Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State is not one of my favorite politicians…actually; he’s not even one of my favorite people! I find him to be quite dubious, overly animated, and with a somewhat exaggerated view of himself! Now, these are traits that are not alien to politicians- especially Nigerian politicians. In actuality, these traits are quite at par with the disposition of the average Nigerian politician. But in a man like Fayose, they come across as highly nauseating…maybe it’s because his vices always seem to greatly outweigh his virtues- whatever those are! In short, I cannot stand the man most times! His frequent outbursts seem to me to be quite juvenile, and much unbecoming of a man of his age. And then, one cannot look past his comical theatrics (remembering China) which would seem to be more suited to Reality TV (taking a cue from Donald Trump), than Politics and Governance.
Anyway, much as I detest the shenanigans of this eccentric Ekiti man, I have recently found myself standing with him on his latest proclamations against the Fulani Herdsmen in Ekiti State.
You see, the antics of these Herdsmen are not new, but they are becoming more alarming and brazen each day. I have actually written about some of their attacks in a previous article. But before Fayose, no other Governor has been bold enough to tackle the issue square-on, and take such a bold and firm stance without mincing words! Not even those whose States have been victims of such attacks!
So the story goes thus. Some days ago, the herdsmen attacked a community in Ekiti. They killed 2 people and injured many others- as per their usual mode de operandi. But if these herdsmen thought that Ekiti State would take their aggression lying low, they were grossly mistaken. Unlike other States whose Governors would drag their feet before even visiting the affected community, Fayose wasted no time before making his way down to the scene of the attack. He gathered the hunters in the community, and gave them very clear instructions: “I want to say it clearly; everything you want me to do, I will do. Because the moment you are not secured, then I had better resign as your Governor. ” “They have killed two; they have killed all of us. A fight against one Ekiti man is a fight against everybody.” “I stand by you, I stand for you…I will not disappoint you!” “Enough of these political herdsmen operating as herdsmen…we are going to fight you.” “Anywhere you find a Cow that is grazing unnecessarily on our ways, call my attention, we will take them out.” “Some people are behind them using AK 47. You rape my wife? You rape my children? If they attempt it, bring them down!”
I swear, I felt Goosebumps, just listening to his words. Just like that…all it took was one attack, and Fayose was ready to unleash the wrath of Zeus and all his demi-gods on these murderers! He proclaimed that a Bill was going to be sent to the State House of Assembly, making Cattle Grazing illegal in Ekiti State. So if you want to feed your Cattle on Ekiti Grass, you must set up your own ranch! Bravo, Mr. Governor!
Then I asked myself, “Why can’t that man in Benue State (Ortom) do the same thing?” Hundreds of people were killed in Agatu, scores were injured, houses were burnt, farmlands destroyed; and yet, Ortom is still employing a ‘kids glove approach’ on the issue! Four of the communities in Agatu have now being taken over by these Fulani Herdsmen, while Governor Ortom watches and invokes the name of God at every opportunity! Oh, did I mention that Fayose also emphatically asked the indigenes of the affected community not to leave? These were his words: “Don’t run away, don’t go to another community, it is your home and nobody will drive you out of your home!” Such words of inspiration and encouragement!
In singling out the differences between Fayose and Ortom, one may say that their personal characteristics account for much of their different approaches- Ortom always looks docile, while Fayose (like Dino Melaye) has the ever-noticeable countenance of a Lion on the prowl! One can also call to attention, their different party affiliations- Fayose being an ‘Umbrella Man’ and thus a member of the opposition, while Ortom ‘carries a broom’ alongside Mr. President!
But my Dear Brothers and Sisters *saying it in the voice of my Priest at Mass*, this is Politics, and this is a War! A General fights not for himself, but for his country and its people (pun intended, as I also reflect on the somewhat lukewarm stance of our President). Like Fayose said, if he cannot assure the security of his people, he would resign! Ortom must take the same stance…Buhari too!
How many more must die before our politicians realize than humans are more valuable than Cattle? Did they take their oaths of office to govern over Animals, or PEOPLE? These are desperate times indeed…desperate times which call for desperate measures! Fayose may be many things: a clown, a jester, a dubious and cunning fellow, an arrogant caricature, a pompous sycophant…but he is also a man of his people, and a man of action. And for the first time ever, I have found myself standing with him!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

GUEST WRITER SERIES: Why Buhari is Nigeria’s luckiest President

Azuka Onwuka
Twitter: @BrandAzuka

With last week’s removal of petrol subsidy, President Muhammadu Buhari, again, went against one of the points that made him win the 2015 election. All through his campaign for the Presidency, Buhari had maintained that he did not know anything like subsidy in the petroleum sector and that subsidy did not exist.
But was Buhari right in removing the subsidy on petrol? Yes, of course. It had never made any sense to keep the subsidy running all these years, thereby making a few people rich at the expense of the nation. Therefore, Buhari should not cave in to Labour’s demand that the decision be reversed. The only problem is that Buhari opposed that same policy in 2011 when the debate was on as well as in January 2012 when the masses were deceived into protesting against it. If that subsidy removal was left to stand in 2012, the trillions of naira that were paid out from that year to this year by the administrations of Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari would not have been paid. Perhaps, petrol would have been selling lower than N100 per litre today.
Throughout these years of subsidy, the only places where petrol religiously sold at the approved pump price were in central parts of Lagos as well as Abuja and some parts of Port Harcourt. So, only those areas enjoyed the subsidy that ran into trillions of naira. Other parts of Nigeria bought petrol as high as N200 or more per litre at a time these three parts of Nigeria were buying petrol at N86.50, even though it was a tug of war to get the petrol at N86.50 per litre. To get petrol during the petrol scarcity that lasted for months recently, a Lagosian took the extreme measure of stripping himself completely naked at a filling station, to send a message to even the security men at the filling station that his desperation had reached its apogee. His picture and video went viral.
During the 2011 petrol subsidy debate, the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Governor of Central Bank, Mallam Lamido Sanusi (who is now the Emir of Kano), sounded like a broken record as they went from one part of the country to another and from one TV programme to another, explaining why it was economically senseless to continue to waste our national wealth in the name of subsidy. Even the state governors like the current Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and the then Governor of Lagos, Mr Babatunde Fashola (who is now the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing), supported the idea of removal of petrol subsidy. The opposing argument was that there was really no subsidy, that if the corruption in the system was removed, petrol would sell at a low price.
When the subsidy was eventually removed on January 1, 2012, there was opposition to it. The opposition parties of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Congress for Progressive Change as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress mobilised many Nigerians to stage protests across the country. At the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota, Lagos, musicians were mobilised by the opposition parties to entertain the protesters for many days. Many protesters insisted that there was no subsidy and advised the President with their posters that read: “Kill corruption, not Nigerians!” Some people lost their lives during the protest. Eventually, the government budged and reduced the pump price of petrol to N97 per litre and still continued with partial subsidy.
There are some people who don’t want to accept that the 2012 protest against subsidy removal was wrong-headed. They argue that the petrol subsidy was resisted during the 2011 debate because of lack of trust in Jonathan. But that argument falls flat on its face. Jonathan was sworn in in 2010 as Acting President. So, he had spent just about one year in office. He had also overwhelmingly won an election early in 2011. There was no scandal against him. The only issue some people had against him was that he should not have contested the 2011 election because of the rotational arrangement the Peoples Democratic Party had. But his approval rating was high.
The removal of the petrol subsidy was another sign that Buhari as the President is coming to terms with the challenges of leadership. As Mario Cuomo says: “You campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” There is nothing bad with one changing one’s mind on a critical national issue. But there is something bad with one not acknowledging that one made a wrong judgment in the past and apologising for it.
It is also a sign that politicians and their supporters must draw a line between opposing the government in power and working against the interest of the nation. Much of what went on between 2012 and 2015 was not opposition to the government and party in power but opposition to the nation. A bad precedent was set that is being used against this present administration. It was, for example, embarrassing to hear the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, say some months ago that he never knew that trains were functional in Nigeria.
If Buhari was a student doing a four-year course in the university, this month would mark the end of his first year as well as 25 per cent of his continuous assessment. Each person is free to rate him. But the bottom line is that the Nigerian economy is hurting. And it is not because of the trite expression of “no pain, no gain” as many assume; rather it is because of what former President Olusegun Obasanjo said last week, which had been said last month by Oby Ezekwesili and Prof Pat Utomi, that Buhari is not good on the economy and foreign affairs. These three personalities supported Buhari’s Presidency. So they did not speak as enemies or detractors.
Buhari means well for the country but it takes more than meaning well to move the economy forward. He should accept the reality that he is not strong on the economy and foreign affairs and give more freedom to result-oriented experts to manage those two areas, while he focuses on national security, national orientation and anti-corruption fight that is non-selective.
Buhari should not stretch his luck too far. He and his party have broken many of their promises. Whether it was promising to declare his assets publicly but choosing to only give the public highlights of it, or promising not to have the office of the First Lady but having the office of the Wife of the President, or frowning on the number of aircraft on the presidential fleet but retaining all the aircraft one year after, or promising to pay the unemployed and elderly monthly stipends, or to feed schoolchildren once a day, or to provide three million jobs per year, or to provide electricity but ending up increasing electricity tariff without any improvement in electricity supply, or promising to belong to all but still treating some people as “97 percenters” and some as “five percenters”, or frowning on an exchange rate of N216 to a dollar in March 2015 but governing in May 2016 with the exchange heading towards N400 to a dollar, or promising to obey the rule of law as a reformed democrat but choosing the law court pronouncements to obey and the ones not to obey, President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress have done enough somersaults on national issues without apologising, but rather giving excuses or just keeping quiet as if nothing happened. This makes it look as if in politics, promises are not meant to be kept.
This luck will not last forever just like Jonathan’s “good luck” did not. Nigerians are patient with Buhari because they earnestly want to see a change in the nation’s fortunes. But that patience should not be exploited.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Where were you on the 31st of March, 2010? It was the day Dilma Rousseff won the election to become the first female President of Brazil. Now I don’t remember where I was specifically on that day, but I do remember the feeling I had upon hearing the news that Rousseff had become President-Elect. It was a feeling of pride- female pride- that one of my kind had successfully ascended to the highest office in the land, in a world that does not give women too many chances! I didn’t even really know who she was at the time; but I identified with her. And as I read and heard more about this spectacular woman, my admiration for her grew.
Dilma Rousseff has always been a fighter. Never one who hid behind the curtains and complained from deep within the shadows. No. she was out there, early enough in her life, fighting for change with the left-wing movement; and thus making herself a target for the brutal military regime which seized power in 1964. By her early 20’s, she was already thrown into prison by the dictatorship; tortured and traumatized…but not broken. They soon began to refer to her as the ‘high priestess of subversion’. Maybe I can relate with Dilma, because I see in myself, the innate stubbornness, and raging temper, which she possesses. Maybe it is the strength of character which is lacking in so many today, which draws me to her. Whatever it is, she had caught my attention, with her election.
Dilma was handpicked by her predecessor to lead Brazil. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had so much faith in this woman whom he had made his Chief of Staff…faith enough to back her for the presidency. It was a wave of euphoria that swept the nation when she initially became President; and just 3 years ago, her approval ratings were soaring, as Brazil basked in economic good fortune. But all that was about to change, as the global economy took a down-turn, and her nation slid into deep recession. And now, the people call for her head!
 A while ago, on April 17th to be precise, Brazil’s lower house of parliament, led by Speaker Eduardo Cunha, voted in favor of Rousseff’s impeachment. The ground for the vote was so-called budget manipulation, and covering up the deficit. This in itself is not a crime- and certainly not an impeachable offense- but her political opponents have taken advantage of the nation’s economic misfortune and the unease of part of the populace, to stage something of a coup. The situation in Brazil is a classic case of the ‘guilty pointing accusing fingers’; as those who are pushing for Rousseff’s impeachment are those who in fact, have been fingered in corruption scandals- mostly involving Petrobras! The Speaker of the House himself, Eduardo Cunha, who is leading the impeachment campaign, is accused of financial wrongdoing. And so, in a bid to divert attention from themselves- and indeed from the larger fight against corruption- they have singled out Rousseff and offered her up as a scape-Goat to feed the people. Rousseff’s deputy, Michel Temer, is already plotting his ascension, even though he is also fingered as one of the corrupt ones. Note that Dilma herself has NOT been implicated in the corruption scandal!
From the lower house, the case will now proceed to the upper house. After committees are set up, the house would decide whether it wants to take up the case. If it chooses to do so, notice would be sent to Rousseff to step down for 180days to defend herself; during which time, her deputy would hold sway. After this period of defense, deliberation and investigation, the upper house would take a final vote on impeachment which would need a 2/3rd majority vote in favor of impeachment, to pass. If it does- if it does- it would be the end of the Dilma Rousseff Presidency! It is expected that she could be given the notice to step down and defend herself as early as mid-May. This means that Dilma may watch the Olympics from the sidelines, even though she was front and center of the proceedings that led to the emergence of Brazil as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games!
I can’t help but wonder, ‘will Dilma Rousseff’s opponents have easily turned against her, if she was a man?’ My mind tells me the answer is no. There is something about a leading political woman…one who is usually not privy to the ways of men, which seems to make her an easy target for her male counterparts. I may be wrong, but when I ponder upon Rousseff’s predicament, it kind of reminds me of the Hillary predicament in the USA as well! In any case, whatever the underlying reason may be, I maintain that budget manipulation is not an impeachable offense. The funny thing is that past Brazilian Presidents- who just happen to be men- have also been found to have covered up deficits! But they were not impeached! So, why Dilma?
It is an uphill battle for this dogged woman, as her approval ratings continue to tumble. Right now, it stands at 10%! She has promised to fight on till the end; I can feel her pain, and I wish her the best. It is true that Brazil- like many other countries- is experiencing economic hardship at this time. And when people’s bellies are empty, it can be hard to make sound judgments! Maybe this is why the people call for her head. But I can assure you that her opponents would hardly go unscathed. Cunho and Temer are so loathed, that it is certainly only a matter of time before the people also start to chant their names with angst! Dilma Rousseff still has time to fight; and just as she fought against lymphatic cancer, I hope she wins this fight. But even if she doesn’t, it still won’t diminish my utmost respect for her, or erase her place in history. And if Madam Rousseff is impeached- if she is- then the Brazilian people would also have to displace those like Cunho and Temer…all those who have actually been found guilty of corrupt practices. Those who live in glass houses are certainly not expected to throw stones!