The Hurdles Nigerian Youths Must Cross By 2019

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, please, permit me to enlarge this subject as much as possible. Nothing is more crucial than getting the leadership of Nigeria right, as quickly as possible. Many have asked me certain questions, after reading my recent articles, which I intend to answer, in this epistle to my fellow citizens.

Why did I support Muhammadu Buhari to be President in 2015? The answer is simple and straight forward. The then President, Goodluck Jonathan and his party, PDP, did not leave us much options and it seemed there was only one logical and rational way to go, no matter how unpalatable, Buhari and his APC. They seemed the only risk and gamble worth taking. Profligacy was at its highest. Corruption was rife. Insecurity was widespread, the economy was in shambles, the currency was in freefall and the malaise and rot was just all pervading. Buhari was himself attractive, not only because of his famed incorruptible stance but also as a stopgap, if only to arrest the deepening sense of gloom and doom in the polity. Buhari became an interlude. We needed a father-figure to rescue us from a rampaging foe. APC was not my party. Like me, majority of those who supported Buhari did so out of acute frustration. And, as with me, they did not belong to his party. They were encouraged by Buhari’s no-nonsense pedigree. Even if they did not consider him perfect, they believed he would be more disciplined, prudent and focused. The only thing we probably forgot was the fact that Buhari would never possess in a democratic setting the same powers he wielded as a dictatorial Head of State. We did not consider how encumbered he would be in his second coming.

Buhari himself possibly underrated the magnitude of the rot at hand. He must have also ignored the avuncular influence of the ubiquitous Nigerian Mafia. He came and took his time on even the most mundane of things. This was his most fatal error. Picking his cabinet took forever. He did not seize on the huge popularity and excitement that catapulted and heralded him to power. He lost the uncommon opportunity to exploit that momentous zeal and giddiness that had engulfed Nigerians at the announcement of his victory. Some of us smelt the danger early and expressed our feeling earnestly and concretely. I wrote copiously about it in my desperate memos to the President. We were the ears of the government as itinerant journalists and our own ears were full from endless lamentations by the public. As if to make matters worse, the President had to battle for his personal life. He was outside Nigeria more than inside, this year, in particular. But we thank God for the miracle He has performed in the health of our dear President who is now back home with us and hopefully invigorated to embark on the arduous task ahead given the short period of time he has remaining in this his first term.

Do I have regrets supporting Buhari? If the truth must be told, there have been periods I felt lost in the wilderness because of the pace, tempo and direction of governance. I was deeply troubled also by the manner a government of change carried on as if our situation was normal and tolerable. The methods and methodology of this government appeared to be too similar to that of its predecessors. I found that bizarre. The amount of time, energy and resources wasted in fighting a war of attrition within the ruling party itself was rather atrocious, as if repeating the mistakes of Jonathan in the last days. But I won’t say I’ve totally given up on our government.

There have been flashes of hope every now and then. It was good and refreshing that the President made use of one of his best weapons in-house, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, while he was away on medical vacation. Osinbajo was able to demonstrate to all and sundry that what is required to get Nigeria out of the doldrums is no rocket science but the ability to play less politics and do more of governing. His persona and abilities galvanised the economy. That we have “exited” the recession is in no small measure due to the policies and practices that he has put in place.  His use of executive orders, rather than subsidiary legislation which can sometimes be cumbersome to pass and implement, was novel and, its significant practical effect is reverberating all over the economy. When the unity of Nigeria was tried and tested by some ethnic jingoists, the government did not rush to war but chose to dialogue with various groups like former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua did with the Niger Delta militants. The result is the relative peace and calmness we enjoy today. Another remarkable example of what is possible and feasible in our country is how Osinbajo has been able to crisscross Nigeria without any fear of reprisals wherever he visited. This has shown that the Buhari government has more to gain by reaching out to everyone with an olive branch rather than behaving like warmongers. War has never resolved anything but rather torn peoples apart and made secret and silent enemies who would be awakened and galvanised to destructive action when the time comes!

Will I support Buhari in 2019? Let me say I doubt. My reason won’t be on account of incompetence but because I don’t think it would be fair for men of that generation to continue to hold Nigeria by the jugular. What those who refer to Donald Trump’s age and that of his arch-rival, Hillary Clinton, fail to realise is that those candidates were groomed in a much sophisticated environment. Trump was able to build a business conglomerate while Clinton has had a spectacular and effervescent career in politics and leadership. Those would definitely count in their favour. The same cannot be said of our aged leaders here. Also important is the fact that America would always pick leaders based on merit and towering achievements but our old brigade would always revert back to antiquated and primordial religious and ethnic sentiments. Nigeria needs to move hurriedly from its present style and stereotypes that have held us down and sometimes even dragged us backward. We must seek and find agile, current and stylish leaders who understand the language and register of modern trends. There is no way anyone above the retirement age can fit that bill in 2019 no matter how hard. I say this with every sense of responsibility and not as a matter of personal prejudice. As I will continue to say, I admire President Buhari and believe that he had a monumental role to play in the emergence and continued existence of our nascent democracy.

I know some would say age does not matter but I wish to insist that it does. If we can experiment with old age, and we have for far too long and unreasonably, with no commendable or commensurate results, there is no reason not to conversely encourage the young ones to come in, learn on the job, make mistakes and ultimately get things right. Indeed the same old brigade benefitted from this approach and opportunity given to them by their predecessors who were willing to hand over because modernity in that period had begun to make them relics. The position is more stark now because the advent of the internet and the satellite technologies and innovations that it has spawned has completely transformed the world. Our geriatric leaders would never have a clue about this new world that has left them way far behind. It is not just about social media as they seem to think. There is a lot more in terms of advancement in education, finance, power, health, infrastructure, philosophy, ideology and the like. This propensity by our leaders of yore to embrace youth, entrust leadership to them and adopt the new technologies are basic principles that we must try to enforce in the next dispensation. There is no longer a doubt as to what to expect in the older leaders but there is still a chance of remoulding the younger ones.

My sermon is simple. Anyone above 65 should please enjoy his retirement with his family in tranquillity and perpetuity. At that age, he has already given his best to Nigeria. If his generation was so wonderful, Nigeria would not have been in this peculiar mess. It is time for others to try. If they fail, age will soon catch up with them too, like it is already catching up with my generation, and those coming behind would have to take their own chance and opportunity. By fielding people in their seventies, Nigeria would have wiped out a minimum of 30 years of those between the ages of 40 and 70 and this is grossly unfair and very unfortunate. What that means is that the older generation is saying that there is no Nigerian from age 40 to 70 that can lead us. That notion is unacceptable and regrettable.

Let’s now get down to brass tacks. There is nothing, Constitutionally, stopping those in their 70s and 80s aspiring to public office. Indeed it is their right to do so if they so wish. And if Nigerians, in our collective wisdom or stupidity, select and support them again, then that is their luck. Those who share my view that a new generation of leaders must emerge and be tested urgently have much harder work to do than those who wish to maintain the status quo. As I confidently expressed last week, the youths I see today want everything in a hurry and, if possible, without suffering for it. But there can be no gain without pain. The mind-set of entitlement must give way to that of selflessness and sacrifice. The authentic change-agents cannot sit with arms akimbo and await miracles. If our youths continue with the current attitude, the ancient generation will continue to lead and misrule while the modern youths will continue to wallow in servitude, self-pity and lamentations.

It is a shame that the vibrant students’ union organisations we used to know have disappeared to all intents and purposes. The quality of Nigerian schools and educational curriculum has also dropped abysmally. What has further compounded the situation is the mass poverty which has impoverished the souls and minds of our nation and its people. The situation is so bad that we are mostly controlled by survival instincts. But we must not give up. No matter how much we think we can all “make it” (to borrow that cliché) individually, the road will still be long and tortuous. It is in our collective will and tenacity that we can achieve the Nigeria of our dreams. The older generations would always tempt us with the whiff of money but this would be tantamount to nothing but tokenism and folly given that, in any event, much of that money is from our common wealth looted from our collective treasury that should have been used to transform our lives more than a few pieces of silver can.

Nigerians, young and old, deserve better than this cycle of oppressive benevolence. Nigeria will never know progress until we vow to seize the bull by the horns and do the needful. The journey is not going to be easy. The roads will be littered with thorns. The falcon may not even hear the falconer but try we must. The statement must be boldly made that we are children of a new generation and we know who we are, where we are going and how to get there. It is our future and not their future. They cannot tell us how to live it!.

It is time for our youths to say “Yes, we can”.

The Challenges Ahead Of Nigerian Youths

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to discuss the matter of our youths again. I’m truly troubled because of the attitude I see on display today. I wish to state categorically, that the internet is misleading lot of our young ones.

The internet is a giver of false hopes and confidence. I want to believe that the power of the internet is exaggerated and overrated in our dearly beloved country. Everyone who is able to buy some data sees himself as an omnipotent blogger who can install or bring down any government. This delusion of grandeur is not local to Nigeria but is pervasive all over Africa and it is tragic.

Suddenly every blogger is a celebrity. I make it a habit to check the number of followers they command and control. I check their tweets and scrutinise their influence. People with less than 50,000 followers claim to own the heavens and the earth in a country with a population fast approaching 200 million. The sad thing is that those who should know better believe their influence and begin to help the bloggers in peddling what is mostly drivel and sometimes blatant falsehood. What is worse, about 70 percent of the population are largely illiterate or ill-lettered. Ignorance and poverty have also combined to render many of us irrelevant. When some of this illiterate and ignorant population seize upon some of the rubbish peddled by the bloggers, you can imagine the outcome. Distorted and misleading information travels by the jungle express of rumour mongering that Nigerians seem to have perfected into an art form. With the knowledge of the effect that they have, many bloggers have resorted to uncouth language and brazen attacks on whosoever they disagree with. No effort is made to persuade and convince.

Let me posit my thesis right away. Unless Nigerian youths purge themselves of the arrogance associated with the social media, the journey of liberation may be much longer than we think or know. We must all pay our dues before we can begin to flex muscles of greatness and apotheosis. There are no short cuts to these things. Our youths must read and learn the history of revolutions. No matter how commonly available internet data has become, thanks to a company like GLOBALCOM, with humongous investments in submarine cables and state of the art technology, every one of us must still go through the rudiments of political science. And it is not as simple as it seems.

The good news is that there has been so much hoopla about youth participation in the governance of Nigeria. The mantra is simple and easy to remember: NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN. Very apt and nice. But how are they going to change an age-old habit that has become irremovably sticky? What I see is discomfiting. I see feel-good advocates and crusaders who see their activities as only a means to an end. I see a cockiness that shows me that we think this is a joke or some circus clownery. Nigeria is not going to change overnight just because we have internet and smartphones. Many of our forebears paid the ultimate and supreme price trying to change Nigeria for the better. They were better focussed and ready to suffer the excruciating pains of being non-conformist. Ask Herbert Macaulay. Ask Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Ooni

Adesoji Aderemi, Nzeogwu, Odumegwu Ojukwu. Ask Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Aminu Kano, Balarabe Musa, Moshood Abiola. Ask Wole Soyinka, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Tai Solarin, Gani Fawehinmi, Kenule Saro Wiwa, Femi Falana. And so many others who passed through the trenches of oppression and repression.

Someone needs to draw attention to false claims to martyrdom by those without any history or record of sustained struggle. Those who sit in the comfort of their homes and think they can influence decisions and elections are only kidding. A political revolution is never a tea party. They can lie to themselves in their braggadocio but not to those who understand the game of power. Ultimately they are not fooling the Nigerian people. Ask the common man today what he feels about the so-called agitators today and you will truly find your answer,. The people are not stupid. Show me any youth organisation in Nigeria with a membership of up to one million people. Show me any demonstration in Nigeria with a followership of 50,000 followers that lasted one week running. Yet we saw unrelenting crowds in Egypt, Brazil, Venezuela and other far-flung places. They probably had more internet penetration than us but still did not keep their arms akimbo while awaiting a socio-political miracle. If Nigerian youths are going to make any remarkable difference in the foreseeable future, they must prepare for the long-haul and not the opportunistic and psychedelic joke we see all around us today. The Government too needs to be careful not to elevate charlatans and attention seekers into what they are not. There is at present a growing tendency to do so.

2018 is almost knocking and 2019 will soon follow, yet none of us can say with any degree of certainty the top three youthful and cerebral candidates Nigerian youths would readily support when the times comes. What we are likely to see again is merchandising with smart boys chasing juicy contracts from the highest bidder.

Everyone loves money but we must be ready to sacrifice something for our long-suffering country before we can claim the honour and the glory. A man who does not want to get wet should never go near the river. That is why the sacrifice Chief Abiola paid can never be dismissed as little. I’m not sure the “ajebutters” (silver-spoon kids) of today are ready for a “sit-at-home” not to talk of “sleep-in-prison” situation.

Where do we go from here? There are certain basic ground rules that we must establish and regulate well ahead of the 2019 general elections. The first criteria that must be sorted and settled as a matter of principle is that of age. We’ve tested the young, the middle-age and the aged and most have wobbled and fumbled. What we need therefore is to insist that no matter the situation, Nigeria needs men and women of strength and stamina henceforth. Our infrastructure deficit makes it imperative for us to search, seek and support our best eleven. We can no longer afford to have musical chairs and seat-warmers for God’s sake. Enough of crawling snail-like at a time the rest of the world is moving at supersonic speed. Anyone above 65 has passed retirement age and should please spare Nigeria the agony and aguish of weak and ineffectual leadership.

The priority of Nigeria in 2019 would no longer be the war against corruption since Mr Magu has already declared victory over the malignant cancer that has almost killed our country. That is the main reason many people had no choice but to vote for a man we considered old but strong enough to drive the fear of God into our recalcitrant looters. While it is the right of every Nigerian above forty to contest Presidential election, it is also the right of Nigerian youths to reject any aspirant or candidate above retirement age. This is the reasonable thing to do but if we fail to establish this principle as early as possible, we should stop lamenting like the Biblical Jeremiah.

The next principle that must be critically reconsidered is the issue of zoning system. If Nigeria does not kill zoning, zoning will kill Nigeria. I do not care where the President of Nigeria comes from but I care about the age and competence and stamina of my President. Nigeria is well endowed with some of the brightest brains in the world but zoning promotes mediocrity as well as corruption. While the original idea of zoning was to promote a sense of belonging, it has since been bastardised to engender a sense of negative and destructive competition. Zoning is now a formula of rotating thievery and roguery. It is clear that in today’s Nigeria, whichever tribe attains power would always thrive better than the others. And this has generated too much tension in the land. It is one of the reasons many are agitating for restructuring right now which may eventually lead to implosion and explosion. There is no justification for this. Careful national planning is all encompassing. No tribe should feel that it would be neglected if its “person” is not in power. Visionaries do not think like that and they do not engender such a feelin. Government is not about the sharing of positions but the development of infrastructure and of the populace.

There are practical ways we can tackle the urgent needs of Nigeria. Our present system is too slow and sluggish. In 2010, I approached Mallam Nasir El Rufai to be my running mate which he politely declined. My aim was to have a combination of similar minds from the South and the North. But something positive came out of that attempted synergy. He told me that he and a group of like minds were thinking of assembling a star-studded team and the idea would be to have like a shadow cabinet that can be sold jointly to Nigerians to give a preview of what their government would look like. For me, that remains a brilliant idea. It would be fantastic to be able to visualise what our next government would promise Nigerians in terms of personnel and content. If we had this type of arrangement before the election, it would have given us an idea of the type of leaders to expect. This would also save the political parties of acrimonious primaries. This is the beauty of the British Parliamentary system which we can adopt even in our Presidential system.

Let each of our parties showcase their team instead of showing us only one strongman and a weaker Vice. APC would be forced to present a formidable team if they see that PDP has gathered some much brighter and tested team instead of an ill-assorted bunch of politicians foisted on the nation only by godfathers and political expediency. I will be too excited in the next dispensation to see such names as Yemi Osinbajo, Donald Duke, Nasir El Rufai, Babatunde Fashola, Godswill Akpabio, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Akinwumi Adesina, Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Fola Adeola, Jimi Agbaje, Rotimi Amaechi, Peter Obi, Aminu Tambuwal, Bukola Saraki, Yakubu Dogara, Nuhu Ribadu, Pat Utomi, Bolaji Abdullahi, Akinwunmi Ambode, Tony Elumelu, Ibe Kachikwu, Awwal Tukur, Kayode Fayemi, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Seidu Mallami, Wale Babalakin, (not in any particular order) and so many other distinguished Nigerians at home and abroad joining hands with our up and coming young Turks to move our economy and society in the right direction. The next President of Nigeria must have substantial and sufficient educational qualifications for the job. Experience in politics is not necessarily a sine qua non. Note that most, if not all, of those I have mentioned have national appeal and are detribalised to a large extent. I do not say that the President or his deputy should come from their number. Only that it would be nice to see them in a future government that has a mix of youth and experience. Divide and distribute them into different political parties and select President and Ministers from them, it won’t matter if any of them is from the North or South.

If the youths don’t insist on those principles and do everything possible to enforce them, nothing is going to change. We are going to wake up the day after the election and discover that someone closer to 80 than 60 would have won again, largely assisted by those under 40.



The Speech President Buhari Failed To Deliver

By Dele Momodu


Fellow Nigerians, congratulations on the arrival of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari from a prolonged medical vacation. Let’s all raise our voices and thank God for performing what the President himself described as a miracle. “I’ve never been this sick,” the President had repeatedly told well-wishers. Before his sudden departure from Abuja House, the official residence of Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, events were getting rough and embarrassing as some aggrieved Nigerians had started making a willow cabin at his gate, raking and ranting about the President’s decision to seek medical succour abroad while the state of healthcare back home remains pitiably scandalous.

It was a great relief to most Nigerians when news came from the Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, that his boss was finally on his way home. To some, it sounded too good to be true. Such tales had turned into disappointment on several occasions in the past. Something unusual happened on the eve of the President’s departure from England. President Buhari was seen sitting with the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, and had apparently received a gift of some Christian literature. It seemed the General Overseer had come to sanctify the President’s journey and it was good to see this symbolic gesture of religious tolerance.

The arrival of President Buhari in Abuja was triumphant! The giddiness on display by family, friends, associates and fans was remarkable. Everybody was excited, joyous and relieved to have him back at home after what seemed an eternity. 

It had been announced that the President would make a national broadcast two days after his return. This generated a lot of interest and expectation and elicited speculations ranging from the sublime to the mundane. Many expected the President to give an American style, State of the Nation, address while others thought he was going to take a bow by resigning and retiring to his home town of Daura, Katsina State, after handing the baton to his Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. That latter permutation was far from reality and dead on arrival for one major reason. Whilst the President and his Vice President may have formed a perfect synergy and a reasonable bond exists between them, members of the President’s inner cabinet do not subscribe to this unity of purpose and it reflects clearly in their body language.

We debated these wild speculations in our editorial meeting at Arise News last Sunday. By the way, please find time to watch us on DSTV 416, every Sunday from 6-7pm. Our team of Reuben Abati, Wale Olaleye, Prisca Ndu, Yemi Adamolekun and yours truly was carefully assembled by the Chairman of Leaders & Company, Nduka Obaigbena.  We are always ready to take you through the labyrinth of political and economic affairs globally. Our take was that President Buhari would seize the occasion of that broadcast to make monumental pronouncements about his reform plans for our long-suffering country. We hoped he would lay bare his plans for moving Nigeria forward positively. We slept only after setting our alarms to wake us up just before 7am to monitor the Presidential broadcast. What did we get eventually? The speech was scanty and short on concrete plans. In fact, it would be right to call it an anti-climax. Many people were disappointed that they woke up early to watch a badly packaged broadcast. The President’s speech-writers could have done much better with a short but crisp message to Nigerians. Instead, they prepared a mumbo-jumbo. I was not impressed. But, I didn’t know who to blame. Who supplied the content and who manufactured the script that President Buhari read? The content and the art-form should have blended well but this was not the case. 

