It took the recent revelations of a letter written about six months ago by the governor of Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to President Muhammadu Buhari for Nigerians to realise that indeed the President tolerates opposing views. Ordinarily some cynics would have gone to town with the news that the President does not accede to dissenting voices.
In fact, if we recall criticisms coming from some very close quarters of Mr. President and his inclination to listen, read and sometimes respond in the most responsible and objective manner, then it shows that his capacity to absorb opposing views is not only strong but elastic.
Due to his military background, a lot of people tend to hold the view that his administration will clamp down on the media and other strident opposing voices, but nearly two years into his administration, Nigerians are freer than ever in expressing their freedom of speech.
Some people can argue that freedom of expression is a basic tenet of democracies across the globe, and I am quick to concur except that in the case of President Buhari there were reservations and scepticisms.
However, with benefit of hindsight, it is easy to conclude that his love for democracy knows no bounds. As a matter of fact, the media have come to realise that President Buhari, rather than loathe the media, loves them and sees them as partners in the task of nation building.
Lest we forget, President Buhari had told an expectant nation in 2003 that after the collapse of the Berlin wall he became a converted democrat, hence he contested for Nigeria’s presidency for a record four times before winning the election.
It follows therefore that by embracing democracy without any inhibitions, he was also obliged to abide by its sacred tenets and obligations, one of which is freedom of expression. It is therefore not far-fetched to read such letters, articles, interviews, and comments by some close acquaintances like Nasir el-Rufai, his own wife Aisha or other vitriolic columnists.
While in the case of the former, they always tend to proffer constructive criticisms to help in moving the nation forward, there is a view in some quarters that what impels the latter in their vitriolic media attacks is anything but altruistic.
In questioning the motive for some criticisms, perhaps it is necessary to state here that constructive criticisms are usually helpful in bringing development to any community or nation.
Constructive criticisms also help to hold governments accountable to the people, and in the case of Nigeria, it is instructive to note that President Buhari devotes time to read and listen to the views and opinions of the people he governs.
In most cases, he had taken some very harsh and unfriendly criticisms in his stride, and even went ahead to act decisively on them. By this, it can be deduced that in his bid to serve Nigerians faithfully, President Buhari has continued to act in ways that tend to promote national peace, love and tolerance.
Therefore to contextualize Governor el- Rufai’s letter to President Buhari in which he tried to dissect the problems inherent in the Nigerian polity under him, one is constrained to draw the conclusion that the governor appears to be putting unnecessary pressure on a performing president.
Or how else will you accept the positions in the missive from the governor when there are positive signs in governance. Primarily, the President has kept faith with Nigerians in delivering on the fight against insurgency, corruption and revival of the economy.
Gladly, despite some negative commentaries which tend to distract the administration from its set objectives, yet the President is relentless and sure-footed in delivering on his campaign promises.
It must be acknowledged that one factor that is propelling the administration to unprecedented success is the absence of “settlement” in Buhari’s leadership.
In most cases, people who may likely compromise the system have it at the back of their mind the consequences that will follow such indiscretion.
The Buhari administration has demonstrated that it is possible to build a nation where public office will be used to serve the interest of all Nigerians, and not just a few.
The gentleman approach with which President Buhari handled the missive from el-Rufai is a hallmark of tolerance for dissenting opinions, and this will doubtlessly deepen our democracy. In other words, he has raised the bar for other leaders to emulate and Nigerians have a duty to always insist that leaders at different levels toe the same line as Buhari.
Therefore, while some cynics may want to widen the gap between the president and the Kaduna State governor by latching onto what ordinarily should pass for a friendly correspondence, the president has instead pulled the carpet from under their feet.
Apart from the fact that he is delivering on his campaign promises, he has always availed Nigerians including his critics the opportunity to ventilate their views, and sometimes misplaced frustrations.
•Enekwechi, journalist and politician, writes from Abuja.
Jacob Zuma out, Cyril Ramaphosa in
Jacob Gadleyihekisa Zuma is a strong South African politician. He served as the 4th President of the country with effect from the 2009 general elections until he was compelled to resign on February 14, 2018 by the African National Congress (ANC).
He was 75 years of age at the time he left office. Zuma also served as Deputy President of South Africa (1999 – 2005), but was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki in 2005 due to an alleged bribe for which Schabir Shaik, his Financial Adviser, was convicted. Shaik was said to have solicited for the bribe for and on behalf of Jacob Zuma.
On December 20, 2007, Zuma was however elected President of the ANC after he defeated Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s conference in Polokwane. On September 20, 2008, Mbeki resigned his presidential position after being recalled by the ANC’s National Executive Committee.
The recall was sequel to a South African High Court Judge, Christopher Nicolson’s ruling which found him wanting in his improper interference with the operations of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption. After Zuma’s election in 2009, he was re-elected as ANC’s leader at the Mangaung conference on December 18, 2012.
He defeated challenger, Kgalema Motlanthe, by a wide margin of votes. He remained as President of South Africa after the 2014 general elections, and since then, his political party had suffered from declining acceptance in terms of popular support, consequent upon a growing dissatisfaction with Zuma as President. Zuma was also charged for rape in 2005 but was acquitted.
There was, after this charge, an allegation of corruption and fraud and on April 6, 2009, the National Prosecution Authority dropped the charges against him based on its reasoning that there was political interference.
This legal verdict was, however, challenged by the opposition political parties and as at February 2018, the charges were brought before the NPA, for reconsideration. Zuma was also found guilty of benefiting improperly from the expenditure of presidential official building, and the constitutional court unanimously held on 2016’s Economic Freedom Fighters Versus Speaker of the National Assembly.
The verdict was that Jacob Zuma failed to uphold the country’s constitution, which resulted in calls for his resignation.
It is worthy of note that his impeachment in the National Assembly failed to achieve its desired aim. He was therefore implicated in reports of state capture through his friendship with the influential Gupta family, known for its enormous wealth and influence.
The man, with many political lives, had survived several motions of no confidence both within the ANC and the National Assembly despite proof of evidence against him in almost all the charges against him.
On December 18, 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to succeed Zuma as President of the ANC at the Nasrec, Johannesburg conference. In the months ahead there was growing pressure on Zuma to resign his duty post as President of South Africa, which cumulated in his recall by the ANC. In this event, he had to face an impeachment threat in parliament, which resulted in his resignation on February 14, 2018.
Cyril Ramaphosa was eventually sworn in on February 15, 2018.
Ramaphosa, like Jacob Zuma, also participated in the black struggles against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He is the 5th President of the Republic of South Africa. He was also trade unionist and businessman, who is regarded as a very wealthy South African. He served as the Deputy President of South Africa from 2014 to 2018. On the day of his swearing-in as President, he promised to fight corruption.
This promise may not be an easy task for a man who is wealthy in South Africa. If Ramaphosa is properly investigated, his sources of wealth may not be very clean.
After all, the late Aristotle Socrates Onasis (1906 – 1975), made the sum of $1 million as profit in a business transaction, which may have resulted to fraud somewhere along the line.
It is therefore my candid opinion that Cyril shall not appear to be an angel in business transactions which gave birth to his wealth. He, too, was on the political front who operated his business within the context of the South African economy, during the period.
I may not be in a comfortable position to draw-up a conclusion that Ramaphosa was a saint, who was transparent in all his financial dealings and transactions.
It is extremely difficult for me to be faster than the horse on this matter, because there had been not a single allegation against Ramaphosa about his corporate interest or himself as Deputy President. Future political circumstance(s) shall unravel the sources of his wealth and business, on whether to give it a clean bill of health or not.
Ekiti verdict: Clipping the wings of impunity
Prior to the ascension of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the Presidency in 1999, Nigeria was a pariah among the comity of nations due to her deplorable track records in human rights abuses as epitomized by the late Sani Abacha government and unassailable corruption index.
The fact that we are still recovering Abacha loots starched across some western countries even almost 20 years after his death goes to show how endemic and deep-rooted sleazy lifestyle had become. The second intrusion of the military into our political space was justified as the behest to rid the nation of endemic corruption.
This was the chief pretext offered by the Muhammadu Buhari-led coupists that toppled Shehu Shagari government in December 1983.
In a partial response to the pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which named Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the international community’s efforts to fight money laundering, Obasanjo administration was spurred to establish the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 with Nuhu Ribadu as pioneer chairman.
I believe EFCC is welcome development as a veritable tool to curtail corruption in our system. Its assignments are clear. It has needed legal backing and enticing perquisites for its operatives. The fear of the EFCC has been the beginning of wisdom in some official quarters.
Thus far, it has sanitized our financial sector to a reasonable extent. Illicit funds transfers locally and internationally have been reduced drastically. This is a significant achievement of the commission.
The commission, according to Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had recovered over $2 trillion within a period of 12 years while more than N500 billions loots were recovered under Buhari administration alone. More are still being recovered. This is a great feat, I must say; and it is commendable. I guess this amount included the “re-looted funds” said to have been missing in the custody of the commission. Inadvertently, the commission is fast becoming a cesspit of corruption going by allegations of bribery, stealing and diversion of recovered loots. However, EFCC has been operating, in many instances, beyond the limits of the law.
Common act of the EFCC’s assumed qualified privilege was unrestrained access to state governments’ books. And basking on the unquestionable euphoria of presidential nods, it had bulldozed its way into places that were not part of its call of duty. It has also become an attacking dog for the sitting President to hunt his perceived political foes and critics. Obasanjo used the commission to intimidate his political enemies and recalcitrant associates in a game of show of strength. It also used it to earn forceful submission by those who dared to have the minds of their own or those who would not kowtow to his sinister agenda even when they belong to the same camp.
The likes of late S. M. Afolabi and Vincent Ogbulafor are good examples. I won’t be surprised to see some APC chieftains who won’t subscribe to Buhari’s second term becoming guests of the commission in months to come. In recent times, interdicting Governor Ayo Fayose’s bank account was a violation of his immunity as a sitting governor. He could only be investigated and not prosecuted; therefore, placing an embargo on his account was tantamount to implementing the punitive measure meted out to individuals not enjoying immunity. Conflicting legal opinions on this issue was largely tinted by political leanings of the debating lawyers.
The commission is also reputed for scandalizing people at will through media trials. Many of such cases often end up as charades. Let me acknowledge that investigating suspected sleazy deals and inviting suspects for interrogations are within the norms of best practices; but disparaging people’s names in the media before diligent investigations are concluded left much to be desired.
Because many Nigerians are wary of prolonged litigations and they choose to allow divine recompense in their cases are the reasons some of the innocent people already maligned would rather accept to live with the scars for a very long time than seek redress in the court of law.
The recent verdict by the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti against the EFCC is grand and technically sound.
The judgement was delivered in a suit filed by Ekiti State Government against the EFCC, the Inspector- General of Police, the Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, the clerk and 13 others. Ekiti Attorney General filed the suit after the commission sent letters of invitation to some government officials seeking details over some financial transactions of the state.
The EFCC also sent letters to the banks seeking financial books of the state in their custody. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo held that the financial institutions are not entitled to release to or disclose to any person, body or agency, including the EFCC and IG, or any other investigating body, any document, financial records etc.
The court held that the EFCC cannot usurp the oversight functions vested in state assembly under Sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution to initiate a probe or criminal proceedings against a state official.
According to him, only the state legislative is vested with oversight and investigation role over state finances, appropriation and implementation after receiving a formal report from the Auditor General or the Accountant General as the case may arise. Referring to section 125 (c) of the constitution, Justice Taiwo said: “The power for control of fund, financial outflow, appropriation are vested in the House of Assembly.
It is the Auditor General of the state that has the power to conduct checks on all government corporations and to submit his report to the assembly. Nobody including the court can read other meaning into the clear provision of the constitution.
“I can’t by any stretch of imagination see how the statutory functions of the EFCC can extend to a state in a federation under any guise to the extent that the eight to 18 defendants (banks) will be directed to submit bank details. Yes, the first defendant can investigate any person or corporate organisation, what it can’t do is to usurp the powers of the assembly.
The Federal Government cannot impose its statutory duties on a state in flagrant disobedient of the constitution.”
By this landmark judgement, the court has made it clear that the EFCC should not be a rampaging federal agent that monitors state finances. It means the commission has been operating illegally over the years by scrutinizing state governments’ accounts and harassing banks to submit details of the states’ financial transactions.
Apparently, the EFCC’s wings of impunity have been clipped. Henceforth, the commission should be humble enough to employ due legal process in the discharge of its statutory duties and avoid being accused of flagrant abuse of judicial process.
•West writes via email@example.com
Akeredolu’s one-year anniversary
Governor of my native Ondo State, Arakunrin (Mr.) Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu aka Aketi, will be one year in office on Saturday, 24th February. It has been one very drab and dreary year. Aketi has been damn too quiet and too, too cold for comfort. Is it that he is a silent worker and not a “noisemaker”, to quote President Muhammadu Buhari?
Does he want his performance only to speak for him? He must be told that in politics, what is not seen to exist does not exist. He has to draw positive attention, if not to himself, then, to our state, and grab the headlines. Perception is vital; governance necessarily must be action-laden. A leader must mobilise and energise his people; he must be seen and heard and cannot be self-effacing. He must exude confidence and fire our spirit.
He must convince; he must make profound statements. Gone were the days when we had quotable quotes from our leaders. As illiterate and anti-intellectual as Gen. Sani Abacha was, he left behind one quotable quote no one will forget in a hurry.
It is: “Enough is now enough”! Or who can forget that quote from the late Ooni Oba Okunade Sijuwade: “E jade ki e lo try best yin”? Leaders must inspire their people. Akeredolu is a well-educated, learned, and experienced person and shouldn’t have any problem in this regard!
Leadership is also about “action”; Aketi must wake up from his slumber and give us some action. He must begin to speak up and speak out. We want to hear him; the world wants to hear him. How will he draw attention to our state if he behaves like a monk or recluse?
I am sure he saw a monastery there when he chose to vie for the Government House. Last Thursday as I made my way to the airport in Akure to board an Air Peace flight to Lagos, I listened to a phone-in radio programme where my brother, Yemi Olowolabi, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, featured. Yemi came late and I did not hear him offer any apologies. That was not good enough.
Yemi, however, is a gentleman par excellence; very polite, humble, respectful, responsible, and vivacious. My path and his first crossed when he was Chief Press Secretary to the late Governor Olusegun Agagu of Ondo State; some senior professional colleagues had put pressure on me to travel to Akure to help the Agagu government out with some of its media problems.
Yemi did not behave like many other CPS who would immediately see you as a threat and an enemy coming to snatch their job. He cooperated fully with me and we worked seamlessly. He gave me very useful lessons that enabled me settle down fast on the job.
The first was that while Dr. Agagu was the de jure governor; his younger brother, Pastor Femi Agagu (Chief of Staff), was the de facto governor. Once you had seen Femi, you did not need to see the senior Agagu, who virtually abdicated power to his younger brother. Incidentally, Femi is also a commissioner in the Akeredolu government.
Second lesson: We were to travel to Lagos to address a press conference and Yemi brought a paper for me to sign. I asked why I should and he said we must give the proverbial “brown envelope” I protested that we shouldn’t and he laughed.
He said, “Oga, your own generation was ‘thank you, editors’. You did your job and received ‘thank you’ but the present generation is ‘Ghana-must-go’” Grudgingly, I signed and Femi released the millions and we carted it to Lagos. At the Chinese restaurant venue of the event, I was not only surprised that Yemi was proved right; other things happened that must not be relayed here.
A week or so before the 2014 Ekiti governorship election, Yemi and I compared notes at the Trade Fair hotel, Ado-Ekiti; troubled by the feelers I was getting from my numerous readers as well as my own independent investigations, I had asked Yemi whether he thought Kayode Fayemi could win re-election. Both of us were rooting for Fayemi.
Yemi was sure Fayemi would win in all local governments and that Ayo Fayose would not win in any. I told him my reservations and findings, but he assured me there was no way Fayose would win a single local government. As it turned it, the reverse was the case. Yemi returned to his “Red Carpet” after that, before his latest appointment with Akeredolu. I must not forget to put on record his sense of duty during the high-wire re-election bid of Agagu.
That election was massively rigged and Government House was the epi-centre of the sordid act of votes doctoring. I had the privilege of a blow-by-blow account as resounding defeat was turned into resounding success but results could not be announced; tension was thick in the air. My phone rang in the morning and Mr. Depo Tewobola, one of the two-some who had sent me to Akure for the media consultancy job, said, “Bola, where are you?”
“Of course, where else but Akure where you had sent me.” “What are you still doing there? Don’t you know that state will burn any moment from now?”
I jumped out of bed, threw my things into the car and zoomed out of Owena Motels. Getting to NEPA Junction, there were bonfires everywhere already. The police advised me to go back but I elected to brave it. I drove through four bonfires to get to the outskirts of town.
A few kilometres to Owena my phone rang and Yemi said he was on his way to ferry me from my hotel to a safe house at Government House but I told him I had already escaped. He shouted for joy and wished me Godspeed.
Last Thursday on the radio programme mentioned earlier, Yemi reeled out a long list of achievements by Akeredolu’s government: roads everywhere; reduction in the backlog of salary arrears from 8/7 months to two; what they were doing about potable water supply, etc. If they have done that much, why are they not flaunting it? I heard the controversy over the stoppage or non-stoppage of free education in Ondo State; and the criminal silence of the state government over herdsmen’s rampage in the state is known to all. Except for a whimper from Aketi a while ago, herdsmen’s atrocities have grown into a monstrosity in Ondo State.
Aketi has fidgeted, trying the balancing act of juxtaposing the interests of the Abuja people who made him governor against those of the good people of Ondo State whom he governs.
Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped, his farm violated again and again and then set ablaze; herdsmen have sacked a whole council secretariat; they have invaded the airport; laid ambush on the highways; and have raped, maimed, and killed innocent people – Aketi has not only done nothing, he has not as much as found his voice. And this is what Hausa/Fulani leaders of all hues will not do for anyone. Whoever you are and no matter the good turn you have done them, they will never sacrifice the interest of their people for you.
Witness the travails of Tinubu and the mockery of him they are making at the moment! We have got to wizen up! While I congratulate Aketi on the occasion of his first anniversary, he must now begin to show a sterner stuff, which I believe he is made of. Dabo,’miyemi, ma d’usha yi meren non! I know Aketi has a good media hand in Yemi Olowolabi – except he is one of those governors who do not empower their media handlers.
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