Meeting Professor Yemi Osinbajo

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For a citizen who had been dazzled by the unusual campaigning strategies of APC’s Vice Presidential candidate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, an invitation to see him in flesh, and to hear him explain the ambitious policies collated in his party’s widely circulated manifesto, which took place at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, on January 26, was the highpoint of my week. The meeting was organised, in the words of the organisers, as “an interactive session between Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the youth, opinion leaders, and active civil society leaders from Abuja and other northern states” and it was indeed an engaging session, moderated by Mr Chris Ngwodo, one of the most outstanding and cerebral young intellectuals in Nigeria today.

Having listened to our guest, and also to his responses to questions ranging from how they intend to sustain their welfare system, down through how they intend to carry out civil service reforms, because right-sizing has always been a dreaded approach among Nigerians with no other alternative source of income aside from this charitable organisation we call Civil Service, to how they intend to solve our power problems, I had to give praise to theLord for not being tortured by a “stealing is not corruption” logic. His responses, even with the limited time, were honest and perceptive. He did not promise miracles, just the will and passion to serve as one of a clique of politicians determined and passionate about the welfare of the Nigerian. Of his principal, General Buhari, he expressed absolute confidence in his ability to reform the system and to revive our institutional and cultural discipline.

I don’t see them as extraordinary at all. There’s nothing extraordinary about Buhari, Osinbajo, and their political partners. They do not have two heads, not even bigger sizes of brains. What they do have, however, is the challenge to do better than the current administration, because they’ve seen the limit of our patience, which now inspires our fierce antagonism of this incumbent. Some of their policies, foreseeably, may not be implementable, and, even if they are, not really sustainable. But it’s easy to hold that theirs may notbe worse than this government that, instead of takingresponsibility for wrongs recorded under it, antagonises well-meaning critics and political opponents.

Professor Yemi Osinbajo has shown that he’s the opposite of everything represented by Architect Namadi Sambo, the current occupant of the Office to which he aspires. And if Namadi Sambo were a perceptive politician, possessing the conceptual skills of Osinbajo, he could’ve done better than just always wearing agbada and tailing his boss all over Nigeria like some traditional bodyguard. If he were as smart as his potential successor, he wouldn’t have been this heavy baggage; he would’ve pulled off that Agbada and embarked on a political evangelism in the north, long before Osinbajo initiated the people-oriented strategy in the south, going from stalls to stalls!

I mean, Nigerians lose the use of their intellects when “befriended” by even the most notorious politicians with the affectation of humility – as discerned on social media. Has Sambo ever held even a townhall meeting to “share ideas” with the “masses” or visit grief-stricken relatives of compromised security arrangements under them? A visit to Chibok at the time a people’s daughters were abducted could’ve boosted the morale of those people.

And instead of maintaining a respectable and humanizing communication with the unhappy people who brought them to power, some of whom had tried to give them benefit of the doubt, they employed a trio of intolerably indecorous media aides –Reuben Abati, Doyin Okupe, and Reno “Wendel Similin” Omokri – to insult every Nigerian, both political and apolitical, who seeks explanation for why things keep getting worse. You can’t be so disrespectfully condescending to the people, squandering the last specks of your goodwill, and expect them to volunteer as foot-soldiers of your bid to remain in the very Office that made you disrespect them and theirs. This is commonsense, and for many Nigerians who had had such sorry encounters with these agents of an elected leader, it’s that experience of humiliating engagements, that this Presidency is inefficient, ineffective, insensitive and insensible, that inspires them now to advocate for its replacement!

As we agitate for a new Nigeria, we must be wary of accepting every clown that manoeuvres to the conscience of the people on Buhari’s coattails, which is already being exploited by several APC candidates for the forthcoming General Election. The worse of these clowns who must be resisted are those defecting politicians, especially those who lost the PDP primaries, terminating their aspirations to vie for, or return to, an elective Office, and thought the wisest way to redeem their image is by defecting to APC. I don’t get it. It is one thing to leave a party after losing a long fight to redeem it, and it’s another to defect for failing to entrench your personal will. Leaving a party immediately after losing out only portrays you as an incautious opportunist.

Contrary to some people’s perception, I’m not for complete replacement of PDP by the APC; I’m only for a political system in which both parties are almost of equal structure and strength, both trying to be the best groom, knowing that a misdemeanor means being replaced by the aspiring opponent. We will face a repeat of PDP’s misrule if we welcome every Hassan, Oladele and Chukwudi fielded by APC. We need a diversity of options; APC here, PDP there, without any succeeding in dominating the other, only in competing to offer Nigerians their best. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

An Appeal to Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

I don’t know where, and how really, to begin this without coming out as yet another cultural dissident. For once, perhaps because of my recognition of your heightened illusion of patriotism, the temptation to ask an elder to shut up, is no longer resistible. I want, dear sir, for the sake of everything sane, and also for the sake of your old age, to beg you to desist from ridiculing the intelligence the pawns of this political chessboard we call a nation. This country may be a haven of chastised criminals, with too many boisterous opportunists, emergency heroes, uncomplicated underclass and sycophantic middle-class, but we’re not entirely stupid.

I follow your self-initiated deification these days, and how an amnesic nation embraces yours as expressions of genuine intention, but memories of your days in power persist: we have not forgotten the electoral malpractices that returned you to power in 2003, and, having failed in your Third Term bid, you prevailed in bringing the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua to power in 2007; we have not forgotten the failed promises that characterised your administration, including giving up a false hope of redeeming our power problem, especially with that unnecessary gimmick of $16 Billion electricity scheme; we have not forgotten, also, the Halliburton scandals which really indicts, the PTDF and Transcorp scams, and all the dubious economic reforms and privatisations designed to loot the nation. Can you, my dear sir, explain now how Abacha’s recovered loots were expended for the development of this nation? And how much, exactly, was recovered? There was neither transparency nor evidence that Abacha’s billions were judiciously used. Also, what did you do in reforming the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and related agencies, in which the biggest of the nation’s Oil scams continue to be carried out? Too many questions, and these are just from a single citizen. Others may have more to ask!

You may devise several ways to atone for your misdeeds and decisions while in office, but coming out as an achiever and seeking to present yourself as “Father of Modern Nigeria” or, more accurately, “The Father of Modern Nigerian Democracy”, which you had opportunities to become, remains what it is: a delusion of grandeur. Because, in case you want to pretend that don’t know, let me spell it out that you’re the architect of the ongoing political chaos in Nigeria; your selfish decisions paved the way for the emergence of this man, this political son of yours, this President being derided as “holder of Port Harcourt Diploma”. Through President Yar’adua, whom you “anointed” in a hall of courageous Nigerian politicians and technocrats, you set the country on a Backward mode. Note that no Nigerian has ever had the opportunities you’ve had to change the destiny of this nation!

We know that the Nigerian is an amnesiac person who loves political dramas for the fun of it, and it’s patherically so now that we are desperately in need of change, angrily against the symbols of everything that represents your legacies. We have formed a dangerous system in which we leave the struggles for the redemption of the country to the people in government, hence our heroes are just the people who rebel against an incumbent government they’re no longer in good terms with, a trend you understand quite well, and now trying to exploit. While it’s advisable to not dismiss the revelations of rebels who expose the wrongs of a government they once served, we refuse to forget their complicity in the creation and fostering of our difficulties. We know that we’ll soon be consumed by our “listen to the message, not the messenger” principle, with which expired devils are made saints for vilifying their successors or on falling out with their accomplices. The messenger matters, Sir. It’s morally insulting to join an oppressed people in speaking out against a trend you didn’t try to stop while you were still relevant!

I look forward to a Nigeria where a reigning devil will be sure that he’ll never, even if s/he attempts to polarise the people, be welcome anytime s/he’s no longer relevant in the establishment. We all know that Nigeria is being looted, every day, every minute, but we’re wingless canaries, singing a familiar tune, transfixed. But we don’t need an Obasanjo who contributed to intensifying our misery to tell us so.

Sir, the Good Books, of which you’re a devious reader, preach about forgiveness, and I think we’ve shown you that grace and accepted you into our fold again. But, Sir, do not insult our intelligence with your newfound patriotism, crying louder than those you have failed to redeem when you had the opportunity to do so. Just, do not assault our sensibilities or try our sensitivities. Kindly concentrate on your PhD studies, dear Sir, for which we wish you “Goodluck”, while preparing your future self-glorifying memoirs, and leave us alone.

My God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Nigeria 2015: a Season of Political Voltrons

Voltron

I always feel my age telling on me whenever I had to explain what Voltron is, what it was to us as kids in the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s, to my younger friends. Voltron, which has now become an everyday lexicon in Nigeria’s social media communication, now used to mean an “uncritical defender”, was a “character” – a giant robot piloted by space explorers – in an animated television series named “Voltron: Defender of the Universe”. The series was aired on Nigerian Television Authority in its years of memorable monopoly. It amused a generation that couldn’t even imagine today’s magnetic obsession with the virtual world, a syndrome that has now turned some of us into anti-social beings with poor grasp of the surrounding social reality.

In tracking communication by, and interactions among, various political camps in the media to understand the stance of our “virtual intellectuals”, which is hardly a reflection of realities offline, on the February 14 elections, I identified three Voltrons: two already known, and the third only tentatively named. The two known Voltrons are partisan supporters of the two major parties who have evolved from being Defenders of their party’s Universe to those of the presidential candidates fielded by the parties. These are the Buharists and the Jonathanians, supporters of PDP’s Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and APC’s General Muhammadu Buhari, tangled in political voltronism—a disorderly campaign for promoting the interests of their principal while damaging that of his opponents. Political voltronism is an aggressive show of intellectual disability in the defence of one’s political principal, aspirant or paymaster.

Buharism, a form of political voltronism, is a political advocacy that promotes the virtues of a man and romanticizes his flaws, almost elevating him to the status of a deity, while being aggressively against his critics. Its counter-advocacy is Jonathanianism, which is a defence of an unpopular political leader by a section of a disgruntled people, out of an unconvincing belief that the alternative is not better or just as flawed.

The third group is Supra-Nigerianism; this, in my lexicography, is an act of self-disenfranchisement by hopeless and holier-than-thou critics on the grounds of all political aspirants being incompetent to lead. The real contest in our quest for change or insistence on sustaining the status quo is the choice between Jonathan and Buhari, for the Supra-Nigerian is either a hypocritical or absolutely delusional change agent. While the Supra-Nigerian challenges uncritical followership of these two leaders, there’s also a need to understand that no political camp would ever agree that it’s indeed wrong or wash its dirty linen in public.
So, no, we can’t afford being neutral. That’s the peak of silliness for someone dissatisfied with the status quo or advocating change. Neutrality isn’t also an option for the defenders of the status quo. Being political isn’t partisanship. Perhaps this awareness is the reason the Supra-Nigerian Voltron, for its inability to differentiate between the political and the partisan, allow itself to be a victim of the German intellectual, Bertolt Brecht’s, perceptive outburst, puncturing their indecision as political illiteracy, that they are the “worst illiterate”. And of course, Brecht wasn’t harsh when he dismissed the “political illiterate”, of whom the Supra-Nigerian is one, as an “imbecile (who) doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”

But Brecht doesn’t mean anything to the Supra-Nigerian. The Supra-Nigerian still prefers to sit on the fence of his dark and dry house, tweeting, facebooking, in the din of a generator set, unknown to him that activating his political education could bring electric power and water to his house, and also a network of good roads and functional institutions. Our attitudes to unimpressive government policies and decisions are the reasons some would even dismiss anti-government causes as partisan, instead of what it really is: political.

The comedy of our political system now is, after a term in power, the incumbent has nothing to offer as the reason it deserves another term aside from petty ridiculing of the opposition, even stooping so very low to question a claim that a prominent challenger’s certificates is in the custody of an organization that’s answerable to the same government. This is a clear confirmation that this country is being run by clowns with embarrassingly low IQ!

What the ongoing agitation for change means is, any party that finds itself in power now – and a narrow escape this may be – even if PDP again, will be somewhat more responsible. Even though the incumbency factor may still work in favour of Jonathan/Sambo ticket, for the bulk of our votes may be from a people understandably incapable of resisting financial inducements, I doubt if there was ever a time in our political history that the future of a ruling party was this bleak. Yes, it’s not Buhari that can change Nigeria. Even Mandela couldn’t have changed it. What would change Nigeria is nothing other than YOUR will to be a political animal. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Nigerian of the Year I & II

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2014 was a tumultuous year. It’s a year I remember in the shade of red, in my imagination of the globe now as a mottle of red, green, blue and brown – blood, vegetation, oceans and deserts. And Nigeria, especially the northern part, is one of the red patches on the globe, having lost too many citizens to the year’s escalated terrorism. Several disasters, mostly initiated by the folly of man, contributed in making the globe redder this year. In Middle East, the State of Israel was furious in highlighting the red on the territory that hosts the people of Gaza, while, close by, the ISIS militants did theirs in Syria and Iraq. Africa which, like Middle East, has always been a slaughterhouse where we seem to celebrate the death of humanism, joined the Project Red fad as we killed one another in Central African Republic, Kenya, South Sudan and Nigeria, while the saner societies advanced in technological and scientific inventions. By the time Ebola struck, we weren’t actually caught off guard, only lacking the medical facilities to contain the virus that spread across various countries killing and exposing the deficiencies of a continent. Nigeria, having won the fight against the spread of Ebola, was badly hit by terrorism, and also by the ethnic militancy in the north-central states of Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, which are the fault of its insensitivity to cultural and religious dissidents over the years. Consequently, 2014 was also the year of emergency activism and inspiring heroism by Nigerians who had had enough of the government’s unimpressive and considerably politicised counterterrorism and systemic corruption.

I chose to categorise this recognition of exceptional accomplishments by Nigerians into two to highlight the contributions of the private citizens who had no link with, and had never been in, government and that of public servants, past and serving. “Nigerian of the Year I” is a celebration of those ordinary Nigerians who, noticing the deficiencies of this country and seeming cluelessness and incompetence of the government, sacrificed themselves to protect the resources, interests, virtues and lives of the citizens. “Nigeria of the Year II” is for those influential public servants, both past and active.

Nigerian of the Year I

This recognition can never go to an individual as it’s on record that all the most successful advocacies witnessed in 2015 were pursued by groups of likeminded citizens. And it has to be given to a group because all involved in such advocacies were equally threatened, and members have lost lives or fortunes in their attempts to protect us from either the system or a perceived external threat.

My nominees for the first category are: the Ebola Fighters in Nigeria, led by the inspiring Dr Stella Adadevoh; the ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬‬‬ Campaigners, led by the courageous Dr. Oby Ezekwesili; and the Civilian JTF, led by that faceless and unknown Nigerian. I must add that all of these groups deserve this honour, but there’s a certain privilege that wasn’t enjoyed by one of these groups, in spite of its consistent incursions into danger all through the year, which make them the most qualified for this category. This privilege is media representation and praise, and the group denied that is the Civilian JTF!

Being the most dangerous, and yet unfairly underreported advocacy, the sacrifices of these vigilante groups of the north-eastern Nigeria are hardly noticed and rarely praised by us, because we’re only moved by televised tragedies, and while some of us were busy with the ‪#‎FreeGaza‬‬‬ campaign, with a certain people even writing to justify anti-Semitism in their attack of our call for commitment and dedication to protecting Nigeria, these unnamed and faceless “soldiers in kaftan” were walking the talk, being killed for what’s not exactly their business, doing the work of those constitutionally tasked with protecting us: the military and para-military institutions.

But I must apologise to those expecting me to mention the Ebola fighters, already declared as Man of the Year by TIME, especially our own beloved Dr. Stella Adadevoh whose sacrifice was indeed inspiring. The recognition, without mincing words, is in acknowledgment of the existence of a group that had risen to fight the biggest threat in the history of this country, a threat that is already turning the whole country into a funeral house. Similarly, while it’s the duty of doctors to protect lives, for which they may be paid, it’s not the duty of unarmed citizens to fight terrorism in the field, and succeeding despite getting killed.

But I understand the sentiments in favour of the Ebola fighters. It’s the reality that, here, Ebola is seen as a threat to us, the urban and itinerant haves, while the major victims of terrorism in Nigeria have been the “subaltern” citizens, the “second-class” Nigerians in Gwoza, Potiskum, Chibok, Bama, Baga, Mubi, and at Nyanya Parks, churches and mosques that can’t afford advance security arrangements.

Nigerian of the Year II

In 2014, of the Nigerian public servants, while the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah and her colleague at the Ministry of Petroleum, Ms. Diezani Alison-Madueke were graduating from scandal to controversy, leaving their most cerebral colleague in charge of Finance to defend the government’s misappropriations of public funds, there was a Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, an active public servant, alerting us to the worst of such scandals, General Muhammadu Buhari still struggling to remain the poster-child of the opposition party in Nigeria, prominent members of the APC weaving cheap conspiracy theories about the genesis and operations of the Boko Haram and promoting them as facts to blackmail a clearly underperforming government and a Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, a former public servant, as the face of the nation’s hitherto dormant civil society. 2014 was indeed the year of both exceptional and characterless public servants, and while Sanusi had played a part in his whistle-blowing showmanship, with Buhari being resisted as a spent force, Oby was unstoppable.

Sure, you know the winner. I stood firm in defending her and even took it personal when some close friends disparaged an aspect of her, with clearly flawed statistics. She’s no saint, but Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is that beautiful mind whose existence, especially this year, challenged us to stand for something in life. She had paid a price for her revolutionary stance as the face of the civil society, pursuing a cause that most of our NGOs that had fed fat on grants from the West ought to have advocated and sustained.

She was called names even by some of her Igbo kinsmen in the cause of her struggle for a responsible Nigeria as she led the ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬‬‬ campaign to the attention of the world. She was called names for standing up for the destiny of some “northern girls” by a mischievous group that sought to blackmail her with a sentimental history of the Biafra War, reminding her that the ongoing social devolution in the north is an atonement for the sins of the North.

But she wasn’t deterred, she’s first a human being – a principle she advocates. And not even the opposition party was safe from her unpatronising criticism this year. As a guest of the opposition party at a summit held in the first quarter of the year, she reminded the members that the quest for change is more than just a change of party and acronym, highlighting their structural and ideological flaws. That’s the spirit of the phenomenal woman!

Needless to list her antagonists, among whom are young Nigerians on the payroll of, and sympathetic to, the government, especially the delusional ones on the social media who have made a career out of tweeting disrespectful rants at her. And these are young people, whose country and future she was fighting to salvage, young enough to be her kids. They called her a hypocrite, and it’s so because the indecorous clowns didn’t seem to know that they were really referring to that seasoned technocrat who’s become a globally sought-after policy advisor, having paid her dues at various international financial institutions, which peaked at appointment as a Vice President of the World Bank, after a tenure as Minister of Education. It’s, however, disquieting that a notable citizen who has sacrificed a lot in reactivating our dormant civil society, amplifying the tragedy of the ordinary Nigerian was so vilified by amnesiac hacks. But, may God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

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