Chido Onumah holds an MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He was Director of Africa Programme, Panos Institute, Washington, DC, and former Assistant Editor of Third World Network's African Agenda magazine. He has worked as a journalist in Nigeria, Ghana, and Canada. email@example.com
“There is nothing exclusive in the term unity; unity for Nigeria holds out the best chance for progress when that unity is a unity of purpose rather than the present hollow approach to unity for sake of unity. For unity to be meaningful, it has to be creative, not the unity of Jonah in the whale but the unity of holy matrimony. The first can only lead to defecation, the second to procreation”. – Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
I have just finished work on a new book titled Nigeria is Negotiable. Its release is scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola. Many of us know how that experiment under the gap-toothed dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, ended. But that is a topic for another essay.
It is the title of the book that is of interest here. I chose the title deliberately, to stir debate; but it is also a reaffirmation of my conviction about where our dear country is headed and what needs to be done. At no time since I became politically conscious more than three decades ago have I been as worried as I am today about Project Nigeria.
What is worrying is not so much the demands of various groups who seek to tear the country apart, but the hypocrisy and half-hearted response of those who are in a position to save the looming calamity. That we are still debating whether there is a nation, almost 100 years after the country was created and 53 years of political independence is emblematic of a country mired in deep crisis.
I take that back. There is really no debate about the future of our country. What we have are platitudes, threats and a presupposition that one way or another, things will work out. If we had any meaningful debate, perhaps we would have come to the inevitable conclusion that there is so much wrong with Nigeria and that if we do not deal with the cancer of disunity, it will metastasize and consume the country.
President Jonathan, like all rulers before him, has had occasions to talk about the vexed issue of national unity, the most recent being in September 2012 during the national summit and rally for peace, unity and development, organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
“I agree with other speakers that we cannot talk about cannibalising and balkanising Nigeria,” the president said. “I think those who are thinking that way want to be kings in tiny islands, because I believe from the little I know that Nigeria is still rated as a country to look at globally. It’s not because we produce oil and some people think it’s because of our oil. One small country with less than 10 million population produces more oil than Nigeria. So it is not the oil, it is not the vast land. What is the land space of Nigeria compared to Sudan? So any person who feels that they just want to stay as one nation, just want to be king without hard work. They will not get it, because Nigeria will not divide’’.
How many times have we heard the glib talk “Nigeria will not divide” or “the unity of the country is nonnegotiable”? Of course, if it were as simple as the president imagined, we would not spend valuable time and space on the issue. It seems people talk about the unity of Nigeria the way it suits them. For many, it is the unity of Jonah in the belly of the whale.
It is our inability to confront this unhealthy unity that is our greatest undoing. There is something troubling about the structure of Nigeria which explains why we cannot achieve much no matter how hard we try to “move the country forward”, to use the weasel words of our politicians.
While not excusing corruption and the perfidy of the ruling class, we can conveniently argue that the monumental corruption going on in the country, the violation of human rights, the contempt for rule of law and widespread injustice are all tied inexorably to the structure of the country. So we need to go back to basics. In a sentence, we need to negotiate Nigeria. This has become imperative in the light of the “clear and present danger”.
Every day, we hear war drums, threats and counter threats. A few days ago, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari, while reacting to the faceoff between President Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State vowed that, “There will be no peace, not only in the Niger Delta, but everywhere, if Goodluck Jonathan is not the president by 2015, except God takes his life, which we do not pray for”.
“Jonathan has uninterrupted eight years of two terms to be president, according to the Nigeria constitution,” Dokubo-Asari added. “We must have our uninterrupted eight years of two tenures. I am not in support of any amendment to the constitution that will reduce the eight years”.
If this is not a declaration of war against the Nigerian state, I do not know what is. But that is the nature of our democracy. Our votes do not count; they have never counted. I do not know which constitutionDokubo-Asari is referring to, but the 1999 constitution which President Jonathan swore to uphold does not guarantee an automatic “uninterrupted eight years of two tenures” for any Nigerian no matter where they come from.
In the past, we talked about the hegemony of the three dominant ethnic groups in the country. That is no longer the case. If you thought Dokubo-Asari was merely being mischievous, perhaps you missed the memo by the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, and chairman, presidential amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku, who last week warned of “dire consequences in the Niger Delta if President Jonathan is not re-elected”.
Speakingat a session with officials of the U.S. State Department led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of African Affairs), Donald Teitelbaum, Kuku was reported to have said, “Only Mr. Jonathan can guarantee peace in the restive region and hence, the compelling need to persuade him to seek re-election in 2015”.
“However, if we allow anything to hurt the peace in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s economy will be endangered and energy security in Nigeria and even America will not be guaranteed. The attention and interest of the U.S. in Nigeria must remain the stability of the Niger Delta and the easiest way to ensure this is to encourage President Jonathan to complete an eight-year term,” Kuku said.
What kind of president instigates war against his own people? It is only a president that does not have faith in the country he governs. Of course, if we uphold the right of one group to wage war against the state, we cannot, for any reason, deny same to other groups. That is why the planned trial of members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) for treason must be resisted.
We may dismiss Dokubo-Asari, but it is difficult to fault his assertion that “The 2015 general elections would ‘define and decide’ the existence of Nigeria”. That much was confirmed by the statement credited to Farouk Adamu Aliyu a former member of the House of Representatives and the 2011 Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) governorship candidate in Jigawa State who warned a few days ago that, “It is either a Northerner as president in 2015 or there will be no more Nigeria”.
"Let me also use this opportunity to say on behalf of us in the north that nobody has monopoly of violence and that on behalf of the people of northern extraction, there shall be no one Nigeria if a northerner is not elected president of this country, because politics is a game of numbers and the Ijaw people are not up to one million or two million or even five million,” Aliyu said.
In “response” to Dokubo-Asari, Aliyu put forward a faulty argument which is as cynical as it is troubling. The fact that the “Ijaw people are not up to one million or two million or even five million” does not in any way vitiate the right of an Ijaw man to emerge as president of Nigeria or reelected as president of Nigeria. What about other Nigerians who are not Ijaws or Northerners? Are they not entitled to be president of Nigeria?
Before now, we heard from people who promised to make Nigeria “ungovernable” if President Jonathan won the 2011 election. Clearly, our problem as a nation is much graver than we are willing to admit.
Rather than worrying about reelection in 2015, President Jonathan can etch his name in history and save Nigeria by facilitating a process for “we the people” to have a meaningful debate about the future of Nigeria.
The president seems fortunate to be in charge when the country celebrates 100 years of amalgamation. What an auspicious moment to negotiate Nigeria. Forget corruption, forget electricity, forget infrastructure. You need to have a nation for these things to work.
I hope it is not asking too much!
Typical of the Jonathan regime, it took the effort of investigative journalists – this time, the reporters at Premium Times – to alert Nigerians about the planned assault on our civil liberties.
The latest deal, involving an Israeli company, Elbit Systems Ltd., is for the supply of the “Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) System for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense”. That we have not heard from presidential spokespersons, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe, is a tacit acknowledgment that the contract, as reported last week, is indeed real. We can bet they are busy cooking up an “appropriate” response.
Elbit describes its system as “a highly advanced end-to-end solution (which) supports every stage of the intelligence process, including the collection of the data from multiple sources, databases and sensors, processing of the information, supporting intelligence personnel in the analysis and evaluation of the information and disseminating the intelligence to the intended recipient”. In simple terms, it means the government is engaging Elbit to undermine the privacy of citizens and spy on the close to 50 million Internet users in the country.
It is a measure of the lack of transparency that is hallmark of the Jonathan government that the WiT contract went ahead without due process. After all, it is not as if the appropriation for the contract was not documented. According to Premium Times, “The administration had indicated in the 2013 budget that it would procure a Wise Intelligence Network Harvest Analyzer System, Open Source Internet Monitoring System and Personal Internet Surveillance System at a cost of N9.496bn ($61.26 million)”.
Elbit on its part, announced the contract award in a global press release on April 24, 2013, claiming “it was awarded an approximately $40 million contract to supply a country in Africa with the Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) System for Intelligence Analysis and Cyber Defense”.
It would be interesting to know, as Premium Times observed, “Now that the contract has been awarded to Elbit for about $40 million, if the National Assembly will raise questions as to what becomes of the extra $21 million earmarked for the project”.
We are also informed by the online publication that, “In awarding the contract to the Israeli firm, no tenders or calls for bids were made just as there were no public announcements. The contract was awarded following a proposal from a single vendor who dictated the contract sum and the terms of the contract”.
“The manner of award directly contravenes the 2007 Public Procurement Act,” the publication noted. “While the Act gives room for single source contracts, the Elbit contract met none of the requirements under which such special contracts could be awarded. Section 47 (3) (iii) of the 2007 Act stipulates that single source contracts are to be awarded in emergency situations such as “natural disasters or a financial crisis”.
Beyond the issue of due process is the fundamental question of the appropriateness of this contract. Of course, there are those who will question the angst of civil libertarians and say the government needs this kind of “intelligence” gathering in light of the monumental security breaches across the country. But what guarantee is there that Nigeria will get value for its money?
It is troubling enough that we have to hand over our national security to a private company in a foreign country. The two-year WiT contract comes with a proviso that should concern anybody interested in where our country is headed. According to Joseph Gaspar, Executive VP and CFO of Elbit, “This press release contains forward-looking statements (within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) regarding Elbit Systems Ltd. and/or its subsidiaries (collectively the Company), to the extent such statements do not relate to historical or current fact”.
“Forward Looking Statements are based on management's expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict.
“Therefore, actual future results, performance and trends may differ materially from these forward-looking statements due to a variety of factors, including, without limitation: scope and length of customer contracts; governmental regulations and approvals; changes in governmental budgeting priorities; general market, political and economic conditions in the countries in which the Company operates or sells, including Israel and the United States among others; differences in anticipated and actual program performance, including the ability to perform under long-term fixed-price contracts; and the outcome of legal and/or regulatory proceedings”.
I have a feeling some “smart” Nigerians must have convinced the government that if it invests $40m, it would be able to keep a tab on opponents and “troublemakers”. How does the WiT project fit into the country’s existing intelligence programme and security initiatives? We know how ill-trained and ill-equipped our security agencies, particularly the police, are. Their lack of coordination has become a national embarrassment.
A few months ago, President Jonathan visited the Police College, Ikeja (PCI), Lagos, and was justifiably alarmed at the state of the country’s premier police training institution. During the president’s visit, we got to know that the situation at PCI was just a tip of the iceberg of the monumental rot that is characteristic of police colleges across the country. We can only imagine the kind security police officers trained at PCI and allied colleges will provide and how amenable they will be to intelligence gathering.
The quality of personnel is an integral part of any effective security and intelligence operation. Rather than frittering millions of dollars on a bogus, illegal and clearly dangerous project, the government should pay a bit more attention to the internal crisis within the country’s security agencies. Saturday Punch, April 27, 2013, reported that thefederal government had blocked the installation of 10,000 security cameras in Lagos. The scheme, under the Lagos Safe City Project, according to the paper, aims at “providing 10,000 solar-powered closed circuit cameras all over the metropolis”.
“In an information technology-driven world, we have to be counted as one of those states and communities which will adopt best practices. Cameras, sensors, tracking devices are the nerve centre of these facilities that would assist men and officers of the police force, fire service among others to do their duty much more effectively,” the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola was quoted as saying about the project that was initiated in 2009. A federal government that is interested in the security of its citizens should not be seen to be engaged in this kind of faceoff over an issue that states can handle.
There are many factors to take into consideration in dealing with insecurity in the country. What, for example is the state of the National ID project? How effective is the country’s driver’s licence system? In a country where people can claim who they are not and transform to anybody they want in a minute; a country where people can move in and out through our numerous porous borders without any form of documentation, it would take more than a $40 million sweet deal and the not-too-reassuring words of a foreign company to keep Nigerians safe.
Of course, the government would do well investing in the lives of citizens through the provision of quality education, effective healthcare, creation of the enabling environment for the economy to thrive and facilitate job creation for millions of unemployed university graduates.
That, ultimately, is the best defence against insecurity.
Last July, shortly after the horrific Dana Air crash that killed over a hundred Nigerians, I did a piece titled “Murder Incorporated”. The thrust of the piece was that the government ought to take the larger blame for the incident. Why? Because ours is a country of “anything goes”.
There are laws, but people break them with impunity and no one gets punished. That really is what separates us from the rest of the so-called developed world. The lack of respect for laws by citizens and the inability of government to uphold the rule of law make all the difference between a stable and prosperous state and one poised to fail.
While working on the article referenced above, I came across a National Universities Commission (NUC) newsletter that had a list of 44 “fake universities” in the country. That piece of information was meant as a cautionary note for students and parents as well as the public. It is hard to say how many of those concerned saw and benefitted from the NUC alert. From all indications, not many.
Just last week, close to a year after the NUC highlighted the issue of “fake universities”, I visited the NUC website only to discover that the list had grown to 49 and counting. It is either that, in response to the country’s glorification of paper qualification, business is thriving for “fake universities” or those who are supposed to rein in these illegal entities are not doing what is expected of them.
That the NUC had to issue another warning recently is a pointer to how menacing the issue has become. The latest information about “fake universities” and “degree mills” in the country came via a public announcement signed by Prof. Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission.
“The National Universities Commission (NUC) wishes to announce to the general public, especially parents and prospective undergraduates that the under listed “Degree Mills” have not been licensed by the Federal Government and have, therefore, been closed down for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards, etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” Prof. Okojie noted.
The list of “fake universities” included such incongruous names as
Christians of Charity American University of Science & Technology, Nkpor, Anambra State; University of Industry, Yaba, Lagos; Blacksmith University, Awka; UNESCO University, Ndoni, Rivers State; The International University, Missouri, USA, Kano and Lagos Study Centres; Pilgrims University operating anywhere in Nigeria; Kingdom of Christ University, Abuja; Acada University, Akinlalu, Oyo State; Fifom University, Mbaise, Imo State; Atlantic Intercontinental University, Okija, Anambra State; Olympic University, Nsukka, Enugu State; and Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Abuja.
According to the NUC, “In addition to the closure, the following “Degree Mills” are currently undergoing further investigations and/or ongoing court actions. The purpose of these actions is to prosecute the proprietors and recover illegal fees and charges on subscribers: National University of Nigeria, Keffi, Nasarawa State; North Central University, Otukpo, Benue State; Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University, Enugu, Enugu State; Richmond Open University, Arochukwu, Abia State; West Coast University, Umuahia, Abia State; Saint Clements University, Iyin Ekiti, Ekiti State; Volta University College, Aba, Abia State; illegal satellite campuses of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State”.
For good measure, Prof Okojie added, “For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who patronises or obtains any certificate from any of these illegal institutions does so at his or her own risk. Certificates obtained from these sources will not be recognised for the purposes of NYSC, employment, and further studies.
The relevant Law enforcement agencies have also been informed for their further necessary action. This list of illegal institutions is not exhaustive”. How reassuring!
It is heartwarming that the NUC appears to be tackling the menace of “fake universities” frontally. But there are many questions begging for answers. What type of “investigations” is the NUC conducting? Universities are not daycare centres. How did these “Degree Mills” start off? Is there a “cabal” behind these “fake universities”? Are there no regulations/requirements before universities are accredited? Did the NUC accredit the universities it is investigating?
The NUC has a list of legally recognised universities in the country and any institution that purports to be a university that is not on the list should be closed down immediately and its proprietors prosecuted. That is the easiest way to put an end to this scam. In this regard, does the NUC have the support of the government and its relevant agencies to prosecute the proprietors of these illegal universities?
Coming on the heels of the federal government’s appointment of Salisu Buhari, discreditedformer Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the governing council of a federal university, it is easy to see the kind of support the NUC would get from the government. For those who need reminding, Mr. Buhari was the first speaker of the House of Representatives when the Fourth Republic took off in 1999. He came to that position having lied about his age and qualification. He claimed a degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, which he never earned.
When Buhari bowed to public pressure and tearfully tendered his letter of resignation to the House, claiming to be motivated by his zeal to serve his country, he received a thunderous applause from his fellow honourable colleagues who agreed to pardon him. That pardon did come eventually through his mentor, then president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
The other day, I watched presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, on Channels TV trying laboriously to defend the appointment of Buhari. According to Abati, “The thing about pardon is that it turns you into a new man. Out of 251 persons appointed to governing council of federal universities, I don’t think we really have to worry ourselves so much about one man”.
Perhaps, in tackling the problem of “fake universities” the government needs to borrow a leaf from its own playbook. Only recently, through one of its agencies, the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), the government banned the airing and distribution of the documentary, “Fueling Poverty”. The 30-minute film documents the corruption in the country’s oil industry, its impact and the response of Nigerians to the waste and obnoxious policies it has engendered.
The NFVCB says the documentary “is highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security”. It warned the film maker and his associates about the consequences of violating the order, saying “all relevant national security agencies (including the Department of State Services and the Police) are on the alert”. I would think the menace of “fake universities” is a greater threat to us than a 30-minute film that merely documents what Nigerians already know.
We look forward to the outcome of the NUC’s “investigation” and hope that at the end of the day, we actually see people punished for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
You couldn’t miss the headline. I am referring to the conclave of gerontocrats that took place earlier in the week. It centred on former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Anenih in secret meeting with Obasanjo”, was how The Guardian headlined the event. If there was any doubt about the purpose of the meeting, Anthony Anenih, chair of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and successor to Obasanjo in the very lucrative post of BoT chairman, dispelled it when he told reporters, “In 2015 we (PDP) will do what we know how to do best”. Of course, we all know what the PDP knows how to do best. And we have Obasanjo to thank for that.
For whatever it is worth, Obasanjo is still held in high regard in the PDP family and he may well continue to direct the affairs of the party as long as he is alive. “I am here to see my leader (Obasanjo). I am here to pay my respect and indeed I am here with my colleagues, some members of the Board of Trustees of our party to discuss some issues that affect the corporate existence of this country,” Anenih gushed after the meeting. “As you can see, we are all smiling, don’t you see me smiling? And my leader too is smiling. So, we are quite happy about the outcome”.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian crisis is no laughing matter. It would be tragic to leave the discussion about the corporate existence of Nigeria to the Obasanjos and Anenihs amongst us.
Chief (Gen.) Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, is an enigma, in and out of office. I am sure he cherishes that role. Nobody, dead or alive, has had more impact on the course of post-independence history of the country than the retired general.
Obasanjo evokes different memories for different people. Academics and students in tertiary institutions in the late 70s would remember his assault on students, academics and education in general. Those in secondary schools also have memories of that era of despotism. In a remarkable show of defiance, Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti, withdrew his son, Femi, from Baptist Academy in Lagos State when Obasanjo deployed soldiers to secondary schools.
Like President Goodluck Jonathan, Obasanjo took charge of the Nigerian state after the death of his boss. It was in February 1976. The head of state, Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed, had been assassinated. That was when Obasanjo came into our consciousness. Before then, the much we knew about him was from the conflicting stories of his exploits during the civil war.
Ever since, Obasanjo has refused to go away. Through a combination of luck, guile and opportunism, he has managed to remain a constant figure in our political evolution. To his admirers, Obasanjo is the “father of modern Nigeria”; the “Mandela” of Nigeria. After all, like the legendary Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and president (1994 to 1999), he moved from prison to the presidency.
A few weeks ago, after my article titled “IBB’s two-party solution”, a responder had noted, “I always take the view that Obj (Obasanjo), IBB and Gowon -- in that order -- more than any of our ex-rulers had the best opportunities to set our country on a path to true greatness and all of them failed woefully. It is the enduring tragedy of our (potentially) great nation that the incumbent may yet surpass them all in terms of cluelessness and damage inflicted on our country”.
Of course, this is not hyperbole. In 1979, Obasanjo had the chance to launch the country on the path of genuine democracy, but he bungled it. Twenty-eight years later, in 2007, after eight years as civilian president, he had the opportunity to make amends, but he squandered it in his characteristic devious manner.
If you do not know Obasanjo, you would probably mistake him for a global expert sent by the UN to oversee events in Nigeria. Ever since he reluctantly left power in 2007, he has never missed an opportunity to remind us of how ungrateful we are as a people for not recognising his trailblazing role as the father of democracy in Nigeria.
Obasanjo has warned about revolution. He has talked about unemployment, corruption and what they portend for the country. “I’m afraid, and you know I am a General. When a General says he is afraid, that means the danger ahead is real and potent,” he told the West African regional conference on youth employment in Senegal, earlier in the year. “Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly,’’ Obasanjo said not too long ago. Of course, he is right; except that he failed to take his share of the blame for the emergence of these scoundrels who have taken over our democratic space.
In a keynote lecture at the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) in Ilorin, Kwara State, Obasanjo again warned, “We are sitting on a keg of gun-powder in this country due to the problems of unemployment of our youths. We have almost 150 universities now in the country turning out these young Nigerians but without job opportunities for them”.
Recently, Obasanjo blamed poor leadership for the country’s woes. He forgot to add that apart from his forgettable leadership (1976-1979 and 1999-2007), he carefully orchestrated the poor leadership we had in 1979 and again in 2007. Fortunately for him, we have in President Jonathan a ruler who has redefined the meaning of poor leadership which in a way makes Obasanjo look like a messiah.
That is Obasanjo’s modus operandi. As one writer noted, “In 1983 when the Shagari government started to wobble, he came out to play prophet”. It was the same government he installed four years earlier. When the Babangida regime was at its wit’s end and its demise looked certain, Obasanjo attacked the regime’s disastrous economic policy dubbed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), arguing that the policy needed a “human face”.
Obasanjo understands what democracy entails, but he does not have the moral courage to be guided by its rule. When Gen. Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola, Obasanjo told a bewildered nation that, “Abiola is not the messiah”. Like an addict hankering after a fix, it was his way of saying he needed the job. It was that ambition that landed him in Abacha’s prison after he reinvented himself and became a “born-again democrat”. It’s been twenty years since the annulment; and three disastrous elections (two supervised by Obasanjo in 2003 and 2007) after, we are still talking about Obasanjo.
In a 2008 piece titled "Obama's election and the needed change", Obasanjo, while congratulating then President-elect, Barack Obama, noted, “The feeling of change that Senator Obama engendered through his campaign for the White House represents a significant theme of change we have all aspired and fought for in different areas, regions, cultures and historical times. The desire for change has never been the question nor has it ever been in question. It is the extent, the range, the tone, the quantity, the quantum and the sustenance of change that has always been the question”.
“Rooted in the achievements of Senator Obama is a far more significant theme for people aspiring to lead their communities, particularly for young Africans in Africa. It is the aspirations, the determination, the energy, the strategic thinking, planning and execution that Senator Obama and his campaign team have brought into what is being regarded as a movement. Entire generations have been roused and invited to bring about a change that they and the rest of the world desire”.
It is a measure of his hypocrisy that Obasanjo has remained the greatest threat to change in Nigeria. How can young Nigerians aspire to lead their communities when men who are almost 80 years old like Obasanjo and Anenih have sworn not to exit the political space? Clearly, in tackling the PDP and Jonathan in 2015, we must realize that we have to contend with the Obasanjo factor.
With all due respect, Mr. ex-President, you have earned the right to leave us the heck alone!
I have no illusions about the challenges (some of which are beginning to manifest) and limitations of the new mega party being proposed by the country’s main opposition parties. The reality is that the All Progressives Congress (APC) can only go so far in the quest to lift our people from poverty, disease, unemployment and other problems associated with a neo-colonial capitalist economy like ours. The reasons are quite clear.
However, it is important to state that in the midst of the general chaos that has enveloped the country and the rudderless leadership of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which threatens the very survival of the country, there are very few options open for us to push back the country from the brink.
In general, there are three likely scenarios that could play out in the next two years. None of the scenarios is capable of addressing the urgent crisis confronting the country. What are these scenarios? One, the opposition abdicates the political space and allows the current charade to run its full course. Two things are possible here: first, the implosion of the PDP which seems quite imminent could prove even costlier for the nation. Second, President Jonathan is “reelected” in 2015. By 2019, he, like his predecessors, hands over to a governor of his choice and the cycle continues while we groan and complain ad nauseam.
The second scenario is the military option. This option looks menacingly real and tantalizing for some. Many of the people who would lampoon the effort to confront the PDP and its despicable rule are salivating at the prospect of a military coup. They are readying themselves, like their forebears, in the spirit of “service to the nation” to be part of the process. It does not matter to them that such action will take us a one step forward and twenty years backward.
The third scenario which looms large is anarchy or civil war. The mindless bloodletting and general insecurity in the country could get out of control and precipitate anarchy or civil war; and like Somalia, the country could become the poster child of failed states. These are scenarios that should not be viewed lightly.
So what is the way forward? In this regard, two scenarios appear feasible. One, the prospect of a social revolution or what Edwin Madunagu, “The Hugo Chavez Revolution”, The Guardian (March 28, 2013) describes as “a fundamental, non-sectarian and mass-engineered rupture in the structure and content of the Nigerian state”. Even though the objective conditions are present and the fact that in most cases such “mass-engineered rupture” do not “give notice”, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, a chieftain of the PDP, in his wisdom, has ruled out this option because according to him, “Our elasticity (for suffering) has no limit”.
The last option would be a popular and broad-based coalition to unseat the PDP in 2015. This is where the APC comes in. Of course, the APC is not necessarily the only option here. The Labour Party/ National Conscience Party coalition, as a friend suggested, is another. However, if the opposition is really serious about unseating a behemoth like the PDP, it will do well to close ranks.
These are the only viable options. Every Nigerian would have to decide where they fit in. There is no room for vacillation or “siddon look”. How then do we get out of the current cul-de-sac? Which of the preceding options is meaningful and achievable (before things get out of hand) within the context of the current bourgeoisie “democratic” order? I would say the last option.
I understand the “fierce urgency of now” in relation to ending the suffering and deprivation of citizens. At the same time, we need to save and secure the country before we can move forward. Unfortunately, the PDP which has been in power since 1999 has foreclosed any meaningful debate about the future of the country and the possibility of change. For us to start any real discussion about the future of the country, we need to get rid of the PDP which has elevated misgovernance to a religion.
The PDP is in the throes of death and it looks like it wants to drag the rest of the country with it. With the PDP, we are dealing with a collection of megalomaniacs. Currently, we can identify three centres of powers within the party: The Presidency, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, and the Northern Governors’ Forum. The ambition of the men who control these centres of power, President Goodluck Jonathan, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, and Gov. Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, as well as that of other tangential gladiators will, undoubtedly, sink the party.
The question is: do we want to sink with the PDP? Now is the time to confront the arrogance and egregious folly of the PDP. When former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, say the PDP will rule for 100 years, we should not see it as mere political-speak. The PDP cares for this country, to paraphrase American political journalist, DeWayne Wickham, in much the same way that pimps care for their whores: just what they can get out of them.
How do we defeat President Jonathan and the PDP in 2015? There is no other way than for the opposition to come together and show that it is capable of this urgent task of national reclamation. If the APC succeeds, and I hope and pray it does, it will be “a marginal improvement over where we are coming from”. If the country can once in its history have a leader elected by popular will -- not installed by the incumbent or the military -- it is a step forward.
I shall end this piece by going back to Edwin Madunagu who noted in his piece “Reflections on Party Combinations”, The Guardian, March 7 & 14, 2013, “Someone has referred to the newly-formed APC as the “new” SDP. Yes, there are a couple of elements in common. But there is at least one more requirement for the APC: It has to show that not only is the status-quo totally bankrupt (which is the case), but also that the APC is a historically progressive way forward at this moment, and that it is the only one”.
This is the battle progressives in the APC have to wage in the weeks and months ahead.
As the merger of the country’s major opposition parties crystallized a few months ago into a mega party known as All Progressives Congress (APC), I received an email from my friend, Richard Mammah, who wanted to get my opinion on the new party. “Is the new mega party in Nigeria a marginal improvement over where we are coming from?” Mammah asked pointedly. My immediate response was emphatic: “It is (if it succeeds). It is important that genuine democrats and progressives find a way to key in as soon as possible”.
Since then, there have been debates (among progressives) about the desirability of “joining” the new party. Expectedly, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) responded to news of the merger with disdain. “No merger will succeed against us in 2015” was the party’s official position through its former national secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who spoke to journalists in Abuja. Oyinlola dismissed the merger as “gang ups”.
“We don’t think we are threatened by what we would call gang ups”, said the former governor of Osun State who was sent packing by the court in 2010 before he could complete his second term. “In those days when the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) closed ranks, it was called an accord. When the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) did the same, they called it gang up.
“Honestly speaking, ganging up is an indication of some weaknesses. Why can’t a party stand on its own and contest elections if it is sure that it would be acceptable to the people? You don’t need to gang up. If you are ganging up then you don’t have the strength. The only true national party today that cuts across every nook and cranny of the Nigerian federation is the PDP. Gang up has never succeeded; it will not succeed.”
Oyinlola’s diatribe was upped by Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State who described the opposition parties as “inventions of the last two years”. “They are the invention of pain, agony and anger”, Lamido said, adding, “They thought PDP is like them. We have political party history from 1998 when they were not in existence. Those who were talking in ANPP, ACN and CPC were formally PDP members that were flushed out in the field by the party (PDP).”
Bamanga Tukur, the national chairman of the PDP, in his now infamous reaction to the merger described his party as the “Messi of Nigerian politics”. “If you go for a contest, you have the striker. You know Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentine football star)? PDP is Messi in that contest. They (opposition) are no threat at all. It is better, it inspires PDP to action. In that contest, tell them Chairman said PDP is the Messi”. Football lovers in the country must feel insulted and incensed by this laughable comparison.
Of course, the PDP is grandstanding and its disdain for the APC is borne out of fear more than anything else. I can understand the position of the Oyinlolas, Lamidos and Tukurs. It is one that demands no response. For them, there is no meaningful job other than being in the corridors of power. And that has to be done by any means necessary. I felt differently, however, when I read a response on the merger from a much younger former colleague, Ohimai Amaize, who “joined” the PDP by way of political appointment about three years ago.
In his piece, “The APC, is it a merger or ‘maga’?” Amaize asked, “What is the core ideology of this new contrivance? What is its blueprint for Nigeria’s regeneration? An existing manifesto or some consultants are still working on it? When will it be ready? Perhaps, a few months to the next general elections! And this is part of the problem. Contrivances don’t work”.
According to Amaize, “The assumption by some of our youth that Nigeria will be transformed simply because some ‘big guns’ within the political class have assembled under the toga of a new opposition party remains nothing but an illusion. The notion that a group of recycled politicians uniting against the ruling PDP in the name of ‘opposition’ will present an already-made change, is at best, a hasty journey to a land of frustration. It is not that simple. There is nothing like already-made change. Nirvana does not exist. We must humble ourselves, bury our pride and work under existing political platforms no matter how educated and enlightened we think we are”.
Amaize admonished Nigerian youth to be wary of the APC. “When this new opposition party was being formed, what was its agenda for the youth?” Amaize wondered. “Is there any or will it hurriedly cook up one within the next few days? Which of the pro-APC youth activists on Twitter can confidently tell us the youth agenda of their new party? How many of my fellow Twitter busybodies were consulted to share their ideas for this merger before it was hatched? None! Because as far as they are concerned, you are not important in the scheme of things and do not exist”.
These are legitimate questions from a very “concerned” young Nigerian knowing Amaize’s antecedent before he joined the “transformation” wagon. However, the analysis shows a shallow and opportunistic reading of history. It presupposes Amaize is “happy” with the way things are in the country and if ever there is any talk of change, it can only take place “under existing political platforms”. And by this I am sure he means the PDP.
Of all the arguments in support of the emergence of APC, or what the response of genuine democrats should be to the new party, two stand out. In his piece “APC and the continuing crisis of Left politics in Nigeria”, Adagbo Onoja concluded that, “As long as there is no Left party or a broad based democratic coalition in Nigeria, comrades would have no options than spread to whichever platform they find space to continue the struggle in whatever ways possible”.
In his article, “Reflections on party combinations”, The Guardian, March 7 & 14, 2013, Edwin Madunagu noted: “The announcement of a merger of the leading opposition parties in Nigeria is a development which no serious political formation or tendency in the country can ignore or dismiss with cynicism of the type: ‘they always do this whenever a major election approaches’”.
“Yes, ‘they’ always announce coalitions, alliances, mergers, working agreements, etc, and the more uncharitable commentators may also remind us that they almost invariably fail to achieve their minimum post-announcement objective, that is, to actually deliver a living (and not a still-born or mortally sick) child”, Madunagu wrote. “When we have granted the cynics and pessimists their due, we may still insist that we are confronted with a development, which rules out the option of ‘Siddon look’.”
These two arguments speak for themselves and capture, to a great extent, what the response of radical and progressive elements, particularly youth and students, should be with regard to the APC as we head toward 2015.
To be continued.
Nigerians are justifiably outraged at the pardon of Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, ex-governor of Bayelsa State. Alamieyeseigha was governor from May 1999 until December 2005, three months after he was detained in London on charges of money laundering. President Jonathan had served under Mr. Alamieyeseigha as deputy governor.
Instructively, in August 2005, a month before his arrest, Alamieyeseigha delivered a message, through his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, at a seminar in Abuja on “Winning the War against Corruption”. The self-styled Governor General of the Ijaw nation “commended government's stride with the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau, and urged the bodies not to ignore the private sector”.
According to Alamieyeseigha who called for those with criminal records to be barred from elective office, “It is only in Nigeria where people who looted banks to a distress situation are allowed to use such loots to open their own banks or are given high political appointment". Alamieyeseigha’s paper titled: “Corruption Reduction Through Government Policies: The Bayelsa Experience”, highlighted “the various mechanism put in place by the state government to check corruption as it was inimical to national growth and development and as such, must be abhorred by all and sundry”.
By the time Alamieyeseigha was arrested a month later in London, it was reported that the Metropolitan Police found about £1m in cash in his London home and later a total of £1.8m in cash and bank accounts. Alamieyeseigha jumped bail in December 2005 from the United Kingdom by allegedly disguising himself as a woman. He had hoped to continue in office as governor. Even though that hope did not materialise, it was a good judgement call. Remaining in the UK would have been calamitous. Today, we know why.
On July 26, 2007, the fugitive governor pled guilty to six charges of making false declaration of assets and 23 charges of money laundering by his companies. He was sentenced to two years in prison. The following day, July 27, just hours after being taken to prison, he walked home a free man. In our convoluted justice system, the period he spent in detention had served to compensate for the prison sentence.
Reuben Abati, then chair of the editorial board of The Guardian and now presidential town crier had this to say about Alamieyeseigha in a 2005 piece titled, “Alami should go: It's over”: “By running away from England under the cover of the night, away from the British judiciary which was probing him on charges of money laundering, by taking evasive action from the law and communicating with his feet, Alamiyeseigha, a man who until now was known and addressed as His Excellency, has shown himself to be a dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values.
“As for those persons who have been packaging Alami as a victim and who have been mouthing the asinine line: ‘If Ijaw man thief Ijaw money, wetin concern Tony Blair inside’, may the good Lord forgive them for they do not know what they are saying. All Ijaw must feel embarrassed for this is a difficult moment for them as a nation. They are being blackmailed emotionally to defend not a principled fighter, not a spirit of Ijawland, but an Ijaw leader who danced naked in a foreign land. The questions that would be asked are: what do Ijaws stand for? Where is the ancient and modern glory of the Ijaw nation? These are difficult questions. Alami must save his own people the embarrassment by stepping aside. Let him return to England and act like an honourable man”.
Eight years later, nothing has changed, except that an Ijaw man is now President and Commander-in-Chief. “His Excellency, the (former) executive fugitive of Bayelsa State”, as Abati once described Alamiyeseigha remains a “dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values”. What a difference eight years make. Today, thanks to his pardon, Alamiyeseigha is now “fit to rule, fit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, fit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values”.
Astonishingly, it is now Abati’s job to repackage “Alami” as a victim and condemn those who accuse him of being an ex-convict and a danger to society. May the good Lord forgive all the idle Nigerians who are not only exhibiting “sophisticated ignorance”, but want to destroy an Ijaw man for pardoning another Ijaw man for stealing money belonging to Ijaws for they do not know what they are saying.
To understand Alamieyeseigha’s pardon is to understand the character of the Nigerian state. There is no case to make for his pardon other than to say it is what the doctors ordered. And by doctors, I do not mean the type our First Lady and sundry public officers scurry to in foreign lands. I refer to the ubiquitous marabouts and native doctors that have become an essential part of governance in Nigeria.
They are the ones goading President Jonathan and have convinced him that to secure a second term, he must of necessity pardon the Governor General of the Ijaw nation. That is the only way he can secure the support of the Ijaws. Evidently, in Nigeria leadership is not about performance. What is uppermost now is that President Jonathan, the first president from the oily Niger Delta, has to, by any means necessary, complete his two terms of four years as the constitution stipulates.
A friend has likened President Jonathan’s dilemma, if we can call it that, to that of a managing director of a failed company who wants to remain MD even when his company is in the red. He will do whatever he thinks will help him keep his job, including cooking the books and satisfying every interest, no matter how vile. Of course, President Jonathan is also a victim of the Nigerian tragedy. Alamieyeseigha was set free many years ago when we had a certain Umaru Yar’Adua as president. The pardon on March 12, 2013, was just the icing on the cake.
I don’t think those who pardoned Alamieyeseigha thought or imagined that the tag “ex-convict” would ever leave him. Who cares really? Are we not witnesses to a senator wining election while on trial? A few days after his pardon, there were feelers signaling that Alamieyeseigha will run for senate in 2015. He doesn’t need to do anything to emerge the next senator representing his district. Like that other exemplar of perfidy in Akwa Ibom State, all the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, needs to do at the behest of the president, is to remove the name of the winner and replace it with Alamieyeseigha’s, if necessary, for his great service to Ijawland.
Alamieyeseigha will be in good company when he joins the senate in 2015. For me, that is the really troubling part of his pardon and why we must continue the quest to restructure Nigeria. Like Tafa Balogun, the rogue former Inspector General of Police, Alamieyeseigha will no doubt make a case for the return of his property “confiscated” by the state.
Alamieyeseigha believes he is entitled to be a senator and much more; after all, not many in the “hallowed” chamber can boast of a superior résumé. Ours is a system that survives on cronyism. Alamieyeseigha may emerge as senate president if he so desires. He may even return to Bayelsa State someday to complete his second term as governor.
The structure of our country makes this unwholesome atmosphere possible. That is why President Jonathan deserves our pardon for his latest political blunder!
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, also known as IBB, must be a deeply-troubled man; a retired general haunted by his past. There is no other way to explain his constant attempt to intrude into our national psyche after ruling the country for eight inglorious years. The former military president never misses an opportunity to show how relevant he is even though history can’t support that delusion. The recent merger of major opposition political parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) provided a good opportunity for him.
“IBB okays merger of political parties, insists on two party system”, was the headline in one newspaper a few weeks ago. The report seemed to have gone unnoticed by the horde of news junkies and commentators on Nigeria. It was expected. I don’t know anyone out there who hasn’t grown weary of IBB and what he has to say about the political and social trajectory of the country. For IBB, the merger talk is a vindication of his two party philosophy which he believes “is the best political option for Nigeria”.
“When I introduced two party system, you people said I am a soldier, now you have seen why I went for two party system. I am happy for the emergence of APC. It is a welcome political development’’, IBB noted. The self-styled evil genius has since gone ahead to expand on his two party theory. Though a founding member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), IBB said he had not made up his mind on the political party to vote for in 2015, and that he was leaning toward voting for the APC. "I have enough time to think and I am thinking and they will be anxious to come and see me”, he boasted.
"I am a firm believer of two party system and I also studied the emergence of political parties in this country immediately after independence and it shows that this country will be heading for a two party system”, IBB said in his familiar fit of self adulation. “When we were doing it in 1989, some of you wrote us in the media that, no it is going to be one Christian party, one Muslim party, then you say it is going to be one northern and one southern party and it did not work and everybody blended. The chairman of NRC was Chief Tom Ikimi, the chairman of SDP was Kingibe and everybody was in one or the other; you just have to have an accommodation". If you have problems comprehending this balderdash, you are in good company. Finally, IBB reminded us that as a Nigerian he had “a right to vote any candidate of his choice,” never mind the fact that he denied millions of Nigerians who voted on June 12, 1993, the benefit of their vote.
Asked why he orchestrated the return of Obasanjo to rule Nigeria again in 1999, IBB said “The need to save Nigeria from looming crisis gave rise to bringing back Obasanjo”. According to him: "We have to simplify a lot of things without going back to what happened before; the emergence of Obasanjo came about as a result of what happened in the country; the country was in a very serious crisis and we had to find the solution to these problems and therefore we needed a leader known in the country, we did not believe in foisting somebody who is not known; so, we looked for a man who has been involved in the affairs of this country, who held positions either in the military or in the cabinet and who has certain beliefs about Nigeria. Now, all of us that were trained as armed forces, there is one belief that you cannot take away from us; we believe in this country because this is part of our training. We fought for this country, so when you have a situation like that, you need a leader that has all these attributes and quite frankly, he quickly came to mind”.
What IBB failed to mention was his role in the crisis that led to foisting Obasanjo on Nigerians. It is important we deconstruct IBB because we, as citizens, are central in understanding his newfound penchant for democracy and the rule of law. For those too young to remember and those who have conveniently forgotten, IBB was military president of Nigeria from August 27, 1985, to August 27, 1993. IBB claimed he overthrew the Buhari regime for its highhandedness even though, as Chief of Army Staff, he was very much a part of the regime.
IBB immediately embarked on a charm offensive by abrogating Decree 4, the anti-press law of the Buhari regime. He freed the two journalists that had been imprisoned under the decree. He also released from prison Second Republic politicians who had been jailed by his predecessor. He insisted on being called president. His desire was granted. IBB launched a transition programme to return the country to civil rule. By the time he was through with the media and Nigerians in general eight years later, one editor, Dele Giwa had been letter-bombed to smithereens, scores of military officers executed, hundreds of anti-SAP and pro-democracy activists murdered, a presidential election annulled and the country left prostrate and polarized as never before.
IBB achieved notoriety for his transition, one of the longest, the most expensive (gulping over N40bn at the time) and certainly the most convoluted political transition the world has witnessed. As a prelude, he set up a Political Bureau made up of some of the finest minds the country has produced. The bureau came up with a document which IBB tossed into the waste bin. He then set out to do things his own way, based on his fanciful study and knowledge of the two party system.
He set up two political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), the former “a little to the Left” and the latter, “a little o the Right”; built two national secretariats for the parties, two secretariats in each state and two secretariats in each local government. After banning those he termed “old breed politicians”, he then proceeded to assign politicians to each party based on his whims. It was a grand vision, except that it was not meant to be. Today, those edifices, where they have not been taken over by “smart” Nigerians, are home to rodents and “area boys”.
I have gone this far to show what IBB did when he had the golden opportunity to set the country on the right path. The high point of IBB’s transition was the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Moshood Abiola who was later murdered while in detention. On June 23, 1993, IBB, through his goons, announced the annulment of the election. On August 27, 1993, exactly eight years after he seized power, IBB “stepped aside”, leaving his evil alter ego, Sani Abacha, in charge. The rest, as they say, is history.June 12 this year marks the 20th anniversary of Babangida’s failed diabolical two party experiment. The country has come full circle. The remnants of that perfidious era, including David Mark, who now holds court as the Senate President of the Federal Republic, call the shots in our so-called democratic order.
IBB’s recent outburst is a sad reminder of the true character of the Nigerian state; a state built on a feeling of entitlement. Two decades after he and his cohort annulled the sovereign will of Nigerians, IBB unabashedly tells us that they did it to save us from ourselves. This feeling of entitlement that makes IBB and his ilk think they have a divine right to rule or determine who should rule us is our greatest undoing as a nation. IBB, in his wisdom, handpicked Obasanjo without caring what majority of Nigerians thought or felt. After eight ruinous years, Obasanjo selected Umaru Yar’Adua to succeed him. Today, we are stuck with an oddity we never bargained for.
IBB’s sins are numerous. It may be uncharitable to hold one person responsible for the problems of a nation; but more than anyone else, IBB ought to take the biggest blame for the current crisis facing the country. Someone should please tell him that the formation of the APC is not about Nigeria operating a two party system. It is about a much greater need which IBB does not and would probably never understand.
The war of attrition between Abia State governor, Theodore Orji, and his predecessor Orji Uzor Kalu, took a bizarre turn two weeks ago when the Abia State University (ABSU) released a statement withdrawing the degree it awarded Mr. Kalu when he was governor. According to the university, “The admission and graduation of the former governor violated its extant rules and regulations”. In a sentence, Mr. Kalu is parading a “fake degree”, or is he?
Anyone looking for proof that governance in Nigeria is a sideshow need not look beyond the action of ABSU, and by extension the governor of Abia State. The only surprise here, for those who can afford to be surprised by the news that comes out of Nigeria every day, is that this action is coming, supposedly, from the citadel of learning. According to Mr. O. E. Onuoha, the registrar of ABSU, Mr. Kalu was stripped of his degree “after an emergency meeting of the university senate which considered the recommendations of an investigative panel which considered allegations of breach of the school’s academic regulations by Mr. Kalu”.
Mr. Kalu reportedly dropped out of the University of Maiduguri and enrolled at ABSU while he was governor of Abia State and, therefore, Visitor to the university. In the last two years, he and his former sidekick, the current governor, have been at each other’s jugular in a state where governance has taken a backseat and citizens yearn for the dividends of democracy.
Mr. Kalu recently offered a mea culpa to citizens of Abia State for his malevolence in foisting his successor on them; a sad reminder of the malfeasance that is the hallmark of our brand of democracy. It sounds all too familiar. It was the same mindset that the Lord of the Manor at Ota worked with a few years ago. Nigerians are still waiting for him to show some grace and formally apologise as he bemoans the lack of credible leadership in the country. Not that an apology will serve any purpose really; but, at least, it will show that he can be taken seriously.
Back to Orji Kalu and his confessions. “I made him a governor when he was incarcerated by the EFCC. I made him governor without his input even as much as to campaign for one day! Yet, he left and said he didn’t know what he did to me. I think something is wrong somewhere. I did not quarrel with him except that I told him, ‘Governor, you should work hard and get somebody to replace you because you can’t win election again the way you are going.’ That was after two years of his administration; the rating in Aba and Umuahia were very low. And he came to newsmen with the claim that I wanted to stop him from a second term in office. That was his grouse against me”. That was the former governor speaking during a recent interview.
It seems the chickens have come home to roost. Orji Kalu is reaping what he sowed; the only problem is that the good people of Abia State who are gnashing their teeth are also being made to pay the price of his perfidy. ABSU authorities say they withdrew Orji Kalu’s “fake degree”, “On the strength of the findings and recommendations of an investigative panel into allegations of breach of the extant Academic Regulations of Abia State University, in the process of the admission and graduation of Kalu Orji Uzor in the discipline of Government and Public Administration, of matriculation number 00/42226”.
The senate said it based its decision on the following grounds, among others: “The violation of the Academic Regulations of the university on Admission-by-Transfer, which rendered the offer irregular, ab initio; The non-completion of the mandatory six (6) semesters (i.e. three academic years of study), before he was awarded a degree of the university. He spent only two semesters in all”. This decision, the senate maintained, “derived from the exercise of its onerous statutory responsibility to guard and maintain, at all times, the Academic Regulations of the University, its hard-earned reputation and the credibility of the certificates it awards”.
Of course, ABSU senate reserves the right to withdraw any certificate or degree issued by the university. Accordingly, I don’t have any problem with stripping Mr. Kalu of his degree if it is confirmed it was obtained fraudulently. My worry is that, in this case, it appears the fraud was perpetrated with the connivance of the university senate. If that is the case, then it means certain laws were broken and those responsible for the Orji Kalu admission racket, if we believe the claim of ABSU authorities, should be held to account.
Matters arising from this “fake degree” imbroglio are legion: Was it the same senate that admitted Orji Kalu to ABSU that awarded him a degree when he did not complete the mandatory six semesters? Was Mr. Onuoha, the current registrar, the registrar of ABSU when Orji Kalu was admitted to the university? Was he the same registrar that signed Mr. Kalu’s certificate? What role did the VC then and Orji Kalu’s dean play in this scandal? Did ABSU senate not see anything morally troubling to have the Visitor to the university double as a student?
The action of ABSU senate may cast doubt on the genuineness of the degree that Orji Kalu is parading, but it has also dented ABSU’s image and calls to question the integrity of its senate and the thousands of degrees and certificates it awards every year. Who will take degrees awarded by ABSU seriously? How many other politically exposed persons also got degrees they were not entitled to during the eight years Mr. Kalu ruled Abia State?
This is an issue the National Universities Commission (NUC) should investigate. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much as a whimper from the NUC on this issue. It is bad enough that our universities have become glorified secondary schools and can hardly compare with their counterparts on the continent; it is tragic that our academics have become the handmaiden of politicians, turning our universities into an extension of Government Houses across the country.
If Governor Theodore Orji compelled the senate of ABSU to withdraw Orji Kalu’s certificate, let’s hope, as someone observed, “he did not graduate from any state university where his political enemies are in charge”.
I join millions of Nigerians in giving thanks to God for the miraculous survival of the country’s First Lady, Dame (Dr.) Patience Goodluck Jonathan. It is not every day you read such cheery news about a First Lady that rose from the dead. It is only befitting, therefore, that it should cost Nigerian taxpayers half a billion naira to celebrate her death and resurrection.
Now that the First Lady is back, hale and hearty, perhaps an apology might just be apposite; for the God of miracles is also a God that abhors lies and deception. Let’s put in perspective the whole episode of the First Lady’s disappearance, appearance, rumours and speculations about her whereabouts and her candour about going to the great beyond and returning to complete her work on earth, and maybe understand why the demand for an unreserved apology, even if not sufficient, seems to be the minimum penance acceptable.
For a visible First Lady, her noticeable absence from major public events last August was bound to stir a feeling of disquiet. After much speculation about her whereabouts, we were told she was “resting in Germany” following her hectic schedule hosting the African First Ladies Summit a month earlier. Then there was the secret visit by President Goodluck Jonathan, accompanied by the chaplain of Aso Villa Chapel, Ven. Obioma Onwuzurumba. From TV footage of the visit, aired on national television, we saw a well-dressed First Lady asking to be allowed to “take picture with my husband”. Dead people don’t take pictures, do they?
All the while, the intrepid Saharareporters.com kept updating Nigerians about the true state of things with the First Lady in Germany. Enter Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Publicity, Dissimulation, Deception and other matters. The spin and dissembling went into overdrive. Abati alerted us that, “The video clip aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was a confirmation that the President’s wife was hale and hearty contrary to what some people wanted Nigerians to believe. The video has put paid to all the lies that people who play politics with almost everything have been spreading. It was clear from that video that the scene was not a hospital scene”.
Knowing Abati, the public took his revelation with more than a pinch of salt. They wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth; the madam herself, not the “boy-boy”. They waited patiently, hoping that in the end the truth would be revealed. When the First Lady returned to the country after almost two months of well-deserved rest, she was full of gratitude for those who prayed for her safe return and had nothing but curses for all those idle and godless Nigerians who wanted her dead. She thanked Almighty God for bringing her back safely to Nigeria and giving her a second chance. That was her own way of confirming what we already knew about her health. Only the initiated could have decoded the message.
For the unbelievers, the First Lady had this message: “Wherever there are good people, there are also bad ones. There are a few Nigerians that are saying whatever they like, not what God planned because God has a plan for all of us. And God has said it all that when two or three are gathered in His name, that He will be with them. And Nigerians gathered and prayed for me and God listened and heard their prayers. So, I thank God for that. God is wonderful and His mercy is forever. At the same time, I read in the media where they said I was in the hospital. God Almighty knows I have never been to that hospital. I don’t even know the hospital they mentioned. I have to explain what God has done for me. I do not have terminal illness, or any cosmetic surgery much less tummy tuck.”
That was the end of the matter. Nobody was to discuss why the First Lady spent six weeks in Germany unannounced. Anybody who dared was accused of the high crime of politicising the First Lady’s personal problems. We were reminded it shouldn’t be the case, after all the First Lady is not a public officer and is entitled to her privacy even though the public paid for her well-deserved vacation in Germany.
Fast forward to February 17, 2013. Venue: Aso Rock Chapel. The First Lady gathers thousands of people to share her tale of resurrection. She confesses to undergoing nine surgeries in one month in Germany. “I actually died. I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I will return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days,” the First Lady announced to her captive audience who would have intoned, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord”.
The Dame Patience Jonathan thanksgiving service was the place to be in Nigeria last weekend, not just for those who love the president and his wife, but for people that needed to endear themselves to the Presidency. The guest list included President Goodluck Jonathan; Vice President Namadi Sambo and his wife, Hajia Amina; former President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufour; former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; 18 state governors, and sundry VIPs.
Reports had it that several trucks bearing gifts from government officials and contractors lined the streets of the presidential villa waiting to deliver gifts to the First Lady. Clearly, anybody who didn’t answer the roll call would have been tagged not just an enemy of the First Lady and amongst those who wanted her dead while she was in Germany, but an enemy of the state. I would have loved the opportunity to partake in this lavish ceremony myself, not just for the food and drink, but to see firsthand what it looks and feels like coming face to face with a risen First Lady. Thanks to the efforts of one John Kennedy Okpara, the offering for the First Lady’s thanksgiving service was a modest N500ml ($3ml). By any standard, it was a good outing for Dame Patience’s chivalry.
Of course, this is Nigeria. The idle cynics have started wagging their tongues. They are questioning the First Lady’s credibility. They want to know what has changed between late October when she claimed she was not hospitalised and now. They say the First Lady’s case is emblematic of the credibility crisis of the Jonathan presidency. What else is the government lying about (apart from President Jonathan’s asset declaration) if it can look Nigerians in the eyes and blatantly lie about the health of the First Lady? But, aren’t we are used to our government and its agents lying to us? There is nothing new about the double-speak, arrogance and disdain for truth by public officers in Nigeria. We saw it with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his First Lady, Turai.
Didn’t Sullivan Chime, Governor of Enugu State, abscond for five months only to return and say he “owed nobody any apology for keeping them guessing throughout the period”. To taper his mendacity about being hospitalised, he threw up these weasel words: “I started treatment and the treatment altogether lasted for twelve weeks. Throughout the period of my treatment, I was an outpatient. I was never admitted in any hospital. All my treatments, I took as an outpatient”.
Back to the First Lady. We still don’t know what she was treated for and we may never know. One thing is certain: we are not supposed to question her miraculous comeback. Not many people have the opportunity of experiencing death and coming back to life to tell the story. It is an experience money can’t buy. Which means for the First Lady her future will be committed to “doing things that will touch the lives of the less privileged”.
Since the First Lady was sent back to Nigeria to complete her assignment in our god-forsaken nation, my only candid advice would be for her to invest the N500ml ($3ml) offering she collected during her thanksgiving in building a world-class hospital in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, so that she wouldn’t need to abscond from Nigeria the next time she requires treatment.