For many years, African women have been relegated to mere observers in the socio-political and economic scheme of things. They are considered only ‘good to be seen, nor heard.’ And their voices, when they deign to talk, are drowned out by the clamour of male chauvinists that abound on the continent. To them, women are supposed to take the back seat. I think these people have had their way far too long! Thank goodness, this narrative of Africa is gradually changing!
At the 9th Annual Conference of the African Leadership forum, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia and the first African female President, gave credence to the impact of women in the development and actualization of a nation. She affirmed that, “the vision of women is one of inclusion, not exclusion; peace, not conflict; integrity, not corruption; and consensus, not imposition. The challenge of development in Africa today is to identify and nurture the kind of leadership that will move our countries from their present state onto the path of peace and sustainable development. If we are to transform our societies, it will be the energy and vision of women which will give the momentum to the necessary changes.”
From the foregoing, one woman whose vision, energy, and leadership have been pivotal in the transformation of Nigeria, nay Africa, and in projecting its image in a favourable light in the eyes of the Western world is Dr. Mrs. Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala, the Nigerian Finance Minister. Having begun her career as an economist at the World Bank and rising through the ranks to the position of Vice-President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group, Ngozi came into limelight in Nigeria after she submitted a brief on economic reforms to President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Former president was so impressed by her industry that he asked her to serve as his finance minister, thus making her the first female to occupy that office in Nigeria. In 2007, she returned to the World Bank, and was recalled by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to come and hold forte as the country’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance.
Ngozi’s blossom is not an overnight occurrence, but an offshoot of family ethics and personal grooming. From her young age, she demonstrated remarkable courage, doggedness and conscientiousness in the face of adversity. On one occasion, at age 15, with a sick mother at home, Ngozi carried her critically ill three-year old sister on her back for over three hours, trekking about 10 kilometres to see the doctor. At that time, there was a ravaging civil war between Nigeria and the Biafran state, so few good doctors were available to attend to patients. On getting to the clinic, there were about a thousand people outside, trying to break down the door. Undeterred, she pushed her way through the crowd and climbed through the window to see the doctor. The doctor later told her she had barely saved her sister’s life.
During her first stint as Minister of Finance, she exhibited the same doggedness which earned her international acclaim and sparked off the reform spree in the Nigerian economy. In 2003, she succeeded in reducing Nigeria’s debt burden from $30 billion to $12 billion. This remains the only time the Paris Club has allowed a debtor nation to buy back its debt below par. Under her watch, the nation’s inflation came down by more than half. In 2003, Nigeria was listed as the most corrupt country in the world. In 2005, it was adjudged one of the 21 most improved countries in the world.
In her short reign so far this term, she trimmed the nation’s annual budget by reducing the recurrent spending that makes the Nigerian government one of the world’s most costly. Domestic borrowing was also downed from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billion in 2012. Delays usually experienced in clearing goods at the Port have been cut to one week, from three as was the case before she assumed office, and she is still gunning to reduce that to 48 hours. Her team also found that there were 5,000 more names on the civil service payroll than the actual people turning up for work, so they used the biometric testing to separate the real workers from the ghost workers.
Aunty Ngozi is ensuring that Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA), which was $20 billion in 2007, but had been cut to $4.22 billion by the time she returned in 2011, is restored. She is clamping down on greedy oil marketers who had been milking this nation dry to the tune of trillions of naira in fraudulent subsidy claims. She is also floating the Sovereign Wealth Fund, which is the most industrious way to save money for future generations, fund infrastructure and defend the economy against commodity price shocks.
Ngozi is a tenacious fighter of corruption, and has made significant progress against corrupt business and government practices in Nigeria. She once said, “if you fight corruption, corruption tends to fight back.’ There have been numerous attacks on her reputation on the internet and she has received death threats from different individuals who are against the development of Nigeria –yet she is courageous enough to remain in battle. Recently, her aged mother was kidnapped by unscrupulous elements in a frantic attempt to get at her. But she remains resolute in her service to her fatherland.
As stated earlier, women like Ngozi – powerful, visionary, and determined – are perpetually victimized by their male chauvinists, who are threatened by women in leadership or who consider women as homemakers that have no business in business or leadership. And it seems those who cannot stand the gut of this great woman are staging a comeback. Not too long ago, spokesman member of the lower legislative chamber of the federation, called Ngozi a ‘liar’ for demanding accountability in the implementation of the budget. He forgot to accuse the numerous politicians of his kind who carry placards admonishing us to vote for them; ‘If you vote for me, I will build good roads and turn your state around for the better.’
To me, these are the ‘real liars’ who never honour their promises yet loot public funds. These politicians who depend on godfathers to install them in positions of power – unlike Ngozi who neither has nor needs any godfather. She earned every position to which she was appointed by dint of hard work and the favour of mother Fortune.
We saw another macho display against this amazon late last year when the President of NUPENG brazenly demanded her resignation. This call was most shocking considering the fact that oil marketers have turned the subsidy regime into a source of illicit wealth. And Ngozi is demanding that government pay the exact amount of subsidy it owes the marketers. Her clamour is for a system of accountability in the payment of subsidy claim. But the macho cry of the NUPENG helmsman is ‘sack’!
In Nigeria, where godfatherism, oil cabals, religious wars and corrupt politicians hinder the development of the economy, Ngozi remains a ray of hope, fighting for the Nigerian economy to grow, develop and bloom. And no amount of bullying will stop this amazon!
Ayodeji writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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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