My Fears for Turkey By Cemal Yigit

“President Erdogan is on the brink of ultimate power, but Turkey is falling apart.” Any country that is laced with injustice cannot experience meaningful and sustainable development. It’s more like building a house without foundation. In the words of Malcolm X, he said our objective is complete justice, total freedom, and full equality”. In whatever system that we run or operate and these three fundamental principles  are absent, then you will have general cases of injustice, marginalization and more dangerously, pockets of violent eruptions here and there.

And this is worse if such crime is perpetrated by tyrants and oppressors’ who are hell bent on pursuing their agenda, not minding whose ox is gored and ironically at the expense of the country.  President Erdogan is a perfect example of such a leader, and Turkey is also the prime example of such a society where injustice is thriving unabatedly with the clampdown, purges, and violation of fundamental rights of citizens.

There are always consequences for our actions and inactions in all spheres of life. And in my opinion, one of the effects of President Erdogan despotic posture would be his inability to contain the worms he is feeding the population with when they eventually grow into cankerworms. And this has started happening with the unfortunate assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey. Mr. Andrew Karlov, by no other than a police officer who was thoroughly screened and recruited alongside thousand others recently after purging the revered Turkish police of qualified hands. Are we sensing danger?

On 20 May 2016, the immunity of several dozen MPs was suspended by a temporary amendment to the constitution at the behest of President Erdogan because he was targeting the 59 members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), who were a significant opposition force in the Turkish parliament. What were their offenses? There were allegations about speeches they delivered at public gatherings. Funny as it sounds, they were indicted for the simple fact that they exercised their rights to freedom of speech and expression as recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In an article authored by Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University in his article “Turkey’s Judicial Purge Threatens the Rule of Law” Feldman states that “In the wake of the coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can hardly be blamed for purging the military. But firing 2,745 judges without any investigation or demonstrated connection to the coup is another matter. The action threatens the rule of law in Turkey going forward. And the way it was done signals some of the methods Erdogan can be expected to use in the weeks and months ahead.”

The article by Noah Feldman was published July 18, 2016. Fast-forward to five months later, what do you see? Crimes against humanity? I will give three examples. A three-year-old child with a high fever was denied treatment at a hospital since his father was arrested over alleged links to the Hizmet movement, leading a suspension in the kid’s subscription to the nation-wide social security system. The father of former Turkish football legend Hakan ?ükür, Selmet ?ükür, who was arrested on Aug. 12, was denied food and water, therefore losing 40 kilograms in three months. Turkish Finance Minister Naci A?bal ordered tax offices to exclude people linked to the Hizmet movement from the recently-announced debt restructuring program. He also ordered tax offices to deny tax clearance certificates to any opposition member. The list is inexhaustible.

Any discerning mind would agree with me that Turkey under Erdogan is on the brink with the level of injustice, witch-hunting, demonization and persecution of innocent people. It is an unfortunate situation with Erdogan’s continued tyrannical posture that is denting the image of the country which was once a model for democracy in the Middle East.

Erik C. Nisbet, an Associate Professor of Communication, Political Science, and Environmental Policy and Faculty Associate with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, The Ohio State University recently stated that “Though Turkey had been making steady progress toward becoming a fully-fledged democracy, it has backslid in recent years. Turkey may be best described as a hybrid regime that is a mix of democracy and authoritarianism. The governing Justice & Development (AKP) Party and President Erdogan have been at the center of this democratic backslide. With control of both parliament and the presidency, they have worked to reshape Turkey’s political and societal institutions to preserve their power permanently.”

This is apt and captures the state of affairs in Turkey under Erdogan. Ironically, the media that is meant to speak out against these atrocities have been battered and bruised by the Erdogan regime. So much so that the Committee to Protect Journalists, a media advocacy group in New York, and Freedom House, a research-and-advocacy outfit in Washington, recently voiced concern about the arrests of more than 145 Turkish journalists, and the closure of 195 media outlets, including Cumhuriyet and Todays Zaman newspapers. In my opinion, Erdogan identified that the press has to be subjugated if he must succeed in his quest for life presidency.

He has also gone a step further by seeking to amend the constitution in a move that would see him remain in office till 2029. How would this be possible you may want to ask. This is the game plan. Call for a National referendum to amend the constitution to grant more powers to the president, abolish the post of prime minister and the president would have two deputies as well as the authority to enact administrative policies. And what would be the outcome? A single person administration.

These are extremely dangerous trends for Turkey; it would mean that the social cohesion that we have built over decades would be gone. And that is what Erdogan wants. To use the divide and rule strategy to consolidate his grip on the country. Nothing should stand in his way because he is the Sultan. And any form of advice is always a plot against him.  In 2011, he was advised to use diplomacy in the Syrian conflict, and he refused because he considered such advice as undermining his powers and a plot against him. And today, weapons from Turkey have entered the wrong hands in the Syrian conflict.

And the norm now in Turkey is for Erdogan to label the Hizmet movement as the mastermind of virtually every negative happening in Turkey. And he is doing this not because the Hizmet movement is associated with terrorism because there has been no evidence to support his wild goose chase. But for just refusing to associate with him in his quest to subjugate the people and take Turkey back donkey years.

These and much more are my fears for Turkey. I am scared, just like millions of others, especially as we watch Turkey disintegrate under Erdogan. According to Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”

Economy, Corruption And Lawyers, By Nuhu Ribadu

The poor countries of the world lose up to $1 trillion every year to corruption, according to a recent report by Transparency International.

The African Development Bank believes that African countries lose up to $100 billion every year through corruption, an amount that far exceeds what gets into the continent in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and assistance.

Sadly, Nigeria contributes a chunk of those grim continental figures. Corruption has unfortunately gone deep into our national fabric. It is the major reason why we are where we are today. It is also the reason why we are unable to address our problems and challenges.

Economic prosperity, no doubt, depends solely on the integrity of the system and efficiency; two important elements that corruption denies us. When critical infrastructures are lacking, there is nothing to expect in terms of economic progress. Similarly, when the cost of doing business is high and process is compromised due to corruption, no investor would want to invest in such an economy. Fighting corruption therefore is key to the survival and progress of our country.

Years of mindless stealing and waste of public resources has dimmed the light of prosperity that was all over our country when we started off. Little wonder that we find now ourselves in tough economic condition with the attendant security challenges troubling us from all angles.

Ironically, however, there have been a number of efforts in the past aimed at tackling the corruption albatross that has been around our country’s neck since birth.

Subsequent governments evolved one measure or another aimed at tackling the corruption bug, starting with General Yakubu Gowon who promulgated the Public Officers (Investigation of Assets) Decree No 5 of 1966. However, there was no noticeable implementation until the coming of the Murtala/Obasanjo administration. Murtala gave life to the Public Officers Decree and went on to fight corruption practically by establishing the Assets Investigation Panel. He also reinforced the legal provisions by further enacting the Corrupt Practices Decree of 1975. Despite all the criticisms against his methods, it was clear that for the first time in Nigeria, that administration underscored the need to give corruption a fierce and spirited battle rather than tolerating it.

The military government, under Major General Muhammadu Buhari was to promulgate decrees that include Miscellaneous Offences Decree of 1983 and Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Decree. This enabled creation of Special Investigative Panels and Tribunals to try offences under these decrees. Politicians that were tried under these decrees were handed down various prison terms and their assets confiscated. That action was however short-lived as the government was kicked out after just 18 months.

However, with the change in regime, the Ibrahim Babangida administration ordered a review of the cases ostensibly because, just like the case with Murtala about a decade earlier, the method of the Buhari regime was equally considered rather hasty and harsh, and therefore devoid of due process. The regime made series of amendments to the laws, which largely watered down the provisions.

