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Buhari: Time to self-humanize publicly

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The other day, the President’s men broadcast a documentary ostensibly aimed at publicly humanising Muhammadu Buhari, a former military General still seen and perceived as stiff as they come, even when he has virtually turned 360 degrees a civilian democrat.
In attempts to present their principal as genial, the aides portrayed Buhari as a split-personality: The stern, no nonsense former Military Governor, Military Head of State, and now President of the Federal Republic and Commander-in-Chief; and the other a jovial, sociable, likable, jolly good fellow.
Many Nigerians complained about the timing of the documentary, aired in the midst of a crunching fuel scarcity at Christmastide – occurrences many thought were over since the hike in fuel price from N86.5 to N145 in early 2016 that, mercifully, ensured availability of petrol for the year-end celebrations.
Of course, whether the film was aired in good moments, many would still query and criticize it for varying reasons, not the least the dislike (hatred) they harbour for Buhari and anything to do with his All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration.
The fuel hassles were foreshadowed by an economic recession that berthed in the first quarter of 2016, only to abate technically, according to the government, in the third quarter of 2017. Still, prices of goods and services are at the rooftop, without any indications when they would come down, courtesy of the machinations of cartels in the oil industry.
Nonetheless, the cabinet aides failed to realise that no other person can humanize Buhari but, or than himself. Nigerians have seen snippets of the president in bouts of guffaw in photographs, especially the ones published to debunk rumours of his being vegetative or dead during his ill-health in London in 2017.
But they haven’t seen Buhari, in flesh and blood, in that form or shape, not at any occasions, such as political rallies that are jamborees. The mental picture they have, and seldom see of him is a man that gives smirky smiles and a reluctant wave of the hand(s). Not for him the buzz of the Nigerian social life that makes people to loosen up.
Yet, it’s what the Buhari people wanted to disprove with the documentary: that the president is good-humoured, as most Nigerians. According to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, a time was, particularly during the build-up to the 2015 general elections, when they, together with Buhari, would roll on the carpet with laughter in Buhari’s home in Kaduna – owing to the moonlight tales told by the president.
However, one striking feature of the aides’ narratives is that Buhari only let his guards down in the circles of his family members, friends and associates, including cabinet members. When he’s outside of these groups, he maintains his mien. But must we all be his acquaintances before we can experience the avuncular disposition he displays in private?
When the people were voting in 2015, they never distinguished between a public and private Buhari; they cast their ballots for an individual that would give them the dividend of democracy: Feed them when they are hungry; give them water when thirsty; shelter them from the elements; protect them from marauders; and provide them with the necessities for modern living: travelable roads, constant power, available and affordable energy, potable water, and good and qualitative education and healthcare.
No doubt, President Buhari has exhibited humaneness, such as in the home-grown feeding programme for thousands of school children; stipends paid to vulnerable elderly people; and the various bailout funds the Federal Government has given the states to offset backlog of salaries and pensions to workers and retirees. He has repeatedly expressed empathy for these people.
But how many times has the president made a detour to greet, and exchange pleasantries with members of the audience in an auditorium? How often, if any, has he been on the streets of his immediate constituency of Abuja, to ask after the wellbeing of, and share a joke or two with the common man he professes to represent?
How would the people appreciate his difficulties in governance, such as tackling the current fuel shortages in the country, if they don’t know him through personal contacts, or talk to and exchange ideas with him via the telephone, radio and television? The people don’t need third parties to tell them about his geniality. They want that familiarity first hand.
So, it’s time for President Buhari to relax a bit. For instance, there’s nothing more humanizing than he digressing from the introductory protocols, to intimately greet an audience at a ceremony, say at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
On mounting the podium, he could start by: “Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. How’s your day? How was your night? Did you sleep well in this very hot weather? Was there electricity supply to power your fans or air conditioners? Oh yes, how did you make it to this place: in your private vehicles or by public transport? How did you get the fuel, and for how much (if by private vehicle)? How much did you pay as fare (if by public transport)?” Imagine how the audience would respond to these anecdotal queries to warm and lively up the gathering for the session!
And when he’s about to leave the venue, let the president veer off the security-detailed path, go down to the floor and shake hands with as many of the attendees as possible, and wave enthusiastically to the rest he’s unable to reach. This is how Buhari can accessibly humanize himself before “ordinary” Nigerians.

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That Lagos roads might be whole again

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It’s that time of the year when people take stock of what went right and what went wrong or was left undone. As a Lagosian and a commuter who has traversed the length and breadth of this boisterous city and clocked so many miles on the roads in 2017, I think that I am competent to speak on how our roads can become whole again with a view to making life fruitful for all Lagosians in 2018.

Every progressive society depends heavily on efficient roads. It is against this backdrop that the current efforts of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode must be commended. The pedestrian bridges, flyovers, slip roads and lay-bys, paved area beside main roads, where cars and buses stop temporarily to let others pass, which now dot numerous major roads in Lagos have been a huge blessing in that they have eased vehicular and pedestrian movements especially at peak periods.

In order to consolidate on these gains and make our roads whole again, these three things need to happen. First, the state government needs to aggressively drive the water transportation system as a viable alternative means of conveyance via a public-private partnership model. How do we rationalize the fact that 30% of this state is covered by water and only 0.34% of over 22 million people living in Lagos State utilise this mode of transport? So clearly, there is need to ramp up efforts in this area.

Second, Lagosians must commit to being disciplined and law-abiding. This is because a lot of the traffic congestions which we experience daily and have resulted in unpredictable travel times, excessive loss of energy, and loss of precious man-hours can be tied down to one thing – indiscipline by road users. This is a non-negotiable deal breaker if we are going to reclaim sanity on Lagos roads.

Third and very critically, because our roads do not pay for themselves, the government must find innovative approaches to financing the roads and other transport systems. For example, some have argued that the current motor vehicle licensing system is somewhat lopsided, disjointed and anachronistic. In fact, other analysts have even argued further that the current rates for vehicle licenses are not commensurate with present economic realities and as such, there might be a need for increase or the government could simply introduce a road usage tax as is obtainable in other climes. Whichever way the pendulum swings, the government has got to be creative and tackle this in a way that is just and equitable.

It goes without saying that improvement to transport systems can enhance economic growth via cost reduction and increasing the reliability of movement for goods and people, thereby increasing productivity. Better transport systems have also helped to expand access to new markets for goods and services. Therefore, there is urgent need for the state government to prioritize and reinvest in this critical driver of future economic growth and competitiveness while citizens must play their roles in a law-abiding manner to create a win-win for Lagos State and allow the state remain the exemplar and shining beacon that it is for years to come. Indeed, and in truth, our roads will be whole again.

•Adeagbo, a Lagos resident, works in the creative industry.

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Between Obasanjo’s Third Force and Third Fault

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Is the leitmotif of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s proposal of a National Coalition (NC) geared towards a complete change of the modus of appropriating the structures of political administration in Nigeria or essentially targeted at stopping either President Muhammadu Buhari or former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, from becoming president in 2019?

If Obasanjo’s raison d’état is to sincerely contribute to the process of entrusting the governance of the nation in the hands of a set of new breed leaders who are more patriotic and more technologically-attuned to nation-building than members of the old guard who have mostly dominated the political terrain without adding substantial value to government, then I am in pari materia with him on the subject.

Otherwise, it will smack of egotism for the former president’s latest gambit to be located in his single-minded resolve to only ensure that neither Buhari nor Atiku emerges as president in 2019. The timing of his celebrated January 23, 2018 press statement seems to reinforce the likely thesis that Obasanjo is out to upstage the applecart of Buhari’s presidency and ensure that Atiku’s quest for presidential power, for the fifth time, is stymied.

Hate him or love him, the former president does not care as long as he is not encumbered in dancing to the political rhythm of his soul. He speaks truth to power even if his antecedents in office do not provide a strong moral ground for him to pontificate about proper conduct in office and/or exhort others to do what he either did not do or did but did not do well.

Funnily enough, as some people have said, Obasanjo’s uncanny way of presenting as a moral compass in Nigeria’s political terrain still baffles. This messenger may be problematic; his messages are always in apple-pie order.

He had gleefully exposed what appears to be the underbelly of Buhari’s government. He had spoken to the specifics of Buhari’s failings as president. Those who are passionate about Buhari obviously hate Obasanjo for the obtrusive deconstruction of their hero. The conversation around the purported failure of leadership under Buhari’s watch is raging to the discomfort of minders of his government and leaders of his APC.

But then, there is no doubt that Nigeria and Nigerians have suffered Obasanjo for too long with his inexplicable savvy to reinvent himself. I only hope that, this time round, he is not pushing his luck too far with his somewhat suspicious idea of a Third Force that will not be candidate-sponsoring.

This is the bugaboo in his suggestion on how to exit the gloomy picture that he painted about government and governance presently in the country.
What type of experimentation is that and what result is it designed to produce in a democracy where political parties are the platforms that can sponsor and have traditionally sponsored candidates? We are yet to get to the intersection where the platform of independent candidates will kick in to mitigate the tyranny of ruling parties, leading opposition parties and the rash of small briefcase parties.

Truly, I wonder how the Third Force will be able to actualise its agenda of birthing a new Nigeria without transforming into a party. Or is the Third Force going to direct its members, who have different political leanings, affiliations as well as sympathy and fidelity to vested interests with ambition to occupy public offices, to dump them and move into a party for the purpose of building and driving a nationwide consensus on the 2019 presidential power politics?

If the plan by Obasanjo and other promoters of the National Coalition or Third Force is to use it to mobilise Nigerians to enlist in the rigorous process of effecting a leadership change, it will not be out of place to contemplate who benefits eventually from the process. Who benefits? It may be too early in the day for dispassionate watchers of the political process to fathom, but the former president had already foreclosed some possibilities.

“Neither APC nor PDP” was his apocalyptic summation in the conclusion of his treatise with which he deconstructed Buhari as non-performing and, in a better way that he would wish Nigerians to see the president, incompetent.
I am sure Obasanjo has his answer to the question of a possible beneficiary of the intervention by a pan-Nigerian Third Force and this is what further renders his intervention suspicious. He is not that altruistic to allow the process to throw up someone that he probably has not predetermined.

He has always desired to control the presidency of Nigeria. That informed his first fault in 2007 when he coupled the Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan presidency. He discovered to his chagrin that he could not control Yar’Adua.

When Yar’Adua was terminally ill, he supported the call for his resignation. He unsympathetically spurned the secrecy around Yar’Adua’s health status. With the death of Yar’Adua, he gladly supported Jonathan to complete Yar’Adua’s term and to contest the presidency in 2011, thinking that the timid-looking man who grew up without shoes would be easily manipulable. He suffered a back-to-back disappointment under the PDP arrangement.

In 2015, he decided that the failed power contraption should be dismantled and he decided to promote Buhari’s presidency on the basis of a thesis that has now blown up in his face that anybody but Jonathan would be good as president. The perceived failure of Buhari accentuates the ugly dimensions of Obasanjo’s second fault under the APC deal.

Something tells me Obasanjo is headed for a third fault with his Third Force project. Because his leadership profile and antecedents in office are more writ large than his professed patriotism and love of country, the passion he is investing in the project is thus indicted on those scores. Yet, he would do anything to ensure that Buhari does not return as president.

Suddenly, it does not matter anymore to the former president that he is a member of the old guards that have benefitted so hugely from the infamous political structures with which they have perpetuated themselves in power. They gregariously deployed the structures to service their enlightened self-interests and to promote politics of prebendalism.

Without a sense of contradiction, and I stand to be challenged, Obasajo remains the greatest beneficiary of trouble-free access to national leadership, especially the full panoply of presidential powers in Nigeria’s entire political history. The prognosis, with which he has, without solicitation, assailed our sensibilities, in his characteristic avuncular and oracular manner, even if patently selfish, is fatality for APC and PDP. That is vintage Obasanjo!

He has now forcefully cut a niche for himself as political, not necessarily moral compass in search of a new leadership through the vaudeville of a fast-unfolding political dramaturgy. But unfortunately, his profile in self-adulation as a messiah of sorts, which is somewhat apocryphal, is now a subject of interrogation and derision by Buharists.

Those that have descended heavily on the messenger at the expense of the message are perhaps unaware that Obasanjo’s real politik is actually feeding on the circumstances and egregious failings of political leaderships afflicting the political economy presently. That is where the justification for his intervention lies. But as for his Third Force, time will tell whether or not it will unravel as his third fault.

•Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch, writes via: ojwonderngr@yahoo.com

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Jacob Zuma out, Cyril Ramaphosa in

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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.

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