Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, an influential commentator on public issues, is the Editor-In-Chief and Head of the Editorial Unit of a Publishing Outfit in Lagos, Nigeria. He was until recently on the Editorial Board of Daily Independent, a national newspaper published in Lagos, where he wrote a highly regarded column (SCRUPLES) on the back page of the paper every Wednesday. The column now appears on Tuesday. His articles have equally appeared in several newspapers, magazines, books and journals in Nigeria and around the world and on several internet media sites. Many of his articles are archived on his blog: www.ugowrite.blogspot.com;  He could be reached with: scruples2@hotmail.com

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 07:42

How Long Will Buhari’s Intoxicant Work?

Strange and worrisome as the decision by the Buhari administration to limit its ongoing probe of public officers and institutions to the era of the regime it took over from is, not a few Nigerians are encouraged by the fact that a bold attempt to expose shameless looting of public treasury and allow the law to punish those implicated in the mindless plunder of the country's resources is indeed happening. At least, it is being drummed into everyone's consciousness once more that stealing of any kind is a most revolting and self-debasing crime which only the scum and scoundrels of the society are attracted to. It should by no means be witnessed, accommodated or, worse, celebrated and glamorized within the bounds of civilized and decent society as several members of Nigeria's ruling elite have brazenly done for many years now.

We have heard allegations of witch-hunting and all that, but the pertinent question to ask is: are you guilty of what you are being accused of? Did you loot the amount of money you are being accused of carting away?  In fact, it is most insulting that any person would want to solicit our sympathy after callously stealing what belongs to all of us and impoverishing the majority.

The submission that many of you looted the treasury but only a couple of you are being singled out for investigation is lame, even nauseating and grossly offensive. The point is that you looted public funds and today is your day, so face it! Tomorrow may be the turn of your partners in crime. Let the process just begin. We should, however, not rule out the possibility that along the line, the anti-corruption "war" may eventually get out of hand and grow to overwhelm even its initiators and supervisors and kick-start a far-reaching housecleaning and reclamation process where discrimination may no longer be possible. Already, the signs are embarrassingly showing up everywhere and it remains to be seen how long Buhari would remain comfortable with his current preference of harassing some alleged thieves and hobnobbing with others, even the real godfathers in the business.

But this is not even the main worry. There is a growing concern at several informed quarters now about whether President Muhammadu Buhari is truly sincere about fighting corruption to the ground or is the whole thing not merely another means to some end! When Buhari was declared winner of the March 28, 2015 presidential elections and sworn in on May 29, not a few Nigerians had expected him to immediately hit the ground running, having used the period between March and May to do all the extensive research and consultations that were required to help him duly equip himself for the job.

Having unduly raised the hopes of Nigerians by the tantalizing promises that easily and freely dropped from his mouth during the campaigns, loud concerns about his preparedness for the presidency began to rapidly increase. And as Nigerians continued to express grave disappointments about the incredibly slow pace of his regime, especially, how a president declared winner since March was yet to make up his mind on whom to appoint into very critical positions (it has  finally been confirmed that Nigerians may have to wait till September for a cabinet to emerge), someone may have whispered into the president's ears about the urgent need to deftly administer an "opium" to the populace to immediately instigate a mob hysteria that would automatically change the dominant narrative and steer the national discourse to his favour with or without even kick-starting any form of governance. And before anyone knew what was happening, pronouncements about massive corruption (not necessarily fight against it) began to drop on Nigerians like a hailstorm. Then enter Governor Adams Oshiomole of EdoState with his carefully executed media trials in which he promptly accused, prosecuted, sentenced and lynched selected officials of the previous regime, a development that soon gripped everyone's imagination and virtually overshadowed every other concern about an administration that appeared totally blank and lost in the middle of nowhere.

Soon, it became clear that President Buhari had suddenly stumbled on a trick that worked so marvelously and maximally deployed it to score a fast one on Nigerians. So far he appears to have been very successful because no one is talking again about a president who appears confused and stuck at what looks like the T-Junction of governance. There is hardly any space again for anyone to lament the obvious absence of a blueprint for economic recovery and development – a benumbing evidence of inadequate preparation by a party and president that had promised so much to the people during the campaigns in order to obtain their votes. The Buhari regime has found an opium which it has continued to carefully administer to the people and it is working marvelously, brutally changing the narrative and causing virtually everyone to go berserk and forget what the pressing issues are again.

Since Buhari unleashed his anti-corruption war which has not even tried to go beyond mere media lynching of the officials of the Jonathan regime, virtually every story about his very slow, learning-on-the-job governance style has left the front pages if not the entire pages. Even though at the end of all the noise and hype no one may end up being jailed (or a few might get some modest, "complimentary" jail terms to burnish some anti-corruption credentials), but before the whole thing eventually fizzles into a nine days wonder, perhaps after a year or even two, the president and his party would have been able to buy substantial time to stumble upon some natural developments they can announce as "achievements." One hopes they would even be able to do that one.

Now, let's get the point of this article. The war against corruption is a worthy preoccupation that MUST be prosecuted with every seriousness, and I don't care who is sent behind bars so long as the person truly stole from the public treasury. But it should not become the sole preoccupation of a development-minded   president. In fact, making it the focus of a presidency amounts to belittling the very idea of such an exalted office. All that is required to achieve a successful campaign is for Buhari to strengthen the anti-corruption agencies by simply making it very clear to them that he seriously and sincerely wishes to deal with corruption no matter who is involved and everyone would see how fresh energy would suddenly be injected into their operations. Once the anti-graft bodies  realize that the music has changed, that the present tenant of Aso Rock really wants to fight this monster frontally, that he has no sacred cows, and that there might even be grave consequences against any effort to sabotage the anti-corruption war, they would surely sit up and deliver on the job.

Then Buhari can quit his present campaign mood of "One Day, One New Headline-Grabbing Pronouncement" and go and face the work Nigerians elected him to perform, fulfill the tantalizing campaign promises of his party that were falling out of their mouths like overripe fruits and set the pace for growth and development, if he can. The economy since he assumed office has taken a further plunge (contrary to the expectations that were raised by his marvelous campaign promises) with the naira receiving continuous battering from the dollar and oil prices dropping to an all-time low. Maybe this is the time for the president to fulfill one of his famous campaign promises made during a Channels Television interview that he would stabilize oil prizes!

Indeed, those who doubt the sincerity of the current anti-graft effort must be forgiven because this is not the first time a new regime is engaging in an overhyped anti-corruption war. Even Sani Abacha, the man who gave Nigeria the mesmerizing term, "Abacha Loot", also waged a noisy battle against corruption. Although, he eventually became the epitome of the evil he sought to extirpate (and, mind you: we were able to hear that just because he died), his epic battle against the operators of failed banks still resonates in many minds. So, nothing new is happening now.

Shortly after Buhari was sworn in and he began to grumble that former President Goodluck Jonathan had not given him any tips on how to kick-start his own regime, not a few Nigerians had wondered how the chief apostle of "change," a president who came in well recommended and who had obtained more votes than his opponents on the strength of his bold promises that he was coming in to clear the huge mess created by a "clueless" president, could have tied hopes for the successful takeoff of his "messianic" presidency on tips to be provided by the same failed leader he had scornfully written off to win votes. Soon, his apologists began to regale us with drab tales about how he was taking his time and studying the state of the Nigerian economy and immersed in extensive consultations on how to constitute an efficient cabinet, compelling people to ask what exactly he had been doing since March when Jega's INEC told Nigerians that he had won the presidential election?

Now, if he was yet studying the country's problems (which means that he was totally ignorant of them when he was campaigning), where then did he draw the confidence to unleash all those tantalizing and largely unrealistic promises he was throwing at Nigerians? In saner climes, the first thing prospective candidates do is to study the country they intend to govern, determine the extent of its problems and draw up workable solutions before they even announce their intention to run. But it soon dawned on many that this was not the case in our country, and that Nigerians may have been scammed into voting in a regime that may just grope its way through another wasteful four years of sore disappointment.

But now that the president has found a very effective intoxicant that seems to have driven everyone into some frenzy and taken virtually all minds and eyes off the little or no governance happening in Abuja, the question is, how long would its intoxicating (and equally sedative) powers last before Nigerians recover themselves and resume their demands for actual governance? What exactly are the current policies and programmes of this regime which won an election since March and was inaugurated in May, and when would their implementation commence?

Buhari must hasten to realize that he is meanwhile thriving on the myth carefully erected about his person and abilities by his highly imaginative image managers, but he should not overstretch his luck, else Nigerians might discover soon that even this king is also unclad like all the rest, and the resultant demystification may irrecoverably mar his legacy even if he unleashes a million Lai Mohammeds on us.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye,

( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; twitter: @ugowrite).

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 13:47

Electricity: Can Buhari Break The Jinx?

If former President Goodluck Jonathan had succeeded in solving the ever-worsening electricity crisis in Nigeria, he would have left office last May as one of Nigeria’s   greatest leaders. And that is, assuming that singular feat would not have been able to reelect him by deflating the strong, vicious and clearly unedifying campaign bolstered by unrealistic promises massively deployed against him by the opposition. 

Image result for buhari and jonathan

 *Jonathan and Buhari 

Granted, the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, allegedly, squandered some $16 billion to plunge the country deeper into darkness, but Jonathan is no Obasanjo, and I doubt if his ambition was to come into office to reenact the Obasanjo disaster. Jonathan's failure, therefore, to realize the strategic role of electricity in the life of modern man and demonstrate that five years was enough for him to write his name in gold by lighting up the country is the key reason, I think, he left office with his head bowed, despite his very noble act of conceding defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari, thus aborting the desperation of those waiting in the wings to exploit the situation to unleash terrible mayhem in the country and waste drums of innocent blood.

The problem, I think is that, President Jonathan really stretched political naivety far beyond its malleable limit when he failed to realise that the regime of darkness and unspeakable extortion unleashed on Nigerians by the private operators currently generating and distributing electricity in Nigeria was gradually exerting some influence on the way Nigerians perceived his government. Those companies appeared to have conspired to work extremely hard to further compound his already growing image problems and deepen grave disaffection against him among the populace. And no one should have realized it better than the former president that such a situation was too harmful to be allowed to endure, especially, on the eve of a very bitterly contested election. But Jonathan and his party were insufferably complacent and took several things for granted until a devastating defeat was served him like an unexpected, unappetizing breakfast.

It would seem that he realized only too late in the day (assuming he ever did) that he was facing a peculiar kind of opposition: one which, though, pitiably lacking in brighter ideas or better preparation for governance (as Nigerians are already witnessing), appeared more adept in chronicling and magnifying the failings of his government. And so, it was easy for them to promise largely unrealistic alternatives and got sizable number of people to buy into their grand illusion that the only solution to Nigeria's many problems was just the exit of Jonathan.

Now, unlike what obtained when the telecommunications sector was deregulated and the people soon derived some bit of relief when NITEL's monopoly was broken (and alternatives sprang up), the emergence of these private operators, rather than mitigate, only multiplied the people's sorrows. The consumer is denied the power of choice. Nigerians who live in a particular area are left with a very frustrating feeling that they are stuck with a particular company whose staff merely sit in their offices and allocate huge bills to them every month whether electricity is supplied or not. The system is so oppressively chaotic that even when they disconnect a consumer from their epileptic electricity supply, their fat bills would still be coming – which the person must pay, before they would ever reconnect him. Clearly, the bills are arbitrarily concocted.

But in the telecoms sector, something refreshingly different obtains. If, for instance, one is not satisfied with the services of a provider, one can easily discard its SIM card and go for another. Thus, in order to retain its customers, the various companies are continually rolling out incentives and packages. But the electricity companies are fully aware that their hapless customers are stuck with them unless they relocate from the areas under their control (something not very easy to do in a place like Lagos, for example). And so, the people are their helpless, perpetual victims.

Some relief would have come to consumers through the acquisition of  pre-paid meters, but that, too, is another very bitter story not worth recollecting.  Although they would readily tell you that it would take only forty-five (45) days to process a pre-paid meter, those who applied for them about six months ago are still waiting to be supplied. And as they wait, the huge bills keep arriving.

Of course, we are all aware how poor electricity supply severely punishes the citizenry. Costs of goods and services skyrocket as a result of the high cost of production. Some companies not able to cope with rising operational costs are forced to shed some weight by laying off workers or even close down or relocate to other countries where functional amenities provide favourable climate for business.

It must be observed, though, that electricity crisis is no longer an exclusive Nigerian problem. Only recently, Ghanaians took to the streets to protest the worsening power supply in their country. This is very sad because only a few years ago, we used to challenge Nigeria's leaders with Ghana's success story in the generation and supply of electricity.

Even a most unlikely place like South Africa is having its own fair share of electricity crises. In February, the Financial Times of London carried a report about "a deepening power crisis that has triggered almost daily outages across South Africa, hitting key industries as well as households, [and forcing] the government to sharply downgrade its growth forecast for the year."

In 2008 when I visited South Africa, such a thing was never heard of, or, perhaps, ever imagined. Not once throughout my stay did I hear the noise of a power generating set.

If African countries must pull themselves up and compete effectively in a globalised economy, they must all hasten to get electricity right.  Virtually every human activity can be enhanced or marred depending on the rate of power supply in the area. From big industrial concerns to very small enterprises like barbing salons or the pepper grinder in that small market, electricity continues to play pivotal roles in our lives. Even the performance of school children is highly affected by the amount of electricity available in the neigbourhood. A growing number have developed eye problems, which would not have ordinarily happened so early in their lives if they were not compelled to read in poorly lit rooms due to constant blackouts.

Daily, many Nigerians battle with heat and discomfort all night and report to work the next day totally exhausted and drained of strength, and probably nursing a headache. No doubt, this would adversely affect their output at work. And due to the proliferation of all sorts of generators as unhealthy but unavoidable alternatives to darkness, which torment the people with injurious noise and emit very poisonous fumes into the atmosphere, thereby, turning Nigeria into a dangerous gas chamber, the country and its citizens remain under the threat of serious epidemic. It is most demoralizing watching hapless, pathetic Nigerians cruelly enveloped in darkness, groping like very helpless people trapped in a danger-infested night.

Now, it is a known fact that during each rainy season, there is usually some improvement in electricity supply as currently being witnessed by Nigerians. But instead of deploying solid effort to increase the amount of electricity generation and distribution in the country, the government may naively choose to sit still and start announcing this development as one of its "great achievements." That would amount to repeating the folly of previous administrations which had also done that forgetting that the rains would soon go away and they would run out of lies trying to explain away the biting reality that would dawn with the sudden return of darkness.

One hopes that this electricity matter is one of President Buhari's topmost priorities, and that despite all the noise and desperation to heap the blames for all Nigeria's problems on the last regime, he should find time to learn from Obasanjo and Jonathan's power sector report card and ensure that we would not end up still telling the same sad stories of woes and decay after four years of "change".

And while APC spokesman, Mr. Lai Mohammed, buys him some reprieve by continuing to repeat the horrendous lie that Buhari's phantom achievements since May have surpassed all that Jonathan recorded in five years, and Obasanjo is very busy at the other end of town recklessly tarring everybody and brazenly dressing himself up with some borrowed and grossly ill-fitting saintly robes, the president should school himself to realize that whether he would end up on the rubbish heap of history or occupy a hall of fame would largely depend on the amount of electricity he made Nigerians to have in their homes and places of business during his tenure. It is one responsibility he cannot afford to shirk or paper over with bogus claims. Like Chinua Achebe once said, "If Nigeria is working, we will know."

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ;

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com;

Twitter: @ugowrite)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 12:04

Bailout: Is Buhari Rewarding Profligacy?

The recent N400 billion bailout approved for the states by President Muhammadu Buhari to offset the backlog of salary owed to civil servants would certainly bring immense relief to the affected workers and their families. It is difficult to imagine how these Nigerians were able to survive the trauma and pain of existing for several months without salaries, especially, when one considers that even when these salaries were paid regularly and as at when due, they were hardly enough to solve even the basic needs of these public servants. In some cases, we have husbands and wives as state employees, and one is sincerely scared of imagining how life has been for them and their children these past few months. 

One hopes that as this money is released, the story we would hear from all the states is that these hapless Nigerians have been paid ALL the arrears of salary owed them to enable them see the extent they would go to sort out their horribly battered existence – lives that have been heartlessly messed up by the gross irresponsibility and unspeakable callousness that now constitute the enduring character of governance in this part of the world. 

Considering that we have just emerged from an election in which many state governors were squandering money as if all they did to get loads of it was just to walk to their backyards and pluck them from some trees that generously grew them, Nigerians deserve to know the exact reasons why these governors were unable to pay salaries. 

In a place like OsunState, for instance, state workers were heartlessly owed salaries for about seven months. The state governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, who recently won a second term in a bitterly contested (and obviously unimaginably expensive) election and who also may have equally contributed his own quota to achieve the "change" that now exists in Aso Rock must be compelled to tell Nigerians how his state achieved such an unimaginable descent. 

Why would a human being with a heart and blood running in his veins loudly advertise such unspeakable heartlessness by subjecting his fellow human beings to such horrendous trauma? Indeed, journalists and rights activists must thoroughly investigate OsunState and let us know if there were people among Osun workers that were unable to survive Aregbesola's seven months of terror. He must be held personally responsible and compelled to pay compensation to their families. This would equally apply to those unpaid workers who had lost children because they were unable to send them to the hospital when they took ill. Human Rights lawyers in the state should assist these victims of state terror to organize and institute a class suit against the Osun governor to demand compensation for the grievous harm done to them, to serve as deterrent to other governors. 

For too long, our governors have always got away with anything they elect to do, no matter how hideous, leaving the citizenry to bear alone the pain and anguish of their failure of character and leadership. We also want to know whether during these seven harrowing months, Aregbesola's own salaries and allowances were duly paid or that he was in any way getting money or any form of support from the state to keep his beard luxuriant and ensure that his family continued to wallow in the same dose of excessive luxury that egregiously distinguishes elected public officers in this clime. 

President Buhari must be wary of behaving as if the money he just doled out came from his pocket. The N413.7 billion belongs to Nigerians, and despite the ongoing war of words between the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the exact source of the money, Nigerians deserve to know what exactly happened in the states that hampered their ability to pay salaries despite the allocations that flowed to them monthly from the Federation Account, and why some governors should not take adequate responsibility for the boundless financial recklessness and prodigality that obviously plunged their states into such humongous mess? Even some of them that handed over to themselves (by virtue of winning their reelections) and those whose tenures were yet to elapse, had also joined their colleagues to chant the exasperating chorus that they met empty treasuries when they reported for duty after the May 29 inaugurations of new administrations across the country. So, who then emptied the state treasuries? 

Indeed, if no governor is made to account for what happened in the states at this time, then all the claims by this regime that it came to "block leakages and enthrone accountability" should be seen for what they truly are: shameless, puerile lies. In fact, there is no "change" anywhere. Indeed, the APC, like someone said recently is just the PDP with a broom!  What Buhari has done, therefore, was to merely use the money that could have been judiciously deployed to make a difference in the lives of longsuffering Nigerians to reward mindless profligacy flourishing in the states. 

It is most painful that while workers writhed in the excruciating pain of unpaid salaries, the governors still lived large, squandering public funds as if they were going out of fashion. While other governors further drained the purse of their states by acquiring or hiring and hopping about in private jets, Aregbesola opted for the "modest" option of buying himself a helicopter in a state where workers were in grievous pain due to seven months unpaid salaries. 

It is not as if these governors did not have such models like former Gov Peter Obi of AnambraState who saw being a governor as just an opportunity to render sterling service to the people to learn from. At a time, Obi was almost the only governor one could meet queuing at airports to board an aircraft like any other passenger (and he mostly flew economy class) while his colleagues, some of whom would not have qualified to serve as his P.A. in any of his companies before they became governors hopped about in private jets and wallowed in unspeakable profligacy. No wonder, instead of bequeathing months of unpaid salaries and huge debts to his successor, Obi, reportedly, left him about N74billion in money and investments. 

I think that Buhari, the APC and PDP should in the interest of the country transcend party lines and occasionally collaborate to convoke special reorientation sessions for the governors and other public officers, and bring the likes of Peter Obi to lecture them on the right mind to adopt as public officers and judicious management of resources. Maybe, this will begin the process of purging our governors and other elected officials of their largely prodigal and profligate propensities and imbue them with the capacity to duly appreciate the strategic and sacred nature of the jobs they have been called upon (and lavishly paid) to execute for the good of the country and its people. Perhaps, then they would begin to appreciate that their assignment requires gravity of mind and not an opportunity to loudly advertise unparalleled light-mindedness and light-fingeredness.

 

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com 

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Tuesday, 07 July 2015 09:00

Who Is Nigeria ’s Conscience?

Nigerians are very good at crowning false heroes. Just open a Nigerian newspaper you can find near you and see how many people that are recklessly described on its pages as "credible" politicians, "honest and selfless"Nigerians, or worse, the "conscience of the nation." You would be shocked to see the number of people that carelessly allow themselves to be associated with such superb, ennobling qualities even when they are fully aware that by their personal conducts, it might even appear as a generous compliment to dress them up in the very opposites of those terms.

Over the years, these words and phrases have been so callously and horribly subjected to the worst kinds of abuses in Nigeria with hardly anyone making any attempt to intervene and seek their redemption. I won't in the least, therefore, be surprised to wake up tomorrow and hear that decent people in this country have begun to protest and resist any attempt to associate them with such grossly debased terms.

As a people sharing the same country with an ever-growing tribe of shameless, exceptional experts on the egregious art of effective and perpetual devaluation all that ought to inspire awe and noble feelings, it should not come as a shock to any of us to wake up tomorrow and be assaulted by the news that some Nigerians felt grievously insulted that their dogs were, for instance, nominated for "National Honours." Even the poor dog may bark all day to register its dismay! But do we need to wait for this to happen before we quickly rouse ourselves from our long-lasting moral slumber and hurriedly stop this overly revolting annual charade of "honouring" people whose only contribution to their fatherland may just be their ecstatic participation in the mindless looting its resources and effective supervision of its wholesale devastation.

Especially, since former president Olusegun Obasanjo's regime, the "National Honours List" has indeed worked extremely hard to distinguish itself as a worthless piece of paper always starring people who ought to be in jail for the humongous effort they had contributed to the brutal abortion of this country's lofty dreams and aspirations, people totally undeserving of even the slightest respect of the basest of fools.

And as you look at the haggard and impoverished nature of a country that annually celebrates this long list of "illustrious" and "honest" sons and daughters who are honoured for their "selfless" and "invaluable" services to their fatherland, you cannot help wondering why it is very difficult, if not impossible, to see any positive impact their so-called "immense contributions to the growth and progress" (and where is the "growth and progress"?) of the their country were able to register on that same country and its people.

Why is a country that has over the years accumulated such a very long and intimidating list of "patriotic achievers" and "nation builders" still one of the most backward in the world despite being also endowed with rich, abundant natural resources? How long shall this debilitating self-deception continue to plague Nigeria ? What beats me is why some otherwise decent people still allow their names to be used to add some pinch of dignity to that totally worthless list annually and actually carry themselves to the venue of that festival of the philistine to be decorated with those medals of dishonour?

The problem is that when we look around and there are no genuine heroes to celebrate, we simply invent one. For instance, today, it can safely be said that Nigeria as a country no longer possesses any "Conscience". If we had any persons that truly qualified to be described as such, they are long dead and buried or yet to hug the limelight. But because we are unwilling accept that very stark reality, we just had to pounce on anyone we find around and proclaim him the "Conscience of the Nation," whether he merely represents a debasement of that term or not.

Image result for gani fawehinmi
 
It should be quite clear that anyone seeking to be crowned " Nigeria 's conscience" should be able to rise above partisan and other considerations in his interventions in the country and always stand on the side of the truth and the oppressed. A person who can readily bend the truth just because at that particular time, insisting on the truth would have very injurious effect on his friends and associates, should feel embarrassed anytime anyone tries to humour him with the underserved title of "the country's conscience."

It is not everyday that we produce the likes of Gani Fawehinmi or Chinua Achebe who would always use the same yardstick to evaluate either an Obasanjo or a Jonathan, and if they were still alive today, would use the same for a Buhari. Not for them the sudden, unabashed  revision of their well-considered and widely circulated opinion on an any ruler, not because of some new "evidence" of redeeming qualities they have suddenly stumbled upon about him, but merely because the fellow has now banded together with their friends (in a clearly bad, doomed marriage) to capture political power. Those who truly qualify to be referred to as a "country's conscience" always put their country first – always placing the welfare of the hapless, long-suffering citizens far above the primitive interests of their politician friends.

When President Jonathan, for instance, sought to decorate Achebe with a "National Honour," the legendary writer rejected it by saying that the situation that made him to earlier reject the same "Honour" awarded to him by the Obasanjo regime had not changed under Jonathan; and so, he had to once again excuse himself from it. That was his way of telling those rulers that unless they deployed conscientious efforts to fix Nigeria and make life more tolerable for the citizenry, they lacked the qualification to honour him. Achebe would have told the same thing to the now clearly groping Buhari regime were he still alive and such an "Honour" extended to him?

Of course, Gani would have done the same thing too. He was not one to brazenly take sides in a political conflict, offering high-profile support to one party in the conflict even when it was public knowledge that he was at that same time being retained as a highly prized consultant in a lucrative pet project of the particular person he was supporting. He would have hastened to realize that there was something called "conflict of interests," and that you do not unduly stretch the people's trust, beyond its malleable limits. Put another way, you don't sleep on Delilah's lap and hope to wake up in Abraham's bosom.

Somebody who allows himself to be described as "Nigeria's conscience" cannot afford the luxury of a credibility perennially stained by his very close association with (if not  public endorsement of) people generally perceived as strategic, generous contributors to Nigeria's current chronic problems, a people whose mere appearance anywhere immediately inspires unqualified disgust in the citizens. Anybody can occasionally throw front-page-grabbing "bomb shells" (it is not rocket science), but such pronouncements only make sense to informed people if the person who throws them is able to demonstrate that he is not a "situational ideologist" and "activist" who only finds his voice when the target is a "safe" one. To him, corruption does not lose its egregious hue when accusing fingers are pointing at a friend.

The danger now is that a growing number of  people have already begun to look a bit too closely and have begun to discover that even the loud "king" whose ill-fitting, borrowed costume had engaged their unqualified admiration and awe for a very long time now is actually unclad like the rest, and that beyond the pronouncements delivered either in the finest or mostly complicated prose, much of what they had witnessed so far is an unduly stretched farce, despite the unending, drab "oriki" booming from tireless praise singers.

I think we should just tell ourselves the plain truth: for now, this country has no conscience!  Indeed, conscientious and discerning people will know when one eventually emerges.

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*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a Tuesday columnist with Daily Independent newspaper.

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www.ugowrite.blogspot.com; @ugowrite

Tuesday, 16 June 2015 08:36

Ex-Gov Chime, That Was Mean!

Recently, I was jolted by a report I stumbled upon about the brutal abduction, terrorisation and illegal detention of a hapless young man in Enugu by the bodyguards of the then Gov Sullivan Chime. The crime of 30-year-old Mr. Anthony Okeke which earned him such dehumanising treatment, according to The Guardian of April 1, 2015, was that while on his way home after dropping off a friend about midnight on February 22, he overtook an "unmarked" convoy of Gov Chime.

Obviously, this was a very grievous crime in the territory of "His Excellency" and the security agents attached to him wasted no time in meting out "appropriate" punishment. They ran after the "offender" with every zeal they could muster, fired some shots at his car to demobilize his tyres and captured him.

And after giving him "the beating of his life," they dumped him in prison for six days, after which he was taken to a magistrate court and charged with attempting to kidnap the governor. The charge sheet (number MES/03c/2015) reportedly read that Mr. Okeke, "suspected to be armed with dangerous weapon/weapons, did attempt to kidnap" Gov Chime "along Ogui Road by Fire Service office, GRA, Enugu..."

The magistrate court soon, reportedly, claimed that it lacked jurisdiction over the case but ordered that Mr. Okeke "be remanded in prison custody, where he had been since then."

The Guardian quotes a human rights group, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), which took up the case as saying that the then Enugu governor was "driving around that Sunday at about 11 p.m. in an unmarked vehicle followed by about four unmarked vehicles, without the normal siren or fanfare that normally heralds his movement."

Now, I do not have an update on this case. This incident took place in February and it is very sad that by April when the report was published in The Guardian, the young man was still in detention for daring to overtake the convoy of "His Excellency." And it is possible that he may still be there as I write now for committing no offence known to our laws.

One cannot also rule out the possibility that before Chime handed over power to the new governor, Ifeanyi  Ugwuanyi, in Enugu on May 29, 2015, it may not have occurred to him to do the right thing which was to not only order the unconditional release of the young man, but also duly apologise to him and his family for the trauma he made them go through and equally take appropriate steps to compensate them for such grievous abuse of their rights as free citizens of the country.

Now, even in a Nollywood movie, it is virtually impossible to imagine how a man driving alone at such an hour could have hoped to kidnap a governor guarded by a band of heavily-armed security men. How Chime and his spin doctors expected any sane human being to buy such a weird story is what I find difficult to comprehend.

Now, as it stands today, Chime has become an ex-governor, and it is not unimaginable that a "king who does not know Joseph" might become Enugu governor tomorrow and subject him to the same brutal treatment (or even worse) that he has meted out to somebody that he knows full well committed no crime, just to massage his fragile ego.

While I consider it egregious that he would relish being crowned a veteran of unlawful detentions, I seriously think that Chime, whom I learnt is a lawyer, should have been wary of setting a precedent that might turn around tomorrow to haunt him or his loved ones. Indeed, this was lawlessness and meanness stretched beyond every bound of decency and civilised behaviour.

The current Enugu governor, Mr. Ugwuanyi, should urgently investigate this matter to determine if that young man is still in detention. And if that is the case, he should ensure that the case is immediately withdrawn from that magistrate court and his conditional release effected without delay.

Additionally, adequate compensation should be extended to him for the harrowing ordeal he was made to pass through under the former governor. That is the way to usher in a new beginning.

I am deeply concerned about this matter because it can happen to anybody tomorrow so long as our public officers continue to wallow in the illusion that public office is a license for them to fragrantly commit lawlessness and get away with it.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye a Tuesday columnist with Daily Independent newspaper, Lagos. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Thursday, 04 June 2015 10:52

What The Government Owes The People

Now that the campaigns and elections are over and the winners have been sworn in at both the federal and state levels, I think that the best next step for us now is to hurriedly put aside the convenient, barefaced lie that any political party is "better" than the other so we can frankly and meaningfully engage our new set of rulers. Yes, one party may have succeeded in packaging itself better than the other or rather out-lied the other, but it would be terribly naïve, and, indeed, tragic, to ever embrace the grand illusion that some band of "redeemers" is in town and that they are any bit different from the people that just lost out in the power contest.
Although, our politicians try very hard to hide it, "stomach infrastructure" has remained the most enduring theme, if not the sole motivating factor, in Nigerian politics. Long before it received popular expression during the recent governorship elections in EkitiState, late Sunday Afolabi, a minister in the unmissed Olusegun Obasanjo regime made it clear to Nigerians that those who were given political appointments have been invited to "come and eat."

And so, in keeping with the tenets of this "democracy of the stomach" (apologies, K.O. Mbadiwe), since General Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner of the presidential elections, the traffic to his Daura, Kaduna and Abuja quarters has reportedly tremendously increased. The crowd seeking his ears will even multiply now that he has been sworn in as Nigeria's executive president and thus acquired full powers to invite people to "come and eat."

Indeed, he is the new man on the throne who has taken possession of both the yam and the knife, and so people are falling over themselves to pay him "courtesy calls" – another name for negotiating the welfare of the stomach! Some are plain about their mission – to seek how a piece of the yam (or even crumbs) could reach them, while some others hide behind the popular phrase of negotiating "for my people." But we can only know the people driven by altruistic motives by the kind of requests they table.

Only recently, a deluge of condemnations greeted the reported visit of some personalities from the South East to Buhari to "plead" with him to not discriminate against the zone in the sharing of appointments. The visit rankled many people for several reasons. The South East has grown past "begging" anyone for anything in Nigeria and those who are still trapped in that debilitating past should hasten to update instead of continuing to constitute an embarrassment to the zone.

If Buhari and his All Progressive Congress (APC) think that they would never need anyone in the South East to remain in power since they would always be able to deploy clannish (plus religious) sentiments to secure the bulk vote of the core North and the South West (and that the bad marriage that that sustains that  collaboration will never fail), why should that give anybody a migraine, when it could easily be translated to political advantage?

There is the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) there which is being currently mismanaged by people who have remained incapable of appreciating the party's founding ideals and great prospects and so have not been able to conceive a broader role for the party beyond being an appendage of the ruling party. These people can be assembled and reoriented, and more visionary leaders found for the party, to position it to benefit maximally from the misguided overconfidence of the current ruling party or its easily predictable implosion in the near future. The APC is what it is today because one man, Bola Tinubu, had the foresight and patience to nurture a small political party (operating in just one state) into a formidable force and so was ready to negotiate from a position of strength when like-minds came knocking on his door before the last elections.

Okay, assuming Buhari accepted the request of these gentlemen that went to Daura to see him and now appoints somebody from the South East as the minister of Science and Technology, for instance, how would that improve the life of the rice farmer at Onueke or the fresh fish seller at Otuocha? In a country like Nigeria where public office is seen mostly from the point of view of what it will bring into the pocket of the public officer, won't this just be another "juicy" job for feeding the appointee, his family and hangers-on?

And who actually sent these men on their grossly distasteful mission (which many now suspect was purely self-serving) to Daura? If they had a list of nominees which they wanted to submit to Buhari, shouldn't they have been plain about it, instead of hiding behind the "interest of the people" to pursue what clearly smells and tastes like a personal agenda?

There is a lesson here too for other zones from where some people have also gone to do their own negotiations, also "on behalf of their people." Those whose heads have been swelling because their "brother" would soon occupy (or has already occupied) one "important" post or the other (and they are all over the place mocking those not so blest) should hasten to ask themselves how such a development would improve lives in their various zones. Obasanjo, for instance, was Nigeria's president for eight years, yet the road leading to his community, like most of the roads in the South West where he comes from, could be described as the road to hell. As president, each time he wanted to visit his community, he would fly from Abuja to Lagos and a helicopter would pick him up in Lagos and drop him gently on his farm in Ota; while the rest of his kinsmen, like all other Nigerians during his failed presidency endured the hell that were Nigerian roads.

So, shouldn't a sorry case like this cause people to first undertake a realistic appraisal of what they think have become their political and other gains before making undue noise? What I, however, think should be of interest to any rational Nigerian is how a particular regime would improve the lives of the citizenry and move the country forward.

Every zone in Nigeria has very critical matters crying for the attention of the government. These should occupy the most prominent spaces in the minds of the people who reside there instead of wasting their time and energy on naive celebrations of the number of people that have been "invited to come and eat" from their zones or states. The time and effort deployed for such distractive and self-deluding frivolities should instead be channeled towards seriously engaging the new regime and ensuring that those infrastructural deficits that sadden the people daily and impede development in those zones are drastically addressed to  put smiles on the faces of the masses.

Take the South East for example. The problem of the zone has never been the dearth of appointments but the criminal neglect visited on the area by successive governments, which sometimes looks like deliberate policy passed from one regime to the other. For instance, federal roads in the zone should rank as the most horrible anywhere and one keeps wondering why it has remained so. There is also the issue of the dredging of the River Niger to establish a seaport in the zone to boost industrialization, a project that is long overdue, and which will help in no small measure to equally boost economic growth and development in the country. But successive regimes have chosen to behave as if they are scared of industrial revolution in the South East and so deliberately neglected this all important project. I even heard (although, I am yet to confirm this) that there's a coastal community somewhere in Abia State where just a little clearing and dredging would grant access to the sea and a seaport would be born.

Again, the "international" airport in Enugu was recently commissioned with a lot of fanfare, but there appears to be a deliberate policy to grossly limit its operations by ensuring that other airlines are not licensed to use it, aside Ethiopian Airlines. Why is this so?  Now, there is also the second NigerBridge which has been mired in and delayed by needless controversies when it ought to have been completed long before now. Indeed, these are more important to South Easterners than a million federal appointments. And anybody purporting to seek the welfare of the zone, but sidesteps these very significant matters, is wholly on his own, and clearly pursuing a self-serving agenda.

The same applies to other zone too where some people are looking away from the real needs of the people to pursue "stomach infrastructure" in the form of appointments. It is time to give the masses of Nigeria what they really need, what really will improve their lives, instead of using some dubious concern for their welfare to pursue clearly self-serving goals.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independent newspaper.   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ;

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 13:03

APC Should Face The Real Issues

Recently, the Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr. John Oyegun, was quoted as saying that he was "sad" that his party could not produce a lawmaker from the South East to be elected as senate president or speaker of the House of Representatives when the new national assembly would be inaugurated in June. This was because during the last elections, the APC performed so poorly in the South East that it was unable to win a single seat in the two houses of the national assembly in the region.

Ordinarily, this should have been an exclusive problem of the APC, but given the way Mr. Oyegun spoke, someone might be deluded into thinking that some really monumental tragedy had hit the South East – for which the people of the area should be in deep mourning by now.

Since the presidential election which the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, told us was won by the APC's General Muhammadu Buhari, one has lost count of articles ecstatically celebrating how the "wrong voting" of majority of South Easterners has now put the zone to a "great disadvantage."

Some solutions have also been "kindly" proffered by quite a number of people to "help" the South East out of its predicament, like the very absurd suggestion that a senator-elect from Enugu State should decamp to the APC so he could become the senate president; or even the much more off-putting call on a female Senator-elect from Anambra State to step down for the APC candidate she defeated, since the man is a "very good material" for the senate presidency. One could go on and on, but what is of concern here is that Mr. Oyegun's assertion would seem to have somewhat elevated these clearly pedestrian views and clothed them with the false robe of serious discourse.

Now, apart from providing another juicy job for another member of the largely parasitic and incompetent political class, what exactly will the South East gain if somebody from the zone becomes the senate president? Or, put another way, the zone has produced senate presidents before now, and apart from the delusive emotional satiation some fellows from their villages might have felt when they heard that their "brother" had "crossed over" to join other fat cats as a distinguished member of Nigeria's Eating Class, what exactly (in practical terms) did their communities or even states gain from their occupation of that position?  I sincerely wish to know how a South Easterner becoming the senate president would affect the price of fish at Afor Umuaka or Eke-Ututu market, even in this era of "change."

Okay, after the 2011 elections, the position of the speaker of the House of Representatives was zoned by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the South West. But the lawmakers from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – the dominant party in the same South West at that time, led by Bola Tinubu, reportedly, conspired with some PDP "rebels" in the House and some power-must-remain-with-us elements from the North to ensure that Aminu Tambuwal from SokotoState became speaker. Now, did the South West cease to exist because it neither produced a House speaker nor senate president? And where were these pundits who are now afflicting Nigerians with fantastic (some would say, infantile) analyses on the "misfortune" just suffered by the South East? Why did we not hear some "sad" mourners or impulsive "analysts" composing boring dirges in 2011 about the "great misfortune" that visited the South West, how some fellows from there scored a "disastrous" goal against their own people by conspiring to give away such a "juicy" position offered to their zone on a platter of gold?

The attempt to always profile South Easterners and brand any action undertaken by them is increasingly lacking in imagination, but the real tragedy is that those who have made it a cherished occupation are yet to realize it. Our "experts" found it very easy, even natural, to agree with indecent haste that the South East was driven by nationalistic fervor to vote massively for the PDP from 1999 to 2011 because such a position gratified their narrow, self-serving calculations at that period. But in 2015, the decision of many South Easterners to vote for the same PDP has suddenly become "tribalistic" (because of who stood to lose or benefit from it this time) and everyone that can string a few sentences together is out there at every village square spewing all sorts of babble on the matter!

But the South West and the North (including the toddlers whose pictures went viral) that voted en mass for the APC and even the Northern PDP governors who sank their political ships by their clannish, double-faced politics were all driven by "nationalistic" spirit. For instance, the defunct "NewPDP" owes its emergence to Babangida Aliyu, the  PDP Governor of Niger State, whose bitter agitation for a PDP presidential candidate of Northern extraction for the 2015 elections moved his colleagues from the North (and one governor from the South South who must have been promised that he would benefit from the "nationalistic" mutiny) to file behind him. Soon we began to hear about the G-7 governors who later named themselves the "NewPDP" whose sole agenda was to produce, not a more efficient president, but just a president from the North. Their eventual merger with other like-minds gave birth to what became the APC.

Although Governors Aliyu, Sule Lamido and some others chose to stay back in the PDP, it is obvious that they never purged themselves of their original agitation and agenda. They probably chose to operate from within. That is why despite their enormous incumbency powers and influence, Governors Aliyu and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi lost their senatorial bids to lesser-known candidates and even the "very popular" Gov Sule Lamido could not get his anointed PDP governorship candidate elected in Jigawa State because, even very close to the elections, he was reportedly still reluctant to campaign for the presidential candidate of his own party even as he could be heard occasionally speaking glowingly about the APC presidential candidate – his brother. Of course, these untidy political activities by these PDP stalwarts may have succeeded in confusing the electorate which went on to vote for "change" in all the elections (which to many of them, might to just mean, voting for "our own person" not matter his vision and competence).

Of course, our brilliant analysts would not dare to describe these people as "tribalistic." As if "nationalism" is one long, winding road which if you continue to follow tenaciously will lead you to Daura while "tribalism" is a wide expressway that speedily takes one to OnitshaBridge! I think we should be sick and tired of contaminating national discourse with this kind of self-deceiving claptrap.

Well, although, Buhari has suddenly realized (after reeling out tantalizing promises during the campaigns) that he is not "magician" or "miracle worker" and is now asking us to tone down our expectations, the APC should not lose sight of the high hopes it unduly (some would say, recklessly)  raised among Nigerians just to grab their votes.  As the report of Buhari's appeal for patience from Nigerians (since he now believes that the promised "change" may not come as quickly as he made Nigerians believe it would) appeared in the Vanguard of Wednesday, May 6, 2015, the questions on the lips of several Nigerians are: did he not do his research very well, and counted the cost, before he began to reel off those clearly unrealistic promises to Nigerians during the campaigns? And how does his coming out to sing a different tune after he has won the elections make him to look before Nigeria?

That is why I think that instead of going about looking for some clearly inconsequential matters to feel "sad" about, the APC leaders should hasten to rouse themselves to the yawning reality that the campaigns are over and all eyes are now on them to demonstrate that they are capable of providing the quality leadership they so loudly promised Nigerians.

What exactly does their promised "change" mean in practical terms? How soon will the naira acquire the same value as the US dollar? When are we expecting to witness uninterrupted electricity supply, the one free meal a day for school pupils or the payment of allowances to discharged but unemployed NYSC members? The list is endless.

The APC must hasten to realize that very soon, they would no longer have a President Jonathan to blame for everything that goes wrong in Nigeria or their inability to deliver on the grand promises they rolled out during the campaigns. They would be the ones on the hot seat receiving all the flaks, and not even a friendly, collaborative media can deflect the impatience of a disappointed populace.  They had better face the real issues staring them in the face instead of chasing butterflies.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independentnewspaper. His column appears every Tuesday on the back page. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; www.ugowrite.blogspot.com)

Thursday, 16 April 2015 15:03

Dying For Nothing In Nigeria

During the governorship and states' houses of assembly elections that took place in Nigeria last Saturday (April 11, 2015), several persons reportedly died across the nation. As I write now, a day after the elections, there are reports of raging battles in a couple of states. What it is most likely to boil down to is that some other people will also foolishly waste their lives like some others before them before the smoke of the senseless war clears.

Now, apart from any hapless individual "accidentally discharged" by some habitually reckless and trigger-happy cop or someone caught in the crossfire as rival political groups clashed and unleashed violence on each other, all the others killed during this election while fighting "political wars" died for nothing. They died for nothing because they counted themselves as nothing, hence they could waste their precious lives fighting for mostly common thieves or glorified thugs striving to become governors or "honourable" members of the house of assembly so that they can plunder the resources of the state and cart away as much loot as they can before their tenure expires.

What beats me is how a human being could devalue his life so much that he could expose that life to serious danger by agreeing to undertake a violent activity on behalf of someone who may not even be informed if he is killed – someone who does not even know him or care whether he lives or dies. Sometimes, all it takes to motivate these misguided combatants would just be a few crumpled naira notes, some bottles of beer or gin and poorly produced T-shirts bearing the faces of the fellows who they have been hired to fight and die for. Most of the time, he does not even have the slightest hint of contact with these his "ardent supporters." Or if he does, it may just be to come out in front of his house or step out of his luxury car at some other place to address and charge them to be prepared to lay down their lives to ensure that only the "credible candidate" (himself) wins the election "for the good of the state".

Meanwhile, he had taken care to ensure that his wife and children are far removed from the theatre of battle where he is urging some deluded Nigerians to shed their blood to secure for him and his family a life of limitless luxury. He would only bring them back to join him to wallow in boundless comfort when the battle is won – after some fools had died and gone to hell while fighting to ensure he was rigged into office.

Of course, we know that whenever Nigerian politicians threaten that blood would flow, what they always have in mind is not their own blood or that of their children and wives. Even their distant relations and friends do not figure in their calculations. What they have in mind is the blood of grossly impoverished Nigerians (people totally unfamiliar and unrelated to them) whom they believe they would always be able to easily brainwash and deceive with dirty naira notes to unleash violence and sometimes waste their lives. And only a thorough fool will allow himself to be deceived.

Indeed, it is time these Nigerians realized that they have been fooled and debased for so long now. It is time they placed great value on their lives and nudge themselves into the edifying awareness that these politicians that move them into the streets are in no way superior to them. In fact, they may even possess more dignity and even better intelligence than those politicians they are worshipping and dying for.

When the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega said that Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has won the presidential election, it was reported that not less than 25 people died and several others were wounded while madly celebrating the announcement. Like many others before them, these, too, died for nothing. As they ran about and indulged in several life-threatening displays, some of them fell off motorcycles and cars where they had perched carelessly chanting the name of a man who is not even aware of their miserable existence or would even see, let alone, mourn, their corpses after they have foolishly wasted their lives. Some others were crushed by vehicles that rammed into them as the wild reveling was stretched to very dangerous extremes.

But as these fellows of very low self-esteem rejoiced themselves to death, the man whose accomplishment they were wildly celebrating was in his comfortable house in Daura calmly savouring the joy of his sudden elevation and transformation and surrounded by his family, and, perhaps, new fat leeches who were busy negotiating themselves into the corridors of power from where they would, like their predecessors, suck Nigeria pale. And it is possible that only a few hours earlier, those same people were lying prostrate at the feet of President Jonathan licking his feet. That is the enduring character of Nigerian politics and politicians.

Now, despite all I have said here now, some fellows will still elect to die for nothing in 2019 or during some of the governorship elections that would come before then. But if they are wise, they would choose not to. Indeed, it is within their power to decide to avoid this grossly unprofitable game of death. They can boldly tell any politician threatening that blood would flow not to count on them to help him accomplish that. He should instead start with his own blood and that of his wife and children. Yes, these Nigerians can refuse to be the ones to die for nothing.

By the way, who is this noisy politician urging you to die for him? When stripped of all the pomp and flowing gown, he may just be another scum out there merely looking for a meal ticket. And that is bitterest part of it.

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*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independentnewspaper. His column appears every Tuesday on the back page. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; www.ugowrite.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, 08 April 2015 10:25

Obasanjo’s Belated Distaste For Corruption

A few hours after the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, told Nigerians that General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has won the March 28, 2015 Presidential Elections, a former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, released his congratulatory letter to Buhari. In it, he told Buhari, among other things, to rid "our land of corruption" 

"With so much harm already done to many national institutions including the military, which proudly nurtured you and me, you will have a lot to do on institution reform, education, healthcare, economy, security, infrastructure, power, youth employment, agribusiness, oil and gas, external affairs, cohesiveness of our nation and ridding our land of corruption," Obasanjo wrote in the six-paragraph letter. 

It was the season of victory celebrations and hastening to identify with victors, so, such outpour of sentiments were not unexpected, even from very suspicious and grossly unqualified quarters. We live in a country of pathetic denialists, where the citizens are in such a hurry to forget and the media finds the ennobling task of asking deep questions and reminding us of even our most recent past a very tiresome and undesirable task. 

And so, in such a country, persons like Obasanjo who deployed enormous zeal and determination to wreak unqualified damage to their country can afford to rewrite recent history and brazenly crown and advertise themselves as heroes and  patriots. And our largely pathetic media would eagerly join, if not lead, the celebration of this unsightly dance in the slimy pond of egregious hypocrisy and mediocrity. 

Former American president, George W. Bush left office largely uncelebrated. Several Americans think that he led them into a needless and very costly war in Iraq. He left office with the economy in tatters and his country's esteem abroad grossly diminished. And since then, he had tried as much as possible to be humbly quiet. After some years, he published his memoir which he entitled, Decision Points, not to judge and cast aspersions on others better than himself (like they do in Nigeria), or to sermonize on good governance and improvement of America's global reputation – the two areas in which Americans consider him a colossal failure. 

He simply tried to humbly explain some of the key decisions he took as American president and the motives that inspired them. Although his Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, continues to believe that their decision to go to Iraq was such a noble one, Mr. Bush has openly admitted (and regretted) that Iraq remains a dark sport in his administration's record. 

Now virtually every American can explain how the Bush family acquired the wealth they have long been associated with in Texas. Yet, Mr. Bush (jnr) would continue to have his head bowed in America for a very long time to come, because each time he dared to open his mouth so recklessly, the American media would remind him of his inglorious tenure as president and drum it home to him that he had a very good opportunity to make America better and greater than he found it, but he wantonly squandered it. 

But in Nigeria we have an Obasanjo who, no matter from what angle you consider him, ably qualifies as a failed leader. Under his tenure, elections degenerated from massive rigging to no elections at all – they simply announced "winners" after each charade. 

During what can best be described as Obasanjo's "years of the locusts" as Nigeria's president (1999 – 2007), virtually every prized institution in Nigeria collapsed. Corruption became so institutionalized and commonplace (some called it "free and fair" or "open and transparent") that it was even rumoured that government departments bribed each other to secure cooperation from one another in normal procedures and operations that required collaborative efforts. 

We heard of ministerial nominees claiming they were advised to grease the palms of powerful senators to smoothen their way through the confirmation process. 

Insecurity became such an issue that even a state governor was abducted from his office and taken to an unknown location by characters that openly hobnobbed with and were empowered by the presidency. So enraged was Nigeria's literary legend, Chinua Achebe, at this gross devaluation of the country that he wrote Obasanjo to say that Nigeria under his watch was "too dangerous for silence." 

When Obasanjo came out of prison in 1998, it was public knowledge (which also worked in his favour at that time) that he was in serious lack, practically a poor man. Whatever he had accumulated before going to prison had, reportedly, gone down the drain.   Now how can anyone explain the sudden transformation of this same man into an incredibly wealthy billionaire between 1999 and today, after serving as Nigeria's president? 

After Obasanjo left office, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) swung into action arresting some governors and staging some uninspiring drama with their arraignment which was beamed into our homes via television screens. But while this lasted, the joke out there was that while the commission was at one side of town "fighting corruption," Obasanjo was at the other end neatly arranging his billions, expanding his business empire, and consolidating his wealthy dynasty. 

Obasanjo single-handedly ran the Petroleum Ministry for eight years, yet, till date, no one can claim to have seen a copy of any comprehensive audit report of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – that enclave of corruption – by an independent firm since 1999. The whole thing was run like a family business. 

Again, a former Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Azie, was hurriedly sacked for daring to produce a damning report detailing the mind-blowing corruption and financial rascality that thrived in the Obasanjo regime. 

What of the famous Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) scandal which threw up shocking revelations about how mindless profligacy and abuse of office were given a most vulgar and repelling definition – how huge sums of money was frivolously withdrawn to either buy exquisite cars for "women friends" or finance countless affairs that were totally outside the PTDF mandate. 

How much did the Tenure Elongation madness (otherwise known as the Third Term Project) which was attempted during the autumnal stage of the Obasanjo regime consume? How much was expended to perennially destabilize and effect the various changes in the leadership of the National Assembly in order to install stooges that helped turn the national assembly into an appendage of the Presidency? Does anyone still remember the N10 billion belonging to the long-suffering people of Jigawa State reportedly "donated" by their former Governor, Mr. Saminu Turaki, to Obasanjo's Self Perpetuation Project? 

Okay, Obasanjo has called on Gen Buhari to rid our country of corruption. That was a wonderful move. Even before now, he has severally condemned corruption in public institutions and among public officers. But given the overwhelming stench still oozing from these hideous corruption cases that flourished under his watch, what kind of corruption can anyone claim to fight in Nigeria without having these ones on top of his list? 

Or is Obasanjo and his privileged mob enjoying perpetual immunity from investigation and prosecution? How can those who sit on mysterious wealth in a country inhabited by rational human beings be allowed to gradually turn themselves into moral megaphones who occasionally sermonize on corruption and the moral disabilities of others? Is that how to become the conscience of one's country as our media, opinion moulders and even some civil society organisations would have us to believe? 

In late 2007, Daily Independent reported that an NGO, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), had sent a petition to the EFCC voicing the general feeling among Nigerians that there was no way Obasanjo's massive investments could have been financed by his legitimate income. 

"We are aware that the annual salary of Nigeria's President is not up to N38 million. But even if [Obasanjo] earned N60 million per annum for seventy years, he would not have up to N5 billion. But [he] is currently worth about N70 billion by our conservative estimate," the group asserted. 

It also called for a probe of the "several billions of Naira pumped into the power sector" and the "allegations that Obasanjo overshot the budget of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as stated in the report on Budget Performance issued by the House of Representatives in 2005." 

And while all these were yet to be scratched, the Siemens bribery scandal exploded on our faces and to the best of my knowledge, none of the Obasanjo ministers implicated in the sleaze has expressed any surprise that his name made the list. 

As long as Obasanjo is made to look like a pacesetter in any anti-corruption effort, so long will such an eandeavour be discredited before those who still retain some bit of decency and scruples in a country like Nigeria where bad models are continually celebrated and decorated with the robe of saints. 

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*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independent. His column appears every Tuesday on the back page. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 26 March 2015 08:14

Nigeria: Elections In The Season Of Fear

On Saturday (March 28, 2015), Nigerians will once again troop to the polls to choose who among the several contestants vigorously campaigning and scheming out there (mostly for self-serving reasons) would be their president and members of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next four years. In several other countries, including even some of our smaller and leanly-endowed neighbours here, election periods usually provide the populace with pleasant opportunities to savour the excitement of democracy.

People go to the polls with beaming faces exchanging pleasantries and banters while waiting to cast their votes. They are not gripped by any benumbing fear that some daredevil thugs might swoop on the voting centres to shoot into the air, snatch away ballot boxes, and, possibly, wound or even kill some people in the process. Even the contestants would just come to the voting centres with little or no security, and without any fanfare unobtrusively cast their votes like every other person. And as they return to their homes, they are not looking over their shoulders to see if some killers hired by their opponents are trailing them to eliminate them.

The voters, too, would go home and enjoy another night of refreshing and peaceful sleep with their two eyes closed. The atmosphere is completely devoid of fear because they are not expecting that some hooligans would soon start disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood and looking for whom to kill or maim once emerging results begin to show that their paymaster is losing.

The expectation of Nigerians of decent will this time around is that we would be able to prove with this Saturday's elections that our case cannot just remain egregiously different in the comity of nations, that we would not always be counted among the world's perennially sick babies who are always distinguished by their inability to get even very simple things right.

When Nigeria surprised the world with its deft handling of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), America's Foreign Policy magazine published a very edifying story which, if I recall very well, was entitled: Ebola: Nigeria Got Right Everything America Got Wrong. This was after American health officials in Dallas had mishandled with far-reaching consequences the case of Eric Duncan, a Liberian who had returned to the United States after contracting the disease in his country. At that instant, the world temporarily forgot Nigeria's demoralizing history of embarrassing failures as heart-nourishing eulogies oozed towards our country from different parts of the world. It was Nigeria's brief glorious moment during which many Nigerians quickly reawakened their faith and pride in their country.

But the question on many lips now is: as skepticisms mount across the world about our capacity to get it right this Saturday and wild speculations about Nigeria's likely implosion are unduly feasted on by the international media, can't we dare to make the world wake up the next day to realize that Nigeria has just snatched another success from the jaws of defeat (to modify Chinua Achebe's popular assertion about Nigeria snatching failure from the jaws of success)?

Why can't we just go out there and do what other countries undertake with such ease and continue with our lives? Why must it always happen that desperate and grossly irresponsible politicians would always saturate the atmosphere with bloodcurdling threats (which experience have shown that they do, indeed, carry out quite often with far-reaching consequences), thereby ensuring that people always exercise their voting rights with serious caution amidst crippling fear? Why must elections in this country be always likened to war?

Sadly, most politicians see elections as just another very lucrative investment from which the investor must reap handsome profits. And so, to many of them, it is a do-or-die affair! They just cannot just accept defeat and watch their victorious opponents descend on the public treasury with all the fury of their raw, primitive greed and start looting and plundering, while they are out in the cold hungry and deprived. And so they must fight to finish.

But I think that Nigerians ought to have had enough of this madness by now. How long shall we continue to allow mostly ultra-selfish politicians merely looking for meal tickets to disturb our lives and peace? Indeed, Nigerians would be doing themselves a lot of good if they refuse to allow themselves to be used by the unscrupulous and irresponsible fellows that litter the political space to unleash mayhem anywhere in the country. If every young man would today place value on his own life and refuse to be a thug or hired killer to the politician, a lot would have been achieved in the determined effort to gratify the deep yearning of decent Nigerians to have the system sanitized and purged of men and women of unwholesome preferences whose only agenda for Nigeria is how to destabilize it once any opportunity to steal and empty the treasury is denied them.

The star characters in Saturday's election are, no doubt, President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC). One hopes that they have realized by now that no matter their good intentions for the country that only one person can emerge president after Saturday's elections and that Nigerians still reserve the right to decide who that person should be. Respecting the wishes of Nigerians is the only way they can distinguish themselves as statesmen and respectable patriots. This also applies to all the other contestants who should place the survival and preservation of this country far above their personal (and mostly selfish) cravings.

Our politicians must purge themselves of this toxic notion that the only "free and fair" election is the one which they won. And even when they have genuine reasons to feel that they have been shortchanged, they should shun all forms of self-help and explore only lawful processes to seek redress. Please, we are sick and tired of having desperadoes who are in politics solely to loot and out-loot each other coming out to create tension everywhere and violate our right to peaceful existence each time they are out-smarted by their fellow plunderers.

Now, for this election to be less controversial, a lot would depend on the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which must demonstrate its competence and lack of bias beyond reasonable doubts. We know that politicians would always wish to discredit the results of elections which they lost, but once majority of the citizenry are able to see that INEC had tried its best to be as neutral as possible, it would then be easy for many to hurriedly dismiss the noise-making politicians as a bad losers.

But in this particular election, INEC has already put the wrong foot forward and it does not appear to be doing enough to allay growing fears about its perceived incompetence and partiality. INEC must be willing to admit that its stubborn determination to conduct the presidential and National Assembly polls on February 14 even when it was too clear that it was not ready has created huge doubts about its true intentions. It may have been a case of abject naivety and misdirected exuberance, but that singular step surely did a great damage to INEC's credibility.

Also, if until very recently, the commission was still taking delivery of and distributing Permanent Voters Cards (PVC), and yet, it was bent on conducting an election in which about 34% of Nigerians or more would certainly have been disenfranchised, then something is really wrong with its sense of judgment, if not ability. Some might even think that INEC's action smacks of sheer irresponsibility.

INEC still has the opportunity to convincingly reassure Nigerians about its determination to conduct free and fair elections this Saturday. And Nigerians, especially, the young people, should not help the politicians to destroy this country. If younger Nigerians refuse to respond to the instigation of politicians to pour into the streets to unleash violence, certainly neither the politicians nor members of their families would be willing to do that. It is as simple as that. And perhaps, we will see the end of all these threats about making Nigeria ungovernable by people who, judging by their primitive preferences and distorted mindset, should otherwise qualify as the scum and dregs of this society, deserving only to be ignored.

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*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independent. His column appears every Tuesday on the back page. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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