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Obi For President, Zulum For Vice President

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Monkey Tail, Government Officials And Policy Implementation

By
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
The proper and complete title of my essay is ‘Peter Obi for President, Babagana Zulum for Vice President – a Proposal by an idealist! One of the first responses I received when I published the title online was ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride! I can imagine he followed that post with a foxy chuckle. But I know I will chuckle last. We are in desperate times. We need a desperate remedy. We can no longer commit the future of this country to practicing politicians who have turned the theatre of politics into an absurd one! Politics is too serious a business to be left to politicians who often think about the next elections and the views of the imaginary ‘people! Let us give a thought to forming a Government of National Unity using the framework of the 2023 elections, with both parties sheathing their swords for the survival of the country, led by the incumbent President who I believe would like to reunite the country after bombing our cultural diversity with nepotic appointments and body language!

READ ALSO: Okupe Drops Presidential Bid For Peter Obi

It is time to think out of the box. We are in an emergency. If Nigeria must survive and grow, if Nigeria must attain its full potential, then we must work on the process of producing leaders. The American model of democracy in terms of the power of the majority always having its way has not worked for us. We are not sure of the veracity of population claims. Population figures have been politicized. For example, to contend and stick to the point that the north has a greater population and must always produce the president of the country is a recipe for a split of the federation. I have other suggestions about constituting the cabinet once my suggested candidates emerge as leaders. Apart from constituting a youthful cabinet, women with a solid background should work as ministers. I am sure some politicians reading this would say I am crazy. I am not. I am very sane and patriotic!

Another reaction I received was that the two men are from different political parties. And I said so? Is there any real difference between APC and PDP? The current chairman of APC was a member of PDP before he decamped. The politicians see the political parties as special purpose vehicles. My proposal is therefore a patriotic extension of that perception. Besides, I had preceded my submission with a potent rider: we are in desperate times; we need desperate solutions. A combination of these two men in the presidency with the hope that Zulum will succeed Obi after eight years will end the unhealthy jostling and bustling currently distorting the national space. To achieve this, we need the cooperation of all stakeholders, acting on the doctrine of necessity. At the forefront of this effort should be President Muhammadu Buhari. But because I am almost certain that he will not initiate such a move, I am calling on the Sultan of Sokoto, Ooni of Ife, Obi of Onitsha, Orodje of Okpe, Oba of Benin, Middle Belt Forum, the Etsu Nupe, Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere, Ohaeneze Igbo, PANDEF, Chief E.K. Clark, Christian Association of Nigeria, MURIC, and other patriots to summon a national meeting and give this proposal serious thought. Recall that after the June 12 debacle, it was such a consensus that produced two persons of Yoruba extraction that gave way for an Obasanjo Presidency. The denial of the presidency to MKO Abiola and his subsequent death created a big tension in Yorubaland, his own folks who did not massively support him ab initio. We need that type of intervention again. Nigeria is crumbling. Nigeria is bleeding. Nigeria is dying. The politicians who led us into this cesspit cannot redeem us from it!

READ ALSO: Peter Obi Gives Conditions For Joining Presidential Race

In proposing these two men, let me state clearly that I have met Peter Obi only occasionally, twice at state functions and often at the airport where we flew together from Lagos to Asaba or from Asaba to Lagos. He would always stay with us in the open lounge, avoiding the VIP lounge, carrying his bag even as governor. He would hold discussions with ordinary people anywhere and everywhere. At a state function where he had to wait for the event to start, he sat with his state commissioners, and they were having discussions there in a circle in the open and he sat there like an ordinary mortal, not specially dressed with the airs of a pompous emperor. Not a tin god! I have not met Zulum in person. I have read about both men and think that they can change the fortunes of the country, if we work out a joint ticket on the platform of PDP, APC having just completed a two-term tenure in office.

Peter Obi was Governor of Anambra State for eight years. He gave a good account of himself as the Number One Citizen of the state in terms of accountability, projects and the entrenchment of the rules of engagement. He brought decency into governance. He preached and practised prudence, cutting costs and removing wastes. He has struck a chord with the people of Nigeria, especially the young people across the country. He has a different perspective to governance. He has put himself forward to be president and has made some definite promises about changing the Nigerian story. He has spoken about ‘investing in education and exporting graduates’ and increasing diaspora remittance from $20bn’. Add to these the current clamour in the southern part of the country that the presidency should rotate south, particularly to Southeast, and give the Igbo people a sense of belonging. Let us give Peter Obi a chance.

READ ALSO: Nigeria At A Crossroads: Moment For Lamentation And Ambivalent Reflection

Professor Babagana Zulum is incumbent governor of the troubled state of Borno. In the midst of hunger, poverty, and the highest level of insecurity, he has governed well to the satisfaction of both the ruling party and the opposition in the state. He has concentrated on his job and gained a huge following across the country. He is from the north. To work out an agreement that he should run with Obi in 2023 would be putting two men who have made a name in the public sphere as good administrators would reduce ethnic tension, guarantee a solid future and promote national cohesion.

I got responses to the proposal online, ranging from the skeptical to the supportive. Lovely Nyoreme Obodozie asked: ‘Omo! Will they allow this sweet combo? Anthony Ogene wrote: ‘What a fine combination! But can it become a reality? Both are not moneybags and power drunk! Yet another responder Angela Agoawike wrote: ‘Excellent combination for the sake of Nigeria! Aguonye Onyema George summed it up: ‘Government of National Unity. We need it now! Need I say more?

Professor Eghagha writes from the Department of English, University of Lagos.

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Opinion

Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze

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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof Tony Afejuku

 

By Tony Afejuku

My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills?  Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.

 READ ALSO: CBN Orders Banks To Pay New Naira Notes Over The Counter

Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”

Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and  my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.

    Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared. 

    I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy.  Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.

    What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff  member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.

    Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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Opinion

Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria

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

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.

READ ALSO: Obi, Kwankwaso May Join My Presidential Campaign – Atiku

Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.

In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.

To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.

Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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Opinion

Where Did All The Money Go?

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Mike Hunder

By Mike Hunder

For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric.  Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year. 

Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.  

READ ALSO: Emefiele Assures Nigerians Of Banks Accepting Old Notes After Deadline

First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration. 

Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government.  She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!

What happened there after?  The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.

Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry  of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office,  NEMA, Ministry of Defence,  Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.

The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.

When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.

READ ALSO: Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon

Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings.  Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.

On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.

Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!

In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover! 

*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: hundermike@mikehunder.com

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