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Friday, 28 February 2014

NOW WE KNOW THAT PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN CAN BITE


After 27 years of military rule, Nigerians are very used to military way of doing things and indeed, without knowing it they have become uncomfortable with civilian way of doing things. They love" with immediate effect" and the drama that accompanies such military actions. Matters have not been helped by the 8 years military style civilian rule of President Obasanjo, who can eat pounded yam with you at lunch and you hear that you have been removed from office at 9 o'clock news on NTA. Oh Nigerians love the tough guy image!
That's why they thought that Umaru Musa Yardua was as slow as a snail and they have been so critical of Dr Goodluck Jonathan's speed of action.They have little patience with the long and due process of civilian democracy. They are uncomfortable with the niceties and humane conduct of the president. How can a minister be in position for three years? That does not happen here. The shorter the term, the better, perhaps so that it could get to everybody's turn. Indeed many Nigerians have concluded that this President is so gentle and long-suffering, that he can not hurt a fly. Infact some have gone to the extent of suggesting that he is not really in charge.Even the President himself, in response to these insinuations has tried to caution that he was not a soldier nor a dictator but a civilian President, but the impression of a lamb who sees no evil nor speaks evil has persisted.
But all that has changed in the last few weeks. The prelude was the sudden change of the military service Chiefs, some of whom had been in office for just a year or so. Some people speculated that it was necessitated by the security situation precipitated by the 'Presidential' letters, while others insisted that it signalled a change in the temperament of the President. He had gotten to the limit of accepting suboptimal performances or listening to cock'n' bull stories. Then as if to give credence to the latter view, the 'almighty' Chief of staff, chief Mike Oghiadomhe was removed 'fiam'. I understand that many Nigerians have prayed and fasted for this to happen since all recommendations to the President to change him seemed to have been rebuffed. Then just as they were about to catch their breath, four ministers fell in one day. So it was possible for the president to remove the 'powerful' erstwhile minister of Aviation,Princess Stella Oduah! Many Nigerian 'pull her down' hunters had bayed for her blood for so long. How can she be reconstructing and remodelling 11 or is it 13 airports at the same time? Where did she get the money and who gave her the money? We have not been able to even upgrade the International wing of the Murtala MUHAMMED airport for over 25 years, how come she will take all the airports at the same time? Something must be 'wrong'with her. Then the story of the Purchase of two armoured vehicles broke out and hell was let lose. When the President seemed to go through the due process of query, investigation,etc, Nigerians lost their cool and called the President unprintable names. They just wanted her sacked immediately the news broke out, there was nothing to investigate in their view.But a forth nite ago their wish was met even at the time when they seemed to have lost hope.
The ink on that story was yet to dry when the 'sleeping lion' in the President barred his fangs and threw out our 'imperial' CBN Governor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the aspiring Emir of Kano. This was an uppercut which was thrown when the crowd was not looking and when the opponent was watching out for the referee to bring the bout to a victorious end. For the last five years or so, this country seemed to have had two competing "sovereigns".The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the 'Governor General' of the territory of the Central Bank of Nigeria. One was governed by President Yardua(of blessed memory) when Governor Sanusi Lamido came to power. At his confirmation hearing, he fired his first shots at his competing sovereign when he criticised him without any care in the world for pursuing a seven-point agenda suggesting that he should rather focus on One-three point agenda. President Yaradua did not like that one bit, and I wish to hazard a guess that 'governor general' Lamido Sanusi will not have lasted this long if Yardua was in power long enough.
When Yardua was succeeded by Jonathan, he naturally became his next sovereign competitor. He criticised Jonathan and his government so frequently that the President had to complain openly that Sanusi Lamido was criticising the government too frequently as if he was not part of the government. But that did not deter the governor.
Sanusi Lamido was so care free that he commented on every subject and spoke publicly too often. At one point I had to point out that he was not behaving like a central banker. I had said that bankers were conservative people and that they did not speak about all that they saw nor revealed all that they knew. And that as such, central bankers were even expected to be more conservative. He did not like my comment .Infact that is one character trait of Sanusi Lamido. He is a serious critic but never likes to be criticised. He got so angry any time any body or group said or wrote something that sounded critical of him or his programs.
The truth is that Sanusi did well in his job and I had wished he could have concentrated on his job without feverishly courting controversies too frequently. The undoing of Sanusi as governor of Central Bank was that he had a misguided notion and interpretation of the independence or autonomy of CBN. He felt that CBN was so independent that no body could query him on anything he did at the Bank. That was why he rebuffed any body that asked him any question on what ever he did. The President could not spend money without appropriation by the National Assembly but the CBN spent money without appropriation or approval by anybody. He could donate money that belonged to the people of Nigeria to any body or to any course of his fancy and nobody could ask him because the Central Bank was autonomous. This misnomer became more evident in his immediate reaction to the reasons given by the Presidency for his suspension. He seemed to say that he could do whatever he liked and no one could query him, and since no one could query him, no one could remove him except with two thirds majority votes of the senate, which he reckoned was never going to be easy, if at all.
Infact that was the basis of his seeming arrogance. He felt he was untouchable and erroneously believed he could get away with 'blue murder'. If it ever occurred to him that the President or anybody could suspend or remove him from office, he probably would have taken pains to provide detailed response to the query of the Financial Reporting Council, the agency whose report finally nailed him. His feeling of invincibility was so high that when recently it was rumoured that the President was going to ask him to proceed on pre- retirement leave three months to his retirement, there was media report that he boasted that he was going no where, that he planned to remain on his post till his last working day in June!. What an empty and misguided boast. Not even an elected President could make that boast, talk less of an appointee of the President. It is thoroughly nauseating that Sanusi now says he was not appointed by the President but by the Senate. Then,even no responsible Senator can make that boast. I think Sanusi really dared the President and now that the President has decided to bite, the invincible 'sovereign' is running helter skelter and seeking all kinds of court orders so as not to be quizzed,arrested or detained. There are many cowards in this world! The man who got so many notable Nigerians arrested, detained, disgraced and some jailed does not want to be held accountable.
I know that there are many people who are defending Sanusi and opposing his removal on the basis that he was being victimised for accusing NNPC of holding back money that belonged to the Federation or even for accusing NNPC of being corrupt. Iam amazed at this. Will Sanusi be the first person to accuse the NNPC of misappropriating the federation's income or would he be the first person to accuse NNPC of being corrupt? In all the published reports of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency initiative (NEITI)since 2005 till date, NNPC has consistently been blamed for either failing to remit all the funds it collects on behalf of the Federation or for failing to fully reconcile its accounts with the Accountant General or the CBN. NEITI is the official agency charged with reconciling receipts in the oil industry. No Chairman or Executive Secretary of NEITI has been suspended or removed for the findings and the publication of their reports. So there is nothing novel in Sanusi's allegations or accusations, to warrant his being victimised. Perhaps the only thing new was the unprofessional way he was changing the figures of the alleged missing money from $49.5 billion to $12 billion and then to $20 billion. That alone is so unprofessional that if I were Sanusi's employer, I would have fired him. And yet that means nothing to those who say he's done nothing to merit suspension. Even the weighty allegations of serial financial infractions and poor corporate governance practices mean nothing? How we often turn logic upside down because of personal relationships and gains! If we must win the war against corruption, then it must be total and holistic and there should be no sacred cows!
I am personally happy that the President has taken actions which show that his endurance has limit and that he can bite. Truly my wish is that he bites a lot more frequently so that those who think they own this country will realise that Nigeria is owned by all of us, and that, like it or not, there is only one President at a time in this Nation, and indeed in any other Nation.Also,all those who have the opportunity to hold offices in this Country must buckle up and deliver service to meet the aspirations of Nigerians and stop thinking they can run to the court or to any body to keep them in their jobs when the man who appointed them has lost confidence in them.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 24 February 2014

DO WE REALLY WANT TO WIN THE WAR AGAINST BOKO HARAM?

This Country of ours is very intriguing. And many times I get thoroughly confounded by our double speak. It is becoming clearer to me why things which are simple and straight forward, or should be so end up becoming complex and convoluted in our Nation. Somehow,every issue or matter has to be viewed from narrow ethnic, religious or political prisms and then emerges in different colours. So,some thing which ordinarily looks white may end up being described as grey or colourless,not because of any physiological or pathological malfunctioning of the eyes of the viewers but largely because of their ethnic or political bias.


When the Boko Haram group came unto national consciousness with their weekly raiding of worship centres in the North East of Nigeria, some people said nothing, they did not condemn their activities,because the trouble did not affect their own worship centres and those killed came from a different region of the Country. They bombed the UN Plaza and Police HQ in Abuja and no word came from them. They bombed the Church in Madala on Christmas day and they said nothing. And then they bombed Kano and killed many people including Christians and Muslims and then they began to speak. Now their own have been touched and it is time to condemn Boko Haram. Haba! Why did they keep quiet all this while ?


For a long time, this writer and many other well meaning Nigerians called for stiffer action against these criminals and vandals who shed innocent blood without a qualm. Many of us felt that the government was treating the terrorists with kid gloves. Then the government responded by declaring state of Emergency in three North eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. This same group of Elders stood against it and complained and criticised and tried all they could to stop it. Then they suggested dialogue and amnesty,and when the government listened and tried to set up a committee to try that option, this group of elders led by Prof Ango Abdullahi began to criticise and could not give any helping hand to bring the leaders of the boko haram to the table. And yet some of them were named by Boko haram as acceptable contact persons. Eventually the dialogue option collapsed despite all the effort by the federal government.


Subsequently,following from the intensified action of the security forces, the terrorist group was contained in the Far Northern fringes of the troubled zone. What did we get from these elders? Rather than commend the work of the military, Ango Abdullahi and his group now threatened to take the former chief of Army staff to the international court of Justice. For doing what?, one may ask .This was like a ploy to demoralise the Army leadership and discourage them from continuing the offensive against the terrorists. But thank God, the Military was not demoralised. Because rather than flinch, Air Marshall Alex BADEH, the new chief of Defence staff came blazing,informing a grateful Nation that they would rout these criminals by the end of April this year. As typical,the elders failed to applaud or even encourage the military while many patriots were elated at the prospect of seeing this war come to an end.


In the last week, with incessant killing of hapless citizens of Nigeria in the villages of Borno state, there has been a cacophony of voices which are sufficient to confuse issues and demoralise, not only the Security forces but most Patriots. Some of these elders who do not want the military to operate or who wish to constrain their operational abilities have joined in blaming the military for not doing enough. The choir master this time was Governor Shettima of Borno state who did not only assert that the Boko haram insurgents were better equipped than our military forces,in addition to being better motivated but concluded that we could never win the war! What an assertion!


My question then is, what are we to do? Surrender and withdraw our military forces so that Bokoharam and their sponsors and allies will overrun the Nation and establish their kind of government. Some people say governor Shettima spoke the truth.I ask truth to who? To Boko haram? What more do they need to be motivated than for a State governor who is the chief security officer of the state to declare in the open that we can not win the war against them. If he must tell the truth, then he should have told it to the President whom he had just gone to see. If he could not realise the security implication of that statement in the open, then his maturity as a state governor is called to question.Others say he spoke out of desperation and frustration. But I find no evidence that he did not mean what he said. His response to the federal Government's effort to balance his statement, was patently disappointing. He chose to attack the President's aide who in my opinion was only trying to refute his damaging assertion that our military was inferior to the band of murderers who have only been successful in causing much mayhem because they have enjoyed overt and covert support of some powerful Nigerians including some of the elders.


This is why iam posing the question: do we really want to win the war against Boko haram?.It looks to me that some well connected people, many with heavy political weights and ready access to the media do not want this war to be won or even to end. They seem to see it as a political weapon to fight the federal government by projecting it as weak and incapable of protecting Nigerians. So whenever the government decides to take any action that will improve the chances of ending the war, they will rise up in arms and accuse the government of waging war against its citizens and when ever the terrorists seem to have the upper hand like last week, they rise to shout that the government and it's military are weak and incapable of defeating Bokoharam. I have no problem with people playing politics and fighting the President or his government in their struggle for power,as this seems to be part of the Political game but doing so with the lives of innocent and defenceless Nigerians is most distasteful.


It is a pity that in this Country, we can not stand up as a Nation and look at issues on their merit without ethnic, and political considerations. But on this war being waged by Boko Haram, we must stand together. All Nigerians, especially the political leaders, the traditional leaders, the military and security leaders, the business leaders, the civil society, particularly the media must stand up as one and condemn in unequivocal terms the war which some deranged people and their equally deranged financiers and supporters are waging against our Country without any acceptable justification. Thank God, that General MUHAMMED Buhari who all along seemed nonchallant or so to the activities of the sect has finally this week,for the first time,to my knowledge,since Boko haram assumed centre stage after the 2011 elections, issued a statement condemning their activities. This is most welcome and represents the approach, Iam campaigning for. I pray that other elders who have been making statements to show that they are unconcerned or making statements that could be construed to be supportive of the miscreants should emulate this fairly belated but better-than- never action of General Buhari.


