By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
If there is any conversation in recent times that must not be allowed to go with political winds, as it supports the argument that Nigeria’s present political and socioeconomic challenges were created by Nigerians, accelerated by Nigerians and can only be resolved by Nigerians, it is the recent lesson/awareness by Barrister Egede, former Director, Obasanjo Farms, and presently Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Supersavers Stores Limited, during a recent interview held at his Magodo, Lagos office , as part of events lined up to mark his 60th birthday.
While he described himself as a village groomed boy that lives within the confines of morals, and aptly exemplified ‘the good old days’ as an era when our value system was sound, integrity and good name mattered much, when people had value for handwork and honesty and corruption was never an institution as we are now experiencing in contemporary Nigeria and the society then frowned at unexplained sources of wealth of individuals, he argued that in those good old days, people did not lose their consciences as is the case today.
Even as he observed with nostalgia that the society is presently broken and has become intolerable for everybody to live freely just because people have deliberately chosen to be lawless, he submitted that the best way to rebuild Nigeria’s dilapidated Cultural, Political and socioeconomic walls, is for all Nigerians to adhere to the values that are essential for good governance, especially transparency and accountability while turning away from negative attitudes such as clamour for tribe and selfishness.
He recalled that growing up; you will always be reminded to remember the son of who you are. We were also taught to maintain our self esteem. That good name is better than all the money in the whole world. We were also taught not to look for money, rather, we should look for what we can do for people and money will follow you. Those are the ethics that I grew up with as a person coming from the rural background.
My parents were both farmers. Yet, I had access to good/quality education because at that time, the money budgeted for school was used for schools. My father couldn’t write a sentence in English. We came from such a background, yet, that did not stop our education. Nobody needed to fly to Canada or the UK to go and look for education. It was here. People from Canada were doing Commonwealth exchange. Coming from Canada to go and study at the University of Ife. So, it was not Nigerians alone going out. If you want to go out, it was just for the fun of it not because the education here was inferior to what you are going to get outside because people observed the law.
Today everybody in the South west wants to use Awo to campaign. I attended Awo School. If you grew up in the then Mid Western region, all the primary schools that I know were founded in 1955 by Awo. It is amazing. To create this number of schools to make sure that education was available for all. You ask; what was the education budget of Western region in 1955 to create this number of primary schools? Have you ever heard Awo mentioned in relation to money? No. But you see people that died with so much wealth but today, nobody is talking about them. Money is something not worth pursuing.
If you steal at that time, you will be disowned by the community. But today, the community welcomes everything. If you occupy a position and you come out without bringing anything, you will be disowned by the community. When you get to a society where you now call somebody a thief and they will sew Asoebi , the whole community go to the Court to celebrate that their son has been called a thief, what do you expect of such society? And when the society is bad, we begin to look for who actually spoiled the society.
The type of pressure we put on people in political positions stands as the root cause. In most cases, you hear people say; it is now our turn. Our brother is there, so all our problems are solved. We don’t look at how to earn and solve our problems. When we over expect from politicians, we set them into corruption and disruption and the things that we are working against. When I was growing up, nobody was talking about tribes. You just go to school. The children of the poorest of the poor got educated and when you get education, you become a person of impact in the society. You are able to relate to society what the society needs. What can I put into this society? I have taken enough out of society. You find people coming from such a background today, they are the deprived of society because we have killed the school system, we have killed the hospital system, and we have killed the infrastructural system.
Presently, if you want to travel from Lagos to Ibadan, you are afraid because you don’t know whether you will get there. It was not so in the past. You travelled when there was no telephone. You move from Agbor going to school in Edo state, your parents will take it for granted that you will get there. Nobody is phoning to know whether you get there or didn’t get there. Until you come back for holiday after three months and they are at peace, they are sure that you will get there. Do you send a child now 50 kilometers away and be sure that the child will get there? No phone calls and you did not hear from the child for two or three months and you are certain that the child will be there and that he is coming back home?
What brought us to this sorry state is that people want to make money without adding value. That is the first point. He concluded. Away from scary insecurity to the nation’s constitution, he again stressed that as faulty as the nation’s constitution may be, if the human beings are orderly, such challenges will not arise. We operated a parliamentary constitution, it didn’t work for us. We operated the regional constitution, it didn’t work for us.
We operated the presidential system of government, it didn’t work for us. So, there is no document you will bring to the wrong people that will not go wrong. It is not the document that is the problem, it is the people. Human beings are not interested in the reign of justice. Documents cannot make it right. The Bible is a perfect document. Is it not? Has it been able to straighten human conduct? No.
The human being just has to make up their minds to obey. The constitution is a law in itself, if we all obey it, all will be well. Take for instance; which part of the constitution says only one section of the country should occupy all the positions. People will say that the constitution made it possible, No. We put democracy down. Every four years, if you oppress me too much, after four years I will vote you out. That is one of the benefits of democracy. You can threaten a leader. You are my staff. I will sack you after four years. Americans did it to Trump. As much as people trooped out, he scored the highest votes that any Republican candidate ever scored. But democrats trouped out in mass to say you must leave.
Leaders will begin to recognize that they are hired by the people and can be fired by the people from their offices. But in Nigeria, we have followers that no matter how much I oppress them, at the end of four years, I give you indomie that will serve you one meal and you will sell the next four years for one plate of food –that is the Esau’s spirit. I am hungry and you are talking about development. Give me food, let me eat. How many meals will you eat from that indomie for the next four years? You are eating your children’s education; you are eating your medical/health services. You are eating up infrastructure inside this plate of food.
So if leaders know that after four years I will go to these people and by the time I bring indomie, they will push me down and force that indomie into my mouth, whatever constitution you present, the people will learn to behave. All over the world, people revolt against what they do not want. Nigerians accept whatever that is thrown at them. When you reject things, you reject in its totality. You don’t sit down and grumble –take charge.
The point here is that it is not the constitution but selfishness that is another major problem bedeviling the nation. Continuing,, he queried; the constitutions we had in the past, what did we do with them? We had the constitution that was written towards the 1960. There was a Constituent Assembly that debated everything about it. Did we operate it for a long time? In 1963, we went for republican constitution; we said we are now a republic, what did we make out of it?
Then the 1979 constitution was well debated, what did we make of it? So, we are not having problems because we met in one room or we didn’t meet in one room, we have problems because selfishness has become the order of the day. We think that we are trying to break the law but what I am trying to point out is that you cannot break the law, you break yourself. So, the society is broken and it has become intolerable for everybody because you cannot live freely in Nigeria anymore-because people have deliberately chosen to be lawless.
You steal all the money and you walkway, you think you have broken the law? No, the law breaks you. You cannot find peace. You cannot go anywhere without Mobile Police men.(to be continued)
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via: email@example.com, 08032725374.
APC Presidential Primaries: Buhari’s Betrayal and The Northern Governors’ Redemption
By Suleiman A. Suleiman
In the end, the Republic has been saved. But the announcement by President Buhari last Tuesday that he be allowed by his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to impose a successor, reportedly, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan on the party, in an electoral field of 23 other aspirants, would have gone down as one of the most egregious political betrayals ever in Nigerian history.
First of all, it amounts to a self-betrayal; by declaring his intention and jetting out to Spain shortly after, President Buhari had betrayed himself and what he has stood for throughout this election cycle, if not his entire presidency thus far.Millions of Nigerians have watched, with increasing admiration and respect, the president’s dignified detachment from the politics of succession and rank backstabbing that had taken hold of his party, APC, staying above the fray of it all and leaving the field open to its rules and the machinations of politicians.
That detachment was itself in keeping not only with his open assurance to the country earlier that Nigerians would decide his successor, but also his general approach to party politics for most of his presidency. Several of Buhari’s close associates stood in last month’s APC primaries for various offices, but he did not lift a finger to bend party rules in their favour, and rightly so. And only a few weeks ago, Buhari admonished the governors to ensure a free and fair party primaries. Indeed, one reason why the APC’s presidential primaries has so many aspirants is because nearly every one of them believes they had the president’s support, and therefore, an indication of support to none, as it should be.
All of these have earned Buhari great respect for choosing and staying on the side of democratic norms, and helped to reclaim or reinforce a reputation of him held by many, including this writer, that he has always known his democratic limits and would not transgress them, no matter what. And while it is true that Buhari had said he has a preferred candidate, most Nigerians know there is long distance between having preference for an aspirant and imposing them on the party. By openly seeking to trample on the rules for an open contest and bend everyone else in the party to his own will alone, the president has thrown all that respect out of the window, regardless of whether he has been forced to back down or not.
Second, Buhari’s last minute move was also a betrayal of Northern Nigeria for which the plot was purportedly being hatched. Now, everyone claims to speak for, stand for or root for the North. I think it is high time those claims were re-interrogated. As far as I can see, the North has an assured place in Nigerian politics. Its electoral strength and motivation to vote during elections are higher than that of any other region in the country. Nigeria’s constitutional provisions and electoral laws which require any presidential candidate to not only win the most votes but also gain a national spread wide enough to cover one-fourth of the votes cast in two-thirds of the states also mean that no one can assume the presidency of Nigeria without considerable support from northern votes. In addition, the diversity of political and ideological leaning within Northern Nigeria, as opposed to the political one-sidedness of the other regions, means that the North has an assured place whichever party or block wins federal power.
In other words, the North can survive within Nigerian politics without a retiring president from the North seeking dangerously to impose another northerner on a national party, a move that has the potentials to bring down the roof on all of us. What the North has always lacked has always been a unity of purpose and a carefully crafted political and policy agenda that could lift millions of northerners out of poverty and into prosperity, without jeopardising the interests of the other regions. The North still lacks this agenda and Buhari’s seven years so far have done little to advance it.
That brings us to what would have been had the president succeeded. Nigerian federalism rests on a tripod of three very powerful political conventions. One of them is the expectation of rotation of power from North to South, if not in the country as a whole, then at least within political parties, regardless of formal constitutional rules. This is not constitutional but it is entirely democratic. You can say that zoning is not in the constitution, and it isn’t, but it is so deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of Nigerians in a way that cannot be easily dismissed by a wave of the hand. And, a brazen disregard for it, within any political party in power, could unleash social and political forces that would be difficult for any government to dislodge even with brutal force.
The second stand of the tripod is that Nigeria’s political stability depends largely to the extent to which political marriage between competing or collaborating blocs work out in practice, not just to win elections, but when the government is formed. This means that while the North may have a voting majority, it cannot use that power perpetually or anyhow it likes, but must compensate its electoral partners from time to time, at least within the same party. This is the original promise of the NPC and the NPN in the first and second republics respectively, and it is the only framework that can keep Nigeria one and stable. By seeking to impose Ahmed Lawan on the APC as the party’s flagbearer, President Buhari was in fact seeking to remove the two legs of a tripod on which Nigeria stands, and has always stood, all at once. I invite the reader to follow the allegory to see whether a tripod can still stand with two of its legs forcefully removed.
In other words, when the dominant voting bloc in the North entered into an alliance with the South West to capture federal power in 2015, it was simply going back to the promise of NPC and the NPN, whether written or not, whether declared or not, and whether it is in the constitution or not. This promise must be redeemed. And it can only be redeemed by the APC fielding a southern candidate, regardless of who they are, in a free and fair general elections against the candidates of the other parties. Anything short of that will spell doom, not just for the party, but for the country. As we say in Nigeria, if you chop alone, you die alone. Thank God, then, that the northern governors found the courage that those close to the president lacked.
Suleiman is Deputy Editor-in-chief, Daily Trust
Why Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Went for Broke
By Gbemiga Ogunleye
A couple of weeks ago, on April 29 to be precise, I sent a message to my friend of over two decades, Richard Akinnola, complaining about a news report credited to the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to the effect that Interior minister, Rauf Aregbesola, nominated him as the vice president.
For the uninitiated, Akinnola is a respected journalist, celebrated human rights activist and an influential social media influencer.
Presently, he is at the forefront of the campaign for his friend, the vice president, to be the president of Nigeria.
I told Akinnola to advise his friend to stick to his usual refrain: that it would be a disservice to the nation if he doesn’t contest for the presidency and to emphasise his experience and expertise.
I also told him that the VP could leverage on the fact that he wouldn’t have to learn on the job if elected.
Crediting Aregbesola, a man who had just thrown Tinubu, his benefactor, under the bus with is nomination as VP was a low, I told my friend.
As was his wont, Akinnola promptly responded, and said what the VP said was that Aregbesola notified him of his nomination, not that the goatee-spotting minister nominated him.
Even then, he agreed with me that the VP ought not to have said that and promised that he would tell the VP.
It is in the light of incidents like this that we should situate Tinubu’s outburst of Thursday, when he met the Ogun State
All Progressives Congress (APC) delegates in Abeokuta.
At the meeting, an angry Tinubu had said without him and God, the president, the VP and the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, wouldn’t be holding the positions they are holding today.
Those close to Tinubu say it’s not in the character of the man to talk in that manner. But that the Jagaban of Borgu had been pushed to the wall by those bent on frustrating him within the APC.
They say it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that the Jagaban of Borgu, who has campaigned in more states than all the presidential aspirants in the APC, is the man to beat. Therefore, the man couldn’t understand why obstacles are deliberately being put in his way.
They allege that the president deliberately encouraged serving ministers to enter the race to frustrate Tinubu’s ambition.
The idea of a consensus arrangement is also a ploy to screen Tinubu out.
The attempt to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan and the governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, were also cited as attempts to frustrate Tinubu out of the presidential race.
Tinubu sympathisers also allege that picking John Odigie Oyegun, a former chairman of the APC, who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Tinubu to chair the APC’s screening committee was another attempt to throw a spanner in the wheels of the Jagaban’s presidential ambition.
To make matters worse, was the president’s address to the APC governors, shortly before he travelled out to Spain, that he be allowed to choose a successor, since the APC had a policy where the governors had a hand in choosing their successors.
It is in this light, Tinubu’s supporters argue, that we should situate the Jagaban’s outburst on Thursday.
Come to think of it, if a man is pushed to the wall, what do you expect him to do?
All Tinubu is asking for, say his admirers, is a level-playing field where all aspirants are allowed to test their popularity.
Come to think of it, have critics bothered to ask why the Jagaban had to put Dapo Abiodun in his shoes?
For God’s sake, Abiodun has a right to throw his weight behind his preferred candidate but he has no right to distort history.
As Asiwaju rightly pointed out, Abiodun’s predecessor, Ibikunle Amosun, a fellow APC man didn’t want Abiodun and wanted his protege to succeed him but it was Asiwaju who threw his weight behind Abiodun and ensured his emergence as governor.
Indeed, when the APC presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari came to campaign in Abeokuta, he urged the party supporters to vote him as president but that they were free to vote for anybody in the other elections.
He didn’t campaign for his party’s candidate, Dapo Abiodun.
Buhari did this because he didn’t want to offend his friend, Ibikunle Amosun.
Furthermore, according to those close to the Asiwaju, Dapo Abiodun had been avoiding receiving the Jagaban.
Each time the Jagaban informed him of his plan to come and campaign to the Ogun delegates, Abiodun always found an excuse to discourage the Jagaban.
It’s either he wouldn’t be in town or he was indisposed.
To add insult to injury, when the vice president came on his campaign trail, he publicly credited the vice president with his emergence as governor.
That was too much for the Jagaban to take, hence his outburst.
Those who accuse the Jagaban of having a sense of entitlement, forget that he wasn’t talking to the country. He was addressing his party men (and women), reminding them of how much he has sacrificed for the party.
He reminded them that but for his sacrifice, President Buhari wouldn’t have achieved his ambition.
As a human being, it is natural for Tinubu to expect Buhari not to be antagonistic to his ambition, even if he would not support him.
Thrice Buhari tried to be Nigeria’s president.
Thrice he failed, until Tinubu went to him and the rest, as they say, is history.
Those who are against Tinubu’s ambition make a song and dance of his so-called baggage.
Pray, which human being doesn’t have a baggage? Which human being hasn’t done something he or she is not proud of?
But they conveniently forget the man’s role in the attainment and sustenance of democracy.
But for the Jagaban, there would have been no opposition party in Nigeria.
He, it was, who ensured that there was a platform to challenge the behemoth Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
By challenging the Federal Government in the court on many occasions, he ensured the enthronement of federalism in the country.
He formed the Acton Congress (AC); he formed the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to democratise the political party space and ensure the plurality of opinions in the country.
To demonstrate his selflessness, he gave the presidential ticket of the parties to Northerners: first Atiku Abubakar and later, Nuhu Ribadu.
Thanks to the Jagaban, he retrieved through the courts the stolen mandates of Governors Segun Mimiko in Ondo; Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti; Adams Oshiomhole in Edo; and Raufu Aregbesola in Osun.
He achieved this by flying into the country, one Adrian Forty, probably the world’s best forensic evidence expert.
Of course, at his expense.
So, if the man says he has paid his dues and insists he deserves the presidential ticket of the party he helped form, is that asking for too much?
If attempts are being made to deny him the opportunity of testing his acceptance among his party men (and women), should he keep sealed lips?
When those he had assisted with his God-given talents and resources decide to stab him in the back, should he offer his belly to them also?
The man is human.
Gbemiga Ogunleye is a Nigerian lawyer, journalist, media scholar and the former provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.
2023: Stop the Howling and Growling and Get Real
By Femi Fani-Kayode
If the South really wants the presidency next year in the name of fairness and equity, then I challenge the proponents to let every single aspirant from both the South-West and South-South in BOTH parties STEP DOWN for a candidate from the South-East and support that candidate.
In a statement titled “Our Party, APC Must Tread The Path of Equity”, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, said, inter alia, the following:
“It is the turn of the Southern part of the country to produce the next president.
It would be disingenuous for anyone to argue against rotation at this period.We must not keep our party men and women guessing on the position of the leadership of the party. This is the time to weigh in and take control of the process. No statement must suggest, even remotely, that the party harbours certain sentiments which may predispose it to consider throwing the contest open. This is certainly not the time for equivocation. EQUITY DICTATES THAT WE TAKE A STAND!”
As bellicose and strongly-worded as ever, my dearest brother has spoken his mind courageously. Kudos to him but I beg to differ.
Threatening your party leadership simply because you are a governor is not the best way to establish common ground and a reasonable consensus on any matter.
More on this later.
In his own contribution, Senator Ali Ndume said the following:
“They (meaning the senators supporting Senate President Ahmad Lawan for President) have not come because they know my position. I have nothing against Ahmad Lawan. He is my colleague. But I have everything against injustice. I won’t support even my biological brother. Fielding a northerner is tantamount to injustice and tantamount to a third term.
The so-called Northern Elders that are pushing it are doing so to perpetuate injustice. It is the turn of the South and we have to support them to actualise this. I am disappointed in those that are pushing this (meaning Northern Presidency). I have since taken a position even before my alignment with Rotimi Amaechi”.
These are interesting words from a dear friend and a man for whom I have immense respect. However, once again, I beg to differ.
Some who have insisted on a Southern Presidency next year are less charitable and far more rabid, vicious and aggressive than Akeredolu and Ndume.
They have howled, growled and threatened to tear the country apart and indulge in all manners of subterfuge and violence if they do not have their way.
This contribution serves primarily as a response to them and also as a gentle warning and caveat to the more restrained and civilised voices, who secretly harbour their thoughts and share their warped disposition but are smart enough not to express it publicly.
To them I say the following:
Kindly stop the howling, the growling, the barking, the wailing, the sulking, the lamenting, the rolling all over the floor and all the other infantile expressions of hopelessness and frustration and get real.
More importantly be cool-headed, cerebal, analytical, intellectual, civilised and thorough in your analysis. Stop the nonsense, control your emotions and take sentiments out of this.
The quest for power is a serious business. It is not served on a plate and it does not come easily.
Whilst most in the South are blabbing, threatening and insulting all those who do not see things their way, the majority of the North are planning silently and effectively keeping their cards close to their chests and operating in unity, peace and one accord. Can anyone rightly say they will go to war or sabotage the chances of their own political party just because aspirants from either the North-Eastern or North-Central zones may emerge as the party flag bearer or because their party refuses to zone the presidency to the South?.. Is this not, at best, irresponsible and, at worse, madness?
This is both beautiful and powerful and it cannot be downplayed or ignored. It is a virtue and not a weakness.
And those who malign them or treat them with contempt for charting this course do so at their own peril.
If the South really wants the presidency next year in the name of fairness and equity, then I challenge the proponents to let every single aspirant from both the South-West and South-South in BOTH parties STEP DOWN for a candidate from the South-East and support that candidate.
Unless and until they have the presence of mind and fortitude to do so, they cannot fairly say the presidency must not go to the North.
The people of the North-East and North-Central have been denied their fair share of democratically-elected leaders.
Why should they be denied this opportunity again just to pave way for a Southerner in 2023? Are they not Nigerians as well? Are they second class citizens?
Do they not also have the right to feel marginalised and deprived and are they not entitled to have their own dreams and aspirations?
The North-Central has NEVER enjoyed a democratically-elected president in our entire history and the North-East has not enjoyed it for 62 years!
Is that reasonable, just or fair?
Worse still, in the case of the North-East, the entire zone has been ravaged by terrorism and barbarous banditry inflicted by mainly foreign sponsored elements over the last 12 years and now some are saying none of their sons can run for the presidency? This is surely callous and unconscionable.
Can anyone rightly say they will go to war or sabotage the chances of their own political party just because aspirants from either the North-Eastern or North-Central zones may emerge as the party flag bearer or because their party refuses to zone the presidency to the South?
Is this not, at best, irresponsible and, at worse, madness?
Is it a crime to come from Yobe, Borno, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Adamawa, the FCT or any of the other North-Eastern or North-Central states? Surely this cannot be so.
It is absurd and disingenuous for anyone to argue that the South-West, which has enjoyed power for eight years as president and eight years as vice president over the last 23 years alone, should take the presidency next year.
What about the South-East, North-Central and North-East? Are they not Nigerians too?
My view is that we should allow any of the three zones that have not had their fair share of democratically elected presidents have an opportunity to do so next year… That is what you call justice and fairness and all the lamentations, insults, threats and barking in the world cannot change that. We should not talk about North and South anymore. These are archaic, anachronistic and outdated designations. There is no longer any ONE NORTH and there was never any ONE SOUTH.
What we have today are six distinct, strong, intellectually and spiritually independent zones, and that is what we should be talking about.
My view is that we should allow any of the three zones that have not had their fair share of democratically elected presidents have an opportunity to do so next year.
That is what you call justice and fairness and all the lamentations, insults, threats and barking in the world cannot change that.
The South-East, North-East and North-Central are peopled by decent, hard-working, diligent, brilliant, civilised leaders as well and they were born free. They were not born Nigerians to be slaves to the people of the North-West, South-West and South-South.
And those of us from the North-West, South-West and South-South were not born to be their masters and overlords and neither were they born to be ours.
We were all born to be equals before God and the law and anything short of that will lead to catastrophy and put us on the road to Kigali.
Finally let me say this: If the PDP picks a northerner as its candidate, then the APC MUST do the same in order to win.
Anything outside of this will be folly and a recipe for disaster.
Politics is a game of numbers and it is a winner-takes-all match. There are no prizes for the runner up.
The APC must not destroy its chances of winning or sacrifice its chances of victory on the alter of a southern presidency, despite the rantings of some regional irredentists who have a divisive agenda and who ought to know better.
We must do all we can to win and judging from what I am seeing and the fact that an Atiku presidential bid is likely to be presented by the PDP, the only way we can do so is if we field a strong candidate from the North-Central or North-Eastern zone.
Threats that the country will divide or that there will be secession if this happens are unfounded, baseless, alarmist and false.
We shall hold the line and weather the storm. We shall do whatever it takes to keep the peace and keep our flag flying.
Nigeria shall remain united and together we shall go from strength to strength.
Femi Fani-Kayode is a former Nigerian minister of Aviation and the Sadaukin Shinkafi.
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