When Will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki Go To Jail? By Bayo Oluwasanmi

No other person like Mesujamba Saraki has singularly reduced Nigeria to a colossal collection of impoverished masses. Mesujamba Saraki is genetically venal, ruthlessly ruthless, more corrupt, more shameless, and more brazen. And with a weak president, a National Assembly of thieves, and a dysfunctional judicial system, Saraki will continue to call the shots. When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail?

This past week, 47-year old Justice Allen H. Loughry II, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in the US, was sentenced to 395 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines after being hit with a 22-count indictment on numerous charges of fraud and corruption. This is a textbook example of how to permanently lock up miscreants in public office.

Nigeria is yet to join the community of civilized nations where no one is above the law. In civilized societies, people in positions of public trust get tougher sentences than those who are not high profile criminals. The question which comes up every time among Nigerians whenever a politician or a judge gets into trouble or jailed overseas is: When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail? A history that is not removed is bound to be repeated. Mesujamba Saraki is the most colorful and controversial corrupt politician dead or alive in Nigeria today.

The corruption, fraud, extortion, and other malfeasance perpetrated by the Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty is well documented and well known to Nigerians. We don’t need to list them in alphabetical order. Until few weeks ago when the Offa bank robbers named Mesujamba Saraki as their patron saint, Saraki’s crime skyscraper seems to have disappeared from the radar of Nigeria’s criminal justice system. His legendary disobedience of our laws has brought out rage of fatigue about our ancient criminal justice system. Governors, senators, House Reps, LG chairmen, councilors and other corruption titans are getting away with more stealing. The looting spree has long ceased to amaze Nigerians.

The Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty has violated every goddamn law in the book. It took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business. That no member of the Saraki Family Corruption Dynasty has gone to jail is a political mystery. Mesujamba Saraki has been a politician of nine lives, surviving a series of crimes and scandals which surely would have ended up anyone else’s career and freedom. Mesujamba Saraki’s crime history is the cancer at the heart of so many Nigeria’s problems today. Through looting, embezzlement, fraud, and outright plundering of Kwara State and the federal treasury, and the liquidation of two or three banks, he has single handedly destroyed jobs and holds back growth costing our economy trillions of Naira every year.

His greed and graft have trapped Nigeria’s poorest in the most desperate poverty as Mesujamba Saraki and his looting gang syphon off funds and prevent hardworking Nigerians revenues and benefits of growth that are rightly theirs. Vital resources for our schools, hospitals, infrastructures, safety and security, healthcare and social services have been stolen as Mesujamba Saraki cleaned out our treasury. Saraki has been able to get away with all these crimes because Nigeria is being run by Mafia-style cartels by political bosses and corrupt business people.

Yes, Nigerian Senate harbors Mafia-style criminals similar to Al Capone’s mob in 1920s America. Corruption stretches from the very top to the very bottom in our society. No other person like Mesujamba Saraki has singularly reduced Nigeria to a colossal collection of impoverished masses. Mesujamba Saraki is genetically venal, ruthlessly ruthless, more corrupt, more shameless, and more brazen. And with a weak president, a National Assembly of thieves, and a dysfunctional judicial system, Saraki will continue to call the shots.
When will Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki go to jail?

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The Kingibe Question By Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò

I had thought that time had passed on my Kingibe question with the passage of time. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to recognize June 12, 1993, as a watershed in Nigeria’s history changed the situation. With that recognition came the posthumous award of the country’s highest honour to M.K.O. Abiola, the winner of the presidential election held on that fateful day and the second highest honour to Baba Gana Kingibe who had run on the same ticket as the vice president. While most people have hailed the bestowal of this award on Abiola, there has been widespread condemnation of the same to Kingibe.
Critics of the restoration Kingibe to honour despite his having dumped Abiola in the struggle that ensued to actualize the mandate they won in that election aver that he is unworthy, in part, because he betrayed Abiola and the cause that June 12, 1993, morphed into. What is worse, he went on to serve as Foreign Minister in what everyone agrees is the most brutal and execrable regime to have ruled Nigeria: the Sani Abacha junta. Additionally, this was the same junta that installed itself in power in lieu of the legitimate government that ought to have been in place under Abiola and Kingibe. Although he is not alone, Olisa Agbakoba forcibly articulated this view in his recent interview with Punch [https://punchng.com/kingibe-is-a-traitor-he-doesnt-deserve-national-honour-agbakoba/] better than any other that I have read.

I agree entirely with Agbakoba. Yes, Kingibe betrayed the man at the top of the ticket on which he won the vice presidency of Nigeria. Yes, he abandoned the struggle for realizing the mandate overwhelmingly given to him and Abiola by Nigerians from all parts of the country in that election.

The criticism needs to be expanded. What is of moment, though, is not whether Kingibe deserves the honour to be conferred on him. The way I see it, in the present instance, he is the equivalent of an accidental honoree, a collateral beneficiary of a process that does not leave room for alternatives. For one thing, we have no evidence that Abiola ever hinted at dumping his running mate before he was cynically dispatched. And I am yet to hear of any attempt by prosecutors of the June 12 struggle to disinherit him.

For another, because this is not a personal honour for Abiola but for the office he won, there is no way to separate the ticket and honour one half of it. This is what I mean by Kingibe being a collateral beneficiary.

Of course, given what has happened since 1993, one would ordinarily expect an honourable person to decline the honour now being offered because of a principled abandonment of the June 12 struggle. I was not surprised that Kingibe did not do that. Nothing in his trajectory since that time suggests that he is such a person.

This brings us to what I call the Kingibe question. This question deserves serious attention from us because it might hold the key to unravelling some of the conundrums that afflict our political life not just in Nigeria but in many other African countries, too. The question is motivated by the fact that it is mistaken to look at Kingibe’s failings as an individual issue or strictly personal imperfections.

I would like to suggest that Kingibe is only one face of an attribute that many of us in the political and intellectual spheres share and makes us ever vulnerable to the kind of opportunism, moral bankruptcy, prostitution, and lack of fealty to principles that Kingibe embodies. In other words, Kingibe is the mirror we need to hold up to ourselves if we are to preempt future incarnations.
Even if it is yet to live up to expectations, few deny the importance of Nigeria as the giant of Africa. The Nigeria of 1993 that Kingibe would have served as vice president had been the leading country in the continent when it came to global affairs. South Africa was just negotiating its way out of apartheid and Nelson Mandela was still one year away from taking the reins of power there. Everyone who adverted their mind to it then believed that Nigeria, if only it would get its act together, would play a pivotal role in the liberation of African-descended peoples everywhere in the world.

Of no slight significance was the fact that at the head of the ticket sat Abiola whose profile in Africa, because of his support for sports was huge, to put it mildly; and in the African Diaspora, his reputation had soared on account of his advocacy for and financing of the struggle for reparations for blacks for the ravages of slavery in the Americas and the European slave trade that spawned it.
In sum, the Nigeria to the vice presidency of which Kingibe was elected was, by all accounts, the most important, if not the most powerful, black country on earth! The annulment of the election and the installation of an illegitimate regime fronted by Abacha truncated the process and prevented the accession to the vice presidency of Nigeria of Kingibe as it did his principal’s, Abiola’s, to the presidency.

Against everybody’s expectations, Abiola decided that history would not be kind to him nor could he live with the ignominy that would attend his abandonment of the popular mandate that the election gave him. He stood his ground even when it was clear that it could cost him his life and all that he had labored to achieve in his life. In other words, the choice he made was nowhere inevitable. He could not see his way to living in any way that would represent a betrayal of the mandate he earned. He chose principle over expediency and history has pretty much made its judgment.
Kingibe made the exact opposite choice. He chose to abandon principle and did not leave it at that. He could have walked away from the mandate and gone back to his private life and enjoy his life as he saw fit. No, he became the foreign minister in the illegal government that usurped his mandate and served while his principal was incarcerated.

Here, at last, is the Kingibe question: what would make an individual, who is otherwise distinguished and adjudged worthy, give up the vice presidency of the most important, if not the most powerful country in Africa to become the diplomatic face of the most brutal regime in his country’s history led by a military flunkey whose generalship was dubious at best? Needless to say, even if Abacha had been a worthy general in the circumstance, the question would not be any less compelling. Given that there was no inevitability to the choice he made, the question deserves some reflection.
The question is beyond Kingibe the man. He is just an iteration of the type that populates the Nigerian, nay, African, political landscape since independence. Before we leave Nigeria, I am surprised that, in the present discussion, people are overlooking another significant enabler whose choice might only be slightly less grievous than Kingibe’s: Ernest Shonekan. What would make a business mogul who had headed the first true conglomerate in Nigeria, the United Africa Company, soil his sterling reputation by cooperating with an unprecedented illegality called Interim National Government and the subversion of the popular will of the Nigerian electorate? While we are on that, it may be time, as part of the exorcising of the ghosts of June 12, to remove Shonekan from the list of former presidents of Nigeria and the Council of State.

Other examples abound. Think of the intellectual and political amen corner for, first, Samuel Doe, and, later, Charles Taylor in Liberia; the yes men and women who celebrated Jean-Bedel Bokassa in the Central African Republic; the repeated selling out to Mobutu Sese Seko of the cream of Congolese intelligentsia and political elite; Raila Odinga agreeing to be Prime Minister to Mwai Kibaki; Morgan Tsvangirai serving under Robert Mugabe, when it was obvious that the latter had practically done a coup against the popular will of Zimbabweans; and so on.

I do not need to prolong this discussion by populating it with the many Kingibe-types in our successive administrations, military or civilian—in Nigeria.

I am convinced that answering the Kingibe question might open the path to a politics of principle, self-respect, and honour; and a steadfast refusal to sell out for pittances.

Táíwò teaches at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A.

A Case For Early Childhood Education In Nigeria By Chika Nwuche

Education is a vital investment for human and economic development and is influenced by the environment within which it exists. There, is, therefore, a need to not only maintain but continually improve every level of education especially the pre-primary stage and because it is the bedrock upon which all other educational levels are built. Once a child misses these all important early stages of education, it becomes difficult to get back to the basics.

Early Childhood can be said to be a critical period of rapid physical, cognitive and psycho-social development of a child. The quality of care and education which a child receives at this crucial age will determine to a great extent the level of her physical and cognitive development in the future.

According to the 2016 Global Education Monitoring report, there are still more than 150 million children ages 3 to 5 who do not have access to pre-primary education, including more than 80% of children in low-income countries worldwide. Early childhood education is a starting point for a child’s development. This type of education is recognized by the Nigeria National Policy on Education (FRN 2012).

In Nigeria, Early Childhood Care, Development and Education [ECCDE] is an aspect of Universal Basic Education which was introduced in 1999 to increase the access of children to basic education and improve the state of education in the country. While all minds are engaged to ensure a successful implementation and achievement of the objectives of the scheme, it was observed that ECCDE is facing serious challenges that may make these objectives not realizable.

The objectives of early childhood education according to FRN (2004) include:

effecting a smooth transition from home to school, preparing the child for the primary level of education, provision of adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work (on the farm, in the market or offices), inculcating in the child the spirit of inquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and playing with toys and so on as well as developing a sense of cooperation and team spirit. Others include learning good habits, especially good health habits and enabling the child grasp the rudiments of numbers, letters, colors, shapes, forms and so on through a well planned out curriculum

It has been discovered that those children who do not receive a high quality early childhood education are more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, be placed in a special school, never attend college or more likely to be involved in crimes.

For the objectives of early childhood education to be fully realizable, the quality of the teachers will determine the strength of the educational system and the value of the learners. Sadly, in Nigerian early childhood education today, the teacher quality is generally low. It is only a few of the nursery schools, especially those owned by educational institutions, private companies and wealthy individuals that can afford to engage the services of university graduate teachers and holders of Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) qualifications as early child care givers.

Most others employ a few NCE teachers (if any at all), who are usually underpaid, while others employ mainly Grade Two teachers and secondary school leavers with school Certificate or General Certificate (ordinary level) qualification. In a situation where most of the teachers in our early childhood institutions are unqualified and/or unprofessional, effective teaching and learning cannot be achieved.

Therefore, there is an impending dangers posed by the inadequate equipping of teachers, facilities and infrastructure for this very critical period (0 – 5 years) of rapid physical, cognitive and psycho-social development of every child. The teacher- pupil ratio of 1:25 with a helper/an assistant stated in National Policy on Education (FGN 2004) for the pre-primary class is a big problem in the sense that the developmental characteristics and the needs of the pre-school child have not been considered. The children at this level are restless, extremely active and full of energy. They are still dependent on adults for almost all their basic needs – physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social skills and therefore they require their full attention and diverse activities to help to satisfy their basic needs.

However, if we are to follow the National Policy on Education (FGN 2004) which states the ratio of teacher to pupil, we currently have a major challenge at hand regarding the number of teachers that we require to run the early childhood education effectively in the country. Therefore, we need to close the gap in trained and qualified teachers for the early childhood education to run effectively. In Nigeria we need a total number of 579,769 preschool teachers (639,958 less current 60189) to close this gap. Besides inadequacy in teacher effectiveness, teaching methods, teaching aids and infrastructure, this major gap will eventually adversely affect the youths, the Nation and the present and future workforce in the labor market.

Presently, in our country, only about one in every 10 pre-primary school pupils is enrolled in early education activities. The goal of any investment in early childhood development is for all children in Nigeria, whether poor or rich, to attain their development potential. If the aim of early child development will be achieved, all teachers involved, will be required to be skilled and properly trained to do the job.

Without a doubt, early childhood programs are the most cost effective ways to ensure the healthy development of children in developing economies and it offers greatest returns to the society. If no immediate solution delivery template to arrest the situation is deployed, the nation will experience the venom of a great percentage of well trained, angry, restive, criminal minded, violent and uncontrollable youths.

According to former United Nations Secretary General, Dr Kofi Anan, “education is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a basic tool for daily life in modern society. It is a wall against poverty, and a building block of development. It is a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity”. It is view of this truth that a special attention must be accorded early child education in the country.

Nwuche is of Green Meadows Childcare Center, Ogba, Lagos

No, Baba Atiku, You Must Come To The United States By Churchill Okonkwo

Mr. “President-in-waiting”, Chief Atiku Abubakar, (GCON), you finally admitted that [you] “have difficulties visiting the U.S.”. E-e-yeah, poor Atiku. You are probably too poor that the U.S. Embassy officials are concerned that once you come to the U.S. you will abscond and join me in the under the table security job, so, you were denied a visa. Or is it that after going through your documents, the U.S officials concluded that you are so impeccable, character-wise and in business sense that they don’t want the corrupt American system to dent your integrity?

I was looking forward to your visit when I heard that you will be speaking at a trade and investment gathering in Washington D.C. later this month. I have been mobilizing your supporters ready to roll out the drums and welcome you at the Dulles International Airport. We were planning to show the world that the next President of Nigeria that will finally unlock our potentials has arrived. Then, BOOM! You admitted the obvious; you are a wanted man in the U.S.

Baba Atiku, has your dishonesty and lack of integrity caught up with you? The three things per Frederick Williams Robertson that deserves no mercy are hypocrisy, fraud and tyranny. The last thing we need in Nigeria is a leadership with failed honor but success in fraud. Oga mi, leadership is more than just being able to amass wealth through questionable means. It should also be about character and integrity. We need leadership by example. If that example is soiling your hands and running away from America, Nigerians will say tufiakwa!

Baba Atiku, your supporters who are worried about the direction the Nigerian ship is headed are even more worried that a “wanna-be” President cannot obtain a visa to visit the U.S. You can reject the allusions that your presidential ambition will be hampered by the loud and clear message from the U.S. that you are unfit to set foot in the land of the free. It’s okay to remind Nigerians that our constitution does not require presidential candidates to visit the U.S. before conning their way to Aso Rock. But you can no longer hide the fact that you are a wanted man in the U.S.

Your jibe on President Buhari when you referred to some Nigerian leaders that were once ‘denied’ entry to the U.S. until they became President is a lame excuse. As President Buhari rightly told you, when denying that claim, go to the American Embassy and clear your name. Until you do this, Governor Wike and his gang in the PDP will always see you as a flawed candidate to carry the flag of the PDP in the 2019 elections.

Oga Atiku, remember the saying, “The bigger your head, a knock on it never misses”? That’s exactly what the PDP and APC have been doing with you. The baggage you are carrying on your head is too big that everyone could knock you down. Sincerely, as I watch you tour the states to woo Fayose, Wike, and Co, I feel sorry for you. It is a betrayal for the PDP big whips to ‘welcome’ you only to indirectly impugn your integrity by publishing this list of invitees to the U.S. Think about this slowly; why are Wike and others seeking to draft Kwankwaso into the PDP Presidential race?

Did you not see that Governor Wike is planning to do to your ambition? Why do you think your name was included on the same invitation with Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo? Think. Is it a ploy to tell Nigerians that you are running away from the U.S. while Dankwambo can freely go to the U.S.? So, you see why you must come to the U.S. If not anything, it will send a signal of APC and OBJ that you are “the man they couldn’t arrest”. Please don’t disappoint your supporters.

Oga Atiku, the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquired, but in his integrity. You have nothing to fear with integrity since you have nothing to hide.  To prove that you are not lying, running and hiding, make another application to the Embassy of the U.S. in Abuja. When you have a date for your interview, inform them that you are coming with your mob. Mobilize millions of your supporters to the Embassy and you all should stay there until you are granted a visa.

A visit to the U.S. will also give you the opportunity to go see your political associate Williams Jefferson, who is currently serving a jail term related to fraud that has nothing to do with you.You must visit America before PDP primaries and 2019 elections. If you fail to do this, it means you don’t have integrity. And you know what they say about people without integrity? Nothing else they do or say matters. Absolutely nothing.

Grounded ginger is smeared on a child’s anus in the Ghanaian culture as punishment and sometimes as medicine to some ailments. I am afraid that the ginger smeared on your image in being declared a persona non-gratain the U.S. is a punishment for your fraudulent past. Oga Atiku, you will not be jumping from party to party with decayed teeth if you know how to brush our teeth. You had your opportunity, but you chose to launder millions of Dollars to the U.S., which you eventually used to establish the American University of Nigeria.

Baba Atiku, as you tour the states across Nigeria, avoiding proximity to the U.S. Embassy in Lagos and Abuja, here is a puzzle you MUST explain to your supporters: How could a former Vice President and a wanna-be President; the famous philanthropist; the highest “creator” of labor after Dangote and the proud owner of American University of Nigeria be denied a visa that officers of the Nigerian police Force could obtain?  Why is someone with your credentials running away from the U.S.? Something doesn’t just add up my Baba.

Nigerians cannot support a “wanna-be” President that could not go to America as an ordinary Nigerian citizen because he fears arrest. Integrity is the most valued asset for a society seeking to build and progress. Baba Atiku, you MUST, therefore, come to America to show that your integrity means more to you than fame, money or winning elections. You must come to America if you want us to take your words on the economic transformation of the Nigerian landscape to Dubai without a pinch of salt.

Finally, baba Atiku, I will leave you with the Igbo proverb “if a deceitful person buries himself, one of his arms will stick out”. One of your arms is sticking out and asking Nigerians for votes in the 2019 election. Before that will happen, we are demanding to see the buried parts of your body hidden from us. There is no better stage in the world to show your full face than the U.S. A dog may refuse food, but he does not refuse to answer a call. Please answer this clarion call and come to the U.S. We are watching your every checkered step to Aso Rock,with our eyes closed.

You can email Churchill at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi

National Assembly And Its Passion For Unromantic Insertions By Fredrick Nwabufo

Insertion! This word entered my offender’s register in 2016. At the time, Abdulmumin Jibrin, former chairman, house committee on appropriations, was a caterwauler; he cried out, alleging that the leadership of the house of representatives was involved in impassioned “insertions”.

Jibrin claimed that four principal officers of the house, including Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the lower legislative chamber, were inserting personal projects into the 2016 budget. He said the insertions were brazen, illegal and wanton.

He wailed so loudly at the time, giving inveterate wailers a run for their money.

I remember Jibrin went on Channels TV in the heat of the controversy to establish his claim. And I think I saw him use his index finger to describe the “insertions”.

He sent a petition to the EFCC and the DSS asking them to investigate his claim and those he tagged the “corrupt quartet”.

But he was a lone prosecutor. He stood alone like a wraith seeking justice. He was suspended. Disgraced.  And politically marooned. He spent months stitching up his shredded raiment.

In the thick of all these, President Muhammadu Buhari kept quiet.  In fact, it was reported that he dismissed the allegations of illegal insertions. He took no action.

In 2018, Buhari has suddenly realised the national assembly’s knack for “unromantic insertions”.  By speaking up now, the president has only given his allegation and motive a political slant.

However, it is unsettling that the national assembly will open the budget and insert choice projects into it. It is totally abhorrent.

Permit my bias, but why did the national assembly cut the provision for the construction of a terminal building at Enugu airport from N2b billion to N500 million? Why did the national assembly increase its own budget from N125 billion to N139.5 billion? This is injudicious.

As a matter of fact, these insertions are becoming too abrasive. And it appears the national assembly is deviating from its statutory role.

I will not be on the band of the demonizers of the national assembly, but the legislature must always be above board. It is an institution of check, and as such, it must be prim and proper. With actions like this, the accusations of its traducers are given a verisimilitude of truth.

These insertions are unromantic!

Fredrick is a writer, journalist and media entrepreneur

He can be reached on Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo, Facebook: Fredrick Nwabufo

 

The Jitters Of The Generals: President Buhari’s Needless Assault On The Populist Front! By Frisky Larry

The import of the tirades against Olusegun Obasanjo on social media since President Muhammadu Buhari launched his vengeful assault on the former President has largely been the expression of accustomed hate, schadenfreude, and the childish serves-him-right fascination. Outside the social media, traditional die-hard Obasanjo-haters like Professor Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana have been having a field day of feasting on their favorite object of pastime denigration. In one of the most unobjective, hate-filled and clearly envy-driven tirades, Femi Falana even strayed shamefully, into the murky waters of suggesting a government seizure of Olusegun Obasanjo’s landmark Presidential Library. An edifice that does not represent personal enrichment but does Nigeria proud, promotes education and serves as one indispensable official archive of Nigeria’s history and everything Nigeria may stand for in generations to come! Indeed, such unequivocally nonsensical show of deep-seated abhorrence devoid of any appreciative sense of goodwill will rather be ignored for what it truly is.

Retaliating the former President’s rejection of his Presidency and apparently, effective drive to unseat him and deny him a second term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has taken to tapping into these hate-filled, populist sentiments to resist and perhaps, fight back in very surprising desperation. That is the very first jitter that has triggered this fully unwarranted feud in a roller-coaster relationship.

I remember vividly, one summer evening in the comfort of my summer residence in Turkey in 2015 in the wake of President Buhari’s victory over President Goodluck Jonathan in the polls. I had this call from President Obasanjo’s Personal Assistant, who gave me the rare privilege of talking to the former President on the telephone on that calm evening. I remember President Obasanjo’s pleasure and excitement over Muhammadu Buhari’s triumph and his reassuring words: “My son, we can’t afford to fail this time. We will get it right!” These, in my opinion, are the words of a patriotic legend, whose personal interest far transcend the celebration of the victory or defeat of any individual and was focused more on fixing the country. In fact, in a statement released by the then, presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in March 2015 on occasion of the former President’s birthday celebration, Muhammadu Buhari had these words for Olusegun Obasanjo:

“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to power when he is convinced leaders are going wrong … he is a nationalist, whose commitment to democracy and good governance are worthy of recognition and praise … Obasanjo is a true statesman and nationalist who doesn’t abandon his country when it needs his voice to jolt the conscience of leaders to listen to those they govern.”

Again, these are authentic and deeply-felt words of honest appreciation against the backdrop of the tragic direction that the Nigerian state was heading under former President Goodluck Jonathan. The reality though, was that President Goodluck Jonathan at that time did not agree and would never have agreed with Muhammadu Buhari that Olusegun Obasanjo’s public efforts to unseat him from the Presidency had anything statesman-like or patriotic in them. He was at the receiving end. So, just what does President Buhari think he is doing here and now?

Where did this relationship go sour? Judging by the open letter written by the former President, it is glaring that he has his grudges in clearly defined areas and he minced no word highlighting them. Agree or disagree with him, he blamed the incumbent President for his performance on the economy and his constant apportionment of the blame on others and not taking responsibility for failures where necessary. He buttressed his point with one clear example amongst others, of the President blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the 70% devaluation of the Naira. He criticized the President’s lack of flair and instinct for the handling of subtleties in the dynamics of politics. Indeed, many pundits have had cause to voice out criticisms in these same areas on several occasions too. A President, who refuses to dialog with his citizens, seemingly snubbing them and simply ignoring matters of crucial significance can only end up having the country deeply divided. Many will disagree with President Obasanjo on these two issues in view of the enormity of the economic problems that Buhari inherited and the progress he undeniably, made on several fronts of the economy. From my own layman perception though, I will not discount chances that President Buhari may have made significant errors of judgment and implementation at crucial moments, on the economy. Yet, I do need stronger arguments to convince me that President Buhari has failed woefully on the economy. Many will also disagree with President Obasanjo that the deep polarization in the country today, is attributable solely, to President Buhari’s lack of the requisite political finesse. After all, the nation was deeply polarized in the days of President Obasanjo as well.

On another point, though, the former President wrote about an area in which:

“President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. This has grave consequences on the performance of his government to the detriment of the nation.”

It is on this point that President Obasanjo, in my opinion, has clearly hit the bull’s eye. He cited the example of Maina and talked about “collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action”. He then asked how many more cases may have been concealed or remained unseen by the public eye.

Now, looking back at the year 2007 in the heat of presidential campaigns to succeed Olusegun Obasanjo as President, candidate Muhammadu Buhari did not hide his disdain for President Olusegun Obasanjo. In different ways, he insinuated that he would subject Olusegun Obasanjo to one persecution or the other. It was at a point, in which the polity had been badly overheated, and the nation was deeply polarized.

Part of the problem at the time that badly angered the northern establishment was Obasanjo’s radical break from the normative political order that several northern-led military governments had established through several years of dominance. Key government offices were reserved solely for Northerners. The Governor of the Central Bank, the Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of Finance, Minister of Defense, Minister of External Affairs to name but a few, were posts that were often reserved exclusively for Northerners.

As the first leader of its kind, Olusegun Obasanjo displayed color-blindness as far as ethnic coloration was concerned, when it came to making appointments to government posts. Olusegun Obasanjo reorganized the military in a manner that ensured the less frequency of coups and equal opportunities for all irrespective of tribe and geographical origin. Many Northerners, who commented on this issue at the time, considered this a frontal attack on the North. As I elaborated in my book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism”, one serious consequence of this perception, was the unilateral declaration of Sharia Law in individual northern States to undermine the constitutional laws that defined the legal system of the country as well as to dare the incumbent President of the time to take any action to restore constitutional order. So, when candidate Muhammadu Buhari made it clear that he would hold Olusegun Obasanjo accountable for whatever vices he had in mind if he became President, it wasn’t difficult to figure out, where the grudges were coming from. Yet, he won a lot of applause from his target audience across the board because Olusegun Obasanjo had a multitude of media-influenced enemies and the media were driven by the individual political interest groups that owned and controlled them. It made the 2007 presidential election a do-or-die affair for the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had to fight for his own political and personal survival.

Fast-forward to 2015. All these animosities died in the wake of President Goodluck Jonathan’s extremely clannish and corrupt approach to Governance. Very much as it is with President Buhari, there is no doubt that Olusegun Obasanjo had his moment or moments of disagreement with President Goodluck Jonathan as well, which made him part ways from his political foster son. At the time, this parting of ways meant courageous statesmanship and patriotism to candidate Muhammadu Buhari. After all, he was the beneficiary. Olusegun Obasanjo committed to him as a candidate and campaigned relentlessly to secure international endorsement for the removal of Goodluck Jonathan’s threatening disintegration of the Union.

Now, upon proclamation by Olusegun Obasanjo, of his parting of ways with President Muhammadu Buhari, the initial reaction by President Buhari was measured and respectful, probably hoping to dissuade from a further deepening of the rift and to nip the crisis in the bud. He had clearly instructed his aides to desist from disparaging the former President because they would be too young to disparage an elder in the spirit of African courtesy. Aside the factual and impersonal response provided by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, the President’s bar on disparaging comments does not seem to have applied to Festus Keyamo, who he had recently appointed as his campaign and not necessarily, government or personal spokesman.

As soon as President Obasanjo started acting out his script of working against the reelection of the incumbent President, making consultations and forming alliances as he did in the days that nourished the candidacy of the incumbent President against Goodluck Jonathan, President Buhari suddenly remembered that $16 bn had been wasted on electricity that was not provided in the wake of the year 2007. Never mind that the figures were not quite accurate and never mind that the President was also personally aware of the controversy surrounding the accuracy of the figures. Never mind too that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had officially investigated the issue exhaustively over the years, with conclusive reports – fair or foul! It became the most urgent issue on the front burner.

There are yet no charges prepared or filed against Diezani Allison-Madueke to be taken up whenever she returns. No. No investigation is deemed urgent on the reason for the depletion of the country’s foreign reserves while earnings were high. No. Instead, another lie is advanced that the price of crude oil between 1999 and 2007 averaged $100.00 per barrel. No probe is being ordered on why fuel subsidy blew out of proportion and why many surrogates and cronies were allowed to get away with false subsidy declarations without prosecution. The urgency of prosecuting such looters publicly has not been highlighted. The stupendous looting of the country’s resources in the immediate past administration is not a subject of any urgent public scrutiny. No. It is the power sector spending under President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, coincidentally, is championing the cause of stopping the reelection of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari that is now on the front burner.

Then from nowhere, President Buhari discovered the sanctity of the June 12 movement and its democratic significance for Nigeria and the ecclesiastic infallibility of General Sani Abacha.

Now, while I have no judgmental input whatsoever, into the injustices of June 12 and the atrocities related to it, I have opined in one article several years ago that I, personally, shed no tears for Moshood Abiola, irrespective of the attacks and abuses this will generate. The man Moshood Abiola played a crucial role in the unfair demise and dismantling of Obafemi Awolowo in the early days of the Second Republic to advance his own political ambitions. In the battle of the Nigerian Concord against the Nigerian Tribune, the most brutal form of political propaganda journalism was put on display in the hope that Moshood Abiola would be nominated the presidential candidate of the ruling National Party of Nigeria at the time when the tenure of President Shehu Shagari was expected to end. A move that would have guaranteed him electoral success while the more brilliant and popularly adored brain would have wasted away and fallen prey to the power of some ITT-financed monetary prowess. Alas, when the time came, the party constitution was manipulated and amended and Moshood Abiola was shown his rightful place in an era that saw ethnic and regional politicking at its highest peak. It was the first warning shot that he failed to heed.

As a practicing Moslem, Moshood Abiola had always considered himself a brother to the North and was highly connected with the political powers of the time since the North dominated political leadership and Abiola cherished hanging out with such political leaders and sponsoring them for favors. Unfortunately, there was no indication that the Northern leaders were ready to reciprocate his heavily money-guided overtures in any way. In the end, he suffered the inevitable fate of dining with the devil too closely in the hope of a cheaper path to fame and power and Obafemi Awolowo would have turned in his grave and cracked his ribs laughing. That much for my unfavorable personal opinion.

Now, if the conduct of the historic June 12 elections was the freest and fairest Nigeria has ever had and the activists involved were unjustly persecuted and victimized, no doubt honor must be given where and when it is due. But why didn’t it occur to President Muhammadu Buhari to shower these accolades on the recipients in 2015 (shortly after his inauguration), in 2016 or in 2017? Why did President Buhari have to wait till his feud with Olusegun Obasanjo to suddenly remember that there are people to honor, who posterity may have been unfair to? This is where a dose of childishness may serve to neutralize the goodwill of men. It is highly reminiscent of President Jonathan’s act in promoting the election of Governor Ayodele Fayose to spite Olusegun Obasanjo in the heat of his hopeless bid for reelection. History repeating itself in different cycles in the gaze of those, who choose to react with hate emotions and spitefulness.

Even though President Olusegun Obasanjo now seems to have betrayed the second jitter of a General by ringing the alarm bell on attempts to incarcerate him, I will encourage President Muhammadu Buhari to truly go ahead with such plans if indeed, he has them in mind. The making of a legend will be realized not too long after the fading of the music. In spite of all hatred and abuses that President Buhari is willingly and knowingly tapping into, Olusegun Obasanjo’s place in Nigeria’s history has long been defined and cemented. The social media rascals – professionals and novices – who believe in the power of blind submission giving the incumbent President the feeling of heroism in setting the wrong agenda out of obvious desperation, may not be the determinant factor in reelection.

Then, the President comes out to declare that he had allowed the Governor of the Central Bank – a Jonathan appointee – to remain on his post because he, basically, wanted the Governor to correct the mess he had created in the economy. An unforced error of this sort often prompts one to wonder, if our Presidents are never guided by capable advisers. With a statement of this nature, the President is clearly dropping the hint that he had no blueprint of his own to salvage the ruinous economy left by President Jonathan in the wake of grand larceny. President Buhari’s belief in reviving the economy through reverse engineering that he expected Emefiele to perform is the most potent declaration of his own bankruptcy of ideas. He could as well have allowed President Jonathan to stay on to correct the mess he created and this is without prejudice to the continued stay of Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank.

In the end, opportunism and desperation are the last attributes anyone would have expected of General Muhammadu Buhari, in whom we all saw the Messiah and Revolutionary. No doubt, General Olusegun Obasanjo deserves to be punished, jailed and disgraced if, indeed, corruption and massive wrongdoings are proven against him. But please do not sell opportunism and desperation to the world as a fight against corruption and the final touching of the Untouchables.

Knowing the criticisms directed at him by Olusegun Obasanjo, it would have been incumbent upon President Muhammadu Buhari to seek immediate dialog with the former President to defuse further tension particularly after the coincidental meeting in Addis Abeba shortly after the open letter was written. That would have been the only logical move to make while acting in good faith. The goal would have been, to carry the former President along by explaining details to him if there were issues, which in the view of the administration, he had not properly understood. Whether any such move was made or not, we do not know from the outside. The current turn of events, however, indicate that such moves were either never made or ended up in failure.

Whichever way it is, the growing bellicosity and grandstanding tapping into negative sentiments to intimidate or silent Olusegun Obasanjo will only end up overheating the polity in the most unnecessary manner since Olusegun Obasanjo will continue to defy all odds at an age, in which he has virtually, nothing more to lose. By taking this barrage of vengeful counter-measures, President Muhammadu Buhari is doing nothing else, but making his reelection battle his own personal “Do-or-die” moment.

Frisky Larr is the author of “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism”, “Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment” and “Lost in Democracy”. Watch out for the upcoming book “A Journey Through Times”

Literacy Is No Education By Idowu Awopeju

In the last two months, I had visited South East twice in quick succession to bear witness, first hand, to inter – ethnic marital solemnization. The first one was in Imo State while the second one was in Aba. Honestly, in terms of the warm hospitality, I am at a crossroads as to determine which one was the best. And I don’t mean from the Chief host per se but the people generally. Relevant to this piece was an event that occurred in Owerri at Naze junction, also known as  Poly Junction  while returning from Aba, the venue of the wedding. I had indulged myself with few bottles of can drinks at the reception, and I did not overstep my bounds, but somehow, perhaps being a long time that I took beers, my exclusive passage was over efficient.

At interval, I was urinating. On getting to the said Naze  Junction, before mounting a bike that will take me to my hotel, I sought refuge behind a stand – alone big tree to unburden my bowel. A passer – by alerted and alarmed me to the looming danger of urinating at the spot, but I didn’t understand because he was speaking in Igbo thinking I was one of the natives because of my dress. I had barely finished the business when I started  hearing loud voices behind me calling my attention. Sensing no harm, I turned back calmly, wow! The look frightened me.  I needed no interpreter or soothsayer to know that I was in for a big trouble. One spirit said I should take to my heels, the other spirit cautioned me and reminded me that I was light legged, courtesy of the substance.

I succumbed to the latter and walked briskly towards them. There were four of them, neatly clad and wearing hostile faces. It was then I realised I had desecrated an army barrack. They bombarded me with queries simultaneously, remorsefully, I interjected them and told them that I was a first time visitor in that neighborhood and I didn’t know…

The only Igbo among them cut in, and said in pidgin;  where you come from ? I said from Lagos, I added sir to it. “You be Yoruba?” he enquired. And I answered, “Yes.” To my chagrin, he asked me to go. In his own words ” Den be decent people, make in dey comot”. ( If I lied may God punish me).

I thanked them and slowly but hastily walked away with fear and trembling. But between you and me, there was nothing decent in urinating by the roadside. The soldier must have based his verdict or his opinions about the Yoruba as a people.

Now, based on the foregoing, juxtapose the soldier’s attitude with the grossly provocative insults of that Vanguard journalist. They are both Igbo. The presumption is that  a high ranking journalist will be more civil and courteous in words and deeds than a recruit in Nigerian Army. If anybody had told me it is a rebuttable presumption, I would have argued it vehemently.

Clearly, there is one important  lesson here; what defines you is not necessarily your profession nor education nor title but largely, family values. Those things we use as a yardstick most times are more of myth than reality. I have seen an irreligious person  with only one car making same available for his friends to learn driving for days,  while a very religious guy with three cars  cannot spare one to be used for Registry. A one-day exercise.

That journalist, let’s be frank, must have  been propagating ills about other ethnic groups to his children and would – be mentees; hence, the assertion in public. It was a time bomb that got exploded.

I know, incontrovertibly, that  there is mutual suspicion, intimate  hostility and cordial acrimony between and among different ethnic groups in Nigeria. Amidst it, however, we are managing the fragile oneness to prevent affliction from rising again.  I applauded the belated posthumous recognition of June 12. Arguing that with such precedence, it is a matter of time when the referendum we have been skedaddling will be conveyed and the Biafra question will be interrogated whether to be or not to be.

Ideally, a trained  journalist should be at the  vanguard of preaching peace, and ensuring with the use of his pen and intellect; unity in diversity. Sadly, our man in Vanguard thought otherwise.

I  urge him when the dust settles on this self destructive  mission to pay special and diligent attention to the number one instruction in the Ten  Fundamentals to Change The World as sagely  formulated by Mahatma Ghandi; Change Yourself. There is no logic in being  cerebral in bigotry!

God bless Nigeria.

Idowu Awopeju is a Lagos based lawyer.

Buhari’s Anti-Corruption Fight And The Rule Of Law By Kolawole Olaniyan

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 after emphasising his track record of tackling corruption, and his pledge to stop public officials from looting the country’s treasury, after he rightly declared: “if we don’t kill corruption, this corruption will kill us.”

Mr. Buhari has backed his commitment by putting in place some important measures such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Whistle-Blowing Policy and the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, to combat the systemic theft of public resources and by extension, its pernicious effects on human rights and development.

The TSA, in particular, aims to pave the way for the timely payment and capturing of all revenues going into the government treasury, without the intermediation of multiple banking arrangements.

However, real progress is yet to be made with respect to the prosecution of cases of grand corruption. High-ranking corrupt officials rarely end up in jail, as suspects continue to exploit the flaws in the justice system and the anti-corruption programme’s legal and institutional mechanisms, to the point where individuals are profiting from their crimes.

Part of the problem is the authority’s disdain for the rule of law, as illustrated by the tendency to pick and choose which court orders it complies with. This selective application of the rule of law implies an agenda to delegitimise the judiciary, and perhaps, inadvertently, render it incapable of contributing to the anti-corruption fight.

Mr. Buhari has put the rather slow pace of his government’s fight against corruption down to the ‘lack of cooperation by the judiciary.’ As he put it: “In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption”.

But while the judiciary may not as yet be up to speed in terms of accelerating the hearing of high-level corruption cases – consistent with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 – and adopting an activist-cum-public-interest approach to such cases, judges can do very little if the investigation and prosecution of grand corruption cases continue to be poorly handled.

Mr. Buhari cannot on the one hand blame the judiciary for ‘failing to work’ with his government in the fight against corruption, while on the other be disobeying judgments by the same judiciary.

Yet, obeying court orders is the bare minimum required of Mr. Buhari by his constitutional oath of office to: “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [1999]”, and by extension, defend the independence of the judiciary. But the attitude of the government to court orders has fallen far short of this constitutional commitment.

Court orders that are yet to be complied with include those obtained by human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, particularly the judgments by Nigerian courts ordering: The establishment of education banks to assist poor students to obtain loans to pursue tertiary education; the restoration of the People’s Bank of Nigeria to give loans without collateral to underprivileged citizens, and more recently, the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, from unlawful detention.

Other high-profile judgments the authorities are refusing to obey include at least three judgments obtained by the anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.

The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.

Disobedience of court orders is inconsistent and incompatible with any definition of the rule of law. It’s very difficult for any country to successfully combat corruption if its government doesn’t obey court orders. If government doesn’t obey court orders, citizens are unlikely to do so.

Disobedience of court orders implies the executive can do what it likes.

The government has also claimed that obeying judges’ decisions would require an assessment of ‘national security’ implications and potential to spark crisis. However, this position is the exact opposite of the rule of law.

The rule of law implies the supremacy of the law as opposed to arbitrariness by government, or the whims and fancies of its officials. This means that it is the responsibility of every law-abiding government to obey decisions of lawfully constituted courts, including those the authorities may dislike.

The government can disagree with court orders, but if it has issues with any of these orders, it ought to use all available means of appealing them rather than refusing to obey them. Deliberate disobedience of judges’ decisions would, ultimately, shatter citizens’ confidence in judges’ ability to champion the rule of law.

In any case, the surest way for any government to promote and improve national security is to uphold the rule of law, by among others complying with court orders.

Supporters of the government may point to Mr. Buhari’s political will to fight corruption. To his credit, Mr. Buhari has shown some level of political will to fight corruption, at least when compared with the record of his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who once infamously said: “stealing is not corruption.”

However, political will is not enough to tackle corruption if the government routinely disobeys court orders. In fact, the fight against corruption can only succeed if all citizens, including those who serve in the government, are adequately constrained by the law.

Make no mistake: If Mr. Buhari fails to demonstrate commitment to obeying judges’ decisions, some of which are highlighted above, he will be striking at the foundation of Nigerian constitutional order, suggesting that his government is above the law.

Mr. Buhari should embrace the rule of law as a logical extension of his commitment to ‘kill corruption’. The rule of law can check corruption and abuses of power. If the fight against corruption is to succeed (and by extension, the rule of law is to be upheld), it is vital that court orders are rigorously and predictably enforced.

It is to be hoped that Mr. Buhari and his government would learn from John Locke’s dictum that “Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins” and Thomas Paine’s declaration that “in free countries, the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”

As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights put it (in Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights v Zimbabwe, para 118): “The alternative to the rule of law is the rule of power, which is typically arbitrary, self-interested and subject to influences which may have nothing to do with the applicable law or the factual merits of the dispute.”

Learning from these wise words may seem a tall order, but it is the one that the rule of law and Nigerian constitutional order commands.

 

Kolawole Olaniyan is the author of Corruption and Human Rights Law in Africa and legal advisor to Amnesty International’s International Secretariat.

In This 20th Year Of ‘Democracy’ By Edwin Madunagu

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which is currently running, was born on May 29, 1999—with Olusegun Obasanjo as inaugural executive president. A year later, on May 29, 2000, the president proclaimed May 29 of every year Nigeria’s “Democracy Day”. The day was also added to the list of the country’s national public holidays. It was a unilateral executive decision—by which I mean that neither the proclamation of “Democracy Day” nor the declaration of public holiday was endorsed, before the acts, by the constitution or any legislative body or any other institution of the Nigerian state or any organized public opinion.

It is a fact of the Nigerian history that President Olusegun Obasanjo’s executive proclamation and declaration were criticized, at that time, by the National Assembly, parties other than the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), state assemblies and governments other than those controlled by the PDP, popular-democratic and pro-democracy formations, political pressure groups, large segments of the press, organisations of the Nigerian Left and a wide range of prominent and respected public and private figures.

Some entities who had the will and power to do so went beyond criticism to active and practical opposition and rejection or counter-proclamations and declarations. For instance, several organisations and a number of state government declared June 12 (the anniversary of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections) as their “Democracy Day”.

We may now add, as a footnote, that on June 6, 2018, after 19 consecutive annual celebrations, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a shift of Nigeria’s “Democracy Day” from May 29 to June 12. Some say that the action was political. Of course, it was. And why should it not be? It was as political as his failure to do so for three full years he had been in power; and it was as political as the failure of Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan to do so from 2000 to 2015. There are, in fact, more actions the president can take to further enhance his 2019 re-election chances!

Back to the original declaration of May 29 as Nigeria’s “Democracy Day”. Three grounds of criticism stood out at that time: that the proclamation and declaration were unilateral; that a number of other days in our national history—including June 12—were more important than May 29; and that, in a sense, the proclamation of “Democracy Day” was a mockery because the processes leading up to May 29, 1999 were thoroughly undemocratic.

That the “Democracy Day” has, in recent years, been celebrated with fanfare by all the decisive segments of Nigeria’s political class and the Nigerian state is an indication of how much has changed in the politics of Nigeria’s ruling class since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic. And the incumbent president’s act of June 6, 2018, is the latest measure of the balance of political forces in the country as a whole, and in the ruling class in particular.

It is also politically and ideologically significant that large segments of the nation’s popular-democratic and mass organisations are now as enthusiastic as the Nigerian State and the political class in the celebration of “Democracy Day”—a celebration that received the harshest criticism from the public at the beginning of the Fourth Republic. At a personal level, no fewer than 20 Nigerians (female and male, young and old, poor and not-too-poor) greeted me on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 with “Happy Democracy Day!”

We may finally note—before we go to the main subject of this discussion—that, for the Nigerian state, the various governments, the ruling class as a whole, the political parties, segments and factions of the political class (those in power and those out of power), this year’s Democracy Day—together with the politics around it—was a big national opportunity to rehearse campaign and propaganda messages, and “test-run” the machines designed for delivering them.

But it was a lie, a huge mockery of the nation and the masses who labour, in pains and hunger, and almost in despair, to sustain and reproduce it! And older compatriots are painfully aware that for some time now, there has been this growing tendency on the part of the Nigerian state and its governments to erode the integrity of Workers’ Day by dominating and even attempting to appropriate what used to be an autonomous workers’ event.

The preceeding notes, especially the last two paragraphs, may serve as introduction to what I now propose as the central tasks of the Nigerian Left in the next 12 months—that is, from now through the next general elections and up to and beyond the inauguration of a new set of administrations on May 29, or June 12, 2019. In this 20th year of “democracy” the Nigerian Left will have to concentrate and focus on a limited number of fundamental tasks in areas of organization, education and electoral politics.

It is necessary to preface the listing of tasks with some clarifications. First: For those who ask the question—either sincerely or cynically—I assert that the Nigerian Left exists. It exists in several forms: historical, ideological, political and organizational. In fact, the Nigerian Left is one of the oldest tendencies in Nigerian politics. Born during the colonial era, it developed through the decolonisation and post-colonial periods and has continued to exist up to the current peripheral capitalist globalism.

In this self-affirmation, Leftists must learn to differentiate between a movement (such as the labour movement) and organisations of the movement; between an organization and its leadership; and between this leadership and the individual leaders. Any confusion in simple matters like this may give room for self-doubt. The Left must therefore renew its self-education and popular mass education. We declare again: The Nigerian Left exists and has existed continuously as a fighting force since the mid-1940s.

The second clarification is that the Nigerian Left cannot be asked, and is not being asked, to start “afresh”. No. What is being proposed is that the Nigerian Left should make a leap from where it is and from what it has been doing. But that leap will not detach it from the present or the past. When there is a leap in knowledge or practice, the past, as an entity, is not wiped out or rendered irrelevant. The third clarification is that, historically, every authentic organization of the Nigerian Left has had at least one of the following words in its name: labour, workers’, people’s, revolutionary, working-people’s, socialist or communist. There is absolutely no reason to break with that tradition of self-identification and self-affirmation.

With this extended preparation I may now make my proposal on the central tasks of the Nigerian Left in this 20th year of “democracy”. The tasks can be grouped into two: special and general. The special task can be formulated like this: A small ad-hoc group of Nigerian Leftists—from the ranks of revolutionary Marxists—should volunteer and select themselves and assume the revolutionary responsibility of convening an all-Nigeria “unity meeting” of Leftists (Marxists, socialists and radical democrats). The ad-hoc group should present the following to the meeting: a draft people’s manifesto, a draft memorandum on participation in electoral politics, a draft newsletter, a provisional coordinating and documentation centre, a draft “unifying name”, and a draft programme and structure.

The general task, which is for all Nigerian Leftists, has already been apprehended informally and is now being executed—in form of debates, discussions and conferences. Interested non-Leftists will be encouraged to participate in these activities but will not be allowed to disrupt them or act as agents-provocateurs. The special ad-hoc committee will monitor the process.

Finally, just as the committee will volunteer and announce itself, it will also dissolve itself at the end of its assignment.

 

Madunagu, mathematician and journalist, writes from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.

Restructuring Part 2: Conceptual Foundations By Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò

In part 1, we saw a sort of bidirectional indication of how restructuring might unfold.  It dealt with the constricting effects of over-centralization.  In the case of education, we saw the apathy-inducing complications of separating constituencies from owning and contributing to the development of institutions that affect their lives and, more importantly, the lives of their children.  But there are certain assumptions lurking beneath the phenomenon of restructuring that often are not identified much less factored into the equation of the discourse around it.  We elicit those assumptions and explore them in this final part.

Restructuring presupposes a structure the shape of which is meant to be altered at the end of the process.  There is a further assumption that the structure involved is a composite one made up of two or more parts.  Given this, one of the exigencies we must deal with concerns what ought to be the relationship between and among the different parts comprising the whole in question.  The analogy we draw from the two complex areas is quite instructive.

When the titans of the entertainment industry united what are otherwise separable and separate functions in themselves, yes, they attained great heights, but at the price of stifling creativity, forcing unhealthy relationships—enmity-inflected splits, disruptive legal disputes, etc.—and overall denying their audiences the full possibilities of heterogeneity and heterodoxy, even with the inevitable problems and difficulties—conflicts, for instance—that come in their wake.

Let us now delve into the assumptions that are at the base of restructuring in the Nigerian case.  What are the components of the political structure called Nigeria that require that modifications be made?  We have a federal government, 36 state governments, and, at least, 775 local governments and only goodness knows how many more mimic units in their own rights.  The armed forces run their own school system, for instance.  Unfortunately, because no attention is paid to the assumptions that are at work in any federal system, much of the ongoing debate on restructuring focuses on only one—federal/state—of those multiple relationships and even too much of that focus turns on sharing the proverbial “national cake”.

Meanwhile, it is a mark of how much the complexity of the idea of restructuring eludes us that for many, what preoccupies them is the sharing of the cake, it is rarely ever about producing it.  This is easily explained.  Because the greater part of our understanding of Nigeria’s wealth is in terms of natural resources and nature is reduced to geography, the issue turns on who should have the lion’s share of the proceeds of selling natural resources found in specific locations across the country.  Derivation looms disproportionately large in the discussion because what is at issue is nature-derived cake.

Our nature fetish makes the issue a lot simpler than it is.  I often wonder why the argument for derivation is not made for Value Added Taxes (VAT).  Is it because this cannot be “owned” by the states in which they are collected?  There is something ironic about this situation.  When it is natural, the location owns it; when it is produced, the people whose collective genius put together the system that is so productive don’t.  Whereas, in a sense, relating to inert nature that we exploit may seem easy, dealing with constituencies that are responsible for creating the wealth that is subject to VAT and other taxes is sure to be more, if I may say so, taxing [all puns intended].

Taxpayers are neither inert nor a monolith.  They are individuals organized, in many instances, in groups.  The occurrence of organized groups does not in any way eliminate the presence of individuals or obviate the need to pay attention to their preferences in customizing the relationship between the state, the groups, and the individuals involved.

Restructuring, properly conceived, must account for its constituent elements.  For one thing, the very clear lines of geography that defined the original structure at independence and the open debates, pre-independence, on what the relationship should be between the federal centre and the three regions enabled a structure that recognized its constituent units and the boundaries—geographical, political, economic and even cultural—they shared.  Within the component units, too, there were subdivisions marked by divisions and municipalities that themselves mimicked federal relations within their own boundaries.  Finally, municipalities and villages had their own boundaries within which they exercised relatively autonomous powers.

What was distinctive about this period was that Nigerians and their leaders debated what structure the country would have and, more importantly, what would be the relationships between the different units and their respective inhabitants.The outcomes of those debates were validated by popular elections.

Notable was the insistence of one of the principal leaders who also became our foremost theorist of federalism, Obafemi Awolowo, that Nigeria must be further divided not so much for the purposes of development or administrative convenience, but respect for the integrity and autonomy of the constituting nations that make up the state called Nigeria.  It was the basis of his insistence that the federation concocted by the British colonialists and which they practically blackmailed the leaders to embrace or else postpone the realization of independence was fatally flawed.

One unit was bigger than the other two combined which meant that the other parts of the federation were forever vulnerable to the preferences of the dominant region.

Second, there was more to being a people than region and all the regions, including the one everyone thought Awolowo favoured, were multinational characterized by the presence of a plurality of nationalities whose cultural heritages must not be sacrificed to the new contraption cobbled together by outsiders.  On this score, Awolowo argued that all national groups were equal and their capacity for self-determination should be recognized.  The best way to do so was to have a federal structure where the federating units were organized anchored on nationalities and mutual consent to live together with rules agreed respecting their mutual interactions and disposition of their resources, what their citizens owe one another, and so on.

No, I do not wish to litigate the sorry history of how that argument was turned against him and only his “base”—Western Region—ended up being carved up for purely political reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the principles he canvassed for creating a better structure for Nigeria.  The important point was that the tradition of dividing the country, of restructuring without rhyme or reason, was thereby inaugurated.

Then, again, the army came in!  Since the first and subsequent coups in the country, restructuring has been continuous though it has remained on the no-rhyme, no-reason trajectory till now.  It has all had to do, geographically, with whoever had the ear of the military ruler at any given time.  Yes, the expansion to 19 states came closest to carving up the country along lines suggested by Awolowo.  But that only lasted for so long.  The present 36-state structure follows no discernible logic in its construction.  Problem #1.

As we noted above, geography is the littlest part of putting together a solid federal structure.  Of greater importance is the medley of relations between the centre and the federating units; the inhabitants that make up the polity, the citizens, and the geographical spaces they inhabit and what resources inhere in those spaces, and so on.  The conceptualizations of these relationships are the real meat and potatoes of any structure and they are the ones that have most fatally afflicted the discourse of restructuring as it continues to unfold in the Nigerian public space.

Successive civilian administrations have persisted in playing ostrich when it comes to the inoperability of the bastard federal structure bequeathed by our country’s military.  From a structure in which each constituent unit had its integrity and autonomy recognized and made the basis of negotiations over all the relationships we iterated previously, the military erased all integrity and autonomy and substituted states that are more like military divisions and less like quasi-republics that true federations embody.

In the original structure, there was a recognition and celebration of difference.  Each region was adjudged different from the others.  Each had a sense of itself in terms of identity, fully apprised of its capacities and possessed of a vision of who its members are, and what life they consider is best for them within the ambience of a federation of units characterized by formal equality and recognition of one another’s identity, autonomy and integrity.

The most significant problem is that, at present, we have units with no identity, no vision of who they are, almost sundered from their inherent possibilities, and severally incapable of claiming, much less, operationalizing, any autonomy.  Now, each of the qualities just mentioned depends on the whims, caprices, and personalities of whoever happens to be governor at a given time and whether the party he represents controls the centre or is at variance with same.

Nigerian states are now no more than wards in a large village that pretends to be a republic.  Our intellectuals now are so petrified of acknowledging that federalism and conflict are inseparable that anyone who asks that states recover autonomy and fight to activate it is immediately accused of canvassing the break-up of the country.  It is why we foolishly abide a one-size fits all in everything that is responsible for the collapse of all our major systems.

We live under a nondescript constitution foisted on the polity by the military and abide by bankrupt politicians aided by their intellectual enablers which makes state governors act as if they are subordinate officers in military formations.  Our “democratic” president pays “state visits” to states and public holidays are declared, reception parties are mobilized, and state economies shut down!  Just as in military days, governors have “Oga on top” and are not, as they should be, in their respective states, the final authorities in tandem with their state assemblies.  State “First Ladies” are ranked by their husbands’ “ranking” with the “Oga on top” in Aso Rock and are all too happy to be errand women for their own “Oga on top” also known as the First Lady.

This should not surprise anybody.  The return of civilian rule should have been marked by the equivalent of the kinds of constitutional conventions that heralded the original structure at independence.  Instead of stepping into the levelling world of the military and the infinite substitutability of states for one another, we ought to have insisted on states striving to define themselves and together establishing the rules of engagement with one another in the context of a federal structure.  This, too, would have forced states to deal with their own heterogeneity and craft appropriate modes of governance that do not trash pluralism across board.

Appropriate lessons would have been drawn from antecedents within individual regions with relevant principles for bilateral and multilateral relations between and among states established, away from the purview of the federal government.  There would have been clear demarcation of where states are coordinate with the federal and where the federal would be superior to the states.  Right now, states are permanently subordinate to the federal.  That is by no means even a bad federal system.  Simply put, it is no federal system at all.

Such is the unthinking that afflicts our approach to restructuring that hardly anyone in any state thinks of pulling their higher education institutions out of the orbit and authority of JAMB, NUC, NUBTE and their secondary and primary schools from the sway of UBEC or any of the other misbegotten pseudo-federal bureaucracies manufactured by the military because they were consistent with the streamlining and centralizing stratagems of military formations.

Doubtless, military formation is an extremely bad model for the complexities of federal systems characterized by pluralism of diverse sorts.  The cause of efficiency is not served when states cannot do much without federal approval and the purse strings are so firmly held at the federal level that the very idea of state autonomy is clearly meaningless.  The situation is not helped by the restless run of apparatchik governors who are convinced that states are party divisions and they are mere ciphers for the president who is the head of their party whose whims they must conform to.

Lost in the shuffle is any awareness of the loss of local initiative symbolized by the death of local government, especially in the demise of cities that usually are the engines of modern economies.  Our cities are headless and small towns have no ambition to become bigger by creating better life prospects for those who might wish to move to them.  We don’t build cities; cities happen, again, without rhyme or reason.

Genuine restructuring must start from a philosophical orientation that has for its cornerstone the autonomy and integrity of the entities that make up the pluralism of the structure to be reordered.  It must take seriously the independent energies and creativities of the federating units that would yield the kind of efflorescence that we identified in the first part dealing with the entertainment industry.  It must enable the kind of heterogeneous flourishing that characterized the education industry that we discussed also in the first part of this series.  Outside of for-profit institutions now curated by businesspersons, the stifling centralization of schools, via government ownership, has led to the death of local initiatives, funding by voluntary agencies, and community ownership which, in their diverse ways, expanded both access to and availability of decent, even superb schools in the past.

I hope that this series has reminded us of the fact that there is a lot more to restructuring than is at present being canvassed in the discourse around it.

 

Táíwò teaches at the African Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A.

Risk Management In Tax Administration: An Examination Of VAIDS Witholding Tax And Vat. By Suleiman Dikwa

Part 1

Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the voluntary assets and income declaration scheme (VAIDS), encouraging Nigerians to declare their tax liabilities in exchange for amnesty. Most Nigerians have a perception of tax as part of several official legislations used by public officials to proverbially rob Peter to pay Paul. Moreover, they view taxation with cynicism, seeing that it has not aided any provision of public infrastructure. The scheme was therefore envisaged to raise about US$ 1Billion by engaging members of the public in a manner that does not perpetuate the sense that their default in tax payment was lingering criminal case hanging over them like the proverbial sword of Damocles. While the scheme is welcome, certain parameters in tax collection management should be considered, especially the risk management aspect of tax administration and sustainability of collection administration and compliance mechanism beyond the timeframe of VAIDS.

Withholding tax (WHT), is an advance payment of tax targeting revenues of the receiving business or individual. The WHT draws from the identified revenue values in currency of the transaction ranging between 5 and 10 percent for a corporate entity and 5 percent for individuals. Tax administrators estimate a base  of 30 percent of income  after  deducting allowable expenditure   is permissible . The withheld sum is held without any accruable benefit to owner of credit for as long as it takes to use up credit generated by the withheld tax. The best practice in other tax territories is to have immediate remediation and refund of unused credit. This fund which is accrued to the Federation account is not put in any economic use for the clear benefit of funds in credit of the entity.

On the other hand, the value added tax (VAT) is an indirect tax on consumption of goods and services on both public and private entities and citizens. It is inclusive of the shelf price of any “vatable” goods and services. My concern here is VAT on public procurement, which I term “value reducing round tripping.” Risk has been defined by the ISO 31000(2009)/ISO guide 73, as the effect of uncertainty on objectives, including events (which may or may not happen due to lack of information) that may have negative impact on objectives. Accordingly, risk analysis is the process of highlighting the dangers to individuals, businesses and governments, posed by potential natural and human causes as well as adversities. In the case of taxation and tax administration in Nigeria, the focus has been on quantitative and compliance adherence which is used to evaluate and analyze risk.

Risks by nature are future issues that can be avoided or mitigated rather than present problems that must be immediately addressed. In that regard, the VAIDS program can be viewed through many prisms, though many have applauded the scheme. A deeper review will show that it may be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Another possible consequence is its effect on cash flow of companies and its impact on jobs and productivity. The economic implication of tied down funds in the case of withholding tax and the cost of collection of vat on public procurement which actually reduces funds for development is ignored. The policy document apparently does not have a tax perspective as it ignores the provisions of or the possibility of other means of tax settlement as provided by extant laws.

Tax administration in Nigeria over the last two decades of intensive reforms have focused on operational reforms through  improved compliance and rendition of accurate returns to optimize tax collection. The focus of company income tax return is in the use of analytical tools to determine quantum of tax payable. Recently, integration of various financial transaction platforms has made more information available to tax administrators to collect optimum taxes. While this approach has increased tax yield, the burden has remained on already complying tax payers while ignoring the Raison d’être citizens don’t pay taxes. The aim of risk management is to help the tax administrators achieve their objective of optimum tax collection from tax payers; risk management being a technique that improves the tax administrator’s effectiveness in dealing with risk.

The tax administrator requires two critical items to effectively analyze risk. These are technical know-how and knowledge of the environment. Administrators have focused on the ‘technical’ and ignored the environmental risks posed by not mitigating the perception of internal management and utilization of collected resources. The concept of “government money” was conceived due to reliance on other sources of revenue such as oil money to fund government activities. This concept has manifested itself in how individuals deal with public property. Since the citizens do not pay taxes, they do not perceive that public resources are indeed public resources but government funds. Whereas, citizens who pay personal income taxes under the pay as you earn (PAYE) in their states of residence are discriminated against in the allocation of resources, in favor of indigenes who may never pay taxes – unless they work in formal institutions – further entrenching the “government money” mentality.

This is clearly shown when government property is destroyed where there is a disagreement with government officials. Proponents of coercive collection of taxes have argued that when the citizen is forced to pay taxes he will pay more attention to how such resources are utilized, while another school of thought argues that government must respect its social contract so that citizens will be happy to pay taxes. In that regard we may consider that risk management in taxation goes beyond technical and administrative solutions but a holistic approach, which takes cognizance of all variables and not an element.

The VAIDS scheme, while a good policy, is in my opinion a step too early, implemented to raise badly needed revenue and not the solution in tax administration. It is another collection strategy. We will see if a canon of taxation, economic cost of collection, will be achieved. In mitigating risk in tax administration, “revenue expenditure budget“ is imperative, rather than revenue collection budgets or targets as tax authorities call it.  The concept of revenue budgeting is not alien, but Nigeria being a peculiar case requires that state and Federal tax authorities and the governments must tie revenue targets to specific projects which can be easily monitored by the citizens, unlike the national budget which is generally lacks citizens’ ownership therefore and subject to the executive choice of where to allocate budgeted funds.

We need to rethink the extant law provisions on “WHT” by innovative utilization of tax credits to boost finance available to the economy thereby increasing tax yield. In an economy where the private sector is in strong need for finance and sustainability, WHT tax credit presents a safe instrument for effective credit management which mitigates significant risk in credit management and presents alternative credit finance to the economy. Instead of government holding down funds, a percentage of tax credit available to companies can be utilized as collateral for burrowing. Its liquid in nature with the ability to recover credit by banks and other institutions through simple utilization of tax credits to offset failed loans, either to offset taxes due or cash in the credits with the government. This will free billions of naira to boost liquidity and feed the needs of financing in the economy.

It will also enhance compliance as companies can effectively utilize the funds within a financial year by offsetting their taxes and accessing credit with any excess.
The provisional tax act can be revisited to serve as the amount that is to be withheld from company revenues pending the determination of income and tax payable.

The deduction and remittance of VAT on public procurement in reality reduces funds available for development through the cost of collection and non-remittance. The process is to collect 5 percent vat on all “vatable” transactions by public institutions, which is shared in the next federation budget by the same entities who deducted the tax in the first place. The implication is that the administrative cost of collection by both remitting agencies and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) when deducted, reduces the amount of funds available for public expenditure in every cycle, if you estimate the cost of collection by both remitting agencies and the FIRS at 6 percent of total funds available. All income earned and expended by Nigeria is reduced by 6 percent in every cycle of public expenditure. When you deduct the budgetary expenditure on health and education from total budget, you will have an idea of how much is lost to an unnecessary cycle.

Part Two

Risk definition-
The first step in risk management is risk identification by determining the likely sources of risk and the magnitude of risk, which threatens the objectives of tax collection by developing a list of potential risks.

The potential risk in tax collection, when we consider that the biggest tax payers are those closest to power, and are in the know of how tax is collected and expended, will feel hard done that their hard earned income is squandered. The ordinary citizens see the misuse of government resources and will not voluntarily take their head to slaughter by paying for the lifestyles of their oppressors.

It seems that the poor do not have access to quality of life and their meager income is collected and utilized to finance the lifestyle of the elite.

Risk analysis-

Risk analysis is the stage when risk is examined with the view to discover its impact on organizational or governmental objectives. The frequency of risk, likelihood of occurrence and consequence of occurrence and vulnerability of occurrence are analysed. Risk analysis is important because it explains why the tax payer is behaving in a particular manner and the best way to mitigate the risk.

VAIDS policy formulators probably assume that penalties and fear of sanctions is the reason why many are not complying and hence the offer of amnesty.
It goes beyond that and a critical lack of tax payer education by connecting the nexus of tax payment and the right to ask questions. The tax payer education department is critical in this regard as it can create the matrix by connecting the dots for the citizens to demand for their dues from government.

Risk assessment and prioritization-

If the risk management model had been adopted as a part of a holistic tax reform strategy, with a view to inclusive tax management assessment and prioritization, it would have shown that apart from technology which brings more information to the tax administrator, the human element is far more important.

Aggressive drive for revenue over the last two decades through various commercialization and privatization of social institutions has reduced the quality of life of Nigerians by taking away the little they have, without commensurate returns in terms of quality of life.

This approach should have identified the most significant risks. Risk is an evolving phenomenon and moves with time. It is therefore important that live intelligence is available, as empirical evidence has shown that risk should be evaluated, not in terms of revenue collected, but sustainability, which takes cognizance of political, economic, social, technical, administrative, environmental and legal impact.

Risk treatment-

Treatment of risk depends on its manifestation and in the case of Nigeria it is manifest in all aspects of life – administrative, political, social spiritual, environmental etc. Nigeria has continued to lay emphasis on direct taxation whereas its circumstances and level of technological development suggest that it is better if the focus is on indirect taxation where cost of collection and risk of evasion is low. As determination of income and allowable expenses in direct taxation is not an open and close activity, indirect taxation is simple to evaluate. The tax payer, despite bearing the incidence of tax does not feel the psychological impact of paying tax because it has been factored into the cost of transaction.

Policy makers may look at the quantum of taxes coming from direct taxation and the inflationary consequence of indirect taxation but this is where revenue budgeting mitigates the risk of negative reaction. There are implicit costs of lack of certain facilities that can be collectively financed through taxation which reduces the cost of living of citizens.

If this integrated approach is adopted, it will make it easier to get the buy in of citizens. Risk reduction will naturally occur and may even lead to risk covering that neutralizes the risk.

The VAIDS project while well intended does not take a holistic approach to improving tax yield and compliance. An evaluation of steps taken will show that the government lacks the capacity to follow up, post-VAIDS, and the question arises of whether it is a sustainable strategy and bring about improved compliance. An effective framework should not only look at potential tax yield, and short term gain, but intended outcomes and external effects. The opportunity WHT administration presents for increased tax yield and meeting credit demands of the private sector should be explored. Exemption of public sector deduction and remittance VAT should be reviewed, which will make more funds available for development and reduce or eliminate incidences of unremitted taxes by government institutions.

Would VAIDS really serve simply as a collection tool or seek to improve our tax collecting and compliance culture. Only time will tell.

SULEIMAN DIKWA, FELLOW, CHARTERED TAXATION INSTITUTE AND FORMER INSPECTOR OF TAXES FIRS.
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