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How Fayemi governs Ekiti, by Sam Oluwalana

 

The second coming of Dr Kayode Fayemi as governor in Ekiti state is divine. Even before he made public his intention to contest for the governorship, he had been inundiated with pleas and calls from Ekiti indigenes at home and on diaspora, pleading with him to come and liberate the state from ruins it has been plunged into due to maladministration of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP being piloted by Mr Ayodele Fayose, generally perceived as arrogant and greedy.

It is no surprise that Dr Fayemi coasted home not in a turbulent political water, but in a well deserved and reserved victory befitting a dogged fighter and a friend of the oppressed. With his four cardinal objectives, all of which bother on restoration of the tenets that Ekiti people are known for and making life meaningful for the populace, it is no surprise that he hit the ground immediately, he was sworn in as the duly elected governor of the state.

Parents will not forget easily the immediate executive order which abolished payment of any form of fees in government owned primary and secondary schools. His predecessor had imposed levies even on pupils in private schools in the state for four years.

The state Universal Basic Education Board, (SUBEB) which has being in comatose for four years due to the refusal of the immediate past government to tread on same pedestal with the federal government is now fully back after Dr Fayemi approved the payment of counterpart funds which qualified the state to assess from UBEC grants. Experienced hands have been put in charge of the day to day running of state SUBEB.

The elderly persons in the state can now feel the impact of the administration even as they await what it has in stock for them. Dr Fayemi had promised them the reintroduction of social benefits for them as he did during the first term.
Each of them under the social security was collecting N5, 000 monthly. Under the scheme, unemployed youths are empowered with some of them, about 20 thousand engaged as peace corps.

To ensure an all embracing government that carries along all, no matter their disposition, Dr Fayemi ensures that supporters of his opponent during last year’s primary of the APC are being accommodated with appointments. He has also extended the call to members of opposition parties to team up with him to move the state forward.

The outgoing members of the state house of assembly will not easily forget the magnanimity of Dr Fayemi. Immediately he came in, he ordered the immediate payment of backlog of salaries owed them by Fayose administration which treated them as his side kicks for four years. Not only that, for the four years of Fayose, the lawmakers travelled only once to Ikogosi and got N6,000 each for their trouble.
They just returned from south Africa few days ago, a journey facilitated and supported by Dr Fayemi who never treat them as opposition members.

The senior citizens in the state are happier now with monthly alert for their pensions and government gesture to set aside the sum of N100 million monthly to offset arrears of their gratuities, which the last administration politicized for four years.

In the area of provision of infrastructure, Dr Fayemi knows where the shoe pinches. New Iyin road construction is the first to receive his blessing. The contractor has been mobilized to site, while the World Bank assisted water and sanitation project which will see parts of the state capital and other towns in the state enjoying uninterrupted water supply has been flagged off.

Agriculture too is one of the focal point of the administration. With the appointment of Aides to assist him in addressing needy areas in agriculture and to ensure that grants and equipments get to real farmers in the state.

By law and extension, Dr Fayemi’s administration has the power to check the books of his predecessor as the practice in States, but in order not to be derailed from his set targets, the administration has hired an experienced firm of auditors to carry out forensic analysis of the finance of the state, to put the records in perspective, while moving on with his people-oriented projects.

With his administration putting in place experienced hands to assist in achieving the set goals, Dr Fayemi has put his hand on the truck and he is not looking back.
In his words during a recent retreat tagged “Restoring Ekiti Values: From Promise to Reality.” He enjoined his appointees to be creative. The governor declared that “the government needs a lot of resources for the plethora of responsibilities on its shoulders and we must thrive outside the box and come up with creative ways set goals.”

This shows the determination of Dr Fayemi to banish poverty from the life of the Ekiti people whom he cherish so much. No wonder, majority of his fellow governors from both leading political parties prefer and lobby him to lead them as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.

Sam Oluwalana is SSA (Media) on Party Matters to Governor Kayode Fayemi

What Nigeria needs, by Olawale Duyile

 

As we approach the final stages of the campaign for the presidential elections, I am compelled to write this article in the hope that it captures the attention of some or all the aspirants, other politicians and decision makers in the next administration. The article is neither partisan, nor intended to favour one political party above the others.

I have seen a few manifestos where 1 or 2 aspirants have made privatisation a central plank of their economic strategy. Privatisation is not a bad thing in itself, but it must be executed at the right place and the right time. Let us look at some of the advantages of privatisation, which are:

– To generate income for the treasury;
– To enhance prosperity and foster enterprise democracy;
– To enable the government to discard liabilities and loss making ventures, thereby saving costs for the treasury;
– To improve cost-effectiveness and efficiency of a business / firm;
– Improvement in services for customers, making them more accessible and joined up;
– To reduce the impact of organisational fragmentation and minimise the impact of any perverse incentives that result from it; and
– In some cases, to facilitate capital injection into the business.

As attractive as these are, privatisation of state assets is not what Nigeria needs now and should not feature in the priority list of any credible economic strategy. For starters, what proportion of Nigerians will prioritise shareholding above job security, shelter and providing for their families at this point in time? Privatisation at this point can only benefit a tiny minority, who we cannot even be sure have the nation’s interests at heart. Asset stripping comes to my mind straightaway when I hear or read about privatisation in the Nigerian context. Examples elsewhere suggest that the new owners will simply carve up the business, focus on the viable aspects of it and discard the liabilities. The end result being that the Nigerian customers will end up being short-changed and customer service will be worse than before.

To understand this better, one needs to fully appreciate the intricacies of private finance initiatives. It may come as a surprise to hear that hardly any shrewd businessman or woman uses their own capital for any business endeavour, including the acquisition of shares in a company. All of them, without exception, and in an attempt to evade bankruptcy against their personal assets, go to lenders, who in turn carry out their due diligence by undertaking a viability assessment. In the UK, most banks and lending institutions require at least 30% profit margin as a safety net on top of capital repayment and interest.

The reason why I am elaborating this is to provide an understanding of the main drivers of privatisation – greed and profiteering. So if in error you mistakenly believe that the injection of private capital into a failing parastatal is the way forward, think again. Those who acquire shares and their lenders only have one thing on their mind – efficiency savings, which in turn leads to excessive profit, increase in share value and handsome returns on their investment. To hell with efficiency and improvement in service delivery to customers. In truth, privatisation at the wrong time and under the wrong circumstances actually worsen customer service and entrench the sharp divide between the rich on one hand and the impoverished, the dispossessed and the marginalised in the society on the other.

There are several examples of where privatisation has gone wrong. British Rail is a very good case in point. The delivery of train services by several franchises is far worse now than at anytime in history, so much so that some people are now openly advocating the re-nationalisation of the rail industry. Who is willing to hedge a bet that this won’t happen the way things are going?

The centrepiece of Nigeria’s economic strategy has to be INFRASTRUCTURE PROVISION in transport system, power supply and information & communication technology (ICT). Where is housing, health and education provisions you may ask? My conviction is that, although they are not less important, their efficient and effective delivery hinge upon adequate transport system (housing), adequate power supply and ICT for health and education facilities. If we are being honest, there is no Nigerian institution with enough gravitas to fund mega infrastructure projects. Therefore, the sources of funding have to be from either the IMF, The World Bank, from government bonds issues, from private capital & direct investment or a combination of all of them.

Whatever side of the political divide you belong, and unless you are disingenuous, you will agree that the present government has made great strides in infrastructure provision and enhance the nation’s infrastructure base. Notwithstanding, this is nowhere near enough. A country like ours, which has experienced several decades of neglect ought to have at least 80% of its gross budgetary allocation for capital expenditure dedicated, ring fenced and committed to infrastructure provision and improvement if we are to be taken seriously. Investors will not flock to these shores, as long as the basic infrastructure is moribund and belong to the 20th century.

I know of some business opportunities that have been squandered and I myself have been a victim of such unfortunate circumstance. My backers and I were about to enter into a joint venture with a university to build a 75-bed hostel within their campus. This, we later discovered would require us bearing the costs of new access road and an electricity sub-station (transformer as they’re referred to in Nigeria). The cost is so exorbitant that it effectively killed the deal. Such infrastructure are readily available and taken for granted in other countries. I am sure that mine is not the only sad episode as countless others are out there who have been frustrated and taken their business elsewhere. I certainly consider it as a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t meant to be.

I do not need to extol the benefits of adequate infrastructure provision. Aside from easing the burden of doing business, they galvanise all other sectors of the economy into action and create thousands of new jobs directly and indirectly.

Infrastructure funding cost does not need to be borne by the government alone. Housebuilding is one of the most lucrative ventures in Nigeria. Housebuilders themselves are acutely aware of the added value of adequate infrastructure provisions to land values and house prices and I suspect that many of them won’t mind giving a slice of this uplift in value if at the end of it things are better. In this respect, the government should introduce a Residential Infrastructure Levy (RIL), which will be payments made on completion of construction into a ring fenced treasury account solely for the enhancement and provision of infrastructure. If it is expedient and provided it does not undermine viability, a business equivalent could be established and called Non-Residential Infrastructure Levy (NRIL).

Another aspect that the incoming administration needs to focus on is the creation of a new environment for enterprise to flourish. By this I mean – easing the burden of business set up and eliminating bureaucracy and corruption. In the UK for example, you can register a business and open a business bank account in one day. To this end, it is suggested that the government of the day set up a National Enterprise Promotion Council (NEPC) tasked with facilitating business start-ups. NEPC will have representatives in key financial hotspots of the world – Europe, USA, Middle East, Far East etc. They will hold regular exhibitions at home and abroad to drive inward investment and their mantra would be NIGERIA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS. If necessary, tax holidays can be dangled in front of potential investors and the provisions in the Indigenisation legislation that requires Nigerian indigenes’ ownership of a certain proportion of business enterprise can be waived in respect of foreign investment unconnected to the exploitation of our natural resources. This need not be a permanent measure.

Finally, any government must endeavour to tackle the elephant in the room – corruption with everything at its disposal. Corruption is the single most important inhibitor to attracting inward investment to Nigeria. Many world leaders and officials from reputable international lending institutions have consistently highlighted this. Well- meaning and patriotic Nigerians know that there is some truth in this and should not be offended. Instead, the incoming administration should take up the challenge and confront it with a patriotic zeal. I personally consider the eradication of corruption and the injustice arising from and associated with it as the greatest challenge of our time.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Duyile, a Certified Built Environment professional, writes from the UK

 

Inside Aso Rock: The Day Abacha Died

By Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

Friday June 5, 1998, was a cool bright day. Before we left the Villa, the Press Corps was informed that the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, would be making a brief stop-over at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, enroute Morocco. And he was expected to hold a brief discussion with the General Sani Abacha. We were therefore expected to be at the airport to cover the event on Sunday, June 7. It was a topical assignment in view of Nigeria’s neutral position in the Middle East conflict. Besides, the rest of us were keen to meet Mr. Arafat, the man at the centre of the storm.
That Sunday morning, the Press Corps headed for the airport to await the arrival of Yasser Arafat. We did not have to wait for too long before the Palestinian leader arrived, accompanied by a very modest delegation. President Arafat and General Abacha immediately went into private discussion at the VIP lounge of the Presidential wing of the airport. The Press outside waited curiously for the possible outcome of the talks between the two leaders, a kind of joint press conference, on all issues involved in the Nigeria-Palestine relations.
After the meeting, which was very brief, there was no press conference. Rather, Yasser Arafat inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the 3 Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army, and departed for Morocco. The whole airport ceremony lasted about two hours and we all returned to the Villa (Aso Rock).
Before leaving the Villa, I decided to cross-check with protocol officials if the Head of State would still be traveling to Burkina Faso to attend the OAU Summit, which was already at the Ministerial Session in Ouagadougou. The advance team of the Head of State’s entourage had already left on Friday night. I was to be in the main entourage expected to leave for Burkina Faso on Monday morning, after Abacha would have declared open an International Information Conference expected to begin in Abuja Monday June 8. The Federal Ministry of Information organized the conference. It was normal during General Abacha’s regime, that his movement was always kept topmost secret. As a matter of fact, those of us who used to travel with him would not know until few hours to our departure. So was our trip to Burkina Faso. They told me it was still on course.
With that assurance, I drove straight to NICON Hilton, Abuja where I had passed the previous night as a member of the Organizing Committee of the Information Conference. Six o’clock in the morning, Monday June 8, 1 1eft for the Villa, with my luggage to join the delegation to Burkina Faso for the OAU Summit. General Abacha was to head the Nigerian delegation. At the time I got to the Villa everything appeared quite normal. I met some of my colleagues who were also to be in the Head of State’s entourage to Burkina Faso. At 7 a.m. that fateful day, we all assembled at the Press Centre waiting for the necessary directives. However, when it got to eight o’clock, and no signal was forthcoming about our movement, we decided to go and have our breakfast and reconvene in the next one hour. At that point everything in the Villa still appeared normal. Various officials were seen in their duty posts doing their routine jobs.
From the Villa, I drove straight to my house, had a quick breakfast, and decided to go through NICON Hilton hotel to inform my colleagues in the Organizing Committee about the uncertainty of our trip. On getting to the hotel, I saw people standing in groups, discussing. But I did not give a thought to their attention. I imagined that some of them were delegates or participants at the conference. So I quickly dashed into my room, returned immediately to the Villa to join my colleagues, to wait for further developments.
On driving to the Villa gate, a new atmosphere had taken over. The first gate had been taken over by new set of security operatives. I was not familiar with virtually all of them, except one Major whose name I could not remember immediately. The Major knew me by name. He was fully in charge of the new security arrangement, dishing out instructions in a very uncompromising manner. Initially, I did not take it as anything very serious. As a well known person in the Villa, I was confident that my entrance was just a matter of time moreso when I was hanging my State House identity card around my neck. All my expectations were wrong as I was bluntly ordered to go back. All explanations and introductions on my mission to the Villa were helpless. The instruction was clear go back! go back! they shouted at all visitors. At that delay many cars had formed long queues. My immediate reaction was to seek the assistance of the Major, whom I had identified earlier, to save me from the tyranny of his men. Before I could approach him he shouted, “Ogbonnaya go back!” While I was still battling to wriggle out of what was seemingly a hopeless situation, I noticed a woman right behind me, almost hysterically screaming, that she had an early morning appointment with the First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Abacha. The woman apparently must be coming from the National Council of Women Societies from her dressing. My shock was the way she was instantly assaulted by those stern looking security operatives. At that point, I quickly got the message; I drove away from the scene as quickly as possible. Though my mind was everywhere but my immediate conclusion was that there was a coup because I could not imagine any other thing that could have caused such a high level of security alert. I therefore decided to drive straight to the International Conference Centre to alert my Director General on the latest development. He was attending the conference as a participant.
At the International Conference Centre, I saw some Ministers standing at the lobby in anticipation of the arrival of Abacha and his team. Immediately they saw me, they became very agitated, and almost simultaneously asked me, “is the C-ln-C already on his way?” I said, “no, I am not really sure he is coming. But let us hope he will still make it”. I knew, as a matter of fact, that I had not really provided them with the desired answer, but that was the much I could tell them. While they were still pondering on the uncertainty of my reply, I left and quickly walked into the hall where I met my Director-General, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Michika. He was already seated with other participants. I called him aside. “Sir, I don’t really know what is happening in the Villa. I suggest that you leave this place now!” Without betraying any emotion, he quickly asked me what was the situation in the Villa like, I told him all that I saw. I repeated my advice and that I had not been able to confirm what exactly was happening. I then made it clear to him that it was no longer safe for him to continue staying in the conference, and so should quietly take his leave. Alhaji Michika immediately went back to his table, took his pen and papers and followed me out of the hall.
The moment we were outside, I asked him if he came with his car. He said yes, but because of the extraordinary security arrangement put in place in anticipation of the arrival of the Head of State, it was difficult locating his driver. I then suggested that we should use my car which he obliged. I drove him straight to his house instead of the office. Both of us agreed that he should remain at home for the time being, while I promised to keep him informed about the development. This panic measure was as a result of the usual trauma which Radio Nigeria Management Staff often pass through each time there was a military coup d’‚tat in Nigeria. The first target usually is the FRCN Broadcasting House. The management and staff on duty usually pass through hell in the hands of the military boys in their desperate effort to gain entrance into the studios at record time for the usual “Fellow Nigerians” broadcast.
From my Director-General’s residence I decided to get to NICON Hilton Hotel to assess the situation there before heading back to the Villa. At the hotel the atmosphere was rather sombre. There were a few cluster of people; some of them who recognized me, rushed and demanded to know what was happening at the Villa. “Orji, is it true that there is a coup at the Villa?”, they asked. I said, “well I don’t know”. At that time, the BBC, CNN and International Media had begun to speculate on the confused situation.
From their countenance I could see they were not satisfied with my answer. They thought probably that I was withholding some information. But they never knew I had none. I felt very uncomfortable. As a reporter covering the State House, I was equally restless that I could not give a valid answer on what was happening on my beat. I recognized too that it was utterly wrong to depend on others for information about events unfolding in my beat. I instantly felt challenged to get back to the Villa. I was equally aware that such an adventure was fraught with a lot of risk. But that is the other side of journalism as a profession.
On getting back to the Villa, I decided to avoid the main gate because of the heavy security presence there. Instead, I used the maintenance gate through the Asokoro District. I was amazed that no single security man was there at the time. There was therefore no difficulty in passing through into Aso Rock. I drove my car to the Administrative Gate and parked there, and decided to walk. Initially everything had appeared normal in some parts of the Villa until I met a Body Guard (BG). I queried, “old boy wetin happen? Why una boys full everywhere?” It is easier to obtain information from other ranks with informal English. “Ah! Na wa oh! You no know say Baba don quench?”. The boy answered also in Pidgin English. “Which Baba?” I shouted. “Baba don die, Baba don quench just like that. Na so we see am,” the boy concluded, clutching a cigarette in his left hand. I still could not understand what he was saying. “Which Baba do you mean?”, I queried further. “Abacha don die! You no hear?” He shouted at me angrily. It was a very funny way of announcing the passage of a man who was feared and dreaded by all. I was nonetheless confused by its reality. My immediate reaction was that if truly General Abacha was dead, it meant the end of an era. What future does it hold for Nigeria? I pondered over the development as I advanced further into Aso Rock. As I moved down, the reality became evident. The environment was cold, cloudy with uncertainties among the faces I met.
They confirmed it was a reality. General Abacha was truly dead. All were in groups discussing it with fear and subdued silence.
I quickly reached for a telephone to relay the sad story to my Director-General who must be anxiously waiting to hear the latest. Moreso, I was still far away from my news deadline at 4 p.m. But I was disappointed to discover that all the telephone links to the Villa had been severed. There was no call coming in or going out, the Villa at that critical moment was almost totally isolated from the rest of humanity. It was a deliberate measure. When I could not get through on telephone, I decided to drive out fast to break the news. But on reaching the gate through which I had earlier entered, I discovered that some fierce looking soldiers who told me that nobody was allowed to go out or come in had effectively barricaded it. This was happening at about 9.30 a.m. I was helplessly trapped in the Villa from that time till about 5 p.m. when we conveyed the remains of General Abacha to Kano for burial.
I felt particularly disappointed that I could not break the news to anxious Nigerians early enough. It was even more embarrassing and certainly very disheartening to learn that some foreign broadcast stations like the BBC and CNN, which had no accredited correspondents in the Villa, were the first to break the news of General Abacha’s death. It did not entirely come to me as a surprise because the system we operate in Nigeria respects the foreign media more than the local ones. It is equally a well-known fact that most foreign media subscribe to policy makers in our country, who always feed them with first-hand information about any event or issue in the country. The foreign media organizations are no magicians. They pay for news sources especially in situations where they have no correspondents. The pay is usually so attractive that the source is efficient. Thus, generally, access to information in developing countries is fraught with discrimination against local media in preference to foreign ones.
That morning, June 8, 1998, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to General Abacha, was said to have called key members of the Provincial Ruling Council (PRC) including strategic military commanders for an emergency meeting. We learnt he refused to disclose that Abacha was dead. At about 11a.m., members of the PRC had begun to arrive at Aso Rock for an emergency meeting. Most of the members were informed only on arrival for the meeting except the very powerful ones.
That day, Major Al-Mustapha looked very sharp and smartly dressed in his Army tracksuit and white canvas. The Major was simply too busy running from pillar to post, looking confident but certainly confused about the future without his boss. He was finally in charge, distributing orders to the rank and file to get the Aso Council Chambers ready for the meeting. We watched at a distance in utter disbelief of the turn of events. For Mustapha, the situation was a bleak one. The fear was a possible fall from grace to grass for a man who was dreaded and respected by both the lowly and the mighty. But that morning, he conjured such a pitiable image as he presided over the wreckage of a collapsed regime.
Emotions took over the whole environment. One of the female Ministers worsened the situation when she arrived the Villa by shouting and weeping openly. Nobody looked her way to console her as everybody was simply on his/her own. Cigarettes were a scarce commodity that morning, the only immediate source of reducing tension and grief. Most PRC members who were informed on arrival immediately asked for cigarettes, but none was easily available. Those who had some hoarded them jealously. Elsewhere in the Villa, a gloomy atmosphere, mingled with subdued excitement and relief pervaded. Flurry of activities were taking place at breathtaking speed two crucial meetings were in progress simultaneously. One was a meeting of Principal Officers in the Presidency and the venue was Aso Rock Wing of the Chief of General Staff. The other meeting of members of the Provincial Ruling Council (PRC) was shifted to Akinola Aguda House. The two meetings later merged at Aso Council Chambers for another crucial session. The joint session began at 2 p.m. and ended at 4.45 p.m. I imagined that the items on the agenda of that meeting were:
_ Selection of a new Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.
_ Arrangements for the burial of General Abacha.
While the separate meetings were in progress, we in the Press Corps were held hostage. We had all the information but no means of communication. Hunger was also a problem. However, for the first time we were free to assess the regime openly and objectively. The open discussion and arguments centred on what Abacha did and did not do.
While the meeting at Aso Council Chambers was in session, Major Al-Mustapha sat in the chair at the entrance, holding a newspaper in his hands, which he occasionally glanced at. He looked rather relaxed after ensuring that every necessary arrangement had been put in place. He occasionally responded to our discussions with selected and reserved comments. His aides quoted him as saying that nobody would leave the Council Chambers unless a new Military Head of State was selected by the meeting. His fear, I learnt, was that a vacuum was dangerous before General Abacha’s burial later the same day. Mustapha declined all efforts by the few Pressmen around to narrate how General Abacha died. All efforts to bring him fully into our discussion also failed. Insiders at the “red carpet” revealed that shortly after Abacha died, Major Al-Mustapha took some strategic decisions that were of national significance. One of such decisions was the immediate evacuation of the condemned coup plotters in Jos Prison to a more secured place. The measure was probably to pre-empt any intention to summarily execute the plotters by possible overzealous forces.
From morning till 5 p.m., no official press statement on the death of General Abacha from any quarters was issued, even when the incident was already known all over the world. It was difficult to reconcile how such a major sad event could happen in the country and up till that time, nobody deemed it necessary to issue an official statement. We then decided to mount pressure on the then Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu, to make a pronouncement. It was after much pressure that an official statement was eventually issued. The press statement was five paragraphs in all, issued at about 5.25 p.m.
The atmosphere in the Villa then was overcast. On June 8 in Aso Rock, hierarchy of command collapsed. It was a day everybody was free. Shortly after the statement was issued, people began to troop towards the Red Carpet area (official residence of the Head of State). I immediately imagined that the body of the General might be Iying in state. I quickly followed, not certain if it was going to be possible to be allowed to have a glimpse of it.
However, on getting to the house, I quietly walked in and saw the body of General Abacha wrapped in white cloth and laid in a small private sitting room in the residence. And I said to myself, “vanity upon vanity”. His death to me was as dramatic as his ascendancy to power, equally evoking tragic memories of a nation that was unsafe of itself.
I returned to the Aso Council Chambers to wait for the outcome of the special session of the Provisional Ruling Council. The outcome of the meeting was all that the media was awaiting. The meeting was to answer the question “who succeeds Abacha?” But before long, the picture of who succeeds General Abacha began to emerge. Shortly after the meeting at Aso Council Chambers had ended, I saw General Abdulsalami Abubakar walk out of the meeting ahead of other senior military officers. This immediately conveyed the message that he had been chosen as the new leader. My conclusion was based on the tradition in the military, there is much respect for hierarchy and seniority. All other military officers and PRC members lined behind Abdulsalami, confirming the saying in the military that appointment supercedes rank. Besides, I watched and saw that he was dishing out orders which all complied to, even his seniors. He took control of the ad-hoc arrangement to convey the body of General Abacha to Kano for burial. He was seen giving orders to both high and low to arrange vehicles for movement to the airport.
The journey to Kano was already far behind schedule, given the fact that the burial must take place that same day in keeping with the Islamic injunction. We left Aso Rock for the airport at about 6 p.m.
It was indeed a big tragedy for the members of former first family as they packed their belongings to join the convoy which took the corpse of the once powerful General home. I wept when I saw Madam, Mrs. Abacha being helped into the waiting car. She stared at Aso Rock in tears, a most difficult and tragic way to say good-bye. Tears rolled freely from all gathered as Madam was driven out of the Villa with her husband’s corpse in front of her in a moving ambulance. The ambulance is normally one of the last vehicles in the usually long Presidential convoy. But on June 8, 1998, the ambulance was in the front with General Abacha’s corpse. All other vehicles lined behind in a day-light reversal of history. The ambulance drove through the IBB bye-pass connecting the airport link road as the entourage made its way to Nnamdi Azikiwe airport. I was surprised that there was instant jubilation by passersby. Taxi drivers lined up at major junctions shouting shame! shame!! as the convoy drove past. Men and women ran after the convoy in utter disbelief of the turn of events. Some other people formed queues in groups with green leaves in their hands singing solidarity songs in a loud tone that suggested liberation from bondage. It was a day in which my biro refused to write and the lines in my jotter went blank. The journalist in me was overtaken by emotions as most of us in the convoy found it difficult to speak to one another. We simply lacked the words or the topic for discussion as our minds went blank and our brains went asleep.
On our arrival at the airport, the body of General Abacha, which was still wrapped in white cloth was carried into the hold of the presidential aircraft, zero-zero one. There was no particular arrangement on who should be in the aircraft, except that members of the first family and some PRC members were given priority. I however noticed that most PRC members at the airport were not even keen in accompanying the corpse of the late General to Kano.
While the aircraft was being positioned, Madam and her children waited at the Presidential lounge with a cluster of relatives and very few associates. The usual crowd around the first family had begun to disappear. That day, it was as though the Abacha family was for the first time in many years on a lonely journey to an unknown destination, even though the aircraft was heading for Kano. It was incredible to imagine the Abachas without General Sani Abacha. As the saying goes, “when the big tree falls, all the birds will fly away”.
The aircraft ready, Madam and her children left the lounge with the heavy burden of making their last flight on the presidential jet, with the corpse of the former Head of State on board. Mrs. Abacha climbed into the aircraft in tears with measured steps. Her children joined too, then some few friends and relations.
Inside, the plane was taken over by grief, tears and open weeping. We had already boarded the aircraft and almost getting set to take-off when General Abubakar curiously asked, “where is the corpse?” He was told that it was kept in the hold. “No, no, no, bring it inside!” the General commanded. And it was brought in and kept few seats away from where I sat. As the journey progressed, whenever there was turbulence, the body would shake, exposing the legs, which were partially covered. I sat in that aircraft speechless. My reflections were on life, death, power, influence and the vanity of human desires.
Our flight to Kano was barely thirty minutes, but I felt it was more than two hours. The usual conversation and jokes in zero-zero one was overtaken by subdued silence, grief, pain and weeping. Everybody on board was on his own. I could imagine how other people’s mind worked at that sober period. But mine went into a comprehensive review of the Abacha era beginning from the night of November 16, 1993 when the General took over. Within my reflections, my mind was everywhere, the good, the bad, the very bad and the ugly. My mood was interrupted by a sudden announcement from the cockpit that we were few minutes away from Aminu Kano International Airport.
The situation on our arrival at Aminu Kano International Airport was rather chaotic. There was no precise arrangement to receive the corpse on arrival. Apparently, our arrival caught Kano and the people unaware. Apart from the first family, and few officials, everybody was expected to sort out his/her own transport arrangement out of the airport. Eventually I had to arrange for an airport taxi to convey me and two others to the private residence of the late Head of State. Unfortunately, there were few taxis at the airport. While this arrangement was on, the main convoy had left with the corpse. We therefore quickly hired a taxi at a high fare dictated by the driver, who was very rude and uncooperative. We were shocked that the driver showed little or no sympathy, but was rather quick to explain that he never benefited anything from the Abacha regime. In his view, his condition had even worsened. We discontinued the discussion as it was becoming volatile.
The Abacha family house on Gidado street, GRA, Kano is a modest twin duplex located in a rather small compound. By the time we arrived there, the place was already besieged by a large number of sympathizers struggling to gain entry. As there was no time to start identifying who was who, we were all being pushed by the security officials who had a very hectic time trying to contain the rapidly surging crowd. In the midst of the pushing. and kicking, I suddenly realised that the person who was being pushed against me was the highly respected Governor of Lagos State, Col. Buba Marwa. It therefore became clear to me that at that moment, everybody was regarded as equal, courtesy of the security at the gate. I was then encouraged to continue pushing, until I finally managed to squeeze myself inside the compound.
Inside the compound, I observed scanty presence of newsmen, because security was deadly. I also discovered that the grave was still being prepared, an indication that no proper arrangement was made. Earlier, the body of General Abacha was taken to Kano Central Mosque for prayers. From the Central Mosque, the body was laid on the floor of his private mosque just by the gate with two soldiers standing on guard. I peeped several times to assure myself that it was actually the former powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that was on the bare floor. One was expecting a more dignified presidential burial, with due respect to the modest way the Muslims conduct their burials. Even at a point, a soldier asked, “Why is there no burial party here?” I immediately wanted to know what burial party was all about. I was told that it was the usual twenty-one gun salute line-up of soldiers will give to a fallen officer as his last military respect. But before any of such arrangement could be made, the body of General Abacha had been lowered into the grave. There was certainly no fanfare in the burial, it was simple and brisk. In simple comparison, I had accompanied General Abacha himself to the burial of a top military officer and member of the Provisional Ruling Councils who had died sometime ago and was buried in Minna during his regime. I observed that all the procedures at that burial in all consideration was better managed, more respectful and dignified than that of the former Head of State, their difference in rank and position notwithstanding.
There were quite a number of very important personalities who witnessed the burial. But I particularly took notice of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and his wife Mariam, who were seen talking with Mrs. Abacha, probably trying to console her. There were also some Emirs and other top Northern leaders who were able to make the trip at such short notice. At about 9.48 p.m. when Abacha’s grave was being covered with sand, a powerful businessman from one of the South Eastern States who was very prominent in Abacha’s campaign for self succession arrived and broke down weeping and wailing openly. Some faithful Muslims who dominated the burial reacted negatively to such an un-lslamic approach to the dead. They threatened to whisk the man out of the premises if he failed to comport himself. The businessman was among those who threatened to proceed on exile or commit suicide if General Abacha failed to become President.
As the burial ended at about 10.05p.m., we hurriedly left for Abuja. I expected that there could probably be some other ceremonies. But I was wrong as we left barely twenty minutes after the body had been interred. We arrived Abuja a few minutes to twelve midnight and drove straight to Aso Council Chambers in the Villa for the swearing-in of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the new Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces.
The swearing-in ceremony was rather brief. It was preceded by a formal announcement by the Principal Secretary to the former Head of State, that General Abubakar had been appointed to succeed the late General Sani Abacha. General Abubakar was then invited to step forward and take the oath of office and allegiance at about 1.43 a.m. on June 9, 1998. That ceremony marked the end of the Abacha era.
After the oath-taking, General Abubakar signed the register to herald the beginning of the new era. That era ushered in a new dawn, a brighter future and hope for a sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The rest is now history. Back to the newsroom at 3 a.m., June 9, with series of events that had taken place in the past 24 hours, my diary was full. It was difficult to decide a headline for the 7 a.m. news bulletin. I do remember that, that morning, at the FRCN Network News studio there was a problem over which of the two important stories should come first; that Abacha was dead or Abubakar has been sworn-in as the new Head of State. Coverage of the events of that day without food and water was among my most challenging assignment.

* Excerpts from the book, Inside Aso Rock, written by respected broadcast journalist, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji who for seven years covered the State House for Radio Nigeria. Published by Spectrum Books Ltd. It is available in major bookshops.

New MKO Statue: Ambode, the man who saw tomorrow

By Teniola Popoola

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode appears to be a man ahead of his time.
His revolutionary and forwarding-looking innovation in traffic management, road infrastructure, bus reform, education, security, staff welfare and training, justice sector reform, bold interventions in the environment and waste management as well as tourism promotions has set many thinking on how far he will go in transforming Lagos into the greatest city state in Africa.

His vision became more evident lately with his decision last year to retool and upgrade the MKO Abiola statue at Ojota Park into the monumental edifice that it has become today. A few people might have hastily criticised his motive just as they criticised the installation of the iconic “Abami Eda” and Awolowo statues. Both works (Awo and Fela) just like the Gani Fawehinmi statue have now redefined the landscape of the state, especially at night, giving residents and visitors a good reason to discard the obnoxious view that Lagos was a concrete jungle.

But did Ambode have a sneak preview of President Buhari’s decision to immortalise MKO with a posthumous award of GCFR and recognition of June 12 as the new Democracy Day? I do not think so.

I think Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was simply a man ahead of his time. A man on a divine mission to transform Lagos just like his predecessors. A man who saw tomorrow and took the quantum leap decision to recreate the MKO statue into an iconic public art installation.

I have no doubt that it is God that has guided Governor Ambode’s instinct and drive to the positive decision of the new MKO statue, whose unveiling on Tuesday is coming at such an appropriate time 25 years after the historic June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and on a day that the entire Abiola family has agreed to divide themselves between Lagos and Abuja where the greatest honours will be bestowed on MKO as the architect of Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation.

I dare say that Akinwunmi Ambode is also a hero for honouring this great Nigerian with this new and record-breaking statue which, at 37-feet (47-feet if you add the huge shiny base) is now the tallest statue in Lagos State and perhaps second tallest in Nigeria after the Moremi statue in Ile-Ife. And I join millions of Nigerians to thank the people’s governor for his service to God and humanity.

It will be a Super Tuesday, therefore, on June 12, 2018 when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s forward-thinking divine inspiration will be consecrated with the unveiling of the new statue at the MKO Abiola Park in Ojota. Lagosians in particular and Nigerians in general will be grateful and can only wish him well and God’s speed in his quest for a second term in office to continue with his sterling performance in making Lagos an ideal mega city that is smart, clean, livable and prosperous where heroes and icons are made and celebrated.

 Deacon Teniola Popoola wrote in from Lagos

Wishing you many more ‘Recalls’

 

By Owei Lakemfa.

The failed attempt on April 28, to recall Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye in which the ‘Recallists’ scored a miserable 5.3 percent, is not my focus. My mind is on matters arising which are likely to feature in the 2019 general elections.

In the “Statement of Results of Verification for Recall” signed by the Electoral Officer for the Karaworo South Open Space in the Lokoja/B registration area, the advertised result showed that the number of signatories for the recall was 850, the number of signatories present for verification was 35 whereas the number of signatories verified was 39. In other words, the number of signatories verified or counted was higher than the number of signatories that were actually present.

That reminds me of an experience I had years ago when I worked at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) One day, we received a request from an affiliate, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to which all journalists and editors in the country belong. The body asked that the NLC sends an officer to conduct its national elections. I was given that task.

On arrival, I was warmly received by the out-going NUJ President. As he briefed me about the preparations, he said “My elder brother, how is it that you are the person the NLC sent?” I asked him to explain and he said “We already have a new President; the elections are already won and lost” I thought it was a boast and I said “I am aware there is more than one candidate unless your candidate has been returned unopposed” The NUJ President said no, but that he was assuring me that his candidate had already won. I said, “Supposing the other candidates spring a surprise or are you thinking of rigging the elections?” He said “Yes!” I was shocked. The NUJ President was my junior in the profession when I was a practicing journalist and I chided him. I called his name and said; “You are telling me that? You are so bold?” He replied: “ I am sorry my elder brother, but that is why I regret you were the one the NLC sent to conduct these elections. They will be rigged”

I assured him that as the presiding officer at the elections, they will not be rigged. He shrugged his shoulders. At the elections, I put the ballot boxes on the table in front of me and replaced the electoral assistants the NUJ had provided me with people I knew I could trust. Since the NUJ printed the ballot papers, I went through the painstaking process of signing them to ensure that only ballot papers I signed were used.

At a point during the voting, the lights went out or were switched off. I had anticipated this and gotten all around me to be ready to switch on their cell phone torch lights. Then in the twinkle of an eye, someone snatched one of the ballot boxes, I ran after him and seized him from behind. Behold, he was a former NUJ President! He had some already thumb printed ballot papers he obviously wanted to stuff in. I expressed surprise that an editor of his stature and former leader of journalists in the country would be engaged in rigging elections. He smiled sheepishly.

I was certain my assistants and I had done a good job but when the ballots were counted, in some cases, the casted ballots were hundreds higher than the number of accredited voters! The votes for the Presidential slot, were the most scandalous. Given the hostile environment including the agitated supporters of the purported winner, I could not cancel the elections. However, in announcing the results, I made it known that they cannot pass the most basic test of free and fair elections. I told the conference that my report to the NLC will reflect what had happened and assured those who lost the elections in such unfair circumstances that if they decide to challenge the elections in court, I as the officer who conducted them, will be willing to testify.

The NLC agreed with my submissions. I encouraged the main Presidential challenger to go to court and promised to turn up the marked ballot papers I had seized from the former NUJ President. The challenger agreed and informed me papers were being filed. After some months, the challenger stopped picking my calls and refused to challenge the rigged elections.

A few days after the failed attempt to recall Senator Melaye, I had a discussion with a friend who is from the Senatorial district. He told me a story that sounded unbelievable. He had travelled to his home town from his Abuja base and was surprised that a new house was springing up in his homestead. He questioned his uncle who was building the house where he got the money from. The uncle claimed that people who identified themselves as agents of the Kogi State Government came to the town shopping for voters who were willing to sign the recall register. They were ready to dispense quite some cash. The uncle said after collecting the money offered and signing, the cash hawkers expressed frustration that many voters were reluctant to sign despite monetary offers, so he helped in persuading more voters to sign and collect the huge sums offered as the money was from the coffers of the state which has refused to pay salaries or pension. The uncle he said, told his kinsmen that signing for the recall does not mean they will actually vote to recall Senator Melaye. For his invaluable ‘assistance’ the cash hawkers further handsomely rewarded him, so he had quite some money to build a small house.

My friend said on the verification day, he called his uncle who said he did not leave his new house for the exercise and he would never vote for the recall.

My friend quoted his uncle as saying that many voters in the town were quite happy that the recall failed while the town was additionally awash with money generously distributed by the state government. So they are praying for many more ‘Recall’ exercises that will provide them more money.

State Governor, Yahaya Bello has a reputation for throwing money at the crowds on the streets. Recently, his chauffeur-driven car ran over his leg while he was engaged in one of such philanthropic gestures, fracturing it. This however, is not a strong enough basis to conclude that his government engaged in vote buying to recall one of the stalwarts of his party. As a journalist, I am trying to get the Governor’s side of the story. When he obliges me, I will bring it to readers.

Buhari has forgotten all he learnt in the mitary – Maj. Gen Ishola Williams (Retd)

 

Retired Major Gen Ishola Williams is a blunt and die-hard critic of government policies. In this interview, he painstakingly examines the security apparatus of the present administration and gives reasons the country is vulnerable to violent crimes. According to him, Buhari’s security appointees are inept and incompetent.

You’ve been following some of the recent happenings in the country. In your moment of personal reflection, how do you perceive Nigeria as a nation?

People often say that leadership is our problem. It is not so.  I keep saying all the time that leaders don’t drop from heaven, leaders are not born. As a matter of fact, only very few people that are trained for leadership get to leadership positions. And that is why it has been very difficult to predict succession in political leadership in Nigeria because like Harold Wilson said, ‘24 hours is a long time in politics. Anything can happen. Again, our political parties are dominated by a few individuals who have money. And in most cases, the ideology of these parties is defined according to the dictate of those who have the money. As a result of that, we have leaders without character. And when you have a leader who does not have character, he can be irresponsible, even though he may have integrity, he may be incorruptible. That is what is happening in the case of Nigeria. And who is responsible for that? Of course, the followership! In most cases, what they are looking for is not somebody who can lead them to posterity, but somebody who can take care of their immediate needs. When those people get there, what do they do? They do like Governor Fayose of Ekiti State, who is a political rascal using stomach infrastructure as an ideology to turn the followership in Ekiti into accepting whatever he wakes up to say he wants to do.  The challenge before us, therefore, is how to change the mindset and character of Nigerians so that they can define the criteria for leadership and accordingly use those criteria to elect their leaders. My reflection is that we will continue to be in the situation we are in now until we have the kind of followers who know the kind of leaders they need to lead them.