Under Abacha, the government continued with the existing laws it met. The only significant addition was the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices decree which also came along with tribunals to try offenders.

His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar did not promulgate any law in respect of the fight against corruption but it was under him that the recovery of the Abacha loot began.

On assuming office on May 29, 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo pressed on with the actions on Abacha loot. And for the first time in the history of Nigeria, Obasanjo went on to institutionalise the fight against corruption by establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and later, in line with international requirements, set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). These institutions are the pillars of the war against corruption in Nigeria till date.

The Obasanjo administration also went on to evolve other institutional avenues of fighting corruption by carrying out wide-ranging public service reform and establishing pro-transparency agencies such as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Nigeria Extractive Industry Initiative (NEITI).

Lawyers as the Fulcrum

In all these efforts targeted at tackling corruption over the years in our country, lawyers, either as advisers, public prosecutors, or judicial officers on the Bench or as private counsels, have played central and momentous roles. There was nothing done without lawyers, and there is nothing to be done in the fight against graft without involving lawyers.

Talking about my observations regarding the fight against corruption and the place of the lawyer in it, would take me into a journey to my life, from my earliest days as a lawyer fresh from the Law School.

As a youth corps member, just out of Law School, I observed at close range the investigations and subsequent trials of Second Republic politicians in 1984. The revelations from the SIPs were quite mind-boggling to my young mind. But I was also awe-struck by how law enforcement officers and lawyers conducted the investigations and handled the trial. Having always had this dream of fighting for justice, I started meditating of which path to take, in line with what I witnessed. I opted to go for law enforcement by enrolling into the Police even though I had some more lucrative offers.

In the 25 years that I spent as a law enforcement officer, mostly as an investigator and prosecutor of economic crimes, I have interacted with lawyers long enough to appreciate their roles in the success of such work or otherwise. I drew inspiration and moral support from several lawyers, just as we battled with some others who attempted to serve as stumbling blocks.

My encounter with late Chief Gani Fawehinmi at the tribunals in the early 1980s left in me an indelible mark and to this date I hold Gani as the epitome of what a lawyer should be in a system like ours, especially in the fight against corruption, – fearless, honest, determined yet humane and patriotic. For his belief in the propriety of the fight against corruption, Gani alone went even against the NBA to participate in the tribunals. His belief was that to fight corruption was necessary even if one has issues with the method. I continued to encounter Gani at many junctures of my work. He also proved to be a pillar of support even when we were at different poles of a case. His example, more than other thing influenced me in many ways.

The Babangida regime requested review of all the corruption cases done during the Buhari regime. Two colleagues in the police, Pious Usang, Diete-Spiff and I were drafted to review the cases. Working with other legal practitioners, we made various recommendations on how best to carry on. The work however lost steam and vigour due to insufficient political will.

My other experience was with the Failed Bank Tribunals where the focus was also economic crimes. Here, we worked with many lawyers on both sides of the divide. Private lawyers were brought in as prosecutors. We experienced the antics of all manner of defence lawyers some of whom engaged in unethical conducts including hampering our own enquiries, and frustrating the trials.

It was during the Failed Tribunals that I first encountered Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, who was among the lawyers engaged as prosecutors. Coincidently, it was Chief Agabi who facilitated my appointment as EFCC chairman, when he was –Attorney General of the Federation – in 2003.

Lawyers as Change Agents

By their training and practice, lawyers are very well entrenched in our systems, from politics to business. There are no business transactions that are done without involvement of a counsel, sometimes not just as a lawyer but also as a party to the transaction. Lawyers are needed as company secretaries, as legal advisers, as arbitrators, et cetera. This, in a way has placed lawyers in a position of advantage where they can easily be absorbed in corrupt practices or fight it, if they choose to.

More than any other professional groups, lawyers are in charge of an entire arm of government; the Judiciary. Lawyers are in charge of the Judiciary and by its strategic place in the power equation in democratic setting, the Judiciary has the capacity to bring corruption to its knees and solve myriads of our national problems.

All things considered, one is not amenable to the principal functions of a lawyer, especially a private one, in the administration of justice chain. Similarly, the right of the suspect in criminal prosecution to legal representation is something that is well entrenched in our statues and laws. Therefore, in litigation, like in other aspects, a lawyer’s focus and concern is tailored towards his role for his client and the client’s satisfaction.

This much is captured rather more aptly for our own case today by the English legal luminary, Henry Lord Brougham, when he said:

“An advocate in the discharge of his duty knows but one person in all the world, and that person is his client. To save that clients by all means and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons, and, among them, to himself, is his first and only duty; and in performing this duty he must not regard the alarm, the torments, the destruction which he may bring upon others. Separating the duty of a patriot from that of an advocate, he must go on reckless of consequences, though it should be in his unhappy fate to involve his country in confusion.”

The challenge of the private practitioner is striking a balance between what is in the client’s interest and public interest especially at a crossroads our country found itself regarding the corruption challenge.

Indeed, suspects have the right to representation and a lawyer is legally empowered to offer such services. However, that must be done within the ambit of the law and morality. That is why there is code of ethics. Legal representation should not be seen as an avenue to win a case by all means. A situation where a course of justice is perverted by all manner of antics is costly to the society and the profession. A lawyer serving as a conduit of desecrating the Judiciary by bribing judges and judicial officers is a disgrace to this noble profession. And these are the set of people who plunged the judiciary into the embarrassing trial it faces today.

Agreed, defence lawyers cannot be yes-men of the prosecution or sacrifice their clients for that matter. However, there should be morality threshold that should not allow a lawyer to turn himself into a tout or a charlatan in defence of a suspect through irresponsible tactics, especially in the face of naked obvious facts.

In conclusion, I want to urge our legal practitioners to always put our legal code ethics as your guiding light, set morality as your canvas and carry in your heart the public interest, to avoid harming yourself along with the larger society, as Lord Brougham cited above described.

We must take an active step in self-cleansing. We as lawyers should shun the attitude of playing ostrich for self-preservation. The NBA must be in the forefront of the current effort to cure the justice sector of the evil of corruption and in this there should be no sacred cows.

The talent commonly displayed by lawyers and their training place the lawyer at a comparative advantage for leadership roles, especially at important junctures of history. A number of lawyers have played that role to the admiration of the world. Let us look at our Mandela, let’s look at Ghandi, let’s look at Obama, as lawyers they altered the course of history. We all have similar trait in us. Lawyers are trained to be change agents, and we the Nigerian lawyers should not be any different.

Magu’s EFCC: Between Suspects and Victims, By Yushau Shuaib

Sometimes in July, 2016 while attempting to pay the remunerations of over 20 staff and volunteers, it was discovered that the Company’s Salary Account, the Operational Account, the Domiciliary Account and even Personal Account of the Director had all been frozen.

Responding to the query from the company, the bank claimed that it blocked the accounts on an instruction from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and this was done without even notifying the management of the company. The action forced the firm to downsize its workforce of mostly young graduates by 70% and scale down its operations.

The above scenario was the first-hand experience of this writer who has not only served the EFCC but also other critical institutions in the country for over three years. Many individuals, groups and institutions who diligently transact their legitimate businesses have suffered similar fates and are now finding it extremely difficult to run their businesses or take care of their families.

In fairness, the anti-corruption agency capitalized on the controversial report of Presidential Arms Probe Panel which went outside its brief to pick hole on other services not related to arms and ammunition. Meanwhile, the probe panel merely succeeded in creating inter-agency rivalry by exposing some security sectors to public ridicule while soft-pedalling on others. The panel led by a retired airforce officer, AVM Jon Ode barefacedly turned its terms of reference into something else (See Link1 below). It was therefore not entirely surprising when it wilfully portrayed the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as the most corrupt security sector by ensuring the arraignment of its three past service chiefs in courts while not much is known in other branches of military and security agencies, including the police.

One of the painfully emotional cases is that of a most respected senior airforce officer who was scandalised and taking to court, few months to the wedding of his daughter, over an allegation of receiving gifts from contractors. The officer, AVM Alkali Mamu, was one of the most intelligent, kind-hearted, honest and highly experienced Nigeria’s fighter-pilot who had also flown many heads of states. That indictment abruptly ended his over 30 years of meritorious service in the military when he was serving as Chief of Administration of NAF.

While most of EFCC’s investigations are conducted based on petitions it receives from organisations, groups and individuals, the agency has taken some actions that are seemingly unethical and politically motivated, especially against officers in the previous administration and top members of the opposition parties.

The recent Senate’s rejection of the nomination of acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu was based on security report from Department of State Service (DSS). Though allegations against him were on corrupt practices but there are feelers that inter-agency rivalry could also not be ruled out. The report did not accuse Magu of maintaining large bank accounts or acquisitions of gargantuan properties even as he has served the police and EFCC passionately for more than two decades.

Despite the underhand tactics of leaking confidential materials and orchestration of media trials of suspects by EFCC, Magu nevertheless has an intimidating profile as a fearless and courageous anti-corruption fighter who had investigated and prosecuted many high-profile cases since the inception of EFCC.

While there are some obvious success stories on his efforts, careless indiscretions rather than financial corruption might have put Magu in the current mess. His fate is similar to those being investigated by the EFCC who are either suspects or victims and exposed to public ridicules.

In a whole year of acting as EFCC boss, Magu should have realised that he is at the mercy of the Presidency which nominates and the National Assembly that confirms appointments into certain offices. He has dignified and protected members of the Federal Executive Council but denigrated and descended heavily, without mercy, on members of the National Assembly. His penchant for engaging the legislators on unnecessary outbursts over flimsy and insubstantial issues are uncalled for, considering that they are also elected representatives of the people. For instance, in April 2016 when an EFCC Liaison officer at the National Assembly presented a plaque to Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekeremedu, the EFCC under Magu descended on the legislative arms with uncouth castigation (link2). Similarly, rather than being calm, he took an offence over a media report and boasted that he had never and would never lobby legislators for his confirmation (Link3). That rejoinder was a misplaced anger because lobbying is a legitimate communication process that is acceptable in diplomacy, law and public relations.

While this is not an attempt to exonerate or hold brief for Magu over corrupt practices as alleged by the DSS, security agencies should be careful so as not to play politics with investigative reports. They should avoid playing to the gallery like the report of the AVM Jon-Ode arm probe panel whose member was caught red-handed with over $1mn cash, exotic cars and illegal firearm in his residence (Link4). As a matter of fact, President Buhari needs to even probe all members of that controversial arms probe panel to ensure that their reports were not influenced by pecuniary purposes or vindictiveness. It should be noted that AVM Jon Ode had also served as a Defence Aide in the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan.

Since Nigerians have shown their supports for President Muhammadu Buhari’s war on corruption and the extension of the campaign to security agencies, legislators and judiciary, his recent directive for the probe of members of the executive arm as well as the 5% rewards for the whistle-blower’s efforts on recovered loots are a welcome development (Link 5).

President Buhari should ensure that the brewing inter-agency conflict among critical institutions should be urgently addressed. For instance, if the EFCC should attempt to retaliate against the report of DSS, the result will not only be dirty but likely to compromise the national security. Our security agencies should never allow their operations to be teleguided or politicized. It is therefore necessary that while each agency maintains its independence and neutrality, the Office of National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters and Ministry of Interior should rein in their supervisory functions in ensuring better synergies among the security organs.

Yushau A. Shuaib

www.YAShuaib.com

yashuaib@yahoo.com

Obasanjo: Was EFCC Chairman Permanently Zoned To The North? By Ropo Sekoni 

Before the final nominee to replace Magu is announced and before professional demonstrators carry placards to remind President Buhari of the sanctity of federal character in choosing nominees for the post of the country’s chief warrior against corruption, Baba should speak if there was any hidden subtext to the establishment of EFCC.

Ordinarily, though nothing is ordinary in Nigeria, former President Olusegun Obasanjo should not be subjected to queries for what he did as the first post-military president of our country at a time when corruption was considered normative and probity deviant by members of the ruling class.

But recent developments in the pattern of appointment of chairpersons to lead the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) make sending this open letter to President Obasanjo urgent, in view of suggestions of candidates that should be appointed to replace Ibrahim Magu, who failed to get his appointment confirmed by the Senate a few days ago.

Whatever may be the faults of Obasanjo while he served his second unrenewable terms as president, it is on record that he was the man with the vast imagination to recognise that corruption within the country had reached a point that it had to be arrested, or made to seem so, if it was not to suddenly suffocate the country to d
It was Obasanjo who, in the least expected of responses to festering political and bureaucratic corruption, established the EFCC to the chagrin of many members of the ruling class.

From official records on the establishment of EFCC, the agency was formed to perform, among others, the following objectives: the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of its enabling Act; the investigation of all financial crimes, including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, credit card fraud, contract scam; the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority.

Also, the adoption of measures to identify, tract, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities; economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds; the adoption of measures to eradicate the commission of economic and financial crimes; etc.

It is also necessary to find out from the former president if he gave anyone, in his hand-over notes, directives that, as founder of the anti-corruption commission, he did not want subsequent governments after his own to comply with principles and provisions of Federal Character in appointment of chairman of the EFCC.

Since nobody can say with certainly what the expectations of Obasanjo were when he dreamed about establishing a commission to detect and prosecute corruption in the country, in addition to what the traditional police force was designed to do, it is not out of place to find out from him if he meant then to establish the EFCC to serve the interest of any specific region in a country of six regions. It is also necessary to find out from the former president if he gave anyone, in his hand-over notes, directives that, as founder of the anti-corruption commission, he did not want subsequent governments after his own to comply with principles and provisions of Federal Character in appointment of chairman of the EFCC.

The reason for this question to Baba, as he is fondly referred to, is that since his exit from power, the president and vice president he assisted to succeed him, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, appeared to be glued to appointing chairpersons of EFCC from the North.

Just two days after the refusal of the Senate to confirm Ibrahim Magu as chairman of EFCC, the media identified four potential nominees likely to be appointed to take over from Magu. These candidates are Nuhu Ribadu, foundation chair of the commission appointed by the founder of EFCC, General Obasanjo; Hameed Ali, the current Comptroller-General of Customs, appointed by President Buhari; Zakari Biu, retired Commissioner of Police; and retired AIG Amodu Ali.

It is curious, even before the shortlist, that no potential nominee is from any of the Southern states. The least curious of citizens in a multi-ethnic federation that prides itself on guarding jealously the principle of Federal Character in federal appointments cannot but be perplexed by the fact that the fifth nomination to the chairmanship of the EFCC since its founding is being projected to be from the North. This is after four chairpersons of the Commission in a row – Nuhu Ribadu from Adamawa; Farida Waziri from Benue; Ibrahim Lamorde from Borno; Ibrahim Magu from Borno, and now either of Ribadu, Biu, Ali and Ali – all from the North.

President Obasanjo is in the best of positions to tell the nation if the choice of states for the nomination of the chairman of EFCC has been pre-ordained, or to be politically correct, permanently zoned to the North. If so, he needs to assure the nation why this agency should defy the country’s much vaunted Federal Character Principle. Is this because former President Obasanjo believed that it is only law enforcement officers from the North who have the proper skills set to catch corrupt people. Or is it that Baba believed, at the inception of EFCC, that most of the people to catch for corruption are from the North, even though the identities of those fingered for corruption so far have indicated that there is an unmistakable federal character distribution in the affliction with corruption in the country. Whether it is in the military, the civil service, federal agencies, and the judiciary, those whose names had gone from Magu’s office for prosecution constitute a mini Nigeria in terms of ethnicity, faith, and profession.

Knowing this country as much as President Obasanjo does, having ruled it for a total of about thirteen years as both military dictator and elected head of state, Baba should not feel bothered about this open letter to him. Many of the citizens of the country he so loves to the extent of seeking to be its head of state for two terms: military and civilian, despite his rhetorical style, enjoy his candour to the extent that they would ordinarily like him to speak on the questions in this letter. Before the final nominee to replace Magu is announced and before professional demonstrators carry placards to remind President Buhari of the sanctity of federal character in choosing nominees for the post of the country’s chief warrior against corruption, Baba should speak if there was any hidden subtext to the establishment of EFCC. This is very important in view of the complaints last year from various corners of the country about the pattern of appointments to the nation’s security agencies.

It is not as if the world would come to an end if President Buhari should decide to choose a new EFCC chairman from the ranks of security and law enforcement officers from the North, a region that has produced a higher percentage of such professionals for over 60 years of the country’s life. But deafening noise about giving the impression that there is nobody in the 17 Southern states who has the skills, equanimity, confidence, and competence to detect and present suspects for corruption to the courts needs to be averted. Such noise has a way of distracting attention from the other urgent problems at hand, especially the raging recession that has no North nor South in the spread of its negative impact.

Given the propensity of the media in our country to promote intrigue, even when there is no good reason for doing so, it is not impossible for the speculation about Ribadu and others to be the only nominees for Magu’s job to be like crying wolves where none exists.

Ropo Sekoni, a professor of Semiotics, is Board Chair of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).

Thank A Soldier Today, By Hadiza Abdullahi

Recently, I noticed top politicians wearing the Armed Forces emblem with the Remembrance Day a month or so away, a day set aside to celebrate fallen soldiers and veterans. So I am here thinking when do we celebrate serving men and women? I am not sure if it’s part of our culture, but we Nigerians sure know how to celebrate the dead. I wonder if there is anything that stops us from celebrating people whilst they are alive.

For a military wife like myself and many others, our husbands are heroes, they do not wear capes they wear dog tags. I am almost certain that all military personnel signed up knowing that the ultimate sacrifice and price they may end up paying is their life because they believe in what they do and do it without need or want for praise. My husband certainly doesn’t see himself as a hero, but I do and I am convinced that all men and women of the Armed Forces deserve appreciation.

These men and women deserve our thanks because of what they go through daily both physically and mentally. For example an officer told me he doesn’t kill just for the fun of it, but he fights hard because of how much he loves what he left behind, his family.

I have been to countries were personnel are given a standing ovation and thanked for their service. All I ask is a simple ‘thank you’ that should suffice. I will not pretend we do not have obnoxious, power drunk service men and women, but they are not a true reflection of the majority. I ask that we ignore them and appreciate the good ones.

Believe me; neither the men and women of the military nor their spouses fool themselves into believing our heroes will live forever. In as much as we all know they could all die in service, I tell you with 100 percent conviction we all pray for it not to be so.

I hear people bash and say non complimentary things about our military, but unless you are willing to pick up a rifle and defend our country, I suggest you stop criticizing those who are and be thankful for their sacrifice whether you agree with it or not.

These men and women in uniform are human at the end of the day; someone’s husband, wife, mother, father, daughter and son. They all have fears, but as heroes it goes unseen. Military spouses see firsthand what our gallant soldiers go through and the extent of their sacrifices. We have woken up to news of a neighbor’s death and end up being the support system to a sister in need. Some personnel have had to sacrifice their marriages; some are plagued with worry as they pass on the baton of leadership to their wives for months on end. Some only get to meet the new additions to their family months later in addition to not being available to support wives during pregnancy. Some reel from hurt when daddy’s little girl cries in daddy’s hands because daddy is a stranger. Some do not realize they have lost a loved one till weeks later due to communication problems. I could go on and on.

I came to the realization that I am guilty of what I berate others for. I pray for our spouses every day, express boundless joy when they return home safe, but never have I explicitly and expressly said thank you for my being able to sleep at night. We thank them in other ways; we thank them by always being strong. The few times we hear their voices we assure them that all is well at the home front, tell them don’t worry about us, worry about how to defeat the enemy.

Please next time we see a personnel, be it Air force, Army or Navy please say THANK YOU. When duty calls they are torn between family and the job. But as men and women of honour they heed the call to defend the country.
When Lt. Col. Abu Ali died, we all came together as a nation and mourned him. I was inconsolable and filled with regret for not having expressed our thanks and pride in him. He was truly a gentleman and an officer. I pray we can all come together again and celebrate and show thanks to our living heroes. Please let’s not wait till they are no more.

They cannot all be honoured and promoted, but they are all willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for God and Country
I am often asked, how do you do it? How do you love a military man? That is probably the easisiet thing I have ever done. The anxiety is hard, the distance is hard, the worry is hard, but loving him is easy, loving him is a pride, loving him is an honour and privilege all thanks to the Grace of God. Please thank a soldier today.

For all our heroes and heroines in the Armed Forces, we say today ‘Thank you for your service’

Hadiza Abdullahi
hadizamdgs@gmail.com

By All Means, Let’s Restructure By Babayola Toungo

We are yet again at the season of unreasoning – the season when hair-brained ideas are put forth in order to advance personal ambitions instead of moving the country forward.  These are times when after running out of ideas, our politicians resort to emotive issues to whip up sentiments and draw the undiscerning to their cause.  Nigeria has seen so many of such fly-by-night politicians in the past and I am sure will see the back of the current crop.  These politicians are not averse to pushing the country to the brink as long as their scheme gives them political mileage.  The vogue today is the call for the restructuring or renegotiating the structure and unity of Nigeria as it exist today.  These were the same currencies used by pseudo-democrats in the early and mid-90s to fight both Babangida and Abacha and also scuttle Abiola’s ambition of becoming the president of the country.  It achieved its purpose when two candidates were presented from one part of the country and Obasanjo emrged victorious

Most of the chorus men couldn’t talk thereafter because their mouths were stuffed with gravy.  Throughout Obasanjo’s eight year tenure, we were spared this particular demand.  When we called for restructuring of the country, we were shouted down by this same gang.  They chose to be mute and in many instances they were found to be complicit throughout the PDP locusts’ years because they were direct beneficiaries of the skewed federal structure.  Now with APC and Buhari in control of the country, and with no hope of getting back on the saddle strapped on the backs of the poor in the foreseeable future, they are not averse to bringing down the roof on all of us.

I am for restructuring or renegotiating the federal setup or even the unity of the country, if you may.  South Sudan was excised from Sudan and we can all testify to the progress the southerners are making after being weaned from the oppressive yoke of the retrogressive northerners.  So I am for whatever will bring an end to this oft-repeated cliché by failed politicians looking to reinvent their fledgling political careers.  We have been subjected to intimidation, blackmail and outright insults in the past by advocates of restructuring.  Unfortunately none of these advocates came out with a very clear agenda or framework of how this should be done.  Some believe Nigeria should be restructured along ethnic lines while others call for a nebulous fiscal federalism.  To most, it is just a cliché.

