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?

​The Celebration Of Corruption By Ozekhome And Co

In their separate reactions to the questionable discharge of Senator Bukola Saraki by the Code of a Conduct Tribunal, the Ekiti state Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome and former Aviation Minister, Fani-Kayode decided to celebrate corruption and impunity. One thing that is common to the three of them is that they have been indicted in the criminal diversion of public funds by ex-NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
As Governor Fayose currently enjoys immunity, his protege, Gbenga Agbele is on trial for keeping part of the N2.5billion traced to the lousy governor. To avoid his imminent prosecution the governor is getting ready to ask for an extension of his second term in the Ekiti state house. If has been confirmed that he paid N75million from the N2.5 billion to his counsel, Ozekhome for the defense of Agbele. On his own part, Fani-Kayode is standing with another for N3.4billion from the N23 billion set aside for the 2015 general election by Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke.

Since these guys are keeping stolen public funds they cannot see that the Code of Conduct Tribunal did not absolve Saraki of criminality. By upholding Saraki’s “no case” submission the Tribunal said that there was no enough evidence for the accused to enter the witness box to offer any defense. Is Chief Ozekhome interpreting that to mean that Saraki declared his assets? Or that he was not receiving full salary of a sitting governor while he is being paid the full salary of a senator?

Saraki had tried to get the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman disqualified because of his indictment by the EFCC that he had once been indicted for collecting bribe from an accused person. Since the Code of Conduct Tribunal has ‘freed’ Saraki he has become an incorruptible judge in the circle of corrupt lawyers like Ozekhome, Femi Fani-Kayode, and other influential crooks.

Nigeria, the 2017 Budget, and the Dawn of Abundance, By Yemi Osinbajo

​A short while ago, I signed the 2017 Appropriations Bill into law. This is an important milestone in our economic recovery and growth plan laid in April by President Muhammadu Buhari.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Senate president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as the entire leadership and members of the National Assembly for completing work on the 2017 Appropriations Bill.

The process of preparing and processing this Bill was much smoother than that of the 2016 Appropriations Bill. On the executive side, there were no allegations of errors, or mistakes, and there was a significant improvement in the quality of the preparation, as well as the presentation.

I wish to commend the Ministry of Budget and Planning for such a remarkable improvement over a single budget cycle.

On the side of the National Assembly, I wish to commend the collaborative spirit of the engagements our MDAs had with their various committees, and with the leadership, during the budget defence sessions. There were far fewer reported cases of acrimony, or hostile wrangling this year, than in the past.

From the reports we received, the sessions were generally conducted in a friendly atmosphere. There is no doubt that our democracy is maturing.

However, the final presentation and the signing of the budget has been considerably delayed. This was largely due to disagreements we had about the changes introduced to our 2017 Budget proposals by the National Assembly.

The executive took the view that the changes fundamentally affected some of our priority programmes and would make implementation extremely difficult and in some cases impossible.

I must say that the entire leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate president and the speaker, adopted a commendably patriotic and statesmanlike approach to our engagements on resolving these critical issues.

In sum, the engagements yielded acceptable results; the most important being that the leadership of the National Assembly has given us a commitment that they will re-instate the budgetary allocations for all the important executive projects, such as the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla Power Project, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, etc. which they had reduced to fund some of the new projects they introduced.

This re-instatement will be by way of an application for virement by the executive, which they have agreed will be expeditiously considered and approved by the National Assembly.

It is as a result of that understanding and the outcome of our detailed engagements that we feel able to sign the 2017 Appropriations Bill into law today.

I am also pleased to mention that, in our discussions with the leadership of the National Assembly, we have jointly resolved to return to a predictable January to December fiscal year.

It is a particularly important development because this accords with the financial year of most private sector companies, underscoring the crucial relationship between government and the private sector.
Therefore, on the understanding that we will be submitting the 2018 Budget to the National Assembly by October 2017, the leadership of the National Assembly has committed to working towards the passage of the 2018 Budget into law before the end of 2017. I must, once more, express my appreciation to the leadership of the National Assembly, for the collaborative spirit in which these discussions were conducted.

