Kusa, Ndigbo in Lagos and Politics of Ethnicity, By Pat Utomi

I know Femi Kusa. He is a friend and a classmate. I knew of him from his Daily Times days. Then we met at the University of Nigeria shortly after the end of Nigerian Civil war. I have read his reflections on Ndigbo and the politics of Lagos. And have followed with considerable curiosity the Gale storm his article set off and some of the responses to his rebuke of Ndigbo.

My reaction has been influenced by a number of experiences from my own life’s journey. Two related to the times I shared with Femi at Nsukka, the other came from a few years later in Graduate School, in the United States. I shall start from the latter.

When I was at Indiana University, a certain professor of comparative politics and former Vice President of the University J Gus Liebenow remarked that it was a shame that some very bright African students were completing Ph.ds in economics, education and even political science and other disciplines with little understanding of the American system of government. He thought this particularly unfortunate because such people ought to be the kinds to turn to for light on how the American system worked, on return to their home countries. Who better to elucidate on the American way, in his home country than a US education Ph.d.

Liebenow, a Liberia expert, pushed for fellowship that could take some of the top Phd prospects from Africa, as interns, to the corridors of American government. He got his way. I turned out to be the first to be selected for this programme and went off to the US Capital, Washington DC as an intern in the Indiana Washington Office for rotation through the offices of members of the Indiana Delegation to the US Congress.

While the opportunity allowed me the bragging rights of engaging the American way in observing and asking questions directly of a Senator who would later become Vice President of the United States (Dan Quayle) and a

Congressman who would dominate foreign policy oversight from the House of Representative for many years, (Lee Hamilton), I suspect the opportunity advanced Liebenow’s goal because I have done many hours of talking, in the 38 years since that exposure, on how the American system works.

Some people at UNN were apparently not as smart as J Gus Liebenow. If they were, one of the Yorubas that ventured to Nsukka just after the Civil War, should probably not be one to raise issues of questionable charity towards a people he had ample opportunity to better understand.

In those days at UNN some of my closest friends were Yorubas: My classmate from Loyola College Ibadan, Gbenga Sadipe, Folu Ayeni, first class graduate and clas valedictorian in 1974, who would, with his wife Bose, found Tantalizers, years later; Ade Ogidan who would work at The Guardian for many years with Femi Kusa, and Ademola Ayegoro, among others. Most times we gathered in Baba’s room, a room next door to that of Clement Ebri, later Governor of Cross River State. It was part of a season in which things ethnic seemed peculiar to me. I was sometimes “one of those Yoruba boys”, other times a Midwest boy and at others an identity-challenged rascal. But I had fun, happy with myself and with everyone around.

My Yoruba tribe at UNN did not get in the way of association with my old school mates from Christ the Kings College Onitsha, so I had another cluster. What’s in the language you claim as mother tongue? Well, Femi Kusa and I, got a chance to leave UNN reflecting on this because at our farewell party Prof. Donatus Nwoga, the Dean of Faculty, gave a speech I still lift from till this day; and we got gifts of books. I am not sure if Femi got the same book I got but mine was a novel by the Kenyan writer Mugo Gatheru; A Child of Two Worlds.

When I read Femi’s piece, which has been called Xenophobic, and compared to the kind of remarks that set off genocide in Rwanda, what I saw was a spirit trapped in the desire to be modern but struggled with capture of the medieval. Femi is a smart and capable person and quite deliberate in what he does but we all can be trapped by things within and just outside of us. Human emotion is a subject that fascinates me.

This is why the work of people like Joshua Greene at Harvard, who draws from neuroscience and psychology to explain emotions and how people respond to the need for both cooperation and competition in the advance of human endeavor, intrigues me.

I was quickly inclined to send my friend Femi Kusa, Greene’s book Moral Tribes. Responding to Femi with fury will do little to change how he thinks of a people just as the passionate response in abuse tends to turn off. The vitriol in response, therefore seemed quite unhelpful from my point of view.

Adducing rational measurable benefits of cooperation and identifying faults in reasoning may better help a person struggling as we all tend to be, to locate themselves in the modernity/medieval mindset continuum, may help a little more.

The bigger problem for me is that many who vilify Femi actually live the shortcomings they point out on Femi. They are pockets of what they accuse him of but they do not publicly declare such. But if they show that Ondo State and Oyo States, with few Igbos, seemed to have voted like Okota, in Lagos, they may make Femi think. Did Femi think about that in coming to onclusions so divisive and threatening of cooperation? Why did such a
people who take over the territory of others vote a Northerner the Mayor of Enugu in the 1950s? There are many examples that could point a different way. But stereotypes reduced the pressure to think. They make life easy but potentially dangerous because they can perpetuate unreason.

In our earlier years in the department, at UNN, the Head of Department Ezenta Eze, taught a class on gestalt. The idiosyncratic furging of the shape of reality should not be dismissed. Some personal experience can shape a view others can consider jaundiced or biased. Condemning such outright may therefore be unfair. Maturity demands continuing sensitivity to the fact that people see reality differently, which neither makes them good, or bad people.

Identify politics is a significant point today in Nigeria. K. K. Komolafe of Thisday, in writing about my politics, thought, I should have run for office from Lagos rather than Delta. I know Lagos and are better known here, he submitted.

Femi Falana and a few others have suggested the same. Nothing wrong in principle, but maturity suggests to me that it is the early days yet for such.

My response to such prodding is a nice smile. Surely if we want to build a nation, then the nationality question has to be addressed. We can choose not to build a nation and federate or separate but we need to pace and try things before we decide.

Still, it does not mean anybody has the entitlement to denying me a right that is fundamental. Maturity must come from all sides. But what makes a difference is the conduct of leaders. As we saw with Yugoslavia, well captured by Robert Kaplan in Balkan Ghosts, once Josef Tito died the story was different.

The Filipino Professor, of Chinese ethnic stock, at Yale University, Amy Chua, years ago, wrote the book World on Fire, about ho globalization was stoking ethnic hatred against market-dominant minorities. In her list of such groups were Jews, Chinese minorities in places like the Philippines (her own ethnic stock) and Igbos of Nigeria. It is easy and cheap to attack such groups.

To be continued tomorrow

Utomi, Political economist and professor of entrepreneurship, founder, Centre for values in leadership

The Rise and Fall of Saraki Dynasty

The leader of Kwara’s crumbling dynasty has reportedly conceded defeat even as he urged his party to fight to the finish, apparently hoping for a political miracle in the gubernatorial and state assembly elections this Saturday.

The margins of defeat from the February 23 elections are indisputable just like the resolve of the electorate to break away from the past; a past characterized by cronyism, ineptitude, deceit and profligacy.

For over four decades, the Saraki political dynasty has held sway dictating who gets what in Kwara State. The patriarch of the dynasty, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, was very popular among his people due to his politics of inclusiveness. He consistently shared in their pains and joy.

This perhaps led to his election into the upper chamber of the Nigerian National Assembly and his emergence as the leader of the Senate in 1979. Saraki from 1979, installed civilian governors of Kwara State namely, Adamu Attah, Cornelius Adebayo, Sha’aba Lafiaji and Mohammed Lawal who ruled from 1999-2003. In May 2003, he fielded his son Dr Bukola Saraki who won two terms as governor.

Bukola led the affairs of the state from 2003-2011 before installing his crony, Abdulfatah Ahmed, as his successor. The younger Saraki, prior to the demise of his father about a year later, had taken over the leadership of the dynasty and was already dictating affairs of the state from his bedroom. Henceforth, he consistently deployed huge resources to win all elections in the state for his party and candidates. The last of such polls is the 2017 local government election which appeared largely manipulated in his favour. Less than two years later, Saraki and his candidates surprisingly tasted defeat for the first time in the February 23, Presidential and National Assembly elections.

The defeat of Saraki in his bid to return to the Senate as the sitting Senate President was excruciating, signaling the end of the dynasty. He lost the election with an unimaginable margin. Flying the PDP flag, the seemingly invincible Saraki lost in all four local governments (Asa, Ilorin West, Ilorin South and Ilorin East) that make up Kwara Central, his senatorial district, scoring 68, 994 votes as against 123, 808 votes garnered by his main challenger, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe.

The Senate President not winning his own seat is a big deal, he was simply run out of town. Though the election may have been won and lost, the questions political pundits have been asking is how did Saraki lose this election to the APC candidate he defeated in the same contest in 2011?

The answers are not far-fetched. They are located in a dismal record of performance; Saraki acting as a thin god; re-cycling discredited politicians and the frustrations of an enlightened electorate encapsulated in the phenomenal slogan: O to ge.

The out-going administration under the leadership of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has been eight wasted years of misrule characterized by infrastructure deficit, disregard for welfare of workers and several unfulfilled promises. Like his immediate predecessor, Ahmed’s government has succeeded in impoverishing the people of Kwara further. Local Government Council and State Universal Basic Education Board workers are owed salaries while pensioners are also owed their gratuities. Many Kwarans are wont to rue the slow pace of infrastructural development, particularly in the last eight years.

Prior to his defeat, the Senate President believed he had Kwara in his grip and that the state is impregnable for any challenger on the politics turf. Saraki preferred to dominate the scene, deliberately avoided picking smart and popular candidates for elections. He held the fortunes of the state hostage for the last 16 years but Kwarans have had it all; the elastic limit of patience and suffering was overstretched here.

Another undoing of Saraki was his preference for consistently appointing same set of self-centred individuals into government positions. Some of them have been in government even before Saraki became the governor with no traceable impact in government and their community. For Saraki, he mostly preferred these set of people based on their loyalty to the dynasty and not for their competence or performance. It was therefore not a surprise that virtually all Saraki’s foot soldiers were defeated at their polling units.

For several years, many Kwarans especially the aged and unemployed youths were satisfied with receiving handouts from the dynasty in the name of empowerment. Not anymore as people of the state have now realized that for every plate of food or N1,000 worth Ankara they received from Saraki, he earns N100,000 from the state treasury.

The O to ge slogan, translated to mean ‘enough is enough’, was a masterstroke that resonated among the electorate and it became very popular through various radio programmes. It was a ‘quit notice’ to the Saraki dynasty that has brought untold hardship on the people of the state.

For all those who have been following events in the state, the Saraki dynasty has won elections when it enjoyed the ‘protection’ from the government at the centre. That was not so in 2015, but it rode on the popularity and wide acceptance of Muhammadu Buhari to triumph over the opposition. In 2019, alas Saraki had no federal might. The heavy security presence and clampdown on political thugs including the re-deployment of INEC officials and security agents he consistently bought over with his deep pocket, meant Saraki had no machinery in place to manipulate the outcome of the election.

The April 5, 2018, Offa bank robbery incident is one sin many Kwarans will for many years hold against the present administration and Saraki. Not that anyone is accusing Governor Ahmed and Saraki as the perpetrators, they created the environment for such dastardly act. Ahmed, as the chief security officer of the state, paid kid gloves to the issue of security, especially outside Ilorin, until the bloodletting incident that claimed about 33 lives, among them nine policemen. He also failed to create employment opportunities for the youths in the state. They became easy recruits for cultism and robbery.

Saraki appeared to have incurred the wrath of the people of Offa when he boasted on radio last December that he donated N10million to the families of the victims without minding the unquantifiable value of the 33 lives lost to the unfortunate incident.

Going to the polls this Saturday, Kwarans are determined to nail the coffin of a parasitic political dynasty for good. The indices are constant; it’s a resolve for total liberation.

– Bayonle Abdulkadir wrote from Alore Quarters in Ilorin.

Tomorrow Never Dies

America and Europe are again falling for easy lies over awkward truths

President Muhammadu Buhari has campaigned in this election exactly as he has governed since 2015, true to the values in which he has believed all his adult life: our security, a diversified economy and an administration free from the scourge of corruption and the sleazy mediocrity it fuels.

Buhari has not changed, and with good reason. Without these attributes, Nigeria will not know peace, prosperity or the rule of law: the only real foundations on which free and fair elections and genuine democracy can thrive. He is stubborn and resolute in defence of these values. This irritates quite a number in the elite, and especially those who, four years ago, thought that they could play the President and use his popularity to continue to steal and cheat the people.

These players have failed. They are angry but they have not yet given up. They have some unlikely allies. Our traditional friends in the US and Europe say they want nothing from Nigeria except free and fair elections. But if you look at what their representatives here actually do rather than what they say, the unmistakeable signs of a quite different agenda are plain to see.

It’s easy to forget where we were, a country falling apart, unable even to protect school girls and where corruption defined every aspect of so much of our public life and private business. Today our media ignore the revelations in a Milan court of how oil companies and fixers stuffed cash in suitcases and the nine-figure bank accounts of former PDP justice ministers and spy chiefs and Presidents. This failure goes beyond individuals or particular political parties, although it is true that our decline accelerated under the PDP after the end of military rule in 1999, a betrayal that Atiku Abubakar and many of his allies hope forlornly to revive and celebrate.

Our young people see only the devastation that has been visited upon them, too young to remember the vibrant rural economy that once gave us the wealth for the schools and hospitals we are only now beginning to revive.

They cannot imagine the rubber plantations where for decades Dunlop and Michelin made tyres for Nigeria and the world. The factories are long since closed. Our palm oil was once a world leader but it is only now, under this government, that we are reviving an industry on life support. We have timber, we have hardworking people – and yet we came to be importing even simple school desks and bedframes. We have so much of what we need for fertilisers, yet government after government preferred to let the plants we had already built go to waste for easy commissions on second-rate imports. Textiles used to employ thousands, and will do again, when we allow our talent fairly to compete on the international stage.

A major crude producer with four refineries that once delivered petroleum products for home consumption and export, Nigeria was reduced to importing petroleum products as if we were Burkina Faso or Bangladesh, not a leading member of OPEC. Our golden goose was starved. The military and the PDP took all the money, they didn’t pay oil partners what we owed and only now, after this government’s efforts, speaking plainly and finding real solutions, can we begin to grow exports that have stagnated for 30 years.

When our private banks collapsed (again) in 2009, the outstanding liabilities were N5.7 trillion. It is hard to imagine a sum of money, so vast, owed by so few, to so many. The list of decay is long. And yet this was the inherited culture of government – ‘to those that have, give more’ – that we have challenged, a culture where every declared reform was in fact a disguise to privatise profit and leave the rest of us with all the risk.

Nigeria has almost as many problems as we have people. But it also has all the resources to meet our needs, if they are properly managed and honestly marshalled. Think where we would be today, but for all the time wasted, the prosperity we would enjoy and the better partner we might have been to our friends in the region and further afield! Buhari is not a populist but he is popular because he is delivering on our most basic needs first.

Do our foreign friends simply not understand what is at stake, or do they actually want us to fail? We know we are not equal partners, and do not pretend to be so. In our own time in government, the US, the UK and the EU let us know subtly, and often not so subtly, what we should be doing on everything from currency reform to fuel deregulation and the import of toothpicks.

They have their own subsidies to protect key strategic interests, their farmers and steel plants, but condemn our own efforts to protect the poorest and most vulnerable from an unregulated market for food, transport and housing, or to create and protect space for new opportunities and innovation to flourish. This is not so much a question of policy, but integrity: we, at least, mean what we say. So many past governments in Nigeria did not.

Our transition has been difficult because Nigeria needs radical change, which we have been delivering, despite ingenious and often disingenuous resistance from vested interests and the business-as-usual brigade. Which begs the question: is there a difference between what suits Nigeria’s real national interest and what suits the interests of the Great Powers? The years of failure were characterised by hypocrisy and betrayal by our leaders, who were in turn easy targets for manipulation – much easier for foreign powers to manage than a government genuinely looking to repair and revive today so that we can build tomorrow. And tomorrow never dies.

I always knew that business-as-usual had a powerful self-interest in resisting CHANGE. I had hoped their tentacles did not stretch so far or so easily beyond our borders, that a good case, well made, would receive a fair hearing. In three and a half years in government, I have learned that decent argument and hard facts face stiff competition from vested interests that seem so easily to sway people who should know better. A convenient lie is not better than an uncomfortable truth.

Nowhere is this more clear than the contrived debate on the conduct of elections. Buhari’s commitment to the democratic process is a matter of record, time and again. All of the work to rebuild our public institutions, restore our values and recalibrate our future prospects can succeed only in a democracy in which the integrity of elections is sacrosanct.

Instead of judging Nigeria by our actions, it seems altogether too easy for foreign partners to be swayed by the expensive words of lobbyists. Riva Levinson has been hired by Bukola Saraki. She was trained by Paul Manafort and Roger Stone (both caught up in the probe into interference by foreign powers in the US elections in 2016) and guide earlier in her career to dictators like Siad Barre, unprincipled warlords like Jonas Savimbi, or frauds like Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, the man who neo-conned the Bush White House. We are meant to be believe that Ms Levinson, like the others who are paid by one of the contestants, wants only to promote a free and fair race. And that it is only a coincidence that this language for hire is identical to what we hear from accredited diplomats!

By omission or commission, it appears it may actually suit our friends, deep down, below the pious words, to see Nigeria a basket case, begging bowl in hand, than the partner we could, should and will prove to be. And we have been here before. At the end of 1984, British diplomats predicted a coup against the then Buhari government, with whom London was quarrelling over everything from apartheid to economic policy (as we knew then, and as it turned out, Buhari was right). Glowing profiles of Ibrahim Babangida were prepared and telegrams of congratulation were drafted. Mrs Thatcher put the project on ice, at least for a few months, but it was not long before foreign powers concluded that their best interests would be served by people who told them everything they wanted to hear on democratisation and reform, but, as they could and should have known, meant precisely none of it. Nigeria lived through the consequences of this systemic deception. We lost so much in the 30 years after 1985, but nothing so precious as the loss of confidence in our values and what we as a nation could be.

In the 19th century, Lord Palmerston, Britain’s Prime Minister and one of the country’s most celebrated diplomats, observed that “nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” We have been delivering on a programme to restore the rule of law, to build democracy and strengthen security, to deal with corruption and to create opportunity in a new meritocracy. It is a platform that helps tackle violent extremism, illegal migration, trafficking and financial crime. These are the very issues that are central to the interests of our foreign friends, and we are producing results.

Nigeria will make its choice on Saturday. It has never before had a government that has more clearly demonstrated through words and actions its commitment to transparency and the rule of law, protecting good judges and decent public office-holders from the corruption of their peers. Voters are free to move forwards to a better future or back to the desperate past from which we are now beginning to emerge. Our election commission is independent and has all resources it needs to do its job. We should all be wise to the risks, including partial and premature announcements of unofficial results from unverifiable sources, especially when one party has already declared well in advance that it cannot lose unless there is rigging. There should be no interference from any quarter, including foreign powers who say one thing but do another – exactly the formula that their friends here have employed for years to bring us so close to despair.

Abba Kyari is Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari

The Niger Delta We Need

I am a Nembe woman from Okpoama, Brass, in Bayelsa State. I grew up in Niger Delta and I’m very attentive and observing of my surrounding.

Concerning who should win or lead states in Niger Delta, come 2019, my position is that whoever wins should give us good governance.

Just yesterday, a political party supporter was killed in a rally, leaving many others injured. A Facebook friend was killed in Rivers State by unknown gunmen two days ago.

Six young boys in their early twenties were killed by rival cult group in Oduoha, one of the villages in Emohua, Rivers State, weeks ago. I am sure that cultism has killed over one hundred youths in Emohua and indeed has done lots of havoc to Rivers State and Niger Delta. And it is still doing so.

Then I ask: these boys who do not have any known means of livelihood, how can they raise millions of money to buy guns?

We need a Niger Delta where our boys are out of the creeks and back in offices and factories working for their daily bread without shooting and killing others.

We need an industrialised Niger Delta where our God-given raw materials, fruits and vegetables will be processed into numerous commodities.

We need a Niger Delta with at least 30 industrial estates, we need a Rivers State where soothes and carbon flares do not endanger our lives; we need a Bayelsa State where all children of school age are mandatorily in school under a robost scholarship system.

We need a Niger Delta with improved environmental policies.

We need a Bayelsa State where water will be processed into commodities and exported to other countries of the world where water remains a scarce commodity.

We need a Delta State where hospitals are excellently equipped and functional.

We do not need a Bayelsa State where all we know and talk about is building of infrastructure since 1996 when it was created.

We need a Niger Delta where there’s re-education of the people on sustainable environmental practices relating to forests and lands management.

We need a Niger Delta with good governance not bad governance. We need a Niger Delta where the people are willing to do the right thing rightly.

Good governance in Niger Delta is not about ethnic groups that make up the region, it is not about gender or gerontocracy. It is not about the leader been rich and the led being poor matrially and psychologically.

It is all about Good Governance, not Bad Governance.

2019: Festus Daumiebi for Senate

If excellence in academic pursuit is all that is required to get a ticket to the senate, the people of Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw Local Government Area have no problem in the candidacy of Festus Daumiebi. A young Bayelsan who saw a path of strength in education and stuck to it.

As a little boy growing up in Igbomotoru community, Festus was known among his peers at the Baptist Day Primary School as a stickler for excellence. When asked why he carried out his duties and assignment with diligence, he once said “I fear cane” meaning that he feared to be caned by his superiors and elders. No wonder, the fear of cane, in order words the fear not to be reprimanded by teachers and other adults is a virtue that little Festus had since imbibed since early childhood.

This virtue was so much evident in his life that at about the age of nine, precisely when he was in primary five, at the Baptist Day Primary school, he was identified among his peers and found worthy to be made the senior boy in a school of over a hundred pupil.

At the secondary education stage, young Festus Daumiebi’s leadership qualities were crystal clear. At every class, he held a position and discharged his responsibilities to the admiration of all his teachers. His record of being the class captain from Junior Secondary class one, up to senior secondary class three is unbroken at the school.

The school was left with no choice but to make him the senior prefect after which he graduated with the honour of being the Best Behaved Student in 1998.

Talk of silver spoon, Daumiebi perhaps only read it in a book. He never touched one nor felt it. As the son of a grade 11 teacher and a full time housewife mother, he probably knew nothing but pure hardwork and entrepreneurship. If you ask him, he makes bold to say “I hawked local gin across villages for my parents to send us to school”. Local gin is the highlight of every social celebration in the old Bayelsa and Ijaw communities.

Daumiebi’s life after secondary education was not without turbulence. He recalled, “WAEC was unkind to me… My result was not released the first time…. I had to resit at Government Secondary School Okpuama. The setback taught me a great lesson. This early academic set back did not deter this aspiring senator, as he went on to study law.”

Speaking on how he managed to achieve the feat, Daumiebi said, “As a young man I have always loved to read and acquire knowledge from books as well as conversations with people. So when WAEC did not release my result at my first sitting, the pain caused me to double up my effort in reading. That was how I gradually developed habit for reading wide and for a longer time which is one of the natural requirements for the study of law.

“I first did diploma in Law at the Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science from where I proceeded to Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, where I graduated with a Second Class Upper Division. I was at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos campus and was called to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2015.

“Looking back, I have no regrets choosing law as a career, because it agrees with my passion in life which is helping others solve seemingly tough issues, counseling and motivating seemingly helpless persons, as well as helping to put smiles on the faces of indigent characters. I recall back in the days at the Law school, Lagos campus, four of my colleagues had severe difficulties pushing through their studies because of obvious financial incapacitation.

“I mobilised a few other friends, formed a study group from where whatever each had he dropped for the wellbeing of the group. This was how the four guys survived the toughness of law school. I’m glad today, they are doing well in the profession. I wonder what other profession I would have done better.

Achieving such feat would not have been without the mentorship of some persons and to Festus, this is a fact that cannot be disputed, because according to him, “Talking about how I have fared in life, I owe the credit to a few people whom God had chosen and used as my guardians. The likes of Barrister Doctor A.J Beredugo whom I met as my lecturer at the Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science.

“He embraced me as a son. Indeed, Barr. Beredugo remained a father to all who came around him. He had delight in the success of his students. As he would always tell us “the future belongs to you young folks, grab it today through hardwork”. My relationship with Dr Beredugo turned to a family affair as I stuck to his apron’s string in life matters.

“As my lecturer also at the Niger Delta University, he showed me the intricacies of the knowledge of law. Even as he moved from the academics to public service, he carried me along as a surrogate and I can never deviate from the footprint he charted for me.

“In my political aspiration, the list of my motivators seem endless. From those who planted the seed in me and ensured that I do not derail. I am grateful to distinguished Senator David Cobbina Brigidi. He represented the Bayelsa central senatorial district from 1999-2007 and i was his youngest follower and close confidant till today.

“Distinguished Senator Emmanuel Paulker. Senator representing the same senatorial district from 2007 till date. I have worked very closely with him for the past seven years and i also managed his third term campaigns in the 2015 general elections. We have a towering relationship till date.

“Hon. Henry Daniel Ofongo. The member representing Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency at the green chambers from 2011 till date who was also a care-taker chairman of my LGA in the year 2003. He is not just a close associate but also a mentor with whom I have shared a fantastic relationship for as long as I have lived on Earth.

“Hon. David Lyon, the CEO of Darlon Oil & Gas Services. He has not just been a reliable friend which has metamorphosed into an elder brother but also a source of inspiration and indeed, a mentor.

“I am indeed grateful to these characters who believed in me and are always willing to show me the path to success”.

Festus Daumiebi is contesting for Upper Legislative House on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Heroism and Patrotism, A Lesson From Kenya

The world has come to accept the fact that just like burglary & carjacking, terrorism has come to stay. I personally have come to terms with the fact that just like you can never tell when the next carjacking will happen.

So are acts of terrorism unpredictable. This now makes me wonder at the lives of our men/women in law enforcement & first responders who show up at the scene bearing in mind that no day on the job is ordinary.

What they don’t know for sure is what danger they will face when they rush out on a call.

Will they walk into a hostage situation like Kenya hotel a few hours ago? Or get caught up in an explosion from a suicide bombers vest? Or walk smack into a hail of bullets from the rounds of an automatic weapon fired by the devils sent to stop our peaceful way of life?

Will they save a life (lives)? Will they get hugs of thanks from grateful survivors or give hugs of condolences to victims’ relatives? Or as the case has been in Nigeria, will they get insulted by the very people they stake their lives to save? Will they be heckled and have invective thrown at them online all because we want to score political points at a government/leadership we hate?

They wear their combat gear, after final instructions from commanders they charge into the unknown, most times they succeed and a few times they become statistics of the unknown dead.

Speaking to a few soldiers I ask how does it feel going into a battle that at times you have no idea why. I ask how it feels going into towns to rescue people you have never met before when knowing you could come back in a hearse.

One answer has stuck in my mind; “sis the first time I heard gunfire that wasn’t from our training, I peed my boxers. I asked myself who send me enter academy. See ehh we know the danger. Anybody who says he doesn’t get afraid especially the first experience is a liar.

“But if we no do the work, who go do am? I don’t want to die any time soon but one will still die at some point.

“We just have to do what we have to do or these bad people will kill our families, friends and everyone else. So yes we have fear like every human should butwe get used to it and fight on.” he said.

After this great sacrifice, Nigerians will still come on social media to insult them, post pictures of slain soldiers all in the name of politics. Disgusting lot we are!

If you want to know that true heroism & patrotism is all about, follow the hashtag #Kenyaunbowed and see real life super heroes like ‘Inayat Kassam’ the survival skills/gun training instructor (a civilian I must add) who left his thriving business with clients to charge gunblazing into the hotel yesterday in Kenya to save fellow Kenyans.

You will see stories of a brave police officer, Ali Kombo who gallantly saved scores of hostages while using himself as a shield to protect them. I read/watched the SAS operative in balaclava who’s name wasn’t given for security reasons fight along Kenyan security forces to neutralise the terrorists and free hostages.

An SAS member at the site of the Nairobi attack on Tuesday. Photograph: Kabir Dhanji/AFP/Getty Images.

The professionalism exhibited by Kenyan law enforcement was something else. Almost all the terrorists killed were taken out by head shots.

What about the amazing job done by Kenyan media to shut up western media as they tried to paint gory pictures and portray Kenya in a negative way? They told stories of heroism! They showed pictures of a people united against terror!

They showed a Kenya unbowed unlike the Nigerian press especially Vanguard News, THISDAY, The Punch, who always help the terrorists tell their stories that at times I wonder if they are on a retainership by the terrorists.

Our press will gleefully post pictures of our uniformed men who fell while in active duty. They would splash pictures of dead civilians making a nation in mourning lose hope.

The Kenyans especially their media did their best not to put out stories attacking any religion, race/ethnic group.

They were united in praising their heroes & letting the enemy know that they won’t be cowered. Times like these I wonder what should/will happen for us to change our mindset!

Something is definitely wrong with us in Nigeria. There’s a lesson out there for us to learn from Kenya.

The writer writes from Lagos, and is on Twitter with the handle @Cyberagbero

Bayelsa and The Unhealthy Culture of Monkey Bridge, By Wisdom Ikuli

File photo — A wooden foot bridge in Okutukutu, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Many things went through my mind at same time when I was walking across this bridge. First was admiration of the ingenuity of the constructor who was able to conceptualize this beautiful wooden foot bridge, which are only found in tourist centres and places in the world, even though no modern society, anywhere in the world still uses this as a major means masses of movement.

The second, was our backwardness as a state. Bayelsa as one of the youngest states with the smallest population but with one of the highest monthly federal allocation that is more than those of four Northern states put together is supposed to have a number of beautiful concrete, well constructed bridges Criss crossing the Epie Creek which is a great untapped revenue spinning asset.

With 1B Naira, government can construct a beautiful bridge across the Epie Creek. Let us imagine the beauty that Creek will add if the government constructs a minimum of 5 to 6 additional bridges in addition to the Igbogene Bridge. The above will help to open up the thick forest across the Epie Creek.

Let us ask ourselves, how many state capitals in Nigeria have the level of thick forests and undeveloped bushes inside the Capital City the way Yenagoa is looking so backward and undeveloped?

Rivers and Bayelsa States have the same difficult terrain but where will anyone see this kind of Monkey Bridge in any part of Port Harcourt?

It is so obvious that no government can grow beyond it’s vision and mindset especially those of the leaders. Again, it also depends on the priorities of the leaders of the government of the day.

But whichever way one may want to look at it, Bayelsa State after 23years of its creation is far behind modern development.

May Almighty God bless Bayelsans with a real leader with vision and style who will be very passionate about the infrastructural and human capital development of the state.

Most Senior Comrade Wisdom Oniekpar Ikuli, Mirror and Conscience of Society, writes from Bayelsa State.

Who Really Is Amina Zakari, By Amadi Chima

Who really is Amina Zakari? Whose interest has she always protected? Gather round folks, let’s do a long thread. What you will read here you have never read anywhere. Let’s take you behind the scene. Table shattering mode activated.
Amina Zakari is PDP’s baggage. The INEC has been in the eye of the storm over the announcement by its Chairman that Commissioner Amina Zakari will Head an in-house committee to oversee the management/ administration of the elections day facility/Collation Centre at the ICC.

The main opposition party, the PDP in rejecting this appointment cited the fact of Amina Zakari’s relationship by marriage to the president.
Although the INEC Chairman has given extensive clarifications that the Committee’s work amounts more or less to a floor manager’s role during an event, the PDP is having none of that, instead hinting that the INEC Chairman was acting out some hidden script that was authored by the ruling party to undermine the outcome of the 2019 General Elections.
Perhaps, this intervention would not have been necessary if the highly respected Timi Frank, a man not known to engage in frivolities, had not alluded to some secret meeting in the Villa attended by the INEC Chairman in the company of Amina Zakari with the Chief of Staff to the president wherein the INEC Chairman was “instructed” to appoint Amina to the said Committee and to ostensibly reverse the committee reshuffling that saw Amina lose her Headship of the Elections Operations and Logistics Committee.

The PDP and its surrogates banking on the conservative nature of the Elections Management Body(EMB), especially its resolve not to engage political parties in any media wars are fouling the already charged political air with outright falsehoods & the dangerous weaving of conspiracies that are capable of eroding the credibility that every EMB should have as elections approach.

While I do not speak for the INEC I consider myself a stakeholder in the Nigerian project,especially on issues of elections given my membership of the PDP since 1998 & also my over 25 years of participation in elections in Nigeria as an Observer & expert commentator on democracy.
I have therefore decided to take a moral stand to unwrap the real sinister intentions of those who resort to deliberately maligning institutions of State in the hope of gaining or scoring cheap political points.
The purpose of this intervention will,therefore,be to unravel who the real Amina Zakari is & whose interests she has been protecting all through her career in the INEC.

I will then posit that Amina’s influence has been reduced not so much for the change in her duties at the INEC but as a result of the innovations that have been introduced in the system.
Amina Zakari is an indirect niece of president Muhammadu Buhari, by marriage. This relationship has been and is still being exploited by the family.

Indeed, Amina’s brother is the minister of water resources in Buhari’s government. These are facts.
Amina benefitted from this relationship when she served as a consultant with Afri Projects Consortium, the lead company that drove the implementation of the PTF projects then headed by General Buhari.

However, Amina’s foray into national consciousness was not influenced by Buhari. Between 2004 to 2007, Amina Zakari served as a Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo, who drafted her to the FCT. It is in this role that she amassed the political contacts that would later lobby for her to become a National Commissioner at the INEC.

Let me be clear, by 2010, it was clear to everyone that General Buhari was going to take another shot at the presidency, there was no way that the PDP would take the advice of someone they knew would be on the ballot with its candidate in the choice of a National Commissioner in 2011.

How come Zakari’s membership of the Commission & her filial relationship with Buhari could not prevent a humiliating trouncing of her uncle at the polls in 2011?

So, the talk of President Goodluck Jonathan consulting Buhari and accepting Amina as his nominee is baloney, but even if that was remotely true, Amina’s actions in the INEC has not served any purposes for the president but has benefitted my party, the PDP, to the detriment of the integrity of elections until the current helmsman in INEC came on board to restore sanity to the Commission.

I will buttress this position with numerous instances, relying on my 20 years of engaging with INEC and insider knowledge of election operations in Nigeria.
When in 2014 it became clear to the PDP that the technological innovations that Jega was introducing were going to be a bulwark against the tradition of votes allocation, a massive campaign was kickstarted to do away with the PVC and Smart Card Reader technology.

This campaign played out in the media. Unbeknownst to many, the battle was not restricted to shaping opinions against the use of the PVC and SCR, it extended into the Commission. The arrowhead of those who called for the abandonment of the innovation was Amina Zakari.
Amina Zakari, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, and another National Commissioner, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, a card-carrying member of the PDP, led the groundswell of opposition against the deployment of technology in the 2015 elections which created a sharp divide in the Commission.

In fact, Jega had to beat a retreat in implementing full use of technology in the transmission of results because of the opposition mounted by these Commissioners who were apparently carrying out the instructions of external forces.
I was therefore amused that the same party raised hell when PMB wrongly rejected the Electoral Act Amendment on account of the electronic transmission of results clauses in the Bill.

One of the issues the PDP raised against president Buhari’s ill-advised and very vexatious withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is related to the use of incident forms during elections.
However, not many Nigerians may know that these forms were first muted by Amina Zakari to the Commission under Jega as a way of cushioning the effect of the SCR. We now know that the PDP were the biggest beneficiaries of the extensive use of incident forms introduced by Zakari.

Let us take a look at a few numbers to foreground the point made above.
In Kano and Katsina, out of the 3,943,080 that were accredited to vote in both States in 2015, 851,062 used incident forms, representing about 22% of the total votes cast.

Comparatively, in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States, out of the 2,717,479 persons that were accredited to vote, a whopping 2,525,460 used incident forms, representing an outrageous 93%. Amina’s ‘ingenious’ contribution to democracy in Nigeria came through for the PDP.
Professor Jega was very much aware of Amina’s unwholesome affinity with politicians and waited patiently until the last minute to neutralise her.

Just a few days to the 2015 elections, Jega removed her as the Head of the Elections and Party Monitoring Committee of the INEC and moved her to the Planning Committee which had basically finished all its elections planning. Perhaps this deployment was instrumental to the success of the 2015 elections.

Interestingly, with the advent of a new government and a new party, Amina’s covert actions have always been in alignment with the interests that paved the way for her to come into the national limelight, the PDP.

As Acting Chairman of the INEC, following Jega’s departure, Amina almost bungled the Bayelsa elections. Under her watch, over one hundred thousand ghost voters, many with almanack pictures as identification were introduced into the Bayelsa Voters Register.

It was not until the appointment of Prof.Yakubu as the INEC chairman that this anomaly was corrected through the deployment of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

Many of these ghost registrants were in areas that were considered the PDP’s stronghold in Bayelsa.

While many were too eager to lampoon the INEC for the Kogi debacle in 2015, only a handful may be aware that the needless quagmire would have been avoided if Amina did not try to save the PDP from crushing defeat in the hands of the APC under late Abubakar Audu.
The Kogi election was to be won at first ballot when Amina surprisingly decided to proceed to Kogi rather than remain in the INEC Headquarters as Head of the Elections Operations Committee.

Amina drafted to the field another PDP appointee and someone she relentlessly lobbied to continue as national commissioner, Prince Soyebi.

Amina would move to Dekina local government area which is the home of the PDP candidate, Idris Wada. It was the crises in Dekina that led to the declaration of the election as inconclusive.

This writer was at the collation centre in Lokoja and witnessed first hand how the PDP Returning Officer and party agents were insisting that the election is inconclusive rather than be concerned about the victory of the Party’s candidate.

Since the Osun election is already in court, I would refrain from commenting in details about it but, agent Amina was handy for the party in the first election.

As an accreditated observer, I was left shocked to realise that Amina as Head of the Elections Operations chose to travel out of the country without waiting for the rerun election that was scheduled just about 5 days after the first one.

At the Collation Centre in Oshogbo, Amina’s man-Friday, Prince Soyebi could explain to the world which party’s Returning Officer he was continually talking with on phone while collation was going on.

Consequently, not too many followers of events at the INEC were surprised when the INEC chairman announced changes in the Headship of committees within the Commission, a move that effectively brought Amina’s reign and influence over elections to an abrupt end.

The question that jumps out of this narrative is: why is the PDP washing its hands off Amina since she is their creation and has paid back adequately?

Instructively, Amina Zakari was the Head of the Collation Centre sub-Committee in 2015, the same sub-Committee that the PDP is now rejecting, there is no record of the party objecting to that appointment since she was related to a man that would be on the ballot with the party’s candidate.

The PDP’s Press Release on the announcement of Amina’s Headship of the Collation Centre sub-Committee cited a conflict of interest as its reason for rejecting Amina’s appointment. This reason is just hogwash.

A party that had no qualms in nominating card-carry members of her party into the Commission cannot now lecture the nation on ethics and propriety.

I was disgustingly amused when I sighted Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, a former INEC National Commissioner, and Mr Nasir Ayilara, former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner representing Kwara State, at the last PDP National Delegate Convention in Port Harcourt, proudly hanging their delegate cards on their necks.

It is not also hidden that the former Governor of Abia State, Ochendo Theodore Orji was once an INEC Administrative Secretary.

The current governor of Bauchi State was an INEC Commissioner appointed by the PDP. In all these, where was the party’s sense of propriety?
If the PDP takes a critical introspective look at its position on Amina, they would realise that they are inadvertently conceding that President Mohammadu Buhari and by extension the APC are better character judges than the PDP ever was.

Out of the 12 serving National Commissioners of INEC, only Amina and Prince Adedeji Soyebi were original appointees of the PDP.

In castigating Amina, the PDP has tacitly admitted that the 10 National Commissioners appointed by Buhari have better character traits than appointees it sponsored initially to the Commission.

The PDP cannot distance itself from Amina, they created her and turned her into what she has become today. She is their baggage, and they must embrace her.

Perhaps, the improvements in elections management have ensured that the Party is no longer getting value for money from Amina leading the bigwigs to conclude that she has become a rogue agent.
That the party would think that out of the 12 National Commissioners, 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners, 38 Returning Officers, and the hundreds of people that would be in the ICC, one woman has the powers to determine the outcome of elections tells Nigerians all they need to know about the quality of opposition in Nigeria.
The reality which any discerning person would know is that elections in Nigeria have drastically improved and has moved away from the ignoble days of votes allocation.
Perhaps,the PDP is still holed up in the past and is refusing to ask some of us within its fold that engage with the process to enlighten its apparatchiks on current trends in elections management.
Why would they not have this medieval mentality when rumours have it that they have engaged the discredited Maurice Iwu as one of their elections consultants. PREPOSTEROUS!
To put it succinctly, not even the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu can rig elections in Nigeria. What is the role of the Collation Centre in determining the outcome of elections in the current dispensation?
The improvements introduced by the current chairman in the elections process and management has decentralised results handling and collation. So, the collation centre is merely a glorified viewing and tabulation centre.
Let us not forget that president Jonathan conceded defeat even before pending results had made its way to the collation centre. That was possible because the results from the various polling units were already in the public domain.

Any party with a functional situation room and parallel votes tabulation facility would know the outcome of the elections even before those at the INEC Collation Centre.

So what is all the fuss with the appointment of Amina to oversee refreshments and welfare, a condescending floor manager position from her lofty height as the head of the Elections Operations Committee?
This needless stoking up of tension within the polity makes many to wonder why the PDP is chasing shadows and engaging in irrelevant distractions rather than run an aggressive issues-based campaign to present a credible alternative to voters.

The disaster that the APC has become means that any well-oiled opposition can wrestle power from it, but the pretenders to the throne seem to want to continue in this tactless pursuit of shadows-the party appears to be unconcerned that the Inspector General of Police, who in my opinion represents the greatest threat to its 2019 ambitions still has a job after attaining his mandatory retirement age.
The end game will perhaps be to have an excuse for a defeat if its lacklustre campaigns come back to haunt it.

The writer is on Twitter with the handle @AMADICHIMA

Who is Talking Buhari’s Politics?, By Okachikwu Dibia

Having read the two books written by Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi okonjo-Iweala and the recent book by the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, I have come to an un-researched conclusion that Nigerian politicians do not know how to talk politics.

Talking politics means talking good because politics is about the goodness of society. That is why political philosophers devoted all their lives in looking for the good of the state.

One of the reasons Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 election is because none of his followers took quality time to explain to Nigerians the good works of his administration.

It was after he had left office and these books were written that I got to know that he initiated the treasury single account (TSA) policy that was geared towards fighting corruption in the Public Service. Indeed most Nigerians never knew that he fought corruption, no matter how small.

When President Muhammadu Buhari came into office, he continued it on a more aggressive manner that ministries, departments and agencies of government now have access to less public funds to steal.

Goodluck Jonathan should hold his lieutenants and followers responsible for losing the 2015 election: because they refused to tell Nigerians the good things he was doing, instead of quarrelling with the then opposition party.

President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) is about to suffer the same fate. Whenever I hear or listen to his lieutenants and followers, all I deduce is reactionary responses to the distracting allegations from the opposition political parties.

From the Ministry of Information to the National Orientation Agency (NOA), PMB’s media chiefs, his political party’s publicity chiefs and all the rest behind him, they are merely quarrelling with the opposition political parties.

They are not initiating, talking or telling Nigerians details of the good works PMB is doing in Nigeria today.

I am yet to be convinced that this retinue of followers is doing a good work in talking and explaining what PMB has done with the Nigerian economy in the last four years.

Under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), who has told the ordinary Nigerians what ERGP means, how it is being implemented and the expected benefits? Things like the petrol scarcity and subsidy and the price of petrol, unemployment, inflation, exchange rate, food importation, foreign debts and the standard of living of Nigerians.

Such explanation should also include funds released to states to enable them settle backlog of salaries and pensions, stoppage of states-debt related deductions, the reasons for the tradermoni, YESSO, and other interventions of government to reduce hardship in the land. Nigerians need to know in details the effect of government’s actions in the Agricultural sector.

On security, the opposition claims that insecurity has been the worst harvest by Nigerians due to the terror activities of the herdsmen and Boko Haram. Someone should take out quality and quantum time to prepare a detailed documentary on how PMB is tackling these terrorists. That documentary should be used to explain to Nigerians in simple languages and forums about the causes, origin, membership, operations and the extent of damage they have done to Nigeria.

It should cover the issues of security expenditure; joint operations; military posting, training, facilities and allowances; police killing of Yusuf and many of his followers leading to the open operation of the Boko Haram, police abscondment from training to fight Boko Haram; all the issues about displaced persons and the official stealing of the funds released to care for the displaced persons and so on.

It is instructive to state here that the biggest tool against the PMB government is his handling of the continuous killing of Nigerians in the North Central region especially in Benue and Plateau states. If this is not well explained to Nigerians, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government may lose substantial votes from this region and other states affected by the herdsmen killings (Adamawa, Taraba, Zamfara and Nasarawa).

On some miscellaneous issues, Nigerians need to know in details why the national assembly (NASS) increased the 2018 budget by N500 billion and PMB allowed it. Nigerians need to know how really the TSA works. What has been concretely achieved with the TSA? The work of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) needs to be explained to Nigerians because it appears EFCC is more interested in showcasing accused persons than successfully prosecuting them.

From May 2015, how many people have been accused, how many have been prosecuted and jailed (besides Dariye and few others) or released, how much has been recovered from accused persons and who are they, how many properties have been confiscated and who owns them, how has the government utilized the recovered funds etc.

Another issue is that of appointments into top government offices by PMB.

Nigerians have been saturated with the feeling that appointments by PMB are skewed in favour of the North. If the government does not agree with this position, it should provide alternative explanations to prove the critics wrong.

How many appointments has he made since 29th May, 2015? How many are from the North and how many are from the South? Provide convincing reasons why some obvious cases should be so: for example the replacement of the former Minister of Finance who was from the South by another person from the North.

President Buhari may be doing great goods in these areas, but how well do Nigerians know about that. It is the duty of his political party and those who are responsible for talking about the works of his government that should talk the politics of President Muhammadu Buhari.

This has become immensely essential in this election and New Year seasons.

Happy birthday and New Year my President.

Okachikwu Dibia

Abuja, Nigeria.

Issues that Will Shape 2019

Tokunbo David: Shares his thoughts on the issues that will shape 2019.

Elections

This is one issue that will shape the year 2019, beginning from next month when the first set of elections is expected to take place. Barring any last change of date, the presidential and National Assembly elections are just 44 days away. They will be followed, in March, by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections. But if for whatever reason the presidential election is shifted, a thing that is most likely to happen, considering the renewed insurgency in Borno and Yobe states, the two sets of elections would now likely hold in March and April respectively.

Regardless, in most states, with the exception of one or two, the contest for the governorship will be a straight fight between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Although, there are several presidential candidates, investigations suggest that the contest will largely be between the incumbent, Buhari of the APC and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who is the candidate of the PDP. Since the presidential election is going to come first, whatever happens in that election will have a ripple effect on the other elections.

ASUU
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been on strike for about 56 days now. There are no signs to indicate early suspension of the strike. But their action may be fatal to the conduct of a credible election next month, because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) draws its presiding and returning officers from among the academic community.

To underscore the importance of members of the union to the country’s electoral process, a meeting has been scheduled for this Friday, between INEC and the union, for the purpose of devising means by the union to assist the electoral body in the forthcoming elections.

INEC had raised the alarm that the lingering ASUU strike would have a serious impact on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections, saying: “They are one critical resource and their absence will have adverse effects on the ad hoc staff requirement of INEC.”

Labour/minimum wage
After the strike by the organised labour in October last year, many Nigerians had thought that the dust over the national minimum wage controversy had settled, until last December when President Buhari’s 2019 budget speech triggered another round of controversy.

While submitting the report of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee report in October, a draft bill, accompanied it. But rather than send same to the National Assembly, the president, in his budget speech, disclosed that he would be setting up a “high-powered Technical Committee,” to take another look at the issue. This is coming at a time many thought the minimum wage issue had been settled. This has been compounded by the declaration by governor that they would not pay N30, 000 earlier recommended. The governors reiterated their position on December 31, 2018 through the Governors Forum.

Organised Labour is, however, not taking it lightly. The notice it gave to the Federal Government to do the needful expired on Monday, December 31. With the expiration, Labour had declared that it would shutdown the economy. Workers are, therefore, expected to begin another round of strike today, January 2.

Security
This is one issue that will dominate the political space throughout the year. Before 2015, the fight against Boko Haram insurgency was a major political issue. The group’s activities were so intense that its negative impacts were felt in states outside the North-East, including the nation’s capital, Abuja, thereby heightening tension and apprehension ahead of the polls at the time. In fact, it necessitated the shift in dates of the 2015 elections by six weeks.

But once the election was won and lost, the onus fell on President Buhari, to match words with action in his resolve to rout the insurgents.

Under former President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Special Military Force, fighting insurgency in the North-East was codenamed “Operation Zaman Lafiya, meaning, Let Peace Reign.” However, Nigerians knew little peace at the time as the Boko Haram insurgents were on rampage, claiming territories, sacking military formations, carting away military hard wares, and, in fact, having more like a field day.

With the appointment of Lt. General Tukur Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by President Buhari, he renamed it, “Operation Lafiya Dole, meaning, Peace at all Cost.” That was in July 2015. And in a matter of months, Nigerians, especially those in the North-East and in Borno in particular, began feeling the impact of the reinvigorated Nigerian Army in its fight against Boko Haram insurgents, to the extent that all the councils hitherto under the control of the insurgents were liberated by the army.

Unfortunately, however, in the last couple of months, Boko Haram appears to have regained its fighting spirit, killing soldiers and sacking military formations again. As at the last count, Baga and six other surrounding towns appear to have been seized by the insurgents.

Speaking on the renewed threat at the Monday’s night extraordinary meeting, the Borno State governor said: “I will like to start by saying that the aim of convening this important meeting is not to pass blames or to pass any kind of verdict on our security agencies. I think the most inhuman way to go is to gather and condemn those who are putting their lives on the line and giving their lives in efforts to find peace. ‎ We are principally here as a family, as a people all affected by the situation in Borno State, to discuss suggestions that will hopefully contribute to combined ongoing efforts towards addressing the problem.

“For seven years, we held our regular security council meetings. I from to time consult with some of the participants here. However, I never for once convened an extraordinary meeting of this nature because, frankly speaking, I was avoiding a sort of dramatisation or being sensational about our challenges in Borno State.

“Without being insensitive to the realities of our situation, I feel deeply pained whenever Borno is being discussed on the basis of helpless weakness. I prefer to assume a position of strength, a position of normalcy and a character of being incurably optimistic. It was in these regards that we created a full-fledged Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement and deployed enormous public resources to rebuild more than 30,000 homes of citizens, hospitals, water installations, local government secretariats, schools and palaces of traditional rulers. It was with the same mind that we kept on pushing for voluntary and dignified return of displaced citizens to safe and rebuilt communities.

“My greatest wish was and still is, not to bequeath Boko Haram challenges and IDP camps to my successor. We wanted to, and still want to get Borno fully back to normal days. Sometimes, I unconsciously find myself boasting that Borno is safer than Lagos. I simply feel very bad to sound pessimistic about Borno. I so much believe in optimism. Of course, I know that in governance, responding to some situations demand a combination of being both optimistic and realistic.”

Interestingly, apart from the Boko Haram challenge, there are also herdsmen challenge in the North-Central and part of North-East, and armed banditry challenge in the North-West, with Zamfara State being the worse hit.

2019 budget
Senate President, Bukola Saraki has dismissed the budget as one that is “hopeless.” The budget details would no doubt elicit discussions among Nigerians, especially that it is an election year. For instance, in the budget, N1, 001,318,171 was budgeted for Buhari’s local and international travels, while N83, 974,710 was budgeted for the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo’s local travels, with N217, 060,883 set aside for international travels.

For foodstuff/catering materials supplies, N98, 306,492 was budgeted for Buhari and N50, 888,218 for Osinbajo. All these and other details in the budget would no doubt help to shape 2019.

2023 presidency
Although the year 2023 is still four and half year away, the issue of who would be president then will be an issue this year, especially on the heels of this year’s elections. There appears to be a fight between the South East and South West over which zone would produce the president in 2023.

The South East leaders in APC have been telling their people that a support for Buhari would ensure they get a shot at the presidency in 2023. This is the reason such Igbo leaders have been doing everything possible to make APC get a strong root in the South East. And they appear to be getting many converts until the twist about who would actually take the presidential slot in 2023. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had told his people, in the South West, that they would produce the next president in 2023 if they support Buhari in this year’s election. Vice President Osinbajo had also lent his voice to this when he also declare that the South West would produce the president in 2023 if the zones ensures Buhari wins.

The Fashola and Osinbajo declarations that the South West will produce the president in 2023 is at variance with what Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, told the South East. The SGF was unequivocal when he declared that the South East would produce the president in 2023 if voters in the zone support Buhari. Now, the question is: Which zone will APC zone the presidency to in 2023? This will be an issue this year ahead of the election.

South East leaders had declared, after a meeting last month, that the Igbo presidency 2023 project was under threat and they proposed to meet with President Buhari this month to know the real position. The outcome of that meeting will determine whether the South-East will support APC or not.