Open Letter to President Buhari on the Alleged Ganduje Videos, by Audu Bulama Bukarti

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

Following your recent appearance on Kadaria Ahmed’s widely-televised programme, The Candidates, I write to raise some issues regarding your response to several questions on the viral video clips allegedly showing Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State receiving bribe from contractors.
Sir, what stood out to me in your answers are that you “can’t understand” the extent of the “technology” used in the clips and that you are counting on Kano State Assembly (KSHA) and the Kano State High Court (KSHC) to provide you with the answers you and every Nigerian want before you go to Kano for your election campaign.
Your Excellency, these statements left me with only one conclusion: that you have been utterly misled by those people you appointed and trusted to guide you. Contrary to what you have been made to believe, the issue of investigating the clips is not in court and it is not before the KSHA. The whole world is now waiting for you to act. I will explain my assertion below.
Sir, there is currently no ongoing investigation on the said clips at the KSHA and there no pending suit on the investigation. Immediately after the videos went viral, the KSHA instituted an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations. The committee held public sittings to which it invited Jaafar Jaafar – the journalist who first released the videos – and he who honoured the invitation, testified before the committee and made copies of the clips available to it. I was specially moved by the fact that Jaafar arrived the venue with a copy of the Noble Qur’an and he to testified while hanging it, the same Qur’an you swore on on the 29th of May 2015 that you will, among other things, fight corruption “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
Next, the committee invited Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. But Ganduje failed, refused or neglected to appear before the committee. Instead, he sent his Commissioner of Information to represent him. Predictably, the representative could not offer any convincing explanation not least because he was not there when the alleged facts took place. He merely denied the content of the video and cast aspersions on the personality of Jaafar Jaafar. To recap this point, Jaafar has honoured the committee’s invitation and testified, but Ganduje failed to appear. Doesn’t that tell you anything Sir?
But the worst for Ganduje was still to come. Few days after he refused to appear before the committee, the whistle-blower who shot the video and who was initially hesitant to testify volunteered to appear before the committee if his security and safety can be guaranteed. The committee started making moves to appoint experts to analyse the videos. These development chilled Ganduje and his team to the marrow. The next thing we heard was that a self-styled, unregistered group of lawyers has instituted an action asking the court to stop the KSHA from investigating the videos. The court first restrained the committee and later pronounced that the KSHA has no power to investigate the videos as they contain criminal allegations. It further declared that it is the function of such agencies as the police, the EFCC and the ICPC to investigate the allegations and that the videos should be submitted to them. Thus, the court has already ruled that the KSHA lacks power to proceed and threw to ball to the court of the police, the EFCC and/or the EFCC and all these agencies are under your watch. Thus, there is neither an ongoing investigation nor is there a pending suit on the investigation. So, the matter is not in the court. It is not in the KSHA. Consequently, you unfortunately cannot find the answers you are looking for from the KSHA or from the Court. The EFCC, ICPC, NPF and the DSS have refused to act and they are all under you. Thus, the ball is now in your court, Mr. President.
Your Excellency, permit me to now turn to your statement that you don’t know “the extent of [the] technology used” in the clips and you “can’t understand it”. Mr. President, I believe you a hundred-and-ten percent that you don’t know the extent of the technology used, but I state, with profound respect, that you can understand it if you wish to. Qur’an 16:43 teaches us you “ask the people of the message if you do not know”. Sir, the only thing needed for you to understand the video is for a forensic investigation to be carried out on them. This investigation would reveal whether the clips are genuine or doctored or fake. Today, Allah has put as your disposal every investigative agency in Nigeria: the DSS, the NPF, the EFCC, ICPC, name them. Sir, you simply need to ask them to investigate and brief you so that you may understand “the extent of [the] technology used.”
But you do not even have to ask and wait for forensic investigation to be conducted because the EFCC has already done one. This is according its acting chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu and all you to do is to simply direct the EFCC chairman to brief you on their findings. On 23rd November 2018, Mr. Magu told me in public at Queen Mary University of London that his team was in London to, among other things, conduct forensics into the clips. But upon completion and return to Nigeria, he kept mute on the issue. I suspect that result he found is against Ganduje. Otherwise, he would have publicised the results and the police would have arrested and prosecuted the journalist and the whistle-blower.
Sir, do need to remind you that in 2015 you campaigned on the back of three key promises – fighting corruption, unemployment and Boko Haram – and I understand that you are riding on the same promises today. Millions of Nigerians and I who not only voted for you in 2015 but also voluntarily worked for your election to the last atom of our strength did so because we believed that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” On the 29th of May 2015, you swore on the Glorious Qur’an saying I “will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. Furthermore, Section 15 (5) of the Constitution mandates you to “abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power” in Nigeria.
Mr President, the duo of Jaafar Jaafar and the whistle-blower who did their best to complement your efforts in fight against corruption, are bearing the brunt of your administration’s undoing. While Jaafar is facing a N3billion “defamation” suit, the business interest of the contractor who filmed the video is on a knife edge. The ongoing contracts being executed by his company have been revoked by the state government. This is counter-productive to your whistle-blowing policy as people will rather remain silent in future.
Finally, Mr. President, as you rightly stated in your response to Kadaria Ahmed, this issue has “received a lot of publicity” and “the world is [now] watching us”. You are the President who duty is to lead. If keep complaining that you can’t understand, you will only continue to erode public confidence in your government as you are telling us that you are not in charge. Your Excellency, your action or inaction on fighting corruption in Nigeria will surely be written in history books and taught in history classes and this case is a litmus test. I pray you wouldn’t let, nay make, history judge you harshly. Most importantly, in the Day of Judgement, you would be judged by the Almighty as to whether you have done your best to deliver on your promise. On that Day, there would be no cabal, aides, no supporters and Professor Osinbajo wouldn’t be sitting beside you!
The long and short of what I have said is that the whistle-blower has fulfilled his obligation as good citizen, Jaafar Jaafar has paid his dues as a journalist, the KSHA has played its own and the court has ruled. And now I have done my part. The ball is now in your court, Mr. President.

Mr Bukarti, a Ph.D candidate at SOAS, University of London, is human rights and anti-corruption lawyer.

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For the record: Points of concern and action, by Olusegun Obasanjo

Full text of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to rig the 2019 elections.

I am concerned as a democrat who believes that with faithful and diligent practice of democracy, we can get over most of our political problems and move steadfastly and surefootedly on the course of stability, unity of purpose, socio-economic growth and progress for all.
Democracy becomes a sham if elections are carried out by people who should be impartial and neutral umpires, but who show no integrity, acting with blatant partiality, duplicity and imbecility. For all democrats and those carrying out the process of elections, there must be the redline that must not be crossed in tactics and practices of democracy.
I personally have serious doubt about the present INEC’s integrity, impartiality and competence to conduct a fair, free and credible election. And if the INEC is willing, will the ruling party and government allow it? From what we saw and knew about Osun State gubernatorial election, what was conclusive was declared inconclusive despite all advice to the contrary.
The unnecessary rerun, if viewed as a test-run for a larger general election, would lead people to expect incidences of deliberately contrived, broken or non-working voting machines or card readers, confusion of voters as to their voting stations, inadequate supply of voting materials to designated places, long line to discourage voters and turning blind eyes to favour the blue-eye political party of INEC because the Commission’s hands will be tied to enable hatchet men and women to perform their unwholesome assignment. The transmission and collation of results are subject to interference, manipulation and meddling. If the INEC’s favourite political party wins with all the above infractions, the result will be conclusively declared and if not, there will be a ‘rerun’, the result of which is known before it is carried out. I know that I am not alone in being sceptical about the integrity of INEC and its ability to act creditably and above board. But we are open to be convinced otherwise.
The joke about INEC would seem real. The INEC was asked if the Commission was ready for the election and if it expects the election to be free, fair and credible. The INEC man is reported as saying in response, “we are ready with everything including the results!” God save Nigeria! It is up to Nigerians to ensure that the redline is not crossed in safeguarding our fledging democracy. And if crossed, appropriate action must be taken not to allow our democracy to be derailed.
A friend of mine who is more credulous and who claims to be close to the Chair of INEC keeps telling me that INEC will retrieve its image and reputation by conducting the coming elections with utmost integrity and impartiality. I am not sure as I believe more in action than in words and in past record than in promise. The track record of the present INEC is fairly sordid and all men and women of goodwill and believers in democracy must be prepared for the worst from INEC and their encouragers and how to get Nigeria out of the electoral morass that the Commission is driving us into. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. A battle long forewarned does not embroil the cripple nor catch him unawares. A word is sufficient for the wise. The labour of Nigerian democracy heroes must not be in vain. Some men of God would hold President Buhari to his word on free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. I am a realist and I reiterate that I go by track record. Therefore, I am not persuaded by a track record of hollow words, impunity, insensitivity and ‘I-couldn’t-care-less’ attitude, or by the sanctimonious claims of any candidate and his campaign staff. I will only believe what I see. This is a time for vigilance to fight to safeguard our votes and defend our democracy. The price of liberty and sustenance of our democracy is eternal vigilance and appropriate reaction to ward off iniquities. We must all be ready to pay that price and not relying on hollow words of callousness. The derailment of Nigerian democracy will be a monumental disaster comparable to the disaster of the Nigerian first military coup.
While Nigerians must not allow such a disaster to happen nor take such an affront lying low, the international community who played an admirable role in warning INEC, of course, to no avail on the Osun State gubernatorial election and who have been warning all political parties must on this occasion give more serious warning, send more people to the field to observe and work out punitive measures against INEC and security officials especially the Police and politicians who stand to gain from INEC’s misconduct, which is obviously encouraged by the Executive Arm of Government and who must be held responsible for the violence that will follow. Such measures can vary from denial and withdrawal of visas from the people concerned and from their families to other more stringent measures including their accounts being frozen and taking them to International Criminal Court, ICC, if violence emanates from their action or inaction. Nigeria must not be allowed to slip off the democratic path nor go into anarchy and ruin. No individual nor group has monopoly of violence or gangsterism. And we must not forget that in human interaction, reactions are normally greater than action, though opposite.
READ ALSO: Obasanjo attacks Buhari, says Abacha era is here
It is no use, at this juncture, to keep lamenting about the failure, incompetence, divisiveness, nepotism, encouragement and condonation of corruption by Buhari administration as there is neither redeeming feature nor personality to salvage the situation within that hierarchy. You cannot give what you don’t have. Bode George put it bluntly in his statement of December 3, 2018 when he said:“The other day, the Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo – a learned man, an enlightened person in all parameters – was seen at various markets in Lagos State and Abuja distributing N10,000 each to market women. What an absurdity! It was indeed an obscene display of executive recklessness and abuse of office. Pray, where did the money come from? Was it budgeted for in the appropriation law? In more civilised nations, Osinbajo would have been impeached and prosecuted for gutting our collective treasury.”
What an act by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria lawyer, number 2 man in the Executive hierarchy; and what is more, a pastor of one of the Christian movements led by a revered, respected and upright church leader, Pastor E. A. Adeboye. Osinbajo must have gone for, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. A great pity indeed and which makes people ask the questions, “Any hope?” Yes, for me, there is hope. Osinbajo has shown the human weakness and proved the saying that the corruption of the best is the worst form of corruption. His explanation that it was their government programme can only be construed to be very shallow and lopsided, if not an outrightly idiotic programme.
Traders in rural and sub-urban areas of Nigeria are many more than those in urban areas and they are much poorer than traders in Lagos, Abuja and other cities. They need more attention and greater help. Are they to be confined to the heap of perpetual poverty? What of those who are not traders? They are not entitled to hand-out and they can languish in penury? And what about millions who have lost their jobs in the last three and a half years? The timing is also suspect. Those who criticise the action are called evil but they are not evil as they know what they are doing and saying, and they love Nigeria and Nigerians not less than the likes of Osinbajo. They are not devils incarnate; they are patriots.
What is the connection between taking the number of PVC (Permanent Voters Card) of the recipient of the N10,000 doled out to ‘traders’ and the forthcoming election? There is something sinister about it, and Professor Osinbajo, of all people, should know that. With collusion of the INEC officials and card readers not made to work, anybody quoting the PVC number may be allowed to vote as the revised Electoral Bill was not signed. And if that happens all over the country, it will be massive rigging indeed. The Chairman of INEC must stand firm and carry out his duties with competence and unbending neutrality. Card readers must be used without fail and accreditation must be completed and number ascertained and made public before voting commences as was done in 2015.
Amina Zakari has become too controversial a figure to be able to give assurance of free, fair and credible election for INEC. President Buhari and her family have declared that there is no blood relationship but there is relationship through marriage and that is more than enough for the good lady to step aside. A judge does not sit in judgement over a case once he or she becomes a cause for controversy or one side in the case has strongly objected to the judge. Madam Amina Zakari should, in honour, stay out and not be seen as a source of contamination of the election. Otherwise, it will be difficult to deny the rumour that she is being assigned to Collation Centre for one duty only – to write out figures that are not results of the voting in the field on fake results sheets without water mark or on genuine results sheets which she will have access to as a Commissioner. Amina Zakari is not the only Commissioner that can be in the Collation Centre. Let the INEC Chairman act boldly and impartially and prove his absolute neutrality and responsiveness to contribute to make the election peacefully free, fair and credible. His integrity needs to be transparently demonstrated.
We should remember that there had been reports of INEC sponsored rigging in the past, and also with INEC officials through collation and with officials being put in party coordinators’ dresses and working for the political party favoured by INEC and also putting the dresses of other parties on INEC-favoured parties and police uniforms on INEC-favoured parties to rig all the elections for the favoured party. Like all of us, INEC knows all these and it should devise means to make sure they do not happen. But will they? One way will be to only allow card readers to be means of authenticating voters and where there is no such authentication, it should mean no voting. The second is to use only identity cards with watermarks issued by INEC itself to party officials only for identification of political party coordinators, officials and agents and not political parties dresses or arm and wrist bands which anybody can wear for purposes of identification on election duty or function. Both the Presidency and the National Assembly must so far be commended for adequately providing funding as confirmed by INEC, and therefore funding cannot be an excuse for poor performance by INEC.
President Buhari and his hatchet men in the coming election think that the judiciary must be primed in their favour. Hence, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, has been harassed and prosecuted for non-declaration of his assets without following the Constitution and the law, just to make him conform or set him aside for a Buhari man to take over or act, as President Buhari and his people believe no stone should be left unturned to rig Buhari in. It seems to be a ploy to intimidate the judiciary as a whole in preparation for all election cases that will go before them. Where and how will all these stop? Typically, with overwhelming outrage and condemnation, we are told that the Presidency denied knowledge of the action. But the Vice-President told us that the President knew of the action on Saturday night for everything that has been prepared for Monday morning. Haba VP, it doesn’t happen that way. Nobody should take such measure against any of the four in hierarchy below the President or any of his ministers without his knowledge and indeed his approval. But if that can happen to the Chief Justice of the Federation, the fifth man in the hierarchy of government, without the knowledge let alone the approval of the President, then it speaks for the type of government we have which means the President is not in charge let alone being in control and no Nigerian must take anything for granted. We are all unsafe and insecure under such an administration. And enough of it! Buhari’s apologists will not stop at anything to try to cover up his administration’s inadequate performance and character. A constitutional liberal democracy cannot thrive without an independent and insulated judiciary from the executive and the legislature. Nigerians must wake up and stop these acts of wanton desperation tantamount to mental incapacity to run the affairs of Nigeria wholesomely.
Life and living are anchored on trust. But if I trust you and you deceive, cheat or disappoint me the first time, it is shame on you. However, if I allow you to do so the same thing for me the second time, I do not only have myself to blame, I must be regarded as a compound fool.
Buhari has succeeded in deceiving us the first time and we will be fools to allow ourselves to be deceived the second time. Buba Galadima, who knows Buhari very well as a confidant and National Secretary of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, the Buhari’s party before it joined in forming All Progressives Congress, APC, has warned us this time around that no matter what he promises, he cannot change his character and attitude. He describes him as inflexible, insincere, dubious, intolerant, never accepts responsibility when things go wrong and impervious to reason and advice for change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything is the assertion of George Bernard Shaw. Even when figures, facts and statistics are made clear to Buhari, he keeps repeating what is untrue, either because he cannot understand or for mischief purposes and that places him on the level of a pathological liar. He believes he can get away with impunity and deceit as he seems to have done on many occasions in the past. Buba Galadima’s position is well complemented by Dr. Auwalu Anwar on the APC, CPC, TBO and Buhari’s character and attitude in his yet to be launched book, “Politics As Dashed Hopes in Nigeria”. It is also a stunning revelation. Anwar clearly pointed out, “the brazen display of incompetence, insensitivity and irresponsiveness by delusional party, CPC, leadership at all levels”. Buhari was the leader of the party. Bola Tinubu’s statement about Muhammadu Buhari in 2003 is fairly prophetic, “Muhammadu Buhari is an agent of destabilisation, ethnic bigot and religious fanatic who, if given the chance, would ensure the disintegration of the country. His ethnocentrism would jeopardise Nigeria’s national unity.”
Junaid Mohammed was eloquent on the issue of nepotism. But if as we were told that Buhari is nepotic because he does not trust others, why should others trust him to continue to put their fate and life in his hand. Trust begets trust. They cannot be trusted for ‘sensitive’ appointment but they can be sent out to campaign for his re-election. Who is fooling who?
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What is happening under Buhari’s watch can be likened to what we witnessed under Gen. Sani Abacha in many ways. When Abacha decided that he must install himself as Nigerian President by all means and at all costs, he went for broke and surrounded himself with hatchet men who on his order and in his interest and at high costs to Nigeria and Nigerians maimed, tortured and killed for Abacha. Buhari has started on the same path in mad desperation.
From available intelligence, we have heard of how Buhari and his party are going about his own self-succession project. They have started recruiting collation officers who are already awarding results based on their projects to actualise the perpetuation agenda in which the people will not matter and the votes will not count. It is the sole reason he has blatantly refused to sign the revised Electoral Reform Bill into law.
His henchmen are working round the clock in cahoots with security and election officials to perfect their plan by computing results right from the ward to local government, state and national levels to allot him what will look like a landslide victory irrespective of the true situation for a candidate who might have carried out by proxy presidential debate and campaigns.
The current plan is to drape the pre-determined results with a toga of credibility. It is also planned that violence of unimaginable proportion will be unleashed in high voting population areas across the country to precipitate re-run elections and where he will be returned duly elected after concentration of security officials as it happened in Osun State. We are monitoring them and we call on all democrats across the world to keep an eye on the unfolding anti-democratic agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is the time for preventive measures to be taken otherwise Nigeria may be presented with a fait accompli with impunity and total disregard of all pleas.
His scheme bears eloquent testimony to this road similar to Abacha whom he has praised to high heavens and as an arch-supporter and beneficiary from Abacha, he has seen nothing wrong done by him. It is clear from all indications that Buhari is putting into practice the lessons he learned from Abacha. Buhari has intimidated and harassed the private sector, attacked the National Assembly and now unconstitutionally and recklessly attacked and intimidated the Judiciary to cow them to submission.
I was a victim of Abacha’s atrocities against Nigeria and Nigerians – high and low. At the height of Abacha’s desperation for perpetual power, he did not brook any criticism because Nigeria was seen as his personal property. You must go along with him or be destroyed. All institutions for ensuring security, welfare and well-being of Nigeria and Nigerians particularly the Police, the Military and the Department of State Services (DSS) were abused and misused to deal with critics of Abacha and non-conformists with Abacha.
Today, another Abacha Era is here. The security institutions are being misused to fight all critics and opponents of Buhari and to derail our fledgling democracy. EFCC, Police and Code of Conduct Tribunal are also being equally misused to deal with those Buhari sees as enemies for criticising him or as those who may not do his bidding in manipulating election results. Criticism, choice and being different are inherent trade mark of democracy. If democracy is derailed or aborted, anarchy and authoritarianism will automatically follow.
Today, as in the day of Abacha, Nigerians must rise up and do what they did in the time of Abacha. Churches and Mosques prayed. International community stood by us Nigerians. I was a beneficiary and my life was saved. Well-meaning Nigerians took appropriate actions and made sacrifices, some supreme, some less than supreme but God had the final say and He took the ultimate action.
God of Nigeria is a living God and a prayer-answering God. Nigerians must cry out to God to deliver Nigeria. Here again, I have been threatened with arrest and extermination but I will not succumb to intimidation or threats. Maybe I should remind those who are using probe as a threat that I have been probed four times by EFCC, ICPC, House of Representatives and the Senate and Buhari has access to reports of these probes. But I have also challenged Buhari and the criminals around him to set up a probe on the same allegations and I will face such probe in public. But I know that these criminals cannot withstand a Police inquiry let alone clinical probe on the past public offices they held. My fervent prayer is that President Buhari may live to see the will and purpose of God for Nigeria. My final appeal to him is to desist from evil with manipulation and desperation because evil has repercussion especially as man who should watch and be mindful of his self-acclaimed and packaged integrity. At the end of the day, those who goad you on will leave you in the lurch. You will be left alone, naked and unheralded. In defeat, which must be Buhari’s fear leading to desperation, he and his co-travellers can still maintain modicum of decency, and exhibit fear of God in their actions. We have been told that governance has been abdicated to a cabal. Now, campaigning has been abdicated to ‘jagaban’. And it is being authoritatively stated that he would not join any presidential debate. Nigerians will not allow the elections to be abdicated to INEC and Police to give us false and manipulated results. I personally commend the President for yielding to popular outcry to let the former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, go when he is due as he had the track record and history of being assigned to rig elections for the incumbent. It was alleged that he was sent to Kano for that purpose in 2015. He was already deploying his Commissioners of Police on similar mission before his exit. We must all encourage the new Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to tread the path of professionalism, even-handedness, respect and new image for the Police.
While Nigeria must appreciate Buhari for the little he has done and allow him to depart for home in peace if he allows free, fair, peaceful and credible elections, we must also tell ourselves that Nigeria deserves better at this point in time than what Buhari is capable of offering. History will note that he has been there. Nigeria now needs a man with better physical and mental soundness, with an active mind and intellect.
Let me say again that Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians and exists for the benefit of all Nigerians and non-Nigerians who desire to live or do business in and with Nigeria. The attitude of “it is my turn and I can do what I like” with impunity will not last because Nigeria is created by God and it will outlive all evil machinations and designs against the overall interest of Nigeria.
Before I conclude, let me assert that the security situation has deteriorated with kidnapping everywhere and Boko Haram more in action and nobody should deceive Nigerians about this. With the teaming up of Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram is stronger today militarily than they have ever been. Boko Haram has also been empowered by the Nigerian government through payment of ransom of millions of dollars which each administration disingenuously always denies. With ISIS being liquidated in Iraq and Syria, Africa is now their port of concentration. Soon, they may take over Libya which, with substantial resources, is almost a totally failed state. When that happens, all African countries North of Congo River will be unsafe with serious security problems. The struggle must be for all West African, Central African, North African and most East African States. Nigeria has to play a vanguard role in this struggle as we have much to lose. This administration has reached the end of its wit even in handling all security issues, but particularly Boko Haram issue, partly due to misuse of security apparatus and poor equipment, deployment, coordination and cooperation.
Finally, those Nigerians that are being intimidated or threatened by this Administration must trust in God and stand firm. Tough times do not last forever, but tough people invariably survive tough times. This is a tough time for almost all Nigerians in different respects, but the people’s will shall triumph. All people who have registered to vote with their PVCs must never allow anybody or anything to deny or deprive them of the right of performing their fundamental civic duty of voting and sustaining democracy. Establishment of democracy and its sustenance is second to attainment of independence in our political life, leaving out the victory of the civil war. We shall overcome.

Why My Mission To The US Matters By Atiku Abubakar

It has become pertinent for me to speak about my ongoing visit to the United States of America, where I met and I am still meeting with US administration officials and business leaders.

I travelled to the United States of America because I had a mission and my mission is to create the right economic atmosphere for American investments to return to Nigeria at a rate and quantum that we had before the current Nigerian administration’s policies almost halted the flow of Foreign Direct Investments to Nigeria.

I am in America because Atiku means jobs.

My reason for running for the office of President of Nigeria and even for going into public service in the first place, is because I believe that Nigeria has what it takes to be the beacon of hope for the Black Race and a leading nation of reckoning in the international community.

This has not materialised over the course of the last four years because, as Chinua Achebe prophetically said in his 1983 book, “the trouble with Nigeria is the failure of leadership.”

The current Nigerian administration has allowed our relationship with our long-standing friends and partners to deteriorate and this has had unfortunate consequences for our economy.

Foreign relations that had been meticulously and delicately built for decades were allowed to deteriorate because the incumbent administration mistook their personal interests as the interest of Nigeria and allowed short term goals to dominate their foreign policies.

New friendships should not be made at the cost of old friendships. It is not an either-or situation. Right from independence, Nigeria has nurtured a policy of non-alignment. We borrowed from the Lincoln policy of malice toward none and charity for all. Sadly, that policy has suffered major setbacks in the last four years.

As a leader in business, I am cognisant of the fact that both Western and Oriental nations will be making the transition from fossil fuels to electric powered vehicles and other green energies over the course of the next two decades. This means that Nigeria’s oil has a limited shelf life.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed and we must, as a nation, begin to make the transition from an oil economy to a modern economy based on manufacturing and value-added agricultural chain.

The message I took to the United States business community is not a new message. In my opinion editorial in the British media (Beyond Brexit – Nigeria wants a new trade deal with Britain), I opined that Brexit is an opportunity for Nigeria and the United Kingdom to have a Big Ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

It is only common sense.

In 2014, the African continent as a whole earned $2.4 billion from coffee grown in Africa and shipped mainly to Europe. That sounds impressive. However, one nation alone, Germany, made $3.8 billion from re-exporting Africa’s coffee in 2014.

As a businessman, I see this and I cannot allow it to continue. It is unconscionable, but situations like these will not stop unless Nigeria and Africa have leadership that thinks business instead of aid and capital instead of loans.

Nigeria has perhaps the highest populations of youths as a segment of the total population, in the world. Already, we have the unfortunate distinction of being the world headquarters for extreme poverty. We cannot afford business as usual. My single-minded focus is to change this dubious record by transforming Nigeria from a consumer nation to a prosumer nation (a nation that consumes what it produces).

For this to happen, we need US firms who have divested from Nigeria, to return. We need Procter and Gamble to reopen their $300 million Nigerian plant which they shut down last year. We need General Electric to reverse their $2.7 billion pull out of Nigeria.

And my vision is for trade to go both ways. Nigeria has a lot to offer America via her creative industry (Nollywood is the world’s third largest movie industry) and rich mining sectors (Nigeria’s Kaduna state is rich with gold ore). I am also eager to find a market in the US for some of the half a million shoes manufactured in Nigeria’s cities of Kano and Aba everyday.

Someone somewhere said Nigeria’s youth are lazy. I am one of the single largest employers of Nigeria’s youth and I know that that assertion is false. My travels in Europe and America is to sell the Nigeria that I know to the world that does not yet know her. A Nigeria with not just a hardworking youthful population, but a nation with some of the smartest working people on earth. A nation that is open for business and a Nigeria that is much more than oil.

And I am certain that if I am successful in selling this Nigeria to the world, the world will come to Nigeria for business. That is why I am in America. Because I believe in JOBS – Jobs, Opportunity, Being United and Security and it is time Nigeria and all Nigerians finally have the opportunity to realize their true potential.

Atiku Abubakar is Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President of Nigeria

Memo to General Buratai on Military-Media Relations- by Yushau Shuaib

_*original story
Link: https://yashuaib.com/2019/01/buratai-military-media-relations/

Dear General Buratai,

I thank you for inviting media executives and public relations practitioners, through the Deputy President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mallam Suleiman Gaya for the interactive dialogue held in Maiduguri last December, 2018. The event was friendly, frank and sincere, towards evolving stakeholders’ engagement and enhancing military-media relations.

However, a few days after the well-attended engagement, the Nigeria Army declared an activist, Dr. Perry Brimah wanted over alleged fundraising for troops. The military also subsequently invaded the offices of leading national newspaper, Daily Trust and arrested some of its journalists over an ‘exclusive’ report it had recently published on the counter-insurgency strategy of the Nigerian Army.

I must tell you frankly that these incidences were worrisome and portends a huge minus to the desired mutual military-media relations being striven towards.

It might interest the Army, Sir, to note that similar media indiscretions during the previous administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were well-managed, when news editors were inundated with confidential information in the name of exclusive reports.

For instance, on the evening of Friday, February 13, 2015, almost four years ago, there was intelligence about a sensitive news story that had been filed to the headquarters of Daily Trust in Abuja by Hamza Idris, a war reporter who doubled as the Bureau Chief of the paper in Borno State, and is currently a political editor.

The filed story coincided with the commencement of ruthless military operations in which many Boko Haram terrorists attempting to over-run Maiduguri were eliminated. The Nigerian Air Force had then intensified aerial bombardments of the dreaded Sambisa Forest, leading to the recovery of the towns of Monguno, Marte and others from the terrorists. President Goodluck Jonathan was billed to fly in an airforce helicopter to the liberated towns of Baga, Mubi and others.

At the time, I was assigned by the Security Service to ensure that a sensitive aspect of the filed story concerning special forces was not published. For several hours and into the midnight of that Friday, I was in touch with the Defence Correspondent, Ronald Mutum; the North-East Bureau Chief, Hamza Idris; Daily Editor, Nasir Lawal; and Saturday Editor, Abdulkarim Baba-Aminu appealing to and finally convincing them of the implications of disclosing such sensitive part of the story to the public.

Lucky enough, in the newspaper published the following day, the sensitive portion of the cover story, which was subject of concern, had been expunged. Dozens of towns were later recovered and President Jonathan flew into Baga, Mubi and other liberated towns to felicitate with the gallant troops. That was when Jonathan honoured the late Lt Col. Abu Ali for his military prowess and valour.

General Buratai, sir, there were several instances in which the Nigerian media demonstrated excessive patriotism in protecting national security. During that period, Femi Adesina, who was President of Nigerian Guild of Editors and General Chris Olukolade, the Defence Spokesperson ensured that the security services put news editors in confidence about major operations and the media were very supportive treating highly classified information with the delicateness it required. And, those editorial gestures were at NO COST to the government.

Sir, you may be surprised to note that some of the harshest critics of the military during the Jonathan administration were mostly strong supporters of General Buhari’s candidacy for president. They included media practitioner, Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters, civil society actors like Dr. Ahmed Idris of Citizens United for Peace and Stability (CUPS) and Dr. Issa Perry Brimah of Every Nigerian Do Something (ENDS), among others. Then, the security services tolerated the excesses of critics of the administration to some extent, as some of their outbursts were borne of genuine concerns, which also influenced positive social change and the upgrading of security tactics and strategies.

Meanwhile, on your assumption of office, critics gave the service chiefs breathing space for sometime before resuming their ‘constructive engagements’, not necessarily of the military per se but of you as Chief of Army Staff, after the Zaria Shi’ite massacre and the Dubai property imbroglio.

Surprisingly, some of these persons, who are my good friends, bore me bitter for founding PRNigeria as a platform for alternative narratives on the performance of the military as an institution. Although public relations is a legitimate and profitable communications business, they fail to realise that since the appointment of the current National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno and service chiefs, the Media/PR outfit has never been paid a kobo for managing the reputation of the security agencies and promoting their activities. Yets, PRNigeria takes solace in the fact that we have unfettered access to very top officers and security spokespersons for credible, reliable and timely information in its work.

General sir, you need to establish a better rapport and engage with the media and other critical stakeholders closely, for them to appreciate your efforts as the Chief of Army Staff. Some of them even lack basic information about much of your past accomplishments in commanding troops and in the communities you served. They may have forgotten that as JTF Commander, you stabilised the Niger Delta region, having wrested it from the scourge of armed militancy; that as the Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry, not only did you train cadets on guerrilla war tactics and counter-insurgency manoeuvres, you also endeared yourself to the troops before their eventual deployment as the first special forces to fight Boko Haram in the North-East. Your brief stint as the first Force Commander of the rejuvenated Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), after the recovery of over two-dozen towns from the terrorists, further consolidated our military gains and sustained relationship with neighbours. Your hardline stance and no-nonsense approach to acts of terrorism, even while sustaining the personal losses of your country home in Buratai being burnt and security guard killed by Boko Haram.

The recent altercation of the Nigeria Army and the media is not the first in your tenure as Chief of Army Staff (COAS). You may recall that after the arrest of the publishers of Sahara Reporters and Premium Times in February 2017, I wrote an article titled, “Self-censorship and Security Report”, through which I cautioned that as a service chief you should be wary of busy-body consultants and lawyers who may wish to profit from the misunderstanding between the military and the media by instigating the taking of irrational steps. Like I pointed out there, “No one fights the press publicly, especially the credible media, in attempt to enforce censorship, not self-censorship, and gets away with it unscathed.”

In a nutshell, my dear General, the most recent military siege on the media could be well-managed if we consider the sacrifice and risk being taken by editors who have unfettered access to citizens and troops in embattled communities, with information at their disposal on some unpleasant developments in the North-East. They nevertheless remain steadfast and supportive, with fair and occasional self-imposed censorship in their reportage to protect the integrity of the Nigerian security system.

Much of the security challenges that have come up are associated with misinformation, disinformation and the lack of credible intelligence. While the military can claim to have strong weapons, with their guns and bombs, the media actually possesses stronger weapons, with their pens and keyboards, in changing mindsets, engaging in psychological warfare, strengthening the fighting spirit of troops, boosting the confidence of citizens and weakening the morale of terrorists.

Sir, I dare urge that constructive engagement in information management is very essential at this crucial period our dear General, and the soldiers’ soldier.

Once again, I thank you for the last invitation as I wish you a more rewarding New Year and better-managed relationship with all the critical stakeholders in the Nigerian security system, and its administration.

Yushau A. Shuaib
_Author, An Encounter with the Spymaster_
_Recipient of SABRE African Public Relations Award and International Public Relations Award (IPRA) on Crisis Management_
http://www.YAShuaib.com

Editorial: That Military Invasion of Daily Trust

The invasion of Daily Trust’s head office and two of its regional offices by armed soldiers on Sunday last week was one of the most outrageous cases of illegal self-help, trampling on the law and violation of citizens’ rights by any Nigerian government agency in recent times. It was also self-defeating in that it tears apart the cooperation of critical stakeholders needed to win the war against terrorists and insurgents. At the same time, it drove a dagger into the heart of this country’s record of human rights and its claims to democracy and rule of law.
At mid-day last Sunday, soldiers invaded Daily Trust’s regional office in Maiduguri and took away two reporters, including the bureau chief. While the reporter was released that night, the bureau chief was kept for three days. Two hours later, armed soldiers in five trucks arrived at the head office in Abuja, cordoned it off, prevented movement in or out, and proceeded to invade the premises. They drove out all the staff, ripped off desktop computers from desks and confiscated personal laptop computers. They took these away and are yet to return them. They also took away the production editor and threatened to shoot him if he did not show them the houses of some wanted staff members.
The siege was only lifted at 9.30pm that night but around the same time, armed soldiers stormed and sealed Daily Trust’s Lagos regional office at Ikeja. Even after lifting the siege, the Army still demanded that two key line editors of Daily Trust report at Directorate of Military Intelligence. They did so last Thursday and were interrogated for several hours.
All these illegal siege and harassment arose because the military brass was unhappy with the lead story of Daily Trust on Sunday last week, which said the army was preparing to launch an operation to recapture Baga and six other Borno towns from Boko Haram’s Islamic State in West Africa Province [ISWAP] faction. Incidentally, Daily Trust reported the six towns’ capture six days earlier. The Army disputed the report and said “it did not reflect the reality on the ground,” only to post stories and pictures at the weekend saying the towns had been recaptured.Pray, how can you “recapture” something that was never lost in the first place?

The army alleged that the stories compromised military operations but that is not true at all. No military secret, operational plan, communication, intelligence, troop location, troop numbers, weaponry or dates were disclosed in the offending report. That there was large movement of troops from Maiduguri to Monguno was obvious to the thousands of refugees that fled Baga, Kukawa and other towns for safer climes and it could not possibly be a secret. Talk about violating the Official Secrets Act was not tenable because no official document was cited in the story.
In any case, if any law was violated, the Army like every other agency or citizen must pursue the matter through the police and courts. No one has the right to resort to armed self-help, which is what fighting terrorism and insurgency is all about. If agencies of the state that bear arms instead resort to the illegal use of such weapons, then the distinction between them and terrorists becomes all that blurred. Nor was this the first time that this happened. Back in 2014, the army seized distribution vehicles of Daily Trust and several other newspapers on the spurious grounds that they were suspected of ferrying weapons for terrorists. That case ended when the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria [NPAN] threatened to go to court but the Federal Government made an out of court settlement.
Among the many conscientious and patriotic national organisations that condemned this latest outrage include National Human Rights Commission [NHRC], Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria [NPAN], International Press Institute [IPI], Nigeria Guild of Editors [NGE], Northern Media Forum, Nigeria Union of Journalists [NUJ], Media Rights Agenda [MRA], International Press Centre [IPC] and Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nkwelle Ezunaka in Oyi Council Area of Anambra State, Sir Silas Ikeh, the British Government, PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria Labour Congress [NLC], Coalition for Whistleblowers’ Protection and Press Freedom [CWPPF], Conference of Nigeria Political Parties [CNPP], Inter-Party Advisory Council [IPAC] and Safer-Media Initiativealso condemned the invasion, as did many other patriotic groups and citizens.
However, the most important condemnation that Nigerians and the international community were waiting to hear was the one that never came. Apart from the initial statement saying the President ordered the military to vacate the premises of Media Trust Limited, the Presidency did not come down hard on the illegal action. Its silence is not golden, for it could be construed, especially by the military, to mean acquiesce and an open license for it to trample on constitutional freedoms of citizens in the name of “national security.” The day we concede that right to the military is the end of constitutional order. Those in a position to speak up but did not do so, will one day have no one left to speak for them.

The Amina Zakari/INEC controversy

Forty days to the presidential election, eminent persons across the country, on Saturday, insisted that the appointment of Amina Zakari as head of the collation centre for the general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is part of a grand design to compromise the poll.
They insisted that Zakari ought to go, as the claim by the Presidency that she had no blood tie with President Muhammadu Buhari was untenable.
However, Mrs Zakari, in an interview monitored on Channels Television on Saturday, said she was neither a cousin nor niece of the president.
“I’m not his cousin; I’m not his niece. I will continue to do my work in the service of the fatherland,” she said.
Elder statesmen, Chiefs Olu Falae and Ayo Adebanjo; former governor of Ekiti and South-West coordinator of the Aticu/Obi campaign organisation, Chief Ayo Fayose; former ministers, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili and Chief Tom Ikimi; Colonel Tony Nyiam, leaders of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum all agreed that Zakari’s continued stay in the commission had further lent credence to the allegation of plot to rig the elections.
There has been uproar over the appointment of Zakari, said to be a niece of President Buhari, as head of the collation centre for the general election. Zakari is the commissioner in charge of Health and Welfare in the commission.
But, the Presidency on Friday denied that Buhari has tie with Zakari, who represents Jigawa State as a commissioner in INEC.
Buhari should sack her now –Ayo Adebanjo
Also, a leader of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, urged President Buhari to remove Zakari, if he does not have any other interest to protect.
The Afenifere chieftain, while saying it was not proper to continue to have Zakari in that position at INEC, contended that it was “the practice and norm anywhere that once a member of public or any citizen for that matter complains of lack of confidence in an umpire, such umpire or jury should cease to be.”
“It is not proper. It is only in a country like this that some people don’t see it as anything. The fact that any member of public or any citizen doesn’t have confidence in a jury means that jury shouldn’t be there. Once you lack confidence in an arbiter, there is no room for argument,” he said, querying further that “what is special there that she cannot be removed?”
It’s a sign of plans by authorities to compromise election — Falae
Chief Falae, who spoke with Sunday Tribune on Saturday said the status of Zakari in the commission was not the issue, as “every Nigerian has the right to occupy any office in the land,” but the chain of events that underscored a pre-meditated plan to rig the election.
He observed that the case of her current appointment should not be treated in isolation as it was manifestation of the series of actions by the authorities to compromise the election.
Citing the withholding of assent by President Buhari to the Electoral Act amendment, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation said there were pointers to a plot to undermine the wish of the electorate.
He wondered “why anybody should be afraid to allow the wish of the electorate to prevail at the poll,” stressing that heaven would not fall, if a candidate should lose in a free, fair and credible contest.
It’s a public scandal —Junaid Muhammed
Shedding more light on the controversy, Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr Junaid Mohammed, described the appointment of Zakari as a monumental public scandal ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Speaking in a telephone interview, the one time lawmaker from Kano State contended that he was shocked over her appointment.
“I was part of the Kano State delegation that went to Sokoto to condole with the people over the death of the former President Sheu Shagari. While in Sokoto, I saw Bola Tinubu in company with Murtala Nyako. He told me to follow him to Abuja. We held a meeting. From there, on the following day, when I was returning to Kano, I heard the news of her appointment.
“I think the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, was forced or blackmail into making such an embarrassing appointment.
“Her appointment is a public scandal. And I want to appeal to concerned authorities to act accordingly by reversing her appointment.
“Zakari should be removed as the chairman of that committee and return the position to the chairman of the commission. The responsibility of collating results rests with INEC chairman. That is the standard practice.
“I don’t have any thing against her, but we are talking of having credible elections and for the credibility of the elections, the government of the day should know that this election is too important for Nigerians to joke with. The government must shun any thing that will plunged the country into another crisis few days to election,” he said.
According to the former vice-presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), “this election, if care is not taken, may be the final arbiter of our journey to becoming a democratic nation.
“What is so special about appointing her into such position at this late hour? Don’t we have other credible people in government, parliament or judiciary, rather than having a trained pharmacist to collate the figures for us?”
He also described the refutal by the Federal Government about her relationship with the president hypocritical.
“I could remember that the Salihidjo of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and one late Dr Safana telling me that she was a niece to General Buhari.
Apart from that, I knew her father. He taught me Arabic and Islamic Studies in college. The present Emir of Kazaure is her elder brother. The present minister of water resources is her younger brother. One of her sisters was married to a former Ambassador to Niger Republic.
“If you are married to a family, you are part of that family. I raised her case in an interview I gave to a national daily two years ago. But the media and everyone ignored what I was saying at that time.”
Zakari is a moral burden on Presidency, INEC – Fayose
Immediate-past governor of Ekiti State and Southwest coordinator of the Atiku/Obi 2019 campaign, Dr Fayose, said the issue of Zakari had become a moral burden on both the Presidency and the INEC.
He maintained that President Buhari had no electoral worth left to warrant his being a contender in the coming presidential election, given a free and fair exercise.
The former governor who said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other opposition political parties had no confidence in INEC, as presently constituted and under the current leadership of the nation, made the declaration in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, during a campaign summit he hosted the party’s National Assembly candidates to.
“If you say the APC controls the South-West now, I agree. But the table turned. PDP used to control it. The table merely turned. Let me tell you, there were many people who used Buhari’s name in 2015. Buhari helped many people to win in that election. But today, if you put his picture on your poster, may God help you. He has lost any name he had. He lost it all.
“You can tell what to expect from their actions in the last elections they conducted. It started in Kogi, came to Ondo, Ekiti and Osun. Nigeria started the trend with inconclusiveness. In fact, it started in Edo and came down to the South-West.
“It is now a moral burden for this government. This is a government that emerged from an election conducted by a man who had the opportunity to hold unto power, but didn’t; a man who said his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. It has become a moral burden on this government.
“In any case, you can’t see anything good in any INEC overseen by the current leadership of the country.
“Zakari was appointed by Goodluck Jonathan when Buhari was not a candidate in any election. If you were taken to court and you take a plea before the judge that you don’t believe in his ability to give you justice, he gives way. Why does Zakari’s case appear like a do-or-die matter? When Zakari was appointed as INEC national commissioner, President Buhari, her blood relation, was not a presidential candidate.
“In fact, the president had vowed never to run for the Presidency after the 2011 election. Now that he is candidate and a sitting president, fairness and equity demand that Zakari should step aside from playing any role in this election. They want to rob during the day. And I see that as a banana peel for Nigeria.
“Should the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and other presidential candidates also have their relatives as part of INEC committee on collation of results?”
It is morally wrong, will erode Nigerians’ confidence – Ohanaeze
The apex Igbo socio-cultural association, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, noted that while the deployment of Zakari to head the election collation centre was not constitutionally wrong, it was wrong morally.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, speaking with Sunday Tribune, said, “it is not wrong per se, constitutionally, for the Presidency to appoint Zakari as head of election collation centre. But it is morally wrong. It will be difficult for Zakari to be impartial in the conduct of an election involving her uncle (Buhari). Many Nigerians will not have confidence in INEC, if she is allowed to remain there.”
Reverse Zakari’s deployment now, Ezekwesili warns INEC
In a similar vein, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, asked INEC chairman to reverse the deployment of Zakari.
The former minister of education, in a statement on Saturday, said: “The INEC chairman appears to have bowed to pressure from the Presidency.”
She described Zakari’s appointment as political corruption, “considering that having a relation of the president who is a contestant in the February 2019 presidential election amounts to an apparent conflict of interest situation,” adding that such “repugnant deployment of Zakari to the collation centre suggests a brazen attempt to ease rigging for the APC’s candidate in the election.”
To ensure peace and give all the candidates a level playing field, the ACPN standard-bearer asked the INEC to restore confidence in the management of the collation process by reversing the appointment of Zakari as the committee’s chairperson.
“Zakari can be assigned another task farther away from tasks that can hinder electoral integrity.
“The INEC chairman has obviously bowed to President Buhari’s visible and increasingly brazen determination to not just rig, but to steal the 2019 presidential election and throw the country into crisis. Or how else can one describe this repugnant action of placing the president’s niece, Mrs Amina Zakari, at the head of the centre for collation of election results?
“The President and INEC chairman should know that this extremely repugnant and provocative act of political corruption that seeks to undermine our democracy and destabilise the country shall be resisted by all patriotic Nigerians.
“I caution the INEC chairman and the Presidency to reverse this shameful posting immediately and safeguard the integrity of the 2019 elections,” she said.
“The president should lead a discussion among candidates and parties to set the rules that will guide the security forces in the 2019 elections. Ideally, the military and police establishments should be pulled out of the involvement in our elections, considering the damning evidences of how their personnel disenfranchised voters in Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
“I call on the international community to join the Nigerian people and prevail on President Buhari to practise the Peace Accord, with exemplary actions, in order to build confidence in the process he ebulliently led,” she said.
INEC chairman has responsibility to Nigerians —Nyiam
On his part, Colonel Nyiam said the onus was on Professor Yakuku to ensure that the forthcoming elections were conducted based on global standards and practices.
Accordingly, Nyiam warned that it was the responsibility of the leadership of the commission to frontally address any raging issue surrounding any functionary of the INEC, since the buck stops at his table.
“If there is a controversy over a particular individual, it is the duty of the boss of the electoral commission to take an appropriate action,” Nyiam said.
Reject the offer, Ikimi advises Zakari
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi, speaking on the controversy, advised Mrs. Zakari to voluntarily reject the offer.
The former national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) during the ill-fated Third Republic told crowd of PDP supporters at an Edo Central Senatorial district rally in Uromi, Esan Local Government Area of Edo State that it was inappropriate for the electoral umpire to appoint relatives of a candidate to collate results of the presidential election.
“INEC has a responsibility to conduct a free and fair election. It must be above board. Mrs. Zakari must disqualify herself,” Ikimi advised.
It is morally reprehensible –Edo PDP chairman
In a similar vein, chairman of the PDP in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih, who also spoke at the rally attended by wife of the PDP presidential candidate, Mrs Jennifer Atiku, said it was “morally reprehensible that Mrs. Zakari, a kinswoman of President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate is being selected for the onerous job.
Orbih added that INEC did have a responsibility to conduct a free and fair election, noting that the opposition party would resist any attempt by the commission to rig the poll by working in league with the APC.
Zakari, a red flag for 2019 elections –Afenifere
Meanwhile, Afenifere, in an official position demanded for Zakari’s resignation.
Speaking with Sunday Tribune on phone, spokesperson of the group, Yinka Odumakin, said “she has to go. INEC can’t relieve her of responsibilities, as long as she is still on the commission. Our demand is direct to President Buhari.
This woman was nominated by Nasir el-Rufai to INEC. She served with el-Rufai when he was minister. It was el-Rufai that nominated her and I want him to deny that.
“I can see that in all the elections where she has been accused of playing one role or the other, el-Rufai is always defending her. So, she is a red flag for 2019. She must be relieved of that post. Her brother can give her an appointment in the Presidency, but not to conduct elections for us. She is tainted and, therefore, she must go.”
Middle Belt groups fault appointment
Also, groups and individuals in the Middle Belt added their voices to the gale of condemnation.
President of Mdzou U To, Chief Edward Ujege, described the development as abuse of power, while the Tiv Youth Organisation (TYO) observed that Mrs with the development, Mrs Zakari could be a tool to mar a credible exercise.
Ujege noted that it was absolutely wrong for a relation of any candidate in the coming elections to be given such sensitive role, adding that it would make a mess of the elections.
“It is absolutely wrong and an abuse of power to give relation to any candidate in the coming elections such roles to play, because at the end, it will make the exercise a ruse,” he said.
In his own comment, president of TYO, Timothy Hembaor, said the development made it “absolutely clear that the APC seeks to use Zakari as a tool to rig the forthcoming election.
“Having been rejected by Nigerians, Buhari is now using her as virus to compromise the independence of the (electoral) commission, manipulate the electoral process and rig the presidential election for him.
“A credible electoral commission must be completely impartial, transparent, totally independent and immune from external control by interested entities.
“These are qualities INEC can no longer lay claim to as long as Zakari remains even a member of the committee.”
“INEC, Buhari heating up polity with Zakari” –
ASOMBEN
The Secretary, Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN), Reverend James Pam, blamed both INEC and President Buhari for heating up the polity with appointment of Amina Zakari, adding the president, in 2015, had attempted to make her INEC chairman, but rescinded this when Nigerians kicked against it.
Reverend Pam advised both the president and INEC to reverse Zakari’s appointment “with immediate effect and post her to another parastatal” to reduce the controversy.
“Why should that woman hold such key position? My advice to INEC is that they should remove the woman from INEC quickly. She is too controversial. Why don’t they post her to another parastatal? Why must she be in INEC?” he queried.
“With her there won’t be credible election” – Middle Belt Front
Also, the Convener, Middle Belt Front, Ibrahim Bunu, said with Zakari in the sensitive position given to her, “in view of her relationship with the president, there will be no credible election in February.”
He added that the appointment was a wrong signal and “an ominous sign, as far as the presidential election is concerned.”
“There is the fear that there won’t be credible election in 2019. The selection of the present INEC chairman was not like the former one under the Jonathan-led administration. You are a president from the North and you are picking somebody from the North. This is already a wrong signal. There is a lot of information aligning this woman with the president.
“Zakari should relinquish the position” – PDP
Similarly, the running mate to the PDP governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Honourable Sonny Katung Marshal, said “in a situation like this, the most honourable thing to do by Mrs. Zakari is to excuse herself on moral ground or the president should direct INEC to remove her to protect his image and integrity.
“Already, with this appointment, INEC is starting on a cloudy note. Whatever INEC wants to do, there should be some element of transparency and independence. It is wrong for the commission to claim that it is independent and can do anything without recourse to certain circumstances and prevailing political situation in the country.”
APC not ready to contest in 2019 elections —Olawepo Hashim
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Trust (PT), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, while rejecting the appointment of Zakari, said the ruling APC is not ready to contest in the coming elections.
Olawepo- Hashim, who stated this in a chat with our correspondent, said that the appointment had further confirmed “that the APC is not ready to contest the 2019 elections.”
He said that the ruling party, rather than run on its achievements, was seeking ways to manipulate the process and concoct results.
“We see the appointment as another evidence that the APC is not ready to contest the elections,” Olawepo- Hashim said, adding that Nigerians were, however, wiser to resist manipulations.
“Nigerians will resist every attempt to manipulate the process to hand over an undeserved victory to any of the big parties. We are resolute on free and fair elections and we shall continue to provide leadership for Nigerians to see the dream of credible elections come to fruition, “ he said. – Tribune.

Why Troops Are Losing Ground To ISWAP By Ahmad Salkida

In the few days leading to the eclipse on 2018, reports from the warfront in North East Nigeria provoked huge concerns, fiercely stirring panic within communities in and around Maiduguri, Borno state. Governor Kashim Shettima, within this period, quickly called an emergency security meeting to receive briefs from different security commands in the state. At the Executive chambers of the Government House, Maiduguri, the seat of power in the state, the situation was grim and faces drawn.

In fact, the situation appeared so dire as Nigerian troops facing the onslaught of the combined affront of insurgency from terror groups, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram forces, beat a steady retreat, incurring monumental losses of locational facilities. Within two weeks, the Nigerian troops had retreated tactically or been overrun in strategic military bases. Out of 20 military bases in northern and central Borno where Nigerian troops were in control, 14 had been overrun or altogether shut down.

Does the recent string of losses by the military represent a momentary setback likely to be overturned swiftly by the military or is the trend a fore-test of an uncertain future? All diplomatic and international military platforms knowledgeable about the escalating conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin affirm that at no time since the surge of violence in the region have the terrorists been in command of the level of weapons available to them today. Two developments explain this.

The terror groups, in recent times, have received a flush of funds from ransom paid to them allegedly by the government. Equally, there has been a steady access to unimaginable cache of military weaponry, including hardware and ammunition from bases overran by the insurgents, remarkably bolstering their war chest. For instance, the loss of the International Military Task Force Base, headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force, in Baga, headed by an Army General, is reported as monumental, not merely in the loss, of location but because of the massive military hardware and ammunition only comparable to what is available to the Military Division in Maiduguri, to ISWAP.

The insurgents are obviously riding the momentum and are motivated in manners that are completely alien to the military. According to a recent report by the AFP, in no year since the upsurge of conflicts in the North East have Nigerian troops been exposed to the level of casualties inflicted on them by the insurgents in 2018 alone. With an enlarged war chest, a strategic control of the economic mainstay of the Chad Basin cross cutting fishing, all season farming, water and control of cross border trade routes, the insurgents are looking formidable.

No wonder, they have recently scaled up recruitment of new fighters across both English and French speaking countries in the surrounding countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Information gleaned from contacts within the fold of ISWAP paint an insight that seems to have challenged the position of politicians and the military in respect of holding territory. ISWAP always considered the territories of Northern and Central Borno their Caliphate territories. The presence of the Nigerian troops and particularly military bases were considered invasion by the military.

Bidding their time until they had adequate ammunition with additional army of motivated fighters to unleash new wave of violence the group was willing to stay under the radar for a few years before drawing the line on the sand. Their long wait paid off in 2018. They have been on the offensive all of 2018. The ISWAP’s strategy is to put everything available to ensure that military presence in those territories they consider part of their caliphate is made ever untenable. ISWAP considers all parts of north and central Borno as its caliphate and territory and therefore obligated by doctrines and commandment to repel every external aggression within the territory.

This is irrespective of whatever politicians and the military claim is the situation within those territories. In fact, Boko Haram / ISWAP policy with respect to physically holding territories changed after the steady losses they suffered in the run up to general elections in Nigeria in 2014. They do not want to physically hold unto territories anymore than they are determined to ensure that the military does not have any sustainable presence in the territories. Furthermore, ISWAP is paying more premium to wooing local communities to feel more secure with them than they could ever be with the military. That is their strategy.

They have secured the economic lines in the territories they control. The Lake Chad territories have become more fertile for famers and more viable for commercial fishing activities. They have largely crippled the fish and onions markets in Maiduguri. In its stead, they have opened secured trading locations in Kinchandi, in Niger Republic and another in Kusiri, in Cameroon. Nigerian traders rely on the market in Kusiri, Cameroon through Mubi, in Adamawa. The other in Kinchandi, in Niger Republic. The Nigerian market in Hadeja, Jigawa state depend heavily on the market in Niger Republic.

Nigerian troops apparently would rather confiscate a trader’s wares, forcibly take their livestock for their feeding than device any system of commercial comfort that would help them grow their business. It therefore seems not far-fetched that several local communities appear to cooperate better with ISWAP than with the Nigerian troops. ISWAP want to primarily make it unattractive and too expensive in terms of body count and loss of hardware for the military to maintain a base in any of these territories. They calculate that as long as they continually target and attack military formations, forcing them to beat a retreat so long would it be easier for local communities to accept that they are more secure in the territories under them than under the cover of Nigerian troops.

Moreover, they envisage that for as long as they sustain the push back against the military for so long will it be difficult for the demoralized troops to muster confidence to put them at tactical disadvantage anytime soon. Is the 2018 military strategy and campaign working? The facts based on the number of military formations successfully attacked and overran by ISWAP in 2018 in the areas of its dominance is 70 percent. What this translates into is that out of 20 military bases in these territories, ISWAP have either sacked by overrunning or forced the military to shut down a total of 14 bases in 2018 alone. The only time this ratio of attacks and takeovers came close to the 2018 numbers was in 2014. By the end of 2015 it was below 50% success ratio, which further dropped in 2016 and 2017, only to witness a sharp surge in 2018.

The outlook of the map in the battle theatres is grim. The territories that constitute Northern Borno are 10 Local Government Areas lying north of Maiduguri and bearing natural land borders with three countries namely Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon. ISWAP have full sway in these territories currently. The territories that constitute Borno Central are made up of eight Local Government Areas, and both ISWAP and Boko Haram have significant footholds in these territories. Southern Borno, made up of nine Local Government Areas, is the least affected, with the exception of flashpoints such as Gwoza, Damboa and Chibok. With barely 45 days to presidential election in Nigeria there seems to be more energy at official quarters to cover up the tragic situation than acknowledging it.

The military have rightly stated that ISWAP may not be holding most of the territories where it overran its bases, especially the town of Baga. ISWAP, on its part, is also right when it says it has sacked soldiers from the areas it attacked, including Baga. Neither the military nor the insurgents have the manpower and capacity to hold and govern over these large expanse of land sustainably. But in desisting from building visible administrative and military structures in the areas of their primary interest ISWAP have evolved in a way that is difficult for Nigerian troops to track. On the other hand, by being fixated with claim of control of territories the military have only succeeded in making its troops sitting ducks and easy targets of the enemy.

More clearly, ISWAP is no longer showing interest in taking a formidable military base such as was in Baga and staying put there. It doesn’t apparently serve their tactical and strategic interest well. They are more interested in taking over military hardware and ammunition in those bases while instilling fear on the troops and making it extremely difficult for the military to have the comfort to plan and launch attacks. For instance, two days after overrunning the military base in Baga, the ISWAP moved out of location with military hardware and ammunition. According to knowledgeable sources, the objective is not to necessarily capture and hold new territories, what is far more strategic to ISWAP is to continually “unsettle the military in their bases across the Lake Chad region.”

There is no better indication to the effectiveness of the tactical approach of ISWAP against the military than seeing that Nigerian troops in the troubled locations are unable to undertake patrol duties. Rather, they are mostly in the trenches practically waiting for the next attack. One troubling outcome of this is the escalating number of troops on desertion charge. For instance, in just one detention centre in Jos, Plateau state, there are over 20 military deserters rounded up and detained. Similarly, a growing army of deserters are being held across major military detention facilities in the country. Obviously embarrassed at this turn of events, the military authorities are zealously covering up on these.

An Army officer currently hospitalized lamented that “soldiers have become cannon fodders,” revealing:”There are more soldiers deserting their commission over Boko Haram war. I can count dozens in my unit alone that escaped after they survived an attack.” The Nigerian Police Force are embroiled in similar matter with 121 officers of the rank-and-file who reportedly deserted in protest against planned deployment to the warfront dismissed with immediate effect.

The Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris, according to a report in Premium Times (December 28, 2018), ordered their dismissal. “The Police are very kind to their officers for dismissing them, we are not that lucky because after we attempted to escape, we were arrested and detained without trial for several months,” said a soldier detained in one of Special Task Force (STF) detention centers in Jos. He was arrested after he absconded along with scores of his colleagues from the warfront.

A confident Army Captain in the frontlines who spoke with our reporter on condition of anonymity extolled the troops for their gallantry on several occasions. He said that unlike the terrorists, the military do not carry cameras into the battlefront to record gun exchanges. According to him there are far more attacks on military bases and units by the terrorists that were repelled than the ones in which the locations were overrun. “The terrorists go to battles with cameras, while we, as a matter of policy don’t.” Nevertheless, he contends that Nigerians do not care about the number of insurgents that we have killed, “the killing of soldiers that protect the country’s sovereignty constitute a source of concern, what this means is, if soldiers continue to die, Nigeria itself may fail to exist,” he concludes.

Some of these attacks were so overwhelming that the bases were overrun with hundreds of casualties. According to multiple media reports, not less than 1,000 soldiers were killed in 2018. These casualty figures do not include soldiers killed in Niger Republic, Yobe, Adamawa and in Southern Borno. “In fact, there has never been a year soldiers were killed more than in 2018; not even 2013 and 2014 did we see the kind of casualties we experienced today,” said another soldier who doubles as a medical doctor in Maiduguri. More traumatizing for soldiers, according to ISWAP sources, are the humiliating experience of scores of abducted soldiers compelled to tutor the insurgents on new weapons handling before they are enslaved or executed.

Informed sources state that the military facility in Monguno is probably the only larest operational base outside of Maiduguri presently that is unaffected. Four or five are in Gajiram, Gajiganna, Gubio, Kareto, while Damasak is manned by the Multi-National Joint Task Force at the border with Niger republic. According to a serving military officer currently hospitalized, “the soldiers in most of these bases have all taken up defensive positions to protect their turfs and can hardly venture outside to patrol or engage in any offensive attack”.

Just like the officers deserting, the Military itself has long abandoned any mentality of “no retreat, no surrender,’ having steadily been on the retreat from several military bases. Weeks ago, they shut down two bases in Gudumbali and Kukawa. “We retreated to Monguno before Baga was attacked. Now, some soldiers and residents are running away from Monguno to Maiduguri,” reported a soldier in Shagari Low Cost Housing Estate in Maiduguri. He highlights the utter helplessness of the soldiers: what is disturbing is the effrontery of “ISWAP in making sure that we are fully made aware of their plans ahead of any attack. There was never an attack that we don’t see in advance, yet we are helpless,” he lamented.

In the midst of these setbacks, military fat cats are feeding exceedingly well on account of the war. On 28, December, 2018 the Defence and Foreign Affairs of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) based in the United States stated that “the conduct of the war in the North (East of Nigeria) is tied to the corruption in the military, and (President) Buhari – ring-fenced by his own team – is unable to tackle the issue”. ISSA, the Washington-based non-governmental organization with a worldwide membership of professionals involved in national and international security and strategy, stated that massive corruption among top military chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari is the reason Nigeria is losing the war against Boko Haram.

According to the report, the only significant engagement which the Nigerian military leadership seems determined to fight “is to stop the leakage of information about massive corruption, running into the equivalent of several billions of dollars, in the purchase by senior military officers of major military capital goods and military consumables, including the troops’ own food.” More than anything, it is the noticeable resurgence of the Lake Chad and the commercial viability of the territories under ISWAP that present the greatest pull on individuals in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps to return to their villages. But for others, it is their ability to put out a good fight and sometimes win with an Army that enjoys global support, that is the biggest inspiration that makes many want to join. A recent recruit and a Francophone citizen said, “ISWAP’s fortunes only means one thing, Allah with us.” Another who abandoned his rich family business in Kano to become a fighter said, “I have no doubt Angels are fighting with us, otherwise there is nothing that explains our victories.”

In the light of these realities, should the Nigerian Military continue with the tactical mentality that is leading them into embarrassing losses? For a government that has made so much premium of a claim on its control of territory from the insurgents, what these developments point to is probably worse than a setback. Efforts by independent observers to point out the evidently skewed tactical mentality have been visited with official hostility. Local and international Civil Society Organizations and the media have, for these reasons, come under attack by the military. For calling the Military out on its ignoble human rights abuses, including rape and extra judicial executions, Amnesty International and other Human Rights organizations have been targeted for official harassment.

Despite a consistent stream of global ratings and reports about Nigeria’s crisis, notable among them being the 2018 Global Terrorism Index in which Nigeria emerged the third most terrorized nation globally, both the Military and politicians in government have carried on as if this was of no consequence. The index placed Nigeria behind war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and ahead of Syria and Pakistan. However, the report also showed a 16% drop in the number of deaths linked to terrorism in 2017 from previous year.

Also, the World Economic Forum, in its biennial tourism report with the specific section focusing on safety and security, recently ranked Nigeria as one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Amid all these disturbing realities the local media generally have caved in to a new sense of self censorship promoted by the Nigerian military, which is, “stop reporting the killings to dissuade Boko Haram from further killings” instead of, prevent the insurgents from killings in the first place, so that, there wouldn’t be any death to report.