Buhari’s Last Chance By Azu Ishiekwene

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

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

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

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

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

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

Azubuike Ishiekwene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

Rich Thief, Poor Thieves and A Burglary By Emmanuel Ugwu

In recent past, the Igbos had a way of denouncing a steward or guard who committed the treachery of stealing the very thing he was hired to manage or secure. They called him the proverbial dog that ate the bone hung around its neck.

That barbed censure fits the policemen that burgled the Gwarinpa home of President Goodluck Jonathan. They stole the very goods they were charged to protect. They vandalized the property left in their care, emptying it of all transferable valuables.

Police authorities have dismissed four of the six culpable officers following the guilty verdict of an orderly room trial. Sgt Musa Musa, Sgt John Nanpak, Sgt Ogah Audu, and Sgt Gabriel Ugah lost their job for coveting ‘’furniture sets, beds, electronics, toilet and electrical fittings, doors, and frames’’.  

In true Nigerian fashion, the two most senior officers involved in the crime, Inspectors Lengs Satlakau and Usman Wuduki , were not shunted out of their job with same dispatch. The Police say the proceedings of their orderly room trial had been forwarded up the ladder ”for further action”.

Nevertheless, I am shocked that the case of burglary and stealing made it to the public domain. I would never have imagined Jonathan would run to the police to complain that he was robbed. As the head of the government of Nigeria, he seemed to be constitutionally indifferent to stealing.

Jonathan was defiantly apathetic when his kleptomaniac cronies were looting the House of Lugard, under his watch. A sense of outrage appeared to be alien to his nature. It’s ironic that he felt offended when his private house was sacked.

Going by his statement, the looted house was a ‘’modest four-bedroom duplex.’’ It contained small creature comforts.  Not the ‘’36 Plasma television sets and about 25 refrigerators’’ as speculated.  

It’s hard to figure out why he chose to make the trivial evisceration of his house a national headline? Why did he raise hell…like a pauper rendered weightless, in a crowded bus terminal, by a pickpocket?

Ordinarily, President Jonathan should be one of the last Nigerians to cry about being robbed. He ran a crazy kleptocracy. He presided over a stealing orgy whose intensity and reach anti-graft accountants have been unable to ascertain even after two years of labor. He licensed his aides to loot with impunity as though the overarching objective of his administration was to bankrupt Nigeria.

Ex-President Goodluck JonathanWhen Jonathan’s attitude to corruption was interrogated, he answered that he could not stop the plague. He whipped out a dispiriting Barn Theory to rationalize and legitimize the hollowing out of the national treasury by his sidekicks. He postulated that if you put a barn full of yams in the custody of a goat, the goat would violate duty and obey instinct.

Under Jonathan’s watch, $20 billion of Nigerian oil revenue went missing. The Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, raised the issue with the president. Jonathan fired Sanusi …for daring to blow the whistle.

Under Jonathan’s watch, his Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, stole $6 billion. She bought multimillion dollar properties all over Nigeria and the world. She collected enough jewelry to mold the Golden Calf all over again.

In recognition of her high stealing quotient, Jonathan appointed her the head of the finance committee of his second term bid declaration event.

The lady would later go on to attempt to buy the election. She organized a widespread bribery operation that compromised electoral officials and obligated them to inflate the ballot figures of candidate Jonathan and rig him to victory.

Jonathan made the office of the National Security Adviser an annex of the Peoples Democratic Party. He permitted the funds earmarked for resourcing the fight against Boko Haram to be funneled to his political campaign. This caused the well-armed terrorists to take over a significant part of Nigerian territory and hundreds of Nigerian soldiers to die in the unequal war.

By the end of the election, Jonathan and his gang had raped the economy into a crisis.

After he departed office, his wife, Patience Jonathan, was found to have salted away $15 million in her bank accounts. She claimed that the money was savings dedicated to her medical treatment. The fortune couldn’t be reasonably explained by her inheritance or work history…or a jackpot she has never won.

Further moves by state agencies to understand Mrs. Jonathan’s other curious assets saw her complain of being witch-hunted. She recently petitioned the House of Representatives, alleging ‘’persistent, consistent, unwarranted personal and physical attacks” on her by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other agencies of the federal government. She thought that the security agencies should have left her in peace because she rejoiced in the nickname, ‘’Mama Peace.’’

Her henpecked husband obviously copied her alarmist whining. Goodluck saw the break-in and looting of his house as an opportunity to whip up public sympathy. His ‘leak’ of the burglary to the press was about narcissist victimhood and pity party.

