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My 61st Birthday Gift to the 17 Southern Governors

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By Dele Momodu

“ As you rightly put it, Buhari has helped to expose the fault lines we have ignored and may unwittingly help the process of the nations that make up this hapless country to emerge.

Britain is one of the most federal countries in the world, but they have modelled a system that allows them to put 4 separate nations forward in the World Cup (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) but they then go to the United Nations as one country, a superpower. It is a good thing for the main 9 to 12 component nations to dissolve into a Commonwealth of Independent States. We will then function as a borderless union of nations but with all the rights of independent states. That way, Arewa Emirates may use their national budget to construct rail to Maradi or even merge with Niger. We can prevent stark illiterates from swamping us in the south as Okada riders or beggars…”
– Femi Babalola, a Pendulum reader

Our dear Governors,

Please, permit me to write you this open letter. You will understand, and probably appreciate my epistle if you’re patient enough to read and digest its content, which I wrote not because of any mischief but out of real patriotism. I needed to state this clearly, and unequivocally, from the outset, because our country has become so divided, and degraded, to the extent that we can no longer engage in simple, decent and straightforward conversations, without someone reading satanic meanings into the motives behind your intervention.

By the grace of almighty God, I will be 61 years old on planet earth tomorrow, Sunday, 16 May 1960. I was born just a few months before Nigeria attained independence. Even if I was unaware of my environment at that stage, I grew up with great expectations, and the hope that Nigeria has the potential of becoming one of the greatest countries in the world. This hope was based on certain critical assessments. Nigerians are greatly blessed and naturally endowed with some of the most brilliant humans and definitely the most fertile lands and diverse mineral resources.

I was born in the ancient city of Ile-Ife and my proximity to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Africa’s most beautiful campus, afforded me the opportunity of learning literature, linguistics, philosophy, history, sociology, religious studies and so on. I grew up as an idealist having been brought up and indoctrinated in the seminal works of Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Nawal El Saadawi, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Paulo Freire and others. Most of the earliest authors I read painted a picture of Africa that was savaged, and ravaged, by the white colonialists who underdeveloped our continent. Little did we envisage that the neo-colonialists, the new Black slave masters would actually act far worse and commit greater atrocities than those who came from far flung places with their ships to ferry us into slavery in their countries. We did not in our wildest imagination envisage that our own leaders will become so bad that our youths and elderly would be forced to voluntarily borrow money, procure visas, buy air tickets, join sea pirates to run into slavery and servitude, uninvited.

You will agree with me, Sirs, that this is the sad but true picture of our situation today. Let me now return closer home. My childhood occurred under the Regional governments in Nigeria. Each Region developed or retrogressed at its own pace. I still wonder what got into the brains of our leaders that they decided to opt for the outlandishly expensive and grandiloquent American system of Democracy which has now forced us to practice capitalism without capital. But I’m not here to bemoan our past but to focus on our future, which is currently threatened from all fronts.

As Femi Babalola noted above, if we were able to manage our differences delicately in the past, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally shattered the facade. And his acolytes have not made matters better. They have been talking big, arrogantly and recklessly, as if Nigerians have no right to criticize, oppose and admonish the President despite his abject cluelessness in matters of managing a multi-ethnic and multi religious country such as ours. Is it not strange and ironic that the ruling party, APC, used that very word, cluelessness, to describe and deride President Goodluck Jonathan, but they’re unwilling to tolerate same today? I had read as a young student that the only thing evil requires to thrive is for good men and women to keep silent. That has been the bane of our political arrangements and experiments. This is why many of us appreciate and applaud your recent meeting in Delta State and what has been tagged “The Asaba Declaration!” Even if it amounts to little or nothing, it is a sign in the right direction. You’ve gained influential admirers in two legal luminaries, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) and Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), both of whom I interviewed on my Leadership series in the last two days.

At a time Nigeria has almost arrived at the periphery of Golgotha, both men still hold on tenaciously to the view that it is not too late to rescue the country. Although, my first special guest this week, Professor Banji Akintoye, vehemently disagrees with them, and is already a leading champion of the agitation for a Yoruba nation, they remain optimistic that we can still move away from the brink. But they left no one in doubt that if members of the political class fail to do the needful urgently and the gaping injustices continue unabated, things might fall apart beyond repair. They are worried at the total confusion and anarchy that will ensue amidst which the political office holders may lose their current positions in a state of emergency.

While commending your intervention, Dr Agbakoba advised that you need not waste time and resources sponsoring any fresh national conference. You can engage your legal advisers to look at the 1999 Constitution and mark out the grey areas and forward to the National Assembly. Mr Falana believes that the conference that was organized under President Jonathan and its outcome has never been touched, so why waste more time and resources. Please, consider the observations of these great Nigerians. Dr Falana was very emphatic that you have the right to control every inch of land space in your states and that the Federal Government cannot challenge you. He said you’re also legally covered, by the principle of self-defence, to defend your people, and no one can challenge you on that also. It is your duty right now and immediate responsibility to safeguard the lives and properties of your people.

