There is before me a legitimate and compelling request. And that is the presentation of the performance score sheet of President Goodluck Jonathan. But since I have identified myself as a partisan witness, I decided that the evaluation of Jonathan is more credible if given by objective third parties and they don’t come more credible than the British House of Commons, Brookings Institution and the Transparency International (TI) or do they?
From The Library of The British House of Commons
Jonathan’s record in office
When President Jonathan took office in 2011, he promised a ‘Transformation Agenda’ for Nigeria. What is his record in office?
On the positive side:
Nigeria has consistently averaged over 7% real annual GDP growth under his watch. This has led some to view the country as an emerging economic giant.
The restive Niger Delta has been relatively peaceful. He has continued to support the Niger Delta Development Commission, created in 2000, but also announced in April 2014 a ‘Presidential Initiative for the North East’, which is intended to promote development in that conflict-affected area.
As preparation for next month’s mother of all election continues, one major issue that the campaign has thrown up is the issue of General Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate. It initially started as a joke. That the All Progressives Congress candidate. Gen Muhammadu Buhari does not have the prerequisite qualification to contest for the election. Section 131 of the Nigerian Constitution states that any contestant for the position of president of the country must have a minimum qualification of West African School Certificate (WASC).
Journalists had gone to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office and discovered that Buhari’s certificate was not displayed on the notice board unlike the other contestants’. What the General did was to swear to an affidavit in November last year that his certificates were with the military board.
Gradually, the controversy took on a life of its own especially when the APC that is always quick to respond to issues concerning it or its candidate failed to say anything to clear the air, days after. It had also tried to buy time, that Buhari’s certificate was not an issue and that there were more pressing matters in the polity that should be the subject of campaign. That last line shows that the matter had come up in the APC even before it came into the public domain.
This fact was lent credence by Dr Ogbonnaya Onu who was chairman of APC’s presidential screening committee who confirmed that the matter came up during the screening and since General Buhari had sworn to an affidavit, the affidavit covered everything especially considering that he had risen to the pinnacle of his military career coupled with the fact of having attended many courses, both at home and abroad.
“So if there is evidence that somebody has attended military schools that are tertiary institutions up to the war college of the USA, I mean why should you really go into school certificate and so on?, he had explained.
Election seasons never disappoint. There is always something entertaining or distressing, some inspiring words that rise above the fray or some gutter language that defies logic and decency. There are admirable efforts to build bridges and unify, just as there are rabble-rousing charlatans on behalf of maintaining the fault lines and divisions of ethnicity and religion that prevent national advancement. Add to this the mix of genuinely self-sacrificing motive to solve problems that lead some to present themselves for leadership position and the self-serving and egoistic urge that drives their supporters who fail to speak truth to power but engage in character assassination on behalf of their parties and candidates. All these have been represented in this election season.
Democracy is an expensive experiment in governance. Resource-wise, it is more expensive than a dictatorship of any kind—military, monarchical, or theocratic. For one thing, with any of the latter, you don’t worry about ballot boxes, PVCs, or trillions in campaign expenses. Democracy is also a system that brings out the best and the worst in human and national character. For many would-be leaders, there is no no-go zone in their bid to win an election. There was the legendary political warlord of Ibadan who upon being solicited for support by a prospective candidate asked the latter if he could lie or kill. For this infamous warlord the real test of political fitness is the readiness of a politician for maximum evil. While this is by no means essential to the democratic system, there is no denying the fact that it has become one of its enduring features. But as Lincoln would say, we may think that this makes democracy a flawed system until we compare it with the alternatives. Putting ordinary folks in charge of making their choice of leaders is an incomparable good. And for whatever this is worth, the system also allows us to see human beings, including prospective leaders and their supporters, as they truly are. And in this season, we have seen a lot.
Now, the truth has fewer moments. History is as we tell it and every day, we fabricate new histories with sore rhetoric. Our fitful dalliances tender fresh traceries of chaos in cataclysmic garments we love to adorn as needle points, on the pasty bosoms of our motherland.
Fangled stitches, in-bred strife and hate-entanglements resonate in our news pages, on to the streets, into our strife-torn yards. And so we re-enact towering tragedies on impulse, fabricating new beginnings from no ends and disastrous endings from bogus beginnings.
