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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ize-Iyamu Group set to dump Edo APC for PDP


By Charles Igbinidu

The  struggle for supremacy in Edo State branch of the All Progressive Congress (APC) may soon snowball into a split as the Group loyal to the former National Vice Chairman, South-South of the ACN and now a chieftain of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is set to dump the Party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) It would be recalled that the Ize-Iyamu group made up mainly of the supporters of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion played a pivotal role in helping Governor Adams Oshiomhole to neutralize Chief Tony Anenih in Edo State.
The Ize-Iyamu group was previously members of PDP who left for ACN as a result of the perceived overbearing influence of Chief Anenih in PDP.
ionigeria.com can authoritatively report that in furtherance of the goal of returning to PDP, Pastor Ize-Iyamu led some members of his Group including members of the State House of Assembly and some legislators at the national level to meet with PDP at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday. At the meeting, the Group pledged their loyalty and support to President Goodluck Jonathan and assured him of their backing in 2015.
The crisis in the Edo branch of APC is closely linked to the politics of who should succeed Oshiomhole as governor when his tenure expires. While Pastor Ize-Iyamu wants to be the next governor of the State, Oshiomhole’s body language seems to be in favour of his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu.
Ionigeria.com investigations revealed that the Presidential Villa meeting was preceded by a series of meetings between Ize-Iyamu and the leaders of PDP in Benin City. The PDP, it was further gathered is working very hard to bring back most of its former members in the State who are now in APC. The arrow heads of the PDP rapprochement in Edo South Senatorial Zone include Senator Roland Owie, Brigadier General Samuel Ogbemudia, and Chief Gabriel Igbinedion.
To achieve their goal, Chief Tony Anenih was told to stay away from the politics of Edo South and focus on Edo Central and Edo North.
Preparation for the movement of Ize-Iyamu and his group to PDP is expected to be concluded before the planned rally of the Party in May. President Jonathan is also expected at the rally.
Meanwhile, Governor Oshiomhole is said not to have given up completely. He is still making efforts to meet with the group but Pastor Ize-Iyamu seems to have irrevocably made up his mind.

Soccer Match Fixer Claims He Helped Nigeria Reach 2010 World Cup


Wilson Maj Perumal
By PM News, Lagos
A Singaporean match-fixer has claimed the he helped Nigeria and Honduras qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Wilson Raj Perumal, a self-confessed match-fixer who was part of a syndicate that has been placed at the heart of a sophisticated network responsible for fixing hundreds of matches around the world, claimed in a new book that he assisted Nigeria reach the World Cup through his activities.
In his book, he detailed a meeting with a football official in which he promised to help Nigeria qualify for the World Cup in return for free rein in organising three warm-up matches and a cut of the money Fifa provides for hosting a training camp during the tournament.
First, he claimed to influence three players on his payroll to help Nigeria to victory in one of their qualifiers. Then he claimed to have promised the Mozambique FA a $100,000 bonus if they were able to hold Tunisia to a draw, to stop Tunisia from leapfrogging Nigeria and seizing automatic qualification. Mozambique secured an unlikely 1-0 victory.
“My plan had worked and I was the unsung hero of Nigeria’s qualification to the final rounds of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa,” writes Perumal. “Ferrying Nigeria and Honduras to the World Cup was a personal achievement. ‘Fuck,’ I considered. ‘I got two teams to qualify for the World Cup but I cannot tell anyone.’”
He also claimed to have attempted unsuccessfully to bribe referees at the World Cup itself. Perumal, who served a year of his sentence in Finland after promising to co-operate with the authorities, claimed to have had a hand in or profited from fixed matches all over the globe, from Latin America to Serie A.
Perumal admitted to being part of a syndicate that fixed a string of international friendlies by bribing corrupt officials and compromised players, but this is the first time that he has claimed to have influenced World Cup qualifiers.
Perumal was arrested in Helsinki in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison. He agreed to co-operate with the authorities and implicated his fellow Singaporean Dan Tan, alleged to be at the heart of the fixing and gambling ring that placed bets on illicit Chinese markets.
Last year Europol alleged that more than 380 professional matches in Europe and more than 300 matches played in Africa, Asia and central and South America were under suspicion as the scale of the activities of match-fixing gangs from eastern Europe and Asia became clear.
Perumal’s book, written in conjunction with the investigative journalists Alessandro Righi and Emanuele Piano, details the huge sums of money he won and lost – up to €3m in a single night – and the huge reach of the match-fixing syndicate.
Perumal also alleged that during a trip to England in 1995 he tried unsuccessfully to bribe two Premier League goalkeepers. Perumal was rearrested last week in Finland on an international arrest warrant. The arrest is believed to relate to an earlier conviction in Singapore, rather than to match-fixing.
Kelong Kings, by Wilson Raj Perumal with Alessandro Righi and Emanuele Piano, is available to buy as an e-book. A self-published paperback will be on sale shortly.

