​President is Holding The Country To Ransom By Samson Toromade

President Buhari has been out of work for 115 days out of the 191 days in 2017 alone.

If I was away from work for 64 days, I’d most probably be unemployed.

The duly elected president of the country, Muhammadu Buhari , has been away from the country since May 7, after departing to London for his second medical leave of the year.

Nobody knows what is wrong with the president. Nobody knows where the president really is. Or if he’ll ever be fit enough to resume his duties.

A conspiracy of silence has been woven around the president’s state of health that it’s hard to ignore rumours that it is a dire one.

Recently, Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose , never one to shy away from unguarded remarks, declared that the president has been on a life support machine since June 6.

This spurious claim is just another in a long line of unsubstantiated narratives surrounding the president’s actual state of health.

At some point, the rumour mill was spinning tales about how the president was already dead.

It’s hard to knock out these claims because, with its deafening silence, the president’s team has created a blank canvas for anyone to paint any story.

Ever since the president of the country has holed up in London, he’s had a single direct interaction with the ‘Nigerian’ people: an audio recording that addressed the

Eid-el Fitr celebration by the country’s Muslim population.

This was a problem for a whole lot of reasons.

Only days prior to the emergence of that tape, Sahara Reporters had claimed that the president had suffered from a speech impairment.

If we pretend for a second that this is a nation that doesn’t function abnormally, this is clearly a claim that, if true, could constitutionally render Buhari incompetent to ever resume his duties as president.

So when an audio recording of the president emerged only days later, it was clearly desperately exploiting the occasion to indirectly redirect the discourse, which it did, albeit, poorly.

The dubiousness of the tape aside, Buhari addressed the country on the theme of unity while he spoke exclusively in Hausa, a language that automatically alienates half of the country’s population that isn’t the president’s kin.

This was another powder keg that set tongues wagging at the president’s insensitivity to the Nigerian population, and it is surprising that the tape went through more than one person on the president’s team without a single one saying, “Hey guys, maybe we should take a minute to talk about this.”

The woeful execution of that tape is just another in the president’s long history of throwing distractions into the wind since he was sworn in.

It was recently claimed that the presidential aircraft parked in London to serve the ‘ailing’ president was raking up an outrageous bill for the country’s pocket and constituted wasteful spending on the president’s part.

Just the next day, the president’s spokesman, Garba Shehu , released a statement saying it only cost a fraction of the figure being bandied about and asked that rumour mongers stop being mischievous with the truth.

This writer understands how (some) presidential protocols work and agrees that no matter what it costs, the commander in chief of any country commands that sort privilege for very obvious reasons. That’s not the problem here.

What’s worrisome here is that Buhari’s team decided to reply to this, at best, social media distraction above many other significant issues. This is the same as the audio being a response to claims of the president suffering from speech impairment.

The president’s team can’t seem to be able to allow accusations against the president’s integrity or his health status lie.

However, they have questionably dodged the most important issue of all; what is up with the president’s health.

Buhari’s team has doused every fire that’s come near him since May 7, it stands out that the only one they have neglected to answer is the one that informs the Nigerian people about what exactly is wrong with the president.

Will they be triggered enough to respond to allegations of the president’s perceived wastefulness? Yes.

Will they craftily, and poorly, respond to allegations of the president losing his ability to speak properly? Yes.

But will they be bothered enough to provide a proper insight into what is the actual problem with the president? LOL.

It appears the reason behind this refusal is they believe since Buhari temporarily transferred power to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo , his campaign promise of transparency is suddenly on pause.

When Buhari was elected President of the country, it wasn’t because he was the best person this country could produce to drive it away from Goodluck Jonathan ‘s chaotic administration; Buhari was elected because he was the most realistic candidate to exploit the country’s ethnically-tainted climate and defeat the incumbent at the time.

This is why, when the opposition came around with claims about Buhari’s poor health, nobody listened.

Not because we didn’t believe it or already know it ourselves, but because we were hopeful and ready to gamble on him anyway because the electorate needed to send a clear message at the time.

That our gamble hasn’t paid off is not necessarily something to regret, but it’s hurtful that Buhari’s team is deliberately sidestepping history here and making the same mistakes over and again.

This ill absent president situation undoubtedly draws parallel to late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua ‘s very similar situation that ended in tragedy only seven years ago.

And what makes this particular one even more duplicitous and hypocritical is that President Buhari was one of the most vocal critics at the time, demanding that Yar’adua make his health issues public or vacate the presidency. Life comes at you fast.

The president is 72, no one realistically expected him to be the paragon of complete health; but honesty on his condition would be a nice gesture, if not a presidential protocol.

Even though the handling of this situation, especially with the transfer of power, has been better than Yar’adua’s situation was, it is still not a good spot for the country to be trapped in.

The president has been out of work for 115 days out of the 191 days in 2017. That’s an attendance record no school student will show their parents at home without expecting to be spanked.

The truth is, despite the impressive work that Osinbajo has done in his stint as Acting President, the looming shadow of Buhari is a dark cloud hanging over the progress of the country.

And while the Senate busies itself with idle talks and petty squabbling with the presidency over what power it wields, the average Nigerian wants to log out of this unbearably docile matrix.

The next time, if ever, the president is thinking about recording a voice note, he might want to update us on what the state of his health is.

And this time, maybe do it in a language we all understand.

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​(In) Justice In Our Penal System: Evans Vs Corrupt Public Servants By Abiodun Ladepo

Without one of those spoilt, narcissistic Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who specialize in advocating for white-collar criminals standing by him, Chukwudumeje George Onwuamadike, also known as the celebrity kidnapper Evans, narrated to the media how he kidnapped people. We got to know the entire modus operandi. I bet you, given enough time, he will tell us more…everything from how he selected his targets, to how he studied their lifestyles, how he selected the dates and times for the kidnap operations, reconnoitering and selecting the intended routes, recruiting the right accomplices for the operations, deciding what types of weapons, modes of transportation and signs and signals he shared with his crew for whether to proceed with or abort operations.

