The Double Edge

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A friend of mine was in Makurdi recently. The last time he visited the town was over ten years ago. After he was done with his business, I called him to know his impression of my town. Did he see the changes in the town? What changes, he asked me. I thought a little bit but the answer wasn’t coming. He then said something that has refused to leave my mind ever since. He said Makurdi is one town a visitor can never get lost in. The town never changes. Everything remained as it was ten years ago when he last came to the town. One noticeable change, though, was the banners hanging from what used to be streetlights on the major roads across the town. Ten years ago some of the streetlights were working but now most of them are only good enough for the advertisement of different companies’ products. Scathing as this remark was, it is the truth. What happened to our streetlights? What has changed in Makurdi in the past ten years?

One of the major talking points in Benue at the moment is Governor Gabriel Suswam’s senatorial ambition. I do not have a problem with his aspirations but, on what basis is he seeking this election into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When the eight years of his governorship of Benue state is critically appraised, would he come up as someone that merits further election? Primary school pupils have just gone back to school after almost one year at home, the teachers not being paid the full amount owed them. State civil servants and pensioners are also groaning because they have not been paid for months. I have had a hard time thinking of which past Benue state governor’s administration Suswam’s has been better than. I still can’t think of one. Even if the Senate is a retirement home, Gabriel Suswam has not merited it.

I have spoken in different fora about what can be accomplished by a leader who truly has the interest of his people at heart. The last time Benue had such a leader was over 30 years ago when a certain Aper Aku was governor. He didn’t need eight years to make an impact. He did, in four years, what no other leader has been able to match. Below are excerpts of a piece I published earlier this year on his stewardship.

“Aper Aku was born in 1938, and, in 1979, he became the first civilian governor of Benue State, created just three years previously. Before February 3, 1976 it was part of Benue-Plateau State. For four years Aper Aku moved beyond his Ushongo community and left his footprints all over the state, until Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s military regime rudely truncated the beautiful growth being experienced by the young state in 1983.

“Within four years Aku had built several industries to produce fertilizer and process agricultural products, Benue having great agricultural potentials, and located these close to the areas where the produce was grown. Research shows he also launched commercial enterprises such as the Benue Brewery, Benro Packaging, Benue Bottling Company, Lobi Bank, Ber-Agbum Fish Farm, Ikyogen Cattle Ranch, Taraku Vegetable Processing Industry and Benue International Hotel in Makurdi. He initiated the Makurdi International Market and planned to establish a flour mill in Makurdi. Aku also built a state of the art State Secretariat. This secretariat still stands exactly how it was built over 30 years ago. Unpainted.

“He cancelled work on a large medical centre at Apir, on the outskirts of Makurdi, and instead began construction of seven cottage hospitals in different locations. He established two Teachers Colleges at Oju and Makurdi and the University of Technology in Makurdi which became the seed-bed out of which grew the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi. He embarked on an ambitious program to expand the number of Secondary Schools. He built roads in Makurdi township and provided the street lights, awarded the contract for the Art Council Complex and started work on the Makurdi stadium which is presently named after him.

“The military coup that brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power on December 31, 1983 and replaced the civilian governors with military officers not only arrested this commendable development of a state and the giant strides being taken by one man, it also ensured that progress was actually reversed. Many of the projects he had begun were later abandoned by the military governors, and agricultural production plunged. The elaborate water supply schemes that Aku had initiated was abandoned, and the infrastructure that had been built was not maintained.

“Buhari jailed Aper Aku and most of the other Governors, setting up military tribunals to investigate their conduct while in office. Aku’s health was broken by the harsh conditions in jail, and he died in 1988 shortly after being released.

“The foregoing emphasizes the degree of impact one can have on a society within a very short time if one’s heart is put into creating positive change within whatever society one finds oneself. It is instructive to note that the much that was achieved by Aper Aku was done with a budget that is a fraction of what state Governors spend these days without achieving a quarter of what he did. A situation where recurrent expenditures gulp a very huge percentage of budgets, as shown in the federal government’s 2014 budget, for example, cannot help any society desirous of sustainable development.

“The clamor for political offices post-2015 has started. The office holders with renewable tenures have started campaigning for re-election and those with expiring tenures are attempting to position themselves for higher office. This is regardless of how much (or how little) impact their administrations have had on the people. Nobody needs eight years to create enduring change in a place like Nigeria, considering the amount of resources usually put at the leaders’ disposal. Aper Aku did it in four years.”

From next year Benue will have a new governor. Will it be more of the same? Will we see someone who will attempt to leave indelible footprints as Aku did? I believe this can be done. I haven’t met any of the aspirants but, from the antecedents of a few, if I had to choose it wouldn’t be a very difficult choice. Dr Samuel Ortom has built a business conglomerate out of his personal resources. If given state resources, I believe, he will do more for the state.

It is a wise leader that, instead of just confiscating our common wealth for his/her personal comfort, chooses to take steps that will carve his/her name forever in the hearts of the people.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @CollinsUma

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I want to tell you a story. And I will try to keep this short and, as much as possible, simple.

I have a car. My good friend, Agofure, is a transporter. I don’t use my car often because I have other means by which I move around. But I still spend a lot to maintain my car. So, instead of having the car as a burden and a liability, I choose to make my car an asset. Besides, having multiple streams of income is something I try to teach people all the time. I’ve got to practice what I preach. So, I give my car to Agofure, the transporter, who gives me a certain percentage of the income whenever people hire my car. He keeps a percentage too because he is totally responsible for the car.

One day, some clean looking guys come to Agofure to hire a car for a trip. They didn’t come specifically for mine, I doubt if they knew that some of the cars in Agofure’s fleet belonged to other people. But mine was available and they didn’t mind. All they were concerned with was that they were renting a good car from Agofure. They, however, did not completely disclose to Agofure the true nature of the trip. They only told him the driver will take them there, wait at the motor park for them while they go into town to make some purchases, then bring them back. Agofure asked them what the purchases were, because he didn’t want any problems from the ever-troublesome union people. They told him, he wrote it down, and gave them the car. But what they told him was a lie.

On getting to their destination, these clean looking guys were arrested because they had three Ghana-Must-Go bags full of dollars and they couldn’t explain why they were moving about with all that cash. Secondly, the items they were coming to buy were contraband.

Now, in some twisted logic, some people have called me all sorts of names, printable and unprintable, saying I should be arrested because it was me that gave Agofure the car that these men finally travelled with. I’m perplexed. Why are they hating me? I’m not even a player in this game. The Ghana-Must-Go full of money isn’t mine. And it wasn’t me that ordered for the contraband. Instead of people to look for the man that sent these boys and question him, they are facing me.

My name is Ayo, and I have suffered. The devil wants to steal my Joy but that devil is a liar. Some have said that as a fish-pond owner, and the head of Fish Pond Owners Association, I have no business doing business. They say that whenever I’m hungry I should open the belly of a fish and find a coin therein, as our Lord Jesus demonstrated in His time. These are the same people that will insult me if I slice open all my fish in search of coins. I know this because this is how they insult my colleagues that depend so much on what the get from their fish for survival.

I like Olori Oko, not because he’s my kinsman. I believe the man is trying and I make this opinion known everywhere I go. That is my nature. I say what I think. Ask the witches in Warri. Years ago I made it known that I don’t like them and I ran many of them out of town. My fish pond in Warri is still there. The fishes enjoyed staying there, not because I was quiet but because I always spoke my mind. People now want me to change in my old age? They have also said that if I must express an opinion it should be that I hate Olori Oko. Am I no longer entitled to an opinion? I am. And I will express it. Yes, there is room for improvement but, until further notice, I support Olori Oko. Hate me all you can.
*adjusts bling*

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With President Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau as Minister of Education, many analysts and public commentators, especially on social media, have been debating the wisdom behind the appointment. Is it a round peg in a round hole? Is it just politics?

Shekarau, a former governor of Kano state and presidential aspirant on the ticket of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), one of the legacy parties that merged to form the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), left his party to join Jonathan’s PDP recently. This is why many see the appointment as ‘settlement’.

Also appointed were Stephen Oru as Minister of the Niger Delta, Bashir Yuguda as Minister of State For Finance and Supervising Minister of National Planning, Adedayo Adeyeye as Minister of Works, and Abdul Bulama as Minister of Science And Technology. The talking points, however, have focused on Mr Shekarau’s appointment.

What many do not realise, however, is that Shekarau’s work life has been in the educational sector. His Wikipedia page throws a lot of light on this.

“Shekarau was born in the Kurmawa quarters of Kano, the son of a police officer. He was educated at Gidan Makama Primary School (1961–1967), then at Kano Commercial College (1967–1973) and finally at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1973–1977) where he received a Degree in Mathematics/Education.

After finishing his Degree, he went into the civil service. Later on, he started his career as a Mathematics teacher at Government Technical College, Wudil in 1978. Two years later he became Principal at Government Day Junior Secondary School, Wudil. In 1980 he was transferred to Government Secondary School, Hadejia, then to Government College Birnin Kudu in 1986, then to Government Secondary School, Gwammaja and then to Rumfa College in March 1988, all as the school’s principal.

Shekarau became Deputy Director of Education in charge of Bichi Zonal Education Area in 1992. One year later, he was promoted to Director Planning, Research and Statistics in Ministry of Education. Two year later, he became Director General (Permanent Secretary), Ministry of Education and Youth Development.

