It’s high time that Imo state residents told the government of the state the kind of security architecture that they prefer to be established in the state. The recent killing of some people in Awommama area of the state has elicited a lot of reactions from the world, especially Imo residents. The rate of disinformation in the aftermath of the killing has taken an alarming proportion.
The Department of State Services (DSS) had owned up to the killing and had equally given reasons why the incident happened. However, even when the DSS had claimed to have carried out the operation, most indigenes and residents of the state, swayed by the opposition to the state government have stuck to the conviction or belief that the killing was perpetrated by the Ebubeagu security outfit established by the entire governments of the five states in the South-east.
Before the establishment of the Ebubeagu vigilance group, there was so much outcry that the governors of the five states in the east should emulate their counterparts from the South-west who established Amotekun. There was so much outcry that the Nigerian security personnel should vacate the trouble spots in the state and that the state government should establish a security outfit just like the Amotekun of the South-west.
The only departure or distinction in the agitation of the South-east from that of the South-west was that those agitating for the withdrawal of Nigerian soldiers, police and DSS from the states wanted the Eastern Security Network, which is the militant arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to take charge of all the states in the South-east. But, Igboho and his Oduduwa Republic agitators in the South-west never opposed the establishment of Amotekun in the South-west. Of course, the governors of the South-east refused to concede their constitutionally-empowered security control to non-state actors like IPOB and established the Ebubeagu vigilance group which operates in all the five states in the South-east. Paradoxically, while there seems to be a relative piece in Abia, Enugu, and Ebonyi, the same cannot be said in Anambra and Imo even after the establishment of the Ebubeagu security outfit in few local government areas of both states.
Since Governor Hope Uzodinma became governor in January 2020, it does appear that those who lost out in the power struggle have sworn not to allow peace to reign in the state. Uzodimma was not the first man to be declared a governor by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Before him, the apex court pronounced governors in Rivers, Zamfara states, etc. Even after him, there was a similar pronouncement in Bayelsa state, yet in all these states, the opposition has not set the states on fire just because they lost power.
When Sir Celestine Omehia lost out to Rotimi Amaechi after just five months as governor of Rivers state, the state was not thrown into turmoil. David Lyon as governor-elect of Bayelsa state lost the precious power twenty-four hours to his inauguration. Yet, Bayelsa has been relatively peaceful and calm. The man took his faith in equanimity. Imagine if what happened in Bayelsa had happened in Imo state. The most painful or worrying aspect of this insecurity is that it’s happening in the governor’s senatorial zone, particularly in about four local government areas of Orsu, Oru East, Orlu and Njaba.
Even if Uzodinma became a governor by sleight of hand or artifice, is it not idiotic of some elements from his own zone, especially his LGA to constitute themselves as stumbling blocks to his government? Assuming without conceding that Uzodinma became governor by fraud, is it not the height of stupidity that some elements from these four local government areas have been making governance ungovernable for him? Even when a benefit of doubt should be given to the governor whenever his government denies involvement in any killing, some people don’t want to believe him. What does the government stand to gain in destabilising some local government areas in his zone? What existential threat did those allegedly killed by this government constitute to him? If they couldn’t stop him from becoming governor, how could they stop him from getting a second term if the killings were premised on that?
How many people did he kill to become a senator for eight years or did he learn this art of killing as a governor? Even if the governor doesn’t get a second term, is he not a successful politician by all standards as a senator for eight years and a governor for four years? Only a few people are privileged as he is as politicians. Those who are alleging that those killed recently were wedding guests may be unwittingly encouraging insecurity in the state.
Inasmuch as I do not support extrajudicial killing, people must be careful how they rush to conclusion whenever such incidents occur. If they were killed by Ebubeagu, why does Ebubeagu target that part of Imo State? If Ebubeagu has been undertaking extra-judicial killings, why are the streets of the state not littered with thousands of dead bodies? Why should Ebubeagu focus their alleged killings on Awommama, Orlu, Njaba, Orsu, Oru-East and few other places? Why are they not killing in Owerri, Mbaise, Okigwe and other parts of the state?
It is surprising that even Afaraukwu, the hometown of the IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, is relatively peaceful but Orlu, Oru East, Orsu, Njaba and some other parts of Imo State are boiling, if we are to believe that the killings are not sponsored by the opposition to the Imo government. These days, once criminals, bandits, kidnappers, etc are killed, the opposition tag them “Innocent People”. For the opposition, especially a radio station and its presenter, every Imo resident is innocent expect Ebubeagu and Security personnel of the federal government.
Like I said earlier, shedding of the blood of the innocent must be avoided by security personnel because what you cannot create, do not destroy except sanctioned by the laws of the land. Even terrorists like Boko Haram and ISWAP members are often not killed but arrested and tried in the law court. There is a karmic repercussion for shedding the blood of the innocent. If you escape punishment for the blood of the people you killed on this earth your generations will not escape it.
Uzodinma has nothing to gain by destabilising his senatorial zone and I am one of those who believe that he may not have any hand in the crises ravaging some parts of the state. No governor would prefer to throw his state into turmoil unless than governor is insane. If Uzodinma has the predilection for destabilising the state, he should have done that in the local government areas of his major political opponents for political gains. Should the governor hand over security control to non-state actors by removing all the security personnel in the state? I dare say that if that happens those who are agitating for the removal of the security personnel will not be able to stay in the state for twenty-four hour when these non-state actors take control.
My attention has been drawn to a video clip making internet rounds, of a dancing and chanting group, in red and white costume, purportedly members of the Pyrates Confraternity. The display acidly targets a presidential candidate in the awaited 2023 elections. Since the whole world knows of my connection with that fraternity, it is essential that I state in clear, unambiguous terms, that I am not involved in that public performance, nor in any way associated with the sentiments expressed in the songs.
Like any other civic group, the Pyrates Confraternity is entitled to its freedom of expression, individually or collectively. So also, is Wole Soyinka in his own person. I do not interfere in, nor do I attempt dictate the partisan political choices of the Confraternity. I remain unaware that the association ever engages in a collective statement of sponsorship or repudiation of any candidate. This is clearly a new and bizarre development, fraught with unpredictable consequences.
In addition, let me make the following cultural affirmation. I have listened to the lyrics of the chant intently and I am frankly appalled. I find it distasteful. I belong to a culture where we do not mock physical afflictions or disabilities. Very much the contrary. The Yoruba religion indeed designate a deity, Obatala, as the divine protector of the afflicted, no matter the nature of such affliction. This sensibility is engrained in us from childhood and remains with us all our lives. It operates on the principle of mortal frailty to which all humanity remains vulnerable.
One of my favourite authors, about whom, by a coincidence, I had cause to write quite recently, was CLR James, author of The Black Jacobins, Beyond A Boundary etc. etc. I called him my ideological uncle. He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, but remained alert, lucid and combative for decades after the onset of the disease. We interacted politically at the Tanzanian pan-African Congress, the Dakar Festival of Negro Arts and a number of other cultural and political fora. We met frequently in his lifetime, dined together in restaurants, despite his challenge. it would be unthinkable, and a desecration of his memory to be part of any activity that mocked his affliction.
A further statement will be issued when I have made further enquiries into this strange, uncharacteristic outing of the association.
PROFESSOR Akinlawon ‘Akin’ Ladipo Mabogunje was an African institution established for all-round development. He is also widely accepted as the Father of African Geography. By 2000, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, was fed up with the National Housing Fund, NHF, which in the eleven years of its establishment had failed to deliver on mass housing for workers. Under the scheme, all those earning the National Minimum Wage and above, contributed 2.5 per cent of their monthly income.
Although workers had contributed about N6 billion to the fund, the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN, which administered the fund had disbursed only a paltry N280 million, while the FMBN and its Siamese twin, the Federal Mortgage Finance Limited, FMFL, had become fat bureaucracies by dipping hands into the fund. Even with this, they were heavily indebted, including owing outstanding pension to their retired workers, totalling N5.5 billion
The NLC instructed workers to stop paying to the fund. Many state governments also joined in stopping the deductions to a fund that was not even audited. Rather than fight back using its federal might to enforce the NHF law, the Obasanjo administration on March 6, 2002 established the Presidential Technical Committee on Housing and Urban Development chaired by Professor Mabogunje. The Committee asked the NLC for a meeting to explain why the NHF had not delivered and what was being done to reverse the trend.
I was part of the NLC Negotiation Team. Mabogunje had picked Mr. Tanimu Yakubu as the new Managing Director of the FMBN. Some of us in the labour delegation were familiar with Tanimu because together, we had been student union leaders and knew he was passionate about workers. When we got back to review the meeting and plan for subsequent ones with the Committee, I told the delegation that we needed technical support as this was an unusual government team.
I explained who Mabogunje was, including his being part of a group of intellectuals who in the First Republic had evolved an ideology called ‘Democratic Socialism’ which was adopted by the main opposition party, the Action Group. There was Mr. S.P.O Fortune-Ebie who as head of the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, had built the sprawling FESTAC Town in Lagos, and Ms Kare Yekwe, a brilliant lawyer I had known over the years.
The Mabogunje Committee was open and showed so much sincerity that even when it had to lay off some workers in order to bring in professionals through public advertisement and transparent interviews, the NLC could not raise objections.
Mabogunje was a major professional in the building of the new capital of Abuja. He came away with a number of lessons that still defines Nigeria. He had led a team of scientists to the site to determine the ecological conditions of the proposed capital, how many people were to be displaced, the range of assets and compensation to be paid for them. First, a professional in his team, Mr. Bawa Bwari had to be dropped, not because he was incompetent but because the Emir of Abuja did not find him acceptable.
Bwari’s ‘crime’ was that he had served as the Secretary of the Gwari Students Association, an organisation that was insisting on the rights of the indigenous Gwari people not to be ruled by traditional rulers from outside.
When Mabogunje needed a manager for the field station, the Emir brought a man who had not even passed basic school certificate and had zero experience. When he enquired why he could not hire a professional and experienced Gwari indigene, he was told this was not politically acceptable. Mabogunje wrote: “This was historical and derived from the colonial administration’s obsession with the indirect rule system creating or imposing a traditional ruler even in areas where such did not exist before.”
Then, Mabogunje and his team needed accommodation and the Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, decided to import porta cabins for the purpose from the United States. By the time they arrived, the work was over and the scientists were packing to leave. When it came to building the new capital city, Mabogunje argued that it should be handled by distinguished Nigerian town planners and architects who would go through competitive bidding assessed by an international panel. But the government rejected this and rather advertised abroad for planners to design the new capital. Subsequently, an American group, International Planning Associates, IPA, was awarded the contract.
The Mabogunje team had to provide the firm all data collected. Despite this, Nigerian professionals had to join the IPA in reworking its basic design to provide a final and acceptable design. Mabogunje said of this sad tale: “ …If we had arranged to critique the design of a group of Nigerian planners as vigorously as we did that of the foreign firm, we could have had as good, if not better, a product for our money.” In analysing why there is an obsession for foreign contractors, he said: “It is difficult to dismiss the insinuations that this is because it is easier to secure foreign exchange through graft when contracts or professional consultancies are handed over to foreign organisations.”
