Political Establishment, Hillary Clinton And US 2016 Elections

By Olalekan Adigun

The 2016 US presidential campaign is turning out to be dramatic. Many analysts have predicted a something close to an easy victory for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to have an easy ride in the primaries. I also recall severally downplaying the chances of Republican top-notch, Donald Trump, in some of my write-ups. I was proven all wrong as the results of recent primaries turned in.

I kept a vigil with CNN as the results turned in on Tuesday night hoping fighter Hillary will turn Bernie Sanders’ lead in New Hampshire around only to wake up that morning to know I was living in the world of my dreams-people are “feeling the Bern”. Not until I watched my beautiful-looking Hillary concedes defeat to Bernie, I didn’t believe it even though the major headline was “New Hampshire primary results: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders win”!

The US state of New Hampshire held its traditional primary just eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Polling in the Granite State has historically been volatile in the final weeks before the primary. Once Iowa holds its caucuses, many New Hampshire voters are known to traditionally cement their opinions especially in the age of the new media.

The state has a reputation for predicting correctly the winner of the eventual nomination. Historically a look at votes cast in New Hampshire shows a candidate received and won the eventual nomination.

On the Democratic side, since 1992, Barrack Obama (2012), John Kerry (2004), Al Gore (2000) and Bill Clinton (1996) all won at New Hampshire and eventually won the party nomination.

On the Republican side, Governor Mitt Romney (2012), Senator John McCain (2008), Governor George W. Bush (2000 and 2004) and Senator Bob Dole (1996) all won the GOP primaries in the state and became eventual winners in the final analyses.

Let us have a look at how the presidential candidates fared in New Hampshire. In the Republican race, Donald Trump has a clear lead with 34% over Marco Rubio’s 11%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had a clear lead with 60% over Hillary Clinton’s 38%.

Let us forget a little about the Republicans and restrict our analyses to the Democrats. I say this because the GOP nomination is still open to more possibilities than their progressive counterparts. If it is not Jeb Bush, it will be Marco Rubio. If it is not Ted Cruz, it should be Donald Trump. But surely the ticket cannot go to Christine Fiorina!

For the Democrats, the ticket belongs to whoever is “feeling the Bern” or “fighting for US”. Hillary for America strategists need not be told now that they have grossly underestimated Bernie. They also need not be reminded of the importance of NH primary. They do not need the advice that the time come for a reality check. They cannot continue to rely on Hillary or Clinton to just bring in the votes. Bernie may not be so popular with those outside America, but the results are going on just fine for him. In fact, Bernie’s strategists, the truth be told, are doing a fantastic job.

Ina parenthesis, the loss in this year’s state’s primary is strange because New England state has long been kind to the Clintons. It is the same state that made, Hillary’s husband, Bill the “comeback kid” in 1992. And Hillary beat Barack Obama there in 2008, salvaging her campaign after a third-place showing in Iowa.

Also, the fact that Hillary has about 9% support among younger women, aged 18-34, should concern her handlers because records available show that Bernie cruises home with over 90% support among this strategic population. Whoever invited Madeleine Albright, first woman US secretary of state, to speak at Hillary’s NH campaign rally obviously did not do a good job. Let us hear what she had to say on younger women who are not supporting Hillary: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Haba Madam! Na by force?

Well, I have just been reliably informed that “special place in hell” is Albright’s favourite line which she has used for many years therefore it is not unique to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Again, even at that, she being a longstanding diplomat, Albright should have been more tactful speaking for a political campaign!

As a Hillary fan myself, I think it will be good if her handlers can look at the New Hampshire debacle from fresh perspectives. President Obama lost in the state after a good start in Iowa in 2008, yet he still won the election. In this case, I suggest her handlers do as they were doing when they started. They need to avoid attacking Sanders directly. The attacks on his campaign from Hillary for America are becoming too direct in recent times.

It appears there is mental fatigue on the part of Hillary’s handlers since the Benghazi Inquiry. In my opinion, the handling of that incidence is the most professional thing her campaign has done. Ever since, it has been forthcoming in providing the gap for Sanders to exploit. This only shows mental fatigue on the part of Hillary for America.

While we agree that is not just rocket science, we keep our fingers crossed as the results on these keenly contested primaries come in without engaging in unnecessary prognosis. One thing is sure- US politics will not remain the same after the 2016 election. The results so far show how fast the political establishments are crumbling in both parties if things continue this way. This is where Hillary’s campaign staff must analyse the issues from!

 

Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and an independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns.

Bringing Back ‘Made In Nigeria’ By Olu W. Onemola

There has been a lot of talk in recent times about promoting ‘Made in Nigeria.’ From the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s recent visit to the ‘Made in Aba’ trade fair, to the hashtag to #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira, it is clear that Nigerians are beginning to understand that it is only our concerted and collective internal efforts as a nation that can solve our economic worries.

In the early 2000s, walking around the street rocking ‘Made in Aba’ goods was synonymous with saying that you shopped at ‘bend-down-select’ markets and roadside stations. Wearing leather sandals produced from the eastern part of Nigeria in those early years of the new millennium, was seen as an unfavourable status symbol for many – despite the hard work and expertise that had been put in to produce those goods from our local manufacturers. Retrospectively, quality-wise, the shoes, clothing, bags and other ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods back then, were nearly on par with their imported counterparts. However, the marker of acceptability in social circles in those days came from the fact that your ‘Nike’ products were truly made by ‘Nike, Inc.’, and your ‘Adidas’ was not labelled ‘Adadis.’

Somewhere along the line, things changed, and Nigerians began to look inwards. We began to understand that our extreme foreign consumption capacity would not fuel the domestic growth of our economy. We began to realise that Timi, Deji and Haruna, could design and produce goods that were just as good as Thomas, Dickens, and Harrisons’. We began to see that indigenous goods and home-grown services could be on par, or even better than those from abroad. Consequently, new small and medium scale enterprises sprung up allover the country to cater for our increased demand. 

From fashion to finance, from entertainment to edibles, ‘Made in Nigeria’ experienced a positive boom somewhere in the mid to late 2000s. However, with this positive upsurge in our collective social mindsets towards our local products, halfway into the second decade of this millennium, effective policy thrusts to encourage the local manufacturing sector have not been formulated and/or implemented. Even Nigeria’s Public Procurement Act of 2007, which is aimed at advising and assisting “procurement staff to help them carry out their procurement responsibilities,” fails in some critical aspects to address pushing ‘Made in Nigeria’ products.

Queue in Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Over the past few weeks, against the backdrop of the President Buhari-led administration’s efforts to boost internally generated revenue (IGR), Dr. Saraki, and his colleagues have embarked on a systematic social and legislative charge to encourage local producers and manufacturers. While speaking at the ‘Made in Aba’ Trade Fair, Saraki mentioned that the Senate would be working on the review and amendment of the procurement act that would ensure that Made in Nigeria goods are patronized by the government. Some parameters of this amendment, Saraki explained, would include provisions that would ensure that government agencies would only resort to imported goods when there are no domestic alternatives.

Since the last quarter of 2015, the Nigerian Naira has fallen by nearly 20 per cent against the US Dollar. Additionally, global oil prices have fallen by over 70%. What this means is that Nigeria, an oil-rich nation that is “dependent on oil and gas for 95 per cent of its export earnings, 35 per cent of its GDP and three-quarters of government revenue,” must see this ‘Made in Nigeria’ drive being championed by Saraki and a few of his colleagues like senators Abaribe and Murray-Bruce at the National Assembly as one of its options to wiggle out from the impending economic downturn caused by the decline in oil prices. 

To make these policies sustainable, a combined effort of both legislative and executive policies must work to ensure that domestic goods should be promoted through a flexible system of discounts, sales and other government-backed incentives. Furthermore, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) must push for quality control of Nigerian-made goods to increase customer satisfaction. As the economic history of developing nations has taught us that exports-driven economies are not fiscally sustainable, on the technical side, the federal government through collaborative efforts spearheaded by the Ministry of Transport must intensify its efforts to create transport networks that connect consumers all across the country to locally manufactured products.

The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics also has a role a major role to play in this campaign. Consumer trends need to be captured so that businesses know where to market their products and services. Surveys can also help the government to measure the consumption  habits of Nigerians, so that the progress of this ‘Made in Nigeria’ initiative can be well-documented overtime.

Development cannot be imported. Neither can financial stability for Nigeria’s economy. Accordingly, as we tighten our collective pursestrings to achieve fiscal responsibility in these times, we must also alter our social perspectives and implement the government policies that will not only protect, but also amplify the calls for bringing back ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods and services.

-Olu W. Onemola is a Senior Legislative Aide at the National Assembly, and the National Public Relations Officer of the APC Youth Forum (APYF). You can follow him @OnemolaOlu. –

Nigeria Beyond Crude Oil, By Olawale Rotimi

Since crude oil was discovered in Nigeria, the nation economy has taken a mono-cultural dimension with total reliance on oil revenue. Prior to this period, being a country with vast agro-ecology and agricultural resources which enable efficient growth of various crops and animals, Nigeria’s economy flourished through Agriculture; Nigeria was a major exporter of cash crops such as cocoa, rubber, palm kernel among others and agricultural revenue was invested in salient infrastructural projects which are still in good shape for public use today. Agriculture was the backbone of Nigeria’s economic development, and it created wealth and jobs for the growing population. The import of agriculture in a state economy cannot be overemphasized; research has proven that it is difficult for any nation to attain a meaningful level of economic progress without developing her agricultural sector.

The scenario that followed the dependence on oil revenue in Nigeria has culminated into low infrastructural growth, corruption e.t.c. Despite bogus revenue generated from crude oil, the development in Nigeria doesn’t correlate with the high revenue generated from oil over the years. A large percentage of the population are still living in poverty in this oil era compared to the successes recorded in infrastructural growth, social welfare, job creation, healthcare and education in the pre-crude oil era in Nigeria. The current downtime hitting the global oil market has severe effect on economies of many countries in the world, Nigeria not excluded, the main focus of every government is to improve life for the people, both individually and as a whole, thus, we need to tackle wide-ranging measures to facilitate and speed up economic growth in Nigeria.

In recent years, oil producing nations under the platform of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have experienced significant fall in oil prices at the global oil market. The statistics below was drawn from OPEC’s global oil benchmark price history.

Year Currency Global Price
2005 US Dollar 50.59
2006 US Dollar 61
2007 US Dollar 69.04
2008 US Dollar 94.1
2009 US Dollar 60.86
2010 US Dollar 77.38
2011 US Dollar 107.46
2012 US Dollar 109.45
2013 US Dollar 105.87
2014 US Dollar 96.29
2015 US Dollar 52

Nigeria been the case study, below are the Oil Benchmark prices in the last 5 years:

Year Currency Global Price
2015 US Dollar 52

(approved by the Nigerian National Assembly for the 2015 budget)

2014 US Dollar 77.50

(Approved by the Nigerian National Assembly for the 2014 budget)

2013 US Dollar 75

(Approved by the Nigerian National Assembly for the 2013 budget)

2012 US Dollar 70

(Disclosed by the Nigerian Budget office in Abuja on 23rd of February, 2012)

2011 US Dollar 70

(Approved by the Nigerian National Assembly for the 2011 budget)

In view of the 2016 fiscal year, the Federal Government has proposed a benchmark price of $38 per barrel for the Nigerian oil. However, international financial organizations such as International Monetary Fund, and other financial experts have warned that the $38 dollar per barrel is not feasible for Nigeria, thus, they projected a $20 per barrel or less oil benchmark price. The fall in the oil price has positioned itself as a major challenge to the Nigerian economy, since oil accounts for larger percentage of the nation’s revenue; economic experts have suggested economic diversification as an antidote to the revenue crash in the oil market; therefore, Nigeria must look beyond oil. Economists, researchers and political analyst have suggested strongly that Nigeria should diversify to agriculture.

Agriculture isn’t new to the Nigerian economy, during total dependence on Agriculture; the sector has offered vast opportunities and employed over seventy percent (70%) of the Nigerian labour force. More also, the sector has provided food requirements for the country and raw materials for local industries, as well revenue from exportation of cash crops. Agriculture can not only be a major source of revenue for Nigeria’s economy, it is also the bedrock of Africa’s economy as a continent. The sector accounts for about 20% of Africa’s GDP, 60% of its labor force and 20% of the total merchandise exports. Agriculture is the main source of income for 90% of rural population in Africa. Agriculture represents a great part of the Africa’s share in world trade. On the list of 20 top agricultural and food commodity importers in 2004, 60% are from Sub-Saharan Africa. African countries represent also 50% of top 20 countries, in terms of the share of total agriculture/ total exported merchandise in the world.

Before oil, Nigeria’s economy was sustained with agriculture, today; it can still be sustained by the agricultural sector. Investment in agriculture generates high multiple effect with high economic and returns. The Nigerian government today has the rare opportunity to reignite agro-based economy in Nigeria, if the nation’s agricultural sector is vibrant, the current crisis in the oil market will not affect the nation’s economic sustainability.

For engagements and contributions, Olawale Rotimi can be reached through 08105508224

Reconstructing the North East: International Action Needed, By Mark Amaza

One of the effects of war is the destruction it wreaks on an area – infrastructure is destroyed, homes and schools are often leveled and economies are hit, uprooting livelihoods and taking the area several decades backward.

The North-East of Nigeria which has been the epicenter of the Boko Haram terrorism activity, particularly the states of Borno, Yobe and northern part of Adamawa is no exception to this. The war – it has gone beyond an insurgency – which is now in its seventh year has wrought a lot of destruction on the area in addition to the estimated 17,000 people that have lost their lives as a result. Schools have been burnt down and destroyed, roads and bridges blown up, power installations damaged, and entire swathes of farmland have been forced to be left fallow for years, causing food prices to rise in not just the area, but across Nigeria as the area is a huge grower of grains and vegetables.

Beyond that, the war has exposed the reality of the extent of poverty in the region. It is one thing to know through statistics that the poverty rate in Adamawa State is 74.2% or that only 15.21% of 31,983 candidates who sat for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Borno State in 2014 passed. It is another thing to go to those areas and see how bad things are. In all honesty, this situation predates the Boko Haram conflict. As someone who comes from and lived in that area, this poverty and economic backwardness was very apparent. When I seemed to be getting used to it, a trip out of the region and back will once again remind me of how far behind we were. In many ways, it is this situation and many other factors that has brought the emergence of the conflict – after all, terrorism does not happen in a vacuum. The conflict has made an already dire situation much worse.

Even as the war is far from over despite the massive gains by the Nigerian military in the past year, it is important to begin the job of reconstructing the North-East and not just restoring it to the way it was before, but putting it on a path to prosperity.

It was based on this that the previous administration started the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), the Presidential Committee on Distribution of Relief Materials and the Victims Support Fund (VSF), all aimed at intervening and providing relief for victims of insurgency. The current administration is aiming to streamline all these various efforts, and has even gone ahead to appoint former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen Theophilus Danjuma as the coordinator of all Federal Government initiatives on the North-East.

Although the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd) had in October announced that the Federal Government was putting in place a N116.4bn North-East Marshall Plan (NEMAP) for short, medium and long term interventions, there are neither details for how this will be funded nor any inclusion for the plan or parts of it in the 2016 budget proposal.

Without doubt, these reconstruction efforts will need a lot of money – to reconstruct schools destroyed and hire teachers, to rebuild and restore damaged infrastructure, and to recreate sustainable economies in the area so that the people can be able to have decent livelihoods. Unfortunately, this has also come at a time when Nigeria’s revenue has fallen due to the low price of crude oil, along with the fact that there are a lot of competing demands on the scarce revenue available.

This is why the recent suggestion by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara that an international donor conference for the North-East be organized is an excellent idea. Such an international conference will not be without precedent – just last week, one was held in London for Syria and was even attended by President Muhammadu Buhari. One was also held in July 2008 for Kosovo’s socio-economic development as convened by the European Commission. Also, the most famous and biggest post-war recovery effort, the Marshall Plan which was led by the United States of America to help revive Europe after the Second World War was preceded by a similar conference of participating European states.

Although the Boko Haram conflict has primarily affected Nigeria, its impact extends to the larger Lake Chad area and can further complicate unstable places to the east such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, parts of Congo and up to Rwanda. It also has significance leading up into the Maghreb and all the way into North Africa, and has contributed in its own small way to the stream of migrants into Europe.

While many foreign countries and developed nations especially are aware of this, their involvement and assistance has largely been militarily only. There is also the need to tackle the underlying economic and development factors, else it will be easy for another insurgency to emerge once this present one is needed.

Already, the World Bank has announced its intention to spend $2.1billion in low-interest loans to the FG for the North East, but there is still room for a lot more. An international donors’ conference will not only bring more donor countries and agencies on board but will also bring intervention to their efforts by highlighting what areas specifically need assistance and how to go about achieving that.

It will be excellent for the Presidency to act on Hon. Dogara’s suggestion and work towards convening such a conference in order to expedite action on reconstructing the North-East.

The Road To 2017 Budget By Pius Adesanmi

What the creatives prepared by Budgit – the social conscience outfit that has become the nemesis of even the most ingenious yam eater in Nigeria – on President Buhari’s 2016 Federal budget is to ensure that even members of NURTW can discuss the said budget at Agodi motor park in Ibadan, while eating amala and abula amidst squeals of “Ado kan!”, “Ado kan!”, “Ado kan!” The budget is now accessible in a format that Iya Kubura and Baba Kasali can understand and President Buhari and his team are finding out, too late and disastrously so for them, that yesterday’s monkeys in Idanre have disappeared, replaced by socially-conscious agents capable of grasping the monumental fraud in the budget.

If you thought that you’d seen the worst in that budget with the creatives by Budgit, it means you have not gone through the forensic analysis prepared by the media outfit, Premium Times. Entitled “Inside the Massive Fraud in Buhari’s 2016 Budget”, one passage in this report is worth quoting in some detail:

“A particularly disturbing instance of misplaced priority is the allocation for books for Vice President Osinbajo’s office. Mr. Osinbajo’s office has more money allocated to it for books than what each of the federal polytechnics in the country are getting for the same purpose. While N4,906,822 was proposed to be spent on books by Mr Osinbajo, the total allocation for books for 11 out of 22 federal polytechnics, which actually have book allocations, was a mere N3,832,038.”

Because Nigerians can squeeze humour and laughter out of stone – it is not for nothing that they earned the distinction of being the happiest people on earth – they have been able to turn President Buhari’s budget tragedy into a source of national carnivalesque. But all the comedy, all the humour, all the laughter which has greeted the unbelievable perverseness of the 2016 budget is the laughter which the Yoruba say is the only recourse of those who have run out of tears.

The situation is made much worse by President Buhari’s chronic inability to recognize moments of national solemnity and do what is needed. When a Federal budget is this badly bungled, it is a moment of national disgrace and humiliation which tragically undermines the humanity and dignity of the Nigerian. The first order of national healing happens when the President accepts responsibility, comforts people, addresses them, and promises appropriate sanctions.

We need to start teaching Nigeria’s leadership that the sky does not fall when you talk to your people, accept responsibility, and comfort them in times of national solemnity. We need to start teaching Nigeria’s leadership that if you accept responsibility for things gone awry, ojuju Calabar will not come and carry you in the dead of night. To address Nigerians vaguely and casually through a Facebook update by Garba Shehu welcoming criticism on this grave budget matter is an insult. There are moments which require the face and the voice of the big man himself. Diehard supporters will resort to the default mode of saying that the President cannot personally speak to everything. They are wrong. They are ignorant of the power of symbolic national moments when the Nigerian needs to hear directly from his President.

Nigeria being Nigeria, we must accept the crumb that we have received from Garba Shehu. He says that they are prepared to listen to criticism of the budget in good faith. We tell them that, hopefully, the 2016 budget will be the last that President Buhari and his team will ever present without having read a single page of it. We understand perfectly that this is a long-standing Nigerian tradition. No administration, no previous government, has ever read a budget they presented. You just have civil servants photocopy the text of last year’s budget and make the necessary yam adjustments for inflation.

Let President Buhari finally settle down to read his 2016 budget, he’d be amazed by its similarity to the budget he read in 1985. He’d be amazed by its similarity to every budget that has ever been read after 1985, all the way to President Jonathan. Only the figures and the size and scale of the theft and the padding are adjusted by civil servants. The text is essentially the same insipid and unimaginative text – it never varies. The sentences are the same.  The only other thing which varies is the christening: budget of hope, budget of growth, budget of creativity, budget of transformation, budget of restoration. Then you start again from hope and run through the same titles year after year.

In essence, nobody is saying that the national shame of copying and pasting last year’s budget without reading it, merely inserting new yams and adjusting old yams for inflation, started with president Buhari. What he is to be blamed for, his monumental failure, is in not changing this paradigm. He is supposed to be the first President to have ever read the budget he presented in Nigeria’s recent history. He is supposed to have spent weeks poring over every detail, he and his team huddled in his office, reviewing and revising the text, with plenty of Nescafe sachets, goro, and tomtom wraps littering the work space.

The damage has already been done. This is the time for President Buhari and his team to start preparing to earn their salaries by actually reading the 2017 budget. Too many people are holding civil servants responsible for the budget mess. I’m afraid President Buhari bears singular responsibility for this gargantuan failure and betrayal of public trust. If you keep sugar coating things for the President and absolving him of every misstep, if you keep saying that the buck stops at the desk of civil servants and political aides, you are on the path to destroying this President. You are not helping him.

Let me remind you, career absolver of President Buhari, that when criticism emerged of ethnic lopsidedness in the President’s appointments, you pleaded with Nigerians to understand the fact that the President needed to appoint only trusted hands that he knows and can trust and can supervise and can work with. You said that he needed to appoint only people he was sure would not mess him up. You said he needed those who would do a great job. Similarly, when he took twenty years to form a cabinet – I’m a writer; I use hyperbole for effect here – you frog-marched the same rationalizations into his defense. You said that he needed all the time in the world to appoint competent people he knows.

If you are now saying that all these people are the ones to blame for messing up the budget… do you see the problem of logic that has just fallen on your laps? It is time for you to stop insisting on ogbono that has lost its slimy and draw capacity. Okro is also draw soup. Boil water and prepare okro.  In other words, stop blaming aides every time something goes wrong. Try holding the President responsible for something for a change.

You must read your budget before presenting it. Hopefully, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo, who wants to read more books than all Federal polytechnics combined, have learned a lesson. However, reading your budget is one thing, knowing that a budget is an identity document, a philosophy of your essence, is another thing. I have written about this before in my essay on the Dubai of the belly. You don’t just consider a budget an annual ritual in which your ministries and agencies and other mechanisms of your bureaucracy cobble together a spending diet for the year. The story of postcolonial budgeting in Nigeria is the story of ostentation, opulence, lazy and parasitic consumption without producing. Every budget document shows a pathological national hatred for genius, innovation, creation, and sacrifice.

A fundamental shift in budget philosophy requires a very deep understanding of symbolism. President Buhari will never reach this understanding if he is constantly reassured that his aides, ministers, and civil servants are responsible for his errors of the rendering.

President Buhari must take the bold step of looking in the mirror every morning and telling the man starring back at him: the pot is yours. You break it, you own it.

I wish him Godspeed.

Governor Ayodele Fayose Has No Immunity He’s A Goner!

By Bayo Oluwasanmi

“There is no immunity for impunity as far as electoral malfeasance is concerned. In the cases of Obi v Mbakwe, Alliance for Democracy v Ayo Fayose and Amaechi v INEC it has been established that governors cannot hide under the immunity clause to commit electoral fraud.” – Femi Falana

Parliamentary immunity in the Nigerian context is not a protector of democracy. Nigeria’s concept of parliamentary immunity has attracted criticisms for facilitating abuses and protecting corruption.

In the light of Ekitigate, parliamentary immunity has received a lot of attention from Nigerians. It is widely viewed as a rising problem for promoting corruption and abuse of power.

Immunity in Nigeria has become an easy way to obstruct the law. It is responsible for the increase in corruption crimes committed by governors and members of the National Assembly. With the spate of corruption cases involving governors and other politicians, Nigerians have lost confidence in their chosen representatives for their political malpractices under the guise of  immunity.

The Nigerian brand of parliamentary immunity only serves to protect the interests of the representatives, rather than the interests of those they were elected to represent. Under the British system, legislators are granted partial  immunity from prosecution. British lawmakers and legislators in other countries that practice the British model are protected from civil action for slander and libel by parliamentary immunity while they are in the House. However, parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution is not enjoyed by members of parliament.

Members of the parliament may not be sought, prosecuted, judged, or imprisoned for actions taken in the course of their duties as parliamentarians. They are immune from prosecution for defamation committed in the exercise of their functions.

This includes speeches and votes, law proposals, amendments, as well as reports and other actions on the floor of the House. Under the US presidential system that we operate, members of the US Congress enjoy a similar parliamentary privilege like members of the British parliament. The US Congress members cannot be prosecuted for anything they say on the floor of the House or Senate. They are not immune from criminal prosecution.

The immunity clause under section 308 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides for the immunity of  President, Vice-President, Governors and their deputies.

Nigeria’s foremost human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), in an interview with the Punch, explicitly clarified the issue of immunity as it relates to the prosecution or otherwise of the star of Ekitigate,  Governor Ayodele Fayose. Many Nigerians have argued that Fayose is covered under the immunity clause of the Constitution. It is their contention that Fayose cannot be prosecuted because of his immunity as a governor.

Here is Falana making a solid legal cause for the prosecution of Fayose:

“The army authorities had investigated the fraudulent governorship election purportedly won by Mr. Ayo Fayose in June 2014. It has been confirmed that it was not an election but a coup executed by armed soldiers led by one General (Aliyu) Momoh.

“The panel which investigated the shameful event has recommended the dismissal of a number of military officers and the further investigation of others by the EFCC over the money illegally collected by them for the purpose of subjecting voters to horrendous harassment and brutalisation. Captain Sagir Koli watched the whole messy show and decided to record Momoh and his accomplices.”

Falana added that once the panel report is released and the investigation of the EFCC on the alleged “N4.8billionn which was criminally diverted for the election is concluded all the indicted suspects will be arrested and prosecuted”.

“There is no immunity for impunity as far as electoral malfeasance is concerned. In the cases of Obi v Mbakwe, Alliance for Democracy v Ayo Fayose and Amaechi v INEC it has been established that governors cannot hide under the immunity clause to commit electoral fraud.

“By the strict interpretation of section 308 of the Constitution, no court process can be issued or served on a governor. But because immunity cannot be pleaded or invoked to cover electoral fraud, elected governors are served with court processes and dragged to court to respond to allegations of electoral malpractice.”

Representatives enjoy immunity because it gives them the ability to act for the represented. Immunities are designed to protect the functions borne by the individual. The same thing goes for the diplomat, the trial witness, the judge, the sovereign. The principle behind parliamentary immunity is to protect the ability of elected assemblies to debate and vote without interference by non-elected authorities. It should be understood that parliamentary immunity is not to protect the governors or the legislators, but rather the ability to act on behalf of those whom they were elected to represent. In other words, the immunity is there to protect the parliament not the governors or the legislators.

Yasser Salah a former Egyptian MP was caught in smuggling 550 mobile phones worth more than EGP 1.5 million. Salah explained to the officer arresting him that he could not do so because he was a member of parliament. But the Egyptian Economic Court disagreed with Salah. He was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1994, the Japanese lower house unanimously stripped a Japanese lawmaker of his parliamentary immunity. Kishiro Nakamura was accused of accepting a $95,258 bribe from Kajima Construction Company to quash a bid-rigging probe by the Fair Trade Commission. He surrendered himself at the Tokyo district prosecutor’s office and was arrested and prosecuted.

For the umpteenth time, let me emphasize that Ekitigate took place when Fayose was a gubernatorial candidate and not a sitting governor. Where does the so called immunity fit in? For the sake of argument, let’s assume Fayose committed election fraud as a sitting governor. Even with immunity, the Constitution provides avenue to litigate criminal acts of officials by judicial review.

Under the Nigerian law, immunity for official act enjoyed by lawmakers is similar to the one extended to Nigerian judges. But criminal acts and acts that are committed outside their official duties are liable to court processes. Ekitigate doesn’t fall within the official mandate of Fayose as a governor. Election fraud is not part of governor’s official duty. Ekitigate qualifies Fayose to be tried to the fullest extent of the law. Fayose has no immunity. Therefore, it’s certain that Fayose will be be prosecuted. And he’s a goner!

As the Presidential candidate of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)  in 2011 elections, President Buhari promised: “We will amend the Constitution to remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminal cases.” There is no better time than now for the president to initiate a bill that will strip all elected officials of the political license that allows them to loot the treasury with unrestrained greed and impunity.

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What If Buhari Really Said Nigerians Are Criminals?

By Usama Dandare

President Muhammadu Buhari gave an exclusive interview to Daily Telegraph last week where he discussed several pressing national issues affecting the image of Nigerians in the global arena but some mischievous elements who are hell-bent on creating confusion within society are twisting Mr President’s statement saying that he referred to Nigerians as criminals. To set the record straight, Daily Telegraph published the ful details of the interview which has since generated controversy especially in the online media, but yet, the collective children of anger are still going around doing what they knows best: creating nothing out of something.

Since they insists, let’s all assume President Buhari truly said Nigerians are criminals. Even if he said so, was he lying? Are we not criminals?  When has calling a spade by it name “SPADE” became an offense? Why do we always choose to live in self-delusion instead of coming to terms with the reality? Why are we always unpalatable so as not to demarket country after being officially self-demarketed in the eyes of the world long ago?

I often say that the biggest phenomena tarnishing the image Nigerians overseas is not what the west perceived about us but the misguided Nigerians living in deluded elucidations and the unpalatable ones who outrightly get furious whenever the truth about Nigeria is told. What’s wrong in saying things as they are? Why are we always allergic to the truth?

Is it wrong to call criminal a country where it president looked into the eyes of world leaders and said “stealing is not corruption”? After telling another summit that what we have in Nigeria are just petty thieves not corrupt people. The president was trying to defend a country where a serving state governor disguised in women clothes and jumped bail from the United Kingdom after being arrested for stealing public funds and most annoying, he was welcomed back home amidst a mammoth crowd that came out to greet him.

I wonder if there’s any appropriate name to describe a country where$20billion of taxpayers’ money developed wings and flew away overnight rather than a country of criminals; a country where schools, airports, hospitals, streets, stadiums, museums and other monuments are being named after treasury looters and pen robbers. A country where chieftaincy titles are bought and given to criminals and murderers against established traditional institutions, corrupt looters of public funds in the government and fraudsters aka “yahoo yahoo boys” or ‘419iers’ are celebrated and crowned kings against the customs of our forefathers because they doled out their ill gotten money to the traditional king makers.

This is Nigeria: a nation where a governor-elect (yet to be sworn-in governor) led thugs into a courtroom and physically manhandled a sitting judge right on his lordship seat and went away with it unchecked; a nation where politicians are hiring assassins to assassinate opposition politicians; a nation where the rich elites are above the law while the poor masses continues to rot in jail awaiting trial. If Nigerians are not criminals, then there’s nothing called crime.

Do you know that over 25,000 Nigerians are being held in various prisons abroad (more than any African country) while 810 are waiting to die in death rows? They were mostly convicted of fraud, robbery, prostitution and drug-related crimes. Is this clear testimony not enough to tell the world that Nigerians are indeed criminals? Why is it that only one Briton has ever been sentenced to death in Nigeria in 2007 but later freed in a prisoners swap deal? Why are other African nations not having large number of their citizens in foreign prisons or are we the only ones residing in those countries?

Do you know that Nigeria has the highest number of social media 419ier (scammers) in the whole world? You may not be aware of this sad development but my fellow active social media users knows what i am talking about, there are varieties of methodology used by Nigerians to dupe innocent people which has been creating so much disaffection among social media users over the years. A monumental national disparaging crime which has however proven to represent a good portion of the Nigerian GDP as they are a great way to make money from dumb Americans. And I suppose Europeans, Asians and other Africans fall victim to these schemes, too. Interestingly, it has reached a stage in Nigeria today where a father will write his son via social media but the son has to verify the authenticity of his father’s account first before replying his dad not to disclose sensitive information to a scammer. In short, just search your name on Facebook and you will be shock to see how many active Facebook accounts you may have and unknown to you, these scammers have been soliciting for financial assistance on your behalf. All these criminalities are innovated and being committed by Nigerians but yet, we claim we are not criminals.

Most annoyingly, these same wailers twisting Buhari’s statement today are the same praise-singers that praised former President Jonathan for given a state pardon to convicted and condemned criminals yesterday, they are the same people defending Diezani Alison-Madueke for stealing Nigeria dry and the same people who came all out to defend Stella Oduah for purchasing two BMW cars at a miraculous price of a tokumbo jet and presenting fake school certificates for ministerial screening before the Senate. What a hypocrisy!

Nevertheless, when evil tends to become a culture in a society like it seems in Nigeria nowadays, where crime and criminals are seen to be glorified and worshiped by those whom the youths looks up to as idols and role models, frankly speaking, the soul of that society is dangerously destroyed. The hearts of the generation of such a society are shattered because their future has been mortgaged into the hands of the devil incubating a full blown city of Sodom and Gomorrah. A city where anything goes, where immorality will be exhibited, pains, deaths, corruption, celebration of criminality and wailing will be justified.

Park well my brother. Let’s drop aside our stupidity and embrace the truth. We should stop deceiving ourselves by being so anxious about the image of our country only in words while we keep forgotten that image when committing various crimes, but after the worst has been done, we begin to wail that so and so are demarketing our nation after all our sheer immorality and gross irresponsibility tells who we are as a nation. President Mohammedu Buhari didn’t say “Nigerians are criminals” and even if he said so, he’s definitely right because that is exactly what we are. Criminals and nothing but Criminals!

TSA Concept, Design And Benefits, By Kemi Adeosun

It is my singular honour and great pleasure to give this keynote address at the opening ceremony of this workshop on TSA concept, design, benefits and to share experiences of the Federal and States Government in the implementation of the project.
This workshop is expected to dwell further on current issues and challenges surrounding Cash Flow Management with a view to ensure scarce resources at the disposal of Federal, State and Local Governments are prudently and efficiently managed.

The organisation of this workshop is therefore, apt and timely especially at a time when the global economic downturn is creating challenges that demand efficient and effective management of cash resources.

The global economic challenges which are affecting our nation demand optimum efficiency in the management of public funds. These objectives require an overhaul of the financial management approaches adopted to meet financial obligations on time and ensure that cost effective financial support is provided to public institutions
Much has been reported and debated about the merits of TSA and the impact on the financial autonomy of the various arms of government and on the profitability of commercial banks. In practice, TSA is an essential reform for any government wishing to pursue fiscal sustainability and prudent management of its resources.

It increases accountability and transparency, improves the processing of payments and collections and reduces borrowing costs,

It is worth reiterating some of the key benefits of TSA that we have recorded to date:

• TSA at Federal Level has allowed, for the first time, visibility of the total quantity of government funds at any point in time.

• The balance, which changes daily as MDA’s remit revenues and make payments, according to the latest reports from CBN exceeds N2.2 Trillion. I can report that work is now ongoing within The Treasury, to determine how much of these funds can potentially be utilised to part fund the 2016 budget and how much relates to pending commitments. This, of course, will reduce the amount to be borrowed

• The TSA has provided us with financial information on the revenues of agencies funded by government and has reduced revenue suppression. This information is being used to drive our programme to enforce compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and ensure that Revenue Generating Agencies generate expected surpluses and remit to the Federal Purse.

• TSA has eliminated opportunities for brokerage and other corrupt practices that previously encouraged agencies to accumulate funds with commercial banks rather than apply them to their intended uses. We believe that this will reduce payment delays to contractors, minimise late payment penalties and will consequently improve project completion times and service delivery.

• TSA has corrected the practice of government borrowing short term funds at high rates of interest, whilst simultaneously having idle funds in various bank accounts.

• By reducing the number of accounts in operation, monitoring and control has significantly improved.

I, therefore, urge the participants for this workshop to also discuss and brainstorm on ways and means of improving the revenue base of the country through full implementation of TSA and blocking of all leakages and improving the efficiency of revenue administration. The revenue base of the Country is still low and its administration still leaves room for improvement. This is bedevilled with a range of problems such as poor computerization, lack of skilled and dedicated employees, corruption, lack of awareness and of course unpatriotic conduct by some of the operators. This clearly indicates that the underlying assumptions underpinning the 2016 budget may only be realised with serious efforts put in place towards revenue efficiencies and expenditure discipline such as implementation of the TSA and Cash Management concepts by all tiers of government.

Therefore, I commend the efforts of the OAGF and organisers for hosting this very important workshop aimed at sensitizing the States Accountants-General on the need to key into the Treasury Single Account scheme of the Federal Government. I also wish to thank IMF (FAD Mission) for partnering with Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) in this noble initiative. I may also emphasis that timing of this workshop cannot be more auspicious than now when the present Administration of His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is vigorously pursuing the war against corruption.

As professionals in charge of Public Financial Management of your respective states, the ball is in your court and l hope you will take advantage of this workshop to clarify issues that have agitated your minds regarding the implementation of TSA. TSA will no doubt enables you to block all financial leakages and conserve more funds needed for development in your various States.
I am also aware that some states are already implementing TSA. I urge those states to kindly share their experiences with the rest of you so as to encourage those who are yet to decide to take their first step in this direction.

At the Federal Level, I can assure you that our experience has been worthwhile. TSA has Provided complete and timely information on government cash resources, Improved operational control on budget execution, Enabled efficient cash management, Reduced bank fees and transaction costs, Facilitated efficient payment mechanisms and it has also reduced the FGN Ways and Means requirement to bridge the budget funding gap.
Distinguished invited guests, participants, ladies and gentlemen. I have gone through the topics for discussion and the names of the distinguished speakers. It is remarkable that this initiative will come-up with ways of improving the efficiency of our scarce resources. I urge all participants to interact freely and share ideas that would improve transparency and accountability in the management of our nation’s scares resources. On this note, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare this Workshop opened. I wish you fruitful deliberations.
Thank you and God bless.

Being text of an address by Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on the occasion of a Treasury Single Account (TSA) workshop for states’ Accountants-General held in Abuja.

Between Olumo And Aso – Reminiscences From Ogun At 40 By Prof Wole Soyinka

“Why?” demanded my argumentative friend, “ is it always you people? “ Why do you make so much trouble? Always Ogun, Ogun, Ogun! – are you the only state in the nation?” And he proceeded to reel off a number of names of notorious “trouble-makers”, dead and living, pin-pointing their birthplaces in Ogun State.”  It was a teasing, rhetorical question, no answer expected. If one had been required, I would have volunteered, as a birthday present to Ogun: Ise ab’ojumu. Sometimes Iwa ab’ojumu. A pursuit (or character) of what is right. Just conduct. The people of Osun articulate something close –  Omoluwabi.Both, and a number of allied formulations, hover around that basic foundation of all humane pursuits – Justice.  Perhaps we are simply more vocal, more persistent about it.

The precedent body of this mixed birthday offering is contained in a lecture that I first delivered nearly a decade ago, in Abeokuta.  I shall resort to that lecture once or twice for purposes of invoking a comparative ‘state of the state’ – then and now – but only in the context of governance characterization that enables us to grasp the essence ofab’ojumu, not to make any invidious assessments. Memory is a crucial function of existence. There is much to recall, much that justifies breast beating, but also much to lament, deplore, even repudiate! Individuals make up nations. National anniversaries are not that much different from the individual, being, for some, not merely calendar notations for jubilation, but also pauses for recollection, reflection, and hopefully a positive surge of renewal, and progressive energy.  It was a very well attuned mind that fashioned out those words in the Ogun State Anthem: Eyin omo Ogun, Ise Ya! (The task is just beginning – let us move!).  I like that. I urge it also on Ogun’s sister states who are co-celebrants of the day.

An even-handed assessment tempers uncritical euphoria, enabling us to place, on well calibrated scales, triumphs side by side with defeats, solidarity beside betrayals, dedication beside opportunism….and so on, and on.  We must not be Killjoys, but we also should not be overly exultant. Ogun State has been very much put upon but, if only my colleague thought about this carefully, Ogun has also experienced the agony of putting a lot on herself, internally, as much as being put upon by others. For instance, between Olumo Rock and Aso Rock, the relationship is sometimes manifested as a tussle between Culture – that is, Democratic Culture – and Power, the centralized distortion of which remains dominant across the nation – sometimes at war within the same individuals who loved to play both ends of the axis. I would not like to estimate what, for the people of Ogun, would be an accurate tally of profit and loss.

In this brief, unabashedly partisan exercise, let me admit in advance that co-option of these two landmarks goes beyond, but is not unrelated to the obliging fact that, for better or worse, both – Aso and Olumo – are conjoined by some key Ogun state indigenes in a somewhat unusual fashion. I have focused on a triad that self-constructed gradually during a critical phase of the nation’s history. It was the wistful shadow of one of this threesome cast list – a now permanent absence at any celebrations, alas! – that flitted across my mind and provoked these reflections. All three are reference points for Ogun State on the pursuit, and the ironies of power, but one remains a spectre that haunts one’s memory. That spectre certainly loomed large as I watched Ogun State governor shepherd his Aso Rock guest – and eminent train – around ‘Olumo’ town.

The three figures defined a national crises in vastly different, but interwoven ways. One enjoyed the harvest of that tussle. Another earned his place by dint of hard work, and against overwhelming odds. He was elected across the nation by undisputed popular acclaim, including belated affirmation by those who callously thwarted his deserving at the time. Thus it is that, today, it is only voices in chronic denial that still qualify their references to that 1993 election with the phrase, “presumed winner of…”  “generally presumed to have won”, and similar ignoble attempts at diluting an unassailable truth. The third of that triad was known as Fidi Hee (Half-arsed incumbency).

Power bestowed, power betrayed, and – power derided. This nationally unique trilogy framed the political portrait of Ogun across two decades, and struck me only some days ago as I recalled past images from that crisis, the faces and comportment of some surviving principal actors, contributors to an entity whose character has undergone remarkable contortions and distortions, internally and externally, over the past four decades. The events produced both Ogun’s finest hour and, yet again, her most demeaning. Again, just a reminder: one, now departed – retains his position as Nigeria’s president that was never permitted to rule. Another, a fellow indigene takes his place among the dubious handlers – some say undertakers – ending up as the eventual harvester, though not without his own dose of retributive fate – while the third governed at the behest of the most vicious and thieving dictator the nation has ever known. When that military dictator had had enough of his game of cat and mouse, he simply blew f’idi hee a kiss, which blew him away from the peaks of Aso back home to the foothills of Olumo.

Let me quickly emphasize this:  I am aware that Abeokuta, where Olumo rock is situated, is not Ogun State, only a tumulus within the entire landscape. I invoke that rock only as a symbol. Also, my assignment of Culture to the Olumo end of the rock axis – Aso at the other end – may be regarded as somewhat arbitrary; it is however historically appropriate. Power attaches unarguably to one end – Aso.  Culture – and especially democratic culture – however betrayed and degraded – should be the jealously guarded preserve of the states.  Minna is the exception – over the archway of the entry to its military cantonment is a boastful rubric that Niger State has bequeathed to Nigeria more rulers than any other – and their names are proudly listed across that archway. At least, such was the display when I last visited.  Outside that aberration however, the role of states, I consider, is to civilize power, bring it to civilian apprehension and finally, humanize it. Thus emerges an interest in the fortunes of both at the hands of each other, whenever they intersect. Did Olumo civilianize Aso, for instance? Or did Aso successfully corrupt and distort Olumo’s civilian existential mandate?

In co-opting the two rocks – Olumo and Aso –  as symbolic representations of the provinces of Culture and Politics, I do not imply mutual exclusivity. There is no intention of implying the totality of culture by invoking Olumo Rock, any more than I restrict politics, or the power game, or indeed any particular activity of power to the latter, Aso Rock.  It is all a question of relativity.  So kindly indulge me and let Aso Rock  stand for power and its politics, including their modes of human conduct, while Olumo Rock signifies Culture – Democratic culture, and Culture writ large. Our problem is that we have endured far too many protagonists of power who are simply devoid of culture of any kind, be that written with a small “c”, or in capital letters.  They pursue power hammer and tongue, obsessively, untempered by the ameliorating virtue of Culture.

What then have we, in Ogun, generated?  What exported? What contributed to the entirety of national character? At a time of commemoration, several past events run their reels across the memory template. Here is one enduring scene to set us ruminating:

It takes the shape of a state house of assembly, shuttered, barred and barricaded by armed police, in a time of peace. At the time of the decade-old lecture to which I earlier referred, the closure had yet to happen, but it was in the offing, and my lecture was a warning.  One is reminded that such a travesty of democratic culture under Olumo was enabled by – indeed would have been unthinkable without – the collusion of “federal might” at the Aso end of the axial rocks. In other words, that the gates to treachery against Olumo’s democratic integrity were thrown open by the very custodians of the historic Rock. Worse still, thanks to such internal undermining, Ogun state has the set the ignoble record of creating a precedent for what – with variations – has dominated political culture around the nation. When thwarted in the arbitrary and questionable exercise of power, or merely democratically challenged, simply seal up the oversight structure of governance –  the House of elected representatives of the people. The active complicity of Aso Rock is guaranteed in advance – especially at the approach of elections.

Memory is a turbulent taskmaster for some, and that handful must fulfill – if only on behalf of the future – the role of a memory prod. It was again under the aegis of Olumo – exported to Aso  – that a sister state across was placed under siege and vandalized for three days – with the police on “emergency” duties of non-interference in their ringside seats! Anambra was on fire! Billions of naira worth of assets – including state owned – were pulverized, a rampage that involved the kidnap of an elected governor, and his confinement in a toilet. Among that incumbent’s crimes was a refusal to sign an open cheque on the state treasury for a ‘political godfather’. For further fleshing out of memory, we may like to recall that it was in protest against that act of Aso empowered brigandage, a conspiracy between the two Rocks fortuitously fused into one, that a Nigerian citizen, Chinua Achebe, later rejected the national honour that was offered him. Chinua could not condone The Rape of Anambra, and told Aso Rock to shove its medals up its fundaments.

The foregoing – and more, a lot more – are natural associative recalls in the midst of celebration, with the unavoidable succession of wrestling emotions – pride and shame – in whatever role one’s acknowledged or imposed protagonists have played under the incidental twinning of these symbolic rocks. Guilt by association is a burden we sometimes bear – ask my interlocutor with whom we began this piece. This includes the residual impact of such governance ‘ethos’ within the state itself.  Power feeds on power, even far from where first exercised. A successful formula becomes a call to emulation. From Ogun, via Anambra, and more recently Ekiti, the tried and tested template held sway. Vile precedents can only give birth to monstrosities.  Yet truth eventually comes out in the wash, and the mottled faces of erstwhile triumphalists are gradually or dramatically exposed for what they truly are – straw masks. Was it not within these same national borders that packs of rabid mongrels, snarling through the judas-holes of the gates of hell, spat venom at those who had not even gone beyond saying of the 2015 Ekiti governorship elections:

“There is a mystery about these results”.

Nothing more, just that.  Simply expressing disbelief.  Others tried to rationalize the ‘upset’, citing deficiencies in governance style of the incumbent etc. Pontifications galore to admonish the robbed and rub pepper in the wound, to rubbish the option of low-cost governance and unostentatious style of governance. A coinage – ‘stomach infrastructure’ –  was minted to explain the inexplicable. A handful of ‘heretics’ however persisted in keeping the taunting puzzle alive. They warned:

“There is a mystery. Something is askew somewhere, only we haven’t quite laid  a finger of certitude on it”.

And some went further and confidently predicted:

“It is a mystery that will be unraveled some day, and even sooner than expected.”

And now is the time to ask: why were we so sure?  Why did Governor Fashola, for instance, pen a soberly argued article in that vein? Why did I – if I may also cite myself – declare at Governor Fayemi’s valedictory event that this puzzle would be solved, must be solved, for democracy to survive, predictably pulling down a rain of rancid spittle from the self-vaunting, but deep-down apprehensive ‘victors’?

The answer was simple. Ekiti had precedent. Ekiti was merely the bastardized child of Olumo, only the pupil had brought a thuggish refinement to the Olumo template – including the yet unaddressed physical assault upon, and public humiliation of the judiciary. It had happened before to us in Ogun State – plotted, cooked, and served up sizzling.  Only with variations.  We had also undergone a blitzkrieg right within Olumo domain  – and of course there were other victim states – in  2003.  The pattern was familiar – a centralized coordination, military style, of the most insolent electoral robbery in state history.

The internally inspired assault scored a grand success. The Ogun state incumbent, confident in the observation of the rule of law, basking in a mutual, loudly trumpeted accord of peaceful conduct and a level playing ground, went on a joy ride with his would-be electoral rapist, proclaiming to the nation that this bipartisan road show was a manifestation of democratic harmony between contending parties, a gift by example from the consummation of Aso and Olumo to the nation and the world. It proved a sham. The newly discovered fissure in the sides of Zuma Rock in Abuja was from the peripatetic Aso incumbent splitting his sides with laughter – ke, ke,ke!

That Olumo/Aso combine attempted a similar crushing strategy in Lagos, but failed to roll over that city. First was the ominous withdrawal of security detail of the sitting governor – on “orders from above” of course. By the time Aso’s goons went for him however, he had disappeared. Even his own supporters, rushing to secure his safety, could not find the highly prized but elusive bird.  He had shifted his operations deep underground among one’s ultimate security – own people!  Aso Rock, in desperation, decided to ‘go for broke’. It ordered the posting of false, victory results, confident that the public would swallow them supinely – ‘for the sake of peace’. I know for a fact that the generalissimo was quietly warned that Lagos would terminally explode if he persisted. He quietly beat a tactical retreat, transferred his supervisory energy to other designated “must-wins”, Edo at the forefront.

In Edo, it was indeed a case of – Aso/Olumo Strikes Again! The mastermind took over the functions of a supposedly neutral Electoral body and raised “Federal might” to its personalized apogee, dictating orders to the Edo State Electoral officer. Edo was one of our ‘special interest’ states and we followed that contest in real live time.

“I said, declare those results.” Aso Rock bellowed down the line “Announce them!”

That officer fled to Abuja rather than announce falsehood. Distraught that they had been unable to capture the main prize – Lagos – Edo at least would not elude them. But the opposition already had the authentic results.  The folder was rushed to me by Oshiomole’s aides as I was seated in a plane, virtually as the gates were about to close. I was able to present the truthful picture at the Congressional Hearing in Washington D.C. where a position that endorsed a fictitious election was already holding sway. There I met Kenneth Nnamani, former Senate president, seemingly in an unvoiced, genteel quandary, I felt. No matter, I fulfilled my mission,  silenced the misled lobbyists for democratic injustice with authentic facts – and figures! It was a totally unexpected intervention.

And so, today?  The toes of the corpse that had been confidently buried have kept pushing up – a recording here, a confession there, threatened arrests, plots to silence witnesses and whistle-blowers. Where it will all end? Perhaps in nothing. But then, it only means that the corpses will remain restless. The undertakers of democracy – as they proudly, indeed contemptuously deemed themselves – are scampering for cover, but not without releasing toxic jets of distraction. But these protruding toes are only forerunners of more skeletons to be unearthed – or more accurately – tens of thousands of corpses – and millions of the displaced and traumatized, on account of those misapplied funds that were meant to keep society secure. For now, we shall spare the festivities stressful thoughts of abducted school pupils, trapped in an eternal nightmare.

Yes, the disciples are exposed. They are being arraigned before both public and formal tribunals. But their mentors? The originators? Those who facilitated their emergence in the first place, by the same dastardly, egotistically unprincipled means. The real concrete mixers for the foundation of the home of electoral fakery?  Basking in the glow of impunity. ‘Gracing’ commemorations. Milking gerontocratic toleration atmilikis. The grimace that contorts our faces when we watch the architects of a nation’s democratic retrogression gleefully cavorting under the generosity of amnesia or forgiveness from an abused people, is neither wished for nor enjoyed. Few of us are willing masochists. It is simply the intrusiveness of that hard taskmaster – memory – essential for the protective – and survival armoury,  even of peoples who already boast a historic tradition of resistance – such as Ogun, the people of ise ab’ojumu. Tolerating the intolerable is not tolerated by a culture that was formative of the growth of some of us. Upholding the principles of such formation or accidental acquisition through life experience enables any people to say, with pride – we have never succumbed to tyranny, not even when it wears the diversionary mask of buffoonery.    

In The Case Of Aregbesola Versus All, By Gbolahan Yusuf

“You are now old enough to fend for yourself son, I can no longer give you pocket money as I used to.” When this statement is uttered by a father to his son; while it may not make some sons flinch, it hits other sons faster and harder than Floyd Mayweather. In many cases, this is taken for granted with the underlying belief that father won’t watch them wallow in abject poverty when he can help, which is valid. It is however, a different case when father cannot help anymore, as he has been sacked or because the product he sells is now surplus in supply, and thus of little selling price, as is the case with Nigeria and her oil. In this case, while children of Nigeria (states) who had a previous means of livelihood will take it in their stride, others with little or no other source of income will be badly hit and have a mountain to climb. The State of Osun, in the south-west of Nigeria, is an apt example of the latter class of sons, and so far, it is climbing the mountain with all vigour and energy that could possibly be mustered.

That is not the summary you are likely to hear however. In a polity membered by an opposition desperately seeking to deplete the goodwill earned by the government of Ogbeni, and in effect the APC, it is not surprising that campaigns have continuously been mounted against the adverse effects without giving thought to the root causes.

The State of Osun earns the lowest from the federation account, with the monthly allocation for the state plunging into less than a hundred millions late last year, after deductions at source mostly to debt servicing. As it stands, in a state with relatively less a population, the civil service is so bloated that total revenue earnings for a month do not satisfy the recurrent spending requirements. In states generating even less internal revenue like Ekiti, the balance of trade is not as threatened because the salaries and overhead costs are less even when some of those states are more populated, which is a misnomer.

So while the state has been thrown into crisis, what is surprising is the defiance of the governor to abandon governance for crisis management. While it will have been an easy choice for politicians in his shoes, in his second term already, to simply dedicate tight resources available to payment of salaries and little or no more, as it is the only thing critics(many of whom, are not in the state) are concerned about. However, common sense is that a government house cannot be reduced to a bursar’s office, not minding how crude it sounds.

The government of Osun under Aregbesola has been one of firsts up until crisis period, with policies like feeding of school children, youth employment, and the famous Opon-Imo, being adopted and acknowledged far and wide. He achieved all these, vis-à-vis infrastructure development at all levels. Impressive, but with the fall of oil price, and the depleted “pocket money” from father, one would have expected all these to end. But No!

It has certainly been more difficult but in recent times, after managing to reach an agreement with labour on the salary structure, the state has been scoring other firsts. In exploring means of sourcing funds, the state became first to employ the Sukuk bond which was of over 11 billion, all in a bid to make sure efforts in the education sector were not stemmed. This has ensured that upgrade of schools has continued around the state with no sign of slowing down.

Asides that, the state has also declared plans to establish a Commodity Board directly under the governor, with a daring plan to produce cocoa of unprecedented quality and quantity. The governor said it will be branded Cocoa Omoluabi, and that tens of millions of cocoa trees had already been identified. The state has also now declared a partnership with The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) where it supplies an incredible expanse of land for experimental agriculture by the reputable institute. The governor in a show of determination, also said state executive council meetings will be held in high producing areas. Many of the workers in the agricultural sector are already being deployed from office to farm in what is a clear departure from the status quo. The plans have been drawn out and time-framed and while they look exciting, one hopes the results will be even more cheering. If they turn out so, the state of Osun even under financial strains will have provided yet another example for states to follow.

In many other states earning just above Osun, such level of planning has appeared elusive, with salary-paying being the focus seeing as the public has been led by many to believe governance is a factor of who pays salaries. Asides salaries, many states have governors dedicated to petty issues like eating at public restaurants. Smart citizens must begin to ask in the view of tight purses, if salary paying alone can sustain a state. The governor of Osun has been vilified in many quarters but I see a man who will rather be vilified than let his state be sacrificed.

It is encouraging however that people are so concentrated on the state of affairs in the state of Osun because this can only lead to deeper government-people engagement but what is important is that while many people keep an eye on salaries in the state, they make sure to keep the other eye on developments being pushed by the government amidst the financial crisis so that while looking to teach the government how to run the state, we do not fail to learn from a government that has continued to give us examples to learn from.

Gbolahan Yusuf

[email protected]

Tweets @G1gbolahan.

 

 

 

 

 

The Macabre Dance At Nigeria’s Supreme Court

By Segun Tomori

Shock, disbelief and outright amazement describes the mood of a wide spectrum of Nigerians to the recent streak of pathetically strange judgements recently delivered on gubernatorial disputes in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Abia States by the Supreme court. Never in our recent history has apex court rulings faced so much opprobrium and dissatisfaction even among prominent legal luminaries. The Supreme court inadvertently endorsed electoral heist; certified violence as a veritable means of winning elections and supplied a huge dose of adrenaline to the veins of brazen vote robbers.

Rivers State presented a worst-case scenario. Gov. Wike of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was allocated over 1 million votes while INEC documents reveal that only 292,878 voters were accredited in the whole State! Violence was the order of the day during the elections as gunmen had a field day intimidating people, maiming and killing especially in opposition strongholds while the obviously compromised hierarchy of security agencies looked the other way or were mostly in connivance. We were inundated with reports that the former first lady relocated to Rivers to ensure victory for her “godson” at all cost. Assistant Inspector General (AIG), Zone 6 , Tunde Ogunshakin was allegedly posted out of the State at the instance of the “Dame” who called her husband, the then President, that the top cop was becoming a clog in the wheel of rigging. He had arrested a Divisional Police Officer with electoral materials and was uncompromising, so he had to be shown the way out. He was transferred to Calabar, the Cross-river State capital, 5 am, on election day.

International observers were unanimous in condemning the charade called the Rivers elections. The leader of African Centre of Leadership Strategies and Development, Humphery Bekaren who spoke on behalf of international observers had called for the cancellation of the polls. “We request all lovers of democracy to join us in calling for the outright cancellation of the phony election. Unless this is done, we would have sown the seed that could eventually grow into providing a shade of fear and death over us,’’ he stated. “What we saw did not meet international standard of electioneering, not even the ones set by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC,’’ he further stated.

The Elections petitions tribunal agreed with international observers and the All Progressives Congress (APC). It held that Wike of the PDP was not duly elected, nullified the elections and ordered a fresh one within 90 days. Tribunal chairman, Justice Ambrosa averred that thuggery overran the state during the election. “The allegation of intimidation, harassment, snatching of ballot boxes, ballot papers, lack of result sheets, late arrival of election materials, diversion of election materials, ballot stuffing, allocation of figures, non-collation of result, failure to use card readers were all established by the petitioners.” he stated.

The appeal court also concurred and affirmed the judgement of the lower court. It ruled the seven issues raised by Gov. Wike against him and in favour of Dakuku Peterside, the APC candidate. It held that Wike’s elections did not conform to the stipulations of the electoral act. It therefore beats one’s imagination the contrary evidence our learned justices of the Supreme court garnered, or the jurisprudence it relied upon to affirm Wike’s election despite the avalanche of evidence weighed in against him.

Akwa-Ibom was another spectre of the absurd during the gubernatorial elections. Violence was massively used to intimidate voters; evidence of thousands of ballots cast for the opposition party which were isolated and thrown away by rogue staff of INEC in collusion with the PDP were presented before the tribunal; vote allotting instead of collation characterised the elections in substantial Local governments. It was therefore no surprise that the petitions tribunal cancelled the elections in 18 out of the 31 LGs of the State and ordered that fresh polls be conducted there. The Court of Appeal however disagreed with the partial cancellation and nullified the entire elections. It posited that the tribunal was wrong by its refusal to comply with section 179(2) of the constitution.

“The court said having agreed with the evidence of principal witnesses, video evidence, and evidence from state collation agents, the tribunal should have concluded that there was no collation and that votes were merely allotted.” Evidences of over-voting in 27 out of 31 LGs formed the crux of the appellate court’s judgement. Total accredited votes of over 400,000 jumped mysteriously to 1.2m from which over 900,000 was credited to Gov. Udom Emmanuel of the PDP. Claims of incident forms by the PDP to back manual voting which led to over-voting according to it, couldn’t be validated. The alleged storming of the Supreme court by Sen. Godswill Akpabio and his declaration to his supporters that “it is all over” when the justices went on recess before delivering the verdict raises suspicion about a fore-knowledge of the judgement. Was the Supreme court penetrated by reactionary forces? Was the judgements procured through covert inducement? Only time will tell.

Abia State also followed a similar pattern. Though violence wasn’t as widespread as Rivers and Akwa-Ibom, the Appeal Court nullified the election of PDP Governor, Ikpeazu and declared All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Alex Otti winner. The Justice Omoleye-led court said  the APGA candidate scored 164,444 valid votes to defeat Mr Ikpeazu who polled 114,444 votes. He stated further that the cancellation of the elections held in three LGAs of Obingwa, Osisioma Ngwa and Isiala Ngwa by the returning officers after the results were uploaded to INEC was wrong. “In the Electoral Act, the Returning Officer has the right to only declare results of elections and not to cancel elections.” he concluded.

It is therefore curious that the Supreme court didn’t see any merit in this judgements. Prominent Legal luminaries like Prof Itse Sagay expressed surprise and wondered how all governorship cases will go the same way. It is evident that the Supreme court allowed itself to be swayed by technicalities into giving judgements instead of delivering justice. The constitutional lacuna that didn’t vitiate manual accreditation might have been exploited to deliver the jaundiced judgements,but Section 160 of the constitution which “empowered INEC to make its own rules or regulate it’s procedures” should have taken care of that. But to the Supreme Court, the former prevailed. But at what cost? Lost lives, brigandage, ballot stuffing, testimony of security agencies and observers; and evidence of substantial non-compliance with the electoral act were thrown into the thrash can.

It will be pertinent at this point to call for an independent probe of Supreme court judges. This is the time for investigative journalists at home and abroad to swing into action. We must not allow acts of omission or commission of an apex court compel Nigerians to resort to self-help. In this investigation, President Buhari should avail investigators the assistance of the Department of State Security (DSS). Purveyors of election violence have been emboldened, vote robbers are now basking in the euphoria of their conquest. We must take the sail out of their wind by unravelling the circumstances that led to the infamous judgements.

However, we must now go back to the drawing board to tighten the noose around vote riggers. President Buhari should lead the process that will herald holistic electoral reforms. The constitution and the electoral act should be amended to incorporate Card readers and electronic voting in our statutes. Electoral Offences Commission that will ensure that vote robbers face justice should be in place before the next general elections in 2019.

There is no corruption greater than the subversion of the people’s will. This must be fought to a standstill if the fight against graft by the present administration will not be a mirage on the long-run.

 

 

Segun Tomori, is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja, 08062672869, twitter: @seguntomori