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Iya Kabiru and Other Stories

By Reuben Abati

“Iya Kabiru must be the luckiest woman in Nigeria today”

“Who is that? I don’t know anybody so-called”

“You don’t know Iya Kabiru? But you know Baba Kabiru?”

“Do they know me?”

“This is the problem with you. You only think about you, you, you. I am sure when I tell you now who Baba Kabiru is, you will jump up and say you know him”

“Look, just say what you want to say. I have too many things to worry about other than this your D.O. Fagunwa story about Iya Kabiru. Today is a busy day for me not a day for idle talk”

“Hey, don’t get worked up, chill, my friend. Iya Kabiru is the wife of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the comrade Governor of Osun State who is leaving office today after eight years in office. Kabiru is their first son. He got married last year. Many people who know the Governor call him Baba Kabiru.”

“So, what has that got to do with all the serious issues of survival that Nigerians are worried about. You know you should be more responsible. You can’t go about gossiping about other people’s lives.”

“I don’t gossip. I am trying to say something very serious. By the time I am done, even you will learn one or two things. Essentially, I am trying to review the eight years of Aregbesola as Governor in Osun State.”

“I tried to follow his stories. The man says he did not collect salary as Governor, even though he ate government food, used government cars…Good for him. But as for me.. I don’t like the role he played in the last Gubernatorial elections in Osun State. He practically imposed his own successor on the people of Osun State. We can’t have outgoing Governors behaving like dictators and insisting that they will hold the future of the state in their palms. And to think he is a Comrade like Adams Oshiomhole.”

“That is not what I am talking about. Osun state people are not protesting. I can’t come and be weeping more than the bereaved.”

“I know. But I thought you wanted an assessment of Baba Kabiru’s eight years in office. So, let us do it, since today is effectively his last day in office”

“Yes.”

“For example, he says he has no bank accounts anywhere. He has no money and he has only the house that he built before he became Governor. He is happy that he was able to transform the lives of the people of Osun State.”

“With Opon Imo. The tablet of knowledge. Ogbeni Till Daybreak. Let me help you. He also says he is leaving a state behind that has the lowest poverty incidence rate and the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria.”

“He built roads and schools.”

“I know. I know. But what are the people of Osun themselves saying? What is the impression of the civil servants who were denied salaries for months? I will prefer to hear from the average man on the streets of Osun. But that is not what I want to talk about.”

“You want to talk about Iya Kabiru”

“Yes. I want to congratulate her. And I say, Iya Kabiru, e ku oriire o.”

“What of the Governor himself? You don’t want to congratulate him on his successful completion of two terms in office?”

“I will leave that to people like you. My big take-away from the exit of the Comrade Governor is the statement he made about his wife, Iya Kabiru. He told the people of Osun State that he has been an absentee husband for eight years. He was so busy as Governor, he had no time for his wife. He wants to go back to Iya Kabiru and “enjoy each other”. He doesn’t want to go to the Senate like others in his shoes, he just wants to go home and spend time with Iya Kabiru.”

“And how does that affect you?”

“You don’t get the point? This is the era of women empowerment. Our Governors should not get to office and become absentee husbands. That is an abuse of human rights and a violation of the integrity of the other room! If I had my way, I will recommend immunity for wives from the absenteeism of husbands. If there was more time, I would recommend that Mrs Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President, should lead a movement to defend the right of women who are married to politically exposed men in office, not to lose their rights of access and enjoyment with their husbands. Public service should not interfere with the rights of wives!”

“You always like to trivialize things.”

“No. When Comrade Aregbesola was asked what his regrets could possibly be, and I consider that an important question, his memorable response was that his being Governor did not allow him to enjoy his wife for eight years. He now wants to go and enjoy his wife. For me that was the most profound thing he said.”

“How profound! I thought you would raise serious questions. Will his successor become his stooge? Will Aregbesola continue to rule over the state of Osun and treat Gboyega Oyetola as his proxy? Is Aregbesola now a Godfather pulling the strings from the corner? Will the new Governor Oyetola be his own man? Is Osun going to revert to its constitutional name, that is Osun State, or will it still bear the strange name: The State of Osun?”

“Why should those things bother me? The one that I want to reflect upon is the absenteeism of Aregbesola as husband for eight years! And I identify with Iya Kabiru on this special occasion, marking the return of her beloved husband to full-time husband duties.”

“It is not your duty to intrude into other people’s privacy. What are you driving at? What the man says about his wife is not our business. He probably was talking more about truancy rather than absenteeism.”

“Na you sabi. I am saying congratulations to Iya Kabiru, all the same. As an advocate for women empowerment, I congratulate her on the many good things ahead: this special honeymoon that awaits her, in the loving hands of Baba Kabiru. And I say Iya Kabiru, e ku amojuba. E ku oriire, lopo lopo. In nine months, please invite us for a rice-and-soup-very-plenty-naming-ceremony. Triplets by the Grace of God!”

“You are very ridiculous. You are off limits”

“My friend, don’t be hypocritical. If our father, the Iku Baba Yeye himself, the Alaafin of Oyo, at 80 plus is still celebrating the arrival of babies, not just babies, multiple twins, Baba Kabiru must show proof of his own statement in nine months as a true son of Osun.”

“You are absolutely incorrigible. Who told you the only way a man can show affection to his wife is to put her in the family way. Is that what you call empowerment”

“I am just very happy for Iya Kabiru. I am overjoyed. Politics turned her husband into an absentee husband. Now, out of office, her husband says she will now be her project. Alihamdulilali!”

“I don’t see how Aregbesola can leave politics. Politics in Lagos and Osun. He will still be busy.”

“But with Iya Kabiru fully attended to. And by the way, Aregbesola should leave Lagos politics alone. He should stay in his own state of Osun.”

“You are crazy. Did you drink anything this morning? Can we change this subject?”

“On one condition”

“What condition?”

“You will congratulate Iya Kabiru”

“Okay, congratulations Ma. Thank you for standing by Governor Aregbesola through thick and thin. One yeye man in Lagos says you are the one we should congratulate”.

“Say it in Yoruba”

“Iya Kabiru e ku oriire o. E ku ti ipadabo Baba Kabiru o.”

“Only God knows how many women out there who have to deal with the challenge of having absentee husbands because their husbands are involved in the public arena. Such women are the true heroes of Nigerian democracy.”

“You know when you say that, what comes to my mind really, is the plight of the wives of the many soldiers who were killed recently by Boko Haram terrorists in Matele, Borno State. It is one thing to have a husband go to the battle-field, if he is absent, you at least know where he is and that he is busy, but to have him die on the battle-field, never to return, that is tragic. I feel for the widows of the fallen soldiers of Matele..”

“I am not satisfied with the way the Nigerian government has handled the matter. Obviously, Boko Haram has not been technically defeated. Has Alhaji Lai come up with anything yet?”

“Alhaji Lai? No, please. I watched a video of the attack that was in circulation over the weekend. I was horrified. The Boko Haram terrorists caught the Nigerian soldiers off-guard. They ambushed them and mowed them down. Sad. Very sad. I later saw a social media tweet by someone who said he saw his father in the video and the family has not yet heard from the Nigerian military. I also saw a post by a woman who cried out over the loss of her husband. Each time a soldier dies at the battle-front, many lives are affected.”

“118 of them. Just like that.”

“The government is obviously overwhelmed.”

“What really can government do? Terrorism is the new tragic reality of the age. It is the worst form of inhumanity known to man. It leaves governments in a bind; it drives society to the edge. It disrupts the order of values.

“There is a lot that the Nigerian government can do.”

“Please, this is not about politics. Don’t bring politics into this.”

“Who is talking about politics? I am saying our soldiers need to be better equipped and better protected. When a man signs up to be a soldier, he knows that he has signed up to die for his country if need be, but that does not mean he must be served up like barbecue to the enemy. Why are our military bases so porous, so poorly defended? Why is it so easy for anyone to get a military uniform? When our soldiers fall at the battlefront, what are the protocols for informing their families and managing the communication process? We need to professionalize the Nigerian military. If we must rely on technical assistance from other countries, let us do so. When our soldiers die, there must be special grants for their widows and survivors, to be paid for life if possible.”

“I will add another point. Any service chief that is not ready to focus on the job should be changed. Nigeria’s security chiefs should stop attending political rallies and meetings. We want soldiers in uniform, whoever wants to do politics should remove his uniform and wear agbada.”

“Anyway, the President has said that the loopholes that led to the fatalities will be blocked once and for all. I take that to heart.”

“Yeah, he spoke a whole week after the incident. I am surprised nobody is making an issue out of that.”

“You never know. May be the President was busy at the time. And a President doesn’t just talk. He has to consult and be briefed.”

“What is that? Busy doing what? Donald Trump talks every day. He is on twitter every morning, commenting on anything that catches his attention. He is involved.”

“This is Nigeria. This is not the United States. We have our own way of doing things here, from the Presidency to the man on the street. The President could have been busy for example, preparing for the 2019 Presidential debate.”

“Which debate? You think he will agree to participate in a debate?”

“Why not? I will like to see him in the debating hall, taking on issues with the likes of Omoyele Sowore, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu, Tope Fasua, Donald Duke, Obadaiah Mailafia and of course Waziri Atiku Abubakar. Let him defend the “Next level” and let Ezekwesili and Sowore take him on.”

“I see you are not a nice man at all.”

“How? There are things the President can and should talk about. You have been lamenting over the killing of soldiers, for example, but look at what the Federal Government has just done for policemen.”

“And what is that?”

“Yesterday, the President approved more pay for Nigerian policemen. He approved the Rank Salary Structure Adjustment for policemen”

“No wonder”

“No wonder what?”

“There is this policeman that I know. I saw him and his wife yesterday evening. The two of them were laughing like jackass. I have never seen them look so happy. I thought something was wrong. So, it is the salary increase?”

“Let’s just say policemen deserve to be happy too. But it is not enough to increase their pay. Nigeria is heavily under-policed. We need more policemen. Like the military, the police should also be better equipped. They need better training. Clean uniforms. Decent barracks. An average policeman should be a university graduate, not a primary school drop-out.”

“Why are you saying policemen should be graduates, when most of your politicians don’t even have secondary school certificates? Sometimes, I don’t get you.”

“I know what I am saying. Every policeman should be a college graduate. You don’t understand. It is a next level thing. Nigeria can only move to the next level if we all begin to think out of the box.”

“Like your thoughts on Iya Kabiru eh”.

“Ha. Iya Kabiru! A hero. Someday, she should tell her story: the story of the big sacrifice her husband made as Osun State Governor!”

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…

The Spirit of the Jews in Squirrel Hill 

By Reuben Abi,

What was assaulted in Squirrel view, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States on Saturday, October 27, was not just the 11 persons that died and the six injured, or strictly the Jewish community in the United States. It was an assault on the entire humanity itself.  It was terrible. It was horrendous.

