Archive for August, 2012

Rescuing The North

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Engagements By Chidi Amuta

The critical national security challenge of the moment coincides with an incremental meltdown of the geographic North of the country.  As we speak, nearly the entire region has been seized by a new normal: suicide bombings, assassinations, routine acts of arson, carnage and the elevation of violence into the dominant language of social interaction. Tragedy no longer makes news. More debilitating is the gradual de-coupling of half of the nation from the national economy through a psychological hindrance of the free movement of persons and economic factors.

For now, something rough and frightening is restlessly haunting the North and we should all be concerned.  Any crisis that affects one section of the country makes us all incomplete whether we live in Badagry or Birnin Kebbi.

While we are at it, an untidy sectarian wall is gradually being erected among Nigerians. From being simply citizens of one country, Nigerians are being forced to see themselves as either Christian or Muslim.  Meanwhile, the politics of insensitivity to the plight of the masses persists just as Northern political leaders jostle for vantage positions in relation to 2015.

Federal response has followed familiar roads: troops deployment, expressions of intention to dialogue with a faceless adversary etc. Even more tragic, repeated meetings of Northern governors and political leaders have turned out clueless on how to stem the violence and re-integrate the region into the nation. Instead, the loudest noises from the region have been about sharing of oil money, derivation quotas and loud opposition to proposed constitutional changes that should make Nigeria work better.

One or two members of the so-called Northern elite have gone as far as alleging that Boko Haram is the result of a lopsided revenue and derivation formula. Implication? Throw more billions of naira into the gaping pockets of the same opportunistic and unimaginative people who vicariously created Boko Haram in the first place. A handful of more enterprising ‘Northerners’ have set up shop as negotiators or mediators between government and the violent jihadists. I see a business plan, not a patriotic interest in national security in this whole enterprise of dialoguing with Boko Haram.

Only last week, however, an impressive array of mostly Northern notables was convoked for the purpose of finding solutions to the unrelenting violence. These efforts are impressive displays of concern. But among this gamut of views and propositions, there is nothing on the table that suggests that we are prepared to admit the origins of the crisis or intelligently engage on permanent solutions.

While we grope for solutions, to my mind, the region faces three distinct possibilities:  First, increased federal security effort could produce a temporary restoration of the pre-existing order of inequality secured by force.  Second, the regime of insecurity could become institutionalised to the extent of the region becoming more like Somalia and thus become effectively de-coupled from the rest of the federation. The latter would be characterised by periodic fire fights between armed factions and the rise of warlords. With the characterisation of elements of Boko Haram as part of an international terrorist organisation by the US, we may soon play host to drone attacks on suspected terrorists targets in Nigerian territory.  The third more positive possibility is an internal political revolution in which a new leadership emerges to seriously address the challenges of development and modernisation of the region, literally continuing from where the late Sar’dauna of Sokoto left off in 1966.

Most interpretations of the turn of events in the North are mostly as foolish as the blind quest for solutions in wrong directions. The anomy in the region is not exclusively a failure of security. The North is as insecure as the rest of Nigeria and people are not strapping explosive belts around their waists in other parts of the country. It is also not necessarily a political pressure to get a Northern president in 2015. How come Boko Haram has targeted key Northern leaders including, most recently, some traditional rulers and key politicians? It is true Al Queda and other fundamentalist anarchists seek fertile ground in places where poverty and desperation drive people of friendly faith to buy into their theology of mindless bestiality. But the Nigerian show of repeated violence is not strictly theirs; our strategic position vis-a-vis Western interests is mostly marginal but our weak security infrastructure makes this place attractive to casual anarchists, be they Boko Haram, kidnappers or glorified  oil thieves erroneously dubbed Niger Delta militants.

To my mind, Boko Haram is a direct repercussion of years of misguided policy, irresponsible politics and atrocious governance by both the federal authorities and the various governments of Northern states. All our efforts in the search for solutions to this tragedy must therefore be anchored on how to redress the repercussions of bad leadership first by the Northern elite and vicariously the federals.

There is a historical puzzle about the turn of events in Nigeria’s Northern half.  The two factors that have contributed to prosperity, modernisation and progress in other parts of the world have been abundantly present in the North of Nigeria, namely, Islam and military rule. For over four decades, Nigeria was under military rule and 95 per cent of the leaders were Northern officers. Roughly 50 per cent of Nigeria is unarguably Islamic.  In Asia and parts of Latin America, military rule modernised economies and provoked modernism and democratic reform. In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Gulf states of the Middle East, Islam and oil wealth have fuelled modernisation and major economic development. How come that in Nigeria, these factors have ended up breeding swarms of destitute and jobless youths driven to the limits of desperation mostly in the Northern half of our country?

Let us reduce the argument to the real world. Let us take an inventory of technicians, tractor operators, plumbers, mechanics, tailors, bricklayers, IT operators, serious traders from the North. In short, let someone carry out an audit of the percentage of the national stock of skilled manpower that is from the North. It is not enough for some Northern governors to insist that they have been budgeting for education and infrastructure over the years just like their Southern counterparts.

What type of education have they been providing? What accounts for the low level of entrepreneurial education in the region? How come the region remains unattractive to foreign investors even from point of view of available indigenous manpower? The Nigerian Diaspora is burgeoning. Let us find out what percentage of that potent force is from the 19 Northern states.

The inconvenient truth is that the North is not quite like the South in many senses. The cultural and religious divide of the country between the two dominant faiths of the world poses a different set of development challenges for the two halves of the country.  Incidentally, it was only in the First Republic under the late Sar’dauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Allah bless his heritage!), that this realisation was brought to bear on the philosophy of governance and development strategy in the old Northern Nigeria. That is why the glorious era that we keep referring to – the age of the groundnut pyramids, the cotton piles, the super competent public servants and the openness and tolerance of the people to all faiths coincides with this era.

With military invasion of governance and regimental political unitarism, the recognition of the peculiarity of the region was smashed. In its place was introduced an array of faulty assumptions: equality of states, even development, unmediated western education, oil as king, the politics of laziness and constitutional entitlement to oil money and a very unscientific affirmative action. These are the sins that we are now paying for.

The imperative of the moment is to take a look at the development strategies that have been adopted over the years in the North and see the extent to which we have adapted this to the cultural needs of the region. We are not the only country in the world with a huge Muslim population. Why are the others making progress and we are making orphans and widows? Why are the Gulf states taking giant leaps in development to the acclaim of the rest of the world? Why is Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a secular constitution, now one of the world’s favourite destinations for investment and a source of expertise? Why have Malaysia and Indonesia made the giant economic leaps we know in spite of their impossible geographical constraints?

The classic irony of the plight of the North is that a region that has produced ‘the richest man in Africa’- Alhaji Aliko Dangote – also boosts of the smallest concentration of entrepreneurs per square kilometre than the rest of the country! How come?

Even Saudi Arabia that hosts Islam’s holiest sites is embracing modernity while we remain cocooned in ancient customs and hold our people down with oppressive theologies? Put simply, why has the Northern political elite found it impossible to come up with development strategies that are based on the cultural identity of the region? All meetings of the so-called Northern governors over the years have never been development oriented. And yet, it is to the prosperous cities of the Gulf states (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Mecca and Medina) and Europe that these same leaders escape either on lavish vacations or to invest whatever wealth they accumulate in public office.

The solution to the crisis of violence and insecurity in the North may not be as farfetched as the authorities are making it appear. The prerequisite is the humility, on the part of the Northern political elite, to admit past missteps and the intellectual curiosity to ask the correct questions from the right quarters.

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By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

In the last couple of weeks, the Presidency via its media inner circle has been having it tough with critics, most especially the hard-nut-to-crack opposition parties, the ‘army of sponsored and self-appointed anarchists’ and also ‘the twittering, pinging, Facebook crowd of the new age’.

This tough battle between the President’s men and the rest of the public is coming at a time when Nigerians more than ever before now see their leaders as some bunch of untrustworthy men who had promised heaven and earth, yet fail to send down the rain (apologies to Majek Fashek). It is for this reason why few individuals had to be recruited or to be ‘official’, appointed to help give credibility to a government believed to be the most cursed in the world. Of course, such appointments couldn’t have come at a better time, most especially when confusion within the presidency has further cut off whatever filial affection the vast majority of the people initially had felt with the government of the day. Okupe and Abati are one of such.

Abati, not known to be politically naive went all out few days ago to lash out at almost everybody who he believes ‘don’t even know why or how they should attack the President.’ This writer would not want to believe, like Abati claimed, is Mr. Aleseju! If Alaseju, however, is the Yoruba appellation that would simply make Abati see the obvious through this writer’s piece, then the better for us all. It is quite ironical that Abati claimed the Jonathan is a grossly misunderstood President, while arguing too many people are unfair to him, criticize him out of ignorance, abuse him out of mischief and lashing at the opposition who ‘doesn’t make things easy at all’. But if President Jonathan had not removed subsidy from fuel in January, had stopped the Boko-Haram menace, even though all to no avail, he continuously promises he was committed to nipping the menace in the bud, had fought the oil cabal who cheated the government and the vast majority of the people of their commonwealth and created an enabling environment for employment amidst other leadership responsibilities, nobody would give a damn. Since the country has moved from fry pan to fire in the last 15 months, with little or nothing to show for the growth and development of the economy and the social uplift of the people, who else is supposed to be make things hard for the President?

It is quite ironical that people like Abati who began his career as a public affairs commentator and fighter of reckless governments and their visually impaired policies is now the one who looks into the eyes of his progeny, claiming they are ‘wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions’. Abati got it all wrong with most of the issues he raised to support his paymaster. Abati claimed nobody was more committed to the Nigerian Project than President Jonathan, yet the Nigerian project is fast crumbling before our very eyes. The Ogoni and Bakassi secession threats are just one out of the many signs of a possible break-up as predicted by the US, while Boko-Haram have obviously made the country or the North ungovernable. If the President faces ‘unforeseen challenges which his administration has had to contend with,’ what exactly are the things he has done and intends to sincerely do ‘to positively transform Nigeria?’ It is not enough to proclaim words or make assertions like Abati did in his piece, without laying bare to

Nigerians facts, therefore, the claim that ‘ordinary Nigerians know and appreciate this’ is balderdash.
If Abati had left the issue of the opposition out as critics of his paymasters, it wouldn’t have bothered much this writer, but because Abati failed to understand that these ‘leaders of the opposition who claim that the President has lost the support of Nigerians’ were only speaking the minds of millions of Nigerians, it can never be possible that they ‘represent only themselves and their selfish interests’. Abati should go out and get the performance and support ratings of his paymasters from Nigerians and see how well the opposition would have performed in the public opinion test. The Northern part of the country believes they do not have a leader since Boko-Haram keeps decimating them in their hundreds and by the day, the South-West who seem not to forget history still recall the subsidy removal and how the cabal still breath the air of freedom or where was Abati when tempers rose in that region as a result of the renaming of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University through executive fiat? Kidnapping continues unabated in the South-East with a university Vice-Chancellor recently released from the kidnappers den. Many more scenes of violence and insecurity permeate that region with no viable solution insight or is the President still not committed to eradicating the menace? The South-South faces threats of secession, while skirmishes of militancy are felt week in and out. In short, with the unforeseen challenges which his administration has had to contend with, the opposition couldn’t have been wrong when they claimed ‘the President has lost the support of Nigerians’. Such statement of course does not portray them as pursuing selfish interests but patriotism to the nation and sincerity of purpose.   

This writer wants to believe Abati was being economical with the truth when he argued the President ‘knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out. That is why he is telling a particular Minister to fix the East-West road and get it fixed quickly.’ Bi-Courtney should not be told to fix our roads; rather, the company should be blacklisted while those who manage it should be prosecuted for inefficiency and flagrant abuse of contractual agreement. The particular Minister who has continued delay on the East-West road should be sacked for not doing his job and made to face the full wrath of the law for causing unnecessary accidents on that road. With Bi-Courtney and the particular Minister, Nigerians are sure going to wait a very long time to get the needed infrastructures needed to survive. Abati should have told us when an infrastructure like our moribund refineries would start working; he should have told us when infrastructures like good hospitals would be built across the federation, he should have told us when infrastructures like portable borehole would be erected in places like the North rather than just displaying ethical professionalism.

If truly the President ‘has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds,’ why have Nigerians not seen or heard of a high profile case prosecuted by the EFCC? The oil cabals still walk free and Abati knows this. The EFCC under its first Chairman had case files of former governors, yet nobody hears anything about it. The fraud in the Pension Office and Security and Exchange Commission still begs for prosecution, yet Abati claims what is not.

Of what benefit is it to Nigerians if the President runs a modern and open Presidency, gets access to Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, BB, reads and writes, yet failed to feel the pulse of the people during the subsidy removal saga? Where was Mr. President when the intelligentsia, his immediate community and others asked that the rule of law should prevail at the last gubernatorial election in Bayelsa? Was that election not fraught with the highest form of impunity even when Nigerians pleaded for a level playing field? If the President needs the support of the people to do his work, how come he has refused to re-instate the President of the Court of Appeal, despite pleas from the masses? Of what benefit is it to Nigerians if ‘President Jonathan was the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as his Chief Economic Adviser and took affirmative action in political appointments to a higher level by reserving 35% of all appointive positions in government for our women folk’, yet more than 55% of Nigerian women are faced with poverty, disease, neglect and live below a dollar?    

Abati loves to talk, talk, talk, bringing out issues without hitting on the facts behind the issues. If truly the President does not spends billions on feeding and since he has enjoyed the privilege of eating at the President’s table, Abati should have been more sincere to have told Nigerians in his piece how much was allocated for feeding in the President’s 2012 budget. But for the outcry which was later cut to N700 Million, almost N1 Billion would have gone down the drain in feeding the President. What 150 Million Nigerians need is how food can get to the tables and not some stories of the ogogoro Mr. President consume or does not.  

Abati has every right to fight for his paymaster, however, what Nigerians need at this critical period in the country’s history is how insecurity would be tactically tackled, how the millions of unemployed youths would be employed, how Boko-Haram would be reduced to a toothless Bull Dog, how power generation would get to 44,000 MW, how corruption would be doggedly fought, how the emergence of powerful oil cabal would be a thing of the past and how our roads, hospitals, education sector and all other facets of the society would return to its past glory. If these are not achieved soonest, Abati must be ready for more cynics, pestle-wielding critics, unrelenting, self-appointed activists, idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, distracted crowd of Facebook addicts and the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria and this time around, they would not be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.


By Kassim Afegbua

Nothing can be as gazundering as the launch penultimate week of a particular type of Television that uses battery as its source of energy.

The product according to the brand owners LG was designed specifically for the Nigerian market and Nigerians simply because we have become a country of perpetual darkness, no thanks to poor and epileptic power supply by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria [PHCN].

On television, one could see the promoters of this insult dancing at our collective follies and reminding us of the durability of the batteries that would power the television in place of electricity.

One could see the effrontery with which they displayed their new product waiting to capture the Nigerian market. Do you blame them?

Really, I find this development very disturbing and benumbing. In an era where the Okupes of this world have started singing new songs of performance and improved wattage of electricity, boasting on television that a nation that wants to be one of the most developed economy in the world is just operating at the periphery of 4,600 megawatts, such a geometric increase from inherited 1,700 megawatts, one wonders why the option of a battery propelled television should occupy the sensibilities of any serious manufacturer.

And granting them the right to showcase this trash meant only for the Nigerian market is an admission of failure by government that irrespective of what they make us believe, power cannot improve in the country in the nearest future.

On the one hand, government is battling with the underhand dealings and sabotage of generator providers, seeing them as one of the factors militating against improved power supply while on the other hand; government is tolerating and encouraging the importation to Nigeria of a particular type of television that uses battery as power.

For those categories of Nigerians who cannot boast of power supply, and who now see darkness as light, such introduction might mean good news to them.

At least, it will help them to keep tab on issues around them and enjoy all the programmes and facilities that a television can provide; but as a nation that is on the “fast lane” of transformation, this is arrant nonsense. It is an insult on our collective sufferance and psyche.

It is a big shame. No matter what anyone may say as to whatever advantage this might convey to the end users, it is to me a complete disincentive to our national goals and objectives. Government will now be faced with the twin evil of battling generator importers and the importers of battery television. Since this is just a new product already launched, it is not likely that it will fizzle out soon.

And once this becomes popular as is often the case with anything new in Nigeria, Nigerians might just tell government to go to hell with its power boosting effort. Agreed that power serves different purposes other than just for watching television, but the television is a resource for most homes in keeping with the trends in the society and once it is understood that there exists a battery television, you can be rest assured that it will be the new craze in town.

LG or whatever name they call themselves should have intervened in the energy sector by helping government to find a roadmap around this energy crisis in a manner that will see them as partners in our collective effort to make meaning with the energy sector. All the mouthing of Barth Nnaji and co. as to the achievement of the present administration in the power sector is mere showmanship. This battery television has just told us that.

NIGERIA: GOVERNED BY MILITANTS AND SUPER-MILITANTS.

If we are truly a sane country, we will not be in the realm of the several absurdities that have occupied our sensibilities in recent past. Reading daily newspapers in Nigeria today presents one with a very sordid tale of the several contradictions that are freely on parade.

Imagine Nigeria under the grip of militants, ex-militants or whatever name one chooses to call them. Newspapers’ reports have it that some of the ex-militants enjoy government patronage to the tune of several billions of naira and dollars depending on the nature of the contract.

As we speak, our coastal security is in the hands of Tompolo ditto our petroleum pipelines that are said to be under the surveillance of the militants or warlords.

The ex-militants have taken over the responsibilities of the armed forces; Police, Navy, Air Force, and Army. I understand they have better knowledge of the topography of the Niger-Delta than the military and Police.

Nigeria is a country where criminality pays faster than rule of law and sheer intellect. It is a country where we celebrate absurdities to comic height and render awards to those who have undermined the system.

It is a country where a trained military officer will salute a bloody ex-militant and regard him as General. When you see the roll call of militants or warlords in the Niger-Delta, you have all manners of ranks; General this, General that, General Today, General Tomorrow, General Creek, General Pipeline, General Waterways, General Land ways, General Flying Boat, General Canoe.

All manners of names! I am not aware of any country where such a prestigious rank of a General is entrusted in the hands of those who have never be in the military or received any formal training in any of the Armed Forces. But in Nigeria, the fear of militants and ex-militants they say is the beginning of wisdom.

Boko Haram has taken its turn now with more dangerous approach than we had hitherto known in the history of armed struggle in Nigeria.

We celebrate corruption in Nigeria with pride. We rejoice when we see the corrupt being paraded before our very eyes. We give them awards and laurels.

We organize for them ostentatious ceremonies to announce the deepness of their wallets. Those who are respecters of law and order are treated with disdain. We sack the honest ones among us and keep the thieving ones in office. We expose the whistle blowers in our fight against corruption and protect those who are known to be big rats in government swimming in corruption.

For example, why is it difficult for Dr. Doyin Okupe to tell his story about contract or no contract fraud in Imo and Benue States? Why will PDP put up a vainglorious defense in support of an individual who is very much alive and being accused of corruption? I won’t be surprised if Dr. Doyin Okupe is given a national merit award or what is it called; national honours; OFR, MFR, CON, etc in the next edition of that wasteful exercise. It is a country where we reward those who are under-performing and reject those who are achievers in their different fields. It is a story that is scathingly painful but has refused to go away.

When I entitled this column; “Stomach Democracy”, some people were wondering what could have informed my choice of words. But with the realities on ground today especially the penchant to satisfy individual needs as opposed to the nation’s needs,I am sure the import of this would have dawned on all of us.

Rather than have rolling plans that will put under focus our future agenda for national rebirth and development, we prefer to oil the pockets of a few individuals who ordinarily should be cooling off in jail; with juicy contracts and patronages. With such reward for criminality, why would anyone deserve to see an end to the Boko Haram menace when they could see how much of patronages their contemporary ex-militants are enjoying now in the name of amnesty? It is the only reason why the militants have been preaching war.

Having taken so much than what they would need for their lifetime, they prefer to build new empires and fest their nest on their conquered territories. For a country still struggling to walk straight, too much money in the hands of ex-militants is an invitation to doom for the entire country.

Despite the obsession for stupendous wealth acquisition with such a conquistador lifestyle by the ex-militants, the rationale for their armed struggle in the first place, still exists in the Niger-Delta. There is still pollution, environmental degradation, oil spills, polluted streams and water, exploitation, bunkering, oil theft and other associated vices.

The quality of life has dropped for an average peasant in the oil rich Niger-Delta whilst their so-called elite class wallows in byzantine squander-mania. The reasons for taking up arms against a democratically elected government in Nigeria [which culminated in hostage taking and killing of innocent ones] have been defeated because the former bandits who have now become billionaires are now blinded to the challenges in the Niger-Delta. They now live in exotic hotels in choice locations across the world.

They live artificial lifestyles; life of fear of the unknown. They live for today and not for tomorrow because the petro-dollars will continue to roll in with exuberant ease.

That is the Nigeria story of today. A story of absurdities and incongruities. A story of the insane dictating for the sane. A story where intellect is subsumed in the aqua of hedonism and crass materialism, where money power speaks the language of power and not knowledge or ideas. That is the Nigerian story.

The President Nigerians Know

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


By Paul Adepoju

It was with a rare blend of shock and utmost surprise that I read Dr. Reuben Abati’s write-up on a Sunday morning, right in the presence of the Lord where nothing is hidden before the Most High. As expected, the veteran journalist dwelt more on portraying the president as a leader who has the interest of the nation at heart.

He also fired word missiles at the self-appointed social media activists thus: “we have a lot of unintelligent people repeating silly clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions.”

I agree with Dr. Abati on the contamination of public commentary, I however disagree with his assertion that lots of the commentators are unintelligent while the intelligent ones are wasting their talents, since he belonged to the same demography before pledging his allegiance to the presidency.

Obviously, he knows more about what a larger percentage of Nigerians don’t know about the man – Goodluck Jonathan, a man he also criticised from a distance prior to his appointment as the president’s media henchman. So it’s not unexpected for him to publicly clamour for fairer consideration of the president who could go down in history as having the lowest approval rating.

Having a closer relationship with people in government is something that has proven severally to be counter-productive for the machinery of governance because it clouds one’s objective assessment of the situation at hand.

On the notion that the president has good intentions for Nigeria, Dr. Abati and everyone at the presidency should know that Nigerians do not doubt that. As a matter of fact, all past presidents had (and still have) good intentions for our nation. The bone of contention however is not unrelated to the inability of the president to bring his brilliant intentions hanging somewhere in the skies to reality.

Despite national and international outcries that characterised the military junta, former heads of government such as Generals Sanni Abachi and Gbadamosi Babangida took the oath because they all had good intentions for the nation.

Extending this beyond the scope of government, one could unequivocally say that even the Nigerian contingent to the 2012 London Olympics had good intentions; they wanted to make the nation proud but their good intentions were inconsequential. Same could be said of the president.

As the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces whose primary role is to ensure the safety of Nigerians, the spate of suicide bombings, ethno-religious crisis, extra-judicial killings and several others could make Nigerians doubt the intention of the president. In other words, Nigerians aren’t doubting GEJ’s intentions, they just aren’t sure he can handle the challenges of his office effectively since thousands of homes daily mourn the demise of their loved ones as a result of circumstances that past presidents would have controlled effectively without bloodshed.

On alcoholism in Aso Rock, Dr. Abati ought to know that Nigerian constitution is silent about drinking alcoholic beverages at the presidential villa hence it’s left to the occupant, current occupant, to decide whether he will perform better under the mild or strong influence of emu oguro (fresh palm wine) or ordinary Zobo drink. All Nigerians care for is a vibrant president who is tackling all their problems.

One of the major reasons why the presidency is being tongue- and word-lashed extensively are his visits to countries where the governments are doing well; his inability or reluctance to introduce such reformations to better the lots of Nigerians whose taxes, sweats and shares of the nation’s oil wealth are fuelling the presidential jets.

As a veteran journalist who has written copiously on politics and government, Dr. Abati can’t expect the president to enjoy the support of all Nigerians; neither will they cheer him on since this isn’t a kindergarten class!

I guess they need to be reminded that Nigeria is the world’s largest black nation and the president is responsible for the fate of over 150 million people belonging to more than 300 ethnic groups; people who are vast and diverse as shown in recent world studies that described them as the happiest, the most spiritually faithful, most unfaithful, and most sexually active – yes we are.

So, instead of attempting to force the love of Goodluck Jonathan down the sore throats of Nigerians, Dr. Abati could do Nigerians, especially the loyal readers of his Friday and Sunday tirades on the pages of Guardian newspapers, much good by using his closeness to the president to give him a frank assessment of what Nigerians really want.

Despite the fact that the president feels he’s being unfairly crucified by the media and activists who are always asking him to resign, he should know that Nigerians aren’t asking him to bring the moon to bar beach, or the sun to the oil creeks; they only want security and the basic things of life in addition of signs that show that the president truly care about the plight of Nigerians by keeping to his promise.

Dr. Abati’s carefully written and scrutinized piece left out the various tell tale signs that made many Nigerians lose hope on the president’s ability to restore fading hope.

A BBM broadcast is currently circulating; it is laced with the president’s various promises while campaigning across the nation. So far, none of them has been satisfactorily fulfilled.

He also reneged on a number of promises including his pledge during the fuel subsidy uproar to reduce his foreign trips and entourage.

However, like some fellow Nigerians, I’m having second thoughts about the man Goodluck Jonathan. Obviously, lots of things are wrong with his administration but he’s making some risky bold steps which if successful could change the public perspective about him from a weakling to an intelligent president. PHCN is one of such.

So, instead of wasting public resources in recruiting media experts to “rebrand” and make the presidency “look good” to Nigerians, the president and his numerous committees need to work harder, sacrifice more, travel less and tackle more problems that will make life easier and safer for Nigerians.

Unlike Reuben Abati, Nigerians don’t see the president every day, but they see his handiworks in the high pump price of fuel and the incessant bomb blasts up north. According to them, the president they know isn’t working hard enough.

By Dr. Olusegun Fakoya

These are indeed precarious times for Reuben Abati. And like any sinking man, desperate to hold on to a fast dwindling job, Dr Abati has resorted to desperate measures. The flurry of articles from him in recent times speaks volumes about his desperation. For a man who hid under the “umblellah” (sorry, umbrella) of social activism for many years, the opportunity to partake in the sweetness of power has been a mesmerizing experience which he is in no hurry to willingly relinquish. Dr Abati desperation is such that he has even resorted to abusing and insulting Nigerians. His latest article titled “The Jonathan they don’t know” is just another wasteful enterprise aimed at refurbishing a bad product. It is rather too late in the day to attempt to turn an imbecile into a genius.

Reuben, in his desperate article created a strategic divide based on perceived loyalty or otherwise. A very unfortunate division was created based on activism or passivism. His battle line consists of the “They” and the loyalists. Loyalists, by his definition, being those benefitting from the potpourri. Those in the privileged league of the manipulators and beneficiaries of our commonwealth. Those who persistently deny the nation of deserved economic and material development. The thieves who roam the corridor of power and keeps the lock to same in their bulging pockets. These, to Reuben Abati, are the good Nigerians, those who have left Goodluck Jonathan in peace. The “They” according to Abati “refers to all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan” Obviously, to this exalted company belongs the likes of Sonala Olumhense, Pius Adesanmi, Okey Ndibe and a host of others. I must confess that my humble self also has company in this prestigious group. Reuben, however, belongs to that other group of “good Nigerians” those who sleep and wake up with scandals, those who keep corruption as comfortable bed fellows. We heard of the rumbles of the Abuja plots of land, even when Abati was pretending to be a social critic. This rumble had hardly abated when the opportunity to explore his true identity came by the way of the presidential appointment.

To Reuben, the group of “They” are a “bunch of unintelligent people repeating stupid clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions”. So, our exalted group of “They” consists of either plainly stupid people or naively intelligent people. It is worth restating that Reuben Abati once belonged to this maligned group. Reuben’s insult to the intelligentsia and those Nigerians who have sacrificed so much to ensure that the Nigerian state assumes its true position in the comity of nations is unpardonable. It is bad enough for a hypocrite to denounce his initial constituency, it is criminal to turn around and lambast same for failing to see the sense in your sudden turncoat and imminent disintegration. It is so easy to castigate the same group of “They” who fought to ensure that the Jonathan Presidency becomes a reality. Has Reuben pondered on the causes of the massive evaporation of the uninhibited flow of affection and national support for candidate Jonathan? What turned the almost hysterical Jonathan-mania into rabid Jonathan-phobia? Conscience, they say, is an open wound…. Only truth can heal it.

Reuben’s effort to blow the trumpet of achievement for Goodluck Jonathan sounded very hollow, even on the pages on which they were written. For a previously “shoeless” President (Reuben can never stop us from making reference to this appropriate description) who promised heaven and earth on his campaign trips, the boast of 4,400 MW of electricity in a nation that is still in perpetual darkness went beyond the bounds of pardonable mischief. Reuben’s lukewarm reference to presidential concerns on corruption is nothing but laughable – “That is why he has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds” Reuben, when the current charade on corruption is over, we hope that genuine convictions would indeed be possible. Farouk Lawan is still a free man, walking and enjoying free sunshine with millions of bribe money yet to be accounted for. Otedola’s cheeks are growing rosier every day while the nation’s Attorney-General is probably the richest Nigerian today courtesy of a lax regime that encourages graft. Furthermore, Reuben’s attempt to speak about his master’s inordinate love for the women folk smirks of nothing but jest. True, Jonathan has loads of females in his government compared to his predecessors. However, the concern of majority of Nigerians is with the innate penchant of this man to surround himself with the most corrupt and despicable Nigerians ever created, whether males or females.
Without wasting so many words like Reuben is fond of doing, the truth about Goodluck Jonathan stares at one in the face. It is not for nothing that he is viewed as clueless. This is a simple English expression within the grasp of even the barely literate. Jonathan has so far demonstrated his lack of understanding of the basic mechanism of governance, the constitutional and moral obligation of a government to the people and the fine etiquettes of Presidential approach. He is an opportunist who jumped at the ship of state without adequate preparation. His government is belligerent; an example is the latest crude and rude articles from Reuben Abati and the unpalatable appointment of Doyin Okupe as a frenzied attack dog. Jonathan is manifestly corrupt and he has no qualms in attempting to brush this under the carpet. It is beyond comprehension, that the President of over 150 million people, people who continue to excel in various spheres of human endeavour, would publicly declare on national television that he does not give a damn about declaring his assets. Reuben Abati is yet to address this sore point in his numerous essays.

Abati has my sympathy in his attempt to refurbish the morally tainted and structurally deformed presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. True, Jonathan is “nationalistic” in orientation in terms of federal appointments (to use the Nigerian phrase, he is a good disciple of national character), nevertheless, former criminals of the creeks are now handling sensitive national security apparatus. The old Ijaw Generals of the ill-famed creek wars are now multi-billionaires, smiling comfortably to the banks every month, courtesy of a truly national President. The likes of General Tompolo et al. Who cares whether Jonathan eats cassava or whole meal bread or even boiled plantain for that matter? The key thing is that in an austere environ when millions are out of jobs, when crime is blooming like the old Onitsha market and when terrorism is sweeping the land like a raging inferno, our belligerent President spends billions annually on food. This is an undisputable fact that Reuben failed to address. Abati has gone miles in his unfortunate academic odyssey of rationalising a bad product. He has thrown terms around, starting with Corporate Social Responsibility, a la the infamous Otuoke Church building, to the new “Saul Complex” in his latest tirade. Whether corporate responsibility or Saul Complex, a decaying product would always stink, no matter the intensity of the advertisement.

The Jonathan we know? The Jonathan we know is a President who promised so much and yet intent on delivering so little. The Jonathan we know is an opportunist. An over-ambitious man toying with the fate of millions. The Jonathan we know is a man who assumes a position of authority fully beyond his capability and comprehension. The Jonathan we know is a President who is so enwrapped in the loin clothes of his wife such that the country is actually confused as to who is in power. He thus brought nothing but baggage into the act of governance. The Jonathan we know is a president who glorifies corruption and embraces its evil warmth – “if corruption does not kill Nigeria, Nigeria will kill corruption” The Jonathan we know is a non-performing President, a colossal failure. This is the verdict of the people, Reuben.

No Nigerian has any quarrel with any part of the country producing the leadership. What we care about is performance. We care less whether the President is an Itsekiri or Ibibio. We have no qualms with the Ijaws (whether the 4th most populous or 10th most populous) producing the President. All we desire is a leader intent on ridding our body polity of its various nuances. A leader committed to emancipating the fast dwindling lots of poor Nigerians. A leader committed to faithfully fighting the strangulating hold of corruption and the endless evils that have truncated our march to greater glory. We need a leader that can go beyond the pretences of party politics and truly be a leader indeed. Our complaints against the lacklustre performance of Jonathan have nothing to do with his ethnic origin, Reuben and mavericks like him do not need to confuse issues. We simply do not want the man because he is not performing. Period.

Yes, great minds like Abraham Lincoln, Mahtama Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Kwame Nkrumah made the world easier. Yet whatever they achieved was with plainness of approach, honesty and integrity. They were not achieved with the purchase of hundreds of porch cars for a frivolous and egomaniac meeting of wives of discredited heads of governments. They were not achieved on the lavish expenditure of state fortune on state banquets or meals. They were not attained with dourness and stupidity. They came out of a vibrant methodology and pragmatic visions. Jonathan lacks these qualities. Comparing the man Jonathan to these great minds is illusory and vain.

Reuben’s attempt is that of a sinking man desperately trying to catch a lifeline of straw.

Dr Olusegun Fakoya


By Reuben Abati

“THEY” in this piece refers to all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan. This army of sponsored and self-appointed anarchists is so diverse; many of them don’t even know why or how they should attack the President.alt

The clear danger to public affairs commentary is that we have a lot of unintelligent people repeating stupid clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions. Hold on. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not saying nobody should criticize the Nigerian President. I spent some time learning that legal maxim: “volenti non fit injuria”. Public position comes with its own share of risks and exposure. But the twittering, pinging, Facebook crowd of the new age must be guided by facts.

Hold your stone. Don’t haul it yet. Shhh. Wait, Mr. Alaseju! I have spent the last 14 months working with President Jonathan. I have followed him everywhere. I can write a whole book on his Presidency so far, but you won’t get to read that until much later. I have heard that some people are protesting that they will not buy the book if it gets written. Well, your choice. What I can report, for now is that he is a grossly misunderstood President. Too many people are unfair to him. They criticise him out of ignorance. They abuse him out of mischief. And the opposition doesn’t make things easy at all. Can we look at a number of issues?

You say he is a clueless President. You are wrong. He is not clueless. Nobody is more committed to the Nigerian Project than President Jonathan. In spite of unforeseen challenges, which his administration has had to contend with, President Jonathan is doing his utmost best to positively transform Nigeria. Ordinary Nigerians know and appreciate this. Those parading themselves as leaders of the opposition, who claim that the President has lost the support of Nigerians, represent only themselves and their selfish interests.

President Jonathan is a clever, methodical and intelligent man, who is very adept at wrong footing all the persons who make an effort to second-guess or under-estimate him. He understands the complexity of Nigeria. He is acutely conscious of the historicity of his emergence as Nigeria’s No. 1. He knows that he is here as the leader of all Nigerians. He knows that he is a representative of all common persons, particularly the children of all blue collar workers who never wore shoes or got a chance to eat three-square meals, and whose mothers and aunties could never be part of policy-making processes.

When he spoke about not wearing shoes as a child, he meant that as a metaphor for the disparities in the Nigerian system, and the urgent need to redress inequalities. But I have heard some persons responding literally that Nigerians should never vote for a man who never wore shoes. How simplistic. Attention needs to be drawn to the fact that a rooted, people-sourced President, who seeks to transform Nigeria, and who campaigns on a platform of transformation, will necessarily be opposed by those who consider themselves the children of Empire builders, those who think that their ancestors built Nigeria. Wrong.

The Ijaws, the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, have as much right to have their son as President as every other Nigerian group. But Jonathan doesn’t even dwell on this. I have never heard him utter an ethnic statement. He sees himself as the President of all Nigerians. He is at home with every group. He is focused on the challenges of nation-building. He wants to transform Nigeria. He wants to unite the country. He is determined to promote the country. And he is doing so already. He knows Nigerians want regular power supply. He is working at it. That is why we have crossed 4,400 MW.

He knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out. That is why he is telling a particular Minister to fix the East-West road and get it fixed quickly. That is why he has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds. That is why he is strengthening Nigeria’s foreign relations. That is why he is transforming the agriculture sector, from a contract-awarding, fertilizer distribution enterprise into big business. And more… The reason President Jonathan does not go into a song and dance routine is because he knows that true rebranding of a nation is a projection of positive things that are already happening.

They say he is “tribalistic”. Not true. How many Ijaws are in President Jonathan’s inner circle? Very few, I can tell you. There are, of course, all kinds of persons who go about telling people that they have the President’s ears and eyes. They would even tell you that they think for the President! I used to have nightmares whenever I heard that, but it no longer bothers me. I have since learnt that some Nigerians consider it fashionable to wear false garments.

The Presidency qua Presidency is staffed by key officials from all parts of the country. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation is from Ebonyi State. The Chief of Staff and the Head of the President’s Secretariat are both from Edo; the Protocol Liaison Officer and Principal Private Secretary are from Adamawa; the Chief Detail is from Borno; the Aide De Camp (ADC) is from Kogi; the Perm Sec, State House is from Benue; the State Chief of Protocol is from Kwara; the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity is from Ogun; the Chief Physician to the President is from Rivers. Only the Chief Security Officer, the Special Assistant, Domestic and the Special Adviser, Research and Strategy are from Bayelsa.

When he is in the office, and he gets there early every day, and works till very late, he is exposed to all categories of Nigerians. He runs a modern and open Presidency. He is on Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, BB, and he reads. And he writes. This is not a provincial President. The intelligentsia, his immediate community, should support him to do his work.

President Jonathan was the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as his Chief Economic Adviser as well as the Nigerian leader who opened up the Nigerian Defence Academy to women. And he took affirmative action in political appointments to a higher level by reserving 35 per cent of all appointive positions in government for our women folk.

The facts in this regard are incontrovertible. Under President Jonathan, women occupy very strategic positions (Petroleum Resources, Education, Co-ordinating Minister/Minister of Finance, Water Resources, Minister of State, FCT, Minister of State, Defence, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs 1, Minister of State, Niger Delta, and the headship of many of the MDAs. The President’s commitment to Nigeria is total. All his children school in Nigeria. Even his dress code promotes Nigeria.

They say Mr. President drinks. My friend and colleague, Etim Etim, called the other day to say that whatever may be the challenges on this job, he could affirm that I am at least enjoying. “What with all the choice drinks on every trip,” he said. I told him, “No, we don’t drink.” He protested. He thought I was lying. He had heard that kain-kain is a staple fare on presidential flights. I told him No. We are not allowed to touch alcohol. Alcohol is not served during official duties. Yes, when there is an international function, wine is served, but nobody gets drunk around here. That will amount to an act of indiscipline. The President himself does not allow alcohol to be served at his table. But when you go to social media, they tell you something else. Lies. Lies. Lies.

I have even heard that the President spends billions on feeding. Well, I have enjoyed the privilege of eating at the President’s table. What does he eat? Fish pepper soup. Cassava Bread. Slices of yam. Rice. Boiled plantain. Fruits and vegetables. He fasts when he chooses, and fasts all month during Ramadan and Lent. And because he takes his exercises and keep fit regime seriously, he eats very little. Okay, he drinks coffee. And yet there are people out there who keep claiming that there is a feast in the Villa every day. They say at every meal, the table is decorated with roasted turkey, and every delicacy under the sun. Lies. Lies. This President is not a glutton. We have a disciplined, hardworking President who enjoys his privacy, and the company of intelligent people.

Here is a man who is an epitome of loyalty and simplicity. The thing about the President’s critics is that they just cannot accept that someone with his simplicity can be their President. This is the Saul Complex. Saul could not accept the fact that somebody as simple as David could be favoured by God. And just like Saul threw the spear at David out of uncontrollable jealousy, these critics are out to throw any kind of spear to see which hits the target, hence all their lies about the President.

Let me end by saying that the President is a simple man but simplicity is not naivety. If simplicity were to be naivety, then the world would not be where it is today because it is simple men like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Kwame Nkrumah, who have shaped the world that we live in by simplifying what others have complicated.

Dr. Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Jonathan

By Prince Charles Dickson

In recent times the Nigerian polity has continued in its usual stride, with both leadership and the led. Mere cosmetic measures, short termed solutions to long term problems designed with a view to averting stampedes and convulsions.

Right from the dawn of the structure called Nigeria in 1914, it seems clearly that our elite or leaders have scarcely thought of their mission in terms of employing power to the satisfaction of the citizen’s needs. Both leaders and led at a loss and it is not so much of who at the moment is the leader but a case of a situation getting progressively worse with each group, that we are forced to look at the past with nostalgia.

We have saddled upon ourselves a history tainted in intra-elitist cleavages and ethnic parapoism, with each power bloc cementing its own cleavages. With each passing day, despite the best of efforts by the people I term ‘peacemakers’ it seems it is too little water in the deseart.

Energy, time and resources have been concentrated in preserving the class. We have resorted to rhetorical incantations of the rule of law, respect of human rights and free and fair elections, while in reality it is a depreciating quality of life. Whether five or eighteen thousand naira per month, living or minimum wage, truth is that little is being achieved.

The possibility of genuine democratization is not only lost because we lack the will to radicalize the material foundations of our society but because we live a life of fallacy.

The balkanization of Nigeria is torn in between so much…we are just tagging along. In the last 50 years we have seen the Berlin wall crash, the USSR fall… a black U.S president, just to mention a few. And we have continued to be witnesses to a stagnant system crawling in circles, and leaving herself with expectation fatigue.

Similar to a pregnant woman without an expected delivery date…While these are beyond the issues, they remain the substance of the problems…

“Honestly, I have never seen this kind of thing before; everybody in the affected communities, both the men, women and children are kidnappers. This is serious; what I have seen is disturbing, it is an organized communal business where all of them play a role and whoever refuses to be part of it is eliminated by the kidnappers”. Those were the words of Major General Sarkinyaki Bello when he visited Mexico, no I mean Abia.

The ball is not just in Abia, but Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and others have not only become catchment areas but are doing better in the business of kidnap.

As we balkanize, I ask my people especially friends of goodluck, where is the luck, we bought 4 executive jets, we are borrowing left, right and centre, we are slaves to the subsidy cabal that have shown beyond reasonable doubt that they still run the show with the way they effectively brought Abuja to its knees for almost a week. We continue paying our legislators and political office holders ‘bazaar salary’, while paying for peace through ex-militants when in essence we are sowing war.

We are almost certainly either a sick nation or a sick people, maybe a sick people inhabiting an equally sick nation. Through all its earning, allocation, ecological, vat, royalty, and wetin call, Akwa Ibom has made more money that Ghana, and yet very little to show for it.

The continued balkanization of Nigeria on all fronts, the cyber civil war amongst Nigerians in Diaspora, or is it the looting of funds or disappearance of same with scandals on ethnic divide at the Nigerian embassy in USA.

Just musing, when we divide, how will the Ijebus and Egbas cope with Lagos, or where will the Tivs and Idomas be in the scheme of things in their end. Perhaps the dangerous peace between the Ijaws and Istekiris that will keep them as part of Biafra, or how will the Efiks, Anangs, Ibibio cope with the onslaught of those Nyamiris.

How about the myth of the North, the religious middle belt, the geographical middle belt and the belt between the Muslim North and Christian North, is there a Fulani Christian minority?

We all enjoy the noise of our today’s young artistes, from Timaya, D’Banj and the comedy of the Basketmouths, Ali Babas, and co. Nollywood has entered many woods in the world bringing fame and fortune to the practitioners using a fundamental language of art.

Our leaders have stolen us blind. In our short-sightedness, we see our differences, and sure they are there but we have never sought to remedy it, even if pretentiously, so in the fundamental spirit of corruption they continue to balkanize us. Militants and thieves in the South, Boko Haram and a biting lack of development and poverty in the North…where will all these lead us?

Over 50 years of being a nation, we still cannot come under an umbrella to ask for a good life, shelter, good roads or hospitals. They steal ‘our’ money, refill potholes, build big mansions and share a tiny part of the money and we hail them. We beat to death common criminals and give traditional titles to cpr (certified pen robbers).

When we wake up, we realize that, Jonathan the president whether Ebele, ewele or Azikwe is Christian, and David Mark is too Ekweremadu is, so also is the Chief of Army staff and who else, while others lament that the police chief is Abubakar, and that other man is Ibrahim, poverty, and want ravishes the land. Boko Haram kills, kidnnapers pick, and robbers on a free spree, all wrecking havoc irrespective of tribe, creed or faith.

When Musa was Gyang’s friend and Ikechukwu appreciated Adekunle, there were still differences and those mutual suspicion, but there was a semblance of meritocracy and functionality. Do they deserve it; are they working, can they, and they will, were the real issues!

Nigeria is splitting, it is not dividing, we are leaking in various holes, towards various leanings and we still are lacking in leadership that has any model to solve our mirage of problems. Are we not the problem itself, time will tell?