All posts by Garba Shehu

About Garba Shehu

Mallam Garba Shehu, veteran journalist and former newspaper editor, now practices as a political communicator and analyst in Abuja. He writes a syndicated column for Premium Times every Wednesday.

The Greed that Nourishes the Polio Tragedy, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Hearing the reports of massive inflow of foreign assistance – millions of US Dollars, plane-loads of medicines, building materials, blankets and warm clothing into Japan and 13 other countries along the costs of those countries bordering the Indian Ocean following the devastating, mega-earthquake, the Tsunami, a poor but calculating and witty Nigerian offered a prayer. He said to his God, “in view of the chronic poverty and want in these parts, why not, oh God, send this Tsunami to my country, so that here too, we will be recipients of these foodstuff and blankets they are sharing?”

He probably didn’t reckon with the fact that if he had been in that region, he might have been among the 230,000 men, women and children, members of the coastal communities whose lives were lost.

This country is not the only place where people can be happy about misfortune striking others. Ripley’s film, “Believe It or Not” tells this story.

Reports from Brazil speak of millions in that country who are happy with that country’s humiliating defeat by Germany and Netherlands in the just-ended world cup. Brazilians in their large numbers want to see the back of the country’s leader, Dilma Roussef, so anything that adds to her woes is delightly welcome.

The ironic return of the wild polio strain, the one that the world had assumed had been eradicated in nearly all parts of Nigeria should in the light of the above, surprise no one. Politics aside, there is so much going on in the country to ensure that polio, even it goes, will continue to return again and again like the proverbial Abiku.

Nigeria has one of the world’s worst health sectors. As I write, doctors have walked off their jobs in the hospitals. Nobody knows how long the strike will last. As a consequence, patients have been thrown out all public hospitals. Those without money to continue their treatment in the costly private medical facilities have in a way been handed early death certificates. The health system on the whole has sunk to the bottom of an abyss that is devoid of the culture of compassion, care and fellow-feeling. Weaknesses in the system are there for everyone to see. Vaccine supplies start and stop, making sustainability, which is a condition for polio eradication a mere pipe dream.

Records, especially in the vast Northern parts of the country show that immunization has nosedived. Without 80-85 percent success rate, in the face of an explosive birth rate, there is no way polio can be cleared out of Nigeria. Add that to the fact that 60-70 percent of the country’s population is living below poverty lines. With all these, polio, which is a disease of poverty and unclean environment, has a perfect setting in which to thrive.

Cushioned by corruption, wasteful government spending, high unemployment, crime and insecurity, there is little wonder that the whole country is fast becoming a sick society and the return of polio is therefore a mere symptom of the underlying affliction that affects the polity as a whole. It is not only the health sector that has collapsed. Corruption has equally caused the decay in the school system and social services as a whole. Urban planning has been abandoned. That is why every rainy season comes with accompanying tragedies occasioned by floods. Building collapse in urban cities is an everyday phenomenon.

In an addition to all these, Nigeria has to contend with the gluttonous global system, which interest is not served by the eradication of epidemics such as polio. Huge grants, such as the USD50Million in this respect by the Bill Gates Foundation and money, well-meaning business leaders such as Aliko Dangote continue to pour into polio may actually be feeding this greed that we are talking about. First, it is a fact that modern medicines are designed with profit in mind. Drug companies push for sales as do, or even more aggressively than vehicle manufacturers.

It is like there is fun in epidemics for doctors and pharmaceutical companies all over the world. It is a known fact that doctors get cutbacks from drug companies. Even the technical people, there are so many of them whose careers are tied to diseases, without which they will be without job. It is a picture of conspiracy well beyond the control of this country.

The full return of polio should horrify everyone but is inevitable in view of the current conditions in the country. So long as the environment is right for the epidemic to stay here and thrive and with the conmen all over the place eyeing  oversea dollars coming in to, supposedly fight polio, there is no way the disease can leave our shores.

That is the reality of the fact.

Mallam Garba Shehu, veteran journalist and former newspaper editor, now practices as a political communicator and analyst in Abuja. He writes a syndicated column for Premium Times every Wednesday.  

A regime’s loss, a nation’s gain, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Up to 70 per cent of membership of the conference was directly and indirectly appointed by the same administration.

As the National Conference gradually inches to a close, the major surprise from its outcome may be the victory of the nation, as opposed to that of the Jonathan administration, the architect of the conference, which undoubtedly designed it in a way that it must fail.

In its short but memorable history, Nigeria has had the fortune of so far surviving all the acts of brinkmanship by its rulers. We have gone through a civil war and survived it, and we have overcome countless other schemes to change the constitution for selfish reasons, mostly for the purpose of self-perpetuation by leaders.

It is inconceivable that the membership of a major conference of his nature would, in the first place be based on appointive representation, rather than elective one. But beyond this, the composition was so stacked against the North and Muslims in the country that many thought, upon reading the breakdown that it was intended to annoy these groups so that they would not agree to attend.

There are about 300 Southerners to 200 Northerners. All past censuses put North-South population figures roughly at 54-46 per cent. 62 per cent of the delegates are Christian, with Muslims and followers of traditional religions making up the balance of 38 per cent. Christians make up 294 of the Conference membership.

The President had himself dilly-dallied for many years on whether or not to convene a conference. In the beginning, he stoutly stood against it. Much later, he saw it as an opportunity to deflect attention from the woeful performance of his administration which had in turn generated tons of trenchant criticism on everyday basis.

Up to 70 per cent of membership of the conference was directly and indirectly appointed by the same administration. And they didn’t disappoint anyone by the way and manner they chose them. I must make clear that there are very several of them with undying passion for Nigeria, who are unimpeachably honest and hardworking; who are men and women championing the unity of the country. These are those who paved the way to Nigeria’s victory that I am celebrating this morning. They realised early enough that a President, who had turned his party into rubble, must not be allowed to do the same to Nigeria.

Government made sure that there was not any one anti-national element left out that was not nominated to come to the conference. All those AGIPs – any Government in power; the nation’s known “yes men” and “yes women”; the famous hacks tamed by government for barking in English; the political prostitutes selling their English speaking and articulation skills to criminally-inclined political masters over the past many years were the government’s first set of choices for the conference.

Many of those appointed delegates have no other jobs but are known for unsustainable life-styles that they desperately seek to hang onto.

In addition to the lopsided representation, the North’s leaders were sceptical about the Conference because government’s list was full of people seen as renegades and turn-coats, who had been associated with the unpopular policies of past regimes. In the South-West, many of their delegates were the self-styled sentinels of the republic, nearing expiry; people who have been dumped in the electoral garbage bin. The list was drawn up to spite the reigning leaders of politics in the region.

In real politicking, you can’t do political business in the South-West today without talking to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. A Conference that set aside 15 slots for the President’s Ijaw and none at the beginning for their Itsekiri traditional rivals did not set out to be fair in any respect. After they cried out aloud, the Itsekiri were awarded a nominal representation of one member.

Little wonder many of the government delegates ended up presenting trivial, meaningless, contrived, divisive, illogical and fallacious arguments.

Many of the so-called issues that the President copied and pasted from newspapers over the years as being Nigeria’s problems were settled issues. That is why they ended up being rejected as non-issues.

Delegates from the North surprised themselves in the same way they surprised many of their critics. In an era of 5G corruption and 10G insecurity, many believed that they would cave in to the greed and avarice of a given section of the country who wanted to gobble up the entire wealth of the nation. In the end, those of them seen as the usual suspects, the likes of Jerry Gana and John Dara may end up among the North’s real heroes. That the President’s religion-centred politics had failed to sunder the North is yet another key success of this get-together.

A loss by a government that chooses to throw the chance at history by playing the same set of drums of religion and ethnicity instead of rising above everything is a huge gain for the Nigerian nation. But celebrations over this victory will, however, pass for a short respite in view of the government’s growing provocation using the army through newspapers seizures, profiling of citizens on the bases of ethnicity and religion and the heat and cacophony on Northerners in the Eastern parts of the country.

As The North Grabs Its Fate with Both Hands, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

A common narrative among lazy commentators and apologists of our often criticized government is one that accuses “Northern leadership” and their (Islamic) apex religious leadership of not doing much more than criticize, comment or condemn the executive leadership, without being proactive” to end the “senseless menace that has plagued Nigeria’s North for four years (please read “Why We Failed To BringBackOurGirls,” Dr. Prigirino Brimah, Saharareporters). In addition to politicians, there are activists and rights groups that have bought into this erroneous thinking.

But contrary to this type of thinking, there are many groups and societies that are involved, in the nation’s interest, going beyond the criticism of the lack of government action, to identify real solutions to the problems of violence, banditry, criminality and terrorism but because they don’t have the state power to enforce their points of view, all they can do is to write and talk, which is itself an activity protected by the constitution.

One such group that has been active in meetings, seminars and workshops in search of peace in the North and Nigeria as a whole is the Arewa Research and Development Project, ARDP (ardpng.org).

At a recent workshop in Kaduna, the group brought together an array of active and not-so-active security personnel, journalists, academics, politicians and businessmen to brainstorm on the issue of “Security and Human Rights in Northern Nigeria.”

It turned out to be a big opportunity for some of this country’s forgotten heroes, men who had played important roles role in keeping the country one, but who, regrettably today are sidelined, and are therefore helplessly watching as a set of selfish and greedy political elite tries to undo all of that good work. The interesting aspect of this get-together was the common thread of strong optimism, almost echoed to a fault about the future of Nigeria that ran through the entire conversations.

General Emmanuel Abisoye went down memory lane discussing his role as the General officer commanding the 3rd Infantry Brigade, with overall responsibility for the entire eastern borders of the country, spanning Maiduguri to Calabar, the entire length of which he said he literally walked on his foot. He spoke with nostalgic confidence and competence about how things are now different, considering especially our seeming helplessness and such question as a so-called mystery of the Boko Haram insurgency in that region.