Secondly, we must also genuinely support government's effort at bringing this malady to a speedy end. I believe that there is so much that our Northern Governors can do if they decide to support the federal government to bring this matter to a close.It is not enough to issue empty statements or unforceable declarations. Even if Boko haram is supported by any other external organ, the combined muscle of the 18 Northern governors can go a long way to halting this dastardly insurgency. I will like to appeal to the Arewa Consultative Forum, The Arewa Elders Council and all the groups who are stakeholders in this conflict( willy or nilly) to bury all their political hatchets and rally round the government efforts. Boko haram can not defeat us if we are united in words and action. Our division( real or apparent)helps to motivate the marauders.


Thirdly and lastly, the security forces must be given all the logistic support needed to rout these bands of murderers and when such resources are provided, they must be prudently applied to the project in hand exclusively. I trust that what Air Marshall Alex BADEH said that the military will do, they will do. That is to bring this insurgency to an end by the end of April. I really want us to win this war and I am asking all lovers of humanity and indeed all Nigerians( Patriots or not) to agree with me.


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR




Sunday, 16 February 2014

MAKING THE FORTH COMING NATIONAL CONFERENCE PRODUCTIVE AND COST EFFECTIVE.


The report of the Steering Committee for the 2014 National Conference has been largely accepted by the Federal Government. We now know that the conference will happen in the second quarter and will last three months. The number of delegates and how they will be selected or appointed have also been indicated by the federal government. This aspect seems to have attracted a lot of interest and comments. Also the federal government has made a budgetary provision of 7 billion naira ( up from the 1 billion naira provided for the 2005 Political Reform conference). That also has been criticised by many as being wasteful, but that is hoping that the National Assembly would approve the budget in full( unlike the situation in 2005 when the National Assembly refused to appropriate funds, forcing Obasanjo to make extra-budgetary provision).
Of a truth, 7 billion is much money especially in Today's Nigeria where our capital expenditure is so paltry at 26% of the entire National budget, where there is suboptimal provisions for infrastructural development and where we have been running deficits over the years.But that will not be the total cost to the Nation. The loss to the economy of the man hours that will be invested in the conference by the creme of the Nigerian Society will be enormous, reaching multiples of the sum to be spent by the Federal government. We have not even factored the amount to be spent by State Governments and other Stakeholders to support their delegates. It is therefore going to be an expensive project for the Nation. I am therefore concerned that the Nation should receive commensurate value for the anticipated huge investment. Unfortunately our Nation is not reputed for being cost conscious when government funded projects are being implemented. Of a truth, we hardly get the best value for our expenditure and since no body is essentially held responsible,motivation for cost efficiency is minimum,irrespective of all the song and dance of "un(due) process" in public sector procurement.

WHAT ARE THE MEASURABLE DELIVERABLES
To measure the efficiency of any expenditure, the anticipated outcomes must be predetermined and then the actual is measured against the predetermined or projected. So what are our anticipated outcomes and will they justify the expense? May be I have not seen it or read it, I am not quite clear that I know what our National expectations for the conference are. Some people have called it a talkshop and think nothing concrete or beneficial will come out of it. Some see it as an opportunity to go and get more revenue allocation for their states or regions. Others see the opportunity to campaign for more States to be created in their regions. When people speak of going to renegotiate the basis our unity as a Nation, I am not sure, I know what we are expecting. Are we expecting to come out with a new structure for the Nation, like returning to the old regional structure,and abolishing States?. Do we hope to produce a new constitution from the conference? My point is that we must determine the deliverables before the start of the conference, so that our discussions may be directed and fairly focused, so that we can finish in 3months. Otherwise, we will end up asking for more time and thereby increasing the cost. It is also critical that those who will manage the conference must be adept in managing group dynamics. The Chairman and his deputy must command presence,and be focused on the deliverables. They must be good time managers and must ensure that timing discipline is vigorously pursued.They must do a lot of home work and should determine how many people can contribute on a particular matter and summarise the discussions and state the adopted resolutions at the close of each debate. They must be wary of story tellers and the 'know it all delegates' who must contribute to every debate. They must not yield the floor to rouble rousers and trouble makers who may have ulterior agenda.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WILL BE ATTENDING THE CONFERENCE
From the release, it is clear that the designers of the conference have taken pains to ensure a fairly all-inclusive participation, though my professional association, The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria(PSN) is unhappy, that it was not mentioned specifically as a stakeholder group with nominating rights, whereas the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA) and the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) were mentioned, and yet the PSN is one of the oldest professional associations in Nigeria. I have tried to reassure them that I believe that it was an unintentional omission and that it could be remedied. I hope that I am right!. But that is really not my point, because, I am conscious that it may be practically impossible to accommodate all qualified stakeholder groups. The number is already high enough!
My worry is that, we may populate the conference with too many ' men of yesterday' with their baggages. This conference is about the future of Nigeria and I am afraid that those who are focused on the past may not be the best to define Nigeria's future. Those who designed our present system, to my mind should not be at the centre stage of designing our future. Their circumstances are quite different and if the conference focuses too much on the past( which will happen if geriatrics dominate the conference), the accomplishments may be limited, if not severely imperilled. Beyond taking specific measures to ensure the dominant participation of the younger generation of Nigerians at the conference, we must resist the urge to send ethnic and tribal jingoistics to the conference. The nominating stakeholder groups especially the federal and state governments must take deliberate steps to appoint patriotic young people to the conference, just as some effort is being made to mainstream gender diversity.While I fully appreciate that we are a nation of many ethnic groups, we need People who realise that no ethnic group can make it alone, that we need each other to build a prosperous Nation. We do not need ethnic warlords but we need Nigerians from different ethnic backgrounds who can appreciate the strengths of each other and fashion unique ways of collaboration, with the overriding need to ensure equity and fair play. For me that is the central issue. How do we implement our constitution and other laws in a manner that no one or no group is marginalised or discriminated against. Let us build a nation where everyone shall be an equal shareholder.
Let me also caution that we must have very few people if at all who hope to compete for political office in the forthcoming elections. Even the political parties must ensure they do not send political contestants to the conference, else they will turn the place to campaign grounds with plenty of political rhetorics and grandstanding. This people may not resist the temptation to play to the gallery and thus will lose focus of the objectives of the conference.

OPTIMISING THE COST TO THE TAX PAYER
I wish to advise that we avoid setting up a complex bureaucracy to manage the conference. The administrative and support staff should be lean and must be made of adhoc staff, essentially drawn from the MDAs and Private sector Organizations. We must not spend huge sums of money buying project vehicles and cars for all kinds of officials who will use the vehicles for taking madam to the markets or doing school runs while the delegates move about with taxis. Since it is designed to be an intensive programme, delegates must be mobilised to cater for themselves. No hotel bookings or hiring of any thing. Let delegates take care of themselves at agreed rates,rather than encourage usual contract bazaars at inflated prices. If possible, members should be given allowances to buy kola nuts and sweets. Any attempt to buy centrally will result in providing the most expensive kola nuts and bitter colas in Africa! We know our weaknesses and must try to tie our 'itchy' fingers.

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MUST STAND UP TO BE COUNTED
If this whole exercise and the anticipated huge cost will not be in vain, we need to plead with the National Assembly to show unparalleled patriotism and love of the Nation by cooperating with the People of Nigeria. I believe that this conference is in response to the unrelenting demand by many Nigerians. And when the representatives of the Nation come with certain recommendations, then it behoves the National Assembly to give legal backing to what the People want. They must not be seen to be competing with the people on their rights to decide on how they want the country to run.
I make this plea with a lot of pain in my heart. The recommendations of the 2005 Political Reform conference were robust and far reaching and had most of them been adopted, there may not have been the continued strident call for another National conference, at least not so soon. Firstly, the National Assembly refused to appropriate money for the conference and therefore that they rejected the recommendations wholesale was predictable. Never mind that they used the proposal for a single six year tenure for the President and state governors as excuse. Though, it was widely believed that, the provision was going to be exploited by President Obasanjo to seek tenure extension( 3rd term), that to many of us who laboured at that conference was not tenable. If they were opposed to that provision as they still seem to be today, why could they not decline that provision or section and then continue to review and approve the other far reaching recommendations. In stead they choose to throw away the 'dirty 'bath water with the baby!
Luckily, the 7th National Assembly lead by the urbane Senator David Mark has shown extraordinary statesmanship and has sided with the people of Nigeria on critical National issues. I am praying that the more effervescent House of Representatives will follow in tow. I am also praying that APC will not give directives to its legislators to oppose or block the approval of the recommendations of the National conference, giving that the leaders of the Party have openly opposed the holding of the conference, even against their previous stands on the need for the National dialogue( sovereign or not). My only hope is that it will be 'anti progressive' to work against the people, giving that the party claims to be progressive.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 10 February 2014

NOW THAT INEC HAS BLOWN THE WHISTLE….On your marks, Get set...then DEFECT!


This week, INEC released the time table for Election 2015( including that for Ekiti and Osun States's gubernatorial elections holding this year).Nigerians,especially the Politicians have been expecting this time table to help them structure their own programmes and activities. This effectively signals the 'official' beginning of the campaigns,irrespective of what INEC would want or say. Indeed for some, the campaign started since 2012. When a man announces that he wants to run for any position, that to my mind is the beginning of campaigns. Winning National elections is a long process, involving many steps and many 'mini elections'. A man who wants to run for the office of a state governor for a example,will need a minimum of two years to run his campaign.
He will need to convince his family, close friends and associates by telling them why he wants to run. He will then go from one party leader to another in his constituency selling himself and getting support and endorsement, even before he makes a formal announcement. In all this process, he may have printed his manifesto with which he will sell himself even to this limited group. That to my mind is campaign of sorts. And in Nigerian Politics you need god fathers and power brokers to be on your side and to convince them to bet on you, you will not only sell your vision for the state or constituency but you will also convince them of what you will do for them individually, because those who have tried( eg, Prof Chukwuma Soludo) insist the latter is much more important than the former. Vision or no vision, even the typical Nigerian voter pays little attention. What they get now or some collaterised IOUs,supported by oaths at Okija- type shrines may prove more convincing than any ' promises or manifesto which will never be fulfilled or implemented'.Some will call that consultations, but to me it's perhaps campaign before the 'real'campaign.
Now that the time table has been released, all the secret consultations will come to the open. Already, Parties are announcing dates for Conventions and Primaries and soon the airwaves will be filled with partisan political news. Meanwhile we are currently inundated by the news of defections from one party to another. After what looked like mass exodus from PDP to APC, prompting APC to presume majority in the House of Representatives and to make a premature bid for the house leadership, there has been reversal of tide, even as 11 Senators defected midweek. Infact Legislators are even moving from Labour Party to another party. And I am wondering what the matter is? I had supposed that cross carpeting in the house or Senate is justified only by a division in the party or merger of parties, but it looks that I am mistaken. It has become a free for all. What strange times we are in!
It is daily becoming obvious to me that I really do not understand the Nature or genre of Nigerian politics. I have always assumed that politics is governed by some principles and that Parties are organised around Ideologies or specific philosophical leanings. Indeed I was hoping that the APC ideology was going to be different from that of PDP. But the way, they are receiving and celebrating decampees from PDP, the difference if any has become completely blurred. I also had been thinking that the economic persuasion or perspectives of Political parties are different as we see the difference between the labour and conservative parties in the Uk or that between the Democrats and Republicans in the United States of America. But so far, I am unable to distinguish that between the APC and the PDP or between APGA and the Labour Party. Indeed, a friend of mine just told me as I was expressing my disgust, that when it comes to the economy, there is absolutely no difference between all the parties in Nigeria, at least between the major parties. Iam told that each of the party's economic persuasion can be summarised as: GET AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND CAN AS MUCH AS YOU GET.
I tried to argue that this may not be true of all the parties, that a party like the Nigerian Conscience Party( NCP) would never subscribe to such extreme capitalist tendency.I was told that there is no exception, that I should wait for the Conscience party to win a local government chairmanship position and I will know that that they have no conscience whatsoever. I was told to explain why Comrade Oshiomhole, a reputed Labour leader would not run under the labour Party, which now has become a refuge for all Capitalists who lose out in PDP, APC and APGA. Even the reputed and well advertised Comrade, Senator Uche Chukwumerije will not touch the Labour party.Why would Comrade Oshiomhole or Mr.Peter Obi of APGA win the entire local governments in their States (less one) and they would do everything under the Sun and beneath the Earth to ensure that they do not allow any opposition party win even that outstanding lone seat. In the case of Obi, he found a way to cancel the elections in that only constituency and in the case of Oshiomhole, he had to get the electoral returning officer to Benin to announce the result in favour of his party,I am told. This Nigerian Political game: the winner, wins all!
Indeed this week humbled me and made me know that I really did not know much about Nigerian politics. Ex-governors Shekarau of Kano State and Bafarawa of Sokoto State decamped from APC into PDP just like that,one day after the other and they were warmly received. No shame anywhere! Infact, every iota of doubt in my mind as regards the lack of principles among many of our politicians vanished. I could then understand the boast of the new PDP National Chairman Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Muazu a few days earlier that if APC was in the game of poaching, then they (PDP) would teach them(APC) a lesson or two in the business of Poaching. I am hoping this poaching game does not give credence to what I had heard several years ago. A politically- exposed friend of mine who claimed to be an expert and a guru in Nigerian Politics told me unequivocally that every party rigs elections and that the party that wins is the one that is most able to rig the others out. I argued and argued but Iam now afraid.
So what hope for Nigerians as the Political Season has been officially opened by INEC. Is it going to come down to look like a choice between Monkeys and Baboons?. I pray not. In addition to praying, I wish to offer the following advice. First to INEC. They must be ahead of the game. If it is true that it's a game of who can out rig the other, then they must discover a truly ANTIRIGING formula. I had proposed that we adopt the electronic voting platform but our politicians say it is not doable and INEC seems to have bought this position.If it requires amending the constitution, let's do it now. There is still enough time to do so. I plead with the National Assembly if they can find any space in their hearts to accept this appeal. They have amended the constitution and electoral laws in recent times,even this week and with surprising speed. Indeed, it is pleasing to note that the National Assembly has begun to use electronic voting in their chambers and they can see how it makes their voting faster and credible. Yes, the electronic voting may not guarantee 'perfect' elections given that our politicians seem not want any 'perfect' elections and even INEC says it can not Promise 'perfect' elections, though that is exactly what the ordinary suffering Nigerian wants so badly, but the current 'popular' method of writing results at polling and collation centres will be largely eliminated, so that the will of the People will carry.
Secondly, I wish to appeal to the ordinary Nigerians not to take these politicians too seriously. No body should fight his brother or sister or his neighbour because of the Nigerian politicians. What is more,no one should spill the blood of any other Nigerian because of these politicians, just as President Goodluck Jonathan has often admonished us.Nothing they are doing is about us. All these shameless carpet crossing, defections and decamping has nothing to do about us or about Nigeria. True, it is essentially all about them, their interests and their preferences. Whether PDP or APC or APGA or LABOUR, na same same. Only God can make the difference. Please enjoy the drama, as I am told, we have only seen act 1 scene 2 and between now and February 28th 2015,when INEC plans to draw the curtain on this season's circus show, there are still Six acts and each act has ten scenes. That's plenty of drama. But please be safe. If you can afford bullet-proof vests, that could be helpful, but if you cant, just lie low. A word is enough for the wise!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR .

CELEBRATING A CENTENARY OF FAILED PROMISES AND MISSED TARGETS?





Since the 1st of January 2014, Nigeria has been celebrating the 100 years of the founding of Nigeria as a Nation. Though the celebrations have been kind of subdued, overshadowed by the political drama of defections and realignments, a series of events have been held as part of the elaborate commemoration of the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates. Indeed the events started since last year with the SGF on the driving seat.

It must be acknowledged that the centenary celebrations are in a way different from the usual. The usual fanfare that characterises our National events seems to be subdued in planning and execution. We are told that not much of Government's money is involved in the celebrations, that most of the events are sponsored by the Private sector. Perhaps, the greatest innovation is the idea of a Centenary City. This 21st Century city to be built around Abuja will equal or surpass Dubai and it will be driven by artificial intelligence, offering breathtaking ambience and entertainment and totally owned by the Private Sector. Great great ideas!

But the question is what are we really celebrating? Many Nigerians feel that there is really nothing to celebrate. And they say so with good reasons. Many believe that the quality of life of the average Nigerian has not improved to any significant degree over the last 100 years.The aged in the Nation, the octogenarians for example, speak with nostalgia of what great fun and life they enjoyed when Lagos was a colony. They point at the quality of education, where a primary 6 or standard 6 ( as it was called then) graduate spoke and wrote better English language than Masters degree holders of today! They point to our poor healthcare and tell of how local dispensaries and general hospitals offered better healthcare than some of the teaching hospitals of today, where the doctors and other healthcare workers are perpetually on strike with fake drugs all over the place.

Those who think there is nothing to celebrate, cite the depressing level of poverty among the populace and the widening gap between the extreme rich and the extreme poor. They speak of hunger in the Nation. The extremists allege that the amalgamation of the North and South is more of a curse than a blessing. They claim that the South has been slowed down by the North while the North has been made lazy and corrupted by the oil wealth from the South, diverting them from the properous Agriculture-based economy they were running. They blame the unhealthy rivalry between the North and the South and the perpetual struggle for political power with its debilitating effect on the ordinary People on the 1914 amalgamation. They posit that both protectorates will have made more meaningful progress, standing alone than being joined as one Nation. They point at the instability created by the security breaches inflicted on the Nation by the militancy in the South and the Boko Haram insurgency in the North and blame it squarely on the Poltical struggle for supremacy and access to National resources.

While some of us disagree with some of these postulations, present happenings in the Nation seem to lend some credence to their position. It is distressing that 100 years since the amalgamation and 54 years since the attainment of independence, our political sophistication is still so rudimentary and mundane. The centrepiece of our political discussions and disputations today is on "whose turn" it is to rule . After 100 years as a nation, we are yet to be fully wielded into a truly united Country. At this time we ought to have lost our tribal and ethnic consciousness and differences and should be thinking ' Nigeria'. Our political disputations should be on 'what is best for Nigeria' and not what is best for the North or the South. Infact, it is so distressing that many people even contemplate the disintegration or dissolution of Nigeria. Today, that seems to be our greatest fear with so many predictions from home and abroad. Why must this be so? Why does such threat not exist for America even with its multi racial and multi ethnic foundation?

In my attempt to answer the questions posed above, I came to the conclusion that our political class - whether civilian or military have failed the Nation with litany of failed promises and missed targets. A thorough and dispassionate analysis shows that Nigeria is less united in 2014, than we were in 1914. As of a truth, our unity as a Nation was stronger even at independence in 1960 than it is today. The problem in my view is that many Nigerians seem to see no real benefit in belonging to the Nation. They seem not have any real ownership of the country. Rightly or wrongly, many feel that they have no share in the Country and that the Country does not belong to them but to some 'other people'. If the country were theirs, why would they want it destroyed. Why even would they speak evil of the Country?. Who ever speaks evil of his own or works to destroy what he or she owns?


People were promised, 'health for all' and what they got was 'death for all'. They were promised 'housing for all', what they got was 'housing for a few'. They were 'promised better life for all ' but they got 'better life for the privileged'. They heard ' Justice for all' but they see 'justice for the affluent'. Some can afford four 'square' meals a day, but many can not afford even one 'rectangular' meal a day. So what is the joy in belonging to a Nation that seems not to care for you but actually suppresses you? Young men finish school and five years after have no employment, so they decide to trade but they can not buy expensive and inflated local government market stalls. And then they build their own shops and then the shops are termed 'illegal' and are pulled down by bull dozers, without alternative locations or compensation.What is the joy of belonging to an oil producing region when you can not get clean water to drink, neither can you drink the oil. Many People who come from the oil producing areas still live in absolute squalor and poverty despite the oil derivation money being poured into the region.In the North, the divide between the political class and the rest is so sharp and deep. All the beautiful houses are owned by councillors, local Government chairmen or senior Public servants. The fastest and shortest route to good life is now through politics.


Things can not continue to be so and must not be allowed to be so, if we want a united Nigeria that is owned by All Nigerians. Ownership is critical. Yes, it is true that a lot of effort has been made in recent years to reduce poverty, disease and the alienation of the underprivileged and the poor. Starting from the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) and the special allocation to pro poor projects with the Debt forgiveness savings by the Obasanjo regime to the current Social Safety net projects of the Jonathan administration like the Maternal and Child healthcare(MCH)program, including the conditional cash transfer(CCT), the Community social, women and Youth employment (CSWYE) scheme and the Public Works for the Youth programme. But if the truth must be told, these are far too little to correct the many years of imbalance. The welfare of every Nigerian must truly become the centre piece of every government policy and expenditure. Our political leaders must set themselves free from the hostage they are held by the political and business classes who pretend they are working for the masses but are truly only concerned about themselves and their families and cronies, and walk around in the communities to feel and see the real sufferings of the people and design programs that will deliver service and succour to the people. When they fly in aeroplanes and helicopters to get to their luxurious homes and only meet and talk with their like, they have no chance of truly feeling the pains of the people. And so the majority of Nigerians will continue to feel alienated and will feel disenfranchised and so do not see the need to defend the unity of this Nation.


As we begin the Political manouver and competitions for 2015, I humbly request the Political class and their private sector collaborators to take a deep breath and ponder how we can Create an all- inclusive Nation where non will be oppressed. All the tokenisms we see from time to time must give way to a coordinated and strategic plan to open up the economic space for all Nigerians to participate and derive benefits. We need to evolve a Nigerian equivalent of the ' American dream'. That is the only way in my view that we can ensure that Nigerians become patriotic about our country, leading to true unity. If the Nation can make this the focus of our celebrations, then there will be something worthwhile to celebrate.


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR