Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

JONATHAN, LEARN FROM MAHAMA!   Leave a comment

“One man’s good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him.” –Niccolo Machiavelli

Ghana’s President, John Mahama, and Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, have a few things in common. Jonathan was born on November 20, 1957, and almost exactly a year later, Mahama was born on November 29, 1958. Jonathan was Nigeria’s Vice-President for three years, from 2007 to 2010 and constitutionally replaced his boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, as President, when the latter died in May 2010. Similarly, Mahama was Ghana’s Vice President for three years, from 2009 to 2012, and assumed office as President, following the death of his predecessor, President John Atta Mills.

In addition, and more significantly, both Jonathan and Mahama won their countries’ respective presidential elections after a few months on the saddle to complete their predecessors’ terms. Jonathan won Nigeria’s 2011 presidential elections and thus earned a 4-year term to 2015 whilst Mahama won Ghana’s 2012 presidential polls and will equally serve a 4-year term to 2016.

Furthermore, Jonathan and Mahama also have a gentle and meek disposition which may, in fact, have been a decisive factor in their being picked as running mates by their now departed predecessors.

By and large, that is where the similarities between Jonathan and Mahama end. In terms of their approach to governance, which is the all-important thing, considering the stakes involved in their respective offices, Jonathan and Mahama are worlds apart!

Whereas Mahama is a no-nonsense leader who is conscious of the need to tackle, head-on, the bane of corruption in his country, Jonathan, since taking office, has aided and abetted corruption and even given flimsy excuses to justify his administration’s feeble anti-corruption efforts. A case in point was when Mahama sacked his ex-deputy minister of communications, Victoria Hammah, on November 8 simply for suggesting that she could be corrupt. In fact, the difference couldn’t be starker as, at the same time, Jonathan has been indecisive on and cowardly defensive of Stella Oduah, his aviation minister, whose recent authorisation of an extra-budgetary and exhorbitant purchase of two bulletproof cars has, unsurprisingly, drawn the ire of many Nigerians with calls for her immediate sacking!

Again, whereas Mahama, in his first budget, in 2014, after being elected president, is careful to reduce his government’s recurrent expenditure so as to allow more funds to go into programmes that would benefit the masses, Jonathan has been very reckless in his spending of state funds. In fact, in the 2012 budget, which was likewise his first as an elected president, Jonathan infamously and outrageously allocated ₦1bn to feed himself and his family, at the same time that he was asking Nigerians to make sacrifices and bear with the [partial] removal of the fuel subsidy and also spending an annual ₦9.08bn to service the 10 aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet which instead ought to be cut down. On November 21, Ghana’s cabinet spokesman announced that, to “demonstrate leadership,” President Mahama, his Vice-President and all ministers have agreed to a voluntary 10% pay cut in their 2014 budget and that the money realised from the pay cut would be committed to a special fund to cater for community maternal and neonatal health.

It has been rightly said that there will never be a second chance to make a good first impression and, going by their attitudes to their first budgets as elected presidents, Jonathan and Mahama have demonstrated opposing priorities with the former pursuing a cowardly and profligate path and the latter, opting for a more sensible and conscientious course.

Indeed, shortly after his election in December 2012, Mahama visited Jonathan and requested him to facilitate the prompt repair of the broken West African Gas Pipeline which supplies Nigerian gas to power Ghana’s electricity even though, without the pipeline, as findings by Ghana’s Energy Ministry show, Ghana still enjoyed an uninterrupted power supply to over 72% of its population. “I discussed with President Jonathan the issue of the West Africa Gas Pipeline… I want him to use his influence to get the pipeline back into operation as soon as possible so that Ghana can continue to receive Nigerian gas to power our electricity generation,” Mahama said. It won’t be impossible to think that, as he has done on most other concerns of governance, even those involving critical sectors and issues, if Jonathan was in Mahama’s shoes, rather than take direct and pragmatic steps to remedy the broken pipeline, he would have preferred to create a committee to investigate why the pipeline wasn’t functioning and then proceeded to ignore the matter!

Of course, this is not to say that Mahama is an apotheosis of effective governance, especially after less than one year in office but, overall, going by his prompt response to sack Hammah following her ill-advised and shameful statement disclosing an intention to be corrupt as well as his leading his cabinet to consent to a voluntary 10% pay cut in their 2014 budget, one can safely say that he is clearly on a different trajectory than the corrupt, inept and mostly unproductive one undertaken by Jonathan, since 2010.

Governance is not rocket science as some Jonathan apologists want us to think, in an often unconvincing attempt to defend his profligacy and abetting of corruption. Mahama is demonstrating the kind of good leadership that Jonathan has proven incapable of matching. If Jonathan will only take a look at some of the bold moves being made by President Mahama in next door Ghana, he would learn a lot.

Posted November 30, 2013 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

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POLICY NG – A REPOSITORY FOR NIGERIA’S POLICY DISCOURSE   3 comments

“The media must be an enlightened purveyor of policy knowledge.” –Oby Ezekwesili

Word Web, an English thesaurus dictionary defines “policy” as “A line of argument rationalizing the course of action of a government” and “A plan of action adopted by an individual or social group”. For our present purpose, if we coalesce the two perspectives above, the result will be that ‘policy’ will mean “A plan that rationalizes and determines the course of action adopted by a government in the pursuit of its objectives.”

From the foregoing, it goes without saying that government policies comprise the framework for a government’s actions and/or inactions. In a democracy, a government exists to transform the people’s aspirations into tangible results that safeguard and promote their wellbeing. For this to happen, there is utter need for the citizenry to make their voices heard on various issues of policy importance and for the executive and legislative arms of government to co-opt that into their policy making and implementation processes. The starting point is always for the citizenry to have outlets via which they can make their voices heard. Traditionally, this has been via the assorted platforms of mainstream print and broadcast media, with the accompanying difficulty to enable stakeholders access many different views and perspectives on policy issues or debates in one place at any given time.

However, the coming of social media has significantly changed that balance for good by providing platforms for citizens and denizens to be heard, wherever they may be, on important policy issues. In our case, in Nigeria, a new Twitter account, @PolicyNG, has taken that prospect one notch higher by providing what can be described as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the collation of views on topical policy issues. This handle at once serves a four-fold purpose: it will assist the government to have a feeling of what Nigerians think with regard to major policies before their implementation, it will provide a feedback mechanism after the implementation of policies, it will constitute another rich source of data for researchers with interest on Nigerian public policy and democracy and it will enable Nigerians interact and debate with each other on various government policies and aspects of governance. Regarding the last point, it must be understood as, Meir Dagan, a former director of Israel’s intelligence agency, once said, that: “The heart and soul of democracy is the public debate.”

At a media function in her honour last year, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, the immediate past Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa region and a passionate advocate for a public policy system that guarantees good governance, said: “It does not matter how much integrity some leaders may have, until they find the right policy skills, they are never going to make sound policies…” In fact, Ezekwesili created and uses the Twitter hashtags #PublicPolicy101 and #PP101 to regularly comment on matters of policy and governance. She says: “I love Public Policy. Every citizen must love and follow Public Policy. How else can you be an effective citizen?” Ezekwesili urged the media to up its act on credible knowledge-based reportage, considering that when they do so, they equip the masses with the tools required to better hold their governments and leaders to account and hence, improve the quality of governance and public policy delivery.

It is my earnest belief that the people behind the @PolicyNG initiative are strongly motivated by the above goal and with that, coupled with their ingenuity; there should be no shortage of the will to make the platform sustainable, credible and dynamic. I heartily commend all who contributed to bringing the platform to reality, as well as all who are involved in running it. This is yet another demonstration of Nigerians’ quest for pragmatic political participation.

I am confident that, going forward, @PolicyNG will add plenty of value to Nigeria’s policy discourse and, ultimately, to her governance. Even if the government of the day chooses to not leverage on this readily available repository of policy knowledge from its people, there is no reason to believe that, in this social-media dispensation, the next government or others after it will not do so. In the meantime, the other benefits of the @PolicyNG platform remain incontrovertible.

Long live @PolicyNG! GOD bless Nigeria!

AMNESTY FOR BOKO HARAM???   10 comments

“Faced with an intractable problem, we have to explore all avenues of solution. The security response (arms, gadgets and trained personnel) is useful but obviously not enough. The call for amnesty would seem to me quite appropriate and even necessary. In every conflict, a time comes when dialogue must be brought into the equation, in view of a final solution.” –Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja

I have read rational opinions for and against the granting of an amnesty to the terrorist sect, Boko Haram. In particular, inter alia, I read Doyin Okupe’s “Amnesty for Boko Haram: Need for better understanding”. I also read Abubakar Usman’s very savvy piece, “Amnesty: What’s Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander!” in which he made strong arguments for the granting of a quasi-amnesty for Boko Haram as well as the equally brilliant reaction to it, by Wale Babatunde, “Why what is Sauce for the Goose is actually not Sauce for the Gander” wherein he objected to the whole amnesty idea and rather proffered a medium-to-long-term solution out of the malaise in the form of an advanced security and defence mechanism that can readily quell such violent and terrorist organisations.

I also recognise that there are quite of number of eminent Nigerians on both side of the divide. In all, the debates and arguments by both camps are very healthy for our democracy and policy development. They speak volumes about the interest and participation of Nigerians in the governance of our country, especially such as affects the security of lives and property – being, of course, the primary purpose of government.

Truth is, despite a few modest successes here and there, every now and then, Nigeria’s security apparatus is presently way too impotent against the scourge of terrorism. In fact, the Joint Task Force (JTF) onslaught has proven to be ineffective against the sect and has led to very many civilian deaths and extra-judicial actions that instead aid the recruitment of more disgruntled people into the sect’s rank and file.

Wale Babatunde suggested, albeit rhetorically, that “Maybe we should have extended the same [amnesty] courtesy to Osama Bin-laden for the 9/11 world trade centre bombing and the perpetrators of July 7, 2005 London underground train bombing since we seem to have a large capacity for this.” I understand his implied message is that the United States and the United Kingdom did not grant amnesties to the perpetrators of those heinous crimes. Fair enough, but Nigeria clearly does not have the security and anti-terrorism capabilities of the US and the UK. The granting of amnesty stems, largely, from the unfortunate but obvious incapacity of our security forces to deal squarely with the menace.

Babatunde also asks; “Will granting Boko Haram and their other “brothers” amnesty bring an end to terror in Nigeria (I don’t mean the North alone)? While it might give a short term reprieve, will it not ignite another terror group in another region?” Whilst there may be a possibility that an amnesty for Boko Haram could instigate another terrorist group from a different part of the country, it must be understood that the amnesty granted the Niger Delta militants did not in any way contribute to the emergence of the savage Boko Haram. So, this connection, at best, amounts to a fearful imagination. Even then, a smart, quasi-amnesty that consists of a negligible or no financial package will be difficult, if not impossible, to serve as a bait for the emergence of another terror sect. Such a quasi-amnesty that is designed to stop the wanton killing of lives and the destruction of property will do no harm, especially if the authorities begin taking pragmatic steps towards beefing up the capacity of our security forces concurrently.

However, I agree with some of Mr Babatunde’s proposals regarding what can be done in lieu of the amnesty. The only problem remains that, in the most part, his proposals can only take effect in the medium to long terms. What happens in the interim? Should we resign our fate to the killing of many innocent civilians and the destruction of property? Unless something is done decisively and quickly, there seems to be no end in sight to the Boko Haram carnage.

Babatunde adds that “We don’t need to reform our national security apparels; we must dismantle this existing one and build afresh. Many will agree with me that these present security officers cannot deal with the security challenges we presently face as a nation.” Granted that our present security officers cannot handle the challenges confronting us today but no country can, in one fell swoop, entirely dismantle its police/security force. That’s a recipe for total chaos and disorder that will almost certainly breed the kind of instability in which nation-building cannot proceed.

Of course, I fully concur with Babatunde that there is an urgent need to secure our porous borders – a scenario which exacerbates the frequency and quantity of weaponry that make it into our territory and facilitates Boko Haram’s attacks.

Most importantly, I consent, like Babatunde again suggests, that we must take our education very seriously if we must find a lasting solution to any spate of violence and criminality. Two popular aphorisms hold true to this claim. They are as follows: “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army” by Edward Everett and “Education is peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defence spending there is” by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general.

On March 29, good governance advocate, Ayobami Oyalowo, explained the plight of our security establishment in the face of the Boko Haram terrorist rampage. He said: “Ganye was bombed for over 3 hours, yet no reinforcement came until the bombers had left. Many people in Ganye town were already aware they would be attacked, but as usual, no pre-emptive measures were taken to forestall it. Citizens are merely a sitting duck, shooting and moving targets for terrorist attacks. The Federal Government completely has NO clue as to what to do. The JTF still searches for bombs manually. In these modern days, with the huge budgetary allocation to defence, [there are still] no sophisticated SCANNERS in place. Our anti-terrorism war is at best a disaster and a stupid joke. At this rate, the theatre of war will be expanded. Our military is NOT trained on counter-terrorism and how to deal with guerrilla warfare. They are a mere reactionary force, ripe for the picking. They mount stupid roadblocks harassing innocent citizens and making life difficult [for them]. Yet bombers continue to have a field day. In guerrilla (terrorism) warfare, the use of stealth intelligence and infiltration is more effective than brute and naked force.”

It is known that the British government has pledged to support their Nigerian counterpart to overcome the Boko Haram insurgency. Following a recent meeting in London between Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, and his United Kingdom opposite number, General Sir David Richards, after a January 2013 visit by the latter to Abuja, Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, disclosed that the meeting “has opened doors of new opportunities particularly in addressing counter-terrorism challenges.” Also, on January 23, 2012, at the inaugural meeting of the security cooperation segment of the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. William Fitzgerald, declared his country’s commitment to assisting Nigeria in finding a way out of the security impasse. Since then, however, not much has really changed. The bombs have continued to go off in their numbers.

In addition, at a March 28 meeting with four African leaders, including the presidents of Nigeria’s regional partners, Sierra Leone and Senegal, and the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, in Washington D.C., US President Barack Obama said, “we all discussed some of the regional challenges involved… many of the threats are transnational. You’ve seen terrorism infiltrate into the region… the United States will continue to cooperate with each of these countries to try to find smart solutions so that they can build additional capacity and make sure that these cancers don’t grow in their region. And the United States intends to be a strong partner for that.” The import of that statement is that Nigeria can be sure to get US assistance in combating Boko Haram. But, as experience as shown, not even the brute force of the US military has completely quelled terrorist activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the latter two, American drone strikes are rather helping to fuel pro-terrorist sentiment. Similarly, we all know what happened when the British attempted to cooperate with Nigeria in the botched rescue attempt of two hostages in March 2012.

The point I’m driving home, essentially, is that guerrilla warfare often needs more of home-grown strategies and solutions, consistent with the country’s abilities and not the unleashing of brute force, even with the assistance of foreign military powers. The greatest gain Nigeria can get from any foreign assistance is in the area of intelligence-gathering. Even with that, our security forces still lack the capacity to execute any decisive onslaught, after garnering sufficient intelligence, against a guerrilla movement without, as we have seen, the reckless and wanton killing of civilians, with the attendant negative consequences earlier pointed out.

To understand why amnesty for Boko Haram is permissible, it is important to take note of the circumstances out of which the sect became so vicious. Usman Balkore, an academic and a social critic, did justice to this issue on March 28 when he analysed thus: “Why is dialogue and amnesty not encouraged in the case of Boko Haram? It worked with similar terror groups elsewhere: IRA, PKK, Tamil Tigers, Columbia, PLO etc. Boko Haram was latent and non-violent until they got attacked and killed by the police. When they protested, there was a crackdown. Their existence was no serious threat. The ideology was [only about] shunning western education and vices [and consisted] no jihad or Islamisation. The crackdown was a major conflagration that killed them en mass including many who did not subscribe to the ideology. And then the violent form ensued, attracting sympathy from unemployed youths and radical islamists to avenge on the police and later, those close to the Borno State government and now, public assets and places of worship. And then, perhaps, the fifth columnists hijacked it to create political and religious divides. Islamisation was a latter day adaptation to garner sympathy from some radical groups which played into the hands of the 5th columnists.” Balkore then concluded, “Guerrilla movements and fighters are hard to exterminate, and when they resort to terrorism it is even harder. Our duty is [amnesty/peace] talks.”

At the end of the day, it is important to note that the Jonathan administration hasn’t ruled out the possibility of an amnesty. In fact, it has technically considered one but only on the condition that the leadership of Boko Haram identify themselves so as to make such an amnesty workable. One of Jonathan’s media aides, Doyin Okupe, wrote on March 29 that “Mr. President insists rightly that the leadership of Boko Haram must be identifiable and must come out and confirm their leadership of the sect unequivocally, so as to make it clear who the government is dealing with; Mr. President and the administration is not ruling out the possibility of an amnesty totally, but condition precedent must be the identification of authentic insurgent leadership.” It is also instructive and expedient that yet another of Jonathan’s preconditions for the amnesty is, as Okupe further explained, “The requirement that the leadership [of Boko Haram] need to assure the nation of their willingness to dialogue with the government and an irrevocable commitment to amnesty terms when [take note; not “if”] granted.” This is the right way to go!

My preoccupation, in endorsing the proposal for a quasi-amnesty for Boko Haram, is that I really cannot figure out, nor have I heard or read anyone come out with any better pragmatic short-term or immediate solution to the killings. Let us see an amnesty for Boko Haram like a kind of first aid. The only reason why I support a quasi-amnesty for Boko Haram is because I am convinced it will help to stop the reckless killing of human lives and the destruction of property and also help the federal government and its security agencies to buy more time and decisively beef up their capacity. We cannot afford to be found wanting again, when, GOD forbid, any other major threat to our security crops up. It is, fundamentally, the inadequacy of our intelligence and security forces to effectively deal with the Boko Haram threat and others before it that has given rise to, in my opinion, the need for an amnesty for Boko Haram. If we must shun resorting to amnesty packages in desperate efforts to stop the kind of carnage that the sect has unleashed upon the nation and the kind of destruction that MEND and co inflicted on our oil installations, then we must, ultimately, elect a government that is truly sincere, courageous and possesses the capability and political will to spend more of our nation’s wealth on things that guarantee the security and prosperity of the citizenry. The status-quo, with over 70% for recurrent expenditure, is so utterly unsustainable. Our security, like our education, health and infrastructure are all crying out for want of funds and resources. We cannot continue to waste funds sustaining a large bureaucracy that, rather than add value to our governance, instead helps to corrupt it the more.

Some say an amnesty for Boko Haram will mean the victims have died in vain. How about preventing more deaths? Some say an amnesty for Boko Haram will amount to capitulating Nigeria’s medium-term security to terrorist vices. No! Like I’ve said above, it will rather buy time to beef up our defence capacity before, GOD forbid, another threat emerges. Peace is priceless. Anything that can help bring about peace and stop the killing of innocent civilians, including a quasi-amnesty for Boko Haram, as painful as it may be, is permissible and desirable.

GOD bless Nigeria!

Meet Raymond on Twitter… @Raymond_Eyo

Posted March 31, 2013 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

THE APC TO NIGERIA’S RESCUE?   3 comments

“The APC is the only promising antidote to the PDP’s venomous bite on Nigerians.” -Shuaibu Mohammed

So much has already been said and written about Nigeria’s new political kid on the block – the merger of progressive opposition parties called the All Progressives’ Congress (APC). By this piece, I am not intending to just add my voice to a myriad of intelligent and objective treatises, with different perspectives, naturally, that have followed the announcement of the formation of the APC. All I will attempt to do is to substantiate the argument that the APC is a major game-changer for Nigeria’s politics and democracy.

First and foremost, it must be understood that this is the very first time a major political party is being born with so much public attention accompanying it. The reasons are not farfetched. At the time the People’s Democratic Party came into being in 1999, very few Nigerians, if at all, had cable television. Even fewer had mobile phones. In fact, today’s social media landscape makes the founding of the APC an entirely different affair from that of the PDP. How relevant is this, you may ask? Well, because there was little mass following of the twists and turns that accompanied the PDP in its early years, it was easy for it to be soon hijacked by a small group of influential politicians and business moguls. The same cannot be said of the APC. Already, there are very positive indications about the great interest many a Nigerian youth, albeit the middle-class social media-inclined, have taken in the APC. It is to be expected that this class of young people will, in the short to medium terms, seek to be counted in the APC’s rank and file and therefore to participate actively in the APC. No APC leadership will undermine this mass, seeing the impact of social media amplification of its formation only.

Secondly, the APC is also a major game-changer for Nigeria’s politics because it clearly represents the first promising and politically-expedient alternative to the PDP. Without any bias, it is a fact that if you give the PDP another chance in power, at the centre, in 2015, Nigeria’s democracy and development will remain encumbered. On the other hand, if you elect the APC at the centre, you will inevitably rejig Nigeria’s body politic. With the great interest Nigerians, especially the youth, now have in national issues, the APC will be compelled to act right, if she must retain popular support whilst the PDP will be forced to undertake much-needed reform in a bid to win power the next time around.

“The emergence of the APC has sent shivers into the spines of PDP, as Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State admits it is a huge threat. If the PDP is jittery about the prospects and implications of the APC for our nation, shouldn’t Nigerians be taking APC seriously by giving it a try?” asks Lauretta Onochie, a political commentator.

I am certainly aware that there are many who fear the APC may turn out to be a copycat of the PDP. But those fears are largely unfounded. It must be recognised that even without the backing of federal power on their side, and with less than one-third of the governorships in the country, there are more performing governors in the opposition than in the PDP. For all their weaknesses, the likes of Rochas Okorocha, Kayode Fayemi, Adams Oshiomhole, Babatunde Fashola rank much higher than many, if not most, of their PDP counterparts.

Of course, I am not saying the APC consists of perfect men and women. Far from it! But the very idea behind its founding is not only noble but very commendable. It is up to all who seek change to harness the APC’s platform and make Nigeria so much better than it currently is. Anyone who is waiting for a bunch of perfectionists to fall from the sky will do well to wait for eternity. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush! Urban Dictionary, an online platform, explains that age-old adage saying, “It is better to have [and take] an advantage or opportunity that is certain than having one that is worth more but is not so certain.”

By the way, is it a coincidence that, for instance, in recent times, only an opposition member of the House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, both turned down the National Honours offered to him and publicly asked that their jumbo salaries be whittled down? Is it by chance that of all the states Information Minister, Labaran Maku, planned to visit in his so-called ‘Good Governance’ tour, only one led by the opposition (Edo) challenged him and rightly so, and objected to wasting public funds on that window-dressing and profligate initiative? I reckon that so much more is still to be done to make the opposition look entirely different but these are signposts that we have some people of conscience in the rank and file of the APC, as opposed to the majorly corrupt and unrepentant power-mongers in the PDP!

As publisher and politician, Dele Momodu, said in a February 10 interview, “It’s not in the character of conservative parties [like the PDP] to accommodate, tolerate, encourage and nurture good members,” except of course, political developments like the formation of a strong opposition party, forces them to do so, which I hope it eventually will. Like in the United States recently, the Republican Party was forced to acquiesce to immigration reform, something they vehemently opposed, even going into the last presidential elections, because of the political reality that Latino-Americans have not only become a major voting bloc but that they also contributed significantly to the victory of the rival Democratic Party.

In all, and like Momodu again said, “I firmly support the present APC merger. Nigeria is in desperate need of a rescue from the prodigal [PDP]… All believers in a better Nigeria must join hands and make [the APC] work.” Similarly, Lauretta Onochie said “Nigeria is the only home we have. We must be willing to take every risk, including embracing the APC, to recover her.”

OHIMAI, WE’RE NOT ALL PDP!!!   6 comments

“We are not all PDP. I disagree with Ohimai. We don’t all belong to a party of murderers, looters and political juggernauts.” –Babatunde Rosanwo

As an avid reader and a very politically-conscious person, I read Ohimai Ahaize’s article, Like it or not, we are all PDP: http://www.ynaija.com/ohimai-amaize-like-it-or-not-we-are-all-pdp-y-politico/, with keen interest and an open mind. Ohimai acknowledged that it was his first article in three years or so. That set the tone for the seriousness with which it was written, which seriousness was not betrayed by the article’s overall compelling message. I therefore invite Ohimai and indeed everyone to equally accord this rejoinder, interspersed with citations on the subject from Babatunde Rosanwo, the open-mindedness and seriousness it deserves.

Ohimai articulated cogent and valid arguments but betrayed his bias for the PDP when he said “The current fad is how well you can demonise the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I have seen young people on Twitter curse PDP like our problems as a nation begin and end with the PDP.” Ohimai is wrong! Of course, the current fad is not necessarily how well one can demonise the PDP. Rather, most Nigerians on Twitter and Facebook, including me, lambast President Jonathan for his many blunders and failures. Many, again including me, who criticise the PDP have also criticised the ACN on a good number of occasions. In fact, some like me have had reason to express kudos to a PDP governor like Akwa-Ibom’s Godswill Akpabio. More importantly, Ohimai should know better that, given that the PDP has been in power, at the centre, since our present democratic dispensation in 1999, and considering world renown leadership expert, John Maxwell’s aphorism that “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” it is very safe to say Nigeria’s present and ongoing problems begin with the PDP and the buck that could help resolve many of those problems ends at the table of a certain PDP politician called Goodluck Jonathan!

In 2012, on the sidelines of the Olympic Games, Ohimai met and took a snapshot with one of Hollywood’s greatest actors of our time, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Such moments are special because people of great stature like Van Damme should inspire us to emulate the strides that made them great. Well, Ohimai may have kept such lessons (my literal assumptions) for future endeavours because at the moment there’s a great variance between the ideals captured in Van Damme’s showpiece of force movie (Street-fighter), for example, and Ohimai’s tour de force article.

Two days ago, I watched Van Damme beat the brutally oppressive villain, Bison, in his Street-fighter masterpiece blockbuster. In that movie, Van Damme was courageous to inspire a global regiment to take aim at Bison, a man who tormented people and held some hostage, whereas Ohimai smartly attempts to acquit the PDP, a worse-than any real-life Bison, of its many sins.

Ohimai clearly took the shine off his otherwise brilliant article by entitling it “We are all PDP”. No! My brother, we’re NOT all PDP! He should have been more cautious, especially following the recent pasting of PDP campaign posters for Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid all over Abuja and the lacklustre reaction of his party to it.

It is one thing to inspire people to get involved in Nigerian politics and it is quite another to ask them to join the PDP. At the moment, there’s so much rot in the PDP that, other than a revolution, it will only take having the right will from its top brass, to effect positive changes. No number of youth joining the PDP will change things for good. As the Jonathan 2015 posters and the pro-Jonathan camp in Occupy Nigeria have shown, many a youth will join the PDP because they want a share of the spoil. Let me ask Ohimai: Does the PDP’s NWC, including the office of its National Youth Leader, have room for youth? Are there any chances that youth will be allowed as members of the body that elects the PDP’s presidential candidate?

Babatunde Rosanwo reacted to Ohimai’s article, saying: “If joining politics is a linear solution to Nigeria’s problems, then Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala joining PDP is not making a huge difference in PDP. The system perpetuated by PDP is one that’s destined to see the crème-de-la-crème fail. Ivy League products are struggling to grasp reality.” How true! The PDP system makes it all too certain for even technocratic Ivy League products to fail. What more of young Nigerian graduates or yet, the Nigerian uneducated mass? It will take political change from the top of both the PDP and the opposition parties to position them to lead a national renewal; not mass enlistment into politics! For now, there may be no difference between the PDP and opposition parties but that instead places a premium on the PDP, as the party in power, to set a positive example. Political power, especially for as many years as the PDP has wielded it at the centre, is one resource no person in their right senses, should overlook.

In addition, contrary to what Ohimai said, it’s not systematically true that Naira notes travel faster than a tweet. In the information age, social media is increasingly becoming a very powerful mobilising tool, even for raising Naira notes for charity. You can never undermine the potency of tweets, especially given the promise by the Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson to facilitate the development of Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure to increase the number of internet users in Nigeria from 33.5million to 70 million by 2015. Let it be known that tweets can spur a revolution!

By the way, if change is what Ohimai seeks, he should be careful to rather help in de-monetising our politics. Nigeria is direly in need of a politics of ideas than a politics of money. It’s time we de-emphasise the demonic role of money in our politics. Ohimai’s point does no justice to that effort.

It’s also not true that big bags of rice inspire more hope than well-written blogs. Blogs like ekekeee.com greatly inspire hope – and more so among an increasingly literate and conscious youth. With its exceptional pieces, the award-winning ekekeee.com highlights, in very clear terms, what has gone/is going wrong with the system and is thus inspiring hope and rallying good people to take on the challenge of making a better Nigeria more and more possible.

Nigeria’s challenges are beyond political participation alone. Whilst Nkrumah’s charge that we should seek first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto it, is true in many respects, Nigeria needs more than just political participation. President Jonathan is a PhD holder whom Tunde Fagbenle describes as one who “displays a shocking lack of eloquence and depth, even of a good school certificate holder.” What this means is, political participation is only one part of the equation. We must get our education right! We must get our civic responsibilities aright. Again, Rosanwo opines, and rightly so, that: “[There’s a] dire need for Nigerians to pay more attention to their civic responsibilities, Ohimai is right only about those who seek political office.”

It’s not the first time Ohimai has stirred controversy with his affection for the PDP. Months ago, he called the PDP “a great party”. I wonder what form of greatness he was touting. If a catchphrase to his otherwise poignant article is what Ohimai sought, he is intelligent enough and should have picked a non-controversial option.

Lest anyone should say I wrote this rejoinder out of hatred or any semblance of it, for Ohimai, let me state that he’s a friend and I have agreed with him before. In fact, I solicited a meeting with him lately but he wasn’t able to see it through. I still look forward to meeting him someday. As our overall objective is to build a better Nigeria, all hands must be on deck – whether PDP hands or those of the opposition! As Rosanwo concluded, “Yet Ohimai’s clarion call must be met objectively. May the best of us who have something to offer, [lead] this nation.”

THE STORMING OF THE NIGERIAN BASTILLE   7 comments

The Bastille was a fortress built in Paris in the 14th century and used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was destroyed on July 14, 1789 at the start of the French Revolution in what was described as “The Storming of the Bastille”.

I have been keen on drawing lessons for Nigeria from France’s advanced democratic setting especially as exemplified by that country’s last presidential elections. See: https://raymondeyo.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/lessons-for-nigeria-from-frances-elections/

However, our present purpose suggests that Nigeria takes inspiration from the very foundation of that French democratic establishment – the Storming of the Bastille! Without much peering, it is clear the recent Edo State gubernatorial election which fell precisely on the 223rd anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, constitutes what can be considered “The Storming of the Nigerian Bastille”.

It has to be said that the generally popular resonance with the victory of the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stems more from the fact that it dealt a death blow to the PDP’s culture of god-fatherism that more or less has had Edo State as its epicentre in recent times. Indeed, Senator Mudashiru Hussain said on July 14, 2012 that the outcome of the Edo election was going to determine the future of Nigeria’s democracy as I suppose, to the extent that it would demonstrate the potency of people power over ‘god-fatherly’ machinations. The ACN National Leader, Bola Tinubu, shared the same sentiment when he described Oshiomhole’s victory as “a great signal of a new chapter in Nigeria’s democratic struggle.” In the same vein, a political commentator, Taiwo Nolas-Alausa, declared: “May the victory of Edo spread across the nation. Come 2015, we shall cremate the godfathers”.

Also, former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida on July 17 said the Edo election has re-enacted the doctrine of ‘one man, one vote’ being canvassed by most Nigerians. In a statement entitled “The Power of the People,” Babangida said the election had further reassured the polity that under a credible and effective electoral system, the people’s power, expressed through votes, would reign supreme. Babangida said: “This ennobling and humbling feat [of victory “against a party that parades hitherto political heavyweights”] is only possible in an atmosphere of well mobilised and [conscientious] voters, who… resolved to sustain the mantra of ‘one man, one vote’ as the fundamental basis of representative democracy.” “The lesson from the Edo election is that Nigeria can truly get it right if election outcomes reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people. Edo State has become a trailblazer in this unique dimension of making votes to count after elections,” Babangida added. Like or hate him, Babangida struck exactly the right notes in his statement above.

By many standards, the Edo election was a huge political battle that transcended the state. The Oshiomhole victory wasn’t just a victory for the people of the state. Edo is the only state being governed by the leading opposition party, the ACN, outside of its dominant base in the South-West, and hence constitutes a major factor in the party’s quest for national reckoning. Similarly, the Edo election was a test-case for the planned merger between the ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – a development that informed the withdrawal of the CPC’s candidate to back his ACN counterpart. Therefore, Edo may have just created a platform for a possible and expedient opposition merger much needed to provide a credible national alternative to the ruling behemoth that is the PDP!

Indeed, the appeal of July 14 is what must have informed this Nigerian twitter handle @iamBHL to have “July 14th” as his profile name! This handle’s bio opens with “…in pursuit of positive change”. Going forward, it is my impassioned hope and prayer that the gains of July 14, 2012 for Nigeria will ultimately lead to positive change via the upping of our democratic ante just as July 14, 1789 brought about positive change for France!

Follow Raymond on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

NIGERIA’S ANOMIC CULTURE OF POLITICAL TITLES   6 comments

“It is unfortunate that ours is a culture of embellishing our unscrupulous leaders with inordinate and sycophantic accolades that service their egos to our detriment!” -Obed Okonkwo

One reason why our political leaders often see themselves as demi-gods who must lord it over us is that their egos are constantly fed by an arsenal of political, traditional and other titles – all products of a culture that emphasises the superior status of an overall oppressive few, as against the plight of the suffering masses.

Many Nigerians have so idolised the “Your Excellency” appellation so much so that it has taken on a life of its own – and a very oppressive life at that! We should rather refer to the President and Governors, for example, simply as ‘Mr. President’ or ‘Mr. Governor’ rather than ‘Your Excellency’, especially at informal or loosely-formal settings. This way, the relationship between our leaders and us will be significantly humanised.

On June 6, 2012, former FCT Minister, and now a prominent public commentator, Nasir El-Rufai, said the following of titles in Nigeria: “Why must Nigerian big men and women have new titles that they were never born with? Suddenly, everyone in Abuja is either [a] prince [or a] princess…” He added that “Some are dames, others are Otunba, Chief, etc…” and then he concluded: “Don’t mind me… I believe everyone other than medical and vet doctors should just be Mr or Mallam… I like simplicity…” To this, analyst Akin Akintayo added that “There [will] come a time when everyone will have a title and we who remain with plain Mr, Mrs or Ms would be uninfiltrated achievers.”

Often, people are alienated when they are made to feel that their leaders are out of reach. This anomic culture of titles contributes much to that. For example, rather than refer to Dimeji Bankole simply as the House Speaker, he was often always referred to in his full official title: Right Honourable Dimeji Bankole. By and large, this must have made the young Bankole feel head and shoulders above other Nigerians – reason why his was ultimately such a faulty speakership.

Another related issue on this matter is the practice of referring to serving political office holders by titles accruing from their previous offices. This practice seems to be a kind of political capital accumulation wherein an individual’s political capital is determined by the number of offices he or she has previously held. For instance, the Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, is a former Senator and Minister and till date, the press corps in the state continues to address him as “His Excellency Senator Liyel Imoke.” Same scenario with the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who was speaker of the State House of Assembly before becoming Governor but who is still referred to in many quarters as “Right Honourable Rotimi Amaechi.” These two officials have since left their former capacities. As such, it makes no sense to keep referring to them by those titles. It maybe a different ball game, however, when this concerns former presidents.

In addition, federal ministers, state commissioners, chairmen of state agencies and political parties are all referred to as ‘Your Excellency’ or ‘Honourable’. In fact, even the wives of our governors and the president are now also referred to as “Her Excellency(ies)…” The summary implication of this is that we have a bunch of persons who are made to feel high and above the spectrum of society and consciously or unconsciously act as such. Others may argue that these titles are indicative of respect. But respect is carried more in attitude than in titles.

Furthermore, at different public functions across the nation, speaker after speaker always spend time calling the names of virtually every senior former and serving political stakeholder (of course, with the traditional “Your Excellency” as a prefix) and in some cases, adding the layer of their honorary national titles such as GCFR (Grand Commander of the Federal Republic), CFR (Commander of the Federal Republic), CON (Commander of the Order of the Niger) and so on. Rather than simply acknowledge the highest authority present and add that “All protocol duly respected or recognized”, these sycophant-officials spend valuable time repeating a formality that clearly serves no good but boosts the egos of the persons being addressed.

These titles and their constant usage typically demonstrate the lack of urgency by our political leaders to address the overbearing socio-economic and political challenges that have beset our society for eons. A wasteful bureaucracy is any organization in which action is obstructed by insistence on unnecessary procedures and red tape. This anomic culture of political titles guarantees just that.

Recently, the NAFDAC Director was asked a question pertaining to some federal government input in the agency. In response, rather than simply say “‘Mr. President’ or ‘the President’ or ‘President Jonathan’ commissioned this project…,” he said “His Excellency Doctor Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…” This was clearly an out-of proportions blow-out! It was such an unnecessary waste of time.

I am not a fan of the United States but one thing that strikes me about the conduct of affairs in that country, as in other serious-minded countries, is that their politicians; from senators to governors to the president are often addressed simply as “President Obama” or “Secretary Clinton” or “Governor Schwarzenegger” or just Mr President or Mr Governor. Hardly would you hear of “His Excellency President Barack Obama…” This saves time and contributes to deepening the consciousness of the political office holders that they are called to serve and not to lord it over the people. Indeed, it must have been this ideal which led the new Malawian president, Joyce Banda, to object to being called “Madam President” and preferring to go only with “Mrs Banda” – a mark of exemplary simplicity!

It is high time we started doing away with those practices that don’t serve any good in the polity whether small or big. As a matter of fact, the big things like the desperation of the political class to get into positions of power and the gross corruption and misappropriation of state funds that takes place when they get there are simply informed by the small things that feed their egos like the titles that constantly remind them of their supposedly untouchable status.

Besides participating to vote in credible leaders, we need to identify and do away with practices that entrench autocratic and bureaucratic tendencies. Let us seek for servant-leaders who are not prone to the pleasantries of titles that lead to aggrandisement but who are given to demagoguery.

We have succeeded in replacing military rule with civilian rule. We should consolidate this by compelling our current and future political office holders to adhere to norms that denote servant-leadership. Men and women will come and go but institutions will remain. In July 2009, US President Barack Obama said Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men. To get strong institutions, we need to de-emphasise practices that produce ‘strong men’, one of which is our very anomic culture of political titles! After all, political office is an opportunity to serve, not a platform for the massaging of egos.