Sunset on Saraki’s political dynasty

Sunset on Saraki’s political dynasty

By Dayo Omotoso

In a 1796 letter, third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I have no ambition to govern men.
It is a painful and thankless office.” And, former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, observed that “Politics are almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.”

For about four decades the Saraki family of Ilorin dominated the politics of Kwara State. The patriarch of the family, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor and politician, was the prime mover. Dr Saraki first entered politics in 1964 when he contested the parliamentary election for Ilorin as an independent, but lost.

After the election he returned to his medical practice in Lagos, only returning to party politics in 1978.

Earlier in 1977, Olusola Saraki had been elected as a member of the Constituency Assembly that produced the 1979 constitution. He won election into the Senate in 1979. He was re-elected in 1983 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and became the Senate Leader. Between 1979 and 1983, he was a member of Ilorin Emirate from Agoro compound in Agbaji.

In 1998, Olusola Saraki became a National Leader of the Board of Trustees of the All People’s Party (APP), contributing to the victory of the APP in Kwara and Kogi States. He assisted Mohammed Alabi Lawal in becoming Governor of Kwara State.

In 2001, Olusola Saraki was head of a team from the Arewa Consultative Forum, a Northern Cultural and political group, sent to meet and discuss common goals with Northern state governors and other stakeholders. Later Olusola Saraki defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); and in the April 2003 elections the kingmaker supported his son Bukola Saraki as candidate for governor of Kwara State and his daughter, Gbemisola, as Senator for Kwara Central Senatorial district.

In March 2003, the Societe Generale Bank (SGBN) of which Olusola Saraki was the Chairman was investigated by the National Drug Law Enforcement
Agency (NDLEA) for alleged money laundering. Later, SGBN was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Nuhu Ribadu, and its licence was suspended.

The SGBN eventually went under. Many depositors and customers of the bank lost a fortune in the process but there were no consequences.

Dr Olusola Saraki’s last political party was the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) on whose platform Gbemisola contested the 2011 Kwara State gubernatorial election.

The attempt created a schism in the Saraki family because Olusola Saraki wanted Gbemisola to succeed her brother, Bukola, as Governor of Kwara State but Bukola preferred his own anointed candidate, Abdufattah Ahmed, instead. Bukola Saraki’s candidate defeated his father’s candidate.

Popularly known as Baba Oloye, Olusola Saraki was allegedly deeply hurt and humiliated. Rumour, however, had it that father and son later reconciled.

Olusola Saraki was born in Ilorin on 17 May 1933 and died of cancer in Ikoyi, Lagos on 14 November 2012. His mother was from Iseyin in Oyo State; his father hailed from Ilorin, Kwara State. Saraki’s paternal ancestors were Fulanis from Mali about 200 years ago.

Olusola Saraki attended Eko Boys’ High School, Lagos; University of London; and St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. He worked as medical officer at General Hospital, Lagos and the Creek Hospital, Lagos. He had four children: Bukola, Gbemisola, Temitope and Olaolu.

Abubakar Bukola Saraki followed closely in the footsteps of his wealthy and influential father. Born on 19 December 1962, Bukola was educated at the Corona School, Victoria Island; and King’s College, United Kingdom: 1979-1981 for Higher School Certificate (HSC); and London Medical College: 1982-1987. He worked as Medical Officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex: 1988-1989; and Director of SGBN: 1990-2000.

In 20000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Bukola Saraki as Special Assistant on Budget. During his tenure, Bukola Saraki initiated the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. He also served in the Economic Policy Coordination Committee, where he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of several key economic policies for the nation.

Bukola Saraki was elected governor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003. He served for eight years: 2003-2011. As governor, Saraki became the first state chief executive to complete the Nigeria Independent Power Project in collaboration with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. He introduced innovations in the Primary health care, agriculture and infrastructural development. He also brought revolutionary changes into the Nigeria Governors’ Forum

In April 2011, Saraki was elected into the Senate on the platform of the PDP representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in March 2015 on the ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC) after he had decamped from the PDP. Saraki was the arrowhead of those who moved against President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid for the presidency in 2015.

However, Saraki defected back to the PDP on 31 July 2018 some days after 14 Senators decamped from the APC to the PDP. He blamed his defection on intolerance of some influential persons in the APC.

The party’s national Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole actually campaigned vigorously for the removal of Saraki as Senate President. Indeed, the national leadership of the APC never liked the emergence of Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate and they never disguised their disdain for him.

The 2019 National Assembly election was therefore, an opportunity for the APC hawks to take their pound of flesh. Before the election the Senate passed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill but President Muhammadu Buhari rejected it, stating that it reduced the President’s powers. The Senate said the Bill was passed to promote transparency and accountability. Buhari has no petroleum minister of cabinet rank.

In the February 23, 2019 election, Bukola Saraki lost his senatorial seat to Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe of the APC. Saraki polled a total of 68,994 votes against Oloriegbe’s 123,808 in the four Local Government Areas of Kwara Central Senatorial District leaving a margin of 54,814 votes. Oloriegbe is a former Majority Leader in the Kwara State House of Assembly.

A political scientist, Dr Kehinde Awujoola, commented on the shocking defeat of the Senate President. He said he was not surprised that Saraki was ousted considering the several unsavoury occurrences since he became the Senate President in June, 2015. He said “First, you will recall that the leadership of the APC did not want him as the Senate President.

The party had a preferred candidate from the North East. Saraki’s tenure was tempestuous. He encountered many tribulations. Several wild allegations were hurled at him including the Code of Conduct Bureau saga and the futile attempt to link him with the Offa robbery case.

The immediate past inspector general of police, Ibrahim Idris, had no respect for the office of the Senate President.

On several occasions, Idris derided the Senate President with impunity without consequences. The Executive arm of government did not help matters. Nobody in Buhari’s administration wanted Bukola Saraki. They saw him as a liability. So, the APC cabals waited for the right moment to humiliate him at the poll.”

Another commentator, Dr Tosin Iyaniwura, observed that the rivalry between the Saraki siblings, Bukola and Gbemisola had destroyed the cohesion of the Saraki political dynasty.

She said: “The current problem began in 2011 when the once united Saraki family became polarised over Gbemisola’s gubernatorial ambition. Unfortunately, those who were envious of the family’s streak of luck and influence exploited the crack to convince the Saraki teeming followers that it was time for them to chart a new course hence the new political slogan “ O to gee” in Kwara politics.

For several years, the Sarakis had always kept their followers happy and loyal by distributing food and money to them with some getting killed in the stampede for the items. But, now, some young Kwarans who were probably former followers of Baba Oloye have decided to challenge the Saraki dominance of Kwara politics.”

Reacting to Saraki’s defeat, a former media adviser who prefers anonymity said, “If an unwanted visitor comes to your compound, you quickly sweep off his or her footprints. Bukola Saraki is too arrogant and self-centred. He is a butterfly pretending to be a bird. When you talk of Kwara politics, we were loyal to him and his father.

The people served them faithfully but Bukola took their love and loyalty for granted. He became swollen-headed, and we said O to gee, meaning enough is enough. Bukola Saraki has become a pariah in Kwara politics.”

But, earlier in a newspaper interview in October 2014, a former Commissioner for information under Saraki’s governorship, Raheem Adedoyin, had argued that “The system in Saraki’s political dynasty is not about struggling for anything…”, adding that “Elections in Kwara had never been a tea party; but from 1979… the winning machinery is the Sarakis. The founder, a great visionary, Late Olusola Saraki, established the machinery and the machinery…has even surpassed the founder. Bukola Saraki, our leader is the Senior Prefect of the dynasty.”

The plot against the Saraki political machinery in Kwara first reared its ugly head before the 2015 general elections when some former loyalists kicked against an alleged plan by Bukola Saraki to impose a gubernatorial candidate on the APC. He compounded his political woes in 2018 when he decided to go back to the PDP.

Shuaibu Iyanda, a resident of Ilorin, is from the Amilegbe area of the state capital. He sympathised with Saraki’s political misfortune but eulogised Ibrahim Oloriegbe’s modesty and humility in victory. He said: “Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe is a noble man. I congratulate him on his modesty and humility in victory. Oloriegbe is not like some proud Abuja politicians who regard themselves as the Alpha and Omega of Kwara politics.

They have been going about boasting that they are behind the APC victory in Kwara. These pretenders are not even from Ilorin. Why, then, are they claiming to be leaders? Ilorin people have just shaken off the hegemony of one family. We do not want a new imposition from any quarters. Nobody should use us to secure appointments in Abuja,” he concluded.
Omotoso, a journalist, wrote from Ibadan

Who Will Save the Judiciary?

Who Will Save the Judiciary From PDP’s Assault?

By Shuaib Shuaib

It happens in every election cycle: Somewhere in Nigeria, a candidate runs for an elective office despite being closely related to a prominent public servant or even anyone likely to be on election duty. At times, they are two very talented individuals from different generations who won’t let family ties get in the way of their future. There was an instance like this leading to an election.

In April 2011, Mohammed Sani Idris was elected member of the House of Representatives from Lavun/Edati Federal Constituency under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Politics has come naturally to him and was always going to be his calling. When he kicked off his campaign for the seat, his late father, Idris Legbo Kutigi, was still Chief Justice of Nigeria. But that wasn’t an issue back then and nobody made it one.

Today, the former lawmaker is a top official of the PDP and impressively still has siblings serving at the Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrate Courts in different parts of the country.

Ironically, his party – the PDP – is looking to make families like Idris’ have to choose between the aspirations of one member over the career of another. In Nigeria that could spell trouble for millions of people who have relatives in the army, police, judiciary or civil service and choose to go into politics.

Character assassination has been the hallmark of the PDP’s presidential campaign in the just-concluded elections. Along the way, there have been dozens, maybe more, that have fallen victim to the party’s smear campaign simply for being in a position to preside over electoral matters. The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, has been on the receiving end of PDP attacks. But it is probably Amina Zakari, a commissioner in INEC, who has suffered most from the party’s constant aggression aimed at damaging her reputation.

All throughout the electoral process, the opposition party has tried to pick and choose the officials who are acceptable to it and those who are not. Others too have faced the wrath of the party, including the service chiefs, former IGP Ibrahim Idris, police commissioners, resident electoral commissioners of INEC and joining that list now are officers of the courts. In its quest to reclaim the presidency, the PDP seems ready to bring down the whole house. Virtually everyone it has attacked is someone in service of the nation and has a track record going back decades. But they have simply been made casualties of a political contest.

The name of Justice Bunmi Oyewole has been tarnished. The PDP has gone to the extreme to paint the picture that he made it to the Appeal Court not on merit but rather because of ties to former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu. For the opposition party, just the fact the Oyewole, a native of Osun, served as a High Court Judge in Lagos is enough to make him indebted to Tinubu thus disqualifies him from any position of responsibility. And for millions of Nigerians who have no means of understanding the workings of the National Judicial Council and how judges are elevated, that idea that Oyewole didn’t get there on his own and that Tinubu can place whoever he wants in any court has forever been implanted into their minds.

Never mind that a lot of the actions attributed to Tinubu happened when the PDP was in power. The party wrongly accused Justice Oyewole of being on the appeal panel that was set up to determine the petition on the governorship election campaign in Osun. And when it was discovered that he wasn’t, PDP expressed no remorse. Yet, his reputation has suffered some damage and all his years of service have been rubbished by the party.

The judge is just one more victims.

Now, the target of the PDP and its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, is the President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa. According to Ologbodiyan, to have a husband elected to the Senate on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is enough to disqualify the justice from heading the presidential election panel. But it’s important to understand if the PDP has always adhered to this standard: Other than ex-governor Murtala Nyako and Justice Binta Nyako, maybe the most popular couple with one leg in politics and the other in the judiciary is Dr. Peter and Justice Mary Odili. They have faced their fair share of political pressure as their politics overlaps with Justice Mary Odili’s duties as a justice of the Supreme Court.

The pressure was particularly intense when the apex court had to rule on the outcome of the governorship election in Rivers where Dr Odili, a two-term governor of the state, was linked to Nyesom Wike’s legal strategy in defending his victory at the 2015 elections. But the pressure wasn’t coming from PDP. If anything at all, the party turned a blind eye to what was a potential conflict of interest. Yet, Mary Odili still recused herself from the case on the Rivers governorship election. It was however, the only case she felt a need to so.

Zainab Bulkachuwa didn’t become President of the Court of Appeal under normal circumstances. She was in reality the steady hand that the then ruling PDP had to rely on after a tumultuous period. After going to war with Ayo Salami, who was the Appeal Court President, over his alleged romance with the opposition party, the PDP found itself in a legal bind. Salami was suspended from office and replaced with the late Justice Dalhatu Adamu who served in acting capacity for only 15 months before being forced to retire due to constitutional limitations.

It was to Justice Bulkachuwa that the NJC and Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government turned to. Even before then, Justice Bulkachuwa had ruled in several cases that benefited the PDP, including cases challenging PDP governors and even a senate president. So there has never been an issue of bias or conflict of interest against her. And in the entire period she was made head of the Court of Appeal, essentially bringing closure to a feud that engulfed heads of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, she was married to Adamu Bulkachuwa who was at the same time, a strong member of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s APC. Not once did the PDP complain about her marriage to Bulkachuwa or her husband’s membership of the APC. After two decade in the Appeal Court, it has suddenly become an issue.

In fact, ever since the couple got married, Adamu Bulkachuwa had been a politician after retiring from diplomatic service several years earlier. While she was a judicial officer in Bauchi, he ran and lost a race to be governor in 1993. And the Justice was already in the Appeal Court when he was elected to serve in the House of Representatives in 1999. So, should he as a politician have given up his aspirations for his wife’s career? Or was it Justice Bulkachuwa that should give up her professional career?

As senator-elect, Adamu Bulkachuwa has a pre-election case against him in court. The APC senatorial ticket in Bauchi that was handed to him by the party is being challenged by Usman Tuggar. Here, there is an undeniable conflict of interest and the justice will have to disqualify herself from the case. But it is a case the PDP doesn’t care about. What the party wants is to drag her name in the mud, make her collateral damage out of desperation.

The PDP tendency to turn its ire towards anyone remotely resembling a stumbling block to its goals has gotten the attention of the presidency. Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, has admonished the PDP attacks on the Appeal Court President. It was Shehu that even labeled the attacks on her as character assassination suggesting the whole exercise was aimed at driving a wedge between the executive and judicial arms of government. It is what it appears like. Every judge the party suspects won’t play to their tune, they blackmail and paint black. In doing that, it’s enough just to insinuate that she is under investigation by the SSS even if the claim is false.

The PDP cannot continue to hurt and ruin the lives of good people and excuse their actions in the name of politics. There have to be limits to how far PDP is willing to go in denigrating institutions and individuals for its own interest.

Shuaib, a former editor of Leadership newspaper, writes from Abuja

Shall we now beg Goodluck Jonathan for forgiveness?

SATIRE SATURDAY: Shall we now beg Goodluck Jonathan for forgiveness?

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Oladeinde Olawoyin

Two weeks ago, I was in Ibogun-Olaogun, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ancestral village, for an interview with the retired general. The conversation is meant to be part of a special publication by this newspaper, set for release in commemoration of Nigeria’s 20-year democratic journey later this month. Of course, having served for the first eight years of the 20-year journey, Mr. Obasanjo occupies a significant part of that narrative.

Sitting right before the former president in his room while the engagement gathered momentum, one thing struck me about his views on Nigeria and her leadership question: Mr Obasanjo had no doubt that the nation has consistently witnessed a complete descent in its choice of leadership since 1999.

To be sure, anyone who has read the Otta farmer well enough would be conscious of this not-so-subtle obsession with the self; his numerous ways of pronouncing himself the best thing that would happen to Nigeria’s leadership institution and his tangential reference to everyone who came before and after him as incompetent simpletons.

Yet if we look beyond the numerous flaws of Mr. Obasanjo himself, beyond his megalomaniac tendencies, given that he had the will power to do so much but delivered not as much, it is tempting to agree that Nigeria has indeed been experiencing a descent into the abyss in terms of its leadership choice since 1999.

For, with the understandable exception of the turbulent tenure of the late Umaru Yar’adua, whose early reformist steps and failing health threw into our own version of what could pass for martyrdom, the nation has taken several steps backward than it has taken forward in her journey toward growth and development.

And these disturbing concerns, by default, are a reflection of the quality of leaders the system has thrown up over the years. While former President Goodluck Jonathan elevated institutionalized sleaze by his legendary docility, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has given a new nomenclature to crass incompetence. This leadership pattern, frankly, is a major reason why Mr Obasanjo whose serial iniquities are all too known now considers—-some would say ‘deludes’, and rightly so—-himself to be our own Gandhi!

The bar of governance, of leadership, hasn’t only fallen; it is on the muddy floor reeking of incompetence and corruption and related malfeasance.

So the other day when a narrative began to gain traction across the media landscape, I was as amused as I was disturbed. It began with a subtle campaign by folks suggesting that the nation faces numerous leadership and institutional crises today because of the way Mr Jonathan was (mal)treated at the polls in 2015, by the political elites and, by extension, the ordinary voters. First, it would have been funny if it was not very unfortunate.

Then came the bigger narrative, peddled first by — I think — a former aide of the ex-president, Reno Omokri, and a former minister for aviation and Mr Jonathan’s campaign manager, Femi Fani-Kayode. It would get to its crescendo at the height of the royal rumble between former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido, and the dollar-flaunting governor of Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje. The wise logic of Messrs Omokri and Fani-Kayode is steeped in the narrative that suggests that the humiliating actions taken against Emir Sanusi are simply the outspoken former CBN governor’s ‘reward’ for his anti-Jonathan “treacherous” actions when he held sway at the CBN. In other words, Nigeria and those who (mal)treated Mr Jonathan would only know peace when they apologise to the man and he forgives them.

Because Messrs Omokri and Fani-Kayode wield considerable influence across Nigeria’s social media landscape, that narrative would soon take on a life of its own. They and their alleluia crowds would later release a long list of names of those who met their comeuppance after “betraying” Mr Jonathan, Nigeria’s, and indeed Africa’s, all-time “hero of democracy”! Bukola Saraki. Atiku Abubakar. Dino Melaye. Nigeria. Nigerians. The list is endless.

Then came the biggest of all initiatives: a massive, never-seen-before, all-inclusive delegation of detribalised Nigerian youths, selected across fora like Facebook and Twitter, from Zamfara through Ile-Oluji, with the sole mandate of marching all the way to Otuoke to go seek forgiveness from Mr Jonathan on behalf of 180 million gullible Nigerians who rejected him in 2015. As at the last time I heard of this initiative, over a thousand names of willing participants had been captured.

This delegation, whose activities I understand would be covered live on CNN and Aljazeera, would also plead with the former president to pray for the country because, as the narrative goes, our numerous crises would disappear pronto once he does. It remains unclear whether the delegation would go see Mr Jonathan with sacrificial materials—-e.g white foul, a ram, a calabash, kola nut, a piece of red clothing, and, most importantly, ninety-seven bottles of undiluted Ogogoro—but the possibility of that would not be ruled out. Nobody visits a deity (of democracy) empty-handed. And, you know, especially for those who nurse the bitter thoughts these selfless Nigerian youths are out there to “hustle” Mr Jonathan, nobody comes back from a deity empty-handed too.

But in the meantime, just before the world witnesses the biggest of all appeasements, let us make it clear that people who build sane societies do not obsess about a wasteful past because of a lifeless present. Rather, they organize to actualise a vibrant future.

And for those selfless youth who would soon be on their way to Otuoke, they should be fair enough in their dealings. If Jonathan deserves to be appeased for elevating sleaze to a “transformational” height, then they should also extend the consideration to, of course, Yar’adua. If Jonathan enjoys the honour of being described as a “gentle” man with good heart, Yar’adua is the epitome of that virtue. It does not matter that “good” heart does not build “good” nation. It matters not.

And because Yar’adua is a product of Obasanjo, let our selfless youth also move to Otta—to appease ‘Baba’ whom some ignorantly accused of wasting $16 billion on an illusory power even if details have shown that it was just a paltry 3-point-something billion dollar that was expended. Obasanjo, of course, is a product of the Abdulsalami Abubakar transition initiative and so our youth would also need a visit to Minna, to appease the retired general for being a subject of wicked conspiracy theories over the death of M.K.O Abiola.

Still on Abiola, and because Abdulsalami’s residence isn’t far from a certain gap-toothed general’s hill-top mansion, our youth would also need to visit Ibrahim Babangida, to seek forgiveness over our misunderstanding of his annulment of the June 12 election. Because we now know better, we are sorry.

Mr Buhari needs no appeasement because he is the source of this pan-Nigerian peregrination. Shehu Shagari died recently so a visit to Sokoto is pointless. Ditto Murtala Mohammed and Mr Buhari’s friend, mentor, and confidant who never stole us blind, Sani Abacha. Yakubu Gowon already prays for Nigeria and so we are sure he needs no such appeasement; he loves us already. Aguiyi Ironsi and those who came before him too are not here.

Finally, in line with our obsession with what we call “Afghanistanism” in journalese (evident in how we empathise with victims of disasters in far away places even when the homefront burns), is it out of place too if our youth help seek forgiveness from Adolf Hitler—-on behalf of gullible European Jews

Credit: Premium Times

Talkin’ about a revolution

Talkin’ about a revolution

by Simon Kolawole

I always hesitate to use the “R” word because I don’t understand how it really works, but a lot of Nigerians have been talking about “revolution” for a while. They say Nigeria will experience a revolution at a point in time, given the way the society has been going: the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer; the fat getting fatter, the lean getting leaner. One definition goes like this: “Revolution is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organisation which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression — political, social, economic — or political incompetence.”

It sounds interesting but many have also argued that a revolution is not possible in Nigeria because “we the people” are “docile”. Some say Nigerians deserve the kind of leaders they have. They collect cash, rice and vegetable oil at election times to trade their votes and are inevitably bound by the choices they make. It is said that morally, therefore, they cannot rise up against the same leaders they put in office after selling their votes. Nigerians are also sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines, meaning there can never be a consensus to rise up against the government in power because it will be resisted by those who have the incumbency advantage.

Revolution is too heavy an idea for me to discuss on the pages of newspapers, but Senator Dino Melaye got me thinking with his tweet on Thursday about the “revenge of the poor” and the “perilous times” that lie ahead. He tweeted: “I am afraid of the revenge of the poor, it happened in Russia, France and recently in Sudan. It can happen in Nigeria. Housing segregation put us the elite in jeopardy. Ikoyi, Banana, Maitama, Asokoro etc. Our leaders + me beware of violent revolution. Perilous times loading.” Coming from a senator who has more fancy cars than the hairs on my head, the warning hit me like a half-hearted satire but I managed to survive it.

In my previous article, “Whatsoever a Man Soweth” (May 12, 2019), I did warn that nobody is safe in Nigeria, including those who think they are covered by a convoy of armed escorts. I also said that the rebellion by the vulnerable elements of the society seems to be in full motion as Nigerians groan under the pandemic of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, internet fraud and all kinds of criminality. Unfortunately, the security system designed to protect the high and the mighty is failing. It is not just the poor and the lowly that are bearing the brunt, although it is only when the big fish are victims that we make so much fuss over the calamity that has befallen us as a people.

I don’t know if Senator Melaye actually meant what he was saying but I will, all the same, give us a few examples of how our legislators are contributing to the state of union and how they are making “perilous times” inevitable — except they change their ways. As I will always argue, our leaders should stop thinking that Nigeria is like this because of some mistake or co-incidence. No. We are only reaping what we have been sowing. What we failed to plan for yesterday is coming back to bite us today and unless we plan for tomorrow as a matter of urgency, the harvest is going to be bountiful but unpleasant. The ruling elite must chew over this again and again.

The first thing the lawmakers must realise (and I refer to both state and federal legislators because I don’t believe Abuja is the only problem) is that there is a link between their greed — the obscene allowances, extortion-driven oversight activities as well as padded budgets — and the poverty and insecurity in the land. It is a very simple matter. In a country where tens of millions are unemployed and those who have jobs are struggling to survive, each senator is pocketing N13.5 million “running cost” in a month. We still don’t know what members of the house of reps take home every month, neither can we say anything about state legislators. Maybe theirs is even fatter and juicier.

Imagine if the lawmakers — at all levels — are determined to live a decent life and are not obsessed with grabbing every naira in sight. Imagine they are working round the clock to hold the executive accountable for the budgets that are passed every year. Imagine that the lawmakers make sure what is budgeted for roads goes into roads, every kobo earmarked for education goes into education, and every naira allocated to health goes into health. Imagine that those public hearings are actually meant to hold MDAs accountable and expose the rot in the system. Imagine that the auditor-general’s reports are used by the lawmakers to clean up the system rather than to extort.

Unfortunately, the lawmakers are a big burden on Nigerians. Not so long ago, the Bayelsa state house of assembly passed a bill granting themselves pensions. The speaker would take N500,000 monthly, the deputy N200,000 and the others N100,000. This, we must understand, is different from the severance package, which the rest of us are not privileged to know. We can only guess that it will not be miserly. All of this happening in a state where the majority of the people are struggling to make ends meet. So we run a society where the fat are getting fatter and are not ashamed to keep sowing bigger coats for themselves every day. But Nigerians are watching.

Not to be outdone, Kano state lawmakers have also passed their own law to award life pension to their principal officers. They will also be entitled to foreign medical treatment for life — while the people who voted them into office are not entitled to common paracetamol at the public hospitals. The lawmakers in several states, working as rubberstamps of incumbent governors, passed pension laws that awarded former governors new cars every three to four years, in addition to mansions in the state capitals and Abuja, foreign medical treatment and other sickening benefits. Nigerians are programmed to be exploited by their leaders in and out of office! The inequality is wicked.

The bazaar of budget padding by lawmakers is one of the most evil developments in this democratic dispensation. A former lawmaker once challenged me to define “budget padding” and I was wondering if he was pulling my leg. It so happens that an agency will prepare a budget of N10 billion and the supervisory legislative committee will tell the agency it can double the figure to N20 billion if they can bring a certain amount in cash upfront. Some lawmakers will even insist on nominating contractors for projects smuggled into the budget, and you and I know that the job may not be done at all. How can any society make progress that way? How can?

Melaye is talking about the coming “revolution”. Yes, the behaviours of the power elite are in the public domain. Nigerians are watching. They listen to the news everyday and can tell you what the lawmakers are doing with our commonwealth. They are seeing pictures and videos on social media. They are reading the charges filed against politicians in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). They know all these things. Nothing justifies criminality and I will never vote for criminality, but maybe it is time for Nigerian politicians — not just the lawmakers — to see how their greed and lifestyles are hurting Nigeria’s progress and breeding criminals.

You can always argue that we should not use poverty to explain the growing criminality in the land. But we need to step back again and again and ask the question: why are certain crimes becoming attractive to our young people? Many of those being arrested are university graduates and brilliant people whose energies have been deployed for the wrong use because they have nothing gainful to do. I will, therefore, conclude with the same admonition: the time has come for the Nigerian elite to have a “meeting” and agree to change their ways. Things cannot continue like this. They must forsake their greed and redirect our commonwealth from personal comfort to communal progress.

To make my admonition simpler: let our budgets and resources be utilised to build a society that prioritises the welfare of the majority and not the pensions, wardrobe allowances and DTAs of a tiny minority. Governors’ convoys must grow leaner and the presidential jets must reduce in population. Tracy Chapman, the American singer, sang in 1988: “Don’t you know/They’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution/It sounds like a whisper/While they’re standing in the welfare lines/Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation/Wasting time in the unemployment lines/Sitting around waiting for a promotion.” Those who have ears, let them hear.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
CHICKEN CHANGE

Abdulgafar Ayinla, a member-elect of the Kwara state house of assembly, has been arrested by the EFCC over an alleged N26 million property scam. Ayinla, a legal practitioner, allegedly defrauded a US-based client in a property deal. He is accused of collecting the money without delivering service and has allegedly confessed to the crime, promising to refund the N26 million to the petitioner as soon as he is inaugurated and he — wait for this — collects his “wardrobe allowance”! The lawmakers are really feeding fat on the treasury. Of course, he will be sworn in as a lawmaker. That is the way we roll. And we still wonder why Nigeria is like this. Honourable!

LOOT AND LAUGH

If you are a public officer in Bauchi state, I have some news for you: you can now loot and laugh all the way to the bank. The Bauchi state house of assembly has repealed the law on the recovery of looted public funds and properties. The law was passed on the floor of the house with only 13 out of 31 members in attendance. Governor Mohammed Abubakar had signed the law establishing Public Property and Funds Recovery Tribunal in 2017 allegedly to deal with his predecessor, but now that he is about to become a predecessor himself, he does not want to have a dose of his own medicine. And life will continue as usual. And we will keep wondering why Nigeria is like this. Licence.

SMOKING HOT

Is the grass greener on the other side? Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo state, has joined Omoyele Sowore, former presidential candidate, in stressing the value of marijuana business, which is projected to hit a global value of $145 billion by 2025. “We all know that Ondo State is the hot bed of cannabis cultivation in Nigeria… we would be shortchanging ourselves if we failed tap into the legal marijuana market,” he said. Of course, there is a difference between medical use of marijuana, which has been identified as a cure for diseases such as epilepsy, and recreational use — which we regard as a vice. Marijuana is gradually becoming a burning issue in Nigeria. Highlight.

MYTH BUSTER

The full meaning of “sir” is “Slave I Remain”, isn’t it? It was a word introduced to Indians during the British colonial rule to make them subservient to their colonisers for life, according to the urban legend. While India was under various forms of British colonial rule from 1612 to 1947, the word “sir” entered the English language in 1297. That means it was in use about four centuries before India was colonised! Indeed, “sir” was a formal English honorific address for titled knights, not slaves, derived from “sire”. It was also used as a respectful address to “senior commoners”. Sir, sire, seigneur and senior all grew up together in the evolution of language. Fact.

Credit: TheCable

How to make your bank refund money wrongly deducted

How to make your bank reverse your money

by Praise Olowe

Banks are institutions that help you keep your money and facilitate other financial transactions.

These transactions happen smoothly and with no issues. However, there are times when the bank fails in its service to you. It can be very annoying when bank customers experience such issues as unfair or unexplained charges, poor customer service by bank staff, unauthorised transactions on customer accounts through bank transfers or ATM withdrawals, etc.

It is even more frustrating when customers lodge complaint and nothing is done about it.

If you are having challenges sorting out one problem or the other with your bank or any financial institution, bellow are detailed steps you should follow as regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The first and most important step to take is to contact the bank through the quickest channels available. You can reach them on the customer care numbers available or on Social Media.

However, if the result is not satisfactory, you are advised to visit the bank yourself and lay the complaints.

It is also important to note the details of the communication e.g. if a phone call, take down details of when you called, who you spoke to, what you said, and the response you received. All phone calls are recorded so this can easily be reviewed if there are issues later.

Allow two weeks (it might be less in some banks) for the issue to be resolved.

If after lodging your complaint, your Bank still fails to engage you and resolve the complaint within two weeks as provided for in the ATM HELP DESK Circular, you have the right to escalate your complaint to the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the CBN.

Read Also: ‘Banks should not joke with cybersecurity’
You can only direct your Complaints to CPD upon the failure of your Bank/Financial Institution to resolve your complaint within the 2 weeks timeline given by the CBN.

You can contact the CPD through the following channels:
E-mail: cpd@cbn.gov.ng
Letter: Director, Consumer Protection Department
Central Business District, Abuja
Your letter of Complaint should be addressed to the Director, Consumer Protection Department. You can submit your letter at the CBN Head Office or at any of the Central Bank of Nigeria branches of nationwide.

The CBN deals with all financial related complaints so far as it is against Financial Institutions within its regulatory purview. How to Write an Effective Complaints Letter

How to write an effective complaints letter

Your complaint, according to the CBN, should be clear and concise to avoid ambiguity. The Complaint letter (petition) should contain amongst other things the following:
• Name, Address, Contact Phone Number & E-mail of the Complainant;
• Name of your Financial Institution;
• Personal banking details ( Do not include PIN & Passwords)
• History/Date of the transaction in dispute;
• Amount claimed (if any);
• Attach relevant documents to support your claim and;
• Evidence to show that you have first lodged the complaint at your bank.

The CBN noted that consumer protection was a critical requirement for financial system stability and an indispensable component for effective regulatory and supervisory framework.

Credit: The Nation

Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks 

Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks

by Demola Adefajo

There is no doubt about it, the WhatsApp and other social media have revolutionised our knowledge base. WhatsApp has enabled us keep in regular contact with friends, co-workers and family at minimal cost. However, it has come with its own negative baggage.

As a regular or occasional user of WhatsApp and other social media you must have come across some messages which you believe to be true and you decide to send to your friends and groups only to discover that they are untrue! It is also possible that you have identified some of your contacts who are always sharing messages which almost always prove to be hoaxes. In fact, I have a contact whose name I have changed to Alarmist because of her penchant for sending alarming messages which almost always prove to be untrue.

I have identified different categories of these messages based on their motives. They are those I call Marketers. They are designed to extol the virtue of some particular products which they claim can do a lot of magic. One of such is a broadcast recently recommending use of hand sanitisers to prevent sexually transmitted infections! We also have one advertising coconut oil as a cure for cancer.

The second category are those I tag demarketers. The broad objective is to malign some products. This category of broadcasts comes out with outlandish claims meant to malign such products. Victims of this type of broadcasts include Coca Cola, Paracetamol, Crunchy Biscuits, Dew Water, fruits etc. They come out with claims that a large number of people have died in a particular country after consuming the product! A cursory search on Google would expose the deceit. They however bank on the fact that most people are more likely to share a message than to check the veracity. They would even dare you to check on the net.

The third group are the pseudo religious broadcasts. You are asked to share a particular message in order to receive some favour. The designers even go further to give examples of people who sent the message and secure contracts or suddenly become millionaires. On the other hand, they give examples of some imaginary characters who met with misfortune because they refused to share! Did Dangote also share this type of message? Maybe that is the secret of Bill Gates’ wealth!

Among the pseudo-religious broadcasts are those designed to create discord among adherents of various religious groups. One of such was sent to me with the instruction to send to all my contacts! It claimed Christians are being killed in one part of India. A check on Google showed that there was no such killing. More importantly, the place mentioned does not even exist! Another is a message alerting Muslims to the plan by Denmark to burn the Qur’an “next Saturday”. The message has been circulating for years. Yet it is always “next Saturday”. You are asked to send to all your Muslim contacts so that they can boycott products made in Denmark! Hmmm! When will it be “next Saturday”? Is Denmark a person?

There are also the downrightly mischievous ones designed to poke fun at us! Maybe you still remember that message instructing us to bath with salt water and drink a lot of salt to prevent Ebola. It was originated by some girls who were bored and wanted to catch some fun. They then decided to design that message. So many people believed and did as instructed. At the end of the day many high blood pressure patients were dispatched to the great beyond after the salt they took aggravated their health condition!

We also have a recent one asking us to send to five WhatsApp groups to claim a sum of N720,000. Just like that!

In fact there are websites dedicated to creating this type of message!

Whichever the category of WhatsApp hoax broadcast they all bank on our fear, greed, emotion and laziness.

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim.

Beware of long health warnings. They often pack a lot of lies in the middle after starting with facts,

Hesitate before sharing messages. Maybe if you read a second time you would discover some lies in the message. This is why they often end with instruction to share now.

Always check on Google. Many of these hoax messages have been circulating for years and they have been documented as hoax. Just type the key words into your browser. E.g. Paracetamol Machupo virus hoax.

It is not true if it stands too good to be true! Ignore messages asking you to inform physically challenged persons that there is a scheme paying them N100,000 per month! Or a message instructing you to send name of your over 70 for free Hajj!

Ask questions. Don’t just share. Ask “Why is this person asking me to share with all my contacts?” What do they stand to gain?

We should endeavour to know a little about everything. For instance, if we know that HIV cannot be transmitted through food, we would ignore messages claiming some people got infected with HIV when they eat banana or water melon.

Try clicking on the links or call the phone numbers. This writer has made a number of breakthroughs by clicking on the link and indicated. On many occasions, the link refers to a different unrelated matter entirely.

When I called the phone number used to advertise a particular job offer, the person at the other end told me he had nothing to do with the said job. He lamented that he had almost developed a phobia for his phone as a result of the number of people contacting him for a job he knows nothing about.
Resist the urge to be the first to break a particular piece of news even when we aren’t sure it is true.

Be more scientific minded and less superstitious. A more scientifically minded person wouldn’t help send messages claiming some people died after receiving calls from a particular phone number

Some widely circulated WhatsApp hoax messages

Share this message with 20 contacts and your WhatsApp logo would turn blue! Even if you send to 1 million contacts, it would remain green.

Share this picture and some organisation would donate to treatment of a sick child. Bloody waste of time. Nobody is monitoring how many times you send a particular message!

40 persons died after eating a particular biscuit in South Africa. Ok o! I wonder how 40 persons would die after consuming a product in South Africa and yet no newspaper reported it and the company has not been blacklisted!

Share this video until it reaches Buhari! Thanks so much. I don’t have Buhari on my contact list. Besides, the person in the video does not bear any resemblance to the person you claim to be reporting.

To be continued!
Demola Adefajo blogs at

www.demolaadefajo.com
Twitter: @demoadefa

How fake news thrives in Nigeria

How fake news thrives in Nigeria


Agency Report

By Ephraims Sheyin

Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, is credited with what many regard as the most flattering attribute to journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later,’’ Jefferson wrote in January 1787.

Unfortunately for the newshounds, Jefferson is also credited with what is seen as the most devastating remark on the media.

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them,’’ Jefferson wrote a few years later.

“In as much as he knows nothing, he is nearer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors.’’

Jefferson’s dramatic u-turn may just have been caused by the preponderance of fake news, something that has taken over today’s media space, with both the social and traditional media struggling to outdo each other in the spread of hoaxes.

Consider this. A state governor is reported to be involved in a road accident which killed the driver and left the governor with a broken spinal cord. He is reportedly ferried, unconscious, to a foreign country for urgent medical attention.

The governor appears days later, hale and hearty, to the shame of newspaper editors, who had splashed the road crash rumour on front pages.

Or this. A gateman, Musa Usman, makes it to the front pages of several newspapers and enjoys prime time on televisions and radio for rejecting a house offered him by an Indian boss he had served for 25 years, opting to rather have a borehole in his community.

For placing public good above personal interest, he is celebrated as a model, with encomiums flowing from all directions. Usman has, however, declared that no house was offered to him. He says that his Indian master did not give him such an option. The house offer story was just someone’s imagination.

Not long ago, a news medium quoted a governor as pouring encomiums on his former political godfather, now a bitter political rival, at a ceremony to mark the latter’s birthday. Such a report should ordinarily be a simple and harmless one.

But, a few minutes after the story was published, the organ received threats of legal action. The event never happened. It was a hoax by a reporter, who had no qualms feeding the public with utter falsehood. The news was fake. A cheap lie.

The instances are just everywhere. Aside from the fake news, photos or videos are purposefully created and spread to confuse and misinform. Photos or videos are also manipulated to deceive, while old pictures are often shared as new.

In some cases, photos from other shores are shared in the Nigerian space, ostensibly to create the impression that they are local scenes.

Commenting on the trend recently, Umaru Pate, Head, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano, said it was “dangerous, unethical, provocative and subversive to peace and societal serenity’’.

“Fake news misinforms and misdirects society with severe consequences on individual and national systems. It heightens tension, builds fear and mistrust among people.’’

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has also deplored the trend, declaring recently that fake news could “threaten and destroy’’ the country. He has also launched a campaign against it.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo echoed similar worry in a speech at the biennial convention of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), in Lagos recently.

“Fake news will make media practice lose its appeal; it will challenge the credibility which is the base of journalism practice,” he said.

He called on editors to consciously take back the space by infusing online media practice with traditional and professional competence, to right the wrongs in the industry.

“Some people must take up the role of speaking against the bastardisation of journalism by the new media,’’ he declared.

Mr Osinbajo called for the resuscitation of investigative journalism to tackle national challenges and help government plan better, noting specifically that the advent of the new media had increased misinformation through the spread of fake news and other negative reports that often caused confusion, disaffection and disunity.

“Editors must evolve strategies that will keep journalism in its place as the digital media appears to be moving away from the newsroom to the clouds,’’ he said.

Mr Osinbajo regretted that the role of the newspaper was gradually being usurped as the print media continued in its pursuit of traffic, rather than accuracy.

He called on media stakeholders to equip newsrooms with gadgets and technologies that could detect and remove fake images from news items and emphasised the need for accurate, fair, balanced and objective reportage at all times.

Like Mr Osinbajo, many media analysts blame the worsening trend of fake news on the collapse of investigative journalism.

Peter Amine, Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Plateau chapter, for instance, believes that the spread of fake news can be minimised if reporters and editors insisted on the dictum “when in doubt, leave out’’.

“What we have, regrettably, is a situation where reporters, in a hurry to be the first with the news, hurl every rumour at the public. One can even understand the `wild freedom’ in the social media where there is no control, no editors, and no consequences for lying.

But, what does one make of similar lies celebrated in the traditional media?’’ he queried.

He blamed the preponderance of fake news on laziness and the loss of the investigative culture that should be the hallmark of functional journalism.

He urged editors to rise up to the challenge of curtailing the activities of erring reporters.

But, as stakeholders strive to minimise the incidences of fake news, analysts have suggested a deeper look into why it is getting more common and becoming the norm.

According to Mr Pate: “Fake news is partly caused by the absence, or late arrival of official information, which creates a vacuum filled by rumours and imaginations.’’

According to him, desperate politicians, ethnic jingoists, foreign interests and mischief makers have also taken advantage of the explosion in social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Nairaline and WhatsApp – to spew fake news and hate messages which inflict confusion into the society.

While urging media houses to focus more on investigative reporting, he cautioned against selective reporting and the promotion of prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals based on incomplete facts, mischief and ignorance.

Other analysts have also called for more training to reporters and editors to boost research capacities among media professionals so as to minimise shallow reporting and episodic attitudes in news coverage and programme production.

They have also cautioned the media against promoting statements of politicians, ethnic champions, religious zealots and other interested parties without critical inquiry about specific social conflicts.

They noted that such groups were usually prone to spreading fake news against perceived rivals.

While urging media gatekeepers and news content managers to be more critical, the analysts have pointed out that publishing fake news could confer legitimacy, credibility and massive reach to such fakery and confuse the audience about truth and falsehood.

Worried by the effects of such misinformation, many Nigerians have always wondered if it is possible to quickly spot fake news to avoid being misled.

Sylvestre Dada, a communication expert, offers suggestions.

“The readers, listeners or viewers must check multiple sources, and try to establish trusted brands over time.

“They should also use various verification tools, with news content managers encouraged to check and think, before broadcasting or publishing.’’

He added that young people should be educated on what was trustworthy, as against what is fake, so that they could draw a line between the two.

But as Nigeria strives for reliable information crucial to her growth, media professionals saddled with that task appear to face lots of challenges, including the limited knowledge of the country by even top editors. Another challenge is the commercialisation of news.

Other limitations include ownership influence, social malpractices and corruption, media professionals acting as judges or advocates for hidden interests, and cases of senior editorial staff acting as consultants to politicians and religious groups.

The existence of cartels among reporters covering specific beats has also led to the adulteration of what is reported as the “media gangs’’ only decide what information to publish after “discussing and agreeing’’ with the news sources.

Analysts say that such “unholy fraternity’’ has often led to the “burial’’ of some hard truths that would have been useful in the nation’s search for greatness.

Another challenge is the “copy-me’’ syndrome, a practice where reporters receive reports of events they did not cover, from colleagues, and publish same, not minding if what they had been “copied’’ is fake news.

Not a few reporters have lost their jobs to this scary practice, yet it still persists.

To effectively battle fake news, observers have suggested closer working relationships among credible media organisations to facilitate the dissemination of only credible and verified news to reduce the attention to fake information by social media.

They have also called for increased and continuous training for media professionals, with regulatory outfits encouraged to strictly apply the rules, while professional bodies keep eagle eyes on members to guide against derailment. (NANFeatures)

Whatsoever a man soweth

Whatsoever a man soweth

By Simon Kolawole

Eleven years ago — to be specific, on July 7, 2008 — the title of my column was: “One Day, the People Will Rebel”. I warned that the extravagant lifestyles of our elite in the face of crippling poverty in the country would come back to bite all of us one day. At the time, kidnappings were a Niger Delta thing as militants agitated for resource control, but I was talking about what I called the “non-oil” kidnappings which I said would become the fad in the near future. I said the Nigerian elite must get the message that they could not continue in their ways and expect peace and safety. I warned that there was a lot of frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment in the land.

I wrote that when “blood relations of wealthy people are being kidnapped in exchange for ransoms, that is a clear danger signal to the elite. You have a driver. You have a cook. You have a security guard. You have policemen guarding you. They are all human beings. They see things happening around them. They hear your phone conversations as you conduct your mindless transactions. They are hearing the mind-blowing figures. They see the movements of Ghana-Must-Go bags. In an attempt to ‘redistribute’ the loot, they will resort to kidnappings and demand ransoms. It is happening already. More are in the offing, I think”.

A reader was so angry with me that he sent me this SMS: “Simon, you are sowing evil ideas in the minds of our drivers and domestic staff. You are highly irresponsible. I will never read your column again.” Typical of me, I did not respond. I had realised early in my column-writing career that those who really want to engage in constructive debates normally use decent language. I hate street fights. As a kid, I was never involved in street fights. My grandmother (God bless her soul) was always proud to show me off to her friends as a “good boy”. I would be letting “Iya Kola” down in her grave if I engage in internet street fights. So I always let attacks and insults pass — with all pleasure.

However, I am always unhappy whenever I lose a reader because of my views. I feel I have lost a potential co-evangelist in my “leadership by example” approach to the building of a nation “where peace and justice shall reign”. That reader clearly misunderstood me: I was only forewarning on a disturbing development with the sole aim of gingering our leaders to act. Growing criminality is a product of our broken social system that deprives the majority of Nigerians the basics of life such as roads, water, healthcare, education, security and jobs. I was fighting for social justice. I was warning the elite that they were not safe in their fortresses no matter how many police escorts they have.

As a philosopher said, all I did was to hold up a mirror for the society to look at itself. Breaking the mirror — as that angry reader decided to do — would not change the picture. The inequality in Nigeria has been too much for too long. In a country where people lose their lives because they cannot afford drugs of N1,000, you have people buying private jets and flashy cars not from some hard work but by feeding on the commonwealth. Our hospitals are rejecting poor patients because there is no bed space. Pupils are sitting on the floor to learn chemistry and biology in schools the governor cannot allow his relatives to attend. Such a society cannot escape doom.

In that “offensive” article, I asked, sarcastically: “What is the way forward? More policemen? More bullet-proof SUVs? More private jets? More Banana Islands? More signs of ‘military zone, keep off’?” I then replied myself: “I don’t know, but I have a hunch that more equitable management of resources could be of help. I suspect that more jobs, more housing, more medicine, more books, better roads, and better power supply would be of use. I suspect that less looting, less waste of resources would go some way. But if things continue the way they are, there is no doubt about it: one day, the long-suffering people of this country will react. They will rebel. Mark my words.”

The rebellion seems to be in full motion today as Nigerians groan under the pandemic of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, internet fraud and all kinds of criminality. Worse still, the security system cannot protect either the rich or the poor. We should ask ourselves how we got here. One of my favourite Yoruba proverbs, as oft-repeated by my late grandmother, says “when a child stumbles, he looks at his front; when an adult stumbles, he looks at his back”. Someone else would add: “Where did the rain begin to beat us?” If only we could retrace our footsteps, we will gain insight. We can then begin to sow a different seed today so that we can reap a different harvest tomorrow.

Last week, I watched as some members of the house of reps took turns to lament the state of insecurity in the country. One speaker after the other complained that they can no longer travel to or sleep in their villages because of insecurity. They are overwhelmed by the army of criminals. However, they just cannot see a link between their greed — their obscene allowances, their extortion-driven oversight activities as well as the padded budgets — and the poverty and insecurity in the land. That is the problem with Nigerian politicians: they think Nigeria is like this by mistake. They think if we are able to deploy more troops, kidnapping will stop. If only it were that simple!

Let me say this yet again: the Nigerian ruling elite need to have a meeting, perhaps a “meeting of minds”, and agree to change their ways. We cannot continue to run a system of an overfed elite minority and a malnourished majority and expect to keep travelling to the village in glittering SUVs without consequences. No. It won’t work. We cannot run a system where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and expect peace. We have been living a lie for too long. Commonsense tells us that inequality comes with a price. We cannot sustain a system that ruins the lives of the majority of 200 million Nigerians and hope to sleep and snore at night.

Although the economic downturn in the last five years and some of the policies of President Muhammadu Buhari are implicated in the current socio-political crises, the truth remains that for too long, we ignored the warning signals. For decades, the UNDP told us that 70 percent of Nigerians were living on less than $1 a day. What did we do to prevent the incoming disaster? It was all Greek to us. We spent our petrodollars as if there would be no tomorrow. Well, today is yesterday’s tomorrow. You don’t have to be a development expert to know that any country where the bulk of the youth are unemployed or unemployable is headed for chronic insecurity.

Don’t take my word for it. Check the poverty and unemployment rates of countries with the least incidence of crime and you will get a better idea of what I am driving at. When young men and young women wake up in the morning with nowhere to go, they are tempting the devil. He will give them something to do. Their energies will be misused and abused as they struggle to survive. No human being will sit down at home and die of hunger. Survival is a basic human instinct. The human being will survive by any means necessary — even if it is to steal, beg or borrow. The police and the army combined cannot contain crime when the factory producing criminals has not been closed.

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. We have sown the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind. The teens and teenagers that we refused to care for yesterday have become our nemesis today. They are now in our neighbourhood and on the highway, making life unbearable for us. The security system we failed to overhaul and modernise for ages — despite security budgets in billions of dollars — is now unable to protect us. But if I may ask, what are we doing today to make sure our trouble does not double tomorrow? Are we investing properly in the future? Are we striving hard to make the country conducive in the future so that ordinary people can enjoy the basics of life? The elite must realise that it is in their own interest to make Nigeria habitable. This milking must subside.

Until the elite across board reach a consensus to curtail their greed and put Nigeria first, we cannot begin to make meaningful progress as a nation. Our predatory system will continue to breed terrorists, kidnappers, ritual killers, yahoo boys and circumstantial sex workers. What we are witnessing today would be child’s play compared to what is ahead. Nobody is safe in Nigeria, including those who think they are covered by a convoy of armed escorts. It is just a matter of time. Until we begin to sow the good seeds at all levels — federal, state and local — our troubles will keep multiplying. Nigeria will not develop overnight, but if we fail to act decisively and intelligently today, we cannot hope to reap gainful jobs, lasting peace, security and national prosperity tomorrow.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
RAPID RESULT

On Monday, the Kano house of assembly received a bill seeking to decimate the 214-year-old emirate. By Wednesday, it had become law — all because Governor Abdullahi Ganduje wanted a pound of flesh from the emir, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II. It may sound weird but the Kano drama has revived my hopes in Nigeria. It tells me that if Nigerian politicians really want to get something done, they can do it in seconds! Therefore, if they decide to start doing the right things for the good of this country, our development won’t take 50 years! There is just one problem though — they only use their energies for the things that have no impact on the price of garri. Pity.

THE NAVY 15

Comedy paid tragedy a visit on Monday when the Nigerian Navy denied knowledge of the whereabouts of 15 Nigerian citizens they have been detaining incommunicado and without trial since September 2018. Was that really a joke? The navy initially got court orders to detain them and later wrote the lawyer of one of them that the detainees had been transferred to the EFCC, which turned out to be false. As Mr. Femi Falana asked: at what stage did they disappear from custody? The navy must prove to Nigerians that the detainees are still alive by charging them to court for any offences they are accused of committing. This military rule in disguise must stop. Enough!

EMEFIELE’S 5+5

Mr Godwin Emefiele is not the dream governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the opinion of some analysts, but President Muhammadu Buhari has given him another term of five years after much speculation. That suggests the president is pleased with him. In the last three months, the Nigerian rumour factories had gone into overproduction over Emefiele’s fate. Some even named his successor! For me, I never doubted that Emefiele would be re-appointed, even if that would be the first time a CBN governor would be getting a second term in this democratic dispensation. Let’s now hope Buhari will complement the governor with a solid minister of finance. Onwards.

MYTH BUSTER

When next you get a broadcast telling you that the full meaning of Google is “Global Organization of Oriented Group Language of Earth”, laugh very hard until you forget your name. In fact, Google is derived from the word GOOGOL — a mathematical term for the digit “1” followed by a hundred zeros. It was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, and popularised in the book, “Mathematics and the Imagination”, written by Kasner and James Newman. In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin named their search engine “Google” — playing on the word “googol” to show the endless possibilities of their invention. How did I know? I googled it. Simple.

Credit: TheCable

Ayinla Omowura: 39 Years After

AYINLA OMOWURA: 39 years after

Ayinla Omowura


On May 6, 1980, leader of a Yoruba genre of music called Apala, which had quite a sizeable number of cultic following, was stabbed to death on the head with a beer glass cup in a barroom brawl at Ago Oba, Abeokuta. Ayinla Waidi Omowura, son of Yusuff Gbogbolowo the blacksmith and Wuramontu Morenike, had finally been killed by the scary black club of Death which he had sang sarcastically about in two previous vinyls he did before his death. He died at the Ijaye General Hospital, Abeokuta. The Medical Consultant, Dr Akin Majekodunmi also an Egba man, tried his best to save Ayinla’s life. 
On the day Omowura released each of the 20 albums he did for EMI, the company recorded at least 50,000 copies sale.
It took a few weeks after before fans could come to terms with the departure of a man who to some was the enfant terrible of Apala music; who, with an admixture of a quartet musical instruments of Sekere maracas, akuba, Iya-ilu and agidigbo, attacked societal ills in his characteristic acidic tongue. Omowura, though illiterate, projected the image of an ombudsman to the oppressed.
Born in 1933 in Itoko, Abeokuta, Omowura, as early as when he was in his teens, was said to have been apprenticed to his father’s blacksmithry trade. Unconfirmed sources said that while growing up, Omowura interspersed this early childhood vocation with acting as political thug to some politicians of the time. He was also said to have once been a driver.
By the early 70s, along with other Apala prodigies of the time like Haruna Ishola (who reportedly invented the genre), S. Aka, Ligali Mukaiba, Yusuff Olatunji, Kasumu Adio, S.K.B Ajao-Oru, Fatai Ayilara, Ojubanire Ajape Saka Tewogbade and others, he had successfully transformed not only Apala but his fortunes as well, into a genre of music that was not strictly the pastime of the Yoruba lower class as it was hitherto perceived. He recorded 22 albums. Omowura held society spellbound by his song, occasionally infusing his Egba dialect as a musical motif, delivered in a rich voice that was perhaps accentuated by his rumored passion for cannabis.
In his social critic garb, Omowura was the scourge of the then emerging fad of women bleaching (Volume 15, Oro kan je mi logun) where he compared, sarcastically, the body of a woman who bleaches with that of the frog and wondered why the white man does not, comparatively, flee after the black skin. His songs were also the nemesis of ladies who changed husbands’ houses like a chameleon changes color (Pansaga ranti ojo ola) where he espoused the concept of the Onibambashi — most likely a barroom argot — classification of such women. Paradoxically, Omowura was said to be the toast of married women beer salon operators in his Abeokuta and Mushin homes and on several occasions, had to engage their husbands in physical, as well as musical scuffles to assert his supremacy.
One of such was his justification of women running beer salons in his “Oro mi dori o dori” track which became almost a national anthem for fans of this bohemian Yoruba musician. In a very scurrilous attack which made him and his song almost like leprosy to feminists for his perceived anti-women biases, Omowura attacked societal malaise and projected a high moral universe. He sang with an authority of being in possession of a musical inspiration and mastery of his trade that verged on blatant arrogance. He tells his competitors, for example, that until the weaverbird gains easy access to the liquid inside the coconut pod could any one of them attempt to outshine his genius and that he is the alujonnu elere (musical gnome), having surpassed them all.
The high point for Omowura, who sang on virtually every domestic dislocation of his household, was in the late 70’s when he bought a brand new Mercedes Benz car. For this, a track entitled Merzi tun de, heralding the arrival of the musical behemoth on the music scene graced one of his albums and, of course as usual, coated with a caustic diatribe against his enemies who thought he had reached the twilight of his musical inspiration.
As a commentator on issues of the contemporary society, Omowura reeled out innumerable tracks either commending government policies, excoriating bad ones or warning society on ills strung round certain governmental and individual acts. In E fara m’Omobolaji, Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson’s tenement rate policy in Lagos state received his dissection and applause. He enjoined Lagosians not to kick against this laudable government policy but give support to Johnson and didactically, detail by detail, tutored his listeners on the process of the payment of the tenement rate. 
In another breath, Omowura sang about the 1976 Udoji salary increment (Vol 7) and like an informed commentator that he was, urged that the largesse be extended to the private sector (e je ka san’wo Udoji na fawon private companies).
 His view of a musician was one who fully participated in the cumbersome process of dialogue and interrogation of the complex situational issues of society. 
When General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated, Omowura delved into a soul-inspiring, tear-jerking elegy (Dimka, eni o pa o!…) wherein he outlined the fallen soldier’s sparkling qualities while excoriating General and Colonel Iliya Bisala and Buka Sukar Dimka for plotting the fine soldier’s elimination. When the Obasanjo military government thereafter decided to have Murtala’s picture and name embossed on the Twenty Naira note and named the Lagos international airport after him, these again formed the subjects of his musical engagements.
He was one of the few musicians who paid tribute to a fallen colleague of theirs, Ayinde Bakare, who was found murdered after some days of frenetic search for him (Vol. 3). 
Perhaps if he had not been a musician, Omowura would have been a footballer. His love for the round leather game was reflected in his commentaries on some football matches played in the country that he obviously watched. The 1972 and 1974 Challenge Cup matches (which later became the titles of an album and a track in Vols. 3 and 6 respectively) between Mighty Jet and Bendel Insurance, as well as one between Enugu Rangers and Mighty Jet engaged his attention where he recaptured the events on the turf by doing a re-rendition of Eyimba eyi!, Rangers’ Supporters’ Club song, to cheer their clubside.
Among others, FESTAC ’77, a cultural event that attracted participants from all over the world, also attracted the musical commentary of Ayinla Omowura, also known by his fans as the Eegunmongaji or Anigilaje. As a prominent worshipper of the Yoruba god of iron, Ogun, wherein his notoriety and that of his musical ensemble got its renown, the Egba-born musician saw the cultural event as another avenue of pouring libation to the gods, this time by government.
Commentaries that also engaged the attention of Omowura were the 1973 census, wave of robberies, change of driving path from left to right, the rumoured banning of wearing of lace materials for the rumoured belief that it courted armed robbery and several others. When, for example, Nigeria changed her currency, the musical crusader and commentator thought it fit to educate his long list of fans on the worth and look of the Naira denominations.
Like every other musician, women made up the coatings of his world. Those who knew him while alive spoke of an Haji Costly (one of his aliases), decked in the latest lace material in town, with a hanging, dangling necklace doing a swing on his neck, and a member of his band permanently stationed beside him to invite over any lady in whom he had a philandering interest.
Incidentally, however, his songs come across as anti-feminist as he hardly perceived anything of good in the womenfolk, except seeing them as commodities. For example, in his popular track entitled Enirobi simi, ibi a ba(Vol 15), a song which he used to dispel rumours making the round that he had been kidnapped by his enemies, in gutter-like acidic outrage against those he termed the peddlers of the rumour, Omowura easily took a shuttle to the maternal homes of the ‘rumour peddlers’ and categorically asserted that such people’s mothers were the ones who were suffering from a fit of malady.
Frustrated by the truancy of his first son (now late, Akeem Omowura), in Omo afekosofo, he sang about a child who rubbishes the joy of education offered him by a father who is ever ready to foot his education which is his joy of tomorrow. Education, he said, is more enduring than a wait on parents’ wealth. He reminded the prodigal son that his parents could abruptly go on a troubadour of no return for which the parents would give no prior notice and that truancy does not pay. 
Like a prophet, Omowura went on his journey without giving notice.
He spoke about Death’s morbidly dark complexion, dilating eyes and the prolific strikes with his club (iku oponu olodi ab’ara dudu hoho!) as well as the certainty of everyone’s death. 
He sang so masterly about death in an existentialist manner that reminds one of existential philosophers’ treatments of death, especially the void of Martin Heidegger’s Sorge.
Omowura was very fetish like many musicians of his time. Incantations and curses lace virtually all his songs and husbands cross with their wives are recorded to see his LPs as temporary ego victories over such wives at home. He told any competing musician who had the gumption to belittle him on the bandstand to prepare to take his hands off life’s menu as such a defiant musician was done with the meals of this world and should prepare to start eating with the dead at the cemetery(Olorin to ba f’oju dimi lode, jije, mimu e tan nile aye).
His dirge at the death of Seriki Amodemaja, an Egba chief and prominent Ogboni fraternity chieftain, was a masterpiece in its own right. So also is the elegy to Akanni Fatai, also known as Bolodeoku. Both songs are spiced with his characteristic eulogy of the dead and philosophical interrogation of the concept, process and inscrutable essence of death. In the elegy to Amodemaja, Omowura mocks as well as dramatizes the inactivity and solemnity that follow death and the pain of the departure of a loved one. 
Coupled with another masterpiece celebration of life of another Ogboni chieftain in a track entitled Shifu Lawal Omopupa Oluwo,(Vol 6) with the cadence of his celebration of the edan,an insignia of Ogboni people and the masterly infusion he made of the music and dance of the Ogboni into this particular track, critics come to the conclusion that Omowura was himself a member of the cult.
Critics also locate the incident of his death in his perceived over-indulgence with violence and belief in the rescue potential of the talisman. An unconfirmed account of his death says that Ayinla Agbe’japa Oba – the Tortoise Priest of Oba, a section of Egbaland, whom he paid obeisance to in virtually all his albums; whom he, in one of his tracks, annoyingly equated with God by ascribing some omnipotent epithets to (Ogbagba ti n gba ara adugbo lowo ewu!) – who was also his spiritual consultant and advisor, his babalawo, had warned him of an impending bloodbath that week and forbade him going out for any musical show. Sure that danger only lurked at a musical engagement, Omowura had reportedly refrained from honoring any show that week but had gone out, this particular evening, with a friend to a beer parlor for relaxation.
Knowing the built-up animosity between him and his former band manager, Bayewu, who resigned from the band allegedly without handing over his official CD bike which Omowura had bought for him, this version of his death continues, a fan was reported to have rushed to meet him at the beer parlour to inform him that Bayewu was also at a beer joint not far off. An effusion of anger had reportedly seized Omowura as he drove hastily off to accost Bayewu. In the cause of the exchange of umbrage, the manager had reportedly hit his boss with a beer glass cup on the head, so mild that it ordinarily shouldn’t have led to death. Omowura had reportedly slumped, his tongue zooming out mysteriously. Another version of his death says Bayewu and Omowura were feuding over a woman friend and that the former had intentionally murdered his boss. The account’s defence of this conclusion was that, both of them had been handed frighteningly protective phials and concoction, with an incision done on Omowura’s head, which forbade blood touching his head. Bayewu was hanged by the state some years later.
Omowura picked quarrels easily with fellow musicians of the time as ferns are picked in a plantation. He was known to have at one time or the other feuded with Dauda Epo Akara, Ayinde Barrister, Haruna Ishola (whom he later did a track to pay tribute to as the numero unoamong musicians all over (ninu elere gbogbo agbaye pata o, Ishola mo fear e ju), among several others. It was indeed the feud with Barrister that later served as the foundation of the prolonged musical enmity between Barrister and Kollington Ayinla, a known musical surrogate of Omowura’s. Kollington was so committed to the Omowura enigma that his first known album was used to take a swipe at Fatai Olowonyo, Omowura’s Egba kinsman who also engaged in a bitterly violent musical war of supremacy with the late Apala exponent. They were both reported to have also engaged in physical battles on several occasions. Thus, when Omowura was assassinated, Kollington not only took on the form, tenor and pattern of Omowura’s music, but inherited his adversaries too, one of whom was Barrister.
In fact, most of the sharp-tongued tracks in Omowura’s albums a few years to his death, were references to Olowonyo who, as it were, seemed to be well out of the class of the late musician in the trade of gutter language. For example, in a track entitled E lewure wole, Olowonyo literally took Omowura to the cleaners, alleging that the Toyota car he had just bought was acquired from the proceeds of theft of neighbours’ sheep and goats, among other pungent punches that indeed visibly hurt Omowura. Alao Adewole, Omowura’s lead drummer, in the group’s next album, had to prologue the leading track with a talking drum symphonic reply to Olowonyo’s tirade, asking the world to, e wo man yi to so pe mo gbe’wure (look at this man who claimed I stole goats!). Omowura himself later came up to tell the world to cultivate a fighting arena for him and his challenger, so as to determine who was the champion in his E fa’won were sile (Volume 6). He said those poking fun at him for purchasing the Toyota did not even possess the bike of the palm wine-taper!
Olowonyo thereafter went personal in his attacks on Omowura, deriding eegunmongaji’s dark, tobacco-stained teeth and drooping lips. Stung by this jab, Omowura was said to have contacted a dentist who bleached his tobacco-stained teeth. As a follow-up, Olowonyo again did another LP where he acknowledged that indeed, Omowura had found an answer to his burnt teeth but demanded where he would find answers to his flabby lips. In a solemn, escapist reply, Omowura then told Olowonyo that he who had found favour in the sight of the world, the world would in turn overlook his inadequacies (eni aye n fe o larun kan lara). Rumours had it that, frustrated at this barrage of mud-slinging, Omowura had eventually gone talismanic against Olowonyo, culminating in his popular track, A ti fi’koko de won monle (I have shrouded his essence in a black pot), which fans saw as a spiritual binding of Olowonyo, who, thereafter, even after Omowura’s death, had hardly produced an album, almost forty years after. Such was the nature of the musical supremacy squabbles of the time. A few years before his death, Omowura had gone to observe the holy pilgrimage in Mecca. It was said that it was during this pilgrimage that he and Olowonyo decided to mend fences.
Omowura also, along the line, feuded with and sang to abuse his lead drummer, Adewole, in a track entitled Nibo lowa ta o ri lode? (Vol. 15) where he urged Adewole to send an application to him to become his cook rather than attempt to establish another musical outfit. He even claimed that the LP Adewole managed to produce was so inferior that it could not be marketed, necessitating him hiding the sleeves underneath his agbada in shame. Omowura, however, later celebrated the resolution of the rift in a track entitled Ipari ija Ayinla pelu Adewole (Vol 18) while blaming his enemies for the prolongation of the tiff and their desire to have it fester.
Omowura’s classic tribute to Yusuff Olatunji after the demise of the respected musician is considered today as, not only a strong philosophical composition unique only to Omowura, but equipped with all the trappings of a human quest to know the logic of death’s strike. Omowura wondered, for example, in the vinyl, how, with the famed resistance and melodious goje flute of Olatunji, death could be so callous, unfeeling and insulated from good rhythms that it could ever pull down a big mansion that the death of Olatunji represented to the music world.
Despite his talent and inspiration, Omowura was blessed with a crop of equally talented composers who made his job of singing a lot easier and he acknowledged their composition in his songs. Men like Bashir Igbore, Razaq Tuntun, Aremu Orifogo, Ateni Se Mess and others acted as guiding spirits to Omowura and he generously and liberally tapped from their compositions, with acknowledgements.
Omowura lamented his illiteracy and tried to rise above its limitations. In 25 X 40 for example, he tried to impress it on his listeners that his unlettered disposition could not vitiate his intelligence. The desire to one day travel abroad (abi London ti e wi ti ya?, bo s’America a jo n lo ni, etc) featured prominently in his songs, so also a fervent wish to be around to witness the good of his children which he expressed in very deep Yoruba (isu omo a jinna fun wa je). Unfortunately, he never lived to witness both.
In spite of his limitations and foibles, Omowura remains a great musical beacon in Yorubaland and the eternality of his advocacies and evergreen texture of his songs are beginning to be seen by a Yoruba world that shut its mind off his melody, musical scholarship and social criticism, simply because of his low class, illiteracy and obsessive identification with the rejects of society.
The author is Onigegewura.

Fawehinmi Would Have Been 81 Today: How Sapara Williams Influenced Him

Fawehinmi Would Have Been 81 Today: How Sapara Williams Influenced Him

Chief Gani Fawehinmi

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi would have been 81 today. His birth anniversary was, last year, marked with two major events. The Lagos State Government unveiled a new statue to immortalise him at Ojota Park. Also, Professor Wole Soyinka gave a keynote address in his honour. Fawehinmi, popularly called Gani, born on 22 April 1938, the son of Saheed and Munirat Fawehinmi of Ondo, in Ondo State, was a lawyer, human rights activist and a nemesis of bad political leaders. He died on 5 September 2009 at the aged of 71.

This writer is one of those who will never forget Chief Fawehinmi. He was an interviewer’s delight in his Anthony Village Chambers and Ikeja GRA home, both in Lagos.

Before going there, a journalist had to be prepared. You must do your research well. You had to get your facts right. In fact it was always better to have more than enough questions. This is because, if you went there with five, by the time you ask number one question, Chief Fawehinmi would have answered all you had on your notepad and you would be there panting like a beached whale!

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Another striking way Fawehinmi granted interviews was his use of language. In an interview with TheNEWS, he described the late General Sani Abacha’s regime as “Nebuchadnezzaraic.” That was a reference to the brutal King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605 BC – c. 562 BC). What’s more, Chief Fawehinmi would real out statistics to buttress his facts, a feat that would render the jaws of readers open.

I once asked who influenced him. He replied that apart from Lord Denning, an English lawyer and judge, it was Christopher Alexander Sapara-Williams, Nigeria’s first indigenous lawyer. No wonder, Sapara William’s eternal words adorned the walls of Fawehinmi’s Anthony Chambers: “The legal practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country.” That was exactly how Fawehinmi’s life and law practice could be summarised.

It was in acknowledgement of this that President Muhammadu Buhari, last year, paid tribute to Fawehinmi, describing him ‘‘as a true conscience of the nation, defender of democracy and people’s rights advocate.”

In the words of Buhari: “The late Senior Advocate of the Masses was not an arm chair-critic, nor a rabble rouser who fomented trouble for its sake; but a serious minded, articulate, cerebral and compassionate promoter of fundamental human rights, social justice, equity, fair play and national development.

“Gani was an extraordinary human being and a great reference for all progressive elements in society. He dared death and incarceration and was forced into prison 40 times without bowing to intimidation and molestation.

‘‘He fought for and stood by democracy with every ounce of his blood and immense intellect. He deserves a lingering respect,” the president said in his tribute.”

General Ibrahim Babangida, a former Military President, was quoted by Onigegewura, as saying this about Fawehinmi: “There was one vivid meeting that has remained in my memory about Gani, and that was in 1984. I was the Chief of Army Staff. Gani, in his characteristic manner, was as fearless as ever when we asked him to relate his own side of a particular issue as he blasted all of us irrespective of the fact that we were all generals in uniform and he was the only civilian among us and all what we did was to clap for him as we appreciated his courage.”

At a public function in Victory College, Ikare, Fawehinmi verbally attacked a former Ondo State military Governor in the Abacha years, Anthony Onyarugbulem, for having the cheek to badge in on and embarrass the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin (for hosting a meeting of the National Democratic Coalition in his Owo home). Fawehinmi’s boldness was legendary.

As narrated by Mary Odunuga: “Sapara-Williams had his roots from Ijeshaland. He was always proud of where he came from, he would fondly call it, ‘Ijesha wa’, meaning ‘Our Ijesha’. He did not love his roots only in words, he acted accordingly too by being instrumental to Nigeria’s decolonization. The part he played that wows me every time I read it was his condemnation of Seditious Offences Ordinances of 1909 and his collaboration with Herbert Macaulay to start the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. Sapara-Williams had a voice and he made sure his voice was heard.”

He, as Odunuga puts it, was Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association from 1900 to 1915. For him, the law is to be used as a force for positive social change and during his lifetime, he made this the basis of achievements and legacy to which we now remember him by. And the moral here is this: After you are long gone, make sure you make the history books – for good.”

Who Was Sapara-Williams?

Sapara-Williams, according to Wikipedia, was born on 14 July 1855. He was of Ijesha origin, but was born in Sierra Leone. He studied Law in London at the Inner Temple, and was called to the English bar on 17 November 1879. Returning from the United Kingdom, he began practising law in Lagos Colony on 13 January 1888. He had an unmatched reputation as an advocate, and had intimate knowledge of unwritten customary law. He enrolled in the Nigerian Bar Association on 30 January 1888, and was Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association from 1900 to 1915.

“Although Williams was the first indigenous Nigerian to formally qualify as a lawyer, he was not the only one to practice the law. Due to the shortage of qualified lawyers, until 1913 it was common for non-lawyers with basic education and some knowledge of English law to be appointed to practice as attorneys.

Political career

Williams was nominated to the Legislative Council, serving as a member from October 1901 until his death in 1915. In 1903 there was a crisis over the payment of the tolls that were collected from traders by native rulers, although Europeans were exempted. The alternative was to replace the tolls by a subsidy. Governor William MacGregor requested views from Williams, Charles Joseph George and Obadiah Johnson as indigenous opinion leaders. All were in favour of retaining the tolls to avoid upsetting the rulers. In 1903 governor MacGregor nominated Williams for a knighthood, but his recommendation was turned down.

In 1904 Williams moved that “the present boundary between the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria be re-adjusted by bringing the southern portion into Southern Nigeria, so that the entire tribes of the Yoruba-speaking people should be under one and the same administration”. Sir Frederick Lugard had opposed this proposal on the grounds of administrative convenience, and the eventual decision largely followed his beliefs. The principle applied was to group people who were at roughly the same political and social level into one province rather than to try to align the provinces with ethnic boundaries.

In 1905, Williams visited England. While there, he made several suggestions to the Colonial Office for changes to imperial policy. These included establishing a teachers training college in Lagos, and having more continuity of policy by the governors of the colony. Sapara Williams challenged the Seditious Offenses Ordinances of 1909, which suppressed press criticism of the government. He pointed out that “freedom of the Press is the great Palladium of British liberty … Sedition is a thing incompatible with the character of the Yoruba people, and has no place in their constitution … Hyper-sensitive officials may come tomorrow who will see sedition in every criticism and crime in every mass meeting”. Despite his plea, the bill became law. Williams encouraged Herbert Macaulay to convene an inaugural meeting of the Lagos Auxiliary of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society on 30 August 1910, which gave Macauley a platform for producing popular opposition to colonial practices.

When Northern and Southern Nigeria were united in 1914, the new legislative council was headed by the Governor, and consisted of seven British officials, two British non-officials and two Nigerians, one of whom was Williams.” He died on 15 March 1915.

-This piece by Ademola Adegbamigbe, Editor, TheNEWS, was adapted from the one he wrote on the late Chief Fawehinmi on this platform exactly one year ago. molagbe63@yahoo.com. 08055002056