Ese Oruru: How the North and Islam Became Scapegoats of a Teenager’s Folly

Ese photo

 
There is a usually predictable, almost robotic, pattern of reaction to any story in which an individual or a group from the north of Nigeria is a major character. This is the error of contemptuous generalisation, taking the action of a few individuals for a collective decision of the entire region. Or visiting the “sins” of the colonial north upon the millennial. This diseased lockstep of the mind is then applied to our social interactions, influencing both the outcomes of our political activities and even one’s sense of safety or social integration in any region other than ours. 
 
The case of Ese Oruru, a girl of 13, 14 or 17, depending on the narrative one subscribes to, only opens a big playgroup for some of the most bigoted suspects to amuse us with their insularity. These analysts and emergency activists proudly exhibit how they were influenced by stereotypes and sincere ignorance to perceive and portray the north as a continent of barbarians. This is an easy inference from the barrage of insults and condescending commentaries that attribute the travail of the “southern girl” to the religion of Islam and people of the north. 
 
The bottom line of her story, as popularised by the north-shaming narrative is, Ese was kidnapped in Bayelsa by an 18 year-old Yunusa Dahiru, also known as Yunusa Yellow, and taken to Kano where, against her will, she was forced to become a Muslim, married to the boy, and then sheltered in the palace of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II of Kano Emirate. Thus, the catch lines, especially for those yet to forgive Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for his part in the fall of a “southern President” became: “Emir Sanusi Abducts Bayelsa Girl”, “Emir Sanusi Forces Bayelsa Girl into Islam”, “Emir Sanusi Justifies Kidnap of Bayelsa Girl”, and the stories came in various screaming headlines and sensationalised by both the mainstream media and blogs desperate for massive web traffic and mischief. A pathetically ingenious blog even carried that Ese was abducted by Yunusa to be made the Emir’s concubine, citing the former CBN Governor’s recent marriage to an 18 year-old and describing him as paedophile!  
 
The embarrassed Emirate Council countered the sensationalised narrative, confirming its awareness of the story and the role it played. The Council was approached by the family of Yunusa and, in its disapproval of the mode of union between Yunusa and Ese, it wrote to the Kano State Shari’ah Commission and the Office of the Assistant Inspector General of police, Zone 1, to have the poor girl reunited with her family. This was the last the Emirate heard of the case until it became a viral advocacy that attributed to it a role it didn’t play. 
 
“At the police office,” according to Yunusa’s 55-year-old father in a March 2 interview with the Premium Times, “And before Ese’s family, the girl cried that her life was in danger and that she rather died than go back with her family. In sympathy, the police said Aisha should be taken back to Kura.”
 
That account of Ese’s “father-in-law”, Malam Dahiru Bala, indicts the Police as culprits in this story, and also contradicted what she told newsmen at the Police Headquarters in Abuja: that she didn’t know how she got to Kano; that Yunusa wasn’t even her boyfriend, just a patron at her mother’s restaurant; that she didn’t remember consenting to elope with Yunusa; that she didn’t recognise her mother when the latter came to Kano; that she wasn’t married to Yunusa; that her conversion to Islam was not consensual; and that she regretted what happened and that, if she sees her alleged husband, she wouldn’t even know what to do, because “I’m confused… I don’t know what to do.”  This is from her interview with The Sun of March 3, 2015. Ese’s post-freedom accounts are even more intriguing, as claims of her love affair with Yunusa is now even dubious. But what may frustrate the denial is her mother’s version of the story, that when she found out her little girl was missing, the first suspect was the 18-year-old Hausa boy. But what matters now that she’s regained her freedom is the legal perspectives of this unfortunate, as the dual legal systems operational in both the south and north have provisions for penalising the guilty party at the Court of Law.
 
While we await the outcome of that, it’s pertinent to challenge the mischievous labelling of the north and its people in the court of public opinion by a legion of bigoted southerners who wore the garb of activism not truly out of sympathy for the girl, but to amplify their bigotry. Some of them are the same hypocrites who dismissed the abduction of Chibok girls as a hoax and anti-Jonathan propaganda. Because the case of Chibok is, as expressed in pidgin, “na dem-dem!” – a northern affair. Their empathy is thus geographically responsive.
 
If the welfare of the girl was indeed their concern, why are they silent about the growing baby factories across the southern half of the country? They can’t claim to have no knowledge of the existence of these dehumanising places. A few months ago, in Asaba, police detectives raided a place opposite the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria office to free 8 pregnant teenagers. On June 13, last year, Enugu State Police Command raided a baby factory in Etiti in Amankwo-Ngwo Udi Local Government Council to free pregnant girls as young as 17. And even in Ese’s place of origin, activities similar to such advocacy-worthy atrocity takes place. Not long ago, the State Coordinator of Child Protection Network, Ms. Mariam Kombo-Ezeh shared stories of child abuse in Bayelsa State including the death of a 7-year-old from HIV/AIDS acquired from a rape. She also recounted the story of a 4-year-old girl raped to death by a 40-year-old man, but how many of these self-styled activists know the 40-year-old monster or bother to track this case and ensure delivery of justice? Theirs is only to sensationalise that of a particular people, which they generalise to register their savagery.  
 
If ignorance had not been applied in our clamouring for the freedom of Ese, whose case is of course heart breaking to all sane minds, the north and Islam wouldn’t have been made scapegoats of a teenager’s foolish adventure. A simple enquiry would’ve shown that Islam does not condone elopement, and it’s perhaps the same wisdom the Kano Emirate Council identified with, in admonishing the Police and Sharia Commission to “repatriate” her.  The Muslims have their tradition for formalising union between a man and woman, referred to as “Katb el-Kitab” – marriage contract. In a famous Hadith, the Prophet of Islam said: “Any woman who gets married without the permission of her guardian, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid.” Note the repeated clause. What Yunusa did is a crime that has no place in Islam or the northern society. Activist-types barely disguising their pet bigotries insisting that it is, for purposes of their own devising, will not make it so. They will only make communication and mutual understanding more fraught. My God save us from us! 