The 2017 Budget, which I have signed into law today, is christened “Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth” and reflects our commitment to ensure strong linkage between the medium-term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) recently launched by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the annual budgets.

It is designed to bring the Nigerian economy out of recession unto a path of sustainable and inclusive growth. The budget has a revenue projection of N5.08 trillion and an aggregate expenditure of N7.44 trillion. The projected fiscal deficit of N2.36 trillion is to be financed largely by borrowing.

Let me assure those who have expressed concern about the growing public debt that we are taking several actions to grow government revenues, as well as plug revenue leakages. This is because, notwithstanding the fact that our borrowings are still within sustainability limits, we are determined, in the medium term, to reduce our reliance on borrowings to finance our expenditures.

Details of the budget, as approved by the National Assembly, will be made available by the honourable minister of Budget and National Planning.

As you are all aware, our economy is already signaling a gradual recovery as growth is headed towards positive territory. The first quarter GDP, at -0.52 percent, compares favourably with -2.06 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

Inflation is declining, down to 17.24 percent from 18.74 percent as at May 2016. Our external reserves are now US$30.28 billion as at June 8, 2017, up from US$26.59 billion as at May 31, 2016.

We are also gradually instilling confidence in our exchange rate regime. This improvement in GDP growth and other macro-economic indicators is largely attributable to our strategic implementation of the 2016 Budget, as well as stronger macroeconomic management and policy coordination.

I am confident that the 2017 Budget will deliver positive economic growth and prosperity – one that is self-sustaining and inclusive. In this regard, the 2017 budget will be implemented in line with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Over the 2017-2020 plan period, we are focusing on five (5) key execution priorities, namely:

● Stabilising the macroeconomic environment;

● Agriculture and Food security;

● Energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products;

● Improved transportation infrastructure; and

● Industrialisation through support for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs).

The 2017 budget includes provisions that reflect these priorities.

To demonstrate our commitment to following through our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the 2017 budget allocates over N2 trillion to capital expenditure, principally infrastructure.

For instance, we are committing over N200 billion to improving transport infrastructure such as roads and rail; over N500 billion for investments in works, power, and housing; and N46 billion for Special Economic Zone Projects to be set up in each geopolitical zone.
The signing of the budget today will trigger activities in the domestic economy which will lead to job creation and more opportunities for employment, especially for our youth. And, as I indicated earlier, we will be returning to the National Assembly to seek upward adjustments by way of virements in relation to a number of critical projects which have received inadequate provision in the budget just passed by the National Assembly.

We acknowledge that government alone cannot achieve the overarching goal of delivering inclusive growth; that is why the 2017 budget provides a lot of opportunities for partnerships with the private sector.

To help the private sector thrive, we are determined to create an enabling business environment. We are already recording verifiable progress across several areas, ranging from a new Visa-on-Arrival scheme to reforms at our ports and regulatory agencies.

The online business registration process has reduced time required for business registration from 10 to two days. It is expected that the Executive Order on transparency and efficiency in the business environment will make it even easier for investors to get the permits and licenses they require for their businesses.

Pursuant to our commitments to the Open Government Partnership, we recently issued an Executive Order that will promote budget transparency, accountability and efficiency. We want to make the federal budget work more efficiently for the people.

Thus, beyond the huge provisions for investments in critical infrastructure, we have mandated government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods. This will open more opportunities for job creation with benefits for government in the form of tax revenues.

We are also working hard to improve our revenue collection efficiency so that we can achieve our revenue projections. While we are deploying technological tools to enhance collection, the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) will continue to contribute significantly to improving transparency and accountability over government revenues.

Our fight against corruption is yielding positive results. Some of the recoveries are included in the 2017 Budget, which will be expended on identifiable capital projects.

