Nigeria: Speedboat or Ocean Liner?

By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies

There is hardly a country, the Nigerian grade of good, bad and ugly . And what is ugly can be really ugly. The last government was sent packing not on account of what good it had done, but what it hadn’t. Add the good it hadn’t to the bad it did and the bad it inherited and you get to see why the people voted change. Buhari was flung at it, the new captain to steer the nation in new direction. But the more I watch Nigerians and the increasing impatience with the new captain , the more I’m tempted to think many may not know the difference between a speed boat and an ocean liner. By any account, Nigeria is far from being a speed boat ;

That is a nation, a huge ocean liner! Like any ocean liner, turning it around requires maneuvers far different from turning a speed boat . Give an average captain only few minutes he will flip a speed boat in any direction. …..not so an ocean liner….. particularly one with cruisers, the Nigerian brand . Turning the liner around as much depends on the skills of the captain as on the decisions of the passengers. Our particular liner is not only about a hundred million cruisers heavy, it is several times over laden ; the additional burden of riders’ baggages. When the ship is not sinking from the morbid weight of the millions, it is about keeling over from the burden of baggages brought on board .

And is there is any one baggage free of contrabands ; The poor captain is hard at it, steadfastly pressing the gas and turning the wheels, but like the hapless sailor ” I paddle here and I paddle there yet my canoe refuses to move” . Refuses to move cos the cargoes on board this boat…. Buhari’ s boat are a complex blend; nearly as complex as each of their million owners. And when the captain advises that each throws overboard any contrabands in his/her baggage so the sail gets faster and smoother, every one merely wishes compliance is for the other person , not them.

No one wishes to part with any contraband !! Tribalism, nepotism, greed, ostentation, laziness, dishonesty, electoral malpractices , antidemocratic practices, judicial corruption , misappropriation, land graft, examination frauds religious bigotry, contract inflations, forex fraud and wastes : each and more threatening to stall the ride. With an ocean liner this heavy in contrabands, why will anyone expect what is effectively a miracle from the captain ….any captain . Subtract these items, a feat that requires only the voluntary will power of each of the million cruisers and the surge in manouvrebility gets everyone quicker to desired destination. Each rider tied unrepentantly to his contrabands is but an albatross on the captain’s neck and a drag on the voyage.

Yet each unrepentant voyager wonders why Buhari’s boat is taking so long to right itself. A long while ago when Buhari was also the captain but in different dispensation he was determined to run the liner as one would a speed boat; He sought to forcefully part cruisers with their contrabands, razor sharp decrees his sunrise chisel, extrajudicial arrests, sunset. And when he sped the boat at a velocity approaching that of light, the giddiness and sea sickness to follow got a few cruisers to rise in anger chasing him off the cockpit …..his sin?!!! running too tight a ship.

Never mind that he got few valuable miles covered in as good a time, angling the boat in the right direction too. So what do people really want or should want ? …. a Buhari to make a speed boat of the liner ( I’m almost certain his gut choice) …. faster journey, greater manouvrebility but at the little price of sea sickness, a transient illness, so self limiting it is worth the risk for the gains ahead Or ……a Buhari cruising the boat as you would a floating palace or an elephant ride each cruiser left to his conscience; no whip cracking or drill seargents; Just a set of time consuming laws and lawyering even if meanwhile the national carrier drifts and keels.

Or a third choice still! …..each of the million cruisers on board electing to become more self-righting than self righteous ! Whoever is not confused about the best choice probably also doesn’t understand the complexity of the issues on board !!

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Ben Carson: A Tragic Anomaly

Ben Carson Paradox

By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies

If I’d thought the Ben Carson that popped up on the political stage was nothing but pitiful caricature of expectations, his recent decision to cast his lot with Donald Trump reduces him to a tragic anomaly. Ben Carson is lost in a fugue, wandering farther and farther away from saneness.When recently , some commentators particularly on the European side started doubting his academic credentials, ‎I personally had little difficulty agreeing. Nothing Carson had said or not said since his presidential bid is testimony to intelligence or high learning ‎…..rather eloquent pointers as much to a perplexing ignorance as  mental sluggishness, served in a mushy base of nauseant self centredness. Ben Carson either knows no reality or…. barking mad, ….he has reduced reality to reverse, increasingly locked inside a warped mental state, the product of overinflated ambition and  laser grade schizophrenism chisseling ferociously at his mind. ‎

When he drove a wedge between himself and obama at a white house prayer breakfast he had been invited to, using bufoonedly unproven claims to beat down on obama care, I thought he was not only a very dishonest man, he was also very dangerous : dangerous for a man, wicked for a black. A president Obama … out of a sense of kinship , regard for fellow ‎citizen and assumption of the unfetteredness of a trained mind, extended a brotherly magnanimity to Ben Carson: Carson came, mind furtively fettered to inordinate ambitionspat from deep inside his pathologic guts, poison into the face of his host, dishonest enough to characterise obamacare the worst thing since slavery right to the ear of his host: hoping to be rewarded with a Republican platform to launch lurid ambition‎.

If intellectualism ( and scientific refinement )is less about certificates more ‎about clarity of mind and quality of delivery  Ben Carson comes to the table empty.On the issue of homosexuality, he confused socialization with geneticisation, glibly mistaking what is acquired with what is inborn and conflatingpropaganda with scientific rigor And when his stupidity was outed, he lied, denying he ever said what the entire world heard him say ;In the end, both his stupidity and his dishonesty subsequently came to haunt him…… what kind of intellectualism reduces a man’s breadth to no farther than the tip of his nose.If scholarliness is about incisively prolific thinking, enriched by years of studied and accumulated facts, Ben Carsons shows up little more than arid, obfuscating views and opinions to a set of fermenting ludicrities  totally at odds with cerebrality.

A man who unashamedly would explain the Egyptian pyramids as grain stores for Egyptian Pharaohs around the time of Joseph ; whence such scholarship?If honesty is about dogged affection for and consistent subscription to truths,Carson is stranger to the art. How can he be otherwise?Here is a man who publicly lambasted planned parenthood for trafficking in body parts, condemning same as reprehensible, yet review of his research records revealed he shopped in those very “reprehensible ” places for those very body parts for his own work.If Christianity’s essence is about “being thy brother’s keeper ” ……’us for the other ‘‎, Carson’s ‘us versus them’ is a damnable antithesis, a devil’s advocacy .Yet like many Ben Carsons, many his type,he would constantly drip with biblical and prayer lines at every twist and turn.

The Ben Carsons are the worst enemies of the Christian faith,  irresolvable conundrums in the path of the doctrine.If historical awareness,  knowledge of selfand insight into symbolisms are pointers to the cultured mind, Carson remains in the woods, unevolved from blighted beginnings….no Muslim should be allowed in the white house,…… some Syrian refugees are like rabid dogsOnly a short long period ago, it could have been ….no black man should be allowed in the white houseOr…. no black man at John Hopkins. Governor Wallace was an influence only a short while past;”….segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever…”. was his clarion call to stop the Martin Luther kings.

Such is the silliness and vacuity of this Ben Carson, he couldn’t see the parallelism or indignant equivalences between words ( perhaps convictions) : his and Wallace’s.Nor would he be reminded of the tremendous sacrifices endured by his slave predecessors  canalising a path for his generation. The day obama was inaugurated, he met the congressman Louise, fellow fighters with MLK in the civil rights tussle, obama slipped a note into the latter’s hand as they walked past each other” because of you “Obama had scripted on that note, too ready to link his victory to their sweat.Ben claims he has repaired brains but seems his is left as cratered as can be.

To go cast your lot with a man like Trump, defending your decision with the argument  there are ” two Donald Trumps ‎” and on the basis of one Trump  you choose to ignore the other Trump , content to place faith in one, recklessly risking acceptance of the other, you are  by that very argument diagnosing no less a content of schizophrenia in the bipolar Donald as in you ….the admirer. And this, the reason I think Ben Carson  is not just a dangerous man, he is as much  a tragic anomaly. So much said.

Basil Jide Fadipe
Justin Fadipe Medical Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies.

Information Manifesto News

Fourth Republic, Indigenes and Far-Right Politics

“Everyone is a foreigner somewhere”.

The controversial comments of the traditional ruler of Eko, Oba Rilwan Akiolu has generated a lot of discussion among Nigerians; at home and in the Diaspora; online and offline.
The Oba made the comments while meeting with Ndigbo representatives at his palace and threatened his guests with an encounter with the lagoon should they fail to heed his demand to support the APC candidate – Akinwumi Ambode. Those that understand the nature of rulership in Yorubaland will attest to the fact that an Oba hardly ever speaks contrary to the will of his council. The council itself is often a good reflection of the feelings and aspirations of the people at large. So, while it may have been politically expedient to discountenance the Oba’s statement at the point of a closely contested election, politicians will do well to take note. It comes as no surprise that, post-election, the governor-elect has prioritised a quick visit to the palace. Time cannot be lost in securing relationships as important as this.

However, we need to examine Oba Akiolu’s comments against the hope of a New Nigeria and the rights of indigenes in that new dispensation. For starters, what rights do communities have in a new Nigeria? Our laws do not distinguish between the person whose ancestry belongs in a place, and the chap who arrived yesterday as an employee or businessman. If for example, a small conservative village of 200 is overrun by an influx of city dwellers, whose values should prevail? Those of the villagers or their guests? Few question the economic value that non-indegines add to any population. Settlers tend to work harder, invest more, and provide services at a lower cost than indigenes. However, there is a social cost. So, there must be a melding of values and cultural accommodation on both sides, so that the economic benefits are not outweighed by the social costs.

The synthesis of a New Nigeria must take cognisance of these issues and begin now to articulate a model that drives synergy from diversity without stoking ethnic tensions. Such balance cannot be a simple case of majority, or right of law; because moral right is more powerful than legality and the use of force. Furthermore, the controversy in Lagos today may bear resonance in other communities across the nation and the country needs a solution that can be applied in every context.

One approach is to ask if there are inalienable privileges that should accrue to indigenes of a place. One could also examine if certain minimal responsibilities should be expected of settlers. The 1999 constitution makes no differentiation between indigenes and settlers, and while the intention is good, it is an omission that has led to many unresolved issues all over the country. The most critical and widespread being the conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and agrarian communities in their migratory path. In the middle belt there are problems between Hausa settlers and the native peoples, just as there are lines of tension between some southern business people and their hosts in the north central.

Our constitution may be silent on this issue, but African ethics and morality is not. A guest, as opposed to an invader, is expected to be deferential to their hosts. Over time, a guest who remains in a place, evolves to become a settler. This evolution must involve some socialisation/indoctrination of the guest with express aim of integration into the community. It is a two-way street though. The guest must desire it, and the hosts must be willing to provide the support or means. Both parties will change in the process. The hosts will have gained some empathy for their guest and built allowance for the guest’s values into their world view. The guest will need to do same, perhaps more so.

Moving on from the 2015 elections and the evidence of a polarisation of Nigerians, one must be careful not to take the results as a true reflection of the will of the people. The country is not as divided as the polls may suggest; but there are unresolved issues around tribe and religion. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the metropolis where large numbers of Nigerians from varying tribes and religions congregate. Given an urban population accounting for over 30% of the total, balancing the rights and responsibilities of indigenes and settlers is vital. It may be useful to start by stating what is not a solution.

The leadership must not attempt to legislate accommodation, or to use the force of law and the instruments of coercion to impose the rights of one side over the other. Enforcing hospitality only widens the divide between hosts and settlers, accentuating differences, and entrenching hostility to those seen as “coming here to cause trouble”. Where there are significant numbers involved, this can be easily exploited by the politically savvy for electoral gain. History suggests that it is much easier to address extant issues that fuel alienation than to contain ethnophobia once it has blossomed. It is not possible to legislate against the emergence of far-right politics.

In the post Jonathan/PDP era, things are likely to get difficult before they get better. The perfidy of the past decades will take some time to recover. As the immediate resource pool shrinks though, the circle of identity of many will contract. There will be the temptation for politics and power gamers to exploit this myopia of consciousness for personal gain. Care must be taken to ensure that we find balance in our relationships, especially in our metropolises to ensure that the diversity which is our strength does not become a weakness.

Before beginning to proffer solutions, it is worthwhile to play some possible scenario to set the scene.
(1) Abians discover large deposits of oil in their State. With prudent use of the additional revenue, the State really transforms the economy and wellbeing of its citizens. Within a few years, Abians no longer do menial or blue-collar jobs. Spotting the gap in supply, many Hausas migrate to Abia and begin to fill the jobs and to provide services that indigenes would not deign to touch. Such is the abundance of opportunity and the number of migrants that within a decade the new comers now constitute a majority. What will happen if a block vote by the settlers demands Sharia law as a condition to support candidates for governor?

(2) A radical governor revolutionises rulership in Sokoto State by making education mandatory till secondary level, and also financing it. The transformation in lives results in a huge explosion in demand for services. Over a few years, powerful interests from Yoruba land respond by moving offices and employees in large numbers. These families relocate and settle all over the state. On account of their economic significance and dispersal across the State, the settlers insist that a form of Yoruba customary law should operate side-by-side with Sharia. How are the indigenes likely to respond?

In each case there are legitimate demands, but are they appropriate? Would the first guests have been welcomed if they made such a request on arrival? Now, it is easy for the elite to dismiss these issues and obfuscate reality with sophisticated arguments and logic. However, they are often far removed, economically and socially from the trouble spots. The privileged do not have to compete with non-indigenes for survival opportunities. Neither do they live in localities where residents are directly impacted by the dress-code, social conduct, and religious practise of their neighbours. So to them, the problem is selfishness, in-hospitality, intolerance, or some other hidden agenda.

We should learn from the Europeans and the problems they have had with integration of migrants. The issues are real and cannot be wished away. What we see in some parts of Europe is a failure of the political elite to balance the economic benefits of migration with the social costs.
The United Kingdom: England and the Eastern Europeans
Federal Republic of Germany: The Turks in Germaney
The French Republic: French identity and North Africans

Some of these “foreigners” were already resident in their adopted communities before Nigeria became independent! Leadership failure, though, has opened up an opportunity for far-right nationalist politicians to gain political relevance. These fringe parties offer themselves as vents for the concerns of threatened groups. In return, they gain bloc votes that put them in the limelight and the corridors of power. From there, they project a fulsome agenda on an unsuspecting but hitherto apathetic majority.

Here are some recommendations for change:

As a nation, we need to maintain engagement between the elite, middle classes, and the lowest levels of society/economy at all times. Avenues must be created for the articulation of the feelings and concerns of the poor and the disadvantaged. This should be a regular exercise, so that dissatisfaction does not accumulate, or find vent in violence. The poor are less mobile, geographically, so issues need attention in-situ and on time. Townhall meetings with local government chairmen, State/federal officials, legislators, and governors should be part of the calendar for every locality.

Where there is more than enough, few bother with the identity of the person next in line. However, when the dearth arrives, suddenly, colour, religion, ethnicity and other consideration suddenly gain relevance. It is vital that programmes are targeted to conflict areas to provide opportunities that will engage as many idle hands as possible. This needs to be a deliberate action. The target needs to be persons between the ages of 15-35, as they are more likely to be involved in violent disputing.

The CIA has identified that (ignorance + poverty = violence). This should be revised as; ((ignorance + poverty) * political-action = violence). There is usually a spark that ignites a fissile situation: the activist, terrorist, or other. In all cases, it is sufficient to eliminate ignorance, and the threat is largely eliminated. Boko Haram and other terrorists thrive on the uneducated. As a nation, we must cut off this supply line, as a matter of urgency and national security. Education should be a combination of formal instruction and targeted information (propaganda).

The introduction of the unity schools and the NYSC by the Gowon government is laudable. However, it is time to review these initiatives in the light of our present circumstances. The unity schools are too few to have an appreciable impact, but their ethos can be extended to many other schools. Such schools should be supported by goal-linked funding. Similarly, the NYSC should no longer be a source of subsidised labour for the private sector or the public service. Neither should it be limited to graduates of polytechnics and universities. Instead, service should be diverted to key national need areas, and all Nigerians who have attained the age of 16 and have ceased schooling should be involved. NYSC should be divided into an initial 6-months military training for all. This should be followed by either of 6-month military, 12-month police/DSS, or 15-month community service.

There are some cases where the overlap will forever be contentious. There is no point forcing irreconcilables into union. In cases like Modakeke-Ife and other tribal rivalries, or the never ending conflict between nomadic herdsmen and agrarian communities, the government must help facilitate physical separation. For warring communities within the same geographical space, boundaries need to be established and enforced, in dialogue with affected parties and State authorities. For nomadic herdsmen, clearly mapped out grazing paths must be established by the federal government, across the country. This should be backed by law, just like the demarcation of games reserves. Herdsmen must be given preferential access along the migratory path, and affected landowners and communities should be compensated for their loss.

A hundred pages will not suffice to identify the problems, much less to proffer all the solutions in advance. Instead there should be a programme of continuous risk assessment and mitigation planning. Ongoing work should be commenced on the constitution to recognise the ethnic composition of Nigeria and our embedded nationalities. Provisions need to be introduced to recognise and validate these ethnic, cultural, and religious identities. No group should feel lost, marginalised or insignificant in a New Nigeria. The executive, and legislative arms of government should be organised for empathy to these considerations. The judiciary should strengthen and extend customary law at the State level, so that all groups have some representation and expression in the laws of the land. For all other considerations, our commitment to continuous examination and change will help our peaceful coexistence and prosperity.

We are entering a new phase in our nation’s history and being joined at the hip, we need to ensure that it works well for us all. We have lived in the shadow of north-south divide, and ethnic and religious tension for too long. It is time we ceased reaction and take the initiative to make Nigeria better for one and all. The argument here is that there is room for all of us in this New Nigeria. All we need to do is rearrange the chairs!

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Buhari at Chatham House Feb 2015

Buhari’s Speech at Chatham House – February 26 2015

Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition

Permit me to start by thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk about this important topic at this crucial time. When speaking about Nigeria overseas, I normally prefer to be my country’s public relations and marketing officer, extolling her virtues and hoping to attract investments and tourists. But as we all know, Nigeria is now battling with many challenges, and if I refer to them, I do so only to impress on our friends in the United Kingdom that we are quite aware of our shortcomings and are doing our best to address them.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating a lot of interests within and outside the country. This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, is at a defining moment, a moment that has great implications beyond the democratic project and beyond the borders of my dear country.

So let me say upfront that the global interest in Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all and indeed should be commended; for this is an election that has serious import for the world. I urge the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment. Given increasing global linkages, it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates; that they should be free and fair; that their outcomes should be respected by all parties; and that any form of extension, under whichever guise, is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.

As you all know, I had been a military head of state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.

In the last two decades, democracy has grown strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are now so commonplace. As at the time I was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, only four African countries held regular multi-party elections. But the number of electoral democracies in Africa, according to Freedom House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in 1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006. According to the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted multi-party elections between 1990 and 2002.

The newspaper also reported that between 2000 and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries (Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully handed over power to victorious opposition parties. In addition, the proportion of African countries categorized as not free by Freedom House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003. Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current global wave of democratisation.

But the growth of democracy on the continent has been uneven. According to Freedom House, the number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not free’ assuming for the sake of argument that we accept their definition of “free” increased from 35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have been some reversals at different times in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo. We can choose to look at the glass of democracy in Africa as either half full or half empty.

While you can’t have representative democracy without elections, it is equally important to look at the quality of the elections and to remember that mere elections do not democracy make. It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation – that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.

With this important destination in mind, it is clear that though many African countries now hold regular elections, very few of them have consolidated the practice of democracy. It is important to also state at this point that just as with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not enough to hold a series of elections or even to peacefully alternate power among parties.

It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.

Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.

The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria.

But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focussed on this year’s elections, chief of which is that the elections are holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure.

Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency. I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country.

You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many other peacekeeping operations in several parts of the world. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue.

Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.

On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has brought our economic and social stress into full relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of 7% for about a decade.

But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity. A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?

The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery.

Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom. There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult population and almost 60% of our youth unemployed. We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world.

With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and UNDP’s Human Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.

In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.

On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.

But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.

In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.

As a progressive party, we must reform our political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity and productivity of the Nigerian people thus freeing them from the curse of poverty. We will run a private sector-led economy but maintain an active role for government through strong regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions and incentives to diversify the base of our economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve the productive capacities of our people and create jobs for our teeming youths.

In short, we will run a functional economy driven by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by itself, but as a tool to create a society that works for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe the people will choose wisely.

In sum, I think that given its strategic importance, Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we need to get this critical election right by ensuring that they go ahead, and depriving those who want to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling democracy. That way, we will all see democracy and democratic consolidation as tools for solving pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as ends in themselves.

Permit me to close this discussion on a personal note. I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch.

I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.

You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a question I ask myself all the time too. And here is my humble answer: because the work of making Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still believe that change is possible, this time through the ballot, and most importantly, because I still have the capacity and the passion to dream and work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will be proud of.

I thank you for listening.

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An Election Strategy for Nigeria 2015

It is election time once again in Nigeria and political parties have begun to take positions for the contest ahead. Characteristically, some are putting more thought and effort into the conduct of the day of election, than building the relationships that should be in place before election day. This has been the modus of the power play in Nigerian politics of the last two decades. Political parties jostle, not for the hearts of the people but for power, because with power, people can be cowed and subdued.

But things have changed, so much so that even the PDP has suddenly awakened to the importance of winning over an electorate that it has ignored for so long. The average voter is a lot more savvy than he/she used to be. In the Ekiti and Osun elections, voters demonstrated a new resolve and independence of mind, by coming out to vote across party lines for their choice of governor. It is pertinent to also mention the INEC under its new leadership. We may not be in Shangri-La yet, but the electoral umpire has certainly covered some ground since the days of Maurice Iwu, a controversial INEC boss who appeared to be overtly sympathetic to the interests of the PDP. These days, the INEC under Jega has improved the processes and conduct of elections, although they still fall short on logistics and supervision.

So, as election day looms, candidates and parties must start to unfold their plans for securing as many votes as possible on election day. Some parties will focus on the usual logistics of thuggery, ballot box stuffing/snatching, and collusion with INEC officials, although that approach is likely to be a lot less successful this time around, for the reasons mentioned above. A more pragmatic approach would be to deploy a strategy that will develop emotive connections and some relationship with the voters before the election day. This strategy must sustain the relationships to the point at which a voter places their ballot in the ballot box, and until the mandate is confirmed by INEC or other means.

The first thing of course is that the opposition candidate and his/her party should set up an electioneering cabinet or strategy team that will take responsibility for devising, documenting, communicating and supervising the strategy. The strategy team should be formed from party executives, party activists, professionals within the party, and some external consultants. This will provide a mix of intellect, experience, political savvy and street knowledge. Each member of the strategy team must have a vested interest in the success of the party at the elections at hand, every one on the team must have something significant to gain, pecuniary or otherwise, if the candidate/party win. The strategy team must produce a three phased blueprint that covers the pre-election, election-day, and post-election time periods.

Pre-election Strategy:

Before the election, focus should be on analysis, building awareness, mobilisation, fund-raising, and preparation. The analysis will try to build a picture of the ground in which the election will be contested and understand the people that will be key to victory. Mobilisation is all about voters and donors, and how they can be linked in to a coherent plan of action for electioneering; mobilisation is also useful for verifying some of the findings of analysis and for giving feedback. Awareness is simply projecting the candidate into as many media as possible without being forward or overbearing. Fund-raising builds a matrix between sources of donation, the targets for expenditure, and the contacts or enabling parties that can connect the donations to the candidate/party. The preparation plan is for actions that build on the outcomes from analysis, awareness, mobilisation and fund-raising. As can be expected, most candidates/parties will already have their strategy teams in place and will be working through their pre-election strategy by now. All aspects of the pre-election strategy must have been executed and wound up by the end of the last day before elections, at which time the election day strategy kicks in.

There is no point complaining about electoral shenanigans after one has lost, because we all know that by default, the incumbent will rig, or at least make a good attempt at rigging. For the opposition candidate therefore, wisdom is to deploy such a strategy as to make the act(s) of rigging, impossible, difficult, or undeniable. The order of priority is significant. Making it impossible to rig is the best that can be hoped for, working to make rigging difficult is preferable and more within grasp, but where all else fails, political parties should at least ensure that the evidence of rigging is secured and therefore undeniable. The election day plan must be all about getting the voters out and getting the ballot paper into the ballot box, after it has been properly marked for the candidate/party, and afterwards to ensure that the votes are correctly counted and reported.

Election day Strategy:

On election day, the strategy team will be primarily concerned with maintaining real-time communication with street-activists, and party executives, as well as the security services. All things may not work out as planned, so there could be some last minute changes, re-organisation and updates to the field. Preparation on the day is important, but simple enough; while we all hope for violence-free elections, we cannot guarantee it; let every team pray, revise the plans for the day, motivate and encourage each other, and move out with their best foot forward. The main focus areas will be the management of voting and the forensics. In Nigeria today, the forensics are very important; win or lose, parties will need independent evidence to satisfy themselves of the true outcome of an election. Also important is security, and this relates to the voters, the vote, the evidence and the result. Security will involve coordination and communication between the strategy team, the security services, street activists and voters. The psychology for victory needs to be sustained all day long, but it relies on good security. The day is not over until each group of voters has ensured that the results at their polling booth has been collated and declared, at which time, street activists should circulate the result, including evidence of its declaration, to their strategy team and other partners.

The final part of the blueprint is the post-election strategy, which begins as soon as the first results start to trickle in. Contrary to the position of INEC, every party should maintain records of results as/when they are announced. This is part of the psychology of victory that the party will need to project across the nation, and which could influence the outcomes in other locations. This should not be seen as a threat to INEC, but rather a complimentary service and an exercise of the inalienable right to freedom of speech.

Post-election Strategy:

Immediately after the conclusion of voting, the opposition candidate or party must once again take the moral and psychological high-ground by publishing as much information as possible about the outcome/result and appeal to all constituents to remain law abiding. Evidence of the result should be disseminated to contacts outside the context of the election so as to establish the credibility of the process and lay advance claim to the mandate. It is also astute to immediately begin to take actions that seek to unite all the constituents behind the party/candidate and the common interests and well-being of the community.

The future of our country is truly in the balances and a wrong turn at this juncture would have devastating consequences. The conduct of the elections itself is an issue that can divide and unite; INEC and the two major parties must be seen to have conducted themselves with respect for the laws of the nation and empathy for the people whose lives will be impacted by the outcome of the election. The prayer of most Nigerians is that the February 2015 elections will be free and fair and will produce credible results, without attendant violence.
Parties help these prayers only by adopting a strategy for electioneering rather than one of thuggery and subversion. We pray that the best candidates for each office wins, and that the votes and will of Nigerians prevail.
May God bless Nigeria; amen.

Jimoh Oyewole
Nigeria Abroad (UK)
+44 793 920 3120


Believing for Change in Nigeria this 2015

Are you believing for a New Nigeria or fantasizing?
It is an important distinction to make at this time, and the difference is profound. Allow me to explain. If you belong in one of the groups below, you are believing:

Have the intention to get a PVC and use it
Already have a PVC and intend to use it
Cannot obtain a PVC but encouraging others to do so
A member of a political party (even PDP is better than nothing)
Is investing time/effort/money in the electioneering process
Intends to invest time/effort/money in the electioneering process
Has criteria on which vote is to be given to candidate/party
Exercises a voice on matters of governance in Nigeria today

There may be exceptions, but by and large, if you do not fall into any one of these groups, my brother/sister, you are in a dream. Upon awakening, you will find out that others would have determined the kind of Nigeria that you get, and presently the scale is heavily tilted towards Goodluck Jonathan + Abubakar Shekau.

Be rest assured that unless large numbers of Nigerians go out to the polling booths to register their dissatisfaction with this government, those two fellows will still be ruling Nigeria by the end of next year. How much each one would get/hold is another matter.

So, I am urging you today. Get involved in the future of Nigeria; which will largely be determined by the politics of Nigeria. Don’t take a back seat like the generation of our parents; look where they ended up, being ruled by the dregs of their time. Politics is as dirty as the majority of citizens allow it to be. If the majority of us throw our pebbles into this muddy stream, it will not be long now before the waters will begin to clear.

Remember; if you are not part of the solution, you must be part of the problem.
Act now to save Nigeria in 2015.
May God have mercy on our souls and bless our nation.


Nigeria Think!


Ever since the controversial launch of Hubert Ogunde’s production, “Yoruba Ronu”, which was banned in the western region at the time (1964), Yorubas have continually engaged or yearned for reassessment and realignment, and so, “Yoruba Ronu” has become variously, an exhortation or an indictment of self; a voice that comes and goes, but cannot be completely put down, or comfortably ignored.  Reading through a rather lengthy 2012 report of the Bill Gates foundation though, I feel compelled to say that the challenge is apt for Nigeria as well.

The report states that “There are now just three countries that have never eliminated polio: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan“.  Many years ago in Unilag, the first semester results came out and in one of my courses, I think it was African Government and Politics, I scored 8 out of a possible 20 marks.  Now for someone who was aiming for a 2:1, that was not good, especially as we had almighty June in those days, in which I would need to score about 60 out of 80 to keep on course, and that, in the faculty of social sciences, was a rarity.  Never mind who else scored less than 10/20, discount the fact that I had somehow overslept and only made it to the exam hall for less than half the alloted time; what was clear to me was that I was in bad company.  For my aspirations, I had no business being in the cohort of the scored-less-than-50%.  I knew I had to change, and work hard to somehow make up the deficit, even against all odds.  I thank God, that I did succeed in making up the lost ground.


Today, our country finds itself in very bad company.  We are counted amongst the last three countries that cannot, or have not, overcome a simple disease, and in spite of considerable assistance from outsiders.  We find ourselves numbered with Pakistan, a country under the grip of powerful religious extremists, and at constant war-by-proxy; in the tribal areas, in Afghanistan, and in Kashmir.  Nigeria is numbered with Afghanistan, a quasi-nation; a loose assembly of tribal, ethnic, religious and political affiliates, dispersed over a thousand hills in the deserts of mid-Asia.  How indeed are the mighty fallen; how are the weapons of our nationality and identity so easily and shamelessly stripped off of our being?


Some years ago, I warned of a death of our nation; not so much in its disintegration as in the loss of her identity and soul, so much so, that those who recognise the country would say to themselves: “Is this that Nigeria? The one that we heard so much of, whose renown straddled the African continent like a colossus; the one whose peoples strutted the earth like peacocks!”.  The same would shake their heads, and the wise would make a mark of it, that where they have been, others should not follow.  Are those days not now upon us?  We rank amongst the weakest and the worst on most global development indices, and the most frightening part is that the leadership of the country believes that we are making progress even as all standards are sliding.


Nigeria think!  Nigerians think!  Let us all think now, let us start the process of reassessment and realignment, let us pull out our fingers from our pockets and our bossoms and put it to the plough.  For the generation of our parents, time is past, many or most of them will die without seeing that New Nigeria; for our generation, time flies.  We need to act now if we are to avoid the pain of ending our lives still pondering “The problem that is Nigeria”.  As 2015 approaches, I urge one and all to respond to that exhortation first put out by John F. Kennedy, let us not think of what Nigeria can do for us today, but let us think of what we together can do for Nigeria.  The reality is that there is no government in Nigeria today, what we have is a cabal of robbers and violent extortionists who have hijacked the instruments of government, but that does not excuse us from responsibility.  Our falure to act and to participate in government opened up a vacum that they have stepped into; it is time to make amends and set a course for an acceptable future.


Let each person set time apart to think of what they can do, together with other like-minded citizens, to reclaim Nigeria for her people.  No effort is too great, no contribution/input is too small, and now is a great time to start repairing Nigeria and making her great again.

God bless Nigeria; amen.