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Buhari: Our President, their Deity

  
The biggest challenge in the assessment of any government is always the counterforce of a marked legion of partisans loyal to it and willing to employ both literary and physical violence to defend it and malign its critics, often without bothering to address the faults exposed in the critiques.

Over the past months, one has been challenged to explain that clear-eyed assessments of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and even of his candidacy years before he was sworn into his present Office, aren’t expressions of regret or mortal disappointment in him. They are the basic civic vigilance required to keep politicians on their toes, because, despite their declared interests, all are selfish or self-serving in different ways and to peculiar extents. But their partisans are quick to remind you, for every honest critique, that their principals or candidates are infallible. Perhaps this is because at our schools, teachers are not motivated to point out the difference between criticism and critique in public discourse or civics or even social studies.

The truth is, for many of us who have registered that Buhari’s honeymoon is over, if an election is conducted even today between him and the ousted former President Goodluck Jonathan, none would have a second thought before casting their votes against Jonathan, whose government almost legitimised corruption and was cruel to the point of diverting funds meant for counterterrorism to personal accounts of party stalwarts and terminal sycophants. Which was the reason for the overpopulated IDP camps across the north!

Our assessment of President Buhari was exactly the mindset we expected the pro-Jonathan to exhibit when they were busy singing praises of atrocious mismanagement of resources and disdain for critics of the government. Jonathan failed because they asked us to give him more time—even sharing his statement that a 4-year tenure wasn’t enough to fix Nigeria— while things were steadily falling apart. Jonathan failed because, even after squandering his goodwill and unable to meet expectations of the majority as validated in the March 28 polls, the sycophants allied and formed a sycophantic group paraded as “Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria” to extend the sufferings and dying of the Nigerian.

It’s easy for us to identify with Buhari based on shared religion and regional reasons, in the PDP apologists’ fashion of polarising realpolitik. But how would such sentimental advocacy fix the problems of the average Nigerian from Aba down through Oyo to Zaria?

Another mischief, though surprisingly infrequent, employed by some successors of the Pro-Jonathan, the Buharists, in countering critics of the government is reminder that criticism of the government is a ploy to get the attention of the government. This is the pitiable low to which public discourse has fallen in Nigeria. Unknown is the truth that many of these critics are frequently approached for political appointments, often rejected on grounds of principle or on having realised their role really is merely to head the propaganda unit of a government department. 

Early this week, I questioned the need for the popular #‎iStandWithBuhari movement. It’s hard not to notice them, with their outrageous spending on ads, planting billboards at strategic locations in Abuja to complement their online ads that spam the social media platforms of even the most tolerant internet users. If know what it means to have a billboard planted on the busiest streets of Abuja and also promote an obscure Facebook page for a large audience, then you may have an idea of the millions going down the drains for a markedly irrelevant partisan cause that masks its sycophancy in patriotic garments. This waste of resources on political frivolities is happening in a country with the third largest population of internally displaced persons in world, after Syria and Columbia! 

If partisan movements designed to promote the interest of politicians, instead of that of the nation, are a confirmation of patriotism, then we must have a second thought on our disapproval of Daniel Kanu’s Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) for the late General Sani Abacha and Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Both campaigns elevated the virtues of personalities to the detriment of national or patriotic interests.

It is, to me, embarrassing that youth who ought to remain in their workstations to manage their specialised ventures and contribute to salvaging our collapsing economy are busy with sycophantic advocacies months after elections. The greatest service to any politician is electing him to choose qualified citizens to run the affairs of the nation. But what forms a good leader aren’t the cacophonous praise songs hummed by partisans, but the determination of civic-minded citizens to ensure that electoral promises are kept. 

Between ‪‎TAN and ‪#‎iStandWithBuhari, I don’t see any difference. If anything, TAN and YEAA pursued justifiable interests, the electoral capitals of their principals. Theirs were sycophancy with a defined purpose. ‪#‎iStandWithBuhari, happening months after the elections, for, as one of them argued, the defence of an elected leader, who has the military and the para-military institutions and the civil service at his beck and call, isn’t only sycophantic but inessential. They are a collective of ambitious partisans desperate for relevance. If indeed the partisans need such profligate movement to get Buhari working, it means they don’t even trust the man. Which is ironic. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda 

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

Niger State at 40: A Sober Reflection

  

On February 3, Niger State turned 40. It was created on that day in 1976, but its official existence as a State began on April 1 of the same year. The territory used to be a part of the old North-Western State, which was the era the people of Niger province registered themselves as extraordinarily progressive and, instead of being dominated by number, they only became the backbone of bureaucracy in that political formation that included the people of today’s Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbistates.

Prior to the existence of North-Western State, Niger even produced the Deputy Premier of the Northern Region, Alhaji Aliyu Makama of blessed memory. It may break your heart to learn that “Aliyu Makama”, a bureaucrat of primal esteem and model, is not even a Wikipedia entry. The era of the Makamas was that of polished bureaucrats who inhabited the multi-ethnic territories in their pursuits of a more unifying regional agenda eventually disrupted by the military goons.

At 40, and going down memory lane, what could be pointed to as accomplishment of the State, something to celebrate as a benefit of the demarcation (aside from, perhaps, the avoided inter-ethnic rivalries between the Nupe and the Hausa)?

Well, at 40, Niger is only a memorabilia of wasteful administrations and a few ones praised only because of the failings of the others. At 40, the strongest legacies of governance in Niger State were by the military. The progress of Niger State in those four eventful decades seems to have gone the inglorious way of its first Governor, the military administrator who only recently, as democratically elected this time, ran another state aground: Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako!

First, we started with a tradition of progressive bureaucracy which, ironically, has become our setback. The same Civil Service we used to point to as evidence of our administrative advancement is now what consumes the allocations received by the State and the meagre revenues it generates internally to run its affairs. We failed in this department because our policymakers did not exactly recognize the needs to identify and develop sectors of the economy to keep the burden away from Civil Service.

At 40, we boast that our States is enormously rich with solid minerals, but the governments have no official records of the distributions and amounts of deposits across the state. Because we are sure of the federal allocation that comes to complement our deficits.

What I always point to as the most symbolic evidence of retrogressive growth in the State are some of the policies of the past governments that only make me nostalgic and conscious of the achievements of the soldiers who came in the 80s. Niger is so indebted to the soldiers that, I think, it may not be a waste of resources to build monuments in their honour. The soldiers have left behind legacies that call to question performances of their successors in plainclothes.

For instance, I grew up in a Minna of well-paved roads with flowered central reservations and functional streetlights and flowing pipe-borne water and economic boom and regular environmental sanitations, achieved by the soldiers. So it’s funny to find us celebrating, about two decades later, the installation of streetlights by the last government.

If a streetlight was a normal sight in Niger in, say, 1991, celebrating it two decades later only calibrated our underdevelopment.

So, at 40, instead of celebrating Niger State, and our obviously laughable boast of being the largest state in Nigeria, I will call on our policymakers to develop a practical development plan to rescue this State that that is home to hydro-electric power stations that have accounted for nearly 50% of Nigeria’s stable power sources for decades!

Niger is a stallion mortally wounded, its promise of better days uncertain and hope resting on destructive ethnic politics. Our politics has taken the form of the nation’s. It’s levered by zonal Cabal whose interest is merely to restore their ethnic or family heritage. Today, it’s either a candidate is Christian or he is anything other than Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa.

In just two decades we have devolved into the opposite of that State where the Nupe, who are largely Muslims, elected their Christian brother Professor Jerry Gana as legislator. We are no longer the State that elected a man who was not Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa, Dr. Musa Inuwa, as governor. Those were the years; those were the good years destroyed by several seasons of rearward development which the lucky Governor Inuwa himself energised in his ethnically inclined Civil Service reforms that revived the demons of tribalism that still terrorisethe State.

The legacy of Governor Inuwa wasn’t the foundation of our ethnic polarization and affinity, but it was the lintel on which ethnic ambassadorship and politics became the aim and priority of our zonally rotated executive leaderships. We have fallen from the tower of progressive ideas to the pit of primordial ethnic rivalries to the detriment of our proposed development. It was, thus, a relief that the current Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, which some creative mischief-makers refer to as “Diasporan Governor” for his many foreign trips, didn’t even acknowledge the day, let alone bother to celebrate“the fool at 40!”, wasting our resources in vain. Happy Anniversary (Reflection), Niger State. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

The Vacation President Buhari Needs 

  
The announcement of the President’s five-day vacation last week was interpreted vastly differently by individuals and groups across the country, generating both commentary and debate. This was because it happened less than a year into office. The good old man has also spent so much time thousands of meters above many big seas, crisscrossing from one hemisphere to another over the last eight months that a break away from his cluttered desk seemed to have more irony in it than meets the eye. 

 One of the subjects of intense debate during the vacation was whether indeed it was wise for the leader of a troubled country to spend more hours inside “Eagle One”, his official jet, than in his office at the Nigerian Presidential Complex, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. 

 A devout believer in President Buhari observed that the only person that seems to believe in this government is Buharihimself. I interpreted that to mean the President is surrounded by sceptics and saboteurs, who give obsessively critical citizens evidence to employ in “embarrassing” the President. 

 I think the people have a reason to be worried by the existence of an itinerant President who ought to be around to monitor events, instruct his men and supervise the execution of approved solutions. Since the weight of the nation’s problems rests on the President’s shoulders as the father of the nation, it’s seen that the only vacation he needs right now is a long one inside his Office. This way, the institutional lapses that result into uninspiring policies, corporate fraud and escalating terrorism, like the grossly inflated budget, electricity tariff hike and uncertainty over territories under Boko Haram respectively, would be tracked with keener presidential interest.

 Some of our damaged foreign relations, which the President rushes to repair, can be fixed by proxy or through delegations. This is even the reason he has ministers with portfolios. Or these trips can wait for the President to finish his most pertinent homework. In fact, we have lobbying agencies available for engagement, to communicate our agenda to the Big Brothers who, nonetheless, always watch. What can’t wait, while the President junkets, are the collapsing internal structures of the country. What can’t wait are problems that “body language” can’t fix, at least from a foreign land. What can’t wait are the so-called budget mafia, and all who would only perform their tasks diligently in the presence of a monitoring spirit. 

This was why, on reading report of another proposed trip by the President, a three-nation tour of the Middle East, I think the people need to beg him to postpone it. If not for his health, then for that of the nation plugged to his integrity and decisions. Our internal affairs, which even yesterday killed over 50 innocent citizens with an attack on an IDP camp in Borno State, are, for now, more damaged than our foreign relations. A wise man doesn’t need a second thought to note which, between home and abroad, to make his priority.

It’s scary that we’ve built a political system in whichsycophantic citizens play the role of the President’s spokesman, issuing statements in authoritative tones to defend the President. This was the syndrome exhibited by a tribe of partisans referred to as “Jonathians” in the days of President Goodluck Jonathan, but it appears that the wave of pro-Presidential partisanship amongst a tribe that parades itself as Buharists is even more obnoxious. What must be pointed out is, the President owes the people a responsibility. What he does isn’t based on altruism, but as instructed by the very Constitution on which he swore an oath to correct the accumulated wrongs he inherited from the administrations before his. He also travels around the world on public funds, yet, for simply demanding to know his foreign policies or asking why he doesn’t engage the services of smart lobbyists instead or even sit to serve as the nation’s father, any conscientious enquirers are described as political skeptics or the unintelligent epithet “wailing wailers” by a people adept in mischief.

 That the President appended his signature on the calamitous fraud that is the 2016 budget is an unfortunate twist for which, going by his antecedents, he ought to apologise to the nation and promise to correct the flaws and prosecute those culpable. This is because he ought to have engaged a technical review team to vet the proposals before the circus on the floor of the National Assembly. Nobody would’ve blamed a certain “budget mafia” for the discrepancies in the budget if it were Goodluck Jonathan. We have shamelessly lowered the bar for our man in power, protected him from taking responsibilities for all the things he was elected to redeem. We also crucified Jonathan for refusing to visit places and people hit by the terrorists. This should not change under Buhari. We shouldn’t change the meaning of responsive and responsible governance to suit the style and flaws of the new President. If he were not overseas so often, a visit to the grieving may not bring back the dead but it certainly will comfort both the victims and unaffected citizens and assure them that, despite the setbacks, efforts are in place to redeem their conditions.

