Six things June 12 taught me

Six things June 12 taught me

By Simon Kolawole

Where were you on June 12, 1993? I was in Ilorin, Kwara state, enjoying the weekend with my cousins. I could not vote because I registered in Lagos. If I had voted, I would have thumb-printed the space for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) whose presidential flag bearer was Chief MKO Abiola. I had been rooting for Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC). But after watching the televised presidential debate and having an argument debate with my dear friend, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu (now APC national publicity secretary), I was finally persuaded to vote for Abiola, although I eventually disenfranchised myself.

I learnt a dozen lessons from the June 12 debacle. First, northerners were unfairly vilified in the political crisis that engulfed the nation after the annulment. The narrative was that they did not want Abiola to become president. There was a conspiracy theory that the north wanted to hold on to power by all means. However, the election results did not support this claim. Abiola won nine out of the 16 states in the north while Tofa won only seven. The romantic part of the story was that Abiola defeated Tofa in his home state, Kano, and even in his ward. I do not want to believe it was the Yoruba or southerners in the north that did the magic. That would be a disingenuous claim.

To be sure, I accepted the conspiracy theory then. The north, I mean the “core north”, had so dominated the political landscape that resentment had built up considerably in the south against the “northern oligarchy”. So it was easy to read the annulment as a northern agenda. If you ask my opinion today, I would say there was no conspiracy. I would say the military guys just did not want to let go of power. That is the benefit of hindsight. After all, the previously cancelled primaries had three northerners in the lead: Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua having pocketed the SDP ticket and Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi and Mallam Adamu Ciroma about to face a run-off for the NRC ticket.

The second lesson is that Igbo and Yoruba are not irreconcilable political enemies. Historically, the two dominant southern ethnic groups had appeared to be political rivals fiercely at war with each other — always going in opposite directions in the struggle for supremacy in the Nigerian power game. However, despite the SDP fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket that held virtually no attraction to the Igbo, they still voted massively for Abiola, a Yoruba. There were four Igbo states then. Although Tofa won in Enugu, Imo and Abia and Abiola won only in Anambra, the total scores provided better evidence: 790,371 to Tofa, 739,748 to Abiola. A mere difference of 50,623 votes!

I believe Yoruba still owe Ndigbo one. You would appreciate these figures better if you realised that there was an Igbo on the NRC ticket: Dr Sylvester Ugoh was Tofa’s running mate. Abiola getting 48 percent in the south-east was definitely not an ordinary gesture. Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu had angrily left SDP for NRC after the Muslim-Muslim ticket was announced, arguing that SDP had marginalised the Igbo — even though Abiola was always going to pick a northerner as his vice-presidential candidate. Informed that Abiola would appoint an Igbo as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Ojukwu famously quipped: “That’s a glorified tea boy!”

The third lesson is that the Nigerian political class can be petty. NRC behaved badly after losing the election. Rather than join forces with the SDP to defend our democracy and confront the military which was the mortal enemy, it became a matter of “if I don’t have it, then nobody else should”. NRC backed out of the fight very easily. To make matters worse, SDP members who had been unhappy that Abiola got the party’s presidential ticket in the first place were very eager to negotiate away the mandate. SDP leaders were soon engaged in meetings with the military to set up an interim government to “save Nigeria from the precipice”. You won the election, guys!

The fourth lesson is that anyone can become a symbol of resistance no matter their past. Abiola was an establishment person, one who wined and dined with the powers that be, starting with the military government of Gen Murtala Muhammed in 1975. He was a known friend of Gen Ibrahim Babangida. If anyone was expected to accept the annulment of June 12 quietly, enter his car and go back to his house, it was Abiola. I am sure Babangida and his team were dumbfounded that Abiola led the rebellion against what was supposed to be a routine cancellation of elections. I honestly did not expect the resistance from Abiola, much less that he would go to his grave fighting.

What this seems to tell me about Nigeria is that the much-expected turnaround may come from unexpected quarters. I am not saying I saw any vision, but the usual suspects may not lead the ethical and political revolution that will unleash the potential of this country. Nigeria is too blessed to be crawling on its chest. How can we have all these resources — human and material — and be stuck in the cesspool of poverty, disease, unemployment and corruption? But the change leader may turn out to be the least expected person, one whom we despise or treat with suspicion. Abiola was an unlikely symbol of resistance. He did not look the part but he played the part.

The fifth lesson is that Nigerians have short memory. Many of those parading themselves today as heroes of democracy were actually in bed with the miscreants who annulled June 12. They fought vigorously to make sure the annulment was not reversed. They said and did despicable things for political gain and filthy lucre. But nobody remembers again. They now grandstand and lecture us on democracy and the resistance to military rule. If you want to have a list of these villains-turned-heroes, please get a copy of Olusegun Adeniyi’s “The Last 100 Days of Abacha”. You will marvel at the conduct of the sycophants who have become latter-day saints of the democratic order.

Finally, this may be minor but it is not irrelevant: I also learnt that presidential debate is a good thing. Actually, if Babangida had not annulled the presidential election, he would have bowed out a hero after a lot of missteps in his eight years as president of Nigeria. He had tried to create a new political order after performing many experiments, including banning and unbanning “old breed” politicians and creating, controversially, two parties based on competing ideologies and manifestoes. Watching the two presidential candidates debate was something completely new to me as a Nigerian and it really helped me weigh my options before making up my mind.

Unfortunately, debates have become a joke in Nigeria. Rather than make progress and build on what we experienced in 1993, we have gone terribly backwards on many counts. Studies have shown that if you want to win the presidential election in Nigeria, you must not participate in TV debate. Okay, that is a joke, but all the presidents we have produced since 1999 never participated in debates. In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo stood Chief Olu Falae up at the Hilton Hotel in Abuja on the night of the debate. Eventually, Falae had to do it alone. I remember him saying “I don’t find it funny debating with myself” — or something like that — when the programme started.

In 2003, Obasanjo was absent again, even though Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Prof Pat Utomi were waiting for him. In 2007, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua did not feature. No reasons were given, although we knew Yar’Adua to be articulate and capable of taking on his rivals. He did not prove it. In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan avoided the company of Buhari, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, and chose to debate with himself. In 2015, he spoiled for a debate with Buhari, but Buhari’s handlers advised him to keep clear. This year again, Buhari avoided debating Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Debate dodgers always win presidential polls in Nigeria.

We need a culture of debate. I would be the first to say that to debate is one thing and to govern is another, but I would add that avoiding debates does not guarantee good governance either. I won’t even say debates determine the outcome of elections. I think most people’s minds are made up irrespective of the pedigrees and eloquence of the presidential candidates, but my point is: what do we stand to lose if we hear them debate their ideas and policies in a room? It is a feature of democratic culture we need to imbibe. It certainly swung me in Abiola’s direction in 1993. Overall, I have some good memories from the June 12 debacle, although the pains were devastating.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
HONORING MKO

I’m quite happy that President Buhari has followed through on his national recognition of Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, by making June 12 our Democracy Day and naming the national stadium in Abuja after him. Former President Obasanjo must be livid. For eight years, we begged him to celebrate Abiola but he refused. Yet if Abiola had accepted the annulment of June 12, there would never have been an Obasanjo presidency. He died and Obasanjo became the chief beneficiary. And here is Buhari naming a stadium built by Obasanjo after Abiola! At least, nobody can say Buhari is looking for south-west votes again. Lovely.

