Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Travails Of Citizen Chidi Duru

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Let me disclose from the outset that Nze Chidi Duru is my friend.
I met him for the first time sometime in 1999 through a mutual friend who is now late, Tony Anyanwu, who represented my Federal Constituency, Ahiazu-Ezinihitte Mbaise, in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003.
Both Chidi and Tony, vibrant young lawyers, had won their elections and were waiting to be inaugurated when Tony and I went to see him in his law office in Lagos.
*Nze Chidi Duru (pix: vanguard)

Upon inauguration in early June 1999, Duru became one of the stars of the National Assembly (NASS) of the Fourth Republic, bringing his erudition and huge intellect to bear on lawmaking.
Such was his contribution that he was appointed chairman of the very powerful and strategic House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation between 1999 and 2003.
So exceptional was he that he was nominated by the British government as one of 14 outstanding leaders in Africa and attended the Africa Future Leadership Pilot Programme in Manchester, United Kingdom.
For a man who believes so much in capacity building and that politicians should have a “second address”, when he left the NASS in 2007, he attended several management courses, including the Chief Executive Programme at the Lagos Business School; Competitive Strategy and Value Creation Course at the University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain; and the Privatisation, Regulatory Reform, Corporate Governance and Management of Political Economic Reforms at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
He also ran his businesses here in Nigeria.
Until last week, I had not spoken with him for about a year. So, I was alarmed when I read a story online on Wednesday with the headline “Pension Scam: Ex-Rep, Hon. Chidi Duru, goes into hiding as EFCC comes after fraudsters.”
I called him immediately and the story he narrated shocked me.
The whole crisis has to do with the First Guarantee Pension Limited (FGPL) which he founded.
Duru said: “The licence of the First Guarantee Pension Limited was given to me in recognition of the work that one did bringing to fruition the Pension Reform Act of 2004.
“Fola Adeola, who was then the chairman of the Steering Committee of the National Pensions Committee, was so excited and so pleased with the hard work that was done in bringing this into fruition that one was encouraged to consider the possibility of also being a player in the industry.
“I applied and was granted a licence as one of the players in the Pension Fund Adminiatration (PFA) industry and the name of my company then was First Guarantee Pension Limited.
“Eventually, I brought together 37 shareholders to be able to promote First Guarantee Pension as a business.”
Unfortunately, that seems to be his mistake.

eLearning Africa: Impatient Africans “Not Going To Wait Until 2063”

Press Release 
There is a mood of impatience among the ministers, businessmen and education experts attending this year’s eLearning Africa conference in Cairo. Aware of the opportunity offered by information and communication technologies to spread education, training and access to information throughout Africa, many are starting to feel that 2063, the date the African Union has set for the realisation of its vision of a ‘transformed continent’, may be too long to wait. They want Africans, and particularly young people, to feel the benefits, which the combination of technology and education can bring, within the next ten years.
“We are not going to wait until 2063,” Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, H.E. Yasser ElKady, told the conference’s opening session yesterday (Tuesday) evening.

And one of Africa’s leading intellectuals, Professor Ismail Serageldin, the founder and Director of the Bioblioteca Alexandrina, said:

“It’s the dawn of a new age! Let’s embrace it. There is so much we can do for a new generation and for the whole world… We cannot let the gap between us and the advanced nations continue to grow. We must translate rhetoric into action. Rhetoric, declarations, plans and targets are not equal to action.”

Experts at the conference agree that failure to accelerate the pace of change could have devastating consequences for Africa.  

“There is a widespread awareness among educators, politicians and businessmen that we really have to move quickly now,” says Charles Senkondo, Executive Director of Tanzania’s Global Learning Agency. “We’re all aware that Africa is a young continent and that soon the majority of our population will be under the age of 24. We can’t afford to leave the future of 200 million young Africans to chance. Unless we invest heavily in education and training, and ensure that our young people are fully equipped to compete in the digital age, we will store up some very serious social problems for ourselves and our neighbours.”  

 The view was echoed by Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, founder of RISE Networks and a leading social entrepreneur, who addressed the conference this morning (Wednesday)
“56 million Africans aged 15 / 24 haven’t completed primary education…,” she said. “The more uneducated children Africa has, the more prisons we’ll have to build.”

Petrol Price Hike: Buhari’s 1st Year Anniversary Gift To Nigerians

By Ayodele Fayose
Despite his electoral promise to reduce petrol pump price from the N87 per litre that he met it, President Muhammadu Buhari increased the price to N145! With this increment, Buhari has further impoverished Nigerians. Buhari Nigerians should be reminded that on April 14, 2015, President Buhari’s ally and former Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Prof. Tam David-West, told Nigerians that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (who was then President-elect), will reduce the fuel pump price from N87 to N40 per litre. Buhari did not debunk this statement made by his friend and major supporter.
*Gov Fayose 
Also, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan reduced the petrol pump price from N97 to N87 per litre in January 2015, former Lagos State Governor who is now Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said N10 reduction of the petrol pump price was too low and that Nigerians will get a better deal under Buhari. Fashola tweeted on January 18, 2015; “On PMS price reduction by N10. Now they listen. Oil the raw material drop over 50%, N10 is just about 10%. Good try but Nija can get a beta deal.” In rewarding Nigerians for electing him as president, President Buhari opted to increase petrol pump price by N58.50! The first justification of the increment was removal of subsidy. But Nigerians were later stunned when the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo said pump price of petrol was increased because Nigeria was broke!