I thought the President should have exposed it all. At his age, there is nothing more to fear or hide. He should have told his captive audience everything about his unfortunate ill-health. The main reason most Nigerians were upset or angry was the fact that the President did not think it fit to tell Nigerians what was wrong with him and the treatment he was receiving from UK Doctors which, necessitated his endless sojourn in the Queen’s land.

As if this was not bad enough, we were informed by the Villa that the President was going to be operating from home in the meantime. Fair enough. I never expected someone who has been that sick to return to work instantly. It would be tantamount to callousness for anyone to shove the President back to office without proper recuperation. But it seemed some people were desperately anxious to do just that. As early as 9am, a letter was transmitted to the National Assembly announcing the President’s return to Nigeria and his immediate resumption of full Presidential duties. Fine. If the President felt strong enough and ready to take on the herculean task of running one of the largest and most complicated nations in Africa, so be it.

But it wasn’t going to be that simple! Before I went to bed that fateful night, news reached me in Ghana of a press release offering a spurious explanation for the President working from home, a totally unnecessary thing to do. At this day and age, anyone has the freedom to work from anywhere, home or abroad. Technology has changed the way we do things. A lot is now done and achieved at the touch of a button. The President did not need to dignify the busybodies who were prying into his affairs with any response. The bazooka released by a key member of his media team was a total faux pas.  Lord have mercy, the statement that rodents sacked the President from his office is the worst public relations nightmarish blunder I have ever witnessed. As a foreign friend told me, “even if it was true that such happened, it was not in the place of any Presidential aide to disclose such so brazenly.” Anyway. It happened, life must move on even though we now have to live with the attendant jokes.

I promised some friends I will try to write the speech I thought the President should have read in case of similar future recurrence. It is also our responsibility to teach our leaders about modern ways of governance instead of lamenting without showing the way. We can’t blame them if we think they don’t know, keeping mute, instead of acting and transferring our own experience and exposure to them. I now produce my speech had I been in President Buhari’s shoes. Let me warn that the speech is fictional and only a figment of my imagination. Any similarity or resemblance to any real life situation is merely coincidental:

“Fellow Nigerians, good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be alive to address you again. What I went through in the past few months was so terrible that I thought I would die but your kind prayers brought me back alive. I sincerely thank God Almighty for giving me a new lease of life and another chance to serve you better. I unreservedly offer my sincere apologies for my long absences but I’m sure you will agree that it was due to circumstances beyond my control. 

I must explain my sad predicament once and for all. There is a Yoruba proverb which says, “a man cannot hide his body from those who will bury him.” As your President, I’m your leader and also your servant at the same time. A true leader must see himself as a servant of the people. It is therefore incumbent on me to let you know and appreciate the health challenges I have suffered lately. Trouble started years back when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although deeply troubled initially, I was soon reassured by my doctors that mine had been detected early and was not malignant. I tried to follow the prescribed medical regime with rigid discipline I am reputed for, and this has kept me going since then.

My fellow Nigerians, permit me to say that when it rains, it pours. I did not bargain for what unfolded after I miraculously won the Presidential election of 2015. I was fully ready to work full blast knowing the extent of havoc the previous PDP government had wreaked on our country. However, what I met was far worse than what I ever imagined. Nigeria was in a bigger mess and the job required total strength, physical and psychological. Unfortunately, I soon relapsed into another bout of ill-health which deprived me of my full stamina to tackle the menace and scourge foisted on our country by previous administrations. I was quite alarmed when my doctors said that my sugar level had risen due to my abysmal diabetic history and now needed to be managed and controlled very delicately. I was told there were few experts in the world to deal with my virulent type of diabetes and I had no choice but to bow to the wish of God.

As you may recollect, I had problems with my ears after suffering an infection which badly affected my hearing. This was quickly corrected by specialists but I was constrained to wear hearing aids. However, that turned out to be the simplest of my problems. My battle with hypotension was soon to almost consume me. Unlike most people with hypertension, I had issues with low blood pressure, not high. Combining diabetes with hypotension can be very deadly. Simply put, that was my case. You now know what I was dealing with and why I’ve been away. It was never a fancy trip but a serious war to stay alive. I’m grateful to God that I’m alive to tell the story. Those who specialise in spreading rumours have concocted their own fake stories but this is the whole truth!      

My dear Brothers and Sisters, it is heart-warming to be back home after crossing the valley of the shadow of death. Whilst away, I followed events at home very closely. I must thank my able Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and our entire team for their sense of dedication and acts of loyalty. I’m gladdened that they kept the country together despite threats from different sections and segments of our society. I was deeply troubled to see how some people tried to cause disaffection and set our nation ablaze when dialogue, meaningful dialogue, can resolve most of our differences. I intend to engage every part of Nigeria in dialogue and will encourage everyone to join hands with me in the process of reconciling every one of our people. We stand to gain more in unity than in strife.

Permit me to reveal a secret I had kept for a long time. The former leader of Biafra, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, visited me once in Daura to discuss the unity of Nigeria. He was clearly troubled and remorseful that Nigeria had to go through one of the deadliest internecine wars in Africa at his behest. We both prayed at the end of our meeting that such tragedy will never befall our country again. Some of those beating the drums of war and fanning the embers of disunity may not have been born at that time or they were too young to comprehend the devastation suffered by innocent people, usually the poor of the earth, during wars. My government will do everything possible to appease the aggrieved and make sure we all continue to live in harmony.

The clamour for restructuring has reached an all-time high. I agree that the time has come to do something about it.  With the co-operation of the National Assembly, I will soon set the machinery in motion to deal with this all-important national issue. We can no longer afford to pretend that our present structures are perfectly in order. No Nigerian should feel like an alien in his own country. It is natural for people to get angry and violent when they feel marginalised. This anomalous situation must be addressed and corrected. 

I will work closely with my Vice President in the days ahead to fine-tune our economy. Without a strong economy, we cannot get out of the doldrums. We have challenges on several fronts but they are all surmountable. As a retired army General, it is my wish to secure lives and properties by empowering and inspiring our men and women of the security forces. Our robust plans in this regard will be unfolded soon.

May God bless Nigeria…”

Hmmm, seems my imagination ran riot for a bit!!!

The Shape Of The 2019 Presidential Election

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me do a recap of my last column for the benefit of those who might have missed that important forecast of who and what may determine our next President. I will try to predict the principles that would guide how people are likely to vote in that election. Some names have surfaced as potential aspirants and candidates for this all important election that will likely determine what lessons we have learnt and what the medium term future portends for our great country.

The first of the serious candidates, naturally, is President Muhammadu Buhari, who is allowed by the Nigerian Constitution to seek a second term. But this right does not grant him automatic return to power. Indeed, the example of President Goodluck Jonathan is a sobering indicator of this possibility. Going by his old age and present state of health, it may be ill-advised for President Buhari to seek a second time when he is already crawling and groaning to finish this first term. But, who knows, Nigeria is a country where the unthinkable continues to happen. Some vociferous aides of the President have started drumming it into our ears that Baba Buhari will run, come rain, come shine. Who are we to argue with them?

The second, is the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. He’s on my list of frontline candidates, not because he has indicated interest, but because he may get the nod of his boss to continue the good job he’s been doing, if the boss chooses not to run. That is if President Buhari can snub and ignore the ethnic jingoists and religious bigots who always prefer to play the race and religious cards above that of merit and competence.

Since ill-health has deprived Baba of the stamina to showcase his true vision for Nigeria, it is not too late to tap into the massive goodwill that his Vice President has managed to garner in the last few months and cash in on his substantial equity in the Nigerian polity to revalidate the trust once reposed in this government and its “Change” mantra. The theory is that Baba’s last card should be his ability to rise above ethnicity and religion which have both combined to give him a bad name over time, advertently or inadvertently, by doing what seems right for the country, namely the endorsement of the Acting President to complete the work that the ticket was entrusted with. It is going to be tough to groom a new and acceptable successor in the next few months and he may as well go for a man who is already doing him and Nigeria proud.

Osinbajo’s headache would be how to discourage so many ambitious politicians within and outside his party. They include his former boss, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of Nigeria’s most influential politicians. Barring any last minute change of mind, Tinubu is said to be gathering and garnering all his awesome strength and formidable arsenal in readiness for the epic battle ahead. The other major force within their party is former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. I doubt if he would jettison his spectacular ambition for anyone after hovering in the wings since 2003. For sure, at already over 70 years of age, this would be his last chance to grab that much coveted title of President and Commander-in-Chief. However, like Tinubu, Atiku has many foes who would rather die than see him at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. Those are the top players in APC.

There are other major contenders, just below the bigwigs I have just mentioned who are working hard to gain national appeal or build on what they already have. They include former Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso; The Governor of Sokoto State Waziri Aminu Tambuwal; Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai; The Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha; The Senate President, also a former Governor, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and several others.

The election would be decided by the following principles, amongst others. The first hurdle would be who gets the tickets of the top two parties, APC and PDP. This will be a do or die affair. If Buhari decides to run, the party apparatchik would have no choice but to defer and concede to him in order not to subject him to possible humiliation. This may break the party into pieces. A few of the aspirants would be tempted to jump ship but PDP may be too saturated to accept and absorb more ambitious politicians. A third force may be on the cards but trust me, it won’t fly and it is likely to be a monumental misadventure.

The godfathers of Nigerian politics always penetrate the parties to decide who gets what. Nigeria is controlled by some Mafia groups but at the highest echelon is the military fraternity. Former President Obasanjo seems to be the capo di tutti capi here because of his humongous international connections and networks. His robust knowledge of Nigeria is second to none. He enjoys incredible camaraderie with the silent power house, former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. And wherever Babangida goes, his protégé, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar crawls after him like a snail and its shell. By virtue of his sharp intellect, uncommon bravery and bottomless pockets, Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma holds some powerful aces. There is no way they would not be adequately consulted by local and international stakeholders. There are other distinguished members of the military Mafia. Let’s leave them alone for now.

The youths of Nigeria who are desperate for inclusion in the political process still have a long way to go. No one is going to hand the baton to them, just like that, on a platter of gold. They would have to wrestle tirelessly for it. None of those on the battle lines at the moment would be less than 55 in 2019. The youngest of them would still be aged over 50 at the very least, I believe.

Please, don’t write off PDP, and don’t rule out former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan yet. If you understand Nigerian politics a bit, you will appreciate the axiom of “one man’s meat is another man’s poison…” A Presidential game is ruled by big names, pedigree, experience, performance, loads of cash, raw emotion and sentiments. Sometimes it does not matter how bad the experience has been or how woefully the person has performed. Jonathan is therefore still the biggest name PDP can put forward today. Despite the abysmally corrupt practices of his administration and the public odium that continues to trail it, some in the PDP still view Jonathan as the charismatic leader that they can rally around.

What makes the possibility of this nightmarish scenario becoming reality is the poverty and ignorance in our land. There are always more illiterates, jobless people, disoriented youths in every nation. The bourgeois and aristocrats may debate and argue all they like about the impossibility of Jonathan or any of his cohorts returning to power but they pooh pooh and ignore such a freakish occurrence at their peril. In America, all the intellectual elites practically stuck out their necks for Hillary Clinton while the not so educated people pushed out their chests for Donald Trump. You will be shocked at how the same way the hatred for Jonathan got him sacked from power may be replayed in 2019, if APC mismanages the rabid sentiment some people have against Buhari. This theory is based on the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

I have said repeatedly, there are no rigid principles, philosophy and ideologies guiding Nigerian politics. Nearly all the bad guys in PDP have virtually migrated to APC without any remorse or repercussions. And the same people can still do their shifting cultivation anytime, almost effortlessly. Home, sweet home, they will be welcome. I’ve been in places where people were arguing for and against Jonathan. It is certain that all it will take for Jonathan or PDP to return to power is for APC to make some more wrong moves particularly, in their choice of candidate. From the absurd, to the ridiculous, comes the prospect of Governor Ayodele Fayose, who says he wants to run, getting his party ticket and truly becoming a candidate. I leave the rest to your imagination but, again, Fayose’s stomach infrastructure propaganda propelled him like a shooting star to Ekiti Government House. Who says the same hunger is not afflicting the vast majority of our national population. Such a policy may well resonate.

The other aspirants can be broken into the following categories. The military class. Former Senate President, David Mark, is said to be interested. Like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, he has the financial muscle to kick-start a major campaign within PDP. It is not known if Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa is still nursing his Presidential ambition, this former military Governor is one of the most educated and refined Generals turned politician. His name has been cropping up here and there.
The Governor’s Forum would wish to have one of their own in the presidential villa. Tinubu, Saraki, Kwankwaso, Sule Lamido, and current Governors Tambuwal and El Rufai, Rochas Okorocha, Peter Obi, Orji Uzor Kalu, would certainly be in the forefront as presidential or Vice Presidential candidates.

Three men, many young Nigerians would love to see in the race, in one capacity or the other are the unforgettable former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and former Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akwabio. The infrastructure development they achieved in the past, when they had executive power, is their greatest selling point. Their biggest challenge is that their current level of performance, particularly Fashola and Akpabio, in the disparate roles that they have currently found themselves erodes into the considerable goodwill that they enjoyed as Governors. Donald Duke fortunately does not have such an issue as he has silently gone about his business in the private sector. The fact that he clearly does not see politics as a vocation continues to endear him to people. What is clear is that these achievers have shown that they can’t perform much when they are bogged down by elaborate bureaucracy. There are whispers that the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode may be dragged into the race to assuage the feeling of the youths who seem tired of the old leaders. It is believed that he has displayed exceptional brilliance, capacity and vision in just over two years and that such a man is needed urgently to correct the infrastructure deficit in Nigeria. Nigeria can no longer afford to be saddled with those who lack the vision and the speed for development.

Now, don’t laugh. In case you’ve not heard of this arrangement, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has been under pressure to run the Presidential race. The promoters of this idea believe Nigeria would never move forward until it is rescued from hard core politicians and run like a business. Others have mentioned the UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu, in a similar vein. It is believed that running a global bank in about 19 countries, like Dangote’s expansive businesses in 14 countries, constitutes great experience and exposure for both. Chief Moshood Abiola attempted this in 1993 and almost succeeded before his landmark victory was summarily and cruelly aborted. Many point to business guru, Trump’s, emergence as American President as the sort of miracle that could happen in Nigeria given the public’s increasing disenchantment with the establishment and the call for a new orientation and a business-like approach to government.

Nigerians are desperately seeking leaders who can perform and deliver and not mere representative of a tribe or religious sect. at the end of the day, the choice may well be a stark one. It could lead to a rosy or gloomy future. What is certain is Nigerians do not want failure again. That does not mean that they know how to avoid this. This is mostly true of the poor masses in who really lies the power to do and undo although they obviously do not appreciate this. At the end of it all, if we fail again, then we can only have ourselves to blame once more for our collective stupidity and potential doom. Finito.

As We Begin The Journey To 2019

By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, unbeknown to many of our people, the battle for who becomes our next President has already started in earnest. Never mind the fact that the incumbent President is still firmly in power even if he’s spent more time outside than inside in recent times. Despite his absence, President Muhammadu Buhari continues to exert almost total control on the affairs of state through regular phone chats with the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is deeply loyal and committed to their joint cause, and emissaries who criss-cross the two continents to transmit messages to him and relevant officials. Nonetheless, you can’t blame the gladiators for shaping up this early for the big contest that is looming. It is big because it is unlikely that the current incumbent President will run again because of the fragile state of his health. Like joke, like joke, the Buhari/Osinbajo government is in its third year. By this time next year, the general elections would just be about six months away. That’s just too close for comfort.
The Presidential race is always the biggest deal in most countries, Nigeria in particular. The reason is simple. The President of Nigeria is probably the most powerful black President in the world. This is why you find so many perpetual contestants who never get tired of seeking power. Let me just go straight to the meat of my message without wasting your precious time on any long preamble.
Some aspirants have actually started making subterranean moves, here and there, to prepare the grounds for their eventual launch. The most obvious ones include former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano. The boldest and most vocal visible aspirant is the current Governor of Ekiti State, Peter Fayose who has even announced a date for the official declaration of his bid for the Presidency. Fayose seems to have mastered the art and science of politics. He has warned that no one should underrate him. I won’t because nothing is impossible in our clime.
Anyway. Let’s move on. The main cause of the early moves is the general belief in political circles that President Buhari is not likely to contest in 2019. His poor health has virtually eliminated him from the race no matter how much and how well he recovers from his present ailment. I think so too. Baba himself had declared in one of his rare interviews that he’s never been this sick in his life. Only the cruellest human being would advise President Buhari to continue to subject himself to the rigours of the Presidential office when he returns. To add the vagaries of rough and tumble of a Presidential race to his recuperation would be inhuman indeed. God has been very kind to him and there is nothing more to prove or to achieve. Others must carry on the fight as his able Vice President, now Acting President has been doing.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had shown interest in becoming Nigeria’s President since 1993 when he contested the Presidential primaries of the then Social Democratic Party alongside Chief Moshood Abiola and Baba Ghana Kingibe. He was persuaded to withdraw from the contest and throw his weight behind Chief Abiola on the basis of his relative youth amongst other things. Age, it was said, was on his side, and he had many years to seek the Presidency. Since then, he has never stopped dreaming and aspiring. Unfortunately, he has always just fallen short! He had made his next move in 2003, after he served as Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999. The “abortive coup” (as it was described), to force Obasanjo out and bring Atiku in, by the all-powerful Governors of the time failed spectacularly. The cold war between Atiku and his boss exploded into full view and became a smouldering inferno. Atiku instantly became a marked man. He himself would be forced out of the party he helped to found and had to join others to form another party. But before too long Atiku was compelled by circumstances to scamper back to PDP. Not many felt that was a smart move. He was viewed as being too desperate and unprincipled. This flip-flop has been his major albatross. And he was not yet done! Atiku again jumped ship from the floundering PDP when some five Governors defected and joined the fulcrum of APC. There are already indications that he may be compelled to abandon ship again but where to, we don’t know. Some say that he is grooming PDM for this purpose and has already caused a crisis in his former movement.
There is no doubt that Atiku would make a good leader. He is a seasoned politician who is known to have the ability to unite Nigerians because of his extensive networks across the nation. He also has the penchant for recruiting the best brains to work with. If he becomes the President, he would be bringing in his wealth of experience in public service and private business that is almost second to none. But there are major setbacks against him. One is how to find the detergent to cleanse or unglue himself from the sticky mud his former boss President Obasanjo had generously splashed on him. He’s largely portrayed as a very corrupt and corruptible leader who may lead Nigerians into temptation and perdition with his acolytes. Whether this is a fair assessment or wicked blackmail is his business to deal with but it won’t be so easy to wish or wash away.
Atiku will find it difficult to clinch the APC ticket. There are obvious signs that he has already positioned some of his close associates in PDP, in case of emergency but he may be scammed at the end of the day if he takes the risk of pulling out of his present party. He needs to worry about his age. He has already crossed 70 and it is doubtful if most Nigerians want to be saddled with another old man who may collapse under the brutal weight of presidential stress and pressure. He would require more of a clean bill of health to persuade young Nigerians that he’s not carrying some health liabilities like others in the past. In summary, we have a reasonable bridge-builder and veteran administrator who may be too old and too late in seeking political office.
Next is the former Governor of Kano State, Senator Mohammed Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a man with very vast political and administrative pedigree. He has gone through the whole gamut of governance at both executive and legislative levels. His performance as Governor of the massive state of Kano is an eloquent testimony to the fact that he may be the one to ignite the infrastructural revolution in Nigeria. He cuts the image of a frugal Aminu Kano with his simple mien. His grassroots non-governmental movement known as Kwankwasiyya Pillars of the Nation is well mobilised and may give him an edge over most aspirants. He also has in his favour the fact that Kano State has the highest number of registered voters and may be able to count on garnering a significant number of these. He is also expected to draw strength from his former colleagues in the Governors’ Forum across the nation but no one is sure how relevant they still are. Kwankwaso is 60 years old and falls the under the age of 65 that many want as the upper limit for contestants. On the negative side, he is not likely to have the formidable war chest of an Atiku Abubakar though this did not stop him from beating Atiku to third place in their last APC Primaries.
Say what you will, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, must be factored into the equation by all means. The reason is that he seems to enjoy a special rapport with his ailing boss who may prefer to hand over fully to someone he knows well than risk certainty for uncertainty. Osinbajo has been a very loyal and dependable ally, the sort that are not common in this clime. This is no surprise because his vocation as a lawyer, his service as a teacher and his calling as a Pastor makes him imbued with integrity and dignity. Osinbajo has also succeeded in bringing Nigerians together and calming frayed nerves. His handling of the economy, security and national awareness is quite commendable and many Nigeria’s applaud his brilliance and performance in steering the affairs of state to its present comfortable position. His only worry would come from ethnic jingoists who do not care about merit but prefer only members of their tribe no matter how useless or incompetent they may be.
Osinbajo is likely to be vehemently opposed by such powerful forces who think only about themselves, although it seems to me that the people of the North are not with them on this occasion. There is no question that Osinbajo has restored hope and promise to Nigeria and should ordinarily be allowed to stabilise the polity and lead us out of the doldrums. The fact that he lacks his own political platforms may be a great disadvantage because he would need to lean on his political godfather and kingmaker, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who seems tired of fixing others into positions of power without being the ultimate King of Kings himself. However, Asiwaju is canny and wise and would prefer to be in the hallowed corridors of power with his protégé in charge than be outside it particularly given that he is himself ageing and would be over a couple of years over 65 by the time of the next elections.
There has always been speculation that the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, is interested in being President. He is eminently qualified to do so. The way he has managed the Senate and worked assiduously on churning out unprecedented number of very efficacious bills is a pointer to his effectiveness as a modern and cosmopolitan leader who understands what the people want and how to give it to them. His biggest migraine apart from allegations of corruption and mismanagement of Societe Generale Bank which has seemingly not gone away, is that he comes from Kwara State. The State is geographically Northern but culturally Southern. His father was Olusola. He is Bukola. His wife is Toyin. His sister is Gbemisola. His Brother is Olaolu. His son is Olaseni. No one could be more Yoruba than Saraki. However, surprisingly, despite this great Yoruba credentials, the Yorubas do not also apparently view him as a Yoruba man but as a Northerner. I do not know how he plans to overcome that challenge of being neither cat nor rat.
The Governor of Sokoto State, Waziri Aminu Tambuwal, attempted very briefly to run the Presidential race in 2015 but seemed to have chickened out and pulled back to settle for the gubernatorial race, where he eventually emerged successful. It is being mentioned in informed circles that he may still want to try his luck. As a former Speaker of the House of representatives and now Governor, he comes with some intimidating arsenal as e is still clearly well loved by his old constituency, the Federal legislators. It is not certain if he would abandon his almost guaranteed second term as Governor for a not so certain Presidential bid. His antecedents in this regard would persuade me not to expect too much of a change in Tambuwal’s circumstances this time around.
The same goes for one of my favourite leaders, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, one of the most cerebral, experienced and visionary leaders in Nigeria today. He is silently revolutionising Kaduna State although people see more of the controversial stuff coming out of that State because of its highly volatile religious mix of Muslims and Christians. Though he is yet to declare his interest openly, he is someone to watch…

Now That The Governors Are Back, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, this has been a week of feverish action and frenetic activity between Nigeria and Great Britain. I assume that all Nigerians know that our dear beloved President is currently a resident of the beautiful city of London, not by choice but of necessity. Twice, in quick succession, Nigeria has been bogged down by the ill-health of its leaders and by some strange coincidence both are from Katsina State.

The first, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, of blessed memory, sought medical refuge in Saudi Arabia but succumbed after a prolonged battle with what seemed to be cancer. Obviously, in our wonderful country, we never enjoy the privilege of being told anything by our leaders. We often make a fetish of what is a straight-forward matter elsewhere. We are a largely superstitious race. A common ailment is always attributed to some esoteric attacks from witches and wizards or some such other malevolent forces.

There could be no other reason why we hide the poor health of our leaders from those who foot the medical bills than the fact that we take them for granted and believe there is no basis for providing them with information that is their right to have. Besides, Nigeria is blessed with the largest assemblage of Pastors, Imams and marabouts. How would they know where to direct their intercession if no one gives a hint of what is wrong? The Yar’Adua saga in 2010 was one of its kind in Nigeria. The country was kept in the dark while some of the Presidential acolytes governed through the backdoor. After some massive protests, especially in Abuja, Yar’Adua’s deputy and Vice President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was allowed to act as President, albeit grudgingly.

If we thought such a thing would never repeat itself, we were dead wrong. Not only did it recur, it did so with an alacrity that is seemingly unprecedented in history. Our current President, Muhammadu Buhari, has spent more time attending to himself than he has spent attending to matters of State. Nigerians have shown more tolerance to him and demonstrated greater patience than they did for President Yar’Adua. No one has taken to the streets protesting against his incessant absences from his job, which could easily have been the case. But there are different categories of people in support or opposition to his continued stay as President and Commander-in-Chief. The Governor of Ekiti State has never hidden his pathological disdain for Buhari. He attacks him with devastating blows and pugilistic upper cuts at every opportunity. Several times, Fayose has declared Buhari dead or incapacitated only to get egged on his face as the President rises like the proverbial Lazarus. He never gets tired of quoting impeccable sources and swearing and threatening to release damaging proof of his false doomsday prophesies.

So far, so good, he’s been dead wrong at every turn! Even if not entirely hale and hearty, Buhari continues to stand ramrod on his feet, albeit looking feeble and weak. There is no doubt that the President is presently enjoying better health than has been the case in the recent past. We must appreciate the fact that there have been several world leaders, who have not been that strong, that have governed their countries from their sick bed.  President Buhari has demonstrated his ability to do so because of the able and competent Vice President that he has in Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The President has learnt to trust and rely on the Acting President and, in this regard, has been quite open and forthright in his support for the Acting President.  What this has done is to improve the way in which people perceive the Presidency, as a joint team which makes it immaterial that one or the other is ill at any point in time.

There are those who feel Buhari is too weak to continue to run a country as complex and complicated as Nigeria. Again, Fayose has been in the forefront of those wanting him to resign like yesterday. They often use an old quote of Buhari against him, the advice he offered ailing President Yar’Adua when he told him to resign in 2010. In 2017, a similar scenario is playing out with such uncanny similarity and repetition. Would Buhari bow out due to pressure? I doubt it. We all say things when they’ve not concerned or affected us personally and directly. Truth is we do not have a culture of resignation in Nigeria. The position of the President of Nigeria is certainly one of the most powerful in the world. It would take some spiritual intervention to walk away casually from such a monumental privilege. No one can say what he would do with a degree of assertion until he’s been tried and tempted. That is a fact. So let’s accept for now that our President has no intention of abdicating anytime soon. Indeed, it would be premature to ask him to do so in any event.  It is clear that he is showing quite remarkable improvement and almost magical recuperative powers of recovery. This means that one cannot say he should quit the stage when he clearly can continue to act once he has become fully rejuvenated after a long stint of rest and relaxation.

Next we have those we have come to know as “the cabal”. That word became popular in 2010 and has refused to evaporate or vaporise ever since. This is a group of inner caucus in any government that has grabbed power for itself in an opportunistic manner. It thrives on the disappearance or long term absence of its principal and they feed regularly on unbelievable blackmail and on dropping subliminal hints that would scare everyone around into submission and acquiescence. The Cabal is always intent on ensuring that they create the impression that their principal has cloaked them with so much of his powers as to make them the de facto leaders of the country.  In effect they constitute themselves into a parallel government. If care is not taken, they try to undermine the constitutional and legitimate authority and line of succession, thereby rendering a person like the Acting President ineffective.  The good thing is that this has not played out the way the cabal would have liked it to, because the President has been proactive in making sure that everybody knows that he has faith in his Vice.

Fortunately, there are hard core supporters who feel Africans are too humane to humiliate a leader like Buhari who has suffered so much for his country. They lend support to the Presidential Team by their unwavering support for the President despite his illness. They are those who are ready to swim or sink with the big boss no matter the situation. Their attitude is rested on the African culture of reciprocity and loyalty. Leading this group of unrepentant and unequivocal supporters of the President is the Acting President who feels the rest of the team should not be seen to be overtly or inordinately ambitious. Indeed, his own humility and ability to deflect attention from himself transmits itself to all those around him.  The understanding is that they are temporarily holding the fort for the President and that everything that is being done is to project the avowed aim of the Presidential team to improve the lot of Nigerians.

The Acting President’s strategy is to demonstrate to the Nigerian people and the rest of the world that the joint ticket is working and working well irrespective of the failing health of the number one citizen.  Therefore, as far as the Acting President is concerned, whether the President is fully fit or not, his situation should not be made worse by rejection and dejection. This is why the Abuja House, located in the high-brow Camden Hill in Kensington, London has been turned into a Mecca of sorts for several reasons. There are those who believe the President should never be hurried or humiliated out power. They believe he deserves our support and sympathy now, more than ever.

There are other reasons for the sudden photo opportunities in London which seemed to have been embargoed for some time. Perhaps this was done because the President did not look too good at the time and it was felt there was no need to panic Nigerians when Doctors must have told him that his improvement health-wise was increasing. Whatever may have been the reason why there was no visibility for the President until recently, the pressure on government was becoming suffocating and unbearable after two many failed promises about Buhari’s potential return within a short time. As a matter of fact, Buhari’s return had been hyped into a frenzy, the climax of which was Femi Adesina’s ill-fated essay on the punishment Buhari’s enemies deserve.

Femi’s parable was construed or misconstrued as a sign heralding Buhari’s imminent triumphant re-entry into Nigeria. In fact, many had predicted that Buhari was going to land last Monday in Abuja but that soon became Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Instead of our President’s return to Nigeria, Nigeria actually moved to London with The Ruling Party’s leader and some of its Governors embarking on a visit to the President which was shrouded in some secrecy until practically the last minute. Thereafter, another visit was arranged for opposition Governors as if to say that it was necessary for Nigerians to believe that the President was now much better only if both sides of the political divide said so. Of course their visit had been preceded by the visit of the Acting President who had brought the good tidings of a quickly recuperating President.  One would have thought that given the integrity and nobility that one has come to associate with the Acting President, the veracity of his testimony would have been accepted, particularly, as he is also a much respected man of God.

I’m not sure what those public relations stunts, which is what the governors’ visits amounted to, achieved, except establishing that President Buhari was alive and now able to receive visitors. It is doubtful from the pictures released that the President has recovered substantially and that he would return home pretty soon. He still looks fragile and on my part, I would say that his return should not be rushed. If he still needs to rest in order to recover some more then he should be allowed to do so. I say this because once he returns, it would be an insult to Nigerians to rush him out of the country again after a short period of time.  Medical facilities can be installed in the villa to help monitor his health and give him the necessary remedial treatment that he may require.

In my view, the energy and resources expended on those gubernatorial trips should have been channelled into getting our President to record a few minutes’ video address to Nigerians. Indeed, this should have been a fairly regular occurrence. It would be most comforting to the people of Nigeria simply to see and hear from their President even if for a few seconds. The President should have taken the opportunity to thank Nigerians for their patience and understanding and seek their continuing prayers while he continues to recuperate.

I monitored the conversations regarding the visit of the governors on social media and majority of the people said they would never trust whatever they are told by the visiting Governors. Even when the pictures came out to demonstrate clearly that Buhari is alive, many doubting Thomases still maintained that they didn’t believe the tales from London. My question then is, why do we keep wallowing in this shallow approach to serious issues? Why can’t we update Nigerians regularly about the medical condition and physical state of the President. It is not a crime to be sick. We should stop being unnecessarily protective. Buhari is public property. He is not the exclusive preserve of his family or the Presidency. We are making life more difficult for him by this excessive sensitivity.  It is time to be open and frank with the Nigerian people.

Now Our Youths are Crying and Kicking

By Dele Momodu


Fellow Nigerians, I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh when I got a call early this week from Ambassador Dayo Israel, one of the brightest youths I had mentored in my own modest way some years ago. It was a plaintive cry for help after the debacle of a failed local government chairmanship aspiration bid and the death knell of the campaign for youth emancipation in the Senate.

Dayo has since those halcyon days, when he came under my tutelage, worked very hard to be an iconic youth in Nigeria and beyond. Dayo recently threw his hat into the political ring recently when he attempted to pick the APC Chairmanship nomination for Lagos Mainland Local Government, to contest today against other Lagos Mainland Chairmanship aspirants in that Local Government of Lagos State. As you read my epistle right now, the election is taking place as scheduled but without Dayo’s name on the ballot papers.

Dayo had requested my intervention, several times in the last few months, for help with his political aspiration. He took his case to the high and mighty in our society and solicited the support of political godfathers in his party, APC. There is no doubt that Dayo is eminently qualified to run in this race and I was reasonably assured that he would deliver on most of the promises made by him. However, the arithmetic of politics in Nigeria, and in most places, is not always one plus one. The way these things are configured often make it impossible for brilliant young guys like Dayo to have a smooth sail in political climes like Nigeria. Ask me! I had my own Baptism of fire in 2011 when I got inspired by the audacity and miracle of Barack Obama in the United States of America and assumed foolishly that such could be replicated back home in Nigeria. Lord have mercy, I was dead wrong.

I had predicated my faith and boundless optimism on several factors: my personal credentials (I was well educated with a Masters degree in Literature-in-English), my political background (I had been in politics since 1982 and had even been a personal secretary to the then Deputy Governor of Old Ondo State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo. Since then I had interacted with some of Nigeria’s biggest political juggernauts), my business experience (I had managed people and resources from medium scale to high level), my global exposure (I had been blessed with access to world figures at home and abroad) and crucially, I now had what I thought were my greatest assets, the youths of Nigeria. But my dream of leading Nigeria out of the doldrums soon vanished.

The youths mostly teased and taunted me as inexperienced and poor. They preferred the calibre of people they claimed had pilfered, looted and wasted their common wealth – politicians with very loaded pockets. These are people who could instantly daze and dazzle them with cash which represents only a token of what they’ve stolen, and later abandon them and for good measure impoverish society at large. I could not believe my ears and my eyes as I watched developments with incredulity. I was too idealistic about a revolution foretold which became nothing but a mirage. I refused to join the mainstream parties in my naïve belief that the duo of PDP and AC had been substantially contaminated and we should start on a cleaner note. There is no doubt that the biggest party in Nigeria remains the unheralded and unregistered Floaters Party, comprising, of mainly, the most vocal but reticent youths in Africa. Anyway, I lost the election but learnt a lot of incredible lessons from the experience and exposure.

When Dayo Israel decided to go into politics, I readily and instantly knew he would have to climb Mount Everest in short time to clinch his party ticket. I admired his guts and appreciated his superlative enthusiasm. But I knew that alone could not catapult him to the dreamland that he foresaw. His campaign was remarkable and fresh. I did not want to discourage him in any way. I was in a position to give him privileged information that would have dampened his enthusiasm but refrained from doing so in order not to weaken his resolve or demoralise him, particularly for the future. Nevertheless, I knew the chicken would eventually come home to roost. Truth is the elders that we usually complain against, and grumble about, are better organised and more fraternised than the younger ones. Nigerian youths are yet to demonstrate sufficient capacity for sustained struggle and clear-cut principle or ideology. I was the only Presidential candidate in the history of Nigeria ever with uncommon faith in the abilities of Nigerian youths and demonstrated this when I picked a prodigiously gifted 26-year old Ohimai Godwin Amaize as my Presidential Campaign Coordinator. His biggest foes were the same youths he had fought for all his adult life. They regularly dissed and derided him as if success as a young man is a curse in Nigeria.

It was no surprise to me when Dayo started seeing red lights halting him in his tracks and denying him progress. His dreams and vision began to evaporate before his very eyes. He came crying to me several times and I tried to pacify him as much as possible. I sometimes had to tell him the blatant and unpleasant truth, which only brought more anguish for him. I prepared his mind for the worst case scenario. At first, he was reluctant and resisted my humble advice and realistic forecast as to how his ambition would be scuttled. Eventually, he saw reason and accepted his fate with equanimity. I was excited about his decision not to throw tantrums against his party leaders but to cooperate beautifully with them and rally together other disappointed and angry aspirants who were in denial, like he was initially. Obviously, “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day,” according to an adage. Every act of compromise is not always an act of cowardice but is often a demonstration of wisdom and a show of strength of character.

That done and ambition thwarted for now, Dayo with youthful vigour decided to join yet another cause, the “not too young to run” campaign. Dayo Israel and company banked their resolve in this regard, on the support of the Nigerian Senate. I really don’t know what or who persuaded them that the Senate, as presently composed, was going to buy into their vision, but they somehow believed the bill was going to sail through. That hope too was soon dashed. Dayo was livid and incandescent with rage. He called me frantically. Since I didn’t know what informed the decision of the Senate not to kowtow to the wishes of our youths I decided to beg Dayo to cool temper. “Uncle, Uncle, please we need your intervention,” he pleaded like a penitent school boy. “What happened, Dayo,” I asked innocently. I didn’t really know why he was so worked up. Then he told me how the Senate had thrown out the bill that would help the Nigerian youths participate more effectively in politics, and he was so disappointed. I told him I was helpless. However, I also assured him that, If and when, I have the opportunity to speak to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, I will speak to him about it,” I calmly told him that this was a solemn promise. And I also promised to publicly add my voice to this necessary crusade via my Pendulum column today.

The Nigerian youths must be told the unpalatable truth. No one gives up, or relinquishes power on a platter of gold. You must go all out and work assiduously to grab it. If necessary, you must fight ferociously for it. Life is not a bed of roses and the battle for power is no less so. The Azikiwes, Awolowos, Tafawa Balewas, and others all prepared well and adequately for power. They did not wake up suddenly to ask for it. Our youths must first distinguish themselves in their respective areas of expertise and endeavour. When you are distinguished, you will have the confidence to speak authoritatively and convincingly. People will listen to you. Nigerian youths should stop expecting manna from heaven. The last time it dropped was only reported in the Holy Bible, and that must be many centuries ago.

Nigerian youths must join mainstream political parties and form themselves into formidable cells. If you claim politics is too dirty and dangerous and abandon it on the laps of useless characters, you can’t come back later to blame anyone for your negligence or ostrich behaviour. Not only must they join the main political parties, Nigerian youths must invest in their political future by making donations towards funding of the electoral process. If you allow the moneybags hijack the political parties, that is it. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. One of the reasons corruption is difficult to contain or exterminate in Nigeria is because politicians are forced to raise and spend too much of their personal resources to contest elections. It is thus natural that an outlandish investor would want to recoup his humongous investment as soon as possible, if he is successful.

Nigerian youths must acquire and imbibe the spirit of patience by making painstaking effort to queue, vote and protect their votes on election day. Since phantoms or aliens are not going to descend from the heavens or outer space to elect our leaders for us, we must do it for ourselves by exercising our voting rights. The nonchalance of our youths must yield way to a more passionate interest in this most important matter of enfranchisement. We must register to vote and recognise that it is cool to vote no matter how tedious the process may be. No magic would change Nigeria for the better if we fail to do what is right. The elites, in particular, make it easy for stark illiterates and mediocres to take over our political landscape by thinking they are too big to vote or soil themselves by participating in party politics. When tomorrow comes, it is only those who presented themselves that would determine those who are to be voted in or out.

I sincerely sympathise with our youths. In 2019, some of the leading aspirants again would be in their sixties and seventies. That is the sad reality I must tell you about today. I’m yet to see those in the thirties and forties seriously warming up for the tough race ahead. On my part, at 57, I already feel I’m getting too old. It is now more obvious than ever that Nigeria must urgently seek energetic, youthful but accomplished, visionary, upwardly mobile leaders who would think and work outside the box regardless of tribe, gender or religion. We need our young entrepreneurs and innovators to also claim the political space. I do not care where our leaders come from as long as I’m reasonably convinced of their competence. However, we continue to do the same things repeatedly by churning out lacklustre and poor candidates who have no clue about governance or national development. For this reason, we should not expect different results from those of the past. Our lunacy would have been finally confirmed if we continue not only to repeat the mistakes of the past but also continue to embrace it. No nation develops without learning from its history and without leaning on its youth. It is not a coincidence that our greatest periods of national development and progress have been at the time when we have young men at the helm of affairs. We do not need to reinvent our existence or raison d’etre. We only need to flow with it and redevelop our instincts for youth and vigour, imagination and innovation – In short visionary, dedicated and disciplined leadership.

God help Nigeria.

Thank God, Buhari Is Listening, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me openly express my secret fears all this while about this our beloved Change Government which so many people supported and used all their might to midwife. Most of them did not belong to the All Peoples Congress (APC) but they were armed with a common faith in the incorruptibility of one man, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and his ability to arrest Nigeria’s supersonic slide into eternal perdition. The election was thus fiercely contested and keenly monitored. After 16 incredible years in power, with little to show for it, most Nigerians were palpably bored with the petulant, profligate and pernicious rulers in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and badly wanted a change.

But this change was not going to come on a platter of gold. Nigerians, and indeed the world, were scared stiff of the dangerous possibility of the ruling government refusing to hand over power even in the face of glaring defeat. We must salute the intervention of a few people and their various peace initiatives. Many probably forgot that two of Africa’s all-time greatest diplomats, Dr Kofi Annan (former Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Chief Emeka Anyaoku (former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth) with Senator Ben Obi (former Vice Presidential Candidate to former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) joined forces to activate the original peace initiative that gave birth to the Abuja Accord signed by both President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari.

We must never forget the influential roles played by foreign powers led by the Americans, the British and others. President Barack Obama took more than cursory interest. He dispatched the Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Nigeria to meet and plead with the highly volatile dramatis personae to embrace peace. The peace accord designed and brokered by the troika of Kofi Annan, Emeka Anyaoku and Ben Obi and signed by Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari helped in no small measure to ensure that an incumbent African President voluntarily accepted defeat and after having conceded and called the winner, Western-style!

I have gone through this preamble to remind us of our contemporary history which some people apparently forgot as soon as power changed hands. A country that sat precariously on tenterhooks needed to be careful and magnanimous in victory. Even if there were terrible elements to be tackled, corrected and punished, the new government should have taken its time to study, plan and ultimately launch its offensive. Nigerians should have been allowed to enjoy their rare moment of giddy adulation. The last time we experienced such was after the Presidential election of June 12, 1993, won by the generalissimo, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, but was recklessly annulled by the military government for reasons never disclosed and for which full apologies are yet to be offered.

Unfortunately, the new ruling party mismanaged its hour of glory. The APC came to power seemingly only prepared for war against everyone including itself. They forgot to learn useful lessons from the uncommon example of the Madiba, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who immediately embraced his enemies after spending 27 years mostly in solitary confinement. Mandela must have discovered the wisdom that no nation can ever thrive in a perpetual state of chaos and mayhem. The hawks of Nigeria are used to feeding on corpses and would never forgive any sin of commission or omission.

The hawks were more interested in resurrecting and sustaining Brand Buhari of old – a military dictator and not that of the born-again Democrat we sold to the people during the political campaigns. They studiously ignored the fact that Buhari no longer had dictatorial powers of life and death and would now have to bow to Constitutional authorities in the National Assembly and the Judiciary. The acolytes gave him no time to even think of how to make the economy a priority or upgrade the Obasanjo methodology of fighting corruption. They were convinced all the masses wanted to hear was the sing-song of CRUCIFY HIM. They were definitely averse to the traditional Yoruba philosophy that explained the fickleness of the human thought process: Enu ti won fi pe Adegun naa ni won a fi pe Adeogun (the same mouth that hailed the crown would later abuse the crown).

Those who suggested caution were labelled as supporting corruption or worse still as corrupt elements fighting back! They were called wailing wailers and such nonsense. But we knew from the knowledge of Nigerian history that whatever war would be fought must be carefully considered, orchestrated and balanced with stabilising the country financially and economically. Starting the war precipitately was bound to destabilise our financial equilibrium. “Before you promise to donate dresses to someone else won’t it be nice to see what you’re adorning yourself”, according to a Yoruba adage. We sought to kill corruption and told the citizens to endure while the politicians continued to swim in opulence.

In the midst of all the confusion, somewhere in the country’s South-South region, the Niger-Delta Avengers began an unprecedented assault on Nigeria’s oil installations, decimating whatever was left of Nigeria’s oil wealth in the wake of a global oil crisis. An already ailing economy came crashing down to its knees. Observers of the scenario have described the fresh crisis in the Niger Delta region as a revenge mission targeted at what was largely perceived as a ruthless offensive by the Buhari administration against the PDP and key figures who served under the Jonathan administration which largely benefitted Niger-Delta politicians. I had warned nothing should be done to humiliate Jonathan who spent five out of the 16 years of PDP in power. The surrounding circumstances remain unclear, but one thing is clear; the cookies have finally crumbled.

The leader who listens to genuine advice will certainly succeed. It was obvious that the initial Buhari approach would not fly. We must retrace our steps and it is not too late to check how and where we got lost in the wilderness. I will summarise my previous suggestions.

Let us reconcile with every Nigerian regardless of ethnic, political and religious backgrounds. Let us do a comprehensive audit of what has been stolen from Nigeria and do a forensic search of the loot. The exercise should not be discriminatory or excessively punitive since it is retroactive. Those who have engaged in primitive accumulation of wealth without explanation or substantiation of sources should be asked for heavy returns, compensation and contributions to the State coffers. Those who are recalcitrant or unapologetic should be jailed!

A meeting of senior politicians should be arranged speedily. The agenda should be to get every public office holder to agree to a budget reduction of at least 50 percent on cost of governance. Those who want more can return to whatever business they were doing before offering to serve Nigeria. The Presidency is still outlandishly ostentatious. Same with the National Assembly and State Governments. Nigeria will never prosper under the current arrangement. If we do not commit to a major surgical obliteration of unnecessary government expenses, Nigeria will suffocate and collapse under the weight of greedy profligacy and probably bleed to death.

I’m happy to note there are signs that President Buhari is listening and responding to our humble admonitions. He should please continue. The token gesture of selling a few aircrafts pencilled down for sale by the previous administration is a good beginning. More should go very soon. There is no reason why we cannot charter Arik for long haul flights and keep the airline growing. It is never a sign of weakness to change bad decisions and wasteful flamboyance. Buhari’s greatest qualification for this job was his frugality and simplicity. Those dressing him up in borrowed robes are setting him up for monumental failure. Most of them and their associates did the same jobs for those who failed in the past. We lack the resources and the infrastructure of Great Britain yet we are more ceremonial than Her Majesty and Her Government. It is time to let the world see that we are serious for once by stopping our practice of capitalism without capital. If we are broke we should not be ashamed to admit it and adjust accordingly.

President Buhari should discard the toga of nepotism and chauvinism by reflecting Federal Character in all appointments. Nigeria has suffered too much under the yoke of ethnic cleansing. No leader can be in power forever. It is always more rewarding to do what is right and just knowing God will protect the leader. Promoting mediocrity in the name of tribal and parochial preference is already outdated. There is so much to achieve in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation and there is no better time than now when we are all groaning under the weight of recession. Our President has been awarded the greatest privilege of leading Nigeria again after being forced out of power over 30 years. He cannot afford to fail.

May God bless Nigeria through him.


To say I’m a great fan of Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga is an understatement. Since fate brought me in touch with him 25 years ago, I have never stopped to marvel at his incredible capacity for hard work and innovation. I have never seen him indulge in frivolities. His sense of patriotism is astounding. He sleeps and dream Nigeria.

His foray into telecommunications changed the way we communicate in Nigeria, and a few African countries, forever. He has touched the lives of millions of our youths and adults all over our dear beloved country. It is rare to find a Nigerian whose business has empowered the ordinary man on our streets like Adenuga. The Glo sim cards are available in cities, towns and villages and usually sold by young people including women. He has elevated the lives of our talented musicians, actors and comedians. His support for the Nigerian media is remarkable through generous advert placements. And all these he does quietly without seeking undue publicity. But we must try once in a while to salute the indomitable spirit of this silent powerhouse to encourage him.

Globacom, one of the most ambitious telecom operators in Africa, has just done it again. After single-handedly laying a submarine cable from Europe to Nigeria, Glo has upgraded its data services to the most blistering 4G LTE technology. Even before this epoch event, Glo was already the biggest player in the data field. Now it has taken the game to a much higher level that would be difficult to surpass. Glo makes all these investments to demonstrate its faith in Nigeria and Africa and so as not to short change our people in technological advancement across the world.

It is not every day that you hear the voice of the Guru himself, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr. But today he is proud to tell the world about the great news in a star-studded Glo commercial: “Once in a generation, a technology emerges that transforms a nation. Glo’s new 4G network is exactly that. It is by far, the fastest mobile Internet in Nigeria and the first with nationwide coverage. Government institutions and big businesses will have the tools they need to build the powerhouse of Africa. Small businesses will be enabled to make the big leap. Education will be more accessible. Medical procedures will be more advanced, and your home will become truly smart. With our most extensive national optic fibre network linked seamlessly to Glo 1 Submarine Cable, it is data speed and capacity beyond imagination. 4G will accelerate Nigeria’s progress into the super league and everyone will see their lives changed beyond recognition. The wait is over. Welcome to 4G LTE for Glo. Welcome to the new speed of life!”

This is it. The Spirit of Africa has set new standards from his bottomless reservoir of creativity and audacity. He deserves a standing ovation.

Do Nigerian Leaders Ever Watch Television? By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, you must be wondering why I chose this title for my column today. If you wait a moment and you want to know the real reason, I shall explain in the next few lines. Television has become a most important platform in the world of media today. Its attraction derives from the simultaneous usage of audio and visual mediums. As a young boy growing up in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, I used to marvel at the magic behind this extraordinary human invention. As a “bush” boy, I actually imagined at some point that some people must have been smuggled into television boxes by those wizards and goblins called oyibo (White people). Till this day it remains the eighth wonder.

In those days, television was a rarity. It was mainly in black and white. Only one big man, Chief S.O. Fadiora, popularly known as Baba Larele, had television in our neighbourhood. We had the privilege of standing by his window to watch some programmes. This opportunity fired our imagination. We saw events from far-flung places. We watched football. We enjoyed musicals. We savoured boxing. Wow, Mohammed Ali was the greatest. We had to stay awake and endure the giant mosquitos making a feast of our exposed parts anytime he was fighting. Even Nigerian television paraded exciting programmes. The adverts were nice, decent and easily remember-able. Life was good and Television was a must watch for us.

If television was that important then, you can imagine how powerful it has become now with live broadcasts in vivid colours from any part of the globe. There is no subject under the sun that is not covered by television. You can virtually study from the comfort of your home. You can visit anywhere in the world without going near any airport. You can witness human advancement at the speed of light and the collapse of nations at the drop of a hat. The world has become one box office movie. Everything has been demystified and decoded. Television has of course been amplified and expanded by its social media variants through You Tube and other variants.

Where am I going with this preamble? It is simple and straight-forward. No serious leader should have excuse for failure. Ideas are available practically free of charge to those who need and want it. Power is no longer a product of abracadabra. Videos, smartphones, laptops, iPads, and others have contributed immensely to the growth of television. Social media has even done so much to bring information nearer home. Any information can be obtained without fuss or stress. You can build or penetrate any library in the world. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. How come our leaders have refused to take advantage of the globalisation of anything and everything?

Someone sat down somewhere in Dubai and said he wanted to build the tallest building in the world which used to be the exclusive preserve of American cities. The same man sat down and decided that the biggest airport in the world can be built in a tiny Arabian desert. He didn’t have to travel or globetrot. Anything he wanted was handy at the touch of a button. He probably got ideas first from watching television and thought to himself I could do this better.

I got inspiration for this column this week from watching the Brussels, Belgium, attack on television. Even as I sit down to write this the whole world is still gripped and held spellbound by events unfolding in that country which are being beamed live on diverse global news channels. They’ve killed our sleep at night and replaced it with insomnia. My brain is pounding and racing with endless questions about why we are not able to replicate these things despite being blessed with some of the brightest and smartest human souls on earth.

The first lesson I expect our leaders to learn from watching the spectacle on television is that our present problems would never go away until we learn how to do things differently. For example, the war against terrorism is largely a matter of intelligence combining the resources available to different arms of security forces especially the Police. In Nigeria we drag the army out of their barracks to fight terrorists with weapons of war. Watching Belgium on television, the army plays a lesser role and they are called out in very extreme conditions. What this tells me is that we need to retrain and upgrade our ragtag police force. They can’t achieve much in their current configuration. They must be well educated, trained, equipped, empowered and remunerated. The Police is the umbilical cord that joins humans and society. It is not the Army or indeed other segments of the Armed Forces. It seems that we have allowed our recent past which has been dominated by military oppression and suppression to overshadow the activities of our security forces and how they operate. That is not the way of the world and it is not how we will make progress if we are to secure our people and even borders. The truth is that the military is ill-equipped for the task and role thrust upon it by our leaders not because they do not have the equipment but because they do not have the temperament and domestic savvy required for operations such as this. On the contrary all the military should do is to complement the efforts of the other members of the security forces like the Police, DSS and other ‘civilian’ security agencies.

The second lesson is the power of determination and tenacity. The Belgian government launched a blistering counter-attack after the bombs that reverberated through the airport and Metro. True, the security forces appear to have missed early warning signs, but they quickly made up for their lapses in the manner in which they responded to the dastardly and cowardly attacks. Since the bombings, the security offensive has been relentless and productive. What is noteworthy is that the media has been kept as informed as possible. The result is that the people, who are probably the most significant object of security, are fully involved in the security operation, contributing their quota by supplying valuable information, like the taxi driver who provided the valuable nugget of information that led to a second suspect being sought in relation to the Metro bombing.

Nearly two years after over 200 young girls vanished into thin air in Chibok, nothing tangible has come out of the search by the former and present governments. I appreciate the fact that the Government has apparently very recently rescued about 830 hostages from Boko Haram in Borno. In this regard one must commend the security forces and the Government. But this success merely highlights the dismal failure with regard to the Chibok girls after a couple of years. In relation to the missing girls, the body language was and continues to be very worrisome. Life seemingly continues as normal. What should have been a national tragedy uniting us was even politicised. The few selfless individuals who chose to draw attention to this unprecedented disaster were treated with disdain. In Belgium, about 30 people died and 300 were injured and the world was literally brought to a standstill because the government knew the huge responsibility bestowed on it. It was reminiscent of the attitude to the French shootings and killings earlier on this year. Our leaders get angry when asked to do their job. They take it personal, forgetting that this is one of the reasons they were elected into their positions in the first place. You become an instant enemy.

The third big lesson from watching Belgium on television is what I saw as efficient and coherent management of Information. Every department explains its role and achievement or challenges. I did not see any Information Minister, Special Adviser, Senior Special Assistant, Presidential Media Support Group, I Stand with the President Group, Special Adviser Social Media, Special Assistant, Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser and others competing to take charge of media. There was no cacophony of misinformation. No one harassed the Media. Even two prominent Ministers offered their resignations but were rejected. Government elsewhere would have taken hurried decisions before realising that sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know. It would be impossible for new Ministers to know what to do in the middle of this crisis. Better to chase the hyena away before returning to the hen later.

The fourth lesson is the level of preparedness. Everything needed and necessary was ready and pulled out immediately the bombs exploded; ambulances, oxygen, blood, dogs, fire trucks, hospital facilities appeared in a jiffy. Even hotels were converted to emergency clinics. The nation and the world stood together. Effort was made to identify victims dead or alive. Within days so many suspected or confirmed terrorists were trailed and apprehended. I saw a sense of mission and commitment. There has been no attempt to trade blames yet. Errors have been identified and accepted. But people have moved on immediately because there is a common enemy to be overcome. No political party or politician took advantage of the brouhaha to advance personal ambition. It is obvious there are sharp disagreements and undercurrents here and there but everyone is doing what needs to be done for now. There is always time for recrimination later.
The fifth lesson I learnt from watching television is that Nigerian leaders are too flamboyant and ceremonial. Even in the middle of our intractable crises, we have refused to tone down the pomp and pageantry of power. Our leaders still waste our dwindling resources on over-bloated personnel. Our leaders still travel abroad with security aides in full military regalia. If they watch television and take time to study protocol and etiquette they would realise that their style has become outlandishly archaic. Why should journalists want to capture the speech of a President and they are forced to take pictures of two people because of an outdated security trend. As mundane as this may seem, it is one of the things that shows the world that we are not serious. I saw Nigerian First Ladies in the past roaming the streets of Washington DC and London with uniformed orderlies. Why are we so uncouth? I have not seen world leaders or indeed their spouses being obviously attended by uniformed men abroad. The truth is that effective and efficient security of leaders is now an unobtrusive thing. I often wonder how an Aide-de-Camp dedicated to taking a bullet for his charge can do so from behind the person? Indeed what can he even see from that less than vantage position that would enable him to protect his ward? Na wah!

I’m very convinced that our leaders must watch good channels on television. It is impossible not to do so given the preponderance of votes in their budgets for this purpose. We have a few Nigerian channels but something must be done to bring NTA up to date with the rest of the civilised world. It is shameful that a country as big and powerful as Nigeria is not able to run a world class television channel that would compete with CNN, Al Jazeera, Sky, Fox, BBC, CCTV News, French, Russian, Chinese and others now rocking the world and expressing the views of their home country owners. A nation as strong and powerful as Nigeria should have a voice of its own. This is what Nduka Obaigbeina is doing with Arise News and Tony Dara did with NN24 before it went under. These are geniuses who like their forerunners Raymond Dokpesi, Gabriel Igbinedion, Osa Sonny Adun, Steve Ojo, Busari Gbadeyanka, John Momoh, Ben Murray Bruce, Bola Tinubu and others invested heavily in television, a casino of sorts. Lack of enabling environment and too much government control has made television business extra tedious in Nigeria. A government of Change can turn things around for the better if it sets its priorities right. But it would amount to nothing or mere wishful thinking if the leaders don’t watch television or prefer channels that engage in hero-worship.

It is time for a CHANGE!