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OPINION

JUNE 12TH, DEMOCRACY DAY AND NIGERIA’S DANCE OF DEATH, by Fani-Kayode

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Today is June 12th, our nation’s Democracy Day and I have some home truths to tell.
The struggle for June 12th was indeed a noble, worthy, cataclysmic and monumental one. It was also something of a nightmare which littered our fields with many corpses and soaked the very foundation of our nation with blood, sweat and tears.
I can confirm that because I was deeply involved in it and for many years I, along with many others, fought for it’s actualisation.
Many were martyred, many were jailed, many were tortured and many were compelled to flee into exile.
Great essayists, keen minds and profound writers and thinkers like Professor Adebayo Williams, Professor Wole Soyinka, Mr. Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Justice Adewale Thompson and the great Chinwezu kept us going, fuelled our courage, stirred our passion, inspired our spirits and ignited souls with their powerful essays which we read eagerly and voraciously wherever we found ourselves in the world.
This was an intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological conflict and struggle and we threw everything that we had into it.
Chief MKO Abiola was our hero and leader. He was the symbol and rallying point of the struggle and both he and his wife Kudirat sacrificed their lives for it.
I commend the Buhari administration for naming June 12th as our nation’s Democracy Day and I believe that Abiola deserves it. Yet this noble gesture, as commendable as it is, may well be too little and too late.
I say this because the Nigeria of today is the Nigeria of Buhari and not the Nigeria of Abiola. And this presents us with a very different set of challenges which have resulted in a far greater existential threat to our country than the annulment of Abiola’s June 12th presidential mandate and his subsequent murder ever did.
Consider the following. In Buhari’s Nigeria the President is from the core Muslim north. The Senate President is from the core Muslim north. The Chief Justice of the Federation is from the core Muslim north.
Again in Buhari’s Nigeria every single security, intelligence, investigative, military and para-military agency in the country except for the Navy is headed by a northern Muslim.
This begs the question: do the southerners and indeed the Christians have any place or any meaningful stake in Buhari’s Nigeria?
Yet it does not stop there. In Buhari’s Nigeria the core north says “no” when we say stop the genocide. They say “no” when we say restructure. They say “no” when we say establish a federation. They say “no” when we say establish a confederation. They say “no” when we say stop the hegemony.
They say “no” when we say Nigeria is a secular state. They say “no” when we say stop the Fulanisation. They say “no” when we say stop the Islamisation. They say “no” when we say Nigeria belongs to us all.
They say “no” when we say the northern minorities can lead the nation. They say “no” when we say there are many in the south that can govern the country.
They say “no” when we say Nigeria is not an appendage of Saudi Arabia. They say “no” when we say we are equal regardless of tribe or faith.
They say “no” when we say free Leah Sharibu. They say “no” when we say we are not their slaves.
They say “no” when we say we demand a referendum.
They say “no” when we say we want to leave the marriage and break the union.
They say “no” when we say stop playing this dangerous music. They say “no” when we say stop indulging in this dance of death.
They say “no” to everything and to everyone that seeks to resolve our differences in a reasonable and peaceful manner.
And so it has been for the last 59 long and turbulent years of our existence as an independent state and sovereign nation.
Little did we know that in 1960 we had merely replaced our external British colonial masters with a new set of internal ones.
We locked ourselves into a strange and deceitful web and became enmeshed and entangled in a complex catalogue of self-induced and self-inflicted woes.
Today we are a people under occupation and our land has been desecrated by the precence of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of extremly violent, dangerous, well-armed, blood-lusting, blood-crazed and blood-frenzied terrorists and killer herdsmen who are just waiting for the signal from their masters before they unleash unimaginable horror, terror and hell on our people.
Must we wait until we are slaughtered like flies and buried in mass graves, like the Biafrans, the Bosnians, the Tutsis, the Jews, the Congolese, the Armenians, the Red Indians of North America, the Aborigines of Australia, the Incas and Aztecs of South America, the Ouigas of Mynmar, the Yazidis of Syria and Iraq and countless others, before our eyes open and we demand to leave this tinderbox?
Can anyone blame Prince Adekunle Odunmorayo when he said,
“The demand for restructuring is cowardly, useless and unachievable. Damn any restructuring. We want out of this charade. We want a new nation: we want Oduduwa”.
The Prince, who is my kinsman and a proud son of Ile-Ife, has spoken the minds of millions.
Yet it does not stop there. Permit me to add the words of one of the greatest, most moderate, most conservative and most respected leaders of our nation who fought to keep Nigeria together during the civil war, who has dedicated his entire life to that cause and who has had the privilage of leading the country on at least two separate occassions.
On 11th June 2019 former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the following to Premium Times:
“Now you have a situation where three top officials of Government will be from only two northern zones. Ahmed Lawan (who has been pencilled down as Senate President) is from the North-East, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria is from the north-east and the President of the country is from the north-west. They are all from what we call the core north. How can you have that kind of arrangement and then be absolutely insensitive to it?”
For a modeate and conservative man like Obasanjo to express his legitimate concerns in this way and for him, at an earlier date, to have confirmed the existence of the Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda, is noteworthy, significant and telling.
Given this only a compound fool, a village idiot or a delusional simpleton will dispute the fact that Nigeria is in trouble and that we are sitting on a time-bomb.
Frankly in my view the time for long debates and discussions about our sorry plight and deep afflictions are long over. And neither do I believe that our debilitating problems can still be fixed or rectified.
To those that still share the erroneous belief that we ought to remain in Nigeria I urge and challenge you to consider the following and reflect on our trying predicament.
Those that believe that they own this nation and that they were born to rule it have been insensitive, savage and unrelenting in their quest to conquer our space and they have boxed us in a suffocating and murderous corner.
Every attempt to build bridges with them and reach out to them in love and friendship has failed due to their insufferable arrogance, rappacious thirst for power and unquenchable desire to dominate every sphere of our existence and aspect of our lives. And this applies to every single ethnic nationality in Nigeria who they believe must bow and tremble before them.
What more do we need to see? What more do we need to hear? What more do we need to say?
From a great nation that was once blessed with so much potential, hope and promise we are now nothing but a blood-soaked and demon-infested enclave of sociopaths, meglomaniacs, power-crazed savages, godless barbarians, callous cow-worshippers and bestial cow-lovers. It is only in Nigeria that the life of a cow is more important than the life of a human being!
This begs the question: are we under some strange, inexplicable, mysterious, ancient and binding Luciferean spell?
Is this the work of satan? Have the conjurers of the dark path been at work? Has the Queen of the Coast done her worse? Have they tsken us to the forest in the dark caves of the village?
Are voodoo and magic at play here? Have we been enchanted by the Army of the Dead? Have we been bound by the Whitewalkers that reside beyond the great icy northern wall?
Have we been cursed by the wizards, witches, goblins and orcs of Mordor? Have we been jinxed and hexed by the dark winter forces of the evil Nightking?
Yet spell or no spell, what exactly are we still waiting for in this land of blood, carnage and shattered dreams that is known as Nigeria?
Will inspirational words of faith and hope about a better tomorrow and the gentle expression of lofty ideals about the beauty and power of national unity stop the southern march of the terrorists, herdsmen and hegemonists?
They have already conquered, occupied, pacified and enslaved the entire Middle Belt and the rest of the north. They are now well on their way to “dipping the Koran in the Atlantic ocean” whist flying the flag of their great patriach and forefather Usman Dan Fodio and galloping with fury on his ancient white war horse. Must we wait for them to arrive before taking our leave?
The solution to our problem is to chart one of two courses: to either roll over in submission and let them sodomise and enslave us until kingdom come or to dig deep, find our courage, stand up boldly, hold our heads up high, say “no more” and break out of this godforsaken gilded golden cage.
There is absolutely nothing sacrosanct about this godless and inequitable union and entity. The truth is that time is running out for Nigeria and there may no longer be any alternative to a break up.
They say where there is no justice, there can be no peace. How can there be peace and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria when there is no justice or equity?
What we have is the peace of the graveyard where everyone speaks in whispered tones or is too scared to speak at all.
What we have is the silence of two mighty armies facing and sizing up one another in the field of battle minutes before the onslaught begins and the chaos, turmoil, carnage, madness, savagery, butchery and barbarity unfolds.
What we have is the awkward and eerie silence, fuelled by years of latent hate and resentment, that reigns when brother is about to slaughter brother. These are indeed truly dangerous times as the clock silently ticks and d-day approaches.
Unless there is a divine intervention, at some point the break up that everybody fears is inevitable. And sadly, because no-one is ready to be reasonable and to talk, it is likely to be a very bloody one indeed. May God grant us peace and may He guide and help us all.
Happy Democracy Day!

OPINION

We Need National Meeting To Settle Nigeria’s National Identity Now —Obasanjo

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My lord Bishop, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, if you ask me and if I am permitted to… once again air my views, I will, without hesitation recommend that we go back to that number one concept in human behaviour, which is ‘Politics’, and on the part of the leaders and the led, politics matters most.  Politics here embraces governance, political will, political economy, economy itself and understanding global situation as it impacts on the fortune of our nation, and the welfare and well-being of our people individually and collectively.  Leadership is the bases of our politics.  If politics is right, the other four Ps of population, prosperity, protection which is security and partnerships will invariably be got right.  In economy which must mean prosperity for all, government must get out of temptation of over-borrowing and consequent devaluation trap.  What have we gained from moving Nigerian currency value from one naira to almost two dollar to 360 naira to one dollar in one generation – impoverishment?

Every issue of insecurity must be taken seriously at all levels and be addressed at once without favouritism or cuddling.  Both Boko Haram and herdsmen acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning.  They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone.  They are now combined and internationalised with ISIS in control.  It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youth in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African fulanisation, African islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.  Yet we could have dealt with both earlier and nib them in the bud, but Boko Haram boys were seen as rascals not requiring serious attention in administering holistic measures of stick and carrot.  And when we woke up to the reality, it was turned to industry for all and sundry to supply materials and equipment that were already outdated and that were not fit for active military purpose.  Soldiers were poorly trained for the unusual mission, poorly equipped, poorly motivated, poorly led and made to engage in propaganda rather than achieving results.  Intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials while paying ransoms which strengthened the insurgents and yet governments denied payment of ransoms.  Today, the security issue has gone beyond the wit and capacity of Nigerian government or even West African governments.  The Economist Magazine of May 4, 2019, p. 15, has this to say:

“The conflict is spread across a broad expanse of Africa, from Somalia in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.  It is concentrated in some of the poorest countries on Earth, where it is fuelled by bad governance.  Some of these states barely control much of their own supposed territory.  Many jihadist recruits come from ethnic minorities, such as the Fulani, who see officials as alien and predatory.  Many join up after being beaten or robbed by police.  Global warming, meanwhile, has withered pastures, intensifying conflict over land. These pressures are most keenly felt in the Sahel, on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert.  In Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the number of people killed by jihadists has doubled in each of the past two years, to more than 1,100 in 2018.  In the Sahel as a whole, some 5,000 have been killed in the past five months.  In the area around Lake Chad, some 2.4m people have fled from attacks by Boko Haram, a group that straps bombs to children.  The number of jihadist groups in the Sahel has multiplied, from one in 2012 to more than ten at the last count by America’s defence department.”

But all the same, our charity must begin at home.  Government must appreciate where we are.  Summon each group that should make contributions one by one and subsequently collectively seek the way forward for all hands on deck and with the holistic approach of stick and carrot.  There should be no sacred cow.  Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service andrelevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.  After we have found appropriate solution internally, we should move to bilateral, multilateral, regional, continental and global levels.  With ISIS involvement, we cannot but go global.  Without security and predictable stability, our development, growth and progress are in peril.  Let me hasten to add that we must be at the appropriate seat at the table of international discourse, deliberations, agenda and action.  That Nigeria from independence has always been in the forefront of any continental initiative, decision, action or programme has put us in some form of leadership position.  For Nigeria to be outside the African Continental Free Trade Zone Agreement when it automatically came into effect with twenty-two-nations’ ratification is to say the least unfortunate.

If we get the politics correct, every other human activity would fall into place: culture, ethics, way of life and adherence to rule of law/equality before the law/ruthless application of the law, economy, education, defence and security, etc. I hold the view that it is because we have not been able to get the politics of our coexistence right that nearly sixty years after independence we are still battling to answer the most basic questions involved in nationhood. I think it is like a building, which once the foundation is faulty, becomes wobbly with the tiniest turbulence.  Consequently, the issue of nationality identity, values, ethics and national dream must be settled once and for all.  This may require a global national meeting.  If Miyetti Allah is truly encouraging herdsmen violence and killings and truly they have to be appeased or placated with 100billion naira and they are equated to Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, etc, then we have to appease those other organisations similarly or be ready to allow them to unleash havoc of their own. We need politics of a united Nigeria for all Nigerians – not one for Yoruba, one for Ibo, one for Hausa-Fulani, one for Ijaw, one for Nupe, one for Tiv, one for Kanuri and one for Isoko.  If we fail to do this, I am afraid all the EFCC, ICPC, Plans and Strategies and the rest of the political re-engineering and manoeuvres such as creation or contraction/merger of states, forms of government, attempts at ethical re-orientation, constitutional amendment, etc, may not usher in the much desired peace, stability, national development, and of course, improvement in the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians. We shall merely be going round and round in circles which has been our lot since independence.We must move away from taking two steps forward followed by one and two or three backwards.  Let us continue to build positively on existing structure.  If the issue of politics and governance is firmly settled, the issue of development, stability, growth and progress will constitute no problems because humans, materials and funds will be mobilised internally and externally for the good of all and all will be partners, stakeholders and defenders of our common wealth.  There are some of assumptions in our Constitution that time has shown are too presumptuous and we have to deal with this issue of assumptions; either those assumptions are clearly spelt out with ways and means to live up to them or to amend our Constitution in accordance with our inability to live up to those assumptions.  When all these are done, mobilisation of everything we have and which we can muster will be easy for our development, stability, growth and progress.

What is the roadmap for economic development?  If we have one, it may not be well spelt out or well known.  But let me in drawing to conclusion suggest a five-point strategy as follows:

  1. Commodity, agriculture and mineral b.         Infrastructure  c. Manufacturing d. Services  e. Fourth, industrial revolution.

These can be fleshed out in details and must be accepted as national programme and strategy to be followed and actualised by any government for the welfare and well-being of the people.

In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus.  Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.  It will be a national programme.  We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government.  It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.

Election fraud undermines legitimacy and it is a killer of democracy.  To destroy democracy is to destroy hope for most Nigerians and the consequence will be grave.  And we must all appreciate that democracy that fails to deliver dividends to the citizenry in terms of security, safety, freedoms and general enhancement of livelihood will lead to frustration and desperation and all other dangers that can follow.

Through division and alienation wittingly and unwittingly encouraged by government, incipient factors of state destruction are observable everywhere in hate preaching and advocacy, upsurge tribalism and sectionalism, silence and complacency among those who should care and a dangerously rising feeling that your votes don’t count and elections don’t matter.  And yet we spend colossal amount of money on elections every four years with apparently not much to show for it.  With other ills within our society, if these observable symptoms are not addressed and speedily too, we are heading to self-destruction.  It will not matter where the fire commences from, it will spread fast and widely leaving no survivor on its trail.  In the last three weeks, I have been close to two countries and learned how they self-destruct.  I was in Somaliland to learn at first-hand the story of self-destruction of Somalia.  And I was in Colombia to similarly learn the story of self-destruction of Venezuela.  They both started with destruction of democracy.  And Venezuela used democratic process to destroy democracy.  Nigeria seems to be embarking on the path of Venezuela.  With only a population of about 30 million, the Venezuela humanitarian situation today, heightened by drug trafficking, illegal mining, pervasive corruption and terrorism, is crying to the world.  But the world can turn a blind eye and it would be our funeral.  Over the same period, I was in Malaysia and Vietnam and I could feel the palpation of nations on the right path by and large.  The forewarned is to be forearmed and the impunity is already there.  But with collective goodwill, the right leadership and good governance, the sky is the limit for Nigeria, a country surely in the hands of God for us to move forward, unitedly mobilising all necessary resources to make Nigeria a leader in Africa and the leader of the black race.  That is the role God has created for us.

I thank you for your attention and God bless you all.

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OPINION

CAN Tells Kogi Gov. What To Do About Workers’ Salary

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The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kogi chapter, has called on the State Governor Yahaya Bello to pay up workers salary, Concise News reports.

This online news medium had earlier reported that the Yahaya Bello said the North-Central state will pay the N30,000 minimum wage.

Speaking on Sunday in a statement in Lokoja, the Chairman of CAN in the state, John Ibenu, described the payment of salaries as a “pressing.”

”We call on Kogi Government to do all it can to address the issue of staff salaries, pensions and gratuity, judiciary and other pressing issues to ameliorate the suffering of the people of the state,” he said.

Ibenu, who is the Bishop of Chapel of Freedom Int’l Church, Lokoja, called on Christians to take after the exemplary life of Jesus Christ “which is love, sacrifice and forgiveness for a better society.’’

This is as he described Easter as the solemn celebration of the highest sacrifice made by Christ by accepting to die for mankind.

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OPINION

Onnoghen stands to get N2.5bn benefits in ‘soft landing’ option

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If President Muhammadu Buhari goes by the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Walter Onnoghen, the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) could get retirement benefits in cash and kind up to N2.5 billion.

As part of the package for a retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300% of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life.

Just like state governors, a retired chief justice is entitled to a number of domestic staff and sundry allowances for personal upkeep.

This package for judicial officers was put together by the NJC long before Onnoghen became the CJN in 2017.

 

However, if he is dismissed, he will not be entitled to any benefits.

The president still needs the confirmation of two-thirds of the senate to dismiss or retire him.

Section 292 (1) of the 1999 constitution says a “judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria… by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”

TOUGH CALL

Recall that the NJC has recommended the embattled CJN for compulsory retirement after deliberating on a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which alleges “financial impropriety, infidelity to the constitution and other economic and financial crimes related laws”.

Onnoghen, who denies all allegations, is also undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over charges of false asset declaration.

TheCable reports that members of the NJC were not convinced by his defence but also decided that he should be offered a “soft landing” through retirement.

This option may also include withdrawing criminal charges against him.

“The major problem Onnoghen’s defence had was that even though he claimed those funds found in his accounts were his, he could not provide evidence on how he made the money,” a source in the know of the deliberations said.

“He provided evidence of source of income from one investment but that went nowhere near the $200,000 per annum deposits in his account. Unfortunately, there is a supreme court judgement that says where your assets exceed your income, the burden of proof is on you, not on the prosecution.

“It also did not help Onnoghen that he never touched his salary account for so many years. He said he was living off the proceeds from his farms, but he did not provide a single proof to back this up.

“Also, money paid into his account by senior lawyers is completely unethical. You can say they do not amount to much, but you cannot justify such impunity. It was a very difficult case to make.”

NO EASY ROAD TO SOFT LANDING

Presidency sources, however, told revealed that the option of “soft landing” will be difficult to justify “given the anti-corruption efforts of President Buhari”.

It was discovered that before the scandal blew into the open, Onnoghen was given the option of early voluntary retirement.

“Under this arrangement, he would have kept all the monies found in his accounts and received all his benefits from the system, but he chose to fight till the very end,” the source said.

“The implication now is that the criminal charges may go on, his assets will be frozen and will most likely be forfeited to the federal government after his trial and he will be banned from holding public office for at least 10 years.”

Onnoghen has closed his defence at the CCT and the tribunal is expected to give its judgment at the next sitting on April 15.

But for the crisis, Onnoghen, who is 68, was due for retirement in 2020.

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OPINION

Misery Index: Nigeria not a miserable country

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In a report titled: “The Misery Index 2018,” authored by Dr. Steve Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Nigerians have been labelled the sixth most miserable people in the world. The misery index was introduced in the 1970s by Arthur Okun, an American economist, author of the seminal work, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Trade Off (1975).

The original index considers such factors as unemployment rate and inflation rate. It is a formula, a methodology, as it were, consistent with what is known as Okun’s law, but modified subsequently by Harvard Professor, Robert Barro, and Professor Steve Hanke. The latter releases a Report annually. He tells us: “My modified Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation, and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. Higher readings on the first three elements are ‘bad’ and make people miserable. These are offset by a ‘good’ GDP per capita growth which is subtracted from the sum of the bads. A Higher Misery Index score reflects a higher level of misery, and it’s a simple enough metric that a busy president, without time for extensive economic briefings can understand at a glance.”

In the 2018 Report, which is basically a forecast of what to expect in the year 2019, Hanke identified Venezuela as the most miserable country in the world, followed by Zimbabwe, Argentina, Iran, Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt and Ukraine.

Is Nigeria the sixth most miserable country in the world? Where is Syria? South Sudan? Somalia? Steve Hanke’s Report does not necessarily cover all the countries of the world. But certain points are clear from his submissions.

First, the Misery Index makes the point very clear that economic growth is linked to the people’s prosperity and happiness. Countries that suffer from stagflation are likely to have very miserable citizens. Second, lack of economic growth or a poor economy can result in political and social crisis as we have seen in Venezuela where inflation rate is said to be above 6,000 per cent and Zimbabwe where inflation is allegedly over 97 per cent, although this has been disputed in other evaluations, which, unlike Hanke’s Index, accommodate the employment rate in Zimbabwe’s informal economy. Third, good governance, leadership and political stability are important factors for macro-economic growth. The least miserable countries in the world as seen in the Misery Index 2018, would also seem to have strong leadership, and institutions and a certain measure of stability. Fourth, poverty should be avoided because it could lead to misery. Fifth, the state has a responsibility to prevent the growth of poverty and promote economic growth.

It is important to break down and outline some of these well-known, elementary points because I see a tendency in this season to ignore external rankings or politicize them. The Peoples Democratic Party has already jumped on the back of the Misery Index to say that the Report confirms the party’s position that Nigeria’s economy “has virtually collapsed under Buhari.” The Hanke index does not say that the Nigerian economy has “virtually collapsed”. It says the people are among the 10 most miserable people in the world. It is an economist’s index not a political review.

Nonetheless, there are certain basics that should be established. Indeed, unemployment rate in Nigeria is about 23. 10 per cent (Q3 2018, an all-time high between 2006 and 2018. Youth unemployment according to the National Bureau of Statistics is even higher. Inflation rate is about 12%. Food inflation is higher at 13.5%. Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria reduced Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 13.5%, down by 50 basis points from 14%. Nigeria’s GDP growth is 1.8%. Compared to statistics from other parts of the world, these Nigerian statistics paint a gloomy picture. Unemployment rate in India, for example, is 6.1%, Canada (5.8%), Australia (4.9%), United Kingdom (3.9%), Germany (3.1%), Ghana (2%), Cote d’Ivoire (2.6%), Saudi Arabia (12.7%) etc.

There is also no doubt that the Nigerian economy has gone through major contractions in the last five years. The sharp drop in the spot price of oil depleted the country’s reserves, created a foreign exchange crisis and soon resulted in recession. In 2016, Nigeria faced the consequences of a negative growth of up to 2.3%; in 2017, inflation was as high as 18%. In September 2018, the Economic Intelligence Unit of The Economist Magazine and the HSBC Research Unit predicted a gloomy economic prospect for Nigeria in 2019 and also jumped into the troubled waters of analyzing Nigerian politics, with predictions about the likely outcome of the 2019 Presidential election in Nigeria. Both the ruling party in Nigeria – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Nigerian government kicked. They told the “experts” to keep their opinions to themselves.

The EIU/HSBC in retrospect got the political analysis wrong (PDP lost the 2019 presidential election, APC won) but the economic projections remain relevant and instructive. The Steve Hanke Misery Index Report may have been influenced by the EIU report. Rather than dismiss it however, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Presidency (Hanke insists the message is so straightforward even a busy President can follow it) should study the report and attend to the messages about economic growth and the careful management of certain indicators to deliver prosperity to the people. Nigeria’s palace economists may quarrel over the statistics and the methodology, but not the common sense.

But is Hanke’s description of Nigeria as the sixth most miserable country in the world accurate? Even if the Nigerian economy has not “virtually collapsed”, can misery be affirmed strictly on the basis of unemployment rate, inflation rate and lending rates? Does poverty necessarily translate into misery? Is the correlation absolutely given? Nigeria ranks low in this 2019 Misery Index, just as it ranks low on the Human Poverty Index and the Human Development Index – these are challenges for governance and leadership. But does all that mean that Nigerians are miserable? The word misery connotes unhappiness, distress, wretchedness, hardship, suffering, affliction, anguish, sadness, sorrow, melancholy.

I think there are gaps in the Hanke Misery Index in terms of the parameters adopted; perhaps a more holistic assessment of the connection between economic growth and a people’s response as individuals and communities may have shown that economic prosperity and growth do not necessarily guarantee a people’s happiness. There may well be more misery in all the developed countries of Central Europe taken together than may be in Kenya or Cape Verde.

There are perhaps certain anthropological factors, a certain kind of neuroscience that accounts for a people’s happiness rather than cold macro-economic statistics. In 2011, Nigeria was classified as the happiest place on earth in a Gallup Poll and its people as the most optimistic. This was within the context of widespread underdevelopment, and all forms of social sector crisis. Nigeria’s status as a happy country was again confirmed in a World Values Survey in 2014. It is noteworthy however that in 2018, Nigeria was listed as the 91st happiest country in the world, and the 5th happiest country in Africa in the World Happiness Report. Obviously so much happened negatively in Nigeria between 2014 and 2018. But the sum indication is that as at 2018, Nigerians were adjudged happier than they were between 2014 and 2016.

How then can we suddenly become the sixth most miserable country in the world a year later? The difference is who is looking at what. The UN 2019 Happiness Report, for example, focusses on the human being and community, on relationships, or the neuroscience and the anthropology of happiness, rather than economic indicators. The World Happiness Report is more reflective of the Nigerian situation in my view than the Misery Index. We may have moved from being the happiest people on earth to the 91st in the world, a reflection of the existential crisis that Nigeria faces, but the word misery does not quite capture the people’s true essence.

My point is as follows: the measurement of happiness or its antonym, misery is perhaps more subjective and experiential than academic and statistical. Culture and context should matter. Nigeria has been described as one of the poorest countries in the world. The country faces a problem of low level insurgency in the North East. Corruption is rife. Reports of all shades of violence are common place. The country’s wealth is concentrated in a few hands. Steady economic growth is a challenge. But we the people are not in misery. There may have been a slight increase in cases of suicide and depression in the country since 2015, but generally Nigerians are a resilient lot.

The average Nigerian is imbued with a fighting spirit. If people in other countries go through what Nigerians have gone through and are still going through, such countries would have imploded. But Nigeria has not collapsed because the people’s fighting spirit is unique. In the midst of risks and vulnerability to poverty due to economic mismanagement by Nigeria’s leaders, the average Nigerian continues to forge ahead. These are people who don’t give up easily. They believe that tomorrow will be better. When they are faced with election rigging, voter intimidation, outright theft of public resources, these are people who are likely to say: is it not four years? “Let them come and do what they want to do and go away.” When people get killed and are abandoned by the roadside, you’d be surprised that with the corpses lying in open spaces, some Nigerians can just pull seats together and begin to have a drink, a few metres away from a decaying body.

There is no weekend when there is no celebratory feast in a Nigerian community: flashy attires, expensive cars, exotic drinks, musicians waxing lyrical, and the men and women dancing away with no care in the world. I do not know any other country in the world where the parties and celebrations are as elaborate as the parties we throw in Nigeria. The Misery Index is talking about high unemployment rates in Nigeria. This is true but the people are so resilient, they manage to get by. They have learnt to move beyond their governments. Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa. Those who cannot get formal jobs find other things to do.

Come to Lagos, Dr. Hanke. Some of the young ladies you would see on the streets of Lagos and on Nigerian Instagram are from very poor backgrounds and they have no extraordinary skills, but you are likely to see them driving expensive cars, wearing bespoke clothes, the type that Kim Kardashian cannot even afford. This is the “small girl, big God” generation that puts a lie to all that talk about misery in Nigeria. Besides, thuggery and cultism are considered professions in Nigeria, and regarded as more profitable and influential than medicine, law or engineering. Thugs and cultists are patronised by political leaders and they are well-paid for their efforts, particularly during election seasons.

It is only in Nigeria, I guess, that a security guard, earning less than a $100 a month, will have three wives and 10 children, while his own employer will be struggling to maintain a family of four. It is also in Nigeria that you will find a civil servant having five wives and two concubines, even when he has not been paid a salary for 24 months. Misery? Prof. Steve Hanke is an applied economist. He may not have visited some of the countries covered by his study, but in the case of Nigeria, he should not rely on textbook statistics. Unemployment rate, lending rate, inflation rate, GDP per capita may make sense to the economists, but those things sound like voodoo to the average Nigerian.

The people live in a zone that is beyond theory. The average Nigerian is not intimidated by the gap between the very rich and the very poor, for him or her, there is a religious, rather, a spiritual side to this thing called poverty or inequality. The Nigerian is told by the large population of prosperity evangelists in the country – Muslim, Christian, and animist – that he or she can become rich overnight. In Nigeria, you can see a man as poor as a church rat in January and by December he has a mansion in his village, attended to by a retinue of hangers-on, all very happy, and he too has become an employer of labour and he is likely to pay salaries more regularly than government! Nigeria is the ultimate headquarters of trade-offs; not even Arthur M. Okun could have imagined that. The Nigerian character and attitude both raise questions about the true nature of work, employment, economic growth, or the meaning of misery beyond the theories and “forecasts”. The other question is: what is the integrity of the applied data?

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OPINION

Will Buhari give Emefiele a second term as CBN governor?

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Joseph Sanusi. Charles Soludo. Muhammad Sanusi II. Since the return of democracy in 1999, no governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has served two terms. Is Godwin Emefiele about to be the breaker of the CBN tenure jinx?

Appointed by former president Goodluck Jonathan on June 3, 2014, Emefiele will end his tenure as CBN governor in less than three months from Wednesday.

The president has been duly informed, but as a former general who has learnt one or two things from Sun Tzu, Buhari is best at keeping his cards to his chest and watching speculations run riot in Africa’s biggest economy. After all, Tzu said: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

Rumour mills have been very busy second-guessing the next line of action of President Muhammadu Buhari. They have even come up with a list of possible replacements for Emefiele, suggesting that he has received a letter asking him to go “in two weeks”.

 

While Buhari may want to fall like a thunderbolt and shock Nigerians with his move on the leadership of the CBN, This is what the past four to five years mean for Emefiele’s chances as second term CBN governor.

APPOINTED BY JONATHAN, RETAINED BY BUHARI

Only a few top shots survived the administrative purge that came with change in government from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Goodluck Jonathan government to the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership of Muhammadu Buhari.

Of those few, Solomon Arase, former inspector general of police; Yemi Kale, statistician general of the federation; Joe Abah, director general, Bureau for Public Sector Reform; and Emefiele, easily come to mind.

These few have shown that Buhari is not entirely against the appointees of a previous government as seen in Nigerian politics before 2015. As long as value is presented, Buhari does not mind keeping a Jonathan appointee in office.

QUICK FACT: Buhari is the first Nigerian president since 1999 who did not reshuffle or fire any member of cabinet for four years.

BUHARI AND SECOND TERMS

If we have learnt anything from Buhari’s many interviews and acts of office, it is clear that the president prefers steady trusted hands than new untested ones — no matter the level of experience they bring to the table.

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, Buhari gave us an insight into how his experience has shaped his decision-making process. He explained why he has not changed any of the service chiefs despite their “disappointing” performance.

“I have been a governor, I have been a minister, I have been a head of state, I came back, I tried to come back to this office three times but lucky on the fourth time,” Buhari had said.

“I am measuring the options critically, when you have a case of emergency, if you don’t wait for an appropriate time to do it, then you create competition within the service, there are so many ambitious people waiting, only one man can be chief of army staff in the army, only one man can be the inspector-general of police”.

While one may say this is a security matter, and service chiefs appointments are not measured in terms, we have found that Buhari prefers continuity to change, when it comes to matters of appointment.

Elias Mbam: As the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mbam served out his term in November 2015, less than a month after Buhari unveiled his ministers. Rather than change Mbam, Buhari preferred him as a steady hand at the helm of the revenue mobilisation team.

Yemi Kale: In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan appointed Kale as statistician-general of the federation, taking over from Rasaq Sanusi. Kale served out his five-year term in 2016, and was expected to be replaced by Buhari. But the president renewed his appointment after a period of silence and speculation.

Uchechi Orji: Orji was appointed by Jonathan in 2012 as the Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). Also after a five-year tenure, Buhari was expected to replace him in 2017, but the president renew his appointment for another five-year term.

Segun Awolowo: This was a special case. Segun Awolowo’s tenure as executive director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) came to an end in 2017. He continued in office, following Buhari’s silence.

Boss Mustapha, the secretary of the government of the federation (SGF), then issued a memo dated December 4, 2017, stating that all head of MDAs, whose tenure had expired should hand over to the most senior director. Awolowo eventually handed over before he was re-appointed by President Buhari.

Buhari has replaced some other heads of MDAs at the expiration of their tenure, but he has also given renewed terms to many.

DOES EMEFIELE DESERVE A SECOND TERM?

Exchange rate regime: Following a fall in crude oil prices from 2015 through to 2017, Nigeria experienced a currency crisis which forced the CBN to an attempt devaluation of the naira. But the president opposed the idea, saying he will “not kill the naira”. CBN under Emefiele managed to hold the currency for 16 months while depleting reserves as oil prices hit a record low of $27 per barrel.

Eventually, the CBN devalued the local currency to mirror the realities in the local economy. The naira fell from 197 per dollar to 283 per dollar on the first day of what was called a “managed” float of the naira. The local currency went as high as N520 per dollar. It was a tough time for Emefiele’s CBN.

The former Zenith Bank CEO introduced policy suites to mitigate the problem in the FX market, restoring the naira from 520 per dollar to 360 on the regular. And for the first time in Nigeria’s recent electoral history, the naira has been stable before, during and after a presidential election.

While we have the official CBN N305/$1 rate and N360/$1 rate — the CBN claims Nigeria does not operate multiple exchange rate regime. In all these, the president and the CBN governor align on the management of the exchange rate system. A plus for Emefiele.

Buoyant Reserves: When Buhari took office, Nigeria’s foreign currency reserve was at $29 billion. Following the crude oil crash, the reserves went as low as $23 billion territory in October 2016.

Less than two years after, with the aid of crude oil and shrewd management, the Emefiele-led CBN had doubled the foreign reserves, bringing it to $47.6 billion in May 2018 — the highest since the oil crash.

Rice farming policy: Did you get the news? Nigeria is now the highest producer of rice in Africa. This definitely did not happen overnight. Following the shortage of forex to import rice, and other farm produce, the CBN and the federal government flagged off the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to make finance available for smallholder farmers, especially rice farmers.

The poster boys for that policy are the Kebbi rice farmer, who have gone a long way in delivering on LAKE Rice, Olams, and many other rice brands popular in Nigeria today. The CBN says it has disbursed at least N120 billion for these farmers, who make a large chunk of the number of people Buhari flaunts as employed by his government.

Many ministers, including the minister of agriculture and the minister of power, works and housing have claimed that Buhari has employed millions of farmers through the ABP. Emefiele would be smiling.

Politics of Everything: Emefiele, while speaking at the annual bankers’ dinner of 2018, said he is not a politician and would not be light on those who play politics with CBN policies.

“I am not a politician, but people should be very mindful when they open their mouths to say what is untrue because we would come out as central bank to attack it particularly if you use data incorrectly,” Emefiele had said.

Fortunately for him, one of Buhari’s opponents was one of those who spoke ill about CBN policies — and Emefiele did not spare Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Atiku had said Emefiele has not pursued the right policies as CBN governor, stating that he would change the governor — if he is elected president.

Emefiele was quick to desecrate Atiku’s economic plan, describing it as a road to perdition.

“It will certainly lead to capital flight, lead to massive depreciation or devaluation of the currency and ultimately to currency crisis in Nigeria and I think we should all know that it is a road to perdition to ever go in that direction,” he had said.

In government, politics trumps everything, and in this regard, Emefiele seems to have done just fine, in fighting Buhari’s enemy. After all, the enemy of my boss is my enemy.

culled: TheCable

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OPINION

How Buhari Won The Battle But Lost The War

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By SKC Ogbonnia

I am very happy that President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won again in 2019, but I am equally finding it difficult to celebrate the victory. While accurately predicting the outcome two weeks before the presidential election, I remarked that many Nigerians were not in a hurry to bring the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) back to power so soon, having squandered our overflowing oil wealth during its 16-year reign. I also noted that its presidential nominee, Atiku Abubakar, was fundamentally flawed and had no game-changing message to crack the wall of Buhari’s fervent cult-like following in the vote-rich Northern Nigeria. However, unlike in the 2015 exercise when both the loser, President Goodluck Jonathan, and the winner, Buhari, emerged from the election as heroes, Buhari’s victory in 2019 is plainly pyrrhic—and with sweeping consequences.

Any objective history on the ills of the 2019 election ought to begin with how President Muhammadu Buhari backpedaled the wheel of Nigeria’s democratic journey by refusing to sign into law the reforms to the Nigeria’s Electoral Act. Every electoral season since the 4th Republic has seen a review of the nation’s electoral law with a view to improving the electoral process. Buhari stalled this basic trajectory of progress with audacity. The failure quickly gave rise to a perception of executive subterfuge, which tainted the 2019 electoral process from the get-go.

The embers of impunity grew into wildfire within the ruling party. Led by Buhari’s self-appointed national party chairman, an active gaga figure in the person of Adams Oshiomhole, the APC rubbished the concept of internal party democracy within its ranks. The party imposed exorbitant nomination fees on aspirants, thereby further entrenching Nigerian democracy as the sole province of the highest bidders. But that is not even all. Aspirants who managed to cough out the nomination fees were either excluded or arbitrarily disqualified. In the words of Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day…” This fiasco on the part of the ruling party prompted the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, to lament that the primaries ahead of the 2019 elections were “some of the most acrimonious party primaries in our recent history.” He regretted that the apparent lack of internal party democracy dealt a big blow “to our electoral progress.”

The ichor of the growing infamy spiraled down to Buhari’s sole claim to power, his war against corruption, where the president himself appeared to be aiding and abetting corruption. Nigerians would gape as Buhari accepted a N45 million nomination form purchased for him by a shadowy group, a clear mockery of S91(9) of the Electoral Act. As if such act lacks in folly, he embraced a phantom presidential primary, through which he was allocated about 15 million votes. But his storied integrity finally hit an olid seabed at the point the president penetrated the inner circle of Nigeria’s corrupt canton to enlist the worst of its examples into his presidential campaign council. Public trust in Nigeria may never recover from the conflicting optics of Muhammadu Buhari, of all people, campaigning across the country while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most notorious corrupt kingpins in the land.

Nothing exposed the hypocrisy in Buhari’s re-election campaign more than his brazen assault on public institutions. For instance, alleged to have been worried that the election could end up in the courts, Buhari removed a sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, on accounts of corruption—few weeks to the election and without due process—while at the same time providing safe haven to some principal members of his party who had similar corruption charges or worse. This move prompted a unified rebuke by the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union.

Buhari finally threw caution to the wind with his tacit support for hostility against the international community. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, a pestilent personality, and close ally of the president, had responded to the concerns of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union by charging that foreign bodies who “intervene” in Nigeria’s election “would go back in body bags.” To the chagrin of the human society, General Buhari backed the governor. Recall that my person was impugned when I had hinted in the course of my presidential campaign that the international community views Buhari as a bellicose dictator, only for the ruling party to come to that realization later in the electoral season. Instead of any sign of penitence, Buhari’s militant body language took a turn for the worse throughout the campaigns. The immediate effect was military brutality during the election, resulting in loss of many lives, a situation that is bound to echo as Nigeria continues to seek the much-needed foreign investment into its economy and foreign ‘intervention’ in her national security challenges.

Leadership is contingent upon the environment, quite alright, but prudence remains a universal virtue of good leadership. Thus, while it can be reasoned that Buhari deserves commendation for his victory, because the alternative was definitively worse, which is sadly true, his do-or-die tactics were as unpatriotic as they were needless. Like the situations in 2003, 2007, and 2011, even if the umpires were saints, the opposition in 2019 had no path to victory. The palpable anger trailing Buhari’s victory, including the outright rejection by the opposition, has more to do with the fact that the president ran a campaign charged with naked despotism, crass impunity, and stark arrogance. Yet, political retribution is an antithesis to progress. At any rate, Nigeria has found itself at crossroads. The way forward is for Muhammadu Buhari undergo a true change.

SKC Ogbonnia, a former 2019 APC presidential aspirant, is the author of the Effective Leadership Formula.

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OPINION

Do The Igbo And The Yoruba Know They Are Sons Of ‘Oduduwa?

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By Fredrick Nwabufo

And the Supreme Being commissioned Oduduwa, a “sky-god”, to carry out a terrestrial task; he descended from heaven with a cockerel which had six fingers. And the earth was made by him through the ingenious deployment of his avian subject. But that was after ‘Atewonro’ had sprinkled some dirt on the ocean to found Ile-Ife. And he had wives, and sons who founded other kingdoms. So the mythic origin of the Yoruba says.

In Igbo mythic origin, the Supreme Being sent Eri down to earth to establish balance and social order. The “sky-god” founded Nri, and he had wives, and sons who founded other Igbo towns and communities.

The Yoruba and the Igbo share a lot more than similar mythic origins. They are the oldest inhabitants of the areas they live in. In other words, the Yoruba and the Igbo are indigenous to the geographical area called “Nigeria”. And it has also been argued that both groups are of a singular ancestry.

The two groups have had established trade-links dating to the period before contact with the first Europeans. And they are known to share passion for industry; are convivial, accommodating and peace loving.

Also, there is no documented history of war between the Igbo and the Yoruba despite occupying the same “southern hemisphere”. In the precolonial times, wars among kingdoms and natives were common, but there appears to be no recorded incident of battle between the clans and kingdoms of the two groups.
In language, they are both of the Kwa-group Niger-Congo origin. The similarities between the Yoruba and the Igbo language are remarkable, if not uncanny, which point to an identical fount.

Despite having so much in common, politics has been a pesky point of dissonance for both groups. Though the Igbo and the Yoruba do not have a romantic political history; they have kept the dagger away from their rivalry.

The outcome of the Western Region elections of 1951, in which Nnamdi Azikiwe claimed he was sabotaged by Obafemi Awolowo, perhaps laid the molten magma of political rivalry between the two groups.

Some associates of Azikiwe alleged that Awolowo, leader of the Action Group, bought over members of the NCNC, after they had won elections on the platform of the party in the western region, to scuttle Zik’s plan of being the leader of the regional assembly.

They also claimed that Awolowo scuttled Zik’s “one-Nigeria” agenda, and introduced tribal politics.

However, there is no proof to substantiate these claims. In fact, the allegation regarding Awolowo’s sabotage of Zik was disproved by the colonial government at the time.

So, over the years, stories have been revised and passed down to generations who do not probe the information but hold it as a grudge against the other.

Most young people trading hate on social media cannot actually say their grievance against those they are tugging with, except to echo the refrain of revised stories handed down to them and to act on stereotypes they have been socialised by.

But can the Igbo and the Yoruba ever unite? Yes, they can. And they will. There will come a time when there is no option, but for them to hold each other in a warm embrace as “descendants of sky-gods.”

There will come that time.

Fredrick is a media personality.

Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

 

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OPINION

Even Ahmadu Bello Would Be Ashamed of Buhari’s Arewacentricity

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The late Sir Ahmadu Bello, defunct Northern Nigeria’s first Premier, gets an undeservedly bad rap from the South for being the patron saint of the sort of exclusionary, reactionary regional chauvinism that political leaders of the North have been accused of. But he wasn’t nearly the monster of retrograde ethnic particularism he has been presented to be in the South, and he would definitely be ashamed of Buhari’s insensitive, in-your-face, knee-jerk “northern” sub-nationalism.
Of course, as a leader of the North, which was engaged in a battle of regional supremacy with the South, Ahmadu Bello was naturally protective of his region—as other regional premiers were. But he was the premier of a less homogeneous and infinitely more labyrinthine region than the West or the East. This fact heightened his sensitivity to diversity and to the merit of fair, if symbolic, representation of this diversity in employment and positional hierarchies in the Northern Nigerian regional civil service.
During a June 2000 interview, Chief Joseph Aderibigbe, who was provincial secretary of Sokoto and Kano provinces during the First Republic, told me a story about how he became the Provincial Secretary of Sokoto Province that, I think, strikes at the core of Ahmadu Bello’s foresighted northern Nigerian ecumenicalism.
Aderibigbe was a Yoruba man from what is now Kwara State. His hometown, Erin-Ile, is on the border between Kwara State and Osun State, and he was socialized in the West, having attended the University of Ibadan before being recruited into the Northern Nigerian Civil Service. He said one day the Premier asked for him because he had never paid a personal visit to the Premier’s office as others did.
While at the Premier’s office, he met everyone seated on the carpet. He couldn’t bring himself to do that, so he stood. He said Ahmadu Bello really wanted to earn his trust, so he invited him to come eat with him. He said the premier kept pushing juicy pieces of meat to him until he ate more meat than he had intended to. So the Premier cracked a joke along the lines of, “Look at this Yoruba man who didn’t want to sit on the floor. Now, he has finished all my meat! I am not sure he sees this much meat at his village.”
Everyone laughed at Aderibigbe’s expense, and he was enraged. In anger, he said, he told the Premier that it was because his people didn’t spend their money on meat that they could afford to send him and his kind to school to man the northern Nigerian civil service. There was dead, impenetrable silence everywhere. He thought he would lose his job, and he was fine with it.
A week after he got ready to return to Lagos, Ahmadu Bello invited him again. Instead of a sack letter, the Premier told him he had been posted to Sokoto as the Provincial Secretary, which is the equivalent of a governor now. (Sokoto Province is now present-day Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states). Ahmadu Bello said to Aderibigbe, “I want you to go teach my people how to spend their money on education, not meat.”
This anecdote is a prototypic instantiation of Ahmadu Bello’s bridge-building efforts across Northern Nigeria’s many fissures. He wasn’t perfect. He was, for instance, accused of wanting to universalize his cultural and religious particularities to the whole region, which ignited forceful resistance among northern Christians. Nevertheless, the one thing no careful student of Ahmadu Bello would deny is that he was evolving and showed profound sensitivity to inclusivity, even if it was only token. He didn’t live long enough to realize the ideals he set out, but he did leave a template that anyone who leads an intricate, multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity can tweak and adopt.
He identified the multiplicity of ethnic groups in northern Nigeria, physically visited most of their places of origin, and sought to give them a sense of belonging in the region. This template can be extended as an instrument for nation building. A real, Ahmadu Bello-type northerner, which Buhari is not, would regard Yoruba people from Kwara and Kogi states as his or her “regional kin.” Well, if you can do that, you might as well extend that “kinship” to other Yoruba people in the Southwest in the interest of nation building.
If you accept Ebira people in Kogi as your regional kin, you might as well extend it to the Igara in Edo State whose language is mutually intelligible with Ebira. If you regard the Idoma of Benue as your regional kin, why not do the same to the Yala in Cross River who are linguistically and culturally similar to the Idoma? If you regard the Igala in Kogi as your regional kin, you might as well like the ethnic kin of the Igala known as the Ebu in Oshimili North LGA of Delta State or the Ilushi in Edo State, who are linguistically and culturally indistinguishable from the Igala.
If your benign northern sub-nationalism causes you to accept Iyiorcha Ayu as your brother because he is Tiv from Benue, why would you not accept his own brothers and sisters in Obanliku in Cross River State who are also, for all practical purposes, linguistically and culturally Tivs?
In fact, we are only now getting to know that there are Igbo people in Ado, Oju, Obi and Okpoku local government areas of Benue State who are native to the state. Had Ahmadu Bello lived long enough to know this, he would definitely have drawn them close to him. In other words, being a genuinely benign northern sub-nationalist draws you close to being a pan-Nigerian nationalist.
That is why the embarrassingly undisguised Arewacentricity of Buhari’s appointments in the last three and a half years—and counting—is such a betrayal of Ahmadu Bello’s template for inter-ethnic relations. Ahmadu Bello was supposed to be Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, but he instead passed the honor to the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa because he knew he hadn’t yet evolved to the point where he could regard the whole of Nigeria as his constituency. He was still learning to come to terms with Northern Nigeria’s complexity.
 Buhari’s Arewacentricity is not even reflective of the complexity of the North. The only visible appointment he gave to Northern Christians, for instance, is the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Everything else is dominated by Northern Muslims. Going by the precepts Ahmadu Bello idealized, Buhari has neither the temperament nor the moral qualifications to even be a northern Nigerian leader, let alone a Nigerian ruler.
 In late 2015 when I started to call out Buhari’s skewed appointments in favor of the Muslim North, many people, mostly southerners, asked why I was bothered since I’m a northern Muslim who is “favored” by such appointments—“favored,” that is, on the emotional and symbolic plane. Well, I did and still do so out of embarrassment. It’s the sort of embarrassment you feel when your best friend visits you in your home and, during a family dinner, your mother gives you a considerably bigger food portion size and choicer pieces of meat than your friend.
Buhari’s self-defense for his provincial appointments is that he needs to appoint only people he can trust. Well, if after working for more than two decades in the Nigerian military, by far Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan institution, he can’t trust anyone outside his cultural, regional, and religious comfort zone, HE IS the problem, not the people he distrusts

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