Given enough time, Evans will tell us what post-operation meetings (After-Action Review?) looked like. Did they burn vehicles used in the operations? Did they shut off or throw away all the phones they had with them? Did anybody get wounded? Did anybody die? What were the health conditions of the victims? How much were the victims really worth? How were the ransoms collected? What were the sharing formulas? And how were the monies kept or spent without triggering suspicion in the community?

Evans would tell you all these not because he has suddenly been overwhelmed by a sense of contrition, or that the Holy Ghost has taken control of his dark heart and lodged there to cleanse it, or simply out of the goodness of his heart. He has been singing like a canary and will continue to sing like that because he has undergone (and is probably still undergoing) some of the most “creative” interrogation techniques in the whole world. No, I do not know for sure if that went on, or is going on. I just know, by taking a close look at his face, seeing his bloodshot eyes, his swollen red face and overall countenance, that he has faced the kind of interrogation techniques that Musiliu Obanikoro, for instance, did not face while being questioned for alleged corruption.

You probably know a thing or two about “creative” interrogation techniques…those that violate some of the articles of the Geneva Convention to which Nigeria has long been a signatory; those that could cause a country to be seen as a pariah by the rest of the civilized world, and bring the government official violators before the International Court of Justice at The Hague for human rights violations. The “good” thing about those kinds of interrogation techniques is that they make you confess fast and deep. You may even confess to crimes you did not commit!

Now, let me state without any equivocation that I do not think Evans has confessed to crimes he did not commit. In fact, he has confessed and given us proof of his sadistic crimes. There is no question Evans is one of the most depraved and despicable entities to have walked the face of this earth. There is no question he put innocent people through untold anguish by depriving wives of their husbands, children of their fathers; siblings of their siblings and friends of their friends. There is no doubt he robbed people of their hard-earned incomes and stripped them of their dignities in the most heartless and brutal ways, killing some in the process of snatching them against their will. And there is no question the man belongs in a fiery furnace, thrown in there while still alive, and left to immolate until his ashes are completely burnt too.

But just as Evans represents the worst kinds of human beings, so do some of our public servants represent the dregs of our society. The difference though is that rather than vilify the white-collar criminals like we are doing to Evans now, we celebrate them. We rankadede them when they show up in our communities in their bedecked clothes and accouterments. We trot after their sleek SUVs. We hold them in awe, drooling with admiration when their private jets land at our airports. We troop to their mansions to eat the crumbs off their tables. We never challenge them for the crimes they have committed against us…crimes with far more devastating and lasting consequences on us as a nation and as individuals. We can’t challenge them because we can never know with the kind of clarity, lucidity, and forthrightness (albeit forced) that Evans confessed to his sins. We can never know because we will never subject them to “creative” interrogation techniques.

Or will we ever strip Bukola Saraki naked; slap tight handcuffs on his hands, clasp leg-chains on him, and deny him sunlight, food, water, shelter from cold, shelter from heat, shelter from mosquitos? Will we ever subject him to marathon questioning where we get to change interrogators to give them a break but not give him any break in order to sustain weeks-long sessions and any time he dozes off, we beat the living crap out of him? Will we ever introduce a flaming rod to his private part? Will we ever introduce a hammer to his fingers and toes? Will we ever simulate drowning him? Will we ever do any of the above to him while questioning him about the allegations he faces?

When you took a look at Sambo Dasuki’s face, did you see any evidence of “creative” investigation techniques? What about that of Rabiu Kwankwaso? What about Alex Badeh’s face? What about Femi Fani-Kayode’s face? What about Stella Oduah’s face? What about Patience Jonathan’s? What about Adesola Amosu’s? And these are people against whom some of the most “fantastic” corruption allegations in the history of Nigeria have been made. Some of them have never even been arrested, let alone interrogated. Some of them have admitted to stealing (way more than Evans has stolen violently) and have started to return their loot to a government. But we don’t see them as terrible people in the same way we see Evans, even though they may have hurt our very beings beyond repair if some of the crimes against them are ever proven to be true.

Hundreds of women die monthly during childbirth because hospitals do not have the equipment to monitor their and their babies conditions, with funds meant for equipping the hospitals having been embezzled by public servants. We don’t see that as worse than what Evans did because we have not subjected the public servants to the process of atonement, the kind that Evans faced. Boko Haram successfully carved out a “country” for itself in Nigeria’s northeast, butchering thousands of innocent and poor civilians, kidnapping and raping hundreds of young school girls and Nigeria’s military could not defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity because some eminent Nigerians diverted to their pockets funds meant to arm the military. We don’t see that as a crime worthy of the kind of burn-in-a-ferocious-furnace punishment that I recommend above for Evans?

What about those death traps we call roads? What about those coffins we fly as aircraft…with funds for their maintenance having been cornered by the politicians we eulogize? What about our children’s future being taken from them when tertiary education has been priced out of their reaches?

The list is endless. We see and feel every day the litany of crimes committed against our humanity by the people we revere, trust and respect. But we have inoculated ourselves against the sense of justice, proportion and fairness in apportioning punishment to the point that we lynch a hungry man who steals a loaf of bread while saluting the public servant who steals our billions. We subject to public opprobrium and humiliation the common criminal while 50-plus Senators, 100-plus SANs, shameless media advisers, pliant prosecutors who intentionally sabotage their own cases and morally debased judges all conspire to free the highly-placed criminals. The war against corruption will fail unless we have a level playing field…the kind of field on which we played Evans; the kind of playing field that will serve as deterrence for our super-corrupt public servants.

Abiodun Ladepo

Ibadan, Oyo State

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

​2019 And The Legend Of Buhari On A Wheelchair By Emmanuel Ugwu

Considering President Muhammadu Buhari’s struggle an unremitting debilitating disease which has kept him out of his office and country indefinitely, should the 74-year -old be on the ballot in 2019?

In an ideal world, this is a non-question. The proposition carries the unmistakable undertones of callousness and mischief. For the obvious reason that President Buhari has been in a protracted state of incapacitation, it is inhuman to speculate in his electability as if he were some blue chip stock.

A certain ‘supporter’ of the president, however, responded as if the question was about a larger-than-life cult figure in a banana republic. Yes, Buhari must run for a second term. The North wants him to run ‘’even on the wheelchair.’’

The doctrinaire Buharist borrowed his response from Mrs. Grace Mugabe. Asked whether her nonagenarian husband would seek to extend his 30-year-old rule over the-food-basket-of-Africa-turned-basket-case-of-the-continent in the next presidential election, the first lady of Zimbabwe replied that her husband, Robert Mugabe, would run by all means, even if he was wheelchair-bound. (The vixen would later venture to promise that if he happened to die before the elections, he would be fielded as a ghost candidate!)

Now, it must be noted that ableism is absolutely unjustifiable. It violates the basic decencies of a civilized society. Physical disability does not diminish a man’s personhood and the physically challenged among us are entitled to the same rights, respect and opportunities enjoyed by all law-abiding members of society.

But Buhari’s re-election candidacy should be out of the question. And this has nothing to do with ableism. It has everything to do with his readiness and fitness to execute the office. So far, the unnamed ailment he suffers from has overwhelmed him to the point of being his preoccupation. The survivalist quest for recovery has rendered him unavailable to lead. Therefore, it goes without saying that he cannot be re-elected to carry on as a foreign-based, absentee president.

It is within the realm of possibility that Buhari can make a stunning health comeback. But he is no spring chicken. The reality of his age and the seriousness of his condition mean that the odds are stacked against him.

With the best medical treatment in the world and the blank check of a compassionate leave, he is still unable to bounce back in quick time. This fact suggests that his recovery is in the lap of the gods and that it is safe to regard him as a will-o’-the-wisp.

Wisdom acknowledges a present truth and constructively adapts to it. The truth of the moment, which only an ostrich’s playmate can miss, is that Buhari cannot be trusted to provide leadership at the highest level in Nigeria. Wisdom whispers that it is foolishness to plan the future around a sick, aging man with an uncertain prospect of recovery.

Let’s face it: Buhari has had his day. At the best of times, he was unable to stamp his interpretation on the role of the president. He dissipated his head of steam on hesitancy and squandered the goodwill he needed to push his agenda. With the best of will in the world, he cannot make a more effective leader out of himself now or in the future.

His sickness has tremendously weakened him as the head of the government of Nigeria and as a person. His ill-health has created the dynamic of codependency between him and his inner circle. He uses them as fig leaf for his privacy and they exploit their proximity to him to prosper as the dead hand of a privileged cabal.

In his absence, ‘Acting President’ Yemi Osinbajo has found himself working to earn brownie points for loyalty. Osinbajo flinches from taking assertive steps. He acts timid to stave off charges of ambition, instead opting to play the underling who ‘regrets’ having to hold down the fort.

He would travel to Katsina and introduce himself to the president’s kinsmen as Buhari’s son. He would not sign the budget until the cabal in London telegraphed permission in the name of the boss. He cannot inaugurate newly confirmed ministers. He cannot deal with the rampaging headhunters. He cannot move against the demented Northern youths threatening to destroy 44 trillion naira Igbo investment in the North. He cannot go beyond the brief to ‘coordinate the affairs of the nation.’

The absent president/acting president arrangement is an awkward and inconvenient theatre. It offshored power and left a well behaved figure head to maintain semblance of constitutional order. The entire administration has, however, shrunk to Osibanjo trying to impress with his loyalty to his principal. Aisha returned from London the other day to thank him for dimming his light while the master was away!

This state of affairs is not what the presidency is for. Sadly, it is most likely to persist in a second Buhari term. President Buhari has to admit that he has had his day. If he manages to weather this tenure, he should be grateful enough to retire. He needs to relieve his frame of the crushing burden of the presidency and to release the nation to progress beyond his infirmity. He needs to experience as much of the lightness of insouciance as the earth can allow.

Buhari needs to head home, whether he winds up on ‘Mugabe’s wheelchair’ or walks on his two legs before 2019. He should not contest in the 2019 elections. He lacks what it takes to run a viable presidential campaign, and more importantly, what it takes to run a country.

Subjecting himself to another campaign is a high risk bet. The rigors of another campaign will exhaust him, drain him and put his very fragile health at the mercy of chance.

I recognize that the shrine of power is never empty of sycophants. Every head of state we have had had an (un)critical mass of flatterers that took on the mission of spreading the gospel that the man of the moment was the only citizen competent to rule Nigeria. Abacha’s people said it of him. Obasanjo’s people said it of him. Jonathan’s people said it of him. And Buhari’s people are saying it of him.

The chairman of All Progressive Congress, John Odigie Oyegun, says the presidential ticket of the party is already spoken for. Buhari will have an automatic ticket. There will be no contest for presidential candidacy.

The president’s spokesman boasts that Buhari’s second term is a foregone conclusion. He has won in advance. He is invincible.

All of this sounds familiar. It is the sort of prideful thinking and arrogant talk that prefaced Jonathan’s doom. Buhari will experience a similar ruin if he permits himself to be suckered into buying the lie of his own invincibility.

He might be well thought of in the North. But the South is not as enamored of him. The wider electorate will not embrace him again without demur.

Buhari’s supporters often wheel out the degradation of Boko Haram and the fight against corruption as his notable achievements that qualify him for re-election. But whatever reduction in bloodshed that was achieved by the diminishing of the capacity of the terrorists to kill and hold territory in the North is being overcompensated for by the bloodsport of the ‘Fulani herdsmen’ in other parts of Nigeria. He has declined to apply state force against them because blood is thicker than water.

His fight against corruption has been discredited by the corruption of his closest aides and his hypocritical intervention as their human shield. He ‘cleared’ Tukur Buratai when the Dubai properties of the modest-salaried Chief of Army Staff were exposed. Buhari also wrote to clear Babachir Lawal after the SGF’s grass-cutting scam blew open. The enlightened demographic notes the double standard of in lavishing deodorant on your corrupt friends and spraying pesticide on your corrupt foes.

The economic recession, caused by a combination of the legacy of greed of the Jonathan administration and the chaotic mismanagement of the fundamentals of the economy by the Buhari administration, has caused countless job losses, spiked hunger and spread misery all over Nigeria. Many Nigerians are worse off today than they were before he took office. And their next vote will reflect their discontent.

The 2019 elections will be a referendum on Buhari and the ‘Change’ mantra of the APC. He is almost certain to lose if he stands. Any Trumpian character that taps into the anger in the land will defeat him.

The idea that the worst of Buhari is better than the best of anyone else is ridiculous. This country of 175 million people has a sprinkling of younger, visionary individuals who can do governance infinitely better than Buhari. Nigeria is not so poor in humanity that only a frail Buhari is qualified to be president.

The last thing Nigeria needs is a president that cannot function. We need an energetic president. A virile president with smart ideas.

And the North needs that kind of president even more. The North is the backwater of Nigeria and seems fated to remain so for the foreseeable future. All that Northerners have benefited from the long rule of their ‘brothers’ is the vicarious feeling of being in power, worsening poverty and burgeoning out-of-school-kids population.

The North may want ‘Buhari on the wheelchair’. But they need a strong president. They need a stronger president more than the other half of the country.

You can reach Emmanuel at immaugwu@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EmmaUgwuTheMan

Dear Acting President Osinbajo, Saraki Is Coming, Act Fast!, By Akin Fadeyi

“Nelson Mandela was an extra ordinary human being. He put a strong “truth and reconciliation” committee together. He was not insulting everyone and anyone. It earned him global respect.

“Leadership matters when you want to heal a divided nation. Donald Trump hurls abusive speeches at every perceived opposition in sight and that has greatly damaged America”.

These were very punchy and incisive comments of Ed Luce, Financial Times‘ chief commentator on Fareed Zakaria GPS on the night of Sunday June 18, 2017.

The opening topic was on why GOP Congressman and Louisiana Rep, Steve Scalise, was shot by an obviously disgruntled 66 year old American who had nursed disgust for Donald Trump’s style of racially divisive politics. James T. Hodgkinson was lurking in dark shadows like an untamed reptile. He struck before anyone could cage him and dealt a great blow not through the injury caused Scalise but actually to the ideals of diversity America once proudly represented.

I have written against Donald Trump before, describing him as a “bad dream for a fragile world”.

But nonetheless, I love Trump because he is down to earth, sometimes recklessly though, but again, you cannot fault his unconventional radicalised Republican brand of politics. Hate him all you like, he has millions of followers who look up to his “rascally” tweets. In a democracy with all its faults, it is figures that still count. Trump seems to have the figures, albeit within a nation now beleaguered by naked hate and prejudice.

Having said this, there are learnings to pick from Fareed’s GPS guests’ stance that a nation is full of divergent political interests, social alignments and cultural leanings; and therefore, you cannot be insensitive to the feelings of the led as a leader.

In terms of Nigeria, I have no doubt the acting president, Yemi Osibajo is probably genuine in his efforts at harmonising various positions in this nation and bridging the divides. The same Sunday on Channels TV, I saw his rapprochement with South-East Leaders. He has been to Cross River; and a few days ago, he hosted the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to a very private meeting at the Villa.
Osinbajo is writing some plausibly good history as a strong believer in a compact Nigeria. Awesome.

But let me give the acting president a piece of advice. David Blankenhorn, activist and president of “Better Angels” does something for America that Osinbajo needs to do in Nigeria. His organisation brings grassroots people together, despite their political differences. His organisation believes people can get angry at each other, debate emotionally against each other, but they must all be heard with a sole focus on nation-building and genuine national healing. He strongly recommends a public square engagement.Another guest on Fareed’s GPS warned against “dehumanising” Steve Scalise’s shooter, James Hodgkinson and painting him totally evil. He describes the shooter as a symbolic representation of certain hurt, frustrated and shattered feelings after Trump shaped America’s political narrative with racial colourations. He wants this hush-tone section of the nation to be heard, understood and brought back to the mainstream.

The acting president, at this stage, cannot engage with elites and leaders alone while assuming that the real agitators are committing heresy. The anger and agitation is down here, Mr. Acting President. I doubt those “leaders” have the ears of the crowd you are trying to rein in. If they did, IPOB would not arise, OPC will not flourish and Arewa Youths would never have issued an ultimatum.

The acting president must necessarily open up strategic and far-reaching processes of honest and robust engagements, where every tribe is allowed to openly express where and how they have been hurt. Where no tribe feels superior to the other. Where citizens will now believe and trust the government. Where leadership is handed to competence and not federal character, but is also well managed within the delicate thresholds of our interests and diversities. Where federal government vacancies are not presumably filled up “already by their children” despite paid advertorials. The government must identify with the genuine youth who want to discuss without angling or positioning themselves for pecuniary gains. Many “youth leaders” seize the microphone and utter gibberish once they have access to the media. The job of identifying the truly aggrieved and the honestly prepared in national discourse must be factored into our engagement template.

The executive, I dare say, must confront our fears and maybe revisit the national confab report which is about to evolve into a nuisance-value boobytrap that ex-President Jonathan inadvertently put in place for this administration.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo must carefully manage how he serves into the hands of the NASS, whose members are now demanding for the consideration of the 2014 confab report, without falling naively for a populist goal about to be scored against the presidency. The presidency has conceded many of these recently.

I am still in doubt over what the underlying motive of our senators are. If it is positive, then that is great for Nigeria. Not a few, though, will be pleasantly surprised. On Channels TV a few days ago, even the then confab chairman, Senator Femi Okunrounmu expressed reservations about the National Assembly’s sudden interest in the report, so soon after Senate president, Bukola Saraki was let off the hook in a no-case submission and acquittal by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which Professor Itse Sagay has been losing sleep over. For the NASS to now open the books of the confab report, this will be a masterstroke move to “buy-the-public” applause in a political chess game. But hey, who would not like to us to discuss the issues tearing us apart for which we have been living in denial? In-here lies why the National Assembly might trounce the Executive once again, and in a silly manner too. If Saraki organises a national grassroots forum today for these discussions, he would have a huge crowd. The presidency must act fast – they either play this game or glide painfully into public irrelevance.

Overall, we must all mean well for this nation no matter which desk we occupy. Corruption is still a damning monster and it is actually getting brazenly bold. Leaders should visit social media occasionally and find out the huge extent to which the people have lost faith in the government’s anti corruption fight. We must go back to the drawing board and re-strategise. The acting president should read the Chatham House report where a holistic approach involving grassroots behavioural change is recommended as a great tool for tackling corruption.

We must patriotically work towards building a nation where no one sees any other person as inferior. Where Yorubas don’t feel Hausas are “hungry for power” and where Igbos don’t feel “Yorubas can’t be trusted”. I have met fantastic Northerners, civilised Igbos and golden-hearted Yorubas. Those dividing us don’t mean well for us. Their intentions are not beyond their ambitions.

This country is beautiful and holds a promise: But the frank realities confronting us cannot be skirted over. Doing so may damage us irredeemably.

Shall I say, God bless Nigeria? For those who believe there’s some God somewhere; and an ‘amen’ might mean a lot at this critical moment in our nation’s history.

Akin Fadeyi is Convener of the Not In My Country Project.

How Much Of Your Neighbor Do You Really Know : Evans And The Rise Of The Invisible Neighbor By Louis Odion

Mathew Hassan Kukah (MHK) perhaps best framed a key ethical question bogging the contemporary society with collapsing values. To reclaim the moral boundary, the engaging Catholic Bishop once argued that it is no longer enough for the cleric to expressly grant request by a congregant to bless their endeavor out of shared ecumenical spirit without first ascertaining its nature.
To gloss over such little details is to risk donating the ecclesiastical seal to an undertaking likely to fail the integrity test, thus inadvertently allowing the impression to be created that mere sprinkling of “holy water” could confer the same hygiene outlaws usually crave in seeking to have their loot laundered. And in case such “enterprise” turns out to be less than licit, the shepherd stands as condemned as that calculating Pharisee.

Of course, we can take liberty to assume that implied in MHK’s sermon is also a frown at pastors who readily demand and accept gifts of private jets or limousines from their “spiritual children” who, in reality, were no other than those already officially certified as fuel subsidy thieves or vampires sucking crude oil from the nation’s pipelines.

Today, against the backcloth of the fabulous revelations since last Saturday of the exploits of kidnap king, Chukwudi Onuamadike (a.k.a Evans), MHK’s words could not be more pungent.

Until he met his Waterloo, Evans would easily have passed as a celebrity next door. He possessed and flaunted all that are now discounted as the only success indicators by our increasingly materialistic society: big houses at home and abroad, front-row seats at the temple, big cars, big titles, big family often on foreign holidays, etc.

At his upscale estate, neighbors recall he was the perfect resident. He paid his dues promptly even though he avoided community meetings like a plague. Watching him driving by in exotic automobiles or power bike, many must have eyed him with envy, wishing God put them in his shiny shoes.

At the car wash, he would sit inside his wonder-on-wheels with the engine running while the cleaning lasted.

In his village, we read about his step-brother describing him in flattering terms as “nice, kind-hearted guy”.

We also read of fat envelopes donated by him to charity homes and temples of worship.

One account (though unconfirmed) states he was arrested and arraigned in court earlier this year alongside his wife but, predictably, soon bought his way to freedom.

But what many must still find most puzzling is how a man dreaded for sowing fear and terror across the land for years, almost thought invincible as to warrant the police placing big bounty on head, would eventually be found not in a fortress or catacomb, but at a regular tenement.

This could in part be attributed to the dysfunctionality of the three socializing agencies: family, the neighborhood and those sociologists describe as “the significant others”.

That Evans could inhabit Magodo for so long and remain invisible is a reflection of the new reality in our big cities. Everyone is in a hurry. People rush out even before dawn in pursuit of a living. On return at dusk, they are mostly too broken by the pressure at work, agonizing over what awaits them the next day. By weekend, most prefer to remain indoors, lying in bed more or less, trying to recover the breath they lost during the past grueling working days.

In place of old-fashioned hearty chatter in neighborhood recreational parks over drinks, we now find it more convenient to set up WhatsApp conference on the go. Social media platforms are taking the place of the clubs and confraternities of old as the new socializing venues. Phone calls are replacing physical visits. Fawning symbols contrived by computer are now accepted as substitute for the bonhomie of old, that throaty human laughter in real life. Territorial boundaries have collapsed.

So, over time, the big paradox unfolds: neighbors grow into strangers even when social media is supposed to bridge distance. While rapid urbanization is robbing our communities of their soul, technology is increasingly rendering our humanity impersonal.

Only that could explain why no one still seemed to have taken notice of sneaky Evans in Magodo even three years after the police placed a ransom on his head. In the days gone by when intimacy defined the community, Evans would not have been able to hide for so long. Neighbors were each other’s keeper. Suspicion would have easily arisen if anyone chose to step out of line.

Once upon a time, when three or four people were gathered, someone was bound to break the ice soon. But not any more. Today, rather than chat up an acquaintance at a public space, we would rather now spend the time fondling our phone devices – texting or browsing.

In a way, the concept of society has changed. Instagram, Facebook and other cyber platforms constitute the new society. Seamless as access could be, the values are false, the language vile. They have become arena to show off.

It used to be said that when your yam harvest was bountiful, shared communal sense of proportion dictated that the news be hoarded, if not entirely hidden. Today, we all seem in a hurry to even exaggerate our worth on social media as if modesty has become a cardinal sin. We glory in spending what we don’t earn.

It explains why soon it took only few moments after Evans was paraded Monday for pictures of his brood to surface online, oozing opulence. Though the source was not stated, it is most likely to be screen-grab from either Instagram or Facebook entry. Such is the perversion of the new society.

On the other hand, family failure is undoubtedly illustrated in Evans’ evolution from a petty thief to becoming the czar of the underworld. According to reports, his parents knew he was into crime and unwittingly aided and abetted him by keeping silence.

At least, his father reportedly admitted his son once told him he was into drug trafficking. While the mom was said to know of the kidnappings but never gave her blessings.

Planning, conducting reconnaissance and executing kidnaps on Evans’ scale and keeping victims for months, evading security dragnet, definitely require uncommon intelligence. If only Evans deployed his in a positive way.

Parental deficit of the Onuamadikes could be situated in the context of what is now commonly termed the “micro-wave” parenting model. It consists of the abdication of responsibility by the authority figures at home often under the excuse of pursuing daily bread.

When the parents cannot meet the family’s basic needs, they often end up forfeiting their voices all together at home. When a son without visible source of likelihood brings home brand new SUV or undergraduate daughter begins to flaunt the next generation I-phone, how many parents still possess the moral authority to ask questions?

Surely, the bottom of sudden wealth is often very murky indeed.

Overall, more poignant questions certainly await the Onuamadikes. Apart from possible tepid reprimands uttered understandably beyond the earshot of a third party or immersion in the usual “fasting and prayer”, what other concrete steps did they take to really wean their ward off the life of crime early in the day?

A parent who cherishes the family’s good name, is conscious of the inevitability of Karma and un-desirous of eternal shame would not have quickly thrown up their hands in cheap surrender.

Even more abominable is the role of the wife. Evans reportedly confessed that his spouse sometimes cashed the ransom on his behalf. Could he have lied to her on the real nature of his “business”? But it would have been humanly impossible for her to remain in the dark all these years while her hubby rolled in billions without an office address.

The only logical conclusion to make under the circumstance is that she knew about all the secrets trips, the nocturnal calls and why the bales of dollars bore bloodstains. We are then let into the grotesque shadow of Jezebel and Saphira rolled into one. And then, what sort of business could they been telling their children daddy was doing?

Again, what sort of a woman – a mother of five at that! – would happily go to bed with and wake beside a devil like Evans each morning? And she was not scared of having her children trained with such blood money? We can only pray the iniquities of the evil couple don’t come back to haunt the little children who must be treated as innocent in the circumstance.

As for the “significant others”, the guilt list will certainly stretch from the social circuits to the conclave of miracle merchants and allied specialists who partook of Evans’s tainted dollars. He often introduced himself as “international businessman”. Nigerian ambassador to Ghana reportedly attended a shindig once held in his honor in Accra.

Evans also reportedly confessed that he gave fantastic donations in form of offering to churches, thereby implicating pastors in his web of sin. What then remains is for him to name all his spiritual fathers – both orthodox and traditional – who collected dollars in appreciation of “special prayers” or ritual sacrifice to help him either beat police traps or evade arrests all these years.

Then, you can be sure many in cassocks across the west coast will be losing sleep in the times ahead.

This leads us back to MHK’s golden charge. More would certainly be achieved if more and more of our pastors, imams and traditional priests join in helping to enshrine a custom that dishonors wealth which provenance is either suspicious or unknown. No more recognition or glorifying so-called business moguls of no visible merchandise and who purports to run an office without an identifiable address.

Of course, that will only mean massive pay-cut for many self-styled prophets. Recall the story of a popular Lagos-based prosperity pastor implicated in the theft by a church member sometime ago. The latter was found out by his employer in the hospitality industry to have systematically stolen tens of millions of Naira as account clerk.

He later confessed to the police that more than half of his loot was donated to his church either as offering or “seeds”. He said each time the pastor made an altar call for “anyone blessed or expecting miracles” to sow a seed, he was often over-powered by a spirit to give and give.

The bigger shocker came when the implicated pastor was eventually confronted. While not denying receipt of millions and a giant generating set, he categorically ruled out the possibility of a refund even after it became clear the source was unclean.

So, the impression invariably created in public mind could be put roughly as this: were Judas Iscariot to offer ten percent of his infamous 30 shekels of silver to that same pastor, it would be game as well.

Such is the new ethical bind we now have to deal with.

Now, a little quiz for the day: how much of your neighbor do you really know?

​Judges’ Recall And Malami’s Crocodile Tears By Azu Ishiekwene

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari just boxed itself into a corner and the National Judicial Council (NJC) is very pleased to beat the government with a big stick.
After last year’s dramatic arrest of nine judges on suspicion of corruption and the sense of relief that Buhari had, at last, taken the fight to the fallen temple of justice (aptly described by Femi Falana as the ‘new supermarket’), the government has been caught on its back foot.

Days after the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) made the ridiculous call for the judges to be recalled, the NJC recalled them without wasting time. What is left to complete the government’s humiliation is a ceremony for the government to convey its profound apologies to the judges for the inconveniences they may have suffered in the last eight months.

It’s a sad moment.

Of course, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has dramatized his anger at the NJC’s decision and has promised that the government would appeal.

If he’s pretending to be angry to impress us, he needs to get over himself. It’s the incompetence of his office that has brought this embarrassment on the head of his own government and it’s a pity if he doesn’t understand that.

When the NBA, the tail that wags the NJC dog, issued a statement at the end of May saying that judges under investigation should resume sitting and that the government should terminate the charges of corruption filed against them, Malami should have known what was coming next.

He should have known that that was exactly the shot in the arm that the NJC needed to rescue its tribesmen from disgrace. Curiously, he let it slip.

Then came the second chance to show that the slip up was, well, a mistake. Six days after the NBA’s statement, the NJC issued a statement on Saturday asking the judges to resume on Wednesday – all of this happened within eight working days. Again, Malami let the eight days slip.

If the AGF and his team of nearly 1,000 lawyers in the Ministry of Justice could not file any charges in eight days (worst case by Monday) to potentially save the country from the spectre and embarrassment of a few judges sashaying from the dock to the bench, then I think the honorable minister should seriously start thinking of something else to do.

A faction of the NBA, the NJC and their political wing in the National Assembly have always wanted to cripple the anti-corruption war, discredit it or have it on their own terms. The minister is lending them a hand.

The NBA is right in saying that eight months is a long time to arrest the judges without filing any formal charges against them. But surely these lawyers cannot pretend that a court system that subjects tens of hundreds of other citizens to this same misery should work differently for judges.

The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prison Service said in March that out of the 68,000 inmates in the prisons, 46,351 or 68 percent are awaiting trial. Some of them may have been detained for years for giving their dog a bad name, but the NBA does not think it has any business to speak up for them.

Of course, it begs the question, why the delay after the dramatic arrests eight months ago?

One of the reasons why the Lagos State judiciary remains exemplary is that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, took personal responsibility for the implementation of the reforms. He was a professional, not a politician.

He did his homework, copied and adapted the best examples and practices wherever he could find them and personally led the state’s legal team to court when it was necessary. He provided leadership.

Under Malami, it would seem that leadership means a commando-style raid on the judges and letting foreign travels do the rest. There are credible reports that when the Ministry was preparing the charges against the judges, the Minister was away on a foreign trip to Turkey, while his staff were groping. It may well be that he traveled to save the Republic, but home is where the redemption is most needed.

Malami must get that clear. The anti-corruption war is one of the major pillars of Buhari’s agenda, and if the man who should lead its legal charge is distracted, confused or perceived to be incompetent, then the war is lost.

Of course he cannot do it alone, and no one is suggesting that he should. It is within his powers to ensure that the anti-corruption agencies – the EFCC, the ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau – are giving their best; it is his duty to make any changes necessary, where this is not the case.

It was also to strengthen his hands that the National Prosecution Coordination Committee was launched last year for high profile corruption cases, and that was months after the Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption was also inaugurated.

So, instead of pretending to be upset and vowing to close the stable after the horse has bolted, Malami must tell the public why, in spite of the range of assets available to him, he could either not file charges against the judges or did so in a manner that suggests he was pleased to cut off the tail of the snake.

The NJC does not smell of roses either. How can it say, with a bold face, that judges with such heavy clouds of suspicion hanging over their heads should resume and start judging others?

How can the Council, against the most elementary requirement of equity, maliciously ignore petitions against its own members and ask them to continue sitting in judgment over others? Is this what the Lord Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen promised at his swearing in when he said he would fight corruption? Have we, milord, entered the phase of two laws, one country?

Recall is not acquittal, so perhaps Malami has another chance to save himself and his government’s reputation.

It’s also heartening that the offenses for which the judges were arrested are not time barred. If NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, wants to lead a delegation of the NBA to apologize to the judges on behalf of its members and enablers, that’s fine.

But Malami has to show, within the next two weeks, that he is ready, willing and able to bring the judges to justice.

In the fight against corruption, he has to show the presence of mind and leadership that his office and the country deserve. Else he might as well resign and start his Kebbi governorship campaign immediately.

Azu Ishiekwene is the Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.

Dumb And Dumber: Nigerians And Their Leaders By Charles Odimgbe

I have come to the realization that Nigerian leaders are dumb, and we the citizens are even dumber. With the news media replete with news of the mindlessness, self-aggrandizement, looting, pillaging and personal enrichment by our politicians, we the citizens just talk about it and bury our heads in the sand as if this too shall come to pass. With the economic recession biting so deeply into the lives of the average person, our leaders put on blinders while we seem to have resigned to our faith that nothing is going to change. Rather than focus on getting our system right, we engage in all kinds of vices as shortcut to make ends meet. In the papers, every day, you read about ritual killings, armed robbery, kidnapping, killings by our so called protective forces, conflicts and clashes between the cattlemen and farmers. You hear about politicians making crass and insensitive statements that make you scratch your head and go “huh”? What do we do in response? We engage prayer warriors and flock in thousands to fake churches, hoping that God will come down from heaven and rescue us.

The fight against corruption is almost dead due to lack of support, tribalism, partisanship, and an inept as well as unethical judicial system that makes no sense. It is amazing that after one year of fighting corruption, we have nothing to show but court appeals and counter appeals.

Nigeria’s purported annual budget designed to help the country out of recession remains unimplemented for one reason or another. If the fight against corruption, as some argue, is tilted, with the All Progressives Congress (APC) only investigating and prosecuting members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), so be it! Hell, if or when the PDP comes to power, they will have the opportunity to investigate and prosecute APC members – and that is if they will ever get their act together enough to regain the center.

We watch as errant Governors make pronouncements that border on treason, separatist movements agitating for their own destinies, as if it is a cure-all for our woes. Our elected representatives enact state laws that fly against the constitution, and federal laws that trample on the state rights and the rights of the common man. We have no electricity but still pay our electric bills every month. No basic amenities such as roads, water, sewer and drainage systems, but pay all kinds of dues as part of Internally Generated Revenue, to our leaders to divert for their own personal benefits. We read how much monies our leaders arrogate to themselves, how they convert public property and vehicles for personal use, how they donate public funds to their preferred personal projects, and award contracts to their friends and cronies who are barely qualified to execute such projects. The Internet is saturated with gruesome and unsavory images of dead bodies caused by accidents, lynching by angry mobs for unsubstantiated and petty crimes, and people harvesting body parts for rituals. Many of our young women have now turned to prostitution as a survival mechanism – serving rich businessmen and politicians, while some young men have turned to kidnapping. Meanwhile their schools have remained as dilapidated as ever.

Every day, our leaders jet out to exotic cities, spending millions of dollars to vacation and to receive medical attention—even as Nigerian hospitals remain dilapidated and unmaintained. American presidents do not vacation or go overseas for medical treatment. They made sure that they have all they need within their shores to take care of themselves. Not Nigeria. We are content in reaping where we did not sow. It does not matter that the citizens that elected these dumb politicians are dying by the scores for ailments that could be cured by simple antibiotics, yet we stand and shout about whose political party is being victimized for embezzling our money.

The question would be, does our political elite not know about the state of the economy? Do they not see these gruesome images on the Internet? Do they not understand the impact of all these stolen monies on the economy and population at large? Do they not drive on these tattered roads with their 4-wheel drive vehicles? Do they not smell the stench coming from feces due to lack of functional sewer systems? Are they too blind to see the erosion eating away at our landscape due to lack of proper drainage system?

Do these political “leaders” not hear the cries of the masses, the dying, the infighting, and the confusion? Hell, yes, they do! They just don’t care. They have concluded that the masses they are charged with looking after are even dumber and that they could get away with anything regardless. That’s about the only way one could explain their illogical and immoral behaviors given the decay that Nigeria is facing today. The Nigerian elite is so dumb and arrogant they no longer understand that they are tied to the faith and future of that country. They the lack morals and foresight to understand that whatever the image of Nigeria is overseas, such is their image!

If our leaders are DUMB, we who elected them are even DUMBER! With our country failing, we bury our heads in the sand, talk politics all day, and pray all night. To cap it all, whatever little earning we have, rather than invest in worthwhile projects, we relinquish them to our churches while our children starve to death. We are dumber because we have failed to ask the right questions of our political elite or anyone in power. We lack so much self-esteem that we are content if anyone from our state is in power and gloat as if they were our blood relatives. No, it does not matter that this so-called attitude is negatively affecting our daily lives. No, all that matters is that the sense that we have someone in power. We hold on to that illusion even when we cannot feed our family today. We are so dumb and hence the reason we never ask ourselves why I should pay electric bill when I have no light? How long will that cup of rice, distributed by my senator, last for my family and me while the senator siphons all our monies overseas? Why do I need a governor and local officials when there are no roads, functional hospitals, storm drainage system or running water? All we do is pray, fast, complain everyday about how Buhari is Buharing every one.

Reinhold once said, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things that I can.” Nowhere did he ask God to do anything for him, only grant him the courage the change the things he could. Nigerians have no courage! We are all cowards! Our leaders have done a fine job of feeding us fish every day and now we cannot fish for ourselves. Change does not happen by divine intervention. Change happens because people got sick and tired of being sick and tired. However, Nigerians are never fed up, we hold onto this belief that one day a Chineke will come and rescue us. The question is why? An economist once opined that Nigeria is a country where the worst never happens but nothing ever gets better. That in a nutshell is a description of why we are still suffering and smiling. Our stupidity today has been confirmed! Even as things are getting worse, still we endure and shout fire, fire, fire every day. Well, we’ve got fire all right.

Today any separatist with a twitter is calling for the separation of the country. I ask myself why? If we are not able to manage this country Nigeria that was handed to us in tact by the British, what makes you think we could better manage it broken apart. The truth of the matter is that Nigeria has become a country of “chop-I-chop” and those advocating for a breakup of the country are simply perfecting a ruse for another set of greedy selfish persons to gain access and perpetuate the same pillaging we see today.

In my previous article “Buhari, Now What” I outlined how every person in that country has a role to play in our progress, but are we playing those roles. This is the time to start taking your country back. For starters, if the government does not supply you with electricity 75% of the time in a month, don’t pay the bill. What will they do, disconnect the light that you never had? Since the government has refused to provide us with proper road amenities, send a clear message to your elected officials and put them on notice that your vote is going to someone who will work to pave the roads! And mean it! Show your faces in the numbers and demand to know – it is your right. If you believe that paying a senator N250,000,000 a month is over the top, ask them to reduce it! Picket, demonstrate and rally peacefully. Inform your local representative that if those numbers do not change, he will be unemployed come election time. Having said all these, I venture to make one prediction. Nothing will happen. In Nigeria, our leaders are dumb and we the citizens are even dumber.