John Shagaya: the Necessity of Reflection, By Pius Adesanmi

For every road accident that claims a member of this class, the collective group response is to steal more money to buy heavier and sturdier SUVs, more helicopters, and private jets. In essence, because they lack the mental wherewithal for sober reflection, they go for solutions that require zero cerebral exertion.

I was stung by the news of Mr. John Shagaya’s death in a fatal road accident. Shagaya belongs in a generation of colourful military men who defined my generation in the 1980s in ways in which we – and Nigeria – have never really recovered from. The manner of Mr. Shagaya’s death is an occasion for yet another examination of the Nigerian condition.

Mr. Shagaya’s death is connected to James Ocholi’s death is connected to Abdulkareem Adisa’s death. These deaths are a metaphor of the Nigerian condition, refracted though the ruling class, the political, social, and economic elite, the upper class, the one percenters (call them any name!) writ large. They are also a metaphor of the lower classes they oppress writ large.

Of note is the fact that there is a fundamentally indecent value system in Nigeria which divides bodies into mournable and unmournable ones, depending on where fate located them in the socio-economic scheme of things when they were alive.

Members of the lower classes, “the people”, who fight and tear at each other on account of the political one percenters should pause and think of these developments following Mr. Shagaya’s death: I saw the Presidency’s official condolence statement before I even saw news of Mr. Shagaya’s passing. Then followed a profusion of condolence statements from the National Assembly and from the States.

From the Presidency to the National Assembly to the States, these are the same state actors, the same voices, the same dramatis personae who, for weeks, couldn’t bring themselves to mourn or properly acknowledge the dead in Benue. These are the same people, the same voices, who were largely absent when the Italian state mourned and buried twenty-six Nigerian citizens. From Benue to Italy, little people were involved and the Nigerian elite sent a message that they were unmournable bodies.

This Orwellian division of the dead into mournable and unmournable bodies has been the value system of the Nigerian state since 1960. It just stings deeper now that it has reached its apogee with President Buhari. In fact, so irresponsible has the Buhari administration been on this account that whenever it comes to mourning the little people, Femi Adesina, the moronic spokesman of the administration, usually indulges in chestbeating on national TV, swearing that Nigerians love a talkative president but will never get one on his watch. Within minutes of John Shagaya’s death, we have a talkative president and a talkative Presidency mourning a mournable body.

There is more ground for reflection. I spent the better part of 2017 theorising the portrait of the Nigerian political and economic elite as a social body. I explored their group psychology and identity. I took you into the organisation of their own lived spaces in Maitama, Ikoyi, VI, Lekki, and the GRAs in the state capitals. The purpose of such sociological explorations is to show you that this group, for all its wealth and international travel, is too intellectually barren to organise even its own lived spaces. The violence they wrought on their own lived spaces is a measure of their limitations.

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Throughout the history of civilisation, man progresses by imposing order, symmetry, and aesthetic discipline over the primordial chaos of his environment. The Nigerian elite is the only group in modern history that has shown herself to be incapable of this fundamental element of civilisation. Hence, escape is her only response to challenges which require industry, innovation, and genius.

For every road accident that claims a member of this class, the collective group response is to steal more money to buy heavier and sturdier SUVs, more helicopters, and private jets. In essence, because they lack the mental wherewithal for sober reflection, they go for solutions that require zero cerebral exertion. That is why they have not fixed a problem that consumed General Adisa in 2005. They keep buying more jeeps and escaping to the skies.

Constructing the sort of roads on which they travel in Dubai, London, America and Germany? Too much mental effort! That is why, as a group, they have not fixed Lagos-Ibadan expressway since 1999. The ruling class of 180 million people has been unable to fix a four-lane expressway since 1999. Yet, they approach Houston, New York, Atlanta and see ten-lane freeways. Yet, they have seen the freeway connecting Johannesburg and Pretoria. Ordinary Lagos-Ibadan has been perpetually under construction. What they have spent on and looted from that project since 1999 arguably rivals the cost of the Johannesburg-Pretoria Gautrain. And the same roads they are too mentally lazy to fix to 21st-century standards keep claiming them.

Mr. John Shagaya had a police orderly. He was a retired Senator in private life. It was illegal for him to have an orderly. Illegal use of orderlies is another key identity factor in the psychological constitution of the Nigerian elite. Only last week, Mike Okiro of the Police Service Commission revealed that Nigeria has 400,000 police officers. Of this, 150,000 are currently serving as orderlies to everybody, ranging from wives, concubines, and girlfriends to dubious Chinese and Indian business men able to pay. Okiro averred further that President Buhari had banned the illegal use of orderlies two years ago but implementation of the ban has been hampered by lack of funds.

What Mike Okiro suffered from is called a truth attack. As a member of an elite used to lying, he was accidentally attacked by and blurted out the truth. For what he was really saying is that in the absence of proper funding for the police, they have devised a way of slush funds by commercialising the police. That is why every t’aja t’eran in Nigeria can pay a few bucks for a police orderly. Even recidivist members of the ruling class are making an EFCC court appearance, they go accompanied by police orderlies!

If the elite are allergic to thought, the people they oppress are downright hostile to it. Nigeria keeps thinking that she can get away with life as an unthought, unreflected society in the 21st century. Leader and led, ruler and ruled, we keep paying a heavy price. There is no shortcut to civilisation. There is no patch-patch way of boarding the 21st-century train. Critical thought is the ticket for that train ride. That is why societies are in a scramble for the global knowledge economy.

