The New Year presidential speech – Thisday Newspaper Editorial

President Buhari may disapprove, but there is a dire need to restructure the federation 

The choice of the beginning of a new year to deliver a progress report and map a new policy direction is not so usual. Most New Year speeches usually dwell on homilies and good wishes. But rather curiously, President Muhammadu Buhari chose last Monday, which ordinarily should be to welcome Nigerians into 2018, to literally launch an infrastructure renewal agenda with items that will not be completed in less than another 36-48 months.

While there is nothing wrong about such a not-so-subtle second term bid declaration, it is nonetheless disappointing that there was nothing in the speech on elements that could alleviate the growing hardship within the populace: healthcare delivery; meaningful educational revamp; access to affordable housing; economic strategy that matches the president’s populist pretensions, etc. Easily the most credible point was made on agriculture. But increase in agricultural production without an integral industrial processing strategy will only leave us exporting primary produce to markets we don’t control.

On the whole, therefore, there was not much to inspire in the speech. Yet, there are two aspects to worry about. First, the president dismissed the calls for restructuring the country on the pretext that, “our problems are more to do with process than structure”; and then, his only solution to the problem in the downstream sector which has led to incessant fuel scarcity in recent years is not to deregulate or end the corrupt and grossly inefficient subsidy regime but rather to finger-point and blame marketers, despite what his Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, is saying about the reason for the crisis we face and the choices that have to be made.

On restructuring, President Buhari’s position flies in the face of the position of several prominent Nigerian stakeholders, including the one canvassed last September by the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on how the glaring failings of the present arrangement in the country should compel a rethink because, as he said, “it would be better to restructure things to attain the correct balance between our collective purpose on one hand and our separate grassroots realities on the other.”

While the major problem in the system today is more about the absence of good governance at all levels, we must nonetheless acknowledge that we have a serious structural problem. When complemented with mechanism for improving accountability, the proposal being pushed by many critical stakeholders has the potential for strengthening the structural design for good governance and human development in Nigeria.

As we have consistently argued on this page, most of the current 36 states are too small and too under-resourced to be economically viable, such that they depend almost entirely on allocations from the Federation Accounts the bulk of which they expend on salaries and other recurrent expenditures. The counter-veiling mechanisms that ensure some level of accountability at the centre are either non-existent or too weak in these fragmented units and the logical result is that the promise of good governance embedded in the theory of decentralisation is delivered almost always in the breach.

On the fuel subsidy, the current situation harms rather than help the people. What President Buhari and his administration must realise is that as long as the subsidy remains, the incentive for private and public actors to game the system will continue to be there. Also, as long as there is default in subsidy payment, which is not inconceivable given the current state of our finances, supply will be constrained, thus pushing up the pump price many times above the market price, with untold hardship on the populace, especially the poor, as we witnessed during the last Ch ristmas holiday.

In all, last Monday’s speech did not reflect the reality of the Nigerian condition and there is much cause to worry, especially now that President Buhari is seeking a second term.

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‘Dead’ President And Dead Men in His Cabinet By Erasmus Ikhide

The discovery of dead persons names on President Muhammadu Buhari’s boards’ appointments made last weekend signposted a nation in constant trauma, plagued by inept leadership and a stubbornly disoriented clique that has held Buhari’s Presidency hostage, while the people who are at the receiving end languish in abject penury. We are talking about dead; its meaning and those in President Buhari’s government. Termination or expiration of existence sounds most profound — a dead government, organisation, organism or a person is dead to reasoning; emotion, recognition and feeling — or when leadership can no longer put a face to its name. Literarily speaking, President Buhari has been a dead ‘man’, as much as his presidency. He fails to put a face to his presidency by ensuring that he fulfils all or some of his electoral promises to the mass of Nigerian people. Buhari is ‘dead’ for refusing or failing to fulfil his 2015 Presidential manifesto to revive and reactivate our minimally performing refineries to optimum capacity. 

The president is ‘dead’ for his inability to see through his promise to ensure that the oil industry becomes one of the world leading/cutting edge centres for clean oil and gas technology by producing leading world Oil and Gas technologist, scientists, and owing mega structure installations, drilling, processing, and production facilities and engineers. He is ‘dead’ because Nigerians are yet to see the fulfilment of his promise that these facilities and scientists will be supported with the best services and research facilities. President Buhari is ‘dead’ since the promise to fully develop the oil sector’s capacity to absorb more of the nation’s new graduate in the labour market has not come to fruition. He is ‘dead’ governmentally because he told us that the oil sector will be funded to produce more home-grown, but world-class engineers, scientists, technologist, etc, and nothing has happened. Buhari government is ‘non-existence’ because his pledges to modernise the NNPC and make it the national energy champion has not been actualised. Buhari is ‘dead’ because he vowed to breakup NNPC into more efficient, commercially driven units and strip it of its regulatory powers, so as to enable it to tap into the international capital market, and Nigerians are still waiting three-year down the road.

