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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Time to Behead the Monster of Prejudice

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Guest columnist By Chidi Odinkalu
Prejudice has become profitable in Nigeria. It’s boom season for ethnic entrepreneurs and, indeed, for sundry purveyors of hate. These traders in prejudice do not inhabit any special corners of Nigeria. They are everywhere and they profit from nearly everything. They cut across generations, class, gender, and creed. Nothing escapes their attention and everything is sooner or later an ethnic conspiracy or an excuse for a slur on an identity group.

To be fair, these profiteers in prejudice have received a lot of help recently. Governors in different parts of Nigeria who swore to defend the Constitution of Nigeria have resorted to removing Nigerians from one part of the country to another under various artifices from security to specious humanitarianism. Others have sacked workers in the public service of their states based on claims that the affected workers are supposedly aliens from neighbouring states.
All this takes place notwithstanding that Nigeria’s constitution expressly prohibits discrimination on grounds of place of origin, ethnicity or sex. The same constitution entitles all Nigerians to move freely and live anywhere within the country.
Yet, women have routinely lost access to and preferment within the public service because they married spouses from outside what is supposed to be their state of origin.

It gets worse:  prejudice feeds extremism. When a bomb goes off in No-Man’s Land or a security operation somewhere reports mass casualties, the beer-parlour – and even predominant policy – inquiry no less, often turns on the ethnic or sectarian identities of those affected.

Most no longer seem to harbor the capability for pause to mourn the collective injuries to our country, to share in the grief of people like who must mourn the loss of loved ones or to transmit solidarity or compassion to communities living under the weight of victimization.
Transcendentalism is no longer a requirement for leadership. To have a place at the table of leadership, you must corral and bring along a filial collective tied to nativity.

Co-existence has acquired new enemies. Online chat rooms and electronic communities have not helped. There is a frightening electronic traffic in prejudice and vituperation. It is as if some electronic platforms are designed to spike their own traffic metrics by deliberately promoting echo chambers in prejudice.

All this traffic in prejudice misses one essential and obvious point. In Nigeria, there are only two tribes that matter: the rulers and the others. The former are an overwhelming minority. The rest of us are “the others”. And when you are “the other” in Nigeria, anything can happen to you.

The idea of an “overwhelming minority” sounds inherently self-contradictory but not when you look at it closely. In a democracy, the majority supposedly confers power. In reality, a minority necessarily exercises and profits from it.
In Nigeria a narrow band of interests has always controlled our patrimony. The membership of this narrow band comes from all over the country. When the going is good, they care little about the others. When they encounter the occasional difficulty in carving up our patrimony, they enlist others in manufactured divisions of ethnicity and sect. And they litter the land with red meat for profiteers in prejudice.

All over our laws, being poor is criminalized. The law establishing the Abuja Environmental Protection Board describes hardworking women selling agricultural produce or seeking other legitimate livelihood in daytime as “solid waste” and renders them liable to arbitrary arrest.
Unemployed persons are punished for being “idle and disorderly”. Poor people in the wrong place are “vagabonds”. And those who suffer mental disability are “lunatics” or “mad people”.

What is notable in the recent one-way traffic in Nigerians across state borders is not where those affected come from or the race or ethnicity of those who think that the response to our admittedly profound social or political pathologies is the internal banishment of other people. It is rather that the victims are all generally poor people. To underline this point, they are also rendered nameless. As a category, we call them “beggars”.

It is as if being called a beggar is good reason for being put beneath humanity and beneath the protections of our constitution.
When states banish motorbike operators from the roads, the main reason they give is that such “beggars” constitute threats to security.
When banks preclude persons with disability – whose deposits they happily collect - from their transaction and service halls, it is because such “beggars” are unsuitable to be seen in their corporate spaces.

And when we exclude people who do not look like us from our various neighbourhoods, we call them “beggars” too.
In all these instances, we deploy these usages to excuse our inability to care or show compassion. Yet, the only thing that is beggared by all this sniffing at people who are not like us is the possibility of mutual co-existence in a viable country.

The use of the word “beggar” to describe fellow human beings and citizens says everything about the pervasiveness of status as the defining influence in how Nigeria is now organised. This is not chosen by nature nor ordered by any ethnic or faith group.
As a policy tendency, the idea of civic entitlement, that citizens are entitled as a matter of right to certain minimum guarantees of well being and due process is now under threat in our country. This must be resisted by all who wish Nigeria well.

Difficult as it may seem, there are many ways to fight back. Leadership is important. We must offer support and incentives for aspiring leaders who are genuinely committed to promoting transcendental and non-discriminatory values and find ways to exact political penalty for those that fail to do so.

The law has a role to play. We must review our laws and remove from them provisions that penalize poverty or being different.
It also time to think about criminalizing hate speech and related crimes of purveying hate.

Related to this, proprietors and promoters of electronic communities must begin to assume greater responsibility for traffic on their platforms. Agreeing a voluntary code of good practice could be a good beginning. The National Human Rights Commission can mediate this.

Pejoratives, like “beggars”, must be discouraged in our public communications. Every person has a name and group pejoratives of this sort are themselves violations of dignity and the inherent worth of every person.
As a menu of options, this is only a beginning. There are lots more that we could do. We can at least resolve around one goal: It is time to end the open season on those who look different from us.

