Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Painful smile of Nigerian asylum seekers

May 15, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Marching to 2019 with weapon of great destruction

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Re: Buhari and quest for president of Igbo extraction

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

Sir Chris Ike (08032238913)

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

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

Dike (08033072852)

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

Anonymous (07035390254)

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

Mr. Ojo (08023404976)

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

Anonymous (08056012716)

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

Pati Ndibe, Awka (08133878436)

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

Agubamah (08037261289)

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

Anaekwe  P.O. (08037275839)

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

Ojinnaka, Eziowelle (08107539574)

 

 

Buhari and the quest for president of Igbo extraction

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May and Museveni’s same-sex marriage punches

May 12, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kudos to The Niche on 4th anniversary

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

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

 

 

 

Ambode And The Pains Of Owning Property In The City

April 9, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Patience Jonathan wielded a lot of power and influence. Her husband, Goodluck Jonathan, was the President of Nigeria until 2015 when he handed over to the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari. Now out of power, Mrs Jonathan may have to chant more than ‘there is God o!’ to retrieve her properties from the hands of government agents.

The former First Lady, through her lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, had claimed that the Federal Capital Territory Administration demolished her property in Abuja. But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) denied this claim, saying the FCT authorities only demolished a chalet on the premises because there was no approval for the structure. Truth will eventually smile, as the matter is already in court.

In Lagos and many other cosmopolitan areas, government’s demolition of properties is a routine thing. And there are different reasons for doing so. Currently, the Lagos State Government has demolished some buildings at Oshodi to make way for the reconstruction of the Oshodi end of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

Demolition or not, if you have not got land in the city, you will feel incomplete. That is why the struggle to acquire it is strenuous. Even when you have the money, you still have to contend with different forces including the original inhabitants of the land called Omo-oniles and government agents. If you buy land, you must settle them. When you start building, you must also settle them, from foundation to roofing.

An ugly scenario happened in October 2015. Then, Ibeju-Lekki villagers reportedly went on demonstration against what they called the forceful takeover of their land by the Lagos State Government. The police were called in. There was a clash. And the then managing director of the Lekki Free Zone Limited, Mr. Tajudeen Disu, was killed.

To curtail the unwholesome acts of the Omo-Oniles, the Lagos State Government, in 2016, signed the Lagos State Property Protection Law and also set up a special task force on land grabbers. But this has not deterred them as they still operate in different parts of the state.

This is partly why some people choose to buy land directly from government. But, even government schemes, sometimes, develop some hiccups. For instance, in 2011, the Lagos State Government sold some parcels of land under different schemes. One of these schemes is Oko-Orisan Scheme. The state sold it as prime land because of its location. While the Ikorodu scheme, for instance, was going for about N700,000 then, the Oko-Orisan scheme went for about N3.5milion. Capital development levy alone was N2.8 million.

About seven years after, Oko-Orisan scheme subscribers are yet to take physical possession of their land. Having made all the payments and processed all that needed to be processed, some of the buyers, rather than get Certificate of Occupancy, started hearing rumour that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has placed embargo on the scheme.

What could have happened? The Special Adviser to the Governor on Urban Development through the immediate past Commissioner for Information in Lagos, Steve Ayorinde, offered some explanations. Ambode’s aide said, “The Governor did not place an embargo. What we explained is that we are reassessing the scheme in order to put in infrastructure. The amount they paid for the scheme cannot provide the required infrastructure.”

After seven years, the value of a land is supposed to have appreciated greatly. But here, the reverse appears to be the case. From the government’s body language, the subscribers should gear up to make more payments even when they have met all the contractual agreements. It’s like buying and obtaining receipt for a commodity at a stipulated price, only for the seller to come back later to ask you to pay more because the goods have appreciated.

Talking about appreciation, a land does not always appreciate in value. A typical example is an estate called New Dawn, marketed by the defunct Afribank Estate in 2009. It was at a place called Magboro in Ogun State. The Punch newspaper’s head office is actually located in that area.
The name, New Dawn, was so alluring that many people rushed to buy without even going to physically see the land. After some years, when Afribank started going under, it handed over to a committee to manage the estate.

So far, it is not yet dawn for New Dawn Estate as there is no sign of development in the area.
Last year, I made moves to sell my own portion of the New Dawn, which I bought then at about N1.5m. I contacted a potential buyer. During inspection, the man massaged my feelings by saying some nice things about the estate. According to him, it is a place for the future and that the government would soon construct a road that would link it straight to the Kara Market side of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I was happy to have seen a good buyer. But subsequent calls and messages to the man entered voice mail.
In spite of the problems associated with buying land in Nigeria, people can’t do without it. Of course, you need land to build a house. You need it to build factory or any structure for that matter. It’s a money spinner any day.

