it from collapsing on its belly.
A few years ago, comments which suggest a perilous future for Nigeria would have been roundly condemned as doomsday prophesy. Even when the foundations of our nation began to be exposed to massive assault by corruption and impunity, Nigerians thought we could still turn our nation around. When our political system began to resemble everything else but a democratic system, with massively-rigged elections, non-accountable leadership and power produced by a combination of cynical manipulation of our structural weaknesses, violence and corruption, those who thought they could tell when a nation was sick enough to set alarm bells going began to warn of dangerous slides.
A few years on, we have a nation floundering under an ineffective and isolated leadership. Elder statesmen who mouth tired clichés such as the certainty of the survival of our nation; the indivisibility of our union; the irreversible unity of our people and iron-clad confidence that our security forces will defeat a determined insurgency and endemic crimes spreading themselves around our daily lives in every part of the country, now look pitiable in the eyes of most Nigerians.
During this independence anniversary, the President and other leaders will reaffirm their faith in the indivisibility, survival and greatness of our nation. They will assure citizens that all our problems will soon be things of the past. They will ask all citizens to remain steadfast in their support for them, to raise their levels of patriotism and commitment to the nation, and to re-dedicate themselves to rediscovering the ideals of our founding fathers who fought so hard to wrest our freedom from imperialism.
This year too, Nigerians are likely to ignore these empty and meaningless messages, because they will not assure or inspire anyone to do what they have not done. They will not give citizens confidence that our lives will be safer or more secure in the next few months, or this time next year. They will not console citizens who worry that politics is pushing the nation very close to the abyss. They will not assure our young people that they can live in a united, prosperous and secure nation. They will not assuage the worry that large-scale corruption has eaten too deeply into our politics and the management of our economy; and therefore the entire edifice of the Nigerian state is precariously balanced. It will take only a push which will certainly come from the massive resources that will be mobilized and deployed towards the dangerous jockeying for the life and soul of the nation in the 2015 election to tip our nation into an irretrievable slide. The same leaders who say we are safe, are fighting over resource mobilization and distribution; over which region, not voters or parties, will produce the next President; and over the nature of our federal system. All these quarrels are putting our fragile unity at great risk. Some Nigerian women may celebrate the independence anniversary of their country caged like animals or criminals in Saudi Arabia because they are citizens of a nation which is weak or indifferent to the welfare of its citizens. Many citizens are taking up arms against their nation. Others see little difference between its survival and collapse. Poverty and helplessness are redefining the Nigerian political map.
If a look back at the record of the Jonathan administration since the last independence is a depressing exercise, a look towards the next independence will alarm even the most level-headed. The maneuvers towards the 2015 elections are well and truly visible. It will require the most monumental sacrifice for President Jonathan (and the people who benefit most from his presidency) not to run for the office again in 2015. Events unfolding will not wait for him to make up his mind beyond 2013. If he could renounce personal ambition and the pressures of those who milk his government, he could concentrate on damage limitation around key issues such as insecurity and corruption. He could run his term until 2015 and attempt a relatively free and fair election, and then allow history to judge him for doing what his predecessors failed to do. But this is highly unlikely. His people will tell him that the second term is the only guarantee that he can complete all he has started; correct mistakes made, and then acquire enough influence and resources to live in relative peace in Nigeria. They will say he represents a people and a region which must have two terms, and only their enemies wish they will not. They will tell him to ignore criticisms of weakness and incompetence because it comes from people who are used to ruling, and who cannot wait to reclaim power.
So he is likely to throw his hat more openly into the ring. It will join those being thrown in by General Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and about five or six Governors. There are yet others who are keeping low, but all of them are likely to reinforce the existing liabilities of the nation; rather than give it a new lease of life.
President Jonathan laments that he is unfairly criticized by the Nigerian media. He could try to improve the performance of his administration, and attempt to break new grounds to reduce the hostility of the media. He could also lower the fences around him
self, and let in some of that fresh air he promised Nigerians in 2011. He is not in touch with the feelings and pains of most Nigerians because apparently those around him tell him he is doing very well, and all critics are his enemies. If President Jonathan does not get a firm grip on the Boko Haram insurgency, and if he does not address very low levels of competence and capacity in his administration, and if he does not facilitate a reduction of the dangerous gaps which are evident in political groups and regions, and if he does not deal with corruption more decisively, our nation will be a lot worse than it is by this time next year. Since no patriotic or sensible Nigerian would wish this, here is to wishing President Jonathan a stronger will to do those things he swore to do as President.
Via Nasir El-Rufai

“I’ve got more swag than Oshiomhole” – President Jonathan… in last week’s news with a pinch of salt

by Stanley Azuakola

Oshiomhole causes headache for the president
There seems to be too many leaks coming out of Aso Rock these days. Last week, the audio recording of a strategy meeting which the president had with some of his aides leaked to the press. The president and his men were heard discussing the move by Gov. Adams Oshiomhole to ride in a canoe to go help out in rescue efforts in some of the flooded areas of Edo State. The move gave the ACN governor good publicity. The recording begins with President Jonathan asking his aides, “Why didn’t I think of doing that first?”
“We don’t know sir,” said two unrecognisable voices.
“Ok,” said the president. “So how do I respond now? Should I ride to the flooded areas in a speed boat or a submarine and show them that the president has more swag?”
“No sir, that is already stale. Social media people will say you’re a copycat. So do your own. Visit one of the places grappling with insecurity like Maiduguri or Damaturu,” said an aide.
The president seemed to love the idea. “I see your point,” he said. “So I’ll visit Maiduguri, not with a canoe, but with a bullet proof vest, right?” he asked, with pride in his voice at his inventiveness.
“No sir, no sir,” the congregation of aides chorused. “A bullet proof vest will make you seem selfish. It can’t save anyone but you, unlike Adam ‘s canoe. Go instead with an AK-47. The Maidugurites need to know that you are capable of protecting them. Trust us, that’s why we are your top advisers.”
“Hmmm…ok, cool, cool, but biko, let me set up a committee that will determine if I should go with bullet proof vest or AK 47,” the president said.
And with that, the meeting came to an end. And that is the story of how neither the flooding nor the bombing victims got to see their Commander-in-Chief.

Senate President is Heart Broken
It was a sad week for Senate President David Mark, as his various attempts to please Nigerians were not enough to move them. His first attempt at pleasing Nigerians was his announcement that, “the Senate would stop the culture of take a bow and go during ministerial screening.” Nigerians responded to that with “We have heard that lie before sir, please try another.” Then he said, “we would impeach President Jonathan if he doesn’t take time.” To that, Nigerians responded with: “we have heard that threat before, try something new sir.” So Mark went back and came with what he thought was the greatest new strategic insight of this dispensation. “Information Minister Labaran Maku talks before thinking,” he declared triumphantly. But to his utter shock, Nigerians were not impressed: “But Mr. Senate President, we knew that before. Who doesn’t know Maku? In fact, you are wrong. Maku doesn’t talk before thinking; he talks before talking again. There is hardly any room for thinking with Maku. Please tell us something we don’t know.”


How do you solve a problem like Arik? Arik Airline is a Nigerian politician – it doesn’t give a damn what you think about it. It will play dirty, make serious allegations and then go behind and settle like it did in the case of the Aviation Minister, which it accused of demanding for a stake in the company. Some call the Arik style ‘blackmail,’ and isn’t that what all politicians accuse their opponents of? If Arik doesn’t like you, it blacklists you, simple; just as a Nigerian politician does with journalists and contractors it doesn’t like. It doesn’t have to give any reason. To Arik, a simple “management decision” will suffice. Arik doesn’t care about its customers, as various video evidences have shown, neither does the politician care about his people. Arik is a PR professional’s nightmare; it is impossible to handle the image of an airline whose philosophy is as hazy as that of a Nigerian political party. Perhaps it makes sense then that Arik’s major backers/financiers are some of Nigeria’s shadiest politicians. Arik airline is a Nigerian politician, and Nigerians hate their politicians. It was inevitable then that Arik gets the Crowned Clown (CeeCee) award this week. Act responsibly, Arik.

