What You Don’t Know About Governor Aliyu

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This week seems to signal the end of David Versus Goliath polls in a decade and a half as Nigerians welcome a much-anticipated political development that sharply highlighted the naiveté of President Goodluck Jonathan. As agreed by many, Jonathan has just sealed his place in history as Nigeria’s most uncharismatic head. Ever. Yes, ever. The only time the office of the president had ever been undermined, and unsurprisingly became a space for incubation of cluelessness, was in the last days of his predecessor, the late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, whose syndrome was attributed to his failed health – though, like Goodluck, his then deputy, he came into power through a political permutation of opportunisms and sentiments in which he had almost no power to influence!

Expectedly, this development, the defection of five of the seven PDP governors who made up the G7 rebels antagonising their president to the opposition party, roused mixed reviews among analysts, with the harshest dismissing APC as an asylum of victimised rogues, a party with no definable ideology to redeem the mess that has become Nigeria under PDP. While cynicism is already a part of our political culture, having lost our faith in any process designed for change, however practicable, some citizens have taken condemning the merger of G7-2 and APC as merely being objective, as though there is another alternative to launching a formidable opposition to check the excessive and criminal manipulations of a people’s intelligence and resources in these fourteen years of a dysfunctional democracy!

This merger is laudable for one obvious reason – for invigorating the race to winning the trust of the public, knowing that, at last, both sides are capable of replacing each other and if any is ever found wanting a recall is now a convenient exercise. I have been on the front line of Nigerians challenging the oppositions to understand the psyche of Third World politics where mainstream media-centred electioneering is ineffective. Nigeria is not an America where sentiments woven around a politician’s tweets and newspaper interviews are likely to earn him the sympathy and solidarity of the electorates; here parties need structure and appreciable relationship with the masses, because even rigging is not possible without a structure. PDP has been a leader in all the major polls in Nigeria because it understands the psychology of Third World electorates, which is presenting your physical selves to your supporters to assure them of intended policies, and how the other person squanders their resources. The people need a sense of assurance, a structure that a party actually exists. As I told an APC-basher elsewhere, APC’s biggest illusion will be being hopeful of victories at the 2015 polls, without these G7 governors, without structures, without crisscrossing the minds and thoughts of the grassroots, without planting their flags on parts of Nigeria where even MTN’s everywhere-you-go masts are unavailable!

On the quality of its membership, let’s all agree that everybody is corrupt in the absence of rigid laws, and that it’s enforced ideology and manifestos that will uphold the discipline of a party. Parties are built on ideology and manifestos, not individuals’ private interests. This applies to APC. Sadly, PDP has violated that onus. And of the two members of the defunct G7 who refused to defect, a PDP stalwart Professor Jibril Aminu, in his interview with Daily Trust, opines: “Already, two of their pillars have changed their minds and left the group, I understand (Mu’azu Babangida) Aliyu who was thought to follow them where ever they were going has left them and (Sule) Lamido who claimed to be the pillar of the group developed cold feet. He can abuse me again if he likes but I will tell him to his cheeky face, there is nowhere he will go and do what he did in PDP, to get (sic) foreign affairs minister and governor of a state” (Daily Trust newspaper, 28/11/2013). In this attempt to protect the ruins of a house on fire, Professor Aminu exposes PDP as a house where internal democracy is missing, a fraternity where private interests are served – which is what he clearly painted with his allusion that Lamido’s ministerial and gubernatorial s(election)s were scams he can only ‘get’ in PDP. If APC must set itself apart, nobody’s private interests should be served, no individual should be an overlord, and internal democracy should never ever be compromised to please any overlord!

As for Governor Aliyu, a politician who couldn’t deliver his state to PDP in the last presidential election, one whose re-elections was as the results of open financial inducements, defection may be a dangerous miscalculation. CPC not only won the presidential but also the national assembly elections in Governor Aliyu’s backyard in the last election, so I wonder why we’re going berserk over his, and Lamido’s, betrayal of their of colleagues.

As 2015 approaches, Governor Aliyu’s political future is on the edge of a cliff. First, his senatorial ambition will be mortally shattered by the Gbagyi voters who are very ethnically united, especially in their aversion to a Hausa man’s candidacy, and there will be no more previously neutrally involved Zone A voters and their Zone C counterparts to save him this time. And there will also be no more zoning formula, which has brought him this far in politics, to manipulate. Second, Aliyu’s refusal to defect may be to play PDP’s northern strongman in the rush to 2015 in exchange for “presidential” support for his declining political relevance, but Governor Lamido, who’s a more popular candidate, is a threat to that dream. Third, being a poor-performing Governor, one who has created too many portfolios obviously to “settle” his boys and to justify Niger state’s inflated recurrent expenditures, unlike Kano’s Governor Kwankwaso’s managerial prudence, he has every reason to be afraid of the presidency over possible witch-hunt.

And so? Well, if APC needs a gamesman in Niger state for 2015, they don’t need its governor’s moral supports, they only need to rush to court the zonal strongmen of the three senatorial districts in Niger state, with special interest in the very influential Nupe-speaking people of Zone A. Governor Aliyu may be a loser, he’s not a fool. He’s a politically sage schemer. This is why I love him. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (29/11/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

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Dear Nigerian Politician…

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That the weather has changed doesn’t make the leopards spotless. There are things that time doesn’t easily change, and Nigeria is one perfect example: this country has evolved only chronologically, “devolved” is the best adjective that summarises its politics. Gone are those days that our politicians, despite their failings, represent “isms” – ideology, purpose. Gone are those days that a politician in power can go on an evening walk, unaccompanied by a retinue of armed men, without being lynched. Politicians in those days were confident because their followers were not imaginary as found among today’s delusional clowns whose contact with their ‘people’ is through the screen of their gadgets or pages of newspapers. Their popularity was earned, genuine and their notoriety not imaginary.

Like any Nigerian who panders to commonsense, I was not shocked by the outcomes of the (inconclusive) Anambra Election. First, as declared in my last column, our system is predictable, flawed – predictably flawed. And from whoever is engaged to see to the operation of an institution here, predictable failure is expected. The Independent National Electoral Commission betrayed the people of Anambra State because it’s a way of our life. Secondly, the Internet-centred campaigns to seek for the validations and supports of a people whose majority has no access to the Internet is a loud preparation for a popular defeat, and I’m sure that this teaches you the need to learn from the past, to build a structure for whatever political platforms and manifestos you seek to promote.

Don’t, for the sake of your popularity on social networking sites, assume that you have been accepted by your people. Trust me, the social media demographics are not only electorally useless, they are often your worst deceptions because the Internet is simply a space for cheap or ineffectual intellectual and political masturbation. Trust me when I say that crying wolf over foreseen “rigging” is needless, because the people who actually vote don’t even know you (in person), neither are they aware of your peculiarities as they don’t even have access to the internet… The jokers who ping and tweet “supports” at you will rather remain in their rooms where the life of their battery-draining devices is safe than going out to queue under our air-conditioner-defying sun!

Go out there and meet the actual people: the okada riders, cabbies, market women, hawkers, grocers, senior citizens and even drug abusing youth and destitute beggars to give them reasons they must vote for you, and how you hope to redeem their “stomach infrastructure”. This is not America!

The Internet has been essential, no doubt. From being a platform for the convergence of the elite, the Internet is now being relied on for mass actions among patriots of a troubled country. We witnessed the impacts of the internet during OccupyNigeria protests last year over removal of fuel subsidy; I was a key participant, a co-organiser you may say, one who created a Facebook page that became the e-meeting point of Occupy Nigeria, one whose station, Minna, became the worst hit of all the cities hijacked by protestors… So I know the power of the internet, as much as I acknowledge its limit in this third world politics.

As a politician, my good sir, you’re expected to establish a relationship with the people and not just your constant masturbation in cyberspace, strutting to present yourself as an advocate of a place where you may not even win a councillorship election. Opposition is an ever-growing process of propounding profound political ideologies and formidable movements. You lost an election to a smarter rigger whose party has stronger rigging framework, and by this I mean contact with the gullible masses, but you declared that your clout is too strong for this. You have been scammed by your virtual supporters, many of whom are just inferiority complex-stricken youth merely seeking your attention or “retweet” to run into the market screaming, “Senator X likes my opinion…”, “Honourable Y retweets my words…” You see, while these people would protect you from trolls, they will never bring you votes!

My aunt, God bless that bully, had me depressed the other day, but I didn’t let her know that. I was journeying with her, doing what she would mischievously tell me was “160km/hr!”, but conscious of my mood – we had had one of our usual spats before we embarked on that trip – she employed a very amusing but effective trick by rolling out, in a much genial manner, names of relatives and familiar people killed by Nigerian roads.

“Are you afraid of me?” I said.

“Are you high on something?”

“You don’t have to stress yourself this much, you know. What’s hard in saying: ‘Gimba, slow down, you’re overspeeding!’? Or you think I’m too dumb to get the inspiration for your boring tribute to accident victims?”

“Haah!” She heckled, “This is where our generation is better than yours. I was trying to say you’re overspeeding, but the best way to correct a wrong is by being polite. Diplomacy, my son! You have a lot to learn from our generation.”

“You mean the same politeness your generation put on and watched the politicians and soldiers ruin the country? The only thing your generation gave us is a dysfunctional country!”

She burst into laughter and then, from her reserve of mischief, she hurled: “So your generation is trying to fix the mess on the internet? At least I can name many people who fought the authorities in our days. Your children will really have a good laugh!”

This intergenerational spat correctly exposes you, exposes that we are not of the generation whose elite were busy propounding political ideologies – Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and his Zikism, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Awoism, and Mallam Aminu Kano and the Talakawa Rising… Even where they polarised electorates, those who supported them did so under the spell of definable politicking. They were not politicians just looking for an opportunity to ‘disrespect’ an authority just to get arrested and to hit newspaper headlines. They propounded profound political ideologies, built formidable movements while yours is to always snore over your iPhones and iPads waiting for an occasion to tweet that the President smokes wee-wee. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (22/11/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Forget it, You Can’t Change Nigeria!

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Too many beautiful ideas, too many dreams, too much passion, but the road to implementations remains rough and uncertain. This is the atmosphere of Nigeria’s revolutionary minds. Here is a country where patriots who had advocated the praxis of good leadership, and had even adopted models whose achievements they aspired or expected incumbent governments to match, ended up as a bunch of our problems when given an opportunity to serve. And we ask ourselves: where did we go wrong?

Last Friday I listened in on interesting rhetoric of Nigerian youth at a discussion circle, and their theatrics actually got me worried and thinking even though it was not the first of such experiences of anger over a dysfunctional government. The consensus of the majority was that mere individual declarations to stand out, easy imitations of America’s Barack Obama’s “Yes, We Can” gimmicks, are enough motivations for rebuilding Nigeria. Sorry, I find that proposal for rescuing Nigeria from this gang of thieving and under-performing leaders who were once like us, ambitious and honest, rather impracticable.

It is as misleading and fraudulent as many motivational books marketed as “New York Times Best Seller”. Obviously we have followed the happenings in the West for too long, we have lost tracks of our realities. Ours is a diseased system deserving a streak of surgeries, and in which an individual contribution is just like a placebo. Calling for surgical operations on Nigeria is asking for adoption of strict measures to deal with whoever tampers with national resources. Unless our legal system can resist bribes and issue a writ of execution for the hanging of, say, corrupt public servants, the temptations to misappropriate public funds may possess us all.

There is another delusion that suggests that Nigeria needs qualified leaders, and by these they mean intellectually sound politicians, to oversee the affairs of government. Proponents of this idea are the intellectual elite still confused by years of theorising the tragedies of Third World countries; their intellectual delusion is as a result of attempts to copy the ways of their hosts, American and European governments whose policies are not models for a people in need of Bread and Fanta to stay alive.

To be very frank, Africa doesn’t need more education – outside the technical, that is! – nor leadership training to build viable nations. There is a PhD-holder almost per-family across Nigeria, especially. We have everything: Harvard-trained, renegade, elitist, visionary and whatnot intellectuals, trained overseas, all strutting to become change agents. But what’s missing is a system wherein to exist, a law to check them, to stop them from becoming corporate rogues, an institution to inspire and breed them.

I always assure myself that everybody is indisciplined in the absence of rigid laws, everybody is potentially corrupt where penalties for misappropriations of public funds or compliances therein are not stiff or impunity is a sure gain. We have the political think-tanks, everything necessary to build a nation of functional institutions but our system is built on the foundation of steal-and-let-steal philosophy. This philosophy has accomplices not because Nigerians are genetically criminal, but because…”Why suffer when nobody appreciates?”

Calling for a political reform based on a delusion that African leaders have insufficient leadership training is an error. Bring Barack Obama to Nigeria, and he will turn into Goodluck Jonathan II in less than a year. I give you my words. Our institutional collapse and indiscipline is that infectious. We underestimated the statistics of our influential human capitals. Perhaps we may return to the records of Petroleum Technology Development Trust Fund (PTDF) to get an estimate of our citizens on its oversea scholarship scheme, and ask the Nigerian “big men” and politicians to send us the CV of their many children to appreciate the vastness of our human resources.

See, I patronise this hangout where some children of the “financial elite” ally to pass the time, and one idle day I awakened to a certain realisation – that I was actually seated among people who ought to have been celebrated on the basis of their academic credentials or should have been engaged in a functional institution here, for among them were graduates of Yale, MIT, Princeton, name it, and the least educated actually has an M.A. I can count many Nigerians from our infamous politicians to those unknown patriots of that hangout who had had training in Leadership at Harvard, and like-minded Ivy League and Red Brick institutions. But how has theirs affected the fortune and political realities of this structurally diseased nation? My governor, for instance, was trained at Pittsburg. He holds a doctorate in Public Policy and Strategy Studies! But, well, you may need to compare him to his contemporaries to understand the analogy I don’t want to draw in this brief piece. Why couldn’t these leaders abide by the lessons of their trainings? Because they exist in a system where they get away with their frauds, where their private interests are more important than public trust. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (15/11/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

The Blues of the Southern Women

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“Every year, 1 out of every 7 children in the core Niger-Delta states is estimated (sic) to die before the age of five. The number of under-5 deaths is over 65, 000 per year out of a total of almost 12 million people. These deaths far outnumber the casualties of the much-reported violence and kidnapping in the region.” From ‘Daughters of Niger-Delta’, a documentary.

Recently I was at the screening of this documentary that left me emotionally disturbed long after it had ended, long after I had walked out of the theatre at Silverbird Galleria where it was screened, and in my wish to let it pass as just another of our woes I have no power to redeem, I still find myself returning to those conspiracies against the three women whose stories were documented. The documentary brings to me memories of Behn Zeitlin’s 2012 film, Beasts of the Southern Wild for its depictions of a people’s poverty, only that this is not some far-off fiction but a reality of my country, hence I share in the blues of the women cast.

“Daughters of the Niger-Delta”, a 55 minute-long commentary on the sufferings of women in the south-south region of Nigeria, exposes our failures as a society and as a nation. It reveals a dangerous patriarchy and how almost every male figure – father, husband, male lecturer, father-in-law, and even an unknown man – conspire to plot against the rise and dignity of the womenfolk. It is as though the empowerments of the women are threats or taboos; we are shown what are already everyday occurrences through the eyes of the victims who find themselves in matrices of troubles designed by their men. Their cases are peculiar because they exist on a land where environmental degradations have made the lives of even the men miserable.

Unlike in the northern Nigeria where patriarchy thrives on abuse of religion, our ladies in the south are actually stuck in worse situations. For the first time I learnt that a law that outlaws widows from remarrying actually exists in this century, especially among a people from the part of the country that is seen as progressive. Following the life of the three women, we see a teenage mother, Rebecca, whose marriage was “contracted” without her knowledge, we see a widow, Hannah, whose world turned into a journey through pains on being denied rights to inherit her husband’s assets, we see an industrial mathematics graduate, Naomi, who left the university with third class honours for rebelling ploys to have her as a sex object in exchange for her actual or better grades. We see patriarchy, we see the extent to which it has eaten deep into the wounds of women, from the jokes called traditions, where stone age superstitions are extolled to deny a woman a right to remarry, to our flawed social system that portrays women as pleasurable things created to entertain the men, even those the society entrusts its children to for education.

Rebecca got married at 15 through an arrangement in which she had neither right nor power to reject. Her husband has three wives. No, that is not the sad news. He didn’t marry her to fend for her, rather, as he too shamelessly boasts, his culture, as an Ijaw man, tasks him with bearing many children. Just like that! Which is why Rebecca became a baby-making machine that had born eleven children of which five had died. Even the survivors must owe their life to a miracle that saved them from the human abattoir named chemist shop where, like many across the country, quacks operate as medical personnel and benches are used as beds to mock our healthcare service. Of course, this is not a pun. The obvious prediction is, many years from now, Rebecca is expected to become today’s Hannah who could not afford having her daughter enrolled at the university, hence her confession: “What I want to change from my life now is poverty. I no wan’ poverty to come near me, because poverty is dangerous!” This is the spirit, madam. Though epiphany alone is not enough, unless a revolutionary mind possesses the tools, here I mean the absence of poverty which the lady herself considers dangerous, to exhibit entrepreneurial skills. Of this revolution, Naomi is the luckiest. The reasons are obvious.

While “Daughters of the Niger-Delta” reminds us of an important advocacy we sidelined in our campaigns against the ravages of oil companies in the oil-rich region, the lots of the people who actually bear the brunt of the oil spills and government’s insensitivity to the the plights of the law-abiding citizens while pampering the criminals who destroy and steal national resources, are highlighted. Aside from government’s lack of concern with the welfares of its non-protesting, non-criminal electorates, protecting them from cultural and religious victimisations is a function it has since given up.

The most unfortunate challenge to this advocacy is the embarrassing ignorance of the people involved, as seen in the interview granted by 35 year-old Kevin Damo (min 43:41) who trivialises the conditions of the ladies while laughing over bottles of beers with fellow idle friends as he justifies his reasons for polygamy as just to make “half-brothers and half-sisters” for his children. And he has three wives, promising to make up to seventeen children which seems to be a modest number to him. Does this portend any danger? In a region of a few billionaire elite, and incredibly poor masses, the Kevin Damos have just offered the nation more potential criminals, for crimes are the last resorts of any product of such wicked marriages, just as begging is the last resort of the children of many economically incapacitated couples in the north. And it takes Mind, Information and Narrative Development (MIND) – an Abuja-based non-profit organisation that may be dubbed “foreign”, being run by a foreigner – in partnership with the German embassy to give us “Daughters of the Niger-Delta” through a group of nine Nigerian ladies from the region trained by MIND for this project. “Daughters of the Niger-Delta” is a beautiful effort of amateur filmmakers. I hope there is no any African “activist” waiting to counter this project as another production of the “White Saviors”. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (08/11/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)