“I take it that what this administration has offered is the best they can offer, given that they have covered over three quarters of the time allocated to them”
– Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah
I ask the above question because it appears President Muhammadu Buhari is on auto drive rolling from one mistake to the other and nobody appears willing to help him apply some breaks and listen to his wailing passengers.
It now seems obvious that the President has exhausted himself and offered his best as cited by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rev Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah in the opening quotes above.
Honestly I sympathized with the President when I heard him tell Catholic Bishops of Nigeria who visited him, that it’s dishonest to say that he is not working hard to address the national challenges. He may be right, who knows if he has been putting extra man hour to his national service to what he used to. With dangerous sycophants always around who knows what he hears about his performance in office after all one APC governor said there is no better alternative to him.
But truth is that this President should be helped to move like one anxious to get things right, after all, the constitution framers envisaged that a President is not going to be an all-knowing hence the provision for hundreds of various experts as aides to help him perform optimally. Evidently, the President’s performance in the last 32 months on the throne cannot qualify among the best any government can offer.
When the President reels from one avoidable misstep to the other amidst complaints from reasonable members of the public and nothing is done to check it, then something is fundamentally wrong not only to the President but to all the people around him. It’s not common and very strange too that all the eggs in the basket would be rotten and all the people in the vicinity none perceives the smell.
It’s not unlikely that some persons very close to the President are really working hard to ensure he never come out of the tight corner his government has found itself.
Nothing explains this impression than the fact that the President upon being embattled from all fronts continues to multiple his errors. There is clearly no effort from the regime to trouble shoot any of its myriads of errors, rather it continues to add to it.
When this administration that prides itself as anti-corruption crusader fraudulently in a rogue-like manner gave red carpet treatment to one of the nation’s most wanted public fund thief, Abdulrasheed Maina, anti-corruption watchers knew something grievous was amiss. Not only bringing the fugitive home but promoting and nurturing him to run for governor of his state ahead of 2019.
When a perplexed nation discovered and cried blue murder, the panicky Presidency claiming innocence threw him out and facilitated his escape again from the law. But from his hiding, the fugitive has been talking, clinically establishing one fact, that the entire Presidential apparatchiks were aware of his bizarre home coming and in fact that they facilitated it. No reasonable denial yet has been tendered to Nigerians on the corroboration established by Maina on the ruling power.
Just as the nation was trying to get over that came the appointment of the Director General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmad Rufai Abuabakar. So many questionable issues came up on his appointment, one he is not qualified, he is a citizen of Chad, and he failed a promotion examination among others, but perhaps more intriguing is the fact that he was Secretary of the Babagana Kingibe Committee that looked into the affairs of the agency and recommended that outsiders should not be appointed to head the place but must come from within.
In addition to going in breach of his own report, he was junior to other officers within yet they went for him from Katsina State notwithstanding that the head of the sister agency, the DSS, is also in the hand of a Katsina born with the Commander-in-Chief, the President also from Katsina State. What name do we call this in a country of over 180 million people, over 250 ethnic groups, 774 local government areas, 36 states of the federation.
The Presidency has however responded to the NIA saga by clearing him of some of the allegations like failing examination and not being a Nigerian, but remained mute on other aspects bordering on coming from outside the establishment and the issue of nepotism and clannishness.
While the nation is still battling to put the NIA thing behind came yet another matter of the controversial reinstatement of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, who the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, suspended over allegation of fraud in the agency.
The minister rightly felt he should step aside while probe of the allegation is on and he refused and had to be forced out.
Now fresh controversy is raging that while the probe is yet to end, the President has directed he returns to his duty post.
The loquacious government mouthpiece, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed claims his return would not affect the probe, meaning technically that the minister was wrong abnitio in suspending him.
Still very green in our heads is the squabble between Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru.
What a strange coincident that head of agencies at war with their supervising ministers are Northerners and Muslims and their ministers Southerners and Christians. Going by eventual losers in the previous cases as it were, the Minister of Finance, a Southerner and a Christian, is already jittery that her ongoing battle with the head of Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), a northerner and a Muslim, might not go her way.
This is an era you cannot fight a northerner and go free, woe to you if he is a Fulani by blood or even by acquaintance.
However, one is of the view that even if the President is not going to ask for votes again, he should by his actions be portrayed as a true statesman anxious to leave behind an enduring legacy of a man who opened his tenure declaring himself as belonging to nobody.
…Governors and their sycophantic outfits
If you are wondering why there are many missteps by this administration just follow me as I expose the toadies abetting it. Before now jobbers and those at the corridor of power are associated with this dangerous disease called sycophancy in our system, but lately elected state chief executives called governors have become captains in this unworthy game of fawning.
Sample one: Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai after insensitively leading seven state governors from the North to endorse President Buhari for a second term at a time the nation was in mourning for killings in Benue State went further to touch our sensibilities by saying that President Buhari remains the best alternative for this country.
Sample two: Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State after visiting Buhari the day 73 persons of his fellow Middle Belters were being buried in Benue, rather than empathy in trying to impress his host told lies about how he warned his colleague Benue Governor about anti-grazing law passed by his state lawmakers. When he was confronted he denied, when the video was shown he apologized.
Sample three: The youngest of the 36 state governors who has been making news largely for the wrong reasons since his mystery emergence courtesy of a dead man’s votes, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State last week after visiting Buhari lambasted Catholic Bishops for being honest enough to tell Buhari that his goodwill was fast depleting. The governor said in reaction that those who are partners in looting of funds are those not happy with Buhari. The governor like his Plateau counterpart has apologized to the Bishops as usual blaming the media for misrepresenting him.
One can go on and on listing this debauch in our system that goes to expose the quality of persons in critical positions in our land. God help this country.
Legal, constitutional ignorance in voters’ registration
The framers or designers of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) envisage that those that will be elected and eventually assume office under the constitution must be elected through the legitimate votes of the Nigerian people. The legitimate voters on Election Day are qualified registrants whose names are on the voters’ row. The legitimate voters are those that have attained the majority age of 18 years and do not suffer age disability and other disqualifying conditions.
Fidelity to the constitution and the law presupposes that on no account must anyone including the political parties, candidates in an election, the electoral management body and other stakeholders in the electoral process manipulate or skew the voters’ register in such a way as to deliver predetermined outcomes. A fraudulent voters’ row anchored on strange names, unqualified registrants and those that suffer registration disability can only deliver predetermined and strange outcomes.
Electoral democracy demands and envisages that that those that must exercise their democratic franchise are those that understand the process and the values of electoral democracy and have the capacity to make informed choices. Conscious, informed and rational choices can only be made by those that understand the electoral process, understand the demands of democracy; understand the programmes and policies of candidates and political parties; are able to decipher the real from the unreal and understands the truth as opposed to propaganda.
Unfortunately, sometimes, democracy and the electoral process can deliver bizarre outcomes and those that are seen to be rational and can make informed choices make choices that are difficult to understand and explain. But having attained the age of 18 years, the law and the constitution ascribe maturity to those that are 18 years and above and ascribe the ability to make choices to them whether those choices are really informed or not.
The Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) (designed to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections) has made elaborate provisions for the registration of persons qualified to vote. The framers of the 1999 Constitution and the designers of the Electoral Act built in safeguards that will ensure that only qualified Nigerian registrants are able to register. The designers of the Electoral Act understand the diversity of the country and took into consideration this diversity in the formulation of the registration procedures. The designers of the Electoral Act understand that society is dynamic and that population movement and other emergencies may affect registered voters requiring them to move from one place to the other. The designers of the Electoral Act know that some persons may decide to undermine the voters’ registration process and prescribed stiff punishment for such elements.
Section 9 of the Electoral Act gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the exclusive right to compile, maintain, and update on a continuous basis, a National Register of Voters which shall include the names of all persons entitled to vote in any Federal, State or Local Government or Area Council elections.
More importantly, the Electoral Act recognises the fact that Nigeria is a big country and that on a continuous basis, the youth of our country attains the age of 18 and are qualified to be registered and to vote in an election. The designers of the Electoral Act know and appreciate the fact that it will be unconstitutional and undemocratic to insist that those that attain the age of 18 years immediately after a general elections cycle must wait for four years before growing up as voters. The issue of continuous voters’ registration is more germane with the institutionalization of “off season” elections that have become a permanent feature of our electoral process.
Election Petition Tribunals and the courts in the exercise of their constitutional, judicial and electoral duties and functions have more or less permanently rescheduled elections in some of the states of the federation. The states include Edo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. The National and State Assemblies have recorded deaths and removals of members and the vacancies created in these states must be filled. On the basis of these, section 10 of the Electoral Act provides that there shall be continuous registration of all persons qualified to be registered as voters.
Each applicant under the continuous voters’ registration system shall appear in person at the registration venue with any of the following documents, namely, birth or baptismal certificate; national passport, identity card or drivers licence; or any other document that will prove the identity, age and nationality of the applicant.
Ordinarily, a person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person is a citizen of Nigeria; has attained the age of 18 years; is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the local government/area council or ward covered by the registration centre; presents himself to the registration officers of the commission for registration as a voter; and is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.
Furthermore, no person is permitted to register in more than one registration centre and any person that registers in more than one registration centre commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N100, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
The framers of the constitution recognise that Nigerians are entitled to freedom of movement and association. The movement of Nigerians from one ward, local government or state may be voluntary or involuntary. The movement from one place to another may be involuntary in the case of natural displacement caused by natural disasters or environmental factors. The movement of Nigerians may be due to conflict arising from ethnic, communal, pastoral and religious issues. The movement may be due to other factors not envisaged by the lawmakers. It is in this wise that registered voters can transfer their registration from one registration area to another. Hence, a person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state where he is currently resident for his name to be entered on the Transferred Voters’ List for the constituency. The REC shall enter the person’s name in the Transferred Voters’ List if he is satisfied that the applicant is resident in a polling area in the constituency and is registered in another constituency. Thereafter, the electoral officer of the new constituency on the direction of the REC shall assign that person to a polling unit or a polling area in his constituency and indicate in the list the polling unit to which that person is assigned; issue the person with a new voter’s card and retrieves his previous voter’s card; and send a copy of the entry to the electoral officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered and upon receipt of this entry, the electoral officer shall delete the name from the voters’ register.
It is not right and amounts to double registration and a criminal offence for a registered voter to throw away his/her Permanents Voter’s Card and queue for new registration simply because they moved from one registration area to another. Double registration may lead to the excision of the name of a double registrant from the voter’s register using improved technology that detects multiple registrants.
The INEC through the RECs and the Electoral Officers in the various local governments must use the platform of the schools, the churches, the mosques, traditional and religious leaders, the labour movement, the civil society groups and other professional bodies to educate and enlighten the public on the clear provisions of the law relating to the registration of voters.
Nigerians must not be allowed to lose their right to vote on account of legal and constitutional ignorance. It is well and fine if a person chooses not to register. It is well and fine if a person chooses not to vote. The question remains, why do certain persons and parties take special interest in manipulating and corrupting the voters’ register?
APC’s transition to confusion
The outcomes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last weekend’s congresses present a familiar scenario of why political parties in Nigeria remain in their primitive stage. Across the states of Nigeria, it was a rehash of tendencies that have continued to detain our progress and stymie our political growth; impunity, imposition, coronation, selection, ‘unity list’, affirmation, and ‘carry-go’ mentality which breeds its own gang of godfathers and their hallucinatory godsons.
Democracy suffers in the hands of power oligarchs who have perfected the art and act of ensuring that the people remain in perpetual servitude like Machiavellian strictures to sustain their procured loyalty. Some godfathers decided to stay away from the execution hall, having been fully assured that their dictates would carry the day. And it does carry the day. I am pained at the reality we face in the APC.
I am troubled by the fact that APC is now being derisively ridiculed by public discourse suggesting the lack of internal democracy within the party. Going by the way and manner the party got itself into the consciousness of the Nigerian people and consummated an almost impossible merger in the history of Nigeria; the present reality undermines its democratic credentials. It is pointless reminding anyone of the attractions of democracy; free choice, credible processes, election, and freedom of speech, inclusiveness, participation, constructive engagement and collective bargaining. Democracy enforces the concept of majority in the decision making process and not the concept of godfatherism with their array of unpropitious godsons flirting around the political corridors deifying an individual and making him assume a conquistadorial status.
These days, the godfather approximates the collective powers of choice of the people, and decrees orders in magisterial incandescence to point at the direction of the sail. Those who try to raise objection easily get their fingers burnt with a caveat emptor hung on their neck to suggest they are no-go area. But democracy preaches a different thing from what we practice on a regular basis. I am pained that APC; an acronym for progressive-minded party has been dubiously reconfigured to read a different interpretation; “All Parallel Congress”. From the outcome of the congresses across the states, this description eloquently captures the scoring rubrics.
But it is bad news for the party especially on account of its self-proclaimed tendencies that heralded its formation. It is further disturbing when we are told that Katsina State APC, President Buhari’s home state, equally got itself into this potpourri of parallel congress and a faction of it already threatening to exit. That is not cheering news for the APC. If anything, the president, as a leader of the party should have been able to reach out to the organs of the party in the state, listen to their grievances, attend to them and create a level playing field for all.
A division in the party from Katsina State is a bad omen for the APC across the country. Everyone is bound to take inspiration from there in the typical Nigeria’s way of bandwagon effect.
This transition to confusion within the APC underscores the reality of its weak leadership, which also justifies the need to inject a new sense of energy into its mainstream. But my fear would be; I hope the successor leadership would not continue to blame the halitosis on his predecessor the same way the President Buhari has continued to blame the PDP for his rather slow leadership of non-performance. The man who will be succeeding the present leadership, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will be inheriting a lot of divisions, crises, acrimonies, baggage, and factions across the states. It means the former labour leader would have to step in to resolve a lot of crises.
The Oshiomhole that I know has the uncommon ability to engage and sustain political discourse no matter how unassailable they may appear to be; even though some political pundits are wont to conclude that he has become more of a godfather that he fought so vehemently to dethrone in Edo State.
Even at that, he still gives room for a robust and constructive engagement and never shies away from interrogating issues no matter the pitch of the discourse. His native intelligence, intellect and wittiness are attributes that help him to dissect knotty discoursal issues. But beyond the façade of such intellectual strategy to win more friends and less foes, political engagements are dictated by interest common to all.
Rather than focus on the huge challenge of the 2019 elections, he will be bugged down by the unhealthy parallel congresses that have made APC a shadow of itself. But Comrade Oshiomhole would prove his worth if only to justify the confidence repose in him by President Buhari who is unable to reconcile even his home state APC crisis, and also needed the former governor’s energy to fire up the APC weakened adrenaline.
What is not too clear to me is whether Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s one-man reconciliation committee will automatically seize once Adams Oshiomhole comes on stream or whether it will be part of the holistic efforts aimed at repositioning the party for the all-important task of the 2019 elections.
Either way, the decision will be for the party to take, but I am rest assured that Oshiomhole will bring new dynamics into the party that may help it to mitigate all the crises threatening the very foundation of a party that ought to be a model for all.
I would have also expected that the way President Buhari is trying to energize the party, he should have also energized the presidency by simply displaying uncommon courage and patriotism to support someone else to succeed him within the party. Truth be told, the same reasons why Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is being eased out, are also domiciled in the presidency. Oyegun has been variously accused of not giving enough voice to the party. He’s also slow to act and take some far-reaching decisions.
The organs of the party hardly meet. There is no cohesion within the party because of competing interests. And above all, there are sharp practices within the party that do not augur well for a government known for its anti-corruption rhetoric.
The APC-led government has also not shown enough utility-driven leadership to give a sense of direction to Nigerians. There is no national cohesion and the country appears polarized along ethnic, religious and political lines. There is palpable fear in the air as well as intimidation and harassment. The president hardly interacts with Nigerians. The Monthly Media Chat has been suspended. There is no way Nigerians can connect with their president because he’s a man of few words.
But for the Vice President who has been engaging the public through his numerous crosscountry travels, the situation would have been worse. You hardly hear of Economic Team meeting, and the anti-corruption fight has been skewed along political party lines.
There is fear everywhere even though killings and kidnappings have dominated public discourse for sometime now. When you dare say anything, you get phone calls from people expressing concern about one’s safety. You get anonymous threat calls questioning how dare you raise concerns about untoward issues affecting the country. In the fullness of such reality, Mr. President can simply prove bookmakers wrong by throwing up another candidate within the APC to energize governance and leadership of the country.
That way his name will be etched in gold for taking the best decision, in my view, both for the party and the nation. That way also, we will forever remember him as a truly patriotic and altruistic Nigerian leader, but those who are profiting from this present skewed arrangement would shout blue murder
Nigeria’s leadership in the Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is unarguably one of the most dangerous maritime spaces in the world as it now attracts war insurance premium. Threatened by increased piracy, illegal fishing, resource theft and general insecurity, the GoG is analogous to a large swathe of honey in a thorn cluster.
Strategic and lucrative but highly dreaded maritime corridor, the region produces three million litres of crude oil daily with 40 per cent destined for Europe and the United Stated receiving about 30 per cent.
The recent discovery of offshore hydrocarbon deposits in the region has enhanced its status as a geostrategic region in the world. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 53 piracy attacks or attempted attacks were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016 representing 28% of worldwide attacks – including 36 for Nigeria. This region now accounts for 50% of global kidnapping for ransom, making it an extremely dangerous route for maritime business.
On July 3, 2001, States of the region established the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) to tackle the aforementioned problems but with the specific mandate to ensure “cooperation amongst the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea in order to defend their common interest and promote peace and socio-economic development based on the bases of dialogue, consensus, ties of friendship, solidarity and fraternity.”
The treaty was signed in Libreville, Gabon, by the founding member States including Angola, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe. Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo joined the Commission in 2008 for purposes of peace, security and socio economic development. Ghana, in 2013, applied to join the GGC, but that application is yet to be perfected.
Seventeen years after the GGC was established, there is little to show in terms of concrete achievements. It’s acutely disheartening that leaders in the seven member States of the GGC are only beginning to realise the importance of the region and the future potentials of its immense resources.
The blame lays squarely with the leadership of the GGC. As revealed by the director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, during a recent Chatham House speech, “65% of cargo coming into Gulf of Guinea end up in Nigeria; it accounts for 50% – 60% major maritime security incidents that occur in the Gulf of Guinea”.
IMB reports shows that in 2016, there were 53 incidents of piracy or attempted piracy in the GoG with Nigeria alone recording 34 of those attempts. Angola had 5, Congo had 5, Benin had two, Togo had one and Ghana had only one incident.
Out of the 16 crew kidnapping cases in the region in 2016, 10 were in Nigeria while 56 Mariners were kidnapped in 2017 alone off the Niger Delta. These challenges call for a robust response and committed leadership in that regard.
The GGC has a total population of approximately 337.4 million people with Nigeria having at least 55% of that. The second most populous country in the region after Nigeria is the Democratic Republic of Congo with 84 million people showing that benefits of a prosperous GGC will accrue to Nigeria the most just like the losses are devolving on her. Ironically, since the establishment of the GGC, it has never received more than 50% funding of its budget.
As revealed by GGC Executive Secretary, Ambassador Florentina Adenike Ukonga, during a GGC experts meeting held in early 2018, Abuja, since 2009, the budget of the GGC has been pegged at the same level. Meanwhile, only 25% of the annual budget has been released in the last three years. The reality is fraught with total neglect of the commission by the founding States.
At the 4th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the GGC held in Abuja in November 2017, none of the GGC Head of States was in attendance. At best, they sent their Vice-Presidents or Prime Ministers with some States sending Foreign Ministers.
Such attitude speaks to the value and importance the members attach to their agency. Interestingly, at that Assembly, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, emerged as the Chairperson of the GGC, a cap Nigeria should naturally wear with pride given its vantage position in the region. Yet, nothing seems to be changing.
There’s palpable distrust of Nigeria and her commitments by other member States of the GGC.
Such attitude can be addressed and the mistrust doused via exemplary leadership. President Buhari perhaps needs to borrow a leaf from Paul Kagame of Rwanda who on emerging the African Union President earlier in the year, set four African Union flagship projects of the Agenda 2063 in motion including the popular Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM); African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and Freedom of Movement Protocol.
To back up its commitment, the Rwandan parliament has now ratified all the instruments of the AfCFTA, which it signed in March becoming the first AU country to do so. Such defining exemplary leadership is what Nigeria must replicate in the GGC for any progress to be achieved.
The way forward Blue/Ocean economy is worth $7 trillion globally. A huge portion of the Atlantic Ocean consists the present Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria needs to take advantage of the resources and potentials of this rich region to empower the mostly unemployed youths in this region within the next few years. Not doing so will be tantamount to a remarkable failure of leadership and foster insecurity in the GoG.
GGC holds immense promise and opportunities not just for the prosperity of region, but for the entire Africa. It has global strategic importance as the region hosting the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the core of AFRICOM’s area of responsibility.
Meanwhile, illegal fishing is a daily occurrence in waters around the GoG, but arresting violators and interdicting scofflaw vessels will not solve the problem. Nigeria must strategically harness these resources to empower citizens and create enviable livelihood. Collaboration with GCC members remains a priority.
Now that Western nations are drawing close to the GoG especially following recent discovery of hydrocarbon deposits, it is crucial that Nigeria stamps her authority as the go-to partner in the region with influence on what happens and what doesn’t. Nigeria as a matter of priority should endeavour to fund at least 50% of the GGC budget yearly, more so with a Nigerian serving as the Executive Secretary of the Commission.
Such practical assertiveness will not make her a detested regional hegemon. Rather it will speak to her being the driver of collective security and underline the essence of shared responsibilities with each state lifting at her level. Nigeria can also extend a hand of partnership to Africa’s new-found partner, China, on the GoG.
Funding GGC could be one of our main proposals to China at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit that will be held this September in Beijing. Considering Chinese investment on the ambitious “belt and road” initiative and partnership with the A.U. on Agenda 2063, China will relish an opportunity to help in the GoG.
With the spillover of the Libyan crisis on the GoG now manifesting fully with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), the need for cooperation has become compelling. Engaging fully and robustly in the GCC sphere is both a political and strategic imperative for Nigeria.
She is being looked up to by her neighbours and partners to assume a proactive leadership role. Moreover, the rich resources of Nigeria and Angola, if wellmanaged and deployed, will sufficiently fund 100% of the GGC budget without affecting both countries’ primary financial commitments at the national and other international levels.
But one thing is clear, if Nigeria fails to assume its leadership responsibilities in the GGC, no other country will at this point, expect it to play proxy to external interests. Hence, the policy relating to GCC must be reviewed, and made more robust. Both national and regional strategic consideration compel that this subject must be accorded priority in the immediate term.
•Udeh and Obaze are of the Selonnes Consult Ltd. Awka.
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