“Don’t exceed $10000 forex limit” – EFCC advises travellers

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Sunday advised persons travelling out of Nigeria not to exceed the statutory $10,000 foreign exchange limit.
EFCC Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye, who gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, said any traveller carrying any amount above the limit should be prepared to declare it to Customs.
Akomaye blamed Nigeria’s fraud, terrorism, money laundering and drug vulnerability on its cash-based economy and commended the National Assemby for showing commitment to strengthening Nigeria’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws.
The commission on Thursday arrested a 24 year-old Nigerian, Abubakar Tijani Sheriff, for allegedly attempting to travel out with the sum of $7 million (N1,120,000 billion).
He was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos as he was trying to travel to Dubai aboard a United Arab Emirates flight.
After his arrest, he said that he had a total sum of $4.5million.
But when he was thouroughly searched, he was found to have $7,049,444 on him.
He later confessed that he was a courier for 20 individuals who hired him to take the money for them to Dubai.
Authorities said they were working on the theory that he was a money laundering courier.
He has reportedly named 20 individuals who sent him on the errand.

Deportation of female pilgrims cost over N1 billion – Experts

An estimated N1 billion may have been lost as a result of the deportation of Nigerian female pilgrims from Saudi Arabia, experts have said.
This is coming on the heels of accusation by the Nigerian envoy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Bunu, who said that the authorities in the holy land had allegedly violated the Geneva Convention when they blocked him and his team from reaching the distressed female pilgrims at the airports.
Bunu, who could not hide his anger, told the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service in an interview monitored in Kaduna at the weekend that it was unfortunate that the Saudi authorities denied them access to the female pilgrims while they were in detention at the airports, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention that was soft on the women folk.
However, a group, the Arewa Youth Forum, has called for the immediate resignation of the ambassador for alleged poor handling of affairs in the holy land and accused the United States of America (USA) of complicity in the unwarranted deportation of the Nigerian female pilgrims.
They said that since the USA was always behind Saudi Arabia and had enormous control over the major international organisations across the world, the Kingdom could trample upon the rights of Nigeria and Nigerians and remain unchallenged.
AYF also called for the immediate reorganisation of all state agencies handling hajj matters in Nigeria for not “being proactive” and advocated the injection of fresh blood into the system in line with the demands of modern times.
The AYF said from their investigation, over one billion naira might have been lost as a result of the deportation of the female pilgrims from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria and sought for adequate compensation for the distressed women.
According to AYF leader, Gambo Gujungu, hajj is a multi-billion dollar business and Nigeria had always been the favourites of Saudi traders, who he was sure, might not be happy with the current diplomatic row.
He, however, expressed delight that reports emanating from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) indicated that all the affected pilgrims would be taken care of and would not lose a kobo due to the problem encountered.
Ambassador Bunu had said in an interview that hard as they tried to convince the Saudis on the need to settle the matter amicably, they failed to respond in writing but were only giving verbal excuses.
The envoy said the Saudis stood their ground and only allowed aged women to gain entry into the holy land.
He still expressed optimism that the relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia would continue to flourish in spite of the diplomatic row.
On whether the Saudi authorities were skeptical that some of the women would defect after the pilgrimage, he explained that they had written a letter of undertaking that all the women would be returned to Nigeria after the hajj rituals but the Saudis did not agree.

2015 Presidency: Igbos should wait – Arewa Consultative Forum

As clock ticks for the general elections, Northern social-cultural group, under the aegis of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has dismissed the possibility of a president of Igbo extraction in 2015.
This came following recent declaration by some Igbo leaders’ that the destiny of Nigeria as a nation lies in the hands of an Ndigbo.
Kicking against the declarations, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Anthony Sani, affirmed that the south-easterners should hold on, noting that north’s quest for president in 2015 was based on merit.
Sani said, “By voting a southerner in the 2011 presidential election, Nigerians overwhelmingly voted against zoning and rotational presidency. So, anybody bringing up the issue of zoning is trying to draw us backwards.”
He further said, “It was Alex Ekwueme and his delegates that recommended this principle of geopolitical zone during the 1994/1995 National Constitutional Conference. The suggestion was that the presidency should rotate from one zone to another. Then it was put to vote and it was agreed that it would rotate between the North and the South.
“The South started with Obasanjo. After Obasanjo, it was the turn of the North. They chose Yar’Adua, may be because they knew he was likely to die. When he died, they said Goodluck Jonathan must become the President, we agreed. Then in 2011, they said there was no more zoning; that it should now be on merit and that is how Jonathan got elected as President. So, why are southerners now bringing up the issue of zoning again? We in the North are ready to contest the presidency in 2015 based on merit.”
It would be recalled that frontline political stalwart, Emmanuel Iwuanyawu, during a press briefing in Owerri, Imo State, recently demanded that the six zones should be given an equal opportunity to produce the president through a zoning arrangement.
Also, former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Kalu recently averred that the only panacea to Nigeria’s problem is for an Igbo man to be given the opportunity to pilot the affairs of the country.
Third Republic governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife also believes that except an Igbo man is given the opportunity to rule Nigeria, the country would remain stunted.
He said, “I don’t know what Iwuanyawu’s line of thought was when he said that, but I say Igbo presidency in 2015 is possible and we will get it”
“I wish to state that those who think that they are punishing the Igbos by keeping them out of power are deceiving themselves. It is Nigeria that needs and Igbo President for this country to move forward. In fact, until Nigeria produces an Igbo man as President, this country is going nowhere. Igbos are number one agents of development wherever they may be. They are known for transforming their environment.” He added.


Fear arises over Bayelsa Governor’s health

Tongues are beginning to wag over the continuous absence of Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson from office.
City wag says, his absence from the government house in the oil-rich Bayelsa may be connected to his ailing health.
It was gathered that the serving governor left the shores of Nigeria for the United Kingdom on medical ground, but the state government maintains that the governor is as fit as fiddle, noting that he went on a working leave.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs, Chief Fred Agbedi, disclosed that his absence has not in any way affected the affairs of the state.
He said, “Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has gone abroad in his bid to woo investors and develop the state. On a private note, the Governor is also on holiday. He has not gone on holiday since his election into the House of Representatives, which he won after the turbulent rerun, and shortly after that, he went into the governorship primaries.
“He went through a rigorous campaign. Since then he has not taken a deserved rest and that is what he is doing now. The Governor did not travel because of ill-health but he traveled for the interest of the state and to rest.
It was gathered that the governor may miss all the activities lined up for Nigeria’s 52 Independence celebration and the 16th anniversary celebration for the creation of Bayelsa State, but the state government insists that there was no law that made it compulsory for the governor to be present during any of the anniversaries.
The absence of the governor has left yet another vacuum at the state government house following the absence of the First Lady, Patience Jonathan who is also a serving permanent Secretary in the State to Germany for medical treatment.

Fuel scarcity: We warned FG – NUPENG, PENGASSAN

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ((PENGASSAN) has said if the government had listened to them, the ongoing fuel crisis in some parts of the country would have been avoided.
It said the only panacea was for government to speed up work on the refineries. That alone, it said would enhance fuel supply in the country.
For over two weeks now, economic activities in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial centre have been stunted as a result of fuel deficiency, which was said to have occurred due to vandalisation of a 2B pipeline and the murder of three staff of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Arepo, Ogun State.
The incident has skyrocketed fuel price from 97 naira to N200 per litre in some parts of the country.
It was gathered that the damaged NNPC system 2B, pumps about 11 million litres of fuel per day, which is about one-third of the national daily consumption from Atlas Cove offshore depot in Lagos, to Satellite depot in Ejigbo, Lagos; Mosimi, Ogun State; Ibadan, Oyo State; Ore in Ondo State, Ilorin in Kwara State and some parts of the North.
Speaking on the incident, Acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), Mr. Fidel Pepple, disclosed that the NNPC had taken measures working round the clock to end the crisis.
He said: “As I speak, we have raised daily supply of fuel from Folawiyo tank farm from 150 to 250 tankers, MRS from 100 to 200, Capital Oil to 300 tankers, NIPCO to 70 and AITEO to 100 tankers,” Mr. Pepple said, adding that fuel supply to Port Harcourt, Aba, and Calabar has also been increased. Though Mr. Pepple said the NNPC had 32 days sufficiency and is currently collaborating with security agencies to fix the pipeline and restore normal supply to affected areas, organized labour in the petroleum sector said government was not sincere to Nigerians on the magnitude of the problem. According to National President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Gas workers (NUPENG), Comrade Igwe Achese, the crisis may linger until government addressed major challenges in the downstream sector.
“The trend will continue until government shows responsibility and act in the interest of the people,” he said. The NUPENG boss said the problem was beyond damaged pipelines, adding that, “The pipeline in question is NNPC pipeline for product coming in through NNPC. Product coming in from there cannot sustain the country; it is only one channel to Mosimi, Ejigbo and not for the marketers, who are no more importing, and those doing so are selling at exorbitant prices.”
Speaking further, Acheses said there was a need for the government to call stakeholders’ meeting of all marketers to bring the situation under control, noting that government should not hesitate to prosecute fraudulent marketers.
Achese said: “We are happy that Nigerians are now seeing and experiencing this. It started in Abuja, and now is all over the country, and NUPENG is not on strike.
“The real problem is that we completely depend on importation, as none of our refineries is producing anything now. But such can be corrected if the government can make our refineries work.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ((PENGASSAN) had confirmed that the ongoing fuel crisis was beyond pipeline vandalisation in Arepo or anywhere in the country, explaining that the only solution was for the government to put refineries in order.
“The inability of government to provide security for the pipelines and failure to pay marketers, have snowballed into this crisis shrouded in uncertainty.
“Though we are not saying government should condone corruption, neither are we in support of corruption, but we believe government should settle genuine marketers,” the union said.