You will fix the Lagos-Ibadan expressway only when you apply yourself cerebrally to certain inadmissible things in the essence of statehood. You will have to first understand that a state cannot use division into mournable and unmournable bodies as part of her practice of statehood. National energies will be channeled in the right direction the day the Nigerian state understands that 26 bodies in Italy and 72 bodies in Benue are no less mournable than the body of a member of the ruling elite.

Until we understand this, I am afraid it is Hobbes!

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.

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ROME WAS NOT DESTROYED IN A DAY – Simon Kolawole

Sadiq Daba, the actor, ran into some serious health issues recently. He cried out for financial help to undergo foreign treatment. Pronto, Nigerians reacted overwhelmingly. But wait. I did not hear anybody talk about Daba’s religion or ethnic group. The people who tweeted and retweeted his appeal for help, and those who contributed money, were certainly not from his village. I was so so so so so happy. It confirmed, yet again, my pet theory about Nigeria — that we do not hate each other. We are just victims of the unending political manipulation of ethnic and religious identities for selfish gain. Evidently, ordinary Nigerians have the “Nigerian spirit” in their DNA.

Indeed. I have met extremists and chauvinists from across religions and races. I am yet to hear anyone declare that we were not created by the same God. One of the most astonishing things about life, to me, is the fact that although we can choose to be Muslims or Christians, and so on, nobody can choose to be Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba or whatever. We just woke up one day to find ourselves as members of one ethnic group or the other. It was not our making. So why should you discriminate against me, and hate me, on the basis of an ethnic identity that is beyond my control? Is it my fault that I was born into a family that was clearly not my choice?

Today, I am going a little bit practical on how we can renew our minds. There is a saying that Rome was not built in a day, a proverb originated by the 19th century English playwright, John Heywood, who also gave us immortal expressions such as “out of sight out of mind”, “better late than never”, and “the more the merrier”. He said Rome wasn’t built in a day “but they were laying bricks every hour”. This, in some sense, tells us the value of consistent hard work, perseverance and conscious efforts at construction. If Nigeria is going to change, therefore, we must alienate those who see themselves, first and foremost, as ethno-religious champions. It all starts in the mind.

But, pardon me, Rome was not destroyed in a day either. It took ages to build the city but took a much shorter time to destroy it. Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 AD. In three days, they looted, burnt and wrecked the beautiful city. That hastened the collapse of the Roman Empire. Same thing applies here: the destruction of Nigeria by ethnic champions and religious bigots will not happen in one day — it is a gradual, steady process. That is why we the people must guard our hearts jealously before we are recruited into the hate brigade under different guises. Those already recruited can decide to desert straightaway. We need to build, not destroy.

My suggestions. To start with, do not participate in the sharing of messages and materials that are clearly intended to preach hate and prejudice. Saying “shared as received” is pure hypocrisy. You can be critical of leadership without attacking or disparaging their religions and ethnic origins. As a matter of principle, I do not share messages that are clearly meant to spread hate. It is a duty I owe my conscience. We all have terrible things to say about other people. If we do not allow love to guard our hearts, we will keep adding fuel to fire. Therefore, before you press the “send” or “forward” button, ask yourself: what is my motive? Unto thyself, be honest.

Also, do not feed your children with hate and prejudice. Fill their hearts with edifying things. A senior colleague of mine, a Muslim, married a Christian, who then converted to Islam. He told me he once engaged the services of a cleric to teach his children the Qur’an every Sunday. One day, he overheard the cleric telling the children not to drink from the same cup or eat from the same plate with their aunts, who were living with them, because they were “infidels”. My colleague fired the “alfa” on the spot. He remains a devout Muslim, sure, but he saw danger and immediately quenched it. This kind of hate messaging certainly fuelled the mindset that birthed Boko Haram.

This is how hate works: it focuses on what divides us rather than what unites us. If there are Qur’anic verses that say Muslims should love and care for Christians, the hate merchants will focus on where Christians are called “infidels”. If there are verses in the Bible that say “love your neighbour as yourself”, the messengers of hate will focus on “what fellowship does light have with darkness?” There is nothing you want to justify with the scriptures that you won’t find. If you truly have love in your heart, you will focus on the verses of love. The God that forbade eating four-footed creatures is the same God that ordered Apostle Peter, in a trance, to kill and eat! To the pure all things are pure.

And this is how prejudice works: because Chief Obafami Awolowo did not declare Oduduwa Republic in solidarity with Biafra in 1967, every Yoruba is a traitor — including the one that was born early this morning. Because an Igbo chap was arrested for 419, every Igbo person — dead, living or unborn — is a fraudster. Because Barkin Zuwo struggled with speaking English, every northerner is an illiterate; in fact, no northerner has a brain. Because of the insane activities of ISIS and Boko Haram, every Muslim is a terrorist, including your friend. Tragically, there are people that the only thing they can see in you is your language or religion, not the content of your character.

Let me quickly say this before I shut down my laptop and take a stroll: it is very difficult to resist the message of hate and prejudice in a society already polluted by manipulative politicians, their overpaid sidekicks and our inept leaders. I know. When everybody is saying there is casting down, it is very difficult to go against the grain and say there is lifting up. You just go with the flow. But maybe the “casting down” gang is not as big as the “lifting up” brigade — just that the latter has been intimidated into silence. They must begin to speak out. Rome was not destroyed in a day. Those working to destroy Nigeria neither sleep nor slumber.

As for me and my house, we resolved long ago that we would never feed our children with hate, prejudices and biases. These things are usually passed on from generation to generation. I resolved to follow the example of my grandmother by celebrating the best in others rather than focusing on their worst. I would rather talk about the dignity in labour you find among the Hausa, the creativity among the Igbo and the industry among the Yoruba. Accuse me of living in denial and I will accuse you of living in bitterness. Accuse me of being politically correct and I will accuse you of being self-righteous. Accuse me of being naïve and I will accuse you of being jaundiced. It’s all in the mind.

What exactly is Babangida saying? By Reuben Abati 

The drama, the controversy, the confusion, the double entendre, attended by seeming cowardice, that grew around a statement, perhaps the statements, purportedly issued by former military President Ibrahim Babangida on Sunday, February 4, is absolutely unnecessary, unfortunate and utterly avoidable. A statesman, the new role in which President Babangida has since found himself, is a father of the nation –more or less, that is; the statesman’s role in the retirement corridors of power is to speak truth to power, as a guide, as a conscience of the nation, as role model and as a highly-placed influencer. Being a statesman thus comes with responsibilities – the responsibility to speak with clarity and conviction is one of these. With the confusion over what President Babangida said or did not say about the state of the nation and the state of health of our democracy, it is now obvious that he still has a lot to learn, despite his experience and stature.

Coming after the impactful and unambiguous intervention by the Ota farmer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, calling for a change of direction and a reaffirmation of people power in Nigerian politics, Babangida’s follow-up intervention, which could have strengthened an emerging symphony of public thought, has now ended up as mere spittle. Babangida must take responsibility for what clearly comes across to me, as a lack of coherence and organization in the management of his office after office. Statesmen should not speak with both sides of the mouth. They should not play games with their views. They must not toy with public emotions. I don’t know what to make right now, of what Babangida said or didn’t say about our country and our nation. I am sure there are many others who are just as bewildered, and who feel short-changed and are asking: What exactly is Babangida saying?

On Sunday, February 4, when the news hit the airwaves that President Babangida had also issued a statement on the state of the nation under President Muhammadu Buhari, there was a buzz, a wave of excitement across the country. People kept asking: after Babangida, who else is going to stand up and speak? Will T. Y. Danjuma say something too? When are we going to hear from Abdusalami Abubakar, the peace-maker? And when will the prayer warrior-statesman, Yakubu Gowon, also say something to Nigerians? Shehu Shagari. Ernest Shonekan. Nigerians believe that there is a special category of Nigerians, better known as “Owners of Nigeria”, who at every point determine the country’s fortunes or direction.

It is an elite, bourgeois class of decision-makers whose privileges and influence are considered primary and even superior to democracy. It is strange that a people would admit this to be given and inevitable, under a democratic dispensation, but the truth is that Africans even when they claim to be democratic, nurse in their subconscious a primordial subservience to the potency of divine or stolen privileges and status. The subsistence and sustainability of this mentality poses a great threat to the democratic process in Africa. So, when Babangida issued a statement, it was as if another god had spoken. Babangida was labelled the “Prince of the Niger” by his biographers. The Prince spoke on Sunday, February 4, and all the newsrooms jumped into action. Whatever he said should ordinarily be of interest to the public. It would sell the newspapers and the websites. More importantly, it will generate public interest and further stimulate public debate. And what did he talk about? He talked about the state of the nation- the hottest topic in Nigeria at the moment, on the lips of every one, earlier put together so eloquently by Olusegun Obasanjo.

I was preparing for the February 4 edition of ThisDay Live, a Sunday Talk Show I have been anchoring on Arise News TV, since August 2017 when the statement was released. It sounded like a bombshell. I immediately asked the Executive Editor of ThisDay Live, to restructure our programme content for the day and move Babangida’s statement to the top. Now said to have been authored by or not by Ibrahim Babangida or by his spokesperson, Kassim Afegbua, the now controversial statement to use that famous phrase, “spoke truth to power”. It was a well-calibrated, well-timed statement, which took the content of Obasanjo’s earlier statement several steps further. It made the point that Nigeria is at a crossroads, certainly adrift and that it needed to be rescued by the younger generation – what he called “a digital leadership”, as opposed to “analogue leadership.” This was a brilliant point at a time when Nigerians were asking for a “Not-too-young-to-run”, “third-force”, alternative movement.

This Babangida statement didn’t ask Buhari not to run, I mean not so expressly, but it said we should move beyond the crossroads by voting for leadership that is inclusive, consultative, interactive, accountable, competitive and competent. Whereas Obasanjo was direct, this Babangida statement was full of innuendo and sarcasm. He went a step further by raising issues such as campaign finance, community policing and new paradigms. Like Obasanjo, he stressed the need to rebrand Nigeria and rebrand politics, the power of the vote, and the value of security and inclusivity. This was an explosive, brilliant statement that was reflective of a certain, growing level of consensus in Nigerian politics and society. We discussed the statement on the programme and promised a follow-up.

But we then stepped out of the studio only to hear that President Babangida had disowned this insightful statement. He was misquoted. He didn’t say so. The statement was authored, we learnt, by Kassim Afegbua – Babangida’s spokesman – who had gone to town without his principal’s approval. The confusion threw the newsrooms into disarray. Journalists were even accused of misrepresenting the former military President. In due course, a second statement, presented as personally signed by Babangida hit the airwaves. This second statement was wishy-washy, written in barely readable prose, cowardly in every material particular, and I dare say, a PR disaster. So poor in conception and execution was this second statement that the media refused to withdraw the first statement, instead they chose to talk about the drama, the confusion, the controversy over Babangida’s statement. The confusion became the story. The refutation was downplayed.

No statesman should put himself in that kind of ridiculous situation. When he speaks again, nobody will take him seriously, because they would not know if the voice is Jacob’s or Esau’s. Before dusk, it was further reported that the Inspector-General of Police had declared Kassim Afegbua wanted. Afegbua, I salute his courage, stood his ground by insisting that the first statement by Babangida was authentic and that it had been issued under his imprimatur, and that it represents his true and correct position on the state of the nation. I don’t know what IGP Ibrahim Idris’s problem is. He probably needs a refresher course on how to be an Inspector General of Police.

As at the time of this writing, he has not denied that he wants Afegbua arrested. But for what really? – For issuing a statement on behalf of his principal, or for expressing an opinion? If Babangida feels he has been impersonated, or misrepresented, it would be his duty, not that of the police to say so and to press charges or sack Afegbua. If Babangida disowns the statement, Kassim Afegbua can claim ownership and excuse Babangida, since in any case there is nothing in the statement that is of any threat to either public peace or national security. To ask Buhari not to run, or Nigerians not to vote for him is a matter of free expression, not a crime against the state. I’ll return to this anon.

As the drama unfolded, ThisDay newspaper on Monday, February 5, 2018 published a story titled “IBB speaks to THISDAY, affirms statement, says Nigeria needs new breed of leaders”. It is curious that only ThisDay newspaper had such a story. Apparently, it didn’t occur to other media houses to check with Babangida or they had no access to him, or they lacked the capacity to dig beyond the confusion. Nonetheless, the ThisDay story is ineffectual. It doesn’t serve the purpose of the intended damage control. President Babangida’s biographers further described him, in his time, as the Machiavellian Prince of Nigerian politics. His critics labelled him the Maradona.

Years after leaving office, he has had enough time to make up his mind who he wants to be. He cannot oscillate between being the Prince of the Machiavelli and at the same time, the dribbler of the Maradona and still claim to be a statesman. Nigerians are tired of being dribbled.

It is therefore for this reason that he owes us a second or third statement, stating clearly, where he stands in the matter of Nigeria at this moment. We are back as Obasanjo forcefully argues, at that other moment in 1999, when it was incorrect to sit on the fence. Without that clarity, it would have been better for Babangida to keep quiet, rather than to open his mouth and cause confusion as to what exactly he is saying.

I modify that. The onus is on President Babangida to choose one out of the two statements that have been issued in his name. It is possible that he has more than one spokesperson, working at cross-purposes or there are persons around him who are busy exploiting the fact of proximity. In this latter group, you would find those I once referred to as the na-my-brother-dey-there-crowd, you can add to that, the na-my-daddy-dey-there, na-my-husband-dey-there, na-my-oga-dey-there crowd who brazenly act on behalf of the man of power, exploiting ethnic and filial connections and insisting on a self-ascribed immunity for wrong-doing. No statesman should allow such confusion around him. When Obasanjo spoke, pamphlets of his full statement were on sale across Nigeria the following morning. Babangida has spoken but the pamphleteers have not produced copies of his statement because nobody is exactly sure of what has been said. Whatever message he is trying to pass across is not clear.

I salute Kassim Afegbua once more. His current travail projects the plight of spokespersons, not just in Nigeria but all over the world. The job of a spokesperson is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult in the corridors of power. Political leaders crave love; they want to be seen to be wise and knowledgeable. But when things go wrong, they don’t hesitate to throw their spokespersons under the bus. Often, they feel persons from their clan or faith, or background can better represent them. However, out of office, a political leader or statesman does not necessarily have to speak through a spokesperson. If he is big enough and his message is big enough, he should be able to speak with his own voice and in his own voice. In this instance, only President Babangida can shed light on the conundrum: Who has spoken? Babangida or Afegbua? But beyond that, the first message remains relevant and it is utterly irresponsible if indeed the police have launched a manhunt on the basis of the expression of an opinion.

This is increasingly a growing trend in this country today. It is unfortunate. It is sad. At the end of a National Security Council meeting the other day, a Federal Minister, who seems to enjoy pooping from the mouth, announced that the security agencies had been instructed to arrest any notable Nigerian who uses the social media in particular for hate speech. Only a court of law can legitimately define what constitutes hate speech. And do ordinary Nigerians have the right to hate speech, a right that may not be available to notable Nigerians? And who determines who qualifies as a notable Nigerian? And now on the basis of a statement on the state of the nation and a little drama around that, the Inspector General of Police, with no denial from him or his agents, 48 hours later, has declared a manhunt. We all have a duty to defend the freedom of speech and the right of every Nigerian to think freely and differ.