It stands condemned by all right-thinking members of the human community. We note for record purposes, that the children of YHWH have been victims of hate, terrorism and intimidation all through history, but a gun-man, Robert Bowers, 46, walking into a synagogue on Sabbath day, wielding guns and hate in his heart and gunning down innocent persons and injuring others is the height of the terrorism and intolerance that a chosen race has suffered over time.

The people of YWWH could be terrorized and slaughtered but it is written in human memory that they will forever live. But even that is no lasting consolation. The world must be made safe for all – regardless of race, ethnicity, colour or gender.

The latest case of hate crime in the United States further raises questions about gun control – the need to take a second look at the spread of guns in the United States and the readiness with which agents of hate pull out those guns to commit evil at all levels.

But it also draws attention to power relations; those who feel oppressed are bound to rebel against their imaginary oppressors, and they may choose wrong targets as victims of their depression. In Robert Bowers mind, that is the assailant’s mind, is the assumption that Jews, wherever they may be, no matter their circumstances, are oppressors. The hate in his heart takes us back to Egypt, the Crusades, the Granada massacre to the Holocaust.

He is a memorialist, a recorder of hate, with deep-seated evil in his heart. President Donald Trump has called for the death penalty, but even death may not erase or cancel the memory of hate in the minds of others like him. A world in which a group, any group at all – national or local, is made to feel like targets reminds us of the vulnerability of all humanity.

Jews, after more than two millenniums, from Egyptian captivity to the Babylonian threat, to Hitler, came to regard the United States and Israel as their places of refuge, away from centuries of persecution.  But now, not even the United States is safe anymore. Not even Israel is safe.

The world in which we live, needs a re-set, a rethink beyond primordial ghosts and binary thoughts that threaten human relations at all levels. The man of the skullcap must be able to live with the white supremacist and the community of persons with dark sins, and the Arabs and everyone else, to respect the values of difference, diversity and inclusivity. This is the lesson of the shootings in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, over the weekend – the need for a world without racism.

Anthony Anenih: A personal and political portrait

By Reuben Abati 

Anthony Anenih, the political leader, chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party who has died aged 85, was one of the most important figures in the story of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule, and a founding father and a major influence in the party that ruled the country for an unbroken stretch of 16 years.

I knew him and was privileged to know him, even more closely, when I assumed office as President Goodluck Jonathan’s official spokesperson and media/publicity adviser. For four years, we worked together and met regularly. We lived in the same neighbourhood in Asokoro, so it was very easy to pop into the Chairman’s house on my way to work, or on my return journey.

His doors were always open, but even more so because he took a very keen interest in the government and the Presidency and it was not before long that I became an errand boy between him and the President.  He referred to President Jonathan as his son, even if he did not make a public song and dance out of that. He told me many stories about how the PDP emerged and the journey of President Jonathan to the Presidency of Nigeria.

“This my son, I love him. I want the best for him, but he doesn’t always listen to me”, he often told me. He would now give long stories about how certain persons that should never have been given positions emerged as President Jonathan’s lieutenants. It was not in my place to respond to that. He also often talked about some other pieces of advice that he gave the President. “Can you tell him, I want to see him tomorrow?” Despite his larger than life image, Papa Anenih was a very humble man in the face of authority.

Perhaps because of his police background, he understood protocol, hierarchy and authority. He always asked for permission to see the President which was never denied. The President also visited him regularly at home. That was the extent of his influence. But it was not just the President that went to his house to pay homage. Whenever I visited, there was always a long queue of persons who had come to see him. He had the ears of the President.

He was the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees. He also had the advantage of age, and a reputation that preceded him.  He was a power broker, and a Godfather, not just nationally, but also in his native Edo State and the entire South South where he had fought many political battles.

Anenih first came into public consciousness through the old Bendel state chapter of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1981. President Shehu Shagari who was seeking a second term in office had gone to visit the former military Governor of the Midwestern State, Samuel Ogbemudia, to solicit for support.

Ogbemudia agreed only on the condition that Anthony Anenih, his friend, a former policeman who was then  Chairman of Yakon Group of Companies would be anointed as the Chairman of the party’s branch in Bendel state. The following day, Chief Tayo Akpata who was the Chairman of the NPN in the defunct Bendel State was removed. Akpata’s  exit marked the beginning of the Anenih phenomenon and legend.

 In 1983, President Shehu Shagari won the second term election in Bendel state and nationally. Anenih was considered the architect of the victory, at least in Bendel State. He would show up later in the Ibrahim Babangida government as an equally influential political leader. He helped Babangida to fix a few things. In 1992, Anenih further became the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 1993, the SDP with M.K.O. Abiola as Presidential flagbearer won the June 12, 1993 Presidential election. That election was annulled.

Anenih again re-emerged in 1998 as a deputy campaign co-ordinator for the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Campaign Organization. Obasanjo won the election and emerged as President. Given Anenih’s unbroken record of success as a superintendent of electoral issues, he became knows as “Mr Fix It’ – the man who could fix any political problem.  In 2002, he led President Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election campaign for the 2003 election.

Anenih came into solid prominence during the President Obasanjo years. He was a power broker in Obasanjo’s government. His name may not have been known outside Nigeria, but at home, he represented the true and complete incarnation of the politician as a man of action. There were many malicious legends about him, though: they said he “chopped” the money meant for the construction and rehabilitation of Nigerian roads in his capacity as Obasanjo’s Minister of Works, but no one could point to any evidence of criminal conviction.

They said he was a political fixer, Mafia-like, so they called him “Mr. Fix-it, but no one could doubt that he was a strong man of influence whose word carried weight. He was a co-fighter in the struggle to establish a democratic order in Nigeria after many years of military misconduct. He was a back-bone to the front-liners. He fixed, so says the legend, whatever needed to be fixed, and he delivered, particularly for President Olusegun Obasanjo: the soldier and the policeman locked in an instructive esprit de corps.

He and President Obasanjo with whom he fought many battles were different in temperament and they eventually clashed, but it is good to recall that whenever they worked together, they complemented each other.  Anenih was originally a policeman. Not too many Nigerians like policemen. Anenih retired as a Commissioner of Police, but he probably did more for the police out of office to the extent that his example helped to dispel the pervasive impression that the Nigeria Police is a community of bumblers.

He was a solid public figure with a strong voice. He had friends everywhere, not because of the positions that he occupied but because of his belief in the Nigerian project. In a country where persons of minority extraction are often marginalized, Anenih became a standard bearer for the politics of inclusivity. The people of the South South owe him a debt of gratitude for the manner in which for decades, he helped to centralize their cause in the Nigerian conversation.

Even if they may not readily admit it anymore, many persons from the South South owe their pre-eminence in contemporary Nigeria to the pathfinder role played by the likes of Anthony Anenih, after Adaka Boro, after Anthony Enahoro, after Ken Saro Wiwa etc.. Anenih’s exit may well create a deep and lasting vacuum, but we can not yet make a final affirmation on the extent and impact of that.

As a private person, Pa Anenih was caring, kind and attentive. I want to explain what I mean by this. There are persons who claim that he was a tough husband and that he had issues in that area. I don’t know about that. Whatever happened in the late statesman’s other room, should not be the focus of our assessment of his place in the larger picture of Nigeria.

He is survived by wives and children – they should deal with their private issues, after the passage of their patriarch. My own private experience is that he was a very kind and generous man.  He was a gentleman who, in his later years, was most willing to assist every one who crossed his path. He was blunt though. He helped those he thought were deserving of his time and attention.

I recall that he had his own contacts within the Nigerian media, and he always insisted that I should attend meetings of that group because he wanted to use it to assist President Goodluck Jonathan. The first time I attended the meeting some of our colleagues were full of complaints.  Papa Anenih waded in. He smoothened the cracks. He re-assured our “very powerful” colleagues. We met now and then thereafter. The most difficult job in the Nigerian government is the management of the media.

I was lucky to have had the support, advice and guidance of the likes of Papa Anenih. The progress we made may not have been well appreciated throughout our tenure, but apparently, the Jonathan administration is beginning to look better than good, years after. I want to thank Papa Anenih for the leadership, the contributions and the support that he offered and from which our office benefitted.

I will like to say, however, that the last part of Papa Anenih’s life was perhaps, the moment of his decline. The younger members of the party went to his house to pay homage, but they thought his ideas were dated in the age of technology. This was the case despite the fact that he followed them everywhere at 80 plus and he spoke at every rally. He was strong. He was present-minded.

He was energetic. Long before the 2015 elections, he prepared a media campaign strategy document which he asked me to give to the President, and he asked that he would await an opportunity for further discussions. The biggest challenge old men face is that they end up being looked at as dinosaurs. Nonetheless, Anenih attended rallies and helped to mobilize the grassroots. He offered his ideas. I don’t think he got the appreciation that he deserved in his twilight moments. Even his own state Governor undermined him, playing across all fields, trying to grab the space.

Anenih was even accused at a point of anti-party activities in the matter of Imo state. In his own state, Edo State, also, Adams Oshiomhole as Governor and his agents dismissed him and accused him of irrelevance. His harsh critics were wrong then as they are now. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not here to open a can of worms, but to pay tribute and respect the memory of the dead. Anenih’s death on the eve of the 2019 elections is a major loss for the Peoples Democratic Party, for Edo state and for progressive Nigerian politics.

We commiserate with the people of Edo State on the passage of their illustrious son, Anthony Akhakhon Anenih, who rose beyond his local beginnings to become a man of nationalistic influence and a Nigerian statesman. When he was around, he made a difference which is what every human being of worth should seek to do. He is now in a place where neither malice nor mischief can reach him. Anenih, the man and the legend has departed.

Those who speak ill of him should worry more about the end of their own journey. They should also remember that he left a book behind. He told his own story.  So, I say this: Let the living deal with their many debts and agonies.  Anthony Anenih played his part… And now: “Holy Father, in Thy mercy/Hear our anxious prayer/Keep our loved ones, now far absent/’Neath Thy care…/So mote it be.”   Travel well, sir.

Nnamdi Kanu as “Wailing Wailer”

By Reuben Abati

Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement suddenly resurfaced in Jerusalem, Israel at the Wailing Wall, after his one-year disappearance that resulted in speculations about his whereabouts. Kanu has since issued a statement through Radio Biafra in which he denounced the Nigerian state and boasted that no Nigerian court can do anything to him.

Before disappearing from sight, under the cloud of the invasive Operation Python Dance in his home state of Abia, IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu had accused the Nigerian government of trying to kill him and destroy the Biafran movement that he leads. He has now been quoted as saying: “(The) Nigerian court is a kangaroo court. I did not jump bail. I left because the court failed to protect me. I shall not be honouring the court. I cannot be tried by a court I do not recognize. Nigeria cannot jail me.”

Whatever may be the quality of Nnamdi Kanu’s grievances, he must be told in clear terms that he cannot make such claims of superiority to the state as he has done. No non-Nigerian can even say that Nigerian courts are unacceptable and yet engage in acts that could have implications for Nigeria’s sovereignty.

