Civilian Rule: Few Gains, Many Pains – Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

In the last twelve weeks, this column has focused attention away from analyzing governance of our nation at federal level to the 36 states and their budgets. We analyzed ten state budgets – statistically-significant sample from which some stylized conclusions about the quality of governance will be presented next week. Today, we want to look at the thirteen years of experience with civilian (rather than democratic) rule. I am reluctant to use democracy at this point.

The starting point for an assessment of civil rule since 1999 is a deserved tribute to the many Nigerians from all walks of life whose efforts and sacrifices compelled the military to retreat to the barracks. It was a titanic effort, a struggle for which many died, countless were bloodied and many lost livelihoods and liberty. Freedom stirs in the hearts of humanity; neither blandishments nor the whip of tyrants can extinguish these stirrings or even deter a determined people from securing it. Freedom is a wonderful value, and the events of the last 15 years of military rule ought to have convinced everybody that democracy, anchored on fair elections, the rule of law and good governance, is the way to go. In 1998, Nigerians overwhelmingly decided that never again will we accept the shortcuts of military rule and the long nightmare of tragedy that accompanied it. It seems that in 13 years, we have forgotten all that and we seem to have mostly evil emperors at the helm that are more banal than the military dictators, but far less competent in governing.

Those of us privileged to have contributed in the design of the transition program after Abacha’s death in June 1998 are proud that it ended with President Olusegun Obasanjo taking the reins in May 1999. Six moths later, I was leading the federal privatization effort and in 2003, administering the FCT. As a private citizen since 2007, I have reflected on our country’s journey, and my view is that while we have many things to celebrate, where we have ended up now gives us much more to deplore.

Warts and all, we have preserved some prospect for genuine democratic governance. Some fraudulent elections have been overturned and illegal impeachments quashed. Nigerians even united to surprise and defeat the third-term attempt of a sitting president. With vigilance and will, we can invest real substance into the democratic structures that we have and make real the vision that our people can prosper in freedom. The notion of the citizenship rights is getting reinforced, despite the prolonged hangover afflicting sections of the security establishment. This increased awareness of human rights has sometimes been upheld by the courts that have survived the onslaught of a destructive chief justice that should have never been allowed near that exalted office.

While democracy satisfies the intrinsic desire for freedom, it is its instrumental value that ultimately matters for the quotidian realities and longer-term interests of most citizens. People want freedom, but that must include the freedom not to be bombed while worshipping or shopping, and not to starve. It includes freedom to live in dignity, with equal access to social services and to realize the potential their talents can legitimately secure.

Civilian rule sold off fiscal drain-pipes owned by government that were arrogant, insular and provided poor services. The telecommunications sector was liberalized bringing in private investment, creating ancillary businesses, over 60,000 jobs and putting a telephone in the hands of virtually every citizen that wants it. We saw the beginnings of a consumer credit system, and even a pilot mortgage scheme that assisted many buyers of Federal Government houses in Abuja. Nigeria won external debt reliefs, consolidated its banking system and witnessed rapid economic growth, no doubt assisted also by high oil prices. Our foreign reserves grew and we even created a ‘rainy day’ fund called the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

By 2007, the Yar’Adua-Jonathan government inherited vast foreign reserves ($43bn), on-going power projects (NIPP-$5bn), new rail systems from Lagos to Kano ($8bn) and Abuja Metro ($800 million), a healthy ECA ($27bn) – in short a basis to hit the ground running, complete on-going projects, initiate new ones and continue addressing Nigeria’s infrastructure deficits. Alas, after $200bn had been earned and spent, that did not happen. What happened?

Despite these accomplishments of the Obasanjo government, it was by no means a perfect government, just an effective one. It’s attention to the rule of law was uneven. We recall the brazenness with which a well-connected thug sponsored arson against government buildings in Anambra State as an assault against Governor Chris Ngige from whom he was estranged. That thug was not called to account; instead he was elevated to his party’s board of trustees. If people consistently escape justice because of their connections to power, it is an open invitation to people of lesser quality to seize the state and suitably defile it. Impunity then replaced even-handed common sense and decency.

We also managed to compound impunity by assaulting the very basis of democratic legitimacy: free and fair elections. It is a fact that elections in Nigeria have been progressively worse since 1999. International and domestic observers gave devastating verdicts on the conduct of the 2003 elections. Those of 2007 were so awful that the key beneficiary felt compelled to admit as much in his inaugural speech as president. Despite the initial façade, the 2011 elections turned out to be not only similarly flawed, but one of the most deceptive and divisive in our electoral history.

Yet true democracy ought not to make people frightened of the consequences of not being in power. With term limits, losers are guaranteed another stab in just a few years. And where the rule of law prevails, an electoral loss is not the same thing as exclusion from the political space and vigorous participation in the process. But such political sophistication prevails only when there’s certainty about electoral integrity and where the respect for the rule of law has become part of the DNA.

Simply put we have lost the opportunity to routinize the spirit of democracy while we stay busy observing its formal rituals. It was perhaps inevitable that the words of Plato that “the punishment we suffer, if we refuse to take an interest in matters of government, is to live under the government of worse men” would catch up with us.

Since 2000, there has been an unacceptable mayhem and bloodshed in Nigeria. The exacerbation of religious and ethnic tensions expressed in violent hues has been one of the most disappointing features of the new civilian era. Democracy would have offered a civilized way to negotiate and manage differences without breaking bones. It thrives on the ability of contending factions to work out a consensus and to summon sufficient coherence to make things work. It is disheartening that virtual apartheid, based on religion, is beginning to divide cities like my hometown of Kaduna, with people being restricted to their respective ghettoes of faith. At the heart of democracy is a universal idea, but a key feature of present-day Nigeria is an astounding narrow-mindedness.

It is necessary that we reflect on the probability that by giving undue credence to ethnic and religious group rights, we imperil not only individual rights but also destroy the possibility of building a nation where everyone belongs and feels safe everywhere. Our political elites have encouraged divisions that keep them in office, forgetting that the depletion of trust and cohesion will make it difficult if not impossible for them to enjoy the fruits of the office! This created the insecurity we now suffer all over the country.

We have a centralized police force afflicted both by little self-respect and a limited sense of its mandate. The efforts to contain Boko Haram’s terror has shown that our intelligence gathering apparatus is not fit for purpose, and our security agencies lacking in internal capacity and capability beyond harassing those of us in opposition. The pathetic manner public streets are blocked in the vicinities of security and defense establishments makes the citizens wonder – if those trained and armed to defend us are so scared of the terrorists, how can we expect them to defend the realm? Are they concerned only about their safety and that of those in power?

We have not built as much infrastructure as our development requires, and we have failed to moderate our escalating cost of governance. More importantly, democratic Nigeria is yet to grow in a way that can democratize its fruits through the creation of jobs for our youths. As we dither, divide our citizens, and condone fraud and corruption, the world just leaves us behind.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to give our people a stake in keeping democracy aglow. History shows that even in the developed societies, extremist groups attract more support in moments of economic hardship. And when this is compounded by corruption and politics of self-advancement of a few, and the economic exclusion of the many, only the peace of the graveyard can result. How do we reverse these tendencies and make democracy work for the greatest number of Nigerians?

Our political culture must change from one of self-enrichment to true public service. The situation in which we spend almost the entire federal revenues for the running cost of government is unacceptable and will crash this democratic experiment – albeit a thirteen year one. Elections must be credible, free and fair because that is what will guarantee the ejection of those that fail the electorate. It is entirely up to INEC and the authorities to ensure these happen otherwise the consequences will be dire.

Insecurity is the front-burning issue. It is the primary responsibility of any government which can neither be abdicated nor outsourced. Community leaders and civil society can support the government, but not replace it. The government must adopt a multiple approach that includes enhancing the intelligence-gathering capacities of our security forces and creating an environment for job creation for the hopeless youths that are being recruited by the terrorists. The administration should therefore stop behaving like a victim and get on with the job!

Finally, a single-minded focus on development – physical via infrastructure build-out, human by providing equal access to public education and healthcare, and social services that enable citizens the opportunity to realize their full potentials. Those that are in power that cannot do this at all levels should do the honorable thing – resign and allow others that can . We need people that stay awake thinking, and investing the time and effort to get our country working even just a little bit. Apart from fraud and corruption in government, compounded by hatred and suspicion amongst the populace – nothing seems to be growing in Nigeria today.

 

The Latest on Fulani/STF Standoff – By Dr. Aliyu Tilde

(All editing errors regretted. There isn’t time to proofread the article thoroughly this late)

When it became clear that the Defence Headquarters are bent on carrying out its security operation in the areas it announced, we put our heads together to see what best we can make of the situation to ensure minimum difficulties for the Fulani that were to be affected. Saleh Bayari, the Protem National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association who was just released yesterday after a four-day detention by the SSS, was very handy. I got over to him and together with some Miyetti Allah leaders from the affected areas we visited the Special Task Force (STF) Headquarters near Hill Station Hotel, Jos, to iron out some issues regarding how the operation would affect the Fulani.

Principally, we wanted to, one, finalize on the camps to relocate them temporarily should we be successful later in the day in convincing them to the relocate for the period of the operation. The Defence has that evening given the nation the assurance that the displacement is temporary and not a design to evict the Fulani from the area totally. The three camps listed in the day are all located in areas heavily populated by Beroms. The Fulani will just not accept to go there. Also, moving the Fulani is not like moving other people. Their masters – the cows – must be taken into consideration. The cows have to graze in a secure place, away from farms. Otherwise, na another wahala kuma.

Two, we also wanted to ensure that the Fulani are secured in their camps, along with their cows. Their property back home must be secured also. Without this assurance, the possibility that the Berom attacking them and the houses they would leave behind should not be ruled out completely.

Three, we also wanted to know what arrangement was made to deliver adequate relief materials to their camps to cushion the harsh experience of displacement and avert humanitarian crisis. Speaking to one of the local government chairmen around 2.30am earlier, he confessed a colleague that this would be the first time in the history of Plateau crisis that they would be camping the Fulani. So they do not have the full picture of their humanitarian requirements, he said. In previous situations, typically, the Fulani simply left to other areas on their own without seeking any assistance from the Plateau State government they amply mistrust. Even in this case, they refused to communicate with officials until Malam Shehu Buba from Bauchi intervened.

Four, the reassurance from the STF commander that these IDPs will return to their homes immediately the short operation is completed.

In our meeting with the commander, Maj-General Henry Ayoola, he and his team assured us that all he wanted is to restore peace to the Plateau. It really took them a good deal of explanations to convince most of us that they are not playing the game of Jang, the Berom state governor.

The secret of the matter, they told confided in us, is that they do not believe that the people they encountered in the mother of all battles last Tuesday in the area after a policeman was killed were Fulani. Our Fulani, they said, do not have that firepower. Boko Haram, they strongly suspect, could be behind this. So they want to go into the places those people are using as hideouts to flush them out, within a period of one day or – maximum – two. “If I can do that without firing a single shot,” Ayoola assured us, “I would be very glad.”

Though many of us are not privy to the intelligence information that is available to the commandant, there is the general belief amongst us that the exercise is unnecessary if its aim is just to flush out the perceived outside attackers. They must have left already because tomorrow it would be two weeks and so much information on the intention of government has been made public. If the security challenges of the country are anything to go by, the attackers must have thought ahead of government and left since.

Honestly, being at the middle of a situation like this is extremely difficult for us. Maj-General Ayoola himself is just recently posted to head the STF in Jos. He is a young man in his forties, I believe, except if he is looking younger that his age. He may not be in the full picture of any hidden machination that may be employing the STF to dislodge the Fulani, now or in the long run, from the place after the Berom have failed to do so for over a decade. The level of deceit played in the crisis on the Plateau is really unprecedented in this country. Everybody that attempted to bring peace to the state will tell you the same story. I will be glad if Ayoola will prove me wrong.

This is a suspicion shared not only among the Fulani but also among many international organizations that have been discussing the matter since the evacuation order was given. Leaders of this country have proved to be pathological liars who cling to power through deceit, preoccupy themselves with looting the treasury and leave the country to run on autopilot. This is the result. The world has been watching them all along. The UN is particularly serious about this operation. Only God knows how many emails were flying last night between New York and Geneva on this matter, an official of a UN body told me. Ayoola and Defence Headquarters must therefore know the gamble they are making. If in the end of the operation or even in the long run it is proved that the operation was done to place the Fulani at a demographic disadvantage in the area or make them vulnerable to attacks by the Berom, heads will definitely roll at the Hague in addition to the internal crisis it will generate. Then as I said in my previous article we will be faced by a crisis worse than Boko Haram.

Despite our misgivings, we decided to be on the side of hope, based on the assurances the STF gave us and left the rest to God, the Able that knows what the hearts conceal and what they reveal. Four vehicles were arranged to convey us to the place to prove to the STF that there were still thousands of people in the vicinity of Mahanga. This was necessary because Ayoola and Col. Abdulmumin Jimoh, one of the field commanders, were emphatic that not up to 10% of the population remained there. Ayoola said he was in all the places yesterday and he did not see people. Those of us from the area refuted the claim out rightly and told him that thousands of people were still there. Of course, he was right that the Berom since a week ago have fled from most of the villages in the area into the neigbouring Kaduna State and other towns.

It turned out that our going to Mahanga, the epicenter of the faceoff between the STF and the Fulani, averted what would have been a major humanitarian catastrophe. If we had left Ayoola with his belief that people have already left the place, his soldiers would have killed thousands of Nigerians there after the start of their operation, when they would declare anybody seen in the place a potential target of elimination. In just less than five minutes of our arrival, we were able to prove our point. Families started trooping onto the high ground we stood on from all directions. The Deputy Commander of the STF, DSP Umar Magiri, immediately became convinced that people have not left. He informed the commandant instantly. The task of convincing them to evacuate then started. I leave you to imagine how difficult it was to disabuse their minds and reassure them that no ill was intended, more so when the Berom did not help matters. The Fulani complained that the Berom were beating drums of victory throughout the previous night in the neighbouring villages, jubilating that the Fulani will finally be evicted from the area. See?

We overcame these difficulties. In the end, we got their leaders to agree on the evacuation and allowed them to choose the locations of their camps, separate from those of Berom which, in any case, were too far. They chose the nomadic primary schools at Dogo and Sharuk in Barikin Ladi LGA and those at Diyan and Rim in Riyom LGA. These are places on the rim of the Mahanga Basin from where the Fulani can see the happenings in their dwellings that are dispersed in the undulating valley of Luggere below.(One of the locations, Rim (Makaho) was where my maternal grandfather, Ardo Shehu, once lived for many decades. It was there my mother raared cows as a small girl in the early 1930s. I used to visit him with my uncle Bello in the mid-1970s before the Ardo agreed to relocate back to Toro around 1980 where he died five years later. Huh! The old man was really hot-tempered. Kai Kai!)

Then the commander promised that no further molestation and plundering of their property by soldiers would take place. We later returned to the crowd for the address by the DC.

The DC’s speech composed of the following six points:

(1) The reason behind the operation and the assurance that it will hardly be for more than a day or two.
(2) The assurance that everybody will be allowed to return to his house immediately after the operation.
(3) That the STF personnel will immediately arrive to provide security to Fulani properties.
(4) That nobody should run away when faced by a soldier. He should stop and surrender instead for his safety.
(5) That the operation is in no way aimed at driving them away from the area.
(6) The announcement of the locations of the camps as agreed by their leaders.

We have him on videotape, not for Youtube, but just in case.

Movement was to begin immediately. It was already 4pm. The operation could start any time after the deadline of 12pm later in the night. Contacts were immediately made with officials of State Emergency Relief Agency (SEMA), which were in the waiting already. The locations of the four camps were immediately passed to them. They promised to start delivering relief materials right away.

We returned to the STF headquarters in Jos around 5.30pm. We told the command that leaders of the Miyetti Allah will be monitoring the camps during the period of the operation until the IDPs return to their homes safely as promised.

Before I close this update, I would like to express our gratitude to the individuals and various local and international bodies that showed serious concern over this issue. They have understood that this is a matter that borders on gross war crimes and violations of the Kampala convention. For the first time, the nation was united against government arbitrariness to the weak. It is left to the government to fulfill its commitments to the people it is displacing intentionally. If in the end it proves to be a deceitful, then its officials will have themselves to blame. Nobody – from the field commanders to the President – will claim ignorance because they have been adequately reminded by local and international organizations about their obligations under the international conventions that it ratified. It got away with the massacre of Muhammad Yusuf and his group. It will not get away with this.
Our lawyers are already placed on notice. Combined with a catalogue of previous evidence of genocide on the Plateau, a convincing case will not be far-fetched at the Hague.

We are humbled by the gross support the Fulani received from their brethren including many dignitaries across the country and the thousands of youths in the social media. The solidarity expressed for the Fulani cause by the entire Hausa community in Jos town is unprecedented. The township was empty. Though the city calm and banks and offices have opened, virtually all shops were closed. We appeal to people to remain calm as we update them daily with the happenings on the matter. The entire Fulani community in the country remains indebted for the high level of support they received.

Finally, the cooperation of the STF team is hereby acknowledged and highly appreciated. We hope they live to their promises. We will commend them if they live to their promises and behave professionally. If they do not, apart from inviting our condemnation, they will definitely have themselves to blame.

Bauchi
16 July 2012

Open Letter to General Charles Airhiavbere by Brodricks Abumere

I don’t know you personally hence i can’t judge you. My sincere advice for you as a brother is to call Adams Oshiomhole the governor elect of Edo state and congratulate him. Just in case you don’t know the reasons why you lost the election, let me enumerate them for you.

(1) PDP doesn’t have a good record in Edo state. Eight years of lucky
Igbinedion in Edo state was a waste.

(2) Anehni’s history of retrogressive politicking in Edo state. Were you not surprised Anenih couldn’t deliver Esan land for you. Alli brought university to Esan, Aikhomu brought Irrua specialist hospital to Esan; Tom Ikimi transformed Igueben. What has Anenih with all his glory and majesty as the leader of PDP the ruling party for over twelve years contributed to the social, political and economic development of Esan land and Edo state in general? Nothing!

(3) Another reason why many of us have issues with you is ” birds of the same feather they say flocks together” I mean how could you in the world pitch tent with Anenih, considering his pedigree? That makes most of us equate you with Anenih. You may be a nice guy, like i said earlier I don’t know you personally; but accepting to run as Anenih’s candidate makes you look really bad. You will need to do a lot of damage control to redeem you image back for that singular miss-step.

(4) The people couldn’t trust your judgment to lead; I mean if you lack the common wisdom to discern between what is right for Edo State (ACN developmental policies) and what is wrong for Edo State (PDP retrogressive, corrupt and vision less policies)

Anenih probably assured you the Esan people will follow him like fools regardless. He was wrong. Anenih also thought the Binis will vote for PDP because you are a Bini man, which was why he anointed you as his candidate; he was wrong again. The Bini people are Esan people can discern between right and wrong. We have moved beyond voting on the ground of backward mundane motivations of ethnicity and money. Majority of the people that collected money from PDP used the money to transport to voting center to vote for Oshiomhole.

My dear brother, this election has come and gone; and as you rightly said, this is the most peaceful election in this history of Edo state. And just in case you didn’t know or forgot to include it in your write up; it’s also the most free and fair election in the history of Edo state. Anenih fooled you the first time; please don’t let him fool you the second time. Don’t allow him or political sycophants or hungry lawyers to deceive you into going to court to contest the result of the election. You we all know the contest wasn’t close by any standard; it was a colossal defeat. Anenih his self was trounced in his ward. You and I know there is no way anybody can out rig Anenih in any election; let alone his own ward. On that note I dare to say to you it was a legitimate victory. Going to court to challenge that result will make us think you are out of touch with reality. Going that route will take away whatever you have left in terms of dignity, integrity and credibility; because you lost lots of those by pitching tent with Anenih and his PDP.
I hope you listen to my sincere advice and not those political praise singing parasites that are looking for ways to take whatever you have left. Politics is a game of numbers; someone has to win; and that person happens to be Oshiomhole this time. It may be you next time.
Let me also commend you for not following in the tradition of PDP by sponsoring thugs to intimidate, disrupt and or perpetuate violence during the election. For that I think you are a fine gentle man. I hope you will join hands with other well meaning people of Edo state to help the governor elect move the state forward. That is the most honorable thing to do at this time my dear friend and brother. Going to court to challenge the result will be a drag on Edo state progress and development and the people of Edo State will dislike you for that. You lost this election because of PDP and Anenih; just remember that. The people of Edo state don’t have anything against you. I wish you well in and god bless you.

Brodricks Abumere
Dallas Texas USA

 

 

 

 

Micheal Egbejumi-David: It Is Time to Give Up on Jonathan

It is a poorly kept secret that, in the Jonathan’s household, the Mrs, Patience, is the one who wears the pants.  She rules the roost.  She is the one in charge; the boss.

In some cases, the woman being in charge is not actually a bad thing.  In fact, it can be a good thing.  However, I’m not sure if this is the case with the first family.  It certainly isn’t proving to be the case now.  When you look at Jonathan, when you behold and have been thoroughly put off by Goodluck’s docility, his lack of vigour and rigour, you would understand why Patience had to take charge.  It’s just a shame that she doesn’t know where to draw the line.
It was recently reported that Mrs Jonathan has remained on the payroll of the Bayelsa State civil service despite the fact that she hasn’t turned up for work for even one minute since her husband became the Deputy Governor in 1999.  Regardless of all that, she was still considered an active staff member and was being paid in full by the Ministry of Education (of all places!)
I was still digesting that appalling news and wondering when Reuben Abati would come out and announce that Mrs Jonathan has returned all the salaries and allowances she has been pocketing since 1999, when worse news floated in.  This one came directly from the Head of Bayelsa State Civil Service, Gloria Izonfo.  She announced that the same Mrs Jonathan has been appointed a Permanent Secretary.  I can just imagine Don King’s hair standing on end as he shouts, “Only in Nigeria!”
For one, this is sycophancy gone out of hand.  People will recall that the current governor, Seriake Dickson was one of the Abuja politicians who were used to fight the previous governor, Timipre Sylva to a standstill until his election was annulled in April 2008 by the Court of Appeal.  Back then, Dickson, a House of Representative member, avowed that the majority of PDP stakeholders in Bayelsa would not support Sylva’s candidacy to run again at a new election that was mandated after 90 days.  He called Sylva “unacceptable” and a person lacking in skills to “build consensus.”
A Loyal Jonathan disciple, in 2012 Dickson was rewarded with the governorship after his oga became President and Sylva had been kicked hard into exile.  Dickson was declared the winner of the governorship election by the State Returning Officer, Prof Joseph Ajienka.  (More about him later)
As per our culture in Nigeria, Dickson is now thanking his oga through madam, however, he is doing it all wrong.
But, there’s a larger issue:
Mrs Jonathan stopped going in to work sometime in 1999.  That is some 13 years ago.  Let us do the math:  According to her own bio, Mrs Jonathan got her NCE (Teacher training) diploma in 1989.  Then she proceeded to the University of Port Harcourt for a 3 year Bachelor’s programme in Biology and Psychology, finishing, presumably, in 1992.  Then she became a teacher at a Secondary School where she was until 1997.  In 1997, she left and went into Community Banking.
Then things become sketchy.  At some point, post 1997, Mrs Jonathan left the bank and returned “to the classroom briefly again as a teacher.”   Then “she was transferred to the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education, where she served until 29 May 1999 when her husband became the Deputy Governor of the State.”
So.  Ok.  Let’s say Mrs Jonathan stayed in the banking sector for just one year.  That would mean that she returned to teaching in 1998.  A few months later, she joined the Ministry of Education in Bayelsa.  To be generous, let us say she was with that Ministry for a full calendar year before she became Second Lady of Bayelsa.  Once they were in office, Mrs Jonathan never darkened the doors of the Education Ministry again.  However, she continued to draw a salary.  On 12 July 2012, with just one single solitary practical active year experience in the Education Ministry, she was made its Permanent Secretary.
Please stop laughing.
So, what are the duties and responsibilities of a Permanent Secretary?  The number one job of a Permanent Secretary is to run the department on a day-to-day basis.  Effectively, the Permanent Secretary is the chief executive of a particular government department, overseeing its operations including, budgets, personnel, training, etc, etc.  The Permanent Secretary also provides reports and advice to the political head of the Ministry, the Commissioner.  Permanent Secretaries are also the accounting Officers for their department, which means they are directly answerable to the Legislature for financial matters.  Furthermore, Permanent Secretaries chair their departments’ Management Boards.
Mrs Jonathan will do all of this and more with just one year of entry level experience under her belt; an experience acquired some 13 years ago.
Please now.  I told you to curtail your laughter.
We have been told however – in an attempt at clarification – that Mrs Jonathan will do this in absentia.  A brand new concept; a Permanent Secretary in absentia.  Only in Jonathan’s Nigeria.  In effect, Mrs Jonathan was just awarded a title for later use.  The First Lady appellation would appear inadequate.  A further attempt at clarification was made on 14 July 2012 by a Special Assistant to the governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson.  He said, “The State government believes that the services of the First Lady to the development of Bayelsa State and Nigeria qualify as essential service, which should be recognised and rewarded.”
Good God!  You cannot make this up, even if you were writing a very bad movie script.  Provincial outlook is being nationalised.  We are being force-fed parochial backwater thinking and behaviour from the riverside.  Lack of refinement and outrageous buffoonery has been elevated to statecraft.  God help us all.
As a man, when your truculent wife comes to you with news of such “promotion,” you are supposed to quickly pour deserved ice water on it.  You are supposed to show her the million ways in which it is wrong and inappropriate.  As a Head of State, you ought to then go further and insist on decency, pick up the phone, call the bloody governor of Bayelsa and tell him to keep his Greek gift.  Tell him not to ridicule further a government that is already struggling to convince people that it is a serious one.  I just don’t understand:  Is it that some people simply lack the ability to see what everyone else can see or they just don’t care?
But it is clear Mrs Jonathan calls the shots at home.  Clearly, the President is not able to curtail her overbearing and flagrant impulses.  He gave up trying long ago.  Our Jonah is just too happy for her to go do her thing at any cost and leave him alone with all her wahala.  In any event, they own the day now, so anything goes.  Weak, distasteful and very unseemly.
Not too long ago, ‘twas for the same Jonathan that an Italian construction company, Gitto Construzioni Generali, built a huge church in the heart of his village.  Jonathan even saw it fit to defend such farce and obvious corruption.  Why didn’t the same firm build churches in other villages before or after Jonathan’s?
Just last month, Mrs Jonathan was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Port Harcourt.  On hand to confer that honorary degree on her was Prof Ajienka, the Vice Chancellor of the University.  Yes, the same Prof Joseph Ajienka, State Electoral Returning Officer who declared Dickson governorship winner.  Same day, President Jonathan approved N3 billion for the development of the University of Port Harcourt.
These are just the ones we know about o.
This is where we now find ourselves.  Everything is so gauche.  There is a complete absence of shame.  No decorum, no circumspection.  It is Idi Amin declaring himself the King of Scotland all over again.
And the sovereignty of 150 million souls is entrusted in the care of this man?  Wasn’t it Fela who sang that ‘Upside Down get them meaning too?’  Nigeria we hail thee.  This poor country just cannot catch a break

By Michael Egbejumi-David
demdem@hotmail.co.uk
Twitter: @demdemdem1

Uncle, This Is Why I Don’t Own A House by Ugodre

If you are above 30 and have worked for between 5 to 10 years then you may have heard questions like this? “when are you going to own your own house”? “Do you want to keep paying rent”? “Look at James your age mate, he has already built a house in his village and in town”. These questions come from people you know very well, especially those you care about? Like your mum, dad, aunt, wife, uncle or even boss? Well, I have and quite recently as such. I recently moved into a house in a suburb of Lagos called and being a rented duplex I received a barrage of calls and advice from folks “who know better” insisting that I begin to build my own house. Naturally, I respond to advice like this in a pious manner retorting that soon the divine will make way. But why don’t I have a house after over a decade of working and why do I need one right now? Have you asked yourself that question too? I did and here is what I found out?

Why do I Need to own a House?

Everyone desires to own a house but have you ever thought why? What makes a rented apartment/house less appreciated that an owner occupier house? Does owning a house mean you have financial freedom? Do people who own houses fare better than those who do not on the long run? Does owning a house make a man healthier than those who do not? Does it take you to heaven? I have no answers to these questions but I do know why I do not own a house and why I should own a house.

So first of all, why should I own a house?

I know there are many but this are the fundamental reasons why I think one should own a house;

1. Pride – The first reason why any one should want to own a house is the pride that comes with it. For most it is a reflection of one’s success in life and a statement of manhood. Even the bible acknowledges the need in Jeremiah 29,5 saying “Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them”. So if pride is important to you then you must own a house provided you can afford it

2. Comfort – Some also own house because of the comfort that comes with it. Most spend loads of money designing a house that fits their desires, style and taste. And such can hardly be gotten in a rented apartment as it may mean reconstructing another man’s property. Some also own several houses in their villages, vacation spots, business spots, recreational houses etc. These are all meant to give a level of comfort that only gets limited to the insatiability of the owner. So if you are one who desires a unique form of comfort then owning a house or houses is a necessity.

3. Capital Gains/Investments – Some also own houses for Investment purposes. These are property owners like land lords and Real Estate Investors who build houses to derive some form of capital gains from them. Houses can also be used as collateral to borrow money and invest in other businesses which could ultimately increase the benefit of the owner. For real estate investors and property speculators, owning houses is a means to eke a living.

4. Financial Independence – One can also own a house to be independent from the state, landlords or anyone else who’s accommodation may infringe on his dependence on his money. He needs not pay rent to a landlord, government, community etc. If you hate paying rent and want to hedge against increase of rent from shylock landlords, then owning your own house and living in it is necessarry.

Now there may be other reasons but you will agree these are the most important reasons why one should own a house(s). But why don’t I own a house yet. To answer that I will have to ask myself one important question. How can one own a house?

I believe there are four ways and these are;

1. Inheritance – One can own a house if the house is passed on legally from a relative, friend, acquaintance. This is usually written in a will or sometimes can be determined by culture and tradition that is passed on from generations before.

2. Income/Savings – Another way that one can own a house is through personal savings or income. Income derived from salaries or investment can be used to purchase a house outrightly. However that depends on how much the income is and if it is enough to buy the house of your choice

3. Mortgage – This is probably the mostly popular and widely used method of owning a house. By borrowing from a bank or mortgage institution people can buy houses and pay back over time. In Nigeria, this can range between 4 – 10 years, in developed economies its probably between 15 to 30 years.

4. Gift/donations/raffle – One can also own a houses through gifts, donations, lottery or raffle. They are all in the same category as they individually do not require you to pay for the full value of the house or put some money down as in a mortgage or inherit from a relative. It simply involves someone giving you a house for next to nothing.

With the above it is easy to explain why I do not on a house. If I am yet to inherit one or can afford to by one from my present income or get an affordable mortgage or gifted one then I may just have to rent one lest I remain homeless. And since the only reason I probably want to own a house now is more of pride, it however does not surpass the more important desire which is comfort. Meaning, I rather pay rent a comfortable house than own and live in a house in Mowe which my salary may probably afford to build in about 4 years. I know people who own houses but still live in rented apartments.

The ODD Scenario

But then there are some who earn as much as I do, some who earn much lower and some without a defined source of income who own house(s). How is that possible when they did not inherit it and neither was it a gift. They obviously did not pay for it from their income as the math wouldn’t just add up. This only leaves me with perhaps one answer….CORRUPTION. The quickest source of making money in the Nigeria and indeed the world. So presently, if I am to own a comfortable home using my present income I may as well have to steal public or private funds to afford it. And if I refuse to steal or defraud, the only available option will be to rent which is what I am doing now.

That’s the tragedy of Nigeria, where people have severed the link between success and it’s source. The source of success never comes to mind so far as you have not been caught. If I did not have a job or a steady source of income then people can easily infer that the source may have been fraudulent. Thats different for one with a steady source of income. No one ever thinks the money was obtained from stolen wealth. It is seen as share hardork and a sign of progress. “He/she is doing well” as they often say. Finally, to my dear Uncle, I may not be “doing well” enough to own a house in your opinion. But in my opinion if the source of funding a house does not meet the four conditions above or the reasons do not meet the four above as well, then I amy well continue in my rented apartment so as long as my income can pay it.

Why National Assembly Must Consent to the Petroleum Industry Bill?

Satellite view of a typical Niger delta oil community

The idea behind the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB Bill) originated about fourteen years ago under former President Olusegun  Obasanjo when he set up an  Oil and Gas Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC)  to assess modality for the reformation of the oil industry. The committee was saddled with the responsibility to carry out a comprehensive reform of the oil Industry with a view to bring Nigerian system under the international best practices and to replace the opaqueness haunting our oil industry with transparency. The Act is to establish legal and regulatory framework, institutions and regulatory authorities for the Nigerian petroleum industry and to establish guidelines for the operation of the upstream and downstream sectors.
The Act which was generally applauded by Nigerians was somehow prevented from not seeing the light of the day hence it was fraught with myriad of problems militating against it. This includes multiplicity of oil reform Bills at the National Assembly and lack of political will by the Federal Government to push through the PIB Bill. In addition, are the activities of multinational companies who wanted the status quo to be maintained in respect of Pre-PIB Joint Venture Agreements with the NNPC/Federal Government.. They are afraid that tampering with the Joint Venture Agreements will cede too much control to the Federal Government. .The multinational oil companies are not comfortable with the fiscal regime and increased Royalty Payments in the PIB. Some provisions of the “PIB” were poorly drafted and not well articulated and some salient important issues not addressed at all and/or included in past draft versions of “the PIB” .For instance:
• Fiscal regime for gas not touched and/or addressed at all;
• Fiscal regime for offshore drilling is poorly drafted and omitted ultra deep offshore drilling;
• Blueprint for NNPC privatisation is completely superficial –need to include strong provisions for commercialising and privatising NNPC in line with international best practices;
• The role of Minister of Petroleum Resources in the post PIB regime is not properly defined – for instance:
• Who oversees the reform implementation process?
• Should the minister’s discretionary power to award and revoke licenses be retained?
• Should the minister’s role be restricted to policy making and setting directives for the industry only?
Despite the aforementioned obstacles on the way of the Bill, Nigerians breathed a sigh of relief when President Goodluck Jonathan in his national broadcast in commemoration of Nigeria’s democracy day on 29th May 2012 promised that a new PIB would be ready in June 2012 for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
Subsequently. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke inaugurated a task force chaired by former senator and chairman of the Board of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Udo Udoma  Udo, was also expected to work alongside a technical sub-committee headed by the Director-General of Department for Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr. Osten Olurunsola, which was charged with reviewing all former versions of the bill and come out with a draft within the next 30 days. They were saddled with the responsibility of drafting a new PIB Bill.
Thus, the new PIB Bill presented by Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Allison-Madueke to the President recently is meant to change everything from fiscal terms to overhauling the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), promote Nigerian content and significantly increase domestic gas supplies, especially for power generation and industrial development. The ultimate aim of the PIB was to refine the Petroleum laws, after more than 50 years of oil and gas operations in Nigeria. This was taking good care off by consolidating the 16 existing laws into a single set of provisions, leading to an overhaul of the legal, fiscal, commercial and governance frameworks.
The core principles of the new PIB, are to imbibe global best practices of openness, transparency, good governance, indigenous participation and sustained revenues for Government. Under the new PIB Bill two new institutions would be formed to replace the NNPC once the draft PIB was passed. These are the National Oil Company (NOC) and National Assets Management Company (NAMC).
These institutions and the petroleum industry would be under the supervision of the petroleum minister. The NAMC is expected to be 100 percent government owned, while the government is to adequately capitalise and progressively sell government’s stake in the NOC, down to 49 percent.
A critical study of the Bill revealed that it   reaches into all the facets of the petroleum industry and it liberates the sector from all the government constraints and impediments which hitherto rock the industry, rendering it unattractive to both local and international investors. It gives incentives to both small and big players in the industry through transparent and fair rules of participation. The concept of good corporate governance is also evident in the provisions of the Bill, which also features strong fiscal framework beneficial to the country. In a nutshell, it moves Nigeria clearly towards the international best practices in the extractive sector.
Furthermore, the Bill has far reaching provisions on the issues of Nigerian content. For example, it provides that no project can be approved without a comprehensive “Nigerian Content Plan” which must include obligations on the part of the investor to purchase local goods and services, increase employment, as well as to focus on training, education research and development. It also requires the foreign investors to follow guidelines in order to assist local companies. Adherence to the provisions of the Bill will surely boost the purchase of local goods and services leading to higher employment opportunities for Nigerians.
Series of landmark provisions are also addressed in the Bill to correct the anomalies of the current petroleum regime. For example, it is a notorious fact that the Deep Sea Water Blocks contract that Nigeria entered into in 1993 with foreign investors is one of the worst contracts any oil-exporting nation can enter into as it seems to foster unilateral advantages only on the foreign partners with Nigeria having very little or no gains under the production sharing formula in the agreement.
The royalties accruable to the country are Zero per cent! The foreign partners take I00 per cent of the products. Even the taxes system under the said “bad deal” contract does not provide much benefit for the country as the tax regime included generous tax credits to these foreign investors which wiped out a great percentage of the collectible tax by the Federal Government. Now under the Bill, there are a number of provisions on ventures like Deep Water operations that are much more beneficial to the countries and comparable to what other oil exporting nations do collect under such contracts.
In totality, the Bill would both eradicate the practice of discretionary award of licenses and contracts in the upstream sub-sector of the industry, as well as ensuring that only genuine investors with appropriate technical and financial capacity get the oil licenses.
In spite of all the advantages described above, it is very surprising and worrisome that the National Assembly, since 2008, has not given it the urgent attention it deserves by passing it into a law. As a matter of fact, there is a school of thought that believes that some cabalistic vested interests are the brains behind the non-passage of the bill through underground machinations. There is a belief that a regime of openness and transparency the Bill would usher in would erase some accruable gains under the present shady regime.
No doubt, the government must be losing billion of Naira daily as a result of non passage of the Bill by the National Assembly .Only a few days ago, Regional Executive Vice President, Sub-Sahara Africa, Shell Upstream, Mr. Ian Craig, who spoke at the opening of the 2012 edition of the Nigerian Oil and Gas, in Abuja, said Nigeria loses approximately 150,000 barrel per day to theft – an amount translating to a whopping N2.9 billion daily!
The pertinent question here is that “Is the prolonged delay in the passage of this all-important Petroleum Industry Bill attributable to underground manipulation of the vested interests or is it just a case of unpatriotic nonchalance on the part of the lawmakers?
Whatever maybe the situation, Nigerians are appealing to the law makers saddled with the responsibility of passing the Bill into law to as a matter of urgency save Nigerians the billions of Naira lost daily for the delay of the Bill by assenting to it  once it is passed to the Chamber by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Oghenekevwe Laba a Lagos based journalist
08023773039
labakevwe@yahoo.com

Fast Tracking Development In The Niger Delta By Oghenekevwe Laba

Shell in the Niger Delat

Before now, poverty, illiteracy and high rate of criminal activities ranging from militancy, piracy, armed robbery, oil pipeline vandalism and incessant attack on oil pipeline and platforms were the order of the day in the Niger Delta Region.
Today, the situation looks different. Environment experts say the damage done to the Niger Delta Region fragile natural environment and to the health of the people was due largely to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude oil and natural gas, which led to numerous spills, gas flaring, the opening up of the forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalizations, flooding, coastal erosion and earth tremor.
Criminal activities in the region resulting from the degradation of the region led to speedy decline of the nation’s economy as the oil production which is our main source of revenue generation dropped to all time low rate of 700 barrels per day.
Reasons for the criminal activities in the region were not farfetched.  The indigenes of the region felt that as the ‘chicken that lay the golden eggs’, they ought to feel the impact of the resources drained from their area. Successive governments from military rule to democratic government
neglected the region.
But the people breathe a sigh of relief when Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua became the President of Nigeria in 2007.   The President saw reasons with the people of the region and decided to implement programmes that will ameliorate their sufferings. Thus, he introduced the amnesty programme and urged the warring youths of the region to embrace the programme by denouncing hostility and handling over their illegally acquired fire arms to the government. Unfortunately Yar’Adua did not live long to see the programme the fruit of the programmes he started.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan, who took over from Yar’Adua as the President of Nigeria did not let his late boss down as he implemented the programme to the latter. Thus, three years after the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants, the man at the helm of its affairs, Kingsley Kuku, is handling the glory to President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he said had pursued the programme with a single-minded tenacity. Kuku, Special Adviser to the President, said the President’s attitude for the success of the programme was all part of his greater picture of leaving behind a united country with a robust economy, where the citizens and foreigners would be
free to live and pursue their trades under a safe environment. According to him, the success of the programme had seen the growth of oil production in the Niger Delta Region from a mere 700 barrels per day at the peak of the crisis in the Niger Delta area to the current 2.6million barrels per day, and a leap in its earnings. The militants, who had been targeting oil installations apart from engaging in other forms of activities that made the area unsafe to live and do business have all been evacuated from the creeks and have been rehabilitated at various institutions in Nigeria and abroad, where they are learning both formal and informal skills.
A total of 5,204 ex-militants are currently undergoing various forms of skills acquisition training or formal education in Nigeria and other parts of the world. The career choices selected by the delegates range from marine, heavy duty operations, welding,  agriculture, boat building, oil
and gas technics, entrepreneurship, automobile technology and aviation among others. The Amnesty programme’s trainees are spread across 28 foreign training institutions in 15 countries across the globe and 36 local training institutions in 10 states of the federation. No fewer than 5,067 of the beneficiaries had already graduated in skills acquisition fields such as welding and fabrication (1,847), entrepreneurship (1,609), pipe fitting (150), carpentry & plumbing (206), oil drilling (32), electrical installation (232), ICT (125), marine related courses (564) and others (302). Already, 95 delegates have been offered direct employment in various governmental and private establishments. Beside, the Amnesty Office is putting finishing touches to mentoring programmes that would see many of the graduates becoming self-employed and employing other Nigerian youths.
In addition, 6,280 delegates had already been processed for deployment to local and foreign training institutions to undergo courses ranging from aviation technicians, oil and gas technicians, marine technicians, entrepreneurial development programmes as well as formal education.
The rehabilitation of the militants has resulted in the creating of peace and security in the region which has lead to the production  of  between 2.4 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as against the abysmally low between 700,000 and 800,000 barrels per day at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis in January 2009, the nation and its Joint Venture Partners are currently making production savings of up to 1.9 million barrels per day.
When computed with prevailing exchange rate of about N160 to $1, daily production savings for Nigeria and the JV partners currently stand at a minimum of N33.4 billion per day.  Given that oil production in Nigeria hovered between 2.4 and 2.6 barrels for all of 2011, it would be safe to
emphatically assert that savings for Nigeria and the JV partners for year ending 2011 is estimated to be a whopping N6 trillion.
As for infrastructural development, Jonathan through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)   and other intervention agencies has provided good roads which link the adjoining communities of the area.
This has lead to improvement of trade and social activities among members of the various communities. Dilapidated school buildings are renovated to standard while new ones were constructed to meet modern standard. Bridges are constructed to link riverine areas.
Beside, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)  is fast tracking the completion of 57 ongoing projects valued at N1.3 trillion spread across the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The Managing Director of the commission, Dr Christian Oboh, stated recently in Port Harcourt that the new board had resolved to award fewer contracts and speed up the completion of the 57
ongoing projects inherited from the previous board.
Although critics may argue that enough has not been done in the region, but critical observation showed that ever since Jonathan mounted the saddle of power, there has been serious development in the region, particularly in human, infrastructure, economy and social aspect. This development has led to increase in the financial balance sheet of the country.
Laba, a journalist, wrote from Lagos.

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

President Jonathan and Boko Haram: Who is “Crushing” Who?

March 28th 2012 is one of those memorable days many Nigerians will not forget in a hurry. This was the day when reports filtered out that President Goodluck Jonathan had in an interview in far away South Korea, the previous day, confidently assured the international community that Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad commonly referred to as Boko Haram would be contained by June 2012. Of course Boko Haram, not one to let such an opportunity to display its peculiar propensity for viciousness and violence against its perceived “enemies” to pass by, shortly after, did what it does best — carried out deadly attacks at select targets such as Universities and Media Houses along with its usual offensive against churches, police stations, security posts and installations. These attacks so far have persisted and become more fierce and bloody, and the rest as they say is history…

I can vividly remember that afternoon in late March, what I was wearing, and what I was doing when I learnt about President Jonathan’s enthusiastic and optimistic assurance. I cannot recall though, the precise flurry of emotions that coursed through my very being in reaction – amusement, incredulity, perplexity, exasperation or a mish-mash of all these. I wondered why the President couldn’t have been more tactful in his choice of words knowing well that Boko Haram generally relishes the slightest opportunity to flex its ferocious muscles and it would interpret his statement as some sort of dare. I also dreaded what Boko Haram would do to disprove the President’s statement.

And indeed, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad retorted, first, with a very menacing video clip, vowing to “bring down” and “consume” President Jonathan’s administration and then unleashed a string of attacks against several targets with such astonishing levels of aggression and ferocity, dashing the faintest hopes of anyone who thought the group would be contained within this period. The most recent violent campaign within this month, being the mayhem in Kaduna state – attacks on churches in Wusasa, Sabon Gari and Tirkanniya, the reprisals and the counter reprisals – and the bomb blasts, gun battle and prison break in Damaturu, Yobe state have left hundreds dead in a bloody trail of death and terror. Residents of these cities have been subjected to 24 hour government imposed curfews for the better part of last week, paralyzed in fear and uncertainty. Though the curfews have been somewhat relaxed, the sudden clampdown on movement has had traumatizing effects on residents, has done little to calm frayed nerves in a very tense atmosphere and crippled economic activity in the interim.

As June fast approaches to an end, leaving in its wake, an atmosphere of uncertainty and gloom, it is pertinent to reflect on the President’s statement and consider whether Boko Haram is really being contained, controlled or crushed as the international community was assured way back in March or whether it is Boko Haram which is containing and crushing Nigerians. If the reality on ground is skewed towards the latter scenario, one has to wonder then, why Mr. President made that statement. Was it because he felt that such an assurance was necessary to restore the confidence of (potential) investors in Nigeria’s political and economic viability to absorb their crisp emerging market DollarsYuan and Won?

Of course as Commander-in-Chief, President Jonathan is privy to classified reports from intelligence agencies and his security advisers. Based on such intelligence reports, he probably felt confident that the noose was tightening fast around Boko Haram and thought it timely to enthusiastically inform the world of such impending victory, at Seoul. Quite possibly, the President felt sufficient information to close in on Boko Haram had been garnered from the scores of suspects apprehended in the past few months, such that security forces were just on the verge of moving in for the kill. Or perhaps President Jonathan’s premature enthusiasm was just one of those one-off statements leaders make, on the prodding of their advisers, as a gamble, with their fingers crossed under the table and toes crossed in their presidential shoes, hoping against all odds that such a statement turns out to be true.

Whatever the reason behind this rather impulsive and premature assurance, it is now evident that the exact opposite came to pass. One could speculate thus, that it is owing to this realization by the President, that he fired his erstwhile National Security Adviser (NSA) General Andrew Owoye Azazi and the erstwhile Defence Minister Alhaji Haliru Mohammed Bello. This much can be inferred from the reason given by President Jonathan for sacking them in order to “conform to the changing tactics of the Boko Haram insurgency”

Considering how dark and bloody June 2012 has turned out to be contrary to earlier assurances, one truly hopes that the President would be more tactful and selective in his choice of words on such combustible issues, in the near future. This would perhaps depend on the outlook and the new security strategy that would be adopted by the newly appointed NSA and yet to be appointed defence minister. Hopefully again, this bitter and dark lesson learnt would spawn a culture of having regular press conferences which would avail Nigerians of real and actual progress made by security agencies in tackling insecurity in Nigeria at all tiers of government, especially the Federal Government. This should particularly apply to progress made in the arraignment, trial and conviction of key suspects who have so far been apprehended. This is just so that ordinary Nigerians’ fears are allayed and people are more informed about what is quite frankly, a life or death situation for many.

By Zainab Usman

http://zainabusman.wordpress.com

 

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A WOMAN SCORNED BY IDOWU OLUWATOYIN

CHAPTER ONE.

It wasn’t that he won, it was that Tessy grew tired of arguing. Kunle’s voice had graduated from loud to yelling and the neighbours were now sure to be listening. She hated entertaining the neighbours, especially the ones who lived in the apartment next door. They looked at her in a funny way whenever their paths crossed in the stairway, as if they knew the details of her private life. Read more

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