Dino Melaye: The making of a brand – By Reuben Abati

It is a sign of the times, and a tragedy that the most popular senator in the Nigerian national assembly at this moment is not the person who has moved the most impactful motion, not a lawmaker who has proposed a thought-provoking bill, and certainly not any senator who has given any impressive speech debating a matter of national importance.

What we get, most of the time, in place of legislative responsibility, prudence, accountability and distinction is burlesque, farce, Japanese-styled Bungaku-Bunraku enactments, a dose of medieval commedia d’ell arte and an enormous supply of Yoruba Alarinjo with a bit of the Akata from Efik and Ibibioland. And the star in this comedy of errors that the Nigerian national assembly has become is a gentleman called Dino Melaye.  He is the perfect archetype of all that is wrong or right with the Nigerian legislature, a fine representation of contradictory binaries, and a lesson unto the rest of us.

I am not condemning Dino Melaye. I am in fact just about to say that we created a man like him, just as before him, we needed a Busari Adelakun, and a Lamidi Adedibu to show us the true character of Nigerian politics. And to those who think Dino Melaye is something of an aberration, I say to them that Dino Melaye is indeed a true picture of Nigerian politics. He is much smarter and far more politically savvy than those who condemn him. His Wikipedia profile announces that his ambition is to be Nigeria’s president someday, maybe he won’t become president, but he may suddenly show up in the future as something close to that high office.  He is far more Nigerian than those who criticize or condemn him. He knows the system. He plays the system. He has the capacity to beat the system. Most people who get to the top in Nigeria beat the system, and when they do so, they flaunt their smartness in the people’s face. The pundits write their articles but nothing changes, because a man like Dino Melaye can get a whole vice chancellor of a university created under the act to do his bidding, and a National Assembly to queue up behind him.

I read one piece in which the writer was wondering how on earth we ended up with a Dino Melaye in the National Assembly: A man like that whose brand raises too many questions.  His school certificate result is not exactly impressive.  His year of graduation from Ahmadu Bello University has been controversial, even with the sitting vice chancellor’s needless testimony. Nobody is sure whether a BA or a BSc is the appropriate description of a degree in geography. Dino’s name is allegedly missing in the university’s graduation year brochure, an omission that nobody has been able to explain. There is an NYSC group photograph but he is just about the only person not properly dressed. Former classmates have confirmed that he was actually a university student and that he graduated, and the vice chancellor says he got a third class. Third class!

I have never seen any student so proud of a third class like Dino Melaye. To celebrate his third class he wore to the national assembly, a doctoral candidate’s gown, and thus insulted the entire academic establishment. I have a Ph.D gown and the full robes of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, but no form of temporary insanity will make me wear either of both robes to a wedding party. Dino Melaye is a Nigerian senator; nobody should be surprised if one of these days he wears his distinguished borrowed robes to a funeral just to convince everyone that he has a university degree. No serious person advertises a third class degree, but Dino Melaye says on top of that, he has acquired six additional degrees, including certificates from Harvard and the London School of Economics. The lesson from this is that the certificates of everyone who aspires to lead Nigeria at any level must be carefully verified henceforth. Only God knows how many persons at the highest levels in Nigeria are parading certificates and qualifications that should form the subject of scrutiny. A nation that is led by the least educated and the most ignorant of its population is definitely in trouble.

In the United States, a man like Dino Melaye would probably never win an election. His former wife, Tokunbo accused him of battery and domestic violence and showed pictures to prove her point. Her short-lived successor made similar claims, spent six months and fled. There was another lady, one of those “man-eating” Nollywood girls who entertained us with her misery and the story of a child and DNA tests.  If the wives and the baby mamas were wrong, Dino Melaye soon had a tiff with senator Remi Tinubu and what he said about her menopausal status, we don’t have to repeat.  He even went to the front of Remi Tinubu’s house in Lagos to pose for a photograph, daring her husband to do his worst. Senator Tinubu’s husband, the Jagaban of Borgu, Asiwaju of Lagos, former governor of Lagos and national leader of the APC knew better. The last time Dino Melaye got into a duel, he came out of it with torn clothes, which he proudly advertised.

Dino Melaye poses as an anti-corruption crusader. He rides some of the most exotic cars in Nigeria, all labeled Dino 1 to 5 or whatever. He is loud, flamboyant, and unconventional. He can talk, which means he is articulate, he is fearless, he is also fiercely and stubbornly loyal to the incumbent Senate President Bukola Saraki. He can sing. He can dance. He obviously has no respect for women because he is a macho-man, an alpha male. He can also fight, and he considers journalists the scum of the earth. That is why when Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters digs into his past and qualifications, his immediate response is to say that he is being stalked and to go after the investigative journalist with everything that he can deploy. Melaye was elected as a senator to make laws for good governance, but he has been busy acting like he is an awada kerikeri actor on loan to the national assembly.

I am not condemning him. He won an election. In fact he has won many elections. The people who voted for him must see something in him. The man who represented Kogi west before him used to make useful contributions that made the headlines, he was respected for his informed interventions; there was never a time he wore torn clothes to the red chamber, but the people voted him out and elected Dino Melaye and since he started ruffling things up, nobody who voted for him has questioned him. You actually get the impression that Melaye is considered a hero in his Kogi west constituency. This should explain why he enjoys being the drama king of the national assembly.

To politicians of his type, every kind of publicity is good publicity.  It is better to be heard and known, for whatever reason, than to be unknown and unsung.  In Melaye’s mind, he is obviously having fun. The kerfuffle over his academic qualification is probably as far as he is concerned, a joke, because afterall, he doesn’t need more than a secondary school certificate to be a member of the national assembly. When we write about him, discuss his politics, interview him, project him in the media, we are actually promoting his politics and brand.

His kind of brand works in Nigeria. What was the value of Busari Adelakun’s politics or that of Lamidi Adedibu? But both men ended up being more prominent in their constituencies than other politicians of their time. Lamidi Adedibu, the exponent of Amala politics, was so powerful, when a certain governor refused to pay him godfather-rent, he got him removed from office and as they say, nothing happened. Adedibu derived his power from being close and loyal to a bigger man of power. He could sing too. And he could dance. And that is perhaps why Dino Melaye should be taken seriously when he breaks out into a song:

A je kun iya ni o je

A je kun iya ni o je

E ni ti o to ni na, to n dena de ni

A je kun iya ni oje

That song is now top of the charts in Nigeria today, with a remix and multiple parodies by other public figures. The only man who is probably yet to learn that song is senator Ali Ndume, but it is a song that speaks to him directly and accounts for his six-month suspension from the senate.  It is also a song about power and dictatorship. There is nothing in it about values or fairness, or justice. It is a might-is-right composition, about the mighty punishing and oppressing the powerless. “A je kun iya” emphasises the severity of punishment, “eni ti o to ni na” underscores the imbalance of weight, and the lack of equality in strength.  It is a song of intimidation, threat and abuse, completely arrogant in tone and sense.

Dino Melaye knows how to taunt his critics. I visited his website: dinomelaye.com.  There are nice photographs and links to other sites including his Facebook page, projecting him as a courageous and outspoken anti-corruption crusader and a political activist. We do not find any information about the bills and motions that he sponsored, or projects that he has embarked upon, or his relationship with his Kogi west constituency. This may be an oversight on the part of those who manage the site for him, but their omission is perhaps in order, since Dino Melaye is better known for the drama that he creates.

His Wikipedia profile offers nothing more impressive other than the notably juicy details about his marital life, his threat to “beat and impregnate another man’s wife”, and his monumental contribution to legislative debate about how Nigerian men should stop “importing” wives from foreign countries. To this should be added his promotion of the “aje kun iya” folk song into a quasi-national anthem. Elsewhere, a lawmaker’s profile online would refer to his or her electoral history, committee assignments and ideological positions on key national issues. What constitutes a lawmaker’s brand is what he stands for and how well he has served the people.

Dino Melaye’s brand is peculiar: he can sing, dance, fight and speak out loud.  He is an artful master of form. But what exactly does he stand for? What is his position on national security, healthcare, federalism, social security or agriculture? I don’t know.  But I won’t condemn him, because he is a well-made product of Nigerian politics. It is after all, difficult to know what most contemporary Nigerian politicians stand for. He is in addition, probably much better than half of the national assembly. He is more attentive at least than all those other senators who don’t attend plenary, certainly better than those who have spent more time there dozing off, or the ones who have spent years in that assembly and have never uttered a word, or sponsored a bill, support a motion or do anything of note. The pity is that many of such are now running up and down, seeking to become governors in their states in 2019. So, why won’t Dino Melaye nurse the ambition of becoming president someday?  A je kun iya ni o je…

The ‘Nigeria prays for Buhari’ competition – By Reuben Abati

After the publication of my column last week, titled “I want to go to London… to see Buhari”, I received a lot of feedback from persons who were either amused or dead serious that they had been overlooked in my compilation of the list of persons who should go to London.

One fellow asked:

“Abati, you left out the Miyetti Allah and the cattle herders of Nigeria.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, they too will like to go to London”

“With due respect, to go and herd cattle?”

“No, to visit the President and reassure him about the welfare of his cattle”

“My friend, are we talking about cattle or the health of Mr. President?”

“We are talking about everything and anything that can ensure the President’s speedy recover.”

“Speedy recovery!”

“Speedy recover!”

“My friend, it is speedy recovery, not speedy recover!”

“That is your problem. You spend too much time worrying about grammar and big words you don’t oftentimes know what to do. Look at you, you even left out local government chairmen. You left out an important organization like ALGON, the umbrella body of local government chairmen. You also did not insist that there should be a special resolution of the National Assembly in both chambers authorizing that a formal joint delegation should be sent to London to see the President, instead of the Senate President and the Speaker sneaking to London, behind every one else’s back.”

Candidly, I didn’t know what to say.  But just about then, I received a text message and a phone call.


“I don’t like that your article. An old man is ill, and you are mocking him with your pen.”

“No. You are misreading the article.  That is not my message. I understand that a President is a human being. No President has supernatural immunity. It is not unusual for any human being to have a medical challenge.”

“I didn’t get that message. You sounded like you were having fun, with your article dripping with cruel sarcasm. You have to be careful how you come across.  You were just busy throwing yabis up and down. Are you Fela?”

“Calm down. My point is that the President’s stay in London should not become an opportunity for eye service, which is the biggest enterprise in Nigeria. Before you know it now, everybody will start trooping to London to see the President, and that will create too many leaking buckets, a lot of waste. I tried to use the vehicle of humour and laughter to ridicule and stop that.”

“I have said my own. Maybe you should re-read the article. When they decide to do something about you, don’t just say your friends abandoned you. If you want to be a stand up comedian, make up your mind.  But this one that every time you carry your pen, you’ll start making jest of serious national matters in the name of writing, well, na you sabi oh.”

No writer should be placed under pressure to explain his own message.  Language is invariably embodied, iconic, symbolic, semiotic and hence open to interpretations relative to levels of perception.  So, I gave up on that conversation. But I was vindicated a few days ago. Another friend called, also anxious to discuss the most important subject in Nigeria today: President Buhari’s health and absence.

“Ore, ki la ri wi, ki l’on sele, ewo lewo, omo boy”


“How are you?”

“Have you noticed something?”


“Since you wrote that article on your plan to go to London, people have stopped going to London or they have stopped them. When last did you see anybody posing for a photo opportunity with Sai Baba in front of Abuja house?”

”They are probably still going. London is Nigeria’s new Holy land. It may well just be that they are no longer publicizing the visits.”

“If there is no publicity, then very few people will go. A handshake with the President shown to all Nigerians, while the President is on medical exile, can open many doors for many people.”

“Medical exile. I like that phrase.”

“Forget that. I am not here to discuss grammar.  I have a business idea that I think we can discuss.  What you don’t know is that some people are already exploiting the business opportunities involved in Sai Baba’s absence.”


“I pity you. The only thing you know is to speak and write English and lift your head to the clouds. You can’t smell business. The biggest business in Nigeria today is to be seen to be loyal to President Buhari.”

“I don’t quite get the business angle.”

“This is my proposal, then. We have to do something.  In this season of recession, you have to think creatively. That is the best way to beat recession. We also have to organize a solidarity rally or a prayer session for Buhari.”

“How is that a business?”

“Very strategic business”


“First things first. Do you think all the people who have been organizing rallies and prayer sessions are doing it for fun, or free of charge, or for love?”

“I am aware that they are doing it out of love for the President. They have all said they wish him well. They are praying for his good health and for the well-being of the nation.”

“Is that why there is so much competition to pray for Buhari, then?”

“What I am aware of is that prayer sessions have been held in parts of the country, in Kano by the Governor, and the Emir, in Kaduna by the state Governor and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), In Katsina state, where 50, 000 youths gathered in Daura under the umbrella of the Buhari Youth Congress for Change.  In Nasarawa, Muslim faithful from 13 local councils and 18 development units spent 4 hours praying in Lafia. Security was even provided by the Nigerian Army, the Police, the Civil Defence Corps and other government agencies.  The same thing happened in Kwara State, and Jigawa where the state chapter of the Jama’atul Nasril Islam also conducted prayers.”

“I am glad you have been following the trend.”

“You should trust me. Let me also tell you that all mosques across the North have been placed in a prayer mode, under strict instructions from the Sultan. Not even the private sector is left out: The Pyramid Radio Mosque in Kano held a prayer session for Buhari, attended by over 200 Muslim faithful.”

“And you still don’t see the business opportunity in all of this?”

“No. My only concern is that Nigeria is a secular state. The Constitution says so. When we begin to involve the state in prayer sessions, we are violating the law.”

“Leave that matter. The Constitution says we are a secular state. It does not say the people must not pray for their leaders.”

“Not quite so”

“I beg. Let’s talk business. See, I have a business proposal in my head. We can beat all these people to it. Instead of all these, small, small, prayers-for-Buhari that they are organizing, we can have a grand prayer rally, at every stadium in this country.  I know people who can link me up with all the big Pastors and Imams in Nigeria, and every week till President Buhari returns, we can have inter-denominational prayer rallies and vigils from one state to another.”

“But where is the business in that?”

“We will buy tickets, keep people in hotels, organize transportation from every local government to the state capital, we will put money in envelopes, pay for venues, provide refreshment, and we will ensure we surpass the prayers warriors of Nasarawa who prayed for only four hours. We will make our own 8 hours. We will also involve evangelical musicians and prayer warriors. These prayers don’t come cheap or free.”

“How? Where will the money come from?”

“I can’t give you all the details. You see this my head, it is full of business but to give you an idea, we will get the state governors and local chairmen involved, corporate Nigeria and SMEs will also be mobilized. They will bring money. They won’t want to be seen to be opposing prayer sessions for the President. They too will understand the business implications.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You still don’t get it? What don’t you get?  Can’t you see that even the People’s Democratic Party and all their Governors are also talking about holding prayer sessions for the President? Last year, when the President went for an ear infection vacation, the PDP – Governors, National Assembly members and other stakeholders held a prayer session. This year, with the President now on medical exile in London, the PDP is planning an even bigger prayer session from Delta state to Bayelsa to Ekiti. Fayose who once predicted that the President would fall sick is now a Buhari prayer warrior. Bet with me, the way this thing is going, you would wake up one day and Fayose will hold a prayer rally in Ado Ekiti. I know what I am talking about.”

“I don’t know. So, why are you telling me?”

“You know people. You can provide relevant contacts and we can get this thing done.”

“But what if you don’t make any money?”

“We can’t fail.  The business model in my head cannot fail. People are making gains already. Everything is not money. The President made a phone call to the Governor of Kano while a prayer session was going on at the Government House in Kano. Just 300 Imams and Islamic scholars oh, but the Governor made sure the phone call was broadcast live on all local radio stations in Kano state. Calculate the cost of that in business terms.  An ordinary phone call from President Buhari at this time is worth its weight in gold. Since that phone call to Governor Ganduje, other state Governors have been falling over themselves to organize prayer sessions.  The Governors of Katsina, Kebbi and Gombe have also received their own phone calls.”

“I am confused.”

“You will soon get it. The day we succeed in organizing our own prayer session, with over a million Nigerians, I will make sure President Buhari makes a direct, live telephone call to the stadium.  He will mention the names of Governors, CEOs, VIPs, media executives, and the whole thing will be on skype, whatsapp, snap chat, instagram, you tube, live streaming.  And the prayers will go straight to heaven, because we will make sure we invite only those pastors and imams who have been saying they have direct telephones to God.”

“There are such religious leaders in this country?”

“But you seem to have left out the diviners, the aborigines, the herbalists…”

“Sai Baba is a devout Muslim. We can’t bring such people to the public domain, but we’d find a way of providing for them. We’d give them cows, rams, goats, clothes, palm oil, kolanuts, alligator pepper… and they will pray and be happy in their underground covens.”

“And you, what will you do?”

“If Sai baba can just make that phone call, I will jump in the air and dance like Dekunle Ajokete.”

“But what if something goes wrong and the network connection fails. Or your phone runs out of battery.”

“A text message from Sai Baba will be just fine. If I get just that, Walahi, I will twerk publicly like Tiwa Savage.”

“Tiwa Savage? Does Mummy Jam Jam twerk also, with that her small 2G package? To twerk properly, you need 3G, 4G, or wifi Bakassi. What you are proposing sounds like Kwa-ra-pption.”

“Dey there. You think any judge will indict or convict anybody for praying for the President? Even the Judges may soon organize a prayer session for Buhari.”

“Let’s talk a bit more about this twerking business. “

“Get out. I am talking business; you are talking twerking! You have no business sense.”

I want to go to London to see Buhari – By Reuben Abati

When 15 million plus Nigerians voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 General elections, their expectation was that he would be available to serve them 24/7/365, and that those who fielded him as their candidate had done their home work to avoid what is curiously becoming the Katsina problem in Nigerian politics.  Katsina! But we have now found ourselves in a situation whereby our President is now in London, for more than one month sir, ma, and we are here, and we have an acting President, who according to everybody, including the extremists and the mischievous, and the politically partisan, is beginning to try his best, with his admirers, now praying for the worst.

For that reason alone, we have an emotionally, politically and spiritually divided country on our hands. Don’t mind what they tell you, and don’t deceive yourself, the Nigerian Presidency is in turmoil. It is not our wish. It is not what the voters asked for. But that is how democracy works. You cannot predict the results that democracy produces.  Not even in America. Or Russia.

Now that we have found ourselves in this situation, anyway – an absentee President trying to remain relevant and an acting President struggling to put up appearances, and struggling harder not to be seen to be ambitious (sorry, Prof. I was your student but I have something to say sir, I don’t mean any harm – truth be told), where should the Nigerian people stand? For the past one month, we have all been trapped in a post-truth situation, pretending as if all is normal. We should stop pretending.

Those who supported and are supporting the APC that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power and office cannot talk. They cannot talk due to embarrassment and shame. They are busy putting up a face. But for how long can they do this? The Nigerian media is also on its knees, looking so pitiable, with the exception of a few blogs, newspapers that we can’t even trust, professional media consultants who are in disarray, a few bloggers and then some gentlemen: Pa Ikhide, Farooq Kperogi, Sonala Olumhense, Omoyele Sowore, Pius Adesanmi and Okey Ndibe who have since been specially illuminated as they journeyed to Damascus.

I will return to this subject some other day. But I think right now, we should begin to take the subject of the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari more seriously. Bukola Saraki, our Senate President has visited him in London, twice, within two weeks. I don’t think we should leave this business of visiting the President to party chieftains, the executive and the Federal Legislature.  If care is not taken, Senator Saraki may be tempted to visit the President again next week. And the week after and he may even be tempted to travel with all the members of the National Assembly. There must be equity in this matter.

Figure it out as follows: we all know that President Buhari is now in London and he is the man Nigerians chose as their President in 2015.  We cannot forsake him. He is in London on working leave, for more than one month now, and we don’t know when that leave will end. We have been told it will end soon. Later. One day. Whenever. We are not God. Let the leave end when it will.  But we, the people, have a duty to stand by our President. This is the point of this article. We are Africans. We have traditions. We respect elders. We don’t joke with old age. The time has come, right now, for Nigerians to behave like Africans.

We should therefore, not leave this business of visiting to Senator Busola Saraki alone. Party chieftains have visited Mr. President.  The leadership of the National Assembly has also gone to London to be part of President Buhari’s working leave. I think Vice-President-Acting-President Yemi Osinbajo should also visit his boss, this week, next week, or ASAP. Henceforth, he should be in London at least once a week.  Let us stop pretending that the President is not in charge. He is.  If Aso Villa is now in London, let us make it work. The Acting President and the real President need quality face time.  If the acting President must go to London everyday, let him do so, but don’t let us run Nigeria by telephone or DHL Am I making sense? I am not talking about common sense. I mean real sense. So, do I make any sense at all?

After the Acting President’s visit, all former Presidents should also start going to London to see the President. Those former Presidents are not as harmless as they pretend to be. They are projected to the public as advisers but they are more than that: they all left something in Aso Villa that makes them eternally powerful.  It is like leaving your DNA in a woman’s body. They should be allowed or perhaps encouraged to visit President Buhari while he is on working leave.   I think our Baba in Abeokuta, Ota and Ibogun should be the first to visit. That may negate the order of seniority, but trust the Ebora Owu to return from London with front-page news! After him, the others can start visiting and probably advise on the possibility of holding a Council of State  meeting in London.  As it were, the Nigerian Constitution does not insist that the Council of State Meeting must be held inside Nigeria. The main subject of that first historic, diaspora, Council of State Meeting should be phrased by OBJ in his own unique way: “Momodu: are you well or sick?”

There is something called the separation of powers. I don’t want to disrespect mi’lords but I think they too should go to London.  The National Judicial Council (NJC) should put together a high-powered delegation of judges from every part of the country, from all divisions, and level, to proceed post-haste to London to visit, no, to confer with President Buhari on matters of judicial interest to the nation.  But Sirs, don’t go there and talk about the welfare of judges, or the non-payment of your entitlements – if you try that, well, I won’t be in a position to tell you what awaits you on your return. You know mi’lords, as well as I do, that the law in Nigeria is now being made to look truly like an ass!

After the judges, okay may be the Nigerian Bar Association should also send a delegation, but I don’t trust many of our lawyers. They think they know the law, and they could go to London and say things that will disrupt the President’s working leave. To make that impossible, members of the NBA should be booked on an Arik flight to London, please. But if they get there, fine. The next delegation should be that of Permanent Secretaries. These ones should spend more than a week in London with the President. In fact, they can stay with him till he returns. If they also have medical issues, they should use the opportunity to ask for tests, with the condition that they must return immediately the President leaves London, notwithstanding the status of their own medical tests!

Once the Permanent Secretaries have been fully accommodated in London, the Ministers, those who were once dismissed by their own employer as “noise-makers”, and who have proven to be no better, should also visit London.  They can go ahead and make as much noise as they wish in London and even enjoy the benefit of a full Federal Executive Council Meeting.  I suspect that this will be a particularly productive FEC meeting. If the people in the Foreign Affairs Ministry know what they are doing, however, they would arrange ahead of that meeting in London, a special meeting with Theresa May, Prime Minister of Great Britain, followed by a dinner with Her Majesty the Queen of England, with a proviso, please, please, please, that nobody should bring up the issue of Biafra or Southern Kaduna after shaking the Queen’s hand, and there should be a strict guarantee that President Buhari will be accompanied by his extremely beautiful wife, Aisha, and he will not, meeting the Queen, no matter how excited, make the mistake of referring to “za oza room”.

Stop laughing, my friend; this is how you people cause problems for innocent writers.  What I am now trying to add having made all these points above, is that the Governors’ Forum should also visit President Buhari in London. The Governors have already signified their intention to do so and that seems to be fine with the Nigerian public.  The Governors should therefore appoint representatives who should proceed to London. When they meet with the President, they should hold a special prayer session with three prayer points: one, that President Buhari will not work for another person to come and eat; two: that the demons of Aso Rock will spare and forgive him and his family; three: that President Buhari will return to Nigeria with his two feet. The Governor to lead the prayer should be Peter Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.

If he starts sounding as he has been sounding in recent times, Nasir el-Rufai should be asked to take the microphone from him. And if Nasir sounds like he is playing politics, as he has been doing, Adams Oshiomhole who will like to be there anyway, as a Governor ex-officio, should be given the microphone and asked to pray for the President as best as he can or as best as Trotsky could.

I have left out some people. In the past month, some Imams and ulamas and concerned relatives have been reported in the media, holding prayer sessions for a hale and hearty President who is just in London to enjoy the weather and do some quality check-ups, private and public. These prayer warriors have prayed and prayed in Abuja, Daura, Borno and everywhere else. The matter is so serious that nobody should be surprised if Rochas Okorocha or James Ibori organizes a prayer session for Muhammadu Buhari. This is the biggest business in Nigeria at this moment.

I think, therefore, that we should also encourage the ulamas and the imams to visit. Let them go to London and pray for their President. We have been told they have been sending prayers through skype, whatsapp and the air, the same channels that GSM service providers in Nigeria now want to block. Let the imams go to London then and let the verses of the Holy Quoran rain down. It will be unfair not to allow Christian leaders to go to London too. They are also anxious to go to London. Pastor Tunde Bakare, my beloved, secondary school senior should lead that team. His job should be to screen out any Pastor with Biafra, or Southern Kaduna or pro-PDP blood in him or her.  I mean Pastors like Reno Omokri, Ebun Adegboruwa…. you get what I am saying? The prayer should be commissioned!

Traditional rulers, bloggers, public intellectuals, trolls, and journalists! Oh, I almost forgot. I think we should also be invited to London to have tea with the President. I volunteer to lead that team but if I am considered unpopular, since they say I am not one of them, let @ikhide, @akaebube, or @dejiadeyanju, @realFFK, or @YeleSowore, be the team leader. But please, make sure we have on that list, @lindaikeji, @SDimokoKORKUS, @emepretty1, @bellanaija, @omojuwa, @ChiomaChuka, @AbangMercy, @toyeenb, @MrStanleyNwabia and… and… My friend, STFU!  I am not planning a special episode of #bbnaija. I just want to go to London and see …my President.

Valentine, Baba’s vacation and other stories – By Reuben Abati

“Happy Valentine’s day, my friend”
“You don’t wish someone Happy Valentine’s day with ordinary mouth, my friend”
“Are you a woman? The gifts are for women, not male friends.”
“You see, yourself? You are a bush man just like one of my friends who got a text message from his girlfriend, and he started asking what is the meaning of bae and boo. The girl used those words and our friend was lost.”
“Bae. Boo. I have no idea either.”
“Of course, you are old school. You better stay away from young girls.”
“I don’t carry girls. I am a responsible man. So, I am not into this Valentine thing.”
“What will I do with you, this man? Valentine’s Day is not only for boys and girls. It is a day of love. You can show love to everyone around you. It is a day when you show that you care.”
“This whole thing about Valentine’s day is just a business idea. You know even schools collect money from their pupils to celebrate Valentine Day and the kids are asked to come to school, wear red, and bring gifts for any member of the opposite sex that they admire.”
“Primary schools? “
“Yes. Those who profit from Valentine’s Day are beginning to catch them young in order to grow a future market. Virtually every business outfit is into this madness. But if you ask me, I think every day should be Valentine’s Day in Nigeria. We should love one another. We should learn to be each other’s brother’s keeper.”
“Keep preaching. The only thing that bothers me about Valentine’s Day is a certain report I read somewhere indicating that last year, February 14, one particular condom-making company recorded its highest sales worldwide on that particular day in Nigeria!”
“That is precisely the problem. It is all about sex, no longer love. I hear if some women don’t get a gift or some form of special attention on Valentine Day, they would feel as if they are washed up. I once settled a quarrel between a friend and his wife, because he forgot it was Valentine’s Day and he came home very late. The wife refused to talk to him for weeks.”
“On a day like this, every woman will be monitoring her man.”
“Well, may be because we have reduced the idea of love to nothing but sex and waywardness, and that is probably why they have had to ban Valentine’s Day in Pakistan.”
“Ban Valentine’s Day?”
“Banned. The Islamabad High Court ruled this week that there should be no celebration of Valentine’s Day in public. The Pakistani media has also been banned from reporting any Valentine Day activity.”
“What kind of court of law is that? Of all important matters to worry about in Pakistan.”
“Obviously the matter of Valentine’s Day is very important in Pakistan because even the President of the country has declared that Valentine’s Day is not a Muslim tradition, but a Western one.”
“Oh I see. It is a Sharia thing.”
“Not necessarily. What of the situation in Japan where a group of men, the Kakuhido or the Revolutionary Alliance of Men that Women Find Unattractive have staged a public protest calling on the Government of Japan to ban Valentine’s Day.”
“Are there some men that women find unattractive?”
“What kind of men are those ones?”
“They obviously exist in Japan. And they claim that public smooching on Valentine’s Day is a form of terrorism, oppressive love capitalism and they feel marginalized, completely discriminated against because women find them unattractive.”
“They actually sound as if they will take the law into their hands. But definitely there are no such unattractive men in Nigeria. I have seen poor, ugly, impossible Nigerian men with some of the prettiest women around and you are forced to ask: what exactly did she see in him?”
“Nigerian men are better lovers than the Japanese. Even oyinbo women don’t joke with our men. That was how one Kenyan athlete came here for the Lagos City Marathon last week and she didn’t want to return to Kenya. She said she would remain here if she could find a Nigerian man to marry her because Nigerian men are wonderful.”
“Oo-o-shey! Our brothers! They must have shown her some good, good loving…”
“But talking seriously, you know, I think love is all we need in this country. Our leaders should love the people and the people should love their leaders and we would be a much better country.”
“I hear Baba sends his love.”
“Which Baba?”
“Our Baba in London”
“I won’t join you to comment on that subject. We are all human beings. We can have medical issues at any time.”
“Who is talking about medical issues? What we know is that Baba is on working leave in London and he used the opportunity to do some medical tests”
“Working leave”
“I was in fact going to say that those tests should have been conducted in Nigeria here. It is sad if Nigerian doctors can’t conduct ordinary tests.”
“If you are President of Nigeria, you’d go and hand over yourself to Nigerian doctors, you will? The same doctors who are always complaining about allowances and threatening to go on strike. These same doctors, many of whom are card-carrying members of the opposition, MASSOB and Niger Delta Avengers. It’s alright.”
“Medical tourism is a threat to the Nigerian economy. We have good doctors here. Nigerian doctors are among the best in the world.”
“I know somebody who wanted to buy Nigerian medical practice. Whatever it was they diagnosed after carrying out tests was completely wrong. When he eventually went to London, he was told he had been on wrong medication for three years! So when you become President, Governor or Senator, carry your body and give to a Nigerian doctor for trial and error diagnosis.”
“But when will Baba return?”
“When the results of the tests are released”
“I am not a doctor but I hear some tests could stay in the medical lab for up to three months”
“Why are you screaming? It is a working leave. Anywhere the President is, that is where power is. After all, Baba spoke with Donald Trump yesterday and he is also likely to have a telephone conversation with South African President, Jacob Zuma. He is also constantly on the phone with the Acting President.”
“Zuma. Zuma. Zuma. I hope Baba will remember to sympathise with President Zuma over the embarrassment he got at the parliament the other day when the red-jacket wearing members of the Democratic Alliance started calling him a thief. Baba should give him some tips about how to deal with rude and arrogant lawmakers.”
“No. Baba should not meddle in South African affairs. He should talk to President Zuma about the continued attack on Nigerians living in South Africa. Some South Africans will just wake up one day and start attacking Nigerians, and they don’t get arrested for doing so or punished. We must let South Africa know that Nigerian lives matter!”
“What I have even noticed is that those South Africans only attack Nigerian men. They don’t attack Nigerian women.”
“I have information on that.”
“I am all ears”
“I hear our Nigerian brothers in South Africa are into South African women like ki’lode. And the South African women love them back like crazy, because you know your guys, when they want to impress a woman, they really go all out.”
“You just look at it. Only a few days to Valentine’s Day, some South African hoodlums started attacking Nigerian men and their businesses. I am surprised that the South African Ambassador to Nigeria has not yet been summoned, even the Foreign Affairs Ministry has not uttered a word. Is it because Baba is in London?”
“Well, well, well, I think the new oga on top is trying his best to be on top of everything.”
“Who is that?”
“Acting President Pastor Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN”
“He is doing well”
“A child of the Most High. An erudite, loyal, hardworking…”
“Una don start oh. That is how you people will cause problems for the man. As far as I can see, he is focused on the assignment that he has been given and he is humble and hardworking. The Christian body in Nigeria and you, Yorubas should not distract him. Some Christians are already saying their time has come. And all of a sudden, some Yoruba Obas want to visit the Villa. I saw some Yoruba boys the other day, they were very busy weaving conspiracy theories and suddenly quoting the Constitution.”
“What I know is that there is no way a man will ride a horse and his head will not shake.”
“Just be careful how you shake your head.”
“You don’t have to worry about all that. You said the truth when you said the Acting President is doing well. In the last two weeks, the man has been working as if he does not know how to do anything else other than to work. Even primary school students in seven states are beginning to eat one hot meal a day, free of charge. About 12, 000 cooks have been employed, farmers are also involved.”
“The hot meal per day should be extended to some households, street beggars and em…em. There must be a mechanism in place to make sure the teachers don’t end up diverting the hot meal. Some teachers are so hungry, they’d take the food home to their families and deprive the children.”
“What kind of teacher will do that?”
“I am telling you the truth”
“But there is another scheme that should cover the teachers. It is called the Social Intervention Programme (SIP).”
“That is for the poorest members of our society -N5, 000 per month. Teachers don’t fall into that category.”
“You are sure about that? You think if the Federal Government offers you N5, 000 every month, you won’t take? With N5,000, you can buy recharge card.”
“Look, the best thing to do is to just share the money from oyel every month. They can start with every Nigerian who has a bank account. Instead of state governments going to collect the money on our behalf every month, just put the thing directly into every Nigerian’s bank account.”
“That is not how to run a government.”
“We have to start thinking out of the box. Look at the benefits. If we adopt that strategy, all Nigerians abroad will come home. There will be nothing for anybody to steal, because the cake will be shared equitably. Everybody gets a share of it.”
“And the Nigerians who have no bank accounts?”
“You don’t get it. They will all rush and open one. Oyel money, na im you dey take joke like that? In due course, we will have accurate census figures.”
“You are beginning to sound like those Niger Delta people who gave James Ibori a heroic welcome party.”
“Those ones? They were defending African culture.”
“And what culture is that?”
“You better don’t bother yourself about things you can’t understand. You and I will be here one day when a certain James Onanefe Ibori will hold brooms with two hands and declare for the APC… Enjoy the rest of your day. Go home and make your bae happy.”

OPINION: The two faces of Tuface – By Reuben Abati

Tuface’s decision to lead a protest to register the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with the performance of the incumbent administration and to reiterate the value of government’s responsibility to the people was his finest moment as a citizen and artiste. But it is also now, with his Jammeh-like volte-face, his worst moment. His transformation into a champion of democratic values and voice of the masses brought him added stardom and value. His retreat has turned him into a revolutionary manqué. He deserves our understanding and sympathy.

When on 24th January Tuface (Innocent Dibia) announced that he was going to lead, under the umbrella of the Tuface Foundation, a mass protest against the economic policies of the Buhari government, he immediately attracted public interest. A multiple award-winning musician, a naturally talented stage performer and author of at least two evergreen songs: “My African Queen” and “If Love is a Crime”, TuBaba, as he is also known, sounded like he was moving from art to politics, and seemed ready to answer to the true calling of the artist as the conscience of the people.

Artists and creative persons have always led protests and lent their voices to progressive causes. That much is the case in the United States at the moment, where artistes have raised their voices and joined protests to remind the “insurgent in the White House” that America is a land of freedom, democracy and justice and not bigotry and tyranny. Here at home, Fela, and his cousin, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and others as well, have shown the power of creativity and stardom as a veritable vehicle for social change and justice. Artists and their art, and their movement from stage, or the printed page, to the public arena of action have always saved humanity, by humanizing man. This has been the case from Sophocles, all through time and history to Olanrewaju Adepoju, Beyonce and Kanye West.

But activism comes with a price. Tuface obviously didn’t bargain for that. He received enormous support. His announcement of the February 5, later February 6 protest energized the angry, frustrated Nigerian base, and drew our unrelenting “children of anger” back into an overdrive on social media. The international community also became interested, waiting to see the effect of a protest driven by star-power in Nigeria. It was coincidentally a season of protests across the world: in the Gambia, there had been protests against Yahyah Jammeh with a positive outcome, in the US, the UK and elsewhere, Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and his misogyny led to protests on both counts, and in the case of the former, a Federal judge has given a ruling that has resulted in the suspension of the ban. In Cameroon, concerned citizens are protesting over discrimination against English-speaking Cameroonians. In Romania, a sea of protesting citizens has just had its way. There is all around the world, right now, a resurgence and affirmation of people power, be it Brexit or left-wing activism in Europe. Individuals and groups lead such moments in history- what makes them different is the fire in their bellies and their readiness to command the revolution, at great personal risk.

It looked initially as if Tuface had that burning fire in his belly, but he couldn’t make that leap between self-preservation and the risks of rebellion. He had appeared on television. He spoke confidently about the need for real change in Nigeria. He encouraged Nigerians to come out en masse to support the movement. He even announced the colour and dress code of the protest. His wife stood by him and she, too, talked about her husband’s convictions about national progress and good governance. Each time Tuface appeared in the media, during those five minutes in the sun, he looked bright and determined. But everything changed late Saturday evening. The recorded video of Tuface’s volte-face, announcing the cancellation of the Feb. 6 protest showed him looking dispirited, broken, ashen, as if he had been shaken up and chastised. He looked unsettled with his scraggy, uncombed beard. It is not difficult to know when a man’s balls have been squeezed.

Tuface actually deserves our sympathy. He must have gone through a lot of pressures that broke his spirit. His capitulation makes us appreciate even better the heroism of those who always stood up to dictatorships. His example is indeed a great lesson…And I mean that positively for the fact that…Despite the massive support that he received, he also received a lot of discouragement. An old ally of his, some guy appropriately called Blackface was one of the first persons to blacken the idea of the protest. Some Nollywood, belle-forever-face-front-chop- money-money-finish-carry-go characters also opposed Tuface. Some musicians too, although in the long run, Tuface was able to mobilise the support of every section of the Nigerian community at home and in diaspora. By Saturday when he poured cold ice on the whole thing, the protest had even grown beyond him, much larger, with others seizing the initiative and turning what he had thought would be a small show into a nationwide and diaspora event.  At that point, Tuface was no longer the singer of sultry songs, but the symbol of a rebellion. The enormity of that potential must have frightened him. He didn’t have the courage to see it through. Leadership is about courage. A coward can never lead a rebellion.

But we should struggle to understand his situation. He was accused of having seven children from three women, which is an absolutely stupid point. An artist does not have to be a saint. We relate to their art and their engagements with society on the basis of the positive value that they bring forth.  It is also possible that Tuface received pressures from his multiple in-laws, and even the Baby Mamas defending their stakes in his life.  The official wife must have been accused of trying to encourage him to get into trouble so he could get killed and she alone can sit on his estate.  The Baby Mamas and all the in-laws must have called to remind him that his children are still very young and he needs to be alive to be their father and so he should think twice before going to use his chest to stop Nigeria Police bullets. Family members, to whom he is obviously a breadwinner, must have advised him to stay with his singing and dancing and not get involved in politics. They would remind him how Fela’s mum got killed and how Fela’s house was razed down, and how every artist who dared the Nigerian government ended up in exile or in prison or with a strange motor accident.

The Nigerian government was of course unhappy with the planned protest, and the idea of it created enormous confusion in Abuja and Aso Rock. While the office of the Acting President spoke about the right to protest and the government not having anything against the expression of fundamental human rights, the Office of the President on vacation made it very clear that the would-be protesters are enemies of the government of the day and sore losers. Those two seemingly contradictory impressions from Aso Rock can only point to one thing: high-level intrigue within. That is probably why the Nigeria Police kept shuffling: we don’t approve of the protest, we do, we don’t, we beg.  The timing says it all also. With the President out of the country, and the plan of the protesters to welcome him with a Trump-like protest from Abuja, to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Akure, and in parts of the Western world, the damage would have been incalculable. And Tuface would have been held responsible for leading the sabotage.  No Nigerian government since 1999 has benefitted from any mass protest. The anti-third term protest hobbled the Obasanjo government. The Jonathan government never recovered from the pro-fuel subsidy protests of January 2012. Tuface and his planned protest had set the stage for a similar prospect for the Buhari government.

What Tuface imagined was a clean-hearted civil action would have resulted in absolute panic, with some informal voices in and around government doing dangerous analysis on ethnic and religious grounds.  Reckless hypotheses such as the following: (a) “so, as Baba hand over this thing to Osinbajo so, the only thing his Christian brothers think they should do is to organize a protest in Baba’s absence?” (b) “You don hear say Osinbajo’s office say people have right to protest? So, Baba cannot even travel on vacation again. Walahi, these Yoruba people cannot be trusted.”  (c) What are these security people doing? If they are loyal to Baba, by now they should have invited that Tuface, and ask him about the two SUVs that Akpabio gave him and his wife when they got married. They should show him strong evidence that the SUVs were bought with Akwa Ibom state government money and he should pay back the money or get ready to be sued for being an accomplice in a case of diversion of public funds.  (d) Or you could have some people affirming the narrative that was put out by the APC and friends of the government of the day viz:  “this is the PDP at work. Tuface must be an agent of PDP. Why are our own APC people sleeping? Baba no dey around, they want to pull down the country. So, Tuface is now working with Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, to embarrass Baba? This Osinbajo, can we trust him?”

By pulling the trigger at this time, Tuface simply put a lot of people under pressure and placed their jobs and loyalty at risk -no doubt about it, they must have come after him with a sledgehammer to stop and discourage him. Clear evidence: a counter-revolutionary #IstandwithBuhari protest has already been announced to last for two days. The Tuface revolution that has been abandoned by its main motivator teaches us more lessons about the dynamics of power in Nigeria and the temperament of the resident power elite. Will the protest now take place on February 6, without Tuface? Or will everyone hold fire and down their tools of anger? What is certain, however, is that Tuface is likely to sit at home tomorrow with Anne, his temptingly pretty wife by his side, watching the latest episode of Big Brother Naija on TV, with chicken and salad before him, and a bottle of wine, and one of his hands, innocently setting the stage for the amorous prelude for child number eight. With his wife telling him: “don’t worry yourself dear, Nigeria is not worth dying for. Who wan die make e go die. You have tried your best, my darling husband!”.

That is how many would-be heroes become anti-heroes, and their dreams die a-borning. If the protests go ahead on February 6 as many are threatening, nonetheless, Tuface would lose a lot. If it doesn’t go ahead, he would still lose. The torch of protest that he has lit may not burn on the streets of Nigeria; it is burning already in the minds of the people. He may have chickened out, but he has already achieved the goal of his initial plan. He has by lending his star power to an anti-Buhari protest, expanded the population of angry Nigerians. He has given voice to their anger and fears. His withdrawal from action will not excuse him. Whatever anyone tells him, in the long run, he would still be punished for his bravery and cowardice on both counts. He should not be surprised if for the next few months, he doesn’t get invited to any concert, or performance contract, or if he gets to perform anywhere, he could be booed off the stage. He should not be surprised if his phones stop ringing, or if it rings at all, he could be told: “call me on what’s app I beg, I don’t know if they are monitoring your calls.”

Let no one blame Tuface. His stage name Tuface is the name of Janus: the two-face Greek god, who looks in two directions. When it mattered most in his career, Tuface Idibia answered the call of his name!

REUBEN ABATI: Donald Trump and the Muslim world.

I am not a fan of Donald Trump, the incumbent President of the United States. I didn’t stand with him. I stood with her- Hillary Clinton- in the last US Presidential election. No other election in recent American history has been more international in terms of interest and emotional involvement. Trump’s election even divided the Nigerian middle class. Majority of Christians in Nigeria stood with Donald Trump. They liked his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and in a country where religion is such a volatile subject and the Christian community feels as if it is under siege from radical Islamic extremism, it was easy for a category of Nigerians to see Trump’s politics being in sync with their own fears and expectations.

Pro-secessionist, Biafran and Christian protesters in the South East also supported Trump. On his Inauguration Day, they organized a rally, some of them were killed, in the process, by Nigerian security agents. It is always so easy to read American politics into every other politics globally because of America’s status as a superior power and the global dominance of its culture. Many Nigerians who opposed Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party also did so, for example, for partisan reasons, because they felt the Democratic administration of President Barrack Obama was responsible in many ways for the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria. They wanted a pound of flesh – they wanted the Democrats out of the White House, the same way the PDP exited Aso Villa. The funny thing is that Nigerians who do not hold American citizenship, were not in a position to vote in the US election, but this didn’t deter us from weeping more than the Americans. In my case, I opposed Trump because I consider him a vile, navel-gazing, crude, child-like nativist, whose Presidency could pose a threat to the free world.

I have been proven right. The United States is in trouble because of Donald Trump. In less than two weeks in office, President Trump has signed executive orders, which amount to an assault on the liberal international order. America is great because it became the dreamland and the symbol of freedom, prosperity and fulfillment for persons and families across the world. It is great because it became the melting pot for global genius, the preferred destination for generations of talented persons in all fields of human endeavour. America is great because its diversity and multiculturalism became pillars of its exceptionalism.

Donald Trump, on twitter where he spends his waking hours, and on the podium, where he rants, says his ambition is to “Make America Great Again” (#MAGA), but it is beginning to look as if Trump will end up making America small. The Executive Orders which he has signed so far, are intended to upturn America’s foreign policy in the last 50 years, isolate the country from the rest of the world and turn it into an island. America appears destined to become a pariah state for the next four years. With Trump, America now sees the rest of the world as an ocean of enemies, with this persecution complex dressed up as national interest.

The most pernicious of the Executive Orders is Trump’s suspension of the US refugee programme for four months and the entry ban for 90 days imposed on nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Is the action legal? Section 212(f) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (1952) empowers the President to restrict immigration access to the United States: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants and non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” The sentiment behind this legal provision is protectionism, which is ironic in a country of immigrants.

