Okachikwu Dibia

Okachikwu Dibia

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 10:05

Celebrating Elechi Amadi

First of all let me thank the governor of Rivers State for declaring that the Rivers State government will bury the late Captain Elechi Amadi (rtd). He deserves it!

On the day of the burial, the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria, will surely celebrate our beloved and amiable Sir Elechi Amadi: a name known and memorized by every Ikwerre child. The name, Elechi Amadi provokes heavy nationalism in us such that we become proud of been Ikwerre. That is one of the significant achievements of our elder, uncle, father and brother, late Capt. Elechi Amadi. This pride enables us to meet, interact and speak in the midst of other ethnic groups in Nigeria. In Rivers State and indeed Niger Delta where Ikwerre is located, it is a name equivalent to those of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Claude Ake, Obi Wali, the Clarks, Isaac Adaka Boro, Dappa Briye, and Francis Ella. Beyond, his name rings good silent bell when you mention Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi etc. All these are men who stood to represent and project their people in the literary and socio-political consciousness of their environment and even beyond. I vividly remember my former managing director at Compumetrics Solutions Ltd. told me she read and studied The Concubine in her class as an undergraduate in a UK university. This is awesome, uplifting and gratifying in Nigeria where ethnic minorities are seen as people who must be suppressed to extinction. Elechi Amadi will forever remain sacred in the heart of the Ikwerre people.

Another reason for celebrating Elechi Amadi was his immense efforts in the intellectualization of Ikwerre. This was richly captured as fiction in many of his numerous books. He dwelt to explain Ikwerre in social themes like marriage and extra-marital affairs, divinity, wrestling (which he called the chief sport in Ikwerre), libation, slavery, farming, community organization, naming, proverbs etc. As a renowned writer whose ideas and concepts were rooted in Ikwerre cosmology and found in many of his books of immeasurable values, he remains the father of the intellectualization of the Ikwerre people of Nigeria. Ikwerre people are not in a hurry to forget that following him in the early 1970s were "Ikwerre Nbom" and "Otnutnu nonu Ikwerre" books which we briefly studied in Ikwerre in the early 1970s also had a lot of impact on our people just like Elechi Amadi's books.

In about 1993, Sir Elechi was a member of the Ogbakor Ikwerre Research Committee. This was a very powerful committee that produced the most authoritative book on Ikwerre: "Studies in Ikwerre History and Culture" volumes 1 and 2 in 1993 and 2005 respectively. Ogbakor Ikwerre is the global assembly of the Ikwerre people to discuss and deal with issues concerning Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality. He later became the President of Ogbakor Ikwerre in 2002.

There is hardly any modern writer on Ikwerre that did not receive input and/or commendation from Elechi Amadi. I received both on my book titled "The Challenge of Ikwerre Development in Nigeria (2011)". It was the same for Eke and Chuku in "Onomastics (2003)" and Tasie, Alex (2008) in "Ikwerreland: History, Culture and People".

I cannot forget his on-the-spot-approval for the formation of Ikwerre Writers Association (IWA) in 2013 when I called him and inquired whether it would be okay to form such a body to encourage an organized effort at writing down the lives and affairs of Ikwerre in books and other forms for purpose of providing researched information on Ikwerre's yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I cannot forget in one of my interviews with him in 2014, I asked him whether religion is still relevant to humanity given all the atrocities committed by man under the umbrella of religion. His response was: "Very well. It provides stability for the human being". Instantly I considered his response as too simple given the voluminous things people have written and spoken about religion.  In fact I could not understand the meaning of his answer because I was expecting him to tell me that it is for the salvation of humanity and probably expatiate. But later, seeing critically through the answer, I discovered that those concepts used in the Bible to guide human relationships with God and man, were meant really to ensure the stability of man in such relationships and assist in the longevity of man. Those words include: patience, love, humbleness, longsuffering, meek, forgiveness, carefulness, faith, mercy, sympathy etc. Can man be stable psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically if he ignores these virtues of good human relations?  No!

Another reason we must celebrate Elechi Amadi was the fact that he stood to define and defend the existence of Ikwerre as Ikwerre during the late Justice C. Oputa panel's investigations on human rights violation in Nigeria between 1999 and 2002. He made it clear that Ikwerre is not Igbo.

His life of transformation from a trained graduate of Mathematics and Physics to a writer taught me that talents are far greater than skills. God gave him the talent of writing about humanity starting from his people of Ikwerre. But the irrelevant colonial educational system, which Nigeria still adopts as its educational system, admitted him at the University of Ibadan to study Mathematics and Physics. Thank God he was able to discover his literary talent, followed it and achieved a lot with it. Who can predict what would have happened to Ikwerre people if he had lived a Mathematics/Physics teacher throughout his life time? Who would have championed the boldness to bring Ikwerre to the world stage? Ndai Elechi, meka, Chineke gozii nu rewhua Jesus Christ nvu nnewai, amen: our father Elechi, thank you and may God bless you through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

One of the lessons Ikwerre needs to learn from the life of Elechi Amadi is selflessness. It was this virtue that relieved him from stealing public funds despite the many government positions he occupied in life. In him I am satisfied and confident that a clean name is better than a rotten richness.

Another lesson is that Ikwerre needs to learn how to celebrate its own. This was probably why under his presidency of Ogbakor Ikwerre, he organized the Ikwerre Thanksgiving Day in November 2002 at the Elekahia Stadium. During that grand occasion, many Ikwerre sons and daughters were celebrated and enjoined to do better in their various fields of endeavor to the glory of God and Ikwerre. This idea of thanking God for all the good things He had done for Ikwerre is important in the life of a people, so that God will do more for us. This is aptly captured in the Ikwerre proverb which says: wekela nne omume, omehna berere: when you appreciate the good someone had done to you, he/she will do more. God loves to be appreciated and celebrated and probably that is why the Yoruba and the best today in Nigeria.

In celebrating Ikwerre's most accomplished literary icon, Elechi Amadi, I am happy that he was here and he did his best in letting the world know his people of Ikwerre. May God grant him eternal rest in His bosom in Jesus name, amen.

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria.

I read yesterday (Sunday, 8th November 2015) from www.elombah.com that the Nigerian police killed two young Nigerians who were protesting for Biafra in Delta State. It was horrifying to see the pictures of the bullet ridden bodies of the two boys who were wasted by the police. This is arrant nonsense! Looking at the rest of the pictures of the protesting crowds, I saw none of them carrying guns or machetes except green leaves. Simply put, these were innocent Nigerians exercising their right of expression. Why should the police kill them?

Even though no authentic research has been carried out to determine how many innocent Nigerians the police had killed and still killing right now, I am sure the number cannot be less than 1000 Nigerians monthly. Usually the police will claim accidental discharge (as if the guns have no means of control or that the police were not taught how to control and prevent such occurrence), not self defense. The police should know that they have no right, and therefore it is an offense, to kill a Nigerian simply because the person is an accused or a suspect. The work of the police in this regard is simply to charge or bring the person accused of infringing on the laws of Nigeria to the court of law for prosecution.

For reasons best known to the Nigerian police, it has refused to accept that a person is innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction has declared him/her guilty. To the Nigerian police, an accused person is guilty and could be maltreated and/or killed before prosecution. The Nigerian police of the 21st Century must drop this mentality. Indeed this poor understanding has largely contributed to their very poor performance in protecting lives and properties in Nigeria.

Police poor performance in Nigeria is squarely due to their very poor attitude to work; it is not about poor salaries and lack of care for them. Poor attitude is reflected in their collection of N50, N20 or even N10 at check-points. If a driver/person refuses to give this money to them, the Nigerian police will shoot and kill the driver/person. The Nigerian police have robbed Nigerians even when they are wearing police uniforms. When a person is arrested and locked up at the police station, according to Nigerian laws, bail is free and such person should not be in police detention cell beyond 24 hours. The Nigerian police is so corrupt that despite displaying at the police station  "bail is free", they will never release a person without collecting amounts ranging from N2000 to hundreds of thousands of naira before a person is granted bail.  It is on record that many Nigerians sleep in police stations for more than weeks, months and even years without trial. What sort of police is this?  Is this how police works are done across the world?  Yet, the government, fully aware of these atrocities committed by the Nigerian police against Nigerians, have done nothing to stop the police.

People have argued that the Nigerian police are not well taken care of and that is why they force Nigerians to give them money at check points. I disagree. In the first place, checking points have been pronounced abolished by the police authorities, yet their staffs mount checkpoints and collect money from Nigerians at gun point. Why do the police disobey their own operational rules? It cannot be correct to insist that the police are not well taken care of when we know that there is a full-fledged ministry devoted to the police alone; we have a police service commission etc. Are funds not voted to these institutions for the welfare of the police? The salary paid to the Nigerian police is not the worst or lowest in the world. Yet our former President could not believe what he saw at the police college Ikeja when he visited there about two years ago.

It appears the Nigerian police are so ill-mannered that they lack the capacity to manage even the little things provided for them. Take a look at police barracks and residential places across Nigeria and compare such places with those of other security agents. Despite the quality of the houses, police quarters are always smelling, dirty and unkept. The Nigerian police is among organizations with the worst looking cars and vehicles in Nigeria; but a closer look at such cars and vehicles reveals that these are very brand new models that are simply ill-maintained.

Lest we forget, it was the Nigerian police that aggravated the Boko Haram issue in Nigeria when they shot and killed Yusuf and later went on to carry out mass killing of his members who were arrested in 2009. Today, it is the Nigerian military that is facing the brunt; while the real trouble aggravators (police) are cooling off outside. Why are they not at the warfront fighting Boko Haram?

May I suggest to the Federal Government of Nigeria to review the existence of the Nigerian police in view of the presence of the civil defense, road safety service, EFCC, ICPC, the military and all other various security and behavior guiding agencies of the government. Secondly, all members of the police who joined the force with qualifications less than degree, should be discharged from the force immediately and replaced with our teaming graduates who do not have jobs and may be more humane to do police jobs than the current crop of officers who do not even understand the work of the police.

President Buhari should immediately put machinery in place to check and stop the Nigerian police from their atrocities especially the unwarranted killing of innocent Nigerians exercising their right of expression on issues dear to them (killing agitators emboldens them to agitate more and more, be ready to die and may resort to violence if care is not taken). If this continues unchecked, Nigerians may rise up against the police. We need a detribalized, objective, effective and efficient federal police who must have absolute respect for lives in Nigeria. This should be part of the change Nigerians want to see and enjoy in the second Buhari's government.

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja

Tuesday, 03 November 2015 00:55

Amaechi Could Be Minister, But…

Last Sunday being 18th October 2015, on our way to the church, a fierce argument erupted between my younger cousin and I regarding the nomination of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nigeria for a ministerial position. His argument was that President Mohammadu Buhari should not have nominated Amaechi for ministerial position given the government's anti-corruption stance and the corruption allegations against Amaechi; mine was that nominating or in fact appointing Amaechi a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not exonerate Amaechi from defending himself anywhere in the World on allegations of corrupt practices leveled against him while serving as the governor of Rivers State. Moreover, Presdent Buhari would have erred on the part of morality if he abandons Amaechi who worked so hard for Buhari's election success as President of Nigeria.

We recall that Amaechi was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but later decamped to the All Progressives Party (APC) which was an amalgam of over five political parties. As the then Rivers State governor, he supported the APC during the last elections that saw the emergence of President Mohammadu Buhari as the winner of the Presidential Election held on 28th March 2015. In fact Amaechi was the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Organisation for President Mohammadu Buhari. And the President won!

One of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is that the President must appoint at least one minister from each of the states of the federation. Amaechi is from Rivers State, a state currently under the leadership of the rival PDP. Notwithstanding the corruption allegations against Amaechi, the President nominated him to become a minister and his name was among the first names sent to the Senate for confirmation. Though I am not a fan of Amaechi, but I consider his nomination as sufficiently proper both as per the quota for Rivers State and to compensate him for a job well done for his new political party APC.

One of the conditions of the Senate to confirm a nominee is that the nomination must be supported by at least two of the three senators from each state. This requirement appears a little apolitical and unreasonable. Can a minister be successfully appointed from a state where all three senators are from the other rival political party to the nominee's party? One of the Senators representing the people of Rivers State, Senator George Sekibo, petitioned the Senate complaining that the people of Rivers State are not in support of Amaechi's nomination chiefly because of the allegation of about N70 billion missing from the funds of the State under Amaechi's regime in Rivers State. We are also aware that Amaechi refused to appear before a panel set up by the state to investigate this and other issues against his government in the state; and also that Amaechi is in court against Rivers State. The Senate referred the petition to its committee on Ethics and Privileges which for the third time could not produce a decision on Amaechi since last week. This has frustrated the Senate from confirming him.

The news we hear from the Senate is that Senators are doing everything possible to clear Amaechi and confirm his nomination. This interrogates the essence of the entire confirmation exercise by the Senate. Does the Senate have any authority to investigate and exonerate Amaechi from the accusations leveled against him? The answer is simply no; because the Senate does not have any power of adjudication in such matters. It is the courts that can do so. Secondly, in the process of confirming a nominee, the Senate would like to confirm the state of origin of the nominee and whether the nominee had paid his/her tax up to date. Reasonableness requires that the President should have checked all these basic requirements before nominating Amaechi and indeed any other nominee. As per appropriate work experience, the Presidency should have also ensured that the nominee is qualified and has deep understanding of the sector or portfolio where he/she would be assigned. This reminds me of the Presidential error of not indicating the ministry a nominee would be deployed at least to properly guide the Senators on interviewing the nominees. It is also a mockery of the confirmation process to, for whatever reasons, allow a nominee to "bow and go" without questions bothering on his/her qualification and competence to become a minister. In all, I do not see any serious work done by the Senate in assisting the President determine whether or not a nominee is competent of being appointed a minister. Well, if it is to make assurance double sure, it is okay.

Fundamentally, was Buhari right to have nominated Amaechi for a ministerial position? My answer is yes. Amaechi deserves to be nominated because he worked hard for the successful election of President Buhari and also to fill Rivers State quota. Moreover Amaechi has not been found guilty by any court to warrant being disqualified; all we hear are rumours, "k-legs" (according to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who judged Amaechi in about 2006 based on allegations), allegations and accusations; these are not facts. Yet Amaechi should not in any way be exempted from defending himself before the court on these allegations against him. If found guilty (while serving as a minister), he should be moved from the ministry to the prison. As a corollary, his nomination has popularized the allegations, energized the plans to prosecute him and as such, thanks to President Buhari for nominating him. If Amaechi is not found guilty, it will strengthen his political carrier. It will also make-strong President Buhari's crusade against corruption, showing the smartness and ingenuity of Buhari to tame corruption in Nigeria.

May I suggest also that the check for corrupt practices by public office appointees be extended to all public officers before they come into office: councilors, local government chairmen, governors, deputy governors, state house of assembly members, national assembly members (Senate and House of Representatives), president and vice president. It is a disservice to public morality to see public officers who may be richly guilty of corruption interviewing would-be public officers on allegations of corruption. Are we saying that all the Senators are corruption-free and therefore have moral justification to interrogate Amaechi on corruption allegations?

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria.

About two decades now, I have been engrossed in finding the reasons and facts to fault my conviction that Nigeria does not have the requisite level of discipline that matches her development potentialities and aspirations. In other words, Nigeria's level of discipline cannot carry and sustain the level of development she can attain and of which the entire African continent and indeed the World look forward to. Some may consider me to be a lazy thinker by asking: "What has discipline got to do with development? Why should it take him about twenty years to fathom what the reasons and facts are that supports this thinking?" But in this thinking profession, it is not done until it is done. Also in this profession, this type of laziness is not a crime.

To grasp the thinking flow here, it will be appropriate to provide my understanding of the two key words in the writing: development and discipline and see how they could be put together for a better understanding of the article.

What is development? What is discipline? How exactly do they relate to each other in the development of society? From my understanding of society development, it could mean the ability of a people to consistently move-up who they are and what they have thereby achieving a sustained well-being of their lives. Development is about who you are and what you have and your ability to combine these factors such that a progressive standard of living is achieved at all times. So the key issues in society development are people, resources, capacity and well-being. Indeed the ultimate focus of development is the well-being of people and that was why late Professor Claude Ake said that development must come from within (the people), not without. Therefore any development that comes from outside the capacity of the people cannot qualify as development. Every developed society have their people, their resources and their capacity to combine all these in such a way that they produce their goods and services that meet their level of needs and sustain their well-being. Developed people are highly organized, they have high respect for the rule of law, they have high respect for their history and they protect common values and goods. They design, create, build and maintain their infrastructure and systems. An example of a developed people is the Peoples Republic of China.

With respect to discipline, two exposures informed my understanding of what discipline is. In 1984, Nigeria experienced a programme called War Against Indiscipline (WAI) introduced by the then military government of General Mohammadu Buhari (GMB), now transmuted to President Mohammadu Buhari (PMB).  Among others, it required of us to be orderly in our daily public conducts. That was how I learnt to queue in public places like banks, post offices, students' cafeteria and indeed all other places where many people are expected to access some public services. Even in private places we began to adopt first come first served and we began to learn how to prioritize our choices both as individuals and as families.  With that era, I discovered that discipline helps to remain organized, obey the laws, create and sustain common goods etc. Also, I will never forget an article written in about 1996 by Prof. Tam David-West (my distant mentor) and published in The Guardian. It was about indiscipline and he enumerated acts of indiscipline to include placing or dropping of things indiscriminately in one's room. Since that day, I became very conscious how I place/drop things in my room and that led me to have my room always well-arranged and neat. From these basic examples, one can say that discipline means doing things in the right way/manner or doing what is right such that what is done accords with your conscience and must be in consonance with secular laws of the land. It means being in order or acting in generally accepted ways that will not corrupt the society.

Such behaviors yield both private and social goods. As a Christian, discipline involves being Christ-like and obeying your conscience at all times. The Peoples Republic of China is a good example of a disciplined society. In China, if you act against the law, even if you were a past president of the country, the law must take its course. The law is not a respecta of persons. Discipline sustains institutions, while indiscipline destroys institutions.

Lack of discipline or indiscipline can be seen in all acts like stealing of public and private funds, abuse of tribalism, refusal to carry out works based on the ethics of those works, giving undue preferences to people of your tribe (as practiced in Nigeria by the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba), disrespect for elders and the laws of the land, homosexuality, wearing bedroom cloths in the public, over dressing, giving and/or taking of bribe to do one's job for which one is paid, sexual harassment, despoliation of the environment via pollution, urinating along the road, switching on of electric generation sets that disturbs the serenity of the neighbourhood, neglecting the minorities in Nigeria in having access to Federal offices and opportunities, speaking unofficial languages in the office to cheat others, etc. It means not being in order or acting in such a manner that is generally not acceptable. Such acts are very capable of ruining the society because it negates all efforts to ensure productivity, it destroys the values and common goods of the society. It is the parent and master-mind of disorderliness. It destroys goodness and enthrones whatever that is bad, ugly and generally unacceptable. It breeds unguarded behaviours like threatening to throw human beings into the lagoon without any moral justification, hiding under religious fundamentalism or resource control to kill, rape and kidnap people in order to be given amnesty and have access to the national wealth. As a bishop or imam, it is indiscipline not to see and speak truth to political leadership because you want to have access to the wealth of the state. Lack of discipline welcomes the unproductive rich and hates with great scorn the productive poor etc. Nigeria is a good example of a society ruined by indiscipline.

So, what is the relationship between development and discipline?

From Mathematics we know that when there exists a linear relationship between two variables, any change in one affects the other. For example, we were taught in basic Economics that the higher the price of commodity X, the higher the amount of commodity X supplied to the market and conversely. So if the price of commodity X rises by 10%, it will lead to a corresponding increase in the quantity of commodity X supplied to the market and vice versa. The implicit factors that enable the suppliers respond to the price increase are the strong desire in them to maximize profit and more importantly the supplier must have the capacity to produce and supply that incremental quantity, otherwise this principle fails. So it is with our instant case between society development and discipline. When the level of discipline is high in any given society, this thinking believes that it will lead to high level of development in that society. Example is the level of discipline that exists in most advanced World; remove discipline, they crumble. In other words, when discipline falls, development falls; when discipline rises, development rises (all things being equal). This linear relationship between development and discipline is crucially critical for understanding the reasons behind unprogressiveness suffered by most undeveloped societies of the World.

Yet in these undeveloped societies, people remain very anxious and expectant for development. Their argument is that they have all it takes to become developed. They have people, resources, some level of capacity, infrastructure and systems; yet they are not developed. Some high grammar speaking intellectuals in such societies even go as far as suggesting strong

institutions as panacea; they forget that institutions that are administered by indisciplined minds cannot succeed in rendering services for which it was established.  Discipline is the engine room that makes an institution function efficiently and effectively and succeed. No discipline, no institution and no development.

In Nigeria most of our big boys think discipline is not an issue and they always overlook it. I disagree. Lack of discipline killed Operation Feed the Nation (1976-1979), Green Revolution (1980-1983), WAI (1984-1985), MAMSER/DFRRI and Structural Adjustment Programme (1986-1993), Visions 2000, 2010 and 2020(1996-2010), NEEDS, SEEDS and MDGs (1999-2015). Lack of discipline killed NITEL/MTEL, NEPA/PHCN, NNPC and the Refineries, etc. Who can estimate the amount of money Nigeria spent and lost on these programmes and institutions? Only God knows! Yet they all failed. Why did they fail? Some people will simply answer: bad management and corruption. But they will not go further to ask: why were the managers of these efforts corrupt? They were corrupt because they lack discipline. With discipline, even without huge resources, you can record recognizable development. That is why in the World today, Ghana, Botswana, Cuba etc are being appreciated. So the level of development of a country has not much to do with resources which are given, but more to do with the level of discipline deployed in the management of the available resources.

It is discipline that can effectively organize the people and their resources using available capacity into a sustained flow of economic, social and political progress. In fact discipline is a factor of production because without it, no nation can develop. That is why I totally disagree with Acemoglu and Robinson in their book "Why Nations Fail". They were of the strong view that the key difference between the developed countries (USA) and undeveloped countries (Mexico) is the lack of strong institutions in the latter. Our dear Prof. Pat Utomi is also of the same view. I disagree with them because in every human society, there must be institutions and systems created to administer society's resources etc. But systems, institutions and their laws need human beings to function; recall that man is the most important agent of development. Discipline helps man to ensure that the systems, institutions and laws work. If man is compromised or lacks discipline, the systems, institutions and laws fail. The United Nations and indeed any developed country cannot function effectively if their leaders and administrators lack discipline. Therefore, in today's undeveloped World, discipline is the issue in human development.

In Nigeria, we have an opportunity now to begin the search for discipline in the country's development and that was the key factor which led to the election victory that transmuted GMB to PMB. PMB should keenly begin to dust-up the WAI files and thoughts so that Nigeria can have the discipline she needs to carry on her development efforts. Nigeria first and foremost needs to match or bring into equilibrium her level of discipline with the development she desires. As at today, Nigeria does not have the discipline to carry the development she deserves. Without requisite discipline, Nigeria's development cannot be achieved. No discipline, no change!

Okachikwu Dibia

Saturday, 09 May 2015 23:52

Again, Buhari Goes to School

"Buhari buharile owa imanu ele army chanjile nu Shagari ladule… change, Change ’83. Queue up, order, be disciplined"

These were the words of a very popular and talented Ikwerre Eri Uvor musician late James Avunonu Wizor, alias Jimmy Conter, Eze Agala 1 of Ikwerre in his song titled "Change ‘83" released in 1984. A simple translation of the above quotation is:

"Buhari has upturned the World, the army has sent Shehu Shagari’s government home and change has come in 1983. That change involved orderliness and discipline in Nigeria".

This song succinctly summarized General Mohammadu Buhari’s first coming as the political leader of Nigeria in 1983 through a military coup. I am sure that if Jimmy was alive today, he would have composed another song for the second coming of Buhari through a democratic means that sacked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government on 28th March, 2015. The first Buhari’s change was anchored on the ideology of discipline due to the monumental corruption that took place in the Second Republic. His second change is yet to be galvanized into an ideology. Meanwhile, we the ordinary folks are writing to suggest what should be the ingredients of Buhari’s second change.

Many have opined that the second change should be anchored on his election promises. Therefore he must deal decisively with corruption, insecurity and provision of development infrastructure. Nigerians strongly desire that he should deal with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) including the issues of the refineries; fuel scarcity, price, subsidy and importation. The problem of fuel subsidy has become a steady disgrace and embarrassment to Nigeria.

Furthermore, Nigerians have reminded him to bring back his "War Against Indiscipline" (WAI) and that is why many are insisting that NNPC should be probed to determine how $20 billion got missing from its account as alleged by the former CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano. In fact, Nigerians are asking Buhari to do so many things within a short period because they have become thoroughly impatient with their misery largely due to bad political leadership. But Buhari, having recognized this mounting impatience, has said that his change was not going to be miraculous.

Besides what Nigerians want Buhari to do for them, there are other serious things he must do for himself first if he must succeed as Nigeria’s civilian president. First, there is a fundamental need for him to consciously re-examine and understand deeply his personality. Second, he needs to understand and know how to deal with the presidential template and paraphernalia.

On Buhari’s personality, he is like gold in the political firmament of Nigeria. But this gold is so raw and must pass through the crucibles of the furnace fire to bring out its finesse. In some way that was what Tinubu, Fayemi, etc did to him: to rebrand or refurbish him. That rebranding is not done yet, Buhari himself needs to re-examine himself more closely and compare who he was under the ANPP/CPC era and now under APC. This is his first school of change.

The second school is how Buhari will handle some socio-political issue-sentiments that invisibly rule the Office of the President. They are unwritten sensitive rules that must be handled with great care, morality and principles, otherwise they can easily cause the failure of government. For example, should government continue to fund religious pilgrimage? Should the lazy party/tribal "big boys" continue to have their dubious contracts and political patronages to avoid wrecking the ship of government? How would Buhari handle the excesses of the National Assembly? Should government have a say in the prices of goods and services, especially cost of land, rent, fuel, vehicles etc? How will Buhari handle sycophancy even in his cabinet? In fact, must things continue to be done as usual? These are some of the issues in the template and they can easily make or mar the presidency if not well handled.

We recall that Buhari has never been trained to be a civilian political leader; he was a military officer trained to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria. But now he wants to lead and not to rule. It was because of this seeming vacuum that I wrote my first article in 2012 titled: Buhari Goes to School (see www.gamji.com) and this was after he lost the presidential election under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011. I made the point that "… Buhari should rather not contest for the presidential election in 2015 but should proceed immediately to study Political Science (the science of state leadership) in any good university so that in the next eight years he would have been well grounded and enriched in the ideals of civil political leadership". This was expected to assist in discovering and refining him and his political beliefs and how to achieve them as a very passionate patriotic Nigerian that he is.

In today’s article titled: "Again, Buhari Goes to School", I want to insist that for Buhari to succeed as a civilian president of Nigeria, he needs to do a deep introspection of himself. This self study is quintessentially critical to enable him re-align his personal forces with the exogenous political, social and economic forces that invisibly rule presidential behavior in Nigeria. In Nigeria’s past, the handling of the template had actually made or marred political regimes. For example, it was the misreading of the template that made the Azikiwe-Balewa government to brutally suppress Western Nigeria and allowed the "ten percenters" have their way. This culminated in the military coup of 15th January 1966.

The presidential template and its paraphernalia did not allow Shagari to work as Shagari and this triggered the December 1983 coup that "Buharied" him out of office. Under the influence of the template, Babangida arrogantly annulled the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and stepped aside. The second coming of Gen. Obasanjo in 1999 took the template for granted and this led him to mischievously scheme for the ill-fated Third Term Agenda. Time saved him; else he would have been disgraced out of office. It was the template that made late President Umaru Yar’Adua to feel he was stronger than Mike Tyson. I do not think that President Goodluck Jonathan understood the forces of the template when he undermined the zoning ideology of the Peoples Democratic Party (and I did warn Mr. President then in August 2010 in my article titled: "Zoning, Don’t Kill Jonathan"- see www.vanguardngr.com and www.saharareporters.com) The other two factors in the template that nailed the PDP in 2015 include the underestimation of Boko Haram and corruption.

Buhari is an inestimable gold God has given to Nigeria for political leadership. To succeed, in the midst of the wide-yawning gap for good civil political leadership in Nigeria, he should go back to self school to study himself very well, study the presidential template and its paraphernalia and adjust himself objectively to the needful. This is a prerequisite for successfully dealing with corruption, insecurity and infrastructure gaps.

 

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja.

Since the Clifford Constitution of 1922 introduced the elective principle in Nigeria's politics, political parties and especially the Nigerian police have been expected to guarantee peaceful and successful general elections in the country. Given the volatile nature of Nigerian politics, the police was always expected to play significant roles in ensuring the success of elections. I have read about Nigerian elections before the Second Republic and have witnessed her elections since 1979. The Nigerian police have always failed through blatant compromises that inhibit successful conduct of elections. I recall as an agent of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) during the 1979 elections, it was in the presence of the police that the agents and supporters of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) carried away election boxes and voting papers to the houses of some big NPN stewards in Emohua (my home town); while the rest of us reported the matter to the appropriate government authorities. Yet nothing happened.  This has continued even in larger magnitude claiming more lives and properties.

Lest we forget, it was the failure of the Nigerian police to maintain law and order and protect lives and properties that led to the establishment of national organizations like the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in 1988, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in1967 through to the enactment of its Act in 2003 that saw to its present enlarged and enhanced status, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2000, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2004 etc. At the state level, similar organizations have been established also.

Many have argued that the Nigerian police, with close to 400,000 personnel, could not perform its mandate largely due to poor conditions of service, poor quality of facilities provided to them as well as the uncooperative attitude of the public towards the police. But besides the office of the Inspector-General of Police which manages the force on daily basis and the fact that the police enjoy the service conditions applicable to federal public servants, there is the Police Service Commission (PSC) established under the PSC Act 2001 (this commission has been in existence since 1960) to take care of Police Policy Administration and Logistics. To still facilitate better management of the affairs of the police, government created the Ministry of Police Affairs in 2003, though this has been merged with the Ministry of the Interior. I do still wonder what else the Nigerian police need to do its job efficiently and effectively in Nigeria, especially during elections.

As we speak, the police enjoy all the salaries and allowances applicable to public offices in Nigeria and have the best and newest brand of vehicles you can find anywhere in Nigeria. In every ten (10) police man you see, nearly over 80% of them carry the maxim. The Nigerian police have over five sets/types of uniform and camouflage. Nigerian police has training colleges spread across the country; it is poor management of these facilities that account for the decay in them. I think what may be wrong with the Nigerian police is the orientation they have about their welfare and the public: on their welfare, they strongly (in error though) believe that the force is poorly remunerated and therefore must take care of itself, hence they can and are always ready to kill a citizen for not giving them N20 while on duty ( that was why Lagosians called them N20 police way back in 2002); and on the public, the Nigerian police sees them as bad and already guilty folks, hence the police treats citizens as enemies. This is why most Nigerians will like to avoid the police as much as possible and this leads to what the police calls uncooperative attitude towards the police. How and why would you want to relate with a police that sees you as an enemy?

These orientations are very wrong. The police needs serious re-orientation to accept the truism that it must do its work no matter its remuneration and that citizens are not its enemies. Thank God for the new President-Elect who believes in discipline, the police force should be one of his first institutions to deal with.

Back to the public elections, some of the complains about the last presidential and national assembly elections in Nigeria were the late arrival of INEC officials and materials, hijack and disappearance of election materials by hungry political party cultists and supporters, malfunctioning of the voters card reading machines, non-availability of sensitive election documents like the result sheet and fighting at the pooling units and collation centres. The most critical of them (in some parts of Nigeria and especially in Rivers State) were the hijack of election materials, non-availability of result sheets and fighting among hungry party cultists and supporters at pooling units and collation centres.

Recall the widely reported case of Governor Amaechi of Rivers State not voting in his pooling unit in Ikwerre Local Government Area because of the absence of result sheets (it was claimed that photocopies of the result sheets were made available at his pooling unit; while in some units, result sheets were not available at all). In Oduoha, one of the villages in my home town Emohua in Emohua Local Government Area Rivers State, the people were duly accredited and they all voted to the last man. At the end, there was a disagreement among the party agents, election officers and other party supporters to the extent that the ballot boxes and papers and other relevant documents were thoroughly destroyed and scattered on the ground throughout all the pooling units. No single vote was counted, thus the entire exercise by the community was wasted. In my own village Rumuakunde, no voting took place at all because immediately after accreditation, party cultists and supporters started intensive non-stop gun shooting that dispersed all election officials and party agents. These enemies of Emohua carried away all the election materials to undisclosed places for thumb-printing. Yet such ballot papers' figures found their ways into the figures collated and passed on to INEC.

So where were the police when all these things happened? How did the police protect the election materials and officials? Did the police issue any statement regarding these issues? These probably could be the same situation in most pooling units in Rivers State and that was the reason some people alleged that election did not take place in Rivers State.

How can Nigeria forestall such unacceptable occurrences in future elections in the country? First and foremost, we need to deal with the huge failure of the police in performing its duties. While the Nigerian police go for re-training and re-orientation, the Nigerian airforce and army should be involved in elections in Nigeria. Their involvement should be restricted as follows: the airforce should ensure that election materials get to the pooling units in the right time and place as well as returning them after voting up to INEC headquarters where they were collected at the beginning. The army should be stationed in all the units and centres where voting or collation was done respectively. Nigeria does not need the police even close to any pooling unit or centre because they can easily facilitate the corruption of the election process at any time and place. In the future, those we want to see at the poling units and collation centres are the election officials, party agents, voters, army and airforce. NO POLICE PLEASE (NPP)!

With the presence of the army in every pooling unit and collation centre and the airforce in-charge of the logistics and management of election materials, election materials will not disappear or be unavailable. The materials will also arrive at the right time and place. The presence of the army will discourage political cultists and supporters from shooting their way to election units and collation centres to hijack election materials and easily return them as documents used during the elections. The presence of the army will also discourage quarrels among party agents, election officers and other party supporters. Any officer or party agent who misbehaves to cause trouble either at the pooling units or collation centres should be arrested by the army.

This way, election officials and materials will be protected, votes will count and be protected and Nigerians can begin to have unblemished confidence in her electoral process. Thus, figures provided by future Jegas will be trusted and the presence of future Orubebes will be reduced.

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja

Thursday, 04 September 2014 17:10

Okey Ndibe Versus Matthew Hassan Kukah

I used to think that some top persons in society do not suffer from two things that easily afflict the materially poor: anger and misunderstanding. Such well placed persons, I thought, especially those in the business of leading others to God, have mastered the art of living a life without anger and that they know a lot more than others. You may be tempted to support these propositions of mine when you look at the faces of prominent men of God in Nigeria: they always appear calm and undisturbed, indicating to me supposedly that all is well with them.

But thanks to Okey Ndibe whose article: “Something really, really dangerous” published on page 60 of Dailysun, July 8, 2014, provoked Bishop Matthew Kukah’s fury. On this issue I have read Ndibe’s original article, Kukah’s attack via a paper he delivered at Wole Soyinka at 80 ceremony in Lagos, Ndibe’s response to Kukah, Jideofor Adibe’s intervention as well as Peter Adeyem’s professional defense of his fellow Catholic clergy.

What was the bone of contention between Ndibe and Kukah? In his original article, Ndibe said: “Israeli authorities spared no resource to find three missing abducted school children. When their remains were discovered, apparent victims of murder, the Israeli government stepped up reprisals against their suspected killers. Israel reminds us of how a nation-state behaves when any of its citizens is killed or even put in harm’s way”.

Comparing this with what is happening to his own people in Nigeria, Ndibe said: “…Nigerians had been reduced to the level of animals, their death at the hands of vile, callous terrorists, eliciting little outrage and no reaction…that the killing of a Nigerian hardly carries more weight than the killing of a chicken… the Nigerian has been so dehumanized, so terribly debased, s/he invites comparison to an ant…the death of an ant is often invisible because ants are …too small to be noticed.” He went further to say that “The sense of dying unremarked… has become the lot of the Nigerian slaughtered in massive numbers, every single day, so that the victim’s lives no longer count…”

Ndibe concluded that “A nation must have citizens to make sense at all. Nigeria has humans scaled down to ants…” and to correct this dangerous situation, “The first most urgent order of business in Nigeria is to recreate its people into dignified humans.” Emphasis mine.

But Bishop Matthew H.  Kukah strongly disagreed, not in content but in approach. Kukah said: “ Nigerians love to criticize their country…I am even more amused by the criticisms of some of our brethren in the Diaspora…” For example, he said, “…Okey Ndibe literally overreaches himself and engages in … verbal overkill in his Naija pessimism. He says he regrets writing and calling Nigerians chickens. Now he realizes that chickens are better off than Nigerians. Rather, he says Nigeria has become the federal republic of ants… This is most pathetic, despicable and grotesque to say the least. Can anyone in all honesty call a nation of 170 million people… a nation of ants? Indeed…there is hardly any other African that can write this rubbish about their own country…” He went further to ask: “Do ants win Nobel Prizes?...” Kukah concluded by saying that his dilemma was “how to recreate our new narrative.” Emphasis mine.

In summary, while Ndibe cried against the neglect visited on Nigerians via free killings by insurgents and the obvious lack of concern for the killings comparable to the death of ants, Kukah was angry that Ndibe reduced Nigerians to the level of ants.

Even though Ndibe had replied Kukah (see “Bishop Kuka’s grave misreading” on page 62 of Dailysun, July 22nd, 2014), I have a right as a Nigerian to express my view on the issues.  The issues are deconstructed into the following questions:

Did Ndibe say that Nigerians are ants?

Are Nigerians actually dying and forgotten like ants?

Was Ndibe wrong for presenting the free and guaranteed killing of Nigerians in a condescending manner?

Was Kukah right for picking Ndibe as a scape goat on an offence committed by Nigerian writers in the Diaspora?

Why was Kukah not able to understand the metaphorical use of the word “ants” for dead and ignored Nigerians?

What does Kukah want to achieve by saying that the Diaspora write the way they do about Nigeria because they live abroad? Was Kukah jealous?

Is Kukah saying that Nigerian writers who live in Nigeria do not write so critically about Nigeria?

What has been Kukah’s solutions to the issues of terrorism and militancy in Nigeria, other than seeing them as mere challenges and difficulties facing the Nigerian project?

I will attempt to answer these questions in the order they were asked.

Did Ndibe say that Nigerians are ants? My simple answer is no. He only likened the way Nigerians are been freely killed and forgotten to the way ants also die and no one remembers or talks about their deaths. Ants were metaphorically used here to drive the strong message that treating Nigerians this way was totally unacceptable. It’s like if someone says: Hassan Kukah is like Zamani Lekwot. This surely does not mean that Kukah is Lekwot. Never! So it was very wrong for Bishop M. H. Kukah to say that Ndibe said Nigerians are ants.

Are Nigerians actually dying and forgotten like ants? Yes.  Truth is that Nigerians are so freely violently killed and nothing happens about their death. That is why the Nigerian police would kill Nigerians and nothing happens about the dead and to the killer. Such free, unaccounted and forgotten killings have been the case in Nigeria. Going down the memory lane we remember “operation wetie” 1965 when over 1000 Nigerians were killed; several Kano riots that consumed 942 lives; Isaac Adaka Boro uprising in February 1966 when over 100 were killed; Tiv riots of 1960 and 1964 that killed over 2020 Nigerians (see Ethnic Violence in Nigeria by Okwudiba Nnoli 2003); Maitatsine riots of 1980 that consumed over 5000 lives( see en.wikipedia.org); Jos killings since 1999 claimed over 500 lives; Ogoni Liberation struggle in 1990-1995 consumed over 2000 Nigerians(see Amnesty International report in en.wikipedia.org); police versus OPC in Lagos in 2003 claimed over 75 lives; Niger Delta militants killings claimed over 2000 lives; police shot and killed over 50 Nigerian youths in 2009 suspected to be Boko Haram members and now Boko Haram has been killing an average of (10) Nigerians daily from February 2014 to August claiming 2120 lives( my estimate based on newspaper reports). This gives a total of about 15,807 Nigerians killed without trace and they are gone, just like that. This is a proof that Nigerians are daily killed without due concern; unlike Israel where only three children died and Israel is bombarding Gaza.

In Northeastern Nigeria today and for the past six months, Nigerians are arrested in good numbers, packed into some awaiting vehicles and taken to deadly camps in the forest. In twos or threes, they are taken out daily for rape or slaughter. Those so killed, do we know them? How many exactly are they? Do we burry them as humans? Is anybody crying because they were so slaughtered? Can anybody remember them? Where are their parents, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, children, relatives etc? A refugee-turned –taxi-driver in Abuja told me that his village is no more and that over 80% of the youths have been conscripted into insurgency and terrorism from over 100 village-communities? Where are these youths now? Who knows and who cares to know? What exactly is happening to them? Are they all alive? If they are dead, how do we know? Obviously all these deaths are gone and forgotten like ants.

Was Ndibe wrong for presenting the free and guaranteed killing of Nigerians in a condescending manner? Ndibe is a writer like Wole Soyinka who does his trade based on what he sees and reads and therefore puts the issues the way they are. Most times because of writers’ love for society, they paint a grim picture to attract more and urgent leadership interest and attention to resolving the matter. This certainly does not mean they hate the people or their leadership. No! Again it has been proven many times that Third World leadership listen more to harsh words than subtle economic words. Harsh words are used in demonstrations, riots and violence against leadership; while subtle economic words are used during dialogue and by pro-leadership writers. Substantially, are the killings in Nigeria horrible and ignored? Does the death of Nigerians caused by these blood thirsty terrorists mean anything to anybody? Who really cares? All the big generals with overflowing ranks and fat salaries and jeep cars living in well furnished government houses are simply sleeping on their jobs. That was why Niger Delta militants defeated them in the creeks and now again terrorists are defeating them in the desert. The Nigerian police are even happy to kill Nigerians under very flimsy excuses and dump their bodies in undiscoverable graves. The situation is indeed far more condescending than Ndibe wrote. The generals in the military and the police attach no meaning to the death of Nigerians and that is why none of them is bothered the way Nigerians are killed and ignored daily. Do the generals and police want the President to carry guns himself? The truth is that the Nigerian military and the police are certainly not doing their job. For example, Cameron had just bombarded Boko Haram’s tents near the border, but since this group had been killing Nigerians, not even a single bomb had been dropped in their camp, at least to scare them away. Nothing!  That is why we watch the condescending situation worsen daily. What is condescending is the horrible Nigerian situation, not the Diaspora pessimism.

Was Kukah write to have singled out Ndibe as scape-goat for a sin committed by the Diaspora? Again Kukah should not have done this. Reasonableness and maturity demand that mentioning of name was not necessary and indeed it distracts from the derivable credit Kukah would have earned in his argument. That would surely be embarrassing to Okey Ndibe.

Why was Kukah not able to understand the metaphorical use of the word “ants” for dead ignored Nigerians? Because he was bitter and angry with Ndibe; in bitterness and anger, reasonableness flies out of the mind and mistakes take over. But given the person of Kukah, he should have been able to tame and conquer anger. This is probably a proof that no man is above been angry or better still, mistakes. Who else do we look up to when ordinary people like us get angry? God!

What does Kukah want to achieve by saying that the Diaspora write the way they do about Nigeria because they live abroad? Was Kukah jealous? This dichotomy was not necessary because they write expressing disappointment with what is happening at home compared with what happens where they reside. Talking down is normal because what they are talking about is down already; not up. Call black, black. Yes they may be too pessimistic, but that is the spirit that ignites change: the spirit of dissatisfaction. Was Kukah jealous? May be not, after all he can easily afford to live there! But saying that they write the way they do because they live there does not jell; it ordinarily makes one feel Kukah was jealous.

Is Kukah saying that Nigerian writers who live in Nigeria do not write like those in the Dispora? I do not think this is true because you can find all shades if writers from those residing in the country.

What has been Kukah’s solution-template to the issues of terrorism and militancy in Nigeria, other than seeing them as merely challenges and difficulties facing the Nigerian project? Going through Kukah’s paper at the Wole Soyinka’s ceremony, I was disappointed the he was silent on Nigeria’s most critical challenge as at today. Peter Adeyemi’s rationalization of this( see Dailysun, page 63 of 29th July 2014) was so lame that it actually does not befit Kukah. As a clergy, leadership would surely appreciate good suggestions from Kukah at that forum, just like Wole Soyinka use to do. A good Christian leader should not keep quiet watching his society being destroyed by terror. Desmond Tutu did not keep quiet, hence ANC is not pleased with him (according to Kukah); that is what we expect to happen when a well meaning Christian leader talks truth to leadership. How many Nigerian Christian leaders suffer what Tutu is suffering in South Africa? Nigeria needs bold and truthful men of God who shall be ready to die for the good of Nigeria; and not those who want to survive by speaking in tongues and not saying truth to leadership. The death of a Nigerian should jolt Kukah and make him feel really concerned. Kukah’s silence on Boko Haram is not acceptable to Nigerians as a leading man of God in the North. That Sokoto is peaceful does not mean that it was because Kukah’s prayers are working wonders in Sokoto. Whatever happens to any church in Northeastern Nigeria should be Kuka’s concern.  Indeed it is high time Kukah should organize Christendom in Nigeria to intervene in the killings in the North by Boko Haram. As a prominent religious leader in Nigeria, Kukah should find a way to recreate the military and police to do their work. The pessimistic writing by the Diaspora is not the problem with Nigeria’s security; it is Boko Haram and non-performing military and police. Why has the death of over 2000 Nigerians by Boko Haram not rattled or jolted the military, police and religious leaders into actions to stop the slaughtering of Nigerians?

How many times have the military and police told obvious lies about what they are doing with Boko Haram? To the extent that wives of military officers were not happy, traditional charm doctors and village hunters were up in arms to fight Boko Haram, foreign military were to assist Nigeria and now Cameroon is fighting Boko Haram on our behalf. Haba! Where are the Nigerian military and police to whom our President had made available all they needed to fight Boko Haram? Subtle economic use of words do not describe the horror taking place in Northeastern Nigeria and the right words and pictures must be spoken and painted to call it what it is: horror. Okey Ndibe has just scratched the issue, in fact Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, as a proof of his being a true man of God, should publicly apologize to Okey Ndibe for the public embarrassment of mentioning Okey’s name in a so-called crime committed by the Diaspora.

Thereafter, both Okey and Matthew would have been recreated to think alike and fight the common enemy with their trade so that this horrible free slaughtering of Nigerians daily is put to an end. This fight should use any means available, provided we succeed; it is not about using status-quo complaint words to describe horror, it is about matching horror with horrible words and actions.

 

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja.

Sunday, 06 July 2014 07:27

Softly, Softly Amaechi

It was in the evening of Sunday, 15th June 2014 that I phoned one of my cousins living in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to make enquiries about what is happening in my state. He laughed and alleged that “Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is killing the Judiciary in the state” and also “frustrating the public coronation of the newly chosen Eze Epara Rebisi XII, HRM Eze Barrister Uche Isaiah-Elikwu as the Paramount Ruler of Port Harcourt”. He went further to ask me: “what exactly is Amaechi benefiting from all the huge monies we hear he spends in All Progressives Congress (APC)”? Finally he asked: “brother, since you are in Abuja, you should know better, has Amaechi won the fight against Jonathan”? At this point I remembered that he is pro-Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); but since then I have been thinking of these issues he raised. That phone discussion lasted over two hours because I had to engage him with questions to elicit explanations and make my own positions known to him.

The four issues my cousin raised are weighty in the present calculations in Rivers State. Let me address them one after the other.

Amaechi versus NJC

The disagreement between Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and the National Judicial Commission (NJC) is a distraction and an underdevelopment of the Rivers State judiciary.

The 1999 Constitution was clear on the roles to be played by each arm of government to ensure checks and balances in the process of appointing either the Acting Chief Judge of the state or the substantive Chief Judge. My interpretation, as a non-lawyer, of the relevant sections of the Constitution is that the governor should appoint whoever NJC recommended to it and the same person should be confirmed by the state’s House of Assembly.  As a Political Scientist, I know that lobby and consultation are important strategies in Politics; Amaechi needs to deploy them in handling this issue to his advantage.

As we speak today, the judiciary in Rivers State has been shot down: no work and every staff is at home. This situation is too horrible and ugly to be allowed in Rivers State. I just wonder where Amaechi would run to in the future to seek justice if the headship of the Supreme Court that made him governor continues to feel slighted in the circumstance. That is why Amaechi needs to tread softly, softly.

Amaechi versus Rebisi Kingdom

Rebisi Kingdom in Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality is one of the most recognized and respected ancient kingdoms in Rivers State. Rebisi is the seat of Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s Garden City and Africa’s premier Oil City. Rebisi Kingdom is, in the core, made up of Elekahia, Oroabali, Orogbum, Oroworukwo, Oroada, Orochiri and Oromeruezimgbu communities ( which in turn have Diobu and Port Harcourt). The Eze Epara stool is the traditional ruler of Rebisi Kingdom and the Paramount Ruler of Port Harcourt. It has been vacant since the death of the last Eze, Chief S. N. Woluchem, despite the fact that the Rebisi kingmakers have long unanimously selected Barrister Uche Isaiah-Elikwu as the next Eze Epara Rebisi and the Paramount Ruler of Port Harcourt.

Chief Victor Wuluchem went against the verdict and got the support of Governor Rotimi Amaechi to the extent that the governor is now insisting that the Kingmakers must accept Chief Victor Woluchem as the new Eze Epara Rebisi. Interestingly, governor Amaechi is an Ikwerre son from Ubima.

Rebisi people, in unison, have disagreed with the governor’s position. This was clear in their publications on page 16, Thisday April 26, 2014 and on page G of Thisday, May 14, 2014.

The duty of the state here is to appreciate such peaceful resolution, accept their verdict and recognize whoever they presented to him. Like in the NJC-Rivers State Judiciary case, the kingmakers are the professionals who know far better than the governor who should lead them.

We cannot afford the on-going ridiculing or go-slow on the recognition and coronation of the new and fresh Eze Epara Rebisi. Port Harcourt Boys and Girls are appealing to the governor to allow peace to reign and let us have our party welcoming the new brand HRM Eze Barrister Uche Isaiah-Elikwu, the popularly chosen Eze Epara Rebisi XII. Without this, and given the growing disquiet among Rebisi, Ikwerre and Rivers people, it might lead to further heating up of the polity in Rivers State. I think the state needs peace especially in the face of the coming 2015 elections. Indeed the time calls for treading carefully on the part of the governor.

Amaechi in APC

Politics is a game of interest. Interest could be personal, group or national. In Political Science, group or sub-national interest is critical in the resolution of conflicts in society and the achievement of national interest.

Therefore good politics most times is about fighting for popular or group interest. Group interest starts from micro/sub-group interest level where the politician belongs and that is why in all countries today, sectional interests are the key interests that articulate national interest. That was why late Chief Obafemi Awolowo argued that Yoruba must develop herself according to her culture and values and coalesce at the centre with other groups for national development. Hence, there ought not to be national politics without sub-national politics. The reconciliation and consensus of sub-national and national politics are critical in a Federation like Nigeria.

Governor Rotimi Amaechi as a politician and a citizen of Nigeria has every right to belong to any political party or group he deems okay for him. Whether that consideration would be solely based on group’s interest or Amaechi’s interest depends on how he sees politics. So, is Amaechi in APC for Ikwerre’s or Rivers’ or Niger Delta’s or indeed Nigeria’s interest? Why did Amaechi leave the ruling PDP for APC? According to him, it was because the PDP under Alh. Bamanga Tukur had become too undemocratic. But Tukur is no longer there; so Amaechi could as well go back to PDP. Then the question would be: in whose interest would Amaechi pursue in PDP? Would that interest be different from that which took him to APC? If Amaechi’s interest is sub-national or group, it could be achieved in either PDP or APC. Otherwise, we may agree that Amaechi is in APC for personal reasons.

Because the goal in APC was to pursue personal interest, then he could leave PDP to APC once PDP refuses to allow him achieve his personal interests. So to such a politician who wants to pursue personal interest in a party where he feels his interest is protected, how much he spends (whether sourced from the state coffers or not) in the party is immaterial to him/her. Nigeria has been a fertile ground for such unprofessional political conducts.

Amaechi versus Jonathan

At first when this rofo-rofo (Fela) fight started, I wrote a personal letter to Amaechi not to pursue the matter the way it was going then. I also advised President Goodluck Jonathan to see Amaechi as his fellow Port Harcourt boy and call him in as a political father. All that failed and today, I dare say that both of them are not finding it funny. Who will win the fight is not the issue because we must first define the deliverables.

Come 2015, Mr. President may win his re-election as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without Rivers State vote and the governor’s candidate in Rivers State may also win as governor under any political party because only Rivers’ people’s vote will count. So both of them had lost nothing and gained nothing. But the truth remains that those who are losing in this fight are the peoples of Rivers State ( the state that nurtured the President in his adulthood) who appear to have lost Mr. President’s attention to develop the state during the fight and who may continue to lose his attention after the elections because they may not have voted for him like they did in 2011. This is the critical mass or the koko of the issue and that is why the elders and peoples of Rivers State must as a matter of utmost urgency summon a Political Summit now to put this house in order before the 2015 election.

A very good political behavior should be borrowed from Ekiti State where Fayose, despite winning the election recognized that Fayemi is still his governor and paid respect to him. This is the respect I need Amaechi to pay to Mr. President and all other things would be added unto Amaechi. I am sure, knowing the kind of person our President is, he will wholeheartedly receive Amaechi and peace will reign in Rivers State and all the other parasitic issues and their champions will fall and fail like pack of cards. Mr. President and the Governor need each other in other to succeed as politicians in Nigeria. So at the end, politics is not much about “gra-gra” or excessive aggression to force the achievement of group or national interest. It is more about carefully thinking-through relevant strategies and subtly deploying them to achieve a big picture for the group interest. A peaceful environment promotes true development.

Rivers State needs peace in 2015 and beyond. Everybody must not agree with Amaechi in all he does; this does not make them the governor’s enemies and vice versa. My governor needs more friends than enemies especially now that he has political differences with the Presidency, judicial differences with the Supreme Court and traditional differences with Rebisi, his seat of government. Indeed it could be a precarious time that should be handled carefully softly, softly.

 

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 08:36

Housing The Nigerian Worker In Abuja

It was on page 101 of Thisday newspaper of Sunday, April 13, 2014 that I saw an advertisement titled: “OWN A HOUSE WITH YOUR RENT” published by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) through the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in collaboration with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). On inquiry I was told that the FGN will be building, in the next one year, five bedroom duplex, four bedroom duplex detached, four bedroom duplex semi-detached, three and two bedroom flats to be acquired by public and private sectors workers resident especially in Abuja for N46m, N38m, N34m,  N12.42m and N10.44m respectively. Interested workers would make a down payment of 30% for the N46m, N38m and N34m category and 10% for the N12.42m and N10.44m category. It is also required that the worker must be contributing to the Pension Fund ( recall that the Bureau of Public Enterprises had reformed the pension sector through the Pension Reform Act of 2004 and the sector since then has accumulated over N3 trillion as at December 2013).

As a public servant living in Abuja, I know that the following corresponding staff categories to these houses are the Minister, Permanent Secretary or Director General for the N46m; Directors, Deputy and Assistant Directors for N38m and N34; Senior staff for N12.42m and Junior staff for N10.44m.

While I agree that it is a good policy intervention on the part of the FGN especially now that election is around the corner, I seriously contemplate its success at reaching the target. The first and most crucial issue is how a normal public servant can make the required down payment given his/her meager salary. Using myself as an example, as a Deputy Director with about ten years to retirement, it is near impossible for me to raise either N11.4m for the down payment of a house costing N38m or N10.2m for the N34m house because my entire annual salary which includes rent is less than either of these down payments. Truth is that I need the house because I do not have any and I am qualified to have one. But the crucial problem is: payment of 30% or 10% down payment to acquire a house in Abuja based on the “OWN A HOUSE WITH YOUR RENT” intervention. So from where do I raise the almighty down payment? Except staffers who earn other forms of money outside their salaries (and this is one reason public servants take seriously the issue of traveling and traveling allowances, it is a do-or-die matter in public institutions in Nigeria), I bet the government that no public servant who decently and sincerely rely on his/her salary can afford the down payment and that is the end of the matter for him/her. Policy finish!

Another issue with this type of intervention is that most times government do them in a hurry. As far as I am concerned, most housing policies over the years failed because policy makers have not been patient enough to find out why the past housing policies failed and guide against that in the coming one.

Also, what about the prices for the houses: are they not too high given the salary package of the Nigerian public servant? The house prices should be in tandem with the salaries that would fetch them, otherwise it may not succeed. The reason for such obviously high prices is that government refused to see the intervention from the social lens; it sees it from the profit lens hence it uses private developers to build houses that would be owned and financed by public servants. The profit motive is not congruent with the social angle to the matter. The argument that social houses do not befit Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city does not gel because in advanced countries social houses are of better quality compared to the houses lived today in Abuja and Lagos by Nigeria’s rich class. But the private developer will not agree because he wants to make surplus and exorbitant profit. Government should have checked this if it holds strongly the idea of high quality social houses for Nigerian workers.

As a corollary, let me also say that the prices are so high so that the average public servant would be frustrated from having access to the houses, and as such, the National Assembly members who have thousands of millions would simply buy them up as they have done and are still doing in several such interventions by the Federal Housing Authority within Abuja metropolis. That socially intended houses are bought over by the so called rich in Abuja negates one of the essential reasons for government as enshrined in section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

How could the instant intervention take care of the repayment period? It gives 15-20 years period to repay the balance after down payment. So it may be drastically difficult for public servants who have less than 15 years to retirement to access the facility. This is surely discriminatory and would force people to belong by all means im/possible. If it must be based on rent, my annual rent, for example, cannot repay the balance of the cost of the house in 10 years. Assuming I steal or kill to make the down payment, my current annual rent cannot discharge either the N27m or N24m balance in 10 years. My situation can be replicated in so many other public servants across Abuja. This way, we are shot out of the policy. Even those favoured by the 15-20 years period, can their paltry annual rent pay up the balance? The answer may likely be no in the main.

For this nice-on-paper intervention to succeed, the FGN should quickly suspend this show and seek for a detailed study, in three months time that could determine why the previous housing interventions failed in Abuja in the last 10 years. The study should also capture staff who are yet to have a house of their own through any government housing policy or intervention.

Government should refocus the idea around social responsibility instead of business. This is true because government has a lot of business in social responsibility and no business in business.  It needs to target building of quality houses financed by government that should recover at most 50% of its cost. Sources of finance: government should close at least 10% of all avenues through which billions of Naira are stolen daily ( unaccountable crude oil sales, crude oil theft, fuel subsidy stealing, contract inflation, National Assembly’s too high and unrealistic remuneration, defense budget that hardly defend Nigerians etc).

Government should also divorce this intervention from the 2015 elections so that its focus and implementation would not be encumbered with political pressures.

It has been a common knowledge that the contributory pension fund has accumulated over N3 trillion in the accounts of the primary mortgage institutions. A good portion of this amount should be used to support the critical yet difficult down payment requirement. This down payment requirement is the crux of the matter.

What is government doing with the monthly contribution by public servants to the National Housing Fund (NHF)? Over 1,107,000 public servants (see Malam El-Rufai, 1st October 2011 at www.nigerianvillagesquare.com) work in Federal Civil Service contributing a monthly average of at least N500 to the NHF. This gives about N7 billion annual contributions. What has the NHF done with this money? Nigeria’s housing deficit is still estimated at about 17 million houses to cost N56.9 trillion according to the World Bank. So to what extent, on yearly basis has NHF been able to reduce this colossal deficit? I have been contributing since I joined the public service in 2007, yet I do not have any house of my own; because I cannot pay any 10% or 20% or 30% down payment to any of the private developers trouping to my office to market their houses. This NHF contribution should be available for the almighty down payment and indeed the balance and thereby gradually reduce the housing deficit. Not doing anything about it and merely waiting for foreign investors to provide the funds to eliminate the deficit is a wild dream. Government needs to give a social content or meaning or understanding to the basic needs of man: food, shelter and clothing. Doing it by an unplanned and hasty business-like intervention may not reduce the deficit in real terms because the houses will not get to the target audience. Remember, Nigeria’s population growth rate is 3%, so housing provision should gradually grow at least by 1% of the working population. This is reasonable and realizable.

The FGN should ensure that the National Assembly members are not allowed to hijack and buy up all the houses when built, as they have been doing to other such houses and lands in Abuja. Public servants hardly are able to pay the rents these members place on such properties after acquiring them because their prices are always too high and unreachable for the average public servant. As rents/ houses and other costs continue to be outside the reach of the average Nigerian living in Abuja, he/she must find a way to survive and this remains a major cause of deadly and desperate hustling, violence, corruption, stealing and killing in Abuja. Therefore the enemy and target of such vices should be top government officials and all those who conspired to make basic facilities of life unreachable to the masses.

The process for implementing this intervention must be transparent to avoid the avoidable mistakes of the past so that the target audience can be reached. That audience is the Nigerian worker who cannot afford to build his/her own house, or pay rent for privately built houses or have access to the skewed/lopsided processes for acquiring government houses.

At the end, what should be of grave concern to government is that most of its public workers are housed in high quality but basic housing estates affordable with ease. Anything other than this despoils the Nigerian government as a people-oriented government.

 

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria.

We have been reading the happenings in Rivers State concerning first the appointment of the acting Chief Judge (CJ) and now the CJ of the state. I am not a lawyer but I am a son of Ikwerre. What has prompted this article was the threat issued by Barr. OCJ Okocha, MFR, SAN, JP to Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality arising from the said happenings. He said on page V1 of Thisday 8th April 2014 as follows:

"May I therefore suggest, most humbly that the Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, perhaps through a high-powered panel/committee of OCHI ONHAS, intervenes in the matter, and respectfully advises His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, to do what is right, proper, legitimate and constitutional, and take all necessary steps to ensure that The Honourable Justice Daisy W. Okocha is dully appointed, duly confirmed and duly sworn-in as the Chief Judge of Rivers State, as any failure in that regard will definitely reverse the several gains made by the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality in the scheme of things in Rivers State."

The trouble was that Governor Amaechi refused to appoint Justice Daisy Okocha as the acting CJ of Rivers State, instead he appointed Justice Peter Agumagu who was then the President of the Customary Court Appeal, Rivers State. Later, after a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had ruled that Justice Agumagu was eminently qualified to become the CJ of River State, Governor Amaechi got the confirmation of the House of Assembly of the State and appointed Agumagu the substantive CJ of Rivers State. For accepting the appointment, NJC has suspended Justice Agumagu.

Let us note abinitio that OCJ Okocha, Rotimi Amaechi, Agumagu and Daisy Okocha are all children of Ikwerre (an ethnic group in Rivers State Nigeria). It was probably on this brotherly thinking that OCJ decided to take the matter to the highest socio-cultural organization of the Ikwerre people on earth: Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention Worldwide. Note also that OCJ is the immediate younger brother to Daisy Okocha of the same blood parents.

OCJ's position is clear: that Governor Amaechi was wrong not to have appointed Justice D. W. Okocha first as the acting CJ and later the substantive CJ as recommended by NJC. In appointing an Acting Chief Judge of a state, section 271(4) made it clear that:

"if the office of Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the state shall appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court to perform those functions"

Again, Third Schedule, Part 1, paragraph 21(c) stated that the NJC shall have power to:

"recommend to the Governors from among the list of persons submitted to it by the State Judicial Service Commissions persons for appointments to the offices of the Chief Judges of the States and Judges of the High Courts of the States,..."

From these provisions it is clear that NJC's recommendation is not required for appointing the acting CJ of a state. The Third Schedule must be referring to the appointment of a substantive CJ, not an acting CJ. Therefore the appointment of an acting CJ is totally at the DISCRETION of the Governor. But the Governor needs to ensure that the person must be the most senior judge of the high court of the state.

Justice Peter Agumagu may be senior on the bench to Daisy Okocha and this probably settles the issue of seniority as required above by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But Justice Peter Agumagu was as at this material time (August 2013) the President of the State Customary Court of Appeal, not a High Court judge. The argument that Agumagu was on secondment was not contemplated by the law; so the governor should have appointed the next most senior judge of the high court of the state, that is Daisy as the acting CJ of Rivers State. This would have saved us the cross-carpeting theory.

Next was the appointment of a substantive CJ of the State. Section 271 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that:

"The appointment of a person to the office of the CJ of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the NJC subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State."

This law envisaged that before recommendation was made, the NJC would have (as the ultimate administrator of the judiciary in Nigeria) resolved the issues of qualification, cross-carpeting and even seniority. That is why the law was emphatic that once a recommendation is made, the governor should appoint the person recommended. Again the word "shall" qualified the three actions of appointment, recommendation and confirmation.

Some people have argued that "shall" means that the Governor must be the one to appoint; the NJC must be the one to recommend and the House of Assembly of the state must be the one to confirm. They say that this does not mean that whatever the NJC recommended must be appointed and confirmed. They say that if that is the case, then the Governor becomes a mere robot or rubber-stamp to the NJC. They further argue that if the law wanted the Governor to be a robot in this regard, it would have used a phrase like "... in accordance with the recommendation of the NJC..." or "...based on the recommendation of the NJC..." Finally, they argue that to recommend is merely to advise; that the main action belongs to the governor who could accept or reject the recommendation.

I believe this thinking may not ensure checks and balances in the administration of the state for the general stability and well being of the state. Governor's dynamism in the exercise of his functions must take full cognizance of the stability and well being of the state. Secondly, the law did not give room for discretion here, otherwise it would have stated so like it did in 1979 and some parts of the 1963 Constitutions.

To determine whether or not the law above had the intention of allowing discretion on the part of the Executive (that is the Governor), let us look at the provisions for the appointment of CJ in the old Federal Capital Territory Lagos in 1963 Constitution, in the State according to the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions and make a comparative analysis using such a holistic picture of the law. In Chapters Eight, Seven and Seven of the 1963, 1979 and 1999 Constitutions respectively, the law was inconsistent on the issue of discretion or non-discretion on the part of the President and Governor in appointing the CJ of the then FCT Lagos or the CJ of the States. We discovered that in 1963, the provision was non-discretional in appointing the CJ of Lagos because it used the phrase "...acting in accordance with..." In 1979, the phrase used was "... in his discretion...", so the provision was discretional. In 1999, the phrase changed to "...on the recommendation..." and combining this with the word "shall" mean non-discretional. On the whole, discretional scored 1/3 (33%); while non-discretional scored 2/3(67%). So in the main, the intention of the Constitutions of Nigeria has been to ensure that such appointments were not made discretionally or at the whims of the President or the Governor. Also to ensure that the appointments are well guided and standards are maintained, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary all had roles to play. Based on these, one can say that the recent appointment of the CJ in Rivers State appears to have fallen short of the intention of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On the other hand, the Governor who is a politician, could well argue that his calculations in appointing the CJ may not be the same as those of the NJC. First and foremost, Barr. OCJ Okocha was a member of the NJC that recommended his sister be appointed the CJ of Rivers State. The Governor could insist that it is not proper that OCJ Okocha was among the council members who assessed his sister for the appointment; that the honorable thing to do would have been to temporarily excuse himself from the NJC at that material time when his sister's case was being considered. What therefore may have happened was what Ikwerre would say: "nne ndah zi nu ikpe ohna, ikpe ohna hyesi la" meaning: if your father is a member of the jury handling your case, judgement in your case may likely be in your favour. Governor Amaechi may also be interested in the role of the CJ in his political career in and outside Rivers State, hence he needed a CJ that he could work with. One also needs to consider the political relationship between Governor Amaechi and Barr. OCJ Okocha within and outside the state. The Governor may also feel that if he appoints as the NJC has recommended, it may mean he is just a mere rubber-stamp of the NJC as alleged by analysts and commentators.

Now to the issue at stake: in all of these permutations, the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality has no constitutional role to play in the appointment of the CJ of Rivers State. But by OCJ's invitation to Ogbakor Ikwerre into the matter, it shows that he has respect for Ikwerre and that the matter had gone beyond the legal parlance unto the moral bedroom. This is a moral duty on the part of Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention (OIC). OIC must rise to the occasion and be seen to have played its fatherly role. As a parent, Ikwerre should not support either of the feuding children. So my suggestion to Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention is to advise Governor Amaechi to go and lobby the NJC on the possible ways forward given that he may not be comfortable appointing the person recommended to him. Or that both persons be dropped and he could nominate another candidate of his choice. Ogbakor Ikwerre should also on its own lobby the NJC to kindly accept Governor Amaechi's suggestions when they come. This could work because in Politics, lobbying and consulting must take place where there is disagreement. Indeed they are critical strategies that move mountains in the management of society conflicts.

On the part of OCJ Okocha, may I suggest that he publicly withdraws his threat to Ikwerre whose duty on the matter is unconstitutional and merely advisory on moral ground and therefore should not be threatened or punished for an issue she has no full control or responsibility. Inviting Ikwerre to intervene is appropriate, but threatening her is not proper. If the lobbies suggested above work out well or fail, I suggest that OCJ should leave Ikwerre out of the matter.  No one knows how you intend to reverse the gains Ikwerre had made over the years and that is why I am appealing to our own dear OCJ to leave Ikwerre out of this matter. The little Ikwerre had gained under former Governor Odili is what is surviving her till date. Why should we now think of reversing this little?  I use this medium to appeal to OCJ that if truly he loves and respects Ikwerre, he should have no hands in reversing or bringing down the little Ikwerre has, just because of the failure of an individual. By appealing to Ogbakor, minus the threat, you have shown regard for Ikwerre. If Ogbakor intervenes and no result, I pray you hand-over the matter to God who created you Ikwerre.

Okachikwu Dibia
Abuja, Nigeria.

 

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