Lagos State And The Politics Of Taxation By Reuben Abati

The government of Lagos state seems to be currently in the eye of the storm over its introduction of a law, a property tax as it were, known as the Land Use Charge Act of 2018, which repeals a similar law of 2001, and consolidates ground rent, tenement rate, and neigbourhood development levy.

The Land Use Charge is payable in respect of all real estate in the state. But it is probably the most controversial move that has been made by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration in Lagos state, an administration that has so far enjoyed tremendous goodwill on account of its huge investment in infrastructure and human capital development in the last three years.

Stakeholders have complained about the rate of increase (up to about 400%), lack of adequate consultation and communication, and the impropriety of increasing taxation at a time of unmitigated economic hardship, even in the presence of multiple taxes, including the taxation of boreholes and alcoholic drinks. Real estate valuers and surveyors as well as other stakeholders including landlords and tenants are asking the government to take another look at the law. Sooner or later, every government faces a baptism of fire. But where taxation is involved, the key issues are governance, trust, transparency and accountability, communication and more importantly, strategy. These are the key areas for consideration with respect to the current controversy over the review of Land Use Charge in Lagos.

Ordinarily, however, nobody likes to pay taxes, and there is a historical and cultural context to this. The taxman is not often a popular member of the community. Wars and revolutions have been fought on account of resistance to taxation. Many of the wars in the Southern part of Nigeria, particularly Yorubaland in the 18th and 19th centuries were fought as a result of objections to what was known as “isakole” (ground rent to the sovereign), or owo asingba (service to chiefs and kings as a form of tribute), which were symbols of dominance over political authority and/or economic activities, creating a slave/master relationship among dominant/dominated groups.

The famous Aba women’s riot of 1929, was a protest against the draconian warrant chiefs introduced by the colonial administration but it was even more significantly, a rebellion against the direct taxation of market women. In the late 1940s, the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) led by Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti also objected to the taxation of women in the Egba Division. For six months, over 10, 000 Egba women challenged both the colonial authorities and the Alake of Egbaland, and insisted that they would not pay tax. In the end, the tax policy was suspended, the Alake had to abdicate the throne and the women got up to four positions in the decision-making Native Authority.

Nor is Lagos new to anti-tax agitations. When the colonial authorities introduced electricity in Lagos in 1897, there was an attempt to ensure that this was paid for through indirect taxation, which was stoutly opposed by the people. Later, in 1907, the colonialists also proposed to provide a pipe borne water system for Lagos; the plan was to place a tax on houses to cover the cost. The African members of the Legislative council of the Lagos colony and Southern Protectorate, the traditional rulers and chiefs of Lagos and the people in general kicked against this proposed tax. They insisted they would rather drink water from rainfall or wells, rather than pay any tax.

When in 1908, the colonial authorities introduced a House Assessment Ordinance, the people of Lagos shut down all markets and marched on Government House. Women in Central Lagos also organized protests against the water rate. The battle was soon taken over by the educated elite who formed a group called the Lagos People’s Union (1908), led by John K. Randle, an Edinburgh-trained medical doctor.

Taxation tends to bring out the best and the worst in both people and governments. Of J.K. Randle as he was known, the deputy Governor of the colony at the time wrote that he was an “agitator pure and simple…political disturbance was his main hobby in life.” The struggle over water rate in Lagos went on for more than 17 years and was responsible for the eventual collapse of the Lagos People’s Union and the deposition of Eleko Eshugbayi in 1925. Herbert Macaulay came on to the scene, and he championed the reinstatement of the king in 1931. The white cap chiefs of Lagos still insisted, all the same, that paying for water was against “the tradition of the people of Lagos.” The colonial authorities were unyielding. They cracked down on the people and soon introduced direct taxation, resulting in riots across the country.

In post-colonial Nigeria, the pattern of revulsion to taxation has not been different. Between 1968 and 1969, there was in the defunct Western region, a peasant farmers’ revolt, popularly known as the Agbekoya. This particular revolt, like all revolts may have been politically motivated, and it may have been a class revolt, but the trigger was the peasant farmers’ rejection of higher taxation. However, since independence in 1960, there have been attempts to review the taxation system in Nigeria beginning with the Raisman Commission, and the enactment of the Tax Management Act, 1961, and the Companies Income Tax Act No 22 of 1961.

During the Second Republic (1979 -1983), the Shagari administration established a Task Force on tax administration. In 1991, there was the Emmanuel Edozien study group on tax, in 1992, Sylvester Ugoh led another study group on indirect taxation, in 2002, yet another group was led by Professor Dotun Phillips, and in 2004 yet another one was led by Seyi Bickersteth of KPMG and in 2012, the Federal Government had another study group led by Mckinsey, an international consulting firm. In 2017, the Buhari administration introduced VAIDS, a Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration taxation programme, and a new National Tax Policy (NTP). Many Nigerians consider the VAIDS, a joke.

Indeed, the objection to the new Land Use Charge in Lagos thus fits into a natural response pattern. But it is important to go beyond sentiments and understand the issues. To enjoy development, the people must be prepared to pay tax, the leaders must also be transparent and accountable, provide value and inspire trust. To ensure voluntary compliance, the people must not be made to see taxation as a form of punishment. At face value, the justifications provided by the Lagos State Government, on paper and at a recent Town Hall Meeting with the Governor seem convincing enough. To keep up with the current pace of economic development, population growth and volatile oil revenue, state governments in Nigeria are under pressure to look for additional sources of revenue beyond Federal Government’s monthly allocation. This in itself is a good development.

Lagos, the 5th largest economy in Africa, with a population that would be far in excess of 35 million by 2030, faces special challenges. Infrastructure deficit in the state is currently estimated to be about $50 billion (N14.47 trillion). The state’s current revenue profile is therefore unsustainable. Oil revenue in general has proved unsustainable in Nigeria in real terms. The country’s tax ratio to GDP is also relatively one of the lowest in Africa. Tax compliance is similarly low, and the extant tax codes are at best outdated. The alternative in Lagos would be for the state to borrow, but with current interest rates, that would amount to mortgaging the financial future of the state. What the Ambode administration is proposing in essence is a far more efficient taxation system which brings more people into the tax net and which requires the people to make sacrifice in the overall interest of public good. I don’t have a problem with that.

But where the problem lies is in the twin areas of strategy and communication. Whereas many Lagos residents have not actually seen a copy of the proposed law, their objection is based largely on the report that the law expressly imposes a 400% increase on land use charge, and the worst hit may probably be the organized private sector and owners of commercial buildings. In 1999, the Bola Tinubu administration in Lagos state had sought to reform the tax process in the state through the introduction of electronic payments. Internally Generated Revenue in Lagos state subsequently increased from 600 million in 1999, to 22 billion in 2015, and N341 billion in 2017.

Communication is important in tax administration. While it is natural for people to oppose any form of taxation, a tax system must be seen to be fair, just and equitable. The current resistance to taxation in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria – FCT, Anambra, Benue, Edo, Cross River- in part raises governance issues. Widespread reports about corruption, the lavish lifestyle of public officials, the high-handedness of tax officials and the reality of multiple taxation make Nigerians even in the face of rational arguments about the need to generate non-oil revenue, suspicious of any form of tax. In Lagos, the State House of Assembly held public hearings, but the story out there is that government has sneaked the law, with increased charges on the public, without adequate notice or communication. But how much interest did Lagosians themselves show? Do they even know who their representatives are? Do the representatives brief the people on developments of this nature? Landlords are saying when the effect of this indirect taxation is considered in absolute terms, they would be turned into tenants living in their own homes.

Tenants are protesting that the new charge will be passed on to them by landlords, and with inflation already at 15%, and the country’s macroeconomics in a fix, greater pressure and hardship will be invariably imposed on people and businesses. As presented however, the Lagos state government seems to have anticipated these concerns and created opportunities for negotiation and voluntary compliance, but how many people are aware of this? In addition, the Land Use Charge is a progressive tax, not a flat tax, with in-built disaggregation to provide reliefs for aged owner-occupiers, pensioners, old buildings of 25 years and above, owners with proof of long occupation, non-profit organisations, places of religious worship/education, the physically challenged and registered educational institutions. Besides, more than 70% of the properties are valued under N10 million, equivalent to a land use charge of N5, 000 annually.

Nonetheless, there are persons and landlords associations in Lagos already threatening to either go to court or organize street protests. The more incensed stakeholders are threatening to use their voters’ cards to remind Governor Ambode that he would need the people in the coming 2019 elections. In other words, the Land Use Charge could become the main decider of whether he gets a second term or not. When it comes to taxation, the electorate can indeed be vicious. Margaret Thatcher lost her position as Prime Minister, within her own party in the UK, 1989-1990, partly due to the crisis over a Community Charge, better known as poll tax, which made the Conservatives unpopular.

Governor Ambode is on that score, quite a courageous man. He must be looking at the future of Lagos, and not the next election. But he needs not sacrifice his own political future. Whatever may have been done in Lagos since 1999, there is a lot more that can be done to improve the standard of living in the state. Nigerians like to protest but it is also important to realise that the days of dependence on oil revenue may soon be completely over. When the people pay tax, and they understand the justification for it, they are probably in a much better position to hold their leaders accountable.

I believe there are steps to be taken to improve the communication process on this issue and that may mean putting the implementation of the charge on hold for a while until various stakeholders have been conscientized to take ownership of the core messages about standardization, efficiency and the need to prevent the culture of whimsical assessments by state tax officials. Landlords have to be assured that the proposed percentages are not absolute.

Government should also consider the possibility of a downward review of the percentages, allow instalmental or graduated payment, and reconsider the threatened penalty of up to 200% for defaulters. Tenants of commercial buildings also need to be protected from Shylock landlords who may hide under the law, to increase rent. The objection to multiple taxation should also be addressed; if the Land Use Charge is a consolidation of three other taxes, perhaps there are other taxes in the state that should be similarly reviewed to reduce the burden on the citizenry. The relevant revenue institutions in Lagos must also be strengthened and opportunities provided for seeking redress against rogue tax administration officials. There must also be guarantees for transparency in the preparation of a necessary data-base for the ownership of properties in the state.

With all the best intentions, any form of politicisation of the tax administration process is bound to be counter-productive. This must be avoided by all means.

Africa: A Continent Without Democrats, By Reuben Abati

The second wave of democratization in Africa, beginning in the 80s, and the gradual establishment of democracy as the new normal in the continent brought much hope and excitement. As we have seen in the recent intervention by the military in Zimbabwe, coup d’etats have become unpopular and unacceptable in the entire continent in deference perhaps to dominant global politics. In the past two decades, there have been many electoral transitions across the continent indicative of a pattern of democratic consolidation. In reality, however, mercenaries of democracy, dictators and a military culture dominate African politics. The form of governance may have changed, but the form of politics has remained seemingly unchangeable.

We are forcefully reminded of this by certain recent developments across the continent. In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza has just ensured that the officials of a football team, which rough-tackled him during a football match last year, have been sent to prison. Nkurunziza, a graduate of Sports Education (1990), loves to play football, even as President. He owns a football team, Haleluia FC, and a choir, “Kameza gusenga” which means “pray non-stop”. President Nkurunziza is a member of his football team and he actually joins them to take part in tournaments, friendlies and other matches, fully attired in the club’s colours.

A day may well come when the President may decide to play for the national team, prompting concerns across Burundi that the President plays too much football, instead of attending to state matters. Nkurunziza had his day on the field when Haleluia FC met Kiremba FC. If in previous matches the President was treated with respect, and even allowed to score, the Kiremba soccer team was not ready for that. They played man to man, and treated the match with professional seriousness. They tackled the President each time he had the ball. He fell on the pitch several times.

It is for this reason the administrator of Kiremba FC, Cyriaque Nkezabahizi and his assistant, Michel Mutama are now in prison, having been charged and tried for a curious felony called “conspiracy against the President”! Nkurunziza may be a sports graduate, and even taught the subject for a while at the university level, but he is not in any way a sportsman. Like his other colleagues across Africa, he is a dictator who likes to have his way. Football is a body-contact sport, like rugby, boxing and wrestling. Not even the almighty Lionel Messi or Neymar or the skillful Cristiano Ronaldo, with all their accomplishments in the sport expect to be treated like royalty in a football match. Like Nkurunziza, most African leaders do not like to play by the rules. They like to cheat and force their options down the people’s throats.

