“If Nigerians were yet to commend a leader after 53 years of independence, then we are jinxed and cursed; we should all go to hell.” These were the very words of former President Olusegun Obasanjo few days back during a presentation at the 4th Annual Ibadan sustainable Development Summit at University of Ibadan, Oyo State. The ex-Head of State condemned the younger generation of leaders in the country, saying that they lack integrity and probity and have failed their people woefully.
Ever since the former president delivered his damning, magisterial verdict, public reaction to his pronouncement has been rather varied. In the main, most Nigerians have hailed President Obasanjo for his unfailing outspokenness and his uncompromising rendition of truth however unsavoury and disagreeable it might sound. However, what is not readily acknowledged by most Nigerians in their readings about some of our leaders’ comments and actions is that appearance is not necessarily reality and that what we so hurriedly construe to mean the fact could eventually turn out to become a farce.
In this treatise, I seek to add some analytic flesh to the dry bones of Obasanjo’s comment. To be sure, I totally agree with Obasanjo that our (younger) leaders have failed their people agonizingly; I agree with him that we should all take a journey to hell! Nevertheless, I seek to use this auspicious medium to imprint on the consciousness of Nigerians the fact that, in the event that we all set out for hell, no other leader – dead or alive – in the entire history of Nigeria is more deserving of being the captain of the excursion to hell than Obasanjo himself. by the same token, no other leader merits the privilege of presenting a letter of credence to the devil than the former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo.
One of the tragic demerits of the approach so often adopted by most Nigerians in assessing the performance of their leaders is the tendency to treat leadership as an isolated event rather than a continuum. At such, in decrying the shortfalls of an incumbent regime, we de-historicize our analysis by failing to establish the critical linkage between the past and the present, between the failings of present leadership and the willful (and often costly) miscarriages of preceding leaderships. It is this inclination to condemn the present by denying the past that has provided ex-President Obasanjo the ammunition to be pissing in the wind by condemning Nigerians and their leaders.
One of the hallmarks of true leadership is the ability to ensure that one’s achievement of success outlives him. That is why it is said that “success without successor is failure in disguise.” Thankfully, Nelson Mandela’s qualification as a fitting example to this truism can hardly be disputed. His regime as Head of State in South Africa was as brief as a thunderbolt; yet, its impact and its legacies are as enduring and immutable as imprints engraved on a rocky surface. Today, South Africa has become the latest addition to the potpourri of countries our leaders, including Obasanjo himself, covet for leisure, tourism, sound healthcare and superlative education.
Paradoxically, we can hardly render the same testimony about our own self-acclaimed “father of modern Nigerian,” Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If anything, Obasanjo personifies a dialectical negation of what leaders like Nelson Mandela represent. His relatively lengthy rulership (both as a military and civilian Head of State) has basically translated into a “Golgotha experience” for most Nigerians. What was Obasanjo’s record at instituting a credible process that will throw up a worthy successor who would ensure that Obasanjo’s legacies (if any) are not eclipsed by history. On this score, Obasanjo proved to be such an unpardonable disaster. Propelled by the desire to perpetuate himself in power during his second reign as civilian president, this imperial leader enthroned what could rightly pass as the worst specie of electoral rigging, using the infamous and highly villainous umpire, Maurice Iwu, as a legitimizing rubber-stamp, Elections under his tenure were characterized by violent breeches technically codified as “do or die affair.”
However disillusioned we might be today regarding the present government in power, the bitter, inescapable truth is that the umbilical cord of this present regime is deeply wired up in Obasanjo’s political abdomen. Incensed by the intransigence of Nigerians to kowtow to his third term bid, Obasanjo orchestrated a deliberate constriction of the democratic space by disallowing electoral competition especially within his party, muscling the aspiration of more credible candidates and dealing a devastating blow to the few who had that “balls” to dare him by invoking the talismanic, rigging expertise of Maurice Iwu. What was the end result: a sickly, departure lounge-seated President Umoru Yar’dua and his lucky, zoology-trained, leutenant – Goodluck Jonathan. How could the younger generation of leaders not fail?
