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OPINION

Saraki: The most Investigated Politician Award: The Winner is…

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By Adjori Terkuma

On July 17, 2020, when Bukola Saraki, the 58-year-old medical practitioner-turned-politician won a case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court, Lagos, for the forfeiture of his property located in his hometown in Ilorin, Kwara State, many thought the bad weather had cleared and yielded for a bright day for him.

It was the second major legal battle Saraki won against the anti-corruption commission since he left office on June 6, 2019. In the first case, another forfeiture order sought by the EFCC over some of Saraki’s property in Ikoyi, Lagos was refused by the court on the ground that it was convinced that the
property was not acquired with proceeds of corruption.

A similar conclusion had been reached by the court which in the earlier case it “specifically ruled that there was no evidence that the property was built with any illicit or stolen funds from Kwara State Government or any other institution or quarter, whatsoever”.

The recent invitation to the former Governor of Kwara State again on Saturday, July 31, 2021, which is just about a year after the verdict of the court showed that the anti-corruption agency is not ready to leave the man alone. Narrating his frequent experience with the EFCC which is usually seeking for one reason or the other to pull him down, Saraki after the July 2020 verdict stated that “the last five years have been very challenging for me and my family. I have endured and defeated one false allegation and malicious litigation after another, in an ill-motivated persecution, intimidation, and harassment, through which some vested interests sought to damage my name and label me with charges of corruption but with the grace of Allah, I have always been victorious. I thank God for the outcome of this case which is the fifth victory in cases in which the EFCC was either the main investigating agency or the plaintiff.”

Apart from the aforementioned cases, in those five years, the EFCC had been involved in four other cases aimed at nailing Saraki and pinning charges on him. In September 2015, a few weeks after he emerged as President of the 8th Senate, the State filed charges of asset declaration falsification against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). In that case, the EFCC provided all the reports that were used to file charges against him. The agency’s investigator, Michael Wetkas, was the lead witness. To ensure Saraki did not escape, the charges kept on varying from the initial 13 to 16 and eventually to 18.

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During the trial, the government decided to throw all kinds of allegations against him. Some of these allegations went beyond the scope of what the CCT should try as they did not relate to the falsification of assets. Yet, the EFCC and the State decided to press on with the charges, despite the protest from Saraki’s legal team. Yet, in June 2017, the CCT dismissed the entire 18 charges against Saraki and acquitted him.

The State, urged on by the EFCC, took the matter to the Court of Appeal and on December 15, 2017, the appellate court dismissed 15 of the charges and ordered that three others should go back to the CCT for retrial. Both Saraki and the State expressed their displeasure with the Court of Appeal’s verdict and headed to the Supreme Court. On July 6, 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed all the charges and gave Saraki a clean bill.

Before then, the State had also filed a suit accusing Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, of falsifying the provision of the Senate Rules Book, although, at the time of the use of the rule book, they were outsiders to the Senate as mere Senators-elect. Good sense prevailed after the second sitting of the Abuja High Court on the case as the prosecutor advised the government that the case was a mere frivolity and should be discontinued in the interest of justice and decency.

Before then, Saraki under President Goodluck Jonathan has experienced the same persecution following his decision to sponsor a motion in the Seventh Senate on the monumental fraud contained in the fuel subsidy payment. After the motion which some members of the administration believed was aimed at embarrassing the government, the police Special Anti-Fraud Unit was set against him. Also, the EFCC was used to harass him. None of the investigations resulted in any court trial.

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It is widely believed that the decision of Saraki to lead the mass defection of governors and senators of the then ruling party into the then opposition APC was a protest against the oppressive moves against him by the Jonathan government and its agents.

Unfortunately for Saraki, the movement was from frying pan to fire. The APC did not give him any respite after they had used his resources, ideas, and connections to get to power. The point of the division was his decision to contest for the office of Senate President against the will and machinations of a small group of oligarchs who planned to seize control of the party.

In this battle for the control of the party and the desperate bid to whip everybody into line, Saraki was made to hold the short end of the stick. And the EFCC became an instrument for dealing with the recalcitrant but strong member. The role of the anti-graft Agency in all these political or partisan manipulations is what Saraki alluded to in his statement after his victory at the Federal High Court in July last year when he stated that “I hope that with the outcome of today’s case, the EFCC should learn that a serious issue like the fight against corruption should not be reduced to a forum-shopping means to execute personal vendetta or prosecute parochial agenda. Fighting corruption and combating economic crime requires stakeholders to eschew coercion while employing upright diligence, due process, fairness, equity, and broad mindedness in dealing with all cases and persons.”

He continued: “The deployment of a state institution to fight personal and partisan battle, particularly with the use of the mass and social media as championed by the EFCC was aimed at inflicting damages to my name, reputation and elective public service record, through a targeted misinformation and disinformation campaign of calumny, also directed at intimidating the judiciary. It was directed at giving the wrong impression about me. As I record yet another vindication by the competent court of law, God’s willing, my focus will now shift to more serious issues”.

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Most of the moves against Saraki between 2015 and 2020 took place under Ibrahim Magu who had become a formidable foe of the former Senate President, apparently because under the Saraki-led Senate he failed to secure the Senate confirmation as EFCC chairman. He functioned in an acting capacity for the five years he spent in office.

Saraki, through the successful defence of the source of money for the acquisition of his property in Lagos and Ilorin, thought that would be the end of his travails from EFCC. That was why he boldly stated that “with today’s decision of the Court, it is my expectation that the EFCC which has played significant roles in the various court cases against me from the CCT to Supreme Court and back at the Federal High Court, with the consequent media trial and malicious campaigns, will now leave me alone to live my life, and enjoy my unfettered rights to freedom of thought, expression, association, occupation, and dignity, as a private citizen and focus on serious issues of national development”.

As the event of last weekend has proven, Saraki is back in the usual brickbat session with the EFCC. Even though the commission now has a more professional, calm, dedicated, ethical, and sophisticated leadership under Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, only time will tell how their last encounter with Saraki, who said he went to their office on his own volition to answer questions on any issue they may pose to him, will end.

It is for this reason that I believe the rightful Winner of the MOST INVESTIGATED POLITICIAN OF THE FOURTH REPUBLIC IS DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI. I need to emphasise that the man has continued to come out clean and unblemished.

OPINION

Marwa’s Creative Fight Against Illicit Drugs in Nigeria.

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By; Jerome-Mario Utomi   

I still recall with vividness how in the year 2008, Nigeria and most Nigerians breathed a sigh of relief as the country was certified by the United States of America as cooperating in the anti-narcotic crusade for the eighth successive time in 2008, with George Bush, the former president of the United States of America, USA, noting that Nigeria had made significant progress in counter narcotics war and had effectively co-operated with the United States on drug-related and money laundering cases.

Although he (Bush) was saying the obvious, and, majority of Nigerians thought that the nation was winning the war against drug trafficking.

But to Nigerians with critical minds, it was very doubtful; if the agency will sustain that record as nobody within the leadership did anything to institutionalize such performance. Apart from this challenge, the agency then, also wore the crest of an underfunded body and was reputed as infamous in poor manpower it earned from a long period of neglect by previous administrations. And expected, such euphoria elicited by United States certification was short-lived as events and reports on the nation’s effort in this direction suddenly nosedived unabated.

This negative leadership trend continued until very recently when Former military administrator of Lagos and Borno states, Brig-Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), was in January 2021 appointed as the substantive Chairman/CEO of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) by President Muhammadu Buhari. Before the appointment, Marwa had worked as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) between 2018 and December 2020, along with others to develop a blueprint on how to end drug abuse in Nigeria.Today, I cannot categorically say that all is perfectly well for the nation in its efforts to liberate its citizens from trading on, consumption of or effects of illicit drugs, but looking  at the present instinct in the country, and exciting progress in this direction, particularly,  the recent declaration by the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa(RTD) that N6 billion worth of drugs meant for insurgents was intercepted by the agency’s operatives at the Apapa Port in Lagos State, the situation explains  something new and different.

But before then, this piece will add context to the present discourse.

From available records, the fight against drug abuse in the country has been on for a very long time and backed by so many federal laws.

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In fact, it dates back to as far back as 1935.  Some of the most important laws against the cultivation, trafficking, and abuse of illicit drugs in Nigeria are as follows. The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1935 enacted by the British Colonial administration. The Indian hemp Decree No. 19 of 1966. The Indian hemp (Amendment) Decree No. 34 of 1979. The Indian Hemp (Amendment) Decree, and the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Decree No. 20 of 1984. The Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) (Amendment) Decree of 1986 and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Decree No. 48 of 1989 (as amended by Decree No.33 of 1990, Decree No 15 of 1992 and Decree No. 62 of 1999). These laws were harmonized as an Act of the parliament, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. This Act established the NDLEA.

But regrettably, these legion of laws neither appreciably provided an effective and efficient strong source of solution to illicit consumption of drugs in the country ,  nor provided useful frameworks comprehensive enough to offer  legal solutions to the issues of drug trafficking or its enforcement.

However, presently, with Marwa’s leadership, the country has against all known logic become visibly unsafe for both illicit drug paddlers and consumers. It is no longer business as usual. Also characterizing Marwa’s administration as exemplary is his being integrated in approach. He is not class specific. His recent advocacy/enlightenment campaigns of school children about the harmful effects involving drug abuse and persistent emphasis that those seeking public offices in Nigeria go through harmful drug related tests are but perfect examples to this claim/assertion. 

Comparatively, like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 3 which is targeted at “ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, even so has the NDLEA developed sustainable National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP)  that views illicit drugs from the perspective of public health and education issues while providing a balanced solution to the drug scourge.

Extensively, there are in fact more pragmatic reasons why the nation must join hands with the Buba Marwa led administration to stamp out the proliferation of illicit drugs in the country.

First is that many lives, going by commentaries have before been destroyed as a result of drugs. Many are in psychiatric wards. Many have died. So many have lost their jobs and many have lost their homes. Qualifying the development as a reality to worry about is that, according to the World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), .26 Jun 2019, stated that about 35 million people are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and who require treatment services.

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With this revelation, it is evident that consumption of drugs in amounts and methods not authorized by medical professionals has presently become the greatest killer of humanity. And perfectly characterize as correct the recent claim/ statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the danger posed to the country by illicit drugs is worse than those of insurgency, banditry and other threats to the stability of the country. “Let me say that this war is more deadly than the insurgency we have in the Northeastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the Northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country, because it is a war that is destroying three generations, because I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs’.

That is not the only danger.

A 2018 survey report on drug use in Nigeria by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) in, “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria, among other things observed; that  the past year prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 year and high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.

In the same vein, World Drug Report 2018 indicated also that psychoactive substances excluding alcohol, overall was higher among men in Nigeria, Drug users the report added was most common among those who were between the ages of 25 and 39 years, while the rates of past year use were lowest among those who were below 24 years of age. Cannabis was the most commonly used drug followed by opioids, mainly the non-medical use of prescription opioids and cough syrup.

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This is not by any means a good commentary. Yet, the situation says something else.

It was also revealed that living with an active drug abuser –for example, a husband automatically makes the wife a passive substance abuser, of which the adverse effect resulting from such an arrangement in most cases appears more pronounced on the passive abuser.

Away from impact to the physical dependence, mountain of evidence suggests that the person using a drug over a period time would have developed an intense reliance on drugs, often to avoid difficult withdrawal symptoms. The person will often crave (strong desire) to use the drugs despite the damaging consequences to their physical, mental and social wellbeing. Drug users can also experience psychological dependence in which they believe it is necessary to use a drug to function sometimes just at social gatherings or all the time.

This challenge from what experts are saying is further nourished by our not being ready as a nation to confront the underlying cause(s) of drug dependency and other associated behaviours. Our unwillingness to collectively assist the abusers to focus on un-learning such negative behaviours and in its place develop the required skills and positive attitudes to achieve a drug-free society as currently preached the world over exacerbates the challenge.

Very regrettably, in abandoning this responsibility, one fact we fail to remember is that drug dependence is not based on a personal weakness or lack of morals on the part of the abuser but a chronic relapsing medical condition- a reality that, in my opinion, qualifies these people for our love and not vilification or abandonment.

For a better understanding of the plights of the abusers, we must begin to imagine what it would look like if those drug abusers were to be from our families. We can imagine ourselves participating in the funerals of our dear ones that passed on, no thanks to substance abuse.Sincerely, our failure to love and care for these drug addicts in our society, make us more socially sick than the abusers.But then, Nigerians must pray and support Mohammed Buba Marwa’s quest to defeat proliferation of illicit drugs in Nigeria.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.

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OPINION

Buhari’s Outreach to South-east

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By Dakuku Peterside

Symbolic gestures are particularly evident in Africa. Ndigbo or south easterners, more than any other group attach importance to symbolic gestures.

It is ingrained in their culture. However, for once, Igbos are divided over the significance and symbolisms of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit last week to the Eastern heartland.

The visit of Mr President to Imo State has elicited many reactions.

Interestingly, most of the focus has been on the President’s attire. In a picture on social media, the President wore ill-fitting oversized trousers and traditional Igbo ‘ishi agu’ clothes which were ‘uncomplemented’ with non- matching shoes.

There have been arguments and counterarguments over whether the picture was accurate or photo-shopped. But this is an unnecessary diversion. How did we get to the stage where after the President visited Imo State, a theatre of conflict owing to secessionist agitation and where he has few friends and supporters, we are focused more on his clothes than the essence, impact, and import of the visit?

Ordinarily, our discussion should focus on how the President’s alleged inability to harness the country’s diversity impacted his trip to the Southeast, how the secessionist agitation that is most pronounced in the Southeast reflected on the President’s visit and whether the visit moved a needle in his fractious relationship with most of the people in the south- eastern part of the country.

The plurality of the connotation of Southeast in the nascent geopolitics and the convoluted emotional experience of the political actors and ordinary citizens of the area make the visit of the President very significant. Southeast did not mainly vote for the President in the last two elections. Imo State is the epicentre of separatist agitation, theatre of multiple political wars, and ‘unknown gunmen’ hotspot. The President’s visit juxtaposes with the alleged perception that he hates the region, still treats it in the Biafra civil war’s mindset and mode and still considers it a lesser part of the Nigeria foundational ethnic entities. Therefore, one may ask: has the President confronted this perception of hatred of the region by this visit? Is it a signpost of a new relationship with the mainstream political centre? Does this signify the President’s readiness to engage? Is this an outreach to the Southeast?

No one was in doubt that the President’s handlers and intelligence coterie considered the area ‘an enemy territory’. The conspicuous presence of a bulletproof ballistic case carried by some of the security personnel laid credence to this. Maximum protection is always offered to our country’s leaders anywhere they go. However, the sight of this discreet close protection, rapid deployment solution that unfolds with one hand to provide a sizeable line of defence for ballistic and fragmentation threats demonstrated that the President’s handlers saw an inherent security risk to his person. In this context, the President’s visit to Imo State was an opportunity for fence-mending and peace building. The cries of marginalization have been persistent in the Southeast since the end of the Civil War. However, the perceived hostility of President Buhari towards the region and the administration’s alleged poor handling of the country’s diversity added to rising poverty have led to the clamour of separation from Nigeria becoming more popular in the Southeast.

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We should commend the President for embarking on the trip in the first place. The President silenced his doubters for someone often accused of never visiting many states in the country’s south, except during election campaigns. The opposition tries to portray him as insensitive to some people’s feelings from particular areas in the country. The President has demonstrated that he is indeed the leader of all Nigerians. This new philosophy of engagement is a core democratic ideal and must be embraced by all. Through such engagement, the government and the governed exchange ideas, understand themselves and work ‘hand in gloves’ to achieve unity and prosperity.

In the light of the above, Ndigbo were happy to hear the President’s commitment and promise to complete the second Niger bridge during his dispensation. This bridge started during the Babangida regime has outlived five previous administrations. I must point out that the Niger bridge is probably the busiest transport artery in Nigeria, linking the Southeast to the other southern parts of Nigeria. Although it is erroneously considered an Igbo project, its significance and importance are national.

Furthermore, the President acknowledged the place of Ndigbo in the economic life of Nigeria. He posits that the Igbos hold economic power in Nigeria, especially in trade and real estate and are interwoven in the fabrics of economic life in every part of the country, and as such, it should be unthinkable for the Igbos to want to separate from Nigeria. Although it seems cogent in its face value, underneath it belies the contention by the Igbos that they are not at the commanding height of the national economy and have been systematically denied that opportunity since the civil war and the indigenisation decree of 1970. They are quick to point out the fact that they are not in charge of the oil and gas sector, agricultural, manufacturing, telecommunication sectors , customs and even banking. These are the major pillars of the economic life of the country.

A fact which cannot be challenged is that the economic growth of the Igbos is self-induced, and it is doubtful that the public sector has proactively created an enabling environment to harness the entrepreneurial dexterity inherent in the Igbos. The Igbo economic cocktail is brewed by their restlessness and spirit of enterprise, which has led to their phenomenal economic recovery post-civil war. I believe it is time for a synergy between the Nigerian state and the Igbo economic renaissance that should fuel the development of Nigeria. All psychological and physical curtains and ceilings placed on stopping the harnessing of the economic potential of people of this region must be lifted.

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However, beyond the visit, the President must take further steps to show that he appreciates the significance and cares a lot about Nigeria’s ethnic diversity. Government appointments and policies should be promoting inclusiveness and managing our diversity. He should bring to justice people threatening the peace and security of the country irrespective of ethnic and religious leanings. Added to these, as the President-General of the Pan-Igbo cultural organization told President Buhari during the visit, despite all the threats of secessionism or separatism facing the country, there is no doubt that no secessionist element can succeed in Nigeria, provided there is good governance based on equity, justice, and fairness to all the citizens.

On their part, the leaders of the South-East should rise to the occasion and save their region from total anarchy. A local leadership deficit is part of the reason why non-state actors have taken control of the conversation. When the roads are bad, water and electricity are scarce, high unemployment rates, salaries and pensions are not being paid or never paid on time, people are more willing to heed the next charlatan or mob leader who promises them Utopia. The deafening silence of many prominent intellectuals and opinion leaders from the Southeast on the imbroglio in the region is very worrisome. Now is the time to forcefully speak out in a fruitful conversation to ameliorate an awful situation.

Governors of the South-East should establish a line of dialogue with the leadership of the proscribed IPOB. Despite their crude methods and foibles, they enjoy sympathy in the region. It may be more challenging to find a solution to the crises without their involvement. Continuous engagement is critical. Military might and solution will never be enough in tackling the problem. For the citizenry in the Southeast, the Southeast has a lot to gain from the country, remaining a united entity.

To paraphrase Prof Obiozor in his address to the President, “Ndigbo are the most federating unit among all Nigerian citizens. Anywhere in Nigeria you don’t find the Igbos, run away something is wrong there. Igbos are market people and travel adventurers.” The Igbos are the only ethnic group in Nigeria that has investments outside their land than they have in their area. Why would this group be keen on becoming foreigners in other parts of the country with attendant consequences? Why will they allow insecurity to pervade their land?

In the security circles, any society that decides to eliminate its policemen should ensure that they have made peace with their criminals. Despite the shortcomings of our security agents and prevalent unprofessionalism in their conduct, obliterating them is a straightforward recipe for anarchy. Overt and covert support for attacks on security personnel would only be counterproductive. The populace must be cautious with those who make incendiary speeches that widen the ethnic divide in the country. We as a people, irrespective of our ethnic and religious leanings, can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and unity.

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The President’s visit is highly commendable, but there are a few negatives. The first negative is that the visit should not have been branded a commissioning visit, given that the level and quality of projects to be commissioned do not warrant such a visit by the President. The visit would have been better portrayed as an engagement visit, an outreach of Mr president to Ndigbo, to start a conversation to soothe the frayed nerves of some Igbos. Significantly, the President may  be visiting other states in Igbo land. There is still an opportunity for his handlers to frame his visits right. We hope that these visits may be a part of the president’s National Healing Project – an engagement with parts of the country that feel left out and on the fringes of his government. Besides, we hope these visits are extended to other parts of the nation, especially in the Southern regions, to douse the ‘Fulanisation conspiracy theory’. I will advise that he includes people of various ideological shades during these visits/engagements, especially those not known to be in cahoots of Mr president.

The second negative is that the security agents ignored or under rated the IPOB sit-at-home directive, and this led to the streets of Owerri being literarily empty, almost looking embarrassing for the President. There were not many citizens coming to cheer their President. The President’s handlers should rectify this in his further visits to other states in the Southeast.

The President has a few missed opportunities in this visit. The feeling of marginalization by the Igbos is historic and culminated in an internecine war with epic human and material losses to Nigeria. Post- civil war has seen new generation Igbos carrying the burden of the psyche of a defeated people. This psyche has seen them interpret actions and inactions and even utterances of leaders from other parts of the nation as marginalization hence their agitations.

I hope he will address proactively the angry Igbo youths who have convinced themselves that Nigeria holds no place for them, and they are better off in a utopian Biafran country that will solve all their problems. There has not been a proper high-level engagement from the top echelons of power to counter the Biafran utopia narrative. The President can use his visits to the Southeast to win the hearts and minds of the region’s youths.

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OPINION

Ortom taking his place in the hall of fame

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By Simon Imobo-Tswam:

When Samuel Ioraer “Ukeaernyi” Ortom took office as the executive governor of Benue state in 2015, he had no desire to be anything than a governor i.

e. Do his best in terms of promise-keeping, and if he persuaded himself that he had done a job deserving of tenure elongation, seek a second term. But none of can tell what is in the womb of time, and so none of us can predict what tomorrow may bring to/for us or what destiny may have in store for us.

Today, Gov. Ortom is a second-term governor, but more than this, he has become the champion of Nigeria’s democracy, the one-man bulwark against oligarchic forces and the “Defender of the Benue Valley.

” He is also now being called Nigeria’s voice of reason, the mobilizer of democratic forces and the voice of the minorities.

In speaking for the minorities, Ortom does no novel thing. His distant predecessor, His Excellency, Gov. Apollos Aper Aku, did this before, forging close links with the Clement Nyong Isongs, the Patrick Anis and the Melford Obiene Okilos under the auspices of the 4th Force. It was during this time that on Aug. 4, 1982, at ABU, Zaria, he shocked Nigeria, especially the NPN oligarchs, with his revolutionary proposal of Power-Rotation and the Six Geo-political Zones!

And before the revered Aku, the venerated Joseph Tarkaa did this: mobilizing minority peoples of the Benue Valley and beyond, and speaking for them. Beginning in the late 50s, and until the 80s, Tarka built political bridges with the Aminu Kanos, the Kashim Ibrahims, the Joseph Wayases, the Egbert Udoma Udomas and the Harrold Jenewari Dappa-Biriyes.

So, Gov. Ortom is walking a well-travelled path, in amplifying the pained voice of the Oppressed. But Ortom has brought another dimension to it: where Tarkaa and Aku spoke for the minorities, especially those in the Middle Belt, Ortom has expanded the scope, stepped up the game, and is now speaking for Igbo people of the South-East and wait for it: the entire Southern states too!

Hate him or love him, be you a hailer or a wailer, you must agree that Ortom has become the Face of the democratic and republican Nigeria: a free and just Nigeria where all are free before the law; an equal opportunity Nigeria where no one is a first-class citizen or second-class citizen simply on account of his ethnicity, language, attire, mode of worship and region.

For Ortom, that time is now. And in this elected path of the moral high ground, Ortom is walking with a number of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people who, through acts of uncommon courage, uncommon will and uncommon vision, have taken their places in Hall of Fame.

1. Lt. Col. Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov:
(The man who ‘saved’ the world)
Col. Yevgrafovich Petrov, a Russian, was born on 7th September, 1939, in Vladivostok, USSR, and died on 19th May, 2017, in Fryazino, Russia.

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He was an officer in the Soviet Air Defence Forces, and played the heroic role in the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident when the world teetered on the brink. On 26th September 1983, just three weeks after the USSR had shot down Korean Air Liner, Petrov was the duty officer at the Oko nuclear early-warning system when the system gave a false that the US has launched missiles against the Soviet homeland.

Judging the system reports to be false alarms, he disobey the standing orders to report same to the highest echelons of authority, who would automatically have ordered a retaliation. In placing human lives over rigid military orders and soviet nationalism, Petrov prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the US and her NATO allies, thus taking his place in the Hall of Fame. Lesson to soldiers: Place humanity above rigid orders or narrow-nationalism.

2. Abraham Lincoln
(The man who saved America).

Abraham Lincoln is a well-known global figure. Even if he didn’t become an American president, even before he came president, his serial electoral, medical and business failures or breakdowns had guaranteed him a place in history – man is obsessed with celebrating the failures of others!

Abraham Lincoln was born on 12th February, 1809, in Sinking Spring Farm, Kentucky, U.S., and was assassinated on 15th April, 1865, in
Washington, D.C.

When he took over as the 16th American president on 4th March, 1861, the country was on the brink! There was social, economic and political discontent arising majorly from slaveholding in the South. As one American historian, Ted strong, has noted, “Northerners were fighting to preserve the Union, southerners to preserve slavery.”

And Robert S. McElvaine of the
The Baltimore Sun has added: “Slavery was the raison d’etre of the Confederacy (the Southern States). The ‘Liberty’ they sought to preserve was the LIBERTY to OWN HUMAN BEINGS!” (Emphasis, mine).

The issue had pushed the US to the crossroads, dividing the country into two halves; and the task of uniting the republic fell on the shoulders of this very ordinary-looking commander-in-chief, a man who had suffered a nervous breakdown not too far back.

On 1st January, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, making the abolition of slavery, as well as the preservation of the Union a war aim.

In other words, when the issue of slavery, as important as it was to the economy of the Southern States – when it threatened the corporate existence of the Union, the president, with a pan-American vision, put his presidential foot down!

And the President Lincoln was presidential: he didn’t equivocate, euphemize or perfume the issue. In 1862, he was declared that “slavery is the root of the rebellion!” And he urged the citizens to defend “a new birth of freedom” and to stand up for democracy to the intent that: “the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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LESSONS:
The President of the Republic used his office to unite the country and preserve her corporate existence – no matter the vested interests at stake.

3. Mamoudou Gassama, according to Wikipedia, was born in 1996, and is a Malian-French citizen.
He was born in Mali, but travelled to Europe via Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya, suffering torture and perils on the way. He crossed the Mediterranean and obtained legal residency in Italy. In September 2017, he crossed over to France to join an elder brother.

It was while living in Paris, on fringes of society, that on 26th May, 2018, climbed four stories, on the exterior of a block of flats in the 18th arrondissement of Paris (51 rue Marx-Dormoy) in a record 30 seconds to save a four-year-old boy who was hanging from a balcony.

It would later be known that the boy’s father had left his son unattended and gone shopping!

In aftermath of his heroic act, it is reported that the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called Gassama “Spider-Man of the 18th” – referring to the district where the rescue took place. And on 28th May 2018, President Emmanuel Macron invited him to the Élysée Palace and awarded him the “Médaille d’honneur,” and offered him a job with the fire service. And in September 2018, he was granted French citizenship.

LESSONS: Gassama, elevated human life over and above everything else. He is a muslim, but at that moment, life was life – Muslim, Christian, Animist, Atheist, Hindu, Bhudhist, Voodooist…it didn’t matter to him. He told himself: “Life is sacred. And blood has no tribal marks or religion.”
His humanity speaks to every human being!

We can go on and on. We can mention Charles De Gaulle, we can mention Nelson Mandela and many others who never took the high office, but did many high and noble things.
And why these great souls did noble things, there were small men who dealt them the cards of distraction via treachery, discouragement and betrayal.

That is what Ortom faces today: hordes of traitors, a clan of Judases, accomplished hypocrites and consolidated liars!

But he trudges on, without looking back! Mandela didn’t look back. And he walks a beaten path: Abraham Lincoln did not look back. And neither did Yevgrafovich Petrov nor Martin Möeller.

Benedict Arnold:
I end this piece with the inglorious story of the greatest traitor in American history: Benedict Arnold. He was the general who sold his Homeland for $6000!

Benedict Arnold was born on 14th Jan., 1741, in Norwich, Connecticut. He was in the merchant navy and when the revolutionary war began in 1775, he joined the Continental Army. And through acts of intelligence and bravery, he was promoted to the rank of major-general.

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Greedy for power, recognition and honour, Arnold repeatedly complained that he was being passed in promotion exercises by the Continental Congress.

For a promise of £20,000, Gen. Arnold and a co-traitor, André, agreed to surrender West Point, a major American stronghold, to the British! Gen. George Washington, who mistook him for a patriot, gave him command of the fort in July 1780.

Seeing it as an opportunity to make money and get Honours from the enemy, Arnold quickly opened negotiations with the British to surrender the fort. You may say “Once a trader, always a trader!” His fellow-traitor, André, was captured with the “contract papers” in September 1780 by vigilant Continental forces, and promptly executed!

Arnold, however, escaped to the British side – receiving commission in the Colonial Army!
But wait for this! From a Maj.-General, Arnold was downgraded to a Brigadier! And instead of the handsome £20,000 that was negotiated, the British gave him a paltry £6,000!

Arnold, who only a few months back was fighting for American Independence, started leading British forces to raid and kill his fellow-countrymen in Richmond and other nearby areas. But worse than this, he led the burning down of New London, Connecticut; even slaughtering his countrymen who had surrendered after the Battle of Groton Heights!

Groton Heights, it must be mentioned, was just a few miles from the town where Arnold had grown up as a child! In essence, he helped foreigners from another country and continent to visit death and destruction upon his own people, turning the survivors into hapless Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs)!

But even the British didn’t trust him: A traitor is a slippery character unworthy of trust! And so, in 1782, he and his English wife, Peggy, moved to London, England. Although he was received honourably by King George III and the ruling Tories, this intercontinental traitor was despised by the English nobility and the military establishment.

In 1787, he moved to Canada with two of his sons, Richard and Henry, start a trading business there, but he met with spectacular business failure!

Extremely unpopular there and facing certain bankruptcy, he returned to London permanently in 1791, dying 10 years later.

Lessons:
1. Every Judas who places silver coins over and above blood ties will always commit suicide – be it somatic suicide, political suicide, social suicide, class suicide etc.
2. No one is greater than the community. In some cultures, it is called Tyó Hemba or Or Hembe Tyó ga.
3. A traitor has no honour, net, net: Those whom he betrays give him the respect usually accorded vermin; and those to whom he betrays his people consider him a sub-human creature! (Who will blame them? Which normal human being betrays his people for silver shekels, promotion or recognition?).

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