All these because we crave a new car; because we lust for a trophy wife, ‘nouveau riche’ status and concubines. Our lust for money pushes us to do several hideous things. Every hour, it turns thousands who could have overcome its darkness into eternal addicts to the base and inane. For the love of a lousy buck, many a Nigerian journalist dies, everyday.
The Nigerian journalist will sell his closest friend and colleague, and the entire Fourth Estate out at the blink of an eye.
Now, everybody stares at us with contempt. Naked in the storm of their maddening glare, we have grown to know insult; now we love and understand it as inseparable part of our calling.
Nothing distinguishes us from dispensable hooligans-for-hire save our obsequiousness to serve, albeit with remarkable élan, and our desperation to function as anything and everything, including a soundboard for clichés and sham realism –innate essence of our socio-politics. We have become the stamen that lets down the azalea, the comforter that brings grief, and the emissaries of needless hate.
One hundred and fifty six years of print journalism and 56 years of broadcast journalism yet we are still that pitiful band with no lasting legacy save all that could be termed loathsome and fundamentally offensive.
Without a doubt, terrorism has become a major global concern. There is hardly any part of the world that has not tasted the bitter pills of audacious and vicious terror assaults. Recently, the attention of the world was, once again, drawn to the sad reality of terrorism in a world that is increasingly becoming troubled and vulnerable. In a tale of two terror attacks, Paris, a city renowned for its aesthetic splendor and grandeur, became the inopportune target of terror merchants who attacked Charlie Hebdo, a Paris based satirical magazine, on January 7, killing 17 people in the process. As if the tragedy in Paris was not enough, for a bewildered world to grapple with, about the same time, terror struck once again in Nigeria, in what is now referred to as the Baga massacre, leaving Baga, a rusty town of about 160 kilometers from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, in complete ruin. By the time the agents of terror had finished their dastardly tasks in both Baga and Paris, as usual, they left in their trails sorrow, tears and blood.
The focus of this piece is actually not to paint the picture of terror as it happened in the attacks on these two ill-fated locations. Rather, it is to draw attention to vital inferences to be drawn from the two terror attacks and the reactions that followed from across the world. Of particular interest is the swift response of the French government to the Paris attack. Immediately the terrorists struck, over 80,000 combined French security forces swung into action in a well coordinated professional hunt that led to the death of three of the terrorists. To protect the living, more than 10,000 police and soldiers were deployed across France, guarding churches, synagogues, mosques, schools and other sites.
President Goodluck Jonathan started his re-election campaign in Lagos recently on a shaky note. The event was witnessed by prominent leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, National Chairman Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, governors and governorship flag bearers.
Chieftains of the party took turns to address the crowd. They include the Co-ordinator of the President’s campaign in the Southwest and Ondo State governor Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Chairman of the National Campaign Committee Col. Ahmadu Ali; Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State; the PDP leader in Lagos State, Chief Olabode George, and Ekiti State Governor Mr Ayo Fayose.
They did their best to extol the virtues and achievements of President Jonathan and urged Nigerians to endorse his re-election in February. Mimiko, for instance, described President Jonathan as the most criticised, abused and insulted leader in this country. He said given his performance, Nigerians across the country can feel the impact of his administration in agriculture, power supply, education and resuscitation of rail system.
Ogboni, as a group, means different things to different people. News Editor, Ajibola Abayomi, was the guest of President General of Ogboni Aborigine, the first indigenous religious body to be registered in Nigeria, Oba Ogboni Agbaye, Yusuf Akanbi Olaitan, during the first meeting of the Supreme Council of Ogboni in 2015 at his palace in Ajagbandi, Lagos State, where he took on the monarch on several myths surrounding the Ogboni faith
Many people are of the opinion that Ogboni is a secret cult; can you clear the air on this?
Please don’t make that mistake; we are not cultists or secret society. From time immemorial, Ogboni has been part of Yoruba culture. Before the advent of colonialism, Ogboni chieftains were the intermediaries between the people and the ruling class. They are in charge of the justice system, policing and the military.
In fact, they are in charge of everything because they install monarchs in Yorubaland. The group is pure and honest. Till date, no religion or faith is better than Ogboni. If anything goes wrong, Ogboni members would be contacted in the olden days. Things would be sorted out and justice would be affirmed. In those days, our forefathers used kola nut, alligator pepper and bitter kola to communicate with God and the truth would be revealed concerning circumstances that required intervention. It was the wicked white people that indoctrinated and polluted the minds of our people with Christianity and Islam through the Bible and the Quran that made us lose sight of the power the Almighty endowed our culture and tradition with. Today, public office holders use the Bible and Quran to take oath, yet billions of naira are disappearing from the treasury. In those days, our elders know what to give to the god of iron or thunder and whoever stole anything would be exposed with repercussion. Now, government use anti-graft agencies, police, military and the court to fight corruption yet there is no headway. If they consult the god of iron or other deities, things will be different. No money will be stolen at all. We have to bear all terrible allegations against us with humility because we are the forbearers of other religions.
You said Ogboni is not a secret cult, what does Ogboni stand for; is it a religion and what form of faith do you practise?
Before Christianity and Islam were imported here, our forefathers had their own religion. As Ogboni, we worship and adore the land, which is the mother earth. Both the Bible and Quran attested to the fact that all human beings were raised from the dust and to the dust we shall be committed one day. Our belief is that whoever adores the land and worship it will be prosperous. Houses are built on land, aeroplane, no matter the height it flies lands on the ground.
When you worship or appease mother earth, how does it communicate with you?
Yes, the land speaks to us through the local gin, kola nut, alligator pepper and bitter kola we use during divination on its surface. That is African science that is learnt anywhere through our cultural value.
We learnt that when an Ogboni member dies, the body is dismembered for rituals, why?
Who told you that? That is the propaganda Christians and Muslims are using to discredit us in order to discourage people from accepting our form of worship. Both religions are not acceptable to God. Ogboni is a creation of the almighty because we worship God in truth and spirit. We have seen and heard churches and mosques razed in inferno and both the Bible and Quran burnt. Why didn’t God stop the fire because those books were holy books? The truth of the matter is that the human body is the temple of God. That is where the almighty God dwells and not the ordinary building some people call the house of God.
So, what is the source of Ogboni’s power?
The power was derived from God. No one can destroy it.
When and how did God empower Ogboni?
No one can say precisely the year but we grew to be initiated into it. The colonial masters researched into Ogboni and when they could not unravel the myth behind it they named us Ogboni Aborigine. They are the ones who registered us as a group.
You said Ogboni existed from time immemorial, who was the founder?
The late Deji of Akureland, Oba Afunbiowo, was the president-general and Oba Ogboni Agbaye. Please find out from records, the monarch was one of the oldest kings that ever reigned. He was a direct descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. One of his associates, Labosinde, who inherited the power after he passed on, took it to Ibadan. Labosinde died many years before I was born. Till date, members of his household are kingmakers in Ibadan.
What do people benefit from being members of Ogboni?
There are lots of benefits. Anybody that is a member of Ogboni will be known for honesty because if he does anything contrary to that he gets the repercussion. I have initiated all my children into Ogboni.
We also learnt that for one to be a member of Ogboni, one must submit a part of his body. Is this true?
(Cuts in). That is not true. I challenge anybody to prove that he took an oath with any part of his or her body before initiation. Not only that let anybody prove to the whole world that an Ogboni member, after his or her death, was dismembered. All are lies being peddled by those who have been converted by foreign faiths. To be a member of Ogboni, we only require local wine, kola nut, bitter kola and other things. If you want to be a member, you have to register with us. We are guided by our constitution and the laws of the nation. At least, if you want to be a member of drivers’, tailors’, lawyers’ union and other professions, they have their constitutions. It is the same thing with us in Ogboni.
You have a Muslim name, why did you abandon Islam?
In those days, all Yoruba people were members of Ogboni. However, nowadays, civilisation has changed many things. Whoever disagrees with me let him or her trace the history of his or her forefathers to prove me wrong or right. My forefathers were Ogboni members. I was given a Muslim name just because Islam was brought to our town. I am from Oore, in Ifelodun Local Government in Kwara State. In fact, from what I found out, my family also heralded Christianity into our town. So in my family, we have Christians, Muslims and traditional worshipers. Ogboni members are naturally powerful people who form a union to protect the interest of members. Our worshipping centre is called Iledi where we meet for important meetings. All political parties in Nigeria adopt Ogboni style because some caucus always meet to decide the fate of each party, either through the ballot system or secret meeting. In Ogboni, we always converge to take decisions based on
agreement that must be kept after taking an oath by appeasing mother earth. Whoever goes against that will face some consequences. God honours agreement. All agreements must be kept in good faith in the interest of justice. That is what we stand for, unlike many politicians who don’t honour agreement because of their selfish interests.
That is why things are not in order. If two ruling houses are contesting a traditional stool in a town, elders will meet and settle things by choosing the right lineage. They will have to prevail on those who will not get it based on justice and assured them through an oath that when it is their turn, they won’t be denied. That is Ogboni for you.
Crisis is not limited to the two religions you mentioned; even among your people, there were factions laying claim to Oba Ogboni up till last year. Why?
I am the only President-General and Aare Oba Ogboni Agbaye. Ogboni is one indivisible body. I am using this medium to appeal to every of our member to be united. As a king, I am not interested in fighting anyone. In Ogboni, we don’t admit thieves or convicts as members. I am again calling on all our people to be steadfast and united.
What is the relationship between your people and traditional worshippers?
We have a cordial relationship. In those days, traditional worshippers have no particular name because there were many people worshipping different deities.
It is from the pool that they formed Ogboni. Like Yoruba people would say, Isese lagba, meaning traditionalists are the forbearers.
That means you are powerful juju people?
Only God has power. We don’t have any juju of our own. Traditional worshippers are not juju people. They only worship what they believed in. Any root we uproot will die and any snake we touch will dry up. That is natural power from God that is inherent in us.
Sometimes Ogboni attire sends fear into people’s mind, particularly the way you wear beads; what is the significance of all these?
Don’t blame those that are afraid because they may be ignorant of Yoruba culture. Every Yoruba man is entitled to our attire because it evolved from our culture. The beads and our regalia are fashionable. As a Yoruba man, we are fashion doyens because Oduduwa was the first man to design cloth in Africa. When you see an Ogboni member putting on beads in addition to the regalia, it shows that he or she is a chief among us. I have told you that we were registered by the colonial masters; the British are the ones that named us Ogboni Aborigine because of countless myths inherent in us. As you can see in our midst, we have several chiefs because we are holding the first meeting of the Supreme Council of Ogboni to offer sacrifice to the gods for the 2015 polls to be fruitful and peaceful. We are concerned about the turn of events as we approach the general elections. Our prayer is that our desired candidate can win.
Are you saying you want Ogboni members to emerge as president or governors?
They don’t have to be Ogboni members. We want somebody that will take care of the poor and needy.
Christians and Muslims believe that there is life after death, what is the fate of Ogboni members after death?
We are the ones going to heaven. Eternal home is for us and not for Christians and Muslims. They are deceiving themselves when they say that someone rested in the lord whenever one of their members dies. I have asked a question, what form of eternal rest are they talking about? They are just lying to themselves. Whoever keeps stamping the surface of the earth with his or her energy is certainly making the soil to be solid and in return, the mother earth will be hard on the fellow.
However, those of us who appease the land, always have peace and blessing in return because mother earth will always be kind to us instead of being harsh. That is why we always match on soft surface. When a Christian or Muslim dies, they use digger to dig hard into the land before they are able to carve out a grave for the fellow, but in case of the Ogboni, the soil is always soft because we worship and take care of mother earth. That shows that we are candidates of heaven. When my father died many years ago, a star dropped from the sky and he was buried at the spot where the star dropped in our yard. Mind you my dad died in another town but he had instructed that whenever he dies, he should be brought home for burial. The star dropped at the exact spot my dad said he should be buried.
Islamic clerics were amazed as to how that could be for someone who was not coming to the mosque for prayers. When his grave was dug in December 1994, the soil was very soft such that immediately the length of his grave was carved the remaining part of the land became stiff. The Islamic clerics were wondering about what they saw. My dad was an Ogboni member. He had bought the cloth, perfume and had been saving the money to be used for his burial 10 years before his death.
What are your plans for your members?
I have good plans for Ogboni members. I want them to be more united. I served my predecessor and those who want to succeed me should also serve me.
What positions did you hold before you became Oba Ogboni Agbaye?