Curiously, Kassim Afegbua, the same man whose right to work and speak we are defending, has now said the news of the purported manhunt for him is a “cooked up story.” He should make this matter easy by reporting at the nearest police station! His principal will have to take a clear stand and put an end to the dribble. Being a statesman requires the ability to stand by one’s convictions and place national interest above personal interest and personal security. By the same token, we expect more statesmen to speak up. When will Gowon, Shagari, Shonekan, Abdusalami Abubakar, Jonathan and Danjuma speak up? Their silence is not golden in this instance. It amounts to an abdication of responsibility. For a country that has done so much for them, they cannot afford to sit on the fence.

Obasanjo and the extent of presidential powers by Reuben Abati

More than a week after President Olusegun Obasanjo released his state of the nation commentary and devastating assessment of the Buhari administration, it has remained the main subject in the public arena in Nigeria. It is a measure of the stature, influence and capacity of the elder statesman that whenever he intervenes as he has done, he sets the tone for public debate and the country’s future political direction. I have already commented at length on the appropriateness, timeliness, depth, brutal honesty and shortcoming of that statement on both television and radio, more than twice, but there is an additional aspect that the statement further throws up, namely the nature and extent of presidential powers to wit: should Obasanjo blame Buhari?

It is common practice in Nigeria for political commentators, either on the streets or in formal situations to make excuses for Presidents, either serving or retired. You are likely to hear statements such as: “The President is a good man, it is just that he is surrounded by bad advisers and ministers”, or something like “Buhari is not the problem, the problem is that he has been hijacked by a cabal, or as the view was once expressed – “a cabal is now in charge!” The powers, style and limitations of the President are hardly ever placed in proper context. Proponents of the positivism of Presidential powers always speak in terms of “Good President, bad aides” in the Nigerian Presidential system, contrary to the norm that the buck stops at the President’s table.

President Obasanjo’s various assessments of sitting administrations adopt a different orientation. He holds the President personally responsible for the performance or non-performance of his government. In his recent statement on the Buhari administration, he thus characteristically accused President Buhari of nepotism, lack of understanding of the internal dynamics of Nigerian politics, blame-passing, condoning of misconduct and outright incompetence. He more or less ascribes to the President of Nigeria the powers and the responsibility to provide leadership and ensure good governance. In his view, in areas where the President lacks capacity, it is his duty to recruit competent persons to assist him and where and when he fails, he is still the one to be held responsible.

The underlying principle in Obasanjo’s statement is that those to whom power is bequeathed must be accountable for the exercise of such power. In his only reference to advisers in his intervention, Obasanjo uses the word “so-called advisers.” It is most unfortunate that in the various responses from government and its agents to the Obasanjo statement, there has been no attempt to take on Obasanjo on the issues. He has been called names by hired voices, or system sycophants, and all he got from the Minister of Information was an acknowledgement note and a patronizing “Baba-is-a-patriot”, tepid climb-down, without a word of defence on the substantial question about how the incumbent President has abdicated responsibility and failed the leadership test.

For me, there are a number of projected questions: Can a President actually be held responsible for the failings of the government he heads? Should the blame for an administration’s failures be heaped on the head of a past government and its officials? Who can be held liable in the circumstance – a cabal, former Ministers, or those exercising delegated authority? For whereas Obasanjo holds every President accountable, I have heard persons claim that he has no moral right to do so. It is even alleged that President Buhari cannot be questioned because he is answerable only to the people whose sovereignty he personifies.

President Obasanjo, by heaping the blame and the responsibility, on the head of President Muhammadu Buhari is drawing attention to the full extent of the ascribed and inherent powers of the President under the Constitution. The Nigerian Constitution in letter and spirit makes the Nigerian President an Emperor with near-absolute powers. There may be checks and balances on his powers here and there, in terms of his having recourse to the National Assembly on certain issues and having to make consultations, but in totality, the Constitution confers on him a kingly prerogative, especially on matters of policy and its execution. His powers are extensive and expansive. Under Section 5(1) of the Constitution, he is empowered to either exercise his powers directly or to delegate. His relationship with those to whom he delegates authority is akin to that between an agent and a disclosed principal.

Section 5(1) is instructive: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation – (a) shall be vested in the President and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President or Ministers of the Government of the Federation or other officers in the public service of the Federation; and

Section 148(1) adds:

“The President may, in his discretion, assign to Vice-President or any Minister of the government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.”

It stands to reason therefore that whatever is done by those agents, lawfully and within the bounds of Presidential approval, are within the scope of the responsibility of the President. In other words, the President cannot pass the buck. So, is it right to say Buhari is a good man, but the problem is the cabal? Or to hold heads of MDAs liable for acts that were carried out with Presidential authority and approval? The President is the custodian of the social contract with the people as defined in Section 14, and where there is a failure of consideration in this regard, the government is deemed not only to have lost legitimacy, the President is deemed to have failed. This is a key point in Obasanjo’s statement, which makes it notably different from similar interventions by him in the past.

The term or the group known as “cabal” is unknown to the Nigerian Constitution but the Constitution knows the President. Section 148 also recognizes that Ministers are appointees of the President, exercising delegated authority. This is why the National Assembly cannot impeach Ministers; they can only be sanctioned or relieved of their duties by their appointor, namely the President. Where the conduct of any government official is in question, it is important to establish whether or not such a person acted beyond the scope of the approval or directive given or whether or not such was ratified by the President. However, no public official is allowed under the law to carry out an unlawful directive, where such happens, such a person is personally liable. In practical terms, this has been a source of problem. Nigerian Presidents function like Emperors. How many appointees can stand in front of a President and query his authority, or turn down his directive?

I align with the definition of responsibility in Obasanjo’s review of the exercise of presidential authority. For instance, there are cases in court against Ministers and advisers who served under the Jonathan administration over matters such as the spending of security votes and sale of oil blocks, but to what extent can they be held responsible for obeying presidential directives? Today, in President Buhari’s Aso Villa, the Chief of Staff in particular has been accused within the public domain of many things. Does anyone really believe that a Chief of Staff can act on his own without Presidential backing and not lose his job.

When the matter of MTN’s underpayment of sanctions sum came up and the penalty sum was allegedly reviewed downwards after some consideration, the MTN Executive that was involved was sanctioned, and Nigerians asked that certain government officials should similarly be sanctioned, but to date, nothing has happened. Could that have been the case without the President’s knowledge? In the more recent controversial case of Abdulrasheed Maina, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who was accused of protecting a man who had been sacked from service on the grounds of embezzlement, pilfering and corruption, had said that he acted with the knowledge and approval of the President.

Can he possibly in the future be called to account for his action even when he was carrying out a Presidential directive, apparent or otherwise? Afterall, his explanation was further confirmed from the statement of the Head of Service to the Federation who said when the issue came up, she notified the President of the likely backlash. When the National Assembly summons a prominent government official and he or she refuses to honour the invitation, can it be assumed that any Presidential appointee can be so dismissive of the legislature without Presidential concurrence? When recently there was a face-off between the Department of State Security, the National Intelligence Agency and the EFCC, with the intelligence agencies insisting that they or their former bosses cannot be questioned by the EFCC, could they have gotten away with it without Presidential approval? It is noteworthy that the intelligence agencies report directly to the President and take directives from him. They relate to other departments of government only on a need-to-know basis. There is also that other matter between Dr Ibe Kachikwu and NNPC GMD, Kanti Baru, with the latter insisting that he had Presidential approval. Can either party be arrested in the future for “alleged corruption” in the light of the revelation by the Vice President, then acting as President, that he only gave “non-financial approvals?”

Our point therefore is that everything in our Presidential democracy revolves around the President. Whereas the Constitution, upholding the separation of powers, vests the authority of the other two tiers of government: the legislature (Section 4) and the judiciary (Section 6) in institutions, the 1999 Constitution vests executive authority not in any institution, but the person of the President. The Presidency is not a collegiate; technically, even the Vice President has no powers. He can only function to the extent of powers delegated to him by the President, and even the very limited powers assigned to him can only be exercised under presidential directive.

This is partly why when President Buhari went on a medical vacation and Vice President Osinbajo acted as President, there were persons who accused him of becoming ambitious and trying to seize Presidential powers even when he had been granted delegated authority. The second time the President travelled, the Vice President was directed to act only as a co-ordinator! The President is granted immunity from prosecution; while in office, he is regarded as a Messiah, such that even the powers of the National Assembly to impeach him in the event of “gross misconduct” or “incapacitation” are difficult to execute.

More than at any other time, the Buhari administration has further problematized the extent of the powers of a President by calling to question virtually every act and directive under the preceding Jonathan administration. If a President gave a directive and it was lawfully carried out, without the agent going on a frolic of his own, and without any willful act of criminality, should such agents become the target of a witch-hunt? By stretching the matter in this direction, the Buhari administration may have created the basis for the growth of a political culture based on vendetta and the source of its own lack of vibrancy.

This probably explains why under this administration, delegated authority is being exercised with so much fear. The Ministers and heads of parastatals and agencies are so scared because they imagine that even when they carry out directives, they may be held liable tomorrow by a different government. Already, they are being told that they are the problem and not the President. Why shouldn’t a future government arrest and detain them and tell them that the execution of a Presidential directive is no protection? They may ultimately end up as victims of their current triumphalism.

By demonizing former public officials, and undermining the powers of a past President to exercise power and authority through legitimate and lawful delegation, the Buhari administration may unwittingly make public service unattractive and set a disturbing precedent. Be sure, however that the Nigerian public in the future will still argue that “Baba is a good man, it was the cabal that caused his problems.” Good intentions alone do not guarantee good leadership: this is the underlying moral of the Obasanjo statement. Whether or not he can mount the high horse to say this is beyond the purview of this present commentary.

But here is the long-term challenge: Can a President who has been given so much powers under the Constitution be allowed to abdicate responsibility? Section 5(1) and Section 148, and other relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution on Presidential powers present grey areas that throw up jurisprudential questions that should be clarified and resolved. It is an issue on which Nigerians must make a value judgment: do we need to preserve the status quo or is there a need to review the extent of Presidential powers? There are two ways forward: a constitutional amendment of Presidential powers to make Presidents more accountable, more institution-based and less omnipotent, or a resolution of the dilemma through the jurisprudence of our courts.

STATEMENT BY H.E OLUSEGUN OBASANJO ON THE OCCASION OF HIS REGISTRATION FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIAN MOVEMENT

Ladies and Gentlemen and members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, I welcome you to this simple but important ceremony of my registering as a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement and I thank you for being here.

