Friday, December 26, 2008


Nigerians are a very interesting lot. Political punditry in Nigeria is definitely not a dying vocation in Nigeria. Following last week commentary, a reader asked: “How do you define a good political column from a bad one?” I am sorry to report that I do not know the answers. But that's OK: Neither does anyone else. In fact, any answers you hear will almost certainly speak less to motivations than to actual bias. What we do know is that some are better than others. Some are “419” who rent their column for a fee payable immediately and/or upon patronage. Some Nigerian columnists are just outright political hacks, without any pretense to objectivity whatsoever. They are not ashamed to sing the praises of their benefactors in power and or sing the “nunc dimitis” of those that have either not pay up or are on the verge of losing power.

A good help in understanding sound political columnist in Nigeria is history and predilections. Is this writer objective enough to lay aside his/her preconceived notions before pontificating about Nigeria? Is he or she a rabble rousing political hacks installed by a political party in the media to advance their campaign platform? You will very often find a consummate journalist turned columnist who takes his job and objectivity very seriously. The difference between objective political columnists can often be found in their predilections. We all know the difference between David Broder’s column in Washington Post and Michael Gerson in the same paper. The latter is an erstwhile Bush White House speech writer turned columnist whilst the former is the doyen of political news reporting in Washington DC. In the peculiar Nigerian settings, one can also compare Ebenezer Babatope’s political commentary columns in Nigerian Tribune newspapers to the informed commentary of Ebenezer Obadare a consummate journalist and a professor who also write for the same paper. Here is this week comment on commentaries:

Mohammed Haruna: This week Mohammed responded to a rejoinder to his column by his erstwhile colleague, Jonathan Ishaku. Here is a reason why many Nigerian journalists are afraid of taking on Mohammed. “Since Mohammed Haruna likes to quote past utterances as explanations to present events…,” Ishaku said, “one also needs to remind him of some of his own past utterances and actions which disqualifies him as a fair commentator of public affairs.” Ishaku went on to list the many sins of Mohammed, some of which are ad hominem. Mohammed Haruna not only eviscerates every points leveled by Ishaku against him, he also characteristically admitted an error that led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerian during the Kafachan riots. As editor of the then New Nigerian, Mohammed allowed a paid adverts that later inflamed the tensed religious riots in the North. The mistake Ishaku made is that he never knew the price paid by Mohammed for that fatal error:

“Not only was the New Nigerian not alone in carrying such adverts and
statements, Ishaku told a blatant lie when he said I got away with it and even
got the bonus of a hefty reward. Yes, I got rewarded alright, but it was not
with a ticket to go to Hajj. Rather it was with four days in detention at the
State Security Services (SSS) cell on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. I am not aware
that any newspaper chief executive has ever been detained for carrying paid
Mohammed then ends this week column with a reference to our last week column, which he wrongly attributes to one of our readers who forwarded the piece to him in an email. (Please note that in a private email exchange with Mohammed he acknowledged the confusion caused by our reader). Again we quote him:
“In a nation divided by faith and ethnicity,” he said, “we expect our political columnist to at least be a journalist, sworn to an oath unperturbed by any bias.”
I have no problem with bias because only God, the Omniscient, sees things from all angles. Like it or not we are all born into a tribe, religion or region and we are bound to see things through those prisms. However while I have no problem with bias as such I do have one with the kind which is so deep that those who cling on to it never want to hear any thing negative about their side in a dispute or any thing positive about the other side. And this, I am afraid, is the problem with much of Nigerian journalism”

Dele Momodu: This week “Pendulum” add a new fillip to his praise singing column, calling a lady not related by blood or lineage an aunty. (I know many here will say it is an African thing.) The lady in vogue this week is Dora Akunyili. Characteristic of the swinging pendulum of Dele’s pen, she deserves all accolades not because of her achievements at NAFDAC but because:
“Her daughter was getting married in Cote D’ivore and we had offered to cover it free of charge. It was our modest contribution to a woman who had worked tirelessly at protecting our lives. She never forgot the simple favour. I was so moved to tears when she turned up at my mum’s funeral last year, all the way in our little town of Gbongan in Osun State. She stood by us like an Iroko tree as if the dead was (sic) her mum.”

Herein lays the incestuous relationship between the mainstream media in Nigeria and Nigerian government official. “You rubbed my back and I rubbed yours.” The only person who suffers in this relationship is the Nigerian masses who ended up reading half truths in their trusted newspapers. You can bet that more “simple favor” will continue to flow in this relationship between Dele Momodu, his Ovation magazine and Dr. Dora Akunyili. We haste to point out that out of over 3000 words used by Mr. Momodu in this week, only one terse paragraph made reference to the mismatched of the portfolio assigned to Ms. Akunyili, a qualified pharmacist, now assigned to the ministry of “misinformation.” We all recall that other write up have condemned the assignment, and some even called Ms. Akunyili to gracefully resign. None of that came up in Mr. Momodu as he is busy looking forward to the day when the ministry of information will placed $10, 000 advertorial in Ovation celebrating Nigeria independence day whilst many dies in Nigeria’s Niger Delta!

Okey Ndibe: By far some of the best columnists in Nigeria and the ones I usually look forward to reading are Okey Ndibe, Sonala Olumhense and Mohammed Haruna. I intend to excerpts Okey’s column without any comments just to amplify his well reasoned argument to those not accustomed to reading him:
“Nigerians who are plain tired of the Yar’Adua regime’s claims to living out the rule of law found reason last Thursday to be nauseated. A Federal High Court in Enugu convicted former Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State on a one-count charge of corruption. His punishment? To pay a fine of N3.6 million. That’s not even a slap on the wrist; it’s a pat on the back – or even a lover’s hum in the ear!.. This isn’t rule of law; it’s ruse of law. It broadcasts that there are two Nigerias and two sets of rules, one set for commoners, the other for the lucky few who call themselves “stake holders.” The whole shocking episode, make no mistake, was orchestrated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The shenanigan began when the anti-corruption substituted its initial 191-count charge of corruption, money laundering and embezzlement against Igbinedion and his colluding companies with a 24-count charge. .. Justice Kafarati’s sentence is the kind of sanction likely to fertilize corruption, not stem it. Here’s what it proposes to the collection of crooks who misrule Nigeria: steal, as much as you want, you’ll live to enjoy the fruits of your treachery! Steal millions of dollars; pay a few thousand in fine – and absolutely no jail time.”

Sonala Olumhense: As I stated above, I love reading any piece from Sonala and his columns are always a treasure in my days at Great Ife. This week he wrote about the attack on the alternative media in Nigeria, particular the attack by Yar’adua and Aondoanka on Nigeria bloggers. I will quote him seriatim:

“I am a student of good journalism. Good journalism empowers. Good journalism
builds. Good journalism is the only foundation on which the democratic state can
flourish. But good journalism is difficult journalism. Good journalism must hunt
down the facts, as inconvenient as they might be. The more important the facts,
the more difficult they are to hunt down. Still, the difficulty of obtaining
information or ensuring the accuracy information does not diminish the burden of
responsibility on the journalist. That, of course, is the ideal. The dwindling
quality of Nigerian journalism in recent times is stark proof of how difficult
this standard is to meet. Our journalism thrives—sadly— on commentary, not
reporting. Nigeria has 130 million columnists; our only limitation is editorial
space. In recent times, the Internet has permitted the arrival of Citizen
Journalism as an important genre in this trade. One of the most important
organizations in the Nigerian environment is Sahara Reporters (SR), about which
I wrote here on 10 August 2008.

Let me give a brief background to the issue, a few weeks ago, some Nigerian politicians found to be politically aligned with the Federal Attorney General, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, took out a newspapers adverts accusing the publishers of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, of owning “landed properties” in New York. The farcical nature of the allegations is that they went on to list as properties owned by Mr. Sowore, a building that belongs to Colombia University dormitory in New York!
As SR comes under this life-or-death assault, I say to those who feel that it is making an important contribution: shout it out, don’t whisper it. Similarly, if you feel that SR is wrong, shout it out, don’t whisper it. However, you are a hypocrite if you say you support the tenacious sacrifices being made by nationals for you and me, yet stand by while they are ripped apart.As one who believes that Sahara Reporters and Mr. Sowore are fighting for me, I say: Speak up! Speak up; those who loot and abuse should not prevail over those who merely report their crimes against the people! Speak up; go to the SR site and put your support where your mouth is! Speak up for your children and your country!

Onochie Anibeze: Lastly, we consider another “column for hire” writer. Anyone familiar with the many musings of Onochie will know that he always write a flowing tribute on every newly appointed Sports minister, praising them to high heavens. Well, you will not be disappointed. This week he turned logic on its head. Many will recall that when Abdulrahman Hassan Gimba was appointed sports minister, he sang his praise to high heavens. Now that he has been removed Mr. Anibeze wants you readers to know that Gimba was a round peg in a square hole. Perhaps he forgot that he told us then that “someone without sports background could excel as sports minister if he took time to learn and adopt some managerial expertise,” which is usually his code words for consultancy fees. Well, it is either Gimba did not pay well or that his money had run out. Now, Mr. Anibeze wants you to know some of the stories of maladministration committed by Gimba which he could not report on whilst he was on assignment at the Olympics. He now tells us that Mr. Gimba simply stayed put at his hotel in China, refusing to motivate the athletes. He (Onochie) in turn was attending all the games and reporting on all of them and yet omitted then to inform us that our minister, with thousands of dollars on “estacodes” did nothing but watch games in his room.
The question is why is he doing this now? The answer is simple; there is a new sheriff in town that needed to be courted and patronized. The old is gone, the new is here. Hear him: “It is on this note that I welcome Sanni Ndanusa as the new sports minister. Ndanusa’s appointment could be likened to those of Tony Ikazoboh and Emeka Omeruah who once headed the Nigeria Football Association before becoming ministers. They were on familiar terrain and performed well.” We would be here to tell you what Anibeze had to say, once Sanni refused to play ball and he get attacked for not clapping for the national team when the team is down 4 goals to nil!
Sometimes I wonder how a journalist like Mr. Anibeze lives with themselves.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Today, we are starting a new online review of Nigeria political commentaries and their often “inane” and “jejune” take on black Africa’s largest democracy south of the Sahara. Every week, beginning from today, we shall endeavor to bring you the “behind the scene” intrigues that often get parlayed into Nigeria political column. Given the vast array of political column on Nigeria politics available online, we would only review a few popular columns. So here goes this week:

Mohammed Haruna: There is a reason why Mohammed became the first Nigeria syndicated columnist, he is never afraid. Today following the deluge of “text rejoinder” he got as a result of his last week column, titled “On the media and the Genocide in Jos” he decided to take all his detractors head on. Only in Nigeria will you find a “syndicated columnist” willing to reprint an ad hominem attack on his person: “For pure venom, however, the text that took the cake was the one that said I was a “BASTARD CONCEIVED from a busted CONDOM” If you think that is hilarious you have not been reading Mohammed.
By far however the most salient of his “wordsmith” this week, is his self admission that he is first of all, a muslim before he wears his journalistic hat:
“True, as a Muslim, I inevitably see things from an Islamic point of view and
tend to be more tolerant of wrongs committed by fellow Muslims. This is only
natural and human. What would not be natural or human is to turn a blind eye on
such wrongs. As a journalist and columnist I have not done so.”

The problem with this admission is that Mohammed’s syndication is mostly funded by Christian readers. I still admire his forthrightness but in a nation divided by faith and ethnicity we expect our political columnist to at least be a journalist, sworn to an oath unperturbed by any bias. I commend the rest of the article to my readers.

Dele Momodu: Any time we read any write up by Dele, we make sure we have with us a “patrono-meter.” We are sure many of our readers have never heard of that word, well you need it to make sense of the “patronage-driven” Dele’s columns. Here is one Nigerian columnist you can easily predict who is paying him presently. If you ever need to “rent a column” just contact “This Day” newspapers and specifically asked for Mr. Dele Momodu. Sadly, we all know things used to be different for Dele Momodu, especially those of us who knew him at Obafemi Awolowo University-“Great Ife.” One can only conclude that things started turning south for him after the demise of his benefactor- Late Chief Moshood Abiola. We fondly recalled his eviscerating article on the Ooni of Ife, where he criticized the latter statement urging protesters to go vote in Late General Sanni Abacha “kangaroo” elections
This week, Dele focused on Ghana, in a column titled “And Ghana Did it Again.” In it his reader will find him heaping effusive praise on his next door neighbor, and president of Ghana, for conducting a free and fair election. The big chunk of his praise however goes to former president Jerry Rawlings. Many of us who have met Dele in London’s social circles and pubs drinking with Rawlings can only laugh.
The whole article is riddled with inaccuracies, conjectures and outright falsehoods, but for lack of space we will restrict ourselves to the followings:
“Today, the Ghana Cedi is largely at par with the dollar. Ghanaians have won the
confidence of the international community. They obtain visas of usually
difficult countries with unbelievable ease. Students can obtain up to a five
year visa to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. What is more,
Ghana only recently found oil in commercial quantity.”
Really? We all know elections in Africa are usually free and fair on election days. The problem has always been the counting and rigging that follows days after the election, as can be readily attested by the events in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. In Ghana we know as of fact that the “Ghana’s presidential election on December 7th, the candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo, got just over 49% of the vote, while his opponent, John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), got nearly 48%. Since neither crossed the 50% threshold to win outright, a run off will be held on December 28th” So why the premature celebration by our columnist? The answer lies in the candidate he is pushing to win the election. The other problem with Dele’s write up is emblematic of all his other writings, conjectures. To get a more accurate assessment of Ghana we need to refer to the United Nations Development Program which ranks Ghana 135 out of 177 in its Human Development Index. Behind Papua New Guinea, war ravaged Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, and Haiti. We also know that Ghana is “Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa. Even so, Ghana remains somewhat dependent on international financial and technical assistance as well as the activities of the extensive Ghanaian Diaspora.”
How anyone will use student’s abilities to obtain visa as evidence of development beats me!

Femi Adesina:
“I do not recall when last (if ever) I spent the better part of four days in
Owerri, the famed Eastern Heartland, and capital of Imo State. But that was what
I did last week, from Wednesday to Saturday.”
Approximate number of times, Mr. Adesina wrote an article pontificating about South Eastern Nigeria since he started his column on Saturday February 28, 2004 =95!
“What was I doing in the land of the Mbadiwes, the Mbakwes, the Enwerems and the
Duh! hello! You are being paid to pontificate on Nigeria and not just events that happened in Lagos alone! The land you gave to the Mbadiwes had produced a commissioner born and raised in Ibadan.
“Consider this array of intellectuals and captains of industry who delivered
papers at the summit: Prof ABC Nwosu, Prof Pat Utomi, Prof Bart Nnaji, Chief
(Dr) Cosmas Maduka, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, Dr Ndi Onuekwusi, and many others…The
lesson? Next time an Igbo man moans or bellyaches that he’s marginalized because
of the civil war, I’ll just tell him to shut up. The Igbo nation has put that
period behind, and is marching ahead, strong.”
Really? So your conclusion is that since you attended a meeting where some Igbo sons and daughter who had been a beneficiaries of the “rent an Igbo to justify the looting” governance in Abuja, all Igbos are now precluded from raising the issue of marginalization? By the way, who pays this damned fool to write a column in a newspaper with 80 % South Eastern Nigeria patronage?
I came form Owerri convinced that the key to the development of this nation lies
in regional integration and cooperation. Enough of waiting for the centre to
wave the magic wand and manna will fall from the sky. Governors of the various
states should break their artificial borders, join hands, and move their regions
forward. Didn’t we see it in the days of Western, Eastern and Northern region
with their respective premiers? Lightning can strike twice, surely.” (Emphasis
You mean the days when the Tivs, Ofas and the Jukuns were constantly complaining of marginalization in the north? Or when the Ijaws, Kalabari, Urhobos, Ishans et al were at the receiving end of hegemonic rule by the majority ethnic group in the South? What did we saw in the days of the regional premiers? The beginning of corruption in Nigeria at least that is what all the Coker report et al tells us. Of course the so called regional premiers made the civil wars inevitable with their parochial allegiance to ethnic politics.

Okey Ikechukwu: writes in the Punch on the Web
“… called for political and spiritual mentoring of the leaders of tomorrow….We
saw serious political mentoring in the first and second republics. Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Mallam Aminu Kano, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and many other
national leaders were part of a conscious sifting political process that was a
veritable recruitment machine for political and other forms of leadership. At
that time, the concept of political godfather was under-stood in the best sense
of this vandalized concept. The godfather is your earthly guardian angel who
takes trouble to ensure that the best in you is actualized; for your own good
and for the good of the world around you. That was the spirit of god fatherism
in the First Republic. It is also the spirit in all mature polities. The
godfathers are custodians of values, ideologies and tendentious traditions they
wish to promote. They are not robbers.”
Sometimes, we wonder if Nigeria pundits bother reading their history books. If we have our way we will mandate a compulsory historical study of Nigerian politics as prerequisite to becoming a Nigeria political pundit. Herein lies the many lies in the excerpt above, Chief Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Azikiwe are not political and spiritual mentoring leaders Nigeria badly needed in the 21st century. Chief Awolowo’s is a good administrator who can’t stand criticism and dissenting opinions. History clearly shows that he is a tenacious ideologue only for his views. He was neither ready to build bridges and work with his opponent nor can he stand any team of rivals. Dr. Azikiwe on the other hand had little or no principles when it comes to power. He will wine and dine with anyone even as long as he is accommodated and patronized in the corridors of power. Sir Ahmadu Bello is at best a northern “hegemonistic” patriot, who is more interested in courting and raising “god sons” who will defend the parochial interest of his region to the detriment of Nigeria’s federal democracy. None of them produced an illustrious son of Nigeria. They all raised political children dedicated to dismembering Nigeria than uniting it. Here is a quote that gives us a “bird eye-view” of their leadership acumen:
“The Nigerian ministers, in or out of
office, are an interesting lot. …. They are paid exceptionally good salaries for
Africa-up to 2, 500 pound sterling per year, which is more than a British PM
gets. Some in the regional Houses have names picturesquely representative of the
eruptive flux that has created modern Nigeria. …they are also inclined to be
somewhat doctrinaire, to be painfully sensitive and unsure of themselves, and to
be carried away by splinter partisanship… At one juncture, when they were
quarrelling ferociously, Awolowo and Zik sued each other for libel for
considerable sums; the two awards more or less canceled each other out. Then,
after the crisis in 1953, the two began to work together again, each keeping his
own sphere of influence, with Awolowo stronger in the West, Zik in the East. But
in 1954 and later came other bitter quarrels, and split venomously once more.”
(excerpts from John
” published, 1955 by Harper
That to us is the leadership they bequeathed to Nigeria, riven with rivalry and contention.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would
certainly bias his judgment, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With
equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and
parties at the same time.”
-James Madison
It is about time we asked this question: who is actually running Nigeria? Who is the president of this country? Who is making decisions affecting the lives of millions of Nigeria? Yes, we do have a president in law, ensconced in Aso rock, removed from the realities of daily grind. A president Nigerians rarely see. A president who rarely perform any public functions outside the insular enclaves of Aso rock. Perhaps the only time Nigeria gets to see him live, is when he is on his way to another exotic hospital location in Saudi Arabia or Germany.

The reason we ask this question is that Nigeria is tottering on the “precipe” of outright chaos. We have a “mad dog” attorney general out on the loose, giving press conference and arresting any Nigerian at a public event because they are not properly dressed. In a country governed by constitution! I know, he now claims he never asked anyone to forcibly remove the erstwhile EFCC chairman at a public event recently. His visage however betrayed his true intents. Whilst it is comforting to learn that the so-called presidency had had to back away from the stance of its attorney general. One is still at a loss whilst the same presidency will not caution or at least rein in the renegade attorney general. The attorney general of the federation has turned the prosecution (or should we call it persecution?) of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu a directive principles of this government. It is as if there are no corrupt governors to prosecute anymore? The entire Federal Ministry of Justice is seized in frenzy, an ad hominem attack of one man. And what was his crime? He successfully prosecuted the corrupt governors who bankrolled the present regime. The Attorney General is now the prosecutor and the judge in the many trials of Nuhu Ribadu. I asked again, who is running this country?

Some of my friends have argued that Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, probably deserved what he is getting, given his predilections to selectively prosecute the enemies of his masters whilst they hold sway over Nigerian, but is this the best and only way to make him account for his acts or inactions during his turbulent reign as EFCC chairman? Is the present government not indirectly turning Ribadu into a martyr? Why not take legal action against him if he broke the law? Why take all these extra-legal means? And how on earth can a member of the Nigerian bar Association and attorney general of the federation justify the self-help means the federal government has so far used to humiliate Mr. Ribadu? Who is running this country?

We have a president who looks very sickly in every attempt he had made in the last 2 months to pretend normalcy. Every attempt by the press to get information about his health is often met with arrest or closure of the journalist and the media organization respectively. Even an online blogger was recently arrested by the amorphous secret service at Murtala Mohammed Airport, only for the government in Abuja to denied knowledge of the arrest. Again I ask who is running Nigeria?

Francis Adewale
Spokane, WA

Thursday, October 30, 2008


“If we must win the fight against corruption in our country, we must eschew friendships, tribal ties, consanguineous relationships, generational solidarity and face the facts of each case as we see them”
-Festus Keyamo, Lagos lawyer, in his letter to Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Speaker,
House of Representatives asking him to explain the controversial Peugeot
purchase deal.

I wrote sometime ago that the fight on corruption was dead on arrival in Nigeria. Once Farida Waziri was enthroned as EFCC chairman by Honorable Dimeji Bankole and his coterie of “do-nothing” legislators, we are sunk! And now, the chicken is coming home to roost.

I am one of the few who are willing to give Hon. Bankole a chance to prove us wrong. After all, until a few years ago, he was one of us, Nigerian abroad. He knows what representative democracy means, he understood the fiduciary nature of the call for public service. In fact he got his present position as Speaker, after his predecessor had been disgraced out of office for corruption related affair. So when the news broke about the Peugeot 407 scandal currently rocking the House of Representative in Nigeria, I could not help but lament how we Nigerians continue to ignore the lessons of history.

Let me posit here however, that Hon. Bankole is yet to defend himself of all the allegations so unlike some I will refrain from reaching any conclusions on that issue. The issue I really want to address is the ongoing charade at the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges. At the hearing, the committee members made it explicitly clear they are not really interested in finding the truth about the scandal rocking the house, but are more focused on ferreting out information about the “whistleblower.”

They want to know how Mr. Keyamo got his information and not if the allegation were true. When it got to the turn of Newswatch, the Executive Editor of Newswatch, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, who stood in for the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Ray Ekpu, was available and he again was interrogated on the source and authenticity of the magazine’s story on the scam. No attempt was made to first investigate the allegation by staff of the house. None of the administrative staff implicated in the scandal was brought to the hearing.

Mr. Abu told the committee that while the news magazine stood by the content of its story, it had no further presentation, additional information or submission to make.
“This is the magazine I edit and I cannot deny any information contained in it. We stand by all the information contained in our story. It is not as if I have additional information,” he said. You would think the House members will stop here and start asking the right answers instead of red herring. Well, you don’t know them.

And then the members asked the blackmail question, here I will quote the account in Thisday published online on October 30, 2008 “verbatim ad literati”: The House members asked “On whether there was still need to push for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) in the face of the prevailing situation where the mass media procure official secrets and publish stories such as the car purchase scam.”

Tell me what has the FOI bill got to do with an inflated contract? It was not as if they doubted the veracity of the document submitted by Mr. Keyamo. In actual fact they were astounded that an ordinary Nigerian will have access to a public document. Document that should and ought to be made available online by every democratic government for scrutiny by the public and tax payers. There you go folks, our distinguished House of Representative now engages in blackmail. The implication for the press is to stop any probe of the House expenditure and budget if they want to pass the Freedom of Information bill. This I called the ultimate blackmail.

For me, I have reached an inevitable conclusion that we cannot trust the present Nigerian politicians to pass the freedom of information bill, the political parties and politicians in Nigeria today will be committing political “hara-kiri” if they passed the FOI bill. It will cut off the source of their ill-gotten wealth. Nigerian masses and activist have to prepare themselves for a long slug fight to a constitutional amendment if Freedom of Information were to become law in Nigeria.

Francis Adewale
Spokane, WA

Monday, October 20, 2008


"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts."

-Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S Senator from New York

Nigeria’s mainstream media is characteristically myopic in outlook. Nigerian journalist and news editors of today rarely hide their ethnic prejudices and preconceived notions. The smart journalist of yore used to hide and camouflaged it, but of late it has become increasingly embarrassing. You can see through these shenanigans with the way they celebrated and headlined otherwise somber reflections of the state of Northern Nigerian economy by its leaders and business executives in their news reports on the Northern Nigeria Economic and Investment Summit organized by the Conference of Northern States’ Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (CONSCCIMA).

A cursory reading of the discussions during the summit clearly shows that every problem highlighted as the cause of the ongoing economic malaise in the north is clearly applicable in any part of Nigeria. Indeed the whole of Nigeria economy is on a slump whilst the federal government is fast asleep.
In the news report on the summit, we learnt from the Bauchi State Governor that there cannot be any investment in the North when there is no peace in the region:
“The North is very backward; at least the death rates among our women and children indicate so. But the truth is that there cannot be investment, where there is no peace. Is there peace in the North? We know how religious riots drive away the investors,”
The fact is everything the Governor stated here is equally applicable to the southern part of Nigeria. The only metrics the north could be said to be below the south is education. And the south had“head-start” thanks largely to the initial rejection of western education by the North during the colonial time.

The economy of the southern part of Nigeria is also in ruins. The biggest companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange are oil companies owned largely by foreigners, northern Nigeria investor and a smattering of Obasanjo created millionaires, all of which gave a semblance of affluence in the midst of abject poverty. Where are the Cadburys and the cocoa derivatives industries like Cadburys and Food specialties of Nigeria? Whatever happened to the industrial park in Ikeja, Warri, Enugu and Port Harcourt? The big companies in southern Nigeria today are not manufacturing or introducing innovative products, they are all glorified money changers and bureau de change called universal banks.

If you want to talk about wars and riots, it is as much a problem of the south as it is with the north. We all know about the full fledged war going on at the Niger-delta. Only the brave will bring investment and manufacturing companies to Ibadan where miscreants recently took control of the state government aided and abetted by their god father. Need we mention the macabre dance in Aba where allegiance to Okija shrine determines who gets to live and govern the state.

At least the northern Nigeria leaders are talking about their problem. What is the south doing about the mass killing going on in the Niger Delta? When was the last time the fractured south addressed the problem between the Modakeke and Ife? Or the fratricidal war for the very soul of Warri by ethnic warlords.

The Lagos-Ibadan-Enugu press can continue to celebrate mediocrity all the want, I am not happy with the state of my country. This is not a time to finger point. These times called for action from educated Nigerian. It is time to educate the electorates to the impending catastrophe that the PDP government is foisting on all of us. It does not matter whether you live in the north or south.

As my good friend and a consummate Nigerian, Finance Minister, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman pointed out during the forum: “It is not enough for you (referring to the army generals and former governors) to stay in the comfort of your homes and complain. You must show interest on who is representing you. The point I am making is that you must take up challenges. Nature abhors a vacuum. You cannot do it alone by staying in your comfort zone. You have to take the challenge.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Nigeria woke up this week to a return to an age old military rule tactic: closure of media house. In this case, the government closed a privately owned broadcasting house. A government supposedly elected by the people for the people. It is hard to defend Nigeria’s comatose profiteers masquerading as journalist in Nigeria. The news item that led to the closure smacks of perfidy and appear to have the hands of the enemies of this regime all over it.

The present state of mainstream media in Nigeria is pathetic to say the least. What stops Channels Television from checking the story out with the regime, given it's well known access to the regime especially when Baba Gana Kingibe was still in government? We know how they lobbed easy question to the president and edited out the president coughing fits to camouflage the health of the president during their interview with the president sometimes ago. An interview arranged at the behest of Kingibe to burnish the image of the president when the going was good.

We are in a journalistic era where facts are considered an inevitable hindrance to preconceived agenda and truth is slaughtered frequently to appease the god or goddess of patronage. But the extreme depravity of Nigeria journalism should never be a license to return to military dictatorship. As long as the present regime surrounds itself with “militricians” in “agbada” we will continue to have problems with our democracy.

My first response when I watch the Channels TV broadcast of a fabricated Yar’adua’s retirement is élan. I said to myself, here is a golden attempt by the regime in Abuja to show their democratic credentials by suing the proprietors and journalist of Channel’s Television and thus made Nigerian journalism more accountable.

You can of course imagine my disgust when I woke up the following morning to learn that the Federal Military Government, oops, sorry the democratic Federal Government of Nigeria invaded the premises of Channels television without a search warrant, ransacked the premises, drove out the staff and locked up the station! What manner of democracy is this?

A government desperately searching for legitimacy would have given itself a massive goodwill if it had done the right thing: sue the bastard! Why is legal process so antithetical to the present regime? The answer is simple; their very foundation is grounded in tyranny.

To quote Nigerian Guardian editorial of Thursday, September 18, 2008, “But to revoke the license of a broadcasting station, intimidate the leadership of NAN and incarcerate officials of the two media houses is a sad throw-back to the era of military tyranny, and the authoritarianism of the Obasanjo years.”

In other words, no lesson learnt, nothing has changed. In actual fact if you asked Nigerian if they had received any “dividends of democracy” from the Yar’Adua regime. Their first retort is Yar’adua who? The president imposed on Nigerian by Obasanjo is hardly known outside the PDP “chop make I chop” circles. A president that has spent more time in hospital bed than the actual act of governance cannot be expected to deliver “dividends of democracy to anyone.

I am one of the few that are willing to give Yar’adua’s a chance, and he may yet surprise us, but my hope gradually turns forlorn everyday when I watch the macabre dance going on in Abuja. Hirelings and sycophants are in control of our government. The so called elected leaders have abdicated governance to their “godfathers.” We are “toast!”

We have a lame duck vice president, who hardly performed any duty when the president is away on his numerous hospital beds. We have larger than life Secretary to the Federal government who was recently ousted for plotting to overthrow the regime he sworn to serve. We have a political party, whose interest lies in protecting the interest of its rich members to the exclusion of the masses of Nigeria. How can we make progress in these circumstances? I would not be surprised if the president and the vice president did not know about the closure of Channels Television Station until the news broke out this week. Of course, what do you expect when you make a retired military general with little or no democratic credentials your national security adviser!

Nigerians are very religious, they pray for their president everyday. I think they need to start praying for their country democracy rather than the health of their president. The longevity of this democracy is hanging on a balance. We have a full blown war going on in the Niger Delta. Our stock exchange took a hit and doesn’t appear to have enough life left in it. The fight against corruption is now a footnote rather than a headline. Corruption is pervasive, whilst government is in abeyance. It is as if governance in Nigeria is on an extended vacation. The problem is the officials appear to have bought a one way ticket to vacation, hence return trip is not promised. In their absence, no one is in control. God help Nigeria.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nigeria in retrospect: Day Babangida overthrew Buhari

Today again I yield these space to a recent article published by Nigerian Compass

Day Babangida overthrew Buhari

Wednesday is the 23rd anniversary of the coup which ousted Major General Muhammadu Buhari and brought General Ibrahim Babangida to power.
GABRIEL AKINADEWO writes on the mistakes of Buhari and the survival strategies of his successor.

After one of the meetings of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) in early July, 1985, the then Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Babangida told the Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, that it would be necessary for him to embark on tour of army formations in the country. Babangida was not asking for too much as those formations were under his office. Babangida also told the Commander-in-Chief the need to boost the morale of officers and to upgrade the infrastructural facilities in the various divisions, brigades and barracks. After a few minutes, the request was granted by Buhari. When Babangida left, Buhari thought about what some officers told him a few weeks earlier of an impending putsch. Although the details were vague, he was told that Babangida was part of the plot to remove him from office. But the problem was that Buhari was not the type of officer who was crazy about office. Again, before he made any move, Buhari would demand for a cast-iron evidence. So, when Babangida came, telling him the need to make the army boys happy, he dismissed the earlier thought. What he did not know was that Babangida was only using the tour as a decoy to perfect the final strategy for the plot which after its success on August 27, 1985 was hailed as a ‘palace coup.’It was no accident of history that Babangida became head of state 10 days after his 44th birthday.

To observers, he had, for years, planned to become the most powerful Nigerian. He was only waiting for the right time and when the chance came, he grabbed it immediately. During the December 31, 1983 coup which ousted Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Buhari was the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3rd Armoured Division, Jos. Babangida was the Director, Army Staff Duties and Plans. Although Babangida was older, Buhari was senior in hierarchy and he commanded troops. So, it was generally agreed that Buhari should lead the new regime but the moment Babangida was made the Chief of Army Staff, he put machinery in motion which paid off 20 months later.Three factors contributed to the success of the coup. The first was that the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Major General Mamman Vatsa, did not really push Buhari enough to move against Babangida. Vatsa was closer to Babangida than Buhari because they were course and soul mates. And most of the officers used for the August 27 coup, especially the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 2nd Mechanised Division, Ibadan, Major General Sani Abacha, were also close to Vatsa. Vatsa knew that the plot was thick and he tried to warn Buhari but Buhari’s non-challant attitude weakened him. When he also told the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major General Tunde Idiagbon of the plot, Idiagbon merely replied: Let them try. When the Babangida group knew about this, the rumour came out that Vatsa was ambitious to become the Chief of Army Staff and that was why he wanted to discredit Babangida.With that, Vatsa ‘soft-pedalled’ and that gave Babangida the advantage he needed.

Also, since Buhari became the Head of State, he did not promote himself till he was removed. A disciplinarian, he believed that the rot left by the civilian administration must be cleared first. He thought first about the country before himself. Believing that Babangida was loyal to him, he left the army completely under his care. That was why he was easily overwhelmed. When any report came to him, his belief was that the evidence must be strong before any move was made. That was why it took months for him to retire Lt.Col* Mohammed Aliyu Gusau because he was waiting for evidence indicting him in the import licence scam, an evidence which was eventually supplied by the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO) led by Alhaji Rabiu Rafindadi. With the retirement of Gusau, Babangida, his closest ally, felt threatened and moved swiftly to actualise the plot against Buhari. In other climes, half of the evidence gathered was enough to nail Babangida. In Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Hitler was told about the impending move against him by General Ernst Rohm. Röhm was Hitler’s long-time, right-hand man. They were arrested and imprisoned, together with others, after the Beer Hall Putsch fiasco in 1923. Rohm also worked for the emergence of Hitler in 1933 as the Fuhrer. But the moment Hitler learnt that Rohm was plotting against him, he decided, alongside Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goring, that Rohm must be sacrificed. Rohm was executed without trial during the purge of the SA - the so-called ‘Night of the Long Knives.’ in June 1934. Following his arrest by Hitler himself at the resort of Bad Wiessee on June 30, Röhm was held briefly at Stadelheim Prison in Munich. There, on July 2, he was visited by SS-Brigadeführer Theodor Eicke (then the Kommandant of Dachau) and SS-Sturmbannführer Michael Lippert. Lippert, on Hitler’s order, shot Röhm at point-blank range after he refused to commit suicide with a pistol given to him. Also in Ethiopia, the plot against General Mariam Mengistu failed because he moved fast. Mengistu who was in East Germany, returned to crush the rebellion. He ordered the Presidential Guard, supported by militia units, to surround the Ministry of Defence, isolating the key plotters. He detained the entire Ministry of Defence as well as the Commanders of the four Ethiopian Armies; grounded the Ethiopian Air Force and summarily executed hundreds of officers.

The Commander of the 2nd Army, General Demissie Bultu, was beheaded. So, the procrastination of Buhari led to the success of the coup against him. The third success factor was that Babangida planted key loyalists in strategic units of the military, a move Buhari was not aware of. As Head of State, Buhari’s isolation from the military was given a high priority by the Babangida group. It began almost as soon as he came to power in 1984. While he was fixated on purely political national issues with religious fervour, he did not notice that specific officers were being quietly placed in specific operational positions to lay in wait like ‘sleepers’ until they would be called upon to strike by the very service chiefs he had naively placed his trust in to run the armed forces on his behalf. Lt. Col. Halilu Akilu, a Grade 1 Staff Officer in the Directorate, was smuggled into the office of Director of Military Intelligence while Lt. Col. M.C. Alli went to Britain and the United States for an official engagement. Alli deputised for Col. Aliyu Mohammed who had left for a course at the Royal College of Defence Studies after assisting to overthrow Shagari. Akilu was Babangida’s ‘main-man’ in the intelligence community, a counterweight to Alhaji Muhammadu Lawal Rafindadi, Buhari’s loyal head of the NSO. In the actual execution of the coup, Babangida also played a smart one. He chose the celebration of the Eid-el-Kabir, when he knew security would be relaxed and alertness not at the peak, to strike.

On August 26, muslims headed for mosques for morning prayers on Sallah day at the Ikeja Cantonment, but there were strong indications that a change of government was imminent. Buhari, the Commander, Brigade of Guards, Lt. Col. Sabo Aliyu and Buhari’s Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Major Mustapha Haruna Jokolo tried to find out details to no avail. Idiagbon had already travelled to Mecca, together with Vatsa and a few others. Aliyu was reported to have asked Akilu, his friend it it was true ‘some boys’ were planning to overthrow Buhari but Akilu told him there was ‘nothing to fear.’ Determined to know what was about to happen, Aliyu and Jokolo left the State House to find out happenings in the barracks. They were driving round Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Ikeja, seeking information and checking on the status of units, unaware that they were being monitored by Akilu’s men. When it was about 9 pm and because the time for the actualisation of the operation was close, the order was given for their arrest at the Ikeja Cantonment gate. Buhari tried to reach Abacha in Ibadan to no avail. He also told one of his aides to get in touch with Babangida in Minna. All the efforts were fruitless. It was then he realised that he had been outsmarted because Major General Domkat Bali, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs, had no Army to command to counter the impending putsch. At the designated and pre-arranged time, units in Lagos sped toward their objectives. Officers and soldiers of 123rd battalion, 245 Recce battalion, 201 Armoured HQ battalion, the 6th battalion at Bonny Camp and the 93rd battalion at Ojo Cantonment were mobilised.

To prevent anti-riot policemen(MOPOL) from being used, even if it was going to be a fruitless exercise, the Lagos State Police Command headquarters at Ikeja was cordoned off. Lt. Col John Shagaya, the commandant of the 9th Mechanised Brigade, Lt. Col. John Madaki, commanding officer, 123 Guards Battalion, Ikeja and Major Kefas Happy Bulus, acting commanding officer, 245 Recce Battalion, Ikeja played active role in this. Armoured Vehicles and storm troopers were detailed to move to the Radio House in Ikoyi and State House, Dodan Barracks. Babangida gave the task of arresting Buhari to officers he trusted. When Majors Abubakar Umar Dangiwa, Lawan Gwadabe, Abdulmumuni Aminu and Sambo Dasuki arrived the State House, Buhari was waiting for them. He was later whisked away after he was given the chance to dress in his official uniform. After the arrest of Buhari, it was clear that the coup had become a success story.

Then, Colonel* Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, Director of Manning (“A” Branch) and concurrent Director of the Department of Armour at the Army Headquarters, announced that the Buhari regime had been deposed. Hours later, at about 1 pm, the more familiar voice of Abacha, who was to become the Chief of Army Staff, announced the appointment of Babangida as the new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Babangida immediately took the title of ‘President’. The position of Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters was eliminated. Navy Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, then Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, was appointed to the new position of Chief of General Staff (CGS) at the General Staff headquarters. The first thing Babangida did was to remove the control of service chiefs and GOCs from any direct relationship to any other officer.

They reported directly to the new Commander-in-Chief. Obviously, he didn’t want what happened to Buhari to repeat itself in his regime. He scrapped the NSO and detained Rafindadi for close to three years. Gusau was recalled from retirement, promoted Brigadier*, and became National Security Coordinator, later GOC of the 2nd Division and Chief of Army Administration. Akilu was promoted Colonel, retained directorship of the Military Intelligence and became a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Rejoinder to Northern Nigeria Governors Press Release

Today, I yield these pages to an illustrious son of Nigeria, the Late Yusuf Bala Usman, the article below is a good riposte to the recent rantings of Northern Nigeria governors. Let no one think that the underpinings of this articles applies only to the North of Nigeria. The same argument can be made of the southwest, where the gerontocratic leadership in cahoot with feudalistic traditional rulers have made mess of the gains highlighted by Dr. Usman in this article. In the East, the rapacious ex-governors holds sway. Nigeria is currently on the throes of death, with bayonets drawn from all sides by rabid ethnic traducers who used the ignorance of the Nigerian peoples to set them against each other in the name of "tribalism" whilst they loot the coffers of the nation. Please read on:

Political Economy and Political Stability in Nigeria in the Early 21st Century*
by Yusufu Bala Usman,
CEDDERT, Hanwa, Zaria, Nigeria.
Being A contribution to the Workshop on the Survival of Democracy in Nigeria, Royal Tropicana Hotel, Kano, Wednesday, 27th September, 2000.

The little contribution I am going to attempt to make to this workshop is on the subject of, Political Economy and Political Stability in Nigeria in the Early 21st Century. This takes care of what was in the provisional title, as set out in this workshop’s programme, and even goes beyond it. Political economy covers education, employment, and much more, including political stability, whose nature, forms, root causes and pattern, cannot be properly understood with the outlook which imposes an arbitrary distinction between politics and economics; a distinction which, as you all very well know, does not exist in real life. The central theme of this workshop, according to its programme, is the survival of democracy. And, since the country is now operating under a democratic constitution, the main issue before us is, the growth and stabilisation of this democracy in it. A democratic form of government is being established in this country over the last fifteen months, after fifteen long years of military dictatorship. Like everything else in natures and society, this form of government has to grow in order to stabilise and survive.

A cardinal requirement for this is that those who have taken on their shoulders the responsibility for operating this term of government have to be clear-headed as to what this growth and stabilisation involves. They have to understand, and make their followers understand, what the establishment of democracy means beyond winning elections by hook-or-by-crook, and sharing the legal and illegal spoils of office. This contribution is aimed at drawing the attention of the participants at this workshop to some of the realities of the Nigerian political economy which will determine whether this democracy grows and survives or whether it breaks down and is overthrown. Some of these realities, even the organisers of this workshop, from the way they have formulated its theme, seem to want to evade. But, before going into all these we need to seek to clarify what political stability, in general, and the stabilisation of democracy, in particular, means in the context of our country in Africa and the world in these early years of the 21st century.

Political Stability

The political stability of any form of government has to involve the stable realisation of the political essence of that form of government. The political stability of a communal gerontocracy in villages and small towns headed by elders under an age grade system, means the continuation of the exercise of power by those who have reached the appropriate age at various levels of the system. The political stability of a feudal monarchy means the continuation of the exercise of power by the heirs of the dynasty or dynasties who produce the monarch.

The political stability of the type of democracy provided for in our constitution means the continuation of the exercise of power by those freely elected by the people of this country for specific periods with definite mandates which conform with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy clearly defined in chapter II of the Constitution. The opening sections of this chapter makes this very explicit, providing that: 13. It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government , and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapters of the Constitution. 14(i) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice (2) If is hereby accordingly declared that- (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Therefore, the political stability of our democracy does not mean the stability of the power of any civilian elected to rule any way they want. There can only be political stability for our type of democracy if those freely elected rule in accordant with the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of state policy and in words and decide make the security and welfare of the people the primary purpose of government. Most of you elected to hold office under this Constitution who have taken solemn oaths on the Holy Koran or the Holy Bible to carry out your duties in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution like to behave as if these Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles do not exist, or if they do they are merely words intended to decorate a document whose only use is to get the soldiers out and get you into official and give you the keys to the public treasury. This is why even before this democratic form of government has taken-off it is threatened with political instability. But instead of facing up to your clear constitutional responsibilities you used all sorts devices to evade them in order to rule the country, as if that is all you were elected to do.


One of these devices is the compartmentalisation of the country into the so-called six geo-political zones, which?? This outlook has now become so pervasive that the organisers of this workshop can conceive of a serious discussion of democracy surviving, or not surviving, in six States in a federation of thirty-seven states, without any consideration of the fact that if democracy does not survive at the level of the Federal Government where sovereign power lies, it cannot survive in any part of the territory under this government.

This retrogressive outlook which squeezes the complex geographical, cultural, economic and political diversity of the country’s thirty-six States and seven hundred and seventy four local government areas, into six so-called geopolitical zones arose from the divide-and-rule agenda of the military dictatorship led by the late General Sani Abacha, and of its NADECO rivals, both sides of which shared an interest in reducing the political crises arising from the annulment of the June 12th presidential elections to an ethnic and regional conflict between the Yorubas and the Hausa-Fulani and between the North and the South. This outlook has no basis in the actual geographical, cultural, social economic and political realities of the country. Let us take the so-called North-West Zone for example. At what level of the physical and human geography of Nigeria, does Kano, Jigawa, and Kaduna States belong to the same zone with Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, and not with Yobe and Borno, in the case of Jigawa; Bauchi, and Gombe in the case of Kano; and Niger in the case of Kaduna and Kebbi? At what level of political culture, political activity and political behaviour do the inhabitants of these States belong together, more then with others? What is the empirical evidence for this geo-political cohesion? Linguistic? Is it that these are the states where the Hausa language is predominant? Then why not call them linguistic zones and not pretend that they have some geo-political unity, separate from the others? But then can you call the North-East Zone, or the North-Central Zone or the South-South linguistic zones? This creeping separatist mentality may be a convenient cover to promote tribalistic politics with which you can evade your Constitutional responsibilities of ensuring the security and welfare of the people because not only at the level of politics, but even at the level of the climate, the hydrology, the demography and the economy the states of the so-called North-West Zone, like those of the other zones, are so interdependent with one another and with parts of the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, that they cannot do without one another.

All I want to do here is to draw your attention of how wittingly or unwittingly we get our minds imprisoned by conceptions which have no basis in the realities of our existence and in the Constitution and yet which makes assume that we can meaningfully discuss the survival democracy in some states of a federation and not in others and not at the level of the Federal Government.


Besides promoting a narrow and tribalistic political outlook this compartmentalisation allows for misleading characterisations which also allow you the elected public officers to run away from your Constitutional responsibilities. One of there characterisations, is the one found in the them of this workshop referring to these seven states as “economically weak” The reality on the ground is that these states are not economically weak in the context of the Nigerian Federation and of West Africa and, in fact, of the whole of Africa.

This misrepresentation arises from the myth that the Nigeria has an oil-based economy, and the states which have no oil wells and no significant proportion of the plants of the manufacturing sector are economically weak. But almost everybody knows that the states in the so-called North-West Zone are not only well endowed with vas natural and human resources for agriculture, livestock-rearing and fresh-water fisheries and a wide range of domestic crafts, extensive commercial activity. The facts as is brought in Table 1, are that minerals, including petroleum have never exceeds more then 14% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product. Agriculture, including livestock, and fisheries in the last two decades accounts for around 40% of the GDP. If you consider the serious limitations of the Federal Office of Statistics, the Central Bank, and the other organisation computing Nigerian economic statistics, particularly in relation to the rural economy and the vast so-called “informal sector,” in both the rural and urban economy, the agricultural sector is likely to account for more then 50% of the country’s GDP. Out of this a significant portion comes from the states of the north-west. So how can they be “economically weak”?

Let us take one basic determinant of the strength of an economy which is the capacity for the production of food. Amongst the foodstuff essential for human nutrition are proteins, derived from legumes and livestock. The states of the north-west produce over 70% of the beans produced in this country in the period 1992-1995 as Table 2, illustrate. These states have for the years 1991-1995 produced up to over 50% of the cattle , goats, and sheep, inspected and slaughtered in the country, as Tables, 3,4, and 5 respectively bring out. These states is properly governed can double and treble this output in the next few years. These states are not economically weak” therefore. They are economically backward, because even in the sub-sectors of agriculture where they are leading, like in the production of some of the most basic protein-rich, foodstuff, this strength is not reflected in the living conditions of the people of these states. And since an economy is basically the utilisation of natural resources with human capacity for human needs, when the living condition of a people incapacitate them that economy is backward, it is retarded, not weak.


The gap between the resource endowment of the economy of these seven states and the living condition of their people is clearly brought out in the fact regarding the under-nourishment of children in these states. The nutrition health and the general welfare of the children in any society is one of the best indicators of the general living conditions of the people in that society. Here you have states which lead the rest of the country in the production of foodstuff, particularly protein-rich beans and meat, but the children of these states are much more under nourished then children in other states who are not so well-endowed. As Table 7 bring out 43.1% of children under five in Nigeria are stunted largely due to poor nutrition but the figure for the north-west is 50.4% while that of the south-east is 36.6% and 35.6% in the south-west! This is very revealing about the political economy of the states of this zone, where the children of those who produce a significant amount of the protein-rich beans and meat for the country are under-nourished and suffer from being under-weight wasting and stunting, with long-term consequences damage to their capacity education, training and for mental and manual labour in adulthood. But it is not only on the area of nutrition that these states are backward, severely damaged, but also in almost all other areas of child welfare, as Table 7 illustrates with regards to prenatal care, delivery, vaccination, infant mortality under-five mortality and the occurrence of diarrhoea. Thus, the people of these states who are damaged by malnutrition, although they are major producers of food also suffer in other areas of their welfare, in spite of the fact that in terms of the revenue allocated to their local and state governments, they have not being at a disadvantage, as Tables 8, 9, and 10 bring out clearly and which you are more then familiar with.

Lack of Infrastructure

In the period June, 1999 to May 2000, in your first one year in office, the local and state governments of the seven states of the north-west received a total of 92.5 billion naira from the Federation Account. The local governments receiving N22.5 billion and the seven state governments receiving N30.0 billion with a total population of about 30 million this means for every single men, women, child and infant you received a total of N1,733.3 which you have solely sworn to use for their security and welfare. There are no indications in terms of their living conditions that you have used these billions of naira as you have sworn to do. The fact is that far from the state of north-west being economically weak, their economy is actually well-endowed but it is very oppressive and exploitative of the producers of the wealth.

A ruling class made up of local, states and federal government bureaucrats, military officers politicians, traditional rulers, businessmen and religious leaders has established a strangle-hold on the lives of the peasant farmers, pastoralist, traders, craftsmen, workers and artisans in these states. The areas of health, water supply and education as the tables here illustrate are ones in which the rapacious role of this elite is most clearly illustrated. While as Table 11 bring out the national percentage of household with water supply from pipes and boreholes in 1993-1994 was 31/7%, it was only 26.3% in the states here. That was seven years ago. The situation is much worse now, even for our households in the most favoured areas of the GRAs. The pipe-borne water supply system has virtually collapsed in most of the major urban centres, in spite of the hundreds of billion of naira local state, and federal government funds and foreign loans allocated to waters projects now and over the years. The water situation of the majority of the people in the rural areas and the high-density urban areas is a disaster. If we turn to electricity supply we find on Table 12 that while the national average of households having access to electricity in 1993/94 was 33.63% it is below half of that at 16.5% in the seven states of the north-west.

This economic backwardness of the state on this major economic infrastructure is not just because somebody in charge of NEPA at the parastatal, or ministerial level, from another region has deprived the area of electricity. For most of the last decade the top executives at the parastatal and the ministerial level and
some of the biggest contractors of NEPA were from the states in the north-west!
They are morally and politically responsible, together with other local government and state government top officers for this serious retardation. There is no held to go around looking for 9 Yorubaman, an Iboman or a Christian to blame!

Crippling Manufacturing

The backwardness of the states of the north-west is a result of the highly exploitative and parasitical activities of the section of the Nigerian ruling class dominant in these states. Their capacity and parasitism is brought out over how they have not only undermined the major industries established here like the Sokoto Cement Factory, the Kaduna Refinery, the Katsina Steel Rolling Mill and the Fiat Vehicle Assembly Plant in Kano, but they rose in arms against the P.R.P Government of Kaduna State, when in 1979-1983 it set out to establish fourteen industries in Kaduna State, some of which were agro-allied, in order to build up on the states leading role in the production of agricultural inputs into the food beverages and related industries. As a result of their rapacity of the seven states of the north-west, as Table 13 reveals, had only 53 out of the 330 food and beverages industries in the whole country in 1994, which is about half of the 104 located in Lagos and Ogun states many of which rely directly on food inputs from the states of the north-west.

Plundering Education

The level of parasitism on the part of the rulers of this parts of Nigeria is far-reaching. For, the local, State and federal government funds allocated to this part of the country and formally assigned for educational development are systematically stolen by a highly organised education industry mafia, to the extent that the peoples of the area are some of the most educationally backward in the country. The level of backwardness cannot be covered-up with the evasive tactic of calling these “educationally disadvantaged-states.” There is no question of any disadvantage as the budget of these states in educational sector makes clear. When billions of naira are allocated to education and yet the percentage of unqualified primary school teachers in 1995/96 in Katsina State was 76.31%; in Sokoto and Zamfara States it was 72.54%; 59.55% in Kebbi States; 59.18% in Jigawa States; 58.00% in Kano State and 31.02% in Kaduna State. The national average of unqualified primary school teachers is 24.05% giving Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States the distinction having 300% more unqualified primary school teachers then the national average. Anambra, Ogun, Osun and Oyo record on 2% of their primary teachers being unqualified!

These states of the north-west are clearly just backward educationally because of the rapacity, of their ruling elites, because in these states there are the institutional provisions and the funds available to train the hundreds of thousands of secondary school-leavers and College of Education drop-outs to become qualified primary school teachers. But this is not done and among the reasons is that the local and state governments and the federal agencies, want to minimise the amount of money they pay teachers and for the running of the schools. They believe these are better taken and put in their own pockets, so that they can continue run around the country calling their states “educationally dis-advantaged,” while they are actually the most educationally-advantaged section of the Nigerian elite, since they make so much money from education! Even for the Technical Colleges, for the training of bricklayers, plumbers and electricians, and such essential technicians these states which have a very poor system for apprenticeship training in the private, sector have barely 12% of the total enrolment in 1997-98, far below what they need, in terms of population, area and other resource endowments. In the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination of 1995, 44,2999 student from the seven states sat for the paper on English and only 1,185 passed, that is 2.6% passed. In mathematics the percentage that passed was 5.1% and in Physics it was only 2.5%. Out of the 4,870 who sat for Physics from Katsina State, only thirteen passed, giving it a failure rate 99.8%!

It is not surprising therefore, that in the UME admissions to Faculties of Agriculture of Nigerian Universities in 1998, out of 3,069 candidates admitted only 99 came from these seven largely agricultural state, which are not up to the 128 admitted to read agriculture from Lagos State, which barely had any significant agricultural sector in its economy. The 3.2% admission from these states to read agriculture is about the same in engineering and environmental technology, where out of 11,782 candidates admitted on 3.6%, that is 428 are from these seven states, less then half of the 1,167 admitted to those faculties from Imo State alone. The percentages admitted from these states, into the medical science faculties and into the basic sciences were 3.9% and 2.6% respectively. Table 19 reveals that this backwardness is not just in the physical and natural sciences it extends to admission into the faculties of administration, art, education, law and the social sciences. The situation is equally disastrous if not even more dangerous with regards to admission into the polytechnics as Table 17 reveals. At this crucial of education essential for the training of essential middle level manpower for the economy the percentages admitted from these states for the two years 1996/97 and 1997/98 are 0.02% from Jigawa State; 0.11 from Kadna State; 0.12% from Kaduna State; 0.03% from Kebbi State; 0.005% from Sokoto and 0.004% from Zamfara State. The seven states had only 0.31% of the admissions in that year!


The seven states of the north-west are not economically weak and educationally disadvantaged. They are economically exploited and educationally plundered. Their people are held in the grip of an oppressive system which rapidly enriches those in power and authority in the public and private sectors and impoverishes and dispowers the majority of the citizens.

This process of the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of the many generates resentments, insecurity and violence. The attempt to channel the resentments away from the rich and powerful who are actually responsible for it, and direct it to take the form of communal ethnic, religious and regional hatreds and phobias, entrendies a particular type politics, most easily described as the politics of fear. This type of politics seriously retards the growth of civic consciousness and civic responsibility necessary fro democratic political activity to grow and survive, because it turns politics into a jungle with predator and prey and not an activity by citizens contesting and cooperating in working out the best way of running their affairs.

This type of politics has to be oiled with vast amount of money largely acquired illegally and is therefore/inherently subversive of the rule of law and the
supremacy of the Constitution. It s inimical to any form of stability, particularly democratic stability as provided for in our Constitution.
The choice before you, the elected public officer shouldering the responsibility for ensuring the growth and survival of democracy in our country is stark. You either go ahead with this type of politics and see this form of democratic government collapse on top of you with all the dire consequences to your limbs, lives and property, or you change course and follow, in your own interest the difficult path of genuinely democratic politics as provided for in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of the Constitution. You have solemnly sworn to uphold and defend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


“If Nigeria were to die and an autopsy was to be performed the media would be the cause of death” – Anonymous

A little while ago, I wrote about the impending danger that the new brand of journalism now perpetrated by This Day Newspapers posed to Nigerian fledging democracy. In that piece I submit respectfully:
“There is a new way of doing business, especially if you are a newspaper proprietor in Nigeria and it will make you rich, I mean “stinking rich,” and you don’t have to employ a journalist to run your newspaper anymore. The new deals can be called Award Ceremonies, Pop music concerts and Fashion Show Extravaganza. All you need do is announce through the front page of your national newspapers that you are organizing an award ceremonies for companies and government “parastatals” and agencies. The crassness of the deals lies in its buffooneries. There is no semblance of merits in such an award. All it does is get these private companies and government agencies tripping over themselves to advertise in such newspapers. It is interesting to note that the winners of such awards end up locking down an advertising contract with such newspapers.”

I had stated then that the problem I have with this brand of journalism is the inherent “damage it does to the already “battered” integrity of journalism in Nigeria.” Sadly, I could not have been more prescient. I hate to gloat but for once I am proud to say “I told you so.”

Today we learnt that indeed the chicken is coming home to roost for this brand of journalism. In a news story that is clearly a cut between an “hit piece” and an otherwise intelligent investigative report, we learnt of the shenanigans and hypocrisy of the former governor of Lagos State and his connections with the disgraced Abacha’s family friend-the Chagoury’s; as well as the multi billion naira awarded to the latter’s company-Hi-tech Construction company by the Lagos State government.

The problem I have with This Day report is the timing. When did they start working on this story? Since most of the reports referenced deeds and incidents that happened during Tinubu’s years at Alausa why did they sat on the story until now? What motive is behind publishing it now rather than on the eve of election? The reason I say this is that publishing such a story would have enabled the electorates in Lagos State exercised a better judgment in returning someone that is not a lackey or stooge of Bola Tinubu.

The more troublesome problem and the question This Day editor and publishers need to ask is why give the Governor of the Year Award for distinction in infrastructure development to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola when the same construction company made all the infrastructure development available? It is interesting that the paper now claims it made the award to Fashola based on the wishes of its reader, but then is that not an indictment of the newspaper itself? Could they not be found culpable of misinforming their readership by highlighting musical jamboree and awards to the detriment of actual work of journalism?

Another question I would love to have the publisher answer for us is this: What nexus if any, is there between the Lagos State government refusal to grant a permit for This Day permanent center for jamboree and fashion show and the publication of this news story at this time?

The problem with the ongoing saga is that none of the parties come out of this clean. The Lagos State government had already sent out its “tax goon’s” to This Day corporate office to find out if they had been paying tax regularly. The problem with that is it stinks! Everyone knows this is the same tactic that General Abacha would have used when a newspaper published something unsavory of his regime. So what the Lagos state government is doing is merely confirmed the hypocrisy of its so called democratic ideals. They played into ThisDay story lines when they take a vengeful stand instead of taking every effort to respond to the story accurately and introspectively.

ThisDay newspapers on the other hand will go down in history as contributing to the “demise” of Nigeria democracy more than any other media if it refuses to desist from promoting crass journalism over and above its new found “constitutional duty of the press to hold governments accountable.”
It is not too late for the parties to sheath their sword, roll up their sleeves and helps Nigerian democracy expose pervasive corruption, rebuild crumbling infrastructures and laid a good foundation for black Africa’s largest democracy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


It is a settled maxim of law that you have to hear the other party in any judicial proceedings. The Latin maxim aptly states “audi alteram partem.” It means that any and all judicial official is required in every democratic judicial institution to avoid “ex-parte” communications with any of the parties and their counsels before the court. All communications and conversations with the parties and their counsels must be made in open court room or in chambers with all the parties and/or their lawyers present. This by the way is the first thing a budding lawyer is and would be taught at the law school. Any attempt to circumvent this settled principle will taint the entire proceedings and thus rendered whatever outcomes a nullity!

This basic constitutional and administrative law principle readily sprang to mind when I read a recent exclusive news report from “The News” magazine about the improper triangular telephone conversations between counsels to the governor of Osun state, the incumbent governor, as well as some members of the Electoral Petition Tribunal in Osun State.

According to the news magazine in its story titled ‘‘The Scandal of Judges, How Osun Tribunal Was Compromised;’’ it claimed that it had obtained “authentic, incontrovertible and unimpeachable” phone logs containing conversation between the counsel to the governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and his lawyer, Otunba Kunle Kalejaiye. “The truth is that we have the logs of all calls and text messages made by Kalejaiye and Justice Naron in the last six months to colleagues, friends and family members, and those made to them,” the magazine stated.

Now, let me say that I applauded the journalist who uncovered this story and wish them “more grease to their elbow” as we usually call it in Nigerian-ese. My problem however is their subsequent press statement that they have phone logs of conversation in the last months to “colleagues, friends and family member.” Even if they do, statements such as that should never have made it to the pages of news papers. We all have rights to privacy and the journalist will be “pushing it” if they think the court will protect their right to freedom of information if they start boasting of illegally obtaining phone conversation of lawyers, judges and their family members.

However, what is fair game is any “ex-parte” phone logs between the judicial officers of the tribunal and the counsel to the governors. The phone conversations between the governors and his counsel are well protected under Attorney/Client privileged relationship. The conversations between the counsel and any of the judicial officers outside the legal frameworks permitted by the tribunal rules and procedures are unfair, unjust and contrary to the rules of any democratic principles anywhere in the world.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 specifically provides in Section 36 subsection 1 that “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality. “ Emphasis mine.
Subsection 3 further provides that “the proceedings of a court or the proceedings of any tribunal relating to the matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) shall be held in public.”

What the Osun State Electoral Petition Tribunal did in this case is a clear affront on the constitution. The fact that the tribunal chairman, Justice T. D. Naron exchanged text messages with the respondent’s counsel at an “unholy hour” of the night (some of the messages and phone conversations took place past midnights or early in the morning) brings back to memory the saga of another judge who put Nigeria democracy on trial. The story of the infamous now late Justice Ikpeme who issued an injunction to stop the declaration of June 12 election in the dead of the night!

The link between the Osun State Electoral Petition Tribunal tenuous interlocutory rulings so far and the beginning of the ex-parte phone conversation with the tribunal members is there for all to see. At this point it is clear that the tribunal is sufficiently tainted that no one could expect justice will be done in this case. It is incumbent on the National Judicial Council to vacate their ruling and dismissed the panel immediately.

But this is Nigeria after all, and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is still in power, so I expect nothing will happen. It is saddening indeed that the democracy I lost some of my best friends fighting for had been turned to a nightmarish experience. A macabre dance with an hydra monster populated by evil genius pretending to be democracy messiahs in “agbada.” We are indeed in big trouble and there is no end in sight.

The potential for prosperity, peace and development is clearly all over Osun State, but the “goons” in power will not let that state move beyond their shadows. Their vicious grip on the state is evident by the mayhem they have unleashed on the state since the death of Bola Ige. There is no single politician of any hue in the state that could boast of getting into office through a free and fair election. “God-father-ism” is the order of the day.

The ongoing battle at the Electoral Petition Tribunal is a side show to the eventual battle to come, which is the next gubernatorial election. The battle between ex-president’s Obasanjo’s so called “poodle,” Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and Senator Iyiola Omisore for the governorship jostle started recently when the latter maneuvered to have the former arrested for corruption related to the multi-billion naira Airport contract, even whilst he himself subsist under the clouds of suspicions for the dastardly and callous murder of Bola Ige. The age old adage again rings true here, when the elephant’s fights, it is the grass that suffers. In this case, the grasses are the poor people of Iwaraja, Ila Orangun, Igbajo, Modakeke, Ikire, Ikeji-Arakeji, Ijemba, Ere-Ijesa, Ifewera, et al who will wake up this morning without any functional health centers, no sanitary tap water, no motor-able road network, and of course most importantly; no government to hold accountable for the provision of basic amenities of life in a 21st century Nigeria. And yet they say we have democracy. Well this democracy is on trial and the judge is on phone busy text messaging one of the counsels before him!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Sometimes a brilliant and factually accurate message gets distorted by the harbinger of the news; the messenger often determines the reception accorded to a message. In law, there is what we call judicial estoppel. Judicial estoppel arises in equity and serves to preclude a party from gaining an advantage by asserting one position before a court and then later taking a clearly inconsistent position before the court. A court may invoke judicial estoppel either to prevent a party from gaining an advantage by taking inconsistent positions or to maintain the dignity of judicial proceedings.

I believe recent report from Punch on the Web, quoting Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the national publicity secretary of ethnocentric, geriatric and ultra-ethnic association popularly called Afenifere fits this bill. According to the text of Mr. Odumakin press release, which he titled “Yar’Aduah’s ethnocentrism stinks still.” (sic). In the actual piece itself, he disparages an attempt by Yar’Aduah’s to explain away some of his appointment as an “ill-attempt by President Umaru Yar’Adua …. to exonerate himself from real allegations of “northernisation” of power in clear violation of the Federal Character principle in the 1999 constitution.” Mr. Odumakin submits that most of the principal appointment of Yar’Adua went to Nigerians of northern origin and that this “further demonstrated that he (Yar’Adua) has a dangerous mindset that threatens the unity of Nigeria and its continued corporate existence.”

Now, I have known Mr. Odumakin for shooting from the hips, since his appointment, first as PRO and thence as publicity secretary of Afenifere, but the latest beats the cake. Mr. Odumakin’s latest diatribe brings back memories of how an otherwise patriotic Nigerian can suddenly turned an ethnic jingoist. I knew Yinka Odumakin in our days at University of Ife, as we both actively participated in Students Unionism at Great Ife. We also belong to the same collective in Ife where we gathered to engage in serious thinking over the ills of Nigeria. Then, his love for Nigeria and all Nigerians is unquestionable. We often jointly railed against the oligarchies holding our dear country, Nigeria, hostage and wish for the day when all Nigerians irrespectively of where they hailed from will occupy an office not because of the accident of their birth but on merit!

Everyone knows I am not a card carrying fan of the present regime in Abuja, just as I do not join the bandwagon of those who celebrated its corrupt predecessors. My concerns with Odumakin’s piece is the fact that it seeks to question Yar’adua’s ministerial appointment not on the merits of those appointed but because they hailed from the north. This is what he called “northernisation.” This card had always been played by ethnic jingoist jostling for position of power in Nigeria.

This is at best laughable given the fact that Afenifere is itself an ethnic jingoist organization set up to further the parochial interest of the ethnicity of the majority of its members. The aim of organization such as Afenifere is to defend the interest of the Yoruba ethnic group it represent and not the interest of Nigeria or Nigerian. And they are not alone, there is the Arewa People’s congress, the Ohaneze N’digbo, the Ijaw People’s Congress, MASSOB et al. The paradox is therefore only lost on Mr. Odumakin befuddled minds as everyone knows he is crying wolf. This is why I said the messenger sometimes kills the message.
I recalls that a couple of years ago, when former President Obasanjo was in government, the same Afenifere, actively push the then government to appoint Yorubas to position of influence in Obasanjo’s government as a condition for supporting him. They hailed him when he appointed Bola Ige, as Power and Steel minister, with little or no qualification for that position. They hailed him when he appointed the sons and daughters of Awolowo, Akinjide, Akintola, Fani Kayode et al with little or no qualification! And now, they have the temerity to question what they engineered and actively support?

I confess that if Afenifere had stopped at questioning the merits of those appointed by Yar’Adua, I would not have had any problem with their diatribe. Why not dig into the background of those appointed by Yar’Adua and bring out things that disqualified them from functioning in that position. Is Shamsudeen Usman, who had spent his entire career at Nigeria financial industry, not qualified as minister of Finance? We can query the appointment of Yayale Ahmed and Aondoakaa as minister of defense and attorney general especially given the latter conflict of interest vis a vis ongoing investigation of some of his previous clients who are corrupt ministers being prosecuted by the same ministry. But attacking them because they come from the north is at best myopic and self serving. What makes this ministry less important than the ministry of External and Internal affairs occupied by Nigerians from the southern part of the country?

The more damning evidence is that Afenifere was peculiarly silent when the erstwhile minister of health, Adenike Grange, who hails from the south west, was indicted and disgraced out of office for corruption. This should have thought them a lesson that merits should be the answer to questionable appointments and not ethnicity!
As long as we keep emphasizing ethnicity in our national discourse we will end up with government of wolves! I hope the likes of Yinka Odumakin and his Afenifere will contribute more positively to our national discourse rather than issue this type of jejune and divisive press releases.

Monday, June 23, 2008


“Nigeria is a place where the best is impossible but where the worst never happens.”
-John Gunther “Inside Africa” Harper & Brothers 1953 page 776

Recently President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua made a major announcement on the perennial power outage problem in Nigeria in far away Paris, France. He declared that beginning from next month; he would formally declare a state of emergency in Nigeria's power sector. At about the same time, the three tiers of government (federal, state and local) unanimously agreed to pump $5.375 billion (N639.625 billion) into the power sector for rehabilitation and expansion of Nigeria’s power generation, transmission and distribution through the Independent Power Project (IPP).

This of course is a “causa celebra” for those of us who have been very impatient with the “go slow” approach of the present regime to governance in Nigeria. I was genuinely elated on hearing the announcement, despite my disgust that such an important announcement had to be made in Europe. Declaring a state of emergency in the most debilitating sector of the Nigerian economy deserves kudos, it shows the government is at last getting grips of the endemic problem of power outage in Nigeria.

My celebration was however cut short, when I start to reflect on the practicability of the major policy announced by the government. I suddenly discovered that without a holistic look at the plans one may end up celebrating a hollow and pyrrhic victory. The plan calls as usual for a massive injection of funds, something we have done time and time again in Nigeria without success. One of those exercises in futility undertaken by the preceding regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is currently under probe by the National Assembly.
Such funds according to the news report is expected to come from excess crude account based on the projection that exploration and production of oil in the Niger Delta will continue uninterrupted by the crisis in the region.

I got worried that the government might not have thought the entire plan through, when I realized that majority of the power plants are anchored on regular supply of natural gas from the Niger Delta. A region of Nigeria currently embroiled in crisis due to the criminal neglect of the region by successive government in Nigeria, which led the people of the region to take up arms against the government.

The Federal Government’s projects in Niger Delta under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) are the Omoku Thermal Power Station, Rivers State, Gbaran/Ubie Thermal Power Station, Bayelsa State, Sapele Thermal Power Station, Delta State, Ikot Abasi Thermal Power Station, Akwa Ibom State, Ihovbor Thermal Power Station, Edo State, Egbema Thermal Power Station, Imo State and Calabar Thermal Power Station, Cross River State.

How anyone could fathom an idea of uninterrupted, free outflow of gas out of this region with the prevailing environment beats me. And yet, according to the Federal Government, the sites for the project were chosen because of nearness to gas supply. The country does not have a gas grid yet. Establishing the projects in far-flung places would require additional funds to lay gas pipelines as well as increase the risk of vandalization, the government explained.

News report out of the Niger Delta is grim. The militants in the Niger Delta have done a lot to shut down oil exploration in the region and in the recent past they have moved on to shut down off shore oil platforms that hitherto appeared unreachable. There is no doubt that some criminal hoodlums had taken advantage of the crisis to perpetrate evil on the Niger Delta people themselves. The thought of an exploding gas pipe in the midst of this crisis looms large as a possibility.

Any power surge plan involving gas supplies without a final resolution of the Niger Delta crisis is a tinder box waiting to explode. Rather than declare a month of power emergency we are better served declaring a 90 days emergency summit on the Niger Delta crisis. Here is an opportunity to once and for all call all stakeholders in the region to task.

The futility in the Federal government power generation plan is clearly manifested in the attack on offshore oil platforms we witnessed recently. Something that has never been done before, the militants have surely made mincemeat of any gains we hope to derive from excess crude oil funds. So I wonder where the three tiers of government alluded to above are going to realize their contribution without a resolution of the Niger Delta crisis. We are at present at a position where we would find it difficult to produce enough crude oil for local production, not to talk of export in the next 7 years.

Any attempt to “wish away” the crisis in the Niger Delta will remain a chimera, an illusion, an apparition that will refuse to go away. Confronting it with an “Odi-like-attack” mentality will surely backfired as we learnt from former President Obasanjo’s experience. The fact that the serious militants among the varied groups have repeatedly called for truce and get ignored by politicians in Abuja is a testament to the tone-deafness of the traducers in Aso rock. An insurgency such as the ones in Niger Delta cannot be quelled by tanks and ammunitions. If you like you can buy up the guns, ammunitions, chiefs and the elders within a five mile radius of the last attack! Until the grievances of the people are addressed, peace will continue to elude the land.

We need to take a page from the United States government power/troop surge in Iraq, and embarked on a multi-faceted approach to the crisis. This is no longer a civil disturbance as the Federal government will have us believed. There is a war going on in the Niger Delta. Abuja cannot pretend to be stone deaf! We gain nothing by the present hypocritical stands of politicians in Abuja. The militants may have some thuggish elements in their midst but majority of them do have genuine grievances that needed to be addressed. Calling them to the table to address their grievance is not an act of cowardice!

My recommendation, which I confessed, mirrors another “troop surge” elsewhere, is not fool proof, but it will at least start the national conversation which has been lacking for too long. First of all, we need to admit that there is an ongoing war in the Niger Delta. It is only after then we can justify an increased military presence in the Niger Delta. Such military presence must be led entirely by soldiers from the Niger Delta. The present exercise where military task force are led by soldiers from North or West is at best condescending and counter productive.
The goal of any military presence must be clearly spelt out and the intent should be to “take hold and build.” I am privileged to have lived and traveled in the region during my national youth service and the infrastructures required for growth is none-existent. The troops send to the Niger Delta must have a clear mandate to help protect the population and not mown them down as they did in Odi; every efforts must be made to isolate extremists, kidnappers and thugs; create space for political progress, the attempt to installed political office holders vide “kangaroo” election must stop! The People’s Democratic Party and its retinue of thugs and political profiteers have a lot to do with the festering crisis in the region. They need to be told to stop imposing candidates in local, state and regional elections.
Next, attempt must be made to diversify political and economic efforts. The earlier we make Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), answerable to the people it is meant to serve the better. Creating a gargantuan bureaucracy answerable to politicians in Abuja is antithetical to all tenets of democracy and accountability. The Chairman of NDDC should and ought to be made accountable to the people he or she is required to serve. So, there is a need to amend the Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc) Act 2000 Act No 6, to accommodate the diverse community it is meant to serve with their input taking into consideration and its political office holders made answerable to the people vide free and fair election.
Finally, situate whatever strategy for combating the problem in a regional approach. A top down solution approach to the problem as we have learnt from OMPADEC to NDDC remains a dumb approach to the most important crisis facing the Nigerian nation since the Civil War.
We cannot afford to fail, power surge without a comprehensive resolution to the Niger Delta crisis will remain an illusion, a mirage, a chimera and apparition in Nigerian politician’s befuddled minds. A mere conduit for another “merry go round” waste and spend. In my next piece, I intend to tackle the issue of “none-natural gas” procured power generation solution including solar and wind energy.