Do you share in the opinion of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who in his recent letter accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism and clannishness, among others?

If there is nepotism, it is the fault of political parties. This particular regime is the only regime in the history of this country which took about six months to appoint people into cabinet. Interestingly, some boards of parastatal and agencies have just been constituted a few months to the next general elections. What do you expect such people to do? They will only be there looking for how to make their own money too. Most board members in Nigeria go there as compensation for helping the party to win election. So, the newly constituted boards are also for the elections. There was no time in Nigeria when a Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, was bold enough to write letters to parastatals that they should help members of boards who wanted to contest elections. What does that mean? Where will the parastatals get money? From the coffers of government of course.

You are painting a picture of ineptitude here.

Yes, it is ineptitude. President Buhari has created a very bad precedent in this area. It took him so long to appoint ministers. And even at that, all his talk about appointing incorruptible people is balderdash. Who are the incorruptible people? Amaechi had already said: ‘I cannot say there are no corrupt people in this government.’

Looking at the incessant killings in the country today by the Fulani herdsmen, would you say that this government has responded early enough to nip some of these crises in the bud?

If it were a country with people of integrity, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) would have resigned or asked to go. Secondly, the president called the abduction of Dapchi girls as national disgrace. Yet, those who created that national disgrace are still there. Thirdly, he said he instructed the IGP to go to Benue and he didn’t. In a country of integrity, he would have fired him immediately. He just said, ‘you mean he did not come’? We are waiting to see what he is going to do. When you have that kind of situation, it means the president is not in charge. It can never happen in any country. He is not in charge. I have been complaining that this government has no strategic security plan.  I have said it before the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan ended that there must be a total overhaul of the security apparatus. He thought the whole thing was a joke. He wanted to do that of the military and I told him I wanted a total security reform. I told him one-on-one. I wanted Jonathan to do the reform because of this Boko Haram issue. I wanted him to lay a foundation for Buhari for him to build on. But what he did was to appoint a committee and put inappropriate people in that committee to do a report. I am not sure anything has happened to that report till today. I have not read the report, but I know that many people in that committee do not have the expertise and knowledge to be on that committee. What we need now is a total security umbrella.

If Jonathan refused to carry out the reform of the security, what makes it a burden for President Buhari to do the needful, especially with his military background?

That question is better answered by Buhari. He has been saying it that he has told them to do a security report and they did not do it. That again has to do with the character of the president. You told people to do something and they did not do it. Then, what did you do?  He did not do anything about it. Otherwise, by now, the Minister of Interior and Minister of Defence should have gone for all that happened in Benue, Plateau and the rest. The IGP too should have gone. But they are still there. If you have a president like that, the people in the security agencies will not take him serious. We also have a National Security Adviser. Has that one too put any report before him? The other day, the National Assembly summoned him to give report on security. That is the most stupid thing on earth to do. Are they security experts? What I expected them to do is what South Africa did in 1994.  Kayode Fayemi was one of the key players there. He knows what I am talking about. His Doctorate degree is in the area of security. I was expecting that he would do a major reshuffle, put Fayemi in the Ministry of Defence and put the other man wherever he wants to put him. That guy does not know his left from his right. Then, Fayemi can now do what South Africa did in pre-1994.

There is a difference between safety and security. When you are in your house and you see electric wires everywhere, you try to put them right, that is safety. If you are comfortable in your area that you can come out even at 3 o’clock in the morning, that is high level of security. You are living in a safe community. If your emphasis is on safety, then you concentrate on safety. That is why there is community policing in every part of the world. If it then comes to the level of riot or something like that, that will come under security. For safety, you need community policing. Federal police will only come in when your state and local government cannot take care of the situation. When your community is safe, your local government is safe, and your state is safe, will Nigeria not be safe? When you have a case like Boko Haram, then you have what we call national security which involves the military. That is the kind of intelligent structure that you need to provide national security. Because of the need to provide extra training for the police to carry arms to be able to deal with violent crimes that is why we have the mobile police. In most countries, the mobile police command is separate from police. So, the police should be divided into three separate structures. The IGP should be responsible for training standard for community and state police and evaluating them to make sure they are up to standard. Then, we need a Director-General for the mobile police which will be responsible for counter terrorism and also provide support for the army for counter insurgency. Look at the case of Dapchi, the army said they handed over to the police, police said they did not. If things had been working the way I am talking now, that won’t have happened because there will be separate commands. The command will not come from the IGP. There is also intelligence agency which works in conjunction with the police. Part of safety is what we call disaster and safety management. In this regard, Civil Defence and NEMA should have been one. It is because of corruption, that is why they are separate. You can see a clear division of structure. Where they all need to work together is in the area of intelligence. There must be proper coordination of intelligence system. But when you look at the whole system, it seems things are not working the way they should.

You make it look as if the president is a novice in the area of security even though he is a retired army general.

First of all, he has forgotten what he learnt about security when he was in the army. Two, he has chosen the wrong set of people.  The people are not living up to expectation. They are trying their best, but their best is not good enough. I have not even talked about the structure of the military. That is another topic entirely. The present structure of the military is similar to where Britain and other countries were in 1960s. The whole world has left us behind. I don’t think he has got the right person as National Security Adviser. He has forgotten everything he learnt about security. In the area of governance, I don’t think he can cope. He should just go.

What about the anti-corruption war of the administration?

In the case of corruption, Nigeria’s corruption is systemic. Some few months ago, the Group Managing Director of NNPC said the Chief of Staff to the President told him to keep aside N50billon. Who are they deceiving? If you have exceptions like that, they won’t allow the system to work. Secondly, the procurement system is not working. If not, how can the SGF award contract to himself to go and cut grass? Of course, he was exposed by the National Assembly. Most embarrassing of all, a very bad writer wrote a speech for Buhari to go and read in Ghana telling Ghanaians that Nigeria will help them to fight corruption. It is the greatest joke of the century. Since the time of Jerry Rawling, they have got a special court for corruption. I was in Ghana when a former Minister of Sports was publicly tried and jailed for mishandling money. If that happened in Nigeria, all the people in the NFA would be in jail. Above all, impunity is one of our greatest challenges

Does that also explain why head of security agencies defy the order of the president?

They defy the president and nothing happens. That is impunity of course. In a country where you have impunity, can you change anything? The other day, Osinbajo was trying to rationalize why they should not be in the position where the Transparency International (TI) placed them. Impunity is the key. If the President cannot use his influence in the National Assembly for special court to be created to fight corruption, then there is a problem.  No single person, not even a dictator can run a government. There are hordes of people who keep away those who can tell him (Buhari) the truth. There are some people who are saying on the Internet that some people hate Buhari. And I was warning them that if it were another country, you’re either in the cooler or you disappear. Some people just write something and give it to him every morning; this is what they are saying about you.  We have a situation where a leader is surrounded by people he believes he can trust but they are not telling him the truth. What were the people around him telling him about the situation in Benue, Plateau, Taraba before he decided to visit the places? Why did he now choose to visit them? You can see that something is wrong. He should just go home on the 29th of May, 2019. Please, I beg him, he should go home. He can’t manage the country any longer.

There have been separatist agitations in different parts of the country. Do you see Nigeria returning to peace with a new person emerging as President?

Nobody wants Nigeria to split. But what is happening is good for us. In a multi-ethnic and cultural nation, you have to listen to the kind of governance structure that people want. People say they want devolution. Some jokers in the National Assembly are saying devolution for what? For the first time in the history of Nigeria, there is a consensus on the so-called separatist movements for devolution. We are fortunate, Saraki as the president of the senate says he will find a way by amending the constitution to make sure that devolution happens. So, I am not afraid of any separatist movement. It is an advocacy rather than irredentist movement. It is a pressure group.

If the National Assembly and the political parties do what they are supposed to do, it will go down. Already, what the APC committee came up with in its report about restructuring is revolutionary. It went completely beyond my dream, including resource control that has been a bone of contention. If they implement that, will there be any separatist movement again? There will be none. Everybody has accepted that the Federal Government must do less, states must do more.

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The ugly face of marginalisation in Southern Kaduna, by Bishop Matthew Kukah

 

I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war (Ps. 120:7)

Text of a Sermon preached at the burial of His Lordship Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri, the late Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan on Thursday, 15th March, 2018 by Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese.

When my metropolitan Archbishop, Matthew Ndagoso called to tell me that roles had been assigned ahead of the funeral of our brother Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri and that I had been assigned the role of preacher for this Mass, I knew I did not have an opinion in the matter. In a way, I could probably fall back on the fact that apart from members of his immediate family and close friends, I have known the late Bishop Bagobiri the longest compared to almost everyone here.

As a Deacon in 1975, I was assigned to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Kakuri to do undertake the last phase of my pastoral work ahead of my ordination. I made friends but three or four stood out and one of them was Mr. David Bagobiri. We had struck a good relationship because he was a very active member of the parish. (Today, thanks be to God, his son, John, is a priest of the Diocese of Kafanchan and is likely to be one of the Masters of Ceremonies here). After my ordination, I was sent back to Kaduna to work as an Assistant to an old Irish man, the late Fr John Lee. Mr. Bagobiri remained a central figure in the parish.
One day, after Mass, Mr. Bagobiri approached me and introduced a young man to me. This is my junior brother, and his name is Joseph. He has just finished Secondary school and he says he wants to be a priest like you. I shook hands with the young man and asked him to come and see me the next day, Monday. He came early in the morning and told me he wanted to become a priest but did not know how to go about. He said he had finished from a Secondary school and not a Minor Seminary. I asked him the usual questions and more or less satisfied myself that he should be encouraged to apply to the Archdiocese of Kaduna as a Seminarian. Incidentally, I was the Vocations Director. The rest, as they say, is history. We had mutual respect for one another. That I should be standing here to preach at his funeral is an honour I cannot take lightly.

For most of you here in the audience, you may recall that the last time I stood before a huge gathering of this nature to undertake the same assignment was at the funeral of the late Sir, Patrick Yakowa, and Governor of Kaduna State on December 21st, 2012. I am told that till date, members of the Kaduna mafia have not been able to live down the contents of the sermon. Yet, then as now, they did not dispute the evidence I presented. Today, that Kaduna has become an open sore of injury and pain that it is the most divided and volatile state in Nigeria is the result of the seeds of disunity sowed in the corrosive legacy of the policies of exclusion that the mafia sowed. We are sadly still not out of the woods yet.

Today is a special day for Southern Kaduna people and the people of the state as a whole. It is a day of reckoning. It is as much a day of sowing as a day of reaping. It is a day of promise and a day of hope. The mixed nature of our gathering suggests very clearly that this is not an ordinary funeral ceremony.
Certain burials make certain demands. They set the records of history straight. They create an urgency of now. No one should expect that the burial of someone like Bishop Joseph Bagobiri should be a simple ceremony of burying a Bishop. If it were so, the Bishops could have buried their brother and returned to their Dioceses. But, these are no ordinary times in Nigeria and my sermon will draw from both Scripture and the streets.

Our gathering here is beyond the ritual of a burial. We are gathered for a memorial, a celebration, and a festival, even a carnival. We are gathered here not as mourners with tears of sorrow in our eyes. We are gathered as men and women joyous in hope and praise. We are not gathered in tribulation, but in confident optimism. We do not feel a sense of loss and defeat, but no, rather a sense of exultant triumph of the risen Lord. There are no mourners and sympathisers here. All of us, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Men, Women, young and old, are gathered united as family. We are gathered here as a company of witnesses to celebrate a great man, a warrior, a statesman, and a brave and fearless man. St. Paul says: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Heb. 12:1).
At no time is the beauty and essence of Christianity better manifested than at a funeral. During it, we Christians celebrate the assurance of our faith, we re-enact the essence of our faith. We celebrate the assurance that for the Christian, the future after death is not the subject of speculation, fear or uncertainty. No other faith in the entire world speaks with the certainty of Christianity about life after death. Our hope is anchored on testable, verifiable evidence of Scripture that after His crucifixion and death, Jesus rose from the dead. The event so confused the authorities of the time that they had to resort to bribing the guards they had placed on the tomb to deny that he had risen (Mt. 28: 12).
What we are celebrating today is the promise the promise of Scripture that for us, as with Christ, the tomb is not a final resting place. It is a departure lounge for a journey to eternity. Jesus said: I have gone to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you too may be (Jn. 14:3). We are celebrating the hope that Bishop Bagobiri is a beneficiary of this promise. Therefore, as St. Paul said, with such thoughts as these, let us console one another with the same consolation that we ourselves have received from God ( 2 Cor. 1:4).

As it is with the history of our faith, these are no easy times to be a Christian anywhere in the world especially here in Nigeria. There is staggering but also verifiable evidence that Christians are today the most persecuted set of people anywhere in the world. Today, Christians are still faced with the challenges of proclaiming their Gospel in an environment that remains quite hostile to this Message. Yet, as St. Paul said to Timothy: We must preach the Gospel, welcome or unwelcome (2 Tim. 4:2).
Jesus lived and taught His followers a message that broke barriers and changed the course of human history. It was intolerable language then and it is still so today (Jn. 6:56). He message stood against everything that the world thought rational and reasonable. Imagine these texts: Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are you when men abuse and persecute you (Mt. 5:3). If you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other (Lk. 6:29). Love and pray for your enemies (Mt. 5:44). Give everyone that asks, if they steal your tunic, give them your coat (Mt. 5:40). Do not keep a record of offences, and forgive one another seventy times seven times (Mt. 18:22).

Bishop Bagobiri’s life was an effort at managing these conflicting demands in a society that had become violently opposed to both the principles of Christianity and those of natural justice. It is impossible to speak about Bishop Bagobiri without paying attention to the circumstances that provided a context for his rage, frustration and sense of moral revulsion and indignation. Like the rest of us, he had his tempers, but like Jesus, the injustice and corruption in the society exacerbated his sorrow. His frustration occurred in an environment of death, destruction and vulnerability of ordinary people. His anger had context.

Things in Southern Kaduna came to a head in the Southern Kaduna after the crisis of Zangon Kataf. Sadly, through what an author has called, the act of judicial terrorism that was the trial of General Lekwot and his kinsmen, the drift became more palpable. That trial will go down in history as one of the most gruesome abuses of judicial processes in history. In the end, true leadership failed to find lasting ways of healing our people and so our people in Kaduna became more divided both physically and psychologically. The people of Southern Kaduna took stock of their verifiable sacrifices and contribution to the development of the north and Kaduna state, their massive contribution in the civil war. They had reaped very little by way of benefits and inclusion.
Their perceived alienation and exclusion from the levers of power was palpable and clearly deliberately crafted. By the late 70s and to the 90s an array of very well educated elite had emerged across Southern Kaduna. There were thousands of eminently qualified graduates covering all fields of education. Naturally, with this quality of education, people were bound to think differently about their rights and their place in the society in which they lived.

After nearly thirty years of the creation of their state, none of them had occupied the seat of a Governor. None had qualified to represent the State as a Minister. They looked around and found a land barren of both federal and state government presence. There were no state television signals as we had to rely on Plateau State television for media coverage. There were no roads, not a single industry sited anywhere in the state. A highly educated work force became impatient with this perceived injustice to exclude them from power.

It would take a combination of President Obasanjo and Alhaji Makarfi to change the course of the history of the people of Southern Kaduna. It was in 1999 that Senator Isaiah Balat was appointed a Minister to represent Kaduna State. Even then, the key northern Muslims protested saying that Senator Balat was a Christian not a northerner. Then came the historic appointments of both Lt. Generals Martin Luther Agwai and Yusuf Luka to the positions of Chief of Army Staff and for Agwai, Chief of General Staff. When I met President Obasanjo and thanked him for this, he said to me: There is nothing to thank me for. These two gentlemen were the best, they had the best career records and so we did not do them a favour. I felt sorry for General Obasanjo because he did not seem to understand that in the eyes of the mafia, merit, excellence, competence, were tied to religion and region and that in our case, being a Christian excluded you from certain positions.
Alhaji Makarfi did for the people of Southern Kaduna what no one had had time to do for them. He created a massive infrastructure of rural roads and opened up Southern Kaduna. For that period, most of our quarrels and violence literally disappeared, thus, showing very clearly that it was government policies of exclusion that were the problem, not ordinary people. Indeed, our people have lived together and continue to do so. What we call crisis is reaction to skewed government policies and the records are very clear.

My point is that these circumstances of perceived and clear exclusion raised the volume of Bishop Bagobiri’s voice. This should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Rather, it comes with the calling. Moral revulsion leads a leader to rebellion. All you need to do is look at the prophets of old right up to John the Baptist. It was moral revulsion that led Jesus to whip the traders in the temple. It was what led Prophet Mohammed and Dan Fodio to revolt. History has not changed and nearer home we have evidence. It is the politicians who panic in the face of the uncomfortable message of a prophet. That is why John the Baptist had to die. Politicians are often fond of praising Church leaders especially when they are in opposition, in exile or are victims of state repression. Church leaders are praised for being voices of the voiceless, standing for justice, courageous etc. When things change and the opposition politician of yesterday gets to power, they expect you in their pocket. You raise the same issues and they accuse you of supporting the opposition, hating our government, standing in our way, being a danger to the nation etc. People like us know this only too well. I recalled one incident when I criticized Obasanjo in a lecture and two weeks later, I was in the Villa for a meeting. One of the Ministers saw me and said to me: You have access to Baba, so why do you have to criticize him in public? I looked at him and said: I had access to Abacha but we still had to fight for his freedom. The late Cardinal Archbishop of Recife, Helder Camara said it all: When I feed the poor, the politicians say I am doing God’s work. When I ask why the people are poor, the politicians say I am a Communist. It was the excesses of the government against the poor that drove Oscar Romero from being a rather Conservative Bishop to a radical. It is the corrosive impact of Communism and its dehumanizing influence that drove Pope John Paul to take up the cause of overthrowing Communism as the Pope. The excesses of the Marcos regime against the people of the Philippines led Cardinal Sin to take to the streets of Manila rather than remain in comfort of his Cathedral. The degrading influence of Racism on black people was what led the Rev. Martin Luther King to the streets of Alabama, New York, Washington and the entire country. In his famous, I have a Dream Speech, he said that America had failed to deliver to the black people the promises contained in their own Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He said injustice was synonymous with a bounced cheque and concluded that African Americans would never accept the idea that the bank of opportunity had insufficient funds!
What took Archbishop Tutu to the streets of South Africa and around the world? Was it not the ravages of apartheid clearly shown in the killings and destructions in Guguletu, Soweto and other South African cities? Why did Nigerians clap each time the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Communiques were read in the Churches during the Abacha era? Clearly, any religious leader that stands aside in the face of tyranny, oppression, and injustice is traitor.

For the better part of the last three years, Southern Kaduna was at best an inferno of pain, suffering and death. Death and destruction by mysterious killers became the daily menu of Southern Kaduna. In village after village, innocent men, women, children, the lame and the invalids were put to the sword. Farm after farm was destroyed with a vengeance that was unprecedented and with no clear provocations. Community life of harmony collapsed with accusations and counter accusations. Entire villages became ruins over night and the landscape of graves dotted everywhere.
Amidst this, life was gradually becoming nasty, brutish and short.

These are the circumstances that provoked a change of tone in Bishop Bagobiri. With Southern Kaduna having become one huge Bantustan of government neglect, with no media signals from the Centre, how was the world to know what was happening to his people?

Every crisis is an opportunity for the qualities of leaders for fairness and equity to be tested. It is a pity that the government of Kaduna rather than dialogue with both the traditional and religious leaders, resorted to accusations, threats and in some cases, outright blackmail. No matter the challenge, in moments of crisis, a good leader will find some backroom channels across the divide. But rather, Southern Kaduna was left to fester with the crisis cheaply presented as a conflict between Christians and Muslims. Yet, the truth is that whether you are a Muslim or Christian in Southern Kaduna, the fact remains that there are no good roads, no running water, no electricity, no factories, nothing. Yet, it was easy to divide and distract our people by creating the impression that somehow, we had a conflict between Christians and Muslims.

Perhaps, let me use this opportunity to place my own experience in context. Many people, including Bishop Bagobiri wondered why I had stayed quiet over the killings in Southern Kaduna and we spoke about these things. I told him that I had opted for a different approach to the crisis for two reasons. First, it was his territory and I believed he was the man on the spot and secondly, I thought the times called for some level of diplomacy which I believe is key to resolving conflict based on my own theoretical and practical experiences.

After Christmas last year, I decided to spend about a week in my village to get a sense of the crisis. In the course of my break, I told the Agwom Akulu that I wanted to visit the Fulani settlement in Laduga because I wanted some first hand idea of what was going on because I had never been to the place. We were very well received by the Ardo. Strange enough, while we were talking in his palace, my phone rang and it was the Sultan of Sokoto calling from Saudi Arabia. I told him where I was and he was shocked. What took you there, he asked. I put the phone on speaker and allowed him to speak to his Fulani brothers as I told him. They were all very excited to hear him. I Next, I decided to briefly visit the Chiefs of Kamantan, Bajju, Kagoro, Atyap and the Emir of Jema’a just to get a sense of the temperature. I was struck by what I heard from these traditional rulers independently. Each one of them said that they were all living in peace before the killings started and that they are working hard to ensure that the Fulanis remain because this is home for them. Not one single traditional ruler in Southern Kaduna told me that he had a problem with any Fulani man. I sat with the Emir of Jema’a, asked him if he felt vulnerable, being surrounded by others different from him but he told me clearly that he was happy and had no problems with anyone.

I returned to Sokoto and armed with this information, I decided to approach General Abdusalam, the Chairman of the National Peace Committee of which I am the Convener. I tried to convince him about the urgency of the Peace Committee stepping into Southern Kaduna. We spoke to the Sultan, Cardinal and other members and everyone believed that a visit to Southern Kaduna would be important. General Abdusalam undertook to seek an appointment with the Governor and finally led a delegation of the Peace Committee to a meeting with the Governor. We wanted to hear from the Governor. Essentially, the thrust of his comment was the fact that he was determined to end impunity and that for years, people had got away with so much. I was taken aback by his combative mood and worried if he really and truly understood the issues.
I had already got the General Abdusalam to agree that after seeing the Governor, we would go into Southern Kaduna and he agreed. So, I followed up with meetings with a cross section of traditional rulers from Southern Kaduna to prepare the ground for the visit by the Committee. They were quite enthusiastic and the State Government gave us the necessary co-operation. Before the meeting, I went to the Emir of Jema’a again and asked him where he felt he would want the meeting to take place. He told me it really did not matter to him but that their meetings as traditional rulers were often held in the palace of the Chief of Kagoro who is their Senior. I asked him if he would be comfortable with the meeting holding there and he said yes. We did hold the meeting and he attended. It was a great meeting. Next, we went on to Kafanchan same day and met with a cross section of leaders from Civil Society groups, CAN, JNI, etc. Everyone was quite delighted and offered very useful suggestions.

The NPC returned to Abuja, appraised its experiences and submitted a written report to the Governor. After over one year, later, the NPC received no official response from the State Government. It would not have been necessary to make this case but for the fact that there is need to set the records straight and respond to the allegations made by the Governor against religious and traditional leaders to the effect that they were somehow part of the problem. He may be right but the evidence before me leads to a different conclusion.
In his television programme on Channels Television during the crisis, the Governor of Kaduna State leveled two accusations against religious leaders whom he accused of selling a narrative what he called, a policy of exclusion. According to him, in his own words, these religious leaders wanted only people of a particular indigenous or religious group to live in parts of Southern Kaduna. Secondly, he said that some Church leaders had collected money from missionaries abroad to bury their dead and to rebuild thousands of Churches that had been destroyed. I am not sure which religious leaders he was speaking of, but at least the two most prominent religious leaders in Southern Kaduna would be Bishop Bagobiri and the Emir of Jema’a. It is interesting that when the interviewer pressed the Governor for evidence on the grave and damaging allegations he had made against these leaders, he seemed rattled and simply said the security agencies were gathering the information and that people will soon be prosecuted. Elections are coming and still we have not commenced prosecution.
As I have said encounter and experience with both the Emir of Jema’a and Bishop Bagobiri led me to a totally different conclusion. The Emir of Jema’a called me a day after Bishop Bagobiri died. I was struck by the fact that rather than condole with me, he spoke of the loss of our dear brother, a good man, a friend and so on. It was a common loss for us. Southern Kaduna had been tensed and volatile, but I do know that both men had worked closely and were pained by the unnecessary losses of lives, violence and destruction. They deserved commendation not condemnation.
By his own admission, the Governor says that a thousand churches had been destroyed in Southern Kaduna and that people had lost their lives. His one grouse was that these leaders were collecting money from good wishers abroad to bury their people. This was a clear case of self-indictment by the Governor. First, did he expect that the people of Southern Kaduna would wait for him to come and supervise the mass burials of their people after burying the Shiites in mass graves? By casting aspersion on missionary assistance, the Governor betrays a troubling ignorance of the causes of the crises we have faced.

The work of missionaries may be a problem for him today, but for the people of Southern Kaduna, the message of Christ is steeped in their blood. Without the missionaries, they would be no better than slaves, mere beasts of burden. Without the missionaries, the history of northern Nigeria would pathetic and the region would still be in the dark ages. We in Southern Kaduna are proud of our Christian heritage. We will live by it, die for it if need be, but we are going nowhere. We are free citizens and not in bondage to anyone or institution.
We are proud of the freedom they gave us. They gave us a message of liberation, voice and the promise of a new life. The people of Southern Kaduna have embraced this gospel with its promise of a full life. There is neither retreat nor surrender because this is the faith of our fathers. It is given us the tools, the courage and the confidence we require to take our rightful place in our society.
Apart from the Barewa College, which other prominent institution in Kaduna state does not owe its origin to the missionaries? All the so-called Government schools in Kaduna State are products of the criminal and unjust take over of missionary schools by government. Sample the list of these schools: St. John’s College Kaduna, St. Paul’s, Wusasa, St. Enda’s Teachers’ College, Zaria, Mary’s College Fadan Kaje, St. Louis, Zonkwa, Sacred Heart Women Teachers’ College,
Kaduna, St. Anne’s Primary School, Queen of Apostles College, Kaduna, College of Mary Immaculate, Kafanchan, the ECWA Girls School in Kwoi, among many others. That you have repainted a stolen car does not make it your own.

Let me return to the issues of the day and try to end. Our country is in very serious crisis, the type of which we have never seen before. Death, destruction and destitution have become our lot and nowhere is this more expressed than in northern Nigeria. Today, Boko Haram and the herdsmen and farmers clashes are phenomena that are peculiar to the north and Islam. We cannot run away from this. It is sad that the northern Muslim elite has used religion to hold on to power to the detriment of even their own people and the larger society. For despite holding power for all these years, the north is still the poorest part of the country, nearly 15m Muslim children are on the streets with no future in sight, we are, as the Governor of Borno would say, the poster child of poverty.
The world is changing and we have a country to build. Even Usman Dan Fodio said that a society can live with unbelief, but no nation can survive with injustice.

Bishop Bagobiri lived at a time when clearly, the foundation of unity and justice in Kaduna in particular and Nigeria in general seemed threatened. At Christmas last year, he appealed to his people to remain firm. He said in a message on December 24th, 2017: Despite the many constraints in the area of security; the growing debilitating poverty; un-precedent corruption and the piles of lies being bombarded on us daily, the word of the Lord exhorts to be consoled and remain steadfast for the Lord’s visitation has come. As it is said, luxury and lies have huge maintenance cost, but truth and simplicity are self maintained without any cost. We should be consoled for Christ has visited his people. God in Christ is born to us in Nigeria today. Nigeria would be renewed from its current decay and recapture its lost glory again.

No religious leader worth his salt can stand by in the face of visible injustice. It will be a mortal sin. In 1878, Abraham Lincoln delivered what has come to be known as the house divided speech. America was on the verge of breaking up and he insisted that this must not happen. He said: I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
The people of Southern Kaduna have suffered the injustice of deliberate exclusion from all the rungs of local and national politics. They have got to where they are now by the sweat of their brow. We do not ask for pity or sympathy from anyone. We have come so far, not through the state but in spite of the state in northern Nigeria. That is why, as you leave this stadium, whether you are going to Abuja, Jos, or Kaduna, please look left and right and note if you will see one single federal or major State government structure on the high way. All the structures you see as you drive along are the result of the sweat from the brow of our people. The federal and state governments are absent.
Bishop Bagobiri was in the middle of all this. He was a great pastor, a builder of human capital. He took over a very rural Diocese with 19 Parishes drawn from Jos and Kaduna Archdioceses. Today, he has 53 Parishes and about 120 Priests. Today, he has some of the best-trained priests in Nigeria and abroad. It is time for them to step up to make the required sacrifice to sustain his legacy. He made his contribution in the development of Southern Kaduna by trying to close the gap left by the neglect of the state and federal governments. He founded a Female Religious Congregation, a Monastery and a Tertiary institution, the St. Albert Institute. He deserves our appreciation and commendation. In real life, he had difficulties with many people including his colleagues. He was a man of strong convictions and very often, his convictions tended to blind him to other opinions, but he was deep down an honest man. But, at heart, he was perhaps a victim of his own convictions and honesty. Thankfully, he had the chance to make peace with most of the constituencies he felt he had wronged. We sat beside one another when he suddenly turned up at the last Bishops’ Conference.

We thank God that it all ended so well for him.

Special Report: ‘Treacherous shenanigans’ – The inside story of Mugabe’s downfall

 

Inside State House in Harare, Robert Mugabe was in the tightest spot of his 37-year rule. Tanks were on the streets and troops had occupied the state broadcaster, from where the army had announced it had taken control of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, 93 years old but still alert, remained defiant. The only leader the country had known since independence was refusing to quit.

At a tense meeting with his military top brass on Nov. 16, the world’s oldest head of state put his foot down: “Bring me the constitution and tell me what it says,” he ordered military chief Constantino Chiwenga, according to two sources present.

An aide brought a copy of the constitution, which lays out that the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Chiwenga, dressed in camouflage fatigues, hesitated before replying that Zimbabwe was facing a national crisis that demanded military intervention.

Mugabe retorted that the army was the problem, according to the sources present. Then the beleaguered president indicated that perhaps they could find a solution together.

The meeting marked the start of an extraordinary five-day standoff between Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s supreme law on one side, and the military, his party and Zimbabwe’s people on the other.

The generals wanted Mugabe to go, but they also wanted a peaceful “coup,” one that would not irreparably tarnish the administration aiming to take over, according to multiple military and political sources.

The president finally accepted defeat only after he was sacked by his own ZANU-PF party and faced the ignominy of impeachment. He signed a short letter of resignation to parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda that was read out to lawmakers on Nov. 21.

Mugabe, who had run Zimbabwe since 1980 and overseen its descent into economic ruin while his wife shopped for luxury goods, was gone.

The country erupted into ecstasy. Parliamentarians danced and people poured onto the streets in their tens of thousands to celebrate a political downfall that sent shockwaves across Africa and the world.

To many, the end of Mugabe had been unthinkable only one week before.

Reuters has pieced together the events leading up to Mugabe’s removal, showing that the army’s action was the culmination of months of planning that stretched from Harare to Johannesburg to Beijing.

BITTER RIVALRY

Drawing on a trove of intelligence documents from within Mugabe’s feared Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), Reuters reported in September that the army was backing Emmerson Mnangagwa, then vice president, to succeed Mugabe when the time came.

The report detailed how Mnangagwa, a lifelong friend and former security chief of Mugabe, might cooperate with Mugabe’s political foes in order to revive the economy. It caused furore in Zimbabwe’s media and political circles.

Bitter rivalry intensified between Mnangagwa and Grace, Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife, who also hoped to take over as president and had the backing of a ZANU-PF faction known as G40.

Emmerson Mnangagwa

In early October, Mnangagwa said he had been airlifted to hospital in South Africa after a poisoning attempt in August. He pointed no fingers – but he didn’t need to.

Grace’s swift response was to deny it and accuse her rival of seeking sympathy; she belittled him as nothing but an employee of her husband, according to a report in the state-run Herald newspaper.

As the pressure built, Mugabe became increasingly paranoid about the loyalty of army chief Chiwenga, a career soldier and decorated veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s bush-war against white-minority rule.

Mugabe’s spies, who permeated every institution and section of society in Zimbabwe, were warning him the military would not accept Grace as president.

“Mugabe is very worried of a coup,” one intelligence report, dated Oct. 23, said. “Mugabe was openly told by senior CIOs that the military is not going to easily accept the appointment of Grace. He was warned to be ready for civil war.”

Reuters reviewed the document, and hundreds of other intelligence reports dating back to 2009, before the coup took place. The documents come from within the CIO, but Reuters could not determine for whom they were written. The CIO is split into factions, some pro- and some anti-Mugabe.

In late October, Mugabe summoned Chiwenga to a showdown, according to another of the documents, dated Oct. 30. It said Mugabe confronted the army chief about his ties to Mnangagwa and told him that going against Grace would cost him his life.

“Chiwenga was warned by Mugabe that it is high time for him to start following. He mentioned to Chiwenga that those fighting his wife are bound to die a painful death,” the intelligence report said.

At the same meeting, Mugabe also ordered Chiwenga to pledge allegiance to Grace. He refused.

“Chiwengwa refused to be intimidated. He stood his ground over his loyalty to Mnangagwa,” the report said.

Reuters put questions about this exchange and other aspects of this article to Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba. In an enigmatic text message dated Nov. 23, he replied: “Enjoy Reuters copy. Goodnight.”

Two spokesmen for Chiwenga declined to comment.

After another tense meeting with Mugabe on Nov. 5, Chiwenga left Harare on a pre-arranged official trip and traveled to China, which wields significant influence as a major investor in Zimbabwe.

A day later, Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa as vice president and purged him from ZANU-PF, the liberation movement that Mnangagwa had served since his youth and for which, as a young militant caught bombing a train, he had nearly been executed.

For the generals, Mugabe had gone too far. The military immediately activated a “Code Red” alert, its highest level of preparedness, a military source said.

ASSASSINATION PLOT

Moments after Mnangagwa was ousted on Nov. 6, the security details assigned to him and his house were withdrawn, according to a statement he issued later. He was told his life was in danger.

“Security personnel, who are friendly to me, warned me that plans were underfoot to eliminate me once arrested and taken to a police station,” Mnangagwa said in a Nov. 21 statement. “It was in my security interest to leave the country immediately.”

From Harare, he managed to escape over the border into neighboring Mozambique, where he caught a plane to China, according to one source familiar with his movements. There he met up with Chiwenga, the source said.

Reuters could not confirm the account; but an intelligence report from Nov. 13 indicates that Mugabe suspected some of his generals of preparing to overthrow him from China.

“A number of generals are now in China ready to plot Mugabe’s ouster with Mnangagwa,” the report said. It was not clear which generals, and whether their travel to China was authorized.

Mugabe’s spies suspected old allies had turned against the aging president. An intelligence report, dated Oct. 30, said Beijing and Moscow both supported regime change out of frustration at Zimbabwe’s economic implosion under Mugabe.

“China and Russia are after change,” the report said. “They are after change within ZANU-PF as they are sick and tired of Mugabe’s leadership.”

“The two countries are even ready to clandestinely supply arms of war to Mnangagwa to fight Mugabe.”

Neither China’s Defense Ministry nor Foreign Ministry responded to a request for comment. The Foreign Ministry had previously said Chiwenga’s visit was “a normal military exchange mutually agreed upon by China and Zimbabwe.”

Reuters sent written requests for comment to the Kremlin, the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry. None of them responded.

China has long taken an interest in Zimbabwe, having supported Mugabe’s forces during the liberation struggle. After independence it developed connections there in mining, security and construction.

Russia has also had ties to Zimbabwe since the early 1980s, and in 2014 a Russian consortium entered into a partnership to develop a $3 billion platinum mining project in the country.

Chiwenga’s trip to China culminated in him meeting Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan in Beijing on Nov. 10.

Two sources with knowledge of the talks told Reuters that Chiwenga asked if China would agree not to interfere if he took temporary control in Zimbabwe to remove Mugabe from power. Chang assured him Beijing would not get involved and the two also discussed tactics that might be employed during the de facto coup, the sources said.

Reuters could not establish whether Mnangagwa met Chang.

Having got wind of the talks in China, Mugabe summoned his still-loyal police commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, and his deputy, Innocent Matibiri, to detain Chiwenga on his return to Harare, government and security sources said.

The pair assembled a squad of 100 police and intelligence agents. But the plot leaked and Chiwenga supporters managed to pull together a counter-team of several hundred special forces soldiers and agents as their commander’s plane approached.

Some were disguised as baggage handlers, their military fatigues and weapons hidden beneath high-visibility jackets and overalls, one security source said.

Realizing they were outnumbered and outgunned, Chihuri’s police team backed down, allowing Chiwenga to touch down without incident, the security source said.

Mugabe’s spokesman did not comment on the incident.

“VERY ALARMED”

Two days later, Chiwenga and a group of military commanders demanded a meeting with Mugabe at his official State House residence in Harare, an ornate colonial villa complete with stuffed leopards and thick red carpets, according to a government source.

They said they were “very alarmed” at the firing of Mnangagwa and told Mugabe to rein in his wife and her G40 faction, whom they accused of trying to divide the military, according to the government official, who was present at the discussions.

“What do you think should be done?” Mugabe demanded of the soldiers as he sat slumped in an armchair.

The generals asked him to give assurances that they too would not be purged. Mugabe’s response was lukewarm, the government source said. Chiwenga told Mugabe he would be making his concerns about the G40 faction public.

Hours later, Chiwenga summoned reporters to the military’s main barracks near Harare to issue a statement.

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” he said, reading from a prepared text.

The following afternoon, Reuters reported six armored personnel carriers heading towards the headquarters of Mugabe’s Presidential Guard on the outskirts of Harare. It was unclear whose command they were under.

Gen. Constantino Chiwenga.

At the time, the city’s residents were on edge but still unsure what it all meant.

THE LINE WENT DEAD

At around 6 p.m. on Nov. 14, Mugabe’s motorcade headed to his private “Blue Roof” residence, a heavily fortified compound in the capital’s leafy northern suburb of Borrowdale.

Meanwhile, social media buzzed with pictures of armored vehicles driving along roads to Harare, sparking frenzied speculation about a coup.

Increasingly concerned, Grace put in a call shortly after 7 p.m. to a cabinet minister asking to get WhatsApp and Twitter shut down, according to one source familiar with a recording of the conversation.

The minister, whose identity Reuters is withholding for safety reasons, replied that such a move was the responsibility of state security minister Kembo Mohadi.

“No-one will stand for a coup. It cannot happen,” said Grace, commonly referred to as Amai, which means Mother, according to a source who heard the recording.

Mugabe’s voice is then heard on the line: “As you have heard from Amai, is there anything that can be done?”

The minister gave the same response, about the responsibilities of state security, and the line went dead, the source said.

Mohadi declined to comment.

Two hours later, two armored vehicles rolled into the Pockets Hill headquarters of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), according to ZBC sources.

Dozens of soldiers sealed off the site and stormed into the studios where they accosted staff, snatching their phones and halting programs. State-owned ZBC, widely seen as a mouthpiece for Mugabe, switched to broadcasting pop music videos.

Mugabe’s inner circle, nearly all of them G40 loyalists, had no idea what was under way, according to four sources familiar with their conversations.

Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo called Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi to ask if he had any information about a possible coup. Sekeramayi said no, but tried to check with military chief Chiwenga.

Chiwenga told Sekeramayi he would get back to him. According to the sources, Chiwenga never did.

Moyo remains in hiding and was unavailable for comment. Sekeramayi declined to comment.

SECURITY DETAIL

As ministers in the G40 faction tried frantically to work out what was going on, Chiwenga’s men closed in on Mugabe’s compound.

According to a source briefed on the situation, Albert Ngulube, a CIO director and head of Mugabe’s security detail, was driving home around 9.30 p.m. after visiting Mugabe. He met an armored car on Borrowdale Brooke, a side road leading to Mugabe’s house.

When Ngulube confronted the soldiers and threatened to shoot them, they beat him up and detained him, the source said. Ngulube was later released, but had suffered head and facial injuries, the source added.

Spokesmen for Chiwenga and Mnangagwa declined to comment. Reuters was unable to contact Ngulube.

Other G40 ministers were also picked up by soldiers. Finance minister Ignatius Chombo was found hiding in a toilet at his house and beaten before being detained at an undisclosed location for more than a week.

On his release on Nov. 24, he was hospitalized with injuries to his hands, legs and back, his lawyer told Reuters, describing the army’s behavior as “brutal and draconian.”

Soldiers used explosives to blow the front door off the house of Jonathan Moyo, the main brains behind G40, according to video footage of the house seen by Reuters. Others burst through the front gates of the residence of local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, another key Grace supporter.

Both men managed to escape to Mugabe’s residence. Contacted by Reuters shortly after midnight in the early hours of Nov. 15, Kasukuwere was audibly stressed. “I can’t talk. I‘m in a meeting,” he said, before hanging up.

For another week, Mugabe clung on to the presidency as Chiwenga and his forces tried to engineer a peaceful, and quasi-legal, exit for the long-serving leader.

But as parliament began impeachment proceedings on Nov. 21, Mugabe finally gave up. After 37 years in control, during which much of his country fell into poverty, his letter of resignation said he was stepping down out of “concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Olaudah Equiano: Seven things you need to know about today’s Google doodle

The latest Google’s Doodle celebrates one of the most prominent Black anti-slavery activist, the first Black political leader and lobbyist in 18th century Britain. October 16th marked what would have been the 272nd birthday of Olaudah Equiano (1746-1797).

A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s homepage that is intended to celebrate holidays, events, achievements and people.

Equiano’s famous autobiography gave detailed insights and first-hand account of the slave trade era where Africans were densely packed onto ships and transported across the Atlantic to the West Indies.

HIS ORIGIN

 

Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavus Vassa was born on 16 October 1746 in Southern Nigeria (later in life his place of birth was given as South Carolina, confusing the issue somewhat).

According to Equiano, slave traders abducted him and his sister at the age of 11 and shipped them to Barbados with 244 other captives before they were moved to Virginia (at that point still a British colony).

In Virginia, Equiano was sold to Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who renamed him ‘Gustavus Vassa’ after the 16th-century Swedish king.

Equiano was renamed twice, he was called Michael while onboard the slave ship that brought him to America; and Jacob, by his first owner.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Equiano’s period as a slave involved working on a plantation in Virginia. He drew on personal experiences in the Caribbean to convey the harshness of plantation life in his writing.

“These overseers are indeed for the most part persons of the worst character of any denomination of men in the West Indies. Unfortunately, many humane gentlemen, by not residing on their estates, are obliged to leave the management of them in the hands of these human butchers, who cut and mangle the slaves in a shocking manner on the most trifling occasions, and altogether treat them in every respect like brutes.”

From here he was bought by a Royal Navy captain, Captain Pascal, after a Swedish noble who had become a king. He spent a lot of time at sea serving Pascal, including the Seven Years’ War with France where he worked as a valet and hauled gunpowder to the gun decks.

Upon his return to England, Pascal brought Equiano with him to London. Equiano spent his time here living with the Guerin sisters, relatives of Pascal, who resided in Blackheath at 111 Maze Hill.

It was here that he learnt how to read and write and improve his English.

After his time with Pascal, Equiano was sold to Captain James Doran who took him back to the Caribbean to Montserrat, where he was sold to Robert King, a successful merchant.

Equiano’s first London address, 111 Maze Hill

HIS FREEDOM

Robert King was Equiano’s last master. King had allowed him to trade in small amounts of goods on his own account while working on trading vessels in the Caribbean and North America. Equiano sold fruits, glass tumblers and other items until he was able to buy his own freedom for £40 in 1767.

Although King asked Equiano to stay on and work with him as a business partner now that he was a free man, he decided that it was too dangerous to remain; and indeed narrowly escaped being kidnapped back into a life of slavery.

Equiano became a free man in 1767. Like many free Black men, he moved to Britain to work as a sailor in the Royal Navy and on commercial vessels. His travels took him all over the world, including to the Arctic in an attempt to reach the North Pole as a member of the Phipps expedition of 1773, and to New York and Philadelphia.

LIFE AS A FREEMAN

Equiano eventually settled in London, where he’d been baptized earlier in his life at St Margaret’s Westminster, in 1759.

With first-hand experience of life as a slave, Equiano became friends with and supported many people involved in the abolitionist movement, the movement to end the slave trade. Some of his abolitionist friends encouraged him to tell his life story, and thus the idea of his autobiography was formed.

ABOLITIONIST WORK

Equiano’s autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, was published in 1789. It became a bestseller and was translated into many languages, going through eight editions in his lifetime. He travelled around Britain and Ireland giving lectures, and advancing the abolitionist cause by giving voice to the horrors of slavery.

Equiano was foremost in a group of men and women who were publishing in English and introducing the British public to African thought for the first time. His autobiography was the first influential work in what became the slave narrative genre, which included written accounts of enslaved Africans in Great Britain and its colonies.

WORK

Olaudah Equiano became the country’s first Black civil servant In 1786 when he served as a commissary on a project which sought to remove hundreds of poor Black people from London to Sierra Leone.

“I was sensible of the invisible hand of God, which guided and protected me when in truth I knew it not: still the Lord pursued me although I slighted and disregarded it; this mercy melted me down. When I considered my poor wretched state I wept, seeing what a great debtor I was to sovereign free grace. Now the Ethiopian was willing to be saved by Jesus Christ, the sinner’s only surety, and also to rely on none other person or thing for salvation.”

FAMILY LIFE AND LEGACY

Equiano married a British woman, Susan Cullen in 1792, at a Soham church. They had two children, Anna Maria and Joanna.

Of their two daughters only Joanna survived to adulthood and at the age of 21, she inherited £950 from her father’s estate. She married the Congregational minister Henry Bromley in 1821. They had no children. Joanna died in 1857.

Equiano continued to promote the antislavery cause throughout the British Isles until his death in March 1797. The location of his burial is undocumented.

Gustavus Vassa’s marriage certificate

In the case that Joanna did not survive until the age of 21, he had bequeathed half his wealth to the Sierra Leone Company to continue its work assisting West Africans, and a half to the London Missionary Society, which promoted education overseas.

Reaction to Femi Fani Kayode’s Fulani theory

A PERSON BY THE NAME OF ‘OMNIA 1’ WROTE THE FOLLOWING ON THE VANGAURD NEWSPAPER THREAD OF MY LAST ESSAY TITLED “THE MARCH OF THE ETHNIC NATIONALISTS AND A FRIENDLY WARNING TO THE BRITISH AND FRENCH AMBASSADORS” (PART 1).
I DO NOT KNOW THE AUTHOR OR HIS/HER REAL NAME BUT I WAS IMPRESSED BY HIS/HER CONTRIBUTION AND FOUND IT TO BE VERY INSIGHTFUL.

CONSEQUENTLY I CHOSE TO LIFT IT FROM THE THREAD AND SHARE IT HERE. ENJOY…..

“Even if you do not like the messenger (in this case FFK), you ought to listen carefully to the message.

The disruptive power of the Hausa-Fulani cabal is a structural reality and will only get worse, no matter where the President of Nigeria comes from. It is a seven-fold yoke which we must break for the sake of our children. I HAVE SUMMARIZED THIS SEVEN-FOLD YOKE. PLEASE, STUDY IT AND REFLECT ON IT!

1. THE POLITICAL YOKE: Globally, out of the 16 Federal Republics in the world, Nigeria is the only federation where land mass is used as a primary criteria for creating federating units.

NO Southern leader (civilian or military) has ever had the guts to create any federating unit; all the federating units have been created by Northern military adventurers. 20 federating units were created from only one region (North), while 17 federating units were created from 3 regions (East, West & Midwest).

Competent leaders are easily filtered off by the rigged political structure. At every election, the evil and corrupt Northern cabal needs only a few Southern collaborators to impose any presidential candidate upon the two foremost political parties, only for the electorate to formalize one of the candidates with votes.

That’s why Nigeria has been having such mediocre leaders as OBJ, UMY, GEJ, and now PMB as president, in a country awash with extremely capable presidential materials.

This also explains why since 1960 no Southerner has ever led Nigeria except by accident. (The FIRST comings of ALL 3 Southern leaders – Ironsi in 1966, OBJ in 1976 & GEJ in 2010 – followed the death of Northern incumbents!).

For 2019 the presidential contest is being set for Atiku (Mr. Corruption) vs Buhari (Mr. Tribal Bigotry) – two Fulani representatives of the Cabal.

2. THE ECONOMIC YOKE: Nigeria is the only oil-producing country where oil wells are allocated to individuals. The Hausa-Fulani cabal allocated over 80% of the oil blocks either to the Northerners or to their Southern fronts/allies. The names of these oil block allotees is in the public domain.

3. THE RELIGIOUS YOKE: No other faith is mentioned in the Nigerian Constitution, except Islam. For instance, in the 1999 Constitution, Christ, Christians and Christianity are not mentioned even once; whereas Islamic signposts are strewn all over the Constitution –
Sharia is mentioned 73 times, Grand Khadi 54 times, Islam 28 times , Muslims 10 times, etc. That Constitution was written SOLELY by one Muslim Fulani Jihadist named Prof. Auwalu Yadudu (Special Adviser to Abacha on Constitutional Matters). While the 1979 Constitution emphasized Nigeria’s secularity, the 1999 Constitution of Yadudu is a de facto Islamic Constitution, and the Cabal ensured that Yadudu was there to fight that position at 2014 National Political Conference.

Subsequently, during OBJ’s govt, the same Northern cabal formally adopted Islam as the State Religion in the core Northern States. OBJ refused to even discuss the issue, except to state that it would ‘fizzle out’ (he knew fully well that it would not ‘fizzle out’ but was afraid of confronting the cabal).

4. THE CULTURAL YOKE: The Sultanate forms a major pillar of the Hausa-Fulani cabal. As Permanent President-General of NSCIA the Sultan is the permanent leader of all Muslims in Nigeria (whether they are Northerners or Southerners). As the Permanent Chairman of NCTRN the Sultan is the permanent leader of all traditional rulers in all 36 States of Nigeria & Abuja. (By the way, the current Sultan was the Brigadier-General Commanding 241 Recce Battalion Kaduna).

Many public policies are determined only with the tacit approval of the Sultanate of Sokoto and the Emirates. For instance, when the gender Bill was introduced in the National Assembly, the Sultan ‘killed’ the Bill simply by criticizing it publicly. Even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (the world’s most revered monarch) would never criticize Parliament publicly, because that would be an abuse of royal privilege.

5. THE ADMINISTRATIVE YOKE: Nigeria is the only African country that built a new capital from scratch (using resources from the oppressed, deprived and degraded Niger Delta/SE).

The Cabal claimed that the location of Lagos by the ocean was a security risk, but this was just an excuse to Northernize national public service. A careful look at the map of Africa shows that only 2 nations have central capitals. The most common location for African capitals is at the coast.

London (UK) is situated at the edge of England on the River Thames. Washington DC (USA) is located along the Potomac River on the East Coast of USA. Paris (France) is located at the edge of France in the north-bending arc of the river Seine.

When Lagos was capital the governors of Lagos State were from East, West and North. Since the Capital moved to Abuja, NO Nigerian leader has ever had the guts to appoint a Southerner as substantive FCT Minister. The FCT Minister must be a Northerner, preferably a Muslim (the current FCT Minister was appointed while he was ES of Hajj Commission).

6. THE DIPLOMATIC YOKE: Any Christian leader who questions Nigeria’s membership of the two main international Sharia-driven bodies (OIC & D-8) faces the wrath of the Hausa-Fulani Cabal. So far, only Cdr Ebitu Ukiwe has ever had the guts to seriously question Nigeria’s involvement in these Islamic bodies and as a result Ukiwe was summarily dismissed from office.

7. THE MILITARY/SECURITY YOKE: Nigeria is the only federation in the world where all MAJOR security agencies are headed by only one section of the federation.
(Army – North; NSA – North; Defence – North; Airforce – North; Police – North; SCDC – North; DSS – North; NIS – North; NIP – North; FRSC – North; Customs – North; Defence Staff – North; NIA – South; Fire Service – North; NEMA – North; and If you consider the Ports as important to Security of the country – North).

No southerner has been made substantive Comptroller General of Customs in 30 years. Even with all his braggadocio, OBJ dared not break the jinx in all his
years as Nigeria’s President.

The above multi-faceted enslavement to the Hausa-Fulani Cabal is not an accident. Read the book by Harold Wilson which clearly states how and why the British laid the foundation for the Hausa-Fulani hegemony in Nigeria.

The principle guiding the Cabal was clearly set forth by the cabal’s patron saint, Sir Ahmadu Bello who said to the media:

“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and NEVER ALLOW THEM TO RULE OVER US and NEVER ALLOW THEM TO HAVE CONTROL OVER THEIR OWN FUTURE.” – (The Parrot Newspaper, October 12, 1960).

Freedom from the Cabal is NOT about “North versus South”. In fact, the greatest victims of the Northern cabal are the Northern masses themselves. The struggle entails “Northern Cabal versus All of Lovers of Freedom”.

Nigeria is structurally unworkable and MUST EITHER BE RESTRUCTURED OR BROKEN. The Hausa-Fulani cabal will resist this with their blood, but there is no other way out of the enslavement for us and our children. We cannot continue ‘suffering and smiling’ in un-restructured zooNigeria.

”I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” – Harriet Tubman” – OMNIA 1

CONCLUDED.

 

FEATURES
Bamaiyi is an evil liar, he tortured MKO before his death — Col. Ajayi

Col. Gabriel Ajayi, one of the military officers roped in by former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, in the 1995 phantom coup tells BAYO AKINLOYE that Bamaiyi is a snake in the grass.

When did you join the Nigerian Army?

I joined the Nigerian Army on June 27, 1971. I was part of the Regular Course Number 10 of the Nigerian Defence Academy.
What was the first brush you had with the military authorities as a soldier?

Let me state that before I went to the NDA, I had already made up my mind – because I had two and a half years experience in the newspaper industry and I undertook a lot of things knowing that I was academically better than my colleagues. I was far ahead of them in perception and in understanding of everything that was going on in Nigeria and beyond. In Kaduna, there was a time we went for a road march, and we were singing that we were Kaduna soldiers – that was in 1971. So, when we came back, I and two other cadets wondered whether we were actually Kaduna soldiers. We were supposed to be cadets for the Nigerian Defence Academy. We sought audience with the then Lt. Col. Solomon Omojoku, who was an instructor in the academy. But he was busy. We therefore went ahead to see the chief instructor, Lt. Col. Pius Eromobo. In response to our observation, he sent us away regarding us as unserious fellows who had nothing to do. Something else happened while I was in Ibadan – the heartland of Yorubaland. During a conference, soldiers began speaking Hausa. Then, I queried the switch from English to Hausa. My punishment was 15 days in detention.

In Nigeria, we have two armies: the army of the North and the army of the South. The army of the North was peaceful, friendly and was like a family and there were no intrigues or scheming. We had a great relationship with civilians unlike what obtained down South where soldiers will get into public transport without paying, harass the public and even brutalise them. It is only in Lagos that all the coup plotters are settled. There was such a wide difference between us (soldiers) who were serving in the North and soldiers serving in the South. I do not know if things have changed now. Ninety-five per cent of my career was spent in the North. I can only remember a clash between civilians and soldiers in Kano; and the soldiers were punished by the military authorities for that – everybody in the brigade in Kano, including the commander.

How will you describe Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi?

It is not in my character to impugn the sanctity of senior military officers because we worship people like that in the military. Unfortunately, when a senior officer descends into the sewage tank, the officer cannot expect to smell of perfume. I am not obliged to speak derogatorily about Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi but he is a devious person. He is a fraud. For example, see how he bit the fingers that fed him; that is, Gen. Oladipo Diya. It was Diya that single-handedly appointed him as Chief of Army Staff during the Gen. Sani Abacha regime. Bamaiyi is slippery and treacherous; he had no permanent friends and had no sense of loyalty. He lived by the day. Everybody was his enemy and everybody was his friend as the need arose. He was clever by half. This is a man who wrote a perfect confidential report about me and two weeks later, he put my name on the list of officers planning to overthrow the government of Abacha.

I still have a copy of the report he wrote concerning me, describing me as a distinguished Nigerian; worthy officer and two weeks later, he withdrew the letter from where it was kept. He is not a dependable master. He is an unprofitable master. He is very clever and mean. If I tell you the bad comments that Bamaiyi used to make about the Yoruba, you’ll be shocked, but I do not want to offend my friends in the North. He did not deserve to be given a commission in the Army; giving him such was a misnomer. This is someone whom I attended church service with regularly and we ate Holy Communion together. He was supposed to pray for me. He lied in his book that he didn’t know about plan to arrest me but two days to the arrest, he changed the guards in my house.

He would send officers to me, to speak ill of him, trying to entrap me. Instead of condemning him, I would implore them to respect Bamaiyi, that the commander is always right. I knew what he could be up to. He also knew my stance as far as June 12, 1993 presidential election was concerned; he knew my stance as far as discipline in the army was concerned; and he knew my stance as far as military involvement in political issues was concerned. He knew my stance on God. I have never wavered in all that. I am a book freak; I have one of the largest libraries in the Nigerian Army and I have kept a library since 1971. They looted that library. Bamaiyi is an unreliable character. He is very evil. He never read the Bible until he was sent to prison. This is somebody who said there was no God.

How did you become so close to a man you didn’t fancy that much?

I was the President of St. Luke Military Church. He was my church member but he was also my commander. A soldier would still obey his superior and he asked for my opinion about things. Being the president of the church did not affect my work. He wanted to remove me but couldn’t because of the way I conducted myself. Other soldiers warned me to be careful of my association with him, that he could spoil my career. He told me himself that he is a snake in the grass. Bamaiyi said he is more terrible than his brother contrary to what people think. And, he is right; I have known his brother since 1974. He taught me in Nigeria Military College. I was second-lieutenant, he was a lieutenant. He taught me again in Nigerian Army Infantry; I was a captain, he was a major. Then, he was my deputy commandant and I was a training commandant in Zaria. So, I know the older brother very well. I extended the love I had for the senior brother to Ishaya Bamaiyi while serving under him.

What can you say about Gen. Bamaiyi’s book?

His published book is a comedy of errors. I will call it a fictional thriller. It should be titled, ‘The platform of Mallam Bamaiyi’. Just look at him: he spoilt the name of his government and the name of his superiors. He blackmailed as many people as possible. A true general should be dispassionate and diplomatic. He damaged the career of so many fine military officers. Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju replied him that he was lying in his book. Everybody knows he is a liar. The military knew he was a liar. How he was made to become Chief of Army Staff was a mystery to all the officers – it was Gen. Diya, a distinguished military officer, who chose Bamaiyi; even Abacha didn’t want him. I guess Diya didn’t know him very well. I had thought that Bamaiyi would apologise to Nigerians on behalf of the Abacha regime and ask for forgiveness rather than spew falsehood in his book. His book is full of lies.

What about his view as stated in the book that MKO Abiola died under controversial circumstances in the custody of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar?

Don’t mind him. At the Oputa Panel, Gen. Sabo alleged that when Abacha died Bamaiyi said the military should ‘equal the equation’. How could he claim that Gen. Abdulsalami should be held accountable for Abiola’s death when he was among those who tortured Abiola before his death? Bamaiyi was behind many evils done under Abacha. Compared to Bamaiyi, Abacha was a nice man. Bamaiyi’s aim through his book is to pit the Yoruba against Gen. Abdulsalami. What love does Bamaiyi have for the Yoruba to be concerned about the death of Abiola? Don’t mind him; he’s a liar.

How were you involved in the alleged coup of 1995?

Let me tell you something about the 1995 phantom coup that I have not mentioned before. It had five groups of accused – that is, the coup was a compendium or amalgamation of so-called diverse crimes put under the generic title of coup plot. The groups were: one, we the so-called phantom coup victims led by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and others; two, those alleged to be organising guerrilla operations in Lagos with their base in Ojo, led by Major Akinyemi; three, accessories after the fact of treason allegedly led by Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti; four, those charged with leakage of our defence to the outside world under Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline led by Navy Commander Fabiyi and Col. Olu Craig; and five, illegal possession of firearms without Presidential Permit, led by Lt. Col. Izuorgu. No newspaper ever recorded this piece of information that I have just given you. For that phantom coup, I was convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Do you mean you were never part of the coup?

There was no coup at all – a coup that was created in the evil imagination of someone. The head of Army’s Legal Services was arrested; a man who had the law book of Nigerian military; an adjutant of the Nigerian Defence Academy was arrested in Kaduna; Quartermaster Giwa was arrested and (Lawan) Gwadabe in Yola, Adamawa was arrested. How were we going to storm Aso Rock and remove Abacha? What force were we going to use to remove him? The coup allegation was laughable, incoherent and childish. The essence of the coup conspiracy was to knock down NADECO (National Democratic Coalition). Once the coup allegation was thrown up, the nation became divided and distracted from the issue of Chief MKO Abiola and that lasted for almost a year. Everybody was begging for leniency on our behalf. It was no longer June 12, it was a strategy; a deliberate attempt meant to distract the public from agitating for Abiola’s mandate.

Were you at any time sympathetic to the cause of Chief MKO Abiola and his efforts to regain his mandate?

Yes; in March 1994, I wrote a position paper through the Chief of Army Staff to the Head of State, Gen. Abacha, asking him in a humble and most humane way – with proper analysis and points – to de-annul the June 12 presidential election, call the winner and hand over power to him. I urged him to act like Gen. Fidel Ramos of the Philippines. Doing so, I argued, would put his name in the hearts of Nigerians forever as a general who handed over power to civilians; a general who stood on justice. And I said that the problem of the country largely was because of injustice. I stated that beneficiaries of injustice today would become its victims tomorrow. I pleaded that the agitation for the de-annulment of the election shouldn’t be seen as a Yoruba cause,it was a Nigerian issue.

I wrote that paper, produced one confidential copy, sent it to Abacha and made recommendations. That paper was brought before the tribunal that tried me for coup plot, stating that I was not happy with the military regime and that I was angry about the annulment of June 12 election.

But were you happy with the military back then?

I couldn’t have been happy with the way we were behaving – everything contradicted the norms with which I was raised up. I was raised up as a strict Christian. You know when I left the NDA in 1973, my first goal was to read the Holy Bible – to read and study what it says about the military. One of the things I learnt was that we were not supposed to shed the blood of the innocent again; and that rebellion (coup making) is like the sin of witchcraft; while stubbornness is like the sin of idolatry. In the New Testament, according to John the Baptist, soldiers were urged to neither do violence to no man, nor accuse anyone falsely. Following what the Bible encourages soldiers to do, I made sure that soldiers under my command followed strictly my precepts. There was no way I could have been acting the way many of them did. I had a pedigree and a home but many of the soldiers had no pedigree so they behaved anyhow.

Everybody knew me. I was a reference point. Senior officers would come to me to seek counsel on papers they were writing. They knew I was different and that I would never be part of a coup. I was a serious person. Every day, I was in the library reading except on Sundays. Everybody knew my stance and I could not see the reason June 12 should be annulled. How could someone say on behalf of the Armed Forces (an election was annulled) and we were not consulted?

If you had your way, knowing that the military junta was not ready to allow Abiola to exercise his mandate, would you have organised a coup?

No; at that time, coup was no longer fashionable. If not for the phantom coup used to distract the nation, the people would have forced the military regime to accede to their demand – they could have brought down the government. I did not believe and did not see any need for a military coup. I believed the people have the power to force out any illegitimate government. Just imagine 10 million people sitting on the road from Lagos to Ibadan for five days without leaving the road; and from Ibadan to Ilorin, five million people sitting on the road, what would the military do? What would Abacha have done? With NUPENG going on strike and Nigerians enforcing a sit-at-home protest, the masses would give the military the sack. Democracy is a dictate of everybody; there was no need for a coup,the people could have brought down the government by themselves. That is the people’s power.

What do you know about the involvement of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in the so-called coup?

When Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was the head of state, I was a captain; I wasn’t even qualified to be his aide-de-camp. He and Yar’Adua were far superior to us for me to begin to form an opinion about them. When we were told that Obasanjo and Yar’Adua were arrested, we concluded that Abacha had taken his madness beyond expectations. How could he arrest such men and accuse them of conspiring with us to overthrow his government? It was a misnomer. I only knew Obasanjo from distance.

Did you share same cell with him while in prison?

We were held hostage inside the demonic, outskirt prison located inside Ikoyi Cemetery. We were there together in the Inter Centre – a Department of State Services detention facility with an underground dungeon tucked inside the cemetery. I think the name was an abbreviation for Interrogation Centre – until we were scattered and moved to various detention centres when the ruling junta said American marines were coming to rescue us.

You must have had a terrible experience while in detention. Can you tell us about it?

It was a terrible experience. I am still on medication since 1999 that I came out of prison. I am physically damaged by Bamaiyi and his cohorts that I can hardly hold a cup properly in my hand. I lost my manhood during the torture period. I was battered beyond human comprehension because they wanted to obtain a confession that would implicate me in the coup. They put fire in my anus and also in my private parts. I just came back from the hospital today (Friday). The Federal Government was never bothered about our medical predicament. They threw us out of prison naked with no care, claiming they gave us state pardon for a coup we knew nothing about – that’s wicked. I have been spending my hard-earned money on medical bills. My heart ran a marathon race between anger and frustration given what they made my eyes to see. Bamaiyi wanted me dead and he exacted the hatred he has for the Yoruba on me – transferred aggression.

If you meet Gen. Bamaiyi today, what will you tell him?

Because Christ had come to conquer, I am speaking as a matter of truth that I have nothing against him. If I meet today, I will greet him, though he was an unprofitable master. I was loyal to him. Even when he was eventually imprisoned and some people came to me for help concerning that, I did the best I could. Bamaiyi represents the ugliness of this country. He is a replica of what Nigerians are. Don’t blame him: it’s the system that produced Bamaiyi. We have to blame the system. If we don’t change the system, the country will continue to produce the likes of Bamaiyi. We have to restructure this illegal federal system. Nigeria should be attractive to everybody. This is the tragedy of Nigeria; we cannot eat our cake and have it. The system is bad and it can throw up so many Bamaiyis in the political arena; legal system; medical, educational and economic sectors of the country. We need to ensure that public office is not turned to personal possession – it should be something held in trust for the masses.

Did Obasanjo say anything about the coup, Abacha and Bamaiyi in your presence?

We never discussed any of them. Who were they? These people were not examples of sterling characters in the military. They were not people of distinction that you have to copy unlike fine senior officers like Gen. Akinrinade; not Abacha and co. Look, let me tell you, I was doing my Young Officer’s Course in Jaji in 1974, Eromobo was a colonel; he was a commandant and Abacha was a major and Chief Instructor in Nigeria Military Training College. Abacha was teaching us in the classroom and we were all laughing because he was goofing. The commandant knew our set in the NDA; he knew that we were very troublesome. He watched us laugh at Abacha, and then he came inside the classroom and ordered Abacha to get out and never to come back there again. Abacha and his ilk were not distinguished military officers. We couldn’t have sat down to talk about Gen. Abacha or Gen. Bamaiyi; what were we going to say about them? That they stole our money? Abacha pocketed all the military allocation under his command; he never released our allocation – officially appropriated allocation and nobody could ask him.

What do you know about Gen. Oladipo Diya’s $60,000 cash meant to execute the alleged 1997 coup?

I was already in prison as of that time. I don’t know exactly what transpired then. But I would rather believe Gen. Diya’s word than Gen. Bamaiyi’s. Diya is not likely to lie but everyone knows Bamaiyi is a liar. It is sad that 22 years after I was roped in by Bamaiyi, he still continues to lie against me instead of tendering an apology. He owes me an apology.