Posted by: monigold | December 14, 2012

Nigeria’s Constitution Debate

Nigeria is, once again, looking at its Constitution, having condemned its 1999 Constitution as a product of the military administration foisted on its hapless citizenry. The military consulted the civilian populace and used the civilians to draft the Constitution which the military signed into law. The military usually sets aside the existing Constitution when it assumes power, and rules the Country by military decrees. When it decides to hand over to civilian administration, it supervises the process to arrive at a new Constitution for the purpose. The 1999 Constitution is the latest that ushered in a civilian administration in 1999. The politicians have been elected into office on the basis of the 1999 Constitution.

To amend the Constitution is the job of the National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives. The National Assembly appears favourably disposed towards amending the Constitution, and has begun asking for various stakeholders to make appropriate submissions. The main issues in the debate include: Devolution of powers, State creation, Recognition of the current six geo- political zones, Roles for traditiona rulers, Local Government autonomy, Immunity clause, Fiscal federalism, and State Police. The amendmends being contemplated are so numerous, varied and fundamental that the Country may as well come up with a completely new Constitution. And unless there is a Referendum which explains the major and fundamental issues and the citizens called upon to vote on them, there will still be very many people who would complain and see the work of the National Assembly as no different from the military, albeit these are elected officials.

A Constitution should emphasise on the system of laws and basic principles that are fair, provide for, support and protect its members who can all see their rights and privileges and be proud to be members thereof. The current debate appears to be various groups fighting their corner and seeking narrow interest. An example is the issue of State creation. Nigeria has been divided from 4 Regions (North, West, East, Mid-West) in 1963, to 12 States in 1967, to 19 States, to 21 States, and currently 36 States and a Federal Capital Territory. The distribution of the 36 States within the six geo-political zones is as follows:

North West Zone 7
North East Zone 6
North Central Zone 6

Total North 19

South West Zone 6
South South Zone 6
South East Zone 5

Total South 17

From the above distribution alone, the South wants to be equal with the North; within the North, North East and North Central want to be equal with North West; in the South, the South East wants at least one more State in order be even with the South West and South South zones. Within the States, at least two additional States are being asked for. And these Groups are not bothered about the viability of the States they are proposing. They simply do not want to be associated with others in that State; and at any case, the new States will partake in the Federal monthly sharing of the national ‘cake’ which many existing States use for recurrent expenditure only and have nothing else for capital development.

So, is it about power, about control, about money? Or is it about unity, about equity, about peace? There are a number of questions that Nigerians would like answers to in order for this whole debate to be all-inclusive and produce an enduring Constitution, such as:

What precisely is the Constitution aiming to achieve?
Will it promote unity, peace, security?
Will it promote merit?
Will it encourage healthy competition among the various stakeholders?
Wiill it address the menace of corruption?
Will it enable a Nigerian to settle in a State other his/her State of origin and aspire to political leadership in that State?
Will it make Nigerians to see themselves first as Nigerians before their ethnic background?

Will it? Will it? Will it?

Answers please, anyone!

Posted by: monigold | November 24, 2012

Borrowing for transformation

The debt profile of Nigeria, both domestic and external, has been growing steadily in recent times, raising another national debate on the matter. This appears especially worrisome as the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1999-2007), in which Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (the current Finance Minister and ‘Prime Minister of the economy’) as the Finance Minister, worked so hard to get the country out of the debt burden of the London (foreign non government creditors) and Paris (foreign government creditors) Clubs, the major part of which was canceled outright (debt forgiveness), in the $40 billion region at some point.

It was not clear what all the money borrowed was used for; nobody in government explained in very simple terms to the governed what the money was used for –  no specific projects or programmes were showcased. And nobody in government (serving or retired) was made to give account – nobody was punished. The foreign creditors were so generous to let the country off that lightly, believing that future administrations will learn to be prudent and judicious in the use of funds.

At the end of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2007, Nigeria’s domestic and external borrowing was reported to be well below $4 billion. Although, this figure went down further in 2009 in the lull period of the late President Umaru Yar’adua administration to close to $2 billion, it rose to close to $4 billion in 2011 in the current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

As at June 2012, domestic debt (owed by the Federal and State Governments by the issuance of government debt instruments – not including debts owed to contractors as well as supplier credits) alone is reported to have risen to over $38 billion, with the Federal Government accounting for over 60%. Both President Jonathan, and his Finance Minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala have lamented that the domestic debt had been growing at an alarming rate in recent years – what a revelation? And what is the remedy, what is being done about it? Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala is quoted to have said ‘I am happy to say that we have put in place a very good strategy to manage the national domestic debt which is to decelerate the rate at which we borrow’. What a strategy? Borrow, for whatever reason – just slow down a bit. Wow!

The current national debate is as a result of the Federal Government’s plan to obtain new external borrowing of $9.3 billion. Justifying the loan, the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama said ‘is necessary to actualise the present administration’s transformation agenda’. As simple as that. Mr. Ngama adds ‘sourcing developmental funding from the mulyilateral agencies had also become imperative given that Nigeria constitutes one of the largest  contributors to these organisations’. What a reason?

There are those, mainly persons not in government, who are opposed to any borrowing by government whatsoever, on the premise that the country has sufficient resources to carry out projects – calling for prudent management of the resources. Others think that borrowing in itself is not bad, if the terms are favourable, and will be applied to projects that will promote economic activity. But, overall, many people are sceptical and do not believe that detailed study is carried out to justify the loans, and once obtained, the loans are not applied appropriately, and not repaid as and when due.

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State remarks that ‘Nigeria lives in 40 years of infrastructural decay – an unfortunate development, which must be tackled’. He is matching his words. Those who live in Lagos attest to the fact that ‘Lagos is working’. The State is raising N80 billion ($500 million) through bond issuance for its infrastural renewal project. The Governor mentioned specific projects such as roads, water transportation ferry terminals, teaching hospital, health institutions, etc which the citizens can readily identify with. The people believe him, and he will not let the people down. This is the sort of governance the country requires.

Also, in Bayelsa State, Governor Seriake Dickson in his usual monthly Transparency Initiative Press briefing recently, announced his administration has earmarked a sum of close to N7 billion for infrastructural development in education and health sectors of the economy. He detailed out the specific projects that will be carried out, and where and when these will be done. His administration has approved the sum of N1.9 billion for the construction of General Hospitals in all (8) the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the State. He disclosed that Contractors have already been mobilised to sites with 40% of the contract sum. It is truly heart-warming when the leaders make statements that are unambiguous and easily and readily verifyable by the people. Governor Dickson has only been in power for nine months. But in this period, he has said things and carried them out. So, once again, the people believe him.

The Federal Government, in its own wisdom, may borrow for transformation or for any other reason. The onus lies with the Government to convince the people, by matching its words with action. It does not take a lot to impress Nigerians. In fact, Nigerians have been extremely patient with the leaders for so long.

Posted by: monigold | March 1, 2012

Uniform for harassment

A few weeks ago, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan announced the appointment, albeit in an acting capacity, of a new Inspector General of Police (IGP) – Mohammed Abubakar. This was in the wake of the escape of a ‘Boko Haram’ member earlier arrested over the 2011 Christmas day bombing of a church in Madala near Abuja. Abubakar was an Assistant Inspector General (AIG), and jumped the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank; promoted ahead of his superious. The President must have seen, or been told about some very good quailities in this police officer. The President obviously ignored the widely circulated story that Abubakar did nothing to protect Christians who were being killed in his area of command in Northern Nigeria. Abubakar has since dismissed this view of him and assured the public that religion does not affect the work of policing.

 

Up until the 1980s, the police uniform was a sky-blue shirt on khaki shorts; and they held batons. It had long been known that policemen and women could not be trusted, in that they would readily collect bribe from both parties to a dispute rather than pursue justice; but the officers still commanded a great degree of respect from the public. The spate of harassment on the roads (to pedestrians, motorcyclists and motorists alike) appears to have increased when their uniform was changed to black beret, black shirt, black trousers with deep pockets, black belt, black socks, and black boots. And with the rising incidence of crime in the society, they were armed with guns.

 

The sight of such policemen or women on the road brings fear to road users, especially the innocent ones, who may even have all their valid vehicle documents and identities. The criminals would readily offer ‘bribe’ and go their way. The law-abiding citizens are questioned, delayed, provoked, and harassed into parting with some money. Commercial bus drivers  have been reported killed by policemen for refusing to pay the normal expected but illegal ‘toll’ or ‘passage’ contribution of N2o (12.5 US cents). Many Nigerians see the Police as the most corrupt instituition. A former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun talked tough on crime and illegal acts, but was found guilty within a few years of massive fraud, and dismissed.

Ag IGP Abubakar

Various Institutions are now publicly acknowledging corruption within them, including the Judiciary. The police had not done so until now in Abubakar’s tenure. He addressed his officers and men, accused them of indiscipline and corruption, and ordered the immediate removal of police roadblocks. From the way he spoke, one wonders whether he is a product of the same corrupt force he is now heading. Yes, police roadblocks had been dismantled in the past, which Abubakar acknowledges. Abubakar plans to have mobile policing instead. He said ‘…..we also want to reduce corruption (can’t eliminate?) and extortion by our men and we want to reduce chances of confrontation of Nigerians by our men, such as has led to the death of innocent citizens’.

 

The harassment is very annoying; but the shame, the embarrassment, the bad image presented – that public officers in uniform, who are supposed to be enforcing the laws of the land, are reduced to begging, extortion and harassment for whatever reason. It is reported that a few roadblocks still exist in parts of the country, but the majority have been dismantled.

 

Abubakar has pledged to lead by example. Somehow, I believe him. Let us give him a chance.

 

 

Posted by: monigold | February 29, 2012

The new face in Bayelsa

On Tuesday 14 February 2012, Rt. Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson was sworn in as the fourth civilian Governor (from 1999) of the almost sixteen years old Bayelsa State, created in 1996 by the General Sani Abacha administration. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s ruling party since the return to civilian administration in 1999 (fourth republic) has always produced the Governor in Bayelsa. It is regarded as a core PDP State. The first Governor in 1999, Chief Diepriye Alamieyeseigha was allowed by the Party to run for a second term, which he won; he was, however, impeached midstream and his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (the current President of Nigeria) took over.  Dr. Jonathan was picked as Vice Presidential candidate in the 2007 elections,  and so left the Bayelsa seat for Chief Timipre Sylva. One year into Chief Sylva’s first four-year term in office, the election result was canceled. Sylva recontested and won, and was given a fresh first four-year term to end May 2012, and the election was scheduled for Saturday 11 February 2012. PDP was not happy with Chief Sylva, so the Party organised primaries which produced Dickson as the candidate. Dickson should have been sworn in, in May 2012, but a Supreme Court ruling in early February sacked Chief Sylva as Governor with immediate effect. The Court ruled that Chief Sylva’s tenure expired in May 2011, so Sylva had actually overstayed by eight months.

 

 

Governor Dickson

benefitted much from the oil resources. The people feature among Nigeria’s very poor people. The occupation is predominantly fishing but this not on an economically large scale; it is basically subsistence living. There is also, farming in cassava from which gari and farina are made; cocoyam farming, a bit of rice farming; palm oil production, canoe carving, palm wine tapping, gin brewing, timber-tree felling, and firewood cutting.

The Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) set up in 1960 by the Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa administration, began addressing the plight of these riverine Niger Delta communities. The only Chairman of the Board, Chief I.S. Anthony began working on housing and infrastructural needs in its headquarters – Port Harcourt; promoting transportation within the area by providing boats; encouraging agricultural activities (especially rice farming); and providing ocean-going fishing trawlers.
With the creation of Rivers State in 1967 by the General Gowon military administration, Lt. Commander Diete-Spiff, the Military Governor embarked on having the people educated; scholarship was given to all indigenes up to University level. Institutions of learning were established. Port Harcourt, as the capital continued enjoying infrastructural development. Diete-Spiff also dredged the waterways and made shortcuts to reduce the travelling time along the meandering rivers.
Subsequently, the Federal Government created a Commission (OMPADEC) for the more rapid development of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas (which included Rivers State), with Headquarters in Port Harcourt. This Commission was later dissolved and in its place we currently have the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Over the years, the oil producing states of Nigeria have benefitted from the ‘derivation fund’.
Bayelsa State was carved out of Rivers State, in order to ensure an even faster development. Yenagoa was chosen as its capital, and it would seem that the only development in the State is in the capital. The Alamieyeseigha’s administration, as heavily criticised as it was, is credited to the development seen in Bayelsa State in almost sixteen years. The Sylva administration is reported to have made no significant impact in four years and eight months. But somehow, the Sylva’s administration has apparently borrowed huge sums from the banks, and the State, despite the huge allocation it receives monthly from the Federal Government, has little to show for it. Governor Dickson has just found out that the monthly wage bill for the government is N6 billion ($37.5m). Sounds absurd. Who are these workers? Producing what?
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has come on board with the battle-cry of Integrity, Turnaround, and Restoration. He has a no-nonsense retired Rear Admiral John Jonah as his Deputy. The citizens of the State expect a lot from this administration. The State has the resources to truly excel; good leadership is all the people ask for. Please, do not let the people down.
Anh Izon! Ehh. Anh Izon! Ehh. Izon keme emi a? Emi O!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: monigold | February 24, 2012

Poverty in Nigeria?

Life is such that, in every society, community or country, there will always be some very poor people and some very rich people. Usually, the majority of the people will fall in the middle – not very poor and not very rich; able to afford the basics of life – food, shelter and clothing. However, it becomes quite worrying when the majority falls within the very poor bracket, in a major crude oil producing and exporting country (some 2 million barrels per day with prices over the $100 mark per barrel) such as Nigeria.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has recently published some information on the poverty level in Nigeria albeit for the year 2010. It says that 69% of Nigerians (112.47m) live with below US$1 per day. This amount can barely cover one meal a day, leaving other basics of life not met. It says 38.7% of Nigerians (63m) are extremely poor while 30.3% (49m) are moderately poor. Nigeria’s population is apparently growing at the rate of 3% per annum, and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in recent times is recorded as 7.75%. But the number of poor people has grown steadily from 17.1m (1980); 34.7m (1985); 39.2m (1992); 67.1m (1996); 68.7m (2004) to 112.47m (2010). The current HDI (Human Development Index) for Africa, puts Nigeria below Ghana, Togo, and Benin Republic (countries that have far less resources than Nigeria). Unemployment is reported to have doubled between 2006 and 2011.

As far back as the early 1970s, well-meaning Statesmen like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo have been lamenting the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Today, we have the extremely rich (largely from corruption), the very rich, the few reasonably well-off, the average urban income earner, the moderately poor, and the extremely poor. The gap is widening annually.Some past Governments have attempted to address the issue of poverty in Nigeria, but it has not been sustained and corruption appears to have crept in all cases.

Poverty is yet another major war, in addition to corruption, indiscipline, insecurity, and infrastructure decay which the Government and Nigerians must fight. We have all the resources to conquer and banish these issues. Living below $1 a day is a death sentence. It is cruel to allow this to go on in the midst of plenty.

 

 

 

Posted by: monigold | January 16, 2012

Who is in charge of Nigeria?

On Monday the 9th of January 2012, the leadership of the two umbrella organised unions in Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), called out their members (purportedly 8 million), for an ‘indefinite’ strike action to protest the Federal Government’s removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (pms) more popularly referred to as petrol. As of 1 January 2012, the price of petrol per litre went up from N65 to N141. The Unions’ leadership argued that the Nigerian masses (all their members belong to this category), already suffer severe hardship within the economy; low income, high cost of living, poor infrastucture (especially power supply). The subsidy on petrol was at least one benefit that the masses enjoyed, and therefore the price should stay at N65 per litre. They vowed to be on strike, by not going to their work places, for as long as the price was above N65 per litre.  But they did not stop at that; they made sure that the airports and sea ports were shut; banks, business premises, government offices, commercial houses, and markets were forced to stay shut for fear of hooligans and miscreants taking advantage to cause ‘trouble’ – looting, damage to property or harm to personnel.

Umar & Esele

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), some professional bodies, politicians in the opposition, and various self-styled leaders joined the protests and rallies, making speeches that basically painted the Federal Government as being wicked, deaf and insensitive, for going ahead to remove the ‘little’ benefit called ‘subsidy’ the common man was enjoying. The protests affected Abuja (the federal capital), Lagos, Port Harcourt, and other major cities, virtually paralysing the economy for five days.  It is estimated that the economy lost at least N500 billion, besides losses that are not readily quatifyable.

The Federal Government had earlier explained that the subsidy regime, besides being corruption-proned, could be put into areas that will make a greater impact on the populace and the economy. The Unions had defied a court restraining order and gone ahead with the strike action. However, with the address in the morning of Monday 16 January 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan to bring down the pump price of petrol from N141 per litre to N97, the unions led by Abdulwaheed Umar, President of NLC, and Peter Esele, President of TUC, called off the strike action in the afternoon of the same day.

Do the Unions who represent 8 million Nigerians only have a greater interest in the remaining 152 million Nigerians than the democratically elected government of the country?  Do the Unions have the legitimacy to stop the workings of the whole country, and be hailed as heros of the masses? Democracy encourages freedom of speech and peaceful protests, but not disobeying court orders and disrupting the activities and rights of others. Their action has cost the country much more than whatever they feared to lose by the policy of subsidy removal.

The Unions had congratulated President Jonathan on the electoral reforms which brought about the freest and

Jonathan

fairest elections in Nigeria in April 2011 which brought  the current government into power. The National Assembly members were all duly elected to speak for Nigerians. Is there no better way of putting across the grievances of the people than by going on a disruptive and dangerous strike actions, that could be hijacked by the criminally minded? We have elected these people to serve us. Let us give them a chance. If we are totally dissatisfied with any of them, the ballot box is there; that is democracy. Yes, we want good governance; yes, we want the cost of governance to be drastically reduced; yes, we want the infrastructure to be greatly improved; yes, we want corruption extinguished in Nigeria; yes, we want all the good things to happen, and all the bad things to die.

God has allowed Goodluck Jonathan to be the president of Nigeria at this time in the country’s history. For now, he is in charge of Nigeria. We are to support him and pray for him to govern well. Hopefully, lessons have been learnt by the Government, the Unoins, and the generality of Nigerians from the unfortunate, misguided and avoidable strike action of 9 to 14 January 2012.

Nigeria has a bright future, in spite of the wasted years of the past. Let all well meaning Nigerians think of the broader picture always, and not immediate personal gains. God bless Goodluck Jonathan. God bless Nigeria.

 

 

Posted by: monigold | January 10, 2012

Fuel Subsidy Removal Brouhaha

On the 1st of January 2012, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) established in an Act in 2004, announced the removal of government subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS), variously called petrol or fuel in Nigeria. This measure immediately took the pump price of petrol from N65 per litre to N141 per litre; transport fares went up accordingly. The debate on the fuel subsidy removal had been on for a couple of months, and was expected to be removed in 2012. Government was, however, ambiguous as to the timing of the removal. Many informed Nigerians expected the removal to take place on 1 April 2012 as the implementation of the 2011 federal budget is apparently extended till 31 march 2012.

Protesters in Nigeria

It was, therefore, a major shock to many Nigerians that this happened three months early. People had traveled out of their work places for the Christmas and New year holiday, expecting to travel back on the 1st or 2nd (public holiday, the 1st having fallen on a Sunday), and suddenly found transport fares doubling. The people felt that government had been deceitful and indeed heartless in the timing of the removal. The organised labour unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and Trade Union Congress (TUC), seized the opportunity to mobilse Nigerians to fight government and force it to revert to the price of N65 per litre. From Monday the 9th of January, an indefinte strike action has begun, paralysing the economy; it is a great, avoidable, and difficult cost to quantify, and the masses supposedly being fought for, stand to lose the most.

Government argues that the subsidy of N1.134 trillion ($7 billion) should be better put to improving various aspects of the country’s infrastructure that will directly benefit the majority of Nigerians, than on subsidising petrol which benefits the urban few, cross-border traders, and corrupt middlemen and importers of fuel. Government, by this policy, plans to encourage investors to the downstream oil sector to create jobs and add value. The Federal Government has set up a Committee to manage its share of the subsidy of N478 billion (about $3 billion) for specific tangible projects listed out in its Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment (SURE) programme. N411bn ($2.5bn) is for the State Governments, and N203bn ($1.3bn) for Local Governments to provide specific developmental projects. It should be noted that the entire N1.134tr for the  subsidy is a part of the amounts receivable from crude oil sales.

The citizens argue that government, at all levels, is very corrupt; that this subsidy being removed will end up in the pockets of corrupt officials and their friends; that the subsidy is one little benefit that should be enjoyed by the poor masses. The debate has become quite emotional such that objective reasoning has been abandoned. The people do not trust government, and are not prepared to give government the benefit of doubt – it is N65 per litre or indefinite strike. Even the professionals of the land are supporting the strike action – because government is insensitive and corrupt.

The Jonathan administration was voted into power in May 2011 for a four-year term. He inherited several ills of Nigeria including alarming levels of corruption in all tiers of government. Removal of the subsidy is one way to check corruption in the sector. He has announced 25% reduction in salaries of all Federal Government political office holders (perhaps he should reduce it further, but at least he has done something). He should actually begin with the cost of governance directly within his control, by cutting it drastically to reasonable levels; only then can he sincerely fight corruption. To spend N800 million ($5 million) on feeding and entertainment for a year appears excessive, even scandalous. Why spend N280 million ($1.75m) on two bullet-proof cars for the presidency? The ultimate security is from God.

Even though the turn of events is unfortunate, it is good that Nigerians are talking and are pointing out the ills and lacks of Nigeria. But we cannot destroy the country further by our approach, particularly the strike action, which is not peaceful and voluntary. Businesses are forced to stay shut, and people are not allowed to go about their normal duties and businesses, even where they do not support the strike. Jonathan has been elected to govern, and should be given that chance. If he has done something illegal, the constitutional procedures should be followed. Professionals and all those who truly love Nigeria, should support the President. To make the country ungovernable for him, as threatened by some politicians during the last elections, is not the solution.

God save Nigeria! God save Jonathan!

Posted by: monigold | January 10, 2012

This new evil in Nigeria

While the average ordinary Nigerian was looking forward to a peaceful Christmas, in spite of the harsh economic situation for the vast majority, a handful of Nigerians was planning to steal the peace, joy and goodwill of the season; kill innocent people in cold blood; and destroy everything in their part. This handful of Nigerians, no doubt,  belong to Satan (the enemy of anything good); the holy Bible records in John 10:10 that the thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (SKD); nothing good whatsoever in the visit of a thief. Jesus Christ, however, the only begotten Son of God, whom God sent into this world to redeem mankind over 2,000 years ago, and whose birth was being celebrated on Christmas day, came so that, we may have life, and have it more abundantly. Jesus Christ came to preach the good news of salvation, heal the sick and brokenhearted, and deliver us from the stronghold of Satan (PHD). Why would anyone plan to kill people who are gathered in churches celebrating Christmas? It is the first time it is happening in Nigeria, and it will now go down in the history books as ‘bloody Christmas’.

The bomb explosions on Christmas Day occurred in a town in Niger State, close to Abuja (the Federal Capital Territory), and two States in the Northern part of Nigeria (Plateau and Yobe). The Islamist fundamentalist sect called the Boko Haram (who are apparently against western education and values) is believed to be behind this latest set of attacks. The group appears to have declared ‘war’ on all and sundry (particularly in Abuja and the North) because their leader was killed by the police over a year ago; they have not relented in causing serious havoc ever since, including the bombing of the United Nations Headquarters building in Abuja. If the bombings and killings (using western technology and equipment) are to avenge the killing of their leader, how many lives, including theirs, are they determined to lose before being satisfied?

 

Mohammed Yusuf

 

Nigeria has all manner of evil; armed robbery, pen robbery, kidnapping, ritual killing, political assassination, corruption, greed, etc. In the Niger Delta region in the southern part of Nigeria, oil pipelines had been destroyed, and mainly foreign personnel had been taken hostage, to press home the militants’ demand for development of the region. There was never an indiscriminate killing of innocent people. This is why Boko Haram is the new evil in Nigeria. The group began small and its operational area was not widespread. From a small base in Maiduguri (Borno State in the north), and activities limited to attacking police stations there, the security forces have let this evil to spread, and now appear overwhelmed.

For as long as these attacks keep succeeding, the good people of Nigeria will not be satisfied with mere assurances from the President and the Security forces that the situation is under control. The state of emergency that has been declared in the 15 LGAs in four States in the North, is a welcome development. The Security forces must be ruthless and relentless until this evil is destroyed. All peace loving Nigerians that know these evil people, even if remotely, should speak up now or be made to be treated the same way as the actual perpetrators. All families in these LGAs should be quizzed thoroughly. Muslim leaders in particular should not only condemn, but actively support the the Feeral Government and the security agencies in eradicating this menace. The Niger State Governor has spoken tough on this matter, and his government has queried the Emir of Suleja whose attitude has been lukewarm.

The attacks have persisted, and a Boko Haram spokesman has asked all Southerners to leave the North, and advised Northerners in the south to go back to the North. The Federal Government has asked the citizens to ignore the Boko Haram utterances, but the killings have continued. It is even more worrying now to hear the President saying that the situation is more complex and challenging than the country’s civil war of 1967-1970. Apparently, there are supporters of Boko Haram in all tiers of government, the legislature, the judiciary, and even the armed forces. This being so, it is certainly a very grave situation that could lead to the disintegration of the country.

There are obviously some powerful people behind Boko Haram, and I believe the issue has gone beyond what Boko Haram originally wanted. It seems that there are forces bent on making the country ungovernable, believing that that will give them the opportunity to get into power. As the Commander of the Armed Forces, the president should use all the poweres constitutionally available to him. He should declare a state of emergency on the entire North and suspend all the State legislators. This will then get the Northern elites to make their stand unequivocally.

May God be with our President in this trying period; grant him the wisdom and grace, and let peace reign in our land.

Posted by: monigold | December 25, 2011

Nigeria is not poor

Today is Christmas, and it is typically associated with a lot of eating and drinking, besides giving and receiving gifts. Most of the goodwill messages I received dwelt on the religious significance of the day. The ‘merry’ in the wish, tends to connote more than normal consumption of food and drinks. It was therefore interesting to receive a message on my BlackBerry which advised ‘don’t over eat! I confess that I still manged to eat a bit more than I would normally eat – my wife’s cooking is excellent, and a very convincing way of showing appreciation is to consume all she puts in my plate.

Strangely, this caution not to ‘over eat’ made me recall Nigeria’s 2012 Budget proposal before the National Assembly. The overall budget in trillions of Naira shows that the country is not poor. Never mind the country’s poor ranking in the Human Development Index (HDI), which classifies Nigeria as poor, in the midst of so much resources. Corruption is apparently the reason for the ‘poverty’. Very highly placed Nigerians have identified corruption as the biggest problem in the way of development. Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria has complained of corruption within the judiciary. But, is the leadership of Nigeria unable to address this menace?

It was very heart-warming to see President Goodluck Jonathan addressing a gathering last week, and seemingly showing concern for the citizens of the country. Ordinarily, as the President, he should care about the people, but due to the general hardship in the economy, many people believe that the President does not care about the plight of the populace. He said that he was being fed by Government, but that had not made him lose touch with the Nigerian masses.

  Nigeria is a country of high graduate unemployment. The average monthly salary for a fresh graduate in the urban centres is about N80,000 ($500) or N2,667 ($17) daily. In the 2012 Budget, the President is asking for N45.4m ($283,750) to buy canteen and kitchen equipment for his residence;  N293m ($1.83m) for refreshments and meals, for his residence and office; a whopping N477m ($2.98m) for foodstuff and catering materials supplies for his office. The total sum is N815.4m ($5.09m) for the year; N68m ($0.42m) for a month; and N2.27m ($14,167) for a day. I wonder whether this is not a case of over-eating on a daily basis. It would be nice to know how many mouths  are being stuffed with food daily in Aso Rock (the official residence of the president). Whoever they are, including Mr. President, are all being paid salaries. Could this be part of the corruption problem that is making Nigeria appear poor?

President Jonathan appears to mean well, but he must also act well, and spread out the riches of Nigeria to those outside Aso Rock and its immediate environ. Nigeria is not poor.

Posted by: monigold | November 29, 2011

The curtain on Biafra

On the 30th of May 1967, the then Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, at the relatively young age of 34, declared the birth of a new country – the Republic of Biafra. He was the Military Governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He had assumed this office in January 1966, in the first military coup in the country which was led by three young Majors in the army – Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, and Banjo. He was appointed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi who took over the reins of government after the bloody coup which saw the deaths of Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier of the Northern Region – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Western Region – Chief Samuel Akintola, and Minister of Finance – Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh from the Mid-West Region.

No prominent politician from the Eastern Region was killed in the coup; Premier Michael Okpara was safe, as was the President of Nigeria – Nnamdi Azikiwe. Even if it might not have been the intention of the coupists to spare the lives of these Easterners from the prominent Ibo tribe, the northern soldiers in the Army saw the killings as one-sided, as tribal. They staged a counter coup in July 1966 and killed Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, along with the Military Governor of Western Nigeria; Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi was on an official visit to Western Nigeria, and was killed on the 29th of July 1966 in Ibadan, the capital of Western Nigeria, along with his host, Military Governor Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi – a brave soldier who insisted that he be killed if Aguiyi-Ironsi, his boss and guest, was to be killed.

At the time of the January 1966 coup, Lt.Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was in charge of a military command, based in Kano in Northern Nigeria. It is reported that he worked with the Emir of Kano and ensured calm amongst the civil populace particularly as regards the deaths of the Prime Minister, and the Premier (who was also the Sadauna of Sokoto) who was highly revered by the Northern Muslims. With Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s appointment as Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, he moved to Enugu, the capital of the Region. The Easterners residing in Northern Nigeria were very glad that their prominent Ibo leaders were not killed in the coup – they rejoiced openly to the chagrin of the Northerners. Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, a popular highlife musician from Eastern Nigeria, released a song titled ‘Ewu ne bakwa’ which portrayed the Northerners as weak victims of the coup. It was therefore inevitable that the Northern civil populace rose up against particularly the Easterners amongst them. It was a massacre. The dead, the wounded, and other survivors were sent back to Eastern Nigeria. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu received his people, buried the dead, but declared that there must not be a retaliation. He did not want any bloodshed in his domain. He asked the Northerners residing in Eastern Nigeria to leave the Region for their safety. He pleaded that the Easterners residing in Northern Nigeria be allowed to come back home safely; that the killings should stop. All this was prior to the July 1996 counter coup.

Brigadier Victor Ogundipe from Western Nigeria was the next in command to Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi. The young Officers, who staged the counter coup, did  not want Ogundipe to take over as the new Commander-in-Chief. Ogundipe was sent to Britain as Nigeria’s High Commissioner. The coupists chose 32-year old Lt. Col. Yakubu Jack Gowon from Northern Nigeria, junior to many officers including Odumegwu-Ojukwu, to be the new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Odumegwu-Ojukwu counseled unsuccessfully that the military hierarchy should be preserved. Young and obviously inexperienced Gowon was promoted above his senior officers, up four ranks to full General in the Nigerian Army.

It was now evident that the Nigerian Military was no longer one united force. The first coup was supposedly to cleanse the system of bad governance, political fights and killings, and corruption. But there was now suspicion and distrust within the military. There was still tension between Northern Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria. Odumegwu-Ojukwu proposed Confederation where the Regional Governments will be strong and autonomous, contributing to the centre for national and general purposes only, but use their resources to develop at their own pace. In early January 1967, a meeting was held in Aburi in Ghana to discuss the crisis in Nigeria; the venue of Ghana was because Odumegwu-Ojukwu no longer felt safe in any other part of Nigeria other than Eastern Nigeria. The Aburi meeting had the Chairman of Ghana Liberation Council, Lt. General Joseph Ankrah, as Chairman. Agreement was reached on the 3-point agenda: Reorganisation of the Armed Forces, Constitutional Arrangements, Issues of displaced persons in Nigeria. It was agreed that going forward, only dialogue rather than force will be used to resolve differences.

The Gowon administration reneged on the Aburi Agreement, while Odumegwu-Ojukwu kept calling for a prompt and full implementation. In order to weaken the Regional Governments, the Supreme Military Council headed by General Gowon, on May 27, 1967, split the country into 12 States. Eastern Nigeria was split into 3 States: East Central (the Ibo tribe), South Eastern (the Efik, Ibibio, Ogoja tribes), and oil-rich Rivers (the Ijaws, Ikwerres, Ogonis). In a swift move, Odumegwu-Ojukwu responded by declaring the Republic of Biafra. In July 1967, the Federal Government declared war on Biafra, and Biafra surrendered in January 1970, Odumegwu-Ojukwu having earlier gone on exile to the then Ivory Coast.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a patriot who wanted justice and equity for all Nigerians. His father, Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, was arguably the richest Nigerian in his days, based in Northern Nigeria. He would have preferred to see Nigeria as one. He found himself as the leader of Eastern Nigeria, and had the courage to fight what he perceived as injustice to his people. He was given state-pardon in 1982 and he returned to Nigeria. He died in a London Hospital on Saturday 26 November 2011 at the age of 78. Although a group called MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State Of Biafra) has been in existence for some years now, Odumegwu-Ojukwu did not endorse it. With the death of Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the final curtain has fallen on Biafra. May his soul rest in peace.

 

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