CORRUPTION AND POVERTY

One interesting debate we have been having in Nigeria since 2015 is: is our problem corruption or the economy? Many think President Buhari has prioritised fighting corruption above the economy; Mr. Peter Obi, PDP vice-presidential candidate, even said anti-corruption is not an economic policy. Others have argued that without fighting corruption, the economy cannot grow and poverty will worsen. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has weighed in, pointing out to African leaders that it is not enough to fight corruption – they have to create wealth to fight poverty. Let’s hope President Buhari got the memo. Shared economic prosperity can actually help the anti-corruption war. Deep.

CLEAN SWEEP

Now that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has succeeded in installing its preferred candidates as leaders of the national assembly, Nigerians have a right to expect a smoother working relationship between the legislature and the executive — especially for the quick passage of budget. However, a part of me does not believe this is our problem. PDP installed most of its preferred candidates for the 16 years it was in power but that did not make much difference. In fact, the PDP became an opposition to itself. We can only hope that something will change this time around and that Nigerians will indeed see the benefits in form of good governance. Waiting…

MYTH BUSTER

I recently got a WhatsApp broadcast that tried to recreate the murder of foremost journalist, Mr Dele Giwa, via a parcel bomb in 1986. It said the bomb was delivered to Giwa’s son, Billy, by Major Buba Marwa, accompanied by Major Tunde Ogbeha. It said they came in a Peugeot car which they burnt thereafter, and Gen Babangida made Marwa governor of Lagos and “pumped” money into the state. All credible accounts said the bomb carrier used a motorcycle. And why has Billy Giwa not identified Marwa as the courier in 33 years? Meanwhile, Babangida left power in 1993 and Marwa became military administrator in 1996. How did Babangida pump money into Lagos? Phoney.

Credit: TheCable

UNILAG, Ekene and UTME

UNILAG, Ekene and UTME

By Chimdi Maduagwu

The University of Lagos is not unaware of the present press and public views on the yet to commence admission and registration exercises into the university for the 2019/2020 academic session.
It is true that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has conducted and released results of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), which to some people kicks off the process of admission into tertiary institutions; however, the universities are not yet in the picture.

University of Lagos has just been dragged in due to either lack of information or insufficient information. The Guardian Opinion of May 19, 2019 presented some disturbing matters about the admission and registration processes.

In what appeared partly like a plea and partly like a command, “UNILAG, admit UTME highest scorer,” The Guardian Newspaper opinion presented what it referred first as “insinuations” but later as truth, that UNILAG will not offer a place to Ekene Franklin, who purportedly came out with the highest score of 347 of 400 in the last UTME.

The reason, according to the opinion is age – his age is 15 years and that happens to be below matriculation age.

University of Lagos would have been in a very good position to give information to the general public on the matter, if it was clearly stated, rather than insinuated; if JAMB had forwarded Ekene Franklin’s scores and other particulars to the University and if the University had confirmed information about the candidate’s age.

Ordinarily, there will be no need for a reaction like this, but because of the long standing cordial relationship between the University of Lagos and the Press – The Guardian, included – it is necessary to advance some contraries, on the side of the truth, to the press opinion.

The insinuation that a 15 year old candidate is inadmissible is not unfounded. However, it will be unfortunate to use the laws, rules, regulations, norms of an institution, which have stood the test of time as instruments of blackmail against the institution. This is what The Guardian Newspaper appears to be doing. Criteria for admission and registration into courses of study at the University of Lagos, the University of First Choice and the nation’s pride, are clearly stated for all prospective candidates to note.

Here are the five admission requirements in UNILAG
1. Admission into FULL-TIME undergraduate programmes is ONLY through Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Direct Entry (DE).

2. Candidates must obtain a minimum of 200 points in Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Candidate’s details must have been forwarded to University of Lagos by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

3. Candidate must possess five (5) credits in O/Level or its equivalent as required by the Department of interest.

4. Candidate must sit for the University POST-UTME Screening and must obtain the required minimum score.

5. Candidate must have reached the AGE of sixteen (16) by the 31st day of October in the year of admission.

These requirements have never been subjected to challenges and pleas. The Institution is impersonal and may not change abruptly when put under emotional threats or blackmail. Decisions are end results of long procedural consideration of various panels, committees and either the senate or the governing council.

While it is natural to be sympathetic with the situation of Ekene Franklin, it will be strange if both Ekene Franklin and his parents/guardians will claim that they are unaware of the regulations governing admission and registration of candidates, not only into University of Lagos, but to Universities in Nigeria.

We suppose, the candidate in question would have chosen a course of study, and also consciously answered questions in subjects that are relevant and thus prescribed as prerequisites for admission into his choice. There is no doubt that the candidate is very intelligent and so would have observed all the other instructions given. If this be the case, the instruction governing matriculation age should not be ignored.

On a general note, there ought to be no problems with a national daily like the Guardian making her views on a possible rejection of the brilliant candidate by the “laws” of the institution known to the public, but resorting to statements which bother on insult, slander and defamation is unexpected of the revered newspaper.

The Guardian Newspaper is known and respected as a Broadsheet, which usually would stand out amongst mere Tabloids. We expect that it should strive to maintain its highly esteemed position through well thought out and objective positions on matters.

Matters of tertiary institutional admission are quite delicate in the country given Nigeria’s interest in education and manpower development. Parents as well as their wards are particularly eager to secure positions in the institutions and that makes it highly competitive.

For this reason, parents/guardians encourage their wards to test themselves at examinations ahead of time. They are well aware that sometimes, their wards may not be fully qualified for admission into institutions they seek to get into, should they succeed. For some, it is just for the candidates to gain some experience. But when the stage is upset and the casual candidates perform far above expectations, then a seemingly unmanageable case, like the one in hand evolves.

The Guardian should note that this is not the first time, and perhaps not going to be the last time for such a case.

For instance, in the early 1990s, the highest score in the then JAMB (now UTME) examination was one Chidi Ugonna, aged 15. Chidi Ugonna’s father was Prof Nnabuenyi Ugonna, (deceased) of the Department of Linguistics and African Studies, and his mother was the Deputy Librarian, all of the University of Lagos, which is also the candidate’s choice of institution.

The summary of the story is that Chidi Ugonna, by the standing regulation, forfeited the high score. So each time an under aged performs well, the tendency is for the public to agitate for either a waiver of the matriculation age restrictions or its total cancellation.

Equally, just 2018, the candidate who had the best result in the West African Examinations Council (Senior Secondary Examinations), Okorogheye David and who again scored 332 of 400 in the UTME, was under aged at the time of admission. For as long as parents and candidates will keep giving a trial to examinations, against the strict regulations, cases like this will continue.

The Guardian alleged that Unilag will be killing talent if she fails to renege and take whiz kid Ekene Franklin, but the Newspaper does not realize that the University is a highly disciplined institution, where structure and order prevail.

The system operated in this part of the world is not exactly like those in other parts of the world that The Guardian falls back on for its comparison.

For instance, here does not permit individual institutional recruitment of students and also does not give room for students to register for courses without being enrolled for a degree. Ours is thus different from other examples presented by The Guardian, where course registration is somehow more liberal and where autonomy is absolute and practical.

Nevertheless, it is unfair to associate Unilag with retrogression because it has kept to its statutes. May be it could help if at this point mention is made of the School of Foundation at the University of Lagos, which offers a preliminary course at the end of which candidates will be qualified for a direct entry admission into degree courses in the University. Very young candidates, like Ekene Franklin can explore such an opportunity because there is no age restriction since it is a pre-matriculation course.

Finally the great newspaper should be more careful so as to avoid being accused of ignorance because it has not taken consideration of a number of attendant facts to the story it carried on May 19, 2019.

Maduagwu is a Professor of English, University of Lagos

Credit: The Guardian

June 12 and its new false interpreters

June 12 and its new false interpreters

by Louis Odion

Never known to be in the habit of turning the proverbial other cheek, it is a big puzzle that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chose to absorb a sucker punch of volcanic severity on June 12 last week without as much as a grunt. Babagana Kingibe had baited him with a charge of complicity in the high conspiracy that aborted June 12.

Not that we did not know that before.

But afraid that his old skeletons might be unearthed finally, ordinarily voluble and perennially crusading OBJ uncharacteristically retreated into a cowardly silence to a claim that, considering his assumed brotherhood with MKO, would sound very abominable indeed.

Baba has no comment, whispered his spokesman to inquisitive newshounds.

Well, as an aside, it is perhaps a measure of the ethical flux pervading the land today that Kingibe, otherwise a June 12 renegade himself, could permit himself the liberty to so question the former president in the first place.

Let it however be noted that OBJ’s ensuing silence is also strategic. Replying Kingibe would inevitably usher an even darker question. Following his release from Abacha gulag in June 1998, he, with MKO Abiola still alive, famously forswore the prospects of any presidential aspiration.

So, in dodging Kingibe’s pointed challenge, OBJ, a master of political chess game, surely demonstrates a possession of enough native intelligence to anticipate possible apocalypse.

Let us, as a mark of charity, even concede OBJ’s earlier misspeak in Harare in 1994 that “Abiola is not the messiah” was a foible of the head and not the heart.

Now, the more monumental poser of history still left unanswered in the last twenty-one years: would the “Ebora of Owu” swear by the most potent deity of his native land that never did he under any circumstance ever say “So, what happens to MKO?” at some point to the conniving generals pressuring him to accept a draft into the presidential race before Abiola’s mystery death on July 7, 1998?

The old witch wailed last night; the child died the morning after.

To be sure, this writer is not ashamed to confess a partisanship, even fanaticism, whenever and wherever June 12 resurrects. The sensitivity thus aroused is not just civic, but also professional. Some of us were living witnesses to the momentous events before, during and after June 12. I was a politics reporter with Concord Press (owned by MKO) through the 90s and knew first-hand what it meant to function under constant threat of military bullet or detention and yet labored for months on end without salary.

So, as conscientious bearer of national memory, we certainly know the real soldiers of fortune, the double agents, who sought to profiteer from the sacrifice of others. Just as we can distinguish the fake labour activists in funny costumes who chanted “Aluta” in daylight but cavorted with the evil generals at night as informants on the payroll. Another authentic June 12 hero, Frank Kokori, already said enough in last Saturday’s Vanguard to make the surviving ones among this category of traitors regret all the blood money they collected from the military in the 90s.

Indeed, as immortal Shakespeare forewarned, truth crushed to the earth shall rise again. And Sophocles added poetically, there is danger in unnatural silence.

But while the shrewd chicken farmer of Ota keeps a crafty silence under the circumstance, some of his political slaves would rather resort to rehabilitating history and falsefying accounts, obviously to impress their idol.

Without shame or fear, one of them, Doyin Okupe, even lied that it was the north that blocked OBJ from duly recognizing June 12 or formally acknowledging Abiola’s colossal sacrifice throughout his eight-year imperial reign.

Really? So, was he also told to cajole all the South-west states (except Lagos under Tinubu) to stop observing June 12 as public holiday in Abiola’s honour once his PDP “captured” the region from Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003?

The truth is however imperishable: in his moment of power and glory, Obasanjo never seemed to realize that righting historical wrong is not a political favour to anyone, but a moral duty to community or country.

Already, the fact of his perfidy here has been corroborated by Ayo Fayose in a tell-all account published by The Interview magazine in 2017. As Ekiti governor in 2003 and one of the early beneficiaries of OBJ’s guerrilla politics, Fayose recalled he and other PDP governors in Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ogun were coaxed by the then emperor of Aso Rock to worship only May 29 as part of a deliberate pagan rite to wipe June 12 from the nation’s memory.

Well, Okupe failed to clarify whether it was iron bar or raffia mat that was deployed to barricade OBJ from doing the needful on June 12. Were we to buy this argument, how ironic then that his master who couldn’t dare contemplate June 12 out of fear of the north, yet had the temerity to conceive and bid for treasonable Third Term that would have completely shut the zone out of contestation for presidential power for as long as it pleased OBJ.

But let it be said that the “north” cited couldn’t be that of Dangiwa Abubakar Umar, Shehu Sani, Mathew Hassan Kukah, Dan Suleiman, Jonah Jang and other men of conscience. Of course, the “north” the jobbing Okupe actually meant could only be that of now discredited generals who unchained OBJ from prison after Abacha’s demise and literally railroaded a fellow general to Aso Rock barely a year later.

The bug of revisionism afflicting Okupe would also appear to have infected Kola, the scion of the Abiola dynasty. The the word, outrage, perhaps best describes the reactions of many disciples of MKO to a slew of wild claims by Abiola’s heir in a Sun interview last week which tended to belittle the sacrifice made by others in defence of June 12 even as they inadvertently diminish the mystique of his illustrious dad.

Descending from the enigmatic Bashorun, Kola has, of course, always borne the yoke of high public expectation. Aside his muscular looks, it is rather difficult to identify his own talent. But it certainly can’t be oratory.

On the cusp of history at Aso Rock on June 12, 2018, for instance, Kola chose to delegate an epochal invitation to speak on behalf of the Abiola family to a more articulate Hafsat, his half-sister, after President Buhari’s formally declared June 12 a national monument and canonized his dad posthumously as GCFR.

Over the years, Kola has, at best, done very little or nothing to dispel the popular notion that he was at peace, even infatuated, with the very family the rest of us see as his dad’s chief enemy. (Some accounts even hinted marriage was on the cards.)

While boxing himself into such blissful detachment, he, therefore, would seem far removed to view reality like the rest of us.

So, when Kola then decided to come out of his shell and grant rare interview this year, we should have anticipated that a major disaster was about to unfold.

Well, NADECO activist and the revolutionary Army colonel, Tony Nyiam, has already gone a great length in another media reports to dispel the fallacy in the ridiculous claim that Tinubu only became radicalized into NADECO because Abacha refused to make him governor or commissioner in Lagos, to warrant dwelling further on that point.

Note, Nyiam cannot be called a Tinubu apologist. For he has consistently disagreed with Asiwaju since the latter teamed up with Buhari to found APC in 2014. But forthright Nyiam would not stand by and condone Kola’s crude revisionism against Tinubu because of today’s political difference. That would have amounted to a rape of history.

Nyiam is unlike Bode George, a grandpa who still relishes toddler’s fables and seems quite unaware of the shame – if not curse – in lying with hoary hair. Note, this “bread and butter” Admiral could not, in real terms, be counted among the generals who truly mattered then and his understanding of events was obviously shaped by hear-say from his master, Diya.

Perhaps, we should empathize with a man consistently worsted electorally in Lagos by Tinubu since 1999. He fancied a new career in politics after leaving the Navy on account of being the barefoot messenger of Dipo Diya who would later fall out of favour with their overall lord and master, despot Abacha. But despite all his desperate toil since, not once has BG been able to win even a polling unit in his ancestral Isale-Eko.

So, it is pointless attaching any weight to the words of the political eunuch of Lagos.

But, to me, even more disturbing is Kola’s reported allusion to Abiola’s high blood pressure. No one disputes that. His physician, Dr. Ore Falomo, already told us MKO had battled that medical condition for decades.

However, viewed against the certainly murky circumstances of Abiola’s sudden death on July 7, 1998, such unguarded comment by Kola will only profit those who would have the rest of us buy the juvenile fiction that MKO, who had endured four harrowing years in open grave called solitary confinement, suddenly became overwhelmed by excitement on the very eve of freedom, so much that he suffered cardiac arrest after sipping from a curious cup of tea offered by visiting American diplomats in a presidential lounge in Abuja.

In summary, illogical verbiage like this will only lend credence again to the notion held by some that Kola was perhaps too consumed by the hot pursuit of a love interest in Minna all through the 90s to have a clear understanding of what otherwise transpired right under his nose.

Credit: The Nation

Why Obasanjo refused to recognise June 12

Why Obasanjo refused to recognise June 12

by LEKE SALAUDEEN,

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has drawn the ire of Nigerians over what they described as his failure to recognise the June 12, 1993 presidential election. They are furious that Obasanjo who rode to power on the waves of the June 12 annulment saga, never acknowledged the historic election and the winner, Chief MKO Abiola, at public functions throughout his tenure, Assisant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN reports.

THE struggle for the actualisation of June 12, 1993 presidential election started immediately the former Military President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election won by Chief MKO Abiola and his running mate Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. Following the advent of the Fourth Republic and the election of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, Nigerians were optimistic that recognition would be given to June 12 as the authentic ‘Democracy Day’. That didn’t happen. Obasanjo who came to power on the crest waves of the June 12 annulment saga disdained the symbolic date and questioned its relevance of the date in the polity of the nation.

Obasanjo ruled for eight years, but he never acknowledged the role Abiola and June 12 played in his emergence as a democratically-elected president. Abiola sacrificed his life for democracy to thrive in Nigeria, but that did not mean anything to Obasanjo who chose May 29 as ‘Democracy Day’ against the popular demand that it should be June 12.

At the peak of the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 elections, Obasanjo told the world that the acclaimed winner of that election, MKO Abiola was not the messiah that Nigeria needed. The comment was a reflection of Obasanjo’s perception of himself as the country’s ultimate saviour.

Afenifere chieftain, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, berated Obasanjo for saying Abiola was not the messiah Nigeria needed. He asked: “Is Obasanjo the messiah now? He is not the messiah we are looking up to. As far as I am concerned, Obasanjo has become a spent force. He wants to be recognised as the one directing the affairs of the nation at every stage from the time he was military Head of State, civilian president, through the late President Umaru Yar’Adua time to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s period. He has the feeling that he knows it all.

“We should be careful about Obasanjo. I have my reservations about him. Yoruba must come together but not behind Obasanjo. Obasanjo can’t lead us. I can’t recognise any invitation from Obasanjo.

“The honour that was conferred on Abiola by President Buhari should have been done by Obasanjo. He didn’t do it. We thank President Buhari for doing this. We should support him and not Obasanjo’s agenda. Obasanjo should go into retirement. He only wants to be seen and heard.”

The spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Mr Joe Igbokwe, said: “Obasanjo did what he did apparently to mock and get at the late Abiola and the family he left behind. He did not want the name of Chief MKO Abiola to be remembered or to be associated with anything he is doing. He pretended as if June 12 never existed. He must have reasoned that he got to power in 1999 through his personal efforts.

“But Obasanjo was being economical with the truth. Without June 12 there would not have been 1999. For eight years that Obasanjo was in power he deliberately pretended that June 12, 1993 never existed. At public functions, he never for one day mentioned Chief MKO Abiola or acknowledged the obvious and painful truth that it was Chief Abiola that paid the supreme price for his rise to power again.”

On his part, Senator Shehu Sani said Obasanjo’s failure to honour the late Abiola reflected the effort of the political class to suppress the sacrifice of those who went to jail and those who paid the supreme price for the democracy that Nigeria has today.

Sani, who represented Kaduna Central at the just dissolved eighth Senate, said: “It is not simply about Chief MKO Abiola not being recognised by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, it is about an institutional decision of the political class who continues to suppress the role played by the free press bringing about democracy. Hardly will you see any of those that were on the streets of Lagos protesting for democracy ever being recognised with even an award of OON, which is the lowest. As they share oil blocs to themselves, share positions to themselves, so they share national honour to themselves.”

He said the June 12, 1993 presidential election that the late businessman won, but which the military junta of General Ibrahim Babagida annulled, laid the foundation for the current democratic rule in the country. Without the struggle of June 12, there could not have been democracy in Nigeria today. The change and the experience in the 2015 election was part of the seed of June 12. It was the same forces that forced the military out of power that rallied Nigerians to reject the PDP out of power.”

June12 activist, Comrade Jude Egbas knocked Obasanjo for failing to address the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election. He noted that “Obasnjo had eight years to recognise Abiola as the winner of the June 12 election and tender apology to the MKO family and Nigerians for the injustice. But his ego wouldn’t let him be great.

“Obasanjo was the military choice after the 1993 robbery of MKO and Nigerians. Obasanjo was the one the power elite settled for to placate the Southwest after the injustice done Abiola. Ironically, from 1999 to 2007, Obasanjo refused to mention Abiola’s name and refused to acknowledge the significance of June 12. Obasanjo had the opportunity to right the wrongs of June 12, but he blew it. Hopefully, someday, he will publicly tender unreserved apologies for his ignominious roles in the June 12 debacle.”

Former General Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Mr Ayo Opadokun, was sad over the inability of Obasanjo to recognise the election mandate of Abiola, believed by many to have emerged winner in the polls, adjudged to be free and fair. NADECO spearheaded the movement for the restoration of election mandate of the late politician, business mogul and philanthropist.

He said: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who the military foisted on Nigeria for eight years ignored all pleas to close the chapter of military’s disrespect to the popular will of the Nigerian people as expressed on June 12, 1993 which results have been officially announced at all the wards, local government areas, and state levels of collations confirming Abiola’s victory.” He was disappointed that Obasanjo being a beneficiary of Abiola’s martyrdom ought to have recognised him.

The son of late MKO and Kudirat Abiola, Jamiu, disclosed that Obasanjo ignored several pleas which he made to him to honour his father. He said: “When Obasanjo was the President, I visited him several times and called him several times. There was a time I sent him a text message when he was President telling him that people’s impression about his failure to honour Abiola was because he did not like him.”

However, Jamiu was happy that his father’s sacrifice has been recognised. “I am the happiest man because for so long I felt that my parents died for nothing because there is nothing worse than somebody making a sacrifice and the sacrifice not recognised. He said it was recognised by Nigerians but those that got power after June 12, 1993 found it convenient to sweep it under the carpet for reasons best known to them.”

Credit: The Nation

The legend called M.K.O

The legend called M.K.O

By Yakubu Mohammed

Today marks the beginning of the celebration of Democracy Day on June 12. After about 25 years of ceaseless clamouring for the federal government to declare June 12 a national public holiday in honour of M.K.O Abiola almost to no avail, majority of Nigerians were astounded this time last year when, as if from the blues, President Muhammadu Buhari, formerly an unapologetic military dictator now a converted democrat, publicly recognised the injustice of the annulled June 12 election and took the bold and unprecedented step to rectify it.

So today has replaced May 29 as Democracy Day, which perhaps explains the lacklustre inauguration of the president some two weeks ago to commence his second term of office without the necessary pomp and panoply. Not even a word to fellow citizens, something to rouse them to a new sense of direction and some frenzy of patriotism.

May 29 has joined October 1, the country’s anniversary of independence, as mere footnotes in the national calendar. The debasing of the two hitherto very significant dates in our life is symptomatic of the honour we have decided to give to June 12 as a watershed in our democratic trajectory. For the first time we have had an unbroken 20 years of democratic practice, despite some of its glaring imperfections and some of its failures and foibles not to add the chicanery of its adherents.

But are they really its adherents? Some people will tell you to your face that we have democracy today without democrats. But that is beside the point. The fact is, mercifully, there are no gun-toting men on horseback, dictating the tune and running the affairs of the country. Today we can argue and debate and disagree, up to some point. Even in the media, especially in the unregulated social media, this democracy permits some licence to libel and defame and peddle obviously vile and pernicious wild rumour that can set the country ablaze.

We also have a handful of those who believe that this democracy is not complete without the free for all display of the power of the AK 47 by armed gangs going by the fearful nomenclature of bandits and kidnappers at home and on the highways and even at polling booths.

We also tend to believe that this current democracy can profit from some large dose of impunity and the impudence of reckless power, some bit of autocracy with some fascism looming large in many states. But this day, without any iota of doubt, is M.K.O Abiola’s day of glory. It is akin to Martin Luther King’s national holiday in America. Abiola is the single most important architect of the modern democracy. He won the June 12 presidential election in 1993 fair and square. But it was annulled. In pursuit of his mandate, he made the supreme sacrifice. The struggle to actualise that mandate, prolonged and sometimes vicious, eventually resulted in the return to democratic dispensation on May 29 1999 with political power ceded to the South West, the home region of Abiola.

That this democracy has endured for two decades and still counting is a testimony to the fact God has a hand in our affairs, despite our own obvious weaknesses and failures. But what lessons do we learn from the life and times of this great man, a true legend of our time?

As president Buhari said last year, we must all resolve to avoid the situation that led to the June 12 election fiasco. To do that we must all learn to live and play by the rules of the game. We must avoid a repeat of the litany of election inconclusiveness that we witnessed in the last elections.

Abiola might not have been a perfect human being or a perfect politician for that matter but his world views and personal examples synchronised very well with the true dictates of democracy and good governance with a premium on the well-being of the people.

Abiola left a legacy worthy of emulation by today’s leaders. His broad-mindedness was exceptional. So was his quality and practice of regarding every Nigerian, irrespective of ethnicity and religion, as a fellow compatriot worthy of trust and empathy. He was a true believer of merit and one’s worth, always inclined to give another man the benefit of the doubt.

Abiola might not have become president but his larger than life image came from his ability to triumph over base and primordial sentiments and an incredible sense of fellow feeling. I concluded that pen-portrait of this incredible Nigerian by saying he might not have been a very good politician – considering how very good Nigerian politicians are – he was definitely a good humanist, a man of the world who was courted by the high and the mighty.

Abiola, upclose
Very well known to the public is the fact that the man M.K.O was a typical grass- to- grace phenomenon. He was never shy to tell whoever cared to listen that like many Nigerians of modest background, he was born into abject poverty. Born on August 24 1937 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was the 23rd child of his father, Alhaji Alao Salawu Adenekan Abiola.

M.K.O, the brand that would later take the world by storm, was the first child of his father to survive, the first 22 having either died at birth or before they turned one year. His father, not one to succumb easily to fate, christened the new born-child Kashimawo – roughly translated to mean let’s wait and see.

His father lived long enough to see his son grow through poverty – drumming and dancing to pay school fees – to wealth, becoming the first Blackman to rise as the executive vice-president of ITT world-wide. Though he was stupendously rich, he did not allow that to enter his head. Philanthropy defined his life. He believed that the more he gave the more he had. But this man of legendry wealth was not unaware of his limitations. He had occasion to say: “I cannot give everybody money. I wish I could. And If I could, I would but I couldn’t. But I can give hope” And that was more lasting. The hope that Abiola gave was not the type given to Tantalus, unattainable, a mere mirage or a will-o’- de wisp. It was the hope that Nigerians missed by not having an Abiola presidency. What Nigerians missed also was his human touch, an incredible sense of empathy, feeling for others.

Though he could be brash when occasion called for it, but he couldn’t bear to see a fellow human being suffer. When there was a task to be performed he brooked no obstacle. No hurdle was too much for him to scale.

Now I ask: how many of our big men today would willingly give out their official cars to their paid staff to use on official assignment? Abiola would tell his captain to ferry any of his editors in his private jet for an assignment outside Lagos. I am an eye witness to his humility. On one occasion, I had the luxury of being flown, all alone, in his private jet to represent him at Enugu and, on another occasion, being flown with Dele Giwa, just the two of us, to attend a function in Abuja. That was the legend called M.K.O.

Credit: The Guardian

Lawan, Ndume and the politics of endorsement

Lawan, Ndume and the politics of endorsement

By Solomon Fowowe

“May the best man win.” The catchphrase that precedes every contest even if there is barely any belief in it. It’s simple, the All Progressive’s Congress wanted their man to win. The opposition People’s Democratic Party crunched the numbers, knew there wasn’t any way they could pull off a win with a PDP candidate.
They simply acted as the opposition party unwilling to endure an embarrassing loss, pitched their tent behind the APC dissident, Senator Ali Ndume. It’s APC vs APC for all PDP cares.

“As the opposition political party, we must be seen to play a responsible opposition role. Yes, none of the two presiding officers we are rooting for belong to the PDP, but we know that as a critical member of the National Assembly, we must have a say in the election of its leaders. This is the reason why we are backing both Ndume and Bago,” PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus told Punch

In a statement signed by PDP’s national secretary, Umar Tsauri, the party noted that its decision was in order “deepen democracy, ensure a strong and independent legislature, strict compliance with the principle of separation of powers as well as constitutional checks and balances in the polity.”

Admittedly, there were a lot of factors at play as the leadership of the 9th National Assembly was contested. Many dealings, tacit and clearly stated promises, quid quo pros but there was something that came first for the APC – the smooth relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly.

None of the frosty, stilted air between President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara regarding bills and the budget.

APC looks to have learnt from the leadership tussle of the 8th National Assembly where they were undercut by Saraki and Dogara. They leveraged on alliances with the opposition People’s Democratic Party to emerge the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives against the wishes of the APC leadership.

Saraki’s defiance set the tone for the next four years, his defection from the party three-quarters into his tenure merely formalised the lingering distrust.

APC placed their seal of approval on Senator Ahmad Lawan, made sure there was no meeting on the voting day and persuaded/ordered other candidates from the party to step down. Senator Danjuma Goje stepped down but Senator Ndume remained in the race.

He hoped his act of defiance would produce results. It produced 28 votes while Lawan had 79 votes.

Senator Ndume couldn’t pull off a Saraki-esque machination, for one APC are the wiser, PDP doesn’t have vested interests and Ndume doesn’t quite have the gravitas of the former Senate President.

PDP knew it was going to be a coronation, still, they went through the motions to put up an endorsement as a mere formality. Even if the endorsement meant, parking behind the same senator the PDP led government accused of sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria.

It does feel firmly like an APC-led house. But for democracy’s sake, the big hope will be that the National Assembly will put the country ahead of their party inclinations. That there will be an independent legislature that checks the excesses of the executive.

Credit: The Guardian

Eye witnesses recount tragic last moments of Adewura Bello

‘We couldn’t save her because the flood was massive’ — man who witnessed Adewura Bello’s last moment speaks

Taiwo Adebulu

When Adewura Lateefat Bello left her place of work in Ikeja, Lagos, on May 15, she never knew that she would neither get home safely nor return there the next day but fate dealt a crushing blow on her, leaving her siblings and those who knew the young, beautiful, smart and reserved lady with memories.

It was a rainy day and the rain came with flood. The 26-year-old chartered accountant was rushing home to break the Ramadan fast with her family but just less than five minutes to her destination, she went into the journey of no return and the rest, as they say, is history.

HER LAST CONVERSATION

Around 7pm on that day, she told her sister, Fadesola, on phone, that she was around Cement bus stop, a distance of two kilometers from Gowon estate, Egbeda where her family lived. When she didn’t show up on time, Fadesola called her again; the phone rang but she did not pick. Fadesola might have assumed that it was because of the rain but when the day slipped into midnight, it dawned on the family that something was amiss but they probably didn’t know the depth of the situation. The search commenced immediately. After several hours of fruitless search, family and friends took to the social media to declare her missing, appealing to those who had information on her whereabouts to reach out but that also did not help in bringing her back.

Her corpse was said to have been found at a canal in Abule Odu in Alimosho local government area of Lagos. She was reportedly recognised thorugh the shirt she wore last and a birthmark as her face had been badly damaged.

On Sunday, Benjamin, Bello’s cousin, took to Twitter to announce that her body had been found in a canal.

“Thank you all for the search. Adewura is Dead. Her Body found in a canal. Heaven has gained an angel. We depart to meet again till we Meet again Adewura. Forever in our Heart. God, I am in pains but who am I the question you. Rip,” he tweeted.

‘WE WARNED THE MOTORCYCLE RIDER’

The manhole where Bello was believed to have slipped into. This metal fence wasn’t there when she fell

When TheCable visited the scene of the incident opposite Shagari estate, Ipaja, on Monday, the manhole was still open but had been guided with an iron fence. Residents had rallied round to prevent a recurrence of tragedy in the area.

According to witnesses, the victim had boarded a motorcycle behind the estate to take her home. As usual, the rain had wrecked havoc and flooded the street few meters away from a popular fast food restaurant. The motorcycle rider was warned not to pass through a flooded area, but he ignored the warning.

Bello was cut down in her prime

While meandering his way through the flowing water, the motorcycle tripped and fell. He was able to save himself and the motorcycle but Bello, however, was unlucky. The flood swept her away into the manhole that leads to a bigger canal.

“We warned the rider not to pass through the flood but he didn’t listen to us,” a mechanic, who didn’t want his identity disclosed, told TheCable.

“He rode near the manhole saying he could make his way through the flood to the other side. But he fell and he struggled for himself and the motorcycles. The lady was washed inside the hole. We couldn’t save her because the flood was massive.

“The driver was taken to Mosalasi police station and detained but he was later released.

“Anytime it rains, this whole place is usually covered up with high volume of water and it extends to the third street after Havana hotel. All the water from Shagari Estate, Mosan and other places around were diverted here. That’s why the whole street is bad. We always warn people not to pass there any time there’s flood.”

When asked why the manhole wasn’t covered, he said: “We had to open it anytime it rains so that the flood can pass through to the canal. If not, this place will become an ocean and destroy our properties. When we cover it, scavengers will remove it at night to sell to scrap dealers. So, it’s always open.”

An elderly man, who simply identified himself as Baba Segun, said the incident was unfortunate and avoidable. “Even as the manhole looks small, the canal is very big. Once my dog fell inside, I went inside and realised I was walking as though in subway. I think the canal terminates at a central sewage in Gemade estate.”

He added that after the flood subsided the next day, residents engaged two men to go inside the canal in search of Bello but they couldn’t get her.

“After the incident, we had to contribute money around here to put a metal fence around the manhole since we never can tell who the next victim could be, as we are in the raining season. Since we work here, we contribute money every year to buy truckloads of sand to fill the street to make it accessible for vehicles,” he said.

No policeman at Mosalasi police station was willing to speak. They insisted that only Bala Elkana, spokesman of the Lagos state police command, could comment on the issue. TheCable had demanded update on the the motorcycle rider who was arrested in connection with the incident. Elkana did not answer calls and is yet to reply text messages sent to him since Monday evening.

A SMART AND DEVOUT MUSLIM

Speaking with TheCable, Deolu Akinsanya, a school administrator who knew certain things about the deceased, described Bello, who hailed from Lagos Island, as a brilliant lady and a devout Muslim.

“I met her October 2018 when we both sat for an international English exam. She sat beside me. We have been friends since then and I call her at least once in two weeks,” Akinsanya said.

“She was based in Kigali, Rwanda where she worked with Deloitte before coming back to Nigeria. She’s special, kindhearted, gentle, smart and very down to earth. Also a devout Muslim.”

According to him, Adewura was born on March 3, 1993, second of three children and graduated from the department of accounting, University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 2013. He said she lost her father just six months ago.

When contacted, an elder brother of the deceased declined to comment on the matter. There are reports that Bello was buried at a cemetery in the Agege area of the state on Monday but TheCable cannot independently verify this.

The death of Bello has sparked a debate among Nigerians while some blame government not living up to its responsibilities, others attributed the tragic incident to the carelessness of residents. TheCable launched a campaign for her on Monday and many have been pouring out their minds.

Credit: TheCable

APC and its midnight children 

APC and its midnight children

APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole

By Louis Odion, FNGE

The custom in most African societies forbid whistling at night. Man is presumed to exercise dominion only over day. The ungodly hours are, in turn, conceded to dark creatures and fearsome principalities. So, it is thought that any unnatural sound may arouse the wrath of the gods of the night, thereby rupturing the harmony and balance of the social space.
In folklore, deviants of this ancestral norm are characterized as a curse on the community.

But to be sure, these are not to be mistaken for the loftier characters in Salman Rushdie’s magic-realist novel, Midnight Children. The magical exploits of Rushdie’s own fictive Saleem bear striking semblance with postcolonial India in turmoil. Though losing his power of telepathy after a medical procedure, Saleem instead gains a powerful sense of smell.

However, unlike the sometimes transformative magic of Rushdie’s incarnation, the midnight children in the referenced African fable revel in mischief, malice and pettiness.

In contemporary Nigeria, no one presents a more compelling parallel than All Progressive Congress. On the eve of its supposed hour of glory, the ruling party is in the news across the federation for the wrong reasons — troubles stirred by its own mutation of the metaphorical midnight children, increasingly constituting a nightmare to the nation at large.

So, even as resolute mother APC seeks to forge ahead in the communal market, her preoccupation now partly seems how to rein the wayward hands of the child on her back into the girdle, lest they scatter the merchandise on display sideways.
Nowhere is this anxiety better dramatized than Ogun where people have been forced to watch the comic folly of the Governor Ibikunle Amosun seeking to hide behind a finger. Though still wearing APC colours, it is open secret that the departing Ogun governor is funding the cases of all APM candidates at the election tribunal against APC members — from those elected into the state assembly to the governor-elect.

Still, bitterness over the defeat of his anointed (Adekunle Akinlade) by Dapo Abiodun in the last governorship polls has turned Amosun to a squirrel digging holes all over Abeokuta, curiously on the eve of his exit. And whenever he bites his own finger to ventilate that seething rage, his anger is probably compounded realizing that what hits him back instead is physical pain and that no blood drips from the swollen bite-mark.

When Abiodun’s people protested the festering plague of holes in Abeokuta, Amosun told another cheap lie to defend the first one. The man with the distinctive machete cap or “Fila-defia” (a jocular allusion to America’s Philadelphia city of highrises, “fila” being Yoruba word for hat) said he was only sprucing the state capital up ahead of the visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to commission his legacy projects, as well as prepare the grounds for the subsequent inauguration of the governor-in-waiting on May 29.

If that was the sincere intention, you would expect that drab walls be painted anew and gaping potholes filled instead. But in Amosun’s warped logic, you dig holes to make a city more alluring.

Worse, while the governor’s towncriers were busy parroting that spin last weekend in response to public outcry, they did not seem to realize that what was left unsaid showcased them in squalid lights. One, transition of this nature is supposed to be a colloboration between officials of the outgoing administration and nominees of the incoming. Instead, magisterial Amosun was said to have made public buildings and vehicles inaccessible to the committee raised by Abiodun to midwife his inauguration. Besides, not a single kobo was said to have been made available by the Amosun administration for Abiodun’s team to work with.
So desperate have matters become that Abiodun’s people have had to make contigency arrangements on some necessities. For instance, this writer reliably gathered that his team had to travel to Osun State to borrow an open-back jeep for the customary parade at the inauguration. Since Amosun has continued to hold tight to Ogun’s, insisting on deploying same for an elaborate “pull-out” ceremony he was arranging for himself on May 28.
Apart from digging craters, Amosun’s mischievous caterpillars were also reportedly deployed to either crack the soil in some communities or cannibalize the royal institutions across Ogun. In a desperate craving for public applause, the governor was also sighted performing “flag-off” rites for road projects amid dancing and praise-singing by paid drummers in a mindlessly elaborate exercise in public deceit barely a week to his departure! Of course, everyone knows that even the drivers of the emergency earthmovers would soon leave with Amosun.
While such ground-breaking event may soon be forgotten, not so with the royal gerrymandering Amosun has inflicted. No fewer than 73 chiefs who had lent themselves to Amosun as political hirelings were unilaterally upgraded to Oba status without due consultation in what is widely seen as a vicious slap on the Alake of Egbaland and the Awujale of Ijebuland. So, it is obvious that the incoming Abiodun administration will be inheriting a royal crisis.
In Zamfara, it is a case of shortlived revelry. Fumbling Governor Abdulaziz Yari would be made to realize rather too late the limit of the power of American dollars. Under him, the ruling party has made history as the one who supposedly won landslide victory at the polls but denied the trophy eventually.
The story we heard initially was that the state chapter of the ruling party failed to meet INEC’s deadline for primaries. When told this bitter truth, the deluded emperor in turn threatened to literally plunge everyone standing in his way to foisting all his stooges on Zamfara into the grave, not excluding himself.
First resorting to the sorcery of a cartel of shifty judges, Yari pushed himself over the first hurdle by securing assorted “black-market” court orders. Then, he fell for the sweet tongues of some Ponzi conmen lurking around Abuja. The whiff of American dollars in uncountable sacks apparently proved too irresistible at the party headquarters. In fact, the fixers with itchy fingers and wearing necklace made of glutton teeth hardly thought twice before surrendering the entire booklet of party tickets to the dollars Sheik from Gusau.

But just when Yari probably began to visualize Zamfara in his grotesque image beyond the midnight of May 28 (when his second tenure would end), came the rude shocker from Supreme Court last weekend pronouncing a regicide of sorts against all those elected on APC platform in the last general elections. In what could only have been inspired by a sense of sardonic humour, the court further slapped him with a fine of N10m (American dollars?).
With that, Yari’s earlier bluster to dispense political euthanasia freely would now seem to have partly turned a self-fulfillig prophesy.

Yari’s career bofoonery is perhaps only matched by Rochas Okorocha’s epic fawning in Imo State. For a man who rode to power eight years ago chanting “Rescue Mission”, how ironic that he himself is ending at the terminus politically wounded, his political empire in utter disarray, after a failed experiment at monarchism (“iberiberism”?).

While a sulking Okorocha would today lament a high conspiracy against him, what he would not admit is that he was actually outbidded in the sleazy bazaar camouflaged as party primaries last October, from where the rain truly began to beat him. As the popular account goes, someone supplied four times the amount of American dollars Okorocha allegedly offered to have his son-in-law made APC candidate in the governorship polls.
Now, aside the eternal shame of not having his son-in-law succeed him as governor after all the public boast, Okorocha faces additional trauma of a hostile take-over of the Douglas House with EFCC Rottweilers already barking ferociously at the gates.
In Oyo, we are listening to the bitter ending of the “Koseleri” panegyrics. When Abiola Ajimobi took over in 2011, workers jubilated. But he is leaving office amid labour strike. Being the first to win a second term democratically after a long succession of governors apparently got him so intoxicated as to arrogantly proclaim himself “the constituted authority” when some poor students heckled him for a more humane administration of their institution. Those still in doubt were taken into the literary appreciation of the term, “Koseleri” (it has never happened before).
But beaten silly in the subsequent polls and apparently afraid history might not remember him afterall, Ajimobi has embarked on perhaps the most bizarre pursuit of self-validation — a cynical attempt at self-immortalization. By not seeing any shame in rushing to name a major street after himself in Ibandan few days to his exit, Ajimobi has only ended up portraying himself as another incurably insecure megalomaniac seeking to preempt the verdict of the posterity.

In Lagos, sadly, Akinwunmi Ambode appears too traumatized, too disoriented by the loss of second term ticket last October to sustain his earlier presence of mind and finish strong. Nothing perhaps tells the tale of his diminished shadow better than the staccato of discordant tunes around his last days.
The magnificence of the new Oshodi bus interchange is, for instance, tainted by the side-talk that what President Buhari commissioned in April was a half-completed job. The allure of a section of the International Airport Road reconstructed is, in turn, smeared by the deepening squalor of the equally important Lagos-Badagry expressway. So much that last week, thousands of protesting residents of the axis poured onto the now famished road completely forsaken in the past four years.

Again, the transformation of Epe to a scenic wonder is contrasted by the continuing degradation of Apapa today. Added to that is a rather disturbing and yet undischarged allegation of squandering a staggering N49b of taxpayers’ money on the eve of Ambode’s exit from power.
Everything considered, it will, therefore, not be incorrect to say that these midnight children of APC are exiting the stage not in a blaze of glory, but with the whimper of a broken whistle.

Credit: The Nation

Taking Obasanjo to task

Taking Obasanjo to task
by Idowu Akinlotan   

IT is hard to explain what has led to the distortion of the keynote address presented two Saturdays ago by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo at the 2019 synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Oleh Diocese Isoko, Delta State. Did his controversial, self-serving and almost narcissistic person get in the way of a proper comprehension of his diagnoses of the national malaise? Or was the controversy and miscomprehension triggered by the present government’s often misplaced and instinctive umbrage? Or perhaps the Information minister, Lai Mohammed, unwittingly draped the whole issue in his customary propagandist response to anything that seemed like a criticism of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency? Whatever it was, Chief Obasanjo’s copious and even remarkable examination (in nearly 10,000 words) of Nigeria’s developmental problems on May 18, 2019 was needlessly entwined in petty controversy, and the public forced into entanglements that further complicate and vitiate a good understanding of the theses he tried to promote.

Of the about 70 paragraphs to which the address was divided, only about two or three appeared to be pointed criticisms of the Buhari presidency. The rest of the speech was taken up by useful dissections of the Nigerian condition, a few barbed references here and there, but on the whole fairly passable and well-reasoned prognostications. The former president repeatedly indulged in idolatrous references to his policy successes, taking particular note of his nationalist credentials vis-a-vis the sectionalist credentials of the incumbent president. He also barely disguised his contempt for many of the shocking shortcomings of his successors. Indeed, a sizable part of his address dealt with counsels to his successors which his own presidency glaringly spurned, and virtues he preached to them which he turned inimitably into personal vices. The contradictions have led many analysts to wrongly focus on his person than on his ideas. Chief Obasanjo cannot by any stretch be regarded as a virtuous man, or that when he seizes upon relevant public issues he can be trusted to offer the right prognoses. He likes to present himself as a man of ideas; but at bottom, he is a man only besotted with ideas.

There is also a second reason many analysts are unwilling to give the former president a hearing. They see him as unalterably opposed to the Buhari presidency and has done and keeps doing everything to ensure its failure. Nothing, they reason (and this is the Information minister’s position) will placate him. Chief Obasanjo may be afflicted with a messianic complex, and may even secretly and controversially nurse the desire to see his successors underperform in clear contrast to himself, but there is nothing sacrosanct about his secret desire to make his successors the failures they have arguably become. He may thus be filled with contradictions, and be even inured to criticisms and abuse, but he has an uncanny ability to ferret out great public issues deserving of attention and deep scrutiny. And because he possesses the name recognition to imbue his criticisms with traction and even nobility, Nigerians may periodically be compelled to give him listening ears in spite of themselves, and must also restrain themselves from outrightly dismissing his interesting perceptions and conclusions.

Chief Obasanjo may not be smart enough to build a great and imperishable legacy for himself, but he was sensible enough to choose the Anglican Synod held in Delta State to focus attention on a number of developmental issues troubling Nigeria. His address, as fairly remarkable as it was, would have been consigned to the archives almost immediately after he delivered it had he not chosen, in a very long speech, to make vigorous references to what he sees as the creeping Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria. He did not put the blame squarely on the Buhari presidency. In fact, he argued that careless domestic policies and issues had combined in a lethal brew with external events and actors to produce and unleash processes that could sunder Nigeria. The former president, not known for mincing words, seemed even uncharacteristically wary of making pointed references to the obvious failures and weaknesses of the Buhari presidency. So he spoke obliquely.

Hereunder are the two main references to the Buhari presidency that have drawn the ire of critics: (a) “Every issue of insecurity must be taken seriously at all levels and be addressed at once without favouritism or cuddling. Both Boko Haram and herdsmen acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning. They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone. They are now combined and internationalised with ISIS in control. It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youth in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African Fulanisation, African Islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change. Yet we could have dealt with both earlier and nipped them in the bud, but Boko Haram boys were seen as rascals not requiring serious attention in administering holistic measures of stick and carrot. And when we woke up to the reality, it was turned to an industry for all and sundry to supply materials and equipment that were already outdated and that were not fit for active military purpose. Soldiers were poorly trained for the unusual mission, poorly equipped, poorly motivated, poorly led and made to engage in propaganda rather than achieving results. Intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials while paying ransoms which strengthened the insurgents and yet governments denied payment of ransoms. Today, the security issue has gone beyond the wit and capacity of Nigerian government or even West African governments.”

(b) “I think it is like a building, which once the foundation is faulty, becomes wobbly with the tiniest turbulence. Consequently, the issue of national identity, values, ethics and national dream must be settled once and for all. This may require a global national meeting. If Miyetti Allah is truly encouraging herdsmen violence and killings and truly they have to be appeased or placated with 100 billion naira and they are equated to Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, etc, then we have to appease those other organisations similarly or be ready to allow them to unleash havoc of their own. We need politics of a united Nigeria for all Nigerians  not one for Yoruba, one for Ibo, one for Hausa-Fulani, one for Ijaw, one for Nupe, one for Tiv, one for Kanuri and one for Isoko. If we fail to do this, I am afraid all the EFCC, ICPC, Plans and Strategies and the rest of the political re-engineering and manoeuvres such as creation or contraction/merger of states, forms of government, attempts at ethical re-orientation, constitutional amendment, etc, may not usher in the much desired peace, stability, national development, and of course, improvement in the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians…”

Both statements of course describe the failure of the Buhari presidency and insinuate the government’s abject lack of capacity. But they are nevertheless issues that are quite in the public domain, and except the country is living in denial, they are issues that strike at the core of the country’s stability and survival. In the second quotation, the former president spoke somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and even seemed to have permitted himself a few rumours, but no one can deny that the Buhari presidency has not carelessly submitted itself to the politics of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of herdsmen. Chief Obasanjo was not exaggerating by dragging in the Miyetti Allah issue into his discourse as an indication of the weakness, if not complicity, of the government in the massive insecurity inundating the country. The presidency has denied budgeting N100bn to appease herdsmen, but it is incredibly setting up a radio station for their affairs, as announced by the Education minister, not Information or Communications minister. Such abominable decisions speak to Chief Obasanjo’s fears that this government has become so insensitive to its political, social and cultural surroundings that it has become tone deaf and listens only to itself. Chief Obasanjo’s person may obtrude arguments, but it does not rob him of the capacity and judgement of correctly deciphering some of the nefarious decisions being made by this government.

But perhaps the most controversial part of Chief Obasanjo’s address are his thoughts on the Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria and West Africa using the amenities of herdsmen invasions and Boko Haram insurgency. Again, whoever Chief Obasanjo may be and whatever policies he had enacted in the past do not necessarily negate his observation or vitiate its accuracy. There is nothing in his statement that suggests that he concluded that the Buhari presidency had determined to Fulanise or Islamise the country, even if that ambition was secretly nursed. The former president’s argument is in fact very simple. By allowing Boko Haram insurgency to fester for so long, which predated the Buhari presidency, and the herdsmen rampage to be treated rather cavalierly as in fact this administration is doing by its many exculpatory and vexatious arguments, the stage was being set for the balkanisation of Nigeria. Chief Obasanjo drew on the example of Somalia to illustrate his general argument about elite irresponsibility and dishonesty in tackling vexing existential problems. Who can fail to be moved by the fact that Nigeria harbours two of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups? Who can fail to be affected by the fact that herdsmen sack villages and occupy them in a country that has borders, laws and governments? For instance, last year, the Plateau State government, responding to entreaties by community leaders who said some 54 villages had been sacked and renamed by herdsmen, promised to prosecute land grabbers. Nothing has, however, been done.

The Information minister describes Chief Obasanjo’s criticisms as divisive. Others see the former president as unqualified to raise the issues he felt were destabilising the country. Both are wrong. They may not like Chief Obasanjo, and the former president himself may be guilty of some of the wrongdoings he is alleging against the current and previous administrations, but he has sensibly drawn the attention of Nigerians to the divisions and acrimony destroying the unity of the country. The attention must not be on the messenger, particularly this deeply flawed messenger; the focus must be on the issues. The greatest issue today is that the country, particularly the North, has spawned a nest of vipers brimming with insurgents and militant herdsmen who are picking the country apart. If nothing is done very urgently, as advocated by Chief Obasanjo, this increasingly divided and misdirected country will go up in flames. Nigerians will be living in denial not to see and feel this danger. It is worse when they seize upon Chief Obasanjo’s personal flaws to deny the existence of the existential crisis facing them.

.

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