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In his usual fiery self, Nasir El-Rufai had stirred the hornet’s nest when he granted an interview to the Sun Newspaper last Saturday. He answered questions on many issues; Presidency under Jonathan, Buhari, APC, CAN and several others. As far as I am concerned, he is free to throw punches at Jonathan and whoever he deems fit. This is still a democracy and people are still guaranteed the freedom of speaking freely on National or private issues, so far they are true. The presidency, reactionary as they are, through Mr. Reno Omokri has already lambasted him. Petty to a fault.

The major point of the interview has been CAN’s response to his attack on their President, Ayo Oritsejafor. El-Rufai without mincing words had labeled the fiery pastor “the propaganda chief of the PDP. He lacks credibility……” juicy words if you ask me.

The man was not done. He went on to summarize his thoughts on Pastor Oritsejafor as: He is not a religious leader. He is a religious pretender. From his statements, he is a bigot, he is an ethnic irredentist and no one should take him seriously. It is sad that such a person is the head of CAN. So, he can say whatever he wants to say but we know who he is working for, we know who gave him his private jet. So, why should we worry about someone like that? He has zero credibility.”  Those were choice combinations that CAN couldn’t ignore; they let out their vicious scream almost immediately.

They had compelled the ‘noisy Mallam’ to shove it up his…… and book an appointment with a psychiatrist to determine his level of ‘craze’ or ‘grace’ as it applies accordingly. They brought up the subject of the expired and erroneously classified ‘Jesus tweet’ retweet and sent a subtle, veiled and conditional ‘holy threat’.

Permit me to extract from their glamorous statement:

“We can no longer fold our hands and allow Christian leaders to be abused by no person than el-Rufai. We can no longer take it; enough is enough. Anytime he abuses Christian leaders and Jesus Christ, we Christians will let him know that he has many forces to contend with.” 

“The fact that el-Rufai in his tweets abused our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and Christians ignored him doesn’t give him the impetus to make unguarded comments about Pastor Ayo (Oritsejafor) who is the leader of Christians in Nigeria. As Christians, we respect other faith and never have we abused the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, who is the leader of Muslims in Nigeria. The fact that Christians are not violent doesn’t mean he should go far with his utterances. He is not in a position to tell us who should be the leader of Christians in Nigeria.” 

“It was this same el-Rufai that was abusing Buhari when he was in the cabinet of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo that is now fighting ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Obasanjo.

 “We want to let Buhari know that his problem with the country is el-Rufai. It was this same el-Rufai that was abusing Buhari when he was in the cabinet of Obasanjo that is now fighting ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo and all the fingers that fed him just because he has lost out of the PDP hoping that when Buhari becomes President in 2015, he would be given a job. 

We are giving el-Rufai seven days ultimatum to inform Nigerians and the world the person he claims to know that gave Pastor Ayo his private Jet. If he fails to do that, we will open up on him and his dirty life. El-Rufai stinks to the highest heaven. He is morally depraved and lacks credibility.”

I’ll like to meet whoever drafted this petty statement and give him a holy smack. WTH! Do you have to wait for him to insult your president before exposing him if it is in public interest? Are those in the executive arm of CAN this silly to resort to idiotic retort? Does it have to be Muslim versus Christian all the time? I really don’t get it; El-Rufai tweeted/granted his interview as a private citizen of Nigeria, he did not take the Christians on or CAN for that matter. He expressed an opinion about Ayo Oritsejafor as a person and it is up to readers to weigh the sensibility of his words and expressions, deduce and put him in his place – if necessary. Christians have equally lambasted Oritsejafor. Why didn’t they cry over it? And by implications of their statement, it seems Pastor Oritsejafor is on a higher pedestal than Jesus Christ.

For CAN to go defensive, unbearably silly and threaten to expose El-Rufai’s moral depravity when pushed to the wall, says more about them and the cult of an organization they run. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to disprove El-Rufai’s claim on the private jet or the near-silly way their president purrs anytime the presidency calls than the silly, irresponsible and religiously childish statement they have released?

El-Rufai might have been too harsh in his statements, but it necessarily doesn’t make them untrue or derogatory. We have had to listen to Asari Dokubo, Wykes, Oronto Douglas, Reuben Abati, Doyin ‘Lion’ Okupe, Labaran Maku, Reno Omokri and several others weave their stupidity around words, castigating reason and canonizing devilish intents. Never did they respond to these statements by cautioning these men but their president jumps on his high horse whenever Buhari or El-Rufai sneezes. Why won’t they respond? And to add substance to the arguments, El-Rufai wasn’t wrong.

Forget El-Rufai. Forget the great Muslim-Christian debate. Forget CAN. Now, just examine the attack and the subsequent threat it elicited. Examine Pastor Oritsejafor’s previous statements and posturing. Some people build, some people destroy but those who stay in the middle are the real villains. CAN have not been a religious body for a while, joining NLC, TUC, NANS etc. in ignominy. They are the religious arm of the presidency and their president flaunts it at any opportunity given, so a little jolt isn’t bad to remind them of their responsibilities. Have they checked out how the Sultan of Sokoto carries himself around lately? If not, they should. It might teach them a thing or two about civility and decorum. That’s all.

 

I’m @deboadejugbe

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goodluck-Goodluck-Jonathan2

It is called the danger of a single opponent.

Quick question: What is the name of the Chairman of your Local Government Area? No idea? How long has s/he been in office? No idea, I guess. Ok, this should be easier. Who is the member representing your constituency in the House Of Representatives or in your State House of Assembly? What bill has s/he sponsored that will improve the socio-economic condition of the people in the constituency? Still no idea? If I was P-Square this is where I would say ‘Haba, habatically!’ But I am in a good mood today so, since most of us cannot provide answers to the foregoing questions, I will ask a bonus question. Who or what is the problem with Nigeria? I can almost hear the chorus: ‘Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP!’ Funny, yet sad.

The haste with which certain individuals rush to pin everything wrong with Nigeria on President Goodluck Jonathan has made one begin to question the motives of these accusers, and these suspicion gets confirmed with the daily occurrences in the polity.

When, on Tuesday, July 16 2013, Senator Ahmed Sani (Yeriman Bakura), from Zamfara State, raised a motion in the Senate that led to a reversal of an earlier vote to expunge from the Constitution of the Federal Republic a clause that effectively gives the entire nation’s imprimatur to a paedophile’s marriage to an underage bride, all the stops were pulled the next day on Nigeria’s social media with the hash tag #ChildNotBride.

Commendably, the campaigns have moved from ‘mere online rants’, as some described it, to active engagements with law makers. The attempt however by some opposition politicians to drag the President’s name and office into the ignoble affair is, to say the least, sickening. They have deliberately developed amnesia, forgetting that Senator Sani who caused the unfortunate and controversial reversal is not of the PDP but a chieftain of the opposition. They also chose to turn a blind eye to how the Senators representing them voted on the fateful day. The President’s Special Assistant on New Media, Reno Omokri, also got involved in the shameful mudslinging when he tweeted that it was an APC Senator that moved the motion, forgetting that, out of the 35 Senators who voted to retain the clause, 24 were from his PDP. This is what the mono-focus on Aso Rock causes; Blindness, amnesia, inter alia.

These Senators did what they did irrespective of their party affiliations. This disregard for individual political leanings is the type of synergy we need to employ if we must correct the ills as mudslinging never helped anyone. We are Nigerians first before belonging to our different political parties. Like it or not, humanity will always trump politics.

The rancour between Governor Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike, Minister of State for Education, has also often been blamed on the President with a total disregard for the personal ambitions of these men and how that can influence the course they take in their individual political navigations. Both men are from the same region in the state that produced the governor which makes it improbable for Mr Wike to want to aspire for governorship after Amaechi’s tenure, leaving the race for the Senate in 2015 as a veritable reason for dissension. Regardless of the Jonathans’ interest in Rivers State politics, the responsibility for the restive situation in the state should be put on the laps of these two.

I shook my head when I read of the visit of the governors of Kano, Jigawa, Niger, and Adamawa States to Gov Amaechi. These governors all have their states in the grip of Boko Haram terrorists but they ignore that log of wood in their eyes to go and talk about the dust in Amaechi’s eye. This is what happens when you cannot identify who your real opponent is.

Agreed, Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency leaves much to be desired judging by the way he has handled power supply, insecurity issues, corruption and allied matters, and the country’s indebtedness to others. The fact remains however that we have neglected other arms and levels of government as if they do not share in the blame when we talk about Nigeria’s under-development. It is high time we talked about electing the right people into every level of government. Except if we say these offices do not matter.

One last question: Do you know what your Local Government Chairman is doing right now?

Kindly leave your comments in the comments section.
Follow @CollinsUma on Twitter

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al mustapha
MUSINGS

It is better for 99 guilty persons to be set free, than for one innocent person to be sent to prison. That – or something to that effect – is the spirit of the Law. There is a presumption of innocence for anyone accused of perpetrating criminality, until a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise.

In light of the recent release of Major Hamza al-Mustapha from prison custody, following his acquittal by an appellate court in the case of the murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the presumed winner of the June 12 1993 Presidential Elections, MKO Abiola; and the mixed reactions that have greeted it; the opening lines of this piece may come across as though his release joyed this writer. Far from it. I am one of those who feel, and for good reasons too, that al-Mustapha, following his ignominious role in the Sani Abacha administration and the fear that his name, not to imagine his presence, invoked in the minds of serving Generals in that administration, was very capable of the crime he was accused of and methinks he had plenty of motive to eliminate Mrs. Abiola, whose crusades to see her husband released from detention, was discomforting to the administration.

The truth is that motive, a witness statement, and a preponderance of prima facie evidence, together with a groundswell of public opprobrium against the accused; are not enough to secure a conviction in a court of law. The key ingredient that was undoubtedly missing in the al-Mustapha saga, was a diligent prosecution by the State. For one, to put witnesses on the stand who find cause to recount their earlier testimonies, is a major minus to the chances of any legal team to get victory at the courts. A situation that saw the key prosecution witness, Sergeant Barnabas Jabila (aka Sgt. Rogers), reported to have made contradictory depositions, was a pointer to an unwholesome prosecution. Further, it is a trite saying in the legal parlance, that, “justice delayed, is justice denied”. Fourteen years is too long a time, for anyone to be standing trial, even for the most grievous of offences. The al-Mustapha trial served to bring to the fore, the inadequacies of the Nigerian judiciary. We are aware that thousands of Nigerians have been kept in prison custody for years, while the State is yet to commence their trial. The seeming sympathy that al-Mustapha received is a function of the high profile nature of his case, and the fact that the case has been in the public domain.

As for Kudirat Abiola, it is unfortunate that justice has continued to elude her. Her case is a representation of the innumerable number of instances in which the judiciary, and by extension, the Nigerian State, has consistently failed Nigerians. Ordinary Nigerians are being killed daily by gun-wielding marauders, be they assassins, armed robbers, or kidnappers who had their abduction go bloody. Justice continues to be elusive to many. The elite class is as exposed to this elusive justice, as the class of the commoners. The only difference, being that in the case of the elite, there’s some pretence on the part of the authorities to get the assailants and serve the course of justice. It ought to be noted, however, that for the elite, it is mostly a case of politically motivated killings, or targeted assassinations sponsored by competitors in the business environment. Whatever be the case, it appears to me, that since the inglorious era of military rule, there are ample reasons to indict the political leadership of the time, of complicity, if not outright culpability in the perpetration of the killings. The reason is not far-fetched. Since the murder of Dele Giwa, high profile assassinations tend to eliminate persons adjudged to be causing some measure of inconvenience to the government of the day.

It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that a certain hypothesis begins to take shape in ones mind. The chances of solving the murder of a high profile individual is directly proportional to whether or not the victim’s elimination, makes things easier for the government of the day. In other words, who benefits from the murder? Is it a coincidence that most of the unsolved murders in the land, happened to victims who were not too friendly to the government? Do we then expect such governments to uncover the perpetrators?

The al-Mustapha case is an example of justice being turned on its head, as no matter how one looks at it, the State has again failed to perform its most sacred duty of ensuring the security of life and property; and where life had been violently taken, the State again has failed to bring the perpetrators to book. That said, we must not be unmindful of the dramatic twist in the case. How often is it, that a higher court has had course to reverse a conviction in a murder case, and in the same breath, discharged and acquitted the criminal suspects? Very rarely do we find such in these parts. It is the contention of some, that a retrial, would have been more like it. But this is Nigeria. We all seem to be authorities in every field of endeavour even when we are obviously unaware of the intricacies that abound therein.

For the friends and family of al-Mustapha, their joy is understandable. But to many other Nigerians in the court of public opinion, there is no way in which the man would be unconnected with the murder of Kudirat Abiola. He must have been responsible for her death, to some degree. But do we really know? Would we ever know? The law is said to be an ass to be ridden by all manner of people. For Alhaja Kudirat, her family and friends, justice is still undoubtedly an alien concept. It does not exist in these shores. While we must continue to feel the pain of the Abiola family, that saw the man and his wife face death in questionable circumstances; we should understand that injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice, everywhere. Ordinary Nigerians are being killed and maimed daily, and we carry on unperturbed, or is it out of sheer helplessness? But when a high profile gladiator is served a similar fate as the commoners are forced to experience daily, we become self-righteous advocates and social crusaders for the course of justice. A State that cannot protect the common man, however uncommon he may be, cannot and will not protect the elitist oligarchy.

The lives of each Nigerian must mean something to us. If al-Mustapha should not be made to face an unending trial, no other Nigerian should. If Kudirat’s murder must be solved, so must every other murder in the land. We must begin to place premium on the life of our citizens, rich or poor; in government or out of government.

SIDELINES:
The Nigerian Senate has effectively legalised child marriage and in essence, canonised pedophilia. In their estimation, any woman (girl) who is married, must be treated as having come of age.
Did you see the video of (dis)Honourable Farouk Lawan receiving bribes from Femi Otedola to influence the fuel subsidy probe by the House of Representatives Committee that Lawan chaired? Are you unaware that Farouk Lawan is still part of the Legislature that has Ahmed Yerima, the number one child marriage proponent, as a Senator, that meets in the so-called hallowed chambers of the National Assembly?

Where is the anger? Where is the outrage?

I am on Twitter as @efewanogho.

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elrufai

In the days and weeks leading up to the faux pax that became the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) election, the Katsina state governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema was mentioned severally as a possible compromise candidate, largely on account of what some perceive as his ‘performance’ as governor. The same was said of late Umaru Yar’Adua even though most residents of the state vehemently disagreed then, and now. Shema is being touted as the likely running mate of President Jonathan if he is able to secure the nomination of his party to run for another term as president.

What is it about this man – Ibrahim Shema – that elicits such strongly ambivalent reactions? What is his style of governance and financial prudence, and why is it that so many think there is more to him that meets the eye in the way he runs Katsina state? How are the state’s finances and budget managed? If Shema is doing well in this area, why did the state house of assembly suspend the minority leader because he criticized the government’s poor budget implementation? We will analyze the 2013 budget of the state today to assist our readers answer some of these questions.

Barrister Ibrahim Shema claims to focus his administration’s six development priorities; Education, Agriculture, Human Development, Infrastructure, Health and Crafts. It appears that in Katsina lingo, human development does not equal investments in education and healthcare, as the three are treated separately. Beyond this definitional incompetence however, a look at Katsina’s 2013 budget reveals a level of policy misdirection, indeterminate political will to address the priorities of the state, allocation of funds to areas where monitoring is difficult, and level of non-implementation of past budgets that amounts to impunity.

First, a little history. Carved out of old Kaduna State in September 1987, Katsina is located in Nigeria’s North West and borders Niger Republic, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa States. Its land mass is approximately 24,000 square kilometers with a population of about 5,801,584 people in 34 Local Government Areas. Its capital is Katsina City. The state has commercial deposits of kaolin and asbestos.

Then Colonel Abdullahi Sarki Mukhtar was the first governor of the state (September 1987-July 1988), and was succeeded by other military governors. The first civilian governor was Saidu Barda, while immediate past President Umaru Musa Yaradua governed the state from May 1999- May 2007. Katsina is home to two past presidents; Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and Umaru Musa Yaradua. Other Katsinawa dignitaries include late General Hassan Usman Katsina, Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former Chief Justice of the Federation Mohammed Bello, two past Inspector’s General of Police: Mohammed Dikko Yusuf and Ibrahim Coomassie, and pioneer Chairman of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Hamza Rafindadi Zayad amongst others. Katsina is home to some of the best and brightest of Nigerian public servants, politicians and military top brass. Will the state’s current budgetary practices produce such quality elites in the future? Let us present the data and you answer the question!

The total budget for Katsina State in 2013 is N112,757,487,475 (One Hundred and Twelve Billion, Seven hundred and Fifty Seven Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Seventy Five Naira only). The budget would be financed through some N14, 561,712,643 or 12.9% of the proposed budget realizable from internally generated revenue and some N74.5bn (66.7%) receivable in Federal Allocation. With total revenues at N89bn, what is evident is that the state would need to borrow some N23bn or 20% of its budget from external sources – loans and grants.

The capital provision is some N80,931,809,320 (Eighty billion Nine hundred and Thirty One million, Eight hundred and Nine thousand, Three hundred and Twenty thousand naira only) which is a commendable 71.7% of the entire budget. The State has about 43 MDAs which would cost taxpayers some N31,825,678,155 (Thirty One billion Eight hundred and Twenty Five million, Six hundred and Seventy Eight thousand one hundred and fifty five thousand naira only) or 28.2% in recurrent expenditure – an average of about N700 million per MDA.

Personnel costs would gulp some 17.2% of the entire budget sum or N19,434,384,200 (Nineteen Billion Four Hundred and Thirty Four Million, Three Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand Two Hundred Naira Only) while overhead costs are N7,975,267,830 (Seven Billion Nine Hundred and Seventy Five Million Two Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty naira only) some 7.07% and consolidated revenue charge is apportioned N4,416,026,125 (Four Billion, Four Hundred and Sixteen Million, Twenty Six Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Five naira Only) 3.9%.
With its projected internally generated revenue of N14,561,712,643, Katsina State has to rely on external loans or Federal allocations to fully fund its personnel cost or staff salaries which are only a part of its total recurrent budget. Plainly put, the state spends more than it earns on government bureaucracy, and falls in the class of “parastatal states” that cannot stand on their own without a lifeline from Abuja.

A sectoral breakdown of the capital allocation of the budget reveals the following structure: N31.3 billion (27.8%) for the economic sector, N16.5 billion (14.6%) for social services, N26.9 billion (23.9%) for regional development, N2.9 billion (2.6%) for general administration, N750 million (0.6%) for the legislature, a provision of N2 billion (1.7%) for miscellaneous expenses and a measly N341.4 million (0.3%) for the judiciary.

At N21.6 billion, the largest departmental allocation is for road construction, Education is allocated some N13.6 billion, Health got N1.6 billion, Agriculture which employs the majority of Katsina’s working population is allocated only N7.8 billion, and Water Supply some N9.5 billion. Are these capital investments enough to register sectoral improvements in the face of poverty challenges the state faces?

According to the Nigeria Poverty Profile (2010), the North West Zone has the highest incidence of absolute poverty in Nigeria with a 70% prevalence rate, the North East 69%, the North Central 59.5%, the South East 58.7%, the South South 55.9% and the South West 49.8%. At 74.5% Katsina State has the highest poverty prevalence amongst all states in the region and the Shema-led administration thus far has taken no deliberate steps to address this. Under the economic sector there is a paltry capital allocation of only N276 million (0.2%) to manufacturing, a paltry N214,019,000 (0.1%) capital provision for Women Empowerment under the Ministry of Women Affairs and only N100 million (0.08%) under the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the states Youth Empowerment Program (Youth Action Plan). These figures are absurd, demonstrating that there is no political will to address the endemic poverty facing most the population in the state.

From the private sector angle, the state shows even more damning figures. The state has virtually no functioning private agro-allied and manufacturing facilities. According to the World Bank 2010 Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria rankings, the state is ranked 25 amongst the 36 Nigerian States and the FCT, it involves 9 procedures and would take 37 days to start a business in Katsina State. In light of the foregoing, it would be expected that the government would be investing heavily in small and medium enterprises, encouraging and incentivizing businesses to set up shop in the state through tax breaks and infrastructural investments with a view to creating a more conducive business climate. Sadly, this is not the case. Capital allocations for the 2013 fiscal year are N350million (0.3%) for Small and Medium Enterprises, only N280.8million (0.2%) for economic affairs, N1.3billion (1.2%) for finance, and low level of investments in providing municipal services and transportation that could lower the cost of doing business in the state.

Investments in education are ambivalent. While the Shema-led government deserves commendation for the expansion and modernization of classrooms in the state and for being the only Nigerian state with a Department for Girl Child Education and Child Development, teacher quality in the state is one if the worst in Nigeria. According to the UBEC 2010 education profile the qualified teacher to student ratio in Katsina State is 1 teacher to 208 students, its neighbor Kaduna has a ratio of 1 teacher to 58 students. And there is no indication of things getting better; in 2013, only N124,731,000 would be spent on recruiting new teachers, N55million would be spent on teacher welfare and N900million on grants and subventions. There appears to be no special and significant programme to raise teacher quality through training and other incentives.

There is a N12.5million provision for training and staff development and another N2million for in service training and workshop, however these provisions were also made in the 2012 budget with no actual expenditure as at December 31st the same year. One wonders what good these provisions are if they are simply recorded and not actually expended. Delaying or deferring training of staff is suicidal in this century. Katsina’s budget appears to be for debate and passage by the legislature but not for focused implementation!

Katsina has a JSS enrollment rate of about 33% and is the second lowest in the North West zone; Jigawa has the lowest enrollment rate with 22%. Zamfara has the highest enrollment rate with 53%, Kebbi 43%, Kaduna 38%, Kano 34%. Of 21,389 pupils from Katsina State that sat for the 2012 University and Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME), only 3767 scored 200 and above. It is clear that the state suffers a grave education deficit; the government has to channel its resources both financial and physical to training and re-training teachers and increasing school enrollment rates.

The health of Katsina citizens seems even worse than education in budgetary terms. According to the 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), Katsina State has the highest incidence of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria with 65% of all cases recorded nationwide. In contrast, Edo State has the lowest rate at 2.9%. Mortality rate in Katsina is also high; the current teenage mortality rate is about 0.822 per 1000 women and the bulk of recorded incidences are from the North, with factors ranging from unsafe abortions, pregnancy complications, poor antenatal care that lead to the increase of birth related deaths which abound in Katsina. Katsina was one if worst places in the world to be a teenage girl based on the NDHS of 2008 under Shema’s watch.

The state has shown some efforts to stemming this tide though, even if too little too late – some N180 million is set aside for purchase of drugs and dressing, N400 million for staff training and development. A 169 bed Turai Yaradua maternal and child hospital has been completed at a cost of N860.5 million, a N552 million provision is also made for a 270 bed orthopedic hospital which would reportedly cost the state N1.6 billion upon completion. All these include about N185 million that was spent in 2009 to purchase 34 mobile ambulances which have thus far eased the provision of health services to rural communities.

The spending priorities of the Shema led government puts road construction as its first priority, this is hardly ideal considering that the state has a high disease burden, the country’s highest poverty rate and a crumbling education system. What Katsina needs more of is not roads but more education and healthcare investments. Road contracts are easy to award to party apparatchiks and well-connected construction firms, while raising quality of human capital is harder and less profitable. The choice is up to Shema to make.

The state must refocus its priorities beginning with a slimmer and cost efficient government. It must also as a matter of urgency allocate more funds to education, health and agriculture. It must invest more in providing potable water for the population as well as to farmers for irrigation. Katsina must lower its cost if doing business and evolve innovative ways to begin the exploration and export of its abundant mineral resources. That is the only way to secure the future of Katsina’s young people. The current approach only makes Shema and his small circle of political actors happy while the future looks bleak for the many.

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Debo Adejugbe
Watching political events unfold in Nigeria is akin to viewing the rough cut of a badly written, woefully directed and idiotically produced Nollywood movie. You will actually see some movements when there is none, it doesn’t really matter if you are using a first class device or not. The plot involves an everyday certified process of cooking, washing, kissing someone, fighting and in general, an unencumbered display of rehearsed idiocy by the likes of Mr. Ibu, Nkem Owoh or Aki and Pawpaw. Exciting and disgusting, isn’t it?

That, exactly, is the feeling you have when listening to a Nigerian politician strut his stuff on national television. They talk without depth, lacking conviction and showing obvious signs that they don’t even believe what they are saying. Yet, we clap on and hail them as messiahs.

It explains little about their intentions though. We are burdened with listening to their half-baked lies and repetitive promises (one they never intended to keep) of light, water, roads and food. It is obvious that Nigeria is a backward country by many standards and the quality of discourse on the political scene lends irrefutable credence to this assertion. They campaign about their lack of shoes (never mind that they are lying) while growing up to how they have nothing –including a working brain- and promise heaven on earth without a plan on how to do it.

Fast forward to when the elections come into place, new mathematical formulas are devised. The 1979 elections was a watershed moment in our electoral history, in the sense that many interpretations of a particular provision in the electoral law sprang up. Depending on which camp you belonged or which calculations you applied, there were no winners, both Shehu Shagari and Obafemi Awolowo couldn’t fulfill the requirements of the law but our revered Supreme Court Justices proceeded to mush up the “clumsily worded section”. It also applies to the 1993 elections when Ibrahim Babangida had troubles with what exactly constituted the majority in a free and fair election.

You must be getting bored. I know. Let us quickly review the NGF elections and my claim that Nigerian politicians are mathematically challenged. In an election where two (2) candidates contested for a seat and thirty five (35) people were involved in the proceedings without anyone abstaining; it took the emergence of a secretly recorded video for us to understand what actually happened. Bear in mind that 35 is an odd number, meaning that a winner must emerge if no one abstains (as it happened).

The crux of the matter became: 16 or 19, which is higher? As ridiculous as it sounds, they actually had trouble understanding the mathematics involved in recognizing the arithmetic sequence that will determine the higher number. Our President must be one of those arithmetically challenged individuals. He actually congratulated Jonah Jang of Plateau on his success at the NGF elections and hosted his faction which has the “superior number” of 14 in their ranks.

This takes me to the days of Obasanjo. From Ladoja’s impeachment in Oyo State to the sack of Peter Obi in Anambra State one thing stood out; our politicians lack basic knowledge of arithmetic. It is alien to their culture.

So, I wasn’t really surprised when all it took to impeach the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly was the “majority of 5 lawmakers”. It made sense and validated what most of us have suspected long ago, that Nigeria is a country where logic has no value. More importantly, to our political class, 16 is greater than 19 while 5 can form the two-third of any number higher than 20 when it matters -shrewd thinking right?

In a move that reechoed the impeachment of Joshua Dariye as Governor of Plateau State by a 5-man House of Assembly (with Federal might at their disposal) in November 2006 and the subsequent swearing-in of his deputy as Governor, the Rivers State house of Assembly, with 5 members –and a glaring presidential backing- thrust the sword out and slashed the constitution in a show of shame befitting only the lowest of animals, destroying a “fake maze” and tacitly elevating the first lady to the position of a kingmaker.

This is 2013. it is just few months before landmines prepared for the next general elections -that so many people believe is the “breakpoint” in our history- start claiming victims (I don’t share this sentiment) and we are already witnessing political maneuverings that is fast eclipsing the darkest moments of the Obasanjo presidency; all under a shoeless and “humble” president. It looks like we are in for a treat.

I’m still wondering how we got to this point. I do know, but I never imagined that we would just discard the valuable lessons learnt under the Obasanjo autocracy and suppress them as just bad patches. The more our political class practices their voodoo arithmetic when elections are concerned, the more ominous it gets for us to actually boast of a “partially free” election.

Like I pointed out in the beginning of this piece, it has been a long time coming and the changes we have seen is that their voodoo arithmetic has evolved over time. In the next few years, with the rate we are evolving, Five (5) people will elect the president of Nigeria with no one seeing anything wrong with it. We would have truly evolved……in a country where the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has more budgetary allocation than its power sector and Agricultural/Rural development.

I’m @deboadejugbe

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Rivers Mayhem

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. It was a week we should have rolled out the drums in celebration, it was a week we wished never happened. A self-contradictory week. In all, a week that defined, in the best of terms, the people we have become. The Giant of Africa yet so infantile. When people ask “How did we get here?” I often ask “When did we ever leave here?” Our greatest achievements, both individually and as a group, have always been against the backdrop of the worst of situations. That is who we are. We are the endangered. We are the danger. We are the predator. We are the prey. We are Ying. We are Yang. The ones that proceed from among as shining lights only but represent a synthesis of this thesis and anti-thesis.

So it was that the week began with a lot to cheer. Out of a nation with the highest number of out-of-school children came four out of the five finalists for this year’s prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing. Tope Folarin, Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Chinelo Okparanta stood gallant and proud, joined by Sierra Leone’s Pede Hollist, as the finalists out of 96 entries from 16 African countries. Tope Folarin took home the prize but the day was Nigeria’s to celebrate.

As I write this the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Academic Staff Union of Polythecnics (ASUP) are still on strike following the failure of the Federal and State governments to implement agreements on issues affecting the lecturers belonging to each union. In spite of this our young writers still win literary awards. Imagine what will happen if we have a government that gave adequate attention to education. It is not impossible.

On Tuesday the other side of us chose to reject its suppression. Five members of the Rivers State House of Assembly got a revelation that the five of them can (somehow) constitute a two-third majority in a house of 32 members and impeach the Speaker of the House. So they sat and impeached the Speaker and appointed a new ‘Speaker’ from among themselves. The rest is on YouTube.

Several commentators have blamed the Rivers crises on President Goodluck Jonathan because of the much publicised rancour between Governor Chibuike Amaechi and the Jonathans. As risky as it is to take things at face value, the truth however remains that all the actors in this show of shame are adults. It is therefore unfair in all ramifications to totally absolve them of the responsibility for their actions. This is beyond a PDP family affair as their actions have brought shame on a whole nation and they must be made to live with the consequences of this ignominy.

The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, is another man with questions to answer. On Wednesday his men reportedly shot canisters of tear gas into the compound of the Rivers State government house as Governor Amaechi’s supporters thronged to show their support to the governor. This was the evidence of the height of disrespect the commissioner has for the governor of the state. Of course, the Rivers State Police Command denied that anything like that happened regardless of the insistence of the Commissioner of Information, Ibim Semenitari’s claims that policemen fired tear gas into the government house. Somebody is lying. Who?

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, got into the fray when, on Thursday, it was reported that he laid the blame for the crises entirely on the feet of the Jonathans, particularly Patience Jonathan who he described as a “mere domestic appendage”. Was Soyinka right in describing her with that phrase? Should she be as obvious as she has been with her interest in how Rivers state is being governed, being the wife the of the President? Should she be less obvious with her interests even though she is an indigene of the state, irrespective of her position as wife of the President? No matter the answers to these questions, the fact remains that Dame Patience Jonathan needs to apply a little more diplomatic finesse and panache befitting of her position to her conduct. Promoting the spirit of dissension in her own home state to the point of being a politician’s Jesus Christ just does not cut it.

Friday came with some news received with joy in some quarters and sadness in others. No, I’m not talking about Dame Jonathan’s reply to Soyinka. It is up to her to tell us what she meant by Amaechi’s ‘launch into a river without applicable survival skills’. I am talking about Hamza Al-Mustapha’s early Ramadan gift. He left Kirikiri Prisons to a hero’s welcome in Kano. The Abiola family, one of whom he was accused of murdering during the Abacha days, are not celebrating the court verdict. I am not a lawyer so I will not debate the judgment. However, I believe Al-Mustapha is being celebrated in the North simply because is a Northerner. Most of the people jubilating because of his release do not care if he was guilty or not, all they know is that he is their ‘son’ and, as such, should not be locked up, no matter what he has done. I also believe the jubilation would not be this loud if he was a Northern Christian. The twin concepts of Ethnicity and Religion cannot be eschewed just yet from Nigeria, in practice, try as we may. As a result, appraisals and ratings of groups and individuals, especially public officials, will continue to be subjective and skewed. Only in this light can we understand Goodluck Jonathan’s popularity in the South-South and Muhammadu Buhari’s massive followership in the North.

Coming after all these were some heart-warming news on Saturday. Nigeria is to receive a Guinea worm-free certification from the World Health Organisation (WHO). To be certified free by WHO, endemic countries must document the absence of indigenous cases of Guinea worm disease for at least three consecutive years. As at 2007, Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritania, Togo and Uganda had stopped transmission and Cameroun, Central Africa Republic, India, Pakistan, Senegal, and Yemen were WHO certified. It was therefore not commendable that Nigeria was still battling with the disease. This certification is something worthy of celebration considering that Nigeria used to be the world’s most Guinea worm endemic country in 1988.

Another cause for celebration on Saturday was the news that a group of Secondary School girls in Lagos have invented a generator that runs on urine. Yes, urine. One (1) litre of urine will power the generator enough to produce six (6) hours of electricity. Read the story on www.abusidiqu.com

Sunday came with the news of George Zimmerman being found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Of course those who hailed Al-Mustapha’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict were the same who condemned Zimmerman’s ‘Not guilty’ verdict.

Will this new week come with better news?

PS: Madiba Nelson Mandela is still alive! This is great news.
I hope I get to say that again by the end of this week after he’d have celebrated his 95th birthday on Thursday July 18. But even if I don’t get to say it, fact is, he will always live. He is one man whose good cannot be interred with his bones.

Follow the writer on twitter @CollinsUma

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Jude Egbas

Beehive

To absolve President Jonathan from the sabre rattling and horrific scenes emanating from Rivers State is to be politically naïve at best. At worst, it smacks of an attempt to bolt the stable long after the horse has fled, or to rewrite a shoddy movie script mid-way into its premiere.

I have read a few commentaries from ‘politically correct-minded’ essayists who have toed this line in the past week. I have also had a tough time reading the hollow and pedestrian offerings from the President’s spokespersons who have done such a poor job of exonerating the Otuoke aborigine from the Rivers State crises. Let’s face it: the events in Rivers State have the imprimatur and the insignia of the President smeared all over them. This is President Jonathan at his annihilistic best and we have to give him credit for it.

It is not even subterranean or masked anymore, come to think of it. All you need to do is read Evans Bipi’s lips and behold his dour face. Moments after the first fracas that had Chidi Lloyd and Kelechi Wogu (among others) convalescing in various hospitals, the self acclaimed new speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly asked the Governor why he was disrespecting the President. Still brimming with badly mangled tenses, Mr Bipi also elevated the first lady to the status of Jesus Christ. You could see and feel that he had the support of the first family overtly or covertly; one way or the other. If you still have problems pinning this on the President’s office door, read the statements from the trio of Abati, Okupe and Gulak as slowly as you possibly can. In one breath, they are exonerating their paymaster. And yet in another, they tell Amaechi to go clean up the mess he has heaped on himself.

President Jonathan has his eyes fixed on the ballot in 2015 and has become very power hungry (read ambitious) in the last couple of months. Here is the most powerful man in the land who has suddenly realized the extent of the power he wields and the enormous tools at his disposal to decimate anyone who crosses his path on his way to another term as President. Amaechi hasn’t helped his cause either: turning up late at Presidential dinners while insisting on shaking the President’s hands (I mean, is this dude insane or something?) and having a go at the Presidency at every public opportunity. He hasn’t fought his battles with the tact, nous and subtlety required of a politically savvy persona and for that he must take the flak.

But let his lack of finesse in crossing swords with the Jonathans not distract us from the President’s game plan here. In another era, Chief Nyesom Wike would be back in his homeland, looking for his next job and the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, would have long been redeployed or dismissed for poking his fingers right into the eyes of the State’s chief security officer—the one man who was elected by the people to watch their backs. But while the former still shows up at cabinet meetings with a smile and smirk on his face, the latter watches and applauds from the vantage position provided by his window as the hallowed chambers of the State Assembly devolves into a wrestling cauldron. They carry on, because while Aso Rock is quick to blame Amaechi for the woes in his State, it is not wielding the big stick because Wike and Mbu are fighting a common enemy.

The plan has always been to decimate Amaechi and make him realize the limits of braggadocio. It began before his jet was grounded, picked up steam when he was asked not to contest the NGF elections, went into full gear when he was suspended from his party for ‘anti-party activities’ and is presently careening into overdrive with the bare fists and mace-clubbing in Rivers State. Yes, President Jonathan may not be physically barking orders from a raised window sill while the mob tears itself apart from below him, but this fight fits his bill perfectly in making Amaechi politically irrelevant before 2015.

It’s a game of wits and muscles; of political brinkmanship and nerves of steel—ripped off the evergreen pages of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’. At the moment, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan could be said to be ahead of his opposite number, warts and all. The final ace may be Amaechi’s expulsion from the biggest party in Africa. And when that does happen, we would all look the other way and say the President was not involved.

@egbas

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EkekeCC

There’s a crisis in Rivers State, we all know. What some pretend to not know – or just choose to wish away – is the mastermind of the political crisis which full bitter taste is being forced down the throat of the state governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.

Amaechi, I must repeat, lost my sympathy the day he took sides with the government of President Jonathan on subsidy removal. I know we like to conveniently forget the many misdemeanors of our political officeholders, yet I have chosen to keep remembering how Rotimi rose in support of a federal government that was out to protect oil thieves under the guise of subsidy removal. What Amaechi was interested in was just money, excess money, for himself and his government. It didn’t matter that Nigerians in their millions were being forced to face a significant drop in standard of living which, in any case, was already at an all-time low.

It wouldn’t have mattered to me that Amaechi was being eaten up by the genie he personally created had the plot not involved the very symbol of democracy in Rivers state, the state legislature. Because democracy is involved, I think voices of patriots must be heard.

A boy sent by his father to steal usually kicks open with his leg his victim’s door. The boldness is seen in the unwillingness of the young thief to access the house through the window or ceiling, or even open the door by just tampering with the locks. The audacity of five lawmakers, in a legislature comprised of 32 members, to declare impeached their speaker carries with it every imprint of the boy sent to steal by his father. There must have been an assurance, from a quarter considered powerful, of protection, of ensuring the illegality stands. So they moved, and commenced the coup which degenerated into a free for all within the chamber where laws are enacted and order promoted.

As that was happening, the president, the source of the chaos, was away in China on a state visit. The renegade lawmakers and their Aso Rock strategists chose that moment fortified with the convenience of excuse to strike. It was a moment that could be easily explained away. After all the president isn’t even in town, neither is his wife. How could he have been behind the impeachment attempt?

Then, shortly after, the denials started flooding the media. The tones they carried said more than the message they made attempts to pass. The President’s aide on politics, Ahmed Gulak, unwittingly laid bare the disdain of his camp for Amaechi. Laying the crisis squarely on Amaechi’s shoulders, Gulak said; “The problem in Rivers State is the internal wrangling of the administration of the governor. It is sad that when there are crises in the assembly, the governor will physically drive to the House of Assembly to partake in the crises.”

It isn’t difficult to see that Amaechi’s was the case of giving the dog a bad name. One wonders what wrangling has to do with the dissent of a mere 15 percent of a legislature. Was Mr Gulak saying that every of the 32 lawmakers of Rivers state must love Rotimi Amaechi? For liberated minds, five against thirty two doesn’t in any way suggest that the governor is divisive in his state.

But if Gulak was able to hide some things, Ayo Osinlu, Patience Jonathan’s spokesperson, could not. Reacting to Professor Wole Soyinka’s comments blaming his principal for the crisis in Rivers state, Osinlu erroneously allowed discerning minds a peep into the First Lady’s anger with Amaechi. Hear him: “It’s an embarrassment to his throng of admirers and followers, that a sage of Prof. Soyinka’s status, who used to be a gauge of public morality in this nation, would lend himself to a propaganda of high drive, to save a governor who elected to launch into a river without applicable survival skills.”

Of particular interest is Mr Osinlu’s description of Amaechi as a governor who elected to launch into a river without applicable survival skills. Amaechi’s launch into a river is only known to the Jonathans. But my guess is that his recent transparent defeat of Jonathan’s candidate at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) election could be part of the launch into a river. It was a sin against Emperor Jonathan and Her Majesty, Queen Patience for Amaechi to have contested. Under their rule and reign, men dare not express their democratic rights to aspire to political positions, and whoever does that stands to be dealt with. And because ours is a mockery of a federation, all the forces in Nigeria are unleashed on the politician with an opinion different from the president’s.

Mr Jonathan’s tenure that’s barren of results isn’t by chance, but by design. His is an administration focused more on amassing personal powers – be it financial or political – than giving an ear to the myriad of challenges crippling Nigeria. As his courtiers compete on how to outperform one another in helping to castrate his political enemies, the Nigeria he’s sitting atop keeps sliding, more than ever, into decay.

In its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer released just recently, Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the 8th most corrupt country in the world. In that league of the ignoble, we compete with the likes of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Russia. That is Jonathan’s country where N240b was appropriated for subsidy payments but over N1 trillion spent without any head rolling. That is Jonathan’s country where a minister very close to the president himself has been indicted for corruption by six different panels, yet she still calls the shots. That’s Jonathan’s country where the corruption-fertilizing president himself declared that corruption wasn’t the nation’s problem. That’s Jonathan’s country where school kids are massacred in their hostels and no heads get to roll.

The outcome of the corruption fest which Jonathan and his spin-doctors oversee is that Nigeria, which contributes just 2 percent to the global population, now contributes a horrendous 10 percent to the burden of maternal mortality in the world. Another outcome is that 112 million citizens live in squalor while those in government and close to government swim in splendor.

Countries who have less challenges than us do not consider themselves lucky with the luxury of time to pursue frivolities, yet ours facing almost a massive humanitarian crisis has a Goodluck Jonathan who has all the time in the world to plan and execute impeachment for a state governor who refused to succumb to executive servitude.

One has to wonder if shame isn’t one of the qualities of leadership. But again, that has to be where there is a leader. Nigeria can’t be said to have one.

Follow Chinedu on Twitter. He’s @Nedunaija

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Musings
MUSINGS

The Nigerian and international public space has undoubtedly been fouled up by the condemnable happenings at the Rivers State House of Assembly in the past few days. A scene of crass display of the heights of barbarian conduct that saw five legislators in a plot to sack the leadership of the House which enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of members in a thirty-two member parliament; which in itself was a culmination of strained relations between the State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, and the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, in league with other Abuja-leaning members of the PDP in Rivers State; purportedly over the ambition of Amaechi in the 2015 elections, believed to work at cross purposes with that of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is poised to seek reelection.

Thanks to citizen journalism and the information age, the screens of our television sets, computers, and mobile phones, have been greeted with the sordid show of shame by persons whose names are prefixed with the oft abused term of “honourable”, as they engaged in a free for all fight reminiscent of hoodlums who have no iota of civility in them, coming across as unmistakable examples of dishonourable conduct, as though they wanted to spite society for clothing them in robes which ought to be reserved for only those who have been tried and found worthy of honour. We must examine the situation dispassionately, while firmly resisting the temptation to take sides with any of the feuding parties.

We should not be like persons who are blinded by a cult-like following of personalities for whatever reasons, so much so that we do not see anything wrong with the conduct of certain sacred cows, even in the face of a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Also, we do not have to necessarily demonize certain persons because of predetermined opinions and positions we hold of them. That said; let’s attempt to answer the following posers.

First things first, is it not an aberration to democratic culture to have the minority in any given instance, have its way, against the position of the majority; irrespective of the backers or benefactors of the minority? For the minority to have its way, shouldn’t it be first transformed into the majority by convincing those on the other divide with superior argument and reasoning, and getting them to shift grounds on issues? Is it not a misnomer, in a society and assemblage of honourable men, to have in their midst, persons who revel in displaying mannerisms that are reflective of vestiges of their membership of some subterranean campus group of gangsters which knows only violence as the means to settling disputes with real and perceived enemies?

Is it proper to have as leader of any parliament, an individual who is an unpretentious stooge and puppet of the executive, be it at the State or Federal level? Are the independence of the legislature and the doctrine of separation of powers, served, when the legislature must pander to every whim and caprice of the Governor of the State or the President of the country, not because there is merit in the will of the executive, but because the leadership of the parliament owes its ascension to office on the “magnanimity” of the head of the executive?

Is it not an exercise in unmatched nollywood theatrics to find the House Leader of the parliament, pummeling a fellow member of the legislature to the point of inflicting bloody injuries to the head of that fellow parliamentarian, with any instrument; much less an instrument that seemed like the mace, the very symbol of authority of the House; only to find the same House Leader on a hospital bed, alleging that he was the victim of an onslaught of his opponents?

Is it proper for elected leadership of Local Government Areas, to be removed from office by the legislature, simply because such local leadership has fallen out of favour with the Governor of the State? Would it not be a situation of being paid in one’s own coin, if the President makes a bid to unseat the governor for no other reason than that he has also fallen out of favour with the President?

Is it not an affront on party supremacy to remain in a political party while openly serving the purpose and interests of an opposing party? Is it not more honourable to leave a political party when you find that you are increasingly at variance with the position of your party on critical issues?

Is it proper for a serving Police Commissioner to make disparaging remarks about a Serving Governor of the State in which he serves, and who enjoys the status of being the repository of the collective confidence of the electorate? Should such a Police Commissioner remain in office even when it is clear that he and the governor cannot work in sync for the good of the State?

Is it proper for the wife of the President to descend into the political arena, to pick sides in a fight between party members and erstwhile associates simply because one of the parties is perceived to hold aspirations which – if they materialize – would run counter to the aspiration of her husband? Is it proper for common criminals, beatified by the term of ex-militants, to hold street protests, calling for the head of an elected governor, for no other reason other than that he has legitimate ambitions?

Is it not a criminal offence for a Police orderly or ADC to a politician, to physically manhandle a member of the parliament of the State, even if the parliamentarian was a dishonourable honourable, save in the execution of a court order? Shouldn’t such a policeman be cooling his heels in jail at the moment?

Is it fathomable for violence to break out in an Assembly complex that is across the road from the State Headquarters of the Police Command, without the police making any arrests? Are the lawmakers-turned-lawbreakers, enjoying any immunity from arrest and prosecution? Wouldn’t the turning of a blind eye to such criminal tendencies, because politicians are involved, serve to further perpetuate the culture of impunity that has so brazenly made nonsense of our sociopolitical space?

Beyond making indicting remarks and sweeping condemnations on the actions of our public officeholders, we all share some degree of culpability or otherwise. I was born and bred in Port Harcourt; and I know that Rivers State has its fair share of honourable men and women, with requisite depth of character, and who are worthy to serve the common good. But how did the so-called men and women of honour, allow the charlatans, the basest among them, to wield the reins of power? How did our values as Africans who take pride in good name rather than riches; become spectators as persons of questionable upbringing and integrity, come to assume positions of leadership? Are we not all guilty of complacent indolence and a lethargic indifference that finds definition in our tendency to engage in a national culture of gossip as a pastime, in that, rather than confront the malaise of corruption-induced mediocrity in our various spheres of influence; we are content to whisper and murmur our discontent in hushed tones and then wait for the next anomaly to ensue.

The truth is that what goes around comes around. And, at the risk of sounding cynical, things would get bad – very very bad – before they get better; and yes; they would get better only at such a time that we would get so disturbed to be distracted from matters that pertain to our collective patrimony. Things would only get better at such a time when we decide that politics and political leadership are too important to be left to “professional” politicians. When that time comes, we would understand that there is nothing gentlemanly about being indifferent and politically apathetic. We would understand that it is not for nothing that it is said, that no man would be chasing rats about his house, while the very roof of his house was on fire. Right now, the guardians of our society are misdirected. Who will guard the guards themselves? Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

I am @efewanogho, on Twitter.

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Debo Adejugbe

On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 in Ado-Ekiti, The National Leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) endorsed the second term bid of Governor Kayode Fayemi with National Leader, Senator Bola Ahmed saying “there was no reason changing a winning team.” This was echoed by the National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and the National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed with the latter saying: “Fayemi is doing what we want him to do.”

Tinubu took it a notch further. He narrated the story of how Fayemi emerged and effectively put paid to the thoughts of any primary holding in the state for the governorship post, under ACN. He said: “Opeyemi (Bamidele) said we should field Kayode Fayemi as our candidate and we asked from Awe and the executive about the issue. We consulted widely, Niyi (Adebayo) was also involved……… Although we are still coming back for the official endorsement of Fayemi as our candidate and by then, we are going to roll out the drums and celebrate in a big way”.

A former Governor of the state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo was not left out. He effectively told one of the prospective candidates, Opeyemi Bamidele, to shove his ambitions somewhere, saying: “We will call him and talk to him. What Ope has done is not bad. He aspires and it is not bad to aspire but he will have to abide by the decision of party leaders”. It all sounds good then, you can aspire but you will not be given a level playing field (not even a field, in this case). Bamidele has replied them, standing his ground to slug it out with Fayemi in 2014. The case for disintegration is building up nicely……

One would have assumed that the ACN would have learnt from the sweeping defeat handed down to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) –the party that birthed ACN- by the PDP in 2003, the last time they made a blanket statement of support to all governors under the party and alienated founding members of the party. Bisi Akande, Niyi Adebayo (both in the Ekiti meeting), Lam Adeshina, Segun Osoba and Adebayo Adefarati all paid the price of sacrificing internal democracy to massage the ego of a few.

The recent governorship election in Ondo state is another example where they sacrificed the general good of the party to massage individual egos and one would have thought that the comprehensive and humiliating defeat they suffered in that election will teach them a democratic lesson. All that seem to have been lost in transit between Lagos and Ondo. There are several examples of cases where ACN has consistently flouted the democratic tenets, which they claim to stand for.

My concern is majorly hinged on the fact that progressives are aligning, scheming and springing up various permutations to dislodge the PDP in 2015; it is contradictory that the ACN champions itself as a bastion of democratic values while it continuously stands generally accepted democratic norms and the very foundation that democracy thrives on -people’s right to choose- on its head.

Few weeks ago, while berating the ACN and its leaders for their position on the state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan, a friend –if I can call him that- lampooned me (and others) saying we complain both about PDP and the opposition, stressing that we are a confused bunch. Inasmuch as I want PDP out of our lives desperately, the plan is not for them to be replaced by another PDP-wannabe who only talks but lack identifiable values that can stand democratic tests. Should we really overlook corrupt practices and malpractices because someone is in the opposition?

It seems to me that those who follow blindly, despite glaring absurdities, undemocratic practices and abuse of power are the confused ones. The plan is not to consistently lambast the opposition when they go wrong, the idea is to point them to the error of their ways and give them ample opportunity and time to correct the errors. The ACN has shown time and time again that participatory democracy and the workings of their party are mutually exclusive.

It wasn’t long ago that we criticized General Muhammadu Buhari’s position on Boko Haram and the Emergency Rule declared in some northern states. We also had some harsh words for our “Pastorlitician” Ayo Oritsejafor when he called for his arrest over comments anyone could have made as a free citizen. At this stage of national life, we ought to have transcended the habit of follow-I-follow-even-if-you-are-wrong when dealing with politicians.

I supported Buhari in 2011. That doesn’t mean I will do the same in 2015. That is why ACN Leadership’s endorsement of Fayemi is wrong on all accounts. Electorates within the party have the right to reassess their leaders to see if they measure up to the ever-changing standards required of their positions. For example, I wanted corruption gone at all cost in 2011 that I didn’t even ask for Buhari’s plan and how he intends to flush out the big-eyed monster. Now, in 2013, the consensus is that, though you can start at the top, there is need to have people strategically placed at all levels, to drive the initiative. And above all, there must be a valid and implementable plan that takes our unique terrain into consideration.

People’s requirements of their leaders are changing with every new threat emerging against their means of livelihood, children, homes, future and general way of life. They tend to remodel their idea of leadership to the times they live in and the various democratic constitutions and pronunciations help them choose sides to align with. It gives them the sole responsibility to choose their leaders, giving those who emerge the legitimacy to act on their behalf for a period of time –or, until they get fed up- and that is the principle we should all encourage every party to adhere to.

We have sold our rights to be heard for parcels of salt, promises of employment, tribal sentiments, and blind religious affiliations etc. in the past; now is the time to genuinely force all these parties and politicians to take us seriously. The power must be seen to reside with the people alone, and what better way to assert this notion than to punish parties that engage in “Choosocracy” –those who truncate our wills, to arbitrarily endorse without elections? ACN, as it stands, holds the key to how people view the APC alliance and they are squandering every good opportunity they have been given.

If we insist on internal democracy from opposition parties and they oblige, then, our voices would have been truly heard.

I’m @deboadejugbe