MEND Issues Fresh Warning About Imminent Attacks

By Jomo Gbomo

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) has reiterated that the public as well as all oil companies must take its latest threats seriously and not be carried away by the reassurances of the Nigerian government and security services.

It warned in a new statement, signed by “Jomo Gbomo,” that on account of the attempts by Nigeria’s security services, “we may resort to carry out all bomb blasts without prior notification and then issue a statement of claim afterwards.”

It noted that since the government of Goodluck Jonathan has blamed its political opponents in other bomb attacks, MEND “will sit back and watch how the blame game will continue to be played out by the government after our statements of claims has being issued.”

It said it wished to avoid civilian casualties and therefore warned public to stay clear of any political gatherings or meetings of any sort “as we know our targets.

See full statement below:

“The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) wishes to strongly advise the general public and all oil companies to disregard all attempts by the Nigerian government and security services in dismissing our latest threat.

In light of these attempts by the Nigerian security services, we may resort to carry out all bomb blasts without prior notification and then issue a statement of claim afterwards.

Anyone caught up in these blasts due to their ignorance would only have themselves and the government to blame. The same government that would abandon the casualties in an unequipped teaching hospital while their family members travel abroad for medical treatment.

We gather that some agents from the United States are training some members of the Nigerian police force in bomb detection, detonation and making improvised bombs. We find this very laughable coming from a country that cannot guarantee its own citizen’s security with their overwhelmed prison system coupled with a useless and corrupt Nigerian police and security force that will end up selling this knowledge.

The government of Goodluck Jonathan has formed a habit of blaming its political opponents in other bomb attacks so when we start to strike, we will sit back and watch how the blame game will continue to be played out by the government after our statements of claims has being issued.

We finally reiterate our desire to avoid any civilian casualties and again strongly warn the general public to stay clear of any political gathering or meeting of any sort as we know our targets. Jomo Gbomo

How I was attacked at campaign rally, by Amosun

Ernest Nwokolo 

It was like a scene from an action movie. Men and women, young and old scampered for safety. Horns blared deafeningly and vehicles screeched here and there as fear-gripped drivers made feverish bid to escape the violence in two attacks on the campaign train of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate Senator Ibikunle Amosun, last Thursday.

Amosun and dozens of ACN supporters in a long convoy of vehicles had taken the broom revolution to Yewa – Owode, Oke–Odan, Ajilete wards and Ilaro town; the home of General Tunji Olurin, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Ogun.

The first attack occurred around 4pm in the seedy junction of Sabo, Ilaro. The other took place around 8:45pm in Oke Odan. A witness said the attack in Sabo was provoked by a commercial cyclist who ran into the convoy and was knocked down.

Hordes of other cyclists , the witness added, engaged Amosun’s supporters in a fight and were joined by hoodlums.

The Nation visited the scene yesterday and counted 20 motorcycles that were damaged – their fuel tanks and tyres were cut open with machetes. Shops were looted. Seven of Amosun’s campaign buses were damaged by the hoodlums and political thugs.

The office of the Road Transport Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and the PDP secretariat in Sabo – Ilaro were vandalised. A barber ‘s shop belonging to a resident, Tella Babatunde, was destroyed. Besides, he was injured. Mr Jide Olagoke had a big gash on the head from matchete cut.

When calm returned to both communities, 12 persons were injured, some with machete cuts on their heads and others with gunshot wounds. The Nation was shown shrapnels from gunshot fired during the fracas. Amosun was injured on his head when stones were hurled at him.

Olurin, who accused Amosun of “intentionally causing the trouble” in Ilaro to disrupt President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Ogun, said he was in Abeokuta on Thursday when the incident occured.

He said Amosun had a problem with cyclists when one of them ran into his convoy and got knocked down.

But, addressing the press last Friday at his Abeokuta home, Amosun blamed the two attacks on his campaign train at Sabo – Ilaro and Oke -Oda on persons loyal to Olurin and some influential PDP members whom, he alleged, were thugs and urchins.

Amosun: “Traditionally, we don’t do campaign when it is late but because we had been delayed and attacked for hours in Ilaro, we could not get there on time.

“When we got to Ajilete in Oke Odan around 8.45pm, we told them that we just wanted to wave at them and come back but they insisted, all of them in aso ebi. I heard a noise and I saw a woman; they just threw a stone at her with deep cut and I saw blood gushing out.

“Of course, I couldn’t take it. I rushed down, carried the woman to assist her; the next thing I saw was total blackout and the second stone came and hit me on the head; it was a deep cut; what could I do; they said we should get an ambulance and ferry her with me.

” I was given medical attention. I have some stitches here which everybody can see and even the woman, I just pray that nothing untoward happens to her because she also got a deep cut around one of her eyes.

“Anybody that wants to campaign should feel free to come and sell his programme, sell his ideas and the electorate will be the judge; that the era of carrying guns, machetes, attacking people should be a thing of the past in Ogun State.”

Amosun urged the security agencies to unravel influential people behind the sponsored attacks even as he maintained that both himself and ACN have the love of Yewa at heart.

His words: “But we just want to use this opportunity to tell the good people of Yewa that Sen. Amosun as a person and our party, ACN love them and I know they love us. They should please expose all the people that want to give them bad names.

“Yewa people are not known for violence. They are known to be peaceful people and in any case, we as a government and I as a governor will not look down on Yewa and Aworiland.

“For me, we are one and the same and I’m not going to be governor of Ogun Central, nor Ogun West or East. I am going to be governor of Ogun State and everybody will be represented.”

 

Akala bars Buhari from Mapo Hall

Oseheye Okwuofu, Ibadan and Ernest Nwokolo

Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala yesterday made good his promise to prevent Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) presidential candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari from using Mapo Hall for his campaign rally in Ibadan.

He locked Buhari and his supporters out of the venue, but the defiant CPC went ahead with the rally within the precincts of the historic hall.

The Alao-Akala administration cited security reasons for barring Buhari from the venue. The government said First Lady Patience Jonathan would address a women rally at the venue today. It also said the CPC team hired the hall for use last Friday only to change the date to yesterday. But CPC spokesman Yinka Odumakin debunked the claim, saying the party booked for Monday and paid the fee, which the mangers of the hall acknowledged.

All the gates leading to the ancient hall were locked and guarded by security men, who turned people back.

The podium built by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in front of the imposing edifice for its political rally was also kept under watch to prevent anyone from using it.

But, the CPC rally went on, attended by a sea of supporters who waited for over five hours for Buhari.

Buhari arrived at the venue at about 5.30pm. He promised the provision of infrastructure, such as good roads, water, railways and other social amenities. He declred the PDP a failure.

Buhari said the CPC had come to effect the needed change across the country and to end the suffering of the masses.

He promised life more abundant, jobs and free education. He urged Nigerians to organise themselves well and ensure that their votes count.

Said Buhari: “Nigerians, we all know what our main problems are now. We are going to renew the state of infrastructure and ensure we have good roads, railways, water and make provision of all necessities of life to make our lives easier. That is why I’m saying that you need to vote for CPC the party that will make all these provisions available for this nation.”

His running-mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who spoke in Yoruba, said Nigerians’ problems were compounded by the PDP, “the party that has brought untold hardship on the people of Nigeria”.

According to him, there is wide-scale corruption, embezzlement, fraud and poor governance by the ruling party.

He urged the crowd to send the ruling party packing with their votes, saying the CPC will ensure free and qualitative education, wealth creation and better life for the people. Juju musician Shina Peters entertained the crowd.

His words “We have visited the Alake (of Egbaland), the Osile (of Oke Ona), and the Olubadan and they assured us that the CPC would make it. That this election is a possibility for the CPC. Pastor Enoch Adeboye has prayed for us and we are assured of victory,” he said.

