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Opinion: The Need For Free, Credible And Violence-free Election In Edo

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By Joseph Ebitibi Kanjo

As the governorship election in Edo State draws nearer, it is pertinent to once again re-echo the need for all political gladiators in the state and those who may have influence on the election from within and outside the state to play according to the rules of the game with a view to having a free, fair, credible and violence-free governorship election September 19, 2020.

Piece should not be new to us; it is like a Sunday sermon we listen and read here and there in preparation to every election in the country. It comes from the lower, middle and top cadre of the society including political actors whom many see as key players and perpetrators.

Governor of Sokoto State who doubles as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, in reemphasising the need for a peaceful election in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, called on political actors in the state to shun violence and embrace peace. His call was orchestrated by the violence that occurred at the entrance gate of the palace of Oba of Benin on the day the PDP was to flag-off their campaign.

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PDP governors and other chieftains led by their national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus had visited the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II to pay him homage and receive his royal blessing when the incident occurred. The sporadic gunshots which lasted for over 60 seconds shortly after the PDP campaign team left the scene saw over fifteen persons sustaining varying degrees of bullet injuries.

Speaking to newsmen shortly after the party’s stakeholders’ meeting held in Benin City, Tambuwal appealed to various political parties participating in the governorship election to continue to encourage their supporters to restrain from unleashing mayhem and violence on the electorate.

“This appeal has become necessary following a small crowd of a political party that came to the Benin Monarch’s palace to boo leaders and supporters of the PDP during the flag-off of our campaign. That is a sign that the political party is planning violence.

“I appeal to leaders of the various political parties with the interest of Edo State at heart, to speak with their followers and make sure the election is free and fair,” the governor said.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Interrogating The Simple Agenda, Erosion And Flooding In Edo

There are extant laws on campaigns in Nigeria. Section 94 ( 1 ) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended ) says , “ For the purpose of the proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions, the Commissioner of Police in each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja , shall provide adequate security for processions at political rallies in the states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja . ”

In order to also forestall violence , the constitution says in Section 227 , “ No person or association shall retain , organise , train , or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and trained or equipped for that purpose . ”

Section 95 of the Act prohibits certain conduct at political campaigns . Subsection ( 1 ) says : “ No political campaign or slogan shall be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious , ethnic , tribal or sectional feelings ”; ( 2 ) says , “ Abusive intemperate , slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes , designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns ”; ( 3 ) “ Places designated for religious worship , police station , and public offices shall not be used : ( a ) for political campaigns, rallies and processions; or ( b) to promote , propagate or attack political parties , candidates or their programmes or ideologies . ”

Section 95 ( 4 ) says , “ Masqueraders shall not be employed or used by any political party , candidate or person during political campaigns or for any other political purpose . ”

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Subsection ( 5 ) says , “ No political party or member of a political party shall retain , organise , train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such a manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised , trained or equipped for that purpose . ”

Subsection ( 6 ) says , “ No political party , person or candidate shall keep or use private security organisation , vanguard or any other group or individual by whatever name called for the purpose of providing security assisting or aiding the political party or candidate in whatever manner during campaigns , rallies , processions or elections . ”

In addition, Section 96 ( 1 ) says : “ No candidate , person or group of persons shall directly or indirectly threaten any person with the use of force or violence during any political campaign in order to compel that person or any other person to support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidate . ”

As spelt out by the Constitution, political actors in the forthcoming governorship election in the state must once again adhere to the rules of the game; the electorates must be given opportunity to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice without intimidation, and they must let their votes count in the September 19 governorship election in the state.

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In order to get more assurance from all contestants that the election would be peaceful and credible, there is need for the state Commissioner of Police to call such contestants to sign peace accord. It is has been done at the Federal level, so, this is the right time for it to be adopted at state level if there is no such at the state level.

Nigerian political leaders are found of calling for a peaceful election, but making such call must go hand-in-hand with action; that is, our political leaders must work the talk and not just lip service.

They must borrow a leaf from former Nigeria President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who said in the bid up to the 2015 presidential election that his political ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he stood by it by accepting defeat from the main opposition, and consequently handing over power to the opposition as the winner of the presidential election-the first African president to accept defeat while in power.

Consequently, the political ambition of any contender in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State does not worth the blood of any resident. Political leaders particularly in the state must talk to their supporters to abide by the rules of the game. Rancour, violence and thuggery should be shun in the September 19, governorship election; the election must be free, fair, credible and violence-free, so after September 19, Edolites will be able to boast that their votes counted.

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This became necessary with the rumoured Federal might, state might and power incumbency. When all these forces are allowed to bear in the election, it means that was is imminent and not election which ultimately should be a peaceful exercise.

Joseph Ebitibi Kanjo is a journalist and affairs commentator

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OPINION: Bobrisky And Our Other S/He Offsprings

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By Suyi Ayodele

Nigeria’s most celebrated social deviant, Idris Olanrewaju Okunneye, also known as Bobrisky, has been in the news in the last two weeks. Apart from the controversial contest the 33-year-old man from Ogun State, won recently, when he was adjudged as the “Best Dressed Female”, he had a date with the law last week. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had picked him up in his Lagos home and arraigned him on charges bordering on abuse of the Naira and others. EFCC, in its testimony before Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, accused the cross-dresser of “spraying” various sums of money ranging fromN400,000 to N50,000 at various social events within Lagos. The Commission’s witness, one ASE Bolaji Temitope Aje, told the court how the Commission “Based on the intelligence, the EFCC set up the Special Operations Team to observe and monitor activities of individuals, who are involved in the habit of mutilating the Naira.” The team, Aje added, came across videos of where Bobrisky was “spraying” money and was arrested. He added that the cross-dresser, when confronted with the videos, admitted that he was the one in them. Bobrisky did not deny the charges and was summarily convicted by the court and remanded in EFCC custody pending his sentencing today, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Unfortunately for him, today is a public holiday!

In pleading for leniency, Bobrisky asked the court to show him mercy and give him a second chance. “I am a social media influencer, with five million followers; and in all honesty, I was not aware of the law. I wish I can be given a second chance to use my platform to educate my followers against the abuse of the Naira. I will do a video on my page and educate people on that. I will not repeat the offence again. I regret my action.” He pleaded. Ever since his conviction, a lot of people have reacted to the Bobrisky-EFCC drama. Many believed that the cross-dresser is being punished more for his deviant behaviour than the crime of Naira abuse for which he was convicted. A prominent Nigerian, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, hit the EFCC hard by describing the Commission’s evidence against Bobrisky as “idleness or an abuse of power.” The EFCC fired back at Odinkalu and asked him to exercise “decorum and responsibility”, as it warned that: “The Commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.”

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I find the EFCC outburst against Dr. Odinkalu as most unnecessary because I believe in his assertion that the EFCC’s evidence against Bobrisky is not just borne out of “idleness and abuse of power”, it is equally lazy and most discriminatory. I have no doubt about the provision of Section 21(1) of Central Bank Act, 2007, and the penalties spelt out therein. The question to ask the EFCC in this matter is: did Bobrisky commit the crime of naira abuse alone? In the various videos the Commission said it showed to the cross-dresser and to which he admitted, was he alone? Did Bobrisky, in “spraying” the naira notes not have an accomplice? Was he not “spraying” the notes on someone, the musician? Should the one who received the ‘abused naira’ be spared while only the one who ‘abused’ it is made to face the music? Leaving that aside, can we ask where the EFCC was when the Olu of Owode-Egba in Ogun State, Oba Kolawole Sowemimo, abused the same naira early this year. While Bobrisky in the EFCC videos was caught “spraying” the naira, Oba Sowemimo sewed the naira notes and was decorating a Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, who is also called KWAM 1, with the currency notes. Is the EFCC saying that it did not see the video, or are the two traditional rulers involved, KWAM 1 himself being the head of princes of Ijebuland, too big to be arrested and arraigned? So, what is the crime of Odinkalu in calling EFCC idle? If the Commission can close its eyes against a similar action by the two Ogun State traditional title holders, is it not an “abuse of power” if the Commission chose to go after Bobrisky alone? Isn’t that discriminatory and selective?

This takes us back to the argument that in arraigning and getting Bobrisky convicted, with a possibility of a jail term, the cross-dresser is being punished more for his deviant behaviour than the crime of abuse of the naira. For me, this argument is valid. I also hold that it is morally on the negative side. But funny enough, I don’t find it offensive. I think I love it; it is a welcome development! My argument. The Bobrisky menace is an epidemic that anything done to arrest it is good enough for me. The boy told the court that as “a social media influencer”, he had “five million followers.” That is a huge number if you ask me. How many of the number are children whose sexual orientations have changed as a result of Bobrisky’s influence? Our statutes do not recognise such deviant behaviour. This is why I feel very strongly that the government and the law enforcement agencies should come in and arrest this drift. Many parents are in pain today as a result of Bobrisky’s activities. And true to his appellation, his conducts are “risky’ to proper upbringing of our children. I have seen parents whose children are sexually deviant, agonising that they would have been more at home if those beautiful children of theirs are sexually promiscuous than going for the same sex partners! When a parent is on such an extreme edge, we ought to ask the laws to go after the Bobriskys of our era.

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Incidentally, Bobrisky did not start this culturally ‘risky’ behaviour. Before him was Uzoma Odimira, alias Area Scatter, who reigned in the early 70s, shortly after the civil war. Area Scatter, who dominated the entertainment scene in the Imo area of the South-East, was noted for his braided hair, heavy makeup and high-heeled shoes. His argument then was that being a cross-dresser, he wanted “to create awareness and promote tolerance for gender diversity.” Before he finally disappeared, Odimira was seen as a ‘complete woman’ on the claims that the gods gave him supernatural powers. The Nigerian nation tolerated him and he had quite a huge number of ‘followers’. In the Bobrisky’s era, we have the likes of Jay Boogie, who was born Daniel Anthony Nsikan; Fola Francis; WF James Brown, whose baptismal name is James Chukwueze Obialor, Miss Sahhara who was raised in the north and Noni Salma; and many others. We are moving gradually to a point that parents would be watching the evening news in their sitting rooms and their children would come in with persons of the same sex to be introduced to them as their fiancés or fiancées. And before we say the religious cliché, “God forbid”, we need to first forbid it as Bobrisky’s father did in June 2020, when he forbade the deviant from attending his (father’s) birthday party dressed as a woman. Guess what: the boy complied!

I have heard arguments that Bobrisky and his gang of socially disoriented children have the right to be who they want to be. I asked one of the advocates of Bobrisky fundamental human rights if he would allow Bobrisky to enter the same female toilet with his wife because Bobrisky dresses like a woman and has female features. His answer was an emphatic no! This is where we should start from. Let our women; our wives raise the alarm anytime a Bobrisky wants to enter the female convenience with them at our airports and other public places. If Bobrisky attempts to answer the call of nature using the gents, let the men around resist him because they cannot afford a woman to look at their genitals while doing the big or the small. I am not against her fundamental human rights. But his rights should not infringe on other people’s rights to decency and secrecy of their genitals. The EFCC was in a dilemma while deciding the facility to detain this ‘risky’ element. The Commission could neither lock him up in a female or male cell; Bobrisky was locked up in a ‘lone cell’. Of course, the Commission doesn’t have a gender-neutral cell. If Bobrisky is locked up in a female cell because s/he is a woman, there are associated risks for the genuine female inmates of the cell. If s/he is locked up in a male cell, the EFCC will be violating his/her fundamental human rights. And if the Commission decides to keep him in the open, it will be standing in contempt of the court order. Whichever way, it is confusing just as the cross-dresser has a confused sexual personality.

The Black man’s sexual orientation is in two folds. A child is either a male or a female; boy or girl and man or woman. There is no issue of cross-gender or gender neutrality. And the Black race is a civilised race. Our current challenges are as a result of how we abandoned everything that makes us unique as a people and go after practices that are alien to our enviable values. When a woman gives birth in Yorubaland, we congratulate her for surviving the dangers of childbirth. Thereafter, the question we ask next is: Ako abi Abo (is it a male or a female child)? I believe this is so with other tribes in Nigeria. I cannot say I am old enough, but in the few years I have spent on Mother Earth, I am yet to come across where a child is born and the people rejoice because it is of mixed sex – half male, or half female. I don’t dispute that there are some medical conditions that can result in a child having two sexual organs. I was only taught the concept of hermaphroditism in my Biology classes in secondary school. We were told then that it is a medical abnormality. I have not seen one, though. And when such a rare case occurs, I take a bet that the parents would be dead worried. I am talking about real African parents and not the ‘civilised’ parents of the Western world. The Holy Books (Bible and Quran) approve only male and female sexes. Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The Quran recognises Adam and Hawwa. The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) explicitly condemned imitating the appearance of the opposite gender. How those who brought ‘civilisation’ to us now recognise lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals as normal beats my imagination. How they took polygamy from us and replaced it with homosexuality and bestiality remains a mystery! That is not our culture; and more importantly, that is not how God ordained it. Unless we frontally confront the menace of Bobriskyism, we stand the chance of having many H/She offsprings. God FORBID!

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OPINION: Flying Gods, Lying Prophets And Power Bandits

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By Lasisi Olagunju

In May, 1891, James Richard Jewett of Brown University, Providence, United States, presented a paper on ‘Arabic Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases’ to the American Oriental Society. The paper was eventually published as an article in that society’s journal in 1893. One striking line I picked in that paper last week is the author’s entry of what he calls Jiha’s Cow. He writes: “Jiha slaughtered his cow, sold the meat, and received his pay. After a while, he again demanded pay from each purchaser and received it. He kept doing this till he died.” What Jiha did would not be strange to you if you were a Nigerian. We pay many times and forever for a paradise long lost.

Nigeria is a low wall mounted by every goat. I see Jiha in how the regime we have treats us. Trending now is electricity apartheid that stratifies the haves and the have-nots. They call it electricity subsidy removal. They band and disband cities; they grade and degrade streets. They distribute darkness and allocate fanciful power hours. The favoured are queued up as Band A; the disfavored are petty men packed into other bands ending empty-handed with letter E. Families sob, businesses weep. Indeed, the regime’s Julius Caesar “doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus.” They reduce all to the emperor’s “underlings, …petty men (who) walk under his huge legs”. In response to our cries, they bid us to do what Shakespeare’s Romans do: “peep about to find for ourselves dishonorable graves.”

A gluttonous government eats with both hands and ten fingers while asking us to skip meals, and fast and pray for John Milton’s paradise regained. Rupert Russel, author of ‘Price War$’ would look at them and say they are ‘prophets’ and we are their scammed ‘followers.’ He would explain our situation with his “cargo cult” metaphor of visionary prophets and stupid, expectant followers. Phil Murray explains him: “The prophets share a vision that God will deliver ‘cargo’ in the form of goods but the followers must first offer some sacrifice in exchange. The prophets take the sacrificial food or money, but the cargo never appears.”

I know there are partisan optimists who still wait at the port for the illusory cargo and at the harbour for the crab of this regime to wink. But for me, it is enough on this domestic darkness and the banditry in our forest of demons.
I shift my gaze to the enemy outside.

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If you canter, trot or amble like a horse, the world will saddle you up. I see Jiha and his cow meat in how Nigeria and Nigerian businesses are treated by competition from outside. The outside is never tired of demanding payment for goods it never sold to us – and we keep paying. They did and do it in telecoms – the Globacom experience. The trending act is in aviation. Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, recently started operating the Lagos-London route. I read of hell being unleashed by the world’s lords of the sky.

I thought we were told that the sky has enough space for all birds to fly without clashing. It is no longer so. Or, it has never been so in the business of air travel. One Jide Iyaniwura, a passenger on Air Peace’s recent inaugural flight from Gatwick to Lagos, in a social media post, alleged that from what he saw on the day of the inaugural flight, the British government was intent on frustrating Air Peace out of the London route. He said: “British Airways and Virgin were the only airlines doing direct flight from Lagos to London before Air Peace joined. The British government will do everything within their power to truncate the effort of any Nigerian carrier trying to break into that market.” He provided clues and cited acts that suggested his conclusion. “It is a government-to-government fight. It is a British government versus the Nigerian government fight,” the passenger said while warning our leaders not to see it as a war between businesses.

Other observers say a war is on already from some established foreign airlines. Said to be leading the pack is expensive, elite British Airways. That should not be a surprise. The lion’s den is never free from bones. A behemoth company with imperialism as its foundational philosophy and ethos cannot be seen brooding any act of impudence from an upstart airline from Africa, its country’s inheritance. The lords on that route take the route as their bequest. Their mindset is rooted in history.

Sir Samuel Hoare was the British Secretary of State for Air from 1922 to 1929. He wrote in his Empire of the Air (1957:90) that he “saw in the creation of air routes the chance of uniting the scattered countries of the (British) Empire and the Commonwealth.” To him (and his country), air travel and route allocations were carefully etched and aimed at making sure that Great Britain did not “surrender in the air a paramountcy won on the ground by a generation before.” In other words, as elegantly couched by Hoare, the official British air travel policy was (and should still be) undergirded by the national desire to “make closer and more constant the unity of imperial thought, imperial intercourse and imperial ideals.”

Direct territorial acquisition of land that is not yours is colonialism. Garnish it with political and economic control from an outside power and you have the textbook definition of imperialism.

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Imperial Airways, the grandfather of British Airways, was set up as the “chosen instrument” to achieve England’s imperial agenda. Indeed, The Times of London of December 28, 1923 noted and emphasized that in the choice of name for that airline, ‘Imperial’ and not ‘National’ had been used as its label. For these details and more, I suggest you read (as I did) Robert McCormack’s ‘Airlines and Empires: Great Britain and the Scramble for Africa, 1919-1932 published by the Canadian Journal of African Studies in 1976. You will read in that piece how the first scheduled flight of Imperial Airways on its trunk route to Cape Town on January 20, 1932 was celebrated by a British newspaper as “an imperial event of outstanding importance.”

Ninety years ago (18 October, 1934) at the Chatham House, London, Lt. Colonel H. Burchall, General Manager of Imperial Airways, spoke on ‘The Politics of International Air Routes’. He warned that “any country which maintains regular air services over routes crossing foreign countries has to encounter many difficulties.” He added that of those difficulties, “none is greater than those presented by international politics for these are based upon the uncertain and shifting foundations of national prejudices and aspirations.” You would probably understand Burchall’s words better if you advert your mind to the fact that on that London route used to be Nigeria’s Arik, Medview and Bellview. The gods of the skies swat them; they closed shop.

There is a gush of ground calls for support for Air Peace in this war. They say it is patriotism to do so. Before the coming of Air Peace on the London route, flying became food only for the gods of cash. Virgin Atlantic increased its price for economy class to N2,353,200; its business class was N5,345,700. Turkish airlines’ economy class ticket for the Lagos-Istanbul -London route rose to N874,661 while the business class ticket jumped to N1,980,876. Nigerian travellers experienced same with British Airways, Delta, Lufthansa, KLM/Air France, Air Maroc and Ethiopian Airlines. Nigerians cried, wailed and waited for succour, none came. Air Peace’s entry and cheaper fares have now forced the gods to reconsider their judgement. Reports say the flying spirits have not only reduced their fares, they are weaponising them against the upstart from Lagos. They are charging fares lower than Air Peace’s. That is war, price war.

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Every war, including a price war, has an objective. A petrol station manager in the United States tells Strategic Pricing Solutions his own experience: “During the price war my company fought, consumers got some of the lowest gas prices in Dallas, but those low prices could not last. The end result for the consumer in that neighborhood was two of three gas stations on one corner going out of business, and as soon as they closed their doors, the remaining company raised prices higher than ever before.” That is what the dominant birds seek to do to the cattle egret. Their lowered prices are clippers for the wings of the competitor. The news will be very bad if Nigerians buy their guile. The Nigerian flyer will pay if the aliens win.

Those leading this war seek to prevent importation of aviation into their country from Nigeria while exporting theirs to Nigeria. It happened in other sectors, particularly in telecoms. It is still happening. What kind of trade and economic relations opens my door for your goods and closes yours to mine? American economist, William D. Grampp (1914-2019), in his ‘The Third Century of Mercantilism’ (published in the Southern Economic Journal in April 1944) argues that the prohibition of imports should be seen also as a prohibition of exports. This, he argues, is “not only because such protective devices lead to retaliatory measures but because exports must pay for imports and imports must pay for exports.” The greedy does not think so. They do to us here what they won’t accept in their home.

At the beginning of the GSM/mobile telephony story in Nigeria, the two foreign companies licensed to operate here gave everyone pills that were as bitter as their ineffectual properties. Ebenezer Obadare, a professor and researcher, puts it succinctly in his ‘Playing Politics with Mobile Phone in Nigeria’ published in March 2006. Obadare writes that in the first two years of mobile telephony in Nigeria, Nigerians suffered and complained of “exorbitant tariffs, poor reception, frequent and unfavourable changes in contract terms, and arbitrary reduction of credits.” I experienced it.

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In 2001, our national minimum wage was N5,500 but they sold their SIM cards for N30,000. I could not afford it – my salary was N21,000. They fixed their call tariff at N50 per. There was no saviour if your one-minute call strayed into 61 seconds -your credit would be down by two minutes and no tear shed would argue your case. A second’s call was a minute’s call and you must pay even if the call dropped. It was so bad that at a point, protesters redefined GSM as an acronym for “Grand Swindling Machine.”

Who were the edá rats behind that odious treatment? Foreigners who thought we deserved no more than slave treatment on our own soil. Obadare’s words are very apposite here. He writes that the foreign telecoms companies’ excuse “had been that it was impossible to offer customers per second billing until they attained ‘reasonable maturity’ or at least three years after the commencement of operations.” He continues: “However, following…. the introduction of Mike Adenuga’s Globacom, which gave its customers the per billing option on 29 August, 2003 (its first day of operation), Econet and MTN had no choice but to follow suit. Yet, they did not do this without attempting to claw something back- subscribers who opted to be billed on the per-second platform were made to pay a switchover fee of N300 each.” Obadare adds that one of the foreign operators offered its customers “100 free texts, many of which, ironically, did not reach their destinations.” Twenty one years after Nigerians defeated them through Globacom’s patriotic intervention, the outsiders have refused to forget. They still work and fight dirty.

They fleece Nigeria and escape sanctions. Their immunity is sourced from Nigeria’s peculiar self-hate and self-neglect. The forex crisis that today ravages Nigerians and Nigerian entities makes no sense to them. They make forex and ship them home to their owners. At a point in the decade before the last, the Central Bank of Nigeria complained loudly that the foreign companies did not allow their cash to stay for more than a few weeks in Nigeria “before they were converted to foreign exchange for one purchase or the other.” Since that decade up till now, their foot has remained slammed on the throttle; they do not think what is wrong is bad.

Do not blame them. Blame Nigeria that does not clothe its own from the ravages of dry winds from outside. If our government would not create heaven for us and for entities that belong to Nigerians, they should at least lead us away from the hell of hostile aliens. In the complex tapestry of adultery and concubinage, the Yoruba say the husband (the child’s father) is the one who runs round to wean his child from death. The man outside – the àlè – does not care if the child dies. The ‘enemy’ are not of here, their love is for where their umbilical cords lie buried. Nigeria is the cow tethered (by us) for them to milk. We think our charity should forever begin from outside. The Arabs say that a borrowed garment will not warm, and if it warms, it will not last.

Does international relations still have reciprocity as a reward for acceptable behaviours and as a check on aberrance? If you scratch my back I should scratch yours. If you take an eye, I take an eye. Why not have Nigerian enterprises in South Africa making what MTN and MutiChoice make here? Why should it be fatal for a Nigerian airline to operate in London when British Airways and Virgin come in here and go out with billions in their pocket? It can’t be sweet if one side picks the bill all the time. It is like subsidy withdrawal by this government of highly subsidized people.
They wring us out in the sink. We are where they put us – spread out in the sun to dry. Their parrot speaks only of received benefits. It does not give.
Contemporary Egyptian-American poet and artist, Suzi Kassem, in her ‘The Unforgiven’ writes on people “who take and don’t give. The kind to whom you give and give, and they keep asking. The kind to whom you give and give and they say you gave nothing. The kind who have never offered anything but act like they’re the ones providing EVERYTHING. The rat that never gives back yet is so quick to attack – because they think the word TAKING seriously means GIVING.”

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OPINION: Kaduna’s Debt And UnEl-Rufaic Silence

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By Suyi Ayodele

Benjamin Franklin alias Mrs. Silence Dogwood (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790), was one of the greatest statesmen of the United States of America. He was reputed to have signed America’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. He loved education. He was famously known as America’s Founding Polymath. He loved education and anything associated with letters. He also liked to document his life. When he was denied the opportunity of having his numerous letters published in his brother, James Franklin’s newspaper, The New England Courant, Franklin adopted the pseudonym of “Mrs. Silence Dogwood”. Under the name, the great American had 14 letters, which were first printed in 1722. His profile is as rich as the depth of his writings.

Franklin knew the value of documented works. So, he cautioned great men and women to always document their deeds in writing. Here is his famous quotable quote on that: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” Many great men and women followed his injunction. They wrote about their deeds in private and public circles. One of such men is our own Nasir El-Rufai, the former and immediate past governor of Kaduna State. El-Rufai also served as a minister in the cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He equally was the pioneer Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE). Taking heed of Franklin’s caution, El-Rufai wrote a book in 2013. He titled it: “The Accidental Public Servant”. It is a voluminous book of 627 pages without the lix (69) pages of introduction and prologues.

“The Accidental Public Servant” is written in the style of the author as an omniscient narrator. Such style allows for long tales. El-Rufai sticks to that underlying thisness of the style he employs. The book is no doubt a book of self-adulation. Self-adulation thrives on half-truths and outright lies. Only a few men of honour write their own accounts with dignity. Such value is lacking, to a greater extent, in the book under review here. My summary of “The Accidental Public Servant” is simple. Whatever the author lacks in physical appearance, he makes up for in the hyperbolic narrative of his deeds and worths, while in public service. I don’t have any problem with that. I learnt too early in life not to argue with a dwarf who claims to be tall enough to see whatever is happening around him. The training I got in dealing with such a person is to arrange his seat at the back row at the village square.

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He will know his real height when the dance begins and all the tall people in front stand up to watch the masquerade dance. He will be forced to leave the arena in frustration. Nature is already putting a lie to most of the saintly claims of El-Rufai in his book. First, his terrible outings while he served as governor of Kaduna State run sharply in contrast to the self-righteousness of El-Rufai in his memoirs. Victims of his stay in office abound to tell their tales of woes under him. No doubt, there are others who see him as their hero, too. Life is like the proverbial gangan drum. While it backs some people, it faces many others. Posterity is the ultimate judge between the rulers and the ruled. So shall it be with El-Rufai and all our other leaders!

The inimitable Dr. Dipo Fashina (Jingo) taught us Introduction to Philosophy at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife. There was this story of Achilles and the Tortoise he told us. It is about the race between the fastest runner and the slowest runner. At the end of the race, Tortoise claimed victory on a simple logic: the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest because the fastest runner must always reach the point where the slowest runner who is being pursued, started from. For that to happen, the slowest runner must always hold the lead. So, it is with the truth and the lie. Lie may have the speed of light. It can also run for decades. It takes just a second for the truth to catch up with it.

That is exactly what has happened to El-Rufai. All his claims to sanctimony are collapsing before him like a pack of badly arranged cards. Happily, enough, the home truth about him is being served hot by a member of his own political household. The governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, is not just a member of the El-Rufai’s political family; he is the heir apparent to the ex-governor’s political dynasty. Nobody knows the dirt of the buttocks more than the pants – kò sí eni tó mo ègbin ìdí ju ìbànté lo. Reading the revelation last Saturday by Governor Sani, I begin to appreciate the Parmenidian principle of “All is one”, which when broken down to simple understanding, shows that all claims to change are illogical. Nigerians have been deceived for too long by sententious leaders. The reality is here at home with us.

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There is a naked truth released a few days ago about El-Rufai. The one who claimed the garment of the Saints departed has been described as a chronic debtor who left Kaduna State prostrate. The former governor, former minister and former DG of BPE is said to be a debtor both in Dollar and Naira while he was the governor of Kaduna State. According to the incumbent Governor Sani, his predecessor, El-Rufai, left a debt of $587 million, N85 billion, and 115 contractual liabilities for him to deal with. It is like throwing a monkey to your neighbour’s compound without a finger of banana – I owe the philosophy of monkey and banana to the Great Guru (GG) himself, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr, Chairman of Globacom.

The indebtedness, the new governor said, is such that the state would no longer be able to pay salaries going forward. This, he added, was because of the N10 billion allocation the state gets monthly, N7 billion is used to service El-Rufai’s debt. After the deductions, what is left is a miserable N3 billion. With a wage bill of N5.2 billion, the state needs to borrow additional N2.2 billion to be able to pay its workers. Should the state succeed in doing that, it means that no other issue will be attended to. If the claims by Governor Sani are true, we all can conclude that Kaduna State is in a mess. Most states of the federation are in that gory state as Kaduna. We should not be surprised at this because this is what one gets when one’s plantation is yielded to the locusts.

Governor Sani made the allegations of outright mismanagement of Kaduna resources against El-Rufai on Saturday at a Town Hall Meeting held in Kaduna. This piece was penned on Monday. As at the time I hit the sent button on my device, the man so accused had not uttered a word. That is strange of the famed rambunctious personage. That is unEl-Rufaic! I need somebody to nudge the volcanic former governor out of his slumber. If he doesn’t know, someone close to him should let him know that everything he laboured for is at stake. He cannot afford to be silent over this. This is not the time to philosophise that “silence is golden.” El-Rufai should speak and speak loudly too. In his handover note in May 2023, El-Rufai said he left debt of $577.32 million and N80.60 billion only, in addition to $2.05 million and N5 billion in the state treasury. El-Rufai has the responsibility of explaining the differences in the figures. He equally needs to tell citizens of Kaduna what he did with the debts. Granted, blame game is the middle name of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the party which produced El-Rufai and his successor, Sani. The party blames the dead, the living and the unborn for its personal obvious failures.

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But this Kaduna issue is within the family, and it is more than the normal siblings’ rivalry. Nigerians need to hear the other side. Kaduna civil servants need to know why hunger and starvation will be their lots in the months to come. Did El-Rufai borrow that much? If yes, what did he do with the money? I know El-Rufai to be an Arógunmátìdí (the one who does not draw back from war). This is a war the man cannot afford to avoid. Nigerians expect every “Accidental” discharge from their Accidental Civil Servant. We are all set for the circus show. The word of the Lord is sure and comes to pass. Egyptians must surely rise against Egyptians. Other governors that are dying in silence should also speak up. I am waiting for the day my home state governor, Abiodun Abayomi Oyebanji of Ekiti State, would come to the public crying about the burden of the recklessness of the former governor, Kayode Fayemi. The little Baba Afe Babalola said penultimate week has already brought out the ‘unOmoluabi’ traits of former Governor Kayode Fayemi. Even without any direct mention of his name by the nonagenarian, Fayemi went haywire. Fayemi claimed that Baba Afe’s first child is far older than him, yet, he was not deterred from calling the old man names I dare not repeat here! It is true that èéfín nì ìwà – character is like smoke! It cannot be covered.

Kaduna State workers will go hungry soon. They are not alone. Pensioners in the state would have their own full share of the mess. The catastrophe will cascade to petty traders and children. There will be an increase in the number of school children who will drop out because parents and guardians alike will not be able to pay school fees. Small businesses will also fold up, just as the big ones will downsize. The overall implication is that many will suffer more. As it is in Kaduna, so it is in many other states. Nigerians are not having the best of times at the moment. I saw a video of two elderly fellows fighting over food. A man and his wife were recorded fighting over ‘chop money’. The wife, in her late 70s, was struggling with her husband, a man in his early 80s over feeding Allowance. “I’m hungry. Give me money to eat”, the old woman said in Yoruba. The husband responded that he had nothing to give her. Not letting go, the old grandmother recalled her woes in her marriage to her husband. She asked if the man had ever set up a business for her. She reminded the husband that even though she tried on her own and set up a table for trading in front of the house, the husband destroyed it. “Today”, she told the husband, “You will have to do that which you plan to do to me”, the woman intoned. Then she got up, tied her wrapper and announced: “I am hungry. My legs are shaking. Give me money to eat.” She made for the husband’s “wallet” and the struggle continues!

No matter how strong-hearted one is, nobody will watch that video without feeling so sad. I could not shed tears in my sadness. Unfortunately for me, the video was sent to me late at night. The rest of my night was ruined. These are people in their departure lounge. Senior citizens, no doubt. Somebody recorded that video. Someone posted it. I could not question our humanity after watching the video. We lost that long ago. But then, I asked: what about the children and grandchildren of these old folks? What about their relations, friends and neighbours? Again, where is the government which has the fundamental function of making life bearable for the citizens? Why do we, as a nation, subject our people to this kind of situation when we are not in Afghanistan or Pakistan; two countries that are in perpetual conflicts with themselves. Why would our leaders leave behind huge debts like the El-Rufai, the debtor of Kaduna did, without repercussions?

How long shall we continue to tolerate the malfeasance of the ruling class? How long shall we continue to be stranded at the road that leads to nowhere that our leaders have led us? We have laws. We have statutes that address the recklessness that the current Kaduna State governor painted of the financial health of the state. El-Rufai, and many other ex-this and ex-that are walking the streets with crass impunity because nobody will dare ask them to account for their stewardship. From the comatose legislative arm to the intimidated and compromised judiciary, Nigerians are at the mercy of a rapacious and unfeeling executive whose sole aim is inflicting more pain on us all. Our landscapes are dotted with a-heroic characters who rode to power on the chariots of change and hope but end up doing worse things. We chased away grasshoppers only to be replaced by locusts. Now, nothing is left on the field for us to harvest, not even the leftover for our Ruth to glean! When will this end?

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