This same Nkurunziza who came to power in 2005, refused to go after the expiration of his constitutional tenure of two terms in 2015. He insisted on having a third term. Protests by the people were suppressed, media houses were shut down, journalists were detained, members of the opposition were harassed, after two months more than 200 persons had been killed and hundreds of thousands had fled into exile. Nkurunziza had his way. He likes jogging, but when members of the opposition also began organizing Saturday morning joggings, he placed a ban on jogging across the country. He is the only one who is allowed to enjoy the pleasure of jogging as he wishes, in a country of 12 million people.

He is not the only African leader however who has been able to get away with a third term in office through a violation and manipulation of the Constitution. To many African leaders, the Constitution does not matter at all. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame, President since 2003, completed his constitutionally stipulated second term in 2017, but the constitution was altered to allow him serve for a third term, and now the constitution has been further altered to keep Kagame in power till 2034. The excuse is that he is doing a good job and that there is no alternative to him. The only person who summoned the courage to challenge Kagame in 2017, a lady, Diane Rwigara was harassed and detained. Her nude pictures were posted on the internet. This no-alternative thing is a dubious misinterpretation of democracy in Africa. And it is one of the stupid points being canvassed in Nigeria, currently, by those who want President Muhammadu Buhari to remain in office beyond 2019, despite growing protests that he should be a one-term President. Nigeria is a country of about 200 million people. Is it not the height of idiocy to say that there is no alternative to Buhari?

Africa is not in short supply of mercenaries who mouth such idiocy and actively give effect to it. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 46-year old Joseph Kabila whose two terms in office expired close to two years ago has refused to organize elections. He negotiated a one-year extension till 2017, but despite protests, and international objections, he has extended the election time-table till December 2018 on the ground that there are “logistical problems”. Now, the country’s electoral commission has further announced that no Presidential election can possibly take place in the DRC before April 2019. Various militias, rebel groups, and civil society organisations, backed by the Catholic Church are insisting that Joseph Kabila will not be allowed to rule the DRC forever. Widespread violence has made the DRC politically unstable and fragile, but Joseph Kabila cannot be bothered.

The standard African response is to descend on the opposition, including political parties, journalists, writers, human rights activists and thinkers as harshly as possible. The African man of power does not understand that the right to protest, to differ and to express an opinion is part of democracy. In Togo, there is an ongoing popular protest titled “Faure Must Go”. President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005. He succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years. With the Constitution of Togo not indicating any Presidential term limits, the Togolese opposition has been leading a series of protests to demand for such term limits – a restriction to a maximum of two, five-year terms and a two-round voting system. Faure wants to rule forever like his father, and so, even in spite of mediation by Ghana and Guinea, he has been sending soldiers after the protesters. The opposition in Africa is probably the most abused in the world.

Go to Egypt. Egypt goes to the polls on March 26 but incumbent President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi does not want any opposition. He has taken every measure to scare away every person who has shown interest in competing with him for the office. One Presidential aspirant, Colonel Ahmed Konsowa was accused and convicted for “expressing political opinions as a serving military officer”. Another, Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, after being detained by the Egyptian military, had to call off his presidential bid. He was accused of “blatant legal violations (and) a serious breach of the laws of military service.” Other aspirants – Mortada Mansour, Khaled Ali and Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat have all dropped their presidential ambitions because they could not stand the climate of fear imposed by President Sisi.

Only one aspirant is still standing, Mousa Moustafa Mousa and he is, because the court saved him. The ruling party had asked for his disqualification on the grounds that he does not have a certified university or higher education degree. This is a minimum requirement for the Presidential office in Egypt. I hope some Nigerians would take special note of this! The Supreme Administrative Court has now ruled that Mousa Mousa indeed holds an MA in Architecture from a French University, and the National Electoral Authority has certified this, thus putting paid to the orchestrated possibility of President Sisi getting a second term unopposed. Still Sisi is not prepared to lose. He has declared that anybody or “forces of evil” who defame the country’s security forces through “the broadcast and publication of lies and false news” would be charged for “high treason.” He is of course referring to himself and not necessarily the military operation in the Northern Sinai Peninsula.

Absolute power corrupts and so it is also with Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Equitorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Cameroon has been battling secessionist rebellion in North West and South West parts of the country. The Biya government has done everything possibly negative to suppress the people of the proposed Ambazonia Republic including detention, police brutality, internet black-out, curfews, arrests and intimidation. When about 50 of the rebels, including their leader, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe fled across the border, they were chased all the way to Nigeria, where they were arrested by the Nigerian authorities on Cameroon’s request and repatriated. This couldn’t have been a difficult request for the Buhari government to accede to, given the fact that it had also launched a military operation against would-be secessionists in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Paul Biya also probably learnt a lesson from Nigeria or perhaps it was the old fox just being himself. He has just appointed two persons from the aggrieved North West/South-West of Cameroon into his newly reconstituted cabinet to assuage fears of marginalization by the Ambazonians. One of the portfolios is that of the Minister of Interior. The average African leader is manipulative and trickish. In Biya’s case, it is worse. He is 85, he has been in power for more than three decades, and he still plans to run for election this year. His opponent from the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) is likely to be a 49-year old, Joshua Osih. Biya is Cameroon’s Mugabe.

His sit-tight colleague in Equitorial Guinea is no better. Last week, Mbasogo proscribed the main opposition party in the country, the Citizens for Innovation (CI) for allegedly undermining state security. In November 2017, there were clashes between CI supporters and armed policemen. Party leaders have argued that their supporters did not carry any arms, and that they were only campaigning. 21 of them have been sentenced to 26 years imprisonment for sedition, and 10 years for breach of authority, and fined 210,000 Euros along with their party! I suspect that CI’s main offence would be that of having the audacity to win one seat in parliament in that country’s last elections, while the ruling party won 99 seats out of 100 seats. That makes Teodoro Mbasogo uncomfortable: he cannot afford the growth of opposition in his country, or anything that would threaten his plan to hand over power eventually to his first son, 48-year old Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue who is currently the First Vice President in charge of defence and security and the oil and gas sector.

First sons and first daughters are often part of the political equation. Togo’s Faure, DRC’s Kabila, Equitorial Guinea’s Teodorin, and Angola’s former first daughter, Isabel dos Santos. They share power with their father and possibly succeed him, and if not, they could become as wealthy as Isabel. This is why it baffles me that Nigerians are always hypertensive anytime they see first or second sons and daughters in the corridors of power enjoying privileges extended to them by their fathers. The Minister of State for Health received Yusuf Buhari at the airport and they won’t allow us rest. What if the President had sent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the airport? He would refuse to go?

The sad part of the African story is that even when you discover a President who seems to be doing well, he does well only for a while, before he begins to misbehave like the rest. Take John Pombe Magufuli, the developmental President of Tanzania, the “Bulldozer.” In nearly three years in office, he has brought fresh energy and creativity to governance in Tanzania. He has waged war against indolence, incompetence, corruption, ghost workers, bad infrastructure, but he is also now waging war against democracy. His government has banned public rallies by the opposition. It has introduced a law, which criminalises free speech on social and electronic media, and jailed at least two politicians for “hate speech”. Magufuli has also banned the smoking of Shisha, and famously declared, that “no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school…” In Tanzania, it is an offence to “annoy” the government, but okay to rape young girls!

When an African leader finally decides to leave, he insists on choosing his own successor. Sierra Leone goes to the polls tomorrow, for example, with 16 parties and six leading candidates on the ballot, but the fight is between the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma has, in the meantime, handpicked his former Foreign Minister, Dr. Samura Kamara (APC), as his successor, because according to him, “he knows exactly what he needs to do…” Our democracy suffers in this manner in part because the people themselves play what the Sierra Leonean musician, Daddy SAJ calls “watermelon politics” (2007) – the people not knowing what they want or what is good for them. Nigerians have made that mistake too often. But then, is there something in the African DNA that is anti-democracy? Is this about African culture or the truth about universal democracy? Whatever it is, as they go to the polls tomorrow, Sierra Leoneans should eschew “watermelon politics” and vote wisely.

Dapchi 110: The Tragedy Of A Nation By Reuben Abati

Karma is a bitch. Poetic justice is a bastard. Both have combined to wrong-foot the incumbent Buhari administration to make it look like a big mistake and an act of misjudgment by the Nigerian electorate.  If Buhari had been disallowed from taking power in 2015, and those who advised President Goodluck Jonathan not to give a damn had their way, and Jonathan had remained in power and all the current problems had surfaced, it would have been said by Nigerians that GoodluckJonathan truncated Nigeria’s destiny.

In 2015, the refrain, which was reaffirmed recently by those who authored it, was that Nigeria could only move forward with anybody but Jonathan. If Buhari was prevented from taking over power, Nigerians would have been very aggressive towards the Jonathan administration. It would have been said that the messiah was robbed of victory. It would have been argued that the man who wouldhave saved Nigeria was prevented from doing so. It might have even been argued that under General Buhari, Nigeria could have become the greatest country on the surface of the earth.

Such was the impact of the propaganda. Such was the nature of the politics of the time. The Buharideens would never have allowed a post-2015 Jonathan government to work. Even if it did, the opposition would have imagined a greater possibility. But here we are, three years down the line: the messianic propaganda has failed. Their Saviour is not the Jesus Christ they imagined him to be. The country remains unsaved. Their promise of change has been no more than scaremongering. When the question is asked: are you better today than you were three years ago?, no ordinary Nigerian can answer that question positively: change has brought him or her nothing but agony and anguish.

Should they offer an answer, it would be a response marked by regret. The biggest tragedy that has occurred therefore is the demystification, the unmasking, the unveiling of a man who was thought to be a god but who has since danced naked and is dancing naked in the market-place. Strikingly, the Emperor is without clothes. Some of the most vociferous critics of old have also been exposed. Nasir el-Rufai deployed all the heights of his intelligence to demonise the Jonathan government on social media. No one else has been able to match the quality of his vitriol. Today, the same Nasir is busy demolishing the houses of anyone who dares to make a negative comment about him, or he takes them to court and threatens them with Armageddon. The same rights that he demanded for the Nigerian people, he now tramples upon.

There was also our beloved kinsman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. He was the scourge of the Jonathan administration. He could issue five anti-establishment press statements in a day. There has been no one like him in Nigerian history doing the job of opposition spokesman. He was ruthlessly efficient. Nobody in the current opposition parties has demonstrated his capacity as an opposition figure, in part because all the opposition spokesmen have been harassed, blackmailed, dehumanized, and intimidated, but called to do the job, on the other side of the fence as Minister of Information, Alhaji Mohammed remains a study in self-contradiction. His five minutes of fame in the Nigerian political sphere has since ended.

He used to be creative and dynamic, but now faced with the challenges of the real thing, the only thing that comes out of his mouth is the dumb argument that Goodluck Jonathan is the source of all the problems of Nigeria or similar inanities. When the matter is not so phrased, we are told that the Jonathan administration stole the country blind. And yet whereas the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) borrowed the sum of N6 trillion over a period of 16 years, the APC government has borrowed more than N11 trillion in 3 years! Is it possible all the oil wells have dried up and Nigeria no longer makes money? What has happened to the country’s revenue stream? The absurdity of the situation is further explained by the fact that when a gas cylinder malfunctions in the house of an APC member or there is a crisis in their other room, the man that is blamed is GoodluckJonathan or the previous administration. They defend the impossible and the unintelligible. But that trick is no longer working. The other tragedy of the Buhari administration is how it has allowed itself to get involved in a Nigerian version of the popular “one-corner-dance”, a downward, self-denigrating choreographic exertion. The result is that right now, people have now moved from the anything but Jonathan corner to the anything but Buhari corner in Nigerian politics. Karma is a bitch. Poetic justice is a bastard.

Nothing illustrates this better than the title of this essay, the entry into which has been deliberately delayed, to prepare a setting and a mood for the crisis that Nigeria faces. One of the reasons the Nigerian electorate voted out the previous administration was because of its perceived inability to rescue the abducted Chibok girls. There was an international outcry about this. Bring Back the Chibok girls even became the most popular hashtag on international social media, and Jonathan, who had also signed the anti-same-sex bill into law became a villain in the eyes of the international community. The various interested forces, local and global joined hands together to pull down his government.

During the 2015 political campaigns, General Muhammadu Buhari was packaged as a morally upright statesman who would put an end to the impunity of the insurgents and terrorists. Jonathanwas considered weak. Buhari was regarded as strong. And so on and so forth- let me just put it like that in order not to be accused of comparison given my own antecedents. But here is where the rub lies: President Buhari has failed the people in their expectations. He has frittered away their goodwill.

He promised Nigerians that Boko Haram will be defeated, and somewhere down the line, we were told the Boko Haram had in fact been “technically defeated.” The President even received a captured flag of the insurgents, together with the personal Quoran of Ibrahim Shekau, the leader of the group. Today, the Boko Haram gang continues to show that they have not been defeated. The Federal Government negotiated with these same insurgents and gave them money to secure the release of over 100 girls, some Boko Haram leaders were released, but the other Monday, Boko Haram abducted over 100 girls in Dapchi in Yobe state. This is sad and tragic. Whatever the government may have gained has been lost. The girls that have been released have been replaced. The fight against Boko Haram is back to square one.

The clay feet of those who thought they knew better than everyone else has thus been exposed. For President Buhari, this must be a personal tragedy. His strongest promoters indeed believed that under his watch, the problem of insecurity willbe solved. But under him, more money has been spent on national security, with poor results, and the security situation has only worsened. The previous government had the Boko Haram to deal with, this government has its cup full: the herdsmen-farmers conflict, the low level insurgency in the Niger Delta, the crisis of self-determination in the Eastern region, the nationwide proliferation of small arms and ammunition, the notorious Boko Haram and the angst of a disappointed public. On all fronts, the government is found wanting.

Yes, it has been found wanting and in a suspicious manner too.  It is in fact curious that security forces were withdrawn in volatile areas of Benue state, just a week before the criminal herdsmen struck. Who ordered that withdrawal? The Inspector-General of Police has also reportedly withdrawn the Special Forces sent to secure the same areas. The Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom is so incensed he is now saying he is willing and ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for his people.  In Yobe state, soldiers were also withdrawn from high-risk areas just before the Dapchi 110 were abducted. The military has since defended itself. It has no capacity its spokesman says, to protect all schools in the Northern part of the country. And we can’t blame the military, can we? It is a sign of the calamity that the country faces that soldiers are the ones now protecting virtually every inch of the Nigerian space, internally and externally. Our soldiers are tired and overstretched, over-used and over-abused. The police are also similarly overwhelmed. It has never been this bad. Fact: the government of the day has been humbled. I once argued that Nigeria is a very difficult country to govern but when you claim to know it all, you are bound to face the contradictions. Every problem solved generates other problems.

People choose their governments and leaders because they believe they can lead and protect them. When that trust is betrayed, the legitimacy of the government is in question. In more than 20 states, salaries have not been paid for months.  And it is a stupid point to say that the previous government stole all the money.  How about all the money that has been earned and borrowed since then? Missing? What is responsible really for this drift, this cluelessness, this self-abuse, from a know-it-all team that took over Nigeria in 2015? My other concern is that beyond all the propaganda and the hypocrisy and blackmail, President Buhari’s team may not really love him at all; they may in fact have truly, set him up for his downfall. Buhari’s biggest stake is the legacy he leaves behind. The little I see of that legacy is not good at all. I once published a piece in which I alleged that Nigerians had hopped into a one-chance bus; I want to modify that and add that it is actually President Buhari who boarded a one-chance bus, and for that he has my heartfelt sympathy. Whatever bus brought him to power is a one-chance bus.

What has happened so far merely vindicates the Olusegun Obasanjo and Oby Ezekwesili groups. The former is asking for a Third Force, a Coalition of powers and forces. The other is wielding a Red Card. Both are united in this regard: they consider the two political parties that have ruled Nigeria since 1999, useless and ineffectual. They want a new dawn for Nigeria. They want a discontinuity of hypocrisy and opportunism. They acknowledge one significant point: that Nigeria has remained at one spot. Nothing has changed, the change agenda has failed, everything remains the same. Whether these groups are able to achieve, or motivate the real change the people desire is another matter, but the honesty with which they have reversed themselves is telling, and good for our democracy. You need not raise the point that both Obasanjo and Ezekwesili belong to the same elite that they now repudiate.

I sympathise with the parents of the Dapchi 110.  It is sad that their only hope is in God, and the possibility of a miracle.  Students get killed in the United States, due to gun possession issues in a psychotic society, but to send a child to school and have him or her abducted by terrorists is the grievous pain ever possible in Nigeria. What is clear is that the Nigerian leadership elite has failed the people. This is not a political party matter; it is about capacity, political will, leadership and commitment.  This is probably why a body of opinion has developed to the effect that the two major political parties in the country – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have both failed thecountry. But can extant or any political parties, in their present shape, save Nigeria? I doubt, and that is my thoroughly non-partisan opinion.

The political party system in Nigeria has to be rebuilt, reformed and reconstructed. Beyond that, we need a new crop of leaders. The solution may not lie with Obasanjo or Ezekwesili or the Nigeria Intervention Movement but they have thrown up ideas about the national dilemma that cannot be ignored. Such ideas cannot be ignored because the biggest victims are not the ten per-centers or the men and women in high places who succeed not through talent or excellence, but mere opportunistic “faith”; the victims are young Nigerians, the same people we call the leaders of tomorrow – that tomorrow is already postponed, because that generation of the future is led by analogue leaders whose glory is trapped in the past. Nigeria needs to rescue tomorrow from the past and the present. Nigeria needs fresh energy, new ideas and a leadership revolution. Wherever they may be, may God protect the Dapchi 110, who have been failed by the Nigerian state. If Buhari rescues them, he may well succeed in rescuing his government a little from the devastating and ruthless onslaught of poetic justice.

Judges, The Law And Our Democracy By Reuben Abati

To expand the democratic space in Nigeria and to ensure the legitimacy and stability of our democratic process, the rule of law, perhaps the supremacy of the law, anchored on constitutionalism and a progressive, liberal and developmental construction of the law, may be our best bargain, the latter in particular in the face of a seeming conversion of the democratic dispensation to a military regime. The judiciary, I mean the judex, is at the centre of this proposition.

In more direct language, what I am trying to draw attention to is how in recent times, despite the fact that we are under a democratic dispensation, there has been a seeming militarization of the political space, by the incumbent political administration at the centre. The scope for human freedom has been reduced, the government of the day complains about hate speech but it is, ironically, the main author of hate language against the same people whose welfare and security it is supposed to safeguard. It is a government that is intolerant of the opposition and which has shown an inordinate capacity for malice, hypocrisy, and intimidation. This more or less sets the tone for everything else. This is the reason it has lost so much goodwill and why many of its committed supporters who dreamt of its potential messianism are regretting their own initial optimism.

The last time Nigerians found themselves under this kind of siege was under military rule, and particularly under the rule of the same man who is now Nigeria’s incumbent President,  a soldier turned civilian President. The militarization of the state in whatever form, compromises democratic ethos. We are in a democracy but the relevant institutions seem to be in disarray.  The executive is at loggerheads with the legislature in Abuja. The judiciary has been harassed so much many of its members have been accused of corruption and thrown into the dock or disgraced out of service.

We are therefore, in a local season of McCarthyism whereby every possible opposition figure is labeled a witch, a thief, and harassed or blackmailed.  The only saints in Nigeria at the moment are those who join the ruling party, or who go to great lengths to heap the blame for all problems on the immediate past administration. In this typical season of opportunism and sycophancy, saints may become devils and vice versa, throwing the country into the vortex of a moral turpitude.

But I single out the judiciary for qualified praise. The country’s judiciary has not escaped the harassment by an Executive wielding near-monarchical powers, even beyond the letters of the Constitution. Its members have been targeted for intimidation and harassment, and whereas it is true that there are bad eggs in every sector and that there are indeed rogue judges, the pattern of intervention in the judiciary on the grounds of the anti-corruption campaign smacks of a witch-hunt. But whereas legislators are divided, politicians are rushing to the ruling party in search of protection, and the civil society has been weighing its options, and everyone else seems to be seeking protection, the judiciary in spite of its travails remains, in our estimation, the only institution that is still relatively standing firm. When a proper stock-taking of this period in Nigerian history is done, it may well be discovered, that the judiciary was foremost in standing firm against intimidation.

I once wrote a Man-of-the-Year piece in which the judiciary was specially commended for its efforts in protecting Nigerian democracy and the rule of law. This was during the tumultuous season of the protest against the annulment, by military fiat, of the outcome of the 1993 Presidential election, and the aftermath. Before then, the Nigerian judiciary during the Fatayi-Williams-Eso-Irikefe-Oputa-Karibi-Whyte era had spoken the truth from the Bench and sought to protect Fundamental Human Rights against assault by the then military establishment.  Under the present dispensation, we may well be facing the third critical era of the judiciary in terms of its willingness or otherwise, to resist military-era like intimidation.

Our emphasis is on the appellate courts, and the principle: “judicia posteriori sunt in lege fortiori”, that is “the later decisions are the strongest in law.”  Whereas the High Courts of Nigeria have acquired a reputation for recklessness, and lack of thoroughness, the appellate courts have most recently served as a good advertisement for the appellate structure of the Nigerian judicial system.  For a fact, the most celebrated cases relating to the nation-building and democratic system in recent times have been cases dealing with corruption and the travails of politically connected and exposed persons. Many of these cases, perfunctorily treated at the inferior courts level, have been thrown out at the appellate level, and in most instances what is projected is the supremacy of the law, even if the grounds may be technical.

A rigorous review of such cases may slip into the error of pedantry and seem unsuitable for journalistic commentary but I find particularly interesting a recent case at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Judicial Division, re: Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi vs Federal Govt of Nigeria, presided over by their Lordships: Mohammed Lawal Garba JCA, Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, JCA, and Yargata Byenchit Nimpar, JCA. The appellant had been charged before and tried by the High Court of Lagos State, along with two others on an eight-count charge including conspiracy to obtain by false pretence, obtaining by false pretence, conspiracy to forge documents, forgery, altering a false document, conspiracy to alter a false document and so on.

On January 13, 2017, the applicant, who was 2nd defendant, along with the 1st defendant, was convicted of the offences charged while the 3rd defendant was discharged and acquitted.  They were sentenced to a total of 69 years imprisonment to run concurrently in respect of each term for the respective offences. They were also required to return to the Federal Government of Nigeria the sum of N754.9 million being an overpayment for oil subsidy, purportedly due to their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited.

The gravamen of this case is in relation to the right to fair hearing, as guaranteed in Section 36(1) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution. The right to fair hearing is a fundamental right in court proceedings and a major plank of our constitutional order. The apex court had however since ruled that it is nonetheless not a right that can be resorted to in a frivolous manner or as a magic wand. Having taken this into consideration, the Court of Appeal Lagos Division, in determining the merit of other issues in the case, upheld the rulings of the lower court on Counts 2-4, and duly found the applicant guilty, but the court raised a major constitutional issue when it turned the eyes of the law on the propriety of proceedings, and whether or not this constituted a breach of the Appellant’s right to fair hearing.

Delivering the lead judgment, concurred to by his brother Justices, Mohammed Lawal Garba, JCA, observed: “The issue of the right of a party to fair hearing in a case is so fundamental and crucial in the conduct of all judicial proceedings of a court of law and the administration of justice generally because of its constitutional guarantee and so a substantive issue of law that can be raised in an appeal against the final and interlocutory decision of a High Court, sitting at first instance, as of right by dint of the provisions of Section 241(1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution as altered.” The key issue in this instance about the propriety of proceedings and fair hearing is whether or not a defendant must be present in court throughout the whole of his trial, and whether his or her absence in the event of a joint defendant would amount to a breach of the principle or right of fair hearing. The applicant argued that the absence of her co-defendant at the lower court throughout the whole trial amounted to a denial of her right to fair hearing.

The Court then held, relying on the decided cases of Adeoye vs State; State vs Lawal, Asakipiti v. State and Ogujubu v. State as well as Section 208 of the ACJL, 2011 to the effect that it is mandatory that a Defendant shall be present in court throughout the whole of his trial including the delivery of judgement and sentence by a trial court.

Our take is that their Lordships in this case have taken a courageous stand in defence of the purity of the law, and in upholding the spirit of the law, and the constitution as the controlling force of state actions. Emotional and moralistic responses are beyond the purview of the law. When the judex insist on legal purity, especially under the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria, the standard response is for them to be exposed to blackmail and name-calling.

But the judex would fail in their duty, in the face of routine assault on fundamental rights, if they submit to the logic of the herd. Where fundamental rights are involved, it is better and more useful for the purpose of expanding the democratic space to intervene on a positive note. The case cited is not the only one of its type under the present dispensation; consider for example, the Orubebe case, the El Zakzaky case and the Dasuki case. Here as in other cases, we see the judiciary, as the Third Estate of The Realm, resisting the attempt to cage and intimidate it by a partisan Federal Establishment. The grant of bail in the last two cases for example have been recklessly ignored nonetheless, and this is one other reason I speak of qualified praise. It is the duty of judges to always stand up against the pretensions of the King, particularly as the prosecutorial agencies appear to be busy dancing to the body language of the King.

While the judiciary may be making some effort, more at the appellate level, in reaffirming its independence, even if through the protection of the purity of the law, the same cannot be said of the lawyers in the court of law. Every lawyer is expected and enjoined to be an officer in the temple of justice.  But sadly, Nigerian lawyers either due to lack of diligence or slavishness to other interests beyond equity and justice,  compromise the propriety of proceedings. It is the reason judges must remain vigilant, to avoid interpreting the law after the fashion of the moment and to state the general principles of the law in accordance with the facts of every case and to refuse to be intimidated. They must be mindful all the same of the boundaries between equity and the threshold of substantial justice. The case under review sheds more light on the existing jurisprudence on the constitutional right to fair hearing. It remains to be seen whether or not the Federal Government will further challenge it at the apex court.

Whatever happens, our qualified praise need not be limited to the Appellate Courts, it is the entire judiciary despite the limitations of the moment, that must rise above the routine handling of cases, narrow-mindedness and other constraints to fully demonstrate its independence, on the Bench and away from it. Elections are around the corner; certainly there will be Constitutional issues ahead that will seriously test the integrity of our courts.  The ordinary man will expect that our judges will deliver justice without being intimidated by anyone’s body language.

Obasanjo And The Extent Of Presidential Powers

By Reuben Abati

More than a week after President Olusegun Obasanjo released his state of the nation commentary and devastating assessment of the Buhari administration, it has remained the main subject in the public arena in Nigeria. It is a measure of the stature, influence and capacity of the elder statesman that whenever he intervenes as he has done, he sets the tone for public debate and the country’s future political direction. I have already commented at length on the appropriateness, timeliness, depth, brutal honesty and shortcoming of that statement on both television and radio, more than twice, but there is an additional aspect that the statement further throws up, namely the nature and extent of presidential powers to wit: should Obasanjo blame Buhari?

It is common practice in Nigeria for political commentators, either on the streets or in formal situations to make excuses for Presidents, either serving or retired. You are likely to hear statements such as: “The President is a good man, it is just that he is surrounded by bad advisers and ministers”, or something like “Buhari is not the problem, the problem is that he has been hijacked by a cabal, or as the view was once expressed – “a cabal is now in charge!” The powers, style and limitations of the President are hardly ever placed in proper context. Proponents of the positivism of Presidential powers always speak in terms of “Good President, bad aides” in the Nigerian Presidential system, contrary to the norm that the buck stops at the President’s table.

President Obasanjo’s various assessments of sitting administrations adopt a different orientation. He holds the President personally responsible for the performance or non-performance of his government. In his recent statement on the Buhari administration, he thus characteristically accused President Buhari of nepotism, lack of understanding of the internal dynamics of Nigerian politics, blame-passing, condoning of misconduct and outright incompetence. He more or less ascribes to the President of Nigeria the powers and the responsibility to provide leadership and ensure good governance. In his view, in areas where the President lacks capacity, it is his duty to recruit competent persons to assist him and where and when he fails, he is still the one to be held responsible.

The underlying principle in Obasanjo’s statement is that those to whom power is bequeathed must be accountable for the exercise of such power. In his only reference to advisers in his intervention, Obasanjo uses the word “so-called advisers.” It is most unfortunate that in the various responses from government and its agents to the Obasanjo statement, there has been no attempt to take on Obasanjo on the issues. He has been called names by hired voices, or system sycophants, and all he got from the Minister of Information was an acknowledgement note and a patronizing “Baba-is-a-patriot”, tepid climb-down, without a word of defence on the substantial question about how the incumbent President has abdicated responsibility and failed the leadership test.

For me, there are a number of projected questions: Can a President actually be held responsible for the failings of the government he heads? Should the blame for an administration’s failures be heaped on the head of a past government and its officials? Who can be held liable in the circumstance – a cabal, former Ministers, or those exercising delegated authority? For whereas Obasanjo holds every President accountable, I have heard persons claim that he has no moral right to do so. It is even alleged that President Buhari cannot be questioned because he is answerable only to the people whose sovereignty he personifies.

President Obasanjo, by heaping the blame and the responsibility, on the head of President Muhammadu Buhari is drawing attention to the full extent of the ascribed and inherent powers of the President under the Constitution. The Nigerian Constitution in letter and spirit makes the Nigerian President an Emperor with near-absolute powers. There may be checks and balances on his powers here and there, in terms of his having recourse to the National Assembly on certain issues and having to make consultations, but in totality, the Constitution confers on him a kingly prerogative, especially on matters of policy and its execution. His powers are extensive and expansive. Under Section 5(1) of the Constitution, he is empowered to either exercise his powers directly or to delegate. His relationship with those to whom he delegates authority is akin to that between an agent and a disclosed principal.

Section 5(1) is instructive: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation – (a) shall be vested in the President and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President or Ministers of the Government of the Federation or other officers in the public service of the Federation; and

Section 148(1) adds:

“The President may, in his discretion, assign to Vice-President or any Minister of the government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.”

It stands to reason therefore that whatever is done by those agents, lawfully and within the bounds of Presidential approval, are within the scope of the responsibility of the President. In other words, the President cannot pass the buck. So, is it right to say Buhari is a good man, but the problem is the cabal? Or to hold heads of MDAs liable for acts that were carried out with Presidential authority and approval? The President is the custodian of the social contract with the people as defined in Section 14, and where there is a failure of consideration in this regard, the government is deemed not only to have lost legitimacy, the President is deemed to have failed. This is a key point in Obasanjo’s statement, which makes it notably different from similar interventions by him in the past.

The term or the group known as “cabal” is unknown to the Nigerian Constitution but the Constitution knows the President. Section 148 also recognizes that Ministers are appointees of the President, exercising delegated authority. This is why the National Assembly cannot impeach Ministers; they can only be sanctioned or relieved of their duties by their appointor, namely the President. Where the conduct of any government official is in question, it is important to establish whether or not such a person acted beyond the scope of the approval or directive given or whether or not such was ratified by the President. However, no public official is allowed under the law to carry out an unlawful directive, where such happens, such a person is personally liable. In practical terms, this has been a source of problem. Nigerian Presidents function like Emperors. How many appointees can stand in front of a President and query his authority, or turn down his directive?

I align with the definition of responsibility in Obasanjo’s review of the exercise of presidential authority. For instance, there are cases in court against Ministers and advisers who served under the Jonathan administration over matters such as the spending of security votes and sale of oil blocks, but to what extent can they be held responsible for obeying presidential directives? Today, in President Buhari’s Aso Villa, the Chief of Staff in particular has been accused within the public domain of many things. Does anyone really believe that a Chief of Staff can act on his own without Presidential backing and not lose his job?

When the matter of MTN’s underpayment of sanctions sum came up and the penalty sum was allegedly reviewed downwards after some consideration, the MTN Executive that was involved was sanctioned, and Nigerians asked that certain government officials should similarly be sanctioned, but to date, nothing has happened. Could that have been the case without the President’s knowledge? In the more recent controversial case of Abdulrasheed Maina, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who was accused of protecting a man who had been sacked from service on the grounds of embezzlement, pilfering and corruption, had said that he acted with the knowledge and approval of the President.

Can he possibly in the future be called to account for his action even when he was carrying out a Presidential directive, apparent or otherwise? Afterall, his explanation was further confirmed from the statement of the Head of Service to the Federation who said when the issue came up, she notified the President of the likely backlash. When the National Assembly summons a prominent government official and he or she refuses to honour the invitation, can it be assumed that any Presidential appointee can be so dismissive of the legislature without Presidential concurrence? When recently there was a face-off between the Department of State Security, the National Intelligence Agency and the EFCC, with the intelligence agencies insisting that they or their former bosses cannot be questioned by the EFCC, could they have gotten away with it without Presidential approval? It is noteworthy that the intelligence agencies report directly to the President and take directives from him. They relate to other departments of government only on a need-to-know basis. There is also that other matter between Dr Ibe Kachikwu and NNPC GMD, Kanti Baru, with the latter insisting that he had Presidential approval. Can either party be arrested in the future for “alleged corruption” in the light of the revelation by the Vice President, then acting as President, that he only gave “non-financial approvals?”

Our point therefore is that everything in our Presidential democracy revolves around the President. Whereas the Constitution, upholding the separation of powers, vests the authority of the other two tiers of government: the legislature (Section 4) and the judiciary (Section 6) in institutions, the 1999 Constitution vests executive authority not in any institution, but the person of the President. The Presidency is not a collegiate; technically, even the Vice President has no powers. He can only function to the extent of powers delegated to him by the President, and even the very limited powers assigned to him can only be exercised under presidential directive.

This is partly why when President Buhari went on a medical vacation and Vice President Osinbajo acted as President, there were persons who accused him of becoming ambitious and trying to seize Presidential powers even when he had been granted delegated authority. The second time the President travelled, the Vice President was directed to act only as a co-ordinator! The President is granted immunity from prosecution; while in office, he is regarded as a Messiah, such that even the powers of the National Assembly to impeach him in the event of “gross misconduct” or “incapacitation” are difficult to execute.

More than at any other time, the Buhari administration has further problematized the extent of the powers of a President by calling to question virtually every act and directive under the preceding Jonathan administration. If a President gave a directive and it was lawfully carried out, without the agent going on a frolic of his own, and without any willful act of criminality, should such agents become the target of a witch-hunt? By stretching the matter in this direction, the Buhari administration may have created the basis for the growth of a political culture based on vendetta and the source of its own lack of vibrancy.

This probably explains why under this administration, delegated authority is being exercised with so much fear. The Ministers and heads of parastatals and agencies are so scared because they imagine that even when they carry out directives, they may be held liable tomorrow by a different government. Already, they are being told that they are the problem and not the President. Why shouldn’t a future government arrest and detain them and tell them that the execution of a Presidential directive is no protection? They may ultimately end up as victims of their current triumphalism.

By demonizing former public officials, and undermining the powers of a past President to exercise power and authority through legitimate and lawful delegation, the Buhari administration may unwittingly make public service unattractive and set a disturbing precedent. Be sure, however that the Nigerian public in the future will still argue that “Baba is a good man, it was the cabal that caused his problems.” Good intentions alone do not guarantee good leadership: this is the underlying moral of the Obasanjo statement. Whether or not he can mount the high horse to say this is beyond the purview of this present commentary.

But here is the long-term challenge: Can a President who has been given so much powers under the Constitution be allowed to abdicate responsibility? Section 5(1) and Section 148, and other relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution on Presidential powers present grey areas that throw up jurisprudential questions that should be clarified and resolved. It is an issue on which Nigerians must make a value judgment: do we need to preserve the status quo or is there a need to review the extent of Presidential powers? There are two ways forward: a constitutional amendment of Presidential powers to make Presidents more accountable, more institution-based and less omnipotent, or a resolution of the dilemma through the jurisprudence of our courts.

Aisha Buhari: The Critic In The Other Room

By Reuben Abati

Mrs Aisha M. Buhari, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari is probably the most loved person in Nigeria today, especially by critics of her husband’s administration. She first came to our notice in this regard when in the course of her ailing husband’s medical vacation in London, she famously declared through BBC Hausa Service that the Buhari administration had been hijacked by a cabal. Long before anybody raised the issue, she was the first to observe that President Buhari has no business seeking a second term in office the way he was carrying on. She even added that she would not join him for any second term campaign. I had written a piece at the time titled “Aisha and that BBC interview”.

I said I expected that the statement attributed to her would be disowned. But no such thing happened. Her husband soon took his own pound of flesh when at a press conference in Germany, he told the entire world that Aisha Buhari, his wife, belongs to the “living room, the kitchen and the other room.” I didn’t support this brazenly chauvinistic statement but I reminded Mrs Buhari that her primary duty is to support her husband, and that this, historically, has indeed been the duty of First Ladies. Mamie Eisenhower covered up for her husband. Jackie Kennedy had to endure her husband, JFK’s shortcomings. Hillary Clinton saved Bill Clinton by standing with him in his most difficult moment. Not every President would ask for a Grace Mugabe, who pushed her husband out of office, or a Lucy Kibaki who made Mwai Kibaki of Kenya look like a domestic victim. Closer home, the tradition has been for our First Ladies to stand by their husbands through thick and thin. Those whose husbands were Muslims, with perhaps the exception of Maryam Babangida, took the additional step of staying off the radar. Aisha Buhari is probably the first Nigerian First Lady to cultivate the public persona of an assertive, irreverent, independent-minded, critic-in-the-other-room, aggressive, resident and privileged “wailing wailer” in Aso Villa.

I don’t consider this a praise-worthy development. I stand by the cautious conservative view I expressed in my previous article on her. From initial concerns about her haute-couture fashion appearances, Nigerians have come to regard her more for her occasional, but striking political statements, or such statements that may be attributed to her. She reportedly bolted out of “the other room” about three days ago, when she retweeted videos of two major attacks on her husband’s administration on the floor of the Senate. Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central) had accused President Buhari of surrounding himself with incompetent persons. He even cited the example of the new Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), which in my view is an unfair assessment.

Civil servants are not necessarily competent because they pass promotion examinations. The most important requirement in the secret intelligence cycle may not necessarily be book intelligence. But Misau spoke his mind as he painted a broader picture of incompetence and disappointment, and the failure of the Buhari cabinet: 50% of whom he dismissed outrightly. Mrs Buhari found this so quotable and impressive, she tweeted the video on her twitter handle six times! Three days later, and in the face of the public interest that this has generated, the tweets are still there. Nobody has disowned them or deleted them. One popular caveat in twitter-sphere is that “retweets are not endorsements.” In this case, it seems we are not dealing with mere retweets, but actual endorsement. You retweet what makes an impression on you. Mrs Buhari on the handle, a verified handle – @aishambuhari – also retweets Senator Ben Murray-Bruce’s condemnation of the Buhari administration. Ben Bruce goes about proclaiming that he talks common sense, and although I don’t see much sense in what is common, uncommon sense projects more creativity in my view, but clearly Aisha Buhari sees sense in Ben Bruce’s unflattering criticisms of President Buhari’s leadership style and ability, and hence she serves as his Vuvuzela. Ben Bruce has been going about since then like a man who just got a sweetheart kiss from a crush.

Mrs Buhari’s conduct is unusual; it is shocking in its extra-ordinariness, to put it directly, it smacks of treachery and disloyalty. But it has fetched her enormous praise. My brother and colleague, Dele Momodu, a one-time Buharist, no, in fact a Buharideen, now a thoroughly disappointed “wailing wailer” has written a paen to Aisha Buhari. Ben Murray-Bruce has also composed the equivalent of a poem in her honour. He says she must refuse to be “cowed”. Ben Bruce is mean. Why use the word cow at this time? Is he suggesting that Mrs Aisha Buhari should not allow herself to be turned into a cow, when he as a common sense Senator knows that cows are not particularly famous in Nigeria at this time?

He redeems himself by saying she is an intelligent woman. Some other commentators have said that Aisha Buhari will make a better President of Nigeria than her husband. There are others who have suggested that she should become Nigeria’s Vice-President in 2019. “Toasting” and “seducing” another man’s wife with nice words is off-limits in my cultural space. I disagree with everyone on social media and elsewhere who have been saying that Aisha Buhari is right to criticize her husband publicly and to lend voice and strength to the likes of Senator Misau and Ben Murray-Bruce. Reno Omokri has also praised Aisha M. Buhari. This is how we would be here and Femi Fani-Kayode will be the chairman at an award ceremony making President Buhari’s wife “the Woman of the Year 2018”. If care is not taken, Aisha Buhari will soon join the Chibok Girls Movement or become an associate of Oby Ezekwesili’s Red Card Movement.

I think something is wrong somewhere. The position of the President is a national security position. It is hard enough to be a President, but to have issues on the home front makes the job doubly difficult. This is the very issue that came up the other day. One character who likes to talk accused me of being sympathetic to the Jonathan administration and using style to criticize the present administration. I told him off and reminded him of my rights as a trained journalist and as a professionally licensed critic and citizen. He held his ground. So I asked: “Aisha Buhari criticizes President Buhari and retweets anti-Buhari comments, is she also a Jonathanian woman? The guy had nothing to say. So I added: “if President Buhari is being criticized in his own bedroom, by persons who eat his pepper and palm oil, what moral right does anybody have to silence critics of his administration?” The guy blurted out: “if my wife tries that nonsense with me, there will be a meeting with my in-laws with serious consequences!” Case settled, so I rested it.

The de-marketing campaign against President Buhari is even worse than that. Within 24 hours after the retweet on Aisha Buhari’s handle, it was reported that one of her daughters, Zahra M. Buhari had also posted a cryptic statement, which suggested a condemnation of the administration. Unlike her mother, Zahra does not seem to have a verified twitter handle. There are even about eight handles bearing her name, including one that confesses to being a parody. But of all these, the most influential is – @zmbuhari – which has the largest following – 77.4k – and which seems to be more credible. Under this handle, Zahra supports her father, retweets her mother’s tweets including the ones already cited, she sounds spiritual and poetic and in every measure, comes across as her mother’s daughter, as if mother and daughter are united in a rebellious mission inside the Presidential Villa.

I recommend a forensic study of the retweets under her handle. In one case, she retweets @aminuganawa, a bright US-based Ph.D, who writes: “I doubt if there is anyone who would want you to succeed more than your wife and children. Your success is their success. If there is anything that will harm you they are likely to be the first to notice it. If you want an honest feedback listen to your wife and children.” That was three days ago, shortly after Zahra retweeted her mother’s retweets. Are we being told that the President does not listen to his wife and children, and that indeed, outsiders have held him hostage? A rigorous semiotic analysis of wife-and-daughter-Buhari’s tweets belongs to another level of analysis and other revelations. But here is Zahra M. Buhari’s most controversial tweet in the last 48 hours and it speaks for itself:

Sahih al-Bukahri, Knowledge

Book 3, Hadith 1

Narrated ‘Abu Huraira

When the Prophet (pbuh) finished his/

speech, he said, Where is the questioner,/

Who inquired about the Hour (Doomsday)?”/

The Bedouin said “I am here, O Allah’s Apostle”/

Then the Prophet (phub) said, “When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour/


The Bedouin said, “How will that be lost?”/

The Prophet (phub) said, “When the power/

or authority comes in the hands of unfit/

persons, then wait for the hour/


The foregoing verse is probably the most intellectually relevant criticism of the Buhari government to date and to be attributed to his daughter’s platform is the scariest of all things. “Unfit persons”? “Doomsday?”

It seems to me that some people are sleeping on the job. The happiness of the President is a matter of national security. The biggest problems that the Buhari administration has faced have been mainly unforced errors. In the absence of a competent opposition, this government has consistently shot itself in the foot. To add to that: a President with what looks like a troubled home is the most unfortunate thing that can happen to a country. To show a lack of capacity to manage that particular trouble has sorry implications for the Presidency and the administration. I may sound conservative but I think the twin-image of a rebellious wife and a free-willing daughter posting negative comments about a sitting President should be of greater interest to the intelligence agencies and reputation managers.

However, it is possible that there is a fake Buhari wife and a fake Buhari daughter out there being used to amplify negative narratives, in the most treacherous medium of the time: the social media. It is the job of the intelligence system to track that trail and stop it, if indeed it exists. It doesn’t require more than a couple of emails to Twitter, anyway, with complaints about implications for national security. Zahra M. Buhari doesn’t need to have so many twitter accounts in her name. And if Aisha Buhari’s account has been hacked, we should be told, and if she did not retweet those anti-spouse messages, we should know even if serious damage has been done already. If this is not the case: then we should say this: her job in the other room does not include openly and deliberately discrediting her husband. This much should be made clear. And if that fails, then we would be dealing, more or less with the true quality of the man in that other room.

The bottom line in my view: This President needs HELP. And he is not getting it.

The Season Of Recanting By Reuben Abati

“I wish I could travel to the US right now”

“Why? Why not wait till summer time?”

“No, I feel like going there physically to tell President Donald Trump exactly how I feel about the statements he has been making about the black world.”

“You don’t need to go to the US to do that. Follow him on twitter and tell him what you feel.”

“I am just angry.”

“We all are. Each time the man opens his mouth, pure shit comes out. I mean, he has lowered the dignity of the office of the American President.”

“You know when he said Haiti and African countries are shit-hole countries, it was as if a part of me died. I am black and proud. But by calling us citizens of shithole countries, President Trump just stuck a pin in the entire framework of the African Renaissance, Negritude, and the growing wave of Afro-optimism”.

“But the man has recanted though. He said he didn’t actually say so, and that he is not in any way a racist.”

“He only used tough words. I heard him. But what are those tough words? The words of an American villager who does not believe in the dignity of other peoples of the world; the words of a nativist, and an egotist.”

“This was how the man once said Nigerians live in huts”

“He should visit the private palaces of Banana Island or Asokoro and come and see what he calls huts.”

“Can you blame him? He says he has special intellect, and he is a stable genius and a billionaire.”

“Which billionaire? Is he richer than Dangote? Let him stop boasting. He is a billionaire. Can he spray better dollar at a party? The man is an accidental President. He should learn to carry himself with decorum. That was how the other day he even said the people from Haiti all have AIDS.”

“He has been most unfair to the people of Haiti if you ask me. He needs to be reminded that the people of Haiti fought for American independence. The Volunteer Hunters of Saint-Domingue, the largest unit of men of African descent fought in the American Revolutionary War in Savannah, Georgia.”

“The year was 1779. But what has been Haiti’s reward. America has consistently joined Europe to plunder and humiliate Haiti. I know the history. Haitians did not go to America on a boat. They went there as revolutionaries. Henri Christophe and the other Haitian Revolutionaries must be turning in their graves. To be so insulted by a man whose ancestors were not part of the Revolution that he now benefits from as President of a United States.”

“It is the black man’s burden. You know even during the American Revolution, men of colour were treated as second-class citizens. Trump speaks for an established tendency. You’d be surprised that the mainstream, average American doesn’t see anything wrong in what he has said. Many white Americans actually believe that we live in shitholes. In fact, worse, hell-holes”

“What surprises me is the fact that there are many Uncle Tom Africans and black people who believe that Trump has not said anything that we do not know already.”

“Some people enjoy being oppressed and abused. They have no pride. If you abuse their mother, they will say Yes sir (!), before realising their folly”

“It is called the Stockholm syndrome.”

“One guy sent me a video message on whatsapp showing some people in Agege, jump-starting a train, and he asked: what is this? Is this not a shit-hole? And we are blaming Trump?”

“How do you jump-start a train? What is that?”

“The train suddenly stopped on the rail-track and the engine refused to start. The passengers came down. Passers-by joined them and they pushed the train until the engine coughed back to life.”

“In Nigeria?”

“In Agege, Lagos. I saw the video. The passengers were so happy and they cheered as if something glorious had occurred.”

“Whatever. That still doesn’t make us a shithole. Growth is a process, not a structure.”

“I got a note from one of our brothers in the US. He said we should see the Trump statement as a challenge to make our continent better. When Americans hear that state Governors in Nigeria do not pay salaries, or that African leaders change the Constitution so they could remain in office for life, or that some countries have no electricity, no potable water supply and that the United States has to assist some African countries to buy mosquito nets, while the country’s lawmakers are busy dancing and junketing around the world, they simply conclude that Africa is a shithole.”

“Which shithole? There are many Nigerians in the United States who are better educated than most Americans. We are the most educated set of African immigrants in the United States.”

“So, how does that take the shit out of you? That’s what the average American thinks. With all your education, they may still ask you: where did you learn to speak English?”

“Right inside my mother’s womb”

“And then of course, when they hear about Boko Haram and the killing of human beings to avenge the theft of cattle, I mean, I mean, the confused American would just start screaming shit, shit, shit mehn.”

“There is more shit in America than in the entire African continent and Haiti. Trump owes us an apology.”

“Some people are likely to say it is African leaders who owe our people an apology for turning us into the laughing stock of the world. Are you aware that the Chinese and Asians in general also think Africans and black people are full of shit; it is just that they don’t say it?”

“If anybody tries that, I will punch him or her in the face.”

“If you are looking people to punch in the face, I can recommend some people around here. Let’s leave Trump alone with his shit.”

“Like who and who?”

“The people who put Nigeria in this mess. All the people who had the opportunity to deliver change and progress but turned Nigeria into Trump’s wash-hand basin.”

“How many persons are you going to punch in the face? You’d end up having bruised knuckles. Shouldn’t we at least thank God that some people are beginning to confess and recant?”

“Fulani herdsmen have confessed and recanted?”

“Who is talking about Fulani herdsmen? Fulani herdsmen want grazing colonies across Nigeria and their right to do business in any part of Nigeria.”

“Who is questioning that? Every Nigerian is entitled to basic freedoms but not at the expense of others. And as for grazing colonies, government has to come up with a more creative and acceptable solution. Nobody in the South wants a grazing colony.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“I don’t want anybody to graze cattle on my family’s ancestral land. If anybody tries that, I’ll report the matter to the Aaare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams. ”

“Not the police?”

“Which police? The same police that described criminal conduct as community clashes? You think the Yoruba traditional rulers who have appointed a Generalissimo of the Yoruba army do not have a strategic reason for doing so? Let anybody come and take Yoruba land and let us see.”

“Government can take land in the public interest and convert it into a cattle colony.”
“In that case, I hope the same government will take land in parts of the North and give to the National Piggery Association to establish pig colonies across the North. Igbo livestock farmers are also demanding colonies for their pigs in all states of the Federation.”

“I don’t think Northerners will want anybody to come and set up piggeries all over their territory. Muslims regard a pig as a dirty and unclean animal. Muslims don’t eat pork, but you eat beef.”

“No. I eat fish. In fact, I am planning to join the Boycott-Beef-Movement of Nigeria, if that will put an end to cattle grazing and the conflict between pastoralists and farmers. I can’t accept that the life of a cow is more important than that of a human being. Did you see some of those gory pictures from Benue? Human beings were slaughtered like cattle at the abattoir.”

“I am sorry, you are beginning to sound like Trump. You are describing a shithole of a place.”

“I can criticise my country if I wish, but Trump has no right to be rude to us.”

“When we become a country in a real sense, you’d be able to speak with true pride. Look at Ghana. Look at Botswana. Their Presidents immediately issued statements to tell Trump off. Nigeria has not uttered a word. The shithole countries tend to know themselves. But there is is hope. May be things will change.”

“Change. I hear that all the time. Afterall, they have started again. Fr. Ejike Mbaka recently preached that the only way we can have change is for President Buhari not to seek a second term, and that if he does, he will be disgraced at the polls.”

“The man don recant be that oh. He don change prophecy. I think he owes us an apology.”

“Let him keep his apology. The one that really shocks me is that of Pastor Tunde Bakare delivering a state of the nation address in which he scored the Buhari administration so low.”

“I am not interested in his scores. He should revive the Save Nigeria Group and return to Ojota. What is fair is fair.”

“But the man spoke oh. No holds barred. I couldn’t believe he would attack President Buhari like that. I listened to him as he spoke about signs of retrogression, unemployment. ”

“I hear he wants to be President”

“This his last sermon was not about Presidential ambition. He called for a renegotiation of Nigeria because according to him, Buhari has failed Nigeria.”

“What? Did he mention Jonathan?”

“I think that trick of blaming Jonathan for everything wrong with Nigeria is no longer working. People have seen through that. If you know the number of young people who campaigned for the APC in 2014/2015 who are now recanting. In fact, many of them are very angry.”

“The children of anger have found another victim! I read those things and laugh. I thought we told them and they said we were clueless. They have now seen the true meaning and nature of cluelessness.”

“I won’t say that. It is not good to gloat. In a democracy, the people have the right to make choices and that includes the right to make mistakes.”

“One of their aunties, the Red Card auntie, has moved from looking for Chibok girls to distributing red cards and asking people to reject both the PDP and the APC. You know what her yesterday’s friends told her?”


“They told her to go and join the National Referees Association, and stop abusing the Red Card. She too has recanted. She has seen the light.”

“I don’t see why you find this funny.”

“Let me finish. You see one of those boys who used to flex muscle on twitter. I read an article by him too. He publicly apologized for being misled and for misleading others.”

“He doesn’t have to. The problem with us in Nigeria is that we are too emotional. We should learn

to be analytical. Suppose it is corruption that is fighting back, at the root of whatever is making you laugh.”

“Even our brother, Bob Dee, Dele Momodu has expressed his regrets. He wrote this hot article…”

“The problem with us in Nigeria is that we love slogans. We should learn to get to the root of things before taking positions. The people are emotionally conflicted; our bail-out Governors don’t know what to do. Every little thing, they run to Abuja to beg for a bail-out. The failure of governance at the state level is the real problem.”

“You mean the real shit-holes are in the states?”

“I think so.”

“Shit. Shit.”

#BBNaija: Television As Madness, By Reuben Abati

What a relief! So, the Big Brother Naija, #BBNaija, reality television programme is finally over. It ended Sunday evening with 23-year old Efe Michael Ejemba, University of Jos graduate of Economics and singer winning the N25 million + SUV at stake, with 57.6% of the votes from over 24 million voters across Africa. Warri, where Efe’s family lives, erupted in excitement. At the Multichoice viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, where Katung Aduwak took charge so brilliantly, there was a similar eruption of incandescent joy. I was relieved because for about 70 days, the Big Brother Naija show was a big distraction, crass capitalism at its most cynical edge, a source of unmanageable madness in homes and on the streets. Now that it is over, it is time for some honest frank talk for the attention of all stakeholders involved.

Let me start with the lessons, on a positive note, before delivering the blows. Lesson one: In a very instructive manner, the Big Brother Naija reality television show promoted the ideas of choice and people power at the heart of democracy. Televised across Africa, the viewers had the final say in determining who stayed in the house or left during eviction moments on Sundays. The votes were collated, audited and confirmed by Deloitte, a firm of auditors and thus, the viewer as the voter determined the outcomes. In that regard, a reality show of that sort promoted a consciousness of democracy, choice and influence and it further explained why the people from Nigeria to Cape Agulhas all the way up to the Mediterranean sea took fierce ownership of the programme. In a continent where power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and every access to power, fame and influence is seen as an opportunity to oppress and demean, whatever is done to promote a consciousness of choice and the civil society is laudable. Multichoice, thanks.

Lesson Two: in every business concept, perseverance pays. Multichoice has been running its Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Africa concepts for a number of years. Apparently, this year’s Big Brother Naija has been the most impactful, the most profitable and probably also, the most exciting. In one week, over 11 million persons voted to determine the eviction. In the final week of the programme, over 24 million persons voted – that is more than the total number of persons who voted in the Nigerian Presidential election in 2015. This year, Multichoice has made more money from the Big Brother franchise than it has ever done. The programme was sponsored by PayPorte, and with all the voting, and the money spent on recharge cards, Big Brother and Multichoice are the biggest winners. In the end, it is all about business and profit. Everybody has been used. In business, once you have a good, attractive product and you can capture the market, you can fool everybody and make profit. Multichoice, weh done – in Falz, the bad guy’s voice.

Lesson three: humility pays. At the end of the day, in the last week of the programme, the decision by the viewing public was a moral, sentimental one. The biggest star of the programme was, I don’t know what you think, TBOSS (real name: Tokunbo Idowu), half nated the space with her Jezebelic antics, even got some of the male participants ousted by entrapping and outsmarting them with her sexual wiles. She projected herself as a sex object, the ultimate manipulator, the champion Delilah of the Big Brother Africa series. She even made a joke of the entire Big Brother concept by saying she didn’t need the money and if she won, she would spend it in two weeks to pay off debts, and in any case, she had men hitting on her, offering to take her on a ride in their private jets. She played the role of a female barracuda.

Given her looks and talents, she would have been a perfect winner. She would have looked good on the billboards. But she lost because of her arrogance. Attitude is everything: this is the lesson of TBOSS’s disgrace and humiliation. When she was sent out of the House as the second runner up, the viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, including Kemen whose nemesis she was, danced in joy. “They are taunting me?” she asked Ebuka, the anchor. No, sweetheart, they were making a far more serious statement about you.

The melodramatic ending of Big Brother Naija 2017 is its only redeeming outcome. Bisola, the first runner up does not even have a degree but she showed talent and resolve, even if her whorish flirtation with Thin Tall Tony is so cheap and self-denigrating. Her One-Nigeria consolation prize is something big she should take seriously. Efe won because of his humility. He is considered the poorest and the most needy of the contestants. Patrons of the programme chose to vote for the contestant who looked and sounded like he would need the money and the opportunity. They gave him a chance in life, although the organizers must ensure that going forward, the show does not become a poverty alleviation scheme.

Bisola came second because she too looked like she needed help. Debbie Rise and Marvis also made the finals, but that was meant to be a great compliment to their good conduct, but they didn’t have enough support to make it to the top. TBOSS is the main star who lost. I hope she was taken out of South Africa with a private jet or maybe a submarine! Beauty is not everything, baby.

Lesson four: Marketing helps. Branding is everything. Propaganda is profitable. Packaging is nice. Big Brother Naija is nothing but marketing, branding, propaganda, and packaging. A reality show is supposed to be nothing but reality, virtual reality as it happens, but let no one deceive you, everything that happened in the 70 days of BBNaija was packaged, marketed, carefully branded and manipulated. Ebuka, the Big Brother, thumbs up, the scenic designers, kudos, the content developers, three hearty cheers, Multichoice, you guys are the smartest capitalists around, well done! The finale was a bit overdone though, dragged out, over-delayed. Tiwa Savage (hey baby, watch that growing fat around your waist and thigh), Tuface (thanks TuBaba but next time tell Annie to twerk for us- what was that!). In all, the power of television was well advertised.

Now the hard knocks: I rate the theatre high but I consider the whole show a sham, a 419 manipulative effort by a corporate agency, long overdue for an ethical review and scrutiny, a bad influence on corporate ethics. The owners of the programme are just a bunch of insultive, manipulative and exploitative capitalists, feeding on public need for distraction and the negligence of the authorities. Big Brother Naija 2017 is something that should never happen again in the shape we have seen. If Multichoice as a corporate investor wants to make a contribution to Nigeria, it must find ways of doing so in more meaningful forms.

Reality shows have become an established form on television, but whereas there are reality shows that proms there are reality shows that promote talent, music, human capability and genius, enhanced relationships, and intellect, Multichoice, through its Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Africa franchises seems committed to the promotion of base values, chiefly adultery, prostitution, love of money, nudity and sex. What just ended as Big Brother Naija 2017 was nothing other than the corralling of some human beings into a zoo, pressured to behave like nothing but animals. The organizers made money devaluing other human beings. Multichoice and Payporte, the sponsors, turned alcohol and pornography into legitimate sport.

TBOSS and the other girls kissed and got groped by the boys on live television putting their upbringing to shame. TBOSS, who claimed she didn’t need the money even exposed her breasts on live television more than once. I have seen better breasts TBOSS. I am not too sure those private jet owners will be excited by your fluffy, South-looking, slightly bigger than mangoes breasts. If the same men see bigger assets, I mean, those interesting Ojiakor-like ones that look like papayas, pineapples and watermelons, they will not send private jets, they will deploy submarines and fighter jets! And that ‘s why you got N500k in the end, way back behind Bisola with her hard facial features, and Efe whose victory is based on poverty logistics and appeal. But I have no doubt that TBOSS will end up doing better in the larger, outside market than the other finalists, because even those who did not vote for her, know in their hearts that she represents the message of the programme.

It is a wrong message and that is why Big Brother Naija drew more audience in Southern Nigeria than in the North. In the last week of the programme,, every town in Southern Nigeria was seized by the #BBNaija fever. Prayers were offered in churches for Efe. One lady threatened to commit suicide if Efe did not win. Another one said she would not stop crying until Efe won. Nollywood stars declared support for housemates. There was Team Bisola, Team Efe, EfeNation, TBOSSNation, TeamDebbieRise (small), TeamMarvis (even smaller). There were public processions even in universities. We were told how to vote. Twitter was on fire. What I saw was nothing but sheer madness. T-shirts were printed. One musician turned his personal car into a billboard. Nigeria became a mad house because of one reality television show. It looked like mass hypnotism at work.

But it should not be allowed to happen again. BBNaija should not be hosted and staged in South Africa as has been the case. Multichoice, Payporte and their partners made crazy money and got brand promotion off the back and sweat of Nigerians. Do the maths; we got peanuts in return. We were told BBNaija could not be staged in Nigeria due to electricity problems so the studio had to be in South Africa. And the Nigerian government looked the other way. Wawu! All the billions that the South Africans are running away with, after giving our boy a Kia SUV and some N25m, who is going to collect the Value Added Tax on that? Nigeria or South Africa? See the real Gobbe! All the staff who worked on the programme with extremely marginal exception were South Africans. Where were the Nigerians? Abi, Lobatan oh.

The Nigerian government must assert itself. Nobody henceforth must brand anything involving primary production, Nigerian off Nigerian soil. We can’t get far by wearing made-in-Nigerian clothes on Mondays and Wednesdays, turning the country into an extension of Nollywood, but we can gain a lot by insisting that economic production and profit based on Nigerian talent and resource must have significant Nigerian content.

Congratulations Efe; the grace of God is forever sufficient, but sorry Nigeria.

The Paradigm supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in Op-Ed are solely those of each individual author and does not represents our editorial policy.

Dino Melaye: The Making Of A Brand, By Reuben Abati

It is a sign of the times, and a tragedy that the most popular Senator in the Nigerian National Assembly at this moment is not the person who has moved the most impactful motion, not a lawmaker who has proposed a thought-provoking bill, and certainly not any Senator who has given any impressive speech debating a matter of national importance. What we get, most of the time, in place of legislative responsibility, prudence, accountability and distinction is burlesque, farce, Japanese-styled Bungaku-Bunraku enactments, a dose of medieval commedia d’ell arte and an enormous supply of Yoruba Alarinjo with a bit of the Akata from Efik and Ibibioland. And the star in this comedy of errors that the Nigerian National Assembly has become is a gentleman called Dino Melaye.  He is the perfect archetype of all that is wrong or right with the Nigerian legislature, a fine representation of contradictory binaries, and a lesson unto the rest of us.

I am not condemning Dino Melaye. I am in fact just about to say that we created a man like him, just as before him, we needed a Busari Adelakun, and a Lamidi Adedibu to show us the true character of Nigerian politics. And to those who think Dino Melaye is something of an aberration, I say to them that Dino Melaye is indeed a true picture of Nigerian politics. He is much smarter and far more politically savvy than those who condemn him. His Wikipedia profile announces that his ambition is to be Nigeria’s President someday, may be he won’t become President, but he may suddenly show up in the future as something close to that high office.  He is far more Nigerian than those who criticize or condemn him. He knows the system. He plays the system. He has the capacity to beat the system. Most people who get to the top in Nigeria beat the system, and when they do so, they flaunt their smartness in the people’s face. The pundits write their articles but nothing changes, because a man like Dino Melaye can get a whole Vice Chancellor of a University created under the Act to do his bidding, and a National Assembly to queue up behind him.

I read one piece in which the writer was wondering how on earth we ended up with a Dino Melaye in the National Assembly: A man like that whose brand raises too many questions.  His school certificate result is not exactly impressive.  His year of graduation from Ahmadu Bello University has been controversial, even with the sitting Vice Chancellor’s needless testimony. Nobody is sure whether a BA or a BSc is the appropriate description of a degree in Geography. Dino’s name is allegedly missing in the University’s Graduation Year Brochure, an omission that nobody has been able to explain. There is an NYSC group photograph but he is just about the only person not properly dressed. Former classmates have confirmed that he was actually a university student and that he graduated, and the Vice Chancellor says he got a Third Class. Third Class!

I have never seen any student so proud of a Third Class like Dino Melaye. To celebrate his Third Class he wore to the National Assembly, a Doctoral candidate’s gown, and thus insulted the entire academic establishment. I have a Ph.D gown and the full robes of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, but no form of temporary insanity will make me wear either of both robes to a wedding party. Dino Melaye is a Nigerian Senator; nobody should be surprised if one of these days he wears his distinguished borrowed robes to a funeral just to convince everyone that he has a university degree. No serious person advertises a Third Class degree, but Dino Melaye says on top of that, he has acquired six additional degrees, including certificates from Harvard and the London School of Economics! The lesson from this is that the certificates of everyone who aspires to lead Nigeria at any level must be carefully verified henceforth. Only God knows how many persons at the highest levels in Nigeria are parading certificates and qualifications that should form the subject of scrutiny. A nation that is led by the least educated and the most ignorant of its population is definitely in trouble.

In the United States, a man like Dino Melaye would probably never win an election. His former wife, Tokunbo accused him of battery and domestic violence and showed pictures to prove her point. Her short-lived successor made similar claims, spent six months and fled. There was another lady, one of those “man-eating” Nollywood girls who entertained us with her misery and the story of a child and DNA tests.  If the wives and the baby mamas were wrong, Dino Melaye soon had a tiff with Senator Remi Tinubu and what he said about her menopausal status, we don’t have to repeat.  He even went to the front of Remi Tinubu’s house in Lagos to pose for a photograph, daring her husband to do his worst. Senator Tinubu’s husband, the Jagaban of Borgu, Asiwaju of Lagos, former Governor of Lagos and national leader of the APC knew better. The last time Dino Melaye got into a duel, he came out of it with torn clothes, which he proudly advertised.

Dino Melaye poses as an anti-corruption crusader. He rides some of the most exotic cars in Nigeria, all labeled Dino 1 to 5 or whatever. He is loud, flamboyant, and unconventional. He can talk, which means he is articulate, he is fearless, he is also fiercely and stubbornly loyal to the incumbent Senate President Bukola Saraki. He can sing. He can dance. He obviously has no respect for women because he is a macho-man, an alpha male. He can also fight, and he considers journalists the scum of the earth. That is why when Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters digs into his past and qualifications, his immediate response is to say that he is being stalked and to go after the investigative journalist with everything that he can deploy. Melaye was elected as a Senator to make laws for good governance, but he has been busy acting like he is an awada kerikeriactor on loan to the National Assembly.

I am not condemning him. He won an election. In fact he has won many elections. The people who voted for him must see something in him.  The man who represented Kogi West before him used to make useful contributions that made the headlines, he was respected for his informed interventions; there was never a time he wore torn clothes to the Red Chamber, but the people voted him out and elected Dino Melaye and since he started ruffling things up, nobody who voted for him has questioned him. You actually get the impression that Melaye is considered a hero in his Kogi West constituency. This should explain why he enjoys being the drama king of the National Assembly.

To politicians of his type, every kind of publicity is good publicity.  It is better to be heard and known, for whatever reason, than to be unknown and unsung.  In Melaye’s mind, he is obviously having fun. The kerfuffle over his academic qualification is probably as far as he is concerned, a joke, because afterall, he doesn’t need more than a secondary school certificate to be a member of the National Assembly. When we write about him, discuss his politics, interview him, project him in the media, we are actually promoting his politics and brand.

His kind of brand works in Nigeria. What was the value of Busari Adelakun’s politics or that of Lamidi Adedibu? But both men ended up being more prominent in their constituencies than other politicians of their time. Lamidi Adedibu, the exponent of Amala politics, was so powerful, when a certain Governor refused to pay him Godfather-rent, he got him removed from office and as they say, nothing happened. Adedibu derived his power from being close and loyal to a bigger man of power. He could sing too. And he could dance. And that is perhaps why Dino Melaye should be taken seriously when he breaks out into a song:

A je kun iya ni o je

A je kun iya ni o je

E ni ti o to ni na, to n dena de ni

A je kun iya ni oje

That song is now top of the charts in Nigeria today, with a remix and multiple parodies by other public figures. The only man who is probably yet to learn that song is Senator Ali Ndume, but it is a song that speaks to him directly and accounts for his six-month suspension from the Senate.  It is also a song about power and dictatorship. There is nothing in it about values or fairness, or justice. It is a might-is-right composition, about the mighty punishing and oppressing the powerless. “A je kun iya” emphasizes the severity of punishment, “eni ti o to ni na” underscores the imbalance of weight, and the lack of equality in strength.  It is a song of intimidation, threat and abuse, completely arrogant in tone and sense.

Dino Melaye knows how to taunt his critics. I visited his website:  There are nice photographs and links to other sites including his Facebook page, projecting him as a courageous and outspoken anti-corruption crusader and a political activist. We do not find any information about the bills and motions that he sponsored, or projects that he has embarked upon, or his relationship with his Kogi West Constituency. This may be an oversight on the part of those who manage the site for him, but their omission is perhaps in order, since Dino Melaye is better known for the drama that he creates.

His Wikipedia profile offers nothing more impressive other than the notably juicy details about his marital life, his threat to “beat and impregnate another man’s wife”, and his monumental contribution to legislative debate about how Nigerian men should stop “importing” wives from foreign countries. To this should be added his promotion of the “aje kun iya” folk song into a quasi-national anthem. Elsewhere, a lawmaker’s profile online would refer to his or her electoral history, committee assignments and ideological positions on key national issues. What constitutes a lawmaker’s brand is what he stands for and how well he has served the people.

Dino Melaye’s brand is peculiar: he can sing, dance, fight and speak out loud.  He is an artful master of form. But what exactly does he stand for? What is his position on national security, healthcare, federalism, social security or agriculture? I don’t know.  But I won’t condemn him, because he is a well-made product of Nigerian politics. It is after all, difficult to know what most contemporary Nigerian politicians stand for. He is in addition, probably much better than half of the National Assembly. He is more attentive at least than all those other Senators who don’t attend plenary, certainly better than those who have spent more time there dozing off, or the ones who have spent years in that Assembly and have never uttered a word, or sponsored a bill, support a motion or do anything of note. The pity is that many of such are now running up and down, seeking to become Governors in their states in 2019. So, why won’t Dino Melaye nurse the ambition of becoming President someday?  A je kun iya ni o je…

Donald Trump And The Muslim World, By Reuben Abati

I am not a fan of Donald Trump, the incumbent President of the United States. I didn’t stand with him. I stood with her- Hillary Clinton- in the last US Presidential election. No other election in recent American history has been more international in terms of interest and emotional involvement. Trump’s election even divided the Nigerian middle class.  Majority of Christians in Nigeria stood with Donald Trump. They liked his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and in a country where religion is such a volatile subject and the Christian community feels as if it is under siege from radical Islamic extremism, it was easy for a category of Nigerians to see Trump’s politics being in sync with their own fears and expectations.

Pro-secessionist, Biafran and Christian protesters in the South East also supported Trump. On his Inauguration Day, they organized a rally, some of them were killed, in the process, by Nigerian security agents.  It is always so easy to read American politics into every other politics globally because of America’s status as a superior power and the global dominance of its culture.  Many Nigerians who opposed Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party also did so, for example, for partisan reasons, because they felt the Democratic administration of President Barrack Obama was responsible in many ways for the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria. They wanted a pound of flesh – they wanted the Democrats out of the White House, the same way the PDP exited Aso Villa. The funny thing is that Nigerians who do not hold American citizenship, were not in a position to vote in the US election, but this didn’t deter us from weeping more than the Americans. In my case, I opposed Trump because I consider him a vile, navel-gazing, crude, child-like nativist, whose Presidency could pose a threat to the free world.

I have been proven right. The United States is in trouble because of Donald Trump.  In less than two weeks in office, President Trump has signed executive orders, which amount to an assault on the liberal international order. America is great because it became the dreamland and the symbol of freedom, prosperity and fulfillment for persons and families across the world. It is great because it became the melting pot for global genius, the preferred destination for generations of talented persons in all fields of human endeavour. America is great because its diversity and multiculturalism became pillars of its exceptionalism.

Donald Trump, on twitter where he spends his waking hours, and on the podium, where he rants, says his ambition is to “Make America Great Again” (#MAGA), but it is beginning to look as if Trump will end up making America small.  The Executive Orders which he has signed so far, are intended to upturn America’s foreign policy in the last 50 years, isolate the country from the rest of the world and turn it into an island. America appears destined to become a pariah state for the next four years. With Trump, America now sees the rest of the world as an ocean of enemies, with this persecution complex dressed up as national interest.

The most pernicious of the Executive Orders is Trump’s suspension of the US refugee programme for four months and the entry ban for 90 days imposed on nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Is the action legal?  Section 212(f) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (1952) empowers the President to restrict immigration access to the United States: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants and non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”  The sentiment behind this legal provision is protectionism, which is ironic in a country of immigrants.

This is Donald Trump keeping his campaign promise to protect America for Americans and review immigration policies. Is this new? No. Over the years, America has always tried to control the influx of immigrants.  This was the case even under President Barack Obama. Trump reminds us of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which turned back the Chinese, and a similar law in 1924, which targeted Asian and African immigrants, both of which were corrected by the Immigration Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin, ancestry and race.  The only problem is that Trump’s approach is crazy, a case of policy mixed with bigotry and narcissism, and an unconstitutional gambit which violates the First Amendment, hidden under the banner of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry.”  Given the contradictions between the 1952 and 1965 Acts and the First Amendment, Trump’s actions are perhaps better tested in the court of law.

He wants to build a wall at the Mexican border.  This has already caused a rift with Mexico. He is also holding radical Islam responsible for security breaches in the United States, and this is certainly because foreign-born Muslims have been responsible for many acts of terror in the US: the 9/11, the Boston bombing, the Nigerian underwear bomber; across Europe, radical Islamic extremism has also proven to be a problem.  Trump’s solution is to demonize Muslim-majority countries and arrive at the simple solution that the best way to protect America is to shut out the Muslims.  He insists that “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.” I don’t believe him.

The chosen seven countries that have been shut out have not in any way been responsible for most of the acts of terror in the US in recent times.  Trump leaves out Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim-majority countries, but the kind of chaos that has been generated makes every Muslim going to the United States vulnerable. You don’t have to be from the seven targeted countries, once you bear a Muslim name, you could be subjected to greater scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection Officers.  Some of the people who have been harassed at the borders since last Friday when the Executive Order was passed are American citizens with dual nationality.

While Donald Trump is proposing greater vetting and scrutiny of the influx of Muslims, and refugees, he is nevertheless willing to allow more Christians into the United States. This is the message that comes across: Christians are welcome. Muslims should be carefully scrutinized before they are allowed in. In other words, Christians are better than Muslims.  This may sound like an over-simplification, but that is just how it is. President Trump is likely to make the United States more unpopular in the Muslim world, damage established friendships and promote a culture of hate that has proven a threat to American foreign relations in parts of the world.

American liberals are justifiably upset and angry. President Trump’s policy moves and rhetoric depart from the America they have known for the past 50 years.  But right now, America is so divided, nobody can comfortably sit on the fence, and that is why public opinion is so viciously divided too. Trump addresses the fears of those Americans who, like him, don’t want more immigrants and asylum seekers. This is the ultimate rise of American xenophobia and an attempt to turn that country into “a camp of saints.”  But there are limits to nativism as seen in Jean Raspail’s novel, The Camp of the Saints (1973) and The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. The Environment (2011) by Lisa Park and David Pellow.

But no matter the tone of global outrage, Donald Trump obviously doesn’t give a damn. Mexico has cancelled a meeting with Trump, a protest calling for signatures to prevent his proposed state visit to the UK has attracted over a million signatures, Iran is threatening reciprocal action, the entire Muslim world is outraged and inside America, California is threatening to secede because of Trump! And Trump? He wants to be President of the United States, not President of the world. He wants to serve the American people who voted him into power, not some immigrants coming from the slums of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  Across the world, there are millions who look up to the United States as the land of freedom. Trump is saying America is no longer ready to be the world’s Atlas nation.  It is not just immigration that will be affected: trade, aid, military relations as well.  This has created a regime of fear among many who depend on the United States.

There are millions of Africans living in the United States, particularly Nigerians.  They don’t all have the papers granting them the right of stay. There are asylum seekers, refugees and many who are still processing their residency papers. An American for Americans only policy is likely to place them at the risk of rejection and eventual deportation. When you talk to some of them, you can actually sense panic, fear, despair. They panic because America has become their adopted home. It is their place of work, their source of hope, and the best place in the world where they are happiest.

They panic because their original homeland offers them little hope. They don’t want to return to a Nigeria where there is no regular power supply, employment opportunities, good roads, communications or transportation system. Living in America confers a special status on them among friends, family members and the community at home.  There are others who are already naturalized Americans, and who may have nothing to fear, and there are those Nigerians who have helped to build America with their talents and intellect, and who don’t really care on what side of the bed Donald Trump is likely to wake up tomorrow morning.

Then you have the big crowd of I-must-go-to-America-by-force set of Nigerians who are daily trooping to the American embassy in search of visa. Since the Executive Order by President Trump, that crowd has not been smiling at all. I know many of our compatriots who have suddenly become experts in analyzing American immigration rules.  Nigeria is not one of the seven countries on the Trump list and the review and restriction are supposed to last for 120 days, but long-time US visa applicants in Nigeria believe that what a typical American immigration officer has actually been looking for is a President like Trump. An inconsolable applicant tells me he is no longer sure he will ever get a visa to the United States.

I assured him that the world will always need America and America will always need the world.  Isolationism discounts the ideal of an interconnected global order.  President Donald Trump’s success will be determined in the long run not by the arrows he shoots in the international arena from North Korea, to China, to Mexico and Somalia, but how well he fulfills the promise to make America greater than he met it. If they don’t want you to stay in America, come home, please. Stay at home, e go better… or go to Canada or Taiwan.

Governors And The Politics Of Succession, By Reuben Abati

The recent Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states threw up a number of issues about the politics of succession in Nigeria. In Edo state, you would think it was the then incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole seeking re-election. He campaigned more than the candidate. He danced, waved the broom, his party’s symbol, far more enthusiastically than the man who wanted the office. He even did more to put down the opposition and any likely threat to Godwin Obaseki’s ambition. His pretty wife was always in tow during the campaigns, and did she dance? Oh yes, she did too. Godwin Obaseki’s emergence as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in that election caused much disaffection within the party. He was said to be Oshiomhole’s anointed candidate with the allegation that everything was being done to ensure his victory at the polls. Oshiomhole had his way. Obaseki is now Governor of Edo State.

The incumbent Governor in Ondo State also did as much if not more to manage the politics of succession in the just concluded Governorship election in that state.  He anointed the candidate of his party, followed him everywhere, and “fought” for him, even in the courts and on the streets of Akure. The election was more about Dr Olusegun Mimiko and what he wanted. The situation was not helped by the fact that Mimiko’s choice, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN hails from the same Senatorial district with him, but by far the biggest problem was the division within the PDP, which produced two candidates on the same platform for the same election, with the courts having to decide mid-way and at the late hour, with a superior court overruling the lower court. This confusion created a scenario whereby Jimoh Ibrahim emerged for a while as the party’s candidate, only to be dismissed through a court order two days to the election.

This did not bother the businessman-lawyer-politician, though. Giving the impression that he was not so desperate to be Governor, he declared that his mission was to make it impossible for Mimiko to achieve his goal of installing an anointed successor. On the eve of the election, he urged his supporters and the people of the state to vote for the candidate of the APC. Under normal circumstances this would be considered an anti-party activity but the PDP is right now in such a confused state as a political party – its ranks are filled with disloyal, one-leg-in-one-leg-out members.  For this reason, in Ondo state, the PDP defeated itself from within even before the election. Mimiko can also be held responsible for his chosen candidate’s defeat. He overplayed his hands in the febrile politics of succession in the state.

There is perhaps nothing new about incumbents, at state, local and national levels, showing interest in who succeeds them. Being politicians, they could plead that they are duty bound to support their party’s candidate, but where the problem lies is the desperation that attends the choice of such candidates, beginning with the party primary. In the United States, which is an example that can be readily cited, President Barrack Obama openly supported the candidacy of the Democratic Party standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, but he did so only after she had won the nomination. If Bernie Sanders had been the party’s choice, he would still have received President Obama’s support out of loyalty to the party. In other words, it would be difficult to speak of an incumbent American President or Governor anointing a successor and imposing that successor on the party and the electorate.

This unacceptable abbreviation of democratic choice and of democracy itself occurs routinely in Nigeria.  Once upon a time in this country, an incumbent President boasted that he did not know who his successor would be, which was fine, but what was not fine was his simultaneous declaration that he was very certain about those who would not be allowed to succeed him. The same President eventually chose his own successor. In Ekiti state, following the election in Ondo state, Governor Ayo Fayose has been quoted saying what has happened to Mimiko cannot happen to him in 2018: he is so sure he would determine his own succession fortunes. And if he could be so confident, where does that leave the democratic process?  Truth is: the average Nigerian politician’s faith in democracy is dishonest. He believes the people can be bought. The people themselves are very good at complaining but they seem more committed to election-day monetary inducement than their own rights. Whatever gains may have been recorded in terms of electoral integrity and civic power is sadly being eroded by poverty.

When incumbent executive political office holders insist on anointing their own  successors in Nigeria, they can hide under three justifications. The first is that they have a legacy to protect, and that they have an idea who the right person is to protect that legacy. But this is absolutely wrong. It is not the duty of the incumbent to protect his or her own legacy, except through literature. If the legacy is strong enough, it should endure within the system. The end-and-start-again profile of Nigeria’s succession politics owes in part to the weakness of institutions. Our civil bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world. It is driven not by memory or best practices but eye service. Legacies also do not seem to endure because of the endurance of the politics of hate. When a new Governor assumes office, his first priority is to make his predecessor look bad. That is standard Nigerian practice. But the incumbent trying to prevent this possibility by anointing a successor has not helped either. In Lagos, Anambra, Cross River, Akwa Ibom Adamawa, Zamfara and Kano, we have seen how anointed successors eventually turned against their Godfathers.  The best answer to the legacy issue is for every incumbent to perform so well while in office that certain things would be so obvious that they cannot be erased.

The second justification is that as the leader of the ruling party in the state, or in the country, the incumbent must protect his political relevance by having a say over what happens when he leaves office. The interpretation is that the Nigerian politician is very egoistic. Give him Executive powers and he begins to appropriate the kind of divine powers with which kings used to oppress the people. He is surrounded by sycophants who disorient him daily, with long lists of enemies from whom he needs to protect himself, in and out of office. He gets lured into a trap, he is overtaken by paranoia, and he makes mistakes thinking he can exercise proprietorial rights over the democratic process. Many have been disappointed. There is no point mentioning names from 1999 to date.

The third justification is that everything must be done to prevent the opposition from seizing power. Opposition politics in Nigeria is hoisted on a platform of enmity, including the fear of probes, even if no former Governor or President has been successfully probed or jailed by any successor since 1999. When our politicians are in the same party, they relate as friends, when they are in opposite parties, they relate as enemies, particularly if the parties involved are influential and capable of winning. Most of the people in the APC today who are branding the PDP as evil made their name as politicians inside the PDP. Jumping from one party to the other and switching colour and emotions like the chameleon means absolutely nothing to the Nigerian politician; their morality is majorly that of a professional prostitute.  It is never about what the people want. And so, preventing the opposition is an empty excuse because the same Godfather who is imposing an anointed candidate today could join another party tomorrow, and the anointed could also head in another direction or adopt another Godfather. This is a perfect illustration of how devoid of character and principles Nigerian politics is.

What is left then?  What is left is the more compelling argument that the reason Nigerian political incumbents are so desperate to anoint successors is because they are afraid of their own shadows. They want to cover their misdeeds, so they struggle to rule by proxy. They want to remain relevant, and continue to have access to state resources, patronage and privileges. They want to play God. They have secrets they want to hide. The politics of succession in Nigerian politics thus constructed has never worked. Its architects and promoters have been disappointed in many cases more than once. The landscape is littered with tales of treachery. Some Godfathers were so badly treated by their anointed successors they could no longer visit their states for four years at least. There are some ex-Governors who thought they got the best man to succeed them whose only reward has been abuse and neglect.

The lesson not learnt is that being a Godfather has at most, short-term benefits. Incumbents often underrate one thing: that the successor will also acquire his own ego. New influencers are bound to surround the new incumbent and they will advise him to assert his independence and not to be anybody’s “boy-boy”. Even when the anointed successor swears to an oath, as often happens, it doesn’t take long before one of these Pastors goes to him, offers to cancel the oath and anoint him as the new Spiritual Leader of the state! Have you ever heard of any politician who died because he swore to an oath with a Godfather?

The way we recruit Governors these days is bad. The lesson for every incumbent is to get things right. Nigerian democracy is still at the level of the visual and the personal. It is trapped at the level of needs. The people appreciate and remember what they see and what touches them directly. That is why on election day, or the night before, when they are given the “Naira sandwich”, their political mind immediately focuses on how at that particular moment a particular party or candidate has met their needs. The challenge of Nigerian democracy remains how to free the people from this base level, and confront them with more significant and indelible achievements that they can see, feel and touch, and which the politics of succession or hate can neither destroy nor traduce. If anyone understood this very well, Awolowo did, Ahmadu Bello did, Michael Opara did, Sam Mbakwe did, Obasanjo did, Jakande did, Onabanjo did, Ajasin did…we’d talk about more contemporary examples some other day.