2face Idibia, Uti Nwachukwu, others honoured by Oba of Benin

African pop icon 2face Idibia was one of the few personalities honoured by the Oba of Benin kingdom, Oba Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa in Edo State yesterday.
The event which celebrated the ‘Oba of Benin as a Preserver‘ was attended by a number of personalities including Big Brother Africa winner Uti Nwachukwu and Nollywood movie producer Lancelot Imaseun amongst others.
The 37-year-old musician who was invited by the Oba was given two wrist bands made of beads. A very excited 2face took to his Twitter page to show off his beads while he wrote;
‘Oba of Benin just gave me some royal beads! I’m so excited and honoured! One love 2 Benin kingdom’.

CPC National leaders divided over choice of Ondo governorship candidates, Buhari shuns rally in Akure

There were indications that the national Leadership of the Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] is now divided over the choice of candidate to endorse in the forthcoming October 20, governorship election in Ondo State.
Although, CPC has Soji Ehinlanwo as the party flagbearer for the election, it was learnt that the party National leaders doubt the popularity of its candidate of winning the poll.
DailyPost gathered authoritatively that CPC is planning on how to win the 2015 Presidential election and, to achieve its political aim, has decided to work for the success of one of the two most popular candidates.
“The CPC is doing this in order to score more votes from the electorate during the 2015 general election, particularly from the South West States where it lost woefully at the last 2011 Presidential election”, a source said.
It was disclosed that the party chieftains had been at loggerheads on whom to endorse between the Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN]’s flagbearer, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu [SAN] and the ruling Labour Party candidate, Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
It was gathered that some leaders of the party have decided to pitch their tents with the ACN and work for the success of Akeredolu since the party was already controlling all the South West States apart from Ondo State, while others believed that Mimiko has the bright chance of returning to power due to his achievements.
As part of plans to cause crisis in the party, It would be recalled that the state and the 18 local government executives, rejected the candidature of Ehinlanwo, who is a consultant of European Commission (EU)
Already, Ehinlanwo and his running mate’s name, Mrs Oluyemi Damilola have been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC].
In order to save his political future, the CPC governorship candidate rushed to the residence of the party’s founder, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna State for endorsement. As part of his commitment to support the party candidate in the coming poll, Buhari promised to storm the state yesterday and canvass for the party’s support for Ehinlanwo. But, the Retired General and the national leaders of the party all failed to show up at the rally later held at Democracy Park in Akure.
It was learnt that Buhari could not make it to the rally because his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare had decided not to pay for his flight ticket to Akure. Bakare was said to have been the one financing the Buhari’s flight tickets since the commencement of the 2011 general elections campaign because he is in support of Governor Mimiko’s candidature.
Sources from the CPC camp revealed that three days to the planned mega rally, the national leadership of party directed the CPC chieftains in the state to cancel the rally and work for one of the two most popular governorship candidates. One of the sources disclosed that the former Minister of the Federal Territory Capital [FCT], Nasir El-Rufai urged the party members in the state to work for the success of ACN governorship candidate, stressing that CPC is not on ground in Ondo State.
Another source explained that “The former Vice Presidential candidate of CPC, Tunde Bakare directed us to back the incumbent Governor, Mimiko who is also the candidate of Labour Party because he believed Mimiko has transformed the state and he should be allowed to return back to office for another four years.
“For this reason, Bakare decided not to pay for the flight ticket of Buhari to Akure for the rally. Bakare has been the one responsible for all the tickets money of the former Military Head of State since the beginning of the 2011 general elections campaign till date”..
When contacted, the Director General, Soji Ehinlanwo Campaign Organization (SECO), Mr. Yomi Adetimehin said Buhari could not make it to the rally because there was another official assignment the retired general must attend in Abuja.
Adetimehin who denied any division among the party leaders, said the CPC Chieftains have all endorsed the candidature of Ehinlanwo

Sad end of a Youth Corper: Survives Boko Haram attacks, gunned down in Onitsha

The desire of every young undergraduate in Nigeria is to put on the uniform of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and be addressed as a ‘corper’.
But fate was very cruel to 24-year-old Augusta Chizoba Ndukwu of Umufu-Amaimo, Ikeduru Local Government area of Imo State. She was gruesomely murdered by unknown persons at Upper Iweka area of the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State. It was quite sad that Augusta, who had survived a series of hostilities and bombings by the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in Adamawa State, where she observed her one-year mandatory national youth service, would painfully meet her untimely death in a place she felt was her home.
Her voice was filled with joy when she spoke to her relatives in Owerri on phone, telling them that she had finally come home. She told them that she was at the luxurious park in Upper Iweka, informing them also that she would join them in Owerri the next morning. But she never lived to see the faces of her loved ones, as she was gruesomely murdered by unknown persons that fateful night. Daily Sun gathered that the deceased, a graduate of Banking and Finance from the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, was found lying in the pool of her own blood at the notorious fly-over at Upper Iweka on September 12.
According to a family member and the Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) Imo State Council, Chief Chris Akaraonye, Chizoba left Yola, the capital of Adamawa State on September 11 where she was having her NYSC primary assignment. She was travelling to Onitsha en route Owerri but could not get to her final destination that time because it was already late.
Chief Akaraonye further said the deceased, who had boarded a luxurious bus belonging to a popular transport company (names withheld), called her relatives to inform them that she could not make it again to Owerri. She also informed them that she had decided to pass the night at the company’s motor park together with other passengers. However, according to him, the following day, the family of the deceased, including her fiancĂ©, waited in anxiety for the arrival of Chizoba in Owerri but to no avail. They then started trying her mobile line, but it had been switched off.
“At first, we thought she had a low battery. But after waiting for almost the whole day, we realized it was not usual and we decided to make moves to know why somebody that spoke to us at 10 pm last night could not be reached on phone or could not get to Owerri. In the course of our doubts and fears, we started going through different police stations and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) formations along the Onitsha-Owerri Road to ascertain if she was involved in a motor accident.
It was when we came to Onitsha that we found her corpse at the Onitsha General Mortuary with gunshot wounds to her chest.” In the next morning, early passersby were shocked to their marrow when they beheld the gory sight of a lady lying in the pool of her own blood at the Upper Iweka axis with two travelling bags filled with children clothing and popcorn. One of the eyewitnesses who pleaded anonymity said that the deceased was a victim of ritual killers.
She confirmed that she was found lying at the Upper Iweka flyover with gunshot wounds on her chest and two travelling bags containing children clothes and popcorn beside her corpse. Though the police swiftly said the deceased could be the victim of an armed robbery attack, they also revealed that the bags were planted by the assailants to divert police investigations, stressing that the police had commenced investigations into the circumstances surrounding the murder.
The Campaign for Democracy (CD), South East Zone has reacted to the incident, describing it as a sin against God and humanity. The group called for proper investigations into the matter with a view to unravelling the circumstances surrounding the senseless killing of the deceased. The Chairman, South East Zone, Dede Uzor. A. Uzor condemned the act while calling on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubarka to personally detail a crack team of investigative police officers to look into the death of the corps member. Dede Uzor further questioned the omission of the deceased’s name in the passengers’ manifest and the alleged role that the transport company played when they returned the bags of the deceased to Yola without contacting the police.
Also speaking on the incident, Chairman of Ndigbo Unity Forum, Mr. Augustine Chukwudum condemned the act, describing it as the most wicked act and cruelty ever meted out to any corps member in the history of the state. Mr. Chukwudum also said his group would mobilize to make sure that criminal elements are sacked from the commercial city. He said the presence of such criminals was hindering the development of commerce and industry in the city.
However, policemen attached to the Central Police Station, CPS, Onitsha led by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Mr. Abdul Yusuf said they have arrested three persons in connection with the death of the corps member, adding that they were still working to unravel the circumstances surrounding the murder of the deceased. The police said, though, that it could be possible that the girl was murdered at the park by some criminals who then took her body to the Upper Iweka where they kept two bags containing clothes belonging to a boy of six years just to divert police investigations.
According to the police, the deceased was not a victim of ritual killing. It was further gathered that the driver of the luxury bus that brought the deceased from Yola to Onitsha on that fateful night, the manager of the transport company and one other person whose identities were not yet known as at press time have been arrested by the police.
They were picked up to allegedly help give insight to the death of the corps member as well as explain how and why the management of the company swiftly returned the bags of the deceased to Yola without informing the police. When contacted, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ralph Uzoigwe confirmed that three persons have been arrested by the police to help them in the course of investigations.
He appealed to the general public to help the police with more information that could lead to the arrest of the real killers of the corps member.