It was an equally good opportunity for such veterans as General Paul Tarfa, General Joshua Shagaya, General Maina, General Temlong, Colonel Hamid Ali, Assistant Inspectors-General of Police Albasu and Lawal Idris (both retired) Col. Aminu, Col. Bello Fadile, Col. Ubah, the Secretary of the ACF and A.A. Gadzama the immediate past Director-General of SSS, among many others to bring their thoughts together on how the North can be cured of these problems.

As to be expected, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki made a presentation. The Convener of the ARDP, Dr. Usman Bugaje, who called this meeting in collaboration with others, including the Centre for Democratic Research and Documentation of the Bayero University, Kano, and the Centre for Peace Studies of the Usmanu Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, outlined the objective of the gathering to be an attempt “to bring Northern leadership and expertise together to brainstorm on these important, nay compelling security problems facing the country, with a view to proffering solutions that will complement and reinforce what government and non-government actors are doing”.

Among the many recommendations the participants issued at the end of the workshop, they called on the movers and shakers of the North and their citizens to work for mutually rewarding ties with government, to complement each others’ efforts in combating the terror ravaging the region. They appealed to Northerners to unify themselves as a step to securing the unity of Nigeria although, the unity of Nigeria they warned, “will not be at all costs”.

They called for a marshal plan and recovery programme for the North, taking note of the fact that poverty and neglect account for the crises facing the region to a large extent, although these themselves cannot explain, let alone justify, violence in any form.

They made the far-reaching recommendation which includes a call for the extension of the NYSC to two years, so as to include one year of military service and asked for the setting up of committee to monitor human rights of the civil population, and to audit the conduct of the military regarding the observance of the rules of engagement.

Knowing that the North has its own problems, the meeting called for measures to address issues of corruption and the lack of will. They also asked that the North be treated fairly in the affairs of Nigeria, “like any other region of the country in terms of employment opportunities, appointment and scholarship grants like the Niger Delta.”

The communiqué also strongly disagreed with the malicious linking of Islam to bandits who merrily kill, kidnap and trample on innocent persons and businesses, as well as the psychological war against the North and the country as a whole using the social media.

A popular local proverb says it takes two hands to clap and only one to slap. The conclusion from here is that Northerners are taking their destiny in their own hands by first uniting themselves, and then working with the federal government to bring peace and settlement in the region.

But where this partnership and support are not forthcoming on the part of government, the communiqué gave clear indication that the region will think up other alternatives.

What are these alternatives? This workshop did not elaborate.

 

Emir Sanusi’s Curious Deal, And Perils He Must Avoid, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

It is welcome that the new Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11, as he prefers to be called ( he was known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi until his coronation), landed on the throne of his forefathers in the vast entity called the Emir’s Palace. This followed the dramatic end to the siege on the palace, which made it impossible for the newly-appointed ruler to take his rightful residence.

For those unfamiliar with Kano, this massive compound is by every estimate, a standalone town, complete with thousands of homes, schools, a clinic and a social centre. That Sanusi rode around the city on horse back to various  parts of the city unmolested,  receiving praises and cheers, without being heckled or abused is an indication that indeed the initial crisis that followed his choice in now over. As he huffs his way through armour and mythic roles, including a reported three-day seclusion in a mystical room, senior members of the community have been warning the new ruler to tread softly and to not allow himself to be provoked. He will face provocation. When a man has a reputation for short fuse, you will expect this to be a severe test.  As Commander-In-Chief, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had hoped that his word would be scripture on this and other matters  all over the country. It must have been a bitter blow when Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso surprised him with the choice of a bitter enemy.

As it is, it cannot be said if the withdrawal of the policemen from the palace was out of love for peace in Kano or a tactical withdrawal. If this was a tactical retreat – to bid their time and strike again – then the Emir must be careful and avoid making wrong moves if he is not to invite the fury of Abuja, or reopening  old wounds in his community. Although the Governor has made his move, giving a clear indication that he means business, Kwankwaso is bound to leave office in less than a year. It does not matter whether he is succeeded by a man or woman from his own party or the opposition. New challenges will arise from the Emir’s tormentors especially in a situation where he fails to rise above the fray of politics.

As for the government in Abuja, you can be sure that they will chose their moment, and strike if they will. These are rulers well-schooled in the methodology of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo will do you a favour that you can’t refuse. But be sure that one day, he will come back to demand a return that you cannot say no to. If you say no, the President who did not forget will remember that you had a blemish under the shirt, perhaps an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) matter that had been kept in the oven. From that point, it is given a new life all over again. Recall that a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, had a corruption issue junked for 10 years in an EFCC warehouse. When he disagreed with the tenure elongation bid of Dr. Jonathan, the case was called back, leading to his loss of office and his ongoing trial.

If rumours are to be believed, both Emir Sanusi and the government that appointed him are in a different kind of bind. In this case, it had been said that they were all over former President Babangida, General Gusau and the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), making all sorts of commitments and pledges, the bottom-line of which was that they would henceforth be good boys as far as dealing with President Jonathan is concerned.

There are also suggestions that the Security Services in Abuja may have stumbled on deals between a certain candidate for the throne and kingmakers and some persons in authority in the state, leading to the outcome we are dealing with. These sordid details, if true, would have the long term effect of diminishing not only the person involved but the revered institution of Kano Emirate. Kano Emirate is a different kind of emirate. This Emirate is pre-eminent, almost the last one standing. While tales abound of sold kingships all over Nigeria, somehow, and miraculously too, the impeccable persona of the kingship in Kano has remained, until now, without any blemish.

Happily though, as I said from the beginning, it is important that the storm has settled and the Chief has a free hand to rule as he wishes, subject of course only to the law of the land.

He gave a good account of himself last Friday when he led the prayers and gave a sermon without a written script. The whole city has been impressed by this dazzling show of brain power. His supporters must however tread softly on other Imams who are being cast as being brainless and unworthy. In the long run, these Imams are the Emir’s pillars of support. He therefore needs them.

While it will take time for the Emir to deal with these and such other issues, it is important to warn that he must avoid three of the minefields that visibly lie in front of him.

One, as is well known, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi has a very strong sense of himself. This makes him to face issues frontally without strategy or tact. You don’t throw volleys just anyhow and for this, let’s hope that the kingship as an institution will help to mollify him.

Two, as many have said, he talks too much. I wrote about this too. In that column, I cited the famous aphorism that says that no one gets into trouble for saying nothing. Malam Adamu Adamu, that famous Daily Trust writer, put it better to the new Emir where he said that the tail of the turban drawn over the chiefs mouth was intended to impose a restraint on their speeches. They are not known to talk just anyhow.

Three, it is equally evident that the Emir has an appetite for grandeur. Recall the dramatic outfits he wore to work as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The trouble is if you covet grandeur, it becomes wily and wild. But if we learn from history, the best thing is to ignore any such feeling. If you ignore grandeur, it has a way of coming across in a way that is inoffensive  and acceptable .

As the whole country congratulates Kano for having an enlightened ruler who ran the Central Bank with a keen eye on accountability and due governance, his own job is clearly cut as one of  reviving the cherished values of the people. A good government at the state and the centre is important but it is hard to have progress in a society without good people as well as good values.

 

 

Why Kano, North and Nigeria will miss Emir Ado Bayero forever, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Ado Bayero was a chief, not a lord over his people. He was always bringing together those who were divided.

Everyone has his/her story of the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. He made me feel very special from the day he and his large entourage stormed Class One, my class at Dutse Primary School, now in Jigawa state. He wore all white, wearing the broadest smile I had ever seen. He asked the teacher to step aside and he took over the instruction.

He asked a question I cannot now remember. I raised my hand. When he picked me, I told him the correct answer. He looked surprised for he apparently thought it was an unexpected performance. The Emir strolled to my seat, put his hand on my head by the way of a blessing as our seniors do and said words to the effect that “you are the special one, greatness awaits you”.

While I’am still waiting for that moment of greatness to present itself, two things always came to mind whenever Ado Bayero’s words rang in my head.

It reminds me of an instructive story I encountered from an Indian about how God plays a joke on every new-born, whispering, ‘You are the special one!’ But the joke quickly wears thin when, as an adult, the once new-born starts running up against several billion others on this planet who all assume that they are ‘the special one’.

Two, this was a great motivation for me to look beyond the small town in which I was raised. I’am a driver’s son whose ambition at the early period was no more than growing up to be like dad or any of those teachers. It was a spartan lifestyle over there, but one of contentment. Dad brought home everything we needed. He hadn’t had a formal education although he was literate, and he knew that education was the way to the future. Having himself originated from Kano city, he made the habit of taking us home once in a year to spend time with the larger family. These visits to the city used to be the highest moments of the children’s life.

Unlike my dad, many of the kids and their parents saw the modern school as an unwelcome imposition. Nearly all the girls in school never made it to class seven before they were married off. Many of the boys too dropped out before making the transition to secondary school. In that environment at the time, there was hardly a motivation for anyone to be extraordinary in school.

When the Emir moved to the next class, everyone came around to congratulate me for first answering his tricky question and two for the blessing I got from the revered leader. The endorsement had the immediate effect of raising my spirit upward, like a cloud. Thereafter, it often looked to me that this was my own gateway to success, and had actually served as a great inspiration for the success achieved, if any, so far on my part.

My full conversion to republican thinking followed the contact I had in college with the radical ideas of the late Malam Aminu Kano, the liberator of the Talakawa. Aminu Kano helped many in my generation resolve their crises of identity, which led in turn, to career choices. For instance,it was this new thinking that enabled some of us to see journalism as a friend of the weak, poor, and the underdog and for its crusading role, helping to comfort the discomforted, while at some, if not most of the times, holding the powerful to account.

But in truth and in all of my life, I never thought that Aminu Kano’s ruthless demonization of the traditional rulers applied or captured the humane ruler that Ado Bayero was. Aminu Kano himself reserved a special place in his speeches for the later ruler and never did I hear or see on record attacks that the late politician directed at the Emir personally. And this was for a special reason. Ado Bayero was a chief, not a lord over his people. I think that he saw his major function as stitching up the divisions among his own people, the North and the entire federation. He was always bringing together those who were divided. He rallied the Muslim masses towards education and commerce as a means to economic independence, and tried very hard to manage the delicate relationship between Muslims and Christians and that between his Hausa and Fulani people with the other groups. As a leader, the difference he made was that he not only enjoyed the confidence of successive administrations but also that of the rank-and-file. He worked very hard at the grassroots level to improve the conditions of ordinary people and those that are backward as illustrated by my own personal example.

His death therefore is tragedy as many have said, not only for the people of Kano, but for the country. His leadership and experience will be sorely missed by Kano, the North and Nigeria, especially given the fact that 2015 is lurking around the corner, and there is no denying that a bumpy road lies ahead of our country.

Ado Bayero’s long years of reign over Kano are better captured by the words of Indra Nooyi: “Leadership is hard to define, and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the end of the earth, you are a great leader”.

That’s how Ado Bayero did his own and it is for all of follow his examples.

R.I.P Ado Bayero. We lost a good leader. Truly an irreparable loss to the country.

How PDP Can Reinvent Itself, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Nigeria marks Democracy Day this week amidst widespread anger at the wasted past few years, growing fears of terrorism and crime under an unshackled administration, altogether calling into question the effectiveness and the future role of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party founded on the cherished values of liberalism, unity and plurality.

In many ways, the PDP has, in its 15-year rule come to symbolize democratic rule in Nigeria – and deserves credit for the longest streak of interrupted civilian (non-military) rule in Nigeria’s history. To their credit and that of the nation, PDP has given this country a seamless, civilian-to-civilian succession, another novelty because that had been the breaking point of many African democracies. It is however sad to note that the party is today in disarray, having turned its back on the values it once so proudly stood for. They are in addition, clearly out of touch. Parties are like pillars supporting democracy. For this reason, Nigeria needs strong political parties in line with vision of the founders of the PDP.

To retain its position as the country’s bedrock of democratic governance, the PDP needs to reboot so as to realign itself with the people of this country. No party or government can succeed with bad policies. A party that puts the President’s interest FIRST and the nation LAST is setting itself for a major embarrassment at the polls.

Three core areas which the party needs to rework are one, its commitment to internal party democracy. A party cannot give this or any country democracy if it is not beholden to it as an internal practice. There are hawkish individuals and groups that have hijacked the PDP, people who are more or less like a noose around its neck. Without freeing itself from these robber-barons, there is no way ordinary Nigerians will have a sense of belonging and ownership here.

Two, the party as it is, is obese with vested interests and corruption. Nigeria deserves a ruling party that is truly their own – not a party in the pockets of the President who is at best promoting the politics of patronage as manifested in the way be makes appointments and the granting of concessions and waivers. A party should thrive on the sustained growth of the people and their country not occasional crumbs. PDP doesn’t have a tradition of using its diverse talents. Rather it has the entrenched practice of putting the old wine in a new bottle.

Thirdly, the PDP must learn to tame the arrogance of its elected officials. It is time for the party to understand that people today live in a climate where news, regardless of good or bad, spread in seconds. The other day, as reported by the French News Agency, AFP, the President, Dr. Jonathan, was greeted with shouts of “Bring Back Our Girls” as he made to enter the Union Building, venue of the inauguration of Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa. Shortly before he left here, he sent a very unkind message to parents and activists clamouring for a more decisive government action in the search of 276 girls stolen from their dormitory at Chibok by Boko Haram. They have been missing more than a month now. In what many termed as reckless and insensitive remark, the President asked stakeholders to stop worrying him with calls that he returns the missing girls. “Go (talk to) to Boko Haram,” he reportedly said in a speech read on his behalf. Before this, he had spoken in Paris, France, where he said a visit by him to Chibok town was not necessary. Upon listening to the crap, one almost felt like saying to him to get out of the kitchen if the heat is too much!

When the top brass of the military made a joint trip to the office of the minister of finance to protest the lack of funding for the war against the criminality in the North-East, an important message for the PDP to take away is that they are putting our democracy at a great risk. We are lucky to have a military that is reformed and nuanced in democratic order. In Mali a few years ago when they were starved of funding in the war against the insurgency in the North of that country, what they did was they returned to Bamako, the capital, put the elected President out of work and assumed leadership. That they believed, was the only way they would ensure the funding of the military operation. In responding to the cries of the military, our Finance Minister, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala announced that she had so far funded the defence budget to the tune of N130 billion, which is about a sixth of the money appropriated for the year 2014. If she has parents and in-laws, (as I believe she does) let them warn her to handle this matter with reason and (political) commonsense, not like an economist or a miserly aunt. People that did not fight for this democracy have no right to scuttle it.

The President visited Pope Francis on March 23rd this year. I wonder how he missed a classic lesson by the Pontiff, who said at one occasion that “every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government must ask themselves two questions: Do I love my people in order to serve themselves better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path? If you don’t ask these questions, your government will not be good”.

If Dr. Jonathan didn’t get that one, he certainly ought not to have missed the golden words of the legendary African leader, Nelson Mandela, who said: “a leader should lead from behind his people, but when danger comes, he should be in front”.

Or Alexander The Great, who said: “An army of sheep, led by a lion is better than an army of lions led a sheep.”

Is the legend of the PDP coming to an end? I hope not. This democracy needs a reformed PDP, standing side-by-side with Action Progressives Congress (APC) as pillars of our democracy.

 

 

How Nigeria (Rightfully) Lost Control, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

George Orwell once wrote that, “in times of deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”.

I am not here as a spoilsport, to puncture the enormous goodwill and support that has naturally welcomed the coming of the British, United States and French military assistance to rescue the missing school girls.

This is a reality check. Some leaders oppose the foreign military assistance to fight Boko Haram on the basis that it is quite haunting to see what they described as a “purely internal affair” jump out of their hands. They are calling it a re-colonization of Nigeria. I do not agree. I have made appeals, along with other Nigerians for a “coalition of the willing” to come and help Nigeria first to obtain the 300+ girls stolen by the terrorists and to help us win the wider war.

The reason for this is simple. Even when the Nigerian government says it is doing its best, doubts persist about both the competence and sincerity with which it is going about the mission of combating terrorism. Some of its most vociferous critics have said openly that the government is itself complicit. For me, the whole question we are dealing with boils down to the issue of national pride. If there is glory to be won from the quashing of the terrorist organization – which is bound to happen sooner than later – no national government can claim it. Instead, it is the international community that will take credit.

The internationalization of the Boko Haram war has effectively put the control of the outcome of the war out of the hands of our current rulers, but so what?

Haven’t we lost control already? Evidence that the Boko Haram issue will be settled, not in accordance with our own terms but terms stated by the international community, is clear from two incidents: one, the public hearing by the U.S. Senate on the Nigeria handling of the theft of those 300+ girls, which exposed the rot in the military and the Nigerian government is indicative that we have lost the chance, out the government’s incompetence, to settle the crisis in our own terms.

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs is about to hold its own sitting on the same issue. This hearing could not hold in the Nigerian Senate because they are focused on regime protection as part of their overall interest in preserving privileges they enjoy, privileges they desperately wish to cling to. The government for its part has merely been wasting public resources making false claims that terrorism is being fought when in truth, we are merely engaged in a talkshop being taken through motions. Their focus is about nothing but gratuitous patronage.

The second indicator of the fact that we lost the initiative on this war is by virtue of the fact that a summit to bring Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin together had to be called at Elysee Palace, Paris, France. Nigeria does not otherwise posses the clout to call such a meeting. All of this is happening because we have a government that is insensitive.

They do not listen to public opinion because for them, no criticism is made in good faith. They suffer from the “Nixon Complex”. (President) Nixon complex is when every criticism is perceived as enemy action – hostile and inimical, for which government will come with retribution. Worse than the Nixon complex, some say the government’s mind is being ruled by George Bush doctrine, which defines itself thus: you are either with us or against us. Things got out of their hands because they won’t look beyond opposition politicians wherever there is a problem.

Nigeria cannot get worse. Thank God, progressive scholars, the leading lights that shone the country’s path to unity and development such as Dr. Bala Usman, Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Professor Claude Ake, Comrade Ola Oni, Niyi Oniororo, Sam Ikekwu, Dr. Buba Bello and the others are not alive today to see the surrender of the country’s sovereignty, willfully and deliberately by a government the whole world accepts is overwhelmed.

In one of his greatest speeches, a former Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed didn’t envisage an era when the country will come together to beg foreign countries for support to end the menace of about 2000 terrorists. At the end of that speech where the OAU burst into a thunderous ovation, Murtala declared that “Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however, powerful.

“The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or mar. For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.

“For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interest; that we are capable of revolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers, which, more often than not, have neither relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.”

Murtala, Ake, Bala et al will be turning in their graves, watching the country as it makes this tactical shift in the bedrock of our nationalism but for as long as this is the government in place, pursuing the same policies that have failed again and again; treating issues of security with the levity they always have, there is little left for the people of Nigeria than to surrender their pride and accept outside help.

In an increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world, the International Community will itself be failing in its duty were it to turn its back against this request. You are dealing with consistent accounts, as the one given by Sky News correspondent, Alex Crawford, of ” a hemorrhaging morale of an army which lacked the will or the means to take on the terrorists.” Sovereignty is meaningless in dealing with any state unable to protect its citizens.

 

 

How Politics Made the Abduction of 273 Girls Possible, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu
It must have dawned on many of our readers by now that more than the speculated issue of the lack of equipment and motivation on the part of the Nigerian security forces, politics, the game of power made possible the painful and indefensible loss of those girls.
If anybody is looking for an authority on this, they should go to the speech of the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan. Rude Nigerians on the social networks may dismiss her as not being savvy or lacking in finesse or refinement.
My admiration for her as in this case is in the fact that she shoots from the hip. There are no pretensions about her. I don’t call that crudity. Thus, when the whole world was puzzled by the inaction, and the fact that the leader of nation from which 273 girls were stolen had not publicly said a word, his wife, the one with whom he shares the same pillow and so the most qualified person to know what resided in the deepest recesses of his mind let the cat out of the bag. She cried on television as she narrated the tale of conspiracy against her husband, presumably by devilish actors masquerading as political leaders and charged at the grieving mothers that they were lying as there was no girl missing.
The Punch quoted the mother of the Nation asking the distraught audience she put together, including a set of representatives of the girls’ mothers “… Will you believe that any children got missing?” and the women in attendance chorused “No”.
When they steal cows, (not to talk of human beings) as rustling takes a gradual hold in these parts, the first thing the owner does the next morning is to trace the footmarks and follow. They don’t wait for three weeks to do this.
It is clear from here that the slow reaction to the abductions was simply on account of politics and the desperate greed for power, which was shown by the President scurrying around to secure a further four years in office, adding to the six he has nearly spent without doing the work that justifies it.
If they come now or if they are finally brought back, the girls will in probability return as transformed. It is a syndrome akin to child soldiers. I am seeing beyond pregnancies, which is not ruled out. Those unlucky among them may come back diseased – HIV-AIDS, hepatitis, VDs and mental illnesses arising from trauma.
Two important developments hold a little hope that government’s insensitivity may give way to meaningful action to bring succor to the grieving families and the nation.
One is the publication of the list of the abductees by the official of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. This should have the instant effect of imbuing the claims of the grieving parents with credibility, that their children and wards had indeed been stolen. Even before Mrs. Jonathan, doubts had been expressed by many, if any girls had been missing at all. It was, nonetheless a monumental disaster for Mrs. Jonathan to have ordered the arrest and detention of the three women sent to her as representatives of the inconsolable mothers.
The second advantage gained by “we the people” is the effective campaign by Nigerians and others on the social networks using hashtags as#BringBackOurGirls, which has reached tens of millions of people and has drawn international attention to the abductions.
This has in turn warranted the keen interest on the issue as shown by the lavish coverage of the rallies taking place around the world. All the major networks – CNNBBCSkyand Al-jazeera have demoted important stories such as the trial of Pistorius and the unfolding events in Ukraine in favour of this one.
Sadly for Nigeria, a great opportunity to win the favour of investors on the heels of the re-basing of the economy through the World Economic Forum starting today will be over-shadowed by the issue of the stolen girls and the two recent bomb blasts around the capital Abuja. Activists threaten that they will crowd out the summit from the Twitter. The two incidents of kidnapping and bombing have justifiably raised alert and risk levels around the federal capital. These acts of terror need to be investigated and those behind them speedily brought to book. Important lessons must equally be imbibed by government and citizens alike. It is clear by now that the 15-year rule by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has totally ignored the safety of the common man. The police is kept away from their primary duty and have become busy protecting politicians. Senators, governors, local government chairmen and the heads of government companies and departments have V.I.P. security at the cost of the common men. Security is at very low level everywhere in the country.
While it will be uncharitable not to give recognition to the security services for commendably curbing some of the planned attacks in spite of the poor equipment and motivation that they bear, the larger body of citizens must rise to the new challenges of intelligence gathering. The only way we can save ourselves is by learning the importance of neighborhood security, which builds up to overall national security. Nigeria is large and her population is equally large. Freedom to most ordinary Nigerians means the right of everyone to come in, settle here, do whatever they wish to do and because we are so many, nothing can be monitored.
Shameful and criminal acts of terrorism must be denounced especially by Muslim leaders whose religion is being defamed by these actions. The world’s big powers should come forward and help rescue these girls before it is too late. Any pretentions to Imelda Marcos, by surrogacy or imitation by the First Lady will only serve as a distraction. This must equally be discouraged. Above all, our government needs to conduct its affairs in a way that places national interest about narrow, selfish political interests. Otherwise we will all be dead by the time someone emerges in 2015 with the certificate as having “won” the election.

A government’s cluelessness, information blackout and our missing schoolgirls, ByGarba Shehu

Garba Shehu

The search for these Nigerian schoolgirls will probably be the most difficult search in human history, not the Malaysian Flight MH370.

I am sure many of our readers still remember the story of Julie Ward, the 28-year old British wildlife photographer who was killed in Kenya in 1988.

Julie went missing on a lonely photography safari in the Masai game reserve.

The Kenyan authorities seemed at that time to be more interested in the preservation of the integrity of their country’s profitable tourism business. They went into a denial. When her burned and dismembered body was first discovered, they said that they believed that Julie was struck by lightning, or that she had been eaten by lions.

The burned remains of her leg and part of her jaw were found near a tree in the bush. Her skull and spine were found nearby. Julie’s father, John Ward put a lot pressure on the local authorities to admit that she had been murdered, to direct their investigation in that direction.

He was noted all over the world for the campaign he waged in the effort to discover what actually happened to Julie. In the course of this, the retired hotelier spent nearly two million pounds and made more than 100 visits to Kenya.

In the end what unraveled the real cause of his daughter’s death were pictures he procured from a European Satellite of the incident as it happened and NDA evidence indicting two park rangers including the head park warden. Although attempts to bring the suspects to justice were unsuccessful as all three were acquitted by Kenyan Courts, it was instructive that the failure of the case had more to do with the lack of full cooperation of the authorities.

The important thing about this case was that as far back as two decades ago, the potential has been established for the use of satellite imagery to bring to criminal trial the park wardens who, as is believed by many, were those that conspired to assault and murder the lonely photographer in thick bushes of the game reserve.

The narrative of Julie Ward comes in handy at a time when schoolgirls, not one, not two, or three but in their hundreds have been stolen from their dormitory and today being the fifteenth day since the incident, no clue has yet emerged about where they are in the Sambisa forest of the North-Eastern State of Borno, Nigeria.

Accounts by the “Civilian JTF” yesterday rendered on radio suggested that the 200 or s0 missing schoolgirls may have already been shared out in forced marriages to terrorists scattered across the vast forest spanning over 100 kilometers. An interviewee said yet some others were ferried across Lake Chad, taken to Cameroun and Chad. Grieving parents have been shedding tears, threatening to charge into the forest to obtain their daughters. Some actually have gone in there, accompanied by the Civilian JTF, following which they said they saw a lot terrorist infrastructure but no police or soldiers carrying out searches.

From every indication, the search for these Nigerian schoolgirls will probably be the most difficult search in human history, not the Malaysian Flight MH370 as cited by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The difference between these two is that while both Australian and Malaysian officials issue daily bulletins and addressing press gatherings to report virtually nothing new in terms of substantial information, the Nigerian federal government which controls the army and police has retreated into a cocoon in the past one week.

It is probably that the Defence Headquarters, leading the operations got their hands burnt when they made a major faux-pax by announcing the rescue of the missing schoolgirls, only to be countered by local officials including the school principal that the girls had not been found. While the damage, both local and international to the credibility of the Nigerian Armed Forces arising from this incident may never be quantified, it is easy for us to understand how much damage is being done to the government of the day, led by Dr. Jonathan Goodluck, by the prevailing sense of cluelessness and inactivity the silence of the military is creating. Instead of engaging with Nigerians, government in its usual way of politicizing every issue, has surreptitiously launched a campaign against its hate-pet, the Northern political leaders.

A sponsored group says “the disappearance of the girls is part of the Northern elders’ agenda to embarrass and distract the Goodluck Jonathan government”.

The group is also blaming the victims, saying that the school authorities “deliberately ignored the government’s directive”, that schools in that area should be closed down. This rubbish reminds many of the Abacha days when NADECO was blamed for everything, including the failure of the dictator’s toilet to flush.

Nobody benefits from silence in times of crisis. Rather, it is the time when all “gates” to news-flow are opened and everyone relishes live coverages as they are relayed by the international media, whether this is from the search for the Malaysian plane under the waters of the Indian Ocean, a bomb blast in Pakistan or earthquake in Latin America. Famous sociologist, Lucien Pye once wrote that problems of development are essentially problems of communication.

Without informing and educating the people and subsequently mobilizing them, there is no way government can succeed in pushing back this violence, including the tracking of the insurgents in their whereabouts and recovering the girls. In addition to mobilizing local support for this, government needs to talk to the international community about its successes and shortcomings. Satellite was used to partly unravel Julie’s murder in the Kenyan foreign forests because someone bid for the pictures and obtained them.

In a recent article, I wrote about the upcoming World Economic Summit in May in Abuja about which Nigerians know very little or nothing. When South Africans hosted the World Cup in 2010, taxi drivers were trained for a re-branding of their own country. Every London taxi driver is serving a government purpose. People don’t get to drive taxis mere on account of being beneficiaries of constituency projects.

The Nigerian defence establishment has started something good by pooling all the spokesmen of the various services so that they can speak with a common purpose. To regain credibility, they need to repose confidence in the people as represented by local journalists. They must carry the people along. And for the sake of their own credibility, they need a new face for their public information in order to move away from the scandalous misinformation they dished about which they had to make a painful u-turn.

Someone must make the sacrifice or be sacrificed.

The Nigerian Senate And Its Obsession For Regime Protection, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

That David Mark’s Senate has given this country something that is very important: it is a Senate imbued with reassuring maturity that has ensured stability for the country’s young democracy. It is a gift that will not escape the interest of contemporary historians.

Their fixation with the legacy of democratic stability and often conciliatory tone in dealing with Jonathan’s executive arm of the government gives, on the other hand, a sense of evasiveness if not irresponsibility. Mark himself, as said in a previous article is a true model for this country’s historically restless and ambitious armed forces personnel who resorted to coups-d’ etat to achieve their ambition of power. Senator Mark, as I said at that time has proven by his success in the army and later politics, that it is indeed possible for any ambitious military personnel to shred their uniform, fight it out in the political turf and achieve leadership positions through democratic means. While it is no shame to rise from undemocratic origins as he did, this by itself doesn’t guarantee the broad vision needed to run the chaos called Nigeria.

The problem most people see with this Senate is that it is mellow and evasive on critical issues affecting the nation. In the name of stability and democratic well being of the nation, they seem to think that a blind support for the President means the same thing as support for democracy. Based on this wrong notion, they continue to give an uncritical support and, if you like, free pass to government on almost every issue including, but not limited to non-observance of the rule of law, and a chronic inability to implement budget appropriation beyond 30-35 percent.

The Senate sits pretty as the civil society, media and political parties speak with one voice day-in-day-out in a trite against an inept government that thinks that doling out national wealth through outright bribes and myriad of waivers and subsidies and entitlement programmes as the way to keep power. We have corruption in a monstrous scale though it must be said that inefficiency, corruption, chicanery, cheating and venality among other ills have been with the country for a long time.  The difference this time is that we are in a boom period. The question on the lips of many is for how long the Senate will continue to cozy itself to the administration, behaving like dynastic Maharajas. Nobody has a divine right to rule us.

This is an attitude that cannot be justified even where there is a sense among some of them that they bought their seats and are therefore entitled to reap where they sowed.

While the House of Representatives appears ready at all times to do business with Nigerians on all matters, notably on the issue of national security, the Senate is yet to wake up to its duty as the nation reaps deaths as its daily wages. We need radical defence and national security reforms to stem the slide into permanent insecurity that has put Nigeria in an infamous club that groups Nigeria with Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. They all know what is needed of them and say it: this beautiful country is heading towards destruction. Is our Senate going to be a catalyst for change? This will require them to hold the government accountable and force its hands to carry out meaningful physical action, not just empty words which mean nothing as life becomes a cheap commodity throughout the land.

It is very clear by now that the standpoint of government is to hold on to power. Beyond this, nothing matters at all. Senators on their own have one pre-occupation, which is that nothing must upset the apple cart. There is suspicion that they are being paid money to give the government a lee-way. But for how long, and at what cost to humanity shall we continue to wait on the government to brace itself to challenges of lawlessness and terrorism?

There was a recent statement by the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, that some ministers were more powerful than the federal government that appointed them. The drama playing out between the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Up-stream) and the Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, is nothing short of an affirmation of this statement. However, the Senate as a whole seems to be at a loss as to how to deal with a recalcitrant minister who has willfully refused to respond to its summons. The Senate’s response is now in the court of public opinion but by this yardstick alone, the upper chamber of the parliament doesn’t just look pretty.

Political maturity does not mean that the Senate, as an important arm of the federal parliament, should continue to play deaf and dumb to the yearnings of Nigerians who wish to have their government sit up. No man has ever earned anyone’s respect by being too courteous. The only way to earn respect is by standing equal or superior to somebody. This is inherent in the concept of separation of powers in the Presidential system we practice. If the Senate does not show the guts needed to call this government to order, there is no way the willingness to do so by the House can fetch us anything. It is a bi-cameral parliament.

My view here is more of a call for a paradigm change of Nigeria’s anti-terrorism policy and the need for good governance – which the parliament can force the executive arm to do – rather than a call for outright impeachment which, though warranted, is unattainable given the fractiousness of parties, factions and of the political space.

The Senate, as the senior arm of the bi-cameral legislature, has a leadership role beyond regime protection, which lies  in putting the country in a more stable condition and peace for our people but to do this, no one should dream of eating omelet without breaking eggs.

 

 

Shocking truths about Ebola Virus Disease, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

“Ebola is a cruel disease. It kills easily but painfully. It also spreads easily.”

Nigeria with her population of 160 million-plus is at the door-step of a major disaster-the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) – unless by some miracle it steers away its course or we take deliberate policies and actions that shut our door against it.

Ebola is a cruel disease. It kills easily but painfully. It also spreads easily. One person infected by the virus can infect the entire passengers in a bus or a passenger aircraft.

What is the Ebola Virus Disease?

The World Health Organisation, WHO, describes it as a “severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.”

As of April 5, the World Health Organisation, WHO, reported 127 cases of Ebola, of whom 86 people have died in Guinea. The current wave of outbreak is believed to have originated from that country. As of this date, Liberia has reported six suspected cases, two confirmed deaths. On April 3, Mali reported three suspected cases. Sierra Leone has equally reported possible cases although WHO has reported no confirmations.

In reaction to these incidents, many countries have taken various measures to shield their populations from the EVD attacks.

Saudi Arabia has taken their preventive measures by blocking visas for Guinea and Liberia.

Morocco early last week announced extra health screening measures at entry points to the country, in particular Casablanca airport. Senegal has closed its border with Guinea.

Also last week, participants at the 16th International Congress on Infectious Diseases called for joint efforts by West African Governments to contain the spread of the disease.

So far, our government in Nigeria has been giving assurances that there are no reported cases. No alarm has been raised, which is good because while there is need for measures in place to avert the EVD spread, governments have a responsibility to ensure that they don’t create panic situations. This then calls for carefully designed strategies to mobilize the population in a way that is effective. You also have to deal with the problem of the credibility of the informant.

In this country, as in many others, it has become fashionable for health authorities and multilateral agencies to issue frequent warnings about this or that outbreak of disease or some so-called research such that it has become impossible to take them seriously. Too much of such warnings have left the population generally confused. Crying wolf too often ensures that there will be little or no vigilance when the actual threat comes. This is the unfortunate situation our authorities must take into cognizance in dealing with the work of public enlightenment concerning the EVD spread.

Although we are fortunate to not have recorded a single case so far, we still need to be aware and steadfast.

Information is power. Once government provides the necessary awareness, it will trigger efforts among the population to protect themselves.

WHO encourages countries to strengthen surveillance, “including surveillance for illness compatible with EVD, and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure identification and reporting of human infections under IHR (2005), and encourages countries to continue national health preparedness actions.”

The WHO requests these critical practices in outbreak communication: Build trust: Build positive public perceptions of the motives, honesty, and competence of authorities.

Announce Early: Early announcement contributes to early containment and transparency.

Be transparent: Foster communication that is candid, easily understood, complete and accurate.
Respect public concerns: Effective risk communication is a dialogue between technical experts and public; do not describe how the public “should react.”

Plan in advance: Outbreak communication must be part of outbreak management planning from the onset.

The Ebola virus, according to medical authorities, is spread through contact with body fluids, such as the sweat, blood, and saliva of an infected person or animal. Doctors say the only way to contain the outbreak is to stop further infections.

And to avoid infection, people are generally advised to avoid handshakes, bush meat, travel to areas with suspected outbreaks and to avoid contacts with people who have the infection.

Nigeria must in addition step up surveillance at all points of entry. So far, those countries affected have, with international help, managed their crises fairly well. A country with our type of near-absence of public order would have witnessed a reign of chaos.

PDP, APC And Their Endless Verbal Rockets, Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

The PDP and its may communicators must come to terms with the responsibility they carry on their shoulders

With the 2015 elections looming large on the horizon, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has done itself some good by organizing a two-day retreat in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, for their publicity secretaries. The retreat starts today Wednesday, to end on Friday.

Coming on the heels of the verbal rocketry exchanged between the PDP and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, and in particular, the many misguided missiles fired by the PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh, this retreat should hopefully help the ruling party back on track concerning its messaging. Campaigns based on issues are beneficial to the voters and the nation but throwing stones, as the PDP and APC have resorted to in recent times, are not.

Election in every democracy is noisy and at times ruthless. In the case of Nigeria, it is even messier and will continue to get dirtier so long as there is a government determined to toy with the combustible mix of ethnicity, religion and politics. President Jonathan’s campaign from Church to Church, while swamping Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory with 2015 campaign billboards, against the rules of the game, is a clear violation of the law. Instead of coming down with strict norms, all that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could do was to lamely generalize blame, accusing “all parties” of engaging in campaigns ahead of the statutory six months allowed before elections. Sadly for the PDP, all their campaign billboards say nothing other than puffing up the incumbent President, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck. They don’t say anything about their vision about Nigeria.

Some of the most laughed at claims by a largely derelict government are the pithy slogans crediting the administration with “equity, integrity and good governance.” These are the administration’s weakest points and all they do, as they stand there, is to remind the opposition of the weaknesses of the ruling party. It is not true that the PDP is without achievements of whatever sorts. At least, they can claim a bit of merit (and professionalism) in their promotion of women’s rights. They have a fairly respectable record dealing with human rights and they are strong in the area of freedom of speech.

This government has also an impressive record in the promotion, even if haltingly, of business and investment. In agriculture, food production has increased but so also has the smuggling of rice, which is thwarting local production. A good Jonathan campaign for election should be grounded on his strong points, not on his areas of weak performance. As it is, messages ingenuously coined and written on the back of trucks in Nigeria are more spicy and cutting than we are seeing on PDP’s Abuja billboards.

Besides, when it comes to the brass tacks, the catchy jingle may help sell cement, SIM card or Coca Cola. It is hard to see how billboard can sell a non-performing government. The days of the innocent voter has since gone and will never return. Today’s voter is more discerning. He checks all the shops on the street before he makes a purchase.

If a government is lax about security, is uncaring about employment and infrastructure, they might as well say to hell with your records on human rights or women empowerment.

The convener of the Yenagoa retreat, the PDP Spokesman, Olisa Metuh, is a lawyer and as they always do in the PDP, they don’t care to bring media professionals on board. My argument is that whoever they bring, the minimum they owe the party and the public is to pick the basic tenets of the profession. In that regard, whatever correctional steps they need to take, the starting point should be with the ‘oga at the top’.
I found it unimaginable that a party spokesman will brand the opposition APC as a party of violence because it has a top-heavy Muslim leadership. I was not the least surprised that like a misguided missile, this verbal rocketry turned against the party with several Islamic groups coming after him, accusing him of associating their religion with violence.

Secondly, the debate over who is responsible for Boko Haram violence was as thoughtless as it was needless. This is referring to both parties. The PDP is not alone in attacking others for the violence its government has been unable to solve. The government is itself believed by many to be a franchise of the growing violence, allegedly designed with the aim of rigging the 2015 election.

The widely-circulated opinion by the Adamawa State Governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako, is in line with this thinking. What I find even more amazing is that the PDP has refused to change its tone.

As the party with the largest number of states and seats in the federal parliament under its control, the PDP and its may communicators must come to terms with the responsibility they carry on their shoulders, of nudging the country to reach the stage of a mature democracy where issues are discussed without mudslinging and useless sloganeering. It is not a crime anywhere for an opposition party to seek the ouster of a sitting government through a democratic process. Charges of coup plotting are sickening as they are out of place.

As for the APC, the party does well when they are on issues. Look at how well they have dealt with the ongoing attempts to turn Nigeria to a “Republic of Scams”. When they veer off course, as they were lured into debating who is doing what with insurgency, they were roasted alive.

That’s why they are scrambling their way back to the top of issues. Sadly, opposition to a sitting government in Nigeria and much of other third-rate nations is like running behind a tiger, catching its tail: how more unsafe can a game be?

Power Sector: Government is Attempting an Escape, By Garba Shehu

Garba_Shehu-2

It doesn’t sound like we have a government in place. If we had one, someone should start worrying about the sliding power supply.

I am of the generation of Nigerians who cut their teeth on candle lights and rechargeable lamps and given the way things are going, from bad to worse, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the vision of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week electric power supply is unreachable in my lifetime.

Toyosi Akerele, an inspiring youth leader recently announced in a fanciful pun that the present generation of leaders had handed nothing but generators to this generation of Nigerians.

At home in Kano last weekend, neighbours said they hadn’t seen light for five days in my part of the GRA. In normal times, you got more power supply here than those who lived in slum sections of the outer city. I met someone from there who said for fifteen days, they hadn’t seen a blink.

In Abuja and the other cities, power continues to deteriorate, with just a few cities and towns enjoying very little supplies.

On one of those days last week in Kano, radio news announced the allocation of 12 megawatts to the Kano distribution company with Kano, a megacity by all standard, getting six megawatts, Katsina four, Dutse two and Azare zero.

In February 2013, soon after the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE executed the share sale agreements which saw the “historic” handover of the 14 of the successor companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, the federal government, with a fixed eye on propaganda proclaimed 2013 the “year of power”.

Much hope was raised that the take-over of the generation, transmission and distribution successor companies by private investors – someone called them asset strippers – will see the new owners revamping the sector and impacting positively on the nation’s power supply. Last year, most Nigerians celebrated Christmas in darkness.

Wherever a new leadership takes over a political or even a business entity, there are fleeting changes that often come with that. The new leaders start with a zeal to score quick runs, in this case, improving the level of service to make an immediate good impression. Since the new owners of the power companies took over, what Nigerians have experienced is a slip-up. Apart from introducing quite a few faces, nothing by way of improvement has come to the consumers.

In a hot season as we are now in, with temperatures hovering above 30 degree  Celsius in a majority of cities, and 40 degree Celsius  and above in the fringe cities of the North, this is a period where there is usually an increase in the demand for power for cooling the environment as well as storage. An increase in demand and declining supply make for a very bad combination. With a population of 170 million, Nigeria requires an average 40,000 megawatts of electricity. As it is, less than 4,000 or 10 percent is available for both industry and domestic consumption.

After surrendering to the deteriorating situation for many years, those citizens who believed the government that things would get better and delayed such investment decisions as the purchase of generating set are now the wiser. They are bringing out money from savings to buy their own units. For those who can’t afford to do that, there is a booming electricity supply underground by retailers who wire up shops and houses in neighbourhoods, selling power per minute and hour. Without this, women can no longer prepare soup and store food in refrigerators. They will also have to buy beef and poultry on a day-to-day basis. Government offices that cannot power a whole establishment now buy 2 – 5 KVA generators exclusively to power the office of Permanent Secretary or even Minister.

As a television reporter covering the Ministry of Power, this was how bad things were in the final days of the Shagari administration. At that time, overall national output had dropped to a miserable 900 megawatts. The only difference is that you had the power sector under a state monopoly. You could then by right, hold the Minister and his government responsible for the situation.

But state control of the power sector, as argued by many, was counter-productive and eventually was dismantled. With this so-called “significant milestone” by which generation, transmission and distribution are driven by the private sector, government officials are already pointing at the new owners as those responsible for the terrible situation.

But government can’t run away from the public. With 80 percent of power plants which are gas-fired deprived of regular gas supply amidst increasing sabotage of gas and oil pipelines in the delta region as illustrated by the recent bombing of the gas supply pipeline between Excravos and Warri, it is hard for the government to play ostrich on this matter even if that is their wish. They can’t run away from responsibility by abandoning consumers to the antics of “asset strippers” exploiting the ordinary citizens to their marrow.

You wonder why you have a minister of power, with the addition of a junior minister if all they have to do is to drink tea at the Council of Ministers and draw fat salaries and allowances if they have no power and will to regulate the sector. Why the hell do you have a huge government agency, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission if they cannot ensure market and operating rules in the power sector? Who is there to right the wrongs in the power sector?

It doesn’t sound like we have a government in place. If we had one, someone should start worrying about the sliding power supply, insisting on performance and righting the wrongs that are right therefore before everyone’s eyes. Should government be running from its responsibility?

The National Conference as a Dictatorial Safari, By Garba Shehu

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President Jonathan is going about the National Conference in a way suggesting that he is not a firm believer in representative democracy.

Some call it a Machiavellian simplification. Throughout the 100 years of existence of Nigeria as a country, there has never been a moment without trenchant agitations for the amendment or outright change of the country’s constitution. At every turn, the colonial administration responded by handing down a new constitution. In like manner, the independence constitution has gone through series of makeover – 1963, 1979, 1989 as well as the failed attempt in 2006 to remove term limits from it. Every government of this country has made one attempt to either amend, change, slash or fondle small and large sections of the constitution, including the sitting Jonathan administration, which tried but also failed to tamper with term limits.

There is nothing wrong with these attempts so long as they are carried out within the framework of the law. Every constitution prescribes a method by which it can be amended, because all constitutions are contrived and constructed by ordinary mortals. A constitution is not the word of God or Allah like the Qur’an and the Bible, which, as holy documents, are free of error. Every constitution contains errors and flaws and must therefore from time to time be subject to changes. The Indian Constitution has had 98 amendments made to it in the last six decades. The 200 year-old U.S. constitution on the other had only 27 amendments to this date.

Nigerian governments have been amending the constitution for their personal gains, and not for the betterment of society. Where they try and fail, they reach for the knife to slash sections of it that they did not want as the military, under General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Babangida, General Abacha and General Abdulsalam, did. In the case of Obasanjo in his second coming as elected civilian President, what he did when he failed to secure the changes to make way for his third term in office was to abandon the process entirely. He did not even deem it fitting to honour the delegates with a farewell dinner.

This brings us to the current effort of President Jonathan who, like the others before him made his own effort to amend the constitution that he swore to protect. His state of denial has not succeeded in wishing away the unsettling question that all he wants is to remove the eight-year term limit placed on his tenure by the constitution.

To conceal the selfish motive behind the relentless pursuit of the amendment, the government has successfully been whipping up ethnic, religious and regional sentiments warranting the convention of this “National Conference”. There is nothing wrong in changing a constitution that retains colonial laws or one constitution that harbours a repressive system of government. Who needs a brutal system that protects the rich and persecutes the poor, one that protects the rulers in robbing Nigeria of its wealth? We cannot pretend that there are no problems.

The problem with the way Mr. Jonathan is going about it is one, by convening a “national conference” side-by-side with an elected parliament currently engaged in a constitution amendment as prescribed by the constitution itself, he sends a dangerous signal that we have a leader who has absolutely no regard for the institution of parliament. Parliaments all over the world are considered as the repositories of popular sovereignty. A country cannot have two parliaments running concurrently. You cannot say that you are following the constitution, and you are doing things against it.

Two, this budding dictator, the President of Nigeria is going about it in a way suggesting that he is not a firm believer in representative democracy. Why would he not call on the citizens to elect men and women who will represent them at the conference? Instead of allowing representation on the basis of popular mandate, he by himself has directly and indirectly appointed 80 percent of the delegates.

The irony of what is happening is not limited to a democratic government’s aversion for the right of the people to choose or elect their representatives. We are a country of robust debate and dialogue; a people who cherish enterprise and hard work. Today we have a government that has reduced us to a frightening new order where tribal and religious arithmetic have chased out ideology, principles and nationalism. It bespeaks of ideological barrenness which, one must admit, is hardly unique to Nigerian democracy. The question to ask then is: How did we come to such a pass?

The nature of this conference is a page from medieval political literature whence the “wise leader” presiding over the affairs of the “foolish citizens” knows what is best and chooses on their behalf. Then, it was held that the masses are too weak and malleable to be left alone to decide for themselves.

But a sacred covenant between a citizen and his state cannot be authored by a ruler no matter how “divine” are his powers. M. K.O used to say that you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence. This then clearly brings out the futility of the National Conference, which really is no more than Dr. Jonathan’s dictatorial safari.

Secure Schools, Don’t Close them Down, By Garba Shehu

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The closure of five Federal Government Colleges in the North-Eastern part of the country is exactly what Boko Haram wants. It’s absolutely the wrong way to go and I am really shocked and surprised that government came up with this decision. Is this then not a victory by Boko Haram, which has targeted schools with its attack in order to prevent the spread of “Boko” (Western education)? Who then is the winner here?

The nasty incident that occurred on February 24 in Buni Yadi, Yobe State – and many others before it – in which tens of pupils were slaughtered or burnt to death was profoundly shocking and abhorrent. At the spur of emotions, any decision taken to ensure safety of the rest of the children will be right. But governments are not run that way. At a time when men lose their heads, leaders are those who keep theirs.

As a result of this decision, an estimated 10,000 pupils have been asked to leave Federal Government Girls’ College, Munguno, College of Science and Technology, Lassa both in Borno State; Federal Government Girls’ College, Potiskum and the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi both in Yobe State and the College of Science and Technology in Michika, Adamawa State. Reports quoted the Special Assistant on Media to the Supervising Minister of Education, Simeon Mwakandu as announcing the directive of the Minister that the students who are not writing examinations be relocated to unity colleges in Kaduna, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe and Borno States.

As a consequence, the Daily Trust on Monday, reported thousands of these students have been left in the lurch with their parents, who are plunged into a sea of worries, opposing their transfer. The parents have been told to pay for the relocation of their children and wards. Many of them say their children are not going anywhere. I don’t think it is right to push this financial burden to parents. Government has also given conflicting directives on the status of students due to start writing their final examinations in a month’s time. In one breath, government says, as earlier indicated here that those with exams to write should remain in the schools ordered shut. It says, in another, that those students should sit for their examinations elsewhere.

As many parents have continued to argue, the solution to the problems does not lie in the closure of schools. The North-East Zonal branch of the National Parent-Teacher Association which met in Bauchi at the weekend captured those concerns and put the point succinctly when they announced that the federal government was merely shirking its responsibility of providing security by shutting down the colleges. They demanded that the decision be rescinded and security be provided at the colleges.

Reports also quoted unity colleges’ teachers and staff objecting to the school closure saying this would merely confirm assumptions, widely-held, that government is unable to provide security.

The schools closure only smacks of government’s off-handed handling of the situation in the North-East. It is difficult to understand why government has stuck to violence as the only solution to the crisis. When they speak about the issue as the President usually did when he attends Church these days, he mouthes a commitment to dialogue and a peaceful resolution but it is hard to see them making any effort in that direction. Violence on both sides continues to damage the image of Nigeria as a whole. While government has set up at least three committees to explore the possibilities of peaceful settlement of the violence, to wit, the Galtimari Committee; the Maitama Sule-led, Northern Elders Committee, and the latest which was headed by a Minister of the government, Mr. Kabiru Turaki (SAN) which submitted its report amid fanfare and high-hopes, nothing by way of final decision or White Paper has ensued from the administration.

Yet, the whole world continues to tell this country that violence alone won’t solve these problems. In our own experience, we tried the soldiers and the air-force jets against the rising militancy in the Niger Delta back a few years ago. In the end, it was dialogue that brought the violence to a cessation. Excuses often tendered by government apologists is that with the Boko Haram, there are no negotiating partners is rubbish. If Pakistan is talking to Taliban and Israel talking to Palestinians, albeit through third parties, there is nothing wrong in holding the thread to Boko Haram, which governors in the region say they have found. Rarely has a democratic government anywhere so consciously avoided dialogue. Even so, patriotic citizens must not be deterred from advocating for dialogue and demanding comprehensive and competent security cover for schools, places of worship, markets and just everywhere to protect life.

The only plausible interpretation of the action by the government in closing down schools is that it has failed to provide them with security. Boko Haram must be having a good laugh. This is what they wish to see. But watch out. Government might be laying another veritable minefield.

Does Nigeria Have a Foreign Policy? By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

In making a distinction between a journalist and a diplomat, an author described the diplomat as an official sent abroad to lie on behalf of his/her nation.

This being the case, why would Nigeria diplomats try to cover up or lie outright to the home crowd?

As I write, I have it on concrete authority that Nigeria’s Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Umar, is a bright and promising diplomat who has served his country at many sensitive locations across the world. When he spoke to Daily Trust on Friday on the issue of the alleged ill treatment of Nigerians in the recent Saudi crackdown on illegal migrants, he sounded more like a Saudi embassy official sent to mislead Nigerians.

This clampdown was itself ordered by the Kingdom following the expiry of a seven months amnesty aimed at allowing illegal migrant workers the chance to correct their visa status without a penalty or without being asked to leave the country. The real reason however is that, foreign workers make up about a-third of that country’s 27 million population.

What the clampdown aimed to achieve was to reduce the black market in cheap labour so as to create more jobs for the Saudis.

Nigerians, along with Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Egyptians and Ethiopians form the bulk of the targets of the policy. Many of the victimized Nigerians routinely interviewed by the BBC said those of them who presented themselves for visa renewal were seized and clamped into detention along with the illegals. Nearly all those given the chance to come before the microphone complained of one form of harsh treatment or the other by the Saudi officials. The detention centres, they told the BBC, were extremely cold without any warm coverings given and the food ration low for survival. The International Organization of Migrants gave the more than 120,000 Ethiopian citizens flown home by their country, after they were removed from the same centres, medical assistance. They got psychological first aid, meals, water and high energy biscuits upon arrival, underscoring the general abuse the migrants were subjected to.

Mr. Umar in his Trust interview impliedly that Nigerian victims of similar abuse lied as no Nigerians were maltreated in that country.

“Nigerians ether permanently residing in Saudi Arabia or on Hajj are not maltreated in Saudi Arabia… Nigerians are doing very well.” This must have clearly put many Nigerians and their government in a quandary. Are Nigerians lying against their hosts? Or is the diplomat living up to the norm in diplomatic service, the difference being this is against his country, not for it.

In countries all over the world, foreign relations are based on the policy of reprocity. “You do me, I do you”, as we say in the Nigerian parlance. That is why a country like India can overnight turn smiles into snarls against the world’s only super-power, the United States of America – a country with the reputation of a bully in the global scene – following the humiliating treatment meted out to a female diplomat who was stripped and searched.

When the Saudis introduced a discriminatory visa policy against a set of countries including Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt, by which policy advance payment for local transport and accommodation are paid to a Saudi agent as a condition for the issuance of “free” visa, the other countries vehemently protested and in the case of Egypt, I know that this outrageous requirement has been dropped since. An Egyptian pilgrim on Umrah trip is required to provide evidence of no more than a return ticket and that he/she is going in a group.

The implication of the policy is that a Nigerian going on Umrah to the Kingdom must give money (about $1,000) to an agent for these services even as it mostly happens, they are not likely to use them. For instance, there are many of those Umrah pilgrims who charter their own vehicles to take them around because they can afford it. Similarly, evidence that one has hotel booking with Hilton, Intercontinental or Hyatt does not exempt the pilgrim from the payment to the Saudi agent, even if it is obvious that the crowded rooms on offer are not the type of accommodation he/she would use. Refunds are not allowed either, which is painful because such discriminatory fees are not required of South Africans, Europeans and Americans.

In his interview with the Trust, Mr. Umar emphatically said “Nigerians are given equal treatment in the best manner.” Really? I think the reason Nigerians ask whether their country has a foreign policy is when they see and experience these discriminatory practices and our diplomats and their foreign counterparts are slapping each other on their back, exchanging mutual congratulations on their blossoming romance.
As foreign minister under this same government, the political party technician called Ojo Maduekwe once proclaimed “citizen diplomacy” as the new thrust of Nigeria’s international relations. Explaining what this meant, the man masquerading as the “philosopher” of the PDP said it meant that the citizen was at the centre of the country’s international dealings. When are they going to start implementing that policy?

Those who know the Middle-Eastern countries and their policies say the nonchalance of our officials to Nigerian citizens receiving unfair treatment abroad should surprise no one. Those Middle-East countries, among others, are known for providing freebees to key government officials and their families. Their national carriers give free flight tickets and authorities over there give them free boarding and lodging. It is very difficult for officials to eat and talk at the same time.

Who then would speak up for the ordinary citizen when his rights are trampled upon in foreign territories?

Katsina’s Low Blow to VP Sambo, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

It is not today that governors started jockeying to replace a sitting vice president in Nigeria.

When he was in office as Vice President in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Atiku Abubakar faced the same challenge. It was not a hidden secret the supporters of two governors, talking about Governors Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State and late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (May God bless his soul) or directly by themselves, had come before President Obasanjo as potential substitutes to the vice president in the 2003 elections.

The reader will recall that when President Obasanjo came to the International Conference Centre, Abuja to make a formal declaration for second term, he spoke in “I” terms only and made no reference to the person who would run with him. Instructively, the programme of the event distributed on the occasion had the President’s picture only and no vice presidential candidate was indicated. It must have been very clear to Atiku at that time that he wasn’t going to be on that ticket. How and why he fought to be back on it is a story told and retold by journalists and contemporary historians.

That Namadi Sambo faces a similar threat today should not surprise anyone. If Nigerian politicians are proficient in one thing, it is the so-called PHD – Pull Him Down Syndrome. When the Presidency of the Nigerian Senate was zoned to the South-East geo-political region, politicians in that region turned it into a revolving door. Some called it a warrant chieftaincy. To make sure that every state had a ‘taste’ of the ‘juicy’ office, the South-East Senators by themselves moved and effected the removal through impeachment of each one of them put in that office, to the point that this country was almost having a Senate President per year.

What is happening with Vice President Sambo that might become the game-changer is that while in the past, the executioners of these plots played hide and seek games and concocted their treacherous plans inside dark rooms in hidden locations only to storm the public space when they are sure they had a done deal, these ones are brazenly open in all that they do. While those in the past fought one another with civility and decorum, these ones fight dirty. They are proving themselves as masters at washing their dirty linens in public.

What shocked many in Katsina was the treatment given to Vice President Namadi Sambo who went to the state to witness the conferment of the traditional title of Sarkin Fulani on the Governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema. It is not a hidden fact that the governor and a handful of other northern governors still remaining in the PDP have been scheming to do one of two things: to unseat the president at the primaries, given his low level of performance, thereby denying him a shot at a second term or where this fails, which is the second option, to negotiate their support for the President’s reelection by positioning themselves as the choice for the Vice Presidency slot by evicting the incumbent Sambo.

As reported by the Vanguard Newspaper two Saturdays back, Governor Shema revealed himself more fully when his supporters treated Vice President very rudely and contemptuously by interrupting his speech with shouts of “sai Shema”, “Nigeria sai Shema”. Many people at that gathering were disappointed by this because you don’t treat your guest, a leader who has come to honour you with attacks through an orchestrated “alawada”. This was not only morally wrong but enough to be described as the most brazen attack on Northern political culture. Traditionally, the North is always impressed by the one who turns his back to power or retreats from it as did Atiku in 2003 when the PDP governors pushed him into unseating President Obasanjo but he declined.

In India for example, your classic example of “power of not seeking power” to borrow fromBajpai is in Mahatma Ghandi and lately Sonia Ghandi who led the Congress Party to election victory but declined to take the office of Prime Minister. In Nigeria, the late Sardauna declined to proceed to take power at the centre after leading the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC into election victory. He, instead chose to send his deputy, the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. This set of governors who are relentlessly, ruthlessly and deliciously seeking power should learn a thing from these historical figures. The rejection of power has a way of generating power. Rejection has a way of drawing a politician particularly in the North, to the people. That is when they will beckon upon you and say “you, go forward”.

This incident has become instructive to two events that happened in quick succession in the previous week, one, the formation of a brand new ‘Northern Elders’ Council owned and controlled by Vice President Sambo under the veteran politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai. Yakasai will supposedly now use his bountiful energy, oratory and skills to intervene for Sambo in these situations. The second of course is the solidarity visit to the Vice President by Bayelsa State’s political leaders who came to praise Sambo for his support to the President.

To have a sitting Vice President visiting a state and officiating at an event is a big thing. To have the supporters of a governor shout him down as being unfit for the job and that their man is the better one for it does not accord with, not only Northern political culture but the good taste of Fulani traditions encapsulated in the PULAKU (restraint, shyness) habits, a basic tenet that any man aspiring to take the title of “Sarkin (Chief) Fulani” should imbibe.

But the Ibrahim Shema I know will by now have tendered an unreserved apology to Vice President Sambo for the embarrassment caused him, and the over-zealous supporters cautioned to avoid a future incident.

Labaran Maku and his frenzied attacks on northern leaders, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

If I sat in a jury to decide who among the three in the President’s circle is doing the most damage to “enemy” Northern leaders between Edwin Clark, Asari Dokubo and the Minster of Information Labaran Maku, I will not hesitate to choose Maku and will tell you why. Maku is not only adept at linguistic pedagogy and propaganda, but he also has the courage to take the fight to enemy’s territory just as he did in Kaduna recently.

At the rate he is going, especially with the recent addition of the defence portfolio to his cap, Maku may run the Ijaw leaders out of business and succeed in having all to himself, the heart of the President. That prospect alone should worry those who love the minister.

Beyond occasional insults hurled at men and women, past and present in power in the North, Maku’s edge over the two others is that he speaks Hausa to the BBC and the Voice of America, which gives him direct connections to the hearts and minds of the Northern masses. Talking about his courage, who but Maku could go to Kaduna, the so-called home of the “Kaduna Mafia” – famous for running and ruining Nigeria (?) – to tell the Northerners that they should forget the Presidency in 2015 because “power can never return to the North” (Nigeria Observer), and that “Northern leaders lack the moral reasons to lead the country come 2015”?

Maku alone can look at the Northern political elite and tell them that they are tied to ethnic politics and religious bigotry. In Kaduna at the self-styled “townhall meeting” he pronounced that the emancipation of the North would not come from a Northerner (which curiously includes himself). “Every day, we keep advising people that politics is not madness, it is not about religious bigotry, it is like market… All the Propaganda and fight for political power are only retarding the North’s development.”

In his view, the people should jettison ethnic politics and support the President, meaning that the democratic right to differ belongs to only the President and those on his side, and all others who disagree with them are tribalists. Short of saying that Northern Nigeria is at war with the rest of the country using the Boko Haram, Maku has used every given opportunity to give the impression that the political leaders in the North as those who are responsible or that are behind the senseless insurgency going on.

On this occasion of the Kaduna homily, it was surprising to many that he skipped the equally senseless killings going on between Fulani herdsmen and the other tribesmen in the Middle Belt. Not a word from him on the Ombatse violence that saw the killing of nearly 100 policemen and secret service personnel by a cult formed by his own Eggon tribe and about which nothing of any serious consequence has been done to punish the perpetrators.

In America, the Mecca and Jerusalem of our political and mental compass, a certain Michael Dukakis lost steam and momentum in a presidential nomination race he was about to win by talking lightly of the killing by an outlaw of a single policeman. In a report that he vigorously objected to, The Sunday Tribune linked the Ombatse cult murder of the security men to the existing political disagreement over 2015 between Minister Maku and Governor Al-Makura. This denial notwithstanding, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, went on to denounce his promotion as Supervising Minister of Defence and not few pages of advertorial were published in opposition by some other Nassarawa State communities.

The pressure of these lingering accusations notwithstanding, Maku continues to make important contributions to the Jonathan administration through the demonization of Northern leaders past and present whenever the opportunity presents itself. When he spoke in Kaduna, he rubbed pepper into their eyes when he said “clearly, clearly, clearly (three times), the North had not had it better under any President than we have it under Jonathan.”

At this point, you asked yourself, which north is the Minister talking about? Is it the same North that Muslims and Christians are both feeling unsafe because the government has failed in its constitutional duty of protecting their life and property? You don’t have to be a Christian to feel the agony they feel when, as Goza in Borno State, you have 80 Churches now reduced to only eight and no week passes without one more being torched and worshippers shelled with bullets by extremists. Nor are the Muslims safe from the madness, given the fact that more of them have actually been killed with bombs and guns as illustrated by reports the Human Rights Watch has published. Both groups need a government that would protect them. As if Maku had forgotten that the primary duty of government is the protection of life and property, he went on “Radio Link” a talk show by the Federal Radio Corporation, FRCN run by him and launched what was described as a “frontal attack on Northern leaders”, in which he blamed them for every wrong of the country, past and present and exonerated the President who gave him two cabinet jobs to run at once as a man deserving of accolades.

Would anyone be right to remain quiet, or abandon the quest for public office through democratic election in a country as we have, where a snapshot by Daily Trust showed that Niger Delta, one of the six geo-political zones got 86% of total projects approved by the Federal Executive Council between March and August 2011? That this sub-region alone got projects, in terms of budget implementation in that period worth N760billion out of N883billion they had paid?

At another occasion, he thundered that “the fiction in the North that President Jonathan and Vice President Sambo are not developing the North, is the fiction whipped up by politicians who see nothing other than their blind ambitions. When they want to do it (leadership), they continue to talk about the North. When they come to power, you don’t see anything. In terms of development, what we are witnessing is momentous, not only in Northern Nigeria but Nigeria as a whole”.

I asked a former friend of the Minister if they thought the time had come for some senior people to address Mr. Maku on his continuing attacks on a victim people and he said to me “perish the thought”. He said there are Ministers in this government who don’t feel embarrassed by claims coming from some of the most respected and admired clerics and other leaders that their calls are not being picked.

A man who calls himself the “Angry Blogger”, Twitter @aderinola, and worried that the Minister is busy chasing shadows and attacking victims said that “there are serious allegations of missing trillions of Naira against his government… Your Boss cannot deal with … corrupt men and women in the executives (sic)” and Maku has given all his energy attacking perceived political enemies of the President in the North. What is this but shadow boxing?

‘Change’ in PDP Comes With Expiry Date, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

It is not at all controversial to say that Nigeria’s ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is imperiled today. By the weekend, party leaders and the Presidency were congratulating one another following the forced resignation of party chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. Will this change in the leadership cause any difference to its perils?

Many who are still inside the party say it’s broken from inside and irretrievably doomed. “Dis party don scatter finish” were the words coming out of the mouth of a “loyal” PDP governor on a barber’s set as he watched television reports of his party’s never-ending crisis. Many say this leadership change is coming too late to save the party.

Tukur’s exit was itself a thing of joy to his native Adamawa State. There were jubilations on the streets of Yola. Throughout his term, he did not give a single thought of uplifting his own Adamawa community. But the real reason for joy at his exit was the fact of the general belief that he caused the state of emergency imposed by the Federal Government on the state to spite Governor Murtala Nyako whom he fought from the beginning to the end of his term. Although in truth Adamawa has a number of security challenges, especially in its areas of control next to Southern Borno, the continuing quasi-military rule over them is an over-kill. With Tukur out of power, his kinspeople assume that emergency rule will be removed.

Even at the centre, it is doubtful if anyone is expecting a serious change to occur. The problem of the party isn’t a Tukur problem. The party’s problem is mainly its own ideology, which is the subversion of democracy. PDP is all about the authority of the high command and consensus as a way of arriving at choices and decisions. If they change the chairman a hundred times over, the party will continue to dwindle so long as they are beholden to this undemocratic ideology; and are led by President Jonathan’s conspiracy rhetoric.

Although Nigerians have always been divided on the basis of region, religion and tribe, the President is the main reason behind the growing differences between Christians and Muslims; between the North and South; between minorities and the majorities and between his “Ijawnation” and the Nigerian nation, all arising from his divide and conquer strategy.

Such parochial strategies, apart from being distasteful, have also lost voter appeal leading to the loss of faith in the party. The policy of the appeasement of minorities and the marginalization of the majorities, which is yet another problem, is PDP’s version of democracy.

To do well, the PDP needs a leader that would focus on championing the cause of the country’s poor; its workers, women, its youth and students among other segments of the society. It needs a President who comes across as a political leader with acumen, not a tribal leader with political acumen.

By taking the laws into their hands, asking the police to do as they want, arresting who they want, the PDP has been sowing the seeds of instability in the country. In Rivers and Kano, they have been sowing the virus of impunity and anarchy.

It is clear to even those in authority that the current system has become, not only corrupt but un-responsive; it has become old and out-dated. To borrow the expression of a blogger, the system is unable to solve the day-to-day problems of the common people and grows silent when it is most urgently needed.

“If Nigeria is a computer and the PDP is its default program, the least that can be said is that the program needs an urgent upgrade.” Some, like the spokesman of the opposition, Lai Mohammed would even say dump that program, it is corrupted to the core and upgrading will not solve any problem. Just dump it if the computer is to be saved.

Fortunately for the country, there is a growing list of budding opposition parties pushing to provide an alternative.

As for the former Chairman, the bitter and intricate bouts to oust him notwithstanding, Tukur will likely continue to be an important presence at the higher levels of Nigerian politics, for a long time to come.

That said, there is no denying that Tukur’s departure is coming with an expiry date, too little, too late to change anything. It is certainly most unlikely to change the dismal forecast for the party’s future.