Mr. Buhari is ‘dead’ since his promise to enforce the government master plan for oil companies to end flaring that pollutes the air and damages the communities and people’s health and ensure that they sell at least half of their gas produced within Nigeria has failed. His presidency might just be alive because he advocated speedy passage of the much-delayed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and ensure that local content issues are fully addressed. But he is ‘dead’ because he vowed to make Nigeria the world’s leading exporter of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) through the creation of strategic partnerships. President Buhari is completely ‘dead’ because he promised to stabilise oil price and the same oil price has quadrupled.

This President is ‘dead’ for not initiating policies to ensure that Nigerians are free to live and work in any part of the country by removing state of origin, tribe, ethnic and religious affiliations from documentation requirements in our identification of citizens and replace these with State of Residence and fashion out the appropriate minimal qualification for obtaining such a state of residency, nation-wide in accordance with his party manifesto.

President Buhari is ‘dead’ since he could not put in place a N300bn Regional Growth Fund with an average of N50bn in each geo-political region to encourage private sector enterprise and to support places currently reliant on only the public sector, to migrate to a private sector reality, as he promised. Buhari government is ‘dead’ for not creating a Social Welfare Program of at least Five Thousand Naira (N5000) that will cater for the 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens upon the demonstration of children’s enrolment in school, create 5 million jobs and evidence of immunisation to help promote family stability.

This government has ‘expired’ for not providing free antenatal care for pregnant women; free health care for babies and children up to school going age and for the aged; and free treatment for those afflicted with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The APC government is at its ‘tipping’ point for not creating an Insurance Policy for our Journalists as the nation faces hard times and our Journalists face more dangers; for not establishing zonal world-class sports academics and training institutes and ensure that Nigeria occupies a place of pride in global sports and athletics as it promised.

Buhari cabinet is truly and ethically ‘dead’ for not assisting Nollywood to fully develop into world class movie industry that can compete effectively with Hollywood and Bollywood in due course; guarantee that women are adequately represented in government appointments and provide greater opportunities in education, job creation, and economic empowerment, and for not using the party structures to promote the concept of reserving a minimum number of seats in the States and National Assembly, for women.

This government is in abeyance for its refusal to create shelterbelts in states bordering the Sahara Desert to mitigate and reverse the effects of the expanding desert. There is a ‘carcass’ of government presently since Buhari refused to create 20,000 jobs per state immediately for those with a minimum qualification of secondary school leaving certificate and who participate in technology and vocational training.

President Buhari antigraft war is a mere ‘cadaver’ for not placing the burden of proving innocence in corruption cases on persons with inexplicable wealth. His anti-corruption crusade is a cynical mockery of due process because he refused to pursue legislation expanding forfeiture and seizure of assets laws and procedure with respect to inexplicable wealth, regardless of whether there is a conviction for criminal conduct or not.

The ‘demise’ of President Buhari and his government are loudly amplified by his failure to provide free tertiary education to students pursuing Science and Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), a promise he stoutly made to Nigerian students in 2015, prior to his presidency. His presidency is not ‘alive’ to provide free tertiary education to education majors and stipends prior to their employment as teachers, as contain in his manifesto; create incentives and dedicate special attention to the education of girls, ensure every child attending primary school is properly nourished and ready to learn by providing a Free Meal a Day.

Buhari government is a ‘skeleton’ for not achieving the construction of one million low-cost houses within four years for the poor; stop all travel abroad at government expense for the purpose of medical treatment. In fact, the president has been unexampled in this regard since independence! This government can’t be said to be ‘alive’ for not providing incentives for Nigerian doctors and health practitioners working abroad to return home, to strengthen the health care industry in Nigeria and provide quality care to those who need it, and making sure people at a local level benefit from mining and mineral wealth by vesting all mineral rights in land to states.

Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, former Lagos State Governor and currently the Federal Minister of Power, Works and Housing echoed one of his party’s manifesto when he jabbed at former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wobbling government that “a serious government will fix power problem in six months”. “There is a danger that very soon, we will miss the lesson we have learnt over the years. This is because if a government makes a public commitment, the government must fulfil that promise. Electricity was not discovered yesterday, it is over 100 years old and no excuses will be acceptable from the federal government for not providing electricity.
“We are the only nation that has oil and gas and no electricity to its citizens. Angola and Gabon don’t have the kind of oil we have. There are many countries that do not produce oil and they enjoy electricity. Very soon we will make a choice on the next set of leaders and this will be done through the ballot papers.”

By a twist of fate, Fashola has been made minister over the last two-year and has been aping at electricity generation and has failed woefully. Fashola is one of the ‘dead’ members of President Buhari’s cabinet. He has failed himself and failed Nigerians who he deceived to vote for Buhari. Buhari, Fashola and the likes of Ibe Kachikwu, Maikanti Baru, Mr. Abubakar Malami, Abba Kyari and other cabinet members are not different from the truly dead Senator Francis Okpozo; Rev. Fr. Christopher Utov, DIG Donald Ugbaja (rtd), Garba Attahiru, Umar Dange, Dr. Nabbs Imegwu, Magdalene Kumu and many more to be discovered in the disjointed appointments that took nearly three-year to materialised.

While we await national rebirth of some sort, it is of the essence that we think our way out of the present leadership conundrum offered by the PDP and the APC for nearly two decades, respectively. No nation can make meaningful progress when when her political, civil, economic and spiritual wellbeing is disorderly yoked together by military Fiat without the people’s input. Nations are doomed when the people lazy away in their irresponsibility to call leaders to account and sanction them with a verdict of rejection at elections. President Buhari deserves just that in 2019.

Erasmus, Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Lagos. 
Email: ikhideerasmus@gmail.com
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @ikhide_erasmus1

Blame Passing, Social Media Automated Mumus – The New Year Gift To A Nation By Wole Soyinka

In the accustomed tradition, I wish the nation less misery in the coming year. A genuine Happy New Year Greeting is probably too extravagant a wish.

The accompanying news clipping from June,1977 came into my hands quite fortuitously. It is forty years old. It captures the unenviable enigma that is the Nigerian nation. It is however a masterful end-of-year image to take into the coming year, not only for the individual now at the helm of government, General Buhari, but for a people surely credited with the most astounding degree of patience and forbearance on the African continent – except of course among themselves, when they turn into predatory fiends. When many of us are blissfully departed, an updated rendition of this same clipping – with a change of cast here and there – will undoubtedly be reproduced in the media, with the same alibis, the same in-built panacea of blame passing.

Let this be called to our collective memory. Even before the current edition of the fuel crisis, other challenges, requiring immediate fix, had begun to monopolize national attention, relegating to the sidelines the outcry for a fundamental and holistic approach to the wearisome cycle of citizen trauma. This has been expressed most recently, and near universally in the word “Restructuring”, defined straightforwardly as a drastic overhaul of Nigerian articles of co-existence in a more rational, equitable and decentralized manner. Such an overhaul, the re-positioning of the relationship between the parts and the whole offers, it has been strongly argued, prospects of a closer governance awareness of, and responsiveness to citizen entitlement. An overhaul that will near totally eliminate the frequent spasms of systemic malfunctioning that are in-built into the present protocols of national association.

I recently ran the gauntlet of petroleum queues through three conveniently situated cities – Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan – deliberately, this Friday. Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint-hearted. Just getting past fueling stations was traumatizing, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better. I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long-suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centers. It is time the reporting monitors of government move to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen! Pronouncements – such as the 1977 above – again re-echoing by rote in 2017– are a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence. Buying time. Passing blame. Yes of course, the current affliction must be remedied, and fast, but is there a dimension to it that must be brought to the fore, simultaneously and forcefully? This had better be the framework for solving even a shortage that virtually paralyzed the nation.

Just to think laterally for a moment – what became of the initiatives by some states nearly two decades ago – Lagos most prominently – to decentralize power, and thus empower states to generate and distribute their own energy requirements? Frustrated and eventually sabotaged in the most cynical manner from the Federal center! The similarity today is frightening – for nearly four days on that earlier occasion, the nation was blacked out near entirely. We know that one survival tactic of governments is to keep their citizens in the dark over decisions that affect their lives but, this was literal! And yet each such crisis, plus lesser ones, merely reiterate again and again that this national contraption, as it now stands, is simply – dysfunctional!. What this demands is that, in the process of alleviating the immediate pressing misery, we do not permit ourselves to be manipulated yet again into forgetting the MAIN issue whose ramifications exact penalties such as petroleum seizures and national power outage. These are only two handy, being recent symptoms – there are several others, but this is not intended to be a catalog of woes. Sufficient to draw attention to the Yoruba saying that goes: Won ni, Amukun, eru e wo. Oun ni, at’isale ni. Translation: Some voices alerted the K-Legged porter to the dangerous tilt of the load on his head. His response was – Thank you, but the problem actually resides in the legs.

The providential image above sums up a defining moment for both individual and collective self-assessment, places in question the ability of a nation to profit from past experience. Vast resources, yes, but proved unmanageable under its present structural arrangements. As the tussle for the next round of power gets hotter in the coming year, the electorate will again be manipulated into losing sight of the BASE ISSUE. Its noisome claque in the meantime, the automated mumus of social media, practiced in sterile deflection and trivialization of critical issues, unwittingly join hands with government to indulge in blame passing and name calling – both sides with different targets. From the anguished cry of Charley Boy’s Our Mummu Done Do! to expositions from academics such as Professor Makinde’s recent intervention, the public is subjected daily to a relentless barrage of awareness, underlined in urgency. Nobody listens. One wonders if many people read. And certainly, very few retain or relate – until of course the next crisis. The labor movement declares that it awaits a guarantee of the ‘people’s backing’ before it embarks on any critical intervention. Understandably. There is more than enough of the opium of blame passing on tap to lull mummus into that deep coma from which – give it a little more time – there can only be a rude awakening.

Sooner than later, but not as soon as pledged, the fuel crisis will pass. And then, of course, we shall await the next round of shortages, then a recommencement of blame passing. What will be the commodity this time – food perhaps? Maybe even potable water? In a nation of plenty, nothing is beyond eventual shortage – except, of course, the commonplace endowment of pre-emptive planning and methodical execution. Forty years after, the same language of re-assurance? “There is something rotten in the state of Naija!”

Wole SOYINKA

The Self-Destruction Of Buhari’s Presidency By Erasmus Ikhide

It is only in primitive and conquered democracies such as Nigeria that the executive arm of government will bypass the parliament and unilaterally allocate money to itself without due appropriation. Defense alone in the 2018 budget estimate will be guzzling a whopping sum of N567.43 billion — aside the now sought N360 billion by the presidency — amounting to nearly a trillion naira to fight the already ‘captured and defeated Boko Haram’, as Lai Mohammed would like to lecture Nigerians, even though contrary evidence shows that hundreds of innocent lives are being extinguished on a daily basis.


With the the National Economic Council’s approval of $1 billion to fight Boko Haram, it should be clear to Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war is an expensive joke. 

$1 billion is approximately N360 billion of the monthly allocation to all three tiers of government: federal, state and local. The same amount is roughly half of the savings in the illegal Excess Crude Account! Even at that, the ECA is an aberration or a channel created to pilfer the collective patrimony. It’s now normal to have an ECA which was stoutly opposed by the APC as illegal when the shoe was on the other foot.

It is only in primitive and conquered democracies such as Nigeria that the executive arm of government will bypass the parliament and unilaterally allocate money to itself without due appropriation. Defense alone in the 2018 budget estimate will be guzzling a whopping sum of N567.43 billion — aside the now sought N360 billion by the presidency — amounting to nearly a trillion naira to fight the already ‘captured and defeated Boko Haram’, as Lai Mohammed would like to lecture Nigerians, even though contrary evidence shows that hundreds of innocent lives are being extinguished on a daily basis.

More debilitating is the discovery of a floating N50 billion of NNPC money that escaped from the almighty Treasury Single Account (TSA) capturing. The violated TSA provision by President Buhari government stipulates that all agencies of government, without any exception, remit every transaction of government money to the designated TSA. The TSA is a centralized Federal Government revenue account kept by the CBN. This centralized revenue pool is run through an electronic platform, Remita, which was built by a Nigerian firm, SystemSpecs.

The sheer willpower of the selfless House of Representatives’ ad-hoc committee probing remittances into the TSA make nonsense of the impregnable fortress of President Buhari’s perfected act of systematic corruption. While Baru, the NNPC boss, is babbling insensate nonsense like a rescued delirium survivor from the high sea, Buhari government suddenly makes the fabled former President Goodluck Jonathan wince in admiration.

A senior official of the CBN, Dipo Fatokun, told the committee that indeed the NNPC wrote the apex bank informing it of the exemptions. “The banks are actually holding some accounts. We are aware. It’s not yet a case of 100 percent transfers to the TSA,” Fatokun explained. “We are compiling a report on each of the banks and it will be ready soon,” he stated further.

The ‘Executive Order’ directing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to exempt some of its accounts from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the Chief of Staff (COS) to President, Abba Kyari, raised the question whether there is another president in Nigeria apart from Buhari. This is because the order negates a well-known government position as regards its revenue.

But there have always been Presidents other than Buhari since he came to power.

Sometime ago, the now sacked SGF, Babachir Lawal, signed and sent a letter purportedly written by President Buhari to the Nigerian Senate, clearing him of any wrongdoing on the IDP’s saga while Buhari was plagued and incapacitated by illness in the far away the United Kingdom. That’s how far Buhari government has embraced corruption.

The lawlessness or selection of what laws to obey the call to question President Buhari’s integrity and sincerity of purpose on the anti-graft war. Mr. Buhari and his minder, by this singular act, demonstrated and confirmed Nigerians’ suspicion on political corruption. The easiest way politicians loot the treasury blind and raise a humongous sum for next round of election is to pretend to be fighting insurgents in the manner President Goodluck used Sambo Dasuki to fund his 2015 Presidential bid.

Since Mr. Buhari came to power in 2015, the manifest hope of a new beginning has shrunk. The hell-hole of power failure, the disaster zone that is the North East, the stone-age zealotry of the Fulani herdsmen’s conquest, their morbid cruelties, the complete destruction of the economy and forced migration of jobless youths all compete for primacy in the absolute misery index.

Added to that is the failure of the Buhari government to leave up to the billing to either face out corruption or minimize it. The first premonition we have that Buhari is not interested in the crusade against corruption was the rejection of the study that he (Buhari) retools the anti-corruption agencies in the tradition the Chinese authority dealt an everlasting blow to its corrupt ruling class.

By the way, the majority of the Nigerian populace believe Buhari is a terrible option Nigerians were saddled with, after the ousting of the PDP 16-year of a ruinous reign that comes with looting; economic retardation, power stagnation, greed and outright poverty. “For the first time in Nigerian history, a man with total lack of respect to constitutional rights, institutional building, clear authoritarian tendencies, and a tyrant of the highest order was elected president,” Odia Ofeimu said at the time Buhari found his way back to power in 2015.

However, it’s to the credit of President Buhari’s government that for the first in Nigeria the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) remitted N3 billion naira to TSA, as reported last week. It still did not remove the fact that President Buhari and those around him have no ideas how a civilized economy work. At the same time, they are impervious to correction. The President is contented that governance or anti-corruption crusade is a charity ball, and an obligation to reward longtime friends and family relations against the wishes of the electorate. They have no ideas about consolidation of national institutions for effective delivery. That’s why EFCC and ICPC are completely bereaved of creative ways of dealing with anti-corruption issues.

Just when you think Mr. Buhari will provide critical leadership and stamp out corruption in our system than yet another disclosure came to light that some indigenous companies not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) have lifted Nigerian crude oil grades valued at $3.5 billion (about N1.1 trillion) in the last 10 months. These are some of the reasons Buhari government has been slatternly drabbed as the ‘political weapon of mass self-destruction’ — of the missed opportunities, aborted change, failure to restructure the polity, impunity, suppression and muscling of the press — of which he has become notorious.

We only but hope that the pestilential poverty, corruption, dereliction in leadership, epidemics of hunger, disease and want prepare and instigate the emergence of genuine redeemers to enforce social change different to the ones previously and presently offered. Until then, the precursors of democratic crisis will not seize to lord it over us.


Erasmus writes from Lagos. You can reach him at ikhideerasmus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Ikhide_erasmus

Baru/Kyari Again In Fresh NNPC N50bn Tangle: Walai ‘Una Mumu Never Start’ By Ifeanyi Izeze

Sentiments apart, some things are just not adding up at all in the manner the present administration is running. Which week passed at least in the last few months that we did not hear mind-blowing rape of our common wealth by people working with, or rather around, the president? And the only thing that keeps coming from our president is that “I am not aware.”

Whosoever that has observed this government closely since its inception can rightly liken President Buhari to Ali Baba. The present administration’s all round misconduct is so brazen, so primitive and outright insulting. Can the president also claim not to be aware that a common denominator in all the alleged fraud and corruption scandals in his government involving the NNPC has been the man working with him as his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari?

At the wake of the revelation of Baru’s $25 billion secret oil contracts, it was argued that powerful people at the corridors of power were tacitly involved in this. And as said, “If the President’s powerful Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, could sit on the NNPC board and such a calamity is taking place without an eyelid being blinked, we are forced to believe that the stealing is being done to the advantage of the President who has shown by his body language that the only thing that matter most to him for now, is his second term ambition.”

Unless politics has given us a new and completely different Buhari, the one we voted for in 2015, will not entertain Maina’s case and behave as if what has been revealed does not matter; he cannot be silent on fraud/corruption at National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC); and Baru’s NNPC $25 billion secret contract awards; and now another N50 billion NNPC’s money stashed in what could best be described as private accounts outside the Single Treasury Account  (TSA) policy of the administration.

What do you call Maina’s explosive testimony on Channels Television: a smear campaign or obfuscation of facts? Why is a president who armored himself as a warrior against corruption displaying such an odd reluctance in this fight? Why is he giving the impression that he is a likely accomplice in the spate of malfeasance that has become the defining characteristic of his administration?

The question is: why is the president so nonchalant about all these shameful disclosures? Is he shielding some powerful people or are some powerful people around him shielding him from knowing the truth?

Is it not very disheartening that despite the loudly trumpeted efforts at enthroning transparency in the conduct of government business, full disclosure in the administration of crude sales still remains an issue at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)?

The House of Representatives last week raised questions over a “purported” presidential approval withholding some special NNPC accounts from being transferred to the Treasury Single Account. The accounts, with funds worth over N50billion, are still being kept by commercial banks in breach of the TSA policy, which provides that all accounts belonging to Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government should be transferred to the TSA. The TSA, a centralized Federal Government revenue account, is kept by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The CBN confirmed to the House Committee that it was aware of the excluded accounts, pointing to a document tendered by the NNPC saying that there was a presidential approval. The said approval was a memo written by the Chief Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, authorizing the NNPC to exclude the accounts from the TSA.

Curiously, the memo didn’t say much other than opening with the line, “I have been directed.” Which made the Kyari’s memo appeared to be an Executive Order.

Hear the explanation of the NNPC boss, Maikanti Baru: “By virtue of the operations of the NNPC, the Corporation had made series of compelling cases to the Presidency and the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow certain categories of accounts operate outside the TSA, as they contain co-mingled funds governed by detailed agreements with local and international implications.”

In essence the NNPC boss inferred that President Buhari was fully aware that the corporation has accounts holding billions of both Naira and Dollars outside the TSA. So how do you reconcile this?

As aptly remarked by the minister of state for Petroleum in his memo to the president exposing the $25 billion Baru and Kyari’s secret oil contract, “There are many more Your Excellency. In most of these activities, the explanation of the GMD is that you are the minister of petroleum and your approvals were obtained.”

Truth be told, our president is the problem. He continues to violate the constitution, rule of law and government policies including those he instituted and some people keep telling us he means well for the country. Is this not an absurdity? The Buhari we thought will put a good system foundation in place is now so weak and incapacitated allowing his regime to be completely hijacked and turned into a house of commotion. Walai this thing is becoming more serious than anyone may want to explain it. God bless Nigeria o!

Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja and can be reached at [email protected].

Buhari’s Last Chance By Azu Ishiekwene

If the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, is offering advice on what President Muhammadu Buhari must do to rescue his government, then the President should know he has work to do.

The governor, who came to office over six years ago on the ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, has since switched parties. He is currently the official clown of the All Progressives Congress. And with months of unpaid salaries and pensions, and state monuments bearing his family name, there’s enough wreckage to show for his status.

But that’s a digression. His advice to Buhari is on point and infinitely more sensible than the nonsense of his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello, who declared a public holiday to mark the President’s return but didn’t know what to do to save even one of the 60 persons that died from an abdominal infection in Kogi the same week.

Buhari has work to do and he has to start from home while the rodents in his office are being apprehended and the cobwebs cleared.

His six minutes national address was a mixed bag. But whatever its defects, he has made enough speeches in the last two years. It’s time to do what he has been saying.

As far as I can remember, Buhari is the first to win a presidential election depending almost entirely on votes from the North and the South West. What he should have done on assumption of office, was to rally the whole country and not give the regrettable impression that he would only be President for the regions that voted for him.

Azubuike Ishiekwene

That posture, compounded by a few skewed appointments in his early days, has fuelled separatist sentiments, especially in the South East, and popularised Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafra rhetoric.

Renaming Buhari “Okechukwu” (a share from God) or even “Onyenzoputa” (savior) will not solve the problem created by his initial faux pas. The government has to start an honest engagement with its citizens, especially groups that have been radicalized by official insensitivity.

The 2014 National Conference report and even reports from previous ones, which Buhari has inexplicably refused to read, would be a good starting point.

As I said in this column last week, Boko Haram appears resurgent and insecurity is assuming new, frightening dimensions. It would be naïve to assume that Boko Haram would be wiped out. The recent deadly attacks by the group suggest that there’s still work to be done.

Buhari cannot afford to take his eyes off the insurgents; nor should the even more difficult task of resettling the victims be ignored anymore.

It’s heartening to know that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had not submitted his committee’s report on the $43 million found at a Lagos residence before the rodents invaded Buhari’s corner.

The Vice President’s committee was supposed to find out how tons of dollars ended up in a private residence and if it was true as the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, claimed, that he sheltered the money on orders.

That report should be made public, along with the findings of Osinbajo’s committee on the role of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, in the alleged case of millions of naira set aside for the Presidential Initiative on the North East, which ended up in private pockets.

The war on corruption appears stuck in the mud. But since the President was getting regular briefings in his London sickbay, he’s probably already aware of two court rulings asking his government to publish looted funds recovered since 1999 to date; looted funds recovered on his watch since 2015 and the names of the looters.

Corruption will kill the country if all we do is talk about it or turn a blind eye when the culprits are close to us. Some people close to the President are giving his government a bad name and he knows them.

If the National Assembly is still perceived as a den of corruption, it’s because Buhari has failed to use his leverage as leader of the ruling party to deal with it; and if the judiciary is making mincemeat of anti-corruption cases, it’s because Buhari has retained a minister of justice who is confused, if not incompetent.

If he seriously wants a change, he’ll have to make the right call. And time is not on his side. There’s merit in Okorocha’s advice that he might need to overhaul his cabinet.

Not only does he need to take another look at the Justice Ministry, he might also need to overcome the sentiment that to love a competent minister is to kill him with work: Babatunde Fashola is currently overworked with three ministries. He needs to be where the country can optimise his talent and energy.

In theory, the Ministry of Education should be able to handle the national strike by university teachers, which is in its second week. In practice, however, Buhari cannot afford to outsource the problem, which has lingered on now for eight years.

I recall that when The Interview interviewed Buhari in July 2016, he said one of the reasons why he dumped the National Conference report was that Goodluck Jonathan’s government used the money that ought to have been used to pay lecturers to host “a useless conference.” Now, he’ll find that the matter is a bit more complicated.

Money won’t bury all the problems in the universities, though. Sure, the universities require more resources, but even if we hand over the key to the treasury to them, nothing will change as long as the market continues to think that university graduates are useless and that a good number of lecturers themselves need teachers.

What is required is a comprehensive overhaul of the educational system – the kind that Oby Ezekwesili tried to implement as Education Minister before vested interests fought her to a standstill. Fixing education is a presidential assignment.

It’s good to know that, so far, there are no reports of well-wishers falling over themselves to visit Buhari at home since he returned. They can send him cards with a spray can or two of pesticides for his office use, if they can afford it.

The man has work to do and should be left alone to face it, squarely. 

Ishiekwene is the MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network 

 

​President Buhari’s Message    The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi

Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

After more than 100 days away from the country, President Muhammadu Buhari returned last Saturday to a tumultuous welcome. It was an indication that he still commands the popular appeal that brought him to power despite the glaring failings of his administration. But his address to the nation on Monday fell far short of expectations. First, he started with a wrong salutation. ‘My dear citizens’ does not convey the fact that we (the president and the rest of us) are equal stakeholders in Nigeria. In case he has forgotten, Nigerians are not to him what Britons are to the Queen of England where he has put up residency in recent weeks.
Perhaps, we should not read too much into just one speech. The president may yet surprise us if the style and substance of his leadership change for the better in the coming weeks, though there remains the small task of first chasing away the rodents that have taken over the number one office in our country! However, those writing their own speeches in place ofBuhari’s six-minute address would have to wait until they become president of Nigeria or that of their own little dream enclaves.
Meanwhile, as we wait for the Change we were promised by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), I want to rehash what I wrote on 28th May 2015, a day before the president assumed office. Titled, “A Word for Muhammadu Buhari”, I believe the short intervention is still very much relevant today:
What is perhaps President Buhari’s biggest selling point today is that he comes to office with what is usually described as “Referent Power”. He is generally trusted as a man who would not fiddle with the treasury in a society where integrity in the public arena is very much in short supply. But leading by example does not make Buhari a perfect man, and that is what worries me about the way some of his supporters are going on as if we have just elected a prophet.


Buhari will do this. Buhari will do that. Those are the tales we have been hearing from some time-servers who may not even know the man but are already positioning themselves in the media in a bid to hijack the man and our collective destiny. Yet, the reality of our national condition today is that Buhari can do practically nothing without seeking the patience and understanding of Nigerians. And for that to happen, Buhari must be seen to be human. That means having the courage to admit to mistakes and failings (where they occur) along the way and being bold enough to make course corrections.
As I wish the president-elect well, I want to end my piece with a simple story that will serve Buhari who should be wise enough to dispense with the cult of personality being built around him if he does not want to fail. Concerned that her son was addicted to eating a lot of sugar, a mother sought appointment to see the legendary Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi. When she finally did, with her son in tow, she said: “The whole nation listens to you, please tell my son to stop eating sugar, as it is not good for his health”. Ghandi replied, “I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a few weeks and then I will talk to him.”
Upset and disappointed, the mother took the boy home.Two weeks later, she came back. This time Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said “Son, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.” The boy nodded his head and made a solemn commitment to heed the admonition. Puzzled, the boy’s mother asked Ghandi, “Why did you send us away two weeks ago when you could have simply told the boy what you just did?”
Gandhi smiled and said:“Two weeks ago, I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”
ENDNOTE: There are several lessons in that simple tale but I will point out just a few. One, Ghandi demonstrated an uncommon capacity for introspection which made him to admit to his own imperfection. Two, Ghandi was not ready to be a hypocrite by preaching to the boy what he himself had not been practicing. Three, Ghandi was ready to make course corrections so that he could, in good conscience, offer an honest advice to the boy. Four, flowing from the foregoing was the recognition by Ghandi that he was accountable to every citizen, young or old. Five, Ghandi had the grace to admit to the boy’s mother that he was but an ordinary man who was prepared to rise above himself when occasions demanded.
I join in thanking God for President Buhari’s health recovery and return to the country even as I wish him all the best in the remaining months of his administration.
MKO Abiola At 80

Were he to be alive, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola would have marked his 80th birthday today. He was born on 24th August 1937. And without any doubt, today would have been a remarkable day in Lagos, for Abiola was indeed a man of the people. Yet, he is practically forgotten despite the fact that the democracy we currently enjoy can be credited to his sacrifices and that of a few others who challenged the military that had practically held the nation by the jugular. And he paid a very big price for that: He was incarcerated under a most dehumanizing condition, his wife, Kudirat was murdered, his businesses were ruined and eventually, he lost his life.
What that compels is a reflection on the part of those who only remember Abiola on June 12, essentially for political reasons even when they do nothing to advance the cause for which he died. Granting holidays on June 12 every year in a section of the country when Abiola’s appeal was national, is cheap and meaningless. What would be more enduring is to have a befitting centre in Abiola’s name, like that of his friend (now also of blessed memory), Shehu Musa Yar’Adua that stands as a lasting memorial in Abuja. There must also be a compelling book on Abiola that would deal with four notable areas of his life: Politics, business, philanthropy and sports. That is the sort of legacy Abiola deserves and it is possible if there is a commitment to it, especially as we move towards the 20th anniversary of his death which is next year.
Meanwhile, as a State House Correspondent in the early nineties, I was a member of the African Concordmagazine delegation to Jos in April 1993 when Abiola contested the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential primaries and I followed all the political drama from the beginning to the end. In August 1997, as an Assistant Editor at Sunday Concord, I wrote a book to commemorate Abiola’s 60th birthday at a time he was in detention. Titled “Abiola’s Travails”, the publication was partly financed by the then PUNCH Chairman, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, easily one of the few genuine friends of Abiola and for me a professional mentor.
Although I no longer have a copy of the book, on Tuesday I asked whether Louis Odion (a friend I know to be very meticulous in keeping records) still has his. Not surprisingly, Louis still does and he lent me the copy I autographed for him on 28th August 1997 with a stern warning that I must return it to his library. In future, I may merge the book with ‘Fortress on Quicksand’ (on how and why 23 presidential aspirants were disqualified in November 1992) and ‘The Last 100 Days of Abacha’ since they follow the same thread and rework them before republishing as a single book. But that is not a priority project right now.
In the foreword to “Abiola’s Travails”, Mr Lewis Obi, the then Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of African Concord (now defunct like most other Abiola businesses) wrote: “Abiola was prevented from being president by approximately seven army officers and less than half a dozen politicians who subverted our institutions and committed the worst treason ever committed against the Nigerian state. That a few desperate men could do so demonstrated the fragility of our institutions—from the army, through the political parties to the National Assembly and the judiciary. None of our national institutions could stand the rampage of a few power mongers and, thus, Nigeria was reduced to something slightly worse than a banana republic…Abiola’s travails are actually Nigeria’s travails. He promised the country prosperity. Now the country is the seventh poorest in the world. He promised democracy. Nigeria is today under the grip of a regime regarded in the world as one of the most repressive and lawless. He promised to open up the country. Today, Nigeria is an international outcast. He promised a united country and the voters responded. Today, Nigeria is more divided than it was in 1914.”
It is indeed instructive that those words were written about the Nigeria of 1997!
On 16th January 1993 when he declared his intention to run for the presidency, Abiola said most memorably: “Everywhere you go, you find the African at the bottom of the ladder; some can’t even find the ladder. I will provide that ladder and help them to climb.” He went on to run a most interesting campaign both for the SDP primaries which he won and subsequently the election that was aborted before the result could be announced. There was of course no doubt as to who the victor was.
Aside documenting Abiola’s political struggles from the moment he joined the presidential race to night he was arrested as recounted by Kudirat to how his businesses were ruined and the drama of the court appearances in the treason trial which I witnessed, I also highlighted a few personal indignities he suffered in detention. For instance, on 23 August 1994, Abiola had a scuffle with DSP Lawal Katsina in the office of ACP Felix Ogbaudu while his lawyers watched helplessly. The fight began when Katsina sought to prevent Abiola from taking possession of the newspapers brought by his lawyes on the flimsy excuse that he wanted to screen them for concealed documents. In the process Katsina pushed Abiola who fell down. The police would later issue a silly statement that “it was chief abiolawho assaulted the officer” in the office of an assistant police commissioner!
Since the only opportunities he could speak came during the few court appearances before they were terminated in August 1987, Abiola on one occasion narrated his ordeals: “Up till Saturday morning I was at Bwari police station in a cell. At 2am on Saturday, some people entered the room and without telling me who they were or what their business was, they took everything in my room, including my tooth brush. No answer was given to any of the questions I asked them. Since that time I have been unable to have sleep of any kind. On Saturday evening, I was moved to Kuje police station and there I was locked up in the room until the two occasions when I had visitors and once when I had to spray the room. The environment the police provided is not conducive to any sustenance of life. No amount of medical care would be of any help in that environment. I don’t have access to newspapers or radio. The food provided is good but the environment does not enable one to eat the food. I am terribly concerned for being asked to go back to such a place is like sending me to an early grave.”
On the specific case of his brush with DSP Katsina, Abiola said since the court had granted him rights to newspapers, he saw no reason why he should be denied. “I respect every person that deserves respect but I have paid my dues. I could have forced the newspapers from the hands of the policemen. They cannot beat me up. I am not afraid of death. This is not the type of country I want my children to live in; that is why we must change it. And we will change it,Insha Allah. I have been kept in five places. They took me to Kuje, then Bwari and last night, I slept on bare floor.”
While this is not an attempt to tell the story of that era, there is a way in which what happened to Abiola contributed to the challenge of nationhood that we are facing today and the military should take the blame. In 1998/99, Babangida and his men thought they could right the Abiola wrong by bringing General Olusegun Obasanjo from detention and working by sleight to have him emerge as the president of Nigeria. What they failed to understand is that the bond of trust that had been broken by the manner in which the June 12 crisis was handled would take more than such cynical appeasement of Yoruba people to heal, especially within the context of Nigeria’s ethnic relations. But those are issues that we must deal with another day.
As I therefore conclude this piece in commemoration of Abiola’s 80th posthumous birthday with a reflection on what might have been, for the Twitter generation that may still be wondering about who this Abiola was, let me leave them with the words of Babangida. In January 1988 when Abiola was conferred the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land by the Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the then military president wrote him a public letter which I reproduce below:
“Dear Generalissimo,

“My family and I heartily rejoice with you today on your installation as the 14th Aare OnaKakanfo of Yorubaland. The symbolism of the title vividly illustrates virtually every aspect of your life history which has been marked so far by one gallant battle after another. Your installation today is therefore a testimony to the inspiring success story of your life.
“You scored your first victory in your infancy being the first among many children of your parents to survive, after whom many others follow. Also, remarkably, you survived various odds not the least of which was grinding poverty to prepare yourself for the many battles ahead. You challenged racial prejudices in high places and won for your fellow citizens and black people, the right to fully realize their potentials in their chosen careers. Your charity and deep concern for the less privileged are now legendary. While congratulating you on today’s richly deserved installation, we pray Allah to continue to guide and guard you in your sincere services to fellow men and to HIM, the almighty.”
M.K.O. Abiola may be long gone, he can never be forgotten!
Ayisha’s Love Win Pius

Pius Adesanmi, who arrived from his Ottawa (Canada) base on Tuesday and goes back tomorrow, will this evening join Ayisha Osori at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, 18 Libreville Street, off Aminu Kano Crescent in Wuse 2, to discuss her recent book, ‘Love Does Not Win Elections’. The highly revealing and very entertaining book captures Ayisha’s 2014 experience as she sought an elusive Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to represent AMAC/Bwari constituency at the House of Representatives. The book is a compelling manual for any professional seeking political office in Nigeria or trying to understand how in her words “Nigerians keep getting leaders they say they do not deserve”.The book will also be available for sale at the venue.