Opinion
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Chude Jideonwo

There is something curious that you might have noticed. Something as strange as it is weird. And it should worry you.

 

We don’t appear to know who ‘spoilt’ Nigeria.

 

‘Spoilt’ of course is the colloquial shorthand for all that ails our nation – corruption, poor leadership, stillbirth policy, diving quality of life, and gaping income inequality.

 

We complain about these things everyday. We moan and point fingers, bitter over the legacy handed to generations that are yet unable to bear them. We are frustrated because the smattering of best efforts don’t appear to lead us anywhere. The foundation is destroyed.

 

So we know that Nigeria is ‘spoilt’.

 

But who exactly ‘spoilt’ the country?

 

It turns out; no one ever takes responsibility for the state of our nation.

 

Let’s start from the beginning.

 

The quartet of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, not alone, who altogether led the team that secured Nigeria’s political independence and ensuring economic decline already escaped responsibility for our state of affairs.

 

These days it is impolitic to state certain ‘imperfections’ about these legends, as it were. That in 1943, the Saduana of Sokoto was accused by his cousin Alhaji Abubakar Saddique of misappropriating tax revenue as District Head of Gussau. That Dr. Azikiwe was accused of corruption in 1962 and a panel was set up by the chief whip of his party to investigate the misapplication of 2 million pounds under his watch as premier, a cloud under which he never emerged.

 

And of course, famously, that the great Obafemi Awolowo was, also in 1962, accused of diverting the funds of the Western Region’s government to his political party, conduct apparently confirmed by the Justice George Coker panel of inquiry.

“Before independence, there have been cases of official misuse of resources for personal enrichment (Storey, 1953),” notes a paper by University of Lagos professor of history, Michael Ogbeidi. “Over the years, Nigeria has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the citizens. The First Republic under the leadership of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, and Nnamdi Azikwe, the President, was marked by widespread corruption. Government officials looted public funds with impunity. Federal Representative and Ministers flaunted their wealth with reckless abandon. In fact, it appeared there were no men of good character in the political leadership of the First Republic. Politically, the thinking of the First Republic Nigerian leadership class was based on politics for material gain; making money and living well.”

He is talking about Nigeria’s “founding fathers”.

 

Instead of being held responsible for the parts that they have played, that they must have played, (since 1 plus 1 is equal to two) just after independence, in laying the foundations of a squandered promise, in addition to the Civil War that their actions precipitated, they are dealt with as benevolent fathers that bestowed the beauty of this nation unto us – a legacy one must assume the country is proud of since it celebrates them so urgently.

 

And Yakubu Gowon? The one who took after them? This is the president from under whom Nigeria’s oil boon began, where many historians can track the beginnings of our institutional waste and who oversaw a civil war the country has yet to recover from. He does not take responsibility for the state of the nation.

 

Shehu Shagari was 5-time minister from independence in 1960 – 1970 before he became president in 1979. His government was defined by corruption, and it is to him that we owe the pleasure of the Ajaokuta Steel Black Hole which he spent hundreds of millions in dollars on – with the raw material of rumoured kickbacks.

 

His programme to encourage mechanical machines in farming was hijacked by friends of the government who were retired military officers, and by the time oil prices began to fall in 1981, , the center could no longer hold.

“It was claimed that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost between 1979 and 1983 during the reign of President Shehu Shagari. It became quite common, for federal buildings to mysteriously go up in flames, most especially just before the onset of ordered audits of government accounts, making it impossible to discover written evidence of embezzlement and fraud. No politician symbolised the graft and avarice under Shagari’s government more than his combative Transport Minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, who was alleged to have mismanaged about N4 billion of public fund meant for the importation of rice.”

Failure heavy enough that when General Muhammadu Buhari took over in a coup on December 31, 1983, the nation breathed a sigh of relief. Shagari was released from detention for personal corruption in 1986, and banned from politics for life.

 

Has he ever taken responsibility for anything, yet?

 

Then, of course, there was the legendary Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, under whose government Nigeria’s made leaps and bounds in corruption, ruining our reputation in narcotics trade and advanced economic fraud and whose government oversaw the disappearance of the $12.4b (or less, but certainly billions of dollars, based on the thorough Pius Okigbo Commission Report) from what we now call the Gulf War Windfall of 1991.

“If anything, corruption reached an alarming rate and became institutionalized during Babangida’s regime,” Ogbeidi reports. “Leaders found guilty by tribunals under the Murtala Mohammed and Mohammadu Buhari regimes found their way back to public life and recovered their seized properties.

“According to Maduagwu: Not only did the regime encourage corruption by pardoning corrupt officials convicted by his predecessors and returning their seized properties, the regime officially sanctioned corruption in the country and made it difficult to apply the only potent measures, long prison terms and seizure of ill-gotten wealth, for fighting corruption in Nigeria in the future.”

Asked, in 2015, how he built his mansion in Minna, Babangida told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (so that the irony can be complete), that it was generous, benevolent people who will remain unnamed that built it, of course.

 

“I know what my friends spent. No, my friends contributed,” he said, because we are all fools and reason is dead. “They were friends before we came into government and friends while I was in government. I started building it in 1991, took two to three years so that by the time I finished, I would have a house to sleep in.”

 

More than once you must have heard Babangida bemoan the state of the nation, complain about the collapse of morals and enjoin Nigerians to work hard and believe in the country,

 

We have really suffered.

 

“If what I read in the newspapers is currently what is happening then I think we were angels (in my government),” he said, without falling off his chair and hitting his head on the floor from shame. “My government was able to identify corruption-prone areas and checked them. If you remember in this country, there were things they call essential commodities. These are also sources of corruption. You go and buy ‘omo’ or food or whatever it is and we got government to take its hands off such activities. Let people use their own brains, hands and labour, nobody has to do it for them. I am proud to say that was much more effective. I give you an example; in a year I was making less than $7billion in oil revenue. In the same period, there are governments that are making $200billion to $300billion.”

 

Not even a dollar of responsibility taken, despite holding leadership of this country for the longest, his irresponsibility costing us the results of a free and fair election and plunging us into half a decade of pure Abacha-rian madness.

 

Babangida too does not know who spoilt Nigeria.

 

Olusegun Obasanjo, who oversaw the democratic transition that led Nigeria into Shagari, apart from playing his own questionable part in the carnage against the citizens of Biafra, and whose grand gestures as temporary president in the 70s did not translate into positivity for nation, would also say he is not part of those that spoilt Nigeria.

 

Then he returned to leadership and (though I consider him the most impressive Nigerian leader in my lifetime) left the country at the end, deliberately, in chaos – first by the damaging desire for an unconstitutional third term in office and then by arrogantly inflicting on all of us a sick man who transferred his illness to the nation’s soul and rolled back the small inches of progress we had made.

 

He too, who has led Nigeria twice – for almost a decade in total – would claim that he bears no responsibility for the state of our nation.

 

Not to speak of Muhammadu Buhari. He could previously claim, and indeed that claim held currency for 20 years, that he (much like the canonized Murtala Mohammed) spent too little time in office to be assessed responsible.

 

But on his second coming, we have had two years to interrogate his capacity and his legacy, two years during which we have seen fortunes decline, and citizens lose hope, without the cushion of leadership that inspires.

Even as he sits in the office and holds the ultimate responsibility for the state of affairs as I write, even he is not taking responsibility.

 

Buhari (whose candidacy I vigorously supported as, vastly, the better of our two options in 2015) points to everyone but himself. He points to all of those who held the office before him, he points to the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he points to the opposition that won’t give him breathing space, he points to civil servants working hard to sabotage him, and he points to that most significant of Nigerian bad guys: ‘the system’.

 

It is not just our ex-presidents that have this affliction.

 

You see your friends whose fathers and mothers led this country at the highest levels, even those whose names have been demonstrably involved in corruption or at least negligence, and even they complain about the state of Nigeria.

 

They insist on presenting themselves as decent, reasonable people who had no part, magically, in the Nigeria that we have today.

 

Ask them who we should blame, and they point at others: ‘them’, ‘they’.

 

Who are these ‘they’?

 

The faceless ‘they’ who always stand against change. You’ve heard every government speak about them, this unnamed powerful, omnipresent people who frustrate every good intention of the government but are never held accountable; these indeterminate group of people who sit like gremlins in Aso Rock and take over the brains and hearts of those who lead. Every president has pointed to them as the problem with the country.

 

Those indeterminate ‘they’ are so resolute that they were even there fighting against Diezani Alison-Madueke, despite her consolidation of oil administration power, the distribution of the wealth across questionable characters, and the ostentatious display that allegedly powered the obscene spend of the 2015 elections.

 

But despite all of the circumstantial dodginess, even our former oil minister says she was also victim of this indeterminate set of people who keep spoiling Nigeria – people who she, like those many innocents before her, did not name, did not shame, and did not hold accountable.

 

Of course, there is Jonathan, whose presidency accelerated an atmosphere of permissiveness and corruption, ceded large swaths of Nigeria to terrorists and lost 276 girls under his watch for which he yet has shown no remorse, at all. The less about him to be honest, the better for us all.

 

Ask the good doctor for who spoilt Nigeria – and he and his triumphal supporters who insist on crying over the spilt milk of a man who deserved to be voted out, will take no ounce of responsibility. No hoots give. If you don’t like it, they appear to say to us, go and die.

 

The truth is that Nigeria has been an unfortunate  (‘oloriburuku’ as the Yoruba excellently would put it) country.

 

We have been a desperately unfortunate country for so many years, the unfortunateness springing from our classless, clueless successive set of leaders.

 

And lest the point is lost in subtlety and euphemism: they are the people that spoilt Nigeria.

 

The question really is simple: if our succession of leaders were so sterling, so high achieving, and so distinguished – then how exactly did our country collapse?

 

The so-called founding fathers, the super permanent secretaries, every single person who has been president of this country, a vast majority of ministers and commissioners, governors and local government chairmen, and the dirty pack of colluding traditional rulers. Heads of parastatals, and members of boards, business leaders who have benefited from ungodly monopolies and the oppression of an unprotected competition, those who helped politicians funnel and launder illegal monies that they then deployed to set up banks, insurance companies and a hodge-podge of now ‘respectable businesses’, defense chiefs who allowed our arsenal to be depleted and outdated, putting all our lives at risk, each and every one of the inspector generals of police as far as we cannot find anyone whose legacy stands apart or possesses a highlight, who ruined the country if not them?

 

It’s time for us to have the clarity of intent and purpose to say to them, especially now – you did this; you caused this, take some responsibility for heaven’s sake.

 

On the first of January this year, I was invited alongside a respected academic and a former defense chief to the Nigerian Television Authority to speak about ‘Making Nigeria Great Again’.

 

This tragedy – of our unfortunateness – was again on display.

 

Every word this military chief (one of our points men in the fight against Boko Haram) uttered was grounded in vapidity. His responses to questions were devoid of reflection, strategy, or philosophy. He simply didn’t have anything useful to say.

 

And I panicked: This is the man who has been making decisions for our country? This is the man we trusted to keep us safe? This is the mind that informed the president?

 

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” Chinua Achebe already informed us.  “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

 

Think about it: if all the leaders of our journalism from the past were credible and competent, then who holds responsibility for the decay in our journalism? Who ruined the Nigerian Television Authority and made it a carcass of the greatness we are told that it once had? If all the people who ran businesses in Nigeria in the past were heroes and visionaries with the capacity for transformative ideas, then, please, sorry, where are their businesses? If all the leaders in our health sector had been such healthy, sterling examples of wisdom and brilliance, then please who is responsible for the state of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital or that of the University College Hospital?

 

These guys have a lot of experience, but as political economist, Pat Utomi has said, it is bad experience. It is the experience that comes from simply existing and being rather than from achieving, excelling and improving.

 

They are the ones who mouth the inanity about Nigeria’s “strength in diversity” and that its “unity is non-negotiable” as if all of us have not been living in this same country since 1960 and seeing that if there is one thing that we have always had, it is certainly not strength.

 

The people who have led us have not been the best of us. Veterans only of bureaucracy and form, their experience is useless, their relevance is overstated, and their capacity is, at best, questionable.

 

To be sure, we have seen evidence of brilliance in Nigeria. We have witnessed citizens build the creative industries into a system to be admired. We have seen young people recreate the music industry and push its significance across a global market. We have seen technology innovators recreate an entire system from scratch.

 

We have seen brilliance in politics too; Anambra’s Peter Obi and Lagos’s Babatunde Fashola being two contemporary examples, as well as the sterling system of succession that Lagos has modelled.

 

Unfortunately – as will be the same if my generation doesn’t significantly reboot Nigeria and set it on the path to truly transformative growth (and we still have an abundance of time to make this right) – it will be fine for the next generation to look at them; to look at us, and to say that for the most part, we were failures, and we bear responsibility for the state of our p nation.

 

It will be fine for them to look back at the long past of Nigeria’s desolate history and for them to curse the darkness, thoroughly.

 

Yes I know that come 2019, because of the terrible fault lines of democracy, we may yet be so unfortunate that one of these will yet be the only option for president of Nigeria – because, where are the alternatives on the scene today? And it will sadly fall to us, agan, to perform a civic duty and support the least of the bad options.

 

But at least let us be clear that we are drinking gutter water, and not coconut juice.

 

What is the reason it is so important to correctly locate the provenance of Nigeria’s problems?

 

  1. a) So that the responsible party approaches its duties to make amends with sobriety and perspective.
  2. b) So that a new generation leaders understands the urgent need to unlearn from the past and to be discriminatory on the conventions and traditions it chooses to perpetuate.

 

“Permanent secretaries, diplomats, vice chancellors have been here over the past two days telling us about how government can work for the people,” I said in a speech February 2016 at the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, to an audience of these ex-leaders. “We have spent the past days hearing these leaders tell us what to do, when they had ample opportunity to show us what to do – an did not do so.

 

“One wonders as a generation if we have a lot to learn from these people, or if indeed we have so much to un-learn.

 

“Do you guys really have anything to teach us?  Who were the permanent secretaries who stole billions in the 70s, the soldiers who ruined Nigerian in the 90s, the ministers who stole us blind after 2000? Are they the same ones still talking to us today? If things were so great in those days, then how did Nigeria get to this sorry stage where corruption was once only a cankerworm, but now has gone viral?

 

“There are too many billionaires whom we don’t know how they made their billions and too many politicians who used to win with landslides that disappeared when card readers emerged.

 

“We must be honest in noting where you people have failed and where you presented insurmountable obstacles for our generation: gerontocracy that didn’t exist in 1956, a collapsed education system, institutions that were interrupted and then declined, a lack of authentic moral fibre and no workable models of businesses that succeed or governance that works for the people.”

 

Of course these vestiges of the past can still be part of building the future – that, after all, is a model we have seen work in many places across the world. But, first, they have to repent.

 

Based on what we have seen over the past 16 years, and what we are looking at today, first they must have the humility to take responsibility for the part that they have played in bringing us to this sorry state – and then to commit to making amends.

 

Either that or, as my people used to say in Ijeshatedo where I grew up: abeg make them comot, make we for see road pass.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Chude Jideonwo

Last month, the Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi shocked the nation.

Footage of the governor speaking to students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) who had been grounded at home (for eight months from 13 June, 2016 due to a shutdown announced by the Rector), showed a white-hot rage: “If this how you want to talk to me,” he blasted the students for their effrontery in protesting the closure of their school. “Then do your worst. Eight months. Eight months? Is that something we have not seen before?”

 

Even now retelling the statements, I am shaken.

 

Let’s stop there and unpack the statement and its many ugly layers: you will find arrogance, you will find insensitivity, and you will find a distinct lack of compassion (if we wanted to get right to the point, we would call it wickedness).

 

Let’s ask a common sense question: How does a public servant defend a failure of duty based on how he or she is spoken to?

 

And then let us recall what exactly the issue is here.

 

LAUTECH is owned by the Oyo and Osun state governments. The two state governments are to each give the schools N295 million as subventions monthly. Oyo owes the institution N2.3 billion and Osun owes N5.3 billion. With this dereliction of responsibility, naturally, teachers in the school have been owed for 13 months. So five months ago, workers went on strike, and the school was shut down.

 

I know our country has degenerated so badly that the unacceptable has found its place into mainstream tolerance. But it is important to understand this: having students of a university sit at home for eight months is certainly, to put it mildly, not normal.

 

It should never be acceptable for students to have disruptions to their academic schedule. It sends to them, a clear message – that their country does not care about them. It fundamentally alters any pretentions to structure and order, and the reality of governance.

 

It costs the nation significantly because we spend more per student in multiple ways when sessions are interrupted – depreciation costs, inflationary consequences, loss of manpower hours as employees are paid for periods of low value (and still have to retire at age limit), double costs with each resumption, cost of maintaining the school at gap periods (including electricity and water bills). Remember that none of these costs are value-driven because they are incurred when the primary reason for the institution’s existence is absent.

 

Then there is the unbearable cost to the students, and then to the guardians of the students – all of the above doing their part to sustain a vicious cycle of national waste.

 

It bears repeating, however, that its most important damage is that it else sends a message to young people finding their way in the world that this is a fundamentally messed up country, where hard work isn’t rewarded, patriotism isn’t logical and the system eats its young alive.

 

It is important to restate this, even if tertiary school shutdowns have become a tradition since the Academic Staff Union of Universities organized its first national strike in 1988 and military dictators, who ruled Nigeria for a better part of the 80s and 90s, decided that wanton school closures are the solution to student dissent.

 

It is important to restate this for the sake of my own sanity even if I have been a victim of the most ridiculous shutdowns as a student of the University of Lagos in 2005.

 

Because things have now deteriorated so badly, that an elected governor can stand at a podium – after eight months of institutional silence as these students have begged and pleaded for audience – unafraid of consequence, to tell them, essentially, to go to hell.

 

This is not normal.

 

In response, rather than apologise, or pretend to contrition, his team decided that a more effective strategy was to share its own edits of the exchange, claiming that the governor ‘apologised’ to the students.

 

First, in the apology video, he did no such thing. “I am not angry,” was the best he said, and from a place of entitled smugness.

 

The fact that this public servant even thought the full video of his patronizing statements would make any part of the exchange acceptable is proof further than the events in themselves that the man’s style of governance is also… not normal.

 

“Students need to learn to engage,” he lectured them after failing them for 13 months. Makes one wonder, isn’t it the job of the leader who is also servant to first engage, to explain, to establish a frame of understanding, and to empathise?

 

How do you expect calm and restraint from young people whose progress has been cut short for eight months? Is it possible that this man would be restrained and orderly if his children were stuck so?

 

It bears asking if there is an understanding of the basic nature of service.

 

Because beyond the evident failure of governance that his action shows, there is an absence in understanding the massive failure in the value chain. He doesn’t know that he has failed, and so he doesn’t know that he should be ashamed, be sorry about it, and be apologetic.

 

That should shock us. Not because we didn’t know how these guys have always viewed the rest of us; not because we didn’t know the primitiveness that undergirds the thinking of our leadership set, but because, now, they have killed shame.

 

There is that.

 

But perhaps we should ask ourselves – how did the governor come about this misguided confidence?

 

He explained it in the video: constituted authority.

 

According to him, the fact that he is “constituted authority” means the students should have kept shut, listened to him, and accepted his justifications uncritically.

 

He fully expected that his sheer presence of his superfluous ‘agbada’ was such a gift to the students that they should have been stunned into ecstatic silence.

 

And so “His Excellency” was shocked – shocked – that the young, educated people of his state, who were agitated after eight months of abandonment, could still find their voice.

 

Now, that, right there, is where we should get frightened.

 

That an elected leader – and there are many like him – still believe, even in a flourishing, adversarial two-party democracy, that they are constituted authority against which questions are disrespect, and questioners risk punishment.

 

Right there, stands the root of our particular brand of problem.

 

The respect, and, yes, the fear that leaders should have for citizens is mostly absent in the version of a social contract that Nigeria has.

 

Unfortunately, the fault for this anomaly doesn’t come only from those who lead.

 

Today, we have citizens who have ceded their right to be treated with respect. You only need to pay attention to conversation online to see a citizenry that has not only ceded that right, but actively denigrates those who would exercise theirs. People who believe that political affiliation means blind loyalty. Those who believe that relationships with government mean silence whatever happens. Those who believe that those who make high demands of government are being ‘troublesome’ or ‘unreasonable;.

 

But if citizens want respect from their leaders, they have to demand it – and they have to demand it without reservation.

 

The defense of “constituted authority” is jabber. There should be no respect for leaders who have defaulted in duty.

 

There should particularly be no regard for Nigeria’s distinguished set of consistently, and aggressively, failing leaders.

 

Many of our leaders lack empathy. The steady erosion of incentives for demonstrable empathy and consequences for its lack has ultimately led to this death, of common sense. And so they have become, in essence, abnormal.

 

In that case, it becomes imperative to turn up the heat.

 

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

 

Governments should be worried about how the public receives their decisions and interprets their actions. Government activity would thence be made only against the background of what citizens thinks, what the voters’ reaction will be, of the consequences of each step.

 

Even if it leads to pandering – that is only a small price to pay for the bigger gain that comes.

 

But it has to matter that the decision of those we have chosen to lead us must reflect our desires, our wishes, our imperatives and our preferences – and that their reactions must reflect an understanding of who truly calls the shots.

 

That is how a functioning democracy works. Unfortunately, Nigeria is a long way from this balance of power.

 

These guys in public office, and their band that lose perceptive when they get a job in government, don’t get it.

They don’t get it, at all.

Our urgent, continuous task is to make sure that they do.

PS: Upon going to press with this piece, it is important to remember that while LAUTECH has technically re-opened, students have yet to continue academic activity because lecturers have not yet resumed. So, indeed, the value chain remains broken.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Speaker Dogara
“The Board of Editors voted for you in recognition of your antecedents as a dogged patriot, a torch bearer, a staunch believer in the principle of the separation of powers and ultimately the defender of the democratic faith. We have followed your path since you emerged the Speaker of the House. We also know that there have been battles here and there. But you are still here and we recognize the courage you have shown maintaining the delicate balance between the independence of the legislature and working with the executive and more importantly, your safeguarding the principle of separation of power without rocking the boat.”
These were the exact words of Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Sun newspaper Eric Osagie when he led management staff of the paper to formally notify the Speaker of the award as Political Icon of the Year 2016.
Today, the Speaker will step forward for this recognition, which comes with its own concomitant responsibilities.
 
Coming from a very humble background, one would have said that he was not cut out for politics because from his days at the University of Jos to the early part of his legal practice; nothing in his life indicated that he will become a politician. His life, is a personification of the awesome grace of the almighty God who has consistently led him in all his endeavours.  What distinguishes and endears him to people is his uncommon humility which is seldom the case with people occupying high positions in our country. He plays politics without bitterness and reaches out to even his staunchest critics and self-declared enemies.
 
I recall that just few hours after his election as Speaker on June 9, 2015, the Speaker started the work of reaching out to his opponent in both words and actions as he said in his inaugural speech that, “together we will heal the wounds and divisions of this contest. Together we shall work to deliver good legislation and good government to our people.”
 
At around 2am, we drove to the residence of Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in Apo Legislative quarters in Abuja in company of scores of members where he truly began the work of healing the wounds and divisions of the election. Unfortunately, Hon. Gbajabiamila wasn’t home.  It was the Speaker’s singular decision even against the wishes of many of his strong supporters and allies in the House that saw to the emergence of Gbajabiamila as the House Leader. He continued to appeal to and pacify those opposed to it and the rest as they say, is history.
 
 
The next acid test for Dogara was the constitution of the standing committees of the House. In that too, he was able to navigate the tumultuous waters displaying uncommon political and leadership prowess. In spite of initial misgivings by few of his colleagues everything went smoothly and one after the other the Speaker kept reaching out to them.
 
I recall that the House Chief Whip Rt. Hon. Alhassan Ado Garba once told me that he was shocked and that if he had his way he would have dug the ground and buried himself when he heard a knock on his door and lo and behold it was the Speaker – the very man whom he did everything to stop from emerging and even continued to oppose his leadership. Once the door was opened the Speaker only told him that “Alhassan we are brothers please come let’s work together. Let’s put our differences aside and begin the work of remaking Nigeria.”
 
Interestingly, for these same and many other reasons the Leadership newspapers bestowed on him the award of Politician of the Year 2015. Of particular interest is that these recognitions are coming despite desperate, calculated and well-planned efforts and attempts by his traducers to tarnish his hard-earned reputation as incorruptible and patriotic leader. Thankfully, the Speaker has been able to come out clean, with his head high.
 
The tales of lies, mischief, distortions, and allegations peppered with tongue-in-cheek drumbeats and obvious fabrications have now crumbled on their very head. Nigerians now know the truth because as Winston Churchill said “Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.”
 
There is nothing greater than the truth and Dogara’s life story reflects nothing but the truth. It is his life, his way and what defines his person. Here is one who achieved greatness through sheer hard work, honesty, commitment to common cause and antique shrewdness.
 
It is Dogara’s philosophy that leaders should at all times live exemplary lives of service, sacrifice and selflessness. The Speaker always says that justice is needed in building a civil society, and that for societies to grow, leaders must understand the workings of justice which is necessary in any democracy for equality to thrive. In fact, he strongly believes that establishing both principles is necessary for Nigeria to make any meaningful progress.
 
Today, the House of the Nigerian people, the green chamber, is at peace with itself and busy legislating for the good of the people. Indeed, Dogara’s efforts and leadership have started yielding positive fruits for the country as record numbers of bills are being passed on daily basis. In just one and half years, more than 150 bills have been passed by the House just as work is being done on about 800 more. Of the 18 non-budget-related bills signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, 17 are House bills and all emanated from the statues reforms committee set up by the Speaker.
 
In addition to this, Dogara is also strongly leading campaigns for the financial and political autonomy for local governments which saw the leadership of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees paying him a “Thank you and solidarity” visit recently.
 
Worthy of mention is the Speaker’s interventions on the humanitarian crisis in the North-east where he is championing calls for the convocation of an international donor conference to rebuild the region in addition to his sponsoring of the North East Development Commission Establishment bill which is now awaiting presidential assent; to his many visits to Internally Displaced Persons camps across the country providing succour and relief materials to them.
 
“This kind of award…serves as a motivation and without motivation we cannot achieve much. We cannot innovate without motivation and whether we like it or not, politics remains the only way through which leadership can be recruited in many countries and the only way we can institute governments. So, it (politics) has come to be with us; we cannot run away from it. It can only take people and not angels to improve on existing situations; so when leaders who truly love what they do are motivated, this increases the chances of having better leadership, which will translate to the development of the country,” the Speaker said on December 6, 2016 when management of The Sun newspaper delivered the award letter to him. 

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Chude Jideonwo

*This continues Monday’s piece on the 15 disciplines behind the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign.

 

The discipline of leadership

On 18 January 2016, the journalist Kadaria Ahmed tried out a few tweets about the BBOG movement.

 

The sum of her thesis? Its leaders needed to change. According to her, the ‘activists’ have become the story rather than the girls.

 

“Campaigns should not be static,” she said. “To succeed, they should be alive and evolve based on prevailing circumstances.”

 

This was on the face of it, a non sequitur.

 

The criticisms that the movement was facing were the exact same they have always faced, only this time Buhari’s supporters had taken the place of Jonathan’s supporters. The girls were still missing. Their mothers were still weeping. As @anwana_ime asked her that morning: “What is the prevailing circumstance. And how has it changed from the previous circumstance?”

 

But of course, ultimately, this criticism was a hammer by by the irritated to shut down BBOG by targeting its leaders. It had become apparent that the movement itself could not be delegitimized successfully, and this was the next best thing.

 

Now, it is true that BBOG protesters can be combative on occasion, but it is as true as it is inevitable. History doesn’t have records of strong, passionate campaigners on major potentially divisive issues that haven’t, in that moment, at those times been seen as belligerent.

 

We remember Martin Luther King Jr now with the afterglow of hindsight, now that the world completely agrees with him, but at his time, the prevailing peacefulness of his protests were seen by ‘polite people’ as offensive – and his leadership, corrosive.

 

Reviewing Gallup polling from King’s time in a 1995 piece, political scientist Sheldon Appleton made this clear. “The overwhelming approval with which king is remembered today stands in ironic contrast to how he was perceived … while he was alive and active,” he reports. “A number of survey items asked about King in the mid-sixties show him more reviled than revered – in fact, as one of the most disliked American political figures in that age of public opinion polling.”

 

The first time King was assessed on a scalometer in 1964 – the year just before he was awarded the Nobel Prize – the only person the majority of citizens i.e. white Americans disliked more than King was the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.

 

You can’t evoke strong passions in people and retain your likeability numbers. Criticism of movement leaders – whether they are national icons like Gani Fawehinmi or global legends like Nelson Mandela – for being strong and attracting the disdain of those who disagree is therefore both unoriginal but, as in examples past, disingenuous.

 

Of course, where this attack works, it can be very effective:  once you are able to cut off the head, the rest of the body dissembles. No movement is truly without a leader, formal or informal. The way the human being organizes is around passions, directed by a leader.

 

Beyond Ezekwesili, the attacks have also found another easy target – Aisha Yesufu, a strong voice who has put her neck on the line.

 

She is too loud, some have said, too strident. She has been accused her of focusing too narrowly on this one issue (rather than broadly, one would have to assume, on all the issues that concern Nigerians), and in one case someone actually asked why her husband wouldn’t keep her in check.

 

It is the kind of vitriol that can fell lesser (wo)men. But BBOG has disciplined itself to avoid this trap.

 

It has stuck with its natural leaders mostly because they have led by example. Those leaders have also been disciplined in lifting up those within the movement – elegantly ceding authority, credit, voice and authority in turn over the course of almost three-years.

 

Even corporate institutions with clear hierarchies and formal appointments, not to talk of robust remuneration, do not often achieve this feat.

 

The discipline of amplification

If BBOG has understood anything intuitively, it has been the strategic importance of media and messaging.

 

In addition to a consistent message, it has maintained opened lines with the media, been transparent with its affairs, opened its hands to scrutiny and maximized social connections and conversation.

 

To be sure, all of this is not of its deliberate making. The media has been drawn by the righteousness of the cause, willing itself as its champion, the Guardian placing a daily countdown on its homepage cover page, YNaija.com tracking each milestone, Channels TV leaving an open door.

 

But, there is also the fact of the leaders’ huge moral authority, the movement’s towering integrity, and its ability to handle itself both with dignity and with common sense.

 

There is also its practical skill in commanding attention by its strategic protests (speaking to 2000 young Nigerians protesting the corruption at the Nigerian Immigration Service memorably advised them that to be effective, they had to suspend their Saturday protest and resume on Monday when the president would be at work), its crystallising of the issues, the marking of crucial milestones, and its partnership with organisations like EnoughisEnough Nigeria and arm-linking with strategic voices like Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission.

 

The discipline of integrity

I spoke about this above, and it bears speaking about again: BBOG’s integrity.

 

There is the fact that it is very quick – and smart – to loudly disavow those who seek to deploy its name or its goodwill for dodgy gains including the ambiguous October 2016 fundraiser by the president’s daughter, Hadiza Buhari-Bello.

 

But that is simply icing on the cake for an organization that holds itself to the highest standards of demonstrable integrity.

 

There is nothing that it has done or said that has been a lie – and it has severely curtailed exaggeration. Even at the times when it has been misconstrued and deliberately mis-interpreted, it has been aggressive in ensuring that the truth, or at least a balanced narrative, prevails.

 

It insisted on the fact of the girls’ kidnap, on correct numbering of the girls, on a consistent message, ceding the stage where necessary to the parents, refusing to be drawn into an artificial conflict with Malala Yousafzai courtesy of the Jonathan government, altogether earning immense credibility for its integrity.

 

That integrity continues to serve it well.

 

The discipline of financial responsibility

Linked to the above is the matter of financial probity.

 

BBOG made the wisest decision from the start of the campaign not to raise any money, not to open any account, not to accept funding from any outside forces.

 

It is impossible to overstate the significance of this step.

 

Every organization needs money. Especially one like BBOG that has been sustained optimally for over two years. And if BBOG had chosen to raise money, its immense network and credibility would have been enough to pull in millions of dollars.

 

The uses of the funds are easy to identify: the education of the rescued girls, the sustenance of their poor parents, the administration of a group with several networks.

 

However, BBOG understood that the easiest way cynics bring down a movement is to accuse it either of financial impropriety or pecuniary interest.

 

An accusation with legs can run. One without legs often dies on arrival.

 

So at great pain to the pockets of the members and its leaders, it has stuck with contributing monies within itself and spending those small amounts on the barest of minimums – water for those who gather, printing of documents, transportation for protests, the very basics.

 

Of course, many organisations will find it incredibly difficult to be effective without financial resources, and neither should they. Impact, after all is more important than naysayers.

 

But what BBOG teaches is that it is important to identify what activities or projects need resources and what activities do not.

 

It is useful to know what kind of monies are useful, and what kinds of monies are destructive.

 

The disciple of consistency

Then there is consistently, already alluded to above, but necessary to isolate in its particular case.

 

For those who insisted that BBOG was a tool of the All Progressives Congress to delegitimize and remove President Jonathan, immense confusion emerged when the movement continued the exact same agitation, with the exact same aggression, upon the change of guard at the Presidential Villa.

 

Even the new government cannot believe it. After all, it hosted that lavish photo shoot where it bestowed hugs on the mothers of the girls and blew kisses at the conveners of the protests.

 

But as it was with Jonathan, it has been with Buhari. And history has repeated itself.

 

Just like the former, the latter has attacked BBOG with everything – the army, the police, spokespersons and recently, with the information minister tarring them as an opposition party.

 

This has been a gift to BBOG.

 

The attacks have had the unintended effect of making it clear that it is a non-partisan movement that would approach and confront anyone that stands against its mission.

 

That consistency has enabled it to weather the storm of cynics who cannot identify selflessness, and the status quo, that would fight accountability.

 

The discipline of essence

Whoever has left the movement; BBOG has remained unstoppable.

 

Hadiza Bala Usman left to join the APC government, Maryam Uwais left to join the government (assuredly, this transition into governments would have happened whatever party won the presidency) and the movement continued, stronger.

 

The politicians who joined in for their own selfish interest inevitably left, those who took on jobs that required separation also left, and yet the movement continued stronger, better leading ultimately to the release of many girls.

 

The essence of it remains; through thick and thin, beyond agenda and personality.

 

Ask yourself, where the #ChildNotBride, #OccupyNigeria, and other popular protests and campaigns have ended up despite the endurance of the problems, and appreciate the beauty of a movement that will not die.

 

The discipline of courage

They have continued on this mission without care for their lives, without care for their pockets, without care for the friends they lose and the enemies they gain.

 

They have, many of them, travelled to Chibok to see things for themselves (they inspired me to also visit Chibok for myself) and to connect with the communities, and they have spread across the dangerous cities and villages of North-East to draw the nation’s attention to the twin carnage of terrorist violence and government abandonment.

 

Then the Nigerian government decided to test their resolve by inviting them, inelegantly and with transparent bad faith, to come to the Sambisa Forest for themselves to search for the girls. They considered it, ignored the double speak, and decided: it was worth the sacrifice.

 

Their critics, especially those aligned with the government, had already begun to snicker, confident in the belief that these women would not undertake a journey very many would not dare undertake.

 

With that singular act of courage, entering into enemy territory (not only of the terrorists but of a hostile government) Yesufu and Ezekwesili forever established the credibility of their mission and the courage that gives it authority.

 

But in addition to the public sacrifice, there is the more instructive matter of personal sacrifice, refusing to trade the focused demand of the movement for the ability to be liked by people who just want them to ‘tone it down’.

 

In a remarkable (to me, shocking) instance, in January of 2016, the writer Molara Wood switched on an attack on the mothers of the missing girls for faking their tears.

 

“2 years on, Chibok parents, once there’s a camera about, grab their heads almost in sequence, wail and weep and shed tears demonstratively,” she complained, lecturing a movement. “There is no nuance to their grief, sometimes no dignity. A tear doesn’t trickle out in silence. They shed tears that demand: see me, see me. Nobody wails two years without variance/exhaustion. Chibok parents seem able to cry and thrash on cue. They’re beginning to look rehearsed.”

 

Around these worrisome tweets, she took the time to highly praise the personal integrity of Ezekwesili, as if to inoculate herself from deserved criticism.

 

In return, Ezekwesili impressively ignored the praise, and focused on the issue.

 

“This is the UNKINDEST THING to say to those parents, Molara. I heard those deep agonizing cries as we marched with them. SAD,” she tweeted. “Yes. Another’s pain can look like Drama. Who are we to JUDGE another’s EXPRESSION of their grief?”

 

In that reaction, she proved that the adoration of an influential culture critic was less important than the underscoring of a national tragedy. The pain of the Chibok parents of higher priority that those who would not give them help, or allow them dignity.

 

The discipline of hope

“Hope is inexhaustible,” Ezekwesili preached to the audience at The Future Awards Africa 2014, leading the hall to tears. “When all else fails, hope yet remains, and it springs eternal. It is that hope that keeps us looking for the girls, no matter how dim the chances are.”

 

And BBOG has continued to hope.

 

Indeed hope is all that it has armed itself with. Hope that, I must confess, even I grew weary of, because it appeared to me in 2015, after a year of no results, that these girls were never going to be found.

 

But all real change movements need to have real hope. They need to have real hope that the problem will be solved, that their campaign is not just about the motions.

 

It must come down to the conviction that the work matters, that the outcome is possible, and that collective action is powerful.

 

The discipline of action

And at the end of the day, action.

 

BBOG is not just about words, BBOG is decidedly about action.

 

It does its research, it keeps fidelity with its weekly sit outs, it calculates its numbers, it responds when called to Sambisa, it undertakes those long walks under the sun to the Presidential Villa.

 

It keeps track, it stretches itself, it shows up, it walks the talk.

 

At the end of the day really, that’s what it comes down to: do what you say you will do, act how you say you will act; stick with the issue until it is resolved.

 

Never stop, never let go.

 

Whatever happens, keep moving. Because change is always possible.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his syndicated essay series.

 

 

 

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Members of the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) movement

Chude Jideonwo, a young business leader in the Nigerian media industry, writes a series on good governance, Nigeria, politics, and how a younger generation can effect change. This is the first of many to be published between February and October 2017. 

You know the tragedy already. The world does. And it’s one we have yet to recover from: 276 Chibok girls kidnapped from their schools under the watch of a functioning Nigerian government, and just under 200 of them yet to be recovered as we speak.

Now, this is the point at which many of us replay our shock, as to how 1036 days after, in a state that is not failed, we still have these girls missing.

Then we remind ourselves that the Chibok girls are not the only victims of this state of affairs. Hundreds of boys and girls, men and women, have been kidnapped by the terrorists of Boko Haram since its 2009 resurgence; many of them remain un-named, untracked, and un-accounted for.

But the Chibok girls are top of mind. We have been unable to forget them, and because of them we are been unable to, as usual, dismiss the uncomfortable fact that fellow Nigerians are living in a war zone from which lives have been disrupted, families have been dislocated, and futures have been dislodged.

The singular reason for this, is the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group.

Because of BBOG, we have been unable to forget the Chibok girls. We have been unable to move on from that point in our national conversation. We have been unable to get to a place of comfortable ignorance.

This has happened because BBOG proved to be a completely different kind of group, wholly unlike anything Nigerian had ever seen before this, and even after it. And because ultimately, BBOG has been that most rare of Nigerian occurrences: effective.

It has been effective in focusing global spotlight on the missing girls. It has been effective in wooing and winning public and media support. It has been effective in commanding and sustaining stakeholder attention especially government.

And most importantly, it has been successful in actually bringing back our girls.

In a society lacking in and disdainful of institutional memory, I am aware of the heartening amount of scholarly research undertaken, at least in the last one year, on the phenomenon that BBOG has become. Generations of change makers interested in understanding the context, culture and imperatives of affecting outcomes in this particular civic space will do well to pay close, and grateful, attention when that body of work hits the body politic.

In the space between now and then however, it is useful to establish a framework within which to understand the success of BBOG as a movement, and its imperative as a model.

I will outline them as the 15 disciplines of the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

The discipline of standards
There has been a clear marker from the beginning of the movement, from the first protests in Abuja, as Obiageli Ezekwesili, Habiba Balogun, Bukonla Shonibare and others stepped on the streets to demand an institutional response to the matter of the missing girls: they demanded that all the girls be rescued, alive.

It looked like only a slogan then. Not so much today.

That demand made clear a marker on the sanctity of human life, and that nothing lower than the restoration of the girls the way their parents deserve to find them, would be accepted. That standard has neither been discarded nor lowered since the first demand, no matter how hard it appeared the request was, no matter how wide the Sambisa Forest is, no matter how much time had passed since the girls were taken. The sanctity of human lives. Now and alive.

The discipline of focus
It is a miracle, to be clear, that the BBOG movement is still standing today. That its unpaid members and leaders are still standing tall and strong, and that they continue to maintain global credibility. Because typically, no movement in Nigeria, save for a military coup or an election, has lasted this long.

But the miracle is heightened by the fact of all that have been thrown at the campaigners. They have been attacked by those who detest the moral pulpit of Ezekwesili and cohorts because it speaks to their own lack of action, have been attacked by those who interpreted the movement as an political gang-up on Goodluck Jonathan, have been attacked by those who view every civil action in Nigeria as hypocrisy, by those who are waiting for Jesus himself, complete with celestial perfection, to lead any popular movement; those who are irritated that the movement did not pack up when Jonathan was sent packing, and now those who feel it must treat Muhammadu Buhari differently from his predecessor.

But one of the more resonant criticisms has always been this question: why the singular focus on the Chibok girls?

Many Nigerians have been kidnapped; why the disproportionate attention on the Chibok girls?

In response, BBOG has, from get go, ignored the noise. It came into being because the kidnap of the Chibok girls was one kidnap too far, and it has stuck with that purpose.

The understanding comes no doubt from the fact that no one person or group can change the world, and these ones had chosen their corner. To be effective, they must stick with that corner.

Of course, there has always been an immediate, and rational response to this criticism: That the girls from Chibok clearly stand as a signpost for all the named, nameless and faceless who have been abandoned by the Nigerian state; a indicator of the limits beyond which we cannot allow ourselves go as a people.

But, remarkably, BBOG desisted from making this point for itself. Because it is unnecessary.

What was (and is) necessary is its mission, from which it would not waste time on debates and arguments, and on dissipating energy.

The focus has been iconic.

The discipline of clarity
When trivial people ask the campaigners to go over to Chibok themselves and rescue the girls, the response has been a beauty of precision: we are an advocacy group, not a military organization.

That sense of clarity has always been the most effective thing about BBOG. They have an unnerving clarity about who they are, what they stand for, what they want, the viability of their demands, and the solutions they seek.

This is what BBOG is: an advocacy organization focused on ensuring the freedom, alive, of the missing Chibok girls, doing this by confirming the identities of each of their girls, tracing the timeline and chain of reactions from, making clear action, response, and marker of success.

There is no ambiguity in anybody’s minds about any of these.

The discipline of empiricism
Nigeria has never been a nation of precision. Our government doesn’t have proper records for its citizens; data is antiquated in many spaces or limited to for-profit desks.

Our media has in turn reflected this distinguished chaos. How many times have three news stories about the same tragedy, sometimes from the same paper, had three different number tallies for its victims?

Into that chaos came the matter of Nigeria’s missing girls. The first service BBOG did us was insist on precision in numbers, and then aid the eventual calculation: 276 girls were missing.

That desire for empirical evidences has defined the campaign.

The movement has delicately tracked the changing numbers as girls have been found, holding government accountable when it has claimed that girls from other parts of Nigeria were from Chibok, coordinating with the community on direct verification with the community. And it is from BBOG that we have a running tally of how many girls remain to be rescued: 196 as at today.

In making demands of the military, they have demonstrated facility with strategy, terminology and pattern. And they have drawn from that the authority to be listened to because they come armed with the knowledge that effective engagement requires.

When people have claimed the girls were kidnapped by A, married off to B, and flown away to C, BBOG has refused to be distracted.

Where there is no evidence to the contrary, they have stuck with the last know locations of the missing girls. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo declared that the girls would never be found, and they ignored him. As if he didn’t matter.

Because he didn’t (and doesn’t) matter. All that matters are the facts.

This has earned respect, avoided distraction, and enabled efficacy.

The discipline to be unreasonable
The one plea that those comfortable with the status quo often demand from activist movements is to be reasonable, by which they often mean to move at a pace dictated not by the urgency of action but by the comfort of the negotiator. The one error these movements can make is to fall for the blackmail.

BBOG knows where the banana peels lie.

Like Jonathan, the Buhari government has treated the protesters as high-impact irritants.

Jonathan did this from a place of incompetence, Buhari does it from a place of entitlement: this government believes that, unlike its predecessor, it has (initially) treated the campaigners with deference. And for that ‘goodness’, it expects breathing space. It also believes that, since it didn’t lose the girls, it bears no direct responsibility. It is only a friendly partner trying to clean up another’s mess.

It cannot understand why the protesters will not afford it an extended runway of goodwill. And its supporters, many of whom actually agreed erroneously with the Jonathan government that BBOG was a tool of the APC, also cannot come to terms with it.

In response? BBOG has turned up the heat.

The reason is simple to those who pay attention: the target of its campaign has always been the responsible party who can find and return the girls. And that party is the Nigerian government.

Once Buhari came into power (and especially since rescuing the girls was a focal point of his campaign messaging), he automatically took responsibility for the assets and liabilities of the government he is now in charge of. And in that case, as government is a continuum, it is now the machine that lost the girls two years ago.

That might be literally unreasonable, but in terms of the philosophy of democratic governments, it is entirely judicious.

The Buhari government, like all governments, serves at the pleasure of its citizens. The citizens owe it no special concessions. It just needs to do its job.

In refusing to give this government and the one before it (and hopefully none after it, since we pray the girls are soon found) any breathing space, BBOG shows a remarkable discipline.

Nigeria’s peculiar breed of irresponsible governance demands no less. We have learnt with the #OccupyNigeria and other popular citizen action that once you relax the pressure, governments revert to type: passivity and mediocrity.

No Nigerian government deserves patience. Especially not this one that campaigned on a promise of urgency.

BBOG has made that irreducible minimum – results or nothing – abundantly clear.

The discipline of organisation
It looks like a rag tag team of young and old gathered together under a tree every week in Abuja to demand better. But do not be deceived.

Without the benefit of an office, of funding, in fact of anything but a determined group, BBOG is one of the most highly developed change organisations Nigeria has seen in its history.

The biggest miracle is in maximizing a small base to achieve maximum global impact.

Ezekwesili has constantly spoken at recorded public events of the need for advocacy institutions to move from ‘noise’ to ‘voice’; being able to organize frustration and agitation in a way that earns respect and achieves targeted outcomes. With BBOG she has walked that talk, role-modeling behaviours through her co-leadership that others can only learn from.

At the start of the protests, she whipped dramatists like now-Senator Dino Melaye into line when he tried to corner the movement, they disavowed and excluded those who either attempted violence or even considered violence as a viable tool and when the writer, Elnathan John complained publicly about the regimented structure of the movement (a strict set of demands, orderliness in front of the villa, programming of speakers and representatives), the response was simply that movements cannot be allowed to derail via the wanton, reactive passions of its front liners.

In response to government letters, it has issued its own with detail and restraint. In response to government pronouncements, it has issued its own releases. In reaction to propaganda, it has armed sympathisers with its version of events. And it has managed to coordinate several stakeholders – media, community, partners, international institutions and Malala – with deft strategy.

In this century, an organization doesn’t need an office, or titles.

If that has been the defining philosophy of scholars of modern organizations, then BBOG is the ultimate demonstration of the capacity of a people bound together by a common vision, a definite mission, and a determined capacity.

Chude Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED, owner of the continent’s largest portfolio of youth media RED’s governance communication company, StateCraft Inc, handled the campaign communication for the current presidents of Nigeria and Ghana. He tweets from @Chude.

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Ohimai Godwin Amaize

Among the top news headlines of the past few days have been President Donald Trump’s supposed Muslim ban; the intrigue surrounding the rumours about President Muhammadu Buhari’s health concerns; the fiery preacher, Apostle Johnson Suleiman and the secret police’s interest in the content of a sermon delivered earlier mid-January; and the topic of this essay, planned protest against the federal government of Nigeria by popular Nigerian music artiste, Tuface Idibia.

 

The protest couldn’t have been better timed, coming at a critical phase of our nation’s history when the dominant words on the street are hunger and anger amid palpable discontent over the hopeless incompetence of the Buhari administration since it assumed office on May 29, 2015.

 

I’m a huge fan of Tuface Idibia. He is one of several top music artistes in Nigeria who have earned my respect. I’ve also been a leading advocate for the use of pop culture for social re-engineering. However, real advocacy for good governance must not be confused with the politics of emergency activism often inspired by the logic of the stomach.

 

In the run up to the 2015 presidential elections, Tuface Idibia, unlike many of his counterparts in the entertainment industry was not exactly quiet. He was at the forefront of ‘Vote Not Fight’ – a campaign aimed at promoting peaceful elections. With all the noble intentions and sheer goodwill that engineered that campaign, there are many who argue that the cry for peaceful elections may not have been as critical as the need to call attention to the danger of the emergence of a Buhari presidency or in more diplomatic terms, empowering citizens with the knowledge and information to make wiser choices.

 

This is one of the biggest challenges of activism in Nigeria today. People simply want to identify any cause, as long as it is a cause, throw their weight behind it for whatever reasons, as long as it has the potential to either launch them into the public limelight or in the case of those already in the limelight, keep them at the center of public conversations. The danger in this growing culture of activism-for-fame is the substitution of what is more critical with what is more fanciful, economically lucrative or politically convenient.

 

Except you were not a student of modern Nigerian history, it would have been hypocritical or tantamount to sheer ‘politics’ to feign ignorance of the dangers of a Buhari presidency, at the time he was being repackaged and presented to Nigerians as the ‘messiah’ that would ‘kill corruption’ and lead Nigeria to El Dorado.

 

Here is a man whose time as military Head of State left a legacy as one of our nation’s worst human rights abusers. Here is a man whose records in managing the economy of a nation fall short of the basic principles of running a local government council. Here is a man whose rigidity, incompetence, and parochial approach to governance led to his lieutenants kicking him out of office, but not before he practically ran the nation aground.  Here is a man so famously referred to by Africa’s greatest music legend, the late great Abami Eda – Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as an “animal in human skin”. Publicly available documents contain accounts of Nigerian troops jubilating in the streets in 1985 when Buhari was toppled by his own men. But less than 24 months ago, the failed dictator was presented to Nigerians as the hottest thing since sweet potatoes!

 

Those who came out to present the real facts of history were blackmailed and labelled as the enemies of Nigeria. All entreaties by those who saw the impending danger fell on deaf ears. An entire nation was thrown into the frenzy of Buharimania! It was the biggest propaganda scam ever witnessed in Nigeria’s 100-year history.

 

Those performing the orchestra of change said corruption was our biggest problem and Buhari was coming to kill corruption. Now, hunger, not corruption, is killing Nigerians! Yet, in the midst of all that confusion, those who ought to know better either joined the Buhari bandwagon or chose to sit on the fence. As history re-writes itself, it is easier to forgive those who came out to support Buhari than to forgive the ones who chickened out and sat on the fence as Nigeria faced a most defining moment of history. Sadly, Tuface Idibia falls into this latter category.

 

Perhaps, nothing captures the implication of our inactions better than the words of the great Desmond Tutu who said; “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

 

In the 2008 election cycle in the United States of America, American celebrities who believed in the change candidacy of Barack Obama rallied behind him. We saw on display a replay of that celebrity star power in 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. We saw the likes of Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Katy Perry putting their careers on the line to lend their voices to a cause they truly believed in. It wasn’t convenient but they understood the principle of not sitting on the fence in the heat of battle.

 

Back home in Nigeria, we remember how Dapo ‘D’Banj’ Oyebanjo came out openly to endorse the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. For whatever it is worth, against all odds, the insults, and the public attacks, D’Banj earned the respect of those who understand what it takes to believe in a cause and take a public stand even when it seems that the whole world is against you.

 

Many have suggested that this anti-government protest is a badly needed publicity stunt for Tuface to re-launch his music career. There are many who also believe it is being funded by opposition elements against the Buhari administration. Whatever you chose to believe, I belong to the school of thought that see Tuface Idibia as a truly Nigerian legend in the making who does not need the platform of a political rally to either re-launch or re-package his musical career. He is actually bigger than that.

 

In all of this, the real lesson here for Tuface Idibia and his contemporaries is the need to be more circumspect in the consideration of their roles and responsibilities to society as real change agents.

 

In emerging social contexts, the celebrity, opinion leader or change agent is no longer at liberty to stay or stand aloof on issues of national consequence, sometimes in the name of being politically correct. Increasingly, societal expectations are becoming societal responsibilities and opinion shapers must adjust, adapt or become mere replicas in the dustbins of history.

 

Gone are the days when it used to be said that we can do anything we like and get away with it because, “Nigerians easily forget.” No, Nigerians do not easily forget. Not in this age of new media when our actions and inactions are fast becoming digital footprints on our path to a future that never really forgets.

 

Another lesson that must not be lost in the cacophony of today’s clash of opinions is understanding the true essence of social activism beyond protests and rallies. We must look back into history and learn why for instance, the Occupy Nigeria movement is best remembered today as a farce. We must learn from the legacies of icons like Nelson Mandela, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Martin Luther King Jnr who put in painstaking, time-tested and unwavering commitment into advancing the values they believed in. There are no short-cuts!

 

As the popular saying goes, “Better late than never.” There are many Nigerians who are happy that the likes of Tuface have “seen the light” and are taking a step to atone for their inactions that led Nigeria into this current mess. The planned protest is a good start, but an apology from Tuface to Nigerians for sitting on the fence when his voice was badly needed, would be welcomed.

 

Ohimai, a journalist and media strategist, is the publisher of SIGNAL, an online newspaper. He tweets via @MrFixNigeria

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Dear Nigerians, Let me seize this opportunity to once again wish you a Happy New Year. Indeed 2016 was a very challenging year for all of us, but I believe that with the efforts of both the Government and the private Sector, we should experience a more prosperous 2017.

Towards the end of last year, Nigeria was and is still faced with a major transportation challenge to wit: the impending closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. This impending closure is attributed to the urgent need to rehabilitate the only runway servicing the airport.

From Thursday 12th January 2017 to Tuesday, 17th January, 2017, the Nigerian Senate engaged the stakeholders in the Sector with a view to considering other options available to the millions of Nigerians that would be affected by the Six Week Closure of the airport. The whole essence of this engagement was to find the least stressful alternative that would benefit the country.

I have given the forgoing preamble mainly to further underscore the need to quickly and speedily reinvigorate our Rail Transportation Sector, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016. To achieve this, our counterparts in the House of Representatives will have to hasten up to pass their version of the Bill so that the harmonised version can then be forwarded to Mr. President for his assent.

You will recall that the Nigerian Senate on July 21, 2016 passed the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill, 2016. The new bill is poised to replace the antiquated Railway Corporation Act of 1955.

The new railway bill sponsored by Senator Andy Uba from Anambra state laid the ground work for the reengineering which the Senate Committee on Land Transport which I chair had to do to achieve the quality of the legislation that was eventually passed. I must once again commend my colleagues on the committee and the technical committee that worked with us leading to the passage of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016.

Basically, the passed bill is a departure from the old order, which shut private investors out of the railway business. The new bill, among other things, seeks to open up the railway business to private investors, and to distinguish the regulator – which is the government – from the operator.

I remain a strong believer in the primacy of the railway. It is my belief as well that the Railways remain a critical infrastructure that will extenuate Nigeria’s motley transportation problems. Hence, I am dedicated to leading the charge for the “revolutionalisation” of the system.

Last year, I expressed my thoughts on the same subject in an essay entitled, ‘Time has come to open up our railway to private participation’, which was published a few days before the passage of the bill in July 2016. Given the situation we have found ourselves in now, I deem it necessary to quote some of the thoughts expressed therein, hereunder.

“Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects. The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars. This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation,”.

“Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city. It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time. It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.

“You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail. This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.”

Now, with the impending closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, a frontal focus on the railway is more than ever germane. The goal is not to have just functional railways, but to have trains that are as fast and effective as those we see outside Nigeria.

I believe that the private sector has a pivotal role to play in turning around the fortunes of the Nigerian Railway System. To achieve this, the Senate has taken the lead in giving the executive the requisite Legislative Support to attract Foreign and local investments into the sector. This was the prime goal, when the Senate committee on Land Transport, worked round the clock to ensure the passage of the Railway Bill in good time.

The imminent total closure of the second busiest airport in Nigeria has caused unrest for many Nigerians and foreigners going by their outcry. Imagine if we had an effective rail system whereby cities, states and communities are linked.  A sturdy railway system or a faster train traversing the Abuja to Kaduna corridor, the consequences of the total closure  of the Abuja Airport would be minimal and frequent travelers might not feel much pain or discomfort.

The time for linking every Nigerian artery by rail is now.

 

Senator Gbenga Ashafa Lagos East Senatorial District in the Senate. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport.

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Oby Ezekwesili, co-convener of Bring Back our Girls Movement

On that 30th April 2014 when diverse citizens gathered to march in solidarity, no one could have imagined that any out of our 219 Chibok Girls abducted from their secondary school in April 2014 would remain in captivity of terrorists 1000 days after the tragedy. One recalls pictures of distressed parents supported by local hunters foraging through the path they were told that the terrorists had hauled away their daughters. Meanwhile, their government was missing in action cynically indifferent to the cries for help. 

One of the parents said he was desperate to find his daughter by walking off into Sambisa Forest before the Nigeria Army prevented them, because the future of the entire family depended on that daughter finishing school and taking care of her siblings. How can we not be moved by such decisiveness on girls education in a region that topped both then and now, the chart of poor school enrollment and worse parity ratio of four boys for every one girl in school compared to the rest of the country? 

Nations that have bothered to know the value of having all their girls in school have since discovered the multiple and diverse benefits. More than ever before in history, the economic health of a country depends upon the skills, knowledge, and capacities of its people. Research validates that countries which have made dynamic progress in the last century, are also the ones that help each of their citizens – male and female- to acquire the human assets of values, skills, knowledge and capacities that education bestows. 

In addition to the obvious productivity and income earning benefit to the girl-child and their families, some of the data that validate a diverse range of benefits have global relevance. According to UNESCO, the “Children of mothers with secondary education or higher are twice as likely to survive beyond age 5 compared to those whose mothers have no education. Improvements in women’s education explained half of the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age 5″.

 We are products of the values that shaped us. A Value that some of us imbibed while growing up is that nothing makes a female child inferior and so nothing should keep them from being educated. Those of our parents that held strong to such value bequeathed them to us by sending us to school despite our being female. Like the parents of the 219 ChibokGirls, our parents overcame all barriers that are known to limit educational opportunities available to girls around the world or even more specifically, our various regions in Nigeria. 

For the forward thinking parents of the abducted girls, they desired that their daughters would not be part of the statistics of out-of-school adolescent girls. A recent report on Girls Education in Nigeria by the United Kingdom’s British Council found that in the North East, 54% of adolescent girls are out of school. In the North West, it is 53%, in the North Central, it is 21%, in the South South it is 9%, in the South West 6% and in the south-east, it is 4%. The ChibokGirls parents understood that at an individual and family level, the benefits of offering education to their daughters outweighed the associated social, cultural, religious, physical risks and economic constraints. 

What they did not imagine as part of that calculus was that the physical risk to life for those who dared to show up in their Chibok school has risen substantially to certainty. Boko Haram terrorists are driven by the hideous determination to make knowledge abominable thus challenging our civilization. None of our ChibokGirls parents could however have imagined that neither their own government nor those of the rest of the world would defend the dignity of endangered lives of their children if anything like abduction happened.  None of those parents could have imagined that the lives of their daughters would not be protected by the Nigerian nation-state which has a constitutional duty of providing for the security and welfare of citizens- especially its young ones. None of those parents could have thought that having their daughters show up from their various schools in that local government to take their certificate examination with peers in that Government Secondary School Chibok,  would become a fatal choice between being educated or staying alive. 

Doubly tragic is that as we mark #DAY1000 since the worst nightmare of those Chibok Parents materialized, two successive governments have completely failed to be as bold as the parents of our missing ChibokGirls. From the initial self-preserving coldness, indifference, mockery and tentativeness of the immediate past administration to the “cannot-be-taken-for-their-word” hubris, lethargy and inertia of the current one, any discerning observer can see a common thread. It is the same we-don’t-give-a-damn attitude that is making their successors who assumed office on the back of a strong promise to commit their utmost to rescuing the girls within six months in office;  to repeat history. 

What is the cause of this empathy-deficit toward citizens by those that govern,  regardless of their political symbol and hue? The disconcerting answer is that among our political class,  citizens – whether dead or alive – have no bearing on the incentives that drive the quest for the right to govern them. Unlike those countries where leaders set their country Development vision on their citizens’ values, knowledge, skills and capacities, our own “rulers” place their stewardship quest not on the lives of citizens but on the certainty that oil will flow. Oil will flow and the public purse will flourish whether a citizen dies or is missing. 

The logic is simple: As long as the proceeds from oil are guaranteed, the nation can afford to leave its children with terrorists for any length of time. For as long as oil flows and with that, the proceeds, the cutting short of any Nigerian life has no effect on the country.  It therefore has not mattered as much to any of the two successive Governments of Nigeria that losing our ChibokGirls is a loss to our national stock of human capital. That our Governments prolonged the time it is taking to give justice to children who were abducted in the course of their search for knowledge is a statement on the things we value. 

Should any think this assertion to be farfetched, all they need do,  is, compare the swiftness with which our governments -regardless of which political crew run it- responds to any threat to the flow of oil in the Niger Delta. For our governments, the cynicism towards citizens- who with a certain measure of education are converted to human capital- is that they are of less value than a barrel of oil. 

This is where the parents of our ChibokGirls have more than a lot to teach our political leaders. These parents may not have any “political clout” – part of the reason that many adduce for the way their daughters have been neglected by our government– but they know something that our political rulers are yet to graspNo commodity but our human beings like Chibok Girls, other abducted citizens, hundreds of Nigerians needlessly killed in distressed conditions in the North East, Mainland and South Kaduna, Agatu, Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, Jos, Keffi, Abuja, Lagos and such other places, can guarantee us the swift passage to economic development. 

The slight redeeming prospect of the President Muhammadu Buhari led government as far as the specific matter of ChibokGirls rescue goes, is that in the last three months, it has managed to bring back 24 of them mostly through negotiation with their terrorist abductors. For our freed school girls and their peers in all the internally dislocated peoples’ camps in the North East, it is the duty of the Government’s – Federal and State- to place a premium on their education and skills acquisition to ensure that Nigeria speeds up the accumulation of our human development scores. The education of the girl-child benefits not only the girls and their families but their communities, states and nations. 

Following its inauguration in May 2015, the administration was trapped in more than 15 months of numbing indecisiveness on how to rescue our ChibokGirls, whether through military option or by negotiation with the terrorists. Twenty one of them were eventually released on 13th October 2016 to our Government by the terrorists and embraced by their exuberantly joyous parents. Just a few days ago, another one of the girls returned, having been accidentally found among terrorists and their victims that the Nigerian Army captured. She returned after 997 days in the stronghold of terrorists clutching an innocent baby,  rather than the certificate her parents hoped for when they took a risk to send her to school. 

The tragic irony is that one of the reasons parents send their girl-children to school is to help delay marriage and child bearing while they acquire life skills for a better life. Rukiya Abubarka Gali’s parents while rejoicing at the return of their daughter yesterday, must be regretfully wondering like not a few other parents, whether it was worth it after all, to have made the choice for knowledge for their daughter. 

That DAY1000 is upon us with still more than 80% of our Chibok Girls still captives of terrorists, the only person that can assuage their deep regret is the President and the Federal Government of Nigeria. The way it can do this is to ensure that not one more day goes beyond the one thousand days of suffering of our young daughtersThis Federal Government must realize that the more it makes promises and fails to immediately back them with decisiveness and results-focused actions, it risks completely eroding its fast depleting stock of credibility and goodwill. 

The inability and perhaps unwillingness to learn from mistakes is reason this Federal Government has again relapsed into inertia, lethargy, contradictions and silence on the status of its public pledge last October that another 83 of our girls would be back “soonest”. Our ChibokGirls have always been a symbol of several other victims without identity that are captives of our common enemies or those whose lives were wasted needlessly across the country. Now is the time for our President to find the courage to accord the highest value to the Nigerian life regardless of their region, religion, ideology, political persuasion, social and economic status above any other thing in this country. 

We must not allow more deaths over and above 18 of the brave mothers and fathers who sent their girls to school.  The hope of those deceased parents and the ones alive  was that their girls would go on to become part of our more enduring capital. They did so, trusting that their Government cares about the dignity of life. It is time for the remaining 195 daughters of these courageous parents  to return. 1000 days are already too long. Mr President, we want more results! It is time to bring back home our girls now. And alive!!

 • Ezekwesili is co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls Movement 

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Hon Dasuki

It was Colonel  Haruna Dasuki who ordered that I return to the hospital in military style “maza maza dawo asibiti” on what easily became one of the darkest days in my history. On November 14, 2016, we confronted one of our deepest fears – our father, Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki died. He died minutes after his eminence Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar left his bed side. Unknown to us, this was a farewell visit from the symbol and custodian of the institution my father revered until his last moments, the caliphate. We, his children hoped that somehow he will pull through this hurdle like he had done throughout his eventful life. Although he would have been Ninety-Three years old today, December 31, 2016; it was not enough to neutralize our grief.

Baba taught us many lessons in life and in death; he continues to teach us more. Every part of him told a story; his eyes, his mannerisms, his speech – a story of faith, honor, industry, contentment, sacrifice, duty and dependability. One of his mantras was “abun da ka shuka, shi za ga girba: ku shuka alheri” meaning “you reap what you sow; therefore sow good things”. He served this nation diligently in various capacities which all contributed to the formation of his solid character. He was private secretary to the great premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. He moved on to head the Northern Grains Board, which at the time managed the famous groundnut pyramids. In the private sector, he chaired the board of African International bank (AIB) before his eventual coronation as the 18th sultan of Sokoto. He left indelible marks along the way, building lifelong bonds with his associates. Their condolence messages show the unique bonds they shared with him; each with a different narrative. From Traditional rulers to captains of industry to political office holders to average Joes; his network was vast and diverse.

At the home front, he was our hero. Each and every one of us connected with him in a different way. He was unison, he brought sanity and he was the power horse behind the scenes that ensured we carried on in life with dignity. If there was a problem, we were confident that he would fix it regardless of the magnitude. He was not perfect and neither is our family. However, he navigated our imperfections in a perfect manner. Some of us experienced hilarious shock upon discovering our biological mothers around the ages of eight or nine. This is the flavor of polygamy which my father practiced. He nurtured such trust amongst our mothers that each of them raised children birthed by others with unparalleled grace. He was equitable yet strict, certainly not one to shift the goal post. Discipline was very important to him. There were times when he asked children of our domestic staff to punish us when we derailed. I am not sure if it was the finesse of my brother Col. Sambo Dasuki or the quest for discipline that made him send my generation of Dasukis to military schools. While Ibrahim, Haruna and I went to Nigeria Military School and NDA in Kaduna, Muhammadu Buhari, and the girls attended Airforce Military schools in Jos respectively. Reflecting on my moments with him brings mixed feelings; Sadness for obvious reasons and Joy, for Baba left a part of him in each and every one of us his children. For instance, our eldest sister, Ya Amina, wife of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, knew Baba for longer than any of us. Perhaps this is why she radiates the best part of him, his superlative virtue of patience.

Despite belonging to a different generation, Baba’s advice was somehow always applicable and relevant to contemporary situations. In March 2010 when I was at a crossroads in my life; precisely when I was considering seeking elective office. I approached him and stated with conviction my motivation and desire to run for office. I described the landscape, the opportunities and threats. He listened attentively to my grandiose presentation. His advice was concise but deep. He told me categorically to return to the grassroots and prove my worth to the people at that level. ”How can you aspire to lead a people with whom you have seasonal contact?” That was quintessentially Baba. Not one to evade or beat around the bush to please you. I walked away from that room still unsure of what the future held but with a clear understanding of the enormity of the responsibility that lay ahead. It was not my birthright; I had to earn it. This is the way that our father eased our paths – not with silver and gold but with his values, principles, wisdom, humor, courage, strength and most importantly prayers.

No conversation about Sultan Dasuki will be complete without talking about his courage. He ingrained confidence and fearlessness in each and every one of his children. He never got tired of urging us to “fear no one but Allah” and “beg no one but Allah”. This will later put him on a collision course with late General Sani Abacha and lead to his deposition and subsequent unjust incarceration for years in Zing, Taraba State. The rest they say is history. One of his proudest moments as a father was when he learnt while in detention that his children refused to beg General Abacha for his release. Upon his return, he met a household that was understandably apathetic towards the General. He reacted by lecturing us on the fruitlessness of hatred and requested that we pray for the repose of the General’s soul. Incidences like these defined my father.

I could never do justice to my father in a few paragraphs but I owe it to him to embody his values in the course of my own life. By divine decree, we are entrusted with a duty towards our people as envisioned by our ancestors. As the constant in our lives, his presence made us complacent in a way. His absence on the other hand, unearths the fact that the oars rest squarely on our shoulders to perpetuate his ideals for the benefit of current and future generations. He leaves us the legacy of an exemplary life occasioned by trials which he wouldn’t let define him. Clearly, the real test of Baba’s disciples begins now and I get the feeling we are well prepared.  I conclude in these regulatory words of my father: “Honorable is far more than a name prefix; to be honorable is to be dutiful and to be dutiful is to be mindful of the various layers of expectation of your people”. May Allah grant him al-jannah firdaus and make it easy for us to complete the good work that he started.

Abdussamad Dasuki

Member Representing Kebbe/Tambuwal

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Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko

No class of Nigerians suffers from prejudicial generalization like our political leaders. From classrooms, to newsrooms, to boardrooms to living rooms, wherever Nigerians meet they are most likely talking about bad political leadership in the country.

I believe that there’s no country in Africa, and possibly the world, whose potential for greatness has been impeded, whose national wealth has been decimated, and whose youth population has been crippled by visionless and purposeless leadership more than Nigeria.

The pitiful state of Nigeria today, 56 years after gaining independence from Great Britain, is evidence of the poverty of thinking of a majority of the country’s leaders – past and present. This observation is true for all levels of government. And it’s truly tragic.

Too many Nigerian leaders live by a twisted ideology made up of a cocktail of bigotry, misogyny, and demagoguery. The things they say and do, give the overwhelming impression of conmen committed to nothing other than the bottomless pit that is their personal greed and the stroking of their Godzilla-sized egos.

This class of leaders operates like a perverse group of irrepressible sex-crazed maniacs who lack awareness of the social and long-term catastrophic implications of their actions.

Many of them bulldoze their way into political office with a mix of propagandistic campaign promises, hubris, and unimaginable violence. While in office, they retain their hold on power by emasculating the people they are meant to serve, hoodwinking them with superficial claims of achievements.

These bad leaders are anti-intellectuals who divide their people in every way known to mankind – ethnic, religious, region, class, gender; thereby keeping the people fixated on the issues of least importance; while they make away with the wealth of the nation.

Because of this disgraceful road show that has been put up by a majority of politicians in Nigeria, an act that has been on for all of my life, I lost hope in Nigerian leaders, by and large. I had even begun to nurse the thought that perhaps, the leader who can rescue Nigeria from the abyss staring at us is yet to manifest in the political arena.

I hardly stereotype people, thanks to my academic and professional training, and my persuasion as a Christian. I am always on the lookout for difference. The difference in a person, the difference in a moment, and the difference in an environment, as my mentor, Dr. Mike Murdock teaches.

When it comes to Nigerian politicians, I found an undeniable difference in Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. It took barely 10 minutes in his presence for me to note that the Ondo State governor was not only different from the group of politicians that have turned our political process into a dark comedy, but he is actually special. And what better occasion to celebrate the difference in Dr. Mimiko than his 62nd birthday which he marked on the 3rd of October.

The first quality that I noticed was that he was an effective listener. He listened to young people, who his contemporaries would easily dismiss as ‘inconsequential’, and he did this with an attentiveness that a typical Nigerian leader hardly ever gives to anything or anybody.

He made each and every young person in that room feel that what they had to say was important, that they mattered to him. That’s a rare quality to find in a Nigerian leader, especially a governor.

It was at that meeting that I began to piece together the puzzle and answer the question on why all Mimiko’s team members that I met over the previous 24 hours were not just loyalists, but his raving fans. The way his aides talk about him reflects genuine respect, admiration, and aspiration. You don’t have to spend too much time with the adherents of Irokoism – the word coined for Mimiko’s political philosophy – to know that they are not in the game to fill their bellies, but that they are truly inspired by this remarkable leader, and they are hooked onto a cause bigger than themselves.

This point is further strengthened by the fact that Mimiko seeks neither adoration nor adulation. He admits to being camera-shy. And his aides say that he consistently turns down suggestions to launch PR campaigns to boost his image in the press. “His Excellency would rather put the money for PR in the Mother and Child hospitals or in the Caring Heart schools,” John-Paul Akinduro, his digital media assistant confessed. “He is always telling us the opportunity cost of publicity in terms of what the money could do for the [Ondo] people.”

Since that unforgettable meeting with Governor Mimiko, I have interviewed dozens of people in Ondo State – journalists, market women, artisans, doctors, civil servants, politicians, members of his team, and ordinary people on the streets – and the consistent testimonial (even from his political opponents) is that Mimiko is a humble person, he is honest, he is not a quitter, he has a deep compassion for the people he leads, he is stubborn about his beliefs, and he gives you the freedom to be the same about yours. This is a combination of values that is difficult to find among the power elite in Nigeria.

At that meeting, a few months shy of his 7th year as governor, I watched as Mimiko spoke about his defining goal in leadership, the Herculean hurdles he had to scale over to achieve his dream of changing the lives of his people, and his wall-to-wall approach in ushering in a new phase in Ondo State. It was unscripted; it was spontaneous; it was passionate; it was glorious. It was one of the few things I have witnessed that I truly wished had been taped for my catalogue.

I believe that if every Nigerian was privileged to see what I saw, to hear what I heard, I am convinced that there would be little doubt in anyone’s mind that Mimiko is a great leader with a steely resolve to do good by his people, one who defies the norm of Nigerian politics, and who could be trusted to lead Nigeria to greatness.

Undoubtedly, Governor Mimiko has quite a number of admirable qualities, enough to write volumes about. I think there is one that deserves a deeper exploration in this tribute.

“I tell a man’s character not by the way he treats fellow men, but by his reaction to women”, words worth etching in the hearts of our children. This wise saying helps tell the story of the man whom his people call Irókò, the name of a large hardwood tree that could live for up to 500 years.

Dr. Mimiko has a profound and steadfast compassion for women – their health, their welfare, and their prosperity.

“Why should a woman die just because she is bringing a new life into the world?” Mimiko asked himself this question and answered the question. “There is no acceptable reason for a woman’s life to end during childbirth,” he said. He assembled an impressive team and together they designed a public healthcare policy called Abiye aimed at significantly reducing the tragedy of a 545 maternal mortality ratio (deaths in every 100,000)  in Ondo State. Abiye means safe motherhood in Yoruba.

He put his political will behind the policy and began to walk his talk. He mapped his policy prescriptions with reality and came up with win-win solutions to removing obstacles to achieving his target. And what’s the result?

In September 2016, seven years after Mimiko became the governor, Ondo State is the safest place to give birth in Nigeria – naturally or by cesarean section. The average maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria was 814 in 2015. In Ondo, today, it is 171 – an amazing 5 times less than that of the country. In just seven years of the governor’s visionary policy and dedication in execution, the tragic figure has been reduced by almost 70%.

Just in case, you are wondering how much this service is delivered to the women. Healthcare is 100% free for pregnant women who live in Ondo State. Healthcare for children in Ondo is free from the incubator to 5 years. 100% free!

That is what leaders do. They articulate an agenda, they get on purpose, they follow through with excellent execution, they track performance, they fix problems along the way, simply put, they get on with the programme of serving and protecting their people.

What Mimiko has achieved in healthcare in Ondo fits the universal definition of good governance and purposeful leadership. This is evident in the awards and endorsements of his revolutionary healthcare programmes from global institutions like the World BankWorld Health Organization, the United Nations agencies like UNICEF, and the UK-based think-tank, Chatham House.

As a matter of fact, the Abiye model, created by Mimiko, has been adopted by the World Bank as a viable template for infant and maternal death reduction in the developing world. Also, its complementing women empowerment programme for traditional birth attendants called Agbebiye – has also been recommended by the World Bank and many African countries are either replicating or adopting it to suit their reality. It makes me wonder what the rest of Nigeria is waiting for.

Mimiko is proof that not only can Nigerians operate at the level of global best practice, but we can also set the standards for the world to follow. Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, “Great things don’t just happen, people make them happen.”

Mimiko is a rare Nigerian politician who has articulated an definitive ideology for governance. He is a social democrat. He believes that the public sector can work for the people delivering quality services equivalent to the best institutions in the world and it can be cost efficient.

His political ideology is demonstrated in his belief that urban renewal projects don’t have to displace communities, render people homeless, and jobless, and that somehow the prosperity that follows development would eventually trickle-down to everyone. He has turned that belief on its head several times over, proving in the process that the most impactful development projects should start from the bottom of the pyramid.

Everything that Mimiko has achieved in Ondo State has smashed the popular belief in the heavily Bretton Woods influenced development circles in Nigeria that the public sector cannot manage social system efficiently; that public servants can’t manage institutions profitably; and that public service means poor quality service.

He has demonstrated this in the public healthcare system, in agricultural development, in public school transportation, in micro-loans to artisans and SMEs, in youth development, in women empowerment, education, and in infrastructural development.

Ondo State, is the only place where I have witnessed public servants organise a series of events attended by thousands of people, VIPs attending from across Nigeria and all around the world. They didn’t employ any consultant or outside contractors to handle any aspect of the programme. Yet, the weeklong celebration went excellently well. Zero anxieties, zero disaster moments, and zero complaints. “This is no magic,” Mr. Eni Akinsola, the governor’s chief press secretary said, when I enquired. “It is because we have a leader who believes in his people.”

Mimiko’s Caring Heart educational development policies have created the best public elementary school system in the country. Ondo is the only state in Nigeria where senior public servants and even commissioners are voluntarily, without compulsion, withdrawing their children from private schools and enrolling them in the public school system.

I wish I could spend more time chronicling the transformation in Ondo State, but this article provides room for summaries on Mimiko’s revolutionary performance as a governor and leader. I thought to write this tribute because I didn’t want to miss the event of his 62nd birthday, his last as governor of Ondo, to celebrate the brilliance of this sound intellectual and gentleman.

I also hope that this article would inspire some thinking, hopefully, in the days and months to come – especially, where it is needed most – in the corridors of power in Nigeria.

And most importantly, I write this for his wife, Oluwakemi and his children. So they would know that when they are not in the room, he is a proud husband and father who talks about them a lot and tells how grateful he is for the sacrifice that they make for him to be able to pursue his dreams. For his children, especially, so that when they read this, they would be further reassured of what they already know about their father. That he is a complete definition of an exceptional person, who has built a legacy as a leader and who had the courage of his convictions and pursued them with excellence.

This should be one more reason, not just for the Mimiko family but the entire people of Ondo State to be proud of him.

Aziza Uko is a Nigerian publisher who is the Executive Editor of The Trent. She is also Chief Executive of Ziza Group, a company she founded in 2009. She is an award-winning graduate of marketing and a marketing communications professional with over 17 years post graduation experience. She is a writer, editor, and music lover. She can be reached on email HERE, on Twitter at @azizauko, and Facebook HERE