If Obasanjo embodies the worst example of political succession, his footprints on the economic landscape of Nigeria is all the more ghastly. While hiding under the ideological subterfuge that “government has no business with business, only the private-sector can profitably run enterprises”, Obasanjo proceeded to rape what is left of Nigeria’s tottering economy by using privatization as a cover to engage in the criminal disposal of national assets. In case Nigerians have forgotten, it is an established fact that 80 percent of the 128 nationally-owned companies privatized during the regime of Obasanjo failed. Today, most of those privatized companies are nothing more than mere institutional carcasses.
In 2011, a Committee set up by the Senate to probe Obasanjo’s privatization programme turned in a startling report. Just two examples will suffice: The Aluminium Smelting Company (ALSCON), Ikot Abasi, which was set up with $3.2 billion, was sold to a Russian firm, Russai, for a paltry $130 million. Delta Steel Company, Aladja Delta State, which was built in 2005 by the Nigerian government at a cost of $1.5 was sold to Global Steel Infrastructure, a company believed to be fronting for Obasanjo and never submitted a bid, at a cost of $30 (Vanguard Newspaper: August 18, 2011).
In the guise of fighting economic corruption, Obasanjo ended up elevating corruption to the status of a state religion. Most of the notorious looters being pilloried today by Obasanjo were in fact firmly incubated during his regime as Nigeria’s civilian president. As Sonala Olumhense had observed, “Obasanjo boisterously invokes such names as James Ibori, Tinubu and Igbinedion, but conveniently forgets that in 2006, he ignored a report he had commissioned and refused to prosecute 15 indicted governors, including those three.”
Perhaps, the worst of Obasanjo’s economic treachery and the most heinous of his disservice to Nigerians was the shoddiness with which he managed the power sector and the spectacular failure that emanated therefrom. It remains an inexplicable scandal that Obasanjo spent about $16 billion dollars just to entrench country-wide darkness at a time when the country’s power-generating capacity was a miserable 2,000 megawatts. Just like his counterfeit privatization exercise, his electricity schemes were nothing more than conduit pipes for financial racketeering by an oligopolistic cabal.
What were the effects of these and many more atrocious legacies bequeathed by Obasanjo to younger generation of Nigerians? First, it created a culture of political brigandage which, till date, remains a defining attribute of our democracy. Nigerians will readily remember the notorious shenanigans of elements like Andy Uba in Anambra State and Pa Adedibu in Oyo state. Second, it crystallized a distorted, disarticulated economy characterized by rent-seeking, cronyism and dependency syndrome; an economy in which the exponential blossoming of a microscopic few runs side by side with the stupendous pauperization of an overwhelming majority.
Third, it institutionalized structural unemployment by decimating the vital foundations for job creation and entrepreneurship, namely: stable electricity, decent transport infrastructures, incentivization of the private sector, a hospitable political environment and a legal/regulatory framework that is clearly predictable, incorruptible and autonomous. Finally, it midwifed the induction of a teeming generation of younger Nigerians who had grown up to become faithless about the viability of the Nigerian project and have had to resort to brutish means for survival and self-actualization, hence, their portrayal as a failed generation by Obasanjo.
To sum up my points, if there is any leader that has failed its people, Obasanjo epitomizes a cardinal example of such failure. If Nigerians were yet to commend a leader after 53 years of nationhood, it is precisely because Obasanjo and his breed of predatory rulers have foreclosed such possibilities by driving a fatal nail in the coffin of good and exemplary leadership. And if we should all go to hell because we have failed as a people, then, Obasanjo should lead a one-man advance team to hell to prepare the ground, just as the biblical Moses dispatched 12 spies to Canaan to survey the Promised Land.
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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