Archive for June, 2012

Jonathan The Great

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

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By Okey Ndibe

Last week, in the wake of escalating sectarian violence in Kaduna and Yobe states, President Goodluck Jonathan replaced two key members of his security team. General Patrick Aziza (rtd) was let go as National Security Adviser; retired Colonel Sambo Mohammed Dasuki replaced him. Defense Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed was also flushed from the cabinet. At the time of this writing, his successor was yet to be named.
 
It’s hard to fathom what informed these personnel changes. The Nigerian presidency is notorious for withholding information from Nigerians. And our media reporters, unfortunately, are often content to vend street-level speculation instead of cultivating sources capable of offering confidential tips.
 
It’s harder still to predict whether the president’s moves will yield the Jonathan administration any real strategic advantage in confronting the ulcerous Boko Haram. Even so, some Nigerians permitted themselves to go into states of rapture on account of Mr. Jonathan’s firing of his security adviser and a minister. I followed a typical reaction on Facebook. There, one woman rhapsodized about the president’s action – and then urged Mr. Jonathan to tackle a myriad other crises, riding on the momentum of the cabinet changes.
 
It’s remarkable that the president’s sacking of two men would inspire extravagant applause in some quarters. It points to how thin the commodity called hope has worn in Nigeria. Many – arguably most – Nigerians have long succumbed to despair, starved of the merest hope. Accustomed to a remote, nonchalant and comatose presidency, some of us would go into frenzies of praise anytime the president demonstrates an ability to fire one person – or two.  
 
Let’s give President Jonathan his fair shake. Even if the departure of the former NSA and Defense Minister isn’t rewarded by a noticeable drop in bombing of Christian churches as well as secular spaces, there still remain good grounds to rusticate Mr. Azaza and Mr. Mohammed. Nigeria’s state of insecurity deteriorated under their watch. It was about time the principle of holding members responsible was brought to bear in Nigeria. It’s time to do away with the culture of executive evasion of responsibility. Men and women who are given exalted posts – especially cabinet positions – ought to demonstrate that they know what they’re doing, that they grasp the environment of their primary task, and are equal to its challenges.
 
In Nigeria, sadly, political appointments are occasions to revel in aggrandizement. Too many occupants of political space are simply out to occupy space. They come armed with no clue, talent or will for making a difference. They thrive in Nigeria because the country is an address where ineptitude and mediocrity are often rewarded whilst the truly talented are often disdained or disesteemed.
 
Mr. Jonathan’s dismissal of two top members of his national security team is, within the context sketched out above, in order. In the event of failure to rise to the challenge of their office, political appointees should step aside, voluntarily or by compulsion.
 
One wonders if Mr. Jonathan engaged Mr. Dasuki in an extensive conversation prior to offering him the national security job. Did the president, one, take time to spell out his expectations and, two, ascertain from his new appointee that the man felt up to the task? Did the president satisfy himself that his new NSA has compelling ideas about IMMEDIATE measures to stem, or contain, Nigeria’s most horrific scourge: Boko Haram’s incessant attacks on Christian places of worship?
 
One has stressed the word immediate because Nigeria doesn’t have the luxury of time. The country is at a point of explosion, and has been for a while. The recent conflagration in Kaduna State, occasioned by Boko Haram’s bombing of churches and low-grade reprisals by Christians, was a microcosm of a wider, bloodier war to come unless the spree of violence is checked – NOW.
 
Yet, it’s clear that President Jonathan’s personnel changes constitute, at best, a palliative. At heart, Boko Haram’s deployment of violence is a mirror and expression of Nigeria’s inherent incoherence. Lord Lugard and British fiat cobbled together a space they baptized Nigeria. Yet, a hundred years later, this space remains essentially a hodgepodge, a patchwork of hardly cemented fragments. In short, Nigeria – the idea of a cohesive nation called Nigeria – has never been realized. We all inhabit a fiction, a make-belief, a flimsy, papier-mâché contraption sustained by our collective fantasies about a “national cake” and by the greed of the most privileged among us who, unable to bake a cake or anything for that matter, have cornered the one cake in town.
 
Greed, coercion and a concatenation of falsehoods have never forged an enduring nation. For more than fifty years, Nigerians have tried to achieve that unprecedented feat. It won’t happen. We either take seriously the task of founding a nation – with what slim prospects exist today – or we must give up, speak to one another with innocence, and agree that it is sheer evil to continue to waste innocent lives in pursuit of a woeful, doomed experiment called Nigeria.
 
That’s why, in the end, I could neither muster nor understand the enthusiasm of those who virtually venerated Mr. Jonathan for shooing off two men from his cabinet – to invite other men to take the vacated seats. The president’s maneuvers struck me as one of those political acts defined by motion without movement. The gullible and easily impressed would be persuaded to hope and dream anew. The unimpressed will be chastised for their lack of faith, their impatience. They will be told to give the president (more) time.
 
My answer is: Nigeria long ran out of time. A nation that fought a war more than four decades ago in which millions of people perished has no business behaving as if that war never happened, as if those millions never lost their lives. The provocations that precipitated the Biafran War are matched – in fact, arguably surpassed – by today’s menu of assaults. There’s Boko Haram’s egregious use of violence to eviscerate people, to chill innocent people’s desire to worship or live as they choose. There’s the absolute incapacity of the state’s law enforcement machinery to protect the victims of terror. In fact, the state is the most gleeful, the most horrendously efficient user of violence to intimidate, maim and kill so-called citizens.
 
Think, for a moment, about Nigerians’ perceptions of the police. It would be quite hard to find more than a handful of Nigerians who see the police in positive light. Ironically, it’s criminals, not law-abiding citizens, who are most likely to like the Nigerian police. Daily, the police are detailed to guard the worst breed, among them politicians: men and women who ought to be serving long jail terms. The police mount road blocks all over Nigerian highways and streets, not to apprehend criminals, but to importune commuters for bribes. Yet, the same police are apt to flee whenever armed robbers show up in any vicinity.
 
President Jonathan did not create the mess called Nigeria; he’s merely its latest custodian. But he should not be festooned with praise simply because he removed an incompetent NSA and appointed a yet-to-be-tested one.
 
Even so, the president – if he has spine – has a real opportunity to become Jonathan the great. There are two routes to that destination. One is to ground himself in Abuja (foreswear any more gallivanting excursions to such places as Rio de Janeiro, Washington, DC and Bonn) and, for the first time, begin to act as a leader. He should summon the Inspector General of Police and the head of the EFCC, and tell them to start doing their jobs without first seeking leave of the Presidency. And as the law enforcement agents fan out to arrest the country’s legion of embezzlers, fraudsters, money launderers, fake billionaires and sundry thieftains and “steakholders,” Mr. Jonathan must switch off his phones and make himself unavailable to those who would ask him to intervene. The question is whether Mr. Jonathan has the ethical credentials to make a move so radical.
 
The other route is for President Jonathan to give voice to a fact universally known, even if widely ignored, even denied. That fact is that Nigeria is a mere shell of an idea, a hollow mask for a nation. Unless there’s some magical recipe for recuperating Nigeria, Mr. Jonathan’s stature as a leader may well rest in his ability or willingness to offer himself as an undertaker: the man who presides over the task of peacefully breaking up a behemoth that brought its ostensible citizens little more than sorrows, tears, and blood.

A Man Without Fear

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

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By Sonala Olumhense

 

A lot of Nigerians were disgusted last week when they were told that Mr. Goodluck Jonathan had left for Brazil.  I was not one of them.  

Did you see his departure photos?  To his left as he strode to the presidential jet was his wife, Nigeria’s most powerful woman for five years.

That was a strong punch for those who consider Jonathan a “dull” man: out on a business trip, and he took his madam with him.  That is not the move of a dullard; that is the move of a master.  Right there, as he headed for the safety, the beauty and the beachfronts of Brazil, he ensured that the First Family was safe.
Was it the right time to travel?

Let us think about just this month alone and you will agree this man needed a holiday.  June had barely dawned when that awful Dana jet crash happened, remember?  

Someone important was needed to cry in public and whom did we call?  You got that right: Mr. Jonathan.  The Aso Rock Warrior was the one we dragged to the poverty and the grief of Iju-Ishaga.  We gave him a handkerchief and he obliged the entire country by weeping into the cameras.

Since then, we have set up other scenarios and other cameras, and he has obliged us by weeping for the people of Kaduna, and then the people of Zaria and then the people of Yobe.  Last weekend, I hear the church pastor simply passed a microphone to Mr. Jonathan and asked him to speak about the disaster in Kaduna.  The president wept!

That was just Sunday.  And the situation was so bad that Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa declared a 24-hour emergency.

Kaduna, now synonymous with insecurity and violence; now infamous for the slaughtering of the innocent as they gather to worship, now a byword for Muslim cowards disguised as militants to murder the unarmed and the peaceful; now a symbol of Nigeria’s descent towards hell.

Kaduna, where peace returned for a few ticks of the clock.  That lured the embattled governor to relax the emergency by a few hours, only for that to become the opportunity for fierce reprisal attacks and counter-reprisals on a religious basis.  The governor slapped the 24-hour emergency back on.

And all of that was within a space of two weeks in June.  But it was also while that was going on, remember, that one organization announced that it has information that Boko Haram is getting ready to bomb Ibadan and Lagos.  It was during the same period that members of the National Youth Service Corps, where there were still such people in parts of the North, were begging for protection, and to be allowed to go home.  

Knowing what we now know, during that same time the United States must have been informing Mr. Jonathan of its intention to declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization, or at least to brand some of its leaders as terrorists.  

I have to presume that Mr. Jonathan receives daily security briefings from relevant officials.  If so, his briefings since the First of June must have quite strident.  Remember, this is the month that Mr. Jonathan promised to vanquish Boko Haram, which would suggest that he knows what he is doing.  

In other words, while the Jonathans were looking at a map of Brazil, the more important map was really of Nigeria, where ethnic, religious, ethical and political fissures are now alarming.  

What does a current map of Nigeria show?  A country frozen by religious extremism marching westwards and southwards from the North-east; a country frozen by decreasing economic activity occasioned by corruption, lack of electricity, and fear; and a country frozen by poor leadership.

I think that is why Mr. Jonathan, who once admitted his administrative naiveté, left the country last week.  The man had had enough, as there is nothing on his resume to indicate genuine motivation or commitment.  
This is why it may suddenly be clear, to most Nigerians, exactly whom President Jonathan listens to.   Last week was not a week to listen to anyone who advised staying on the job in Nigeria, wisely sending off to Brazil, the Vice-President: the same advice we once offered to Umaru Yar’Adua in favour of Mr. Jonathan.

Regrettably, last week was one in which to listen to praise-singers who tell him how lucky he is; that he can do no wrong and nobody can take the presidency from him; that he can budget the national budget for his own kitchen and fly the skies unafraid when his countrymen are falling out of the skies in rickety and unsupervised aircraft; those who tell him to feel free to fly to any destination of his desire because he can rule from there.  

Six months ago, Mr. Jonathan faced his first crisis when he abruptly inflated fuel prices claiming he was withdrawing a fuel subsidy.  Even he knows that the only thing that was being subsidized was corruption at the highest levels, but he has not done anything about it.  

As part of his response to the strikes that ensued, Mr. Jonathan said he would reduce the size and cost of government.  He has not honoured that pledge; his government is unrepentant and last week he travelled with a contemptuous and bloated delegation of 116.  

His government also said at that time it was providing 1500 buses to ease the burden of transportation on Nigerians; I know nobody who has seen a single one of them.  

What this means is that there is a context to Mr. Jonathan’s flight from Nigeria last week: the question of credibility.  The actual question being asked last week was not why Mr. Jonathan should travel abroad but whether he is taking Nigeria’s problems seriously.  

It is significant that as soon as he left our shores, Vice-President Namadi Sambo and the elite security chiefs held a high level meeting, apparently one Mr. Jonathan did not think important enough to hold before his departure.

The conundrum is whether Mr. Jonathan does not know what to do, or does not care enough.  I think it is both.  It is startling that the highest meeting on security in the land would hold in his absence, at a time of the highest challenge to security and the unity of Nigeria, in the month of his greatest challenge.

Equally remarkable, during the same trip, he got Owoeye Azazi, the National Security Adviser, fired.    He obviously did not want to have to tell Mr. Azazi by himself.  He has yet to fire any of his many corrupt Ministers.

I think Mr. Jonathan fails to understand that while leadership offers tremendous power, it is no vacation.  Leadership is a responsibility that, when deployed with wisdom, character and commitment, ennobles and elevates a people and rewards the leader; but used with manipulation and shallow-mindedness, can catapult the leader to shame and oblivion.  General Sani Abacha and Mr. Jonathan’s successor offer easy examples.

Now, can Jonathan rule from anywhere, Minister Labaran Maku?

Of course.  But first, he can do so only if he was ruling in the first place.  Mr. Jonathan seems to conceive of himself only as an actor: playing the part of a man who is pretending to be in charge.  

The final question, then, is whether Mr. Jonathan can lead from anywhere, the most important question Minister Maku did not raise.  

The answer is that you cannot lead from an aircraft, a teleprompter, a laptop or from another man’s country, if you never led in the first place, or if you are only an actor who plays a leader.    

Ours is a nation in fear and on the brink.  What we need is a hands-on leader who is afraid of neither man nor Time.  Mr. Jonathan seems to tremble before them all.

•    sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

By Sonala Olumhense
A lot of Nigerians were disgusted last week when they were told that Mr. Goodluck Jonathan had left for Brazil.  I was not one of them.  

Did you see his departure photos?  To his left as he strode to the presidential jet was his wife, Nigeria’s most powerful woman for five years.

That was a strong punch for those who consider Jonathan a “dull” man: out on a business trip, and he took his madam with him.  That is not the move of a dullard; that is the move of a master.  Right there, as he headed for the safety, the beauty and the beachfronts of Brazil, he ensured that the First Family was safe.
Was it the right time to travel?

Let us think about just this month alone and you will agree this man needed a holiday.  June had barely dawned when that awful Dana jet crash happened, remember?  

Someone important was needed to cry in public and whom did we call?  You got that right: Mr. Jonathan.  The Aso Rock Warrior was the one we dragged to the poverty and the grief of Iju-Ishaga.  We gave him a handkerchief and he obliged the entire country by weeping into the cameras.

Since then, we have set up other scenarios and other cameras, and he has obliged us by weeping for the people of Kaduna, and then the people of Zaria and then the people of Yobe.  Last weekend, I hear the church pastor simply passed a microphone to Mr. Jonathan and asked him to speak about the disaster in Kaduna.  The president wept!

That was just Sunday.  And the situation was so bad that Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa declared a 24-hour emergency.

Kaduna, now synonymous with insecurity and violence; now infamous for the slaughtering of the innocent as they gather to worship, now a byword for Muslim cowards disguised as militants to murder the unarmed and the peaceful; now a symbol of Nigeria’s descent towards hell.

Kaduna, where peace returned for a few ticks of the clock.  That lured the embattled governor to relax the emergency by a few hours, only for that to become the opportunity for fierce reprisal attacks and counter-reprisals on a religious basis.  The governor slapped the 24-hour emergency back on.

And all of that was within a space of two weeks in June.  But it was also while that was going on, remember, that one organization announced that it has information that Boko Haram is getting ready to bomb Ibadan and Lagos.  It was during the same period that members of the National Youth Service Corps, where there were still such people in parts of the North, were begging for protection, and to be allowed to go home.  

Knowing what we now know, during that same time the United States must have been informing Mr. Jonathan of its intention to declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization, or at least to brand some of its leaders as terrorists.  

I have to presume that Mr. Jonathan receives daily security briefings from relevant officials.  If so, his briefings since the First of June must have quite strident.  Remember, this is the month that Mr. Jonathan promised to vanquish Boko Haram, which would suggest that he knows what he is doing.  

In other words, while the Jonathans were looking at a map of Brazil, the more important map was really of Nigeria, where ethnic, religious, ethical and political fissures are now alarming.  

What does a current map of Nigeria show?  A country frozen by religious extremism marching westwards and southwards from the North-east; a country frozen by decreasing economic activity occasioned by corruption, lack of electricity, and fear; and a country frozen by poor leadership.

I think that is why Mr. Jonathan, who once admitted his administrative naiveté, left the country last week.  The man had had enough, as there is nothing on his resume to indicate genuine motivation or commitment.  
This is why it may suddenly be clear, to most Nigerians, exactly whom President Jonathan listens to.   Last week was not a week to listen to anyone who advised staying on the job in Nigeria, wisely sending off to Brazil, the Vice-President: the same advice we once offered to Umaru Yar’Adua in favour of Mr. Jonathan.

Regrettably, last week was one in which to listen to praise-singers who tell him how lucky he is; that he can do no wrong and nobody can take the presidency from him; that he can budget the national budget for his own kitchen and fly the skies unafraid when his countrymen are falling out of the skies in rickety and unsupervised aircraft; those who tell him to feel free to fly to any destination of his desire because he can rule from there.  

Six months ago, Mr. Jonathan faced his first crisis when he abruptly inflated fuel prices claiming he was withdrawing a fuel subsidy.  Even he knows that the only thing that was being subsidized was corruption at the highest levels, but he has not done anything about it.  

As part of his response to the strikes that ensued, Mr. Jonathan said he would reduce the size and cost of government.  He has not honoured that pledge; his government is unrepentant and last week he travelled with a contemptuous and bloated delegation of 116.  

His government also said at that time it was providing 1500 buses to ease the burden of transportation on Nigerians; I know nobody who has seen a single one of them.  

What this means is that there is a context to Mr. Jonathan’s flight from Nigeria last week: the question of credibility.  The actual question being asked last week was not why Mr. Jonathan should travel abroad but whether he is taking Nigeria’s problems seriously.  

It is significant that as soon as he left our shores, Vice-President Namadi Sambo and the elite security chiefs held a high level meeting, apparently one Mr. Jonathan did not think important enough to hold before his departure.

The conundrum is whether Mr. Jonathan does not know what to do, or does not care enough.  I think it is both.  It is startling that the highest meeting on security in the land would hold in his absence, at a time of the highest challenge to security and the unity of Nigeria, in the month of his greatest challenge.

Equally remarkable, during the same trip, he got Owoeye Azazi, the National Security Adviser, fired.    He obviously did not want to have to tell Mr. Azazi by himself.  He has yet to fire any of his many corrupt Ministers.

I think Mr. Jonathan fails to understand that while leadership offers tremendous power, it is no vacation.  Leadership is a responsibility that, when deployed with wisdom, character and commitment, ennobles and elevates a people and rewards the leader; but used with manipulation and shallow-mindedness, can catapult the leader to shame and oblivion.  General Sani Abacha and Mr. Jonathan’s successor offer easy examples.

Now, can Jonathan rule from anywhere, Minister Labaran Maku?

Of course.  But first, he can do so only if he was ruling in the first place.  Mr. Jonathan seems to conceive of himself only as an actor: playing the part of a man who is pretending to be in charge.  

The final question, then, is whether Mr. Jonathan can lead from anywhere, the most important question Minister Maku did not raise.  

The answer is that you cannot lead from an aircraft, a teleprompter, a laptop or from another man’s country, if you never led in the first place, or if you are only an actor who plays a leader.    

Ours is a nation in fear and on the brink.  What we need is a hands-on leader who is afraid of neither man nor Time.  Mr. Jonathan seems to tremble before them all.

•    sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

By Prince Charles Dickson

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One does not show the squirrel the way to the river. (Telling someone what he or she already knows is silly.)

I will start my weekly admonishment, with this stereotype question in Nigerian local parlance-Where do you come from? Are you from Adamawa, Lagos, Abia or Sokoto, Enugu or Katsina, Benue or Oyo, from the remotest ward to local government, why do you hail from?

I am asking a question, one question that has been at the heart of many of Nigeria’s problems. While, you answer the question, ask yourself this next one question and let us chat in the next few paragraphs. What faith do you practice and who is your leader, do we have leaders today or there is a vacuum, are we are just lost on character?

Jonathan is president of Nigeria, he can rule from anywhere except Borno and Yobe off course,  many for obvious reasons would refer to him as the ‘Nigerian leader’ whether we agree or not, despite the debate of ‘if’ he has lived up to it.

He is also assumedly leader of his party PDP, but with the likes of Tony Anineh, Bode George, Atiku, and Baba Sege, and all the local warlords, you may not want to take a bet.

Statesmen and men of states but very little substance, in recent times we have been treated to the fight for leadership by Tinubu pitching him against the Awolowo family and historians.

All sorts of face-off, various socio-political and multi-cultural groups all fighting variants of leadership tussle.

In the east, the argument is that they are an independent lot.  So, the issue of a feudal or hierarchical leadership structure is one they have battled for. That nature has not enabled them settle their leadership palaver. All playing discordant tunes producing no rhythm.

Who is a leader, who leads the east, in Abia who is their leader, Mazi Dim Ojukwu was more of a leader in death and revered in death than in life. The region has produced great men, but lacking in a unified voice.

From Zik to Achebe, Ekueme to Anyaokwu…endless list of political, socio and economic giants. Sadly, very little purpose and direction.

The noise of monolithic North has been nakedly exposed by the insecurity, a once-strong and seemingly focused traditional institution and more is just barren and disvirgined by fear. But at  the core of the problem in the North is a leadership vacumm.

Atiku is usually talking, Namadi just a figure head flat vice president, the likes of Adamu Ciroma siddon looking and barking and not any bite of purpose. There are the Danjumas in a journey-man stage, IBB in retired retreat, Abdulsalam and host of others simply playing talk-shop.

In my home state, Plateau, there is Shagayi, Useni, Solomon Lar, Tapgun, Jang, Kwande, Mantu…all great men in their rights but none has been able to curb the Jos crisis. And I did not forget Yakubu Gowon, who has prayed his way around but still leadership is lacking.

If there is any state that has had its fair share of crisis, controversies and more, it should be Ogun state, home of two former presidents, Nobel laureate, afrobeat king and an endless list of accomplishments. Yet it’s a pot pourri of instruments played without accompanying notes. Ogun state provides a miniature picture of a bigger nation called Nigeria, it is not the personnel that we lack, but people or persons with purpose.

Those that can carry a nation on their should, pay the price and provide direction. Yet this is one of  earth’s most religious domain…

My friend Dominic Ogbonna says “Me, I am very proud to be IGBO. As a quintessential IGBO man, I believe in Hard Work;  I believe in Economic Adventurousness; I believe in Thriftiness and Fiscal Prudence;  I believe in Capitalism and Enterprise;  I believe in Community; I believe in Democracy and Collective Decision-making; I believe in the unconditional Equality of all men, and I especially believe in Personal Responsibility.”.

What does the Yoruba man believe in, the Fulani man, Hausa man, what drives the Ibiobio man, how has leadership been provided by these ethnic nationalities filled leadership?  Is the Idoma man like David Mark a Senate President and yet the access road to his home remains in a terrible shape or like a certain leader who tarred the road to his village only after his mom died.

Many wished his dad died afterwards, so they could get water or electricity. Who really are we, why is it that our problems of corruption do not have a leadership vacuum rather it shines through like rainbow colors. When corruption, ethnic, religious differences are in the front burner, it shines through as so-called leader ventilate their foolishness on our collective anmesia.

Have we always been like this, without a sense of direction, a dream and drive—the answer is NO! It may not have not been perfect, but it was not this bad, with dearth of leadership.

A friend narrated Swedish experience. When he was studying in Sweden, it happened to be an election year. On the Election Day he asked his Swedish friend if he wasn’t going to vote.

The Swedish friend told him he had voted by sending it through the postage to the electoral body two days before.

“Who owns the postage?” He asked the man. “The government”, the man told him.

Two days later the incumbent President lost election and congratulated the opposition.

My friend said when Nigeria get to the level of Sweden, Swedish people will be dinning with God.—A function of  purpose and direction by a people and her leaders.

One does not show the squirrel the way to the river, I need not tell us that the fact of the matter remains that, the current crop of leaders whether Christian, Muslim, Niger Delta, or Northern Delta is a lack of Hard Work; good at lazying, at best working hard in the wrong direction. No economic adventurousness; just policy somersaults and inconsistencies. Lost on thriftiness and fiscal prudence, especially when it concerns them. Their capitalism and enterprise bothers on criminality, primitive accumulation bothering on the absurd, democracy and collective decision-making ala PDP, ACN and CPC style; at the sum of it an inequality of citizenry, and crass personal irresponsibility when in power and authority. So we remain a people still searching to fill that vacuum, only time will tell.

Kaduna, My Kaduna

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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By Malcolm Fabiyi

12 years ago, I penned a lamentation for Kaduna, the city of my birth. It was the height of the Sharia crisis, and then, as now, Kaduna was ground zero for the battle for Nigeria’s soul. Sadly, nothing has changed. I leave you with that lamentation from 2000. In Nigeria, time it seems, changes nothing. If anything has changed, it is the unbridled optimism I had 12 years ago, that a natural dynamic would make things right.

Now, I believe that concerted, deliberate action is necessary if Nigeria is to survive.

I was born in Kaduna. The city, which was named for the many crocodiles (Kada) that were in abundance in the majestic Kaduna River provided me with the playgrounds of my childhood, the excitements of my youth, and the moderate little rented bungalow that my family calls home. My mother was born here. My father schooled in Zazzau (Zaria) province, which with the new Kaduna-Zaria dual carriageway is just less than one hour away. At home, in our modest little bungalow, we speak as much Hausa as we do our native Yoruba tongue. My siblings were all born here, except for little M who was born in Zazzau. Little M was last. Ndo, a stately Fulani woman was his nurse. Just as Halima, a Hausa woman, and the kindest soul on God’s earth had nursed D, before him. For years after M and D were weaned, Ndo and Halima would drop by with gifts of kuli-kuli, masa and kunu, for their ‘little ones’. We loved them. They loved us.

It is in this city that I am connected to the earth. My umbilical cord is buried somewhere here. When occasionally, we all packed ourselves into Dad’s car to travel to Ekirin-Adde, beyond the confluence at Lokoja, a place from which my roots are derived, it always feels like a visit. It was always a visit. These visits were always occasioned by some special event: A marriage, a chieftancy ceremony, and oftentimes a burial. The visit over, the social obligation fulfilled, we would all pack into the car, and my dreams would be of home, of the sprawling metropolis of Kaduna.

I have chosen the path of nostalgia into this article, so that my pain can be better understood. And I do so for another reason: To make clear that when I lapse into a seemingly illogical optimism, I do so not because I am incapable of rational thought, but because when ‘home’ becomes the issue of discourse, sentiments become the overriding ruler of the mind.

Anyone who knows this city as I do, cannot help but ask the question: Why Kaduna? Why do all the problems of Nigeria appear to be played out in this city? Why do all the fractured inconsistencies of our nation appear to find outlet in this city? And then inevitably, we must also ask the question: How? How can a people who have lived together peacefully for so long ‘hate’ one another so much? How can people despite such tragedies pull their lives together in such a short space of time? How can another crisis of equally catastrophic consequences, follow on the heels of another, so quickly?

Kaduna, with its moderate brand of Islam, with its tolerant Christianity and its great diversity of peoples has always drawn people to itself. It is that kind of city that could almost lull you into thinking this was ‘home’.

Unlike other cities in Northern Nigeria, where the foreigners’ quarters are marked out by the Hausa appellation of ‘Sabon gari’, Kaduna has no such segregation. Your neighbor in Narayi might just as easily be Ndukwe, as it would be Yomi or Bassey or Shehu. But the open nature of Kaduna also meant that of all the cities in the north, this more than any other drew the attention of the restive entrepreneurial elements of the southern populations. These elements were mainly in search of an outlet for their creative energies. They needed markets for their wares, land for their farms and factories, as well as jobs to utilize their skills and apply their expertise. One most definitely had to have a vision in one’s heart before taking the decision to travel the famished roads that lead from the West and East to Northern Nigeria. This vision was often wholly economic. It was as good a vision as many, and this has been the major reason for the movements of people, whenever such movements occur.

The arrival of these émigrés, mostly educated, mostly driven by ordinate ambitions, mostly energetic, mostly southern, has brought the contradictions inherent in our nation to the fore. There are jobs to be taken because the talakawa is largely un-educated. There is a large untapped market, because the Hausa-Fulani hegemony that held sway in this region encouraged a fatalism that was cloaked in religious piety. To discourage the inevitable aspirations that people would have had, as a result of the inequalities in feudal Northern Nigerian Society, the notion of pre-ordained states was encouraged. The talakawa was destitute and illiterate because Allah ordained it so. The Prince was wealthy and affluent, because Allah ordained it so. To question the sanctity of these pre-ordained stratification of society was to question the wisdom of God. Society was gradually ossified in these consciousness-stifling modes. The attendant consequence of this is the lack of drive amongst the talakawa, and thus a largely untapped market. There was land to be taken, bought of course at a price from some agent of the ruling oligarchy, because the destitute talakawa had no means to buy the land.

All would have been well, but for the arrival of the southern émigrés. ‘Well’ in a clearly ironic sense. With education in total shambles in the north, the northern elite would have been able to get away with this travesty, but then they came. The émigrés: They came on trains, on trucks, in cars. They were Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Ijaw, Tiv, and Nupe. They came in search of a dream that they felt could be better realised in other parts of this nation of theirs. They came in search of opportunities. Opportunities that were there because of the lack of opportunities of the indigenous talakawa. Because they were hard working, they prospered. And the prosperity of the pioneers brought even more and more émigrés northwards. The northern talakawa scratched their heads. They stared in wonder as Yomi, Uche and Osaretin, arrived with only a shirt on their backs. They watched as they toiled, and they saw fortune smile on them. The delicate balance was breaking down. Gradually, the notion of a divine pre-ordination of social strata was being eroded. But short of blaspheming the name of the Lord God almighty, how could they explain what they were seeing around them? This wasn’t supposed to happen. And so, when on occasion, the opportunity arose to enforce these divine pre-ordinations, God would be given a helping hand, and the southern émigré would be reduced to the state that he was truly supposed to be in. Homeless, penniless, destitute. Just like the talakawa.

Another center for dislocations, is the fact that while the educated northerner, is almost always guaranteed the status of an elite, the educated southerner is not. He is just one of several thousands, millions maybe who have realized that the future lies in that ‘little scrap of paper’, that one obtains after toiling hard for a set number of years. But for the talakawa, education was never encouraged. And suddenly, he found ‘normal’ people like him, all around him, living on his streets, trading in his markets, working as electricians and mechanics – everyday people, making nonsense of his long held view that it was those on whom the gods had smiled, the blue blooded feudal overlords in whose hands the almighty had reposed their lives and destinies, that were permitted the knowledge of the book. No doubt, the feeling of alienation, the loss of an identity, the discovery of the localization of values once thought to bear universal truth, all these have contributed to the tensions that exist between the communities of Kaduna.

It must be understood that this article aims simply at trying to present a rational explanation for a set of seemingly irrational actions. But rational thought is relative, and until the issues which permit the mental rationalizations that turn peace loving people to cold blooded murderers are addressed, a real solution to the crises that currently plague us will continue to elude. If one has located the behavior of the talakawa in an ethno-religio-social context, where does one locate that of the warring ‘Christian-Southern’ communities?

One must separate out the issues. The non-Hausa indigenous peoples of Kaduna, are almost entirely Christians. They are referred to as the Southern Zaria peoples (a term which many of them would spit at, as it locates their identity within a Zaria centered orbit. They would rather be referred to as being from Southern Kaduna). For these, the various crises that they have found themselves involved in, have been for the sole reason of throwing off the yoke of Hausa-Fulani domination. Theirs is a struggle to right the ills of a local colonialism, in which an Emir in Zaria selects their rulers. The recent crisis is thought to be rooted in the decision of the Kaduna State government to create chiefdoms for the Kataf peoples of Southern Kaduna. It is incredible, but true, that in Nigeria today, there are still people who have vestiges of a local colonialism still imposed upon them.

As for the Southern Christians, their involvement stems simply from the human desire for survival. It is evidence of the refusal to leave themselves at the mercy of the ‘other’, and it underlies a more worrying prognosis: The total lack of confidence in the ability of the state or of its agents, to ensure the security of their lives and property. The location of the Southern-Christian belligerence in a defensive context lies in the fact that it is a recent addition to the landscape of conflicts in Kaduna. It is therefore reasonable to see it as a stance that has emerged over time, and is not innate in the southern émigré. It must however also be pointed out that the impression that all southern émigrés in the north are Christian is patently false. But what is true is that although the crises start out with a proclaimed religious basis, they inevitably end up bringing indiscriminate damage, death and destruction to the southern émigré irrespective of his religious affiliations. It is only when the issues are located in a broader, more encompassing context with sociologically structured roots, can we start to understand why this is the case.

As for the elite who fuel the crises, as evidenced by the high profile accusations that have been made in this latest round of fighting, it is their interests which drive them. The need for relevance in an atmosphere of extreme political dislocations summarizes the behavior of some the elite of Northern Nigeria. Like drowning men, they are clutching at all that is in their path, determined to drag anything that their desperate hands can latch onto, into their spiral of destruction. For years, decades, they kept the talakawa happy with a few token handouts – rice, meat, and kolanuts. Now that the national treasury is not as accessible as it once was, the financial props that helped prevent the talakawa from seriously accessing the injustice visited upon them by those in whom they had entrusted their destinies is no longer as readily available as it used to be. To do nothing, would be to invite a revolution. To do nothing would be to stoke the embers of that inevitable political conflagration. Distractions had to be found to keep the increasingly questioning, restive talakawa occupied. Restiveness borne out of their growing awareness that they are not in a position to benefit from the dividends of the new democratic dispensation because of a grand betrayal, by those whom they trusted. The various crises of the past few months, have been the products of the workings of those reprobate ‘elitist’ minds.

I called home yesterday. Actually, I called a neighbor’s home. Sirajo, our Hausa-Muslim neighbor took the call and promptly called my parents. We have lived peacefully as neighbors for years with Sirajo. He understands the real issues. I am certain Sirajo too will say he has lived peacefully with us. We too, understand the real issues. Perhaps it helps that we are all educated. Maybe that is why we understand the real issues. In that moment of introspection, I realised that the greatness, the survival of Nigeria depends on how quickly we can resolve the contradictions of the Nigerian State. The educational backwardness of Northern Nigeria must no longer be the source of scorn and disdain. We must address that issue with great seriousness, with all urgency. A chain, they say, is only as strong as its weakest link. As long as there is a sector of our population, which because of its inability to seriously analyze and debate issues, lies helplessly vulnerable to the political maneuverings of their supposed guardians, then peace will continue to elude us.

I hear Kaduna is almost back to normal. Burnt homes are being put up, burnt out shops are being reconstructed, the heart of the city is starting to beat again. Today, Christians will buy from Moslems, and Moslems too will do likewise. The northerner will enter a southern owned taxi. Today, Shehu will call Ndukwe to find out if he survived the carnage. Bola will call Halima to commiserate with her on the loss of her child, husband, lover, or friend – in the carnage. I was unable to speak to my mother when I called. She had gone to work. Work? People fail to understand it, they cannot understand how a people can be ravaged over and over and over again, and still find a way to carry on. I think I know why. It is because deep inside of each of us, we know that all of these differences, these supposed differences that make us tear at each other’s throats, are rooted not in any innate hatreds of the various groups and peoples who make up this city for one another. We know they are artificial differences – as artificial as the imaginary lines that demarcate states and regions. We have tasted the beauty of togetherness. We have heard laughter in Efik, Ibibio, Igbo, Yoruba, Kaje, Ijaw – and we have realized that all men laugh in the same language. We now know that all men weep in the same language, snore in the same language. That resilience must be respected. It must be saluted. But while we marvel at how they manage to pull through all the pain, we must ensure that the reason for the pain is removed, banished forever from our midst.

For starters, the elite who fuel the crisis, who arm the belligerent factions, who begin the murderous whispers, they should be held accountable for their deeds. In this crisis, as in the ones before, the authorities have declared that there are ‘powerful and influential forces’ that are the real puppeteers, directing the fratricidal war games that are being played out. When will we finally get to know to whom the faces behind the mask belong? Perhaps the resolution to this crisis lies in the eventual deconstruction of these self-proclaimed demi-gods, for whom people are but marionettes, and lives are nothing but bargaining chips.

But not all is gloom and doom. In the resilience of the people of Kaduna, in their dogged refusal to be overwhelmed by their circumstance and misfortune, by their demonstration of the incredible human capacity for forgiveness. In all these virtues, we catch a glimpse of true godliness. We see in this microcosm of the universal state of the black man, just how it is that we have managed to survive slavery, then colonialism, then neo-colonialism, and finally, the debilitating tyranny of our own kind. The solution to this crisis does not lie with the inter-religious committees being raised all over the place. Religion is but one, of several factors that underlie the conflict. The solution lies not in any sermons or admonitions for good and decent behavior.

The solutions are in black and white. Chalk on blackboard, pen on paper, books, lectures, jobs, and economic empowerment. Until we help the talakawa to make informed decisions, they will remain tools – helpless and willing, an army in the wings. And while the talakawa remains in a state of illiteracy and economic deprivation, while the local colonization of the Southern Kaduna people remains un-addressed, while an aura of invincibility hangs over the facilitators of our numerous crises, then ours will be one endless tale of carnage, crises and retaliatory attacks.

We salute the people of Kaduna, who inspite of all, continue to keep alive the spirit of one Nigeria. May their strength never wane. May their tears cease to flow. May their wounds find healing, and above all, may their hope in a just and peaceful future, hold true.
God bless Kaduna.

Malcolm Fabiyi
Cambridge, May 2000

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*About N11b allegedly collected and shared
*The alleged complicity of House members

By Jide Ajani & Kingsley Omonobi

Dateline Force Headquarters, Abuja, the nation’s capital. Time was 3:45 in the afternoon. It was penultimate Thursday.

His arrival was much expected.  He walked into the cold, anxious, embracing hands of the Commissioner of Police in charge, Special Task Force, STF, Ali Amodu.

Hon. Lawan Farouk’s long walk to the detention cells of the Police Force Criminal Investigation Department at Area 10, Garki, started that fateful Thursday afternoon; after all of four hours and some minutes – he was marched to the detention cell at about 8pm.

Information available to Sunday Vanguard made it clear that Hon. Farouk made himself available to the Police at force headquarters, after a round of negotiations.

It was a negotiation process which a source described as “in itself very intricate and delicate”.
To avoid a dispute or disputation about representation and procedure, a lawyer accompanied Hon. Farouk.

The interrogation commenced immediately.
According to sources privy to the interrogation, “the process started on a seemingly cordial note.  But at some point, the kernel of the matter became ‘how many members of the committee helped themselves with funds from marketers? The focus also shifted to the issue of how many members of the House of Representatives got part of the money”.

Sunday Vanguard was told that the reason why focus shifted had to do with the discovery that some marketers besieged the Force Headquarters alleging as well as claiming that “they, too, had parted with huge sums of money”.

To be fair, Sunday Vanguard’s own discovery showed that whereas some of the marketers had genuine grievances against the committee, some others were only out to engage in a smear campaign.
Some of those who were sincere about their deposition to the Police authorities were said to have “gone as far as swearing to affidavits that they made payments available”.

Some of those Sunday Vanguard spoke to in the House of Representatives were aghast that members were being linked to bribe monies arising from acts committed by members of the subsidy committee. One of the members informed Sunday Vanguard that “it appears that the executive, which seems to have been wholly indicted by the report of the committee was bent on rubbishing it hence the set up and the conclusion that members collected money.

However, in sharp contrast to what the member said, Police sources informed that “part of the deal which saw Farouk honouring the Police invitation bothered on the acknowledgment by members that they would stand by Farouk”.

Police sources insisted last week that about N11billion exchanged hands. in fact, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that part of the reasons why the $620,000 has not been produced is because the “sum of money in its exact form and shape can not be reproduced as given and collected.  The money has been shared and it is difficult to produce that money in the same form that it was collected”.

This notion was what the House sought to dispel with its session of penultimate Friday with the re-insertion of Synopsis and Zenon Oil. Some members of the House are insisting that the Police and the SSS should prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Sunday Vanguard was further told by Police sources that “while the interrogation of Farouk was going on, there was a parallel revelation session which went on and which involved some of the marketers who claimed to have been approached by committee members”.

The source further asserted that this accounted for the huge sum of money that has been discovered to be alleged payment to members of the committee and which was shared with the knowledge of some members of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, as at the time of going to press, the money was yet to be returned to the Police by Farouk, who continues to be a guest of the Police on a daily basis.

Rep. Farouk Lawan and Oil magnate, Femi Otedola

Indeed, fresh information has come upon Sunday Vanguard which suggests that the Police itself may hit a brick wall in spite of the bold face it has put on the investigation into the matter.

It was discovered during the week that there has been no love lost in the relationship between the Police and the Department of State Service, DSS.

It was disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that efforts by the Police to get the necessary documented cash, which was supposed to be part of the $3m demanded was yet to be provided.
That is just one of the many complications in the matter.

The Police is also said to be frowning at the operational lapse by the DSS which was premised on a serial attempt to entrap Farouk.

According to a Police source, “you do not try to catch a thief twice; you only set up an operation and once he falls for it you arrest him”.

However, a DSS source maintained – as was reported last week – that the department could not have arrested Farouk the very first day he collected money from Otedola because there were other considerations on April 24, 2012.

The third leg of the argument rests on Farouk’s claim that he, too, was actually carrying out a sting operation on Otedola but wanted to play along to the end.

In fact, when on Thursday last week Farouk appeared at the National Assembly complex, many tongues began to wag.

But in an interview with journalists, Farouk, brimming with confidence said whereas this trial was from God Almighty, he was sure that at the end of the day, he would be vindicated.

For the moment, Police investigation may be stalled because of the many incongruities in the whole episode.

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By Pius Adesanmi

 

(At the lobby of the most expensive hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Overwhelmed hotel staff scurry hither and thither as they try to cope with the Nigerian delegation comprising not more than three hundred and twenty-five and a half persons. Seventy-five members of the delegation are shouting on top of their voices, insisting that hotel staff need Portuguese translations for “big man”, “all protocols observed”, “estacode”, “Chief”, “Alhaji”, “advance party”, “Chieftain”, “Stakeholder”, “First Lady”, “convoy” “personal assistant” “special adviser”, “senior special adviser”, “special room service”, “cash payment”, “anticipated payment”, “miscellaneous expenses”, and so on and so forth, in order to provide proper service to the Nigerian delegation. To the left, in a quiet conference room, twenty-five Western Business Executives, led by Mr. Albert Schreiber, are seated, sipping tea, coffee, doing small talk, and glancing anxiously at their Rolex wristwatches. On the conference table in front of each Executive: an ipad, a blackberry, The Economist, and Wall Street Journal. At the opposite side of the table, Ruby, Orontus, Renoks, some ministers, and state governors are sweating. On the table before them: half-eaten kolanuts, bitter kola, alligator pepper, tomtom, and old copies of ThisDay. The Nigerians avoid the inquisitive gaze of the potential foreign investors.)

“Orontus”

“Yes, Ruby boy, wetin?”

“Wey oga now, ehn? Which kain yawa be dis? These people are getting restless o. Na we fix this meeting for 9:00 am. This is 11:00 am and oga still never come.”

“Hum”

“Orontus, na hum you go talk? Even the Minister of Trade and Foreign Direct Investment is not yet here. Renoks, wey oga trade?”

“He needed to accompany his madam to the shopping mall this morning. I saw them when they were leaving. He promised he would be back in time for this meeting. Maybe traffic jam catch dem.”

“Ok o, but what about Oga now? What do we do now? Abi make we go check wetin dey happen for the Presidential suite?”

“Ruby”

“Yes, Orontus”

“When you reach there, don’t stop at the reception area of the Presidential suite. Go inside the presidential bedroom. Check inside the sheets of the presidential bed. If you find oga there, drag him here to this meeting”

“Orontus, you think say na joking matter be dis? Is this the time for sarcasm?”

“Do I sound like I’m joking? Go drag oga come now. Luckily for you, I hear say Nduka Obaigbena dey reorganize in case they don’t take you back at Rutam Times when we reach home. E be like say wetin we dey chop for Villa don tire you. Otherwise, which one be your own? Your papa name na Nigeria? Are we not all here together waiting for oga? And you are here trying to call oga a late comer”

“Ehn, emi ke? Call oga a late comer? Mewa baba mi o to be. Who born me? I never speak words that are bigger than my mouth o. Orontus, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not calling oga a late comer o”

“Ehen, are you trying to say that I am lying?”

“No now, Orontus, you too dey quick vex. I am just saying that Oga fixed this meeting for 9:00 am himself and it is now 11:00 am. And look at our foreign partners. They are getting restless. I am just saying we should at least pretend that we are doing something to get oga here. At least we can ask Renoks to go and check what is happening upstairs.”

“Ruby, you will never learn the tricks of this trade. What do you think Renoks has been doing on his ipad here all morning? You think he is playing Ludo?”

“Oh, is he not just reading newspapers to keep busy while we wait for oga?”

(Orontus and Renoks explode in laughter)

“Renoks, abeg, help out our friend Ruby. What are you doing on your ipad?”

“Oga Ruby, I am tweeting and also posting updates on the President’s Facebook Wall about the spectacular success of this meeting with foreign investors.”

“I don’t understand. Which meeting?”

“Oga Ruby, this meeting wey we dey now.”

“I don’t get it. This meeting wey we never see oga? This meeting wey we never start?”

“Oga Ruby, you are the one saying that the meeting has not started and we never see oga. That is not what my tweets and Facebook updates are saying.”

 

(Something beeps in Orontus’s pocket. He springs to attention.)

“Ah, oga is on his way o.”

(All the Nigerians spring to attention. The CEOs look bemused. President Jonathan breezes in and the CEOs finally stand up in respect but the look on their faces betrays their irritation at the President’s lateness. Two dozen aides buzz around the President as he makes his way to his designated seat. Some are carrying his papers. One is carrying his briefcase. One is carrying his cell phones. One is carrying his ipad. The President seats and invites all to seat but only the foreign CEOs seat. The Nigerians remain standing.)

“Gentlemen, I think you are all familiar with African time? Anyway, sorry, I’m late. These things happen.”

(You could hear a pin drop. The foreign CEOs do not share the President’s humour. Ruby winces painfully. Orontus scowls at him.)

“Anyway, we all know why we are here. Thank you for your interest in Nigeria. Before we start, I will invite two of the state governors in my delegation to each give a short welcome address.”

(Each Governor takes 20 minutes to run through protocol before delivering his address. One hour later.)

“Now gentlemen, we can get down to business.”

“Thank you, Mr President, it’s good that we are getting to see Nigerian culture. Can you at least ask the members of your delegation to sit down? We are not used to holding meetings with our potential partners standing up.”

“Did you hear him? You people should sit down.”

“Ah, Mr President, we are all fine like this sir. Just continue the meeting. You know oyinbo people don’t understand respect for protocol and constituted authority. Just continue the meeting sir.”

“Mr. Schreiber.”

“Yes, Mr President”

“I think you heard them. My people are ok standing. How much did you say your company was thinking of investing in my country’s energy sector?”

“We are looking at something in the neighbourhood of a billion dollars from now till 2015 Mr. President.”

“2015? I thought you were looking at a long term investment?”

“Yes, Mr President. But we think it is prudent to wait and see what happens after 2015. We understand it’s an election year in your country sir. Forgive me but we did our homework. We understand that every new government cancels contracts and agreements entered into by their predecessors.”

“That’s correct, Mr Schreiber. I will not lie to you. But that means you should look at working with us till 2019. We have another four years starting from 2015.”

“You know the results of the 2015 elections already sir?”

(The Nigerians burst out laughing.)

“Orontus!”

“Yes, Mr President sir.”

“Where is INEC? Go and call INEC. Tell him to come and see our foreign partners and reassure them.”

(Orontus rushes out and returns with INEC. INEC gives the CEOs the desired reassurances.)

“Mr Schreiber.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“You just heard directly from my INEC. I travel everywhere with him because of people like you. Now that you know that I will be in office after 2015, can we get back to business?”

“Yes, Mr President. We need a lot of concessions. We want a tax holiday for the entire duration of our operations in Nigeria. We want a 100% expatriate quota. We will need only Nigerian drivers, messengers, and domestic staff for our expatriates. There are local Nigerian companies into our line of business. We expect you to do something about that as we do not tolerate competition. We have prepared a blueprint of our investment plan for your delegation to look at sir. If you meet our demands and conditions, we shall take care of our own special obligations to you and your designated political associates sir. We have done our homework sir. We know that Siemens, Halliburton, and Malabu messed up while taking care of special obligations. Our approach to special obligations is Wikileaks-proof.”

“Now you are talking, Mr Schreiber. Since you understand the language of special obligations, we don’t even need to see the blueprint you have prepared. When do you plan to come and start business in Nigeria?”

“Are you sure that you don’t need to see the blueprint, Mr. President? We are asking for many concessions. Will your National Assembly not at least need to debate the concessions we are asking for?”

(The Nigerians burst out laughing again.)

“Renoks!”

“Yes, Mr President sir.”

“I think we have some Senators in our entourage? Go and call them for me.”

(Renoks dashes off and returns with two Senators.)

“My brother Senators.”

“Yes your Excellency sir.”

“Our friends here are worried that you and your boys will cause problems for us. Can you please reassure them? Mr Schreiber, these are serving Senators from my country. Please listen to them.”

“Ehem, Mr Schreiber, you people should not worry. You can do business with Mr. President. We will do oversight but what we see and oversee depends on what you want us to see and how Mr. President wants us to see it.”

“Ok sirs. I understand. We don’t want you to see anything. I have assured Mr. President that we know how to make you not want to see anything.We will take care of our special obligations to you. We are more careful than Halliburton, Siemens, and Malabu. We are Wikileaks-proof. Name where you want your special obligations deposited. Switzerland? London? Washington? Dubai? ”

“In that case, welcome to Nigeria. We’ll get back to you about location. Those places you mention are no longer safe havens for special obligations. Especially London. Mr President, these are wonderful foreign investors o. They speak our language.”

“Mr Schreiber, now that you have been reassured by my Senators, I think you understand that you people can come and start as soon as possible. Now let us go to the second item on the agenda. Protocols of ratification and publicity of this deal in our respective countries. I think…”

(The President is interrupted by a commotion outside the conference room. The Nigerian First Lady, accompanied by two trailer loads of aides, approaches the venue of the meeting. Orontus, Renoks, and Ruby rush out to meet her.)

“Useless people. Nonsense people. Do you know who I am? I will no longer take it from you people. The Office of the First Lady is also very important. What is he still doing at that business meeting? You people are preventing him from attending my own event. Ah, Orontus, Ruby, and Renoks, you people are here too? You are part of the conspiracy?”

“No ma.”

“My friends, don’t no ma me. You people know that Miss Brazil 2012 invited me to cut the tape and declare open her new fashion boutique today and I warned you that my husband should be by my side at the ceremony. You assured me you won’t keep him long. Now, I am two hours late for my event and he is still there with those oyibo business men. Abeg, what kind of meeting are you people having? I won’t leave this place until you call Ebele out for me o. Just imagine. NTA crew has already gone to the venue.”

“But, ma…”

“Orontus, nor vex me today o. I don’t want to hear any ma from any of you. Just go and call Ebele for me now now or me and you will enter the same trouser today.”

(Orontus rushes back to the meeting room and whispers to the President who abandons the meeting, leaving his aides to explain things to the flabbergasted foreign investors. The investors leave after being reassured that the deal is sealed. Later, over beer at the hotel lobby.)

“Ruby boy.”

“Yes, Orontus.”

“How did oga end today’s meeting?”

“He negotiated very hard and signed memoranda of understanding with the foreign investors on terms that are very favorable to Nigeria.”

“Good. And did you see the First Lady and her aides anywhere near the venue of the meeting?”

“Which First Lady? I didn’t see any First Lady anywhere near the meeting o. And which aides? The First Lady is here in Rio with her own aides?”

“Good. Very good, Ruby. Great answers. This is what I’m talking about. You are beginning to understand how we do it. If you don’t acquire the instinct of straight-faced automatic denial, you don’t belong in the Villa. You can only get better going forward.”

“You think so, Orontus? It’s not easy o, especially the part where I have to keep a straight face when saying these things.”

“Trust me, Ruby, you can only get better.”

“I trust you, Orontus.”

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Jide Ajani|Vanguad|amebo

 

*How SSS showed clips to Speaker Tambuwal
*Otedola faces fresh troubles
*SSS’ role in the sting operation
*Why Farouk was not immediately arrested

This is the chronology of a now inconclusive sting operation conducted by the Department of State Service, otherwise referred to as the SSS, involving House of Representatives member and Chairman, Committee on Subsidy Management, Lawan Farouk, and oil and gas magnate, Femi Otedola. The complicity of both men in this latest scam signposts a deeper mentality of dishonourable conduct that is pervasive in Nigeria.

Femi Otedola and Lawan Farouk made a mockery of purity – they both wore white clothes in the video which showed them giving and collecting bribe.

The SSS swept the house before the operation was set up.  They had to. They called it a STING OPERATION. It was set up at the palatial Aso Drive, Abuja residence of Otedola, the oil and gas magnate. The set-up was for bugging devices for an audio visual operation. With a camera pen for the visuals, ultra-sensitive microphones that could pick the sound of the drop of pins for the audio, as well as telephone bugging devices, the SSS’ communications experts did their job of installation and left.The question to ask is, why this elaborate operation at the residence of a friend of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan?

IN THE BEGINNING, 15 BECAME 13

Because the heart of man is clouded, the truth about who approached who may never really be known, without prejudice to the claims being made by Otedola and Farouk.

The truth, however, is that  one approached the other.

What is also established, moving forward, is that Otedola’s Zenon Oil and Gas collected forex to the tune of $232, 975,385.13 from the PSF whereas it did not import petrol. There was another company, Synopsis Enterprises Limited, said to have collected $51, 449, 977, for the same purpose but did not deliver – so said the report of the House Committee, presided over by Farouk.

On the second day of the presentation of the report, a Wednesday, April 24, Farouk told his colleagues on the floor of the House, that the now notorious Clause 29 (5) and (6) needed attention. That fresh information had come upon the committee which suggested that some companies were erroneously listed as beneficiaries of PSF, whereas it was merely an error and, therefore, the names of the companies should be removed from the list. The House agreed to the amendment of the report. And, therefore, Otedola’s Zenon was removed from the list of indicted companies; ditto, Synopsis.

12 HOURS EARLIER, AT OTEDOLA’S RESIDENCE
The meeting between Farouk and Otedola was meant to hold by 1am, the very first hour of April 24, 2012. It did not. 2am, it did not. At about 4am, according to the timing on the recording device, Farouk entered the premises of Otedola. There, $500,000, out of a set aside $3m, was ready in cash.

According to visuals on the recording, which Sunday Vanguard has now been privy to, Farouk came in wearing a white Kaftan – not the long flowing and sweeping Senegalese type but a three quarter/near full length design.

There was no cap to match. It was very late any way – 4am. Otedola also wore his now familiar white guinea brocade ‘buba and sokoto’. After the exchange of  banters, the $500,000 was handed over to Farouk and he left.

Sometime four to five hours later, Boniface Emenalo, the secretary to the House Committee on Subsidy Management, who had been nominated by a very senior high-ranking member of this administration, entered. The recorder kept rolling. Emenalo was handed two packages containing $120,000.

Emenalo, according to the recording, was dressed in a Niger-Delta like attire. He collected the two parcels, put them in the trousers pockets which swallowed the packages – one in each pocket. The Niger Delta top did not betray the dollar cargo in the pockets of the trousers worn by Emenalo. He left.  Mind you, the disputation between the combined sum of $600,000 and $620, 000 came about as a result of the alleged declaration made by Emenalo that he collected just $100,000, as against the alleged $120,000 Otedola gave to him.

The funds Otedola parted with were provided by the SSS.

It was part of the $3m that Farouk allegedly demanded for and which had been set aside for the operation. The point of convergence between the video recording of money changing hands and the now infamous bribery saga is the removal of the name of Zenon from the list of 15 later that morning on the floor of the House.

The video recording had very clear audio accompaniment.
The SSS experts moved in afterwards to develop the recording into a full fledged audio-visual production.

A copy of the recording was given to Otedola.
Now, whether Otedola made it available to former President Olusegun Obasanjo or not could not be verified.

What was verified, however, was that there was a balance of $2.5million allegedly to be collected.

THE AIRPORT RECORDING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
The next phase and scene of the sting operation was to be the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. There, the balance of the money was being kept for Farouk.

Otedola insistently told Farouk that he could not carry $2.5m cash to his residence and, therefore, wanted Farouk to meet him at the airport for the collection of the remainder of the money.

Now, whether Farouk had a premonition that he was likely to be set up or that he just didn’t want to be spotted at the airport in the company of Otedola, he simply refused to meet the oil magnate at the airport afterwards.

Instead, according to records of the telephone conversation that was bugged, Farouk instead suggested that he would send a third party to collect the money.

According to the recordings, he gave the telephone numbers of the nominee.
He, according to the recorded conversation between him and Otedola, actually spelt the name of the nominee to the Zenon Oil chief.

But all these were activities in futility.
The high command of the SSS would not have a third party collect the balance of $2.5m. A senior security source told Sunday Vanguard that the reason  the airport operation was aborted was that since it was Farouk that was being expected to show up and was now planning to send another party, there was no need to continue.

Had he shown up and collected the money, he would have been arrested immediately, a source confirmed.

WHY FAROUK WAS NOT ARRESTED EARLIER
In fact, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that the “only reason  he was not arrested at the residence of Otedola that early morning was because options would be limited in proving that the episode was bribery related; and Farouk could insist that he was just set up, with cash brought in to justify the action”.

More importantly, sources said that “arresting Farouk on the morning of the day he was supposed to be presenting the continuation of the report of the committee, especially since Zenon’s name was still on the list of 15, would appear as if he was to be pressured into removing the oil firm’s name and, when he refused, he was set up for blackmail”.

According to a security source, such a “development would have made it appear again as if the government of the day simply decided to overshadow the presentation of the report with the arrest of Farouk”. These were the issues that weighed heavily on the minds of the SSS high command. They let Farouk go.
All these were not known to the lawmaker .

SPEAKER TAMBUWAL
AS A GUEST OF SSS

Once the operation at the airport was inconclusive, but with Farouk removing Zenon’s name from the list of 15, it was time for the SSS high command to act swiftly.

Later that same week, the Command invited Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, to its office in Asokoro. He obliged.

Upon his arrival, he was met by the Director General, DG, Ita Ekpeyong. A source disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that after the pleasantries, the Speaker was entertained with the recording of the morning of April 24, with the star actors being Emenalo, Farouk and Otedola. It was a totally astounded Tambuwal who was said to have watched in utter amazement footages from the recording.
He was informed of the sting operation which was set up by the SSS.
He was also informed of the botched operation meant for the airport.
The Speaker was made to understand that what he saw that transpired in the video led to the actions of Farouk on the floor of the House whereupon Zenon’s name was removed from the list of 15.
While the DG was said to be doing the briefing, it was a Tambuwal, with dropped jaws, who listened in awe and shock. On conditions of confidentiality, what transpired between the Speaker and his host can not be reproduced here.

However, Sunday Vanguard was told that “the Speaker simply said they should call Farouk and show him the recording; that he should come and answer ‘his father’s name’”.
Upon arrival back in his office, Tambuwal reportedly summoned Farouk and gave him a thorough dressing down.

FAROUK’S CLAIM
Farouk initially insisted that there was nothing of such. He denied any such thing as collecting any money from any marketer.

It was learnt from associates of Farouk that he also thought “he was doing a sting operation on Otedola; that he collected the money with a view to exposing him; that he wanted to collect the balance before presenting it all to members of the House and the public”.

In addition, Farouk, in a confidential briefing with Sunday Vanguard in April, had hinted at the development.

He disclosed that “one of the marketers wanted me to come and collect money from him at the airport but we are watching him and, when the time comes, we would expose him and the others”.

He also granted an interview published on April 28, in another newspaper, where he openly made the claims that an attempt was being made to bribe him and that some people were even threatening his life over the subsidy probe.
Farouk maintained that he planned to expose Otedola by going full length and playing along. Why he did not carry others along remains a mystery.

AND THE MATTER BLEW OPEN

Police sources confirmed, last Friday, that “contrary to what was being published, it was the police who first wrote Farouk, seeking to know who the people that were piling pressure on him were and those who were behind the threat to his life”.

The lawmaker responded to the police request and that actually marked the beginning of investigation into the matter.

Sunday Vanguard was also made to understand that investigations by the police had commenced before the matter blew into the open.

Indeed, it was the panic move by some powerful people both in the corridors of power and a few who rose in defense of Farouk that unwittingly blew the whistle in their bid to keep the matter out of public glare.

It was learnt that a very disappointed senior government official, who brought Emenalo in to work with the committee, had suspected that the matter was already being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and made a move to find out the culpability of his ward. This was also another act which unwittingly blew the lid off.
By penultimate Saturday, it had become obvious that the matter had spread like wild fire in the House.

This was what necessitated the statement from the House leadership declaring that it would investigate the matter fully. Meanwhile, Farouk has been suspended indefinitely by the House.
And Otedola’s Zenon and Synopsis have been re-indicted by the House of Representatives’ Committee of the whole.

THE SEQUEL CONTINUES NEXT SUNDAY