Last week, I issued a statement which I did not do lightly or frivolously but out of deep concern for the situation of our country. I gave an expose on some aspects of our situations as I have observed them. I also took liberty to offer advice politely knowing fully well that my advice could be heeded or may be ignored.

However, heeded or not, I strongly believe that Nigeria cannot continue with business as usual. So, I proffered a way out or a way forward.

If the instruments we have used so far in our nation-building and governance since independence have not served us well, it is imperative that we should rethink and retool. It was Einstein who stated that it would amount to height of folly for anybody or any group to continue to do things in the same way and expect different results.

Coalition for Nigeria Movement is proposed as the new direction to mobilise our population for unity, cooperation, development, rule of law, employment, law and order, justice, integration, peace, security, stability, welfare and well-being. In these regards, special attention and space must be given to youths and women, who in most cases, have been victims and underlings.

I am particularly happy that yesterday, men and women (of all ages) of like minds joined hands to launch Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM). Among many other things that CNM will do is to raise standards generally but particularly standards of political leadership and governance.

Like all countries, Nigeria has many challenges. That, by itself, is not what we should worry about. What should matter is how, when and with what instruments we address or fail to address these challenges or create more problems.

Let me emphasise important areas, programme, priorities, or processes for improved attention. To start with, we seem to have taken nation-building for granted. Nation-building must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country. For instance, the federal character principle, as espoused in our constitution, was to guide the leadership to search for competent holders of major offices to be distributed within the entire nation and avoid the concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places as we currently have in the leadership of our security apparatus. To avoid such non-integrative situation, we have the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission, both institutions which must raise alarm or call for correction of actions by the executive that violates the spirit of our constitution. In like manner, the spate of violence, criminality, organised crime, insurgency and terrorism have not received sufficient proactive ameliorative responses through transformational leadership – a determined leadership that brings cohesion and wholesomeness to the polity. Nobody and no group should feel excluded in his or her own country. Inclusion and popular participation must be visibly pursued in terms of politics, the economy and our overall social life.

am happy to be a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement. The movement is a pressure point towards good governance. This is the commencement for our popular and grassroots association. Of course, the membership will be free to collectively decide on whether CNM becomes a political party. If the Movement decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member. And as a member for now, I accept all the conditions attached to membership of the Coalition.

We must promote the CNM and mobilise membership all over the country including membership from the Diaspora.

This is an opportunity for women and men, especially youths who have hitherto been feeling marginalised and helpless to go all out and bring friends and families into the CNM fold.

The CNM will remain a popular socio-economic Movement open to all Nigerians who believe in the greatness of Nigeria and are ready to contribute to it.

Some people have started worrying about the problem of personalities, in which some, in other efforts allocate positions to themselves. This Movement is not about personality or personalities; but about platform and system. Our system so far has not given us what we must have. For the first time we are building a platform from bottom-up. The Movement’s base is the grassroots and the people – all the people. When the platform is formed and the new system is put in place, the Movement may decide to sponsor/support candidates or transform itself into a political machine for that purpose.

A socio-economic popular Movement needs to be the new vehicle to give hope to the youths, dignity and encouragement to women and security, confidence, and a promising future to all Nigerians. It must work to bring about a new democratic and efficient Nigeria. The Movement must speak up boldly and bluntly about the truth but politely in accordance with African culture. The Movement will also act collectively with political awareness, social responsibility, sustained and sustainable economic development and progress. Timidity and cowardice must not be part of its make-up or culture and neither must there be indifference. He who keeps quiet, inactive and indifferent in the face of bad act is an accomplice to that act. Self-interest, self-centredness and selfishness must be put aside. National interest must be paramount. The Movement will teach what it believes and practice what it teaches.

It is necessary to make it clear that this movement does not regard itself as a third force. It sees itself as a popular movement that can accommodate all Nigerians irrespective of their political interest or affiliations and will propel Nigeria forward. Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians to be made right and the Coalition with others of the same view and like minds will leave no stone unturned to actualise God-given potentials of our country. The Movement will spearhead process, programme, policies and priorities to make Nigeria a great country playing its expected roles within West Africa, Africa and the world.

Nigerian youth will be emboldened, empowered, have employment, and play meaningful and responsible roles in the leadership and governance of the country in all ramifications. Nigerian women will have dignity, responsibility and equal consideration with men in the affairs of Nigeria.

The Movement is a means to an end. The end is Nigeria, unshackled, united, dynamic, strong, secure, cohesive, stable, and prosperous at home and respected outside, and as result, able to play decisive roles assertively within the comity of nations. A Nigeria of hope, aspiration and assurances which belongs to all with no sacred cow nor sacrificial lamb is what we want. My Nigeria, your Nigeria and our Nigeria with enchanting present and secure and glorious future.

Join the Movement to build a new Nigeria that will be in the hands of God.

Full Text; APC Replies Obasanjo

FULL STATEMENT BELOW.

PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 24, 2018

Re: The Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria Movement, By Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

The All Progressives Congress (APC) notes the statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo which has been widely-reported in the media and titled: “The Way out: a clarion call for coalition for Nigeria movement”.

While we do not agree with everything the former president said, especially on his assessment of the government and our party, we note the sundry issues raised by the former president, and we assume these were made in good faith.

As a father of the nation, we understand that the former president would feel obliged to intervene if certain things are not being done or are not being done in a particular way. However, we believe that such interventions should be for the sole purpose of improving the system and encouraging the relevant institutions to work harder in improving certain situations.

It is for this reason that we disagree with the former president in what appears like a wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country. We acknowledge our challenges as a new political party, even as we believe that APC remains the best option at this time for all Nigerians who are genuinely committed to the progress and development of the country.

We also note that there are about 72 other registered political parties in the country and the people reserve the right to support any of these. Our democracy itself is young and hence all the parties face sundry challenges, but we have made progress since 1999, with President Obasanjo himself being a major contributor to our progress as a multi-party democracy. It is for this reason that we believe the respected former president should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians and the only solution to the current challenges that we face is a completely new arrangement.

The task of building a political party is not done overnight. Even the oldest of our political parties is still very young in comparison with advanced democracies. Our democracy therefore stands a better chance of becoming really strong if we allow the parties to find their identities, even if in the process they make mistakes and appear to be “wobbling”. No political party arrives fully formed.

APC call on all our supporters across the country to remain strong and steadfast. These are challenging times. But we cannot afford to react to public criticism with any form of emotionalism. We are the ruling party. We must take responsibility. Take valuable lessons on board and continue to improve. Regardless of the current challenges, we are confident that brighter future is assured for our party and our country.

SIGNED:

Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi

National Publicity Secretary

All Progressives Congress (APC)

Full Text: Lai Mohammed Replies Obasanjo’s ‘Punches’

For the record, Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the Administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling insurgency. Specifically, the former President said President Buhari must be given credit for his achievement so far in these two areas. We thank him for this. Apparently, the former President believes that the Administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises. We have no doubt that in the face of massive challenges in this area, this Administration has availed itself creditably. We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury. Today, most of the indices by which an economy is measured are looking up. Permit me to say, however, that Nigeria would not have exited recession through a mere order or if the Administration had not made use of ”good Nigerians” who could help. This Administration is making steady progress in its determined effort to revamp the economy, and the results are showing: * Foreign Reserves have peaked at $40b, the highest level in about four years, and up from $24 billion just a year ago, even though when we came in, the price of oil had crashed woefully. * According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), headline inflation has fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37% as at Dec. 2017. This is the lowest inflation rate since Jan 2017, and it has met and surpassed the target set for inflation in the Administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). * Our determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped the hemorrhaging of the treasury. Some 108 billion Naira has been saved from removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA. The nation is being saved 24.7 billion Naira monthly with the full implementation of the TSA. * The elimination of ghost workers has saved the nation 120 billion Naira * At about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the $908 million in the first quarter. * In the wake of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 percent. * Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world. * According to Q3 2017 figures, agriculture export is up year-on-year by 25%, solid minerals exports are up year-on-year by 78%, raw materials exports are up 70% year-on-year and manufactured goods exports are up 22% year-on-year. * Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting highest-ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51 million! These positive indices may not have immediately impacted positively on Nigerians, but Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now. This is because the good news from the agricultural sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuffs, especially such staple as rice, and our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society. When we assumed office in 2015, some 6 million farmers were involved in rice production. Thanks to the Anchor Borrowers’ programme of this Administration, we have grown that number to over 12 million farmers. The result is that our rice import from Thailand alone has dropped from 644 metric tonnes to 22,000 MT in just two years. This is phenomenal. Apart from rice, Nigeria is also doing well in other grains, especially Millet, Sorghum and Maize. We are now the second largest producer of sorghum after the US, the third in millet after India and our breweries are now enjoying local sourcing of those commodities. For maize, we are producing 10 million tons while we need about 13 million tons for both human and animal nutrition. Nigeria leads the world in the yam and cassava production. We account for 70% of the world’s yam production. In two years, we hope to be the world’s largest exporter of yam! Overall, our ambition is that agriculture should rise from 25% to 40% of GDP, so that we can banish poverty and overcome our economic anxiety. Our Social Investment Programme is Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever. Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers. Finally, our investment in infrastructure is simply unprecedented. This is because infrastructure is key to faster economic growth and development. Here is a synopsis of what we have done in this area: * Power Generation at an all-time high of 7,000mw and all can be transmitted * RAIL: Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge is on. Lagos-Ibadan sector ready 2019, Kano-Kaduna ready 2019; The entire stretch ready 2021; Negotiations on for Coastal Rail covering 15 cities from Lagos to Calabar. * ROAD: 25 major highways being funded with the N100b Sukuk Bond, and all geo-political zones are benefitting equally This Administration is not unaware of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation, but we are up to the task. We have taken the bull by the horns, and long-suffering Nigerians will begin to experience a new lease of life as our efforts yield fruits. We will not go into a state of funk for whatever reason. On the Herders/Farmers’ clashes, this Administration is determined to end the crisis resulting from this once and for all, not minding that fact that the clashes predate us. I will urge Nigerians to have faith in the Administration’s ability to resolve the crisis, and to watch out for concrete measures in this regard. “On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the President to run again, while others are opposed to his return. “However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the President at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hours tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his Administration by successive past Administrations. He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that’s where we are right now! Finally, we have no reason to believe that former President Obasanjo has any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his Special Press Statement. We have also taken his admonition in good faith, and we thank him most sincerely for taking time off his busy schedule to pen such a long statement.

Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information