By all means let’s restructure but in doing so we must take into account how we got “structured” in the first place.  According to my records the northern and southern protectorates were what was cobbled together by the British to give birth to Nigeria so if we have to re-negotiate our continued existence as Nigeria we have to start from there.  The federating units as we know them today – states and local government councils – were creations of the military, therefore ‘unelected’ governments that were not representatives of the people.  These federating units were created either at the whim of elites to satisfy their lust for power which most will not acquire in bigger political units, therefore the need to fractionalise the country.  These same elites are the ones calling for restructuring of the country.  They prey on the gullible and the undiscerning.  They made their names and ill-gotten wealth under this same imperfect Nigeria, wealth which they now deploy in calling for the renegotiation of Nigeria.

We are also for the restructuring of the country but we will like to call for the implementation of certain conditions before we do that.  First among these conditions is that we should go to the negotiating table on the basis of our amalgamation and not on the basis of any other factor particularly as may be defined by those who brought the country to where we are.  Also anyone found to have been in public service and conducted private business while in the employ of the government must first return the proceeds of such business to public coffers.  It will not be fair on ordinary Nigerians to be saddled with those who want to have the best of both worlds – steal them blind while in government then turn around to pull down the same system they employed to the fullest to gain advantage over less fortunate Nigerians.

Fiscal federalism or ‘true’ federalism is good.  Let’s go back to whichever is acceptable to majority of Nigerians.  If my history serves me right it was Ironsi who moved Nigeria away from ‘true’ federalism to unitary system.  Most of those now crying for a return to regionalism were at the forefront of applauding Ironsi for bringing some arrogant regions under heel.  The conventional wisdom is that some regions may not survive once they are weaned from oil tits.  I remember clearly during the – Jonathan convoked, skewed national conference in 2014, it was the Lamido of Adamawa, a delegate to the conference, who advocated for 100% resource control.  I concurred with the royal father then and now.  This will have been a sure path to attaining the cure-all “fiscal federalism” that some people have turned into a bogey slogan to be trotted out anytime they don’t get their ways.  The Lamido’s proposal wasn’t allowed to see the light of the day despite the disproportionate presence of those from the region that believe the area where the Lamido come from will not survive without petro-dollars.  I just pray this government will have the courage to reintroduce this as a bill to the National Assembly who are perpetually amending the constitution without amending their ways.

For those who may not remember, the “zonal” structure upon which the country operates today was a baby of those same people who are scared of a ‘monolithic’ north.  The north is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious political unit very much unlike the rest of the other regions with, by and large monolithic religious and ethnic configuration.  This notwithstanding, the post-independence leaders of the region were able to bring the diverse people of the region together to live in peace and harmony despite the efforts of some people from outside the region to endanger hatred among the various peoples living in the area.  Realising that breaking the north into three zones hasn’t worked out well for them, and with dwindling national political fortunes by many among them, the call for restructuring and renegotiation has taken front seat once more.

Like I said earlier, let’s restructure by all means.  Or better more – let’s have the courage of our conviction by dissolving the union instead of pretending to live together while hating each other.  We shouldn’t allow those elites who gained tremendously from the system they now disparage set the agenda for us.  We are not responsible for anybody’s political failure and therefore will not be expected to carry their failed political cross.  Let the southern and northern protectorates go their separate ways and develop at their separate pace.  This way, the hating, the denigration, the insults and the uncouth language may abet.

Magu: The Danger Of Unleashing A Bruised Snake On The Nigerian Polity, By Ariyo Atoye

An elixir of sort came the way of our dying democracy on December 14, 2016 when the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria rejected a letter from the presidency requesting the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu, as a substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Until the courageous refusal by the Senate not to use its sacred gavel to confer legitimacy on a man who has brazenly used the EFCC in a most crude manner to undermine human rights, the rule of law has been practically forced into coma in the supposed fight against corruption. But the justified process to stop the Magu cancer from spreading is not over yet, as anti-democratic elements are fighting back.

The senate would still have to grapple with the reality of the emerging pressure from the presidency to rescind its decision: to choose between setting a bruised snake free to further endanger perceived enemies as it was the norm under Magu and its avowed responsibility of protecting the sanctity of our democracy. The overtures to confirm Magu and equally rescue the embattled secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, have joined a growing list of favour the presidency is seeking from the senate. The onus is, however, on the red chamber to be discernible enough in resisting the Greek gifts being extended by the executive and acting in the best interest of democracy.

The security report that the senate had claimed it strongly relied upon to reject the nomination of Magu provided a leeway to justify what should ordinarily pass as an exclusive wisdom and responsibility of the lawmakers to reject him. It would have been tragic for any responsible parliament or congress to desecrate a legislative institution by confirming a personality in the mould of Magu, who has repeatedly shown disdain for the courts and treated rule of law with reckless abandon. Magu is entangled by several allegations of violation of human rights and rule of law, including contravention of the constitution.

According to section 287 of the constitution, the decisions of our courts are binding on authorities and persons including the president and the EFCC. But in spite of being in acting capacity, Magu has undermined the laws of the land and, thereby, severally drawing the ire of the courts.  Justice Yusuf Haliru of the federal capital high court sitting in Jabi, Abuja, was quoted by Thisday Newspaper of March 29, 2016, to have rebuked the EFCC for disobedience of the law.

Read him: “The EFCC is a creation of the law. The court will not allow it to act as if it is above the law. It is remarkable to note that the motto of the EFCC is nobody is above the law, yet they are acting as if they are above the law. The EFCC Act is not superior to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The respondents in this matter have not behaved as if we are in a civilized society. They have behaved as if we are in a military dictatorship where they arrest and release persons at will.”

Similarly, another high court judge in the FCT, Justice Peter Affen was also reported to have berated the EFCC and its lawyers for showing disdain towards the court:  “This is not EFCC office. You must comport yourself. The problem is that you people (EFCC) have too much physical power and you carry it everywhere. This is not a motor park and you must not be throwing your hands anyhow.  You owe the court a duty of deference.  Leave your policemen of EFCC power at the door. Didn’t they teach you that in Law School?”

The fight against corruption is not an exclusive responsibility of the executive alone.  It is a collective responsibility. The other arms of government and all Nigerians have that sacred duty to fight and defeat the monster of corruption. It is therefore expected that the senate would make it a point of duty to caution the executive on the moral implications of sticking with Magu after a security agency of the State had indicted him of corruption. The implication of undermining the report by the Department of State Service, which nailed Magu is grave on the country and would create a bad precedent that is difficult to stop in the future.

The senate, as the legislative arm of government, which bears the guiding torch of democracy, should not, in any way, allow the executive to approbate and reprobate over the fight against corruption. It must be conscious of the future implications of today’s actions and decisions. As a nation, we have made many mistakes in the past that must not be repeated. The role the presidency played during the invasion of judges’ residences across the country and the pressure mounted on the National Judicial Council (NJC) in forcing some accused judges to step down, should ordinarily create a moral burden on the part of the executive to stop action on Magu. Maintaining a glaring double standard is bad for the fight against corruption and the image of Nigeria.

The Walls Street Journal on June 16, 2016 had this to say on Nigeria’s anti-corruption drive: “Mr. Buhari notes that building trust is a priority for Nigeria.  But an anti-corruption drive that is selective and focused on senior members of the opposition party creates deep political divisions. Meanwhile, members of Mr. Buhari’s own cabinet, accused of large scale corruption, walk free.  Seventy percent of the national treasury is spent on the salaries and benefits of government officials, who make upward of $2 million a year.” This vividly applies to the case of Magu.

Magu is like a bruised snake; it is a matter of wisdom for the senate to understand the implications of allowing a wounded rattlesnake to run riot against the system.  So many persons have regretted past actions since May 29, 2015, but time will tell, if this will be added to the list of such regrets. In reality, senate has little or no power to curtail any excesses of the EFCC under Magu, should he be re-confirmed. As a matter of fact, it is the senate that Nigerians will blame for circumventing security report and undermining due process to reconfirm Magu.

The senate may elect to further broaden its view on local and international reports on the EFCC.  For instance, a US congressman, Tom Marino in a letter, dated September 1, 2016, to US secretary of state, John Kerry, expressed misgivings over the anti-corruption crusade of the EFCC. He said: “of a concern is President Buhari’s selective anti-corruption drive which has focused exclusively on members of the opposition party, over-looking corruption amongst some of the Buhari’s closest advisors. Politicising his anti-corruption efforts has only reinforced hostility among southerners.”

Marino also went further to mention another report accusing the Buhari government of biases, to wit: “Human Rights group like Amnesty International have widely documented torture, inhumane treatment, and extra-judicial killings of defenseless Nigerians since President Buhari took office.”  It is, indeed, a shame that a government that rose to power on the strength of its promise to fight corruption frontally and which prided itself in self-acclaimed “saintliness,” is now battling very hard to defend its officials accused of graft.

But, can the senate, under the presidency of Bukola Saraki who is having a running battle with the executive arm of government over allegations of false assets declaration, which is before the code of conduct tribunal, be above board in this conspiracy to institutionalise double standard in the fight against corruption and the threat of undermining democracy? Or will the leadership of the senate kowtow to the perceived move by the presidency to water down and even dismiss the allegations against some of its top officials, including Magu?

Ariyo-Dare Atoye (Aristotle) is a member of Shadow Cabinet of Nigeria (SCN). He is a good governance advocate. He tweets from @AriyoAristotle.

My Prophetic Vision For Nigeria By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Nigerians, tomorrow is Christmas day and, it is only in order that, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. This year has gone rather fast. I’m not sure if we all fulfilled our dreams but we must still thank God for His kind mercies for answering some of our prayers and more importantly for sparing our lives. Nothing is greater than life. And this is why we celebrate the death of every year and cuddle the emerging year with excitement and expectations. In about one week from now, we would have reached the end of another year and we all begin to dream big dreams again and make new year promises and resolutions which we keep for a few weeks or months if we have some discipline. Life is a rat race and we keep living on in hope and prayer.  This is the case of our great country Nigeria.

Nigeria is a very great country indeed. We are well-endowed and originally positioned by God to be the greatest black nation on earth. By our sheer population, it should be obvious even to the less discerning how we were configured by God to lead the black race. But something has obviously gone wrong with us, especially, in the area of leadership. We’ve tried all sorts, from military regimes to civilian governments and even an admixture of both under President Babangida and, to a lesser extent, the Interim National Government (ING) under Chief Ernest Shonekan, but nothing seemed to have worked in our favour. We’ve continued to wobble and fumble as we search for direction, any direction, to no avail. Our leaders are the world’s greatest seat-warmers. They waste all the time on frivolities and white elephant projects, engaging mainly in fights of fury signifying nothing and extreme flights of fancy. In this Yuletide season, budgets come, budgets go, the economy is static and the country remains stagnant.

Whenever and wherever two or more Nigerians are gathered, the topic of discussion often revolves around our political debacle. We all profess to know the problems and solutions but none of us has been able to concretise our theoretical postulations. For me, we have very good Nigerian leaders from all parts of Nigeria, within Nigeria and beyond our shores. Trouble is, we never allow them to thrive. Democracy is not always as simple as it appears. Being a game of numbers, it means anyone can win an election no matter how hopelessly unserious and helplessly useless some of us consider the person. Recent events have clearly demonstrated the new wave of total madness in the world, the collapse of reason and rationality. Elections have become a reality TV game show. We are being shown that, even in the most civilised countries, the vast majority of the populace are less informed. They only care about issues that selfishly concern them and not necessarily those that concern the good of the country. Everything points in the direction of a suicidal attitude on the part of electorates globally who don’t seem to care if their decision leads to complete retrogression and possibly even annihilation.

My prediction is that Nigeria is not going to witness any substantial change in the near future. The politicians would continue to dictate the tune and pace notwithstanding the common man’s efforts to reverse this trend. Democracy is a very expensive business and the rich would also therefore continue to influence the politicians. The generality of the people will continue to exert precious little influence even though they have the most powerful tool for real change in their hands or, more appropriately, thumb!

By the second quarter of next year, the Buhari government would have completed two out of its four-year term. By the start of the third year, politicking would have started full-blown and in earnest. In fact, it has already commenced, albeit surreptitiously. By next year, all the pretentious hanky-panky would have disappeared and the genie would have escaped from its magic lamp. I wish to submit some of my predictions ahead of that time.

In 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari would have shown his intentions somehow, whether to run or not to run. There would be nowhere to hide if he wishes to make any appreciable impact. There are already speculations that he may not want to seek a second term. That is a fallacy being spread by those trying to be clever by half. I believe the aim is to lull other would be contenders into a false sense of security.

I predict with the greatest sense of responsibility that barring any major development, especially age and health reasons, President Buhari will contest the next Presidential election. Power is too sweet to be abandoned voluntarily, particularly by those in the corridors of power who have the most to gain or lose depending on how the President decides to swing.  Accordingly, you can be certain that they will goad President Buhari on and tell him how Nigeria will come unstuck and expire if he does not run again. By the early part of the fourth year of this tenure, the Presidency would start yarning Nigerians a very predictable tale; that Buhari has spent his first term clearing the mess he inherited from President Goodluck Jonathan and he needs a second term to actually do the job of getting Nigeria on its feet again. That is a super alibi waiting to be unleashed to assuage the feelings of the masses for the lack of progress in the avowed developmental change we all clamoured for. And it would be a valid one. What I’m not sure of, is if Nigerians would fall for such a slant on the perceived failings of Government.

Buhari would definitely wish to rely on his anti-corruption credentials if he runs again. He would expect Nigerians to support him all the way in the war against demonic looters. But let me warn and admonish that Buhari would need much more than this to win the next election. He should borrow examples from around the world. Before travelling far, he should remember the demolition of Dr Kayode Fayemi by the less educated and supposedly uncouth Peter Fayose in Ekiti State. Hunger speaks no Queen’s English. Hunger rumbles and roars like a lion. A hungry people are an angry horde of people. As Fayose crudely put it, ignore “stomach infrastructure” at your peril.  The wind of change sweeping away leaders all over the world today is as a result of acute frustration. People are protesting against the establishment, whether justifiably or not. That was the reason Nigerians voted against President Jonathan last year. Unfortunately, that hunger has not abated despite our promises to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

It would have been unthinkable months ago that a Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton and go on to become the President of what is acclaimed to be the most advanced and sophisticated country on earth, the United States of America. I could never have imagined that Ghanaians would vote out one of the most visionary and exceptionally hardworking leaders on our continent, President John Dramani Mahama. Hunger is the new tyrant and it is such a brutal dictator. The level of despair I see right now should sound an early alarm to our dear President. Let no one tell him that all is well. If they do, he should see them as the sycophants and political charlatans that they are. The truth is that the same conditions that torpedoed Jonathan have since quadrupled without doubt even though most of these conditions have not been of the President’s making or doing.

If the Nigerian economy continues to nosedive along this present freefall path, Buhari is likely to face stiff opposition from within his own political party and from outside. My take is that APC would implode like it happened to PDP because of its marriage of incompatibles. There are already too many disgruntled factions and it is only a matter of time before they break away and move on elsewhere. Buhari will continue to hold sway in APC and his challengers would have to find somewhere else to try their luck. Buhari would try to unleash terror on such recalcitrant fellows and whip them back into line. Any potential challenger should be forewarned; he or she should be ready for war as Buhari would not take lightly to any act of rebellion or undue rascality. The only way Buhari can maintain control would be to apply force against his opponents. And there is no shortage of acolytes willing to encourage and assist the President in wielding the big stick!

Next, I predict the emergence of a third force. Two things are likely to happen. APC elements would combine with PDP factions and form a new party. I doubt if the PDP can survive its current tribulations. Its brand has become too weakened and may ultimately cave in, if care is not taken. It seems to me that with two factions at loggerhead and at each other’s throats it is only a matter of time before the main protagonists rip out the very jugular of the Party. If it exists beyond 2019, PDP would have become a mere apparition like other opposition Parties before it – AD, ACN and the like. There are already underground moves to seek a sympathetic undertaker and a few are hovering in the wings.

I have said it before and many dismissed me as talking humbug but the reality is beginning to dawn on many, that I may be speaking sense after all. Strange as it may seem after what has gone before, the number one contender against President Buhari is the immediate past President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, mark my word. The theory of those pressurising Jonathan to run is that he has shown himself to be a true democrat in his past conduct. They believe he has what it takes to perform better next time because he has learnt some big and useful lessons. They think no other candidate from the PDP camp is as ready as Jonathan. They have therefore tried to shore up his international standing by providing international platforms for him to articulate his resume. Jonathan himself has now come out to disclose that he is under intense pressure to contest again in 2019. If and when this happens, it would be a battle of familiar foes. It would also be fought along ethnic and religious lines as before. Jonathan is expected to tap into his old political, business and spiritual alliances and expect to triumph. Anyway, who knows? Anything can happen in politics. I will never write off anyone again. I’ve since discovered that there are not enough good people to stand up against abnormal candidates. For as long as this is a game of numbers, it could be anybody’s game.

The other major challenger is a member of the ruling APC party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He is an old veteran who has never hidden his intention to be the President of Nigeria after serving under President Olusegun Obasanjo as Vice President. He has worked tirelessly to achieve his dream and has crisscrossed a few political parties in the process. No one is sure as of now about how he hopes to navigate the murky and filthy waters of the Nigerian political ocean again. If he contests within his own party, he would have to beat an incumbent President for the ticket. That is a tall order. And although I have predicted that President Buhari will carry the day, against any opponent in his Party, his anti-corruption stance may well be his albatross particularly when one considers the cash and carry style of politicking presently holding sway in the country. If Atiku therefore wants to saunter over to PDP yet again, he would have to wrestle for the ticket with Jonathan as he did in what seems ages ago. If he hopes and works for the emergence of a third Party, there may be other strong contenders challenging him even in that Party.

In APC, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is seen as a potential crown prince if Buhari decides not to run. He has become a major player since the emergence of Buhari. He is intelligent, politically savvy and young enough. More importantly he controls a sizable following of youths on social media. Our youths may well determine the course of the next election so this is a handy demographic group to control. What is however not certain is, if the traditional politicians would hand over the party machinery to him…

Obaseki’s Exciting 2017 Budget By John Mayaki

On December 19, 2016, the Executive Governor of Edo State Mr. Godwin Obaseki, proposed a budget before a session of the Edo State House of Assembly. Contained in the speech are nuggets revealing a progressive philosophy for the generation and expenditure of state funds, and pointers to the governor’s sense of administrative awareness and sensitivity to the people’s welfare.

To his credit, Governor Obaseki has tickled critical fancy by continuously generating positive reviews for the practicability and transparency of the budget. Furthermore, there is a general air of satisfaction that the current administration has its priorities in the right places – improving the people’s standard of living.

The Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa (CGGEJA) has described it as “a realistic budget estimate with a good title which appositely reflects the content.” Clearly, the budget is scaling initial hurdles. However, it still has to run through the gauntlet of scrutiny at the House of Assembly before it can materialize as law.

The rub of many budgets lie not only in projecting income and expenditure, but also in implementation. On both frontiers, Governor Obaseki’s proposed budget is doing good.

The CGGEJA condemned the prevalence of mismanagement of funds in the country but seemed optimistic about Edo’s proposed budget saying that: “The problem with budgets in Nigeria over the years is poor implementation, but there is no doubt that this budget will perform positively if passed into law,” the body explained.

Accordingly, both grave problems did not escape the governor’s notice, and it is deducible from the budget speech that not only can the proverbial camel find itself making an appearance at the river at a handler’s behest, but it can also be disciplined to drink of it.

The speech proposed to employ the zero-budgeting policy also promising that the TSA system currently employed by the federal government can be a lifeline to consider as per implementation of the budget.

Here, Governor Obaseki must tread with caution and sound judgment, for the TSA system has come under media scrutiny due to the tedious procedural obstacles that impede speedy disbursal of funds.

Again, at the session before the House of Assembly, the governor listed certain promises and reiterated several commitments such that when the anticipated budget was eventually in the open, the audience had sufficing knowledge of where the money was likely to go. It will be a noteworthy accomplishment if the governor has been able to prove with his speech that the final destination of the people’s money is not an errant contractor’s pocket, but in the state’s infrastructure.

Caesar’s wife, it is unanimously agreed, must be above suspicion. Governor Obaseki, taking cognizance of this, dedicated time to explaining the philosophy that governed the formulation of the 2017 budget.

The governor explained in the speech that: “The policy directions of this budget are largely informed by my interactions with Edo people during my campaign which was validated in a strategy dialogue comprising political, religious and traditional leaders, professionals, civil society, women and youth groups.”

A commentator, Felix Osemwengie Isere Esq. expressed satisfaction that the ratio of recurrent and capital expenditure leveled at 50:50. He interpreted it to mean that that the Government is serious. Who would not?

The identified areas around which the budget is hinged include Economic Revolution (Agribusiness; Electricity Generation & Distribution Extractive Industry Development & Expansion; Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) development; Skills Development and productivity enhancement; Tourism, Culture, Leisure and Hospitality; Health Care Services; Utilities), Infrastructural Expansion, Institutional Reform, Social Welfare Enhancement, Culture & Tourism and Environmental Sustainability. One thing all these areas have in common is that they can promote multiplicity in revenue if they explored.

It is noteworthy that the Obaseki administration is aware of the need to grow the state’s economy and reduce reliance on the national coffers. This is depicted in the following quote from the speech; “…we shall engage our people more and explore ways to assist in making them more productive, for herein lies our prosperity; the prosperity of our people. We shall therefore take deliberate steps to improve the ease of doing business in Edo state, but drastically reduce the bottlenecks currently experienced by business people. Time limits will be set within which citizens can and should obtain permits such as building approvals, C of O, licenses etc from MDAs. We will establish a business bureau in the office of the Governor to co-ordinate and give effect to these government initiatives.”

Another commentator echoed similar optimism saying that: “The budget presented by Governor Obaseki is a pointer that this government means business. The normal tradition in Nigeria is formulating budgets with recurrent expenditure usually surpassing capital expenditure. Now, we have a 50-50 budget and I commend the governor for this bold step.”

Should Governor Obaseki maintain the momentum he has garnered in less than two months in office, perhaps he may bring about the change, which the All Progressives Congress is bent on heralding in the country. Needless to say, this position will remain an exciting pipe dream until the proposed budget survives scrutiny at the House of Assembly.

Mr. John Mayaki is Chief Press Secretary (Interim) to Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki

Ibori: Corruption With Tribal Marks, By Olalekan Adigun

Whenever I hear those who ought to know say that Nigeria’s main problem is ethnicity, I often begin to develop cold feet. They seem to argue that if not for ethnicity (a colonial construct), the country would have move ahead. While this I may agree that ethnicity is one of the manifestations of the numerous problems facing the country, I firmly disagree that ethnicity is the Nigerian problem.

The reader will probably face me and ask: “Lekan, what then is the problem of Nigeria?” my immediate answer to this is simply corruption. Not that corruption is not an issue in advanced countries, if not, the revelations in #PanamaPapers will not take been so sensational. The only difference here is that the Nigerian case is that corruption has tribal marks!  I am aware some people may want to strongly disagree with me, but please come along with me.

Some days ago, I received the news, like most Nigerians, that former Governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori, has been released from prison. This ordinarily would not have been serious news in that he would not be the first high profile politician to go to prison and be released. The news of “wild jubilations” in Delta state and many other places by his supporters, even in certain sections of the Nigerian media made the whole thing take a dramatic dimension. To even know that most of these same persons were the same people who took “strong exceptions” to ex-British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s, “fantastically corrupt” tag further makes the matter ironic. To those so-jubilating, Ibori is nothing but a man of the people. For them, Ibori is not corrupt, even though he pleaded guilty to corrupt charges in a London Court. To these ones, the politician is been persecuted because he is loved by his people. They seem to ask: “No be our money he steal wetin concern you na?” can you now see why I said corruption has tribal marks in Nigeria?

Ibori is a typical Nigerian politician who understands the psychology of human needs. His people will not mind him stealing so far he fills their stomachs with part of the loot. Like Chief Nanga in Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People, all he needs to do is become visible in his community; buy traditional titles, build boreholes; employ some people in Oghara into government positions and become a hero.

Even though Achebe wrote the wonderful novel in the 1960s, much of its contents are still relevant today. We heard of election-winning programmes like Fayose’s Stomach Infrastructure. Can we see how stagnant we are as a nation in terms of moral values?

Being a smart Nigerian politician, Ibori will run to the same people he looted dry to defend him in time of trouble. He will bring up the ethnic card. He will create a “us-versus-them” siege mentality of “they hate us that is why they are after me”. What else can you tell a man or woman who manages to get his bit of the “national cake” from politicians like Ibori? How do you want to preach to a people who roll out drums to sing and praise a corrupt former governor that he loots their state and that he is only spending crumbs on them? These ones will rather fight and die to defend “our son” that hear that he is corrupt. His village chiefs will welcome him back with both arms and award him the highest title in the land!

This happens to be the bitter truth in our country today. Ethnicity is only used as a tool, first by the colonial masters and later the post-colonial leaders, to divide the masses and permanently becloud their sense of reasoning so as to continue to divert their attentions away from the real issues. The Ibori’s case proves this just right. Corruption now has a tribal mark!

Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN is a political analyst and independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria. His write-ups can be viewed on his website http://olalekanadigun.com/ Tel: +2348136502040, +2347081901080
Email: olalekan@olalekanadigun.com, adgorwell@gmail.com
Follow me on Twitter @adgorwell

 

International Vocational Technical Centre: An Initiative By Gov. Ahmed With Immense Benefits, By Taofeek Sanusi

The administration of His Excellency, Gov. AbdulFatah Ahmed has been working round the clock to ensure that dividends of democracy are brought to the Kwarans’ door steps, since its inception on the 29th of May, 2011. One of the testimonials to the statement above is the completion of International Vocational Technical Centre, Situated at Ajase Ipo, where acquisition of vocational and entrepreneurial skills is at its zenith.

Prior to the winding up of the governor’s first tenure, the Block Laying Foundation ceremony of the project worth hundreds of millions was done, like a mirage, on Tuesday, 20th December, 2016, the contractor who was in charge of the project handed it over to the Kwara State government. The IVTEC is aimed at providing skills to the Kwarans and intrested people in and outside the country in the areas such as Automobile, Building and Construction, Carpentry, Welding and Electrical Engineering. IVTEC  is first of its kind in Nigeria as the instructors would be trained abroad, and the school itself has been linked with the university in New York for management and technical collaboration.

However, IVTEC establishment is a blessing to not only the Kwarans but also non Kwarans who enrol. It has brought acquisition of  vocational and entrepreneurial skills to the finger tips of the people in grand style.

Also, with IVTEC establishment, no doubt, significant number of Kwarans would get employment and with this, the rate of unemployment is dipping in the state.

In addition, with sophisticated physical and material resources already provided in IVTEC as well as the proposed well grounded workers which would be put in there, there would be no iota of compromise in the quality of its outputs. As its outputs continue to gain recognition in and outside the country, the level of patronage would continue to be on the upswing, and this would boost more the internal revenue generated by the Kwara State government.

IVTEC as it is, is not only a cynosure of peoples’ eyes but also a point of call as it is a world class centre which is second in the country. This would attract people across the globe and is a blessing to the people of Ajase Ipo and other neighbouring communities as the IVTEC would boost their socio-economic activities because of infrastructural facilities which that end would benefit.

Last but not the least, people do not need to travel abroad to get their desired needs or services in the areas of Carpentry, Welding, Automobile, Building and Construction and Electrical Engineering, as IVTEC has brought those services and needs to their door steps.

In fact, IVTEC is a good initiative from Kwara State government, which would benefit people under working age, irrespective of their academic qualifications.

Kudos to His Excellency, Gov. AbdulFatah Ahmed.
Sai Maigida!

Who Is Corrupt: A. Magu, B. Daura, C. All of the Above? By Peregrino Brimah

By Peregrino Brimah

It can’t be non of the above. It’s either Lawal Daura is right and EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu is a corrupt man, or Daura is corruptly accusing Magu of corruption in order to jeopardize the corruption war. Or both of them are corrupt.

So as more Nigerians slowly become wailers, I throw this question to the reader: A., B., or C?

While we painfully entertain ourselves with the dogfight going on among Buhari’s agency bosses, one can draw certain conclusions without pretending to know more than is in public domain.

One. Magu lives in opulence. He lives in a N20 million a year upscale mansion in Maitama. That’s about $66,000 on rent alone, furnishing not included. Is this corruption? I guess it depends. Two. Magu did not investigate his good friend Air Commodore Mohammed Umar for corruption till the DSS decided to. Three. Magu keeps federal documents in his home, which is risky and illegal. All these issues are in the DSS report and have been confirmed by PremiumTimes.

For those of us who have not focused on Magu, and refuse to quiz why numerous known corrupt cabal rogues remain free of EFCC jaws while the Sarakis including his wife and select PDP men get the finger from the department; we witnessed one story that was clearly a misuse and abuse of power: the arrest and detention of blogger Abu Sidiq for non economic and financial crimes.

When it comes to SSS boss Daura, it is scary to imagine or confirm as it may be that he may be so corrupt and vindictive to even top Buhari appointees. While at least half appears true, if just half of the case against Magu is untrue then a Security department boss who can do so to a known public agency boss can do unthinkable things to ruling party opponents and people like Nnamdi Kanu, Dasuki, Zakzaky and all other known and unknown Toms, Dicks and Harrys.

A corrupt public official is a grave danger not to himself but to the entire nation. And being appointees and not elected officials like the despised Senate, every extra day corrupt appointees remain in power, Buhari is party to the corruption and is corrupt. Buratai’s Dubai millions, Abba Kyari’s cases, Lawal Babachir’s IDP green grass case and Dambazzau’s cases as well as the CBN and FIRS nepotism cases and the CBN forex subsidy to the cabal case are still on the table or do we say, not on Buhari’s table.

The precipitant question obviously is: does Buhari lack care or capacity?

Are you wailing yet?

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian

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