In other words, President Buhari increased petrol pump price because the country was broke and it needed to shore up its revenue base. The N58.50 added to the previous pump price of N86.50 was an Indirect Tax imposed on each litre of petrol purchased by Nigerians. Simply put, the Federal Government is indirectly collecting N58.50 naira tax from suffering Nigerians on each litre of petrol they buy. Buhari is no doubt acting like the proverbial Agbalowomeri Baale Jontolo (A king that exploit his extremely poor subject to further enrich himself).

It is on record that on May 2 this year, the federal government, in the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) Template released in Abuja, told Nigerians that it was subsidizing petrol at N12.62 per litre. In 2012, when the Dr Jonathan administration removed fuel subsidy and increased petrol price to N141 per litre, crude oil was selling at $111 per barrel. If not wickedness, how can petrol price be increased to N145 per litre when crude oil is now selling at $49 per barrel? Increasing petrol pump price by N58.50 when the federal government claimed it was subsidising the product at N12.62 per litre is clear wickedness on the part of President Buhari.

Amina, Sambisa And The Parable Of A Wobbly Nigeria

By Okey Ndibe
A peculiarly Nigerian type of frenzy happened last week. The event was triggered by a report that a young woman named Amina Ali Nkeki, one of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted in the night of April 14, 2014, had been rescued. The initial reports disclosed that a vigilante group rescued Amina last Tuesday, as she wandered along the edges of Sambisa Forest in the company of a man, who claimed to be her husband, but was suspected to be a Boko Haram insurgent, and a four-month baby in her arms.
*Amina Ali Nkeki, rescued Chibok girl
meets President Buhari 
From there, it was brouhaha all the way. Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State feted the 19-year-old mother. Then, a day later, President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed Amina and her baby to Aso Rock, his official residence. The misfortunate woman was cast in a dizzying drama that featured photo-ops, speeches and global media coverage. The president cradled Amina’s baby in his arms, as he and others beamed for the cameras. Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian state, the president promised that Amina would receive the best physical, psychological and emotional healthcare Nigeria can provide.
You’d think, watching all the excitement, that all 219 schoolgirls, not just one, had been spirited from their abductors. But that was the one narrative, thumbed with the imprimatur of the Nigerian state. There was an album of counter-narratives, running the gamut from those who insisted that the whole thing was an abject hoax, a stage-managed political theatre, to those who believe that the abduction saga never happened in the first place.
Last Thursday, two days after Amina’s rescue, the Nigerian military announced a second rescue, of a youngster named Serah Luka. It was as if a slow momentum was building up, Nigeria on the cusp of finding and liberating the 200 odd victims, who are not accounted for.
But the second success story turned out a dud. Chibok parents as well as activists, who pressed former President Goodluck Jonathan – and are pressing Mr. Buhari – to bring back the schoolgirls questioned the military’s claim that Serah was one of the schoolgirls. Neither her name nor image was on the roster of the missing schoolgirls.
Whether it was an honest mistake or a calculated fib, the misidentification of Serah, as one of the Chibok schoolgirls further fueled conspiracy theories. The first and second rescues were seen as politically orchestrated maneuvers, a plot by the Buhari administration and its champions to deflect attention from biting economic crises and deepening social misery.
Some doubters wondered why Amina, who was supposed to be sitting certificate exams at the time of her abduction, was incapable of expressing herself in English. Her apparent incapacity fed speculations that she was chosen and cast in a contrived melodrama.

12 Months Of Buhari Regime: X-Raying The Comedy Of Leadership Inertia

By Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo
“I am sick and tired of the apologists of the Buhari presidency that keep on asking Nigerians for more time to address the mess which they accuse the PDP of creating. I think, honestly, that this is a lazy man’s excuse. Nigeria’s backlog of problems did not start with the PDP. We must locate the putrid nature of the Nigerian state within its proper context. But even at that, history is generous with the fact that bemoaning the past does not solve the present. I sincerely believe that 12 months are enough for any visionary government to change the direction of Nigeria.” 

*Arthur Nwankwo
In the ancient and sleepy town of Izombe lived a man named Echidime.  Then in his late 70s, Echidime’s compound; dotted by three mud houses arranged in a circular pattern and an obi in the center, had become a pilgrimage ground of sort. On daily basis, pilgrims from within and outside the community trooped to his compound for one form of advice or the other. His wisdom and witty anecdotes were legendary such that Echidime could be likened to a modern day Solomon in the Bible.

On a particular chilly harmattan morning, a middle-aged woman was in Echidime’s obi pouring out her sorrows. Erimma, her 28-years old daughter, had abandoned her matrimonial home and moved into another man’s house. Beautiful, tall and elegant, Erimma had been talked out of her matrimonial home by a man who had promised to turn around her life and take her to the moon. In her husband’s house, she could not boast of riches; she couldn’t do her hair regularly, couldn’t change her wardrobe and do things which her peers married to more affluent men would normally do. But despite these challenges Erimma and her husband got by in the hope that one day things will change for the better.