One more experience of Mabogunje on Abuja. For a man who was so involved in building the city, all his applications for a plot of land were unsuccessful as plots of land were allocated by officials “mainly to friends”. He said one day, as the Chairman of the National Board of Community Banks, he visited then FCT Minister, General Gado Nasko, to request for land to build its national headquarters. During the discussions, he let it known that despite his choosing the exact site Abuja city was built, and participating actively in its construction, he did not have even a square foot of land in the territory. He said when the Minister confirmed this, he was allocated a plot in Asokoro. But it took him eight years to secure a certificate of occupancy for the land; the result of a skewed civil service.
Mabogunje traced Nigeria’s problems to the deliberate ploy by British colonialists to “frustrate all serious developmental efforts” and lay faulty political foundations that led to a civil war and three decades of military rule. He agreed that the country, given its diversities, needs an inclusive system: “But to use the idea to catapult relatively unqualified and inexperienced individuals to strategic management positions simply because they come from a particular part of the country, is to court a situation where every major institution of our national life has failed to live up to expectation.”
The global, intensely intellectual and professionally-minded Professor Akin Mabogunje held to his positions until Thursday, August 4, 2022 when at 90, he left, leaving us his very rich legacies.
The supposedly Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ended the registration of (new) voters despite the fact that there were hundreds and thousands of would-be or intending voters trooping into and milling around voter registration centres or points all over the country. We saw pictures of agitated Nigerians struggling to get registered. Many slept at the registration centres. Others got there very early in the morning and left late in the night, doing that day-in day-out; yet, they failed to get their names on the voters’ register. I experienced the INEC shenanigans at its Agege office in Lagos where prospective voters were directed to come as early as 4am to register and then return by 8pm to start the waiting, pushing and shoving battle! And no matter how early one got there, there were close to 50 names already on the make-shift register! And only 70 names, out of the hundreds milling around, were entertained per day!
As in many things Nigerian, officials as well as a mixture of urchins and politicians cashed in on the situation to make brisk business. Monkey business, man-know-man, which also translates into man-pass-man, became rampant at many of the registration centres. Before my very eyes at the INEC Agege office, registration machines were carted away in an SUV to an unknown destination. Feeble protests by the “suffering and smiling” hapless citizens meant nothing to the officials who must be protecting their jobs as well as feathering their nests. Party faithful assigned to the centres that I visited contested territory with INEC officials and the roughnecks who must be placated with concessions or else...
Getting registered as a voter or moving one’s voting centre from one location to the other or, still, correcting one anomaly or the other in one’s Permanent Voter’s Card data became even more tedious than the biblical camel going through the eye of the needle. In Lagos where I live and work, you knew you were within the vicinity of an INEC registration centre when you encountered a long and riotous queue akin to those that were the order of the day at petrol filling stations whenever there was fuel scarcity. People wore long faces; brisk business by petty traders surfaced and people had to settle for whatever was available as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, prices were hiked, further leaving gaping holes in the pockets of already traumatised citizens.
If you were lucky, you got registered but that in itself is no guarantee that your PVC will be out in time, or out at all, before the 2023 election – in the event there is one! For many of those that thronged the registration centres, voting was the last thing on their mind. They were registering to fulfil all righteousness because they did not know what trap the government could in future decide to set for anyone who fails to produce evidence of registration! Note that some places of worship had already started turning back anyone without a Permanent Voter’s Card! So the pressure – and blackmail – was much; but in the midst of all of that, INEC made a simple process of getting onto the Voters register look like rocket science; something so routine and ordinary in other parts of the world. The excuse later given by INEC that it needed time to process voter's data does not hold water. Voter registration should, and must be, a continuous exercise. It should be seamless and not the needless tug-of-war it has now been turned into.
For those who genuinely wanted to enrol so they could perform their civic duty as responsible and patriotic citizens, the hassle they went through must have puzzled them. Why should the government not be interested in its citizens being responsible and patriotic? Why the I-don't-care-attitude, even scantily-concealed hostility, to voter registration? When the ruling party at the Centre needed the same INEC to shift its announced "sacred" timetable for the party presidential primaries, didn't INEC shift the date? There must be something, then, that those in authority know about voter registration that is hidden from the ordinary folks! Note that INEC had originally wanted to stop the voter registration a month earlier but for protests and legal action by an NGO that forced its hands. Nothing suggests that INEC could still not have allowed voter registration beyond the July 3st, 2022 deadline forced upon it.
Voter registration should be done on a daily basis. As someone comes of age, he or she should freely walk into an INEC office to get registered – or even do that online – and have his or her PVC printed and delivered to him by post in a jiffy, as they say; not the present practice of waiting a few months before an election before embarking on the typical Nigerian fire brigade approach of rushing to register millions of people in a few days. My suspicion is that the present awkward and perverted system serves some ulterior motives. It oils the wheel of corruption as hundreds of billions of Naira are voted for elections and voter registration is one of the justifications for these humongous sums. And INEC must be seen to be registering voters in public glare!
Now that INEC has succeeded in shutting the door in the face of would-be voters, who are the gainers and why are the critical stakeholders not complaining? Why are the political parties and politicians not kicking? Why is the government not insisting that citizens willing to perform their civic duty be allowed to do so without let or hindrance? And why are the citizens themselves not protesting against their disenfranchisement by INEC? As it is said, our PVC is our power; being denied our PVC is tantamount to our being denied the constitutionally- guaranteed right to decide who rules over us.
In their definition of disfranchisement or disenfranchisement, political scientists agree that it means the explicit or implicit revocation or denial of, or failure to grant the right to vote to a person or group of persons who are otherwise qualified to vote. INEC acts arbitrarily when it takes that right from citizens who are otherwise qualified to vote. There is no law that takes that right from citizens. INEC, in consideration of its own administrative conveniences – which it lazily does and with uncommon impunity – is the one denying citizens that all-important right. What INEC is promoting, inadvertently, is voter apathy. When the process of registration to vote becomes cumbersome and herculean as INEC has deliberately made it, the interest to participate in the political process will wane. What results is voter apathy.
Voter apathy is dangerous, especially so in a democracy or representative government. Voter apathy is generally defined by political scientists as a lack of interest among voters (and would-be voters?) in the political process, usually resulting in low turnout during elections. It means a dangerously lesser number of citizens takes interest in or participates in the political process. Where this is the case, such disinterested citizens cannot be expected to support the government by paying their taxes, obeying laws and being generally patriotic in the defence of their country. “My country, right or wrong” does not operate in an atmosphere where political apathy is rife.
Voter turnout is the barometer that political scientists use to measure the health of a political system. Where voter turnout is impressive, it means the people have an abiding interest in the political system and are more likely to be keenly interested in the activities of the government than where voter participation is low. And how can they become voters if INEC slams the door, as it has just done, in their face? So, INEC, by its action, is not helping our democracy to grow. It is an aberration that an organization saddled with the very important assignment of nurturing democracy is the very organisation that is acting destructively of that end.
In Gov. Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu’s Ondo State, wonders, it seems, will never end! Thrice within a space of two months, terrorist attacks were reported in Owo, the governor’s home town. This is apart from such attacks in other parts of the state. Is Ondo State slipping into the category of "failed states"? The first of the attacks, on June 5, was at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo, in which not less than 40 people were killed and many others wounded. The Ondo State Government has been tepid in providing follow-up information on that unfortunate incident. Is it true that the terrorists have been fished out? How many of them? What was their motive? And when will they have their day in court?
Answers to these questions, especially the motives behind the attack, become germane because on July 28th, gunmen again reportedly attacked the town; gunshots and explosions were said to have been heard in which a number of people were also reported to have sustained varying degrees of injuries. Was this also a terrorist attack or a routine factory accident? Where detailed and prompt information is not provided, all manner of unsubstantiated information will take over the public space. I think it is for the purpose of providing timely and accurate information that State Governments have a plethora of media aides with all manner of titles. Where they are allowed to function as the professionals that they are, there should be no reason why accurate and timely information beneficial to all and sundry should not be churned out at regular intervals.
Last Friday, a traditional ruler and some other fellows in the same vehicle with the Kabiyesi reportedly fell victim to terrorists around Ago-Panu village along the Owo-Ikare road. That village is also known as Ago-Egbira because of the preponderance of Ebira people in that largely farming community. It was where my mother spent the greater part of her adult life farming and trading. The question must then be asked: Why Owo? Or are these incidents mere coincidences or happenstance? We need to know! We also need to know what the Ondo State Government is doing to keep the state safe by ridding it of criminal elements. Note that Gov. Akeredolu recently raised the alarm about terrorists trooping down South from the North: Are these attacks traceable to that unholy migration? We need to know!
In fairness to Akeredolu, he has done something. Crying out is one of the actions he has taken – and I must confess that in our present dire and perilous situation, this is very important. We have many governors who are afraid - or have been so compromised – that they cannot even as much as offer a whimper. Akeredolu has also directed that CCTV be installed in strategic places and institutions in the state. We need to know how far this has been done. Recently, he also reportedly distributed operation vehicles to security agencies in the state to beef up security. Fantastic! But how far has that made Ondo State safe or safer? We need to know! It is our right to know!
There is a question I have asked, which concerns the security votes of Gov. Akeredolu. He needs to tell us how much and how he applies them. Last week, I sighted the pay slip of an Ondo State teacher where N1,500.00 was deducted under the heading “Amotekun” One explanation said the deduction was to help equip Amotekun and transform it into a fighting force able to confront the security challenges facing the state. Another said some teacher(s) got kidnapped and the teachers’ union in the state could not raise the ransom money demanded by the kidnappers. So, it approached the State Government for a loan and the deduction that I sighted was to offset that loan! Pray, which of the two explanations appears more ludicrous? What is Gov. Akeredolu doing with his security votes? There are too many vexatious and worrisome news swirling around this subject. It is time we know!
To understand the profligacy, indiscretion and misplaced priority in the purchase of N1.14 billion ($2.7 million) –worth of 10 luxury vehicles by the Muhammadu Buhari government for neighbouring Niger Republic, ostensibly to shore up that country’s security, at a time when there is excruciating hunger in the land and terrorists are probably a mile away from the Aso Villa seat of government, you have to go way back to the year 1972 or so, to the reply of the late president of Niger Republic, Ahmadu Diori, when asked why Niger supported Nigeria as against secessionist Biafra in the Nigerian Civil War. According to Diori, as quoted by Temitope Ola in ‘Nigeria’s assistance to African states: What are the benefits?’ in the International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Niger depended on Nigeria for her economic survival. In his direct words, made in French, Diori had said: “Quand le Nigeria etermue, le Niger fact plus qu’attraper la grippe, il se trouvedeja a l’hopital” meaning, “when Nigeria sneezes, Niger not only catches a cold, it is already on admission in the hospital”.
