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Buhari: Four Unforgivable Sins

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Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola
Life and everything within it are transient, including power and authority. What started with hopes and high expectations in 2015 has come to an end, bringing with it lessons and leaving the people less animated and less hopeful than they were eight years ago — little wonder that Buhari’s successor will ride in on the wings of a Renewed Hope campaign. Bola Ahmed Tinubu said he would hit the ground running from Day 1, continue running on Day 2, and not relent on Day 3. As Nigerians at home and in the diaspora will strive to pick up pace in this new run, this piece marks my second and last comment on the Buhari government.

Accountability in Nigeria is comatose. What makes it not dead yet are the little efforts by concerned columnists and journalists that keep to the work of critiquing the government and holding those in power accountable, although knowing that there might be little to nothing to show for their efforts. President Muhammadu Buhari gave his farewell speech — a 38-point speech with aspects that further solidify the defiance of those in power to the truth and transparency with citizens in a we-can-do-as-we-wish move. In response, or more befittingly, as a way of signing off on writings about the past administration, I chose to write two pieces. The first focused on the most prominent promises that Buhari failed to fulfill — the promises that were the highlight of his campaign and the major reason people voted for him.

These past few days, there have been audacious claims by the government — claims of leaving Nigeria in a better state than in 2015 and fulfilling all promises made during the 2015 campaign, among other claims. In the past eight years, I have interacted with many Nigerians from different age groups and societal classes — professors, businessmen, politicians, young students; you name them. And no matter how you choose to review the Buhari government’s years in office — whether by benchmarking them against his campaign promises or comparing Nigeria in 2023 to Nigeria in 2015 — the most important way of gauging this government will be in the overall well-being of Nigerians.

The last eight years have been taxing in one way or the other for every Nigerian I have engaged during the period, and this is only a testament to the fact that the government did not succeed in making its citizens’ lives better. A lot has been said by many; a lot has been written about the achievements and failures of this government. It is why I have chosen this second piece on the unforgivable sins of the Buhari government — that is, the things that, if summed up, pushed Nigeria into the current state that it is in, regardless of whether the 2nd Niger Bridge and some railway lines have been constructed or some money paid out through the TraderMoni scheme.

The Sin of Contemptible Complacency

Complacency is perhaps the biggest sin of the Buhari government. It set the tone for the spiral and reared its head often during the two tenures of the now ex-President of Nigeria. First, it was complacency in appointing his cabinet members in 2015. For someone who rode into power on lofty promises to the people and a lot of goodwill and expectations of change, Muhammadu Buhari was slow to appoint his team members — as the swearing-in dragged on to his 6th month in office, thus adversely affecting the goodwill of foreign investors, the stock market, and the economy in general. Perhaps Buhari took his campaign mantra of “focusing on security, while Prof. Osinbajo focuses on the economy” too far, forgetting that running a government cannot be the function of just one person. This same complacency came into action in Buhari’s self-appointment as the Minister of Petroleum, a move that spelled little good for Nigeria’s petroleum affairs, as ridiculous expenditure continued in the oil sector right under the president’s nostrils.

The Sin of Deplorable Impunity

From the leadership point of view, impunity is one of the strongest problems militating against the country’s success. Under Muhammadu Buhari, impunity was displayed by the direct people in power and their family members — from the president to Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to the wife of the DSS Chief, to the APC Majority Leader from Kano State. The audacity to do as one wishes among elected officials in the country reached never-before-seen heights under Buhari. It was perhaps because the ex-president was complacent and largely unconcerned — so much so that the people knew they could get away with their deeds — thus having the perfect motivation for their impunity.

Impunity is devilish in a democracy; it goes against the foundational concepts of democracy and laughs them to scorn. It is unforgivable for those in whom the people had placed their belief and mandate to emerge as leaders and then begin to see themselves as more worthy and in an untouchable position than the electorate. The power belongs to the people in a democracy, and impunity says otherwise. The impunity under the Buhari government spilled over to his other sins — the sins of failed promises, violating court orders, and implementing policies that only made the country bleed.

