Ahmad Lawan: Giving succor to the needy, By Abubakar Sidiq Usman

Yobe North Senatorial district witnessed a breath of fresh air last week with the unveiling of the Free Medical Outreach and Mass Animal Vaccination by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan.

Lawan took time off his busy schedule of his office to launch what will remain indelible in the hearts of his constituents. The Free Medical Outreach and Mass Animal Vaccination is sponsored by the Senate President to provide medical treatments and services to his constituents to enable them enjoy good health.

While the mass animal vaccination will commence this month and is expected to take care of one million animals of various types, the free medical outreach has taken off with attention given to persons with medical needs requiring eye services, surgical services, gynecological checking and surgeries for hyena, fibroid and many others. About 800 people have been screened and are to receive the free medical treatments and services.

This is not the first time the Senate President has given out free medical and veterinary services to his people. A similar exercise was conducted last year where over five hundred thousand animals were vaccinated and hundreds of people given free medical services. The exercise was planned to be a one-off programme, with the belief that all those with such medical challenges would be taken care of. However, it turned out that more persons that required medical attention could not be attended to, therefore necessitating another outreach with a promise that the free medical services will continue to be rendered to the people who require such services.

At the launch of the current medical outreach, plans were made to provide free eye, gynecological and surgical services for only 400 persons, but those who were confirmed to be in need of the treatment after screening were nearly 800, half of whom were asked to come back next year when another free medical outreach would probably take place again. 

Understanding the implication of this development, Dr. Lawan, in his magnanimity, graciously directed that the nearly 800 persons who have been screened and found to be in need of one medical care or the other be attended to. This goes a long way to show that Lawan was willing to go out of his way to do anything humanly possible to put smiles on the faces of his people. 

The free medical services and the attendant costs notwithstanding, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Lawan is not done with his people. As an academic and well read politician, he understands and appreciates the importance of education and the role it plays in individual and national development. He has stated clearly that he does not support the idea of people looking for employment after secondary school education when they can still further their education just as he did to become a Phd. degree holder. To correct this anomaly, the Senate President offered to purchase UTME direct entry forms for 1000 qualified applicants and also offered to pay the tuition fees for successful candidates. All for his constituents in Yobe North senatorial district.

To underscore his desires for easy access for his people to sit for the UTME, Lawan pledged to provide computers for the Atiku Abubakar College in Nguru so as to make the place a computer based centre for the exams. The promise is currently being implemented to ensure that the place is ready for use as a JAMB centre.

The gesture being extended to the people of Yobe North Senatorial District by Dr Ahmad Lawan is not surprising. Since his election as a legislator, first in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate, he has embarked on numerous uplifting and life saving programmes and projects in his constituency, a move that has consistently earned him victory since the return to democracy in 1999.

The President of the Senate has made it a point of duty to distribute food materials worth millions of Naira to his constituents every year. Similar gestures were extended to those in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State and the Federal Capital Territory. Lawan has also constructed and still constructing several culverts across various parts of his Senatorial district to allow easy access to and from different villages and communities.

Provision of portable drinking water is one area where Dr. Lawan has also recorded landmark achievements. Hand pumps and boreholes especially those powered by solar have been provided across the Senatorial zone. In the previous year, the umbrella body of cattle breeders known as Miyetti Allah was given the opportunity to nominate locations for the provision of hand pumps in the North East zone. During his last visit to his constituency, Lawan directed that the number provided in the previous year be doubled while 36 solar powered boreholes which the herdsmen did not enjoin until now be constructed in selected RUGA settlements chosen by the herdsmen themselves.

As part of measures to ensure the provision of electricity to the people of his constituency, the Senate President purchased and distributed several numbers of transformers across Yobe North Senatorial District. Many locations are also enjoying night illumination as a result of solar powered street lights provided across the local government areas that makes up the Senatorial zone.

The Mother and Child Hospital currently under construction and nearing completion along Yusufari road in Gashua was facilitated by Lawan. In no distant time, the hospital will be commissioned to provide adequate healthcare for mothers and children both within and outside the environs.

There are other numerous projects that Senate President Ahmad Lawan has embarked on for the people of his constituency. One may not have heard much of them in the media because SAIL, as he is fondly called, is a silent achiever and a man of little words but plenty action. He has shown love to his people and his constituents have reciprocated by constantly returning him to the National Assembly to represent them. Only very few lawmakers in Nigeria have attained this feat and it cannot be out of sheer luck. It’s with the people.

God bless His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

Abubakar Sidiq Usman

Special Assistant on New Media 

Office of the President of the Senate

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How Obasanjo Further Indicted Atiku Despite Endorsing Him For 2019 Presidency, By Abubakar Usman

On Wednesday the 10th of October, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar paid a historic – albeit not unexpected – visit to his erstwhile boss and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. During the visit, the later endorsed the former and in his press conference address even called him the president to be.

For the discerning, former President Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku did not come to many as a surprise. For Obasanjo, what is important in an endorsement is the future of his selfish corrupt interests; not the integrity, capacity, or sincerity of the endorsed.

Buhari was Obasanjo’s arch enemy in 2011 when he vigorously campaigned for former President Jonathan. He was to later dump his support for Jonathan and switched to Buhari in 2015 when Jonathan obviously did not give him what he wanted.

In a consistent pattern, today, he has switched support from Buhari to another. This time, to one man he has consistently derided and swore never to support because, in his words, God will never forgive him if he did so.

Obasanjo’s turncoat support for Atiku’s obsessive ambition to be President, irrespective of whatever reasons he gave may not be as a result of the conviction that Atiku is now the opposite version of what he once called him: corrupt, untrustworthy, a disaster, and many other uncomplimentary characters. His reason was simply for the fact that he lacked a candidate that would best protect his future interests in the control of Nigeria. If he had succeeded in putting together his Coalition for Nigeria Movement or a different candidate other than Atiku had emerged from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries, Atiku would still have remained the worst thing to Obasanjo.

Prior to now, Obasanjo had told everyone that cared to listen that his former Vice President is anything but good. He said he is corrupt, never to be trusted and sacrifices every other thing for his personal and selfish interests. He summed up this in his autobiography titled “My Watch,” where he described Atiku as thus:

“From the day I nominated Atiku to be my vice, he set his mind not for any good, benefit or service of the country, but on furiously planning to upstage, supplant or remove me at all cost and to take my place… “What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time,a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts , his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest”

The former President held on so much to his views of the former Vice President that he said that God will not forgive him if he supports Atiku for president. But Atiku’s visit to Abeokuta on Wednesday changed everything. Obasanjo went back to his vomit, but wittingly, he picked his words very carefully such that he exonerated himself from any wrong positioning and instead further indicted Atiku and left him with the burden of having to explain to Nigerians what they may soon be demanding answers to. Let us take a look at Obasanjo’s comment and the questions arising from them.

“In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all honesty, my former Vice-President has re-discovered and re-positioned himself.  As I have repeatedly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the issue but what you did against the Party, the Government and the country.”

“From what transpired in the last couple of hours or so, you have shown remorse; you have asked for forgiveness and you have indicated that you have learnt some good lessons and you will mend fences and make amends as necessary and as desirable.

“Whenever or wherever you might have offended me, as a Christian who asks for God’s forgiveness of my sins and inadequacies on daily basis, I forgive and I sincerely advise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you. Obviously, you have mended fences with the Party and fully reconciled with the Party.”

“There are still areas, nationally and internationally, where you have to mend fences and make amends.  You will know how to handle what is already out and what may yet be put out by the opposition.  But, I am convinced that if you continue with the attitude that brought you here with these distinguished leaders of goodwill, with remorse and contrite heart, the rest of the coast within and outside the country can be cleared.  And if there is anything I can do and you want me to do in that respect, I will do.

The questions arising from these comments by Obasanjo which himself or Atiku must provide answers to are thus:

What went wrong on the side of Atiku and what exactly has he done that proves he has “re-discovered and re-positioned” so much that he is getting Obasanjo’s endorsement to run for president?

What were the wrongs Atiku committed against the country that are so much compare to the ones he committed against Obasanjo as a person?

If Atiku wronged the country as Obasanjo said, why did he go to beg him for forgiveness and not Nigerians?

What were the good lessons Atiku learnt that resulted to him begging for forgiveness and what does the mending of fences and making of amends entail?

What are the coasts nationally and internationally in which Atiku must mend fences that Obasanjo wants to help him clear?

Until disclosures to these questions are made, it is safe to say that Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku in the full glare of some clerics and notable Nigerians is display of the gathering of rapacious hawks determined to feast on the commonwealth of Nigeria.

Abubakar Usman writes from Abuja. He tweets @MrAbuSidiq

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Taraba and the PDP; A Timeline of Injustice By Abubakar Usman

The political history of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will never be complete without the mention of the party’s rigging machinery. The grassroots structure of PDP is one, built on the fulcrum of well-oiled rigging machinery. For many, it started sixteen years ago but for those who follow political history of this nation closely, it was a pattern structured by the founders of the party well before then. The last general elections reaffirmed the stand that PDP is incapable of succeeding as a political party in an environment where the electoral system is transparent, free and fair, especially if, such electoral system is dependent on technology which makes processes scientifically easy compared to manual processes. If one takes a little trip back into Nigeria’s political history, it will be clear that all along, the ideology of the PDP is winning by all means. They care less about the means, the end goal is what propels them and they can do everything even though wrong to achieve it.

 

Evidently, nothing explains PDP’s underlining principles as a political party more than constant internal party bickering, use of ethnic and religious narrative to divide voters; use of force by deploying military might; massive rigging; use of thugs to compel voters; bribery; etc. Overtime, the party succeeded through wielding power at the centre, to shape the cognition of many Nigerians to accept their brand of politics. The progressive retrograde of political morality in Nigeria political system, explains further the decline from sanity to insanity that has characterised this nation’s politics in the last sixteen years. It got to a time when killing political opponents was seen as a given and gradually it became an acceptable pattern, one which clearly shows a total disregard for human lives and a lack of respect for rule of law. Certainly, many will agree that the last sixteen years has been nothing but a dark moment in our political history and it makes it very difficult to look back and point to a single moment of gargantuan achievement.

 

The last governorship election in Taraba state was earlier this month, subjected to tribunal examination over allegation of electoral irregularities reported by the All Progressive Party (APC) candidate, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan.  The result of that examination, is the election tribunal sacking governor Darius Ishaku and declaring Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan winner of the elections held in April this year. There is a pattern to this and that is the PDP’s love for winning elections through means they cannot justify in court.

 

In 1999, mysterious circumstances surrounded the emergence of Jolly Nyame as governor of Taraba under the flagship of PDP. The winner of the party primaries, Usman Bibinu was involved in a ghastly car accident just few days to the state election and Nyame who was brought in at the last minute by a certain powerful power broker in the state won the election. In the same vein, Jolly Nyame in 2007 imposed his crony Danladi Baido on his party men. Even though the young man did win the primary election, he was disqualified by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from contesting the election because of some corrupt cases in his name.  The same scenario led to the emergence of Danbaba Suntai as the governor before the unfortunate jet crash that left him incapacitated.

 

Despite the clamour for change before the last election, the PDP could not resist the urge to rig elections once again. In Taraba, a Premium Times report found out that, soldiers were deployed to frighten and intimate voters. The report found out that, rather than make the electoral system safe, free and fair, the soldiers were used to rig in favour of the ruling People’s Democratic Party. In communities like Wukari and Takum, villagers complained of widespread rigging and falsification of election results. In southern Taraba for example, electoral officials complained of being forced by PDP hired thugs to do away with the card readers, thereby enabling their supporters to vote without going through the process of proper accreditation.

 

In addition, the same Premium Times report cited a community leader named Bello Kwararrafa as saying, there were instances where agents of rival political parties abducted, manhandled and forced soldiers acting on the orders of federal government to lie prostrate on the ground. Also, in many Local governments in Northern Taraba, like Karim Lamido, Lau and Ardo collation of results didn’t take place. Soldiers carrying guns were used as aides to collation officers to prevent people from demanding for the collation of their results. The Social Democratic Party candidate in the state, David Kente named Wukari, Takum and other places as the worst zones of electoral fraud. Consequently, the rife electoral fraud in many wards, polling units or local government, led to the cancellation of results and the extension of the election after it was declared inconclusive by the electoral empire.

 

Little wonder, the decision of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal nullifying the election of Governor Darius Ishaku did not come as a surprise to many. With that decision, it is hoped that the rigging machinery of the PDP would have been destroyed so that the will of the people will henceforth prevail.

Abubakar Usman @MrAbusidiq

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The Buhari Economic Policy Direction That Excites Me By Abubakar Usman

I have heard and I have read, many people say that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari does not have an economic direction. That this is the reason why things are getting bad in the country. My submission is that people who share this opinion have either refused to tell themselves the truth or they live elsewhere outside this world. However, I have decided to pen this piece to let them know that not only does the Buhari government have an economic direction, it is also one that looks very promising.

In the last few months, particularly since President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership, things have really taken a nose dive. The hunger in the land is increasing, the unemployment rate is worsening and the poor are getting poorer. Was this unexpected? The answer is a clear no. What we are witnessing today is not a factor of a Buhari government. I posit that Nigeria would still have been witnessing the same thing or even worse if Jonathan were to be the president today and I will tell you why.

Except for the first quarter of 2015 when the price of crude under the Jonathan regime sold for $58.7 per barrel on the average, Nigeria’s crude sold for as high as $150. In 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, Nigeria’s crude was sold for a yearly average of $113.8, $113.5 $111.0 and $100.4 per barrels respectively. Within the same period, our foreign reserves rose and fell from $32,639.8bn $43,830.4bn $42,847.3bn and $34,250bn respectively, before it finally crashed to $29,595.28bn in the first quarter of2 015, while the country’s GDP rose from $409.34bn in 2011 to $561.61bn in 2014. (Source: RTC Advisory Services Ltd, Nigeria Retrospect – Economy and Policy, 1999-2015).

Looking at the above figures, the believe was that Nigeria’s economy was on a good footing, but this is not exactly so. Why the growth figures are good, the successes recorded are largely uncoordinated, especially because the structure and quality of growth were not considered. This is why the UNDP Human Development Report, 1996 stated that “unless governments take timely corrective action, economic growth can become lopsided and flawed. Determined efforts are needed to avoid growth that is jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless.” Take unemployment for example, despite the huge revenue from oil between 2011 and 2014, the unemployment rate never really dropped. In 2013, its was 24.7% and in 2014, it stood at 24.3%. Even in 2012 when the yearly average of oil earning was $113, unemployment rate stood at 27.4%.
The question then is why are most Nigerians poor despite rising revenues and GDP growth?  The answers are not far-fetched. Firstly, oil which is Nigeria’s main revenue does not by itself, create many jobs. Jobs created from oil are only a few compared to the revenue it generates. Secondly, is the issue of corruption and lack of transparency that was pervasive in the last government. Over the last four years, there have been several alarming and scandalous cases of corruption in Nigeria. From the $6bn Fuel Subsidy Scam to the missing $20billion NNPC scam and the 300,000-400,000 barrels of oil per day that was stolen from the country amongst many others. And juxtaposing this with the fact the infrastructural problem of the country especially in areas of roads and transportation; power; Information technology continue to suffer neglect despite huge revenue, it will be a mirage to think that Nigeria can be repositioned for success.

One other thing responsible for the poor state of affairs in the country is the fact that the poor population of 110 million Nigerians lack access to healthcare, education and other social welfare programmes due to low spending on these sectors by the last government.

So what is the way forward? What is the Buhari government doing differently? Since coming into power, President Buhari has put in place measures specifically to shore up the revenue of government because no matter how lofty your plans are, you can only implement those plans where there is money. This is why the president has ensured transparency in the oil and gas sector with the appointment of Dr Ibe Kachiku as the GMD of NNPC who in turn has taken measures to reform the sector and block leakages in oil revenue. The president also appointed Babatunde Fowler, the man who turned around the revenue of Lagos state to head the Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) and Hameed Ali into the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS). With the reforms and re-organisation going on in these two agencies of government, the plan is to ensure that revenue earned from both surpasses the revenue generated from oil. 

The directive that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government register for the Treasury Single Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria is also another measure to shore up government revenue. At least N1.4tn had so far been paid into the TSA to date, an amount that would have been available to looters to feast on in previous administration.

In addition, the government is also pursuing an anti-corruption agenda to prosecute and bring to justice, those who turned the country’s resources into their private pockets. Though, nobody has been convicted so far, but some perpetrators have been taken to court and some amount of money recovered. I believe details on this will be made available soon.

Away from shoring up revenue, government has also put in place measures to invest in the people (social sector investment).To achieve this therefore, the government has outlined an objective of stimulating and supporting the establishment of world class skill acquisition centres in all 109 Senatorial Districts of the Federation. The government has also made a commitment to provide one meal a day for all primary school students which will create 1.14million jobs in agriculture, with a multiplier effect in increased food production and attract investment.
Boosting rural economy, lifting millions out of poverty through a conditional fund transfer to 25 million poorest households to incentivize vaccination, education and production is also at the heart of the government. The government is also set to diversify the economy by investing in the areas of Agriculture, Manufacturing, Entertainment  and Technology as well as boosting education and  building capacity to improve teacher quality with the expectation of having an educated population to increase economic potential for productivity. 

All these are important because according to the IMF: “Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth. The poor and the middle class matter the most for growth via a number of interrelated economic, social, and political channels.”

With the efforts at shoring up revenue as I earlier outlined, the government will have the resources to implement these programmes, the resultant effect of which would be more jobs for Nigerians, an educated and healthy population, a repositioned economy built on structures and quality of growth and a population lifted out of poverty. If this is not an economic direction, I wonder what is. 

Abubakar Usman is a member of the Buhari Media Support Group. He can be engaged on twitter @MrAbuSidiq 

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Binta Masi Garba For Senate President: Yes! We Can, By Usman Sidiq

The order is gradually changing and women have woken up from their slumber. They do not want to be condemned to the kitchen anymore. They are now standing tall and daring to do what is traditionally seen as the turf for the men. Women have become more active in political issues than ever before as a result of political re-awakening and awareness. Despite the difficulties they face, women have continued with their political ambition and have recorded some measure of appreciable political achievement even with limited support and resources at their disposal.

The advent of democracy in 1999, after over two decades of military rule ushered in a fresh opportunity for women to rise up to the occasion once again. Although, the number of women representation in elected and appointed positions is still low compared to what obtains in other parts of the world, an appreciable amount of progress have been made, owing especially to the efforts of a few women who took the bull by the horn. One of such women is Hounourable Binta Masi Garba from Adamawa State.

Hon, Garba is a woman of many achievements. From her failed bid to represent Kaduna South Federal Constituency in 1998, haven advocated for the rights of millions of women, she contested again in 1999 and emerged victorious, thus making her the youngest legislature in the national assembly. She served in this capacity from 1999 to 2007 after winning re-election for the same seat. Her success as the legislator representing Kaduna South Federal constituency drew the attention of her compatriots in Adamawa, her home state where she was asked to come and contest again for the same position in 2007, this time around representing Madagali/Michika Federal Constituency under the PDP. She won and served at the lower House of the National Assembly until 2011, where her fourth bid failed to see the light of day. Despite her failure to return to the National Assembly in 2011, she didn’t rest in her political ambition. In 2013, became the chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the APC, which effectively made her the first woman chairperson of a major political party in Nigeria, having defected to the APC as a result of the factionalisation in the PDP. It was under the platform of her new political party that she contested and became the Senator-elect who will represent Adamawa north senatorial district.

Honourable Garba is contesting for the presidency of the senate in the eight session of the National Assembly. Her achievements have therefore put her as a strong contender who needs to be given all the support she needs to emerge victorious. She has taken the path considered fit for men alone. She has entered the jungle with many of these men and still came out victorious. She has been tried and tested; she has the pedigree and integrity which is a rare find amongst many politicians of today. Her excellent performance as the chairperson of Adamawa State chapter of APC which led to the party’s victory in all the state’s three senatorial districts, six House of Representative seat, herself defeating an incumbent governor who contested the senate seat with her as well as the governorship seat and victory for the party in the presidential election is unprecedented.

Although, her gender can stand as one of the reasons why she should be given a chance to prove that women can also serve in positions of leadership and turn out successful, Hon Garba is not vying for the Senate Presidency on that premise. She is contesting to become the next senate president because she is as qualified and well experienced as any of her male contenders. Her sterling performance is not only in the political battle field. The three time member of the lower chamber representing two different federal constituencies, the first and still the only of its kind in Nigeria’s history scored so many marks in the house that gave her the requisite knowledge of legislative duties. She was the first Vice President of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) as well as the first parliamentarian to start poverty alleviation program for the women and youths.

Binta herself has said she is better qualified and has a lot of things to offer the Nigerian people that will give them the confidence and reassurance that change indeed has come and has come to stay for good. She has set three main legislative agenda, which she will pursue vigorously if elected. These agenda include education for the girl child, maternal care, which government must ensure is free from at least pregnancy to five years, and agriculture for women.

Fellow Nigerians, the time for change has come. Let us throw in our support and rally behind Senator-elect Binta Masi Garba. Women can lead too.

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Nigeria 2015: Beyond The Broom And The Umbrella By Abubakar Usman

‘Nigeria can change today if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision. Such people are rare in any time or place.’ ~Chinua Achebe

Next week Nigerians will go to the polls to make the great decision that will alter the nation’s history forever. We will choose who takes charge over the destiny of this great country and lead us into light and on to the path of brotherhood and justice, or not. Will it be APC’s Muhammadu Buhari or PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan? The world will know in a matter of days.

The big question those going to the polls must consider is this: is the government of Jonathan a failed one? The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding YES.

When we say the government has failed some argue with pictures of crude trains, exaggerated numbers insisting that youths have benefited from SureP and YouWin and then, of course, they remind you that Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy (even though this, economists have explained, is in spite of the government not because of it). We are not suggesting he has done nothing when we say Jonathan has failed. It is like this; when a student fails an exam, it does not mean he got all the questions wrong, but that he did not reach the pass mark. And for Jonathan, it is like that.

When in late 2010 Boko Haram began to grow into something unfathomable and the people cried out for help, the President behaved as if the North was not a part of Nigeria. He allowed his aides to infer that the people of the North were killing themselves only because they are angry they lost power to South —as if that even makes any sense!

On August 16, 2014 militants invaded Gwoza and took over the Emir’s palace. The Emir, Muhammad Timta, escaped to Abuja. Shortly after Timta’s arrival, President Jonathan sent for the Emir, who was accompanied to the meeting by Senator, Ali Ndume. To the utter shock of the Emir, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not know where Gwoza was located: Adamawa or Borno. And he asked in pidgin, “Where is Gwoza sef?” The mind boggles!

Mr. Jonathan looked away till late in 2014 when he started to see that his I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude could cost him his reelection bid. He pretended to care but never cautioned his aides, like Reno Omockri aka Wendell Simlin, who played politics with Nigeria’s insecurity. Jonathan’s pretense did not help when the elections were due so he arm-twisted the electoral body into postponing the elections, and began this hasty six-week campaign to recover Nigeria’s lost territory —like say na now morning do.

But, we know, it will not be so with Buhari. When those in the north remember Buhari’s military successes—how he defeated Maitatsine and chased out the Chadian army around the so-called fringes in the 80s—and his vast knowledge of the Nigerian borders, especially border towns in the North East, the choice to make at the polls next week becomes even easier. There can be no worthier man to turn to for protection.

The tired cliche says opportunity comes but once. In the case of Jonathan, it came to him every day in last five years. Like Buhari, Jonathan was a man loved by many but, unlike Buhari who is loved largely for his integrity, Jonathan was loved for no clear reason. And Nigerians voted massively for him in 2011. We (or at least most of us) thought that here at last is a man who has seen raw poverty firsthand and so understands what it means to go to bed hungry, to study without electricity and to walk about without shoes. Expectation and hopes were high.

Alas, the first major agenda he pursued when he became President was tenure elongation. Even though he insisted that he would not benefit from it, the zeal with which he pursued it raised doubts in the minds of many Nigerians. After the tenure elongation brouhaha died down, while corruption continue to rest heavily on the nation’s back, other anti-people events followed.

There was ‘the subsidy removal’ of January 2012 that sparked protests across the country and, for the first time in recent history, united Nigerians—Christians and Muslims. Northerners and Southerners—against misrule, injustice and corruption.

Yet in all these, the President argued and is still insisting that most of these cases are only people stealing, not corruption. And he would not prosecute anybody for corruption only he would develop technological system to fight corruption. This sounds wonderful though one wonders why China, in spite of all its advancement in technology, still executes people for ‘economic crimes’.

After insecurity, corruption is what most ails Nigeria. It is a clog in Nigeria’s wheel of progress. Jonathan’s behavior towards this problem is what led the Speaker of House of Reps, Aminu Tambuwal, to say that the President’s body language encourages corruption. When one remembers the unbridled wrath with which Jonathan descended on the former Governor of Central Bank when the Governor exposed the $20 billion theft, one will not disagree with what the Speaker said.

It is not the case with Buhari whose hatred of corruption is so fierce so that once it led him to go through unconstitutional means (some will say inhuman) to have a corrupt Minister of the Shagari government punished. Men like Buhari are hard to come by; men who value honesty, who, though they live by so much decay, bluntly refuse to be tainted by it.

Some idealists have argued that it is beyond one man, this change the nation craves. But one man can at least set the wheel in motion. Come March 28 Nigerians, we hope, will make the right choice.

The writer is on twitter @MrAbuSidiq

 

Opinion expressed on this page is solely that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Abusidiqu.com and/or its associates.

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After Reviewing the Constitution, What Next? By Abubakar Usman

The 108 members of the Nigerian Senate and the 360 members of the House of Representatives had just recently returned from their various Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies respectively to seek the inputs of their constituents in the proposed amendment of the 1999 constitution. Both arms of the National Assembly embarked on the exercise to satisfy the yearnings of most Nigerians for a constitution that truly reflects the wishes of the people; one in which the people are involved in the process of its amendments. The general belief is that the 1999 constitution in its present form is a document handed down by the military and therefore lacks the basic provisions in a democracy, hence the need for the review.

The question one may be forced to ask is: to what extent will these constituencies’ visits or the involvement of the citizenry result in bringing about a people’s constitution? The various constituencies and senatorial districts public hearings, as I heard, cost tax payers a whopping sum of N1 billion to be organised, but there are indications that those public hearings would be the only thing people will ever know about the amendment exercise. The rest of the review exercise would be done by the constitution review committee and the National Assembly along with the 36 State Houses of Assembly before it is passed into law. Can this make it a people’s constitution, especially when the wishes of the people as being expressed during the various public hearings may not find its way into the amended constitution?

I understand that this current exercise of reviewing the constitution is not a comprehensive one and so may have some shortcomings, but if Nigerians truly believe that the problem we have in terms of the constitution is because it is not a people’s constitution, why don’t we have a comprehensive review of the constitution in which people will be actively involved in its preparation, then subject its outcome to a referendum to enable them decide what should be included and what should not. That is one sure way to the making of a people’s constitution, but what we are likely to see from the current exercise is that the same people at the helm of affairs will impose their interests, especially as it satisfies their insatiable quest for the domination of the common man, on the constitution.

The sad thing about the outcome of this jamboree is that whatever is arrived at, at the end of the day will require the approval of the 36 State Houses of Assembly members who are saddled with the statutory responsibilities of law making, to pass it into law. These members might be lobbied and just act as a mere rubber stamp to approve whatever they have enlisted in the amended bills, and then it becomes our law.

Be that as it may, the basis of this discourse is not to analyse whether the proposed amendments to the constitution is one that will reflect the wishes of the people, but to analyse whether the constitution in its present form is the reason why the Nigerian state has continued to find itself in what it is today.

Many have advanced arguments that democracy and good governance have refused to work in Nigeria because the constitution has defects in many areas. Well, I do not entirely share in this assertion. The constitution, no doubt, has areas that need to be brushed up to conform to some certain realities especially in a democracy, but the real problem is not the defects of the constitution, but on the inability, greed and selfishness of those who are saddled with the responsibility of implementing it.

Many, for example, have agitated for the removal of immunity clause from the constitution so that public officers who are found to have embezzled public funds can be prosecuted. Is that the real reason why the law has not been able to catch up with any of them, despite the wide scale theft and brazen embezzlement we see on a daily basis? A governor for example spends a maximum of 8 years in office and afterwards, lost immunity from being prosecuted, but how many of those governors long after their tenure in office have even been tried, let alone jailed for stealing public funds?

Save for Chief Olabode George who got a two year sentence for a criminal act that should have kept him behind bars for years coming, others have being completely shielded from prosecution or have been given a soft landing in the name of plea bargain. Today, the likes of the Dariyes, Tinubus, Nyames, Odilis, Nnamanis, Bankoles and others too numerous to mention, in spite of the various evidences of their monumental corruption found against them, are still seen working the street of our society free. Many of them are either holding one public office or the other or still active players in our polity, therefore giving them more avenues to loot the treasury. Some of them are even members of the Senate and key players in our various political parties. Now, the questions are: Is it the defect in the constitution that has prevented this people from being prosecuted? Is it the defect in the constitution that was also responsible for the judiciary to discharge and acquit James Ibori upon his admission to have laundered billions of dollars belonging to Delta State, who is now serving a 13 year jail term in the UK for the same offence Nigerian judiciary ruled he was innocent of?

Within the last few years, there have been three amendments to the constitution; with the current exercise making it the fourth, but what change has it brought? Has it been able to provide justice for the common man whose rights are continually trampled upon? Has the amendments of the constitution changed the allegiance of our leaders from the looting of our treasury to the service of you and I? Has it fulfilled the guaranteed rights of every Nigerian’s access to education, good road, hospitals and security as contained in the constitution? We can amend the constitution one million times, but if there is no will on the part of its implementation by those who should, the constitution will never work. It will just be an exercise in futility. Everything seems to be schemed in favour of the powerful men and women in our society, where the highest bidders win it all.

Our political leaders must realize that the selective implementation of the provisions of the constitution is a deliberate attempt to perpetrate injustice; and where there is injustice; there can never be peace and progress. It is because of the failure of our system, due largely from the selective implementation of the constitution that we have had incidences like the Aluu 4, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy and so on. It is because of the failure on the part of those who are saddled with the implementation of the constitution that Governors, Ministers, Directors and what have you, embezzled money meant for road development, provision of schools, payment for pensions and yet still work free on the streets and are even given opportunities to steal more.

Now that the majority of the citizens are yearning for an amendment of the constitution and the National Assembly has begun the process, irrespective of whether it is going to be a people’s constitution or not, the time to take the issue of the constitution beyond just providing beautiful and well crafted provisions, but ensuring that those provisions are followed for the good of all is now. The constitution must not just be made a document whose provisions shall have binding forces on the authorities and persons of Nigeria, but must be seen to be so.

More importantly, however, there is need for the Judiciary to rise up to the challenges of ensuring that the provisions of the constitution are duly carried out. The Judiciary, they say, is the hope of the common man. If the Judiciary wakes up to its responsibility, other arms of government will be forced to follow the spirit and letters of the constitution.


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My Experience in the Hands of the Police by Abubakar Usman

When I was just growing up in the 80’s, can’t remember precisely the age then, there was this policeman who was very fond of me and always refer to me as his friend. I am sure the age difference between us then would be nothing less than 15, but he will never stop referring to me as his friend. I can’t particularly remember how we met, why he liked me and how we became friends, but I know he is just somebody I liked to be with whenever time permits. During my spare time, I pay him visits in his office at the police station. That was the very first time I got to see the inside of a police station. I have always glanced from the fence on passing by or each time dreaded armed robbers are nabbed and paraded at the police station where their gates are flung open for everybody to see, but without gaining access to the compound.

Each time I visit my friend at the station, I always get small gifts from him and share some gist alongside other police men in the station, but what our gist centres around still remains an illusion to me.

Soon after my friendship with the police guy became blossomed, a few friends of mine advised that I should severe ties with him because policemen are never to be trusted. They said a policeman would make friend with you only to rope you in one case or another. Well, I heeded to their advice and somehow refused to visit my police friend from that moment until the memory of him faded gently, but the fear I had then unknowingly was waiting for me somewhere in the future.

It happened on a very beautiful Sunday morning during my second year in the university. I had gone to take my usual morning breakfast in Mallam Sumaila’s (RIP) shop when the whole incidence began to play out. Mallam Sumaila is a ‘Mai Shayi (Bread and tea seller) who sells very close to my house. I lived in an off campus residence with a friend and shared a small compound with a group of students who though are very intelligent and brilliant, cannot do without drinking and Smoking marijuana. As much as I detest what they do, I usually enjoyed their company because each time we gather to discuss issues, you could tell from their opinions that these are youths who know what it takes to make the world a better place. Because of our relatively secluded place of abode, some of their friends usually join in the drinking and smoking frenzy.

I had barely finished taking my tea and bread that Sunday morning when I noticed some young men alighted from a chattered taxi and headed straight to our compound. I had no inclination as to who they are and what they had come for until I finished the tea and decided to go back to my room. Just as I was entering the compound, I saw my roommate been escorted out by three gun wielding policemen. He didn’t mention anything to me and I didn’t say anything either. We just passed ourselves. It was when I got into the compound that I was told the policemen said a group of boys attacked the daughter a former Managing Director of PHCN and carted away her phone worth N150,000 and one of the guys suspected was traced to our compound. Although the suspect does not live with us in the compound, he had always come around to join his ‘Igbo’ smoking friends.

The particular guy they had come to look for was my direct next door neighbour, but as at the time they came to search his room, he had already gone to church. Rather than make a counter plan, the policemen decided to go for my own room, searched, found nothing but decided to pick my roommate and my mobile phone I left behind while I had gone to mallam Sumaila’s shop.

As soon as I got this information, I knew they were going to come back for me. Besides, I was not ready to part with my phone and the SIM card which I bought at the rate of N12,000 and N18,000 respectively, so I dressed up, took some money as well as the receipt of my phone and SIM card  and headed to the police station. On getting there, I introduced myself, thinking I will just get my phone back and use the money probably to bail my roommate, but that was the beginning of the my ordeal.

Despite confirmation by the lady whose N150,000 phone was stolen that my N12,000 phone is not her own, the police did not only refused to release my phone, but also held me at the station. I sat at the counter for several hours until I was eventually thrown inside the cell. In the cell was my roommate, the guy who was suspected to have stolen the 150,000 phone and a few other guys. The luck I had was there was nobody who thought it necessary to beat me as I have always heard of police cells. Rather, I was the one who did the beating. It pounced on the guy who was suspected to have stolen the phone with the anger that I am going to spend my first night in police cell on the allegation of stealing because of him. It took the intervention of the other cell mates before I could let go. Meanwhile, my roommate was at one corner crying seriously.

Inside the cell, there was nothing to eat, but the luck I had was the money I took along while going. I pleaded with one of the policemen to help me buy fried yam and bean cake which I shared with everybody in the cell, but not until I parted with some money for the policeman who went on the errand. As soon as the night fell, a policeman approached me and said he could allow me sleep in the counter, instead of the smelly, dirty and mosquito filled cell if I am ready to part with some of my money. I initially accepted and parted with N200 of my money only for the DPO to arrive that night and send me back to the cell. Well, I lost my N200 and still ended up sleeping in the cell.

It was the following morning I begged one of the police officer to allow me use his phone to call my dad, but the police officer said he will charge N250 per minute for a call MTN charges N50 for. Well, I beggar has no choice they said. I accepted and the phone was sneaked for me to call my dad who then asked a close relation living in the town to come to my aid. When my relative arrived, he was told to pay bail sums for me, my roommate, and my phone and also pay for pen and paper that would be used to write the bail, but clearly written on the wall at the counter is “Bail is Free, Don’t Pay”. The man was so furious that he even insulted the police man that brought the message, but at the end of the day, he was able to negotiate our bail and we were set free.

Ever since that incidence, I have always asked myself questions like what if I had no money on me while I got to the station? What if I had nobody to call for coming to my rescue? What if there was nobody in that town that could quickly see that am released? I probably would have spent days or months in that cell without anybody knowing about my where about or even find someone to bail me. Incidences like this and even worse happen every day. Those who are lucky get out of it alive, those who are not remain in those cells for as longs as possible or even die as a result, yet these are people who are supposed to protect every citizen. Tomorrow, they will be selling us the mantra of Police is your friend.

I hate the Nigerian Police, They can never be my friend.

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How I Fought for Change….You Can Too by Abubakar Usman

Let me start by sharing a story of my personal experience with you. Many of us who must have passed through higher institutions of learning may have been involved in one association or organization during the course of our studies. Such associations like the Student Union Government (SUG), state or departmental associations are most often the creation of students to meet certain objectives.

When I got admitted into the university and resume at the department I was given to study at, I met an association formed by students of the department, which has the two primary objectives of protecting the interest as well as promoting the welfare of every student in the university. By interest and welfare, it meant that the stay of every student in the department would be worthwhile, but the realization that hit me in the face is a sharp contrast to the purpose for which the association was established.

Each year, the set of executives elected to oversee the affairs of the association with the semester and session dues paid by each student, share these funds amongst themselves. To make matters worse, the Head of the Department, whom by extension serves as the patron of the association gets a large chunk of the looted funds.

This development didn’t seemed to go down with me, so in my third year and with the encouragement from a few concerned students, I decided to make myself available for election as the president of the association. My decision was necessitated by the need to set an example of a reasonable, responsible and accountable leadership on one hand and to correct the ills of the past on the other hand, but this was to be the beginning of my ordeal. It simply didn’t go down well with the very people who were involved in embezzling the funds of the association.

Did I tell you I had in my first and second year visibly opposed all the actors misappropriating our funds? I was a thorn in the flesh of successive executive members who continuously milked us dry. During this time, I saw to the dissolution of a particular set of executives whom, upon the expiration of their tenure, but with in agreement with the HOD, refused to relinquish power to the incoming executives simply because they want to collect another set of dues from the students. These and some of the other opposing stand I took against them had set me on a collision course with not just some group of ‘cabals in the department, but also the HOD.

When the time for election came, they used all available tactics and means to ensure that I did not contest or win the election. They had at a point accused me of doing the bidding of a particular religion which I do not even belong to. They arranged some influential lecturers to prevail on me into stepping down and then played the ethnic card by asking the students who are in the majority of a particular tribe, not to allow an outsider defeat a son of the soil, but all their antics failed because I didn’t give in to any of them and the students whome they had hope will dance to their tune remained unperturbed.

I eventually won the election, but could not assume office until after several weeks into the period of my tenure. Why? Rumors had spread round the campus that the election HOD had cancelled the election and ordered for a fresh one on the allegation that I rigged. What I was to be informed later was that the HOD held a secret meeting with my opponent and his supporters where they were promised that anything possible will be done to see that I do not emerge the president. As soon as I got wind of this, I wrote a petition to some senior staffs in the faculty who in turn ordered for the setting up of an election panel to verify the claims of vote rigging. At the end of the exercise, the electoral panel found no evidence of vote rigging and returned me the winner.

Soon after I assumed office and reeling from the failure of preventing me from emerging as earlier planned, the HOD invoked the policy where students are under no compulsion to pay any due or belong to any association, just for me to be starved of fund for performing my duties. As a result of this, I couldn’t do much of all I had anticipated I will do as the president, except for the ones that I used my meager pocket money to organize or the contributions from a few individuals. So invariably, I failed in doing much in office, but one thing I did not fail in doing was to ensure that the two previous executives before me as well as the HOD were made to refund the sum they had embezzled. The HOD alone refunded the sum of one hundred and forty eight thousand (148,000).

I took the matter to the school authority attaching the report of the committee set up to verify their expenditure, because my ultimate aim was to ensure that the HOD is removed from his position, but the Dean of student had to plead that the matter should be resolved at his level so that the HOD does not lose his job.

The idea behind my story is to let us know that change will come only if we rise up to the challenge. it is not just enough to crave for an ideal society if we are not ready to make it happen. We must not be held back by the fear of the consequences of fighting for change. Nobody will ever tell you that change comes so easy. You will be pushed through trials and tribulations. The people who you want to wrestle the system from will fight back and try to bring you down, but your determination and courage is what will keep you going.

When I initiated the process of sanitizing the system in my department, I was threatened and tried. Some people even send emissaries to tell me how I won’t graduate if I insist on going ahead with the report I made to the school authority concerning my HOD, but the fact that I know I was pursuing the truth was what kept me going.

I graduated from the school without suffering any harm as many had expected. As a matter of fact, I ended up scoring B in the course my HOD took despite missing one of his tests, while running around to ensure I get some things done for the students.

My action may not have succeeded in completely sanitizing the system, but it ensured that no incidence of embezzlement occurred during the period that I remained in the institution and I strongly believe that if some other persons had continued from where I stopped, the system will be completely salvaged.

This is the same approach we all need to employ to solving the problem of our country. our leaders continue to milk us dry without the populace doing much to keep them at check. Since the beginning of the year, it has been on case of corruption or the other and all this money in their trillions are funds that could have made the life of ordinary Nigerian worthwhile. This is therefore a call for all to act in bringing about the much needed change we desire. If we come together, shun the syndromes that pull down a nation, we can achieve the Nigeria of our dreams.

Were you inspired by this story?

Please share your thoughts

 

Abubakar Sidiq Usman

I am @abusidiqu on twitter

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HOW NOT TO HONOUR ABIOLA BY ABUBAKAR S. USMAN

President Goodluck Jonathan must really be imagining which policy or programme to introduce that will go down well with Nigerians. When in January, he hiked the price of fuel from 65 Naira to 142 Naira, Nigerians poured into the streets to protest the hike. When he introduced cassava bread as a measure to encourage the usage of cassava, Nigerians said they can’t be forced to eat cassava bread. Read more

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Reclaiming Nigeria: The Way Forward By Abubakar Sidiq Usman

‘From crisis to sustainable development’, a World Bank publication in 1989 asserts that “underlying the litany of Africa’s development is the crisis of governance; by governance is meant the exercise of political powers to manage the affairs of the nation’s affairs. It thus becomes imperative that the main problem confronting the growth and development of Nigeria is governance and that is due largely because those charged with the responsibilities of the country have failed to manage it for the good of the people. Read more

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