•Odinkalu, an expert in human rights and migration law, is the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

Between Muhammadu Buhari And Lamido Sanusi


When Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and General Muhammadu Buhari(Retd.), former Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) , are mentioned in the same sentence, few words come to mind: discipline, austere, lanky, fair-complexioned, sharia, Fulani. These areas of convergence of the two men are very obvious. In other respects the two men differ remarkably. In the mid 1970’s when Buhari was already a Federal Minister, Sanusi was just a secondary school boy. In other words, the two men are generation apart in terms of age.  Furthermore, while the Kano prince is known for talking too much, the retired General is not a man of many words.
Apart from both being Fulani, their tested abhorrence for corruption and its various shades is perhaps the most striking similarity between these two men. Even before he became apex bank boss, when Sanusi’s name is mentioned in the banking sector, pen robbers and ‘book cooks’ shivered. His ‘let’s do it the right way no matter the consequence’ attitude was well known. Little wonder those that knew what he can do did everything possible, including, as we heard, raising funds running into billions, to forestall a Sanusi CBN governorship. Like a moving train that cannot be halted, the former First Bank boss trumped his adversaries and the obstacles they planted on his way. The rest, for the book cooks, is now history.
While Sanusi’s name sends shivers down the spines of these private sector ‘miracle workers’, the mention of Muhammadu Buhari unsettles both public and private sector thieves, real and potential. They know what he can do, having done it before. Unfortunately, majority of Nigerian politicians fall into this class.
Like the banking sector thieves did to Sanusi for which he triumphed, the lootocrats in the political space are already planting barricades everywhere to stop a Muhammadu Buhari presidency. They are okay with the status quo. They don’t want an end to the current kleptocratic system. They want our roads to remain deplorable. They want public service to remain corruption-infested. But I have a message for them: Hurricane Buhari, like Sanusi Tsunami, is unstoppable. The time for change has come.
Like Sanusi, Buhari has been accused of religious and ethnic bigotry. He will Islamize the economy. He has come to pursue a northern agenda. So they said of Sanusi. But just after a year, the same Sanusi became an hero. He became the most admired Nigerian. We saw his efforts, his sincerity even if he made a couple of mistakes. Media houses fell on one another to give him awards. Columnists and opinion writers praised him to high heavens. His efforts were recognized even at the global stage.
Buhari, like Sanusi, is also coming under widespread suspicion and mistrust, but I have confidence that the song will change too if Buhari is given the chance. Buhari is fearless, courageous, sincere and admirable. I am strongly positive that if Nigerians vote for Buhari, we will not regret it just as we are happy today that Yar’adua ignored the public outcry and went ahead to appoint Lamido Sanusi as the man in charge of the nation’s monetary policy.
Interestingly, the most incisive article I have read about the man Buhari was written by no less a person than Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi himself.  In an essay titled ‘Buharism: Economic Theory and Political Economy’ , written in July 2002, in the run-up to the 2003 presidential elections, Sanusi, in his impeccable intellectual best, deconstructed the man Buhari and his ideals. Unlike previous writings on Buhari that dwelled shallowly on his personality and religious beliefs, Sanusi delved into his economic and political ideology.
The wide-read CBN boss, then a Manager in UBA, wrote: “The reality, as noted by Tolstoy, is that too often history is erroneously reduced to single individuals. By losing sight of the multiplicity of individuals, events, actions and inactions (deliberate or otherwise) that combine to produce a set of historical circumstances, the historian is able to create a mythical figure and turn him into an everlasting hero (like Lincoln) or a villain (like Hitler). The same is true of Buhari. There seems to be a dangerous trend of competition between two opposing camps aimed at glorifying him beyond his wildest dreams or demonizing him beyond all justifiable limits, through a selective reading of history and opportunistic attribution and misattribution of responsibility. The discourse has been thus impoverished through personalization and we are no closer at the end of it than at the beginning to a divination of the exact locus or nexus of his administration in the flow of Nigerian history. This is what I seek to achieve in this intervention through an exposition of the theoretical underpinnings of the economic policy of Buharism and the necessary correlation between the economic decisions made and the concomitant legal and political superstructure”.
Within the schema of discourses on Nigerian history,” he wrote further, “ the most accurate problematization of the Buhari government is one that views it strictly as a regime founded on the ideology of Bourgeois Nationalism. In this sense it was a true off-shoot of the regime of Murtala Mohammed. Buharism was a stage the logical outcome of whose machinations would have been a transcendence of what Marx called the stage of Primitive Accumulation in his Theories of Surplus Value. It was radical, not in the sense of being socialist or left wing, but in the sense of being a progressive move away from a political economy dominated by a parasitic and subservient elite to one in which a nationalist and productive class gains ascendancy. Buharism represented a two-way struggle: with Global capitalism (externally) and with its parasitic and unpatriotic agents and spokespersons (internally). The struggle against global capital as represented by the unholy trinity of the IMF, the World Bank and multilateral ‘trade’ organizations as well that against the entrenched domestic class of contractors, commission agents and corrupt public officers were vicious and thus required extreme measures. Draconian policies were a necessary component of this struggle for transformation and this has been the case with all such epochs in history. The Meiji restoration in Japan was not conducted in a liberal environment. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the great economic progress of the empires were not attained in the same liberal atmosphere of the 21st Century. The “tiger economies” of Asia such as Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand are not exactly models of democratic freedom. To this extent Buharism was a despotic regime but its despotism was historically determined, necessitated by the historical task of dismantling the structures of dependency and launching the nation on to a path beyond primitive accumulation. At his best Buhari may have been a Bonaparte or a Bismarck. At his worst he may have been a Hitler or a Mussolini. In either case Buharism drawn to its logical conclusion would have provided the bedrock for a new society and its overthrow marked a relapse, a step backward into that era from which we sought escape and in which, sadly for all of us we remain embedded and enslaved. I will now proceed with an elaboration of Buharism as a manifestation of bourgeois economics and political economy."
In his concluding paragraph, Sanusi wrote: “Having said all this let me conclude by saying that if Buhari gets a nomination he will have my vote (for what it is worth). I will vote for him not, like some have averred, because he is a northerner and a Muslim or because I think his candidacy is good for the north and Islam; I will vote for him not because I think he will make a good democrat or that he was not a dictator. I will vote for Buhari as a Nigerian for a leader who restored my pride and dignity and my belief in the motherland. I will vote for the man who made it undesirable for the “Andrews” to “check out” instead of staying to change Nigeria. I will vote for Buhari to say thank you for the world view of Buharism, a truly nationalist ideology for all Nigerians. I do not know if Buhari is still a nationalist or a closet bigot and fanatic, or if he was the spirit and not just the face of Buharism. My vote for him is not based on a divination of what he is or may be, but a celebration of what his government was and what it gave to the nation.”  Interested reader may google up the full article.
I do not know whether Sanusi still holds this opinion about Buhari, but one thing I’m sure of is that his current boss will not be comfortable with this endorsement.
Like Sanusi promised ahead of the 2003 elections, I will also vote for Buhari. Not only that, I will mobilize within my very modest means to contribute to the actualization of Buhari presidency.  Apart from Buhari’s impressive economic orientation stressed by Sanusi in his intervention, I believe if our national attitude changes, which a Buhari presidency can achieve, other things will fall in place. Now is the time for a bloodless revolution which the Buhari ticket represents.  I spread the message of hope when there was widespread suspicion about Sanusi’s appointment as manager of the Nation’s economy, today I am proud many people have now seen what I saw earlier in Sanusi. Now it’s Buhari. Will you, dear reader, join me in spreading the message of hope again?
Suraj Oyewale
Victoria Island, Lagos
February 4, 2011

Nigeria And Israel: The Kidnap Of Umaru Dikko

Max Siollun

Max Siollun is a historian and commentator on Nigerian political and governmental issues, with a focus on those pertaining to Nigerian history and the Nigerian military’s participation in politics.  He has written a number of articles and critiques regarding Nigerian history, politics and its military coups.  He is also the author of a forthcoming book on the origins of military engagement in Nigerian politics. Mr Siollun welcomes reader feedback on his articles and may be contacted by clicking hereHis website.

View all articles by Max Siollun
Nigeria And Israel: The Kidnap Of Umaru Dikko
Over the next few weeks, I will be revisiting the controversial attempt to kidnap Umaru Dikko in 1984.  Dikko was one of the most powerful and notorious figures in the government of President Shagari between 1979 and 1983. This is the first of a three part series which recounts the circumstances, timing and details of the kidnap. 

Umaru Dikko

Alhaji Umaru Abdurrahaman Dikko was born on December 31, 1936 in the small village of Wamba , close to Zaria in Kaduna State .  As a young man Dikko worked for the BBC’s Hausa service.  He has been at the vanguard of northern Nigerian politics since the 1960s when, then as a promising young politician he was instrumental in (i) mobilizing northern public opinion against Nigeria’s first military government headed by Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and (ii) he was also secretary of the committee of northern politicians that toured the north to build support for the creation of states across the federation in 1966.  By the time civilian democratic rule was restored in 1979, Dikko had matured into a wily and experienced politician. 

Background: Corruption in the 1980s

The early 1980s were marked by spectacular government corruption.  It is not that corruption did not exist before, but that it was amplified due to greater availability of funds.  Since there was more money around, the asking price for kickbacks rose correspondingly and the corruption became unashamedly brazen.  It was claimed that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost between 1979 and 1983 during the reign of President Shagari. Government ministry buildings would mysteriously burst into flames just before audits, making it impossible to discover written evidence of corruption.  President Shagari later claimed that he pleaded with his ministers to stop embezzling state funds but was simply ignored.  The exasperated Shagari said he simply gave up and prayed over the matter.  No politician symbolised the graft and avarice under Shagari’s government more than the combative Transport Minister Umaru Dikko.  Stories regarding Dikko’s corruption are legion.  One such instance arises in the biography of an American contractor that had a contract with the Nigerian government. When the government was not performing its obligations under the contract, the contractor took his complaint directly to Dikko.  After listening to the contractor’s complaints, Dikko went into an adjacent room and emerged moments later with a suitcase full of money which the contractor estimated at approximately half a million US dollars.  Dikko then said words to the effect that if the deal could be done a little “differently” life would be easier for both of them.  Realising that he would be in Dikko’s pocket forever if he accepted, the contractor wisely refused the offer (Life Is an Excellent Adventure: An Irreverent Personal Odyssey, by Jerry Funk).

Aside from being the Transport Minister Dikko headed a notorious presidential task force charged with alleviating food shortages by distributing imported rice.  The task force was accused of hoarding rice to artificially exacerbate existing food shortages in order to drive prices up further, and of issuing import licenses to businessmen with connections to the ruling NPN party.  Dikko’s name became synonymous with corruption.  In many ways Dikko became the 1980s answer to first republic Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh who was similarly disliked by army officers (leading to his assassination during a military coup in 1966).  The comparison was not fanciful.  Dikko was the ultimate personification and symbol of 1980s corruption and shady deals in Nigeria .  He perhaps thought himself untouchable because he was President Shagari’s brother-in-law and had the President’s ear.  Stories have been told of how Dikko would follow Shagari around after major policy decisions so as to ensure that Shagari would not change his mind, and to ensure that each day, his was the last opinion that Shagari heard. 

Dikko also had a way of rubbing people the wrong way.  At a time of soaring inflation, scarce commodities and falling oil prices, Dikko’s contribution to a debate about poverty in Nigeria was to remark that things were not so bad, since after all Nigerians were not yet eating out of dustbins.  He managed to antagonise even his colleagues in the ruling NPN.  The NPN had an elaborate zoning system for the distribution of government portfolios - including the presidency.  Since the presidency had been zoned to President Shagari (from the north), the multi-billionaire businessman, Moshood Abiola hoped he would benefit from the NPN’s zoning system. Abiola assumed that when President Shagari’s term of office expired, the NPN would “zone” the presidency to the south, and he would be allowed to run for President.   He was wrong.  When Abiola articulated his presidential ambition, he was rebuffed by Dikko who told him that “the presidency is not for sale to the highest bidder”.  Abiola “retired” from politics soon after – totally exasperated with the NPN.  Abiola was however to remerge from the shadows to play a key role in Nigeria ’s political history. 

Dikko and the Military

Dikko also made himself unpopular not just with the public, colleagues and the press, but also with military officers.  Given his high profile in the government and scandalous corruption, Dikko knew that if a military coup occurred, he would be a marked man. 
He kept tabs on senior military officers by ordering covert surveillance on them.  Dikko was playing a dangerous game given that the senior echelons of the armed forces officer corps were highly politicised and loaded with officers with significant coup plotting or military regime experience.  Among such officers included the Director of Staff Duties and Plans Major-General Ibrahim Babangida, the GOC of the 3 armoured Division in Jos Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, and brigade commander Ibrahim Bako.  There was political experience among the service chiefs too.  Chief of Defence Staff Lt-General Gibson Jalo was a former SMC member, Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Mohammed Wushishi was the former Minister of Trade and Industries and Chief of Naval Staff Akin Aduwo was a former Military Governor.  Babangida, Buhari, Jalo, Wushishi and Aduwo all served together under the military regime of General Obasanjo.  Buhari complained to President Shagari that Dikko had ordered his movements to be monitored.  Dikko had woken a sleeping tiger. 

In October 1983 President Shagari was re-elected for his second and final term of office in an election that was marred by accusations of electoral malpractice.  His campaign was managed by his brother-in-law Dikko.  The stage was set for another military rescue operation. 

The Military Returns

At 7am on new year’s day 1984 the following broadcast was made by a hitherto unknown army officer:

“Fellow countrymen and women.  I, Brigadier Sani Abacha, of the Nigerian army address you this morning on behalf of the Nigerian armed forces.

You are all living witnesses to the great economic predicament and uncertainty, which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years. I am referring to the harsh, intolerable conditions under which we are now living. Our economy has been hopelessly mismanaged. We have become a debtor and beggar nation.  There is inadequacy of food at reasonable prices for our people who are now fed up with endless announcements of importation of foodstuffs. Health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water and equipment. Our educational system is deteriorating at an alarming rate.  Unemployment figures including the undergraduates have reached embarrassing and unacceptable proportions.  In some states, workers are being owed salary arrears of eight to twelve months and in others there are threats of salary cuts.  Yet our leaders revel in squandermania, corruption and indiscipline, and continue to proliferate public appointments in complete disregard of our stark economic realities.

After due consultations over these deplorable conditions, I and my colleagues in the armed forces have in the discharge of our national role as promoters and protectors of our national interest decided to effect a change in the leadership of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and form a Federal Military Government. This task has just been completed.  The Federal Military Government hereby decrees the suspension of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 relating to all elective and appointive offices and representative institutions including the office of the President, state governors, federal and state executive councils, special advisers, special assistants, the establishment of the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly including the formation of political parties.

Accordingly, Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari ceases forthwith to be the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria .  All the incumbents of the above named offices shall, if they have not already done so, vacate their formal official residences, surrender all government property in their possession and report to the nearest police station in their constituencies within seven days.  The clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, within two weeks, render account of all the properties of the National Assembly.  All the political parties are banned; the bank account of FEDECO and all the political parties are frozen with immediate effect.  All foreigners living in any part of the country are assured of their safety and will be adequately protected.  Henceforth, workers not on essential duties are advised to keep off the streets.  All categories of workers on essential duties will, however, report at their places of work immediately.

With effect from today, a dusk to dawn curfew will be imposed between 7pm and 6am each day until further notice.  All airways flights have been suspended forthwith and all airports, seaports, and border posts closed. External communications have been cut. The Customs and Excise, Immigration and the Police will maintain vigilance and ensure watertight security at the borders.  The area administrators or commanders will have themselves to blame if any of the wanted people escape. Fellow countrymen and women, the change in government has been a bloodless and painstaking operation and we do not want anyone to lose his or her life. People are warned in their own interest to be law abiding and to give the Federal Military Government maximum cooperation.  Anyone caught disturbing public order will be summarily dealt with.

For avoidance of doubt, you are forewarned that we shall not hesitate to declare martial law in any area or state of the federation in which disturbances occur. Fellow countrymen and women and comrades at arms, I will like to assure you that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is ready to lay its life for our dear nation but not for the present irresponsible leadership of the past civilian administration.

You are to await further announcements.  Good morning.”

The struggle is my life – Buhari

General Muhammadu Buhari remains as stern as he was when he ruled Nigeria as military head of state between 1984 and 1985 with Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon (now of blessed memory). For them, discipline both in managing the nation’s scarce resources and in the daily life of the citizens was non-negotiable. Today, having served as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which was established by General Sanni Abacha’s regime, Buhari is sad because all what he and his colleagues laboured for have been destroyed. He has remained in opposition since 2003 when he first contested the presidential election and lost to Olusegun Obasanjoand again in 2007, when he lost to late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
As leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari believes that his party, though would not be allowed to be swallowed by others, would continue in its talk with other opposition parties with similar objectives to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election. He speaks on this and sundry issues with some journalist in Lagos including Deputy Sunday Editor, TUNDE ABATAN, insisting that his life is synonymous with struggle for a better society.


Is the report that you have rejected former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, as your running mate in next year’s election true?
There was no paper in Kaduna before I left for Lagos. But I have got the paper and have not read it. There is no iota of truth about the report. If you could recall, from mega party to mega movement to National Democratic Initiative to National Democratic Movement, all these were efforts we were making to try to form a coalition against the ruling party. I believe the talk is continuing, even as other 22 groups are coming to CPC. Another 41 associations say they are going with another group. The important thing about this is that we are still talking. So by the end of next month, when we are supposed to have conducted the primaries and the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) has the names of those who are to contest for the national election, all these talks would have completed.
So the report that I rejected the former governor of Lagos State as my running mate is really not true. I think the paper wants to force us to hear the other side of the story.
Why is the issue of merger among the leading opposition parties taking so long to consummate?
When you go into your archives, you will know that the party, CPC, gave a statement that it would not fuse with any party. But we prefer to discuss with groups of parties for any type of alliance that would identify and discuss that kind of alliance and then we negotiate and we form the alliance. We hope to do that by the end of December. I think by that time, INEC must have received all the names of those who are going to participate in all the elections from House of Assembly, National Assembly, governorship and the presidential.
The Northern leaders have often accused you of being a lone ranger on the issue of a consensus candidate for the North. What is your reaction to this?
Because CPC refused to be part of PDP definition of leadership in the country, that is why they accuse us of being a lone ranger. Our constituency is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So what the PDP is doing about zoning that is creating dichotomy between the North and the South is the PDP’s problem and not CPC’s. We have made that clear so many times. This is what I am trying to tell you. It is PDP affair. Our constituency is the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not a group of northern Nigerians. Let me make this final explanation. I saw some political sense in what the so-called Northern Leaders did in 1998 and 1999. 
The 1993 election was free and fair. And the election was a Muslim/Muslim ticket. This is significant because either religion or tribe didn’t come in. And (MKO) Abiola – may his soul rest in peace – won the election with his running mate, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe from the North East. But that election was annulled. Subsequently, Abiola, you know, was arrested and he died in detention. And the leadership then – I was not in politics then – thought there was a raw deal with the South West. But when the leaders went to pick (Olusegun) Obasanjo, their concern was the South West. They just did it on their own. From there, that is where they institutionalised North/South dichotomy. So it is a PDP problem and they better accept it. If you can get a copy of their constitution, it is there. So don’t keep on harassing CPC for PDP problem. 
Do you have faith in President Goodluck Jonathan as regards the conduct of free and fair elections and electoral reform in 2011?
Well, I would tell you some of the things I observed. First, when (Goodluck) Jonathan was sworn in as president, he had been a vice president and acting president. He went to the United States and met President (Barack) Obama. He identified some problems which every Nigerian that is following political events agreed with him: insecurity in the country – physical insecurity; the issue of free and fair election, because the stability of this country depends on free and fair election next year; unemployment; and the infrastructure of the country led by the PDP in the last 12 years is nothing to write home about. He made a promise and when he came back, he said he was going to do them. Fourth, when Jega’s name was submitted to him to become the chairman of the INEC, he never knew Professor Jega. He approved it and forwarded it to the National Assembly for approval. Fifth, when INEC asked for money, he approved it. And sixth, when the election law was sent to him, he sent it to the National Assembly and without minding that he asked for some modification later. 
With this trend, to be fair to the president, he tried to convince Nigerians and the people outside that he intends to run a free and fair election, even, if he is participating in the election. This is my own personal opinion and this is my personal observation. I may be wrong.
What has been your source of strength after having been in the race since 2003 and 2007, and despite the limited fund at your disposal, you have remained in opposition?
You mentioned that I contested in 2003 and in 2007 and asked why I have not thrown in the towel. It is my conviction (to believe) in one Nigeria. And I am the generation that went through all the problems this country had from January 1966 to date. Political and military leadership were almost wiped out. There was a coup and counter-coup. It led to a civil war. After the coup and counter-coup, I was in problem. I, myself, was detained for more than three years. But I believe in this country. And I believe I have so much investment in this country in terms of political suffering. By my profession, having gone through all the destabilisation and so on, again, having been a governor, a minister and later head of state, I just can’t sit and do nothing. I then joined politics at least with the belief that I can use my position to impose some restrictions on the reckless politics of Nigeria. And my feeling was strengthened in 1991 by what happened to the Soviet Union. I said it many times that the Soviet Union in the 20th century collapsed without being solidified. Now, they are about 18 republics. This proved to me, conclusively, that by my own assessment, multi-party democracy is the best governance. And the biggest caveat is the free and fair election. And the bottom-line now is CPC. Free and fair election is the answer. Let the elite go and deliver their constituencies, for goodness sake. They are the problem of Nigeria. Let them go and deliver their constituencies. Let us persuade the elite that Nigeria is the issue. Nothing else! Let them register, let them vote and let them ensure their votes count. And whatever happens to them is their problem. Not to vote and complain, we will ever remain poor in a very, very rich country. 
Everybody knows that what I fought for, one, is security. Security was physically assured. What we are saying in the CPC is that security must be assured. All this stealing must be stopped. The government of CPC will be very effective at any level. Nobody is going to be stronger than the party. 
Is the concept of generational power shift the real issues that should govern leadership in this country?
That is why we want a free and fair election. And that is why I told you that Nigerian elite should try to take the fate of their country seriously. Let them go and deliver their constituencies democratically. Educate them (constituents), allow them to choose whoever they want. And even Nigerian Constitution says, “all Nigerians” of any gender, from 18 years and above. And if the Constitution allows me, then why should anybody harass me about my age? And when the Constitution allows an age bracket between 18 years and above, what then stops young men from contesting? Nobody stops them. But let the election be free and fair. That is my problem.
Are you comfortable with INEC’s preparation for 2011?
I have told you what they want us to know through you, the press. The money they asked for was given, the time extension has been given. They said they have ordered the machines that would come in about six weeks time. Now their problem is about the amendment of the Constitution, which is because of the change in the timing or because of the change in their own programme. So we in the CPC and those who are in other parties that are going to choose candidates want to see a firm INEC programme out. We are very happy in the CPC that the election has been shifted to April next year. So we have about four months. And I think for any serious party, old or new, four months is enough to make its case. 
So far, we have been working under documents like the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria out of which the INEC Act came out. We are supposed to act within the laws. And I beg you, the press guys, to tele-guide the INEC to enforce the law. This is because without the enforcement of the document, the issue of transparency, as well as free and fair election may be compromised. Issue of integrity of persons who want to contest election is there. In this country, there are a lot of documentations, and laws and so on, but people ignore them. And you, the press, are trying your best. But I believe there is the need to keep on reminding the people about the law always. 
There is nothing in this country that has no law. If you break the law, it is deliberate, by the elite. If you follow the law, it is because of the good nature of Nigerians. 
When you are eventually elected as civilian president, can you repeat your achievements as military head of state?
Thank you so much that you understand I operated under a different circumstance then. But even then, if you follow our activities when we were there, we made the laws and executed them. I know we executed a few people, we jailed a few people, including some of your colleagues, but we did that within the law.
We didn’t close a single institution and denied thousands of people job. We didn’t do it. The late Tunde (Idiagbon) and I didn’t do it that way. We made the law, and anybody who dared the law we dared him. That was then. Please, you can go to the records and you will find that there. Both of us fought corruption virtually from the country in our time. Now Nigerians know better. Probably, you will give us another opportunity to come back and make a difference under a different circumstance.
Why still answering General?
I earned generalship. If you could recall, all those who became heads of state jumped from Colonel or Lt. Colonel to General. I was a Major General and I was removed as a Major General. I never promoted myself. 
Do you think CPC, as a young party, has enough spread to be able to win elections next year?
CPC is not only in the North. The national secretary is from Lagos State. May be they are not working hard. We are also in the South East and in the South South. We have got representation. What you probably mean is the Buhari campaign organisation which was inaugurated in 2002. And we have offices in every state of this country. Really, we have been in the field. You can only rightly say that we have more supporters in the North than every other place. I agree with you. But I am aware that we are all over the country and that, as I have told you in the course of this interview, the time extension of election will help us between now and next year. We need the time, especially as a new party. We will be able to be on ground to conduct our campaign from January to March.  

Truth, Bigots and Purveyors of Ignorance

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Guest Columnist  : Chuka Odom
Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode’s piece titled, Lagos, The Igbo and Servants of Truth (THISDAY August 9, 2013) made an interesting reading. The clearly unconstitutional deportation of some Nigerians (of Igbo extraction) from Lagos to Anambra State on the grounds that they were destitute was the catalyst for Fani-Kayode’s outburst. His and other uninformed response to an issue that is essentially a constitutional matter has once again exposed the fault lines in our so called unity in diversity.
I was tempted to ignore the said contribution just like a few others that made no sense to me. However, I feel obliged to respond to Fani-Kayode simply because he claims to be a student of history and a historian as well. He no doubt imagines himself informed and thus on a mission to educate, in his words “younger Nigerians” who need to learn “to do their own research and to study their own history”. It is against this background that this intervention will attempt to evaluate his claims and ascertain their veracity or otherwise.
Fani-Kayode made four main assertions:-
1) That the relocation from Lagos to Anambra of 19 destitute persons of Igbo extraction by the government of Lagos State was in order.
2) That the Igbos have nothing to do with the development of Lagos “other than Ajegunle, Computer Village, Alaba and buying up numerous market stalls in Isale Eko”.
3) That “younger Nigerians” (and I read that to mean “younger Igbo Nigerians”) are ignorant of their history and need to do their research like the one he has done in the piece under discussion.
4) That Lagos was developed by Yoruba money (whatever that means) and not oil money.
I understand that Fani-Kayode is a lawyer. Any lawyer knows that the forced “relocation” of a Nigerian citizen under our constitution without recourse to law or due process is a gross infringement on the fundamental right of that person irrespective of the person’s state of origin, circumstance of birth, social status or occupation.
Indeed, the reference to these citizens as destitute which was the basis for the breach of their most fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution is reflective of the contempt which the ruling elite now hold their fellow citizens simply because of their privileged access to the Commonwealth.
These destitute and homeless people were displaced by the greed and visionless policies of successive governments. Lagos State government as one of the few functional governments in Nigeria must realise that part of the responsibility of government anywhere in the world is the care and welfare of the weak and vulnerable segments of the society. This attempt to criminalise poverty in a dysfunctional and deeply corrupt environment that is ours is intrinsically immoral and reprehensible evil. Human beings are not refuse to be dumped by trucks at bridgehead in the middle of the night. This act does not reflect our core values and do not mirror who we are. The rights invested in the citizen under the constitution are so sacred that no responsible government would trample them in this manner.
One of the sore points in the United States drone war against terrorists arose as a result of the assassination of a known terrorist who happened to be an American citizen. The indisputable fact that the victim was a terrorist did not make his killing acceptable because he was first and foremost an American citizen and the government has no power to kill American citizens without recourse to law and due process. What I had expected Fani-Kayode and the army of “human right” lawyers (who are mainly Fani-Kayode’s kinsmen) was to rise in defence of the common man irrespective of their origin, class or creed. It is sad that they became silent because the victims are Igbos!
I know Governor Babatunde Fashola is a smart person and I believe that he would soon do the smart thing by acknowledging this wrongful act, make  amends and move on with his good works. Fashola does not need the meaningless posturing of Fani-Kayode and the other political chameleons defending an indefensible act.
It is a gratuitous insult for anybody to suggest that the only contribution the Igbos have made in the development of Lagos is in the area of trade and commerce. Yes, the Igbos are proud of their entrepreneurial skills just as the Yorubas are proud of their penchant for funfare and merriment. Every tribe has an identity.
Lagos boasts a mega-city status not due to its indigenous population but its non-indigenous immigrant population comprising Yorubas, Igbos, Hausas, Ijaws, Efiks and other Nigerian tribes. Historically, Lagos indigenous population were not famous for their intellectual or commercial endeavours. The emergence of Lagos as a centre of trade and commerce started with its contact with Portuguese traders in the 15th century when it became a major market and outpost for shipment of slaves to South America.
Interestingly, modern day Lagos was founded by the Bini in the 16th Century. The Bini ruled Lagos until 1851 when the British colonialists captured the city and later annexed it in 1861. With the abolition of slave trade, returnee freed slaves who have been exposed to western influence and education became the first intellectual community. These freed slaves were not only Yorubas but (as their names suggest) also from other ethnic groups affected by the slave trade. These pioneers of modern Lagos were Nigerians from all parts of the country. Most of the slaves were actually captured from the hinterlands and taken to the sea ports for transportation.
In modern day Lagos, the influence of Igbo merchants dates  back to the commercial exploits in the transport sector of Sir Louis Odimegwu Ojukwu and other numerous Igbo business pioneers whose offsprings today control more than 40% of the major financial institutions in Nigeria and whose contributions to the GDP of Lagos State over the years run into trillions of naira. These are the pioneers who can rightly claim Lagos as we know it today. Ikeja which was the administrative headquarters of Lagos State for more than 25 years and had a huge Yoruba population cannot boast 10 (ten storey buildings) that was not built by the federal government or privately owned by immigrant business concerns.
This claim that Lagos was not developed by oil money is turning truth on its head and a complete hogwash. Lagos served as the capital of Nigeria from independence to 1991. In this period, a substantial investment in infrastructure by the federal government was concentrated in Lagos.  The Third Mainland Bridge and virtually all major roads in and out of Lagos were all constructed and some are still being constructed by the federal government to date. Where did the federal money come from? Maybe from Fani-Kayode’s cocoa plantations.
Since he is a historian, it may interest Fani-Kayode to know that in the early part of the 17th century , the Oba of Bini sent a war expedition led by Prince Ado to Lagos over a minor issue of disagreement over the passage of the Oba’s merchants through Lagos. The people refused to fight and instead welcomed Prince Ado and his soldiers and requested him to govern them. Prince Ado agreed on the condition that they surrender their sovereignty to the Oba of Bini which they quickly accepted. Consequently, the Oba of Bini in exercise of his authority over Lagos sent some of his chiefs including Eletu Odibo, Obanikoro and several others who assisted Prince Ado in the running of Lagos. These are indisputable historical facts and not the falsehood Fani-Kayode wants to teach younger Nigerians as history.  The reality is that modern day Lagosians have so intermingled that no single tribe or people can claim it even though the predominant language is Yoruba.
The reference to Lagos often as “no man’s land” is not in bad faith or taste but more as a tribute to Lagos as the amalgam of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and beyond. I have not met an Igbo man who traced his ancestry to Lagos. This brazen attempt to cause disaffection amongst inhabitants of a mega metropolitan city is in my view unbecoming of a man who claims to be a nationalist.
I do not know which generation of Nigerians of Igbo extraction Fani-Kayode wants to learn history but I do know that most Igbos born after the civil war are aware of their history despite not witnessing the tragic events of the civil war. I do not think that Fani-Kayode is a nationalist. Genuine patriots walk the talk and do not engage in acts or utterances that polarise ethnic groups and deepen mutual suspicion.
Yes, God will deliver Nigeria but He urgently needs to deliver the bigots and purveyors of ignorance in our midst.
•Chuka Odom is a former Minister of state (FCT)

Suntai’s Wife Begs Legislators

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The absurd drama playing out in Taraba State has entered another phase with Hajia Hauwa, the wife of Governor Danbaba Suntai prevailing on members of the State House of Assembly not to impeach her ailing husband.
This development followed the signing of signatures by the legislators for the impeachment of the governor, because the legislators believe he is not fit enough to resume duty after being in hospitals for 10 months as result of the life threatening injuries he sustained in a plane crash last October.
The legislators began the impeachment move yesterday after the governor announced the dissolution of the state cabinet through his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Sylvanus Giwa.
Sources told P.M.NEWS this morning that Hauwa got wind of the impeachment move and quickly arranged for the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Haruna Tsokwa, and a few other legislators to visit the governor.
Since Suntai was hurriedly brought back from America last Sunday, Hauwa did not allow the Speaker or the Acting Governor, Garba Umar, to have audience with him.
Our sources said that during yesterday’s meeting with the governor, he could not recognise the Speaker or call him by his name.
Suntai was said to be muttering “oh, my friend… my friend… my friend” and faded off again.
P.M.NEWS further gathered that in spite of Hauwa’s intervention, the legislators are going ahead with their impeachment plan as 17 of them have already signed the impeachment notice.
The legislators are said to be angry about the allegedly stage-managed video of Suntai’s purported broadcast to the people of the state yesterday.
Residents of the state who spoke to P.M.NEWS this morning said there was nothing like a live broadcast by the ailing governor as reported by a section of the media today, adding that it was a stage-managed recorded tape that the state owned television station broadcast yesterday.
Our sources also said the swearing in of the new Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Timothy Kataps, was also stage-managed as none of the documents pertaining to his swearing in was signed by the Commissioner for Oaths.

President’s ex-girlfriend executed by firing squad

NORTH KOREA LEADERThe ex-girlfriend of North Korean leader Kim-Jong-un was one of a dozen people reportedly executed by a firing squad last week.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports that singer Hyon Song-wol and 11 others had been arrested on August 17 for violating North Korea’s laws against pornography and was executed three days later.
The paper reported that the condemned, all members of the performing groups Unhasu Orchestra and Wangjaesan Light Music Band, were accused of making videos of themselves having sex and selling the videos, which the paper reported were available in China.
“They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on,” a source told the paper. The source added that the victim’s families appear to have all been sent to prison camps.
Kim Jong-un reportedly met Hyon Song-wol approximately 10 years ago, before he was married. The relationship between the two is believed to have ended after interference from Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, though the two had been rumored to be having an affair. Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before their marriage. It is not clear if she had any role in the executions.

BREAKING NEWS: Mimiko wins finally at S’court

mimikoGovernor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state has finally been declared as lawful winner of Ondo State Governorship Election.
The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja this morning dismissed the petition of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its candidate, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) who is challenging the victory of Governor Olusegun Mimiko at the last October 20, gubernatorial poll in Ondo State.
The judgement of the Presiding Judge, Justice Murktar, has it that only two out of the five issues for determination in Akeredolu’s appeal are valid.
The judge added that the appellant failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt criminal allegation of connivance in injection of names.
“When a mercenary expert presents evidence, the court has the right to disregard. ACN’s appeal dismissed and parties to bear costs.” The judge said

Fear Of Crisis In Niger Delta As Lamnalco Dares Militants, Sacks 40 Workers

Security operatives in the Niger Delta are bracing for a possible bloody crisis in the region following what has been described as indiscriminate sacking of about forty workers by the management of Lamnalco Nigeria Limited. The firing of the workers came after militants in the region warned against it, threatening armed attacks if their warning was not heeded.
The company’s decision to fire the workers, who are of Niger Delta origin, was seen as a slap in the face of militants, two powerful oil workers’ unions, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, as well as the judiciary.
One of the sacked workers told our correspondent that he and other fired workers had each put in more than 15 years in the company. “The management used alcohol and drugs tests as an excuse to lay off about forty of us,” the source said.
A senior manager of the company, who said he was unhappy about the firings, told our correspondent that the company brought in doctors and lab scientists into the company’s boats in a military-style “cordon and search” operation to conduct tests on the affected workers in order for Lamnalco to evade paying severance benefits to the sacked workers. Some of the sacked workers served as officials of the Lamnalco branch of NUPENG.
The sacked workers include Captain James Yangaboi, Victor Urevbu, Bernard Amadi, Canbi Opeme, Dennis Zifa, and Nelson Usilo. According to the management source, “Lamnalco’s vessels are not known to have experienced mishaps arising from drug or alcohol intake by captains and crew members. Most members of staff targeted for sacking have rather seen the company grow from five vessels in 1992 to over 28 ocean-going vessels with contracts in the West African sub-region. So the drug and alcohol test policy had never been applied in the entire company operations spanning over 21 years in Nigeria.”
The management source added that Lamnalco’s actions arose from the workers’ refusal to comply with the February 8, 2013 verdict of the National Industrial Court (NIC) Lagos which ruled that Lamnalco workers can only be members of National Seafarers and Collaborating Unions (NSCU), but not NUPENG and PENGASSAN. The workers filed an appeal against the judgment.
“The company’s action is part of plot not only to sack Niger Delta workers but to deprive them of many benefits contained in the employer-employee Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA),” one of the affected workers alleged. He added that the plot began with the relocation of Lamnalco’s headquarters from Port Harcourt to Lagos. “The relocation achieved the twin goals of easing out office staff that are Ijaw/Niger Delta and forestalled protests,” he said.
Numerous workers asserted that, following the NIC verdict, Lamnalco declined to pay an automatic 5% increase in salary to senior staff as well as the leave allowances to junior staff. In addition, the company reportedly refused to negotiate with the workers’ union when the last CBA expired in May 31, 2013 and failed to pay any benefits under the subsisting CBA.
“Can Lamnalco claim to be obeying the rule of law when it is suspending the CBA and sacking NUPENG/PENGASSAN officials? Yet, there is a pending appeal of the NIC verdict. Should the status quo not remain till the outcome of the appeal?” queried a source.
A militant group known as the Coastal Revolutionary Forces (CRF) had in March 2013 warned Lamnalco against proceeding with its planned layoffs without offering benefits to sacked workers. CRF vowed that it would strike the company’s ocean-going vessels without further notice should its warning be ignored.
In a strike threat that was later suspended, NUPENG-PENGASSAN also accused Lamnalco of daily threats and intimidation of workers for refusing to change their union/association to the NSCU as demanded by the NIC verdict.
“The painstaking implementation of the NIC verdict by Lamnalco in the pendency of an appeal is believed to lend credence to the company’s alleged sponsorship of NSCU with N50 million in the suit that culminated in the verdict,” the union stated.
In an email response to our questions, Lamnalco’s Human Resources Manager, Ndubuisi Ibegbulam, said the company had begun dealing with the Seafarers Collaborating Unions and stopped all dealings with NUPENG/PENGASSAN in keeping with the NIC’s verdict. Mr. Ibegbulam refused to state whether unpaid benefits due staff before the NIC verdict had been paid or would be paid.
Mr. Ibegbulam said he was aware of a judicial appeal filed by PENGASSAN, but added that the firm did not regard the filing of an appeal as amounting to a superior court’s order to stay execution of the earlier verdict. He insisted that there was no ongoing sack exercise.
On the alleged drug and alcohol tests, Mr. Ibegbulam stated that, following an “audit by one of our clients, it became mandatory to strictly enforce the drug and alcohol tests.” He stressed that the tests were an international policy. He further dismissed insinuations that the terminations were based on union membership. He said there was nothing like NUPENG/PENGASSAN in Lamnalco at the time the NUPENG chairman, secretary and treasurer were sacked, insisting that their terminations were done in line with their contract of service.
Several workers told our correspondent that they lived in daily fear of being the next victim in a war in which they are not sure if NUPENG and PENGASSAN could save them from the hammer.