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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Osun State Governor Chief Rauf Aregbesola's Speech On The Book Time To Reclaim Nigeria By Chido Onumah

Speech by the Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as Special Guest of Honour at the public presentation of the book, Time to Reclaim Nigeria, by Chido Onumah, at the New Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, on Thursday, December 15, 2011

Governor  Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

I must thank my brother and friend, Chido Onumah, for the invitation to be Special Guest of Honour at the public presentation of his book, Time to Reclaim Nigeria, a compilation of essays he penned in the last decade.

Chido is a widely travelled journalist, scholar, author, anti-corruption fighter, a patriot, and an international citizen. I am therefore delighted this morning that he is being celebrated and I am part of it. We must note that our brother was born into and cut his academic and journalistic teeth in the military era and so it was not surprising that he is combative, but rigorous and analytical in his views. His works in the last decade however had been under a civilian rubric but still with strong military and dictatorial flavour. Invariably, democracy is still an unfinished business and Chido’s book is evidence he is still at the barricades and his irrepressible mission now is to reclaim Nigeria.

This mission to reclaim Nigeria however is a little bit problematic. To attempt to reclaim something suggests that it was in your possession ab initio. Beginning from the forceful amalgamation in 1914, the despotism of colonial rule leading to independence in 1960, the hegemonic conspiracy of post independence, military dictatorship, civilian interregnum of 1979 to 1983, the return of the military and the new era of civil rule in 1999, Nigeria has hardly ever belonged to Nigeria. To attempt to reclaim what you never had therefore is a misnomer.

However, this is not to suggest that there have not been strenuous efforts to Nigerianise Nigeria. You will recall the fiery nationalism of the founding fathers, beginning from Herbert Macaulay and extending to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and other nationalists. You must also remember the titanic struggles of the labour movement, Nigerian students, the media and the intelligentsia from the colonial era till this moment. How can we forget the great activism of men like Dr Tai Solarin, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Aminu Kano, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Prof. Chike Obi and other irrepressible icons? Of course, the epochal June 12, 1993 election, NADECO, the heroic stand of Chief Moshood Abiola and the entire June 12 movement with its army of civil society organisations are still fresh in our memory. Could we have suffered debilitating amnesia on the valiant efforts of patriots in the present struggle to institutionalise genuine democracy and constitutional rule in our country?

The long and short of it is that as long as there has been untamed power, there has also been fierce opposition to it. This dialectics will remain until the untamed power caves in and reformed power gains ascendancy.

Let us look at what we have critically. The constitution begins with a preamble “We the people...” This can only be by ascription. There has never been any time Nigerian people or their genuine representatives made such proclamation. A true rebirth therefore must begin with the birthing of the people’s constitution. This must be preceded by the assembly of the people where the basis of continued existence must be well defined and agreed upon.

This does not in any way suggests that Nigeria will break up. On the contrary, a relationship mutually agreed upon stands a better chance of being strong and mutually beneficial. What will continue to imperil national unity is domination and imperial rule by a group or cabal, however defined. This cabal may not necessarily be regional. As we have seen, it could be economic, ideological, religious, military or a combination of all. What is certain however is their desire to appropriate Nigeria from Nigerians and their relentless pursuit of this agenda.

In this rebirth, we must insist on genuine federal practice. We have had an inglorious past of military rule and it is falsely assumed that the dictatorial centralism of the military had been left behind in 1999. There are, however, deeply entrenched vestiges of an imperial central government under which the states still groan. In a genuine federalism, the units create and sustain the centre. But in our bizarre federalism, the centre creates and sustains the units.

This portends dire consequences for the states. With the exception of a few, states in the federation depend on the monthly federal allocation for survival. Most states cannot even pay salaries without the monthly allocation while the entire allocation cannot pay salaries in some states. The essence of federalism is that states should be able to survive on their own and should only depend on the centre in some special needs like diplomatic representation, defence and such other exclusive areas.

The proper practice is that the states should be able to generate enough resources to run their own government and tie the monthly federal allocation to special projects and investment. It will be unseemly to receive an inheritance from one’s late father estate and use the proceeds to pay workers salaries in one’s company but that is what states are doing in Nigeria.

For us in Osun, we are resolute in deviating from that devastating path. When we came in last year, we met a debt of N18.3 billion but we have been able to restructure the finances of the state and instead of debt, we have a savings of N33 billion. We have also been able to double the internally generated revenue of the state from N300 million to N600 million. We are not resting on our oars. Our target is to generate N2 billion monthly with which we will be able to pay salaries and fund recurrent expenditure. We must break away from the sickening culture of going to the Federal Government every time, cap in hand, for survival if we are to sustain a true federal system.

Regrettably, the Federal Government has been emboldened to lord it over the state and relate with them in the condescending way a teacher relates with his or her pupils. You will recall the arrogant attempt by the Federal Government to dictate to the state and suborn the constitution on the matter of sovereign wealth fund. The idea behind the scheme no doubt is noble but this cannot be obtained by a fiat, in flagrant violation of the constitution. A consensus must be obtained and failing which the whole enterprise falls apart. A more tactful way would have been to obtain the consent of the states before making the matter public, instead of putting the policy in place and then seek to blackmail the states into submission.  The Federal Government must respect the states as partners in a relationship in which it is only primus inter pares.
In the quest to reclaim Nigeria, political empowerment in which the people truly elect their leaders in a free and fair election is a sine qua non. Any government that emerges from a fraudulent election cannot last and at the worst, it will lead to disaster. You are all aware of my political odyssey and the three and a half years of being in electoral wilderness before courageous and God-fearing judges brought succour my way.

Many of our compatriots are not that fortunate. Their rights have been trampled upon and their electoral mandates forcibly taken away. The usurpers have since been plundering their states and wasting scarce resources on fighting opposition and mitigating the consequences of their illegitimacy. This ruinous path will always lead to repeat of 1967, 1983 and the prolonged national crisis aftermath of the June 12, 1993 annulled election. We can and should prevent this from happening.
I thank you most sincerely once again for the privilege of this platform. I greatly commend Chido’s effort and recommend his book to all.
 I thank you for your kind attention.

Chido Onumah
Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy,
P.O.Box 6856, Wuse 11, Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Governor Blagojevich Goes To Jail By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe

Last week a Nigerian attorney friend of mine who is based in the U.S. forwarded a report to me of the sentencing of former Governor Rod Blagojevich to fourteen years in prison. Mr. Blagojevich, a former governor of the state of Illinois – President Barack Obama’s home state – was arrested three years ago and charged with several felony counts, including solicitation of bribe. The major allegation stemmed from the mercurial, dashing former governor’s attempt to sell Mr. Obama’s erstwhile Senate seat.
Once Mr. Obama was elected president, it fell to the governor to appoint somebody to serve out the remainder of Obama’s term as a senator. Mr. Blagojevich saw an opportunity to cash in. He directed his aides to find him persons willing to make hefty financial donations to him in exchange for the privilege of assuming the senatorial seat vacated by President Obama.
Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wire-tapped the governor in numerous telephone conversations where he outlined his determination to make the (material) most out of his gubernatorial prerogative to appoint Mr. Obama’s interim replacement. Then, having painstakingly built a case against the then governor, FBI agents swooped on his office on December 9, 2008. They handcuffed the governor and marched him off to court where he was formally arraigned.
For the record, Governor Blagojevich was considerably popular at the time. Despite anecdotal suspicion of his corruption, many residents of Illinois rather liked his gregarious style, youthful good looks and allure. If he was deficient in substance, he more than made up for it with an arresting, charismatic personality. But U.S. law enforcement authorities were far from impressed. They had proof that the then serving governor had broken the law, and they went after him.
Released on bail, the embattled Mr. Blagojevich tried to use his charm offensive to fend off federal authorities. In front of TV cameras that trailed his every movement, he proclaimed his innocence and boasted of his preparedness to beat the case against him. He deployed his swagger in an effort to keep his job through his trial. He insisted that he possessed the political capital and skills to run the state whilst awaiting trial.
Thanks, but no thanks, said outraged residents of Illinois. They demanded that the indicted governor step down and devote his attention fully to governing his impending case. The former governor was so thick-headed he didn’t even know the game was up after many of his own political associates mutinied, joining the chorus of calls for his resignation. He stubbornly stuck to his office until outraged representatives in the Illinois legislature impeached him by a vote of 114-1. Then the state senate found him guilty of the charges, and gave their imprimatur to his disgraceful exit. 
Brash and unconventional as they come, Mr. Blagojevich then took to the airwaves and launched a blitz of television campaigns to proclaim his innocence. He even briefly starred in a reality TV show. His body language was of a man who made light of the serious allegations against him. Well, all that posturing ended once the trial commenced.
It’s instructive that the former governor never collected a dime in bribe money in exchange for President Obama’s seat. Still, federal prosecutors established at his trial that supporters of Jesse Jackson, Jr., a Congressman and one of the candidates coveting the vacant Senate seat, were willing to hand the former governor as much as $1.5 million in campaign contributions in order to snag the seat.
At first, the ex-governor seemed to treat his trial as another day in the soapbox. But the jury was neither amused nor impressed. They stunned him – and struck fear in him – by finding him guilty on 18 counts, including the crucial one of seeking to auction off Mr. Obama’s seat. The judge then came down hard. “The jury didn’t believe you and neither did I,” U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel told Mr. Blagojevich. It was only at that moment of truth that the former governor struck a contrite note. “I want to apologize to the people of Illinois, to the court, for the mistakes I have made,” said the former governor before his sentencing. Citing the fact that he had not actually profited from his schemes, his lawyers made a case for leniency. But the judge sided with prosecutors who remarked that the convicted former governor had “further eroded the public’s confidence in government and government officials.” They added: “He lied repeatedly, concretely, and on issues that went to the heart of the case and he lied on every episode that he was questioned.”
The Blagojevich case holds out several lessons for Nigerians. Misguided apologists for official corruption in Nigeria are quick to point out that the country doesn’t hold a monopoly on that crime. “There’s corruption in the U.S. and in Europe,” they state with gusto.
As arguments go, that line is at once true and facile. It may well be true that the tendency to corruption is part of the DNA of many humans. But those who argue that corruption exists elsewhere conveniently forget that the more important question is whether Nigeria responds to corruption the same way other serious-minded nations do. A serious nation sets out to combat acts of corruption, to stem them, and to punish corrupt officials who are caught in the act.
That’s where Nigeria lags. If Blagojevich were a Nigerian governor, the police would not have bothered or dared to tap his telephone conversations. Law enforcement agents in Nigeria hardly snoop around to catch governors at some illicit scheme. The only chance of that happening would be if a governor were somehow at odds with the president – who would then order the Inspector-General of Police to make life difficult for him.
No Nigerian governor would have been arrested and dragged off while still in office. That’s because Nigeria has an odious constitutional idea called executive immunity. This concept shields governors and the president from prosecution as long as they remain in office. The U.S. constitution also has the immunity clause, but its protection of governors and the president from court proceedings is limited only to the legitimate business of office. Once a U.S. governor or the president commits a felony, the immunity clause ceases to apply. That’s why former President Bill Clinton was tried for perjury and other felonies related to the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. And that’s why former Governor Blagojevich was arrested in his office.
Were a Nigerian governor to do as Blagojevich did, nobody would have accused him of any crime. Ah ah, the man didn’t even touch one dollar, his supporters would protest. Others would argue that it’s God who put him in his position, and that God wants to prosper him. His town’s people would take out newspaper adverts accusing faceless enemies of engaging in a demonic plot against “our esteemed son.” A delegation of traditional rulers from the reeling governor’s area would troop to Abuja to importune the president to order the police (or EFCC) to halt the harassment and embarrassment of one of their number.
And even if, by some freak accident, a Nigerian governor were charged with seeking to profit from the sale of a legislative seat, the accused would easily insist on occupying his gubernatorial seat through the trial. He would then mobilize his security vote and (if necessary) other sources of public funds to bribe the presiding judge to find that no crimes were ever committed. Shortly after a trial, an accused Nigerian governor’s name would top the list of recipients of national honors – an official form of apology to him for putting him through the inconvenience of a trial. And a way of the Nigerian state proclaiming, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” 

Email: (okeyndibe@gmail.com)
Follow me on twitter @ OkeyNdibe

Public Policy As A Tool Of Economic Genocide: The Lagos State Example-By Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri

 Written by Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri

It was a renowned philosopher of old, William James, who once remarked that: “In a change of rule among the citizens, the poor change nothing except the name of their master.” Evidently, the residents of Lagos State are being confounded by the sad realization that the governing party – the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN – is no less autocratic and repressive than its discredited opponent – the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. The disdain of lagosians for the PDP and their disappointment with the party’s performance (especially at the Federal level) in the run-up to the 2011 general election have been so deep that they could neither contemplate nor tolerate the misadventure of conceding even a local government to the PDP. By the same token, their faith and sense of optimism in the redemptive capability of the Raji Fashola’s administration was so commanding, indeed, so overwhelming, that they had to rally massive support for the governor even in defiance of an alleged plot by his political god-father to truncate his electoral reincarnation. Having shown some sensitivity to infrastructural regeneration and some signs of commitment to the alleviation of the deplorable sufferings and squalid conditions of most lagosians during his first tenure, the re-election of governor Fashola was, strictly speaking, a definitive mandate from the people of the state for him to  liberate them from their wretched, pitiable, excruciating entrapment in the jaws of tyrannous poverty and stressful existence. However, judging from the draconian policies being churned out by Fashola’s regime in contemporary era, especially in the last few months, it will be safe to posit that his seemingly populist disposition during his first tenure was essentially a self-serving, tactical gimmick. Otherwise, how can one justify or even rationalize the mindless imposition of extortionate tolls on citizens resident along the Lekki–Epe corridor of the state. Expectedly, some would be inclined to argue that this policy is permissible on the excuse that government cannot effectively midwife the provision of infrastructures without taxing the citizens. I make no pretence about contesting this basic fact, except to say that such a defence is tenable only when it is considered in abstract, universal terms. For when you relate it to the conditions and context of the Lekki–Epe toll, it exposes the actions of the Lagos State Government as highly immoral, discriminatory and patently repressive. First, questions have been raised regarding the propriety of erecting three gigantic toll plazas within the same stretch of road of about 49 kilometre in distance. The economic implication of this for a tricycle rider who would be made to part with N120 for going through just one toll gate is better imagined. Also, considering the fact that a loan of N64 billion was alleged to have been obtained by the Lagos State Government from South Africa for the purpose of constructing an additional lane on both sides of the existing Lekki-Epe road, how justifiable is the idea of mandating a private firm – LCC, to extract tolls on all the lanes? For residents and/or indigenes of communities domiciled within the Lekki–Epe axis who were made to surrender their land to the then Jakande’s administration for the purpose of constructing the existing road (as a public good), will it not amount to an act of gross injustice bothering on daylight robbery for them to be subjected to this new policy of tolling the road by a private concessionaire after having forfeited – or surrendered – their land to an earlier administration in the public interest, More fundamentally, if the underlying reason for this selective ill-treatment is to target the high-profile individuals who are known to inhabit the Lekki axis and to compel them to share in the burden of infrastructural development in the state, then, equity demands that such a logic ought to have propelled the State Government to extend its dragnet by replicating those toll plazas at such other locations as Bourdillon in Ikoyi as well as other palatial habitations in other parts of the state where the “high and mighty” are known to hibernate.
If the Lekki–Epe toll plaza is considered unjust, especially, by the reason of its three-fold duplication, then the recent policy of governor Fashola regarding the astronomical hike in the tuition of the state-owned university, LASU, is simply a “death warrant” targeted against the ordinary lagosian with a meagre means of livelihood. By this singular act of jerking up the tuition payable by new students of LASU from N25,000 to an average amount of N250,000 (indeed, N348,750 for students in the College of Medicine), the governor has invariably declared poverty as “a criminal offence” in the state. By implication, he has sentenced the poor lagosian (desirous of escaping poverty through the acquisition of tertiary education) to a life of perennial ignorance and disempowerment without remedy.
It is on record that the ACN party had conducted its campaigns during the 2011 general election with a manifesto that affirms and upholds “education as a social service.” What is even more curious is the fact that governor Fashola himself had his Law degree in University of Benin at a time when academic tuition was just a negligible pittance. One therefore wonders the rationale for his idea of drawing comparisons between Nigeria and United Kingdom and for his argument that Nigerians in the UK spend up to N2.5 million in tuition alone. If truth must be told, how many Nigerians can really shoulder such an outlandish academic expenditure in the UK, except, of course, if you are privileged to be inducted into the roguish club of political buccaneers and treasury looters all masquerading as Nigeria’s leaders? Moreover, what are the comparative minimum wages of workers in UK and their counterparts in Nigeria? Consider this: if you are a worker residing in Lagos with a monthly salary of N20,000 and you decide to starve yourself, disregard all other expenses, and save all your salary. At the end of the year, you would have only save N240,000 which would still not be enough to pay the tuition for a course in Communication/Transport Faculty in LASU for just one academic session. If as a salaried parent, you happen to be afflicted with the singular ill-luck of having three children all of whom have gained admission into LASU at the same time, then your damnation is real, and brutally so!
To all intents and purposes, it would appear that the much-taunted slogan that “Lagos is working” is naively exaggerated, at best, and patently problematic, at worst. The cost of living and the prospects of economic survival in the state today have become much more brutish and slimmer than they were some couple of years back. The daily vehicular logjams – orchestrated partly by bad and unserviceable roads – have become particularly hellish. When these nightmarish conditions are further compounded by policies that expressly violate the interest and well-being of Lagos residents (such as multiple tolling, arbitrary increment of tuition, proscription of student unionism, hike in tenement rate and land use charge, ban on the use  of motorbike or “okada,” etc.), then, the picture that emerges is one in which lagosians are increasingly being compelled to ask whether the ACN party is not a political Siamese twin to the repulsive and often-maligned PDP?

Time To Reclaim Nigeria By Chido Onumah To Be Unveiled Thursday December 15, 2011

A book Time to reclaim Nigeria will be presented to the public on Thursday December 15, 2011. The book is a collection of articles written over ten years on issues such as the trouble with Nigeria, President Jonathan’s insincerity, and National Assembly’s hypocrisy on the anti-gay bill. Sani Tukur of Premium Times had a chat with the author Chido Onumah and below is the excerpt.
Q Your book is titled,’ Time to Reclaim Nigeria’. To reclaim Nigeria from who?
A. We need to reclaim Nigeria from those who have held the country hostage for 50 years. We need to reclaim the country from those who have looted our resources, who have destroyed the political system, who have made it impossible for our young men and women to get jobs when they graduate from the university. We need to reclaim this country from those who have made it impossible for our children to attend good schools. We need to reclaim Nigeria from those who have made it impossible for us to have good medical facilities, so much so that every public official wants to die in Germany, or United States. In a nutshell, what this book talks about is the urgent need for Nigerians to rally round and take back their country. This country belongs to all of us, not just a few people. We need to take back the country and position it as a global contender in the comity of nations.
Q. Beyond the ‘need to’ have you been able to proffer the ‘how’ to take back the country from those you mentioned earlier?
A. There are a number of ways we can do that. I can’t say I have a readymade fool proof method of how to reclaim this country.  You can bet that once Nigerians set their minds to it, it is something that can be achieved. If you have something that you hold dear and it is not going the way it should go, your duty is to do something about it. As individuals, we have the right to protest, and we also have the right to not just complain but be active participants in the process of taking back the country. We have seen it happen in other countries of the world. Revolutions have taken place in different countries. Sometimes, it is bloody; sometimes, peaceful, and at times it can be democratic revival as we have seen in certain Middle Eastern countries and North Africa. So it’s up to Nigerians. I am just one person out of over 150 million people. As Achebe has said, the duty of a writer to provoke, to mirror society and let people see what is wrong with the society. If today Nigerians come together and say we are comfortable with the state of things, fine and good there is nothing I can do about it. I have travelled around the world, I have lived in other countries and I have seen how things work. For instance, I get appalled when our leaders talk about the cost of petrol in Nigeria being one of the cheapest. That is a dubious argument. But let’s even use it as a basis for argument and say which of these countries do their citizens go through the kind of discomfort that Nigerians go through, which country can we compare with Nigeria in terms of infrastructure, power, roads and health deficits. It’s so easy and fanciful for them to say oh Nigeria pays the least price per litre of petrol. Why are they not talking about Nigeria having the worst electricity and access to health facilities and so on. Is that not an issue?
In the past, we have heard of how our hospitals have turned into mere consulting clinics, but 30-40 years down the road, the situation is getting worse instead of improving for the better. So essentially, it is high time that Nigerians realized that the way we live in this country abnormal. Now is the time to do something about our country.
Q. Reading your book, one is tempted to feel you are not comfortable with the present federal structure, why?
A.I am not one of those who will say let’s Balkanize Nigeria, I am a federalist, but my attitude to this federal system is not what people see because not many people take their time to look at it, I believe that states should have enormous powers. I believe in fiscal federalism where states should have control over resources within their territory. Having said that, I am also looking at the bigger picture, I believe that we need to redefine the concept  of who a Nigerian is, so that anybody who is born in a state should have equal right with anybody that claims to be “ethnic indigenes” of that state. Once you live in a particular place for a number of years, paying taxes and all that, you must enjoy every benefit anybody is entitled to. So we can’t be talking about states having control over their resources and not talk about the social angle as well, and that is what people have been ignoring. Once we have fiscal federalism, all citizens must enjoy equal right without discrimination. That’s my attitude to the issue of federalism.
Q. Recently, the Senate passed an anti-gay bill, but your book suggests you are against the decision.
A. There are so many reasons. Two articles in the book talk about the issue of homosexuality. I look at it basically as a human rights issue which is what many people question. Two days ago, I was listening to one of the FM stations and I heard journalists talk about the need limit the frontiers of  human rights. I was wondering why journalists would be the ones circumscribing human rights, playing into the hands of dictators who will use the opportunity not just to bash gays but circumscribe the rights of other people in the society who don’t like what they are doing. Human rights are human rights, there can’t be a limit to human rights. I look at the so-called anti-gay bill from a political and social point of view. Homosexuals are Nigerians and they have rights too; they have not committed any crime. People talk about culture, but if it is culture we are talking about, why didn’t we continue the culture of killing of twins for example because that used to happen in some parts of the country in the past.
We live in a country in which the responsibility of the state is to ensure good governance and the maintenance of rule of law and the attainment of certain basic minimum standards for the development of the country. It is not the right of the government to determine what people do in their bedrooms. We are talking about a relationship between two consenting adults. It might be repulsive to you, but that does not make it illegal or criminal. Because gays are in the minority now, so we must have our way, but that should not be the case as far as I am concerned. So to me it is an absurd law that the national assembly wants to pass. Laws should be made to protect the interest of the people that live in the society. That law is a bad law and I don’t see us making any progress with it. I hope the House of Representatives will not join the senate in passing the bill. We should be concerned with serious national issues. There is so much hypocrisy around the whole anti gay thing. People have stolen billions and at the end of the day, they just get a slap on the hands. These are the kinds of things I expect the national assembly to be concerned with.
Q. Finally, the book comprises of so many articles written over a period of time, why is it just being presented to the public, why now?
A. Two reasons basically:  one, it is something I have always wanted to do.  I have been writing consistently for newspapers, magazines, and journals around the world for over twenty years. I have always dreamt of translating these articles into a book, but the Nigerian condition has not permitted it. Most importantly, I summoned up the courage in the last six months when the current regime came to power. It is clear that all the hopes and expectations of the people have been dashed. We have just been deluded for the past six months by people who claim that they are trying to transform this country. The president talks about anti corruption and a transformation agenda, but he is not leading by example. Our organization, the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy has taken the president to court for not declaring his assets. I can’t imagine a situation where a president who talks about anti corruption is refusing to declare his assets. And everybody is quiet, including journalists and civil society activists. What kind of example is the president setting for his lieutenants and for Nigerians in general?
Even the Code of Conduct Bureau has not acted on the president’s request that government agencies should work with civil society organizations to implement the Freedom of Information Act. We have made a request to the Bureau asking them to provide us information about the president’s asset declaration since July and nothing has happened.
Nigeria lies prostrate today because of the actions, and sometimes inaction, of Nigerians. So, essentially, this book aims to jolt Nigerians, particularly the youth. The future of this country rests on them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Executive Profligacy And The Futility of Eating Cassava Bread

Written by Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri

Only few days ago, the Nigerian President – Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had remarked as follows: “I promised Nigerians a Transformation Agenda and that means change… Thus, if we must have transformation (and we will have it) there must be changes in how we do things.” Basking in the euphoria of his transformative confessions, the President proceeded to dramatize to all Nigerians the puritanical benefit of cassava bread by stating that: “In the last two weeks, I have been eating only cassava bread and I will continue to do so until I leave the State House.”
Barely 24 hours after the dramatic bread-eating sacrament at Aso Rock, the President sought and obtained the approval of the House of Representatives for a virement of N98.4 billion with just few days to the end of the year. A breakdown of what the money will be used for is quite revealing. These include: N25.6 million for maintenance of horses; N29.1 million for maintenance of dogs; N10.6 million for maintenance of the Police Band; N995.5 million for fuelling of motor vehicles, with additional N1.08 billion for vehicle / transport; N 945.5 million for local travel and transport; N484.5 million for electricity bill; N1.9 billion for uniforms and other clothing as well as N520.3 million for stationery / computer consumables and N137.4 million for foodstuff / catering material supplies in the Police Budget. Note that these staggering sums are meant for only nine ministries!
Going through this  breakdown, is there anything that truly suggests that President Jonathan has been eating cassava bread for the past two weeks? Does it really make any sense or meaning for the President to admonish Nigerians to cultivate a patriotic appetite for cassava bread while he busied himself with the escapade of lavishing almost N50 million naira just to maintain dogs and horses? By the way, who says dogs cannot eat cassava bread?
The word “transformation” is too sacred and quite serious a concept for it to be trivialized and reduced to the pedestrian level of being invoked promiscuously and opportunistically without a corresponding demonstration of strength of character and discipline of mind to match action with words. When seriously posed, “transformation” demands a radical departure from the way and manner the presidency and all other institutions of government conduct the affairs of governance. It requires, among other things, a drastic reduction in the prohibitive cost of governance as well as a shift towards greater accountability, transparency and minimization of wastages in public spending. Above all, transformation entails a conscious and pragmatic effort by the political leadership to empower ordinary Nigerians so that they can be able to realize their full aspirations and potentialities as legitimate citizens even as they also participate meaningfully in the arduous task of nation-building.
Accordingly, any government that understands what transformation entails and is serious about it will go out of its way to invest heavily and massively in the education, health, social welfare and economic empowerment of its general populace, realizing that it is only when its citizens are so empowered that they can become veritable assets in the task of national development. Regrettably, what obtains today is a situation where governments (both State and Federal) are renouncing their responsibilities in regard to the welfare and security of their citizens even as they continue to flirt with the idea of being committed to transformation. One classic example of this odious phenomenon will suffice: The Lagos State government recently announced a 700% increase in tuition fees for the state-owned university which will compel fresh students to pay as much as N300,000 from the N25,000 being paid. In justifying the arbitrary hike, the governor of the state had argued that universities in Ghana and United Kingdom are populated by Nigerians who are willing to pay through their nose to acquire education. This defence by the governor is not only grossly insensitive and bereft of an appreciation of the historical peculiarities of those societies, but also exposes a mindset which propels  government to relinquish its responsibility for the defence and protection of the interest of the poor, the weak and the defenceless citizens of our society. Let us also bear in mind that the basic conditions for social and economic existence in those other societies are comparatively tolerable and beneficial than what obtains in our own harsh environment. If there is anything such a draconian policy will achieve, it is the fact that it is going to abort the dreams of many families (with meagre income) of having their wards acquire tertiary education in the state. The craze for bigger revenue generation has been given inordinate priority over and above the imperative of guaranteeing the welfare and empowerment of citizens through meaningful access to education.
It has become highly compelling for Nigeria’s governing elite to appreciate that “governance” and the interests of ordinary Nigerians are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the only reason for the existence of government is that it should be highly functional in the defence and promotion of the well-being of these citizens as well as initiating policies that will uplift and empower them to become useful citizens. Invariably, government becomes utterly meaningless if its citizens are abandoned to the vagaries and vicissitudes of a precarious existence characterized by survival of the fittest.
What is needed by way of transformation is for the President to exhibit exemplary leadership and uncompromising determination in plugging all known avenues for wastages, corruption and mindless looting of the country’s treasury and resources. He should demonstrate zero tolerance for corruption by making sure that corrupt public officials are exposed and punished squarely to serve as a deterrent. For it is only by doing so that the President can reassure himself and the rest of Nigerians that he is not merely eating his cassava bread with a mouth full of corruption!

Nigeria: CBN Governor Mr Sanusi Lamido Must Be Very Careful- South South Youth Forum


MR SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI, C.B.N GOVERNOR, MUST BE VERY CAREFUL AND SEEK CAUTION AS HIS RESENT STATEMENT ON RESOURCE ALLOCATION "Resource allocation; North suffering most" as credited to him while he was a guest of the Rivers State Government, and as published on page 2 of the Weekly Trust of Saturday, Nov. 26th, 2011. Is grossly;

Misleading,unguarded, myopic, in sighting, and in bad faith!
We take strong exception to provocative statements of this nature, especially coming from a public servant in person of Mr. Lamido.His Resource allocation analysis is capable of putting the various parts of this country at war, going by the one sided and sentimental manner in which he has gone about to argue it.
It is most disturbing and disappointing that Mr. Lamido was quick to tell the world what States (Rivers State) in the Niger Delta, take as allocation as well as what States (Kano State) in the North take as allocation.It is however surprising, that Mr. Lamido failed to address the supreme truth and most fundamental question as to what States (Rivers State) in the Niger Delta contribute to the economic well being of Nigeria, and whether States (Kano State) in the North, make any contribution to the economic well being of Nigeria, or they are simply "RECEIVERS".
We are of the view that Mr. Lamido blinded his eyes to the truth as to the cogent contributions Niger Delta states, make to keep this nation going, otherwise an officer of his caliber should have such details by virtue of his office.
We therefore wish to advise him (Mr. Lamido) not to get facts in a hurry or just sentimentally but to carefully refer back to his records as to appreciate this subject better, in fact we feel it may be in his interest to extends his research to the Period when NORTH had the groundnut pyramid, and tell us how the resource allocation was as at then.
We believe there is every need to caution Mr. Lamido as he may be up to something, FIRST he came up with the Islamic banking thing which was largely condemned especially as its aim appear to put the South against the North, but that did not happen, Now he has come up with the issue of resource allocation, maliciously putting Rivers and Kano States side by side.
From the foregoing it is obvious that Mr. Lamido has not been able hide his tribal sentiments in the discharge of his National duties, which makes him less a professioner!
It is again heart breaking, that with all his experience, he (Mr. Lamido) could not even avert his mind to the hardship and hazards suffered by States in the Niger Delta, in trying to keep this Nation going, but could only see the amounts he releases grudgingly to the Niger Delta States as Resource allocation, may be he should be reminded that;
-Hazards ranging from oil pollutions, oil wells, seepage's, oil spills, Tankers/Ship discharges, ballast discharge, atmospheric pollutions from gas flaring, gas and oil well explosions and fires.

-Radioactive carcinogenic materials used in the drilling processes which affects us as a people, and our progeny are exposed to the increased risk of cancer and other deadly conditions.

-Increased level of heat caused by gas flared at close range, resulting in constant sweating and dehydration of our people!
-Acid rain in the region due to all sorts of pollution.

-Drastic reduction in the pace of infrastructural development especially roads and bridges due to depleted climate as a result of exploration activities.
-Total damage of our ancestral occupations (fishing and firming), as the lands and seas are terrible polluted

-Astronomical increase in the cause of infrastructural development, due to massive wet and polluted environment.
An intelligent, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, would have considered all these factors, before, making a remark that is capable of over heating the already heated polity. It is clear that if he so did he would have realize that no amount can be too much in exchange for the innocent lives that are lost daily to pollution in Niger Delta.

Finally it is most doubtful, if Mr. Sanusi considered the volatile security situation in the Nation, before presenting his position on Resource allocation in the manner which he did, we urge him to strongly do some reflections and apply caution where and when necessary.


Amb, Barr, Amachree Odiedim
Chairman South South Youth Leaders Forum.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PDP And Its Macabre Dance In Bayelsa State

Written By Timi Opokuma

Events in Bayelsa State,  in the past two months,  have given  the  lie to the People’s Democratic Party’s  pursuit of internal democracy and reformation. That the drama is being staged in the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan has also cast a doubt on the President’s commitment  to electoral reform. In spite of denials, many people believe that Jonathan has a hand in the travails of Governor Timipre Sylva.

The Bayelsa episode has no semblance of transparency, which is the hallmark of Jonathan’s electoral reform and the PDP has not come out in clear terms to justify the disqualification of Sylva. Initially,  the coast was clear for the governor. The Bayelsa State Gubernatorial Screening Committee headed by Brig. Idi Adamu (rtd.) had on October 29, given the governor  the go-ahead to contest the November 19 PDP governorship primaries. He was even given a certificate with serial number 0000012. But prior to this exercise, there had been rumours that powerful men close to the President were uncomfortable with Sylva.

But before Sylva could finish shouting Hosanna, the PDP, in a manner  reminiscent of undemocratic  primaries conducted during Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, set up a governorship appeal committee headed by a former deputy governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Olujimi. Right from the outset, it was obvious that the committee had a hidden agenda as its workings were shrouded in secrecy.  When it submitted its report to the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and the elders of the party,  who eventually  withheld the governor’s  clearance, it was clear that it was acting a script.

However,  the acting National Chairman of the  PDP,  Kawu Baraje, in a desperate, but futile move to rationalize  the party’s decision, said the governor had been told the reasons he was excluded from the governorship primaries. But in a swift reaction, Sylva’s Chief Press Secretary,  Doifie Ola, said “At no time did Baraje discuss the so-called sins with him (the governor). We are aware that the PDP national chairman has been giving different  ‘reasons’  to different people on the illegal exclusion of the governor. But at last, Baraje has exposed the fact that there was no reason known to law and commonsense for the exclusion of the governor.” The war of words between the governor and the PDP leaders is an indication that democracy is on trial in the party. That the PDP is at a crossroads as far Bayelsa issue is concerned is an understatement.
Surprisingly, amidst the victimization, Gov. Sylva has remained unperturbed and rebuffed all attempts to pit him against the President.  “What is clear to me, my supporters, and indeed all lovers of democracy in our dear country Nigeria, is that there is a desperate attempt by certain forces to illegally exclude me from seeking re-election as Governor of Bayelsa State on the platform of the PDP,” the governor noted in reaction to the shenanigans of the PDP.

When it became obvious that the leadership of the party could not protect him from hawks within its fold, the governor headed for the Federal High Court,   on November 16.  The court issued an injunction ordering the PDP not to hold its primaries scheduled for November 19.  In a manner that was only reflective of its confused state, the party initially said it did not get the injunction. Later when it swallowed  its pride and admitted that it had received it, the PDP vowed to disobey the court order.

 If anybody had thought that the PDP under Jonathan had undergone a complete rebirth, such a person must have perished the thought. Like the PDP, under Jonathan’s godfather, Obasanjo, the party leaders  treated the court order with disdain. The party’s action negated the President’s self-acclaimed commitment to the rule of law.

The PDP went ahead to hold the primaries, but thank God, the Independent National Electoral Commission distanced itself from the illegality of the party that prides itself as the biggest in Africa. The election umpire refused to send its officials to the illegal primaries, citing the court injunction. The Commissioner in Charge of Information, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, noted that “INEC is a law abiding commission and since there is a court order, we will not do anything that is contrary to the provisions of the law. We at the commission obey court orders.” But like the proverbial hunter’s dog that is doomed to get lost, the PDP was not moved by INEC’s absence. It conducted the primaries, which was a colossal failure before it even started. It was widely boycotted by key functionaries as well as lawmakers from the State and the National Assembly.

Five aspirants --  Christopher Fullpower Enai, Boloubo Orufa, Fred Korobido Ekiyegha, Austin Febo, and Francis Amaebi Doukpola  -- at a press conference in Yenogoa, rejected the ward congress that preceded  the primaries, where a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Henry Dickson, was declared  as winner.

Since the struggle for the soul of Bayelsa started, activities in the state have been grounded. This has been compounded by the deployment of troops in the state capital as residents live in perpetual fear of troops and policemen who take advantage of the tension in the state to exploit innocent citizens.

Surprisingly, the governor has been receiving support from unexpected quarters. For instance,  the National Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buba Galadima, has said that the doors of the party are open to embattled governor.

According to Galadima, “The ruling PDP and the Presidency cannot succeed in portraying to Nigerians and the world that what is going on in the Bayelsa governorship primaries is an internal affair of the party. “CPC stands for progress, democracy, human rights and justice. As an innocent victim of fascism, CPC is sympathetic to Governor Sylva and other victims of PDP’s and the president’s injustice. Our party’s doors are wide open to all. We are willing to give every Nigerian a sanctuary against injustice and victimization by the state,” he said.

Also, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) described PDP’s decision as an imposition that was against the tenets of democracy globally. It said “the power to decide who represents the party at the polls lies with the members of the party in the state. The PDP national leadership’s intervention is unjustifiable and overbearing. We will not sit back and watch the people suffer. The CNPP will mobilise all its members in Bayelsa for Sylva. We will ensure that the power to decide who rules Bayelsa State still lies with the people in the long run.”

By now, the PDP and the hawks that surround Jonathan should know that it is not only opposition parties that are interested in what is going on in Bayelsa. Countries which gave Jonathan a pass mark over the conduct of the April polls are eagerly waiting to see the epilogue of the drama that started in the state  two months ago. Is the President going back to the vomit of 2007? That is the billion naira question!
Timi Opokuma writes from Yenegoa, Bayelsa State.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ojukwu: A Titan Who Won’t Die

 Written by Okey NdibeOjukwu: A Titan Who Won’t Die By Okey Ndibe
Biafran flag

Enough Of Gowon’s Humiliation Of Ndigbo

Written by Odimegwu Onwumere

Many people see General Yakubu Gowon as a gentle man, but this is an oversight. It is unfortunate that Gowon, who removed the military garb in the past forty years, is still wearing the military mentality. His is not only military mentality, but ethnic bias. The statement that was credited to him since General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died, could buttress his sentimental approach towards the Nigerian project. One wonders why on earth Gowon could open his mouth and said that the former Biafran warlord should not have led his people to secede from the country. Maybe, Gowon is losing his senses to age, and one should remind him that what Ojukwu did was the best option to the then Gowon-led Nigeria that wanted to cleanse Ndigbo out of the surface of the earth.
In the essay, "Uwa Di Egwu – The World Is Deep: My Biafran Airlift Story” – By David L. Koren, December 2, 2011, Koren said: Those who opposed the Biafrans have not seen gangs running through their neighborhoods, dragging people out on the street and chopping them up. Biafran people saw the trains full of refugees pouring in from all over Nigeria. They accepted those refugees into their homes and villages. And they heard their personal, immediate stories. A people who know they are facing genocide do not give up. Israelis say, “Never Again.” An old Igbo proverb says, “Only a tree stands still when it knows it’s being cut down.”
Since Gowon wants to make a name by exhuming old wounds it is him who is supposed to apologize and plead to all the present Nigerians for taking the leadership of the country at that time whereas he was not the most senior army official. What is best called mutiny in the military if a ‘junior’ officer like Gowon could rise up to lead his seniors? Gowon did, and he is not regretting this. He is also not regretting the fact that his fellow northerners used Ndiigbo as suya aftermath the 1966 coup.
With Gowon's statement against Ojukwu, one is poised to ask if it is only in Nigeria that someone will wake in the morning and want to make a name from radiant rubbish as we can see in Gowon’s statement against Ojukwu. What is the condolence of Gowon to the Ojukwu family if he could say that it was unfortunate that Ojukwu took up arms against Nigeria? Was his message meant to console Ndiigbo or to mock them and remind them of the pogrom in the north against them that has refused to abate in the Northern Nigeria till date? If Gowon was a youth and had made such a derogatory statement against Ojukwu, it could have been waved with the back of the hand that he is not yet experienced and matured. But here is a man who has lived with experience. Conversely, his experience could be such crass statement on Ojukwu because a man who came to leadership through the back door will not know what people who came through the front door see. Since Gown came to leadership cheaply he feels that every statement also should be cheap and is cheap.
From all indications, Ojukwu was a man of peace but Gowon is far from that. He should remember that Ojukwu agreed to go to Aburi in Ghana (after the deliberation on Benin failed) to broker peace but Gowon broke the agreement. And Gowon did not allow Ndigbo to rest aftermath. Because Gowon came from a region where mourning meant nothing, then he feels that he should mock Ndiigbo while they are mourning? It was people like Gowon who labeled Ojukwu a rebel whereas Nigerians today have known the true rebels. They are those like Gowon who want power by any means necessary above board of their seniors in their profession.
Gowon refused to remember that he broke the Aburi accord which was aimed at bringing in peace because he felt that he was stubborn. This goes a long way to show that Gowon has been very sentimental and hypocritical not only against the Biafrans but against the Nigerian army. Without doubt, it was people like Gowon who have erroneously tagged the Aguiyi Ironsi coup as an Igbo coup. Because Ironsi is Igbo, they do not want to see anything Igbo as meaningful even in the grave. Hogwash! Gowon, as a self-imposed Head of State, reneged in the Aburi agreement, which has been causing security breaches in the country since then and here he is farting up.
Like Barrister Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia, Presidential aspirant in the April general elections reportedly described Gowon’s statement: “It exudes cowardice because while Ojukwu was alive, Gowon never made such a statement. I also believe that as Africans, we are not suppose to speak ill of the dead. So, rather than make critical comments that would open up old wounds, he should be more mature with his age. He should also have looked at issues that led to the war and join the government to address them because they are still the issues on the front burner now.”
However, Gowon wants to draw pity to himself by using the friendly Ojukwu death, but he should understand that history has a better toll on a person and not how the person sees himself or herself. Day of reckoning will visit any liar who wants to score cheap publicity with Ojukwu. Somebody like Gowon has never made an open statement against his region’s Boko Haram that has a gravy agenda in killing lives and destroying people’s hard earned property (because it is not either an Hausa or Fulani is in power), but here he is talking against Ojukwu. Gowon, without doubt, could be the reason Ojukwu once said, “Because I am Igbo.”
Whether Gowon likes it or not, Ojukwu has left a gigantic legacy in the history of the world, but one wonders what Gowon could be remember of. Maybe, DISAGREEMENT over any solution that could bring peace, as we have seen in the Aburi accord. Gowon’s statement over a mourning people is rude and brutish. He needs to apologize. Nigerians understand Ojukwu but Gowon does not because he has refused to attain the consciousness where intelligent is separated from leadership or being a president. Gowon, it is unfortunate that he still sees things in the country with the illiterate eyes of the sixties, not knowing that we have passed that era. This is a man who could not utilize the money he claimed Nigeria had in excess to develop the country, here making statement against the Hero called Ojukwu. This is like a stove calling kettle black.
Gowon could be jealous of Ojukwu, because of the latter’s overwhelming followership. This could be why he carved a niche in debasing Ojukwu even in death. He forgot that Ojuwku is honoured among Nigerians who don’t wear ethnic glasses, even in death. Like Gowon is still doing till date, he has not reacted to any national issue except he is dragged to do so. But Ojukwu was the first Nigerian who opened our eyes that people could truly stand for their right even in the face of tyranny. Between Gowon and Ojukwu, we can truly see who is wise but preferred to be a coward. This should be the last Gowon would remind Ndiigbo of what they saw over forty years ago in the hands of the Hausa/Fulani unilateral government. Why did he not make this statement when Ojukwu was alive? However, it is only the living that would not choose to be coward over the dead. It is dangerous when people like Gowon see Ndigbo as a people who should apologize to the rest of Nigerians always, and many people are still saying that Nigeria will not break.
Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855(or) +2348057778358. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com