Thoughts on Bukola Saraki’s Anti-Corruption War

Nigeria’s Senate President, His Excellency Distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki, dominated our public sphere last week. No, he was not in every living room in the country because he was campaigning for Atiku Abubakar as head of the former Vice President’s campaign gig. No, he was not disturbing the country’s sleep because he is currently fighting the political battle of his life to keep his Senate seat, his constituents in Kwara state having launched an otogetistic campaign to end decades of plantation slavery to the Saraki family.

Rather, in a move which appeared to have been choreographed with Atiku Abubakar as I observed on my Twitter timeline, Saraki declared war on corruption and screamed for a week at such high decibel levels as to pose a clear and present danger to Nigeria’s ear drums. From NNPC to the federal budget, Saraki beamed his searchlight on every sector, every nook and cranny of the body politic, found fetid corruption, and denounced it. Nigeria was heading for the doldrums because of corruption, he announced with unmistakable finger pointing at President Buhari, and he, Saraki, was the demiurge who, like Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago, would pick up koboko and flog the moneychangers and corruption out of Nigeria’s system.

It was like a magic-realist scene out of an Amos Tutuola novel. I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming; to ascertain that BukolaSaraki had indeed hoisted himself on an anti-corruption pedestal. Nigeria lost one valuable week listening to such an unworthy anti-corruption messenger. Two factors made Saraki’s farcical week possible and those who enabled him and allowed this to happenshould bow their heads in shame.

The first culprit – you guessed right! – is President Buhari. Only members of the national cult of  Buhari still delude themselves that the President is leading Nigeria in an anti-corruption war. Any objective observer not wearing Buhari blinders will realize that the President’s anti-corruption war collapsed less than one year into the life of this administration because of Mr. Buhari’s unquenchable hypocrisy. His first budget was a fiasco because it was padded beyond recognition. He made perfunctory noises about punishing the culprits only to shuffle them within the system with not even a rap on the wrist. Then he started looking away from anybody around him accused of corruption – acting only very rarely and with considerable reluctance, needing to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing – BabachirLawal, Kemi Adeosun.

In this election cycle, President Buhari has turned hypocrisy and tolerance of corruption to statecraft. He went to Paris to heap praises on a state Governor caught on video accepting dollar bribe; his campaign organization is littered with indictees of his own EFCC. When President Buhari launched his campaign in Uyo, it was a national tragedy to see the anti-corruption President on the podium with GodswillAkpabio, an EFCC indictee. Just this past week, President Buhari appeared in an Aso Villa photo-op with Babayo Gamawa, a fellow indicted by his own EFCC for accepting a N3.5 billion bribe from Diezani Allison Madueke!

We also woke up last week to a grandiloquent announcement by President Buhari that he will not “spend government money on his campaign”. That, naturally, is the funniest statement I’ve heard in the current political cycle. Elected officials of every hue and stripe have been openly donating funds and resources to President Buhari’s campaign, screaming the risible canard that such donations were sourced from “friends and well-wishers”. President Buhari is never one to question the source of donations to his campaign. Members of the Buhari cult nationwide are trigger ready to shout people down and insist that the fault is with the donor and not the receiver. Besides, the President could not have been aware of such donations for there are many mansions in Mr. Buhari’s father’s house.

This is the broad context of presidential demission in which Bukola Saraki, ever the opportunist, sensed an opening to position himself as Nigeria’s new anti-corruption messiah. Leadership abhors a vacuum. With President Buhari’s symbolic demission from the anti-corruption war, something or somebody was bound to step in. Saraki stepped in. He was massively aided in his opportunism by the media. I have said it before and it bears repeating: if a revolution were ever to happen in Nigeria, many in the media would be tied to the stakes and shot for their history of horrendous decisions on the sort of characters they always elect to inflict on the public sphere as credible pundits.

Name any high-profile EFCC indictee or convict who does not become a darling of Nigeria’s mainstream media, sought after to weigh in on national issues. Hardly had Bode George returned from prison than our media descended on him, seeking his opinion weekly “on burning national issues”.  On his return from prison in London, our media swooped on James Ibori, offering him platforms to “bare his mind on crucial national issues”. Somewhere in the brains of Nigerian newspaper editors, it was ok to send reporters to James Ibori not to grill him about life in prison and life after prison as a convicted criminal but as a credible participant in national discourse.

The misfortune of Evans the kidnapper is that he never occupied any political office before he took to crime. Had he occupied a minor political office before taking to crime, he would have become an opinion shaper, sought after by journalists to weigh in on issues ranging from the economy to Jose Mourinho next club. This explains how a newspaper or a television station could wake up and decide that the Nigerian people needed to hear whatever it is that Bukola Saraki had to say about corruption. Just like that!

Anybody in need of a refresher course on the allegation of corruption against Bukola Saraki needs to go to the archives of Premium Times. Ever since he joined the corruption big leagues with Societe Generale Bank in the 1990s, he has never looked back. And we now know that he attracts corruption like a magnet for two of his aides have had brushes with the EFCC for fraud and racketeering. Not only has Saraki, the anti-corruption crusader, played deaf and dumb with the allegations involving his aides but one of the aides in question, who allegedly set up an extensive salary racketeering venture for his US-based wife, is daily on Twitter, strutting around the public sphere arrogantly like a peacock.

Nigeria is a struggle for meaning. The ideological, conceptual, and thematic components of our body politic are daily under assault by unworthy but rich and powerful embezzlers of meaning. A few weeks ago, it was Festus Keyamo who sought to embezzle the meaning of patriotism in broad daylight and redefine it as sheepish, unquestioning adherence to the cult of Buhari. Now, Saraki is attempting to smuggle himself into a nice corner of public memory by embezzling the meaning of corruption.

No, Mr. Saraki, you do not get to define or speak against corruption. In Britain, your second country of citizenship, you wouldn’t be in public office, let alone accede to the position of one of that country’s highest elected officials. Given your record, you’d be in jail. May your constituents in Ilorin bring otogeism to fruition so you may walk into the footnotes of Nigeria’s history and stop your assault on our sensibilities.

Written By Pius Adesanmi

Pendulum: Buhari, Tinubu and the Abdication of Responsibility

Fellow Nigerians, despite the open and brazen braggadocious posturings of the ruling party, things seem to be fast falling apart within the All Progressives Congress (APC). The arrogance of power probably must have misled some of the powerful gladiators in the party that they are invincible and infallible. But unwarranted arrogance and pride go forth before a calamitous fall. There seems no doubt that the APC also underrates the extensive networks and connections of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who has been in this race for 25 solid years. Speak to most of them, they will boastfully tell you that Buhari owns the North of Nigeria, as if the North is one State or monolithic or homogenous region. Except for those too lazy to analyse the ethnic, religious and political configuration of Nigeria, there has never been a single place called the North. It was merely one of the cunningly systematic way some politicians inferiorised and brainwashed Southern Nigeria into thinking “Oh we can’t win the election because the North will not agree.”

Except for military interventions that gave some parts of the Northern region some edge and predominance over other parts of Nigeria, particularly in the South, only three Northerners and three Southerners have ever won Presidential elections at the highest levels, namely, Shehu Shagari, Moshood Abiola (though conspired against and could not assume office), Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. We had pre-Independence leaders who presided as our first and only Prime Minister ever, Tafawa Balewa, 1957-1966, who shared a bit of his power with Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was our first and only ceremonial Governor General of Nigeria, from 1960-1963, before emerging as the first President of Nigeria, from 1963-1966, when our country became a Republic. In reality, Nigeria is too diverse, and too intertwined to be claimed by any one group.

What has happened is that the politicians, from both sides of the divide, have managed to manipulate our brains and hoodwink us in such a way that most people begin to doubt their own existence, like the French philosopher, Rene Descartes. Nigerians have also been kept down through the greatest forms of hypnotism, mass illiteracy and abject poverty, a very lethal combination. No Nigerian politician has benefitted from this political cocktail than President Muhammadu Buhari, who the poor masses see as their friend and Messiah who will free them from their wicked oppressors and fiendish looters. Prior to 2015, Buhari could do no wrong, as far as this class of people were concerned. But the burble is beginning to burst. I will explain how it happened in a jiffy.

Buhari would have preserved his image as a poor man, friend of the poor, the incorruptible avenger, the Messiah without a blemish, if he had not gone in to politics or if he did not win the 2015 Presidential election. Many of us would have been screaming our heads off, that he was cheated a fourth time, that unscrupulous Nigerians wickedly robbed us of yet another good leader, like Obafemi Awolowo, Moshood Abiola, Gani Fawehinmi, and a few other icons who contested at one time or the other. To win that election, Buhari needed to go through some rituals, or rites of passage, which were totally controlled by those he once regarded as bad guys. And of course, he needed what James Hadley Chase called The Whiff of Money to sustain and fulfil his ambition. And no individual could possibly have matched the PDP, cash for cash since they were getting their cash by dipping their hands, indeed their whole beings, into the most secure and productive vaults in the country – the Central Bank and the NNPC. So, Sai Baba got practical and sought the kind benevolence of his erstwhile sworn enemies. He had to crisscross the country, cap in hand, pleading for help and support. He knew he had to visit and beg the big dons, the acclaimed owners of the land who have the keys to unlock the doors of power and fortune.

Buhari navigated his way to former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in Minna, Niger State, the same military General who sacked him unceremoniously from power in September 1985, and from there meandered his way to former President Olusegun Aremu Okikiolakan Obasanjo in Abeokuta. He also travelled to see General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma in various places. He must have had to swallow his pride in all this sallying to and fro.

Having engaged the powerbrokers, Buhari went for the financiers. He knew that one of the major problems of his previous failed bid was the inability to sustain campaign as he did not have the financial resources to maintain the same. He needed billions and billions to pay polling agents or risks his votes being diminished or outrightly stolen. He turned to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who was a Director General of a Presidential campaign, like no other, from 2014-2015. He went all out to seek funds and made available a gleaming private jet owned by the Rivers State Government which more than eased the campaign itinerary and logistics of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the capo di tutti capi of Lagos, was eventually beckoned and coaxed to come on board and persuaded to be on hand to arrange this and that. Bukola Saraki was also heavily involved in mobilising funds from his wealthy friends many of whom he managed to get to drop some heavy sums out of their billions. Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Wale Tinubu, Muyiwa Bakare and many others were some of the faces who were regularly at Saraki’s Ikoyi home in Lagos to make contributions. Meetings were also sometimes held in Femi Otedola’s iconic apartment in Knightsbridge, London., where Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana once lived. Buhari was very much in the know of the powerful military, political and financial coalition that were behind him.

These personages were united in one mission, to arrest the perceived perfidious drift of the nation towards perdition. They were all close to President Goodluck Jonathan but felt that he had allowed too much laxity and excess and was allowing some of his aides to get away with murder. They did not expect freebies from Buhari, but they felt he was going to reorder the nation and provide a level playing field and opportunities for every Nigerian, without fear or favour. Let’s again postpone the full story.

However, no sooner than Buhari took power that things began to turn awry. Many of his supporters began to see a new Buhari. The Buhari that used to listen and act on advice during the campaign was no longer available and when accessible began to speak in monosyllables. By the time he moved finally into the gilded cage of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, things were no longer at ease. And before you could shout Tinubu, Buhari had been hijacked and pocketed by a few members of his innermost caucus. This was the beginning of rapid descent into chaos and confusion in the ruling party. Since that turbulent beginning, it has been crisis upon crises, with no end in sight.

Naturally, the party got distracted by this unholy war of attrition. Buhari that was supposed to provide leadership, focus and direction acted like he was not bothered. His personable Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who could have helped the situation by providing strong, innovative and youthful leadership, did not have the cooperation of many of his subordinates who felt they owed their total allegiance to Buhari and no other person. It has always been obvious that Osinbajo has what is needed to set this great country on the path to greater heights, development, security and UNITY and this was made palpable and real whenever Buhari was on medical vacation. Osinbajo mingled freely with the populace, the intelligentsia and the privileged. He interacted well with members of his parties and other parties alike. They all liked and respected him. He was able to douse the brewing and explosive tension in the South East where Nnamdi Kanu was not only gaining momentum but was becoming a figure of hagiography. He assuaged the hurt feelings of the Niger Delta and got our oil production moving properly again. The economy thrived and with new rules of engagement about the ease of doing business, investors began to see Nigeria with fresh enthusiasm. Even the dreaded menace of militants in both the North and the South subsided as prosperity loomed and the things causing tension became calmer. For me, there was a great moment when Osinbajo went to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and cleaned the place of the duplicitous agents harassing passengers at will and we all applauded the new look, but within little time, the nuisance returned with a vengeance. Thus, as soon as his boss returned, he reverted to his military preference for using a sledgehammer to kill flies regardless of the ensuing damage.

Please, let me give one more example of how APC finally missed Paradise, in my humble opinion. Agents of the Federal Government had serially combined to harass and intimidate the National Assembly which was saddled with the task of checks and balances in the Nigerian Constitution. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the invasion of the National Assembly by hooded operatives of the Directorate of State Security. The sad development soon went viral and the thoroughly embarrassed Acting President promptly corrected the anomaly by sacrificing the Director General, Lawal Daura. Osinbajo, immediately, announced the appointment of a new Director General, Matthew Seiyefa, in an acting capacity. Seiyefa was clearly the most senior officer in service at the time, and many applauded the decision. Then rumours began to fly as always that some powerful forces did not like the decision. The rumour became reality when Seiyefa, a harmless scholar, from Bayelsa State, was removed. Many were sad that day. Anyway.

Buhari and his cronies appear to have forgotten how time flies. They stepped on toes without realising elections were just round the corner and that the day of reckoning begins from the day after Inauguration. The Tinubus that had been studiously side-tracked would soon be needed. God’s judgment no longer flies on a chariot of fire but on supersonic jet. Oh, before I forget, APC sacked a perfect gentleman, John Odigie Oyegun, and brought my Brother, Adams Oshiomhole, the firebrand ex-unionist, who began his own war, and may ultimately become the Waterloo of the party. Again, Buhari failed to act decisively and the acrimonious war of attrition has since turned into a third world war, unabated, less than 40 days to the final day of reckoning. A house divided against itself is surely in peril of eventual collapse and this is the script playing before our very eyes.

Nothing has convinced me more that APC and President Buhari and his cronies are in panic mode than the abdication of campaign responsibilities to the Don, Bola Tinubu, who I know many of Buhari’s close allies cannot stand. But they all know, as a matter of fact, that this daring politician is their last chance. What is more, if they fail at the polls, they will be able to blame Tinubu for their failure. I do not envy my big Brother, Tinubu, at all. This position appears to me to be a poisoned chalice! To add to the conundrum for Tinubu, he has to go all out and destroy the last chance of his very good friend and former co-traveller, Atiku Abubakar, who has been on his own epic journey since, 1993, some 25 odd years ago.

This promises to be the biggest heavyweight bout in history. The world is watching with bated breath…

Written By
Dele Momodu

Pendulum: Another Appeal to President Buhari and His Supporters

Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to say happy new year to you all. May God almighty make this a peaceful year for our dear beloved country. There is nothing greater to ask for than peace in an election year. And this is the main crux of my message to you on this page today.

The tension in the land is so hot and suffocating because of the general elections coming up from next month. In case you are wondering why I’m specifically appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari and not to his main rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the deluge of other aspirants, let me explain quickly. I’m a social media addict and through this, I’m able to gauge the mood in public domain. I have been active in politics since 1982. The first crazy election I witnessed was in 1983 when the ruling party, NPN, declared itself winner in several unlikely places. The result was fatally cataclysmic as people in those areas reacted spontaneously and violently. Some parts of Yorubaland went up in flames and human beings were roasted like barbecue meat. About three months later, the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari collapsed like a pack of cards.

The military coup that came capitalised on the recklessness and profligacy of the Shagari regime as a veritable excuse to torpedo that government. Politicians were promptly arrested, detained, prosecuted and jailed and given horrendous prison terms that made a mockery of the justice system in Nigeria. There were too many examples of double standards which portrayed the government as vengeful or outrightly neurotic. Laws were made and backdated. Journalists were tried by decrees and jailed by fiat, God’s case, no appeal. Before long, the Nigerian economy took a nosedive and and plunged into a bottomless pit of misery. The situation was so chaotic that Nigerians queued for mere commodities like victims of war or famine. It never recovered until the Buhari government itself was sacked and banished to the dustbin of history. The full story is for another day.

The next election, thereafter, was that of June 12, 1993, which turned out to be the best conducted and the least controversial until the military government of President Ibrahim Babangida decided to intervene and aborted a full grown baby just before it was born. Since then, Nigeria has known no real peace, possibly, as punishment for this pre-meditated murder of an innocent political baby. Instead of learning our lessons and apologising to Nigerians for this unfortunate saga, government after government, like the ostrich, buried its cocky head in the sand, pretending that there was nothing special about the election and that life can move on as normal.

From 1993 to 1999, Nigeria, once more, came under the jackboots of the military after the short-lived Interim Government, headed by Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan. General Sani Abacha led junta ruled with iron fists from November 1993 to June 1998, when he suddenly took ill, mysteriously, and died, and General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over and handed over to a former military ruler, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who led a new civilian administration from May 1999 to May 2007.

Interestingly, for a man that many had clearly forgotten about, General Muhammadu Buhari resurfaced from nowhere, around 2003, and promptly announced his interest in the Presidential race. It was like a script out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “we have scorched the snake, not killed it…” Buhari was well and alive. While many laughed, scornfully, at him, there were those who admired his guts. Poverty was already growing in the land and politicians had returned to their days of psychedelic existence. Thus many Nigerians longed for those days when Buhari took over power and punished the politicians mercilessly. The only thing they forgot was that Buhari would no longer be a military dictator with all the appurtenances of State coercion. And he would no longer have the collaboration of his second in command, Babatunde Idiagbon. But Buhari was very smart, or better put, his packagers. He had transfigured into a friend of the poor and champion of Northern interests. He returned triumphantly from the throes of disgrace and incarceration after the Babangida coup. He contested serially, and stubbornly, on three occasions, against Presidents Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan and lost monumentally, but he garnered millions of votes from his catchment areas, especially in the North.

By 2011, Buhari had become battle weary and it seemed it was over for him. He was quoted to have said he would no longer contest. But one thing led to another and Buhari’s interest was re-awakened, and re-activated, by certain interest groups looking for a way to scatter the ruling party to the winds. PDP was becoming too comfortable and very self-conceited. It was also engaged in a silly war of attrition that led to the exit of some key members of the party. Perhaps, if PDP had not mismanaged its internal wrangling, the end would not have come at the time it did, and the manner it happened. Lord have mercy, the grand conspiracy against the incumbent President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, would ultimately go into the history books as one of the most lethal. Anyway, Buhari returned to the race and contested in 2015, and won resoundingly.

Buhari’s victory was a popular mandate from all over the country. We were all very happy and excited and many friends of Nigeria from everywhere in the world rejoiced with us. The goodwill Buhari commanded was almost unprecedented. But no sooner than he took over power that things began to fall apart. I will spare you the horror of how Buhari frittered away that massive equity, as we watched helplessly, with our arms akimbo. A few that warned him about the sad turn of events were soon labelled enemies of Buhari, friends of looters, corrupt people, who are no longer making and enjoying free money in the system. It didn’t take long before the economy collapsed, as scare-mongering crept in on the country again.

As he did in 1983-85, Buhari renewed his war against corruption but, this time, without military power to enforce anything. Again, like it happened to his predecessors, he was accused of witch-hunt because most of those under siege were members of the opposition. The blame game also became over-amplified. Every failure, and frustration, of government was explained away as the stultification of governance that was brought about by Jonathan and his crew. Buhari and his acolytes have never stopped groaning and complaining about Jonathan, PDP, or both. According to the APC, PDP was responsible for all the bad things that happened in Nigeria. That’s fine. But the real enemy is time.

Now, suddenly, reality has dawned on the Federal Government that it has spent nearly four years in power. Yes, time truly flies. And the next cycle of election has come. The pressure is usually on the ruling government. This is the reason for my long preamble. The Federal Government and its ardent supporters would want members of the public believe they have performed wonders, and that President Buhari is the 21st century wonder, but this is far from the truth. Many APC chieftains would normally confess privately, and confidentially, that they have fumbled, big time, but we should, please, give, or just dash, them another term, with promises to do much better.

Personally, I believe it is up to Nigerians to vote for any candidate of their choice, or fancy. As for me, I’m convinced that Buhari has already exhausted the capacity to govern a country as complicated, and convoluted, as Nigeria. I may be wrong. My support in 2015 was based on certain misplaced hopes and permutations. 1. That, after 30 years in retirement, he has had enough time to reflect on his past mistakes and he is ready to make amends. 2. That he would hit the ground running and pursue the onerous task of nation-building with assistance from some of the brightest people it has pleased God to bless Nigeria with. 3. That he would give more power to his highly cerebral and cosmopolitan Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. 4. That he would abhor nepotism, unite our divided country and treat all Nigerians as free citizens of this great nation. 5. That he would build stronger institutions and not tougher dictatorship. 6. That he would empower our anti-corruption agencies and embolden them to operate without fear or favour. 7. That he would make the welfare and well-being of our security forces his top priority in this season of unprecedented anomy, as a retired General himself. 8. That he would reduce waste in government to barest minimum based on the promises he made, before God and man, during his campaigns. I can go on, ad infinitum. But, to my chagrin, Buhari’s government failed on most of these counts.

Please, note that I did not even mention issues of the economy, infrastructure, youth employment and empowerment. I’m aware they have been distributing ten thousand naira in market places but I’m not sure how far this can go in a country where over 80 percent of the population live in abject poverty. Of course, President Buhari is blessed with some fanatical supporters who see him as the only saint in Nigeria who will help them deal ruthlessly with the enemies who have impoverished them. Buhari appeals to this young Nigerians and they don’t mind if Nigeria is engulfed in mass poverty. Their attitude is since they are already poor, Buhari should tear down the whole system and make the rich poor. The sad part is the fact that they can’t distinguish between those who worked hard and the so-called looters. Herein lies the danger to society at large.

I have spent the past weeks engaging with these guys on social media. Many of them are loose cannons who have become totally obsessed with the fake mantra that whoever is not with Buhari is a thief. This may work in favour of Buhari in the short run but may hurt Nigeria and Nigerians, irredeemably, in the long run. I foresee them turning into an uncontrollable army if Buhari does not win the Presidential election next month. Our usually taciturn President must not keep quiet on this danger waiting to explode. At 76, officially, God has been very kind to him. There is nothing in democracy that guarantees two terms for a President, so it should never be a matter of life and death. If you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose. Every effort must be made to make sure the precedence bequeathed by President Jonathan is maintained, even if not improved upon.

I was privileged to accompany the former President of Ghana, Dr John Dramani Mahama, to The Gambia during the imbroglio that engulfed that tourist destination after President Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power despite the obvious fact that he lost election in 2017. I saw the great efforts of President Buhari, Eileen Johnson Sirleaf, Mahama, Mackey Sall and others. It would be a monumental disgrace for the world to start begging our own President, in the same manner, to hand over power if he does not win.

My appeal is to President Buhari to prepare the minds and souls of his supporters for any eventuality in the next couple of weeks. If he wins, fair and square, the whole world will celebrate him. I will join them, as an avowed democrat. But if he does not win, he should do us the favour of going in peace, and not leave our dear country in pieces.

God bless Nigeria.

By Dele Momodu

Presidency Pressured Daily Trust to Discontinue my Saturday Column- Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

I had chosen to let this issue slide because it’s frankly of no consequence, in my opinion, but I’ve been deluged with a relentless stream of inquiries from readers asking why my “Notes from Atlanta” column has been discontinued in the Daily Trust on Saturday. Since it’s practically impossible to respond to all the email and social media inquires, I’ve decided to put up this update.

Every rational, perceptive observer knows that the Buhari presidency is in a desperate, panic mode now. They are arresting and jailing critics, freezing bank accounts of opponents, bribing journalists silly to buy favourable coverage, threatening media houses, and working to pull down the entire nation because they know their game is up. That’s the general context for the discontinuation of my column in the Daily Trust. As people who have followed my Saturday column know, I am an inconvenient thorn in the flesh of the Buhari regime. I expose their lies, hypocrisy, clannishness, and incompetence with a regularity that unnerves them.

Predictably, the Buhari presidency had worked to take down my column since at least 2016. Media Trust’s chairman, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, told me, as early as mid-2016, that he had been under tremendous pressure because of my column and wondered what kind of pressure I had been under myself. But he said I shouldn’t be intimidated. He called me the “conscience of the nation,” which I found rather flattering. When he visited the US in, I think, 2017, he called me and we spoke at length. Again, he told me he had my back and appreciated the diversity I brought to the opinion menu in the Daily Trust.

Malam Kabiru hired me as a reporter in the then Weekly Trust in 1998 on the recommendation of his childhood friend, Professor Attahiru Jega. He is someone I’ve come to reserve the greatest respect for. He is an uncommonly urbane, suave, cosmopolitan, and tolerant person. He fits the classic definition of a liberal—broadminded, progressive, intellectually sophisticated, charitable, and open-minded. So I wasn’t surprised when he encouraged me to continue with my critical commentaries on the Buhari regime in spite of the pressures the commentaries were bringing on him and on Media Trust, Daily Trust’s parent company.

But Kabiru isn’t the sole owner of Media Trust; he is only the majority shareholder and chairman of the company. Most importantly, though, the company has to survive, and government advertising is the lifeblood of the news media in Nigeria. Government can shut down a news media organization by asking all its agencies to withhold advertising patronage from it. I sensed that the Buhari regime had threatened Daily Trust with advertising patronage withdrawal when the Editor-in-Chief and MD of the paper, since 2017, uncharacteristically started to send out periodic memos to columnists to importune them to tone down their language. I’ve written my column for more than 13 years and have always had a vigorous style. At no other time had the E-I-C ever written a memo to columnists to tell them how to write. The E-I-C/MD was frank enough to admit to me that I was the target of the memos. But I was infinitely harsher on Jonathan and Obasanjo than I’ve been on Buhari, but neither I nor any columnist was ever told how to write and what not to write during the Jonathan and Obasanjo administrations.

Then at least once, the editor of the Saturday paper pleaded with me—nicely, I should add—to take out a sentence or two in a column in order to avoid “libel.” He obviously knows nothing about libel, which I not only formally studied at undergraduate and graduate levels in Nigeria and the US, but also teach and research for a living. (It’s not his fault since he didn’t study journalism). Finally, he once refused to publish one of my columns where I questioned the genuineness of Buhari’s WASC. In media law, a statement of opinion can’t be libellous; only statements of facts can be. In any case, I had had occasions in the past to question the genuineness of Goodluck Jonathan’s PhD, and the editor didn’t have any issue with that. (I wrote another column after I discovered that Jonathan’s PhD was genuinely based on my private investigation.)

So when Daily Trust’s E-I-C and MD called me on December 13 to say that the “board” had met and decided that my Saturday column should be discontinued because of my critical articles on Buhari (yes, he was that frank), I wasn’t surprised. I saw it coming. He was courteous, respectful, and honest about it, which is admirable. I had been expecting it, given how increasingly desperate and intolerant the Buhari regime has become lately. The regime is using their power of advertising patronage to whip independent media houses into line. Daily Trust can’t afford to lose its bottom line because of one column. I understand and support that. On my part, I can’t afford to self-censor because of a company’s bottom line. So the “divorce” serves both of us well.

I asked the E-I-C/MD two questions before we hung up. I asked if I had ever written anything on Buhari that was factually inaccurate. He said “no.” Then I asked if I had ever written anything on Buhari that was libelous and he said “no.” That was good enough for me. In any case, the column now appears on the back page of the Nigerian Tribune on Saturday. It’s also published on my blog. So it’s pointless censorship.

People have asked if my grammar column will continue in the Sunday edition of Daily Trust. No, it won’t. The energy I put into the grammar column has been taking a toll on my research and my family. This is a good opportunity to stop it and get some relief. I might resume it with another paper in the future.

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Opinion: Deconstructing the Atiku Plan(1)

I struggled with myself over making my opinion public on the Atiku Plan. In our clime, nuances of opinion is usually considered an “anti-party” activity. After due consideration, I have decided to make my thoughts open for three reasons:

1) In 2015, the APC’s plan to change Nigeria was unchallenged leaving us with this disaster. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a mistake. 2) By making the document public, Atiku is inviting constructive criticisms of the his plan towards making it stronger. 3) The Holy Book tells us that judgement will start in-house on D-Day. Charity should begin at home which for us is the beauty of the PDP. My party is never afraid to accommodate contrarians like me. So, I am commencing a series aimed at deconstructing the Atiku Plan. When this is done, I will shift focus to the dangerous #NextLevelInsanity of the Buhari Campaign. For today, let’s start with the Atiku Plan for Women and Youth Empowerment.

In my considered opinion, the Atiku plan for Women and Youth should not have seen the light of the day. I waited for two weeks for any notable feminist voice(s) to take the document to the cleaners, but it’s been all quiet. It is either these feminists do not understand the intellectual arguments for equality of the sexes or they have not taken the time to read a document that would most likely determine the engagement that the Atiku government ( when he wins) will be having with women. Regardless of that ominous silence, I will have my say.

First, it is insulting to put women and youth empowerment under the same strategic intervention platform. Why? Because both have different driving factors; have different lived experience and undermines the fact that women are a diverse group with widely different needs.
The Atiku approach is just doing what past governments have been doing with gender mainstreaming – treating it as an afterthought and finding a department or Ministry to fit it in then going to shout that a “whole department or Ministry was created for women”. Bullocks.
Where is the fresh thinking? Where is the innovation? Same ol, same ol. Then the plan next talks about incentiving STEM! My question is : Incentivizing STEM for who exactly? Schools ? They do not refuse to enrol girls into STEM courses, do they?

The problem is that the uptake among girls is low because of social norms about the roles and expectations for girls and ‘appropriate’ careers for them. How will incentives for schools solve this? The girls?How will short term incentives motivate them to defy prevailing gender norms?How will incentives give them the support of their community?What contextual evidence base identified incentives(with an apparent lack of engagement with contextual social issues)as a solution?

Infact, plans to engage with communities to identify why the uptake of STEM courses is low for girls would have made more sense in that document. The plan reeks of typical ineffective top-down solutions, created by coffee drinking, smug, AC- crazed, office bound policy makers, forced down the throats of the downstream. Tell Nigerians that you will engage with think tanks to identify effective and contextual solutions, but not balderdash about incentives. Or a consultation with international and local organisations/individuals. Mind you a consultation does not have to be some bullshit event where an obscene amount of money is spent, it can be a paper based one. With *No* travel involved!

The objective of the consultations is to break *ALL* barriers for women and there is such poor engagement with social factors (norms and roles) that drive inequalities that affect women.

Next, the document talks up special tribunals to try Gender Based Violence (GBV). Pray, how does this work? The concern is that best practices are to integrate GBV intervention to existing legal processes, a ‘special’ tribunal does not sound a lot like there will be any integration or mainstreaming. What does this mean for resources, access, capacity building? How will this strategy help Nigeria *FULLY* implement CEDAW? Same old tokenistic approach to gender inequalities.

The document’s idea of political inclusion for women is to propose quotas. Let me state immediately that the scholarship and literature on quotas for women are as diverse as they are controversial. However, what is not in question is the role of patriarchy in sustaining
exclusion of women in political leadership roles. How will political quotas for women who have had little opportunities to develop the skills and confidence to function effectively in politics destroy the “original sin”? Will these quotas not isolate the majority of women that Have been cast aside due to the already identified patriarchal hegemony. My approach would be a combination of quotas & policies that will create equal opportunities for all women not a few women. Going forward, the Atiku Plan should work towards mainstreaming Gender in every level of government and governance. This is the innovative approach to Women Empowerment. Now, what I have produced here is not sacramental wisdom. Let us deepen the debates. When Atiku wins, he will benefit from them. To any I have offended, no vex, I am first a Nigerian.

Written by Cuwca

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.