Who Will Save the Judiciary?

Who Will Save the Judiciary From PDP’s Assault?

By Shuaib Shuaib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The judge is just one more victims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shall we now beg Goodluck Jonathan for forgiveness?

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

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Oladeinde Olawoyin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Premium Times

Talkin’ about a revolution

Talkin’ about a revolution

by Simon Kolawole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
CHICKEN CHANGE

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

LOOT AND LAUGH

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

SMOKING HOT

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

MYTH BUSTER

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

Credit: TheCable

How fake news thrives in Nigeria

How fake news thrives in Nigeria


Agency Report

By Ephraims Sheyin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvestre Dada, a communication expert, offers suggestions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatsoever a man soweth

Whatsoever a man soweth

By Simon Kolawole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
RAPID RESULT

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

THE NAVY 15

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

EMEFIELE’S 5+5

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

MYTH BUSTER

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

Credit: TheCable

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

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

Chief Gani Fawehinmi

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Was Sapara-Williams?

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

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

Political career

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

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

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

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

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

The search for the Nigerian Dream

The search for the Nigerian Dream

Simon Kolawole

In July 2005, aboard an Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Lagos, a number of Nigerians spent hours discussing the state of the nation. We were from different parts of the country and different religions. We discussed virtually every topic — from the horrible roads to the unending importation of petroleum products, from the inhospitable hospitals to the abysmal education sector. We spoke extensively on corruption in public institutions across the country, the bazaar of contract awards, the hyperinflation of contract costs, as well as the obscene lifestyles of civil servants, politicians and political appointees. I was fully charged as passengers narrated their experiences.

Then something happened: we could not land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. The pilot said a cargo aircraft had broken down on the runway and flights were being diverted. He announced that we were going to land in Kano. That clearly meant we would spend the night there. The first question I asked was: is there only one runway at the Lagos airport? Someone, who seemed to know a lot about the airport, said there were two but the other one was undergoing maintenance and had been shut down for a while. We were all frustrated because spending the night in Kano was not part of the plan. It added one day to our journey.

And then a young man from the Niger Delta dropped a bombshell: “All this nonsense will not stop until there is resource control! Nigeria is paying for the injustice being meted out to the Niger Delta! The rest of Nigeria will continue to suffer too!” I was shocked. The cabin initially went quiet, and suddenly we started arguing over the outburst. It soon became a bitter exchange about how the rest of Nigeria was a parasite on “our oil”, how the federal government needed to urgently organise a sovereign national conference to take a final decision on how to divide the country, and so on and so forth. I was disappointed. I gently withdrew from the discussion.

My disappointment stemmed from just one fact: for nearly two hours, we had discussed as Nigerians and reached a consensus that we had a serious leadership problem. We agreed that the political and economic mismanagement of Nigeria at all levels was at the root of our backwardness. We complained about how our council chairpersons were not up to scratch and how the governors were having fun at our expense. We agreed that the federal government was failing in its responsibilities. We went as far as saying all Nigerians, irrespective of “tribe and tongue”, were victims of this gross mismanagement. I was delighted that we could discuss so frankly without bitterness.

We collectively reasoned that ordinary Nigerians did not have problems with one another; we were just victims of elite manipulation for political purposes. We concluded that Nigerians needed a united front to confront the leadership deficit pervading the land. We all appeared to be on the same page! Then the Niger Delta “activist” dropped his bombshell — despite having been part of the “consensus” we had reached at the impromptu “national conference” on the flight. My spirit dropped. How could someone ruin such a beautiful conversation by introducing a divisive item on the agenda? Why are some people never satisfied until they play up our faultlines and frailties?

A few minutes earlier, the “activist” had been complaining about how the governors of the oil-producing states were wasting the 13% derivation payment and leaving the people of the Niger Delta poorer and poorer. He was complaining about a state governor who had bought up houses in Lagos, Abuja, UK and the US. He said some Niger Delta governors were arming militias to take out their political opponents. Virtually all of us made damaging allegations against our governors. Abruptly, the Niger Delta “activist” arrived at another conclusion that it was lack of “resource control” that led to the breakdown of an aircraft on Lagos airport runway.

In my previous article, “Nigeria and the Hegemony Ideology” (April 14, 2019), I adapted the theory of “cultural hegemony” propounded by Antonio Gramsci, the 20th century Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician, to explain how the Nigerian elite class has successfully diverted the public agenda from bad governance and, instead, got us talking about our ethnic and religious differences every minute and every second of the day. This they do through institutionalised processes, with their intellectual sidekicks and pressure groups using up prominent pages in the newspapers to discuss all issues — except the ones that impact directly on the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.

As a follow-up to my proposal that we need a new generation of “thought leaders” in the media, academia, civil society and polity that will focus public discourse on issues of development and stop blaming Lord Lugard for all that is wrong with Nigeria, I would love to argue that there are several things Nigerians already appear to agree upon which should form the basis of our engagement with the political system. If we are able to discuss these issues openly and sincerely, we may just be able to evolve the Nigerian Dream and arrive at a consensus on the best way forward. I have not met a single Nigerian who says this is the best Nigeria can be. We aspire to have a better country.

I will point out at least three plagues most of us seem to have agreed upon as impediments to the progress of Nigeria, and these cut across ethnic, religious and regional lines. The first is “leadership without conscience”. Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, we run a multi-layered leadership structure in Nigeria: federal, state and local council. Each layer has its responsibilities and failings in the underdevelopment of Nigeria. However, if we are ruled by men and women of conscience, I believe our story would have changed. A moral morass is severely plaguing Nigerian leadership — and that includes commissioners, ministers and perm secs, to name but a few.

It takes only a dead conscience to see the poor state of public utilities and look the other way. The roads are bad, so the leaders buy Prado SUVs to be able to navigate the potholes deftly rather than fix them. Kidnappers are on the prowl so the leaders get a detachment of security officers for protection rather than attack the problem frontally. The schools are bad so they send their children to the best institutions around the world rather than fix the education system. The hospitals are horrible so they treat themselves abroad rather than make them world-class. Any leader with human feeling will not look the other way: the welfare of the masses will always be priority.

The second plague is “leadership without competence”. I do not mean paper qualifications. You can be a professor and be incompetent in leadership. The skill set for political leadership is different. One basic definition of leadership is “getting people and using resources to achieve results”. How can you develop a country, a state or a council when you don’t have a “vision of society” — a mental picture of where you want to take it, the same way an architect designs a structure before you begin to build? Most of the people who end up in public office in Nigeria do not have this basic competence. And it cuts across all divides, although we often limit this to a section of Nigeria.

The third plague is “leadership without accountability”. In Nigeria, public officers have unfettered access to state resources with little or no accountability. This has led to untold corruption and waste of resources. This works mainly through collusion. The constitution allows state lawmakers to remove governors for corruption and abuse of office, but that is only on paper. A minister can be fired for corruption but how often does that happen? How many can sincerely say they scrutinise their state budgets the way they talk about federal budgets? The thought leaders would rather we discuss Sharia and true federalism. That is how the status quo wants it.

I have listed three plagues that we seem to agree are hurting the development of Nigeria. Imagine a Nigeria governed by leaders with conscience, leaders with competence and leaders with accountability at ALL levels? Imagine the direction we would be facing! Many of my critics have repeatedly accused me of campaigning against restructuring. This is a wrong reading but I have given up trying to explain myself. I believe in restructuring. My point of departure is that it is a different thing we need to restructure — our mindsets, first and foremost. We have been bewitched to think our problem is the “tribe and tongue” of a fellow victim of poor governance.

We can have a consensus on critical issues that affect the ordinary Nigerian and begin to push an all-encompassing agenda for national development. Divisive agenda will only poison public discourse, as we saw with the “activist” on the flight from Cairo. I do not seek to silence the agents of sectional agenda — everybody enjoys freedom of thought in a democracy. They probably have their own convictions that drive their arguments. But I am afraid that we cannot construct the Nigerian Dream and achieve our aspirations for as long as those who believe in playing up our differences continue to dominate the public space. Remember we all are victims of poor governance.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
MINIMUM VALUE

President Buhari has now signed the new national minimum wage of N30,000 into law. In 1999, President Obasanjo inherited N3,500 as the minimum wage and increased it to N7,500 in 2000, while President Jonathan raised it to N18,000 in 2011. Many have argued that we are a federation and each state should determine what to pay, but most — if not all — countries have a national minimum; sub-national governments and businesses can decide to pay higher. The big issue, for me, is the value of the wage. In the 1980s, when minimum wage was N125, the value was roughly $200. Today’s N30,000 is worth $80 only. But N30,000 is still better than N18,000. Consolation.

ROUGH JUSTICE?

An African proverb says once the snake became pregnant, you knew it would give birth to a ‘long’ child. That Justice Walter Onnoghen was going to be convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false declaration of assets was predictable from the beginning. The CCT chairman never hid it. Ordinarily, Nigerians should be happy that even the chief justice has not escaped justice, but the smell of the alleged political persecution has so much polluted the air that Nigerians cannot even have a consensus on what is right or wrong again. But let us cheer up and take this as a wake-up call — our culture of “too big to touch” is being broken. Precedent.

Justice Onnoghen

SUBSIDY SINK

By some estimates, we spent $5 billion on fuel subsidy in 2018 alone — the highest ever. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been less than transparent in its dealings in recent years — and that is saying a lot for an organisation that historically stinks from lack of transparency. The Buhari administration has also been playing games on the subsidy issue, preferring to call it “under recovery”, as if calling a spade by another name changes anything. The time has come to have an honest national conversation on this subsidy issue, no matter how bitter it would be. Truth is: our finances are going under. Inflammable.

AND FINALLY…

Abayomi Shogunle, the oga for the Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU), don talk am say make we no dey blow big big grammar for police dem when dem dey ask us question. Some pipu laff when him talk am but na the truth the man talk o. Me I sabi police pipu well well bicos I don dey research dem no be today. The pipu wey we dey call officers for road think say dem oga for office no dey treat dem well. To come add insult plus injury, dem think say Nigerians no dey respect dem at all at all. Everything come join dey vex dem, so when we come dey form say we sabi Queen’s English plenty plenty, we sef dey put petrol for fire. Kasala!

Source: TheCable

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.