Kanu says he escaped during the invasion of his home by Nigerian soldiers. We have condemned that invasion – its manner, style and intent. We have defended the right of indigenous peoples to ask for self-determination, under the right circumstances. But no other Nigerian, including Igbos, believes that Nnamdi Kanu is superior to the Nigerian state.

He is on record as having said: “I am Nnamdi Kanu, no mortal flesh can kill me. They have not given birth to that very person. Since they didn’t want me to come to court, I shall come back to Biafra land…” If no mortal flesh can kill him, why run away then? Ple-a-se! Some other reports indicate that when Nnamdi Kanu returns, he will bring “hell”. I am not sure that is a correct public statement to make. I do not see many Nigerians who are looking forward to a promised “hell”. They are in hell already.

And they are not likely to rely on the words of a man who vanished, when the Nigerian hell became too hot, but he is now bragging that he will return and lead his followers to a hotter part of hell. When and if Kanu returns, (he is probably just bluffing), he may find a smaller crowd behind him. What will he say to the many families who lost loved ones and property while he and his own family fled to safety? “I owe my survival to the state of Israel”, Kanu says. “I want to send my solidarity to @GovAyoFayose”, he purportedly added.

There may be politics tied to Nnamdi Kanu’s return. Why now, when an Igbo man, has been named by the opposition party as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate? Is anyone using Nnamdi Kanu as a curve ball to frustrate the Atiku-Obi ticket? Who dragged him out of whatever hole he crawled into, now to use him to play politics? However, by his conduct, and utterances,

Kanu has watered down the potency of the revolution that he leads. He disappointed many. He has also failed to realise that while he was absent from the battle front, the dynamics of the revolution changed.

He wants to hold a Biafra referendum. The only referendum Nigerians are interested in at this moment is a referendum on the Buhari government. Nnamdi Kanu and associates should tarry a while. You can’t just jump off the train of revolution and expect to jump back, at an opportune time, from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, with a ticket made of spittle and a sheet of prayer requests.

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.

Obi as Atiku’s gambit for unity

By Daniel Moses Achimugu

The choice of a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi is the wisest political move by the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.  It is particularly and symbolically significant because it comes at a time Nigeria is ever divided over the issue of power rotation, justice and equity. Given the increasing agitations across the country arising from complaints of political marginalization and exclusion, the selection of Mr. Peter Obi as running mate to Atiku would go a long way to reassure the people of the southeast that no section of Nigeria is too small or too insignificant to be ignored in the affairs of the country.

Frustrations feed agitations and these separatist tendencies in the southeast can only be addressed by elected leaders who are just and broadminded enough to understand and respect our diversity. Atiku Abubakar has demonstrated enough courage and sincerity by acknowledging the fact that justice and equity is the foundation of building and sustaining a strong political union or federation.

By appointing a broadminded Igbo politician like Peter Obi as his running mate, Atiku leaves no one in doubt that he means business in his commitment to restructuring. The Waziri Adamawa believes in creating a better and fairer society. He believes justice is the foundation for achieving sustainable peace, he believes in respecting our diversity and the importance of restoring trust and reducing tensions across the country. Therefore, the choice of Peter Obi is welcome because the two of them share the same vision for a better and prosperous Nigeria.

The timing of the choice and the quality of Mr. Obi cannot be faulted by any sincere Nigerian. At a time the Nigerian economy is gasping for breath, thanks to poor management, Atiku needs a running mate with a sound understanding of the economy and management of resources.

Mr. Peter Obi is not only a politician but also a technocrat and a businessman with sound experience. His intellect is unassailable, and his business and management experiences are important assets that can add value to the Atiku Presidency.

Atiku’s choice of Mr. Obi shows clearly that the PDP presidential candidate understands the challenges facing Nigeria. The success or failure of any leader depends on the quality of the team he puts together. As former President Obasanjo noted, “the economy doesn’t obey orders.” In other words, fixing the economy requires competence, imagination, vision and resourcefulness.

One of the greatest virtues of Atiku Abubakar is his passion for excellence. In this regard, the choice of Peter Obi as his running mate is a reflection of this passion. Fixing the economy is brain work. An economy is like a patient, if you left the patient at the mercy of incompetent doctors, he might ultimately die.

There is, therefore, a valid reason why Atiku always goes for the best and brightest. He always surrounds himself with men and women of excellence. He doesn’t have stomach for mediocrity. It is not by accident that he always assembles a good team in order to achieve optimum results. He has an eye for quality, hence his choice of Mr. Peter Obi.

With a combination of Atiku/Peter Obi ticket, the country can achieve a favourable business and investment environment that could boost the enthusiasm of foreign investors. No leader takes chances with the economy.

Like Atiku, Mr. Obi has a rich business background, which gives him a good advantage in the management of the economy. Modern governments are run like a business because of the sound emphasis on reducing waste in government and promoting efficient and prudent management of resources. A successful economy is the foundation of successful job creation initiatives.

It is against this background that we can understand the wisdom behind the choice of Peter Obi as running mate by Atiku Abubakar. No President can achieve much without a competent team. Obi’s choice is the early first signs that Atiku is truly commuted to giving Nigerian economy a shot in the arm.

Neither Atiku nor Obi wants to be in government to make money. Both of them are successful businessmen and therefore, the passion for service is their primary motivation for seeking public office at this time. You cannot fight corruption without adequately addressing the issue poverty and job creation. And you cannot achieve the goal of job creation when the economy is poorly managed.

With a combination of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, the Nigerian economy can be reinvigorated and put on a sound footing of sustainable growth. The economy is central to the success of democratic rule. A badly managed economy may leave the people ever poorer and make life more hopeless. No wise voter should vote themselves into misery.

A president’s success also depends on the quality of those he appoints to help him run the government. He needs a strong vice president with intellect, experience, vision and knowledge about the efficient management of resource. The choice of Peter Obi falls clearly in line with Atiku’s desire to build a robust economy and get Nigeria working again.

Daniel Moses Achimugu, a commentator on public affairs wrote from Lokoja

Beyond Fayose: The future of Ekiti

By Reuben Abati

I spent the better part of last Tuesday, October 16, focusing on developments in Ekiti State. It was the day of John Kayode Fayemi’s return to office as Governor of Ekiti State and his inauguration for a second-term, after an interregnum of four years, 2014-2018 during which former Governor Ayo Fayose reigned.

It was also on that day that Fayemi’s immediate predecessor reported to the Headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to submit himself for interrogation and investigation. For the people of Ekiti state, no other day could have been more melodramatic. I watched the Ekiti inauguration on television, beginning from the point where the new Governor, Kayode Fayemi arrived and he was taken round the stadium in an open van to acknowledge cheers from the people.

Fayemi had a unique style of greeting the people, throwing his hands in the air with some kind of bird-like movement. I really couldn’t figure out if he was waving or dancing. I was amused. I thought if his plan was to dance, he could have taken some lessons from you know who – the two Dancing Senators of the National Assembly!

Although the duo belongs to the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they would have obliged him. In any case, Governor Fayemi pulled it off nicely, considering the excitement from the crowd. He is obviously not planning to spend his time in Government House, dancing. The ceremonies soon got underway with a colourful police parade, with Governor Fayemi taking the stand. It was a beautiful parade, and quite refreshing seeing the mobile police, the anti-terrorism unit of the police and others marching with so much discipline and confidence, in very neat uniforms, with symphonic unity – and two officers running a commentary to guide us. If the Nigeria police were to display that same level of dedication, discipline and preparedness in the course of their daily work and engagements with the public, no one would have any reason to complain about the many failings of the institution.

Governor Fayemi enjoyed himself so much that even when the police commentator asked him to take his seat while the rest of the parade continued, he still spent a few minutes appreciating the men and women on parade.

The Governor eventually went up to the VIP stand, he took a cup of water, and APC dignitaries from around the country took turns to have photographs with him and his wife. I didn’t see members of the opposition party. Could it be that they were not invited? Or they were invited and they chose to ignore the ceremony? Or the planning committee chose to make the inauguration ceremony a strictly family affair? Or may be the cameramen chose to ignore the faces of opposition politicians at the ceremony.

The high point, however, was the taking of the oath of office, and then the speech by the newly-sworn-in Governor. It was a brilliant, thoughtful speech but it fell short in one major regard. It began on an evocative note with a prefatory poem written by Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the Governor’s wife and Chair of the Ekiti Transition Committee (some people are of the view that the people of Ekiti are likely to be getting two Governors for the price of one!- but that is just by the way, afterall, there is something called the doctrine of the unity of spouse.).

In clear, rhythmic and seductive prose, Fayemi set out the agenda for governing Ekiti state in the next four years, to wit: the restoration of values, people-centred social investments, promotion of a knowledge economy, infrastructure and industrial development, and agriculture and rural development. He paid homage to Ekiti ancestors, and called on the people to look toward the future with hope and confidence because the state under his watch, will be different.

Whereas the Governor made it clear that he is not on a “revenge mission” , his entire speech however was packed full of bitterness –clearly evident in the choice of words and imagery. Even the poem by Mrs Bisi Fayemi is suffused with telling metaphors. October 16 was meant to be a day of joy for the Fayemis but both husband and wife could not hide the pain and the feeling of hurt that they nurse. Their words gave them away. “This land is ours…” writes Bisi Fayemi, but the land has been overtaken, and “we see the blood on the lips of vultures who prod and peck at our throats/so they can suck even more blood.”

Apparently, the Fayemis are convinced that there are political vampires in Ekiti state but Fayemi has returned to “reclaim what is ours with our voices/with our blood and with our souls/This land is ours, and it shall be free.” This theme of freedom from despair and destruction and restoration of hope is sustained in the main speech. In six paragraphs sub-titled “NEVER AGAIN”, the newly sworn in Governor wrote off the last four years of Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose in Ekiti state, in words delivered with stinging brutality. And not once did he mention Fayose by name. He tells the people of Ekiti: “Our reputation as a people has been sullied and we have become the butt of jokes due to the crass ineptitude, loquacious ignorance, and ravenous corruption masquerading as governance in our state during this past administration”. This bitterness is further reflected in such phrases as “Ekiti has been through a horrible wilderness”; “innumerable white elephant projects”, “state assets unaccounted for”; “those who do not understand what governance or development is all about”; “painful wound.” Wound? The nature of that “wound”, at a personal level, has been famously addressed in an op-ed by Bisi Fayemi when she wrote previously, about how her family was deserted by those who had wined and dined with them as soon as JKF, as her husband is called, lost his bid for a second term on June 21, 2014. She wrote that“it was a very bad day, one of those days that I referred to recently as Ojo buruku esu bu omi mu – the day the devil came to drink water”. Those who came to visit, came to “mourn”, she told us, as if the loss of an election was the end of the world.

Fayemi is now back to Government House, and on October 16, I didn’t see anybody mourning. The guests at the inauguration – associates, friends, party chieftains, traditional rulers and the ordinary people in the stands, did not come to “mourn”, they came to celebrate with Fayemi and his wife. Life is like that. At the risk of sounding trite, in life, there is a season for everything: a time to laugh and a time to mourn. Fayemi has had his own share but as he returns, he should place greater emphasis on healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and the agenda that he has eloquently set out. He should be magnanimous and extend his call for support and collaboration, not just to the ordinary people of Ekiti, but everyone, including those he may consider his arch-enemies. To dismiss Fayose so brutally is uncharitable. Fayemi has stayed long enough in politics to know that the enemy today may be a friend tomorrow. Bitter words are like bitter kola, they leave a stinging and prolonged taste in the mouth even when you choose to drink water.

Fayose may have supported his protégé – Kolapo Olusola in the last Gubernatorial election in the state – I still insist that Olusola acted like a spectator at his own wedding and he did not deserve to win – but Fayemi himself must learn not to be over-triumphant. There was a hint of a threat that he will probe Peter Fayose. He doesn’t need that “revenge mission”. The new Governor of Ekiti State must eschew the APC mindset: the thinking that once you are given power, you must intimidate and humiliate people, or climb a holier-than-thou pedestal – as we have seen, constructed with ego, spittle and bitterness. The key take-away in Fayemi’s speech is that he is ready to work and he intends to move Ekiti state forward. He should focus on that.

While Fayemi was savouring that new moment in his life, at the Ekiti Kete Pavillion (which he also used to settle scores, reminding everyone that he built the Pavillion!), Fayose was busy on twitter announcing to the whole world that he was on his way to the EFCC headquarters to turn himself in. At a point, he informed us that he would be at the EFCC headquarters within an hour. Notably, on October 16, Fayose refused to attend the inauguration of Fayemi as Governor. Fayemi may claim that the snobbery was mutual but he should see himself in his new role within the context of leadership, and not partisan politics or personal grievances.

He should look at it this way: the day he returned as Governor, Fayose was on his way to a police station! He even went along with his clothes, knowing that he could be detained. It is now a matter of record that Ayo Fayose is the first Yoruba man to go to a police station decked out in “Aso ebi.” His supporters wore white T-shirts – “aso ebi” of sorts, even if they proclaimed that Fayose is “the conscience of the nation.” I was surprised that they didn’t have a musical band in tow! The unnecessary drama that Fayose has constructed around his invitation and detention by the EFCC is typical of him, but by the time he spends a few days in the EFCC underground cell, he will surely realize that he is not in a five-star hotel and that the EFCC has well-trained interrogators who do not look at people’s faces. They will try to break his will, wear him out, test him, humiliate him. Fayemi should not do the work of the EFCC.

And of course, Fayose is not useless as Fayemi tries to make him appear. He is a gifted, street-wise politician. He ran a folksy, populist government. He had the common touch. The people hailed him: “Oshokomole, Ekun oko Oke, afinju Irunmole to n je salad!” The EFCC will not offer him salad. I know that for sure. But the people of Ekiti will always remember him for the courage, the sass, the colour that he brought to governance, and the “stomach infrastructure” that he offered. The people may also not agree that his exit is “the end of error”. The difference between Fayemi and Fayose is in terms of substance, style and exposure and the people’s expectations. In terms of political destiny, both men also probably have something in common. In moving Ekiti forward, as he has promised, Fayemi should attempt a more dispassionate assessment of the past, the present and the future. He should not set an example that will come back to haunt him. Four years is a very short time. Ekiti kete, “the land is yours…”

“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.

Atiku and the rise of Peter Obi

By Reuben Abati

Shortly after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar became the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on October 6, party members and other stakeholders began to recommend running mates for him and a short list began to feature on the front pages of Nigerian newspapers. Some of the names that were mentioned included former Governor Peter Obi, former CEO/Managing Director, Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) – Mustapha Chike-Obi, former Minister of Agriculture and AfDB President – Akin Adesina, former Minister of Finance and Supervising Minister of the Economy – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former CBN Governor -Charles Soludo, and Deputy Senate President – Ike Ekweremadu.

For about five days, there were theories and permutations, and a comparison of the credentials of the proposed running mates. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has acted pro-actively by quickly putting an end to the speculations. He met with the party leadership, consulted with other interest groups and promptly announced Peter Obi. If this is a sign of how he intends to run Nigeria if he becomes President, then he is off to a good start. In the past week, he also did something else that was clever. He made peace with his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. He asked for Obasanjo’s blessings and Obasanjo, wearing his hat as a seasoned political pragmatist and ebora strategist, endorsed Atiku.

The speech delivered by Obasanjo on that occasion is an elegant study in the art of being important. President Obasanjo said he has forgiven Atiku for his many sins, which he Obasanjo had complained about previously. He described him as someone who has a knowledge of business, who is less inflexible and a “Wazobia” man. There were subtle digs at the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, when Obasanjo advised Atiku not to recruit only kith and kin and try to run an inclusive government. In the same speech, Obasanjo reminded Atiku of his indebtedness to the Obasanjo legacy and the need to sustain that legacy. He also set an agenda for the man he described as Nigeria’s President-to-be. He even said “Insha Allah”. Obasanjo in that well-composed speech, practically killed many birds with one stone in many incantatory voices: boss, statesman, and letter-writer.

It was Atiku’s second biggest endorsement since he got his party’s ticket – the first being his victory in Port Harcourt. Obasanjo’s endorsement is particularly significant given the history of the relationship between both men. To add that Obasanjo has voice, influence and authority is to state the obvious, and we need to tell those who argue that Obasanjo has just one vote that they are politically dumb! Atiku’s boss has given him a new testimonial that has refurbished him. Obasanjo who once tore his membership card of the PDP, has also more or less re-oxygenated the party’s Presidential aspiration. The panic that this has caused in the Buhari camp is perfectly understandable even if the resort to name-calling and abuse by the President’s foot-soldiers may be counter-productive in the long run. It won’t make Obasanjo and his associates change their mind. Atiku’s gain is Buhari’s loss.

Then came the rise of Peter Obi… Without a doubt, all the persons on the shortlist of running mates for Atiku have relative strengths. They have all proven their mettle in the public arena. But with Peter Obi already chosen, we need not indulge in any detailed comparison except to note that very important to the selection process would have been, not just geo-politics, but also such factors as the temperament of the individual, the chemistry between the principal and the deputy, electoral value, international exposure, acceptability by key stakeholders and public persona.

My take is that former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi is bound to strengthen the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the scheduled 2019 Presidential elections. He will prove to be an asset to the Atiku campaign and also to the Nigerian government if the PDP wins the Presidential election. The announcement of his name has generated so much excitement in Igboland, particularly in his home state of Anambra where people broke out in dancing jigs at beer parlours, and free drinks were declared. Across the South East, his Igbo kinsmen are also similarly excited. Those who know him in politics and business attest to his good character, self-discipline, competence and fair-mindedness. I want to congratulate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for choosing wisely and I want to disagree with those who argue that the Presidential candidate of the PDP should have chosen his running mate from the South Western part of the country.

The choice of a running mate of Igbo extraction is a politically deft move. The last time Igbos held the number 2 position in a civilian government was way back in the Second Republic (1979 -83). Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, they have either been Senate President or heads of key agencies (under President Obasanjo) or Deputy Senate President and generally junior operatives (under President Buhari) or held critical Ministerial positions or headship of agencies and departments –indeed the entire economic sector (under President Jonathan). But Ndigbo’s main interest is the big job: the Presidency of Nigeria. The choice of Peter Obi and his likely emergence as Vice President of Nigeria brings Igbos much closer to consideration for Presidency either in 2023 or 2027. For a people who believe that they have been short-changed by other Nigerians and that the civil war has not actually ended, the possibility of one of their own returning to the Presidency, 35 years after Ekwueme, is bound to promote a sense of belonging. By choosing an Igbo man, Atiku is also exploiting prevailing sentiments in Igboland. The average Igbo, either in the South East or in diaspora, is certainly not impressed by the Buhari administration.

The circumstances of Operation Crocodile Tears and the crushing of the rebellion of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra Movement (IPOB), pitched Igbos against Buhari. Atiku is seeking to bring them back into the fold. Call it opportunism, but that is politics. A Yoruba running mate would have looked like the Buhari template. Atiku also probably knows that the Yoruba in the South West do not always vote as a bloc and that the South West is far more divided today than ever. The electoral value of the Yoruba man, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is Buhari’s running mate for now, except he changes him, lies more in his being part of a political group in the South West, and right now, even that group is divided, it has lost part of its grip, and its leader is fighting many political battles of his own. An Igbo running mate can guarantee bloc Igbo voting, in Igboland and from Igbos who are all over Nigeria. The votes may not necessarily be for Peter Obi as a person but for the Igbo nationalistic interest.

I say this because I have heard some people say Peter Obi may not even be able to deliver Anambra. I say to such persons that even the incumbent Governor of Anambra, Willie Obiano of APGA, who has issues with Peter Obi, or David Umahi, Ebonyi Governor (PDP) and Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, would dread being found out to be working against the possibility of an Igbo man emerging again as Vice President of Nigeria. In terms of political strategy, it can be taken for granted that the South South, still angry over how the Buhari government has treated President Goodluck Jonathan and others from that region, will also naturally vote en masse against Buhari. Technically, Atiku may have locked down the South South and the South East and can be sure of substantial votes from the South West where his promise of restructuring resonates well with the socio-cultural and political elite.

But why Peter Obi? Obi, Governor of Anambra State for eight years, survivor of election battles, has proven himself to be an astute politician and leader. As Governor, he blocked the leaky buckets. He reduced wastages and leakages. He led by example. He served the people. He left a healthy balance behind in the treasury. He was known across the South East as Peter the Rock or Okwute, and he more than any other former Governor has spent his time out of office, to prepare himself for a bigger role in Nigeria. He didn’t disappear from the radar. He didn’t take the option of going to the Senate which has become a retirement home for former Governors who go there to sleep and snore during plenary and collect heavy retirement benefits for saying nothing.

Peter Obi returned to school. He chose the lecture circuit where he shared his experience as Governor with Nigerians, mostly young Nigerians. He was always on point: he preached good governance, prudence, accountability and gave personal examples. He granted the media access to him and he granted interviews as frequently as he could. He became an analyst and something slightly close to being a public intellectual. He built a public persona as someone who understands business, politics, the economy and governance. He attended international programmes and built a network of contacts. He was my course mate at the Said Business School, University of Oxford and I can attest that he can hold his own confidently in the company of persons of extreme intelligence and superb skills. Above all, he is humble and approachable. He can fit into a team. He is young. He is also rich, but I hear he does not like to spend money! He is a strong member of the Catholic Faith, and he bears the name Peter. From what we know about him, his Peter will not deny Atiku whenever the cock crows. He has recognition, respect and relevance.

So, there you have it: the Atiku-Obi Presidential team of the Peoples Democratic Party. Good to go. But how will Atiku handle the North, his own political zone? That is the other question for analysis to be addressed shortly.