OTHERS' VIEWS

OTHERS' VIEWS

IT is remarkable that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is undergoing profound transformation at a time of perceived corporate despondency with national economic implications.

Most significant of the positive indicators is the elevation to its top job of Mele Kolo Kyari, arguably the first thoroughbred professional of the extractive industry to occupy this critical position. Indeed, a retrospective analysis of his predecessors confirms this, showing a preference for politically-connected professionals instead.

The strategic advantages of appointing pure-bred professionals to head government institutions and companies in their areas of competence need no edification especially in the face of the disappointing outcomes of undue prominence of politically-correct credentials in considerations for such appointments. 

The appointment of Mele Kolo Kyari as the 19th Group Managing Director, GMD, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is one of the departures from this trend that upholds the functional efficiency of round pegs in round holes.

The circumstances surrounding the recent acquisition of 20 per cent stake in the upcoming Dangote Refinery by NNPC provide ample insights that underscore this fact. 

For sure, his name did not ring any bells outside NNPC when he was named GMD, a pointer to his political obscurity even though he had risen to the top hierarchy of the corporation where obscurity is usually overshadowed by “high society” profiling.

This laid back uniqueness was as much a result of Mele Kyari’s quiet and humble nature as it was due to occupational isolation associated with his profession. His CV reveals that he started his career with the Department of Geological Survey of Nigeria as field geologist and later he joined NNPC as processing geophysicist with Integrated Data Services Limited and was exploration geophysicist with the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS. 

Kyari headed the Production Sharing Contracts Management in Crude Oil Marketing Division, COMD, and became the general manager, Crude Oil Stock Management before heading the Production Sharing Contracts Management in Crude Oil Marketing Division.

Before his elevation, he was general manager, Crude Oil Stock Management and the Nigerian National Representative at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, since 2018. Obviously, there was little or no time for high profiles and paparazzi!  

This briefly captures the professional and work experience that defines the uniqueness and proficiency he deploys to give the NNPC what amounts to a timely transformation propelled by foresight dedicated to the changing dynamics of the international oil and gas sector.

The NNPC’s acquisition of 20 per cent stake worth $2.76billion in the Dangote $19 billion Refinery at Ibeju Lekki scheduled to produce 650, 000 barrels of crude petroleum daily, making it the largest refinery in the world, was greeted with the usual cynicism and insinuations among citizens, hitherto disillusioned by the NNPC’s past shortcomings such as the incessant fuel supply shortages, fuel subsidy scam and perpetually malfunctioning refineries. 

People gossiped about “deal” and “scandal” out of disbelief that national interest could be enhanced by a huge investment of public funds in the private project of Africa’s richest businessman, Aliko Dangote who is surely self-sufficient.

The rapid propagation of such sordid interpretation of NNPC’s share in Dangote’s world leading project was fuelled by the resurgence of another round of refinery repairs in the news until even the National Assembly could not resist the “pressure” to summon the NNPC management to clear the air, suggesting that the legislators were as uninformed as the man on the street on the issue.

However, there were more reassuring responses from the better informed oil sector stakeholders relying on the NNPC GMD’s observed track record in striving to achieve significant nationalistic objectives he identified as priorities soon after his appointment in 2019.

Among such progressive objectives that he was seen to pursue with vigour are increasing crude oil reserves to about 40 billion barrels. Exploration work commenced with the drilling of the Kolmani River II Well resulting in confirmation of commercial quantity in the Upper Benue Trough while exploratory work continues on Kolmani River III Well, Bida and Sokoto Basins.

Mele Kyari also expressed determination to boost the nation’s oil production to three million barrels per day which is also being realised through resolving existing disputes that halted production in some oil blocks such as the dispute involving Shell and Belema Oil over OML 25, restoring over 30,000 barrels per day production, among others.

When he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Finance at the interactive session on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, Mele Kyari defused the pervading distrust of NNPC’s 20 per cent stake in Dangote refinery by disclosing that Aliko Dangote was actually against the 20 per cent equity and that the initiative was at the instance of the NNPC, categorically stating “I believe up to this moment, Mr. Dangote does not want us to take equity in this plant”.  

He explained that by the terms of the NNPC equity participation in Dangote Refinery, it must buy at least 300,000 crude from NNPC which amounts to a guaranteed market, as every country is now struggling to secure market for their crude oil.

“This refinery does not owe us any responsibility if we don’t have this arrangement. This refinery is a very complex refinery in our industry because it can crack any crude. So, it can buy any cheap crude from anywhere and bring it into this country and leave you to your crude,” the GMD remarked.

Other aspects of the investment in the national interest highlighted by the GMD include not using any government money but borrowing money from the AfriExim consortium to pay for initial payment and also tying subsequent payment to buying from our production, giving Nigeria a right to 20 per cent of the production from this facility.

and the fact that no resource-dependent country like ours with a national oil company that imports 100 per cent of its refined products will have an entirely  private venture that will produce close to 50 million litres of petroleum products with its very clear energy security implications.

By the time Mele Kyari concluded his submission, there was a new realisation of the salient national interest considerations that informed the decision to take a 20 per cent equity in Dangote Refinery, particularly the uncommon principled courage to secure the consent of Aliko Dangote, whose patriotic instincts clearly and commendably override his capitalist concerns. Imagine the tempting possibilities accruable from looking the other way while Dangote reaps the full dividends of his legitimate investment!

Given the uniqueness of his career trajectory, his professional detachment from the extra-curricular entanglements and exemplary personal character traits aspects of which came to the fore on his assumption of an enviable exalted position of responsibility and privilege as NNPC GMD, the profound transformation and realignment of policy thrust towards national interest and international best practices under his watch represent his reciprocal “equity investment” to NNPC and Nigeria, comparable to Aliko Dangote’s mega stake in the nation’s economic development. 

 

Uzoma, an economic analyst, wrote from Port Harcourt

Alhaji Tanimu Yakubu was Special Adviser on Economic Matters to President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Before becoming one of Nigeria’s best Presidents in our leadership-challenged country, Yar’Adua was Governor of Katsina State and TY, as Yakubu is fondly called, was one of his cabinet members  for three years from 1999.

When TY was preparing that administration’s first budget in Katsina State, he studied the past trends in the government support for agriculture. He discovered that annually, 80 per-cent of the agriculture budget was allocated for  fertilizer procurement.

Given the fact that there are a number of clearly identified necessities of agriculture, he decided to research why fertilizer alone was consuming four fifths of the agriculture budget. 

 He appointed consultants to carry out a survey amongst farmers in the state to generate a list of their actual needs; they were 20 items. Then, a second stage of the survey was carried out for the farmers to rank those needs from the most to the least important. The result was shocking. The farmers listed fertilizer as the 13th in their list of their needs! Desertification was ranked number one, extension service, two and  market/profitability, three. The farmers did not even identify subsidy as a requisite. 

 TY did a  personal follow up on the  farmers and researchers on why desertification was the primary challenge to agriculture. They affirmed that the major cause of falling farm yield is desertification as it destroys the topsoil. 

 The findings made TY study in-depth, the desertification phenomenon.  He made public, the result of his findings: “A recurring conclusion drawn from evidences gathered in the field was that OPEN GRAZING was a key factor responsible for destroying 90 per-cent  of the vegetation cover in Northern Nigeria from 1960 to 2000.

If we can help it, this destructive trend that’s making our environment increasingly hostile to all fauna and flora must be arrested and reversed.  It must also not be imported to Southern Nigeria.” 

 TY has support in the current Katsina State Governor Bello Masari, who has reached the same conclusion but based less on the science and more on the morality of it. He thinks it is ungodly for a person to have cows he cannot feed and allow them eat up the crops of other people: “The herders’ movement is essentially in search of two things: water and fodder.

If we can provide these two items, why should they move? The roaming about for us is un-Islamic and it is not the best. It is part of the problems we are having today. I don’t support that we should continue with open grazing.”

Masari, as chief security officer of bandit-challenged Katsina State, said most of the bandits are herdsmen: “They are the same people like me, who speak the same language like me, who profess the same religious beliefs like me. So, what we have here on ground are bandits; they are not aliens, they are people we know, they are people that have been living with us for 100 of years.”

But the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, asked Nigerians to ignore the governor: “Did you take that drunkard serious? My governor, do you take him serious? Can’t you see that he is already tired? Records should come from security operatives, not a confused human being…Forget that man, that man is the worst Governor Katsina has had; we are just praying for his time to lapse.”

However, Masari’s position on open grazing is backed by almost all the governors in the country.  The Northern States Governors’ Forum, NSGF, on  February 9, 2021, declared: “The current system of herding mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and population of the country.” The Southern States Governors’ Forum has taken a step further by deciding to legislate against it.

However, there are those stoutly opposed. For instance, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, submits that banning open grazing “does not align with the provisions of the Constitution; hence it does not hold water. It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our Constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian?”

He argued that banning herders and their cows from roaming around villages, towns and cities is limiting the freedom and liberty of movement: “It is a dangerous provision for any governor in Nigeria to think he can bring any compromise on the freedom and liberty of individuals to move around.”   

Malami has strong support in  Bauchi State Governor,  Bala Mohammed, who believes that: “The Fulani man is a global or African person” who has the right to traverse the continent irrespective of borders. He opposes any ban or restriction on open grazing because as far as he is concerned, the country is a no-man’s land: “Nobody owns any forests in Nigeria, it’s owned by Nigeria.”

Mohammed has  a strong supporter in one of his predecessors, Isa Yuguda, an economist, business administrator and banker who was Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of two banks in the country. He was also Aviation Minister for two years from 2003.

Yuguda argues that: “The Nigerian State has not been fair to these people (herders). When the Whiteman came they provided cattle grazing and routes from Maiduguri to Lokoja and Ilorin. These infrastructures were provided by the White people, and today where are the grazing reserves and the cattle routes?”

 Yuguda, as an accomplished banker  ordinarily, should understand that cattle rearing is a business. Secondly, as Bauchi State  Governor,    he did not show his people the grazing routes he claimed the Whiteman created. As Minister of Aviation he did not differentiate the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, or any airport in the country for that matter, from the grazing routes he claims were created.  

Since Abuja has a master plan, I have tried to find out the grazing routes Yuguda and his fellow travellers talk about, and nobody in government is willing to reveal such a heavily guarded secret. I am wondering whether it has to do with claims that the  Aso Rock Presidential Villa was not in the original Abuja Master Plan.

What if the Villa is built on a grazing route? Shouldn’t we destroy it to allow cows the freedom of movement? This will be quite interesting because the Supreme Court and the Federal Secretariat are also along the Villa route. We can simply destroy them, secure foreign loans and rebuild them. 

But the issue of open grazing has become like an open sore and has claimed lots of lives apart from creating avoidable tension, not because the issues are not clear cut; the fact is that there are people who hope to benefit from the politics.

 

 

The naira faces one of the darkest eras in its over five decades’ history, crashing to a new low of N570/$ in the parallel market. This status paints a gloomy picture of an uncertain future that needs drastic action to fix. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has descended on AbokiFx, accusing the website of rates manipulation and illegal forex deals, allegations it denied. Accounts of eight Fintech firms were frozen for forex-related frauds as the regulator ordered that banks caught round-tripping will lose their forex licenses. COLLINS NWEZE writes that beyond these measures is the urgent need to raise dollar liquidity and bring reprieve to the troubled naira.

Moshood Abdulrasheed, a currency speculator, was preparing for the Suri prayer when he got a WhatsApp message that made him richer. His business partner, Abubakar Idris, had on September 16, informed him that the naira was exchanging for N570/$ at the parallel market.

Abdulrasheed hurriedly said his prayer, moved to the vault where he kept $100,000 to confirm it was intact. He then called five of his most trusted aides and gave them $20,000 each to exchange for Naira. “I made N159.25 extra on every dollar sold because I bought at N410.57/$,” he disclosed.

 

The transactions concluded within three hours because the number of manufacturers, importers and other end-users of foreign exchange (forex) waiting to buy the greenback, earned him N15.92 million profit.

Abdulrasheed is one of the thousands of currency speculators capitalising on the heightened forex supply shortage, demand pressure and rationing by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create fear, panic and volatility in the market.

These speculators have also made it difficult for the local currency rates to converge as they kept manipulating the parallel market exchange rates against official rates.

The naira is exchanging at $410.57/$ on the Investors’ and Exporters’ (I&E) Window- official market, but in the parallel market where a large part of the demand is settled, the local currency is facing the highest level of volatility in its over 50 years’ history where it has met series of devaluations and adjustments based on market realities.

It was not only devalued by 60 per cent in the last 17 years but in 2001 alone, its value was slashed 27 per cent. If one thinks that the 2001 debacle was worrisome, the naira has exceeded that loss, as it has depreciated by nearly 30 per cent this year alone.

At the parallel market, the value of the naira fell to N570/$  on September 17 from less than N520/$  it traded before the ban of forex sales to the Bureaux De Change (BDCs) on July 27, representing N50 depreciation in 41 days.

The local currency first hit double digits in 1991, moving from N9.9 to N17.2/$ the following year. That constituted a significant 73.7 per cent change. Thereafter, a continuous slide ensued, attaining triple digits in 2000.

Although it was considered stable between 2000 and 2003 (below N120/$), the recent adverse global capital flows especially to developing economies and drop in oil prices, among other factors, have culminated in the current low of N570/$ at the parallel market.

 

At the official market, the naira exchange rate has been severally adjusted to N305/$, N360/$, N379/$ and now $410.57/$ in the I&E window.

 

An economist, Bismark Rewane, explained why the naira was on the downside. “As oil prices dipped, the CBN has prioritised stability of exchange rate in the official market. It has drawn an exclusion list of avoidable imports from being funded in the official market. With the forex demand for the items transferred to the parallel market, rates in that market have soared,” he said.

Former CBN Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, said the most important determinant of the value of the naira is productivity and the competitive state of the economy.

He disclosed that currency speculators make a very good fortune from weakened currency. “Such traders “attack” currencies for profit, especially where the currency is using fixed, official exchange rate determined by the central bank instead of the market,” he said.

“If reserves are weak, and demand for dollars massively outstrips supply, currency devaluation is inevitable. Currency speculators borrow the naira from Nigerian banks, convert it to, say, dollars, then buy short-interest paying Nigerian bonds,” he added.

Continuing, Moghalu added: “If, as the speculators anticipate, the central bank devalues the naira, the traders sell the bonds in the foreign currency, convert them into naira, and repay the original naira loan. The steeper the devaluation the higher the speculator’s profit.”

Other factors like terms of trade, inflation differential, public debt, current-account deficits, interest rates, political stability and the overall economic health determine the exchange rate of a currency.

Hence, the fall in crude oil prices has reduced Nigeria’s dollar earnings, making it difficult for the apex bank to fund imports. Record oil prices had helped Nigeria to build the largest currency reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. The reserves peaked at $63 billion in September 2008. After attaining a record-high of $147 in July of that year, Nigeria’s crude oil prices – bonny light, plummeted to less than $40 per barrel before the current gradual uptick.

As of September 18, crude oil was trading at $73.33 per barrel while the foreign reserves stood at $35.27 billion based on September 11 data obtained from the CBN website.

Goldman Sachs recently agreed oil could tumble as low as $30 a barrel, a level that would decimate the already heavily damaged economies of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Russia. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) predicts the price won’t go back above $100 until 2040.

Trading Desk Manager, AZA, a global forex trading firm, Murega Mungai, said the depreciation of the naira will continue until there are regulatory sanctions against illegal forex dealers, especially exporters who fail to remit export proceeds to government coffers as spelt out in the CBN’s Foreign Exchange Manual.

The manual, which stipulates that exporters repatriate export proceeds to Nigeria to support the naira and boost the economy are usually not followed by the parties concerned. Also, dollar demand pressure has continued to weigh in from importers stocking up for Christmas sales and finding it difficult to source from the official market, they are directing their demand to the parallel market.

Shipping and airline companies have also been accused of depriving Nigeria of the much-needed dollar earnings by not remitting export proceeds.

 

Despite the CBN intervention through weekly dollar sales to banks, the huge demand backlog by manufacturers and foreign investors, estimated at $2.5 billion, still puts pressure and creates a volatile situation in the forex market.

What the CBN is doing

The CBN never stood idly watching the naira slide into oblivion. The regulator took certain stringent measures, including imposing some currency control measures to save the naira.

Firstly, it curbed access to the interbank currency market for importers bringing in a variety of goods. To conserve its dollar reserves, the bank said importers could no longer get hard currency to buy 43 items, ranging from toothpicks and rice to steel products and private jets. The banks are also turning down payment requests from customers paying business partners abroad with naira debit cards.

They are now asking customers paying clients abroad to do so in the currency of the beneficiary’s country, not in naira. The new practice differs from the previous one where lenders debited the naira accounts of customers at the prevailing exchange rate and remitted dollar equivalent to the offshore beneficiary’s account.

Many banks are not only insisting that customers pay in the currency of the recipient’s country but through inflows from abroad in line with CBN’s domiciliary account policy. The policy mandated that only electronic fund transfers into domiciliary accounts can be transferred from such accounts to third parties while cash deposits into such accounts can only be withdrawn in cash.These policies have limited the ability of Nigerians to pay their foreign business partners. In an emailed explanation to a customer on why her transaction request was declined, GT Bank said a temporary restriction is placed on Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) on all banks’ cards was responsible. The DCC allows customers to pay in naira but has been temporarily restricted on all bank cards due to a dollar crunch.

The impact of dollar scarcity is also felt by the banks and multinational companies. Group CEO GTBank Segun Agabje said banks may not have enough dollars to fund clients seeking to acquire oil assets put on sale by the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

For him, there is no likelihood of any client raising the estimated $2.3 billion needed to purchase the Shell assets, as the global oil giant prepares to exit its onshore oil position in Nigeria, which is no longer considered compatible with its strategic ambitions.

“When I look at the books of Nigerian banks today, I don’t see a lot of dollar liquidity,” Agbaje told an investor conference call in Lagos. “It’s becoming a very difficult deal for people to pull off.”

This has not always been the case for Nigerian banks which in 2013, syndicated $3.3 billion debt to Dangote Industries for a refinery and petrochemical plant and recently financed Heirs Holding’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Oil Mining License (OML) 17.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of InvestAdvocate, Peter Obiora, said the dollar crunch has made it difficult for him to pay for server space for his online web business. He said unlike previously when he could use his naira debit card to pay for offshore transactions, now the card must be linked to a dollar-denominated domiciliary account that must be funded locally.

Former Executive Director, Keystone Bank, Richard Obire, said that just like a coin, the debit card restriction has two sides because Nigeria is integrated into the global economy, and her citizens should get intangible services that promote businesses. The use of naira denominated debit cards abroad, he said, is one of such benefits.

 

Overall, the economic downturn arising from the coronavirus pandemic curbed foreign-currency flows into the economy and pressured reserves. The pandemic pushed foreign investors to withdraw over $100 billion from emerging markets including Nigeria, between February and April last year.

 Move against AbokiFx, Fintech firms

CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele last Friday accused the publisher of AbokiFx (parallel market rates publication website), Oniwinde Adedotun, of using the platform for “illegal forex trading”. He alleged that Adedotun lives in the UK and publishes arbitrary rates without contacting BDCs.  However, AbokiFx management debunked the CBN claims, saying all allegations against its director were not confirmed.

“All allegations against our director are yet to be confirmed but we at AbokiFx do not trade forex nor do we manipulate parallel market rates,” it said, before temporarily suspending rate updates on all its platforms.

Likewise, Fintech firms have come under regulatory scrutiny after the Federal High Court, Abuja granted the request of the CBN to freeze the accounts of eight firms accused of using forex sourced from the Nigerian market to purchase foreign bonds/shares in contravention of its directive issued in July 2015.

The request granted by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, was filed by former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), on behalf of the CBN. Aondoakaa said that the forex deals by the defendants were undercutting the strength of the naira against the dollar.

The affected companies include Rise Vest Technologies Limited, Bamboo Systems Technology Limited, Bamboo Systems Tech. Ltd., CTL/Business Expenses, Trove Technologies Limited, Chayomi Multi Services Limited, Ningbo Excel Enterprises Limited and Dagang Enterprises.

Some of the firms are owned by individuals and organisations based in the United States. Risevest, Bamboo, Chaka, and Trove have assured users of the safety of their funds adding that they are negotiating with government authorities.

Investigations showed that between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria’s Fintechs raised over $600 million in funding, attracting 25 per cent ($122 million) of the $491.6 million raised by African tech startups in 2019 alone—second only to Kenya, which attracted $149 million.

Way out by stakeholders

Despite the naira crisis, Managing Director – Head of Macroeconomic Analysis at EFG Hermes, investment banking service provider, Mohamed Basha, advised the CBN to use $6 billion Eurobond issuance expected later in the year to further devalue the naira. He said the upcoming Eurobond issuance potentially means that a $6 billion reserve boost would be available to the CBN.

“We anticipate the CBN to use this by devaluing the naira to N430/440, pushing the parallel rates (currently trading at N570) to converge to the said range. We believe the devaluation, which would still add some inflationary pressure, should be accompanied by a tightening of monetary policy in order to bring interest rates to levels that are attractive to foreign investors.”

Global Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank focusing on emerging and frontier markets, Charlie Robertson, agreed with Basha. Robertson noted that the Nigerian economy has been going through a rough patch since 2014 when the price of oil crashed. He explained that a persistently high inflation rate means a persistently weak currency.

According to him, using the Real Effective Exchange Rate methodology, an approach used to determine the value of a currency vis-à-vis a basket of other currencies based on the relative trade balance, the naira is overvalued “by a good 20 to 30 per cent”.

He warned that with persistent inflation, the naira would depreciate to N1,000 per dollar in the next 10 years. Robertson urged the CBN to focus more on controlling inflation. “If the central bank can get inflation to three per cent and sticks there, then in 10 years the naira could be N400/N450 per dollar. So it’s all about inflation and the central bank’s success in fighting it,” he added.

The Managing Director, Afrinvest West Africa Plc, Ike Chioke, believes the incorporation of a long-term diversified strategy in fiscal policy is required to cushion shocks in various segments of the economy.

For him, the persistent pressure on the naira could have been minimised if a counter fiscal policy had been developed, as the CBN cannot continue to defend the naira with foreign reserves.

“To reduce this pressure, an inward-looking policy (tax incentives, infrastructure development and production subsidy) should be emphasised to reduce the dependence on imported goods,” he said.

He explained that asides from oil receipts, the development of the agricultural sector will in the short term reduce the forex burden of food imports and in the long run, enhance foreign exchange receipts if its comparative advantage in the sector is efficiently deployed.

Moghalu advised the CBN to stop subsidising the naira. For him, although such a step will lead to an immediate spike in the price of the dollar, over time, the laws of demand and supply will work in favour of the naira.  “Alongside this, maintaining different exchange rates for different kinds of transactions must end. This is called rate convergence. Since the current practice of the CBN pumping dollars in the forex market is essentially a subsidy for imports, which has made Nigeria more and more import-dependent, letting go of the subsidy on the naira will refocus the economy towards exports,” he said.

Other analysts insisted that Nigeria’s current managed floating exchange rate regime combined features of both the fixed and flexible exchange rate. A lightly managed floating exchange rate regime is advocated given that the exchange rate becomes determined essentially by demand and supply forces. This would allow the CBN to intervene occasionally to moderate excessive fluctuations, which are prone in developing countries, including Nigeria. As these policy implementations to save the naira are sustained, many Nigerians expect that the local currency bounces back to command the respect of both local and foreign investors.

 

With the State Congress of APC in Akwa Ibom slated for October 2, the race for the Chairman of the Party has officially commenced. But there is a snag: the Party is yet to indicate which part of the state the position and other SWC positions are zoned to. Since the governorship slot is going to Uyo Senatorial District, it is natural that the two important party positions of Chairman and Secretary will go to Eket and Ikot Ekpene Districts. But the silence of the Party on the zoning arrangement less than two weeks to Congress has left many potential aspirants in a quandary. How do you buy a nomination form if you do not know where the position you’re interested in would be zoned to? In addition to zoning, other factors will influence the character and composition of the next SWC, chief among which is the Udoedeghe factor.

In a typical APC tradition, it is expected that the SWC members will emerge through a consensus determined by key leaders and stakeholders of the party. They include Atuekong Don Etiebet, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator John James Udoedehe, Senator Ita Enang, Mr Nsima Ekere, Mr Umana Umana, Group Captain Sam Enwang (rtd); Dr Amadu , just to mention a few. But it is also known that Senator Akpabio, Senator Enang, Group Captain Sam Enwang and many others have expressed their grievances against the manner previous congresses have been conducted. While Enang has openly complained about the fact that he’s been schemed out of the congresses, Akpabio has maintained a dignified silence on the conduct of the affairs of the party and has stayed aloof from the fray. But his political group, Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum, (ADF), has been up in arms with the party, fighting against its dominance by Senator Udoedeghe and his political associates and allies in Akwa Ibom APC Coalition, AAC. I understand that some ADF leaders and other key leaders of the party (who are not even ADF members) are meeting today in Abuja to take a decision on how they will participation in the Congress. They are Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo; Dr Emaeyak Ukpong; Senator Ita Enang; Hon Bassey Etim (BAFIL); Group Captain Sam Enwang; Arc Out Ita Toyo (Total Chair) and Atuekong Don Etiebet, among many others. ‘’Yes, we will participate in the State Congress, and I am already in Abuja for the meeting. We shall decide on zoning and other things’’, Dr Emaeyak Ukpong told me this morning.

But the State Party Chairman, Dr. Ita Udosen says the Party is still expecting the Guidelines on the Conduct of the State Congress from the National Secretariat. ‘’When we receive the Guidelines, we will further communicate the details of the Congress to our members’’, he said when I called him today, apparently referring to mode of the election and the zoning arrangement to be adopted. It is clear that the two contending forces in the party are at now at work to undo and outdo each other. The electoral fortunes of the party in 2023 would be greatly influenced by their activities now and in the next 15 months. So far, many party members, including those who are not aligned with any of the groups, have expressed anxiety over the lack of inclusiveness in the manner the last two congresses were conducted.

Many party members are rooting for the next Chairman to emerge from Oron Federal Constituency. ‘’Oron is the bastion of APC in the state; the chairmanship should go to them’’, says a party leader from Nsit Ibom LGA who does not want his name in print. Besides, there is an overwhelming sense within the party that Oron federal constituency deserves a better deal in the scheme of things in the party. Perhaps it is for this reason that a few party chieftains from there are being mentioned as possible contenders for the job. Prominent among them are Chief Victor Iyanam; Barr. Edet Eyo Bassey and Chief Efiong Abia. The three of them are lawyers. ‘’It would be a great honour if I am so honoured by our leaders and members. I will work with our leaders and build the party to a formidable platform if I am chosen’’, Chief Iyanam, a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state said. Edet Bassey, a former State Publicity of the party, I understand, is also interested in the job. He was equally effusive when I spoke to him. ‘’Well, as the State Publicity Secretary, I worked with Dr Amadu Atai, who was then the State Party Chairman. He mentored me and I learned a lot from him. It would be a great honour if the Party leaders consider me fit for the job. But I am convinced that I will do a great job for our party’’, he said. I could not reach Chief Abia for his comments.

Whoever emerges the next Chairman will have his job cut out for him. He will have to assuage huge grievances, bring everybody back under one roof and strengthen the party for 2023. The next Party Chairman will have to be an independent and neutral leader who would never be pocketed by anybody or group. My prognosis is that if AAC and its associated groups like Senator JJ Udoedeghe Support Group decide to sideline the other leaders and stakeholders and impose their own preferred candidates as the Chairman and SWC members, a major crisis will erupt and this will further weaken the party till we get to the 2023 elections. I recall that in the 2018 Congresses, the late Ini Okopido was picked as the Chairman, although he was not among the frontline candidates, because he was seen as a bridge builder. Okopido was widely accepted by all the leaders who sat in a conclave that night. It was also to the credit of Obong Nsima Ekere (ONE), who was then the putative governorship candidate, that the 2018 State congress was so peaceful and harmonious. ONE’s dictum was that since he was seeking the governorship ticket, it was more prudent and wise for him to be tolerant of the expectations of other leaders. ONE therefore went into that meeting seeking a consensus among the leaders, ready to compromise and shift grounds without preconceived views and predetermined preferences on who got what.

Senator Udoedeghe should approach Congress of October 2 with the same mindset. With some leaders seething and with many party members aggrieved, it is now up to him to understand the very essence of the 9th Law of Power as enunciated by the erudite Dr. Robert Greene: Win through your actions, never through argument. He elucidates: ‘’Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through augment is really a Pyrrhic victory: the resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate. Do not explicate’’. In other words, it would be more helpful if Senator Udoedeghe works with others and arrive at a broad-based consensus. But if he populates the SWC with only his choices to the utter exclusion of the other leaders, he will create so much resentment that would seep through the rank and file and lasts till the election. I do not know how this would help the party to confront an incumbent governor with a vast war chest.

 

 

Beyond the Rotation of Presidency between the north and south arrangement, which seems to be taking up a huge chunk of media space as 2023 general elections loom large , there are other critical factors which are nuanced but Germaine to the matter of who becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023. The word on the streets is that the fast approaching 2023 presidential contest would as usual be a two horse race between the ruling All Progressive Party, APC and the main opposition, People Democratic Party, PDP. It is also being predicted that the battle would be waged between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of PDP and former Lagos state governor , Bola Tinubu of APC.

The permutations that the ex Vice President would fly the flag of the main opposition, PDP, and ex Lagos state governor is likely the flag bearer for the ruling party , APC may be based on the first movers advantage being enjoyed by the duo who happen to have been the most visible and active politicians that are angling for the presidency from both parties at this point in time.

 

But the question of who would become the candidate for the presidency in 2023 still depends on if the ruling party, APC zones the presidency to the south as agreed when the coalition of opposition political parties against then ruling party PDP was in the making in 2013/14. In the event that the presidential power shift agreement is upheld , then Bola Tinubu who was instrumental to APC clinching the presidency in 2015 would be waiting in the wings to collect the flag.
And in the case of the PDP, the possibility of the presidential candidate being Atiku Abubakar would become clearer, if the party accepts the Bala Mohammed led committee recommendations that the main opposition party jettisons her presidential power rotation policy and declare the ticket open to all interested parties .
Should the foregoing proposition become manifest, the PDP may decide to rally once again behind Atiku Abubakar, her presidential candidate in 2019.

But the aforementioned simple calculus about who becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023 is just scratching the surface. That’s simply because politics of the presidency of Nigeria is more complex than what meets the eyes.
Consequently, given the complexities of the ethno-religious issues in the country, particularly with respect to the unprecedented levels of insecurity of lives and properties, and how polarized the society currently is on the issue of ethnicity and religion, both the ruling and main opposition parties are yet to hold their conventions which is unusual because it is barely 20 months to the 2023 general elections.

The delay is partly because both parties are shadowing each other so as to be guided in their decision about whether the presidential pendulum would remain in the north or swing to the south .
The slack in holding their conventions is also exacerbated by the fact that both parties are currently facing leadership schisms.

Given the cracks on the wall of the political parties caused by the internal wrangling , a factor that could prove fatal to both parties if they go into the 2023 general elections as fractured entities, holding a party convention to set the agenda for the general elections in 2023 appears to be in abeyance until they are able to put their respective houses in order.

As the conventional wisdom dictates ‘a house divided cannot stand’.
Therefore, the sooner both the ruling and main opposition parties settle the rifts within their ranks , the better their chances of victory in the 2023 general elections.

While the APC is led by a care taker committee headed by Mai Mala Buni, the seating governor of Yobe state, which is deemed as illegal in some quarters, because the APC party constitution forbids anyone in an executive position doubling as the party’s chairman, opinion from another quarter in the same party is that the Buni led Caretaker committee of the party is legitimate and in order .

 

Similarly, the PDP leadership is being tossed up and down like a ship caught in a stormy sea by a series of law suits (4 in number) sacking the chairman, Uche Secondus two times, and another reinstating him to the position twice. As the embattled Secondus insists that his tenure as chairman does not expire until December, his traducers vow that he has been sacked at both the ward and national levels and a convention would be held in October to replace him. Should Secondus’ contentions be ignored and elections are held in October to elect new National Working Committee, NWC members , and thereafter the Supreme Court gives judgement in his favor, the decisions of the executives to be elected in October would be ultra vires.
Presently, the jury is still out on the matter of legality besetting the leadership of both the ruling APC and main opposition party, PDP.

While the legal battles remain unsettled , one thing for sure is that there would be cataclysmic implications for both parties, if the courts contradict the advise of the legal counsels to the respective parties upon which their present actions are predicated.

In view of the energy that both the ruling and main opposition parties are dissipating in internal conflicts, instead of designing and releasing manifestoes which they should be selling to Nigerians right now , untangling the noose which they may have unwittingly tied around their own necks is currently palpably giving the leadership of both parties indigestion .

So given the web of legal complications shackling the leadership of both the ruling and main opposition parties , the implementation of the recommendations of the committees independently set up by both parties to chart the way forward for our beloved country maybe in jeopardy as they are no longer in the front burner . Rather, the proposals are gathering dust in the archives at a time that both parties should be trying to woo the electorate by sharing with them the positive changes that the masses should expect in the coming dispensation if given the opportunity to call the shorts in Aso Rock Villa from 2023. The package of new approach to governance including presidential power rotation between the south and north as well as the restructuring of the political system that are the major policy planks upon which the ruling and main opposition parties can predicate their manifestos that can motivate the Nigerian masses into having faith in politics , and policies that are supposed to have been captured in the reports of both the APC and PDP committees awaiting ratification by the respective parties, have been overshadowed by the cases in the courts as the leaders are being preoccupied with quelling insurrections within their parties.

 

On the part of the PDP, whereas there are indications that it would like to continue with its Policy of rotating the presidency between the north and south, which has proven to be a winning formula and the ingredient for its pan Nigeria outlook, it is not clear whether it would nominate a southerner as its presidential candidate. That is owed to an apparent dearth of presidential ‘material’ in the south East whose turn it is, (on equity basis) to produce Nigeria’s next president in 2023.

In the absence of somebody with a national stature , formidable financial resources (a war chest of least N100 billon naira ) and national name recognition, the question is : would pragmatism compel the PDP to keep the game open for the best candidate from any part of the country based on Meritocracy and in tandem with the recommendation of the Bala Mohamed led committee that was set up to chart the way forward for the former ruling party after her repeated loss of the presidency to the incumbent ruling political Party, APC and president, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019?
Assuming the PDP decides to sustain the zoning calculus, which PDP politician even from the entire southern states have the national exposure, stature and exposure ?

There appears to be no candidate currently in the arena or horizon. As there seems to be no lgbo man/woman with name recognition nationally in the political arena and who posses a magnetic force that can pull together the lgbos, who are by nature republicans, the lgbo quest for the presidency in 2023 may be in jeopardy . Of course , there are lgbo politicians with average name recognition, but lack the nationwide structure and financial muscle. Those that readily come to mind are, Emmanuel Iwuayanwu and Peter Obi.

The former, is the owner of a defunct national newspaper – Champion and proprietor of an erstwhile popular football club-Iwuayanwu Babes which made him a household name. But he is now too old to be president and in retirement from active politics.
Some would like to make a case for Peter Obi-former Anambra state governor and vice presidential candidate in 2019. But does he have a robust nationwide structure or platform like the PDM projecting him ? I think not.

While it is true that youths admire him for his understanding of street economics that he exhibits online and some Nigerians admire his frugality, but it takes much more than those two qualities to be the president of Nigeria in 2023. It took the military class and political platform of late Musa Yar’adua’s (elder brother to Umaru Yar’adua and former chief of staff supreme headquarters under Obasanjo’s military regime) PDM to make Olusegun Obasanjo president in 1999.

And as a seating president, it also took Obasanjo’s personal effort to reward the Yar’adua family for rendering their support to him pre 1999 by equally supporting Umaru Yar’adua (of blessed memory) to become president in 2007.
Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan idiomatically had his palm kernel cracked by benevolent spirits when Yar’adua passed away in 2010 and the ‘doctrine of necessity’ propelled him from Vice President to President for two years after which he leveraged the power of incumbency to get himself re-elected as president in 2011.

As for the current incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari , he succeeded on a forth attempt only after Bola Tinubu, ex Lagos state governor who was effectively the leader and controller of politics in Yoruba land in 2015 swung the Yoruba votes in his favor after a successful combination of multiple opposition political parties to unseat then ruling party, PDP. Now, as a side comment, not many people recognize the role that the late Balarabe Musa , one time governor of Kaduna state played in getting opposition parties to forge a common front against the ruling party.

Only a slew of Nigerians may recall that he is the one that started the concept of fusion of opposition parties. Although he did not succeed in 2007 and 2011, but his idea gathered momentum and made it easy for the initiative to be attractive to politicians, especially those of Buhari’s CPC that had made three previous attempts at clinching the presidency and failed. Even Tinubu’s ACN that fielded Nuhu Ribadu, the former anti corruption tzar as presidential candidate and Fola Adeola, ex-Gtbank co-founder and managing director, as vice presidential candidate, also lost woefully.

That is perhaps owing to the power of incumbency that makes it extraordinarily difficult to unseat a candidate in office except a catastrophic event happens.

Returning to the matter of presidential ‘material’ of lgbo extraction for the 2023 presidential race , unfortunately , Peter Obi, the only active lgbo politician with some footprints beyond lgbo land does not possess the type of political clout commanded by Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory who served as Vice President in the presidency of Shehu Shagari, (1979-83) and also led the G-34 that took on then military head of state, Sani Abacha and succeeded in ending military dictatorship. Owing to the republican nature of the lgbos, Ekwueme suffered a whiff of the negative effect of lgbo republicanism after he was once again propelled into national prominence with the G-34 in 1998.

It is on record that as soon as Ekwueme was proposed by the late Lawal Keita during a G-34 meeting as the presidential candidate following the demise of the military dictator , Sani Abacha , instead of rallying around him, other lgbo leaders went back home to declare their own presidential ambitions. That internal rebellion ended up fracturing Ekwueme’s support base which led to his subsequent loss in the party primaries to president Olusegun Obasanjo who was the preferred candidate of the ruling military class at that time. So , for an lgbo to become a presidential candidate for 2023 and for him/her to have the chance of winning, that person must have structures in the three major tribes of Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani in addition to the home base .

The late Isa Funtua said it best in one of his profound television interviews early 2020 when he narrated how Ekwueme worked towards becoming the Vice presidential candidate to Shehu Shagari during the second republic in 1979. Here is what he had to say about lgbo politicians.
“They should belong. They should join the party. They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo, we should dash them the presidency? That was the reason I asked if it is turn by turn Nigeria limited.

“You are talking about politics, which is an issue of votes. My very good friend of blessed memory, MKO Abiola defeated Bashir Tofa in Kano. Was MKO Abiola from Kano? But he defeated Bashir in his town, Kano. Why? Because the man played politics, he embraced everybody.
“Ekwueme of blessed memory was my boss. We campaigned for him throughout this country. Nobody will carry you like a newly born baby.

With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the South-West chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near (national) power”
In essence, the late Mallam Funtua was basically telling the lgbos that they have to sow political seeds beyond lgbo land which is what enabled MKO Abiola to beat Bashir Tofa in Kano. Recall that Abiola was a pillar of sports and a football club owner too.

While emphasizing Abiola’s winning formula,
Mallam Funtua offered the lgbos what looked like a basic tutorial on how to become the president of Nigeria, 2023. Hear him:
“If you send him (Abiola) invitation from any part of the country, he will be there. If not , his representative will be there to make his contribution”

Invariably , becoming a national figure does not happen over the night except you are a soldier that seized political power via a coup detat which is the case of Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari who later became president of our country at different times. My free advise to future presidential candidates is: in order to gain popularity and recognition ahead of your presidential contests, own football clubs like Abiola and Iwuayanwu and also be newspaper proprietors like the duo.

Just as the PDP leadership is in quandary as to how it could find an Igho man with presidential stature to fly its flag in 2023 , the APC may suffer a similar dilemma of being unable to find a presidential material from amongst the lgbos in the event that it decides to promote equity and inclusiveness of all the nationalities which the Nasir El-Rufai committee recommended and which president Buhari seem to be amenable to, going by his positive response to the case for an lgbo presidency when a question in that regard was posed to him by Rueben Abati in an ice breaking AriseTv interview with the president . Since the ruling party, APC leaders may not be disposed to the south west producing the president twice given the fact that ex president Olusegun

Obasanjo that is Yoruba had served from 1999-2007, it may not be expedient to, (as is being speculated) field as her presidential candidate the party’s national leader , Bola Tinubu – a former governor of Lagos state and the foremost political godfather in the south west. That is basically because it would inequitable for another president to emerge from the Yoruba land while the other member ethnic nationalities in the zone stand aside and look. So the APC may have to rely on the creative ingenuity of its think tank to resolve the logjam without the liability of the acrimony that could cause the party to implode.

On the part of the PDP, in the absence of an lgbo man/woman of the significant stature of, for instance, an Obasanjo or Buhari when they contested for the office in 1999 and 2003-2015 respectively, it may be pragmatic for her to build on the success that it had achieved with her three (3)times presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar who contested for the presidency in 2007 against Umaru Yar’adua of blessed memory and squared up with Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and then president Buhari in 2019.

If ex Vice President Abubakar picks up the gauntlet for a fourth (4th) shot at the presidency in 2023, ( and it appears that he is inclined to do so) he could achieve the goal with an lgbo Vice Presidential candidate who would acquire national stature in the fours years that he would serve under an Atiku Abubakar presidency. That would be a sort of mentorship arrangement for the new Vice President who would be propped up to take over after Atiku Abubakar serves only one term instead of the two terms that he is constitutionally entitled.

The unique proposition is underscored by the fact that Abubakar who is currently 74 years old in November, would be 76 in 2023 and may be too old to seek re-election in 2027 when he would be 80.

Nelson Mandela, the late ex president of South Africa served only one term and bowed out due to age and president Joe Biden of the USA would likely also do so by handing over to Vice President Kamala Harris after his first term as he would be 82 years older in 2024.

I am not unaware that the proposition is inconsistent with the expectations of the lgbos and therefore would be susceptible to resistance. But it is an innovative solution to an apparent political lacuna arising from the non-availability of an lgbo man with the political clout to be the president of Nigeria in 2023.

The unique proposal above needs no further elucidation for those that are ready to think out of the box in order to figure out that it would lead to a win-win outcome for the lgbo nation, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP. That is more so as it would be an action borne out of necessity. Take for instance , the ‘doctrine of necessity’ that was enacted by the National Assembly , NASS to save our democracy in 2010 when president Yar’adua suddenly passed away and the constitution did not make provision for automatic take over of the presidency by the Vice President resulting in a lacuna . Certain situations require specific innovative actions and politics is about deal making so the lgbos and Atiku Abubakar would have to be guided by the prevailing circumstances in the country, and put on their creative thinking caps.

By the way , should Atiku Abubakar throw his political hat into the ring for the fourth time , he would be in good company. That is because the incumbent president, Buhari is known to have vied for the presidency four (4) times before he succeeded in 2015. Going farther ashore , one time prime minister of England, Harold Wilson is also known to have contested for the office a record four (4) times before he succeeded in becoming UK’s prime minister. As evidenced by the cases referenced above, there is virtue in building on a foundation already laid which is underscored by the principle of incremental value based upon the power of repetition which helps transition a skill from the conscious to the subconscious. Having vied for the office three times, it can be imagined that becoming the President of Nigeria must have by now become easier for Atiku Abubakar , who is also a treasure trove of sorts about governance of Nigeria since he has served as vice president for 8 years along side president Olusegun Obasanjo, from 1999-2007.

Akin to the dire straits in which the PDP finds itself with respect to sourcing a presidential candidate of lgbo stock in the fast approaching presidential election in 2023, and of which its last resort may be to also fall back on the good old efficacious strategy of adding more blocks to an existing solid foundation, rather than starting from ground zero, the APC which is similarly grappling with the dearth of a presidential candidate of lgbo extraction with national name recognition may be left with no better option than to consider adopting the PDP formula for dealing with the complex 2023 presidency game that appears to be as complicated as chess Olympiad.

And one of such innovative approach would be for the APC to settle for or adopt the immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan , who the rumor mill claim is already being wooed by the ruling party, with the consent of president Buhari that is presumed to be championing the candidacy of Jonathan as president in 2023.

In the event that Jonathan cross carpets from the PDP to the APC and he is fielded as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in 2023, what would become of the morality of the APC leadership which in the first four (4) years of its being in power has made a fetish of demonizing Jonathan and his presidency as clueless, reckless and corruption personified?

Would it not be hypocritical and amount to the ruling party swallowing its own vomit ? Does such a scenario not re-echo the situation that arose during the last Edo state gubernatorial contest whereby then APC chairman and former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole did an about face by backing Osagie Ize-Iyamu, ‘pelebe’ whom he had practically destroyed via a vicious campaign when Ize-Iyamu was the candidate of then opposition party, PDP in the state’s governorship election in 2016?

It may be recalled that following a vicious supremacy battle between Oshiomhole and his erstwhile protégée, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, the latter switched parties from APC to PDP and the table turned when lze-Iyamu got adopted by his nemesis in the previous election-Oshiomhole, and he thus became the APC candidate in the 2020 governorship election .

Keeping in mind the experience of what Edo state voters did to demystify the presumed godfather of Edo state politics, Adams Oshiomhole who was alleged to have been playing god by approbating and reprobating, hence the electorate literarily pulled the carpet from under his feet by voting for Obaseki while shunning Ize-Iyamu, his preferred candidate .

By that gesture, Edo people exhibited uncommon political awareness and voting savviness which Nigerians could replicate at the national level, should the APC field Goodluck Jonathan as her presidential candidate in 2023.

The question is : should the politically fatal outcome of the elections in Edo state not be an ominous sign and lesson for the APC to learn the consequences of playing with the intelligence of the electorate which the fielding of Goodluck Jonathan as APC’s presidential candidate in 2023 would boil down to?

Of course, many more twists and turns on the road to Aso Rock Villa in 2023 are expected.

Because there abound in both the APC and PDP alike , other political juggernauts who are also preparing for the race to Aso Rock Villa seat of power, but are yet to come out of the closet to formally declare their interests.

Of all of them , only Bola Tinubu, a very formidable contender earlier mentioned is currently the APC candidate from the south that has tacitly shown interest in becoming the president of Nigeria, 2023 via body language. All the other consequential contenders , particularly from the north are clearly tarring awhile perhaps because they prefer not to beat the gun by jumping into the contest before the leader of the party , president Buhari green-lights it.

On the side of the PDP , there are the immediate past senate President Bukola Saraki and current governor of Sokoto state , Aminu Tambuwal. The aforementioned PDP stalwarts faced-off in the primaries for the elections in 2019 which Atiku Abubakar won leveraging the PDM advantage . Subsequently, Saraki with candor, remarkably became the campaign director general for Atiku Abubakar’s campaign , his erstwhile rival, and which was quite an extraordinary demonstration of togetherness by the leadership of PDP. And a lot of the credit for the peaceful and decorous conduct of the PDP presidential primary elections for 2019, are attributable to Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta state governor led committee that dexterously executed the task .

Since both the APC and PDP are yet to officially decide on whether they would be sustaining the unwritten rotation of presidency agreement between the south and north, a zoning system that has been in practice since 1999; some of the potential presidential candidates may also be holding their peace in expectation of the outcome of the much awaited conventions which both the ruling and main opposition parties have been postponing with a view to first of all settling internal wrangling that could trigger implosion, if not dexterously managed. Tellingly, the APC had shifted the date of her convention from October to December when the PDC fixed her convention for December. But as things currently stand , the PDP has moved the date of her convention forward to October , APC’s originally chosen date.

That implies that the political parties may also be deliberately pushing the date that their conventions would hold back and forth or very close to the general election date so that it may be too late for aggrieved politicians to cross carpet to other parties to contest for elective offices if they do not agree with the new policy directions of their existing political platforms.

Whatever the case may be, one thing that is certain is that the jostle for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 would be more complex than any other election.

One of the reasons for the assertion above is that owing to the high caliber of contenders and how polarized our country has become , the journey to the presidency which has very high stakes would be fraught with twists and turns as the candidates would have to navigate their ways through tribal, cultural and religious cliffs, valleys, rapids and mountains which currently define our political landscape .

For instance, it is the first time that southern governors would speak with the same voice on the vexed issue of open grazing of cattle and the consequential deadly herders /farmers clashes that has created alarming human casualties which they unanimously agreed should be banned.

Additionally, irrespective of the political platforms that they belong, southern states governors have also resolved that the presidency should return to the south upon the expiration of president Buhari’s tenure in 2023. How can we forget the Value Added Tax , VAT wrangling that has caused further polarization of Nigeria as the apparent inequity in its collection and sharing has pitched the south against the north, Christians against Muslims with respect to the hypocrisy of VAT collected on alcohol being shared to states in the north that regard consumption of alcohol as taboo . So in many ways than one, with Lagos state joining in the legal battle initiated by Nyesom Wike , governor of Rivers state currently gaining momentum, resource control is no longer a mere Niger delta struggle, as it is assuming a new dimension with VAT wars in the courts as proxy and potential game changer.

Apart from the gentleman agreement hashed out during the 1994/5 national conference for presidential power to swing between the north and south, with the south taking the first shot with Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency under the umbrella of PDP as then ruling party, elder statesman, ex governor of Ogun state and media royalty, Segun Osoba has on multiple occasions in media interviews confirmed that there was also an agreement between the leaders of the parties that fused together to return the presidency to the south after residing for eight (8) years in the north. The agreement was reached in the cause of the multiple political parties merger talks that held between 2013/14 and subsequently birthed the APC.

Ordinarily, the Southern governors could be said to be re-affirming an existing agreement. But their northern counterparts do not see it as such. Instead, they deem the decision of the southern governors as an imposition. Apparently, the northern governors are affronted by the fact that what should have been negotiated was turned into a grandstanding affair. Hopefully, after the initial filibustering which is a major part of politics, both the southern governors who needed to show their constituents that they are not Lily-livered, but posses some spunk, and the northern governors who may be intent on getting something in return for the likely impending concession of the presidency to the south in 2023, which is typical of politicians who often get a kick from horse-trading, would settle their differences.

In the event that the PDP fields Atiku Abubakar , (the wind seem to be behind his back) and Bukola Saraki once more graciously accepts to be his campaign director general, a role he played in 2019, Abubakar would be squaring up against Goodluck Jonathan, if the APC decides to feature the former president as its candidate, which is possible, based on the rumors that have been swirling around about president Buhari having a soft spot for him. And it would be an epic battle, since that would be the second time that Atiku Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan would be locking horns politically. The first was during the PDP primaries in 2011 of which Jonathan as the incumbent president walked away with the victory trophy .

Would the momentum which Atiku Abubakar had built up in the course of his last presidential contest in 2019 stand him in a better stead to win the contest against Jonathan and subsequently the presidency the forth time around?

Likewise , in the event that Goodluck Jonathan emerges APC’s presidential flag bearer in 2023, can he leverage the goodwill that he enjoyed as president from 2011 up to 2015 to win the contest against Abubakar a second time?

As the saying goes, you do not change a winning team. So would the APC be giving transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi , a two time director general of Buhari campaign organization, the responsibility to ‘deliver’ Jonathan as he did for Buhari in 2015 and 2019?

Being the one who literarily ignited the fire that engulfed then ruling party, PDP and which eventually consumed Jonathan politically, would a scenario whereby Amaechi is Jonathan’s presidential campaign director be possible? In the event that it happens, it would be interesting to see how Amaechi markets Jonathan.

It would also be such a perfect imperfection, especially if Bukola Saraki also becomes Atiku Abubakar’s campaign director general.

In that case, there would be a replay of the 2019 presidential campaign scenario where both Saraki and Amaechi were the chief drivers of the presidential campaigns of both the opposition and ruling parties respectively.

Should Saraki and Amaechi go toe to toe again as presidential campaign directors in 2023, would Saraki get the wrong end of the stick again or would he trump Amaechi this time around?

And the quirks do not end there.

That is because how to become the president of Nigeria in 2023 has been occupying the mind of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. Thankfully, the man tagged Maradona for his ability to dribble politically and labeled evil genius for having the cleverness to stage bloodless coup and the confidence to willingly give away military power where others could have dug in their heels in Aso Rock Villa by hook or crook , is not Interested in the presidency for himself.

In a recent interview granted AriseTv, Babangida, who was Nigeria’s military head of state from 1985 to 1993, and recently clocked 80 years , offered a template of who should be Nigeria’s president in 2023.

Below is IBB’s recipe of the Characteristics that should be internal and external in the person who would be president of Nigeria in 2023:

“I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.

“That is a person, who is very verse in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in his sixties.”

The retired military general’s audacious expectation is not without foundation. It is underscored by the fact that general Babangida (retd) is one of the young military officers involved in the counter coup of July 1966 after the major Kaduna Nzeogu led putsch of 1966 barely six (6) years post-independence from the British colonialists and self governance. He did so as an army Lieutenant along side the likes of Major TY Danjuma and Muhammadu Buhari, also an army Lieutenant at the time.

Subsequently, Babangida was involved in the coup that ousted General , Yakubu Gowon, who was replaced with the late , General Murtala Mohamed in 1976. After that , he was also instrumental to the coup that installed Muhammadu Buhari on 31/12/1983 and he eventually led the putsch that also toppled the same general Buhari in a bloodless coup detat in 1985.

So the story about Babangida’s involvement in coups resulting in the suspension of the practice of democracy and the consequential legendary leadership challenges that Nigeria has been grappling with, is similar to the African folkloric narrative about the tortoise which is always involved in every story of sinister activities.

For the reasons above, some Nigerians are questioning lBB’s moral standing and justification for his pontification on the personification of the president of Nigeria in 2023. More so because he actually ‘ stepped aside’ (more or less abdicated office) in 1994 after failing to steer the drifting ship of state into calm waters. Rather he allegedly drove the ship of state of Nigeria to the edge of a water fall before literarily abandoning the ship.

The counter argument to those espousing anti-Babangida rhetoric’s would be that ,since the octogenarian military icon has been watching from the sidelines from as far back as 1993,(28 years ago) he must have learnt a thing or two that might have given him a better world view and understanding of the trouble with Nigeria, apologies to Chinua Achebe, author of the famous book: The Trouble With Nigeria.

Hence he has decided to weigh in with his wise counsel on the way forward for our beloved country.

The bottomline is that whether most of us agree or disagree with Babangida’s definition and characterization of who would be the president of Nigeria in 2023, he has had his say and the rest of us can have our way by voting for our preferred candidate.

That is the beauty of democracy which stipulates that while the minority will have their say , the majority will carry the vote.

ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts university, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.

Introduction

 

President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) shocked most Nigerians when he said those agitating for restructuring and secession were not only naive, but “mischievously dangerous”.

 

 

He made the statement through the Executive Secretary, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Shehu, in Zaria, at the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation.

 

I was certainly not one of those Nigerians who were shocked. I was not because as a close monitor and commentator on national and international affairs, I didn’t expect anything more from him.

 

My thesis is simple, not rocket science: a leopard cannot change its spots. Buhari said he did not understand what the restructure proponents want, or what is to be restructured. Buhari erroneously believes that the problem of Nigeria is how to make Local Governments functional and the Judiciary independent.

 

As important as these are, President Buhari has merely seen the smaller picture, rather than the larger picture, as President of a hemorrhaging country yearning for urgent rescue.

 

 

So, for those Nigerians who had heaved a little sight of relief last week on the little tokenism conceded by Buhari, I sympathize with you.

 

During his democracy day address to Nigerians on 12th June, 2021, Buhari had appeared to understand Nigerians’ pains, agony and genuine yearning for restructuring.

 

He had said amongst others, that he was not unaware of misgivings causing national discontent in different parts of the country, including allegations of marginalisation and Constitution amendment.

 

While saying efforts were on to address these “challenges that this period imposes on us”, Buhari had said government was “willing to play a critical role in the constitutional amendment process without usurping the powers of the National Assembly in this regard”.

 

He has believed that with this process, “we can come out stronger”. President Buhari’s summersault in just one week has therefore shocked most Nigerians. Suddenly, in Zaria, he beat the drums of War, in a speech that is as provocative as it is unpresidential and unstatemanly.

 

He berated those who are “calling for restructuring and conference or what they call ethnic nationality”.

 

 

Wrongly believing that Nigerians and the youth who daily agitate for a better Nation, including during the #Endsars peaceful protests are simply separatist secession advocates, who wanted to overthrow his lack lustra government, and describing them as “naive and mischievously dangerous” , because they are “ignorant of war and its consequences”,

 

Buhari challenged parents to “try and educate their children”. But, Buhari sorely missed the critical issues at stake. He appeared frighteningly ignorant of the dire need for attitudinal change in his strong arm tactics when he declared imperiously like Louis X1V of France, “there is no way we can separate as a country”.

 

Read this around: Nigerians must stay together, whether things are working or not; agitations or no agitations; disaffection or no disaffection; social justice or no social justice; security or no security. 

A leader does not dictate to his people as to what they want. Just like the tail does not wag the dog.

 

It is the people that tell their leaders their desires. Buhari daily reminds us of the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson: “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.

 

The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”.

 

Said John Maxwell: “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others but far enough ahead to motivate them”. Buhari does neither. He is distant to and disconnected from his people. He does not care; does not listen to their cries, woes, pains, pangs, tears, sorrow and blood. He cares not about their genuine yearnings and desires.

 

Buhari erroneously believes he knows what the 211 million Nigerian populace wants. He is making a grave mistake. No ruler in history has ever perpetually dictated to, or held down his people with sheer jackboot. Musolini woefully failed, just like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Stalin and Lenin.

 

Ask the bones of Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pinochet, Gheghis Khan, Pol Pot and Kim Jong. They will tell Buhari how and why they failed miserably to dictate to their citizens forever. Aside self-determination agitating groups (a concept recognised anyway by the UNO, EU, AU, etc), I have not seen nor heard leaders of the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria ask for outright balkanization of Nigeria.

 

What I hear them say in the South, North, East and West (and which I have also crusaded for over three decades) , is restructuring, total devolution of powers and renegotiation of our suffocating Union ,to enthrone social justice, equity, egalitarianism and mutual religious and inter-ethnic tolerance and respect.

 

 

They talk about re-engineering the week fabric of Nigeria to make her stay together as a country.

 

Now this

 

Buhari must learn from history. Let me give some samples of nations that were once together and have today gone their separate ways. Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro used to be one country.

 

Today, they are separate and independent. The Republic of Venezuela was reformed in 1999 with a brand new Constitution as Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in July, 2011.

 

In February, 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. East Timor or Timor-Liste achieved independence from Indonesia in May, 2002. Palau, with a population of slightly over 21,000 (less than a local government in Nigeria) became independent from Micronesia on October 1, 1994.

 

In the same 1994, Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia after a Haile Selassie- sustained 30-year bloody civil war. In January, 1991, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved by Parliament into Slovakia and Czech Republic. Quebec held a referendum to break away from Canada in 1995.

 

The former USSR broke into 15 Republics of Russia, Georgia, Belarusia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Latvia, Tajikistan, Lithuania, Estonia and Kyrgzstan.

 

Some of these countries like Estonia (1.92m) are less than two million in population; less than the population of the smallest state in Nigeria. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh used to be one country.

 

Help me remind President Buhari that many countries of the world enthroned a new Constitutional order by enacting brand new Constitutions after referenda of the people. Examples are Egypt (2012), South Africa (1999) , Morocco (2011) , Kenya (2010), Eritrea (1994), Iraq (1979), Iran (1979) , Bangladesh (1991), Tunisia (2014) and USA (1787).

 

Help me tell President Buhari that he should struggle hard within his remaining two years in office to force himself into the pantheon of great statesmen in history; not better forgotten dictators, absolutists and tyrants. I wish Nigeria well, or what remains of her. Amen.

 

And this Crack your ribs Week after week henceforth, this column will deliberately include short bites on some sounds and bites.

 

It would include jokes (to soothe our aching nerves); philosophical platitudes (to redirect our steps);   and scriptural quotes (to pave the way to eternity). We commence this week.

 

“Do we still have time to laff??? Sisi Ibadan don come again this month o!

 

  1. Thank God for a brown new month! (Yellow nko?)

 

  1. My god is upsome. (L’o ba tan!)

     

  2. Why are people so weekend? (cos they are Friday na ni)

 

  1. Not all dat glitters is goat! (Some are actually rabbits!)

     

  2. Majority carries the volt (Transformer nko, who wan carry dat one?)

 

  1. May your name be highly exhausted. (Eewo!)

 

  1. My waste is paining me. (U never see natin!)

 

  1. Thank God for spearing my life (He will soon dagger it)

 

  1. What is strong with you? (strong ko, weak ni. Olodo!)

 

  1. Lord, you are the killer dat holds my knife! (Yeepa!)

 

  1. Pls, how much is ur age? (U wan buy?)

 

  1. Look to the window, the principal just passed away (sebi na u kill am.)

 

  1. Lord let ur wheel be done… (Hin wheelbarrow spoil b4?)”.

 

“Fight between husband and wife (both are M.A. in English literature).

 

Instead of shouting, abusing or physical force….

 

They exchange poems to each other.

 

Wife: I wrote your name on sand, it got washed…  I wrote your name in the air, it was blown away.

 

Then I wrote your name on my heart and I got heart attack.

 

Husband: God saw me hungry, He created pizza. He saw me thirsty, He created Pepsi. He saw me in the dark, He created light. He saw me without problems, He created YOU.

 

Wife: Twinkle, twinkle little star You should know what you are And once you know what you are Mental Hospital is not so far.

 

Husband: The rains make all things beautiful.  The grass and flowers too. If rain makes all things beautiful Why doesn’t it rain on you?

 

Wife: Roses are red, violets are blue Monkeys like you should be kept in zoo.

 

Husband: Don’t feel so angry you will find me there too Not in a cage but laughing at you!”.

 

Thought for the week

 

“To be a good citizen, it’s important to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see the big picture. If everything you see is rooted in your own identity that becomes difficult or impossible”. (Eli Pariser).

 

 

Last line

 

God bless my numerous global readers for always keeping fate with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by humble me, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D. Kindly, come with me to next week’s exciting dissertation

 

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

Come to think of it, I have spent the past 18 years campaigning for restructuring, although not along ethnic lines. My campaign has been three-fold: (1) restructuring our mentality so that we can see the errors of our ways and begin to apply our hearts to wisdom (2) restructuring our politics to deliver good governance through competent and patriotic leadership (3) restructuring the economy to deliver prosperity, peace and justice to ordinary Nigerians — northerners and southerners alike. My tiny faction of the restructuring movement thinks Nigeria has two basic divides: the oppressors and the oppressed. These divides cut across all ethnicities, age groups, genders, religions and regions.

Undoubtedly, when you strip all my articles naked, these three propositions will always stare you in the face. But while restructuring the Nigerian mindset is one hell of a job — so many of us have been programmed from birth to view every single national issue through the prism of ethnic and sectional sentiments — we can always hope to make progress, no matter how slight, in our demand for good governance and economic prosperity. That is why I pray the VAT crisis would not be allowed to waste. It affords our leaders an opportunity to put heads together and work out how we can restructure our public finance to tackle the perennial crises and the accompanying political tensions.

Nigeria can be easily classified as a “rentier state” — originally defined by Hossein Mahdavi, an Iranian economist, as a country that receives “on a regular basis substantial amounts of external economic rent”. In our case, oil money is the external economic rent. This contrasts with a “fiscal state” which is run largely on revenues raised from domestic tax payers. Norway is oil-rich but it is a fiscal state — the bulk of government expenditure is raised from taxes. Norway’s oil revenue is saved in a sovereign wealth fund. Part of it is devoted to specific interventions in education and health care — not presidential jets, Prado SUVs, ultra-modern government houses and duty tour allowances.

We need a radical reappraisal of public finance in Nigeria. We spend money without thinking. We have carried on for too long thinking more about how to spend money, reflecting less on how to raise revenue — largely because of the seasonal oil windfalls. A modern state cannot build its finances on oil windfalls and hand-outs. The revenue base must be well established, reliable and predictable. For every new project, the state must work on raising extra revenue — either by cutting down expenditure elsewhere or adjusting a tax rate to raise the funds. For instance, to increase funding to its public health service, the UK recently raised the employee national insurance rates.

Conversely, a rentier state embarks on projects hoping that another windfall is just around the corner. Nigeria’s budget is eternally benchmarked against crude oil price. That tells the whole story. If oil price rises, government doubles the wage bill, builds new airports and Nigerians go on an importation binge. If oil price falls, we begin to owe salaries, abandon projects and start throwing even the kitchen sink at saving the naira. Any economy built around the prices of commodities, such as crude oil, is a fickle economy. Ours is even worse because we do not save — we keep eating the oil money, sometimes borrowing with the hope that we will pay back when crude prices rise again.

The vulnerabilities of public finance in Nigeria hardly feature in public discourse. Our emotions are elsewhere. As things stand, 35 of the 36 states are parasites on oil. Take away the oil revenue and only Lagos has a chance of surviving. It is the only state that currently makes more from IGR than from federation allocation. Also, if oil-producing states keep the petrodollars, no fewer than 30 states will struggle to survive. It is the sharing of the oil revenue that stabilises the finances of states. Until federation allocation becomes mere “pocket money” to states and IGR becomes the real deal, we will continue brawling over the national cake. We all need to wake up and smell the coffee.

The good news is that most states are viable. I have heard many people argue that most Nigerian states are not viable. That is true — if all that matters in this world is federation allocation. As I pointed out years ago, Luxembourg, a European country, has a landmass of 2,586.4 square kilometres — half of Toro LGA, Bauchi state. With a population of 600,000, Luxembourg has fewer people than Oshodi-Isolo LGA, Lagos state. But its GDP, built on industry, agriculture and banking services, is $72 billion. That is more than the combined GDP of Lagos, Rivers and Delta states, Nigeria’s top three states by GDP ranking. Countries are developed by brains, not allocation.

The bad news is that this fact never sinks into our heads — no matter how many times we hear it per second. Luxembourg would not exist today if viability were determined by natural resources. Banking services form the largest sector of the economy — Luxembourg is one of the world’s most competitive financial centres. The country also manufactures steel. Its farmers are producers and exporters of meat, dairy products and wine. Anytime I think about the possibilities Nigeria sits on in every sector and in every region, my heart breaks to pieces. We have too much potential to be living this beggarly life. We are suffering basically because we are a sheepfold without the right shepherds.

But the good news again: with most states now seeing their vulnerability without VAT redistribution, there is a slight chance that this might ignite what I generously tag “fiscal revolution” — by which I mean a new thinking on how we can radically improve IGR by using the existing tax handles. As I advocated last week, it is not about instituting new taxes. We already have enough tax handles in my opinion. I would also not suggest increasing the tax rates. I believe the rates are generally fair and should remain so for now. Rather, the fiscal revolution can be achieved by (1) improving state capacity to ensure more compliance (2) expanding the local economy to enlarge the tax base.

In fiscal federalism terms, our current structure allows states to collect and retain personal income tax (PAYE and self-assessment) and withholding tax on certain rents, in addition to sundry levies. However, FG collects VAT, company incomes tax, petroleum profit tax, WHT, stamp duties, technology tax and tertiary education tax on behalf of the federation. All the tax revenues go into the federation pot, from where they are shared by the three tiers of government using a matrix that tries to ensure equalisation and stabilisation. Mineral-rich states take an extra 13% as derivation. Nevertheless, southerners often criticise the allocation formula which they say favours the north.

Irrespective of the outcome of the VAT dispute, the greatest thing that can happen to states, going forward, is for them to improve their IGR meaningfully. That is a tough job. It is very easy to say “improve your IGR” but it cannot happen overnight. While ensuring tax compliance can immediately raise the revenue, even if not massively, the economy of a state also needs to grow consistently before it can enjoy an enlarged and predictable revenue base. That will take a number of things to achieve: critical infrastructure, good security, creative policies and a number of productive incentives. I must of necessity acknowledge that many governors are not in the mood for this.

Why? It requires good thinking and hard work. It is not a champagne party. Most states are not creating the productive environment for business, so how can the local economy grow and broaden the tax base? According to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2018, it takes the whole of 118 days (four months) to get a building permit in Lagos. When it comes to having the title deed to a property, Ogun’s score of 82.9% is the only one above 50% among the 36 states. Getting a CofO is even worse: every state scored F9, with Lagos (22.9%), Kaduna (21.4%) and Adamawa (18%) being the best in class. These things hamper local economic growth and consequentially hurt the IGR.

There is good news, though. When Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu became governor of Lagos state in 1999, the IGR was N600m a month. When he was leaving in 1999, he had taken it to N6bn per month. No state was anywhere near that. Today, Lagos is averaging N34bn monthly. This is the closest example of a fiscal state. We can argue that Lagos enjoys an unusual advantage because it was federal capital and plays host to the ports, telecoms and financial services. But the IGR did not grow on its own. It was stimulated. I agree that every state will not move from N600m to N34bn like Lagos, but we must start working hard to move away from the comfort zone of federation allocation.

This should count as good news too: many states are making progress on the IGR issue. In 2020, for instance, NBS data showed that Kebbi grew its IGR by 87%, the highest in the federation, followed by Ebonyi (82%), Oyo (42%), Borno (42%), Katsina (34%), Gombe (26%), Taraba (24%), Zamfara (20%) and Plateau (16%). The naira and kobo may not be humongous yet but any progress is better than no progress. And to achieve fiscal prudence, states need to ask themselves: do we really need to build a cargo airport? Do we really need a new stadium? Do we really need a new university? Before increasing expenditure, they should ask: can we really afford this? Is this the best way to spend?

If all goes well, the ultimate benefit of fiscal revolution would be “fiscal social contract”. That is, the government feeling contractually obliged to deliver the goods to the citizens because it is their taxes, not oil money, that provide the bulk of the revenue. That way, the demand for accountability will be people-led and this should ordinarily impact on the quality of governance. The current rentier structure, built on oil windfalls, makes us treat public money as nobody’s money. We all want to take our share and run. Unfortunately, many theories fail in Nigeria. Even if tax revenue forms the bulk of public revenues, accountability may not be automatic. We just have to fight for it.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

UNFEDERAL CHARACTER
The house of representatives on Thursday passed a resolution accusing President Buhari of violating the constitution in his appointments in the Federal Character Commission (FCC). The two top positions in the commission — chairman and secretary — are occupied by northerners. The commission is constitutionally mandated “to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government”. If the appointments into the Federal Character Commission itself do not reflect federal character, that would be ironic. I think we need a convincing explanation. Puzzling.

FURORE OVER FFK
Who helped popularise the tag, “clueless”, as a nickname for President Jonathan? Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. He had left PDP for APC at the time. FFK returned to PDP in 2014 to become spokesman for the same Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. Having done tremendous work in the last six years to help classify APC as a party of almajiris and participated in “Jubrilising” President Buhari and defining the narratives around “Fulanilisation”, FFK was seen in Aso Rock on Thursday formally returning to APC. He attributed his decision to the “Spirit of God”. His embarrassed disciples are livid and have been raving mad at him. Me: what’s shocking about FFK jumping ship? Amusing.

RICE REWARD
The Kaduna police command paraded two suspects, named as Bashir Mohammed and Nasiru Balarabe, allegedly linked to the death of Abdulkarim, son of Senator Bala Na’Allah. Their reported confessions are so distressing. Abdulkarim, who was a pilot, had struggled with them at his Malali home. They overpowered him and they tied him with a rope, one of the suspects said. With him motionless, they went ahead to rob the apparently dead man. They said they stole his car and sold it for N1m. One of the suspects said he used his own share to buy 33 bags of imported rice but they were seized by Customs. The life of a human being wasted for a reward of 33 bags of rice. Sick.

BANDITS OR TERRORISTS?
There has been an interesting debate over the difference between bandits and terrorists. This, I would say, is a purely academic exercise. Whatever name they are called, the bandits are wreaking havoc on the country. Still, there is a distinction for whatever it is worth. Terrorists usually have a political demand. Bandits are purely out for the material gain without making any political demand. Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate. The bandits have not told us yet if they have a political ambition. However, both invoke fear and terror in people, and the increasing sophistication of the operations of bandits means we are not safe, whatever name we call them. Simple.

Fellow Nigerians, where and how does one begin? Whenever you think you have seen it all in our dear beloved country Nigeria, something bigger, bizarre and sometimes even more dastardly occurs. Let me be honest, I have no problem with those decamping in droves from the opposition party PDP to the ruling party APC. As far as I’m concerned, they are merely exercising their inalienable rights of freedom of association, speech and movement. However, I have serious issues with only one man, President Muhammadu Buhari who seems to be the Talisman that they all credit with their defection. It is because of him they all turn into turncoat, notwithstanding their previously avowed aversion and derision of this same personage that has been the butt of their ridicule or denigration.

Before you begin to ask me why this is my position, I shall hasten to elucidate.
Prior to the 2015 Presidential election, Major General Muhammadu Buhari had contested on three occasions. And what was his claim to fame and entitlement to the throne? INTEGRITY. Others added courage, frugality and simplicity. To his acolytes he was nothing short of a saint or angel. The Chosen one, the Messiah. That description was a perfect fit. He had this childlike innocence written all over his soft, delicately hewn face. His cool mien and natural taciturnity complemented his persona. He was unreachable, yet touchable. An ethereal being, a Spirit!

Anyway. The Buhari I was introduced to by Dr Lanre Tejuoso in 2010 was totally calm and appeared serious and determined about changing Nigeria. Despite my reservations about his age and dictatorial past even at that time, he managed to present an image of a truly repentant, penitent and reformed born again democrat. It was hard to imagine the level of implacable and intractable obstinacy disguised, concealed and buried inside that seemingly frail figure. I later went ahead to contest against him and President Goodluck Jonathan and others. We both lost. The retired army General was devastated and blighted. I even read somewhere that he wept and vowed never to contest again.

But something would happen to change his trajectory forever. By 2015, the PDP had held power for 16 solid years. And it was normal for the principle of diminishing return to set in. Apart from the assumed and acknowledged recklessness and profligacy ascribed to the party, President Jonathan faced his toughest challenge in the total collapse of security in some parts of the North East of Nigeria. The mass kidnap of young school girls at Chibok, in Borno State, further exacerbated the tense situation. The next party to consider realistically was APC. And Buhari was its candidate. It wasn’t easy to keep PDP in power given all its negative vibes and woes. On the other hand, it was obviously very risky to exchange this wobbly party which was an amalgamation of strange bed fellows. The decision to embrace the Change which APC promised to deliver through its enigmatic flagbearer would haunt us for a long time to come.

I cannot in good conscience say Buhari has not done anything good in over six years since he returned to power but his lack of attention to uniting Nigeria has obliterated whatever good he might have recorded and achieved so far. It seems that the President and his men became arrogant and power drunk and could not be bothered about leaving a legacy of dynamism, development and progress. Now, as the President and his men and women inch closer and closer to the finishing line, I can see a palpable sense of desperation. It is obvious they would love to rewrite the history and narrative of this terrible season and reverse the clock if possible. I believe, this is the main reason for the manner APC has been on a poaching spree of recent.

To some Nigerians and other friends of our country, it may appear strange and bizarre that so many people are rushing and running to a party that deserves to be shredded, trashed and disposed off into the dustbin of history for setting Nigeria back by decades if not centuries. But to keen observers and participants like me, such is standard practice here. The rationale for the wholesale desire to forsake and renounce any remaining iota or modicum of decency and morality has been the perception that the odds of winning an election in this country doubles when you participate as a member of the ruling party. Shame and propriety are absent in our lexicon. Worse still, we lack a sense of history. Once upon a time, some politicians worshipped General Sani Abacha and plotted to make him a life President. Where are they today? Where are those who tried to stop then Vice President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, from acting as President during the incapacitation of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua? Gone with the winds!

The giddiness that has taken over the bodies and souls of the APC apparatchiks is neither justifiable nor sustainable in reality and in the long run. Many leaders had tried in the past to enslave Nigerians and convert our system to a one party but they failed spectacularly. I have no doubts in my mind that this latest experiment and exploration too will fail. Someone should tell President Buhari to stop the bad habit of using state resources to play politics. I believe the APC has a party office. The next time they want to receive their decampees, they should head to the party secretariat. The seat of power in Aso Rock is too sacred and not an adjunct or appurtenance of the APC. It is an abuse of office and privilege to abandon extremely volatile matters of state and waste resources and time on frivolities. It is most unfair and unfortunate. It is even worse that the President seems not bothered about the implication of welcoming all comers on the so-called war against corruption.

The President made certain promises before he was appointed or elected. Those promises are too important and sacrosanct to be discarded on the altar of political or other expediency. There are too many problems demanding and requiring the President’s immediate, focused and undiluted attention. The President should worry less about who succeeds him and more about making a success of his tenure. The attempt to turn the Nigerian political space into one gigantic political behemoth is alarming and worrisome. However, the history of Nigerian politics has shown clearly that a one party state is virtually impossible to achieve here. Nearly every government attempted it in the past but failed.

Buhari should not think that he is any different from his lofty predecessors in this regard. He should just do his job and leave in peace. He will be applauded for this gesture. Any attempt to force any candidate on Nigeria will only bring gloom and doom upon the nation.
No matter how weak PDP may appear today, the party will bounce back in the next few months unless its leadership fails to think outside the box. This is because the roles have been reversed and things have turned full circle! The nadir and abyss the PDP reached after 16 years of governance in Nigeria has been reached and attained by APC in a record half of the time that it had taken the PDP.

The party must therefore take advantage of the opportunity presented by APC’s terminal malaise and find means of rebranding by bringing in fresh people, faces and truly fresher ideas. If the party allows its old and ageing politicians to hijack it as usual, and force or impose its ill-fated candidates on the nation, it means they are willing to remain in opposition ad infinitum. The party can defeat APC only if and when it reflects the mood of the nation and do the needful by seeking young, vibrant, accomplished, cosmopolitan leaders who can galvanize the youths into the party and motivate them into ensuring the party’s success at the polls.

 

I was very excited when I got a call from Senator Shehu Sani earlier in the week intimating me of his recent move to PDP. He confirmed that he had been partly swayed by my kind of admonition that success at the national level cannot come from a small political outfit with meagre resources and bereft of national outlook. Finally, serious people are beginning to heed my advice. I’m a firm believer in the efficacy of a two party system for national government even if there are smaller parties for the local and regional governments. He said every aspiring candidate should see, read and digest my last week’s column as a veritable blueprint and key into its genuine propositions and proposals.

The leading opposition party needs to free itself of unnecessary encumbrances. It should start attacking vigorously and stop the defensive game it’s been playing for some time now. It must be proactive and not reactive. It must say what it can do better and not just criticise for the sake of doing so. More importantly its ideas, pledges and promise must be well conceptualised and realistic and firmly rooted in objectivity and actualisation. It can be done and it must be done. Buhari and his cohorts must not be encouraged to think a one party state is still possible in a democracy. It is anathema to democracy, particularly a presidential system of government, no matter what else you may hear. PDP represents our only chance for a real difference and the unity and survival of a fractionalised, factionalised and fractious country. Its leaders and members must be encouraged to rise to the challenge and pick up the gauntlet. The time is now otherwise if we let the Buhari led APC and their co-conspirators continue with their onslaught, we will have no country left in a couple of years! I shudder at the thought…

Special Thanks to the Oluwo of Iwo
I have the pleasure of sharing the good news with you. The dream of every soul is to work hard, achieve greatness, receive recognition and get honored.

It is for this reason that I wish to thank His Imperial Majesty, OBA ABDULRASHEED ADEWALE AKANBI, for blessing me and my wife with the highest titles available in any part of Yorubaland, THE AARE OF IWOLAND. My dear beloved wife, Chief Mrs Mobolaji Momodu, will also bag the YEYE AARE as is customary. The OLUWO stool is ancient, being direct descendants of Oduduwa, and the Ooni of Ife and thus a powerful one at that, in Yorubaland. Its Rulers have been mythical and legendary. I’m very grateful for this heartwarming development and honour.

Our installation ceremony comes up on Saturday, the 2nd of October, 2021, at the expansive Palace of The Oluwo of Iwo, in Osun State, at 11.00am prompt. We have sent out letters to our families, friends and associates. We are indeed overwhelmed and grateful to all those who have sent felicitations, gifts and prayers ahead of the event and have confirmed attendance even from as far and near as Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia.
We have sought the royal blessings of the foremost Yoruba Monarchs, His Imperial Majesty, The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, and Iku Baba Yeye, The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, and are assured of their love and best wishes at all times.

Highest regards always to our Guru, The Spirit of Africa, Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga (GCON, CSG, CLH), for his continued love and support.
God has been been very kind to us that he gave us our first of four sons, Olupekan Momodu, exactly 27 years ago and we rejoice and humbly request you to do so with us…

The peace-loving United States, US, President Joe Biden on Wednesday September 15, 2021 announced the birth of a  new trilateral military alliance  of Australia,  UK, and U.S with the acronym,  AUKUS.  The alliance he said is to take on the threats of the 21st Century.

Biden argued that  the way to achieve this  is for the three countries to maintain and expand their  “edge in military capabilities and critical technologies, such as cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and undersea domains.”

China which appears to be the primary target of this nuclear-powered tri-continental alliance described  it as a Cold War mentality.   

The new American military initiative is coming seventeen days after    the unipolar power withdrew its last soldier from Afghanistan.  Doubtlessly, America is still leaking its wounds after the twenty-year debacle in Afghanistan in which it lost 6,296 of its citizens including 2,450 combat troops, and expended   $2.26 trillion. But while  searching for countries to dump the  Afghanistan  ‘refugees’ it is uprooting from their country, and while seemingly sober, America  has not decided to withdraw from the many conflicts  it is directly or indirectly involved.  These include the wars in Syria and Yemen, and the debacles in Iraq and Libya which it invaded in 2003 and 2011 respectively.

Today, there are countries America  is bating to go to war  by imposing punishing sanctions and blockading them. These include Iran which America in 2019 without providing any proof, accused of bombing oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Another is Venezuela against which American President  Barack Obama issued a presidential order on March 9, 2015  declaring it a “threat to its national security” and imposing crippling sanctions. In fact, today, there is a Venezuelan Special Envoy, Alex Saab who the Americans are trying to extradite from Cape Verde   for the alleged crime   of undertaking a humanitarian Special Mission  of buying  food and medicines from Iran.  There is also  small   Cuba, which the US has invaded four times; 1906, 1912,1917 and 1961 and on which it has imposed unilateral and punishing sanctions  including food, fuel and medicines for six decades now.

In fact, I am sure the planners in Washington are planning the next major war for the US.  You see, the American establishment is a warmonger  which  rejoices when there is war or the prospect of one. The US  defence spending of $714 billion in 2020 is projected to  grow to $900 billion in 2030. This and its defence industry, need wars to grow. Internally, there are 393 million guns in private homes. That means 120.5 private guns for every 10 Americans or 46 per-cent of the populace owning guns.

 Since independence in 1776, that is in the last 245 years, America has been at war for 227 years,  or  more than 92 per-cent of its independent existence.  Since independence,  it has invaded at least 70 countries, fifty of them since World War II ended in 1945.

America  has a history of invading small, weak countries such as Panama and Grenada. In fact, the US invading  Grenada for one of the most ridiculous reasons in the world, was like an elephant deciding not just to fight an ant, but also mobilising eight other creatures to join it in the ‘war’

As at the time of the invasion on October 25, 1983, the  American population was 233.8 million and Grenadians were  a mere 96,019.    The  core American military were 1,941,943. That meant that there were 20 American soldiers for every Grenadian!

 

A radical Grenadian,  Maurice Bishop had seized power on March 13, 1979.  His New Jewel Movement removed the government of Eric Gairy, an eccentric man who claimed to commune with aliens from outer space. Cuba offered to build tiny Grenada, an international airport that would boost its tourist economy. But the US said the airport was a threat to it claiming it could be used by the Soviet Union to transport weapons to Latin American insurgents.  On October 12, 1983, Bishop’s Deputy,   Bernard  Coard overthrew him. Seven days later, an enraged populace marched on Bishop’s home where he was under house arrest and set him free.  The charismatic Bishop then led the protesters to seize the army barracks. In the process, he was arrested and summarily executed. Then President Ronald Reagan  claimed  that Grenada may no longer  be safe  for about 1,000 American citizens who were mainly students at the St George’s Medical School. But  rather than evacuate them, he invaded Grenada. The 6,000 American troops that invaded the tiny country  under ‘Operation Urgent  Fury’ were backed by troops from eight other countries in what America officially described as a “non-combatant evacuation operation.” Despite having no chance against the mighty American forces and its allies, the Grenadians put up a stiff fight killing 19 American soldiers with 116 injured. On the other hand, the Americans killed 45 Grenadian soldiers, injured 358 in addition to killing 24 civilians.

When the America troops ordered the Cuban workers constructing the airport to surrender, they refused on the grounds that Cubans do not surrender to any power. The American soldiers used maximum force, killing 25 of the workers, injured 59 and captured 638.

 

The  Grenadian invasion appeared so senseless that even Britain, America’s staunchest supporter, condemned it. After the invasion, a furious British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher wrote President Ronald Reagan: “This action will be seen as an intervention  by a Western country  in the internal affairs of a small  independent nation, however  unattractive  its regime.”

 

Some think the unreasonable invasion of Grenada was Reagan’s way of venting  his anger over the  bombing of American and French troops in Beirut, Lebanon, two days earlier. In that attack, 220 US Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers were killed.

 

In 1950, America sent troops to fight on the side of the South in the Korean Civil War which ended three years later with a divided country. Today, seven decades later, about 30,000 American troops remain in that country costing America over $3 billion annually with South Korea having to pick   $1Billion of the bill. There is no indication that America wants to  withdraw its troops from South Korea as it has done in Afghanistan.

 

I am trying to wrap my head round the next  country the US will go to war with. I think Russia or China will be too strong, so I am ruling them out. America may also be unwilling to take on North Korea which is busy testing its nuclear weapons.  The lot I think will be between Venezuela and  Iran, though I think the latter is the most likely.

 

Biden joked about  the trilateral abbreviation on Wednesday:

 “AUKUS — it sounds strange, all these acronyms, but it's a good one.” I say, yea, POTUS,  because it is hocus-pocus

Cracking the core North is actually not as difficult as is being bandied. Stake social, as well as political interests. Highlight the fact that the people of North-West and North-East are the worst victims of Buhari’s policies. Target the Fulani elites, whose brand has been badly damaged worldwide because of the foolishness of one man. Follow with the fact that Buhari’s reign of terror has become the biggest threat to the very idea of “one Nigeria”…

“Fellow countrymen and women…You are all living witnesses to the great economic predicament and uncertainty, which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years. I am referring to the harsh, intolerable conditions under which we are now living. Our economy has been hopelessly mismanaged. We have become a debtor and beggar nation.”  

Fellow Nigerians, the above quotation is culled from the coup speech, which Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and his military colleagues at the overthrow of a democratically elected government in 1984.  

Today, the current situation in our country is far worse than what was referred to as “intolerable condition” in 1984. We are no longer talking about the condition of the economy, which has since gone comatose under President Buhari. The battle cry is no longer about corruption, where many surveys find Nigeria as the worst offender. The current situation is so intolerable that no one is talking about the condition whereby a sitting president and his family brandish ostentatious wealth looted from the public treasury, while the moping masses continue wallow in abject poverty and despair. Nobody is even talking about the fact that the country has become the poverty capital of the world under the same man.  

Today, the “intolerable condition” is about something far more consequential: Insecurity. It is about human life. It is about the fact that nobody and nowhere is safe.  

Today, “foreign” Fulani herdsmen are maiming and killing the people of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria with impunity. The situation in Buhari’s region of the core North is even worse: While Boko Haram terrorism reigns in the North-East, bandits and brigands have continued to terrorise the North-West with reckless abandon, as citizens flee to neighbouring countries in fear fOR their dear lives. What is more? The president and commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces is known to be aiding and abetting these terrorist acts against his own people. Worse still, critics with mass appeal are commonly hounded and incarcerated.  

Fellow countrymen and women, enough is enough! We must not wait forever before woring against the serious consequences of Buhari’s history of treasonable felony, including his ongoing reign of terror. Where there are no consequences for bad behaviour, it is bound to worsen. The gist is that President Muhammadu Buhari has ruined Nigeria down to its lowest ebb and any failure to dethrone him before 2023 is to set a very dangerous precedent for the country.  

 

The delay in dethroning the dictator is because the Nigerian legislature has failed to act in line with the Constitution. The reason for this failure is plain: The federal lawmakers and the president are partners in crime. They are united by a common bond of state corruption anchored on pagan impunity. These leaders also assume immunity to the incessant terrorism, as their families and estates are fully guarded by the state’s security network.   

Yet, a common excuse being bandied in the land is that the lawmakers from Northern Nigeria will not be in haste to impeach Buhari since his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, a Southerner, would automatically inherit the presidency. The proponents claim it is better to allow the president to serve out his two terms so that the process of power rotation can be preserved.  

An objective approach is a combination of geographic and political incrementalism, where broad support at the National Assembly is attained in segments, staking both political and regional interests. Importantly, the names of the lawmakers who oppose the impeachment must be made public.  

But such reasons are pure baloney. In fact, common sense is clear on this matter: Dictators who commit the level of atrocities being witnessed under General Muhammadu Buhari would never hand over power through a true democratic process. Even if such dictators would entertain any form of transition, they are bound to handpick clones of themselves who can deepen their evil policies.  

 

Moreover, the Buhari leadership crisis knows no boundaries. Thus, the Nigerian masses — north and south — now care less about the tribe, religion, or the political shade of Buhari’s successor, insofar Nigeria’s worst president in history becomes history. Put it this way: The dethronement of Muhammadu Buhari is no longer a question of WHY; it is now a question of HOW.  

The first order of business is for the suffering masses to recognise their true enemies. Instead of Muhammadu Buhari, who is shamelessly irredeemable, the resentment should be directed towards the legislators who have the constitutional obligation to remove the dreadful leader from office.  

This is where a sincere opposition matters most. The opposition leaders are making efforts at vocalising the crisis, quite alright, but they are not leading. Effective leadership demands uniting the people towards a common purpose.  

As the Minority Leader in the Senate, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe should — without further delay — craft step-by-step action plans for the dethronement of Muhammadu Buhari, including any of the regime’s henchmen, who may constitute an impediment to the success of the post-impeachment power play.  

An objective approach is a combination of geographic and political incrementalism, where broad support at the National Assembly is attained in segments, staking both political and regional interests. Importantly, the names of the lawmakers who oppose the impeachment must be made public.  

The lobbying should start from the caucuses of the South-East and South-South zones in the National Assembly. Impeaching Buhari is a ‘Christmas in June’ for the people of this region. This is the stronghold of the opposition by virtue of political affiliation. Further, the region is the ground zero of Buhari’s vendetta politics.    

 

The next is the South-West caucus. Any motion seeking the dethronement of a dictator will always sail through in this zone. Besides being the natural bastion of opposition movement in the country, Western Nigeria boasts of the crème de la crème of pro-democracy activists, the media, and a balanced civil society.

The order…is futile without sustained pressure by the masses. Nigerians can take a page from the various revolutionary scripts General Buhari promoted before he gained power in 2015. Of particular attention is when he challenged fellow citizens to emulate the Arab Spring, where “a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions” were used to dethrone corrupt regimes in North Africa.

In short, the whole South is certain. The bipartisan unity among the Southern governors to oppose Buhari’s open grazing policy is a profound testimony.   

Enter the North. Demonstrate that the region is not monolithic, after all.  

 

The Middle Belt is a huge opening. This zone is the epicentre of the state-sponsored terrorism. There is no better opportunity to test the much-touted Southern Nigeria-Middle Belt alliance than through the impeachment of the terrorist leader.  

Cracking the core North is actually not as difficult as is being bandied. Stake social, as well as political interests. Highlight the fact that the people of North-West and North-East are the worst victims of Buhari’s policies. Target the Fulani elites, whose brand has been badly damaged worldwide because of the foolishness of one man. Follow with the fact that Buhari’s reign of terror has become the biggest threat to the very idea of “one Nigeria”, which the North now holds so dear.  

The order above is futile without sustained pressure by the masses. Nigerians can take a page from the various revolutionary scripts General Buhari promoted before he gained power in 2015. Of particular attention is when he challenged fellow citizens to emulate the Arab Spring, where “a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions” were used to dethrone corrupt regimes in North Africa. However, instead of “armed rebellions”, as then advanced by citizen Buhari, it is imperative that the Nigerian model is peaceful.  

Yet, a major factor in the success of the Arab Spring is that it embodied serious consequences against politicians opposed to the sweeping changes. The Nigerian legislators cannot continue to hide behind the Buhari baggage to absolve blame. Therefore, rather than gathering at public squares, where armed security can easily disperse them, the protesters should target the various country homes in the different constituencies of the specific legislators who oppose the impeachment of Buhari.  

Again, the protests should be non-violent, but it must be sufficiently far-reaching to alert these legislators that it is no longer business as usual. This thinking mirrors an admonition from Buhari’s Minister of Transport, Chubuike Amaechi, that Nigerian politicians have continued to misbehave because the followers do not “stone” them. The Nigerian armed forces should equally refuse “to be used to attack the forces of change”, in line with Buhari’s directive as stated in one of his various calls for revolution during the Jonathan era.  

To reclaim our country from the terrorist regime requires active participation of every patriot, no matter the religion, political party, ethnicity, or the location in the globe. The Nigerians in the Diaspora, most of whom are victims of the gross injustice at home, have an important role to play. They have every reason to harken to Buhari’s very idea of an Arab Spring by maximising their influence at every opportunity, including the ongoing protests at the United Nations in New York, to garner the desired support from foreign governments. There is also the need to heighten the current efforts to ensure that the foreign land is no longer a safe haven for the corrupt leaders from the homeland.   

 

SKC Ogbonnia, a 2019 APC presidential aspirant, writes from New York, New York.  

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