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Paris club refunds and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

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By Meshack Idehen

As a Nigerian with lasting stakes in the polity, have you ever wondered or cared to ask which or whose money Paris Club and other international lenders have been returning back to Nigeria since President Muhammadu Buhari became president?

Only Nigeria’s ex Minister for finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and her partners in the sleazy world of international finance can answer these questions.

Coming from a background that claims to posses all the financial skills and wizardry that can sustainably remove Nigeria from the list of debtor nations, many analysts, including myself believe Mrs Iweala actually left Nigeria poorer and more in debt; indeed selling the country’s soul to the interests seeking global lenders.

The evidences are real. The evidences are mounting.

It is on public records that over four billion dollars have been sent back to Nigeria due to faulty, inaccurate and highly suspect debt cancellation package for Nigeria, that was superintended over by Mrs Iweala.

Although these huge refunds are usually shared amongst Nigeria’s state governors, many of whom have not the faintest clue of the suffering and pains the citizens of their states went through when the deductions at source were carried out by international lenders like Paris Club, IMF and others, the questions on the lips of many is where was Mrs Iweala when the figures surrounding the debt cancellation was being worked out?

How come so huge amounts are now being refunded when many Nigerians had wrongly assumed the country got a fair deal from Paris Club and company?

Who benefited from the debt cancellation deal? The stories around the consultants used is one for another day.

Going forward, I am of the views that Mrs Iweala come out of wherever she’s hiding, and step up to address these issues, instead of randomly issuing some leaky, watery boring narratives from some leaky, watery sources.

Apart from being summoned severally by Nigeria’s National Assembly to explain or give clearance to some of these issues, Mrs Iweala has also been summoned by several government agencies to account for some of the waivers she approved as finance minister; waivers that experts said cost Nigeria more that two trillion naira. Or more.

Sadly, the former minister has not only considered these opportunities to clear the air beneath her, she has also sneered back at the country and its people by talking in circles around these allegations.

Human Rights Activist and President General of Global Peace Movement International (UK), Dr Mike Uyi, told me until those who stole or are alleged to have stolen, or have connived to steal from the people of Nigeria through any financial wizardry or global connections called to account for their actions, Nigeria, like Mrs Iweala will only be talking and moving in circles, getting nothing done.

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Opinion

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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Opinion

Nigerian Military And The Act Of Victory

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Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin

Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin


By Richards Murphy

Sun Tzu, the Chinese war veteran, strategist and tactician of world repute, throbs military leaders with this enriching warfare philosophy. Its catchy phrase prescribes thus; “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”

I know some Nigerians would be surprised at what prodded me to begin the exploration of this piece with this enthralling wisdom of Gen. Sun Tzu. It’s because Sun Tzu remains the most coveted encyclopedia of war shrewdness ever exposed to mankind.

Tzu was somewhat magical, if not prodigiously extraordinary in thoughts and actions. No frustrations or setback of the enemy ever dissolved his resolve and determination to win. It is the innate inclination of a soldier.

Of course, many of us have read the military exploits and adventures of this great Chinese military celeb. All over the world, craggy military officers, who aim at victories in battles, imbibe his wisdom and style in combats. They are inspired by his combat wits, tenacity and valor. They strive to emulate him.

And for three years and more, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin knows, he is not just the super engine room of President Muhammadu Buhari’s counter-terrorism war in the country. But the march to terminate the reign of Boko Haram terrorism is an assignment, which must be won and splendidly.

His mien all the times, tells me, the CDS cum military strategist is less concerned by setbacks in the counter-insurgency operations. But he is a thousand times concerned with extracting the victory from terrorists, at the cost of anything.
It is indubitable that anywhere wars are fought; there are countless entrapping impediments and challenges, which can cancel even an already won victory. But careful deployment of uncommon wisdom and the utilization of every resource at your disposal earn you the victories.

And I believe, there is no military rendezvous in warfare, which victory comes easy and smooth. Despite Sun Tzu’s versatility in warfare and acclaimed expertise, not all his victories came on platter gold. To be candid to myself, I have a passion for this warrior. What he never consented was a weakened spirit at the battlefront.

At all times and in all circumstances, he was confident victory would descend at dawn undeniably and kept cracking the hardest of nuts. And truly, he got the results in his favour.

But in the course of the usually stiff struggles peculiar to the trenches, I don’t want to believe there were no depressing moments’ or the unexpected never happened, such as troops vehicle accident or death on the warfront. But Tzu’s sheer determination and the courage to succeed kept the candle burning to a victorious end.

I see a facsimile of this resilience in Gen. Olonisakin. When any of his troops is mowed down in battle by enemy forces, it gives him sleepless nights. But it has never enfeebled his determination to the point of surrendering to the enemies of his troops and the nation. Instead, it spurs more grandeur planning and deafening confrontations of the enemies more vehemently.