Nigeria at 52: Fading Hope, Fading Glory? – CPC


Nigeria at 52
Nigeria at 52
Nigeria at 52: fading hope, fading glory? The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), as a Political Party, recognizes the hollow ritual of celebrating or marking another
anniversary of the existence of Nigeria as an independent and sovereign entity. Nigeria’s two most prized literary assets, Wole
Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, have fittingly described the Country as bereft of Nationhood. Indeed, it could not have been in the
contemplation of the founding fathers that the Country, in fifty-two years of existence, would still be adrift due to lack of political identity predicated on strong, ethical leadership.
Barely five years after independence on October 1, 1960, the Country’s political firmament were troubled by a bloody coup d’etat, thereby heralding what would become twenty-nine years of participation of the Military in the governance of the state. But in the last thirteen years, the Nigerian state had witnessed an unbroken civil rule, the longest in the Nation’s chequered history! It is inconceivably true that successive regimes in the last thirteen have unleashed hopelessness on the State with increased severity.
The major malaise besetting the Country has been largely due to the avaricious content of the character of the Leadership at the expense of the Citizenry. Whereas it is entrenched in Section 17(1) of the Constitution that: “the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice.” According to the National Bureau of statistics (NBS), the income inequality index moved from 0.429 in 2004 to 0.447 in 2010. It is also reported by the same body in February, 2012 that out of the Nigeria’s population of 163 million, a whooping 112.519 million (representing 69.03%) is living in abject poverty!
Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Major-General in the Nigerian Army, was Head of State between December 31st, 1983 and August 27th, 1984. As Head of State, he had shunned a neo-capitalist Privatization plan brought for his presidential assent in 1984 and declared with uncompromising finality: “I cannot sell Nigeria’s assets to anybody.”
Indeed, successive regimes have accepted the poisoned chalice and foisted same on the Nigerian people in a manner that had evinced gradual asset-stripping of Nigeria’s vast resources, with the attendant ennobling of negligible few, in the Society, into the super-rich club. The recently concluded Sale of the State’s Electricity infrastructure revealed a noxious desire by the Leadership to perpetuate the policy of pauperization of the preponderant population of the Nigerian people. The Leadership failed to learn how Privatization, as implemented in other climes, had been used for People’s empowerment through ownership of Assets of state. For instance, On 19 July 1982, the British Government formally announced its intention to privatize British Telecom with the sale of up to 51 per cent of the company’s shares to private investors. This intention was confirmed by the passing of the Telecommunications Act, 1984, which received Royal Assent on 12 April that year. The transfer to
British Telecommunications plc of the business of British Telecom, the statutory corporation, took place on 6 August 1984 and, on 20 November 1984, more than 50 per cent of British Telecom shares were sold to the public. At the time, this was the largest share issue in the world!
The anomalous preference of the tribe to the state is often championed by the Leadership which, inexorably, has contributed immensely to the receding hope of nationhood for the Nigerian geographical entity. Over time, the political leadership has perfected, as an art, the constant prosecution of its war in self-interest through the evocation of the primordial fault lines of religion and ethnicity. This is often achieved through the instrumentality of the burgeoning army of ethnic hegemons, wittingly created and sustained, through the deliberate pauperization policy that merely leaves majority of the citizenry to
scrounge for crumbs from the master’s table. For instance, about 70% of the N4 Trillion budget in the 2012 appropriation act is devoted for servicing the bloated machinery of governance; a paltry 30% is devoted for Capital expenditure. As at July 2012, only 10% of the Capital allocation had been utilized. The veiled threat of impeachment by the Federal Legislature that, if by September 2012 the situation is not reversed, excited awful and provocative response from the President’s tribesmen, in communication couched in demagogy of clannish sentiments.
Corruption, despite the plethora of extant anti-graft legislation, has assumed the dimension of national culture in Nigeria. It is the reason that the effect of governance does not percolate to the grassroots.
This hydra-headed monster is often accentuated by the impunity embedded in the political comportment of the Nigerian President. For instance, N240 Billion was allocated to the fuel subsidy in the 2011 appropriation act. As at the last count, over N2.67 Trillion had been expended without any recourse to the Legislature for a review of the allocation! As it is with financial corruption, so is electoral corruption. Though the shenanigans deployed in the conduct of the 2011 general elections had largely hoodwinked the foreign observers, the unwillingness of the electoral umpire to allow unfettered access, to its process and election register had made the electoral exercise worse than any other in Nigerian history. This assertion was reinforced by Nigeria’s Diaspora-based academic and prolific writer, Okey Ndibe, when he declared: “The 2011 election saw the deployment of
new rigging technologies.” There is every reason to believe that the ruling leadership is unwilling to relinquish political power according to the electoral wishes of the Nigerian people. This is more so that a former leader of the ruling party once impudently asserted that People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shall be in power for another 60 years. The hubris embedded in that gibberish was in the fact that future electoral exercises have already been decided in favour of the PDP! When this utterly undemocratic predilection to ‘do or die’ politics is juxtaposed with other African nations that have grown in the entrenchment of democratic values, as seen in the incumbents accepting electoral defeats-as dispensed by the people- it is easy to understand the reason for receding hope in the Nigerian polity.
Whereas it is expressly stated in Section 19(a) of the Nigerian constitution: “the foreign policy objectives shall be promotion and protection of the national interest”. The Executive Leadership of Nigeria, in recent times, has shown more loyalty to foreign interests than the Country’s. Bakassi, an oil-rich peninsula measuring 665 square kilometers and lying on Latitudes: 4degrees 25’ and 5 degrees 10’ Longitudes: 8degrees 20’ and 9 degrees 8’, had been in dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its judgment on 10 October 2002, finding (based principally on the Anglo-German agreements) that sovereignty over Bakassi did indeed rest with Cameroon. It instructed Nigeria to transfer possession of the peninsula, but did not require the inhabitants to move or to change their nationality. Cameroon was thus given a substantial Nigerian population and was required to protect their rights, infrastructure and welfare. In what later came to be known as
the Green-Tree agreement, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Paul Biya of Cameroon on 13 June 2006, resolved the dispute in talks led by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York City. Obasanjo agreed to withdraw Nigerian troops within 60 days and to leave the territory completely in Cameroonian control within the next two years. However, Article 61 of the ICJ statute, which is stated below, allows for a review upon meeting certain conditions:
1. An application for revision of a judgment may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence.
2. The proceedings for revision shall be opened by a judgment of the Court expressly recording the existence of the new fact, recognizing that it has such a character as to lay the case open to revision, and declaring the application admissible on this ground.
3. The Court may require previous compliance with the terms of the judgment before it admits proceedings in revision.
4. The application for revision must be made at latest within six months of the discovery of the new fact.
5. No application for revision may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of the judgment.
From the outset of the pronouncement of the Judgment, there was no doubt that an International conspiracy had firmly brought about the travesty of Justice. The Green-Tree treaty entered into by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo does not have any subsisting Legality in Nigeria because of Section 12(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which states that: “No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.” Apparently, the former President Obasanjo – owing to his absolutist proclivity to governance – spurned the treaty being given legal vim through an act of Parliament, thus making the legal instrument of the treaty inchoate in the Nigerian state. The allowable 10-year window for review of the Judgment shall run out in a matter of days. Owing to the Pressure by the Nigerian people in Bakassi (who have come under unfair treatment by the Cameroonian authority), coupled with new fact of a document by the British of the ownership of the disputed Peninsula belonging to Nigeria, it thus becomes imperative to appeal the Judgment. Quite disappointing is the fact that the Nigerian Executive Leadership is reticent at exploring this option, despite the Senate’s prodding. The question is: what does Nigeria lose putting together its case for a review of the Judgment?
True, the choice of the Land of our Nativity was not ours to make as Nigerians. But we have the choice of the leadership that is allowed to govern the Land. This explains why, as Citizens, we must draw the line and say to the Principalities in the land: enough is enough. Section 14(2a) states that: “It is hereby, accordingly, declared that: sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.” It is time to enforce the Sovereignty, envisaged by the Constitution, which rightfully belongs to us as Citizens. In so doing, we shall extirpate the debris of indecency that assault our collective psyche and thus bequeath a livable environment for the next generation.
God bless Nigeria.
Rotimi Fashakin (Engr.)
National Publicity Secretary, CPC.
(Saturday, 29th September, 2012).
African Spolight

Ambrose Alli: Ex-Gov Who Died On His Birthday

alt by Uchechukwu Olisah
Last Saturday, 22 September, 2012, marked the 82nd anniversary of the birth of the first executive governor of the defunct Bendel State, now Edo and Delta States, Professor Ambrose Folorunsho All
Coincidentally it was also the 22nd memorial of his death, having been born on 22 September, 1929 and died on 22 September, 1989. The life and times of the Esan-born Ambrose Alli perhaps testify to his greatness, just as the coincidence of his date of birth and date of death remains befuddling to not a few people.
However, 22 years after his death, the condition of the family compound of the Allis in Emaudo, Ekpoma, in Edo central senatorial district of Edo State, unarguably, does not befit the status of a man who had governed a state hitherto known as Mid-West, the first and the only state in Nigeria that had so far been created by an Act of Parliament. Ambrose Alli built his own house in his father’s compound, adjacent to his own father’s house.
While Ambrose Alli’s father, Pa Omokhua Alli’s house, which he reportedly built when he was an army officer, has some life, with his father’s wife and stepmother, Madam Elizabeth Alli, and his late younger brother, Mr. John Alli’s wife and children still living there, the former governor’s own house inside the same compound is desolate. Besides, the vast land mass that is the compound, has the decrepit building of Pa Omokhua Alli, his weather-beaten statue, Ambrose Alli’s house, Ambrose Alli’s mausoleum, a boys’ quarter and weed-covered earth surface.
Mrs. John Alli told Saturday Tribune that the family members at the family compound still remember both the date of birth and date of death of their illustrious son, but that they still cannot explain the coincidence. She said they still feel the absence of Ambrose Alli, a professor of morbid anatomy, who she added, used to help them.
“We feel his absence very well. He used to help us do everything. After his death, my husband, his younger brother, also died. So, nobody is helping us. We are just managing,” she said.
According to her, she cannot recall anything of consequence done in honour or memory of Ambrose Alli or as assistance for the family, either by government or any other body.
Nigerian Tribune

Fighting Corruption Like the Americans: Worshippers Mock Jonathan at Church Service

President Goodluck Jonathan
By SaharaReporters, New York
Christian worshippers at the National Christian Centre in Abuja today mocked and laughed at President Goodluck Jonathan when he described his government as second only to the United States of America in its commitment to fighting corruption.
The President was speaking during the church service, during which several of his ministers, advisers, women organisations, political apologists, chairmen of commissions, and former Heads of State Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo were in attendance.
“Our commitment to the fight against corruption is second to that of America’s commitment.  We are very commitment to it and everybody knows.”
As soon as he said this, members of the congregation looked at him incredulously and began to chuckle and laugh, as if they had just heard the punch line to a new joke.
But his appointees and friends tried to save the moment by clapping.  It was unclear whether they were clapping for the joke, or in cheers, but a senior member of the government  who spoke anonymously with our correspondent after the service, said Jonathan was merely deceiving himself.
“Who does not know that this government is weak when it comes to fighting corruption?  I think Jonathan is deceiving himself and not Nigerians,” he said smiling.
During the service, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, told the President and members of his cabinet to treat members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect as terrorist, wondering why the government was treating them with kid gloves.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan is to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence inside the presidential Villa.
It was learnt that the reason for this, as was the case last year, is to avoid a recurrence of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja where several bombs exploded while President Jonathan and foreign dignitaries gathered at the Eagles Square to celebrate the event.
Coming ahead of his address to the nation tomorrow on the occasion of Nigeria’s 52nd anniversary as an independent nation, President Jonathan’s statement about his commitment to combating corruption seems certain to lead to a new round of jokes among Nigerians.
Asked to comment on the statement today, a New York based analyst simply described himself as “FHLA.”  Asked the meaning of that, he said, “I am Fighting Hypocrisy Like the Americans.”
It would be recalled that last Monday at a conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management in Abuja, President Jonathan told Nigerians he is now ready to fight corruption with everything at his disposal.
“My administration will fight corruption and associated social vices until they are exterminated from our body polity,” he said, opening the conference.
He then left for the United Nations General Assembly, where the American press promptly identified his delegation as one of the most financially reckless, his Pierre Hotel suite alone costing Nigeria $10,000 per night. The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, occupied suites in two different hotels, one at the Four Seasons Hotel for $5,000 per night; and the other at Mr. Jonathan’s hotel for $3,000 per night.
Reporting on Nigeria’s squandermania, America’s National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), said, “Nigeria’s delegation is keeping five vehicles parked outside the Pierre Hotel where the cheapest room is about $800 a night – or roughly what most Nigerians earn in two years."
A SaharaReporters investigation found that the NNPC delegation actually rented a total of 10 limousines in New York for its seven visiting officials, at a daily cost of $1,800 per day.  It was five of those vehicles that NBC found idling at Pierre.
“If Mr. Jonathan is going to ‘fight corruption and associated social vices until they are exterminated’,” a Nigerian newspaper columnist said today, “he is going to have a very large battlefield, and also a lot of opportunities for Nigerians to laugh at a bad joke.”

Right-Of-Reply: Whose Bully is Dele Momodu?

By Godwin Okpene           

Usually for me, the surest way to avoid reading a sad piece of writing or watch a poor quality film is to not start because then, I carry on reading or watching, hoping to find something at some point to justify the initial investment in time and mental resources. Most times, I am unlucky, but a few times, I chance upon pay dirt, and these rarities produce the incentives to try my luck the next time. It turns out that my latest experience belonged to the first category of totally worthless efforts, and my tormentor this time was Dele Momodu’s very depressing piece of fiction on Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on the back page of the September 22nd edition of ThisDay newspapers. But, in this case, the sense of worthlessness went even more depressingly beyond the value of my time and efforts in reading a piece, to the pain that I felt from the gratuitous insults Momodu heaped on hapless Nigerians like me, whose only sin at the time of Sanusi’s reforms was that we were honestly praising God for intervening in the banking sector to secure the assets of those who toil day and night to have enough to put something away for when we would really need the inevitable shield against the rain.

For feeling the way I did, Mr Momodu practically diagnosed people like me of suffering from a disease called dementia.  But he also had more degrading characterisation: He called us “frogs”, that we are “confused” about our choices, and that Nigerians are all products of “acute psychological impairment”. Except Dele Momodu. I will surely come back to this, but I must first finish what I was saying about the quality of Momodu’s article.

It wasn’t just that it was so glaringly beneath the quality he is known for, so transparently shambolic – almost like a piece rushed to press for no other reason than to achieve a deadline imposed by the usual pressure for dialogical currency. It was more than the glaring and totally avoidable literary errors. It was entirely lacking in essence and meaningful content. The article was one half a history of presidential succession in Nigeria, and another half from Wikipedia. By the end of the article, it was a surprise that there was a nonfictional reference to current issues and the Central Bank governor. Even where he managed to extricate the topic from its multiple tangents, his account of the most recent history was way, way off the mark: That Sanusi took advantage of a purported “weakness of the Jonathan administration”? I was confused because he had also mentioned in the article that he “warned many Nigerians jumping up like frogs” about Sanusi in August 2009. Is he talking about the same president before August 2009? And, was the insult to Nigerians necessary?

