“We have the tin-pot leader whose vanity knows no bounds. We have the rapacious family feathering their nests without regard for the law or common decency. We have utter disregard for values at home and abroad, the disdain for democracy, the hunger for constraining a free press, the admiration for thugs and strongmen worldwide. We have all the makings of a banana republic. But worse, we are showing the telltale signs of a failing state. Our government has ceased to function…” – David Rothkopf, writing in the Foreign Policy on the state of the United States in 2017.
The Nigerian cup was very full last week. Avoidable deaths in metropolitan accidents; killings and reprisal killings in villages; confessions and retractions in the public space. In the days before Islam and Christianity, wise men would review all these and ask: what have we done wrong? Who have we offended? Have we offered the wrong sacrifice to the wrong god? Or the right offerings to the wrong spirit? Sowing wind and reaping storm is in the nature of karma. If an entity is structured to fail, it will fall.
We cannot say we don’t want the devil in this village with what we have done – and what we are doing. I remember the old saying: The village head is the baron of brigands; his household sells Indian hemp; his wife hawks ogogoro (local gin); his children are the kings of the street, they collect illegal levies — and yet, you say you want the devil out of the village! Where else will the evil one go?
We have all the trappings of the village of unwellness. The wicked wreaks havoc in broad daylight; decapitates neighbours’ kids and displays his trophies of death. Criminals ply their trade in the open – unchecked, unfazed by the strong arms of justice. The Miyetti Allah is a very courageous entity. In Benue, it spoke and stood by its misdeeds. But thank God, in Plateau, it is struggling to avoid the sunbeam of justice. It no longer boasts of the bad it has done or can do to its opponents. There is a howling storm over a purported confession to mass killings – then a frantic denial.
The image I etched in my mind about that untouchable lot is that of a character in a Yoruba crime novel, Aja Lo’ L’eru. The character has a name that syncs with his reputation: Tafa Igiripa omo Lawale, Omi tutu tii jo ni faifai (cold water that scalds deeply). There is no crime he commits that is too grave for him to deny. Why deny a crime when you know you are an untouchable? He looks at himself and chants his chilling cognomen. He sings his own praise and the outraged keeps quiet. Akinwumi Ishola has a seamless translation of Tafa’s boastful invocation of his oriki: “I, mishap at home, mishap outside, mishap in the farm, mishap on the road, mishap in the bush, mishap in the city. I, the spirit that walks in the day. I, the masquerade that dances at night. I, the cattle egret that flies in the rainy season. I, the god of thunder that strikes in the dry season. I, the thug that flogs other people’s mothers, who will dare flog my own? I, the he-goat, have arrived; bad odour is here…”
When a man is too big to be cautioned by anyone, he wrecks his people and their destiny. Did you notice the last part of the hard man’s chant? He beats his chest and says he is: “the thug that flogs other people’s mothers…” and for effects, he adds: “who will dare flog my own?” That is the group forever in the news in Benue and Plateau. Terra firma is solid ground. If you are sure of the firmness of the ground upon which you stand, you won’t shake. You would look anyone and anything in the eyes and stress that you dey kampe.
The Miyetti Allah is the most popular organization in Nigeria today. It is also the most pampered. It can look the law in the eyes and refuse to blink. The law peers at that group and drops its gaze – or it looks elsewhere – probing the bed chambers of the group’s victims. Remember Benue and the Miyetti’s insistence that the anti-open grazing law there must die for it to stop going to war. What has the law done to the sure one who dared it? Nigeria’s destiny appears tied to this group and its sidekicks.
Whenever the he-goat arrives, what comes in is more than bad odour. With the stinking come repeated troubles that rile even the gentlest of angels. I read the president’s opinion on the horrific Plateau killings. What was he saying – or trying to say? What were the causative factors? He wrote about “geographical and economic factors.” He did not explain them for us to interrogate him further on that line. But he went further to identify politics as another cause: “We also know that politicians are taking advantage of the situation. This is incredibly unfortunate,” President Buhari said.
Now, would you not see it as “incredibly unfortunate” that our president “knows” these politicians and would rather report them to us instead of doing something about them? Who are they? It is not only in the military that not taking any decision is an infraction. It is a grave one also in leadership. If you know them, go for and after them! But then, flirting is a game between equals — in whatever form.
Herdsmen who kill have patrons. Who are they? Problem children are very difficult to manage, especially for bad parents. They bring shame and troubles in torrential excess. Enemies won’t let our president rest because he is Fulani. Killer herdsmen are the he-goats who come with bad odour. They foul the air wherever they hit. What I don’t understand is the reluctance of our government to even call them by their name. There is always an official counsel or an explanation for every bad act they stage. We should be worried for our president on this herdsmen matter. His statement on the Plateau tragedy was not presidential. Or, maybe, I am wrong.
If you think I am wrong, read him, this is what he wrote: “According to information available to the presidency, about 100 cattle had been rustled by a community in Plateau State, and some herdsmen were killed in the process. The state governor, Simon Lalong, had invited the aggrieved groups and pleaded against further action while the law enforcement agents looked into the matter. Less than 24 hours later, violence broke out.”
That statement says a whole community of Nigerians committed theft of 100 cows and murder of five herdsmen. I don’t want to ask if the claims were true. I should not query the truth of assertions in a statement from the highest office in the country, but the statement does not contain any immediate punitive action against the murderous thieves. Or are murder and theft no longer crimes under our laws? The statement was silent on official actions against the alleged crimes. Instead, what followed was appeasement and accommodation of evil. And what followed “less than 24 hours later” was violence! And what has followed the “violence”? Appeasement and accommodation of the violent who flogs others’ mums and dares the aggrieved to flog back his own.
Our presidential statements smell like he-goats. It is true that presidential pronouncements, even in saner climes, are accident-prone; but such are rare and far between. Ronald Reagan of the United States once misquoted one of his predecessors, John Adams. Adams had famously declared that “facts are stubborn things.” But Reagan, in one moment of political pressure, went for Adam’s quote and blurted “facts are stupid.” The error is forever quoted as proof of momentary failure. In Nigeria, accidents are normal and both statements would be right. We have scant regards for whatever is correct, especially if it is done by our patron or the person we love. That can only be the reason our government would make excuses for calamities and the nation moves on. Our favourite quote here is from Richard Nixon: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” It is the Orwellian state where Big Brother is forever right, does no wrong. Here, “war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.”
That explains where we are and why we are here. Choosing leaders should not be perpetual mishaps. But it is with us. We elect monkeys who scheme evil while on moral tendrils. We empower the lazy (but wily) ones who know how to wrest guns from hunters and give 21-gun salute to the devil. Members of the British House of Lords, a few days ago, agonised over the killings in Nigeria. The killings are senseless, troubling; they said. They said the bloodletting must stop. We also know it must, but how do we stop it? Our president said we should pray. We have been praying. We pray, but will the government allow God to answer our prayers? Leaders exist to spot problems and solve them. Why are our own leaders always getting lost in the maze of challenges?
The debate in the British parliament about Nigeria was as intense as it was rich in analysis and facts. Why don’t we have such informed debates in our own parliament here? How did we get stuck with the leadership we have? Is it about how we choose our leaders? You cannot plant failure and harvest success. As we lament the quality of leadership, can we also reflect on those who vote on election days? The elite rarely join the queue to vote. They only argue on TV and do results collation in the comfort of their living rooms. Like attracts like. Those who vote get attracted to qualities they see in themselves. They choose leaders who excel in making excuses for failure. Then problems come and all the leaders do is explain why things must always go wrong. They find excuses and spray money to make people forget their pains. The people pick the bait and reelect the he-goats for them to continue to foul the air.
And the beat goes on, killings continue, reprisals follow and the guards intervene with explanations on why the bloody campaign won’t stop. They come out to tell us why herdsmen can flog other people’s mothers, but won’t have theirs flogged. Awon janduku ti i na iya oniya, o ku eni ti yio na tiwon. The beat goes on. The tally of tragedies increases. The people die one by one. The law continues its cowering in front of dubious politics.
That is the definition of Banana Republic.
