Google+ Badge

Monday, 30 March 2015

MANY BLESSINGS FROM THE 2015 ELECTIONS


 However these elections go, Nigeria is a winner. Big time. I am prepared to bet with my entire pension savings that Nigeria will come out of these elections much much better than it started. In my reckoning, if this Country needed a tonic to 'explode' for good, it got plenty and I am thoroughly excited in my spirit.
  First is the sharp rise in Citizen awareness. For a very long time, we seemed to have docile Citizens who acted as onlookers or disinterested observers of the affairs of our Nation. At best, we whimpered and complained in our closets and resigned to fate. But the 2015 elections seem to have changed all that. In these elections, we heard more of the voices of the citizens across several media, perhaps more than those of the Politicians. It was amazing reading the chats and commentaries of citizens on the social media and on the print and electronic media. So many bloggers came alive and many columnists were born. Though a lot of misinformation and propaganda were traded on the internet, I am all the same impressed with the unprecedented flow of citizen contribution to the debates about Nigeria's future. In my Book, NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION, I have a chapter with the topic: 'The Citizenship that deserves the  Leadership'. My point in that chapter is that it is the Citizens that determine the effectiveness of their leadership. The oft repeated adage that a people deserve the Leadership they have is refocused on the critical tenet that Leadership can not improve, until the People improve. I can feel that the People desire to rise up to their responsibilities and thus there is ample hope that the Leaders will take theirs seriously as well.
 Second, never in the history of our Nation, have we seen our Leaders( Present and aspiring) being held accountable for their past-good and bad. It was really exciting, to see our political leaders and aspirants sweat profusely as they tried to justify or explain off their past statements and Behaviour. The Nigerian people were unrelenting in digging out the past statements, misdeeds and contradictions of the political aspirants and candidates. It was very interesting some times to see the hunter being hunted fiercely. In most cases our political leaders did not,as in the past, ignore accusations or scoff at the people, but humbly went to great pains to explain issues and extricate themselves. Talk of People Power and accountability. In my view, never again will politicians take the People for granted or speak from both sides  of their mouths, hoping that the people would forget. Speeches made thirty years ago were exhumed and used to judge the contestants .
  Third, our Leaders have been challenged to know that what the People need is action, not mere talks and endless planning. Within the last three months, the number of projects that were commissioned all over the Country was homongous. All the matters that had been hidden in the Pipelines were brought to the fore with alacrity. It was unbelievable to see Governments walk with such speed . Perhaps this is a wake up call for the new leaders( returning or resuming)  taking positions in the polity, that Nigerians have become impatient with "we are planning to do this", "we are looking into that". They want prompt actions and conclusive follow up on matters. Our leaders must learn to keep tabs on issues and not let them drop and be forgotten. May be they will need to establish a better recall system that will help them see matters to their end.
  Fourth is that our Political leaders have seen that hard work, does not kill. It is indolence and hiding behind the desk that kills. Many of these political candidates worked many hours through the day, pouring through much literature and attending many rallies and town and village meetings. In deed many criss-crossed their constituencies several times in the last couple of weeks and are still alive. What is more, many were able to see the real challenges of their peoples. To hide in the office, hedged in some times by sycophant and sometimes self-serving aides has proven not to be the best way to govern. After running away from their constituents, for several reasons including security report,many political leaders must have been pleasantly surprised that some of those reports were not true and that in many cases, the report they were served by the protocol or the bureaucracy were far from the reality on the ground. So I am glad that we shall see more our political leaders in flesh and blood. Perhaps, they will henceforth avail themselves of several opportunities offered them to interact with the people, hear them directly and offer responses directly.
  Fifthly is that I get a feeling that this Country is actually more united than many make us feel. I am persuaded that many truly believe in the unity of this country no matter what false impressions they create. Traveling round the Country during this period , I was impressed that most Nigerians took the elections quite seriously and were campaigning and rooting for their preferred candidates. Unlike in the past, many people joined in the campaign without any inducement whatsoever. They either believed in Transformation and Continuity or in 'Chanji'. The contest was very keen at all levels and it reflected to me that Nigerians love this Nation.                 Sixth, even the issue of religion, did not in my view cause much harm. The way the Parties were structured and the choice of candidates showed a sensitivity to our multi religious polity. I was enthused really to see Christians forcefully defending and supporting Buhari and to note that some of President Goodluck Jonathan's ardent supporters were Muslims. So it is becoming increasingly clear that we can become better at managing our religious differences, especially when you discount the deviant Behaviour of groups like Boko haram.
   Seventh and lastly, Nigeria has truly become a major global player of very great strategic importance. The interest shown by the international community in the 2015 elections is unprecedented . World leaders were falling over each other to send goodwill messages to Nigeria, some even reminding us that" To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done". My hope is that we can build on this to reassert our Nation in its proper position after these elections. That's one very important reason, these elections must be free, fair, credible and violence-free. So help us God.

  Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Sunday, 22 March 2015

TEN THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND AS NIGERIA VOTES

  In a couple of days, Nigerians will be heading for the polling booths to exercise their franchise in an effort to elect political leaders, first at the National level and then at the sub-National level. This has been one of the longest campaign periods in Nigeria's political history. For some, the campaigns started in 2012, barely one year after the last elections and the recent six weeks extension should have enabled everyone to exhaust themselves. The stakes have been heightened this electoral season by the emergence of a virile opposition represented by the All Progressives Congress( APC) which is determined to vigorously challenge the apparent monopoly of Power at the Federal level by the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) in the last 16 years of the 4th Republic. There is therefore palpable tension in the air. Many People( Nigerians and foreigners ) are worried about the outcomes and consequences of the Elections. There have been all kinds of predictions and projections. But for me the matter is on our hands under God. Hence I plead with all Nigerians to keep the following in mind as we go to vote:
1. THE ELECTION IS NOT A WARFARE
  This election is not a war between one part of the Country and another. Neither is it a war between Nigeria and another Country. In this election , we are not dealing with any ENEMIES any where. All those contesting for political positions at all levels are bonafide Nigerians who are only offering themselves to bear the burdens of our respective States and Nation. Shorn of all the trappings and abuses, political positions are merely opportunities to serve and help lead our States or Country to desired future and in essence should not cause warfare. So all those gathering guns, matchets, explosives, fire bombs and all of such, should put them away. If they must use them, then they should head to the Sambisa forest in Borno State to help rout the retreating Boko haram who have declared war against Nigeria. I believe they are the only enemies Nigerians have as today. If we must fight, let us join the Military and the civilian JTF to fight Boko haram. We must not fight our fellow Nigerians because of elections please.
 2. IT IS ALL ABOUT DEMOCRATIC CHOICE
 We must note that the elections are only about democratic choices. Two or three Fellow Nigerians offer themselves to serve in a particular position, using political parties as platforms. May be the two or three are all qualified to serve us. But individually, the constitution gives us the right to make a choice. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes is given the opportunity to occupy the position. That does not make the other candidates bad or terrible, nor does it make our individual choices bad or terrible. Because we are human beings and many times see things differently, so our choices may be different and our motivations may also be different. It is also important to emphasize that what is of great importance to me, may not be of much importance to you, but the fact that we put different weights on different issues, does not make any of us wrong or evil, it's just the way we are wired. We must keep in mind that everybody's voice is heard at elections but the loudest voice is given sway. In democracy, the majority carries the day. That does not make them right, and the minority wrong, it's just that we must have a way to take a decision.
3. ELECTION IS NOT A MAGIC WAND
Yes politicians may promise heaven on earth and it is human Nature to desire eldorado, where there is no poverty, no hunger, no pain, no sickness, no injustice, no crime and if possible no problems at all, we must keep in mind that these can only happen in the World after, not in this World. This is partly because of the fallen Nature of Man and the consequences of disobedience but also partly to the fact that in many instances, the solution of one problem often creates a new problem. When Government clears squatters on a piece of land to build Schools or when shanties or houses are bulldozed to create way for a new road, some people feel disadvantaged, offended and discriminated against because a new problem of homelessness manifests. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu stated that a critical reason for staging 1966 coup was to fight corruption, Murtala Muhammed the same, Olusegun Obasanjo the same ( even on two occasions), and then Gen. Buhari as a military Head of State and yet corruption is a key campaign issue in 2015. So let's keep in mind that no government can solve all of our problems, at least not at the same time. Some problems, will be solved, some will be left unsolved, and some new problems will be created, no matter which government. So let's moderate our expectations and our frenzy.
 4.LIBERTY AND FREEDOM ARE THE KEY ISSUES
  During election campaigns, many issues are canvassed and some times all the issues are made to look equally important. At other times, apparently minor issues are made to look more important than they actually are. So at times, the electorate get confused as to what are the most critical issues. I agree that there are many issues but for me, I think the most critical issues in a democracy are Liberty and freedom. Mans' greatest need after air, water and food is FREEDOM. Freedom to move about, freedom to speak your mind, freedom to hold your views, freedom of association and freedom of Religion amongst many other forms of freedom. People have fought to grant us the democratic freedoms we have today. Many have died to grant us the Liberty and freedoms from slavery and other forms of human exploitation and imposition of one's will over the other, wily nilly. Perhaps those who have experienced deprivations fully understand the importance of freedom and how it is such a great human need.  So we must keep in mind as we go to vote that we must avoid putting in power those who may constrain our freedoms. This is one major reason, the World abhors military rule, despite the discipline it may bring and forced Behaviour modulations it may exact, the consequent abridgements and trampling of people's freedoms are regarded as anathema and seen as anachronistic. In the face of abridged freedoms, everything else becomes less important or not important at all.
5. ECONOMY & SECURITY ARE THE NEXT ISSUES
After Freedom and Liberty, the next most important issues in my view are the Economy and Security. Sometimes, they stand alone and sometimes they are mixed. The questions we must ask are: will our Economy grow? Will food  be more abundant?, will unemployment decline?, will there be pro-business and pro-private sector policies?, will the quality of lives of Nigerians improve?. These are important issues and we must scrutinize the records of each candidate to see how they have tackled the economic issues in the past and how they plan for the future and be certain that they understand how modern economies are managed. Because if our economy begins to decline and goods and services become scarce and inflation begins to jump, we may understand that the economy can not be dictated to but must be wholesomely managed. You can not command the naira to become equivalent to the dollar. It can not happen and if you force it, you destroy the economy instanta. Security of lives and property must be guaranteed by all means and experience in dealing successfully with security challenges must count.
6. TALK IS CHEAP BUT ACTION IS BETTER
 We must keep in mind that making promises is the easiest thing but getting things done is the real challenge. Let's be careful that we are not overawed or hypnotized by the high pitch media blitz and propapaganda. So many promises have been made but let's realize that there may never be enough resources to get them implemented. So when we hear of free education at all levels, free Healthcare for all, housing for all, free meals at school and full employment, we must ask how the money will be provided. Will taxes go up? And those making those promises, what is their background and history? What have they done in the past with their own resources and with public resources? What promises did they make in the past and how many did they keep? That helps to make a rational choice. Trusting only in what they promise to do in future while forgetting what they did or did not do in the past will be too risky if you ask me.
7. BE RATIONAL NOT EMOTIONAL
There is so much emotion flowing around. Emotions are natural and can be helpful in dealing with some transient challenges but they are seldom helpful in making decisions. Less so in critical decisions like choosing political leaders or even any kind of leaders for that matter. The only reason you want to promote a guy to a higher position or you want to hire him for a new job is that he has the requisite qualification, relevant experience and appropriate skills for the job. If you base your choice on how handsome or stern he looks and which village he comes from and from the tales you read in the internet without iota of evidence, you will soon regret your choice or actions. Choosing leaders like choosing key employees must be based on stated criteria and the appropriate fit. You can be fanatical about a Nollywood actor or musician and vote for him for academy awards but you can not and must not do so for a political leader. Such speeches as " we want him even if he did not go to school " or " we want him because he comes from a minority tribe" smacks of extreme emotion and will not work here. We must all do a cold- blooded analysis of the fit of our candidates against carefully chosen and relevant criteria based on facts not fiction or emotions.
8. ONLY THE LIVING VOTE & ENJOY DEMOCRATIC DIVIDEND
 As we plan to go and vote for our rationally preferred candidates, let us keep in mind that only the Living vote and only the living enjoy democratic dividends. When they ask you to protect your votes, please ask them with what? Your life?. Say No. Since we all trust INEC( interestingly,the APC seems to trust more than the PDP) and believe they would do a good job, so why should we interfere with protecting votes. They are INDEPENDENT, and should not need anybody's help to do their jobs!. They have the security forces and the party agents to help them protect votes. Too many people milling around the polling booths or collation centers can instigate violence. Some people who may be disenfranchised by the Card readers may be angry. Accidental bullets may be released. We have constitutional ways of correcting any wrongs done to any candidate in elections. The judiciary has intervened in the past and are ready to intervene this time around. So we must not resort to self help, no matter the level of provocation.
9. FOUR YEARS IS NOT ETERNITY
In the last 16 years, we have had four Presidents govern Nigeria and many Governors run the States. 2011 was just four years ago. So no matter who wins in these elections, we have another 4 years to try again. Time passes very fast. Therefore we must not kill Nigerians or seek to destroy the Nation because we or our candidate lost. If all Nigerians were killed because we lost in 2011, to who should we be campaigning to for votes in 2015. Those who lose should quickly congratulate the winner as Dr John Kayode FAYEMI (JKF) did last Year after the EKITI Elections, an examplary and praiseworthy action that helped to prevent post electoral violence.  Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan( GEJ) has openly declared that he would congratulate the winner if he lost but General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) says he does not contemplate losing. I stand by that famous saying by GEJ that the ambition of any politician or leader is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
10. LET THE PERFECT WILL OF GOD BE DONE
 I am glad that most Nigerians agree that the Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the World and they that dwell therein. Also many of us believe that Promotion does not come from the East or from the West, neither from the North, nor from the South. Many even believe that you can not get anything except The Lord gives it to you and a significant other believes that anything that happens to you is the will of God. Is it not then, the height of hypocrisy to believe all these and still want to force your will on the People and perhaps attempt to force it also on God. My plea is that for once, let Nigerians practice what they believe and preach. Who ever wins must be the will of God. If he or she is not, let us trust that The Lord will dethrone and disgrace such persons. He has done it severally in times past. And in all this we need not help God. Let us just go out peacefully to vote for our rationally chosen candidates and let INEC officials do what they ought to do, and then let the God of all Nations choose our political Leaders on March 28 and April 11, 2015.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 16 March 2015

PULLING NIGERIA OUT OF POVERTY: LESSONS FROM FORBES LIST OF RICHEST AFRICANS

 In 2014 Nigeria overtook South Africa on the list of the 50 Wealthiest People in Africa. That was exciting to me and I believe it should be to many lovers of Nigeria. On that list, there were 13 Nigerians against 11 South Africans, the rest being people from other African Countries, mainly Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Tanzania. 2014 was the same year that Nigeria's GDP was REBASED, bringing it to be the biggest Economy in Africa. Some People challenged this rebasing and said it was stage managed. Perhaps they suspected that the Government in power did it to boost its performance. But Forbes is an internationally recognized and independent rating organization. In the same 2014, they found that Nigeria had the highest number of Wealthy People on their list. And this had nothing to do with rebasing the economy. The criteria for calculating the net worth of these rich Nigerians did not include the size of the economy. It was a measure of the wealth created by these individuals through appropriate market determined pricing that did not involve any Nigerian Government Agency including the National Bureau for Statistics( NBS)
   The truth is that Forbes list only validated the truth that Nigeria's Economy had grown astronomically making it the biggest Economy in Africa, just as a Nigerian became the richest Man in Africa. We can not and must stop guarelling with facts. Nigeria's Economy has grown over the years to become the biggest in Africa. If it is not a big deal, then tell me what is. It is exciting for me to know that Nigeria maintained its dominance of the Forbes List of the 50 richest Africans in 2015, despite the drastic fall in oil price, the reduction in National Income and the consequent devaluation of our local currency. We still had 13 people on the list, with Aliko Dangote retaining the position of the richest African, though his net worth declined from $ 21.6 Billion to $15.7Billion.
 The second lesson derivable from this list, is the source of the wealth of these individuals. As a country that has long been dependent on oil as main source of National income and foreign exchange, one would have thought that the richest Man in Nigeria would have made his wealth from oil. But surprisingly it is not so. Aliko Dangote has made his wealth from aggressive investment in Manufacturing Cement, Flour and Sugar. He started from trading and transited to Manufacturing. Today, he has disproved the commonly held view that manufacturing is no go area in Nigeria. He did not even make his money from the other glamorous businesses of Banking and Telecommunication. The lesson is that Money can be made in Nigeria from many sources, if only we can imbibe the Dangote 'gene'. Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA, Tunde Folawiyo of the Folawiyo Group, and Oba Otudeko of the Honeywell group are others on the list who made their money from value addition activities in Manufacturing, Agriculture, Engineering and Real Estate.
   Of course our oil moguls( upstream and down stream) were prominent on the list. And these included the Amazon, Folurunsho Alakija, TY Danjuma, Mohammed Nadimi, and Femi Otedola. Mike Adenuga bestrode the oil and Telecoms sectors while Hakeem Bello Osagie bestrode the Telecoms and Banking sector. Tony Elumelu and Jim Ovia can be said to have created most of their wealth from the Finance Sector. I am certain that there are many other wealthy Nigerians who ought to be on this list but who were missed out by the Forbes radar, either because of the kind of businesses they are involved in or because of the way they manage their wealth. Those whose businesses are not floated on the stock exchange or who do not produce audited accounts, may have net worths  in excess of 510 million dollars, which should have gotten  them on the list. There are many silent billionaires, some even in the informal sector. Whether, we like it not, these are evidences of a Bouyant economy. You do not create billionaires in a dead economy.
  Thirdly, is the question of whether the overall economy benefits from these wealthy men. While some people may be quick to say no for whatever reasons, I hasten to say bold YES. All these billionaires have chains of businesses that are creating employment for many Nigerians, thereby helping to reduce unemployment and Poverty. They are paying heavy taxes which contribute to the revenues of our governments( Federal, State and Local Government). Most of them, have set up foundations through which they are supporting social service delivery to many disadvantaged Nigerians and helping to achieve redistribution of wealth, and further reducing poverty. The actives of TY Danjuma Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Dangote Foundation for example are widely known. There are many others, some operating below the radar. Those who unduly crticise these Rich Nigerians, whose numbers are increasing every year, should tell me what they have lost or what the Nation has lost by their emergence. Yes, our operating environment, needs to be more competitive, but any environment that is enlarging the 'trybe' of the rich and wealthy, can not be that bad!
   Having said so, I am of the firm belief that, the Nation can benefit a lot more from our Rich and Wealthy. The Model I saw at the Global Business Roundtable Conference in South Africa recently can help pull more Nigerians out of poverty.  The rich and wealthy should undertake the mentoring of young and struggling businessmen and Women. With their experience they can help many to acquire their 'genes'and strive to success.Every successful business will employ more people, create more wealth and help to grow the Economy. The Rich and Wealthy should not only give cash gifts or do charitable works, they should allow many more people participate in the ownership of their businesses through free share offerings or discounted share pricing for the poor. If these rich and wealthy were to offer 10% of the shares of their various companies at discounted prices or through a deferred payment scheme to the poor( where payment for the shares will be from future dividends), the impact will be monumental. Thousands, if not millions of Nigerians would be pulled out from poverty for ever, without dampening in any significant way the wealth of the current Rich.
  I believe that those who have achieved tremendous successes should deliberately help others to come out of poverty. I think Tony Elumelu and a few others are working along this line of empowering many Nigerians. It is not only an act that will make God happy, but an act that will help to make Nigeria a safer place to live and enjoy the tremendous blessings of God. Perhaps it will help make many more Nigerians join me in praying that more Nigerians will enter the Forbes List- both global and African.
   Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

STOP THESE CAMPAIGNS OF FABRICATIONS, RUMOUR PEDDLING & COUNTER ACCUSATIONS

I have become completely exasperated by how the Presidential campaign organizations of the two major political parties have turned the 2015 electioneering campaigns into a harvest of fabricated lies, rumour peddling,and daily accusations and counter accusations. From the way things are going, it seems that these organizations believe that the elections will be won by which ever party that is able to fabricate more lies or peddle more rumours or raise more accusations. The whole thing is becoming so deamining and nasty that many decent Nigerians are getting worried. Each day one wakes up, he will regaled with a new tale.
  For several weeks now, there has been this wild rumour that the President wants to remove Jega from office prematurely. This rumour has been propelled by the APC campaign team. For what reason? Because he plans to conduct a free and fair elections. How can that be an act of misdeamenour that will attract summary dismissal. The President had to deny this rumour at a media chat on prime television,some weeks back. Yet the rumour would not abate. A variant of the rumour subsequently developed- Jega would be asked to proceed on pre-retirement leave in March so that another INEC Chairman would be appointed who, would then postpone the election a second time. At the recent interview on Aljazera television, Dr Goodluck Jonathan denied the rumour again. He explained that it would be like looking for trouble, for him to send Jega away at this critical time, without a just cause. He even went further to assert that he had never discussed the issue of removing Jega from office with any body on the Planet Earth. How far can a denial go and yet this rumour is still simmering, regularly stoked by the campaign organization.
  Then General Muhammadu Buhari goes to London and Governor Ayo Fayose and the PDP campaign organisation allege that he had gone for medical treatment. The APC campaign organization denied the allegation and to prove their point that he was on a working visit, they presented a picture of where he was being interviewed by a lady. But it turns out that the picture was an old picture taken in Nigeria and not in the UK. What an embarrassment. Why would lies be told about a simple matter. What is wrong with going for medical check up or medical treatment abroad?Young men and women in their thirties and fourties go regularly abroad for medical reviews or treatment. How much more a 73 year old man who has stressed himself over weeks of strenuous campaign trips across the Nation. I routinely combine my medical checks with my business or ministry trips abroad.
 Thereafter, the Campaign organization of President Goodluck Jonathan alleges that they have information that the vice Presidential candidate of APC, Prof Osinbajo has signed a post dated resignation letter that will allow Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu( BAT) to replace him as Vice President, should APC win and subsequently become the President, since Buhari is not expected to go the whole hog. Firstly, I must reiterate my abhorrence to this matter of speculating on the life and death of General Muhammadu Buhari. It is in bad taste. Life is in God's hands and nobody knows with certainty who will die before the other. Death does not always follow chronology. Yes, it is logical to assume that a 73 year old man may have greater physical and may be mental challenge in dealing with the multifarious issues in a complex country like Nigeria than say a 55 year old but no one can say for certainty who will die before the other. So let's stop this morbid campaign. Now that Prof Osinbajo has threatened legal action, let's hope that the accusers will bring forward the evidence.
  The APC has alleged that the PDP wants to use the military to rig the elections and so the military should be locked up in their barracks during the election and the PDP counters that the APC has concluded plans in connivance with INEC to use the electronic card readers to rig the election and so we must reject the card readers. Accusations and counter accusations. Some are so absurd like the allegation by APC that the PDP does not want the elections to hold, instead preferring to set up an interim National Government( ING) to be headed by Dr Goodluck Jonathan. I can not understand the logic behind this allegation. Neither can I fathom the logic behind the accusation that the APC is responsible for the recent fuel shortages in parts of the country. It is on record that the President had been worried that the recent actions taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN ) in an effort to stop arbitrage and round tripping in the foreign exchange market in the bid to conserve our foreign reserves could precipitate fuel shortages. And he was right on spot. Even Femi Otedola at a recent interaction, had asked the President to get the oil marketers paid to avoid shortages . Therefore, we can not blame the opposition party or even the oil marketers. The lesson will continue to be learnt that the governments of the federation must meet their obligations to labour and suppliers on due dates to avert the disruption of the system, and then the adoption of fire brigade measures.
   I have not stood for any elective political office before, so I may never know exactly what Politicians do to win voters to their sides. But in my simple mind, I have doubts that rumour mongering or wild and unsubstantiable allegations against the opponent will be sufficient to win voters. Since most of these allegations are built on falsehood, they soon collapse and the lies are exposed, often to the embarrassment of the tale bearer or rumour monger.  I personally believe that the jobs of the campaign organizations are well cut out for them. President Goodluck Jonathan has done many good things in his first term, yet there are some Nigerians who say he has done nothing. It is their job to engage these doubters and present convincing evidence of what he has done and what justifies his quest for a second term. As for General Muhammadu Buhari, some Nigerians are focusing on the many bad things he did when he was the military head state, after overthrowing President Shehu Shagari in a military coup in December 1983 until sometime in 1986, when General Ibrahim Babangida over threw him in a 'popular' counter coup. They need to focus attention on what evidence to provide to these doubting Nigerians that General Buhari is "born again" . Those are the valid issues.
  Fabricating lies, rumour peddling or daily wild accusations and counter accusations will not do it in my own opinion. Rather these wild stories raise tensions in the polity, foul the environment and denigrate our image in the international community. They should stop forthwith.
  Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 2 March 2015

NIGERIAN MILITARY, SECURITY & POLITICS


 I am one of those who had repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of our Security forces in the fight against the Boko haram insurgents. I had been bewildered by how an apparently untrained or poorly trained and ill-equipped rag tag army could take parts of Nigeria’s territory with apparent ease. How could a military establishment that has produced many generals (active and inactive) just collapse in the front of a few disgruntled miscreants. That was how I felt until I realized that my assumptions were mistaken. Over time, it became clear that these were not just a few disgruntled miscreants, that they were sizeable, actively recruiting and indoctrinating and radicalizing intakes from Nigeria and her Neighbours. I soon discovered that they had access to large stock and variety of arms and were being reinforced and re supplied regularly both from Nigeria and from abroad. I soon realized that we were not just dealing with local insurgents as was the case in the Niger Delta militancy but we were dealing with an international terrorist organization with links with Al-Qaida and other international terrorist organizations. I then became less stringent in my criticism, as I began to empathize with our military.
   From the remark made by President Jonathan a few days ago, I am beginning to think that I was not the only one who had these mistaken assumptions. The President said that they might have underestimated the challenge. This is in line with my understanding of the character of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He is often frank, speaks with candour and often admits mistakes or limitations. A couple of People regard this as weakness and some of his aides and party men think that he should not express such candour. Their concern is of course that the opposition would cash on such admissions as they are always wont to do. But to me that is the hall mark of servant leadership- being honest with the People. It therefore follows that if the commander-in-Chief, underestimated the Boko haram challenge, that the Military which he commands must have equally done the same. Perhaps this could explain, the promise by the Chief of Defence Staff that they would rout the insurgents by the end of April last year. They may have felt they could manage with the arms in their amouries. Indeed when they were initially not receiving the cooperation of Nigeria's Neighbours- Chad, Niger and Cameroun, they may have felt, that they could handle it all by themselves.
  But they eventually came to terms with the reality of the strength of the foe and its international dimensions . That in my view may have explained the efforts to procure ammunition desperately from any market- white, grey or black. The pain that America which is widely regarded as Nigeria's friend refused to sell some ammunition and equipment  to us in the hour of need may have worsened the desperation. So many of us wrote off the Nigerian military. There were suggestions in the closet that may be we should go and get mercenaries to fight for us. And therefore, as a patriotic Nigerian, I am so pleased that the Military has begun to regain its prestige. With the recent successes in recovering Nigerian territories in the affected States in the North East, it is evident that the  military has begun to warm itself back into the hearts of Many Nigerians. It is gratifying that they have been able to secure new equipment, platforms and ammunition and very importantly has been able to break the lethargy of our Neighbours, eliciting their support. Fighting terrorism anywhere must involve international collaboration as has been done in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia.
  Achieving this turn around could not have been easy and must have truly tested the commander-in-chief and his commanders. I therefore would like to join some sections of the National Assembly and other well meaning Nigerians to congratulate the C-in-C and the military for this pleasant turn of events. Those Nigerians, who are still seating on the fence, not sure whether they should applaud, should at least be quiet. No one should do otherwise or say something that may dampen the awakening spirit of the military. These guys are going through tremendous pressures and challenges and they have been traumatized severely. Let all those who think that the military is an arm of the ruling party perish that thought. The military is one of the oldest institutions in our Nation that has largely stood the test of time.
  It true that the Military at some point foraged into politics through coups and counter coups and in the process got badly messed up and ended up messing up Nigeria. But since 1999 when General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed power to civilian authority, the military returned to their barracks to heal their wounds and rebuild their professions. From what has happened, it is clear that no major effort had been made by the previous leaders to re equip the military until now. Thus the Bokoharam challenge is affording the military an opportunity to retrain, rekit and re equip. From the recent commissioning of four Naval Ships and new Airforce fighter planes and attack helicopters and the recently acguired Armored carriers for the army, there is evidence that some serious investments are being made so that the military can rightly play its constitutional role of defending the Nation from from external aggression and internal insurrection.
  And so despite the current pressures and the perceived failings of the military in the recent experience, we must do our utmost not to drag the military back into politics nor politicize their constitutional duties. Recent comments by some politicians which seemed to be talking about coups and military intervention must be out rightly condemned. It is clear to me that the military would prefer to be left alone to carry on their constitutional duties. Their last expeditions benefitted neither the military institution nor the Nation. And that is why the argument I have been hearing especially from the House of Representatives looks to me unnecessary and indeed a distraction to the military that is working really hard to win back the confidence of Nigerians. The military currently, has been deployed all over Nigeria to help maintain peace even before the elections. In my own Abia State, without the military, I do not know what we would be doing with 'osisikanku' and his 'trybe' of kidnappers. On my trip from Umuahia to Arochukwu, I pass through about five military checkpoints. And we are 'cool' with that. Recently, there was a violent armed robbery at a bank in Arochukwu, and we have gone to Ohafia army barracks to beg the commander to send us some troops.
  I am writing this peace from Yola where I am leading a team of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship international, Nigeria to visit with our members and other Nigerians who are in the IDP camps in Yola, having been displaced from Mubi and Michika,though many are on the verge of returning home as those towns have been liberated from satanic occupation .From the airport to the camps, the whole place was swarming with the military and many people are feeling safe because of their presence. All over Nigeria, the military has been deployed to help help deal with the persisting rise in violent crimes and deviant Behaviour since the last ten years or so. The Police is currently overwhelmed, a large proportion on orderly duties, following our politicians and their wives all over the place. Nigerians can no longer depend solely on the Police for internal safety. My passport will not be taken away for saying this ! That is not the way it should be and I believe the federal Government must do something to reinvent our Nigeria Police( force or service). I have written on this severally that we need to create a new Nigerian Police. All the cosmetic efforts to improve on the existing are not yielding much fruits.
  But that change can not happen in the next six months. So, realistically ,we need the military to help maintain peace all over Nigeria. And what is more, elections in Nigeria are fraught with increase in crimes, and this forthcoming one was almost sounding like a war until the ' halftime break' by INEC which seems to have diffused tensions, at least for a while. Therefore if we ever needed Military presence to help provide security and peace, it is at this election period. Certainly the Military must not be involved in actual election processes. They can not be INEC officials( adhoc or permanent ), nor party agents. Except those who are eligible to vote and who are lucky to be deployed within their pooling booths, nobody should expect to see the military inside pooling booths or collating centers. But they must stay around to give the people confidence for safety especially in the violence-prone zones ( which now includes  the North East, the South West, the South East, the South South, the North West and the North central). They can stay away in the remaining parts if we want! The police could not maintain peace or protect lives ( including theirs) at mere Electioneering campaign in Okirika and you expect that they will be able to handle the post election crisis that may erupt after the elections in such places as Rivers, IMO, Abia, Kano, kaduna, katsina, Borno , Lagos , Benue , Plateau and Nassarawa.
 Truly, anybody campaigning that the military must not be involved in maintaining peace or should not be deployed to help provide security during these elections can not mean well for the People of Nigeria. That type of campaign is decidedly anti people. It is clear to every one , that some people will create problems for Nigerians before, during and immediately after the elections and it behoves the C-In-C to deploy the military in readiness to deter or crush any such trouble  makers. Never again must we allow innocent Nigerians, including Youth Corpers to be killed by un democratic elements who insist they must win elections,willy nilly.  Finally, let us be reminded, that we are not doing the military any favour by asking them to help maintain peace and provide security during elections. Because they put their lives at risk, stand in the sun and earn the same salary. If you asked them, they would prefer to rest in their barracks. But for the love of Country, they would obey the C-In-C and risk their lives and comfort to support the police in providing security and maintaining the peace. Shouldn't we be grateful? Politicians and all.

Mazi Sam Ojhuabunwa OFR.