Buhari presented the party’s flag to the governorship candidates in Oyo and Lagos states, Mr. Bayo Shittu and Mr. Abayomi Mumuni.

Apart from visiting the Olubadan, Oba Samuel Odulana, the presidential campaign team was in Abeokuta where it visited two traditional rulers and Governor Gbenga Daniel.

“The 2011 contest is not between the CPC and the PDP; it is between the honest and the dishonest men, experienced people and those who are lucky.

“It is a contest between the incorruptible and the corruptible, a contest between the promise makers and the promise breakers and, by the grace of God, by the support of the Kabiyesi and the people, we will conquer,” Bakare said.

He spoke at the palace of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Michael Adedotun Gbadebo.

Bakare said the campaign team’s brief visit to Ogun state was part of the activities for their campaign rally in the Southwest and deemed it worthy to visit the monarch.

He described Buhari as a transparent and honest man, who Nigeria needs now.

Said Bakare: “I have no doubt in my mind that working with Buhari will bring the desired change that the nation is yearning for.”

At the governor’s office, Daniel described the Buhari/Bakare ticket as “depicting a combination of talents and a formidable team”.

Buhari, in a brief address identified security, unemployment and corruption as some of Nigeria’s major problems. He promised to tackle them headlong, if elected into office.

Buhari also promised that CPC administration, if voted into power, would ensure accountability and transparency at all levels of government.

MEND Says It Plans To Attack Oil Installations; Targets Abuja And Lagos

 By SaharaReporters, New York 

 

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta issued a statement tonight claiming that the movement plans elaborate attacks against oil installations in the Niger Delta region as well as the federal capital territory and Nigeria’s commercial nerve center, Lagos.

See statement below:The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) will soon commence with simultaneous bomb blasts and attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta and other strategic locations in Abuja and Lagos states of Nigeria.

Due to our commitment to avert avoidable loss of lives, advance warnings for immediate evacuation as previously will be issued and a final warning thirty (30) minutes prior to the blasts, after which will follow a statement of claim in line with our modus operandi.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) advises the general public in the strongest of terms, to stay clear from all political gatherings or meetings of any sort.

It should be recalled in our last Independence Day bomb blast that it was due to the callousness of the Nigerian security services and ignorance of the general public that led to the fatality.

Again, anyone who chooses to ignore this warning does so at their own peril as the aftermath of these blasts will be catastrophic.

The government of Goodluck Jonathan has shown its unwillingness to address the key issues of the Niger Delta but chosen instead, to continue doling out bribes to thugs and plunder the resources of the Niger Delta into his presidential campaign while deceiving the world and Nigerians that there is peace in the Niger Delta.

Our revolution like our fellow brothers in Northern Africa will start with the crippling of the Nigerian oil industry to flush out all Western oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region and the simultaneous bomb blasts never anticipated in the history of this country.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta salutes the courage and dedication of its fighters who have against all odds persisted in the fight for justice.

Jomo Gbomo

 

The Youth: Can Presidential Candidates Afford To Ignore The New Political Force In Town

whataboutusnigeria.org

Last year Ngozi Okonjo Iweala uttered a fact that sent a shudder through the youth population of Nigeria. She let the youth know that they comprised a whopping 70% of Nigeria’s population. Seventy percent?? How could this be? The schools were dilapidated, the youth unemployed, and none of the leaders looked like they’d been a youth in decades.

This fact sent a ripple through the Nigerian Youth community, forcing them to ask themselves how could a majority so vast have been impoverished for so long, and how had this strong majority allowed this to happen? The youth had been clearly underrepresented, but one glaring question rose up, how many of them had actually gone out to vote?

This year the youth were determined to change that, coming out in droves, with estimated 65% of the electorate said to be between the ages of 18 and 35. This election wouldn’t pass them by without them casting their vote. Then there was another dilemma. Who would they cast their vote for? Nigerian politicians have historically spewed vague rhetoric, never really saying what their plans were to fix Nigeria. It only made sense that the unseen change matched the unheard platform details, making every politician seemingly the same as the next. What did it really matter, the elections were rigged anyways.

For this reason Vote or Quench, Sleeves Up, Enough is Enough, Stand Up Naija, and various other youth led organizations came up with one phase of a solution in educating the youth electorate on the candidates, in the form of “What About Us?” the first Youth centered Presidential debate taking place on the 25th of March in Abuja.

The concept of the debate is to give the young electorate and the candidates an opportunity to engage in a direct conversation, with questions gathered from Nigerian youth at home and in the diaspora. The candidates were chosen by the Nigerian youth in a poll that ran for two weeks, along with the subjects to be addressed.

Anyone will tell you the process of arranging a debate is not an easy one, certainly when it comes to getting candidates to attend. Understandably so, with the schedules and campaigning, but I would like to examine what risks candidates risk take by shunning the youth debates.

I will have to repeat the estimate that 65% of the electorate is estimated to be between the ages of 18-35 years of age, a demographic that What About Us has directly engaged with. A demographic that trusts the information divulged by the coalition as all groups involved are those that serve as sources for news, and have worked to push for youth empowerment.

When four of the six candidates publicly accepted the invitation to debate of various social media outlets an immediate spike in their fans was detected. A level of mutual respect was felt, with the candidates understanding the value of the youth, and the youth understanding that these candidates actually cared about them, and wanted them to know that. Not by holding a rally, or giving them bags of rice, but by agreeing to come on a trusted youth created and managed transparent platform.

With this being said, for a candidate who the youth have selected to hear speak in a debate to not show up, may be seen as a slap in the face, especially with the promises of wanting to engage the youth on a social media platform, but shying away from doing so in real life. With the debate reaching millions of young Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, absentee candidates would be donating the youth vote to the present candidates, as they will be able to speak sincerely to the youth, from a platform that the youth look to for information.

You didn’t have to watch the NN24 Vice Presidential Debate in order to hear about the empty podium where our current Vice President should have been standing.

This defining act could be what will separate the new brigade of politicians from the old. The new politicians with the conviction and confidence to address the youth unprepared. The new politicians that are forward thinking enough that they realize the power in what used to be a silent majority. The new politicians who genuinely care to address the concerns of the youth.

So the only question left to ask those candidates with pending invitations: Do you think it is in your best interest to ignore the devastatingly large and powerful youth electorate that is loudly screaming “What About Us?”

Some food for thought.

 

Odds Against PDP And Jonathan Increasing By The Day

By Ms Eno Ntuk

No matter the angle one looks at it, Jonathan should be pitied for venturing into the 2011 presidential race. It would have paid him and all if he ignored the voices of sycophants and greedy minds and position self for another two-term of eight years possible from 2015.

Had he adhered to his party’s constitution, he would have been in that good position. He has now made mince meat of any minority hoping to be Nigerian president in any foreseeable future.

The greed and sentiments that has brought him thus are now turning his albatross. There are double-speaks other albatrosses: Leaning on Obasanjo has worsened his struggle. There are other instances too numerous to mention here but few are: His bad economic pronouncements, for example, unbanning importation of toothpicks, bottled water, 15-year old vehicles, textiles, etc; the banning and unbanning of Nigeria from international football; absolving the MEND while at the same time prosecuting the MEND boss and associates for the October 1st bombing. All these are pointers that President Jonathan may be groping. People are now asking: Can Nigeria afford to go through this for the next four years?

Again the carnival-like campaigns by Jonathan/Sambo have continued to be not in PDP’s favour. With tangential issues to speak on in almost all the outings other than promises which people are now judging him by many failed issues and renege on promises. Muzzling opposition and general insecurity are also counting against PDP. At Kaduna stadium people walked out on Jonathan. In Nassarawa, his convoy was stoned by the youths. In Port Harcourt he unwittingly remained in agreement with his security aides who locked the gates of the stadium where Akwa Ibom politicians sprayed Naira at the gates leading to loss of many lives; this assumption is now gaining ground because President Jonathan has not bothered to release the outcome of the presidential panel he set up. Jonathan’s PDP is losing States, going by what has so far gone on now with rallies like in Akwa Ibom which has proven that the State is now ACN and no more PDP. The situation in Ogun State is there; forget the window dressing settlement between Obj and OGD. Jonathan’s campaign in Yola was greeted with almost an empty stadium. All these are pointers that all is no better with Jonathan and PDP.

I Endorse Muhammadu Buhari For President

By Sonala Olumhense

 


I HEREBY announce my support of Muhammadu Buhari for President of Nigeria. He is credible, and capable of changing Nigeria for the better.

Is Buhari an angel? No. Indeed, I have criticized him in the past. I have expressed my disappointment that people of his generation and background act as if they are all that Nigeria has got.

That argument is still valid. At the April elections, however, he will be the best that Nigeria has got. Everyone knows that next month’s election will be the most critical in Nigeria’s history. It will show whether we have learned anything from our own history or not, and therefore whether we are determined to move forward or not.

Of the lessons we have learned, the elections will show, most of all, whether we have learned what I call the David Hill lesson. As editor of the London Weekend, Mr. Hill wrote a column in which he considered the question as to why people would do the same thing over and over again but expect different results. He wondered why a man who struck his own thumb with a hammer twice would expect not to experience the same excruciating pain the second time. That is the same question Nigerians must answer in less than one month from now.

My answer is: Yes, if you clobber your thumb with that hammer, you are going to feel the same screaming and searing pain all over again. Actually, the pain will feel worse the second time because—unless you are of considerably languid intelligence— your brain would have informed you ahead of time about just how much of a fool you are and how bad the agony is going to be.

Demographically, two kinds of people will offer their support to Goodluck Jonathan in April. The first comprises of beneficiaries of the incompetent, corrupt and unpatriotic system that has grounded Nigeria since 1999, and which Jonathan unapologetically represents. Of this category, no persuasion is possible. Such supporters are the golddiggers who dig for themselves and see in the atrocious manipulation that gave us Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan the perpetuation of that system. For them, there is no bigger picture, and no Nigeria.

But by themselves, they will not be able to put Jonathan back in Aso Rock where, while Yar’Adua lasted, he was so disrespected he was known as the “social prefect.” They will need the full cooperation of the second category: the fools.

This second category comprises of masochists who will vote against the best interest of their own children and their country by giving their ballot to Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). By doing so, they will be authorizing Jonathan to pick up that hammer the second time as they stick out their thumbs, telling him, “Hurt me, sir! Hurt me again! Hurt me, I am a fool!”

And Jonathan will. Jonathan will hurt the people of Nigeria because in the past 12 years, and through agents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and himself, the party has proved that the mission of the PDP is the PDP.

The PDP provides privately for the PDP, and prescribes punishment for others. And it is because Jonathan will implement that agenda without question that he is carrying what his wife Patience Jonathan advertises at campaign stops as “umblerah” (umbrella). Obasanjo spent eight years carrying it, and he left Nigeria in the dark ages; Obasanjo is following Jonathan around to make certain Jonathan will not deviate. Anyone giving his vote to Jonathan gives him the permission to serve the PDP, to protect its army of crooks and looters, and to spend the federal treasury until it is empty.

A Nigerian may vote Jonathan for a plethora of “reasons,” but in the end, each of them will be found to be selfish or narrow. In the end, none of them will be truly an intelligent argument. The man has no record of character, patriotism or commitment. He is long on promises but extremely short on performance. As soccer coach Chris Udemezue used to say, [a player] cannot do in a match what he was unable to do in practice. Jonathan is not going to give Nigeria in May what he has not given since Yar’Adua died.

Buhari can stretch out one of his long hands and arrest the drift. At this time in our history, his candidature is the wisest, the most promising, and the most logical. He has honour, discipline and strength of character: attributes every great leader must have but which are not a currency of the PDP.

Furthermore, Buhari knows what is wrong with this country, and knows what to do about it, an insight he demonstrated when—as Head of State between 1983 and 1985—he led a memorable assault on indiscipline and excess in public life.

Nigeria needs in office a leader whose word will command respect; a leader who will not speak out of both sides of his mouth; a leader who will deploy power in the national interest and not in the massaging of his own bloated ego and the greed of his friends.

Nigeria needs a leader who is capable of holding himself and those around him to high standards of accountability and performance, not one who simply preaches about them in public.

Nigeria needs a man who has demonstrated he can stand up to Nigeria’s army of the rich and influential, not one whose friends, colleagues and mistresses are exempt from the law.

Nigeria needs a man who will be consistent from day to day, not one for whom right and wrong depends on the company or the time of day. Nigeria needs a man who can tell opportunity from opportunism; a man who can resist the greed, insensitivity and ethical nothingness that now defines the country.

There are many people asking to be president of Nigeria next May, but only Buhari truly meets these basic considerations. Only he answers the question: “Who is Nigeria’s best hope for halting and reversing the deterioration and decay?”

Only he can change the questions and seek new answers. He can bring in new men and women of character, and throw open a genuine new beginning anchored on public service. He can slam the doors on indolence and compromise, and unlock the cellars where the PDP hopes the bodies will never be discovered.

I wholeheartedly endorse his candidature for President of Nigeria because he has the capacity to bring a sense of responsibility and mission to governance. If he does, implementing budgets and policies will become standard, and good men and women will have a place in our nation head of the mob of monsters.

All of this is possible because Buhari has character. In Pastor Tunde Bakare, he has also chosen another man of integrity. Through action, not loud rhetoric, they can correct the principal weaknesses that have made Nigeria an underachieving and under-developing country.

I have never met Buhari or spoken to him. But I have observed him closely for the better part of three decades, and I know that what he offers is superior to the weaknesses those who fear his ascendancy are eager to cite.

Buhari is different. As I preached to complete strangers at Bar Beach in Lagos last week, he is the missing link, and he is an opportunity. I endorse him enthusiastically.

[email protected]

 

A Festival Of Goats

By Reuben Abati

“FIDELIA Njeze must go” “Who is that?” “You see, you don’t know her. That is part of my point. For your information, she is the Minister of Aviation.”

“Am I supposed to know her? I stopped caring about who occupies what position a long time ago. They are all the same.”

“Precisely my point. How do we run a successful country if Nigerians no longer care who it is that is in public office on their behalf?”

“So what has this Fidelia woman done to you, that you want her out of office? Are you consulting for one of the aviation sector unions, because I smell a rat? How can you just wake up and start campaigning against another man’s wife?”

“I am talking about how goats took over the runway of the Bauchi airstrip under her watch?”

“Come off it. It is not the duty of a Minister to chase goats off the runway. To the best of my knowledge, there is no nomadic content to her job description. And this is not a Fidelia Njeze problem. She is Minister of Aviation, yes, but she didn’t send the goats to the runway, and in any case, this is not the first time that this has happened. In 2006, an Air France aircraft ran into a herd of cows on the runway of the Port Harcourt airport. You didn’t call for the head of the Minister of Aviation then. A few years earlier, another aircraft nearly ran into human beings on the runway. I also recall that someone once drove a car through a security gate onto the runway and crashed into an aircraft. This is Nigeria. This is Nigeria. Anything can happen. And things happen.”

“Meaning what? Does that mean when people do not do their jobs, we should not criticize them because inefficiency and underperformance have become national modes?”

“If you ask me, I will like to know what happened to the goat meat. The goats died instantly. Fresh meat! Correct meat. Who took the goats away? What did they do to the goats? You will recall that when a similar incident occurred in Port Harcourt, there was a big scramble for free beef, even the security officials abandoned their duty posts and struggled to carve some meat for their wives’ soup pots. Who took the Bauchi goats away? Did Fola Adeola, the man who would have been killed because of goats enjoy the privilege of taking the unfortunate goats home for pepper soup, asun, and nkwobi to celebrate his survival? Did he enjoy the free meat? A high-powered investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the goat incident must unravel this!”

“You are a very stupid man, I am sorry to say. You think everything is a joke? You think if the incident had been worse than that; there would not have been serious trouble in the country? Knock on wood, if the goats had capsized the aircraft and there had been fatalities, you don’t imagine that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) would have accused the PDP of sending the goats to eliminate ACN chieftains? Someone would have insisted that the goats were bleating: pee dee pee, pee deee peee, as they trotted onto the runway? And won’t the Yoruba have insisted that there was a deliberate plan to eliminate a prominent Yoruba son?”

“You like to imagine things. Anything is possible in a Nigerian airport. Have you not seen people planting and harvesting vegetables right next to runways. And what is the big deal about ACN anyway or your brother Fola Adeola? People die every day because of this election.”

“Precisely my point. People should not die because of elections, and definitely not at airports. If we have a Minister of Aviation, her priority should be to address those issues. Go round the country’s airports. They are terrible. Take the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, that place is an eyesore. I was seeing a friend off yesterday, you know we couldn’t find a place to sit down and wait for her flight to be announced. I went to the toilets, I couldn’t spend a second; I rushed out. The odour alone could send you to the hospital for contracting an air-borne disease. And oh my God, the place is so hot. No air-conditioning. Other airports are worse. And I ask myself: what has Fidelia Njeze done?”

“No. I think you just don’t like the woman. This is an anti-Igbo agenda. You people like to criticize Igbos. Just because an aircraft chartered by a Yoruba party deputy presidential candidate ran into goats in Bauchi, you want an Igbo woman punished, did Jonathan appoint her to go and mind goats and cows?”

“This is the problem with public debate in Nigeria. The so-called educated class stopped thinking a long time ago. I am raising serious questions about the aviation industry and one woman’s incompetence, but here you are, ethnicizing it. Is it only the Yoruba that use airports? Don’t Igbos also use Nigerian airports? If it pleases you, Kema Chikwe in retrospect looks like a very good Minister of Aviation. In her time, the air conditioning at the country’s main airports worked. When one Omotoba got there, things stopped working. So, why can’t your sister at least fix the air conditioners, fix the luggage carousels, arrange seating areas, do perimeter fencing of all the airports in the country, get FAAN and NCAAA to work, and move the aviation sector away from an entrenched rent-collection culture; I mean, can we have some common sense in the industry before people get killed for nothing?”

“Leave her alone. People always get killed for nothing in Nigeria. It is the system, not the Minister. You are criticizing Fidelia Njeze, you won’t criticize your own brother, who went to beg Obasanjo.”

“Who?”

“The ogidi child”

“You mean OGD?”

“Yes”.

“You this kobokobo. He is not ogidi child. He is ogidi omo.

“You dey craze. Is Yoruba my language? Ogidi child, and ogidi omo. What is the difference? Okeke and Okereke. Okoro and Okoroafor. You think I don’t have sense? I see you don’t like to criticize your own people.”

“Okay what has OGD done?”

“What has he not done? He went to beg Obasanjo. He prostrated. I read in the papers that he has asked his boys went to PPN to return immediately to PDP, and that he is now supporting the Obasanjo faction. What is that?”

“What is what?”

“He prostrated.”

“What is your problem with that? Obasanjo is old enough to be his father. In Yorubaland, we prostrate to our fathers, we don’t wake them up with a kick as some other Nigerians do.”

“So is Ogidi going to prostrate to all the people he has quarreled with? Is he going to withdraw the cases in court against the PDP and INEC?”

“My friend, you don’t understand politics. Things are not always what they seem. As a politician, you must learn to stoop to conquer. And when you lose, you can change strategy. And then re-strategize, and don’t tell me please that goats on the Bauchi runway and lack of air-conditioning and seating space in our airports is a strategy. I don’t want to hear that.

“Strategy? Tell me. But since you know it all, I’ll like to hear something about principles.”

“Go and sit down. Okay, Ogidi went to beg Obasanjo and Jonathan was able to visit Ogun state and have a successful outing. The civilized and united people of Ogun state did not stone him. His helicopter landed, his vehicles arrived, no goats stood in their way, no area boys harassed anybody. Nobody threw bombs. It is the triumph of the OGD strategy at work. Nigerians don’t understand politics. And you don’t. You obviously don’t know jack about politics. You see, politics is very complex, it is not a straight route…”

“And sometimes, it can be a tsunami”

“Don’t joke about that please. What is happening in Japan is not a joke. As a human being, I feel deeply pained.”

“It can’t happen here.”

“Don’t say that. We are all part of a common humanity, and the world is dealing with the challenge of climate change. It is an issue on which Nigeria should be pro-active.”

“Nigeria is covered by the Blood of Jesus. No weapon fashioned by any demon or principality or agent of the Devil shall prosper against us.”

“Are you okay? I am talking science, you are quoting something else”.

“Blood of Jesus. I rebuke every spirit of Tsunami, I bind the spirit of climate change and cast it into hell-fire.”

“All of this, just because I said Nigeria should try and learn from what is happening in Japan? To move Nigeria forward, we obviously have to worry about the goats in human skin who are no different from the goats on the runway.”

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing?”

“Helloo ooo oh.”

“What?”

“Can you come back to reality zone? I think the biggest tragedy that has befallen this country is how some of its so-called elite have ended up on the religious runway. You can’t have a proper discussion without the entire thing being reduced to either ethnicity or religion. The latter is almost worse than the former. Just look at you. With all your brilliance, when you start this your thing about being an Igbo nationalist and being a Christian, I simply lose you. And yet you are a fine human being and a good person.”

“You are insulting me because I said your brother prostrated to OBJ? Go and remind him that Atiku also begged the Ebora oh.”

“There is a difference between a son and a rival.”

“Obasanjo dey laugh o. Me sef, I dey laugh oh.”

“Laughter can make somebody lose his teeth oh.”

“Talking seriously now, looks like Gaddafi is winning the battle in Libya.”

“In the long run, he will lose the war.”

“How?”

“He has been demystified. For him, the countdown to exit has begun. It is a question of when?”

“And Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire?”

“Same of the same.”

“Very much like Nigerian politics”

“Tell me.”

“In Niger state, the police stopped a rally of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The Police don’t want change. In Ebonyi state, the Governor Martin Elechi reportedly stopped the ANPP from launching its presidential campaign in Abakaliki; in Benue, the PDP state government forced the ACN to shift its planned rally from Makurdi to Gboko.”

“Our politicians have gone mad again. Imagine throwing stones at the President’s convoy, an act bothering gingerly in my view on the fringes of sedition and treasonable felony.”

“Hey, sedition is dead law.”

“But the Presidency is a living institution. When next anybody stones the President’s convoy, I give the security agencies the permission to fire on sight.”

“True, true, craze dey worry you. Ogbnge craze.”

“Me, I dey kampe. All the craze people are in government and in politics.”

“And their friends are in journalism.”

“You say?”

“At your own risk.”

“No. No. The presidency according to one story is worried that there is a plan by the opposition to use the media to discredit the 2011 polls. People believe you journalists are part of the problem.”

“Who is a journalist?”

“People like you.”

“These days we are all journalists, you know?. You don’t need more than a cell phone, ipad, or a computer. With a cell phone, you can take photographs, you can send bulk mail, you can create news; with a computer or ipad, you can create fiction and impose it on the world wide world, and get accolades for being cynical. So?”

“And so?”

“Knowing the truth is becoming more and more difficult”

“How do we build a country without certain truths”

“Well, you can answer that. That’s an assignment for your Blood of Jesus”.

“The Blood of Jesus is about…”

“Please, I have to take my drugs, Looks like my malaria fever is about to relapse. Please. Please.”

“I cover you with the Blood of Jesus. Blood of Jesus… sha baba ababba ra, ebora massahha ah …Father, I beseech you.. for you are the Lord of Lords, rock of refuge”

 

Let’s crash this democracy–Pat Utomi

From Mariam Aleshinloye-Agboola, Jos

•Nigeria is dying

For years, Professor Pat Utomi has advocated for a change in a system he was convinced was decaying. Today, he is exasperated at a nation and its leaders unperturbed by the US prediction that Nigeria may cease to be one in a few years.

The former Director of Lagos Business School and Presidential candidate of Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), in this interview with Magazine Editor, Shola Oshunkeye says he is convinced that what we have is no democracy and it is high time we dismantled it otherwise…

How has it been on the campaign trail?


The campaign comes as expected with many challenges but it also comes with a very firm promise in that it elevates your consciousness on why this is such an important exercise. Everyday I discover why our country unfortunately has not made much progress in spite of God’s grace.
I have particularly been struck by a number of things in recent times that go to the heart of the matter and sometimes people talking on the streets don’t connect to those kinds of things. Sometimes our elders, politicians and so-called business leaders either don’t get it or pretend not to but it’s going to catch up with all of us very soon.

Let me give you a couple of things that entered my universe of thinking in the last four days. I was reading a report from Brazil in one of our newspapers, about people trying to get the former President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva prosecuted. As you know, Da Silva was an extremely popular president who worked very hard for the Brazilian people. Everything was booming. This is a hero but Brazilians have gone to court saying that while he was president he went somewhere or something and after he came back the presidency sent out thank you notes to those he saw and they said that he did at government expense what should be a private matter. They have gone to court for him to be prosecuted for using public funds to send out thank you notes.

Now while he was still president, da Silva flew from Brazilia, the capital to Rio on official assignment. It happened that his party was having a party caucus or something in Rio. He stopped over and attended, while he was still incumbent. Some people went to court that he used public money for party matter and the court ruled against him and refunded the cost of fueling the plane. The Jonathan government has crippled the Nigerian government. All the public resources of our country are being used to prosecute private personal political campaign of the PDP. The state governors have pillaged the treasuries to advance their political interest.

So you see the collapse of the civil society is part of Nigeria’s trouble. Civil society has collapsed just like almost everything else in our country. So I look at Brazil, I look at Nigeria and I can understand why today we talk about BRIC economies; Brazil, Russia, India, China. Nobody is putting “N” in it or calling it BRINC because nobody thinks Nigeria is going anywhere. Secondly, on Saturday I was flying to Abuja and there was a small guy in Agbada surrounded by two other guys on the plane. I was wondering who he was, there was evident movement that tried to suggest that he was of some kind of importance but I didn’t pay any attention. He didn’t look like somebody I had ever met.

I was sitting in seat 1A and he sat maybe two rows behind. When we landed, there was this rush to come to the door for them to be the first people to exit. So, I stepped back so that we the lesser citizens will wait for them to go out. As we disembarked, we saw a big crowd with cameras and they started yelling oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, ah, ah. So I asked the managing partner of KPMG who was also on the flight who the short guy was and he told me it was the former MD of NPA that was released from prison that day with Bode George. He started telling me the Bode George story because I didn’t follow the thing, and I didn’t watch it. he said it was live on TV.

Now in any country where you want to bring young children up and you show them people being released from prison when it wasn’t for treasonable felony or a political trial. Whichever way you look at it, it was for stealing, simplicita. And all I could think of was a friend of mine from Shagamu who was telling a story of growing up in Shagamu in the late 1950s and somebody in the neighbourhood sighted a policeman going into a house. It wasn’t that they knew he did anything, the policeman was seen going to their house and they became lepers in the community. Nobody would associate with them because a policeman was seen going to their house.

Now I see people who are coming out of prison for criminal offence being celebrated on Live Television as if they were war heroes and I definitely knew something was wrong with the heart and soul of my country. Values shape human progress. If we have gotten that wrong, progress can’t take place.

Why can’t Professor Pat Utomi just be contented with going to the Senate and putting all his intellectual values at the disposal of his people at that level?
That is the worst question to ask because that is one place I will never want to be. God will prevent me from being in such a place.
Why?

What has the Senate ever done of any value in Nigeria?

Because people believe that with people like you and others who are of like minds coming in…
We have a fundamental problem. We have to bring this system down completely and rebuild.

How do you mean bring it down completely?

Destroy it.

Crash the democratic system?

Crash the whole thing. It is not working for Nigeria, it will not work for Nigeria.

So how do we crash it?

By proving to the world that it’s a joke. That is what this is about.

We have spent close to twelve years…
Of a joke. Show me one road that has been completed in Nigeria in 12 years. One road. The dualisation of theLagos-Ibadan Expressway? One Canadian diplomat was coming to a meeting with the Concerned Professionals and other Civil Society Groups three years ago and he had gone to speak to some group in Ibadan. When he arrived the meeting, he said that driving on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is a violation of the fundamental human rights of all those who travel on it.

The Lokoja/Abuja dualisation has been going on for more than eight years, it has killed half of Nigeria, literally speaking, and it’s not completed. It’s not working, the system is not working, and the country is not working. Why are we fooling ourselves?

Essentially because there are no viable institutions
Absolutely. This democratic system is just a gangster arrangement for extracting economic rent from the system. It is not working.

You just prescribed that we should crash this democratic experiment, what is the alternative?

First of all we need a new constitution. All this patching is not working. We need to start from ground level.
You need to have a system that is owned by the people. Have you ever seen a country where the people are so completely alienated from governance? The people don’t feel that the government is for them or about them. Anybody you talk to just shrugs: ‘God will catch them one day.’

So for me my role is essentially to highlight the fact that this is not a working system. You talked about Senate and all that, when I started out, my goal was to see if we could build an alternative institution, a political party that brings together progressive forces. When you have that kind of viable political force with a complete agenda of again literally starting afresh, then you can make progress.

When I woke up January 1, 2010, my New Year resolution, which I told my wife, was I’m not running for anything. I am out of it. I’ve worked with young people for so long. I will continue to work with young people in one way or the other to shape their mind so they can realize they can rebuild their country. But I kept getting pulled in. you know this Chief Enahoro’s idea, build a mega summit movement I was just a follower.

One day I traveled, came back and was told I was chairman. I said oh is that the story? On another day, I was told that I have to be candidate because they need somebody to rally around to make the point I have been making about constructing a new Nigeria, so I said okay oh. But you see what is required is so fundamental and requires commitment. We have a dying country. People don’t realise it but we have a dying country.

This is hypothetical. Do you think it will do us well if we shift the elections and go into that conference to re-arrange things before we can say we are ready?

It is hypothetical, as you say. But they won’t do it. We are going to have an election and it is going to be a complete mess.

Jega or no Jega?

Jega or no Jega. You see, that is another part of Nigeria’s problem; this turning to Jega. What we need are strong institutions not strong men. We are obsessed with strong men. Where will Jega be? How many places can he be? They will run rings round him so much he will just be wondering what is happening.

Is Jega’s constant demand for more money part of the confusion?

That is one of the reasons I say we should crash this system. What I mean is that we have to change it completely. We cannot run such an expensive democracy. We are now living for the democracy instead of the democracy living for us. Let us go back to the parliamentary system where a group of us in our village nominate one guy who we think is good for our village to go and represent us for a total cost of next to nothing. If he doesn’t do well, he comes back. This system is not working.

You sound thoroughly sad

When I was growing up, I was raised in a country of promise. I grew up expecting the world. As I am entering the sunset of my life, I looked back and all the promises have failed. Look, (Ben) Nwabueze, a professor of constitutional law, an extra-conservative man in his 70s, says Nigeria must have a revolution. That there is no way out but a revolution! This is not a flippant statement. He is conservatism personified and he is 70, saying revolution is inevitable. He is not mad. He is talking about a country that has failed and the only thing that can save it is upturning the system.

Politicians have been campaigning but a lot of Nigerians say they are just making noise…

We have not had campaigns in this country. At the risk of sounding funny, I was the only one who campaigned in 2007. I was considered a joke but I was the only one who campaigned in the sense that Americans campaign. Maybe because I didn’t have money. I had three or four vehicles and we went round this country. I was in every state in this country in 2007… I was in Kano at least five times. At least on three occasions I travelled between Kano and Abuja about 11pm by road. I see people jump into an airplane to Adamasingba Stadium with a huge crowd of people that they had paid and given uniforms. They clown around for 45 minutes and go. That is not campaigning. They are just making a joke.

What do you think the media is not doing right?

The media should point out that what PDP is doing is not called campaigning; that it is a charade, a circus. A ruling party runs on its record, an opposition party runs on its vision, the strength of his vision. Compare the vision of the opposition with the record of the incumbent. Of course, as you know, PDP cannot run on its record. There is no record to run on. It has destroyed the country.

Call one PDP trustee and ask him to show how the quality of life of the average Nigerian is better today than it was in 1999, even him cannot justify it. Everybody knows that life expectancy in Nigeria is worse today than it was in 1999. Everybody knows that infant mortality in Nigeria is one of the worst in the world. Everybody knows that Nigeria is almost at the bottom of the African competitiveness index, that Nigeria’s economy is one of the least competitive economies in Africa. Ironically, Tunisia, where this crisis started from, is Africa’s most competitive economy. So you can imagine in Africa’s least competitive economy, Nigeria, what should be happening.

I think our problem is oil. Because it can be used to service the greed of a few and make them bent on worsening our lives it continues. The Economist interviewed me in 1996 when Abacha was in power and I said I wished Nigeria could find a way of giving the oil to its soldiers and politicians and say tackle this, leave Nigeria, leave us alone and go away that Nigeria will be more prosperous. Because oil services this corrupt bureaucracy and political machine there is a semblance like we are functioning. If it was not there Nigerians will know that they either have to build their future or they will become Somalia and I’m sure that they will vote for building their future and Nigeria will be a truly prosperous country. The endowments of this country are enormous. The endowments that can make this country truly great even without oil are phenomenal.

What are you bringing to the table in your campaign?

Ideas are the most important thing to bring to an election campaign. Barack Obama is president of United States not because of anything else he brought to the table but because he can think. You know in Nigeria they think the intellect is a disadvantage. They call it theory, but there is no practice without theory. You have to think out, see the possibility before you can put it to practice.

Nigerian politicians who are very anti-intellectual have managed to convince Nigerians, including journalists, that thinking is theory. So we have a serious problem. The problem we have is the collapse of culture. The value system has crashed completely and Nigerians cannot even tell right from wrong, what makes for progress or what distracts from. It is not that there are no roads.

So it boils down to poverty of the mind

Poverty of the mind, ultimately. In fact, I will show you the message from a priest who read the piece I had in The Guardian. He was very frustrated. He said: “Prof, your message is good but my fear is that you are talking to a people whose minds are closed. Most of our leaders are sick and their sickness is chronic poverty of the mind.

They simply cannot understand the things you say because they are blind and you are thinking normally in a country where people are so accustomed to thinking upside down. Can you imagine the hero’s welcome given to Bode George? Can’t you see the level of mental poverty and decay? Anyway don’t be discouraged because there are still some sane minds who know and appreciate the truth. Regards. Monsignor.”

What is your assessment of INEC?

To be fair, we really don’t have any empirical basis for evaluation. The only thing I know that I can evaluate is the voters’ registration exercise. It had its flaws and aany things were corrected. Overall, it left you afraid and worried about a few things. But I think the taste of the pudding is in the eating. So we may have to wait until after the elections to be able to evaluate them fairly.

What will be your priority in the first six months if you are elected President?

Job creation. But you know the beauty of job creation is that you will be solving several problems at once. When you create jobs, they won’t be doing those jobs entertaining themselves. The jobs will be solving other problems. The primary way to create jobs quickly is infrastructure development. Anybody who is a serious observer will notice that our infrastructure continue to decay in an extraordinary manner. The contracting process is so fundamentality corrupted in this country. But massive effort at infrastructure development will immediately create several million jobs.

First of all, you have take people off the streets.
As I said before, the corruption in the contracting system has made it difficult. One simple way you can solve this problem is to take it away from the contracting system. For instance, iif you want to do Lokoja/Abuja dualisation, you don’t go to the Ministry of Works to award contracts to whoever. There are people who have their own money around the world who are willing to come and build a road and collect toll. But those people will not come to Nigeria. Most of the roads in Malaysia, Indonesia are all built that way. But they won’t come to Nigeria because there is so much uncertainty here.

They don’t know if the next election takes place the man nominated by this governor will not say I cancel that road arrangement because Nigerian elite have grown up feeding on corrupt extraction of rent. So they keep cancelling contracts and re-awarding. No serious business around the world will take that risk for something you collect your toll over 25 or 50 years. So they won’t come.

How do you change that? When we still had 60 something billion dollars in our reserves, I was on a flight with Chukwuma Soludo, then governor of Central Bank, and I said to him, now that you people have all this cash, instead of just keeping the thing there why don’t you take $20billion and put it in whatever bank in Europe as collateral security?

You can then invite private infrastructure companies from Australia (because Australia remarkably are the leaders in that area) to come and do a coastal highway from Lagos all the way across the Atlantic coast. People can build hotels and there will be tourism explosion. You just collect your toll. If we misbehave at any point in time between now and 50 years during which you have toll you can go to international arbitration. If we are found guilty, they can share the money in the bank and pay back.

Just the demonstration effect will lead to a flood of people even whether the collateral is there or not anymore because it has already given the confidence to open things up. We will put millions of Nigerians to work building those roads and railways and all of that opening our country for more progress.
I thought you were going to mention power

Infrastructure is also power. I started with roads because that is what I talked about earlier. Do you know how much we have spent on power and still it is not working. Same logic for power as for roads; just the same thing. Power should be decentralized. You come and build your ten megawatts plant and be collecting your tariff or whatever people pay for electricity.

How about security?

Security is very critical, very important. I mean if people are not secured they cannot do anything. Again, I will decentralize policing in Nigeria. I will go for a fiscal arrangement where the federal government will provide grants to the states and the funding of the police force will be a state matter. We need a state police force not a federal one. Policing is about being in the community, knowing the thieves. If you are in Abuja and you are sending people to Akwa Ibom to protect them, they will collude with the kidnappers. When a man from Ikot Abasi is policing Ikot Abasi, he knows that it is his personal business and at first point he knows the families that steal.

So the police need to be adequately funded and decentralized. They will say politicians used the local police to harass their enemies in the 60s. That is a naïve argument. Don’t we use federal police to harass our enemies if we are the government in the centre? The way to deal with that is that whenever any issue involves fundamental human rights it immediately becomes a federal issue as it is in America.

So decentralize policing, invest heavily in creating a new police force, re-educate the policemen and make policing a prestige institution. Right now policing is seen as some thing for any drop out to go into. I have no problem making a university degree the minimum requirement to be a policeman because you need them to be enlightened to understand what they are doing. If all that you do with your budget as government is education, healthcare and security the country will make progress.

How would you tackle the waste in the system, for instance, by trimming the size of government in Nigeria?

Well I used to say that one of the first things I will do in the first six months is to slash government massively.

By how many per cent?

It is not a matter of percentage. If I really have my way it will be by 80 per cent. But it is not a matter of sacking people, moving them to other functions where they can do real work. Seven years ago, DFID (Department For International Development) invited me to make a presentation at their London office. They were really fascinated by some of the ideas that I expressed on over-bloated public service. I said it is true that we have an over-bloated civil service.

People are in Abuja doing nothing. For instance, the Ministry of Finance is full of people who don’t understand the first thing about finance. If I got rid of 80 per cent of the people in the ministry today, bring in a few serious professionals who understand finance to run the ministry at 20 per cent of the current work force, I don’t need to sack anybody actually. I will look at the profile of all of these people that we don’t need in the ministry and probably spend a little more money retraining them.

Can you imagine what would happen in many local governments if people like that were injected into the local government administration because local governments don’t have capacity? What they are doing is just share the money and it is not just because they are greedy. It is because if you even gave them a target they won’t be able to do it with the money because they don’t know how to do it; they don’t have capacity.

These roads we are talking about, that none has been completed in 12 years since 1999, is an indictment on the public service because every year they award contracts for roads and not one has been completed.
The only road that can be completed is the Abuja airport unnecessary road. Why are you spending billions to build a road that was okay? What the hell in the rush building a ten-lane highway to the airport? It was Dr Kolade who said this to me; he said it is presidential route. So what decides what Nigeria is doing is the route the president travels on when there are serious commercial arteries in this country that are unmotorable.

Where are our foreign reserves that were built up to such a huge level? It’s gone. Where is the excess crude account? It’s gone. What was it used to produce? There is no single road that is motorable in Nigeria. There is no viable institution that is working even the judiciary has become a disgrace. Where in the world do you find judges of that level exchanging words? Nothing is sacred anymore in Nigeria and you don’t think your country is dying? Celebrating prisoners, judges abusing each other, people taking money from the treasury to run their campaigns and all of that, no accountability, impunity. The country is impunity extraordinaire.

One day young people who have been out of work for ten years will revolt. These characters are saying it is not possible in Nigeria, Tunisia started because one guy out of work was so angry he set himself on fire. I can show five hundred thousand guys who have not been at work for seven years after graduation. You think that one day they won’t get together and start burning everything. The short sightedness of these fellows just beat me.
People who said revolution is impossible in Nigeria site the example that in Nigeria we are so polarized along ethnic lines, religious divides and there’s the influence of money that the people at the top use in dividing us …

How many of the millions of unemployed Nigerians get some of the money they share? How many can you share to? How much does Nigeria earn from crude oil? Countries don’t get rich from selling one commodity like oil, countries get rich from producing things. So how much is that crude if you begin to share it? And if there are 3-4million unemployed graduates, how much will you share to them to prevent 1 million of them coming together to bring the whole system down?
It’s just short sightedness.

This thing you have said Prof we will publish you verbatim when you said we have to crash this democracy
It’s not a democracy. It’s not working. It is not a democracy
Some over zealous security agents might interpret this to mean you are canvassing alternative form of change
So, they have to catch me doing something that is unconstitutional. They have a right to think, it’s a God-given right.

Okay let’s spell it out, how do you want us to crash this democracy and start to rebuild?

We have to sit before the Nigerian people and discuss where we are which is that we are nowhere. If so many millions of Nigerians are unemployed there is no constructive plan, don’t tell me I will vote 50billion for employment to get Nigeria working, the engine has knocked but we are pretending. You know when a person is in the hospital on life support system they think he is alive because there is life support.
In Nigeria there is a life support system called crude oil earning. The country has crashed. It’s all about how to share that life support and what eventually happens is that one day the doctor will pull the life support and death will officially be recognized but you were living dead anyway. That is what Nigeria is right now, a living dead on life support system of crude oil revenue.

Now if people are not able sit down and say politicians are not serving Nigeria, all of us politicians are not serving the Nigerian people, then what should they say? What is a democracy? And you don’t say it by taking up NTA airtime in song and dance. You say it by standing before the Nigerian people in town hall meetings one-on-one but they definitely won’t want it to happen. You think Nigerians will wait forever? If we don’t organize to have a true democracy, one day the youth will take it over.

Do you see that happening very soon?

I don’t know when it will happen but I am just talking as a scholar who has studied societies. I wrote a piece that was in the papers this weekend, the poverty conspiracy. All I am just trying to do is show you historically what has happened in other parts of the world. Argentina was at par with the United States in the 1930s by the 1990s Argentina was down to West African level GDP. It had moved from first world to the third. The US had gone on to become the world’s preeminent economy.
You don’t have to read Gerald Diamond to know that collapse has come to Nigeria. Unless there is a massive rethink Nigeria’s life support system is designed to last only for a short period, and what you’ll get is Somalia.

Somalia?

Nigeria is on the road to Somalia. Look at what is happening with Boko Haram, in Jos, the Niger Delta? We are using some money to sustain the so-called amnesty, how long can we continue that? Those same boys will resume. The governor of Niger was shouting the other day that Boko Haram people were coming to his state. All over the place warlords will be in charge just because the elite has not shown responsibility in the way it has governed the country.

A US report predicted a few years back that by 2015 Nigeria will be a failed state. Do you now see that happening?

It is not in my interest for that to happen. What I thought that prediction should have done is cause us as an elite to rally around and say our country must not go that way instead we just continued doing the same very things that will bring us to that point. Look there is an index a failed state index. The difference between Nigeria and Ghana is more than a hundred countries; Ghana is as far away from being a failed state as Nigeria is as close to being a failed state.

So don’t come four years from now and say ah they said in 2015 Nigeria will collapse. For many Nigeria is already a failed state.

Most South Easterners are so passionate about the homestead that they go home every month. They have their mass return in Easter, and everybody goes home for Christmas. I was at a meeting in Abuja of leading politicians from the South East; some of them had not been to their hometowns in three years because of insecurity primarily. What do you call a state that people are so in secure? A failed state.
So Nigeria is in serious trouble. I don’t want to get into the American prediction and all of that because people forget that that process is not that a group of Americans woke up one morning and said this state will be a failed state, you know how they produce those reports?

It’s global trend survey. It’s not about Nigeria. Every five years, and that is how serious countries work, they pull together the world’s smartest people to look at how the world is evolving; the trends, the possibilities, what will happen and when these people finish they take the data from their study, the US intelligence community then produces a report. And then they find some of the smartest people in the world to review that report and publish what they call global trend for the next five years. I have had the good fortune of being invited. I was the only one from sub-Saharan Africa invited that room included former European prime ministers. We spent one week together reviewing the latest global trend survey.
Nigeria in the eyes of the world has lost its relevance because it has had bad leaders, nothing else. But I cannot just roll over and die. Let history record that some Nigerians stood up and said our country cannot go on like this.

Prof when you look at the political field and you see all this retired generals, people with deep pockets and who have almost become veterans contesting for the presidency, are you intimidated?

Intimidated by their deep pockets?

Yes
Deep pockets have nothing to do with running a country.
Because you need loads of money
If I want to do it their way then I shouldn’t be informed in this business. My being in this business is an indictment of their way so if I do it their way what’s the point? I can as well go and become one of them. I have to do it differently.

Granted the way the Nigerian system works, your chances of becoming president or being sworn in on May 29, I’m sorry I’m not trying to discourage you
No, go ahead

You know your chances are so remote but by May 29 what would you have achieved by joining this race?

Let May 29 come first. Let it come.

I’m talking about you refocusing that you have spent all your energy, resources over the years, how do you intensify your efforts?

You know the thing that makes me feel my life has been worth living are not this huge things, they are the small things like waking up, being in airport which has happened to me a week before last in Washington DC and a young man running from somewhere, running up to me and I look at him, he turns out to be a Nigerian and he says are you Professor Pat Utomi? And I say yes. He says my life is what it is because of you.

You know you just look at yourself and say who am I? for me the amazing thing is that it happens with such frequency this days that I say God you must have a good sense of humor. What are you trying to communicate to me? I flew from Washington to Atlanta and as I was checking a fully kitted US Marine walks up and I was saying what have I done now that an American soldier wants to arrest me you know and he says excuse me sir are you Pat Utomi? And I said yes I am. I said see these Americans, now they have sent CIA to catch me.

He said I was actually sending you something on Facebook yesterday night.
I said you are sending me something on Facebook, which one concern me and you? Then he introduces himself. They were just arriving from Iraq. He is a US army doctor but he is Nigerian-born. So I talked with him a few minutes and he was very excited. He is in touch with me on Facebook and he goes on saying some extraordinarily kind things about without people like me, our country is dead and blah blah. I said thank you.

I get into the airplane. Coincidentally he is sitting right next to me. That one-hour plus flight to Atlanta we did talk. Then he said his family must meet me. So I went up with him; he was taking photographs. Look people were seeing him and as they were coming, you know the way Americans regard their soldiers. They were giving him flowers, all kinds but he was chaperoning me to go and take photograph with his wife. So when I go through moments like that, I say its been worth it. He is from Benin but he is a US Army doctor.

So looking back at the whole of your life now 55 years of your life do you have any regrets at all? Would you do what you have been doing all over again if you had the opportunity to?

You know that question whenever I am asked my response is not the typical one. Most people when they ask that question will say definitely if I live my life ten times I will do it all over again. I am not that em em what is the right word to use.

If I had to do it all over I probably will.

SSS moves against Northern Elders

By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor, EMMA UJAH & HENRY UMORU


ABUJA -The reconciliation move between the Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders Forum , NPLF, and President Goodluck Jonathan was severely damaged, yesterday, as the State Security Service, SSS arrested two key operational staff of the Forum.

The scribe who has just been released, said his arrest was political, as it was in connection with his comments on zoning.

The NPLF in a terse reaction said the President was not ready for peace though the State Security Service, SSS, which picked the men said the arrests were unconnected with politics.

NPLF secretary, Mallam Abdulkadir Bello, was arrested, Wednesday, a day before the scheduled meeting of the body where the key decision of whether the NPLF should support the President or not was to have been taken.

Another operational staff, Mallam Bibi Farouk, was arrested while the meeting of the NPLF was going on.

Confirmation of Abdulkadir’s arrest

The State Security Services, SSS, which confirmed the arrest of Abdulkadir, however, said their arrest had nothing to do with politics. There were indeed inferences of a fifth columnist working to sabotage the envisaged reconciliation between the President and the NPLF.

Yesterday’s meeting which was ongoing at press time followed the arrival from abroad of former Vice-President Abubakar on Wednesday evening.

The meeting was believed to be deliberating on the work of the seven-man joint committee jointly constituted by the President and the NPLF to bridge differences between the two sides. Vanguard learnt that a communiqué of the meeting would be released today.

SSS spokesperson, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, while admitting the arrest of the NPLF secretary, however, insisted that it had nothing to do with politics saying that membership of an organization was not a licence to carry out illegal activities.

She told Vanguard that Alhaji Abdulkadir was arrested as Alhaji Abdulkadir and that it had nothing to do with his position as Secretary of NPLF.

Ogar said: “Alhaji Abdulkadir was arrested as Alhaji Abdulkadir, not as Secretary of NPLF. People must not bring politics into this. Nobody should think that he will be allowed to do just whatever he likes because he is a member of any organization. It must be made very clear that this matter has nothing to with his position in the NPLF.”

She, nevertheless did not give the reason for the arrest.

The Ciroma-led NPLF had recently softened its denunciation of President Jonathan’s presidential aspiration and had met to take a decisive decision on whether or not to support the President.

The breakthrough followed the meeting early last month between President Jonathan and elements of the NPLF where it was resolved to set up a seven-man joint committee to articulate a working document to guide rapprochement between both sides.

The seven-man joint committee chaired by Magaji Dambatta was supposed to submit its report for the consideration of the President and the NPLF. NPLF sources, however, expressed regrets that possible reconciliation may have been put on hold with the arrest of the duo.

Sources said that Abdulkadir was arrested on Wednesday by operatives of the SSS in Abuja and taken to the headquarters of the security agency in the Asokoro area the same day. He was still being held by the SSS at press time yesterday.

Farouk was arrested while the meeting of the NPLF was on-going. It was, however, not confirmed whether he was arrested at the venue of the meeting.

Denouncing the arrest, yesterday, the NPLF in an unsigned statement made available to Vanguard said:
“This is in bad faith and tells a lie to President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt for rapprochement with Northern Political Leaders Forum.”

 

Judicial council denies suspension of chief justice

By Gowon Emakpe

 

The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday denied reports it has suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloysius Katsina-Alu, and president of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Isa Salami.

The council said it just constituted a panel to investigate allegations of gross misconduct leveled against the two men.

Danladi Halilu, secretary of the council, said the council, at its 5th emergency meeting, deliberated on the various petitions against Messrs Katsina-Alu and Salami and that after considering all the petitions and the comments by the two men and other Justices of the Court, it constituted a panel to investigate the allegations.

“Contrary to the media publications, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and President of the Court of Appeal were not suspended as members of council, neither was there any disagreement on the list of members of the panel presented.

“Further, the time-frame given to the panel to investigate and submit its report to the council is not three months as published in the media,” Mr. Halilu said.

He said in view of the number of petitions involved and the gravity of the allegations contained therein, the council gave the panel a time-frame of two months within which to submit its report.

He said members of the committee are former Court of Appeal president, Umaru Abdullahi, as chairman; E. O. Ayoola; D. O. Edozie; M. E. Akpiroroh; and Rakiya S. Ibrahim.

Mr. Halilu also said the council deliberated on the complaint by the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, and members of some political parties in respect of alleged abuse of ex-parte orders and conflicting orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

“The council, however, observed that no specific report, complaint, or petition has so far been forwarded to it against any particular judicial officer involved in granting frivolous injunctions and or conflicting orders, to enable it consider and take appropriate disciplinary action in that regard,” he said.

No one to sanction

He said it is on record that eight judges who had granted frivolous ex-parte injunctions in the past were dismissed from service on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

“It is to be stressed that in the absence of any proof of misconduct against a Judicial Officer, council has no power to interfere with his judicial functions,” he said.

The controversy between the Appeal Court president and the Chief Justice started with the elevation of Mr. Salami to the Supreme Court, which the NJC has since reversed.

Mr. Salami subsequently alleged that Mr. Katsina-Alu asked him to compromise the Court of Appeal’s verdict on the protracted Sokoto governorship legal tussle by either disbanding the original panel, which he (Katsina-Alu) believed was about to give a verdict adverse to the governor’s interest, or direct the panel to give judgment in the governor’s favour.

Conversely, the sacked former governors of Osun and Ekiti States, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Segun Oni, sent separate petitions to the council and the presidency, alleging that collusion between leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Mr. Salami accounted for their removal.