This is Donald Trump keeping his campaign promise to protect America for Americans and review immigration policies. Is this new? No. Over the years, America has always tried to control the influx of immigrants. This was the case even under President Barack Obama. Trump reminds us of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which turned back the Chinese, and a similar law in 1924, which targeted Asian and African immigrants, both of which were corrected by the Immigration Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin, ancestry and race. The only problem is that Trump’s approach is crazy, a case of policy mixed with bigotry and narcissism, and an unconstitutional gambit which violates the First Amendment, hidden under the banner of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry.” Given the contradictions between the 1952 and 1965 Acts and the First Amendment, Trump’s actions are perhaps better tested in the court of law.

He wants to build a wall at the Mexican border. This has already caused a rift with Mexico. He is also holding radical Islam responsible for security breaches in the United States, and this is certainly because foreign-born Muslims have been responsible for many acts of terror in the US: the 9/11, the Boston bombing, the Nigerian underwear bomber; across Europe, radical Islamic extremism has also proven to be a problem. Trump’s solution is to demonize Muslim-majority countries and arrive at the simple solution that the best way to protect America is to shut out the Muslims. He insists that “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.” I don’t believe him.

The chosen seven countries that have been shut out have not in any way been responsible for most of the acts of terror in the US in recent times. Trump leaves out Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim-majority countries, but the kind of chaos that has been generated makes every Muslim going to the United States vulnerable. You don’t have to be from the seven targeted countries, once you bear a Muslim name, you could be subjected to greater scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection Officers. Some of the people who have been harassed at the borders since last Friday when the Executive Order was passed are American citizens with dual nationality.

While Donald Trump is proposing greater vetting and scrutiny of the influx of Muslims, and refugees, he is nevertheless willing to allow more Christians into the United States. This is the message that comes across: Christians are welcome. Muslims should be carefully scrutinized before they are allowed in. In other words, Christians are better than Muslims. This may sound like an over-simplification, but that is just how it is. President Trump is likely to make the United States more unpopular in the Muslim world, damage established friendships and promote a culture of hate that has proven a threat to American foreign relations in parts of the world.

American liberals are justifiably upset and angry. President Trump’s policy moves and rhetoric depart from the America they have known for the past 50 years. But right now, America is so divided, nobody can comfortably sit on the fence, and that is why public opinion is so viciously divided too. Trump addresses the fears of those Americans who, like him, don’t want more immigrants and asylum seekers. This is the ultimate rise of American xenophobia and an attempt to turn that country into “a camp of saints.” But there are limits to nativism as seen in Jean Raspail’s novel, The Camp of the Saints (1973) and The Slums of Aspects: Immigrants vs. The Environment (2011) by Lisa Park and David Pellow.

But no matter the tone of global outrage, Donald Trump obviously doesn’t give a damn. Mexico has cancelled a meeting with Trump, a protest calling for signatures to prevent his proposed state visit to the UK has attracted over a million signatures, Iran is threatening reciprocal action, the entire Muslim world is outraged and inside America, California is threatening to secede because of Trump! And Trump? He wants to be President of the United States, not President of the world. He wants to serve the American people who voted him into power, not some immigrants coming from the slums of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Across the world, there are millions who look up to the United States as the land of freedom. Trump is saying America is no longer ready to be the world’s Atlas nation. It is not just immigration that will be affected: trade, aid, military relations as well. This has created a regime of fear among many who depend on the United States.

There are millions of Africans living in the United States, particularly Nigerians. They don’t all have the papers granting them the right of stay. There are asylum seekers, refugees and many who are still processing their residency papers. An American for Americans only policy is likely to place them at the risk of rejection and eventual deportation. When you talk to some of them, you can actually sense panic, fear, despair. They panic because America has become their adopted home. It is their place of work, their source of hope, and the best place in the world where they are happiest.

They panic because their original homeland offers them little hope. They don’t want to return to a Nigeria where there is no regular power supply, employment opportunities, good roads, communications or transportation system. Living in America confers a special status on them among friends, family members and the community at home. There are others who are already naturalized Americans, and who may have nothing to fear, and there are those Nigerians who have helped to build America with their talents and intellect, and who don’t really care on what side of the bed Donald Trump is likely to wake up tomorrow morning.

Then you have the big crowd of I-must-go-to-America-by-force set of Nigerians who are daily trooping to the American embassy in search of visa. Since the Executive Order by President Trump, that crowd has not been smiling at all. I know many of our compatriots who have suddenly become experts in analyzing American immigration rules. Nigeria is not one of the seven countries on the Trump list and the review and restriction are supposed to last for 120 days, but long-time US visa applicants in Nigeria believe that what a typical American immigration officer has actually been looking for is a President like Trump. An inconsolable applicant tells me he is no longer sure he will ever get a visa to the United States.

I assured him that the world will always need America and America will always need the world. Isolationism discounts the ideal of an interconnected global order. President Donald Trump’s success will be determined in the long run not by the arrows he shoots in the international arena from North Korea, to China, to Mexico and Somalia, but how well he fulfills the promise to make America greater than he met it. If they don’t want you to stay in America, come home, please. Stay at home, e go better… or go to Canada or Taiwan.

REUBEN ABATI: Once upon a time in Gambia

I have very vivid memories of my last visit to The Gambia. This was in 2013 when President Goodluck Jonathan paid a two-day visit to the country. In the course of that visit, President Jonathan commissioned the new Chancery of the Nigerian Embassy in Banjul, and also met with the Nigerian community, in addition to the usual bilateral meetings. Nigeria and The Gambia have very strong cultural and diplomatic relations.


We were quartered at a very nice, hospitable sea-side hotel, the Coco Ocean Resort. One of the first things I noticed was the large population of female tourists, lounging by the pool-side and the sea-side, with biceps-wielding, six-packs-flaunting young dark-skinned men on the prowl, with gigolo-ish gait and mien.


A female member of our entourage who had gone to the restaurant alone, later returned – visibly shaken and alarmed and what was her problem: one of the male ushers in the hotel had asked her if she would need a man to keep her company so she could have a real taste of Gambian hospitality.


We laughed over it later, but you could not but wonder whether this was one of the reasons why The Gambia holds a special attraction for middle-aged ladies from Europe. There was no time to conduct further research into that aspect of our encounter with The Gambia. I was far too busy for that. But there was no doubt that The Gambia under President Yahya Jammeh took the country’s tourism endowments seriously: a beautiful seaside, good weather, low crime rate, good hotels, beautiful women, adventurous young men, and a meek populace.


President Yahya Jammeh was determined to give President Jonathan and his delegation a good reception. From the airport to the hotel, you would think a festival was afoot. A public holiday was declared and our visit was aired live on radio and television. When we got to the hotel, President Jonathan’s vehicle was immediately serenaded by a cavalcade of horse-riders and a full band of drummers, singers and bag-pipers in colourful costume. They led our convoy to the Presidential suite, where security had been heavily deployed in fitting recognition of the importance of the visitor.


President Jammeh like virtually every other West African President took a special liking to President Jonathan- the only one who was aloof and liked to act like the father of everyone was that one in Cameroon, although I must say when we went there for a security summit, he received us excellently well too.


We felt very much at home in The Gambia. We were kept in rooms that were a bit far away from the President. And whenever that happened, the aides were always excited. It meant we could have a little more freedom away from the searching eyes of the security people around the President. And those ones, I will tell their story someday because they were fond of disturbing other matters of state and personal interest by suddenly interrupting with calls: “Oga dey call you, Oga says you must come now, now” only to get to the big man and he tells you, “No, I didn’t ask after you.”


By the time you hang around for a while, just in case the big man would change his mind, whatever plan you were pursuing would have been aborted, or seeing you, the boss would find an assignment for you or drag you into a meeting. Angry, deflated, you went to the security man who made the phone call: “But you said Oga sent for me.” Those guys always managed a poker face: “But you know it is always good to stay around Oga in case he needs you.”


I was impressed by Jammeh’s hospitality and respectful disposition towards President Jonathan. I recall that in 2012, when President Jammeh tried to succeed President Jonathan as chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, his own colleagues, including President Jonathan, opposed him. He rarely attended ECOWAS meetings.


His then Vice President, the motherly, regal and polite Isatou Njie-Saidy always occupied The Gambian seat. But he usually showed up when a new Chairman was to be elected. Seniority is something that is taken seriously within the club of African Presidents.


They refer to themselves as “my brother, my brother”, but they are always very mindful of seniority and that is one of the reasons why the likes of Paul Biya, Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo behave and speak as if they are God in human form. Each time Jammeh wanted the ECOWAS chairmanship position, he behaved as if it was his birthright, but in 2012, and again in 2014, he was bypassed for junior Presidents as had been the case since he first expressed interest in the position in 2001. He was the only long-serving President who was never allowed to chair ECOWAS.


He must have been aware of President Jonathan and Nigeria’s stand on the question of his chairmanship, but he never held it against both. In fact, Nigeria and Nigerians were so influential in The Gambia under Jammeh, ordinary Gambians complained openly about the overwhelming influence of Nigerians in their country.


Everything went well during our state visit until it was time to meet with President Jammeh in the state house. It was part of my duty to introduce the Nigerian President’s delegation, except someone else seized the microphone and I stepped down. In The Gambia, mere protocol recognition of the President of the country ended up being a major problem.


His full titles had to be mentioned, and in a correct order in order not to upset him. The pre-meeting briefing by my Gambian counterpart dwelt too heavily on the titles: His Excellency, Sheik Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung (AJJ) Jammeh Nassiru Deen Babili Mansa, President of the Republic of The Gambia.


It was something like that. The security guards were also rough and menacing. Security men often do not understand the language of diplomacy. We went to many countries where we were treated roughly and our own security men often threatened to retaliate if the affected country ever visited Nigeria. I don’t think we ever got a chance to retaliate because our protocol system proved to be more orderly.


The state house in The Gambia when we eventually went in, however, was quite modest. It looked like the guest house section of Aso Villa. The meetings went well too. And Jammeh, to my surprise, spoke very well. He didn’t sound like the fool he was portrayed to be in the western press. He was articulate, debonair, well-composed and mentally sharp.


I guess these are required qualities for dictatorship and crookedness. And I admired Jammeh. He is, after all, my age-mate. He sat there, in his royalty, running a country, and I was there, switching between a microphone and a notebook, documenting his history. But something else happened that gave a true picture of Jammeh’s Gambia.


Our official photographer, Callistus Ewelike (he took over from Kola Osiyemi – God bless his soul) had issues with Jammeh’s security men. Security men at state houses around the world are unfriendly towards journalists. They seek to control access. They consider journalists busybodies, looking for negative news.


Accreditation and the use of tags should ordinarily take care of this, still, the security people just prefer to misbehave, and I witnessed that even in the United States where we were treated as if the visiting media was a team of terrorists. There was no violence in the US, but in The Gambia, they seized Callistus Ewelike’s camera and smashed it. Callistus is an aggressive, stubborn photo-journalist. He would fight if you try to stop him from doing his job.


He was a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) handed over to me by Ima Niboro when Kola took ill. Callistus must have resisted the Gambia goons, claiming his right as President Jonathan’s official photographer. In The Gambia under Jammeh, the President and the security agencies ruled as if there would be no tomorrow.


They trampled on everyone else’s rights. Anyone who tried to act like a free man was brutalised and dumped in prison. For 22 years, Jammeh sat on his country and his people with the help of marabouts and security enforcers. He kissed the Koran every day, but he did not act according to its dictates. He wore a trademark white garment, but his true garment was of a black colour from the kingdom of Satan.


Ewelike’s travails eventually became a full-fledged story on the second day of our visit when President Jammeh’s spokesperson and the rest of his media team started looking for me at the Coco Resort. We were to be treated to a luncheon before departure. The luncheon had started but I got cornered.


Jammeh’s spokesman brought a brand new camera to replace the one the Gambian security people had destroyed. Callistus was with me. The Gambians apologised. Apology was taken and accepted. They said they didn’t want the two Presidents to hear about the incident. I gave them my word that I would not mention it to President Jonathan. Then, they pleaded that we should accept the replacement camera they brought.


I told them not to bother – as far as we were concerned, whatever happened was occupational hazard and Nigeria would replace its own damaged equipment. I looked at Callistus. He was eyeing the new camera greedily. At a point, he called me aside and whispered: “Oga, this camera they are giving us is better than the one they smashed oh.


This one na better camera. Oga, abi make we take am?” I stood my ground. I also consulted Ambassadors Hassan Tukur and Daniel Hart who said accepting a replacement would amount to a diplomatic tit-for-tat. I thanked The Gambians for their good sense and assured them that we were fine with the photographic coverage of the visit so far, despite the damaged camera. I always had a back-up photographer and cameraman, in any case.


That encounter was a blessing in disguise. It saved me from the first course at the presidential luncheon, which had started while we were outside the hall discussing the damaged camera. When we got back to Nigeria, close to eight persons on the presidential delegation ended up in the hospital due to food poisoning! They all took that first course. Nobody died but somehow the information got back to The Gambia and the chef was arrested and charged to court.


Jammeh’s rulership of The Gambia was jinxed in many ways. The biggest jinx was his volte-face over the last presidential election. Gambians deserve a new place in the sun and a new Gambia. But so much depends on new President Adama Barrow. He should look beyond the past and face the future. If he spends his time facing the past, he will disappoint his people and exhaust the enormous goodwill that has brought him to power.

MMM, Sambisa and the boy died – By Reuben Abati

“Happy New Year, my brother”

“What do you mean happy new year, more than two weeks into the New Year. Have I not been in touch with you since January 1?”

“But for you the New Year has just started. Your January 1 was not on January 1”

“Looks like you have started taking something. I must inform your wife.”

“I say Happy New Year to you.”

“Okay, same to you.”

“You think I don’t know what you have been going through? Your wife told me you have not been yourself since those Mavrodi Mundia Moneybox people suspended their scheme. She specifically asked me to keep an eye on you.  But we thank God the MMM is back, 24 hours earlier than they promised.  Now, you can get your money back.”

“My brother, it is a lo-n-g story. This MMM thing has become a case of the more you hear, the less you understand. And to think I invested my children’s education savings. Everything.”

“What is the problem again? I hear you can get your money back, and MMM says they are ready to change the world.”

“I don’t know about changing the world, but let them change my sadness to joy by just returning my money, but now they say they can only pay a small amount per day and that those who invested big money like me should wait.”

“How much did you invest?”

“If I tell you the figure, you will know that the year is not new at all.”

“Tell me.”

“So you can go and tell your wife and your wife can tell my wife and the three of you can tell everybody. I just pray MMM does not mess me up, otherwise all of you won’t have anything to gossip about when you start looking for a casket.”

“Is it that bad?  Please don’t let it get to that stage. But I can assure you, if they mess you up, I will sue the hell out of them. I will get lawyers and sue them to court.”

“You will defend my rights after I am dead? Now, I see you are a very good friend indeed.”

“I am just trying to help. I almost invested in the MMM myself.”

“Let me ask you something.  What is a bitcoin?”

“Not too sure.”

“MMM says they will pay with bitcoins. I invested with Naira. They say they will pay me with coins, not with dollars, but coins. Ore mi, gba mi. Se kinni yi o ti fe di one chance bayi? And yet they are saying they want to change my world. Government should intervene and monitor the whole thing.”

“I won’t consider MMM the business of government.”

“Everything that has to do with the welfare of a citizen is the business of government.”

“If you decide to go and invest your money with money-doublers, why should government be bothered?”

“Government cannot allow anybody to spread frustration in any form. MMM should give me my money, not coins.”

“By the way, we should find out what a bitcoin is? We learn everyday.”

“I didn’t invest for research purposes. I invested for profit purposes.”

“But suppose the bitcoin is even better than the Naira. Somebody told me that bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, although he didn’t quite explain.”

“Ha. I am in trouble. So, I now have to carry dictionary over this MMM matter. Even a crypto something is now better than the Naira. God, pity your servants!”

“Just calm down.  We have enough people dying everyday. Don’t join the list. I am sure everything will be sorted out. While you are killing yourself over MMM, are you aware that some Nigerians are already investing in another Ponzi scheme?”

“What is that one?”

“It is called Swissgolden. They offer gold or cash profit.”

“I don’t want to hear about it. And you say government should not get involved? We are almost becoming a nation of desperate money-doublers.”

“Government should worry about more serious things, except of course someone sets out to commit a crime.”

“Nothing can be more serious.”

“Like the Southern Kaduna killings, for example”

“That is sad. Ethnic and religious violence has been a source of threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence. We need to build a nation first.”

“The Catholic Church says the casualty figure in Southern Kaduna so far is about 808.  Over 1, 422 houses, 16 churches, 19 shops and one primary school have been destroyed.  The challenge is how to prevent these things.”

“Too much politics in everything and that is why ordinary things become big things and so much tragedy is invited. Government must be pro-active.”

“That’s like saying nothing. I have heard that cliché too many times. The root of our national crisis is much deeper. Oftentimes the people themselves are the problem.”

“I hear in the Niger Delta, the people are also threatening to resume hostilities, shut down oil installations and destroy NDDC projects.”

“It is not the people. It is the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) with their ‘Operation Walls of Jericho’ and the Niger Delta Revolutionary Crusaders (NDRC).  Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has led a delegation to go and talk to them, particularly the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).  I think the resort to dialogue is wise.”

“I’ll like to see that too in Southern Kaduna, coming from the highest levels and I like the fact that the Federal Government is talking to the Bring Back our Girls Group and that for once they are willing to listen. Before May 2015, that group never wanted to listen to government. Now they are in Sambisa Forest.”

“I call it the BBOG Journey to the Sambisa Forest of a Thousand Daemons. When you go to a forest like that, you will have stories to tell.”

“I like the strategy. Get the protesters to help government sell its own story. Quite clever.”

“What if the strategy back-fires?”

“Oh, come on. It won’t.”

“You are always cynical. Thank God you are not in Tanzania where media cynicism of any sort is now a crime.”

“Under President John Magufuli, the bulldozer? Everyone has been praising him for fighting corruption and administrative opaqueness.”

“Magufuli is now bulldozing the media and free speech. Just the other day, he threatened Tanzanian journalists. According to him: ‘We will not allow Tanzania to be a dumping yard for inciting content. This will not happen under my administration”


“They now have in Tanzania, The Media Services Act of 2016 which gives government officials the powers to shut down media houses and seize their printing machines.”

“That is even worse that that Nigerian Decree. Decree… Decree….”

“It is not from my mouth you will hear that one. Just be careful. Magufuli’s position is that journalists provoked him with their inciting content.”

“What is it with our leaders in Africa? In other words, Magufuli is saying he is a constituted authority.”

“Not a…he is the constituted authority.”

“One of these days, he too will just say, “Bring that boy here…Leave him…Who do you think you are talking to…I am the constituted authority.”

“You are quoting someone else now, not Magufuli.”

“African leaders sound alike when it comes to the use and abuse of power. You are right, I am quoting the Governor of Oyo State, Nigeria, Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) provoked him. They had the temerity to remind him that their school had been shut down for eight months. The Governor was so irritated, he sounded as if the students were disturbing him.

“The students were rude. Nigerian students don’t respect constituted authority. They don’t know how to address power.”

“Which authority? Is that why they should be tongue-lashed and shot at by the police?”

“I know the Governor.  One of the students must have said something nasty to him.  I got that much from his daughter’s alleged reaction.”

“Who is that?”

“The Governor’s daughter defending her dad.”

“What does she know about a university being shut down for eight months and students having to stay at home because government is suffering from a disease called lack of funds. This democracy sha.”

“Don’t worry yourself. It is not an African thing. In the United States, the President-elect’s daughter is going to be very powerful in his in-coming government. Her husband, Jared Kushner is already warming up to play a major role, and his only qualification for the job according to the father-in-law is that he is a good lad and a natural talent”

“That Donald Trump. He should stop disturbing everyone with his reckless comments.”

“I pray he doesn’t cause a Third World War.”

“With the way he has been provoking China.”

“Everything is under negotiation including One China”, says Trump.

“Nobody can negotiate that,” says China.

“And Trump picks up his phone and makes a long-distance call to the President of Taiwan, and China says that is a terrible insult”

“Trump definitely thinks his trip to the White House is one of his ‘You’re fired’ episodes. He is busy burning bridges.”

“Meanwhile, in Nicaragua…”

“What’s happening in Nicaragua?”

“The President has just been sworn in for a third term in office, with his wife as his Vice-President!  A husband and wife Presidency”

“You think that can happen in Nigeria?”

“You are not aware that in some states in Nigeria, family members are the ones who run the government?”

“Which state?”

“Go and find out for yourself?”

“So, how is our friend, Jim Obazee of the Financial Reporting Council (FRCN)?

“He broke the law”

“He was trying to enforce the law”

“He broke the law of the Psalms. Psalm 105: 15 – “do not touch my anointed ones/And do my prophets no harm.” He wanted to use a Governance Code to force men of God to observe term limits.”

“You are missing the point.”

“And to think he would start implementing the Code from his own church, where he is a pastor, with Daddy G.O. of the Redeemed Church.  So he means charity begins at home.”

“You don’t get it. Are you recommending nepotism? The whole point of the Code is that when religious groups become business entities, they must pay taxes and respect corporate governance rules.”

“Nigeria is a secular state. Government should not dabble into religious matters.”

“But government can dabble into the matter of El-Zakzaky and his movement. I beg.”

“The Bible says…”

“Yes, I know what the Bible says. Don’t bother.”

“We should pray for the people of Gambia and the President-elect Adama Barrow who is supposed to be inaugurated as President on January 19. Yahya Jammeh is still insisting he will not step down.  The people are already fleeing the country, Ministers and other government appointees have resigned, the whole world is angry, but Jammeh is sitting tight.

“You know something?”


“In the midst of all this, while Adama Barrow is in exile in Senegal waiting for January 19, his eight-year old son was bitten by a dog last Sunday.  He was rushed to the hospital.  The boy died.

“Oh. Oh, Africa.”

OPINION: Before Abuja airport is shut down – Reuben Abati

A few years ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria shut down the Port Harcourt International Airport to carry out what they called repairs or was it renovation? It was supposed to be an exercise for a few weeks, but it took more than an entire year. Flights were diverted to an airport in the city at great cost to travellers, but the so-called renovation took forever.

The Port Harcourt airport became a grazing field for cows, at other times, a vehicle-driving field, and for more than one year, travel to Port Harcourt, one of Nigeria’s most strategic cities was a nightmare. Each time the Nigerian government talks about fixing the airports, using the words, renovation, rehabilitation or reform, it is better to be cynical. The Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, for example, was once touted as a major hub in the South East, and government spent so much money turning it into an international cargo airport for the East, but that same airport soon became flooded during the rainy season and planes could no longer land.

Both the Port Harcourt and Owerri airports are currently in a permanent state of renovation. The lives of those who wanted to renovate them at any level whatsoever are ironically and scandalously, imaginably better renovated. The airports failed, the managers smiled to the banks. In those two airports, travellers were put through enormous strain because the entire airports or sections had to be shut down. But the people, expectant as they were had no choice in the matter. The Nigerian government is so powerful; the people are helpless. The same government the people elect with their votes punishes them unjustly. The people themselves behave as if they are in bondage. This was what happened in particular when the Port Harcourt Airport was being renovated. Travellers were abused. Airlines subjected them to enormous indignity. Businesses suffered. Government failed to keep its promise. The airlines and their staff even became arrogant, failing to realize they were victims too. They treated customers shabbily and there was no way anyone could blame them when government itself was uncaring.

Looked at differently, the biggest problem is not necessarily the politicians and their appointees who sashay in and out of power, but the civil servants who run the engine room of government and who over the years have perfected a culture of graft and incompetence. They look the other way when politicians dismantle the rules, often times out of sheer cruelty and for the better part, the political leaders are guided to do so by the civil servants. Which department of government is responsible for the maintenance of airports?: The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). I believe everybody in that agency should be lined up and caned publicly and investigated according to the law. Should they have any stories to tell about the poor state of Nigerian airports, despite the enormous amounts that are budgeted yearly, they should tell us as each stroke of the cane descends on their buttocks. I don’t consider corporal punishment a tool of governance, so I speak metaphorically, but the rot in the aviation section is so terrible, a feeling of outrage commands something extra-ordinary. Weigh that against the plane crashes, loss of lives, and the agony of air travel just because some incompetents have had to superintend over Nigeria’s aviation sector.

I am this outraged because a sad story is about to repeat itself. The Federal Government of Nigeria is proposing to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, beginning March 8, for six weeks: to build a second runway and to carry out renovations. During the period, flights will be diverted to Kaduna Airport and passengers will be required to travel by rail or road to Abuja. The excuse is that the runway in Abuja is almost collapsing. The life span of a runway is 20 years and this particular runway in Abuja has been there for 34 years. Politicians come and go but one significant fellow has suddenly woken up in either the FAAN or the Ministry of Aviation and a proposal has been submitted for renovation. And that proposal is now causing so much commotion. All the characters responsible for this costly neglect and delay should be lined up and sanctioned, and that should include a thorough investigation into the possibility of this “new” project having being proposed, budgeted for and cash-backed before now. At what point did it occur to FAAN that the airport needs a second runway, and who is the brain behind the hair-brained proposal that is now before the public?

We have been told that for six weeks, flights will be diverted to the Kaduna airport. The Minister of State for Aviation (by the way, who is the Minister of Aviation?) has been quoted saying he wants “knowledge” as to how this can be managed. The Ministry has also summoned a meeting of stakeholders after taking the decision. This has been a classic case of acting before thinking, making it all appear ridiculous. The international airlines are insisting that they find this kind of thinking inconvenient. Truly so: Local airline operators are not excited either. The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) are protesting. Common sense, a scarce commodity at this time, should have dictated that a meeting of stakeholders should have been held before the decision was taken. But the arrogant position-holders took the decision first and then decided to invite the stakeholders as an after-thought. Ask these questions: is there an ulterior motive? Ignore common sense and present the public with a fait accompli? Is that their plan? Is politics, in the shape of further Northernization involved? And why? Make Kaduna a new hub? Shift aviation travel further North? The failure to maintain runways and observe best practices is a reflection of the Nigerian problem: our national nonsense. Besides, Nigeria is forever a victim of last minute decisions. We remember to think when it appears too late to do so. Conspiracy theories are thus enabled when those who should act rightly behave as if they are busy thinking with their orifices.
Get it: The decision to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and move traffic to the Kaduna airport for six weeks has not been properly thought through. Poor thinking is the enemy of good governance. There is no guarantee to start with, that the renovation and rehabilitation can be completed in six weeks. Remember Port Harcourt and Owerri. We have been told nevertheless, that this is a good decision. But the timing is unwise. We are moving passengers to Kaduna at a time that same state and city is in turmoil. Thousands are being slaughtered daily in Southern Kaduna. The crisis has both religious and ethnic undertones. And now we are moving more Nigerians to the North, so they can get killed at the airport on or their way to Abuja? Who in his or her right senses would like to travel through Kaduna at this time?

A standard travel advisory should be: travel through Kaduna at your own risk and commit possible suicide. And to this: let no paid vuvuzela tell me the roads are safe and that the rail line to Abuja does not pass through Southern Kaduna. Also consider this: Government says it will provide buses. Who will bear the cost? Traveling from wherever to Kaduna to reach Abuja is likely to be more costly in every sense. Will the airlines bear the cost? Or the already aggrieved travellers will be subjected to extra cost and pain? Foreign airliners have already rejected the Kaduna airport. It is by every international standard a poor airport. It can’t even accommodate a crowd. Why would government subject travellers to obvious chaos and behave as if it does not matter. Copy this:

“The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, however, said total closure of the Abuja airport runway was inevitable, judging from the worrisome level of dilapidation…. (I see)
The minister assured of adequate security of travellers on transit by road from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa, adding that the Ministry of Defence, the Nigeria Police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Directorate of State Security and other agencies will provide cover for airlines and passengers. (Really?)
“We’ll increase the number of security personnel around Kaduna Metropolis; we’ll have traffic officials in every village and intersection. There’ll be members of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire fighters and ambulances at certain strategic positions. Police and the Air Force are to provide aerial patrols, complemented by ground police. (Bribery and extortion loading…)

There will be intelligence gathering. There will be bus coaches, train services, specialised car hire services and helicopter shuttles from private operators. But government will provide shuttles for passengers,” he assured. (Talk is cheap, truly)

This is precisely why the Ministry of Aviation should reconsider its stand. Stakeholders including foreign airlines should be carried along before any further step is taken and that has to be in line with international best practices. Everybody involved should admit that we are dealing with a Nigerian crisis. Nigerians who travel by air don’t deserve to be punished. They have suffered enough already. The airlines can’t even get enough aviation fuel in Abuja, not to talk of Kaduna.

Let no one forget this: Abuja is a strategic city. Those who travel there do so with a purpose. It is the city of adventurers not settlers. It is the city of the Federal Government. People go there to sort out government matters including contracts and other matters. Shutting down the Abuja airport is like shutting down the city, and perhaps the entire country. The Ministry of Aviation makes it sound as if this is inevitable, but we must tell them, and tell them again, that the Kaduna airport is not ready and to repeat the Port Harcourt experience in Abuja would be sad and counter-productive. It is not for nothing that the international airlines are already protesting that they don’t want to go to Kaduna. The argument about fixing the runway to make it safer is okay, and we all know why nothing is ever properly maintained in this country, and why projects of six weeks end up taking one year, and more, so don’t tell me the obvious, but government decisions no matter how well-meaning, should be governed by good thinking. A mismanaged renovation of the Abuja airport could result in months of avoidable agony and disaster for the Nigerian economy.

OPINION: A day with the gay community – By Reuben Abati

I was invited to deliver the keynote address at this year’s special event on “Human Rights, Sexuality and the Law”, an annual symposium organized to promote awareness on issues relating to the plight of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Intersex (LGBTQI) Community in Nigeria. When this was announced on social media by the organizers, The Initiative For Equal Rights (TIERS) and @YNaija, hell practically broke loose within the LGBTQI community.

I was dismissed as a wrong choice, and the organizers were accused of being insensitive to the feelings of the community. A broad-based protest was launched on twitter and there were essays on the subject on NoStringsNG.com (the online media advocacy platform for LGBTQI issues in Nigeria), with the most scathing objection written by Bisi Alimi, the Nigerian-born, London-based gay rights activist. Bisi Alimi described me as a “homophobe.” He said the invitation extended to me was an abuse of TIERS, and he was offended that a group he had helped to co-found, would offer its platform to an “oppressor.”

Following a pre-event twitter chat with me on the subject, co-ordinated by @YNaija, the attacks got even more aggressive. Someone wrote that having Reuben Abati as Keynote Speaker was like inviting the “KKK to an NACCP event.” An article written by Kritzmoritz and published by KitoDiaries.com (another Nigerian LGBTQI blog) was titled “Of TIERS, Reuben Abati and all that angst.”

The anonymous author reflected the sentiments of the gay community in the following words: “Let me get this out of the way from the onset so we are clear. I don’t like Mr. Reuben Abati. Over the past five years, I have come to view him as a rather unpleasant human being…” Another commentator, Mandy in a piece titled “There is no engaging with a keynote Speaker” took the additional step of launching an online petition and called for signatures to “drop Reuben Abati” because in his or her view: “you cannot invite the person who killed me to come apologize at my funeral; things are not done that way.”

My offence is that I had participated in a discussion of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014 shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan signed it into law. Alimi, in particular, was on an Al-Jazeera panel with me. He  argued that I exhibited homophobia, defending the law. The complaints by the gay community were so loud and their objection to the possibility of my being allowed to invade “their space” was so trenchant. I called the organizers to ask if they were considering a change of mind about their choice of Keynote Speaker. Their answer was in the negative.

On December 14, I participated in what turned out to be a lively, engaging, open and inclusive symposium on Human Rights, Sexuality and The Law. I did not see any reason to beat about the bush. I opened my address with a response to Alimi and the critics. The labels used to describe me do not fit me. I am neither a homophobe nor an extremist. My views are liberal and I consider the rights of every man to be ontological, interdependent and indivisible. These rights are well-covered in all the major nine documents on International Human Rights, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948) and its 30 articles, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979). Nigeria is a signatory to majority of these conventions, protocols and covenants as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981). Chapters Two and Four of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, expressly uphold these rights.

The enactment of certain legislations such as – The Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, HIV/AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2014, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2015, the Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law No 15 of Lagos State, 2007, Gender Based Violation Prohibition Law of Ekiti State, 2011, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, the Legal Aid Act, 2011 and the Child Rights Act, 2003 – also point to considerable advancements in human rights legislation in Nigeria since 1999. Human rights are important. They are indeed matters of urgent and high priority because they are at the core of the idea of our humanity. They are indispensable vehicles for achieving peace, stability, justice and development in the world. Every human being is entitled to these rights; to devalue the right of any person is to violate that person’s right to dignity and justice.

Nigeria in spite of acknowledged advancements remains a nightmare where human rights are concerned. The failure of institutional mechanisms and the absence of political will to translate constitutional rights into effective human rights realities has resulted in what is clearly a governance and accountability crisis. The average Nigerian suffers the after-effects in various ways: poverty, lack of access to justice, violence, kidnappings, police brutality, extortion, wanton resort to self-help by both state and non-state actors, and a general regime of lawlessness reminiscent of the brutal days of military rule. Political leaders and state officials are so powerful that they have no regard for the people. They choose when it is convenient for them to respect court orders.

There is a disconnect between Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and what it does at home, creating conflicts and tensions in the implementation of human rights law. Nigeria is a member, for example, of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, but the government routinely ignores the rulings of this strategic regional court. Non-state actors are emboldened by the negligence of state actors to take the law into their hands, as seen in the conflict between Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights in Nigeria. Nigeria is a member of the International Labour Organization, the enabling principles of which are covered in the Labour Act, 2004, but with the unemployment crisis in the country, employers of labour trample on the rights of workers at will. The non-justiciability of the social, economic, cultural and group human rights goals in Chapter Two of the Nigerian Constitution further compounds the nightmare.

It is within this overall context of the human rights situation in Nigeria, that the issue of sexuality is to be located. Section 15 (2) of the 1999 Constitution talks about national integration without discrimination on the grounds of sex, among others. Section 17 states that the social order is founded on the ideals of “freedom, equality and justice”, while Section 17(3) says state policy shall be directed towards “all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever”, a goal that had earlier been covered also in Section 14(2)(b). Section 42 further upholds every Nigerian’s right to freedom from discrimination. Whereas the Constitution talks about sex, and not sexuality or gender orientation, the principle of equality before the law and the right to be human is without exemption of any persons or groups. Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights indeed says sex should be taken to include sexual orientation and gender.

Minority groups are often targets of violence in Nigeria – apart from ethnic and religious minorities, women, children, the girl-child and the physically challenged, perhaps the most targeted and the most violated in recent times are members of the LGBTQI community. Gays in Nigeria have found themselves in a hostile society. There have been reported cases of persons with suspected LGBTQI orientation being subjected to various forms of violence: kidnapping, extortion, rape, assault, inhuman and degrading treatment, denial of access to justice and curtailment of their fundamental rights.  The state looks the other way, the rest of society says serves them right.

There is no plan or structure in place for protecting gay persons in Nigeria from outright violation even by the police and the state. Section 214 of the Criminal Code criminalizes “any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. Section 217 thereof frowns at “gross indecency”. Similarly, Sections 284 and 405-408 of the Penal Code, and the Sharia Law in 12 states of the North make homosexuality a punishable felony. Public hostility towards the LGBTQI is widespread. It is risky to reveal sexual orientation in Nigeria. No political party or politician has formally endorsed LGBTQI rights in Nigeria.

The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014, which is a particular source of anxiety and the target of protest by the Nigerian and global LGBTQI community, establishes a legal basis for formal discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. This law forbids any form of gay marriage, or civil union (sections 1-3), the registration of gay clubs, societies and organisations or the holding of gay meetings (section 4(1)) and the display of amorous relationship between two persons of the same sex in Nigeria (section 4(2). Anybody who enters into a same sex marriage contract or runs a gay club or association or group or is seen to be aiding and abetting homosexuality is considered guilty of a felony. The punishment ranges from 10 to 14 years (section 5). Although the SSMPA deals with marriage or civil union, it is a much stronger law than the Criminal and Penal Codes and the Sharia on gay issues. It is a law fraught with ambiguities, which devalue the gay person’s rights to privacy, dignity of the human person, freedoms of expression and freedom from discrimination.

But it remains a popular law with the majority of Nigerians who rely on culture and traditional values, public morality as defined in Section 45 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, and the fact that Nigeria being a sovereign nation should be free to make its own laws and not subject itself to Western notions of sexuality. Research findings accordingly indicate that more than 95% of the Nigerian population considers homosexuality a sin. Religion and culture remain major barriers to human rights expression as seen in the case of Christians quoting such anti-gay Scriptural passages as Leviticus 18:22, 20:23, the poor fortunes of the Child Rights Act in spite of its ratification by 26 out of 36 states, constructive and continuing gender discrimination, and the disgraceful politicking over the Gender Equality and Prohibition of Violence Against Women Bill, 2016 which has now been reduced pathetically, at second reading, to a bill on violence and sexual abuse.

There are specific posers to be raised in relation to the SSMPA 2014. One, culture to the extent of its dynamism should evolve, and must not be erected into a given barrier to human rights expression. Two, human rights and sovereignty should not be antithetical. Three, who should determine what is right and wrong? Is there an objective universal morality in a world of diverse beliefs and practices? And is morality necessarily as determined by the majority? Can the majority possibly be wrong in a democracy?

Where sexuality is concerned, the insistence on basic rights can only be a continuous and inclusive struggle. The debate can only continue to evolve as society itself evolves. The irreducible minimum lies in the need by state and non-state actors to continue to make efforts to dismantle barriers and extend the frontiers of how human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Gay persons in Nigeria are subjected to police brutality and assault, targeted killings, hate crime, and sundry forms of discrimination. Their relatives are stigmatized. The jungle justice that is imposed on the community is outside the province of the law. Enforcing the law as it is, until it is amended, revised, or repealed, should be within the province of the rule of law, not the jungle. The right of all persons to freedom, justice and equality should be considered sacrosanct. Any law, which contradicts this principle, in its operation or expression, is to the extent of its inconsistency, questionable.

The more memorable aspect of the 2016 symposium on Human Rights, Sexuality and the Law, attended by both gay and non-gay persons, was the interactive session where further issues were raised and interrogated. One fellow stood up and insisted that I needed to apologise to the LGBTQI community for views I had expressed in the past. My response was that when I defended the SSMPA publicly in 2014, I was doing my duty as the Official Presidential Spokesperson. In that capacity, it was part of my responsibility to explain and promote government policies and decisions. A spokesman’s loyalty is to country, state, government and principal; he or she is essentially a Vuvuzela. Besides, the SSMPA is not a law about my personal views but the values and the choice of the majority of Nigerians. What people do with their private lives is their business as free human beings without interpreting freedom as absolute, however, but as a guarantee for the equality of all persons.

Someone else wanted to know why President Jonathan considered it expedient and urgent to sign a bill that was first proposed in 2006 into law. The chronology is that the National Assembly rejected the bill in 2007. It was passed by the Senate on Nov 29, 2011, by the House of Representatives on May 30, 2013 and signed into law on January 13, 2014. If President Jonathan had withheld assent, the National Assembly could have exercised its power of veto override. What is required, in all of this, to be honest, is not ex post facto hand-wringing and blame games, but continued advocacy and awareness building. Incidentally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has called on the Nigerian Government to consider a revision of the SSMPA given the manner in which it is being exploited to violate fundamental human rights. A day may well come when this would happen in line with the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, as has been experienced in Mozambique, Nepal and Nicaragua.

A lady stood up and added: “Dr Abati, it is important that you realise you are in our space. This is a very sensitive space and community. My husband is your very good friend, but I still think you owe this community an apology because even when doing your job as a government official, there are certain things you should not say.” I thought I already answered that question. Another lady intervened: “Hi, Dr Abati, I am made to understand you don’t believe we exist in Nigeria. Well, now you know we do. I am a citizen. I work in this country. I pay my taxes. My name is Pamela. And I am a Lesbian.”  I have never said any such dumb thing as to insist that the LGBTQI community does not exist either in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa. Having read Bernadine Evaristo and other writers on the subject, I have a clear understanding.

I left the symposium with two special gifts. The 2016 Human Rights Violations Report Based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigeria, a 61-page publication by TIERS Nigeria which was formally presented at the occasion and “Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe”: The Impact of Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, a 108-page publication by Human Rights Watch. Both publications provide detailed and up-to-date information including statistics and the impact of the law with regard to the status of the LGBTQI community in Nigeria, focusing mainly on human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. I recommend both publications for general reading and for the benefit of those seeking answers on the subject under review.

Sitting by my side during the interactive sessions was Olumide, the gifted and resourceful activist who runs TIERSNigeria. We reviewed the comments as they flowed forth from the participants in the room. What is clear is that there is a vibrant LGBTQI community in Nigeria led by internationally exposed, media-savvy and knowledgeable young men and women who are determined to insist on their fundamental human rights and their right to be who they want to be. They are aggrieved. They are organized. They have set up platforms for self-expression including the use of technology, publications, movies (re: Hell or High Water, November 2016), the media and other social networking opportunities. Their voice is likely to grow louder as they become more organized. For how much longer can they be ignored?

As the event drew to a close, the microphone got to a young fellow who incoherent at first, still managed to deliver his punch-line killer: “Please, I don’t understand what people are saying. They are saying they are liberal, or that we need to unlearn certain things. Liberal, about what? When you say you are liberal, it is like you are patronizing us. Can you talk about rice when you have not even tasted it?” Yes, I think. One of the privileges of intellection is the right to talk robustly and nineteen to the dozen about rice, without ever tasting it.

OPINION: The morning after #Christmas – By Reuben Abati

“How was your Christmas Day?”

“Comme ci, comme ca”

“What’s that?”

“I am speaking French. You mean you don’t even understand elementary French?”

“No, I don’t. Speak English. How was Christmas?”

“Low-key. Like this, like that”.

“For me, it was a dead-end Christmas”

“God forbid. May we never have a dead-end Christmas. I reject it in Jesus name.”

“If you like, summon the Holy Ghost. We have never had a Christmas like this one. On Christmas eve in Lagos, come and see people just going about, many of them aimlessly. The kind of shopping that heralds Christmas was absent. For the first time, I could see the real colour of sadness, frustration and regret on the people’s faces.”

“It depends on what part of Lagos you are talking about.  If you had been in Lekki or Victoria Island, you would have seen a different colour.”

“I know. There are two countries in one: the real Nigeria and the other Nigeria, where people live in a bubble. But the bubble is beginning to burst everywhere. With the Naira now N500 to the dollar, and businesses failing everyday, the pain is spreading. It was an unusual Christmas.”

“Everywhere jus’ dry. I know some people who used to hold Christmas parties every December 25.  They just decided to postpone it till next year. But did you at least manage to eat rice and chicken?”

“Anybody that eats rice these days is very lucky indeed, with a bag of rice now N20, 000. And you can’t even be sure it is real rice. I learnt the market was flooded with plastic rice.”

“Plastic rice? What does that taste like?”

“I guess like plastic. “

“Never heard of that. Plastic rice?”

“To be on the safe side, these days, I only eat Ofada rice. Local rice.”

“All kinds of things happen during recession. Plastic rice.  Empty pockets.”

“I know something about empty pockets, my brother. Imagine what I went through trying to get money from the ATM, two days to Christmas.  I went to about five banks, you’d think people were queuing for fuel, with everyone looking anxious.”

“I know.”

“One queue covered an entire street. When I eventually found an ATM and it was my turn, the machine just started blinking. I didn’t know when I started shouting Blood of Jesus, Blood of Jesus.”

“You should have planned ahead. I don’t know why people have to wait till the last minute before withdrawing money. Nigerians should learn to plan ahead.”

“I did. The ATMs misbehave a lot these days and they are always crowded.”

“There is no money in circulation. I hear the Central Bank is broke. The banks are just managing.”

“You have started, hen? How can the Central Bank of Nigeria be broke? For the past three weeks now, the spot price of crude oil has been over $50 per barrel. That’s some good revenue.”

“May be it is the banks that are broke then.  I just hope nobody has taken depositors’ funds to go and invest in the MMM.”

“What nonsense!”

“MMM was giving people better returns on their investments. Even bankers invested in the scheme. And now that the scheme has been frozen till January ending, there is panic everywhere. You would be surprised the kind of revelations that would come up if the profile of investors in the scheme is investigated.”

“Nigerians are always looking for quick profit, but I don’t believe that a bank will invest in MMM”

“Dey there. Look at the way special prayers, night vigils and deliverance sessions are being held over this MMM thing. Some churches are holding get-your-MMM-money-back prayer sessions, and when you attend those sessions, come and see crowd!  If that Ponzi scheme should crash eh, a lot of people will commit suicide.”

“One man sold his only car and invested the money in MMM.”

“I know. Some people sold their houses too.”

“The MMM scheme is a comment on the Nigerian banking system. Obviously, Nigerians don’t trust the banks and their miserable deposit interest rates.”

“Tell me, did you invest in the MMM?”

“No. But I almost did. I know some people who made huge profits from it. I was still contemplating putting some money down to test the waters when the alarm blew.”

“You are lucky, then.”

“I guess every investment is a risk.”

“I tried to make fun of some of my friends who invested in the MMM the other day. January 2017 has suddenly become the most important month in their lives.  The way they reacted, hen. I was accused of being insensitive and sadistic. I quickly shut up”.

“So, what are your plans for the new year?”

“I have no plans yet. But I have been following what the prophets are predicting.”

“You believe those predictions?  I just read them for fun. But this December, I have only read the predictions by Prophet Ayo Fayose”

“Prophet Ayo Fayose. Never heard of him. Which Christian Ministry does he lead?”

“The Ayo Fayose Evangelical Church of Yahweh, Iyana Jogunomi, Ori oke Ekiti-Kete.”

“You are joking!”

“Yes, I am. But you mean you don’t know that the Governor of Ekiti State is a prophet?. Every year, he also makes predictions about the coming year.  He has released his 2017 predictions”

“Seriously, is he also among the Prophets?”

“Uhn hun.  In his latest predictions, he talks about how the Holy Spirit directed him.”

“I hear, though, that he has been anointed by Daddy G.O. Pastor Adeboye.”

“Anointment comes from God. What happened is that Pastor Adeboye commended Fayose publicly for leading his people courageously and defending their interests.”

“The APC won’t like that”

“Daddy G.O is not a politician.”

“But have you not heard that the Ekiti Chapter of the APC issued a statement to say that Fayose bribed Pastor Adeboye?”

“May the Holy Ghost slap the mouth of anybody who utters that blasphemy. The Bible says touch not my anointed. The Bible also says He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world.  The word of God is greater than politics. “

“The way you are carrying on, the APC in Ekiti will issue another statement to say you have also been bribed by Fayose.  Anyway don’t worry, they have denied the statement. But the PDP in Ekiti has also issued a statement saying the denial is an after-thought.  Too much politics in that their Ekiti.”

“Forget about them. But what did the Governor predict, if I may ask? You mean, he has so much free time on his hands; he is busy making predictions. In any case, many of these predictions are somehow. Anybody can predict Nigeria’s future at anytime. It is always something like: I foresee a crisis in the Niger Delta. I foresee a change of cabinet. I foresee deaths in Nollywood. I foresee changes at the Central Bank. I foresee the emergence of a new political party…I foresee Donald Trump creating tension in the world.  Three prominent traditional rulers should pray against sickness and bereavement…. Common sense.”

“Oh, oh.”

“But how come no prophet predicted that Nigerian soldiers will capture Sambisa forest and drive out the Boko Haram or that a day after, there will be suicide bombing at a cattle market in Maiduguri? “

“Suicide bombing at a cattle market? What is the target?”

“No prophet foresaw the killings in Southern Kaduna and the waste of human lives or that a white man will be arrested inside Sambisa forest. You don’t have to be a prophet to know tomorrow”


“We should thank God for everything and for the joy of surviving Christmas in a season of recession. We should also thank God we are not in Saudi Arabia, but in our country, Nigeria.”

“What has Saudi Arabia got to do with Christmas? I don’t get it.”

“It is a crime to celebrate Christmas in Saudi Arabia. This year, seven Africans – 4 Nigerians, 2 Ghanaians, and one Kenyan were arrested in Saudi Arabia for playing Christmas Carols, they could be sent to jail for 10 years.”

“What? For playing Christmas songs?”

“I understand there is even an Islamic cleric in India, Zakir Abdul Karim Naik who told Muslim brothers and sisters not to wish Christians Merry Christmas, because it is a “big sin, worst evil, worse than fornication or murder.” What is the world turning into: A world of hate, bigotry and intolerance. Tell me it is not true. ”

“It is true.”


“Sorry about the fire accident at Nigerian Breweries in Lagos. I know you drink beer.”

“If you want to talk about something else, do so”

“I am just concerned that there are too many fire accidents taking place these days.  When petrol tankers are not exploding on the highways, markets are being gutted by fire, companies and houses are going up in flames.  The Lagos State Fire Service reported for example that 45 markets in Lagos had fire accidents between January and September 2016 alone.”

“The Fire Service should not moan. They need to do a lot more to educate the people about safety precautions and ensure that buildings respect the Fire Code. They also need to be better organized to deal with emergencies.”

“The Fire Service in Nigeria is poorly funded.”

“Harmattan. Dry season. The possibility of more fire accidents is high. The public should be sensitized all the same.”

“Most of the fire accidents are due to electrical faults, either faulty connections or power surge. We need a national safety programme to prevent fire outbreaks. Every market and major company should have a fire station. There should be fire hydrants across every major city.”

“I’d just say that prevention is better than cure.”

“Who is your Man of the Year, 2016?”

“Man of the Year. Who is yours?”

“Yours first”

“Let me see. I’ll choose the Nigerian Soldier.  The Nigerian soldier is practically holding Nigeria together. He is underpaid, over-used, overstretched, denied access to equipment, and money and often subjected to the harshest possible conditions. Our soldiers are involved in one operation or the other across the country, protecting the country and even doing police work.  Operation Crocodile Tears, Operation Harmony, Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Delta Safe, Operation Gama Aiki, Operation MESA, Operation Awatse, Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Maximum Security. From one region to the other, the Nigerian soldier is busy keeping Nigeria safe from kidnappers, terrorists, secessionists, oil bunkerers, cattle rustlers and extremists.”

“Our soldiers have even been sent abroad to learn cattle rearing because their next assignment includes the management of cattle ranches. I agree with you. I salute their courage.”

“And who is your own man of the year?”

“I’ll choose the average Nigerian for the resilience, the capacity and the courage to suffer and smile at the same time”.

Reuben Abati: #BidoungChallenge – Sycophancy reigns supreme in Africa

Cameroonians got their chance of introducing into the syllabus of Comedy and Other Comic Forms (a subject I taught in my other career), what seemed like a variant of the domestic nature of humour and wit, when in the last week and more days, they forced humour out of what seemed like an ordinary situation and added to the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Mannequin Challenge, what has become known internationally as the #Bidoung Challenge or the #CourberDosChallenge.


While we were busy here disgracing the Super Falcons who won the Golden Trophy at the 10th African Women Cup of Nations Championship Football Tournament (AWCON), by refusing to pay them their entitlements, and forcing them to take to the streets to advertise national shame and disgrace, the Cameroonians who came second in the tournament, were treated to a Presidential banquet and special romp with the President and his wife. It was a special occasion in sports whereby a silver medal was better rewarded than a gold medal and in this instance, an odd commentary on sovereignty and its priorities.


There are other comparisons in terms of the attitude of the managers involved. Nigeria’s red-beret-wearing Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, a graduate of the University of Jos and a lawyer I am told, publicly confessed that Nigeria did not expect the Super Falcons to win. They got to the Semi-Finals and they were not expected to win and this was the reason their allowances were not paid? This same man, maybe he should stop wearing a red beret, would later revise the English Language and say on tape that the “money that was spended on the Falcons was well spended”. Gbagaun!


Shame on WAEC! WAEC, you see your shame? How do we justify this kind of grammatical seppuku by someone who purportedly passed School Certificate English? Abi, Lobade oh, Abi, Lobatan oh. This same fellow two months back kept the Nigerian male soccer team stranded in Atlanta and wondered why they were going to the Olympics. Compare and contrast him with the Minister of Sports and Physical education in Cameroon. His name is Pierre Ishmael Bidoung Mkpwatt. His team, the Lionesses of Cameroon came second in the 10th edition of the AWCON. He got them a Presidential reception, handshakes and all that. But when it was his turn to greet the President and his wife, Mkpwatt bent down so low, the whole of Cameroon erupted in laughter and for weeks, Mkpwatt has been the butt of trans-national joke. How low should any government official bend to show loyalty to a President? Mkpwatt’s bend- down-low greeting went viral on social media, and has since inspired so many memes and imitations, with goats, cats and humans, ridiculing the Minister.


Mkpwatt was so grateful the team under his watch came second; he was willing to kiss the floor. Here in Nigeria, our own team has been subjected to ridiculous humiliation. In Cameroon, they are laughing and having fun, over their second place prize, here in Nigeria we are gnashing our teeth over our distinction, and behaving as if it was wrong for the national team to have won the gold medal. Something is not right. Cameroonians are not worrying about what was spent for their country to win the Silver Medal, Nigeria’s Sports Minister is bragging about “what was spended” to get a gold medal. When we are all spent with “spended” funds and we are left with a demoralized female soccer team that has won the AWCON eight record times, then we would probably in the future realize how we “spended” useful talents that could always lift the nation’s spirits and foreground our sovereignty in strategic areas of strength. A silver medal brought Cameroon so much humour and wit; a gold medal brought Nigeria so much agony, regret and embarrassment. This is the first sub-text of the Bidoung Challenge in the context of crucial sovereign questions.


Let us now return to Cameroon. Cameroonians obviously don’t know when to laugh. Mkpwatt’s offence is that he bent too low while paying respects to imperial leader, Paul Biya. Respect is something important to Africans. Mkpwatt probably overdid it. One online-parody showed him bending 90 degrees at a 30 metres distance remove. By any normal standards, that is too much of a show of respect. Other memes, google this, are worse, cats and goats got into the matter with Cameroonians bending so tragically low and purportedly making fun of Sports Minister Mkpwatt. What nobody has said is that the man actually being ridiculed is President Paul Biya. They are ridiculing his 34 years of autocratic rule. The national objection to autocratic, patriarchal rule through comedy is a way of saying we have had enough, sir. Why should we all bend so low to make you so important? Comedy after all as Hugh Walpole tells us, is “for those who think while tragedy is for those who feel”. Cameroonians through the Bidoung challenge are saying therefore that they are tired of the culture of subservience, too many years of Cameroonians bowing down to one man who doesn’t want to leave. When is Biya planning to leave? Beyond the comedy, this is the message. He has been President for more than 30 years. We are all tired of him. We don’t want him behaving like he is a President for life. Africa’s biggest problem is the continued existence of sit-tight rulers. Our rulers don’t believe in democracy. They believe that there will be no country without them or their sons and very soon, their daughters. Just look at Gambia, the Republic of Congo, Equitorial Guinea and Gabon. Even the recently elected leaders behave like monarchs.


In this matter, Nigerians are better off. Nigerians have now reached a stage in our democratic evolution where they seem to believe that nobody can steal their mandate. And the way they are all waiting for 2019, it looks like they believe in the sanctity of democracy. But I will like to defend Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Pierre Mkpwatt. Nobody outside Cameroon has accused him of speaking out of turn like our red beret guy who doesn’t know the elementary difference between “spend” and “spent.” But the Cameroonian Sports Minister’s biggest offence is his bending “down too low.” In Africa, I beg, that is not a big deal. There is something in Africa called eye service in the corridors of power.


Mkpwatt is the latest victim of the eye service syndrome in Africa’s corridors of power. I have seen pictures of the US President Barrack Obama carrying his own umbrella. Members of his staff call him Barrack. In Germany, Angela Merkel still cooks for her husband every Sunday, and she goes to the groceries store to get special delicacies. I am not making this up. She said so in my presence. In the Western world a leader is not considered God, he or she is a citizen. The problem we have in Africa is that the leaders behave like they are monarchs. Mkpwatt bending so low to greet President Biya was merely succumbing to an African expectation and tradition; in fact, if he had prostrated, he would not have been out of place. Abusing and maligning him is hypocritical. Any other Cameroonian would have bent just as low if not lower.


And Nigerians need not act superior. Even here, people bend too low to show loyalty to the reigning President. One prominent figure once told me that it is survival strategy. Nigerian opportunists bend even far lower, they prostrate, and they utter all kinds of stupidities to impress the man of power. Sycophancy is the biggest challenge to power in Nigeria. There are too many people approaching the man of power telling him things and seeking to influence him, They would kneel down if they have to. They will recite the Holy Books if they think that will help. They will do whatever it takes to have their way. All of this is never in the interest of the people.


A former privileged government official once told me that he found himself on one occasion at the Presidential Villa whereby he arrived and he found everyone kneeling down before the President. He thought it was odd and he didn’t think he had to kneel down. He stood his ground and stood up but the President was growling at him and he too was looking back. At that moment, he suddenly saw a respected national figure, who slumped onto his knees and started crawling towards the President, shouting “Rankadede” with clinched and raised fists, as he did so. What was he supposed to do? He went on his knees! In some government houses, the Governors sit on thrones. When they stand up, their subordinates also stand. When they sit, the subordinates also sit. When they go for lunch, or dinner, no appointee eats anything other than what the Governor eats. The protocol is that you cannot obey an order of gravity that positions you higher than the big man. This is precisely the Biodung Challenge. The Sports Minister had to stay away from and below the big man. It is worse in Nigeria where people actually kneel down or prostrate to the man of power or his wife, even when there is no need for such overt expression of loyalty.


The irony of it all is that the same people who bend down so low may not recognise the same man of power once he is out of office. The same Mkpwatt that is bending so low for President Biya may claim tomorrow that he no longer has his phone number. Unfortunately, Paul Biya plans to die in office.

OPINION: The Yahya Jammeh problem By Reuben Abati

When President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia conceded defeat after the December 1, Presidential elections in that West African country of 1.9 million people, the gesture was widely hailed and described as an indication of great hope for democracy in Africa and particularly for The Gambia, which Jammeh had ruled with an iron fist for 22 years. That election was also perhaps the most important political development in The Gambia in 52 years – the first change of government through democratic elections. The winner of the Presidential election, Adama Barrow, was the product of a coalition of opposition parties who provided the platform for the people’s yearning for change. Adama Barrow (the British press should please stop referring to him condescendingly as a former Argos’ security guard!), became the symbol of the people’s hopes, and of freedom from Jammeh’s tyrannical rule that was benchmarked by its brutality, love of witchcraft and human rights abuses. Jammeh’s concession made it seem as if all his past sins would be forgiven.


But on December 9, he made a volte-face going on state television to say he could no longer accept the results of the election and that he had decided to annul the results. It is alleged that Jammeh may have resorted to this because of an alleged missing 365, 000 votes and the adjustment of the final results by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which showed that Adama Barrow had won with less than 20, 000 votes, hence Jammeh cited “unacceptable errors” which had come to light. This, if of any consequence at all, seems contrived.


If Jammeh as candidate in the election has any grouse, the appropriate place to seek redress is in court, and the Gambian Constitution provides for a 10-day window within which to file a petition. That 10-day period of grace expires today. By annulling the election single-handedly without recourse to the courts (the promise to do so by his party, the APRC, is an after-thought), Jammeh is guilty of an assault on the sovereignty of the Gambian people.  His conduct is objectionable and should be considered an act of high treason. Jammeh suffers from the delusion that his love of power and personal ambition is more important than the stability and progress of his country. The people’s will as confidently expressed on December 1 is supreme. Jammeh should be made to realize that he is just another citizen and that The Gambia is not his personal estate.


The African Union, ECOWAS and the UN Security Council as well as the international community in general have condemned the infamy that Jammeh is seeking to foist on his people. But the AU and ECOWAS should take the lead in coming to the rescue of The Gambian people. The long-term objective, in case Yahya Jammeh does not relent, is to invoke the Constitutive Acts and Principles of both bodies on democratic transition and thus “criminalize” any further attempt by Jammeh to violate the democratic process. We appreciate the fact that ECOWAS leaders: chairperson Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and the Presidents of Nigeria (Muhammadu Buhari), Sierra Leone (Ernest Bai Koroma), Ghana (John Dramani Mahama) and Guinea (Alpha Conde) are in fact meeting with President Jammeh today in Banjul. They will also meet with opposition coalition leaders. The primary task of that team should be to bring all parties concerned to the negotiating table, insist on the supremacy of the people’s will and advise Yahya Jammeh to obey the rule of law.

       It is possible that he would refuse to listen. Before now, this Gambian anti-hero has shown a capacity to defy the international community. He once turned himself into a herbal doctor and claimed he had found a cure for HIV/AIDS. In 2013, he pulled his country out of the Commonwealth. He is also opposed to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ironically, the current chief prosecutor of the ICC is a Gambian, Fatou Bensouda. Yahya Jammeh is also an incurable megalomaniac, given his love of titles: H.E. Sheikh Prof. Dr. Alhaji President Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa. On many occasions, he wanted to be Chairman of the ECOWAS, but his colleague-Presidents always turned him down in favour of much junior Presidents who met him in office. For a while he shunned many international engagements, sending his Vice President instead. To be fair to him though, he is not as stupid as he is made to appear internationally and he has probably realized that the game is up. But could Yahya Jammeh be playing a game, to negotiate, to gain amnesty?


His relapse out of that moment of lucidity that saw him conceding defeat on December 2 may well have been caused not by his claim of “unacceptable errors”, but fear. The Gambian situation may end up providing special lessons in how triumphant opposition parties should manage victory in order not to provoke a succession crisis. Dictators in general are afraid of what will happen to them when they are no longer in power and hence, many of them hang on to office until they die or they are disgraced out. While the antidote to this is good governance, it is also pragmatic to situate certain responses within the context of post-election realities.


In The Gambia, the post-election situation has been poorly managed. Jammeh and Barrow have met only once since the election was won and lost. They are practically not on speaking terms. The opposition, apparently due to lack of knowledge and tact, has also been busy threatening to deal with Jammeh as soon as he hands over power. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, who led the victorious coalition has been busy taunting Jammeh. She is a perfect illustration of how much damage reckless windbaggery can do to opposition politics.


Madame Fatoumata says Jammeh will be prosecuted.  Gambia will rejoin the International Criminal Court and Jammeh will be sent to The Hague for trial. Jammeh says he’d like to retire to his farm in his native Kanilai, Madame says he will not be allowed to do so, because he has “bunkers and treasure” there and enough weapons to start an insurrection. He won’t even be allowed to go abroad. “He can’t leave. If he leaves, he’s going to escape us”, she says. And she adds: “we don’t trust him. The longer we leave him, the more possibilities he has to leave the country to escape the country and even do an insurgency…Senegal is very alert. Nobody trusts him…” She further referred to Jammeh’s wife as a “gold-digger” who should be put on trial and jailed. It is precisely this kind of reckless post-election rhetoric that threatens peaceful ruling-party-to-opposition-tra nsition in Africa. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambalang’s tactlessness has to be managed. She and Samsudeen Sarr should shut up, at least for now!


Yahya Jammeh’s response has just been as vengeful. He quickly promoted loyal officers in the military and got the military hierarchy to recant. He also sent soldiers onto the streets of Banjul and Serekunda and other parts of the country to subdue an already frightened populace. He had admitted the result of the Presidential election as the “will of Allah”, but now he is relying on his own will to protect and preserve himself. The early exposure of the mind of the opposition has driven Jammeh back into the trap of tyranny and unless the situation is well managed, we may have a serious crisis in The Gambia with a well-resourced dictator turned rebel. What is playing out in The Gambia right now is a two-way politics of vengeance, which leaves both the people and the governance process stranded. Getting the country out of that logjam should be the main remit of the ECOWAS mission.


The ECOWAS leaders visiting Banjul must engage The Gambian military hierarchy. Jammeh is in the process of using them to carry out another coup. His first coup was against Dawda Jawara, 22 years ago, the current effort is designed as a coup against the people and the opposition. And even if he does not get away with it, he is determined to plant enough problems that would make The Gambia impossible to govern after his exit. Right now, The Gambian military has lost its mind. Chief of Defence Staff General Ousman Badjie endorsed the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election and pledged loyalty to the people and the elected in-coming government, but after the bribery of military promotions, the same CDS started insisting on another election. A divided, psychopathic military is a serious problem to any country. We saw that in Guinea-Bissau and Mali. The ECOWAS team must make it clear to The Gambian military leaders that there will be no regional backing for any act of lunacy. 


ECOWAS has its own problems. Oftentimes, ECOWAS leaders succumb to unnecessary compromises. They should not return from The Gambia with any unholy compromise. Yahya Jammeh lost the election on December 1. He boasted before then that any election in The Gambia is “rig-proof” and “fraud-proof”. In four previous elections, he won with a landslide. Now, all of a sudden, elections conducted under him are no longer “rig-proof”. He should pack out of the Presidential Villa and allow The Gambia to move on without him. He is the latest victim of coalition opposition politics in Africa. His defeat should send a clear message to the other sit-tight, royalist leaders across the continent. The long-term solution to the Yahya Jammeh problem should be the introduction of a Constitutional term limit for The Gambian Presidency to prevent Jammeh from ruling as he once claimed for “one billion years!”  


Above all, Yahya Jammeh is a spoilsport. He jumped out of his moment of lucidity just when we were celebrating the good news from Ghana. John Mahama is Ghana’s first one-term democratically elected President since 1992, but he has been gallant in defeat and most gracious. There is no chance he will behave like Jammeh. He is educated. He has a good head. He is a thinker and a writer. He certainly has a brighter future ahead of him.

Reuben Abati: The threat of a new political party.

When aggrieved politicians within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decided to join forces with members of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the All Progressives Peoples Alliance (APGA) to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, they had well-defined, if not so clearly stated, even if poorly conceived objectives: to send President Goodluck Jonathan out of power, displace the PDP which had clearly become a dominating hegemonic party, exert vengeance and offer the people an alternative.


The triumph of the APC in the 2015 elections resulting in victory at the Presidential level, in 23 states out of 36, and also in the legislature, state and federal, was propelled on the wings of the people’s embrace of this slogan of change. Change became the aphrodisiac of Nigeria’s search for democratic progress. The new party’s promises were delivered with so much certainty and cock-suredness. Those who were promised free meals were already salivating before casting the first vote.


The permanently opportunistic players in Nigeria’s private sector could be seen trading across the lines as they have always done. Everyone knew the PDP had too much internal baggage to deal with. The opposition exploited this to the fullest and they were helped in no small measure, not just by the party’s implosion, but also the offensiveness of the claims by certain elements within the PDP that their party will rule Nigeria forever. This arrogance had gone down the rank and file resulting in bitter conflicts among the various big men who dominated the party. The party failed from within, and even after losing the 2015 elections, it has further failed to recover from the effects of the factionalism that demystified it and drove it out of its hegemonic comfort zone. It took the PDP 16 years to get that hubristic moment. It is taking the APC a much shorter time to get to that same moment.


The displacement of the PDP gave the impression that Nigeria’s political space, hitherto dominated by one party, and a half, out of over 30 political parties with fears of a possible authoritarian one-party system, had become competitive. But the victory of a new party over a dominant political party in power such as occurred in 2015, has not delivered the much-expected positives: instead, questions have been raised about the depth of democratic change and the quality of Nigeria’s political development. The disappointment on both scores has been telling.


The ruling APC has not been able to live up to expectations. In less than two years in power, it has been behaving not like the PDP, but worse. Not a day passes without a pundit or a party member or a civil society activist suggesting that the only way forward is the formation of a new political party. There are over 30 registered political parties in Nigeria; no one is saying that these political parties should be reorganized and made more functional; the received opinion is that a new political party would have to replace the APC.


The implied message is the subject of political science. Many political parties in Africa, not just in Nigeria, lack substance. They reflect the problematic nature of party politics in the continent, even after the third wave of the continent’s democratic experience. Party organizations are weak, their organs are inchoate, their fortunes are mercurial. In Nigeria, this seems to be more of a post-military rule reality, for in the First and Second Republics, some of Nigeria’s political parties appeared to be more relatively people-based and socially-rooted. The military left behind an authoritarian streak at the heart of Nigeria’s party politics, producing political parties since 1999 that do not fully reflect or assimilate the people’s yearnings.


There isn’t therefore yet in place a mass-based, people-driven political party to replace the elite-based hegemonic parties we have, despite early efforts in the past in this direction by the likes of Aminu Kano and his People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Movement of the People (MOP), Tunji Braithwaite’s Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), Gani Fawehinmi’s National Conscience Party (NCP) and Wole Soyinka’s Democratic Front for the People’s Federation. There was also the Labour Party, mentioned separately here, advisedly, because it ended up abandoning its social democratic base, and became like the regular parties, an elite cabal, with the initial progressives who championed it on the platform of the Nigeria Labour Congress, moving ideologically to the right in an attempt to align with the Nigerian mainstream and its ready benefits. A profile of this political party and its initial principal promoters would reveal just how alimentary Nigerian politics is.


Our immediate concern, however, is to argue that those who are raising the flag of a new political party as the answer to the emerging failure of the APC and the growth of factions among its members, and by extension, the spreading despair in the land, are missing the point. They are not promising any revolutionary change nor are they interested in deepening Nigeria’s democratic change. Permit me to quote Danjuma Gambo, of the Enugu Chapter of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) who reportedly said: “A new political party is what we need. A new party with new plan, (and an) ideology that will bring succor to the sufferings of Nigerians is the answer.”


Gambo deserves some credit: he phrases the matter delicately as a commentary on the incumbent dominating political party and government. His “what we need”, “new plan” “ideology” means change, another form of change to end, he tells us, “the sufferings (sic) of Nigerians”. We ask him, although he seems to have answered the question already: what happened to the change that happened in 2015? So we ask another question: if the formation of a new political party did not solve Nigeria’s problems since 2015, what is the guarantee that a new party would gain power and perform better than the ruling APC? Professional politicians don’t comment on the matter as carefully as Gambo attempted. They are brazen about it and they have been loud too. They make it sound like a threat and a given solution. When you hear them boasting that a new political party is on the way, you are left in no doubt that they are issuing a threat. But is a new political party the solution to Nigeria’s foreign exchange crisis or the people’s angst?


The conundrum is easy to resolve. It is easy for the political elite in Nigeria to change their garments, sans remorse, ideology or sentiment and that is how some of the most prominent political figures in Nigeria today have changed party membership cards more than five times in the last 17 years. The politics of elitism in Nigeria is simply about access to power, position and privileges. It has nothing to do with the people’s interests. The APC is in crisis for this reason, very much like the PDP, and even the smaller parties, because these are political parties of big men of influence. Conflict results when they are not allowed to exercise that influence by other competing big men, who are similarly if not equally driven by ego, religion and superior ethnic considerations.


The exercise of influence as a party big man follows a known pattern: after electoral victory, the big man wants the spoils of victory; he wants positions for his followers, contracts for wives and children and the freedom to have a say in the new government. Any attempt to shut him down, oppose him, or sideline him or her, immediately creates a crisis within the party. The greater the number of such big persons who feel short-changed and marginalized, the greater the chances of such factionalism that would trigger threats of a new political party. New groups can create new tendencies in society, but in Nigerian politics, new groups don’t really emerge, it is the same recycled set moving from one political party to a new or another one, looking for benefits.


Poverty, low literacy and the weakness of public institutions make the people vulnerable. The people embrace slogans and the dividends of what is now known in Nigeria as “stomach infrastructure.” They are deceived by the politicians’ display of affection and empathy. Because they are hungry, they accept money to attend rallies to help create an illusion of populism and acceptability. On election day, they sell their votes and sign off their freedom. After the election, they are too ashamed to speak up or they compensate for their psychological distress by subscribing to the politics of vengeance. A patrimonial and neo-patrimonial political system such as we run in Nigeria promotes nothing but difference, disappointment and distrust. Those who are plotting to create a new political party should be told that the harvest is predictable: more intense leadership competition, high level conflict among big men, greater deception, increased difference and tension within the polity. Political parties are governed by rules: the Nigerian political system operates above rules. It is possibly one of the most Machiavellian in Africa.


What do we need? Not recycled politicians posing as new party men and women. But this: effective party organizations, like the NCNC, the NEPU, the NPC, the AG, APGA, UPN, UMBC of old which belonged to the people and reflected their aspirations. The only difference should be a necessary disconnect with the politics of ethnicity at the heart of the party formation process in Africa which, as seen, defeats the objectives of true democracy and modernization. Institutionalization of the political party system will also ensure stability within the democratic order: after a bitter political contest in the United States in 2016, the two dominant political parties – The Republican and the Democratic have remained stable, and the country is being projected as supreme.


We should end this then where we started: leadership is the principal challenge. Until we sort that out, Nigeria’s politics will remain trapped in the throes of ethnicity, patrimonialism, authoritarian dominance, the threat of system volatility and fragmentation and the politics of revenge.

OPINION: The sad news of Trump’s triumph By Reuben Abati

Democracy is tricky; it sometimes ends up as a parody of itself.  When the people clamour for change, they can vote with their hearts, and prove impervious to plain sight reason, and overlook likely pitfalls.  We can only hope that Donald Trump does not become the symbol of the change that Americans are seeking. That would be sad indeed for the free world.”  – Reuben Abati,  “Anything Can Happen in America”, The Guardian, March 6, 2016. 

Earlier this year, I had written a piece titled “Anything Can Happen In America”, from which the quote above is excerpted, but I had virtually no idea that the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election could be so shocking, unthinkable and unbelievable. I was like the pollsters, the cultural activists, the Nobel Laureates, the American media establishment and the global community, minus Russia and Vladimir Putin, a Clintonite. I stood with her. When the unthinkable happened on Tuesday, and Americans chose as their 45th President, Donald John Trump, the real estate developer, reality television celebrity, a complete outsider who stumbled on politics and turned it into a celebrity show, I could only ask: how did it happen?


The triumph of Trumpism, a byword for incorrect conduct, misogyny, hate, racism, nativism, isolationism, anger, and defiance is sad news for the world. It is an assault on the ideals of American democracy. Trump’s triumph has left America more divided than it was a week ago, and the prospects of that nation rescuing itself from the tragic mistake it seems to have made may take long in coming. The same country that champions it the most has exposed the underbelly of democracy, that beloved option for global leadership, ironically.


Democracy is said to be driven by the values of good rather than evil, of humanity as opposed to inhumanity, individual freedom and rights rather than oppression, inclusion as different from exclusion but the same model of governance hands over power to the majority. As we have seen, the majority may not necessarily represent the will of all the people, or even the real majority, it is the choice that is made by the voting majority or as determined by the guiding rules as in the case of the United States: and no matter how stupid, illogical or unreasonable that choice may be, it is taken as the voice of the people and it is binding. This dictatorship of the determined majority has nothing to do with popular opinion or goodwill, but the actual choice that is made according to the guiding rules of the game.


Democracy, relying on the strength of numbers and local rules has fed many countries with statistically right but logically wrong outcomes.  The outcome in the United States this week is completely confusing.  And that explains why there have been protests across America by those chanting “notmypresident” to express their dismay over Trump’s surprise win. This is the first time in a long while that the outcome of an American Presidential election will leave the entire country so tragically divided the morning after. Even the international community is in shock. Trump’s triumph is a threat to the liberal standards on which the global order is anchored.  Hillary Clinton in her concession speech said her defeat is “painful and it will be for a long time.” Not necessarily for her but for America and the rest of the world.  The deepest cut is in America’s heart; the wound that has been inflicted therein by Americans themselves will be felt for a long time to come.


This year’s American general election should inspire a deeper interrogation into the nature of democracy and its many pitfalls. The people of the United States had a plain choice between good and bad alternatives. More than any other American Presidential candidate in this election, Hillary Clinton got the most impactful endorsements, yet she did not win. If the rest of the world had been asked to vote, she would have won by a landslide, but it was up to the Americans themselves to choose their own President, and they have just told us to mind our own businesses in our countries.  Hillary Clinton is urbane, experienced, charming and gifted. She has proved her mettle as First Lady, Senator and as Secretary of State.  She won the Presidential debates, ran a dignified and organized campaign and won the confidence of every critical constituency.  Bernie Sanders who ran against her for the Democratic party’s ticket and Donald Trump, as well as their agents in many places threw mud in her direction, but the polls favoured her to the last minute.           


The pollsters have been proven wrong by the choice that America has made. Hillary Clinton gave hope to generations of women across the world. Her emergence as America’s President would have broken the glass ceiling at the most powerful spot in the world, and energized young men and women across the world. America has decided to spit in the face of history and opt for misogyny birthed by ultra-conservatism. Confronted with the obvious choice of a decent, tested and experienced woman who could have given them the prize of two Presidents for the price of one, they chose a foul-mouthed, egoistic, bombastic, free-wheeling outsider with a wife whose body shape and naked assets would be part of a yet uncertain legacy.


America’s future post-Trump’s triumph is uncertain because what Trump stands for, the little that we know about that, raises nothing but anxiety, definitely not confidence.  America has as President in waiting a man elected on the wings of sheer populism and racist, nativist propaganda. His campaign was anchored on the hate-propelled belief that the only way to make America great again is to shut out Muslims, blacks, immigrants, intruding neighbours from Mexico and Latin America, keep Americans for Americans only so they can have jobs and prosper, and the spin that America is not safe in the hands of women whom he considers fit only as objects and pieces of decoration.


By voting Trump, America with its intriguing electoral college system, which robs a popular candidate on technical grounds, has deleted the triumph of American-led neo-liberal progressivism in the global order. The sad news in part is that this is also a growing trend in Europe, the equivalent of Brexit. Trump’s triumph is however worse than Brexit. It is not likely “to make America great again.” It is more likely to reduce, if not jeopardize America’s influence as a stabilizing force in the global system. Donald Trump as Presidential candidate repudiated America’s commitments within the global system. He says he will pull out US troops and command stations in Europe and Asia. If he keeps to his words, he could create such instability across the globe that would result in countries which otherwise depended on the United States looking out for themselves security-wise.


Trump is perhaps America’s nemesis: too much rationalization and over-simplification of everything was bound to get the United States into trouble. The chasm between the American establishment and its ordinary people has been blown open. Washington is a living symbol of correctness on every stage, but now the people have rejected Washington and its politics. There have been about 44 female Presidents across the world, and now, the most powerful country in the world has proven itself to be less progressive than India, Bangladesh, Brazil, South Korea, Liberia, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Croatia, Nepal, Taiwan, Chile, Costa Rica, Philippines, Indonesia, Iceland, Malta, and even Kosovo! America preaches inclusion and unity in diversity, but the white, blue-collar and middle-class Americans who voted majorly for Donald Trump have shown that the average American is not interested in diversity; they want America to themselves alone. America is not a country of nationalities, it is a country of immigrants, and yet the settled immigrants want to shut the door of the land of dreams to others. Donald Trump exploited their fears. He has proven that it is possible to become President by appealing to the people’s basest instincts.  Shameful.


Trump, Machiavelli’s “great-great-grandson” has through dirty tricks created a revolution from which even the same party that saw him as an outsider and treated his emergence as flag-bearer as an accident has benefitted. The Republican Party owes its ascendancy in the White House and Capitol Hill to this outsider who brought the tactics of Machiavelli, soap opera and television shows to push a failing party back to reckoning. Trump is neither Republican nor Democrat; he belongs to the party of the streets, of a racist American street motivated by a determination to reverse the misfortune of disappearing jobs in inner America, inability of make ends meet, pay children’s school fees or live decently.  Americans chose Trump because he spoke the language of the streets and projected himself as their messiah. He projected himself, in his own words, as the champion of “the forgotten men and women of our country…People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am their voice”. And so the people think, and so they voted for him so enthusiastically they even handed him the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which secured his victory and ended the emerging Clinton dynasty.  He is the candidate of America’s children of anger.


Trump’s organized blackmail and dirty job may have given him the biggest job in the world but it will not sustain him there or make him a great President. The easiest thing to do is to promise the people change by pulling down the sitting government and the entire political Establishment. In Trump’s reckoning, he did not just defeat Hillary Clinton; he has defeated Barrack Obama, the entire Washington Establishment and its allies. Inexperienced, badly prepared and ignorant, as is the common consensus, Trump has to run the most complex governance system in the world. He can repudiate his campaign promises and turn 360 degrees. This is not beyond him. In the last year, his position on anything and everything has changed from one stop to another. Or he may choose to fulfill his bizarre promises and imperil the American Presidency and the global order. One option will expose and ridicule him. The other may fetch him the aggrieved assassin’s bullet or a one-term Presidency that could end up either as a tragi-comedy or a nauseating farce. The fulfillment of the Simpsons’ and Michael Moore’s prophecy is the highest point of America’s disillusionment. Soon enough, America will learn, at substantial cost, new lessons about its new reality.  Take it easy, Hillary. Destiny is what waits for every person behind the dream. 

Reuben Abati: The Sad News of Trump’s Triumph

Democracy is tricky; it sometimes ends up as a parody of itself. When the people clamour for change, they can vote with their hearts, and prove impervious to plain sight reason, and overlook likely pitfalls. We can only hope that Donald Trump does not become the symbol of the change that Americans are seeking. That would be sad indeed for the free world.” – Reuben Abati, “Anything Can Happen in America”, The Guardian, March 6, 2016.

Earlier this year, I had written a piece titled “Anything Can Happen In America”, from which the quote above is excerpted, but I had virtually no idea that the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election could be so shocking, unthinkable and unbelievable. I was like the pollsters, the cultural activists, the Nobel Laureates, the American media establishment and the global community, minus Russia and Vladimir Putin, a Clintonite. I stood with her. When the unthinkable happened on Tuesday, and Americans chose as their 45th President, Donald John Trump, the real estate developer, reality television celebrity, a complete outsider who stumbled on politics and turned it into a celebrity show, I could only ask: how did it happen?

The triumph of Trumpism, a byword for incorrect conduct, misogyny, hate, racism, nativism, isolationism, anger, and defiance is sad news for the world. It is an assault on the ideals of American democracy. Trump’s triumph has left America more divided than it was a week ago, and the prospects of that nation rescuing itself from the tragic mistake it seems to have made may take long in coming. The same country that champions it the most has exposed the underbelly of democracy, that beloved option for global leadership, ironically.

Democracy is said to be driven by the values of good rather than evil, of humanity as opposed to inhumanity, individual freedom and rights rather than oppression, inclusion as different from exclusion but the same model of governance hands over power to the majority. As we have seen, the majority may not necessarily represent the will of all the people, or even the real majority, it is the choice that is made by the voting majority or as determined by the guiding rules as in the case of the United States: and no matter how stupid, illogical or unreasonable that choice may be, it is taken as the voice of the people and it is binding. This dictatorship of the determined majority has nothing to do with popular opinion or goodwill, but the actual choice that is made according to the guiding rules of the game.

Democracy, relying on the strength of numbers and local rules has fed many countries with statistically right but logically wrong outcomes. The outcome in the United States this week is completely confusing. And that explains why there have been protests across America by those chanting “notmypresident” to express their dismay over Trump’s surprise win. This is the first time in a long while that the outcome of an American Presidential election will leave the entire country so tragically divided the morning after. Even the international community is in shock.

Trump’s triumph is a threat to the liberal standards on which the global order is anchored. Hillary Clinton in her concession speech said her defeat is “painful and it will be for a long time.” Not necessarily for her but for America and the rest of the world. The deepest cut is in America’s heart; the wound that has been inflicted therein by Americans themselves will be felt for a long time to come.

This year’s American general election should inspire a deeper interrogation into the nature of democracy and its many pitfalls. The people of the United States had a plain choice between good and bad alternatives. More than any other American Presidential candidate in this election, Hillary Clinton got the most impactful endorsements, yet she did not win.

If the rest of the world had been asked to vote, she would have won by a landslide, but it was up to the Americans themselves to choose their own President, and they have just told us to mind our own businesses in our countries. Hillary Clinton is urbane, experienced, charming and gifted. She has proved her mettle as First Lady, Senator and as Secretary of State. She won the Presidential debates, ran a dignified and organized campaign and won the confidence of every critical constituency. Bernie Sanders who ran against her for the Democratic party’s ticket and Donald Trump, as well as their agents in many places threw mud in her direction, but the polls favoured her to the last minute.

The pollsters have been proven wrong by the choice that America has made. Hillary Clinton gave hope to generations of women across the world. Her emergence as America’s President would have broken the glass ceiling at the most powerful spot in the world, and energized young men and women across the world. America has decided to spit in the face of history and opt for misogyny birthed by ultra-conservatism. Confronted with the obvious choice of a decent, tested and experienced woman who could have given them the prize of two Presidents for the price of one, they chose a foul-mouthed, egoistic, bombastic, free-wheeling outsider with a wife whose body shape and naked assets would be part of a yet uncertain legacy.

America’s future post-Trump’s triumph is uncertain because what Trump stands for, the little that we know about that, raises nothing but anxiety, definitely not confidence. America has as President in waiting a man elected on the wings of sheer populism and racist, nativist propaganda. His campaign was anchored on the hate-propelled belief that the only way to make America great again is to shut out Muslims, blacks, immigrants, intruding neighbours from Mexico and Latin America, keep Americans for Americans only so they can have jobs and prosper, and the spin that America is not safe in the hands of women whom he considers fit only as objects and pieces of decoration.

By voting Trump, America with its intriguing electoral college system, which robs a popular candidate on technical grounds, has deleted the triumph of American-led neo-liberal progressivism in the global order. The sad news in part is that this is also a growing trend in Europe, the equivalent of Brexit.

Trump’s triumph is however worse than Brexit. It is not likely “to make America great again.” It is more likely to reduce, if not jeopardize America’s influence as a stabilizing force in the global system. Donald Trump as Presidential candidate repudiated America’s commitments within the global system. He says he will pull out US troops and command stations in Europe and Asia. If he keeps to his words, he could create such instability across the globe that would result in countries which otherwise depended on the United States looking out for themselves security-wise.

Trump is perhaps America’s nemesis: too much rationalization and over-simplification of everything was bound to get the United States into trouble. The chasm between the American establishment and its ordinary people has been blown open.

Washington is a living symbol of correctness on every stage, but now the people have rejected Washington and its politics. There have been about 44 female Presidents across the world, and now, the most powerful country in the world has proven itself to be less progressive than India, Bangladesh, Brazil, South Korea, Liberia, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Croatia, Nepal, Taiwan, Chile, Costa Rica, Philippines, Indonesia, Iceland, Malta, and even Kosovo! America preaches inclusion and unity in diversity, but the white, blue-collar and middle-class Americans who voted majorly for Donald Trump have shown that the average American is not interested in diversity; they want America to themselves alone. America is not a country of nationalities, it is a country of immigrants, and yet the settled immigrants want to shut the door of the land of dreams to others. Donald Trump exploited their fears. He has proven that it is possible to become President by appealing to the people’s basest instincts. Shameful.

Trump, Machiavelli’s “great-great-grandson” has through dirty tricks created a revolution from which even the same party that saw him as an outsider and treated his emergence as flag-bearer as an accident has benefitted. The Republican Party owes its ascendancy in the White House and Capitol Hill to this outsider who brought the tactics of Machiavelli, soap opera and television shows to push a failing party back to reckoning.

Trump is neither Republican nor Democrat; he belongs to the party of the streets, of a racist American street motivated by a determination to reverse the misfortune of disappearing jobs in inner America, inability of make ends meet, pay children’s school fees or live decently. Americans chose Trump because he spoke the language of the streets and projected himself as their messiah. He projected himself, in his own words, as the champion of “the forgotten men and women of our country…People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am their voice”. And so the people think, and so they voted for him so enthusiastically they even handed him the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which secured his victory and ended the emerging Clinton dynasty. He is the candidate of America’s children of anger.

Trump’s organized blackmail and dirty job may have given him the biggest job in the world but it will not sustain him there or make him a great President. The easiest thing to do is to promise the people change by pulling down the sitting government and the entire political Establishment. In Trump’s reckoning, he did not just defeat Hillary Clinton; he has defeated Barrack Obama, the entire Washington Establishment and its allies.

Inexperienced, badly prepared and ignorant, as is the common consensus, Trump has to run the most complex governance system in the world. He can repudiate his campaign promises and turn 360 degrees. This is not beyond him. In the last year, his position on anything and everything has changed from one stop to another. Or he may choose to fulfill his bizarre promises and imperil the American Presidency and the global order.

One option will expose and ridicule him. The other may fetch him the aggrieved assassin’s bullet or a one-term Presidency that could end up either as a tragi-comedy or a nauseating farce. The fulfillment of the Simpsons’ and Michael Moore’s prophecy is the highest point of America’s disillusionment. Soon enough, America will learn, at substantial cost, new lessons about its new reality. Take it easy, Hillary. Destiny is what waits for every person behind the dream.

I have no Kobo to refund to EFCC – Reuben Abati

Detained former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, has told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that he does not have any money to refund to the government, sources within the agency said.

The sources told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Abati told interrogators that he had no immediate means of sourcing the amount for which he is being detained.

The EFCC accuses Mr. Abati of receiving N50 million from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

The money was part of $2.1 billion allocated for purchase of arms for the fight against Boko Haram, the EFCC says.

Mr. Dasuki is currently standing trial for allegedly misusing the money.

The latest development came days after Mr. Abati reportedly promised to refund N5 million.

The former presidential spokesperson has been in EFCC detention since turning himself in last week Monday.

Apart from being unable to refund the money, Mr. Abati also allegedly told investigators that he could not provide documentary evidence showing how he spent the N50 million.

Mr. Abati reportedly said he disbursed the money as cash and material gifts to journalists during the 2015 campaign.

Asked to name names of media practitioners who benefited from the largess, Mr. Abati said he did not keep such records.

“We thought he would be able to pay N5 million yesterday, but it turned out that he doesn’t have any money,” a source told PREMIUM TIMES Monday.

Our source also clarified that Mr. Abati had met his bail conditions since Friday, but the EFCC had refused to release him.

The EFCC had on October 26 granted Mr. Abati an administrative bail, and required as one of the conditions for his release, a surety of the level of director in the federal civil service.

Those conditions were met on Friday, our source said, but the EFCC failed to release him because of the stalemate over the N50 million.

The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to requests for comment.

Nigerian Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Help Reuben Abati

In apparent attempt to mock Reuben Abati, a man, Ettu Mohammed, on Sunday opened a fundraising campaign on Gofundme.com on his behalf.

The man asked Nigerians to “please save Reuben Abati from EFCC.”

He said the former presidential spokesperson was influenced by “Aso Rock evil spirits” to collect N50 million from former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

Mr. Abati, former spokesperson to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, was arrested by EFCC operatives on Monday over allegations he illicitly received N50 million from the former NSA.

Although Mr. Abati was offered administrative bail that requires presenting a senior federal civil servant – preferably a director – with landed properties in Abuja, EFCC sources said he had been unable to meet the bail conditions.

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EFCC grants bail to Reuben Abati.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has granted bail to Reuben Abati, reports say.

Abati was the presidential spokesman during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He was arrested by operatives of the anti-graft agency on Monday, October 24, 2016.

Abati was accused of collecting N50m from the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki.

As part of his bail condition, he was required to submit his International Passport and also produce a surety who is a Level 16 civil servant, according to Vanguard.

Dasuki is currently standing trial for allegedly diverting funds meant for the purchase of arms for the Army to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.

Why Jonathan’s ex-aide, Reuben Abati, was arrested.

Dr Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on media and publicity was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for allegedly collecting about N60 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA under the leadership of former NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, (retired).

Sources, who confirmed this, said the former presidential spokesperson was still being queried on what the money was used for, hence his detention overnight.

Abati thus joins a long list of former appointees of the former President who have been arrested or already undergoing prosecution for allegedly receiving funds illegally from ONSA.

Dasuki himself is being tried for fraudulent disbursement of $2.1 billion meant for procurement of weapons for soldiers fighting Boko Haram in North East Nigeria to officials of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the purpose of campaigning for 2015 general elections.

Abati was arrested on Monday evening EFCC.

EFCC Arrests Reuben Abati Over N100 Million Funds

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested Reuben Abati, a former spokesman to former President Goodluck Jonathan, over allegations of financial crimes.

According to an EFCC source, Abati is being interrogated over allegation of collecting about N100 million from the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki.

The source added that Abati is likely to be detained by the EFCC in its Abuja detention facility.

Credit: dailytrust

Reuben Abati’s Ghost Stories In Aso Rock – Igboeli Arinze

I read with wonderful bewilderment Reuben Abati’s recent article titled “ The Spiritual Side Of Aso Rock Villa” which was supposedly an expose on the influence of rituals, spirits and ghouls on Nigeria’s seat of power and it’s occupants.

Times without number I chuckled to myself as line after line Abati whom I regard as a trailblazer in the media world perhaps running short on reasons why the Jonathan administration failed decided to use this as a trump card to quieten a number of us who blame Jonathan for for failing the nation.

If Abati thought so, then he is largely mistaken as such talk may only expose him further to immense ridicule. I cannot imagine a man like Abati, whose faculties largely impressed me as a student could descend so low and apportion blame of our country’s failings to ghouls and demons!

Abati makes me laugh when he hints at spirits naturally causing fires in the various homes in Aso Rock, wonderful! Just as some persons would scream “ Blood of Jesus!” when they see a cockroach, wall gakor or cat and immediately brand them as witches and wizards or instruments of an attack from the village. I would be sure to inquire what spirit led to a fire in a friend’s apartment or a big government office, where funds have been tampered with! Ah, remember the Nigerian External Telecommunication building that was engulfed with fire in 1983, lets blame it too on the spirits!

Then Abati extends his theories to the third legs of a number of the occupants of Aso Rock, which he said had cease to work in “the other room” forcing their wives to resort to the Love Machine. Haba, this forced me to ask whether Abati had taken a census of all the men in Aso Rock to determine whether their third legs were functional or not? Perhaps he organised SinParties or was invited to these SinParties where all the men became shy of the daughters of eve because they could not “perform” and reorganised these trysts after they lost out in the last elections only to see the spirits release their vigour. I mean such talk remains bizarre and nauseating! But let’s not be offended, just blame it on some spirit!

Abati painted the picture of Aso Rock as a hospital with agonising victims, as well suffering from all kinds of cancers! Ok, I get it only Aso Rock occupants suffer from these cancers, then I guess the issue of people suffering from them in other hospitals were also occupants of Aso Rock! Yeye de smell o!

Even the talk of convoys having accidents, near helicopter crashes or the refusal of air planes to start on a number of occasions was also blamed on spirits by Abati, despite the fact that he had alluded one of the challenges to the miscalculation of the pilot!

Abati alleges that there is also a spirit that made President Jonathan to take wrong decisions! Wonderful! So the decision to loot and steal the country blind under Jonathan was the handiwork of a number of ghouls, he is saying don’t blame Jonathan nor his cabinet for failing to save for the rainy day and the squandermania that occurred under his watch, for they were all victims of such ghouls.

For crying out loud, if the people don’t take a well prepared statement well or if a policy failed then the trouble is with the policy itself, the trouble is with the trust level the government has with the people and not some ghouls or the devil as Abati will want us to believe! Maybe it was the spirits that were behind Patience Jonathan’s “waka come” theatrics too and the kidnap of the Chibok girls!

Abati’s thesis on the witchcraft dimension in Aso Rock is a testament to why we Africans have failed to develop our society. We believe more in ghouls, charms, the power of the blood of a ram than the innate powers God has given to us. We have so sedated ourselves to these stupid beliefs that we have failed to develop our society.

Abati believes that Aso Rock is possessed with demons, inflicting death and pain on the occupants, yet he relentlessly campaigned for his principal and himself to return to power. He says that should he be president that he will that will build a new Aso Rock( waste of funds) and dedicate it to the all-conquering Almighty, he also says that this is a country in need of prayers But come to think of it, was it not the same Jonathan who uncountably visited Jerusalem and church conventions of notable men of God? Was it not the same Jonathan who organised prayer retreats with men of God thundering forth in Aso Rock, how come these prayers did not chase out these ghouls?

When men like Abati begin to reason like this, then it is no wonder how our society remains in the backwaters!

Reuben Abati: Tales From #Rio2016

In some other countries of the world, a bronze medal at the Olympics is not something to be talked about or celebrated. Not even silver is satisfactory sometimes, just remember that look on Russian athlete Yulia Efimova’s face as her arch-rival, Lilly King of the United States took the gold in 100m women’s breaststroke swimming. Nothing but gold is good enough – afterall, the Olympics is the biggest showcase of human talent on the planet and a demonstration of man’s capacity to express himself or herself to the limits and excel. In the US for example, there is an obsession with gold at the Olympics, this being an extension of the average America’s patriotism-driven belief that the United States is the center of the universe. The US has the largest number of gold medals in Olympics history.

“Go for Gold” is the classic Olympics slogan, but we have also seen in the on-going Rio Olympics, episodes after episodes and tales of human ingenuity in addition to memorable events: so much hard work and dedication – Michael Phelps winning three gold medals and still counting, so far bringing his total Olympic gold medals to a record 21, Uzbekistan’s 41-year old Okusana Chusovitina participating in her seventh Olympics as the oldest gymnast on parade, and making it to the finals, 19-year old American Simon Biles putting pure genius on display in the gymnastics, team refugees participating for the first time in the Olympics,  Kosovo winning its first Olympic medal (gold!), a marriage proposal on the field showing love is more important than gold, well, an Egyptian, Sara Ahmed won a trail-blazing historic bronze in weightlifting, the mighty falling – Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Venus Williams crashing out of tennis, Chris Froome coming up short in cycling, and on the side lines,  BBC female presenter, Rebecca Adlington reaching out under the table to squeeze Mark Foster’s thigh,  and on the minus side, the organizers getting China’s flag wrong, mixing up national anthems including Nigeria’s, complaints about living conditions at the Rio Olympics village, and on the streets, a marvelous opening ceremony, and a generous display of Brazilian female nudity, and on the dark side: young Brazilian hoodlums, robbing visitors of valuables with such unpatriotic brazenness. It is less than a week, so far, but the tales are of characteristically intriguing and historic dimensions.


But again, we must not forget this: the Olympics is about the victory, and about national glory and pride. To win the gold, a country must be prepared, and its athletes must be prepared to show the excellence, the resilience and the courage that is the hallmark of the event. When the issue is not about gold however, it is about, on the humanistic side, the kind of courage in the face of adversity demonstrated by British athlete Derek Redmond at the 1992 Barcelona Games, when he tore his hamstring and simply refused to give up, reaching the finish line of the semi-finals, hanging on his father’s shoulder. The Olympics since the first modern one in 1896, has been about the human being and the many possibilities of human aspiration in the face of challenge.

Nigeria has participated in the Olympics (the Summer Olympics) 15 times, 1952 -2016. And over that period, this country of over 180 million people, has been able to win 3 gold medals (Chioma Ajunwa, 1996, Dream Team 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Men’s 4 x 400 metre relay team, 2000 Sydney Olympics), 8 silver, and 12 bronze medals, making a total of 23 Olympic medals. No cause for despair. After all, we are better than some 73 countries, which have never won a single Olympic medal, countries like Somalia, Chad, Swaziland, Oman, Palau, Benin, Belize, Cape Verde, American Samoa, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Congo, Malawi, Mali, Palestine, Nauru, Lesotho and Oman.  My take however is that we could have done much better, if this had been a different country, if successive governments had paid more attention to sports as a tool for international glory and achievement.


Our poor record is the cumulative effect of the failure of the Nigeria Olympics Committee, the lack of political will in government at all levels to promote individual talent in sports on a sustainable basis, and the Nigerian disease: last-minute syndrome which means everything is done at the last minute, things that other countries spend years and resources preparing for, we wade in at the last minute and expect that miracles would happen. Major breakthroughs in sports in Nigeria as in everything have been either through miracles or individual sacrifice. Our sports community, active and retired, is made up therefore of angry and frustrated men and women who feel that they have been used and forgotten by their country, the serving ones are so poorly treated they even sometimes wonder why they are still wearing Nigeria’s caps. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, there is a Lawrence Okolie and a Christine Ohuruogu on Team Great Britain and yet another Nigerian running up and down for Italy. Nigeria has got talent. Point.


But we do not know how to use, nurture or encourage those talents. There are probably thousands of Michael Phelps in the Niger Delta who can swim from creek to creek, Olympic style, but who are busy carrying guns and looking for cheap wealth; if you go to the Mid-West, there are probably hundreds of girls who can swim better than Lilly King, Yulia Efimova and Katinka Hosszu put together, but all that talent is probably being wasted in a thigh-raising whorehouse in Benin or a city in Italy, because the Ogbe stadium is ruined and nobody has bothered about discovering the natural flying fishes in that part of the country.

When I see the Olympic gymnasts doing their thing, I think of the many talented young girls in Nigeria, who due to lack of opportunities are busy putting their lithe, capable sporty bodies to other uses. Developing the sports sector does not require too much imagination: you just need to start, catch them young, groom them, give them opportunity. That is why a 16-year old from Chile can stand out in archery, and a 19-year old teenager from America, Simone Biles, can be an embodiment of human perfection.  We have the people, the potentials but…


We are most certainly not prepared for big events that require state planning. It is particularly ironic that we have done much better as a country in the Paralympics – 22 Gold, 11 Silver, 12 Bronze since 1992.  You can interpret that literally, I don’t want to spell it out and offend the valiant men and women who have done us proud in that alternative Olympics. What is painful is that Segun Toriola, seven times Nigerian Olympian had warned us quite early that the preparation for this year’s Olympics is the “worst Team Nigeria in Olympics history.” Underline the word, “worst”, and it looks like he is right.  Before the Olympics, we heard the embarrassing story that Nigerian athletes going to the Olympics- 78 of them, 49 male, 29 female, participating in eight events (we seem trapped here!) had been asked to go and fund themselves, cap in hand. To worsen matters, the Sports Minister, the Sports Ministry and just about anyone who needed to use their brains, started sounding like Emperors.


The Nigerian soccer team, called Dream Team VI was stranded in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and the Minister’s informed response was “who send them there?” The teams trip to Brazil was postponed from Friday to Monday, to Tuesday and to Wednesday, no money, no support. The Dream Team eventually arrived in Brazil on the wings of charity: Delta Airlines had to airlift them free. They arrived a few hours to their opening match, jet-lagged, without allowances, hungry, and with a coach, Samson Siasia, who had also not been paid for five months, and yet the boys went ahead, to beat Japan, 5-4. That is the spirit of the Olympics.


Dream Team VI, (we really like to dream!) has since qualified for the quarter-finals, and they may well surprise the world. No one expects that they would, maybe the Nigerian government (which likes to reap where it has not sown), but whatever happens, those boys and their coach are heroes already, and should they manage to win any medal, that medal should be presented to Delta Airlines, not Nigeria, and when that is happening, Solomon Dalung must not be anywhere near the room. Well, they say he has apologized, but must we run Nigeria’s international appearances on the basis of apology?


That is what we are doing. Better-focused countries are celebrating gold medals, we are here celebrating courage in the face of adversity: the biggest story we would probably take out of the Rio Olympics. Besides the Dream Team VI, I have seen very enthusiastic comments about how Segun Toriola is a seventh time Olympian in table tennis, and how Nigeria has produced the first African to qualify for the Quarter Finals in table tennis in the person of Aruna Quadri, and the first Nigerian rower, Chierika Ukogu.  Ms Ukogu had to sponsor herself to the Rio Olympics. She had to beg for funds, and travelled on the wings of charity too. She qualified for the quarter finals and got Semi-finals C/D ranking and we are now all so proud of her, but deep in her heart, she would know that the country she promoted so much at the Rio Olympics, does not really care for her. And that is sad.


There was also the Nigerian basketball team. They put up a valiant fight for love of country, but I doubt if any one of them is home-made. When will Nigeria begin to make its own athletes and geniuses, and not leave its responsibility to pure chance and accidents?


I salute the courage of all the badly treated and frustrated 78 Nigerian athletes currently fighting for our country at the Rio Olympics. They are patriots and they are all deserving of our appreciation for their faith in Nigeria despite the odds, representing Nigeria, in badly sewn track-suits. They may not win any medal- we understand! We would still be proud of them. It is their type that reminds us that indeed, there is still a country and for that alone, we must be grateful.

Reuben Abati: Biafra, Oodua and the seventh lesson


Democracy does not necessarily translate into the disappearance of crises and dilemmas, (even trilemmas, quadrilemmas or more) in a country, either developed, developing or perhaps evolutionary. Built into the fabric of the right to choose is also the right to make mistakes and so, across Africa at this moment, in Nigeria, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, Guinea Conakry, Rwanda, the lessons are being driven home, as elections are being held or have been held or will be held, that even as democracy spreads within the continent, the tension between stabilization and consolidation, trade offs and efficiency, pessimism and optimism, ethnocentrism and nationalism, remains a major concern.

Whatever the challenges may be however, both local and international authorities have a duty to ensure that the people learn from their mistakes, build on those mistakes positively, and prevent a relapse to either militarism or militarized democracy disguised either as benevolent democracy or charismatic autocracy, or ethnic revanchism as an option for national movement. The people’s right to make mistakes, oxymoronic as it may seem, is part of the democratic challenge. In Nigeria, our biggest mistake lies in the strange assumption that our problems will disappear simply through intra-elite displacement or the symbolism of grand gestures. And so, we end up with a boringly repetitive national life cycle.

This leads us to one urgent point: the biggest challenge that the Nigerian state faces today, tearing into the very idea of statehood, and of democracy, is the centrifugal pull from every direction that seems to have become disturbingly incremental. In the North Eastern part of the country, with the tragedy spreading, with casualties increasing, you have the heart-wrenching Boko Haram menace.

The Haram fundamentalists want a divided Nigeria. They have their own flag and they have made it clear that Western education and technology are sinful even if they use the same technology and intelligence to perpetrate their assault. With their flags and propaganda, they want “out” of Nigeria. Their act of defiance and the evil outcomes have increased since May even if civil society has chosen, all of a sudden, to be less anxious. But it is not a problem that can ever be treated lightly located as it is, in the tragic axis of global terror.

In the Middle Belt, an indigene-settler dichotomy, mutating as majorities-minorities conflict at the heart of Northern community relations, or as pastoralists-farmer confrontation has created seasons of violence and bloodshed with strong allegations of genocide and no sign of immediate abatement. In the South West, the recent abduction of a Yoruba leader, Chief Olu Falae by persons alleged to be Fulani herdsmen has resulted in the exchange of hate speech among Yoruba and Fulani ethnic champions defending territory, rights and identity.

In Ibadan, the other day, a group of Yoruba elders demanded that Fulani herdsmen should be expelled from Yoruba territory and that should the provocation continue, the Yoruba with their 50 million population will be prepared to exit Nigeria. In the Eastern part of the country, there is a resurgence of Biafran nationalism; young Igbos in diaspora, are insisting on the creation of a Republic of Biafra. The new voice of Biafran nationalism is Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Radio Biafra, and the Igbos campaigning for Biafra in front of embassies in Europe, India and Japan! In the South South, there is a renewed consciousness of oil citizenship, with the Ijaw whose kinsman recently lost power at the centre protesting that they are victims of Hausa/Fulani harassment, and intimidation.

Perhaps the more worrisome is the noise being made about likely secession from Nigeria, by certain elements in the North East (terrorists actually seeking to carve out territory), by latter-day Biafrans, and by Yoruba irridentists. It may not be possible without empirical inquiry to determine how much of this is pure opportunism, posturing or criminal-mindedness (except in the case of Boko Haram where criminality is proven), but it would appear that while seeking to uphold the law against those who challenge the sanctity of the state, the government must nonetheless take the agitations seriously for they speak to something old and familiar which has become resoundingly deeper.

If the matter were to be subjected to referenda across the country, I am not too sure there are many Nigerians today who will vote for the dismemberment of this country. Social scientists advise us not to rule out any possibility, self-determination can be self-fulfilling; and nations have been known to dissolve against all odds, but it seems to me that the majority of Nigerians would rather be Nigerians. Our country has been kept together by the resilience and the optimism of the majority, not the disillusionment of a critical minority. We have not yet reached a point where the idea of Nigeria is lost and forlorn, to the extent that the feeling of self-sufficiency that propels the secessionist instinct may indeed be illusionary. No matter the challenge, I believe that it is the idea of Nigeria that will prevail.

The long and the short of it however, is that this remains a grossly imperfect federation, union and democracy. The country is hoisted on a foundation of ancestral fissures. For 55 years, this country has refused to transform into a nation. It has been hijacked by identity politics, and by ethnic and class determinism. It is sad, very sad indeed, that successive governments have not been able to create an enlightened citizenry and an intelligent elite that can look beyond their own greed. The Nigerian political brain has remained a grossly emotional brain.

We seem to have lost the national battle to emotions fed by ancestral memory, creating a gap between knowledge, and desire. It is why MASSOB, Nnamdi Kanu, Radio Biafra and Biafra Voice International (BVI) are the new faces of Igbo nationalism, and not Aka Ikenga or Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It is why disgruntled elements in the North East insist on pulling down the country. It is why citizens of a defined oil territory continue to blackmail the Nigerian state. Nnamdi Kanu does not necessarily speak for all Igbos, and neither the Afenifere nor the Yoruba Council of Elders can determine the Yoruba emotion but they throw up ideas that cannot be ignored. It is the duty of government to address the dangerous ideas of disintegration, dismemberment that issue from those political brains, not to ignore or traduce them.

The key message is that this is not yet a nation. Kanu’s protest and the frustrations in the Niger Delta or the Yoruba anger over the humiliation of an iconic figure, or the angst of the people of the Middle Belt, or the widespread concern about the arrogance of power, escalated since independence, should be a wake up call. Those who feel defeated politically are drawing attention to subliminal fears about ancestral injustices, inequities, and inequalities in the Nigerian democratic space. The more they perceive an attempt to appropriate, exclude and marginalize, the more vociferous they are likely to be. In the long run, nobody may secede (General Gowon is right on this score), but the inequities of the Nigerian state must be addressed. The man who will save Nigeria is that leader who will engage Nigerians proactively on the issues of inclusion and cohesion, and thereby grant to every citizen, a sense of ownership beyond ethnic identity, a sense of belonging, and confidence in the Nigerian identity. When people relate to the state from a position of fear, and exclusion, they create the kind of problems we witness.

One, poverty, not necessarily material poverty, is at the heart of the problem. Two, the failure of the moral dimension is also a veritable cause of national dysfunction. Three, when the people have jobs, and the economy works and education is taken seriously as a tool for empowerment and progress, there will perhaps be better citizens. What this means is that developing a state that works and a leadership that believes and cares, and focuses on governance responsibilities is where the priority lies. To move Nigeria forward, these are the fundamental issues to address. How to go about this is the responsibility of those to whom we have entrusted our mandate. It was the main assignment yesterday, the same today and the compass for tomorrow.

How Reuben Abati Sabotaged Jonathan- Edwin Clark

A former Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Clark, has alleged that Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, sabotaged the former president by failing to promote his image and achievements.

Against Mr. Abati’s claims that Mr. Clark no longer considered Mr. Jonathan his ‘son’, Mr. Clark said he still sees the former president as a political son despite gaining nothing from his presidency.

While expressing his resolve to quit partisan politics, Mr. Clark was recently reported as saying Mr. Jonathan “did not have the political will to fight corruption”.

In his response to Mr. Clark’s remark on the ex-president, the former president’s publicist wrote in an opinion article titled, “Clark the Father, Jonathan the Son” that the octogenarian was only making the disparaging remarks because Mr. Jonathan had lost the 2015 election.

“Who would ever think Chief E.K. Clark would publicly disown President Jonathan? He says Jonathan was a weak president. At what point did he come to that realization?

“Yet, throughout the five years, he spoke loudly against anyone who opposed the president,” Mr. Abati wrote.

Credit: PremiumTimes

Reuben Abati: Clark, The Father, Jonathan, The son

I have tried delaying the writing of this piece in the honest expectation that someone probably misquoted Chief E.K. Clark, when he reportedly publicly disowned former President Goodluck Jonathan. I had hoped that our dear father, E.K. Clark, would issue a counter statement and say the usual things politicians say: “they quoted me out of context!”  “Jonathan is my son”. That has not happened; rather, some other Ijaw voices, including one Joseph Evah, have come to the defence of the old man, to join hands in rubbishing a man they once defended to the hilt and used as a bargaining chip for the Ijaw interest in the larger Nigerian geo-politics.


If President Jonathan had returned to power on May 29, 2015, these same persons would have remained in the corridors of power, displaying all forms of ethnic triumphalism. It is the reason in case they do not realize it, why the existent power blocs that consider themselves most fit to rule, continue to believe that those whose ancestors never ran empires can never be trusted with power, hence they can only be admitted as other people’s agents or as merchants of their own interests which may even be defined for them as is deemed convenient. Mercantilism may bring profit, but in power politics, it destroys integrity and compromises otherwise sacred values.


President Jonathan being publicly condemned by his own Ijaw brothers, particularly those who were once staunch supporters of his government further serves the purpose of exposing the limits of the politics of proximity. Politics in Africa is driven by this particular factor; it is at the root of all the other evils: prebendalism, clientelism and what Matthew Kukah has famously described as the “myownisation of power”.  It is both positive and negative, but obviously, more of the latter than the former. It is considered positive only when it is beneficial to all parties concerned, and when the template changes, the ground also shifts. As in that song, the solid rock of proximity is soon replaced by shifting sands. Old worship becomes new opportunism. And the observant public is left confounded.


Chief E.K. Clark? Who would ever think, Chief E.K. Clark would publicly disown President Jonathan?  He says Jonathan was a weak President. At what point did he come to that realization? Yet, throughout the five years (not six, please) of the Jonathan Presidency, he spoke loudly against anyone who opposed the President. He was so combative he was once quoted as suggesting that Nigeria could have problems if Jonathan was not allowed to return to office. Today, he is the one helping President Jonathan’s successor to quench the fires. He always openly said President Jonathan is “his son”. Today, he is not just turning against his own son, he is telling the world his son as President lacked the political will to fight corruption. He has also accused his son of being too much of a gentleman. Really? Gentlemanliness would be considered honourable in refined circles.  Is Pa E.K. Clark recommending something else in order to prove that he is no longer a politician but a statesman as he says?


As someone who was a member of the Jonathan administration, and who interacted often with the old man, I can only say that I am shocked.  This is the equivalent of the old man deleting President Jonathan’s phone number and ensuring that calls from his phone no longer ring at the Jonathan end. During the Jonathan years, Chief E. K. Clark was arguably the most vocal Ijaw leader defending the government. He called the President “my son”, and both father and son remained in constant touch.


There is something about having the President’s ears in a Presidential system, elevated to the level of a fetish in the clientilist Nigerian political system. Persons in the corridors of power who have the President’s ear- be they cook, valet, inlaws, wife, cousin, former school mates, priests, or whatever, enjoy special privileges. They have access to the President and they can whisper into his ears. That’s all they have as power: the power to whisper and run a whispering campaign that can translate into opportunities or losses for those outside that informal power loop around every Presidency, that tends to be really influential.


Every President must beware of those persons who come around calling them “Daddy”, “Uncle”, na my brother dey there”, “my son”, “our in-law”: emotional blackmailers relying on old connections. They are courted, patronized and given more attention and honour than they deserve by those looking for access to the President or government. Even when the power and authority of the whispering exploiters of the politics of proximity is contrived, they go out of their way to exaggerate it. They acquire so much from being seen to be in a position to make things happen.


Chief E. K. Clark had the President’s ears. He had unfettered access to his son. He was invited to most state events.  And he looked out for the man he called “my son”, in whom he was well pleased. Chief Clark’s energy level in the service of the Jonathan administration was impressive. Fearless and outspoken, he deployed his enormous talents in the service of the Jonathan government.  If a press statement was tame, he drew attention to it and urged a more robust defence of “your boss”. If any invective from the APC was overlooked, he urged prompt rebuttal. If the party was tardy in defending “his son”, he weighed in.


If anyone had accused the President of lacking “the political will to fight corruption” at that time, he, E.K. Clark, would have called a press conference to draw attention to the Jonathan administration’s institutional reforms and preventive measures, his commitment to electoral integrity to check political corruption, and the hundreds of convictions secured by both the ICPC and EFCC under his son’s watch. So prominent and influential was he, that ministers, political jobbers etc etc trooped to his house to pay homage.


In due course, those who opposed President Jonathan did not spare Chief E. K. Clark either. He was accused of making inflammatory and unstatesman-like statements. An old war-horse, nobody could intimidate him. He was not President Olusegun Obasanjo’s fan in particular. He believed Obasanjo wanted to sabotage his son, and he wanted Obasanjo put in his place. Beneath all of that, was an unmistaken rivalry between the two old men, seeking to control the levers of Nigerian politics.


Every President probably needs a strong, passionate ally like Chief E. K. Clark. But what happened? What went wrong? Don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily saying that the Ijaw leader should have remained loyal to and defend Goodluck Jonathan because they are both Ijaws, patriotism definitely could be stronger than ethnic affinities, nonetheless that E. K. Clark tale about leaving politics and becoming a statesman is nothing but sheer crap.  If Jonathan had returned to office, he would still be a card-carrying member of the PDP and the “father of the President” and we would still have been hearing that famous phrase, “my son”. Chief E. K. Clark, five months after, has practically told the world that President Buhari is better than “his own son”.


 It is the worst form of humiliation that President Jonathan has received since he left office.  It is also the finest compliment that President Buhari has received since he assumed office. The timing is also auspicious: just when the public is beginning to worry about the direction of the Buhari government, E. K. Clark shows up to lend a hand of support and endorsement. Only one phrase was missing in his statement, and it should have been added: “my son, Buhari.” It probably won’t be too long before we hear the old man saying “I am a statesman, Buhari is my son.”  I can imagine President Obasanjo grinning with delight. If he really wants to be kind, he could invite E.K. Clark to his home in Ota or Abeokuta to come and do the needful by publicly tearing his PDP membership card and join him in that exclusive club of Nigerian statesmen! The only problem with that club these days is that you can become a member by just saying so or by retiring from partisan politics. We are more or less being told that there are no statesmen in any of the political parties.  


It is not funny. Julius Ceasar asked Brutus in one of the famous lines in written literature: “Et tu Brutus?” President Jonathan should ask Chief E. K. Clark: “Et tu Papa?” To which the father will probably tell the son: “Ces’t la vie, mon cher garcon.”  And really, that is life. In the face of other considerations, loyalties vanish; synergies collapse. The wisdom of the tribe is overturned; the politics of proximity dissolves; loyalties remain in a perpetual process of construction.  Thus, individual interests and transactions drive the political game in Nigeria, with time and context as key determinants.


These are teachable moments for President Jonathan. Power attracts men and women like bees to nectar, the state of powerlessness ends as a journey to the island of loneliness. However, the greatest defender of our work in office is not our ethnic “fathers and “brothers” but rather our legacy. The real loss is that President Jonathan’s heroism, his messianic sacrifice in the face of defeat, is being swept under the carpet and his own brothers who used to say that the Ijaws are driven by a principle of “one for all and all for another”, have become agent-architects of his pain. The Ijaw platform having seemingly been de-centered, Chief E.K. Clark and others are seeking assimilation in the new power structure. It is a telling reconstruction of the politics of proximity and mimicry.


Chief E.K. Clark once defended the rights of ethnic minorities to aspire to the highest offices in the land, his latest declaration about his son reaffirms the existing stereotype at the heart of Nigeria’s hegemonic politics. The same hegemons and their agents whom Clark used to fight furiously will no doubt find him eminently quotable now that he has proclaimed that it is wrong to be a “gentleman”, and that his son lacks “the political will to fight corruption”. There is more to this than we may ever know. Chief Clark can insist from now till 2019,  that he has spoken as a statesman and as a matter of principle. His re-alignment,  is curious nonetheless. 

Even Olusegun Adeniyi’s ‘Tower of Babel’ Cannot Water Down Jonathan’s Historical Impact – Reuben Abati

There has been an organized and consistent attempt by a certain section of the political class and the Nigerian commentariat to water down the historical impact of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s decision to concede victory to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the final tally in the 2015 Presidential election. Those who have engaged in this enterprise are unkind, if not callous, insincere, if not cruel.

Their tactics, which range from the dubious to the mischievous, have included a desperate attempt to push the story that President Jonathan would not be the first African leader to concede victory in an election, or that he is certainly not the first Nigerian President to do so. The second claim has been effectively dismissed with historical facts, and as for the former, in a continent where sit-tightism remains a threat to democratic consolidation, and elections in many places are seen as mere rituals for keeping the monarch in power till death do them part, no informed student of the subject will deny the truth that President Jonathan’s conduct is definitely an act of statesmanship and heroism, and that President Jonathan deserves all the recognition, the accolades, applause and vastly elevated moral stature that has come with that singular act.

By his very unusual and highly symbolic act of graceful concession, President Jonathan snatched glorious victory from the jaws of seeming defeat. He outsmarted his traducers and became overnight, a hero of global proponents of true democracy in Africa. While many of his opponents seemed obsessed with power at all costs and by all means possible, by calling General Buhari to concede victory, President Jonathan fully lived up to his often stated conviction that the country is more important than individual ambitions and that leadership should be more about sacrifice than the pursuit of self-interest.

Some had threatened that he would end up like Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo. He proved to be a much better student of history. They promised that if his electoral defeat which they had dictated as an inevitability did not come to pass, they will instigate chaos and confusion, form a parallel government and make Nigeria ungovernable, hang it all on his head and send him to the International Criminal Court. In the end, he short-circuited their conspiracy, and showed that he belongs to a global hall of honour, not infamy.

Ahead of the 2015 Presidential election, many Nigerians had scampered to their ancestral, ethnic safety zones in fear, while the better circumstanced sought safety in self-imposed temporary exile, to watch the homeland from a distance until things settled. One man’s act of courage and patriotism changed all that. He defied the same stereotypes which curiously are being reinforced in some African countries, and created a special moment for Nigeria and Africa. This is perhaps the more enduring location of President Jonathan’s legacy: his vote for peace and national stability.

We need to keep repeating this, especially as those who feel cheated and hurt by President Jonathan’s winning in losing, seem determined before our very eyes, to revise a less than six-week old narrative. With their first two claims dismissed as vacuous and even irrelevant to the point, they are now recruiting pens and mouths for a new leg of their narrative. The most telling in this regard has been Olusegun Adeniyi’s “Inside the PDP Tower of Babel” (THISDAY, May 7, back page). Adeniyi’s indicated purpose is to review the politics of the PDP in the context of the ruling party’s defeat in the 2015 General elections, but for the most part, he seeks to portray President Jonathan as duplicitous and hypocritical.

Adeniyi’s claims and insinuations are informed by a meeting he claimed took place at the new Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, “on Tuesday, 30th March 2015,”- he probably meant Tuesday, 31st March 2015- that historic day when President Jonathan raised the moral level of Nigerian politics. Adeniyi was not at the meeting, so we can safely assume that his entire rendition is based on hearsay. If he insists that he heard his tale on “good authority”, then that would be suspicious because Olusegun Adeniyi, who has been in the corridors of power at significant moments, and has written two books on the subject – ‘The Last 100 Days of Abacha’ (2005) and ‘Power, Politics and Death’ (2011), ought to know that Nigerian politics is a seething vortex of intrigues, angle-shooting, complex conspiracies and crass opportunism.

Adeniyi may have unwittingly allowed himself to be misled, indeed, he may need to ask his sources playing the role of “Aso Villa spies” for their recorder, and listen more carefully. As it is, his reportage is pure fabrication intended to unjustly discredit the President and promote other vested interests within the polity.

I begin with the third paragraph of his piece: “The atmosphere at the meeting was sombre…”, he writes. How can Adeniyi be so sure of the texture of an atmosphere he never experienced? He adds: “…without much preamble, President Jonathan announced: “Gentlemen…” Sorry, Segun. It is not President Jonathan’s style to open any meeting at all with the phrase: “Gentlemen…” He is more likely to observe the protocol list.

What then follows is a long quote, meant to be President Jonathan’s charge to the meeting: “…about an hour ago, I called General Buhari to concede and to congratulate him. But I did that not because the PDP lost the election but rather to calm the nation, as many people advised me to do so. Even when I conceded to allow the nation move forward, the information at my disposal is that the election has been massively rigged and INEC is complicit. While I have done my bit as a statesman, I believe the party should put out a strong statement to reject the result and that the PDP will challenge it in court. I think the National Publicity Secretary of the party should do that.”

These words which Adeniyi attributes to President Jonathan are not his, nor do they reflect his style or thought process.  He never uttered those words.

In the seventh paragraph, Adeniyi goes ahead to offer what seems to be a verbatim report of conversations between Godswill Akpabio, Liyel Imoke and Adamu Muazu in the privacy of the latter’s house! Does he have spies in Muazu’s house? If not, then definitely, one of the three gentlemen must be his shameless kiss and tell source? Will he be willing to tell us who this is? No, he won’t because he can’t. A few paragraphs later, Adeniyi further writes somewhat gleefully that “the President may be meeting his match in Muazu”, and states that “it tells a compelling story of its own that Muazu is the 6th PDP Chairman under Jonathan, all within a period of five years.”

Adeniyi’s bias is undisguised; his construction of a duel is curious, but he would still need to tell the accurate story of the circumstances that led to the exit of the former Chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party in the past five years. Contrary to his insinuations, they were not removed by President Jonathan. Okwesilieze Nwodo was removed by a court of law due to local Enugu state politics. Dr Haliru Bello who served as Acting Chairman after him was later appointed Minister of Defence in 2011. Alhaji Abubakar Baraje succeeded Bello also in acting capacity to complete Nwodo’s aborted tenure. The story of the exit of Vincent Ogbulafor and Bamanga Tukur equally has nothing to do with the President.

I can go through the rest of Adeniyi’s story-telling to point out other inconsistencies and give-aways. Reading between the lines, it should not be too difficult in the light of recent altercations among PDP chieftains about who did what and who received and disbursed what money during the election campaigns to know the kind of conspiracies at work. In making a story out of the melodrama, however, Olusegun Adeniyi should have resisted taking a trip of his own to Babel.

The meeting that he refers to took place at least five hours after President Jonathan had congratulated General Buhari, “not one hour ago,” as he claims. By then, words of admiration and commendation for his gallantry had flooded the airwaves. The President did not need to be persuaded to take that decision. He had always made it clear that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. As he himself has pointed out, he took the decision in the interest of national unity, peace and stability and to prevent any form of post-election violence.

The President could see through the traps that had been laid for him; at that moment he was already fully aware of the extent of the network of sabotage and conspiracies, internal and external, contrived and inflicted, that wrong-footed the PDP during the elections. Many party leaders started rushing to the Villa after hearing what the President had done. They were caught unawares. He had absolutely no reason to ask the party to reject the results of the Presidential election. And he never did. He had made up his mind to let it go. By the morning of April 1, he was already packing his things out of the Presidential Villa, satisfied that he had done the right thing by preventing a much predicted ethnic, religious and political violence.

Olusegun Adeniyi therefore got it all wrong. But not done with his trip to Babel, he is also threatening to write a book to be titled: ‘Against the Run of Play: How an Incumbent President was Defeated in Nigeria’. He certainly owes us an obligation to declare early enough if that is intended to be a work of fiction and hearsay. The People’s Democratic Party which lost power suddenly at the centre, after 16 years in the saddle, is obviously undergoing a post-defeat trauma. Discrediting President Jonathan, with dubious story-telling, should not be part of that crisis.

  • Dr Abati is President Jonathan’s Spokesman and Special Adviser, Media and Publicity. 


I have argued in several forums that the concession by President Goodluck Jonathan should not be diminished and, in all my writings, I have tried to project that position. But facts are facts. In the meeting after he conceded (okay, I got the timing and date mixed-up), the president indeed asked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest the result. And those disputing my narration because they are invested in sustaining a mystique also know that for a fact. But that for me does not take away from the fact that President Jonathan saved the nation from a pending calamity by conceding. I am sure that those at the meeting (and there were many) who are keeping silent now will begin to talk after May 29.

However, what is important is that I bear no ill-feeling towards the president for whom I have tremendous respect and he can always count on my support long after many of his fair-weather supporters would have deserted him. As for my coming book, Reuben needs not worry, especially since I always share the content of such efforts with him in advance as a confidant. He may recall, for instance, that he, on his own volition, decided to write the Foreword to the Abacha book after reading the manuscript while I also sent him the first draft of the Yar’Adua book seven months before I eventually published it. Finally, Reuben knows that when he becomes another “yesterday’s man” like the rest of us by May 30, he will always be my friend.

Don’t Panic, Presidency Tells Jonathan’s Supporters

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, has told President Jonathan’s supporters not to panic over fake results been manipulated by APC informing Nigerians that Buhari is leading in the presidential race. Abati says only Ekiti State’s results have been announced and the President won, he said. Below is what he wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday.

“Our numerous supporters (both home and abroad) are reaching out to us and requesting that we should say something.

“We can assure you that we are on top of everything.

“INEC has already addressed the issue of viral ‘opposition’ sponsored fake results that they should be ignored.

“So far, the only announced concluded official result from anywhere is from EKITI state.”

“A resounding victory for President Jonathan! Don’t be fooled or panic. We say thank you.”

We shall know the truth today. Meanwhile ECOWAS says its satisfied with the way the Nigerian election was carried out.

“President Jonathan Has Not Spoken To King Mohammed” – Reuben Abati

President Goodluck Jonathan admitted Friday that he did not speak on telephone with the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, as claimed last week by the Nigerian foreign affairs ministry, an apparently false claim that sparked a diplomatic spat between the two countries with Morocco recalling its ambassador.

The president has ordered a full investigation into the scandal and has promised to sanction the foreign affairs official who made that claim, a statement from his office said.

Mr. Jonathan was “shocked, surprised and highly embarrassed by the controversy that has erupted over whether or not he had a telephone conversation with His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco,” the statement said.

Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Morocco worsened Tuesday after the North African country recalled its ambassador from Abuja, following the telephone call row.

The controversy began after Morocco revealed last week that its leader rejected a request from Mr. Jonathan for a conversation.

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said the request was a devious move by Mr. Jonathan to curry electoral favour than a genuine diplomatic move.

“The request by Nigerian authorities for a phone conversation between HM King Mohammed VI and Nigerian President was refused by the Monarch who deemed it inappropriate on grounds of the upcoming elections in Nigeria,” the statement read.

However, on Monday, the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement refuting the claim of the Moroccans.

The Nigerian foreign ministry claimed that King Mohammed IV of Morocco spoke to President Jonathan from France where he had gone for a visit.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denied that the phone call was intended to confer electoral gains on Mr. Jonathan who faces a crucial electoral challenge from an invigorated opposition in two weeks.

“Since the King was in France and not in Morocco, both leaders spoke extensively over the telephone on matters of mutual interest and concern that have nothing to do with the conduct of re-scheduled elections in Nigeria.

“The King’s Office categorically denies the false allegations made by Nigerian authorities about an alleged phone conversation between the Sovereign and Nigerian President,” the statement said.

A statement signed by Reuben Abati, the spokesperson for Mr. Jonathan, said the furore generated over the matter was due “entirely to misinformation as President Jonathan has neither spoken with King Mohammed nor told anybody that he had a telephone conversation with the Moroccan Monarch”.

“It is true that President Jonathan has been speaking with some African leaders to seek their support for Nigeria’s candidate for the position of President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“In continuation of his efforts in support of the candidacy of the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina for headship of the AfDB, President Jonathan indicated that he would like to speak with the King of Morocco, the President of Algeria and the President of Egypt.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was consequently directed to make necessary contacts with the embassies of the three countries and arrange for President Jonathan to speak with their leaders.

Source – Premium times Ng

I Have no Stove to Cook By Offor Honest

The following events took place on Wednesday, November 26th 2014, at the executive chambers of the Federal executive council. The events are a product of the writer’s imagination.

Presido sauntered into the council chambers and all the Ministers stood from their chairs as a mark of respect. Today, Presido was donning the Yoruba native attire; he gathered the free flowing agbada clumsily and rested it on his shoulders before taking his seat. The kind of position he is occupying demands wisdom especially with the accusation that he is marginalizing the “Mgbati” people, he decided to wear their native attire in the spirit of Federal Character not minding that he looked funny in it.

Presido cleared his throat as he studied item 4 on the Agenda, “request for procurement of 750,000 units of clean stove and 18,000 wonder bags”. He looked in the direction of the Minister of women affairs whose ministry is responsible for the proposal. “Oya Madam, let’s hear from you”.

“Your Excellency, in line with your transformation agenda (starting with the usual refrain among council members) and your 35% affirmative action policy, my ministry wishes to procure clean stoves and wonder bags to alleviate the suffering of our rural women. Presido chuckled at the mention of wonder bag, it was the first time he was hearing that word. The Minister reeled out so many benefits of the magic stove before taking her seat.

Dr. Adesina, the Agric Minister at this point signaled his interest to contribute to the debate. Mr. President he said, this is a good initiative. Just like we did with our E-wallet system that dismantled the fertilizer cartel, we can ensure that the stove gets directly to the rural women. This can help make our farmers live longer and contribute more to our drive for food security.

His colleague in Trade and Investment adjusted his tie and stood up to make his contribution. He looked at the Minister of Finance who had been busy scribbling down some notes and studying the proposal with keen attention as if she was seeing it for the first time. Your Excellency, we can attract FDI by contacting the South African manufacturer, Sarah Collins, to come over here and set up an assembly plant just like we did with the Automobile Policy. That way, we can provide jobs and increase the capacity of our local artisans.

The debate was getting interesting but Presido was worried that her Super Minister had yet to say something. Her silence meant she had some reservation about the proposal.

Sensing the gaze of Presido, she looked up and made to get up from her seat but not before adjusting her head gear. She started, “the only reservation I have about this proposal Your Excellency”… Ehen, I know she must have some reservations, this World Bank woman sef, Presido thought to himself.

Mr. President, Dr. Okonjo continued, in the 2014 budget we earmarked 90 million Naira for these items so I am surprised that 9.2bn is now being requested. I hope it will not be like the fuel subsidy when we overspent what was budgeted for and the NASS gave me 50 stupid questions to answer. My other worry is that we’ll need about 55 million USD for this procurement which will put strain on the Naira we are trying to stabilize. But on the other hand Mr. President, this initiative can create 5,000 direct jobs in the first tranche and another 20,000 jobs in the next four years. It can reduce mortality rate in the rural area by 20% and we can double that figure in the next 4 years.

Presido wanted to smile but restrained himself, her ability to conjure figures and statistics marveled him. He looked around the room as if searching for someone to bail him out and provide answers to the cogent questions the Finance Minister had raised.

His eyes rested on his chubby SSA on public affairs Doyin Okupe. Sometimes he wondered how this man can be adding weight even with his herculean task of keeping critics like the Loquacious Lia Mohammed in check.

The big man stood up and in his rambunctious manner, he started gesticulating even before he opened his mouth. Your Excellency he began, let’s look at political benefit of this initiative. This is a perfect campaign tool. Imagine the number of people that will vote for you if they receive this stove. No government since 1960 has ever thought of it and this goes to prove my assertion that you are the best president Nigeria had ever had. Presido grinned widely as other council members nodded their heads in agreement with Doyin’s submission.

Your Excellency, I will immediately contact TAN people to run an advert with the clincher “I have no stove to cook”, in fact we can distribute rice before the elections just like Ayo Fayose so that our enemies will not complain that people were given stove without food.

Presido agreed with him. For once, this man did not speak like an attack dog. He looked around and everybody seems to be in agreement. Even Madam Okonjo seems to have forgotten about the issue of due process. Maybe she has finally started reasoning like a politician.

Just as Presido was about to close the meeting, Mr. Abati walked over to whisper something to his ears. From the sudden change in his demeanor, it seems the Boko boys have struck again. Council confirmed it when he told Rueben “just go and edit the last speech and release a press statement”.


No Star of David on New 100 Naira Note, says President Jonathan

According to a statement released by Reuben Abati, the presidency denied the allegation stating that the sign mistaken for the Star of David by MURIC was a security feature on the new note. President Jonathan also denied further allegation made by MURIC that the presidency was anti-Muslims.

In the statement he said,

“Our attention has been drawn to a press statement issued by the Muslims’ Right Concern (MURIC) in which its Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola made a number of allegations against the President Goodluck Jonathan, including the mischievous and false claim  that there is a Jewish symbol in the new commemorative N100 note which will be officially issued on December 19.

President Jonathan is certainly not anti-Muslim as Prof Akintola alleges. As we have often said, the President knows very well that he was elected to office by a representative majority of all Nigerians and he continues to deal with all Nigerians fairly and equitably irrespective of their personal or group religious beliefs.

The allegation by MURIC that President Jonathan is using the highest office in the country to promote Zionism and the state of Israel is completely spurious and unfounded.
The symbol Prof. Akintola refers to in his statement is the Star of David which cannot be found anywhere on the widely publicized specimen of the new 100 Naira note. 

The symbol that he erroneously claims is the Star of David or a Jewish symbol is actually   a  spark security feature which is an optical magnetic feature that enables the public to determine if a currency note is genuine or counterfeit. 

The design of the spark security feature on the new N100 note  is not in any way associated with Israel or Zionism. It is two squares merged into one with a Manila briquet, which is a symbol of the cowrie money used during the colonial era.

The value of the new N100 note is written in the three major Nigerian languages – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. No attempt whatsoever has been made to use the N100 note to discriminate against any group of Nigerians.
The MURIC Director’s claim that Muslims were marginalized in the recent National Conference is also untrue.
Contrary to Prof. Akintola’s allegation, the National Conference organized by the Jonathan Administration has been widely praised and acknowledged  as one of the best of such conferences ever held in this country. It was a purposeful conference, a conference in which a lot of maturity was displayed and at which religion never became a big issue.

MURIC’s  allegation that the security system in Aso Rock is saturated with Israeli security operatives is another  blatant lie. There are no Israeli security operatives  in Aso Rock. We invite Prof. Akintola to visit  the Presidential Villa and see for himself that there are no foreign security operatives on the premises and that the only security operatives in the Villa are Nigerians.

It is most unfortunate that such divisive falsehoods could have emanated from a supposedly knowledgeable man like Prof. Akintola and we demand an unreserved apology from him for the very unwarranted attempt to cause disaffection against President Jonathan amongst a major religious group in the country.”