Oby Ezekwesili: President Buhari’s Economic Policies are confusing.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, former vice-president of the World Bank for Africa, has described the economic policies of the current administration as “confusing”.

 

In a chat with The Interview, the convener of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) said that despite the confusion, the government remains “adamant”.

 

Answering a question on the call for diversification, she said: “I am not a fan of the economic policies of this government so far.

 

“I feel it’s too tentative in making even the right policy decisions and even when it tries to make the right policy decisions, it has been in the breach. It has been very confusing.

 

“It’s not that the government is timid; it’s about doing the wrong things and being adamant about them.”

 

Citing the government’s monetary and fiscal policies as key areas of denial of “empirical evidence”, she called for structural reforms and better citizen engagement.

 

In the interview, conducted before the BBOG’s visit to Sambisa, Ezekwesili wept over the fate of the remaining Chibok girls, saying the episode had exposed Nigerian governments in their “worst form”.

 

She spoke on what she would do if President Muhammadu Buhari invited her to serve; her perception of former President Goodluck Jonathan; and her relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

Azu Ishiekwene, MD/editor-in-chief of The Interview, described the interview as “a no-nonsense call to reflection”, saying “Oby is not treading on eggshells. It’s bareknuckle stuff”.

 

Source: The Cable

Sambisa, The Forest of Learning – By Buki Ponle

By now, it is crystal clear to the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), or any other groups and individuals with similar perception, that government is not toying with the safety, lives and property of Nigerians. This is clearly evident in the latest search conducted for the missing Chibok school girls in the notorious forest called Sambisa.

Few days ago, the Federal Government, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture and that of Defence, arranged to join the Nigerian troops in the forest, in furtherance of efforts at finding the girls. They invited the advocacy group BBOG to come along.

On the eve of the trip, the Co-convener of the BringBackOurgirls (BBOG), Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, in an e-mail to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, indicated the interest of her members to join the search. The group, for reasons only known to it, however gave impractical conditions to join in the search of
the girls, according to reports.

However, government acceded to their demands, including the last-minute insistence by Ezekwesili that the Information Minister abandon the aircraft for government delegation and fly instead with BBOG members in another aircraft.

”Only Oby Ezekwesili could rightly decipher what she had in mind to have insisted that the minister should take such a last minute decision,” notes an Abuja-based lawyer, Mr Ebenezer Okoli.

”Prior to this trip, the group had staged a week-long rally in commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the kidnap of Chibok girls, accusing government, among others, of reneging on the rescue of the remaining 195 girls, after it had secured the release of 21 of them.

”One need not be reminded of the human degradation, especially womanhood, in the senseless war being waged against Nigeria by the Boko Haram terrorists, even in spite of heightened efforts by the Buhari administration to decimate them” he says.

The Sambisa forest, 60,000 sq. km., or 18 times the size of Lagos State, situated in the north eastern part of Nigeria, was once the pride of Borno indigenes because of its serenity, rich floral and fauna, but has turned evil with the habitation and vandalism of Boko Haram insurgents in the past eight years.

They have, however, substantially been smoked out by our gallant soldiers many of who have paid the supreme price for the love of the country, and at painful loss to their families and the nation.

Although the activity of the insurgents has been degraded, one’s blood turns chilly each time the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafia Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, reels out the number of casualty of officers and men who have laid down their lives in the struggle to liberate the country from insurgency.

These were also men born of women, with families and other dependants, but who are seldom talked about outside the military.

 

BBOG assumed global fame when it rose as a resonate voice of concern over the violence perpetrated against women and children, but more especially against the abducted girls. It became an advocacy movement right from April 2014 when the school girls were kidnapped.

A journalist, Simon Lambert, observes: ”with its recent activities, the utterances and demeanor of BBOG members, one is at pains to situate the group properly, with its apparent ‘for profit’ non-governmental organisation attitude.

”Even if some of its members are full time workers for the group, they should understand the workings of government and should defer to government position which has demonstrated enough transparency in efforts at rescuing the remaining Chibok girls. Government is not faceless, and those in charge of governance have blood running in their veins, have the female as wives, children and relations.”

A political scientist, Dr. Omobolaji Akerele, comments: ”Government does not divulge everything simultaneously, and a government which has shown sincerity of purpose, such as this, should at least be given the
benefit of the doubt.”

She continues: ”BBOG should not be perceived as caring for Chibok girls alone to sustain its international recognition. It should show concern for all the victims, including the IDPs, the fallen heroes and their families, as well as those who have been vegetated by BokoHaram’s bestial attacks.
”The use of cheap blackmail, appearing in holier-than-thou attitude, resort to unnecessary rallies and grandstanding are not the hallmark of a responsible advocacy movement, as interpretations are being given to the genuineness of such actions,” Akerele adds.

Some of the members have even been assuming presidential posturing and would not want to appear in related public meetings unless President Buhari is physically present.

Nonetheless, the trip has altered the perception of BBOG group which had apparently lost confidence in government efforts at battling corruption and rescuing the remaining trapped Chibok girls in that
dreaded forest.

Not until a gruesome day and night rounds of search sorties in Sambisa did Ezekwesili become convinced that government is doing its best, as witnessed in the professionalism and sophistication of the Nigerian Air Force, in executing the war against terror.

For instance, the Air Force now possesses many search planes as against just one, and the the deployment of many fighter jets as against just two before this administration. It is noteworthy that the Air Force has also flown 6,000 hours and spent N2 billion on fuel in searching for the girls.

Following the tour, BBOG testifies in its report, that ”the air component of the counter-insurgency is being prosecuted by a highly professional, capable, motivated and committed team of the Nigerian Air Force.”

Ezekwesili also saw the need for government to descend more heavily on looters of the national wealth, and those who have dis-empowered the military, for the terrorists to have initially gained an upper hand.

All told, more stakeholders must be prepared for Sambisa lessons, now a forest for learning, discipline, soberness and patriotism. In particular, those lawyers who placed money above national interest and would hold brief for the worst rogue as long as blood-money talks, should be the next in line for the Sambisa trip.

Ditto for the judge who compromises, because each perverted judgement of national interest could also mar the operation of the war against terror. With such visits, justice will be served expeditiously and without fear or favour.

*Ponle is a public affairs analyst

PRESS STATEMENT: DAY 1000 of consistent, daily #BringBackOurGirls advocacy.

One thousand days ago — April 30, 2014 — our movement started with a march by over two thousand citizens from all walks of life in the city of Abuja demanding rescue of hundreds of girls alleged to have been abducted by Boko Haram terrorists from their dormitory at the Government Secondary School, Chibok Borno State.
The world was later to learn from the findings of the Presidential Task Force set up by the preceding federal government that 276 schoolgirls writing their final certificate examination had been forcefully taken on the night of April 14, 2014.
The findings stated that 57 of the girls had escaped variously as their captors hauled them on the long journey into the Sambisa forest leaving 219 missing by the time the news of the abduction reached the public.
Social media starting reacting  from April 15 when the news of the abduction broke even while the traditional media in Nigeria was not reporting the tragedy. One week later on April 23, 2014 the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls emerged and became popular on social media as the widely used message of demand for the rescue of the abducted school girls.
Fifteen days later and with still no acknowledgement nor action by the federal government on the abduction, diverse citizens were convened using reach outs of all types to participate in a solidarity march for the abducted girls. That march of April 30, 2014 adopted the social media hashtag  #BringBackOurGirls as the message of the protesters. The citizens that gathered walked from the Unity Fountain under heavy rains to the Nigerian National Assembly to demand for government rescue of the school girls.
That march awakened much more people to the tragedy and in a rare demonstration of global empathy, many people organized marches in several cities in Nigeria and around the world calling for rescue of the abducted girls.  That first march went on  to become a daily “sit-out” campaign in Abuja and a weekly “shout out”  in Lagos and various advocacy activities in cities like Oshogbo, New York, Washington DC.
At the beginning, members of our movement made a promise to our #ChibokGirls couched in a question that is part of the movement’s chants: “When shall we stop?” The answer is simple: “Not until our Girls are back and alive! “Not without our daughters! The two pillars around which our advocacy was framed for 1000 days are our  shared humanity with our #ChibokGirls and the social contract between citizens and their government.
As a citizens movement, our priority has been to awaken our government to its responsibility of protecting lives and properties of its citizens like our #ChibokGirls. Our activities invariably also awakened global awareness of and some action against the cruel action of the Boko Haram terror group. Staying above the fray of politics and change of governments, our movement has remained resolute in the singularity of purpose of demanding and compelling necessary government action to rescue the Chibok girls.
That our movement — a citizens’ advocacy in Nigeria —  has lasted 1000 days is traceable to the core values on which it  is founded. Interestingly these core values make up HUMANITEEDS: Hope, Unity, Motivation, Affability, Nationalism, Integrity, Transparency, Empathy, Equity, Discipline, and Sacrifice. These are the  values that have shaped the thought processes, decisions, and actions of the movement.
Lending our contribution to solutions has also been part of our modus operandi. In 1000 days, we have not only advocated on the matter of our girls but also delivered solutions to our government and people. Below are some of the Solutions we worked on:
–         Citizens’ Solution to End Terrorism
–         Verification, Authentication, and Reunification System (VARS) document
–         ABCs of Our Demand
–         Missing Persons’ Register (MPR)
–         Chronicle of false narratives by the Nigerian government on the rescue of the Chibok schoolgirls
–         Options Note on Rebuilding the Northeast
These are available on our website www.bringbackourgirls.ng
Key milestones achieved by BBOG include:
  • Ignited the ultimate acknowledgement of the tragedy three weeks after by the then federal government following one week of our movement’s sustained advocacy.
  • Catalytic to multi-nation meeting convened in Paris, France in May 2014 to find the abducted girls and build a sub-regional counter terrorism response.
  • The offer of leading member-nations of the UN Security Council to help rescue our ChibokGirls,
  • Crystalized the advocacy for #ChibokGirls by key global figures and the global community.
  • Saw a strong commitment made by then incoming president – Muhammadu Buhari-  that the return of our girls and other abducted citizens as the indicator of defeat of the terrorists;
  • Compelled our federal government to prioritize the effective and efficient use of resources provided for prosecuting the war and providing security more broadly. In the process, our troops in the battlefront confirm improvement in the tools necessary for war.
  • Shone the light on the scale of humanitarian tragedy that has befallen millions of our internally displaced citizens as far back as 2014 when the North East destabilization was escalating.
However none of those milestones  compared to the sense of progress that the movement celebrated when the first  Chibok girl — Amina Ali Nkeki was found by the Civilian Joint Task Force and the military on Tuesday May 17, 2016.
Subsequently two other Chibok girls — Maryam Ali and Rakiya Abubakar were also found at different times due to the activities of the military. The largest set of girls – twenty one- were released by the terrorists on October 13, 2016 following a successful negotiation with the Federal Government, the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. That 24 of our ChibokGirls have been given the  justice of freedom from terrorists is considered a testament that our citizens’ advocacy for them was valid despite the stiff attacks and opposition our movement attracts for our steadfast stance.
Furthermore, by making our #ChibokGirls the symbol of all other victims of Boko Haram –many of whom lost their identity in the course of the tragedy in the North East– it compelled the Nigerian military to achieve the rescue of thousands of these other Nigerians.
We also highlighted and advocated on issues related to military welfare, demanded for presidential pardon of soldiers who were wrongly sentenced to death upon being court-martialed for refusing to fight without arms. Some of such unjust sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment.
Adopting our #NigerianHonourOurHeroes initiative, we continue to champion the cause of our soldiers and their families for the risk they take at the war front and for the gallantry they show whenever any of  them die at the battlefront to safeguard people and nation.
In the last 1000 days of our advocacy,  we have become a model for the effective expression of the #OfficeOfTheCitizen which promotes demand for democratic accountability from their government.
Our movement has seen the emergence of other citizens’ advocacy groups on related issues of good governance, philanthropic and humanitarian efforts, citizens interventions and such like. The idea of the informed, engaged and active citizen is no longer a dream but already being acted upon by ordinary citizens across the country.
Our singular issue was the rescue of our Chibok girls, but it did not take our movement time to see how the lack of good governance and demand for accountability failed them on that night they were abducted. It is reason our movement insists on Good Governance.
On this tragic DAY 1000 of our advocacy, we again celebrate the efforts of our men and women in uniform who continue to place their lives on the line at the frontlines of the fight against the insurgency and in the search for our Chibok girls as well as other persons who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
Today as we ponder  the colossal tragedy of the non-return of 195 of our girls on day 1000 of daily #BringBackOurGirls advocacy, we renew our  commitment to never stop  demanding until all the remaining 195 of our missing girls are rescued. It is why we today ask the federal government to accelerate the effort it assures is being made to successfully negotiate the release of another set of 83 of our ChibokGirls.
As a movement, we do not wish to see DAY1100 without all our ChibokGirls back. #BringBackOurGirls!
Signed:
For and on behalf of #BringBackOurGirls
AISHA YESUFU
OBY EZEKWESILI

BBOG should stick to advocacy rather than pretending to be an opposition party – FG

The Federal Government has urged the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group to see government as a partner rather than adversary in the quest to secure the release of the Chibok girls.

In a statement in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the BBOG’s continued portrayal of the government as an adversary and the needless firing of darts at President Muhammadu Buhari, were ultimately counter-productive.

Mr. Mohammed said the president was doing his utmost best to bring the girls back home safely.

“The Federal Government has bent over backwards to carry the BBOG along and to show transparency in the conduct of the search for the girls,” he said.

“The recent invitation extended to the group to witness first-hand the search for the girls by the Nigerian Air Force is a clear indication of this.

“However, it came to us as a surprise that in spite of its initial positive report on the tour, the BBOG has too quickly reverted to its adversarial role.

“BBOG should stick to its role as an advocacy group rather than pretending to be an opposition party.

“The synonyms of the word ‘advocacy’ do not include ‘antagonism’, ‘opposition’ or ‘attack’, in fact those words are the antonyms of ‘advocacy,’’’ he said.

The minister said it amounted to needless grandstanding for the BBOG to say it would no longer tolerate “delays’’ and “excuses” from the president on the release of the girls, as reported by the media.

According to him, such “impudent’’ language should have been reserved for those who did nothing in the first 500 days of the girls’ abduction, and not for Mr. Buhari.

Mr. Mohammed said President Buhari as has presided over the liberation of all captured territory, the opening of shut schools and roads, the safe release of some of the abducted girls and the decimation of Boko Haram.

He assured Nigerians that the efforts to bring the girls back safely were continuing, but sought their understanding for not divulging any further details so as not to jeopardise the intricate process.

“Let me say unequivocally that the people involved in the negotiations are working 24/7.

“The negotiations are complicated, tortuous and delicate. Any wrong signal is capable of derailing things. That’s why the less we say, the better for all.

“We need a huge amount of confidence-building, the kind of which led to the release of 21 of the girls. This has been lacking for years, but right now we are confident that we are on the right track.

“We won’t do anything to jeopardise these talks, irrespective of the pressure or provocation from any quarter,” the minister said.

 

Source: NAN

REPORT: Sambisa is massive. It’s 18 times the size of Lagos – Oby Ezekwesili

Oby Ezekwesili, co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls group, says Sambisa Forest, the hideout of the Boko Haram, is 18 times the size of Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

 

Ezekwesili, who went on a tour of Sambisa with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF), said the forest is a vast expanse of land, and more has to be done to capturing the whole forest.

 

“Dreaded Sambisa is massive. Sixty thousand square kilometers. Eighteen times the size of Lagos State! All of Lagos is 3,345 square km,” she wrote on Twitter.

 

“Apparently, the Sambisa ‘general area’ as it’s called is some 85% of entire size of Borno State.”

 

 

She said the military had succeeded in capturing the capital spot of Boko Haram, but the search must continue.

 

“The famous Camp Zero in Sambisa? Well, it turns out that capturing Camp Zero is NOT equal to capturing Sambisa. It is just a spot in there.

 

“Capture of Camp Zero in Sambisa is akin to capturing the Capital City of a country. Camp Zero was the Capital SPOT of Boko Haram in Sambisa

 

“Capture of Camp Zero is significant but not cos of its SIZE. It is SIGNIFICANT because it USED TO BE the STRONGHOLD of the enemy in there.

 

“So, could our Chibok girls and other abducted citizens still [be] within the vast field of Sambisa other than Camp Zero? Yes. So, NAF searches on.”

 

Regarding the entire trip, she said “We came. We learned. Now we return. To stand! To demand!! ! Thanks everyone at Nigerian Air Force for all we learned”.

 

FG Fulfils BBOG’s Fresh Condition To Accept Sambisa Tour Offer

The Federal Government has fulfilled the fresh condition given by the Bring Back Our Girls Group to accept the offer to travel with the team heading for the NE to witness first-hand the military’s ongoing search for the Chibok Girls.

Abusidiqu had reported that the BBOG had rescinded it’s earlier decision not to accept the offer until the fulfillment of certain conditions and had even nominated four members of the group to be a part of the tour.

Although the report stated that the government is yet to confirm the decision of the group, further details available to Abusidiqu indicates that the BBOG at about 8:20pm Sunday evening communicated to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, its decision to accept the offer to travel with the team.

However, the group requested the FG to furnish it with more details of the tour duration and detailed logistics including the names of the local and international media on the delegation.

“We need those information to enable us send you a more substantial letter conveying our acceptance to join the “Guided Tour”, leader of the Group, Oby Ezekwesili said in her communication to the FG.

On its part, the Federal Government expressed gladness for the willingness of the group to reconsider its decision not to join the trip.

It said: “the trip will last two days, starting on Monday, 16 Jan. 2017. The team will be ferried to Yola by the
Nigerian Air Force, from where a select group will join the NAF search mission to Sambisa”

On the list of the local and international journalists accompanying the team, the FG listed Stanley Nwosu of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Fred Ayo and Anthony Forson of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as well as Solomon Chung of the Voice of Nigeria (VON).

Others listed include Amaka Okafor and Kabiru Owoyomi of Channels TV, Ariyo Obagbemile FMIC Photographer. Felix Onuah (Reuters), Rotimi Jikanmi (NAN), and Ola Awoniyi of AFP.

The FG further added that while The Times of London Correspondent is on standby, Sola Fabiyi of Punch Newspapers, Samson Adeleke of CCT (To syndicate video to international broadcasters), Joseph Mutah of CPS and Seun of The Nation would also be on the trip.

The FG gave details of the programme of the tour to include Arrival on Monday do the exercise and depart Tuesday for Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR). It said the programme is broadly ISR Day/ Night – planning brief, Flight over Sambisa, debrief, ex wash up / Media Interview.

Chibok Girls: Painful memories of a thousand days – By Oby Ezekwesili

On that 30th April 2014 when diverse citizens gathered to march in solidarity, no one could have imagined that any out of our 219 Chibok Girls abducted from their secondary school in April 2014 would remain in captivity of terrorists 1000 days after the tragedy. One recalls pictures of distressed parents supported by local hunters foraging through the path they were told that the terrorists had hauled away their daughters. Meanwhile, their government was missing in action cynically indifferent to the cries for help. 

One of the parents said he was desperate to find his daughter by walking off into Sambisa Forest before the Nigeria Army prevented them, because the future of the entire family depended on that daughter finishing school and taking care of her siblings. How can we not be moved by such decisiveness on girls education in a region that topped both then and now, the chart of poor school enrollment and worse parity ratio of four boys for every one girl in school compared to the rest of the country? 

Nations that have bothered to know the value of having all their girls in school have since discovered the multiple and diverse benefits. More than ever before in history, the economic health of a country depends upon the skills, knowledge, and capacities of its people. Research validates that countries which have made dynamic progress in the last century, are also the ones that help each of their citizens – male and female- to acquire the human assets of values, skills, knowledge and capacities that education bestows. 

In addition to the obvious productivity and income earning benefit to the girl-child and their families, some of the data that validate a diverse range of benefits have global relevance. According to UNESCO, the “Children of mothers with secondary education or higher are twice as likely to survive beyond age 5 compared to those whose mothers have no education. Improvements in women’s education explained half of the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age 5?.

We are products of the values that shaped us. A Value that some of us imbibed while growing up is that nothing makes a female child inferior and so nothing should keep them from being educated. Those of our parents that held strong to such value bequeathed them to us by sending us to school despite our being female. Like the parents of the 219 ChibokGirls, our parents overcame all barriers that are known to limit educational opportunities available to girls around the world or even more specifically, our various regions in Nigeria. 

For the forward thinking parents of the abducted girls, they desired that their daughters would not be part of the statistics of out-of-school adolescent girls. A recent report on Girls Education in Nigeria by the United Kingdom’s British Council found that in the North East, 54% of adolescent girls are out of school. In the North West, it is 53%, in the North Central, it is 21%, in the South South it is 9%, in the South West 6% and in the south-east, it is 4%. The ChibokGirls parents understood that at an individual and family level, the benefits of offering education to their daughters outweighed the associated social, cultural, religious, physical risks and economic constraints. 

What they did not imagine as part of that calculus was that the physical risk to life for those who dared to show up in their Chibok school has risen substantially to certainty. Boko Haram terrorists are driven by the hideous determination to make knowledge abominable thus challenging our civilization. None of our ChibokGirls parents could however have imagined that neither their own government nor those of the rest of the world would defend the dignity of endangered lives of their children if anything like abduction happened.  None of those parents could have imagined that the lives of their daughters would not be protected by the Nigerian nation-state which has a constitutional duty of providing for the security and welfare of citizens- especially its young ones. None of those parents could have thought that having their daughters show up from their various schools in that local government to take their certificate examination with peers in that Government Secondary School Chibok,  would become a fatal choice between being educated or staying alive. 

Doubly tragic is that as we mark #DAY1000 since the worst nightmare of those Chibok Parents materialized, two successive governments have completely failed to be as bold as the parents of our missing ChibokGirls. From the initial self-preserving coldness, indifference, mockery and tentativeness of the immediate past administration to the “cannot-be-taken-for-their-word” hubris, lethargy and inertia of the current one, any discerning observer can see a common thread. It is the same we-don’t-give-a-damn attitude that is making their successors who assumed office on the back of a strong promise to commit their utmost to rescuing the girls within six months in office;  to repeat history. 

What is the cause of this empathy-deficit toward citizens by those that govern,  regardless of their political symbol and hue? The disconcerting answer is that among our political class,  citizens – whether dead or alive – have no bearing on the incentives that drive the quest for the right to govern them. Unlike those countries where leaders set their country Development vision on their citizens’ values, knowledge, skills and capacities, our own “rulers” place their stewardship quest not on the lives of citizens but on the certainty that oil will flow. Oil will flow and the public purse will flourish whether a citizen dies or is missing. 

The logic is simple: As long as the proceeds from oil are guaranteed, the nation can afford to leave its children with terrorists for any length of time. For as long as oil flows and with that, the proceeds, the cutting short of any Nigerian life has no effect on the country.  It therefore has not mattered as much to any of the two successive Governments of Nigeria that losing our ChibokGirls is a loss to our national stock of human capital. That our Governments prolonged the time it is taking to give justice to children who were abducted in the course of their search for knowledge is a statement on the things we value. 

Should any think this assertion to be farfetched, all they need do,  is, compare the swiftness with which our governments -regardless of which political crew run it- responds to any threat to the flow of oil in the Niger Delta. For our governments, the cynicism towards citizens- who with a certain measure of education are converted to human capital- is that they are of less value than a barrel of oil. 

This is where the parents of our ChibokGirls have more than a lot to teach our political leaders. These parents may not have any “political clout” – part of the reason that many adduce for the way their daughters have been neglected by our government– but they know something that our political rulers are yet to graspNo commodity but our human beings like Chibok Girls, other abducted citizens, hundreds of Nigerians needlessly killed in distressed conditions in the North East, Mainland and South Kaduna, Agatu, Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, Jos, Keffi, Abuja, Lagos and such other places, can guarantee us the swift passage to economic development. 

The slight redeeming prospect of the President Muhammadu Buhari led government as far as the specific matter of ChibokGirls rescue goes, is that in the last three months, it has managed to bring back 24 of them mostly through negotiation with their terrorist abductors. For our freed school girls and their peers in all the internally dislocated peoples’ camps in the North East, it is the duty of the Government’s – Federal and State- to place a premium on their education and skills acquisition to ensure that Nigeria speeds up the accumulation of our human development scores. The education of the girl-child benefits not only the girls and their families but their communities, states and nations. 

Following its inauguration in May 2015, the administration was trapped in more than 15 months of numbing indecisiveness on how to rescue our ChibokGirls, whether through military option or by negotiation with the terrorists. Twenty one of them were eventually released on 13th October 2016 to our Government by the terrorists and embraced by their exuberantly joyous parents. Just a few days ago, another one of the girls returned, having been accidentally found among terrorists and their victims that the Nigerian Army captured. She returned after 997 days in the stronghold of terrorists clutching an innocent baby,  rather than the certificate her parents hoped for when they took a risk to send her to school. 

The tragic irony is that one of the reasons parents send their girl-children to school is to help delay marriage and child bearing while they acquire life skills for a better life. Rukiya Abubarka Gali’s parents while rejoicing at the return of their daughter yesterday, must be regretfully wondering like not a few other parents, whether it was worth it after all, to have made the choice for knowledge for their daughter. 

That DAY1000 is upon us with still more than 80% of our Chibok Girls still captives of terrorists, the only person that can assuage their deep regret is the President and the Federal Government of Nigeria. The way it can do this is to ensure that not one more day goes beyond the one thousand days of suffering of our young daughtersThis Federal Government must realize that the more it makes promises and fails to immediately back them with decisiveness and results-focused actions, it risks completely eroding its fast depleting stock of credibility and goodwill. 

The inability and perhaps unwillingness to learn from mistakes is reason this Federal Government has again relapsed into inertia, lethargy, contradictions and silence on the status of its public pledge last October that another 83 of our girls would be back “soonest”. Our ChibokGirls have always been a symbol of several other victims without identity that are captives of our common enemies or those whose lives were wasted needlessly across the country. Now is the time for our President to find the courage to accord the highest value to the Nigerian life regardless of their region, religion, ideology, political persuasion, social and economic status above any other thing in this country. 

We must not allow more deaths over and above 18 of the brave mothers and fathers who sent their girls to school.  The hope of those deceased parents and the ones alive  was that their girls would go on to become part of our more enduring capital. They did so, trusting that their Government cares about the dignity of life. It is time for the remaining 195 daughters of these courageous parents  to return. 1000 days are already too long. Mr President, we want more results! It is time to bring back home our girls now. And alive!!

Ezekwesili is co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls Movement 

We Won’t Relent On Our Pledge To Chibok Girls – Oby Ezekwesili

Co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls group, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has said the group had made a pledge to continue to stand for the abducted Chibok Girls, adding that it will not relent on its pledge.

Speaking during the sit-out of the group, Ezekwesili stated that it gave its word to the Chibok community to continue to be the voice of their daughters until they are rescued from their abductors.

“We gave our word to the Chibok leader that knelt in the rain and begged us not to give up on their daughters until they are back. A pledge is a pledge and every pledge is meant to be actualised,” she said.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the strategy team, Aisha Yesufu has expressed dissatisfaction over President Muhammadu Buhari’s habit of making statement over burning issues in the country, while outside the country.

In a series of tweets, Yesufu stated that it was unfair that the president could not address the parents of the abducted girls when they joined in the march organised by the group.

“Parents were in front of villa and @MBuhari asked police to block them. Tell PMB the world is a global village.

“Tell President @MBuhari to speak to his people. They are the ones that voted him. He can’t be callous to his people!

“Unfortunately they are not in Kenya and can’t read your mind so President @MBuhari be the leader Nigeria needs and act now,” she tweeted.

While addressing the special adviser, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Yesufu told him that he had failed the president in his trust of employing him.

“You should have advised him to talk to Nigerians since,” she said.

Recall that Buhari has reiterated the preparedness of the Federal Government to discuss the release of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terror group since 2014.

In an interview with journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, at the weekend, President Buhari said the Nigerian government was ready to dialogue with bonafide leaders of the terror group who know the whereabouts of the girls.

“I have made a couple of comments on the Chibok girls and it seems to me that much of it has been politicised.

“What we said is that the government which I preside over is prepared to talk to bonafide leaders of Boko Haram,” he said.

BBOG To March To Villa To Demand For The Release Of Chibok Girls

The advocacy group for the release of the Chibok girls, Bring Back Our Girls Group BBOG, will be matching to the Presidential villa on Jan. 14th to continue their demand for the release of the Chibok girls. Leader of the group and former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, while speaking at the group’s daily sit-out in Abuja yesterday January 6th, said the need for the march is born out of the recent remarks made by President Buhari during his media chat that the Nigerian govt has no credible intelligence about the Chibok girls.

“After our meeting with the President, we had promised not to disperse but continue to meet until the girls are back. But the feed back we got from the government, did not encourage us. It kept saying that there was no credible intelligence about the girls. On January 14, 2016, we will walk all the way to the Villa and we will remind the president of the promise he made in the Villa during our meeting with him and also during his inauguration and every time he spoke about our Chibok girls. We will remind him that if there is anybody that will be uncomfortable that the girls are not yet rescued, it should be him,” she said

Obiageli Ezekwesili: The Role Of The Church In Nation Building

I am delighted at the privilege of being asked by the leadership of FOURSQUARE Church to deliver this Diamond Lecture in celebration of sixtieth year of the Church in Nigeria. Let me specially thank Reverend Felix Meduoye,  The General Overseer of FOURSQUARE for the honour he bestows on me whenever he asks me to speak to his congregation of fellow believers in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Please accept my congratulations for the Diamond celebration which is happening under your inspiring and visionary leadership. I wish to also thank a dear brother, Femi Adesina who pressed on until my very swampy schedule opened up to enable me fulfil the promise I made several months ago when I could not be with you at a similar event in Lagos. Speaker of our House of Representatives-  Honourable Yakubu Dogara, delighted to have you chair this event. Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for being here today to listen to this lecture.
 
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, commonly referred to as the Foursquare Church, is a Pentecostal denomination founded in 1923 by one of the historically outstanding female preachers — Aimee Semple McPherson in Los Angeles, United States of America. She it was who described the basis for the naming of the Church from the revelation of Prophet Ezekiel as recorded in the Bible depicting the four faces of God that he ( the prophet) had seen. Pastor Aimee McPherson elaborated this even further stating that the four faces “were like the four phases of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of the man, she saw Jesus our Saviour. In the face of the lion, she saw Jesus the mighty Baptiser with the Holy Spirit and fire. In the face of the ox, she saw Jesus the Great Burden-Bearer, who took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church. It was a perfect, complete Gospel. It was a Gospel that faces squarely in every direction; it was the “Foursquare Gospel.”
 
The church propounds that its call is to preach Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as The Savior, The Baptizer, The Healer and The Coming King. In so doing, it seeks to glorify God, advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus as it undertakes His Great Commission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations. Over the ninety two years of existence, the Four Square has experienced successions which have helped with its growth into a world wide church. Today, the Foursquare Church has more than 1,700 U.S. churches and more than 66,000 churches globally and meeting places in 140 countries and territories.
 
Nigeria is one of those several countries in which FourSquare has flourished since the Reverend and Mrs. Harold Curtis first brought the message of Four Square to our country in 1955 to three founding members Reverend James Boyejo, Rev. Samuel Olusegun Odunaike and Rev. Friday Chinyere Osuwa. The year of the inauguration of the first FourSquare Church is remarkable seeing that it was just five years before Nigeria gained her independence. The Nigerian branch of the Church has since spread in prolific growth not just across the entire country but also across the continent of Africa. The FourSquare Church is according to data considered one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria.
 
BIBLICAL CONTEXT FOR CHURCH.
 
The Bible documents  the spoken words of God to His people, written to shape the sacred beliefs of those who were first called Christians because their observers declared that “they had been with Christ” as they scrutinised their conducts in the city of Antioch.  So, it is natural for most people to assume that Church when defined as “organised gathering of people as a group and under some clear leadership” is a phenomenon only of the New Testament. The reality however, is that the Church evolved from the Old Testament into the New Testament in the form we know it today. It can be said that Church started in the Garden of Eden where God used to come down to fellowship with the first man that He had created- Adam; but that ‘gathering’ was interrupted by sin. The fall of Adam and Eve, aborted the awesome plan of God for humanity as expressed in Genesis. God subsequently made several other provisions, ranging from Noah to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to Deborah, to Eli, to Samuel, to Elijah, Elisha and several other priests and prophets that were to “gather” God’s people regularly in harmonious fellowship with Him.
 
The New Testament church as recorded in Acts2 started at the Pentecost in the Upper Room led by the twelve Apostles of Christ and the many other believers in His teachings who gathered in fellowship after His death and resurrection. This piece of scripture  aptly captures this classic definition of the Church in its characteristic attributes.  Acts 2:42-47 records:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
 
The definition of Church as an “assembled group of people who met regularly under an organised leadership” places the emphasis on the human beings and why they gather much more than the building in which they do so. It is perhaps for this reason that Apostle Paul counsels the Hebrews to “not forsake the assembly of the brethren” making it all about relationship rather than a visit to a location. It is the people in fellowship with God and among themselves  more than where they gather that makes a gathering  of faithful followers of Christ, a Church of the modern ages.  The Early Church of the Acts of Apostles  still remains the model by which any gathering of people as Church is measured in terms of their relationship with God and with fellow believers and non-believers.
 
When we read and observe the journey of the children of Israel as the ” The Old Testament Church” making their  way to the the Promise Land, we are awed at the similarity their gathering has with the New Testament church. Reviewing both the old and New testaments of the Bible to understand the concept of Church better, one cannot but remember the roles of certain prophets of God as they led the children of God to the land of promise. The priests and the prophets who ministered in the temple were no different from our Pastors in churches today with a congregation of human beings that are no different from the flawed men and women of that era; who were merely beneficiaries of God’s  grace.
 
In effect, church may have evolved from Old Testament tents of meeting, to temples and synagogues into the Upper House, peoples’ houses and then elegant church buildings; but the unchanging Owner of the Purpose  of every gathering of His people remains steadfast in what He wants from His people. Even as they journeyed through the wilderness as  His “…… treasured possession out of all the peoples” what He expected was that they “. . . shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” With the favoured admission of those who were formerly Gentiles through the redemptive grace of Christ, Apostle Peter still declares in striking continuity in the New Testament: ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The people of God are created to be exemplary to all others. Simple.
 
In the Old Testament, Micah 6: 8 the prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you?” And answers, “To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” Apostle Paul speaks similarly in the New Testament in Ephesians 4: 1 says “To the church at Ephesus Paul writes, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling.” Whatever may be the purpose that the people of God gather; if they be followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ; who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit; there is but one common denominator for both the Old Testament and the New Testament congregations. It is Holiness. There cannot be a “gathering” or “fellowship” of the people of God with God, without Holiness. In Leviticus 19v1-2, He repeated that same charge of Holiness which He had made to Abraham when He promised to make him “blessed to be a blessing” in Genesis. Without Holiness, God cannot be in the midst of those who have gathered to qualify it for His own definition of the Church that “the gate of hell cannot prevail against”.
 
The manifestation of the working of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church differentiates it from the Old Testament church. The Spirit of God brought great liberty to the individual who having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord is spoken of by our Lord as “being greater than the Great John the Baptist even if such a one were the least in the kingdom.  The importance of this is best appreciated as one reads the assessment that God made of the Churches in Revelations2-3 where it is the Spirit of God that is expressly talking to the Church via the revelation experience of John the Beloved, an Apostle of Christ. This is unlike in the days of old when God would speak to the Prophet or Priest who would in turn carry the message to the rest of the people.
 
 
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA
 
History records that the Church in Nigeria is some 172 years old having started with the Catholic priests who were part of the Portuguese trade incursion into the coastlands of Nigeria. It was only after some hiatus, that there was the arrival of a more sustained missionary exploits of the Methodist Missionary Society in 1842 pioneered by the works of Thomas Birch Freeman. The Christian Missionary Society followed suit later that same year with the visit of Henry Townsend from Sierra Leone. Some years later the Catholic Irish missionaries arrived and much later down the line, Nigerians saw the emergence of indigenous churches that interpreted the Christian experience to have local relevance. Churches such as the Aladura movement in Western Nigeria, the Apostolic movement, the Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal movements were founded and thus the Church in Nigeria was fully formed as an organizational concept coincident with the era of independence. For example, the Redeemed Christian Church of God a mission in which my husband and I had the privilege of joining in the early 90s from our Anglican/Catholic backgrounds; is an indigenous Pentecostal/Evangelical church founded by Pa. Josiah Akindayomi sixty three years ago.
 
Each denomination of the Church in Nigeria flourished in  numerical growth and in an environment of relative religious freedom and constitutionally guaranteed secularity of governance, they individually carried on with their respective missions without the need for any collective structure. However, they did when during the military rule of General Ibrahim Babaginda, the Church in Nigeria collectively felt the threat resulting from that government’s signing up Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries. The churches came together under the umbrella of the  Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in 1976. Today, CAN is constituted by Churches under five groupings that are the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, The Christian Council of Nigeria, the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria/Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Organisation of African Independent Churches and Tarrayar Ekelesioyoyin Kristi. The Christian Association of Nigeria enunciates the following objectives:
  • to serve as a basis of [action for] the unity of the Church, especially as [intended] in our Lord’s pastoral prayer: ‘That they all may be one’
  • to act as a liaison committee, by means of which its member churches can consult together and, when necessary, make common statements and take common action
  • to be a watch-dog of the spiritual and moral welfare [of] the nation
  • to propagate the Gospel
  • to promote understanding among the various people and strata of society in Nigeria.
A critical analysis of the role that the Church has played in the nation along the lines of living up to its objectives of Unity of faith and collective action; its spiritual and moral watchdog of the nation objective; its promotion of understanding and peaceful relationship objective; is highly recommended for not just CAN but for all church leaders and their denominations. Any such objective assessment will reveal the deficit in acting to realize these lofty vision of CAN. Whereas it has done relatively well in some aspects of its vision, the association of Christians has a long journey to being the mega rallying point of Christians as the light that we are called to be for the Nigerian society.
 
WHAT IS NATION BUILDING? 
Nation building in its simple definition refers to the use of the power of the state to construct or structure a national identity. Nation building is especially used in relation to countries in Africa and Central Europe where territorial habitation of people forces disparate nationalities to belong to a country and yet feel no common sense of shared identity among themselves. So, in basic terms, one could say that nation building aims to unify diverse people of ethnic, religious and other pluralities who have found themselves living together in a globally recognised entity known as a United Nations member country. The process of attempting to unify  the diverse nationalities within a territorial construction to make it politically stable and viable, is something that would resonate for all Nigerians-North, South, East and West-  seeing how so much it describes our story in the 101 years of amalgamation and 54 years of independence of our country.
 
“Today is Independence Day. The first of October 1960 is a date to which for two years, Nigeria has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent Sovereign nation.  Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these Constitutional Instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s Independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country. This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now, we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”
The very gushing and giddy words of this quote were by the first Prime Minister of Nigeria Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on October 1, 1960.
 
Sadly,  the reality of our trajectory as a country is that we never transited from country to nation contrary to the poetic declarations of our first leader. To call a spade a spade, our nation building process has been extremely dismal in outcome and so fifty four years after, we are at the Diamond event of FourSquare Church which is only five years older than independent Nigeria; still discussing matters of “Nation Building.” Our Founding Nationalists, simply equated our becoming a country with attaining nationhood. Our founding leaders forgot  that a State- i.e. A country-  is not always a Nation . True, Nigeria became a self-governing political entity that negotiated a federal structure in cognizance of the near autonomy of each of its constituent ethnic nationalities. The painful fact however is that our independent Nigeria does not yet act like a Nation after five decades. The inability to achieve the consensus necessary for nation building has robbed us of the fundamentals of shared identity, vision and values known as “nation formations”. Research proves that these fundamentals  are what have helped other countries in similar circumstances as Nigeria to transit into the more progressive concept of “State Building”. It is after Nation Building that the phase of State Building commences with a focus on building the social, human and physical infrastructure as well as the critical institution. It is the State Building process that progresses a territory of unified people into citizens of an economically, socially and politically viable nation-state through what is known as a “Capable State”.
 
Countries with multiple divides do not just melt into one happy union. It requires deliberation and intentionality for diverse people with divergent interests, threats, opportunities and strengths to forge a common and shared framework for lasting unity of purpose. In some of the instances where this has happened either through wars and or dialogues/negotiations or their combination , it had required the elite of such countries to lead the rest of the people in a deliberative process of nation building. Nation building agenda envisions the forging of a  common identity that all have resolved to defend at all time with clear mechanisms for conflict resolution. For countries like South Africa and more recently Kenya, they adopted a people- led constitutional process as their pathway to nation building. It is the visionary power of the elite to move a people of diversity beyond the lowest common denominator of being mere citizens of one country into a “nation of diverse people”. It is what  makes the United States to stand out as a “model” multi-cultural society. Hence, even “with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American “culture” and “identity”.
 
Some people may of course dismiss this crave for evolution from country into a nation and say it does not matter. For those ones, I recall the wise words Carolyn Stephenson, who is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. She could have premised her thesis specially for Nigeria. Professor Stephenson states that “ Nation-building matters to intractable conflict because of the theory that a strong state is necessary in order to provide security;  that the building of an integrated national community is important in the building of a state, and that there may be social and economic prerequisites or co-requisites to the building of an integrated national community” Simply put, if a people of diversity in a country truly wish to succeed, they must forge a shared identity, vision and values to realise their goal of building a strong, secure and viable nation- state.
 
 
THE PAST, THE PRESENT OF THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA AND THE NIGERIAN CONDITION. CAN THE CHURCH IN BECOME THE CATALYST FOR A NEW NIGERIA? 
 
That failure to immediately use the early days of independence to commence the nation building process is what I consider the biggest missed opportunity in the history of Nigeria. So, it was not surprising that shortly after the novelty of our political independence wore off, the troubling underbelly of our nascent 1959/60 democracy was revealed in the rather prescient reading of the situation at that time by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  of the United States in a memorandum of 1966.  The CIA wrote thus:  “Africa’s most populous country (population estimated at 48 million) is in the throes of a highly complex internal crisis rooted in its artificial origin as a British dependency containing over 250 diverse and often antagonistic tribal groups. The present crisis started” with Nigerian independence in 1960, but the federated parliament hid “serious internal strains. It has been in an acute stage since last January when a military coup d’état destroyed the constitutional regime bequeathed by the British and upset the underlying tribal and regional power relationships. At stake now are the most fundamental questions which can be raised about a country, beginning with whether it will survive as a single viable entity. The situation is uncertain, with Nigeria,……is sliding downhill faster and faster, with less and less chance for unity and stability. Unless present army leaders and contending tribal elements soon reach agreement on a new basis for association and take some effective measures to halt a seriously deteriorating security situation, there will be increasing internal turmoil, possibly including civil war”. Does this not sound familiar to Nigerians of all ages?
 
The question anyone reading this should ask in the context of our topic is, “where was the Church in Nigeria at the time these lethal strains that became entrenched even up until today,  were brewing? How could the Church have been irrelevant in the foundational work of unifying diverse aspirations by woefully failing to influence the individual actors of that era considering that many of them wore and do in fact continue to wear their ecclesiastic garment as boldly as they wore and wear their ethnic cleavages? Even if the other end of the dialogue was the mostly Muslim North, could there not have been a way that the church would have helped to prevent the needless deaths that started and degenerated into a pogrom, claiming the largest number of our people in the civil war that predictably occurred?”
 
In a similar situation in Rwanda, the Church has had to face the scrutiny of its failings or even its complicity in the genocide that almost wiped out an entire ethnic race. I do not recall that the Church in Nigeria has reviewed or has been compelled to review its role in the 60s multiple tragedies of our country. The satanic seed of deep ethnic distrust, mistrust and hostility were sown unchallenged in that era. It pervades the Nigerian society today, engulfing all generations in their relationships. It also explains why other ethnic groups often withhold  empathy from any other of the groups which is faced with challenges at any given time.
 
Nigerians engage in what I call “equal opportunity suffering”. Not having received empathy in their time of pain, they see no reason to empathize when it is the “turn” of another ethnic group to suffer their “own pain”. Nothing is more revealing of the absence of the spirit of nationhood as this inability to rise beyond ethnic trenches and show humanness to another group, regardless of past hurts. What one has known from advocating for our abducted 219 Chibok School girls and the North East more broadly, reveals extremely deep divides that should not exist, were the Church in Nigeria living up to its Reconciliatory role.  Unfortunately, the Church is very woven into the fabric of inter and intra ethnic suspicions and conflicts. Such conflicts have become very common within the Christian fold in Nigeria, thereby robbing it of the moral pedestal it must have in order to play the role of reconciliation in a country where conflicts easily erupt and escalate unnecessarily.
 
I dare say that our protracted  failure to build a nation out of a country is what changed the course of Nigeria’s history and squandered the huge benefits that empirical research shows is possible for diverse societies. That our political elite could not speedily and “sincerely act” on the lofty ideals espoused in their nationalist struggle when they successfully united against a common “enemy” and brought us our independence,  is the reason our language remains divisive, churlishly clannish and religiously irredentist. Rather, our political elite turned their backs on the supposed “independent sovereign nation” and resorted to lethal ethnicity. Worse, they hid under their fiery brand of ethnic and religious politics to paradoxically unite in offering a toxic variant of leadership that is mostly  devoid of altruism. Now, what remains of leadership if it is lacking in sacrifice?
 
Rather than thread a collective path toward nation building, what Nigerians know as the prevalent character of the political elite class across board is that they frequently push the country to a precipitous slide that has become the lot of Nigeria since independence. It was within this context of elite failure that the 1966 military coup struck and unleashed a huge canvass of governance instability epitomised by a long period of military adventurism in governance, that abated only recently in 1999 with the coming on of the fourth Republic. It is only in the last sixteen years that our fifty four year old country finally got the longest season of the sins qua non democratic context that helps a diverse people to embrace their differences through freedoms of discourse, disagreement, dialogue and principled negotiation. The question however is, “will our country ever seize the opportunity for such relationship building  and use it to triumph over the pain and discomfort of a nation birthing process?”
 
There is actually an incentive for us to push ourselves toward this painful choice.  Not having deliberately engaged the best medium for shaping our consensus around a shared national identity, shared vision and shared values means that we will all continue to struggle to “Become”. It means struggling to become whatever is positively possible for each individual or group however defined. This is obvious because even in the last sixteen years of the latest cycle of being a Democracy,  Nigeria stays struggling to commence sensible and sustained “State Building” process. I mean, how can you possibly commence the structure of a house without laying the strong foundation required by engineering standards? That is precisely what we as Nigerians have been doing by pretending that we can build a “capable state” out of this country, when basic nation building remains an unfinished business.
 
The unfinished business of nation building has created room for the wily elite class to cleverly capture what passes for the “State” and push the larger population of the excluded who dot the entire landscape of Nigeria to the fringes of the benefits of governance. Such elite capture and “pocketization” of  the “pseudo state” is exemplified by the governance failures of the past fifty four years and this has engaged the curiosity of academic researchers around the world. Nearly all of Nigeria’s problem is traceable to poor governance and its more manifest symptom of cancerous corruption. Corruption is empirically proven to be the greatest obstacle to Nigeria’s development. Grand corruption which is the variant popularized by the elite of our society created the current endemic and systemic corruption. That in turn, has produced the most unacceptable levels of poverty in a country that evoked great expectation at the time of her independence. Today, poorer segment of citizens all over the country, who find themselves caught in the corruption-poverty-corruption trap are angry at the “crumbling state” that has failed to provide them the most basic services that people of other nations enjoy. Hence, regardless of what part of the country they come from, what language they speak, what culture they practice, what religion they believe, Nigerian citizens are gradually realizing that the ethnic jingoism of our majority of our elite may after all be purely self serving.
 
Over the years, the depth of poor governance and corruption by the political class and their private sector collaborators, and to a lesser extent the acquiescing religious elite, has worsened the cynicism, pessimism and skepticism of citizens about leadership. The leadership crisis has hugely eroded our Social Capital. No society can build for a lasting future  without some reasonable measure of Trust of government by the people. The values exemplified by leadership sets the standard for the rest of society. That citizens do in fact openly express trenchant cynicism about the uninspiring role that the religious spheres including the Church has played in bring forth a values- deficit and broken down Nigeria is heartbreakingly opposite of the standard set for the modern church by the Early Church.
 
 The collapse of our values and the depletion of our social capital have further sharpened the ethnic and religious fault lines and increased the tensions and conflicts among our diverse groups. Conflicts of all kinds have further deepened poverty among the poor citizens who were already excluded from the benefits of recent economic growth. Feeling abandoned by the “Nigeria- State”, our society is seeing a growing number of people among the excluded cynically following after the “examples” of their elite. They do so by engaging  in all manner of acts of criminality and wickedness in an obvious attempt at lashing out at a country which they believe has failed them.
 
And yet, the nation building process is one in which all of society  must play a role, because it happens faster when it is designed as an all inclusive process that leaves no one, no segment, no group, no gender, no class and no sphere behind. Lessons from other lands show that in negotiating and agreeing a shared identity, the religious sphere for its inherent capacity to build and nurture human relationships, has the potential to play a strong role. Therefore, the Church –  whether as individual members and/or as a group/ organisation-  has always had a central role to play in nation building. The church, dear brethren, has an enormous role in helping to foster the sense of shared humanity of our people, majority of who feel bound only minimally by a shared territorial neighbourhood. To agree on our shared humanity is in fact the best starting point toward nations building.
 
However, the question today is ” how well has the Church in Nigeria fared as a potential catalyst that helps propel Nigerians toward a positive trajectory and progression into nationhood?”
Let us even narrow this evaluation of the role of the Church to the fundamental premise of my considered opinion that Nigeria and Nigerians have been victims of an elite class failure. How  much of a restraining or constraining  influence has the Church tried to be to curtail the destructive  habits of our  “power elite”?  Has the Church not mostly acquiesced with this class of people in the manner it welcomes and honors those of us among their flocks  who should at the least receive a rebuke or moral sanction for conducts that detract from the behaviour of “those who have been with Christ”?
 
There is, even if not empirical; at least some reasonable anecdotal basis for probing the role of the Church in so far as the public piety of its flocks is concerned. The privileged class are traced to the grand ills of the Nigerian society in nearly all the instances of truncation of governance by coups. Here is a classic description of the “power elite” of Nigeria in the statement “justifying” the 1966 coup:  ” our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalist, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”
 
Every other coup that followed ( and there were at least five more); uncannily repeated that 1966 text of justification until the last one that occurred in 1993. One can thus reasonably conclude that what we today confront as systemic corruption only metamorphosed to current gargantuan scale as Nigeria’s elite class kept on perverting  the values of our country and distorting our incentive and disincentives regimes. It has been so since the painful 60s even unto this day that corruption which is the worst tax on the poor robs them of the opportunities of a good life.  Our elite class regardless of their origin, tongue and religion has been robbing the poor, who the Church in Nigeria, like the Early Church of the Apostles ought to protect.
 
So, sure the economy has been growing  at 7% every year in the last ten years but what quality of growth have we had with still more than 61% of poor in the land, 24% unemployment level with more than 40% level among the youthful segment? We have a negligible changed structure of the Nigerian economy since independence with the consequence that manufacturing has stayed at less than 15% thus narrowing the opportunity for rapid absorption of labour.  The massive unemployment and underemployment is because our indigenous private sector is underdeveloped compared to the countries of Asia and Latin America where small businesses account for more than 60 percent of the economy or 75% in America. Our private sector that thrives, does so mostly by depending on the distortion of policies, the corruption of the public sector and influence peddling while the small businesses suffer the severe adverse effects of failure of the same policies. Inequality and growing disparity between the few that have and those that don’t, has grown deeper. Regrettably the elite fail to understand the implications of such an unsustainable pattern of power and wealth relations in any society. Even  as the heinous effects of long lasting poor governance in the North East of Nigeria stares us in the face, our elite imperviousness remains.
 
All of the foregoing are matters that require policy, institutional, investment actions to solve. They are broadly the governance matters that constitute the State Building process. Our effort at tackling them without correcting the faulty foundation of “absence of nation building” has produced disappointing results. The corruption-poverty-corruption trap has thus capped the possibilities of our larger population of citizens while unlike the Early Church, today’s Church busies itself with materialism. When the Church in Nigeria provides a place of comfort rather than rebuke and sanction to any of the elite of the land who are culpable for poor governance and corruption, then it inadvertently becomes acquiescent in the entrenched inequality. It even worse violates the Word of God: “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15).
 
God cares about the poor. God wishes that His Church would also care about equity and justice for the poor, and stand on the side of the weak and vulnerable rather than with those who oppress them. A corrupted Nigeria will eternally rob the same poor that the Church should be protecting. Has today’s Church not mostly failed to use its Voice on behalf of the poor in the land by systematically living up to its “watchdog” roles in the same manner  as our Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, Prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and several others? How ready is the Church to champion a credible sanction era to punish the cancerous corruption that afflicts our land? Would it not be a tragedy if the government becomes actually serious to lead such a corrective war to rebuild our foundations and what the church does is to “blow the trumpet in an uncertain way” such that the people fail to prepare for battle?
 
While the political and to a lesser degree, the business elite,  set the stage for the broken and faulty foundation of Nigeria, the rest of our society must also accept their fair share of the blame for helping to accelerate the slide, by their apathy, lethargy or indifference. The governed, be they men or women have a major role to compel their elite to act in always that promote the collective good of society. Those citizens who not understanding the power they wield and so fail to collectively deploy it in demanding for good governance and accountability for resources and for results from those that lead them, will surely pay huge costs for their ignorance. To simply accept and applaud acts that injure a citizen is injustice to both the person and the rest of society. When citizens of Nigeria fail to actively engage, participate and exercise their voice in helping shape the course that the country is taking, nation building will be further delayed. Such reorientation and mass mobilisation of citizens to become an informed and active force for good is one role that the Church has so far missed playing.
 
To return to the basics and compel this all too important and painful process of nation building, I recommend that the Church in Nigeria acting as a collective, can become the Catalyst that galvanises individual members, families, civil society to set out an agenda for a discourse of our common identity, vision and values. There is no better organisation of people to trigger a Values Renaissance as a lasting counter to the present “distorted normal” . What happened to virtues like honour, honesty, integrity, character, dignity, hard work, kindness, sacrifice,  selfless service and such like?
 
The distorted VALUES of the failing Nigerian society has seeped so badly into the church such that we are reminded that “if the foundations be destroyed or broken, what will the righteous do”? Is it not the case that we also have crisis of leadership values in the church today? Should we not first repent for failure to be the SALT,  THE LIGHT AND THE CITY UPON THE HILL.  Reading Prophet Hagia’s first and second chapters, one will conclude that like the children of Israel in his time, we the Church of Nigeria of today sit  in church praying to all become prosperous while the vineyard (Nigeria) that God had given us over grows with weeds. “Consider your ways”, the Prophet roared then. Where are our own Prophets to roar at His church?  If today they will emerge,  then God will return to us!
 
Who better than the Church can boldly take this agenda to the top of our national discourse with a determination to force our deliberation of the ideals upon which vibrant and successful nations emerge? The justification for the Church to make such a bold move is the urgency necessitated by escalating inequality engulfing the land but which the political elite class that should provide leadership is too distracted by their power squabbles.
 
But, the Church also is distracted! The Church is distracted by its material needs and greed. The Lord understands that His children would have needs but His assurance in the four books of the Gospel is that if we kept the matters of the kingdom— such as nation building – by being the standard bearers in our nation as the “Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World”, excelling in our “Ministry of Reconciliation and Peace” unto which He has called us, then ALL THESE OTHER MATERIAL “THINGS” ( Note that He belittles them as mere “things”) shall be added unto us. God forbids that the Church will become irrelevant because it joined the people of the world to mind the irrelevant things and not the Lord’s  mandate! Our Lord goes further and warns that should His Church busy itself with “things” then it is no longer the “Assembly of the people of God” but a gathering of heathen.
 
 I believe that this awakening by FourSquare calls the Body of Christ to deep retrospection and introspection in order to unreservedly uncover and discover where we missed it and veered into the path of craze for perfidious acquisition. How did we, who should lead as His Light become the LED, into darkness? How did the Church become so “at ease in Nigeria” that we are now misled by our political and business elite who should have been under our positive influence? One pathway out of this quagmire is for the Church to judge itself and admit that it has fallen short as a cleansing ground; and that in order to qualify to function as a cleanser in this land, we would all need to plead with the Lord of the Church to mercifully come into the sanctuary and purge His people. But, is the Church ready for the painful purging?
 
When evil is prevalent in a society we know that God  keeps for Himself a Remnant.  There remaineth a REMNANT as Prophet  Isaiah declared in chapter  10 verse 20. How come FourSquare Church has tied its entire Diamond Anniversary to the issues of the Nigeria condition? It is because the Church senses that a new season has come.  It is a season of opportunity to “do a new thing that can spring forth!”. As Solomon said, there is a time for everything under the sky. A time to be indifferent and a time to become involved. A time to ignore and a time to no longer ignore. A time to sit in church and just pray and a time to both pray and work like Prophet Nehemiah and like the four carpenters that Prophet Zechariah spoke about. The season we are in, is the season when the salvation of Nigeria is closer than when we first began. The season for a new birth has come and so there is a restiveness in the spirits of the people of God. We shall both pray, groan in the spirit, travail and walk our beliefs for the birthing of the New Nigeria through deliberations that will transit us from country to NATION.
 
When Nehemiah heard the news of the broken walls of Jerusalem, his heart was burdened at what he was told-  not just for the city but for the poor in the land. Nehemiah had no reason to be so distressed because after all, his situation as the King’s cupbearer was remarkably privileged for one who was in captivity. Yet, his sorrow knew no end. He prayed, asked God for a strategy and received it immediately, because God loves and supports those who care about His vision. Nehemiah, set out on the journey back to Jerusalem determined to succeed. Of all the tools that Nehemiah needed for a successful reconstruction effort— money, men and material– a good read of his book shall reveal to us, that it was none of these that brought the prophet his successful and on-target delivery of his mission to rebuild the broken walls. What did bring the completion of work despite all the challenges he encountered, was RIGHTEOUSNESS. Nehemiah new how to do the RIGHT THINGS. He did not engage in the wrong things while praying to get a good result. In nation building, we know that it is “Righteousness that exalts a nation while sin is a reproach to any people”. It was the Church -as in the members of the Church and not the buildings;  that Christ commanded to become known for “a pattern of well doing”.
 
Today, because it is very appropriate to nation building, I have decided to use the concept of righteousness as the pattern of “doing the right things” even by a person or nation that is outside of the Christian Faith. We have an example of a country like that – of a people who do not confess our Lord Jesus Christ – as majority of our Christian folks do here in Nigeria.  It is a nation with similar multi- ethnic, history of colonisation and poverty challenges like Nigeria had in the 60s at independence. That nation, is known as Singapore. Together with Nigeria and many other developing countries, it started on the Development journey with Gross Domestic Product  – GDP per capita of less than $500 in the 60s. By first resolving the nation building process and then moving on to the state building process with leadership that “did the right things consistently” , Singapore today has a GDP per capita of $60,000 compared to  our beloved country’s  $2300. No wonder Singapore is an upper income economy offering majority of her citizens the highest quality of life.
 
Where then are our own Nehemiahs? Where are our Deborahs? Where are our Daniels? Where are our Ezras? Where O country of Nigeria, are your Modecais and Esthers who have made up their minds to not bow but to rather dethrone the STRONG MAN OF CORRUPTION that is sitting over NIGERIA? It is time, Church! This is the season!! It is time to:
To PRAY !
To WORK!!
To WALK!!!
To BUILD …………. Until we become a Nation. ….. Until our New Nigeria emerges. Until the Nigeria of God’s dream comes. Until Nigeria becomes a praise in all the earth. I BELIEVE.
 
 
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili
September 17, 2015

– See more at: http://www.opinionnigeria.com/the-role-of-the-church-in-nation-building-by-obiageli-ezekwesili/#sthash.2Ofhht2C.qmf6qJ5R.dpuf

Oby Ezekwesili’s Gaffe, By Tony Ademiluyi

Obiageli Ezekwesili came to national prominence when she was the Special Assistant on Budget Monitoring more popularly known as Due Process between 1999 and 2005 under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. She was said to have saved the nation billions of dollars in over inflated contracts and even once quipped that she could hardly afford to pay the house rent of her aged parents and was at a loss on how to complete the payment for her Harvard education. Such a person was extremely rare in a nation riven by graft and corrupt enrichment and it was no surprise that she later became the pioneer World Bank Vice-President for Africa after she left office. This certainly was good news and good image laundering as our rating by Transparency International at the time was at its lowest ebb. In a twist of irony, she was among the co-founders of the global anti-corruption rating body.

She raised dust last year when she alleged that about $67 billion developed wings during the Jonathan led administration. The powers that be didn’t find this funny at all as it even led to a collision course between her and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the de facto Prime Minister of the country who doubles as the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy who defended the government and cleared it of any wrongdoing. Her alarm was buttressed by a stinker which Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the ex-Central Bank Governor wrote which alluded to the gargantuan corruption of the outgoing government.

It was disheartening when she opined in an interview granted by Al-Jazeera’s Hard Talk that there was no evidence of corruption against the government of Olusegun Obasanjo. She was quoted to have said “I really like empirical evidence and right now you don’t have any. You just assumed.” She went on further to debunk the insinuations making the rounds that the Obasanjo government was more corrupt than Abacha’s. “There was no way it could have been more corrupt than the government of Abacha. I am sorry.”

It is an open secret that Obasanjo ran one of the most corrupt governments in the history of Nigeria – both military and civilian. When he was released from Abacha’s gulag in 1998, his farm which was acquired with questionable funds was

doddering on the verge of bankruptcy. It got suddenly transformed into a multi-million dollar empire in less than a decade as revealed by his erstwhile Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Femi Fani-Kayode who told a bewildered nation that the wonder farm was raking in 30 million naira monthly – a pointer to the fact that miracles do exist in Nigeria. His acquisition of 600 million naira shares in the Transnational Corporation was a monumental case of corruption. How did he get the funds for such a huge purchase? To douse the public outcry, he sold a dummy that it was done through a blind trust. His presidential library valued at billions of naira was openly done while he was still in office. That was a clear nauseating case of a conflict of interest as he used his enormous powers at his disposal to arm twist the corporate bodies to be generous with their donations. Under normal circumstances, he ought to have waited to have left office before embarking on such a mission if he felt he would still be sufficiently popular. There were two reports of either $10 billion or $16 billion disappearing from the power sector when frivolous and unexecuted contracts were indiscriminately awarded to fraudulent contractors. Obasanjo also owned up to some smuggled dollars found in Andy Uba’s private jet and said it was meant for the purchase for some equipment for his famous Otta farm. According to Jeffrey Tessler who has been convicted, the former president was said to have been one of the bribe takers in the Halliburton bribe scandal that shook the foundation of the oil and gas industry. How did he get the funds to erect his massive Hill top mansion in the ancient city of Abeokuta?

In a decent society, Obasanjo should be facing trial for grave corruption allegations. Alas, we are in a jungle that greatly rewards profligacy and doesn’t ask salient questions as to the acquisition of sudden and obscene wealth. What happened to Mobolaji Osomo, the erstwhile Housing Minister who was booted out for corruption? Did the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission take it up from there? It was ironic that even Nuhu Ribadu the first chairman of the EFCC which was a mere front for the witch hunting of Baba Iyabo’s adversaries admitted to the mind boggling corruption of his former boss’s regime. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who served the regime as the Director-General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises and Minister for the Federal Capital Territory revealed the

reality of the corruption scourge in his highly controversial book whose publication generated ripples across the nation and had the status of an international best seller.

Nobody has castigated Madam Oby for serving a corrupt government as she has not been found wanting. The Late Dora Akunyili’s international prominence was facilitated by a corrupt regime but that didn’t dent her global image. However to insult the collective intelligence of Nigerians that the Obasanjo government was akin to a Sainthood is taking the expensive joke too far.

Let us call a spade a spade!

Tony Ademiluyi

VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE SOLELY AUTHOR’S…

#KakandaTemple – Nigerian of the Year I & II

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2014 was a tumultuous year. It’s a year I remember in the shade of red, in my imagination of the globe now as a mottle of red, green, blue and brown – blood, vegetation, oceans and deserts. And Nigeria, especially the northern part, is one of the red patches on the globe, having lost too many citizens to the year’s escalated terrorism. Several disasters, mostly initiated by the folly of man, contributed in making the globe redder this year. In Middle East, the State of Israel was furious in highlighting the red on the territory that hosts the people of Gaza, while, close by, the ISIS militants did theirs in Syria and Iraq. Africa which, like Middle East, has always been a slaughterhouse where we seem to celebrate the death of humanism, joined the Project Red fad as we killed one another in Central African Republic, Kenya, South Sudan and Nigeria, while the saner societies advanced in technological and scientific inventions. By the time Ebola struck, we weren’t actually caught off guard, only lacking the medical facilities to contain the virus that spread across various countries killing and exposing the deficiencies of a continent. Nigeria, having won the fight against the spread of Ebola, was badly hit by terrorism, and also by the ethnic militancy in the north-central states of Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, which are the fault of its insensitivity to cultural and religious dissidents over the years. Consequently, 2014 was also the year of emergency activism and inspiring heroism by Nigerians who had had enough of the government’s unimpressive and considerably politicised counterterrorism and systemic corruption.

I chose to categorise this recognition of exceptional accomplishments by Nigerians into two to highlight the contributions of the private citizens who had no link with, and had never been in, government and that of public servants, past and serving. “Nigerian of the Year I” is a celebration of those ordinary Nigerians who, noticing the deficiencies of this country and seeming cluelessness and incompetence of the government, sacrificed themselves to protect the resources, interests, virtues and lives of the citizens. “Nigeria of the Year II” is for those influential public servants, both past and active.

Nigerian of the Year I

This recognition can never go to an individual as it’s on record that all the most successful advocacies witnessed in 2015 were pursued by groups of likeminded citizens. And it has to be given to a group because all involved in such advocacies were equally threatened, and members have lost lives or fortunes in their attempts to protect us from either the system or a perceived external threat.
My nominees for the first category are: the Ebola Fighters in Nigeria, led by the inspiring Dr Stella Adadevoh; the ?#?BringBackOurGirls??? Campaigners, led by the courageous Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; and the Civilian JTF, led by that faceless and unknown Nigerian. I must add that all of these groups deserve this honour, but there’s a certain privilege that wasn’t enjoyed by one of these groups, in spite of its consistent incursions into danger all through the year, which make them the most qualified for this category. This privilege is media representation and praise, and the group denied that is the Civilian JTF!

Being the most dangerous, and yet unfairly underreported advocacy, the sacrifices of these vigilante groups of the north-eastern Nigeria are hardly noticed and rarely praised by us, because we’re only moved by televised tragedies, and while some of us were busy with the ?#?FreeGaza??? campaign, with a certain people even writing to justify anti-Semitism in their attack of our call for commitment and dedication to protecting Nigeria, these unnamed and faceless “soldiers in kaftan” were walking the talk, being killed for what’s not exactly their business, doing the work of those constitutionally tasked with protecting us: the military and para-military institutions.

But I must apologise to those expecting me to mention the Ebola fighters, already declared as Man of the Year by TIME, especially our own beloved Dr. Stella Adadevoh whose sacrifice was indeed inspiring. The recognition, without mincing words, is in acknowledgment of the existence of a group that had risen to fight the biggest threat in the history of this country, a threat that is already turning the whole country into a funeral house. Similarly, while it’s the duty of doctors to protect lives, for which they may be paid, it’s not the duty of unarmed citizens to fight terrorism in the field, and succeeding despite getting killed.
But I understand the sentiments in favour of the Ebola fighters. It’s the reality that, here, Ebola is seen as a threat to us, the urban and itinerant haves, while the major victims of terrorism in Nigeria have been the “subaltern” citizens, the “second-class” Nigerians in Gwoza, Potiskum, Chibok, Bama, Baga, Mubi, and at Nyanya Parks, churches and mosques that can’t afford advance security arrangements.

Nigerian of the Year II

In 2014, of the Nigerian public servants, while the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah and her colleague at the Ministry of Petroleum, Ms. Diezani Alison-Madueke were graduating from scandal to controversy, leaving their most cerebral colleague in charge of Finance to defend the government’s misappropriations of public funds, there was a Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, an active public servant, alerting us to the worst of such scandals, General Muhammadu Buhari still struggling to remain the poster-child of the opposition party in Nigeria, prominent members of the APC weaving cheap conspiracy theories about the genesis and operations of the Boko Haram and promoting them as facts to blackmail a clearly underperforming government and a Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, a former public servant, as the face of the nation’s hitherto dormant civil society. 2014 was indeed the year of both exceptional and characterless public servants, and while Sanusi had played a part in his whistle-blowing showmanship, with Buhari being resisted as a spent force, Oby was unstoppable.

Sure, you know the winner. I stood firm in defending her and even took it personal when some close friends disparaged an aspect of her, with clearly flawed statistics. She’s no saint, but Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is that beautiful mind whose existence, especially this year, challenged us to stand for something in life. She had paid a price for her revolutionary stance as the face of the civil society, pursuing a cause that most of our NGOs that had fed fat on grants from the West ought to have advocated and sustained.

She was called names even by some of her Igbo kinsmen in the cause of her struggle for a responsible Nigeria as she led the ?#?BringBackOurGirls??? campaign to the attention of the world. She was called names for standing up for the destiny of some “northern girls” by a mischievous group that sought to blackmail her with a sentimental history of the Biafra War, reminding her that the ongoing social devolution in the north is an atonement for the sins of the North.

But she wasn’t deterred, she’s first a human being – a principle she advocates. And not even the opposition party was safe from her unpatronising criticism this year. As a guest of the opposition party at a summit held in the first quarter of the year, she reminded the members that the quest for change is more than just a change of party and acronym, highlighting their structural and ideological flaws. That’s the spirit of the phenomenal woman!

OBY 2

Needless to list her antagonists, among whom are young Nigerians on the payroll of, and sympathetic to, the government, especially the delusional ones on the social media who have made a career out of tweeting disrespectful rants at her. And these are young people, whose country and future she was fighting to salvage, young enough to be her kids. They called her a hypocrite, and it’s so because the indecorous clowns didn’t seem to know that they were really referring to that seasoned technocrat who’s become a globally sought-after policy advisor, having paid her dues at various international financial institutions, which peaked at appointment as a Vice President of the World Bank, after a tenure as Minister of Education. It’s, however, disquieting that a notable citizen who has sacrificed a lot in reactivating our dormant civil society, amplifying the tragedy of the ordinary Nigerian was so vilified by amnesiac hacks. But, may God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

#KakandaTemple ~ It’s Christmas in Chibok, Mr. President!

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You know what this is about. But, have you contacted their family to understand the meaning and depth of sorrow? Which family? This is the reason for this reminder.

While you feast, in the spirit of this sacred season, sharing love with your political family, especially the billionaire donors, there are, somewhere in the hinterlands of this country or between the borders of the country to Niger Republic, Chad or Cameroon, innocent citizens condemned to a slavery that can only be imagined by us.

I’m talking about the innocent school girls abducted at a government secondary school in Borno State. For these girls, Mr. President, December 25 doesn’t mean anything, having been held captive by savages to whom any Christian values and even the values of peace-building Muslims represent a threat they seek to exterminate, a fantasy for which they have killed thousands of your subjects, and which you seem to take for granted at our peril.

The question that your loyalists who proudly, actually shamefully, parade themselves as “Jonathanians” always ask is, are the girls of Chibok the only abducted since the wake of this insurgency, in their attempts to discredit the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and group? The answer to this has been proffered by members of the group from the incredibly energetic Mrs Aisha Yesufu whose resilience has been an inspiration for faint-hearted and absenting advocates of the movement like me to the courageous Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, on the back of whose charisma and audacity the campaign rose to the attention of the world, and now continues to dominate the discourse of man’s inhumanity in global politics.

The answer to this stubborn refusal to let go of this campaign and continuous call for the rescuing of Chibok Girls, as understood by all who still believe in the cause, is that it not only calls for you to bring back the missing girls, but any thinking person knows that any mission initiated to rescue the girls of Chibok will definitely result in the liberation of not just all the citizens abducted so far, but also the country itself from operations and oppressions of these ragtag agents of the Devil.

You see, #BringBackOurGirls is more than just a campaign, more than just a hashtag, more than just a sit-out, more than just a congregation of the nation’s finest minds, it defies the criticisms of all employed by you to frustrate and discredit it as a result of nothing other than this very singularity of the campaigners’ exact purpose: #BringBackOurGirls.

That this advocacy has survived all brazen fabrications and conspiracies against it, becoming the longest ever in Nigeria, is a tribute to the power of what the advocates themselves refer to as “the singularity of purpose” – keen focus on the efforts, reported those are, to bring back the 219 girls. This advocacy survived being dismissed as partisan, that it’s a tool of the opposition party. But even an excited APC chieftain, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, who, in his praise of the advocacy, tried to link it to the opposition party had to issue a press release at once, retracting his statement, and apologising for the mistake and embarrassment caused.

What I really don’t understand, Mr. President, is this: that your people’s daughters and sons and mothers and fathers, citizens of the country you’re elected to protect, have been in captivity without any update on efforts taken to rescue them, without any sobering, even if pretentious, assurance that they will be home soon, with their grief-stricken families. YET, here you are, again, asking for their votes, proud of your under-achievements and acting as though nothing has gone missing, not even the billions, because your family or interests are not affected. I just don’t get it.

Mr. President, if you actually believe the propaganda that places you on the same platform with the Mandelas of this world, which seems to have given you the audacity to ask these betrayed people for another opportunity to rule, to mismanage this animal farm, then your case is more than just political, it’s psychological. Or is it that I don’t really get it?

But, let’s agree that I don’t get it, can you give me, a curious subject, just one reason to cast my vote for you? You may be a good man in the closet – introverted, soft-spoken and ambitious, but your political decisions and even communication over these years, with this retinue of indecorous media aides you employ to insult citizens asking genuine questions, have only damaged you.

I know you may get elected again, a reality no sane citizen wants to ponder, because beside the few million agents of change whose decisions are based on the outcomes of their brains, there are several millions of victims of maladministration too hungry to use their brains, some, having been indoctrinated by certain political, ethnic, religious or regional overlords, are already possessed by dangerous sentiments.

You may empty even the nation’s foreign reserve which is now, I learnt, in red, but history will remember you as it does those who occupied the office before you: harshly. Wait, if the problems of this country are beyond you as shown, why desperate to remain in that Office?

While, to you, politics is a game, it’s a matter of life to us. The #BringBackOurGirls campaigners are immune to the partisan sentiments of your handlers and that of your opponents, are only interested in a nation under the leadership of a human being who is, not just a Muslim, not just a Christian, not just a Yoruba, not just a Hausa, not just an Ijaw, not just a northerner, not just a southerner, but responsible! For this, Nigerians across all divides, owe this group immense gratitude, if not for anything, for amplifying the voice of the ordinary Nigerian. The group has travelled the country and the world spreading the word of our miseries and keeping the reality of our hopelessness on the headlines of both local and international media, print, broadcast and online.

On Christmas Eve, while we empty shopping malls in our grand cities, and while you decorate the State House for another of your many fanfares, living as though all is well with the territory you have vowed to protect, members of the group, already known for their identifications of deficiencies at our squalid camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), were in action in Adamawa State to launch #ChristmasForIDPs campaign to excite the lives of those subjects of government that is everything but responsible. This humanitarian cause was led by another incredibly amazing advocate, Mrs. Bukky Shonibare.

And do you, Mr. President, know that Mrs. Shonibare, despite her schedules, have been posting photographs of herself holding a placard that reminds us of the days our girls have spent in captivity as she counted down to Christmas, optimistic that you may surprise her, and make the girls of Chibok and all in captivity return home to mark this Christmas with their loved aways, safe from those indoctrinating them, and protected from the monster they are being turned into? Thanks to this group which your media aides, in whose skulls that mass of tissue called brain is absent, once referred to as “psychological terrorists”, we learnt that this Christmas is the 255th day since the abduction of the Chibok girls, 255 days of miseries for over 200 families. I just want you to know, I just want to remind you that among other things missing, also #BringBackOurGirls. And for this horrifying reality, I may change the antagonist in my weekly prayer for the first time ever: may God save us from you!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Police Stop #BringBackOurGirls Protest in Abuja

Policemen yesterday, disrupted,  the  protest organized by  #BringBackOurGirls, BBOG,  movement as they distributed  fliers to motorists to remind them of the plight of the 219 Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity.

The policemen numbering about 20 barricaded the Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja with their vehicles at the junction to the  Presidential Villa, a move that enraged some of the activists. The coalition members had initially walked to the National Assembly gate where they condemned the lawmakers for proceeding on Christmas holidays while the abducted girls are suffering in captivity.

According to one of the Co-coordinators of the group, Oby Ezekwesili,  “The lawmakers should be ashamed of  themselves for going on break while the Chibok girls are with wicked men in the bush.”

After spending a few minutes, the group left and as they walked towards the Presidential Villa junction, the policemen in four vehicles quickly drove to the junction and blocked it, to prevent the protesters from heading that way.

Credit: www.vanguardngr.com

I’m Not Obasanjo’s Concubine –Oby Ezekwesili

Ezekwesili

A former Vice-President of the World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, on Wednesday denied having any amorous relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Ezekwesili’s denial followed the widespread circulation of a photograph showing her in a very warm embrace with Obasanjo.

In the trending photo, the former President is seen holding Ezekwesili from behind and giving her a peck on the cheek.

The controversial picture was taken on Tuesday during the public presentation of Obasanjo’s three-part autobiography entitled, ‘My Watch’.

Many online commentators expressed displeasure with Ezekwesili and Obasanjo for behaving in such a manner in public.

They accused the former minister of education, who once served in Obasanjo’s cabinet, of being indecorous as a married woman and passing a wrong message to young girls who look up to her as a role model.

A group known as ‘Hope for Nigeria’ stated that it was taken aback by the decision of the two public figures to behave themselves that way in public.

“This is Dr. Oby Ezekwesili the #BringBackOurGirls crusader with former President Obasanjo at his book launch.

“Was it that Ezekwesili forgot that she was in a public place and a married woman? She threw caution to the wind. Anyway, we saw her sticking out her finger in excitement, while the ‘Chemistry’ lasted.

“What manner of role model will this woman be to young Nigerian girls who look up to her?” the group wrote, after posting the controversial photograph on its Facebook page.

But Ezekwesili has fired back at her accusers, describing those who have reacted to the photo by calling her unprintable names as “gutter minds.”

The former minister stated that Obasanjo merely gave her a “boisterous greeting”, adding that only “impure hearts” would be suspicious of the motive behind his expression of goodwill.

She blamed declining “family values” for her critics’ line of thought, noting that those “purveyors of the filthy conversation” were merely “living for the gutter.”

“My former boss – President Obasanjo – gave me a boisterous greeting at his event yesterday (Tuesday) and the impure in heart now turn it to lurid tales.

“Restoring family values will also help take us back to a descent society. It is clear that many among us have lost our pure hearts.

“Let us leave them to their lowliness. It is out of the abundance of the filthiness or purity of heart that the mouth speaks,” Ezekwesili tweeted.

Source – Punch NG

#KakandaTemple ~ A Unity of Classes at Abuja’s #BringBackOurGirls Campaign

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I have been writing, possessed by a fantasy, about elitism, lamenting its destructive effects in my bids to identify with the sufferings of the masses. For, if vulnerability to political oppression and social injustice is the qualification for membership of the masses, I’m a frontline member. This has been my understanding. I’m not just a statistic, I assure myself. I’m a voice of reason; I’m a name that seeks to unify the religiously hateful and ethnically bigoted citizens, who are the bad products of this uncritically embraced politics. For this, I have been dubbed a “hopeless populist” by those who correctly understand my position, people I still refer to as the pro-establishment. But to the masses, whose sufferings I highlight, week in, week out, enduring the scorns of the fairly criticised elite, I’m also an accomplice in the rape of this country!

In the weeks past, in private conferences with friends who are the most prominent critics and observers of this generation, I was deconstructed as a pretentious advocate of the masses. “If a revolution begins in Nigeria right now,” my big brother Alkasim Abdulkadir declared in one of such gatherings, “You will be killed!” I had been absent-minded, not following the argument. But when I looked up, bewildered, there was an answer: “Because you have a car and an iPad!” I didn’t have to contest that. It was an epiphany I had deliberately refused to acknowledge. A car and an iPad are, to the people who survive on Fanta and Bread, garri and groundnuts, credentials of elitism, thus making their owner too a symbol of oppression, an ambassador of the treasury-looting Cabal they have been struggling, restlessly, to embarrass. In words. And, to some extent, in action.

So, I was not shocked, only demoralised this week when on Wednesday, Abuja’s #BringBackOurGirls campaigners were physically attacked by the same “masses” whose vulnerabilities we seek to protect – actually by a rented crowd tasked by the government to disrupt the cause at the venue of our daily sit-out, Unity Fountain. Two ironies are noted on this day: one, the undemocratic assault was on the eve of our Democracy Day in the presence of the Police who let them, perhaps for also being members of the family of the rented citizens, being that, to the comedians among us, the acronym of Nigeria Police Force, NPF, also stands for Nigeria Poor Family; two, that the venue for the sit-outs where the clash of classes took place, where the exhibition of disunity took place, where the dramatisation of a people’s gullibility took place, is called Unity Fountain! Ours, sadly, is a unity of disunity, a unity of the nation’s biggest troubles. It was a government-sponsored comedy show!

In my review of #BringBackOurGirls, obviously done to justify my participation, in my piece “Finally, Our Deaths Will be Televised”, on May 9, I wrote this about the campaigners: “The success of Abuja’s #BringBackOurChild campaign is attributed to various factors of which the social class of the campaigners is the top. A friend of mine playfully dubbed the campaign ’The Ajebota Awakening‘; but in all fairness, these are the only people, largely members of the (comfortable) middle-class, worthy to be listened to by the government of which they’re either beneficiaries, previously involved or with whose functionaries they’re friends or relatives.”

But in spite of my confidence in these revolutionary Ajebotas, I was disturbed on the day the elite comrade, Dino Melaye, addressing the campaigners, quoted a dead white man, thus: “One day the poor will have nothing to eat except the poor.” It was both a contradiction and a prophecy by a Dino who owns a fleet of exotic sports cars numbered one to ten, and perhaps more, as evident in the numbers on the ones he had driven to the sit-out, scandalising us, the unqualified Ajebotas, who survive on salaries that aren’t enough to cover our bills.

The disunity of classes at Unity Fountain was a part materialisation of Comrade Melaye’s prophecy, and I was sure he understood that he’s overripe, being extravagantly “wealthy”, for consumption by “the poor” referenced. We have been revolutionarily insular for not involving the the larger class, the worst hit victims of all forms of oppression ever designed by the ruling elite. For me, an acceptable criticism of #BringBackOurGirls may be our inability, even though it’s a cause deserving urgency, to “de-elitise” the campaign. By having the masses properly sensitised, not exactly involved, because bringing them to Abuja, I fear, may also be a form of renting. We need to show them that the security arrangements also threaten their existence. But who am I fooling to assume that the masses aren’t aware of the threats, which had consumed them, twice, in the Nyaya blasts?

As much as I wish to condemn the poverty that has formatted the brains of the poor Nigerians, I’m not ignorant of their resistance to involvement in, and suspicion of, whatever passes for activism. Mob violence is often the result of their attempts to protest an injustice, where anything grand sighted in their march, even structures unrelated to the government, structures owned by private entrepreneurs, are seen as oppressive, and are hence demolished or set on fire. So the thoughtless philosophers must have, listed in their jeremiads, the near impossibility of having the poor and hungry involved in such “idleness”—which is exactly what such struggles, and activism of all forms, are to them. How did I know this? I always highlight my participation in #OccupyNigeria as an experience that further exposed Nigerians as their own worst enemies.

Minna, a town with the most colourful contrast of the rich and the poor, being the residence of two former presidents, both scandalously rich, and the poor abandoned in its many slums even denied the benefits of good governance, is not a greenhouse of activism. In fact, it finds such demonstration of grievances over an unpopular policy as sponsored. As an initiator of the campaign, I had to go round Minna with a few loyal friends to convince the people about the fraud that was the fuel subsidy removal, and why their participation can have the inhuman decision reversed. Their responses varied from the suspicious, down through the understandably indifferent, who had already concluded that the existence of government was just nominal, to those who assaulted our sensibility, saying, “How much are we going to be paid if we show up for the protest?”

They would not acknowledge our lecture that #OccupyNigeria was a campaign that sought to fight for their rights and welfare. They would only lament about the fuel price hike and its dreaded consequences at their neighborhood “parliaments”. The most honest of the groups we approached gave this condition for their participation, one we could not accept: they wanted to show up for the protest armed, because, according to their spokesperson, the police might intercept, which they actually did, and their only alternative was, in their words, “caccake yan-iskan” – “butcher the bastards.” The bastards being the Police!

We discouraged all who had promised to “butcher” the police and even those who expected payments from showing up for the protest. The only groups we encouraged to take part were the ones that didn’t ask for too much: something to eat during the procession. And even they, too, still wondered who had contacted us, their guess being the opposition party, to challenge the government. They didn’t understand how, by occupying the streets of Minna with placards held high above our heads, a government in faraway Abuja would be responsive to our plights, and demands. In spite of our sensitisation!

The first protest in Minna’s #OccupyNigeria campaign was on January 8, 2012. It was on a Sunday, and on being intercepted by the Police we devised a means of deconstructing the conspiracies of armchair theorists who had dismissed the campaign as an initiative of the “Muslim north” to frustrate the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian and southerner, by guarding a church. The guards were all Muslims, and theirs was in solidarity with nothing other than humanity which was what we all had in common!

In the following days, we reached out to the unions in Minna to join, support and lead the campaign instead of grumbling in their bedrooms and offices, suffering and smiling as Fela said of the average Nigerian. The members of unions and associations contacted, most of whom had interests in the government, of which they are beneficiaries, turned down public participation with excuses that confirmed their sycophancy. In a final bid, we allied with like-minded groups to organise a manageable march.

Three days later, Minna was on fire: the campaign was hijacked, and nobody knew who the rioters were. I got my things and returned to Abuja, not ready for the SSS who had called to have a “chat” with me. I was angry not only because we were betrayed by the “enlightened” citizens, but because the rioters were creations of the self-serving policies of our ruling elite. After that experience, I registered that unless significant public figures, citizens whose patriotism and conscience are genuine, are involved in a campaign, I’ll not be even a kilometer close!

And #BringBackOurGirls is not an exception. The campaign gathered this global momentum simply because of the personalities of the people involved. I could not have organised and sustain the campaign. I do not have the clout of Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili who, in the Nigerian dictionary, being a one-time Minister, is a Big Woman, an Oga Madam, even to the cruelest policeman. If the police see a hundred Gimbas as heads of #BringBackOurGirls, the first question may be “Who are you?” The answer is a definite call for tear-gas, and brutalities of all forms. This campaign for the freedom of abducted Chibok deserves urgency. Asking the campaigners to have the “masses”, whatever that really is, lectured and convinced and lured into participation is like asking a person whose house is on fire to consult neighbours before going for an extinguisher.

Revolution should be initiated by a people capable of sustaining it, people with a thing other than just anger: alternative blueprint. If 50 million politically naive, angry citizens, denied the privilege of education and decent employments seize the country today from the autocrats in power, what and who would be their alternatives? This is the lesson we have learnt from our brothers in Egypt and Syria and LIbya. If idealism has failed functional countries like Egypt, it must serve as a warning to us, aspiring revolutionaries. The only practicable solution for rescuing Nigeria right now is for the Oby Ezekwesilis of every region, ethnic group and even religion to rise up and lead a campaign against perceived oppressive systems. Let this debate begin. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)