Truth be told, the Jonathan who looted the Nigeria he was elected to govern had no moral right to protest that his private home was spoiled by the policemen assigned to guard it. The policemen merely micro-mirrored the plunder Jonathan perpetrated against Nigeria. He should have been grateful to be served a gracious dose of karma. Those ‘’modest’’ trivia stolen from his home is nothing compared to the staggering portion of the Nigerian patrimony he and his band of looters expropriated.

The policemen who sacked Jonathan’s house are petty thieves. If he felt outraged that they were so unscrupulous as to strip bare a house they were assigned to safeguard, that’s gross self-righteousness. He has no reason to indict people for the same wrongdoing he did on a monumental scale: he looted the treasury the Nigerian people mandated him to administer.

The policemen who abused their trust have been punished with a job loss: it follows that Jonathan, who committed the heinous crime of weaponizing the Nigerian presidency for treasury banditry, should receive a judicial recompense commensurate with his high treason.

Jonathan lived his early life without shoes. He is now a man of wealth. He has many houses. He can replace the stuff stolen from his Gwarinpa address with ease.

Many Nigerians live in reduced circumstances. Jonathan robbed them. He pushed them further below the poverty line.

The poor policemen robbed one rich man. The rich Jonathan robbed one hundred million poor Nigerians. He is the greater thief.

He was relieved of an infinitesimal fragment of his excess possessions. Yet, he was so pained by the loss that he forgot ‘pardon’. The kind he bestowed on the rich thief, his role model, Alamieyeseigha!

Nigerian justice system is rigged against the poor. That’s why the dismissal of the low-ranked rogue policemen was ”immediate” and that of the senior policemen is imminent.

And the punishment of Jonathan will forever be impossible.

 immaugwu@gmail.com

@EmmaUgwuTheMan 

Jonathan And The Uniformed Burglars By SOC Okenwa

Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), remains a big man with multiple problems and scandals. Ever since his historic defeat at the presidential election of 2015 he has been in the news for (mostly) bad reasons. For one, his stewardship in power for close to six giddy years was nothing to write home about. For another, when one considers ‘Dasukigate’ and ‘Diezanigate’ we come to the conclusion that GEJ did more damage to the system than one could have ever imagined. The incarcerated Sambo Dasuki, his ex-National Security Adviser (NSA) had distributed millions of Dollars criminally (funds meant to procure arms and ammunitions for the army waging war against Boko Haram) to cronies and political leeches — whoever was engaged or involved in the ill-fated GEJ re-election bid was handsomely rewarded by the generous son of the late deposed ex-Sultan of Sokoto. Alas after throwing millions of Dollars and billions of Naira into the presidential project it was lost soundly as the APC opposition coalition triumphed in grand style producing the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari.

The fugitive Jezebel, Diezani Allison-Madueke, the former Petroleum Resources super-Minister, had the ears of the failed President having conquered his libido! She became untouchable and stole billions of Dollars with GEJ incapable of calling her to order. Diezani was monumentally corrupt both morally and sexually and GEJ was found to be under her amorous ‘spell’! Regrettably, the scarce resources of the state that should have served other developmental purposes were diverted and squandered ‘servicing’ executive sexual indulgences. What a connubial presidency!

Today, Jonathan is one ex-President whose inability to account for his stewardship is as comparable as asking the late Idi Amin of Uganda how he managed to turn the east African ‘Musevenied’ country into a jungle where anything went. Or the late Mobutu Sese-Seko of how he became richer than the entire former Zaire and now DRC Or better still, the late bloody dictator, Gnassingbe Eyadema, of how Lome became a developing town during his decades in power, a glorified city where the importation and selling of ‘Tokunbo’ vehicles became the only viable economic venture that yielded revenue to the state!

Goodluck Jonathan is a Nigerian presidential tragedy. His cluelessness is as broadly defined as his aloofness, his mediocrity! But the Aremu of Ota, the erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, bears certain responsibility for pushing GEJ indirectly to Aso Villa. The Ota veteran farmer must have had his reasons for doing what he did but the Nigerian national interest was not served by such imposition devoid of class. In any nation where merit or competence is sacrificed on the altar of godfatherism then such society is bound to experience developmental retardation akin to ours.

Recent reports online had it that the Abuja home of the former President Jonathan was burgled with everything stolen! But the burglary was reported to be a ‘special’ operation involving insiders, the mobile policemen stationed there and charged with providing security for the imposing property. The uniformed thieves simply went inside the house and helped themselves raking in millions of Naira in the process. The theft began since last year according to the report culminating in the ‘cleaning’ of whatever valuable a property that was found within. These included scores of plasma televisions, expensive suits with name of GEJ imprinted on them, traditional Ijaw clothes, exorbitant women wrappers, executive furniture, fridges, air-conditioners etc. 

Those behind the theft were arrested after an alarm went out and GEJ himself came calling and discovering the systematic dispossession of what could probably be said to have been gift items donated to him by political contractors during his tragic reign as President. He reportedly informed the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris and the top cop immediately ordered his boys to fish out the culprits. The three or four security men attached to the house were promptly arrested and detained. The ‘kparawos’ are still cooling their heels in a police detention facility awaiting a date with a judge. Breaking news had it that they have been dismissed from the force after a trial that found them guilty.

But the question raised by this bizarre incident and the swift action of the police in apprehending the uniformed burglars is this: If the Abuja property were to have been owned by an ordinary Nigerian without police connections would Idris have swung into action in record time and speed? The major problem with policing in Nigeria is that a whole lot of crooks abound within and abuse the system by abusing their uniforms and/or commissions. They treat ordinary Nigerians with disdain and produce poor performance professionally. Many are content with abusing motorists and taking bribes in broad daylight. 

For others still, their meagre salaries are inadequate leading inexorably to the abuse of the corrupt system with impunity. Some frustrated ones among them aid and abet crimes by hiring out their uniforms or even guns to criminals! Others never saw anything wrong engaging in armed robbery, oil bunkering or even terrorism. Abubakar Shekau is audacious and boastfully arrogant because he must have had some informants in the system supplying him with classified information and even ammunitions! That is probably why today Shekau and his gang of marauders continue to torment villages and towns up north meeting little or no resistance. 

They violently rob, rape, kill, burn down houses and abduct anyone at will! The much-vaunted claim by the federal government that Boko Haram had been defeated “technically” has somewhat become mendaciously obsolete. As long as Shekau (the green snake living dangerously) is not caged with his head bruised or better still chopped off the battle against the terrorist organization he leads would be a military (mis)adventure without end. 

Following the celebrated capture of the notorious kidnapping kingpin, Evans, in Lagos a few months ago it was revealed that his military collaborator, one Victor Chukwunonso, had been apprehended and was helping the police with their investigations. The bad egg in the system made huge fortunes providing cover, information and even personally assisting Evans in his nefarious activity. And when the late Lawrence Anini alias the Law, the dare-devil Oliver Twist-like armed robber, was nabbed and charged to court many years ago in Benin City he had shocked not a few by naming one George Iyamu, a senior police officer, as his point-man, nay hitman, in the police. The late convicted Iyamu gave out vital pieces of information, arms and ammunitions to Anini and his gang as they went about town terrorising banks and citizens!

IGP Idris has a huge task ahead of him given the rot in the system. That the police central command he heads is in dire need of a radical reform is an understatement. There are a lot of criminals inside the force daily denting the image of the police, an image that was at best dented already over time. Idris cannot, in good conscience, claim ignorant of this odious fact. Therefore, he urgently needs to get cracking by undertaking a holistic overhaul, nay restructuring, of the police in tune with the best standard global practices. Otherwise, the situation would remain ever hopeless!

The uniformed burglars that broke into GEJ’s compound in Abuja (that they ordinarily should be protecting) were just exhibiting the typical Nigerian malady of cupidity and indiscipline. They must have felt that by gaining access into the edifice perhaps they would stumble on ‘abandoned’ safe box filled to the brim with foreign currencies. They knew that the EFCC had not too long ago stormed a residential apartment in Ikoyi Lagos and serendipitously discovered staggering millions of Dollars! They must have read in the newspapers or read online about the millions and billions in some bank accounts the EFCC and Dame Patience Jonathan are still fighting over! They must have heard about how politicians now hide their loots in pit latrines, ceilings, water tanks and elsewhere in their grandmother’s homes! They knew, for sure, about the two ‘gates’ that chiefly defined GEJism in terms of heist.

Corruption has effortlessly affected every sector in Nigeria. Stealing whatever is found belonging to the public has since become a hobby for workers and government functionaries at state and federal levels of government. The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was right when he recently declared that when it came to stealing the resources of state the divisive issues of the region, religion or tribe did not always matter. He had said this while delivering a lecture. According to him:”There is complete unity in this business of stealing”. Can anyone afford to disagree with him?

 

SOC Okenwa
soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abiodun Ladepo

Ibadan, Oyo State

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dumb And Dumber: Nigerians And Their Leaders By Charles Odimgbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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