Archive for December 2019

Anambra 2021 governorship zoning deceit

December 23, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

It is no longer news that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has zoned the 2021 governorship position to Anambra South. Presumably, this is to achieve equity, considering that the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, is from Anambra North. Thus, different southern candidates are at home with this idea and are gearing up for the big contest in 2021. 

The snag here is that, even in Anambra South, there are subdivisions. People from the Old Aguata Union (OAU), comprising Aguata, Orumba North and Orumba South local government areas, want the governorship position to come to their side. People from Old Nnewi Forum, comprising Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo local government areas, want the position as well. 

Leading the agitation for a governor from OAU is former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife. Recently, he hosted stakeholders, including traditional rulers and president-generals of the 45 communities in old Aguata, in his country home, Igboukwu. Supporters of different candidates from the area were there in full force. They all want their candidates to be the preferred choice of OAU.

Some prominent aspirants from the zone include the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo; an industrialist, Chief Godwin Ezeemo, and billionaire philanthropist, Dr. Godwin Maduka. Ezeemo, who is from Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area, was the governorship candidate of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) in the 2017 election in the state. In that election, he condemned zoning and declared that Anambra had no zoning formula on governorship poll. Today, the man is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has no problem with zoning anymore. All he wants now is for the OAU to ensure fairness in its choice of a candidate. This is deceitful.

Also playing a deceitful and chameleonic game is Senator Uche Ekwunife. She is currently romancing the OAU and has vociferous supporters who champion her interests in the group. A native of Igboukwu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra South, Ekwunife is married to an Nri man from Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra Central. She and her supporters have thrown a dice. They can either claim South or Central, depending on where the bread will be better buttered.

True, women have dual citizenship. Daisy Danjuma, for instance, is from Taraba by marriage but represented her native Edo in the Senate, between 2003 and 2007. Also, Stella Oduah is from Anambra but married to Edo. She currently represents Anambra North in the Senate. These women chose to represent their native states in the Senate. There is nothing wrong with that.

But, Mrs. Ekwunife has chosen to represent her husband’s place, Anambra Central, in the Senate. Coming back to claim her native zone in the governorship contest because she feels it confers a better political advantage on her shows signs of unfaithfulness and unreliability. In American politics, such double talk would be seriously held against her and she would be seen to be untrustworthy. She is either Anambra South or Anambra Central. Period! Since the PDP has discountenanced zoning, she should stand firm and contest as a candidate from the Central constituency. It does not stop her from campaigning in the South. She has the pedigree and capacity to win, irrespective of where she comes from.

It is important to note that zoning has not been in the lexicon of Anambra State. It was when former governor Peter Obi was about to leave office in 2014 that the ruling party felt the position should go to the North because nobody from that zone had been governor. Hence, APGA sold Obiano to the people of the state. The verdict on the governor’s performance will come after his tenure.

Until then, the people of Anambra South should stop cutting off their nose to spite their face. They should remember that candidates from the South have always contested governorship elections in the state, zoning or no zoning. In 2014, some of them contested against Obiano even when APGA had zoned it to the North.

Ordinarily, being from Anambra South myself, I ought to support zoning the governorship to the South. But I cannot, because it will favour me today, agitate for what will ultimately be to my disadvantage. I want to support a candidate from the South because of his pedigree and competence, not because he is from the South. Anambra State is homogenous. It should do away with zoning. Otherwise, it will further polarise the politics of the state. It is already happening with the old Aguata and old Nnewi dichotomy in Anambra South.

This is why the PDP should not succumb to the zoning agitation by some of its members. The doors of the party should remain open for a good candidate from any part of the state. Such aspirants as Ezeemo, Chris Azubogu, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Osita Chidoka, Oseloka Obaze and Ekwunife are good and can turn the fortunes of the state around. Let these candidates woo the delegates with their manifestos and good programmes and not with sentiment.

One other character flaw of our politicians is jumping from one party to the other. Today, they are in PDP because they feel the party is better organised. Tomorrow, they are in APGA because they feel the party is popular in the state. There is no ideology, no principle and no shame.

By and large, the critical instruments for any election in Anambra State are the grassroots, the church and traditional institutions. The 2021 election will not be about party. It’s about the force a candidate is coming with. If the relatively unknown Young Progressives Party (YPP), represented by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, could beat the All Progressives Congress (APC), PDP and APGA in the last senatorial election, then anything can happen. There could be serious upsets in the election. The concern of the parties should be to present good and bankable candidates, not on account of zoning but on merit.

Re: Mixed grill over national anti-corruption war

Nigeria’s fight against corruption has merely assumed the movement of a crab, one step forward, one and a half steps backward! This is so because the fight is unarguably founded on witch-hunting, deceit, tribalism, sectionalism and politics: politics of 2023 inclusive. The legislative arm of government is bereft of its true voice, lacks the required bite of robust and independent legislation.

Under the judiciary, the courts (inclusion of the apex court) even in the face of weighty and overwhelming evidence, are always in a hurry to dismiss obvious corruption charges and political cases against government-anointed individuals “for lack of merit.” The executive, which controls the army, police, DSS, EFCC, uses these ever-willing agencies to trample on the other arms of government or cross its territorial boundary.

How would Nigeria be equated with Algeria, Israel, Egypt, etc, where the corruption fight blasts and convicts past corrupt leaders? Or is our corruption fight not bugged by an unwritten law that shields past corrupt heads of state/presidents from trial and conviction? It is no longer news that only ex-governors, whether corrupt or not corrupt, are brought to book or convicted. A good fight that has eyes and is woven in intrigues will always remain a successful failure.

– Edet Essien Esq., +2348037952470

Dear Casy, APC-led federal government is not fighting corruption holistically. My reason is that 90 per cent of the people who funded Buhari’s campaign in 2015 were corrupt. How many of them have been jailed? Oga Buhari’s appointments in key MDAs are full of corruption. Some former APC governors who ruined their states financially are still enjoying their loot under Buhari’s watch. It is under this APC that python, gorilla and monkey stole our money and none of them was caught.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

Cas,the most important message is that the fight has gained vigour. That is what it should be, and the president should not relent, but should fight the war to the next level. There is corruption in every aspect of our national life. The war should be total. Cas, please, do something about a hundred fake professors discovered in Nigerian universities by the executive secretary of National Universities Commission. This is the highest level of corruption in the land. Our citadels of learning should not be left to die like that.

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

Dear Casmir, I guess it is no hate speech to say that President Buhari’s so-called fight against corruption now amounts to dressing the windows of some unlucky fall guys like our friend, Senator Orji Uzo Kalu. In his first outing as military leader in 1983/84, he gleefully hauled a large number of governors then into jail for as much as 120 years, because he decreed a convoluted jurisprudence of “firstly you are guilty, now prove your innocence, before a military tribunal.”

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, +2348037254371

Casmir, the war against corruption can’t be fought by pretenders. It’s not won by proliferation of committees or on the pages of newspapers/TV stations. It’s not won by deceit and propaganda. Winning the war against corruption needs willpower and change of attitude. It is a subconscious, in-built facility that empowers one to do good and reject bad.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

Ouranti-corruption agencies are trying their best to eradicate corruption. But their effort is not enough because there are some corrupt, never-do-well leaders who are supposed to be in jail, but they are walking free.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348088412165

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 23, 2019

Mixed grill over national anti-corruption war

December 23, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Last Monday was international anti-corruption day. As a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) of the Federal Government, I was in Abuja to join in evaluating the fight against that monster.

At the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where the event took place, I watched as speaker after speaker spoke about corruption. The Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Lilian Ekeanyanwu, for instance, rated Nigeria’s fight against corruption as being above average. In case you don’t know, TUGAR is the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Task Team with anti-corruption and accountability mandates in Nigeria.

According to Ekeanyanwu, only very few countries have achieved the number of high-profile convictions for corruption as Nigeria. “It is only one country that has a death penalty for corruption, but many others are still struggling to sanction the calibre of people we have successfully sanctioned in Nigeria,” she said.

As expected, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) agreed with Ekeanyanwu. In a statement last week, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the launch of the Open Treasury Portal (OTP). It is expected that the OTP will ensure open governance, transparency and help in tackling public sector corruption.

As part of the OTP requirements, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are to publish daily reports of payments from N5m, monthly budget performance, quarterly and annual financial statements published on the OTP portal which can be accessed by all.

The APC enthused, “In the fight against public sector corruption, the OTP complements other initiatives such as the administration’s full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has increased the level of accountability and transparency in the financial resources of the government; stoppage of budget padding, contrary to what we witnessed throughout the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pruning out thousands of ghost workers through stricter implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS).” Good!

But, should we now chant hurray that we have won the war against corruption? Far from it! The Chairman of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the NACS, Mr Andrew Gandu, lamented the slow pace of the monitoring and evaluation process of the NACS. The committee met in Abuja last week to map out strategies for monitoring and evaluating different Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) from early next year. It is hoped that this will yield positive dividends this time.

Besides, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, recently slammed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department for Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for illegally deducting N1.5trillion out of the N6.4trillion they generated in 2017.

In its audit report for 2017 released recently, the Auditor-General’s office noted that the NNPC generated N2.41 trillion but deducted N1.3 trillion before remitting the balance of N1.07 trillion into the federation account. The DPR generated N733.05 billion but deducted N26.77 billion before remitting the balance of N706 billion into the federation account. On its part, the FIRS generated N2.66 trillion but only paid about N2.45 trillion into the federation account. These deductions, Ayine said, violated Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.

In the MDAs, Ayine said several payments amounting to N26.6 billion were made with a total of 140 infractions in such payments. These MDAs made some expenditure without presenting payment vouchers contrary to the provisions of the Financial Regulation 601.

Awarding of contracts is another area where there are many infractions. According to Ayine, “The degree of violation of the Public Procurement Act ranges from ignoring due process, over-invoicing/contracts’ prices inflation, payments for contracts/services not executed and other forms of deviations from the Act.”

There could be many other infractions the Auditor-General is yet to unravel. Recently, the Senate reportedly refused to allow the Auditor-General audit its capital expenditure. What is the Senate hiding?

Ironically, the same Senate reportedly mandated its finance committee to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria over non-remittance of N20 trillion into the Federation Account. The CBN allegedly collected the amount as stamp duty from banks and other financial institutions from 2016 till date. As the Senate President put it, “I was under the impression that we had over N20trillion somewhere. It will interest you to know that we don’t even have N1trillion.”

It will interest the Senate President to also know that the security votes the presidency and governors collect every month are misused. Why the Buhari regime has not abolished these votes remains a matter for conjecture.

The Federal Government may pride itself as having ensured the conviction of certain corrupt ex-governors and some others. But it needs to purge itself of allegation of selective justice. Last week, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) urged President Buhari to stop the selective anti-graft war. The NBA President is of the view that the subversion of justice by any means whatsoever amounts to extreme corruption.

Little wonder a new public survey released by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) indicates that corruption remains a serious problem in Nigeria despite government’s often touted commitment to eradicate it.

We need to emulate Algeria in our fight against corruption. In that North African country, citizens are not docile. They march to the streets to protest against the mismanagement of the country by the powers that be. Last April, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down amid nationwide protests against his regime.

The Algerian courts are also powerful. Last week, a court in the country convicted two former prime ministers and some senior ministers for corruption. The two former premiers are Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal. Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years while Sellal bagged 12 years for squandering public funds.

In all, Nigerians should see the fight against corruption as a collective one. It is not just for the government because government functionaries are not the ones suffering the pangs. Until we tackle it holistically and collectively, whatever we are doing now amounts to an exercise in grand deceit.     

Re: Onuoha Ukeh and ‘The Powers That Be’

Dear Casmir, in Nigeria the powers that be are those who trespass the maxims of equity. I am a Nigerian and an asset of state because I ignored my country’s money. Equity is my origin, my clan and my tribe. Whatever one sows he will reap.

  • Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Casmir, thanks for the beautiful review of Onuoha Ukeh’s book – ‘The Powers That Be’. About three years ago, he started publishing my contributions in his Friday column – Public Sphere. To me Onuoha Ukeh is ‘fela’ of journalism,’ a senior advocate of the masses. His pen is worth more than the best weapon of mass destruction. The book will serve as an indelible mark of his effort to fight impunity, injustice, hypocrisy, corruption, pretension & various sins of the affluent in this society. Send my congrats to him & let the masses be informed where to buy the book. 

  • Pharm Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

The man called Ukeh has reached the apex of his profession. His articles have changed so many narratives in journalism industry. He has paid his due as a journalist. His Friday articles are educative and informative. It is a book Nigerians should make effort to buy and read. It is reference and prediction point book. More power to his elbow.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casy, Onuoha Ukeh is a great journalist, intellectual and prophet. All you have written about the man are real. Nigeria has become a paradox since the evil men removed Shagari’s govt in 1983. Since then till now, govt in power has destroyed the masses. We now have evil leadership and idiotic followership. Let me remind them that the society they abuse today must hunt their children tomorrow. My kudos to you and our son, Onuoha Ukeh. 

  • Eze Chima, Lagos, +2347036225495

Cas, there is Igbo adage that says what an elderly person sees sitting down, even if a child climbs iroko tree, he will not see it. APC is a strange bedfellow.  This is just a preamble, as Machiavelli advised a prince that the first step to consolidate his power is to first kill those who helped him to get the power. Igbo are the target. Allen Onyema is paying for his magnanimity; border closed; car mart ransacked; Kalu convicted; appointment zero just to incapacitate the Igbo. 2023 politics has just started.

  • Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884

Hello Casmir, I thank you for the incisive review and comments on the work done by Journalist Onuoha Ukeh.  I want to quote you – ” Nevertheless, the author’s resort to spiritualism or preaching reduces the impact of the message.” I beg to disagree with you! My opinion is that any work that does not refer to the Word of God, in one form or the other is incomplete. The spiritual world rules the physical space we see. Any Christian who does not preach or minister the Word to all religion, tribe, language, colour, race or creed is a baby or incomplete…

Casmir, Casmir, Casmir; please check yourself if you are in faith – do you worship God in truth and spirit? See Joshua 1:8. See 2 Peter 1:1-14. Better still attend Bible School if you have not done so. I recommend Word of Faith Bible Institute (WOFBI), Living Faith Church World Wide (Winners Chapel). Remain blessed!

  • Col. R.N. Oputa, Retd. Owerri, Imo State, regoputa@yahoo.com
  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 16, 2019

Onuoha Ukeh and ‘The Powers That Be’ (2)

December 9, 2019

A review by Casmir Igbokwe

Last Monday, we started a review of ‘The Powers That Be’, a book written by the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh. It is a compilation of Ukeh’s thoughts and reflections on people, power and politics as published in The Sun over the years. Today, we conclude the review. Enjoy.

In chapter 2, Ukeh reflects on some godfathers and people who can’t be ignored in Nigeria. They include such personalities as Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi; former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; and Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson.

Ukeh sees Orji Kalu as a fearless leader who condemns what is not good and fights for the rights of his people. He endorsed him for president in 2007, saying he had formidable political structure and deserved the support of those who loved surprises, consistency and can-do spirit. But could Ukeh have actually done otherwise?

He also eulogises Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State, saying he came, saw and conquered. Wondering what Nigeria will be if Obi is president, Ukeh says the cost of governance, at least, will be reduced.

It’s not all praises for these personalities. The immediate past governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, receives some knocks for the way he ran Imo State. The writer says Okorocha has fallen flat to the extent that many see him as a jester in government. Part of his legacies is establishment of ministry of happiness and purpose fulfilment.

Writing on the bankrupt states of the federation in chapter 3, Ukeh opines that many governors embark on projects which massage their ego rather than positively touch the lives of the people. He wonders, for example, why Ekiti and Osun would ever think of building airports when some of the existing ones are not viable and when there is not much business in the states to command air traffic. He advises the governors who have financial management problem to attend the Peter Obi School of Economics to learn to be prudent.

In chapter 4, Ukeh dwells on the good and bad sides of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He talks about the third term agenda of the former president and notes that using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fight opponents of government didn’t start today. The then government used the EFCC to harass people like Atiku Abubakar who was the then vice-president but who indicated interest in succeeding Obasanjo in office. He calls it EFCC and motor park justice.

In chapters 6 and 9, you will discover that Obasanjo’s letter writing skills did not start today. The author describes the letter Obasanjo wrote to former President Jonathan in 2013 as sinister and that the intention was to belittle Jonathan and provoke odium and hatred against him. The former president had also written a series of letters to President Buhari, lampooning him as being ineffective, nepotistic and weak.

Chapter 7 is about the Igbo and Biafra question. Here, the author highlights the exploits of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and the subsequent ‘Operation Python Dance’ the military launched to dislodge his group. He regrets what he calls Igbo political obituary, attributing it to the selfishness of Igbo politicians. This manifests partly in the fact that in eight years of Obasanjo presidency, the Igbo produced five Senate presidents. Consequently, since the inception of this democracy in 1999, the South-East has been playing second fiddle and remains the only zone yet to produce the president of the country. He recommends that the zone should forge alliances with other zones to make their political future brighter.

Chapters 8 and 12 highlight the drama and intrigues of 2015 and 2019 elections respectively. Buhari’s certificate saga was an issue in 2015 as it was in 2019. Although the Supreme Court has settled the matter by saying Buhari is ‘eminently qualified’, the author in 2015, wondered: “Can you imagine going to Shell, Chevron or United Nations and when you are asked to tender your certificate, you present a sworn affidavit. And after many questions, your school presents a statement of result. Do you think you will land the job? It’s only in Buhari and the APC pretenders’ republic that this is possible.”

The phrase, ‘pretenders’ republic, accurately captures the recent statement credited to the Minister of Works, Raji Fashola, who said federal roads were not as bad as people said. In a piece in April 2016, Ukeh reminded Fashola about the signs the Lagos State government erected when he was, at some point, Chief of Staff to Bola Tinubu and as governor. Then, the PDP was the ruling party at the centre while Lagos was under the control of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). At that time, various bad locations in Lagos had this sign: “This is a federal road. Please, bear with us.” With the bad state of many federal roads today, has nemesis not caught up with Fashola?

Two major attributes the author exhibits in this book are truth and courage. For instance, on page 395, Ukeh notes, “The country under Buhari is gradually descending to autocracy, whereby the will of one man in government would prevail above the generality of the people who surrendered the country’s sovereignty to him through votes. Now, people are no longer free to talk, as the government considers criticisms, more or less, as hate speeches. Government can impound anybody’s property, as provided in Executive Order 6, on the suspicion of corruption. Journalists are being harassed, arrested and detained for doing their job of holding the government accountable. And the freedoms provided in a democracy are being eroded, while the president is saying that this is in ‘national interest’. This is impunity of the highest order.” This same impunity is an issue in chapter 13 which revolves around the atrocities of herdsmen in different parts of the country.

To drive home his points, Ukeh uses different techniques. Every chapter, for instance, lures you with a thought-provoking quote. I find the quote at the beginning of chapter 10 by American media executive, Oprah Winfrey, particularly interesting: “Learn from every mistake, because every experience, particularly your mistakes, is there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.”

Also of interest in the book is the use of humour to spice up the mood of the reader. In the piece, ‘Achebe’s Dead But His Manhood’s Alive (March 29, 2013), the author plays on the word ‘manhood’ which a certain woman innocently used in her tribute to Achebe. The woman “while trying to underline the fact that although the man had died, his legacy lived on, told the deceased’s wife: Although your husband is dead, his manhood is alive.” Don’t get it twisted please.

Occasionally, the author also spices his articles with proverbs and figurative language. You will see an instance of this on page 41 where he expresses his views on the pro and anti-Buhari protest of February 2017: “Let the eagles perch; let the hawk perch. Whichever that says the other should not perch, let its wing break.”

Besides, on page 443, he uses the phrase, “scent of apologies” to describe the soothing effect of the spate of apologies by people like Yakubu Gown for some atrocities committed in the country.

Nevertheless, the author’s occasional resort to spiritualism or preaching reduces the impact of his message. Writing about Rev. King who was sentenced to death in 2007 for murder, Ukeh says, “The scriptures are unambiguous about the second coming of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ would come back, everybody would see Him descend from heaven in His majesty. That is what the scriptures say and that is true.” Is this also true for Muslims and atheists?

While not dissuading the writer from spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ as a good Christian, I believe it’s always better to face the facts and avoid preaching in a serious discourse of this nature and when addressing people of different faith.

Besides, there are some errors which punctuate the smooth flow of this beautiful narrative. Some of them could be attributed to the printer’s devil. For instance, on page 168, internally generated revenue (IGR) is written as internally generated review. On page 207, the word ‘say’ comes out as ‘sat’ in the sentence: “Politicians should mind what they sat at political rallies.” The last sentence on page 401 has ‘only’ written as ‘oly’. The word ‘sack’, as used on page 338, should have read ‘sacking’ because the word is used as a noun and not a verb. And on page 44, the phrase, “The PSC had no choice than to comply”, should have read, “The PSC had no choice but to comply”. The author should do well to note these errors and correct them in the second edition.

By and large, column writing is chronicling of history in a hurry. I doff my hat for Ukeh for his commendable effort. I enjoyed reading the book and I recommend it to all friends and lovers of truth, equity and justice.

 Concluded.

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 9, 2019.

Onuoha Ukeh and ‘The Powers That Be’ (1)

December 3, 2019

A review by Casmir Igbokwe

Like him or hate him, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is a liberal businessman. Many people had expected that being a chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in those days and publisher of The Sun newspapers, he would not tolerate severe criticisms against the then powers that be in his publication. Contrarily, his editors and writers did punch the PDP government silly. A similar scenario is playing out now that he is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, judging from the robust and caustic articles and columns in The Sun titles. This is evident in The Powers That Be, a book written by the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh.

The Powers That Be is a compilation of Ukeh’s thoughts and reflections on people, power and politics as published in The Sun over the years.

The 541-page book is beautifully woven around different themes subsumed in 13 chapters. Each of these chapters has different subtitles which reflect the central theme. In chapter 1, entitled ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, Ukeh dwells on the contradictions, absurdities and complexities of a country called Nigeria. You see this in the piece about the pro and anti-Buhari protests that took place in 2017. People like Charles Oputa (Charly Boy), human rights lawyer, Femi Falana; publisher, Omoyele Sowore, defied security agents to march with officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and some civil society organisations in Lagos against the state of the nation. This didn’t yield much dividend as some pro-Buhari protesters also held solidarity rallies in Abuja, Kano and some other cities at the same time. So, did Sowore not make a mistake by staking his neck again to organise ‘Revolution Now’ protests across the country in August this year? He has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since then and has been charged with treason. Despite court orders, he has not been released.

Our theatre of the absurd further came to light when heavily armed DSS operatives in 2016 raided the homes of seven judges in the dead of the night, broke down doors and arrested them for corruption. This appeared to be a prelude to the humiliation and subsequent removal of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Ukeh sees this as a joke taken too far and that it provokes resentment.

He says, “If the Executive could get a judge suspended on allegation of corruption or whatever, when the judge has not been found guilty in court, and we applaud, very soon we will discover that judges will be told what to do with cases before them. By then it will be too late to have a proper democracy.” What a prophetic statement!

In February 2017, officers of the Nigeria Customs Service amplified the perfidy of the DSS by raiding Sango Ota Motor Park in Ogun State at midnight. They broke into over 60 shops and carted away bags of rice and kegs of groundnut oil. Ukeh condemns this midnight raid and says if nothing is done, officers may start visiting people’s homes to inspect cooking pots in search of smuggled rice. Recall that a few weeks ago, Customs officers similarly raided and sealed many car marts across the country, claiming that 90 per cent of cars in Nigeria were smuggled. As it was in 2017, so it is in 2019. Nothing has changed.

The Nigerian mess continues on page 17 with ‘Issues in the Maina Mess’. Here, Ukeh recalls the controversies that trailed the reinstatement of erstwhile assistant director in the Ministry of Interior, Abdulrasheed Maina, and some other controversies revolving around President Buhari. Remember that former President Goodluck Jonathan had appointed Maina to head a panel on pension reforms in 2010. In 2013, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission declared him wanted for alleged fraud. He abandoned his job and disappeared from Nigeria. He was later dismissed from service. When Buhari came to power, Maina returned more like a hero. He not only got reinstated in the civil service but also got a promotion.

These controversies, the author notes, “signpost a government whose actions and inactions have left many not only bewildered but also wondering why Nigerians fell for the lie that President Buhari would bring about a positive change.”

Part of the hypocrisy and pretension of our leaders is highlighted in the piece entitled, ‘Fuel Price: See What Politics, Hypocrisy Have Caused’ on page 18. Here, Ukeh chronicles the protest against fuel price hike by people like President Buhari, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka; and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, when Jonathan was President in January 2012. He regrets that these same people looked on when Buhari increased fuel price to 70 per cent.

It is in ‘The Coup in Police Recruitment’ on page 44 that the author explains this hypocrisy very well. In 2016, the police authorities had adopted the local government areas system in recruiting constables as against the federal character principle. Ukeh concludes that this was a deliberate ploy to ensure that states with bogus local government areas, irrespective of population, got more policemen than others, and that it ensured the North’s dominance of the police.

He also highlights the northern skew inherent in the appointments in the other security agencies and the judiciary. On page 374, he notes the delay by the President to appoint Justice Walter Onnoghen as substantive CJN. “In the last 29 years, eight justices of the Supreme Court from the northern part of the country have taken turns in occupying, one after another, the office of the CJN,” he says. And if I may add, another northerner is currently there as the CJN. Onnoghen who is from Cross River State was recently forced out of the position.

Ukeh may not be a seer, but he exhibits the traits of one in some of his political predictions. On page 450, in the piece entitled, ‘Warning To PDP! Watch Out, APC Is Coming!’ published on November 15, 2013, he warns that the PDP will destroy itself if the arrogance and warring posture of its leaders are not curtailed. The author then predicts, “Watch out, APC is coming. If the PDP dismisses this warning, as it normally does, it would be at its peril. One thing that’s clear is this: Whenever it loses power at the centre, it will take the grace of God for it to regain it.”

Re: Bello and desecration of Nigeria’s democracy

Bello is a tragedy to the people of Kogi state. The war (election) was well planned, rehearsed and executed perfectly with the help of Aso Rock. What is the rationale behind the N10 billion given to Bello few weeks to the election? That money is too much to pay workers; our politicians are the problems we have in this country. God forbid this pyrrhic victory of Bello.  

  • Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884

Dear Casmir, I have vowed never to obtain my PVC until e-voting is introduced. Ours is sham franchise and worse than that of Africana nationalism in apartheid South Africa. Franchise is right to vote, right to be voted for, right to have your vote regarded and right to abstention if one has no fate in any candidate.

  • Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Dear Casy, APC led by Buhari has set Nigeria on fire; armed with the infamous affidavit from the judiciary, they have conquered us. APC and their members are churning out laws from Aso Rock and the senate. Such laws are not even good for wild animals to obey. Buhari and his men can continue their evil, we must talk. APC has turned Nigeria into Buhari and Co. unltd. As for Bello, he has copied his oga Buhari. God bless you.

  • Eze Chima C, Lagos, +2347036225495

Casmir, a popular Igbo adage has it that “a child whose father sent to steal uses his leg to break down the door.” APC is a disaster to democracy in Nigeria. It allocates votes as it likes through its umpire – INEC. The judiciary, which used to be the last hope of the common man, has been beaten to comatose. The 2019 elections and tribunals, the Kogi & Bayelsa elections are mockeries in every standard. It is only God that can save us from this evil. 

  • Pharm Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

It is very unfortunate and sad the things that happened in the just ended guber elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states where election was ruined by political violence that led to the killing of PDP woman leader in Kogi state. Nigerian youth should ask themselves where the children of politicians that use them for political violence during and after elections are. My advice to our so-called politicians is that power comes from God not by violence. Killers of the PDP woman should be arrested and brought to book.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Governor Yahaya Bello’s reelection looks like an anathema, but in the real sense of it, irrespective of the seeming underdevelopment, it helped set some records straight especially from the zone that has always bandied some phantom figures about population. It shows the numerical strength is fake and doctored only when their sons are in power. In the primaries, despite having more delegates from that zone and several contestants, GYB trounced them to emerge the flag bearer and repeated same feat at the general polls. The problem with PDP is that rather than campaign, they always rely on outdated propaganda and cheap blackmail. Why didn’t Wada campaign in the central?

  • Ritchie, Abuja, +2348033143783
  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 2, 2019.