The Disgraceful Sin of Rights and Law Violations

During Buhari’s tenure, there were pockets of human rights violations — both by the federal government and some state governments — for which the president and his team were complicit in their inaction. A young Nigerian was arrested for tweeting in abuse of the then First Lady, Aisha Buhari. There were arrests of outspoken media people like Daddiyata, the arrest and detainment of Agba Jalingo, the ill-treatment of Omoyele Sowore while flouting court orders for his release, the refusal to follow court orders in the case of ASUU’s grievances, Jones Abiri’s arrest and detainment, and the bullying of media houses like Premium Times, Daily Trust, AIT, and AriseTV, among others. Closer to home was the arbitrary arrest of a prominent journalist. One of the biggest things that will forever dangle above the Buhari government is the October 20, 2020, incident at the Lekki Toll Gate. The sheer number of human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, and prolonged detainment of citizens against the provisions of the law is a body of sin that no level of atonement can wash off Buhari’s eight years in office.

The Outrageous Sin of Miscalculated Policies and Wrong Implementation

There is no denying that there were instances when the Buhari government meant well for the citizens and kicked some policies into place. However, many of those policies were moribund, as they lacked a lot of things — a proper assessment of the realities of the people and whether or not the policies would succeed and a lack of a proper timeline. First was the border closure policy, for which many Nigerians will continue to blame Buhari. No matter how well-meaning the government could have been with this policy, refusing to gauge how impactful it was on the people and the need to relax it — thereby leaving it for a prolonged and unnecessarily adverse period — was catastrophic for the economy. It is foolhardy to embark on an audacious and full closure of the country’s borders when the circumstances surrounding the in-country production of food have not been perfected.

The second prominent issue was the case of the cashless policy toward the end of the Buhari government. This policy was concocted on the corridors of power — heavily distant from the realities of the average Nigerian or their plight. While the people suffered and died due to a highly unnecessary and frustrating policy, the Buhari-led government was bent on prolonging the policy to make a statement to the people. TraderMoni and N-Power have been poster names for initiatives that have been fronted as the government’s means of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, although the reality pales in comparison with that — the reality being the uneven disbursement of small and unsustainable funds to people.

In the closing days of the government, the official propaganda machine was full of the achievements of the Buhari government, especially in infrastructure. His media advisers and assistants tried to push out the scores of things that Buhari had done in eight years. Buhari himself spoke more in his last days. Some projects were the highlight of the government — after all, no matter how woefully a government has performed, it will have some things to its name.
However, in the context of where Nigeria is currently as compared to where it was or where it was headed as of 2015 (when it was adjudged one of the fastest-growing economies in the world), in the context of the promises that were made and what was eventually achieved, in the context of what Nigerians’ overall well-being is now as against 2015, in the context of how safe and secure Nigerians feel in their homes today as against 2015, in the context of how un-Nigerian Nigerians feel today as against 2015 — there is no applauding the Buhari-led government. For, it sinned. Its sins were many, and history will remember the past eight years for what they were. I am sure many readers will add to my list: the sin of corruption, the sin of insecurity, the sin of insensitivity.
When you sin, it must be followed by punishments. Buhari’s sins are reprehensible and shameful. Is the escape to Daura and onward to Niger an escape from punishment? Niger is a wise choice, with loving relations: sin-forgivers who have benefitted money from their Godfather in power. Niger is a unitary system where the president rules as a general, a fellow sinner. Farewell!

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Opinion

Where Are Secular Lawyers?

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Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

This question has agitated me over the years, and it persists. At a recent event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, a participant introduced herself as a member of the Christian Lawyers Association of Nigeria. Christian Lawyers Association? I wondered, Why Christian lawyers? Why should lawyers associate based on faith? Do we have a traditional religious lawyers association? Jehovah Witness Lawyers Association? Bahai Faith lawyers? Hindu Lawyers? I mean, why the religionization of everything in this country?

In northern Nigeria, the Muslim Lawyers Association exists. This organization is active. It features prominently in cases, especially those that concern religion, Sharia, or Islam. I guess there would be Sunni and Shiite Muslim lawyers associations. In 2022, over 30 Muslim lawyers came forward to defend those suspected of murdering Deborah Samuel in Sokoto. Meanwhile, no member helped prosecute the suspects. Muslim lawyers have strongly supported the execution and imprisonment of suspected blasphemers. They constitute the legal wing of Islamic separatism in Nigeria. This religious slant in practice, profession, and association of lawyers is disturbing and needs to be critically examined.

Look, a lawyer is a person trained to offer legal services. A lawyer is trained to represent an individual or organization in legal matters. S/he applies the law to specific cases, religious or nonreligious. The legal profession should be carried out without religious bias or favor. The law should be practiced to further justice, equity, and fairness, not in defense of a particular faith or belief. In practice, the law should be faith/belief blind. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case in Nigeria. The tendency of lawyers to associate along religious lines is entrenched. As in other sectors of the society, religion has hijacked the legal profession and association. Lawyers practice and are pressured to practice law along religious lines. That is the raison d’etre of the religious (Christian/Muslim) lawyers association. And it is worrisome.

It has become pertinent to ask, where are secular lawyers? Put differently, where are lawyers beyond belief? By secular lawyers, I mean lawyers who are not religious, that is, lawyers who are atheists or agnostics; lawyers who do not take religion seriously. Secular lawyers include those who think that religious and spiritual matters are strictly private affairs and should not be the basis for legal practice, profession, and association.

Nigeria needs secular lawyers for the following reasons. First, based on section 10 of the constitution, Nigeria is a secular state, although not explicitly stated. Nigeria has no state religion. But theocrats often contest Nigeria’s secularity and openly propose that sharia and their religious books are superior to the constitution. The country needs lawyers to defend and uphold its secular character and help prevent the slow undoing of the secular gains and progress that Nigeria has made. Nigeria needs lawyers who can champion secularism. And secular lawyers can fulfill this need.

Second, Nigeria needs secular lawyers to professionally and constitutionally handle cases linked to faith or belief, such as witchcraft, blasphemy, and apostasy allegations. Lawyers who practice or associate on grounds of faith cannot be trusted to handle these cases because they are likely to compromise. They are likely to sacrifice their profession on the altar of their faith. For instance, it is a challenge to find lawyers to defend victims of witchcraft accusations because most lawyers, as people of faith, believe in the reality of witches and demons. Even though witchcraft accusations are against the law. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted to render professional services to victims of witchcraft branding. The same thing applies to cases of blasphemy and apostasy accusations. These accusations are linked to religious beliefs. Many lawyers do not want to profess law in ways that violate their faith. So, faith is a factor in hiring an attorney or getting a reliable solicitor.

In cases where Christians are accused of blaspheming Islam or insulting the prophet of Islam, Christian lawyers volunteer. They offer to help. Religious (Christian or Muslim) lawyers consider it a duty to defend their members. Christian lawyers defended Rhoda in Bauchi or the Christian barber, Elijah, in Kano. Muslim lawyers defended the suspected murderers of Deborah Samuel. But it is more challenging when the accused is a nonbeliever, an atheist, or a nonreligious person. Religious lawyers are reluctant to take up the cases. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted or entrusted with these cases because of concerns over religious bias.  Christian lawyers are guided by their christian faith and muslim lawyers are guided by their Islamic faith in their legal practice and representation.
So secular lawyers are needed. They can be trusted to represent in these cases because, in principle, they are free from the faith baggage that encumber legal representations by christian/muslim lawyers. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to keep church, mosque and state separate, and to ensure state neutrality on religious matters. It needs secular lawyers to tackle religious oppression, persecution and tyranny. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to uphold the rule of law and defend the freedom of religion or belief of all.
 Igwe, PhD,  is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

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Minister Dangiwa Versus Cement Cabals

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Felix Oboagwina

By Felix Oboagwina

Wednesday, 31st October 2023, CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, paid a visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Aso Rock. As he walked out of the President’s office, journalists swarmed round Rabiu. To cut this narrative short, the billionaire businessman said he had come to assure the President that by March 2024, a bag of BUA Cement would start selling at N3,500 instead of N4,500 for which it then sold. The market leader, Dangote Cement, retailed for between N5,000 and N7,000 per bag. The hike not only alarmed but frustrated users because just two months earlier, Dangote Cement sold for a lower price of N3,500 max. The jump in price annoyed Nigerians. Thus, when the media went to town with Rabiu’s assurance of crashing the price, the news provoked much happiness nationwide.

Easier said than done, however, Rabiu’s optimism quickly evaporated into thin air. Mysteriously, thereafter, the price of cement went crazy and bizarre. The popular 50kg bag of cement flew to N10,000, then N12,000 and landed at N15,000. This year, Dangote Cement PLC reported a profit of N166 billion for first quarter of 2024.

In Nigeria, the dominant cement brands are Dangote, BUA, Lafarge and Elephant. For a country of 250 million, being serviced by four brands sounds like a monopoly or oligopoly, when a few companies exert significant control over a given market and together control prices by colluding with each other to promote uncompetitive prices. Today, manufacturers blame the skyrocketing rates on the falling value of the Naira. From the N700 per dollar pre-May 2023, the Naira had gone to exchange for N1,600 to the dollar, although it has now dropped to about N1,200. In addition to using the unhealthy Naira as scapegoat, cement makers blame the high cost on expensive gas and manufacturing equipment.

However, in the midst of the darkness, a silver lining appeared to appear from the midst of Tinubu’s cabinet ministers.

There are 46 ministers, although 13 of them wear the title of Junior Minister or Minister of State and 33 substantive ones. Suddenly, two substantive ministers called cement manufacturers to a meeting. The meeting by Dave Umahi, Works Minister, took place first on Monday, February 19, 2024. At that meeting, the minister and manufacturers fixed the price of cement at between N7,000 and N8,000 max.

The following day Tuesday in Abuja, Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, also met representatives of the Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN). And there things exploded. Dangiwa displayed uncommon knowledge of all the tricks and shenanigans. He told the producers the implication of their pricing: “This is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses.”

For Dangiwa, the reasons for the price hike were insufficient to justify such outrageous pricing. He confronted them with the bare facts, that the government stopped cement importation to enable local companies to increase output and lower prices.

Then he dropped the banger: “Government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do.”

When CEMAN said the association “does not interfere with the pricing of cement,” Dangiwa hit back with, “One person cannot be selling at N3,500 per bag and another selling at N7,000 per bag and you cannot call them to order. The association is expected to monitor price control; otherwise, the association has no need to exist.”

Where the President and the Works Minister pacified and appeared to have lost touch with reality, Dangiwa spoke to manufacturers in the language they understood. He threatened them. Government, Dangiwa said, could fling open the borders to tame prices.

He told them: “We know that some of the key components of producing building materials, especially cement, are locally sourced, so the recurring disproportionate increase in the price of cement is unacceptable and unreasonable. Key input materials such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum within our borders should not be dollar-rated.

“You cannot continue to give excuses and blame it on the dollar all the time. The worst part is that other building materials manufacturers take a cue from cement manufacturers, and once they see that you increase your price, they do the same. Recently, this is happening almost every week, and it has to stop.”

Fact is Nigeria has been hijacked by cartels. They have the country by the jugular mercilessly. Like cartels the world over, the Nigerian business profiteers nurse the motive of profiteering at all costs. Governments have been unwilling to confront them and break that hold today. Past pro-people regimes behaved otherwise.

General Murtala Mohammed imported Argentinean beef to force down the price of meat in the market.

General Gowon goes down in history for the Cement Armada. Ships upon ships upon ships of cement harboured at the Apapa Lagos port and crashed the price of the product.

In his own time, when the price of cement rose astronomically and the country complained, Goodluck Jonathan, in May 16, 2011, invited producers to Aso Rock and gave Dangote, BUA and others 30 days to crash cement price to N1,000. They succumbed.

While that drama played out, four cement manufacturers in February 2013 wrote to Jonathan to demand import licences, calling themselves “Cement New Entrants Stakeholders.” They each wanted to be granted papers by Jonathan to import 5 million metric tons of cement. According to them, granting import licences was a sure way of forcing down cement price to between N500 and N1,000 per bag and breaking the current monopoly of the “cartel” in the industry.

There is much to learn from this engagement. Monopolistic profiteering dictates cement pricing in Nigeria. The monopoly flaunts every excuse to justify the high price, which the proposed independent importers told Jonathan was “making Nigeria to be classified as the country with the highest price of cement in the world” with the ex-factory price then fixed between N1,400 and N1,800 per bag.

That is the way to go. Good history ought to repeat itself. Open the borders. Grant licences to import. Create competition. It will amount to a win-win for Nigerians because cement imports will create a new line of businesses as well as jobs through the value chain of importation, ports, clearing, re-bagging, warehousing, marketing, advertising, distribution and retailing. This the Housing Minister Dangiwa knows as a professional architect, a player in the building industry and a politician who wants to deliver pocket-friendly housing to the masses.

He had similarly maintained this humane stance when, as Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN, 2015–2022), he packed several human-faced, pro-people policies into his tenure. He processed N39.5 billion worth of refunds to 247,521 retired Federal housing contributors. Under him, FMBN made available NHF mortgage loans to 5,900 beneficiaries as well as home renovation loans to 77,500 people. He, also, led efforts to develop the Diaspora mortgage loan. This innovative scheme specifically aimed at assisting Nigerians living abroad to own homes without the weeping tales of getting duped by relatives or friends in Nigeria.

Minister Dangiwa knows that ONLY the cartels’ insatiable greed propels the price of cement sky-high. Exorcising this evil begins with taming the profiteers and making them sell cement to Nigerians at the N3,500 per bag that CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, promised Tinubu at Aso Rock.

Oboagwina is an author, journalist and publisher, reachable via foboagwina@gmail.com

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Opinion

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

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The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr Hope Nwawolo

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

By Hope Nwawolo

Recently, l came across a trending post of a 72-year-old pensioner, who was said to have worked all his life to raise his kids. The writer of the post claimed the man was abandoned by his children whom he trained in expensive schools, at home and abroad.  It was further disclosed that his 65-year-old wife, had relocated to live with her children abroad, on the excuse of taking care of their grandchildren. The writer went on to paint the gloomy picture of the man as a bachelor once again and battling with high blood pressure and other old age ailments. He cautioned men that women love their children more than their husbands, so they should plan for their future. He erroneously put the number of such women at 97%.

This piece is in response to the above biased claim which is also capable of causing friction in homes striving for unity and togetherness. He may just succeed to plant a negative seed of distrust and discord in the minds of fickle-minded men, who before reading the article were enjoying a blissful relationship with their wives. It may also be possible that the writer is a disgruntled person who did not succeed in marriage or relationship and believes the same must be for all men.

When we see people like the writer portrayed, we should ask a pertinent question. What was the man’s relationship with his wife and children when he was ‘struggling’ to fend for them? Unfortunately, some men fail to realize that there is so much more in family life than money. In as much as money ‘answereth’ all things, it cannot be exchanged for lasting family relationship. 

Some men literally shove their wives aside while making the money without realizing the children see the treatment of their mothers. When some of these children become independent and financially stable, they feel obligated to compensate their mothers for the loveless treatment received from their fathers. In other cases, some men do not value family time, no matter how short, and would not understand the emotional craving of the wives and children when they really need it. Often, it is these women, that stay in the  gap in their absence, making the children bond more with  them. And instead of appreciating such women for filling in their physical vacuum, some men rather get jealous of the bond and further drift away from the children, while blaming the wife. 

Today, wise men make out time to pray, discuss, and have family outings with their families. This is called relationship building, which cannot be broken by distance in the future. The children from these homes grow up with memories of fun and family laughter. The women from such homes, have strong relationship with their husbands and will not stay more than one month when they go to visit their children. You will hear them say to the children, “Please, l want to go back to my husband.”  Why is nobody talking about them?

There are also couples who travel together to visit their children from time to time. So what stops a man from also going to visit his children whom he struggled to train? Is it that they did not invite him, and why? Perhaps they have no relationship! 

The claim of 97% women who abandon their husbands for their children is not empirical, cannot be scientifically proven, and is unfair to women. It also has the tendency to put fears into innocent men who are building strong relationships with their wives and children. I pray such men do not abandon their effort after reading such a biased write-up…for their own good! Every marriage and family is unique and should have values and principles that will bind its members together today, tomorrow, and in the future. This should override the quest for money if it cannot be combined with building lasting relationships with every member of the family.

Nowadays, while many men believe their provision of money for the home is the answer to family issues, the women sacrifice key factors that cannot be monetized, and build lasting relationships with the children. These vital factors are their tears and worries, emotional support, and constant prayers, among many others. Observably too,  some women are also contributing financially to feeding and sometimes, schools fees, as well as other necessities of the families. Despite these, they  find time to ensure that the family bond is maintained as best as possible. Unfortunately, the ego rather than complex of some men will not allow them acknowledge or appreciate the effort of these women and which the children obviously witness as they grow into independence and financial stability.

Therefore, instead of blaming women for the unpalatable fruit of old age loneliness as a result of early years of family emotional neglect, men should attempt to juggle their quest for money with building relationships that will see them through the evening of their lives, with members of the families. 

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via 

hopenwawolo@yahoo.com

 

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