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[Opinion] Can Obasanjo Kill The Goliath Of Authority Abuse?

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By Omozuwa Gabriel Osamwonyi

Last weekend, the news media was awash with reports about former President Olusegun Obasanjo going to Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to process his driving licence. When I saw the headline, questions probing its newsworthiness flooded my mind: And so what? Why is it of public interest? Is it not a basic requirement of law for every driver to have a licence? In a putdown way, I provisionally concluded that the seeming shaggy-dog story passed the rigours of gate-keeping, because, it had the merits of page fillers.
However, as I read the news report, it dawned on me that it was rich in symbolic gestures. It could be an object lesson in civil conduct. Better handled, it would have fostered greater public awareness about the new driver’s licence. This would have encouraged the general public to buy into the new regime of driver’s licence.
Obasanjo is commonly perceived to have a genius for spinning morality tales from everyday occurrences. Perhaps this is why his reputation for being a barrack-room lawyer has ballooned. It may also explain why many discontented Nigerians do not consider him worth listening to. Some listeners of Ray-Power’s call-in programme, Fact-File, who called on Thursday 14th March, as the programme x-rayed the security situation in Nigeria vis-à-vis Obasanjo’s call for collaboration with foreign experts, expressed concerns about his “capacity to advice” the Federal government. Others questioned his sincerity of purpose. Similarly, many comments on online news portals about the said visit to FRSC were less than positive.
There is nothing in the report that shows he was playing to the gallery. So, it pays to simply assume the best. That it wasn’t a plotted drama of showmanship. Even if it was, there are sunny issues the report elicited. Its newsworthiness and significance can best be appreciated within the context of our sad historical evolution and the need to kill the Goliath of authority abuse that threatens to destroy our corporate vision of a better society.
The militarisation of governance in Nigeria caused many socio-political and economic ills. It entrenched “barrack culture” in every facet of our national life. Arbitrary conducts were unchecked. Adherence to prescribed standard of civil engagement was commonly seen as a luxury that cannot be afforded.   The progressive principles that govern public institutions were hardly obeyed. Jobbery became commonplace.  Centres of governments took on the defining character of war rooms. Flagrant disobedience to court orders left us a notch above primitives in the ladder of civilisation.
This culture that respected persons more than principles made our laws more like cobwebs. They strangulated “little flies” (non-elite Nigerians). But they were shattered by “big birds” (elite Nigerians). Breaking the law and avoiding justices became a power game, a high art of the affluent. It gave lawbreakers an air of prestige akin to owning luxurious holiday resorts in plutocratic havens around the globe. In a sense, this culture made might right.  Sadly, might wrongs everyone when it usurps the moral eminence of right.
This sad culture also made chief executives of public institutions men Friday of political elites, their wives and cronies. At the expense of the general public, security personnel were even detailed to their kept women.
No doubt, anarchy eventually becomes the prevailing spirit of a society where selective obedience to rules and regulations is an accepted norm. This is truer, particularly, where institutional capacity to enforce compliance has been eroded by anti-progressive forces.
Mendicant revisionists who see Nigeria’s socio-political evolution with rose-tinted spectacles are predictable. They may want to refute this. It will be near-impossible for them to rationally and convincingly contest that we did not tailspin to such level of social disorder and absurdity, if they recall the proceedings of Oputa Panel.  That is a case in point that suffices.
During Obasanjo’s reported visit to FRSC, he noted: “If I have to drive, I must have a valid driver’s license like others.” This suggests that Obasanjo has cultivated the salutary attitude of his professional counterpart, the Roman centurion.  The centurion said to Jesus: “I am a man under authority.”  In Nigeria, we have men of authority everywhere.  Men under authority are endangered social group. This is encapsulated in the prevalent “do-you-know-who-I-am?” attitude.  Isn’t this how we say, we are laws unto ourselves? Isn’t this the way we intimidate poverty-stricken law enforcement officers into submission?
It could be inferred from the earlier quoted statement credited to Obasanjo that he is aware of this fact: To overturn the culture of authority abuse, we all must respect the spirit of the times we live in as manifest in the remarkable shift from vertical (command and control) order to the horizontal (collaborate and connect) order.
In a collaborate-and-connect society, class distinctions are not accentuated. Wealth does not facilitate the travesty of justice. Undue coercion is abhorred.  Power is not used as an instrument of dominance. It is deployed in humane ways to achieve common goals and elevate humanity to ever greater notches of development.  Authority abusers ultimately become losers in the emerging social order.
Through the process of democratisation, Nigeria is gradually becoming a collaborate-and-connect society, where laws are not treated like menu on a restaurant table. Nigeria is becoming a society where citizens’ obedience to laws is not selective and premised on compatibility with belief systems, tastes or proclivities.
Our history is filled with leaders who by their attitudes say “do as I say, not as I do.”  Obasanjo’s reported visit to the FRSC counterpoints this attitude.  He might be saying, “do as I do.” This is a positive development. We want him to be a moral leader in an absolute sense. He should seek to actively expand the shrinking league of ethical leaders in Nigeria. If he does, history may adjudge it his greatest legacy as a statesman.
Indeed, we look forward to Obasanjo playing more statesmanlike roles.  The garb of partisan politics does not fit him excellently anymore. His constituency should be enlarged, bigger than People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It should embrace patriots of all shades and colours across socio-political and ethno-religious divides.
This is important because the much-needed value reorientation that will drive the holistic transformation of our society requires elite support.
Nigeria is threatened by the Goliath of authority abuse.  Can the gestures of Obasanjo like David’s stone bring down this giant?

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Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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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.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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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.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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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.

But wait!

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.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“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.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

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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