Fake news and media integrity By Oliver Ejike Uja

“The art of the reporter should more than anything else be a celebration of the truth … The fundamental obligation of the reporter is to truth”. – Kergal keane
The media play a very important role in any democratic society. It is the duty of the press to educate, inform, and entertain and conscientize the people. This helps in building a politically conscious masses or electorates that can make informed decisions. The press is regarded as the ‘fourth estate of the realm’ principally because of the role in holding government to account. Thomas Jefferson in acknowledging the role of the press said; “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the lather”. This further underscores the place of the media in shaping and building the society. However, for the media to continue playing this role requires commitment to the core principles of journalistic practices as enshrined in the code of ethics of professional journalists. The Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists points out “journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standard”. It is this that confers integrity on the media.
Fake news are falsehood, conjectures, pernicious propaganda or half truth which are intentionally passed on as truth and authentic information or stories intended to mislead and achieve sinister objectives or financial gain. Fake news is nothing new in journalism. There was the ‘Yellow Journalism’ with its overtly concocted and sensational stories several decades ago. However, the explosion in social media platforms and how technological companies operate has made the problem pervasive. Dr. Kristen Dembroski outlines the following as attributes of fake news: Purpose – Misled; Spread misinformation; False or propaganda published under the guise of authentic news; Sensationalist; extreme; Fuels passions and prejudices; May provoke violence.
The American presidential election of 2016 made false journalism and fake news blossom and become a treat to the mainstream traditional journalism. Anders Hofseth summed it up saying that “The media of the world may be facing a crisis more serious than a media economy in a freefall, a crisis involving the foundations itself: Trust. Not the trust in the single news piece or the single publication, but the entire idea of editorially controlled news media”. When the audience no longer trusts the information in the media, then the integrity of the media is already undermined. In this situation there is dissonance and they would have to look for multiples sources to validate the authenticity of the information or news. But the audience by nature may not have all the time because they have other things bordering them – jobs to do, dates to keep, meetings to attend, numerous other things occupying their time and mind. This may result in apathy for media contents. Hofseth argues that “by itself, fake news poses little threat beyond the need for increased alertness. But fake news attacks society’s system for information sharing. It’s casting shadows of doubt over the credibility of media, and creating the impression that the media is offering just one of several possible truth, thus making it sort of optional which fact you care to relate to”. This mirrors John Milton’s didactics in his Agreopagitica. But unlike Milton, the situation creates a vacuum because the society’s information system has been dislocated, devalued and news or information becomes what anyone can distill from an event. This is akin to relativism.
Fake news is more rampant in the internet because of the way social media and some news platforms operate. Facebook for example have always denied being a news platform claiming that it is only a technology company. Consequently, the platform is not bound by ethical and professional conduct of the traditional media outlets or organisations. It was only recently after much outcry by the public and industry players that it reluctantly decided to take down or block lots of fake news and dubious materials. Aidan White admonished facebook saying “facebook would do well to stop denying it is a publisher and face up to its responsibility as a news provider”. He further stated that “it needs to recorgnise and apply the principle and standards of journalism and free expression that have guided the work of journalism, editors and publishers”. It is this lack of accountability that has made fake news flood the social media and other websites. Today, millions of people get their news through these platforms. “Integrity, authority, humanity and evidence: Are there better words in the lexicon of journalists? This was the question Lyse Doucet, BBC chief International Correspondent asked in her acceptance speech as she received the 2017 British Journalism Review Charles Wheeler Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcast Journalism. Sadly, fake news is just an off shoot of post –truth era where there exists not just ‘Truth’ and ‘lie’ but the third ‘Ambiguity’ where people grope and pick which information they relate to.
The basic danger in fake news is that it makes people doubt almost every news or information and this can be very destabilizing to any society. Think of a situation where people no longer believe in any information coming from the authorities or politicians – it is the beginning of social breakdown. This is a threat to democracy, modern society and reality. In his Agreopagitica, John Milton averred “Though all winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter”. This position is seriously being challenged by the level of fake news in the internet and out there. For Gary Kasparov, “If you can convince people that real news is fake, it becomes easier to convince them that your fake news is real”. He further submits that “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform and push an agenda, it is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate the truth”. This is the major problem since news then teeters dangerously towards relativism. And this is why Stuart Allen believes that “More than a question of semantics, the nature of proper identity to be affirmed by the journalist within a democracy continues to be hotly contested… nowhere have the tacit assumptions informing a collective sense of identity been more openly challenged than by the emergence of the ‘citizen journalism’ movement … citizen journalism has succeeded in rattling the foundations of the craft”
Prompt identification of fake news is one way of ensuring that it does not spread but this may not be that easy. Applying logic and common sense is very essential. When one looks closely and pitches the facts together, one can clearly see the bigger picture. Checking out other credible sources can help to know the status of the story. It is important to check the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the title and other graphics to know whether it is old information that is being presented in a new context or whether some trusted media sites have been impersonated or faked. African Independent Television (AIT) has been a victim.
Credible media organisations are ready to publish correction and retractions but not fakes. Also, if there are so much inappropriate materials pop ups and other embedded links, it is a red flag. The address and other contacts of the author should be clearly stated and functional and it is very important to check out if the information or story is loaded with strong, emotional or absolute language. Is the language moderate?
Media literacy is a way of battling fake news. This involves the understanding of how the news sources and media work. If the audiences are knowledgeable the problem will be reduced because fake news exits because of money from advert and political patronage. Most platforms that disseminate such stories aims at attracting traffic – number of visits and time spent on the websites.
Seeking out truth and also giving out prompt accurate and truthful information is important. Moreover, news sources must build trust and integrity in order to be believed. For example, in a shooting at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, U.S, on April 3, 2018, Chief Ed Barberini of the San Bruno Police department was on hand giving press statement on the unfolding situation. This prompt release of relevant information helps in checking speculations and fake news.
Prof. Lai Oso, President Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) advised that “government needs to be more forth coming in terms of its public communication functions. It is not when things have gone to a very low level that it begins to panic about information; it must be concerned about credible information”. Many reputable social media, online news platforms and blogs are veritable sources of news if managed by credible professionals that adhere to the journalistic code of ethics of accuracy, impartiality, objectivity, truthfulness and public accountability. If fake news are promptly identified and debunked or set straight by the trusted credible media organisations, it will go a long way in checking the pervasiveness and threat of fake news. In this, it not enough to tell the news but also telling what is ‘no news’ as it breaks.
Uja is a Research Officer wrote from Abuja.
For reactions or comments email: ejikolive@gmail.com
Tweeter:@ujaoliver

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2019: A brief manual of Nigerian politics By Reuben Abati

The political primaries are scheduled to hold between this month and the next and definitely by the end of October 2018, the hustling and jostling in Nigeria’s political arena would have begun in full earnest. The elections will be held in February 2019. For the benefit of any outsider who may never have witnessed Nigeria’s general elections, the type that is ahead, I offer in this brief note, a description of what to expect, what is already happening in the context of the character, content and style of Nigerian politics, what will happen and what may happen after the elections.
Note this: Very few Nigerian politicians would easily admit that they are in pursuit of their own vaulting ambition, with an eye on profitable return on investment. They are likely to tell you that they are in the race, because they have been approached by members of their community, or certain interest groups to seek elective office, to seek another term, because they are so good, so indispensable that either the constituency or the people will have problems should they decline. “My people asked me to do this…” is a common refrain in Nigerian politics. To cite a familiar example, President Muhammadu Buhari has been told that there is no “alternative” to him in this country of about 200 million people, by the people who surround him. And he believes them!
For years, we have therefore had too many unwilling candidates who were pushed into public office, not because they had anything to offer but because other people found them useful. There are others who are in politics and who actually go on to win elections just because they have an influential parent, a powerful Godfather, or a sellable family name, or enough war-chest to buy everyone that is available for purchase in the electoral value-chain. In the majority however, you will find those who will claim that they are responding to a Divine call. They have been told by a pastor (especially a General Overseer of one of these miracle-dispensing churches) or an imam (sorry a Sheik in Mali, Senegal, Niger, Guinea Bissau, and in-country, a Sheik in Ilorin, Osogbo, Bauchi, Maiduguri). They all rely on these pastors or imams or the covenants that they enter into in fraternities and cults.
Election season is boom-time for these Nigerian spiritualists and the others our politicians consult overseas. A Nigerian election is not only a do-or-die battle on the physical plane, it is spiritual war. It is time for the spiritualists to eat. And they have started by telling their clients that they are the anointed ones of God. I am not making this up. These merchants of electoral victory are on the internet, especially You Tube, using technology to dispense the gospel. They claim to know who will be the next President or that next Governor or lawmaker; they manage to give only such vague hints that would draw the politicians to their doorsteps. If the politician is a newcomer to the game, there are consultants who claim to know the best pastors and imams, and in case you have not noticed, this is that type of season when prayer mountains, night vigils and special prayer rooms have become extra-ordinarily busy. Every election season, sacrifices are offered – someone who should know has said that there are more cases of kidnapping whenever Nigeria goes to the polls – human beings are offered as sacrifices to all kinds of small gods.
It is all about money and power. The spiritualists are bound to remain in charge before, during and after the elections. Spiritualists dictate the manner of governance and politics in more ways than you can ever imagine. If you disagree, please argue with the paper you are holding or your laptop or ipad, or phone. One spiritualist somewhere in Anambra state recently reported that he was attacked and his car and his body were riddled with bullets. He came out of that encounter unscathed. According to him, the bullets could not penetrate his body. In the Nigeria that I know, and given the season that we are in, that was an excellent marketing strategy. You may not believe the man of God, but he will receive visitations from hundreds of politicians and their thugs who devote substantial time and attention to the search for spiritual fortification. In this same country, one famous politician used to go about with a live tortoise strapped around his neck, nestling comfortably under his agbada! We are in the age and season of bullet-proof, miracle-seeking politicians.
Money. This is an important part of the game. The extant Electoral Act (2010) in Nigeria is very specific about campaign finance and the exact amount that a politician is allowed to spend to seek particular offices, the source of the money, the exact amount that can be contributed by entities or individuals to campaigns and the general role of money in Nigerian elections. The law states that a presidential candidate can only spend a maximum amount of N1 billion, a governorship candidate, N200 million, a senatorial candidate, N40 million, House of Representatives candidate, N20 million, State House of Assembly, N10 million, chairman of local government, N10 million, and councillorship, N1 million. Campaign finance regulations are the most abused in Nigerian elections. The aspirants and candidates do what they like, the regulatory authorities look the other way, before, during and after elections. It is all about money on all sides. Election time is an opportunity for every one involved in the election value-chain to make money. There are some candidates who will be honest enough to say that they sold their houses and vehicles and shares and other possessions to be able to get involved in the process. But there are others who will disclose that they are so broke they have had to take bank loans. And there are others who will claim that they had to go cap in hand to their friends and associates to help them out with funds. There is something common to them all: they incur debts ahead of the election. Should they be lucky enough to win, they have to settle the IOUs that brought them to power. This is the root of corruption in Nigeria that has not yet been addressed. If persons are allowed to violate the electoral law on campaign finance, and get away with it, they will do worse. The rule of law is violated; personal interest is allowed to pre-dominate.
We have just such a case before us right now. The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is reportedly so cash-strapped he cannot afford to pay the N45 million required for the purchase of the Expression of Interest Form and Nomination Form for the presidential election in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2014, he reportedly took a bank loan to busy the same forms. Nobody has told us whether he has paid off that loan or not, but this time around, one entity has stepped in to buy the forms on the President’s behalf. This is clearly in violation of the Electoral Act, subsection 91(9) thereof. Some kind of solipsistic interpretation has been given by APC lawyers but it is not the duty of lawyers to interpret the law so they might as well just keep quiet. I don’t also want to get into that moral argument about whether or not President Buhari should accept the forms. If nobody invokes the law, and tests it, he will collect those forms and nothing will happen. And there are perhaps others like him at other levels, who may collect favours and gifts far in excess of what the law allows. The law is an ass; it doesn’t behave like one except you refuse to push it.
The law on campaign finance in Nigeria is dead anyway because the entire process is monetized. If you are a Nigerian politician, and you want to be something as small as a councillor (a friend tells me that Councillors are big but I don’t believe him), you will need to find money to start feeding the community, months before the primaries or the election, you have to show up at naming, wedding and funeral ceremonies, pay school fees, hospital bills, send lawyers to police stations to help sort out matters ranging from robbery to wife battery. Every day, in your house, a cow must be slaughtered and food must be provided for every one that walks through the gate. You also have to buy motorcycles, bicycles and help fund the acquisition of third or fourth wives. A man who seeks elective office in Nigeria is a victim, to tell the truth. When his constituents deliver triplets, he is the one that will be called the father of the triplets even if he didn’t enjoy the sweaty, ha-oh- yes! – yes-oh-yes!- you-want-to-kill-somebody- privileges that led to the surplus harvest. And he is expected to pick up the bills.
The Nigerian politician needs thugs, also known as able-bodied-men. Because violence is prevalent and we are beginning to see the signs, every major Nigerian politician builds up his or her squad of thugs, who are conveniently labelled supporters. Their requirements are minimal. They need smoke, instruments and money and they are ready to do whatever it takes to protect their master. To understand Nigerian politics, please find out the meaning of “smoke and instruments” and the role that they play in our context. The Nigerian politician also must look the part. He has to dress well. He must surround himself with a beautiful wife or wives. When the wives are not available, the girls around him must meet certain expectations and the electorate will yell: Oga sir! The Nigerian electorate are children of illusions: they tend to believe what they see. When they are disappointed later, they complain that politicians are bad people. They always forget that they caused the problem in the first place. They sell their stomachs before election day, they sell their votes on election day and they sell their conscience after the election. And the politicians exploit all the shortcomings.
Nigeria continues to fail, because the first thing the politician does is to seek returns on his investments: he wants all the money he has spent on thugs, parties and girls back. The last thing he remembers is his duty to the people. The people, as far as he is concerned have collected their own returns upfront. He wouldn’t need them until he needs their votes again. I have given this broad portrait to paint a picture of where Nigerian politics is, and to all aspiring office seekers, including the experienced ones, I offer the following simple instructions, cynically, but we must together respect what the facts say:
1. To win elections in Nigeria, you need spiritualists, thugs and money
2. You need thugs and spiritualists because your life is not safe. You can get killed by assassins, sent by your opponents who also want the same position.
3. You need money because that is what it is all about. Once you declare your interest in politics, every one around you is likely to believe that you have saved some money aside, or stolen some money, or you have rich Godfathers who have given you money, and you are stupid enough to throw it around, and that only a gambler goes into politics. They want their own share of what you have.
4. You need the spiritualists because your opponents, believe it or not, will take your name everywhere to their own spiritualists and their minimum objective is to destroy you, or well, stop you.
5. Don’t ever make the mistake of eating outside. Important political figures in Nigeria do not eat outside. They pretend to be fasting. If you see any Nigerian politician, eating and talking anyhow at a public forum, ignore him, he is not yet ready. He is planning to move from depression mode to suicide.
6. The law says thugs are not allowed. The tradition is that every politician has a small team of able-bodied men. The state security agencies can’t protect you. Get your own men, and get lawyers too. Lawyers want to chop too. They will help you protect the thugs.
7. If you can help it, keep your wives and children out of the fray. Your opponents will make them an issue if you throw them into the game.
8. Beware of the consultants. Many of them will come to you. They know everything. They worked with that Governor and that Senator and they know everything about the media and the field of politics. Just be careful. Politics is about strategy but half the strategists out there are fake.
9. By all means, pray. Pray hard. You may not win, but if you are alive, you may try again. And don’t be squeamish about this: in Brazil, one imbecile called Adelio Bispo de Oliveira put a knife through a Presidential aspirant’s stomach and nearly killed him. In Nigeria, the situation could have been worse. Seek to be a winner, not a martyr.
10. Like the Boys’ Scout, be prepared…
This is my advice to you: my short manual on Nigerian politics. There is a longer version where this came from.

Why Nigeria needs to be re-structured by Atiku Abubakar Waziri Adamawa

In a recent interaction in the United States, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asserted that the “problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring…and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographic re-structuring”.
It is a surprise that the Vice President would take such a position and, in particular, fail to appreciate the connection between Nigeria’s defective structure and its underperformance.
It is unhelpful to reduce the construct of “Restructuring” to a geographical concept as VP Osinbajo does, which in itself demonstrates a lack of appreciation of the core tenets of the concept.
For the avoidance of doubt, re-structuring is not about the re-drawing of state or regional boundaries. The restructured Nigeria that a large number of Nigerians talk about, is a Nigeria that not only provides opportunities for everyone to work but even more specifically challenges every layer of governance to demonstrate the capacity to create wealth and jobs for the citizens.
Restructuring is not just about the devolution of powers to the states, it is about transforming the respective roles of the federal, state and local governments to perform more efficiently in matters of territorial as well as economic governance.
Above all, when we talk about restructuring, we are not talking about just constitutional tweaks, we are talking about a cultural revolution. It is not about re-shuffling a few responsibilities or resources, but about disrupting the authoritarian politics our democracy has inherited from its military and colonial rulers of past.
Viewed this way, Nigeria needs to be restructured. Nigeria has operated a faulty system of federalism, especially under military governments. Both economic and political structures are defective, resulting in weak economic management systems which, in turn, prevent all levels of the Nigerian government — federal, states and local governments, from operating at optimal levels.
Faced with the reality of non-performance, Nigerians have clamoured for the restructuring of the economy towards a more diversified structure. To make this happen would require that we establish and sustain a model of governance which would nurture a spirit of participation and consensus on key national issues and accommodate all the diverse segments of the society. In other words, if we accept the wisdom behind calls for a restructuring of the economy, we must be ready to build a foundation for its success: we must, in other words, re-structure the polity.
The federal structure is so complex with a very strong centre that it has succeeded in accumulating many responsibilities, and along with these, huge resources, which belong to the other levels of government.
It is all too obvious that the current arrangement does not respond to the needs of the people at the local level. We have all too often lied to ourselves that the politicians sitting in Abuja can effectively respond to the needs of a population in far remote locations as Kaura Namoda, Iseyin, Arochukwu or Bama. Only the autonomy of the local governments and the states both of which are closer to their people than the Central Government in Abuja can guarantee this and result in more effective decisions. Only when local administrations are on the saddle, will there be greater accountability for decision making as well as improved flexibility, adaptability and ability to change as a result of a reduction in bureaucracy.
I strongly believe that the restructuring of Nigeria will foster the spirit of co-operation and consensus in a nation of diverse ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. It is desirable, in fact, you may even say it is required to establish, nurture and sustain a strong and effective democratic government.
In this continuous dialogue, we should remind ourselves that restructuring is not a new or strange phenomenon. A number of developing economies have had cause to restructure their economies, for greater efficiency or to correct imbalances or to reorient them towards, for example, more open and market-oriented systems with greater reliance on the private sector as the engine of growth. Even the United Kingdom is restructuring its political and economic systems to enable a better union among its component parts. Businesses restructure for better performance. Even families do!
Working with the National Assembly and all other stakeholders, we will lead the process of genuine and transparent constitutional amendments, in order to provide the necessary stimulus and focus on how to restructure Nigeria that would work for all.

Kwankwaso unveils ‘positive change’ agenda, knocks Buhari, APC at declaration – [Full text] Declaration speech

Former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, on Wednesday officially declared his presidential ambition.

The Senator is among aspirants seeking the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket.

His declaration which was held at Chida Hotel in Abuja attracted thousands of Kwankwasiya supporters and party members.

The ex-Minister of Defence expressed readiness to give Nigerians the change the current government has failed to provide despite repeated assurances.

In his speech, Kwankwaso promised “positive change”, insisting that the President Muhamadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) has failed.

His full speech below…

“Let me begin by thanking all of you for travelling from far and wide to witness this important occasion heralding my decision to run for the office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Your resolve to come, I am convinced, was informed by our collective disillusionment, disappointment and the pervasive air of hopelessness in our country today. Your desire to see things change for better is well-informed and inner conviction that together we can midwife positive change is applauded.

Today I declare that I am going to vie for the office of President Federal Republic of Nigeria under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. I stand on my honour to offer a paradigm shift in leadership. There is no gainsaying that all is not well with the polity. It is also clear that the same mindset that created and escalated the problems cannot be used in resolving the on-going crises in our nationhood and national development.

I intend to offer positive change. Change has again become inevitable. To live is to witness changes because change is an inseparable part of living. Come May 2019, the narrative of helplessness, buck-passing, division, poverty, insecurity, and hopelessness must change to turn to a new dawn of confidence in building a one well restructured Nigeria.

I assure you that while I do not have the prophetic power to predict the future, we certainly have in us the ability to create the future that we want.

On this day, as I stand before you I offer you a value-based leadership anchored on our National Ethics as outlined in Chapter 2 of Section 23 of our Constitution:
And I quote; “The National Ethics shall be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism.”

We will provide a leadership where everybody is free and equal; where Nigerians see themselves as Nigerians first and as Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Ibibio, Fulani, etc second; where citizens are self-assured and self-assertive; where they are confident and competent; where they want to do what is right no matter whose ox is gored. I want to lead a Nigeria where people are educated and exposed beyond the confines of their tribe, religion, linguistic group or place of birth.

I want to lead a Nigeria where Citizens respect their leaders, and leaders lead and forge a team to promote and protect the interest of all Nigerians. I want to lead a Nigeria where all are comfortable anywhere and on any positive issue can compete fairly with their peers without favour or discrimination. That is the kind of Nigeria we envision. We will abandon the failed relics of the past. We have all it takes to make Nigeria good and relevant for all.

What are some of these changes that we are promising?
1. National Security: The primary responsibility of the Government is security of life. My understanding of National security transcends the stereotype limiting it to the Armed Forces and other security agencies. As former Minister of Defence, I understand security from that point; it covers more and includes the entire scope of food, health care delivery, education, economic prosperity, and enjoyment of human rights on the physical defence and security side. There is the need for a well-trained, motivated, well-equipped and intelligence-propelled security architecture.

That requires decisive options of strengthening and equipping the military while restructuring the Police to make it more effective. We will vigorously pursue other institutional reforms in the other security and paramilitary agencies and justice system that will serve as a huge disincentive for crimes and criminality. This will include training and retraining of personnel, improvement of personnel welfare as well as the provision of other security infrastructure considered necessary and relevant to combating crime and other deviant behaviors.

The constant misuse of security apparatus will stop immediately. Ours is a recommitment to strengthening all democratic institutions in Nigeria. We shall also strive to create an all-inclusive mechanism for effective intelligence gathering that involves all stakeholders especially – Traditional rulers, Religious Leaders, businessmen and women, civil servants, Community leaders, the communities themselves, youth, trade organizations, politicians and all well-meaning Nigerians.
We must as a policy strive to support and protect the identities of those patriotic Nigerians that volunteer credible information to make Nigeria and Nigerians safe.

Above all we shall put mechanisms in place for the continuous monitoring of the operations of these security institutions to ensure efficiency and conformity with the rule of law. I also understand the difficult conditions under which our military and other paramilitary organisations operate. An ill-equipped, unmotivated, deprived and over- tasked soldier cannot perform maximally.

We shall motivate all affected communities, the military and the police to put an end to all killings. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for killings by Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen, crop farmers, kidnappers, human traffickers and abductors. We will provide an atmosphere where there will be security, safety, serenity and sanity.

2. The Economy: Nigeria in recent years has witnessed a weak economic performance due to tight economic policies and failed institutional supervision especially as it relates to growing small enterprises that should, in the long run, result in larger ventures to anchor our economic prosperity. Tight monetary rates, exchange rates fluctuations, inflation and unemployment are the dominant factors hindering the growth and survival of our businesses in the country today. Therefore, our focus shall be on sound economic policies that will ensure a new regime of exchange rate stability, low-interest rates and reduction in the country’s rising burden of domestic and foreign loans.

In the past three years, poverty and unemployment have become more visible, challenging Nigeria’s economic prosperity. Existing policies and economic programmes for alleviating the poverty incidence in the country have obviously failed. Our non-negotiable goal will, therefore, be the eradication of poverty through sustainable wealth creation and a coordinated and effective micro small and medium enterprises development. We shall promote policies that boost our foreign reserves and lower interest rate to ensure that the unsustainable debt treadmill profile is tamed. Locally, we shall diversify the economy through industrialisation and manufacturing, aggressive promotion of agribusiness, the mining sector and entrepreneurship to make us self-sufficient and export-oriented. The oil and gas sector must cease to be a verifiable source of corruption and inefficiency.

3. Social Challenges: Our response to the various social challenges shall be hinged on our economic model of poverty eradication. We must consciously seek to tame the widening of inequality. We will strive to end ethnic and religious bigotry, corruption, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed. As we all know a serious lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today.

We need to believe in ourselves; we need to be critically analytical when and where necessary; we need to have indomitable courage and unwavering commitment to Nigeria and all that is Nigerian; we need to stand firm for what is noble, edifying and wholesome; we need to fight those ills that have shackled us and held us back in the past; we need to establish shared values and enthrone norms, virtues and morality that are enduring, uplifting and distinguishing.

We owe the successor generation a country that is united, stable, secure, cohesive and prosperous, playing its role among the comity of nations easily. That is our goal. We must not only do things right, we must do right things and always do them right. There should be no excuse for poor performance, shoddy job and incompetence on any grounds. We must avoid failure at all cost and engender the right ambience that will allow the creative potentials of Nigerians to be expressed uninhibited. We will have truly inclusive growth and development for shared prosperity.

4. Infrastructure: With a rapidly growing population, Nigeria’s infrastructure is challenged. If not tackled it would deny citizens the joy of national prosperity. Energy need keeps shooting up the stress of doing business in Nigeria. Domestic production suffers and a lot of foreign companies also find it hard to invest in Nigeria due to constant power failures. For decades, Nigeria failed to develop its infrastructure. To bridge the gap in infrastructure, we will prioritise capital expenditure and ensure that adequate funds are not only allocated to capital expenditure but also disbursed in a timely manner and utilised as budgeted for road and rail networks, waterways, housing, aviation communication and others.

5. Human Capital Development & Global Competitiveness, Education, Research and Innovation: The greatest asset of any nation is its human capital. In the people lies the solution to most of our challenges. My job as the leader is to facilitate the release of the creative energy embedded in our growing youth population brimming with ingenuity and famed resilience. Ours will be a deliberate policy to make our workforce globally competitive. Human Capital development in all its ramifications shall be a cardinal point of our administration. We shall provide ICT- compliant high-quality personal development education.

And research for development will be made accessible to all. We are committed to providing good quality universal education from pre-primary to tertiary and vocational skills development. We shall provide accessible, quality education to all Nigerians. Education in Nigeria will be rejuvenated and restructured to make future generations not only problem-solvers but proud custodians of their culture, heritage and history and also for creating confidence in all Nigerians across all the States, sectors and talents.

We believe that education is the cornerstone of any development and nation-building and a very strong weapon to fight inequality, injustice and poverty. It is also an instrument or tool for building national unity and cohesion. As a policy, we will drive a plan to provide the necessary infrastructure, rejuvenate existing ones and modernize them to be in line with the best international practice. We shall equally review the fees being charged for WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations and make education affordable. Every child in Nigeria must be supported to attain his or her maximum potential in education. In addition, we shall commence a review of our method as it relates to agricultural technology in particular.

6. Agribusiness: Agri-business holds one of the major keys to eradicating poverty from our midst. The key of our agricultural development must be an aggressive pursuit of agri-business. We intend to collaborate with our numerous Agricultural Research Institutes and Universities by challenging them to pursue resolute research and development in agribusiness, agricultural technology etc. Working with expert advice, we intend to qualitatively improve the agricultural value chain, to create employment opportunities.

7. Healthcare Delivery: Now that medical tourism has become the first choice of our leaders, we will ensure that the current situation in clinics and hospitals is given radical reforms. We shall prioritise and institutionalise national healthcare programmes and delivery, medical education and training and financing of healthcare in a manner that is universally accessible and affordable. Our main goal in healthcare would be to provide affordable ‘Healthcare services for all Nigerians’.

8. International Relations: While Africa must remain the centrepiece of our foreign policy, we shall endeavour to keep our old friends while seeking deeper and better understanding of our other development partners and allies. Our foreign policy must be directed at contributing to the eradication of poverty and global competitiveness.

9. Youth & Women Empowerment: Our government will treat the youth, sports, recreation and culture activities as an Industry through which businesses can be created and job opportunities established. Our women shall consciously be encouraged in governance and business. We shall encourage and support young people and women in collaboration with all financial institutions to create platforms where they can get access to finance to establish and deploy their creative energies into problem-solving apps and other forms of ICT for sports, recreation and core businesses. We will endeavour to get 30% representation of women and youth in all organs and structures of government in line with the PDP constitution.

10. National Unity, Cohesion and Restructuring: The fulcrum of our leadership will be the enhancement of a united Nigeria couched within the matrix of productivity and a shift from the sense of entitlement by officeholders and their hangers-on.

Fellow compatriots, a key propellant of our journey must be a committed desire to ensure that the labours of our heroes shall truly not be in vain. We will strive to create an atmosphere where every Nigerian has an equal opportunity to contribute. Our restructuring will be to ensure an inclusive political, social and economic space for all. All of this will ensure that first, we are Nigerians.

At this juncture, I will conclude by once again thanking all those who contributed in their own way to make this occasion a huge success. I must specifically mention those who mobilized their resources, time and energy to travel from far and near to witness this important occasion. I hope you have collected your PVC, and if you still haven’t collected your own you have tomorrow to do so. Take the opportunity to collect and encourage others to collect their own to be used to vote out the APC Government and vote in the PDP umbrella Government.”

Kwankwaso unveils ‘positive change’ agenda, knocks Buhari, APC at declaration – [Full text] Declaration speech

Former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, on Wednesday officially declared his presidential ambition.

The Senator is among aspirants seeking the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket.

His declaration which was held at Chida Hotel in Abuja attracted thousands of Kwankwasiya supporters and party members.

The ex-Minister of Defence expressed readiness to give Nigerians the change the current government has failed to provide despite repeated assurances.

In his speech, Kwankwaso promised “positive change”, insisting that the President Muhamadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) has failed.

His full speech below…

“Let me begin by thanking all of you for travelling from far and wide to witness this important occasion heralding my decision to run for the office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Your resolve to come, I am convinced, was informed by our collective disillusionment, disappointment and the pervasive air of hopelessness in our country today. Your desire to see things change for better is well-informed and inner conviction that together we can midwife positive change is applauded.

Today I declare that I am going to vie for the office of President Federal Republic of Nigeria under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. I stand on my honour to offer a paradigm shift in leadership. There is no gainsaying that all is not well with the polity. It is also clear that the same mindset that created and escalated the problems cannot be used in resolving the on-going crises in our nationhood and national development.

I intend to offer positive change. Change has again become inevitable. To live is to witness changes because change is an inseparable part of living. Come May 2019, the narrative of helplessness, buck-passing, division, poverty, insecurity, and hopelessness must change to turn to a new dawn of confidence in building a one well restructured Nigeria.

I assure you that while I do not have the prophetic power to predict the future, we certainly have in us the ability to create the future that we want.

On this day, as I stand before you I offer you a value-based leadership anchored on our National Ethics as outlined in Chapter 2 of Section 23 of our Constitution:
And I quote; “The National Ethics shall be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism.”

We will provide a leadership where everybody is free and equal; where Nigerians see themselves as Nigerians first and as Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Ibibio, Fulani, etc second; where citizens are self-assured and self-assertive; where they are confident and competent; where they want to do what is right no matter whose ox is gored. I want to lead a Nigeria where people are educated and exposed beyond the confines of their tribe, religion, linguistic group or place of birth.

I want to lead a Nigeria where Citizens respect their leaders, and leaders lead and forge a team to promote and protect the interest of all Nigerians. I want to lead a Nigeria where all are comfortable anywhere and on any positive issue can compete fairly with their peers without favour or discrimination. That is the kind of Nigeria we envision. We will abandon the failed relics of the past. We have all it takes to make Nigeria good and relevant for all.

What are some of these changes that we are promising?
1. National Security: The primary responsibility of the Government is security of life. My understanding of National security transcends the stereotype limiting it to the Armed Forces and other security agencies. As former Minister of Defence, I understand security from that point; it covers more and includes the entire scope of food, health care delivery, education, economic prosperity, and enjoyment of human rights on the physical defence and security side. There is the need for a well-trained, motivated, well-equipped and intelligence-propelled security architecture.

That requires decisive options of strengthening and equipping the military while restructuring the Police to make it more effective. We will vigorously pursue other institutional reforms in the other security and paramilitary agencies and justice system that will serve as a huge disincentive for crimes and criminality. This will include training and retraining of personnel, improvement of personnel welfare as well as the provision of other security infrastructure considered necessary and relevant to combating crime and other deviant behaviors.

The constant misuse of security apparatus will stop immediately. Ours is a recommitment to strengthening all democratic institutions in Nigeria. We shall also strive to create an all-inclusive mechanism for effective intelligence gathering that involves all stakeholders especially – Traditional rulers, Religious Leaders, businessmen and women, civil servants, Community leaders, the communities themselves, youth, trade organizations, politicians and all well-meaning Nigerians.
We must as a policy strive to support and protect the identities of those patriotic Nigerians that volunteer credible information to make Nigeria and Nigerians safe.

Above all we shall put mechanisms in place for the continuous monitoring of the operations of these security institutions to ensure efficiency and conformity with the rule of law. I also understand the difficult conditions under which our military and other paramilitary organisations operate. An ill-equipped, unmotivated, deprived and over- tasked soldier cannot perform maximally.

We shall motivate all affected communities, the military and the police to put an end to all killings. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for killings by Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen, crop farmers, kidnappers, human traffickers and abductors. We will provide an atmosphere where there will be security, safety, serenity and sanity.

2. The Economy: Nigeria in recent years has witnessed a weak economic performance due to tight economic policies and failed institutional supervision especially as it relates to growing small enterprises that should, in the long run, result in larger ventures to anchor our economic prosperity. Tight monetary rates, exchange rates fluctuations, inflation and unemployment are the dominant factors hindering the growth and survival of our businesses in the country today. Therefore, our focus shall be on sound economic policies that will ensure a new regime of exchange rate stability, low-interest rates and reduction in the country’s rising burden of domestic and foreign loans.

In the past three years, poverty and unemployment have become more visible, challenging Nigeria’s economic prosperity. Existing policies and economic programmes for alleviating the poverty incidence in the country have obviously failed. Our non-negotiable goal will, therefore, be the eradication of poverty through sustainable wealth creation and a coordinated and effective micro small and medium enterprises development. We shall promote policies that boost our foreign reserves and lower interest rate to ensure that the unsustainable debt treadmill profile is tamed. Locally, we shall diversify the economy through industrialisation and manufacturing, aggressive promotion of agribusiness, the mining sector and entrepreneurship to make us self-sufficient and export-oriented. The oil and gas sector must cease to be a verifiable source of corruption and inefficiency.

3. Social Challenges: Our response to the various social challenges shall be hinged on our economic model of poverty eradication. We must consciously seek to tame the widening of inequality. We will strive to end ethnic and religious bigotry, corruption, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed. As we all know a serious lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today.

We need to believe in ourselves; we need to be critically analytical when and where necessary; we need to have indomitable courage and unwavering commitment to Nigeria and all that is Nigerian; we need to stand firm for what is noble, edifying and wholesome; we need to fight those ills that have shackled us and held us back in the past; we need to establish shared values and enthrone norms, virtues and morality that are enduring, uplifting and distinguishing.

We owe the successor generation a country that is united, stable, secure, cohesive and prosperous, playing its role among the comity of nations easily. That is our goal. We must not only do things right, we must do right things and always do them right. There should be no excuse for poor performance, shoddy job and incompetence on any grounds. We must avoid failure at all cost and engender the right ambience that will allow the creative potentials of Nigerians to be expressed uninhibited. We will have truly inclusive growth and development for shared prosperity.

4. Infrastructure: With a rapidly growing population, Nigeria’s infrastructure is challenged. If not tackled it would deny citizens the joy of national prosperity. Energy need keeps shooting up the stress of doing business in Nigeria. Domestic production suffers and a lot of foreign companies also find it hard to invest in Nigeria due to constant power failures. For decades, Nigeria failed to develop its infrastructure. To bridge the gap in infrastructure, we will prioritise capital expenditure and ensure that adequate funds are not only allocated to capital expenditure but also disbursed in a timely manner and utilised as budgeted for road and rail networks, waterways, housing, aviation communication and others.

5. Human Capital Development & Global Competitiveness, Education, Research and Innovation: The greatest asset of any nation is its human capital. In the people lies the solution to most of our challenges. My job as the leader is to facilitate the release of the creative energy embedded in our growing youth population brimming with ingenuity and famed resilience. Ours will be a deliberate policy to make our workforce globally competitive. Human Capital development in all its ramifications shall be a cardinal point of our administration. We shall provide ICT- compliant high-quality personal development education.

And research for development will be made accessible to all. We are committed to providing good quality universal education from pre-primary to tertiary and vocational skills development. We shall provide accessible, quality education to all Nigerians. Education in Nigeria will be rejuvenated and restructured to make future generations not only problem-solvers but proud custodians of their culture, heritage and history and also for creating confidence in all Nigerians across all the States, sectors and talents.

We believe that education is the cornerstone of any development and nation-building and a very strong weapon to fight inequality, injustice and poverty. It is also an instrument or tool for building national unity and cohesion. As a policy, we will drive a plan to provide the necessary infrastructure, rejuvenate existing ones and modernize them to be in line with the best international practice. We shall equally review the fees being charged for WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations and make education affordable. Every child in Nigeria must be supported to attain his or her maximum potential in education. In addition, we shall commence a review of our method as it relates to agricultural technology in particular.

6. Agribusiness: Agri-business holds one of the major keys to eradicating poverty from our midst. The key of our agricultural development must be an aggressive pursuit of agri-business. We intend to collaborate with our numerous Agricultural Research Institutes and Universities by challenging them to pursue resolute research and development in agribusiness, agricultural technology etc. Working with expert advice, we intend to qualitatively improve the agricultural value chain, to create employment opportunities.

7. Healthcare Delivery: Now that medical tourism has become the first choice of our leaders, we will ensure that the current situation in clinics and hospitals is given radical reforms. We shall prioritise and institutionalise national healthcare programmes and delivery, medical education and training and financing of healthcare in a manner that is universally accessible and affordable. Our main goal in healthcare would be to provide affordable ‘Healthcare services for all Nigerians’.

8. International Relations: While Africa must remain the centrepiece of our foreign policy, we shall endeavour to keep our old friends while seeking deeper and better understanding of our other development partners and allies. Our foreign policy must be directed at contributing to the eradication of poverty and global competitiveness.

9. Youth & Women Empowerment: Our government will treat the youth, sports, recreation and culture activities as an Industry through which businesses can be created and job opportunities established. Our women shall consciously be encouraged in governance and business. We shall encourage and support young people and women in collaboration with all financial institutions to create platforms where they can get access to finance to establish and deploy their creative energies into problem-solving apps and other forms of ICT for sports, recreation and core businesses. We will endeavour to get 30% representation of women and youth in all organs and structures of government in line with the PDP constitution.

10. National Unity, Cohesion and Restructuring: The fulcrum of our leadership will be the enhancement of a united Nigeria couched within the matrix of productivity and a shift from the sense of entitlement by officeholders and their hangers-on.

Fellow compatriots, a key propellant of our journey must be a committed desire to ensure that the labours of our heroes shall truly not be in vain. We will strive to create an atmosphere where every Nigerian has an equal opportunity to contribute. Our restructuring will be to ensure an inclusive political, social and economic space for all. All of this will ensure that first, we are Nigerians.

At this juncture, I will conclude by once again thanking all those who contributed in their own way to make this occasion a huge success. I must specifically mention those who mobilized their resources, time and energy to travel from far and near to witness this important occasion. I hope you have collected your PVC, and if you still haven’t collected your own you have tomorrow to do so. Take the opportunity to collect and encourage others to collect their own to be used to vote out the APC Government and vote in the PDP umbrella Government.”

Tinubu and I By Bukola Saraki

I have always restrained from joining issues in the media with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and this is based on my respect for him. However, I will not allow him to create a wrong, false and mischievous impression about the reasons for my decision to exit the All Progressives Congress (APC) and present his prejudice as facts for public consumption.
I have been consistent in my complaints to all leaders of the APC, including Tinubu, that a situation where the National Assembly is not constructively engaged or carried along in key policy decisions, particularly those that will eventually require legislative approval, is not in the best interest of the nation. No genuine leader of the legislature will be comfortable that the Presidency will simply write a terse letter to the National Assembly on key issues which the federal legislature is expected to later deliberate upon and give its approval. The Buhari administration consistently treats the legislature with contempt and acts as if the lawmaking body should be an appendage of the Executive. To me, this is unacceptable.
In the same way, I find it very objectionable that many stakeholders who worked strenuously to get the administration into office have now been excluded in the government and not consulted on key decisions as necessary and expected. In fact, some of them are treated as pariahs. A party that ignores justice, equity and inclusion as basic pre-conditions for peace, unity and stability cannot sustain its membership and leadership.
Let me redirect the attention of the former Governor of Lagos State to the aspect of my July 31, 2018, statement announcing my exit from APC in which I emphasized that the decision “has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist”.
In that statement, I further noted that those APC elements “have done everything to ensure that the basic rules of party administration, which should promote harmonious relations among the various elements within the party were blatantly disregarded. All governance principles which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government were deliberately violated or undermined. And all entreaties for justice, equity and fairness as basic precondition for peace and unity, not only within the party, but also the country at large, were simply ignored, or employed as additional pretext for further exclusion. The experience of my people and associates in the past three years is that they have suffered alienation and have been treated as outsiders in their own party. Thus, many have become disaffected and disenchanted. At the same time, opportunities to seek redress and correct these anomalies were deliberately blocked as a government-within-a-government had formed an impregnable wall and left in the cold, everyone else who was not recognized as “one of us”. This is why my people, like all self-respecting people would do, decided to seek accommodation elsewhere”.
Tinubu himself will recall that during the various meetings he had with me at the time he was pursuing reconciliation within the APC, I raised all the above issues. I can also vividly recall that he himself always expressed his displeasure with the style of the government and also mentioned that he had equally suffered disrespect from the same government which we all worked to put in office. I also made the point that whatever travails I have gone through in the last three years belong to the past and will not shape my decisions now and in the future.
However, during those meetings, the point of disagreement between Tinubu and I is that while I expressed my worries that there is nothing on ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that will enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people, he (Tinubu) expressed a have always restrained from joining issues in the media with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and this is based on my respect for him. However, I will not allow him to create a wrong, false and mischievous impression about the reasons for my decision to exit the All Progressives Congress (APC) and present his prejudice as facts for public consumption.
I have been consistent in my complaints to all leaders of the APC, including Tinubu, that a situation where the National Assembly is not constructively engaged or carried along in key policy decisions, particularly those that will eventually require legislative approval, is not in the best interest of the nation. No genuine leader of the legislature will be comfortable that the Presidency will simply write a terse letter to the National Assembly on key issues which the federal legislature is expected to later deliberate upon and give its approval. The Buhari administration consistently treats the legislature with contempt and acts as if the lawmaking body should be an appendage of the Executive. To me, this is unacceptable.
In the same way, I find it very objectionable that many stakeholders who worked strenuously to get the administration into office have now been excluded in the government and not consulted on key decisions as necessary and expected. In fact, some of them are treated as pariahs. A party that ignores justice, equity and inclusion as basic pre-conditions for peace, unity and stability cannot sustain its membership and leadership.
Let me redirect the attention of the former Governor of Lagos State to the aspect of my July 31, 2018, statement announcing my exit from APC in which I emphasized that the decision “has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist”.
In that statement, I further noted that those APC elements “have done everything to ensure that the basic rules of party administration, which should promote harmonious relations among the various elements within the party were blatantly disregarded. All governance principles which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government were deliberately violated or undermined. And all entreaties for justice, equity and fairness as basic precondition for peace and unity, not only within the party, but also the country at large, were simply ignored, or employed as additional pretext for further exclusion. The experience of my people and associates in the past three years is that they have suffered alienation and have been treated as outsiders in their own party. Thus, many have become disaffected and disenchanted. At the same time, opportunities to seek redress and correct these anomalies were deliberately blocked as a government-within-a-government had formed an impregnable wall and left in the cold, everyone else who was not recognized as “one of us”. This is why my people, like all self-respecting people would do, decided to seek accommodation elsewhere”.
Tinubu himself will recall that during the various meetings he had with me at the time he was pursuing reconciliation within the APC, I raised all the above issues. I can also vividly recall that he himself always expressed his displeasure with the style of the government and also mentioned that he had equally suffered disrespect from the same government which we all worked to put in office. I also made the point that whatever travails I have gone through in the last three years belong to the past and will not shape my decisions now and in the future.
However, during those meetings, the point of disagreement between Tinubu and I is that while I expressed my worries that there is nothing on ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that will enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people, he (Tinubu) expressed a strong opinion that he would rather ‘support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher’ to get a second term because in 2023, power will shift to the South-west. This viewpoint of Tinubu’s was not only expressed to me but to several of my colleagues. So much for acting in national interest.
It is clear that while my own decision is based on protecting the collective national interest, Tinubu will rather live with the identified inadequacies of the government for the sake of fulfilling and preserving his presidential ambition in 2023. This new position of Tinubu has only demonstrated inconsistency — particularly when one reviews his antecedents over the years.
Again, let me reiterate my position that my uncertain and complex relationship with Tinubu has been continually defined by the event of 2014 when myself and other leaders of the APC opposed the Muslim-Muslim ticket arrangement about to be foisted on the APC for the 2015 polls. It should be noted that he has not forgotten the fact that I took the bull by the horns and told him that in the interest of the country, he should accept the need for the party to present a balanced ticket for the 2015 General Elections in terms of religion and geo-political zones. Since that time he has been very active; plotting at every point to undermine me, both within and outside the National Assembly.
It is a surprise to me that Asiwaju Tinubu is still peddling the falsehood about the fact that my defection is about automatic ticket and sharing of resources. Members of the public will recall that when the issue of my decision to quit APC came to the fore and many APC leaders were holding meetings with me, a newspaper owned by the same Tinubu published a false report about the promise of automatic tickets, oil blocks and other benefits. I immediately rebutted their claims and categorically stated that I never discussed any such personal and pecuniary benefits with anybody. My challenge that anybody who has contrary facts should come forward with them still remains open.
It should be known that Democracy is a system that allows people to freely make their choices. It is my choice that I have decided to join others to present a viable alternative platform for Nigerians in the coming elections. Tinubu and leaders of the APC had better respect this decision or lawfully deal with it. As for me, Allah gives power to whom He wishes. Human beings can only aspire and strive to fulfill their aspirations.

Signed:
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON

Why They Left By Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

The defections of some people from the APC have generated sensational headlines and exaggerated talk as to what their departures foretell for the APC, the party to which I belong. Some have predicted the demise of the APC. Those who hope for our decline will be disappointed by the inaccuracy of their desires. The days, months and years ahead will bury such errant forecasts for these predictions are born more of bitterness than of objective analysis.
Much of the attention has centered on which party now controls this or that state and which party maintains a majority in the National Assembly. These considerations are important to members of the political class and the electoral calculations of the political parties. But these calculations cannot be all there is. We must be careful not to reduce our horizon to a mere accounting of elected officials moving from one party to another.
“Many in the political class believe this score keeping between the parties encompasses all that is important. For such people, the mere holding of office is the sole objective. The quality of governance they provide means little to them. Yet, there are greater things at stake than the fortunes of individual politicians. The people of Nigeria focus their attention on something materially different than this narrow political game.
The people are more deeply concerned with the quality of governance they experience than with the intense cunning by which the political game is played. They are more interested in helpful policies than in the tempests created by politicians in pursuit of personal ambitions. That which provides a better life in a more prosperous nation is what beckons to them. That which shines in the eye of the political opportunist is dross to the average person.
“We must pull back from the shallow headlines to recognize that something fundamental is at stake.
Nigeria is undergoing a historic transition. Sometimes awkwardly, tentatively, yet inexorably, we nurture political and governance reform. We steadily close the door on the old malpractices that have caused a rich nation to reside in the tenement of the global poor. The corruption of the past is ending; for it must end if we are to fulfill our collective purpose. With this correction, less public money will be diverted to private benefit. More will be afforded to the causes of the people. The economy is being transformed so that the average person will have a better chance of finding a better life.
“We move toward a more democratic union. The old days where a handful of uninformed men and those with deep pockets decided everything for everybody are being swept away. The will of the people can no longer be ignored. Those who would be the masters over the people must now be public servants. A party or elected official may no longer rule over the people. They must govern for the benefit of the people.
By so doing, the arc of our national progress is shaped. Not everyone is happy with this trajectory. As a whole, the political class must relinquish some of its power and wealth so people can enjoy a more equitable portion of the national enterprise.
This is the correct and perhaps inevitable course Nigeria must pursue. To their credit, many politicians see the need for reform and even champion it. Yet, there are those in the political class who scheme against collective improvement. They seek to halt progress toward a fairer nation. They seek to hold to the old ways. The difference between the two parties and why some people returned to their PDP conclave must be seen in this light.
“This is more than competition over numbers. What rests in the balance is not whether one party has more elected officials on its roster, but which party has the right mindset and policies to reform Nigeria that she may become what goodness demands of her. We are in locked battle to define the future of this nation and the quality of its governance. This battle pits one party, the APC, with all of its imperfections, that seeks national reforms against another party, the PDP, which symbolizes the perfection of the most selfish designs of the most selfish politicians among us.
This moral battle informed the recent defections. Those who belong to that PDP mode of thought could find no permanent comfort in walking the path of progressive reform and progress. All the things we have inaugurated such as school-feeding programs for poor pupils, social security for poor families, affordable housing programs, greater access to credit for small businesses and greater access to education and health care, these things the defectors could not well abide. They detested President Buhari’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) innovation because it barred them from mis-directing funds into a maze of unaudited accounts from which they could siphon as they pleased. Buhari cut off their clandestine illicit spigot.
“These politicians see accountable good governance and lifting of the common person as the tearing down of their quest for great riches and power.
Even more so, they detested the APC drive toward greater internal democracy. They bristled when we demanded that congresses and conventions be held; they had demanded giving themselves automatic extension in their positions. They privately erupted as the APC decided that direct primaries where all party members vote on the party’s nominations should be the way of the future. The injection of greater democracy meant a decrease in their ability to manipulate end results. Politics will be ushered out of the backroom and given to the people to whom sovereignty genuinely belongs. These men could not countenance such transformation. They saw it not as the gift of democracy but as an obstacle that complicated their self-interest. They left the party to return to a motley agglomeration that would promise them what true democracy could not: automatic tickets, sharing of the national wealth and other offices and privileges.
“Their defection statements swell with high-sounding words and the attempted grasp of lofty ideals. While I shall refrain from being so coarse as to call these statements counterfeit, I must invoke a sufficient level of common sense for the protection of all. Anyone who accepts their statements at face value will quickly experience buyer’s remorse. Their attempt at fine notions aside, what compelled these people was galloping yet blind ambition.
Governor Tambuwal’s exit can be distilled to one cause. He covets the presidency. However, he had not the stomach to challenge President Buhari in a primary. Tambuwal felt further insulted that he would be compelled to face a direct primary just to retain the governorship nomination. But for the promise made by PDP headliners like Rivers State Governor Wike that he would have the PDP presidential nomination, Tambuwal would not have left. His exit had nothing to do with governance of the nation. It was about forging a personal ambition predicated on the defeat of progressive reform not the advancement of it.
“Much the same for Senate President Saraki. Returning to the PDP, he harbors dreams of the presidency but Tambuwal’s ambition will dwarf Saraki’s when the two collide. If Saraki had remained in the APC, he would be unable to reclaim his Senate seat let alone the Senate Presidency. He thus bolted because he lusts for the presidency but was promised by the PDP, at least, a return to his position in the Senate.
For Saraki to talk about lack of governance is for him to deny who he is and the position he holds. This man stands as Nigeria’s Number 3 citizen. Clothed is he in ample power and influence. If he saw areas where government and the nation needed help, he could have easily applied his energies to these areas. He could have drafted legislation and easily got laws passed. However, no progressive enactment bears his name for he cared not for progress. He has been more focused on changing the rules of the Senate to favour himself and changing the order of elections so as to coincide with his selfish designs.
“The rest of the defectors were given similar assurances by the PDP as to their offices. The APC refused to make such bargains as they are part of the ancient regime; these bargains are not of our democratic new way.
There is nothing wrong with ambition. Without a degree of ambition, we would never strive to improve and develop ourselves. But ambition, restrained by nothing but itself, is a dangerous commodity. Unwedded to social conscience, it leads to ruthlessness; it is the father of the deception that leaders are meant to lord over instead of to serve the populace.
In the final analysis, the reason for the defections is as clear to see as it is crooked in its motives. The APC seeks to reform governance and politics. However, many powerful people believe the established system assures their maximum benefit. Progressive reform would defeat them. They must fight reform and never be allied to it. Thus, they had to leave the APC.
“In a fundamental way, the APC may be better for their exit. It would be untrue to say their departures did not generate concern. As the air clears and we can better assess what is lost and gained by their exit, I can truthfully say the APC will be better off because they are gone.
We can now focus more wholly on democratic governance inside and outside the party. Inside the party, we have adopted direct primaries to discourage corruption of the democratic process. Regarding public policy, we can now better articulate our progressive stance without having naysayers among complaining that we are going too far or that the good we seek for the people ought not to be done.
We can more decisively push for the jobs program, expansion of social security for the poor, affordable housing programs and a viable mortgage system, national infrastructural program that will provide adequate power and potable water, basic health care for all, and educational reform. Each of these is important in itself. In combination, these objectives shall reshape the very landscape of our political economy. They shall bring fairness and prosperity where none has been. They will give the average person a government that serves them and the land that they deserve.
“But this prospect means a large segment of the political class will oppose the APC. We, as a party, must have the courage to accept this reality. Having decided to place the public welfare above the private welfare of the few, we must forge ahead no matter the foes aligned against us.
This struggle toward a better Nigeria is hard, described more by difficult obstacles than by smooth passages. Had reform been easy, the task would have already been accomplished. Powerful hands have gathered to halt our collective move forward. Not everyone wants a better Nigeria for all. Those who profit from the imbalances of the past are those who fear a fairer tomorrow.
Come the general election, the people will face a stark choice. If they want to relive the certain failure and inequality of the system the PDP had erected against their very interests, the people will walk the way of the defectors. If the people want to give themselves a better chance at an excellent nation they will adhere to the path elected in 2015 when they voted for reform and the APC.
“I believe in the collective wisdom of the people. They will choose the right way for they are Nigerians which means they shall do what is right and just”.