In January 1995, Shekarau was transferred to Ministry of Water Resources, Rural and Community Development, then back to Ministry of Education in January – May 1997 before he was asked to moved to General Service Directorate of the Cabinet Office, all as Permanent Secretary. By February 2000, he was on the move again to Civil Service Commission, where he stayed for only four months before the civil service commission under Ado Gwaram Government sent him to the State College of Arts, Science and Remedial Studies (CASRS) as Chief lecturer (Mathematics) at the Department of Physical Sciences, in May 2000. Shekarau remained in this post for 17 months before he voluntarily retired from the services of Kano State Civil Service on 2 October 2001. Some time after quitting his post as Chief Lecturer, he decided to work as a secretary to businessman Aminu Dantata. He was employed under Dantata until he became a contender in Kano State’s 2003 gubernatorial elections.”

So, do you think Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau is suitable for appointment as Minister of Education?
Kindly let me know what you think in the comments section.

Follow me on Twitter: @CollinsUma

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I had begun writing about Chibok and #BringBackOurGirls. I wanted to write about a certain Mohammed Ali Ndume who was arrested in 2011 as a result of his relationship and interactions with members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and allegations of his sponsorship of terrorist activities in Borno State. Ndume was charged to court in 2011, but the case is as good as dead. You see, Mohammed Ali Ndume had represented Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza federal constituency in the House of Representatives and he is presently the senator representing Borno South, of which Chibok, from where over 200 girls were kidnapped over a month ago, is a part.

While we are all growing grey hairs worrying over who the Boko Haram sponsors are, Mr Ndume sits pretty in the Senate chambers collecting jumbo salaries and allowances, making laws for the rest of us and even taking part in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Irony has no other definition. But then, it is not strange in these parts to hear the thief too shouting ‘Ole!’ while being chased down the street. Also, little wonder our parliamentarians see homosexuality prohibition debates as more urgent than Child Rights Acts and anti-terrorism laws.

I was also going to write about how the terrorists can strike anywhere in Nigeria while our troops, God bless them, spend their entire energy combing Sambisa forest, as long as the financiers of these terrorist acts still walk our streets as free men.

And then they struck in Jos.

The news of that bomb blast got me more demoralized than anything else has in a long time. I got talking via BBM with my friend, Hemenseter Butu (@Hembuts) who has spent years living and schooling in Jos. Hemen shared with me the following about his memories of the area affected by the blast.

“I remember my first time in Jos, I arrived in the evening and the weather was so inviting, so welcoming as though it was trying to soothe my days spent in the ovens of the Benue basin. The city was exactly how they’d described it, strangers greeted you when you walked by, the breeze was cool and calming, the people truly hospitable. Years later, I was offered admission at the University of Jos to study Zoology.
I would stroll in the evenings to get suya from Abdullahi, the best suya guy in the world, play snooker with neighbours and return home late without any fear of being harmed. Ignorance, they say, is bliss and I felt no sense of danger as I hadn’t witnessed a crisis before.

“It was in 2008 that I would get a taste of my first “Jos crisis” as it was known afterwards. November 28 2008, a day after the Jos North elections, we woke up to scenes of smoke and empty streets. We had no idea the elections had led to a crisis that brewed at night while we slept. We still didn’t feel the need to run but I wasn’t taking any chances. I slipped my documents into my laptop bag and went out to get a bag of ‘pure’ water. On my way back I heard a mob moving towards us, shouting and shooting in the air. I ran as fast as I could, got my laptop and ran to the mountains with my cousin and friend and then into the University staff quarters where we were safe until buses came to convey us back to Benue.

“From then everything changed. Soldiers were deployed. Countless people killed, including Abdullahi the suya guy’s brother. Property worth millions of Naira were destroyed and I am yet to see one person in court to answer for these crimes against me and my compatriots.

“Fanatics, some say Islamists, have made it a point of duty to destabilize the city. I don’t know why they are called Islamists when everything they do is against Islam. They kill Muslims, rape, destroy hospitals and schools. How is that Islamist?

“I spent a lot of time where the May 20 bomb was reported to have exploded. My best friend, Chukwuemeka Ibeneme, and I would often go to buy clothing from the stores less than 500m from the bomb site. We’d order a plate of “abacha” before even entering the clothing store. An Intercontinental bank (now Access Bank) ATM was just up the road opposite JUTH and we’d frequent it because it was one of the few ATMs that dispensed N500 notes.

I clearly remember walking on that very tarmac where one of the bombs went off on my way to get vegetables along with my long time friend Aremu. In fact Aremu made it a ritual to get vegetables everyday from Terminus.

“Even when the crisis and bombs came, Jos still gave me good memories. I remember the sweet onions and carrots. I remember the weekend shows every other weekend. I remember my friends and colleagues. I remember the freedom. I remember the cold. I remember the suya.

Jos was to me a place to find solace. The city that gave me a Degree. Now that city is facing ruin and political will to fight this battle is almost zero. Morale of the soldiers is at an all time low. My memories are all I have”.

I feel Hemenseter’s pain; the pain of watching your city being blown to bits by some scoundrels while those who can help look the other way. This violence isn’t JOStified.

The question now isn’t ‘Will another bomb go off?’
The question now is ‘Where will the next bomb go off?’

Please follow me on Twitter @CollinsUma

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By Collins Uma

When Joe Obi, Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah’s Special Assistant on Media, made comments in an attempt to justify his principal’s acquisition of two bullet-proof BMW cars through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) I wonder what was going through his mind. Mr Obi stated that:

“It is true that some security vehicles were procured for the use of the office of the Honourable Minister in response to the clear and imminent threat to her personal security and life following the bold steps she took to reposition the sector”.

This sounds to me like a very unwise statement, with due respect, Mr Obi. The transaction for the cars started in June, according to reports, to prevent a backlash from those affected by the ‘repositioning of the sector’ and in October – four months later – there was the Associated Airlines crash which killed several people. A few days later an IRS Airlines plane carrying 99 passengers made an emergency landing at the Kaduna airport. What ‘repositioning’ are you then talking about, Mr Obi? This is besides the fact that the acquisition is in total disregard of the nation’s procurement laws, as revealed at the House of Representatives hearing.

It would be a bit understandable if the protection Madam Minister sought was after a job well done. Why spend N255 million to protect yourself when our airspace is still unsafe?

There is no gainsaying that this would not be the first time this minister, or any other in this administration, would be involved in shady deals. And it would not be the last. A scrutiny of the affairs of the agencies under the Ministry of Aviation will open cans of worms Minister Oduah would rather leave firmly shut. This is just one that got exposed.

If this had happened in another country, a lot of heads would have rolled, administratively speaking. According to a recent BBC report, in South Africa the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, announced tough measures to curb unnecessary spending by government officials as a result of widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of taxpayers’ money. Now, what are some of these allegations?

According to the report, “one recent example is Northern Cape’s new provincial government premier, Sylvia Lucas, who came in for strong criticism for spending around $5,000 on fast food purchases on a government credit card during her first 10 weeks in office.

In his last cabinet reshuffle, President Jacob Zuma fired Communications Minister Dina Pule following allegations that she had allowed her boyfriend to travel with her at the state’s expense.

Some government ministers have also been embroiled in allegations of rigging tenders in favour of friends.

Others have been accused of indulging themselves with cars costing more than $100,000, expensive tastes in wine and five-star accommodation and travel around the world”.

Mr Gordhan wasted no time in reading the riot-act to big spending government officials. He “trimmed the fat on travel perks, blew the bubbles out of excessive alcohol and banned the use of credit cards.

“From 1 December, no alcohol will be served at government functions and spending on an event should not exceed $200”, he said.

Also, “government ministers and officials will have to fly economy class – no more first or business class – and in fewer numbers and frequency”.

Even the opposition politicians support this move. Opposition Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi believes this is “small money in the overall budget but it’s sending a strong message”.

This is what governance should be.

But this is Nigeria.

And our President is a man called Goodluck Jonathan.

This is Stella’s goodluck.

I am @CollinsUma

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This piece was first published last year.

The Nigerian news media was agog and there was celebration and clinking of glasses in Aso Rock when on the 18th of April,2012 TIME magazine, a US weekly news magazine, released its annual list of the ‘100 Most Influential People In The World’ for the year 2012. Making this list was our own President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Mainasara Jonathan. This was, more than anything, a testament to how far the man who ‘had no shoes’ has come.

We do not know what parameters were used in determining who made it into the list of ‘100 Most Influential People In The World’ for 2012 but it is believed that just being President of the country with the largest population of Blacks anywhere in the world should put one close to the top of any list of influential people. What is however obvious from TIME magazine’s list is that the Goodluck Jonathan we know seems not to be the same person whose citation was read by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, of Liberia, for TIME. Below is an excerpt from that citation.

“….President Jonathan, 54, possesses the qualities needed at this moment of great challenges, came to power at a crucial moment in the history of Nigeria. The country has grown out of its past of corruption, mismanagement and brutality…”

Makes you wonder if its the same King Ebele The Clueless she’s talking about, doesn’t it? With the mind boggling scams, and embezzlement of public funds–the highest ever witnessed anywhere in Africa–and the brutality of trigger-happy policemen and officers of the Joint Task Force (JTF), someone can stand and say this? But Madam Johnson-Sirleaf was not done. She went on to say,

“….President Jonathan has shown the same dexterity he demonstrated as Governor of Bayelsa, the same ability to find the remedies to the many complexities of running a nascent democracy. He has spearheaded the fight against corruption and turned Nigeria into an example of good governance”.

Excuse me??

She concluded by saying, “With leaders like President Jonathan, Africa is sure to move forward with prosperity, freedom and dignity for all of its people”.

Of all the things that citation by President Johnson-Sirleaf achieved, one thing is certain. She, like a lot of people outside Nigeria, still believes the hype about Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that we in Nigeria USED TO believe. Now we know better. Thank God.

Goodluck Jonathan was born in what is now Bayelsa State to a family of canoe-makers. This was a common trade among the riverine people of Otuoke, his hometown. Aided by the proceeds from his father’s canoe business he went on to get a B.Sc in Zoology, an M.Sc in Hydrobiology and Fisheries biology and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt. Before venturing into politics, Jonathan worked as an Education Inspector, Lecturer, and Environmental-Protection Officer.

Looking at his background, not a few Nigerians believed this was a man who would usher in the country’s economic prosperity, having grown up with so much lack himself. Nigerians, majority of whom live in abject poverty, surviving on less than two dollars per day, felt in him a kindred spirit. His ‘humble’ mien got him perceived as that lamb that would sacrifice himself, challenge the status quo and rescue the nation from the oppressive jaws of the oligarchs. In short, this was the messiah. But Nigerians were wrong. And Jonathan’s spin doctors and PR men knew this. They knew Nigerians could neither differentiate between humility and inferiority complex nor contrast gentility and docility. So, what did they do? They ensured he was always dressed in his somber-looking attires, wrote him a speech and gave repeated air-play to the portion that said “I had no shoes….I am one of you”.

Jonathan may have been one of them as a young canoe man’s son, but he forgot all that when he joined the thieving administration of DSP Alameseigha, former governor of Bayelsa who, it was widely reported, disguised himself as a woman to escape back to Nigeria after he’d been arrested outside the shores of the country for money laundering.

He also forgot he was one of them when he became Vice President via an election that the President himself, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (God rest his gentle soul) confessed was seriously flawed. Did Jonathan also remember he was one of them and he ‘had no shoes’ when, through a palace coup and a never-before-heard-of ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ he got David Mark and the National Assembly to transfer to him full Presidential powers when President Yar’Adua was still receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Someone once compared Goodluck Jonathan’s ascension to the Presidency to that of America’s Barack Obama because both of them were from demographics considered as minorities. But that is as far as the similarities go because while Obama became president through the audacity of hope (as the title of his book suggests), Jonathan became president through the audacity of hype.

With a horde of scams – pension scam, subsidy scam, NSE scam, Malabu scam etc – all within the first year of his administration, running into trillions of Naira, the highest ever since the creation of Nigeria, and the degree of insecurity in the country which has left thousands dead, I wonder what made Ms Johnson-Sirleaf say that “the country has grown out of its past of corruption, mismanagement and brutality”. But this is part of the hype the outside world believes about the man.

Self-appointed leaders of the South-South represented by Edwin Clark and Asari Dokubo have been telling anybody idle enough to grant them audience that Goodluck Jonathan MUST be president again in 2015. This is funny. He has just completed the first year of his 4-year term and he is constitutionally entitled to a 2nd term but Nigerians have already seen beyond the facade he put up in 2011. We do not want a president who only seeks the approval of other presidents (“Obama is happy with me”). We do not want a president who is all bark and no bite (“I will soon make public the list of Boko Haram sponsors”). We do not want a president who has no intention of implementing the recommendations of any of the various committees he sets up (Oronsanye etc). We do not want a president who will punish ordinary Nigerians to protect his friends who got paid trillions of Naira for fuel they NEVER supplied. We do not want a president who does not know that October 1st, May 27th and May 29th ought to be days of celebration and not days to hide within the confines of Aso Rock.

Nigerians deserve better than Goodluck Jonathan. Hype can only take you so far. 2015 may just be too far to implement this much-needed change. It may just be. If only we had a legislature that was not spineless. But that is a story for another day.

Join me on twitter @CollinsUma

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Recently I was at a Bible study group meeting where we discussed Pastor-member relationships and in the course of the discussion somebody mentioned the COZA saga. Two members of the group could not wait to ask questions.

One asked “What happened at COZA?”

The other asked “What is COZA?”

It is easy to dismiss the inquirers as unnecessarily ignorant folk who have no right not to know about what has been one of the longest trending scandals in recent times but this would be an expression of ignorance in itself, the ignorance being that the scoffer does not realise that there is a world outside of social media and its trending topics. This world goes about its business and, once in a while, picks up news from the traditional news media and few here are interested in ‘gossips’ like the COZA affair. These few get their dose of ‘gossip’ from soft sell magazines which often carry stories which the readers often take with a pinch of salt.

Social media addicts live and operate within a cocoon and it is difficult for them to believe that they may be on a virtual plane of existence totally cut off from the real world and the actions or decisions on this surreal plane do not have much influence on real world affairs. The VIPs, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs on social media know better than to attempt taking their influence out of social media because very few have spheres of influence that extend beyond social media. To maintain their virtual followers therefore, they attempt to convince all that New Media popularity or activism is the new black. And if we must change Nigeria it must be on social media, they imply.

Nigeria, however, is bigger than what social media makes a non Nigerian believe and the sociopolitical complexities and diversities are much more than what is tweeted. There are more Nigerians outside of the world I call ‘Twitter-verse’ than there are within it.

These ‘offline Nigerians’ are not even aware of the half-baked opinions, bickering, rants, and mud slinging which has become the order of the day in the Twitter-verse to begin to care about them. Little wonder, therefore, that a lot of people who are not very active on Facebook or Twitter have not heard of Ese Walter or COZA. Little wonder a youth-based political party that was going to be floated by a radical Nigerian Twitter personality never left the shores of social media. Little wonder too that I got a rude shock when, during Social Media businessman Japhet Omojuwa’s ‘fight’ with the management of Arik Air, I mentioned to a friend that Mr Omojuwa had been blacklisted by the airline. The first question I got was “Who is Omojuwa?” Admittedly, this is a funny question to anyone on Twitter, but it was an honest question.

For all the rants and the insults the government receive on social media, the truth is that elections will not be held on social media. Majority of those who actually vote during elections are the ‘offline Nigerians’. The earlier the opinion shapers on social media begin to come out of the delusion that huge social media followership comes with, the better it will be for the impact they intend to make on the polity. It should be understood that one million Twitter followers do not equal one million votes. Except if the amassing of followers is an end in itself because of the revenue that can accrue thereby.

In 2015, the PDP will most likely win the Presidency and a lot of other seats in different states. The party understands that politics is a game of numbers. Not number of tweets or retweets or Twitter followers, but number of voters they can convince from the streets, the markets, the bus stops, and the villages. The opposition does not seem to understand this. Many of those on social media are not registered voters, to begin with.

They are like the people in the Bruce Willis 2009 movie, Surrogates, who never left their homes but moved around everyday through surrogates created by advanced technology. The opinion of the surrogates were at times diametrically opposed to that of the real individuals behind the surrogates. The movie may be sci-fi but, in Nigeria, our Twitter handles or general online identities are like these surrogates. It is delusional to believe the hype created by online followership and think this is where the world begins and ends because it will all pale into insignificance on election day.

Among the family and friends I have, I am the most active on social media and the most knowledgeable on trending topics but, if there were to be an election today and I stood against them based on what I know, who do you think would win the elections? Me? I don’t think so. No, I’m not that deluded.

I’m @CollinsUma

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53 QUESTIONS
Collins Uma

1. My home team, Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi, was giving out free jerseys. Why didn’t I care about winning one? I would have done everything to win one if this was London and Chelsea FC were giving out free jerseys.

2. Why does my governor, Gabriel Suswam, always support Goodluck Jonathan?

3. Why do I even refer to Suswam as my governor? I am Igbo, for chrissakes!

4. Will there ever come a time when the opportunities I’d be offered in a place would be based more on the length of time I’d been there and my socioeconomic contributions than on my ethnicity?

5. Why is my brother born in America an American and the other born in Lagos not a Lagosian?

6. Why did Jim Iyke go to TB Joshua?

7. Couldn’t he have just made a decision and gotten married, like Tuface?

8. Is this why Jesus laid his life on the cross?

9. Are people like Chinedu Ekeke, Tolu Ogunlesi, Tonto Dikeh etc who are not married possessed by demons too?

10. Errrm….Tonto Dikeh, though? *scratching head*

11. Am I OK?

12. Is Shekau dead?

13. Does our President have balls?

14. Shouldn’t that question be directed to Dame?

15. Won’t my egbon say I should direct it to Diezani?

16. As a kid with bow legs, my parents saw me try to march every October 1st. Will there ever be another October 1st march past for school pupils?

17. Will a National Conference, sovereign or not, ensure that?

18. Why are there no young people in that National Conference committee?

19. What is the latest on Senator Ali Ndume?

20. Where is Kabiru Sokoto?

21. Jonathan said he will release a list of Boko Haram sponsors. What happened to that?

22. What are Northern governors and Emirs doing to track down Boko Haram sponsors in their states?

23. What is Jonathan afraid of?

24. Has the National Security Adviser (NSA) become a Personal Security Adviser (PSA)?

25. How many more need to die before the NSA is sacked, if he’s not PSA?

26. Who is funding the Ombatse cult in Nasarawa State?

27. Who are the corrupt people Jonathan said will attack him?

28. What will they attack him with?

29. How injurious will their attack be if he exposes them?

30. Yes, I will ask again. What is Jonathan afraid of?

31. What will happen to all the Boko Haram arms and ammunitions if a Northern Muslim becomes President?

32. Why did Asari Dokubo, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Mohammed Abacha meet with OPC and MASSOB heads in Anambra?

33. Can TB Joshua predict if Shekau’s next death will be his last?

34. Why didn’t TB Joshua send a message to the Agagu family before the crash to warn them?

35. Why don’t we get reports of the revelations of the black box after the crashes?

36. How soon before the next plane crash?

37. Why is it important the political party the plane crash victims belonged to?

38. When did our party affiliations overtake our humanity?

39. Besides the names of the parties what else is different between PDP members and APC members?

40. Will the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigrations and Prisons Services’ Board (CDFIPB) tell us how much it has made from the on-going recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service?

41. Why do the applicants have to pay N1000 each?

42. Will there be a record of how the amount generated was spent?

43. Will somebody request for the records through the Freedom Of Information act and make it public?

44. Why exactly is ASUU on strike?

45. How much exactly is ASUU demanding?

46. Why are state universities on strike?

47. Do they all have agreements with their state governments that the governors have reneged on?

48. Is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar still asking people to sign his petition?

49. Will the new distribution companies (DISCOs) supply new transformers to neighbourhoods?

50. What will happen to the over three billion dollars ($3,000,000,000) generated from the privatisation of PHCN?

51. What does Reno Omokri do when he’s not attacking imaginary enemies on Twitter?

52. Will General Buhari run in 2015?

53. Arsenal got Ozil. They don’t care if they win the EPL or not, do they?

Bonus: Am I @CollinsUma on Twitter?

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Having done business in and around Anambra state for over one year, I have observed that the entire state is just one big market square. I say that in a positive way. There are those who manufacture or import some commodities which they sell to others who do secondary sales. The banks and bankers are there to regulate funds transfer and the police are there to appeal to the people to maintain some semblance of order. These traders do not care so much about politics because they know the politicians are just businessmen like everyone else. They are rather more interested in who will ensure they have a better environment within which to trade their wares, irrespective of the party platform.

Chris Nwabueze Ngige understood this when he was made Governor of the state in 2003. Within a few years he had endeared himself to the people by embarking on major road construction projects across the state. He also built schools and health facilities and brought attention to the inhuman pillaging of the state’s resources by political godfathers.

Politics is a hard game, and its vagaries can swing any ambitious mortal from one pole to the other. As a result, politicians learn to ‘pitch tents’ rather than build permanent structures. They maintain no permanent friends or foes, only permanent interests. Ngige’s cross-carpeting from the PDP, a party which gave him prominence, to the ACN and, consequently, the APC, therefore should not affect his chances in the November 16 elections but for a few factors.

Dr Chris Ngige is his own enemy. His campaign is totally built on the strength of his previous performance. This previous performance however was judged against former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s performance and Mbadinuju’s tenure is one which a lot of people would rather forget. Right now Governor Peter Obi has raised the bar much higher. Ngige is also not considering that there are so many who did not vote in 2003 due to being under-aged and who are of age now and there are many others who are presently resident in the state who were not there between 2003 and 2006 so have no idea of what Ngige did back then. This is not 2006. The voters are different. The voters are also more politically aware than they were between 2003 and 2006.

The deportation of Igbos from Lagos is another blight on APC’s chances in Anambra. Ngige, being a ‘good party man’, supported Governor Fashola’s actions, forgetting that he will be seeking the votes of the same people on whom the internal deportees were dumped. The deportation saga only made the APC appear anti-Igbo, a fact not helped by the party’s relative unpopularity in the State, Buhari’s seemingly unassailable hold on the party’s presidential ticket, Tinubu’s assumed desire to extend his empire and playground to Igboland, and Femi Fani-Kayode, an APC chieftain’s sustained insult of Igbos in general and former Anambra governor C.C Onoh’s daughter, Bianca Ojukwu, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, proud daughter of Anambra and wife of late Eze Igbo Ggurugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, in particular.

Willie Obiano of APGA’s triple ‘C’ campaign of Continuity of Governor Obi’s projects, Completion and Commissioning of these projects may appear too simplistic but this communicates more to the people because they can all see what he is talking about. Obi has, among other things, through the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS), completed hundreds of kilometres of roads, built and renovated hospitals all over the state and have had these accredited, invested over 14billion naira in Orient Petroleum Refinery, revived dead industries, and improved the previously appalling security situation of the state. A continuation of all these and more is what Ndi Anambra have been promised if they vote Willie Obiano. And this is seriously working against APC’s chances.

For emphasis, let it be stated again, the Anambra voter cares more about the candidate than the nomenclature of the political party. This is why people are talking more about Ifeanyi Ubah than they are about his Labour Party. This is why the PDP’s lot will improve better if the party can do something about its suicidal tendencies and just make a decision on who the party’s actual candidate for the election is. This is why Ngige and the APC should not be too confident yet. This is why Willie Obiano will most likely become Governor-elect as from November 16.

I’m on twitter @CollinsUma

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By Collins Uma

Recently I was in Makurdi, Benue State, and I went to the Government House to see a long time friend. On entering the premises I met another friend of mine. I will call him James. He was dressed in an expensive-looking flowing kaftan and standing within a group of stern-looking young men who wore jeans and T-shirts. Meeting James at the Benue State Government House was not strange but there was something different about him in spite of his ever-present smile. We got talking and I learnt that the young men were his bodyguards. James wearing kaftan, surrounded with bodyguards? What did I miss?

You see, James and I have come a long way. We met as fresh undergraduates on the queue during registration after we had both just secured admission into Benue State University, Makurdi. We were in different departments but we found we both lived in the same part of town, not far from each other. He had a great sense of humour and we became a sort of tag team.

As time passed I started publishing a magazine on campus and James got involved in student politics. Through these we both achieved a level of fame on campus. People who needed publicity came to me and the politicians flocked to James. He was a great campaign manager even though he wasn’t one of the best students.

In our second year I got into some trouble because of an event I helped put together. When James heard about it he introduced me to some of his friends and before I knew it the problem was solved. After that, for some reason, people became more willing to let me mind my business. To antagonise me was same as getting James antagonised. And James wasn’t a good person to cross, in spite of his affable nature. So were several of his ‘friends’ who made decisions about what happened or did not happen on campus.

In the second semester of our third year the church I was a member of made me the Pastor in charge of the campus arm of the ministry. This made me curtail a lot of my social activities, on and off campus. James got more involved with politics and began to interact more with with mainstream politicians in the state. I couldn’t be bothered because I believed I was too ‘clean’ to have any business with politicians. My friend, James, gradually became a political thug since this was all most politicians saw young people as good for. We maintained contact, however, until I graduated in 2007 and left Makurdi. He failed some courses and spent an extra year in school. The next time we met was during the fuel subsidy protests in Makurdi in January 2012. He was paid to protest against us and he got some boys who carried placards in support of the government. They also tore some of our placards and threatened to deal with some protesters. I could only shake my head when I saw what my friend had become.

At our recent meeting he told me he is now a top member of the PDP and he was part of the party’s delegation that was heading to Abuja for some meeting. He made me understand that all he had been doing was designed to lead to this. The end justifies the means, he said. I could only guess there was going to be other former and ‘incumbent’ thugs at the meeting. This is the bane of our politics.

James is in Bamanga Tukur’s PDP because that is Governor Gabriel Suswam’s camp and it is politically expedient not to upset the apple cart if he wants to have a long life, politically. Governor Suswam also knows better than to publicly disagree with President Goodluck Jonathan. Even Tukur’s recent comments about his PDP being the ‘authentic one’ because they are the ones recognised by INEC is all hogwash. Did he give a damn about INEC’s recognition of Andy Uba as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Anambra elections? Like my friend James, people will say and do anything when the stomach is their god and the quest for power is their compass.

Rabiu Kwankwaso of the neo-PDP is shamelessly talking about the condition for peace in the PDP being Jonathan’s commitment not to run for re-election in 2015. So the problem is not any of President Jonathan’s economic policies. He just should not contest the elections. That’s all. The leaders of the APC are also ready to welcome the members of the breakaway PDP into its folds because it will increase their chances of taking over Aso Rock in 2015. As a result, they do not mind becoming ‘PDP Light’. Whatever happened to political ideologies. The joke is on the followers who are deceived by this poorly concealed selfishness.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Kwankwaso and most of the other politicians championing one cause or the other at the moment are only doing so because of the personal ambitions they each nurse. Like my friend, James. There is nothing they are doing for the good of all. Even the PDP Councillorship candidate in Offa, Kwara State, who rejected his victory and declared that he actually lost to the APC candidate said that he believes there will be bloodshed if he accepts the victory. He was therefore rejecting the victory because he believes that is how he will stay safe, not because he aspires to sainthood.

Doyin Okupe insulted his way into Aso Rock. Asari Dokubo threatened his way into mansions in Abuja. Tony Nwoye ‘alutarised’ his way into reckoning in PDP, via NANS. Like my friend, James.

That this is the present order is, to me, not the issue. What worries me is that the worst of us will continue to rule over the rest of us because the best of us have decided to steer clear off politics. And nature abhors a vacuum. So, we either accept the decisions the likes of James will be making for us in 2015 and beyond or we join now and start influencing that outcome.

I’m getting involved.

Join me on Twitter @CollinsUma