Without a doubt, the death of a child is the most unendurable filial anguish that could torment a parent. Having lost a couple of sons, David, king of Israel, captured the immeasurable worth of a child in the boundless words of his psalm, singing: “Like arrows are in the hands of a warrior, So are children born in one’s youth…”
For 38-year-old music icon, Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo, aka D’banj, and his family, these are trying times. While attending the BET Awards in Los Angeles, USA, death scaled the back fence of the Kokomaster’s Ikoyi home, tip-toed into his indoor swimming pool and drowned his cherubic 13-month-old son, Daniel III, last week Sunday. My heart goes out to Bangalee and his wife, Lineo Didi nee Kilgrow, in this turbulent period. Sorrow has enveloped the world of D’banj.
The tears won’t just stop flowing. But, amid blurry tears, the eyes can still see, goes a Yoruba proverb. There are some drooping dangers that the D’banj family failed to avert, despite hanging ominously overhead. As a mark of respect for the dead angel, however, I shall not dwell on the unpardonable mistakes that led to the termination of his innocent life – one of which was not providing the swimming pool with a door – as evidenced by an online video showing D’banj and Daniel III walking past the pool.
Although it takes between 20 to 60 seconds for a drowning victim to struggle on the surface of water, actual death takes between three and four minutes, according to online information site, Quora. A statement by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, last Monday, directing D’banj and his wife to make a formal report on the circumstances that led to the death of Daniel III, was a testimony to the perpetual misunderstanding of policing by the Nigeria Police Force.
As soon as the smoke of the tragedy filtered out, the police should have mandatorily, without prompting or delay, moved into the home of the Oyebanjos and conducted a forensic investigation into the circumstances leading to the death. Globally, it is the bounding duty of government to investigate the circumstances leading to strange and suspicious deaths of citizens. It’s highly ridiculous of a police chief to wallow in sentiment and play to the gallery when a dispassionate and critical appraisal was required.
By not moving his men swiftly to the residence of the Oyebanjo for a thorough investigation, the Lagos CP might have obliterated the real cause(s) of the death of Daniel III. In a responsible country, giving the circumstances of Daniel’s death, D’banj and wife not only stood the risk of a long jail term, their eligibility to have possession of their children in the future would come under intense scrutiny.
Well, it’s not only Imohimi that is caught in the intricate web of police over-centralisation and its attendant eye-service, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, is also shackled by the chain of pervasive corruption, bureaucracy and impotence bedeviling the force. The proliferation of counterproductive security units at federal and state levels underpins the exploitative and insensitive tendencies of the NPF. Instead of the Office of the IGP to engender an effective policing structure in all the commands of the federation, it evolved a largely self-glorifying unit called the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring and Intelligence Response Unit, whose members at the state level are not answerable to state police commissioners, but to Abuja.
Similarly, state CPs, instead of arming and encouraging state Criminal Investigation Departments, create their own special investigation units which probe ‘juicy’ cases, leaving ‘non-juicy’ cases to bereft SCIDs. The confusion within the operations of the police force has seen the Special Anti-Robbery Squads grown into uncontrollable monsters of torture. The chaos within the force answers the reason why incompetent bosses appoint incompetent subordinates who lord it over competent officers. Nepotism and blind loyalty, rather than competence, have been the driving force behind police appointments. As a journalist, this much I’ve seen in the appointments of I-Gs, DIGs, AIGs, commissioners, Divisional Police Officers, Divisional Crime Officers, Police Public Relations Officers, etc. With the way the police force is structured, it would continue to deliver security to the powerful while the rest of the citizenry battle insecurity and dehumanisation.
Speaking through his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, a worried President Muhammadu Buhari, last Thursday, ordered the restructuring of SARS. According to a report by Vanguard newspaper, the Vice President spoke at a town hall meeting during the inauguration of micro, small and medium enterprises clinic in Ibadan. He said, “Many people are complaining about the atrocities of SARS, people are saying there should be no more SARS. SARS, as you know, is an anti-robbery squad but several members of the squad have gone rogue and are doing things that are contrary to the very reasons for which they were set up. The President has already ordered a review of the formation of SARS so that very soon, we would be able to have a SARS that will be responsible.”
For a country that has consistently swum against the tide of insecurity for over three decades, a total restructuring of the polity is the sensible way to go and not patchy attempts at covering up the gaping cracks in the shaky foundation of the nation. Last week, Buhari put to the sword the hope of Nigerians witnessing wholesome restructuring during his tenure as he described the proponents of restructuring as self-serving, despite his ruling All Progressives Congress setting up a committee on restructuring headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State in 2017. The report of the committee submitted to a former national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, has been gathering dust since January 26, 2018.
Last Sunday, the nation again woke up to the woeful news of killer herdsmen wreaking havoc on the plateau, sending about 200 indigenes to early graves. Nothing best exemplifies the worthlessness of human lives to the Nigerian Presidency than Buhari’s characteristic tale of promising to fish out killer-herdsmen each time the nation slaughters humans for cows.
It is to the supreme shame of the President that not one killer herdsman has been arrested, let alone, brought to justice – despite the daily bloodletting. And he sits in Aso Rock, wringing his hands and plotting for a second term in office?
Last Thursday, several people met undeserved deaths on the Otedola Bridge along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway when a tanker laden with fuel exploded. On both occasions of immense tragedies, the President was too busy fine-tuning re-election strategies for 2019 and too tongue-tied to soothe the pains across the country with a personal address. Nigerians have got used to the President’s weird but typical cold behaviour and they wonder, “How many more people do Fulani herdsmen have to kill for Buhari to act?” “How many more years do we need to grope in the dark and shun restructuring to our own peril?” “Is there justice in the President labelling the Indigenous People of Biafra as terrorists while indulging his murderous kinsmen?”
In the wake of the Plateau killings, the President let out a smelly belch, saying “It’s unjust to say I’m silent on killings by herdsmen.” Can the father of the sport bike-riding Yusuf tell Nigerians one action he has taken to check his bloody kinsmen?
Tunde Odesola can be reached on ([email protected])
Former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and ex-Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a small man of big ideas. He is intrepid, determined in whatever he sets out to achieve and resolute in achieving same. As the NLC President Oshiomhole brought labour grievances to the fore-front of national politics refusing to compromise in what he believed was right in terms of better wages for workers or decrying their worsening living conditions in a nation where the minimum wage remains till this day a shame and scandal compared to best practices elsewhere around the world. Through sheer hardwork and commitment to the best ideals he managed to lead the Congress with rigour coming out unscathed in the years he presided over its affairs.
Blessed with a combination of brain and brawn Oshiomhole has the grit required to succeed in almost every venture he chose to accomplish. Perhaps his major staying power remains his lion-heartedness and capacity to stand for the truth without blinking an eye.
We remember how this khaki-wearing short man with huge ego waged ‘war’ after ‘war’ against the richest family in Edo State — Igbinedion. At one point in their battle for superiority or supremacy the then Edo state Governor had threathened publicly to run the Igbinedion patriarch, Gabriel Osawaru, out of town if he failed to respect the constituted authorty in the state known as the “heart-beat of the nation’. Gabriel Igbinedion was used to defying the state authority (even playing the Oba abroad!) in the past but with Oshiomhole at the helm such acts of haughtiness were never allowed to stand unchallenged. Between money and power the latter often prevails in any struggle for influence.
Some detractors looked down on him because of his size but he had demonstrated severally that it was not size that mattered but strenght of character; not height that mattered but the heart to soldier on amids odds and challenges. Brimming with confidence the ex-Governor is proud of his overseas academic accomplishments. And achievements in Benin city in particular and Edo State in general when he served as Chief Executive for eight eventful years.
He succeeded in transforming the mid-western state in general and the hitherto neglected “developing village” in particular in his years at the Dennis Osadabey government house in Benin city. Before his triumphant gubernatorial arrival on the stage Benin city was dubbed a town where witchcraft was rife but he worked hard to break the taboo of underdevelopment creating an enabling environment for Edo sons and daughters to see the need to invest resources at home. Roads were constructed or rebuilt, schools were built or renovated, hospitals were built, people were empowered and Benin city was transformed into a modern city worth its cultural and academic greatness!
I remember vividly encountering him at work years back as I visited home. Driving towards Mission Road by Dawson Road junction I had noticed a small crowd milling around a diminutive man in khaki uniform inspecting a road rehabilitation in progress. I parked the car and alighted sensing that the Comrade must be there since some security personnel were at hand to control the cheering supporters. Coming close I saw the man — surrounded by taller well-dressed men and women —as he was taking notes and giving directives to the foreign contractor executing the project. Again driving towards Ikpoba Hill by Ramat Park days later to keep an appointment with the immigration service I overtook the executive car of the former executive Governor moving slowly with little or no security and siren!
As one made academically in Benin City I still see the ancient city as my second home. What happens there interests me more than whatever happens in my ancestral home of Ihiala in Anambra state.
Last weekend the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) held its two-day national convention at the Eagles Square in Abuja. One of the official positions that was supposed to be contested for was that of the national party chairmanship. The former Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former Governor of Edo State, was literally forced to accept the fact that he was no longer needed as Chairman given the hardened positions of the Tinubuists who had all along insisted on change of leadership. At the convention there was a ‘consensus’ candidate, Adams Oshiomhole, who emerged expectedly as the new party Chairman.
Long before the convention took place Oshiomhole was ‘elected’ by the top hierarchy of the ruling party including the President himself. So it was not unexpected that the Comrade from Edo State would carry the day. Weeks and days prior to the convention a couple of ‘opponents’ aspiring for the chairmanship post had started withdrawing from the race one after the other — having seen obviously the clear handwriting of power forces on the wall! Comrade Adams was therefore ‘coronated’ at the Eagles Square to the surprise of no one!
And now that the ‘coronation’ long foretold had taken place officially with the swearing-in held last Monday the APC apparatchiks would be looking up for a new era with a strong man of moral force in charge of political proceedings at 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja. Oshiomhole’s choice could go a long way in strenghtening the electoral fortunes of the ruling party ahead of the crucial general elections slated for early next year. But while his selection was good for the struggling party in power how he goes about resolving the problems of leadership and followership trailing the party that unseated the PDP and the then incumbent President Jonathan three odd years ago remains to be seen.
The presidenrtial poll of February 2019 announces itself in the horizon as a make or mar electoral ‘war’ given the strong opposition from different quarters — opposition to both Buharism and inherent failures in the system. Talk about the ebbing anti-graft war, the issues of insecurity, economic acrobatic dance, violation of human rights, de-marketing of our nation, increasing unemployment, instigating of disunity among the people as well as the acute hunger and poverty in the land.
Comrade Oshiomhole has got a hard task ahead of him. And we know he appreciates what awaits him in a party unable to manage itself and share among members the ‘spoils’ of office! The former Chairman Oyegun was shown the way out because of his divisive politics and apparent incompetence. His inability to reconcile various factions and differences and foster unity in the party must have been his greatest undoing. But with Adams in command APC could still find its political rhythm and confound its many critics. The descent to fascism must be halted and empty sloganeering avoided!
While Comrade Oshiomhole could be said to have succeeded in Edo state as Governor for eight memorable years there is a lot of difference between executive power and the powers of party chairmanship. Between Abuja and Benin city, therefore, there is a whole lot of differences in terms of federal presence, infrastructural development and fiscal revenue. While the Edo state capîtal city is proud of her cultural heritage dating back centuries the federal capital territory could boast of its glamour, modernity and presence of the federal executive, legislative and judicial authorities. Benin city could as well brandish its academic and traditional greatness with historic monuments. Oshiomhole must have since appreciated since relocating to Abuja the two different worlds as he navigates the uncharted waters of politics Nigeriana.
Indeed, all things being equal, Oshiomhole could make a good Chairman given his political pedigree. Yet, there is bound to be challenges. While we wish him hard luck as he engages the opposition within and without the ruling party the renegades and other outside forces working hard to see President Buhari eased out of office next February would be watching very closely his moves and decisions; how he plays the politics of survival for the ruling party. Positioning or re-positioning the APC coalition for more power conquest countrywide would not be a tea party but many are convinced that Oshiomhole has what it takes to make it happen.
Comrade Oshiomhole’s earnest quest for national recognition and higher service must have paid dividends with his recent ‘promotion’. He would expectedly deploy his sharp tongue, experience and no-nonsense attitude towards a better and winning ruling party but with the general elections months away he would have a tough task challenging the odds and conquering same! While his bluntless and fearlessness could be an advantage his stewardship in Edo state spoke volume of his determination to make a difference in the lives of the poor masses.
The newly-minted APC national Chairman was not loved by every Edo son and daughter during his mini-revolution in Edo state. His critics (including some of his disgruntled former aides) had accused him of high-handedness, arrogance and Solomonic demonstration of omniscience! Rather than diminish his stature however the criticisms seemed to have emboldened him to seek for higher responsibility at the centre. He made name for himself in Edo state as an excellent Governor but as party Chairman he is bound to control more forces and yield to certain rigid decisions.
Conclusively we can offer an unsolicited advice to the new Chairman: for you to succeed in your new position of powr and influence you must be wary of the antics of a failed Governor like Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the meddlesome godfather like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
It has been ten years since the self-styled “strong man of Ibadan politics”, Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Akanji Adedibu, died. He died on June 11, 2008. I do not recall seeing many tributes or advertisements in the newspapers or other media commemorating his life and legacy. There was no public lecture or any important statements from those who were his protégés. That this is so is a useful lesson to today’s political Godfathers and henchmen in Nigerian politics who behave as if history has already assigned to them an immortal space on its pages.
Lamidi Adedibu was a colossal presence in the politics of Ibadan, and Oyo state for more than 50 years. Ibadan has a tradition of colourful politicians who wielded enormous influence: Adegoke Adelabu, the brilliant orator and intellectually gifted personality who authored “Africa in Ebullition”, and whose use of the phrase “peculiar mess” got transliterated by his illiterate audience as “penkelemesi”; Chief Mojeed Mobolanle Agbaje, the first Ibadan man to become a lawyer, and son of Alhaji Salami Agbaje of Ayeye, Ibadan who was the richest man in Ibadan in his time and the first to ride a car (1915) and build a house with cement; Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, an alumnus of the London School of Economics (LSE), founder of the Ibadan People’s Party (IPP), Chairman of Ibadan City Council and in the Second Republic, Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN); and Alhaji Busari Adelakun, the “Eruobodo” (“the river fears no one”) of Ibadan politics. There is hardly any other Ibadan indigene apart from these gentlemen who has been more influential in shaping the tone and shape of Ibadan politics and by extension, the politics of Oyo state. Local Ibadan politics is a combination of thuggery, populism, inconsistency, clientelism and intellectual opportunism, with service to the people thrown in as a lower measure.
Lamidi Adedibu lacked the intellectual gifts of Adelabu, Agbaje, and Akinloye, or the oratory of Adelabu – he was much closer to Busari Adelakun, who was his mentor. In an instructive book titled “What I saw in the Politics of Ibadanland”, Adedibu has already given his own eye-witness account from his beginning days with the Ibadan People’s Party and the Action Group, later the the National Party of Nigeria during the Second Republic, but he truly came into his own as the main Godfather of Ibadan politics with the ascendancy of the People’s Democratic Party in 1999 and especially in 2003 when he was recruited by President Olusegun Obasanjo for his second term bid. He filled the vacuum created by the exit of Alhaji Busari Adelakun, and in that aspect, he established himself as a master of the game using violence, mass appeal, and philanthropy to determine political outcomes. During the Second Republic, Alhaji Busari Adelakun was credited with having helped Chief Bola Ige of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to become Governor.
The main task of that branch of Ibadan politics represented by Adelakun and his followers, was to help deliver the votes, by any means possible. Adelakun would go from one polling booth to the other, and ensure that his clients won the vote. He was later rewarded with the position of a Commissioner (first Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and later, Health) in the Bola Ige government. Both men would soon fall out, and Busari Adelakun resigned in anger. He famously swore that nobody could ever occupy a position that he, Adelakun, left in anger. It then happened that his immediate successor in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy died in the hands of his own sibling. He was beheaded. Adelakun’s successor in the Ministry of Health also suffered stroke. He on account of this became a mythical figure. He would later defect to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) with the threat that he would get Bola Ige removed as Governor. He supported Chief Victor Omololu Olunloyo who eventually became Governor. His word came to pass. But the Olunloyo government was short-lived. General Buhari struck in December 1983 and Adelakun and other NPN chieftains were herded into detention. He took ill in jail and died subsequently.
It was Lamidi Adedibu who sustained this tradition of prominent Ibadan politicians playing the role of the Godfather, and masters of the politics of clientelism. Unlike Adelakun, he didn’t have to follow the able-bodied boys, masquerading as members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who snatched ballot boxes in those days and stuffed them. He had the entire city under his control in a manner nobody else before him did. Every major thug in the town reported to him, and he used them against the opponents, but he also at the same time took very good care of the ordinary people who delivered the votes to ensure victory for his clients and friends. Lamidi Adedibu, with the failure of the Alliance for Democracy in the 2003 election in Oyo state, became effectively the most influential politician in Ibadan politics, Oyo state politics, and one of the leading lights of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He held court and juggled the balls from his extensive home in Molete, Ibadan. That was where he held court. He was Ashipa Olubadan but he had his own palace – where he decided the political fortunes of politicians who came to him for help, or persons seeking political appointments. It was not for nothing that he was known as “Alaafin of Molete”.
His home was a palace unto itself. He was also the exponent of “Amala politics” – what is now known as the politics of stomach infrastructure. Every day, Adedibu kept his home open for the ordinary people of Ibadan. Whoever was hungry knew that if they went to Adedibu’s home, they would get a good plate of piping hot amala and a drink to wash it down. Ordinary people who could not pay school fees or hospital bills or rent went to him in his palace to ask for help. He supported them willingly. He was not a herdsman but he had a mini-ranch in his home, at any time, there were more than a dozen cows waiting to be slaughtered to feed the people, goats also, and rams and pigeons. Everyday in the Adedibu home was like a festival. He reportedly kept more than 100 vehicles, to be mobilized at short notice to pursue any political cause. The whole of Ibadan city came to regard Adedibu as the real government: he ran a government of his own. It wasn’t long before he became a national figure of real importance.
Prominent politicians visited him at home, and as they did, they brought bags of money, which in any case, Adedibu shared to the electorate. The politicians who took him as their Godfather expected him to help them deliver the votes on election day and the people who went to his house to eat and collect money waited on him to tell them how they should vote in every election. He would soon become so influential that the then Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali described him at a point, as the “garrison commander of Ibadan politics.” President Olusegun Obasanjo also visited him at home once, welcomed by a cavalcade of drums and pageantry, and he ended up describing him as the “father of the PDP”. Even politicians from other parts of the country who may not have needed him in their own constituencies, patronized him all the same. In his own immediate political constituency, his boys did as they wished. They unleashed violence on political opponents while the state authorities looked the other way. Adedibu was above the law. He was the ultimate Godfather. He once quipped: “…Let me tell you, constitution or law, that is for you men. God has his own law.” There was no one like that before him, and there has been no other like that after him. He projected himself as a Robin Hood, but he didn’t really like the poor, he used them for his own relevance.
In 2003, he had reportedly helped to install Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja as Governor of Oyo State. He himself said so. That is what people like him do – they would help to install a client in a position of political authority. They would then afterwards collect rent in form of cash and appointive positions and exercise influence over public policy. Adedibu and Ladoja soon fell out. Adedibu told the public that he had a prior agreement with Ladoja that he must pay to him, every month, 50% of the state’s security vote, which was at the time about N30 million. Ladoja reneged, insisting that the security vote was meant for security. The Godfather became angry – he retorted that he was the main security of the state and did Ladoja realize that money was spent to get him into office? He swore to get Ladoja removed. And indeed he did. Eighteen out of the 32 members of the state House of Assembly, acting on Adedibu’s instructions, met and impeached Ladoja. His Deputy who was also an Adedibu protégé was immediately installed as Governor. After taking the oath of office, one of Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala’s first assignments was to go straight to Adedibu’s home to pay homage. He went down on all fours to say “thank you.” Ladoja would later be reinstated by court order 11 months later, but the Godfather had made his point.
The kind of influence that the likes of Lamidi Adedibu wielded is a metaphor for the character and level of Nigerian politics. Godfathers still exist in today’s politics and the new Godfathers are just as messianic and as arrogant as their predecessors were. Violence also remains an instrument of persuasion and enforcement, even if since Adedibu’s exit, the level of violence in Ibadan politics has progressively reduced, across the country, many politicians routinely patronize thugs and enforcers. “Amala politics” still exists in form of “stomach infrastructure” – even when some politicians do not turn their homes into a public kitchen and abattoir, they patronize the people by bribing them with motorcycles or boreholes. In Benue state, Governor Samuel Ortom distributed wheel barrows with the inscription: “Gov. Ortom for you”. In another state, a serving APC Senator donated an electric pole to a community as constituency project and took photographs, in Kano state, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje bought noodles, eggs, and beverages to empower tea hawkers. Now that we are in an election season, some other politicians will distribute cooked food, bags of rice or photograph themselves eating at amala joints or buying roasted corn by the roadside.
Our politicians have learnt to exploit the people’s poverty. Political Godfathers capitalize on this and turn it into a strategy. When the people are rescued from the poverty trap, they would be less susceptible to the greed and exploitation of politicians. Institutions also have to be built and strengthened to check the menace of Godfathers and their boys who decide electoral choices on the people’s behalf and by so doing, frustrate democratic expression.
As a human being, Adedibu was obviously a strong grassroots mobiliser. He was also a strong religious and community leader – he built 18 mosques – but his legacy of stomach infrastructure and political manipulation cannot endure in the long run. One week after his burial, his political acolytes returned hoping that his family will sustain the feast. They were turned back. The pots and pans used for cooking had been packed aside. Over 90 mattresses used by the army of boys that thronged the “palace” had been packed together in a heap to be disposed off. The amala-seeking crowd went over to the home of Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao, an Ibadan politician and entrepreneur, hoping he would provide “amala”. Arisekola was a prominent philanthropist but he wasn’t running a public kitchen in his home. One of Adedibu’s sons, ended up in politics and became a Senator, but he did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Another son reportedly described the late politician as a “dishonest politician.”
Today, the Molete palace is desolate. The in-house ranch has disappeared. The Nigerian electorate, should be reminded that when a politician offers them food in exchange for their votes, that food will soon digest and end up in the toilet, and you’d need to eat again. When the politician dies, or leaves politics or no longer needs you, you’d still have to eat. It is better always to vote wisely and focus on the need to build and strengthen public institutions for the people’s benefit.
Those that were arrested with him got released but he did not have the money so he remained in custody. He was paraded, shabbily prosecuted and for the warped judicial system we have, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He ended up in Kirikiri Prison before LEDAP, an advocacy NGO, got an appeal court to upturn the earlier judgment and acquit him, after 16 long years. His childhood, gone! His youthful years, wasted! All because he could not pay the bail ransom.
I grew up watching crime fighters, a television programme that shows people who had been arrested by the police for different alleged criminal offenses. For some of these people, what they purportedly stole were so ridiculous; Tin Tomatoes, Instant Noodles and similar food items.
Every Saturday, my brothers and I would watch as these people are being paraded and we would always pass comments. “This one is even lazy. He stole noodles. Ordinary noodles”. We would even joked that they should be tried by Sharia Law which meant that their hands should be amputated so that they would not steal again. Innocently, we had concluded that those suspects were indeed criminals. How could they not be? The police had caught them and they were showing them on the television. They must be criminals!
Three years ago, I became part of those who fed similar content to people in their various homes, including impressionable children like I was some years back. June 2016, I was sent to cover a police press briefing at the command in Ikeja. It was my first assignment covering police press briefing. The police had made some arrests and wanted to show off. On that day, it was an alleged notorious kidnap kingpin, Felix, who had been caught. Felix and supposed members of his kidnapping gang had been evading arrest which meant their eventual arrest seem a thing to celebrate and used as Public Relations for the dented image of the Nigeria Police.
I was at the suspect parade exercise and the green horn I was latched on to the event. I mean, bad news sells and this was as bad as it could get in reporting crimes in the city of Lagos. It was ‘good’ story for me as a young journalist and I didn’t think of it as PR for the police. I was simply happy to write the story of this notorious kidnapper who had just been arrested and would be “sent to court after investigation was concluded”, according to the then Lagos state Commissioner of Police.
What happened to Felix’ case? I did not follow up to know. I was new at the job and I’ve just been introduced to one of the ways to get content for my medium. I didn’t know I was supposed to follow up on the case, so I didn’t bother.
However, with the years came experience. I became wiser and more circumspect of this illegal activity. I follow up on the paraded suspects as much as I could. When Evans the alleged kidnapper was paraded, I followed up and still following up. But it took a sad story of a young boy whose life was destroyed by the police to come to the awakening that the Nigerian Police cannot be trusted and specifically, that not all those paraded as criminals are indeed criminals. Some of them are just poor people who could not pay for bail— which is supposed to be free.
Last year, I did a story of an eighteen year old boy who was arrested by the police on his way from football field and went from football enthusiast to a murderer. His parents could not pay the ransom they were demanding for his bail. Those that were arrested with him got released but he did not have the money so he remained in custody. He was paraded, shabbily prosecuted and for the warped judicial system we have, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He ended up in Kirikiri Prison before LEDAP, an advocacy NGO, got an appeal court to up turn the earlier judgment and acquit him, after 16 long years. His childhood, gone! His youthful years, wasted! All because he could not pay the bail ransom.
One thing has become obvious, this ignoble act of the police keeps festering because the media have become an enabler in legitimizing and stamping mere suspects as criminals. The press are always quick to blast the affirmative headlines? ‘Police nabs two notorious cultists in Ikorodu’, the headlines would scream after these parades.
During these parades, the CP is left to feel like an island of knowledge. The questions are regulated by ‘crime reporters’. As a newbie in the fold, you’re told questions not to ask so you don’t ‘embarrass’ yourself but in actual sense what they want to avoid is the newbie asking questions that would put the CP in bad light or make him actually think of his actions as the leader of a group entrusted with the safety of a state.
I was once called a ‘baby journalist’ by an old reporter who felt I have not blended well because I asked the question that the veteran ‘crime reporters’ would ordinarily not ask. I had used a video of the question on my platform and it went viral because it was the question that the people would love for the CP to answer.
The pockets of press associations on different beats are many of the time, the organs used to surpass press freedom. As new journalist to a beat, the association would not readily accept you in. They don’t want an outsider poking into their business. Crime reporters are the worse! We— journalists— talk about them in hush voices and in quiet fora where we know no one would judge us.
Recently, I was in a training that had reporters from across the country and the comments about crime reporters was nothing but awful. Second to them are those at the National Assembly, safe for one or two reporters who would not conform, these ones are not even considered ‘bonafide’ National Assembly correspondents because they would report things the association have been paid to kill. I covered the judiciary for a while and it was the same thing. The association never allowed me in… Bunch of story killers, they are!
In a society like Nigeria where the judiciary is encumbered with so many technicalities and delay, the media is the last hope of the masses. The media should be the place where the masses know that their matters would be brought to the fore and by that instance gain the needed attention but if we keep pushing the narratives of the oppressors, where lies the hope of Jimoh, a 26 year old transport worker who was labeled a criminal and shown to the world as one?
If we must report the charade called ‘suspect parade’ then as journalists, we must tell all the stories. In fact, we should elevate the story of those suspects who would not keep quiet even when their integrity has been soiled by men of the Nigerian Police. We should put our cameras on them and let the world hear them defend themselves against the CP’s accusations. We should follow up on their stories; were they charged to court or held at ransom to be set free? Were they diligently prosecuted and their case thrown out because the IPO would not show up in court. Were they found guilty or acquitted of the offenses they were paraded for? And when we gather these information, do we just say “eeeyah, poor man” and move on or we also report the events after the illegal parade?
The media need to act with the interest of the masses at heart because that is public interest.
Banjo writes from Lagos and can be reached on Twitter; @RealBanjo or email: [email protected]
By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was destined to be national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) at this intersection in the nation’s political evolution. His emergence approximates a part of the philosophy in the muses of H.L. Detridge that “we are all victims of our actions; our destinies are controlled by the cosmic rolls of the dice, the whims of the stars and the vagrant breeze of fortune that blows from the windmills of the gods.”
Divine elements, apparently working in harmony with existential considerations as well as the avuncular disposition and approbation by President Muhammadu Buhari, had culminated in the consensual coronation of Oshiomhole at the party’s June 23 national convention in Abuja. The magnitude of the strategic political concession that produced the Oshiomhole consensus also bore the obligatory imprimatur of the party’s 24 state governors who provided the essential validation that resolved the previously contentious issue in his favour.
From the initial audacious notices of intention to vie for the position of national chairman by no fewer than five persons and the acrimonious outlooks that the scramble for the position had assumed, huge pressure had been piled on the party under the leadership of Buhari who had to act expeditiously and sagaciously by making two down-to-earth and back-to-back interventions. The first was to overrule the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to extend its tenure by a year by calling for congresses and convention, thus obviating a legal conundrum.
The second and, perhaps, more strategic intervention was the expression of his preference for Oshiomhole to take over from Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the new navigator of the APC ahead of and beyond the 2019 general election. Significantly, Buhari did not impose Oshiomhole by presidential fiat. His candidature merely and justifiably enjoyed lofty presidential recommendation. That recommendation was shorn of political shenanigans. There was no need for Buhari to dissimulate and vacillate on the issue, having been convinced that the party needed the Oshiomhole persona at this time. The president had placed the issue on the table for interrogation and critical reflections by other influential stakeholders.
The fact that all the contentious issues eventually resolved themselves in Oshiomhole’s favour derived from the stakeholders’ objective considerations; whereas, a potential flash point could be located in Oyegun and Oshiomhole’s aspirational exertions. There was no doubt that Oyegun had party apparatchiks who could have provided the rampart for his possible re-election. But, having provided the leadership compass to the APC from 2014, the shape and texture of his leadership capacity could not escape critical appraisal in the circumstance of the contemporary governance issues and the vagaries of the 2019 burgeoning political nuances.
The question would then arise: did Oyegun’s leadership style, as exemplified in Buhari’s first term, bear great and appropriate relevance in the planned prosecution of the 2019 general election and the concomitant political gerrymandering? The answer must have informed the final gravitation by some state governors, who were initially insisting on Oyegun, to embrace the political correctness of Oshiomhole’s candidature as a presidential fait accompli. Concurring with Buhari’s judgment was political wisdom.
Dismounting their ego horse was in pari materia with the constructive and productive ramifications of the president’s preference. In fact, respect for Buhari’s preference remains quite significant in the post-convention political interactions and party administration. For a governing party with a president who is revered and sure-footed in the exercise of power, it would have been foolhardy for party operatives and their back-end sponsors in government to dig in their feet in their go-getting bid to upstage the president’s strategic applecart.
Besides, the president, as the poster child of the administration, receives the approbation and disapprobation for both actions and inactions. It is within the context of this cosmopolitan reality that Buhari seeks to guarantee his date with history. As the unofficial candidate of his party, Buhari is already on the cusp of history and he would not want the electoral tragedy that consumed the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to happen to him. Disloyal antics of the leadership of Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had largely contributed to his defeat and his becoming the first incumbent to be so demystified in the annals of presidential elections in Nigeria.
Buhari knows that it would be farcical if that happens to him. This perception underpinned the choice of a restless, can-do and surefooted Oshiomhole and will continue to validate his appropriateness for the position. By and large is the fact that Oshiomhole understands the magnitude of the task ahead. Even before the national convention, he had fixed his eyes on the bigger picture of consolidating the Buhari legacies and appropriating the people’s buy-in for massive electoral advantage in 2019.
While the atmospherics of victory around him were titillating his followers, he was not only clear-headed but also in serious dialogue with himself and in a series of across-the-board conversations with prolific minds on how to grow support for the party and the president. Indeed, he knew from the outset that the chosen enterprise would not be a tea party. Therefore, beyond the song and dance of his ultimate coronation, Oshiomhole’s concern is how to lock in the vast majority of votes required in renewing Buhari’s mandate in the 2019 presidential election. That is how to prove that the confidence reposed in him by the president and the party was not misplaced.
That is the burden that Oshiomhole bears. There is a mission to accomplish. Even though the objective conditions that produced Buhari’s presidency under Oyegun’s chairmanship in 2014 differ from the conditions that obtain now, there is a sense in which Oshiomhole would be inclined to want to surpass Oyegun’s accomplishments. That is the spirit: to build incrementally and purposively on his predecessor’s legacies. Indeed, having consummated the ultimate leadership deal, Oshiomhole’s immediate task is to chart a trajectory towards a renewed, vibrant and robust political configuration in the APC.
He is expected to deploy his persuasive powers and negotiating skills in the execution of his responsibilities and the initial chore is to resolve the problematic issue of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) that stares the APC in the face like a veritable bugaboo. He is obligated to build a united political family in strategic counterpoises to the dialectics of oppositional politics. Oshiomhole is also expected to espouse and expound socio-political and economic issues within the context of APC’s manifestoes and governance philosophies. In driving pro-people national conversations, he will be defining and giving bites to the party’s electioneering onslaught against the opposition ahead of, during and after the 2019 presidential election.
With a massive capacity for oration, he is expected to persuasively sell Buhari’s re-election campaign promises to Nigerians by energizing and sustaining narratives that are essentially pro-Buhari and anti the leading opposition party and its presidential candidate. However, his post-election exertions, once he delivers Buhari, will centre fundamentally on deploying the platform of his position as national chairman to elucidate government’s policies on both national and global platforms. He will provide necessary defence to the actions and inactions of the Buhari administration within the contexts of prevailing conditions that have given rise to them.
The president and the party can rest assured in Oshiomhole’s capacity to prolifically promote the issues involved in governance for citizens’ clear understanding. On that score, Oshiomhole, who has already put his nose to the grindstone in both frontline and rearguard tasks that will conduce to utilitarian benefits of the Buhari administration, will not disappoint.
–Ojeifo is editor-in-chief of The CongressWatchMagazine
If you are an avid social media follower, one of the sneering comments from those suspected to have been engaged to hound the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, a police commissioner, is one that portrays him as incapable of expressing himself. Although Magu would be the first to admit that he does not really enjoy facing the camera, the truth however is that he is lucid enough.
Even then, the EFCC chairman is a police officer, an excellent one at that. He is not a movie star! As a police officer he is trained in the art of bursting financial crimes. Those who have crossed his path, especially his colleagues and of course some thieving former governors—be they in the Senate or out of political office—can attest to his incredible ability in sniffing out a crime from afar. He is that good!
Perhaps, out of usual cynicism or orchestrated mischief, those decidedly against the fight against corruption in the land pretend not to see how effective Magu has become in his position as head of the anti-corruption agency, EFCC. Indeed, we had to wait for foreign nationals and international organizations to nudge us into the reality that we have in our hands a rare jewel leading the fight against graft from the front at EFCC.
Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, came around and applauded Magu as a “dogged fighter” who is doing a fantastic job and who in the last three years had recovered more money for the country than at any other time; Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president is effusive in his praise for the good work Magu is doing; George Opon Weah, the newly inaugurated president of Liberia, is negotiating with Nigeria to have EFCC to help his country to establish and mentor their own anti-corruption agency in the way Magu is doing wonders; the Commonwealth Africa Anti-corruption Agency has equally taken note of the exploits of the EFCC under Magu and therefore chose him to lead this very important group on the continent; and at the last African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, African leaders unanimously chose President Buhari to lead the line in the fight against corruption on the continent. Those close to the President gleaned that President Buhari openly admitted that his Addis Ababa honour came from the good performance of the EFCC chairman!
Is it not an indictment on the Senate that the man they claim on two occasions was unsuitable for the office of the EFCC chairman continues to draw accolades from home and abroad? Is the Senate really representing the Nigerian citizenry who on daily basis continue to see Ibrahim Magu as the new champion of the masses? Yes, it has to be because the poor, the hard-working and the ordinary citizen, bear the full brunt of the thievery going on in our country in the name of politics. And anyone who is seen to be fighting the dangerous battle of confronting the looters of our common patrimony like the EFCC chairman easily passes as a man of the people. Let allegedly corrupt politicians, especially in the Senate continue to whine; let them continue to sponsor counter-narratives against Magu, Nigerians are already seeing results of his dangerous assignment.
Make no mistakes about this, it is not only in the Senate that the daggers are out for the EFCC chairman. Even among President Buhari’s appointees, there are many who out of petty jealousy, rivalry and the frustrations of their own failure are questioning what this Magu has done to attract all the public support and endorsement. They are even wont to accuse the media of unnecessarily bloating Magu up without any verifiable achievements. What other achievements do these people want bigger than the fact that there seems to be a sense of normative shift in the conduct of public affairs in our country today?
There is equally a sense of action and consequences in the handling of public finance in our country now. The days when public officials treat and handle public funds as prebends are at least for now, gone. There is now this fear that the big eagle eye of the EFCC is watching and public servants and even private business people now know that they must conduct themselves in transparent and less opaque manner in all their financial transactions or risk being arrested and prosecuted. As a country reeling from the debilitating effects of past wanton looting of the economy, this is a significant milestone.
And talking about tangible and verifiable achievements, EFCC under Magu has earned all the praises being heaped on it. Over N738.9 billion of looted funds has been recovered in the last three years; 605 convictions have been secured; Magu recently completed a magnificent office complex for the EFCC, an architectural masterpiece which, Mrs. Farida Waziri, a former chairman, considered a big “shock”. And talking about convictions, cynics have questioned the quality of the convictions alleging that only pickpockets and petty fraudsters get convicted.
Although, it is not the duty of the EFCC to pass judgment but that of the courts, in the last month the EFCC has successfully prosecuted two former governors, Rev. Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, of Taraba and Plateau States respectively. The good Reverend is now serving a jail term of 14 years and his colleague, until his conviction, a serving senator of the Federal Republic, was jailed for 14 years. Interestingly, both Nyame and Dariye are of the ruling APC. Does that send any signal? Of course, those accusing Magu of going after only members of the opposition will not like that fact! Lest we forget, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike, and Mohammed Dakingari, former accountant general of Kebbi State, had earlier been convicted and sentenced to one month and 70 years, respectively.
In the weeks ahead, more convictions or acquittals may just come to us like the thief in the night just as Nyame’s and Dariye’s did. This is so because some of the corrupt cases involving high profile politicians have been slated for judgment. This might be a huge harvest time for the EFCC and the Nigerian people. Although President Buhari and indeed activists like Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Professor Akin Oyebode, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Femi Falana, Jiti Ogunye and civil society organizations have called out the judiciary to take its rightful place in the fight to save this country from the vice-like grip of corruption, I am told that there is nothing the judge can do when the prosecution cannot argue a strong case. And the prosecution can equally do nothing with a poorly investigated case.
It is interesting to know that Magu personally investigated the cases of the two convicted former governors, Nyame and Dariye. He also investigated many of their other colleagues hiding away within the sanctuary of the Senate. Once again, I am told he is a crack detective, highly respected in the profession abroad. Some people in the Senate already have this strategic information and have allegedly sworn that Magu can only be confirmed as substantive chairman of the EFCC over their dead bodies, to use that weather-beaten cliché. You now know why!
*Ugboajah, a public policy analyst, wrote from Abuja.
At the very beginning, Lagbaja, the masked musician, asked all of us if we knew at all why we are here – in this democracy: Ki l’awa se, s’ejo l’awa ro ni’bi?
Why are we here, is it just to whine and complain?
Why are we here, is it not for enjoyment?
What are we here to do?
Leave stories and let’s enjoy the life of our heads
By tomorrow, we are done with life and its wahala
The unending fight between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly is not healthy for Nigeria. It is in fact, anti-Nigerian. They are using their politics to hurt the system and everyone’s welfare. What we’ve got from the APC so far are unnecessary bickering and distractions and even danger. Imagine two men driving at top speed towards each other on a narrow bridge. Everyone knows that can only be a collision course and the choices are very limited: As the cars race towards each other, one driver must get out of the way or the two die disastrously in a crash. That is called a Game of Chicken which Bertrand Russell said is a “decadent and immoral” game “played by irresponsible boys.” It is worse, he says, “when the game is played by eminent statesmen, who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings.”
What you get here with the APC is a Game of Chicken; an experiment in mutual destruction. In this game, neither of the drivers wants to ‘chicken out’ and avoid a collision because to “swerve’ is to be called a ‘chicken.’ A chicken will always be an alias for cowardice. If you agree that politicians are animals, you won’t find it difficult to see events in Buhari’s Abuja as classic Games of Chicken. Nigerians overthrew the military because they wanted good governance. Nigerians wanted good governance because they wanted to live well. There cannot be good governance without a good government.
There cannot be a good government where a government fights a civil war on every issue. Presidential democracy glides on a tripod of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Each of these arms of government in today’s Nigeria is an open enemy of the other. It is worse, and very embarrassingly so, between the executive and the legislature. And both are controlled by the same party called All Progressives Congress (APC). Two days ago, it remembered to change its slogan from Change to Progress after almost four years running a government of bitter rivals. President Buhari presented the 2018 budget proposal to the National Assembly in November last year. Then the waiting game started.
Ministries refused to show up before the legislature to defend their budgets. Legislators, desirous of using their appropriation powers maximally insisted they must show up. Then a standoff, for five months, between the executive and the legislature. Then the leadership of the National Assembly reported the agencies to Buhari who ordered them to perform their roles before the legislature. They did and the budget was passed and transmitted for presidential assent. Then the president sat on it while the nation waited. Then on Wednesday last week, Buhari decided to sign the belated bill. He signed it but followed that act with a blistering attack on the National Assembly which, he said, altered the proposal beyond recognition. His office described what the National Assembly did to the proposal as “distortions.”
A distortion is a degradation of the original. To distort is to mislead, to perverse, to deform, to misrepresent. That is the definition the Buhari presidency gave to what the National Assembly did to his budget proposal. And despite that, he signed it! What president signs a perverted, deformed bill into law? What message did that send to the discerning? At what point did the president spot the distortions? Why was it difficult for him to withhold his assent, return the bill to the lawmakers for “corrections” instead of making it another issue for war, for a shouting match? How many wars would be enough for a leader in a term? Did we elect this president to whine at every bend on the road? And why is the National Assembly always in the news for the wrong reasons? Why can’t these two ‘siblings’ sit down and quietly resolve issues instead of stripping each other naked every market day? The president wants to look good always, right? But each time he shouts, as he just did, what does it say about his leadership of the government and the ruling party? Winning an argument or a fight at all costs may not always be in the best interest of anyone.
The Yoruba have a classic solution to the conundrum called a standoff. They imagine the damage a madman could do to a wedding reception where he insists he be hailed as the groom. If all he wants is to be called the groom, why not save everyone the trouble of an insane disruption by giving him what he wants? After all, a six-footer prostrating for a pygmy won’t lose an inch of his enviable height. And this is for the National Assembly, for Buhari and for his appointees.
Fighting all wars or seeking to play a game to its end is not always in the best interest of great players. It is worse when the actors are public officers charged with the duty of caring for the nation. They fight and lose the ball to everyone’s sorrow. The president willingly signed a document but proceeded (immediately after) to repudiate that same document, talking of “distortion.” Did we vote for a leader who must have a fall guy for everything that goes wrong or that may go wrong? The way the president spoke, you would think the National Assembly is peopled exclusively by opposition parties.
The ruling APC is still the majority in the Assembly and you wonder why it has been so difficult for that party to govern without creating scenes. Are we in the wild where deadly animals of same species fight to the death; where “male lions slaughter all the cubs when they join a new pride and where rival ant colonies of the same species fight bloody wars”? This animal called APC does not appear to know the reason for its existence. It fights as the blind does. The clock is ticking. The people are suffering – the APC does not believe this is it. On the narrow bridge it has driven Nigeria, it cares nothing if all perish as long as its god of self-righteousness is appeased.
Buhari signed the budget and wrote it off immediately. And the National Assembly replied on Friday with a 34-paragraph statement. It listed 24 items which it said were additions it made to the 2018 Appropriation Bill. These, it said, were done “after full consultations, and in many cases, requests by the Executive branch through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.” The presidency, again, reacted almost immediately with a strong four-paragraph counter-statement headlined: “Further clarifications on the distorted 2018 budget.”
The lawmakers made several points which interest me. I take just one. The Enugu Airport project. The president alleged that the allocation for this project was cut from N2 billion to N500 million by our legislators, including the Igbos among them. The lawmakers’ statement reminded the president that the entire contract sum was N2 billion and his government had paid N1.7 billion to the contractor leaving a balance of N300 million. It even quoted Buhari’s aviation minister as confirming that fact in a recent media report. Could that be true? If that is the truth, who then misled the president to appropriate N2 billion where N300 million was needed? Unfortunately, the president’s four-paragraph statement did not address this point. What happened?
The National Assembly is supposed to be the closest to the Nigerian people. Sadly, it is the most perfidious in aloofness. It has so much disdain for good conduct and decorum in private and public conduct. An assembly of lawmakers that gleefully announced that each of them eats N13 million a month cannot enjoy people’s confidence and love from a hungry nation. That is why it has been very easy for a loud, ineffectual executive to drown its voice even when it has a case. A wise legislature that wants to be patriotic with public funds won’t, for instance, increase its own allocation.
Wisdom should have hinted it not to do so even if the executive suggested it. You cut funds from capital projects and increased funds voted for the inanities of your fancy and you don’t think you should be whipped! The National Assembly lacked the wisdom to resist the temptations to misuse its power over the yam and the knife – and that is one of the most debilitating poisons it took in that budgeting exercise. It spoilt its case. It strengthened the case of Buhari who has declared that because of the “distortions,” he might not be able to implement the budget. That was a post-dated alibi for possible failure. And it is very common in the narratives of this government.
They fight and Nigerians suffer. And they don’t care. Grasses wither as our feuding elephants carry on with their ego wars. The people suffer, businesses die daily, turbulence reigns everywhere and our guardian angels are not in the cockpit. They are with the cabin crew, fighting unnecessary wars. And the passengers are where? They collude and take sides in a war between their common adversaries. Irony. And to the pilot, the co-pilots, cabin crew and passengers, Lagbaja shakes his head – and again warns:
Mo sorry fun gboogbo yin o (I am sorry for all of you)/ Mo sorry fun gbogbo yin lokookan/ (I am sorry for all of you individually) Tie ba ba yi je mo sorry fun gboogbo yin o ( If you spoil this, I am sorry for all of you)/ Mo sorry fun gbogbo yin lokookan (I am sorry for all of you individually).
Truly, counting the costs these years, we should indeed be sorry for ourselves.
(Published In THE PUNCH Newspapers of Monday 25th June, 2018)
A thin white smoke swirled through the muzzle of the gun and the pregnant woman crashed face down, curling up like a beheaded giant millipede. One of the masked killers rushed into the banking hall and commotion preceded the ensuing graveyard silence as spines shivered, teeth gnashed, hearts skipped, sweat broke out on terrified faces tucked in trashcans and drawers…, the maniacal robber pulled the trigger and the automatic rifle began to sing another round of staccato dirge in Offa. Welcome to Kwara State, the land of blood.
Offa is an Ibolo-speaking Yoruba town of Kwara State steeped in the art of wrestling. If Ede had the great archer, Timi Agbale Olofa Ina, as its progenitor, Offa’s illustrious cognomen also affirms the proud archery exploits of its forefather, Olalomi Olofa gan-gan. It equally highlights the combative nature of its people in these words, ‘Ijakadi loro Offa,’ meaning – ‘wrestling is Offa’s tradition’. Were Olalomi a white man, his surname would have been Archer. Were Offa an English town, Arrow would’ve been its name. Offa is a Yoruba word for archery. That was the Ofa of 1000 AD.
Today’s Offa is an adulteration, its spelling, O-f-f-a, is corrupt and very wrong. Linguistically, the existence of two consonants in succession i.e ‘ff’ or ‘tt’ or ‘dd’ or ‘rr’ in some words is an aberration to Yoruba morphology. Thus, Offa, Ebute Metta, Iddo, garri, etc, are modern-day wrong influences in the Yoruba Language. The correct and orthographic spelling of the land of peacocks in Kwara State is ‘Ofa’ and not Offa.
Similarly, the railway terminus on sand-filled Lagos Island is at ‘Ido’ and not Iddo. Ebute Meta is the place of three shores linking mainland Lagos to the three main islands of Victoria, Ikoyi and Lagos – hence the name Ebute Meta, and not Ebute Metta. Yoruba’s staple food, gari, doesn’t need another letter ‘r’ on its journey to the stomach. Ewedu, gbegiri, eja, bokoto, ponmo, panla and saki would make good enough company. So, it’s not only rain and electricity that cannot exist simultaneously in Nigeria, double consonants such as ‘ff’, ‘tt’, ‘dd’ and ‘rr’ cannot exist simultaneously in the Yoruba Language, too.
Corruption, violence and impunity shouldn’t coexist in Nigerian politics. The unexampled Ofa bank robbery, which witnessed the killing of over 40 innocent Nigerians in broad daylight, was a spinoff of years of rudderless, corrupt and insensitive leadership in the country. I’ve read a thousand and one stories and reactions on the early morning madness in Ofa and grief enveloped my heart over the soullessness of our politics. In a country with a soul, a national mourning would have followed.
On October 1, last year, a 64-year-old American, Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, killing 59 people in a crowd attending a country music festival. There was an instant national mourning and the attention of America shifted to the scene for several weeks to come. A blow-by-blow account of how Paddock hatched his killing was televised live daily. The police gave an accurate figure of the dead and the injured 515 persons in the most fatal mass killing in the history of the US. According to media reports, one of the Ofa suspects confessed that he killed over 20 victims. Another suspect said he killed nine, while a number of others confessed to killing over 15 people. How all these add up to 30 in the arithmetic of the police is inexplicable. While, the spurting blood of innocent lives meandered from Ofa to Abuja crying for justice, our leaders dip their paintbrushes in the blood, writing “Vote for me in 2019!”
Were Nigeria a sane country, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, wouldn’t have twice failed to parade Kayode, the arrested son of Chief Ayo Opadokun, an Afenifere chieftain, along with other suspects. Also, Idris wouldn’t have failed to parade the arrested armourer and gang leader, Michael Adikwu, a dismissed policeman, whose confessions had allegedly been embarrassing to the force.
It’s not enough for the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Aminu Saleh, to say that many people died in the robbery because of “intelligence breakdown”; Nigerians reserve the right to know the nature of the intelligence breakdown because effective policing in this age is neither achieved by alienating the public nor by churning out half-truths and falsehood. In a report published by The Punch on April 28, 2018, Saleh, who said the police had no foreknowledge of the attack, contradictorily added, “We had little information on the attack before it happened.” He woefully failed to disclose what the police did with the little information they got.
The shoddy police investigation into the robbery has left many questions unanswered. The questions include what the Ofa police did when it received ‘little’ information that some suspicious people were lodging at the Xontex Hotel along Igosun Road, Ofa, a night before the bloodletting. In a sane clime, police authorities would’ve made public the amount of money collected by the policemen, who stormed the hotel on investigation, the night before the genocide. As if those who died only went to the market and would return shortly, the police commissioner said, “What essentially went wrong is our response capacity. We’re going to correct all those anomalies and get our men to be more responsive.” In an ultimate verdict that exposes government’s utmost irresponsibility, Saleh said, “It’s true that we have a deficit of APCs in the state!”
But it’s by conducting a thorough investigation that the police will be seen as unbiased and not acting a nail-Saraki-at-all-cost plot. The trial shouldn’t be an extension of the power struggle between Buhari and Saraki for the Presidency in 2019.
In a sane country, Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Kwara State Governor, Ahmed Abdulfatah; his Chief of Staff, Abdulwahab Babatunde, would’ve resigned in ignominy for the fact that one of the leaders of the gang, Ayo Akinnibosun, openly established a connection between his group, Liberation Youths Movement in Kwara-South, and them. Akinnibosun, who stated that Saraki, Abdulfatah and Babatunde had no hand in the robbery, however, maintained that his group got two guns from Babatunde. He stressed that they got emboldened to participate in the robbery because some of them were political thugs to Saraki.
Akinnibosun said, “We’ve been working for him (since) when we were in the PDP, it has been long – when he was Governor of Kwara State. Where we can’t win, we scatter the election, the connection between me and the Senate President is that he’s the one that’s arranging everything for us. For example, this car was given to me by His Excellency (Abdulfatah) through the Chief of Staff as a gift from the leader, (Saraki).”
If a five-point resolution of the Saraki-led Senate could hold President Muhammadu Buhari accountable for the actions of his (Buhari’s) appointees, the Senate President, Abdulfatah and Babatunde, by the same token, should be held responsible for the killings of the Ofa robbery if it is proved that the arms or the ammunition they allegedly provided were used in the killing.
It is easy for some people to see the trial of Saraki as political victimisation because it wasn’t their relatives that were killed on Thursday, April 5, 2018. If it would take Saraki’s trial and imprisonment to stop this type of killings, so be it. With the recent jailing of two-term ex-governors and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Jolly Nyame (Taraba) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau), more members of the APC, including Abdulfatah and Babatunde, should be jailed appropriately if found guilty. Some argue that all notable politicians across the country maintain political thugs, and that Saraki and Abdulfatah shouldn’t be singled out. I ask, were Dariye and Nyame the only thieving ex-governors in Nigeria? Let’s begin from somewhere, please.
“The dead cannot cry out for justice. It’s the duty of the living to do so for them,” says American speculative writer, Lois Bujold. I agree with her, absolutely.
Tunde Odesola is a former Journalist with the PUNCH and writes from the United States. He can be reached on [email protected]
No other person like Mesujamba Saraki has singularly reduced Nigeria to a colossal collection of impoverished masses. Mesujamba Saraki is genetically venal, ruthlessly ruthless, more corrupt, more shameless, and more brazen. And with a weak president, a National Assembly of thieves, and a dysfunctional judicial system, Saraki will continue to call the shots. When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail?
This past week, 47-year old Justice Allen H. Loughry II, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in the US, was sentenced to 395 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines after being hit with a 22-count indictment on numerous charges of fraud and corruption. This is a textbook example of how to permanently lock up miscreants in public office.
Nigeria is yet to join the community of civilized nations where no one is above the law. In civilized societies, people in positions of public trust get tougher sentences than those who are not high profile criminals. The question which comes up every time among Nigerians whenever a politician or a judge gets into trouble or jailed overseas is: When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail? A history that is not removed is bound to be repeated. Mesujamba Saraki is the most colorful and controversial corrupt politician dead or alive in Nigeria today.
The corruption, fraud, extortion, and other malfeasance perpetrated by the Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty is well documented and well known to Nigerians. We don’t need to list them in alphabetical order. Until few weeks ago when the Offa bank robbers named Mesujamba Saraki as their patron saint, Saraki’s crime skyscraper seems to have disappeared from the radar of Nigeria’s criminal justice system. His legendary disobedience of our laws has brought out rage of fatigue about our ancient criminal justice system. Governors, senators, House Reps, LG chairmen, councilors and other corruption titans are getting away with more stealing. The looting spree has long ceased to amaze Nigerians.
The Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty has violated every goddamn law in the book. It took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business. That no member of the Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty has gone to jail is a political mystery. Mesujamba Saraki has been a politician of nine lives, surviving a series of crimes and scandals which surely would have ended up anyone else’s career and freedom. Mesujamba Saraki’s crime history is the cancer at the heart of so many Nigeria’s problems today. Through looting, embezzlement, fraud, and outright plundering of Kwara State and the federal treasury, and the liquidation of two or three banks, he has single handedly destroyed jobs and holds back growth costing our economy trillions of Naira every year.
His greed and graft have trapped Nigeria’s poorest in the most desperate poverty as Mesujamba Saraki and his looting gang syphon off funds and prevent hardworking Nigerians revenues and benefits of growth that are rightly theirs. Vital resources for our schools, hospitals, infrastructures, safety and security, healthcare and social services have been stolen as Mesujamba Saraki cleaned out our treasury. Saraki has been able to get away with all these crimes because Nigeria is being run by Mafia-style cartels by political bosses and corrupt business people.
Yes, Nigerian Senate harbors Mafia-style criminals similar to Al Capone’s mob in 1920s America. Corruption stretches from the very top to the very bottom in our society. No other person like Mesujamba Saraki has singularly reduced Nigeria to a colossal collection of impoverished masses. Mesujamba Saraki is genetically venal, ruthlessly ruthless, more corrupt, more shameless, and more brazen. And with a weak president, a National Assembly of thieves, and a dysfunctional judicial system, Saraki will continue to call the shots.
When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail?