Ndume v Lawan: The danger ahead

Ndume v Lawan: The danger ahead

Azu Ishiekwene

What would it take President Muhammadu Buhari to get the politics of the National Assembly right? Four years ago, he had a problem which, like a stubborn fly, has refused to go away.

After his election victory speech in 2015 when he was for all and for none, things went haywire, leading to the emergence of a National Assembly leadership that would haunt him for the rest of his tenure.

His wars with the legislature – from inflated budgets to outright refusal to confirm a number of high profile appointees and God knows what not – were probably next to his ill-health in the pecking order of his woes.

Most people blamed Buhari. If he had taken the lead early on and given a clear indication who he was comfortable to work with, instead of barricading himself in Aso Rock after the election, his party and, perhaps, his government, might have been spared the misery of a tumultuous executive-legislative relationship that made Tom and Jerry look like best of friends.

To avoid that this time, it appears that at Buhari’s behest, the APC has made its preference clear: Ahmed Lawan for Senate president, and Femi Gbajabiamila as speaker for the House of Reps. Buhari did not issue a statement or call a press conference to announce his preference. He apparently gave his party the hint and left Chairman Adams Oshiomhole to do the rest.

If delay or indifference was the source of his problem the last time, it does not look like speed or enthusiasm will make any difference now. Not only have significant numbers of legislators made it clear that it is not the business of the President or the executive to choose their leaders for them, politicians within the ranks of the ruling APC have also told Oshiomhole to find a job and Buhari to mind his business.

Buhari, an introvert by nature and practice, must be wondering how he got himself into this mess: Steer clear he’s damned, get involved he’s damned. Interestingly, Ali Ndume who is probably the biggest threat to APC’s official candidate, Lawan, said he had personally informed Buhari of his decision to contest and received the President’s consent. Two private meetings with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the matter have, so far, been unable to persuade Ndume to drop his ambition.

Ndume has maintained that he is opposed to anyone “imposing” a candidate on the Senate. Which sounds sensible until you remember that in 2011 Ndume was not the preferred candidate of Southern Borno senatorial district. A returnee member of the Peoples Democratic Party at the time, he was, in fact, imposed on the district over GarbaSanda, who was forced to step down for him.

But in politics where one week could be a lifetime, eight years are like eons past.

You would think that after the bloodletting of the last four years, the ruling party would have learnt its lessons and members would desperately avoid anything that could make it a laughing stock so soon. But politicians, being politicians, they have only one motivation: power and how to keep or advance it at any cost and for as long as possible.

Ndume’s case is complicated by two things. The first is the nagging sense of injustice which goes back to his roots in Southern Borno, generally regarded and treated as the political backwaters of the state. If a Gwoza, Shani or Biu cannot be governor in Borno but manages, against all odds, to make it to the Senate, why should the candidate be prevented from pursuing his ambition to the end?

The second complication is Ndume’s sense of entitlement. Having occupied a leadership position in the Senate before Lawan, he feels the prize should naturally come to him. Why should he sacrifice his rank for Lawan’s ambition or the party’s vanity? He fancies himself as the truly “independent” candidate, a worn-out mask for self-interest.

Beyond Ndume, however, there is what may be described as the latent spite factor – the resentment of APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu – who for some strange reason is regarded as good party talisman at the time of election but resented and despised as bad omen when it is time to share the spoils.

A lot has been said about what the so-called Tinubu agenda might be: that he’s lining things up for a bid for the presidency in 2023; that he is planting his men everywhere – including the National Assembly – to expand and consolidate his power base against the next general elections; that he is driven by an obsession for control and power grab and nothing else. Quite harsh and mostly far-fetched, to be honest. Does anyone seriously believe that Tinubu is single-handedly pressing the candidacy of Lawan and Gbajabiamila without the consent and approval of Buhari? Seriously?

It’s shaping up like an answer to the prayer of the PDP. Nigerians rejected the party at the polls in 2015, but Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, both elected on the ticket of the APC, opened the backdoor for PDP and consummated a marriage of convenience whose illegitimate children have haunted the country for four years.

And I’m not talking here about insinuations that Saraki is prepping DanjumaGoje or whoever he thinks can smear pepper in Buhari’s eye to take over the leadership of the National Assembly. I’m saying that I’m shocked beyond words that once bitten, the APC is not even remotely shy to see that the precarious numerical advantage it has in the Senate, for example – 65-41 – would again be exploited ruthlessly by the PDP.

It may appear that this is not our business: that the results of the last general elections show that some regions are overrated and those who have delivered the numbers should not only get preferential share of the pie but also the legislature as a whole should be left alone to choose its leaders.

That sounds great, except that after four years of weaponised hybrid leadership in the National Assembly, we have seen that it only produces stalemate, blackmail and a permanently divided house fighting over more allowances and benefits for its members.

It’s difficult to hold the National Assembly to account when its leadership, which sets out and provides direction for legislative business, has been subverted by the opposition. We cannot and will not have another four years of the minority tail wagging the majority dog after voters made their preference clear at the polls.

PDP is waiting to pounce again – and it will if APC refuses to look in the flea market just to purchase common sense. If other contestants refuse to step down for the party’s preferred candidates – and they have a right to refuse – then the party should ask the pre-designated zones to present candidates.

There’s no guarantee that desperate, wounded moneybags will not find their way to the zones, but that’s a lesser evil compared with the chaos that awaits the party if matters continue this way, and eventually end up on the floor of the National Assembly.

Since indifference is proving to be as deadly as meddling, a viable way to manage the chaos would be to let the candidates test their strength at the zones. The irony of these matters is that we may never see the real demons in the candidates – and that includes even the most carefully pre-selected ones – until they have been tested with power.

Ishiekwene is the managing director/editor-in-chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network.

The Onnoghen dilemma

The Onnoghen dilemma

By Sam Omatseye

It will intrigue not only lawyers, not least men of the bench, as well as psychologists what secrets lurk in the heart of Justice Walter Onnoghen. Is it that he genuinely feels righteous or he is acting one? Is it that he thinks the law sheds its lofty smile on his side or he has to play the role of jurist in pursuit of his own veneration?

Or is he like the canine in the cage but has to bark and whine and growl so as to gain a berth of freedom? The big paradox is that the number one law man has had to bow out and resign. Wh did he not do this earlier? Was it that his colleagues of the NJC played Judas, and his last pillar had crumbled? We have not seen the full letter of the NJC to the president, But it hints that Onnoghen has lost the moral authority to serve as chief justice. Did he need the letter to know that.

For, no doubt, he is between two worlds. One says he is a man of honour under the siege of an oligarchy of guileless confederates contracted to dethrone and rid him of a breadth of public grace. The other sees him as a pharisaic sophisticate who has wronged his high office and country. This group thinks he enjoys the backing of a legion of apostate lawyers and rogue politicians weeping vicariously and vigorously through him after their subversive crimes were unplugged on a stealthy night.

But what is more intriguing to this essayist is not so much that the Code of Conduct Tribunal is tracking his fidelity on his assets declaration, or that the EFCC is on his financial trail. It is that the Onnoghen phenomenon represents the twain of the Nigerian political life. With the CCT, we see legal gunfights. In the EFCC, morality is blazing.

Just like last week I tried to show how two consciences are at the heart of a bleeding nation, the Onnoghen case challenges us whether it is law we want or justice. If we want law, we may not have justice. If we want justice, the law genuflects to moral virtue.

The CCT case, this writer has held, is necessary because of the EFCC. The real matter for conscience is whether the man Onnoghen has had a dialogue between himself and conscience. But if it is Onnoghen the lawyer that matters more than the Onnoghen the free moral agent, then the resigned chief justice has not shown himself, like many like him, worthy to be on the judicial chair.

The root of every law is a moral virtue. Society codified the laws to engineer a moral society. As French writer and economist Frederic Bastiat has noted, “when law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing is moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

There is a sense that in the Onnoghen matter as in quite a few in the past few years, Nigeria is at the crossroads of whether we want to do what is right or we want to obey a skewed version of law. Law and morality should not necessarily clash, but they do when the society has not raised its sense of virtue. The manipulation of legal nuances becomes the crotch of those societies.

If virtue came before the law, then it goes without rancour that morality should come first. It is instructive that the NJC recognised this and has asked the man to go because of the moral question. Many lawyers can be blind like a bat in sunlight. They see the law and nothing else. When a man says he did not remember a princely sum of money so he does not declare it, it only takes a bull of technicality to believe him.

Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory once said to me that if there is a case between a rich man and a poor man, “I will find the law for the poor man.” The law is thus flexible and the legal mind luminously facile. The lawyer’s mind is like how John Milton described Satan in Paradise Lost. “The mind is its own place/it can make hell of heaven and heaven of hell.”

While lawyers quibble over whether Onnoghen was right by showing details of whether he submitted or filled a form, what is substantial is lost in the delirium. The CCT is there because primarily the EFCC makes a case.

The United States founding father has said that the country is a nation of laws and not of men. But before the society soared to legal integrity, it had established its moral codes. The British legal system is so kinetic and fluid that in Nigeria, it will bring us to anarchy. Laws are important, but only to enforce virtue.

When law thrives for law’s sake, we have not justice, but the triumph of state over conscience. Onnoghen has now been forced by the moral question to do the right thing: resign. He would have done good for himself and his sense of moral purity if he did it early in this controversy. But he was egged on by his obdurate colleagues.

He would have gained time. “You can’t kill time without injuring eternity,” said Henry David Thoreau. Onnoghen knows now if he didn’t know before that he was killing time. He has injured many things, especially his image and that of his exalted office.

Not that technicality of law is not good. We should use it for justice, not like the late Justice Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court who saw law as textual matter – cold, dead words. People like him see the law as though without a soul. Hence the scriptures lead in this matter by saying the law is not a school master, so we judge the spirit and not its letter.

The autumn of Ortom
When one writes, one expects to reach literate audiences. But when we see responders with little understanding of processes or language, writers can get a little disappointed. In my column last week, The Voice of Chi, I witnessed a riot of voices talking back. But it is not the sober and cerebral dissenters I worry about, but the mutiny of ignorant pot shots that saw the piece as either an endorsement of the killings in Benue or tears over Ortom’s victory at the polls.

They failed to understand that the article raised important issues. One, how come we have two antipodal standpoints on how to resolve a crisis. It is the peacemaker versus the war-monger. Two, it is about how a man who exploited this was cynical and kept harping on it even when the herders crisis abated. Three, how that same man, Ortom, has done little else for his people. Ortom has a right to glow over his victory. If his people want him, he deserves it. But as a commentator, he has to turn round now and provide service to his people. I will be the first to applaud if he obliges his people.

Or else Benue State, with potential, will be the autumn of Ortom, where all the blossoms and leaves of opportunity and prosperity will die off, and what will be left is a stark tree of hunger and suffering. Those who support that are entitled to their own imbecility. After all, democracy is not always for the wise.

Credit: The Nation

Political wars and collateral damage Simon Kolawole 

Political wars and collateral damage

Justice Walter Onnoghen

By Simon Kolawole
An interesting and recurring debate in our democratic experience of the last 20 years has been: how can we wage the anti-corruption war without the suspicion of selective justice and political vendetta? Justice Walter Onnoghen, the embattled chief justice of Nigeria, has just fallen on his sword after three months of intense controversy over alleged infractions. Ordinarily, we should not be arguing at all over the allegations against him. Failing to declare his assets as and when due is already a breach of the law and it is enough to unseat him. There is no mitigation for “I forgot”. The punishment is written in black and white. It should normally be cut and dried. There was a time the Code of Conduct law allowed “I made a mistake” but it has since been amended.

However, those sympathetic to Onnoghen argue that his ouster had nothing to do with his bank accounts and estacode, and that he is only a casualty of politics, triggered by the warfare between Governor Nyesom Wike and Amaechi in Rivers state. Onnoghen was believed to have taken sides. They say if Onnoghen’s case was simply about bank accounts, how many Nigerian judges will remain on the bench? Public officers receive payments into their personal accounts from sources that, if made public, could result in a scandal. Those who question the anti-graft war often ask why the bank accounts of other judges were not similarly scrutinised. They even allege that the EFCC masked the names of some lawyers who paid “wedding support” into Onnoghen’s accounts.

People have been asking questions about how APC financed its own electioneering and why most of those arrested by the EFCC were PDP supporters. I certainly do not have the answers. I can only say that these are some of the contradictions that the anti-graft war has had to contend with over the years, especially under President Muhammadu Buhari. My default position has always been that as long as the accusations against you are not fabricated, then you have to defend yourself, no matter your political affiliation or persuasion. But even that position is problematic because if two people commit a similar offence and only one is punished because of their political leaning, the essence of crime and punishment is defeated. People will easily figure out how to escape justice.

In another case, Mr. Paul Usoro, a senior advocate of Nigeria, has been in the eye of the storm for a while. In the run-up to his election as the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in August 2018, quite a number of negative media reports began to swarm around him. He soon found himself in the net of the EFCC over allegations of money laundering. I have not been following the matter closely, but the headline that trended for a while was the N1.1 billion payment to his law firm’s account by the Akwa Ibom state government. In another story, N300 million was said to have been paid into the firm’s account by Chief Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom state. In all, the EFCC is accusing him of laundering N1.4bn.

Usoro has denied the allegations of money laundering and will soon have his day in court. From snippets of his explanations I have read here and there, Usoro has continued to insist that the N1.1bn is “legitimate earning” by his law firm for legal services rendered to the Akwa Ibom state government dating back to the days of Chief Godswill Akpabio, who was governor from 2007-2015. He said the payments were made in tranches over a period of two years and not at once as being portrayed in the media. He also said the N300m payment from Emmanuel was not from state coffers and it was to settle the fees of the lawyers in the team that represented the governor in post-election litigation all the way from the petitions tribunal to the Supreme Court.

Why then would the EFCC just wake up one morning and pick on Usoro? Is there smoke without fire? That is the question people like me would love to ask. There may be fire and there may be smoke, but Usoro alleges that the fire is purely political and the smoke cannot be money laundering. He said he is a victim of political vendetta. Having represented Senator Bukola Saraki in the false asset declaration case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Usoro will naturally believe that the EFCC has come for him in vengeance, especially as Saraki won the case. It also does not help matters that the senate, under Saraki, repeatedly refused to confirm Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC. Magu has been acting chairman for over three years.

Except the in-coming senate does the needful, Magu may end up serving a full four-year term without confirmation. Many of us believe that the senate refused to confirm him because of the way he has been “dealing” with a section of the political class since he was appointed. Typically, senate confirmation hearings are a joke. “Take a bow” is a popular line in the red chamber. I remember a senator ridiculously asking Mr Rotimi Amaechi at his screening in 2015: “How did you give a bloody nose to the PDP in the general election?” (I rephrased it). But when it came to Magu, the senators suddenly became diligent and decided that he failed screening. Regardless, Magu could still have been cleared if they wanted, going by the character of senate screenings.

Nevertheless, Usoro’s matter is already in court, so there is an extent to which I can comment. In the end, the courts will listen to the lawyers, examine the facts and make a pronouncement. We just have to be patient. I must confess I happen to be one of the supporters of Magu because of the way he has been touching hitherto untouchable elements in the society. However, I am also intelligent enough to know that he needs to improve on his mode of operation. I am most worried when people’s reputation has been destroyed in the process and they spend years trying to clear their names. They may be finally acquitted, but those who heard the beginning of it may not bother to wait for the conclusion.

The most painful thing, in my view, is when you are wrongly accused or the facts are deliberately twisted just to achieve a political end. Your name is ruined even if, legally speaking, nothing could be proved against you. An example that easily comes to mind is the ouster of Mrs Patricia Etteh as speaker of the house of representatives in October 2007 after she had spent just four months in the saddle. She had set the record as the first (and only) female speaker in the history of Nigeria, but some people were resistant to the idea that both chambers of the national assembly were being led by people of the same religion. Also, some conservatives could not stomach subjecting themselves to the leadership of a woman. They moved against her.

Hon. Farouk Lawan led an “Integrity Group” that cooked up allegations of fraud against her. They said she illegally awarded contracts of N628million for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy. She was also accused of buying 12 cars. She was forced to quit and Hon. Dimeji Bankole was installed for religious balancing in the leadership of the national assembly. How many Nigerians today know that Etteh did not commit any offence, that she awarded no contracts (that’s the job of the national assembly tenders board, chaired by the senate president), and that she did not steal a kobo? Most importantly, how many Nigerians know that the house apologised to Etteh at its last sitting in 2011, saying there was no fraud? That’s the part that pains me the most.

Unfortunately, no matter how political we think corruption accusations are and the resultant collateral damage, the accused must still defend themselves. In a developing country and a developing democracy such as ours, it is very difficult for the government to resist the temptation of picking and choosing who to go after. It is also human to spare your supporters and target your opponents. Since the EFCC was established in 2004, those at the receiving end have always complained about political vendetta. The good thing, I have to point out, is that the judiciary is there to deliver justice. The accused, as in the cases of Onnoghen and Usoro, have to defend themselves, no matter how strong the suspicion of political motive. The bigger tragedy would be if the judiciary itself is too cowed to do the right thing. That, much more than vendetta, is what should worry us.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

CITIZEN KOLADE

Many police officers, especially those of the SARS variant, have been killing innocent citizens for fun and getting away with, but Olalekan Ogunyemi, an inspector, might have pulled the trigger on himself when he allegedly murdered Kolade Johnson on Sunday, March 31. The hapless young man had gone to watch a football match at a viewing centre when his life was reportedly terminated by Ogunyemi who was looking for “cultists” — that is, anybody with tattoo, torn jeans or dreadlocks, according to police’s definition. My earnest prayer is that the killing of Citizen Kolade will finally lead to reforms on the use of firearms by the police. If not, Kolade’s death would be in vain. Tragic.

RIVERS OF BLOOD

So after all the maiming and the killings, military occupation and unprecedented delay in the official announcement of results, Chief Nyesom Wike of the PDP has been re-elected as governor of Rivers state. It always seemed to me that Wike was going to win no matter what the federal forces did, although we must also not discount the fact that if APC had been allowed to field a candidate, it would have been tougher for Wike. What a pity that so many people needlessly lost their lives in the deadly battle between erstwhile best friends — Wike and Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation — for the soul of one of Nigeria’s richest states. Depressing.

HOW CAN?

The next senate president or speaker should be a Christian, according to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). This, it said, is in keeping with the tradition of the national assembly since the return democracy in 1999. There is a small error of fact though: in 2007, David Mark and Patricia Etteh were senate president and speaker respectively. Indeed, in the second republic, we had Joseph Wayas and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke (later Benjamin Chaha) as senate president and speaker. In the third republic, Iyorchia Ayu (later Ameh Ebute) and Agunwa Anekwe held those positions. These were all Christians. Who did it help? While I normally favour “balancing”, I will not kill for it. Diversion.

AND FINALLY…

We might have finally found the solution to crimes such as kidnapping and banditry. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna was driving on the road between Abuja and Kaduna when his motorcade ran into an operation by kidnappers at Akilubu village. His security team quickly intervened and the criminals fled while their wounded victims were taken to the hospital. That gave me an idea. Can our governors be driving around their states everyday and blaring siren at full volume to scare away robbers, kidnappers and other miscreants? It seems to work wonders. Since no kidnapper dare move close to a governor’s convoy, the citizens can enjoy from the executive privilege. Immunity.

Credit: TheCable

Right of Reply to Pendulum: Open Letter to the VP

Right of Reply to Pendulum: Open Letter to the VP

By Laolu Akande

My dear Bob Dee!

One could have easily made up his mind not to read or respond to anything you wrote after seeing the rather unprincipled queuing up behind Senator Bukola Saraki and then abandoning him, moving on to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and then deserting him as well.

But I felt one should respond to your attempts to create a false narrative from the very hollow lamentation of the recent elections as the “worst in our history”.

In my view, those like your good self, veteran journalists, who have built a formidable platform in the public arena must strive always to use the platform for the larger public good. There have been several interventions from you that reflect such true public spirit, but some of us stridently disagree with what at times could be perceived as a self-serving journalistic conduct. Many would seem to agree that this was obvious in your recent open letter to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

But first, let me thank you for your gracious words of congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President, and your admiration for the VP’s commendable performance in office. I am certain that your quest for public accountability derives from that admiration.

It is important to state that a citizen’s open letter to public figures or government authority is always welcome here and not necessarily a matter of right or exclusive access. For us, such matters of access for the people to their elected leaders is of normal cause and ought not to be a matter of exclusivity nor should we make a play of it as so special.

As is typical of your propaganda machinery, it begins with an outrageous lie by the principal then the operatives like yourself repeat it ad naseum. It appears you were not in this country when foreign and local observers accepted the results.Independent Foreign Observers commended the transparency and credibility of the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Also, the Independent ElectionMonitor group, supported by the French Embassy, concluded that “based on the analysis carried out in this document as well as the actual observations of the election activities across the country, it is Election Monitor’s considered opinion that the 2019 Presidential Election results are consistent with the will of the majority of voters who took part in the elections notwithstanding the various infractions which also occurred as they were not on a scale significant enough to affect the overall outcome of the election.(http://electionmonitorng.blogspot.com/2019/03/analysis-of-2019-nigerian-presidential.html)

YIAGA Africa’s Parrallel Voting Tabulation, relied on by international agencies, embassies and funders also said its “findings show that for the presidential election the All Progressive Congress (APC) should receive between 50.0 per cent and 55.8 per cent of the vote.” And that “the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 41.2 per cent and 47.0 per cent of the vote; these figures are consistent with the official results as just announced by INEC.

“For both APC and PDP, the official results fall within the PVT estimated ranges.” That YIAGA AFRICA results statement was based on reports from 1,491 polling units which are 98.4 per cent of sampled polling units. YIAGA AFRICA’s projections were reportedly also consistent with the officially announced vote shares for the other 71 parties who contested in the presidential election. It is also believed that the group’s projections were based on the results announced in the polling units and would have detected any significant manipulation occurring during collation at the ward, local government area, State and national levels. Also, “INEC’s official results for turnout and rejected ballots were also generally consistent with YIAGA AFRICA WTV estimates.” (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/02/yiaga-africa-verifies-election-results/)

These are empirical facts, my dear Bob Dee, especially if you your analysis through any rigorous tests. Propaganda and falsehood only need a willing sponsor.

Yes, observers mentioned pockets of violence and some malpractices, but none felt that these were sufficient to affect the credibility of the elections or its results. Frequently cited is Ago Palace in Lagos. One unit in a city of 20 million! In any event, the real question is, how did the violence in the comparatively few places where it happened favour the President? And how come the strong allegations of foul play by the likes of Godswill Akpabio in Akwa Ibom, George Akume in Benue and Ndoma-Egba in Cross Rivers State (all APC Senatorial aspirants!) escaped your eagle eyes?

It is sometimes forgotten, and Bob Dee , you chose to forget, that for the previous 16 years before 2015, the PDP governments had conducted elections. Everyone is familiar with the incredible excesses of the elections and the election-observer reports so poignantly describe some.

In the 2003 elections which gave Atiku Abubakar and his boss a second term, Wikipedia observes that “Millions of people voted several times. The police in Lagos uncovered an electoral fraud, finding five million false ballots.”

But the 2007 elections got even worse reviews: “Following the presidential election, groups monitoring the election gave it a dismal assessment. Chief European Union observer Max van den Berg reported that the handling of the polls had “fallen far short” of basic international standards, and that “the process cannot be considered to be credible”, citing “poor election organisation, lack of transparency, significant evidence of fraud, voter disenfranchisement, violence and bias.”

They described the election as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”, with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”).One group of observers said that at one polling station in Yenagoa, in the oil-rich South-South, where 500 people were registered to vote, more than 2,000 votes were counted.”

Your choice of words such as “theatre of war” to describe the presidential polls is not only inaccurate and questionable by and large, but also surprising considering the recent history of past presidential polls. And you have to tell us who described the elections as “the most dreadful and desperate”?

Besides this facts that you carefully chose to ignore, the contents of your letter read in part like a brief for the opposition, and, at other times, a judgment of an electoral tribunal in favour of the opposition. And such bias undermines the credibility of the author such as yourself.

It could even render the write-up confusing rather than informing the readers. For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of the opposition, you have also benefited from significant business relationships with some in the opposition circles. And this is entirely within your right.

But that certainly discounts your assessment about the direction of our administration. It also devalues your criticism of the narratives that hold those who raped this country in the past responsible for the consequences of their corrupt activities while in government.

One also wonders whether it is your well-known personal relationship with the opposition that has beclouded you so much that you seek to assail the anti-corruption efforts which ordinary and well-meaning Nigerians have embraced.

Let me make it clear that the facts show that while some old members of the opposition have joined APC, that has not shielded those responsible for corruption and graft. In any case, even if old PDP members are now APC members, the current leadership of the country under the APC stands out as it is made up of two gentlemen with impeccable integrity.

Old PDP members and all Nigerians are welcome just like sinners are embraced in the church, Inf act, the church was opened for sinners to be converted. And what is skewed about the anti-corruption campaign when the two governors who have now been convicted for corruption are both APC?

Having said that, be rest assured that the APC as a party will articulate its defences to any allegations. For the records, it is an obvious fact and this must be reiterated that the Buhari administration has a commendable record of respecting the independence of INEC, a clear departure from what occurred under previous administrations. This government also ensures that it provides all the support INEC requires, as well as respects the independence of the judiciary and has ensured that security forces act within the ambits of law. Even international observers have made their comments accordingly and positively.

As the Buhari administration always noted, every single loss of life is sad and lamentable. And previous elections have regrettably caused even far more losses. We must achieve an electoral system that doesn’t result in any such loss of life. However, the record of improvement from the past is clear as it were.

To characterize the will of the people as Pyrrhic victory represents what exactly needs to change in and about our nation. Indeed, our privilege as elites imposes the responsibility of trustees of power, wealth, values and direction of and for a nation in the interest of the people upon us. To narrow this interest or substitute our amplified voices as the vocal minority for the silent majority is not only taking liberties a little too far, but also losing tune and touch with our national realities. As leaders, we must reflect introspectively on how we have prioritized the people, and how we must continue to do so going forward.

This is what President Muhammadu Buhari is known for and it is what played out in the elections. It is the voices of the few and the devices of the privileged that the Opposition regarded and expected to hold up. That did not happen.

We respect the right to disagree and exercise that right through the established mechanisms, but we reject any denigration and the diminishing of the electoral outcome which is the true voice and expression of the people of this country.

As you noted, the whole concept of sin in the worldly context is a violation of the law of the land, and in the spiritual context, a violation against God. That you judge either as a matter of law, or ecclesiastically when you by yourself determine that this administration is “committing sin” is a departure from what your letter identifies as its objective. Victory in an election is a nation speaking up, while the victor is the symbol of that nation’s victory.

Both life, by its temporal nature, and the Constitution, by its term limitations and periodic elections, already ensure that we all know that everything but eternity is transient, and the example of that in our nation today is the rejection of the old order four years ago, and the most recent confirmation of that rejection by preferring the new and current order, and the Next Level of our national restoration and growth.

Finally, thank you for declaring your belief that the APC “would have won” a handsome victory because that was exactly what happened! It is your equivocation about Atiku’s loss expressed in the same letter where you said you expected an APC “handsome victory” that left me and other readers confounded. What are we to believe?

Again, thank you for your open letter. Be rest assured that the Vice President and the President would continue working for the good of all Nigerians in the Next Level.

A giant called Pius Adesanmi

A giant called Pius Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi

By Sonala Olumhense

I never met Pius Adesanmi, the remarkable Nigerian icon who died in the Ethiopia Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash last weekend.

But we were part of an NVS editorial board for a while, and I read much of his writings. I knew his spirit. And his heart.

It is why I understand why his death has hit so many people so hard and so personally that there are remembrances being held in many places around the world.

Sadly, those who lose the most by his passing, particularly Nigeria’s poor and exploited, did not know him. And ironically, those who gain the most will be the scavenging and ruthless social and political manipulators that were at the receiving end of his work, wit and wisdom.

It is good, then, that while death may not end the journey God begins for each human being, it does sever the consciousness of the departed with earthliness.

Otherwise imagine how outraged Adesanmi might have been upon discovering that President Muhammadu Buhari, who didn’t know he existed while he existed, described him and Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, another Nigerian who died in the crash, as “distinguished Nigerians who did the nation proud in their professional endeavours.”

Did Nigeria proud?

I pay my respects to Mr. Bashua, an accomplished diplomat, and condole with his family and friends.

But Adesanmi cannot be thought of or remembered in the same way. As an intellectual, he was a champion of excellence, a currency that is admired and widely-sought in much of the world.

But while he was a scholar of reputable standards and achievement, it is the quality of his character and his voice that brought him celebrity in Nigeria.

The irony is that in his tribute, Buhari did not—could not—acknowledge that side of the man. Responding also, Senate President Bukola Saraki also said he did not know about Adesanmi but read some of his articles last week when the explosive impact of his death consumed the country.

This is important. Nigeria has a lot of frontline professionals in many fields within and outside her borders. Few, however, have either the inclination, commitment or talent to step outside their comfort zone and open their voices on behalf of right over wrong.

Those who do are dismissed as people who complain because they have not been given a place at the table. Translation: every Nigerian is a thief.

But Adesanmi was a reminder that there are people who do not want a part of any dirty buffet; people who believe there is enough for all, particularly if the best and most able are allowed opportunities that should go to the best, not the best-connected. He hoped for, and yearned for, and campaigned for a Nigeria that would rise to its potential.

The trouble is that nobody can do that without identifying the factors and people that are responsible for her failures. But Nigerian power-wielders hate to be so identified, let alone challenged. It has become our character and history as a people: Obafemi Awolowo was in his time and prime the best-qualified for national leadership, but he would not get it. Tai Solarin died screaming for social justice, as did Gani Fawehinmi.

Sometimes, we even go abroad to advertise our disdain for quality. Appearing before the Editorial Board of the New York Times in the late 1980s at the peak of his powers, Tom Ikimi, who was Sani Abacha’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, arrogantly dismissed the worth and work of Wole Soyinka.

They walked out on him.

In 2004, when Chinua Achebe rejected the award of a National Honour because of the sordid record of Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, particularly in Anambra State, government spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode offered him this insult: “If you feel that your country does not deserve to honour you, then we believe you certainly do not deserve your country.”

Nigerian leaders resent and reject the logic of excellence and performance. You worship them with presents and praises. They love the language of such people as the delegation of so-called non-career ambassadors who visited Buhari a few days ago.

They were led by a man called Ashimiyu Olaniyi, who told Buhari with something of a straight face: “You are God-sent. You have always come on stage at the critical moments of our national history to right the wrongs of the past.’’

He told him that his election and re-election, “are divine interventions in the affairs of the country.”

Buhari had to have been glowing with joy, liars such as Olaniyi being priceless and memorable. Unlike writers, particularly irreverent critics such as Adesanmi who have no price tag.

Little wonder then, that Buhari, an unrepentant nepotist, never noticed Adesanmi. People like that are said to be merely “speaking grammar.” To have noticed would have been to acknowledge the writer’s abhorrence of the Nigerian leader’s world of self-worship and hypocrisy.

Of that world, I give Saraki credit for finding the courage to attend a memorial event for Adesanmi in Abuja last week, along with Senator Dino Melaye, although I do not believe any of them read enough of him to understand what he would consider to be penance or repatriation.

What would Adesanmi have thought of the massive “Jail Bukola Saraki” signs seen on the side of London’s famous buses last week? It is unimportant that the images may have been photoshopped: London is Saraki’s real hometown, the one where he became a man and is thought to hold most of his wealth. That such signs were thought up and paid for either by Nigerians rich enough or creative enough says a lot about where the Nigeria struggle goes next.

It is significant that Buhari told the Olaniyi group last week his government is trying to reverse the mismanagement of his predecessors, “and with some luck, our best will be good enough.”

Luck.

Adesanmi would have been furious that while Buhari clearly had but fuzzy plans in 2015, in 2019 when he should be recognising the critical importance of leadership, better policies and dogged implementation, he is throwing his hands into the air just as he threw eight meaningless fingers for the election.

Clearly, that means that Nigeria, post-Adesanmi, has a dark road ahead.

So what do we owe Adesanmi? There is always a lot of energy when a man of such moment passes; in Nigeria, sadly, we do not translate them to action. What meaningful memorial is there, today, of Achebe?

In my view, the most fitting tribute would reflect not only his prodigious energies but his advocacy of meritocracy and quality. Let us have an annual writing competition in his name and writing prizes at least in schools he attended, the objective being to unearth new literary gems and courageous voices from the bowels of the soil he cherished so much.

Adesanmi opened his heart and gave it away. In the end, that is all that matters, for it is by our hearts we live and die, and touch others.

Credit: The Punch

How to end rigging in Nigeria

How to end rigging in Nigeria

By Simon Kolawole

Let us perform an experiment. Let us make a Super Law that says if you are an elected public officer at any level of government, you must enrol all your children in public schools. You cannot send your children to private or foreign schools. If they are already in private or foreign schools, you must withdraw and enrol them in Nigerian public schools after you are elected into office. Also, you and your family members must receive medical treatment at government-owned hospitals in Nigeria. Your wife must give birth at a primary healthcare centre. No member of your family, including yourself, can receive medical treatment in a private or foreign hospital, except treatment is not available in Nigeria, and this has to be confirmed by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

You and members of your family must travel by road anywhere you want to go in Nigeria, expect it is more than 500 kilometres. You cannot be accompanied on the road trip by armed escorts. No elected public officer, president and governor inclusive, will be allowed to fly private or presidential jets even if they are going to Australia. They must all take commercial flights, and only the president and governor can fly first class if they so desire. No elected public officer is allowed to use a motorcade with more than three cars. No public officer is allowed to use siren — the wailing machine should be reserved for the emergency services, notably the fire brigade and ambulances. Nobody should block any road because a governor or president is visiting.

Let us take the experiment further. Elected public officers should be paid only “living” wages and evidently reasonable allowances. There should be no severance package beyond a defined, realistic pension judging by global standards. There should be nothing like “estacode” for travels. The state will bear your expenses — hotel, feeding and transportation — within predefined limits. There should be no foreign trips without clearly defined goals. You must appoint all your aides from the civil service, so we are not going to be bearing extra costs to provide you with special assistants and special advisers. Let the civil service employ and train the best. We have all the technocrats in the civil service so let us make use of them, in addition to raising the standards of recruitment.

Let us step it up now. We should design an accountability and transparency system that will make it virtually impossible for a political office holder to take one kobo out of the treasury. This system will be so crafted that you cannot even award contracts to your friends, families and fronts because your power will be whittled down and circumscribed. Inflation of contracts is virtually impossible as there will be predefined costing templates and predetermined profit margins. You cannot say you bought a can of Coke for N155, for example. Above all, if you steal public funds, a solitary bullet will be fired through your ear or between your eyes — depending on how you like it.

Now, let us begin to catch our breath a little. What would happen if indeed we make a Super Law to enforce these rules? I can assure you straightaway: there will be almost nothing to fight over again! There will be no more rigging, no more violent elections, and no more inconclusive polls. We will not have to shut down schools, impose curfews and deploy soldiers simply because we want to hold elections. The only people you will find in politics are those who genuinely want to serve the society. Anybody who wants to go to public office to accumulate wealth and walk on the heads of Nigerians will not even bother to pick the nomination form. Only genuine human beings will go into politics.

There will be uncountable accidental benefits to Nigeria. If the children of politicians are forced to attend public schools, all the schools will suddenly become excellent, trust me. We will have the best public schools in Africa. If the politician’s wife has to give birth at the primary healthcare centre, even St. Nicholas Hospital will become green with envy at the new standard of the centres. If our political leaders have to regularly travel by land without armed escorts and siren, not only will the police become efficient and chase away armed robbers and kidnappers from the roads, even ordinary potholes will disappear. It is an experiment worth trying!

Imagine that the punishment for awarding a contract to your fronts is a tiny bullet entering through your nostril and exiting at the back your head. You will most likely not want to kill to hold such a position. And even if you decide to seek office, the prospect of joining your ancestors so early in the day will strike the fear of God into your heart. You will not dare go into politics if your interest is not the development of Nigeria. It will not matter whether or not you are a member of the ruling party before the Super Law comes for you. Your sins will not be forgiven even if you are the founder of the ruling party. In the end, there will be enough money to spend on healthcare, education and infrastructure. In not time, we will not recognise Nigeria again. We will think we are in Japan.

If you think my experiment is Utopian, then you are a stranger here. When the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was shut down for repairs in 2017 and the Kaduna airport became the alternative, did you notice that kidnappers and potholes disappeared from the Abuja-Kaduna highway? You guessed right: the moment the elite needed to use the road, government decided to do the right thing. No governor or minister wanted to be kidnapped. That is the way we roll. The Yoruba say a wicked man does not do wickedness to himself. Even when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, visited Lagos in 2018, suddenly all the bad roads in Ikeja were repaired and broken down vehicles were cleared from sight. Our leaders know what is good, believe you me.

I am sorry if I have upset you today with my proposed experiment. Remember, it is just an experiment, so don’t be too upset. I don’t even believe in capital punishment. Let me be kind a bit then. One, we should use four years to prepare for the experiment. It shouldn’t start immediately so that we can tidy things up. The schools and hospitals should be in a decent state before take-off. Two, there should be enough guarantees to prevent abuses. Three, the experiment should not last for more than 25 years. If there is still election rigging and violence after 25 years, the experiment will have failed. We should then return to the pre-Super Law era. But I am confident that this experiment will work. A trial will convince us. Finally, I would suggest that the Super Law should also apply to ALL civil servants and political appointees, not just elected officials.

As for those who don’t understand irony and might have concluded that ‘Simon has gone rogue this morning’, let me now say it in your language: elections are inevitably violent and atrociously competitive in societies where public office holders have unfettered access to public funds — with little or no accountability. By just becoming a lawmaker, even at state level, you can become a billionaire overnight. You can create perks for yourself. You can pad budgets. You can harass ministries, departments and agencies to employ your thugs, to pay for your accommodation, to buy you first class air tickets, and to award inflated contracts to your fronts. You can, overnight, move from your shack in Mushin to a mansion on Banana Island. How on earth will elections be peaceful?

You see, people don’t fight over nothing. Why would elections be atrocious if you will be forced to withdraw your children from foreign schools and enrol them in Nigeria? Why would you want to kill for an office that will not allow you to fly private jets and chattered flights — even if you owned them before you were elected? Why would you hire thugs to snatch ballot boxes when you will not be able to take one kobo more than your entitlement? You cannot build an extra house, cannot use siren, cannot have a long motorcade, cannot jump queues and cannot get your family members into boards of agencies, so what are you looking for in public office if not that you really want to serve? You must really want to sacrifice for the progress of Nigeria!

Check out the countries in the world where elections are treated as warfare and you will find that (1) there is crime and there is no punishment (2) there is easy money in public office. These are the incentives for bad behaviour. If there is little or no accountability, it means when you enter public office, you can please yourself and your friends without consequences. Even where there are consequences, they are not applied uniformly. If you belong to the right clique, you will get away with rape and murder. Human beings are not stupid. We take calculated risks. If the risk is low and the reward is high, bad behaviour will become the gold standard. Until public office is no longer a shortcut to wealth and crimes are punished uniformly and swiftly across board, expect more rigging and more violence in future elections. Except, of course, we pass the Super Law. Experiment.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
FOR PIUS

When I lost my elder sister and childhood friend, Bosede, in 2015, I despaired even of life. I kept asking: why would she die after all that she had gone through in life? A similar gloom overwhelmed me when I heard of the death of Prof. Pius Adesanmi, the respected writer and literary critic, in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. He was always so lively and extremely witty — two of the attributes that made his column unmissable. I can’t understand how Pius would survive a road accident in which every other passenger died — and then get killed in an air crash less than a year later. In my little mind, surviving the horrific accident meant long life was on the cards for him. Mystery.

BUILDING COLLAPSE

Twelve persons, including nine children, died when a three-storey building collapsed in the Ita-Faaji area of Lagos Island on Wednesday. The building, which housed a primary school, caved in at a time pupils were in their classrooms. The building had been marked for demolition because it was classified as “distress” but any surprises that things still ended the way they did? We were still mourning the dead when another building collapsed in Ibadan on Friday evening. The BBC report on the Lagos incident perfectly sums things up: “It is not unusual for buildings to collapse in Nigeria; materials are often sub-standard and the enforcement of regulations is lax.” Shame.

FALLEN MIGHTY

Although there are serious complaints about malpractices in the governorship elections, we just have to be positive and see that we made some progress, no matter how little. That at least three governors have so far failed to install their lackeys as successors should count for something. For all the anger against the ruling APC, it appears PDP has gained more states in this election. I am not a supporter of APC or PDP, but I would say we need this balance of power to keep this democracy growing. I want giant strides, not our usual story of ‘one step forward and two backward’, but maybe we can still find a silver lining in the cloud. Prospects.

AND FINALLY…

Nigeria has become such a dysfunctional society where senior police officers openly associate with glorified thugs and assassins. Even artistes are singing praises of political thugs, glorifying the exploits of miscreants that used to be classified as outlaws when we still had values. To be a thug and assassin is very rewarding in Nigeria. The rate at which we are going in this country, entrepreneurs will soon start registering companies to provide services of different breeds of political thugs specifically for elections. For now, it is an informal business. But we have so glorified the madness that it will soon become legit. They will even charge VAT. Calamity.

Credit: TheCable

Pride goeth before destruction

Pride goeth before destruction

Governor Abiola’ Ajimobi of Oyo State

The old saying admonishing against pride remains as true as ever. At least, the 2019 Nigerian general elections have ensured that. More remarkably, even though garbed in biblical language, the admonition is meant to serve entire traditional worshippers, even atheists and of course public figures.

Otherwise, only inability or unwillingness to abide by that caution or even deliberate disregard of that self-discipline could account for the electoral setbacks of the state governors humiliated by voters in the 2019 elections. Ironically, their disgrace was avoidable. In any genuinely democratic setting, the arrangement is such for incumbents to serve their tenure as guaranteed, in fact, limited by the Constitution, and allow voters to choose whoever is preferred next. Somehow, the illegality of violating that same arrangement has, over the years, been institutionalised by state governors. It is tempting to absolve these political culprits (state governors) of any blame. But such view will be nothing less than unnecessary pampering. A criminal cannot escape punishment or at least guilt, even though origin of crime(s) dates back to the creation of human beings.

If only the state governors humiliated by voters in the 2019 elections had not been power-drunk, theirs, today, would have been such glory and public acclamation of enviable proportions. Instead, the governors concerned opted for the discredited pattern. That legacy was a carry-over from former President Olusegun Obasanjo who, in 2007, in an act of petulance for woefully failing in the attempt to perpetuate himself in office, deliberately blocked all willing contestants and, instead, unlawfully chose his successor, all aimed at subtle continuation of his authority in governance.

Within a short time, that subtlety became too overbearing for late President Umaru Yar’Adua who had to put a stop to Obasanjo’s insatiable demand for his cohorts, apart from trying to run the government for Yar’Adua, who unfortunately died in office, from causes totally unrelated to his disagreement with Obasanjo. No matter how erstwhile Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan might be happy that Obasanjo virtually catapulted him to office as a successor to Yar’Adua, the same Jonathan was soon to taste of Obasanjo’s indirect command of anybody in Aso Rock.

It was also with that idea that Obasanjo cleverly threw his weight behind candidate Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 against “rebellious and ungrateful” Jonathan. And when Buhari won (in 2015) on the combined merit of his person and his party, the APC, Obasanjo resorted to type by sending two of his cohorts to deliver to Buhari some kind of policy directive. This would have been followed by a list of his potential appointees into government jobs. Buhari’s outright rebuff of Obasanjo’s attempt to commandeer his (Buhari’s) administration was the only cause of Obasanjo’s political hostility, which led to his call on Buhari to quit after one term. It was a gamble, which (has now) exposed the hollowness of Obasanjo’s widely presumed electoral influence anywhere in Nigeria.

The damage done to Nigerian politics by Obasanjo is not only trying to choose his successors or trying to run administrations for them as they came, was not lost on state governors who, since 2007, similarly imposed their individual successors to ensure their (outgone governors’) continued dominance on their imposed successors. Mostly, it never worked out. From one state to another, the newly imposed governor eventually alienated his benefactor of yesterday by, among others in extreme cases, exposing the financial infractions of their predecessors.

Whatever might, therefore, be the intention of some state governors humiliated in the 2019 elections, the situation in Imo State was grotesque. It is, by the way, arguable if any Nigerian can occupy a political office for eight consecutive years without getting controversial. Even then, Imo’s outgoing governor Rochas Okorocha did not help himself. Indeed, no matter how well he might have performed, Okorocha’s actions and utterances in the past six months were not complimentary. And nobody around him bothered to draw his attention to such self-deprecating conduct? In the build-up to the primaries for APC governorship ticket in Imo State, media reported Okorocha as saying he would never allow one of the aspirants (Ararume) to succeed him. That was wrong. It is not within the law or the power of a state governor to refuse a fellow citizen to succeed him. Only law courts or the electorate can exercise such veto against an aspirant, no matter his misdeeds.

To worsen matters, again according to unrelated media reports, outgoing governor Okorocha was to head for the Senate while his wife was set for the House of Representatives.

Except that Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, eventually turned out to be an aspirant as a successor to Okorocha himself, such an arrangement sounded incredible. Okorocha himself should have known that South-East is too republican for such emerging monarchical hierarchy. In any case, when his party then intervened and organised open primary election to select his successor, Okorocha should have accepted the result, no matter how distasteful. Instead, Okorocha’s son-in-law stood on the platform of a rival party. Thereafter, Okorocha lost everything. Even his Senate election result now stands doubtful, courtesy INEC. All because of the pride of a state governor hell-bent on pursuing the future outside the control or outside the regulations of his party. What would it have mattered if APC won Imo governorship with the party’s candidate instead of Okorocha’s son-in-law? In view of APC’s defeat in the Imo governorship race, what are the prospects of Okorocha’s reconciliation with the party at national level or even state level? Sudden end to otherwise promising political career? In this row, Okorocha is so outmatched that only he can save himself. First, by lying low.

As speculated in this column, APC split its votes in Imo State while PDP fully consolidated their votes for the governor-elect, Emeka Ihedioha.

Outgoing Oyo State governor Abiola Ajimobi is particularly disappointing for how his political career has ended. He should have done better since, at least, he is educated, which does not mean others are illiterates. There is more to education than not being an illiterate. The value of education is the reasonableness it imparts on the recipient. Ajimobi is too exposed and urbane to have attracted, over the years, the vitriol and verbal venom unleashed at him by critics after his (Ajimobi’s) defeat in the senatorial election. Yet, there couldn’t have been two governor Ajimobis, except the one widely known.

The criticisms are too wounding and incredible. For public office holders, perhaps unconsciously, over the years, isolation sets in either because he is averse to advice/criticisms or those around him are too subservient to criticise unpopular decisions. Yes, inside government such criticisms are more effective, more instant and more preemptory. If Ajimobi did not avail himself of such checks, he is today paying for it. Political power or even ordinary authority is so ephemeral that only God is omnipotent. Human beings? He is a failure who does not create room for critical observations by subordinates.

Governor Ajimobi’s handling of the Olubadan/new kings crisis was very tactless as well advised in this column at the time. Centuries-old ethnic culture cannot be dismantled in total disregard of the concern of those to be affected. As minor as that might be, all such issues on traditional rulers in Yorubaland always left traces of bitterness such vindictively expressed against Ajimobi, leading to his defeat in the senatorial race and that of his nominee Adebayo Adelabu in the governorship battle.

Still needlessly, if days could roll back, Ajimobi would not have chanced himself to contest the senatorial race in 2019. What would Ajimobi have lost if he did not contest? Nothing, as it turned out. What would he have gained? Glory and statesmanship. Indeed, he would have earned public respect by allowing willing others to contest for the Senate, instead of even imposing a candidate. Ajimobi rather contested and lost. What humiliation. Now, he is sober and derelict. Ajimobi’s education should have saved him that pity. From the Senate, Ajimobi came, served as governor for eight years consecutively and was still determined to return to the Senate. This was not to be, except that he never believed. Now, he believes.

The least said about outgoing Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun, the better. That is merely on the surface. Otherwise, much must be said although briefly. Unlike many governors, Amosun has the advantage of being close to President Muhammadu Buhari since decades. Unfortunately, Amosun misused that edge even to embarrass Buhari himself.

As the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria elected on the platform of a political party, it was only normal for Buhari to be part of APC’s decision of open primaries in the selection of candidates for the 2019 elections. Instead, Amosun defied that decision and chose his own candidates for all the posts. He was particularly insistent, in strict adherence to Obasanjo theory, on single-handedly choosing his (Amosun’s) successor as governor.

To rub it in, Amosun openly declared that not only was he opposed to the party’s candidate as governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, but also that he (Amosun) would campaign against Dapo Abiodun. What was Buhari to do? To refuse Amosun entry to Aso Rock?

Taking undue advantage of unlimited access to the place, Amosun took his personal candidate on the platform of a rival party to Buhari at Aso Rock. To ridicule Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, an indigene of Ogun State supporting the party’s candidate, Dapo Abiodun.

Amidst his braggings and threats to campaign against Dapo Abiodun, the outgoing Ogun State governor (Amosun) was advised in this column that nobody dares Ijebu. Amosun did and suffered electoral humiliation as his candidate was defeated. God neither brags nor threatens as has been happening in Ogun State for the past four months.

Rather, God indulges the shortsighted and immodest to grope in the dark. Not even the declaration of spiritual war by an ex-gubernatorial aspirant could work. Dapo Abiodun won and nothing would happen to him except success and, imperatively, modesty.

Credit: The Sun

Inadequate understanding of “inconclusive” elections

Inadequate understanding of “inconclusive” elections

By Jibrin Ibrahim

#TrackNigeria: On Wednesday, a group of protesters under the platform of Save Nigeria Democracy Group (SNDG) went to INEC national headquarters to protest against too many inconclusive elections declared by the Commission. The protesters said the results from the just concluded elections “did not reflect the true voting direction of Nigerians.’’ They were seen carrying different placards with inscriptions such as “the people’s mandate cannot be stolen”, “Atiku will not congratulate Buhari”, “Prof. Yakubu must resign”, “inconclusive election is a shame”, “Atiku will get justice,” among many others. They argued that: “This latest show of desperation has further strengthened earlier concerns of widespread voter suppression, targeted violence, militarisation of the political space and systematic inflation of figures that punctuated the presidential and National Assembly elections.” They added that the Federal Government was: “muscling INEC and the nation’s security into turning blind eyes to obvious infractions and violations of the federal constitutional provisions and the Electoral Act and the regulations/guidelines regulating the 2019 general elections and went ahead to uphold and announce a tailored result that only serve the ruling APC.”

This narrative has existed long before the elections. In virtually daily news conferences and releases, the Peoples’ Democratic Party and its allies have consistently inundated the broadcast, print and social media about an alleged grand scheme to rig the elections. It is therefore not surprising that so many people today believe that the programmed design to rig the elections has been executed. I have been startled by many friends calling me and demanding that I confirm that the 2019 elections are the worse in Nigerian history; and I have consistently replied – certainly not. Then I get this strange response “but everyone says it’s the worse”, the assumption being there is something wrong with my limited understanding of Nigerian elections. In my world of social science, the fact that everyone asserts something does not make it true. As an observer of the elections, I did not see any evidence showing that there was a significant level of rigging and neither national nor international observers have reported such phenomena. Yes, there were lots of problems with the conduct of the elections, violence, logistics and YES, some rigging but we should assess things for what they are not what we suppose they should be. I am open to being shown evidence of massive electoral fraud being spoken about but so far, statements have remained at the level of assertions.

READ ALSO: PDP rejects Borno governorship election result
Also, on Wednesday, the House of Representatives, resolved to probe the “unwarranted, escalating trend of inconclusive elections in Nigeria, which has cast doubt on the neutrality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as an umpire in Nigeria’s elections.” The resolution followed a motion of urgent national importance on “the malady of inconclusive elections in Nigeria” by Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi), and seconded by Nnenna Ukeje (PDP, Abia). He asserted confidently that the frequent declaration of inconclusive elections by INEC, which was not envisaged in either the 1999 Constitution or the Electoral Act, has become a demon haunting the country’s electoral system. He lamented that the governorship elections in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states were declared inconclusive despite leading candidates having met the provisions of Section 179(2) of the Constitution. That is the section that defined how a winner, who has a clear majority, emerges in an election. The irony is that elections are declared inconclusive precisely in cases where the candidate with the majority has not been clearly identified.

READ ALSO: Elections: 14 of 24 Zamfara Assembly members lose return bid
In the current elections, in 22 States, winners of governorship elections were announced. However, in the six states of Kano, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Sokoto, they were declared inconclusive for a number of reasons. These include the discontinuation of the use of Smart Card Readers midway into the elections or the failure to deploy them, over-voting and widespread disruption in many polling units. The reasons are therefore clearly related to electoral fraud and it is curious that correcting such activities to protect the integrity of the elections is being castigated. INEC uses the margin of lead principle to determine whether the clear majority has emerged. In cases where supplementary elections have to be organised because the difference between the two leading candidates could swing after the additional elections, it is simple justice that the supplementary elections are conducted and the definitive winner known before announcement of the results.

In the 2003 and 2007 elections there were no inconclusive elections because numbers were simply allocated to ruling party candidates and the vote of citizens did not count. The phenomenon of inconclusive elections started in 2011 when the integrity of elections started to improve. Remember in 2011 for example the results of the Anambra senatorial election in which Dora Akunyuli of APGA had 66,273 and Chris Ngige of ACN had 65,579 and the margin was 679 while there were 7,930 cancelled votes were declared inconclusive on the basis of Section 53 of 2010 Electoral Act as amended which deals with over voting and section 26 which deals with postponement due to threat of violence and other emergencies. It is dangerous anti-democratic propaganda to turn the tables and present the practice as fraud. It is also illogical to complain about which parties are affected, it is not a question of which party is affected but of what the numbers are when additional elections have to be conducted and the returning officer has done their math based on the margin of lead principle.

READ ALSO: Inconclusive polls: We’re satisfied with INEC’s decision – Bauchi APC
The number of inconclusive elections has grown because opposition parties have grown stronger and have become more competitive. In addition, the introduction of technology, especially use of the Smart Card Reader has been a real check on the old practice of the illegal allocation of votes, reducing the number of landslide results. One of the interesting things about the governorship elections is that the pattern of vote changed in certain states in relation to the presidential vote due to local political dynamics. When local dynamics are reflected in results, it’s a clear message that the votes of ordinary people are counting and both the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the All Progressives Party have good and bad stories to tell on the matter. It is widely known that those who seek to rig elections act on the principle of getting fraudulent results announced through any means and forcing the opponent to go and prove fraud in court, which we all know is very difficult. The approach of INEC since 2011 is not to rush to announce results when there are suspicions of fraud and organize supplementary elections to protect the integrity of the outcome. This trend should be understood for what it is – improving the integrity of elections and supported.

Credit: Daily Trust

Presidential Poll: A Post-mortem

Presidential Poll: A Post-mortem

By Simon-Kolawole, Email: simon.kolawole@thisdaylive.com, sms: 0805 500 1961

Since I have been old enough to follow presidential elections in Nigeria, I have to admit that I have never experienced the kind of gloomy mood that hit some sections of the country after the declaration of Presidential Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the February 23 poll. In the past, there would be spontaneous outbursts, demonstrations and riots by the aggrieved. This time around, the atmosphere was more like a funeral in certain places. Many looked severely bereaved. A friend of mine, an entrepreneur, was so distraught that he sent me a chat after the announcement of the final result: “Simon, where do we go from here?” I joked in response: “Canada.”

In my opinion, there were generally two categories of people that backed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the presidential election. In one category are those who genuinely believe his presidency would be better for business in particular and Nigeria as a whole. They are convinced that Atiku has a better grasp of the economy, is more pan-Nigerian in outlook and can assemble a winning team — compared to Buhari. In the second category are those who feel persecuted and marginalised by Buhari and would be too glad to see his back. It is not so much that they all passionately believe in Atiku, just that Buhari is bad news to them 24/7.

I can identify two of the strongest responses to the outcome of the election in the pro-Atiku camp. One is that the poll was rigged. They maintain that if everything had run normally, Atiku would have won. Their grievances are well known: they think that the votes for Buhari were inflated in some northern states, that the security agencies terrorised Atiku’s supporters in some parts of the south and that state institutions worked actively for Buhari’s re-election. I would conclude that a good number of Atiku’s supporters are of the opinion that the election was rigged. Atiku himself has headed to the election petitions tribunal to challenge the outcome.

Some prominent Nigerians have asked Atiku not to go to court. The former vice-president has even been derided by some APC supporters on the social media for daring to challenge the outcome of the election. I take it that people are simply playing politics. We know how many opposition candidates became governors via court judgments when PDP was in power from 1999 to 2015, and I think it is most unfair to mock Atiku for choosing to exercise his democratic and constitutional right. As to whether or not he can win his case, why not wait for the courts to decide? Why pre-empt? It appears many of us still do not have the temperament for democracy in Nigeria.

The second strongest post-election response from the Pro-Atiku camp, which has been picked up and amplified by the international media, is that the results were reflective of the social strata and tendencies in the country. Infographs have been designed along this line of thinking: that the educated voted for Atiku and the uneducated preferred Buhari; that the lovers of prosperity chose Atiku and the lovers of poverty trooped out for Buhari; that earners of higher income were in love with Atiku and the wretched of the earth stood firmly by Buhari. I have seen maps being circulated to support this thinking. Many foreign journalists and analysts have bought fully into it.
Any student of statistics will tell you a guiding principle: that correlation is not the same thing as causation.

If PDP wins the 11 states in the south-east and south-south, it may have nothing to do with the levels of education, poverty, violence or income. It may just be that the PDP is still very strong in those states. It may have more to do with their political leanings and traditional voting patterns rather than an addiction to university degrees. I don’t know. I can’t say. But just sitting down in our living rooms and drawing conclusions from election data without a proper survey of the voters themselves might turn out to be unhelpful.

In the first place, you have to choose one argument. You have to either argue that Atiku won the election but it was rigged or that voters made the wrong choices by not preferring prosperity, which Atiku is said to represent, to poverty, of which Buhari is meant to be the poster boy — in the opinion of these analysts. If you believe the election was rigged, how can you go ahead to say Buhari won because the uneducated, unenlightened and wretched Nigerians voted for him? That would be contradictory. Also, you cannot argue that the wretched re-elected Buhari and still maintain that the election was rigged. You just have to pick one line of argument.

If we are to go by the educated vs uneducated parameter used by some analysts in their post-election commentaries, then we will end up confused. In the south-west, for instance, APC won four of the six states. Should we conclude that the majority of the south-westerners are illiterates and poverty-lovers for voting APC? In 2015, five south-west states voted APC. In 2011, five south-west states voted for PDP. Should we say south-westerners were educated and prosperity-loving in 2011 but became illiterates in 2015 and 2019? In states such as Benue and Oyo where votes were almost evenly split between PDP and APC, how do we separate the literate from the illiterate?

Correlation is definitely not causation. In 2011, the south-east gave 4,985,246 votes to PDP. The figure dropped to 2,464,906 in 2015 (when the PDP controlled all the instruments of power, including the security agencies). In 2019, the tally for PDP further dropped to 1,693,485. I do not want to believe the south-east has been falling in love with poverty and illiteracy since 2011. There may be another reason the voter turn-out has been dropping. Between 2011 and 2015, PDP lost a total of 2,520,340 votes in the south-east in the presidential election — even with a sitting PDP government at Aso Rock. We need to be more sophisticated in our thinking.

I am beginning to come to the conclusion that we only have some respect for democracy in Nigeria when the outcome of an election conforms to our bias. I remember when President Buhari lost to President Jonathan in 2011, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which did not have any presence beyond the core northern states, kept insisting they won. In fact, CPC said there was a bug in INEC computers that was deducting Buhari’s votes. CPC questioned the results from the south-east and south-south, where Jonathan scored 97% of total votes cast. The reverse is not the case: PDP is questioning the results from the north-west and north-east.

What is the conclusion of the matter? Those who believe the 2019 presidential poll was rigged should stick to their position and support Atiku in his litigation. Nobody should say “it is a waste of time”. No litigation is ever a waste of time. Some improvements we have witnessed in our electoral system were influenced by previous legal experiences. For instance, the principle of “substantial compliance” came into being in 1979 when Chief Obafemi Awolowo mounted a legal challenge against Alhaji Shehu Shagari. It is relied upon by the courts till today. There is a reason our laws provide for post-election petitions. Atiku should be supported to exercise his options.

Those who cast the election as a battle between literacy and illiteracy should also stick to their story. They are inevitably saying the election was not rigged. They are only saying the outcome was reflective of the preference of the majority of voters, whom they consider to be illiterates and lovers of poverty. That means 15.1 million illiterates re-elected Buhari while 11.2 million professors voted for Atiku. This narrative is condescending, no doubt, and reinforces inherited prejudices and biases against certain sections of the country — but at least it represents the mindset of some analysts. My only problem with that is the abuse and misuse of statistics that readily comes with such a mindset.

However, when the emotions of the presidential election have cooled, I would advise the protagonists and antagonists to take a second look at the figures both retrospectively and introspectively. The APC should ask itself: is this really an endorsement of our performance or a mere benefit of the cult followership that Buhari enjoys in some parts of the country? Could we have turned out this performance if Buhari was not our presidential candidate? Should we gloat or keep our feet on the ground, knowing the enormous tasks ahead? Are there expectations from Nigerians tied to this victory? What do we owe to the millions who re-elected us into office?

The PDP, as the biggest opposition party, should also ask itself the critical questions: what did we not get right? Where did the rain begin to beat us? Did we overrate our chances? Was it just the incumbency factor that worked against us? Why has the voting trend for us in the south-east been on a downward spiral? How did we descend from the height of having 24 governors at some point in Nigeria’s history to having just 13 today? What did we do wrong? How can we rebuild faith with Nigerians? No doubt, we need a very strong opposition party in Nigeria. It is in the interest of our democracy. Going forward, therefore, the protagonists and antagonists need self-appraisal.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
VOTER APATHY

From indications, voter turnout for Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections was lower than we saw in the February 23 presidential poll. Why? There would be many reasons. I think one of them is the sequence of elections. If I had my way, we would do state elections first and the presidential election last. That is a way of building momentum and generating interest in the elections. But I understand the politics of it all: if governors secure their own positions first, they may not work hard for the president two weeks later! That is why election sequence has always been a battle from the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Anti-climax.

MILITARISED ELECTIONS

Does anybody still remember when the All Progressives Congress (APC) used to kick against the deployment of soldiers for elections? The defence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then was that the deployment was necessary to secure the peace and avoid bloodshed. An APC lawmaker even went to court and won. Students of history should find it amusing that with APC now in control, the militarisation of elections has continued. There is always a reason to justify it: to safeguard lives and property and prevent violence, you know the rest. Give the average Nigerian politician state power and he is likely to use it the same way. It is the same difference. #APCPDP.

JUDICIAL PRIMARIES

Many of us have simplistic theories on why Nigeria remains backward in the comity of nations but we don’t need to be too hard on ourselves: it is just that we are not like any other people on earth. It is only in Nigeria that candidates of political parties are determined by the courts. The moment our politicians and lawyers figured out how they could use and abuse the laws of the land, it has become fashionable for them to engage the courts to play the role of political parties by determining who is a candidate and who is not. The courts are supposed to serve the cause of justice, we cannot deny that, but why must our own case in Nigeria be always upside down? Mystery.

AND FINALLY…

Election times can be very stressful and even life-threatening in Nigeria, but many people are making lemonade from the lemon. In affluent neighbourhoods, people set up canopies, play music and do barbeque while waiting to be accredited and while voting goes on. But you have to do a thumbs-up to the lively woman in Enugu, said to be a teacher, who came with a pillow and a mat to her polling unit during the presidential and national assembly elections. On Saturday, she turned up again for the governorship and house of assembly polls with more than a mat and a pillow: she brought Whot for a game of cards with fellow voters. Life is too short. Have fun. Chill.

Source: ThisDay

Big four, big fall

Big four, big fall

By Olukorede Yishau

Dr. Bukola Saraki. Godswill Akpabio. George Akume. Abiola Ajimobi. These four political leaders fell last weekend. Their bid to return to the National Assembly was thwarted by lesser known politicians. Saraki, Senate President and ex-Kwara State two-term governor, fell to Yahaya Oloriegbe. Akpabio was beaten hands down by Chris Ekpeyong, a former deputy governor to Obong Victor Attah. Akume, an ex-governor of Benue State and All Progressives Congress (APC) leader there, was defeated by Orker Jev. And Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State Governor, lost to Kola Balogun —the younger brother of one of the new obas in Ibadan.

Saraki, Akpabio and Akume are sitting senators. Ajimobi was a senator before becoming governor and was cocksure he would become senator once more contrary to a prayer he once said that there was no position he craved again after leading Oyo.

Saraki’s fall is the loudest. He was the undisputed leader of Kwara politics – a position he hijacked from his father, the late Olusola Saraki, who was Senate Leader in the Second Republic. While Saraki was serving out his second term, his father wanted his younger sister, Gbemi, to succeed him. The younger Saraki would have none of it. He stood up to his father. So fierce was the battle that his father had to abandon the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for him and tried to install his daughter through a lesser known party. As it turned out, the younger Saraki triumphed by installing outgoing Governor AbdulFatai Ahmed. The political feud was settled thereafter. It, however, was not long after that the Second Republic Senate Leader joined his ancestors. But what was clear to all was that the son had displaced the father as the new strongman of Kwara politics.

As senator and later as senate president, everybody knew where power was in Kwara. Ahmed never failed to acknowledge Saraki as his leader. House of Assembly members knew who to pay allegiance to, and House of Representatives members worshipped the ground on which the ex-bank top gun walked.

Will Saraki spring a surprise in the governorship election by ensuring Razaq Atunwa, the PDP candidate, is elected to replace Ahmed? If this happens, it will be a major victory for him, but the omens are scary. The people of the state seem set to complete the enough is enough (o to gee) cycle.

Like Saraki, Akpabio was lord in Akwa Ibom. When he sneezed, many caught cold. But his fall began not long after he installed Udom Emmanuel as his successor. When the signs started showing, I wrote a piece titled Emmanuel’s Will on Friday, August 28, 2015. In it, I pointed out that Emmanuel was acting as though he was afraid of a fight with Akpabio. Aniekan Umanah, who was the Commissioner for Information at the time, was livid in his reply to me. In his rejoinder, he said it was “really appalling that one so often gets to read some gibberish in newspapers, all in the name of commentaries or opinion”.

He declared with a note of finality: “I will not allay Yishau’s fear about the strong camaraderie existing between the duo of Their Excellencies, Governor Emmanuel and former Governor Akpabio. They are not going to fight anytime soon or later as you wish. Indeed, for those who are waiting to be entertained with a fight by both leaders, they should prepare for a long wait.”

We certainly did not have to wait too much. Interestingly, when the fight broke open, Umanah was one of the first victims when he and other Akpabio men were eased out of government. Umanah re-aligned with time. He is now with Emmanuel. He won an House of Representatives seat on Saturday.

The uncommon governor, as Akpabio liked to address himself, has had an uncommon fall. We were expecting he would help President Muhammadu Buhari win Akwa Ibom. He could not help himself, not to talk of helping Buhari. He fell in an uncommon manner.

Akpabio’s fall has seemingly confirmed what his first deputy governor, Patrick Ekpotu, said last August. Ekpotu, in a statement, said his former boss’s influence was overrated.

Ekpotu, who was Commissioner for Information under Attah, said Akpabio’s defection was “long awaited”, and showed that he was incapable of operating within an opposition platform because of “his usual reliance on force of power apparatus”.

He said: “His recourse is often to rely heavily on apparatus of state security to cow people into submission and dominion. His decision to embrace the APC now, among others, is because APC is today the custodian of that state apparatus. And I think he is highly mistaken for misapprehending that President Buhari is cut out in the weaknesses of a former President that was recklessly used to his political peril and became the first to dump him.”

Ekpotu went on: “Even if Buhari avails him the security apparatus, remember that Akpabio is not used to elections, which is the norm today, but ‘return of entire number of votes’ in INEC register to himself.

“But With INEC’s card reader system today, hardly would we have such number of votes in consideration, let alone to be ‘returned’. So, all odds are against him and the APC.”

In that statement Ekpotu added that a shock awaited the former Senate Minority leader, saying: “A journey into that past rather evokes disdain and repugnance following its glaring shortcomings to which the people had long answered objections and cannot allow a replay, no matter where Akpabio derived his inspiration. I see, not just the PDP in the state, but also majority of its citizens playing this out strongly, stoutly, and committedly in days ahead.”

Akpabio, Ekpotu observed, is “surrounded by those who constantly drum to him the beauty of his weird world, he gets encouraged to live in delusion. He is fully conscious of these shortcomings, but rather than work to improve on them, pretends that all is well. And APC will soon know his true value.”

Now, the question is: is there any miracle Akpabio can still perform in the March 9 election to ensure that Emmanuel is replaced with Nsima Ekere? The omens are scary, really scary.

Akume, like Akpabio and Saraki, was governor. He was governor from 1999 to 2007, and has been in the Senate since then. He installed Samuel Ortom as Benue State governor. Some months back, Ortom dumped APC for PDP. Akume remained and vowed to deal with his estranged godson. In his heydays, anybody who wanted political power in Benue sought him out. I doubt if that will still play out with his fall to Jev. If not for Jev, he would have been in the Senate for the fourth time.

Ajimobi’s case is a bit different from the trio. As a sitting governor, many thought Ajimobi should easily win election in one senatorial district. But he lost and certainly life after May 29 will never be the same again. Even if APC wins the governorship, the pain of loss will have its political effect on Ajimobi, who may now have to battle Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu for the state’s ministerial slot.

Shittu and Ajimobi have never been on the same page. Shittu wanted to be governor, but was screened out by the national secretariat of the party for skipping National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He became a minister despite Ajimobi’s objection. I see a major fight ahead of these two sworn enemies!

My final take: In politics, falling is not a sweet music, especially for giants such as Saraki, Akpabio, Akume and Ajimobi. Their fall is only sonorous in the ears of their opponents and adversaries. I urge them to be humble now that they are low, as advised by John Bunyan, so that they shall ever have God as guide.

Credit: The Nation