I was Oluwo Iledi. I was given the post because it was the title my dad was holding before his death. As a young man, after my dad’s death, I relocated to Lagos but his contemporaries in Ogboni traced me from Kwara State. They insisted that I must continue from where my dad stopped. They came to Lagos and set up Ogboni unit in my house. The rites took three days, after which I began to participate in Ogboni affairs in Lagos State under the late Naibi, the immediate past Oba Ogboni. I became the leader of Ogboni in my local government and later, the governor in charge of Lagos State, a post formerly held by Oba Fayemi before he founded Ogboni Saala. I was made Otun Ogboni Agbaye and, thereafter, I became Otun Olori Oluwo Agbaye before I became Olori Oluwo Agbaye. I became Oba Ogboni last year.
Can your members still practise Islam or Christianity?
Why not? I pray in Islam and Christian ways. I have a Bible and a Quran in my house.
But you don’t believe in these faiths?
When you are in Rome, you behave like Romans. I don’t hate any religion. You can never see us attacking or criticising either Islam or Christianity but whenever they are preaching their sermons they always demonise us out of ignorance. Whoever wants to make heaven must be holy and truthful. Those causing problems for the nation today in the name of Boko Haram, are they not Muslims? We watch them on television offering Islamic prayers. Can they continue to wound and kill fellow human being and still make heaven with Holy God? Apart from that, we hear stories about several pastors and the so-called men of God, what they are doing in their churches, deceiving people. How many Ogboni members have been caught doing any evil thing in the society? All the rooms in my palace are opened, there is no hiding place here or anywhere an Ogboni member lives.
We heard that there are some hidden spiritual things involved after one is initiated into Ogboni
That is a lie. Bring whoever claims that there is any hidden thing in Ogboni before me and let him or her prove it to the whole world. As I said, all these are propaganda from those who want to demonise us.
It was also said that some of your members possess witchcraft powers, how true is that?
Who told you? I ask you, who is a witch? Who can identify a witch? Let the fellow come forward. There is nothing like that in our midst at all. Before you can make a pronouncement and it will come to pass, you must be holy before God will allow that to happen. All human beings are endowed with one power or the other.
At what age can one become Ogboni member?
I have initiated all my children at birth into Ogboni. Some of them are already in the university. They all worship with me.
What is your mode of worship?
We converge at any convenient time daily and pray, using water, kola and bitter kola. Then we say our prayers to the deities.
But you said members worship mother earth, why do you need to pray through deities?
Yes, I said so because whoever worships mother earth towers above anyone or deity. Every deity is worshipped on the surface of the earth. The only secret in Ogboni is our word, which is our trust. It is a burden, whoever is not committed to that is not worth our respect. Take for instance, when you have many candidates vying for a political seat. The leaders of such political party in that town or city will have to agree on one person as their flag bearer. What I mean is that only one person will emerge winner at the end of the day. Therefore, elders involved must unite to ensure that the winner emerges without rancour. That is why you see the outcome of an election going in a particular direction after an agreement must have been reached. That is an Ogboni pattern. We normally meet at a location devoid of distraction that is not open to many people. Whatever agreement is reached must be respected. Politicians meet at night to avoid being distracted to agree on issues. They are practising Ogboni’s way of life.
There are several Ogboni groups with different names, what is the difference?
There are different Ogboni groups like Ogboni Saala, Ogboni Confraternity, Reformed Ogboni Confraternity and others but we are all one. All of them had their roots in Ogboni Aborigine. I want all of them to be united. There are several tribes that are members of Ogboni but non-Yoruba indigenes cannot be the overall head as stated in our constitution and endorsed by the Supreme Council of Ogboni worldwide.
In response to the slump in the price of crude oil in the international market, the Federal Government last week slashed the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, from N97 to N87 per litre. The reduction of fuel price by N10, or 10.38 percent, is to be effected by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
This reduction is quite in order. It is good that the government has joined other major oil-exporting countries that have reduced the pump price of petrol on account of the drastic fall in the price of crude oil. This is a welcome development that had long been anticipated by Nigerians.
However, a reduction of N10 is not significant, considering the sharp fall in the price of crude, from around $100 per barrel, to about $48. This has given rise to charges that the reduction is tokenist. Certainly, the government could have pegged the pump price of petrol lower, to reflect the new crude price. The reduction of 10.38 percent is said to be one of the lowest among the oil-producing nations that are in a similar situation. Government can still further reduce the pump price to reflect the crash in the price of crude.
All the same, we commend the government for this decision, which will go some way in easing the burden of Nigerians. It is, indeed, a plus for the authorities. However, we do not think the reduction should be limited to the price of petrol alone. The government should consider reducing the price of other petroleum products such as kerosene, diesel and aviation fuel.
It is scandalous that kerosene sells at a far higher cost than petrol in the country. This is more so as the product is hardly available below the price of N120 per litre, while it is supposed to be subsidized by the government, and sold to consumers at the pump price of N50. Government should do something to stem the scarcity and high cost of kerosene.
•’ How they brutally murdered my niece over my senatorial bid’
• Speaks on Oshiomhole’s giant strides
SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Hon West Ehioge-Idahosa is the only Edo politician who has served a third term in the House of Representatives. He served between 1999-2011 for Ovia Federal Constituency of the state. The lawyer joined his bosom friend, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to dump the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the PDP last year. But events that occurred during the just concluded senatorial primaries of the PDP in the state, where he contested for the Edo South ticket of the PDP, have enveloped him in grief.
His 31-year-old nephew, Pere, was murdered by suspected assassins 48 hours before the senatorial primaries. Pere was returning from the bank where he went to withdraw money to enable his uncle prepare for the primary election when agents of death not only shot him but also butchered his body with axe. The attackers also killed the police orderly with him carting away the money with him.
In this interview, West-Idahosa laments his ordeal and also hints that his days in the PDP may be numbered. He accuses critics of Governor Adams Oshiomhole of being economical with the truth, just as he declares that the governor has done well for Edo people.
He predicts a tight race in the forthcoming presidential election, noting however that the alleged high level of corruption in government and Boko Haram insurgency will militate against President Jonathan’s second term ambition, while Gen.Muhammadu Buhari’s uprightness and boldness may give him victory.
THE SURE-P is the IMF inspired political tool for organizing the Nigerian ruling stakeholders. It represents the largest transfer of cash from the pockets of the Nigerian masses to the bank accounts of the cabal since independence. Under the programme, the monies extracted from the Nigerian masses are shared amongst the FGN, the State Governments, the Local Governments, the National Assembly and the Judiciary. SURE-P pays off all the governing institutions of the ruling class. According to SURE-P, “The total projected subsidy savings per annum is N1.3 trillion, out of which N633 billion accrues to Federal Government, N349 billion to State Governments, N269 billion to Local Governments and N49 billion to Special Transfers to the Judiciary and the National Assembly in compliance with the Appropriation Act.” The FGN put the disbursement of its share of SURE-P under the Christopher Kolade Committee. The Kolade Committee is to ensure that SURE-P federal programmes such as maternal child health, public works, mass transit, east-West Road, Roads and bridges, railway and secretariat services were successfully executed. The Kolade committee began work with a lot of fanfare.
However, it was not long before the contradictions in the sharing formula intensified the disagreement amongst the ruling stakeholders. The State Governments opposed the direct deduction of subsidy funds from the states budgetary allocations at source. They accused the FGN of giving SURE-P contracts to only the supporters and cronies of the Presidency. The FGN accused the State Governments of giving their share of SURE-P funds to the political cronies of the individual state governors through the State Implementation Committee (SIC). The FGN paid the petrol cabal the sum of N1.3 trillion in 2012. When the Presidency requested an additional N161.6 billion for subsidy payment in 2012, the state governors protested vigorously. They took the FGN to Court. The relationships between the FGN and the State Governments became increasingly antagonistic in 2012-13.
The renewed efforts of the FGN in 2014 were announced by the Presidency at the Lagos Nigeria Summit. The FGN maintained that “we cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsidize the affluent middle class who are the main beneficiaries”. The next step was to get the state finance commissioners to approve the complete removal of ‘subsidy’. The Accountant Generals and Commissioners of Finance in all states in Nigeria (including the FCT) belong to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC). You probably never heard of this committee or thought about how their decisions affect the price of your garri or okada transport. The FMF organized this committee to approve the increase of PMS prices to N140/litre in April 2014. The FAAC recommendations were then sent to the Presidency for approval by the Federal Executive Council. The recommendations were also forwarded to the FMPR for inclusion in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The National Assembly plans to ratify and enact the PIB with its new subsidy removal clauses in April 2015. The FGN planned IMF inspired 2015 post-election PMS price increase will be backed by political and legislative force. Speaking to newsmen in May 2014, the IMF Senior Resident Representative/Mission Chief in Nigeria, Mr. Williams Rogers, supported the FGN efforts on subsidy removal. He said that subsidy removal is necessary for planned savings in recurrent spending and public sector reforms (reduced government wage bill by workers layoff and fixed wages).
A week after Islamic terrorists murdered 12 employees of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the victims’ colleagues defiantly featured a provocative cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the magazine’s front cover.
Predictably, protests flared up in various Muslim countries, including Niger Republic, where at least l0 people were killed, while over 170 were injured.
During a weekend of violent demonstrations, several buildings were also set ablaze: A Christian school/orphanage, 45 churches and various hotels and bars.
Outraged Muslims also took to the streets in Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia and Algeria. And I really don’t understand their destructive fixations.
What I don’t get is this: Sure, folks of all religious persuasions are entitled to be upset when they see or hear anything they regard as offensive or downright blasphemous. But do the mostly impoverished citizens of developing nations like Niger Republic, Pakistan, etc, not have more pressing worries?
They are suffering en masse from chronic problems – disease, unemployment, etc – and struggling to provide themselves and their children with basics such as housing, education, healthcare, work opportunities and brighter futures.
If I were in their shoes, I’d be too concerned about day-to-day survival issues to care about what a bunch of foreign intellectuals and artists are getting up to…or about the contents of publications that are appearing on the other side of the world!…in cities that I will probably never get a chance to visit.
If I were busy trying to eke out a paltry living in Niamey, Karachi, Mogadishu or wherever and someone told me that I should carry on like a thuggish pyromaniac because a faraway European had insulted the Prophet, my attitude would be:
“What is my own with complete strangers who do not share my values? How will me trashing my home town hurt them or help me, my family or The Prophet?”
All over the democratic world, election periods are always picturesque, fascinating and often interesting. In Nigeria, the contending political parties make elections a peculiar business which soaks the naira in its billions. It is always a boom for the media and the printing industry.
It should be recalled that previous elections since the return of Democracy in 1999 have always been eventful with results also predictable because of the simple political structure – one strong political party and some minor, often internally divided, Opposition parties.
Many Nigerians would have made up their minds, irrespective of party promises, either because of religious bias or tribal sentiments. Thus, the ruling Peoples‘ Democratic Party (PDP) could be perceived as a truly Nigerian party
The present PDP is believed to be a political organ of the earlier military junta to install one of its own in government. It has grown over the past 15 years into an octopus, that it sees itself as the biggest political entity in Africa that is capable of ruling the country for the next sixty years.
The complex structure of the PDP and its inability to manage its electoral victories in a troublesome decade seems to have affected adversely its internal cohesion to some extent. At times, the centre appears not able to hold properly, otherwise, things appear seemingly stable.
Many patriotic Nigerians, feeling so uncomfortable with the risk of Nigeria transforming alarmingly into a ‘one-party state, justifiably wished for a virile opposition party.
IN various ways and at different times, in the past three and half years, the Jonathan administration has consistently proved as Macaulay and Burke pointed out that being “a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants, the end of government is the happiness of the people.” Perhaps nothing testifies more eloquently to this today than the unexpected but popular announcement, a few days ago, of an approximately 10% reduction in the pump price of petrol from N97 to N87 per litre. The domino effect of the reduction on the price mechanism doesn’t need further explanation here. A cursory look at the history of fuel price increases in Nigeria shows that this is the sixth time a federal government would reduce the pump price of fuel.
The first time was in 1993 when six days after he indirectly sacked the Shonekan led Interim National Government, installed by the Babangida administration, Gen. Sani Abacha announced a pump price reduction of N3.25k per litre or about 35% drop from the existing N5 rate he inherited from Shonekan. Inexplicably, however, Abacha was to raise the same price to N15 per litre or by 361.54% in October of the same year, only to reduce it yet again barely two days later by 26.67% to N11 per litre which Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar inherited as his successor and later increased by 127.27% to N25 per litre on December 20, 1998. Before he left office, Abubakar pegged the price of petrol at N20 per litre. From N20, his successor, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo upped the price of the commodity by 50% on June 1, 2000 crashing it by 10% to N22 one week later.
Before he finally left office in 2007, Obasanjo steadily raised the pump price until the figure hit N75 per litre on May 27, 2007. President Umaru Yar’Adua who succeeded Obasanjo reversed the fuel price mechanism in June 2007 by 15.38% down from N75 per litre to N65. Before the January, 2012 hike that elicited strong protests especially from pressure groups, including Labour Unions, for about five consecutive years there was no increase in the pump price of petrol. The current price cut gesture by the government is coming at a time the price of crude oil on the international market is reported to have fallen drastically. Thus even though professional critics and enemies of the government will certainly read politics into the whole gesture, it clearly stands to reason that this is a goodwill gesture by a responsive and scrupulous government that feels the pulse of the people and it is heart-warming that members of the public have received the government’s symbolic gesture with gratitude.
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a government is not only reducing the price of fuel, it has also as a matter of policy in the past two years ploughed back into the economy in very transparent and accountable manner the proceeds of the subsidy it removed from Diesel (AGO), Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) or petrol as well as Household Kerozene (HHK). This it is doing through an ad hoc but identifiable investment agency – the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme or SURE-P. What many Nigerians may not know is that at say an average of $90 per barrel of crude oil, a total of about N1.134 trillion subsidy reinvestible fund accrues to the three tiers of government yearly. Out of this, N478.49 billion accrues to the Federal Government, N411.03 billion to the state governments, N203.23 billion to Local Governments, N9.86 billion to the FCT and N31.37 billion as transfers to derivation and ecology, development of natural resources as well as stabilization fund.
DEMOCRACY is all about freedom and any democracy without it is not democracy,” President Goodluck Jonathan said from the political podium last Wednesday in Dutse, Jigawa State as he sought to change the tune of the campaign after the certificate saga surrounding the man in hot pursuit for his job seemed to have cleared up.
The president’s words were apparently reflective of the fact that the credibility question which his campaign team had tried to stamp on Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC may have fallen flat.
Buhari and his close associates had derisively dismissed questions about his certificate after two newspapers had reported that he only submitted an affidavit in lieu of his secondary school certificate.
Jonathan’s foot soldiers, notably his campaign spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode had led the charge against Buhari questioning the qualification of the APC candidate to stand for the polls.
Buhari’s decision to ignore the allegation that he did not possess a secondary school certificate and the defence put up by some of his handlers including a member of the APC presidential screening committee that the constitution only required proof of a secondary school education, only lured Jonathan’s handlers to draw for blood.
And they were swift in moving in on with their seeming prey.
In an article titled ‘Signs of the Times’, which was published in The Sun newspaper of Monday 27, 2014, I shared a vision I had about President Jonathan two months before Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote him a letter with the title ’Before it is too late’. In the vision, I saw President Jonathan and a few other men seated in a courtroom with an unknown man seated as a presiding judge. At a point, the President conferred with one of his aides and stood up, poured himself a larger beer in a mug, gulped it and immediately thereafter fell on the floor. My interpretation of the vision was that he might have taken a faulty decision or action, which attracted the judgment of a clique of men with Chief Obasanjo as the arrowhead. I concluded there is a high probability the President may not return a second term.
Accordingly, Chief Obasanjo has continued his onslaught against President Jonathan. His ire may not be unconnected with his allegation that President Jonathan breached an agreement to serve just one term after he had served out the remaining two years of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Whether true or false, President Jonathan knows. If true, Obasanjo’s angst may find justification because a deal is a deal irrespective if it is tacit or otherwise, and is regardless if President Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest for a second term as many posit. However, even if 11 Obasanjos are against the President, if the Lord God be for him, who can be against him? The number 11 in biblical numerology represents disorder and it is evident Chief Obasanjo is determined to be a spoiler against President Jonathan.
There are other odds the President may have to contend with in his electioneering campaign. First is the Boko Haram aggression and abduction of 216 girls from Chibok. As heart-breaking as that is, it is important we appreciate the complexity and difficulty posed by the asymmetry of the Boko Haram war, though the President needed to have responded faster than he did when the news of the abduction broke. Boko Haram is like a wild, amorphous and unrestrained growth which has metastasized to become a part of a conspiracy by a sophisticated network of a band of religious extremists with a warped ideology who are consumed by the pride of revelation and pride of redemption and are determined to hold the world in bondage through terror and set it on fire. But freedom is for the children of God. The group must be curtailed and contained. And our collective motto should be “though we walk through the valley of shadows of death, we shall fear no evil’’.