That is why people are ready to kill or sacrifice their lives to either acquire or defend their landed property. Land has pitched one community against the other. It has engendered serious enmity among friends and siblings.

Recently, the Deputy Governors of Anambra and Enugu States, Dr. Nkem Okeke and Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo, respectively, attended a reconciliatory meeting between Owba Ofemmili in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State and a community in Ezeagu, Enugu State. Of course, land dispute was the topic. At the meeting, Dr Okeke advised Ndigbo to stop giving undue attention to land.

But the problem is not domiciled in Igboland alone. The other day, a police team from Zone Two, Lagos, invaded one Peace Estate in the Ago area of the state. They arrested people indiscriminately, including some executive members of the estate, and took them away. On enquiry, the police told the leadership of the estate that their action was based on a petition from Madam Efunroye Tinubu, who claimed ownership of the land where the estate is located.

On hearing this, the Onitire Chieftaincy family of Itire, through their solicitor, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) issued a public notice, claiming ownership of the said property. In the statement, the Onitire family quoted different court judgements confirming that the family has title to the parcels of land in question.

According to the Onitire Family, based on the court judgements, Ijeshatedo, Aguda, Itire, Ori Okiti, Idi-Apa, Abule BabaEgun, Abule Goroso, Odo-Asumowu and other surrounding areas belong to Onitire Family. They advised the general public to report any form of extortion, hooliganism or criminal trespass on their land to the nearest police station. They also appealed to the Lagos State Government to call the agents, trustees and/representatives of the Efunroye Tinubu Family to order so as not to throw the residents of the state into chaos, panic and confusion.

Many other individuals have had to buy land, fence it and then come back later to behold another person building on the same land. In 2015, I made part payment for a duplex in Ikeja. I consummated the transaction with the lawyer to the landlord, one Barrister Chris Chinwuko. Unfortunately, the landlord died that same year. Soon after, I got a bank alert which was a refund of the money I paid.

That was how I got wind of the fact that the property had been resold. In October of that same year, agents of the new landlord came to pull down the roof of the building and the fence without notice. I was living in the house then with my family. Ironically, when I called the then Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, he told me that the police would not intervene because it was a civil matter and that the police would only come in if there was a breach of peace.

This experience actually facilitated my movement into my own house. Though acquiring a property in Lagos and other major cities is not easy, it is still better than being a tenant. Governor Ambode has tried by coming up with laws against land grabbing and has substantially made the process of issuing land titles easier in the state.

Sometime last year, for instance, he signed cumulatively, a total of 4,445 Electronic Certificates of Occupancy (E- C of O). The only snag is that it appears he is always looking for where to increase rate and make more money for the state.

In all, it is better for every landlord to strive to get his C of O. When you are able to perfect your titles, you have peace of mind. And if any government or its agent tries to give you any Madam Patience treatment, you confidently give them a sucker punch.

First published in The Sun of March 5, 2018.

VIO: Your Money Or Your Vehicle

August 11, 2016

Casmir Igbokwe

The car was on reverse gear. The driver almost hit me. He was running away from the Vehicle Inspection Officers popularly called VIO at Cele bus stop, Lagos. The run-away driver’s gain was my loss. The officers flagged me down.

“Hope your papers are in order,” one of them queried. I answered in the affirmative. He checked my driving licence, fire extinguisher and vehicle particulars. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that my road worthiness paper expired in April. On that score, he booked me N20, 000. One of the officers entered my car and ordered me to drive to their office to see their oga.

The office was a beehive of activities. There were many impounded vehicles with deflated tyres. One vulcaniser was very busy deflating more tyres. I was hoping that the so-called oga would caution me and say, go and sin no more. But he took a good look at me and asked me to go to Skye Bank across the road to pay my fine. So, all I came to see oga for was to get the instruction to go and pay in Skye Bank? I wondered.

This reminded me of my experience with the Federal Road Safety Commission in April 2008 at Ikoyi, Lagos. Then, my offence was that one of my brake lights was not working. They booked me, but the fine was N3,000. One lady officer came to me to say I could pay N2,000 to them there instead of suffering myself to go to bank on the island to pay N3,000. I rejected the request and they angrily booked me. I went back to the island to pay the fine and also paid for The Revised Highway Code.

After reading my encounter with their officers in my Sunday Punch back page column then, (See Tales of encounter with marshals, Sunday, April 27, 2008) the authorities of the FRSC set up a high-powered panel to probe the affected officers. They were first of all recalled from the road to the head office at Ojodu Berger. On the appointed day for me to come and testify, the sister of the female officer who asked me to pay N2,000 to them called me and was crying on the phone. She pleaded that I should not go and testify, that her sister and her colleagues would be sacked if I should do that. According to her, the sister was the breadwinner of the family and had put in over 15 years in the service of the Commission. “How can she now end her career this way?” she pleaded. She even said they were ready to visit me at home to beg me and would not leave my house unless I pardoned the woman.

After so much pressure, I succumbed and suspended going to testify. I never heard from that woman again. The sector commander then  was not happy with me that I failed to come and testify, wondering how corruption would be eradicated in the system if we didn’t set example with such corrupt officers. He is correct, but I didn’t want anybody to say I sacked her from her job.

Now, it is the VIO. To be fair to the officers, they did not ask me for bribe. After paying the fine of N20,000 at the Skye Bank, Okota, I waited for about one hour to collect receipt. With the receipt, I went back to the VIO office to retrieve my car. They pretended to be so nice to me, even offering me executive chair to sit on. I thanked them for their generosity and paid extra N2,000 for the road worthiness certificate which they “sell” in their office there.

My worry in all this is that my car is a new Toyota Camry (latest model). There are many rickety, smoky vehicles polluting the environment, but these officers close their eyes to this anomaly. Even when I got a new road worthiness certificate, nobody tested my vehicle to ascertain how road worthy it is before issuing me with the certificate.

Meanwhile, boldly written on the certificate are these words: “I hereby certify that I have examined the vehicle described below which, in all respects, conforms with the requirements of the Road Traffic Regulations, and that it is road worthy…”

Who is fooling whom? Is the VIO an agency interested in making our vehicles road worthy or just to make money for themselves and the state government?

Of course, we need to sanitise our roads. We need to sanitise our vehicles. But more importantly, we need to sanitise VIO, LASTMA, KAI and sundry agencies terrorising Nigerians on the roads.

Nigerians, Prepare For Revolution

July 28, 2016

Casmir Igbokwe

Many of us who read the recent story of a parent who pledged his child for a bag of rice in Kano felt scandalised. I have been searching for clues from the current government in Abuja on how the nation’s precarious economic situation will be solved. I have seen little or nothing. Rather, what comes out as news everyday frightens me the more.

A few days ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave us some bad news. According to the world body,  plunging oil revenues and weakened investor confidence will push Nigeria’s economy into recession. The IMF said it expected Africa’s largest economy to contract by 1.8 per cent this year, after having forecast a 2.3 per cent expansion in April.

Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, confirmed this recession story. But as she put it, it would be short and there was no need to panic.

Mrs. Adeosun said the Federal Government had released N247.9billion for capital expenditure in the last two months and that N60billion would be released for capital vote in a few weeks time.

Today, a lot of people are living on their reserves. Some are selling their property in order to pay school fees and house rents. Many others have been ejected from their homes by landlords. A good number of children are at home because daddy could not pay school fees. Prayer houses are booming. Simply put, people have lost hope in the government.

Our Senators, for instance, have continued to shed crocodile tears.  The other day, they reportedly acknowledged the pains many Nigerians are facing. Thus, they summoned the Finance Minister to come and brief them on the way out.

Hypocrisy. That is the name of the game. These same lawmakers take home jumbo salaries and allowances. What they give Nigerians in return are in-fighting, budget padding and inconsequential bills.

The current altercation between the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, and the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, speaks volumes about the state of affairs in the National Assembly.

Jibrin had asked Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; Minority Leader, Leo Ogor; and Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa, to resign for allegedly padding the 2016 budget. Jibrin further alleged that these principal officers illegally inserted and allocated projects worth over N20bn to their constituencies in the budget. And that he was removed as the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee recently because he refused to inject another N30bn into the budget for the Speaker.

Dogara, though, has denied the allegations. He has threatened to sue his accuser. While we await the legal actions, may I implore the legislators to pass a law that will make national assembly membership a part-time affair.  Once they initiate the move, the executive will be forced to embark on other radical changes. This will be the beginning of our revolution.

President Muhammadu Buhari, we hear, lives a Spartan life. He frowns upon wastage and corruption. His Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been very busy pursuing looters of our national treasury. Whether this fight against corruption is holistic or sectional is another topic entirely. For now, our major concern should be that the President and his team should give us a clear-cut direction on how to wriggle out of this economic quagmire.

All we have heard is that the Federal Government cannot finance the 2016 budget because the economy is down. The blame goes to the immediate past government and the Niger Delta Avengers.

Yes, the Niger Delta Avengers have caused some havoc. But the government at all levels have caused more havoc to our economy. Why has President Buhari not done away with large presidential fleet? Why did the President travel to London to treat an ear infection after budgeting N3.87bn for Aso Rock clinic? Why do some state governors still waste a lot of resources on mundane travels with a retinue of aides and sycophants?

Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State sums it up. He described his colleagues as lacking vision, leadership skills and creativity.

The governor recently noted, “When there are challenges, people are forced to think out of the box and they will get results. If I have my way, I don’t want oil price to rise beyond what it is so that all of us will be forced to get it right.”

Amosun is correct. Or how else can one describe the plan by the governors to embark on vocational training to Germany. About 27 of these governors find it difficult to pay salaries. So, what vocation are they going abroad to learn that will impact on the economies of their states? Soap and bead making? How to produce insecticide and germicide? What a joke!

Nigerians should wake up from their slumber. From the local government to state and to the federal level, we need to ask questions. We need to tell the governors going for vocational training that enough is enough. Civil society groups should go beyond press releases. They should organize protest marches whenever things are going wrong.

This is why I doff my hat for some civil society groups that protested alleged illegal recruitment and nepotism in some government agencies last Wednesday in Abuja. They marched to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation where they submitted their protest letter.

We need to change our mindset. We need to be more prudent and less extravagant. We need to minimize our penchant for the consumption of foreign items. We need to patronise more made-in-Nigeria products so as to help boost our economy.

Above all, we need to learn the culture of protesting the inanities of our leaders. This is the revolution we need in Nigeria today.

 

Buhari, Nigerians Are Losing Hope

April 28, 2016

Casmir Igbokwe

When Chika decided to check out of Nigeria early this year, he never knew that he was shooting himself in the foot. Initially, it wasn’t his intention to move to the United States. But the situation of things in the country frustrated him enormously. He had a job but salaries were not forthcoming. He couldn’t pay his bills.

When he landed in the US, he didn’t find life easy either. He found no job and became stranded because a friend who promised to accommodate him disappointed him. He ended up sleeping in a church. And hardly had he got a menial job in a supermarket when a sudden illness struck.

A few days ago, this frustrated man managed to bring himself back to Nigeria. He  came to seek solution to his sickness as he believes it is a spiritual attack from his village. He spent days in the Synagogue Church of All Nations to no avail. He intends to go to some other churches and prayer groups, but there is no transport money. Now, his children are at home as he cannot pay their school fees. Even to eat is now a serious problem.

Many Nigerians are in Chika’s shoes. No money. No fuel. No electricity. No security. No salary. No market, as traders would say. Practically, the price of almost every item in the market has skyrocketed. The common refrain now even for a crayfish seller is, dollar is expensive.

To worsen matters, Fulani herdsmen are on the rampage. They have killed and continued to kill. They have maimed and continued to maim. They have raped and continued to rape. They have destroyed sources of livelihood for many people and have continued to do so. They have no sacred territory. Any town, any state is a target. Their current victims are citizens of Nimbo in  Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. They invaded the peaceful community recently and massacred over 40 innocent people.

The best the governor of Enugu could do was to cry and call for fasting and prayers. Do you blame him? He has no full control of the security agencies. He has no support from his brother governors from the South-East. He has little or no support from the Federal Government.

It is as if we are in a state of anomie. Well, the President has belatedly ordered the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff to halt the herdsmen menace.  But how serious is he? Does the blood of a South-Easterner or that of any Nigerian matter to him?

Even his ministers inspire no hope. He spent months looking for perfect Nigerians to appoint as ministers. But the lucky ones who now occupy the cabinet positions have shown that the so-called change Nigerians voted for is a ruse.

All we hear from major functionaries of this government are rhetoric, excuses and buck-passing: “Oh, there is no gas to power electricity; greedy marketers are diverting fuel to hinterlands and neighbouring countries; the previous government is responsible for our current woes.” They left Abuja and came to Lagos the other day to feed Nigerians with their usual excuses in the name of town-hall meeting.

Everyday, we are regaled with anti-corruption exploits of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The agency has reportedly recovered huge sums of money from past government officials. This is good. But Buhari will soon discover that Nigerians will begin to ask why these probes and recovered loot are yet to put food on their table.

These days, religion and superstition thrive most in Nigeria. A young man I called the other day to do some work for me in my compound gazed at the scorching sun that day and declared: “This Buhari has ill-luck. It’s because he is in power that we have this kind of hot weather.” Another fellow sincerely believes Buhari belongs to a satanic cult and that’s why we are buffeted by variegated crises.

Faced with hopelessness, many Nigerians have made prayer houses their home. Ask a typical Nigerian about solutions to our problems and he will tell you, only God will save us in this country.

Time is ticking for Mr. President. The All Progressives Congress-led government had promised to pay N5,000 monthly to unemployed Nigerians. This is cosmetic and will not work. Some politicians will simply feed fat from that policy.

What the President should do is to deliberately fashion out policies that will broaden the economy, create jobs  and stimulate entrepreneurship.

Somehow, some Nigerians have devised ways of making themselves happy despite the odds. Last Tuesday, a Catholic priest told his congregation to sing Hakuna Matata at a prayer session. According to him, this means don’t worry, be happy. As the congregation sang, danced and prayed, the priest kept telling them to forget their worries and parcel their problems to God.

It came as some form of relief to many. But for how long do you think people like Chika will shout Hakuna Matata if the APC’s promised change fails to materialise?

 

 

 

Wike’s Victory Holiday

February 3, 2016

Casmir Igbokwe

I am happy for Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. On January 27, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld his victory at last year’s governorship election. The governor has been singing victory songs. He deserves it. But he has to choose his dance steps carefully, else he may be like the antelope that dances its legs to pieces even when the dance is yet to begin.

A few days ago, the governor, as part of his victory dance, declared 27 January of every year as public holiday in Rivers State to celebrate the Supreme Court victory. He enthused, “Every January 27 will be observed as a public holiday in this state because that is the day God came down to save Rivers State. What people must understand is that power comes from God. We know God speaks last and he has spoken.”

I find this curious and disturbing. Granted, the election itself was war. There were pockets of violence here and there. There were reports of rigging in some areas. The opposition was formidable. It was led by no other person than the then governor, Chibuike Amaechi. Even, there were enemies  within Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party who did not want him to emerge as governor.

The real battle started after the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Wike the winner. His main challenger, Dakuku Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, went to court to seek a nullification of his victory.

Stories started flying that the governor was going about secretly to bribe the judges who were billed to handle the case. The more he denied the rumour, the more it manifested like a festering sore. To cut a long story short, the matter went through the election petition tribunal to the Appeal Court and finally to the Supreme Court.

Given the suspense, trepidation and tension that trailed the court sessions, the celebrations in different parts of Rivers State become understandable. The governor himself led in most of those celebrations.

But then, declaring an annual holiday to mark the day, to say the least, is frivolous.  We already have too many holidays in this country: New Year Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Worker’s Day, Democracy Day, Id-el-Fitri, Independence Day, Id-el-Kabir, Id-el-Malud, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Outside these fixed holidays, there are some notable dates when some people decide to give themselves some form of a holiday. Valentine’s Day is one of such. That day, a lot of people work half day and close to have some fun. Most times, their idea of a Val’s Day is having wild sex with concubines.

Also, some states declare public holiday to observe one event or the order. Sometimes, it is to mourn a departed citizen or to celebrate one festival or the other. The same Rivers State also declared a public holiday for Friday, February 5, 2016, to enable all Rivers people to prepare for rerun elections earlier scheduled for February 6. INEC has just rescheduled the elections for March 19.

The fact is, if all the states whose governors won in the Supreme Court declare such days as public holiday, then we may be unwittingly telling the whole world that we are a nation of unserious-minded fellows. Remember that the Supreme Court also upheld the elections of Oyo, Delta and Yobe governors. Will these governors also declare public holiday every February 2 to mark their victories?

That will amount to one chasing rats while one’s house is on fire. Wike and other governors should think more of how to salvage their states and the country from the looming economic crisis.

Many states are not able to pay salaries. Our oil fortune is dwindling. Companies are laying off staff. Nigerians are dying of hunger and deprivations. Perhaps, the only group not suffering as such are the politicians, especially the governors. As former President Olusegun Obasanjo put it, the governors are living like emperors.

Leaders need to be more careful with their actions and pronouncements. No productive economy thrives on holidays. A time like this, when many people do not know when the next food will come from, demands that we devise ingenious ways of making money to feed our people. It demands that we look beyond oil if we must survive the financial crunch ravaging the country now. It demands that we become more serious with our lives and cut off any frivolity that will present us as being a bunch of clowns.

While Wike is savouring his victory, he should occupy his mind more with enduring legacies he needs to bequeath to his people. At the end of his tenure, people will assess him not based on the number of holidays he declared but on how many kilometres of roads he built, the schools and hospitals he equipped and how many people he was able to gainfully employ.

Buhari’s 100-Day Honeymoon

July 31, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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