By Ehi Braimah
The list of presidential aspirants is growing daily with more declarations being announced at the drop of a hat, especially in the dominant parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – that are essentially two sides of the same coin. Even though our politicians keep crossing carpet and trading places between both partieswithout any sense of shame or history, they must understand that we need drastic changes urgently.
Politicians in Nigeria are generally fair weather friends, always in search of where their bread would be buttered; they do not have principles and the political parties find it difficult to stay on track with purposeful ideologies.
In APC and PDP alone, we have over 20 Nigerians seeking the highest office in the land – they all want to be president. As I have noted in the past, it is well within everyone’s right to contest; let them come out and test their popularity – as long as the process is free and fair. But one thing is clear: Nigerians need a strong and intelligent leader because we are tired of the hanky panky of the political elite and their collaborators.
In this article, I have identified, as much as I can, the front runners and likely candidates as we count down to the party primaries. It is expected that the parties will focus on winning the presidential election by putting their best candidates forward, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses.
“Democracy is not working in Nigeria and we cannot continue like this,” declared a Nigerian friendof mine living in London, obviously frustrated with the negative stories coming from home. “God has given us everything to prosper but we have many enemies of progress in Nigeria0,” my friend added.
These “enemies” know themselves but they are living on borrowed time.The biggest concern right now is that Nigeria cannot afford a humanitarian crisis, not with what we are witnessing in Ukraine after Russia declared war on the country. I’m not an alarmist but the threat from non-state actors is an ever present danger to the general elections and the unity of this country. Even more dangerous is the threat to daily survival of most Nigerians.
What politicians do is to play mind games with us in their flowing robes and position themselves strongly for quick wins. Politics, for most of them, is a full time job but they lack any visionary zeal and sense of purpose to take Nigeria to the “Promised Land” which explains our current situation: motion without movement.
Who, among the presidential aspirants, has what it takes to initiate a bold vision for Nigeria and act on it? You will agree with me that we can only project from the list of potential candidates available in APC and PDP, without prejudice to the other registered political parties. We are unlucky to be saddled with recycled politicians with deep pockets, but you can be sure our current “political culture” will definitely favour some of the aspirants.
Let no one fool you, if you do not have money, you cannot win any election – not even a council election. That is the dilemma but where do they find the money for electioneering? Sourcesof campaign funds running into billions of Naira are never declared.
From what Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said recently, he is worried about the security situation in the country. He averred that the extenuating circumstances constitute a threat to the general elections in 2023.This is why I am surprised that the Council of State approved we should the national census April next year when the current administration should be winding down.
It is the security of our country – not census – that should be our priority right now. The incoming administration can conduct the census. There’s no need to stampede Nigerians into a hurriedly packaged national head count; it can wait. Anyway, let us assumethe elections will hold.
Previously, APC had zoned the party’s presidential ticket to the South. It explained why Senator Abdullahi Adamu emerged as Chairman of the party through a consensus arrangement (at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari) at the national convention of the party which finally held on March 26 in spite of dissenting voices.
The three top contenders in APC, from my dip stick survey, are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the party; vice president Yemi Osinbajo and minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in that order. However, it was Asiwaju Tinubu who first declared his presidential ambition; he has a first-mover advantage.
After weeks of speculation, Prof Yemi Osinbajo finally declared his intention to contest for president. Let us just say his announcement did not come as a surprise; it was only a question of time but his declaration could have been better choreographed, according to Victor Oladokun, a communications specialist and brand management expert based in Virginia, USA.The overall presentation struck me as what was put together in a hurry. Never mind, he is in the race and I think that is what is important.
As vice president since 2015, Osinbajo believes he is just one step away from occupying the exalted and powerful office of president and I must say it is well within his right to contest. But the unfolding scenario will be an interesting case study for political science researchers. Which political structure will Osinbajo rely on?How did President Buhari receive the news? At what point did he drop the ball with his former boss, Tinubu? What exactly was his motivation to contest?
Osinbajo, a brilliant legal mind, knows that declaring his ambition was “the ultimate test of his loyalty to Tinubu.”I took the liberty to paraphrase these words by Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, who is also eminently qualified to take a shot at the presidency. Well,the VP knows that the die is cast and there’s no turning back.
His relationship with Tinubu since his days as the chief law officer of Lagos state when the Jagaban Borgu was the governor has been seriously tested and it will be a straight fight betweenTinubu and Osinbajo who are clearly the front runners of the party.Insiders told me that their relationship is damaged and it may never be the same again.
Although Osinbajo’s high profile position gives him helicopter view of what goes on inside government circles, Tinubu’s formidable political machine built over the years will be an advantage. By the way, Tinubu – a democracy activist and technocrat — hit the ground running since January and he has been travelling round the country, engaging critical stakeholders. Anyway, politicians do that all the time, testing the waters and weighing their options in what usually turns out to be a cat and mouse race.
My friends and associates are divided on the matter between Tinubu and the VP. In fact, some of them want any party but APC at the centre next year because they are “unhappy” with the Buhari administration.
However, a majority believe Tinubu should get the ticket because, according to them, he will be a “strong” leader. Osinbajo has demonstrated his credentials as a public intellectual with the power of oratory and elocution but he should worry about the trending stories on hisappointments that allegedly favour RCCG (his church) members.
Rotimi Amaechi, from all indications, appears to be favoured by the northern establishment to take over from President Buhari, but it remains what it is: a mere speculation. Becoming president of Nigeria goes beyond wishful thinking. What is Amaechi’s game plan? Who are the delegates in his corner? What will happen in Rivers state where Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike – two political adversaries – are waiting for him? Amaechi knows he has to deliver his state in the presidential election – that is if he is able to get the party’s ticket.
Ifwe cast our minds back, we would recall that Tinubu and Amaechi were the main “facilitators” of the emergence of Buhari as the party’s flag bearer in 2015. How would the seven-year-old gesture count in their favour?Who will be the ultimate beneficiary of the 2015 pact? What is Amaechi’s political capital? Is there something we do not know about his turbaning ceremony in Daura? Well, let us wait and see.
The other APC contendersare Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi state, Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi state (he defected from PDP), Senator Orji Kalu, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Pastor Tunde Bakare.With all due respect, these are players in the second division league of 2023 presidential politics. Not much has been heard from Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti state and Senator Ibikunle Amosun but it appears they are also keen to join the race and become relevant in the scheme of things.
The delegate system will be used at the upcoming primaries – as opposed to the consensus method — to determine the flag bearer of the party but trust me when I say it will be a high stake game. Lobbying and horse trading are on and they are part of the game and our democratic culture. This is why there are so many presidential aspirants stepping out from behind their curtainsto be recognised and take advantage of the “free publicity”arising thereof. Name recognition (brand appeal) is a deliberate survival strategy in politics.
In the case of PDP, zoning where the party’s flag bearer would come from was a major issue but the matter has since been settled. Contestants can come from any part of the country and still be eligible to take part in the presidential primaries – but that is after obtaining the expression of interest form costing N40 million.
PDP, from all indications, wants to unseat APC but how ready is the party? My crystal ball tells me that APC will win the presidential election in spite of the “unhappiness” expressed by some people except, of course, there are major upsets from different polling centres nationwide. PDP also parades a long list of presidential aspirants and it should not be surprising; it is all about positioning for relevance and survival.Politics is a game and the rules were drawn up by the politicians themselves.
The contestants include Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former vice president; Senator Bukola Saraki, former senate president; Senator Ayim Pius Ayim; former secretary to the federal government; Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state; Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, founder of New Nigeria Group and Aare Dele Momodu, chairman of Ovation media group.
Others are Alhaji Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi state; Chief Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state; Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom state; Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state andAyodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti state.
Prof Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of CBN and Kola Abiola, son of late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, are also in the presidential race but in other parties – African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Peoples Redemption party (PRP) respectively.
There are deft political moves among the chieftains of PDP to forge a consensus but it is still unclear how it will play out. For instance, contestants from the South East are insisting that the party must zone the ticket to the zone.
Southern governors of the party have also asked for the presidential ticket to be zoned to the South. These permutations have far reaching implications for the eventual flag bearer of the party, making it difficult to say for sure who will get the ticket.
Based on political data and information available, the 2023 presidential election would be a straight contest between Tinubu and Atiku because they possess the clout and political capital which you cannot buy overnight. They are also immensely popular with dependable political structures and significant outreach initiatives. A consensus arrangement in the South East will favour Peter Obi as he is clearly the contestant with a broader appeal from the region.However, to win the presidential election, the candidate must have a national appeal.
Aare Momodu is a breath of fresh air in the party but how far can he go since money bags, according to his own confession, are in charge of the political process? I can also say the same thing for Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa but they both have their limitations. Udom Emmanuel and Nyesom Wike are two South-South contestants who also want to be president of Nigeria. Wike has been a financier of the party for a long time and he thinks the time has come to reap the benefits of his “investment”. He boasted that he will not play second fiddle to anyone, but later admitted he will remain in the party even if he does not get the ticket.
Wike understands that the party will not hand him the ticket on a platter of gold and if he is truly deserving of becoming the party’s candidate, he has to work harder but his chances are slim. If the ticket swings to the North, Atiku, Saraki, Mohammed and Tambuwal – in that order — will be the front runners.It has become evident that theyneed to agree which one of them should be the preferred candidate from the northern region. Saraki or Tambuwal looks like obvious compromise choices but Atiku is still the man to beat although my brother, Prince Kassim Afegbua, former information commissioner in Edo state, will disagree strongly.
Even if PDP decides to give the ticket to an aspirant from the South East, it is not a guarantee that PDP will go on to win the election; there will still be a contest with the APC flag bearer and the party will rely on the power of incumbency. PDP must wake up and smell the coffee.
Being a party flag bearer is one part of the long journey to Aso Villa but the contestant that eventually gets to the seat of power would be determined by the cumulative vote tally. The candidate’s key messages, the party’s manifesto and the voting pattern in Nigeria are critical in the political equation that ensures victory.
With our myriad of problems, a winning campaign must focus on the challenges facing Nigerians. They include strengthening the integrity of the electoral process, building strong institutions, promoting transparency and accountability in public service, solving the riddle of constant electricity blackouts, exposing corruption, tackling insecurity, creating more jobs, especially through industrialisation and agriculture;managing our wealth efficiently and championing prosperity.
Two key sectors also deserving of attention are education and public health. The incoming administration should search for quick wins – low hanging fruits — to earn foreign exchange in the short term. If the government is unable to manage the railways, airports and other critical assets, they can be concessioned but only on fair and equitable terms. The idea is for government to become leaner and efficient. In addition, our next president must understand that building confidence and trusting relationships are critical success factors to move Nigeria forward.
Whoever is going to be the president needs votes across Nigeria from the 176,000 polling units and every vote must count. That’s where INEC comes. We do not need thugs, mercenaries, ballot box snatchers and hired killers. The world would be watching – right from the party primaries until the election of Nigeria’s next president in 2023.
Let us join hands together and make a difference for the good of our country.
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)
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APC, PDP, The Brass Bell And Spirit Of Godwin Odiye
The story of football dribbling wizard, Godwin Odiye, is told almost like a legend in Nigerian football. A former Nigerian international defender, Odiye’s football career began to lustre when he signed on to play with the third division league side, Nestle and thereafter, National Bank of Lagos. While he featured in the Nigerian national football team that played FIFA World Cup qualifying matches and the 1976 and 1980 African Cup of Nations finals, Odiye’s football achievements paled into insignificance when put beside a 1977 calamity that his foot wrought on the field of play. Gradually, all his remarkable footballing sensations, beginning with playing left-half back for St Finbarr’s College and Academicals in 1975, took flight, to be replaced in national memory by the unpalatable optics of how he scored an own goal against Nigeria in a 1978 World Cup qualifying match against Tunisia.
On the field of play this day, November 12, 1977, was national exhilaration. Though the fans were cross with the football federation over a hike in ticket fees, the hope of a Nigerian win was infectious on the field of play. Having played 0-0 in the first leg in Tunisia and requiring just a 1-0 win in Lagos, Nigerians had begun to fantasize about seeing Nigeria in the World Cup in Argentina as all hope was stacked in favour of the Eagles. The venue was the National Stadium, Lagos.
However, in the real sense, Nigeria’s fate hung on the precipice. Nigerians were glued to their television sets. Fans ecstatically sang praises of the Green Eagles. National coach, Father Tiko, was on edge. All of a sudden, as a Tunisian forward lobbed the ball from the right-hand flank of the Nigerian goal mouth and goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala waited to dive for it, Odiye headed the ball off rhythm into the Nigerian national side’s net, away from the reach of Okala. A ghoulish silence reverberated around the whole of Nigeria. It was as if a lethal bomb had been shot into national space. It was an Odiye infamy.
As national fate hung dangerously on the field of play in November 1977, between now and next weekend, the fate of Nigeria hangs precipitously in Abuja as Nigerians wait in limbo for the two leading political parties – APC and PDP’s party primaries. At the venue of those primaries, those who would take charge of the affairs of Nigeria in the next four years would be decided, from the House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, governors to the President of Nigeria.
As Odiye and his ten other playmates held Nigeria’s social fate in their hands, Nigerian politicians hold the Nigerian national fate today. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, derogatively nicknamed Maradona, for the sleek, fickle hold he had on governmental policies and the dispensable way he disposed of what was sacrosanct, also dribbled Nigeria’s national fate like Odiye’s football. Following Babangida, Nigerian politicians of today have dribbled themselves and dribbled Nigeria so well that, faced with their own goalkeeper, they may likely score an own goal.
Having seen through the veil of the failure of military rule and the lies inherent in its salvationism in close to 30 years of hijack of power, it is fast dawning on Nigerians that party politics will make or mar the country. Unfortunately, politicians seem to have elected to do the latter.
In clear terms and without mincing words, Nigeria has been a huge democratic letdown in the last 23 years of the Fourth Republic. In 23 years, we should have a visible path of development that politics has burrowed for Nigeria. Alas, no. As the years go by, politicians mutate from the bad, and ugly to the worse in terms of quality representation. Vices of governance and quality of representation dip daily like the fog light of a faulty car.
Like Odiye, the man in whose hand is placed the make-or-mar ball is Muhammadu Buhari. Unlike Odiye, who had a sparkling football career until the devil loaned his foot for a fee, however, Buhari has elicited no governmental sparkle, In the words of Salman Rushdie in his Satanic Verses, even the serial visions and expectations that Nigerians had of a Buhari presidency immediately became shifting realities in no long time. Since he entered the field of play and was handed the ball in 2015, Buhari’s governmental character has left much to be desired. As he dribbles the ball with little perspiration, Buhari still has the opportunity of playing a redemptive shot that could reposition, rewrite and reconfigure his years in office. As a cleric once preached at a handing over of pulpit ceremony, it is more glorious to inherit the office of a total failure, an oloriburuku than for an oloriburiku to inherit one’s office. What can compare with the latter is the fatality of a madman given free rein in the handling of his mother’s remains. In his maddening frenzy, he could even decide to make a barbecue of it.
Red pointers indicate that, in his magisterial arrogance and self-righteous audacity, Buhari may act like the proverbial madman above in the choice of who succeeds him. He may just as well barbecue the time-worn power-sharing equilibrium that has acted as the glue that twines Nigeria together.
Since the 1966 hijack of power by the military, the concept of power-sharing has engaged students of Nigerian government and politics, as well as Nigerians as a whole. With soldiers’ oligarchic hold on power through the veil of military rule, the tension between Northern and Southern Nigeria on power holding was immense. From General Yakubu Gowon to Murtala Mohammed, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha to Abdulsalami Abubakar, a tokenistic offering only came the way of southern Nigeria through Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976. With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won by MKO Abiola, it became apparent that the oligarchic military regimes had no space for equitable power-sharing with the rest of Nigeria. The resultant southern rebellion and sabotage of the Abacha regime, which came by the name of NADECO, thus became a fait accompli. The harangue of the northern military hegemony masqueraded as a military rule was so intense that, when Abubakar inherited government at Abacha’s demise, an odd but equitable power-sharing equation was forged which ensured that only the south contested against the south in the 1999 presidential election.
What is power-sharing? According to Adigun Agbaje’s ‘The ideology of power sharing’ in Federalism and Political Restructuring in Nigeria, (Kunle Amuwo et al, eds) power-sharing is a system of power rotation among disparate ethnic and regional blocs, with the aim of producing a symmetrical relationship in deeply divided societies. It is a weapon to combat the existing structure of power inequalities.
Since 1999, adherence to this power-sharing calculus has been followed by government after government. When Obasanjo was leaving office in 2007, he handed over power to a northerner in the person of Umaru Yar’Adua. He had very strong suasion to anoint Peter Odili of the South as his successor. When death cut short Yar’Adua’s stay in office, the constitutional requirement of his succession was followed, necessitating a southerner, Goodluck Jonathan, to be in office till 2015. At the departure of Jonathan, a welter of support, spearheaded by southerners who believed in the chastity of his unwritten covenant, ushered in a Buhari who, with the benefit of hindsight, was Nigeria’s greatest error of the Fourth Republic, and who, by May 2023, would have spent eight years in office. Equity, morality, justice, fidelity to and adherence to the power-sharing module and seamless geopolitical blocs’ relationship dictate that Buhari should follow through with this principle and ensure that the south takes over power from him.
But, no. Those who claimed to have had one on one discussions with the weirdly taciturn Buhari have said that up until now, he has stuck to the unwritten testament of his covenant with southern APC bigwigs, pre-2015, that he would ensure power shift to the south. Even as the disturbing cacophony from the chorus of Babelian presidential sprinters to Aso Rock began to emerge, said to have been stage-managed by Buhari power apparatchik, it was said that Buhari still utters that terse, barely audible abidance by the code of his covenant. However, this week, the devil of northern politicians’ arrogance of power, fueled by that indecipherable Northern monolith, will likely take hold of Buhari’s heart. And before we know it, like Odiye, Buhari would score an own goal against the Nigerian democratic future.
There are very strong conversations in Aso Rock and invariably, in the north, against Buhari abiding by his sworn covenant. One, I have once disembowelled in an earlier offering (2023 conspiracy theory of how Dino Melaye’s god may be our God), to the effect that ceding power to the south could expose the nakedness of a north that is ravaged on all fronts – poverty, insecurity, hopelessness and all sorts – and for which power is the only thriving industry. Second, and which is being canvassed by northern APC zealots, who mask their northern hegemonic drive in the cloak of party ascendancy, is that APC stands the risk of losing power to PDP if it fields a southern candidate. This, they say, looms if PDP picks the seasonal presidential contestant, Atiku Abubakar, as its flag-bearer.
If Buhari and his power canvassers then carry the day, in 2023, Nigeria may yet again have a northerner in Aso Rock, after an eight years of rancid rule. On the surface, this may be a catapult slingshot slung by a small child hunter on the proverbial Iroko Oluwere tree. Iroko, Chlorophora excelsa, is a tree that Yoruba mythology submits, stomachs within its bowels a spirit called Oluwere. Nothing on the superficial speaks to any blowback coming the child’s way for this impudent sling at the great tree god. In any case, the north can logically explain why its child had pelted the Iroko tree with a catapult slingshot. One, as I have explained overleaf, is the concern for the fate of the north and party, the APC. Second is a belief that the monolithic north is a behemoth which cannot be upstaged. Thus, even if the south replies with any offensive riposte by way of votes apathy at the polls in the 2023 election, this can be contained by the humongous votes that always come from the Almajiri of the north. However, like the child who stoned the Iroko and runs away, he should be reminded that the Oluwere’s anger is slow, measured and most times, does not come timeously.
Buhari’s drab eight years have made the logic of another northerner in Aso Rock in 2023 gross injustice and a slap on the face of the rest of Nigeria. It can never be seen as another northerner coming to repair the wound and the scar of the Buhari years’ misrule. It will come across as symptomizing the continuation of nepotism, northern hegemony and the standoffish disposition of Buhari to the rest of Nigeria. While the manifestations of this audacity, like the anger of the Oluwere, may not come in one fell swoop, they will surely come. As French philosopher, Voltaire said, those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. Southern Nigeria didn’t come to the juncture of NADECO in one day. It was the culmination of several injustices.
I want to end this sermon by citing Baba Adebayo Faleti’s song in Saworoide. a 1999 political drama film which was produced and directed by respected cinematographer, Tunde Kelani. Faleti, now deceased, was a Yoruba translator, broadcaster, TV exponent and pioneer of the first television station in Africa, Western Nigeria Television (WNTV). Just as Buhari and travellers in his boat are on the verge of doing, a tripodal ancient pact between Jogbo town, its citizens and their kings, which was reified with the aid of a brass bell in a ritual process, is under serious threat. A newly installed king, King Lapite, seeks to cheat and circumvent the process, with the connivance of some chiefs but eventually meets his waterloo. As this bedlam is about to take place, Baba Adebayo Faleti bursts into a warning song whose purport is evergreen for those who believe that they can cheat processes without a blowback. He sang: “Yio ma l’eyin, oro yi o ma l’eyin, ajantiele…” translated to mean, there will be repercussion, this act will beget repercussions.
I hope those who are arrogantly trying to cheat the process of power-sharing are listening?
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Deborah: Atiku Abubakar And Why Votes Are Thicker Than Blood
By Festus Adedayo
Distressing pieces of bad news are everywhere. From the murder of Miss Deborah Samuel Yakubu by students of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto last Thursday, to the immediate distancing of Nigerian politicians from her killing, hope that a post-Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria will not be clone of its unjust and inequitable era seems to be fading. Between the Deborah murder, the political mockery on the political arena and the lack of regards for Nigerians by Nigerian rulers, two explainers respond to the distresses: They are the Sekere and the forest.
Sekere, the Yoruba musical instrument, is reputed never to be found wherever tears are being shed. Made of a gourd that is knitted round by beads and which its user twists, shakes or slaps to produce a medley of exciting sounds, Sekere and sorrow are strange bedfellows as this musical instrument can never be found in an assemblage of poets engaged in dirges. Proud of Sekere’s pedigree of being a springboard of joy and conviviality, Yoruba proudly thump their chests that Sekere does not cavort in an assembly of the downcast. Unlike the Sekere however, last week, and as it has been its wont, Nigeria again showed that Sekere’s antithesis excites it. From the political, the social, to the economic, the Sekere became a rare object in sight in Nigeria.
But the ululating sound of the Gbedu was everywhere. Before its virginity was violently taken off it by emerging trends of modernity, the Gbedu was a sacred drum that you found in groves of Ogboni secret cult adherents. Also known as the Ogido, the Gbedu belongs to one of the four major families of Yoruba drums. To set it aside as unique and underscore its sacredness, the Gbedu in ancient time was shawled by carvings of animals, birds and the phallus, which depicted its masculinity. During traditional sacrifice ceremonies, the Gbedu was brought out with blood sprinkled on its outward coverings of carvings and an assortment of sacrificial offerings is festooned round it which ranged from feathers of hens, sprinkles of palm wine and egg yolks.
As the week that just ended was meandering into its twilight, Northern Nigerian drummers went inside their bloodied groove to bring out and beat the Gbedu drum. The drum’s howling beat had hardly subsided when the female student, Deborah, was stoned to death and burnt like a ram in Sokoto. Her sin for deserving the fate of a ram in the abattoir was that she allegedly blasphemed the name of Muhammed, the Islamic prophet who died thousands of years ago.
Thereafter, the country was set on edge. Ordinarily, in a country where politicians strive to outdo one another in hypocritical scramble for the hearts of the people in the public square, Deborah’s murder was an opportunity for the political elite to wax lyrical in righteous indignation and casuistry. Press releases that are far distant from the dark groves of the politicians’ hearts are issued at an auspicious moment like this, written in emotion-laden language that points at their belief and desire for a better country.
As the news of Deborah’s murder filtered in on the social media last Thursday, it occasioned a scramble among, especially, presidential aspirants who are sprinting to Nigeria’s Aso Rock gate. You wouldn’t find any difference between their scramble and the one between 1881 and 1914, nicknamed the Scramble for and Partition of Africa, which resulted in its conquest. As Western European powers invaded Africa for the purpose of its annexation, these politicians also scrambled to share a chunk of the people’s hearts in the art of shedding crocodile tears over this bestial killing.
Serial presidential contender, Atiku Abubakar, would seem to have breasted the tape before anyone else. Couched in a distraught voice that spoke like a father and a nationalist genuinely touched and saddened by the barbarism, Atiku’s statement got to Twitter at exactly 12.20am on Friday morning and empathized admirably thus: “There cannot be a justification for such gruesome murder. Deborah Yakubu was murdered and all those behind her death must be brought to justice. My condolences to her family and friends”.
In the language of Nigerian power, however, the above was not apropos. For Nigerian politicians, justice has no corresponding alphabet to politicking. So, when, a few minutes after the tweet, vultures that suck the flesh with their talons stained with blood, hopped on Twitter’s comment section threatening that, by that tweet, Atiku had lost their votes, with implicit threats that whenever he came to Sokoto, they would make him feel the pang of his infelicitous comment against Islam, it occurred to Atiku that votes were thicker than blood. One of them, going by the name, Otunba of Sokoto, told Atiku: “You just lost a million votes in Sokoto”.
That threat seemed to jolt the Turakin Adamawa who sprinted to delete the empathetic message.
While outrage gripped the land that had been painted with crimson, politicians, especially those seeking electors’ votes, weighed the ounces of their statements in empathy to Deborah. It took Vice President Yemi Osinbajo more than 24 hours before his comment came. As I write this, none has come from Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Even the president’s was steeped in the usual puritanical escapism associated with lame duck government statements. Even if it did, nobody would believe him. Buhari has run a government in the last seven years that is lean on justice against malefactors but lusciously rotund in cavalier grandstanding. “No person has the right to take the law into his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem,” Buhari said.
Pray, why would a president, held to be an emblem of justice and equity, now be seeking to upstage the ecumenical cadences and spiritual narratives of the Imam or the pulpit sermon of the pastor? The animals of Sokoto go luscious because Nigeria has been a consequence-less country. It is worse under a man like Buhari who sees his first responsibility in Aso Rock as a defender of the Islamic faith. In virtually all continents of the world where human beings inhabit, you cannot rule out the tendency of some of our brothers extending their hands in a handshake to our ape brothers. This they do in an attempt to link up with their pre-historical mammalian ancestry. Wherever this occurs, flaunting the scorching fangs of the law, governments of such countries always come out to violently reset the brains of these apes. But we know that this won’t happen under this president. It has never happened. Buhari himself, as a presidential aspirant, had espoused this religious fundamentalism and crude lawlessness when he made reference to the blood of baboon and dogs.
Many people have been talking tongue-in-cheek since Deborah was murdered. The truth is that, Northern Nigeria is home to one of the most horrendous religious fundamentalism that the hapless people of Nigeria are forced to stomach. The killing of Deborah and reactions to it have proved very graphically that yoking the north and south together was one of the most fundamental errors of Nigeria’s nation-statehood. While a negligible percentage of northern purists shudder at this barbarism, millions others believe that religion and its tenets should take precedence over human life. This is the root of the fundamentalism that killed Deborah. It is sickening that in this 21st century, a people could be this dogmatically wedged to and rigidly affixed to an interpretation of scriptures, at the detriment of humanity. There is no difference between the religious fundamentalism and extremism of the Sokoto animal butchers who killed Deborah and the ones of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They are both sired by and linked to negative outcomes such as prejudice, hostility or even armed conflict that religious fundamentalism brings.
In southern Nigeria, the character of religion is more discerned and indeed discernible. What is my business if you blaspheme Jesus Christ? Am I His armour bearer? Or that you tore pages of the Bible and defecate on it? That is your business for which you will have your day with Him in judgment – if indeed there is one. Why should anyone seek martyrdom for foreign religions whose hereafter theologies are basically guesswork?
Christianah Oluwasesin, Grace Ushang, Gideon Akaluka and others after them are products of the useless martyrdom that some adherents of Islamic religion crave. Their claim for those horrendous murders was that the holy writ says they would be beatified if they kill their fellow beings. Oluwasesin got lynched in Gombe in 2007 by secondary school students. They had accused her of rubbishing the Qur’an. What happened was that, while invigilating an exam, she was confronted by cheating students. Irked, Oluwasesin snatched the paper from them. To her chagrin, she discovered that the leaflet was a Qur’an. She met her waterloo. Ushang, in 2009 in Maiduguri, got raped and murdered. Her sin? She had the effrontery of wearing the trousers of the NYSC. I remember that in Yelwa-Yauri in 1992, my female colleague corps members were almost lynched inside the Yauri market for wearing similar trousers. Gideon Akaluka was the precursor of the earlier two. He was beheaded in Kano in 1995. His sin too was disrespecting the Qur’an.
Bible and Quran, written thousands of years ago, must be made to adhere to the quests of today’s world. You cannot ask for an unthinkable adherence to a call to kill “infidels” written in an almost pre-historic era at a modern time like this. Whether in Christianity, Islam or any other faith, the moment you allow your brain to go on sabbatical while you read the writs of the faiths, you have become indistinguishable from an animal. The Bible or Quran cannot be bigger than humanity. Man was not made for religion but religion was made for man. Nothing weighs as hugely as humanity and its essence.
Aside the Deborah murder, there are other parallels to the strange weirdness that has gripped Nigeria in recent time. And the forest seems the most fitting description of where we have found ourselves. In Africa, the forest is not just a mosaic of long stretches of scary landscape, huge trees that seem to offer handshakes to one another; it is not merely the habitat where scary chirps of crickets and birds and animals are heard, neither is it just the abode of flaura and fauna. The forest is the place where the unexplained and the inexplicable live. If you doubt this, read the classics of D.O. Fagunwa. It is why hunters who make the forest their dwelling places, who suddenly get lost inside its strange labyrinth, are highly respected and venerated as superhuman. Hunters are reputed to tango, in a life and death battle, with strange and deadly animals, deploying their physical brawns and supernatural powers inherited from their forebears.
Our children have been at home for months now, no thanks to the ASUU-government imbroglio and no one seems to care. In the states of the north-central, north-east and north-west, there is a greater harvest of human bodies than they do annual crops. Hopelessness has seized the land like a pestilence. Yet, politicians are stone deaf and morbid dumb to this reign of crimson. All they do is muzzling and stampeding for political offices. We now have a canvass of serious contenders for positions and appointment-inspired declarations of intents. Billions of naira of government’s money and already stashed away cash are being floated in space to attain life-long ambitions of politicians while hunger persistently wracks the bellies of the people.
In situating where we have found ourselves, I will go to the forest still to secure an explainer. Especially, for the cat-and-mouse game between the political and governmental elites and the people. When hunters go to the forest to hunt game, they use this peculiar, centuries-old expedition methodology that is aptly captured by the “we” and “them” bifurcation. The hunting crew encircles a forest which is believed to be the habitation of games – mongoose, impala, antelope and so on. Those with guns and cutlasses, with their weapons on the ready, are ranged at the front while the rest of the crew is saddled with the task of beating the bush with huge woods from the back.
With this, experience tells them that the animals will scramble out of their holes. When the animals thus try to escape, the armed hunting crew shoots them to death. At the close of the day when the whole crew gets home with their spoils and the animals are shared, the armed hunters, who do next to nothing but shoot, get what the Yoruba call the Itafa which consists of the meaty thighs and head. The yokel who beat the bush get the almost meat-less portions of the animal. Espousing the sense in not being a yokel, late Apala musician, Ayinla Omowura, sang that his opponents merely beat the bush in a hunt for games and he was the hunter with the gun who would coast home with the chunkiest meat – “E f’awon were sile…” he upbraided them. Resigning to fate in an unholy alliance as this, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, another musician of that age, sang that when given the bony back of the animal in this equation, it signified that he would see his enemies’ end, their back.
In the hunting for the goodness of the land of Nigeria, the elites – political, governmental, business etc – secure an unfair advantage over the generality of the people. In saner climes, that ambivalence by Atiku Abubakar should open the door out of the presidential race for him. It will however not, because this unfair dealing with the people is normal in elite-people tango. His scramble to explain this gaffe worsens the gravity of the deletion of the tweet. It is why justice, to the political and governmental elite, has dual colour. It is why murderers deserve empathy and the ones murdered do not. It is why Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria’s No 1 banker, could mock Nigerians that he was not bothered if they had heart attacks in their quest to have the best man to administer them. It is why Goodluck Jonathan could tell that humongous lie that Miyetti Allah bought him his presidential form on the platform of a party that tore the remnants of his credibility to shreds. It is why our votes, rather than our humanity, matter more to Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu and the rest political harlots. It is why Nigeria is not wired to be ruled by brainy but hare-brained politicians. It is why we are where we are.
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London To Lagos On Motobike
By Ehi Braimah
The internet is literally on fire over the decision of Kunle Adeyanju, a Nigerian and Rotarian, to embark on a charity ride from London to Lagos – a distance of about 12,000 kilometres. A life of adventure is what some people like Kunle wear as a second skin.
He reminds me of Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, who founded the Virgin group of companies – over 400 companies and still counting – who has had close shaves with death in his nearly 71 years from his several adventure series and risky publicity stunts. Branson’s hot air balloon crossing of the Pacific Ocean and bungee jumping off Victoria Falls are just two examples that nearly took his life.
Kunle is not new to the world of adventure. He is an explorer and has rich experiences in outdoor and adventurous sports in addition to being an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, blogger, cyclist and biker. He has visited over 70 countries and cycled from Lagos to Accra, Ghana and back.
He has also skydived, bungee jumped and summited Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa at a height of 5, 895 metres (19,341 feet) and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world – twice and ran several marathon races.
On this historic adventure from London to Lagos, Kunle did his homework and got himself a Honda CB 500X motorbike – where X stands for the adventure model, designed for on road and off road capabilities – in London that cost him 6,500 pounds sterling (about N5.1m).
The bike weighs about 200kg without any add on and accessories. It has a tank capacity of 17 litres with a range of 490 km depending on the riding style and weather condition – wind and temperature. The bike has been giving a performance of 26km/litre which means 15 litres can take the biker from Lagos to Warri.
Kunle knew from the onset that the ride would be the ultimate test of human endurance and anything could go wrong. This was what Kunle wrote in his blog: “To make the ride colourful, exciting and impacting, I will be flying a banner on my motorbike all through the ride.” Well that banner, measuring 2ft by 3ft, announced to the world that Kunle is a Nigerian. It contains the Nigerian flag at the top of the banner followed by End Polio Now logo and Imagine Rotary theme logo.
I have written about what Rotary and the organisation’s partners are doing about eradicating polio – a virus that causes paralysis in children – in the world and the effort continues. The next Rotary International (RI) President from July 1, Jennifer Jones – the very first time we are having a female as president of the global humanitarian service and fellowship organisation – announced “Imagine Rotary” as her presidential theme for the 2022-23 Rotary year,
The theme imagines a Rotary where members act to make their dreams become reality and make the most of their club experiences. Jones is a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland, Ontario, Canada. Rotary International presidents usually come up with their themes every year which is a statement of purpose expressed in words, colours and creative designs for visual impact.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s District 9110 will also be producing the first female District Governor after 41 years, the same time Jones will be RI president. She is Omotunde Lawson, a major feat and glass shattering achievement. By July 1, Lawson will assume office as the 42nd District Governor of Rotary International District 9110.
Adeyanju, our biker and global celebrity, will also be assuming office as president of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro in District 9110. The “Imagine Rotary” year (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) is when Jones, Lawson and Adeyanju will serve together as “Imaginative Rotarians” at the global, district and club levels respectively.
Initially, Adeyanju wanted to enlist as a volunteer foreign fighter in the war in Ukraine. He had planned to serve in the counter-intelligence unit, operating behind the enemy line as his contribution to assist in ending the grave humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
But he changed his mind because it was also about the same time that the ground invasion by Russian forces was stalled due to the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian forces with support from over 20,000 volunteer foreign fighters.
The charity ride was how Adeyanju re-directed his energy, time and effort for a cause dear to his heart. As a Rotarian who will lead his club for one year from July 1, Adeyanju is achieving three objectives with his ride from London to Lagos.
First, he is flying Nigeria’s flag making him a Nigerian “global brand ambassador”; second, he is creating awareness for the End Polio Now global campaign and third, he is raising funds to solve pressing problems in our communities. He set up a GoFundMe account for donations. Payments are also being made directly into the account of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro.
Adeyanju said that 20% of what he is able to raise will go to the PolioPlus fund while the remaining 80% will used for club projects in primary healthcare, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and rural empowerment schemes when he assumes office as president of the Rotary Club of Ikoyi Metro. He plans to match all donations with 10% from his pocket as his contribution to grow the fund.
The leadership of District 9110 under Remi Bello, FCA, the District Governor, and the Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee (NNPPC) are pleased with Rotarian Adeyanju for his service to humanity through his charity ride which is a major public image tool for Rotary. A reception is being planned to welcome him to Nigeria at The Rotary Centre in Lagos.
Adeyanju began his charity ride on April 19 in London which he said was going to be “an amazing trip through the desert, freezing cold weather, stunning forests landscapes and terrains.” He confessed that he was not expecting the ride to be easy but it was a risky adventure all the same.
“This road trip will take me to the remotest points of the earth that will test my will, strength and character,” Adeyanju shared in one of his posts. This was his confirmed route pan: London – France – Spain – Gibraltar – Morocco – Western Sahara – Mauritania – Senegal – Gambia – Mali – Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana – Togo – Benin – Lagos, Nigeria.
Based on his original itinerary, Adeyanju would have arrived Lagos after 25 days but that plan was affected by Rotary Clubs insisting that they must host him to receptions in the cites on his route plan. Apart from the reception being planned in Lagos for him, Rotary Clubs in the following cities confirmed that they will host Adeyanju: St Louis, Dakar, Bamako, Yamoussoukro, Abidjan and Accra.
Biting freezing temperatures in Europe, strong winds in the Sahara desert and a burst tyre have truly tested his capacity to cope and overcome obstacles as a continental biker. Adeyanju has been filming his adventure in real time by using a high tech bike camera to capture important moments of his trip.
Before he embarked on the ride, two friends – Soyinka and Dapo – hosted him to English breakfast and Turkish dinner respectively and wished him well. The topic of discussion at both encounters was the ride and Soyinka said he was honoured to touch his bike prior to the start of the ride. He promised to join the teeming crowd that would welcome him to Lagos.
“Please note that we are rooting for you all the way on this historic adventure and may God be with you,” Soyinka assured with his prayer. Dapo noted that the charity ride from London to Lagos was “bold, courageous and unique” and promised to donate generously to the charity fund. He also touched the bike and remarked that the story of the adventure will be told for the next 100 years and more.
On the first day of his charity ride, Adeyanju rode his bike from London to Dover where he went on a Ferry to cross the English Channel to Calais and then Bourges in France. He rested after covering a distance of 745 km – about 18.5 km short of the distance between Lagos and Abuja.
The next day, it began to rain heavily and Adeyanju was worried. The temperature was close to freezing point with very strong winds. He set out anyway but it was a difficult ride for a distance of 704 km from Bourges, France to Girona, a city in the north eastern Catalonia region, besides River Onyar in Spain. The Rotarian-biker struggled to control the bike due to the cross winds, cold temperature and heavy rain.
In spite of the inclement weather, Adeyanju looked on the brighter side as the ride took him through interesting landmarks such as the Millau Viaduct, the multi-span bridge with a design life of 120 years that was completed in 2004, costing 394 million Euros. At an impressive height of 336.4 metres, it was famous for being the tallest bridge in the world.
By the third day, Adeyanju rode a distance of 458 km from Girona to Valencia. It also rained heavily on that day. Even after drinking hot coffee and doing warm up exercises, he still shivered. He prayed to God for the rain to subside. Luckily for him, his prayer was answered. In less than five minutes, the rain stopped and brilliant sunshine followed.
Maneuvering efforts due to many heavy duty trucks on the road and the cold weather made riding out of Girona difficult but he arrived Valencia and checked into his hotel at 1700Hrs. He was able to explore the city and explained in his blog that Spanish people are friendly and hospitable. Adeyanju also observed that their ladies love to smile.
When he woke up around 5.00 am the next day, he ran down to the lobby of the hotel to be sure his bike was still where he parked it. Apparently, the self-parking arrangement advertised on the hotel’s website was unsatisfactory; it turned out to be a street parking, a risky affair because bike theft is rampant on that route from Europe.
He tried to switch to another hotel but the hotel’s policy did not allow for a refund. He slept with one eye wide open and eventually made it to Cartagena, a city in south west of Spain, covering a distance of 329 km, the same distance between Lagos and Benin City. The weather was good with clear skies and it was not terribly cold but the wind was strong. However, the direction of the wind was good; it was a headwind and he used the opportunity to press harder on the throttle.
By the time he arrived Cartagena, his bike had logged over 2,000 km since the commencement of the trip. He washed and oiled the chain of the bike. He also washed the bike and from that moment, named it “The Eagle”. Adeyanju confessed he began to fall in love with his bike (machine).
On the fifth day on April 23, the biker rode from Cartagena to Algeciras, a major port city about 19 km from Gibraltar. He stayed at a hotel on the Marina in Algeciras where he booked his Ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar that would take him from the port of Algeciras in Spain to Tangier in Morocco the next day, Saturday April 24. By the sixth day of his ride, Adeyanju arrived the shores of Africa! That was a significant achievement!
He spent one full day resting in Tangier which is part of his journey management plan (one day rest after six days of riding) but the news of this charity ride was everywhere in town. He used the opportunity to explore the city on foot, enjoying the ambience and good food of the city. Members of the Rotary Club of Tangier Marina Bay hosted him to a dinner reception.
I spoke to Adeyanju after settling down in his hotel in Tangier and he was happy to share his experience. In spite of a few disappointments, the Ferry ride was a wonderful experience and perhaps the most challenging for him since he commenced the trip.
In his own words, Adeyanju said: “The route from Cartagena to Gibraltar/Algeciras traversed the Mediterranean coastline. The deep blue water of the Mediterranean Sea was beautiful, captivating and charming. However, the wind was something else, what I have never experienced before. It was a combination of headwinds and crosswinds, travelling at different altitudes but close to each other which is what creates double impact on people and objects simultaneously.
“On one occasion, I was hit by these winds, almost knocking me off my bike which veered sharply off my lane into the other. Miraculously, God helped me as upcoming vehicles slowed down and I was able to regain control. That experience created fear of the worst kind in me as my whole body – from my legs to my hands – vibrated non-stop. I dropped my speed for the rest of the ride and continued to thank God for sparing my life.”
Adeyanju has continued his charity ride to Marrakech, Agadir and El Ouatia – cities in Morocco. It was at El Ouatia that a “tall, slim, elegant Moroccan beauty” told Adeyanju in a love note that she “likes” him. “I want to be your friend and you must come back and get me,” the mystery friend, clearly besotted with the biker, wrote in her note which was delivered by her seven-year-old sister.
The journey continued from El Ouatia to Laayoune (299 km) which is deep into the Sahara Desert (Western Sahara) where there is no margin for error because the environment is tough, harsh, dry, dusty, windy, hot during the day and cold at night.
On the 12th day, Adeyanju rode from Laayoune into Nouadhibou in Mauritania – a distance of 1,002 km; the longest ride yet. It is the same distance from Lagos to Kano and from Kano to Kaduna – in one trip. Our celebrity biker was approaching Dakar, the capital of Senegal, as at the time of writing this article. He is expected to arrive Lagos by May 22.
After his university education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he was a Rotaractor, Adeyanju commenced his working career as a management trainee with British American Tobacco, working mainly in northern Nigeria with responsibility for Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Katsina states.
In 2004, he moved into the oil and gas sector and was hired as head of marketing at Oando Gas and Power where he led the team for the development and expansion of the Greater Lagos Industrial Area Natural Gas Pipeline Network.
Adeyanju joined Shell Petroleum in 2006 as Fuels and Bitumen manager and subsequently moved to occupy other roles in the organisation. Three years later and with an MBA degree, he decided to go solo and set up a venture capital firm, Pelicans DNO where he is the chief operating officer.
He is presently a doctoral student at the University of Arizona, USA, where he is aiming to bag his PhD Business Administration with specialisation in social entrepreneurship.
Braimah is a public relations strategist, publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng) and District Secretary (2021-22), Rotary International District 9110
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