Archive for the ‘THE PUNCH Column Articles’ Category

Shame of a nation

November 14, 2011

Casmir Igbokwe

We sang, “The Lord that answereth by fire…” with gusto. It was on a Saturday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Dubai. The Catholic Charismatic Movement, populated mainly by Nigerians, organised the fellowship. A friend, Eliseus, had dragged me there to share in the anointing that would supposedly flow that night.

I was in the United Arab Emirates for a short vacation. My experiences made me wear my thinking cap and also come out of my over one-year hibernation from writing. I’m not fully back though. I only wish to address a few issues arising from my observations in Lagos and Dubai.

 First, the head of all the security agencies need to do something drastic to check the level of corruption  at the nation’s international airports. At each security point I passed through at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, security men asked for dollars. I rebuffed them.

In one particular instance, I played along. I offered to give them N1000 instead of dollars. They felt insulted and threatened to delay me. I became furious and wondered how we could reform Nigeria with that type of attitude. One of the men retorted, “Let the reform begin from the top.” Seeing that they couldn’t intimidate me, they let me go.

A certain young lady was not that lucky. She wanted to go for business. Her agent in Dubai told me she had $2000 on her. The security agents wondered where a small girl like her got such an amount of money from. They asked for $300. She didn’t give them. They delayed her and she missed her flight.

Many Nigerians have such sad tales to tell. When an American television showed 60 minutes of corruption in our flagship international airport a few years ago, we fumed. But the truth is that what was reported was a scratch on the surface.

 The head of the security agencies could send undercover agents to visit some of our airports as travellers. Those found to be culpable should be dealt with accordingly.

Or do we not visit international airports in other countries and see how things work? The moment you step into the beautiful Emirates Airport in Dubai, for instance, the meaning of orderliness becomes apparent. You will not see any security agent asking you for dollars. They are business minded and security conscious. The only snag there is that you could be asked to open your eyes for scanning  so wide that you risk developing eye problems.  

Ironically, Nigerians are the people to beware of in Dubai. Some of them try to market some property in the airport. One of them stopped me and made some proposals to me. She had already taken my details and then urged me to go and buy a SIM card for easier contact. The business proposal sounded too good, especially when I had to, as an incentive, spend two nights in a luxury hotel free.

As I was going to buy the SIM, an eagle-eyed security agent, who had watched us from afar, stopped me. He said he knew what the girl was telling me and that I should disregard her. “She is a Nigerian girl who just wants to market some property. That’s how they deceive many Nigerians here. Just go! You will get the SIM cheaper in town,” the man advised. I heeded the advice.

 One thing that drew tears from my eyes was the plight of many Nigerians living in that Arab country. Some of them were doing well in Nigeria before one government policy or the other crippled their business. They came to Dubai with high expectations. But as it is now, many of them are merely existing.

Let’s share a few examples. You can find as many as 12 people living in one room meant for one person. Their bed is six-spring triple bunk. Even in my secondary school days, I never saw triple bunk. What we were used to were double bunks. As Emeka, my old school mate who is now in Dubai, told me, “I was living in a two-bedroom flat with my family in Lagos. Now, see what I have been reduced to.”

Even at that, the rate does not come cheap. It is 3,500 dirham (about N150, 500)per month. Add this to electricity bill, which is about 1, 200 dirham (about N51, 600) per month and you have an idea of how expensive it is to live in Dubai. And this is even at the low cost area called Deira. The business these people do is another story for another day.

One other lesson we need to learn from this country is tolerance. Though largely a Muslim country, Christians are not hindered from practising their religion. The only thing is that Sunday is a normal working day. Both Christians and Muslims worship on Fridays. In fact, opposite St. Mary’s Catholic church is a mosque.

It is also a crime-free city. One can drop one’s bag in the street, come back the next day and still pick it up. This, perhaps, is because the people don’t tolerate any crime. Once you are caught, the law takes its course.

Here in our country, nobody sleeps with two eyes closed. If one is lucky to escape armed robbers, one may not be too lucky with kidnappers. Boko Haram has been terrorising the nation, killing and maiming people especially in the North.

We keep pretending that all is well. The United States issued a travel warning to her citizens in Nigeria. We said that was being alarmist. Niger Delta militants have threatened to resume hostilities if certain conditions were not met. We said they were disgruntled elements. In Port Harcourt, armed robbers shot and killed seven policemen escorting a bullion van and carted away a lot of money. We issued empty threats to  them. The Federal Government said it would remove fuel subsidy and reintroduce toll plazas across the country. We punched the air and said over our dead bodies! State governments say they can’t pay minimum wage of N18,000. Abia’s solution to it was to sack non-indigenes working in the state.

We seem to be permanently unorganised and permanently unorganisable. Many of us have resigned themselves to fate. One of the songs we sang at the earlier-mentioned fellowship I attended, was, “I will never let you go unless you bless me…”

Let us resolve today not to let President Goodluck Jonathan go unless he provides a platform where Nigerians will discuss the basis for their continued existence. Let us not let the governors who have looted our treasury go unless they account for their stewardship. Let us not let the aviation minister go unless she brings sanity to the shame called international airports in Nigeria. Let us not let the local government chairmen go unless they tell us how they spend money they collect for the provision of infrastructure. Let us not let the Minister of Works rest unless he ensures that Benin-Ore Road ceases to be a death trap.

A few minutes after I came back home from Dubai, I heard a knock on my door. It was an evangelist from the Deeper Life Bible Church, Unity District, sharing hand bills. What was on offer? “Miraculous Visitation Crusade 2011.” It was at Toyin Street, Ikeja.

Let us ask ourselves why we always look for miracles instead of  thinking deep about how to bless and liberate ourselves.


Bad roads, accidents and Nigerian drivers

September 26, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

 It was drizzling last Sunday. Some residents were scooping what looked like diesel from the ground. There was excitement in their eyes. I thought there was a burst pipeline somewhere. But I later saw a tanker lying upside down by the roadside. Its tyres were waving to the blue sky.

 This was around Ibafo/Mowe on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. A few minutes after, I saw another truck lying on its side. Its content (some say it‘s 600 bags of cement) littered the road. Rainwater had even rendered them useless.