Throughout the time, I keenly observed the actions and dispositions of the CDS in the engagement of Boko Haram insurgents; no challenge or setback in the prosecution of the war has slackened his pace and focus even for a minute. This is reason the Nigerian military has sustained the winning streaks against terrorists. Insurgents attacks on military formations has now bubbled by a personal revenge in the hearts of troops.

That’s the lesson taught troops by the archetypal Gen. Olonisakin. As a true and inveterate Military General, coordinating and leading counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria deemed one of the world’s most difficult wars has been his passion to end a glorious career.

The CDS has conditioned the minds of his troops to have their eyes fixated on victory; and only victory, at all times, regardless of any obstacle. The CDS knows the whiff of victory is what keeps an Army or a troop going in a battle.

I am glad they have not deviated from this path of glory. And troops have lived it and appear even better at their most tormenting moments; which outsiders like me fear a possible retreat. This is the victorious side of our military, unknown to many of us.

I have observed consistently that whenever Boko Haram terrorists roar against our troops, with such gusto, reenacting their triumphant past, the insurgents deployed for the missions hardly escape unscathed.

We may not know. But many of us have not heard the voice and braggadocio of Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau for a long time now. The last time I heard about him was six or so, months ago, when he led his rebellious sect members in tempting Nigerian troops.

The insurgents were not only munched en mass by Nigerian troops, but their Kingpin, Shekau quite possibly escaped with severe injuries. Some reports claim, Shekau has hoed himself in the Cameroonian caves and mountains recuperating. It’s possible he must have died in the course of treatment.

The only factional Boko Haram leader still flexing feeble might is the Musab Al Barnewi faction. But I am sure, fragrance of his day of reckoning have polluted everywhere in the Northeast. I know his waterloo is also near.

And it is one conviction, which has persistently obsessed Gen. Olonisakin. He knows he can do it; the troops are confident that Al Barnewi cannot escape their swords, no matter the hardness of the bulwark he erects around himself.

With ground and air troops at his effective command and control, the CDS is pretty sure, the enemies have; but little chances of survival. Only time is the dividing factor, which he also knows would soon decide in the favor of Nigerian troops and Nigerians. The CDS like the veteran Tzu is aware, “What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.”

Like Sun Tzu, the CDS knows too perfectly that; “When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.”

I appeal to Nigerians to look beyond the outward when assessing our military. We are bound to see the treasures embedded in them which are envied by the world. We must be proud of our possession and our military assets in these troops.

The military gentleman and unstinting professional officer, Gen. Olonishakin is eager to handover to Nigerians the crown and medal victory over Boko Haram terrorism. I read his lips and feel the yearning of a leader who wishes to accomplish this feat as his parting gift to Nigerians before his retirement.

Gen. Olonisakin knows he has an edge over the terrorists, by leading three arms of the Nigerian military. But the insurgents can only dream of repressing or even defeating the Nigerian military.

It’s clear to me, coordinating the security operations across the country, the CDS adheres to Tzu’s caution that “Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.” We shall keep praying for their success fervently.

Murphy is a security consultant based in Calabar.

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Ebonyi 2019, between Umahi and Ogbuoji

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Engr. Dave Umahi

Engr. Dave Umahi


By Muhammad Ajah

The gubernatorial race in Ebonyi state is going to be very tough because the two major contenders are from the same senatorial zone. It is going to be a fight between two brothers tied together by the Ebonyi Equity Charter (EEC) of “Egbe beri Ugo beri”. They are the incumbent governor, Engr. Dave Umahi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a serving member of the of the Red Chambers Federal Republic, Distinguished Senator Soni Ogbuoji of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Umahi is seeking reelection for a second term; Ogbuoji dumped the PDP to clinch the APC flagship. Both are from the Ebonyi South senatorial zone. Ogbuoji hails from Afikpo South Local Government Area; Umahi is a native of Ohaozara Local Government Area.

According to the Ebonyi equity charter, each of the three senatorial districts should produce a governor of the state. It simply means that the governorship position should unconditionally rotate amongst the three senatorial zone of the state. The state has been under the rule of the Peoples Democratic Party since 1999. The opposition had struggled in the past to no avail to unseat the PDP in the state. Umahi was so powerful that he used the party to defeat his former boss, Martin Elechi who defected to another party when Umahi frustrated him out of the PDP. Strictly to that chart, both the north and central senatorial zones have had their turn of eight-year uninterrupted leadership – that is two tenures of four years each.

Though likely unwritten just as the north-south political dichotomy in Nigeria is prevalent, the Ebonyi North represented by former governor and now senator, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu had its uninterrupted turn of eight years, just like the Ebonyi Central, represented by Chief Martin Elechi did. Martin had planned not to favour his then deputy, Umahi, thus received the biggest shock of his life. By this, May 29, 2019 will be the end of the first four years of Ebonyi South under Umahi. Is the second tenure to be completed by the same representative, Umahi, or by another son of the zone, Ogbuoji?

