Archive for July, 2013

Is Nigeria Broke?

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Pat Utomi

The politics of signaling on the economic health of a nation is high art. When public officials who yesterday waxed lyrical on the robustness of the economy, in the face of naysayers who strive to make light of economic growth numbers suddenly begin to argue that there is no money available, something is amiss.

In our contemporary experience the dramatic switch from promoting buoyancy to expressions of distress by the stewards of the economy and financial services, is to highlight irritation on how crude oil stealing has affected the treasury’s intake.

All this has confused the unfortunately simple folk and simple minded are active in public life presuming to know but who do not quite understand the game of talking up economic performance. Of course there is psychology and idiosyncratic response to all decision making. In choices about where and how to invest, the issue is even more subject to how reality is perceived. Take the example of how a perception of crime varies between those who follow Nigeria and South Africa.

Many who refer to high crime rates in Nigeria as an impediment to investment often do not seem aware that the incidence of criminal activity is much higher in South Africa and indeed in some parts of leading US cities. But because of weak institutions, poor management of issues around crime and the weak selling of Nigeria, the country’s lower crime rates are perceived to be much higher.

A good example comes from personal experience. Back in 1984, not too long after I returned from graduate studies in the United States I persuaded a Nigerian who was in school with me to return. He came home with his Caucasian American wife who had probably never left the American Midwest and began his NYSC programme attached to a firm I had founded immediately I returned in 1982. His wife got a job at the American International School in Lagos.

One day, after school, she was at their Ikeja home while her husband was at work and armed robbers arrived at about 4pm. She was quite traumatized and drove straight to the US embassy with a message left for her husband: “We either return to the US together straight away or I return alone for good”. I intervened, trying to persuade her to change her mind. To the question: “You know this can happen to you in Indianapolis”, she said “yes”. Then went on: “But there I can call the police and know for sure that there will be a quick response; here it is highly improbable”. I could not refute the veracity of her comment.

It was a clear pointer to how weak institutions like the policing function were making perceptions of uncertainty higher than reality thereby making economic intercourse poor and transaction costs high, thus reducing competitiveness. The bottom line is there is need in the course of nation building and governance to either talk up the state of things, market the economy or talk down problematic stuff. In truth the vacillation between high growth economy chests pounding by officials and pointing to being broke to dissuade those vandalizing crude oil delivery systems and the integrity of the process that produce the blood line that keeps Nigeria alive is currency of modern statecraft and should be no cause for alarm.

So is Nigeria broke? Not really. But those who must share the FAC account every month to run the governments of Nigeria and to extract the economic rent that make them seemingly thrive are naturally in panic from disruptions of such vital blood link. In that circumstance a big cry out is expected.The real dilemma for me is what should be the right emphasis here, monies being lost to crude oil thieves or the damage being done to the environment by the crude manner in which the crude is stolen.

I am more worried about the despoliation of the environment and damage to the eco-system that will leave long term harm on future generations than that there is less money available to today’s profligate power-wielders. Indeed, if it were not for the damage to the environment and the injustice in loss of what is the commonwealth to a few crooks, I would be happy that the revenues from oil were entering the treasury in a diminished manner. A constricted flow of oil revenues may force a rethink of our parasitic politics, bloated governance structures and governing mindset to wealth creation and nation building as different from today’s prebendal booty-sharing. I am often remembered for an interview published in London’s Economist in 1996 in which I said Nigeria would be better off if its generals and politicians could take the oil and move out of Nigeria, that the Nigerian people would be better for it. While this was said, albeit tongue in cheek, I realize that some countries have not suffered the so called curse of oil, and that revenues from oil have been channeled into driving growth of other sectors. Norway may seem like champion here in both overcoming Dutch disease and ensuring future generations get their share of God’s gift, but Malaysia’s accomplishment with PETRONAS and diversification of United Arab Emirates economies that now see many Nigerian elite spending much time in Dubai, is good example of how it can be different.

The simple truth beyond the games of talking up and talking down economic activity, which are a necessary part of managing a modern economy driven by market psychology, is that Nigeria is not broke but it can become fatally broken if business as usual persists. Yes crude stealing is grave danger for more reasons than sabotaging what Shell can remit to the government treasury, and must be stopped, but it is not reduced oil proceeds that has economic activity in Nigeria in jeopardy. The real danger is the politics of sharing which has triumphed over cake-baking and job creating economic growth policy making.

•Pat Utomi is a Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship based in Lagos. He is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

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By Azuka Onwuka

Last week, the National Teachers’ Institute announced that about 80 per cent of teachers in Northern Nigeria were not qualified to teach. Just before that, the Federal Ministry of Education had announced the cut-off marks for admission into the Federal Government Colleges, known as Unity Schools, with the shocking piece of information that while the cut-off mark was as high as 139 and 138 for Southern states like Anambra and Imo, it was as low as two, yes two, (out of a possible 200 marks) for pupils of a Northern state like Yobe.

According to the Federal Character Commission, “In 1954 when Nigeria opted for a federal form of government, the concept of Quota System as a policy was adopted in the recruitment of persons into the officers’ corps of the armed forces and the police as well as in admissions into educational institutions,” to promote a fair representation and close the existing disparities among the parts of the nation. On the surface, it is a good idea, because it ensures that no single area gets into federal establishments to the detriment of other areas.

However, over the decades, it has dealt a heavy blow on the psyche of Northern Nigeria. Man is naturally competitive. Man performs at his peak in times of difficulty: the maxim “necessity is the mother of invention” captures it. The collapse of communism bears testimony to this. Remove competition among people, provide amenities for them equally, reward them equally — no matter their individual contributions — and the will to excel evaporates. Even as the Federal Character policy was established with good intentions, those who created it and those who still support its continuance are indirectly not wishing the North well.

In the 2007 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, Imo State produced more candidates seeking admission into the universities than all the 19 Northern states put together. That is not just shocking but dangerous.

The top five states with the highest number of candidates were Southern states. They are as follows: Imo 93,065; Anambra 64,689; Delta 61,580; Edo 57,754; Akwa Ibom 47,928; while the lowest five states were Northern states as follows: Sokoto 3,925; Taraba 3,832; Zamfara 2,904; Jigawa 2,541; and Yobe 2,516.

The trend remains virtually the same year after year. For example, last year, the top three states were Imo (123,865 candidates); Delta (88,876); and Anambra (71,272); while the last three states were Northern states.

Last month, UNESCO released a report that ranked Nigeria as the country with the most number of children out of school: a whopping 10.5 million – the population of Portugal! No doubt, a larger proportion of these children would be from the North. Some blame the almajiri system for this. It is a system that was created to offer young boys the opportunity of being groomed and tutored by a religious leader, so as to grow into exemplary members of society. But it has gone awry, making these young boys roam the streets begging, with nobody to direct them, and then growing up into angry youths that can be used to cause mayhem at the drop of a hat.

Right from birth, the Northern child is disadvantaged. While his Southern counterpart grows up attending school, the Northern child does not. Through education and entrepreneurship, the Southern youth grows up with more opportunities in life. He knows that he can only succeed in life through excellence. That drive makes a southerner successful and he trains his children in good schools, instilling self-reliance and competitiveness in them, thereby improving the chances of the children even succeeding more than him. The average Yoruba person does not want an Igbo person to beat him in any field of human endeavour and vice versa; that spurs both sides to excellence. The average Urhobo person, Efik person or Bini person does not want an Igbo person, or Yoruba person or Ibibio or Ijaw to beat him. So there is healthy rivalry among them, which leads to excellence and success.

On the contrary, with no education, no artisanal skills and lack of competitive spirit, the Northern child grows up with extremely low chances of success. He cannot secure a decent job; he cannot even offer specialised services of an artisan; he is afraid to start off a small-scale business because he virtually has nobody to understudy. The only available job is the most difficult and yet the least remunerated: the work of a labourer. He supplies water in 25-litre kegs to people who live on the fourth floors with no elevators for N50 per keg. He uses a wheelbarrow or tub to move sand and concrete at construction sites; he stays around markets to help those who have bought heavy items like tubers of yam and bags of rice to move these items from deep inside the market to their vehicles or even home. And for all this hard labour, he gets paid pittance.

As he renders this poorly paid service to people, does anybody expect him to be happy with the successful people around him? It is impossible.

The Northerner is not less intelligent than his Southern counterpart, neither is he weaker or less creative. How many people can beat the business acumen and creativity of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, or the automobile design ingenuity of Jelani Aliyu, or the academic intelligence of Nasir el-Rufai, or the resoluteness of Col. Abubakar Umar and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, or the football skills of Tijani Babangida and Daniel Amokachi, or the musical talent of Innocent Tuface Idibia, or the organisational and leadership abilities of Sir Ahmadu Bello?

Some would claim that Islam is the reason for the North’s poor embrace of education. If that were so, why is a predominantly Christian state like Taraba found among the states with the lowest literacy rate? Saudi Arabia, the headquarters of Islam, is very education-focused with a literacy rate of 85 per cent, ranking 116th of 194 countries. Indonesia, the most populated Muslim country in the world, is education-savvy with 92 per cent literacy rate. The United Arab Emirates has 90 per cent literacy rate. Nigeria has 72 per cent literacy rate, but should actually be in the 90s.

The danger in having the North lag behind is that Nigeria has to always move at the pace of the North or put appropriately, lag behind with it. Nigeria is a unit and cannot move and leave some parts behind. Again, the more the South moves ahead of the North, the more conflicts will arise between the North and the South. While the North will feel that the South is cornering the joint resources of the nation, the South will feel the North is pulling it backwards.

One other factor that has worked against the North is its long years of ruling the country. There is a form of complacency that comes from the feeling of “We are in charge.” At such periods, you let your guards down; you don’t complain so as not to overheat the administration of your “kinsman”. But when your brother is not in charge, you feel left out and thereby complain the loudest of marginalisation. Those in charge bend backwards to satisfy you with different projects. The North should de-emphasise its focus on the presidency. Forty years of Northern presidency – civilian or military – have not offered the North any tangible advantage.

Those who hate the truth would rise in righteous anger, seeing this treatise as the work of an enemy rather than digesting the hard truth and finding solutions to a worsening problem. And those who love ethnic bashing will quickly see it as advantage to start shooting at the North. But the truth is that the progress of the North will serve both the interest of the North and South.

There should be a two-way approach to this problem. The North should set up a 20-year target to catch up with the South in education and entrepreneurship. The Northern states must make it an offence for any parent to deny their child education. The state governors and local government chairmen need to start a programme of sending as many Northern children as possible to Southern states for their secondary and tertiary education. The new Northern youths need to leave their comfort zone: compete with their Southern counterparts, interact with them and imbibe some of the ways of the Southern people.

The second aspect concerns uneducated youths who may no longer want to go to school. Lack of education is no impediment to success. The Northern governors and local council chairmen should start an intensive skills acquisition programme for the youths. A labourer cannot train another, neither can he rise much in life if he continues as an unskilled labourer. But someone who has learnt masonry, tiling, sewing, vehicle repairing, generator repairing, painting, plumbing, etc, can grow to a level where he will have apprentices. Massive construction takes place non-stop across the federation. Nigerians have an unquenchable appetite for cars and fashion. So, they need these services. That way, the number of skilled workers increases; the earning power of the people increases; and such people can afford a better life for their children, gradually changing the face of their community.

Quota system or federal character is derogatory and has worsened things for the North. Every Northerner who loves the North must tell Nigeria to stop insulting the North with this federal character bait. The North must refuse anything offered it on a platter: it is either a Greek gift or a poisoned chalice. The North should save itself by rejecting this insulting Unity Schools’ cut-off marks that cut it off from development and modernity.

azuka.brand@augustconsulting.biz

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By Maryam Uwais

Once again, Senator Yerima is in the news, claiming Islam as the basis for his argument that a girl automatically transforms into an adult of ‘full age’ once she is married, with the attendant responsibilities that relate to the renunciation of citizenship, irrespective of her age or mental capacity. Because the Senator from Zamfara State has gone public with his personal comprehension of the Shari’a, it has become necessary to respond publicly to his utterances.

It should be pointed out, however, that several media reports on the constitutional review debate at the Senate give the impression that underage marriage has been endorsed by the Senate Chambers. Facts are that S.29 of the 1979 Constitution permits a Nigerian citizen of ‘full age’ to renounce his or her citizenship by declaration in a prescribed manner, for which purpose ‘full age’ was stated to be 18 years and above. The subsection also provides that, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’. In its current efforts to review the Constitution, the Senate Committee had determined that the particular subsection should be deleted, basically because citizenship has no bearing on gender, as for example, voting, the right to drive a car, possess a weapon or such similar social interactions that are evolving or are germane to a democratic Nation. Senator Yerima, however, vehemently argued (and lobbied) against the removal of the clause, on the grounds that deleting that clause was against (his understanding of) Islam. In his understanding, a girl, once married, automatically assumes the full mental capacity and responsibility to consciously make the prescribed declaration of renouncing her citizenship.

This position needs to scrutinized carefully, against the backdrop of similar positions that obtain under the Shari’a and in our context, as a Nation. Does it then follow that the married girl who is below 18, at election time, would be permitted to vote, or is her not being issued a voters card un-Islamic? Is the Senate now going to make an exception to that law, permitting her to vote, or even drive, in accordance with (Senator Yerima’s understanding of) Islam?

Contrary to the position conveyed by the Senator from Zamfara, there is certainly no unanimity of positions on such contemporary matters of social interaction, within Islamic jurists or the various Schools of Thought. Surely where there is ‘silence in thetexts’ (i.e primary sources) or lack of unanimity as regards a particular practice, that opening allows for a society to determine for itself what is in its best interest (maslaha), in its own context. What about married Muslim girls who inherit property? Is it not the position that in some cases, where not considered sufficiently mature (‘sufaha’, based on Qur’an 4:6), such property remains in the custody of her guardian, until she grows to be intellectually mature? This would, of course, depend on her age, mental capacity and the size and nature of the property. Why does such property not devolve upon her automatically upon marriage, to deal with it as she wishes,irrespective of her mental capacity? There definitely appears to be no basis, under the Shari’a, that would compel a girl to deal with matters of such gravity as therenunciation of citizenship, merely because she is married. Islam is certainly not so presumptuous or harsh as to burden her with what she is mentally and physically incapable of bearing. Her guardian is permitted to determine the age or stage at which such a child can be entrusted with such grave responsibilities, the assessment of her mental capacity being the main determinant.

As a Muslim woman (without pretensions of scholarship) forever striving for knowledge, research into these matters has revealed that in matters of social interaction (mu’amalat), there is a lot of latitude in what is permitted, unless it is expressly prohibited by a clear text. The rules are certainly not so definitive. What is also evident is that the ‘best interests of the child’ is a paramount consideration within Islam, along with the principle of public good (maslaha or istislah). The operational rules are not defined (probably deliberately, in my humble view) and the determination of such issues is best left to the experience, custom and context of the particular society. The Qur’an provides that the predominant consideration in matters relating to children would depend on the point at which they can be said to not be ‘sufaha’ (mentally immature) anymore, in the context of that particular community.

It is interesting that Senator Yerima would rather link the weighty and dispassionate subject of citizenship with his understanding of gender vis a vis his perception of the age of marriage, rather than with other matters of social interaction, such as those relating to inheritance rights, driving or even voting. Indeed, citizenship is a contemporary phenomenon within the Sharia, as in the early days the concept of citizenship had not been defined and people traveled across boundaries, without restriction. In a Muslim community, when matters evolve, it is for scholars or experts in Islamic legal philosophy-‘Usul-al-Fiqh’- and juristic reasoning (and not even those solely learned in the Qur’an-‘Mussafirun’, the Fiqh-‘Fuqaha’ or the Hadith-‘Muhaddithun’), to analyze the issues with a view to arriving at an appropriate position for the context of that relevant community. In this particular instance, it is certainly perplexing for the Senator to insist so categorically that even a married ‘intellectually immature’ girl must be permitted to renounce her citizenship, irrespective of her mental capacity. The foundation for such a general and sweeping statement within the Shari’a is difficult to locate.

The public good remains the overriding consideration in the process of analytical reasoning by those qualified for the purpose, so long as the deductions are not in direct conflict with the primary sources of the Shari’a. Therefore, in following arguments repeatedly canvassed by the Senator, it may be necessary to examine the context in which we live, to determine what is good, for the purpose of encouragement and support, and what remains harmful to our society, to be confronted, discouraged or prohibited by Muslim jurists.

Today the North of Nigeria continues to throw up Nigeria’s poorest indices on matters relating to healthcare, nutrition, education, empowerment and productivity. Consequently, unemployment, insecurity, violence and poverty remain rife in that region. Statistics have it that 2/3 of the 102 million poor people in Nigeria live in the North. Extreme poverty in the North translates into extreme vulnerability to the effects of climate change, food security and so much more. Incidentally, over half of the women in the North are married off by the age of 16 and commence childbirth within the first year of marriage. Also, of the 16 million births by girls below the age of 18, 9 out of 10 of them are married.

Facts are that nearly half of all the children under 5 years of age are malnourished in the North East zone, with women and children in the nutrition ‘high-burden’ States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe andZamfara suffering the most from malnutrition, wasting and stunting. This singular factor remains the underlying cause for 53% of under-5 deaths. If the child is stunted in its first 1000 days, that condition is irreversible, so the future of these children, and the larger population, is permanently shortchanged. The health and nutritional needs of mothers, new-borns and children are closely linked, with young mothers accounting for a majority of severely malnourished children.

Multiple health risks arising from child marriage include the sexual exploitation (including forced sexual relations) that she is subjected to, as well as limited access to reproductive health services, despite the real and present danger of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS, STIs (sexually transmitted diseases) and the debilitating ailment of VVF/RVF (VVF-a tear in the flesh between the vagina and the urinary passage, usually due to prolonged labour, resulting in uncontrolled urine or feces in the case of recto-vaginal fistulae-RVF), including the abandonment that comes with such ailments. Nigeria, with 2% of the world’s population, has 10% of VVF patients. Three-quarters of those with VVF/RVF are young girls who are not yet physically mature but have suffered trauma in their first pregnancy.

Statistics show that stillbirths and deaths are 50% more likely in babies born to mothers younger than 18, as against babies born to mothers above that age. Each day, 144 women die in childbirth in Nigeria, with the North East alone having 5 times the global rate of maternal mortality. The lack of information and access to support ultimately results in psycho-social and emotional consequences, domestic violence, abandoned (street) children, with the attendant deprivations of their rights and freedoms, whose wellbeing is severely compromised. The prevalence of the abuse of the right to the exercise of divorce by Muslim men has only compounded the situation, leading to so many negative social deviations such as substance abuse (that has become so rampant), commercial sex work and the complete loss of values in the entire family set up.

Many of these adolescents are married off to men much older than they, and because of the associated power differentials, this singular factor impedes communication between them, with the girl having no negotiation skills in crucial decision-making that may affect her life. Having lost out on these critical life opportunities, these married adolescents can never aspire to living as meaningful and productive members of society. Not being able to participate actively in the community translates to their losing out completely on benefitting from economic activity and earning a decentincome. Many of these girls remain excluded from community life, having been separated from peers and family members by marriage. Depression sets in. A life of diminished opportunities. The community loses out completely; the economy cannot improve where half its population is stuck in this rut.

Child marriage, from available statistics, ultimately hampers the efforts of these young adolescents from acquiring an education, as sooner than later, they find it difficult to combine the onerous responsibilities of being a wife and mother, with schooling. They drop out, if they have not been removed for the purpose of marriage, in the first place. Consequently, 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North West zone are unable to read or write. Due to the fact that these girls are deprived so early of an education (including the access to information and knowledge) they remain bereft of the purchasing power necessary for an adequate diet, healthcare,skills, or even recourse to support in emergencies, all of which would enable them rise above the circumstances of abject poverty. It is paradoxical that Muslims like Senator Yerima would rather their wives and daughters be treated by female medical personnel if they fall ill, and yet they are, by continuously advocating for child marriage, deliberately closing the avenues for girls to aspire to such professions.

Deprivations of formal and non-formal education translate, at such an early age, into restrictions on mobility, domestic burdens, the denial of sundry freedoms in respect of survival, development and participation, as well as the loss of adolescent years. Indeed, children of young, uneducated mothers are also less likely to attain high levels of education, perpetuating cycles of low literacy and limited livelihood opportunities. Child marriage, therefore, ultimately deprives societies of the intellectual and financial/livelihood contributions of girls, and of their offspring. It is no wonder then that the North continues to portray such poor ratings in almost all aspects of human endeavour.

As a consequence, MDGs 1 (relating to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), 2 (on education), 4 (on reducing child mortality), 5 (on maternal health), 6 (on combating diseases) remain unattainable goals (at least in Northern Nigeria), if we cannot confront the consequences and implications of child marriage. Evidently, the geography of poverty requires a coherent and urgent Northern strategy and a solution to the instability that has bedeviled the region in recent years. Against this background of grim data, we can ill afford to play politics with the obvious deficiencies in our human capital. The North, as an intrinsic part of Nigeria needs to improve on all fronts, to impact positively on Nigeria’s progress and support its growth. Since child marriage has all these devastating and diminishing implications, surely checking the increase in the practice can only trigger and catalyze positive growth, in so many dimensions.

It is certainly not mandatory in Islam that girls must be married off as minors, so to keep insisting that this practice must remain sacrosanct, given the background of needs in Northern Nigeria, is incongruous, even under the Shari’a. Where a practice is determined to be merely permissible and not mandatory, it is considered practicable and entirely feasible within Islamic jurisprudence, to discourage or prohibit it, where it is found to be so harmful to individuals and to the community. Countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia and Bangladesh, with majority or high Muslim populations have set a minimum age for marriage as 18, in the acknowledgment that there are serious social, physical and mental health risks associated with child marriages. This progressive step became necessary, in that these indisputable facts placed a heavy burden on the accountable and God-fearing leadership in majority Muslim countries, to protect the vulnerable in their midst.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect that educated elite and public figures such as Senator Yerima, being conscious of their grave responsibilities to prohibit harm and to enjoin good in our own context, should actually discourage this devaluing and belittling practice of early marriage, in the public good, for the protection of the vulnerable and the realization of social benefits. To enable our girls attain their fullest possible potential is definitely a target that Senator Yerima should also be working passionately towards, along with the rest of Nigerians who yearn for a better future.

Indeed, the overriding objectives of the Sharia include the promotion of human dignity, justice, compassion, the removal of hardship, the prevention of harm, the realization of the lawful benefits of the people, and the education of the individual by inculcating in him a sense of self discipline and restraint, which aims are by no means exclusive. All else may be adapted to achieve these ends, which measures may encompass matters of concern not only to law but also to economic development, administration and politics. For those that reflect, the hardship that these little girls experience, where married off and divorced soon after, so wantonly, is certainly unacceptable within the faith.

Although the fundamentals of faith and the practical pillars on which they stand remain immutable in principle, they may be interpreted and justified at the level of implementation in the exercise of public good. This process must of need be carried out solely by persons learned and eminently qualified to speak on the subject matter in question. We must always bear in mind that the ‘appropriation’ of divine authority in religious interpretation is best left to Scholars learned in Islamic legal philosophy and analytical reasoning. Having acquired the requisite knowledge and expertise (including the capacity to weigh the various views in the particular sphere of learning in the context of our times), these Jurists would also need to have imbibed, at the barest minimum, the attributes of humility, compassion, reflection, wisdom, self-restraint, diligence, objectivity, along with piety. Our learned Scholars must stand up and be heard, rather than remain silent on matters that so adversely affect us as individuals, as a region, a Nation and as members of a global community, which challenges paradoxically controvert the deeper meaning and purpose of the Shari’a.

Back to the issue in contention, it is important to commend the thinking behind the decision to delete the constitutional clause that seeks to lumber even an ‘intellectually immature’ girl, where married, with the grave responsibility of the power to renounce her citizenship, thereby elevating the subject of citizenship to the level whereby both men and women have similar responsibilities, without discrimination. It is hoped that ultimately, members of the Senate would reflect deeply on the implications of their recent action and revisit their decision to retain the contentious clause, if only to ensure that every Nigerian citizen of full age, without distinction, is subjected to similar standards and responsibilities under the provisions of our Constitution.

Maryam Uwais MFR
Chairperson, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, Kano
20th July 2013

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By Prince Charles Dickson

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed, and you can beat a fool half to death but you can’t beat the foolishness out of him. African Proverb.

It’s new but it’s not news, it is news but really is it new. Everything is Rivers, either Rivers of Babylon or rumble in the rivers, emergency rivers, or legislative rivers. The impasse in Rivers state is a contagion, we are all suffering from some form of Rivers or the other.

I recall those days in school, Communicable diseases…It was not so much of anything serious until I was infected by this young girl, a medical student…I was wooing her and she had left her notes, I still recall the text, something on Communicable Disease In Africa bla bla bla… it said “An infectious disease transmissible (as from person to person) by direct contact with an affected individual, it is a contagious disease, a contagion, transmitted only by a specific kind of contact…

If you hear someone say a disease is communicable what they mean is that the disease is contagious and can be spread to others. For example, HIV is a communicable disease. Much like the common cold, some diseases are viral and some bacterial, viral diseases are the type that are most commonly passed from person to person.

I am guilty, you are, we all guilty. Let me say conclusively even before my admonition takes shape, the Rivers saga will come and go. We are only victims of a contagion that spreads fast and as it is, for now the cure seems far from us.

Rivers state is trending, for all the wrong reasons. I can’t recall if the Aluu 4 even got this news space, it is so much of a news item, that the several dozen kids killed in Yobe is now secondary item. I will spare us the agony of the Amaechi vs Dame Patience, and Jonathan war, in the contagion called Rivers, for the following reasons…

Gov. Amaechi and President Jonathan are birds of same plumage, product of same faculty of PDP, the institute called Nigeria. Forget what a section of the media tells you both men have failed their people, and have only succeeded in giving Nigerians another ‘Oputa’ Panel. Something to engage us while they loot away and we create sainthood of otherwise political miscreants.

For example, before the fight at the ‘dis’ hallowed chambers of the RSHA went contagious, the Senate almost did its own fisticuffs over state of nation address, we have forgotten Dino Meleye reloaded, and while it is a subject of debate, these fights largely show the poor cerebral quality of these men on top, and the high amount of hooligan quotient in them.

Soyinka, Nwabueze, Falana and co, with respect, these names have only shown how we all have caught the disease, what has Dame Patience done, that Turai did not do, really is it news or new? Nigerians learn slowly when they manage to, but sadly forget quickly, but for increased awareness, the social media, and a big plus–a growing democracy. The contagion called Rivers is only a repeat episode of Jos, Ibadan, Yola, Ekiti, etc.

Of all that I have read, know and what informed sources say, at best, this is a crude fight for power, on the other hand, it is a fight with no moral, no agenda, a fight of ego and on a final count–there is no fight at all, it is all diversionary, nothing will come out of it, we won’t even learn from it.

What saddens me is that Nigerians have refused to learn, I hate this psycho-make of us. Unfortunately it is partly who we are. We are either fighting ourselves or fighting for those that are misgoverning or looting us blind because we share faith, creed and not on any defined ideology.

“Soyinka, Nwabueze, others condemn Rivers Assembly crisis”, “Jonathan is a man of peace – Presidency blames Amaechi, calls Soyinka to order”, “Patience Jonathan is my Jesus Christ… –anti-Ameachi lawmaker says”,

“Rivers Assembly: An extension of 16>19”, “Amaechi writes Jonathan, NASS, demands redeployment of state police commissioner”. “Injured Rivers lawmaker to be flown abroad for treatment”, “Rivers crisis: Gov. Amaechi shows rare maturity”, “Rivers State: “Try Us and See” Melaye’s Group Dares Presidency”, and finally, let me ask, does any of these headlines defy expectations?

I will end with this small gist, its author is unknown–There once was a farmer who discovered that he had lost his watch in the barn. It was no ordinary watch because it had sentimental value for him.

After searching high and low among the hay for a long while; he gave up and enlisted the help of a group of children playing outside the barn.

He promised them that the person who found it would be rewarded.

Hearing this, the children hurried inside the barn, went through and around the entire stack of hay but still could not find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up looking for his watch, a little boy went up to him and asked to be given another chance.

The farmer looked at him and thought, “Why not? After all, this kid looks sincere enough.”

So the farmer sent the little boy back in the barn. After a while the little boy came out with the watch in his hand! The farmer was both happy and surprised and so he asked the boy how he succeeded where the rest had failed.

The boy replied, “I did nothing but sit on the ground and listen. In the silence, I heard the ticking of the watch and just looked for it in that direction.”

You can educate a fool, but you cannot make him think, a whole lot of us as Nigerians have refused to sit on the ground and listen, we are all talking at the same time, are we really engaging in any critical-problem solving manner, we just do not want to think, or maybe we are…only time will tell.

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ImageBy Prince Charles Dickson

 
 

Last week my office literally turned into a small battle-field, the issue was basically, on the proliferation of arms, the fact that something is inherently wrong, whether by default or not.

Somewhere in the battle, the term Négritude was used by my humble self to draw an analogy; ‘Negritude’ is a literary and ideological movement, developed by francophone black intellectuals, writers, and politicians in France in the 1930s. Its founders included the former Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, and the Guianan Léon Damas. Negritude literally means Negro-ness. It takes pride in “blackness” and traditional African values and culture, black surrealism, power and revolution, mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals.

Before we get lost my admonition this week, simply ask us, why are we this way–are we so docile, yet violent, why are we mute, and allow majors become minors…what is our pride in “Nigeria-ness” and traditional values and culture.

Two months and still counting, our Nigerian-ness has been only made visible by our continuous inaction to happenings around us. We are even more concerned Tahir square, Egypt and Morsi, while the Republic of Ombatse grows with impunity.

Northern governors I gathered have donated N100million to families of policemen killed. I have read the inside story of the militia group, we have been told they have been banned. The Nassarawa Governor has as usual inaugurated a Commission of Inquiry, despite his ‘alleged’ complicity. PDP has denied involvement, not that they have ever accepted any charge before. Weeks back police claimed to have arrested ‘notorious’ ombatse’ member.

To cap it, the DSS boss says the group has been forgiven, while its chief priest says he has not been invited by anyone. Less I forget to add, the stories of how the officers/men of security agencies were killed by ‘gods’ and ‘ghosts’. The ‘god’ of ‘ombatse’ is one of our many Nigeria-tude.

In our republic, Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson stated over the week while with one of the naval chiefs “militants where vandalizing oil pipelines, stealing crude oil for the purpose of procuring arms, and recruiting new members.

He described oil theft as “a threat to national security, also decried the proliferation of arms in the region, saying oil theft could be linked to the procurement of such arms”.

…“It is from there they have easy funds to recruit followers; it is from these activities of crude oil theft and illegal refining that people are able to sustain such large numbers of youths and put them into various cult groups. What is going on has a direct effect on the proliferation of small and light weapons because they need an army of youths to protect their territories, to be able to withstand the onslaught of legitimate security personnel.”

Gunmen attacked Government Secondary School, Mamudo in Yobe, 42 students were killed, and then the Zamfara episode where some 60 were butchered or the scores at the Langtang, Plateau axis. The Mubi Killings, the recent massacre of traders from Oyo at the Borno axis, the corpse found in that River in the East, and skulls discovered only last week in Aba, all soon become forgotten stories. In our Nigeria-tude we move ahead and along. Apart from the 24hour outrage and in local parlance we do the ‘Eyaaah’ and say may their souls rest in peace.

Zamfara is talking, and this is the talk–providing arms for the state’s vigilante groups. The state said there was no going back, that the arms have already been purchased and is currently at the state police headquarters.

“Special Adviser to the governor on media and information technology, Alhaji Sani Abdullahi Tsafe, said that “the issue is with the police and the state government will not say anything again until the process of acquiring the permit is accomplished”.

A source in Zamfara says once permit is given “distribution to some ‘trusted’ members of the vigilance groups across the state” will take place.

“…other states were doing it secretly. This has been the practice in some parts of this country, particularly when one looks at the situation in the Niger Delta. Who arms the militants in that area who are also civilians?”

Some states legislatures are currently deliberating on the issue with a view to making a law backing similar projects. The Nigeria ‘Grooving’ Governors’ Forum (NGF) is currently working on how to come up with a common decision on the issue…interesting they are at least ‘working’ on ‘something’.

The Senate discussed the matter via a motion and rejected it, urging President Goodluck Jonathan to stop Zamfara state saying doing so could jeopardize the security situation in the state.

Senate argued that the move could provide access to arms by groups that are neither trained nor authorized to bear arms. But isn’t it the case in the republic…

Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa (ANPP, Zamfara), said that he has spoken with Governor Yari who told him that he did not purchase arms for the vigilante. Who is lying?

Senator Magnus Abe (PDP, Rivers), said it would be wrong for the Senate to condemn the action based on mere newspaper publication. How did it get to the newspapers?

Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (PDP, Borno), said there was nothing wrong for Nigerians to own guns so long as they obtain it legally. Is he the same Ndume, very innocent until proven otherwise, I agree with him.

Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, said the security situation in Zamfara state as “very worrisome” as he alleged that bandits were taking advantage of the weakness of the security agencies to perpetrate evil. The republic is sadly growing…

Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Intelligence and National Security, noted that Yari had purchased the arms before seeking the Inspector General of Police’s permission. Who do we believe, in Nigeria-tude, it’s simply a case of, your faith, ethnicity, political camp, the rest is inconsequential.

He said, “The truth is that the governor has acquired the arms and ammunition; he now approached the IG to grant him permission. Why is it so easy for anybody to acquire arms without hindrance? We have to do all we can to put a stop to illegal acquisition of arms.”

Senator Ali Ndume said that “armed criminals easily assailed Nigerians because they did not have guns. One wonders, what argument, but again speaks volumes about democracy and free speech, a pot pourri of ‘magana banza’, ‘otito oro’ and ‘akuko onye ara’. He added that, “with arms, curtailing the activities of criminals can be easier”.

His comment also that some senators had guns had to be withdrawn, after the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that the allegation was sweeping and unfounded. Withdrawn or not, it had already been made, that is the Nigeria-tude, what makes the republic of ombatse.

The issue of state police was touched, but I will take Senator Victor Lar’s comments “…all these are as a result of the frustration in the polity as many governors were wishing to have state police, noting that they were more concerned about regime security and not national security.

“We should resist the temptation of arming local militias in the face of the insecurity problems…” He concluded.

These men represent Nigerians whether we elected them, or they selected themselves, this one topic shows us how divided we are, it paints the picture that is in front of us. Reading in between the lines tells it all.

Nigerians are dying, others are arming, preparing–while we discuss, Rotimi Amaechi and his palm wine quarrels with NGF, Mrs. Jonathan and his family the PDP. The local shenanigans called APC or opposition are crying over everything from their name and doing nothing, than a dangerous building a conglomeration of ex-this and that.

Whether the arms are being bought secretly or openly, they are being bought anyway, sadly even Senators are not left out in the ‘buying thing’. The fact is if the snake doesn’t show its character, its snake-ness, it will be used as a waist belt by a child. We are simply in a Republic of Ombatse…where it leads us to–only time will tell.

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By Sam Omatseye

What did the five errant lawmakers in Rivers State want Tuesday morning? Not to enforce the rule of law, or to dignify the ethos of democracy. They wanted to enshrine brigandage in the temple of law.

So, they had painted a scenario of morbid potential before Tuesday morning. First, they wanted to lop off the head of the state House of Assembly, that is the speaker. They did not have the number. They amounted to five, and the mainstream had 27 men. Following the law portended suicide. So they took the law in their own hands, and they made a dawn arrival in the chambers and decided to effect the unlawful.

According to the scenario, they would cut off the leader, who was the speaker. That completed, they would proceed to the main agenda: bully the governor out of his position with a hurried impeachment proceeding. It would not have mattered what the law demanded before an impeachment proceeding. Once they enacted a fait accompli, and Governor Rotimi Amaechi ousted from the throne, Abuja would move in with the armed forces and the spartan temerity of power and the new imposed speaker would take over as governor.

Where would that have left Governor Amaechi? He would resort to the court, battling from outside, from the position of weakness. The court would fall under the spell of dalliance, the court sessions postponed indefinitely just like the battle over the leadership of the PDP in Rivers State today.

The intervention of Governor Amaechi’s forces routed the renegades in what looked like a civilian equivalent of a military counterattack. The renegades lost out ignominiously as the 27-man House not only convoked a meeting but passed into a law the budget proposals of the governor.

Since the state crisis unfurls as a President Jonathan versus Governor Amaechi war, the Presidency suffered a severe and unmitigated disaster, just like Hitler’s misadventure in the Second World War in the operation Barbarossa in Russia. Not only the president, but also the long line of “democratic coup plotters” and in the lead was Nyesom Wike.

We have seen this before. During the Obasanjo era, we witnessed the impeachment of Governor Joshua Dariye by a comic set of six turncoats who represented a fraction of the quorum. That reckless move enjoyed official anointing, and Dariye fought a fruitless battle of restoration till the end. Also, with irony, the other one occurred in Bayelsa State, and the travesty was not just numbers but geography. The Governor, Dieprye Alamieyesiegha, lost his reign to impeachment – and President Jonathan was deputy governor – not in the environ of Bayelsa State but in far-flung Lagos. President Goodluck Jonathan benefited from the travesty and that began his storied rise to a presidency of bumbling. Also for irony, President Jonathan has ensconced him in his inner circle. Before all these, Governor Ngige fell out of power when President Obasanjo cradled the nation’s top office and we all watched as the governor was spirited out of sight in a gangster-like kidnap and impeached.

Yesterday lifts the Jonathan era to the ignoble height of democratic torpedoes of the Obasanjo era. The difference: the Obsanjo men succeeded in quite a few: Plateau, Ekiti, Anambra and Bayelsa states. President Jonathan won in Bayelsa by rallying all the armed forces to oust a governor in a fear of the lofty rules of democracy. He wants to replicate in Rivers State the pill he administered in the primitive ouster of former Governor Timipre Sylva. Now again, they failed. They have done many things in infamy. They have devised methods like sending a militant to organise a rally, stopped his plane from flying, implanted a toady as commissioner of police, barred traditional rulers from visiting the governor, barred him from saying hello to the President, tried to oust him as chairman of the Governors’ Forum, and so on. The question is, what is next?

Muslim fasting (abstinence from eating, drinking and sexual desires, from dawn to dusk) is prescribed for ‘eligible’ individuals, in order that they may have piety. The significance of fasting in preventing ailments that relate to eating habits as well as the spiritual ailments that relate to self-desires and uncertainties is apparent.
 
Piety makes a Muslim direct his life in accordance with the dictates of Allah (SWT), against the ego and passion and serves as a shield against the the evil dictates of the human mind. This is depicted in the description of fasting as a “shield” by the Holy Prophet (SAW), in one of his
Ahadith. Muhammad bn Abubakar Zar’i states, in ‘Dibbin-nabawi’:
 
“In fasting is a medical treatment for both the soul and natural dispositions (of man). When a person guards what he is supposed to guard while fasting, it will be of an immense help to both his mind and his body, and protects him against foreign entities that may be harmful to his body, as well as the removal accumulated wastes, thus regulating the body’s (normal) functions”.
 
Furthermore, by abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual desires from dawn to dusk, during fasting period, Muslims are made to taste the miseries and deprivations that the poor have to constantly suffer in their impoverished existence. In this way, fasting helps Muslim to purge themselves of evils by restraining their carnal desires that prevent man from perceiving and attaining reality. He who masters his carnal soul that commands evils can most certainly master other creatures, just as he that is dominated by this soul could be dominated by creatures. Indeed, war against the ‘soul’ is more difficult than that against the ‘force’. In an Islamic society, therefore, fasting could restrict the influence of ego and whims among individuals thereby checking the attendant negative consequences.
 
Fasting and Physical Health 
Maintenance of a good state of physical and mental health in the body is the objective of every health-care programme or healing art.
 
In Islam, Ramadan fasting is decreed only on healthy adults, exempting children, debilitated elderly, the sick (including pregnant women and nursing mothers), and travelers, who are at liberty to fast a similar number of days later. The debilitated elderly is given an alternative of feeding the needy.

The liberty of fasting similar number of days later is also extended to those who are exposed to certain conditions that are detrimental to health if they fast under such situation. For instance, a longer day period of about 21 hours experienced during the summer in Europe, which could be debilitating to a healthy person, just as the normal fasting period could be to an already debilitated elderly one. Similarly, the excessive and unbearable hot weather during the Spring in the Sahara and Sub-Sahara regions of the world, that may lead to shock, or even death from excessive dehydration. This proves the significance of fasting as being designed to maintain and improve the health status of the body system. It further points to the desire of Allah, of making fasting a relief rather than a discomfort to the believers (Q2: 185-6).
 
It is obvious that deficiency of food to a certain extent in the body may precipitate or predispose the body to one ailment or the other, as well as exacerbating an existing one.

However, fasting as a temporary period of abstinence from food serves as a regulatory period within which the body system transforms (metabolizes) various classes of food needed by the body and distributes it in precise and adequate proportions – balanced diet – to all parts of the body. For instance, the usual 6-8 hours fasting that every living person is engaged in while asleep during the night. During this period, food taken into the body is broken down and used for various functions and for the manufacture of other components that are needed by the body. Excess food is converted into a stored form for future use when deprivation occurs.

The waste products of the breaking-down of food (catabolism) and building-up (anabolism) processes are then channeled through appropriate excretory pathway.
 
The tight control between anabolism and catabolism and their regulation ensures normal body functioning by the wisdom and power of Allah (SWT).

For this reason, the Prophet (SAW) taught us to say, after every meal: “
Glory be to Allah who feeds, quenches (hunger and thirst), metabolizes it and places for it an outlet”, and to say, when coming out of the toilet:
“We seek your forgiveness; Glory be to Allah who removed from me waste and made me healthy”.
 
During the 10-12 hour fasting, the stored form of food in the body is converted into utilizable form to supplement the decrease in the food intake into the body. For instance, excess glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver. When glucose is depleted in the blood, glycogen is converted back to glucose and utilized for energy generation. If glycogen is depleted (hypoglyceamia), glucose could be manufactured from other food sources, apart from carbohydrates, in the body (gluconeogenesis). For example, Fat stores could also be converted to glucose, and in the absence of fats, tissue proteins (as a last resort) could also be mobilized for energy required by the body in an instance of starvation. But deprivation during the normal hours of fasting under normal conditions could hardly lead to starvation. When adequate supply of food is restored, at the time of breaking fast, the alternative energy generating pathways are shut down, leaving the normal pathway (glycolysis) to predominate.
 
Fasting could therefore be considered as a dietary regulatory mechanism by which the healthy status of the body is maintained and also prevent starvation. The fasting and breaking cycle for a certain period of time (e.g. 29 / 30 days of Ramadan) ensures just adequate intake, transformation, utilization, excretion and regulation and also control of the disorders that are associated with an imbalance in the proportion of certain nutrients in the body.
 
A Muslim health professional identified the verse “ Eat and drink and do not be extravagant; for he does not like extravagance”, as a summary of all forms of medications revealed in the Holy Quran. This implies that some forms of disorder in the body system evolve from an unregulated food intake. Example, Bronze diabetes is associated with iron overload; Hyperlipidaemia is associated with excess lipid in the blood e.t.c. For this reason, it is recommended for Muslims to fast (apart from the obligatory fasting of Ramadan) at least three days of every month; or up to two days (Mondays and Thursdays) every week; or on alternate days, but never continuously throughout the year. The Prophet (SAW) discourages that by his words: “He has neither fasted; he that fasted the era, nor had he broken the fast”. 

Some group of patients could also tolerate the normal fasting hours without harm. For istance Insulin Dependent Diabetic (IDD) patients that are hitherto exempted from fasting. According to Saudi based researchers from King Fahd Hospital and King Saudi University IDD patients who are reasonably stable can manage their diabetes well during Ramadan, and the control of blood sugar is not significantly different from that which they attain during other months of the year. The study concludes that IDD patients who wish to fast can be allowed to do so as long as they maintain their usual insulin dose and follow-up as in other months of the year.
 
Fasting and Mental Health
 
The ability of an individual to form harmonious relationship with others, and to participate in and contribute constructively to doing things in his social and physical environment defines the mental health of an individual. Mental disorders that relate to the ailments of the mind are of two categories: that of Illusion and Doubts and that of self-desire. In whatever form, ailments of the mind manifest as blameworthy attitudes such as pride, arrogance, deceit, and show-off or even Shirk. In this state a person becomes enslaved by the soul that commands evil, and act according to his ego and whims. This state of ailment is more difficult to treat than the physical ailments. Shaykh Ibn Ata’allah
11 states:

“The persistence of the joy of desire in the heart is a disease so difficult to treat”.     

Fasting, when viewed, as a deliberate restraining of one’s self-desire of food and sex, despite their availability and his accessibility to them, implies a struggle against the soul (Nafs) through which Satan inspires doubts and evil dictates. The Prophet (SAW) describes struggle against the soul as “the greater struggle”. For this reason, following the dictates of one’s soul is identified as the root of all wrong doings, self-desires and heedlessness, in a similar way that resisting the dictates serves as the root of all obedience, awareness and awakening. Sheykh Muhammadul Busiri states, in his book,
Burdatul-Madihi:
 
Oppose the Soul and Satan and disobey them If they offer you counseling, query it!
 
To a Muslim, therefore, fasting serves as a self-training mode towards acquisition of attitudes that bestow unto him tranquility, closeness to God and a good state of mental health. Glory be to the One who made fasting of an immense benefit to both physical and mental health, and as a means of integrating thoughts and actions for the sake of Allah and strengthening the mind in His love and service.
C. faruk sarkinfada

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By Pius Adesanmi

It’s been ‘eebu tins’ (insult extravaganza) in the arena of political discourse and public commentary since this column decided to award itself an extended vacation five weeks ago. So massive has been the scramble for pottymouthing by critical segments of our commentariat that one was compelled to punctuate one’s vacation in favour of the occasional Facebook commentary on the matter. And the Nigerian penchant for flourish and exhaustiveness in negative matters means that we invaded the house of ‘eebu’ (insult) and appropriated all resources therein.

Name calling, bullying, catfighting, mudfighting, and roforofo became the building blocks of a colourful national orgy of insults and pottymouthing: Presidency versus Opposition; Presidency versus NGF; Presidency versus Media; Presidency versus former Facebook friends suffering from buyer’s remorse; NGF versus PDP Governors Forum; PDP versus PDP; PDP versus APC; APC versus APC; APC versus PDP; Jang versus Amaechi; Amaechi versus Jangjaweed Governors. In the middle of it all, the triumvirate of sophistry and chicanery, Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, and Reno Omokri, migrated their mouths from the gutter to a more scatological habitat in the pit latrine, trafficking in words unbecoming of any presidency as they engaged the Opposition while servicing the lies of a glaringly inept President Jonathan. With these three clowns throwing insults all over the place, D.O. Fagunwa would refer to Jonathan’s Aso Rock as ‘Eebudimeta’.

Sadly, the season of ‘eebu tins’ was contagious. It would have been an occasion for rejoicing had the season of national pottymouthing been restricted to the pestilential ranks of corrupt government officials and political actors for one’s heart is always gladdened when the rapists of Nigeria tear at each other while dancing naked in the public sphere. President Jonathan fighting the NGF, Tambuwal and Wamakko clawing at Bamanga Tukur, Rotimi Amaechi and the Jangjaweed Governors pottymouthing one another are all occasions for rejoicing by the people. These are all instances of the Yoruba philosophy of ‘fun ra won ni won o ma fun ra won l’ogun je’. In other words, o ye people of Nigeria, rejoice and be merry whenever the corrupt rapists of our commonwealth feed each other poison. You do not need to inherit their cant and chicanery; their bickering; their pottymouthing; their pettiness; their irrationalities. For in the dead of night, when all doors are closed and you guys are still outside abusing each other along religious, tribal, and geopolitical faultlines and lining up behind one political gladiator against the other, these guys close ranks, embrace, and declare aloota continua behind your backs.

There is one group of fellow citizens who, apparently, does not subscribe to the notion that we, the grass beneath the feet of the gorging elephants in the political class, do not need to tear at each other and spread the contagion of ‘eebu tins’ just because we support a particular political actor and believe that he is Junior Jesus and Deputy Mohammed combined. I am talking about the formidable armies of social media marketers of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and General Mohammadu Buhari who have taken on the task of marketing these two prominent figures of a very amorphous opposition to the broader Nigerian electorate. The methodology and strategies of these marketers have very serious implications for the democracy we all envisage and the Nigeria we all envision.

Asiwaju Tinubu’s claim to an oppositional/progressive patina stems from his investment in NADECO and the anti-Abacha struggle of the era, his relatively successful tenure as Lagos State Governor during which, we must admit, the foundation was laid for much of what Raji Fashola is doing today. It was also during his tenure in Lagos that the state became a model of resistance to Federal brigandage as he was largely able to resist what I call our “almajiri federalism”, which has state governors singing “asiri a bo bam bi Allah” all the way to Abuja, becoming cowering and conquered houseboys of an omnipotent President in the process. Rotimi Amaechi’s laudable resistance to Goodluck Jonathan’s arrogance of power today is nothing new. By successfully resisting Obasanjo’s crudeness, Tinubu paved the way for any Governor willing to remember that Federalism does not mean that states should become vassals of an arrogant centre with irrational powers. Is the pathetic Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa really a state governor today or Goodluck Jonathan’s palace eunuch? Nigerians know the answer. Lagos is also where Asiwaju marshaled strategies and resources to eventually rid the southwest of the ruinous stranglehold of the PDP. He resisted Obasanjo in Abuja and also brought in new brooms to sweep away all the corrupt PDP governors that Ebora Owu had rigged into office in the southwest.

This is a broad summary of the achievements that have earned Asiwaju the right to become he who must be obeyed and never questioned in the world of his supporters. If these supporters were content with just sacrificing their own right to civic questioning, becoming marionettes, and letting Asiwaju take over the responsibility of thinking and deciding everything for them in the political and democratic sphere, that, I guess, would be their own kettle of fish. We must concede to every Nigerian his democratic right to be the political toilet paper of his own chosen hero among the gladiators in our public sphere. But Asiwaju’s fans are not content with worshipping their ordained orisha. They fan across social media as onward Christian soldiers, sorry, onward Asiwaju soldiers, trying to force-feed their idol intravenously into the Nigerian electorate in a manner that brooks no argument, opposition, or genuine debate.

Asiwaju, the argument goes, liberated the southwest from the PDP and his reward must be the everlasting silence of all Nigerians, even beyond the southwest. We should just all submit ourselves uncritically to his every whim, his every caprice, his every political calculus. We should just all become eternally grateful citizens of the nebulous empire that Asiwaju is building, no questions asked. To ask any question is to attract the ire of his supporters who mass in and rain insults on the critical questioner, blind as they are to the essence and meaning of democratic citizenship.

Democratic citizenship starts with my fundamental right to ask questions and probe the practices and politics of any participant in the political destiny of my country. If you are selling a political hero, democratic citizenship starts with my right to haggle, to critically examine the product you are attempting to sell to me, to ask questions about the provenance, usefulness, and durability of your product. Questions of worth and value are pertinent. To put it in a popular Nigerian parlance, if you are selling Asiwaju to me, it is my right to price your market. Pricing your market in this respect means that I can raise very serious critical and ethical questions about the ruinous financial slavery of Lagos state – and increasingly the southwest – to one man today. I have the right to ask questions about tax collection processes in Lagos state. I have the right to raise an alarm over tolling at Lekki and where the money goes.

If you are selling Asiwaju to me, I have the right to wonder if you are not asking me to replace the corrupt dictatorship of the PDP at the centre with the no less corrupt one-man show of an aspiring emperor. I have the right to ask if you are asking me to replace Nigeria’s failed Federalism with Tinubu’s political empire, which is emerging somewhat parallel to and somewhat in opposition to that failed federalism at the centre. When I peep into this emergent political empire and I see things injurious to the spirit of democracy, I have the right to ask you questions if you persist in selling that product to me.

I could tell you that looking at the untidy way in which Asiwaju’s wife was imposed as a Senatorial candidate, the untidy way in which his choices are imposed as Local Government Chairmen everywhere he holds sway, the untidy way in which his choices are imposed as Governors everywhere he holds sway (until the Ondo rout), the untidy business of attempting to impose his daughter as the new Iyaloja of Lagos, the untidy way in which he and Chief Bisi Akande have privileged a rigid babacracy over internal party democracy in the political party over which they preside and, now, the absolutely horrible, undemocratic, and arrogant way in which he is trying to abort democracy in Ekiti by asking Opeyemi Bamidele to wait for his turn – I could look at all these things, all these dictatorial tendencies, the recurrence of the word ‘imposition’, and decide that the corrupt democracy of Aso Rock is better than the corrupt babacracy of Bourdillon Road. At least the pretense of democracy exists in Aso Rock whereas there is no room for even democratic pretense in Bourdillon road. Indeed, the unfolding outrage in Ekiti has confirmed my long-held suspicion that Bourdillon road is the most formidable antithesis to democracy in Nigeria now. I certainly hope that Opeyemi Bamidele will be buoyed by the precedence of Ondo and defy imposition and empire building.

When bold and patriotic compatriots raise these legitimate issues, Tinubu’s social media supporters, who have no liver for debate, resort to knee-jerk ‘eebu tins’. They rain insults and curse and curse again. They bully and intimidate the same people they are trying to persuade to adopt their orisha of Bourdillon. Yet, the very next minute, these devotees of the orisha of Bourdillon begin to hold out the southwest as an example of democracy to the rest of the country. They purport that the southwest has lessons to teach the rest of the country in democracy and its practices. I always wonder who dashed them the mouth to make such spurious submissions. Until the southwest deals with the untidy legacy of Tinubu’s impositions and his long-winding trail of subversion of democratic principles, they must understand that they have lost the mouth with which to contribute to broader national arguments about democratic ethos. The rest of the country would be justified if they told the southwest: abeg, make we hear word.

What goes for Tinubu’s supporters also goes for a vast majority of General Buhari’s supporters. Indeed, General Buhari’s avowed online loyalists make Tinubu’s supporters look like kindergarten pupils in the department of ‘eebu tins’. Unlike Tinubu’s supporters who are trying to sell a political orisha because their principal is trying to consolidate an empire rather than openly jostling for an elective office, General Buhari’s supporters are trying to sell a political candidate jostling for the office of President. They insist on the General’s personal capital: simplicity, integrity, leadership, zero-tolerance of corruption, sound moral and ethical stock. According to this narrative, corrupt politicians would scamper out of Nigeria were General Buhari ever to be elected President for he would not spare them.

So far so good. Things get a bit more complicated for General Buhari and his loyalists the moment you move beyond the General’s impeccable personal capital to other things you need to be acceptable to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and creed. General Buhari’s loyalists are quick to insist that he is a pan-Nigerian statesman. His statements and actions suggest otherwise and when concerned Nigerians insist on raising that significant issue, the General’s loyalists, like Tinubu’s supporters, recourse to ‘eebu tins’ to sell their product. They curse and curse and curse. They rain insult upon insult on Nigerians for being simpletons who just can’t understand the General. One wrote an article in Sahara Reporters advising the General to withdraw from politics because he is too good for Nigeria or Nigerians aren’t good enough for him. The stupidity of claiming that 160 million of us are not good enough for or are undeserving of one of us was not apparent to this Buhari loyalist. I’ve encountered more bellicose variants of that insult coming from General Buhari’s army of online loyalists. Nigeria, they insist, is not ready for him because Nigeria is not good enough for him.

But the Nigerians who are being insulted by Buhari’s loyalists are not the people responsible for the persistent question mark on the General’s pan-Nigerian credentials. The General is and the blame must be placed firmly and unequivocally at his doorstep. General Buhari has done more in the last two decades or so to forge an image of himself as a closet geopolitical irredentist and very little to encourage perceptions of himself as a pan-Nigerian statesman. This is not limited to his healthy syllabus of northern and Islamic irredentist statements – his supporters are ever ready to insult us that we are just not intelligent enough to understand those statements – but also to his inaction. I will explain the bit about inaction presently. Suffice it to say for now that the insults and curses rained on Nigerians daily by Buhari’s supporters are far worse than the treatment we get from Tinubu’s supporters. My stomach churns whenever I encounter pro-Buhari statements starting with such illogicalities as “Buhari is the only living Nigerian capable of this and that”. Really? Please! There are 160 million of us. There must be limits to hyperbole. And there is no greater insult than saying that 160 million of us are either too mischievous or too unintelligent to understand the repeated careless statements of your hero. Personally, I’m loath to have a President of Nigeria who constantly needs the service of the extra-talented geniuses in his core support base to explain his constant stream of misstatements and misspeaks to 160 million unintelligent simpletons. We must ask the question again: why is it that only fundamentalist loyalists have found the key to understanding General Buhari’s statements?

Now to Buhari’s inaction. We must ask his supporters: exactly where is Buhari’s national presence, say, since 2011? His statements, careless or reasonable, mostly get to the south of the river Niger whenever local journalists are lucky enough to monitor an interview he granted the Hausa service of BBC or VOA from his Kaduna base. I know that he was at my friend, Nasir El Rufai’s book launch in Lagos and was, also, recently at the funeral of Asiwaju’s mother in Lagos. There may be other unreported low-profile ventures outside of the north by the General. However, if I were in Buhari’s shoes, I would have been all over the Nigerian map physically since 2011. My social and political calendar across Nigeria would have been very busy and active. I would have been attending well-publicized events all over the country, delivering speeches on critical national issues in Universities all over Igboland, all over the south-south. I would even have ‘invaded’ Professor Bolaji Aluko’s fief in the Federal University, Otuoke, by delivering a significant lecture on critical national issues from that pregnant location. I would have been all over the southwest, the MiddleBelt – everywhere – engaging people and issues, strategizing about the way forward with critical stakeholders. Newspapers would be reporting that some of my national statements and interviews were monitored in Isanlu, Kabba, Amawbia, Nnobi, Calabar, Nsukka, Enugu, Okene, Owerri, Osogbo, Ore, Ibadan, Abakaliki, Ogwashi-Uku, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Ijebu Ode, Akure, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Warri, etc.

If , rather than cultivate this broad national praxis in the service of my presidential ambition, I cocoon myself mostly in Kaduna, releasing northern and Islamic irredentist statements to the rest of the country in interviews granted the Hausa service of BBC and VOA, going as far as to carelessly equate a legitimate clamp down on Boko Haram with a war against the North, I should be prepared to accept responsibility for a certain perception of myself and work very hard to address the issue. Genuine supporters of General Buhari have serious work to do. I know many of them, patriotic compatriots working tirelessly for Nigeria, convinced that General Buhari is a far better option than the disgrace currently residing in Aso Rock. They are not into the business of insulting Nigerians to sell their product.

They are my friends: Adebayo Adeneye-Adejuwon, Marian Iyabode Awolowo, Kizito Agba-Injo. One of them, Tunde Asaju, is my cousin. What these believers in the Buhari project must understand is that their genuine efforts to sell Buhari online is largely crowded out by the ill-reflected strategies of the more fundamentalist Buhari supporters who believe that the best way to sell their product is to constantly insult and bully Nigerians. Adebayo Adejuwon and co must understand that they have their work cut out for them. Not only must they continue to try to sell their product using the time-tested strategies of democratic debate and superior argument, they must also work harder to convince those who are trying to sell the General via insults that they are damaging Buhari’s brand – to borrow a way of speaking made popular by my sister Bamidele Ademola-Olateju. And unless they believe that General Buhari is infallible, they must be prepared to reach out to their hero, engage him, and see how he could work on the statesman and de-emphasize the northern irredentist. Accusing those asking questions of ill-will or inability to understand the General will not cut it.

Personally, I’m not on the Buhari train because I am not convinced that we cannot find a Nigerian in the age bracket of 40-55 among 160 million people who fits the bill for 2015. As a friend of mine, Kemi Sisi Eko, once observed, there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you are a Nigerian in your 20s, 30s, or 40s and you insist that a septuagenarian is the singular and the only answer to your problem in the age of Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Harper, and Hollande. If I raise this issue, it is your responsibility as a Buhari loyalist to engage or confront me with superior logic and try to persuade me. Don’t come hurling insults at me, avoiding serious issues by claiming that I harbor some undefined animus against the General. That is the lazy strategy that General Buhari’s loyalists often deploy to kill genuine debate.

Building democracy is not just about the struggle to rid our country of a corrupt, comatose, and visionless leadership such as we currently have in Goodluck Jonathan; it is not just about the struggle to build credible and genuine institutions; it is also mostly about the need to forge, inform, and instruct a critical and civic-minded followership. A democracy without a followership that questions is doomed. And questioning does not mean criticizing Jonathan endlessly while being intolerant of any criticism of your own political orisha. By resorting ever so often to ‘eebu tins’ in the marketing of their heroes, too many supporters of Asiwaju Tinubu and General Buhari are endangering democracy. They are part of the problem. They are tolerating democracy only to the extent that their respective heroes shall neither be critiqued, questioned, nor engaged. Those of us whose singular premise is Nigeria – and not sacrosanct heroes – shall not allow this to happen. We shall continue to question, to critique, to engage.

Perish the thought that we shall ever allow the emergence of a Nigeria in which it would be possible for some citizens to crown political orishas that are deemed too good for some undeserving 160 million people. If you belong in the group of workers for Nigeria who are not beholden to any political orisha, then by all means continue to raise very pertinent and critical issues whenever and wherever the loyalists of Tinubu and Buhari sell their heroes on social media. That is the stuff, the essence of democracy. Followers must be able to ask legitimate questions of other followers without being intimidated or insulted. That is the Nigeria we envisage and envision. If Buhari’s or Tinubu’s loyalists insult you for asking questions, shrug your shoulders and tell them that insults do not grow on the forehead of the insulted or, as the Yoruba would put it, “eebu o so.”

Nigeria’s northeastern Yobe state on Sunday ordered the closure of all secondary schools after a massacre that saw suspected Islamist extremists kill 42 people in a gun and bomb attack on a boarding school.

Yobe state Governor Ibrahim Geidam has “directed that all secondary schools in the state be closed down from Monday 8th July 2013 until a new academic session begins in September,” a government statement said.

The attack early Saturday in the Mamudo district saw assailants — believed to be Boko Haram Islamists — round up students and staff in a dormitory before throwing explosives inside and opening fire, said Haliru Aliyu of Potiskum General Hospital, quoting witnesses who escaped.

It was the third school attack in the region in recent weeks, including two in Yobe.

The state government also called on the military to restore mobile phone service, saying it was preventing residents from reporting suspicious activity.

Nigeria’s military cut phone service in much of the country’s northeast in mid-May, when it launched a sweeping offensive seeking to end a four-year insurgency by Boko Haram.

Satellite phones have also been banned, with the military saying insurgents use them to plan attacks. Landline service is extremely rare in Nigeria.

A number of residents had initially expressed support for the phone cut if it could lead to peace, but the Yobe government’s statement indicated patience was running out.

Boko Haram, which translates roughly to “Western education is a sin,” has repeatedly targeted schools in the northeast as part of its insurgency.

One local resident said Saturday’s attack was believed to be a reprisal for the killing of 22 Boko Haram members during a military raid in the town of Dogon Kuka on Thursday.

A senior police officer said the students were asleep when the attackers stormed their school. They then started “shooting sporadically and subsequently set the students’ hostel ablaze,” he said.

Lieutenant Eli Lazarus, spokesman for a military task force in the state, said the gunmen “stormed the school around 5:30 am and began to shoot at the students from different directions.”

Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has left some 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by security forces, which have come under criticism for alleged abuses.

The current military offensive was launched after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14.

He said at the time that the insurgents had managed to take control of a number of remote, border areas of the region.

Nigeria’s northeast borders the nations of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Since then, the military has claimed major successes and say they have pushed the insurgents out, but the violence has continued, indicating the gains may be short-lived.

It is also impossible to independently verify the military’s account of the offensive due to the phone cut and restricted access to remote areas.

Boko Haram has drawn the scrutiny of Western nations fearing links with outside extremists groups such as Al-Qaeda’s north African branch, known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The European Union on Sunday condemned the Yobe school attack, labelling it a “horrific murder by terrorists.”

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By Prince Charles Dickson

“When a people have suffered for too long, they will drink fairytales on fairylands with insatiable gullibility.” (Hamilton Ayuk).

My admonition this week dwells with a section of Nigerian–the North and it is a do-no-favors essay, call it the truth, or falsehood, call it nonsense, be bitter or be complimentary about it, I really do not care–or better still I care enough to tell us the way I see it.

The words of Malcolm X sums up my next few paragraphs. “You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.”

The myth–Aboki is supposedly an Hausa term that is used to describe the man up North, he may be hausa, nupe, berom, fulani, shua, but largely he is ignorantly Hausa to all and poor, he is either mai-guard (gateman), mai-ruwa (water), mai shai (tea), mai-doya (yam), mai-reke (sugarcane), mai-miaa (blackmarket fuel); whatever he is, he just has to be mai-something or mai-everything. He is a symbolism today to other Nigerians of violence and false face of Islam. He is ‘misunderstandingly’ understood.

Then we have the Alhaji, he is everything above ‘cept that he is presumed rich, and in recent times dangerous too, he could be a sponsor of Boko Haram too, but for a ‘typical’ southerner, there is the allure of his riches whether via politics, oil, or ‘voodoo’ who cares. He is there in abuja, port harcourt and lagos. He really doesn’t care about his North, he is a hypocrite to the core without his knowledge.

Now to more of those mythical realities and issues, that has left a region on her knees, no other time than now has the North faced an identity crisis and fight within herself. Who are the Hausas, who are the Fulanis, and how about the Hausa- Fulanis, what really is the place of the Islam North, real, media creation and when or how really did Boko Haram begin, how about the Christians in the North?

Is the North still united as was the case, what about her oligarchy and a few leftist socialist activists that set the talakawa agenda, what happened?

What is it that needs to be understood about the alamanjiri system and institutional begging in the North?

Now wait, this is a lie but who is afraid, I challenge any Christian to explain the myth of killing in the name of religion because there are 70 virgins somewhere. And before we scream, has the North been this violent, is it really about marginalization and if indeed, who marginalized who, Abacha, Shagari or IBB, it certainly isn’t  the new kid on the bloc Jonathan, that doesn’t even know Zungeru or Toro?

During the week, it was Jonathan violates Nigerian laws, corners N3billion general hospital for own town, Otuoke. Can Namadi violate the law too, imagine if Northern governors violate the law to bring hospitals and good roads and schools even in their villages?

The North and the agitating Middle Belt is an emotional wreck, a perfect picture of an abused bride, that today is even afraid of a hug of reconciliation, with rehabilitation and reconstruction a far cry.

If the North decides to go away from Nigeria, will the other component part fight to keep it and would it be really 19 states, is Plateau North, when there’s no love lost between the Plateau people and the North, does Taraba believe in North, Southern Kaduna, parts of Nassarawa, Benue, Kogi etc?

People still believe that up North we are all empty land mass and goats, unproductive, and leeching termites stuck on Nigeria because of the oil, if not, why the hue and cry of PIB when Zamfara’s mines are gold for the asking and we could develop a self-sufficient and exportable agrarian community?

We don’t share Boko Haram’s ideologies, according to Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, but really who believes him or us. What is the arewa ideology?

Everyone is on a blame ride, the bulk stops at Jonathan’s table, but as ‘Northerners’ have we blamed brother TY Danjuma, or alfa IBB, mallam Lamido, dr. Babangida Aliyu or rev Yuguda and Ministers, legislators, and their ilks, what examples have they set?

So much is wrong with the North–I challenge my brothers from Katsina/Jigawa/Kebbi/Zamfara etc to tell me two companies that make 30 million naira a month after salaries are paid and utilities are sorted.

Niger State Governor, Dr Babangida Aliyu who happens to be one of the gubernatorial problems in the North, laments that the economy of the North has crumbled due to insecurity unleashed on the region by Boko Haram insurgents.

He regrets the huge army of unemployed youths in the North pointing out that there was urgent need for the revival of the Northern economy and job creation. But how are we doing that, other than power must come back to the night, and our usual its a birthright mentality.

How many Ashaka/Larfarge cement companies do we have in the North, NASCO in Jos is dead, funeral rites only being delayed baring a miracle. Same for the Kaduna textiles industry.

What and where have the billions of 14years gone to in the North? Universities out of private initiative litter the South and up here what are we doing, arguing who has suffered more casualties between Christians/Muslims.

Okay it has to be poverty, that’s one ideological school of thought for the bloodbath and mayhem, even Obama thinks so, I agree only to the extent that really … “countries are not delivering for their people and there are sources of conflict and underlining frustrations that have not been adequately dealt with”. In this case, the North has failed herself.

The North has equally failed…“to give her people opportunity, education and resolve conflicts through regular democratic processes,”.

… “in terms of human capital and young people, I think the greatest investment any country can make, not just an African country, is educating its youth and providing them with the skill to compete in a highly technological, advanced world economy”. Nigeria has failed in this regard and the North has woefully crashed in same vein.

The North will rise again, how, if I may ask, by threatening a lame duck presidency that includes her son as veepee or by sharia-lizing, 2015: Northern govs set to dump Jonathan, how foolish can we be, who told us that we are the majority anymore?

The South-west despite Tinubu’s crookedness is chasing a semblance of regional integration, the South East and South-South are not left out. States have even gone ahead to show/use their emblem/insignia and are creating identities. We are still seen as Fulani herdsmen asking for reserves on other peoples’ lands and seeking nomadic education because we can’t do regular school.

We need to bash ourselves, the North, arewa needs to stop lying to itself and her people, there are current realities, where do we fit into it?

I will end this admonition in the words of one of the problem sons of the North, Bro. TY Danjuma, “We need to think more, pray more, plan more, work harder, RELATE BETTER, and talk less. Battles are better fought and won through wisdom and strategy than through inflammable pronouncements and political tantrums.” This is to the North but it does apply to Nigeria, the current hate quotient is high–for how long, only time will tell.