Sunday, 21 January 2018
Headliners

Headliners (1839)

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order proscribing the pro-separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The court has also declared illegal all activities of the group, particularly in the South-east and Southsouth.

It restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any of the group’s activities”.

The Acting Chief Judge of the court, Justice Adamu Kafarati, granted the orders after hearing an ex-parte application filed and argued yesterday by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

Justice Kafarati directed the AGF to ensure the publication of the IPOB proscription order in the official gazette and two national dailies.

With Malami in the court were the Solicitor-General of the Federation (SGF), Tayo Apata; Acting Director, Civil Litigation, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru; and other lawyers in the Federal Ministry of Justice, including T. A. Gazali and Oyin Koleosho.

Specifically, the judge said: “That an order, declaring the activities of the respondent – Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria amount to acts of terrorism and illegallity, is granted.

“That an order proscribing the existence of the respondent (IPOB) in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-east and South-South regions of Nigeria either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called and publishing same in the official gazette and two national dailies, is granted.

“That an order restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (IPOB) under any other name or platform, however called or described, is granted.”

Posted On Thursday, 21 September 2017 02:24 Written by

Shareholders of Oando Plc from across the South-West states on Tuesday staged a protest in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and demanded that the company’s Managing Director, Wale Tinubu, should step down because of the firm’s poor financial position.

Making reference to the report of the last Annual General Meeting of the company, which was held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where the External Auditor, Ernst & Young, stated that Oando reported a comprehensive loss in 2015 and 2016, the National President, Renaissance Shareholders Association, Olufemi Timothy; and the National Coordinator, Proactive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr. Taiwo Oderinde, condemned the meeting, saying it was stage-managed to continue the mismanagement of the company’s finance by the current management.

Timothy stated, “Oando Plc is practically dead because it is no more a going concern. Its contemporaries are doing well and bringing glory to their shareholders. We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Senate Committee on Capital Market to intervene before it is too late. 

“We are dying because our investments in the company have grown wings. The share we bought for N90 has come down to N5 under Wale Tinubu’s watch. A proper probe should be carried out. Tinubu should step aside. The company has gone with its current reported N263bn negative working capital.

 

“We worked hard to invest in the company but what did we get in return? Absolutely nothing! The poor shareholders are suffering and many have died. We have a lot of retired people dying because their investments have gone. Under the current management, Oando suffers a lot and we cannot tolerate it again.”

Oderinde said that Transparency International rated Nigeria poorly in its global corruption index because of alleged corrupt practices within institutions like Oando.

“Enough is enough and Wale Tinubu must go. If you go to the Transparency International’s website, you will see their rating of Nigeria on the global corruption index and it was stated therein that not only individuals are corrupt in Nigeria, but institutions too. Little did we know that TI was referring to companies like Oando,” he said.

The protesters also visited the NSE office in Dugbe, where the Branch Manager, Mr. Kayode Ogun, urged them to write a formal letter to the bourse, stating their demands, while calling on them to exercise restraint while the NSE looked into their petition.

Posted On Wednesday, 20 September 2017 11:28 Written by

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have visited two mansions in Dubai allegedly belonging to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The properties, located at E146 Emirates Hill and J5 Emirates Hill, are said to be worth 74,000,000 dirham (N7.1bn).

Emirates Hill, which has been described as the Beverly Hills of the United Arab Emirates, is home to some of the richest men in the world including billionaire Chairman of the Stallion Group, Sunil Vaswani.

Others, who are Diezani’s neighbours, include the immediate past Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif; a former President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari; and Robert Mugabe junior, the son of the President of Zimbabwe and one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, President, Robert Mugabe.

A source within the EFCC told our correspondent that the anti-graft agency was already applying for the forfeiture of the properties through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

If the commission is able to clear all legal hurdles and ensure the final forfeiture of the property, it would bring the total amount of cash and assets finally recovered from Diezani to $200m (N70bn).

A detective, who did not want his name in print, said the anti-graft agency would exploit the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty the Federal Government had recently signed with the government of the UAE.

The agreements, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, are Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and an Extradition Treaty.

The source stated, “We have informed the UAE authorities that from our investigation, we believe Diezani bought the properties with the proceeds of crime. The whole process is still ongoing but with the MLAT, signed by President Buhari, it has made work a lot easier for us.”

The detective explained that before the Federal Government signed the treaty, the UAE law prevented foreign officials from having access to properties in the country without the express permission of its owner.

He added that with the new treaty, the UAE authorities were more cooperative and would readily give information of properties from their Land Registry System.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay(SAN), who hailed Buhari for signing the treaty, told The PUNCH that some corrupt senators, who also owned properties in Dubai, would be made to forfeit them.

Sagay also disagreed with some legal experts who said the Dubai treaty would need to be ratified by the National Assembly before it could be activated.

He said, “The UAE MLAT is not a treaty as such but an agreement; so, it will be operated without their (senators) approval.

“So, let that start worrying them (senators). He (President) will implement it directly. So, those of them that have acquired properties in Dubai and other Middle-East countries should kiss their properties good bye.”

Posted On Monday, 18 September 2017 02:57 Written by

A professor of political science and former Minister of External Affairs, Bolaji Akinyemi, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE on Nnamdi Kanu’s agitation, how Buhari can save Nigeria from collapse and why corruption persists

Do you think Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra are asking for too much that the Igbo should opt out of Nigeria?

There are different peculiarities under which there can be peaceful separation. An example is what happened in the old Czechoslovakia, when the Czech and the Slovak went their separate ways, because it was possible to draw clean lines of separation. But in most cases, separation had actually been through civil wars that carried heavy costs in terms of loss of lives and destruction of property, leaving a legacy of a lasting bitterness

A good example is India and Pakistan. Seventy years after, the lines of demarcation are still being hotly contested through militarily engagements.  In fact, India and Pakistan fought many wars in those 70 years. Achieving a peaceful, non-violent separation, by all means, is debatable along theoretical and practical lines.

For instance, what does Kanu mean by ‘Biafra’? There are states he included in Biafra and the people in those states have said they would have nothing to do with his proposed country. Already, there is a contention over where the lines of demarcation will be. I believe that we can still peacefully resolve the issue of the Nigerian question at this stage, provided we address the twin issue of fears of domination and marginalisation. We must address that. We must admit that there is something wrong with the Nigerian federal system as it is. We must look at the system that we operated, using the 1960 and 1963 constitutions with the necessary amendments. There has to be less arrogance and intolerance shown towards constituent elements of the Nigerian nation. You cannot use the temporary acquisition of power to impose a system on others, thinking everybody will be happy about it. Most of the problems in the world have come about through miscalculations – not deliberate (actions). Many wars fought in the world were as a result of miscalculations with various parties, underestimating how far-reaching their actions would be.

All I’m saying is that, I hope those who are in control of the Federal Government will not become complacent by ignoring the fact that other people are feeling hurt and are dissatisfied with the system that we have now. We shouldn’t because doing so will be a calamitous mistake. Who will win the confrontation, I don’t know. But what I know is that all parties will pay a heavy price – it will not be like the 1966/1967 (coup) all over again. It will not be like the 1967 to 1970 civil war all over again. Right now, there is a proliferation of weapons all over the country and the diffusion of grievances will create war fronts. The Nigerian military is stretched thin with all the challenges it’s currently coping with internally. I don’t think you want to put more pressure on it. We must seek a non-violent way. We must engage in dialogue. There must be, on the part of the Federal Government, the readiness to adopt a more sophisticated approach in promoting the dialogue and a preparedness to change the country.

In his address to the nation after his return from the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari said the restructuring of the country will be handled by the National Assembly. How will you react to that?

Which president are we talking about?  Is it the president who gave that speech or is it the president who embarked on consultative engagements with different stakeholders in the country the following week? Obviously, I would have preferred that we’re confronted with a president who engaged in consultations and also probably brought in more stakeholders. In a way, the presidency of any country is a critical agent for change. The Americans call it the bully pulpit syndrome. The buck stops with the president. The body language of the president can determine the outcome of an engagement. I hold the belief that President Buhari has a critical role to play in moving the nation forward in averting the oncoming tragedy and in heading the country away from collision to a cooperative destination in arriving at the kind of federalism that will be acceptable to all of us. He has a responsibility to do that.

Apart from being the president, he (Buhari) probably right now, is the only Nigerian that can ensure that we don’t end up in a ditch; in spite of what he says at times, he is the only Nigerian. Not that he stands the chance; he is the only person. Whether he will do it or not, is a different kettle of fish. Now, why do I say that? The present system that we have is skewed in favour of the North and the way forward will have to be the surrender of issues from the 1999 Constitution controlled by the Federal Government to the states.  Some issues on the exclusive list should be moved to the concurrent list and possibly, there should be a creation of the reserved list. So, it is the North that needs to make the concession. But if you’re going to be rational in your approach, the North has to be persuaded that it is not being asked to commit political or economic suicide and the only person right now that the North truly trusts and believes will not play politics with their interests is Muhammadu Buhari. He stands now in the kind of position that the (late) Sardauna stood in the sixties. An average person on the northern streets believes in Buhari in the way that they don’t believe in (former Vice President) Atiku (Abubakar) or my former boss, IBB, because those are the people who have spoken out forcefully calling for restructuring. The northern streets will conclude that these persons are playing with their interests.

But Buhari stands in that position of trust in the estimation of the northern streets that ‘if he should say that we need to give up these issues, he’s not selling us.’ What we need to do is to find people in the North that Buhari trusts – people who can discuss with him, that he believes are not setting a trap for him. The Yoruba leaders’ meeting in Ibadan and this interview will not get through to Buhari. But there are people in the North who can speak with him. There must be mutual trust between Buhari and those speaking with him.

Should Buhari reshuffle his cabinet?

For what reason or for what purpose should he reshuffle the cabinet? It appears to be the pastime of the public to want to see people disgraced and humbled. But again when you look at the people who were appointed in the first place, what was the basis for their appointment? I don’t embrace cabinet reshuffle just for reshuffling’s sake.

Buhari and the All Progressives Congress were voted into power with their promise to deal decisively with corruption in the country. Is that promise being fulfilled?

Do you believe everything a political party says? When you look at the people who fund parties – not just the present ruling party, I am talking about any of the political parties in Nigeria – where does the money come from? Look at the financiers, are they clean? Are their hands clean? Do you expect any political party to commit suicide? Until the foundation of your politics is clean, you cannot expect a clean government and you cannot expect it to get into power and go after the financiers. You can’t do that.

We want the country to be united first. We want the country to solve its problem of stability before tackling corruption. Part of the problem of dealing with corruption is that a government has to be in power first and be stable. But when you now depend on corrupt people to win your election and to remain in power, how can you deal with corruption? Is the government stable? Is Nigeria stable?

What do you think about the recent gathering of some Yoruba leaders in Ibadan to take a formal position on the restructuring of Nigeria?

What’s called the Yoruba Agenda is something that is about 20 years old. Various groups and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have come to the conclusion, especially after the debacle of the June 12 (presidential election in 1993) that we have a system that is not working. The Yoruba agenda has been constant. The constituents of the agenda were re-confirmed at the conference held in Ibadan recently; which is regionalism and states within it and other constituent elements in terms of economic devolution. So, I am not surprised by the outcome of the meeting in Ibadan. There was the need for such a meeting because it reconfirms what the position of the Yoruba has always been. Two, it gives a ready-made answer to anyone who may want to ask: ‘What do you people want? What’s your own contribution to the debate on restructuring?’

Are you bothered that the South-West governors were not at the gathering?

What I often find funny but at the same time disruptive, is the proverb that says,  ‘we cannot all sleep and maintain the same position.’ As Wole Soyinka once said, you can come up with other proverbs that you can all sleep and maintain the same position. If you’re fighting a war, there is the need to have a unity of purpose; there must be a unified focus. Therefore, to that extent, it is worrisome that the (South-West) governors were not there. But this is an issue which has confronted the Yoruba nation from time immemorial. Several attempts have been made to address that issue unsuccessfully.

The most disastrous occurrence in the Yoruba nation was the Kiriji war which lasted for years between Ekiti Parapo and the Ibadan Alliance, (and) practically turned the Yoruba nation upside-down. If you look at the Yoruba history, either to say from then on or maybe even before then, it has always been a case of a divided nation. Even when the Action Group, headed by Baba (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo, was in power, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons gave the Action Group a run for its money electorally. We never had a situation where the Action Group won 80 or 90 per cent of the votes – it was always winning just a little over 50 per cent with the NCNC very close behind it. At times, while the AG won the regional election, in the West, the NCNC actually won the federal election. The consolation then was that such reality did not stop the Action Group under the late Chief Awolowo from recording tremendous successes in the running of the Western Region such that, to date, those achievements are still regarded as the benchmark in the development of Nigeria – because in a way, that was what led to what I would call cooperative but competitive federalism. If one region was doing something, the other region would want to do it as well. But you needed somebody with a vision to start it. So, that is the consolation whether the governors were there or not, – it will slow it down – there is nothing that will stop the march of the Yoruba nation towards having the kind of political system which its people desire.

But – I hope I will not be misunderstood because I don’t wish to be misunderstood – the Yoruba nation will not get what it wants because in a federation, whether that federation is in terms of a village community, a state community, a national community or even a global community, one constituent element never gets everything that it wants. You’ve got to negotiate with the others and hopefully, you arrive at a consensus that all of you can live with. In the 1960 Constitution, the Northern People’s Congress led by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, didn’t get everything it wanted for the North. (Dr. Nnamdi) Azikiwe, leading the NCNC, didn’t get everything he wanted for the East. And, Chief Awolowo, leading the AG, didn’t get everything he wanted for the West. But there was sufficient consensus on critical issues that allowed them to say, ‘This is a constitution we can sell to our people and this is a constitution we can live with.’

Do you agree with the Yoruba leaders that the country should return to the 1960 and 1963 constitutions?

I do. But you need to spell out what you mean by that. We need to address our language of engagement, which is, we talk in generality. Demands are made (by all sides) in generality. So, the answers are given in generality because each side is reading its fears into the debate. When you say ‘we want to restructure’, those against restructuring are wondering, ‘what do they mean exactly?’. They want to take power away from us. They want to deny us what we’re benefitting from the system. It’s all a plot to enable them to dominate us – that’s what they mean by restructuring.’ But, if you say, by restructuring, ‘we mean political devolution and consequently, economic devolution.’ After all, you cannot transfer executive responsibilities to the states over some issues and not give them the means to carry that out.

I say this because when they (Yoruba leaders) said we need to go back to the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, what they meant was, if you look at the reserved list and the concurrent list; you look at the subjects that are on the lists that had been transferred to the federal authority, you’ve turned Nigeria from being a federal system to a unitary system. So, we want to go back; let us look at those subjects again and return what should be the ‘returnable’ to the states. Why do I say the ‘returnable’? The capacity to execute what a region had in the sixties is not the same thing as the capacity to execute by a state – the state is smaller. It’s not a question of the economic capability. So, it would have to be in an amended version. We’re talking about what the West – the Yoruba nation – wants. But keep it in mind that what you want may not be perceived as being beneficial to others who are even your allies.

Let me give you an illustration: one of the things people have found baffling is the decision reached at the 2014 National Conference. It is the resolution, calling for the creation of 54 states. Many couldn’t understand it as they argued that the current 36 states are struggling due to inadequate funds. People seem to have forgotten that in a constitutional conference – which the national conference really was – you bring to the table your own demands, a regional system and you go to others to ask them for their support. I know definitely that the Middle Belt and the South-South don’t believe in the regional system. But since those who want regional system are their allies, they can say, ‘all right, but what we want, to protect our interests as states, is the creation of more states. So, if you agree to our state creation, we’ll agree to your regional system.’ Since you cannot force your demand on them and they cannot force their demand on you, you negotiate – you bargain – and that was how that proposal (of 54 states) came about.

The Yoruba nation must understand the need to negotiate with others who have their own agenda as it pushes forward its regional government agenda. We’ve got to show cleverness, wisdom, and acumen in the negotiation that will follow to make sure that we don’t lose the core of our own demands and interests. The important thing is for us to deal with the question of domination; to ensure a system where there is no automatic domination of any group by another group. The other issue is what the European Union called the issue of subsidiarity, which is that what is best handled at the local level. They should be reserved for the local government level. That means that there are things which the local governments should be allowed to handle; same thing at the state and federal levels.

Part of the pronouncement made by the Yoruba leaders is that Nigeria will not know peace unless it is run as a federal state. Do you agree with that?

I do. We are too large and our interests are diverse, not necessarily antagonistic that it makes a lot of sense for us to give this breathing space to each constituent units of the nation and that can only be done under the system of federalism. Fortunately, federalism is such an elastic concept that we don’t need to lose sleep over the kind of federalism that is achievable for Nigeria. But one of the things that we will need to jettison in our mind is the concept of true federalism. There’s nothing called ‘true federalism’. Each federal state adopts a system that addresses the core issues which that nation needs to address. The Canadian concept of federalism is different from either the German or the American federal system. It doesn’t really matter what name it is called. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name is still a rose. Like the Americans will say, ‘It looks like a federal state. It smells like a federal state. It works like a federal state. Damn it, it is a federal state!’ What we should be seeking is a Nigerian federalism that’s unique to Nigeria (and) that allows us to live together without the fear of dominance and marginalisation. It’s those who are dominated who talk about marginalisation; it’s those that are doing the domineering that have the fear that unless they have powers in their hands, they’re going to lose out. They fear being marginalised.

The spate of crime and insecurity has continued to increase. What do you think is responsible for this?

These are hard times but the manifestations are global not just local. I doubt if there is any country in the world that says it feels safer now than it did 10 or 15 years ago because you’re dealing with phenomena that are global in nature. Trans-continental, non-governmental alliance and movements that are not under the control of a government and therefore, the kinds of constraints and restraints that normally govern inter-governmental behaviours are totally absent and Nigeria is not immune to that. Another reason is the lack of an elite consensus in our politics – it’s detrimental to national development.

Perhaps the only time we had elite consensus was between 1953 and 1963. The moment a state of emergency was declared in the South-West in 1962, it destroyed the post-independence elite consensus. It also destroyed the political values by which we maintained stability in the country. I am not saying that era was perfect; we had a system that was predictable. Predictable in the way it was run, predictable in its outcome, and predictable in the objectives by which the country was run – that was what I meant by a competitive federalism. It was destroyed in 1962 because it meant a seizure of power in the West by the Federal Government, by the North and the East. In an attempt to destroy the West, they triggered off forces that ended up destroying Nigeria itself and we have never known peace since then.

Do you think Nigeria is a failing state?

Yes, I do. I think we’re driving down the road to becoming a failed state. But I don’t think we are a failed state. There will always be contestations and some of them could be violent but they’re not sufficient to term a country a failed state, otherwise, nations like the United States of America and Spain may fall in that category. We’re in such an unstable position than we are in the 1960s.

What now is the way out of it?

It has to do with the creation of an elite consensus. Imagine if the elite can get their acts together and we run an honest political system – a political system of governance that delivers dividends. I’m not talking about dividends of democracy. I’m talking about dividends of governance where roads are properly constructed, the challenges in the educational system being effectively addressed, among others. The political gerrymandering that goes on instead of governance where bridges are built where there are no rivers or build river under the bridge.

PUNCH

Posted On Sunday, 17 September 2017 13:09 Written by
TROOPS yesterday launched a manhunt for Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu , barely 24 hours after the group’s proscription.

Nothing has been heard about Kanu since the proscription.

Some sources yesterday said he had gone underground.

Kanu is on bail for the alleged treason charges preferred against him.

The Nation learnt  yesterday that  his bail sureties might be asked by the security agencies to account for him.

Besides,  security agencies are  probing  IPOB leader’s alleged foreign links.

Investigators are said to be analysing a  video clip of Kanu and a Turkish citizen  as part of the probe.

A source, while confirming the search for Kanu, said: “Troops have been given a firm order to fish out and arrest the IPOB leader. As a prelude to it, the Defence Headquarters on Friday  declared IPOB as a terrorist organisation.

“Intelligence has, however, revealed that Kanu might have gone underground. As I speak with you, troops have actually searched his house and he was not found there.Troops have a mandate to arrest him wherever he might be.”

Asked what if he is not found the source said: “ We might follow legal process by holding his sureties responsible. These sureties will have to produce him.” 

On the probe of Kanu’s alleged foreign links , another source said:”We are looking into the allegations of foreign support for Kanu. We are doing a profiling of his foreign contacts. We have some clues but we need to dig deeper.”

The Nation can also confirm that  government insisted on non-withdrawal of soldiers from Abia State to avoid a situation whereby the  IPOB will “take advantage and unleash mayhem” on innocent citizens.

Sources said the   presidency overruled Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on the withdrawal of troops because the police alone could not  cope with the “grave security” situation.

“The governor wanted a political solution to a military matter. But the federal government cannot watch and allow the situation to degenerate,” one of the sources said.

“Before Kanu was released on bail, these same governors in the Southeast, political leaders from the zone and others prevailed on the federal government to allow him home.

“Some of these governors and Igbo leaders made a commitment that they would  ensure that Kanu did  not abuse his bail conditions.

“The government bent backwards and ensured that Kanu was released on bail. But you can see what has happened. All those who gave the guarantee that Kanu would  respect his bail bond have been made to look foolish.

“Intelligence on IPOB revealed that without troops on the streets, the situation would have been worse.”

The  Embassy of the United States has asked Americans in Abia and Plateau states to review their security and maintain a high level of vigilance.

The Embassy’s cautionary note was contained in its travel alert.

It said: “Curfews have been declared in Abia and Plateau states because of violent attacks accompanied by threats of reprisals.

“Exercise caution in these areas; review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.

“Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.”

The  National Leader (Southsouth) of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Senator Roland Owie,  yesterday  faulted the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation.

In a statement in Abuja, Owie said the declaration smacked of double standards.

He said: “Now that IPOB has been declared ‘Terrorist group, the government should immediately declare Fulani herdsmen, Terrorist group.”

Owie added: “I urge President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to walk the way of justice and equity in handling the affairs of Nigeria and stop pretending that all is well.

“The gravest mistake of non-equitable administrations all over the world is the denial of wrongdoings on their part.  Unfortunately for such administrations, they forget that God cannot be mocked.”

“Gravitation will help a person if he builds the side of his house straight and plumb; but gravitation will oppose him and make his house fall down if he builds it out of plumb.”

 
Posted On Sunday, 17 September 2017 00:37 Written by

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has endorsed a possible meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and leader of the Indigenous People of Biaria (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.

He gave this indication in an interview with Newsweek magazine published in the United States.

“I don’t see anything wrong in that [Buhari meeting with Kanu]. I would not object to that; if anything, I would encourage it,” Obasanjo said in response to a question on the agitation for Biafra that has become violent with the military called in to quell the situation.

“I would want to meet Kanu myself and talk to people like him, people of his age, [and ask:] ‘What are your worries?’ Not only from the southeast but from all parts of Nigeria.”

Obasanjo said  that the response of the army response to the pro-Biafra sentiment is “not the solution,” but adds that the secession craved by IPOB is not the way forward either.

Obasanjo said Nigeria must avoid allowing the current tensions to escalate into another conflict..

“Those who fought in the war in Biafra will not want to fight any other war,” he said. “I have fought one war too many in Nigeria; I don’t want to see another.”

 

Posted On Saturday, 16 September 2017 00:26 Written by

The Presidency has lambasted a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, for accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of being a sectional leader.

The Presidency further stated that the Indigenous People of Biafra was deliberately provoking soldiers to commit acts of violence in order to draw sympathy from the international community.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement on Thursday.

Shehu said, “While the military are taking all precautions to observe the rules of engagement, there is a deliberate sinister agenda by IPOB to provoke the soldiers into killing innocent people in retaliation so that Nnamdi Kanu would use the pictures of the victims for international propaganda by accusing the government of ethnic cleansing against the Igbo with the sole purpose of gaining sympathy.”

Ezekwesili, who is a Co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls group, had on Wednesday advised Buhari to rise above sectionalism and evacuate the soldiers deployed in the South-East as part of Operation Python Dance 2.

However, Shehu asked the former minister to stop being petty.

The statement read in part, “The Presidency has advised the Co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls group, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, to demonstrate a great sense of responsibility in the face of national security challenges posed by the IPOB incendiary propaganda designed to cause civil unrest in the country.

“A prominent influencer like Mrs. Ezekwesili has a moral and patriotic duty not to give ammunition to any violent group that seems determined to pursue its separatist agitation through reckless and destructive methods.”

According to Shehu, Ezekwesili failed to condemn IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who, he said, had been promoting violence for several months.

The President’s spokesman said since the former minister was very active on social media, she should have been using her energy to condemn the IPOB leader but she chose to look the other way.

The statement added, “While it is convenient for the civil society activist to condemn the military and the government of President Buhari, Mrs. Ekekwesili didn’t find it appropriate, even once, to criticise the dangerous and violent propaganda being propagated by the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Oby, as they call her, tweets on everything. Why was she silent on this one?

“The attacks on soldiers and policemen by IPOB supporters were most irresponsible, indefensible and reckless and nobody in her position should elevate mobs to the status of rock stars for the sake of playing to the gallery.”

The President’s spokesman wondered why Ezekwesili “retreated to the background or lost her voice while IPOB supporters were violently molesting, harassing, attacking and jeopardising the lives of indigenes and non-indigenes.”

He challenged the former minister to explain to Nigerians where the constitution of Nigeria, and international human rights law, support the killing and molestation of innocent people in the name of advocacy for self-determination.

Shehu said Ezekwesili’s “hypocritical and timid silence while Kanu’s IPOB supporters were engaged in lawlessness and recklessness in violation of his bail conditions is a burden on her credibility as a national crusader who should be courageous to condemn criminality. This art of using a raincoat while taking a bath is nothing short of self deceit.”

The presidential spokesman reminded the ex-minister that if the Buhari administration could take tough action against the extremist religious groups in the northern parts of the country to preserve national security, it was ridiculous to accuse the President of sending soldiers to the South-East because he hates the Igbo.

Shehu rubbished reports that the Buhari administration was marginalizing the Igbo.

He noted that the two most important economic entities in the country- the Ministry of Petroleum Resources) and the Central Bank of Nigeria – were being run by Igbo, Ibe Kachikwu and Godwin Emefiele, respectively.

Shehu added, “A President, who has put the nation’s cash cows, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Petroleum, in the hands of the Igbo; who has given four out of five states in the sub-region senior cabinet posts in his administration, including Foreign Affairs; and Industry, Trade and Investment, and is constructing the Second Niger Bridge after years of deceit and false starts, cannot be called a hater of the Igbo.”

Posted On Friday, 15 September 2017 10:41 Written by

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Monday, in Lagos, expressed disgust with emerging debates on re-election by some politicians in the country.

Some northern governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and some allies of President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday backed the President for a second term.

The declaration came on the heels of the open declaration of support of the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan for the presidential bid of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who the minister declared as “our president in 2019”.

But the renowned playwright is not amused by the debates going on in the country on the political permutations ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Soyinka noted that the current administration had barely gone halfway, wondering why people were already planning to fill political positions.

The Nobel laureate spoke with some journalists after a press briefing to unveil the second batch of students departing Nigeria for Lebanon on Tuesday for the Study Abroad In Lebanon programme by The Cedars Institute, Lebanon, in collaboration with The Wole Soyinka Foundation.

When asked a question on the current debate about a second term for Buhari and if he would endorse the President for a second term, Soyinka stated, “Why are we talking about second term for heaven’s sake? I don’t understand this. I refuse to be part of that discussion. I absolutely refuse to be part of the discussion.’’

On performance of the current administration, the revered writer said there were “yawning gaps”, noting that an average Nigerian was now less secure than he was few years ago.

He said, “Take simple security for instance. The average citizen feels less secure now than he did a few years ago; that is evident. When people talk about state police, there are reasons for it. When they talk about bringing policing right down to the community level, they know what they are talking about. This is also part and parcel of reconstruction or reconfiguration.

“The economy, there is a big question about it right now. Fortunately, everybody admits that we went through a very bad patch. Right now, it is a question of have we come out of it or not or there is no question at all.

“The past few years have been years of real internal economic disaster for the average citizen.’’

He, however, said there was a question of who was responsible for the agony the nation was plunged into in the last two years.

Besides, Soyinka said people shouldn’t allow themselves to be put off by those who tried to cheapen the word “restructuring”.

The renowned playwright stated, “Like I said when I visited the Women Arise (For Change Initiative) the other day, it doesn’t matter by what name you call it. We all know what we are talking about. We all know that this nation was deconstructed and that what we live in right now as a nation is not along a structure that expresses the true will of Nigerians.

 

“So, when people use words like ‘restructuring, reconfiguring or call it reconfiguration, return to status quo, or call it reformulating the protocols of our association or used a single word like restructuring, it doesn’t matter. Everybody knows what we are talking about. That is number one.

“Also, there are those who try to divert the attention away from the main issue by mouthing platitudes, clichés like it is the mind that needs restructuring. You know those I am referring to.

“This is a constant process—restructuring the mind. It is both an individual exercise as well as a theological exercise. People go to church and mosque to have their minds restructured. They go to school and extramural classes to have their minds restructured. Restructuring the mind is not the issue.

“Nobody is saying that the exercise of restructuring the mind should not be undertaken; it should be undertaken. Anybody who indulges in self-examination is already engaging in an exercise of mental and attitudinal reconstruction. We know that. People shouldn’t try to substitute one for the other.

“I find it very dishonest and cheap time-serving, trivialising the issue when I hear expressions like ‘it is the mind that needs to be restructured.’ Who is arguing or denying that? Why bring it up? Why is it a substitute?

“We are talking about the protocols of association of the constitutive parts of a nation.  We are talking of decentralisation. That is another word. This country is over-centralised.

“Are you saying we cannot reconstruct the mind and reconstruct the nation at the same time? Call it by whatever name. We are saying that this nation is long overdue for reconfiguring. That is the expression I choose to use now.’’

Soyinka, who also commented on Buhari’s position that Nigeria’s unity was settled and not negotiable in the President’s speech after returning from his medical trip to the UK, said he had heard the expression often.

He added, “I don’t know why people bother. Again, that is another deploy for sidetracking the issue. Nobody is talking about disuniting Nigeria.

Posted On Tuesday, 12 September 2017 02:05 Written by
Senator Abba Ali, who represented Katsina/Dutsinma senatorial district under the defunct National Party of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, is a childhood friend of President Muhammadu Buhari. He tells OLAIDE OYELUDE that only Buhari has what it takes to tackle corruption in the country

What informed the decision of your former classmates to visit President Muhammadu Buhari, in Daura during the Sallah break?

That visit was not the first time that our 1953 class made to the President. In fact, we have always been together right from our school days. I thank God that our colleagues who visited him during the Sallah day were even more compared to the number that visited him last year. An occasion like that gives us the opportunity to reminiscence, remember the old good days and inquire about current developments concerning our individual families. We also use such occasions to exchange ideas and suggestions on the way forward for the country. One thing about President Buhari is that he remembers and calls us by our first names. We have always been together since 1975, we muted the idea of coming together twice in a year, that is, during Christmas and Eid-El-Kabir celebrations. I could recollect vividly, about seven of us during one of such occasions held at our Alma Mata in 1983, had to eat with our bare hands inside a big tray because all the cutleries and plates had been used to serve our guests. The seven of us who ate the food parked in the tray included President Buhari; the late General Shehu Yar’Adua; retired President of the Court of Appeal, Umoru Abdullahi; the late Isiaka Yusufu; the late Fatau Abdullahi; the late Grand Khadi Aminu Ibrahim, and I. We ate with our bare hands from that big tray and we enjoyed it as it reflected the bond of friendship among us. We have several interesting outings like that.

Can you recollect the type of extracurricular activities that you engaged in during your school days?

We used to converge on the ‘removed class’, as it was then known during the colonial days.  The class was like a preparatory class from where you proceed to class 1, then class 2 and depending on the decision of the school authorities, one may later be sent to either a college or a teacher training school. Naturally, at the ‘removed class’, we used to do a lot of things together like the morning devotion and sports. I was very good in football and hockey then, just like the President. So we played football and hockey together most of the time. We naturally became friends and the friendship has blossomed in the last 63 years because we were interacting on daily basis except during holidays. What gives me joy is that President Buhari never forgets or abandons his friends. He always inquires about us and such action gives one the honour and joy that despite the heavy burden on his shoulder as the number one citizen of the country, he did not lose touch with his childhood friends. He listens to them, and does not toy with suggestions that they offer him. He is somebody who listens and heeds advice.

Do you think President Buhari should resign on health grounds?

President Buhari is hale and hearty; let me first clear that impression on his health. Those urging him to resign on health ground have forgotten that God is the creator of mankind and he has the final say on when one will die. I have seen an old man in Katsina here who was in coma for four months, yet the old man thereafter lived for another eight years before he eventually died. I have also seen a situation where a man was seen today in good health and died the following day not as a result of accident but normal natural death. That is God for you. So, those saying President Buhari should resign on health grounds are going beyond their limits. They are not God and they are playing God by saying so. Only God knows beyond anybody.

What about the clamour for his second term in office being canvassed by some of his admirers and party men?

President Buhari should go for a second term in office.  He has started a good job which is acknowledged both within the country and globally and it is better he contests again for a second term in office so that he can finish the good job he has started. Everybody knows that this man is not out to accumulate wealth but to put Nigeria in its appropriate place in the comity of nations. This man is out to see that Nigeria is great again. And he has been doing all within his powers to achieve this. He realises that no country can be great with corruption. So he is fighting it with zeal and he is also tackling insurgency and all forms of criminality. He knows that Nigeria needs good infrastructural development and he is pursuing this. Look at the Mambilla power project that has been abandoned. He has resuscitated it. There are other projects being embarked upon by his government to ensure that the Nigerian youths are no longer jobless. So, I strongly support the call for his second term in office. By the time his second term ends, he would have laid a very solid foundation for whoever that is coming after him to leverage on. God, in his own wisdom, made President Muhammadu Buhari to be above board compared to his fellow politicians. We are prepared to support him to ensure that his second term bid succeeds and I believe that President Buhari will succeed while his detractors will fail.

Are you saying that Buhari is the only incorruptible politician who can lead the country and fight corruption?

Based on my experience in politics and with my age, I am saying it with all seriousness that I have not seen anybody among the current crop of politicians in the country who has a good intention like President Buhari. Many of them have amassed enormous wealth meant to take care of their people. Many are still stealing blindly. President Buhari stands out among the current political class in Nigeria. I will rather encourage him to go for a second term so that there will be sanity in the political sphere.

Are you saying that the institutions that should act as checks are not strengthened enough to tackle executive recklessness?

Nigeria’s greatest problems as of today are the National Assembly and the judiciary. The whole problem revolves round corruption which President Buhari is tackling with all his energy. The National Assembly members are supposed to make laws and ensure checks and balances on government spending but the federal lawmakers have become contractors handling constituency project which was not supposed to be their responsibilities. Their job is to make good laws and carry out oversight functions to ensure prudent management of the nation’s resources. When we were at the senate and government allocated the 1004 estate (in Lagos) for us as our accommodation, we asked government to direct the Ministry of Works and Housing to carry out necessary renovation and fittings there. We did not say that we will carry out the exercise by ourselves. Ordinarily, when you are a lawmaker, your primary job is to make laws and not to chase contracts.  When I was the Chairman of the National Research Institute of Chemical Technology, Zaria, the institute’s budget was passed but the National Assembly then, ensured that money was not allocated to the institute until the end  of the year simply because we did not offer bribe to anybody. I was also, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Works and Housing during the second republic, our committee did not demand money from anybody to have bills passed. Instead, we did our job with all sense of patriotism and concern for the poor people. And as everybody can see too, President Buhari has started to sanitise the judiciary. The bane of the country is corruption and it is only someone with the character of President Buhari who can tackle the problem headlong.

What is your view on the current controversy surrounding the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria?

Those clamouring for the restructuring of Nigeria are not being sincere. We have a constitution in Nigeria and the constitution is explicit enough on virtually all issues concerning us. I won’t subscribe to the call for the restructuring of Nigeria. Nigeria is a project which all of us must allow to succeed.

Posted On Sunday, 10 September 2017 16:17 Written by

A Nigerian minister has promised to quit if President Muhammadu Buhari decides to seek re-election, claiming the ailing leader had earlier vowed to serve only one term.

Women’s affairs minister Aisha Alhassan said she would back former vice-president Atiku Abubakar for the presidency at the next election in 2019 rather than the incumbent.

“If today Buhari decides to go for re-election… I will go and kneel before him and tell him, ‘Father, I’m grateful for the opportunity you have given me to serve in your cabinet but you know Atiku is my mentor, staying around you will portray me as a hypocrite and I’m not one’, that is if Atiku declares his interest to contest,” she told BBC Hausa radio.

Speculation has been rife in Nigeria about whether Buhari, 74, will stand again, after he has spent much of the year in a London hospital with an undisclosed illness.

The government maintains he is back at work, although he has kept a low profile since returning from the British capital last month.

Buhari has skipped and cancelled weekly cabinet meetings, chairing his first gathering of senior ministers in five months last week.

Alhassan disclosed her allegiance on Wednesday after being asked whether Buhari had told anyone he planned to run in 2019.

She said: “In 2015 prior to the election, when Buhari decided to contest following intense pressure, he declared that he was going to serve one tenure, that is four years.

“And to date no-one can claim Buhari has expressed any desire to stand for re-election in 2019.”

Buhari made Alhassan women’s minister after she narrowly failed to be elected to run the eastern state of Taraba, making her the country’s first female state governor.

Abubakar, whom Buhari beat to be the All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s presidential candidate for 2015, nominated her for the ministerial post.

The former customs service chief, 70, who served as vice-president under former president Olusegun Obasanjo in the 2000s, is widely tipped to try again for the top job.

He has been touring the nation to drum up support but senior APC figures maintain Buhari remains the candidate to beat, should he decide to contest.

Alhassan made no further comment when asked about her remarks by AFP.

Nigerian politics is largely dependent on patronage, with little to separate the main parties other than personalities.

In 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party haemorrhaged support because ex-president Goodluck Jonathan allegedly reneged on an apparent pledge to serve just one term.

A slew of lawmakers switched to Buhari’s APC, ensuring the first opposition win in Nigeria’s history.

AFP

Posted On Thursday, 07 September 2017 23:35 Written by
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