Sunday, 22 July 2018

A N242bn bill for elections?

The Guardian

When President Muhammadu Buhari sent a request the other day to the National Assembly for virement of funds for the purpose of next year’s general elections, Nigerians were justifiably aghast. In government business, his request was and is not new but the huge amount involved is cause for concern.
To ask the National Assembly to vire the sum of two hundred and forty-two billion naira (N242bn) from the existing budget, only about seven months to the said elections, suggests poor or lack of planning. It also smacks of insensitivity to the plight of most Nigerians. Democracy must be deepened with well-conducted free and fair elections but this should not be an avenue for waste and corruption.
Did the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) not know elections would be conducted in February 2019? The same question goes for the requests of the Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Police and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). How come these agencies did not provide for elections in their budget submissions at the beginning of the year? Are they seizing the 2019 election frenzy to request for funds that would ultimately be diverted to other purposes and pockets of individuals?
More worrying is the fact that some of the requests are preposterous. For example, the Police and Civil Defence are asking for three hundred and seventeen million naira (N317m) to feed dogs and horses during the elections. The Nigerian Immigration Service plans to spend one hundred and twenty-six million naira (N126m) to print name tags for its officials out of a total budget of two billion six hundred naira (N2.6bn).
While the Nigeria Police is asking for thirty billion naira, the DSS is requesting for twelve billion (N12bn), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is asking for three billion five hundred million (N3.5bn). The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) is also asking for four billion naira (N4bn) for the exercise. Furthermore, the DSS is requesting for two billion naira (N2bn) for localised elections and travel allowances while one hundred million naira is proposed for post-election investigations. The same organization claims it needs one hundred and twenty million naira to fuel generators for an election period of twenty-one days. Is INEC itself also asking for one hundred and eighty-nine billion naira for the 2019 elections? What is the breakdown?
Elections generally are expensive to run. But the Nigerian experience is a journey into chicanery of the biggest order. In Canada where seventeen million people registered as voters in the last elections, the sum of $375million was spent. In the United Kingdom, during the 2010 elections where forty-five million people voted, the government spent one hundred and thirteen million pounds. In Nigeria the 1999 elections cost the nation N1.5bn while in 2002 the sum of N29bn was expended. Elections costs soared to N45.5billion in 2006, N111 billion in 2010. It, however, went down to N87.8billion in 2014. Thus, even if the poor exchange rate of the naira is factored in, the N242bn being asked for remains too high for a country that is conducting such elections for the sixth time. What exactly is going on?
It is common knowledge that most of the agencies involved in conducting elections see this period as an opportunity to feather their nests and enrich the pockets of some powerful individuals. Often, these agencies blackmail the government of the day into parting with huge sums of money so that the process may not fail. In a country notorious for poor accountability, no one ever returns to the books to see how deployed funds are actually spent. As a result, most of the people in the long chain become super rich after the election period. How does one justify such a stupendous amount for feeding dogs and horses? Did the President and his close officials really scrutinize the requests before President Buhari appended his signature to the request?
Now that the executive arm of government has submitted a request that is considered outrageous, the National Assembly is hereby called upon to do due diligence and be the voice of the suffering people of Nigeria in this matter. All parties involved must be called upon to defend and justify their requests before appropriation is granted. There is biting hardship in the land. People can hardly feed. Parents are at their wits end about how to meet their financial obligations. Yet such preposterous amount of money is being requested for elections and the figures are being thrown with impunity at people who have largely lost their human dignity to poverty and sundry hardships. Billions of naira for feeding dogs and horses as well as sundry inanities in twenty-one days while poverty is the signature of the majority of Nigerians?
Does it mean that there were no provisions for these animals in the approved budgets of the requesting agencies before now? Certainly, some officials are up to criminal mischief.
Public officials should realise that transparency and accountability are crucial to the survival of democracy in Nigeria. They should also remember that ultimately they will be called to give account of their days in service. Most of the officials currently facing trial over fraud never reckoned with justice catching up with them. This should be an object lesson to all and sundry. The onus is on President Buhari to prove to the Nigerian people that his anti-corruption stance is not just a slogan. This he must do by promoting prudence and nipping acts of official corruption in the bud. Elections can be very expensive, especially in a presidential system of government. But it does not have to be this expensive. All hands must be on deck to drastically slash this insane cost.

Nigerian students and vanishing scholarships, bursaries

The Guardian

When indigent students are lucky to be awarded scholarships, the social intervention scheme becomes not just an avenue to alleviate their circumstances, but also serves as a lifeline to realise their educational dreams. And for those with proven academic abilities, scholarships launch them to their desired educational heights without pilling so much pressure on the finances of their parents and guardians.

In the same vein, bursary payments have a way of making light, the burden of schooling in an environment where quality education is not deemed a social service, but one that has to be paid for. From 1960s up to 1990s and early 2000s, many companies, boards and parastatals, regional and state governments, as well as the Federal Government gave out tonnes of money in scholarship and bursaries to deserving students. Unfortunately, now the economic downturn, lack of political will, misplaced priorities, as well as, widespread corrupt practices have joined forces to deny students these critical intervention schemes.

Consequently, the few states that have not abolished bursary payments and scholarship awards are struggling with backlog of arrears, which run into a number of years, while the Federal Government has continually subjected itself to opprobrium each time students it sent abroad on scholarship protest the non-payment of their entitlements in their country of study.

Be that as it may, one of those that have benefitted from government scholarship of yesteryears is Professor of Extractive Metallurgy and Materials Processing, University of Lagos, David Ehigie Esezobor.Looking back, Esezobor, who was formerly Head of Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, University of Lagos (UNILAG), said the scholarship he got boosted his education as he had no reasons to bother about how his education would be financed. “Because of the scholarship that I enjoyed, I was given that opportunity not to bother so much about finance. The scholarship was very helpful to my education. I also enjoyed bursaries as a student and we sat like kings in the university environment, as we were not bothered about school fees, but had to focus on our studies and the reasons we were in school. For those of us who enjoyed it, we were actually lucky,” Esezobor stated.
He continued: “The scholarship also allowed my parents to carry out other projects with their finances instead of worrying about my school fees; they concentrated on giving me moral support and parental guidance.” Even though the university teacher admitted that his parents were ready and keen on “sponsoring my education,” he added that he was uncertain of what would have been the situation if the scholarship and the bursaries were not there because when somebody comes to your assistance, you have more opportunities, and they were there for me and my parents. There were colleagues whose parents would not have been able to pay the school fees, so it was a very big relief to them and their families.”
The Vice Chancellor of Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State, Prof. Friday Ndubuisi, believes that bursary and scholarship should be an integral part of the country’s educational system, as is the practice all over the world, especially in advanced countries.According to him, the gradual disappearance of both from the country’s “education sector is as a result of poor governance and pervasive corruption; as a lot of our resources are being siphoned abroad by politically exposed persons and businessmen. You can imagine Gen. Sani Abacha’s loot repatriated recently totaling over $300m, and the $70m Malibu illegal deal. The United States has equally accepted to repatriate a meagre sum out of the lot siphoned there by Abacha. If all these monies were here, the government could finance scholarship awards and bursary payments with such large amounts.”
The Professor of Philosphy, who specialises in Philosphy of Science and Jurisprudence, while also making reference to the abuse that scholarship schemes have been subjected to in the country said, “scholarship should be based on merit if we want to promote excellence. To give scholarship based on sentiments is a promotion of mediocrity, and it is not helpful to national growth as such funds are most times wasted. Thankfully, I am aware that most private universities give scholarship to only deserving students. Here in Christopher University, we assist indigent students and orphans.”
Stressing the need for sustainability to be the watchword in the institution of any scholarship or bursary awards, Ndubuisi said that it does not make sense to send students abroad for scholarship in first degrees courses that are available in Nigerian universities.Since a good number of persons acquire tertiary education through loans and scholarships in the West, Ndubuisi stated that education bank is one thing that the Federal Government should think seriously about, saying, “with advancement in information technology, it is easy to recover loans once the beneficiaries begin to work. That is the practice in the western world. We must go back to professor Joe Irukwu’s recommended loan system that was operational immediately after the end of the Nigerian Civil war in the 1970s. That was how many cash-strapped students were able to go back to school. Education is the bedrock of development in every country that is anxious to move forward. If we keep on neglecting education, we are doing so at our peril, and we will continue to be dependent on the Western world for technological advancement.
States Wobbling In Scholarship, Bursary Payments
In the last 10 years or thereabouts, most states have tactically withdrawn from bursary payments citing serious financial straits, while also scaling down on the number of beneficiaries of foreign and local scholarships. In bad cases, foreign scholarship was deleted entirely from the menu as was the case in Rivers State.Shortly after coming on board, the state government discontinued foreign scholarship and recalled home all students under its scholarship programme, except those in final year.
The government while informing parents and guardians of its decision, said it took the step because resources were no longer available to continue with the programme. It therefore stressed that it would no longer pay the tuition and allowances of the scholars, whom it advised to return home and continue their education in country. A letter dated February 6, 2016, by the Executive Director/CEO of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Lawrence Pepple, noted that except those students in their final year ending 2016, “All others will need to return to Nigeria to continue their studies; the government will continue to fully sponsor them. This way all the students will still achieve the desired objective of successful graduation in your chosen field of study.”
Before the stoppage, the overseas scholarship programme, which was administered by the RSSDA had been running since the 2008/2009 academic session and had a target of sending 300 students overseas annually.Other than ending the scholarship, the state government has also been unable to pay bursary to her 50, 000 students in tertiary institutions across the country. The Guardian findings revealed that the last time the state paid bursary was in 2014. Rivers State students under the aegis of National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS) had, as part of steps to register their grouse, planned a major street protest over the non-payment of bursary last September. That was later called off after the state government promised to address their grievances.
NURSS President, Patrick Ogbuehi, assumed the responsibility to explain to The Guardian that the drop in the state’s revenue from the Federation Account was primarily responsible for government’s inability to pay bursary to students.Ogbuehi explained that the immediate past administration paid N10, 000 to each student as bursary, and promised to implement a 100 per cent increment, which means that if this incumbent government was to pay bursary, each of the approximately 51, 000 students would get N20, 000.
The NURSS leader stated that last year when the students wanted to take to the streets, the governor who wasn’t around at that time sent his representatives, who promised that once he was back he would address the issue. Upon his return, he said the governor directed the commissioner for education to verify the number of affected students to enable the state commence payment.
“The ministry has sent out letters to schools to send names of bonafide Rivers State students to it so that it can compare it to what NURSS had submitted. No registrar in any of the schools in Rivers State has been able to do this. The state government has done its part; we have done ours, and so we expect the schools to do the same,” he said.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja, simply said the state scholarship board is saddled with bursary and sundry matters.
While Rivers State owes its students bursary arrears of about four years, students in Cross River State are alleging that the government has not paid them bursary since 2002. Student leaders could not be reached, but some of the students, who spoke to The Guardian said they have not been paid bursary since Donald Duke left office as governor.An undergraduate from Ogoja Local Council, John Ogar said, “bursary is strange to me because I have not heard of it since I started school three years ago. It would be good if government can re-introduce bursary because it will help us a lot. So many students come from poor homes and there are lots of demands from the schools on us. If there is anything like bursary government should re-introduce it,” he said.
A postgraduate student from Abi Local Council who simply identified himself as John said, “the last time I got bursary from the state government was in 2002, and in 2008 from my local government.“For now, the state is not paying bursary. What some of us are enjoying today is scholarship from politically exposed individuals. This has been running for many years for indigent students from the Central Senatorial district for instance,” he said.
In the last seven years, Imo State government says it has invested so much on free education for its indigenes, from primary to tertiary institutions to the point that it is of no use dabbling into bursary payment and scholarship programmes.Its Head of Service, Calistus Ekenze, told The Guardian that on assumption of duties in May 29, 2011, the State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, announced free education for all, in line with his campaign promise, adding that after that, the governor also committed N4b security vote to education. 
His words: “Imo offers free education from primary to tertiary levels, so there is no point talking about bursary or scholarship programmes in the state.”Initially, the free education policy was for all students in the state, irrespective of their state of origin, until recently, when the state governor excluded non-indigenes from the list of beneficiaries. He said his decision was premised on the fact that his counterparts in other states were being selective regarding the beneficiaries
Five months ago, Ebonyi students pursuing various Ph.D programmes in different universities abroad, especially in the United Kingdom, under the state’s overseas scheme scholarship, appealed to Governor David Umahi, to help them settle their mounting debts and save them from embarrassment.The students in a statement entitled, “A passionate appeal for an urgent intervention to salvage the deteriorating conditions of abandoned Ebonyi State government-sponsored Ph.D students in the Diaspora,” explained that they have incurred huge debts through house rents, feeding and other miscellaneous expenditures to support themselves in the course of their studies.
Signed by Chuku Ejike, Enyita Clifford Iteshi and Jude Ogbodo of University of Bradford, Lancashire, University of Salford, Manchester and University of Central Preston, respectively, on behalf of their colleagues, the postgraduate students said, “many of us in the final years of our researches are perching precariously on the precipice and without paying up our bills; all our efforts and steadfastness in the past three years will be in vain.
“Your Excellency can recall that your administration had approved about £5, 500 for each of the beneficiaries of this scholarship scheme on two different occasions. This money was tagged our ‘school fees’ but we want to bring to the notice of Your Excellency that the approved fund could not pay our school fees, to say the least.“We have all received first and second warnings from our various institutions and the third one may involve the Debt Collectors Management who shall commence legal actions in this regard. The legal proceedings will be initiated against each of us in accordance with the laws of the land as well as those of our institutions of study. The incumbent administration of David Umahi, inherited the students from the past administration led by former Governor Martins Elechi.
In April this year, a coalition of students in Kaduna State under the aegis of Coalition of Youth and Students, gave Governor Nasir El-Rufai a 14-day ultimatum to begin a scholarship scheme. Failure to heed their advise, they threatened to launch a mass protest that would cripple government activities.The group’s spokesman, Adamu Adamu Matazu, regretted that el-Rufai, who rode on students’ platform to become governor, has failed to protect their interest, and has insisted on not paying bursaries or awarding scholarship to students of tertiary institutions since he became governor.The group, which rose from a meeting in Kaduna, vowed to mobilise students from the 23 local councils against the government, if the governor fails to act.
Matazu said: “Fundamentally, we are talking of the governor’s failure to fulfill his campaign promises. For three years, he has not given scholarships to students in the state. When El-Rufai spoke at the Zaria Education Development Association (ZEDA), he described scholarship as 419. But when he graduated on scholarship from the Ahmadu Bello University, it was not 419 then. Why would he deny us of what he benefitted from?”Matazu, who described the state government’s educational reforms as mere propaganda, expressed concern that the governor had advised poor people to go to farm, describing education as not meant for everybody.
When The Guardian contacted the media aide to the Governor, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, on phone to state government’s position on the group’s demand for a scholarship scheme among others, he said he had no answer to the issue.
While Kaduna State government is having it rough with its coalition of students, its Kano State counterpart appears to be ridding the crest having settled N6.4b of the N8b outstanding scholarship sum it inherited from the immediate past administration of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.According to the Executive Secretary, Kano State Scholarship Board, Professor Fatima Mohammad Umar, the money paid by the Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje-led administration was part of the over N8b debt inherited from the Kwankwaso administration on both foreign and local scholarships.Umar pointed that out of the over N6.4billion paid in the last three years, N1, 194, 52, 964 was for foreign scholarship, and N946, 592, 838 paid for those in five private universities within the country. “Out of the money released by Governor Ganduje, the sum of N660m was equally used to settle two years outstanding fees of our regular and specialised students schooling in Nigeria.
“For the purpose of emphasis, let me inform you that scholarship scheme in Kano comes in different forms, aside the traditional form being paid to students in some states of the federation. Here in Kano, we have foreign scholarship, private institutional scholarship, specialised scholarship and regular students scholarship.
“The foreign scholarship include, about 2, 500 Kano indigenes spread across various higher institutions in 11 countries including India, Malaysia, United States, Jordan, China, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. They were sent during the immediate past Kwankwaso’s administration. Unfortunately, these sets of students were sent to study academic courses that can be easily done in Nigerian universities. Also, the immediate past administration sent these students abroad to study without proper arrangements for their tuition fee, accommodation and welfare, thereby leaving a huge debt for the Ganduje-led government. 
While applauding Ganduje for sustaining the foreign programme despite the huge resources involved just to enable the students complete their programmes, she deplored the level of fraud that went on in the foreign scholarship, and also alleged that the previous administration did not consider the cost implication of sponsoring students on foreign scholarship before embarking on the project.The Professor of Education and Academic Planning said, “It is disheartening the level of fraud that went on in the foreign scholarship scheme. Students were sent overseas to study courses like economics, public administration and many programmes you can study in Nigeria.
“Apart from that, the money being spent on each of these students abroad is enough to pay for 80 students in Nigeria. The worse part is the fraudulent act that characterised the whole system. The past government claimed it had settled everything about the foreign students scholarship, but when we came in, we realised that it was a huge fraud. The monies were diverted, and the government only paid for one session.”
Despite the economic crunch facing states, Enugu State government has continued to award scholarship to deserving students in various higher institutions.According to the state Commissioner for Education, Prof Uche Eze, about 300 indigenes of the state in various institutions of higher learning received scholarships to continue their education last year
He noted that the beneficiaries were drawn from the 17 local councils of the state, adding that the award was to ease the burden of educating their children and wards. He added even though the state has not paid attention to bursary payment, this year alone, 680 students of the College of Education, Iwollo and Institute of Management and Technology (IMT),
Enugu, have been awarded scholarships.
The commissioner said: “The awards would cover tuition and sundry fees, even as some of them are provided with textbooks and other writing materials.“We are succeeding in this area because it is about planning and proper management of resources. We have a governor who is an expert in financial management and if we could do this under the economic stress the country is passing through, then we can do better given more resources,” he said.A female student of College of Education, Iwollo, who gave her name as Jane said, “my school fees for the semester has been taken care of through the scholarship provided by the governor, and I am grateful to God. I pray it continues.”
Federal Government Scholarships Gasping For Breath
The fate of Nigerian students studying in Russia under the Federal Ministry of Education’s Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) programme has been pathetic in the recent years.The BEA scheme is a joint programme run by the Nigerian government (through the Federal Ministry of Education) in collaboration with governments of other countries, such as Russia, China, Cuba, Morocco, Algeria, Ukraine, etc.By December last year, BEA beneficiaries in Russia had not been paid their stipends by the Federal Government for 18 months. And this is happening in a country where it is illegal to work as a foreign student.
Currently, there are over 400 Nigerian students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Russia under the scheme, requiring the Federal Government to settle their upkeep, and the country, where the scholarship award is tenable takes care of the tuition.Before the latest outcry by the BEA beneficiaries, they had in 2014, under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Scholarship Students in Russia (ANSSIR) protested the non-payment of their stipends for eight months.
This was shortly after Bayelsa State government-sponsored students also protested the non-payment of their 14 months stipends and tuition by the state government.President of ANSSIR, Ike David Ikenna, who led the peaceful demonstration at the Nigerian Embassy there, said they decided to stage a protest to disrupt the normal operations of the embassy so as to get words out that they had not been paid their allowances for eight months then.
Also in December 2015, BEA scholarship students in China wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari narrating their plight. They said they were constrained to write the letter, having explored all available formal means of resolving the quagmire to no avail.“As we write to you, all the 27 BEA students in China are yet to be paid a ‘kobo’ since January 2015. This includes eight students who graduated in July 2015, majority of whom had to borrow money to buy their return tickets at the risk of almost being deported due to close expiration dates of their visas. The situation has seriously impeded academic, social and emotional welfare of students, whose major means of sustenance comes from this allowance from the Federal Government.
It is not only in the BEA scholarship that unwholesome things are happening to their beneficiaries. Those benefitting from the Presidential Scholarship for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) are not faring better.When in 2012 the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration launched the PRESSID to sponsor first class graduates of Nigerian universities to pursue master’s degrees and PhD in any top 25 universities in the world, the gesture was hailed by many as a laudable one.
Expectedly, many bright heads applied and within a short time qualified ones were notified. At their inauguration, the then Executive Secretary of the National University Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, told the successful candidates to drop every other scholarship they were eyeing or they had been awarded as they had been chosen to lead innovation in the country.
Unfortunately, those elated beneficiaries, some of whom are billed to obtained their Ph.D at the end of this 2017/2018 session are in a quandary now because their benefactor, the Federal Government, stopped paying living stipends, as well as, their tuition from the beginning of the 2016/17 academic session.According to the terms and conditions of PRESSID, the scholarship was to take care of their feeding, accommodation, return flight tickets, tuition, research bench fees, field trips, living expenses and local travels. But while the scholars are burning the midnight oil, the Federal Government had reneged on its part.
One of the major factors that threw spanner in the works for PRESSID, apart from its movement from the NUC to the Federal Ministry of Education, was splitting of the scholars into different groups with different part-funders, including the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).When The Guardian visited the office of the Federal Scholarship Board, an official said that the former director of the board, Mrs. Fatima Ahmad, had retired from service, and no other official was authorised to speak to journalist on any issue.He advised that an application for an interview be made through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, who would in turn authorise an official to speak for the board.
Two visits made to the ministry failed to yield result as the director of press was not on seat on both occasions. A top official in the unit, who promised to make available details of BEA and PRESSID scholarships backed out after two days. He also advised going through the office of the permanent secretary. TETFund Scholarship Faring No Better
INTERESTINGLY, last Monday, TETFund said it had begun the recovery of funds from students who won the Federal Government scholarships, but refused to pursue the designated programmes, or failed to proceed to the designated countries.
The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Dr. Bichi Baffa, who made the disclosure in Abuja, said the revelations were made after the agency carried out a scholarship audit. Baffa, who informed that the Federal Government had in 10 years sponsored about 22, 000 scholars to pursue master’s and Doctor of Philosophy programmes in different fields of endeavour within the country and abroad, added that the agency projects to sponsor about 45,000 scholars for higher degrees in the next five years.

Baffa said, “An area where I met real mess, on assumption of office, was in the implementation of the TETFund scholarships. The scholarships are part of the capacity building intervention in our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. But we realised that in some beneficiary institutions, the guidelines for the scholarship awards were being implemented in the breach.
“Beyond violating the guidelines, many of the beneficiary scholars who were given money to pursue their studies abroad refused to go and they spent the money on something else. We further realised that a few institutions were not giving the scholars the total sum of money that was approved for them. They deducted certain percentages using different sort of names like administrative charges, and all sorts of illegal deductions.
“There are also scholars that were given the approval to go to Europe or America, for example, but they end up going to some African countries. Some scholars were given the permission to do Ph.D., but they registered for master’s degrees. The worst of them all were scholars who collected the money and refused to go.“What we did was to conduct what we call scholarship audit. Right now, we are making progress with the recovery of funds from some scholars who had collected the money but refused to go. Also, funds are being recovered from scholars that were given approval to go for one programme and they ended up going for another one. Similarly, funds are being recovered from scholars that were given money to go to one country and they ended up going to another country.”

Thursday, 28 June 2018

President Buhari or herdsman Buhari?

The Guardian

Having not suffered any traumatic dilemma over his overweening loyalty to herdsmen who are his fellow Fulani, President Muhammadu Buhari is oblivious of his rapid erasure as a statesman. Or if he is aware, he is not bothered about the grim verdict of history – here was a president of a great nation who ended as a leader of a segment of the country, Fulani herdsmen.
Yes, we must discountenance Buhari’s sense of justice that seeks to exculpate him from the tragedies being unleashed by Fulani herdsmen. He vouchsafed this notion of justice during his visit to Plateau after the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks whose death toll has been officially put at 135 while witnesses claim it is over 200. He wondered why he should be accused of being silent over the now perennial massacres.
The wonder is why Buhari should be surprised that he is being blamed for the Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism. His administration would not be identified with the legacy of solving the myriad of problems with which the nation is contending. Nor with directing the people’s energies towards a collective goal that would produce greater unity for the nation. Hobbled by its inability to respond to existential challenges that pose a mortal blow to our individual and collective existence, the Buhari government demurs at the prospect of conquering the moon. Thus, unlike other nations of the world whose stellar socio-economic, political and technological strides would etch them in the memories of other countries, Nigeria gains the attention of the world because it is trapped in the comparison of the death statistics of the Buhari administration and those of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

While it is true that Boko Haram gloated about its suzerainty over swathes of the nation’s territory under Jonathan, the rash of deaths since Buhari emerged as president has shown that insecurity was only at its inchoate stage under the Ijaw poster boy of good luck. Jonathan was evicted from Aso Rock when he had only Boko Haram insurgents to contend with. But since the emergence of Buhari, insecurity has increased. In addition to Boko Haram, there is now the Fulani scourge. Buhari was voted into office because he claimed to possess the magic wand to end the insecurity. Nigerians believed because he is not only a retired general, he has been a head of state. It was assumed that he was very familiar not only with governance but strategies for countering insecurity.
However, three years after, it has become clear that it was only an illusion. The people are now faced with the reality that Buhari has no magic wand. His failure to tame the Fulani herdsmen has only portrayed him as being in support of the plague of our common peace. Thus, on his watch, thousands have been killed by Fulani herdsmen. If Jonathan was considered to have lost the raison deter for his occupancy of Aso Rock to the abduction of 273 Chibok schoolgirls, can Buhari claim any legitimacy to his stay in Aso Rock after thousands have been killed by Fulani herdsmen on his watch?
But what do the Fulani herdsmen really want? Why have they declared themselves implacable foes of our peace? Their implacability is seen in the fact that in less than a week after Buhari announced an iniquitous budget of N179 billion for them to have ranches, they savagely attacked residents of Plateau State.
No matter how much Buhari whines that he is pained by his alleged complicity in the killings, the charge cannot easily be dismissed. For, Buhari has neglected the responsibility of curbing the lunacy of the herdsmen that inevitably results in destruction on an apocalyptic scale. While the citizens are still in confusion as regards who could have been responsible for the killings that have convulsed the nation, Fulani herdsmen often claim culpability. The Miyetti Allah is often ready with the claim that Fulani herdsmen are killing to avenge the rustling of their cattle or grazing laws that threaten their business. This has been the case in Benue and now Plateau State. In essence, the perpetrators of the killings are not hidden. So, if Buhari really wants to arrest and prosecute the killers, he could easily arrest the Miyetti Allah leaders since they can explain why the killings take place.
Buhari deserves to be blamed for the Fulani herdsmen’s killings because he has refused to accept the need for him to review his security architecture. He has stuck to the nepotistic security architecture that is anchored on incompetence .If Buhari really wanted to check the killings why has he not appointed new service chiefs? Why has he not sacked the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris and Defence Minister Mansur Dan Ali?
Discerning Nigerian patriots think that the Fulani herdsmen’s crisis can be resolved through restructuring. It has been observed that restructuring would enable the states to work out their own security strategies to check a crisis like that of the Fulani herdsmen. The baleful consequence of the absence of a restructured polity is now seen in the predicament of Governor Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara. He has no control over the security system in his state. The security chiefs in the state receive directives from Abuja. So no matter how much he is outraged at the carnage that is claiming his citizens, he cannot take a decisive measure to intervene. Yari has underscored his frustration with this incapacitating structure of the polity, when he declared that he was resigning from the office of the chief security officer of the state.
While Buhari refuses to check the killings, we must be alert to the harm they are causing the nation. They have stoked ethnic hatred. The victims who survived their attacks only feel safe in their ethnic cocoons. The erosion of Nigerianess that the killings has provoked can be seen in the light of the prayer of some of the citizens during the Super Eagles’ match against Argentina in Russia. They were opposed to Nigeria winning because such victory would make Nigerians to forget the tragedies at home. They were afraid that banters would now centre on the Super Eagles’ victory and not on the killings and the overarching need to check their recurrence.
It is obvious that the nation urgently needs clear-cut measures to check all these crises. But this sense of urgency is lost on Buhari. Such sense of urgency is blurred by Buhari’s quest for another four years. But it should be clear that Buhari needs another four years not to serve the nation but to demonstrate more loyalty to his fellow herdsmen. Blinded by this loyalty, Buhari cannot grasp his derailment encapsulated in the warning of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group that he has to choose between the presidency of Nigeria and that of Miyetti Allah.
Perhaps, these killings are too far from the federal seat of power and this is why Buhari and his officials are not aware of the tragedies under which the nation is currently choking. In that case, we need to appropriate the admonition of the maverick Senator Shehu Sani that the victims of the Plateau killings should be buried close to Aso Rock. May be, when Buhari and his aides are confronted daily with these sad reminders of their tragic fecklessness, they would devise effective strategies to check the Fulani herdsmen plague. But it is not likely that this would even weaken Buhari’s ambition to snatch another four years from unwilling and bloodied citizens. But if those who want his return have their way, they should be ready for another four years of death and pain as he diminishes himself further and inflicts his Fulani herdsmen on them.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The power elite who signed away June 12

The Guardian

MKO Abiola
The Federal Government, which was last week basking in the glory of its boldness in recognizing the June 12, 1993 election winner, Chief MKO Abiola spoke in tongues about the power elite who conspired against June 12 election result. Even my brother, Olusegun Adeniyi in his June 12: A Complicated Story (Thursday 14 June, 2018) referred to a tripartite committee comprising the military and representatives of the two political parties, the (defeated) National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
It should be noted that The Guardian on Sunday then had on June 11, 2000 published a list of G-34 members who signed the tripartite agreement, which nailed the coffin of June 12 presidential election result.
The exclusive (lead) story I wrote for The Guardian then as Abuja Bureau Chief was a good reference point in Professor Olatunji Dare’s (2010) book, “Diary of a Debacle: Tacking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989- 1994)”. The scoop with a headline: “Exposed: Men Who Signed Away June 12”, contained the names of the power elite in the Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army then who signed away Nigeria’s democracy and subverted Nigeria’s sovereignty expressed on June 12, 1993. This was after General IBB then operating a strange diarchy, addressed what was constituted as a National Assembly operating then at the International Conference Centre.
So, 18 years ago, The Guardian listed the following military officers and political leaders who signed on behalf of the Federal Government and their parties the document purporting to be setting up the Interim National Government (ING).
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Vice President under the military presidency of General Ibrahim Babangida;
Lt. Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro, Commandant, Command & Staff College, Jaji;
Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, then National Security Adviser;
Brigadier-General Anthony Ukpo, former Federal Commissioner for Information and later assigned to Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna;
Brigadier-General David Mark, then serving with the National War College (now National Defence College) Has served as Senate President;
Brigadier-General John Shagaya, then serving as General Officer Commanding 1 Division Kaduna. (He died early this year);
Also, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene, then serving as Secretary for Internal Affairs in the Transitional Council signed on behalf of the Federal Military Government;
The SDP members who signed the document setting up the ING to dismantle Abiola’s mandate were:
General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former presidential aspirant who had won the SDP presidential ticket in the primaries that were also annulled before Abiola came in. He died in Abakaliki prison where he was being detained by General Abacha;
Chief Tony Anenih, then SDP National Chairman, called Mr. Fix-it who declared that the day the ING document was signed was his happiest day. He later became Works Minister under President Obasanjo (1999-2003).
Alhaji Sule Lamido, then Secretary of the SDP, later Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo and had served as Governor Jigawa State;
Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state and later Senator in this dispensation;
Chief Dapo Sarumi, former Governorship aspirant, Lagos state, served the ING as Minister of Communications;
Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former Kano State Governor and and a regular face in Abiola’s residence in Lagos but later said, “I am not in politics because of Abiola”. He later served as Communications Minister under Sani Abacha,
Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, former “Daily Times” Managing Director, Political Strategist to Abiola, former Envoy to Brazil later served Obasanjo as Special Adviser; and
Okechukwu Odunze, then national Treasurer of the SDP
Prominent among those who signed the ING document in the then NRC were:
Dr Hamed Kusamotu, then Chairman of NRC (deceased);
Arc. Tom Ikimi, former NRC Chairman and later Abacha’s combative Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, earlier declared, “Abiola won fair an square” earlier secured party ticket as presidential aspirant but was annulled by IBB; later served as Agriculture Minister under Abacha and later as Finance minister under Obasanjo;
Okey Uzoho, then National Publicity Secretary, NRC (deceased);
Joe Nwodo who signed with unstated “reservations”;
Theo Nkire;
Professor Eyo Ita;
Dr. Bawa Salka;
Prince Bola Afonja;
Alhaji Y. Anka;
Mr. Alba Muritala;
Alhaji Halilu Maina;
Alhaji Muktari A. Mohammed;
Also in the G-34 list were Alhaji Ramalan, later a traditional ruler in Nassarawa State, and Joseph Toba who signed that infamous document that sealed the June 12 death sentence then before general IBB was forced out of power on August 26, 1993.
Some Unsung Heroes of June 12…
As I was saying here last week, no matter the tenor of debate over motives and all that stuff, President Muhammadu Buhari has stolen the thunder of June 12, 1993. We can tell it in Minna and publish it in the streets of Abeokuta, Katsina and Otueke that the spectre of June has been laid to rest. And so, the 25-year-old open wound (conscience) has been healed by some truth-and-reconciliation flash in the pan in Abuja.
Meanwhile. I agree with Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi in The Verdict that drawing up a list of heroes and champions of June 12 can be a delicate business. Those who are not too young to run may also not be old enough too to remember the role of so many other significant champions and contributors. Only the prominent ones can easily be remembered about the multidimensional June 12 debacle.
A simple desk research from some institutional memories on the June 12 peculiar mess could have produced a more comprehensive guide on honours’ list including NADECO, Campaign for Democracy chieftains such as Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, General Alani Akinrinade, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Amos Akingba, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ayo Opadokun, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, etc who were quite bruised for singing redemption songs for June 12.
A little diligence could have included foremost civil rights activists such as Olisa Agbakoba who founded Civil Liberty’s Organisation (CLO), Clement Nwankwo, Chima Ubani, Festus Iyayi, Shehu Sani (Kaduna) among other civil rights activists then.
Who remembered Col. Abubakar Umar Dangiwa who lost his commission for weeping on the grave of Abiola? What of Bagauda Kaltho, a The News/Tempo journalist who was killed in Kaduna? Who would remember Mohammed Adamu, of the then African Concord who was detained for one year by Major Al Mustapha’s deadly squad who alleged that he (Adamu) a literary stylist, wrote a cover story (without a byline) titled, “Al Mustapha, The Ruthless Man Behind Abacha?
Did anyone remember Alhaji Bukar Zarma, publisher of the premier newspaper in Abuja then, The Abuja Newsday, which the IBB military regime also closed down in the wake of the June 12 crisis? Alhaji Zarma was arrested by security agents in his farm in Kaduna after the closure of his newspaper.
I was the Editor of the newspaper in Abuja at the time. I escaped from Abuja to Lagos under very dangerous circumstances in July 1993. Our trouble began when we didn’t know the hidden agenda of those who didn’t want Abiola in power despite the result of the June 12 election everyone already had and we started reporting the results and consequences including setting up of the transition committees.
Our first sin was a scoop we ran on the romance between MKO’s Abiola’s son, Deji and IBB’s daughter, Aisha while the June 12 crisis was raging. We saw them together in many places inside Abuja while NADECO and other democratic forces were stoking wild fires for the actualisation of June 12 election result.
Then the last straw was another exclusive story we ran on a secret night meeting between MKO Abiola and General Ibrahim Babangida, inside Aso Villa. The headline was, “IBB, Abiola in Secret Meeting”. The scoop contained details of the nocturnal meeting Abiola attended with his wife, Simbiat and his first son, Kola without the knowledge of the grieving Party (SDP) officials who were meeting in Benin over the June 12 crisis at the time.
I recall as if it were yesterday that when an aggrieved June 12 election result fighter could not get a copy The Abuja Newsday (which carried the scoop) in Lagos, he called to inquire if he could get a copy should he send a person to collect it in our Wuse Zone 6, Abuja Office. Unknown to us, the angry supporter in Lagos asked his office assistant to fly the Nigeria Airways then just to collect a copy of the newspaper and read the incredible story: that Abiola and IBB actually met secretly in Abuja while June 12 supporters were being harassed in the streets all over the country? The man called to thank us for ‘opening his eyes’ to what he called Abiola’s hypocrisy at the time for meeting IBB secretly with only members of his family’.

Who would remember those who suffered under the despotic General Abacha after consolidating powers in 1993-1994 through 1995? Who would remember The Guardian, which was shut down for publishing a Sunday lead story, “Inside Aso Rock: The raging battle to rule Nigeria (Sunday August 14, 1994)?
The remarkable scoop was anchored by the newspaper’s Editor then, Mr. Kingsley Osadolor.
I can also recall that The Guardian coined the June-12 crisis reporting terms then such as “MKO, Abiola, the man generally believed to have won…, “the presumed winner”, the acclaimed winner of…” for the Nigerian press.
Who would remember The Guardian members of staff who suffered 11 months closure in those days? Who would remember that The Guardian publisher Dr. Alex Ibru was also targeted and shut at as Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane and other heroes who didn’t survive the gunmen of the perilous time?
Did anyone remember the significant roles of Joe Igbokwe and S.M.O. Aka who were writing letters daily to all Nigerian newspaper editors then on June 12?
Specifically, Joe Igbokwe, who introduced himself then as an engineer who was writing from Surulere, Lagos (now APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos state) was so prolific that all media houses and activists knew him in the country. Joe insulted me on Facebook the other day for writing about “three years of excuses and 19 years of anomie”. He is now in partisan politics I can understand. But despite that, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, who later compiled his historic Letters to the Editors into a book, deserves a place in “June 12 Hall of Fame”.
Did anyone remember last week, Mr. Alex Kabba, a journalist with The News/Tempo who fled (without his family) to the United States at the time through the NADECO routes? Alex, a fiery reporter then, got a tip-off that he was no longer safe. He fled. He is still in New York City where he publishes “Africans Abroad”. There are more unsung heroes.
All of the heroes of June 12 cannot be identified and honoured now. But the only honour that will touch all of us is this: there should be more attention to security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Letter from Africa: Why is no-one talking about the Zamfara conflict?

Girl in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara has been suffering from bad governance for decades
In our series of letters from African journalists, Kadaria Ahmed looks at the brewing crisis in Nigeria's Zamfara State, which analysts say has the potential to become as deadly as the Boko Haram conflict.
Growing up nearly 50 years ago in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara State, I could never have imagined its future of grinding poverty and escalating violence.
The capital of Zamfara State, Gusau, used to be a prosperous town. British company John Holt ran a tannery, which bought and treated hides before shipping them off to Europe. Sugar giant Tate and Lyle had a presence. There was also a textile company, an oil mill, and a ginnery that prepared cotton for export.
As children, our favourite place in Gusau was the sweet factory, run by a Lebanese family who were, for all intents and purposes, locals. There, we could satisfy our cravings at very little cost.
A functioning rail line moved goods out and across Nigeria, and brought people in, many of whom were drawn to the region's thriving industries.
Men on motorbikesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara used to be a thriving trade hub
In Gusau, there was a sizeable population of ethnic Yorubas from south-western Nigeria, Igbos from the south-east, and thriving Indian and Lebanese communities. This cosmopolitism partly fuelled the region's aspiration for statehood, which it attained in 1996.
Parents also had the pick of decent government schools, or those run by missionaries, for their children's education. The knowledge of untold wealth, in the form of huge gold deposits that lay buried under the soil, guaranteed a prosperous and affluent future for the state.
Or so we thought.
We never factored in bad governance. The impact has been acute in Nigeria's northern states, which have experienced economic collapse, further pauperising its people, whose future was largely dependent on having decent, visionary leadership.
This is evident through the failure to build on the huge amounts of agricultural land, pluralistic populations, and unexplored mineral resources. There has been little attempt to mitigate the impact of climate change. Instead of utilising resources to educate and help its people, the northern political class has simply enriched itself.
According to a recently released Oxford University Human Development Index, the state's poverty rate is 92%.
While the economy declined, ultra-conservatism and lack of tolerance grew, and in 2000 Sharia was introduced in Zamfara State by former governor Ahmad Yerima, which seriously undermined the multicultural nature of the state.

More about Zamfara:

A map of Zamfara State
  • 67.5% of people in poverty (National rate: 62%)
  • Literacy rate: 54.7%
  • Slogan: Farming is our Pride
  • Residents mostly farmers from Hausa and Fulani communities
  • Population: 4.5 million (2016 estimate)
  • Mostly Muslim
  • First state to reintroduce Sharia - in 2000
Source: Nigeria Data Portal, and others

A succession of administrations have resorted to lazy, knee-jerk reactions to problems that require long-term holistic solutions. When cattle rustling became a problem in Zamfara, Governor Abdulaziz Yari created local vigilante groups to fight the thieves in 2013.
It did not take long for residents to start complaining about the vigilantes, who were now extorting and stealing from the very people they were meant to protect.
Villages caught between vigilantes and rustlers started trying to organise and defend themselves, with dire consequences. The cycle of violence escalated with attacks and reprisals. An attempt to implement an amnesty programme has also failed.
Now we have a spiralling, murky conflict in which all lines are blurred. The only thing that is certain is that innocent people continue to die in substantial numbers.
Dozens have died over the past few months during attacks on villages in Zamfara State. Due to a lack of reporting, it is impossible to tell what the total death toll has been in this ongoing six-year-conflict.
On 28 March, at least 28 people were slaughtered by unknown gunmen on motorbikes in the village of Bawar Daji, some 90km (55 miles) from Gusau. The slain were attending a funeral for victims murdered during a previous and painfully similar attack.
Image of a destroyed village in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe cycle of violence caused by vigilante groups and cattle rustlers has led to an untold number of deaths in Zamfara
For many years, the killings, kidnappings and rapes were only occurring in rural areas of Zamfara. It was underreported as the victims live on the fringes of national consciousness: they are poor, rural folk, who eke out a living as farmers and herdsmen in an area geographically removed from the centre of governance.
The conflict doesn't lend itself to the binary reporting that the Nigerian media finds very seductive. Christians are not pitted against Muslim, or North versus the South, or Hausa-Fulani against other groups. It can't be reported as evidence of Nigeria's further fracturing along ethnic and religious lines. The cultural and religious identities of both the victims and perpetrators are mostly the same.
This all speaks to a wider, national problem of our failing Federal State that cannot fulfil its most fundamental role of protecting its people. And so the people of Zamfara are left mostly to their fate.
Across Nigeria, there are huge swathes of ungoverned space that lend themselves to lawlessness in the absence of a functional state security apparatus. Rugu forest in the north-west cuts across multiple regions including Zamfara the border with Niger. The forest has been described as the equivalent of Sambisa forest in Borno State, which has become a hideout for Boko Haram in recent years.
Chris Ngwodo, who is an expert on the region, says the situation in Zamfara is exactly where Borno State was in 2009-2010, when Boko Haram launched its bloody uprising. The conditions in Zamfara are "perfect," he says. Perfect for another intractable conflict.
More Letters from Africa: