Archive for July 2015

Buhari’s 100-Day Honeymoon

July 31, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 31, 2015

In the heat of the recent noise about gay rights and related issues in some Western countries, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, proposed to marry the United States President, Barack Obama. If Obama had accepted, perhaps, the two presidents would have ended up enjoying a fantastic honeymoon now.

When our own President, Muhammadu Buhari, visited the US recently, the issue of gay marriage also came up. Of course, our President rejected the idea. If he had accepted, perhaps, Obama might have asked him to extend his stay in the US. And that would have been honeymoon made in heaven.

This was the scenario playing in my mind when I read what Bola Ahmed Tinubu said about Buhari being on honeymoon for 100 days. The former Lagos State Governor and national leader of the All Progressives Congress reportedly said, “May 29th was when this president was sworn in. It is an international norm all over the world; there is honeymoon period, at least minimum of 100 days honeymoon. ..The time it takes you to plan, examine, rejig, re-evaluate is more important than the time you just rush into taking action because you are either being sentimental, being emotional and being driven by other forces that are not expected.”

In a way, Tinubu is correct. As the saying goes, he who fails to plan, plans to fail. There is no successful enterprise that is not anchored on adequate planning. Highly successful entrepreneurs build their businesses on a solid foundation called business plan, which encompasses feasibility study, cash-flow analysis, sources of funding, revenue projections and many others.

Those who rush into business they know nothing about crash like a dilapidated aircraft. I experienced it myself after my youth service in 1993/94. I said I was not going to work for anybody and thus dabbled in a business I knew next to nothing about. By the time I realised my follies, my song had changed from “Abraham’s blessings are mine” to “abide with me, o Lord”.

Likewise, the business of governance is not a tea party. It demands rigorous and painstaking plans and strategies. That is why before anybody presents himself for elections, he must have done some form of feasibility studies about the role he aspires to occupy. He must have studied the problems of the society and how to tackle them. This could come in form of a manifesto.

Buhari is not a novice in the business of governance.  He had been there before. For three consecutive times, he contested elections to rule Nigeria. Now, he was elected in March and sworn in on May 29, 2015.  Honeymoons usually last for about one month. We have spent two months already and the ruling party is still giving excuses and engineering fights in the National Assembly.

This is unacceptable. Nigerians are not asking their president to clear the systemic rot that has afflicted the country for ages in just two months. They are not asking him to complete the Second Niger Bridge within 100 days in office. They are not protesting against the non-completion of the Benin-Ore Expressway. They are not angry that we don’t yet have electricity 24 hours a day.

But they are wondering why the spate of insecurity has worsened in the last two months. The coming of Buhari  gave hope that Boko Haram would soon be a thing of the past. In fact, the ruling party promised that it would root out the monster in two months of assuming power. But what have we seen so far?

A monster that has made life a nightmare for Nigerians, especially in the North-East. Not only has the spate of suicide bombings increased, but also the number of deaths arising from the activities of the terrorists has risen astronomically.

Our president had met with his Chadian and Nigerien counterparts. Last Wednesday, he met with President Paul Biya of Cameroon and is billed to meet with President Boni Yayi of Benin Republic tomorrow to round off diplomatic shuttles aimed at clipping the wings of the terrorists. The president’s visit to the US also featured discussions on Boko Haram. So far, these shuttles have not yielded much dividend but we have been assured that they soon will. For many compatriots, the honeymoon is getting too long.

And that is why many Nigerians have continued to wonder why there is much delay in the appointment of ministers.  It does not require rocket science to make such appointments. But the president has made us understand that he is still searching for the right people and that the list will not be ready until September. This has put the ministries in a state of uncertainty. Will it also take three months to appoint the Secretary to the Government of the Federation? This is hoping that this particular honeymoon will end in September as promised.

If it takes us this long to appoint ministers, how long will it now take to realise the N5000 monthly upkeep the ruling party promised unemployed Nigerians? What of the one million jobs in the first one year in office and the free food for students? How long will we wait to begin to reap these benefits?

Remember that the president had earlier expressed some reservations about celebrating hundred days in office. He too feels the period is too short to judge him. I agree. But Nigerians are dying. They demand faster approach to solving their problems. I only hope we will celebrate this year’s 100 days with more  smiles than excuses.

Buhari In America

July 24, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 24, 2015

The lamentation of Tony Onyima on his Facebook wall, that the local American media didn’t attach much importance to the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States, made me laugh.

Onyima, my friend and senior colleague, expressed worry about what he called the arrogance of the Western media. He lamented, “Most of the local and national broadcast networks, from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC to CNN have not considered it newsworthy the visit of the President of the most populous black nation…I know if it were in Nigeria the visit will be broadcast live by NTA and other channels. So, what’s going on here?”

What’s going on is that America and indeed, the Western world, don’t consider us very important. Many of them must have heard about Nigeria through the exploits of Boko Haram and advance fee fraudsters. The visit of our President means little or nothing to them. The question is, outside oil and crime, what do we have to offer them? Even, they also produce oil such that they have drastically reduced oil imports from Nigeria.

Mutual relationships are built and sustained on the solid exchange of values. The United States citizens made their country what it is today. And so, they have some values to offer. That is why almost every Nigerian President wants to go to America first. That is why many Nigerian citizens want to go to the US.

And that is why President Barack Obama can afford to ignore visiting us  after over seven years of being in power while our own President, soon after assuming office, rushed to America with a bagful of requests which include begging Obama to visit us.

The US President may not easily agree to visit us because his country has a low estimation of Nigeria. They had denied our country weapons to prosecute the Boko Haram war because of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by our forces.

Our president put it this way, “In the face of abduction of innocent schoolgirls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in the markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate  weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.”

You see what I mean? We have tied our fate to America, and Obama can afford to dictate to us to legalise gay marriage, which is against our constitution, or no weapons for us. Our president may have rejected the same-sex marriage proposal from Obama but do we have the muscles to stand by that decision if the US seriously insists on having her way?

The truth is that we need to enhance our value so as to become relevant in the world. The Western world massages our ego by calling us the most populous black nation on earth. But big population alone will get us nowhere.

Our destiny lies in our hands. President Buhari sums it up, “The international community can only assist, but the hard work belongs to Nigerians and their government. I will as President, lead from the front, but all Nigerians, including the opposition parties, civil society, business and religious leaders, public servants, labour unions, the youth and professional associations all have important roles to play to get our country back on a sound economic footing.”

I completely agree.

Ambode And Ndigbo In Lagos

July 17, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 17, 2015

Akinwunmi Ambode went through some storms to emerge the current Governor of Lagos State. The last April governorship election threw up a big challenger in the person of Mr Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party. The contest was so fierce that no supporter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)was sure of victory until the final announcement of the result .

The group that made this fierce contest possible was the Igbo. The majority of them campaigned vigorously for Agbaje and the PDP. The tension was so high that the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, reportedly threatened that Igbo would perish in the lagoon if they didn’t vote for the APC candidate.

Fortunately, Ambode won the election and has since assumed office. But barely one month after assuming office, there are rumours and political undercurrents that give room for concern. Some Igbo people are wondering if Ambode is trying to punish Ndigbo for largely voting for the PDP in the last elections.

Let’s examine some scenarios here. First, an Igbo woman, Ruth Uche, gave birth to twins a few weeks ago. The woman had had two other sets of twins previously. Apparently incapable of taking care of his wife and six children, the father of the twins absconded, abandoning his family to their fate. It was Ambode who took over the welfare of this woman and his children. The state government had been pleading with the runaway husband and father to come and take back his family. Could Ambode have done this if he is an Igbo hater?

Secondly, the governor, the other day, appointed an Igbo, Mr. Peter Okonji, as the new General Manager of Lagos Electricity Board. Some of his compatriots criticised him for doing so. As far as they are concerned, such appointments should be reserved only for Lagosians. To the best of my knowledge, Ambode has not reversed the appointment. He simply followed the tradition of his predecessors like Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Raji Fashola who appointed Igbo sons into their cabinet.

On the other side of the coin are some actions which tend to portray Ambode as being anti-Igbo. The demolition of the Ladipo auto spare parts market comes to mind here. A good number of Igbo people have interpreted the demolition to mean punishment against Igbo for not voting the APC. The authorities concerned allegedly did not give adequate notice to the traders before taking the action. This has caused a lot of trauma to the affected people.

Even the Founder/President of the Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, condemned the action. In an advertorial published recently, Fasehun said, “The ongoing demolition of the Ladipo Auto Spare Markets has all the trappings of political oppression and MUST be stopped forthwith. The largely Igbo businessmen in the complex are even being prevented from accessing and transferring their goods. This step by the APC government in Lagos is vindictive, infantile and malicious. The Igbo people voted according to their conscience during the governorship and legislative polls and they should not be subjected to political victimisation.”

Though the state government has assured traders that it has no plans to demolish the market, there is another disturbing issue concerning the welfare of the Igbo in Lagos. It is called land revalidation in the Okota area of Lagos. Unconfirmed reports have it that the land authorities in Lagos, having discovered that the majority of the inhabitants of Okota are Igbo, allegedly decided to milk the landlords of the area.

What the authorities purportedly do is that if you own a land at Okota, you go for revalidation by paying extra N5m. But what will be written on your receipt is N2m. Whoever fails to do so may lose his property.

Igbo residents of this area also believe government is further punishing them by neglecting their roads. True, most of the roads at Okota are horrible. The Ago Palace Way is a motorist’s nightmare. Fashola’s government started reconstruction of the road, but the work stopped at the Century Bus Stop area because of some legal issues.

Residents heaved a sigh of relief when it appeared that work had resumed there. But now, the new government has stopped the work again. Media reports indicated that the government suspended the work to re-evaluate the contract because the amount of money spent does not equate the volume of work done. While that is being done, the residents continue to groan in agony.

Igbo people are largely migrants who leave their ancestral homes to develop other areas. That is why they are the worst hit whenever there is any crisis in any part of the country. They have lost billions of Naira worth of property in the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the north. After the civil war, a lot of Igbo lost their property in Rivers State in the so-called abandoned property saga. It is high time Igbo began to think home.

By and large, I don’t believe Ambode hates Igbo. Neither do I believe that the Yoruba hate Igbo. A great number of my friends are Yoruba. Many Igbo are married to Yoruba and vice versa. Even the so-called abandoned property saga did not affect Igbo as such in Lagos.

Ultimately, we are all Nigerians condemned to live together as one. The hate campaign that reared its head in some quarters during  electioneering and immediately after elections is unfortunate. Agbaje is a Lagosian like Ambode. So, even if Igbo voted for Agbaje, it does not make him an Igbo. He remains a Yoruba. Politicians are the ones fanning the embers of hatred to achieve their selfish ambitions.

Ambode is a gentleman. He has no reason to hate the Igbo in Lagos. But he should look into the fears and concerns of the people so as to reassure them that he is the governor of all.

Fake Pastors, Doctors And Gullible Nigerians

July 10, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 10, 1015

I was listening to a phone-in radio programme anchored by a popular Lagos pastor the other day. A lot of people called to pour out their problems for which the pastor  proffered solutions. There was this particular young lady who called. Immediately the pastor heard her voice, and without trying to find out what the woman’s headache was, he diagnosed lack of husband as the problem.

He assured the lady that it would be well, and that soon, the man meant for her would locate her. When the woman finally spoke, it wasn’t husband that made her to call in the first place. But of course, she was happy that a revered man of God spoke to her. She was asked to sow a seed as a first step towards solving her problems.

In many parts of Nigeria, fake men of God are everywhere. They see vision. They predict the future. They tell people what they want to hear. They are not after the salvation of souls. All they are after is to persuade people to submit their little earnings to them in the name of tithe.

‘Men of God’ are not the only culprits. Earlier this week, there were reports that a certain Martins Ugwu Okpeh from Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State paraded himself as a medical doctor.  For nine years, he worked in the Federal Ministry of Health and even became the branch chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in 2008.  He also participated as Ebola volunteer, saying, “Severally, there were biometrics verification, but I survived them. ..The ministry is porous.”

What of fake police, fake soldiers, fake journalists and so on? Just the other day, the Police in Lagos arrested one Godwin Akhenamen for parading himself as a policeman. He did this for 12 years without detection. And many people fell for his antics. He was always entering public transport without paying any fare.

In Lagos, once you are in uniform, you choose to pay or not to pay transport fare. Some conductors like it because when they get to a police checkpoint, all they need to do is to shout ‘staff’ and they will be allowed to go without paying the usual bribes.

When asked if he knew Solomon Arase, Akhenamen displayed his true colours. “Who is Arase? I don’t know him. Did the man accuse me of anything because that name sounds like my village people? I am the only one who knows that I am a fake policeman,” he said.

We find this type of character in many professions. Among lawyers, journalists, engineers and many others, they are there. A lot of the people who claim to be engineers are not. They collect building contracts and do sub-standard work. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes, their buildings collapse. The fake journalists gatecrash at events and begin to ask for brown envelope before the event ends. They have no shame, no reputation and bring bad image to the profession they are faking.

The tragedy of this is that many Nigerians don’t ask questions. They don’t subject most claims to rational reasoning or logic. Some of them rationalise any action as the will of God. And because we are the most religious country in the world, most of us believe without question once God is mentioned.

That is why as early as 8am, some people congregate at a warehouse to disturb God in the name of prayers. Things are hard these days. But some people believe the solution is not in looking for what to do to earn a living but in praying, casting and binding imaginary enemies. They believe the cause of their problem is in the village. Spiritual attack is the word they mostly deploy.

But even the bible tells us that people perish for lack of knowledge. The point is, most Nigerians are perishing for lack of knowledge. Some people say if you want to hide anything from Nigerians, you put it in a book. We don’t read. We don’t show any interest to acquire knowledge. That is why we swallow whatever so-called men of God tell us as gospel truth.

No doubt, there are genuine men of God. When you see such people, you know. They radiate honesty, humility and selflessness. They are not much after prosperity and the things of this world. To them, vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.

Let us begin to ask questions in this country because asking questions leads us to getting answers. If Thomas Edison did not ask questions, he would not have invented electric light bulb. Bill Gates founded Microsoft because he broke with tradition and asked questions. Aeroplanes, cars, phones and many other inventions were products of questions and research.

We are too docile, too fetish and too backward. When somebody comes to tell you that God told him certain things about you, why not interrogate the person to tell you how and when God spoke to him? When a job seeker comes with all manner of certificates, why not try to authenticate the originality of those certificates?

A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salihu Buhari, presented fake certificates and became the number four citizen of this country for many months before he was exposed.

The day we will learn to ask questions, and probe every claim from anybody, that day will be our liberation day.

Exporting Boko Haram To Anambra

July 3, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 3, 2015

Donatus was a Maiduguri-based businessman. All through his adult life, he knew no other lucrative location for business than the Borno state capital. He spoke Hausa fluently, made friends with many Northerners and imbibed a lot of their way of life.

In 2012, Dona, as he was fondly called, was preparing to leave the North for good. Not that he didn’t like the people anymore. But the murderous activities of Boko Haram terrorists prompted his bid to relocate to the East. That really never happened.

In March 2012, some gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members struck in his area. People started running helter-skelter. But before he realised what was amiss, he had been gunned down. Rather than come back alive as he planned, it was his corpse we received with tears. Dona, my uncle, left behind a wife and five children.

Prior to this personal loss, many Anambrarians, nay South-Easterners, had lost many of their loved ones to the dreaded terrorists. In one moment of madness, they invaded a place where some Anambra people were holding town union meeting and slaughtered them like fowls. Some have had their shops looted. Some had lost their houses. Some had lost their entire means of livelihood. Many others had since relocated to other places outside the North.

It is in this context that one can appreciate the massive protests that trailed the alleged transfer of some Boko Haram captives to Aguata prison in Anambra. The first protest took place across the state last Saturday. Traders trooped out in their thousands, chanting Igbo solidarity songs and waving anti-Boko Haram placards. Then, last Tuesday, similar protests rocked Ekwulobia, the headquarters of Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra.

The President General of the South-East Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (SEMATAS), Okwudili Ezenwankwo, was quoted to have confirmed that Boko Haram detainees were moved into Ekwulobia last Sunday night. The concern of the people of the state is that bringing Boko Haram detainees to their prisons poses some dangers. Knowing the antecedents of the group, they can invade the prisons to free their members. They can begin to pay visits to the areas where their members are in detention and start plotting how to plant bombs in strategic places.

The fear of the people is not misplaced. There is no need recalling the atrocities of the terrorists in the North. Be it in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe or Kano, Boko Haram has done and continues to do a lot of havoc in the society. They have killed many innocent people. Last year, they kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from a community called Chibok and up until date, the girls are yet to be found.

Latest reports indicate that the girls may have been co-opted into fighting for the militants. One of the women who recently escaped from the Sambisa forest stronghold of the group, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that “people were tied and laid down and …the Chibok girls slit their throats.”

People of the South-East have seen war and do not want to see it anymore. They suffered untold hardship and deprivation during the 30-month civil war and do not want Boko Haram to bring another round of humanitarian crisis to them.

Even the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari have not brought any respite in the murderous tendencies of the blood-thirsty group. It is as if the coming of Buhari has propelled them to launch more attacks.

The annoying thing about the whole episode is the attempt to politicise the situation. For instance, the Anambra State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, accused the state government of sponsoring the traders’ protest. The state chairman of the party, Emeka Ibeh, reportedly advised all APC members in the state to “take reasonable step to protect the party, themselves and their properties against any premeditated hate campaign or attendant actions masterminded by the APGA-led government in Anambra State.”

I don’t see why anybody will want to politicise this kind of issue. We are talking of a major threat to the security of a group and someone is talking of APGA-led government trying to undermine the APC-led Federal Government. On what basis is this allegation being made?

Is APC saying that Governor Willie Obiano fabricated the story? The governor had urged his people to remain calm. In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information,  Culture and Tourism, Dr (Mrs) Uju Nwogu, Obiano noted that extensive consultations were going on and that all relevant authorities were being reached.

“Chief Willie Obiano as the Governor of Anambra State, remains the most concerned and disturbed always, over any issue bothering his people. Ndi Anambra are therefore requested to be calm, remain law abiding and go about their normal businesses as His Excellency would explore all means to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” the statement noted.

Ndigbo may not have voted for the APC in the last general elections, but is that why the ruling party wants to punish them by exporting Boko Haram terrorists to their small prisons? It is bad enough that the terrorists are ravaging the North. It will be worse if government deliberately escalates the problem to other parts of the country.

The spirit of Donatus and all those who lost their lives to the crisis will not allow that to happen.