Ebonyi state has been a stronghold of the PDP since 1999. Umahi has been a strong member of the party and had rescued it from collapse when former governor Elechi tried it. If not, Ebonyi state would have been an APC state like Imo state. Umahi is believed to be doing well. He seems to be in the good book of President Buhari as he has often proclaimed that he is in support of Buhari’s good leadership style, despite their party differences. Whither the genuinely of the proclamation, Buhari has reciprocated by specially visiting Ebonyi state to commission projects built by Umahi for not only Ebonyi people but for the benefits of Nigerians dwelling within or in neighbourhood with Ebonyi.

Senator Ogbuoji was a strong member of the PDP through which he secured the senatorial slot he still enjoys. It was a big shock to the PDP family when he waved goodbye to them and embraced the APC. In short, the chairman of the PDP in Ebonyi state, Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi could not believe the defection news for a long time. The strong senator did not stop there. He struggled hard to win the governorship candidate of APC in the state, defeating other aspirants in open primaries that took place at Pinnacle Hotel in Abakaliki, the state capital.

While Umahi had no opposition at the PDP primaries, the 64 year senator-graduate of the prestigious University of Nigeria (UNN) defeated eight contenders pulling 785 votes against his closest challenger, Bernard Odoh, who polled 519 votes. Ogbuoji had been in good rapport with the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who hails from Uburu, Ohaozara country home of Governor Dave Umahi. Onu, a founding father of the APC, has always been in the opposition to any Ebonyi governor but has never succeeded in controlling the state government. According to Ogbuoji, the APC was the best option for the Southeast geopolitical zone, especially as the zone eyes the Presidency by 2023. “I am one of those who believe that the issue of Igbo marginalization cannot be corrected by shouting in the media”, he once burst out.

The first time I meet Senator Soni Ogbuoji was at Sokoto House in Abuja when he came with his Senate Committee on an oversight function. So blunt to the truth and passionate about Ebonyi people and Nigerians, it required no further explanation what he would be capable of doing whenever any position of trust is handed over to him, as he is doing for his people as a senator. He believes that the Igbo people have a responsibility to determine what should happen about marginalization. “I believe that by joining forces; sharing ideas with those who are already in APC, we have a better chance of improving what we have”, he once proclaimed, noting that the level of governance received from PDP governors was not going to help the case of the PDP and the Igbo, as the Igbo have continually been offending themselves that PDP is an Igbo party. “As we speak today, APGA may lay claim to being an Igbo party; but certainly, PDP cannot lay claim to be an Igbo party,” he said.

He described Umahi’s leadership of Ebonyi state as years of unfulfilled promises, suffering and hopelessness predicated upon deceit and intimidation of citizens. While explaining to journalists in Abakaliki about “The New Ebonyi all Ebonyi people desire”, he chronicled the failed electoral promises of the Governor since 2015 and his lackluster administrative method and submitted that the State has descended into the abyss of hopelessness and despair. “Individuals who belong to different political associations have had their businesses closed down. Government cannot be a terror to its citizens…If we allow this to continue, someday we may begin to pay taxes from the dowries of our daughters, but I say God forbid.”

As for Umahi, there were rumours of his plan to defect to APC, though he debunked that on the grounds that he can never be in the same political party with those he described as “failed leaders” in the state. Apparently referring to his own townsman, Onu and other big- weight politicians from Ebonyi south, it was alleged that all attempts he made to join the APC was frustrated. He cautioned people not to mistake his relationship with President Buhari as an indication that he loved APC, not to talk of joining it, adding that his relationship with Buhari is personal. Frowning at such speculations, he said that neither the President nor APC chieftains have ever asked him to join APC ahead of the 2019. “As for today until Christ comes, there is no crisis in PDP. Even if there is a need for me to leave PDP, I can never leave PDP to join the kind of APC in Ebonyi state.”

Umahi described himself as a focused governor. He insists that party politics should be left to party men and women so as to focus more on governance. According to him, the fever that has been griping him since the day he was elected was for him to do his job, to deliver the dividends of democracy and solve the plight of Ebonyi people. “So, they should leave me alone with their dirty politics. I am focused; I am in PDP. As a member of PDP, I have benefited on the platform to be a party Chairman, a deputy governor, and now a Governor. I am a man of character,” he stated.

It is normal in politics to change the goal post at any time. Umahi and Ogbuoji are sons of Ebonyi senatorial zone. It is not the zone that will decide who wins. It is the other two zones. There has been the consistent political dichotomy between Abuja-based Ebonyi politicians and the state governor. It has never worked except for Umahi who was assisted by the Abuja political bloc. He is now being faced with the situation. The two zones have left it for the two brothers to log out. Ebonyi state must have a governor after the March 2019 governorship election. The governor is going to be Umahi of the PDP or Ogbuoji of the APC. But the spirit of inclusiveness of all socio-political and religious groups in Ebonyi must be considered. It is reportedly lacking in one. May God bless my dear Ebonyi state, the salt of the nation.

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

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