What I would like to add is that you should stop waiting for the Federal Government to do the right things. Whether they do or not, you need to think outside the box on how to transform your States and develop the well-being of your people. The biggest problems causing the mayhem in all parts of Nigeria are mass poverty and abject ignorance. You must continue to invest heavily in primary and secondary education and vocational training thereafter. The formative years are very important. It is sad and saddening that most parts of the North have virtually abandoned the Almajiri projects initiated by President Jonathan. Perhaps, the spate of terrorism and banditry would not have become exacerbated.

Each State has what it has pleased God to endow it with, but many have been wasted, underutilised or untapped. All the legal encumbrances should be cleared urgently because there is no basis for the impoverishment of Nigerians with all that we possess, free of charge. Besides, the future of our country is in our talented youths who care very little about the restructuring everyone is hollering about. All they want is the infrastructure and enabling environment put in place to enhance and build on their talents. In this way the States will thrive even more. Therefore, please, worry less about politics and power. Only God can give power, and only He can take it back. No matter how long you stay in power, you must quit one day. No one has taken his political office back home. Therefore, it is not how long you govern but how well.

I’ve been very worried about the almost master-servant relationship that exists between the States and the Federal Government. I believe this is the reason for our slow growth. The Federal Government will continue to disrespect you and behave like a village headmaster if you do not liberate yourselves. While it is good to respect the office of the President and other principal officers of government, you should not be subservient in the process. If Nigeria must survive, it would be on the basis of mutual respect and reciprocity. I salute the courage of a few Governors who have stood up stoutly in the Defence of the fundamental rights of their people.

Finally, you need to reach out urgently and seek the cooperation of your National and State legislators. They have major roles to play in the next few months. If you make the mistakes of worrying more about elections, as Dr Agbakoba noted, there may be no country in respect of which you will conduct the elections. I hope and pray you will give kind considerations to my humble recommendations.

Thank you and warmest regards.

Special Thanks to The Olubadan Of Ibadanland

I recently got a pleasant surprise when I received a letter dated, April 9, 2021, from one of Africa’s most important monarchs. It reads: “My dear Chief, PROVISIONAL OFFER OF HONORARY CHIEFTAINCY TITLE, Royal greetings from His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1, the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

“I am directed to inform you of His Majesty’s approval of the Honorary Chieftaincy title of Onigege Ara of Ibadanland on you. Section 22(2) Cap 28 Laws of Oyo State 2000 empowers His Majesty, the Olubadan to confer both traditional and honorary Chieftaincy titles in Ibadanland on deserving individuals.

“The title Onigege Ara of Ibadanland is going to be conferred on you in appreciation of your creative and journalistic contribution to the development of our society… Please accept the congratulations of His Majesty on your consideration.” The letter was signed by Chief Adeola Oloko, for His Majesty. For those who are wondering, “Onigege Ara” means “the Man with the magic Pen”! It would be difficult to fully express how grateful I am to Baba mi, The Olubadan, and the good people of Ibadanland.

My relationship with Ibadan dates back to 1968 when I spent my holiday with my oldest sibling, Brother Toba Abiodun, who migrated to the US in 1969, and is till there till this day. Ibadan to me was like traveling to London. My brother and his adorable wife lived in Oke-Bola, very close to the Cocoa House, probably the tallest building in West Africa at the time. I will never forget my first visits to Kingsway and Leventis Stores and my encounter with Father Christmas during this holiday.

As I grew up, I became very fond of Ibadan city, arguably the biggest and most populous city In Africa. I read the Poem, Ibadan, by John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo (1935-2020). I read Blackman’s Dilemma by Chief Adeoye Oyebola (1935-2020), who incidentally was the last holder of the honorary Chieftaincy title of Onigege Ara of Ibadanland. I read Ibadan: The Penkelemess Years by Wole Soyinka. I bought so many books from Odusote Bookshops and later at Spectrum Books in Ibadan and was lucky to have known and interacted with many Ibadan icons including Dr Omololu Olunloyo, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, Professor Akinwunmi Isola, The Parakoyi, Chief Bode Akindele, The Agbaoye, Chief Harry Akande, Chief Rasheed Ladoja, Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief Kola Daisi and other notables. My biggest mentor and role model, Chief MKO Abiola, was the Bashorun of Ibadanland and my great benefactor, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr, aka The Spirit of Africa, partly grew up in Ibadan and built a beautiful mansion in Iyaganku. In the past three years, I have also been building my library resort and retirement home in Ibadan, not knowing this big honour was coming my way. I truly appreciate this gesture from The Olubadan.

