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How to understand Facebook posts by Nigerians in an election year

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By Andrew Agbese

Everything revolves around government in Nigeria, so most people are careful not to say things that might hurt or be interpreted as offensive to their friends, relations or associates who are in government.
This explains why those in government usually play God; it is because people worship them and nobody dares tell them the truth.
And this is the season that those in government would be looking out for their enemies just to reduce the number of hangers-on.
An enemy in this case can be anybody, not minding the long years of friendship or the goodwill that existed. A person can be so termed who inserts a punctuation mark to his comment that looks like the symbol of an opposition party when the phone is held upside down.
Sycophants and favour seekers are usually the first to call the person in government to say, ‘ have you seen the punctuation mark your friend used in his last paragraph? Go to Facebook and turn your phone upside down and you will get the message.”
As he is dropping that call, another one would come in and before you can say, Ogbeche! dozens of other favour seekers would have also called to express their loyalty in like manner.
From that moment, you are black listed and the person in government no longer picks your calls.
So people who have reasons to relate with people in government become passive observers, no matter how they feel about an issue.
They’re hurt inside, they want to express their feelings about an issue, but they end up only whispering such to their wives around 3 am with the strict warning that she must tell any other person.
When they go out and they issue comes up, they smile and uttter things like hmmm, hmmm, without saying anything.
They would however call the few that had the courage to post anything considered critical of the government to say, “you’ve just spoken my mind, you’re doing a great job, but you know I can’t say anything now because my wife works in the kitchen of the office of the local government chairman!”
There are some of them who by nature cannot keep quite when they feel strong about an issue.
These are the ones that made me want to compile a lexicon of abstract words and phrases Nigerians use on Facebook.
These are the one that come on FB and post things like ‘ God is watching’ without relating it to any issue and retire into their shells to watch people’s reactions.
When they do that, you can be sure they are not referring to the sermon by the preacher, they are making a political statement but are being careful so that when they meet the nephew to the local government chairman at the market place, they can walk up to him and say ‘we are together’ and by that hailing, get some favours or few naira notes from the young lad.
Their defense when you confront them is the usual line ‘Everybody cannot be as fearless as Faruk Kperogi.’
So when you see posts like, Truth shall prevail’ or ‘the die is cast’ or even just, ‘Nemesis’ do not panic, I have decoded the meaning and I’ve made a few available here.
When you see a Facebook post that says ‘At last!’ and the post came on or few days after June 12, 2018, from somebody who has something to do with Plateau State, do not be deceived, the person is not talking about the honour done to Abiola. If it was Abiola he was referring to, he would have added the name because ‘nothing spoil.’
The person is definitely talking about the Dariye prison sentence and he is happy about it but is not sure if the former governor’s associates who are in government would like it, so he kills two birds with a stone by saying his mind without hurting anybody and retaining the friendship of those in government.
If you see a post saying, “They will not say anything now’ from a Benue or Zamfara indigene, know ye brethren, that the person is not referring to his in-laws who have promised to give him land in their village to build a kiosk, he is referring to the killings by suspected herdsmen, but does not want the minister for defense to see it so that his son’s admission to the military school will not be jeopardized.
If on the other hand you see something like “They’ve not changed” coming from Rivers State, know ye brethren that the person is referring to the capture of the 23 local governments in the state by the PDP in the just concluded local government elections but does not want Governor Wike to interpret it as confrontational and terminate the contract to supply insecticide to the state-owned primary school, so he decides to use the code.
I will from time to time return to educate us on more politically correct words and phrases used by my compatriots on Facebook, just stay tuned.

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Opinion

Opprobrious NASS And The 2019 Budget

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By Gabriel Ikese

The ideal of popular election of Legislators is generally regarded as admirable. Yet the selection process does not always permit the widest possible choices. And that has been our albatross here in Nigeria. The legislature is expected to reflect the electorate’s preferences, but that is in the Whiteman countries, not in our clime. In the 8th session of the National Assembly, it is rarely the case. If you followed the antecedents of our lawmakers and the trajectory of the NASS, you will obviously smell the dead rat.

In saner democracies around the globe, the legislature is an institution of reputable model for discipline and patriotism. It is the sanctimonious fulcrum of any working democracy as showcased in the America system. Legislators were embodiment of untainted character with high level of integrity, uprightness and moral decency. But that is clearly not our portion as the difference is miles apart.

Perhaps for the enormity of our sins against God the Father, He decided to inflict us with such pains, not with epidemic disease as alluded to by Governor Yari of Zamfara State, but allowing this 8th class of Lawmakers to represent us. The 8th NASS appears to be completely deficient of any sterling qualities and became the cynosure of chronic legislative rascality, demonic impunity and financial impudence.

Another budget session is here again, and the NASS has begun to manifest the usual symptoms of chronic insensitivity and unpardonable cluelessness. They are poised to throw up another frivolous mischief to undermine the 2019 budget process even before it is laid on the floor of the combine congress. The recurring acrimonious uproar that accompanied the passing of our budgets over the past 3 years is regrettably appalling.

Members of the House of Representatives at plenary has threatened to boycott the anticipated presentation of 2019 budget estimate by President Muhammadu Buhari over an alleged comment by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma. The dignity of our lawmakers has greatly eroded. Their insensitivity to the plight of citizens is obviously very legendary.

Members could not choose a better time to demonstrate their folly, but when government is trying to consolidate on the progress at sustaining the economic growth with a sound budget proposal for 2019. They decided to lash on a frivolous and unsubstantiated allegation to sabotage the smooth passing of the 2019 Budget proposal. This irritating arrogance is the height of insensibility without even batting an eye lid to the reality of the plight of Nigerians that are dependent on the budget for sustenance and development.

The House dissipated so much energies and time discussing irrelevant and baseless allegation by a Minister accusing them of the delay in the presentation of the 2019 Budget. It is a surprise that the House would threaten to frustrate the budget process on a mere allegation that is largely irrelevant, and has not compromised the content of the 2019 budget.

Members were so serious that they vigorously amplified a derogatory word that the Minister LIED on television. It is an unparliamentary word that the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, carefully avoided in his response. To support their frustration, a member went further to cite Order Six, Rule 14 of the laws of the House alluding to a breech on his privilege and that of the House, and claiming that the Minister portrayed members of the NASS as “irresponsible people before Nigerians”.

Our lawmakers are good with their imaginations. If that is the line of thinking, then I will support any reasonable action that will prove the correctness or contrary of this line of thought. The Hallowed Chamber should not accommodate irresponsible characters that would bring the legislature to disrepute. With all seriousness, member should probe what perception ordinary Nigerians hold of their integrity. And would also probe their conscience and take a good look at the mirror. Perhaps, they will get answers that would satisfy their curiosities.

Be that as it may, the alleged remark by the Honourable Minister should not be enough reason for members to boycott the Budget presentation by the President. Such action would not only be irrational, it will be illogical and unpatriotic. Doing so will only confirm the allusion that members are indeed irresponsible and insensitive to the realities of the adverse effect a further delay in passing the 2019 budget could cause the economy.

Our budgets cannot continue to suffer unnecessary and avoidable delay after presentations. The primary responsibility of NASS is to make laws, such as the proposed 2019 budget, which will help to grow the economy. Lawmakers cannot be lackadaisical in passing the budget for whatsoever reason. Presenting the 2019 budget proposals in December should not be an excuse to delay the passing of the bill within reasonable time. 2017 and 2018 budgets were presented November, fairly reasonable time frame but still lingered for over 5 months at the National Assembly.

Members of the legislature should be patriotic enough to put aside personal interests and frivolous allegations from any quarters for the overriding national interest in passing the budget expeditiously. With commitment and adequate capacity, the budget can be passed in 30 working days. Hon Sergius Ogun, representing Esan North/East Constituency, said on National Television that the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) bill was passed in 8 working days when the Egmont Group suspended Nigeria and threatened expulsion from the group over lack of autonomy. Therefore there is no reason the 2019 budget bill will not be accorded with such attention and speed.

It is sad that lawmakers would value treachery over integrity and flex muscles over issues of absolute irrelevance. While the budget bill lingers, 71 members of the House of Representatives seek to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary model in Nigeria. Again, if you ask Nigerians, it is another exercise that would end up in futility. The legislators can easily be predicted. The bill is another channel to corruptly enrich themselves like previous constitutional amendment exercise at the Senate.

The 8th NASS is endowed with remarkable quantity of mischief and insatiable financial lucre. The House sold us a dummy with an orchestrated agenda to deliver legislation in aid of development and reforms aimed at improving conditions of living in Nigeria. That was a fluke. Monetization took over legislative intellectualism and selflessness in lawmaking process in the country. Their arrogance and fastidious desire for luxuries has turned NASS into a chamber of business, which is akin to the biblical Holy Temple of Jerusalem converted to the House of trade and commerce by its entrusted custodians.

NASS members should embrace attitudinal change with the right mindset in the overriding interest of the country. The 2019 budget proposal should be expeditiously considered and passed in record time as a test of integrity and attestation of a responsible legislature. This would change the negative perception of lawmakers and the hallowed institution of the National Assembly.

Ikese writes from Jos

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Opinion

Statesmanship: Like Jonathan, like Buhari

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Jonathan and Buhari

Jonathan and Buhari

By Muhammad Ajah

In 2015, while fanatics of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Orubebe were busy attempting to disrupt collation of results from states, the person they were fighting for and former President Goodluck Jonathan found it very necessary to ease the political tension by congratulating on phone his victorious opposition candidate. While Jonathan’s men could still not understand the spirit that pushed him to do that, that singular action has endeared him to Nigerian citizens and the international community.

Before the election, Jonathan had reiterated that his political ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian citizen. That was the spirit of true Nigerianism, the spirit of love and humanity. I think this spirit links both contemporary politicians and leaders of Nigeria, Jonathan and Buhari, the latter who has reiterated that he will accept the decisions of Nigerians in the forthcoming 2019 general election, especially the Presidential polls of February 16, 2019.

I personally admire Jonathan for that action. According to him, while receiving the African Sun Times Man of the Year award conferred on him by the international magazine, hehonourably handed over power to Buhari, as a clear indication that election can be conducted without bloodshed in Nigeria. He expressed gratitude to Nigerians, not only his party, for standing by him. This was apparent appreciation to the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s Peace committee which did a very wonderful job throughout the electioneering period in 2015. “That, to me, is a most worthy testimonial of the character of the Nigerian nation and the resilience of our people”, he averred.

Jonathan never regretted his action. Rather he has been proud of it; boasting of it everywhere he goes and whenever he speaks to people. He believed that Nigeria’s enemies were defeated. “We, the Nigerian people put to shame naysayers and prophets of doom and in 2015, we held a most transparent, violence free and credible elections that transferred power from one political party to another and from an incumbent to the opposition, without rancour, bitterness or strife. In the process, we proved that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian or any national of any country for that matter.”

I hope that Nigerian politicians will imbibe this spirit and eschew the spirit of “do or die” politics. The political situation in 2015 was very tense, indeed. The level of hate speech was unprecedented. But Nigerians were free and associated with their chosen parties and candidates. Observations and reactions from feelers portray that the situation is not tense ahead of 2019 and hate speech is not pervading the air. Nigerians are freely associating with their candidates. The incumbent President Buhari is not showing any sign of desperation, thus the needless call for heating up the politics. I pray that the political situation will remain so and that no Nigerian will be killed or forced to die for the cause of the elections.

Jonathan placed national interest ahead of personal ambition; that is why there was smooth transition. In short, despite his show of statesmanship by accepting defeat, there were speculations that his men would have scuttled the handover processes. He stood his ground as the leader of his party and ensured that Buhari was sworn-in, despite controversies that ensued afterwards. I am sure that the spirit is still with him so that his party will accept the outcome of the next election without rancour. For this, it is hoped that all anti-democratic tendencies of some politicians and the tensions they often generate during elections should be monitored by the security agencies. Those extremist politicians who use political campaigns of terror against Nigeria and her citizens should have a rethink.

Buhari holds Jonathan in high esteem. He has, in many fora, expressed the shock he received when Jonathan called and congratulated him. He said at a dinner organized for members of Kannywood (Hausa-language movie industry) at the State House in Abuja that Jonathan endeared himself to him. “As they were thinking of what to do with the result which they were unable to manipulate because of the card reader and PVC, Jonathan phoned to congratulate me,” he said. “I kept quiet for a while when he called me. He (Jonathan) then asked whether I didn’t hear him, I said I did and I thanked him.”

Jonathan, to me, is a strong pillar of Nigeria’s democracy. He has continued to preach peace and the spirit of sportsmanship in defeat to his party men and Nigerians. One of the instruments for the smooth transition in 2015 was the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by all the presidential candidates. That is being planned but it should be properly executed for 2019 elections. Thanks be to God that the committee has begun its work in earnest. According to its chairman General Abubakar, after a meeting with a delegation from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by its Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, the MoU will not only be to check violence-free campaigns, but also to avoid hate speeches and unguarded utterances during campaign activities.

