OOTC: Yemi Osinbajo’s performance is beside the point – Chude Jideonwo

You could feel the sense of panic when some of the enablers and voters (of which I am one, having personally and professionally supported him) of President Muhammadu Buhari heard that the president was returning to Nigeria last week. The question – uncomfortable, perhaps unseemly – hung in the air: why was he returning oh?

 

The joke in the city these days, the one you no doubt have heard if you have friends and family, is that the president should take all the time he needs to have the rest he requires, so that the vice president can continue to do the work and earn the respect he inspires.

 

Unsaid is the real calculation: Buhari retains credibility with the populace, the respect (due more to aesthetic than performance) of the local elite, the goodwill of the international elite and the political capital that comes from the sheer number of voters from the North. To this extent, it is useful for him to retain that political capital as cover for his deputy Yemi Osinbajo to continue the good work that we have seen since the latter became Acting President.

 

So his voters, now happy to beat their chest about Osinbajo, are suddenly worried that the president’s return would lead the country back to a narrative of mediocrity, and leave them vulnerable again to charges that they bear responsibility for the state of the nation.

 

It is understandable, of course. President Buhari’s performance has been, to put it kindly, so sub-par that it is incredibly difficult for any thinking person to say that she is “proud” of this presidency.

 

Why is this even more disappointing? There were many of the president’s supporters who were realistic enough not to hold out any hopes of magic – he after all was a vestige of a not-golden era of Nigerian leadership, at least by participation. But they expected that at the very least he would keep the ship steady, validating the transfer of power from one party to another as we continued the journey towards a more perfect union.

 

Instead, he has unnecessarily squandered considerable local goodwill and, even worse, rolled back some of the (economic) progress made under his unimpressive predecessor.

 

It is inexcusable that (using 2016 numbers) Gross Domestic Product has dropped to -0.4 from 2.35% when he took office, inflation grown to 13.9% from 8.7%, crude oil output dropped from 2.05 million barrels per day to 1.4 million, and external reserves declined from $29.1 billion to $27.6 billion.

 

There is the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee revenue, which has come down from N409 billion to N299 billion, market capitalization dropping from N11.42 trillion to N8.7, and unemployment numbers climbing from 24.1% to 29.2%.

 

Indeed you can call any local economic growth index and it is the same story: Business Confidence, Industrial Capacity Utilisation, Industrial Sector Growth, Aviation Passenger Traffic, Ease of Doing Business, Agricultural Sector Growth, Real Estate Vacancies, even bank bad loans!

 

Fitch Ratings this year revised the outlook on Nigeria from stable, putting it at ‘B+’, noting that growth at 1.5% is well below the 2011-15 annual growth average of 4.8%, and predicted “limited economic recovery” in 2017.

 

Then there is of course the abcradabra with the foreign exchange rate, the ultimate symbol of the government’s witlessness re global markets and steadily its equivalent of the oil subsidy scam.

 

In addition to that are the abominable communication failures in underscoring major security gains, improvements in road infrastructure and a coherent anti-corruption narrative. Even the mismanagement of his illness storytelling has been a master-class in ineffectiveness.

 

There is very little that one can point to with pride.

 

So, to reclaim their narrative and justify their decision, some of these supporters have insisted that Osinbajo’s performance is testament to their smart decision to vote for the All Progressives Congress, and to trust in the combined political machineries of Buhari, Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi and Atiku Abubakar.

 

That is a credible argument. You don’t just vote a man or woman after all; you vote a system of people and promises, built, in this case, on the structure of a viable political party. It is one ticket and one presidency, and obviously I share the sense of relief as to the government finally redeeming the huge promises that it made to the Nigerian people.

 

But it is important that we do not miss the real point Nigerians made with their votes in 2015.

 

Whether Osinbajo is doing well or not, whether Buhari eventually goes down in history for supervising an excellent presidency or not (and we still have over two years to go), that is beside the real point – and that point is that Nigerians made the right choice in 2015.

 

Let that point be repeated: Nigerians made the right choice in 2015.

 

You see, it is possible to hold two different thoughts in your head in the same breath, and on this decision, these are the two thoughts: 1. President Buhari has disappointed many of his supporters. 2. But voting him – and what he represented – was still the right thing to do in 2015.

 

It is easy to cop-out under Osinbajo’s goodwill and claim that this was the genius of the decision all along, but the intellectually honest point is a more nuanced one.

 

That point is that, irrespective of what the good we see today, no matter how the decision we made in 2015 had turned out in the short term, the majority of Nigerian voters had no choice but to make the decision they made between Goodluck Jonathan representing the People’s Democratic Party at the federal level and Muhammadu Buhari representing the APC.

 

Now here is the deal, and revisionist history cannot invalidate this point: Buhari was elected crucially and principally as a rejection of Jonathan. He was received and celebrated as the best and most viable option to unseat a decrepit ruling party and a feckless leadership, and our best chance to make a statement that power belongs to the people, especially the power to punish failure.

 

The choice for many citizens was clear: one between the certainty of failure and the possibility of success (which also came with the possibility of failure). One between a man who had led for five years and failed conclusively on the big issues of corruption and security, and the other who had led for one year and whose verdict was, by the fact of truncation, inconclusive.

 

The choice was between rewarding ineptitude and having to live with that choice for another four years, or choosing different and holding out for hope (and, please, the less said about third party options that had neither the depth of ideas nor political capacity to win even one local council, the better). Buhari represented that hope, and his victory was the best chance to at unseating the hegemony that represented the exact opposite of hope.

 

His victory reset the balance of power on the side of the people, and put fear into the hearts of elected leaders everywhere in our nation.

 

The Nigerian citizenry instinctively knows this, despite how unhappy it is at the moment. As a poll at the end of last year by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) showed, yes, Nigerians believe Jonathan handled the economy much better than Buhari, but they insist he is deeply responsible for this ultimate state of affairs.

 

“While 60% of Nigerians held the Buhari government partially or completely responsible for the recession, 74% believe that the Jonathan government is to blame,” the report said. “While nearly similar numbers (28% for PMB vs 25% for GEJ) believed both governments were partially to blame, more respondents (49% for GEJ vs 32% for PMB) believed that the Jonathan government was completely to blame for the recession. Those who argue that the profligacy of the Jonathan government led directly to Nigeria’s budgetary and economic crisis will take these results as vindication that Nigerians agree with their point of view.”

 

Common sense is as common sense does. Actions have consequences, sowing leads to reaping, nation building is a continuum and we, as a people, know the points at which the rain began to beat us.

 

So in justifying their decision to vote for Buhari in 2015, Nigerians who made that difficult – or for some, excited – choice, have no need to turn to Osinbajo as a crutch.

 

Yes, we should be thankful that the ticket that won the election is finally justifying the mandate it was given. It is possible as some people say that this is because democracy is not a sprint and it would take any government a bit of time to find its footing. It is possible that it is finally the dominance of the efficient Tinubu machinery doing the magic; it might be that the president’s light-touch, command-and-control approach to governance has finally been justified, or it might just be a coincidence of fate, luck and a little opportunity.

 

Whatever it is that brought us here, we should be thankful, but we must not forget the larger idea: As a nation we did the right thing in 2015.

 

We made a long-term decision to re-order the balance of power, create an equilibrium between the opposing forces holding our nation’s fate in their immediate palms, and made clear the barest minimum beyond which we will not allow our leaders to go, else they are punished.

 

In the long term, and if we consolidate on those gains in 2019, we will be fine.

 

We will be just fine.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Between Buhari & Osinbajo: The Missing Ingredient – By Muhammad Karamba

Buhari’s absence has brought to light some interesting aspects of the current government which Nigerians should be proud of.

The Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is doing an excellent job while his boss is away. Some are already calling for Osinbajo 2019.

But who is to take credit? What is the reason for such disparity between the stewardship of a Boss and his deputy?

One thing is for certain, Prof Osinbajo was chosen by President Buhari. Whatever good comes from the former came as a result of a decision by the latter.

The least we could do is to give Buhari the credit of choosing such a capable hand to be in charge of this Nation in his absence.

Moreover, Osinbajo cannot make any critical decision without contacting his boss. Everything the Acting President has been given credit for has to be sanctioned by the President himself.

The only area where the VP has superseded his boss is one which I call “The missing ingredient”

The success of any government depends greatly on its Public Relations management. Buhari doesn’t have the best of PR management teams.

His PR team is characterized by either making statements and systematically retracting them or staying mute when the nation is asking for answers or refusing to give the voice of the people a listening ear. This has mostly been the case.

A good PR team is one which scrutinizes the meaning of every word or statement that should be said in the name of the Presidency down to the comprehension of the most biased Nigerian. It is one which forces the President to make statements when the need arise and vice-versa.

It is one which understands that citizens deserve comprehensible truth when they demand for them and even when they don’t. It is one which understands that, it is the makeup artist which determines whether citizens see good president or an ugly one.

