Nigeria 2019: Eshu Laalu As Polling Agent, By Reuben Abati

Here is yet another account of what I saw in the politics of Ogun State and Nigeria. One of my early teachable moments was the realization that you are required to dress like the people whose votes you are looking for, and operate at that level, be like them, connect with them. When the 2019 political struggle began, I used to attend meetings wearing suits.

Party members looked at me suspiciously. I couldn’t miss the glances, the whispers, the murmurs but I couldn’t quite figure out what was amiss until one Sunday afternoon, I arrived at a scheduled meeting all suited up.  

As soon as I stepped in, I thought I overheard someone saying quietly: “Even on Sunday evening!” I didn’t think that comment was meant for me. Whoever said that was probably talking to someone else. The pieces soon fell in place when one of our apex leaders accosted me: 

“Deputy, e ma de ku asiko yi o. E ku igbiyanju. Oro kan ma ni mo ma fe ba yin so.”

“Go ahead sir.”

“N se ni mo kan de ti e n wo kini na.  O dabi e ni pe, you don’t like to dress like us. I see you don’t wear Sokoto and Buba, or any traditional attires. You just like these white man’s suits”

“Of course, I have caftans. But I prefer to wear suits for work and formal meetings,” I responded. 

I also tried to explain that I was just coming from a television programme. 

‘Ha ha. Okay. But e joor sir., for this our campaign, you have to take it easy with these your suits oh. In politics, you must always look like the people you want to lead and speak like them. That is the only way they can feel comfortable with you. E joor sir oh. Si so okun mo orun  ni igba gbobo  yi fe po ju. Please do something about it. In this part of the country, a politician cannot go about wearing ties. Lai kii se aja!”

Of course, my wardrobe went through a quick transformation. I no longer heard any complaints or whispers, or murmurs. I had adjusted. I made friends very quickly. But that was not all.

Our principal, Senator Buruji Kashamu operated mostly during the campaigns, from his Lagos office and his office in Ijebu Igbo. The latter is the Omo Ilu Foundation headquarters, a sprawling multi-purpose complex, sitting on about three acres, complete with a hall large enough for over 5, 000 persons, in addition to an open pavilion, offices and a row of chalets with about 20 rooms. Omo Ilu Foundation, founded in 2010, is Senator Kashamu’s philanthropic organization and political structure through which he provides help for orphans, widows and the indigent.  We either met in Lagos or in Ijebu-Igbo, and given my position as his running mate, I was constantly present at meetings and activities.  It didn’t take a while before the Senator noticed that I always came alone. I didn’t travel in a convoy. I didn’t have a retinue of hangers-on. One day, he called me aside and told me:

“Dokita, why are you always walking alone? A politician does not walk alone. In politics, you must have your own team.  You must have your own followers. You must have your own structure. I am going to help you set up your own structure and you can recruit your own followers over time. That is how to play politics. You can’t be going about alone. Politics is about people, strategy, hardwork.”   

In no time, I had my own team and till the campaign ended, I never walked alone. Bouncers, security men, campaign vehicles, a team of drivers and assistants, party associates, advisers, supporters, family friends, consultants etc. My house became a beehive of activities.

In Nigeria, a politician is not expected to close his doors.  Men, women trooped in. People I had not seen in the last three years showed up. They sat in the compound, some came into the house and took over the sitting rooms. The house of a politician must have a ready supply of food and drinks. The house was soon flooded with cartons of assorted drinks. Dry gin. Schnapps, Brandy. Beer. Whatever. Some politicians insist that politics is better when it is fueled with the engine oil of alcohol. I had an inner crowd of regulars, male and female. At certain times of the day, someone will raise his hand and say: “De-pu-ty, e fun wa ni amala!  Maa-anu n –fa-gi.”  Time to eat! I never got a chance to meet this ever-hungry Maaa-nu, the apocryphal carpenter of the stomach!  

These are experienced politicians who have been here and there. Some of them have participated in virtually every major political party since the return to civilian rule in 1999. They know every key political figure in the State. If you want to know your great grandmother’s biography, she may have died in the 15thcentury, you just join politics, you will hear stories about your ancestors who you never knew ever lived. Interacting with those veterans, I received much education about local politics. They know everyone and their habits. There was never a short supply of anecdotes about the public and private habits of prominent Ogun State politicians, their wives and concubines, children and the underground network that seems to be a strong and dominant factor in Nigerian politics. People came in and out, sometimes staying till 12 mid-night. Even if I slept off, they would stay on and have their own conversations. It was a diverse, motley crowd. They argued oftentimes, over this or that, but I admired their dedication, knowledge, experience, their energy and commitment. They have all become part of an emerging political ecosystem around my space. Only a few days away from Abeokuta, I miss them already: the women and their creativity with songs and ideas, the men and their knowledge of the terrain.  

I got a rude shock however, in December, when one of my new friends started pestering me to give him money to buy a ram.  

“Ram?  Se iyawo yin sese bi mo, e fe se ikomo ni?,” Has your wife just put to bed and you need support for the naming ceremony?, I asked.

“No. Rah – rah o, deputy, a fe fi se etutu ni.  We want to use the ram to make sacrifice of protection for you. You need some protection.” 

 What sacrifice? I couldn’t figure out what the man was driving at. But he was persistent. 

“It won’t cost you a lot of money. Just the money for the ram and something on top. You are our own Governor in Ogun Central as far as we are concerned. Many people have seen you. They are talking about you. We also have enemies within the party. There are cases in court. The party people in Abuja don’t like us. As your own people, we have to protect you. Nothing must happen to you. You can be sure the Ijebus will also protect their own son.” 

I waved it all off. December is a delicate month. That is when people use all kinds of trick to get  money for the festive season. January is even worse: school fees have to be paid in January. I told the man I was not interested in any ritual sacrifice. The blood of Jesus is sufficient for all Believers! He didn’t argue. He left quietly.  But he came back two days later, imploring me to give “Unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. He said I should realize that Nigerian politics is like a Dinner with the Devil and that I would need to acquire a long spoon of my own if I was serious about getting a seat at the table. Before his return, another person, who described himself as a Good Samaritan, had also called to say he was bringing to me a charmed waistband which I should tie around my waist any time we were going out for campaigns. I rejected the offer. I told the man I had no plans to become a shamanist because of politics. Our conversation ended in the shape of an argument with him telling me that I didn’t know what I had put myself into. 

“Do you know what all those other people you sit down with have under their clothes? Deputy, Oju lasan ko se politics ni Nigeria yi oh. You must fortify yourself. You need ayeta (local bullet-proof charm), okigbe (protection against machete cuts) gbetugbetu (all-purpose Yoruba charm), awise afogbohun,, ma-y-e-hun (charms for commanding persons), eyonu, atewogba (charms for popularity and acceptance)…after the waist-band, we still have a lot to do. Agan ni kini yi, ko se da gbe! A jo ma gbe ni. We are in this thing together. Anybody whose friend is disgraced is the one who has been disgraced.” 

I was not scared, but I was worried that 21stcentury Nigerian politics was beginning to sound like a return to the inter-tribal wars of the 14thCentury. 

I wasn’t going to part with a penny for any amulet or sacrifice. I was left alone for a while. We organized political activities: visited key stakeholders, communities, arranged consultation meetings, we stormed the town and other parts of our Constituency. The women and my wife had their own group. They focused on markets and house-to-house campaigns. The only thing that worried me was that each time we went to some places, some members of the opposition will later call me to complain that they heard I was spending money and giving people gifts. I would deny of course but they would then proceed to mention the exact place, the person visited and what exactly happened. I became worried. I concluded that there was need to be very watchful. On more than one occasion, persons came to me to show me lists of voters, numbers of Permanent Voters Cards and the phone numbers of their owners. They claimed the voters were under their direct control and they could deliver entire wards and local governments.  They needed money to mobilize the owners of the voters’ cards. It sounded strange to me. I didn’t play ball.

Before long, one of my self-appointed protectors came and said he would like me to go to a church somewhere in Abeokuta. According to him, every politician had already visited the church and whatever the man of God pronounced would come to pass. I refused. If the man of God had already promised every Gubernatorial candidate, victory, why bother?  

The battle for the protection of my soul and life in politics later reached a peak when one of the initial protectors returned to say that even if we did not do anything, we needed to send Eshu on errand, and he had identified the Eshu in the Igbein quarters of Abeokuta as the most potent agent that will ensure our victory in the 2019 Gubernatorial polls. I tried to fence him off by showing off my knowledge of the Yoriuba belief system and traditions. I even chanted the panegyric of Eshu, the trickster-god, the two faced, Janus member of the Yoruba pantheon. “Eshu Laalu, onile orita, ogirimoko okunrin, a ba ni wa oran bi a ri da, elekun n sun ekun, Laaroye n sun eje…” 

Eshu is usually regarded as the equivalent of the Devil, but Yoruba Traditional Thought identifies him as an oxymoronic agent for both good and evil, an attribute translated as drama, form, antonym, and performance in Femi Osofisan’sEshu and the Vagabond Minstrels.  The man was not interested in my anthropological, hermeneutic analysis. I even told him that in actual fact, the most potent Eshu in Egbaland is in Imo, not Igbein and I told him… I was trying to pass a message across. The man flared up. 

“Eshu Igbein is very strong. If you give it what it wants. It will stand up and go out and deal with our enemies. It will bring us all the votes in Ogun State! It will go to every polling unit and vote.”

“Is it Eshu that will vote or the people of Ogun State? Is he a human being? Does he have a voter’s card?”, I inquired.

“Deputy, you don’t know this Eshu. After sending him on errand, you can’t come home straight. Otherwise, it will follow you. You must have a special, spiritual bath. Even then, three days later, it will still come to this house to give you a sign to show that he is already working.” 

“I don’t want Eshu to come here,” I said emphatically. 

“After he has worked for us, once you give him what he wants in return, he will go back. He is our best bet.” 

Olawale Folorunso and Bode Sowunmi who were with me and who had been listening to the argument over the proposed recruitment of Eshu as a polling agent eventually intervened. Bode Sowunmi wanted to know if the Eshu could survive in a compound with interlocking tiles and air conditioners and whether he would occupy one of our rooms. Wale thought the whole proposal was bizarre. Bode asked:

“Okay, Egbon, if you believe so much in this Eshu, why don’t you go and do the ritual and send Eshu on errand on behalf of Dr Abati and Senator Kashamu. You are a politician yourself and you are all in this campaign together. Dr says he doesn’t want Eshu in this matter.” 

“I am not the one running for Governor. I can’t spend my own money. Anybody that wants to be Governor must be ready to give Eshu his due,” the man insisted. 

I refused. 

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Transition Hours”: President Jonathan Writes Back, By Reuben Abati

“There was no bitterness in him after he left power. He did not look back. He did not look down. Instead he looked up and after looking up, he looked forward and went on pressing ahead. That forward movement has resulted in this work of statecraft and statesmanship of which I am privileged to write the foreword. Though there are many themes in this book, My Transition Hours, the theme that most excites me is the one on youth and the next generation” – John Dramani Mahama, President, Republic of Ghana, 2012 -2017.   

Those are some of the words with which former Ghanaian President John Mahama introduces the long-awaited and much-anticipated book by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. President Mahama is President Jonathan’s close friend. In a way they both share a similar destiny. Their bosses died and they both went on to become President. They also both won election as President and later lost their re-election bids. But they are perhaps more united by the shared affinities between Nigeria and Ghana. President Mahama is eminently well-qualified to write the even-handed, thoughtful foreword to President Jonathan’s first book, out of office.

Jonathan is Nigeria’s first President from the South South, first Ph.D holder in Nigeria to become President, first Nigerian President to rise through the ranks from the position of Deputy Governor to Acting Governor, Governor, first Gubernatorial candidate nominee to become Vice President, Acting President and eventually President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No other Nigerian, dead or alive, has gone through such trajectory, or rite of passage. President Jonathan was Acting President 2010-2011, following the death of his principal, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in circumstances that threw the country into a quandary and raised issues about Nigeria’s geo-politics and the matters of ethnicity and geography, indeed more importantly the right of minorities to also “rule” Nigeria, and if and when they are allowed to do so, whether or not they will be treated fairly.

I have enjoyed the privilege of reading President Jonathan’s first memoir out of office, which will be publicly presented today in the nation’s capital, Abuja, and I can report that it is a book about how Nigeria and vested interests treated him badly. He is the villain in the book: badly treated by entrenched interest groups, treacherous party members, a propaganda and hate-driven opposition and a badly constructed political ecosystem. The book is titled “My Transition Hours.”

In 2011, after much ethnic uproar and conscientious objection by progressive forces, Jonathan won Nigeria’s Presidential elections and remained Nigeria’s President till 2015.  He lost the 2015 Presidential election, according to the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but despite his prompt concession to General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, Jonathan has suffered badly under his successor’s watch. He has been maligned, persecuted, harassed, intimidated, humiliated and insulted. His wife has been abused, maligned, criminally tagged and many of his associates have been labelled crooks and thieves. In 2015, in the lead up to the general elections. Jonathan announced that his “ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.” He signed a document to respect the outcome of the process. He kept his word. His successors have rewarded him with odium and abuse. They have done their best to discredit and destroy him.

In this book, “My Transition Hours”, President Jonathan fights back. His public persona is that he is a meek, gentle personality who lacks the guts to fight. Indeed, after the 2015 elections, everyone deserted him. The Aso Rock Villa became ghost town. Nobody picked our calls again. Giants in the corporate sector who used to beg for access to President Jonathan were reportedly now on the Buhari side. Only the Attorney General of the Federation, the security chiefs and a few others came around. The President was left with just his main body, that is – his innermost circle of aides.

We felt hurt by the fact that many of the persons who benefitted from President Jonathan had jumped ship and were now sucking up to the other side. We saw some of the people who called President Jonathan their brother and friend, on the Buhari side less than 24 hours after the election was decided. They were laughing and grinning!  It was a painful moment for us. That was the real “Transition Hours” and that was when President Jonathan started threatening that he will write a book on his “Transition Hours”. He chose the title of the book at that very point. He wanted to tell his own story. I am intrigued that he has refused to change the title, but I recall how tough those transition moments were for us. On our return trip to Otuoke, we were treated shabbily by the newcomers. We had to struggle to be recognized.  We were treated like regular passengers! The people who took over from President Jonathan were determined to humiliate him. It got much worse later.

In this book, President Jonathan tries to fight back and set the records straight. I am glad he is doing this. I once went to him and asked that we should put a team together to protect his legacy. His response was that “God will fight for us, after God it is government, these people will crush us because they don’t know God, but let us rely on God.” Some people, who thought we should help our boss, ignored this advice tried to put a team together. They ended up in underground cells, and got labelled as thieves! Others fled into exile. It is good to see President Jonathan himself, more than three years later, speaking up. The man that comes through in these pages is the real Jonathan. and that is perhaps the big point: a Jonathan that is confident, strong, clear-headed and assertive, who does not take nonsense and who is very clear in his mind about leadership options. If he had won a second term, Nigerians would have seen a different Jonathan. He worked hard to hold the country together and to prevent mischief from over-running the country. He makes his case in this book as he addresses some of the strong issues that came up during his tenure.

It is not standard practice for a President to justify himself and his tenure. It is also not standard practice for a President to be discredited by his successor. President Jonathan has every reason to write this book.  He has chosen the right moment to go public: his successor’s most vulnerable moment. What he does majorly is to tell Nigerians that most of the things said about him were fake news. He insists that he did not abuse power as Nigeria’s President. He argues that every negative thing that has been said about him is an attempt to give him a bad name in order to hang him.  He argues that “real strength is power under control”. He adds: “This book is not my biography, as that will come later. This book reveals how I used power as shield in the service to our nation and God.” Jonathan’s argument is that power should never be abused.

The book is defensive and reactive on the vexed issues of fuel subsidy, Boko Haram, “stealing is not corruption,” governance and so on.  President Jonathan takes on the major criticisms of his administration. He doesn’t quite provide hard facts but he talks back. The key issues that the book addresses are noteworthy. This is a book that every Nigerian should pay attention to. In this book, a former President of Nigeria is saying that he was badly treated and he became a villain, because he came from a minority part of the country. He states that “people (are) working against our interest”. In this book, a former President of the country tells us that the idea of “one Nigeria” does not exist because we are a divided country. My boss insists: that “there is no patriotism in Nigerian politics”.

He refuses to pull punches. Nobody is spared. In Chapter 3 titled “Politics and Patriotism: The Fuel Subsidy Dilemma”, he argues that “politics in Nigeria and some other African nations is conducted like primitive war”. His major reference is the battle over fuel subsidy in 2012.  He argues that the protests over the fuel subsidy proposals were “politically motivated.” Donald Duke should read this chapter. There are some references to him here. Chapter Four is titled “The Chibok School Girls Affair.” The Governor of Borno state needs to read this chapter. He is accused of seizing an “opportunity to politicize an unfortunate incident”.  The APC also allegedly indulged in “psychological programming”, making President Jonathan look like a “villain”.  President Jonathan rejects the labels. He pointedly accuses the Barack Obama administration in the United States of working against his administration and he provides evidence to back his claims. He accuses President Obama thus: “For some strange reason, the Obama administration had tactically penciled Nigeria and my administration down for failure”.

Hadiza Bala Usman, now in charge of Nigerian Ports Authority, should also read Chapter Four of this book.  President Jonathan is convinced that the Chibok girls matter is an act of grand conspiracy, because whereas he took every necessary step, the Governor of Borno State had a different agenda. In Chapter Five, he deals with the question of stealing and corruption. He provides an explanation on that particular matter. The irony is that many of the initiatives now being adopted by the Buhari administration– Treasury Single Account, IPPIS and the BVN were all Jonathan’s initiatives. Jonathan discloses that his government did better on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. Chapter Six is focused on “Power Struggle in Nigeria”. Here, Pr5esidnet Jonathan talks about he “strayed into power” and the attack of he majorities on the minorities. In Chapter 7, he offers an account of his “Presidential election campaign”.

He goes further to describe what happened during the 2015 presidential election and how he personally took the decision to save Nigeria from a descent into imminent chaos. Too many persons have tried to write the story of that significant moment in Nigerian history. I am glad that President Jonathan has now given his own account to correct the many lies that may have been told. He records the responses from the international community.  It is a rich and detailed account. In this book, ,President Jonathan puts on the table his credentials as an internationals statesman and the goodwill he enjoyed among his peers before and after the election of 2015.

To be fair to him, making Nigeria look good in the international community was one of his major achievements. But President Barack Obama of the United States did not help him, and he refers to this more than once in this book. In Chapter Ten, President Jonathan talks about what he and his team did with the 2014 National Political Conference and his personal commitment to the peace and stability of Nigeria. Needless to remind us that the Buhari administration upon assuming office threw away the report of that conference. In Chapters 11 to 13, President Jonathan takes on other interesting subjects including the youth bulge, private sector reform and the African Renaissance.

This must be a book close to his heart. He uses it to settle scores and to explain the main issues of his era as President. I consider this a must read for all Nigerians and students of the Nigerian process. President Jonathan offers a personal portrait of his own politics, career and achievements. I may have read the book through the prism of a man who was his staff and who was involved, but I can tell that this is a honest and forthright reportage of what transpired. President Jonathan gave to Nigeria his very best. He was conscious of his humble beginnings and he wanted to make a statement. He was a poor man’s son who made it to the highest level in Nigeria. He was an embodiment of the Nigerian dream.

But Nigerian politics is vicious and dirty. You will find a sense of that in this book. He projects himself as a “victim”, but he probably does not tell the full story, which is okay.  It means he can tell more stories. There are persons who will read this book and throw tantrums, but may such persons, like Nasir el-Rufai and the Governor of Borno state and all the deceitful associates who fooled the President during the 2015 elections, for reasons of religion and ethnicity, be reminded that this is all told a very kind book. President Jonathan playing the statesman has refused to tell it all. He has held back much more than he has given away. Some of us who were part of his “Main Body” may have now been unwittingly empowered to tell more stories.

I know that my boss is excited by this book. He wants to be remembered for the right reasons and not for the fake news that his opponents reported about his Presidency. President Goodluck Jonathan was President at a unique moment in Nigerian history. His emergence and experience both mark a special moment in Nigerian history. I urge you to read this book, his first one, on what he encountered as Nigeria’s President, before, during and after. Despite the travails of his post-office experience, Goodluck Jonathan, his legacy and value, will survive beyond his “transition hours”.   He will,  beyond everything else, find a good place in Nigerian history.

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Aig-Imoukhuede And The Initiative For Public Governance, By Reuben Abati

A week ago, I stumbled on an article titled “Africa and the burden of Leadership” (The Guardian, Nov. 7), written by Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, banker, investor and entrepreneur, former Managing Director of Access Bank Nigeria, our compatriot.  The piece was actually excerpted from a speech he delivered at the graduation ceremony of government and public policy students at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, UK, in his capacity as founder of the  Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG).

The AIG was founded by him in 2014. The piece made me curious and I had to check out the Africa Initiative for Governance online. In this age of “google-it” or what others call the “white man’s oracle,” if you are in doubt about anything or you are looking for information, just consult the google-oracle.  So I googled it to double-check some of the information already provided in the article before me.

Indeed in 2014, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede founded the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG) as a not-for-profit, private sector-led Foundation to promote good governance and public sector reform. Every year, since 2016, the AIG, in partnership with the Blavatnik School of Government has provided post-graduate scholarships for a Masters in Public Policy (MPP) programme at the University of Oxford. To date, persons selected from Nigeria and Ghana have benefitted from the programme. Five of them graduated in November 2018. They are expected to return to their home country and become change agents in their country’s public sectors. Five other AIG scholars enrolled for the MPP in September 2018.

Every year, the Foundation also awards the AIG Fellowship to an outstanding public official in Nigeria or Ghana. To date, Professor Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the immediate past Chief Justice of Ghana, Justice Georgina Wood have benefitted from the Fellowship. The AIG is involved in partnership with the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHCSF) to give teeth to a 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Transformation Strategy and Implementation Plan to ensure the transformation of the Nigerian civil service, and general public sector reform. As recently as October 2018, the Africa Initiative for Governance(AIG) sponsored and facilitated a session: “The Unfinished Business of Reforms” at the 24thNigerian Economic Summit held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, FCT.   I further discovered that my friend and brother, Olusegun Adeniyi sits on the board of the AIG. I recall that he actually once wrote a piece on the initiative when it was first launched.

Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede is a member of the emergent generation of Nigerian wealthy men and women, the 80s generation that made its money in the last two decades, from banking, finance, securities, real estate, oil and gas and just about anything that could be turned into money as the decades progressed. This rise of new money in Nigeria as different from “old money” (represented by the the Odutola brothers, Dantata, Ibru, Ojukwu, daRocha, Fernandez etc) also seems to have coincided with a rising consciousness about the need to give something back to society, that is philanthropy or social responsibility. There has been, in Nigeria, a re-definition of capitalism, in terms of a more benevolent construction, and the rich man as a responsible man of community and an agent for social good.

What has been seen, therefore, is the growth of institutions and initiatives devoted to the public good or ostensibly so, with too much money seeking to do much good. Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, and one of the richest men in Africa, has the Dangote Foundation. Jim Ovia, owner of Zenith Bank, has a Jim Ovia Foundation, and is founder of the Jim Hope Schools. Tony Elumelu, Chairman of the Union Bank for Africa (UBA) runs the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which has been supporting and grooming entrepreneurs in 44 African countries. Of all these efforts that I know, the least publicized in my view is the Africa Initiative for Governance (AIG). Or to put it differently, in a country where a Foundation that distributes food to the poor, and another small one that gives out second hand clothes, are much better known, a Foundation like the AIG which focusses on reform, governance and policy deserves more aggressive publicity – not to promote ego, but to inspire a much broader debate about its goals and objectives.

The only significant thing I notice however is that the acronym of the Africa Initiative for Governance is AIG. The founder, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, is also more popularly known as Aig, a shortened form of his name. But greater publicity for the Foundation should expand access to the opportunities it offers. This is my point. How many persons in Nigeria or Ghana are aware of the scholarships and Fellowships on offer? Who knows that the Foundation exists? Aig-Imoukhuede may assume that the work of the Foundation will speak for it. These days, Foundations speak, and they should speak for themselves.

It remains for us to interrogate the foundations of the initiative, and some of the points raised in Aig-Imoukhuede’s article.  The original assumption is that the civil service is the engine-room of a country and that for a country to function effectively, attain a competitive edge and for democracy to work, there must be in place a development-oriented civil service in place. Aig-Imoukhuede obviously believes as shown in his piece “Africa and the burden of leadership”, that the failure of African states is a function of the failure of the bureaucratic machinery in those countries, and that reform is required to reverse the trend, rediscover lost glory and reposition African countries for progress.

There is a touch of nostalgia in this. Many Nigerians growing up in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s in Nigeria will remember a country that once worked. Chinua Achebe referred to this when he titled one of his books, “There was once a country”. In that country referred to by Chinua Achebe, there may have been small corruption within the system, tongue and “tribe” may have differed, but Nigeria was a country that worked.

There was in place a state bureaucracy that provided opportunities and service for the average citizen. We had in the country some of the best schools in the sub-region, if not in the entire continent. Scholars from around the world came to teach at the country’s universities; there were foreign students in Nigeria as well. As a secondary school student, some of my teachers were from Pakistan, India and other parts of the Commonwealth.  As an undergraduate, we had Faculty members from the United States, France, UK and Canada. Nigerian roads were fixed by a department called PWD, that is Public Works Department. In those days, teachers were special citizens because students and their parents celebrated them and appreciated their value. A school principal or a primary school headmaster or headmistress was definitely a member of the local elite.

There was a Sanitary and Hygiene Department at the Health Office. Today, Nigeria ranks second on the ignoble, global list of countries that are guilty of open defecation due to the absence of public latrines! There was regular power supply in those days. Nobody had any need for a generator. Today, every home is a power station. You have to generate your own water, your own electricity too. The situation is so bad that the Federal Government has had to declare a national emergency on water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

AIG believes that the narrative can be changed and that new thinking can produce a new Nigeria. Aig-Imoukhuede is convinced that public sector reforms focused on human capacity development and institutional capacity building can change our circumstances. The truth is that there have been many public service reforms in Nigeria as has been convincingly argued and rigorously analysed by Tunji Olaopa, our former Perm. Sec at the State House who in a few days will be delivering an inaugural lecture as a Professor at the Lead City University in Ibadan. (see for example: Tunji Olaopa, Managing Complex Reforms, Ibadan: Bookcraft, 2011, 315 pp). Nonetheless, in spite of all of those reforms, Nigeria remains classified as a “hesitant reformer”. Countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, and Kenya are ahead of Nigeria. Nigeria remains resistant to new thinking. Aig-Imoukhuede through the AIG, wants to intervene from within, through private sector injection, into the policy making process. His entry route is education. He believes that if the private sector can invest over time, in human capital, create a pool of public policy experts who have been schooled in some of the best institutions in the world, when such individuals are injected into the system, they can make a difference. He even intends to set up a public policy university in Nigeria where such new thinkers can be produced.

I get the point about human capacity investment. Many countries in the developing world have learnt to recruit into their bureaucracy only the best and the brightest available. In India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, you must be really smart to be a civil servant. It is understood that what happens in terms of the management of the state determines everything else. In Nigeria, our civil service system has been overtaken by nepotism, lack of merit, incompetence and complete disregard for critical thinking. The same Nigerian civil service that once produced Super Permanent Secretaries (including Philip Asiodu, the late Allison Ayida and late Hayford Alile), now produces ethnic champions, looters, “area boys”, and closet politicians. Aig-Imoukhuede believes that a carefully groomed and intellectually exposed new elite can create a revolution. He has taken the strategic step of involving beneficiaries from Ghana and other African countries.

I assure Aig-Imokhuede that he may end up having more success stories from Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. But that does not mean he must give up on his own country. He made his money here and he has an obligation to contribute to the re-making of the country of his birth. The path he has chosen is much better than donating money to politicians who do not understand policy or the developmental process that will produce a better society. It is a much wiser way of spending his money than acquiring additional wives or side chicks, living large like an octopus, dressing like a coxcomb, or becoming an embarrassing face of capitalism.

My worry is this: when the new bureaucratic elite that he is helping to create through first world education return to Nigeria or Ghana, how do they fit in, into the rot in Nigeria especially? How do they fit into the prevalent culture of anti-intellectualism?

A Masters in Public Policy (MPP) from Oxford is great but is Nigeria’s civil service today, ready for Oxonian intellect and competence? What is the guarantee that some of AIG’s products will not end up elsewhere in other countries where they may be better valued? Aig-Imoukhuede wants to create 21st century technocrats for a 19thcentury system in Nigeria. Will elite public policy education also prepare his beneficiaries for the primordial constraints of the Nigerian public sector?

Let me simplify that. In Oxford, and I believe in the elite school that Aig-Imoukhuede wants to build, they will teach things like planning, processes, innovation, creativity, efficiency and outcomes as parts of the bureaucratic engine. How will the AIG agents when they return to Nigeria respond to their other colleagues who in the first place are holding strategic positions because of Federal Character and whose secondary school certificates cannot be traced and who have never been to anywhere close to Oxford?

How will they relate with the horde of civil servants who will leave the office before noon every Friday and will not return? How will they deal with a system where records are not kept and nobody wants to keep any record because of an established “Guardian syndrome” – the this-is-how-we-have-always-done-it mentality that has always made new thinking impossible in the Nigerian civil service? The plan is to train AIG Fellows to think modern, post-modern even, but what should they do with that other colleague who during the weekend had been shown wearing a masquerade attire and prancing about with a primitive sword in his hands, and paraded as the chieftain of a 9thcentury society?

I am not knocking AIG’s emphasis on human capacity development and institution building. I am trying to problematize what they propose by saying that there is a whole lot more beyond the development of a new skills-set, and a new generation of thinkers. Nigeria failed first at the level of values, culture and ideals before its public service followed suit and failed. The entire country itself needs to be re-built before the input of private institutions like AIG can be better felt. We need a different kind of leadership: a leadership that values ideas and the capacity of human beings to make a difference, and a governance system that is driven by ideas and a competitive spirit.

Nigeria cannot afford to continue drifting. It is the reason many of our capitalists are beginning to jump into the fray to see what they can do from the private sector-end to reduce the spread of institutionally generated madness. It is probably in their enlightened self-interest to be seen to be actively creating new currents within the country, and an enabling environment for capital to thrive, but we should hold Aig and others at the higher end of the spectrum: their love for country.

The founders of AIG and similar others have proven one point: that leadership is a collective responsibility and more so, between the public and private sectors. In doing so, they all hold up a candle to future generations and offer hope that some day, this country will reach the turning point of progress.  AIG doesn’t want Nigeria and the rest of Africa left on the tarmac. That’s fine.  Nigeria needs to board a flight to a higher destination…

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The “Oshiomhole Must Go” Coalition, By Reuben Abati

Chief John Odigie Oyegun, former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) must be having a good laugh wherever he is. If he is just finishing a meal, he can afford to pick his teeth and belch from the deepest part of his biological system, and even turn up his nose as he asks for a glass of water. He can also look around and thank Karma for being kind to him, as he gulps down the water and reflects on the circumstances of the APC since he was shunted aside and Adams Oshiomhole, former Governor of Edo State and former labour leader, supplanted him.

Oyegun’s waterloo was the election in Ondo state and the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu as Governor, and before then, his power-tussle with some key stakeholders in the South West wing of the ruling party. Oyegun was accused of being disdainful of reconciliation within the party, and not willing to work with some prominent stakeholders.  He was seen as an obstacle to party cohesion. He was sacrificed. His place was taken by Adams Oshiomhole.

Oyegun took his humiliation with absolute equanimity and has not since then uttered any fighting words nor has he openly worn his hurt on his sleeves. If he is aggrieved, it would be difficult to find enough evidence, in this season of extreme emotionalism, to prove that such is the case. But if he has been so studiously silent, why we do we think he should laugh and pick his teeth?

Our answer is as follows.  His successor, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, in less than one year of supplanting him has blown nearly all the bridges of goodwill and conspiracy that brought him to power as Chairman of the ruling party. In October 2017, 17 APC governors plotted to remove John Odigie-Oyegun as Chairman of the ruling APC. He was accused of being too close to only 7 out of the 24 APC governors in the country then and that he was using his position to the advantage of the purportedly famous 7.

These seven Governors were named as Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), and Samuel Ortom (Benue). They were called Oyegun’s “anointed Governors” with whom he was ruling the party. The loyalists of John Odigie-Oyegun at the time insisted that Adams Oshiomhole who had left the Governorship of Edo State and was looking for a job – so they alleged – was the man behind the anti-Oyegun plot. The detractors took their case to President Muhammadu Buhari. Oyegun soon lost his job. Oshiomhole replaced him.

But right now, in what looks like poetic justice, Oshiomhole is at the point where Oyegun was in 2017, and I dare say, he is in a worse position. We are told that 15 out of the 21 Governors of the APC, are now collecting signatures to force the National Executive Committee of the APC to unseat Adams Oshiomhole. In 2017, 17 APC Governors out of 24 wanted Oyegun out. Today, it is not just even 15 Governors that are against Adams Oshiomhole, there is a coalition of APC Presidential aspirants and you can add to that, other aspirants at every level in the recently concluded APC primaries, who are calling for Adams Oshiomhole’s head. They accuse him of extortion and fraud. They say he has become “a cancer to APC”.

Since his assumption of office, Adams Oshiomhole began to carry on like a “little Hitler”- that is what his own party members say behind him – and don’t ask anyone to come forward to say so publicly. Oshiomhole having won the crown of Chairmanship began to pound the floor like a conqueror. He issued threats to Ministers and threatened to sanction them if they did not listen to the party. He in fact began to sound as if he was President of the country. At more illumined moments, he even tried to do the job of the Minister of Information, party spokesperson and presidential spokespersons. He projected himself as a bundle of exaggerated enthusiasm and ambition.

The recent party primaries exposed the limits of Chairman Oshiomhole’s over-reaching politics.  The Governors that were against Oyegun were 17. The ones that were for him were 7 as reported. In less than  one year of taking over, Oshiomhole is far less popular. Under his watch, all the alleged pro-Oyegun Governors are biting their fingers.  They have been battered, crippled, harassed and humiliated. Nasir el-Rufai almost had a heart-ache trying to prove his relevance in Kaduna politics. The same with Rochas Okorocha of Imo.

In Plateau, Simon Lalong began to sound openly like a member of the opposition.  Samuel Ortom of Benue chose the option of defection back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yahaya Bello (Kogi) is neither here nor there. He follows wherever the Buhari tide flows. But the real issue is that even the Governors that used to be anti-Oyegun and pro-Oshiomhole have turned against Oshiomhole. They don’t want him anymore. In the same manner in which a majority rose against Oyegun in 2017, they have risen against him. This time, the problem is not coming from just Governors, but members of the National Assembly, and all the way down to the grassroots.

Evidentially, the APC, with Chairman Oshiomhole’s NWC in charge, conducted problematic primaries in states like Edo, Ogun, Delta, Rivers, Imo, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kano, Oyo… with negative results.  Oshiomhole deployed the powers of the National Working Committee and his influence as Chairman, but he alienated the party’s power base. For this reason, the state Governors and other critical stakeholders are up in arms. In Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun does not understand why some Godfathers in Lagos and Oyo state will be allowed to have their way and he would not be allowed to have a say in the choice of his own successor.

In Zamfara, the Governor even threatened to take the law into his hands if his importance was ignored. In Kaduna, Governor el-Rufai’s arch-rival, Senator Shehu Sani is on his way out of the APC, into another party, and that has split the party in Kaduna state.  In Lagos state, the party’s incumbent Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has been left in limbo, dangling between survival, a lost bid for a second term, and the threat of impeachment around his neck.

On October 21, Oshiomhole, through his aide, issued a statement saying that the reason there is a rebellion against him is because he has been a champion of party supremacy and internal democracy within the APC.  Nobody believes that wordy, rambling statement. What is clear is that the party primaries conducted by the APC under Oshiomhole’s watch have been far from transparent. They have been divisive and disruptive. The state of the APC right now, as I have argued elsewhere, is where the PDP was in 2015.

Too many APC aspirants feel that they have been marginalized and excluded because Oshiomhole working with other actors, has hijacked the party. His argument that he is being persecuted because he is insisting on party supremacy is unimpressive. The APC party primaries were riddled with double standards and a descent into fascism by a man once known as a comrade. Oshiomhole may have committed the error of too much identification with the master. He talks about party supremacy. Those who use that phrase should be diplomatically reminded to double-check the source and quality of their knowledge.

They like to quote the United Kingdom, but not even in the UK is the party absolutely supreme – people hold on to their right to differ and be independent.  Nobody votes in the House of Commons or the House of Lords like a robot. That is why Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t have the absolute support of  either her cabinet or the parliament on the question of Brexit. In the United Sates, the jurisdiction that we model our democracy after, nobody is a zombie under the banner of party supremacy. That explains the prolonged debate over the suitability of Brett Kavanaugh as a nominee for the US Supreme Court bench, despite the 51-49 majority in favour of Republicans.

In Nigeria, the party Chairman expects party members at all levels to be zombies who take directives from the party. Adams Oshiomhole has not been defending party supremacy. He has been defending the supremacy of Adams Oshiomhole, and that is why he may lose his position as Chairman of the party.

Two things: we must remind ourselves that Governors are very powerful members of either ruling or opposition parties in Nigeria. They control the grassroots for the party and when their party is in power, they wield even greater influence. In either the PDP or the ruling APC, they insist on the control of the party through indirect primaries. In the last APC party primaries, the National Working Committee of the APC marginalized the Governors by voting for direct primaries, despite an earlier agreement that some latitude will be allowed based on the peculiar circumstances in each state. In handling the petitions from the various states, Oshiomhole ignored what had been previously agreed. The tragedy for the APC is that President Buhari is reportedly on the side of the party and Adams Oshiomhole.

President Buhari may support Oshiomhole but can he afford to go into the 2019 elections with a broken, damaged party? I may have predicted the implosion of the APC somewhat too early, but it seems to me that with Oshiomhole now asking the “Red Cross” to save him from drowning, the ruling APC in Nigeria, may have finally arrived at the crossroads.  In 2015, the PDP talked about changing the game.

The APC said they were bringing change. Now, the pre-election circumstances of the ruling APC may well be the game changer for the 2019 Nigerian Presidential and general elections. My simple view is that while changing Oshiomhole on the eve of the game may be the inevitable outcome of his own self-inflicted nemesis, perhaps the APC needs to beware of the lessons of history. If he is removed, there will be no orchids for him. If he survives as Chairman, the APC will still pay a price. The APC faces a Hobson’s choice.

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“The Spirit Of Error” In Nigerian Politics, By Reuben Abati

About this period, four years ago to be precise I had gone to visit a notable politician and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Politics was very much in the air then as is the case now, and my host was neck-deep in it all. He was a major grassroots politician and a man of experience who brought into party politics so much enthusiasm and elan. I observed him at very close quarters and it was right to conclude that he was one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s unwavering supporters. Publicly, he gave the impression that he had held down his state, and even a substantial part of his region for both the party and the President.

He reportedly ran a strong grassroots political structure which included traditional rulers, students, market women, religious leaders and the ordinary people who on election day were expected to vote en masse for the ruling party and put the then emergent and assertive All Progressives Congress and its leaders to shame.

During election season, there are persons like that in every political party. They are the people on the field. They take reports to Abuja, give feedback to the party at the national level and shuttle between their states and Abuja.  They attend every major campaign. They say the right things. They pump up party leaders with adrenaline. When they do a calculation of the party’s chances and how happy the electorate are with the leadership, you would feel like celebrating even before the polls. The really talented ones among them are for the want of a better term, charmers or perhaps illusionists.  This particular politician, who shall remain nameless, is experienced and talented.

We got talking.  He asked me: “Reuben, what do you think of the PDP’s chances in the 2015 elections?” I told him everything looked good and that the Party will retain its majority status in power. I reeled off the achievements of the Jonathan administration. The APC Challenge? I dismissed the APC as a party of propagandists. “Those people? They will win in a few states, no doubt but they can’t take the Presidency…” When you are around politicians and you listen to them everyday, you are very likely to believe them and even begin to sound like them. Loyalty is also important, but this was not just about loyalty. I felt the President’s good performance deserved to be rewarded by the Nigerian people.

“I don’t see us winning”, my host responded. I was shocked. I almost fell off my seat. I wasn’t too sure that I heard him well. I asked what he meant by that. The party primaries had been concluded. Turn-out at campaigns was beginning to build up. The state Governors were all upbeat, or so it seemed. The traffic of politicians to-ing and fro-ing the Villa was so much there were hold-ups at the gate.

“We are going to lose”, my host repeated.

“How?”

“I will tell you”, he said.  “I have been in politics for years, and I have learnt to study the art very well. I can tell you that five months before any election, you can easily tell if your party is going to win or not. It is not even a matter of analysis. As a politician, you will know – from what the people say, from listening carefully to your followers, from watching the body language of the international community, and by just generally looking beyond the façade. I don’t see us winning.”

“But the ruling party looks good to me or am I missing something?”

“Yes, you are,” he affirmed.

He then proceeded to offer a state by state analysis of the party, painting a picture of grievances over party primaries, the imposition of candidates by the party’s National Working Committee, a growing pattern of deceit, the ethnic and religious division between the North and the South, and how the PDP had lost many of its faithful members. He went on:

“I don’t deceive myself. Many of those Governors you see who are promising heaven and earth, you will see that when the time comes, they will not deliver. There are many aggrieved persons staying back in the party who will not lift a finger to help the party. The people who have been badly treated during the primaries, and they have been ignored, nobody is listening to them, they will claim to be working for the party, they may even collect money but from what I see, it is only if a miracle happens.”

“This is serious”, I said. “But sir, why don’t you take this up at the highest levels, since you are convinced that the enemies are within”.

“I won’t call them enemies. I think it is something even more serious. When people join political parties in Nigeria, they expect to gain something in return. They want to be rewarded. They may follow a leader but you have to settle them.  I think the party and the government have been overtaken by the spirit of error.”

“Spirit of error?”

“Yes, spirit of error. I have been around long enough to know when a political party begins to fail and when it begins to lose the people, and even its own members. That is where we are, everybody is just making mistakes.”

A few weeks later, I saw the same man, back-slapping at party campaigns, hailing the President and other party leaders. I was confused. Obviously, I thought the spirit of error had disappeared and there was renewed hope for the party. I called the man aside out of curiousity: “Sir, what happened? Is there hope now?”

“I am a politician,” he said. “Every politician is an optimist. It is not over until it is over.” I didn’t get a chance to ask him again about the spirit of error.  But his prediction turned out to be prophetic.

I believe that history is about to repeat itself in Nigerian politics. The ruling party, the All Progressives Congress is exactly where the Peoples Democratic Party was in 2014/2015. APC leaders are making exactly the same mistakes. The PDP which appears to have learnt some lessons, is suddenly a re-energized party and with the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its standard bearer and Peter Obi as running mate, the same Nigerian people who thought the PDP was bad are now turning around to say the PDP should be forgiven.  All sleeping cells of the PDP across the country are suddenly awake. The umbrella is up again, the rope that tied the broom together is loosened.

The success of the PDP in the last few months does not necessarily owe itself to any ingenuous strategy on the part of the leaders of the party, however, but more to the many unforced errors, and own goals, by the ruling party and its government. The government at the centre has lost the plot. When these days, its foot-soldiers and spokespersons argue that members of the PDP are corrupt, the quick response by even the worst critics of the opposition party, PDP, is that they can’t see any difference between the APC and the PDP. Some even insist that the PDP is better. In three years, the APC has frittered away its goodwill. The same international agencies and platforms that used to promote the administration have turned their back on it.

Internally, the party has been overtaken by all kinds of little Hitlers who have no qualms imposing their will on others and trampling upon the letters of democracy.  This much was put on embarrassing display during the recent Gubernatorial elections in Osun, and the party’s primaries across the country, but notably in Lagos, Osun, Rivers, Delta, Imo, Zamfara, Ogun, Oyo and so on. In 2014, five Governors walked away from the PDP. In 2018, many leaders of the APC have also taken a walk. The PDP told its disaffected members – “good riddance.” The APC is also singing the same song in 2018.

In 2014/15, the APC’s selling point was President Muhammadu Buhari. He was promoted as a nationalist, man of integrity and a reformed democrat. He promised to fight corruption and the people hailed him. They were tired of the PDP. They wanted change. Many believed in him as the messiah who will turn Nigeria around. Close to four years later, President Buhari is now at that point where most Nigerian leaders find themselves, covered by that standard, unscientific excuse: “the good man who is surrounded by bad people, bad advisers and bad politicians.”

The economy under his watch is slow and unproductive. In three months the country’s debt profile has jumped from N22. 4 triilion to $73.21  billion and the country wants to borrow more. His administration usually blames the previous administration. Many Nigerians no longer consider that a good strategy. They are similarly skeptical about the war against corruption.

This last point is well illustrated by the recent announcement of a plan to effectuate Executive Order No 6, under which the government proposes to place a travel ban on some yet unnamed and undisclosed Nigerians. Under the Order, the government seeks to stop persons indicted for corruption from travelling abroad, and to attach their properties.

The argument by government spokespersons that they are relying on a judgement by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Federal High Court has been exposed for what it is: a lie, a ruse, an attempt to misinterpret the court, knowing that the judge is not likely to engage in a market-place explanation of its own ruling. That was the same thing they did at the 2018 NBA Conference, when they said the rule of law could be violated and that the Supreme Court had given them the right to do so in the Asari Dokubo case. This is not good for the state of our law.

The Court was clear: the Attorney General of the Federation can apply Executive Order No 6, only through the instrumentality of a Court Order. By by-passing the Court, the Executive arm seeks to be the judge, the jury and the executioner in its own case. It usurps the roles of the judiciary and the legislature, and serves notice of a return to dictatorship. The Order as proposed has been correctly described as a reincarnation of the notorious Decree 2 of 1984 and a violation of Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution.

the newspapers published a list of 50 names but the Executive has since announced that it has not published any list, but the people concerned know themselves. How? The combined effect of this opaqueness is that the government has imposed a regime of fear on the people. A secret watch list which can be applied at will is an act of intimidation against the Nigerian people. It is reckless and unwise, because political intimidation is the worst, most brazen form of rigging! In an election season, it is scary.

As a strategy, it makes no sense. At a time when the President and his party need the people’s votes, an open subversion of the rule of law is not a good method of votes solicitation. Whoever chose this time to take Nigeria back to 1984, has only strengthened the resolve of those who are already whispering that a second term for President Buhari would translate into misery for Nigerians. Executive Order No. 6, rather than further advance the anti-corruption war, has merely promoted fear and intimidation as instruments of governance. This is one more major error by the Buhari government.

I may see the need to visit that senior politician again to give me the benefit of what old men see sitting down, which younger men may not see even when they are standing.

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Nigeria’s Certificate Scandals, By Reuben Abati

The number of persons involved in certificate scandals under the Buhari administration may speak to something far deeper in our society, even beyond the administration, but it is to say the least, disgraceful and embarrassing. Ordinarily considered some of the best educated black persons in the world – one US report indicates that Nigerians are among the most educated immigrants in the United States, vertically and horizontally –  it is now shameful that Nigerians today are also ironically poster-characters for fake certificates, 419 qualifications, and dubious academic affiliations.

This whole saga started, this time, with the President himself whose school certificate qualification became an issue of much speculation and histrionics. The Constitution requires any office-seeker in Nigeria to have the minimum of a secondary education. You are required to go to school till about the age of 16: extremely small education in my reckoning but good enough to enable you read and write, and be able to sign documents.

The focus on this President’s educational qualification, and the opaqueness that grew around the matter ended up motivating nosey-parkers to begin to look for certificates in the corridors of power, including certificates of participation in the National Youth Service Corps. One of these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if investigators begin to turn their searchlights on birth certificates! In the past, we had the Chicago scandal, we also had the Toronto scandal, today we are a country of too many “Chicagos” and “Torontos.”

You will recall that Ms. Kemi Adeosun was accused of dodging the compulsory one-year national service for higher institution graduates. She was pushed to resign her exalted office as Minister of Finance, but her case served the country well in the long run: it brought up issues of citizenship and the value or non-value of the NYSC. Ms. Adeosun would probably be remembered more in Nigerian history for the manner in which her example generated a conversation around the rights and citizenship of Nigerians in diaspora, their relationship with their ancestral country, the character of supposedly “trusted associates”, and the long-term relevance of the National Service scheme in a country where there is very little service but a greater obsession with self, entitlement and gratification.

Ms. Adeosun has since moved on and Nigerians have left her alone. But there is still the unresolved matter of Okoi Obono-Obla, the President’s Special Adviser on Corruption.  He has been accused by a Committee of the House of Representatives of parading a doctored school certificate result. They argue that the School Certificate Result that he holds does not belong to him but to a dead cousin. And that he used that certificate to gain admission to the University of Jos where he studied law. The West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the examining authority that should know the truth has also allegedly said that there is something fishy about the certificate in question. In Okoi Obono-Obla’s case, I am a bit confused.

As Chairman, Editorial Board and Editorial Page Editor of The Guardian newspapers for more than 10 years, I published opinion pieces, letters to the editor and essays from a certain Okoi Obono-Obla which were always very well written, well-made pieces, and fit for publication. Not one piece from that Okoi Obono-Obla’s sounded like something written by a man who needed to dodge a WAEC examination. Obono-Obla’s response to the current allegations is that the matter is already in court and that this is a case of “corruption fighting back” but whatever the truth is, and it is the duty of the court to determine that, the Obono-Obla case makes the Buhari government look really bad. It reinforces a growing narrative that there are too many persons in high places who cannot defend what they claim they are, under a government that flies integrity as a proof of innocence and virginity.

And there is Adebayo Shittu, the voluble, bearded Minister of Communications – the guy didn’t participate in the National Youth Service Corps. Ms Adeosun’s defenders talked about citizenship and her betrayal by “trusted associates”. They put up a spirited defence for her.  In Adebayo Shittu’s case, the guy has the stupid effrontery to come forward to say that he did not enroll for the NYSC because he thought his membership of the Oyo State House of Assembly was the equivalent of a National service. I have heard a lot of stupid comments in my short life-time but this certainly must be the worst of them all.

To worsen matters further, Shittu is said to be a lawyer, duly called to the Nigerian Bar. And he talks like that? Too many of this type are all over the place defending illegalities, and yet they would be the first to tell you I am a Barrister even when every year at Call to Bar ceremonies, fresh wigs are advised not to go about threatening people with the redundant title of Barrister this and Barrister that. The APC has had cause to disqualify Adebayo Shittu from participating in the APC Governorship primaries in Oyo State. Good for him. He has also been quoted as saying he is now ready to enroll for the NYSC. As the Yoruba will say: “Igbayi laaro”.

In pidgin: “na now him just dey realize say NYSC important?” In street talk: “commot there, no dey talk nonsense”. The NYSC Act is very clear.  It needs no golden interpretation. Shittu has committed a felony. He has convicted himself with his own mouth. He has raised further questions about the administration’s commitment to the rule of law.

There is also the case of the Governor of Adamawa state, Jibrilla Bindow, who has been accused of forging his school certificate qualification. Bindow is seeking a second term as Governor of Adamawa state. His opponents, principally named Global Integrity and Crusade Network (GICN) have now chosen to tell us that the man did not even complete secondary school. They have given WAEC an ultimatum to tell Nigerians whether or not Bindow who had served previously as Senator of the Federal Republic, has a Secondary School Certificate in accordance with the laws of the land. They claim he has not been able to make any difference as Governor because he is a secondary school drop-out.

But surely, it is not only the ruling All Progressives Congress that has this problem. Senator Ademola  Adeleke, the Governor the people of Osun state wanted but the APC blocked, also obviously has issues with his academic qualifications. They say the man did not have a School Certificate. WAEC confirmed he had one. Then the Police accused him of having sat for the 2017 National Examination Council Examination (NECO) via a proxy. What we remember though is that he allegedly had an F9 in the School Certificate Examination. He didn’t deny that and yet he wanted to be Governor! Under President Buhari, Nigeria is at the level of F9 and fake certificates.

Let me nail this down. These stories, either from the APC or PDP or any other side do not help Nigeria’s image. I imagine that if any Nigerian were to go anywhere in the world today, and present the best, most impressive credentials, the relevant authorities would still go behind to double-check. Many of our students today who go abroad for additional educational opportunities are routinely asked to take extra tests that candidates from other countries are not required to take.

When the rest of the world hears that Nigerian political leaders, the same persons who are supposed to take serious decisions about national, bilateral and multilateral relations are a bunch of semi-illiterates, draft dodgers, and uneducated semi-illiterates, they are bound to look at the rest of us as imbeciles. Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and the United States have some of the best educated persons in the world. Every serious country promotes its best people. In Nigeria we promote the worst of the pack in a country where there are more than enough people with credible qualifications. We don’t’ recognize such people. Instead we send to the international community, people who could not pass School certificate, the equivalent of the IGSCE in the United Kingdom, school drop-outs who have no clue about important governance issues – these are the ones we send out to go engage better educated and more enlightened persons.

In the end, the Buhari government prefers to take its time to respond to this issue that has become a major issue of his time as President.  It may be said that President Buhari is a bad judge of character – he should  never have associated with or recruited all these characters giving him problems in the first place,  but how about the institutions whose job it is to screen political appointees and every other person in the public sphere?

Senator Abiola Ajimobi has been Governor of Oyo State for two terms but I understand someone is also saying he too, does not have an NYSC certificate. If he has an NYSC certificate, he should display it right-away and put his accusers to shame. I really don’t understand what is going on. What is the meaning of this certificate problem in a country where there are people who can put every needed certificate on the table and yet they are the ones who are unemployed and the one who have issues are the ones running government?

The relevant security agencies continue to disappoint the country and a lot of political crises are generated in part because the security agencies are politically compromised. Nobody can aspire to public office in Nigeria except they have been screened by the security agencies. What happened to that process under President Buhari’s watch?

For, the forgery of school certificates is a form of corruption. I am saying that certificate scandal is the worst form of corruption. Right now, our political representatives are no longer respected abroad   Who wants to talk to a diplomat whose basic education is uncertain? Who wants to take a country seriously where a state Governor says “We works” instead of “We worked”.  And you have a President who is very comfortable with all of these?

President Buhari needs to clean up his cabinet, do a complete audit.  He should appeal to all the men who have certificate problems in his cabinet to do him a favour and ship out voluntarily. I won’t be surprised if the same investigative journalists who ousted the cases mentioned have even more scandalous examples in their file and may release bigger blows in the day ahead. Who are these people? Common certificate they don’t even have and they want to rule Nigeria!  The diplomats serving in Nigeria must be laughing at us in the dispatches they send home.

The President has a responsibility to act on all of these cases, to determine the credibility of these allegations and to prove that his government is sincere about the anti-corruption campaign across all genres.

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Understanding APC And The Crisis Of Defections, By Reuben Abati

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the “factional” leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has reportedly asked Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki to resign his position as Senate President.  What exactly does the Comrade want Saraki to resign from- the Senate Presidency or even his membership of the Senate having won election into the Assembly in the first place on the platform of the APC? Oshiomhole also probably expects that other members of the APC who are occupying elective and appointive positions will also tender letters of resignation, having defected from the ruling APC.

It is either the embattled party Chairman has not adverted his mind to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on party matters or the party’s legal adviser is not doing his job.  The gale of defections from the ruling APC  – 16 Senators, including the Senate President, three Governors, 37 members of the House of Representatives, the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, and looks like more to come in the days ahead, including Ministers who may be preparing their letters of resignation, their political principals having deserted the party – raises a number of questions, political, moral and legal.  I intend to address some of these in order to assist the leaders of the APC to stop acting as cry-babies and to attempt a clarification of the nature and character of the tsunami that seems now certain, if unchecked, to sweep the APC out of power.

With regard to the Saraki defection, the language of the Constitution is very clear and specific in Section 50(1) (a) wherein it is stated that there shall be “a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of the House from among themselves”. The same expression is retained in Section 50 (1)(b) as applicable to the House of Representatives, and the emphasis is on the phrase – “from among themselves.” The Constitution thus does not say that the Senate President or the Speaker and their Deputies must come from the ruling or majority party; indeed any of the members of the Assembly can occupy the mentioned positions once their colleagues choose them “from among themselves.”

Saraki does not therefore have to resign his Senate Presidency because he has left the APC, that party also cannot order him to resign.  The only way he or the Speaker of the House of Representatives can be removed is stated in Section 50 of the Constitution and in the present circumstance Section 50(2)(c) is of particular interest – it prescribes removal only “by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House”.

Can the APC at the moment muster up to “two-thirds majority” in either the Red or the Green Chamber to remove the Senate President or the Speaker and their Deputies? I don’t think so. There are probably more persons in both Houses who have also resolved to defect from the APC but who are still physically identifying with the party in order to stay behind as fifth columnists, or simply because of a lingering lack of clarity about their fortunes in their local political environments should they defect at a wrong time.

I think Comrade Oshiomhole also needs to be reminded that Nigeria is not running a parliamentary system; the agenda of party supremacy that he has been pushing, and which probably makes him sound like a cane-welding party chairman – dishing out Stalin-like instructions to other party members, is only bound to alienate others, and effectively turn him into an undertaker. A Constitutional democracy such as we run requires greater inclusion, horse-trading and statesmanship rather than the dominant rhetoric of arrogance.

Those who have defected from the APC also need not lose any sleep, particularly members of the legislative houses. Specifically, Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution outlines the circumstances under which a member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall vacate his seat; the most relevant to this commentary being Section 68 (1) (g) which permits defections from one political party to the other in the event of a division in the political party of which a person is a member, or the merger of two or more political parties or factions. Those APC members who are protesting the defection of the Senate President and others cannot deny that there is a division within the APC or that the party is now divided into factions – the Oshiomhole-led faction, the Engr. Buba Galadima-led faction better known as the Reformed APC and the Saraki faction, which has now returned to the PDP.

However, whereas Section 68(1) (g) offers such protection to defecting members of the National Assembly, the Nigerian Constitution is silent on the matter of Governors who come to power and office on the platform of one political party and who while still in office choose to cross to another political party.  This is the dilemma that is thrown up by the phrasing of Section 221, and perhaps the basis for Oshimohole’s request for Saraki’s resignation, even if the provision does not apply to him in the light of a reading of other sections. Section 221 states that:  “No association, other than a political party shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”

In other words, for the purposes of elections, the Constitution recognizes only political parties as the vehicle through which any candidate may seek elective office.  In the absence of any provision for independent candidacy, nobody can seek office except through a political party, and hence the votes belong to the party and not the individual. It is political parties that canvass for votes. The Governor or rather the candidate is therefore a trustee of the party. The question then is: can a trustee run away with the fundamental object of the trust, namely the position that he occupies? If and when he does so, it will appear that he has shortchanged his political party and the electorate.

The only way to determine this, however, is through the court of law, and not the kind of self-help tactics that the APC seems to prefer. There have been reports that some members of the Senate are plotting to take over the National Assembly and Nicodemously impeach Senator Bukola Saraki. The leadership of the APC is advised to commit to due process, and not to encourage any illegal conduct. In Benue state, the Governor, Samuel Ortom has also complained that he is being harassed, and there has been an attempt by eight out of the 30 members of the State House of Assembly to impeach the Governor. The matter is now before the court.

The level of persecution, harassment and injury to character over the matter of defections from the APC is most strange. After all, the APC itself was a beneficiary of a similar development in 2013-2014, when members of the new PDP and APGA defected from their parties to join the APC coalition. Aminu Tambuwal, then Speaker of the House of Representatives received fulsome praise from then Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari for leading many PDP lawmakers to join the APC.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also deployed his “eloquence” to encourage members of the PDP to join the APC. Since the APC got to power in 2015, many more members of the PDP have defected to the ruling party. APC leaders did not see anything wrong in this; they did not accuse the defecting PDP members of anti-party activities, so why should they complain now that they are being served a dose of their own medicine? Or are there other issues, within the ruling party, such as post-2015 financial reconciliation or the sharing of spoils, that the public needs to know so that we can be better informed?

I say this because when you read the statements that have been made by those who have just defected from the party, you can only but be shocked. Engr. Galadima who was a major engineer of the 2015 APC victory is now engineering contempt and odium against the party. Governor Ortom has pointed to a failure of leadership within the party. Governor Tambuwal sounded very harsh as he talked about corruption, mismanagement of the economy, the spread of national insecurity and what he calls “prison-yard democracy.”

The former APC National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi also issued a statement dripping with venom and contempt for a political party, which he had defended only a week earlier.  Saraki’s anger is perhaps on the face of it, understandable – here was a man who from day one was not given any respite by the Buhari Presidency, here was a man who was criminalised by the same party he helped to build; he had to be saved by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, only to be labeled “an armed robber” subsequently.  Like Saul on the way to Damascus, Saraki and others have now seen the light; like the Biblical prodigal son, they are all returning to the PDP, which Dino Melaye calls their “home”. It took the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) 16 years to implode; it has taken the APC less than four years to reach the same point.

In 2014, the PDP was divided, and confused as to how to handle the same situation such as this that has now arisen with the APC. There were members of the party who advised that the then Attorney General of the Federation should be asked to take the defecting five Governors of the time to court, and if that would be a long process, the President should declare a state of emergency in the affected states and have the Governors removed or impeached and sole administrators appointed in their place. Mohammed Bello Adoke, AGF and Minister of Justice, as he then was, insisted that it was not the duty of his office to dabble into partisan politics and that if anybody should go to court, it should be the political party, the owner of the trust in contention and not the Federal Government of Nigeria. The party didn’t want to go to court. It wanted the five Governors punished.  The President didn’t buy into their idea.

Those whose views prevailed eventually were those who argued that the five Governors could go if they wanted. They said it was God himself cleansing the party by removing the bad eggs within. They were sure that the defection of the Governors and some members of the National Assembly would not affect the party in any way in the 2015 general elections.  As we all know, the PDP paid dearly for this. The APC is about to suffer the same fate.  Oshiomhole Is not helping matters with his rhetoric. The President is also aloof. He went to inspect the campaign headquarters for his re-election bid and then jetted off to London for a 10-day vacation. If I were in President Buhari’s shoes, I would not consider this a right time to go on vacation.  He would have nobody to blame if by the time he returns, there have been more defections from his party and government.

The situation is more worrisome moreso as the President, realizing the brewing crisis within the party, a few months ago, set up a Reconciliation Committee led by the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. What happened to that Reconciliation Committee?  Did it ever submit any report? And if it did, who and who did it reconcile?  It is quite curious that in the face of the on-going crisis within the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Chairman of the Presidential Reconciliation Committee has been silent. His silence is too pregnant with meaning. Is it a cautious admission of the failure of the Committee he led, or an admission that the crisis is not resolvable?

In all of this, we are left with two things. The first is that our politicians are not principled at all. They can belong to the PDP in the morning, the APC by noon and within 24 hours, they could join a completely new party and advance strong arguments to justify their nomadism. The political parties are not built on any concrete principles or ideology either; they are vehicles for political survival and access to power by ambitious politicians. The second thing is that we, the people, are the ones who are short-changed. By now, governance has more or less stopped within Nigeria’s ruling party; the politics of 2019 has taken over.

Bad politics results in bad economics and the crisis of growth and progress. With a National Assembly that has suspended key legislative work, and an Executive that is seeking a second term in office, and whose President is on holiday, while the party is on fire, international investors have also put Final Investment Decisions on hold, the market is in the grips of uncertainty, GDP ratings are stagnant, creeping stasis is imminent, and all of that, until Nigeria’s political drama is resolved. The only thing that is not on hold is the people’s frustration and the rising cost of being Nigerian.

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Ekiti Election: A Few Words, By Reuben Abati

I have up until this moment resisted the temptation to comment on the just concluded gubernatorial elections in Ekiti state for the simple reason that the more the facts of the process emerged, the more confusing they seemed. About a week later, certain things have however become clear which deserve our attention.

One, the Ekiti gubernatorial election is a classic Nigerian type of election. It was certainly a do-or-die election, in which the two main parties involved were determined to win by all costs and by any means possible. Nigerian politicians believe that whoever wins and gets declared has the upper hand. Win first and if the other party likes, he can go to the tribunal or the appellate courts. But just don’t lose at the first instance. Whatever happens thereafter is a matter of chance and technicality. In this regard, the APC smartly outwitted the PDP, and the victory seems sweet.

However, the reduction of the Nigerian electoral process to such tragic melodrama certainly does not serve our democracy well. There were no heroes in the Ekiti election, only villains.

Two, there is no evidence here or elsewhere that the Nigerian electorate has learnt any lessons from past experiences. They openly collected money, from all possible sides in the conflict. Vote buying sets us back by a long stretch. Tethered as it is to a transactional root, Nigerian democracy is physically challenged. This is sad, and it is important that reports of vote-buying by both local and international observers should be investigated. A cash and carry voting process is a violation of free choice.

Three, the Ekiti election presents us with perhaps the most brazen case of godfatherism that we have yet seen. There were two major candidates, Olusola Eleka of the PDP and Kayode Fayemi of the APC. But the whole thing soon became a contest between Fayemi and the out-going Governor, Ayo Fayose. You would think Fayose was the one on the ballot. He danced more than the bride and cried more than the bereaved. Why do outgoing Governors insist on anointing their own successors and dictating to the electorate? They abridge the people’s choice by seeking to impose their own will. They are driven not by public good but their own insecurity.

By rejecting Fayose’s candidate, it can be said that the people rejected his presumptuousness. And by the way, what manner of man is Olusola Eleka?  He accepted and projected himself as a puppet throughout the entire process. Many Nigerians do not even know him as a candidate. He was absent, voiceless and timid. If he had won, he probably would have ceded authority to his Godfather and allowed him to do a third term by default.  He did not deserve to win. If I had a stake in the matter, I certainly would not have voted for him.

His spinelessness is disgusting. But Fayemi should also not be over-triumphant. He may end up with a hostile and aggressive PDP-dominated House of Assembly. The war with Fayose may also only just have begun. It will be naïve to under-estimate Fayose.

Four, the electoral commission, INEC, still has to clean up its act ahead of the 2019 general elections. Its performance in Ekiti is far from satisfactory. What we have seen is that the professional political elite is prepared to do battle in 2019, and that promises to be a really fierce battle. Voter education will be most critical; the people’s readiness to sell their votes speaks to the level of poverty and depravity in the country.  Nigeria itself needs to be saved.

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Dasuki’s Bail And The Attorney General, By Reuben Abati

It is more than two weeks now since His Lordship Justice Ijeoma L. Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, gave clear, positive and unambiguous orders in the matter between Col Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd) as applicant and three persons – the Director General, State Security Services, the State Security Services and the Attorney General of the Federation as respondents. His Lordship affirmed that the continued detention of the respondent by the operatives of the second respondent, under the instruction of the first respondent since 29thDecember 2015, without granting him administrative bail, “is a violation of his fundamental right to liberty under Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999”.

The Court grants Dasuki bail, with clear conditions that must be fulfilled, and even goes further to add that “where there is any interview with the Applicant by the Respondents in respect of those allegations, the Applicant shall not be detained and such interview shall be conducted on working days only between 9.00 hours to 18.000 hours.”

This would be about the fifth time that a court of competent jurisdiction, including the Federal High Court, the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the ECOWAS Court will grant Col. Dasuki bail, and the Federal Government will refuse to obey the orders of the court.

Commitment to the rule of law is by far, the strongest demonstration of the democratic credentials of a government. Failure to respect the rule of law translates into the rule of men and blatant dictatorship, if not fascism. It is scandalous that a government whose leader is the only President to have been invited to address the International Criminal Court on issues of justice and the rule of law, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, and who gave a commitment before that Court that his government is indeed committed to the rule of law and fundamental human freedoms, is to be seen to be abusing the courts of the land and violating the judicial process. This hypocrisy is condemnable. The disobedience of the courts in the Dasuki case is not the only one of its type; it is a pattern that we have seen since 2015.

What is worse is that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been in the forefront of this entrenchment of a culture of impunity and official lawlessness. When the ECOWAS Court in October 2016 ruled that Colonel Sambo Dasuki’s continued detention was a violation of his fundamental rights, an aide of the AGF reportedly said the Ministry of Justice was studying the judgement.

Close to two years later, they are still studying the judgement! In some other instances, they don’t even bother to study anything before telling the courts to shut up.  But it is perhaps in reacting to the latest ruling by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu that the Attorney General fully revealed the mind of the government.  He has been quoted as saying, and he has not denied saying so, that the Federal Government will not release Dasuki from detention because according to him, Col. Sambo Dasuki is responsible for the killing of more than 100, 000 Nigerians, and so, he is being kept by the state in the interest of the “larger pubic good”, because  “government is about the people and not only for an individual.”

I respect Abubakar Malami. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and as desperate as things may be in this country, we have not yet reached a level where the SAN certificate can be procured at the famous Oluwole market. It is earned. Senior Advocates are therefore respected because they are at the peak of their chosen profession as distinguished persons. Malami, SAN, certainly knows the law but with due respect, what he has said about the Dasuki case is sheer, reckless twaddle. Every lawyer, even while serving clients, is expected to be an officer in the temple of justice.

The Attorney General of the Federation is the chief law officer of the country, and the chief legal adviser to government. In Sections 150 and 174, the Nigerian Constitution places enormous responsibilities and burdens on his shoulders. Nowhere in that Constitution is he required to engage in beer-parlour talk; serve partisan interests or function as anybody’s sycophant. AGF Malami should know that he cannot by administrative fiat disobey a court of law, to do so would amount to a clear abuse of court, and an act of contempt. If there are any compelling arguments to warrant the continued detention of Dasuki, the best place to canvass those arguments would be in the court of law, and through an appeal process.

Knowing this, the AGF indeed made some reference to the possibility of an appeal, but what he seems to have done is to convict Dasuki. The former National Security Adviser was arraigned on charges of illegal possession of fire-arms, breach of public trust and illegal diversion of $2.1 billion. Malami amends the charge list, ex facie curiae, when he says the accused was responsible for more than 100, 000 deaths. This is most strange, for, the Attorney-General, no matter how heavy the pressure of his work may be, must be seen to be the chief protector of due process, standards and best practice. He cannot be seen to be acting as the accuser, the jury and the judge in either the Sambo Dasuki case or any other matter. This will amount to a violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers. The Attorney General’s personal opinion cannot override the duty of the court to grant every accused person the right to fair hearing.

Section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution provides for a presumption of innocence. In the absence of conviction, it is unfair to lock Dasuki up and throw away the key, and to at the same time, take away his dignity and liberty, and prosecute him in the court of public opinion. The sacred duty of the Attorney General of the Federation is to ensure that the letters of the Constitution take precedence. The liberty of any Nigerian should not be deprived except through due process. The spectacle of an Attorney General advising the Federal Government to disobey the courts must also be shocking to all lawyers and every party involved in the administration of justice. Except there is a supernatural reason for such a development, which is unknown to us, it makes no sense within the province of the law to so act, because the Attorney-General, in the contemplation of the Constitution, is an officer of the law and not a marabout.

This is the more reason why we should re-open the debate about the possibility of separating the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The National Assembly is accordingly enjoined to take a second look at Section 150 of the Constitution and amend it in order to resolve an inherent conflict which places the protection of the rule of law at the mercy of the strength of character of the occupier of that office as currently defined. Section 150 states that: “There shall be an Attorney-General of the Federation who shall be the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and a Minister of the Government of the Federation.”  Let me try and define the conflict.

The Attorney General of the Federation as “Chief Law Officer” of the Federation is necessarily performing a professional function, part of which is further explained in Section 174. He is expected to know the law, enforce due process and advance the cause of justice. He is a technocrat, and that is why he must be a lawyer of not less than 10 years experience. A Minister of the Government of the Federation is basically a political appointee, exercising delegated authority as determined by his appointor – the President of the Federal Republic. While the Attorney General’s commitment should be strictly to the rule of law, the Minister is judged and retained by his boss, and party members on the basis of his or her loyalty, the quality or non-quality of it. Not too many men can walk this tightrope successfully, balancing these two functions and the conflicting expectations, and this has been the major challenge with the idea of combining in one person the functions of an Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

To be fair, even in the United States where there is only an Attorney General, who functions independently of the Presidency, there is always conflict. This is the main story, for example, of James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty (2018). Comey insists that loyalty to the country and the rule of law is more important than loyalty to Mr. President. I am paraphrasing him of course, but it is a book that Abubakar Malami should read. An amendment of Section 150 of our Constitution should create a separate office of the Attorney General of the Federation, which will be completely independent, and whose occupier will have a security of tenure, and no party or political affiliation. There can then be a Minister of Justice, who if he wishes can attend party functions and go to the Villa every day to shoot the breeze. As long as he is not in any position to do any damage to persons and institutions, he can be as political as he wants.

What we cannot afford is an Attorney General who would behave in such manner, mixing the law with politics, cherry-picking in the temple of justice, and politicizing the management of cases.  We have enough anarchy in the country already; we do not need to extend the frontiers of anarchy by allowing government to break the law. The men of today should guard against setting dangerous precedents that could consume them and the country tomorrow.

The rate at which institutions have been bastardized to pave way for recriminations and vengefulness is bound to bounce back negatively and our democracy will be worse for it. Abubakar Malami is the 23rd Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Nigerian Federation. He should be more keenly aware of the twin-burdens of law and history that rest on his shoulders  – by doing what is right in all matters and to all men.

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Minister Adeosun’s NYSC Certificate, By Reuben Abati

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun has been in the eye of the storm, and that is putting it mildly. While I believe that she may be the target of a conspiracy against her by persons on whose toes she may have stepped, (otherwise, who is still worrying these days about NYSC certificate?), it seems she herself has not helped matters by refusing to say a word to explain her dilemma.  If she thinks the matter will blow away, the fact that the Federal Government has now intervened with the unconvincing claim that a probe is underway is a sure recipe for mischief.

There are three weighty issues involved, in fact four: (1) she has been called a dodger. The NYSC Act does not permit anyone below the age of 30 to dodge a mandatory call to national service, except under circumstances that do not apply to her. At the time of her graduation from university, the Minister was 22 years old; (2) she is also being accused of forgery, or being an accessory to the act of forgery.

The NYSC has not been helpful by suggesting that although she applied for a certificate of exemption, after dodging the NYSC for eight years, the exemption certificate with her is unknown to them;  (3) she is also being accused of having made false representation of herself on the basis of which she has taken very high jobs in Nigeria – first as a Commissioner and now as a Minister.  (4) some persons have labeled this an act of corruption, obviously in order to score a point against the government she is serving. It is a tough moment for her.

Still, Mrs. Adeosun should be given the benefit of the doubt, which she is entitled to, but her silence is not golden at all: we need to hear her own side of the story, within a reasonable period of time. The burden of proof having shifted to her, her refusal to talk is a clear evidence of withholding which could destroy any presumption of innocence in her favour. It is also wrong for anyone to say on her behalf that at the time of her graduation, she was not a Nigerian citizen because she was born in England. Section 25(1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution states clearly that Nigerian citizenship includes “every person born outside Nigeria either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria”.

So at what point did she renounce her Nigerian citizenship? And does she have a work permit to enable her work in Nigeria if indeed she is a foreigner? There are many lessons here for all young persons who were “born abroad” or who may not be excited about the NYSC.

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Hadi Sirika And The Return Of Nigeria Airways, By Reuben Abati

One of the usual features on Nigerian social media is the nostalgic passion with which Nigerians often distribute pictures of the old Nigeria Airways and how that company once considered one of the best in Africa was mismanaged and made to fail. Established in 1958, it was liquidated in 2003. I have seen pictures of old tickets, images of Nigeria Airways pilots and crew, and for anyone who travelled with Nigeria Airways, you cannot but be moved to pity.

Pity yes, because while Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa can no longer manage an airline of its own, the African skies are dominated by such airlines as Ethiopian airlines, Air Maroc, Kenya Airways, and South African airlines. Rwanda has a functional airline too. There is also Air Namibia.

The assets of the Nigeria Airways of old have not only been liquidated; most of its former staffs are wasting away. In the aviation sector, Nigeria has the biggest market in Africa, and has signed Bilateral Air Service Agreements with over 70 countries, but it lacks the capacity to compete. Even the few private airlines operating within the country are barely struggling to survive. The agony of the Nigerian air traveller is not something to be imagined: we all face a daily grind of disappointment from airlines that cancel flights at will and offer no explanation. When you complain, the airlines simply tell you that things are very hard.

So, if things are hard, are they supposed to be so shabby? The other month, the door of an aircraft on the domestic route flew off as the plane landed. That has not stopped Nigerians from patronizing that same airline. Most of the country’s airports are also poorly equipped and poorly maintained. The air-conditioning rarely works; the toilets are a nightmare. Aviation is big business but more than that, it is a major catalyst for economic growth and development. If there is any sector that is in urgent need of rescue, the Nigerian aviation sector is that sector.

It is therefore a thing of interest that the Federal Government says it is now determined to revitalize the aviation sector and bring back Nigeria Airways or Air Nigeria as it has been referred to. This much was disclosed when the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika received a certificate of no objection, an Outline Business Case certificate of compliance it is called, from the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).  Tomorrow July 18, in London, Minister Sirika is launching a Road Show to attract investors, and formally unveil the name, the logo, the colour scheme and the structure of the national carrier.

It all sounds so exciting and I am sure many Nigerians who agonise daily over how other African countries seem to succeed where we keep failing would like to see Nigeria run its own national airline and create opportunities for the business sector. The only problem that I see is that there is so much that is opaque in the proposals that have been put forward so far by Mr. Sirika. Being a former pilot, the Minister is definitely not a tyro in the business, but as he engages both the local and international audience, there are many questions that must be addressed. I intend to raise a few of these in this preliminary comment.

The Ministry of Transportation and ICRC, the regulatory body, do not seem to be on the same page. The ICRC and similar institutions involved may face challenges with their own reputation. The Outline Business Case Certificate by the ICRC seems to agree only in principle that a national carrier can be established. It goes further to give specific conditions under which this may be done, and the Minister himself has quoted some of these conditions which the Ministry under his watch seems to be breaching already. Having noted that the business case and market study submitted to it are “in substantial compliance with the ICRC Act, 2005 and the National Policy on Public Private Partnership”, the ICRC avers: “This certificate is granted on the condition that the Federal Government demonstrates her commitment to leverage private sector capital and expertise towards the establishment of the National Carrier through the provision of an upfront grant/Viability Gap Funding (VGF) to fund aircraft acquisition/start-up capital. The FGN also agrees to zero contribution to airline management decisions and zero management control by the government. Any attempt to impose government control over the management of the Airline invalidates this certificate and the entire process”.

It goes further: “In view of the fact that the mitigating conditions for the project may change over time, this Certificate is valid for 12 months from the date indicated below. This certificate is therefore issued to enable the Ministry commence an international open competitive bidding process to procure a world-class strategic investor to manage, operate, maintain, and invest in the National Carrier.”  The ICRC provides further information on its website with regard to other aviation sector projects including the development of an aerotropolis, the establishment of a maintenance, repair and overhaul centre (MRO) and the development of cargo/agro-allied airport terminals.

Except the role of the infrastructure concession regulatory body is a mere formality, I do not see any evidence that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Transportation (Aviation) is keen about compliance with the strict provisions outlined in the Certificate of No Objection.  The Road Show scheduled for Farnborough, London, tomorrow, does not sound like “an open competitive bidding”; it is a launch. Do you do a roadshow for a transaction that does not yet exist, or for a company that is not yet in existence? Minister Sirika and whoever his transaction advisers may be have already determined that the proposed airline would cost the Nigeria government $8.8 million.  How was that arrived at? He has also talked about a take-off grant of $300 million to purchase 5 aircraft to be delivered by December 19?

There certainly must be some known best practices in the setting up of a national carrier. Whatever business model, that we are following does not look like the very best. Who starts an airline by first buying aircraft at full cost? Hadi Sirika reportedly met with officials of Boeing, the aircraft maker in May. Would it not be better to lease the proposed five aircraft from Boeing and enter into a partnership agreement with them, with a private investor in charge of the new airline?

The ICRC says the Federal Government must not operate or control the proposed airline.  This is precisely what Hadi Sirika and his team are already doing.  And if they say no, and insist that the private sector is already involved in the project, perhaps Mr. Sirika will disclose this tomorrow in London! But let him also disclose basic information about when the tender was placed for an “open competitive bidding.”

And if there was no tender, who is that person who may have appropriated the power to determine the private sector partners for the national carrier? And when Mr. Sirika talks about a N300 million for the purchase of five aircraft to be delivered by December 2018, he should be asked where that money is coming from? Is it provided for in the 2018 budget?  And if so, under what line entry, or will the money come through virement? The National Assembly should raise these questions. Nobody should use taxpayer’s funds to buy some end-of-life aircraft and claim that they are setting up an airline for Nigerians.

I also find it curious that all the relevant persons and agencies that should be involved in the planning of something as important as a national airline have been quiet. Did the National Economic Council headed by the Vice-President discuss the matter for example? Is the Ministry of National Planning aware of it? Is the proposed airline part of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), and what is the framework in place to ensure fairness and transparency? Is the substantive Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi even involved in this at all; his studied silence is odd.  Or abi the thing no concern am?

If Nigeria must have a national airline again, then we must get it right. This is my point. The ICRC is obviously insisting on private sector control and management, because it was government inefficiency that killed off the old Nigeria Airways. The airline became a gravy train for the big men in high places. They used the planes for their private purposes, including going for weekend parties in London at government expense. Directors of government agencies and departments travelled with the airline on free tickets.

Nigeria Airways was supposed to provide a hub for the aviation sector in Africa, its eventual mismanagement made that impossible. We must learn from history in order not to repeat it. Sirika says the proposed airline will take advantage of the African Single Air Transport Market. The Open Skies Agreement is part of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement – 44 countries signed up to it in Kigali in March. Nigeria wants to benefit from this agreement, but it is yet to make up its mind about the value of African integration and free trade. You see our people?  “We want to buy aircraft, we want to buy aircraft…” That’s all I hear them saying as if an aircraft is a toddler’s toy.

I raise another poser: why do we even have to create a brand new national airline from the scratch. The Federal Government, through the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) is already in possession of three airlines that are indebted to AMCON: Arik Air, Aero and whatever is left of Virgin Nigeria or Air Nigeria.  AMCON’s mandate is to rescue these airlines and put them back on their feet. Can they not form the nucleus of the proposed national carrier;  and turned, surviving assets and all, into one airline that Nigeria can brand for national purpose under the management of competent investors, and with government providing the needed oxygen?  Would this not be more advisable than embarking on a new set of opaque transactions?

Government can rescue moribund airlines such as the ones I have mentioned, encourage quality private sector participation, and just ensure a level playing field. A national airline that will be under the control of the Minister of Transportation in charge of Aviation, will sooner than later constitute itself into a threat to industry competitiveness.

What remains is a moral question. Whatever the Federal Government decides to do eventually, it would be most unfair to set up a new national carrier without resolving the lingering matter of the unpaid entitlements and benefits of the old Nigeria Airways staff. When that company crashed, many lives were destroyed. Some of the pilots ended up as taxi drivers; many of the crew had to go and learn new trade, a few got jobs with the new commercial airlines.

There was a time former Nigeria Airways staff formed a union and they used to carry placards to lament their fate and the injustice that they suffered. I don’t see those placards anymore; they have probably given up hope, and some of them may have died. Not to pay their entitlements – calculated at a total of N45 billion, and already approved for payment by the Federal Executive Council more than a year ago, would be an assault on their memory and an act of cruelty.

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Ten Years After Lamidi Adedibu, By Reuben Abati

It has been ten years since the self-styled “strong man of Ibadan politics”, Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu, died. He died on June 11, 2008. I do not recall seeing many tributes or advertisements in the newspapers or other media commemorating his life and legacy. There was no public lecture or any important statements from those who were his protégés. That this is so is a useful lesson to today’s political Godfathers and henchmen in Nigerian politics who behave as if history has already assigned to them an immortal space on its pages.

Lamidi Adedibu was a colossal presence in the politics of Ibadan, and Oyo state for more than 50 years. Ibadan has a tradition of colourful politicians who wielded enormous influence: Adegoke Adelabu, the brilliant orator and intellectually gifted personality who authored “Africa in Ebullition”, and whose use of the phrase “peculiar mess” got transliterated by his illiterate audience as “penkelemesi”; Chief Mojeed Mobolanle Agbaje, the first Ibadan man to become a lawyer, and son of Alhaji Salami Agbaje of Ayeye, Ibadan who was the richest man in Ibadan in his time and the first to ride a car (1915) and build a house with cement; Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, an alumnus of the London School of Economics (LSE), founder of the Ibadan People’s Party (IPP), Chairman of Ibadan City Council and in the Second Republic, Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN); and Alhaji Busari Adelakun, the “Eruobodo” (“the river fears no one”) of  Ibadan politics.  There is hardly any other Ibadan indigene apart from these gentlemen who has been more influential in shaping the tone and shape of Ibadan politics and by extension, the politics of Oyo state. Local Ibadan politics is a combination of thuggery, populism, inconsistency, clientelism and intellectual opportunism, with service to the people thrown in as a lower measure.

Lamidi Adedibu lacked the intellectual gifts of Adelabu, Agbaje, and Akinloye, or the oratory of  Adelabu – he was much closer to Busari Adelakun, who was his mentor.  In an instructive book titled “What I saw in the Politics of Ibadanland”,  Adedibu has already given his own eye-witness account from his beginning days with the Ibadan People’s Party and the Action Group, later the  the National Party of Nigeria during the Second Republic, but he truly came into his own as the main Godfather of Ibadan politics with the ascendancy of the People’s Democratic Party in 1999 and especially in 2003 when he was recruited by President Olusegun Obasanjo for his second term bid.  He filled the vacuum created by the exit of Alhaji Busari Adelakun, and in that aspect, he established himself as a master of the game using violence, mass appeal, and philanthropy to determine political outcomes. During the Second Republic, Alhaji Busari Adelakun was credited with having helped Chief Bola Ige of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to become Governor.

The main task of that branch of Ibadan politics represented by Adelakun and his followers, was to help deliver the votes, by any means possible. Adelakun would go from one polling booth to the other, and ensure that his clients won the vote.  He was later rewarded with the position of a Commissioner (first Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and later, Health) in the Bola Ige government. Both men would soon fall out, and Busari Adelakun resigned in anger. He famously swore that nobody could ever occupy a position that he, Adelakun, left in anger. It then happened that his immediate successor in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy died in the hands of his own sibling. He was beheaded. Adelakun’s successor in the Ministry of Health also suffered stroke. He on account of this became a mythical figure. He would later defect to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) with the threat that he would get Bola Ige removed as Governor. He supported Chief Victor Omololu Olunloyo who eventually became Governor. His word came to pass. But the Olunloyo government was short-lived. General Buhari struck in December 1983 and Adelakun and other NPN chieftains were herded into detention. He took ill in jail and died subsequently.

It was Lamidi Adedibu who sustained this tradition of prominent Ibadan politicians playing the role of the Godfather, and masters of the politics of clientelism. Unlike Adelakun, he didn’t have to follow the able-bodied boys, masquerading as members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who snatched ballot boxes in those days and stuffed them.  He had the entire city under his control in a manner nobody else before him did. Every major thug in the town reported to him, and he used them against the opponents, but he also at the same time took very good care of the ordinary people who delivered the votes to ensure victory for his clients and friends. Lamidi Adedibu, with the failure of the Alliance for Democracy in the 2003 election in Oyo state, became effectively the most influential politician in Ibadan politics, Oyo state politics, and one of the leading lights of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He held court and juggled the balls from his extensive home in Molete, Ibadan. That was where he held court. He was Ashipa Olubadan but he had his own palace – where he decided the political fortunes of politicians who came to him for help, or persons seeking political appointments. It was not for nothing that he was known as “Alaafin of Molete”.

His home was a palace unto itself. He was also the exponent of  “Amala politics” – what is now known as the politics of stomach infrastructure.  Every day, Adedibu kept his home open for the ordinary people of Ibadan. Whoever was hungry knew that if they went to Adedibu’s home, they would get a good plate of piping hot amala and a drink to wash it down. Ordinary people who could not pay school fees or hospital bills or rent went to him in his palace to ask for help. He supported them willingly.  He was not a herdsman but he had a mini-ranch in his home, at any time, there were more than a dozen cows waiting to be slaughtered to feed the people, goats also, and rams and pigeons. Everyday in the Adedibu home was like a festival. He reportedly kept more than 100 vehicles, to be mobilized at short notice to pursue any political cause. The whole of Ibadan city came to regard Adedibu as the real government: he ran a government of his own.  It wasn’t long before he became a national figure of real importance.

Prominent politicians visited him at home, and as they did, they brought bags of money, which in any case, Adedibu shared to the electorate. The politicians who took him as their Godfather expected him to help them deliver the votes on election day and the people who went to his house to eat and collect money waited on him to tell them how they should vote in every election. He would soon become so influential that the then Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali described him at a point, as the  “garrison commander of Ibadan politics.”

President Olusegun Obasanjo also visited him at home once, welcomed by a cavalcade of drums and pageantry, and he ended up describing him as the “father of the PDP”. Even politicians from other parts of the country who may not have needed him in their own constituencies, patronized him all the same.  In his own immediate political constituency, his boys did as they wished. They unleashed violence on political opponents while the state authorities looked the other way. Adedibu was above the law.  He was the ultimate Godfather.  He once quipped: “…Let me tell you, constitution or law, that is for you men. God has his own law.” There was no one like that before him, and there has been no other like that after him.  He projected himself as a Robin Hood, but he didn’t really like the poor, he used them for his own relevance.

In 2003, he had reportedly helped to install Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja as Governor of Oyo State. He himself said so. That is what people like him do – they would help to install a client in a position of political authority. They would then afterwards collect rent in form of cash and appointive positions and exercise influence over public policy.  Adedibu and Ladoja soon fell out. Adedibu told the public that he had a prior agreement with Ladoja that he must pay to him, every month, 50% of the state’s security vote, which was at the time about N30 million. Ladoja reneged, insisting that the security vote was meant for security. The Godfather became angry – he retorted that he was the main security of the state and did Ladoja realize that money was spent to get him into office? He swore to get Ladoja removed. And indeed he did. Eighteen out of the 32 members of the state House of Assembly, acting on Adedibu’s instructions, met and impeached Ladoja. His Deputy who was also an Adedibu protégé was immediately installed as Governor. After taking the oath of office, one of Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala’s first assignments was to go straight to Adedibu’s home to pay homage. He went down on all fours to say “thank you.” Ladoja would later be reinstated by court order 11 months later, but the Godfather had made his point.

The kind of influence that the likes of Lamidi Adedibu wielded is a metaphor for the character and level of Nigerian politics.  Godfathers still exist in today’s politics and the new Godfathers are just as messianic and as arrogant as their predecessors were. Violence also remains an instrument of persuasion and enforcement, even if since Adedibu’s exit, the level of violence in Ibadan politics has progressively reduced, across the country, many politicians routinely patronize thugs and enforcers. “Amala politics” still exists in form of  “stomach infrastructure” – even when some politicians do not turn their homes into a public kitchen and abattoir, they patronize the people by bribing them with motorcycles or boreholes.

In Benue state, Governor Samuel Ortom distributed wheel barrows with the inscription: “Gov. Ortom for you”.  In another state, a serving APC Senator donated an electric pole to a community as constituency project and took photographs, in Kano state, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje bought noodles, eggs, and beverages to empower tea hawkers. Now that we are in an election season, some other politicians will distribute cooked food, bags of rice or photograph themselves eating at amala joints or buying roasted corn by the roadside.

Our politicians have learnt to exploit the people’s poverty.  Political Godfathers capitalize on this and turn it into a strategy. When the people are rescued from the poverty trap, they would be less susceptible to the greed and exploitation of politicians. Institutions also have to be built and strengthened to check the menace of Godfathers and their boys who decide electoral choices on the people’s behalf and by so doing, frustrate democratic expression.

As a human being, Adedibu was obviously a strong grassroots mobiliser. He was also a strong religious and community leader – he built 18 mosques – but his legacy of stomach infrastructure and political manipulation cannot endure in the long run.  One week after his burial, his political acolytes returned hoping that his family will sustain the feast. They were turned back. The pots and pans used for cooking had been packed aside. Over 90 mattresses used by the army of boys that thronged the “palace” had been packed together in a heap to be disposed off.  The amala-seeking crowd went over to the home of Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao, an Ibadan politician and entrepreneur, hoping he would provide “amala”.

Arisekola was a prominent philanthropist but he wasn’t running a public kitchen in his home. One of Adedibu’s sons, ended up in politics and became a Senator, but he did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Another son reportedly described the late politician as a “dishonest politician.”

Today, the Molete palace is desolate. The in-house ranch has disappeared. The Nigerian electorate, should be reminded that when a politician offers them food in exchange for their votes, that food will soon digest and end up in the toilet, and you’d need to eat again. When the politician dies, or leaves politics or no longer needs you, you’d still have to eat.  It is better always to vote wisely and focus on the need to build and strengthen public institutions for the people’s benefit.

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