While government justifies the vehicle purchase as a continuation of Nigeria’s national foreign policy, with its central focus on Africa, this has afforded Nigerians the opportunity to dig into the details of the so-called foreign policy. In the process, we found out that as irresponsibly profligate as the Buhari government’s vehicle purchase is at this time of national economic pains at home, profligacy and irresponsible spending has, since independence, hallmarked successive Nigerian governments’ national and foreign policies. This recklessness confirms the flip side of that popular aphorism that though Rome was not built in a day, Rome was also not destroyed in a day as well. Not only didn’t the prostrate and lamentable state that Nigeria currently finds herself begin today, Buhari, a known defender of his Fulani ethnicity, at the expense of Nigeria, was led into taking such a reprehensible action based on a Nigerian governmental pedigree of wastage.
According to January 30, 1970, edition of The New York Times, even after a ruinous, brutal and destructive civil war, Nigeria’s economic structure and promise remained almost unscathed. After about $1 billion was spent on prosecuting the needless civil war, Nigeria must have been one of the few countries in the world which fought an intra-national war for three years without any known record of indebtedness. With an economy managed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, an astute manager of men and resources, Times reported that Nigeria adopted the “cash and carry” method for her arms and ammunition procurement. More astoundingly, she didn’t have to draw down on her foreign currency reserves which, pre-war, stood at $400 million.
Oil, discovered just before the war and comfortably padded by a fairly widespread export portfolio of cocoa, groundnuts, tin, rubber, timber and a “$30 million or so” which was in the hands of the marketing boards and private firms, kept the economy bubbling, even while the armaments of war zoomed in the air. With an oil production capacity which, as Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared secession in May 1967, was soaring at 570,000 barrels a day, Nigeria literally didn’t touch her oil during the war so much that by 1968, production had plummeted to 50 barrels a day. This rose to a record 550,000 barrels a day immediately after the war, with royalties and taxes netting an annual $100 million and which, in 1975, rose to $1 billion from oil companies.
Armed with hugely humongous oil wealth, a vast population and the mantra that a Nigerian was in five blacks gathered anywhere in the world, as the street lingo says, these soon “entered Nigeria’s head,” and the thought that the country could be an African superpower became a near-national ideological obsession. Between 1967 and 1977, federal government revenue was said to have soared by 2,200%. Nigeria’s economy was so strong that, on January 1, 1973, the country abandoned its pound sterling currency, a colonial relic, and created a Naira currency. Nigeria was managed by an exuberant crop of unaccountable military leaders who had scant leadership and economic training. The height of it was Gowon’s infamous statement abroad in 1973 that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it. The huge oil wealth was soon quashed on the altar of naivety, arrogance and knavery.
Going on foreign junkets became a pastime of the nouveau riche military elite and a consumerist pattern driven by an obsession with foreign goods. This grossly contradicted a budding ideology of a people who professed an African superpower. General Gowon, like Muhammadu Buhari, publicly known for his terse thirst for personal corruption, became a breeding pond for blood-of-the-country-sucking sharks dressed in military epaulettes. The governors began a mania of infrastructure driven more by an opportunistic craving to collect kickback from contractors than the need for development. It became so bad that in 1975, the Gowon government had placed accumulated order for 20 million tonnes of cement, paid for by Nigeria’s buoyant petro-dollars. The cost of the mind-boggling cement orders was put at about $2 billion, an amount which was a quarter of Nigeria’s oil revenue in 1975. This order was at the time more than the cement capacity of Europe and the USSR combined. Apapa was thoroughly overwhelmed and shipping lines all over the world scurried to Nigeria to take a bite of the raw, mindless orgy of profligacy. Most of the shipments entered demurrage in what was infamously dubbed the Cement Armada. It was so bad that when Murtala Muhammed took over from Gowon in a sudden coup and set up a panel to investigate the 12 governors under him, only two of them and two other ministers were found to be blameless.
The petro-dollar El-Dorado was so hugely provoked that every rural dweller in Nigerian villages wanted to migrate to the city. Prostitution statistics rose tremendously as did crimes. Girls became willing liaisons to soldiers in whose hands hid the famous dollars from oil exploration and their civil servant accomplices. Between 1970 and 1976, statistics revealed an upsurge in criminal activities due to the craze to take a bite of petro-dollars. An approximate 900% increase in incidences of armed robbery was recorded, with 12,153 reported cases in 1970. This figure soared to 105,859 in 1976. Executions of robbers, codified in federal and state laws, went on the upswing. The capital punishment for armed robbery could however not deter the spate of robberies because the petro-dollar gains accruable from the crime outweighed the risk of being caught.
It was easy for the exuberant military leaders, many of them in their 20s and 30s, some of whom were bachelors, like General Jack, the head of state himself, to extend the spatial control mentality of military psychology into governance. They easily keyed into the African superpower near-national ideological obsession and began to spend like Father Christmas, in the service of a foreign policy they devised, which was woven around Africa as the centre-piece. This cost Nigeria heavily.
Thus, in 1972, as reported by Ola, Nigeria signed a pact with the Niger Republic to supply her 30,000 kilowatts of electricity from the Kanji Dam hydroelectricity, even when local electricity needs were not met. Again in 1974, Nigeria donated millions of naira-worth of relief materials to the same Niger when it was ravaged by drought. After the widespread Soweto massacre riots of 1976, Nigeria brought into the country hundreds of “Soweto kids” and several other South African black youths and offered them scholarships to study in Nigerian universities. This continued to the end of apartheid. Nigeria also established a South Africa Relief Fund (SARF) in 1978 which Nigerians poured about $20 million of their hard-earned money. In June 1976, according to Ola, General Obasanjo presented a cheque of $250,000 to the liberation forces of Rhodesia through Mozambiquan foreign minister, Joaquim Chissano, in Mauritius during the OAU summit. Quoting General Joe Garba, Ola also reported that on April 25, 1976, Obasanjo handed over to President Samora Machel of the newly independent state of Mozambique the sum of $1.6 million as development assistance.
Nigeria also did this Father Christmas in her negotiation with and sale of a concessionary 90-day crude oil to South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Niger and other African countries. Ghana and Togo owed the country over $30 million from the exercise. The Big Father Xmas also constructed an expressway from Lagos to the outskirts of Cotonou with several millions of dollars while spearheading the integration project of a regional gas pipeline for the sub-regional economic development. Nigeria equally established the Technical Aid Programme and created a Trust Fund at AfDB for Africans with a soft loan of $100 million left in the bank to be lent to least developing African countries.
In 1989, upon the paralysis of the Beninoise government by a bludgeoning workers’ strike occasioned by its inability to pay salaries, Nigeria, under Babangida, offset the salaries while also donating 12,000 tonnes of petroleum products to the government. The year before, Babangida’s Nigeria funded the Ibrahim Babangida School of International Studies in Liberia and donated seven Nigerian academics to its institution while Nigeria constructed the Trans-African Highway and bought over Liberia’s debt valued at $30 million. There must have been a-thousand-and-one other frittering off of the Nigerian wealth which took place undercover which are not open to the rest of the world, all in the name of foreign policy. For instance, as of 2009, Nigeria had sent about 3,000 troops to Darfur for the AU peacekeeping force. President Obasanjo also sent 5,000 Nigerian soldiers on peacekeeping operations. Also, Nigeria’s mediation and conciliation efforts in Angola, Chad, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, etc ate deep into the country’s treasury.
There have been several arguments from international relations scholars who aver that not being an island unto herself, Nigeria cannot but assist other nations, especially the ones that surround her. This argument is further bolstered by the fact that Nigeria herself receives huge assistance from developed countries of the world. However, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been left so much to the whims of the executive arm of government which then drives it according to the personal mindset of the head of the arm. It is why a cronyist like Buhari will capitalize on this unwholesome pedigree of Nigerian leadership to fritter money abroad in building a road into his Niger ancestral home, spend billions of Nigerian money on the tiny African country, and legitimize it by citing Nigeria’s national foreign policy. President Obasanjo and General Babangida, for instance, squandered Nigeria’s national wealth so unconscionably during their stay in office on what will appear as a mythical brotherhood relations policy, without corresponding benefits accruable to the country. Many of those countries on whom Nigeria squandered her national resources that could have been saved to build a today for her children demonize Nigeria and Nigerians today on account of the social and economic calamities that result, partly from such mindless donations and investments in their countries that were made decades ago. Nigerians today face xenophobic attacks from South Africans, for whose today we cleaned our treasury yesterday.
Almost as if it was perforating the thesis I have been sermonizing about since the beginning of this piece, on the scene emerged an alumnus of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, MBBS Class of 1985, Dr Philip Ozuah who donated the sum of $1,000,000 to a hostel building fund project of the college last week. The news nearly blocked the social media airwave. In an earlier discussion of Nigeria’s Father Christmas role in Africa that I had with some persons, I was asked, put beside Ozuah’s gesture, what difference exists between Nigeria and Dr Ozuah, both having helped their needy ecosystem?
In some way, you could also throw Tobi Amusan into this mix. Amusan is the 25-year-old athlete who made history last week by winning the 100 metres hurdles gold at the World Athletics Championship.
Rather than counterpoise Nigeria in terms of similarity, I think what both Ozuah and Amusan did for Nigeria is what Leo Tolstoy called Loss as the elder brother of Gain. I explain: At a time, we thought our Loss was the national morale that had sagged badly in Nigeria, both in individual Nigerians’ willingness to intervene in the affairs of the other person or intervention in matters that affect the collective. Also, at a time when we thought that the name of Nigeria could never inspire anything good in the world, Amusan and Ozuah dismantled this mindset by presenting themselves as our Gain. In the words of Bob Marley, in his ‘Trenchtown’ track, Ozuah and Amusan both made Nigeria/Nigerians find “our (national) bread in desolate places,” among a world that asked, “can anything good come out Of (Nigeria) Trench Town?”
However, Ozuah and Amusan haven’t totally erased the fact that Nigeria is still a desolate place. If you listened to the maiden Channels TV interview granted by Festus Keyamo, the national publicity secretary of the APC and his haughty pee on the graves of Nigerians who died and are still dying as a result of Buhari’s effeminate fight against terrorists, or his cavalier dismissal as inconsequential and the over-simplification of the almost half a year stay at home by our university children, you cannot but conclude that though brains similar to Keyamo’s, since 1960, have profligately driven Nigeria back, the Amusan and Ozuahs demonstrate that even inside the tunnel, we can have the light shine.
“Democracy is a journey and the quality of the ride depends on what we collectively put into it. If we shut our ears and our eyes, the ship of state could derail…” Dennis Odife in ‘Without Money and Without Price: A Brief Autobiography’, p.196 (2016)
In court around July 1, 2022, the chief judge of Akwa Ibom state in south-south Nigeria, Ekaette Obot, repeatedly threatened to jail my good friend, Inibehe Effiong, for his diligence in representing an unknown client against two powerful men – the governor who appointed her into office and a senator without whose influence she probably may also not have been in office.
Four weeks later, on July 27, she fulfilled her wish committing him to jail for one month at a whim before proceeding on vacation. The judge did this notwithstanding that there was pending before her “a motion….to disqualify and recuse himself (herself) from the case on grounds of bias or likelihood of bias”. At no point did the judge tell Inibehe what his crime was nor did she give him an opportunity to defend himself as he is entitled to.
The president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has gone on record to say that the course of conduct chosen by the judge against Inibehe “not only runs afoul of known practice and procedure in such cases but is also unconstitutional”. Other lawyers have described her conduct as judicial malpractice.
Madam Chief Judge may enjoy her momentary schadenfreude, but Africa’s history suggests those who abuse the rule of law – whether they be executive, parliamentary or judicial officers – in the way she has chosen to do almost invariably live to reap the whirlwind in more ways than one. A few illustrations may drive home the point.
As French West Africa prepared for De Gaulle’s self-rule referendum in 1957, Ernest Boka was one of the most promising stars in the region’s politics. In his native Côte d’Ivoire, Boka was eclipsed in popularity only by Felix Hophouët-Boigny, the wealthy Baoulé Chief who was the first black person to be appointed minister in France. Born in 1928, 23 years younger than Hophouët, Boka was a bright lawyer who appeared destined for greatness. At just 28 in 1957, he became chief of staff to the governor-general, before rising from 1958 to 1959 to ministerial portfolios, first in education and then public service. As independence approached in 1960, Boka was one of the leaders of Houphouët-Boigny’s Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), who strong-armed other platforms from the contest, enabling Houphouët to emerge unopposed as Côte d’Ivoire’s president.
As Boka’s reward, Houphouët appointed him Côte d’Ivoire’s first supreme court president in 1960, where he initially proved to be a trusted believer. But Boka was always a man of the people with socialist sympathies. At 35, in March 1963, Ernest Boka resigned as supreme court president. Shortly thereafter, in August 1963, he was among hundreds rounded up under the direction of Houphouët-Boigny for allegedly plotting to kill the president with juju. A special security court sentenced 19 to life terms and condemned another six to death.
But Ernest Boka did not live long enough to stand trial. His lifeless body was found hanging from the ceiling of his cell in Abidjan bearing marks consistent with torture. In response to strong rumours that Boka’s death was not suicide, Houphouët-Boigny himself called foreign diplomats and correspondents to a briefing in April 1964 at his presidential palace for what turned out to be a trial of a dead man. At the briefing, Houphouët announced that Ernest Boka had confessed to an attempt to use juju to assassinate the president. As evidence, Houphouët-Boigny, a practising Catholic, produced two suitcases containing an assortment of magic potions, dried remains of dead animals and a collection of puny coffins reportedly seized from Ernest Boka’s family house.
About the time Ernest Boka was being liquidated in Côte d’Ivoire, a lowly court clerk and interpreter was working his way into reckoning in Spain’s African plantation in Equatorial Guinea. Francisco Macias Nguema was famous for allowing financial inducements to dictate the content of his translations. As one of few locals with a facility in Spanish, the colonialists came to hang on his every word, mistaking him for a man of influence. In one year between 1966 and 1967, Macias rose from assistant interpreter to become mayor, then minister for public works before becoming deputy president of the governing council. When the gong sounded for independence in 1968, he was well placed to be installed as Equatorial Guinea’s first president on October 12, 1968.
But Macias was unwell and given to outbursts of paranoia and violence fueled by dependence on tropical hallucinogens. Six months after being installed as president, in March 1969, he personally bludgeoned his foreign minister to death before having opposition leader, Bonifacio Ondo Edu, abducted from exile in neighbouring Gabon and executed. A reign of terror ensued during which Equatorial Guinea’s small population of professionals, including lawyers and judges were either killed or exiled. Rules were dismantled. With no judges, regime enemies were tried and executed by youth militias organised and administered by Macias’ nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema M’ba N’Zogo, an army lieutenant-colonel.
On August 3, 1979, Teodoro Obiang toppled his uncle and had him put on trial for mass atrocities, including genocide and embezzlement. As there were no judges left in the country nor lawyers to defend accused persons, the trial was conducted in a cinema hall by militias of precisely the same sort whom Macias used as president to liquidate his enemies, both real and imagined. Macias’ fate was predictable. On September 29, 1979, the militia found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Hours after his predicted condemnation, an elite military unit flown in specially from Morocco executed him by firing squad at the Black Beach Prison in Malabo.
Two years after Macias’ death, on Christmas Eve in 1981, the government of Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda abducted Malawi’s exiled, first attorney general and justice minister, Orton Chirwa, and his wife, Vera, from Zambia and returned them to Lilongwe. Orton Chirwa was the founding president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which led Malawi to independence in 1964. He was also Malawi’s first lawyer.
As a minister in the transitional government in 1962, Orton took issue with the presumption of innocence and burdens of proof in criminal trials, arguing for their replacement with traditional African norms and institutions. As attorney general, he pushed for these reforms but was turfed out of the cabinet in September 1964 in a power tussle with Banda, his successor as MCP resident before they were promulgated. Following the collapse of the Chilobwe Murder trials in 1969, Banda scrapped criminal trials by regular courts, transferring jurisdiction over crimes to so-called traditional courts, comprising a traditional chief as chair, with three citizen assessors and one lawyer. The traditional court system was appointed by Banda, who was both president and justice minister. They also reported to him.
In an ironic twist of fate, Orton would be arraigned for treason in 1983 before the kind of traditional courts he had advocated for as attorney general. His trial was a charade. The court denied him and his wife – herself also Malawi’s first female lawyer – legal defence or the right to call witnesses. Initially sentenced to death on conviction, Banda commuted this to life imprisonment. Orton spent the remainder of his life in solitary confinement at the Zomba Prison in Malawi where, in December 1992, he died at the age of 73.
As Nigeria’s military ruler from 1985 to 1993, Ibrahim Babangida eviscerated the courts, mostly precluding them by military decree from jurisdiction over whatever his regime did. In 1991, he issued a special decree making legal proceedings against his regime a felony punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment. Out of power in 2001, a successor regime asked him to appear before a commission of inquiry to defend his record.
Rather than do that, the man who made going to court a crime hired a coterie of highly prized lawyers to go to court and question the powers of an elected civilian administration to ask him to account. The case ended up before a supreme court presided over by judges, some of whose judicial careers Babangida had advanced. The result was jurisprudence that set back the powers of the federal government and the safety and security of Nigeria.
Africa’s history has firm lessons for powerful men and women who want to get ahead by retarding the legal process through abuse of the sacred trust of upholding the rule of law. The biggest argument for defending and preserving the rule of law is self-interest –000000000 those who degrade it often end up in need of it, usually to save them against their own temporary collaborators.
Karma has a brutal sense of humour.
One thing is assured: Inibehe Effiong is a courageous, vigorous and brilliant advocate who is destined to become a phenomenon in Nigeria’s legal profession. Ekaette Obot will live long enough to see that destiny fully realized. That is the least we can pray for.
I watched the minister of state for Labour and employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN) on Politics today, with Seun Okinbaloye, on Friday, August 6, 2022, and he made several claims, the most outrageous being that Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has more executive experience and capacity than Waziri Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party
His exact words were:
“Atiku Abubakar has never held any government position where he makes the final call. He was Vice President, he was not the chief executive. He was never governor. He was never anything. Even Peter Obi is ahead of Atiku Abubakar. Peter Obi is ahead of him in terms of capacity to make decisions. So how are we going to hand over the country to somebody who has never shown the capacity. Who has never held a position where he makes the final call?”It may be that Mr. Keyamo is faced with selling such a bad product as Bola Tinubu, a man who voluntarily entered into a drug assets forfeiture plea bargain with the US Department of Justice, and who has multiple questions on his source of wealth, real identity, and educational qualifications, that he is doing the next best thing, de-marketing his main rival.
Festus Keyamo also says some other things in praise of Bola Tinubu, however, he is wrong in his postulations for the following reasons:
- It is not true that Vice Presidents do not have executive experience and capacity, to the extent where they have the final call. At least in Nigeria and the United States. By virtue of Section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, the Vice President has final executive control and capacity over the National Economic Council.
- As a matter of fact, Atiku Abubakar headed the National Economic Council during the Obasanjo years. The National Economic Council comprises of the Vice President os the Executive Chairman, and the 36 state Governors, as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
- At the time they Atiku Abubakar headed the National Economic Council, Bola Tinubu, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Peter Obi were all members and sat UNDER him. In other words Atiku was their boss.
- Not only was Atiku Abubakar the boss of these bosses (Tinubu, Kwankwaso, and Obi), but he also led the National Economic Council at a time when Nigeria paid off all her foreign debts to the Paris Club and other Bretton Woods institutions, meaning that not only does he have experience, but his experience is good.
- Atiku Abubakar was also the Chairman of the National Council of Privatisation, which is a statutory body and he thrived in that position. Meaning that he also has further executive experience that is positive.
- It would be recalled that Atiku Abubakar stood in for then President Obasanjo on multiple occasions. One of such occasions was on July 10, 2003, when the Governor of Anambra, Chris Ngige was abducted while then President Obasanjo had traveled and then Vice President Atiku Abubakar was in charge. In an interview with ThisDay newspapers on August 16, 2020, Chris Ngige revealed how Atiku Abubakar ordered Tafa Balogun, the then Inspector General of Police, to restore him to power. What will Festus Keyamo call that, if not executive authority? This is the same executive authority that enabled Vice President Yemi Osinbajo sack the Director General of the Department of State Security, Lawal Daura, on August 7, 2018.
- And although it is fallacious to say that Waziri Atiku Abubakar has no executive experience, let us for the sake of argument condescend to Keyamo’s pedestrianism. How much executive experience did Kennedy, Obama, and Trump have before going on to be President? None. Yet, they performed.
- Keyamo said Tinubu increased Lagos’s IGR. True. But much more than that, Tinubu increased Lagos’s debt. Tinubu met a debt of less than $200 million and left a debt of billions of dollars. Lagos alone owes 6% of Nigeria’s external debt and approximately 4% of her domestic debt. Tinubu’s debt overshot his IGR, which is a net loss for Lagos. Besides, with AlphaBeta, are we sure the IGR got to the coffers of the Lagos Government, or to private hands?
- Furthermore, Keyamo averred that Tinubu Is a good head hunter. How can that be true when he was responsible for head hunting Buhari? How can that be true when he brought in Ambode and fought with him? How can that be true when the electorate rejected his hand picked Governor in Osun and he lost the state to the PDP?
- If, as Keyamo said, Tinubu is a good manager of men and resources, then how come he is the first governor of the Fourth Republic to have fought with two of his own hand picked deputy Governors and instigated their impeachments?
- Tinubu promised to continue with Buhari’s good works. Can he mention those good works? A man who wants to continue where Buhari stopped is definitely not the right choice for Nigerians.
But besides the above, how can the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, be on strike for a record period, and the minister who is supposed to solve this national emergency, Festus Keyamo, has left his station to promote Bola Tinubu’s campaign? If this administration was serious, Keyamo should have been laser focused on the ASUU strike.
His obsession with promoting Bola Tinubu at the cost of his responsibilities as minister of state for labour is another reason why the ASUU strike would not be solved any time soon and will move from an emergency to a crisis. This administration, and Keyamo, are more interested in politicking than in governing.
That is why Keyamo has left his place of primary assignment to become the Senior advocate of the progenitor of the gospel of Agbado and Cassava.
Dear citizens of Nigeria, if you love your children, if you want ASUU strikes to be a thing of the past, then vote out a government that met Nigeria as the third fastest growing economy in the world, according to CNNMoney, and has now turned her into the world headquarters for extreme poverty for the last five years.
Atiku Abubakar has a private university that has NEVER gone on strike. Vote for him and he will do for our public university, what he has done for his personal university.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently gave a 2-weeks ultimatum, which has since expired, for the negotiating parties to resolve the Federal Government-ASUU imbroglio. Some of us who had been in the educational sector long enough and had witnessed the aberrations knew it was a tall order and more fittingly, an impossible condition. This is not because the matter cannot be resolved in less than two weeks but because it was clearly discernible that the parties involved and other stakeholders in university education have not been telling ourselves the bitter truth. The closest to uprightness was the statement by the Honourable Minister of Labour that the Federal Government does not have the funds to meet its obligations in the agreement signed with the Unions, and that the country is broke. How else can one explain a 2009 agreement that is still begging for implementation in 2022? What is the assurance that a follow-up agreement in 2022 will be implemented before another 13 years (2035), if the prevailing conditions remain unaltered?
I struggled within me in deciding whether to send my modest suggestions covertly to the major parties involved or put it in the public domain. I have however come to the conclusion that it will serve greater public good with the latter approach since virtually all Nigerians are stakeholders. The unwary public has the right to know what is responsible for this seemingly intractable challenge, the ultimate solution and what should be their role in resolving the issues. It is embarrassing that the current ASUU strike which began on 14th February, 2022 has again been “rolled over” for another 4 weeks. Other staff Unions on our campuses (SSANU, NASU and NAAT) have not fared better. The last ASUU strike in 2020 lasted for nine months and from all indications, the current strike may last longer. Must we continue this way? Is incessant strike the solution to the decadence in the educational system? Have the strikes been effective or of any overall benefit to the stakeholders? The answer to all these questions is ambiguous and clearly dependent on the side to which the individual belongs.
ASUU embarked on the current strike to press home its demands for; the renegotiation of the ASUU/FGN 2009 agreement, deployment of UTAS to replace IPPIS, release of the reports of Visitation panels to federal universities, funding for revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, poor funding of State Universities and promotion arrears. I have not been privileged to read the Nimi Briggs Report but snippets in the newspapers and other information outlets indicate that a major part of the report is increment in salary. Nigerian lecturers are now the poorest paid in Africa and it is obvious that such a system can never retain the best. We know from the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, that the Nimi Briggs Committee proposed “109 to 185 per cent increase in the University wage structure”, and that “the Federal Government will incur an additional N560 billion as salaries alone”. The Minister has opined that negotiating with ASUU without simultaneously doing so with other university-based unions only delays the strike as it would not achieve a quick resolution of the issues. The Minister at several fora has also declared that Nigeria is broke (saying the obvious!) and that the Federal Government does not have the funds to meet its obligations in the agreement signed with the Unions. He has therefore called for renegotiation of the terms of the Agreement with ASUU, in the effort to end the ongoing strike by University staff.
If we continue this way, the negotiations are unlikely to record any significant achievement.
Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs (Pro-Chancellor, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo), chairing the current negotiating Panel and other members of the panel are reputable and highly revered individuals with very deep insight of university education. They have over the years proven their devotion and total commitment to the growth and development of higher education in the country. However, the fact remains that they have to work within the ambit of their terms of reference. The Committee inaugurated on March 7, 2022 had three months to conclude the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement and, as expected, it submitted its report on schedule. However, the efforts of the 7-member renegotiating team now appear to be inadequate in resolving the present impasse, reopening our universities and keeping our campuses functional. It will be necessary to know the suggestions proffered by the Renegotiating Committee on how the Federal Government would source the funds to meet the proposed salary increase.
Another major grouse of ASUU and the other staff Unions with the Federal Government is the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The IPPIS is domiciled in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF). The IPPIS project, which commenced in 2007, centralises the payment of salaries and wages directly to the bank accounts of all federal government employees in Nigeria. It is one of the major issues that led to the 9-month strike by the ASUU in 2020, and the follow-up industrial actions by SSANU and NASU early in 2021. The challenges of IPPIS are enormous for all stakeholders and especially for the Universities. Due to the peculiarities of the Universities, there are major challenges with the use of IPPIS. Most of these are, to all extent and purposes, human problems. The scheme has become an albatross bedeviling the tertiary education system in the country, and further undermining the autonomy earlier enjoyed by the Universities. Interestingly, while the Unions are agitating, University administrators are lukewarm about the use of IPPIS because it has shifted the heat and agitations on salaries and wages from the campuses to Abuja. Instead of ASUU insisting on the use of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), and the Joint Action Committee of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) marketing the University Peculiar Payroll Payment System (U3PS), relocating and shedding the control of IPPIS for Federal Universities to the National Universities Commission (NUC) will be a fair compromise. My opinion!
The peculiarities of the University system (such as sabbatical leave, appointment of expatriate staff and other practices necessary to internationalize and make a university world-class can then be continuously built into the IPPIS software domiciled in NUC. It could ideally be referred to as IPPIS-U. I do not expect ASUU to agree with this suggestion just as I also would not expect the Federal Government to concur. This is because ASUU is known to fight “until the last man” for a just cause and on the part of the Federal Government, egos of those who have maintained the “IPPIS or nothing” stance may be bruised. However, for the sake of the system and to bring some stability to our universities it appears to me to be the best solution and gladiators must at this point sheath their swords. The unending expectation of a positive outcome from the integrity test by the National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA) for both UTAS and U3PS should be a source of worry to all Nigerians. We have had enough of IPPIS politics! No software, no matter how robust, would eliminate the negative factors identified with IPPIS, particularly if some of the operators are attuned to selfish and dishonest pursuits, and offenders are not severely and promptly punished. The very best financial accountability software in the world can
always be compromised but such occurrences are minimized where and when there are active deterrents.
It is time for the stakeholders in the education sector to now come to “reason together” and stop acting in silos and fiefdoms. Government must declare an emergency in the education sector and all critical stakeholders must now dialogue, and come to amicable and reasonable solution. Truth be told, this is not the time for negotiations spanning months, it smirks of insincerity or failure to grasp the enormity of the problem. While not ignoring the letter and spirit of the Trade Dispute Act on resolution of industrial actions, I will propose that the Government conveys an expanded assembly of critical stakeholders, and not just the Ministries and the Unions, to deliberate and take critical decisions that will move the education sector forward, and ensure that our students, who have been at home for five months, resume immediately. The meeting should have representatives of; the core Ministries (Education, Labour, Finance, and Science and Technology), the staff Unions (ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT), the students, National Salaries and Wages Commission, Head of Service of the Federation, Accountant-General of the Federation, and the Tertiary Education Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Federal Ministry of Education/National Universities Commission should coordinate the meetings which ideally should be chaired by the Minister of Education. If discussions at such a forum is open and sincere, it will be possible to chart a new course for University education in the country and forestall any future strikes and closure of our higher institutions. We all know the truth but, we must now allow the truth to set us free.
A quick background information on the current financial contribution of students in our Federal Universities will shed some light on the insincerity pervading the system. Allow me to use Obafemi Awolowo University as an example. The students still pay N90, with N2,500 maintenance fees, per session for accommodation even in situations where the session extends beyond 12 months. The N90 is the same amount I paid as a student in the same University in the 1970s. The cost of the receipt issued for the payment is probably more than the amount paid and it would have been more “economical” for the university if offered free! The charging of “fees” is not supported by the Federal Government but in OAU, undergraduate student pay ‘’Departmental charges” of N5,000 per session for Arts, N10,000 for Sciences, Social Sciences, Technology and Law, and N15,000 for Medicine and other courses in the Health Sciences. These charges were fixed over 20 years ago and the uproar that followed has ensured that it remained the same.
OAU with a student population of about 25,000 runs an annual Personnel budget of approximately N10 billion. This in essence means N400,000 per student per session will double the personnel budget. Of course, it will be ridiculous to expect that all students must pay the same amount of fees. It may mean payments of between N200,000 and N600,000 per student per session depending on the course. This is nowhere near the N900,000 to N3,000,000 per session that students pay in most private universities today. Students would be charged based on the standard staff-student ratio and the number of lectures per course, with a standard fee fixed for each lecture. A personal experience would suffice. I was in a University in South Africa, as Visiting Professor, in 2002 and the Department could not deliver a lecture because it fell on a Public holiday that was never envisaged. It was the last week of formal lectures, just before the examinations, and the department had to negotiate with the students to find a suitable time.
The students had to be persuaded that the lecture would be beneficial to them and really worth sacrificing their revision time. It was strange to me that lecturers had to plead with students for a lecture to be delivered. My host then explained to me that failure to give the lecture would mean a refund by the Department to the students but that, to him was not the problem. The real challenge was that the next set of students would reject that lecture because it would be deemed as inconsequential and unnecessary, if an earlier set could graduate without it. In Nigeria of today, such a lecture would never be given and it would be rationalized. If students pay for lectures, no matter how minimal, they can boldly and justifiably exercise their right to quality delivery and regularity of the session.
Many would ask, if fees are introduced, what would happen to those who cannot afford the fees? Between 10 and 20 per cent of the fees collected (an estimated one to two billion Naira for OAU) should be set aside for partial or full scholarships to indigent students. While many may want to falsify and lower their status in order to qualify, two or three key criteria such as primary and secondary schools attended (fee-paying or non-fee-paying), loss of parents etc. would easily differentiate indigent students.
As Vice-Chancellor for five years (2017 to 2022), the incarceration of University administration on the issue of fees was quite distressing to me. Even when the students are willing to contribute financially, the staff Unions led by ASUU had always been against the introduction of fees. The Federal Government also insist that the annual appropriation budget had taken care of all necessary expenditure and that 25% of any income generated must even be remitted to the Federal government. In 2020, the National Assembly passed a resolution that Universities should refund Acceptance fees (N20,000 per newly admitted student for OAU). It became a big issue and the University had to refund, even when we had a 9-month extension to the session due to ASUU strike, and the financial situation of the Federal institutions were highly precarious. Also, in October 2019, the University of Maiduguri introduced a modest increment in their charges and were forced to revert to the old charges by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In ordering the University of Maiduguri to suspend the plan to raise the fees imposed, the House of Representatives concluded “Irrespective of the justification that may have informed the decision, either to address operational and managerial realities of the school, such decision is ill-timed, given the desire by the Federal Government, the Borno State Government and well-meaning Nigerians to tackle the educational needs of Borno State and its environs.” A better approach, instead of the outright reversal of the charges, would have been to set up a special fund for Scholarships and Bursaries, for those who may not be able to afford the increment, due to the plight of the people in the North-East. Unfortunately, the prevailing situation in the region in 2019 has now spread to other parts of the country. The University of Benin announced a similar increase in some charges in September 2021 which also had to be reversed. These occurrences are worrisome and confirmatory of our desire in post-oil boom era to have everything for free, including university education.
Some have argued that education is a right and not a privilege, and that funding of education as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution is the responsibility of government and not parents. Must we allow the demise of our public primary and secondary schools, which we have all witnessed, to occur in our public universities? It is deceitful to expect that University education in today’s Nigeria will continue to be free. The evidence and situation on ground does not support such a grandiose illusion. There are currently 217 universities in the country of which only 49 are federal, 57 state, and majority 111 are private. If the Federal universities would survive, we must be sincere enough to admit our prostration and be courageous to take far-reaching decisions. It is possible with the support of all and sundry. We must always remember that strong connections have been established between rising criminality and idle youths. It is dangerous for the country to continue to nurture university students that are wasting away at home, without the slightest idea of a possible date of resumption. We must not forget that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. All involved must resolve to end this strike and rapidly chart a better course for the future of university education in the country. I come in peace!
Next month, campaigns for the 2023 elections will kick off officially. I used the word “officially” advisedly: campaign has practically taken off on TV and Twitter. Many presidential candidates are already marketing themselves. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his All Progressives Congress (APC) opponent, even took time off the other day to exchange missiles over Muslim-Muslim ticket. Mr Peter Obi (Labour Party) has been reeling out captivating statistics and keeping fact checkers busy. Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (New Nigeria Peoples Party) has been talking a good game everywhere as well.
The most interesting battles so far are on Twitter. Supporters of the presidential candidates are steadily trading cyber threats and insults. It is a race to the bottom: who can take the standard of public conversation to the lowest, meanest level? Who can say the vilest things? I must confess I am amused by every bit of it. Electioneering periods are usually the most exciting for us and the 2022/2023 season has lived up to the billing so far, with more to follow. We were born for elections. Nothing excites us on a prolonged run like electioneering. It is a festival. Nigeria is not a boring place, but the spice that comes with the elections is like a tonic that keeps us hyperactive night and day.
It should be pure fun if not that Nigeria is in a bad place and the next president has his job well cut out. It is not going to be a tea party. Retweets, likes and vile comments cannot tackle these challenges. World-class branding cannot change our situation. In my previous article, I wondered why anybody would want to be president at this point in our history. I listed a number of complex challenges ahead — such as fighting insecurity, taking tough decisions on the management of the exchange rate, on subsidies, on funding of public universities, on the civil service, on sectional agitations, on debts, and the rest. Fellow Nigerians, do not be deceived: there is no easy way out.
On Twitter, over-excited Nigerians have already solved all these problems on behalf of their favourite presidential candidates. Easy peasy. After all, the goal of electioneering is to get power first. What happens thereafter is for thereafter. When we get to that bridge we will cross it, isn’t it? We learn nothing from history. In fact, we disdain history. And I am not talking about the history that people always lament is no longer being taught in schools. I am talking about the history we are living through, the history we are experiencing. Otherwise, we should have a sober electioneering this time, full of controlled promises and calm expectations. My apologies: I am preaching to a wall.
Regardless, we should be asking the candidates hard and specific questions as full-blown campaigns start. For whatever it is worth, we should grill them on their agenda. Electioneering must go beyond the usual “I will” and be elevated to “How I will”. This is not the super solution to our problems, but at least we can get to know if the candidates truly understand the issues. We can gauge the depth of their comprehension. We can assess the intellect in their thought process. Is this too much to ask? For a country full of educated and enlightened people, we do ourselves a world of disservice when we give an easy pass to those seeking to lead us. We need to make them sweat their way to power.
For one, it is not enough to commission experts to produce glossy manifestos. Anyone can do that. It is not enough to say “check out the details in our manifesto”. No way. Speak to us about your new and specific ideas. Also, it is not enough to speak persuasively about the plans. Instead, the plans should be vigorously interrogated to determine if they are reasonable and realistic. Doing both does not necessarily guarantee implementation, much less effective implementation, which is the most important thing. At the end of the day, voters are still taking a gamble. But it will be a calculated gamble. Plans provide a basis for informed assessment and a tool of holding candidates to account.
Therefore, it is not just enough to say “I will fight insecurity”. You are not talking to kids, for crying out loud. What will you do differently, dear presidential candidate? We were told in 2015 that President Muhammadu Buhari would deploy his military experience to secure the nation better than President Goodluck Jonathan, who was considered too weak. Despite all the shots we have fired since then, we are still like this. So, dear candidate, what do you think the problem is? Do you think it has to do with the capability of the military? Is it the intelligence gathering? Is it a fear of international sanctions for human rights abuses? Is it corruption? Or is it an impossible mission?
Actually, we cannot say with all honesty that the Buhari administration has not made efforts to tackle the security challenges. It has shut down telecom services in parts of the country, enforced national identity registration, enforced mobile phone registration, and enforced linking NIN to SIM cards (even hurting the growth of the telecom sector in the process), but are we safer? It bought jets and made a big show at the Eagle Square in 2019, changed service chiefs, controlled media narration and cracked down on international NGOs, but are we safer? What then are we not getting right? Do we need more boots? Do we need an overhaul of the security setup? Do we need foreign help?
“Oh no, you don’t understand! Do you know how many attacks the security agencies have prevented?” I agree: it is not all bad news. I do not downplay the success stories and the sacrifice. Rather, I am wondering that despite all, we still feel so vulnerable. How can we save the security forces from further “decimation” — as Gen Babagana Monguno, the national security adviser, recently described the killing of soldiers in Bwari? That is the key question. “I will fight insecurity” does not cut it for me. While I admit that security strategies are not for public consumption, a candidate can still speak intelligently to these issues to assure us that he has thought things through.
Public finance is the second issue I would like the candidates to dissect appropriately. We are spending more on debt service than we earn. How, in naira and kobo, would you address this, dear presidential candidate? Also, you want to cut expenditure. Thank you very much. But how much would you cut from expenditure per year? N1 trillion? N2 trillion? From what budgetary lines? Salaries? Allowances? Training? Trips? Consumables? We need the specifics, backed with real data for every budgetary item to be cut down on. Any Taiwo, Tanimu and Tochi can promise to “cut expenditure” and “grow revenue” while campaigning. The real question is how would you do it?
We have to seriously discuss the subsidy issue, the elephant in the room. Going by the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategic Paper (MTEF and FSP), we have projected to spend N6.72 trillion on petrol subsidy alone in 2023 — far more than we will spend on health care and education. Given that no presidential candidate wants to say things that will affect his electoral fortune, our culture is to politick. Yet, the candidates need to tell us what they will do about the subsidy bill. Will they retain subsidy? How will they fund it? Will they remove it partially or completely? How will they manage the gains for the benefit of over 200 million Nigerians?
I have by no means touched on all the major issues. There are many others that the presidential candidates must equally speak to: how will they finally solve the ASUU problem so that strikes will no longer be part of our academic calendar? How will they deal decisively with a civil service that keeps ballooning but is mostly inefficient, corrupt and regressive? How can our civil service become world-class? How do we maintain and deepen the fight against corruption as well as check potential abuse? How can we get millions of youths off the job market? Above all, how can we get Nigerians to fall in love with Nigeria again? How can we renew and rebuild this beautiful, beautiful nation?
As we seek to reboot Nigeria, we need a proper conversation with the presidential candidates on these critical issues. We have been skirting around certain issues and going back and forth because of the exigencies of politics. This is not to be unexpected. No president wants to risk social upheavals. No president wants to be unpopular. But, realistically, we are going nowhere if we continue along this trajectory. We will keep lamenting daily and things will never ease up or get resolved. By continuing to avoid the hard path, the next president will destroy whatever hope of putting the country on the right track. Nothing is called gold until it passes through fire.
Come to think of it, why should you seek to become president, going all over the country canvassing votes, without demonstrating convincingly that you know what the job entails and you are ready to do the needful? I am not saying tell us all the details. Some things have to remain confidential. But don’t talk to us as if you are addressing a bunch of Sunday School kids. Let us have your concrete plan. You can only implement a plan when you have one. Giving us your plan is not the magic solution but it is a necessary condition that can be made sufficient with implementation, monitoring & evaluation and accountability. Let us elevate our politics. We should not even be debating this!
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
The almighty National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Wednesday fined Trust TV, MultiChoice, TelCom Satellite and StarTimes for airing a documentary on banditry, making good the threat by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of information, days earlier. The contention of the government is that the documentary glorifies banditry. Globally, governments regulate the broadcast media more strictly — after all, it is the state that issues the frequencies and the licensing gives it some leverage. But at what stage does regulation conflict with press freedom? Rather than resort to muscle-flexing, I think government should engage more constructively with the media on these issues. Dialogue.
JUSTICE FOR UMOREN
On Thursday, Uduak Akpan was sentenced to death for the murder of Ms Iniobong Umoren, a graduate of University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. Umoren had been lured to her death last year by Akpan, who promised her employment. Credit to social media for the attention given to the crime. Otherwise, she could have been considered missing today. Her killing highlighted once again the unmitigated wickedness in our country. Why lure an innocent lady to her death? Hanging Akpan can only offer some closure to her family: nothing can bring back their beloved daughter to their arms. Let’s pray this swift justice will send a message to other would-be murderers out there. Sad.
Do you still remember Baptist High School, Maraban Damishi, Chikun LGA, Kaduna state? In the early hours of July 5, 2021, bandits invaded the school and kidnapped 121 students. They even killed some of them. What many Nigerians don’t know is that some of the students are still in captivity. We have virtually forgotten about them. The attack on Abuja-Kaduna train and the kidnap of scores of passengers in March 2022 pushed Bethel off the radar. If the bandits had succeeded in their attempt to kidnap students of the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, recently, attention of the train victims would also have gone down. We just have to find a solution to this menace by any means. Distressing.
Nigeria missed out on a sure gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday when the para-powerlifting entrants turned up late for the women’s lightweight event. Although they arrived minutes to the 3pm start, the devil was in the details: they were to be there an hour ahead for the inspection of kits. All the rules were handed down before the games started. Nigeria had always won the gold in that event, so it was going to be a piece of cake. Who should be held responsible for the tardiness? With all the civil servants and officials at the games, was no one designated to take care of scheduling? If there was someone and the person failed, is there a punishment? Scandalous.
[OPINION] Young animators shine at creative enterprise support programme, get £2000 grant - Sadiq ObanoyenWritten by Admin
On 23rd June this year, the global media was awash with reports of the arrest in London of a former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, for allegedly conspiring to traffic a homeless 15-year old Nigerian to the UK to harvest his organs for their daughter, who has kidney failure. The London Metropolitan Police went on to assure that the “child”, now known as David Ukpo Nwamini, was under the care of safeguarding authorities.
Since then, the couple has appeared before Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court, Westminster Magistrate’s Court, and is currently standing trial at the Old Bailey Court over alleged offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
But even before the real trial, the couple and Nigeria were initially subjected to trial in the court of global public opinion given Police’s initial presentation of Nwamini as a homeless, orphan, and trafficked minor. The prevailing righteous indignation of Nigerians towards their successive political leaderships did not also help Ekweremadu’s case. It even took clarifications by the likes of Prof. Farouq Kperogi for many uninformed Nigerians to understand that he was not being held for attempted ritual or organ trading.
Yet, amid the initial opprobrium, there were many, who insisted that something must be wrong somewhere, as the narrative did not fit into the character, person, and antecedents of the lawmaker. Today, these people are gaining steady vindication, as those claims by Nwamini, which the Metropolitan Police relied on, are falling apart by the day.
Following Nwamini’s confession and admission of the prosecutors, the court has ruled that he is not a minor, but a 21 years old adult. The court has consequently lifted Nwamini’s initial exemption from court appearance and discourse by UK media. Again, it has been established that Nwamini’s father, Mr. Nwamini Ukpo, and mother, Mrs. Mary Ukpo, are alive and are currently living in their native home at Izzida, Nduofia village in Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
Equally, from a 26th June 2022 report by Vanguard Newspaper, one of Nigeria’s leading dailies, which interviewed Nwamini’s brother, Jonathan, the young man could not have been homeless and was engaged in phone accessories business before his London trip.
Furthermore, Senator Ekweremadu, in a letter supporting Nwamini’s medical visa application, made full disclosure to the UK High Commission, which is a representative of the British sovereign in Nigeria. He explicitly disclosed the daughter’s illness, purpose of Nwamini’s visit, and the London hospital for the medical procedure. So, Nwamini travelled to London on “Type D” or medical visa. He couldn’t have travelled for study or promise of “good life” in the UK on medical visa, which requires some strident processes before issuance.
It is now equally known that Nwamini’s visa was issued in January 2022 and he travelled to London in February where he stayed till May. You would suppose that a man (not a child) held and exploited against his will (modern slavery) would have reported to the UK authorities in February or March or April, and not wait till May when he was supposed to return to Nigeria.
While the trial to determine the culpability or otherwise of Ekweremadu and wife goes on, it is not out of place to say that the Investigative Police Officer (IPO) acted most hastily, even irresponsibly, and unprofessionally in misleading the Metropolitan Police in the handling of the matter. It is very awful and a disrespect to Nigeria for the Metropolitan Police to disregard the information contained in Nwamini’s international passport issued by Nigerian government after due diligence, to believe Nwamini’s claim of being a 15-year old minor and go to town and court with such without any slightest investigation that pointed to the contrary. Ditto the other tales by moonlight by Nwamini to gain the sympathy of the UK authorities. This was in spite of the fact that they were dealing with a Nigerian Senator, who is ordinarily deserving of some benefit of the doubt. Could this have to do with the colour of his skin? Could UK authorities have treated a European or American parliamentarian in like manner? One would also be interested in knowing how the UK government intends to handle the goof and unprofessionalism of the IPO, who misled the authorities into hasty conclusions on David Nwamini’s age, among others.
Whereas one cannot claim expertise in International Relations and Diplomacy, one wonders if it was not unconscionable on the part of the British government to issue David Nwamini a visa following full disclosure by the Senator that Nwamini was travelling to the UK for organ donation, but only to do 360 degrees and charge the Senator and his wife for facilitating illegality? Would it not have been fair and just to refuse the visa in the first place, citing the UK modern slavery legislation, especially as the UK is never known to be generous with visa to Nigerians?
Today, not only is Ekweremadu denied bail, the trial of a senior official of Nigerian government is enjoying protracted adjournments and he continues to remain in custody till 31st October while the real trial starts in 2023.
Meanwhile, as the world continues to ponder the oddities in the arrest and ongoing trial of the Ekweremadus, including what many see as grave assaults on the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations regarding persons bearing diplomatic passport, and the general breach of international standards and due process, one is compelled to wonder why it is always leaders of developing countries that suffer the fate of arrest in breaches of such Conventions? And imagine that a British citizen was at the receiving end in Nigeria.
But even more important are questions like: What holy anger has Nigeria expressed about it? What is Nigeria doing about it? How is Nigeria exploring diplomatic channels to resolve the matter, especially since all individuals involved are Nigerians, while Nigeria and the UK enjoy longstanding cordial relations? What steps have the South East Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Igbo leaders, and Ekweremadu’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) taken to push for government’s diplomatic interventions? More so when Ekweremadu cannot be accused of ever abandoning his people and party men in distress.
One is honestly not in a position to answer these. However, it needs to be underscored, as a matter of fact, that serious diplomatic interventions have been deployed by nations, including the UK, USA, and even Nigeria in securing reprieve for their citizens in foreign lands. A few examples will suffice.
President Joe Biden administration is seriously intervening in the case of U.S basketball star, Brittney Griner, accused of possession of cannabis oil in Russia. Despite prevailing cold relations between both countries, U.S Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said America had offered a deal to Russia to facilitate the release of Griner and Paul Whelan. Whelan is serving 16-year prison term in Russia for spying.
Also, according to CNN, sources familiar with the follow-up talks between Bliken and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, revealed that Russia demands inclusion in the deal the release of Vadim Krasikov, a murder convict and former colonel in Russia’s domestic spy agency, FSB, serving life sentence in Germany since 2021.
Worthy of note is that Biden and Americans are aggressively pushing for Griner’s release even when over 40,000 people are presently doing prison terms in various parts of USA for the same charge owing to some state laws. But to them, it is about an American in a foreign land.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of 2016 failed coup against President Recep Erdogan, an American pastor and resident of Turkey, Andrew Brunson, was arrested for alleged espionage and association with the Gulenist Terror Group and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While talks were on, Trump sanctioned some Turkish government officials and hiked tariff on Turkish products. To save face under the diplomatic and economic heat, Turkey hurriedly convicted Brunson on charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced him only to the period already spent in detention, and quickly released him to the U.S. It is a fact that worse fate awaited Brunson but for U.S’ intervention.
In 2004, a former UK army officer, Simon Mann, was arrested alongside 69 mercenaries over planned overthrow of President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. Mann was arrested during a stopover at Harare airport, Zimbabwe, where they were to be stocked with weapons and equipment for the coup. Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister, was later implicated in the plot for paying for helicopter charter services for the coup. However, his lawyers maintained that he thought the helicopter was for humanitarian purposes.
While everyone is entitled to believe or not believe him, the bottom line is that the eventual outcomes of Mann and Thatcher’s cases were evidently fruits of the British diplomatic pressures and interventions. Mark got $506,000 fine and suspended jail sentence by the High Court of South Africa where he lived. In 2009, President Obiang granted Mann “a complete pardon on humanitarian grounds” as opposed to the initial 34-year jail sentence handed him in 2008.
Interestingly, even on a matter as serious as coup plot, the UK Parliament weighed in heavily in favour of their citizens. Mann’s issue was raised at the floor of Parliament vide Written Questions by Rt. Hon. Henry Bellingham (who later became Parliamentary Under-secretary for Africa in David Cameron’s government), Sir Peter Bottomley; Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown; and Rt. Hon. George Iain Smith. Upon Mann’s extradition to Equatorial Guinea by Robert Mugabe, his representative, Rt. Hon. Jullian Lewis, told Parliament: “Quiet diplomacy has failed and we now have to save Mr. Mann, whatever he has or has not done”.
In 2008, a British citizen, Samantha Orobator, was arrested in Lao for trafficking in heroine. Not only was she eventually spared death sentence and handed a life imprisonment, she was equally sent back to Britain to serve her sentence based on a treaty for the transfer of prisoners, which Britain entered into with Lao in the course of Orobator’s trial. Also, Lord Justice Dyson and Mr. Justice Tugendhat held that 18 months was an appropriate period, which she must spend in jail before her possible freedom.
In December 2018, a Jigawa State lady, Zainab Aliyu, was arrested upon arrival in Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj after prohibited drug was found in a luggage bearing her nametag. It is fresh on the mind how Nigerian government pulled all the diplomatic strings to save her from a brutal fate. Nigeria eventually convinced the Saudi authorities that a drug cartel operating at the Kano and Saudi airports indeed inserted the drug in her luggage without her knowledge. She was released in April 2019.
Given the foregoing instances, do not Ekweremadu and wife, who were only making efforts to save a sick daughter and did their best in making full disclosures to the UK High Commission deserve better, especially given the longstanding Nigeria-UK relations and the fact that the Ekweremadus and Nwamini are all Nigerians? Besides, none of the individuals have any prior criminal conviction in Nigeria.
Lastly, Ekweremadu is a renowned Igbo and opposition leader. It suffices to add that how the Federal Government handles this matter will be a subject of various interpretations, especially as to whether it is different strokes for different folks.
“Peter Obi is somebody… as I was telling Doyin about six weeks ago, I said that even if Peter did not become the vice president of this country, from what I know of Peter’s capacity, whatever government that comes, if it is the PDP, he must be in charge of the economy because that is where he is good at. I listened to him , not once, not twice and not three times, he knows his onions and I think that his approach will bring solutions to this country, economic solutions. He is worthy of praise. But the political solution which is the basis on which the economic solution would survive, it is what is causing the problem.” Amb Aminu Wali (PDP Chieftain)
There is something phenomenal about this man that even his opponents and critics have come to believe that he is the best amongst the candidates that can take Nigeria out of its present economical and political mess. Even when he does not ‘share’ dollars like others, his name keeps spreading like a wild fire. Nigerians, youths, men and women from all regions, tribes, and religions with joy self-sponsor their activities to support his movement. He is looking like a glimpse of hope in this very long, tortuous, traumatic, hopeless and endless journey. Just like a sip after a very long trek in the desert. True. What is currently happening in Nigeria politically looks like a divine movement that nobody can stop. It’s beyond religion, beyond tribe, age and gender. Even beyond the Peter Obi himself. He just happened to emerged at a time when Nigeria and Nigerians are looking for any form or semblance of hope to hang on. The Nigerian youths are currently leading other patriots on this unprecedented, fierce, dynamic and massive crusade to save our country from total collapse. They are making this patriotic effort, maybe for the last time, to rescue her from the strangling death grip of the agents of destruction. Yes, this truly looks like it is going to be the last effort to snatch this traumatized generation and the future one from the conspiracy of a corrupt, dubious, incompetent, and despotic political class that has decided to collaborate with some external and internal enemies to destabilize the country. It has since become obvious that there is actually a grand plan to conquer and enslave Nigeria and Nigerians. But it is becoming a battle between light and darkness, evil and good, progression and retrogression, freedom and slavery, failed promises and hope. It is a battle between unending lies and honesty, live and death, white and black and between lawlessness and probity. We must immediate wake up and take control of our destiny and the future of our children yet unborn.
Look at the security situation. The system has totally collapsed. Even the nation’s civil war does not come near to what we are seeing today. It is unimaginable that in a sovereign state, in this modern time, that hundreds of people will be regularly kidnapped and kept in the same state for years and nobody will find them. Their abductors will be communicating and receiving hundreds of millions as ransoms in batches and still not been tracked. It has never happened anywhere in the world. The world is laughing at us. The recent Kuje prison invasion, the attack on the advance convoy of the President in his home state – Katsina, the attack and kidnap of the train passengers on the Abuja – Kaduna and the recent ambushes of our soldiers in the nation’s capital have said it all. Nobody, nowhere is still safe in the country. Every minute somebody is being kidnapped in Nigeria for a ransom. And the worse is that paying the ransom is not even a guarantee that the victim will be released alive. Some after paying have received the corpses of their relations. And they are still lucky because others are praying to have theirs even if in body bags. I was listening to a radio presenter recently on how her brother and his driver were kidnapped by herdsmen on the dreaded Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway about four months ago. They paid the requested ransom, but had only the driver released till now. And unless a miracle happens that family might be losing the brother and the money. I was emotionally moved when she said that their family has done everything to secure the man release and that they are waiting for time and they will do their brothers funeral. My God! In Nigeria? This is the same road where the Primate of the Methodist Church was kidnapped last time. They abductors comfortable collected 100 million naira as ransom. A former commissioner in Abia State also miraculously escaped from them with bullet holes all over his Camry car. I also heard that the marauders emptied buses on that road that has uncountable security check point day few days ago. Thank to the government of Imo, Abia and Enugu that keep watch as these criminal keep snatching and killing theirs citizens.
Do we talk about the daily slaughter, abductions and uncommon banditry that are going on in Benue, Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Edo, Ondo…..Everywhere is on fire. I don’t want to mention Kaduna State. The place is like a big war zone. We read that some pay taxes to these bandits. How did we get to this point? As I write, today, a very senior police officer was shot there. We learnt he was wounded, but his unlucky orderly or guard died. The story is still unfolding. No day passes without incidents on Abuja-Kaduna, Okene-Lokoja, Benin-Ore, Benin-Auchi, Lokoja-Abuja roads. I watched a video last week where a passenger to over to drive the few lucky co-passenger to safety after their original driver and other passengers were snatched on that road. Read the newspapers. Google it. Most Nigerians have somebody they know or a relation that has been kidnapped, shot, robbed, and attacked or somebody who has committed suicide in the last few years. I saw this for the first time in my life when the police came to take away the corpse of a student that hung himself in their hostel near my house. Why has Nigeria suddenly become a large abattoir and a lawless, insecure place? I don’t what to talk about those committing suicide out of social and economic frustration and ritual killings (even by teenagers), daily bank robbery and bullion van hijackings that now make James Bond films look like a child’s play
I believe our security agents, especially the police and the DSS are doing their best, but are hampered by the corruption, lack of will, lack of equipment and complicity of the leaders and some of the saboteurs in the system. Yes, these criminals have insiders working with them. Yes, it is that bad. Now, what we need, what the youths, Nigerians are saying is that we have had enough. We will not sit and watch until we are all killed. We want somebody that will urgently pull us out of this mess. Somebody we can trust, a patriot that has been tested to take over and save this sinking ship. And fortunately, they have found that in Mr. Integrity. Just go back to the beginning and read that quote from a chieftain of the opposition party about this man. And this is just one out of hundreds. Obi indeed stands out and tall from the corrupt crowd that are presently jostling to ‘snatch’ more from us. We want somebody that has not stolen from the government and the masses before; a man that can proudly explain the source of his wealth and livelihood. We want a lover of Nigeria, a patriot and not a tribal head or religious bigot. We also don’t want a half-educated or uncertificated leader that will not value the lives and education of our children. And certainly not to frail, shady and dubious character that will lure us with more empty and fraudulent promises. If Peter Obi is so good as everyone, including Ambassador Aminu Wali is telling us, then what stops us from making him the chief driver, so that he can drive the entire process of restoring our great country to greatness and prosperity. We must not miss this rare opportunity. We will continue. May God help and prosper Nigeria again!
If there is any behaviour that triggers palpable indignation in me, it is the dismissal and trivialisation of requisite urgent constitutional reforms in Nigeria. And this was precisely the behavior exhibited by former Borno state governor (and now the running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the presidential ticket of the All Progressive Congress, APC) in a parley with the channels television. The gaffe has found contemporary resonance in view of his new public circumstances and the increasing imperative of decentralisation and devolution of powers in Nigeria. Significantly, it is a characteristic behaviour which would not have mattered if his public purview has largely remained Borno state with marginal national outreach.
In the said interview he unloaded “Restructuring my foot, let’s restructure our minds, let’s restructure our quality of governance. When people are talking of artificial intelligence, when others are talking of robotics engineering, of nanotechnology, we are talking of restructuring the federation...Our problem is not an issue of devolution of powers, let’s be very honest”. It appears he he got his judgment beclouded by his inability to grapple with the correlation that behind the success of those societies he cited is the appropriate constitutional rules of the road.
For good and for bad, laws especially the constitution, are a prior category to leadership and governance. And we have the case study of Nigeria to prove the point. Who can entertain any doubt on the self-evident predisposing facility of regional federalism to the development heights attained by the three comprising regions of the West, East and the North in the first republic?.
Complemented by the Obafemi Awolowo utilitarian leadership, the constitutionally enabled regionalism was the bedrock on which the Western region stood to be counted on a projected development ladder that rivals the likes of the Asian tigers.
The same observation could easily be made of the Eastern region whose economy was rated as the fastest growing in the world at the material time. The healthy rivalry meant that the Northern region was equally set on a rapid modernisation momentum. In intellectual leadership capability and political legitimacy they don’t come better recommended than the trio of Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello. In collaboration with the British colonialists and several constitutional conferences to the bargain these were the leaders who arrived at the reasoned conclusion that what suits Nigeria best is regional federalism.
And we have the empirical evidence of the comparative study of pre and post 1966 political history of Nigeria to make the case that the farther we deviate from the constitutional groundnorm of federalism, the deeper we sink into the morass of economic underdevelopment and political instability. It is against the logic of this comprehension that the likes of Shettima still call the abiding wisdom of federalism to question. They will tell you that leadership is the be all tell all of governance as if leadership operates within a constitutional vacuum and that leadership and constitution are mutually exclusive.
I have found myself making this clarification now and again. Scientific study of society and policy prescription proceed from the premise of the worst not the best case scenario. In order to have an error proof prescription (as much as you can) you anticipate all that can go wrong and accordingly apply a preventive mitigation encapsulated in the constitution.
Beyond the requisite legal mandate of taking insurance policy on your vehicle is the self-enlightened anticipation of theft or accident. If you encounter neither happenstance then all is well and good but if you do then your loss is mitigated by the insurance you have taken. It is the same principle with the nexus between leadership and the constitution. If for instance, Peter Obi wins the presidency and goes ahead to fulfil his potential (regardless of the constitution) what happens after the completion of his tenure? Is Nigeria guaranteed to produce a good successor?
Against the run of his rhetorics and opposition to devolution of powers it is striking that the governorship legacy of Mr Shettima in Borno state includes the establishment of state and community police as attested in the underlisted excerpts
“The Borno State government on Saturday, inducted a total of 2,900 youth volunteer force as members of a newly created Neighbourhood Watch, whose role includes sniffing out drug abusers and perpetrators of other related crimes” .
“The governor said the formation of N-Watch is part of his community policing initiatives which he said has yielded positive result in the past when it was tested with the Civilian-Jtf. The Neighbourhood Watch (N-Watch) is a replica of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) that came into force in 2013 as a volunteer group helping the military to combat Boko Haram. Has a better argument for the decentralisation of the Nigerian police ever made?”
In similar dire straits and their backs against the wall, the governors of katsina and Zamfara states have gone a step further to call for individual citizen policing and local people’s militia. Echoing his katsina state counterpart Governor mutawallen of Zamfara state lately issued the proclamation that “Government has henceforth, directed individuals to prepare and obtain guns to defend themselves against the bandits, as government has directed the state commissioner of police to issue licence to all those who qualify and are wishing to obtain such guns to defend themselves”. And here in the South West we can bear testimony to the difference the Amotekun corps has made to the security of the region.
The notoriety of Shettima (obscured by the widespread public censure of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency) was first brought to national attention with the abduction of 276 female students in a Chibok secondary school on the night of 14th of April 2014. Prior to the abduction the federal government wrote to the then Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima to alert him on the impending danger of terrorist attacks on secondary schools in the three North Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa’.
The minister of education adverted the attention of the governors to the “current security challenges in the Norh East parts of the country and consequently directed that the candidates in the Federal Unity Schools be assembled in their respective state capitals where they are to sit for the examinations in a safe ocation. And enjoined the governors to make contingent arrangements for students in both public and private schools in your state to sit the examinations in safe location”
In a subsequent inquiry, the West African Examination Council, WAEC testified that “The Borno state government refused to relocate the students from Chibok to safer places like Maiduguri.. Aware of the poor security situation in Borno and worried about the safety of students, the West African Examination Council, WAEC, declined to conduct its Senior School Certificate Examination in unsafe parts of Borno, including Chibok”.
In an unbelievable rationalisation of his failure to act against the evidence of these copious prior warnings and alerts, the governor protested that “No one anticipated that attack just like no Nigerian could have anticipated attacks on the secured Police Headquarters in Abuja by the Boko Haram in 2012″. And in direct contradiction of himself he admitted “It is however true that there were security concerns raised by the WAEC on the need for security to be provided in all examination centres without any emphasis on GSS, Chibok”.
When then the calamitous abduction became reality, the same governor refused to call the president to brief him because “What happens in our unwritten protocol in Nigeria is that, in the event of major security problems, it is the president that summons a governor or calls him on phone or directs the Vice President to call on his behalf for sympathy”. Is this the nitpicking that the lifes of 276 students are about to Shettima? Is the laxity of the president sufficient justification for the wilful disregard of the governor to seize the initiative?
If Nigeria were to be invaded through Borno state by an external aggressor, would it be right of Shettima to sit back and follow his so called unwritten protocol? On the one hand, he disregarded and shunned the preventive directive of the federal government to evacuate the students and then turned around to blame the same president for not being responsive for the mess he created.
And then of course there is the extreme sense of poor judgement he demonstrated on the occasion of the Abẹ́òkúta meltdown of his principal days to the presidential primaries of their party, the APC. On the following day in Lagos, he capped his tantrums on a live television programme with the absurd vituperation on vice president Yemi Osinbajo that “nice people do not make good leaders because they tend to be nasty. Nice men should be “selling popcorn and ice cream”. According to the BBC, his credentials also include the peculiar story of the christmas day bomber, Mr kabiru sokoto “who was arrested in Abuja at a lodge owned by the governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima” .
To recap, attitudes toward the restoration of federalism have spanned the gamut of genuine ignorance, feigned ignorance, paranoia and political arrogance. Whosoever is wilfully condemning restructuring especially those who do so in foul and obscene verbiage should know that he is implicitly attacking the founding fathers of Nigeria namely the British colonialists, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello. These were the leaders (who acting with the political legitimacy reposed in them by the peoples of Nigeria) prescribed and gave us federalism as encapsulated in the 1960 independence constitution. To be clear, once again, the meaning of constitutional restructuring advocacy is the restoration of the principle of federalism employing the independence constitution as role model
By the way, Mr Shettima has harboured a premonition for their presidential ticket. He pronounced it dead on arrival with this prophecy in 2018. “Nobody had ever aspired to be president of this country and got it. As popular as President Buhari is, with is bite-like grip among the Northern masses, on three occasions he couldn’t realise his dream. The fourth one, we literally (the governors, the party, the party leaders) dragged him to contest the 2015 election. Go down the memory lane, the Nigerian presidency doesn’t go for the person who runs after it”. Did his principal not say it is his lifelong ambition to become the president of Nigeria?