This is a good move. But as I have always maintained, Buhari is a trustworthy patriot who always put the nation above self. He will do better. There are assurances that the 2019 general elections will be freer and fairer than ever before. Therefore, with or without signing any pact, he will ensure smooth elections and transition in 2019, hitch-free handovers to democratically elected officers. I join millions of Nigerian patriots to hail him for not accenting to faulty electoral bill. He must remain focused to deliver credible polls in 2019 but he must not be cowed by the selfish interests of anti-democrats who are attempting to create lampoons in the electoral act in the name of amendment. May God bless Nigeria at all times.

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AISHA BUHARI: THE MAN STANDING IN APC

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Aisha Buhari

Aisha Buhari


By Yinka Odumakin

Shortly after I started work as General Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman in 2011, Mrs Aisha Buhari approached me to facilitate some media exposure for her. She didn’t need to spend time to convince me that we needed her face and voice out there. I saw her as an intelligent, sharp-witted and gutsy woman who could add a lot of value to the campaign, especially in the South where womanhood in the North is largely perceived as purdah.

I told her I was going to organise a media parley for her and that a cerebral journalist in Lagos had been asking me about the wife of my principal. We agreed on a date. When it was two days to to the appointment, something told me I should clear with my principal what I was about to do. I walked up to him to inform him about the media session for madam. His eyes became red. It was the only time he raised his voice against me: “Don’t ever.” I had to call the journalists to cancel the meet. The genie was kept in the bottle for another four years.
Then came 2015 and the APC experiment. Abimbola Adelakun with her versatile pen wrote a classic in The PUNCH of January 8, 2015, entitled: “Where is Mrs Buhari?” and reference the botched 2011 parley with the General’s wife:

“For a man who preaches “change” and desires to rule a country made up of men and women in almost equal halves, I wonder why he finds the anomaly of an ‘invisible wife’ wholesome.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Mrs Aisha Buhari would be left behind in her husband’s aspiration.

“In 2003, she was not prominent when he lost to Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘moonslide.’ Four years later, not much had changed though one could argue that his biggest opponent, Umaru Yar’Adua, did not ‘use’ his wife to campaign either. In 2011, when the presidential election was on, I asked one of Buhari’s closest aides where Mrs Buhari was and why she was practically unseen in her husband’s various campaign efforts.

“My query sprang from his image: If you are being termed an ogre, furnish reasons why you could not be one. His wife standing side-by-side with him would, I told the aide, soften his unimpressible image.
“This Buhari’s aide agreed with me that his wife would be strategically invaluable for his persona. He said she was coming to Lagos at that time and he would arrange press interviews to introduce her to the public.

“The aide called shortly after to say Buhari was not sold to the idea. The aide was apologetic while explaining why Buhari did not want his wife displayed like a ware even in the heat of campaigns. He said Buhari himself could be rather reticent; then, I should consider the religious factor, and that the General was too disciplined for such and several etceteras. I wished him the best and left it at that. By then, Patience Jonathan was criss-crossing the country and canvassing votes for her husband in her peculiar ways. Even though she was being mocked for her lack of sophistication, she was winning some hearts because of her confidence.”

She went on to hazard why Buhari would not want his wife to be seen:
“There are several reasons one can adduce for Buhari and his wife’s photo hide-and-seek. One, the culture of lovey-dovey is simply not him. Like the Igbo proverb that says a man cannot learn to be left-handed in old age, I wager that this is a left-handedness that Buhari has not learnt and is probably a far harder lesson than removing his cap during a church service.
“Two, he probably thinks being seen with a woman will detract from his famed militarist discipline and Spartan image. He has done a lot of bending just to project himself as a non-Islamic fundamentalist pan Nigerian statesman but the woman aspect just does not resonate well with him – yet.
“Third, the religion and culture Buhari has known all his life do gift a second-class citizen status to women.”

The APC strategy room at this point must have convinced him the wife could no longer be in the background. She was allowed to mount the podium in Abeokuta. That was coincidentally strategic. She launched out on the soil that razed Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the radical woman who first drove a car in the county and led a revolt that made an Alake to flee the throne. It was the place where Funmilayo trained Sawaba Gambo.

In her three and a half years as wife of the president, Mrs Buhari has shown she is in the mould of a Gambo Sawaba. In a sorry season in our land when we don’t have a Gani Fawehinmi, when many of the voices that railed against injustices in years past are either mute or incoherent, Mrs Buhari has somewhat become the conscience of the nation in her interjections on national issues.
For those don’t know, Gambo Sawaba was a fearless woman of the North with whom Aisha shares some traits.

After Gambo lost her parents in 1943, her education stopped and she was forced into an early marriage at 13 but separated from her husband over irreconcilable differences.
Gambo joined politics when she was 17. A branch of NEPU was formed in Sawaba’s Zaria but meetings had to be held in secret for the safety of all involved. Gambo Sawaba joined this party and quickly rose to become the women leader in the branch.

Eventually she would leave Zaria for Abeokuta where she was to meet Funmilayo Kuti. Mrs Kuti had become Gambo’s role model after the latter read about some of the former’s exploits in Abeokuta, especially Funmilayo Kuti’s struggle for the rights of women in tax related matters which culminated in the brief exile of Oba Ladapo Ademola.

When Gambo returned to Zaria, during a political lecture, many of the attendants (most of whom were male) refused to speak out for fear of political victimisation, Gambo climbed unto the rostrum to speak, challenging everyone present. On that same day and a NEPU leader, Alhaji Gambo Sawaba, was to speak at that event, he was so impressed with her that he gave her a nickname, Sawabiya, which means the redeemer. Later on, the name was shortened to the more masculine version, Sawaba. And it stuck. Thus, Hajaratu Amarteifo became Gambo Sawaba.

Gambo made a name for herself when at a political lecture in Zaria, she climbed a podium and spoke out in a room full of men. She campaigned against underage marriages and forced labour. She also advocated for western education in the North.
She also organised several meetings with women who were not allowed to attend political activities because of their gender.

As a result, Gambo was arrested at age 20 alongside 200 other women for not obtaining a permit before the assembly. They were sentenced to one month imprisonment each.
The vibrant woman was sent to jail 16 times in her lifetime and she was often brutalised by the police. Despite low education and coming from the northern part of Nigeria where women are least encouraged and their education neglected, Gambo struggled through all these obstacles to emerge as a dynamic, independent political activist, helping to educate many people.
Her (Hajia Buhari) latest outing was at the national women leadership summit organised by Project 4+4 for Buhari & Osinbajo 2019, a political group.

She spoke against two men who have dominated a government which emerged through the votes of over 15 million people.
“Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people… this is totally unacceptable,” she said.
“If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? Instead of them to come together and fight them, they keep visiting them one after the other, licking their shoes (I’m sorry to use those words).”

Quite reminiscent of her interview with BBC Hausa two years ago where she said Buhari’s government had been hijacked by only a “few people.”
Her words: “The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years… some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.”
Aisha Buhari asked “Where are the men?” Maybe she should have asked “Where are the APC men?” She needed not ask though as the men she was asking after were no longer men but sissies. The man she called out at the event, Mr Babafemi Ojudu, who was said to have tried stopping her from bursting out, was a fire-eating man in the days of Abacha.

The transformation of yesterday’s men was what made the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, to look at Chief Bisi Akande straight in the face at Senator Abraham Adesanya’s 10th anniversary lecture in Lagos months back and declare “Chief Akande, when we arrived at a point where people like you cannot speak truth to power because of APC card, there is problem in the land.”
Mrs Buhari should make no mistake about what defines a man. It is not the third leg they work with in the “ozer” room. The artificial of that can now be picked on the shelf for a fee. What makes a man is the strength of conviction, the ability to speak the truth, no matter whose ox is gored and raise your voice when sinful silence is convenient. That quality is in short supply in what she erroneously called “men,” especially the ones that populate the ruling party today. In such a situation, Mrs Aisha Buhari is the man standing.

It reminds of this popular Yoruba singer, Odolaye Aremu, who sang about a powerful woman called Amina Abiodun, the Iyalode of Ibadan, who died on Saturday. She was a strong woman who struggled for the same space with Lamidi Adedibu and Arisekola Alao. She once cracked a hard one at an encounter with Chief Adisa Akinloye, Chief Richard Akinjide and Dr Omololu Olunloyo. I will not recount it but the two living will remember it.

Odolaye got to a point and said what was under Amina was masculine. Some women are men! And in a land where men are no longer men, some women will always be men.
If the maiden of Arewa now resolves to remain in purdah despite Aisha Buhari, it’s a sad story.

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