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Ethnicity and the Leadership Question by Nkannebe Raymond



At one point in time in the socio-political voyage of a community of people, the responsibility of producing leaders to spearhead the activities of the general community for a constitutional duration agreed by the people, is thrown at a particular section of the general community. Given such a situation, it is expected that certain individuals within that class who may have nursed ambition for the elective/selective offices to express interest to contest and if the system permits, they may even flag off campaign programmes to sell their selves to the general population and the voting-mass on whom it behoves to make choices based on the antecedents of the contenders socially, academically and otherwise depending on the chief focus of the society in question.

It is not expected that ethnic or sectarian sentiments whatsoever should characterise the process, why because leadership of the entire community is in issue and any error made in the election/selection process must be endured for as long as that era lasts. It is expected that the general good would naturally take precedent over any form of sentiment that may be imputed to bungle the entire process.

Having said the foregoing, it is quite unfortunate that the benchmark of electoral process which I have painted above, only finds expression in a sane society where both the leaders and the led are well in the knowing of the concept of leadership and would stop at nothing to ensure that its tenets are not torpedoed by any reason whatsoever.

In our own dispensation, the reverse is almost entirely the case. Quite uncannily, we appear to be so much skilled at turning logic on its head and doing things the other way round. The least we could do, is to see leadership through the prism of what a contender would do if elected into office. Hell no! That cannot bother or rob us of the pleasures of our night sleep. We are more concerned with lazy variables such as where a particular contender is from geographically or whether crouching and bowing his forehead to the ground severally is the modus of his prayer and thanksgiving to God, or whether he goes to the church traditionally every sunday against the key component of leadership namely: Accountability of the contender. The consequences? The decrepit nature of our institutions and the whole apparatus of government in all public and increasingly private institutions.

We are not limiting the scope of leadership here to mainstream government, the scope for emphasis purposes have been widened as much as possible to include all spheres of human organisation or community of men where leadership is needed however trifle. From the leadership of a town union, to that of a pressure group. From that of a university community, to that of a Faculty within the university. From the leadership of a Faculty to that of a department and down to the community of students within the campus, in that order.

last week tuesday, after weeks of consultation within my self and with close confidants, I unofficially declared to contest for the president of the umbrella body of all Law students in the University of Maiduguri. An office open to any level 400 student of the Faculty, with clean academic record and character; criterions which yours truly have satisfactorily met. Against the backdrop of my qualification and buoyed by the entreaties of friends within and without the faculty, I came to the humble decision to run for the office.

Though yet to make any formal declaration before the class or entire faculty for fear not to put the cart before the horse, I had proceeded to consulting with many friends and even perceived enemies individually to intimate them on my intention to throw my hat into the ring in the battle of who succeeds the incumbent Law Student Association (LAWSA)President who any moment will be going for the mandatory one year program at the Nigerian Law school preparatory to being a recognised Barrister and Solicitor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

It was in the course of that duty among friends last tuesday, that the event that gave birth to the issue under review was fertilised. Sitting in a restaurant with some of my colleagues who already were in the knowing of my intention to run that hot tuesday afternoon, another colleague whom I think holds me in high esteem, by name Abdallah, a Moslem of the fulani stock I guess had walked in. After the usual exchange of dry pleasantries in Hausa, I immediately told him of my intention to joining the race for the LAWSA president. And before you could shut the windows, the bombshell came. You could as well guess. “Raymond,” he began, speaking in Hausa. “You ought to have known that, that office is not for you. The ‘Federal Character’ principle is at play in the affairs of our faculty. You re from the East, and you are not even a Moslem. That office, is for a moslem, and not just that, but also, one from the Fulani stock. Is it not so clear to you, that that has been the practice over the years? Why not opt for the Vice President or Secretary General of the Body? Those are the office I feel you may be successful at”. Those were his exact words. Not that it came as a surprise given that I am one familiar with the political dynamics of the faculty.

It was the ‘honesty’ or rather, his non-hypocritical stance that struck me. He could as well, have given me his support by the lips and yet move on to say what he had said to me at my back the next minute. And so there was no point for me to be offended. While we laughed over it, we rushed over our meal of fried rice and salad and the usual bottle of coke that accompanies it, and a friend of ours who had just returned back to school,out of the benevolence of his heart, oversaw the bills while we went our separate ways to continue the business of the day. There was no way I could sleep that night without giving more thought to Abdallah’s piercing words and hence why we have decided to dedicate today’s column to it. The title of the piece is therefore, not an accident. Onu’Kwube!

It is quite unfortunate that in the 21st century, many people of my generation have found it a herculean task to bury the word ‘tribe’ which have proved not to be a permanent friend as while it is used this minute to favour one, it is used almost immediately after to cause pain elsewhere. It should be more disheartening in this case for it to have come from a young man whom despite acting in good faith would become a practising Lawyer and whom many will naturally perceive as an idol and a barometer for what is right and wrong judging from his academic antecedents and choice of distinguished profession. If at this stage, such a man’s mindset is punctuated with ethno-religious sentiments in a the race to the leadership of a community of no more than nine hundred students, one wonders what the scale would be when he and many people of his ilk register into the larger community of men? What ideals will they propagate? And which one would they stand against? Will they help to fester the cult of mediocrity for some bogus ethnic sentiments or would they see that its flames are extinguished however the embers continue to burn? In deed, that is the question. Post mortem apologies to william Shakespeare.

Writing on Tribalism in his seminal work-The Trouble With Nigeria, the Late literary colossus, Chinua Achebe said, “Nothing in Nigeria’s political history captures her problem of National integration more graphically than the chequered fortune of the word Tribe in her vocabulary. Tribe has been accepted at one time as a friend, rejected as an enemy at another, and finally smuggled in through the back-door as an accomplice….”. Those words of the great wordsmith some 4 decades ago has continued to run its course even to this day. While Abdallah my have acted in good faith, I had expected him to disqualify me summarily in his court on the merits of my case as an impartial ‘judge’ with variables such as a questionable character and academic impropriety, but he chose to travel the same course of disrepute which Alhaji Obafemi Awolowo sailed in 1951 by stealing the leadership of western Nigeria from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in broad day light on the floor of the western house of Assembly and sending the great Zik of Africa scampering back to the Niger whence he came, because he wasn’t a Yoruba thereby killing the Pan Nigerian dream whereby a Northerner could be the Mayor of Enugu and an easterner aspire to be a premier in the North. A dream which to this day, has remained a stuff for history classes.

I would like us to come back to the leadership question. What is leadership? Let me spare us a comprehensive academic definition. For the purpose of this piece, our working definition should be that Leadership is the ability for a legitimately elected/selected individual to direct the activities of the general population in accordance with the dictates of the constitution which they have given themselves. If we accept that as a working definition, the question that begs answer now becomes: what nexus is there, between tribe or creed and leadership? And Why does the two variables dictate the chance of leadership in this part of the world?

As far as I’m concerned, the origin of an individual, should not be a ground for assuming the leadership of any secular group. If there must be a grande criterion, it should border on character of the individual and not his tribe. For while character has bearing on how a leader will lead, tribe has none. An individual cannot change his tribe, neither is he responsible for same-it is the assignment of fate/providence. But on the other hand, one can change their character over time to suit an office which they hope to occupy. Little wonder then, why in more civilised societies, the creed/ethnicity of a person seeking an elective office barely affect his chances but rather his track record of achievements in previous assignments becomes the determinant. Such, appear to have eluded the most part of Africa.

While you ponder on these thoughts, fast-forward your mind to the Abdullahi or Rotimi in a Federal University in the Eastern part of the country, who dare not run for the leadership of the Student Union in his or her university or even at the faculty level simply because he is not an Igbo or a Yoruba as the case may be, despite having all it takes to turn around its affairs.

Those are the effects of tribalism. The greatest sufferer is the nation itself, the general population which has to contain the legitimate grievance of a wrongful citizen; accommodate the incompetence of a favoured citizen and more important and of greater magnitude, endure a general decline of morale nd subversion of efficiency caused by an erratic system of performance and reward.

Social injustice therefore, becomes not only a matter of morality, but also of sheer efficiency and effectiveness. We fail to realise that whereas ethnicity might win enough votes to instill an ethnic jingoist in a tribal ghetto, the cult of mediocrity, will bring the wheels of modernisation and change grinding to a halt throughout the land. The evidences are adduced in our collapsing public institutions, our inefficient and wasteful parastatals and increasingly, our state-owned companies.

It cannot be argued, that there are manifestations of tribal culture which we cannot excuse. For example our peculiaar habits of dress, food, language, music etc. But these are positive variables that add richness and lucre to our national culture. But to prevent or try to prevent a committed member of a group from participating in the socio-political leadership of the group he has identified with over time, is another matter altogether. Our constitution disallows it (even though it is only in principle unfortunately).

Prejudice against ‘outsiders’is an attitude one finds everywhere. But no modern state can lend its support to prejudice without undermining its own progress and civilisation. While it is almost impossible to (realistically) legislate prejudice and ethnic sentiments out of the hearts and minds of individual citizens, the state, its institutions and citizens, must not like the Abdallahs of this world endorse or condone such habits. It is immaterial whether they do so in good faith or with malice.

Finally, as citizens of a behemoth country trying to recover its tracks, it is incumbent upon us all to everyday make inquiry into the Ethnicity and Leadership question. Not only when it suits us, but also at everytime it’s ugly fangs opens up before us. Our society is grossly in need of capable hands to steer the ship of state back to its coordinates. Those hands are not dotted with marks of a particular tribe, much less a particular religion. They are hands scattered in the general population and locating them, would not be by zereoing in on a particular tribe out of the whole.

We are already at a crossroad where swift choices are needed. Our situation to make matters worse, is already comatose. Must we then make it any more octopian by building our thoughts around a janjaweed mentality? I do not think the answer to that poser should be in the affirmative.

The writer is of the Faculty of Law University of Maiduguri, Borno state. He is on twitter as @RayNkah/


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.

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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.

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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.

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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