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A message to the Muslims of Nigeria

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By Muhammad Ajah

“I personally dedicate myself to work untiringly for the progress and happiness of the new Nigeria. I swear in the name of Allah, that if I die today, I would leave nothing but legacy of struggle for the liberation, welfare and dignity of the masses of this country”, Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna.

This is a follow-up on my earlier message to my Nigerian Christian patriots. I call on Muslims of Nigeria to value and enhance the coexistence between them and their Christian counterpart-citizens. If believing in Jesus as a messenger of God implies believing in Christianity, then all believers in Islam are also Christians. Everyman knows the existence of a Supreme Being. But how to reach the Supreme Being is the problem. As for Muslims and Christians, the status of Jesus is basically the difference. No Muslim can claim true belief without believing in Jesus Christ who was one of the five “exalted” prophets of God. There is also the belief of Muslims in destiny which implies that the creation of Muslims and Christians to coexist in Nigeria by God is not a mistake. The amalgamation of Nigeria is not also a mistake because God allowed it.

I want to refer my Nigerian Muslim compatriots to some verses of the Holy Qur’an which can solve most, if not all, of the misunderstandings between them and their Christian counterparts in Nigeria. A Muslim must distinguish himself/herself wherever. Islam is a religion of peace, knowledge and social equity. It is a well-known fact that despite the accusations against Islam, it spread in the past because of the exemplary lives of the early Muslims. It was said in the past that when a Muslim in Nigeria swore by saying “Wal-Laahi”, that was the last truth. But now some Muslims do worse things: they lie, they cheat and they commit different kinds of crimes yet swear many times to cover up. It is even believed now that the swearing of some Muslims is the beginning of their lie. It is unbelievable that some Muslims take oath of office with the Holy Qur’an and act contrary to their allegiance, thus they disobey Allah’s commandment.

Muslims in Nigeria should be guided by the exemplary life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). That is the solid solution to their problems. “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and (who) remembers Allah often. (Q33:21). They should do what they say. They should not take the gravity of saying what they do not do with levity. They must stop calling people of other religions with filthy names like “arne”, “yamiri”; they must stop abusing others or even their gods. This is the teaching of Islam. Let us search the Holy Qur’an and hear Allahu (SWT) speaking to the believers: “O you who believe! If an evil-doer comes to you with important news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance [out of haste in belief and making decision], and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.” (Q49:6). “O ye who believe! Let not a group (of men) scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter (at whom they scoff) are better than they; nor let a group of women scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter are better than they. And do not taunt one another, nor revile one another by nicknames. It is an evil thing to gain notoriety for ungodliness after belief. Those who do not repent are indeed the wrong-doers.” (Q49:11).

“O ye who believe! Avoid being excessively suspicious, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would surely detest it. Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah is much prone to accept repentance, is Most Compassionate. (Q49:12). O ye mankind! We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Q49:13). And many Qur’anic verses that teach good neighbourliness, manners and leadership/followership qualities.

“On the authority of Jabir (Ra), the Prophet of Allah (SAW) said: “Fear injustice for verily a single injustice will multiply on the Day of Resurrection. And fear stinginess for stinginess destroyed the nations before you. It led them to spill their blood and violate their dignity.” Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with both of them) narrated that the Prophet of Allah (SAW) passed by two graves and said: “Verily, both of them (the inhabitants of the graves) are being punished but they are not being punished for a major sin. One of them was not protecting himself from his urine, and the other was spreading defamation”. And many other Prophetic solutions to worldly indices of spiritual madness of today!

It is true that the 19 years of uninterrupted democratic governance in Nigeria have seen Christians dominated the era. What were the demands by Muslims during those periods? Surely, they were peaceful and engaged government in a peaceful manner. I cannot remember any violent protests carried out by Muslims against the leadership under Christians. That is the teaching of Islam – to respect and obey any constituted authority. In fact, obedience to a constituted authority is the third right after obedience to Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (SAW). But unfortunately, the northern majority was, as ever, complacent that a few of their people were engaged by the Christian leaderships. They felt they were, and have been, in the comfort zone. The majority, as ever, did not bother about the socio-political status of their minority in the country. Out of the 19 years, Muslims have led the country for only five years. 14:5 equation! The same trend of the majority being complacent of their political status continues.

During the military eras, Muslims ruled longer. But what did Muslims achieve during the military regimes they predominated. Why are there still, till today, high level of poverty, illiteracy and villainy in the north? Why has the minority Muslims remained a forgotten species of citizens in Nigeria? The facts, being as they are, require a rethink by the Muslims of Nigeria. If the thoughts that Islam stands for equity, fairness and justice, Muslims should work harder to rescue the country. They must practically display the tenets of Islam for other religions to understand. Justice demands that any citizen who does not obey the constituted authority of Nigeria should be exposed and punished according to the laws of the land. The way the perpetrators of crimes in Nigeria are treated with kid-gloves can hardly subdue them. The Judiciary has to work harder in favour of Nigerians and the constitution.

There is no other country for real patriotic Nigerians than Nigeria. Disunity in Islam is never a solution to any problem. There is no justification for Muslims of Nigeria to be divided. Violence and inhumanity are not part of Islam. Preaching and standing against Buhari is not good. Muslims must support a just leader. Buhari is trying his best. The herdsmen imbroglio is not his making but a stage-managed plan to destabilize his administration. Patriotism must be upheld by Muslims who must live with their Christian compatriots as it was practically done by the noble Prophet. How should Muslims treat Christians? In a time when tension between Islam and Christianity is high, Muslims must stand out, remain firm in reminding Christian compatriots that a true Muslim cannot hurt a Christian in any way, neither by his hand, nor by his tongue. The letter Prophet Muhammad (SAW) wrote to all Christians requires no explanation; it is an order that must not be contradicted or disobeyed till the end of the world.

Let us look at the letter – the English translation from ‘Muslim History: 570 – 1950 C.E.’ by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq: “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far. We are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, or damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

This letter contains the oath given unto them, and he who disobeys that which is therein will be considered a disobeyer and a transgressor to that whereunto he is commanded. He will be regarded as one who has corrupted the oath of God, disbelieved His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse, whatever social status the person may be holding. On this note, there is the need for Muslims and Islamic organizations such as Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) and others, which have been peacefully engaging their Christian counterparts with wisdom and correspondences, to intensify efforts in building peace and unity amongst the citizens of Nigeria. The leaderships of these defenders of the Islamic faith in Nigeria, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Professor Ishaq Oloyede and Professor Ishaq Akintola should redefine the method of confronting the diehard Christian bigots rather than being reactionary all the times. They should put up issues for dialogue with the Christian leaders. I want a situation where CAN and JNI or NSCIA meet from time to time to discuss, rather than being on each other’s neck.

My same wish is to the Muslim leader in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III. There should be a steady contact with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by Rev. Samuel Ayokunle. All the religious misunderstandings that have created disaffection amongst the people of Nigeria can be amicably resolved through continuous meetings. The campaigns of calumny, the religious-induced killings, the herdsmen-farmers’ violent clashes and the quarrel over equitable distribution of federal appointments and infrastructure, amongst other national issues, can be resolved irrespective of the religion the President of Nigeria belongs to. There is an urgent need to push for ministry of inter-religious affairs or an inter-religious commission to be co-headed by a Muslim and a Christian.

But alas! I am yet to understand the postulation by the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) which noted that one vital issue for discussion at the amalgamation of Nigeria was the national ideology of the emerging country. The elders made reference to a quote credited to the Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello in The Sardauna of Sokoto Parrot Newspaper of October 12, 1960 where he said on 1st October, 1960 that: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.” If this quote is true, what could be its meaning? Or did he speak in parables and was misinterpreted by the press? This statement remains pregnant to many citizens. However, it should not be. So, for now, let all the qualified Muslim compatriots get their permanent voters cards and vote with their conscience in 2019. Nigeria will remain one, stronger and progressive. In sha Allah. Ameen.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail mobahawwah@yahoo.co.uk.

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A dozen reasons for President Buhari’s re-election

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Buhari, birthday President, with wife Aisha, in group photo with some governors and ministers

Buhari, birthday President, with wife Aisha, in group photo with some governors and ministers


By Garba Shehu

On Monday December 17, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking re-election for a second term of office, will be marking his 76th birthday and, in his own words, “still going strong.”

His age is no longer an issue in this campaign because by the will of God, not by any design, his main challenger is equally in the same age bracket. This election in February next year then comes down to what each candidate will offer.

There are many reasons why President Buhari deserves to be re-elected. I shall speak to a dozen of them here:

He is the best ever President we got so far and here are my reasons: In his character, President Buhari is a well-behaved man. He is globally recognised as an honest leader, working very hard to cure a wounded nation by righting past wrongs. He leads from the front, that is, leading by example. He is self-confident and has a calm demeanour. In carrying out his duties, he is never impulsive; he does his duty with self-assurance and confidence.

A typical example was his handling of the theft of 105 girls from a school boarding house by the Boko Haram terrorists in Dapchi, Yobe state. Amidst sobbing, lamentation and sorrow, he stood there before the principal, distraught parents and students to give assurances, in a sharp and unbroken voice that “your girls will be brought back” (and so were they, with the exception of Leah Sharibu who, God willing will equally return).

He likes to attack problems from their roots. Few of our leaders are endowed with as much patience. He doesn’t lose his calm and composure and knows when to fight and when not to fight. When there broke a huge uproar over the assertion before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Her Majesty the Queen of England by the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, that Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt”, President Buhari’s calm demeanour was on display. When an apology was offered, all he said was “I want no apologies. What would I do with apology? Return our stolen money.” With that, he grabbed, not only the moral high ground but the international news headlines as well.

When the President is confronted with a rankling criticism as had happened many times, he never loses his calm. He delivered a joke in response that blighted what would have been frightening episodes. One great asset he has, is his good sense of humour especially while tackling criticism or attack on his person. Many have derisively called him “Baba Go-slow”, in a clear misunderstanding of his calm demeanour, which is not a sign of inactivity but an underlying ability to think hard without losing one’s cool.

Unlike one or two of our past leaders, he has no aura of being a messiah or a saviour. President Buhari would never be seen in public breaking the code of dignity by, either slapping someone or seizing a horsewhip from a policeman to flog an audience member.

On the many occasions I have reflected on how hard my job is, I try to think of the President. One needs to put oneself into his shoes, carrying the responsibility of more than 200 million people on his shoulders, yet he is a man who maintains a steady, level headed approach towards solving problems; he remains calm and focused on his goals.

With Muhammadu Buhari as President, Nigeria is in very safe hands; he knows what is good for the country and its people.

When he won in 2015, one of his main pledges was fighting terrorism, criminality and banditry. He met the tragic situation of perpetual fighting between farmers and herders in the Middle-Belt, spreading southwards, up to the coastal states. He sought the help of state governors for a solution but they offered very little, if any. They were and are still divided over the issue. He pushed the police, the army and other security agencies very hard for the solution. Today, and notwithstanding the visible hands of politicians in it, he has brought the entire situation in the Middle Belt under control. He has ended the fighting which would have brought Nigeria to destruction.

A further reason for the President’s re-election is the success he has recorded fighting terrorism. If numbers count, bombings and killings have drastically been reduced under the Buhari administration.

Specifically in the North-East, the Nigerian Armed Forces have scaled up their act pushing the Boko Haram terrorists to the very fringes of the Lake Chad and with the on-going revitalisation of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, the ability of the terrorists to launch attacks and retreat into neighbouring territories is being addressed.

Arising from the successes achieved, the El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club has returned to their home base in Maiduguri. Emirs of Askira, Uba and other towns have returned to their palaces. Public secondary schools have resumed in 2016, two years after closure. All roads leading to and out of Maiduguri have been reopened.

Sambisa forest has been retaken; Arik Air and other airlines now operate scheduled flights to Maiduguri. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said 2017 marked the most peaceful Christmas. Of the many who were taken against their will by Boko Haram, about 20,000 terrorists have been released, including 106 Chibok girls, 105 of the Dapchi school girls, Police women and University lecturers.

Under the Buhari administration, three Air bus helicopters and another three Dauphin helicopters were provided for the Air Force; 18 new aircraft acquired and 13 previously unserviceable planes reactivated. In addition, 12 Super Tucano aircraft are also on order from the United States.

The administration has set up a Naval outpost in the Lake Chad and established the 8 Task Force Division in Monguno to further strengthen the 7 Division and the Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East.

Another reason for his re-election in his undeterred commitment to rid Nigeria of systemic corruption. Grand Corruption, by which leaders will ask the Central Bank to bring out money to be shared across the table has by now been abolished.

The new whistle-blowing policy has so far yielded N13.8 billion from tax evaders and N7.8b, USD378 million, £27,800 recovered from public officials.

The increased oversight of ministries, departments and agencies has been addressing the issue of poor remittance by the MDAs; the Presidential Initiative on continuous Audit has flushed out 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries with savings of N200 billion.

The administration has expanded the coverage of the Treasury Single Account, TSA which implementation now stands at 92 per cent. By this, the administration has a comprehensive overview of cash flows across the entire government. It has ensured the deployment of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) system to verify the basis of payments to beneficiaries and vendors and has created the Assets Tracking Managing Project to allocate, identity, assess and evaluate all the measurable and un-measurable assets on real time basis. A central Asset Register to keep a record of all government assets is now in one place, the Ministry of Finance.

In 2016, the President enlisted Nigeria into Open Government Partnership and a National Plan of Action (2017 -19) is already in place. This aims to deepen and mainstream transparency mechanisms and citizen’s engagement in the management of public resources.

In addition, the creation of Efficiency Unit to spearhead the efficient use of government resources and ensure reduction in recurrent expenditure has brought about savings of about N34 billion from travel and transport in 2016, and N10 billion in 2017.

In the oil and gas sectors, NNPC has been publishing its performance chart monthly and the administration made a saving of USD 1.7 billion by negotiating down accumulated cash call arrears in its joint ventures.

Without any controversy, President Buhari is deservedly christened as the champion of infrastructure. This administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading Nigeria’s transport, power, housing and health infrastructure.

Two major rail projects have been completed and commissioned: Abuja metro light rail and the Abuja-Kaduna rail. Lagos-Ibadan is due early next year. Lagos-Kano has been signed and Lagos-Calabar and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri are being negotiated. About 500 roads are being constructed and hundreds of kilometres of roads are being rehabilitated.The second Niger Bridge is under construction, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway is being constructed while Lagos-Ibadan as well as the East-West road, Lagos-Port Harcourt expressways are being expedited. Federal spending on works has grown from N18.1 billion in 2015 to N394 billion in 2018. The Abuja Airport runway was reconstructed within a six week period. Several water projects long abandoned have been completed and more than 70 ecological fund projects have been awarded and completed.

Power sector has witnessed a phenomenal growth within this period. Generation capacity has increased to 7,000MW; transmission capacity is now up 8,000MW and distribution 5,222MW from 2,690MW.

Under President Buhari, 30 per cent of the budget allocation is for capital spending, an unprecedented allocation of N2.7 trillion was made for infrastructure in 2016 and 2017 fiscal year.

Obviously, there is so much the nation can gain from the President’s long term thinking when it comes to the diversification of the economy. He has promoted agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing to the point that the economy is increasing its resilience even as it grows and consolidates.

His policies have brought down inflation by about half of what it used to be three years back; external reserves have grown and exports in 2017 were about 70 per cent more than what they were in 2016. Agriculture grew by 180 per cent last year; raw materials export by over 100 per cent and there was 27 per cent growth in manufactured goods. Six million new tax payers were added to the tax base. Ease of doing business report has moved Nigeria up by 14 places; tax revenue in 2018 is projected at N2.529 trillion, that is 42 per cent increase over the 2017 figure.

Under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, 16 moribund and under-performing blending plants have been revitalised, producing 12.7 million bags of NPK Fertilizer in 2017.

Landmark initiatives in the promotion of the economy include the stabilisation of the currency, the Naira making for a predictable exchange rate; the merger of the official and unofficial rates in the markets, helping in the stabilisation of the microeconomic environment; the achievement of agriculture and national food security and driving industrialisation through the Small and Medium Enterprises in line with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. This administration invented and is implementing the biggest ever social investment programme on the continent, feeding 10 million children in school and engaging 500,000 graduates, now going up to one million, in nation building.

As a compassionate leader and administrator, President Buhari approved N54 billion for the payment of 33 per cent of outstanding pensions arrears and claims, with some of these going back to 2010 when the minimum wage was increased to N18,000. Under this scheme, 3,542 pensioners in the liquidated Delta Steel Company have been placed on pension; 9,216 of NITEL pensioners are now pay rolled; Retired Biafran Police officers dismissed by the Federal Government in 1971 have been paid; those of the New Nigerian Newspapers and many others have received gratuities and are now placed on pension.

The compassionate side of the President has equally given so much to state governments in distress. This was to enable them meet salary and pensions obligations. Most, if not all have received Budget Support Facility, Paris Club refunds, Infrastructure Loans, Loan Restructuring Facilities with the Central Bank and other commercial banks, and a reduction in their monthly debt service burden.

In just under four years, President Buhari has shown clearly that he can steer Nigeria above politics, religion and ethnicity. He has delivered on all promises: security, economy, corruption and infrastructure. We have a strong leader with a mass appeal who is seeking a renewal of his mandate in accordance with the Constitution. He is one of the most influential leaders in today’s world, considering how he brought OPEC and non OPEC Oil producers to cut their losses and bring up fallen oil prices. He is leading the continent in the war against corruption. President Buhari is a gift, not only to Nigeria but to Africa and the world. He deserves a second term to consolidate on-going achievement.

HappyBirthdayPMB

Garba Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to President on Media & Publicity.

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What They Don’t See: A Reflection On PMB At 76

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Okanga Agila

In the final months of transition from military to civil rule between 1998 and 1999, I never felt the enthusiasm that gripped most people in the country. My lethargic disposition at that time was not due to the uncertainty of whether the process would work – it was largely seen as an attempt, an experiment, a trial at that time because no one was certain the military will retreat to their barracks and stay put for one year without overthrowing the elected government, so any thought of a decade without military rule was stretching it.

The seeming indifference on my path was because the one man I believe as capable of resetting Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was not taking part in the contest. I easily concluded that those that will emerge from the process between 1998 and 1999 would merely continue the maladministration of the military albeit without khaki uniform. Sixteen years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and I dare say my assumption was proven right.

At the other times that Buhari unsuccessfully ran for office I supported him with all I can, which is not much. It consists mainly of one on one engagements to persuade people to see the value of getting a man that is not of the established order into office. Whenever those I engage in discourse ask what he has to offer I am quick to mention that his role is to bring the disruption that is needed to restart Nigeria on a new foundation.

May 29, 2015 my desire was fulfilled. President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated and the changes desired kicked-in in earnest. While it has been a case of a half-empty and half-filled cup, perspective, since his inauguration, the results are nonetheless glaring for the discerning to see. For instance he was accused of not hitting the ground running when in reality it is about taking time to look before leaping. The same rabble that allege tardiness to act would have accused him of brashness in the same measure.

President Buhari did disrupted the system. He dislocated those that had made it their life mission to continually loot the treasury to the detriment of the larger population. This disruption of corruption from source has left those caught in the storm to continually lament about the hardship they are facing, which in reality is no hardship but people being jolted back to reality after decades of thriving on stolen easy money.

He disrupted the fixation on crude oil as the major revenue earner of our economy. We are not there yet but the path of growth that is possible for Nigeria is becoming clearer. This shift from dependency on oil revenue to a broader base economy is underpinned by massive investment in infrastructure across the country. In focusing on infrastructure, he displayed a trait that has been missing among Nigerian leaders – that capacity to complete what others started but never developed the will to finish. This alone has saved the country from wastages that come from abandoned projects.

Meanwhile, the capacity to focus and complete the task at hand extends to building systems like the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), enforcement of Bank Verification Number (BVN) for the operation of bank accounts and other steps that have contributed to the war against corruption championed by him.

Under his watch I have seen a realignment that may not be visible to Nigerians yet, but it shall become clearer in the course of time. There has been a kind of silent wealth redistribution under his watch. In the course of executing actual projects, the money that would have gone into the pockets of a few individuals is now not just providing infrastructure but also putting money in the pockets of workers engaged to execute the jobs.
In the same space of time that some people are lamenting about hardship in the land, there has been a shift that is seeing more family sized apartments and bungalows being built versus the time that only a few mansions were built by those that cornered national resources. So in the real sense honest people now have the chance to earn clean money and not be dependent on tainted money.

In terms of state intervention, social interventions like N-Power, Trade Moni, the Conditional Cash Transfer and other programmes have placed made money available to Nigerians under different terms. These are funds that in the past would have been diverted for personal use by those that were sworn to act in the nest interest of the country.

Irrespective what critics want the world to believe, President Buhari’s uprightness is unrivalled. Take for instance his directive to all the agencies with roles in the conduct of the General Elections to ensure that they conduct a free, fair and acceptable exercise. It takes someone that is truly desirous of progress for the country to issue such directive, totally in keeping with his credential as a democrat at heart. He is a leader I respect tremendously more so that all efforts to tarnish his image have failed because he stands above board at all times.

I recall these qualities of President Muhammadu Buhari on the occasion of his 76th birthday knowing that an additional year adds additional wisdom, patience and understanding to his person. My prayer is that God grants him good health so that by 2022 we will again extend our good wishes to him on his 80th as the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. I know for a certainty that the positive results of the foundation he is presently laying would be visible and appreciable for all to see and experience. Happy Birthday President Muhammadu Buhari. May God sustain your rule.

Okanga wrote from Agila, Benue State.

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SERAP, others and the abuse of activism

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By Ifure Ataifure

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT have been doing great work. Nigerians like them and they get positive press for their efforts, which they should do everything possible not to abuse.

SERAP has been at the forefront of utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, often dragging recalcitrant government ministries, departments and agencies before the courts to compel them to release information that they are not willing to make public. BudgIT has done much to simplify the otherwise cumbersome data around government, it makes them into easy to understand infographics that are easy to understand and trendy at the same time. EiE has done much to translate the works of the other two to street actions, often being the rallying point of protests against opaque tendencies in government.

To their credit, the history of entrenchment of good governance in Nigeria, when it finally happens, cannot be told without acknowledging and commending the roles played by this trio. They have built for themselves such reputation that the mere mention of their names is enough to get the cooperation of otherwise indifferent public office holders. It is a reputation that has gotten them seats at the table in various international engagements where matters of transparency and good governance is discussed. The leaderships of the three organizations have been recognized with awards for the work they are doing and in other instances their performance have guaranteed them prestigious grants and funding.

But there is something about reputation. It is like a balloon. One brush against a sharp object and it gets deflated, fit for no use except perhaps to be recycled and deployed to other uses. Reputation is like choice cut of meat that stays prime to the extent that it is preserved under the right environment like in a refrigerator. Power the fridge off long enough and the same choice cut goes bad, putrid and something that becomes toxic for consumption.

Like guarding the balloon against contact with sharp objects or taken caution to ensure the refrigerator stays powered, SERAP, EiE and BudgIT must take precautions what they allow themselves to be dragged into. There are issues around the personal lives of those driving the groups that are kept out of the job they do to the benefit of the country, so that could be immaterial here. There are relationships they maintain with certain politicians that would not be condoned in other climes because it would cast doubts on the work they do, dent on their capacity to be objective. But Nigerians are willing to look away from such blemishes to the extent that these organizations are not seen to be partisan.

The recent letter jointly signed by Bamisope Adeyanju of SERAP, Seun Akinyemi of EiE and Atiku Samuel of BudgIT, addressed to Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), requesting details of the Army’s budget could unravel the gentleman understanding that has allowed Nigerians ignore the limited impropriety on the part of those running the show at these places. The letter wants the COAS to “urgently provide information on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 budget implementation reports of the Nigerian Army, including the amounts released (financial implications) and expended in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 for the various operations the Army carried out.”

Addressed to any other agency of government it would have been a welcome development since it will beam the searchlight on one more sector of the country and certainly initiate some measure of accountability in such place. But what could be wrong with making such request of the Army?

First, the request smacks of ignorance. Too bad that this strain of ignorance is wilful because the petitioners knew even before they filed their request that it is one not likely to be granted on account of requested details directly impacting the security of the country. It also wilfully ignores Section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act that stated in sub-section (1) that “A public institution may deny an application for any information the disclosure of which may be injurious to the conduct of international Affair and the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Secondly, there is no record that any of the people that these organizations hobnob with on the international scene had successfully pulled off such requests in their own countries. If that was possible it would have been a cakewalk for Nigeria to track how some these countries directly and indirectly finance Boko Haram to destroy Nigeria. It would have been easy to track how these countries pay for the sophisticated weapons that Boko Haram fighters take to the battlefield and possibly even lead us to uncovering the receipts for haulage of those weapons to the terrorists, which would effectively allow the Nigerian Army to know how to cut off Boko Haram supplies. But the nations that give grants to SERAP, EiE and BudgIT are opaque in their defence spending to the extent that these things are untraceable. Yet, they these groups accepted the assignment to be the minions that will get information for these covertly hostile nations about how the Nigerian Army has been able to circumvent the arms purchase blockade that has slowed down the eradication of Boko Haram.

Thirdly, without prejudice to their rights to personal relationships, these groups should have sequestered themselves from filing the petition on the account of their personal relationship with some other interests that have been openly hostile to the Nigerian Army on a scale bothering on obsession. The CEO of one of the groups is a protégée of the presidential candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Oby Ezekwesili. She is one of the owners of Bring Back Our Girl (BBOG) group that transited from seeking the safe return of the abducted Chibok School Girls into a rent-a-crowd rabble that has deployed for any conceivable cause provided the protest is against the army. This particular CEO hangs around Oby anytime he is in Abuja and even shuns hotels to take up transit accommodation in her abode. So it this request continuation of a vendetta against the army on Oby’s behalf? Is it a cover to get information that she can use to bolster her lacklustre campaign? Is the information being sought for onward transmission to contacts that are known to Oby in the course of her international work?

Whatever the answers are, they definitely will not smell nice.
Furthermore, the staffers of these groups interact constantly with operatives of Amnesty International, Transparency International, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and host of other entities that had made it clear in the past that they have an axe to grind with Buratai’s leadership of the army. Should the Nigerian Army be naïve enough to provide the requested information, how much of it would be passed onto the aforementioned organizations? What guarantees are there that they would be professionally managed not to further pass into questionable hands? These posers should be considered against the backdrop of a UNICEF that only recently has its suspension from the northeast reversed. Part of allegation against it was that it was passing intelligence to Boko Haram terrorists. What country will then pass information that can expose the nitty-gritty of its military asset to groups that are connected with an organization that has been caught passing information to terrorists?
Nigerians have in the past praised the work of the trio in speaking truth to power and holding public office holders to account. But their request to acquire sensitive military information is a handshake taken past the elbow. With the little known about the shady side of these groups one can only conclude that they are engaged in flagrant abuse of their positions as activists and social crusaders. Persisting on the path they have recently chosen will shred their credibility and taint their reputation, which would only go to hurt the only community left to challenge those in power. But the call is theirs to make whether they desire to end up as villains or to remain as champions of accountability.
In conclusion, the Nigerian Army must ensure it is in no way intimidated by the stature of SERAP, EiE or BudgIT. Their clout is not enough to stop Boko Haram so the army cannot afford to compromise sensitive information to satisfy groups that no one knows for certain what they plan to do with the requested information.

Ataifure is a research fellow at the Centre for International and Stratgic Studies, Abuja.

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