And now somebody was promising to do all these and more for her. She was not going to let this opportunity pass her by. Her mother’s opinion to the contrary would not stop her. Convinced of the several promises made to her, Erimma abandoned her husband and moved in with this strange man. Six months into this relationship, it dawned on Erimma that she had been fooled; that the bitter kola is not as sweet as its crackling sound in the mouth. She was stock. Erimma’s mother was in Echidime’s house to seek for counsel.

Clearing his throat after the woman’s monologue and lamentations, Echidime looked the grieving woman in the face and simply urged her to go home. “When a woman marries two husbands”, said Echidime, “she will be in a position to know which of the two husbands is better”. Unless a person carries a jar of palm wine, that person may never know the difference in weight with a jar of water.

In Nigeria today, Echidime’s wise counsel is as instructive as it is indicative. Like Erimma, we have been seduced by honey-like promises of the APC; we have abandoned our first love only to realize that we have been duped. Painfully, we are gradually realizing the difference in weight between a gallon of palm wine and a gallon of water.

Precisely, twelve months ago, the APC came to power amid pomp, pageantry and great expectations. Nigerians believed that at last, we have gotten a crop of leaders that would take us to the next level. Nigerians were convinced that a man with the Midas has come to town and that their problems would soon be behind them. Nigerians had every cause to dare hope that their teething challenges would be contained with dispatch- after all had not the APC promised a new dawn. Most Nigerians were happy in the belief that the “messiah” who will take them from the woods to the “promised land” had come. Many also jubilated with the firm belief that the “change” which Buhari and his Party, the APC, promised Nigerians was certainly going to transform the Country.

As a matter of fact, Muhammadu Buhari and APC had made, by the last count, a total of 81 electoral promises in the run in to his presidency. These promises include the public declaration of assets and liabilities by Buhari and his team, introduction of state and community policing, ban on all government officials from seeking medical care abroad, implementation of the National Gender Policy, including 35% of appointive positions for women, revival of Ajaokuta steel company, generation, transmission and distribution of at least 20,000 MW of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW with a view to achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within 10 years, empowerment scheme to employ 740,000 graduates across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, establishment of a free-tuition and scholarship scheme for pupils who have shown exceptional aptitude in science subjects at O/Levels to study ICT-related courses, creation of 720,000 jobs by the 36 states in the federation yearly (20,000 per state) and additional three million jobs per year, embarking on vocational training, entrepreneurial and skills acquisition schemes for graduates along with the creation of a Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme to create at least 5 million new jobs by 2019 and that Churches and Mosques would not pay taxes under national laws, but if they engage in businesses, the businesses would pay tax.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Implications Of The Enugu Genocide

By Julius Oweh
The recent unprovoked killings of some people in Enugu State by suspected Fulani herdsmen despite the information given to the police and other security operatives by the state governor is another ugly chapter of the sordid saga of some herdsmen operating under  the veneer of terrorism. The implications are grave for the corporate existence and unity of the nation. It is beyond mere transfer of the state police commissioner. All those in position of authority either by their action or inaction that led to the genocide should be sanctioned with the relevant laws of the land. These brutality, lawlessness and terrorism can no longer be tolerated as the occupational hazards of some pastoralists.
*Enugu State Governor, Mr. Ugwuanyi,
 visiting the scene massacre in Nimbo
This is a trying period for the Buhari administration. A lot of noise is currently polluting the media space whether these terrorists are Fulani or not. The issue is whether they are Isoko herdsmen, Yoruba herdsmen or Ijaw herdsmen, the law should be applied and the government should not give us the faintest impressions that some people are above the law.  The Northern Governors Forum recently issued a statement about the menace of herdsmen and argued that it was an insult to state that the herdsmen are Fulani. They also maintained that they were not comfortable with generalisations of the activities of these herdsmen.

The greater insult is that by that statement, the northern governors are putting the unity and corporate existence of this country under great strain. Criminality should be condemned for what it is and should not be given cover because of ethnic affiliations. This is not the first time the Fulani herdsmen are committing havoc in the nation. They did that in the south west, the killings in Benue State and recently in Delta State that spurred Deltans to protest the activities of these herdsmen in the state. Why are the herdsmen carrying dangerous weapons like AK47? The truth of the matter is that the average Fulani herdsman bearing arms is supported by influential businessman and political elite.

And until these people see the implications of what these messengers of death are doing, we shall continue to witness the murderous activities of these herdsmen in bid to protect their cattle. In their twisted philosophical formulation, their cattle are more important than human lives. A civil war is brewing in the cauldron and this is time for the government to act. I do not want to believe that Buhari is not taking tough action because those involved are his kinsmen. I am also not persuaded by the argument that the Fulani herdsmen are trying to complete the expansionist ambition of Uthman Dan Fodio. Nigeria is rather too advanced for such local imperial ambition.

A Stronger Challenge Than Swatting A Fly

By Chuks Iloegbunam
The fight against insur­gency is not as straight­forward as swatting a fly. In the past week, I have snatched every free time that strayed into my schedules to criti­cally look again at two invaluable books on Nigeria. Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), one of Africa’s most renowned constitutional lawyers, authored both. The one book is How President Obasanjo Subverted Nigeria’s Federal Sys­tem; the other is How President Obasanjo Subverted the Rule of Law and Democracy. Gold Press Limited, Ibadan, published the books simultaneously in 2007. These seminal works, each of 22 chapters, pack a combined pagi­nation running to nearly a thou­sand pages. They demonstrate incontrovertibly that Nigeria’s primary political problem issues directly from the bastardization of its Federal constitution.
This indictment appears on the blurb of How President Obasanjo subverted the Rule of Law and Democracy: “This is an account of how President Obasanjo turned Nigeria from a law-governed state, a legal order, bequeathed to us by the British colonialists, into a lawless one; from an organization of power and coercive force limited and regulated by, and to be exercised in accordance with, law into a system of personal rule in which law was replaced more or less by arbitrary whims and personal political interests of one indi­vidual, and in which government actions were determined largely by might, by the application of organized coercive force in the exclusive monopoly of the state, altogether careless of legality.”

Anyone who reads these books will find detailed exam­ples, page after page, of how a man elected to promote the development of his country’s nascent democracy behaved, by words and actions, like a bull in a china shop.

Professor Nwabueze detailed how Obasanjo’s government wantonly bastardized the concept of the separation of powers, how, in illegality, it forced Governors DSP Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa State), and Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo State) from of­fice; how it illegally impeached Governors Joshua Dariye (Plateau State) and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti State); how that government compromised the judiciary; how it turned the De­partment of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into Leviathans for the annihila­tion of perceived opposition; and how Obasanjo routinely violated Governors’ constitutional im­munity. The books detail count­less other anti-Federal acts and actions perpetrated under Oba­sanjo’s watch.

Two questions arise:
(1) How did Obasanjo literally get away with murder?
(2) Is today’s Nige­ria a regression into a nightmar­ish replication of Obasanjo’s to­talitarianism?

There is for every cause, a con­sequence. During Obasanjo’s despotism, Odi was flattened; Zaki Biam was pulverized. These resulted in the massacres of in­nocent thousands. Of course, the military expeditions were not altogether surprising, com­ing as they did from a man who, as military Head of State, had set up the Ita Oko penal island, where Nigerian citizens were banished into oblivion. Is Nigeria banished now to the avoidable and intractable consequences of despotism, at the hands of someone who, as military Head of State, condemned Nigerian citizens to death on the strength of a retroactive decree? These questions are apposite, given the volatile developments unfolding in the Niger Delta. All kinds of militant groups are emerging or re-emerging, destroying pipe­lines and oil installations. In their first incarnation, President Oba­sanjo failed to halt and reverse their threat and potentiality for knocking the country down to its knees. He thought the problem could be combated and defeated by the brutish application of mili­tary force. He failed woefully. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Return Of The Bakassi Boys

By Uche Ezechukwu
The late Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, in one of his indelible songs, allud-ed to Ndigbo and their resilience, thus: “they will never tire from running if their enemies do not tire from pursuing them”. This summarises why the Igbo Nation will never stop improvising to survive and stay ahead of those who they feel, do not wish them well. That is basically the story of the Bakassi Boys, the veritable children of circumstances, which the ebullient governor of Abia State, Dr Victor Okezie Ikpeazu, announced last week, was being re-invented in his state to save the day for his state, the way they did between 1999 and 2001.

Most Nigerians only got to hear of the Bakassi Boys as from the late 2000, when it became a most unorthodox and unusual crime fighting outfit in Anambra State, especially when it became an object of great controversy and jousting between the government of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju and that of President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the centre. Obasanjo had vowed to uproot the outfit by all means – and in fact did so eventually – after it had completely de-railed in its initial objectives, and had become a Frankenstein monster, which started gobbling the people it had set out to protect. It is significant that Dr Ikpeazu, an ‘Aba boy’, has decided to resurrect the Bakassi Boys, in what he must have seen as a last resort, just in the same way that Aba traders had decided to create the original Bakassi Boys in 1998, when they had been confronted with an unusual level of criminality, and when the constituted authority had pretended an unusual incapacity to act. The governor obviously knows how the Bakassi Boys were founded by shoe makers and other dexterous Aba artisans whose thriving businesses were being laid waste by criminal syndicates of robbers, kidnappers and cultist, broadly described as Maffs, just as the herdsmen are today laying waste the means of livelihood of the rural farmers.

 As it happened in the late 1990s, the SAP economic policy of the Ibrahim Babangida had turned out to be a great blessing in disguise for Igbo business-men and artisans, for whom it offered a wonderful opportunity to dip deep into their homebred talents to innovate and produce. Two groups of businesses – the leather workers and tailors – had benefitted most, as they systematically bettered and perfected their trades and targeted the ex-port market.

 Aba tailors and shoe makers had always been good, but they became even better when greater opportunities beckoned with the export market that existed for them all over Africa, the Middle Belt and Asia. The shoe makers would make good shoes and stamp Made in Italy or Made in Spain on them and offloaded them on Lebanese and other middlemen and women that inundated Aba to evacuate the products. Aba became the veritable Taiwan of Africa, as other Nigerian artisans, who were not doing as well elsewhere, relocated to Aba, in order to enjoy the boom that was taking place.

Many people who resided in Aba did not fully appreciate what was happening around them, as they were not enjoying the enhanced products that were being churned out around them. One young man from my village who had graduated in Biochemistry from UNN had become a tailor in Aba, and had once made a suit, gratis for me, but could no longer have the time to make more for my friends or members of my family, as his time was completely taken up with meeting-up with orders from his outlets in UAE and Europe. 

Buhari And Oil Sector Liberalisation: What Kachikwu Has Not Told Us?

By Ifeanyi Izeze
Whether they called it “subsidy removal,” at first and later “price modulation” and now “downstream liberalisation,” one fact stands out that the announcement by the federal government on the fuel issue represented a form of deregulation of the petroleum products procurement and distribution sub-sector of the nation’s downstream. Most Nigerians as it stands today are seriously praying and hoping that President Muhammadu Buhari and his team will arrive and quickly too at a reasonable strategy to take the nation through the next couple of years and position us for the long term as well. This is our hope and according to the Holy Bible (Romans 5:5), “Hope does not make us ashamed”- we cannot be ashamed of having hope on the abilities of our crop of ‘ogas on top.’ And our prayer is that our president fulfils the hope of his calling by being fruitful in every good work.
It is an understatement to say that there is a lot of confusion that need to be cleared and in plain language too by the government in the announced liberalisation of the petroleum products procurement and distribution sub-sector.

Truly Nigeria is “fantastically wonderful,” if not how do you explain the existing foreign exchange (forex) discrepancies between the Central Bank rate and those of the autonomous or rather black markets? As at today black market foreign exchange rates are well over two times the official rate. The first question is: who supplies forex to the black market operators? Is it possible that someone can smuggle huge amount of dollars into Nigeria without beign detected? It is obvious that those in authority- in government, CBN and the NNPC are the ones releasing forex to their cronies/fronts that operate the black markets. Is this in its self not corruption/fraud at its highest order?

This government that has shown a strong political will to fight corruption should address this foreign exchange discrepancy that is at best sabotaging the genuine efforts to re-jig and strengthen our economy. You expect marketers to source forex at the secondary/ black market and at the same time cap the price they are expected to sell their commodity, is that going to work?

Though it is better to believe it was an oversight, remarkably, the president and the petroleum minister have been mute on the fate of one of the worst epicentres of corruption in the fuel subsidy and price modulation fraud in this country. The Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), a conscription that is as fraudulent as the entire subsidy racket is being completely left out of the present argument by both the government and those against the recently announced deregulation of the downstream.

It is “fantastically corrupt” to be mute on the issue of equalisation as enshrined in the Act that established The Petroleum Equalisation Fund. This Fund was supposed to make sure every Nigerian, no matter where you live, pay the same price for at least petrol and kerosene. And money has been channelled through it all these years to majorly offset haulage costs to different parts of the country. Unfortunately, the haulage cartel is as corrupt, mindless, and selfish as the fake fuel importers themselves. But for whatever reasons, their fraud and activities had been deliberately played down by both government and anti-subsidy campaigners.

Has the obnoxious payment of the “Bridging Cost”, also been scrapped by the federal government as part of the recently announced deregulation/subsidy removal and cost saving initiative?

Buhari’s Archaic Approach To Niger Delta Problems

By Ochereome Nnanna
 Two Nigerians from Katsina State have been Presidents of Nigeria in the past ten years. The first was Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who assumed power on May 29th 2007. He was an academic from a Fulani elite family. The core of his government comprised mainly Northerners because unlike his late elder brother, Major General Shehu Yar’Adua, he never really had much opportunity to interact with the wider Nigerian society before he joined politics. He was imposed as President on the nation by – you know who – former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his immediate predecessor in those days when the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) did just as it liked without any challenge from any quarters.
Having finished his eight years as the Governor of Katsina State, Yar’Adua had wanted to go back to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, teach Chemistry pro bono and look after his failing health. Next, Obasanjo went to the creeks of the Niger Delta and dragged in another gentleman who had already won the PDP ticket for Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Ebele “Azikiwe” Jonathan. I remember that day in November 2006 when Obasanjo paraded Yar’Adua and Jonathan on television as the Police usually parade crime suspects. Jonathan in particular looked like a school boy on a forced errand.

The president-to-be never knew his Vice-president-to-be apart from the fact that they sometimes met as governors. When eventually they were elected into office, the militancy in the Niger Delta was at its peak. Many analysts had argued that Obasanjo was forced to bring Jonathan into the presidential pairing as a peace offering to the Ijaw militants and their loud and troublesome “father”, Chief Edwin Clark, in place of the more fancied and popular Dr. Peter Odili, the Rivers State governor. That Obasanjo bowed to the Clark/Ijaw faction of the South-South People’s Assembly (SSPA) rather than the more broad-based pro-Odili faction led by Ambassador Matthew Mbu/Raymond Dokpesi, was seen as an application of common sense. Obasanjo must have realised that ignoring the demands of Clark and his Ijaw militant tribesmen would keep the economic livewire of the nation in the Niger Delta at great risk.

The disruptions would never stop, and the economy would continue to suffer. When Yar’Adua assumed power, he came under pressure by hawks from his native Northern Nigeria to “crush” the Niger Delta militants. He actually mobilised the Nigerian troops towards that effect, but as an intelligent, wise and commonsensical leader he also listened to the argument of Niger Delta campaigners who were very rampant in the media, especially television. These included Dr. Chris Ekiyor; my sister, Ann Kio Briggs, Dr. Oronto Douglas, Comrade Joseph Evah, Dr. Ledum Mitee, Dokubo Asari and a host of others.

Most of them advised that rather than launching a full-scale military campaign to “crush” the militants as the Federal Government had already started doing when it attacked Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State in search of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) leader, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo), an offer of amnesty for voluntary disarmament of the militants should first be tried. Yar’ Adua sent his Vice President, Jonathan, to the creeks to discuss with his kinsmen. Eventually, by August 2009, the militants accepted the offer of amnesty and surrendered their arms. Thus, began the post-amnesty programmes, which saw the “repentant” militants being given education and training on various trades in Nigeria and abroad. The big boys or “ex-generals” got hefty contracts and became visible and loud in Abuja hotels and the Aso Villa, especially during the reign of Jonathan as President. In fact, the biggest ex-militant, Tompolo, was awarded multi-billion naira contracts to safeguard the network of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta and he also became a major player in the maritime industry. There was absolute quiet in the Niger Delta.

Can Buhari Get It Right?

By Chiedu Uche Okoye 
Most Nigerians who are conversant with our po­litical history know that our country’s problem is a fail­ure of leadership. Our country’s stalled economic and technological growth is traceable to poor political leadership as well as military inter­ventions in our politics.
Military interventions in our politics contributed in no small ways to our national woes. The Soldiers who deemed their regimes corrective ones plundered our economy and ruled us with iron-first. General Babangida (Rtd) em­barked on rigmarole of transition to civilian rule. Since 1999, Nigeria has been enjoying democratic gov­ernance. But none of our national leaders has lived up to our expec­tations since then. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who believes he is in­fallible, squandered our collective goodwill and the opportunity given to him to lift Nigerian out of eco­nomic quagmire. He sunk millions of naira into the power sector with­out recording any success. Rather blanket of darkness was thrown over the country during his politi­cal reign.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan got into the most exalted political office in Nigeria by providential interven­tion and luck. His tardiness and vi­sionless marred his administration. It’s obvious to us that he’s ill-suited and ill-prepared for the leadership of Nigeria. But he will be remem­bered for his uncommon act of pat­riotism: he accepted his defeat at the presidential polls. Dr Jonathan’s vanquisher at the polls and succes­sor in office, Muhammadu Buhari, rode to victory on the coat tails of his famed zero tolerance for cor­ruption and Spartan lifestyle. He is with messianic complex, forth­rightness, and hyperbolic moral uprightness. But is president Bu­hari’s leadership ability not hyped?

It should be noted that one’s eagerness and hunger for political power cannot confer leadership qualities on one. Is president Bu­hari’s personality and leadership capabilities not unraveling and un­folding? Soon, he will mark his first anniversary in office, but he has committed some grave missteps. It took him long period to assembly his executive cabinet. Yet the pedi­grees of members of his cabinet do not compensate for the long period he took to form it. His members are recycled politicians, who had held political offices in the past. And Dr Fashola, who was saddled with the responsibilities of three ministries, has not banished darkness from our country.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Obasanjo’s Endless Pontifications: A Case Of Uncontrollable Verbal Diarrhea?

By Ola Balogun

The recent outburst credited to retired General Olusegun Obasanjo on the occasion of a lecture he is said to have delivered    at Covenant University Otta (Ogun State) on May 14th 2016 regarding the competence or lack of competence of President Muhammadu Buhari in the areas of economic policy and foreign affairs visibly represents a gross indiscretion that deserves to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking citizens of Nigeria.
*Obasanjo and Buhari 
In the first place, it is very unfair that Obasanjo should take undue advantage of the fact that President Buhari once served under him in the Nigerian military to make unguarded statements based on his alleged assessment of Buhari’s characteristics as a military officer. The people of Nigeria did not elect President Buhari to perform military duties, so we have no need whatsoever to know how he was graded by retired General Olusegun Obasanjo in the course of his military career. WHO CARES?
In the second place, among all the people in Nigeria, General Obasanjo is probably one of the least qualified to offer opinions on the current state of the country or on the quality of President
Buhari’s performance in public office.

The fact of the matter is that General Obasanjo hardly achieved anything worthwhile in the course of his two stints as Nigeria’s Head of State, first as a military ruler from 13 February 1976 to 1 October 1979 and as a democratically elected president from 29 May 1999 to 29
May 2007. The vast majority of unbiased political commentators agree with the observation that has been made that all through his years in public office as Nigerian Head of State, retired General Obasanjo consistently revealed himself to be an inadequately educated, poorly informed, stubbornly self-opinionated, unpatriotic and thoroughly incompetent ruler.
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: If Obasanjo had any meaningful contributions to make to the running of Nigeria’s national affairs, the time for him to have made such contributions was while he had the power to put his ideas into practice while he was Head of State.
Why didn’t he do so then? It makes absolutely no sense for General Obasanjo to start pontificating now about what ought to be done or not done by the current Nigerian President.
Obasanjo has had his turn: What he should now do is to withdraw peacefully to his farm and his so-called African Leadership Centre in Otta and allow his successors to implement their own solutions for Nigeria without any further interference from him.
After all, can retired General Obasanjo be said to have been successful during his lengthy cumulative terms of office as Nigeria’s Head of State? Did Obasanjo leave any worthwhile legacy behind after his stints in office? If the truth is to be told, one must conclude that over 70% of Nigeria’s current problems should be laid at General Obasanjo’s doorstep. Obasanjo’s sins against the people of Nigeria are simply too many to be recounted in detail!
To begin with, he might have been forgiven for having been a lacklustre successor to General Murtala Mohammed if he had not gone out of his way during the build up to handing over power to an elected civilian leader to do all that lay in his power to prevent Chief Obafemi Awolowo from being elected as Nigerian President, choosing instead to foist a weak, incompetent and confused leader in the nation in the person of Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
It is entirely symptomatic that in the detailed account of this sorry episode in Nigeria’s recent history in his carefully researched book entitled “People, Politics and Politicians of Nigeria 1940-1979 (published by Heinemann Educational Books), the late Chief Bola Ige had no hesitation in designating General Olusegun Obasanjo as the real mastermind of the obnoxious 12 two-thirds fraudulent Presidential election formula that was maliciously concocted by the master political trickster Chief Richard Akinjide, and which permitted the 1979 Presidential elections to be stolen by a cabal of reactionary political adventurers led by Obasanjo, who handed the Presidency over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, thus setting the stage for Shagari’s disastrous performance as a do-nothing and know-nothing Nigerian President...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nigeria And Oil: Looking Beyond Price Collapse

By Austin Okere
The mistake we keep mak­ing as a nation is failing to anticipate and plan for our oil windfalls. There have been many boom oppor­tunities since Nigeria joined the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1971; oil prices increased by 400% in six short months after the Yom Kippur War following the Arab Oil Embargo. Crude prices doubled from $14 in 1978 to $35 per barrel in 1981 following the Iran/Iraq war. 
The price of crude oil spiked in 1990 with the uncertainties associated with the Iraqi inva­sion of Kuwait and the ensur­ing Gulf War – the so called ‘Gulf War windfall’ under then Head of State, Ibrahim Baban­gida. Data from the U.S. Ener­gy Information Administration show that the latest windfall happened between February 2011 and August 2014, under the Goodluck Jonathan pres­idency, when oil prices were much in excess of$100 per bar­rel. Another golden opportuni­ty was squandered.
During this same period, Saudi Arabia has amassed a whopping $593b in foreign exchange reserves and has re­cently announced that it is cre­ating a $2 trillion mega-sover­eign wealth fund, funded by sales of current petroleum in­dustry assets, to prepare itself for an age when oil no longer dominates the global economy. Coming closer home, Algeria, the second biggest African oil producer, with 1.9mbpd has ac­cumulated foreign reserves of $156b and a sovereign wealth fund of $50b. Nigeria, by far the biggest producer in Africa with 2.5mbpd has only man­aged foreign reserves of$28b and a sovereign wealth fund of a paltry $2.9b – about 5% that of Algeria. The major difference being that while the Algerians saved for a rainy day during the boom years, Nigeria was busy squandering her wealth, with nothing to show by way of in­frastructure or any solid invest­ments.

Social Media And The English Language

By Reuben Abati  
I get confused these days reading many of the posts on social media, and text messages sent through cell phones, because of the kind of new English that young people now write. The English language is without doubt quite dynamic. In the last 200 years, it has lent itself to many innovations, as cultural, religious, and situational codes have transformed the language and extended the dictionary, with new words and idioms.
The kind of new English being written by twitter and what’s app users, particularly young people is however so frightening and lamentable, because it is beginning to creep into regular writing. Texting and tweeting is producing a generation of users of English, (it is worse that they are using English as a second language), who cannot write grammatically successful sentences. I was privileged to go through some applications that some young graduates submitted for job openings recently and I was scared.
This new group of English users does not know the difference between a comma and a colon. They have no regard for punctuation. They mix up pronouns, cannibalize verbs and adverbs, ignore punctuation; and violate all rules of lexis and syntax. They seem to rely more on sound rather than formal meaning. My fear is that a generation being brought on twitter, Facebook, instagram and what’s app English is showing a lack of capacity to write meaningful prose, or communicate properly or even think correctly.
To an older generation who had to go through the rigour of being told to write proper English, and getting punished severely for speaking pidgin or vernacular or for making careless mistakes of grammar and punctuation, the kind of meta-English now being written by young people can be utterly confusing. The irony is that it makes sense to the young ones, and they can conduct long conversations in this strange version of the English language. I’d not be surprised if someday a novel gets written in this new English, which seems like a complete bastardization.
You may have come across the meta-English that I am trying to describe. It is English in sound, but in appearance it has been subjected to the punishment of excessive abbreviation, compression and modification. Hence, in place of the word “for”, you are likely to see “4”, and so the word “forget” becomes “4get”, or “4git”, “fortune” is written as “4tune”, “forever” as “4eva”. The word “see” has been pruned down to a single alphabet “C”, same with “you” now rendered as “u”. In effect, you are likely to read such strange things as “cu” or “cya” meaning “see you.”
Some other words have suffered similar fate: “straight” is now written as “Str8”, “first” as “fess”; “will” as “wee” (I can’t figure out why), “house” is now “haus”; “help” has been reduced to “epp”; (“who have you epped?”) instead of the phrase “kind of”, what you get is “kinda”, “money” is simply “moni.”, the computer sign ”@” has effectively replaced the word “at”; “come” is now “cum”, the conjunction “and” is represented with an “n” or the sign &, “that” is now “dat”, “temporary” is likely to be written as “temp”, “are” as “r”, “your” as “ur” “to” as “2”, “take” as “tk.” In place of “thank you”, you are likely to find “tank u”, “with” is now “wit” or “wif”, and “sorry” is commonly written as “sowie”. I have also seen such expressions as “Hawayu?” (“How are you?”), or “Wia r d u?” (“where are the you?”). The you? The me? The us?

Who Raped The Naira?

By Comr Fred Doc Nwaozor
The last time I checked, the Nigerian curren­cy, the Naira suffered a seemingly unpredicted rape though the identity of the rapist in question was signifi­cantly unknown. This critique was informed by the compel­ling need for every Nigerian to comprehend fully the overall no­menclature of the masked rapist.
The worth of the naira per US dollar almost peaked at N400 in the parallel market within the week as against its official ex­change of N198. Though it isn’t only Nigeria that is confronting the US dollar that is present­ly ravaging her once respected currency, naira and local econ­omy – some other countries are obviously passing through sim­ilar fate, but it’s pertinent to ac­knowledge that the ongoing misfortune of the said currency didn’t abruptly emerge; suffice it to say that the above mentioned ‘rape’ was apparently a foreseen circumstance.

Going down memory lane, it would be recalled that from 1972 to 1985, the official worth of the naira per US dollar was be­tween N0.66 and N0.89 involv­ing a consistent slight fall and rise. From 1986 to 1992, it was worth between N2.02 and N9.91 involving a steady fall. Subse­quently, from 1993 to 1999, its worth was between N17.30 and N21.89 involving an onward ap­parent constant exchange rate af­ter an initial decrease. Similarly, from 2000 to 2009, it was be­tween N85.98 and N145, which involved an outrageous con­tinuous fall. Suffice to say that this was during the President Obasanjo-led administration.
Then, recently from 2010 to 2015, we witnessed a steady fall from N150 to N171. And pres­ently, barely from last year till date, it has declined to N198 per US dollar, witnessing a free fall. The bone of contention is that ab initio, excluding the ini­tial point when it was ostensibly steady, there has been a contin­uous fall of the value of the naira when compared to the US dollar.

Hence, having painstaking­ly perused the above compre­hensive chart, I have succeed­ed in disabusing our minds of the notion that the fall of the ex­change rate of the naira either at the official market or paral­lel market commenced only re­cently. Needless to say that naira had suffered an untold hardship from the genesis till this mo­ment.

But if you take a closer glance at the above analysis, you would observe that it is during the democratic era that the naira’s value fell outrageously, although the origin of its downward de­preciation could be traceable to 1986 or thereabouts. In view of this assertion, one may be chal­lenged to ascertain the reason for such anomaly. 

No, Comrade Oshiomhole, No!

Initially I had wanted to caption this piece “The Comrade’s Last Wish” but changed my mind and went for the one above. As a writer one wrestles, sometimes, with titles for articles but in the end one arrives at settling for a better one that would convey a message.
Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole’s last wish may not be, after all, what his detractors and critics would want us believe. That is, aspiring to become a glorified godfather of Edo State politics in the mould of expired Anthony Anenih. Or destabilising the politics of the state like a bull in a China shop before bowing out in the near future. Or worse still, wanting desperately to install someone, a lackey who would not live up to expectation or measure up to the landmark achievements of the present occupant of Dennis Osadebay Government House in Benin city. The comrade-governor is leaving behind a big shoe — one difficult to fill but good candidates abound in Edo State.
Gov Oshiomole and his wife Iiara 
Comrade Oshiomhole came to power in Edo state as an action governor, a no-nonsense seasoned unionist who was not afraid of reforms in the system or politics of godfatherism that nearly ‘killed’ the ‘heartbeat of the nation’ before his celebrated ascendancy. Prior to his arrival onto the scene Benin City remained a “developing village” where witches and wizards congregated at wee hours of the night to hatch evil bloody plots. The two PDP Governors that preceded his emergence (Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and Lucky Igbinedion) performed below average and made the people of the state poorer infrastructurally and economically. Igbinedion was the worst governor ever! He seemed to be content on being called the son of Igbinedion (a wealthy family in Benin city and Okada wonderland) and he had fun frolicking with beautiful Uniben undergraduates (to satisfy his libido problem) as governance suffered.
By the time the ‘Prince’ left office billions of Naira and millions of Dollars had been looted from the state coffers! The lucky Lucky had fought a bitter political battle with the ex-governor (now APC National Chairman) John Odigie-Oyegun for the governorship of the state decades ago with the latter trouncing him at the polls. As a student in Benin City then we witnessed the ‘guber war’ play out on state radio and TV and on campaign grounds across the state. It was reminiscent of the nostalgic Ogbemudia/Ambrose Ali gubernatorial crossfire. Lucky was desperate to become Governor after the scandal that trailed his Chairmanship of Oredo Local Government Area. But when, eventually, he got power he made a whole mess of it. Before his rise to the top controversy had manifested itself over the gruesome murder of George Idah in his office as Chairman of Oredo Local Govt. Needless to say here that fingers were pointed at his direction as the culprit.

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