What is even most heart-breaking is that censorship has been instituted by the Buharists who disapprove of basic analyses of the President’s foreign policies and bilateral relations and agreements with all the places visited. Instead of dissecting Buhari’s foreign policies, we are blackmailed or chose to fawn over how he shakes hands with cool white men in prim suits and stands in front rows in their photographs. This is the depth to which civic responsibility degenerates. May God save us from us! 

 By Gimba Kakanda 

@gimbakakanda on Twitter 

Aisha Yesufu: Victim of Partisan Savagery

  Aisha Yesufu has been in the news for the right reasons. What got her in the line of partisan fire was her account of the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and parents of the abducted girls of Chibok, which she witnessed and reported last week. She wasn’t impressed, and wasn’t also afraid to admit so. For this brave indiscretion, a tribe of partisans has risen and formed a counterforce against her activism. Their outrage was a betrayal of what she advocates as a strong pillar of the #BBOG campaign.

Aisha is a private citizen, businesswoman, wife and mother. She’s an advocate of good governance, she is not a member of the political establishment. I know her well enough to express that she has no political affiliation, nor ambition. Born and bred in Kano, she’s of Edo State descent. A sketch of her biography is all one needs to realise the extent of her sacrifice in a clime of “federal character principles”, where the cartographers of ethno-religious bigotries will never even let her aspire to a political office. One may thus see now why she’s misunderstood by the fire-spitting minions who always lurk around to pounce on any critic of Buhari.

Her account of the meeting portrayed the President as emotionally absent and his Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Jummai Alhassan, as contemptuous, insensitive and mischievous. Even Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, in challenging reports that the President left the meeting visibly angry, corroborated claims that parents of the missing girls present “didn’t feel him”. Both the President and his Minister, according to various accounts, were uninspiring. The summary of the meeting was: the group was mounting too much pressure on the government even though the abduction took place in the last administration.

On Twitter, Maureen, another extraordinarily resilient member of BBOG, reported a troubling exchange between Aisha Alhassan and Aisha Yesufu. The Minister, according to Maureen, asked grieving parents to leave everything to God. In their defence, Aisha Yefusu asked why she went to court and not God on losing the Governorship election in TarabaState. Poignant!

If there’s one voice I will always regard as unquestionably credible in this campaign, it has to be Aisha Yesufu’s. Unlike the others who’ve had a stint with a government or have been politicians, she IS neutral to partisan allegiances. She’s only pitched tent with the better alternative, and furiously supported Candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the period running up to the 2015 general elections.

Some of the cyber-thugs who have taken up a challenge to shame her, have never done in their entire life what she does in a single day, committing, for the about 750 days past, her hard-earned resources to advocating for the rescue of our Chibok girls. At the time many were reluctant to lending their voice to the story of the abduction, she emerged from absolute oblivion and challenged the Jonathan-led government to be honest in admitting its poor response to the condition of citizens abducted in northeast Nigeria.

Of Chibok girls, while some bigoted people attempted to deemphasize them for being mostly Christians, this Muslim woman defied the polarizing scheme of mediocrity in championing what has now become symbolic. She drew the attention of the world to the previously overlooked cases of abduction of our innocent citizens in that terrorist-infested region. She was so notorious in her confrontations with Jonathanians that when the veteran journalist, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, died in a stampede in Saudi Arabia, some, mistaking Bilkisu for Aisha, put up a picture of of the latter to celebrate the death. Because she was a bogey to those agents of darkness who promoted the tragedy that was Goodluck Jonathan.

Aisha’s only flaw, which her critics fail or refuse to recognise, is that she’s not politically correct. Unlike Dr. ObyEzekwesili, who’s friends with prominent people in our political establishment, she does not belong in the elite class, and doesn’t give a damn how she’s perceived by them.

A day to ministerial inauguration, Barr. Solomon Dalung, then a ministerial designate, was at the BBOG sit-out, and Aisha, being Aisha, looked him in the eyes and said, “You are one of us. Tomorrow you will be a part of them. We don’t know your portfolio yet, but we want you to represent our interests there. And if you don’t… ” And then she shook her head. Dalung got her message.

This is the Aisha these partisans who have never done anything different to promote justice in this country seek to shame. It doesn’t matter to them that her account of theBBOG group’s meeting with President Buhari was simply her honest perception of the man’s attitude towards them. She hadn’t come to look at a deity in reverance, but to meet ahuman elected to do better than a failed human before him.

Some of her traducers, in the last bid of their desperation to shame her, resorted to sharing a 5-minute video of Aisha Alhassan to present the events of a meeting that lasted for hours. I hope they see the cruelty of their mischief. And those who are asking the campaigners to “give up and face reality”, such damning absurdity is not a surprise coming from partisan savages. I just hope they know what it means to imagine their own biological daughter alive, and being abused, among a cult of their fellow savages who differ from them only in the style of their savagery

If the girls of Chibok were of famous surnames, children of the criminally wealthy somebodies of Maitama, Asokoro and Aso Drive districts of Abuja, and abducted at Loyola Jesuit, Whiteplains British School, El-Amin International School, International Community School or Nigerian Turkish International College, there would never have been a loss or lack of intelligence on their whereabouts, and no government would ever risk not making them its priority. That we have a kind-hearted woman such as Aisha Yesufu, who’s neither a politician nor political, losing her resources and health to amplify the voice and publicise the agonies of the nobodies whose children were abducted, is one heroism we ought to support. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Dasukigate: Beyond the Last Abuja Yam Festival

 As the hunt for those who took part in the festival of thievery organized by President Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2015 continues, what haunts the mind of many observers is the perception that everybody who was loyal to the past government and had either offered a service or asked to “perform” one – even if a mere expression of moral solidarity with the government – benefitted from its gifts of Yam sent through the embattled former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki. Statistically, that’s a scary number!

Sadly, some of the people who participated in that brazen sharing of our N1 trillion security vote and other extra-budgetary “allocations” proposed for our country’scounterterrorism have ended their allegiance to the GEJ-led administration a few days to, and after, the presidential election. They’ve built a new nest in the new ruling party.

This week, I saw a list of firms that had dealings with the Office of the National Security Adviser during the infamous festival, and it’s easy to tell that, if fairly investigated, the scandal may consume a sizable population of our political elite across all the political parties in the country, including the APC.

I know this son of a National Security Adviser who’s notorious in Abuja for drag racing in an exotic Italian sports car that even his father couldn’t have afforded if Nigeria were an institutionally strong place. A boy much younger than me could only afford that if, one, he experienced the “Mark Zuckerberg luck factor” or he’s a sports personality who’s secured endorsement deals with Automobili Lamborghini. No, he’s not Dasuki’s son. This is why we must shift the date backward to see the evils of all the wolves who defected to the APC when the music of that Abuja Yam Festival stopped. 

The reason for the financial recklessness isn’t because GEJ was weak; it was because our institutions are weak, because it would’ve been impossible for even the president to have such amount of money withdrawn for dubious purposes with the complicity of the Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor, if our institutions were strong and designed to resist frauds and graft.

 Buhari, like GEJ, is just a personality who, like all of us reading this, will only exist on the pages of newspapers 100 years from now. He’s not an institution, not immortal, and neither is his leadership meant to be forever. He’s a man who also thrives on personal reasons, emotions and sentiments. He’s not infallible, that is. 

My point is, our advocacy for a new Nigeria shouldn’t be a call for a nation built on a personality cult. For Nigeria to be rescued, what’s needed is civic vigilance of both patriotic individuals and the Civil Society Organizations to “dictate” to the President what’s required and desired for a viable nation. These are strong institutions.  

If our institutions were strong, President Buhari himself wouldn’t have considered it wise to frown at the judgment of the judiciary in the cases of Dasuki and Kanu. It’s not a personality cult that builds a sane nation, it’s the wisdom of its leaders to give up their illegitimate rights and selfish interests for all institutions to uphold the values on which they are built. 

Aside from our dysfunctional institutions, the other culprit in the ruin of this nation is compliant society. Our people, instead of frowning at obvious acts of corruption, celebrate the existence of the evidently corrupt. And those who have escaped media trial are praised by their community as heroes of unjust and bigoted system. 

The last time I was in Minna, a relative asked, “You should be thinking of building your own place.” And even though she was only being candidly concerned, it’s not her ignorance of my ability that made her say so. It was her endorsement of the path of dishonour on which many before me had made fortunes. We both knew one “successful” neighbour who, occupying the middle-management cadre in the federal civil service, have acquired houses in Utako, Gwarinpa, and Katampe, alongside the four in Minna. He was a role model in this material society. He won’t be judged, because it’s already established that the pathway to financial glory is presentation of a fat proposal on the desk of a compliant principal or friend. I won’t be shocked to see that he’s a director on the board of one of the firms publicized as recipients of the presidential Yam delivered by Dasuki. 

All this is so because it’s already a tradition for the heads of a ministry, department or agency to ally and rush to Corporate Affairs Commission to register a company and bid for the very contracts advertised by their office. At the end, they invite the nosy juniors who are likely raise brows about the dubious procedures, for shares of the blood money. Because “gofment money na our money; if you no steal am, another pesin go steal. If you no gree take am, another pesin go take am!” May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter 

Thoughts on the Presidential Media Chat

  President Muhammadu Buhari’s first interaction with the nation this Week highlighted the hope of a new Nigeria, as well as the potholes, speed bumps and roadblocks ahead. It’s perhaps the most honest ever revelation by a Nigerian president, even as such blunt and frank positions may undermine the efforts and popularity of the government he heads.

I’ll leave the praises of Buhari’s performance at the chat to his media handlers and their fire-spitting minions, and address a few issues not exactly impressive.

The revelation that our security agencies have no intelligence on the whereabouts of the girls of Chibok is saddening, and perhaps even worse is the statement that the government has no credible means of establishing contact with the leadership of Boko Haram. What have the intelligence units of our various security agencies been up to all these months? This, to say the obvious, is reckless and not something any leader should say without feeling a sense of guilt or embarrassment. So, who have we been fighting all along? Ghosts? We’ve people like Ahmad Salkida and Barrister Aisha Wakkil around to serve as consultants in contacting this terrorist group and Nigeria still confesses to cluelessness.

The president’s seeming disinterest in the Shiite—Army clash is only a leeway to an imaginable disaster. Despite claiming to have no conclusive report on the clash yet, he’s already judged the clash and couldn’t even mask his disgust at the activities of the sect. His reaction was more of old military elite losing his mind over the audacity of a gang of teenagers to dare confront members of the active military elite class.

The Shiites have already lost on moral grounds, and perhaps only need an unbiased foreign court, through interested human rights organizations, to file a case against the government of Nigeria for the unjustifiably brutal use of force to decimate their erring members. This court may interpret and exact the rule of engagements employed by the militaryand point out the moment their traffic offence degenerated into criminal offence, punishable by such horrible death.

The probability of banning the hijab, if the suicide bombings continue, is just a joke taken too serious. And if we apply a certain logic in understanding this, we may have to argue that perhaps cars used in bomb attacks should also be banned in public places. If hijab was marked a threat to national security for the fact that it’s easy to conceal an object inside it, how is Agbada or Babban Riga any less spacious for hiding explosives? We should ask everyone, including the President himself, to stop wearing Babban Riga to public events. The last I checked, suicide bombing wasn’t carried out by the female alone. What our security personnel need, instead, are effective bomb-detecting devices.

President Buhari dismissed the possibility of the Nigeria Police Force investigating a civil case involving members of the Nigeria Army as an abomination, that “it shouldn’t be the other way round.” That wasn’t a joke. He meant it. That was apparently a military officer yet to understand that the system has changed, and that the present arrangement is such that the police are to investigate the Shiite—Army clash.

One confusing puzzle from the chat is a rhetoricby the President. “How can (the Shiites) create a state inside a state?” The question is, at what point did they know that the Shiites had actually created a state inside a state, knowing that investigation into their clash with the Army is yet to be concluded? If the Shiites were actually running a parallel government long before December 12, why was the present Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, romancing with them, despite knowledge of them being enemy of the state, in the course of the campaign season? Or is it that Nasiru el Rufai is a cluless politician? If the Shiites had created a state inside a state, or are running a parallel government, why didn’t the President take the decision to declare them as criminal before the clash, and dismantle their organizational cohesion judiciously? This could’ve saved us the December 12 tragedy.

It’s obvious that the President wasn’t prepared to answer questions on forex restrictions. His honesty was a buzzkill. Rough roads ahead for Nigerians overseas or likely to have private interactions that involved forex. The president seems to have no clear idea of its impacts on both the economy and social life of Nigerians. He really has to confer with the CBN Governor on the way forward. The position on forex is also a bad news for those wishing to hoard dollars in anticipation of rumoured devaluation of Naira.

The trials of Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu, in court on charges of corruption and treason, respectively, may be one of the instances the President suspended his adopted political precepts as a reformed democrat. It’s clear that the President won’t adhere to the rule of law. Even though he claimed that he won’t interfere with the outcomes of the judiciary, the positions of the institutions trying Dasuki and Kanu, on bail applications, are already an interference with the judiciary.

Overall, the media chat is a commendable effort and, despite dampening the spirit of some Nigerians, it shows that we are finally free from a regime of mendacity, as witnessed in the years of the Hat-wearing zoologist who, without blinking eyes, and aware Nigerians were watching him, claimed the state of the nation was better; and that power supply had improved. We would be proud of a president who has not claimed to being a know-it-all, and moderate in his endorsement of lies as done on the question of N5000 stipend for the unemployed youth. To which he said, “When my VP was quoted, how can I come here and disown it?” This may be the most honest man we could have for this job. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

Why “Zaria Massacre” is a Scary Deja Vu

Photo credit: News24ng.com

The cruellest analysts of the December 12 crackdown on Shiite mobs in Zaria are those who ignore the background of the sect’s past confrontations with both the authority and other parts of society not comfortable with their doctrinal alignments. The clash with Nigeria Army was a familiar experience, in the pattern of the July 26, 2014 unexplainably fatal “self-defence” by the same Army.

Shiism didn’t suddenly become what’s perceived by rival sects as a nuisance, with their members condemned as heretics, on December 12. It’s a practice that only followed the script and rule of this institutionally dysfunctional nation that has given religious bodies an unwritten permission to build an independent sub-system which, with many others similar, compete for the destruction of this country.

I don’t seek to justify the zealotry of Shiite youth who mounted roadblocks on a public road, denying even a military boss access to it. It’s not the first time a youth, either under the banner of a religion, political party or civil society organization adopted such method of civil disobedience to express a grievance, even if not perceived as legitimate in popular opinion.

No matter what, there’s always an alternative to a crackdown on a bunch of boys with sticks and knives. A rain of bullets on a ragtag group, in the season members of the group are yet to trust the authority for the killings of their members in a politicized incident of suicide bombing and state-authorized killing, isn’t a wise approach.

No matter what, the Nigeria Army could’ve handled the recalcitrant Shiites with a certain speck of intelligence, learning from their disastrous response to the dissents of similarly provocative isolates in Maiduguri. That the rate and way the crackdown on Boko Haram cult, which began on June 11, 2009, escalated didn’t even serve as a lesson to our security personnel and policymakers is a confusing tragedy.

This Commando-style approach is the reason we’ve too many widows in our Army Barracks today. Even the most technologically advanced countries who are quick to exhibit their military might haven’t succeeded in suppressing religious extremism through the use of force alone. We need force only when and where intelligence fails. We’re a country in the middle of a crisis and thus we must ally against all avoidable actions that may make more enemies for the state.

But I understand that, as votaries of the Maliki school of Sunni Islam that is the majority in this part of Africa, our abhorrence to perceived deviations of Shiism isn’t just political; it’s doctrinal. We abhor them because they misrepresent Islam, and thus deserve horrible deaths. But in spite of our perception of the Shiites as nuisance, no people destroyed the image of Islam as believers who subscribe to the precepts of Sunnism. Both Boko Haram and ISIS identified with Sunni Islam. So did Osama Ben Laden, and all these misrepresent the image of Islam in the name of jihad.

Shiism is a nuisance, a heresy. But have their members been indicted in any act of terror in Nigeria to earn them a graduation into terrorism? Shiism, like all religious or sectarian movements, is what it is in Nigeria because of this obvious dysfunction in our institutions. Such dysfunction we witnessed even recently in the government’s response to the confrontation between the Shiites and Nigerian soldiers, recording many casualties, including three sons of the national leader of the Shiites.

I’m not defending anyone, but if disorderly assemblies are what constitute nuisance in the practices of our religion, then we the self-righteous and blame-apportioning believers are all guilty. We must be honest in our attributions of wrongs that accumulate to this mountain of troubles we want to destroy.

This republic must step out to draw the lines between freedom and transgression, to highlight the extent to which a citizen is allowed to exhibit his religiosity or partake in a freedom of worship not specifically clarified in the Constitution. The truth is, various sects of both Islam and Christianity in Nigeria are notorious for contravening the laws of the land. All block public roads while marking certain religious functions. Many even have a paramilitary unit tasked with “defending” them from the rest of us. If the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff comes to pass through Kashim Ibrahim Way here in Wuse II, Abuja when the largely Sunni Muslims gather for a Jummah prayer at An-Nur Mosque, he will be asked to turn back no matter the emergency he points to as reason he wants to use that public road.

Similarly, every Sunday, churches in my neighborhood in Life Camp, Abuja, block public roads and nobody, even the FCT Minister whose official residence is just about three blocks away from one of the churches is allowed to negotiate that public road. It’s the same story on Mambolo Street, Wuse Zone 2, every Sunday. It’s also the same on Kur Mohammed Avenue in Central Area on Sunday when church service holds at Thisday Dome. A church mounts roadblocks to deny the residents of the district a right to use that road until the service is over, often with the connivance of our police force.

My point is, except we just developed brains overnight, Nigeria gave religious bodies these unrestrained powers to become “nuisance” wherever they function. What the Shiites do in their processions isn’t different from what our politicians do in their political rallies, where political thugs block roads, harass and hurt non-participating passers-by and motorists.

The first step we must take in demarcating the boundaries of religion is to know what “freedom of assembly” means. We must seek to understand, in our civics, why followers of Candidate Muhammadu Buhari would be allowed to shut down a city in the name of a political rally and Cleric Ibrahim El-Zakzaky is perceived as a nuisance for the activities of his own loyal followers. We need to clarify many things and define what is wrong and right according to our Constitution.

What frightens me even more is, If Nigeria Army had been what it’s designed to be, it would’ve gathered intelligence on, or foreseen, the happenings in Zaria before it allowed its boss, the Chief of Army Staff, to embark on that road trip. We have a military intelligence unit tasked with the responsibility of such secret operations. Why aren’t you thinking along that line and talking about it? The COAS is not god, and for making more enemies for the state when his people are still unable to wipe out the existing, when we’ve too many widows in the barracks, he showed a lack of wisdom in executing that promise of the government to terminate the existence of Boko Haram this December.

The fact that the military seem to have no idea what was happening before the tragic encounter with the mob should be the first institutional lapse to look into in our enquiries, and in the state’s investigation. This may explain many things, because, if Nigeria were a sane country, the confrontation could’ve been avoided. Making more enemies for the state in the month you promised to end the existence of their ilk is either a ploy to distract or manufacture an excuse for the failure to fulfill the promise. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

Audu: Death, History and Memory

  

I faulted the declaration that the yet-to-be concluded Governorship elections in Kogi State was “between the Devil and the Satan”. It was, I observed in an interaction elsewhere, between sentiments and ignorance. Sentimental because supporters of APC, rallying around the late Prince Abubakar Audu were partisans incurably loyal to the party. Ignorant because, despite the near unanimity of our portrayals of Audu and incumbent Governor Idris Wada as uninspiring, our seeming concurrence to our political system as two-party arrangement was disquieting.

Nigeria has 25 registered political parties, and if I were resident in Kogi, it won’t kill to ally with likeminded cynics to facilitate the emergence of a powerful Third Force. It may only seem impossible because we prefer agencies of indolent and navel-gazing political standpoints. And even if, at the end of the rain, our efforts amount to a loss, history would remember us as change agents who aspired to reform. In the north, Adamawa and Nasarawa States, rejecting the traditional domination of the two leading parties as the only viable, made SDP and APGA, respectively, top contenders.

As results of the November 21 elections filtered in, with Audu coasting to victory, some of us, convinced Audu was on the way to Lugard House again, resigned to a prayer. This we considered nobler than embarking on a lifelong antagonism of his principles and declaring as already wasteful his four-year mandate.

And then the man died. It started like a cruel rumour planted in the online media by anonymous hacks to consolidate on the heaps of controversy upon which the man played his politics. It was one of the most mismanaged media crises of the APC. What’s the purpose of the Information and Publicity unit of the APC if it couldn’t rush in to clarify on high-risk reports about the party and its candidates. It’s absolutely dispiriting for a rumour of a candidate’s death to hover that long without an official statement from his party; it portrayed the party as organizationally inept.

The confirmed news of his death suddenly polarized discourse of his politics and life. It has revealed the superficial spirituality for which Nigerians are known, and over which they venerate the dead.

But we must be careful in letting our emotions edge us to rewrite history and beatify the person who, just a few days ago, we categorized as a member of the agencies that that have forestalled the growth of this country.

If, for the virtues of death, we report as heroic all the people we once blamed for our woes as a nation, what sort of books do we intend to leave behind as documents of the history of our time for the generation coming after ours?

It’s understandable to feel for the passing of Prince Abubakar Audu; it’s human. We’re all going to die, one after the other and en masse, soon or later. What is hypocritical is to suddenly attempt to reverse all the things we’ve already expressed about him and his. We should respect the dead, because they are not here to defend themselves anymore. But we also owe the generation unborn a certain debt, the debt of honesty – an accurate history.

Audu was a public figure given a mandate to manage the resources of his people, and judging that history of his stewardship isn’t the sort of private existence that the most spiritual of us wish to censor. This was a politician who spent a season of his life after office in courtrooms proving that he did not mismanage resources under his watch. Whether he succeeded in proving himself innocent and convincing us that he’s innocent of all charges of corruption against him is a matter for our history, and a burden of our memories.

It’s not those who still discuss the politics of Audu that are spiteful. It’s those small minds that rush to say that his death is a divine intervention, that God saved Kogi from the return of a thieving man. We must de-indoctrinate ourselves of this perception of death as a punishment. Death is the final phase of every human being. It’s not an atonement for any sin. It’s both a biological and spiritual reality of our existence.

Longevity, also, isn’t a proof of any righteous life; it’s just a mystery too complex to grasp. Some of the most virtuous people in the eyes of the world died young, hence the flawed axiom, “The good die young!”

The bad too die young!

Our motivation, as we reflect on the elapsed time of both the known and the unknown should be a prayer that none of us departs this life smeared with unchallenged accusations of complicity in the ruins of the humanity we were created to redeem and preserve. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

When Ignorance Becomes a Popular Perspective on Adamu Adamu

  

“A professor who had run a university should not be a sidekick to an accountant-turned-columnist… It can only happen in a country like this.”

This statement was attributed to a certain Professor Akin Oyebode in an interview on Channels TV. Like him, regiments of our friends have expressed resentment to what they considered another of President Buhari’s oversights; Malam Adamu Adamu’s appointment as Nigeria’s substantive Minister of Education, with the mistake, according to them, being a seasoned academic and former university administrator, Professor Anthony Anwuka, made his junior.

The argument seems intelligent, and the concerns honest, from the surface. We are told Adamu Adamu is just an “ordinary journalist” with no administrative experience, and that it’s a taboo to have him instructing a Professor on the complex art of restructuring an institution in which he is a novice.

The critics exhibit flawed understanding of Public Administration as a forte of only the technically skilled. They missed that a Minister is a top-ranking executive whose most required assets are conceptual skills. And who possesses these skills more than an uncompromising and first-rate social critic whose revolutionary ideas and audacious ways of observing our world and its strangest aberrations had been persistent and unwavering, instigating fierce debates amongst us?

Adamu’s career, unlike the professor’s, can’t be easily calibrated to present his accomplishments. And, for a man of such proven cerebral verve, if the years actively spent in journalism were in pursuits of academic scholarship, he would’ve equally been at the top of the cadre. Despite its bastardization by unmotivated rookies and avaricious editors, there’s no profession that is as close to humans, to their reality and yearnings, as journalism. Every day in active journalism is a lesson on the waywardness of our politicians and the impacts of their selfish agendas against the general welfare of the society.

If journalism had been as hierarchically organized and defined as the academia and as, say, the military, there’s no way that a longstanding and consistent reporter and analyst of Adamu’s pedigree won’t be a Professor or General, respectively. Was Wole Soyinka, a Professor of Comparative Literature, a public administrator when he was appointed pioneer Chairman of Federal Road Safety Corps by General Ibrahim Babangida? What has Literature got to do with road safety? Soyinka was chosen, despite what some may consider administrative naïveté, for his consistent reflections on the state of the nation and the prescriptions he recommended. Though the circumstances are different, aside from their persistent vending of ideas, the inclusion of conscious minds in government is because, in the words of Soyinka, “the process of change is a collective struggle… what I did (at FRSC) is not appointment… I accepted an assignment, a people’s assignment.”

And I see myself as a constituent of Adamu’s intellectual realm, one who must endorse his selection to practise what he had preached, and then return to the very seat he vacated, to remind him of the debt he owes us, the debt of exemplification of honesty. It seems vulgar to dismiss the appointment of such a refined thinker as head of a ministry once headed by the Shekaraus of this world, simply because a certain Professor is made his junior. In fact, to say that a seasoned journalist isn’t an asset in a cabinet dominated by lawyers is disdainful, ignorant and mischievous. Is lawyering an administrative role? Even our bright stars of the new administration like Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Raji Fashola were similarly administratively “naive” before securing mandates to prove themselves, beyond lecturing and lawyering, respectively.

We are being told now that Professor Anwuka is the best man to fix the sector, even with our fresh memory of fellow Professors who, fresh out of the administrative matrix of the ivory tower, came and failed to make a difference. Like Anwuka, Professor Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i who was in charge of the ministry between 2010 and 2013 is also a Professor of Education, and she left the ministry with no praiseworthy accomplishments, with the universities, of which she was a communal member, on strike. So, how’s Anwuka’s different?

Anwuka was Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University for five years, and the last time I checked, the university wasn’t among the top 5 best state universities in Nigeria. So, what are we talking about? That he’s a magician whose miracle would only manifest as Minister?

That we are yearning more for the academically certified in a country only recently mismanaged by a PhD is a frightening scenario for study of Stockholm syndrome. What Nigeria needs are not political captors, what Nigeria needs are morally conscious patriots who have proven themselves as resiliently uncompromising; and this, this identification with the suffering, which isn’t a part of an academic’s life, even Anwuka cannot claim to have actualized, let alone be compared to Adamu.

We should all be outraged that the amnesic reduced Adamu’s years of exceptional existence as a journalist and critic of politics and life to a non-event that doesn’t deserve such key administrative responsibility in overhauling our national institutions. It’s sad that we only prefer our journalists, writers and thinkers who, from obsessive criticism have become the most informed of the many wrongs of the nation, to be messed up as inconsequential media aides to thieving politicians and self-styled technocrats. It’s sad that we think a man who has maintained a model reputation and abhorrence to corruption that has consumed a legion of his contemporaries in a career that started before some of us even learned to read ABC, isn’t qualified to instruct a professor.

What difference could Adamu Adamu make? In his preliminary thought on the ministerial inauguration, my big brother, Barrister Deji Toye, highlighted the challenge before our new Minister. “Adamu Adamu,” he wrote “has the opportunity to make the most difference in a fundamental way. In the Education portfolio, he has to open two fronts in his battle – (i) the issue of basic access in Northern Nigeria and (ii) Overall reform for quality and content everywhere. Performance in the first is the easier and quicker to measure, but seeing how almost perennially intractable it has become, would be tasking nonetheless. A number of targets have been missed in closing the education gap between the regions with substantial Federal funding (the UBE of the 1970s and the soon-to-close MDGs). So merely throwing more money at it will almost certainly be to little avail. The problem, at its root, is cultural. Perhaps, working with the emerging political and cultural leadership of the region (from Emir Lamido Sanusi to Governor ElRufai), a new social attitude to education could be fashioned in that region that guarantees new investments and helps to close that gap at secondary school level within the next decade.”

On November 15, at his first public outing after leaving office, addressing a mixed demographic of students and guests of Newgate College of Health Technology in its first annual lecture series in Minna, the former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, also called on the new Education Minister to take advantage of “a subsisting Supreme Court Judgment for the establishment of Education Bank…” The financial institution, he explained, is proposed to offer student educational loans to the underprivileged, as found in countries that have recognized the essence of a literate nation.

Ideas were never ever scarce, and they had been shared almost per minute by pundits; our frustrations had always been paucity of upright men to walk the talk. President Buhari is an easy example of our eventual recognition of honesty and growing sensitivity to the bamboozlement of “Big English-speaking” technocrats who came from big institutions with their big ideas, apologies to Sam Nda-Isaiah, and, instead of “reforming the unreformable” – again apology to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – only succeeded in outclassing their predecessors in earning medals for reforming their personal bank accounts. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter