Archive for May 2018

2019 and Hameed Ali’s unquantifiable love for Buhari

May 28, 2018

By Casmir Igbokwe

The official age for Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is 75. If he wins a second term in office next year, he will be 80 years by the time he completes his tenure in 2023. If it were to be in Uganda, he would no longer qualify to be President. But here, some of his supporters think the best decision he has taken this year is to seek re-election. This is not surprising because no good son tells the whole world that his mother is not a virgin.

Last week, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, led a delegation of the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) to Aso Villa on a courtesy visit to the President.

In his speech on the occasion, Ali said, “I have said it and I will repeat it here, Mr. President, with all due respect, at 70-plus, with good retirement benefits and with your house in Daura, if I were you, I would see no reason to be in this arena.”

According to him, Buhari wants a second term because he loves Nigeria and has left his comfort to serve the country.

Which comfort? Is Buhari’s house in Daura more comfortable than Aso Villa? The Customs boss provides a likely answer: “Mr. President, it is always politics, and when politicians speak they speak with two sides of their mouth.”

In the spirit of this doublespeak, Ali continued: “Four years back, some of us from the North East were not praying in the mosque, some of us from the North East had moved from our places of abode to settle somewhere else. Today, we can sleep with eyes closed; today, I drive at midnight; today, we can breathe the air and, most importantly, those of us who are Muslims can pray in the mosque during Ramadan. Today we have that security. What else are we looking for?”

Wonderful! It appears Ali has been on vacation outside Nigeria. That, perhaps, is why his sound sleep with two closed eyes has not allowed him to see the incessant killings in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kaduna and many other parts of the country.

Perhaps, the entire Catholic faithful in Nigeria who embarked on nationwide protests against the killings in the country last Tuesday are stupid. Perhaps also, the leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, is insane. After a meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, last week, Fasoranti reportedly said, “Nothing is being done properly in this country presently. Look at the killings in the North; the President is very silent about it. We are all Nigerians; if he can keep silent about the killing of his people; that is bad enough.”

Ali’s political inclination has also blinded him to the economic realities in the country today. According to him, Nigeria’s economy has never had it so good. Only lazy people, he said, complained that they were hungry. What this means is that the over 100 million Nigerians who live below poverty level are lazy. It means that the rise in unemployment rate from 14.2 per cent to 18.8 per cent in 2017 is because these lazy Nigerians don’t want to work. I don’t really blame the Customs boss. He is feeding fat from the current system and he has to defend it by all means.

No doubt, the President has failed in his main duties towards his fellow citizens. He may have personal integrity, but it takes more than that to govern a country like Nigeria. Our President needs to be mentally and physically alert and should purge himself of ethnic/religious bias and nepotism.

The questions are: is Buhari physically and mentally alert to tackle the intricacies of governing Nigeria? Should age really matter in the choice of the President of a country? Should a presidential candidate be transparent about his health status?

For me, age is just a number. What should matter to us is physiological age rather than chronological age. A 70-year-old man, for instance, can be sharper and healthier than some 50-year-olds. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua, for instance, was 55 years when he sought to become President in 2007. But he did not last beyond three years in office.

The usual perception is that younger people will not be stuck in the status quo or older ways of doing things. But it does not necessarily follow. You may be old but focus more on what young people want and care about.

What should bother us is the health status of whoever wants to be President. President Buhari has visited London for medical vacation at least four times since last year. In one of the trips last year, he spent over 100 days in London. He is yet to inform Nigerians what he is actually suffering from. His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said recently that Buhari was the only person who could reveal his ailment. According to him, details about the President’s health are private and personal.

Yes, health records of any person should be personal and private. But when it comes to the records of a presidential candidate, privacy ceases to matter. Transparency becomes the watchword. For instance, after a year in office, former United States President Chester Arthur (1881-1885) was diagnosed with a kidney condition. He refused to seek a second term in office. In less than two years after leaving office, the man died.

Similarly, the US Republican candidate, John McCain, was 71 during the 2008 presidential election. He had a history of skin cancer, but when faced with a much younger opponent, Barack Obama, he was compelled to release eight years of medical records to prove that he was capable.

Our President should take a cue from either Arthur or McCain. That is, take a bow if his health condition is serious or release his records to show he is capable.

In any case, campaigns will soon start and that is one way of knowing a candidate who is capable. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to foist the late Yar’Adua on the nation as his successor in 2007, he claimed the man was healthy. To prove that he was fit, the late President even challenged his critics to a game of squash.

At a point, Yar’Adua, who suffered from a kidney condition, broke down and had to be flown abroad for treatment. To dispel the rumour of his death, Obasanjo, at a presidential rally of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abeokuta, placed a curse on the rumour mongers, saying they would die before Yar’Adua. He even phoned the ailing man and bellowed, “Umoru, are you dead?” The man continued to manage his illness until 2010 when he died in office.

My concern here is not just Buhari’s age but the fact that he appears not too fit to face the rigours associated with governing a country like Nigeria. Can he, for instance, face Nigerians in a presidential debate with other candidates? I know many of his supporters and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress will call me names. To them, Buhari is the most qualified candidate to rule Nigeria at this point in time.

I don’t blame them because it is in human nature. For instance, before the 2008 US presidential campaign, a February 2007 Pew poll showed that the majority of Democrats (60 per cent) said they would be less likely to support presidential candidates in their 70s. This, presumably, was because of McCain, a top Republican presidential contender who would have been 72 upon taking office. Democrats also thought the same thing about Ronald Reagan who was 69 at his first inauguration.

But when Hillary Clinton, who would have been 69 years if she had taken office as president in 2016, emerged as a candidate of the Democrats, the party faithful started feeling more positively towards older candidates.

Debate about the age and health of a presidential candidate always tops the agenda in advanced democracies. This is because old age slows one down and is a potent risk factor for different diseases, especially heart attack, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In the run-up to the US presidential election in 2016, a number of people expressed concern about the age of the Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders. If he had succeeded in his bid for the presidency, he would have been 75 years and the oldest person to be elected president. The current US President, Donald Trump, holds that record now. He was elected at 70 and happens to be the oldest person elected at that age for a first term as US President.

In Africa, we have a reputation for old and sit-tight leaders. If not for the intervention of the military in Zimbabwe last year, Robert Mugabe, 94, would have still been parading himself as the President of that country. Since 1986, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has been ruling his country. Now 73, the man, through his ruling party, plans to scrap the constitutional provision that says presidential candidates should not be older than 75. This is so he can stand again in 2021 and probably rule for life.

For Nigeria, the few months ahead are heavily pregnant. Will Buhari succeed? Will he shame his critics with a spectacular win? The answer lies with the Nigerian voters, all things being equal.


Government should beware of religion

May 22, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

A certain South African Prophet, last week, asked his congregants to remove their underwear and wave them in the air during a church service. Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng popularly known as Prophet Mboro told his members to do this in order to attract angels from heaven. The church members, who ululated in joy, acted as instructed and even held their private parts “so that angels can impregnate and bless them.”

It was in this same South Africa that a pastor, Lesego Daniel, asked his followers to eat grass so that they would be closer to God. And they gladly did that. To a rational mind, this may sound strange. But to the underwear-removing and grass-eating worshippers, it is faith at work.

Religion does not operate in the realm of rationality. It invokes a lot of emotions and blind faith. That is why people can kill in the name of God and believe they are heaven bound. And that is why government should beware of it.

If a government is not neutral, how will it handle the superiority contest among different religions? Christians, for instance, believe you can only go to heaven through Jesus Christ. Muslims believe only through Allah will one get to paradise. In the competition to outshine one another and win more converts, religious organizations establish worship centres in nooks and crannies of the country.

In the last three years in Lagos, for instance, the state government registered about 13, 000 religious institutions in the state. Some individuals even go to the extent of building worship centres on their residential or business premises. This comes with the attendant noise pollution.

The Lagos State Government has actually been showing good examples on how government should relate with religious bodies. The state, through the Ministries of Home Affairs and Physical Planning, has commenced moves to address the conversion of residential buildings to religious centres. It has also been working in concert with the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) to address noise pollution by religious bodies.

Besides, the current administration in Lagos State deserves commendation for the pragmatic steps it has taken on the issue of government sponsorship of religious pilgrimages. Before Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode emerged as the governor in 2015, the state government spent an average of N1.5 billion to sponsor people for religious pilgrimages to Israel and Saudi Arabia. But since Ambode came, the Lagos State Government said it saved a total of N4.5billion in the last three years as a result of the decision of the governor to stop the sponsorship. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr Abdulhakeem Abdullateef, said last month that funds saved from the development had been diverted into the construction of roads and other amenities to make life easier for residents.

“What the Governor has said and we have been doing is that the State Government will provide for the welfare of the pilgrims; support them with medical tips; support them with clerics who would guide them to ensure that they are focused on the spiritual objectives of the pilgrimage and not something else,” Abdullateef said.

This is not to say that visiting Mecca or Jerusalem to stone the devil or pray for us sinners is bad. Every true Muslim who has not gone to Mecca sees himself somehow as incomplete. He may end up answering Alhaji ba Mecca, (an Alhaji who has not visited Mecca.) For Christians, Jerusalem or Rome happens to be their own Mecca.

Part of the problem is that some of the pilgrims do not go for spiritual exercises. They see this pilgrimage thing as an opportunity to travel outside the country, or escape from Nigeria and seek asylum abroad. For some of the very old, it is also an avenue to even die in the holy land believing that dying there will catapult them to paradise. Some cheat the system and travel more than once on the account of the State.

It is not right that government at different levels should commit billions of Naira every year to sponsor these types of individuals for pilgrimages. Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, had boasted last year that it had continued to sponsor pilgrimages despite recession. Abubakar’s counterpart in Katsina State, Aminu Masari, said his state had been subsidizing Hajj annually with N1billion.

The question is, since we sponsor Muslim and Christian pilgrims to holy lands, why can’t we sponsor Ifa or Udo Shrine worshippers to Benin Republic or Haiti to visit voodoo sites? Sponsorship of religious pilgrimages is a discrimination against traditional religious worshippers. It is also against the spirit of Section 10, Chapter 1 of the 1999 Constitution. That section states that “the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as a State religion.”

Hypocrisy and selfishness define most of our actions in this country. What some of these government functionaries do is to exploit the religiosity of our people for political gains. They sponsor pilgrimages so as to patronize acolytes and supporters. Sometimes, they deploy government resources for religious crusades that they may not even believe in.

Some of them claim to be strong advocates of Sharia and nearly caused national crisis when they introduced it in their states a few years ago. Today, they show no scruples in marrying 13-year-old girls and doing other things that are at variance with morality and common sense. Some of them visit shrines on Saturday night and take front pew on Sunday morning to chant Holy Ghost fire to the devil and his associates.

Religion is a private affair and should remain so. When government dabbles in religious matters, it unconsciously creates a situation that fosters abnormalities like Boko Haram and the like.

The worrisome thing about this phenomenon is that many of these states sponsoring pilgrimages are so poor that they can’t even pay workers salary. Education and health care are seriously neglected as well. In Zamfara State, with the poverty rate of about 92 per cent, the state of education is so appalling. Despite reducing the cut-off marks for entrance into the Federal Unity Colleges to as low as two out of 200, pupils from the state still find it difficult to fill their slots. Many of them are in the streets soliciting for alms and ending up in one imam’s house for some religious tutelage.

Good enough, hardship has forced some states in the North to back out of pilgrimage sponsorship. Kano and Kaduna are typical examples. In 2016 alone, Kano had reportedly spent N3billion on Hajj. That was the year it decided to put a stop to it.

The Federal Government is not helping matters. In 2015, it announced the discontinuation of state sponsorship of religious pilgrimages as a cost-cutting measure. A year after, it decided to subsidise Hajj. This was even when the Nigerian economy was in recession. At a time manufacturers were finding it difficult to access foreign exchange to import machinery, the Federal Government decided to give concessional exchange rate to pilgrims.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria directed banks and authorised forex dealers to pay Personal Travelling Allowance to intending pilgrims at a concessionary exchange rate of N197 to $1 in 2016. In 2017, it gave a concessionary rate of N305 to $1 when the prevailing rate then was N360 to $1.

While we lose billions of Naira in the name of religion, Saudi Arabia and Israel smile to the banks. In 2015, Saudi Arabia earned $27.9billion from religious tourism. It has projected an increased income of $46.6billion from the same source in 2020. Last year, Israel reportedly earned 20billion shekels from tourists.

Nigeria should also begin to think of making money from religious tourism. We can’t have prominent pastors like Temitope Joshua, David Oyedepo and Enoch Adeboye and not make a lot of money from tourism. The healing/miracle crusades and Holy Ghost nights should attract not just visitors but money as well.

Fortunately, Lagos is thinking in this direction. The other day, the Lagos State Government said that the State’s Tourism Master Plan had adequately captured the potential of spiritual or religious tourism.

According to the state Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the Master Plan, which would be ready by the end of May 2018, was geared toward showcasing the State as a major tourism destination across the world.
“Visitors, who come in for spiritual tourism, most times come for conferences, for spiritual healing and exhibition. It shouldn’t matter to the State what you have come for, what matters to the State is that visitors are coming, when they come, they see our city, they sleep in our hotels, they buy our foods, etc. So it’s all about tourism and entertainment,” Ayorinde said.

Other states should emulate Lagos. Poverty is endemic in the country currently. Rather than waste money on unnecessary expenditure, government should convert our religiosity to money-making venture and then deploy accrued proceeds to the betterment of the masses.

In all, if I choose to remove my underwear in church or even eat grass and snake to get closer to God, so be it as long as it is my personal decision. But when a government begins to pay for me to travel to Jerusalem on a sight-seeing mission otherwise called pilgrimage, then there is every cause to worry.

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, May 21, 2018

Painful smile of Nigerian asylum seekers

May 15, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Sunday Iserian told a fantastic story about Nigeria in Iceland where he lives with his wife and eight-year-old daughter. This Nigerian, according to the story, had applied for asylum in the above-named country. But last July, after nearly two years of waiting, the Iceland Directorate of Immigration rejected his application. “I’m a dead man if I go back to Nigeria,” he said, “but this isn’t about me, it’s about my daughter. I want her to have a chance of a better life.”

Iserian, 32, and his wife, Joy Lucky, claimed to have been subjected to violence, poverty and threats while in Nigeria. Joy claimed to be a victim of sexual slavery while pregnant with her daughter, Mary. Her husband, on his part, claimed to be a victim of political persecution. According to him, he worked as a driver for a so-called leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, who was murdered when he was driving and his car burnt. He said he escaped only to be declared wanted by the government as he was suspected of killing the man.

A newspaper in Iceland quoted Mr. Iserian as backing up his claim with a story from the Sunday Observer indicating that he was declared wanted by the police following the murder. His plight got worse when Boko Haram members allegedly attacked his uncle’s house where he was hiding, killing his uncle and his son. He purportedly fled to a nearby church where he received money to get him away from Nigeria to Libya and onwards to Italy.

Like Sunday, many Nigerians cook up different pathetic stories to curry sympathy, migrate to foreign lands and escape the existential realities at home. Some say they are being persecuted in Nigeria because they are homosexuals. They present newspaper cuttings of some homosexual arrests and claim they are the ones being persecuted. As usual, they always escape miraculously to seek asylum status in foreign lands.

Canada appears to be the most sought after bride now. Many Nigerians reportedly risk walking from the United States to Canada to seek asylum. These Nigerians had either lived in or arrived in the U.S. but are uncertain about the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies.

For instance, one Aisha, a Nigerian single mother of four kids, reportedly travelled from Philadelphia to Manhattan and then spent six hours in the bus to upstate New York and another 30 minutes by taxi to the dead end road at the U.S./Canadian border.

Almost crying, Aisha told CBC News, “Please we need a home; our children need to go to school… I left Nigeria with frustration… In Africa, they want them to go to Arabic school. At a tender age, they will give them to a man. I don’t want that to happen…I can work, I’m an African woman. If I see a job, I will do it. I want a better life for my children.”

Canada has been hearing this type of story. Now, it is not taking it lightly anymore. The country is currently tightening its border control measures. It is also suggesting to America to make its visa procurement requirements tougher for Nigerians. This is to prevent potential Nigerian immigrants from getting U.S. visa and then crossing over to Canada from the U.S.

So far in 2018, more than 7,000 people have reportedly been intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after crossing into Canada at unofficial entry points. About 2,500 crossed into Quebec in the month of April alone. In the past 15 months, more than 26,000 people illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border to file refugee claims. The majority of those intercepted are reported to be Nigerians with a valid U.S. visitor’s visa.

Last Monday, Canada’s ministers of immigration, public security and transportation hinted that three Canadian officials would be assigned to help U.S. visa officers in Lagos. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, is also billed to visit Nigeria this month to discuss the issue with Nigerian government representatives.

Soon, some Nigerians who have genuine reasons to travel to the U.S. will face undue interrogation from a combined team of U.S. and Canadian embassy officials. It is shameful that we have to face this type of humiliation. And it is indicative of the gross leadership failure the country is forced to live with.

Otherwise, why will any Nigerian wish to live in a country like Libya despite the hatred and humiliation the citizens of that country subject our people to? Some two months ago, there were reports that some Libyan returnees from Edo State went back to that North African country. More Nigerians are planning to flee to the country in spite of the inhuman and degrading treatment they encounter along the way. They reportedly prefer to die there to remaining in Nigeria.

Some of them were angry that they were brought back home with little or no serious plans to rehabilitate them. Even the aids the International Organization of Migration, IOM, the European Union and other humanitarian agencies sent to them through the Nigerian government allegedly never got to them.

Those who survive a deadly sea crossing to Italy and some other European countries never wish to come back to Africa. Some of them who succeeded in crossing to Italy last year were miffed that Italian authorities supported Libya’s efforts to return them to the North African country. Seventeen of them sued Italy for violating their rights. Last week, they petitioned the European Court of Human Rights, saying Italy violated multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I don’t really blame these asylum seekers. Even our President also seeks some form of asylum abroad. Or what do you call his frequent medical trips to London? If Nigeria was peaceful and working, many Nigerians would never seek medical or political asylum abroad.

As it is now, we are not fighting any war. But our condition is not better than those of war-torn countries. Virtually in every part of the country, there is one form of killing or the other going on. In the North, Boko Haram is terrorizing people. In the other parts of the country, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and armed robbers are the ones mowing people down.

The situation is such that over two million people have been displaced from their homes in Nigeria. That is why our internally displaced camps are growing by the day.  And even in those camps, the displaced people are not safe. Sometimes, they face starvation or attacks from bandits.

In the midst of all these, the government whose primary responsibility it is to protect lives and property appears helpless. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has been prancing about town and flexing muscle with the Senate. The upper chamber of the legislature summoned him apparently to answer to the poor state of security in the country. But he bluntly refused to appear. Nothing has happened and nothing may ever happen to him on that score.

What riles me most is the attempt to divert attention and justify the poor leadership style of the incumbent government. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has been reeling out statistics of how much the PDP stole when it was in power and how the party underdeveloped Nigeria.

According to Osinbajo, the cases of grand corruption and open looting of public resources during the Jonathan’s regime pauperized Nigeria and left it with little or no savings in the years when oil was selling at 100 to 114 dollars a barrel. By contrast, the Buhari administration was said to be able to do more with less by stopping grand corruption and impunity.

However, whatever this administration claims to have done has not impacted much on the lives of the average Nigerian. The number of poor people grew higher from what it was before it came to power. The unemployment rate in the country rose from 14.2 per cent to 18.8 per cent in 2017. The country’s labour population also increased from 83.9 million in the second quarter to 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017. People in full-time employment declined from 52.7 million in the second quarter of 2017 to 51.1 million in the third quarter.

That was why the Co-Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, recently admonished our government not to concentrate on physical infrastructure to the detriment of human capital development. He advised that the country would do better with strong investments in education and health.

Gates stated, “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.

“In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years.”

So, why will many Nigerians not struggle to check out of their country at all costs? The common thread among the asylum seekers is that they want good life for their children. If they were able to get such good life, good education and good health care, will they not think less of rushing to embrace refugee status in other countries?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind around the Presidency!

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, May 14, 2018.


Marching to 2019 with weapon of great destruction

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Last week, Ngozi Muogbo had a rough time with frustration. As early as 5am, she was at the voter registration centre close to her in Lagos. The first problem was that even at that time, some crowd had gathered. By the time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials came later in the day, the problem had doubled.

The officials started attending to people in a shoddy manner. Some of those who came later were attended to before those who came at 5am. Frustrated, Ngozi had to drop N1, 500. Pronto, she got registered.

A toad, they say, does not run in the day time for nothing. For this young lady to pay money to get what will not ordinarily yield any income to her shows she is up to something. It shows that many Nigerians who wake up as early as 4am to head for various voter registration centres have a mission: They are determined, in spite of all odds, to obtain a strong weapon – Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) – to be able to fire ineffective leaders in 2019.

This determination to show voter’s power did not start today. Prior to the 2011 elections, there was similar huge turnout of voters to get registered. Then, many Nigerians were angry at the way a few cabal hijacked the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s government and prevented Goodluck Jonathan from exercising his powers as the acting President. They were determined to vote Jonathan as President.

By 2015, Jonathan’s government had become corrupt, inept and incompetent. When Muhammadu Buhari appeared as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a number of people heaved a sigh of relief. To them, a disciplined, upright man has come to right the wrongs in the country. They voted Jonathan out.

Unfortunately, Buhari has dashed the huge expectations of many Nigerians. Corruption has not abated. Unemployment has increased. Poverty is on the rise. Killing of innocent citizens is now a daily occurrence. There are anger and frustration in the land. It is such that the usually apolitical Catholic bishops have asked Buhari to resign.

The year 2019 will be very interesting indeed. Some parties are already holding their ward congresses with fights. Soon, national conventions will follow.

For the leaders of the Arewa Consultative Youth Movement, it is time to hold a mock election for presidential candidates from the North. The mock election will last for 60 days. Some participants in the poll are Buhari, former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar; former Kano State governor, Musa Kwankwaso; Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal; and former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi. Others are former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State.

What the ACYM President, Kabiru Yusuf, reportedly said is instructive: “There cannot be a better chance for us to contribute to give Nigeria the kind of leadership it deserves in this 21st century. The abject poverty and insecurity in the North must be tackled head-on, and it is our responsibility.”

Yes, it is the responsibility of every Nigerian to participate in the electoral process; to elect leaders who will tackle head-on the abject poverty and insecurity in the land.

Happily, the political awareness among Nigerians is very high now. In places of worship, on the social media and some other social gatherings, there is massive and aggressive campaign for people to collect their PVCs to enable them to vote for a candidate of their choice in 2019. Even some politicians mobilize their supporters at some costs to go and register.

My fear is that INEC appears not be fully ready for Nigerians. For instance, officials of the commission move from one ward to the other without adequate information on how to locate registration centres. In some parts of Lagos, it is political office aspirants and religious groups that inform people about the movement of these officials. This is very discouraging as people labour to get information about registration centres.

Some states and centres have also accused INEC of inadequate deployment of staff and machines.  Some unlucky citizens complained that they were kept waiting for long hours without being registered. Some people, out of frustration, fail to come back for their PVCs even after going through the rigours of registration. As at March this year, for instance, about 600,000 PVCs were reportedly yet to be claimed in Oyo State. In Lagos, though the commission reportedly has close to 100 DDC machines deployed to the 55 CVR centres, the number of unclaimed PVCs is said to be up to one million.

We have travelled this road before. Shortly before the 2015 elections, precisely in November 2014, a state like Lagos even declared public holiday to enable workers to obtain their PVCs. But there were hitches here and there in the third phase of the PVC distribution. At a point, Lagos residents stormed the streets to protest against the failure of the exercise.

The delay in the delivery of the PVCs even prompted the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, to accuse INEC of colluding with the Presidency to rig the elections in favour of the then ruling PDP. Tinubu lamented then that in some instances, INEC officials were not seen in some of the accredited booths, and that the cards were inadequate. He described the exercise as failed and unacceptable.

Despite this, the APC went ahead to win the 2015 presidential poll and the governorship elections in many states. Will history repeat itself? Are the glitches in the current exercise another attempt to also disenfranchise some people and rig elections for a particular party? Soon, 2019 will be here and eligible Nigerians will answer these questions through their votes.


Re: Buhari and quest for president of Igbo extraction

It is political parties that contest elections, not geo-political zones. You can zone and end up losing the election. Imo PDP zoned Gov ticket to Okigwe and lost to APGA’s Rochas in 2011, even after Udenwa’s 8 years. Both Rochas and Udenwa are Imo West. No party would risk losing elections on the altar of zoning. ‘Igbo Presidency’ based on zoning is a mirage. Jonathan emerged President because Yar‘Adua passed on and not on the basis of zoning.

Sir Chris Ike (08032238913)

Oga Casmir, in the absence of restructuring between now and the next election which is no longer feasible, a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is the way to go. Please use your column to support it. Encourage Ndigbo to vote massively for APC and PMB in 2019 and let Ndigbo see what will happen in 2023 – whether that position will be left for them or not. Whatever happens will enable Ndigbo to know what their position is in Nigeria. And please do not take Obasanjo serious. Before his letter to President MUhammadu Buhari, he said he was for an Igbo man for the Presidency and now he is singing a new tune.

Quoting you: ”He didn’t last beyond six months, as some northern officers (add: led by TY Danjuma) killed him in a counter-coup….”. Were you afraid to mention his name? It was important that you ought to have done so for millions of Ndigbo to appreciate the character of the person accusing others of ethnic cleansing. Casmir, you and other columnists of Igbo extraction MUST be aware that the gang-up against Buhari is beyond his perceived lack of performance but to ensure that ‘onye Igbo’ does not get to that position. Tell me who among the former Presidents or Heads of State performed creditably? Shine your eyes!

Dike (08033072852)

Live with additional 25+ years more than God has for you for your truthful and factual column today. Stay graced.

Anonymous (07035390254)

Hello Casmir, as regards your article on Buhari and quest for president of Igbo extraction, do you think your people can cooperate and allow a credible candidate to emerge for any presidential election in Nigeria? Recall that when the senate presidency slot was given to the south east, it was the same Igbo people that made it fail. Remember that chairmanship of PDP was zoned to the S\E some years back but what was the outcome? I am a Yoruba man and I believe that if Igbo people support a credible candidate, victory is sure.

Mr. Ojo (08023404976)

Buhari and the service chiefs are jihadists. There is no Igbo man as President that Hausa man will not manipulate. Mention one. Let’s restructure Nigeria. Why are they against it? Nigeria is not one and will never be.

Anonymous (08056012716)

Casmir, I must say so far about Igbo presidency in 2023 you are the only person who has written what the Igbo people should consider in 2019 presidential election. We should be alive till 2023 to vote in the presidential election. Buhari looks the other way when his Fulani herdsmen butcher people in their homes. What type of president is he? He is so partial and trickery in his administration.

Pati Ndibe, Awka (08133878436)

Only fools think or believe that an Igbo President of Nigeria is equal to Igbo interests. Nonsense.

Agubamah (08037261289)

Nnamdi Kanu told us that Rochas is a native of Jos. By their words and behaviour, you not only know them but stop doubting when you see the truth.

Anaekwe  P.O. (08037275839)

Chief Igbokwe, bravo for your Daily Sun article. Remain blessed.

Ojinnaka, Eziowelle (08107539574)



Buhari and the quest for president of Igbo extraction

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Like him or hate him, Owelle Rochas Okorocha continues to mould Nigerian politics with his eccentric acts. His plans and actions stand like a big statue not only in Imo State where he superintends as governor but also in the entire country.

Recently, the man was at his element. He said he would emerge the President of Nigeria after President Muhammadu Buhari’s term in 2023. He reportedly boasted to whoever cared to listen that “Buhari will win again and again. After Buhari, the turn will come to the South-East and it will be the turn of Okorocha.”

He reminded those who probably thought he was joking, that he retired Imo politicians like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Arthur Nzeribe, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim. By 2019, he promised, he would also retire people like Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.

As a dress rehearsal, he intends to contest the Imo West Senatorial seat. He also plans to deliver to the people of Imo a brand new governor in 2019 in the person of Uche Nwosu, his Chief of Staff and son-in-law. Remember that he won the governorship of Imo when nobody believed he could do that and even won it outside the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

At home with Okorocha on agenda 2023 is Senator Hope Uzodimma (PDP, Imo West). In a recent interview with a national newspaper, Uzodimma noted that the South-West produced President Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled for eight years and the South-South produced President Goodluck Jonathan who ruled for six years. “Now, the North is currently in power and is entitled to a second term which will end in 2023. After that the Presidency will naturally return to the South and when it does, it certainly will come to South-East, because South-West and South-South have already had their turn. So, I think this is a simple reality,” he said.

As expected, the Buhari Support Organisation, Enugu State chapter, is in full support of this position. Besides, the organisation wants Ndigbo to support Buhari’s re-election in appreciation for the ‘befitting burial’ the President gave Second Republic vice-president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. “Accordingly,” the group said, “supporting any other candidate from the North amounts to entering one chance bus.”

To actualize this Igbo quest to produce Nigeria’s President in 2023, the Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the 19 northern states and Abuja, urged Igbo people living in the north to court more friends and live in harmony with their host communities.

This campaign is such that any other person outside Buhari who indicates interest for the Presidency is seen as an enemy of the Igbo. The other day, one group known as the Initiative for Demonstrating Change, frowned on the presidential ambition of the former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. As far as the group is concerned, Atiku’s ambition is a plot to scuttle the target of the Igbo to become President in 2023; and anybody supporting him is anti-Igbo.

The Igbo’s major fear is that if another candidate from the North wins in 2019, he will naturally want to go for another term. This will now make them wait until 2027 to produce the President of Nigeria.

Moreover, Igbo people want to be assured that they have been reintegrated in Nigeria. They fought a bloody war with the rest of Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. Although the government of Yakubu Gowon declared after the war that there was no victor, no vanquished, the Igbo have remained like a conquered people in the country. Even when the late former Vice-President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, almost got the PDP presidential ticket in 1998, some powerful interests surreptitiously stopped him. Many believed then that it was because he was Igbo.

I sympathise with the Igbo for remaining at the lowest rung of the political ladder in Nigeria. Being one of the major ethnic groups in the country, it is curious that they have not produced the President of this country since after the civil war.

In the First Republic, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was merely a ceremonial president. The real powers resided in the then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The Igbo’s second attempt at the Presidency of Nigeria was when Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi became Head of State after the coup of 1966. He didn’t last beyond six months as some northern officers killed him in a counter coup which led to the pogrom against the Igbo in the North and the resultant civil war. It is as if the Igbo have committed an unpardonable crime for which they have been sentenced to perpetual hellfire.

But the questions remain, should we sacrifice good leadership on the altar of zoning or rotational presidency? If it is established that Buhari has failed the nation, do we still vote him for a second term because we want our person to succeed him afterwards? Do we want the killings by the Fulani herdsmen to continue because it will guarantee the Igbo turn to be President in 2023? Do we still want our people to continue to die in poverty and economic hardship because voting Buhari out will scuttle Igbo quest to become President? Do we sanction other acts of marginalisation against the South-Easterners under this regime simply because we want to get the Presidency in 2023?

The truth is that I find it difficult to cast my vote for a leader who has failed in his duties towards his subjects. No matter what his supporters say, President Buhari has not impressed me so far in his handling of affairs of this country. I have had cause to write extensively on his performance in office and the verdict is that he has failed. He may be upright as a person but the hawks surrounding him have dragged him down. Even his wife, Aisha, had once threatened not to campaign for his re-election if he did not change his style of leadership.

Besides, he keeps de-marketing the country each time he travels abroad. For instance, he amplified the corruption tag against his countrymen when he visited the UK in 2016. During his last visit to the UK, he said a lot of Nigerian youths were lazy. Simply put, he does not have the energy and capacity to govern a country like Nigeria.

Most times, those championing this zoning thing are politicians who stand to benefit one way or the other in the arrangement. Thus, they railroad everybody to start singing their tune. That was the same sentiment politicians employed in the governorship election in Anambra last year. Governor Willie Obiano is from Anambra North. So, a lot of the citizens voted him for a second term so that in the next dispensation, it will be the turn of Anambra South.

Last Wednesday, former President Obasanjo warned against this type of thinking. Speaking at a meeting of the Coalition of Nigeria Movement in Awka, Anambra State, Obasanjo reportedly asked Ndigbo to vote out Buhari in the 2019 general elections in their own interest. He was said to have described the promise that the Igbo would produce the President in 2023 as “a grand deceit and evil machination.”

I agree that every zone should be given a sense of belonging in a federation. However, that shouldn’t be at the expense of good leadership. Between zoning and good leadership, I will vote good leadership. I will vote a good candidate. The North has many young and intelligent people who can steer this country to an enviable height. But many Igbo people will not support such a fellow simply because he will scuttle their ambition to produce the President in 2023.

What we should be asking for are developmental projects in our different regions. Where the President comes from should not matter much so long as every section of the country gets dividends of democracy and is represented in the cabinet. When Obasanjo was the President, how many projects did he attract to the South-West as an indigene of that zone?

The Igbo took former President Jonathan as their own; after all, he has an Igbo name, Ebele. The South-South is also closer to the South-East and the two were one region at some point. But for six years Jonathan was in the saddle, did he build more projects in the South-East and South-South than in the other zones?

The struggle for the Presidency will end the day we devolve power from the centre to the regions. That is why we need restructuring of the federation. And if that is the only thing President Buhari achieves for this country before he leaves the scene, Nigerians will eternally be grateful to him.  Then, Okorocha may not even be interested in becoming President again in 2023.

May and Museveni’s same-sex marriage punches

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

If the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, had her way, she would jail President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Last week, May called for same-sex marriages in Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries. It was that same week that Museveni chose to pooh-pooh the idea and even went ahead to warn against oral sex. As far as the Ugandan helmsman is concerned, the mouth is for eating and not for sex.

May made her own proposal at the first joint forum of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Westminster. According to her, though most of the laws against same-sex marriages in the Commonwealth were made by the United Kingdom, those laws were wrong then, and are wrong now.

True, Mrs May had once been an opponent of gay rights. She had voted against many early reforms, including an equal age of consent and same-sex adoptions.

Today, she is born-again. “As the UK’s prime minister,” she said, “I deeply regret that those laws were introduced…as a family, we must respect one another’s cultures and traditions, but we must do so in a manner consistent with equality, as it is clearly stated in the Commonwealth charter.”

According to her, nobody should face discrimination or persecution because of who they are or who they love. She said the UK was ready to help any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that made such discrimination possible. With the support of May, Britain passed the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act in 2013.

Across many of the Western world, same-sex marriage is seen as a human rights issue. Just as they frown upon racial, gender and other forms of discrimination, they also condemn any form of discrimination against gays and lesbians.

When Nigeria passed the law against same-sex marriage in 2014, some Western countries such as the United States and Britain condemned it. The then US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was deeply concerned by a law that “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.”

Britain said it opposed any form of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. It said the law infringed upon fundamental rights of expression and association which were guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and by international agreements to which Nigeria was a party.

On the contrary, many African countries see same-sex marriage as unnatural and an abomination. President Museveni of Uganda represents the voice of the continent on this issue. In 2014, Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, making it illegal to be gay in Uganda. Whoever is found to be having regular gay sex risks life imprisonment. It is also a criminal offence not to report someone for being gay.

After introducing the anti-homosexuality law in 2014, Museveni also condemned oral sex, saying it could cause worms. “You push the mouth there, you can come back with worms and they enter your stomach because that is a wrong address,” he asserted.

Now, the man is mooting the idea of banning oral sex in his country. He issued a public warning about it, and blamed ‘outsiders’ for trying to convince Ugandans to perform oral sex on one another. “The mouth is for eating, not for sex. We know the address of sex, we know where sex is,” he said.

How Museveni intends to catch oral sex offenders remains to be seen. Perhaps, he will organize oral sex police who will intermittently snoop on couples with secret cameras to catch those putting the thing in a wrong address.

For now, Nigerians can still enjoy their thing using any address, as there is no plan to introduce oral sex prohibition bill in the National Assembly. What the law currently abhors in Nigeria is gay relationships. The then President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2014. The law criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations and organizations and makes it illegal for gay people to even hold a meeting.

According to the law, whoever registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies or organizations, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria, or enters into same-sex marriage contract commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of up to 10 to 14 years in jail.

So far, I’m not sure if anybody has been convicted for violating this law. But different arrests have been made. Last August, the police raided a hotel in Lagos and arrested 42 men for alleged homosexuality.  They threatened to charge them to court in accordance with the law after investigations. In April 2017, 53 men accused of participating in a gay wedding, were similarly arrested in Zaria. They were later released on bail after they pleaded not guilty. In Shariah compliant part of northern Nigeria, homosexuals even risk being stoned to death.

The point is, many Africans see homosexuality as anathema to their culture and religion. In Gambia, former President Yahya Jammeh, even suggested decapitation for homosexuals. Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, once reportedly said his countrymen liked polygamy but couldn’t impose it on Europeans because the people wouldn’t understand it and wouldn’t accept it.

What I don’t fully understand yet is why many of these Western nations will endorse same-sex marriage but frown upon bestiality and incest. Penultimate week, a Louisiana’s state senate in the United States approved a bill explicitly banning sex with animals by 25 votes to 10. The bill not only makes sexual contact with or abuse of an animal illegal, it also requires an abused animal to be taken from its abuser. Those convicted are to be barred from owning any pets in future.

In 2015, Denmark became one of the last European countries to ban bestiality. First time offenders now face up to one year in prison and two years for repeat offenders. Before then, sex with animals was legal in the country as long as the animal was unharmed. Danish Ethical Council for Animals said in a report that there were frequent reports of the occurrence of organised animal sex shows, clubs and animal brothels in Denmark. The practice is still legal in Hungary, Finland and Romania. Ironically, homosexuality is illegal in Hungary and Romania.

With the exception of a few countries like Spain, France, and Portugal, where consensual incest is reportedly not prohibited, the majority of the Western nations do not approve of it. So, does this not amount to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation? Is it not an infringement upon fundamental rights of expression of those involved?

Very soon, countries where incest is practised will start harassing us to also adopt it. Gradually, it is even creeping into our society. Last February, one Chiadikobi Ezeibekwe, married his 17-year-old sister at Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. Ezeibekwe, who is a mathematics teacher in a secondary school, claimed God told him to do so. According to him, one advantage of siblings marrying one another is that it discourages divorce and retains family values and norms.

Incidentally, their elder brother, Chijioke Ezeibekwe, who is the priest of Dwelling Fullness of God Church, conducted the wedding. The youths of the village had since set the church ablaze. A Catholic priest later conducted the cleansing of the land.

Somehow, some of the things we still see today as taboos no longer shock me. My sojourn in the United Kingdom some years back has equipped me with a liberal spirit and a shock absorber. My first culture shock in Europe was encountering a wedding reception for a male couple. The two men wore their wedding outfit, hugged and kissed each other. They also took photographs with relatives and guests as done in any normal wedding.

Mrs. May should understand that just as it sounds strange to have sex with animals in her country, it also sounds strange, especially to the majority of Africans, for a man to have sex with a fellow man; or a woman with a fellow woman. It is against the order of nature.

Until Britain and other Western nations sanction bestiality and incest, they should stop preaching homosexuality to us. What we need from them essentially are multi-billion pounds investments, not same-sex copulation.


Kudos to The Niche on 4th anniversary

The Niche newspaper marked its fourth anniversary with a lecture at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs Lagos last Friday. The guest lecturer and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, gave a good account of the topic: ‘Development Reporting and Hysteria Journalism in Nigeria’. The Chairperson of the occasion and presidential aspirant, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, and other discussants such as the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mrs Funke Egbemode; former Deputy Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr Obinna Nwosu; Senior Research Fellow, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Prof. Fred Aja Agwu and All Progressives Congress chieftain, Joe Igbokwe, enlivened the audience with their contributions.

I wish to particularly commend my good friend and the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Niche, Ikechukwu Amaechi, for the successful outing. At the end of the day, many people were left wondering what the future of the newspaper industry will be in the near future. Many newspapers have closed shop. Many others are struggling to survive with little or no salary for workers. Amid these uncertainties, Mr. Amaechi and his team have trudged on. Congratulations to The Niche team.