The first Chieftaincy title to come my way incidentally was conferred on me and my wife. I was made the Onigege Ara of Jogaland and my wife was given the title, Yeye Onigege Ara by The Abepa of Jogaland, Ogun State, Oba Adeyemi Adekeye, nearly two decades ago. By a quirk of fate, the Olubadan is conferring the same title on me. I then bagged The Ogwanusi of Imeri Kingdom in Ondo State from The Onimeri, Oba Babatunde Adeniran. The occasion was so grand, and made even more so, at the instance of Dr Bode Olajumoke. It was graced by the presence of The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II. This was followed by the conferment of an Igbo title, the Onu na Ekwuru Oha 1 of Etiti in Abia State, by Dr Ngozi Ibekwe. The next Chieftaincy title came from Oba Adedokun Abolarin Aroyinkeye I, The Orangun of Oke-Ila Orangun, Osun State, who honoured my wife and I with the titles of Yeye Basorun and Basorun respectively. I was also “gowned” in faraway Liberia, where I became The Kiazolu of the Grand Cape Mount County, by the Traditional Council of Liberia.

For the sake of completeness, I must mention that I have also been conferred with academic honours. I have so far received two doctorate degrees, honoris causa, one from Houdegbe North American University, in Cotonou, Bénin Republic, and the other from University of Professional Studies Accra, Ghana.

I am truly blessed.

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Ambode: Humanist At 58

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By Bolaji Adasofunjo

If you dissect the whole teachings of the philosophical school called humanism, though it looks like its opposite, it is almost synonymous with that biblical exhortation which asks man not to lay treasures for himself on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, said the exhortation, man should lay his treasure in heaven where neither moths nor grasshoppers can eat it. However, while this biblical exhortation hammers on spiritual immortality as a result of sowing seeds in the house of God, humanists ask humanity to lay their treasures in the hearts of human beings, which can be seen, hinting that there lies immortality.

It will appear however from the standpoint of logic, that when a man lays imperishable treasures in the hearts of his fellow man, since man is the creation of God, he is laying his treasures in heaven. Going by this logic, if former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode’s four-year strides as the governor of the state are a measure of humanist philosophy, then he has laid his treasures in heaven and has achieved immortality in the hearts of the people of Lagos State.

Born June 14, 1963 at the Epe General Hospital, to the family of a man called Festus Akinwale Ambode and his wife, Christianah Oluleye Ambode, the young boy, one of the ten children of his father, was to later light the lamp of development in a state ranked as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Today marks Ambode’s 58 years sojourn on the surface of the earth. The elder Ambode equipped the young Akinwunmi with the paraphernalia of leadership from the outset. Sending him to acquire the golden fleece at Jude’s Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos State where he studied between 1969 and1974, he also proceeded to the Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State, a sojourn that took him till 1981 when he proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG). From that same 1981 to 1984, he was in UNILAG where he studied Accounting and graduated at the age of 21. Not only did the precocious Akinwunmi bag a Master’s in Accounting from the same university and an Hubert Humphrey fellowship at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, in no long time, he became a chartered accountant at 24.Diligently honing his academic and professional fecundity, he attended most of the best schools in the world among which are; Harvard Kennedy of School Of Government, Cranfield University, United kingdom, INSEAD-Singapore, Wharton Business School, Philadelphia.

After observing his compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at The Central Bank of Nigeria in Sokoto and assured that the civil service was the lush ground to groom leadership potentials due to its civil underpinning, Akinwunmi joined the Lagos civil service where he began in 1988 as Assistant Treasurer at the Badagry Local Government. Thereafter, in 1991, he was posted to the Somolu local government as the council’s auditor and in later years, he became the Council Treasurer of same Somolu Local Government, where he had held the financial forte previously. At another time, he served at the Alimoso council and in 2001, his mastery and wizardry in financial matters came to the ears of the powers-that-be and he was promptly made the acting Auditor General for Local Government of Lagos State and later confirmed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. By January 2005, he was elevated to the post of Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Finance. In all these merry-go-round appointments, how was Akinwunmi to know that providence was taking him through the mills, so that he could understand the pains of grassroots people, have a feel of their wants and emotions, preparatory to undertaking an assignment of consequence in the people’s lives?

Strides-wise, Ambode chose not to rest on his oars. This probably was why he was appointed the state Accountant General in 2006, to handle portfolios of all financial activities in the state, with over 1400 accountants in the state service under his administration. As if he and making strides were Siamese twins, Akinwunmi revolutionized the State Treasury Office, (STO) with his midas touch, changing the old patterns of Lagos State finances, budget, management and planning. He was the unsung hero behind the phenomenal raise in the ante of the Lagos financial performance within this period. This caught the attention of development analysts as he lifted the state’s budgetary performance to an annual average of 85%.

The most fitting acknowledgement of Ambode’s intellect and understanding of the Lagos State financial, social and developmental needs was his choice by the Lagos political class to run for the office of the Governor of Lagos in April, 2015. In that election, wherein he campaigned for and ran on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Ambode defeated his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) closest rival, Jimi Agbaje by 150,000 votes. Basking in the grips he had acquired on Lagos and the goodwill that it attracted to him, Ambode’s firm hold on the economic trajectory of Lagos and the thirst for Lagos to continue to consolidate on the financial gains of the previous years were some of the indices that delivered the governorship to him.

During his gubernatorial campaign, the man who was fast morphing from a civil servant imbued with a tradition of subordination to higher authority, being heard but not seen, into a politician, made use of his metamorphosis. He introduced panache into the electioneering process and made the youths to catch their fun while listening to “warring politicians.” His posters were surfeited with a cliché built on his understanding of Lagos, its economy, finance and people. Many have spoken about how he changed the mantra of electioneering, diverting it from the usual cliché that had no bearing on the aspirant’s past and trajectory. Ambode believed that in his own trajectory, his daring ideas and credentials, lay his success at the polls, so he deployed them to the highest advantage.

For him and this manifested quite tremendously in his campaign posters, he documented all his credentials and cognitive experience, perhaps asking anyone who doubted them to do a double check. Apart from documenting his educational credentials, Ambode also articulated all his trail-blazing catapults to the top of his career within the span of 27 years of his civil service career in Lagos State as well as his entrepreneurial journey in the private sector. Sounding like a fairy tale, the posters painted the iconic image of a positively queer man who entered the civil service at the age of 21 and rose, by dint of his mental endowment, to the zenith of the service as Accountant General. He literally challenged his rivals to be bold enough to subject theirs to same scrutiny. In a Nigeria where politicians shroud their past from the world’s glare, Ambode was telling an unusual story and perhaps pointing at the rout to go. His posters were distinguished by the mantra, LET MY EXPERIENCE WORK FOR YOU. Some analysts have said that it was the acceptance by the electorate, which came thereafter, his audacity to tell his own story for the world to hear, which propelled his political enemies and the opposition into spinning the unfounded allegation of his dual nativity.

In four years that his administration held forte in Lagos, Ambode brought on board panache and a can-do spirit that was not alien to Lagos and which set him apart as a man to beat. He bombarded Lagos with so many monumental developmental projects, which instantly made the State of Aquatic Splendor to become a construction yard. Virtually in all the local governments of the state, constructions went on simultaneously.

Development of Lagos became his locus of operation and in this regard, he bestrode Lagos like a colossus. It was such that, within four years, his strides dwarfed all his predecessors’ combined especially when one considered the twin impact of recession and dwindling oil price to close to $20 at that time. Tireless and with an eye on history, he was quoted several times as mouthing the need to attain immortality in the hearts of Lagosians by his developmental efforts. This must have been why he operated a governance model that touched virtually all the facets of the lives of Lagosians. Till today, his strides are yet unsurpassable as they are benchmarked as indices and measurement for good governance. A few of those developmental efforts are the iconic annual 5-Zone One Lagos Fiesta, his transport lay-bys and traffic control management model, the Bus reforms and terminals, the Aboru-Abesan bridge, Ajah-Jubilee Bridge, The Abuel-Egba bridge, the Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps model, pedestrian crossings, 576 completed world class roads, functional security architecture that he bestowed to Lagos, the infrastructural transformation of LASU, revamping of LASEMA rescue unit, the jetties and water ferries, healthcare model and Ayinke House Revamp, Airport road construction, the world class Oshodi terminal, the Epe re- development and Chalets, the DNA Forensic Laboratory, Oshodi Safety Arena, the Imota Rice Mill-The biggest in Africa , Lake Rice, the iconic transformation of Alimosho roads leading to Ota in Ogun State, the 5 Lagos theatres, the Pen Cinema bridge, his Lagos Marathon, the Ojodu-Berger transformation, the artistic monuments that he dotted around Lagos, the over 6,000 Housing units, his Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, transport buses, light- up Lagos initiative, the Onikan Arena, The J.K Randle Centre and a lot more that made him to stand out among those who have administered Lagos or those who will administer it in years to come. Till today, the people of Lagos still speak of the Akinwunmi Ambode titanic achievements and remember him with profound nostalgia.
It is doubtful whether, even though the shenanigans of the political class denied him a second term, this same set of people can succeed in obliterating his memories from the hearts of the people he labored for. He impacted the lives of the ordinary citizens of Lagos in a way that ardent humanists alone could. For instance, while constructing the Johnson, Jakande, Tinubu (JJT) Park at Alausa, the model, which he parodied and eventually got, actualized, was the re-development of that park to become a world-class leisure park. After the commissioning of the park, Ambode literally turned it into the hands of the people by opening it to all despite being few meters away from his living room in the seat of power in Alausa, Ikeja. In a rare display of humility, the governor took his children to the park to have a feel of the facility with other fun-seekers at the park. Today, he appeared to the users of the park like the man who saw tomorrow due to his remarkable foresight. Even his biggest critics in their cocoons do say ‘’Ti egan ni e, Ambode se ise l’eko” meaning, with all honesty, Ambode worked in Lagos State.

As multi-faceted as his strides were, perhaps because of his civil service background, Ambode was content with the belief that blowing one’s trumpet was immodesty of the highest order. He preferred his strides to go ahead of him into the hearts of the people. As if he knew that in the hearts of the combines, forces who were displeased with his sagacity and “excessive” embrace of the common man on the streets, would not allow his government to endure, Ambode slaved every hour in his 48 months period of being in government as if the last day would be his last in office. He made stupendous inroads into the hearts of the people, so much that the lingo in Lagos is that, after the Late Action Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, no one had attempted to best his performance in Lagos.

As Ambode marks his 58 years on earth today, his fare in Lagos as governor should be a torchbearer to those who queue on the side of the people. They can surely be denigrated, despised and muzzled out of their vision and mission for the people but in the long run, they remain iconic in the eyes of history and in the hearts of the people they served. Happy Birthday to the peoples’ Governor!

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Buhari’s Dot-In-A-Circle and Makinde’s AK-47

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By Festus Adedayo

Was it better that President Muhammadu Buhari remained unapologetically deaf to all entreaties to address Nigerians or open a window into his mind and reveal a cesspit of foul-smelling hate? Peradventure there were still nationalistic remnants among his coterie of admirers, after last Thursday’s interview the president granted Arise TV, they would be at the crossroads. Their dilemma may jolly well be addressed by a famous Maurice Switzer quote whose authorship had before now been a subject of controversies. Was it authored by Abraham Lincoln or celebrated humourist, Mark Twain? Anyway, Switzer, in a book written in 1907, had said, which I tinker with for the purpose of this discussion, that, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought an ethnic bigot (inflection mine) than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

If anyone was undecided whether Buhari was at the roots of Nigeria’s worsening ethnic crises in the last six years or so, that Arise TV interview removed all doubts. It revealed a president whose mind is a fertile breeding ground for viral ethnic divisiveness, an infection that is without any possible hope of redemption.

The interview brings an urgent need to conduct a psychoanalysis on the man at the Villa. I did and the result was prim, grim, and unsavoury. That perhaps was one good the Arise TV interview did for Nigerians. It ventilated the innermost recess of the mind of one of the most reticent closet presidents in Nigerian history.

With the interview, we were obliged the opportunity to scrutinize the hidden crevices of President Buhari’s mind. The white apparel he wore was apparently a deliberate ploy to associate purity of mind to him. It attempted to hide the disgusting sewers his inner being harbours. Presently, the maggots began to wriggle out, in the form of huge bile and rank hatred for the Igbo ethnic stock and crass disregard for the myriad other nationalities that make up the geographical expression called Nigeria. The disgust sipped out of every pore on his gangly frame.

While the world, in that interview, saw a feeble Muhammadu Buhari, what a deeper scrutiny would reveal is a re-sprouting Milton Obote, a notorious Ugandan despot and a Buhari who sees anyone but Fulani as the British saw Mau Mau fighters in colonial Kenya. Obote was a two-time Ugandan leader who led his country to independence from the British in 1962 and served, first as Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966, President, 1966 to 1971, and after his Idi Amin ouster in 1979, Obote ruled Uganda again from 1980 to 1985. In 1983, Obote of the Oyima clan of the Northern Ugandan Lango ethnic group exacerbated ethnic tensions in Uganda and launched a bloodcurdling military expedition called Operation Bonanza which resulted in the death of approximately 100,000 to 500,000 Ugandans.

Asked about separationist agitations in Nigeria’s Southeast, Buhari beamed that cynical smile of his, laced with a hidden serpentine venom, and said arrogantly, “That IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about. In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organize the police and the military to pursue them.”

In the president’s manifestly narrow reading of the Southeast geopolitical zone, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) approximates the Igbo nation that owns assets all over Nigeria. This reminds me of the gory narrative of the Kenyan Mau Mau war. The rebellion of Mau Mau Uprising raged from 1952 to 1960. It was waged in the British Kenya colony between the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA) populated by Kikuyu, Meru and Empu people of Kenya, against the white European settler overlords.

Just like Buhari, to the British, every Kenyan was a Mau Mau who merited being mowed down mercilessly. Headed by a guerilla fighter called Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi, the moment Kimathi was captured on October 21, 1956, it was obvious Britain had extinguished the Mau Mau uprising. In that spiteful summation of the Igbo uprising, Buhari was further alienating a people who only needed a sense of belonging and equity in Nigeria.

How else can a president, whose mind is this poisoned with venomous hatred, be told that just as there are criminals among his Fulani stock, so also are there outlaws in Igbo land who believe that violence opens the trough of peace? The sad thing is that, as Buhari exhibits this crude hatred for Daniel Kanu and his Igbo people, his baseless venom grooms a generation of dangerous sympathizers to the IPOB cause, just like the killing of Mohammed Yusuff is the precursor of the subsisting Boko Haram insurgency.

In Buhari’s unguarded ire, the Igbo have come to see his selective criminalization of the Southeast as a manifestation and continuation of the First Republic Hausa-Fulani hate and pogrom against their people. Buhari is, through this hatred, promoting Kanu beyond his relevance.

With the benefit of hindsight, President Buhari’s dot-in-a-circle theory is a product of a lazy mind and a narrow reading of the historical trajectory of secessionism in Nigeria. First, he forgot that a sentence, like a whole, is not complete without a full stop, which is a dot. By that very fact, Nigeria needs his so-called dot-in-a-circle to turn full circle.

Again, what he and his commissars hounding the Igbo out of Nigeria should know is that the separatist agenda is lawful and not criminal. Indeed, the United Nations recognizes it as a fundamental human right. Over time, that mantra of Nigeria’s unity being non-negotiable has been dissected to be void and a refrain only on the lips of suppressors of people’s rights.

Northern Nigeria is historically known to be the region that first threatened to secede from Nigeria when the Northern delegation to the 1950 Ibadan Constitutional Conference warned that “unless the Northern region is allotted 50 per cent of the seats in the Central Legislature” it would ask for separation from the rest of Nigeria on the arrangements existing before 1914. Again in 1966, it attempted to secede from Nigeria through its Operation Araba. It is obvious that, due to the manifold injustice, inequity, and oppression of the Buhari government in the last six years, separatist calls have risen to a proportion that is unprecedented in history.

At the core of those calls is this administration’s equivocation of seeking peace when it dishes a broth of injustice to the other partners in the Nigerian federation. In the Southwest today, separatism is gaining traction. If Buhari hounds that dot-in-a-circle Southeast out of Nigeria, he will do well to know that this petulance will open similar doors of secession to other ethnic groups that have been reduced to slaving partners in Nigeria’s pseudo-federalism. This was perhaps the sense in that statement attributed to Immortal Obafemi Awolowo when he allegedly said that if Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Biafra was allowed to secede, the Yoruba would have no other option than to follow suit.

One other slant of Buhari’s Arise TV interview which revealed the nocturne enveloping his mind is his obsession with the Niger Republic, Fulani herders’ grazing route, and his narrow reading of the serious security concern in the land. These three issues are a continuation of his dogged and relentless defence of his Fulani kin. His simplistic explanation of incineration of billions of Nigeria’s patrimony into the construction of a rail line from Lagos to the Niger Republic is a sickening logic that bears every imprimatur of his Fulani ethnic group’s notorious disrespect for international boundaries. How vast can Niger Republic’s crude oil find be to constitute such a humongous threat to Nigeria’s economy, such that Nigeria had to now scamper to please this imaginary oil god with such monumental infrastructural project?

A la the President, because his Fulani, Kanuri and Hausa cousins reside in Niger, Nigeria must abandon its suffering people to please Niger? If this reasoning is not otiose, I wonder what else is.

In the interview, Buhari merely regurgitated Abubakar Malami’s lazy thesis of constitutional human rights for cattle. He confirmed that he ordered the AGF to exhume the grazing routes gazette of the 1960s, just to find a legal justification for the rapacious quest of his Fulani kin to turn the whole of Nigeria into their cattle ranch. “What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there,” he said. Then, he lapsed into the solipsism of a 20th century animal husbandry where straying cattle’s herders were arrested and ordered to pay fine by the Khadi (judge). With that kind of reasoning, one shudders to discover that a human being could indeed live in the 21st century and remain anachronistic like a Stone Age provincial overlord!

To confirm that the president’s thinking is actually frozen in the Antarctic glazier, as against the norm in a supersonic 21st century, Buhari is still fascinated with that antiquated cattle rearing model he was born into. He does not give a hoot if the whole country is propitiated to the god of rampaging Fulani herdsmen. He romanticized his cattle-rearing model thus: “People were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills, in some places, there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.”

Unapologetically, like a conquistador bent on acquiring territories and demanding vassals, Buhari magisterially proclaimed that “those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.” The fact that countries like Brazil and Argentina which have larger herds of cattle practice a modern ranching system which gives them humongous economic and environmental benefits matter little to our President who proudly declares himself a herdsman in the ilk of his marauding brothers!

The pertinent question to ask is, what part of the world still retains a leader like Nigeria’s whose mind reeks this disgustingly of ethnic impurities? Why is Buhari this stubbornly and illogically obsessed with this antiquated grazing model, in a world that has since left this Acheulian culture mindset? If Buhari was this much in love with the exhumation of the past, how come he didn’t ask that the 1963 constitution be exhumed?

The other leg of Buhari’s tripodal assault on logic in that Arise TV interview was how he simplistically dismissed the raging Fulani herders’ killings that rocks Nigeria. To Governor Samuel Ortom, whose state Fulani herdsmen have turned into a mobile mortuary, he had this doggerel: “The governor of Benue said I cannot discipline the cattle rearers because I am one of them. I cannot deny that I am one of them.” No solution, no apologies. He then went further to tell the story of how two governors of the Southwest visited him. “Two governors from the South-west came to tell me that the cattle rearers in some of the forests are killing farmers while their cattle are eating their crops. I told them you campaigned to be elected and you are elected. I told them (to) go back and sort out themselves,” he announced, pretending to forget that in the kind of obtuse federalism we practice in Nigeria, governors neither control the Police nor the Army! There were insinuations that he was referring to Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo States.

Last week, Oyo State literally went up in flames, drenched in tears. Igangan, a town in the Ibarapa area of the state, was visited by one of the most visceral carnages ever by Fulani herders who had apparently come for reprisal against their eviction from the land. Properties, including the palace of the town’s monarch, were set ablaze by these sons of perdition. When the quake settled, about 15 people lay dead. Governor Makinde, amid weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth of the natives, visited and soberly accepted responsibility for the killings. “We failed you,” he said, his voice soaked in melancholy. Though the counterfeit federalism practiced by Nigeria has castrated state governors security-wise, reducing them to window-dressing sissies, Makinde’s acceptance of responsibility was seen as a mark of leadership.

In the true sense of it, that apology should have come from Buhari as the man who failed woefully to protect the people. Not only didn’t he show any remorse, but no word of apology also came from him to Igangan. It was as if in Buhari’s mean veins, no blood but cow milk flows. That is why his attempt to shift responsibility above is sadistically lame and laughable. Igangan people and all victims of herdsmen are no less man than Buhari’s Fulani killers. They are only hamstrung by legally blocked access to AK-47 which the killers wield. That AK-47 request made by Makinde is a direct test of statesmanship for Buhari who holds the knife and the yam on the control of violence. If he is not for the aggressor in the fight against terror, he should grant the request of the Oyo State governor then watch if Igangan will ever happen again.

Those who accuse the governors of failing to provide security for their people, a tame and puerile route which Buhari also trod by that his hypocritical comment, is not being fair to them. If Makinde, Akeredolu, or Ortom, for instance, acceded to the request of arming their people with AK-47, this Fulani presidency will give them the Zamani Lekwot treatment. Do you remember how that General was almost executed for allegedly arming his people in the Zangon Kataf war?

Thank God, elders of the land like Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdusalami Abubakar and others are said to be meeting and will visit Buhari presently. Buhari has morphed dangerously and can use his obsessive hate for others and malicious Fulani clannishness to set Nigeria on fire. Yoruba always ask that elders should wade in, at a critical moment like this, lest a loony make barbecue of the remains of his deceased mother. The Buhari government is in the autumn of its relevance. The symbolism of the end is all we see – leaves are falling and it is haunted by literal death. As same Yoruba will say, the Buhari market is at the edge of its tethers, winding up and leaving only remnants of those who display their wares – oja ti tu, o ku pa’te pa’te.


(Published by The Cable, June 13, 2021)

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A Leadership Model We Can Trust

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By Ehi Braimah

It would appear that the meeting of Southern Nigerian governors recently in Asaba under the auspices of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum (SNGF) and their communiqué stirred up a hornet’s nest. The issues highlighted at the meeting were not exactly new but this time, they got the attention they wanted. The news of the Asaba Summit went viral instantly – at the touch of a digital button.

First, it was a bi-partisan summit which meant that there were common interests at stake; it didn’t matter whether the party symbol was a broom or umbrella. Except we refuse to admit it, there is no difference between the two parties – they are two sides of the same coin. As the governors spoke with one voice on national issues which are constantly tearing us apart, some analysts argued that these governors can only bark and they do not have the capacity to bite.

Now, the governors of Northern Nigeria also hold their meetings to discuss issues that affect the region. Why should we have separate meetings in the first place if we truly want a “united country”? Two separate meetings by the governors of Northern and Southern Nigeria is the equivalent of “two countries” co-existing side by side within the same country.

These two regions have also been further sub-divided into six (geo-political) regions, although it is not recognised by our constitution. Governors of these six regions also hold their meetings leading to my second thesis of “six countries” within Nigeria. Let’s be clear, I’m not in any way canvassing for the break-up of Nigeria. No, I don’t think that is the answer to our multi-faceted problems but the idea of “two” or “six” countries means we have a problem which we have to address. We have simply refused to take advantage of our diversity which ought to be our greatest strength.

We have been holding round table dialogues, the most recent being the 2014 National Conference convened by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. When the session opened in April 2014, 492 delegates from every section of Nigeria took part in the plenary and committee deliberations.

The late Justice Idris Kutigi chaired the conference which lasted for slightly over four months. All cadres of society ranging from professional groups to market women, youths, traditional rulers, and political parties’ officials to labour unions’ representatives discussed over 600 contending issues and made their recommendations.

But is it surprising the report was not implemented after all the billions of naira spent at the conference? It portrays us as a wasteful country which is actually a recurring decimal. Some people say Nigeria is jinxed and any idea or proposal that would move the country forward is usually dispatched to the cemetery and buried for life.

No one has told us why the conference report has not been implemented since it was submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan but my view is that Nigeria would have been the biggest beneficiary because the report of the proceedings and recommendations were excellent.

The Southern governors have again called for a national dialogue which is a good thing; we cannot stop discussing the issues that affect us which is clearly a smart way of reducing social tension in the land. If that conference were to hold today, what would happen to the report?

One of the things the governors asked for at the Asaba Summit was devolution of powers. This was also a key outcome of the 2014 National Conference but suddenly, calls for “re-structuring” of the country made headline news. What is the difference between “devolution of powers” and “re-structuring” or do they mean the same thing? Our constitutional law experts should explain to us.

If we cannot design a leadership framework with “shared values” that would serve as the glue holding everyone together irrespective of region, tribe and religion, then Nigeria will continue to be a “mere geographical expression” without any purpose. That was how the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, once described Nigeria.

Can we also describe Nigeria as a rolling stone that gathers no moss? We are not building the country of our dream because of sectional interests which do not cohere with national interests. The starting point of the great renaissance for a “New Nigeria” is to discard “me, myself and I” orientation. It retards

progress. Mutual suspicion and lack of trusting relationships are responsible for the quest for territorial advantage which has manifested in separatist groups now threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.

It is why Nigerians have been told to have a “Plan B”. If you are unhappy with what is happening in Nigeria, make your plan to relocate elsewhere. Again, this is not the solution; we cannot run away from our problems. If all the governors of the 36 states are sincere with themselves, they should come together and discuss the Asaba Summit agenda and communiqué.

The issues discussed at the Summit are at the heart of our current crisis putting the country on edge. The meeting was convened mainly because of the deteriorating security situation in the country to “harmonise their positions”. Non-state actors have used these issues to oxygenate their calls for self-determination.

If we design a workable leadership model, it will help us focus on those critical issues raised in Asaba by the governors. They include national dialogue, devolution of power, state police, equitable allocation of resources and federal appointments, open grazing and so on. You really cannot fault the governors’ position on these issues. It is now clear why the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, boycotted the meeting – he had other ideas, chief of which was decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and he was not ready to offend his friends in the northern establishment.

The southern governors affirmed that they believe in the unity of Nigeria. That declaration set the tone for their meeting and they hit the bull’s eye with it. We are better off together as one country but our leaders and political elite should immediately hit the re-set button for Nigeria to work for everyone. They know in their hearts that they have failed us. Leaders are the conscience of society and they have their jobs well cut out for them.

But where there is no fairness, equity, social justice and respect for fundamental human rights, the union will be troubled 24/7 and the task of nation building will be difficult. The North versus South dichotomy I referred to earlier is the only plausible explanation for the comment made by Abubakar Malami, the attorney general and minister of justice, relating to the ban on opening grazing in Southern Nigeria.

How could Malami in good conscience compare the ban as announced by the Southern governors to banning the sale of spare parts in Northern Nigeria? I’m still scratching my head to be sure Malami didn’t utter those words. If he did, then we have a big problem on our hands. The reaction to Malami’s comment

by Ondo State governor, Chief Rotimi, Akeredolu, was blunt and damning. He gave the attorney general the full length of his tongue, even daring him to go to court and thus signaling a new dawn at SNGF.

I think our political leadership should understudy Rotary’s 4-Way Test principle of the things we think, say or do: 1) Is it the truth, 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

If we can assimilate these principles at all levels, especially as civics subject taught right from primary and secondary schools, it will be helpful as a national orientation tool. We are in dire need of the right values – especially among our youths — that can build strong institutions. This is because the moral fabric of our society is dirty and rotten – we cannot remain like this forever.

The leadership model on my mind, in addition to having “shared values” and applying Rotary’s 4-Way Test principle, is standing on a tripod: 1) the rule of law must prevail at all times; no one should be above the law, 2) exemplary leadership, and 3) building trusting relationships. This was the position of Ambassador Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode when we discussed the security challenges in the country recently at our Editorial Meeting.

This model should be the standard for all chairmen and councilors in all the 774 local government areas, governors, FCT administration officials, law makers in the states houses’ of assembly and national assembly, civil servants at all levels and appointees in ministries, departments and agencies.

Building social capital means when the government says something, it will be trusted. Right now, this is not the case. Nigerians do not trust any government in what they think, say or do neither are they inspired in any way, so they have accepted their fate in their own hands. If our political elites do the “right things”, Nigeria will become a better place. It is possible, so let’s do it!

Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

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