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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.

Restructuring for Nigeria: From an Igbo Man’s Perspective.

By Francis Olisemeka Okoroafor

The Atiku Abubakar we know is better than the candidate whose mind on national issues is hidden.

When president Buhari came to power in 2015, I celebrated like he was my father. I had so much faith and hope in this Messianic persona that was sold to us. He was celebrated as the man of highest integrity who would do what is best for Nigeria and Nigerians, among other things.

Little was known about his personal stance on critical issues (aside corruption), but what was said on his behalf by his promoters. The first time we heard from him was his inaugural speech of I am for nobody and nobody is for me. And that is exactly how it has been for the past 3.5 years. Our leadership has not made a single stand on any single issue and allowed everybody and all the nobodies to direct the course of this country. When asked, the president’s constant answer is “I didn’t know”.

Finally, we have a candidate that knows. His name is Atiku Abubakar. There is somebody whose stance on critical national issues is well known at home and abroad. His name is Atiku Abubakar. There is someone whose love for the North, East, South and West of Nigeria is clear and unequivocal, his name is Atiku Abubakar.

As an Igbo man, I hear clearly what Atiku Abubakar is saying. Not just for the Igbos, but for the whole country.

The 2019 chair for the South East.

Atiku Abubakar is the ONLY one who has said on record and unequivocally, he will serve for one term and one term only. He is the only man who has promised a SE Vice President to prepare for succession. He is the ONLY candidate who has our interest in his agenda.

Orji Kalu said had while speaking during a recent TV interview “After Buhari’s eight years, nobody in Nigeria can tell us that our region cannot produce the president. Majority of the Igbo will massively support Buhari in 2019. They did not support him in 2015. But in 2019, they will massively vote for him. APC has come to stay in the South-East. Buhari contesting in 2019 is not only for himself but also for the south-east.”

Your Excellence Orji Kalu, I respectfully say SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. As His Excellency is so informed on national ‘pot’ issues, can he list 5 things that Buhari has done in the interest of the South East since 2015?

For years, Atiku Abubakar has sang the song and preached the sermon on national unity. Let us go down memory lane. When have the igbos ever had prominence in Nigeria? 1999-2007, as Atiku Abubakar had in his cabinet and political appointees equality of ethnicity.

Let us go away from ethnicity, what is Atiku Abubakar promising Nigerians with this “Restructuring for Unity” campaign? The joint benefit is limitless. In my limited knowledge as an educated igbo trader, I will pick on 3 things.

States and Regions must be recognized for their contributions. Without offending any sensitivities, he is one among is kiln that believes that this issue of federal this federal that has not helped this country in many ways. When everything is centralized and shared from a common pot, whether you contributed or not, fosters laziness, mediocrity and retardation. It is common understanding that only a handful of states contribute over 90% to the federation account, including the oil producing states.

This issue of monkey dey work baboon dey chop has to end. We have to make the baboon realize that if he also works, he will get even more than he is chopping right now. If each state’s money resides in the state, the taxes of the state reside in the state, the people will begin to hold their governors accountable and the governors will no longer have the excuse of passing the buck to the FG. Atiku Abubakar has promised to offer a matching grant of $250 million each to the 36 states of the federation to challenge them to enhance their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR

Niger Delta Agitation. Most people don’t mind living on meagre resources. As long as it is earned and fairly allocated. What people do not like is cheating. Has anybody paid a visit to the oil producing region of Nigeria recently? You will cry!!!! AA believes the Delta deserves more than they are getting right now. AA believes the Delta should be competing with Houston, Texas; Dubai UAE and many other developed cities in the world, based on the sheer amount of dollars generated from the region every single day. With restructuring, the Niger delta region is awarded the right level of recognition for their land’s contribution to national development. If the delta is developed, peace will reign. AA has declared his intention to ensure that the Delta attains its right level of development in this country.

State and Regional Police: Please tell me, how can the policeman Chidi, who has just been redeployed to Ilaramokin (a small town in Ondo State) gather any intelligence around him, even if a major armed robbery is being planned in his parlor by people speaking in their local ilaramokin dialect? The argument for state policing far outweighs the counter argument of ‘the political elites will use the state police for their personal ambitions’ I think that is lame. What if they don’t?

AA understands what Apostle Paul said in Romans 12: 6-12 and Ephesians 4:11-12. Nigeria is a vast country with many blessings and resources. The North, South, West , East all have their resources. How many countries can boast of this? Atiku is guaranteeing us equal opportunities at State level.

As a father, if I can afford it, I will send all my children to school so that they all have an equal chance to make it in life. I will not say let one person be working while the others are sleeping and eating at home. No! I will share the talents 1, 5, and 10 and expect all of them to be like the good and faithful servant who multiplied them to the glory of the Lord.

My igbo brothers and sisters, let us support Atiku Abubakar for President. Let us stop focusing on one national Northern pot, and let us all put our hands to the plough and look inwards, and work hard to earn our keep.

Atiku Abubakar is canvassing for unity, for equality, for the good of everyone, most especially I trust him to deliver a South East President in 2023. I trust him to have the national interest of everyone, igbos inclusive at the core of his agenda. I trust him when he says “ONE TERM ONLY”. I trust him to run for office with my Igbo brother or sister. I trust him because HE KNOWS as opposed to our “I didn’t know’ president. For this and other reasons, I support Atiku Abubakar for 2019.

Igbo kwenu, who will you support?

Francis Olisemeka Okoroafor (PhD), wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria.

Almighty Wike and PDP caging

By George Fabrisimo

Once again, Nigerians are faced with the herculean task of choosing who heads and steers the ship of the affairs of the nation. In the context of our democracy, the choices at this stage are between the choices that the two parties make and this case, it is whoever the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presents that faces incumbent president who seeking to return to office in 2019.

So, the PDP delegates are saddled with the responsibility of either getting it right by choosing the Right and the Best the party could offer at the moment or selfishly dash the hopes of the masses, who earnestly yearn and dream for a true change by selecting a mediocre for sentiments that would at best serve only the insatiable quest of a select few at the party level.

The scenario currently playing out points to the fact that some “powerful” individuals in the PDP are hell bent on thwarting the hopes and aspirations of the electorate by orchestrating an agenda that will make the PDP come off with a weaker candidate as its standard bearer.

I watched with utter disgust, how the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, dared a whole party, which he is a member of by insisting the party must either play to his whims and caprices or be taught a bitter lesson.

The question is how did the party, PDP, got to that level? It is unheard of and unthinkable that a sitting governor would threaten a party that boasts of a Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, sitting Governors and former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, Senate Presidents, Speakers, ministers and, hosts of other eminent Nigerians.

Even if the speculation that Wike is the main financier of the party is true, that is still not enough for him to disparage a political party of this size with its popularity and track of achievements. One is inclined to think that perhaps, the reason why Gov. Wike is taking the issue of the venue for the presidential primary personal, is because he’s neck deep into the agenda or plot to field a weaker candidate against the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari as a bargaining chip for him to remain the governor of Rivers State beyond May 2019.

Come to think of it, in Rivers State today, under Gov. Wike’s watch has sold out PDP’s stronghold to the APC. Two of the three Senators from the state are in APC already and the remaining one; is shaky. So, it suits Gov. Wike to trade the prospect of the party, PDP, under which he’s a governor with APC in order to maintain the seat that he currently occupies.

By the way, isn’t it a travesty for Gov. Wike to insult the intelligence of the people he governs who have stated unequivocally that it is either restructuring or nothing? I was shocked with the kind of comment Wike made about restructuring. He sounded as though, he belonged to the APC, who have maintained a clear opposition to the issue of restructuring.

As delegates of the PDP head to the convention ground wherever it takes place, they must bear it in mind that the enemy the party is faced with is bigger than an individual or group of persons of parochial like minds. Nigerians place a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the delegates of PDP, who are today in a position to decide where the country heads.

As such, they must resist any temptation of monetary inducements and an entreaty to do what their consciences feel is right for the country and the party in a week’s time.

The world is watching us as a people. We have for over 3 years plus cried and wailed and waited for this time to present itself to us again; so as to atone for our mistakes and miscalculation of 2015, when we had limited choices.

In 2019, the PDP must give Nigeria and Nigerians the right choice of candidate across board especially at the presidential level. Nigerians are tired of lamenting the inappropriate choices they make at the polls. They deserve to be given opportunity to choose between a competent presidential material, who would not only work the talk but be treated and accorded respect in the comity of nations and a candidate whose low performance in terms of governance has made the country the butt of all jokes.

Indeed, Nigerians would not forgive the PDP in a long time to come should they scuttle the valid expectation of the people.

George Fabrisimo, an IT expert writes from Lagos

Now that they all want restructuring

By Emenena Bright,

It is understandable that the Nigeria political terrain has become this charged as it is only about six months to the general elections. While all the elections are important, the most significant remains the Presidential election. This is because the direction of a nation is akin to the nation’s chief executive officer in our own case, the president. This is further made so by our system of government, our political structure, our form.

No doubt, every nation has her peculiarities and it is such peculiarities that determine the way the nation is governed. While the players are all warming up for the task ahead, it is important to keep focus on the issues. With the incumbent and the party in power obviously leaving no stone unturned even if it means trouncing on the constitution to ensure they retain power it appears the issues have been relegated to the back seat. On the other hand despite all the opportunities offered by the incumbent by their perpetual failures and unforced errors, the opposition has failed to take advantage and so have remained the lesser of both players. Understandably, they are the opposition and are naturally will be most likely behind in the race of who heads the affairs of government in the next dispensation. Still, in comparison to what obtained about 3yrs ago when the party in power now was in opposition, there is still a lot of ground to be covered if they are to make serious impact.

Every election has its peculiarities and the votes are driven by specific factors. They are rarely the same for every election year. In the last election, the then opposition made the most important of the factors to drive the votes the fight against corruption. So the last election became a referendum on corruption. What then should drive the votes in 2019? It is now a common rhetoric that Nigeria has never been this divided since the post civil war. This division has given rise to all manner of insurgencies thereby making insecurity to be at its peak. Daily, people get killed in droves and it doesn’t seem there is an end in sight to all these. Our government no longer mentions neither do they acknowledge. They are in perpetual denial all in a bid to perpetuate themselves in power. Our Army is regularly overrun and the dead are secretly buried without such recognition and respect befitting of soldiers who died in the battle field so the rest of us may be safe.

The issues are a myriad and will not be solved by a single action. So no one is under the illusion that restructuring is the magic wand that solves the myriad of problems.  However, the problems have a nexus and identifying that nexus is a panacea for the solutions we sought. It is widely believed that most of these problems have roots that are easily traceable to the present structure. Our politico economic form has not profited us irrespective of our belief, region or religion. In his speech in July 2016, at the late  Gen. Usman Katsina Memorial Conference,  Atiku Abubakar did posit that the present system which has largely evolved from the need to put us together almost at all cost especially following the civil war has not helped any region. Not even the North which is viewed by many as the only beneficiary of the present system. He has therefore continued to talk about the need to change our political structure or form. Unfortunately, while this position of his has earned him a place in the hearts of many, some persons, especially those in power have continued to deride him and tag him as merely playing politics. It is ironical that despite not turning up for the popular 2014 National Conference where the discussion of our form or structure held, the ruling party went ahead to include in its manifesto the promise to change our political structure. That this manifesto won them the election only goes to show that amongst other promises, the citizens believed their promise to restructure Nigeria. Having been in power for more than 3 years now, not a single bill or any other action has pointed to intent to fulfilling this promise. As a matter of fact, every effort by anyone to discuss the issue has been turned down blatantly by the President. Now as the election season approaches fast,   they have all began to turn around. Even those who have never mentioned a word about restructuring and have openly argued that there was nothing wrong with the present system, are all now shouting “restructuring.” This is so especially as the opposition party continues its search for a worthy candidate to fly its flag in the next Presidential election. The denial and refusal to see our structure as an albatross to our national growth and development cuts across the aisle and just saying they support restructuring now should not be enough to win the votes of the delegates. It is now very important that the candidates’ long time position on the issue of restructuring be well analysed and debated. Like they dangled “fighting corruption on electorates” we must refuse that they do same with this very important issue, now that they all want restructuring.

Only a few days ago there was an ongoing debate between, the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the same subject. What was obvious is that despite my disagreement by the Vice President’s characterisation of the former Vice President’s   restructuring as merely geographic, even the little expressed by the Professor would have gone some distance in achieving fiscal federalism. Hypocrisy was in full glare that a former Attorney General of a state that led his then state to the Supreme Court on those issues as expressed by him in that article can be part of a federal administration that today has turned down every attempt and effort to have the discussion on restructuring. Having faulted his stance on restructuring by Atiku Abubakar following the Vice President’s earlier speech in the United States, the 180* about-turn is in the least defensive. It was however a worthy debate, Nigerians only wished that Atiku Abubakar (a front runner for the presidency in the upcoming election under PDP) and President Muhammadu Buhari were the ones engaging in it, considering that the Professor’s position has not affected anything in this administration.

It is hoped that Atiku Abubakar will get the ticket of the PDP and then an opportunity to debate these issues with the President who is set to be the ruling party’s candidate. We do hope that for the sake of decency, the need to deepen our democratic culture and national interest, President Muhammadu Buhari will accept the invitation to a debate when the time comes.

Dr Emenena Bright, a medical practitioner wrote from Warri, Delta State.

Buhari, 2019 elections and the law

By Reuben Abati

President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly declared in China, last Sunday, that he believes in the idea of free and fair elections, and that he is committed to this pillar of the democratic process. I don’t expect him to say anything otherwise. On the whole idea of free and fair elections, electoral integrity as it were, rests the political stability of our country and the legitimacy of democratic governments.

Besides, President Buhari is a beneficiary of the framework of electoral integrity instituted by his predecessor in office. On account of the misgivings reported about the conduct of the 2007 general elections, President Goodluck Jonathan upon his assumption of office had declared that he hoped to leave a legacy of free, fair and credible elections.

He tried to do this in 2011, even if there was an outbreak of violence in parts of the North, owing more to ethnic emotions rather than any far-reaching failings by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Between 2011 and 2015, President Jonathan remained committed to his promise.

Whenever elections were held, gubernatorial elections or bye elections and the ruling party lost, he was always the first to congratulate the winner of the election and to call for due respect for the people’s choice. I recall when the Gubernatorial election in Edo State was held in 2012. The President characteristically congratulated the winner in that election – Adams Oshiomhole, now Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Some elements with the Edo State PDP had grumbled loudly that the President should not have congratulated Oshiomhole because they intended to reject the results and make trouble. I received one or two phone calls, as presidential spokesman, telling me I was stupid to have issued a statement so quickly congratulating Adams Oshiomhole.

The President’s acceptance of the result of the election tied their hands. They didn’t make trouble, instead they went to the Tribunal and pursued their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The apex court in a lead judgement read by Bode Rhodes-Vivour (JSC) upheld Oshiomhole’s election. The rule of law prevailed. Again, in 2015, when the Presidential election did not favour President Goodluck Jonathan, he conceded victory to President Buhari and vacated office. He respected the Nigerian people’s right to choose. He chose to lead by example. If anyone is uncomfortable with this short narrative, let the person be further apprised of the fact that Professor Attahiru Jega, who served as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under President Jonathan, (2010 – 2015), remains today perhaps the most successful electoral umpire in Nigeria since independence.

With probably the exception of Hon. Justice Ephraim O. I. Akpata, every other electoral commission chairperson before him, left office with a trail of controversy. The two general and other elections conducted by Attahiru Jega were widely regarded as credible. It may be too early to offer a final assessment of his successor, but it is safe to say that today’s INEC does not seem to be as strong and as prepared as Jega’s INEC.

This is the more reason why President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration as regards free and fair elections is important. The preparedness and integrity of the electoral commission have far-reaching implications for the outcomes of the 2019 electoral process. In a recent research essay by Mathew T. Page and Sola Tayo, titled “Countdown to February 2019: A Look Ahead at Nigeria’s Elections” (July 2018) legitimate concerns have been raised about “Nigeria’s volatile pre-election season” and the strategic importance of the National Electoral Commission. If the Gubernatorial elections conducted in Kogi, Ondo and Ekiti states can be used as signs of things to come, then, indeed, Nigerians have cause to worry and the government enough reason to reassure the people. In the face of all this, it is important that President Buhari matches his words with action. The series of double entendre coming from the Presidency in the past few weeks, increase anxiety, not confidence, about the promise of credible elections in 2019.

It should be a matter of interest to us, for example, that barely six months to the 2019 general election, the National Assembly and the Presidency remain locked in a disruptive battle over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018. In February 2018, the National Assembly forwarded an Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill to the President. This was vetoed. The President vetoed the Bill over disagreements on the issue of whether or not the National Assembly has the right to determine the sequence of elections. The lawmakers in re-ordering the 2019 elections had put the presidential election last, apparently to prevent the possibility of the elections being influenced by any bandwagon effect. The matter went to court and the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the National Assembly. On June 27, 2018, the National Assembly sent another version of the amended Bill to the President for his assent.

This was again vetoed on the grounds that it contained constitutional breaches. On July 24, 2018, the very day the National Assembly embarked on a recess till September 25, the National Assembly again passed another version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill which purportedly reached the President on August 3, 2018. Pressures from National Assembly members to the effect that the Bill should be signed was rebuffed by the Presidency, with the argument that the President still had enough time, since the Constitution provides for a 30-day window within which the President can assent to a bill or he would be deemed to have vetoed it. That 30-day window closed on September 2.

Meanwhile, the only explanation that was offered by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, when I interviewed him on “The Morning Show” (Arise News, DSTV Ch. 416, GoTV, Ch. 44 and SKY Ch. 519), on September 3 is that “it is well with the Electoral Bill”. I couldn’t figure out what that means in plain English language. “It is well”? How? I tried to provoke Senator Enang to comment on the Electoral Bill and its amendment. He argued that we should wait till September 25 when the National Assembly resumes, for us to know what the President has done with the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

I wondered: Why the secrecy? Why the mystery? I didn’t make much headway. Enang invoked his Miranda rights – a right that does not apply to him in the instance. But it is reassuring that before the close of work, on September 3, Enang had reconsidered his position and rightly taken the good step of providing clarifications. He reportedly disclosed that the President declined assent to the Electoral Bill on August 30 (which is the same as the President vetoing the Bill) on the ground that the Bill as proposed contains “some drafting issues.” Incidentally this is also one of the excuses that the Presidency gave to justify President Buhari’s rejection of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) as presented to him by the National Assembly.

Nonetheless, the fate of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill remains dangerously shrouded in mystery. Why is it so difficult for the Executive and the Legislature to agree on a legal framework for the 2019 elections? Sometime in August, both Enang and Garba Shehu, the president’s other spokesman, told us that there was still enough time for the President to sign the amended bill. We now know that he chose not to sign it. In response to allegations by the rival opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that the President continues to veto the bill because it contains provisions that would block under-age voting, identity theft, the influx of alien voters, and the manipulation of results between the polling station and the collation centre, Shehu responded that the President believes in the card reader system and the use of Permanent Voters Cards.

I consider the to-ing and fro-ing on this matter utterly contemptuous of the Nigerian people. If the matter is treated as important enough, the National Assembly should cut short its recess, and return immediately to take another look at the Bill and the earlier the better. For if the Bill continues to travel like a yo-yo between the National Assembly and the Presidency, it may be practically impossible to apply the recommended amendments to the 2019 electoral process. My suspicion however is that the Presidency probably does not want anything to tamper with the status quo, that is the Electoral Act 2010.

It all gets curiouser because members of the National Assembly have protested that the supplementary budget of N143 billion for INEC that has been endorsed by the joint committee of the National Assembly on electoral matters, clearly off-season, I mean during recess time, cannot be accessed if the President refuses to sign the amended electoral bill. Their argument is that the Bill covers approvals for INEC to procure necessary equipment and logistics for the 2019 elections. Long before now, INEC itself had complained that any further delay over the enabling legislation for the 2019 elections could hamper its ability to conduct a hitch-free election. So I ask: with all of these plain-sight facts, is there something that Nigerians should know that is not yet in the public domain? Could there be a covert attempt to derail the 2019 elections? Do we face the possibility at some point, of INEC throwing its hands up in the air in despair saying it is not ready, and that the election should be postponed in national interest, followed by the trading of blames? Please place emphasis on “national interest”.

It is also clear, so far, that there is no love lost between the National Assembly and the Presidency. Both arms of government even when the ruling party had a sure-footed majority in parliament have not been able to work together harmoniously due to reasons not far from ego-conflicts, the conflict of sycophants on both sides, and the absence of a guiding, all-inclusive, shared vision and mission. Nigerians are also suffering the effect of the inability of the ruling party, a network of strange bedfellows, to transform into a political party. Those who sold the APC as the best thing since toothpaste have since departed the party, returning majorly to the Peoples Democratic Party, the party that ruled Nigeria for 16 years, which today, by the way, is also still struggling to get its groove back. On the question of the Electoral Bill, President Buhari should see the need to provide the necessary leadership to ensure that a consensus that works for all parties concerned is established. He needs to realize that his own integrity is at stake. The amount of energy that the Presidency has devoted to the argument over the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill raises high suspicion and may be used against President Buhari, in the future, whichever way the 2019 Presidential election goes.

The situation is not helped by the fact that the President most recently ran into murky waters with inappropriate and uninformed comments about the rule of law and national security, but perhaps he needs to worry more about these two issues within the context, not of power and might, but how best to ensure free, fair and credible elections in 2019. Respect for the rule of law will help to achieve that objective: and this would include: respect for the right of the Nigerian voter to make a free choice without threat or intimidation and for that choice to be respected and protected. No attempt should also be made to hijack the National Electoral Commission, and no one should see the 2019 election as a do-or die-election. Respecting the rule of law would mean putting Nigeria first, before, during and after the election. National security: this does not necessarily need to be at conflict with the rule of law, instead it must be operationalized within the context of the rule of law. This is the simple point that sycophants and intellectual marabouts do not seem to get.

In the recent gubernatorial election in Ekiti State there were reports that the Nigeria Police deployed about 30, 000 policemen, other security agencies were also on ground with lorry-loads of men. Nigerians should not be made to vote under the rule of the gun and a climate of fear. It is a sign of our underdevelopment and the failure of institutions that in Ekiti, vote-buying was done in the open, by agents of the two major political parties involved, with security agents looking the other way. To have free and fair elections, President Buhari cannot also afford to tolerate the impunity of security chiefs who have turned themselves and their agencies into his campaign billboards. The politicization of public institutions in Nigeria on the grounds of religion, ethnicity and geography remains a serious threat to national progress, the professional political elite is collectively guilty; it only just got worse under President Buhari’s watch.

What President Buhari does or does not do, in the next six months has serious implications for his own politics and political fortune and for the Nigerian polity. It is not for nothing that the international community seems for now to have shifted attention away from Nigeria’s Presidential politics and seem to be more concerned about trade, migration and security. But they are watching and waiting and listening. Nigeria is certainly under international searchlight. President Buhari should beware of those who tell him “all is well”. This is precisely the same kind of illusion that swept the PDP out of power in 2015.