Prof Yemi Osinbajo has a good PR team and we all have seen the difference it has made. Few days and people are already appreciating.

This is the litmus that has exposed a flaw in Buhari’s administration.

It is time for the President to look beyond political affiliation and choose the best artists to paint a picture of his administration.

I wish the President a healthy return and a successful tenure. God bless Nigeria

 

Muhammad  Karamba

Twitter: @Mukib_

Dilemma of the Nigerian Youth, By Gimba Kakanda

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These past weeks, I’ve had reason to reflect more on the place of the Nigerian youth in politics and public service. The inspiration for this was the hypocrisy I witnessed all the times our gerontocratic political establishment opened its door for the young join to them. The strangest dilemma is this: the youth advocate inclusion in governance and participation in politics yet any time a young person is offered an appointment, the first argument is over his or her “lack of experience”. Further, how an “experienced” person ought to occupy such an office. “Experience” has always been a code for age, it is gotten by years and not competence or experience. Just be old enough, ergo, you are garlanded with “experience” as well.

This near predictable trend of reaction was witnessed most recently with the appointment of Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman as Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority. The loudest and, to me, the only known, critics of her appointment were members of her constituency: the political youth. She was portrayed as not only a creation of opportunism, but one lacking requisite experience and age to manage an organisation that complex.

One may then wish to know what our generation means by advocating inclusion in government. How is that a logical demand when one of us is suddenly seen as unqualified, by us, on the basis of her age? One may also wish to know whether those older were chosen based on track records earned in an extraterrestrial world. I mean, whether those older have always been older. It didn’t matter to them that Hadiza has had fair experience working with the current Governor of Kaduna State, and has been involved in some of the nation’s most effective administrative reforms and political and social advocacies. This is what some of her detractors chose to miss—that she understands the architecture and intricacies of the Nigeria the same youths have been furiously asking for.

Some of us who support the “Not Too Young to Run” bill and campaign aren’t doing so in agreement with the view that the youths are (potentially) smarter administrators or possess extraordinary traits no longer exhibited by the older generation. A friend of mine, in the period running up to the 2015 presidential election, promoted Candidate Muhammadu Buhari as the most qualified, citing age as his reason. I dismissed that as an affront to younger Nigerians, because such insidious and dangerous thinking only justifies the very gerontocracy our generation is allying to demolish.  One may be tempted to ask the youths to come together and form a strong political alliance or a party in a bid to restate their relevance, size and actual capacity to govern. The youths, according to a National Bureau of Statistics data, make up 70% of the nation’s population. But the same youths that ought to champion a campaign for good governance, inclusion and relevance are divided in defence of their oppressors on social media and various fora, virtual and offline. The same youths are betting to meet at Sofa Lounge for fisticuffs!

It’s hard to determine the ratio of conscious youths to the nonchalant. Our problems require strategic and gradual alliance and inclusion to eventual correct this systemic exclusion. The advocacy shouldn’t be that the youths are smarter, but that they are capable, and shouldn’t be wasted as inconsequential errand boys, which is what some of these PAs, SAs, SSAs are. Because if youth comes with exceptional vision to lead, the newly independent Nigeria, managed by youths, would’ve been a good foundation for us. Similarly, if old age means a thing in governance, Nigeria would’ve been a model nation, from the youths who took over from colonialists to today’s grandpas.

We may allow the idealists to go with their divergent theorisation of the youths as sharper visionaries or as symbols of new new idea. What we know for a fact is, past attempts to unify the youths and establish a strong force in our political equation have failed. Woefully. Today, we remember promising youth groups and advocacies we once embraced as our salvation, with troubling nostalgia. From 20MillionYouthsFor2015 campaign to Generational Voices, the hope was high, and down it came crashing.

Dazzled by the composition and vision of Generational Voices, I wrote then: “I’m happy that I was not a distant witness of Generational Voices. Having been closely involved, and in deep thought, I see a movement about to be built on the foundations of OccupyNigeria, that deferred revolution. But as beautiful as its grand visions are, we have to resist ideological indoctrination and correctly understand that GenVoices is not OccupyNigeria. This is where our task commences.”

Unfortunately, like all before it, it didn’t go as anticipated. Perhaps we were too hungry to recognize its essence. Perhaps our partisan allegiances frustrated its growth into required force. Whatever, we need to restate our political will by overcoming this seemingly genetic political skepticism. Affirmative action from the Establishment may be frowned at by some, but that, and not our polarization, is really what we need, to defeat perceived marginalization of the youth. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

 

Full Text Of National Broadcast By President Muhammadu Buhari On Democracy Day

My compatriots,

It is one year today since our administration came into office. It has been a year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements. By age, instinct and experience, my preference is to look forward, to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and rededicate the administration to the task of fixing Nigeria. But I believe we can also learn from the obstacles we have overcome and the progress we made thus far, to help strengthen the plans that we have in place to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.
We affirm our belief in democracy as the form of government that best assures the active participation and actual benefit of the people. Despite the many years of hardship and disappointment the people of this nation have proved inherently good, industrious tolerant, patient and generous.

The past years have witnessed huge flows of oil revenues. From 2010 average oil prices were $100 per barrel. But economic and security conditions were deteriorating. We campaigned and won the election on the platform of restoring security, tackling corruption and restructuring the economy. On our arrival, the oil price had collapsed to as low as $30 per barrel and we found nothing had been kept for the rainy day. Oil prices have been declining since 2014 but due to the neglect of the past, the country was not equipped to halt the economy from declining.

The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.

Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could not pay salaries for months. In the north-east, Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments, driven the local authorities out, hoisted their flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable; corruption and impunity were the order of the day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.

On the economic front, all oil dependent countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have had to take tough decisions similar to what we are doing. The world, Nigeria included has been dealing with the effects of three significant and simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:

A 70% drop in oil prices.
Global growth slowdown.
Normalization of monetary policy by the United States federal reserve.

Our problems as a government are like that of a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by for rest of the year. However, this year he could only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must now think of other ways to make ends meet.

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants had been routed by our gallant armed forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual and safe return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity and for the resumption of normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.

EFCC was given the freedom to pursue corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted on what Nigerians expect of them in the fight against corruption. On the economy, in particular foreign exchange and fuel shortages, our plan is to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair of the refineries and producing most of our fuel requirements at home. And by growing more food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange and drastically reduce our food import bill.

We resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the Nigerian economy. Furthermore, I supported the monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy. We shall keep a close look on how the recent measures affect the Naira and the economy. But we cannot get away from the fact that a strong currency is predicated on a strong economy. And a strong economy pre-supposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market. The measures we must take, may lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have faced over the last year have been many and varied. But the real challenge for this government has been reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state. The last twelve months have been spent collaborating with all arms of government to revive our institutions so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose:

That means a bureaucracy better able to develop and deliver policy

That means an independent judiciary, above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s rights and dispense justice equitably.
That means a legislature that actually legislates effectively and
Above all; that means political parties and politicians committed to serving the Nigerian people rather than themselves.

These are the pillars of the state on which democracy can take root and thrive. But only if they are strong and incorruptible. Accordingly, we are working very hard to introduce some vital structural reforms in the way we conduct government business and lay a solid foundation on which we can build enduring change.

An important first step has been to get our housekeeping right. So we have reduced the extravagant spending of the past. We started boldly with the treasury single account, stopping the leakages in public expenditure.

We then identified forty-three thousand ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system. That represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month.  In addition, we will save Twenty-Three Billion  Naira per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.

Furthermore, the efficiency unit will cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments. Every little saving helps. The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When this work is complete we will have a leaner, more efficient public service that is fit for the purpose of changing nigeria for the good and for good.

As well as making savings, we have changed the way public money is spent. In all my years as a public servant, I have never come across the practice of padding budgets. I am glad to tell you now we not only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to our development priorities than in the recent past. 30% of the expenditure in this budget is devoted to capital items. Furthermore, we are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds from oil. Some critics have described the budget exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of consensus building, which is integral to democratic government. In the end we resolved our differences.

We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones on security, corruption and the economy. In respect of the economy, I would like to directly address you on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had to make in the last few weeks specifically on the pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange rate policy announced by the central bank. It is even more painful for me that a major producer of crude oil with four refineries that once exported refined products is today having to import all of its domestic needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.

As part of the foundation of the new economy we have had to reform how fuel prices had traditionally been fixed. This step was taken only after protracted consideration of its pros and cons. After comprehensive investigation my advisers and I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.

We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen assets some of which are in different jurisdictions. The processes of recovery can be tedious and time consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery. Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically. When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed.

On the Niger Delta, we are committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and are advancing clean-up operations. I believe the way forward is to take a sustainable approach to address the issues that affect the delta communities. Re-engineering the amnesty programmes is an example of this. The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.

The policy measures and actions taken so far are not to be seen as some experiment in governance. We are fully aware that those vested interests who have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up without a fight. They will sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos rather than relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.

The economic misfortune we are experiencing in the shape of very low oil prices has provided us with an opportunity to restructure our economy and diversify. We are in the process of promoting agriculture, livestocks, exploiting our solid mineral resources and expanding our industrial and manufacturing base. That way, we will import less and make the social investments necessary to allow us to produce a large and skilled workforce.

Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal incentives for business that prove capable of manufacturing products that are internationally competitive. We remain committed to reforming the regulatory framework, for investors by improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the first steps along the path of self-sufficiency in rice, wheat and sugar – big users of our scarce foreign exchange – have been taken. The Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise  will boost the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long neglected communities. Special intervention funds through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and the absence of extension services. The federal and state governments are on the same page in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased food production and ultimately food security.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the increasing role that our women are playing in revitalizing the agricultural sector. Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden. In this respect I am very pleased to announce that the government will shortly be launching the national women’s empowerment fund, which I have approved to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.

With respect to solid minerals, the minister has produced a roadmap where we will work closely with the world bank and major international investors to ensure through best practices and due diligence that we choose the right partners. Illegal mining remains a problem and we have set up a special security team to protect our assets. Special measures will be in place to protect miners in their work environment.

For too long, ours has been a society that neglects the poor and victimizes the weak. A society that promotes profit and growth over development and freedom. A society that fails to recognize that, to quote the distinguished economist Amartya Sen “ poverty is not just lack of money. It is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

So, today, I am happy to formally  launch, by far the most ambitious social protection programme in our history. A programme that both seeks to start the process of lifting many from poverty, while at the same time creating the opportunity for people to fend for themselves. In this regard, Five Hundred Billion Naira has been appropriated in the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes in five key areas. We are committed to providing job creation opportunities for five hundred thousand teachers and one hundred thousand artisans across the nation. 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through our school feeding programme to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion rates. The conditional cash transfer scheme will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the enterprise programme – which will target up to one million market women; four hundred and sixty thousand artisans; and two hundred thousand agricultural workers, nationwide. Finally, through the education grant scheme, we will encourage students studying sciences, technology, engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for human capital development for the next generation

I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant men and women of the armed forces who are in harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go about our business in safety. Their work is almost done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

Abroad, we want to assure our neighbours, friends and development partners that Nigeria is firmly committed to democratic principles. We are ready partners in combating terrorism, cyber crimes, control of communicable diseases and protection of the environment. Following on the Paris Agreement, COP 21, we are fully committed to halting and reversing desertification. Elsewhere, we will intensify efforts to tackle erosion, ocean surge, flooding and oil spillage which I referred to earlier by implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

We are grateful to the international community notably France, the US, UK and China for their quick response in helping to tackle the recent Ebola outbreak in our sub-region. We also acknowledge the humanity shown by the Italian and German governments in the treatment of boat people, many fleeing from our sub-region because of lack of economic opportunity. We thank all our partners especially several countries in the EU.

We appreciate the valuable work that the UN agencies, particularly UNICEF, ICRC, the World Food Program have been doing. We must also appreciate the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and Educate A Child of Qatar for the excellent work in our health, education and other sectors.

Fellow citizens let me end on a happy note. To the delight of all, two of the abducted Chibok girls have regained their freedom. During the last one year, not a single day passed without my agonizing about these girls. Our efforts have centred around negotiations to free them safely from their mindless captors. We are still pursuing that course. Their safety is of paramount concern to me and I am sure to most Nigerians. I am very worried about the conditions those still captured might be in. Today I re-affirm our commitment to rescuing our girls. We will never stop until we bring them home safely. As I said before, no girl should be put through the brutality of forced marriage and every Nigerian girl has the right to an education and a life choice.

I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria.

Credit: Leadership

Non-appointment of ministers shows Buhari’s military hangover – Nwabueze

Renowned law scholar and leader of the Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for delaying the appointment of ministers into his cabinet.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria described Buhari’s refusal to appoint ministers over 80 days after taking office as a reflection of Buhari’s military personality.

He said this was why former President Olusegun Obasanjo (also a former soldier) failed to appoint ministers on time as well.

He stated that the country’s constitution does not allow the President to govern the country for more than two months without ministers.

Nwabueze, in an article titled, “Constitutionality of President Buhari Ruling Nigeria For More Than Two And Half Months Without a Council Of Ministers: The Concerns of the Igbo Leaders Of Thought,” a copy of which was sent to The PUNCH on Wednesday, said the President was expected to consult with “various executive bodies” before presidential actions.

According to the professor of law, it is not likely that anyone other than a retired army general and former head of a military government would ever think of ruling the country for more than two and half months without ministers, knowing full well that the governmental system established for the country by the constitution does not permit him to do that.

“And yet, knowing his antecedents and the influence they must have on him, Nigerians elected him as ‘civilian’ President in the March 2015 election. His election cannot but portray Nigerians as incapable of learning from past experience, a people lacking the degree of political maturity and sagacity required for the successful working of constitutional democracy,” Nwabueze added.

The article read in part, “Since his inauguration on May 29, 2015, as elected ‘civilian’ President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army general and former head of the military government, has been ruling the country for more than two and half months without ministers.

“The President ruling for more than two and half months without ministers is really incredible, but, incredible as it is, we Nigerians, as a people, ought to have foreseen it from our experience of the dictatorial way former President Obasanjo who, like President Buhari, is a retired army general and former head of the military government, rode roughshod over the constitutional limitations on his powers.”

Source: Punch

President Buhari Bags New Title In Daura

The Emir of Daura, Umar Faruk yesterday appointed President Muhammadu Buhari as Bayajidda the Second, of Daura Emirate.

Bayajidda is the legendary Hausa ruler who reportedly killed the famous snake inside Daura’s Kusugu well and later established the seven hausa states.

Emir Faruk gave President Buhari the title when the president, who is currently on a private visit to his native Daura paid him a courtesy call at the palace.

He extolled the virtues of President Buhari and expressed optimism that his leadership will reposition the nation for the better, noting that the president is a worthy son of Daura who has continued to be its source of pride.

The emir later presented a gold plated sword and horse to the President to symbolise his appointment as Bayajidda II.

Credit: Leadership

#KakandaTemple ~ A Note to Critics of Change

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There is no disaster as devastating as the aggregation of petty and polarising sentiments by a people at a crossroads, a people being offered options, yet unwilling to consider these, despite their loud clamouring for change. I’m talking about these cynical Nigerians who have furiously condemned the status quo and find the brand of democracy in practice here “abominable” and in consequence will not take positions or act. These are the people for whom, as an angry Dante Alighieri once told us, the darkest places in hell is reserved for—their sin being neutrality in times of moral crisis.

I was among those who challenged the promotion of General Muhammadu Buhari as “the only morally upright politician” by some zealous supporters, finding such a formulation insulting and an unfair indictment of our generation. I held that accepting that Buhari was the only upright man meant if he bowed out, we had no replacement, and that we all needed to stop celebrating that nonsense and either begin crying or pointing to alternatives. There are indeed some out there, only lacking the myth surrounding the old soldier. Yet, I also maintained that whoever the APC fielded as presidential candidate for the 2015 elections, if against this famously failed leader named Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, would be my candidate. This, of course, held a dilemma for me at that time.

But that dilemma has now been terminated by the recently concluded presidential primaries at the conventions of the nation’s two major parties in which Buhari defeated other career politicians to pick the APC’s ticket, while the congregation at Eagle Square, possessed by Stockholm Syndrome, praised the failings of Jonathan, the man they now compare to Mandela and Martin King Jr., and thus asked him to fly PDP’s ticket at the ominous February Polls. Well, we all know the consequences of presidential anger. If you don’t, consult Jigawa’s Governor Sule Lamido. Perhaps it was this possibility that encouraged the amnesia of our Eagle Square delegates?

Unlike many others, my idea of a change in Nigeria isn’t tied to the elevation of APC to political dominance, rather to have the two major parties tangled in heavily competitive bout, with each striving to be the better suitor. Having PDP entirely replaced by APC is a return to status quo, clearly, considering the ease with which politicians defect in this space.

So, my idea of change in 2015 is more of a resolve to have the central government under the leadership of a sensible human being. But the question we ought to honestly ask ourselves, even though the answer may be unsettling, are: can the opposition oust the incumbent in this period running up to the 16th anniversary of this chaos we call democracy? Or, let me say, with a mischievous tone, are the actual majority off Twitter and Facebook and at remote villages and “forgotten cities” set to form a structure to resist the tools of “stomach infrastructure” on the way to their houses even as we speak as Election Day draws near?

I’ve compromised on some principles, but compromise that leads to the continuation of a government as tragic as Jonathan’s is something I simply can’t afford. What I must highlight is, that I don’t like Jonathan doesn’t mean I hate PDP. I believe there are some great minds in PDP, the same way I see pretenders mingling with the great minds in APC. Which is why I’ll be casting vote for some PDP candidates running for some offices in 2015.

I will not engage in, or be lured into, any petty denigration of the opposition party, nor of its newly presented presidential candidate, as is being championed by some supposedly responsible thought leaders in this space.

It’s convenient to ridicule the quest for change if you’ve not felt the impact of the maladministration that has brought this country to its knees; if you’re in faraway Europe or America, with 24-hour power and water supply; if you wake up every day without a fear over your safety and that of your loved ones; if you’re not affected by the stealing, which our wise leader once said isn’t the same as corruption, that has wracked every institution in the country; if you’re not turned against your brother from another ethnic group or religion or region by the politics and gimmicks of a dangerous President. It’s convenient to trivialize the essence of a government if you haven’t lost a family to insurgency because of an incompetent leadership. And unless you enjoy a 24-hour power supply, quality service at corruption-free institutions, impressive social amenities, all in a de-polarised system, your defence of this administration is either a case of sycophancy taken too far or delusion shamelessly justified.

There are things that shouldn’t be an issue of intellectual masturbation, and the quest for change by pathetically oppressed Nigerians is one of such. If you’ve no power to restore the lives and properties destroyed by bad leadership, the sage thing to do is being neutral and awaiting Dante Alighieri’s prescription of a harsh hell for your ilk.

But February 2015 is an uncertain period. Which is also why we must now promote, especially for those who consider politics a do-or-die affair, the meaning of democracy. We must assure the zealots that the only way to elect a new leader is by converging at polling units to vote, not by threatening those against them, or even breaking loose and harming those in the Other party. And while we do this, let’s also remember the electorate at villages with no motorable roads; those who do not know what we mean by change; those who only need food to eat, land to till, crops to harvest who are more vulnerable to the seduction of a wad of cash in exchange for their ballot papers.

Another bitter truth we have to chew is, nobody can rig an election without the complicity of the people. And when some of us contribute to electoral malpractices, the last I checked, the courtroom is the only place for resolution of such conflicts. No citizen deserves to die for the ambition of any politician. The bad and the good must co-exist, so long as our shared nationality isn’t a myth. This country is a reflection of ourselves. May God save us from us.

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

#KakandaTemple ~ The Dangerous Shows for 2015

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As the period running up to the 2011 presidential election portended omens of tragedy for intuitive citizens, the current period, four years later, should rattle even those who were then indifferent. This must be a phase for overcoming whatever instigated their moral dilemma.

My concern about Nigeria became disturbed this week on sighting a Borno Express cross-country bus with a poster of Governor Kashim Shettima, seeking re-election, seemingly seeking another term of terrorised living in office. How is it that our politicians, crying that their Office threatens their existence and sanity, are desperate to remain in that same Office? It must be a sort of greed for the trappings of State Power.

The main culprit of this dangerous greed is the President, under whom the country has lost its bearing, so much so that even his most indecorous media aides, confused in the social media, are now calling on “God”, advising citizens to “pray” for an end to what such aides’ principals were elected, and granted enormous State resources, to curb. And for lack of explanations for their principals’ legendary cluelessness, they’ve been tweeting verses from the Bible, to appeal to the sentiments of the gullible.

But a show of greed and shame, even more indicative and damning than the President and the Governor’s desperate bid to remain in power is clearly that of the citizens “procured”, as Dr. Oby Ezekwesili once said of hired protesters, to champion the re-election campaign of the same President Goodluck Jonathan whose administration, for seeming incapability, has not heeded the plea to rescue the hundreds of his subjects who have been in captivity for the past 150 days! And to highlight their inhumanity, these procured protesters launched #BringBackGoodluck2015 billboards, signs and hashtags to ridicule the demands of unrelenting #BringBackOurGirls.

That unpardonable blasphemy drew the outrage of the civil society, the main opposition party and even the fence-sitting observers. But it was Washington Post’s globalisation of the undermined citizens’ outrage in its coverage of that PR blunder, referring to it as “the most inappropriate political hashtag of the year”, that finally jostled the presidency, forcing the President to react – to lie, that is – that he was ignorant of that well-publicised campaign for his re-election, even though the campaign was officially recognised by the Presidency, having been fanatically promoted by the President’s politically rash Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe.

What further frustrates the possibility of ousting the cunning government or having citizens forming alliances against it, are the divisive publications on the complicity of some friends and allies of the government revealed by an Australian named Stephen Davis, and uncritically popularised by some prominent elements of the main opposition party, the APC.

Instead of having Davis’ so-called revelations adopted for careful analysis, Nigerians, including a prominent and prominently diminutive member of the opposition, contributed to the confusion by not only endorsing the Australian’s claims that certain people, both Muslim and Christian, were responsible for funding of the Boko Haram insurgents, but that the sect also has political and Christian variants, backing the claims up with lame inferences that can only appeal to the senses of a unintelligent conspiracy theorist, an unthinking escapist.

Sadly, some of these people practice, or have backgrounds in, Law. This makes me wonder, why would a lawyer, trained in challenging facts, also embark on adopting uncorroborated claims, conspiracy theories, as proofs or confirmations of certain suspicions? Even in the court of law, circumstantial evidences are not adopted as unchallenged proofs, so sharing inferences as proofs is a clear mischief. You don’t spend these five years in the department of Law, and then memorably torturous months at the law school, only to end up going against the ethics of your training in such an outrageous way. I thought lawyers should be our models in obsessing about evidences and the absence of them, even in our public discourse?

If a lawyer’s mindset had been employed in assessing these confusing claims, even Davis wouldn’t have made a newspaper headline. And this instinct would’ve challenged us to ask whether Boko Haram that operates in secret, would reveal the sources of its funds to a negotiating stranger – especially to a white man who, as Christian or atheist, western, and believer in liberal democracy, is a portrait of all they aspire to crush? The Boko Haram didn’t remain elusive this long by being tactically stupid, as portrayed by Davis. And if its leaders were as careless with details of their operations as also portrayed by Davis, they would’ve been crushed long ago!

There’s a need for us, and especially the opposition party, to employ reason, instead of sentiments, in promoting some of these embarrassingly petty conspiracy theories. The opposition must understand that if you fight this government with flawed statistics and hearsays and polarisation, you’re just making the return to Aso Rock easier for GEJ. If they want to replace GEJ, whose Ph.D I now suspect is in divisive politics, on the back of polarising sentiments, then they must be very prepared for an embarrassing defeat in 2015. What keeps APC going are sympathies, sympathies of a people in need of change, sympathies of a people willing to give them a chance despite obvious flaws. But it needs men of model conduct representing its interests in the media.

My only fear, which has become a looming apparition now, is the memory of the gory revolts that followed the announcements of the results of 2011 presidential election in the north. We must not prepare these impressionable members of the lower-class for another horror history, which is what some of these politicians do by promoting unverified claims to gain relevance and be seen as “rights ambassadors”, whereas they’re everything but selfless in their pursuits of political power.

But the underclass is not the only trouble with electing ideal candidates in Nigeria. While poverty dispossesses the underclass of ability to be rational, sycophancy ravages the middle-class. This way, with these syndromes, the sycophantic members of the middle-class contracted by the government to form about 8000 pro-Jonathan campaign groups, also procured the cheaper under-class as foot-soldiers of Transformation Actors of Nigeria, which they prefer to call “Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria”, and other 7999 groups.

Today, in its nearly 64 years in existence, the main thriving industry in Nigeria, with productivity higher than the Oil industry, is Sycophancy. It represses existing and proposed political resistance. The poverty of the underclass and the sycophancy of the middle-class are the reason idealism is DOA in Nigeria. Sometimes, in pursuits of idealism, you go out campaigning for core visionary leaders, and return home only to realise that your lunch was made with “gifts” by, or bought with money given, by a fraudulently prebendal politician.

This is how the two social classes betray promising leaders.

The last time Gani Fawehinmi aspired to lead this country, our rejection of his bid was almost unanimous. And I doubt if there has ever been a politically awakened individual who had stood up for the masses, in the race to the Office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, comparable to the model civil rights advocate.

In fact, if our politics is sincerely all about “personality”, Buhari himself cannot beat Gani, who resisted even the military extremisms of the Buharis. We’re in a country where idealism is a myth, but this shouldn’t be an excuse to allow hired paupers and contracted sycophants forestall our struggle for change.

So, we need to task our presidential candidates to offer us something other than romanticisations of their personalities, something concrete, an implementable development plan for redeeming this changing Nigeria. This “I did not steal a kobo” campaign is beginning to sound like GEJ’s “I had no shoes” scam of that unfortunate 2011. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter