Today, I will share a few stories.
Hearing all the calls for caution and challenges that hit young Nigerians who are concerned about changing their country and are either doing something about it or want to do something about it, including those that I have outlined previously, there can be a temptation to be dis-encouraged. You can decide that the harvest is too plenty, and the labourers too few, and the country is so hopeless and there is nothing we can do.
I have been there many times, and not too long ago. I have spent the past eight years of my life working for country in one way or the other, and trying to sell hope and working to build platforms for my generation to impact the country, but very frequently I find myself so terribly disillusioned. Like I cannot succeed where, to rely on recent history, GaniFawehinmi, Chinua Achebe,Aminu Kano and others have failed.
At those times, I have managed to inspire myself by reminding myself of five times in my life when I have felt such an incredible sense of hope and faith – in myself, in my countrymen, in change. And all those examples are Nigerian. Let me share them with you.
I was in secondary school, Mayflower, Ikenne on 9, June 1998 – I remember exactly where I was, in front of the dining hall, a few feet away from B1 Up hostel – when the fiery widow of the late Tai Solarin called emergency assembly and announced with joy to us – Nigeria’s most debilitatingdictator, SaniAbacha, was dead.
I remember very clearly that was the first time I came across this Bible verse, shared with me I think by a classmate: When the righteous proper the city rejoices, when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
My joy wasn’t in his death alone, and I will notdeny my relief at the passing of GeneralAbacha, my joy was in the fact that we had been cutting and cutting at this evil tree and finally it had come down. There are many who say Mr.Abacha didn’t die because of the people battled him, but he died from poison, pure and simple.
But if you lived in Nigeria in those times – it is impossible not to have been inspired by the principles of Wole Soyinka, the strength of KudiratAbiola, the chutzpah of KunleAjibade, the defiance of MD Yusufu, the soaring rhetoric of TunjiBrauthwaite, the relentlessness of Joe Okei-Odumakin – and the many others who simply refused to be cowed by military might. We might not have ‘taken’ General Abacha down, but that collective Nigerian insistence – expressed through national activism – created the hostile atmosphere that made it impossible for AbdulsalamiAbubakarto do anything but hand Nigeria over to a democratically elected government.
Just remembering those heady times, and the excitement of change, the voices that came together, and the unshakeable faith that it spoke of warms my spirit. When I remember the soaring campaign of Obasanjo versus Falae,which I followed with excitement when when I could not vote. I remember the adverts on the NTA Network as the charismatic (or so I decidded since he was my candidate) OluFalae declared “I present myself as the candidate of that change.” He lost that election – but Nigeria, ultimately, won.
That was one example.
2007 brought two more moments. It was apparent to many that the Presidency – if not the president himself – was plotting an immoral‘third term’ for OlusegunObasanjo. At the very least, president took on an unseemly ambivalencethat reminded one of General Abacha and his suggestive deceptivesilence, and the media was awash with reports of graft – with legislators reportedly (one must note that this was never proven) receiving sums from N50 million to N150 million to propel the ‘third term’ plot forward.
I was depressed. At last, Nigeria had chosen democracy as a way of life;a keen expression of the will of the people, and we had come thus far, in light of our recent history – and then this?With confidence in the National Assembly as a house of principled people at its lowest, we all felt like it was inevitable – Mr.Obasanjo was going to unleash his unfortunate aspiration on Nigeria, one taken straight out of the playbooks of sit-tight despotic leaders.
Morning came on May 12, 2006, and before the nation on live TV, 42 senators announced their opposition to the motion, five more than was necessary to defeat it. The Nigerian Senate made us all proud and proved the beauty of democracy. It aligned itself voice of the people and killed the proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the country’s president to run for a third term.
Our democracy worked;our National Assembly worked. The people could defeat an unpopular government. Oh, the joy.
Now, the third example.
It was barely a year later and the man was back again. This time,OlusegunObasanjo was very determined – AtikuAbubakar was not going to continue to be his Vice President.
The combined effect of Sections 135, 142(2), 143, 144, 146 and 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 was that the president could not sack his deputy, whose allegiance lies neither to party nor boss, but to the constitution.
An inconvenient law to be sure– I mean, a man should be able to choose his own deputy – but it was the law. And that is the essence of the rule of law – for it to be adhered to closely and not to be treated as a disposable wastebasket, even if you were the president of Africa’s most populous nation.
It looked, again, like the president would have his way – like the rule of law would be chucked aside on this trifling matter. That the courts would choose saving the face of the powerful man against establishing equality before the law.
But Court of Appeal decided differently. And, on April 16 2007, the Supreme Court followed suit, chastising the Independent National Electoral Commission for seeking to disqualify AbubakarAtiku from contesting the presidential elections.
aCombined with the Supreme Court’s April 16,
You could feel the burst of joy across the country, and the immeasurable pride we felt in our judiciary, as, you know, that much-talked-about last hope of the less powerful, nay the powerless. I felt that joy, so much so I couldn’t help sharing it on my blog the next day:
As gratitude and joy and faith conspired to overwhelm me with their combined warmth and glow yesterday, I sent this text message to tens of my friends and family yesterday:
“Fellow Nigerian, at this moment in our national life, let us take a moment and thank God for the gift he has given Nigeria in the form of our Supreme Court Justices … Chude.”
We thank God for these small, small mercies. Democracy, somehow somehow, is on course …
(In case you don’t know what I’m talking about – read today’s papers on the Supreme Court judgement yesterday on Atiku’s candidacy and INEC’s powers to disqualify vis-a-vis the constitution)
2010 presented another opportunity. I had just returned to Nigeria after a holiday and I was besides myself with anger. It is the angriest I have ever been in my life, I think.
Our president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was missing, for months, and we were all supposed to act like this was just one of those things.
There was an impasse in government. Mr. Yar’Adua has not handed over to his vice-president, so that he could act in his stead. Government was grounded to a halt. There was a fuel scarcity, the budget had not been signed, electricity supply was at a historic law, there was carnage in Jos, enough for the woman to march the streets in naked protest.
The clamour heightened in the media (traditional and new) that the National Assembly take action and make his vice the Acting President so the country could move forward. To stall the inevitable, Nigeria’s were hit with an avalance of dubious “he is coming in tomorrow”, “he is jogging in the villa” statements and then a dubious BBC interview. It was, no melodrama intended, an outrage.
I couldn’t imagine my sitting down and doing nothing. I was also very doubtful that my peers, famously a lethargic set, would answer a call to action? Would we risk our livelihoods, even our lives? Would we walk the talk? Would we move from social media to the grounds where it mattered most?
Nigeriansproved this two times. The first time when thousands joined Wole Soyinka, TundeBakare, Pat Utomi and others and marches down the streets of Abuja and demanded that PresidentYar’Adua return to his duty post, or the law should take its course and his deputy should assume office.
Protesters were back on the streets in a matter of weeks – and this time it was the young people. It has taken me as many weeks of planning, investing time, and money to build a coalition, and a nagging sense that we would fail because young people were not ready. Even until I boarded that flight from Abuja to Lagos, and as we sat for a few wrenching minutes at the Eagle Square, worried about just how many people would turn out, I just was worried – would this be, as the leader of the policemen who came there to intimidate us told us, “just young people dancing and then going home”?
But on that beautiful day, March 16 – also my birthday – I led over a thousand angry, fed-up young Nigerians on a march to the National Assembly, where we sat, we stood, we marched, and then we overwhelmed a human shield of battle-ready security agents, and made a triumphant march to make our point – Yar’Adua gets back to work, or gets out of Nigeria’s way, amongst others.
It was a matter of weeks before we got our request, but get it we did.No doubt deriving moral authority from common Nigerians who took to the streets and demanded rule of law, the Senate soon did the right thing, and within the ranks of a confused political class, the vice-president had been sworn in.
This was the people setting the pace for the leaders; this was a people taking their destiny into their own hands. It was a victory for civil society – it was a victory for people power.
That was another example.
I remember when I first read the proposal –a group of young peoplewho had no real money, no high-up political connections, they had little but they had a huge love of country, belief in self and a keen sense of history as the 2011 elections approached –to host Nigeria’s first youth-driven presidential debate.
Almost everyone said it was near impossible – where would we get the money? Who would give us the airtime? Would the candidates take us seriously?
How we achieved what we did was a miracle – getting airtime on Channels Television, raising the millions from a starting point of 0 naira, getting NuhuRibadu, Ibrahim Shekarau, Dele Momodu, and others to join the conversation.
Unfortunately – and this made me as angry as it made me sad – Dr. Goodluck Jonathan a self-professed youth-focused candidate, who should have enthusiastically embraced this opportunity, rather opted for a tainted youth concert on the same night in the same city, and a dubious interview with a music celebrity. He shunned this debate along with all the others he had shunned thus far.
The organisers of the debate were crestfallen – it looked like the moneyed Jonathan campaign, was about to take the wind out of our sails.
But something happened.
Ah, just to recall that moment gives me such an intense sense of satisfaction. The night that young Nigerians, at least track-able on social media, suddenly rose together with such a visceral rage: Who told them that on the eve of such an important election, a concert would impress us more than a debate about the issues that concerned us? Where the Nigerian youth stood was clear on that evening and everyday after – we knew what we wanted, we knew what was good for us, and we knew what was good for our nation.
Dr. Jonathan didn’t show up, and MuhammaduBuhari petulantly followed suit – another cause for great disappointment – but we pulled it off, and managed on one night, to focus the media nationally on the issues that concerned Nigeria’s youth.
It was a victory. It was a heart-warming victory. And it made me so incredibly proud to be Nigerian, to be young, and to keep faith.
The morale of these stories is simple, and perhaps I can capture it in a short interview I had with Genevieve Magazine last year.
Do you think your generation can make a difference – big enough to shake the foundations of corruption and cause a change?
Oh yes! Oh certainly yes! Any generation in any country can! It’s not a cliché. Countries from Rwanda to America have been changed by a people sufficiently motivated. If the question is are we ready? It’s a big NO. If it’s can we do it, it’s a big YES.
If anyone tells you that that is a lie; if anyone takes a look at the dire situation of our country, and tells you it is a waste of time to hope, to believe, to act, tell that person to go tell it to the marines. We can change this country. We have history to guide us; we have faith to motivate us.
All we need to do is build our capacity to make it happen. No bullshitting here – I am as convinced today as I was when Genevieve asked me that question last year –yes we can.
Oh, by God, we can. Do not – ever – forget that.
Chude Jideonwo is publisher/editor-in-chief of Y!, including Y! Magazine, Y! Books, Y! TV & YNaija.com. He is also executive director of The Future Project/The Future Awards. #NewLeadership is a twice-weekly, 12-week project to inspire action from a new generation of leaders – it ends on March 31.
Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?
Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.
In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.
In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.
“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.
In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.
As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’
Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.
The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.
On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.
“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.
In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.
With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.
The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.
Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.
Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.
PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.
• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.
• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.
• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye
We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!
So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.
Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A
Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.
The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?
The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.
He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….
The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.
Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”
It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.
My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.
Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.
Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth
By Fredrick Nwabufo
Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.
I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.
The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.
“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.
In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.
In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.
Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.
As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.
‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.
And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.
To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.
So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.
But Sanusi was still talking.
Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.
I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.
Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
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