In Lagos, the 1% Takes Stock

A burgeoning wealthy class is settling into one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities, attracting designers, world-class architects and a growing creative community that seeks to preserve its culture through art and fashion.
Courtesy of Janice Robinson
The Land Cruisers and Range Rovers began lining up on a steamy Sunday afternoon outside Tafawa Balewa Square long before sunset. The banking tycoon Otunba Subomi Balogun was hosting his 80th birthday party and nobody wanted to be late, and there was also the matter of inching past the press of beggars living in the square’s arcade. Once through a security line, women in gold headdresses and men in white robes disembarked. Balogun lives in a mansion modeled on the White House, furnished entirely in white and gold, and the invitation had asked guests to wear his favorite colors.
Guests sashayed through the tent doors into a scene of surreal opulence. At the far end of the tent, engulfed by servants, courtiers, national politicians and guards with wires in their ears, the celebrant perched beside his wife on a throne covered with white faux fur, his every move broadcast on flat-screens arrayed around the tent walls. From the throne, the founder of the First City Monument Bank (F.C.M.B.) could survey his 1,000 guests, acres of floral arrangements and goldfish ponds brought in for the occasion, and the legion of waiters ferrying Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot and steaming trays of traditional Nigerian stews and rice. Bands and dancers performed in succession, a professional actress emceed and business and blood royalty mingled with state governors and the archbishop of Lagos. Massive cakes, one a replica of Balogun’s columned white house, and one designed to match his white Rolls-Royce, were stationed in front of the head table.
Governors began their speeches by acknowledging “the celebrant” and other honored guests whom they referred to as “your royal majesties.” The archbishop gave a benediction calling on God’s blessings. Another elderly gentleman, a childhood friend of Balogun, croaked out a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” In their formality and vocabulary, the speeches came from another era, Victorian perhaps. If a speaker could find a three-syllable word to replace a one-syllable word, he chose it. But nobody paid any attention at all. The younger guests were too busy networking, exchanging business cards and tapping numbers into their phones. Nigerians, I was told, often look like they are partying, but they never stop doing business.
The Nigerian banking tycoon Otunba Subomi Balogun designed his house to resemble the White House.Lakin OgunbanwoThe Nigerian banking tycoon Otunba Subomi Balogun designed his house to resemble the White House.
The world may still associate Nigeria with the legendary Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti and online credit card scams, but the nation is now home to one of the wealthiest microcommunities in the world. These global super-elites educate their young in Swiss boarding schools and at Oxford or Princeton, pay cash for luxury homes and cars, and hold major London and New York real estate parcels in their portfolios.
As of last year, Nigeria was the 11th largest oil-producing nation in the world. Otunba Balogun and the men of his generation amassed giant fortunes because they were in the right place and knew the right people when Nigeria began nationalizing its oil in 1971. Home to great petro-fortunes, Lagos is Dallas minus the glittery malls and pedicured blondes – although the shops are starting to come in. It is a city of mind-boggling extremes. The average life expectancy in Nigeria is about 53 years, and citizens rich and poor struggle with hourly power outages and obtain their own potable water, which the poor often carry home on their heads. A small elite live in walled enclaves where palms and bougainvillea shield Porsche collections, new palaces and swimming pools. According to a recent study by New World Wealth, the number of Nigerian millionaires is expected to reach 23,000 by 2017. As in oil-rush Texas, crazy rags to riches stories abound. More than two decades ago, the oil billionaire Folorunsho Alakija, reputedly the second-richest woman in Africa, was a fashion designer with a high-end clientele that included the then-president’s wife, Maryam Babangida. The story goes that her connection to Babangida led her to be “dashed,” or “gifted” in Nigerian pidgin English, with a license to explore a deep offshore oil block, which was then thought to be too expensive to drill. Today it spews up to 250,000 barrels daily.
The four generations of guests at Balogun’s 80th were all as tied to London as to Lagos, but the younger generations have almost no links to the provincial and traditional Nigeria of Balogun’s generation. While the “chiefs” – as some of the rich old guys are known, based on Yoruba tradition – still speak Yoruba or one of the many other tribal languages, their kids and grandkids have childhood memories involving blancmange or Yorkshire pudding, not dried plantains. The old chiefs sent their children abroad to be schooled and educated. Now those children are adults and are coming home, lured by business returns and fortunes beyond Wall Street’s wildest dreams. The returnees, as they are known, are familiar with the comforts of Western cities, but don’t mind generating their own electricity and paying for private water for their homes. They have a toughness their softer counterparts in the global 1 percent lack. One of the returnees who showed up at Balogun’s party, Kene Mkparu, 47, earned two advanced degrees in London before coming to Lagos with his wife and small children a few years ago. He co-founded Filmhouse Cinemas, which plans to build 25 theaters in Nigeria in the next six years. His kids don’t even notice when the lights flick off. “They just keep on playing,” he said. “It’s frustrating here, because there isn’t a lot of logical thinking. But we are kind of like the Europeans who came here hundreds of years ago. They didn’t let the mosquitoes bother them because they were focused on the gold.”
Younger Nigerians see uncharted marketing territory and opportunities to link Africa to the West and vice versa. The publicist Ngozi Omambala moved to Lagos in 2007 after working in the music industry in London. Clients she has worked with include the rapper Ice Prince, who won the 2013 BET Award for Best International Act: Africa, and the Nollywood and Hollywood movie star Hakeem Kae-Kazim. The energy and openness of the Nigerian music scene drew her home after years in London. “I kept coming back here on vacations,” she said. “And I would go home to London, and began to feel that the music lacked a certain vitality. I found that here. One day I just realized that this is where I belong.”
Chinedu Okeke, 29, was born in London and started British boarding school at age 7 (his Nigerian father is a legal advisor for the British government in Abuja). Okeke earned a British law degree and worked in New York, Beijing and Shanghai before moving to Lagos and starting his own branding and production company.
The artist Nike Davies Okundaye took village indigo batik symbols global.Lakin OgunbanwoThe artist Nike Davies Okundaye took village indigo batik symbols global.
Young producers like Okeke and Omambala have joined the artist and gallery owner Nike Davies Okundaye as part of a small but growing group promoting Nigerian culture within Nigeria. Okundaye, who goes by her first name, Nike, was one of the wives of a polygamous villager when she was discovered by a curator from the American Museum of Natural History for her indigo-batik skills. She eventually left her husband, and has traveled to the United States many times over the years. In 2009, she opened the Nike Centre for Art and Culture on the edge of Lagos, near the sea. Nigerian art covers four stories of walls in the space. She says returnee Nigerians are more likely to collect, filling their offices with indigenous works. “Most Nigerians won’t buy art,” she said. “They’d rather have a religious icon in their home.”
That inclination against art and culture and toward tradition and religion challenges the young, Western-educated returnees, but doesn’t deter them all.
“I spent most of my life outside and it’s not the best place to live, for many reasons, but it’s never going to change if you are not willing to do your own part to create change,” Okeke said. “I don’t think politics is my thing but I’d rather be involved than complain and be part of the problem.” He conceded that the way business is done in Lagos, especially the closed circle of wealth and the official corruption, is discouraging.
The Nike Art Gallery is a four-story showcase of Nigerian art.Lakin OgunbanwoThe Nike Art Gallery is a four-story showcase of Nigerian art.
Some of the more spectacular incidents of apparent corruption include the late military President Sani Abacha’s embezzlement, to the tune of more than $3 billion. He died in 1998, but only in March the United States froze more than $458 million in accounts linked to him. Earlier this year, the Nigerian government said it would audit its petroleum agency after the head of the central bank, who has since been fired, claimed that as much as $20 billion could be missing.
“It’s not as easy to come back as people think it is, and it’s not for everybody. I have had friends come back who haven’t been able to stick it out, there’s lots of stress and things don’t work the way they should,” Okeke said. He recently traveled around Europe and the United States trying to sell a documentary about a Nigerian music festival he produced. For him and some of the younger returnee generation, the lavish spectacles of the old guard are starting to chafe. “The power in Nigeria has remained within the same generation for 40 years. It’s not trickling down. Anybody younger who seems to have power is only there because a chief or a general, one of the set, is behind them. We need a lot of development in Nigeria, infrastructure. Nigeria should be feeding itself. But all the technical know-how and the funding needed is international. And those within the continent that have the money don’t understand how to develop it.”
Still, there are plenty of young people who guiltlessly enjoy the wealth. The chiefs and their wives and children are icons of conspicuous consumption. Nigerian peasants bend on one knee before them. Lagos’s billionaires and multimillionaires spend up to $50 million on long-range jets, and Nigeria has one of the fastest-growing markets for private aircraft in the world.
Their children’s wild pool parties, drinking binges and $250,000 weekend parties in London are local legend. Precious few from this set would think of walking the streets of Lagos; they cruise through in air-conditioned, locked luxury S.U.V.s, sometimes driven by officers wearing the elephant and red eagle insignia of the national police, who divert traffic if necessary to speed their bosses through snarled traffic. And if Lagos gets too hot, or they can’t find a store carrying the Prada bag they want, they fly to Dubai or Cape Town for the weekend.
The luxury concept store Temple Muse sells African fashion alongside brands like Givenchy and Saint Laurent, food and fashion coffee table books published by Assouline — and Champagne.Lakin OgunbanwoThe luxury concept store Temple Muse sells African fashion alongside brands like Givenchy and Saint Laurent, food and fashion coffee table books published by Assouline — and Champagne.
Luxury companies like Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss and Porsche, noticing this trend, have been opening up shop in Lagos. Since 2008, the Nigerian luxury concept store Temple Muse has sold a variety of African and foreign fashion, home and gift brands, including Givenchy, Emilio Pucci, Saint Laurent, Baccarat and Assouline. The Nigerian designer Reni Folawiyo is soon opening a concept store called Alara, designed by the London-based architect David Adjaye, in a three-story red-pigmented building that encloses a series of suspended platforms and staircases. Alara will showcase Nigerian designers as well as European houses.
“Lagos has always been an important hub in Africa and the world – but it is now emerging as one of the world’s foremost metropolitan cities,” Adjaye wrote in an email. “The fact that it can sustain a project like Alara, and others like it, is evidence of its growing wealth, recently improved infrastructure and sense of confidence. We are very much looking forward to the project completing and have been doing some feasibility work on other sites in the city. My hope is that we will continue to work there for years to come.” Indigenous fashion designers are attracting the same crowd. The growing fashion sector, like Nollywood, is indicative of a nation on the cusp of wider prosperity, explains Omoyemi Akerele, the founder of Style House Files, which organizes Lagos Fashion & Design Week. “Retail is key here,” she said. “We need to create opportunities for people to shop. People have nothing. People are returning here, because they see opportunities.”
At her store on Victoria Island in Lagos, the fashion designer Deola Sagoe infuses African fabrics with Japanese and Italian influences.Lakin OgunbanwoAt her store on Victoria Island in Lagos, the fashion designer Deola Sagoe infuses African fabrics with Japanese and Italian influences.
The designer Deola Sagoe has been working in Lagos for more than 20 years. Sagoe, dressed in a royal blue silk wrap blouse and black velvet leggings with a giant aquamarine on one hand, met me in her store, a two-story sleek glass building located in bustling Victoria Island. Even though the district is one of the wealthier areas, many of the streets are rutted and the sidewalks cracked – if they are there at all. She consults with clients in a room with French velvet-upholstered chairs, and then leads them back into her studio, with walls of fabric she designs and has handmade in Nigerian villages on 11th-century looms. The traditional fabrics share wall space with newer pieces she designs, like deep blue indigo-dyed silks, that she uses to create garments with an Afro-Asian-Italian aesthetic.
Sagoe, the daughter of a major Nigerian industrialist, grew up traveling frequently to Italy and Japan and went to college in the United States. She took up fashion against the wishes of her father, who – like all Nigerian parents, she said – wanted his children to go into business and make money. Until quite recently, she noted, fashion was looked down upon as a career in her set. Wealthy Nigerian women only went to Nigerian designers for traditional gowns and headdresses needed for formal affairs.
Sagoe – and other Nigerian designers who’ve come after her – are changing that culture. “People used to go to Paris and buy, but not buy it here,” Sagoe said. “If they did, they would haggle about the price, because there wasn’t a tradition of fashion, but of tailors.” She employs hand-weavers and dyers in remote villages, but she can’t produce clothes on a larger scale inside Nigeria, because the substandard power grid can’t support factories. Nonetheless, she brought her three daughters into the business, and is expanding. “Africa is my foundation,” she said. “Nigerians are expressive and proud. Looking good is good business.”
Maki Oh incorporates traditional combinations of color, embellishments and motifs that, in Africa, have profound meaning and have recently caught the attention of the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize judges.Lakin OgunbanwoMaki Oh incorporates traditional combinations of color, embellishments and motifs that, in Africa, have profound meaning and have recently caught the attention of the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize judges.
The designer Amaka Osakwe, 28, caught the attention of the judges of the inaugural LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize this year with her sleek silhouettes that merge traditional symbols and craftsmanship with modern looks. “Each piece has a meaning,” she wrote in an email about her line, called Maki Oh, which placed in the competition’s semifinals. “Traditionally, the colors, embellishments, motifs, etc. of garments were used to pass messages. For example, a piece of Adire cloth with the traditional Adire motif called ‘Mat’ (which features hand-drawn lines which to the untrained eye may resemble a checkered pattern) was often presented as a wedding gift.” The pattern, she continued, symbolized the hope “that the couple may be blessed with children shortly after they lay on a mat/bed in their home. This notion of passing messages through garments is what we consider when we decide the length of a skirt, the motif, the color of an embellishment. This is why research is key.”
Maki Oh, Deola Sagoe and Folake Folarin-Coker, the designer behind Nigeria’s thriving Tiffany Amber brand, exist to serve the wives, daughters and girlfriends of the business titans and wealthy returnees like the 49-year-old television talk-show host Mo Abudu, a former oil company human resources executive now known as the “Oprah of Africa.” Abudu, who was born in London and educated in Britain, moved to Lagos a few years after she got married. She started her talk show in 2006, and has interviewed the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, but she’s chiefly an unabashed Africa-promoter. She recently launched a pan-African television network, EbonyLife TV.
Before embarking on a career in fashion, Folake Folarin-Coker studied law. Now, she's the fashion designer behind the successful brand Tiffany Amber.Lakin OgunbanwoBefore embarking on a career in fashion, Folake Folarin-Coker studied law. Now, she’s the fashion designer behind the successful brand Tiffany Amber.
When we met for lunch, Abudu, who calls herself an Afro-politan media entrepreneur, was accessorized in Saint Laurent platforms and a Birkin bag.
Abudu said she’s living in Lagos because “it’s Africa’s time” now. “Westerners are more interested in war, genocide, rape and H.I.V.,” she said. “You would think if you listened to Western media that every other person in Africa has H.I.V. For me, that’s boring. And there’s a business angle. African brands must recognize that if you want to be global, your environment must be considered with respect.
“Everything in Africa is so virgin right now. There is so much interest. Big media are all putting together their Africa strategy. We love American movies, but want to see our stories. Their approach to Africa is like, we want to go to the moon. Don’t make us look shallow and all about the money. There’s a lot of hard work going on.”
Abudu and other Nigerian returnees know their country’s reputation isn’t getting any better. Polio remains endemic in the northern states, where several vaccination workers were killed in attacks last February that were thought to have been carried out by the extremist sect Boko Haram. The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” also claimed responsibility for a bus station bombing that killed dozens last week in the capital city of Abuja, and is suspected in the kidnapping of about 200 schoolgirls from a northeastern town a day later.
“This country has the biggest G.D.P. in Africa,” one oil industry expat said at the Lagos Yacht Club, a hangout where British and Nigerian sailors sip gin and tonics. “But no 24-hour power. Where is it? The scale and quantity of what has happened here is tragic. The people are fundamentally peaceful. They just want the basics – water and power.”
At the private Lagos Yacht Club, members sail in crafts both large and small.Lakin OgunbanwoAt the private Lagos Yacht Club, members sail in crafts both large and small.
One young investment banker educated in the United States who had worked on Wall Street traded in his suit for the traditional linen gown and trousers, and now works in his family’s investment firm in Lagos. He pointed out that some of Nigeria’s problems stem from the newness and insecurity of the private fortunes. “This level of wealth is a generation deep,” he said. “You have a Lamborghini. Where do you drive it? The roads are terrible. You take it out on Sundays and carefully drive it to a hotel for lunch, then bring it home.”
The culture of philanthropy is growing among Nigerians and the great chiefs do return some of their fortunes to the people. Banker Balogun donated one of the largest pediatric hospitals in Africa to the medical school of the Universtiy of Ibadan. Africa’s wealthiest businessman, the billionaire cement mogul Aliko Dangote, has donated significant sums to programs to build Nigerian small businesses, and he gave millions to help Nigerian flood victims.
I asked Balogun whether returning elites might portend improvements in Nigerian infrastructure and social welfare. He said the country’s problems stem from a postcolonial backlash against foreign involvement.
“I’m 80, so I can give you my views without fear,” he said. “The country needs a thorough transformation. After independence, we used to think the best thing was to get Nigerians into the commanding heights. We started with what I call a morbid dislike for foreign acquisition of what we believed was our own enterprise. It would be good if we could move away from that and allow highly reputed, successful business entrepreneurs to partner with us in developing the whole place.”
Mansions boast water views along Queen's Drive in Lagos’s exclusive Ikoyi neighborhood.Lakin OgunbanwoMansions boast water views along Queen’s Drive in Lagos’s exclusive Ikoyi neighborhood.
Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu invited me in for an audience at his labyrinthine gated palace with hand-tooled Moroccan filigree ceilings, on the palm-lined but rutted Queen’s Drive. On the day we pulled up to the guard house, a water main was broken on the street, and we splashed through a foot of muddy water as we pulled up. Like Balogun, Odogwu is also in his 80s, and made his fortune as the oil and gas industry developed. He founded one of the first Nigerian insurance brokerages (Dyson & Diket), and insured the oil sector’s assets. On the day we met, he wore a spotless, starched white linen robe with gold threads, and was perched on a long couch in one of the grand sitting rooms in his mansion (a room in the basement seats 700), considering the pleas of a pair of women from the fashion council, who were proposing that he finance a Brazilian-Nigerian fashion expo they wanted to attend.
Odogwu, like many of the old guard, is a very religious man. He has donated millions to the Catholic Church and is particularly proud of photographs of him and his wife in the Vatican earlier this year, renewing their marriage vows in front of Pope Francis. He believes they are the first African couple to have the Pope officiate at a marriage renewal ceremony.
The Nigerian insurance magnate Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu at home.Lakin OgunbanwoThe Nigerian insurance magnate Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu at home.
I asked him whether he thought the vast fortunes he and his friends control would or should trickle down to develop Nigeria. Odogwu suggested that religion – not politics – was the answer to problems with Nigeria’s wealth distribution issues. “There are lots of religious organizations here,” he said. “They do a lot and we give them a lot of money. Instead of telling people what they don’t have, they help them out of their frustration, and make them believe that their way of life is better than in the west.” Spiritual balm for the masses, he said, was one good reason for him and his fellow elites to pile the collection plate high on Sundays.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

OPINION: RUEBEN ABATI: A JOURNALIST TURNED COMMERCIAL LIAR.


OPINION: RUEBEN ABATI: A JOURNALIST TURNED COMMERCIAL LIAR.
In history, Nigeria has not experienced a government as corrupt, ridiculous, unfaithful, structurally weak, deceitful, and unproductive as the Mr. Goodluck led administration. An administration that promises its populace a thing, and present to them another thing, an administration that has find pleasure in telling lies and defending imbalances, an administration that finds it delightful to enforce masses unfriendly policies on the people, an administration that has been marked with growing insecurity which has become intrinsic to the nation, an administration that has relegated the foreign reputation Nigeria built for decades in less than four years of misrule, an administration that accommodates various forms of mismanagement of public funds, an administration most unwanted by Nigerians.
Even though we all see Mr. Goodluck at the head of it all, apparently, the administration is not a one man show; it’s a group of selected few with like-minds. There are instruments (persons) who carry out various duties in this administration, but with a central focus on creating good image without good deeds. Amongst these instruments is Rueben Abati, Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, a young adult who started well in life but along the line missed it. Until Abati was invited by Abuja, he was a popular activist writer, his journalism career was at the peak when he was with Guardian Newspaper; Abati wrote on various political issues in the nation, he spoke the minds of the people, he antagonized the government with his pen, he wrote against bad leaders like Alameseiya, and his deputy, who is now Nigeria’s president- Mr. Goodluck, he ensured he addressed salient political issues in his column on Guardian Newspaper, but unfortunately, Abati, the onetime journalist who wrote to build hope in the minds of the masses, have turned a beast against the masses.
Abati as the presidential spokesman, is one of the major instruments that have weaken the hope of the masses, delivered very watery and unobjective statements that are direct opposite of what he stood for as a journalist, Abati has made confusing and controversial releases, he has lost his integrity for money, he has lost his credibility among the masses because of his association with the corrupt leadership, the masses have lost confidence in him because of he has turned out to be a commercial liar. Today, Abati, the former journalist is now a commercial liar. Nigerians need to stand against commercial liars like Abati, it is not enough to make our grievances known online, taking the message to the streets to claim Nigeria’s future from the hands of looters, irresponsible leaders and commercial liars like Abati; opportunists who have continued to mess with potentials and actualities of the nation. If the government claim it’s too resilient to change, Nigerians must also make the government understand they are too addicted to change to compromise. The ruling elites are very few, in number, they cannot be compared to the least populated state in Nigeria; but as few as they are, they have succeeded in mismanaging this nation for decades, to the extent that immoralities are been accepted as been moral, bribery is justifiable e.t.c., the masses must take a dogged advantage of their number to wage a peaceful battle for change in this nation.
We are not a part of the country but the policies made by the leadership affect us all, they reach the very foundation of our lives. The long thirst for change in Nigeria cannot be filled at any time than now, the future we crave is not a particular time yet to come, but what we are meant to do but are not doing, thus we are all it takes to experience the Nigeria of our dreams. Uniting is crucial at this time, there are more potential Abati, but placing Nigeria above ourselves is most important at this time.
As elections are drawing near, buying people’s interest with money is a common approach by our political leaders- again, there are some other potential Abati yet to be discovered, but we must be certain that whatever has a beginning must have an end, there’s a serious change process in the Nigeria political system, and all antagonist of change will be uncontrollably swept away by the breeze of change. Structurally, Nigeria government is increasingly growing weak, this sad truth doesn’t affect the looters, and it affects the common man. At this point, don’t compromise Nigeria’s future for stipend, Nigeria’s future is later than money, and not even the president can take hold of our future. we have waited this long under this cruel leadership to get to this election season, and must ensure we rebuild this nation by not giving support to failed leaders; get their money, it belongs to us all, but vote against them, don’t surrender and turn a commercial liar like Abati.
Written By Rotimi Ogungbola
TheWill


OPINION: MUSLIM-MUSLIM TICKET GOOD OPTION FOR APC (PART 1)


OPINION: MUSLIM-MUSLIM TICKET GOOD OPTION FOR APC (PART 1)
Muslim-Muslim ticket in the forthcoming 2015 Nigeria’s presidential polls may be good option for the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) if they intend to get more votes than the 12 million they garnered in 2011.
Many Nigerians have condemned the Muslim -Muslim ticket but they forgot that APC is neither a charity organization, neither is it a football club nor a talk show association- rather it is a political party with intent on capturing power at the centre and states. This theory of Muslim-Muslim ticket not flying is another stupid balderdash from shortsighted politicians. Let’s take a look at some states to buttress just a few postulations.
North West
The North West comprising Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa and Kebbi will definitely have a large voter’s turnout in favor of an all Muslim ticket. Apart from Kaduna where there is a sizeable Christian opposition, the rest are predominantly Muslims and vociferous against the ruling party. However, the Christian population in Kaduna can cast sizeable protest vote for the ruling PDP.
North East
The North East of Nigeria comprising Borno, Gombe,Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi,etc will most likely get endorse an all Muslim ticket. Apart from Taraba and parts of Adamawa States, the rest are predominantly Muslims and will definitely, especially with the prevailing Boko Haram threat which they believe is being deliberately sponsored by the ruling party, a Muslim- Muslim will be a relief. North Central-This consists of Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Nasarrawa, Niger and Kwara states. While Nasarrawa, Niger and Kwara States will give APC sizeable votes, with equally sizeable PDP second fiddle, Plateau, kogi, Benue states will go the way of PDP. Therefore, with Muslim-Muslim ticket, APC and PDP will share North Central with likely PDP majority.
South West
This consists of Yoruba States of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo. Most South West Muslims will likely vote an all Muslim ticket. However, Yoruba Christians will be sharply divided. Non-indigenous Christians will definitely vote against the Muslim all ticket. Therefore, in South West, APC will still get majority votes while the polarized Christian community will put up a good showing for PDP.
South East
Muslim-Muslim ticket is going to be a hard sell in the South East. The Igbos will oppose it vehemently. Even a Muslim- Christian ticket will not translate to any significant change in patterns of votes. The South East believes that Boko Haram is an extension of Biafra Genocide and APC will not fare significantly there. The idea of a Christian vice president may not elicit much excitement except if the APC does lots of factual campaigns to correct the already existing sentiments.
South South
Muslim-Muslim ticket is a hard sell in the South South . Probably except for Edo and Rivers states where the influences of Oshiomhole and Amaechi can attract significant sympathy votes, a Muslim-Christian ticket can only sell in Edo or Rivers States depending on which of them produces the running mate. However, neighboring states like Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom will definitely not find the idea a good one. They cannot abandon Brother Jonathan for those they term Boko Haram party.
Summary-
Therefore, from the foregoing, APC with an all Muslim ticket will sweep votes in the in the North East and North West, with its huge electoral capital. The South West can use the Muslim-Muslim ticket to get dormant voters to itself. The North Central will divide votes with PDP getting a simple majority. The PDP will sweep the South-East and South -South States, However, at the end, the amalgamation of votes cast will be too close that the APC can allege fraud and claim electoral victory. With a militarized Muslim population, the nation will likely boil again as it did under during June 12, if INEC chief, Prof Attahiru Jega declares Jonathan the president.
Conclusion-
Therefore, a Muslim- Muslim ticket will not injure the chances of APC in the forthcoming pools. Rather, it will activate indecisive Muslims in the North and South West while at the same time polarizing the Yoruba Christians who will be torn between voting for a performing Fashola or Tinubu as running mate and maintaining a Jonathan status quo which many of them see as incompetent. Due to political exegesis, it is obvious that a Muslim-Muslim ticket may not be as injurious to the APC as being feared.
A Muslim –Muslim ticket, though morally wrong, is still politically expedient for APC –afterall the ruling party has taken many morally wrong political decisions in the name of expediency -the Governors Forum elections where 16 votes is greater than 19 is one of such. Therefore, if APC is bent on increasing their votes tally in the 2015 elections from the former 12 million votes CPC got in 2011 to about 18 million votes, a good option is to stick to a popular Muslim as its running mate, put electoral pressure on the ruling party and make the PDP sweat profusely for another victory.
Written By Obinna Akukwe
TheWill


Confusion galore in pursuit of Boko Haram

In any country, a state of insurgency is abnormal and prone to various absurd or unusual behaviors. Like telling lies, as in war situations, like being dishonorable or exhibiting inflated ego all for purposes of claiming false glory. And for Nigerians, misconduct in such circumstances attains the unenviable level of shamelessness.
That was why the (recent) abduction of, at least, over 200 secondary school female students in a hitherto hardly known (to Southerners) rural settlement Chibok, in Borno State, created all-round confusion especially in government circles. The schoolgirls were suspected to have been abducted by the Boko Haram violent agitators. That suspicion somehow was an image-boosting feat for Boko Haram, a lawless gang terrorizing Northern parts of Nigeria. For the past three years, the nation has been assured intermittently that Boko Haram would, soonest, be subdued.
That would not justify the confusion in the land such that till now, there is no exact correct number of the female pupils abducted or their whereabouts, and most importantly, the unverified (if verifiable) treatment to which the poor pupils might have been subjected. Teenage girls in the forced custody of scores of male lawless elements? So far for a fortnight and indefinite future?
This concern is exacerbated by the unknown number of the hopeless girls in the Boko Haram captivity. Clearly in a vain attempt to pre-empt public outrage at the misfortune of the schoolgirls, the first information came from army headquarters that the figure was merely over 100. An incensed group of Chibok citizens disgusted by the claim of the army headquarters put the figure at 247. The school authorities virtually ratified that figure with their own claim of over 230. By far, the worst confusion was created by army headquarters with its claim to have rescued almost 100 of the abducted girls.
For the moment, there is this necessary concession. As a people, we are very churlish. Despite criticisms of President Goodluck Jonathan all along on the Boko Haram violence, he (Jonathan) has emerged a paradox in the seeming uncontrollable upsurge of the Boko Haram menace. Abduction of the Chibok Secondary School pupils occurred a day after the massive tragic bombing incident at Nyanya motor park at Abuja in which authorities claimed almost 100 Nigerians lost their lives. Witnesses around the incident put the figure at more than double the fatal victims.
Jonathan must not, and in any case, will not be allowed to rest until there is a solution to the Boko Haram insurgency. But for the moment, nobody can legitimately blame Jonathan for not doing everything possible to contain Boko Haram. Critics should now come up with new “ideas” on how to conquer Boko Haram. Who are the critics? Opportunists known as religious fundamentalists, ethnic jingoists, emergency warlords and dubious security experts who blamed, blackmailed, forced and even if inadvertently, undermined Jonathan in the battle against Boko Haram.
Jonathan was made to change service chiefs. Three or four times? Jonathan was made to declare emergency in three Northern states where Boko Haram fiercely operated. Jonathan was made to create a new army (7th) division in Maiduguri. Jonathan was made to move leadership of the army to Maiduguri. In view of the criminal conduct of Boko Haram, these measures, on the surface, might be necessary. The only fault was that proponents were too naïve and mostly ethnically biased to realize that the Boko Haram insurgency had assumed an entirely complex nature that even Americans and specifically ex-US President Bill Clinton publicly observed that tackling Boko Haram should be multi-pronged, – military, economic and social etc.
The point being made is that President Jonathan must thank his stars that he positively responded to his critics especially with the military option. Otherwise, the religious fanatics would by now single out Jonathan for total blame on the intractable nature of Boko Haram. Left for the critics, Jonathan should wipe out North East from the Nigerian map.
A further confusion was created that once the United States listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation, that would end the violence in Northern Nigeria. Could it be as simple as that? Jonathan’s former National Security Adviser, the late General Andrew Azazi, as a professional knew better and in total opposition, argued his case at Ministry of Defence, Washington. Jonathan was misled to remove General Azazi. Two years after his exit and 18 months after Azazi’s death, Nigeria is still held down by Boko Haram. And of course, that was after the United States has rightly declared Boko Haram a terrorist organization.
As the Americans have observed and advised, we must not limit the solution to Boko Haram at only military combat.
On the confusion in the fight against Boko Haram, the military (or perhaps the Nigerian government), has worsened its credibility problem. It was bad enough that the military claimed the kidnapped schoolgirls at Chibok had been freed. But it was most disturbing that the army claimed responsibility for rescuing the girls, all claims which turned out to be untrue as the girls, at this time of writing, are still with Boko Haram in unknown destination.
The army claim to have rescued the girls is the latest in its series of false success stories or denials of insurgents’ similar claims. Were Nigerians not told last year that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had been killed by Nigerian soldiers in action? Nigerians were even shown visuals on Channels Television of a man lying injured or dead somewhere and identified as Abubakar Shekau. Since then, media all over the world have been reporting video clips of Shekau deriding Nigerian government.
How about this other confusion? A supposed Nigerian National Security Council meeting was held at Abuja, which was expected to be attended by all the 36 state governors. It turned out only PDP state governors, 17 of them attended. Why should a National Security Council meeting in the circumstances of threatening anarchy be turned into a ruling party affair either because the opposition parties were kept away or because opposition parties boycotted?
Did the National Security Council meeting end before PDP national publicity secretary Olisa Metuh, openly accused opposition parties of boycotting the meeting? In another confusion, Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio, emerged from the meeting to say that PDP governors requested for the meeting but that President Jonathan requested the enlarged meeting to involve opposition governors.
PDP’s Olisa Metuh lied and Governor Akpabio lied. Do these people realize the state of insecurity in the country? Was it true, as claimed by rival All Progressives Congress (APC)that the party, after being invited, was misled that the meeting had been postponed or even cancelled? And Olisa Metuh turned round to mischievously lie to Nigerians that APC boycotted the meeting while Governor Akpabio similarly lied to Nigerians with the image massage of President Jonathan insisting on the attendance of APC governors?
The prospects were that PDP governors and President Jonathan had decided on their intention and would confront APC governors with that fait accompli.
There is this other very disturbing confusion, which should attract the attention of President Jonathan and his security chiefs. Most of the times, victims of Boko Haram atrocities, as reported in the media, always claimed that their attackers dressed in military uniforms. Should the culprits be truly Boko Haram insurgents, how could they be accessing military uniform?
Governor Amaechi’s lesson for Jonathan
 This must not be true but if true, it should taste sweetest. The Commissioner of Police, Adamawa State, John Abakasanga, was reported to have written Governor Murtala Nyako advising him not to disturb President Goodluck Jonathan from holding a political rally at Ribadu Square, Yola.Governor Nyako must be exceeding his power and violating his oath of office if he has been correctly reported. We must get this clear. Jonathan, in this case, must not be seen as President of Federal Republic of Nigeria being defied by Governor Nyako. Instead, Nyako must be seen as violating his oath of office to which he swore partly “… that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; … that I will, to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; … that I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, in all circumstances, etc.”In denying Jonathan from holding rally, Governor Nyako is allowing his personal (political?) interest to influence his official conduct and decision against Jonathan. There is no other explanation. But for political differences Nyako would not have obstructed Goodluck Jonathan. In so doing, Nyako is also not defending provisions of Nigerian constitution.
It must not also be conveniently assumed that in planning his political rally in Yola, Jonathan is in any way violating the Electoral Act, which purportedly bars election campaigns till 90 days before elections. No such law can stand as long as it violates fundamental human rights under Nigerian constitution, which guarantees for everybody the right to assemble, the right to hold political views and the right to express such views publicly.
Jonathan should approach a court of law for a declaration (a) of his right to hold and express political views as well as the right to assemble and (b) that Governor Nyako is violating his (Nyako’s) oath of office and his (Jonathan’s) rights under the constitution.
For the education and entertainment of everybody, let us allow the constitution to operate through the law. That is how a society develops. Jonathan must resist the temptation and especially any prompting to send soldiers or armed police to secure Ribadu Square, Yola, for his political rally. Should he fall for such show of force, he would be unnecessarily taking the law into his hands.
However, that is about all in favour of Goodluck Jonathan. We must now remind President Jonathan how his agents Police Inspector-General Mohammed Abubakar, instructed his subordinate and (at that time) Commissioner of Police Rivers State, Mbu Joseph Mbu not to allow Rivers State governor Chibuike Amaechi, to hold rally at the new Port-Harcourt stadium. If police authorities were on that occasion acting without Jonathan’s knowledge or instruction in disallowing Amaechi’s rally at which he was to distribute appointment letters to newly-recruited teachers, did Jonathan keep his oath of office by overruling his police subordinates to allow Governor Amaechi enjoy his constitutional rights?
The fact of history is that Amaechi could not hold his rally on that day. Today, President Jonathan is being subjected by Governor Nyako to the same humiliation inflicted (in Jonathan’s official status) on a state governor  last time. On that occasion, that official lawlessness was condemned in this column as Governor Nyako is being rebuked today.
Ordinary road transporters carry inscriptions on their buses to remind us that “ASO ROCK IS NOT THE END”. Ironically, President Jonathan still occupies Aso Rock and he is being treated with the indignity and misuses of power to which a state governor was subjected by police authorities in the name of President Jonathan.
For purposes of preserving the dignity of his office, President Jonathan should enforce his fundamental human rights through law courts.
TheSun

What can cure me of this melancholy?

Each time I remember those 234 schoolgirls in the custody of Boko Haram, I get the blues.  I go into depression, melancholy, lugubriousness.
What are the insurgents doing with those teenagers now; feeding them with baby formula?  Obviously not.  Patting them on the head, and telling them to be of good behaviour?  Surely not.  Telling them tales by moonlight in the evenings and rocking them to sleep?  Definitely not.  Or going through their notebooks and helping with homework?  Hell, no!  That is haram!  Boko Haram has no time for education, at least, not of the Western type.  So, what are the insurgents doing with our daughters?
I have a daughter, a teenager.  She’s on holiday from the university now.  Each time I’m leaving for work, she’s there to bid me goodbye, and when I arrive back in the night, she runs to hug me first before her mum.  In fact, both of them are usually at loggerheads over who hugs me first.  My wife tells my daughter to be patient till she gets her own husband, but she replies:  “He is my daddy.  Go and hug your own daddy.”  They laugh, and I join them.  But for me, that laughter has been only an outward show in recent days.  Unknown to them, I’ve been dismal and doleful for almost two weeks.  Why?  The girls, the schoolgirls.  Do they have anybody to hug voluntarily?  If there is any sort of hugging going on where they are, it is involuntary.  It is punitive, violatory.  A breach, desecration of the innocence of ones so young.
How many of those 234 schoolgirls would have known the things men and women do behind closed doors?  Surely, not many.  How many of them remain the same way today?  Two weeks after being in the clutches of Boko Haram?  How many of them have been defiled, turned to sex slaves, and even possibly have the seed of Boko Haram sprouting in their wombs?  It does not take long, does it?  Nubile girls can get pregnant at first encounter, not to talk of two weeks of unrestrained, unprotected assault.  Two weeks of what?  Being fed with milk and honey in the Sambisa forest?  I doubt.  Of being told bedtime stories?  Surely not.  Then of what?  I shudder to think of it.  And there comes my melancholy.  My depression.  My gloom and pensiveness.  Where are our daughters?
In the evening, before you retire to bed, you ensure that your sons are in the house.  Your daughters too.  If they are not home, you at least can account for where they are.  Remember how Frank Olize used to kick off News Line, which he hosted for many years on NTA?  “It is Sunday evening, do you know where your children are?”  Big question.  Do we know where our daughters are?  Which part of the Sambisa forest? What are they doing?  What is being done to them?  Do they have change of clothes, underwears, and other sanitary requirements?  Did those who abduct them also carry their luggage along?  Not likely.  So, what are they wearing?  Have they been in the same dresses for about two weeks?  When it rains, what happens?  When the sun is too hot, how do they fare?  If they break away from their captors, like a few of them have done, how do they cope with reptiles, huge snakes and other wild animals?  Questions, questions, questions.  I’m not getting answers, and you ask me not to go into melancholy?  You ask me not to get depressed?  It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?  What an evil visitation, a tragedy of monumental proportions to befall a country!
But you know the worst part?  Me and you, we carry on merrily.  Easter holidays just ended.  Didn’t we make merry with our families?  Didn’t we travel, go to fun spots, and if we saw “a one horse open sleigh,” would we not have ridden?  If we saw the bells, would we not have jingled all the way, even though it is April?  We forgot the girls, the schoolgirls, who did not even know it was Easter.  It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?
He who feels it knows it.  While we carry on with business as usual, some 200 parents are like the biblical Rachael, filled with mourning and lamentation.  “A voice was heard in Ramah.  Weeping, and lamentation and great mourning.  Rachael weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.  (Matthew 2:18).”  The parents are not comforted, cannot be, because the girls they sent to school cannot be accounted for.  It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?
My heart broke when I read earlier this week that some women were preparing to storm Sambisa forest in search of their daughters.  Do you blame them?  One woman was quoted as saying that it was better to see the corpse of her daughter, than to be held in a state of suspended animation for a longer period.  Do you blame her?  But when the women get into Sambisa, what would they meet?  A welcome party?  No.  Music and dance?  Such are surely forbidden in the camps of the zealots.  What then?  Guns?  Sure.  Machetes?  Definitely.  Rocket launchers, even anti-tanks, and anti-aircraft guns?  Sure.  Because they say Boko Haram now has all those capabilities.  So, what will the women do, even if they happen on the schoolgirls?  Beg the captors for mercy?  That does not exist in such realms.  Mercy?  Mercy, my foot!  Violence? But how do you go violent with a man who is prepared to die?  Possibly, where the girls are kept is rigged with improvised explosive devices, ready to be blown skyhigh the moment an intruder comes.  Already, the captors have warned the parents and security agencies to stay away, lest the girls be slaughtered.  I shudder.  Kill these innocent girls?  And would the ground open its mouth and swallow their blood?  What will the blood be shouting; vengeance, vengeance, like the blood of Abel, or mercy, mercy, like the blood of Jesus? The Good Book says the blood of Jesus “speaks better things than the blood of Abel.  (Hebrews 12:24).” But what will the blood of these young ones speak? Vengeance, surely, and curses for a country that has got itself muddled up.
You cannot tell me not to be depressed with the state of our country.  Blood, gore, tragedies everyday.  And I should not go into melancholy?  I will, I will.  And let nobody try and stop me.  And I will announce it from the rooftops. I am morose, depressed, and crestfallen.
Before the 1970s, depression was something to be ashamed of.  It carried a social stigma.  But today, it can be discussed openly.  In fact, we now have the benefit of knowing people who suffer, or have suffered depression.  Abraham Lincoln, a former American president had bouts of depression.  A friend even said of him: “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”  Also, John Adams, the second president of the United States of America suffered from depression.
How about many actors, actresses, musicians, accomplished people?  Depression was, and is, part of their lives.  Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol.  She had powerful men at her beck and call.  But depression was her close companion, and it eventually sent her to an early grave.
Buzz Aldrin was the second man ever to step on the moon.  Is that not a great achievement?  It is.  But Aldrin came back from the moon, and fell apart.  He went into severe depression.
Julian Assange is the celebrated editor of Wikileaks.   But he suffers depression.  So did William Blake, the poet, Agatha Christie, the writer, Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles Dickens, the celebrated English writer, Ludwig von Beethoven, the classical music composer, and many others.  Even Dolly Parton, with her delightful country music, suffers depression.  So also does Oprah Wilfrey, with her loads of money.  And Barbara Bush battled depression, despite being America’s First Lady between 1989 and 1993.  Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud?  Well, I don’t pity those ones.  They probably provoked depression with too much of philosophising and psychoanalysis. They got what they asked for.
Robert Burton, the British academic was so much at home with depression, that he wrote a book in 1621 titled ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy.’  What a life!
To beat depression, people go for jokes, for music, some take a vacation, and some find solace in hard drugs.  Beethoven took to opium, and alcohol, and eventually died of liver disease.  Sigmund Freud took to cocaine.  What then should Nigerians take to in such times as these?  Dance Azonto or Skelewu?  That would be rather unfeeling, and would amount to dancing on the graves of many thousands who are dead, when some parents are currently very mournful and woebegone.
It is nighttime, do you know where your daughters are?  No we don’t know.  And it is to our shame as a country.
TheSun

National Conference, misplaced priority –Yusuf Ali



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Alhaji Yusuf Garba Ali, one-time Managing Director, Unipetrol Nigeria Ltd, and former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), is  always forthright in his analysis. In this interview, the one–time National President of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) bared his mind on the ongoing national conference, saying it clearly represents a misplaced priority for a nation grabbling with so many hydra-headed problems. He also reviewed  issues in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), stressing that all aspirants, including General Muhammadu Buhari, would go through primaries to emerge as the party’s candidates in any election. He spoke more on this and other national issues with Desmond Mgboh in Kano. Excerpts:
Sir, what is responsible for your long silence? While a lot is happening, it just seems as if you are not around?
Yes, I have been quiet, but honestly I am not silent as such. I never left politics. I am one of the leaders of APC. And before this time, I was one of the elders of Action Congress of Nigeria and now we are in APC. Honestly, I decided to be quiet because I have done a lot of talking before now, as such I decided to contribute within an inner circle. The truth is that you keep on talking, yet nobody listens.

The birth of APC seems to have come with so many promises. Do you still believe that APC, in the light of its own internal challenges, can match its initial promises? Crisis here, quarrel there?
I think you know that as a new party merging together with several other parties, you are bringing three or four political parties together with different people. Not only the parties but the people too. For you to bring them together and mix them together, it would take time. A lot of people are different. Their thinking and mentality are different. What they were used to in their own parties are different from what it is in the new party. What APC is trying to do is to harness and bring a policy, party policy that would override all the ambitions and differences of all these political parties and backgrounds and make them one.

Talking about the APC’s manifesto that was recently unfolded to Nigerians, what, in your opinion, is spectacular about the document? What makes it tick?
Well, one of the most important things about APC as a party – and its manifesto- is its stand on corruption. Here is a party that represents anti-corruption. As far as I am concerned, the greatest problem afflicting this country today is corruption. Corruption causes all the malaise that we are in today. Can you imagine today that even Mugabe, the same Robert Mugabe, is abusing Nigeria on corruption? We have come so low. Majority of Nigerians want to be rich for doing nothing. So, if we are able- we cannot say that we would wipe off corruption completely, but if APC is able to reduce corruption within the society and in the government, then every other thing would fall in line. That is my belief. This is because if you reduce corruption, then you must have discipline. If you reduce corruption, you must have work ethics and if you reduce corruption, you can be sure that all this malaise of armed robbery must be a thing of the past and if you reduce corruption, you would be able to save money and employ more people.

Has it ever occurred to you that majority of Nigerians do not believe APC when it talks about anti-corruption. The argument is that a few APC leaders, the same ones talking about corruption, appear corrupt in their private and public businesses?
Well, if you are talking about private business, we have nothing to do with private business. If the government is straight, then you have to fall in line. Everybody would fall in line. Let me give you an example. If look at what is happening in states where APC is in control- in most of them, I am not saying a hundred per cent- you can see that there is development, you can see that corruption is at the lowest ebb, you see that they are paying more attention to education, you can see that even agriculture is receiving the greatest attention. Housekeeping – what do I mean by housekeeping? Cleanliness of the society- you see that the streets are much cleaner. You don’t see the affluence of a governor if you go to some of these states.

Are you saying that we do not have this kind of developments in PDP-controlled states?
Well, I am yet to see it. I am not saying that 100 per cent PDP states don’t have this kind of development. But they are very few. Maybe if you go to Enugu, you can see some difference…

(Cuts in) What about Akwa Ibom?
Look when you talk about Akwa Ibom State, have you compared the amount of money that AKwa Ibom is getting from the Federation Account? Compare these amounts.

But what about the amount the APC states like Kano and Lagos states are getting from the same account?
Which Kano? You can’t, my friend. Can you compare the development in Lagos and the development in Akwa Ibom? Never! I mean Lagos is getting money from internally generated revenue.

But it is still money?
But it is not the same. It is them who worked for it and it is their planning. It is their planning that resulted in  the money. Can you compare Kano of today and Kano of two years ago? Can’t you see progress?  Can’t you see that there is a change? You can’t compare the two eras.  And it is because the governor of Kano State, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is making good use of his internally generated revenue. You can’t compare Akwa Ibom State with any other state in this country in terms of the amount of money they receive, except maybe Delta and Bayelsa states.

Let us discuss something that is happening to APC. You have lost a number of your big time players who were part of the construction of the party like Mallam Shekarau, Attahiru  Bafarawa and others who were forced to leave?
We didn’t force anybody to leave. They chose to leave. I am one of the people asked to work on the reconciliation with them and they chose to go. And we are in democratic society. You cannot force somebody. If Shekarau is saying that he cannot allow Kwankwaso to be called the leader of the party in Kano, if that is his only complaint, I don’t think that he is right. I was a national chairman of ANPP,  Shekarau was  under  me but when Shekarau was a governor, he called a meeting and I attended, I was on the floor. He was the one speaking. That is respect. I was there when he was elected, he was not even elected, but he became the governor of Kano State. And as a National Chairman of the party, he called a meeting and I attended.

Sir, the MOU that handed over the leadership of the party to the defected governors is branded a fraud that was not thoroughly discussed by major stakeholders of the party. Some people claimed that it was smuggled into reality by a few eggheads of the party?
I don’t know who told you that. There is nothing like that. You cannot smuggle such a thing into the party.

But was it agreed to by everybody and every stakeholder?
It was agreed. There is no way you can have a governor in a state and you think that somebody else is going to control the party.  You cannot do that. If anybody tells you that it was smuggled, it is a big lie. I have been part of the formation of APC from zero to where we are. And I can tell you that I played a very prominent role even before Shekarau joined the concept. I only refused to talk. The whole thing about APC started with Chief Audu Ogbe and myself and there is nothing hidden to me.

A number of deputy governors  and principal officers in states where PDP governors defected into APC are still “body in APC but souls in PDP”.   And we have cases like that of Sokoto where the deputy governor did not just go. How are you taking this?
I do not agree with you. The only thing we know is that the deputy governor of Sokoto State remains with his party and he made it quite clear that he is going to remain with the PDP, but he would obey the instruction of his governor until the end of their tenure. But you see, this is politics. This is the problem with Nigerians. They do not believe that two brothers could belong to two different political parties and yet remain in the same house.

Maybe what Nigerians didn’t anticipate is the probability of two people elected on the platform of the same party to run a government now belonging to two different parties, yet maintaining the same government.  That is what Nigerians find strange?
Are they not Nigerians? Are they not playing politics? I may like that party. From the beginning, I may like that party and we became one. Later on, I decided that I don’t like that party anymore and I want to change.

In some of these PDP to APC defected governors’ states, their governors proclaimed that they have moved with everybody, but with the realities on the ground, not all senators, reps and state House of assembly members moved with them.  How do you see these contradictions?
I doubt if these governors ever made claims that that they have moved with everybody in their party to APC. Of course, it is only estimated that when the governors move, a majority of stakeholders would move with him.

Looking at the arrival of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar into the APC, do you still see the prospects of an automatic ticket for General Muhammadu Buhari?
APC is a democratic party.  I do not think that there is an automatic ticket for anybody in the party. For any position where we have candidates, there is going to be primaries.

As a mark of respect, Buhari has always got automatic tickets?
It is a mark of respect in his previous political parties – ANPP and CPC, and even there, it is because other candidates withdrew for him. It is not that the parties say that nobody should contest. No! Other candidates who were willing to contest withdrew. Of course, there is no compulsion in APC. We don’t  do a mockery and say let just have a show. No! Once we have a contestant interested in any position, there is going to be primaries.

Buhari may not want it…?
General Buhari is a democrat. He believes in the rule of law. Therefore, there is no way… don’t tell me General Buhari would not go for primaries, it is wrong! I believe that Buhari would agree to go for primaries.

And what are his chances bearing in mind that he is strong at the grassroots level but not at the elite or middle class level?
Politics, can you predict it? Nobody can predict it. I think he stands a good chance like any other candidate of the party.

Let us look at the ongoing national conference. Does it offer any serious promise to Nigerians?
I think it is good that Nigerians should talk. I believe that we should look at issues, but the timing is wrong and you cannot select people and ask them to go and talk on behalf of Nigerians. They were selected, they were not elected. So, we are yet to see the purpose of that conference. We are going for election, next year, to elect a new government and you want  again to come and have a constitutional conference, a conference which whatever they decide, if it has anything to do with the constitution, the National Assembly will have to pass that. The National Assembly, which has budget and other issues to worry about, when would it have the time to look at the recommendations of these august or eminent personalities? And whatever they decide, the president has no right to implement it. It has to go to the National Assembly. If it affects constitutional amendment, it has to go to all the states’ Houses of Assembly. Do you imagine that we are going to spend N7 billion- I don’t know how much it is we are spending on it. Is this figure not enough to give our youths employment, to reduce unemployment rate in this country? Why do we need to waste money and time? Why?  How many million unemployed do we have in this country? Look at the stadium. I have never seen the national stadium on any football match filled like it was filled on the day of the recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service. We can use that money to create jobs. That is more important. I think we are getting our priorities wrong.

There is also concern about the size of money being paid to members of the national conference?
This is what I have been saying. Why do the conference at all, not just the allowance?  Why not use the whole money to create jobs for the people. I don’t see any reason why.  The rich are getting more money and the poor are becoming poorer. There is none of those delegates who cannot afford an accommodation for themselves, but you are giving them N12million? How many young men can you employ with N12m? Can you sit down and calculate? Our priorities are always wrong. That is the reason I said that I had stopped talking because nobody cares.

Sir, I assume that you must have attended similar conferences at different times in the past and allowances were paid. You didn’t see it as being wrong then, why do you now see it as wrong today?
Let me say one thing, I attended two conferences in Nigeria. I attended the constitutional conference of seventy something, maybe seventy eight. We have not got this malaise. We have not got this unemployment rate today. We haven’t.  I attended the vision 2010, organized by General Buhari. He did not pay allowances. Every chief executive contributed. The only thing they gave you is a room accommodation, one single room at NICON with fanta.  If you want beer, you pay. If you want a better room for yourself, you pay from your pocket. No allowances. And all of us, all chief executives in this country, contributed for the running of that Vision 2010. We contributed our staff, we contributed vehicles to the government. So I did not attend a conference where money was being dished out to me. And 1978 constitutional conference, Nigeria was a much better country than now.

There are arguments that in the light of the problems confronting the country, the National Conference is a step in tackling these problems?
Listen, let me tell you all the problems we have in this country, as I said to you earlier, is poverty and corruption. And the solution is let us correct it. Let us try and reduce corruption to the barest minimum. EFCC cannot fight corruption alone. Unless you have the right people at the right places, only then you will fight corruption. Unless you have people who are patriotic. Then let the government become serious in punishing people. If the government would close its eyes and ensure that they execute the recommendations of the EFCC. Some would go to court today and they would dilly dally on their cases until after two years, then you will hear that the man has been released.  By which time, you have forgotten about the case. And even the newspapers are not helping matters.

How?
You will see a headline tomorrow saying, “Billions have been stolen.” That is the end of the story. No Newspaper follows that story to its conclusion. They will give you headline, something has been done, though nobody follows it up.  It ends there. The newspapers should be able to systematically follow this sort of story until they reach its logical conclusion. Not to forget it. You give it sensational headlines and you forget. And, of course, the case will be adjourned and adjourned and adjourned. And the same man would come back and he is celebrated in his local society because of his money-ill-gotten wealth.
TheSun