Now, I do not have to speak for Sanusi, as I believe that the CBN governor can find enough reason, if he has the time, to respond to the writer. But the logical inconsistencies, such as the one I pointed out above, ran all through so much of the ‘analysis’ that it would be totally uncharitable to not let him see how much work he still needs to do. Besides, if you need to hang a man, should you rather not hang him fairly?

As it is, Dele Momodu did not seem to be able to make up his mind about the character of the man he claimed that he knew so well to have warned all of us about back in 2009. Was (is) Mr Sanusi a man who “lacked the tolerance to persuade others” and “bullied everybody into submission” or is he a “charming man” who “attracts attention effortlessly”? Which one is it, Mr Momodu? According to the columnist, Sanusi “could almost raise the dead” but then, according to Momodu again, that “was his major weakness”. He left me even more confused about the character of Mr Sanusi’s ‘enemies’. To be sure, are they the same people he referred to as “rogue bankers” and “a few rats” or are they his beloved “brilliant bankers” and “innocent people”? I am also wondering how Dele Momodu determined the ideal character profile of a profession he probably never tried to sign up to; where he borrowed the line that the banking profession “was traditionally reserved for taciturn and conservative characters”. The result of whose research? Wikipedia’s, again? So what character trait might Dele Momodu prescribe for bankers in Nigeria and everywhere else? That of reckless individuals who think nothing of the potential disaster their risky behaviour was preparing for all of us? Those who gave practical expression to Schuermann’s point about the privatisation of bankers’ profits but the socialisation of their losses? That we should all be sitting ducks, watching these people engage in practices that would inevitably bring the roof down on all of us?

I know I started out complaining about the quality of Mr Momodu’s article, but then I must stick to the issues and their underlying logic, even if the columnist would not do the same. He would have done more to explain Sanusi’s “vengeful mission” against his “enemies”. Yes, because the implication here is that these are people who had caused him grave personal injury before he became governor. If not this, then what was Mr Sanusi’s “real intentions”?

He also made reference to Sanusi’s “unbridled radicalism” side by side with “his academic brilliance”. While, again, I believe that Sanusi’s has the intellectual capacity (as admitted by Momodu himself) to constructively address such charge, and while I believe that the man has his faults (who doesn’t?) I think I would pitch for a radical with a mind to challenge the old order than a wimp who people like Momodu would not hesitate to turn into an object of eternal ridicule.

I am temped however, to excuse Dele Momodu’s ‘treatise’ as little more than a hasty piece of literature which, inevitably, cannot stand the test of literary scrutiny. For instance (and this is purely a matter between Momodu and Wikipedia), he observed that “bullies always have their terminal dates because, according to Wikipedia, a bully is” a bully. (i.e., “constant harasser of the weak”). Since I failed to see the logic in the inference, I decided to consult the source, from where the columnist lifted his assertions. I traced the definition (in parenthesis) to the only paragraph of the article, which simply established the etymology of the term. There was no such inference, “according to Wikipedia”, in the online article. So, it turns out, Mr Momodu’s inference is neither consistent with the structure of commonsensical validity nor of attributional regularity. It is obvious therefore that this was just a model in the literature desperately seeking personification in Momodu’s real world.

And, alas, such desperation shone even brighter, when Momodu attempted fruitlessly to make capital out of what I considered at the time, no more than a light-hearted reference by Sanusi to former President Obansanjo’s position on the CBN’s currency restructuring proposal. Pray, when did Dele Momodu develop any kind of respect for Baba? And when he unnecessarily brought up a certain presidential ambition of Sanusi (I hear this for the first time, but believe nevertheless that a banker has as much right to such aspirations as a columnist), I was left to wonder what was the point of this in the bully story? To entertain? To further “mesmerise” the same Nigerians he described as “hypnotised”?

Frankly, for all my frustration with having to endure the article, it would have been reasonably rewarding for me to isolate a single topical issue to reflect on, and maybe use as an object of my humble contribution – like the subject of central bank autonomy. Yes, it was mentioned, but again, the author chose to personalise the issues rather than elevate the discourse. It would have been interesting, for instance to hear what the writer thinks about the fact that, over the last two decades, more and more countries in the developed and developing world have created more autonomous central bank; I would have loved to read his perspective on research results which have shown that foreign investment has tended towards jurisdictions with institutionally guaranteed price stability; that autonomous central banks serve as a veritable insurance against the negative incentives of ‘the political business cycle’. But, no, the former presidential aspirant would rather reproduce what Wikipedia says about bullies than address economic policy.

If he reflects more seriously on it, even Mr Momodu himself would agree that he would have made his point more constructively by sticking to the issues and avoiding the insults. Describing us as “a neurotic society and vindictive population”? For me, it was demeaning, and a brazen show of ingratitude to the same Nigerians who religiously ‘file into the gallery’ every week to ‘listen’ to him abuse, harass and terrorise people who cannot afford the time, forum or are too scared to abuse him back.

If the columnist has any regard for the millions of Nigerians in his article, if he is not the bully he so self-righteously see in others, he would use his next column to apologise to everybody, including the 26,000 or so that lined up in the sun (rain) to vote for him last year.

This Day

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Nigeria@ 52: The elite must not set Nigeria on fire – Audu Ogbeh

*’How they killed the PDP vision’
Chief Audu Ogbeh was the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the Obasanjo regime. He left the office following some disagreement with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and defected to the opposition Action  Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In this interview with BEN AGANDE, he speaks on some of the issues that touch on his turbulent days as the PDP chairman and the state of the nation. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the political terrain especially in the last five years?
I think it is an environment of great opportunities but of also opportunities lost and the usual high degree of waste which this country has become notorious for.  We have a situation which one finds extremely disturbing because at the time  former President Olusegun Obasanjo left office, he left behind $25 billion in the excess crude account.
I remember one night shortly after the late President Yar’Adua came into office, the late Abubakar Rimi; myself;  former Minister of the FCT, Arc. Ibrahim Bunu and Wazirin Bauchi; went to see the late president. He received us and we told him we came to suggest a few things that we felt needed to be done so that we could begin to address primarily the economic problems,  because at the heart of all the chaos in this country, of all the agitations and the discontent is the economy. Nigeria has three problems: the economy, the economy and the economy.
We can’t have a population growing this fast where there is so much want and so much lack. Too many homes are in pains. Rents are impossible, school fees are on the increase. You see tension on the face of Nigerians wherever you meet them. We are a good and kind hearted people. But now we are being driven in many areas to a state of barbarism. Some of the horrible things people now do: kidnap children, cut their heads off because everybody is looking for money including people who call themselves men of God; at the centre of all the chaos and political disequilibrium is the economy.
I am not an economist but economics is 90% common sense. I feel that the polity is not comfortable and there is need for more practical down to earth economic re-engineering. What are the issues? There is still not enough production at home; too much importation of thoroughly unnecessary items which we just ship in from all over the world. Nobody makes pencils here for the over eighteen million children in primary schools. We produce nothing. Bananas are coming in from Cameroun; even garri from Benin  Republic. At the centre of all the discontent in the country is the economy and unless and until the people, state governments, local governments got down to dealing with it, all the tinkering, all the constitutional amendments would be all diversions.
In the face of all these, would you say that those at the helm  of affairs are adequately prepared or even competent to handle these challenges?
I think they are doing their best but going back to what we  said to Yar’Adua that night, we suggested that there are some key areas that will generate jobs. A society without work to do is in trouble. We said to President Yar’Adua then that we should go into housing. At that time they said seventeen million housing units were needed  across the country including universities. I went to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I had a room to myself. Not now. Why should our own children degenerate under social and economic pressures to levels which are not more than intellectual slums? Is it that we can’t do anything about it?
We suggested then that a million houses a year across the country will create 30million jobs. We thought that the government would take a loan from the excess crude account and start the houses and as it begins to sell the houses through mortgages, it would start repaying the loan. But the money was shared out to governors. How many of them applied the money to the development of their states? Majority did not.
The government is addressing some issues but the speed needs to be looked into and the question of examining the structural defects in the economy should be looked into. We should also review the advice of the IMF and the World Bank because I have never believed that the advice they give is in the overall good interest of the country. I have not seen any serious efforts by government at different levels to revive the economy. Why can’t the governors sit down with those who have industries in their states and ask them what they need to revive  the industriesit? If the treasury needs to help it should. America did. What are we doing here? Some states are applying this philosophy by inviting investors and providing the necessary infrastructure for them to operate. The government at the centre and the state governments need to sit down and keep doing this thing because we can’t have this pile of pain sitting on the heads of our people. If it continues this way,  no matter what constitutional conference we hold, we will get no where.

Chief Audu Ogbeh
Some people have blamed the party you co-founded, the PDP, for  majorly responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the country. Though you have left the party, looking back, do you think that the party is responsible for the sorry state of things in the country?
I must say that the vision we had in forming the PDP is lost. It is lost because certain individuals who came into the party and held certain offices simply saw the party and treated it as a private estate. They believed they owned the PDP. That was exactly what I could not stand. With the connivance of many members, such pathetic sycophants  could not afford to say no to arrogant authority. A party is not owned by one individual. When a party surrenders all its thinking and all the powers to one person, the party is dead. We are a very peculiar people. We are such sycophants; such cronies that nobody dare say anything.
If you are the only strong person around, you are just one more poor person waiting to happen. There was no forum for the party to make inputs into the polity, there was little reference to the manifesto and no body was allowed to say anything even when things were going wrong. Some of those killings that were happening in the PDP then: Bola Ige went, Harry Marshal, Dikibo, Funsho Williams, later,  my chairman in Kwara who was butchered when he was coming to Abuja and so many strange things. Nobody was allowed to raise the alarm. I was told that as party chairman, I had no right to raise objections to certain developments which I thought were simply outrageous. Some party members said I was a poor man from Benue, so who was I to argue with the president? And I told them if you wanted a billionaire to run the party, you should have gone to Aliko  Dangote or Mike Adenuga. If not being a rich man is an offence then I am guilty as accused but I did not think that was the function of the party chairman.
I don’t know today if that party has a forum where they can sit and agonize over certain issues except maybe when the president calls the governors together. The vision is lost and many left.
So, in order words, the feeling of many Nigerians that the problems in the country are caused by the PDP is correct.
Well it is the biggest party. It controls  more states. It should be the flagship. We built it to be strong but if it degenerates to just people looking for offices for themselves and there is no collective anxiety about the overall well-being of the people, then the party has failed! There is no debate on issues. Has there been a debate on education? Has there been a debate on agriculture? What is the debate on our foreign policy? What is the policy on housing? There is no sound mortgage in this country. In a nutshell, yes the blame is there. PDP is the biggest party and therefore it cannot run away from those accusations.
There is the news going round that you are being wooed back to the PDP. Is this true?
Nobody has contacted me and I don’t think the problem in PDP is lack of manpower. They are big, they have many people and I am sure if they want to apply themselves to certain issues, they can do so. Calling people back is not an issue. I don’t think anybody would listen to me any way if I was to go back. I have been saying the same thing for the last ten years. It is not important asking me to return or not to return.
Do you have a nostalgic feeling about your PDP days?
No I don’t have. Let me tell you this. I have always told people that every politician should have a first address: the business you do. I don’t like a man who says his profession is politician. Such a person in a developing country is a liability. I have something I do. I am still struggling to get it to where I want it to be because bank credit is difficult to access. When I applied for a loan for commercial agriculture scheme, I was turned down by my bank because they said I am a politically exposed person. My priority now is to get my project to where I want it to be not to be going here and there.
Corruption in the country is rather on the increase rather than decreasing. Do you see a silver lining on the horizon in our fight against corruption?
Honestly I share the anxiety of many Nigerians. We have ruined everything. There is nothing you can do now in this country without bribing. The judiciary has also experienced terrible turmoil. For many of them judgments are purchased. The midnight currency is the dollars. But when government tried to move against any one, the same society begins to bring in sentiments. People either read religion, region or tribe to every action of government in an attempt to curb corruption. The situation is helpless and hopeless.
What do you think is the way forward?
First,  there is the general need to get the economy going. I am not sure that every Nigerian was born a thief. There are many Nigerians who will not touch what does not belong to them if they have an option. Secondly, it appears that we as a people are not determined to get rid of corruption because we worship it too. We shout that corruption is bad but we worship the corrupt. Thirdly people put a lot of pressure on their leaders too. If you don’t give money, you are labeled a bad man who does not want to help. It is a very complex moral enigma.
The duty of government is to look around the economy, decide what you can produce and produce it. Others are doing it. Bank credit is still impossible here. With all the reforms, this is the only country where the interest rate is about 21%. How do you want any producer or investor to survive this interest and still buy diesel? One prays that the power sector keeps improving. That will eliminate one obstacle on the path of production. A country that does not produce will die. We don’t produce,  so we all pounce on the treasury and rob the treasury. The only industry left in the country now is politics and governance.
The issue of insecurity in the country has been exacerbated by the Boko Haram attacks in the North. Do you have cause for concern that with all these challenges, Nigeria may be at the threshold of disintegration?
I am worried about the security situation and very concerned too. I remember the talk I gave in Kaduna ten years ago that the Niger Delta crisis will ease off but the chaos in Nigeria was going to come from the North. I had foreseen this  ten years ago and I had said it was going to be driven by alienation, hunger and deprivation but was going to wear the face of religion. I said emirs will not sleep peacefully in their palaces and I said that some children will even be willing to kill their parents to inherit any property they thought was available.
The other day I was talking with the governor of Borno State with whom I do some work on agriculture for the state. The issue is simple. What is it that drives people to such madness? Hunger! Of course religious fanaticism is in many parts of the world. There are fanatics who say their philosophy must be enforced by violence. But the recruitment base of all of this extreme behavior is deprivation. There are people who have no hope and if the extremist organization is going to offer them a fee to do anything, they are willing to do.
They are easily brainwashed because they are so poorly fed that they have little capacity to reason. We are so poorly fed in this country now that we can’t do well in sports. The sportsmen and women come by and large from very humble homes where the daily diet is  eba, garri, eba. They don’t have access to proteinous foods. So height for height, an eighteen-year-old in Nigeria is slightly shorter than his counterpart in Cameroun or Ivory Coast. But we don’t even realize that in an age that demands the sharpest brains, because of the dietary problems we have and the poor state of our agriculture, we are unable to produce some of the finest minds we dream of.
Back to the state of insecurity, it is a frightening thing and the answer is not in breaking up Nigeria. It is a bit tragic when at the slightest provocation some Nigerians begin to talk about breaking up. It is a sad thing that the elite are so fond of this thing. That is not the concern of the man on the street. The man on the street is not interested in this politics of balkanization. The elites who are the most comfortable are the ones who raise it as an option. If you begin the break up,  how do you do it? I hear people talking of regions but is there permanent peace in any region if there is no economic growth? Go down to the local government or your village, there are issues over which there are strong dissents. Go down to you village, people have conflict if contentment is absent. We are too quick to rush to that idea as a solution to our problems.
Having said that, of course violent conduct in one part of the country leading to bombings and killings will disturb especially when it looks selective. But even now you can see that Muslims and Christians are getting killed and people wonder this is almost near madness. The only real guarantee to near perfect security in any environment is the contentment of the largest segment of the population.
Would you say that northern leaders including you have done enough to re-orientate or  refocus the energy of the youths from the region?
We have not! The North must now look at itself in the mirror and ask vital questions. Is  it because for too long, we in the North have seen politics as the only industry worth investing in especially since the end of the first republic. There is too much interest in politics to the exclusion of economic activities. Since the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme, four hundred industries in Kano have collapsed.
The textile industry perished dragging down with it some five million families who were growing cotton. Agriculture is on the decline. The average age of the farmer today is sixty to sixty five. There is not enough intellectual input into agriculture and agro-processing. How many new industries have been commissioned in any part of the North in the last ten years? Is there any five-star hotel north of Abuja? There is none. What do we invest in? We were in power. The South was not in power at the political centre but they are miles ahead of us. When we have somebody in power, there is this opium addiction that we have somebody in power. What difference does it make if the man in the Villa is from Katsina or Benue? Does that decide the feeding of the majority of his villagers? I have been saying to the northern governors, you have been meeting in Kaduna, how about zonal economic summits in the three zones of the North? The president has made offers.
He wants to ban rice importation in 2015. If the South is the industrial hub, why can’t the North be the agricultural machine? Why producing less than seven million metric tons of maize? Why are we no longer producing groundnuts? We now buy groundnuts from Niger Republic. I am not objecting to a northerner being in the Villa, but for God’s sake, politics alone can only further destroy the north and worsen Nigeria’s social economic problem.
There have been sustained agitations by some section of the country for the setting up of state police. Will this solve the problems of insecurity in the country?
In a true federation, it is a fair thing to ask for. It makes sense in true federalism for states to have control of their police machinery. That is what is obtainable in the United  States where we model our democracy after. But in the USA, each state has a House of Representatives, a Senate and a Supreme Court. That is how elaborate their system is. Our state did not develop the way the states of the United States of America developed. Ours were created through executive fiat. It is logical for people to think of state police but,  in practice, I do not support it. Do you know why?  I saw local government and regional police forces in the first republic and I saw the abuse to which they were put. I even see the abuse to which the federal police in Nigeria is put from time to time, during elections especially. When I was chairman of the PDP, there were times mobile police were deployed to organize a fake sitting of the state House of Assembly at night to impeach a governor. That was abuse of process and I said so then. The Federal Government did not elect the governor. It is up to the people through the assemblies to sanction the governor if he has done anything wrong.
Assuming now that the federal police is seen as a tyranny or near tyranny or a possible tyranny, we are going to create 36 tyrannies across the country because they will be abused, terribly abused. And if we do so now, it will not be three years before Nigerians begin to cry out against the state police forces.
Finally, can we pay? I do not see any state that will have less than three thousand police men. I don’t see any state needing less than N500million extra per month to pay that police force. They need uniforms, barracks, offices and other things. If the states are now grumbling that they don’t have enough money to take care of  education and health, where will they get the money to pay the police? Why are we so quick to recommend the creation of institutions without thinking of the cost?
As I said before, the ultimate security any country can think of is the contentment of the largest segment of the population. It is that contentment that we should invest in now and not state police. Even now, abuses are going on. In Jigawa State, A.C.N members are being detained in Alkali courts without trial. Which governor will not do the same?
The governor names the Attorney General, he names the Chief Judge, appoints the chief of police.
Do you really think that if you are not on his side that police force will listen to you in a country such as ours  where sycophants and poverty hold sway? When that police man knows that by doing the will of the governor he will get extra cash? The demand for state police is a very dangerous diversion and if they decide to go ahead with it, it will not be two years before Nigerians will begin to cry out against the horror that would be placed on their lives. And let me tell those governors clamouring for it that it is not a priority.
Let me also tell the federal police that it also need to reform. The Inspector General of Police should be strong enough to tell the president that the police force is not an instrument in the hand of the Federal Government or any body but an instrument for the enforcement of justice and fair play. Unfortunately, most IGPs see them selves as appointees of the president so they get involved in rigging elections.
Do you share the sentiment being expressed that the North should produce the president in 2015?
Sentiment is there and every society has its own sentiment. In fairness, there is reason for some balancing. There is logic in it. You can’t keep on having one segment of the country dominating the others. People object to that. It is a fair thing. Over the years, this anxiety almost reached a fever point when Abiola won the election which was annulled. We have to commend the Yorubas for not pushing it to the extreme because they had every reason to do so. Thank God we got over it.
In 1994, I was a member of the Constitutional Conference and we began this debate among the northern group about keeping away from contesting the election. It took  years and some of these meetings were very heated which was why in 1999 there was no northern candidate for president in any of the political parties. People forget so easily that it was not imposed on us. It was resolved here in Abuja. It was a mature move by the North and people must recognize that.
Towards the middle of Obasanjo’s tenure, I chaired a meeting where we  said eight years North, eight years South and I put it to vote and it was carried 57 to 2 in favour of eight years between the North and the South. I left the PDP after that and the thinking changed. Even if things changed, they should have sat down to resolve the matter by bringing reasons. It did not need to degenerate to the extent it went. It could have been done through concession with the agreement to look at it all over again.
Having said all that, yes there is agitation that it should go to the North, the South-east is also clamouring. Again it can be debated and discussed but whatever we do should be through dialogue and understanding and not for one group to say we have seized it, what can you do about it? The essence of democracy is dialogue, dispute resolution and sensitivity to each other’s feeling. Nobody should feel superior to the other. There is some logic to it. The northerners should not be made to feel that because the seat has gone  South no northerner will ever sit there again. I heard that was the declaration of a certain political leader in his venom against the North. Such a language is irresponsible. Let the parties sit down and debate it. Whatever we do,  the elite must not set Nigeria on fire.

Nigerians Must Rethink Electoral Choices – Kumuyi

Ahead of the 52nd independence anniversary of the nation, the General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor Williams Kumuyi, spoke to newsmen in Abuja and shared some insights on the way forward. Gabriel Ewepu was there for leadership sunday.
What are your perceptions on the state of Nigeria vis-a-vis the programme to be held by Deeper Life Bible Church this weekend?
As you all know that the country is about to celebrate its independence anniversary and you know that the country has gone through quite a lot since independence and at this juncture we know the challenges facing our country and everybody is thinking of what do we do. I think that the government is doing its best to get the problem solved, but it appears that as we are making some efforts, other problems are cropping up.
By the grace of God, the security situation in the country is improving but then suddenly we woke up to see the natural disaster of flood affecting some states and quite a number of people have been displaced. As it is happening for the nation, so it is happening for individuals; as we are coming out of one situation, we are entering another one and people feel they are in a state of insecurity, panic and hopelessness. People are not sure of the future, what are we going to do, how are we going to secure the future of our children, family and individuals?
This time we are focusing on divine connection to full freedom, fruitfulness and security so that we can connect with our God. We remember that God created this world and we want to rediscover that purpose and have intimate connection with Him in such a way that our present problem should be taken care of. And we can look at the future with real courage and we know that our God will not leave us alone. He is going to do something. This time I have been preparing and waiting on the Lord, there is going to be a great breakthrough for everyone.
The N5000 note proposed by the CBN has been temporarily suspended by the presidency and Nigerians are saying that they don’t want the proposed denomination at this particular time, what is your advice to the government on this issue?
What I will say is that in a democratic setting, the government should listen to the voices of the people and whatever the government is doing or any agency of the government supposes to solve the problems of the people and to relieve the people.
If the people say that a particular policy is not in their favour, if there is no any personal agenda, we will want to suspend such policy and discard it, so that the people that elected us there will know that we really care for them, it is not that we just want to push this through whether the people are comfortable with the decision or not, so I will say that the leadership should listen to the people being led.
There is a bill on capital punishment for terrorists, as a man of God, do you believe that capital punishment should be meted out to terrorists or life imprisonment?
What I will say is that we should dialogue more to see how we can resolve our problems, I believe when the lawmakers put in efforts to see how to resolve this problem of insecurity, it will take us a real understanding before we can find the lasting solution. What we need to do is to reason together and see whether the proposals are going to solve the problem or not.
The country will shortly be marking its 52nd independence anniversary and has gotten so much wrong. What do you think is the problem and how can the nation achieve its founding dream?
Our problem can be generally zeroed down to people’s problem. What I mean by this is that the leaders we elect; the people we put in places of power and positions matters a lot. So I will say first of all the electorate should now begin to see how we elect the right people into places of authority and decision-making. If we can resolve that, I think a lot of our problems will be solved.
Many times the people with money have also the gap of communication, they can talk if they have money and also they can talk, they get into this places of authority but if we begin to say what kind of country are we looking forward to that we want and then who are the people that can lead us to this place where we want to be. I think if we elect people based on what they can deliver rather than what they just say they can deliver looking at their track record and what they have been before being elected. I think it will be part of the solution to the problem.
What is your message to our leaders?
My message for our leaders is number one to take heart and to look at the future with a mindset of believing. Sometimes when problem overwhelm us and we are not able to settle down and look with focus and determination, we might be so shaken that we are wondering whether if there is a future for our country.
To start with, we know that there is a God in heaven, we know that God has appointed for us whoever He deemed fit in this particular place at this point in time, so that we look onto God and take heart and make use of all the resources that God has given us: the manpower, the wisdom, the fortitude and everything to make sure that we proffer solution to our problems through wisdom of God.
So my message to our leaders will be to remain focused, knowing that this time that God has put them there we are going to find solution to the problem we have and make sure that the lives of the people are well secured and catered for.