Archive for July 2019

New ministers and tragedy of take-a-bow government

July 29, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

The legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti would have called it government magic. You can call it government of “take a bow,” if you like. Yes, senators like Ovie Omo-Agege will visit Aso Villa, pay fawning obeisance and bow out with smiles. Many kidnappers and sundry criminals, after terrorising the citizens, bow out with impunity. Instead of facing rigorous screening, some ministerial nominees only visit the Senate chambers to take a bow. The next level now is that most of the ministers will lobby for juicy portfolios, ruin their ministries and then take a bow afterwards. 

The mantra appears to be: bow and tremble for the All Progressives Congress and every other thing will be added unto you. It does not matter if you are tainted by mortal sins. President Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet, for instance, looks more like his campaign council. I wonder why it even took him five months after his election to come up with such bland names. 

Fourteen of them were ministers in the last dispensation. Their performance was anything but salutary. What, in God’s name, is Hadi Sirika doing in this current cabinet? In July 2018, Sirika, as minister of state for aviation, announced that Nigeria Air would commence operations before the end of that year. But two months after the announcement, the airline took off and landed in Sirika’s office. In other words, the Federal Government suspended the plan. It meant no serious thought went into its planning before rushing to make the announcement. The same Federal Government has reportedly approved N47.43 billion for the project in the 2019 budget. Let’s see how it goes.

What of Ogbonnaya Onu whose ministry of science and technology promised to produce pencils for us? How many did they eventually produce? And will they add biro and toothpick to their scientific prowess this time? Only Onu and Buhari can answer that.

Babatunde Raji Fashola supervised the ministry of works, power and housing. A super minister, you might say. But what were his achievements? How many houses did he deliver to Nigerians? How many roads and bridges did his ministry complete in the last dispensation? And what was the state of electricity supply in Nigeria under him? Again, only the ruling cabal can answer this as many Nigerians did not feel the impact of this ministry.

I don’t know if Abubakar Malami will still retain his position as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. He would easily be remembered as the attorney-general who took over the fraud case involving the former Gombe State governor, Danjuma Goje, and buried it finally without any qualms. Under him, too, the Federal Government flouted some court orders. During his own screening at the Senate, Malami elevated a nebulous concept called ‘public interest’ over rule of law. The courts had ordered that some detainees be released on bail. The former attorney-general claimed the refusal of government to release some of such detainees was in public interest. Pray, how will the release of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for instance, hinder public interest? How has the continuous detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-zakzaky, who the Federal High Court in Abuja had earlier granted bail, served public interest?

Is it also in public interest to nominate former governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State as ministers? There were some allegations of fraud against them in their time as governors. Today, as members of the almighty APC, they are saints. Former Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, could not pay his workers for many months as governor. I wonder the magic he will deploy this time round as a minister.

Festus Keyamo, the tough-talking, erstwhile human rights lawyer, once handled some cases against some of these ex-governors as counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Now, they will sit together at the executive chambers in Aso Rock to decide the fate of Nigeria. It rankles that some of them were even asked to take a bow and go without probing questions.

To even screen these nominees without knowing their portfolios is a disservice to Nigeria. What this means is that a nominee could be assigned to supervise a ministry where he clearly lacks competence. And there is nothing anybody can do about it because the minister has already been screened and cleared.

I searched for sound technocrats in this cabinet who will move the economy of this country to the next level. I searched for names that will lift our spirits from the abyss where they sank after the confirmation of the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad. I saw none.

In this present dispensation, no arm of government inspires hope in Nigerians. The executive is a disaster. The legislature is a disappointment. The judiciary is hopeless.

Look at the Osun governorship election verdict, for instance. Relying on technicality, the Supreme Court ruled against Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) principally because one of the judges at the election tribunal was absent in one of the sittings. The previous position of the Supreme Court was that technicality shut out justice in the administration of justice. In answering the question of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe about elevating technicality of law over justice, our CJN goofed.

Hear him: “Now, if something which is technical comes before the court, what we do in trial courts is to ask people who are experts in that field to come and testify. We rely on their testimony because they are experts in that field. Ask me anything about an aeroplane, I don’t know; ask me to drive an aeroplane (sic), I am sure if you are a passenger and they told you that the flight is going to be driven (sic) by Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, I am sure you will get out of the plane because it is something that requires technicality.”

This is a man our lawmakers rushed to confirm. And the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, claimed they would not be rubber stamp of the executive. A serious and independent legislature would have further scrutinised the CJN or asked for another nomination. I doubt how far it can go in performing its oversight functions effectively.

Nevertheless, we should continue to cultivate hope in the farmland of Nigeria. Let us continue to recommend what happens in civilised countries to our government. Immediately he emerged as British Prime Minister last week, for instance, Boris Johnson announced his cabinet. He already has his agenda set out and work to achieve them has already started. One day, a statesman will emerge to set things right in Nigeria.

Re: Nigeria’s worrisome travel to Golgotha 

Casmir, my dear brother, your piece titled “Nigeria’s worrisome travel to Golgotha,” which appeared in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 22, 2019, is the truth, nothing but the truth. The questions you raised are fundamental questions. If there is sincerity in what Buhari is doing, why has he not ordered the disarming of the Fulanis in all parts of the country, etc?  You have expressed our minds and the minds of millions of Nigerians. May God bless you IJN.

– Magit, P.D, Ph.D, Gindiri, Plateau State, +2348058726771 

Any journey planned or otherwise to Golgotha is always suicidal. For Golgotha has never billed anyone any fortune, it is a land full of evil, so nightmarish, and full of skulls and never cherished by any one. A careful look at the nation’s walk every day now reveals that, unless a wedge is swiftly put to check the rush or slide, this God-blessed nation will be history. Take a hard look at a nation furiously sliding into anarchy. Take a careful look at the entertaining events, you will wonder if you are still in a nation so blessed with what all other nations of the world are clamouring for. Criminals are paraded but none is ever put in jail. We hear of so much being looted, we never hear of recovered loot. We are tired of killer squads, bandits, herdsmen but never hear of their incarceration, as if they are government agents on a revenge mission. Nobody sleeps with his two eyes closed. It has started rubbing off on the high-ups in our midst. You will surprisingly notice the anguish over the murder of a lady of substance, Lady Funke Olakunri, quite unfortunate, and untimely, being the first daughter of an elder statesman and the representative of the BEST in Yoruba nation. No more excuses and no more delays: “sine mora.” Those of the Presidency, NASS, the states and assemblies, even up to local government, should sit up and wedge this sliding and fast-drifting nation before it tips all of us into Golgotha.

– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha; Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State, 08036174573 

Dear Casy, your treatise in your column of Daily Sun is interesting. Fulani haven’t fought war in this country since their jihad in 1804. Now that Buhari is the President, they want to continue their jihad from where they stopped. They think that they can win the war. Buhari and the Fulani have failed; 1804 and 2019 is a different ball game. Nigerians must rise up and defend their lands from vandals. God bless you. You are always esteemed.

– Eze Chima Cletus, Lagos, +2347036225495

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 29, 2019.

Nigeria’s worrisome travel to Golgotha

July 22, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Various ethnic groups in Nigeria have been servicing their instruments of war. The atmosphere is filled with agitations, threats and ultimatums. The stage appears set for a long travel to Golgotha, the biblical place of skulls.    

Last Tuesday, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) drew their daggers. They ordered Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of Nigeria to return to the North immediately. This, they said, was to ensure safety of their life and property. 

The chairman of NEF, Professor Ango Abdullahi, is a former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State. He is well known for always making controversial statements that belittle his status as a professor.

The spokesperson of the CNG, Abdul-Aziz Sulaiman, on his part, claimed that the southern governors had jointly agreed to stop the movement of herders and their cattle in the South. This same Sulaiman and his group recently gave the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to rescind its recent decision to suspend the Ruga settlement policy for Fulani herdsmen. Southern leaders had unanimously rejected the controversial Ruga policy.

To Sulaiman, it was regrettable that opinion leaders in the South blamed Fulani herdsmen for the killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, 58-year-old daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti. In the process, he said, “they threatened all forms of violations and breaches against northerners, including the threat of an all-out war.”

That was how the Rwanda crisis started in 1994. The majority Hutu believed that the mainly Tutsi rebel group, Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame, shot down the plane carrying the then President of Hutu extraction, Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart from Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira. Hutu extremists set up radio stations and newspapers, which urged people to “weed out the cockroaches,” meaning, kill the Tutsi. About 800,000 people (mainly the minority Tutsi) were killed in the ensuing pogrom. Today, Rwandans have learnt their lessons. They currently enjoy relative peace.

We fought a 30-month civil war between 1967 and 1970. Millions of people died in that war. The rest of Nigeria stigmatised the Igbo and killed millions of them before and during the war. Today, we appear not to have learnt any lessons from that tragedy.

Ironically, the major players in the war against the Igbo are the victims of stigma today. The Fulani herdsmen are the ones taking the blame for the spate of kidnappings and killings in different parts of the country. Their alleged style of attack is to rush out from the bush and start shooting at oncoming vehicles on the expressway. They kill some and take some others hostage.

In the recent past, the attacks were of a different hue. Early last year, for instance, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked 11 villages in Plateau State for at least seven hours. They also reportedly destroyed over 50 houses. The security forces were nowhere to be seen during the attack. They had also invaded many communities in Benue and elsewhere, leaving death and sorrow in their trail.

It was not for nothing that the Global Terrorism Index, in 2015, rated the Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. Also, the Washington-based Fund for Peace recently ranked Nigeria as the 14th most unstable country in the world. This is out of 178 countries assessed in the 2019 Fragile States Index.

Many Nigerians are worried. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd); and former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are among the prominent Nigerians who have cautioned against the descent to anarchy.

To Anyaoku, Nigeria is on the brink. He advised Buhari, governors, National Assembly members and other political elite to urgently find solutions to the worrisome security situation in the country. This, he noted, was to prevent Nigeria drifting into anarchy and disintegration.

Jonathan advised that the Federal Government, in conjunction with the state governments, must discard the old method and design a different approach to tackling insecurity. In his characteristic style, Obasanjo, last week, wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. He warned that Nigeria was drifting to a tipping point and that the President should do something to salvage the nation.

Rather than heed the words of advice from these statesmen, the Presidency, as usual, resorted to defending the indefensible. Like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand while the entire body is exposed, the government of the day has continued to live in denial.

Buhari, for instance, claimed the outcry over the state of insecurity was exaggerated. According to him, Obasanjo, Soyinka and some other critics are politicising isolated incidents. He described them as being unpatriotic. Last year, our President attributed the Plateau killings to desperate politicians. These politicians, he noted, had increasingly cheapened human life in their quest to establish a reign of instability and chaos in the country for political gains.

His former Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, also vomited some fallacies last year. He claimed that the killings by herdsmen were attributable to the anti-open grazing laws in some states.

In the heat of the carnage last year, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, told a bewildered nation that there were more killings when the Peoples Democratic Party was in power than what was obtainable under the ruling All Progressives Congress.

True, every country has security challenges. But how have we managed our own? Oftentimes, the President assures Nigerians that his government will not relent in efforts to secure the country from criminal activities. But the more he talks, the bolder the criminals become.

The truth is that this government has failed in its core duty of protecting life and property. By failing to hold criminals to account, the Federal Government helps to fuel insecurity in the country.

Sometimes, the government engages in curious ways to solve the insecurity problem. The President, for instance, invited the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, to Aso Rock last week. Recall that the Ooni had, on the heels of the murder of Fasoranti’s daughter, called on the Yoruba to unite and stop the Fulani rampage. He had also jointly issued a communiqué with Soyinka where they urged Nigerians to resist Ruga “promoted by backward, primitive, undeveloped minds.” They even referred to Nigeria as a colonial contraption. Curiously, after the meeting with Buhari in Aso Rock, Ogunwusi changed gear.

He said, “Everybody is beating the drums of war. We don’t want war. Who can stand war? We want something better for our youths. We had better use them for something good rather than shouting war and anarchy. We don’t want that … Politicians should be careful not to throw things out of proportion.”

Obviously, no rational mind craves war. But if we must call a spade by its name, why hasn’t Buhari ordered the disarming of the Fulani militias in all parts of the country, especially in the South? Why hasn’t he called leaders of Miyetti Allah to order for causing unnecessary tension in the country? Why has he not supported the decentralisation of the police for better and effective policing of the country? Why has he not stopped playing the ethnic and nepotistic card in his political appointments?

Let us always put the map of Yugoslavia and Sudan at the back of our minds. When the centre could no longer hold, Yugoslavia split into seven independent states. Sudan is still struggling to find its bearing even after breaking into two. Is that what we want in Nigeria?

Re: Nigeria’s reckless rulers and dangerous debt mine

Nigeria is sick and requires very urgent attention to turn it around. Its case does not require palliative measures. I echo it with you that our beautiful nation requires specialist attention, and delay to be honest and sincere may be very very dangerous. Most Nigerian leaders love cosmetic treatment of issues but not as it is meanwhile. Governor Willie Obiano is not known for frivolity, for all I know, if your reportage in his recent journey to City of Orange in New Jersey was not to bring home special species of medicinal oranges for a cure of diseases in Anambra State, then there is a problem because I have always classified him as one of the most decent species we have. Come to think of it, the greenhorn in Lagos State would not have gotten the guts to lavish state money to the tune of N41 million to Super Eagles now that he has rarely spent barely 100 days in office. All who support him are fighting for their own gain. Dear Cas, may your ink pot and nib never get dry so that you will always have what to write for us.

– Livy Onyenegecha; Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise Imo, (08036174573) 

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 22, 2019.

Nigeria’s reckless rulers and dangerous debt mine

July 15, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

Greek gods condemned Sisyphus, a cruel king, to perpetually roll a big rock up a steep hill. The rock always rolled down each time it neared the top. Nigerian gods appear to have also punished Nigerians permanently. Bad leadership is our own big rock. The more we try to push it over the mountain, the more it rolls down rapidly. A big question then arises: who will liberate Nigerians from this seeming eternal punishment? 

The answer is blowing in the wind. For us, it has become a case of one bad policy begets another. The worst now is that the so-called leaders are doing everything possible to mortgage the future of our unborn children with reckless accumulation of debts.

In 2017, the debt profile of Nigeria was N21.725 trillion. According to the Debt Management Office, the thing rose to N24.95 trillion by March 31, 2019. Out of this figure, external debt is said to be N7.8tn ($25.61bn) while the total domestic debt amounts to N17.07 trillion. The funds were reportedly borrowed to finance projects, fund budget deficit and meet maturing obligations.

Besides, all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory owed N5.376 trillion by December 2018. Lagos State has the highest domestic and foreign debt profile of N1.043 trillion. Its current domestic debt stock alone is N542.231 billion. Rivers and Delta states follow with domestic debt stock of N225.592bn and N223.442bn, respectively. In 2015, when former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office, Lagos’ domestic debt profile was N218.54 billion.

These debts were in spite of federal allocations, Paris Club refunds, internally generated revenues and bailouts from the Federal Government. With the way things are going, Nigeria is fast approaching the pre-2005 Paris Club debt profile.

One interesting fact here is that the states that appear to be more buoyant are the ones that borrow more. The least indebted states are the ones with very low income. I’m not an economic expert. But common sense tells me that something is wrong with the way the supposedly rich states are accumulating these debts.

Borrowing is not totally a bad idea. The problem is in what we use the borrowed funds to do. Do we borrow to fund recurrent expenditure or to expand the critical sectors that will generate more revenue for the state?

Nigeria’s economic managers had assured us that there was nothing to worry about. Former Finance Minister, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said earlier in the year that the debts were being invested in the development of infrastructure. According to her, the country has the capacity to repay its debt obligations. It is good to know this.

But what about servicing of these debts? Is it wise for the Federal Government to have allotted N2.26 trillion (about 25 per cent of the N8.83 trillion budget) to debt servicing alone in the 2019 fiscal year? In the first three months of this year, the Federal Government spent a total of $357.26 million to service external debts. To me, the amount is huge.

Granted that oil revenue has dwindled globally, but how have we managed what we already have? I believe we can achieve much as a nation if we curb fiscal indiscipline.

Mr. Peter Obi will bear me witness here. When he left as governor of Anambra State after eight years of meritorious service, Obi did not accumulate any debt for his successor. In fact, he left billions of naira worth of savings in cash and other investments. That was despite the fact that he built roads and other infrastructure, revolutionised education, health and many other sectors. Today, when it comes to foreign debts, Anambra is among the top seven. As at December 31, 2018, the state owed $107.04 million foreign debt and N33.4 billion domestic debt. What has gone wrong?

Last week, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State travelled to the City of Orange in New Jersey, United States. He went with some party and government officials. His wife later joined him there. The visit was for the signing of memorandum of understanding and investment drive. The governor said the visit also afforded him the opportunity to update Anambra indigenes in the US on what his government was doing real time, what it had done in the past five years and what it intended to do in the remaining three years. Brilliant idea! But this is hoping that the cost of the travel will not be higher than the presumed benefits that will accrue from it. 

Lagos is another interesting state. The streets are currently littered with refuse. The roads are punctuated with craters and potholes. The other day, the governor of this most indebted state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, found it expedient to donate N41 million to the Super Eagles for beating Cameroon in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The All Progressives Congress in Lagos defended the governor, claiming he had to play the politics of football. The publicity secretary of the APC in Lagos, Joe Igbokwe, gushed, “Please, do not forget that he has to play the politics when the need arises, and the mission to Egypt is part of his oversight functions as the governor of the richest state in Nigeria.” Wonderful!

Most of these state governors steal their states dry. When they leave office, they are rewarded with jumbo allowances and properties in choice locations in Abuja and elsewhere. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) busies itself hunting for those who are not in the good books of the ruling cabal.

Former Gombe State Governor Danjuma Goje’s case remains a fantastic one. For eight years, the EFCC hunted and haunted him for alleged fraud amounting to N25 billion. Things started taking a new twist when he indicated his interest to contest for the Senate Presidency with Ahmed Lawan. The ruling party and the Presidency preferred Lawan. They invited the two men to Aso Rock for a meeting. Immediately after the meeting, Goje stepped down for Lawan.

As a prelude to canonising him, the Attorney-General of the Federation took over his case from the EFCC. Then, penultimate week, the Federal Government shamelessly withdrew all the charges against him. By implication, Goje is now a saint. Tomorrow, Gombe State may borrow more money to settle his pension and allowances and that of some other former state actors.

Nigeria is sick. She needs a consultant surgeon to do a surgical operation on every facet of her national life. If the rulers, for instance, prune the number of their aides, especially those who accompany them on unessential travels, things will get better. If they cut off the nebulous security votes that only secure their private pockets, there will be plenty of money to execute better projects. If they stop paying double salaries and allowances to ex-political office-holders, the rate of poverty will reduce.

If the governors stop checking into presidential suites in big hotels where they only need standard or executive suites, the states will have extra cash to dispense. If they stop chartering aircraft to some destinations that require booking commercial airlines, there will not be any need to borrow. If they stop wasting money on religious pilgrimages, there will be money to spend on capital projects. If they cut inflated costs of contracts, there will be some money in the coffers.

If the federal and state governments stop focusing solely on oil revenue, if they develop other sources of income, the urge to borrow will reduce. If they provide adequate security to farmers and deal decisively with kidnappers, killers and sundry criminals terrorising the citizens, there will be plenty of food and money in the country. If they stop diverting tax proceeds to some ignoble persons and ventures, Nigeria will be a better place. If they consider public-private partnership financing structure in execution of certain projects, there will not be much need to engage in long-term borrowing.

Above all, if the state and federal legislators do their oversight functions effectively, if they make laws to restrict unnecessary borrowing not tied to specific capital projects, the debt burden will reduce.

The tragedy, however, is that with the current characters who parade the corridors of power, there is no hope of singing a redemption song in the nearest future. It is sad.

Re: Buhari’s suspended Ruga war

Cas, your article on Ruga said it all. Remove lies, deceit and holier-than-thou pretences from Nigeria’s elders and the youth, this country will move fast in true progress. Again, it’s now obvious that the divide between the major religious and socio-political ideologies of Nigeria’s core North and the rest of the country is too much and may never be bridged in a century. This is a country where a section of the country feels no qualms imposing their culture, religion and practices on others, ready to spill blood. If you go into the federal services you’ll see more, the judiciary and some “juicy ministries” not left out. So, Ruga is the most recent act of imposition. 

– Senior  Citizen, +2348055121834

The pressure from many quarters over so-called proposed Ruga settlement project, which President Buhari suspended is welcome because nobody knows where the project will lead Nigeria. I believe any project Nigerians don’t welcome should be put to rest in order to allow peace to reign in Nigeria.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 15, 2019.

Buhari’s suspended Ruga war

July 12, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

The Ruga fire, which the Federal Government recently ignited in Nigeria, is still raging. Many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the central government suspended the project last week. But little did they know that even the announced suspension will in itself become very unsettling.

Ruga, by the way, is a project whereby the Federal Government secures parcels of land from the states with a view to settling nomadic herdsmen. The settlement will be complete with schools, hospitals, vet clinics, road networks, markets, electricity, and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meat and animal products.

The Presidency said the scheme, which was to commence in 12 pilot states, would curb open grazing, ensure a drastic reduction in conflict between herders and farmers, boost animal protection and increase the quality and hygiene of livestock, among other presumed goodies. It said though it’s true that the Federal Government had gazetted lands in all states for the project, the programme was voluntary. Strident opposition to the project forced the Federal Government to suspend it last week.

This suspension has raised some suspicions. Many Nigerians wonder why it was not cancelled outright. The fear is that the project will be re-introduced after the noise about its establishment has died down. They reason that, if it is voluntary, as the Presidency would have us believe, why suspend it in the first place?

Last week, a group known as the Coalition of Northern Groups issued a disturbing statement. It gave the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to rescind its decision to suspend Ruga. According to the spokesman of the group, Abdul Azeez Suleman, if government fails to heed its warning, it would expel southerners resident in the North.

Some southern groups responded in kind. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for instance, noted that the threat to evict law-abiding Nigerians from their places of abode in northern Nigeria was treasonable. The president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, said Ohanaeze had no objections to all Igbo in the North returning home so long as all northerners in the East left the East as well.

He fumed, “The nepotism exhibited by this federal government, her duplicity of standards in law enforcement, her undisguised Fulanisation policy is repugnant to rule of law and good governance. We will no longer tolerate any further threats from these northern war mongers.”

Nwodo called on Ndigbo to be ready to defend themselves, adding, “The millipede that has been marched is whimpering, but the person that marched it is complaining that his foot has been soiled.”

Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, made similar acerbic statements against the threats by the northern group. Afenifere had warned that no inch of Yorubaland would be given for Ruga, describing it as a plan to colonise the country.

Prior to the suspension, similar threats and verbal warfare had polluted our atmosphere. Some threatened to deal with their governors if they ever gave any inch of their land to Fulani herdsmen. Some threatened and urged people to boycott eating cow meat. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, said Ruga could cause explosion in the country and warned the government to tread carefully. Almost all the states in the South rejected Ruga. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum described the project as a “mission to settle criminal terrorist herdsmen.”

The danger in what is happening now is that people are freely interpreting the situation to suit their purpose and political interests. I shuddered when I read the submission of a respected Nigerian on this issue. Writing on a WhatsApp group platform, the man said the “opposition to Ruga is an open war against Islam by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Christian-dominated Nigerian media.”

The man who is a Muslim from the South-West even threatened that Muslims in Yorubaland were watching with keen interest and that they were not cowards. According to him, the Yoruba and Igbo have colonies all over northern Nigeria just as the Hausa have in some southern states. The Oba Yoruba in Sokoto, he said, is from Iwo, his hometown.

Similarly, he noted, the Igbo have Eze Ndigbo all over Yoruba and northern towns. There is also Seriki Hausawa all over Yorubaland. He then wondered what the hullabaloo was about Fulani and fumed, “Why do Christians want to set the nation ablaze over nothing? Are there no Christian Fulani? What is really the objective of media wars against Hausa/Fulani by the southern media?”

I decided to quote this man extensively to show the dangerous dimension the Ruga project debate is assuming. Nigeria is too fragile to start another war. It will be catastrophic. The truth of the matter is that the Federal Government wanted to illegally take states’ land that it has no control over. It planned to give undue advantage to a particular ethnic group over others.

The issue has nothing to do with religion, although some people have expressed fears about Islamisation. There are also fears that even the herdsmen who have been raping, abducting and killing innocent Nigerians may have entered our country from neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad, Mali and some others.

The Presidency should take the blame for the unnecessary tension this issue has engendered in the country. This is because it has shamelessly instituted questionable programmes to favour the nomadic Fulani herdsmen over others. It started with the idea of reopening the grazing routes. Later, it explored the option of cattle colony. The other day, the same FG had a brainwave about establishing Fulani radio. The idea behind this is to have a medium that will communicate to the Fulani anywhere in the world. Part of the claim is that it would help to curb incessant clashes between herders and farmers.

The question is, why are the interests of farmers not taken into consideration? How many settlements, for instance, has the government established for Tiv farmers? How many Ijaw fishermen has it settled? Why has it not established free parks, motor spare parts and electronics markets for Igbo transporters and businessmen? Will this not help in creating jobs and diversifying the economy?

How many villages in Nigeria have electricity, pipe-borne water, clinics, and vet doctors? Why should Fulani nomads get this preferential treatment from government for what happens to be their private business?

The tragedy of it all is that the central government appears too insensitive to the feelings of other Nigerians. Some have already branded it the Fulani Government of Nigeria (FGN).

In all, eternal vigilance should be our watchword. The Presidency should look for ways to evacuate this Ruga shit before the smell kills all of us. Modern animal husbandry is about ranching, not Ruga. Modern civilisation demands that each group in a federating unit gets equal opportunities to develop and engage in healthy competition. The time to discuss and negotiate how we can continue to stay together as a country or go our separate ways is now.

At this point, President Muhammadu Buhari must rise above nepotism and save this country from any conflagration. He should momentarily forget that he is a Muslim and Fulani and wear the dress of a statesman. If he fails, Chinua Achebe would have been right to have said, “There was a country.”

Re: Buhari’s assets and fight against corruption

Cabals in the corridor of power are behind the diminishing integrity of our President because of their selfish interest. Many are in power to enrich themselves, not minding the suffering of Nigerians or how they will find solution to end the sufferings of Nigerians. We need new breed people as ministers and other appointments. If it is possible, the President should bring people from moon to work with him. l believe Nigerians are in high expectation about the type of people the president will assemble as ministers and other appointments to move Nigeria forward under their new slogan called Next Level.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Since Buhari has the courage to drive a Mercedes Benz, which is worth up to N280m, whereas the majority of Nigerians are dying in hunger, it stands to reason that his self-acclaimed war against corruption is mere rhetoric. Worse still, Adams Oshiomhole has made it clear that Buhari’s fight against corruption is selective. It is instructive to make Buhari’s assets declaration public. This is because he is a public figure, hence we will be able to know whether he made false declaration of assets. It will also enable us to know whether the value of his assets exceeds his income.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 8, 2019.

Buhari’s assets and fight against corruption

July 3, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

President Muhammadu Buhari is an enigma. On May 29, 2019, he reportedly came to Eagle Square, Abuja, in specially designed 2019 Mercedes Benz S-Class S560. That was for his second term inauguration. Some reports put the worth of the car at N61 million. Some others say it’s N280 million.

Whatever, this made news because many Nigerians had seen Buhari as a man of integrity, a man who lives a Spartan life. But against all expectations, the President has failed to drastically cut the cost of governance and champion open and transparent government.

Recently, some Nigerians took him to task for not making his asset declaration public. In addition, a non-governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), demanded specific details of asset declarations of successive Presidents and state governors since 1999. SERAP also wanted to know the number of such declarations found to be false and in breach of the code of conduct for public officers. The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) denied this Freedom of Information request. According to the CCB, asset declaration form is private information and releasing it would amount to an invasion of privacy.

I had expected Buhari to shame the CCB by simply publicising his asset declaration. In 2015, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had listed Buhari’s assets to include 270 cows, 25 sheep, five horses, economic trees, five houses in Kaduna, Daura, Kano and Abuja, some cars, etc.  Although Shehu said Buhari did not acquire any new house, bank account, and shares, it would be good to know what the President declared this year, compared to what he declared on assumption of office in 2015.

He and the state governors are public officers and public property. Hence, it is important that they keep their affairs open to the public, with the exception of what they do with their wives in the other room and a few other things. This breeds public trust and accountability.

Recall that the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was forced out of office on account of false asset declaration. Equity and justice demand that we know the assets of other elected public officers.

It would be good to know how many houses state governors declared on assumption of office in 2015 and how many they have now. Since Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State wants to come back for a second term in office, are his assets commensurate with the poor outlook of his state’s resources, where workers are owed many arrears of salary?

What is the worth of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan? I heard they spent a lot of money to campaign for their current positions. Gbajabiamila will obviously reward his core loyalists and supporters with appointment into ‘juicy’ committees of the House. Senator Danjuma Goje may likely head a juicy committee in the Senate, having stepped down for Lawan after a meeting with Buhari at the Villa. And soon after the meeting, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) withdrew from the eight-year N25 billion fraud case against him.

It is regrettable that our public officers live large while the majority of the people live below the poverty line. If not for the timely intervention of Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, council chairmen in his state would have jetted out to Dubai for a 10-day workshop. The trip was approved during the administration of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola in 2018; but Oyetola reasoned that embarking on it this time would not be auspicious, hence, he ordered the chairmen to suspend the trip. I wonder if there is no conference centre or good hotel in Osun or any other part of Nigeria. The choice of Dubai obviously has more to do with garnering some hard currency than acquiring knowledge. And this is a state whose financial condition is in a total mess.

We have been talking about the need to cut the high emolument of the National Assembly members. But the more we talk, the higher the wage bill. Good enough, some civil society groups have actually gone to court to stop the National Assembly Commission from paying the members of the 9th National Assembly some N4.68 billion said to be their take-off allowance.

How about other government agencies and parastatals? Last year, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, made a startling revelation about many agencies of government not submitting audited accounts to his office. In an audit report, Ayine said as at April 2018, 109 agencies had not submitted beyond 2013. Seventy-six agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception. There was also poor disclosure of receipts from some ministries and agencies like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The AuGF said, “The extensive violation of statutory financial reporting obligations by parastatals is of great concern.  Stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases and sanction of the chief executives should be imposed on defaulting agencies who do not render timely accounts, as provided in the Constitution and financial regulations.”

The AuGF may have been talking to himself, as we have continued to move on as if nothing is amiss.

We have also continued to borrow and spend money frivolously. Nigeria had exited a debilitating debt trap in 2005 under the Paris and London Club of creditors. Today, the debt trap the present government is setting for Nigerians is a story for another day.

Let’s stop deceiving ourselves. Corruption is not hard to fight if leaders are sincere. Some good examples from other nations are worth emulating. On winning the presidential election last year, Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, left the country’s national palace in the front passenger seat of a Volkswagen Jetta without any bodyguard.

“The people will protect me,” he said, adding, “He who fights for justice has nothing to fear.”

Lopez Obrador promised transformative change, including stemming corruption and violence, for Mexico. He also pledged to earn half of his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto’s salary and to shed the trappings of power such as presidential residence and plane.

Recently, a Jerusalem court convicted the Israeli Prime Minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for illegally misusing state funds on lavish meals in expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013. This was despite her having an in-house cook provided by the state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself faces three corruption indictments in October this year. Though he has denied all charges, he risks imprisonment if convicted.

Netanyahu’s crimes are laughable. One, he allegedly received gifts such as cigars, champagne and jewellery from billionaires in exchange for favours. Two, he purportedly colluded with Israel’s top selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage. Three, Netanyahu allegedly gave the country’s telecoms provider, Bezeq, some incentives in exchange for positive stories on an online website it owns.

In Nigeria, Netanyahu would be celebrated as a saint. His sins pale to nothing compared with what our rulers use their nebulous security votes to do. Who will save Nigeria? Sadly, there is no hope for redemption in the current government.

Re: Miyetti Allah’s monkey pox romance with South-East

Miyetti Allah’s romance with South-East is one of the graded steps of the Next Level of the ruling party, the APC. I have tried to find the connection between Miyetti and the South-East, as the zone’s outpost security check to no avail. I could not link it to various political promises, but the nearest to it is the much-talked-about Next Level promise of the present administration. There is already a love romance between South-West and the North and there had always existed an unexplainable love lost between North and South-East. Therefore, if Miyetti Allah could come as a palliative, South-East that had hitherto remained unvulnerable will automatically cave in and that will be nunc dimitis. South-East, or rather former Eastern Region, be wise for if South-East goes, eventually South-South is gone. May God never allow it. The idea of securing the South-East cannot come from a cattle breeders’ association. The South-East needs their product not their AK-47. The idea itself at this time is rather suspicious as well as insulting. The umbrella organisation of the South-East has spoken, the ebullient and solid governor of “God’s Own State,” Abia, has also spoken; the Igbo youths have also lent their voice. Miyetti Allah should listen and try the South-West, their natural ally.

– Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State,  

Casmir, Igbo’s lack of understanding of modern-day politics in Nigeria is the reason why they have been ostracised from mainstream national offices and your ilk ain’t helping matters. They should stop playing politics of hatred, bitterness and anger, to get it right. They put all their eggs in a basket and have been shown their result, shikena. Politics is all about who gets what, how and when. They failed to meet 25% of total votes in South-East for APC. It was their time but not their turn because of poor performance. They were warned!

– Anonymous, +2348161114572

Governors of South-East should not allow proposed Fulani vigilance group to take place in South-East states. It is an evil agenda.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 1, 2019.

Miyetti Allah’s monkeypox romance with South-East

July 3, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

There is anger in the South-East of Nigeria, and understandably so. For one, there is total exclusion of the zone from President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. The dust of that exclusion was yet to settle when Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) raised another one. At a South-East security summit in Enugu last Thursday, MACBAN proposed the establishment of Fulani Youth Vigilance outfit in South-East communities. This, according to it, is to assist the region’s vigilance groups and other security agencies. To many people in the region, this is the height of provocation.

The scenario is akin to the monkeypox virus scare that trended in 2017. Soldiers had invaded the South-East in what was then called Operation Python Dance. They harassed, intimidated and killed many Igbo youths in that operation. People were still sulking from that experience when some military personnel tried going to schools for a free medical outreach programme. On sighting them, many pupils ran helter-skelter. Parents closed shops and raced to school to pick their children. Rumour had gone round that the python dancers had come to inject monkeypox virus into Igbo children.

Similarly, the Miyetti Allah people appeared to have good intentions in their security proposal. The tone of the national chairman of the association, Alhaji Mohammed Kirowa, seemed to indicate so. He said his group would solicit support and cooperation in adopting dialogue where problems existed. They also intended to report cases against their members to either the Fulani Youth Vigilance Group, state or local branch of the association.

However, there is mutual suspicion among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria today. Trust is completely lacking. It is worse when the name ‘Fulani’ is mentioned. Almost on a daily basis, news of the alleged atrocities of Fulani herdsmen is broadcast on traditional and social media. They reportedly have kidnap cells in different parts of the country. They are said to be ruthless, sometimes going to the extent of raping and killing their unfortunate victims.

The president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nnia Nwodo, emphasised this in his reaction to the MACBAN proposal. He described some of the ubiquitous cattle breeders as people “who have ravaged our farms, raped our women and slaughtered their husbands. As at today, they technically enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution.”

This is the crux of the matter. MACBAN should realise that many non-Fulani citizens are now suspicious, uncomfortable and wary whenever they sight herdsmen in their vicinity. The feeling among this group is that there is a grand plan to Fulanise and Islamise the entire country.

The first thing the association should do is to win the confidence of its host communities. This it could do by prevailing on its patron, President Muhammadu Buhari, to rescue this country from ethnic tensions. It is a simple thing to do. All the President needs to do is to be a father figure to all. He should not only stop his crass display of nepotism but also begin the process of restructuring this country.

The association should also prevail on its members anywhere in the country to submit their AK-47 rifles to security agencies. Niger Delta militants did it during the regime of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and the nation is better for it.

They should also learn to tread softly when politics and security issues are concerned. This is because the more they comment, the more they inflame anger in the land. Endorsing the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, as the next President of Nigeria in 2023, for instance, is another display of idiocy. One is not jealous over their love affair with Umahi. But it is not for them to come and choose for the Igbo who should become Nigeria’s next President.

The major concern of many South-Easterners now is that the nightmare called Buhari Presidency ends as quickly as possible. They expressed this much after my intervention last week on the plight of the Igbo in Buhari and APC’s nepotistic regime. I have decided to give space to some of such views today to further show the sour mood in the region.

Below are some of the reactions:

Re: Is South-East still part of Nigeria?

The ethnic clique that continually enjoys the status quo is deeply scared that a South-East access to political power may lead to the dismemberment of Nigeria and the clique’s loss of their cherished stranglehold on Nigeria. Ironically, the same sadistic clique is always at the forefront of condemnation and obstruction of Biafra’s separate identity. The clique desires a perpetual unity of the horse and its rider who directs and or dictates where the horse goes and its no-go areas. Or is it not laughable that the very husband who sees nothing good in the wife is also seen frantically and ferociously objecting each time the wife seeks for the much-needed divorce? Pray, tell me, is this marital fraud not worse than economic fraud?

– Edet Essien Esq., Calabar South, +2348037952470

Is South-East still part of Nigeria? Your question comes handy. We are not. But I have a word for my brothers of Igbo nation. Go to the bible and read about what Isaac told Esau about his brother Jacob and his freedom. We are Christians and why Nigeria can’t make it is hate on Igbo. The so-called rulers of Nigeria should ask how £20 made a people millionaires in a few years. As of those Igbo in APC, they are toothless bulldogs.

– Michael I. Eze, +2348069576470

Casmir, my brother, you’ve succeeded in writing a legendary piece. It’s for the records. Incidentally, your write- up is exactly what I chronicled in my WhatsApp page on 12/6/19 (the so-called Democracy Day) and which I forwarded to a select group of friends. It’s never been as bad for the Igbo as it is in the present dispensation. But can our people learn? Can we come together? Can we ever subjugate our selfish and individualistic tendencies and forge a common front? Answer me.

– Chief Ben Okwuonu, Owerri, +2347063006088

Dear Cas, you may be right or wrong with your bugging question as to where the Igbo belong. While I served as a corps member in Kwara State in the late 1970s, I had an experience. There was a staff in the school I was posted to. He never gave me breathing space, abusing and insulting me at will. One day, I called him to find out why. His only reason was I refused to go out with other corps members for fun. I asked if he knew my origin, but he responded he cared less about that. I told him how we kill. He thus begged me to tell him where I came from but never disturbed me again. This is my only advice to South-East bloc of Nigeria. With the latest blacklisting of South-East, let all that matter in the zone keep mute and let us watch Oshiomhole’s Nigeria. The marginalisation is a carryover from the civil war. The Nigerian state’s hatred for the Igboman will end naturally. Just think of the success of the party in the zone, yet the party left the zone blank. That is their national unity and national integration.

– Livy Onyenegecha, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State, 08036174573

There was a country called Biafra, which was made up of the present Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers states. But the most endangered states of the defunct Biafra now are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. In Nigeria of 2015 – 2019 and 2019 – 2023, President Buhari and his cohorts in APC are above the law, otherwise they would not violate S.14 (3) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria with impunity and without question. With the exclusion principle against the South-East where is unity of Nigeria?

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

It’s very unfair that APC didn’t elect principal officers from South-East. Where did APC South-East lawmakers go wrong? This injustice must stop, after all, we are one Nigeria.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Was Prof. Humphrey Nwosu honoured over June 12, 1993, presidential election? South-East has been isolated from Nigeria by the PMB administration. Time will tell!

– Prince Iffy Klems Onyeador, +2348111117766

Casmir, thanks so much for your wisdom, courage and for being an honest person.

– Anonymous, +2348032398697

Our emphasis and concern should be on good governance. Appointments are for the appointees and their relations. We need good roads, potable water, jobs for our youths, power supply, security, etc. If all the ministers are from Bayelsa State, so be it. As for 2023, it is in the hands of God. After President Buhari lost in 2011, he vowed never to contest again and he didn’t go to court but God crowned him in 2015 against his expectations. In 1999, Chief Obasanjo was not looking for the presidency. God gave him. Same for Umaru Yar Adua; same for Jonathan. God will decide and it will be final.

– Anonymous, +2348033951445    

Is South-East still part of Nigeria? IPOB says we are not part of the contraption, an entity created by colonial masters. Ohanaeze says South-East is still part of the country called Nigeria with the sobriquet ‘Zoo.’

– Anonymous, +2348064008255

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 24, 2019