Already, we are beginning to see some improvement in the quality of public expenditure. This is great motivation for us to remain resolute in our fight against corruption so that economic prosperity is enjoyed by all Nigerians.

Let me reiterate that the implementation of our 2017 Budget will bring added impetus to our ongoing economic recovery. We will intensify our economic diversification efforts in our bid to expand opportunities for wealth creation and employment, thereby creating inclusive and sustainable growth.

Our path to progress and abundance is clear. The tools are in place and the resilient, resourceful and hardworking Nigerian people are set to go. I have no doubt that by the grace of God, the bleakness of recession is about to witness the uplifting dawn of abundance.

God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Yemi Osinbajo (SAN, GCON) is acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

​Kingibe And The Cabal In Aso Rock By SOC Okenwa

Ambassador Babagana Kingibe is a Nigerian veteran politician who could be said to belong eminently to the gerontocratic generation. They have been pampered and fed for decades with little or no commensurate productive contribution to the national developmental aspiration. You can call them power parasites and you may not be wrong. You can prefer to label them political leeches and you may quite be in order. This generation of entrenched old politicians have become stupendously rich more by networking and connections in high places than any dint of hard work. They disappear and re-appear on the national stage depending on the political situation (favorable or otherwise). They know their ‘friends’ and are also aware of their ‘enemies’. When an ‘enemy’ appears they disappear only to appear again when that perceived enemy is no more calling the shots with a ‘friend’ in power at the apex.

Discerning Nigerians knew all along that a cabal existed in the Villa since President Buhari took residence there two years ago. But it took a dramatic interview the First Lady, Aisha, granted the BBC (Hausa service) last year for the issue to be brought to international attention. Her courageous revelation sparked national controversy with the President himself not helping matters when he declared then in far away Germany that the place of his wife was in the kitchen and the other room! At the time the First Lady made that comment denouncing the cabal manipulating things in the Villa we had thought she was referring to the mercurial Mamman Daura, a man without any official portfolio but more powerful than an average Minister.

But now that we know that Kingibe is an eminent member of this cabal it is deducible that she could have been referring to him as well. Aisha had raised an alarm over the nefarious activities of these men at the seat of power even threatening to withdraw her support for her husband’s re-election bid in 2019 should the cabal be allowed a free hand to prosper at the expense of Nigeria and Nigerians. We had enough reason to commend her for coming out in such brutal manner never before seen in our polity.

Despite the public angst over the matter the cabal is said to have entrenched themselves deeper into the system — manipulating and maneuvering. In the absence of the President (still marooned in a London hospital responding to treatment) the cabal have refused to allow the Acting President to do the job he was assigned to do constitutionally. Recently, according to SR, they congregated in London and had a secret meeting where strategies were mapped out to continue undermining the positive efforts of Acting President Osinbajo or creating a constitutional crisis where none existed.

SaharaReporters, the New York-based whistle-blowing website, had revealed the methods and tactics of this cabal naming names. According to SR members of the cabal controlling events around the President included the Director-General of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), Lawal Daura, Buhari’s powerful nephew, Mamman Daura, his Personal Secretary, Tunde “Idiagbon” Sabiu, a businessman, Isa Funtua, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, and Babagana Kingibe, a former Secretary to the Government who was the running mate to Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

When I read that investigative report the name that somehow rang a bell in my head was no other than that of Babagana Kingibe. Kingibe came to national prominence as the Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). When the late Bashorun Abiola won the nomination of the party for the ill-fated June 12 1993 presidential election he went against the run of play by picking Kingibe as his running mate –a muslim/muslim ticket that swept the poll! Kingibe in the midst of the battle to de-annul the outcome of the election and reclaim the stolen mandate, however, had thrown in the towel moving to other preoccupation.

The existence of a presidential cabal is not a new thing or innovation in the Nigerian nasty politics. During the Olusegun Obasanjo’s imperial presidency spanning eight giddy years there was no visible cabal competing for power or influence under ‘Baba’. There were some powerful and influential figures of course but the retired soldier never permitted anyone to dictate the pace of governance. After his reluctant exit (with the failure of third term gambit in mind) came the late Umaru Yar’Adua whom he foisted on the nation despite the terminal ailment ravaging the man from Katsina. Yar’Adua’s health challenge gave room for retrogressive forces to emerge and exert certain influence. Turai, his wife, was leading the cabal that sought to hijack power prior to the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President.

When the beneficiary of the novel “doctrine of necessity” came on board his government was brimming with cabals within and without. You had the detained ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki in charge of the security angle. He embezzled billions of Dollars for which he is still standing trial today! And on the domestic wing the Dame, Patience, was in her obtrusive best element competing fiercely with the fugitive Diezani Allison-Madueke, former Petroleum Minister, for the President’s ears (and even for his libido!). They both cornered millions of Dollars in the connubial scramble for petro-dollars! When you add the notorious Niger Delta militants to the mix then there should not be any confusion as to why GEJ failed spectacularly as President.

Kingibe is an experienced politician who is as taciturn and discreet as he is diplomatic. He is less controversial and commands considerable respect among his peers. He is reported to be standing in for the COS whenever the latter goes abroad for his medical needs. While one does not know the nature of his relationship with Buhari his political pedigree could ordinarily be seen as more of an asset than a liability. However, we hold that his membership of the notorious Aso Rock cabal has somewhat diminshed his status if not destroyed his reputation thus throwing up agitated questions about his June 12 volte-face nay, betrayal.

One then wonders how and why Kingibe who unceremoniously and cowardly renounced a popular mandate freely given to them in 1993 should now be linked to a scheme that seeks coveting power? Or should we take it that because his moslem ‘brother’ is there now against the backdrop of the late Abiola being a Yoruba from the southwest the right ‘price’ has been dangled before him? And that the rogue kleptocratic General (IBB) that annulled Hope ’93 infamously was himself from the northern descent hence the present power rapprochement? What led the Borno-born septuagenarian political ‘dealer’ to betray the democratic cause and join back the oppressors then?

From all indications, the Aso Rock cabal is both desperate and dangerous. The main objective seems to be to command and control. But it goes beyond that. They take maximum advantage of the presidential malaise for their pecuniary fantasies. Abba Kyari is ambitious and he is obviously happy with the status quo at the presidency and wishes for it to last as long as possible. But Buhari will soon bounce back to sound health if the good tidings brought home from London by the First Lady could be relied upon or serve as an indication.

Today, President Buhari is indisposed yet the northern cabal are making things more difficult for him. They pretend to ‘love’ him more than the rest of us but we know they are just ‘hustling’ for their lucre interest. When the President finally returns home he must look inwards and try to impose order. For us, Abba Kyari has since overstayed his welcome and outlived his usefulness in the Villa! The Oke/Babachir treatment is what he deserves in our reckoning.

SOC Okenwa

Kingibe And The Cabal In Aso Rock

Chief Obafemi Awolowo: 30 Years After|Day The Colossus Passed On BY FOLU OLAMITI

Saturday, May 9, 1987.The day broke, like any other day on. There was no premonition of anything earth-shaking. No foreboding. All seemed at peace. As Editor of Sunday Tribune, I had kept vigil, the previous night, in the office putting finishing touches to a bumper package for that week’s edition. In the wee hours, nature came calling and I went home to catch some sleep. Just for a few hours.

At about 10 a.m., I remember vividly now, I sauntered out of bed and started preparing for work. I had to get to the office before noon. Normal routine. Still, there was no fearful apprehension. However, I got curious about the cloudy weather as I peeped out of the window. Yet, I muttered involuntarily: “What a cool day.” Unknown to me, the ‘cool weather’ was an ominous sign of an impending tragedy; one that would reverberate throughout the length and breadth of our great nation; Nigeria. It was the day, Pa Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo, went the way of all flesh. Erin wo. The mighty Iroko fell that day.

I got to the office, excited about the bumper edition we wanted to bombard our loyal readers with. With a deep sense of satisfaction, I leafed through the first edition of the paper that would be circulated in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. At 2 p.m., I summoned my crew, made up of crack reporters, writers, and erudite scholars, for our usual review of the first edition. The essence of that was to see what to add or subtract for the second edition usually circulate in the South West and mid-western states.

Among my team members were: Ayo Akinyemi, my Assistant Editor; Yinka Adelani, Gboyega Oguntuwase, Lanre Ogundipe and Kanmi Adegbite. We also had three erudite scholars on part time, including Segun Olatunji, Wale Adebanwi and Adeolu Akande. We bonded strongly and were so committed to the job that Nigeria Audit Bureau of Circulation adjudged our paper, Sunday Tribune, as the second best-selling newspaper after Daily Times. This was in the glorious days of Daily Times. This rating was a tonic for us to work harder. After review of the first edition, we celebrated that we had done a good job.

The major reason for our celebration was that our big boss, Mr.Felix Adenaike, a.k.a General Officer Commanding (GOC), who would have made a last vetting of the package, was in far away Argentina, attending that year’s edition of the annual International Press Institute (IPI) Conference with his bosom friend, the late Mr. Peter Ajayi.

Please, permit me to digress a little. A week before, I had traveled to Warri, in present day Delta State, as head of the Tribune’s team covering the coronation of Ogiame Atuwatse II as the 19th Olu of Warri. Papa Obafemi Awolowo and his jewel, Mama Hannah, were at the occasion. Papa sighted me first, and he asked one of his security men to bring me to where he was. Papa was a stickler for detailed and accurate reportage of events, especially the one he attended. A quintessential journalist that he was, he gave me some useful tips on what he had observed before and during the event. His intervention indeed enriched the reportage in the SundayTribune the next day.
In any case, such briefing from Papa Awo wasn’t new to me. I had discovered the treasure trove of news in him when I was assigned to cover his activities, especially his electioneering campaigns in 1979 and 1983 respectively. That was when I cultivated the habit of staying close to Papa’s seat at events for his usual on the spur-of-the-moment ‘briefing’.

But the Awo I saw at the coronation of Ogiame Atuwatse II was a shadow of the Papa that we had all grown to know at Tribune. Papa was not his usual ebullient self on that day. He looked frail and tired His eyes were heavy and had bags. He dozed off and on. Given how Papa Awo had flogged his body during those years that he traversed the nooks and crannies of this country campaigning, canvassing votes, struggling to bring a better life to the people(his major pre-occupation since 1952), it wasn’t totally surprising to find the 78-year-old weak and frail. In fact, you wouldn’t blame him for taking a nap to refresh his aging body. That day, Papa Awo managed to give me a total of 12 minutes briefing.

The occasion itself didn’t last more than two and half hours. At a stage, Papa looked at his watch and told Mama: “We can make it to Ikenne today.” Mama nodded in affirmation. Photographers captured that moment and it became so symbolic and very conspicuous on newspapers’ front pages after Papa’s exit. The picture of him looking at his watch in Warri became a perfect depiction of a premonition that his time was up on Mother Earth.

The weather in Warri that day suddenly became inclement, and the heavens began to pour. It rained cats and dogs. Still, Papa and Mama left. Mama would later tell me in an interview that Papa slept all through to Ikenne.

Back to the D-Day, Saturday, May 9, 1987. After our editorial meeting, it became imperative for us to upgrade the package to accommodate breaking news. We began the process in earnest, aiming to close the pages to enable us to get some rest or revel at some rendezvous. Unknown to us, the biggest story in Nigeria and the rest of the world had broken silently at Ikenne, that morning. Till date, I still marvel at how the family managed to keep some of us, editors, in the dark. The news had filtered to some editors in Lagos. Meanwhile, I had dismissed my editorial team little after 9 p.m. after watching NTA’s network news and no breaking news had surfaced. Indeed, I had gone to my office to pack my things ready to go home Since no breaking news came after the news. I had no choice but to swing into action with my production crew.

While I was packing my bags, Banji Kuroloja, my colleague and elder brother who was the Editor of Nigerian Tribune walked in. At first, I did not look up. When I eventually did, I saw a man with red eyes, apparently deep in mourning. I thought maybe he had lost one of his relations. We hailed from the same town, Idanre, in Ondo State. So, I asked in our dialect: “Are you OK?” He crashed into my visitor’s chair and held his head as he intoned: “Papa Awo is gone”. “Gone where?” I asked. He looked up, and burst into tears and said: “Papa Awo is dead!” “Is that a joke?” I asked again. “Nooo…!” he fired back with his voice quivering: “Go outside and see the ambulance that took the body of Papa to the University of Ibadan Pathology Department for embalmment.

At that point, my heart popped and I went blank for about five minutes. Kuroloja then asked me to order our machinists to stop work. We looked at each other, holding my hands at the back of my head, and both of us broke down. We wept like babies. Papa, to both of us, meant a lot in different ways. Apart from my closeness to Papa as his The unofficial reporter, Kuroloja briefly worked with Papa as his Private Secretary. Papa was humane, loving and deeply interested in our private affairs, especially our families. Very few employers have that virtue.

Like I said, at this stage, all my editorial crew had gone home. In our moment of grief, we forgot that we were duty bound to publish the obituary of the Founder of Tribune titles and a political colossus of our time. We swung into action but I must confess, we missed the expert contribution of our Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Felix Adenaike. Had he been home, he would have heard the news ahead of us. Kuroloja and I decided to print our masthead in black, and covered the whole of the front page with Papa’s picture, with a banner headline: AWO IS DEAD.

Hard as we tried, we did poorly that Sunday compared with other newspapers in Lagos, interment on whose editors had earlier got wind of Awo’s death. We, senior editors, quickly rallied round, wipe our tears momentarily to enable us come out with a special edition that afternoon. We served our readers what Papa told Mama to do at his transition. Mama had told us that Papa did not want people to mourn him but be happy anytime he passed. So, in that Sunday edition, we came out with Papa in white Agbada, and with broad smiles waving, we cast the headline: “DON’T MOURN ME- Awo”.

That set the tone for all activities that culminated in hid interment on 6 June 1987. The activities were laced with superlative carnivals, the kinds never seen before in Nigeria, and which I think richly qualified to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In life and in death, Papa Awo was great.

Folu Olamiti, Media Consultant wrote from Abuja.

My Statement to Senate Intelligence Committee On Trump Contact, By James Comey

January 6 Briefing
I first met then President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the president-elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming president to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the president-elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming president, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

The director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimise potential embarrassment to the president-elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new president came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behaviour with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power, so it can be disrupted.

In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the president-elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialise the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.
January 27 Dinner

The president and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the centre of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The president began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the president.

A few moments later, the president said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.

At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the president returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the president returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, he expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the president. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The vice president, deputy director of the CIA, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, secretary of Homeland Security, the attorney general, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the president, sitting between the deputy CIA director and the director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The president signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the attorney general lingered by my chair, but the president thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The president then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the president began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The president began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the vice president. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The president then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The president waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The president then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the vice president. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my

term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The president returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the vice president.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the president’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The deputy attorney general’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.

After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the president’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the president’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the president broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the president called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasised the problems this was causing him.

Then the president asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the deputy attorney general until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.

I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the president that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The president went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honourable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant deputy director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the president was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honourable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the president, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later.

April 11 Phone Call

On the morning of April 11, the president called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

James Comey was until recently the director of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

This is text of the statement to be made before the US Senate Intelligence Committee today Thursday June 8, 2017.

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

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

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

It’s a sad moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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