As we entered Sagamu-Ore-Benin Road, I tried to count the number of accidents I saw. I lost count. Some of the trucks fell across the expressway. In many places, motorists had to meander through to the opposite lane, with serious traffic snarl in tow. At a point, I occupied my mind with counting the time remaining for me to get to my destination in the east. I was lucky to have got home about 8pm. I had left Lagos about 7.00am. And this is a journey that ordinarily should not take more than seven hours. Some unlucky ones had to sleep over in Benin and continued the journey the following day.

 Not only are the expressways bad, but most of the roads in the cities, be it in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, or Bauchi are death traps. Just as I was about to put this piece together, I got a text message from a reader in Lagos. He complained about the terrible state of Isheri-Egbeda, Ayobo, Abule-Egba, Iyana Ipaja roads.

A few months ago, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency said 70 per cent of federal roads in the country were not only bad but had since expired. Even some of the roads that have recently been renovated are being washed away by the rains. In my state, Anambra, the Nnobi-Isuofia-Ekwulobia Road that was renovated less than a year ago has developed potholes here and there. It was interesting listening to commuters talk about the road. They condemned a prominent politician from the state who they said handled the contract for the repair of the road.

An ad-hoc committee of the Senate had similarly indicted some past public officials for dubious implementation of road contracts. About N1.7 trillion worth of such contracts were said to have been fraudulently awarded between 1999 and 2010. The World Bank has just given the Federal Government a credit facility of $330m for the rehabilitation of bad roads in the country. Let’s hope that the Minister of Works, Sanusi Daggash, will fulfil his pledge to rehabilitate four federal roads with this money.

 Let’s also hope that the high statistics of deaths on our roads will eventually go down. Official report puts the death toll on our roads every year to at least 5,000. The number of those who are injured is far more than this.

Our drivers should also learn to drive carefully. Though the roads are bad, accident will hardly occur if a good driver is behind the wheel. But my daily experiences on the road tell me that the majority of drivers in Nigeria know next to nothing about traffic rules. They speed excessively. They have no regard for traffic signs. And they yell at other road users like wild animals.

Truck and bus drivers are the worst culprits. To them, no other vehicle should be on the road except their own. When they try to push you out of the lane and you resist, they scratch your car and dare you to do your worst. Part of the problem is that young boys in their early 20s who should have no business driving such articulated vehicles now drive them. How they obtain their driving licences is a different thing entirely.

To obtain a driving licence in Nigeria, you only need to pay the right fee to a tout who brings the licence to you the following day. You may not have gone through any practical lessons on driving and may not even know what a zebra crossing is.

 That is why I like what the Lagos command of the Federal Road Safety Commission is doing with regard to the issuance of driving licence in Lagos. A few days ago, for instance, I needed to renew mine which just expired. I called the Lagos sector commander of the FRSC, Jonas Agwu, to help me out. He gave me a date and urged me to come at 8am.

I came at the appointed time and joined other licence applicants in a lecture hall. The lecturer was Mr. Agwu. And for over one hour, he taught us the rudiments of good driving. According to him, a good driver must have good sight, sound judgement and good reflexes. He must also anticipate or think ahead and have maximum concentration.

The question is: how many of our drivers have these attributes? As Agwu noted, some of our drivers engage in drunk-driving, especially on weekends. Some want to pose with their latest phones while driving; while some others ignore such safety rules as putting a child on the front seat of their cars.

 At the Vehicle Inspection Office where I obtained the form for the driving licence, I was made to pass through another round of lectures. At the end of it, every applicant is made to buy a copy of road safety manual on sale at the VIO. Though I obtained my licence that same day, I understand the processes can take up to three days.

In sane societies, obtaining a driving licence could take months. You are properly and thoroughly tested to be sure you can actually drive. And when you commit any traffic offence, the law is there to take its course.

Penultimate week, 47-year-old singer, George Michael, was found guilty of drug-driving by Highbury Corner Magistrate Court in London. The police arrested him in July for crashing his Range Rover while under the influence of cannabis. He was given an eight-week sentence and a fine of 1, 250 pounds. The court also banned him from driving for five years.

 Until our law enforcement agents stop chasing shadows and begin to critically examine the road worthiness of vehicles and their drivers, sanity may never return to our roads.

The next Nigerian president

September 18, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

On Saturday, September 18, 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan formally declared his intention to contest the presidency of Nigeria in 2011. It was at Eagles Square in Abuja before a mammoth crowd. He had earlier offered his services to the Nigerian people on Facebook. Before his formal declaration, I got his customised text message which reads, “We are on the road to rebuild our nation. Stand with me. Stand for transformation.”

At least, seven other aspirants have made their ambition to lead the nation known. They are Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Messrs Bukola Saraki, Bashir Tofa, Nuhu Ribadu and Dele Momodu. Each of these candidates has dreams of what to do or what not to do for the country.

Some of these candidates are serious; some just want to make some noises. Since they are just aspirants, we will not devote much time to them for now. Our analysis will centre mainly on their antecedents and chances of making it through the primaries. Today, I will give you a few hints and leave the analysis to you.

Let’s start with President Jonathan. So far, he has been a very lucky man. He has undergone tremendous transformation from a poor village boy to an unknown lecturer; from a deputy governor to governor; and from vice-president to president without contesting any election. Now he wants our votes to make him a truly elected president of Nigeria.   

His major promise if elected is to always tell the truth and carry everybody along. “I know you are tired of empty promises,” he said, “so I will make only one promise to you today…to promise less and deliver more if I’m elected.” That is if his wife, Patience, will exercise enough patience and calmness throughout the campaign period. Remember her reported altercation with Governor Chibuike  Amaechi of Rivers State the other day.

As more and more candidates emerge, more groups will also come up. People are actually looking for where to butter their bread. That is what politics usually throws up in an underdeveloped country like Nigeria. One of such groups called Association for Better Nigeria placed an advertorial in THISDAY last Thursday. It made attempt to compare Jonathan and Babangida on the issue of trust.

According to the group, Jonathan promised to appoint a credible Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman. He kept his word by appointing Prof. Attahiru Jega, whom it described as a credible civil society activist. Jonathan also promised, among others, to provide every support to ensure INEC succeeds in its assignment. “He kept his word by approving the release of N87bn to INEC,” ABN enthused.

On Babangida, the ABN noted that the former dictator promised to hand over power to civilians in 1990, 1992, and 1993 but betrayed his word by dribbling the Nigerian people; that he promised chief M.K.O. Abiola that he would hand over to him if he won the election, but betrayed his word by annulling the free and fair election won by Abiola.

Good message. But is this not the same ABN that helped Babangida scuttle the June 12, 1993 elections? Headed then by Chief Arthur Nzeribe, the group did all sorts including obtaining a court injunction to stop the election. So, is it now born again? Or has it come again to put a spoke in the wheel of our electoral process?

It means the vultures have not gone to sleep. The coming days and months promise to be interesting. We will definitely see more turncoats, numerous desperadoes and chronic liars. Babangida has promised to do one term of four years. Judging from his antecedents, do you believe him? Send me your views.

New reports indicate that Babangida, Atiku, Mohammed Gusau and Saraki have resolved to present a common candidate. If the report is true, I wonder who will step down for the other. Atiku, for instance, had left the PDP for the Action Congress of Nigeria on whose platform he contested the 2007 presidential election. He failed. He has since jumped back to the PDP, with hope that he will still actualise his dreams. Considering the former vice-president’s desperation to go back to Aso Rock, will he agree to step down? Gusau and Saraki? Forget them. They are nothing but also-rans.

I hear Alhaji Bashir Tofa also wants to be the standard-bearer of the crisis-ridden All Nigeria Peoples Party. Remember that this man contested with Abiola in 1993 on the platform of the National Republican Convention. He could not even win in his own state, Kano. So what has he come out to do again? Nigerians are watching with keen interest.

“I have a dream for a new Nigeria. I have the dream of a changed Nigeria. I want to see if there is a possibility of opening a new chapter for the country.” That was Nuhu Ribadu. He spoke to journalists a few days ago about his ambition. As a former anti-corruption czar, he did his best to stamp out corruption in our country. He has boasted that he will put a full stop to corruption if elected president. Will you vote for him? Please let me know.

Buhari? As a military ruler, he ruled with iron fist. But he was disciplined. So far, nobody can link him to any fraud when he was in power. However, he has been contesting for the presidency since 1999 to no avail. I pity him. He left the ANPP for the CPC, but will his new party make a way for him?

 Ah, I almost forgot Bashorun Dele Momodu. He submitted his letter of intent to run for the presidency on the platform of the Labour Party last week. As a member of my constituency, I have a soft spot for him. I am sure you know he is the publisher of Ovation Magazine. But his party doesn’t strike me as the one that could win the presidency. Anyway, miracles do happen.

In all, many Nigerians would want someone who will recognise what some citizens call their PhD certificate. That is Poverty, Hunger and Diseases. Of all the candidates, who do you think will collect this certificate and replace it with good jobs, three square meals, and other good things of life?

Jonathan and the INEC timetable

September 12, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

 That Attahiru Jega is the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission is common knowledge. What may not be known yet to every Nigerian is the fact that some mischievous fellows say President Goodluck Jonathan is actually the INEC Chairman. How? Jonathan Ebele Goodluck Azikiwe (JEGA).

 Trust Nigerians. They are very ingenious when it comes to politics. Some already believe that Jonathan will connive with Jega to manipulate the electoral process. Due to our past experiences, not a few Nigerians will be thinking now that the forthcoming elections in 2011 will not be free and fair. Ask them why and you will hear such answers as ‘the Peoples Democratic Party will rig the election’; ‘some prophets have predicted doom if Jonathan runs,’ etc.

These notwithstanding, INEC, last week, released the timetable for the elections. Conduct of party primaries will hold between September 11 and October 30, 2010. Parties commence their campaigns on October 17, while voters’ registration runs between November 1 and 14, 2010. The elections proper start with the National Assembly elections on January 15, 2011. This is followed by the presidential election on January 22 and governorship/state assembly elections on January 29, 2011.

Looking at the time available, it appears the election is already doomed to fail. The time, as some politicians have observed, is short. Nothing is in place, yet it is just about four months to the elections.

Besides, there are other signs that the elections may be scuttled by those who feel they will not be favoured by the outcome. From the North, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Co. have threatened fire and brimstone should Jonathan decide to run. To them, it is the turn of the North to produce the President. Somebody like Prof. Ango Abdullahi, from media reports, is sure that Jonathan will fail if he runs. How he arrived at this conclusion is not necessary here.

On the other side of the divide are prophets who have made predictions according to what their own gods told them. For instance, Primate Theophilus Olabayo says calamity awaits the land if Jonathan runs. There will be bloodshed which, he reportedly adds, will spread uncontrollably and jeopardise Nigeria‘s democracy. Jonathan, he advises, must listen to God and rule himself out of the contest.

 A near similar prediction was made for former President Olusegun Obasanjo before he ascended the presidential throne in 1999. He was said not to be the messiah Nigerians had been waiting for. He not only ruled for eight years but also wanted to go for a third term. Perhaps, Jonathan’s God will also protect him against the wishes of Olabayo’s God.

The President’s recent actions indicate that he may not brood any nonsense. Those who think he is lily-livered may be thinking twice now with the sudden removal of service chiefs last Wednesday. To replace them are Air Marshal Oluseye Petinrin as Chief of Defence Staff; Air Vice Marshal M.D. Umar as Chief of Air Staff; Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral O.S. Ibrahim as the Chief of Naval Staff; Mr. Hafiz Ringim as the acting Inspector-General of Police; and Mr. Ita Ekpeyong as the Director General of the State Security Service.

Of all the appointments, that of Ihejirika is particularly interesting. It is the first since the end of the civil war over 40 years ago, that an Igbo man will be appointed to that position. Already, some Igbo groups have hailed the appointment. President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, reportedly said it signalled the healing of the wounds of Ndigbo.

However, what is more urgent now is the healing of the varied political and electoral wounds in the country. Many people are governors today by rigging. Some senators and Rep members found themselves in the legislative chambers without adequate preparation; without knowing the needs and problems of their constituencies. Many local government chairmen think that their only duty is paying salaries and sharing of local government allocations. There have been no conscious efforts to train or enlighten the political office-seekers and the electorate on their duties, rights and obligations.

 We blamed the immediate past chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu, for the problems associated with our electoral system during his tenure. We also hailed the appointment of Jega. The hope of every Nigerian is that the new INEC man will conduct an election worthy of emulation. But I’m afraid we may soon turn around to vilify Jega if we do not amend the anomalies inherent in our electoral and political system.

We could start by organising training programmes for all those involved with the process of selecting our leaders. We can take a cue from what the police authorities in Rivers State are doing currently. The command has reportedly set aside every Tuesday for the training of officers and men on the conduct of elections. The Commissioner of Police for the state, Suleiman Abba, was quoted to have said that the personnel were being trained on their responsibilities during campaigns, the public order act, and duties during and after elections.

Similarly, the Centre for Management Development has indicated interest to partner with INEC on training and guidance on how to effectively manage resources allocated to it. Advanced democracies embark on such trainings to sensitise their people and make way for peaceful and free elections. Between March 2002 and October 2003, for instance, the Centre for Campaign Leadership trained young professionals who aspired to run for office in the United States on campaign fundraising and grass root mobilisation, among others.

 In their book, Win the Right Way, Christine Trost & Matt Grossmann said, ”Winning candidates combine ethical campaign practices with effective planning, skilful organising, and a clear message. They learn about the concerns of their community, the nuts and bolts of organising, and the intricate rules of financing…”

We need to also think of winning elections the right way. As I write this, I have just been invited to join the group “Jonathan for President” on Facebook. Soon, Atiku or IBB’s group may invite me too. The contest is hotting up. But my main interest is not joining Jonathan or Atiku or Buhari, but in having my name on the voter register. That is one major way you and I can determine who rules us. That is if the two ‘Jegas’ – Goodluck and Attahiru – smoothen the rough edges of the electoral system.

Celebrating cholera at 50

September 5, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

In less than a month now, Nigeria will celebrate its golden jubilee. Initially, N10bn was reportedly earmarked for the celebration. Though the Federal Government has reduced the amount, it has resorted to begging some corporate organisations for donations towards the anniversary cause. This will ensure that we have enough money to bake the biggest cake in the world.

For some reasons, some Nigerians will not be part of this celebration on October 1. While we clink our glasses, these unfortunate citizens will be on hospital beds. The majority who cannot afford hospital bills will make do with agbo and other local herbs.

In the past few weeks, cholera alone has dispatched at least 571 people to their graves in about 11 states of the federation. This figure does not include the seven deaths recorded in Zamfara State last week. As at August 26, about 10, 134 cholera cases had been recorded in the country.

Although the disease is particularly prevalent in the North, the South is not immune from it. Media reports last Wednesday indicated that street sweepers and refuse truck drivers were on strike in Ekiti State. Traders were reportedly selling foodstuffs beside overfilled refuse bins in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. The bins also serve as dumps for faeces, as some residents have no toilets.

Cholera is caused by a bacterium transmitted largely through contaminated water or food. Poor sanitary conditions help to spread the disease. And you ask, why is this disease wreaking havoc in Nigeria in this 21st century? The last major outbreak of cholera in the United Kingdom was reportedly recorded in 1854. In other advanced nations, it is a long forgotten scourge.

In our dear nation, we may still be talking about the epidemic in the next century. Forget about the so-called Millennium Development Goals or Vision 20: 2020. There is nothing yet to indicate that we have any good vision for the future. Our main source of water is still sachet water popularly called pure water. Some drink borehole without any form of treatment. Only a negligible few drink treated water.

 In a recent report, the United States State Department says 82.8 per cent of Nigerians have no access to potable water. According to the report, water supply is unreliable though all the 36 states in the country have state water boards that focus on municipal supply.

To the Nigerian Medical Association, the problem is bad governance. The President of the group, Dr. Omede Idris, was quoted to have said that the epidemic was avoidable and preventable if there were measurable level of emergency preparedness, response to emergencies and surveillance under good leadership.

I agree. Our response to medical emergencies is appalling. Last Sunday, I wrote that death was cheap in Nigeria. A friend, Mike Nzeagwu, reacted, saying it’s even cheaper than I imagined. He drew my attention to the death of the former sports editor of THISDAY, Emeka Enechi, who died last week of tetanus infection. Enechi sustained a minor injury from an auto accident he had some two weeks ago. The man died in a public hospital in Asaba. What this means is that the hospital either does not have anti-tetanus injections, or the doctors were negligent.

Saying that our health care system is too poor will be stating the obvious. My dad was recently treated of typhoid and malaria in a private hospital in Enugu. Right now, he finds it difficult to walk. While at the hospital, a physiotherapist attended to him. But the problem did not go away. Some friends say it could be prostrate. Some say it could be arthritis. Some  others have diagnosed witchcraft attacks.

We thought of doing a Computed Tomography scan to know exactly what the problem is. I have been made to understand that the CT scan equipment at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, is faulty. My younger sister in Port Harcourt made a quick check in the Garden City. Her findings? The equipment at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital is also not working. She could not confirm the current state of the one at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital before this piece went to bed.

Part of the immediate response of the Federal Government to the cholera crisis was a Facebook posting of President Goodluck Jonathan. The President reportedly said he had ordered the Ministry of Water Resources to provide potable water to the affected communities. Such communities will also be provided with toilets by the Ministry of Health.

These are remedial measures. Governments at all levels need to do more. Local governments can contribute by providing treated borehole water especially in rural areas. The state water boards should justify their existence, or be scrapped. The Ministry of Water Resources should commit the resources at its disposal to useful purpose. And no purpose in that ministry can be more useful than the provision of potable water. If it cannot do this, then workers of the ministry have no reason to collect salaries every month.

In my area in Ikeja, I learnt that government water runs occasionally. The Lagos State Water Board, I understand, has circulated some leaflets advising residents to patronise its water. If this board is serious, it should intensify this campaign and also assure consumers of the safety of the pipe-borne water. I say this because some of the pipes have rusted and may not really be a good passage way for drinking water.

In the interim, Nigerians should help themselves to prevent water-borne diseases. This they can do by boiling their water and food thoroughly. Some use water treatment substance called WaterGuard to treat their water but I can’t say how efficacious it is. As for those who drink “pure” water, be sure of the source or the company that packages the water.

While we prepare to celebrate our independence, it will be worthwhile to reserve some portions of our anniversary cake for those who may still be passing watery stool in the hospitals by October 1.

In Nigeria, death is cheap

August 29, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

I was negotiating a U-turn close to Balogun Bus Stop on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos. Suddenly, I heard a big bang at the back of my car. I stopped.

That was last Sunday, as I was going for an evening outing with my family. In a jiffy, okada riders gathered.

The driver, a gentleman in his late 40s or early 50s, came close to me and said, ”Sorry, it‘s my fault. I think I know what happened.” I pardoned him. I pitied him the more because his new Toyota Camry was seriously damaged. His bonnet, radiator, front lights were gone. Mine was slightly affected. If not that it‘s an SUV, the story would have been different by now.

It was not until the following day that I learnt of another accident the same Sunday on the same Awolowo Way. According to media reports, three female members of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners were riding in a car when another vehicle hit theirs from the rear. They were rushed to the hospital where they later died.

I know some people are already thinking that some demons are operating on Awolowo Way. But before we look the way of evil powers, let‘s first examine our own frailties. The man who hit me, for instance, might have lost concentration. That is if his brakes were okay.

Many Nigerian drivers are merchants of death. Some drive under the influence of alcohol. Some drive under the influence of women or vice versa. Some do not have valid driving licences. Some do not bother about maintaining their vehicles. If the Dangote truck that rammed into some vehicles and caused multiple accident penultimate Sunday in Lagos was in good condition, that tragedy could have been prevented.

The curious thing is that most of these accidents reportedly happen on Fridays and Sundays. I also know that accidents occur during festive periods such as Christmas and New Year. The reason, I suspect, is that many people refurbish their dead cars during these periods and put them on the road.

In Nigeria, an average of 400 people die monthly from road accidents. The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Osita Chidoka, was reported to have said that 18,308 accidents occurred between 2006 and March 2009. Over 5,000 persons lost their lives within the period. A great number of these accidents involved tanker drivers.

One major cause of these accidents is bad roads. Most of our roads are not just bad, they are cemeteries. The Federal Road Maintenance Agency estimates that the lifespan of 70 per cent of federal roads in the country had expired. It was once reported that the Federal Government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo spent about N500bn to repair some federal roads. So far, Nigerians have not seen much of this rehabilitation. Contractors and some public officials laugh all the way to the bank, while unfortunate citizens die in their thousands on these roads.

Road accident is not the only harbinger of death in our country. There are extrajudicial killings everywhere. I was almost drawn to tears while reading the story of the tragic death of Owen and Collins Onaodowan in Effurun, Delta State, two Mondays ago. According to media reports, these two brothers went to watch a match between Manchester United and Newcastle at a neighbourhood viewing centre. Somehow, they were apprehended for alleged robbery.

All pleas that these brothers, one of whom was a youth corps member, were not robbers fell on deaf ears. Some soldiers and riot policemen allegedly beat them silly and later took them to their station at Ekpan. By the time the relatives came the following day to bail their sons, they had been killed and buried. The father of these young men, Austin, said he begged the security agents to spare his children when the torture was going on. But one of the men hit his mouth with the butt of his gun. His tooth fell off. The police side of the story is that the brothers were armed robbery suspects killed by a mob. Too bad!

Besides, the police in Ilorin, Kwara State, recently, allegedly killed a driver, Dele Olaniyi, at a road block. The culprits are said to be facing orderly room trial. But this will not bring back the life of Olaniyi whose father, ironically, is a riot policeman in Lokoja.

These security agents are not immune from this harvest of deaths. Only last Monday, armed robbers reportedly killed five policemen at a road block in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State. A couple of others have lost their lives in sorry circumstances.

In some states of the federation, particularly in the North, there are deaths caused by cholera, measles, meningitis and some other poverty-induced diseases. This year alone, about 435 people have reportedly lost their lives to cholera and measles.

The FG needs to do more to protect lives and properties of citizens. It is heart-warming that the government has approved the sum of N65.3bn for the servicing of major contracts for the rehabilitation and construction of roads and bridges in the country. We hear this is the first phase of the road projects. The second and third phases will reportedly commence soon.

Over a year ago, Bi-Courtney signed for the rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. What we have seen so far are the company‘s signboards on the road. We also hear it will soon commence work on the road. The Federal Executive Council told the nation last week that a total of nine contracts for the rehabilitation and construction of federal roads and bridges had been approved. This, it said, was in line with the plan to make Nigeria one of the top 20 global economies by 2020. Nigerians are eagerly waiting for this.

But until this is done; until we learn to appreciate and value human lives, every claim to civilisation we make brings us nothing but ridicule.

Police and N20bn checkpoint largesse

August 22, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

RICHARD Branson in his column today (see page 22 of SUNDAY PUNCH) gave an insight into how he sourced the initial capital for his business in 1967. He said his mum, Eve, had found a necklace on the roadside and taken it to the police. ”When nobody had claimed it after three months, the police told her she could have it. She knew we were out of funds, so she sold the necklace and gave us the money,” he added.

This is not about Branson or how to source money to finance your business. But I find the honesty and integrity displayed by both Branson‘s mother and the police worthy of note.

This type of virtue is hard to find in Nigeria. Not that we don‘t have good people. Not that our nation is not great. Our problem is that the people who are bad appear to be more visible than those who are good.

Let‘s examine the police, for instance. Last Sunday, there was a multiple accident on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. From different eyewitness accounts, the police allegedly mounted a roadblock on the sloppy portion of the road close to Berger bus stop. This caused a traffic snarl. Suddenly, an articulated truck on top speed appeared on the scene. The driver could not control what happened later as he hit some cars. About 25 vehicles caught fire. At least 40 people lost their lives.

The police have tried to extricate themselves from blame. Investigations are still ongoing. But before the result is made public, it is pertinent to note that people‘s anger is that the police mounted the roadblock not to fish out criminals but to extort N20, or is it N50, from motorists.

This allegation is not new. In a recent report, the Human Rights Watch accused the black uniformed men of being the most corrupt institution in Nigeria. The report published in major newspapers last week indicated that the police made over N20bn from checkpoints across the country between January 2009 and June 2010. The South-East region is the main cash cow as the security agents reportedly netted in N9.35bn. From the South-South, they got N4bn; South-West N4bn; North-Central, N2bn; North-East and North-West, N500m each. Of course, the police dismissed the report as ”embellished innuendoes and suggestive graphics aimed at reaching a preconceived conclusion.”

To be fair to the police, they have achieved some feats that are worth celebrating. For instance, it is well known that the Nigerian police give good account of themselves in international peace-keeping operations.

Last week, they uncovered a hideout in Ibadan where armed robbers work on stolen cars before selling them off as Tokunbo. They recovered many cars in the process. I suspect that my stolen Honda might have been taken to that workshop!

In any case, the police are not the only institution that is corrupt in Nigeria. Many other organisations or agencies such as the Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, etc. are similarly corrupt. There are also corrupt local government chairmen, councillors, state governors, civil servants, bankers, doctors, journalists and so on. That is why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission and similar agencies are always busy.

My worry is that the more these agencies appear to be working, the more we witness cases of graft. Something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. I believe that one major cause of this problem is the inequality in our socio-political system. A few Nigerians are super rich while the majority die in penury.

A recent report by the Millennium Development Goals scored Nigeria low in poverty alleviation. The report noted, ”Although poverty has reduced since 2000, the reality is that among every 10 Nigerians, five still live in poverty. Growth has not been sufficiently equitable or generated employment.”

The government that should provide social amenities does not bother much. You struggle to provide your own water, electricity and other good things of life. A report in THE PUNCH of last Friday quoted the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, as saying that about 60 million Nigerians now own power generators. To fuel these generators annually, according to Sanusi, they spend N1.56tn.

In the area of health, we are not faring better. As you read this, over 4000 people are infected by cholera in the North. As at Friday, about 231 of this number had already died. An official of the Federal Ministry of Health was quoted to have said that the epidemic was largely caused by drinking of contaminated water. And you ask, why can‘t the government provide potable water to prevent its citizens dying like fowls from avoidable diseases?

Although corruption cannot be justified in anyway, it will be minimised if people know that there is a system in place that takes care of their basic needs if they are incapacitated. The tendency for one to grab for one‘s children or children‘s children is partly due to the fear that should anything happen, those children will suffer. Nobody will care about their school fees or medical care or housing needs or even food.

We could start by cutting the jumbo salaries and allowances of political office-holders. The proceeds from that exercise will go a long way in providing decent accommodation and living wage for the police. It will also provide potable water for the cholera infested citizens of Bauchi and Borno States.


Last Friday, I got a text message from someone who urged me to protect the numbers of my readers whose reactions are published on the Readers’ Court page. According to her, her husband received death threats because of his reaction to my column. Some other people had complained in the past of how fraudsters saw their numbers in the paper and started disturbing them with 419 messages. There are yet some others who would want their numbers to be published because they get reactions to their own reaction. Please note that we will protect your name or number if you so indicate in your reaction. Otherwise, we will assume that you do not mind. 

2011: Consolidating politics of bread and butter

August 15, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

The late chief Lamidi Adedibu popularised amala politics in Oyo State. In Kwara State, the only party that can win elections appears to be the unregistered Saraki Peoples Party. In Abia State, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and his mother, Eunice, a.k.a. Odiukonamba, used to hold sway until very recently. There is a similar trend in the other parts of the country.

Soon, the 2011 elections will come. Godfathers and their followers are strategising, aligning and realigning for total victory. Only a few people are talking about issues. The majority are after the candidate or political party that will best butter their bread.

Their main strategy is to jump from one party to the other. The Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, is the current face of this type of politics. He once had a cordial relationship with former governor Kalu. 

With the support of Kalu and his Progressives Peoples Alliance, he became the governor of Abia State in 2007. Then, Kalu was disenchanted with his erstwhile party, the Peoples Democratic Party. He poured invectives on the party and vowed never to have anything to do with it.

But politicians are masters of doublespeak. Kalu has since rejoined the PDP. Some of the members he left behind are finding it hard to accept him back though. His political son, Orji, has also left the PPA. With fanfare, the All Progressives Grand Alliance welcomed him to its fold. APGA chieftains hailed the migration as the best thing that would happen to Abia people in recent times.

APGA victory dance was still on when rumours made the rounds that the PDP was wooing Orji. He gave the party conditions before he could rejoin. One of these conditions was that the authorities of the party should dissolve the state executive. That was done. But an Abuja High Court has stopped the action. Last week, the ruling party formally readmitted Orji into its fold. Not too long ago, the Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim; and his Bauchi and Zamfara state counterparts also decamped to the PDP.

Last Monday, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, organised a reception in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State to announce his defection from the All Nigeria Peoples Party to the PDP. A few days after, the Bauchi State chapter of the PDP disowned him, saying he did not follow the party’s constitution.

These politicians have no shame, no ideology, and no principle. The PDP chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo, had warned governors to stop coming to his house. They should come to his office if they want to see him. And that should be without any Ghana-must-go bag. But the governors had defied this directive. “Anyone who tries it again, I’ll disgrace him publicly,” Nwodo warned.

But he underestimated the power of the governors. In their meeting last Tuesday, the governors barred him from attending. It was President Goodluck Jonathan that reportedly intervened to save him from removal.

There is near breakdown of governance in the country. To the majority of the leaders, their welfare comes first. The end result of the plots to get to power revolves around how to get a bigger share of the nation’s resources.

Nigeria has reportedly earned N34trn in oil revenue from 1999 to 2009. Every month, millions of funds are allocated to states and local governments across the country. The allocation for June was shared in July.

My local government, Aguata, in Anambra State, got N137, 431, 757.88. The allocation for Southern Ijaw Local Government in Bayelsa State was N154, 336, 569.83. Alkaleri LG in Bauchi got N161, 215, 691.23. Can any of these local governments and others tell us what they have done with this money?

Do we talk about the National Assembly whose members allocate jumbo salaries and allowances to themselves for going to the chambers to exchange fisticuffs? Do we talk about state governments that tar a few roads here and change some street lights there? We clap for them and say they are the best thing to have happened to Nigeria. One or two rainfalls, the roads are washed off. Some local governments sink one or two boreholes and give out some pittance to some cronies and hangers-on. We shout halleluiah, the messiah has come!

We are deceiving ourselves. At the end of the day, we all suffer the consequences. When kidnapping started, we thought it was meant for only expatriates. Today, we are all feeling the pinch. Doctors are always on strike. Patients die in their thousands everyday in our hospitals. Some universities in the South-East are currently on strike.

Our own way of ameliorating these agonies is to purchase more aircraft for the presidential fleet. I hear the cake they are making for our 50th anniversary celebration is the biggest in the world.

I’m sorry for this country. Where is the Nigeria Labour Congress? Where is the National Association of Nigerian Students? Why have they not organised protest marches to put a stop to this perfidy? We are not asking questions because ours is politics of chop I chop. Only a few people are bothered about issues of development.

Unfortunately, the so-called opposition parties that should be sensitising the people are neither here nor there. Some new ones are coming up, promising heaven on earth. The newly-formed Mega Progressive Peoples Party is promising quality leadership. Its National Leader, Rasheed Shitta-Bay, said the party would change the course of our nation for good. Great!

There is another party that goes by the name National Emergency Rescue Mission. The leader of this party, Kayode Oluwatoke, was reported to have said that the greatest events since the world began were about to start unfolding in Nigeria. And one of their major assignments is to arrange a sovereign national conference that will discuss Nigeria by Nigerians. Interesting!

In 1999 and 2003, the ANPP and Alliance for Democracy presented a formidable opposition to the PDP. Today, where are these two parties? Since the last election in 2007, at least 28 members of the National Assembly have defected to the PDP.

It’s a matter of bread or cash if you like. And nothing brings this home more than the threat by a certain women group to go on sex strike if President Jonathan did not declare his intention to run for the presidency in 2011 by August 27.

We are in trouble!

PHCN, crazy billing and tariff increase

August 8, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

PRAYERS and jokes are good mediums through which Nigerians try to escape from their existential problems. Almost on a daily basis, I receive them either via my phones or email address.

Last week, for instance, one Balogun from Ibadan informed me of the arrival of new perfumes in the country. In case I‘m interested, he says, the perfumes are: Escape by Ibori, Desperate by IBB, Assault by Deji of Akure, Kaitastrophy by Kaita, Barely 13 by Yerima, Missing Goal by Aiyegbeni, and Kidnapped! by Chris Uba. Others are: Paradise Lost by Turai, Looters by National Assembly, Shameless by OBJ, Headgear by Okonjo-Iweala, Retarded by PDP, Blackout by NEPA, etc.

Of all these perfumes, I‘m more interested in Blackout by NEPA, otherwise called the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. There is a deliberate attempt to perfume the air already polluted by the PHCN. Or how else does one describe the recent call by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido, for a 200 per cent increase in electricity tariff? This, he said, would encourage investment in the sector. Sanusi has an ally in the National Electricity Regulatory Commission.

But the questions remain, what was the result of a similar increase two years ago? How have Nigerians benefited from the billions of naira pumped into the power sector by the Obasanjo administration? And what has come out of the 6000MW the government has been promising to deliver over the years?

More questions but few answers. To worsen matters, the PHCN members of staff have tried to put wedges on the liberalisation of the power sector by the Federal Government. Recently, the workers literally prevented the Presidential Task Force on Power from carrying out its duties in Abuja and Lagos. They also threatened to go on strike, but later called it off.

The point is, who will miss them if they go on strike? In the area I live in Ikeja, having constant electricity has become a mirage. If we have today, we won‘t have tomorrow. Even when the supply comes, it fluctuates such that it damages electrical appliances.

Sometime last week, I was told that some people came to ask for N1,000. Every flat is expected to pay the money to facilitate the installation of a new transformer in the area. And you ask, are customers supposed to pay for transformers?

That is the least of the headaches the power company has subjected Nigerians to. For some of us who use prepaid meter, there is nothing like crazy bills. You pay for what you consume. People were happy that this new system would eventually eliminate the problems associated with estimated billing. But their joy seems to have been suspended as the prepaid meters have become scarce commodities.

And so you find that many Nigerians are paying too much for darkness. In page of THE PUNCH, a reader, Freddie Raymond, from Ijesa in Lagos State, last Tuesday, complained bitterly against PHCN officials. For the past three months, he said these officials had neither come to read any meter, nor had they sent any bill to the residents of Adesina Street.

”But now,” he lamented, ”the officials of the PHCN are inviting us to their office to sight our bills on the computer. We have been paying for electricity without bills. To worsen matters, they have disconnected nearly all the houses in this area. No bill, no receipt of payment. Where is our money going?”

Raymond may never know. Perhaps, the money has gone into the acquisition of more computers for effective bill sighting. More disturbing is a report in THE PUNCH of Aug. 3, 2010, indicating that the accounts of the PHCN have not been audited in the past five years. What this means is that it will not be easy to obtain information about how much the company has generated or spent within the said period.

Is it not laughable that after almost 50 years of nationhood, we still cannot surpass an average of 3000MW of electricity?

This is why Nigeria has become a dumping ground for all manner of substandard generators. Sanusi said that much in Abuja last Tuesday. According to him, generators produce 70 per cent of the nation‘s power needs. And we have the unenviable record of being the largest importers in the world.

These machines come with their own hazards. Some individuals have suffocated in their rooms from fumes. And in the dead of the night when people should have their peaceful sleep, generator noise comes to play the spoiler. This adds to people‘s stress level.

Nigerians are sick and tired of the PHCN. We have written and shouted yet there seems to be no end in sight to its indolence and poor services.

Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. was misbehaving at a time until the communications industry was liberalised. Private mobile telephone companies came in and sounded the death knell of NITEL.

Already, the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 stipulates the privatisation of 18 successor companies of the PHCN. The act provides for the development of competitive electricity markets, as well as the enforcement of such matters as performance standards, consumer rights and the determination of tariffs.

Efforts should be made to implement this act to the letter. The PHCN workers are not happy about some of its provisions. NITEL workers were also not happy when the private GSM companies came. But what is important is the happiness of the majority of Nigerians.

Part of the problem with us is that we put the cart before the horse. President Goodluck Jonathan has made himself the Minister of Power. But what we have seen so far in terms of solutions is a call for more prayers. Some smart businessmen have keyed into it. On Friday, I got a message on my MTN line from 33022 asking me to join 50 million Nigerians in prayer. All one needs do is to text 010075 to 4100 to download the prayer for Nigeria. Each SMS costs N50.

Does this not amount to spraying perfume inside a septic tank?

2011: Judiciary and election petitions

August 1, 2010

Casmir Igbokwe

ONE ingredient that makes democracy desirable is a free-and-fair election. When there is a problem with this process, crises are bound to erupt. Nigeria is preparing for another round of elections in 2011. The new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has requested about N74bn to prepare the voter register. There are questions and apprehension as to whether we will get it right this time around.

Some Nigerians are hopeful. They pray and believe that with divine intervention, we shall overcome. Some others think the road to a credible election is still thorny. Based on our antecedents and what is currently happening, I‘m tempted to join the latter group.

My fear is anchored on a number of ominous signs. For instance, money is still an issue in our electoral system. The Osun East Senatorial District of the Peoples Democratic Party has informed Nigerians that any aspirant from that area with less than N500m in their accounts cannot aspire to govern the state. What this means is that only those with the power to buy bags of rice, salt and amala have the wisdom to rule.

There are other problems. But my main concern here today is on our judiciary. A few days ago, the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation held a symposium in Abuja on the courts and the management of election petitions.

According to Akanbi, who is the former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, there are reasonable grounds for intervention and checkmating the crippling monster of corruption that is threatening our judicial system.

Retired Justice Kayode Eso also carpeted the judiciary. He reportedly lamented that the petitions against elections conducted four years ago were still pending in courts. ”Any system that permits of such disgraceful act,” he said, ”can never be right.”

I agree. It is disheartening that in 2010 and a few months to fresh elections, we are yet to completely dispose of the election petitions in such states as Osun, Ekiti and Sokoto.

The Sokoto case is particularly worrisome. The issues at stake are clear. The All Nigeria Peoples Party nominated Magatakarda Wamakko as its governorship candidate in 2007. The Peoples Democratic Party nominated Alhaji Mukhtari Shagari as its standard-bearer.

However, due to some political intrigues, Wamakko curiously switched to the PDP and became its candidate. Shagari was asked to be his running mate. Being a loyal party man, he agreed. Of course, the PDP won the governorship election. But that was the beginning of the problems.

The candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, contested the result of the election at the Election Petitions Tribunal in Sokoto. He alleged, among others, that Shagari was not validly nominated as Wamakko‘s running mate, having filed his nomination papers on April 27, 2007 (13 days after the polls), but backdated it to Feb. 12, 2007. He lost at the tribunal but won at the appeal court. The court ordered for a rerun.

Remember that there was a similar case in Rivers State. The incumbent governor, Rotimi Amaechi, challenged the election of Celestine Omehia as the governor of the state. He contended that Omehia was not validly nominated as PDP‘s candidate and that his election should be nullified. The Supreme Court agreed with Amaechi and gave him the mandate without any other election.

Nevertheless, the Sokoto rerun was held on May 24, 2008 without correcting the invalid nomination that prompted it in the first place. INEC declared the PDP the winner. This would have been a sweet victory, all things being equal. But all things were not equal and have not been equal since then.

Dingyadi and his party went back to the courts. To cut the long story short, the Court of Appeal in Sokoto heard the DPP‘s appeal on Jan. 18, 2010 and later fixed judgement for Feb. 24, 2010. But before this could happen, INEC‘s lawyer accused the appeal court panellists of bias and asked the National Judicial Council to intervene. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, directed the court to halt delivering judgement until after the investigation of the allegation.

The panellists were not found culpable. But rather than deliver judgement that had been fixed for March 16, some other legal technicalities came into play. Essentially, the DPP was said not to have properly withdrawn its interlocutory appeal, which it earlier made to the Supreme Court. The party filed a fresh motion. The apex court adjourned this case to Oct. 14, 2010.

What this means is that until the Supreme Court dispenses with this extraneous matter, the appeal court will not deliver its judgement. And who knows, we may still be talking about this case in January when fresh elections may take place.

This is unhealthy. I may not be a lawyer. But common sense tells me that certain things are not just right in the way the Sokoto governorship case has been handled. That is probably why the Nigerian Bar Association expressed grave concern over what it called ”the legal contrivances put in the path of the constitutionally approved court by the National Judicial Council.”

The immediate past NBA President, Rotimi Akeredolu, further noted that ”to embrace jurisdiction under very dubious and doubtful circumstances and stultify the constitutional duties of other courts amounts in simple terms to a judicial coup d‘etat and grievous assault on the constitution itself.”

Our lawyers and judges should know that Nigerians are watching with keen interest. Politicians may rig elections, but if the judiciary is upright and dispenses justice as fast as possible, our democracy will get better.

In the Second Republic, Shehu Shagari won the presidential election on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria. But he was not sworn in until after the case instituted against him by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was dispensed with.

In an interview with this newspaper (see today‘s SUNDAY PUNCH, page 6), former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, further noted that it would be unthinkable to swear in any president in the United States of America before the hearing of election petitions. He cited the case of former President George Bush and Gore at the Supreme Court in Florida, which was resolved within a period of less than 40 days before swearing-in.

As stakeholders in the Nigerian project, every Nigerian must show interest in the process of electing our leaders. Since we have identified leadership as the bane of our country, we must do everything possible to ensure that only credible people are elected into leadership positions.

We must not only register and come out en masse to vote, we must also be ready to defend our choices. If I do my own part well and you do your own part, there may not be any need for anybody to engage in long and unnecessary legal technicalities. Those who hope to win elections by rigging or manipulating the process may succeed temporarily, but ultimately, good always triumphs over evil; and truth will always prevail over falsehood.