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Igbo independence and Biafran identity

In this essay we will take time to clarify some areas that seem to confuse some people in the on-going Biafra separatist movement in Nigeria. Over the years, as will be expected; the move for the independence of Biafra has undergone some transformations

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In this essay we will take time to clarify some areas that seem to confuse some people in the on-going Biafra separatist movement in Nigeria. Over the years, as will be expected; the move for the independence of Biafra has undergone some transformations. These changes seem to have created a sort of mixed messages in the minds of both observers and participants. So, at this point it is really important that we try to clarify some of the seemingly ambiguous aspects of the movement.

It is a fact that for some of the participants, those involved in the struggle, many are finding it difficult to come to terms and accept the obvious realities of these changes when they seem to go against some of their assumed or preconceived notions of what the struggle should be about. This is understandable. But in spite of the genuine appreciation of the position of these colleagues it will be foolish if we should ignore the prevailing obvious new realities and facts as they concern the movement. We can only ask that such individuals will be humble enough to find the sincerity and courage to acknowledge these truths and incontestable facts when they are revealed to them.

Right from the onset we take it for granted that all of us who are involved in this Igbo independence project are concerned with the noble idea and task of establishing a functional and viable society or country. With that in mind we will take it that none of us in this movement is in it for the vain pursuit of an imaginary kingdom based on the fancies of some unrealistic “united states” dreams. Such figments of unreflective imaginations are nothing different from the nightmarish one Nigerian concept, which we are saddled with now. Such unreflective idiocies must be avoided by all means if our aim is to succeed and not just thrive but prosper as a new country.

Igbo is a distinctive language, an ethnic nationality of 50 million, a people with definitive unique identities, a linguistic, cultural and worldview that cannot be confused or mistaken for something else by anyone. This exclusive way of life makes them who they are: Igbo.

In this regard therefore, it is necessary to state plainly that the current non-violent move (starting from the later part of the 1990s to the present, 2018) to separate Biafra from Nigeria, as an independent state is exclusively an Igbo project. It is an effort by the Igbo collective to establish a new country exclusively for and by themselves. And we must quickly add that this desire is just, legitimate and altogether wholesome.

Igbo people in Nigeria have specific autochthonous lands, which they have always occupied from antiquity. In these lands, from primordial time the Igbo have always existed there and passed them on from one generation to the next until this present time. It is the Igbo in these lands so described that want to separate their lands from Nigeria into a new modern country with a sovereign independent status.

It is in this fundamental fact that the key to an unclouded understanding of the scope or dimensions and the identities of the new Biafra and its people lies. This fact clearly defines the contrast that exists between the 1967 Biafran struggle for independence and the current Biafran independence movement. The two may sound alike but there is an unmistakable difference between them. In the 1967 Biafra, the lands and peoples of other ethnic nationalities other than the Igbo were included in the physical geographical map of the Biafran country. Indeed some Igbo lands were excluded in the map of the old Biafra. But in this new Biafra it is only the Igbo ethnic nationality and their lands everywhere that make up the new country. As we go on with this discussion, this position of an Igbo-only Biafra will be further explained.

Relevant changes are often necessitated by prevailing circumstances, new knowledge and newly emerging truths. For the benefit of some of our colleagues in this liberation movement we understand that sometimes it is difficult to embrace necessary changes. Most often it is time that is the primary agent of these changes. In Stephen Hawkins’s A Brief History of Time he talks about how difficult it was for him at the initial stage to convince the scientific world to believe in his Big Bang Theory and how even more difficult it has been for him to dissuade the same group of scientists from believing in many aspects of the same theory.

But the truth is that new knowledge and truths will sometimes emerge to supplant former truths or ideas. It is therefore, not a sign of inferior intelligence or inferior moral standards to review or change one’s positions based on new knowledge and truths. Time and the people themselves must always continually determine and create their own realities based on their prevailing circumstances. And it will always take the painstaking reflective patience of the sincere and honest individual to find enough courage and boldness to accept new truths and new realities as they present themselves.

Alternatively, putting it more bluntly, we must say that it will be a fatal mistake when anyone especially those in the centre of the Biafran movement try to ignore or pretend that nothing changes with the passage of time or that such a fundamental reality on which hinges the total essence of the independence movement will be sorted out later on.

The circumstances that produced the two Biafras are not the same
We need to make it clear that though this generation of Igbo people take a part of their inspiration from the just and courageous actions of their forebears who rightly fought to be free as Biafrans, but the truth is that the Igbo of the on-going Biafra or Igbo independence movement also have their own unique reasons for embarking on this new project of freedom. Therefore this new business of Biafra or Igbo independence movement is exclusively the project of the present generation of Igbo people and will be fought and won on this generation’s terms and conditions. The old truism that says that every new generation must fight their own battles and win or lose their own victories could not be truer elsewhere than in this instance.

Read Also: The voice of the people is NOT the voice of God

Briefly, we must mention here, by way of explaining some of those reasons that differentiate the old Biafra from the new: In the past during the 1966 Pogrom the Igbo were not the exclusive victims of the Nigerian government-sponsored killing of unarmed citizens. The other neighbouring ethnic peoples or most of the other people from what was then known as Eastern Region of Nigeria were also among the casualties in the killings. And mostly it was the Pogrom that led to the declaration of an independent state of Biafra from Nigeria with the geographical map of the old Eastern Region serving as the new country’s physical boundaries in 1967. That country of Biafra existed from mid-1967 to the second week of January 1970.

Another important point to note here is that the old Biafra was declared along the then existing Eastern Region administrative territory as established by the British colonial administrators. The boundaries and identities of the people of this new country of Biafra will be determined by the indigenous people, the Igbo by themselves and for themselves.

Just like the presently contested one Nigeria, the old Eastern Region of Nigeria was an arbitrary creation of a foreign colonial power without any due consultation with the natives or consideration of the differences that existed among the native peoples who would be compelled to deal with the consequences of the actions. As it is in Nigeria, the old Eastern Region was made up of peoples with incongruent and irreconcilable worldviews and national aspirations who were forced by the force of colonialism to mix together their fortunes and destinies in one political and administrative structure without the benefit of a commonality of cultural and historical antecedent or heritage which serves to bind a people together and enable them to live in harmony and a progress-promoting environment.

The new Biafra

Due to the continued mistreatment of the Igbo in Nigeria starting from 1970 when the Biafran-Nigerian War ended; the well-documented and publicised marginalisation, persecution and complete exclusion of the Igbo from Nigerian commonwealth and all the affairs of the Nigerian state, a group of Igbo people (known as Ekwenche Research Organisation in the United States) decided in 1996/1997 to revive the quest for the independence of Igbo people from the Nigerian state.

Over the years this quest has evolved but its core agenda remains the same – the determined separation of the Igbo nation and land from Nigeria.

It is important that no one should miss or mix up this fundamental agenda because that is what gives the movement its nature, structure and dimensions. Except the Igbo, this new Biafra has nothing to do with any other ethnic groups in Nigeria, for obvious reasons.

Generally speaking, though the Igbo are adventurous and outgoing, they are not known to be imperialistic or to covet the fortunes, stations or places of other people. It is this national trait of the Igbo, which informs the continued survival of the Igbo practice and reverence for Ikenga Igbo – a belief in the supreme importance of individuals’ personal achievement. The Igbo thrives better when they have the exclusive control of their own space and destiny.

Just as we the Igbo are not interested in the possession or in the sharing of our neighbours’ good fortunes as a result of common citizenship of the same country, we are not pretending to being the redeemers or saviours of these our neighbours either. The Igbo believe that each of their neighbours is capable in their own rights to save, determine and pilot the ship of their own state and destiny by themselves and for themselves.

In Nigeria the only group of people who is resented, despised, hated, persecuted, and generally considered, as the pariah of the state is the Igbo. Just one recent example will suffice here. On 6 June 2017, a group that goes by the name Northern Youth Coalition held a press conference in Kaduna and issued a three-month quit notice to all Igbo people living in what is traditionally known as the northern region. This area covers about 70 percent of the physical map of what is known as Nigeria.

The quit notice, which was backed by the government and people of the north is quite explicit and specifically issued to the Igbo people. In the document that the group read at the press conference it explained clearly why the quit notice was exclusively for the Igbo and not inclusive of other ethnic members of the Nigerian union.

For the sake of emphasis it needs to be repeated here that over the years that the non-acceptance of Igbo people in Nigeria has remained a consistent systemic and systematic programme of both the government and the private citizens of Nigeria. This programme is not lost on Igbo people therefore, the people have made an immutable resolve to move out from Nigeria and form their own separate sovereign independent state. This resolve is also based on the universally accepted principle of Self Determination as the right of all peoples everywhere.

We need to remind our readers that we believe in the unity of all human peoples everywhere, but we are aware of the fact that not all forms of unity are good for all peoples everywhere. Without looking far to illustrate this point we can only invite our readers to take a quick look at the disastrous unity of one Nigeria. From the Nigerian example it is very clear that the only unity that succeed are those that are based on the understanding that such a people that are being united have a unified sense of purpose, that such a people are united in the common pursuit of unified national aspirations, and yoked together in their common cultural ways and worldviews.

With this conviction that not all forms of unity promote strength, harmony and progress, Igbo people categorically reject any unity that is just for the sake of it. In our opinion, nothing can be weaker than all forms of unity that lack the basic ingredients that foster harmony and progress but instead promote resentment, hatred, death and intolerance.

It is for this reason that we know that any new Biafra that will not take these historical facts and realities into consideration is equally doomed from the start just like the one Nigeria which we are fighting to be extricated from.

At this juncture we need to reassure all Igbo neighbours who are living in the contiguous lands around the Igbo, that we recognise the fact that they too may have their own issues or misgivings about the Nigerian union but we also know that just as it is in the real world, each group has their own unique challenges which is peculiar to them. We also know that just as it is only the one who wears the shoe understands where it pinches, the Igbo do not pretend to know or have the answers to their neighbours’ challenges as it applies to them. As good neighbours, the Igbo are always willing to work in partnership with their neighbours to achieve certain goals such as working jointly together to collectively extricate themselves from Nigeria.

Working together in projects of this nature does not mean that other ethnic nations should subsume their unique national identities in the Igbo identity. Should the need arise where the Igbo neighbours will fight alongside the Igbo to win freedom from Nigeria, it will never result in what some misguided individuals erroneously refer to as the “United States of Biafra.” The present Igbo independence movement is not pursuing any such thing. Despite its faults this present generation of Igbo cherishes with pride their unique Igbo identity which they are prepared to own and preserve while working on continually improving and modernising this their collective heritage to remain relevant and to continuously conform with the universal global standards.

It is in this light that we want to state plainly that this new Igbo-only Biafra will not be a closed society. Although the country will be an exclusive Igbo society and a sovereign country, it will also be an open society that welcomes all-comers from everywhere, without discrimination. For the purpose of emphasis we need to state that this Igbo country will especially be more open and welcoming of those who are mistreated, persecuted or pursued from anywhere. So long as all intending immigrants are willing to come in and be assimilated and ultimately become Igbo by practice and identity, they will always have a home in the Igbo country.

With this understanding it becomes clear that the kind of an Igbo-only state that we are talking about here does not mean a closeted extremist or intolerant state. No, it means a state where an oppressed and persecuted people can be and have their lives and properties and rights protected by a sovereign national power. In this Igbo state all people from anywhere in the world who are escaping oppression, persecution or any such thing can come there and find a home and refuge without discrimination.

In this state – an Igbo state, people of all colours and persuasion can come to this state to dream, achieve and prosper without any hindrances so long as they keep the laws of the land and respect the rights of fellow citizens. It will be a state administered under a continually updated set of predictable rules, regulations, laws and order. It will be far removed from any state where the whims and fancies of one person or a few clique of individuals prevail.

There will never be a reason to exclude anyone who comes into the Igbo state who will be willing to live and abide by the norms of their host society. Igbo ways and ideas are in full conformity with the universal standards and practice and all Igbo everywhere own and identify with them with pride and are ever willing to work hard at the protection, preservation and advancement of this their Igboness as a collective bequeathal to subsequent Igbo generations.

Lastly, we want to reassure all people everywhere that this pursuit to establish a safe haven (a sovereign state) for the Igbo who have always suffered resentment, persecution, discrimination and hatred in the hands of their neighbours is a just and legitimate venture and should be supported by all well-meaning individuals, governments and groups everywhere.

Commentator: Osita Ebiem
He is a social affairs commentator and rights advocate.

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Strictly Personal

We are in a leadership crisis by Abraham Simpamba

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Zambia is not personal to the holder, it is a sovereign state hence there is no monopoly of wisdom and knowledge it calls for concerted efforts to govern in order to develop this great nation and not a one-man show or a business entity aiming to make profits.

It’s been a year, and some months now Mr. President and you have confirmed that one year is enough to make progress and threaten those in the system to have them replaced, citing that they are frustrating the process.

One thing you must understand is that, the moment you took the oath of office you told the country that you have inherited an empty coffer. Hence, the big question begs an answer. How many international trips have you undertaken so far and at what cost? With a view that you are marketing Zambia as if Zambia is a new country which is not known, yet the country has been in existence for 58 years now.

While the country is still grappling with so many challenges, for one year now without progress to uplift the social welfare and living standards at the list in one year we would have seen some improvements in some of the areas below;

  1. In the health sector, where there is no Medicine and the situation is getting worse every day.
  2. The high cost of living.
  3. Agriculture sector farmers are not getting enough farming inputs starting from last year’s farming season.
  4. Energy sector where we have been slapped on our faces with high fuel prices and electricity tariffs, and pending load-shading which was claimed to have finished in one year.
  5. The highly pronounced 25.7 million CDF has no effect on the ground.

Looking at, the above hardships, your excellence how do you expect the system to respond because those people in the system are not immune to the hardships above? Or maybe those in the system are the ones influencing the monthly fuel pump price hike and the high price of farming inputs and other commodities on the market?

The introduction of free education and making desks in schools also the employment of civil servants it’s a good thing but does not mean you have given the Zambians all that it takes for us to survive. Moreover, when you talk about free education I could roughly say 80% of the people in urban setups are taking their children to private schools meaning they are not beneficiaries hence the high cost of living is affecting everyone.

What we need is to revamp the private sector which is the major employer because it plays a major role to build the economy unlike what you have done to give tax holidays to mining firms because whatever little we used to realize it was important to the growth of our country’s economy.

Hence blaming and holding those in the system accountable that the system is not responding simply shows that you are lacking what it takes to take this country to higher, highest. And the question is, why can’t Zambians hold you accountable as well? Because you are the CEO of this great nation mother Zambia to me it’s like you are the one who’s failing the system with your excellence.

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Strictly Personal

Yes, Aisha Buhari eats from poor people’s money! By Festus Adebayo

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Though the wife of the Nigerian president, Aisha Buhari, has discontinued her defamation case against Aminu Adamu, the final year student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, the court of public opinion cannot afford to throw the issue into the dustbin. In what was the Nigerian First Lady’s most recent controversy, having allegedly ordered the arrest and detention of the university student, massive flaks against her and the futility of continuing the matter, it was said, must have necessitated the withdrawal of the apparently dead-on-arrival matter.

Aside from the above, the concept of the First Lady and its implications for the social health of society today deserves to be re-examined. The cliché, “behind every great man is a great woman” has led political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers to look intently into the texture of the characters of spouses of rulers of the world. This is because, mere concentration on political actors and their policies have failed to unravel, in many cases, why they behave the way they do. With the arrest, detention, and alleged torture of Adamu on the orders of Mrs. Buhari, the question of who Aisha Buhari really is has been more compelling. Is she a villain dressed in the robe of power or a victim of the icing on the cake of power?

On a Twitter post, Adamu had attributed the bloat in the physique of the First Lady to and symbolizing excessive romance with the Nigerian national pot of soup. Adamu had specifically tweeted: Su mama anchi kudin talkawa ankoshi, which translates to “the mother has gotten fat on masses money.” He accompanied this tweet with a puffed-up picture of the First Lady. Piqued by what she must have considered a plebeian audacity, Aisha was reported to have ordered the young man’s arrest and his rough parceling to the Nigerian presidential villa, where he was allegedly tortured and remanded in prison,

The truth is that the First Lady and the Nigeria Police who charged Adamu for defamation by his tweet, perhaps due to the many decades of military rule, do not understand the proper concept of democracy; nor do they have a whiff of what representative democracy is all about. When purged of all the unnecessary icing of its highfalutin definition, representative democracy, which we practice in Nigeria, is a give-and-take concept. Also known as indirect democracy, it is a type of democracy where elected people act to represent a group of people. It is a system practiced by nearly all western-styled democracies, its typical examples being the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Broken down to its granules, in representative democracy, the people, aware of the disorder it would have meant for everybody to be in parliament and Government Houses at the same time, place the power to govern them in the hands of their representatives who they elect in a periodic election ritual.

Representative democracy has its origin in the Roman Republic, which was the first known state in the Western world to practice it. Romans sold this system to the world in which, though supreme power lay in the hands of the people, they ceded this power to their elected representatives who then wield the power on their behalf. In most instances, these are representatives who are felt to have superior knowledge of administering society or who possess some rare qualities that are not found in the generality of the people. The people however reserve the power and right to withdraw such powers in the form of recall from the parliament and impeachment of this erring representative by their representatives in the parliament.

To focus the attention of these representatives on the business of governance, the people make available to them some measure of comfort which they get from their consolidated national pool, their national patrimony. The house built in the people’s name and with their resources, which is christened Government House, is made available to these representatives to live in, free of charge. The ones who could not live in this house are rewarded in cash called Housing Allowance. It is not because they are more entitled to live therein than the people who they represent. They also eat free food, paid for the patrimony of the people. For their time which is sacrificed, they are paid salaries and other allowances. The health and well-being of these representatives are the bothers of the state. Thus, in many democracies, they are treated free of charge from the pool of the people’s money. In fact, so that they are not distracted, the state also pays for their children’s schooling and their wives’ comfort. The representative needed not to be distracted looking for food, and shelter, and bothering about the wellbeing of his spouse. So the state caters to virtually all the family members of the representative.

In the 2023 budget estimate, the offices of Aisha’s husband, President Buhari, and his Vice-President, will spend the sum of N11.92 billion on local and foreign trips, as well as on the presidential air fleet. It is inclusive of the sum of N1.58bn which was earmarked for aircraft maintenance and another N1.60bn which was allocated for the overhaul of the Gulfstream GV and CL605 aircraft engines of the presidential office. In the same vein, the Office of the President was slated to spend N2.49bn on local and foreign trips, and the Vice-President’s office, N846.61m. Fuelling of these aircraft, according to the budget, will cost the Nigerian taxpayers which comprised the poor and the rich, the sum of N250m, while N650m will be spent to purchase a new mobile helicopter landing pad.

In the same budget, the sum of N40.45m was penciled for the construction and equipping of a new presidential kitchen and a total of N508.71m to be spent on foodstuffs and refreshments, an amount which stands at N331.79m and N176.92m for the offices of the President and Vice-President respectively. I am not aware that the above sums emanated from the private wealth of Mrs. Buhari’s husband or from the proceeds of his cows in Daura. She can only be allowed to claim that she had not eaten the poor people of Nigeria’s money if any of the amounts earmarked for the Villa feeding and comfort does not have her participation in them in the last seven and half years.

It was this same Mrs. Buhari whose daughter, Hanan stirred the hornet’s nest when she was conveyed by the Presidential jet to attend the Durbar in Bauchi. By Nigerian governmental convention, it is only the President, First Lady, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Presidents, and a Presidential delegation, are allowed to use the Presidential jet. It will also be recalled that, in that year’s budget, the amount voted for the Presidential jets was N8.5bn. Hanan, who graduated in Photography from Ravensbourne University, London, was said to have gone to Bauchi on a special invitation as a special guest of honour of the Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Adamu.

Photographs of her Hanan disembarking from the presidential plane and being welcomed by Gombe State officials went viral around this time. The Emir was said to have invited her to the Durbar so that she could take photographs of the celebration, Bauchi architecture, as well as some other cultural sites in the state. While Mrs. Buhari’s daughter was engaged in this unconscionable abuse of office and waste of taxpayers’ money by this act, it beggars belief that the same woman would be miffed by the allegation that she was chopping poor Nigerian people’s money. Before getting into office, her husband, then Major General Buhari, was trenchant in his criticism of the Goodluck Jonathan government and the ones before him, for expending public funds on unjustifiable things.

For all our food and the comfort of our collective home called Aso Villa where she lives, all we ask from the First Lady is tolerance. She would only have had a defence in court if she could present verifiable and irrefutable evidence that she spends her personally earned money and not money belonging to the poor and the rich of Nigeria, to feed herself in the last seven and half years plus. If she could not, she would lack every right to litigate against a 24-year-old Nigerian who claimed that the Nigerian people’s money, with which she feeds, must have been responsible for her bloated physique. She might however have had a defence if she could provide evidence to show that she recently acquired sheppopotamus-size image – apologies for the nil discretion in an earlier statement by Prof Wole Soyinka so describing Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan – was as a result of a health challenge and not from proceeds of Nigerian people’s money which she chops legitimately.

With an apparent dearth of Paparazzi journalism in Nigeria, the type that unearthed several hidden details of Princess Diana’s liaison with her Arab consort, Dodi Fayed, scholars must rise to the people’s rescue and begin to piece Aso Villa jigsaws together. Perhaps by so doing, they could arrive at the current frame of mind and fitting psychoanalysis of the office of the First Lady under Buhari. Except for photo-op sessions, there have been allegations of no love lost between Aisha and the Nigerian president. Specific suggestions have even sidled into public discourse that the First Lady does not enjoy spousal attention from her husband.

The first absurd manifestation of this in the public was Mrs. Buhari’s open antagonism and criticisms of her husband’s government in the early years of the administration. This was so notoriously manifest that many people concluded that if indeed the couple lived together as husband and wife and indeed shared affection, she could have offered those pieces of advice in the presidential closet. In 2019, while appearing on a Lagos television show, Aisha was asked why she was always criticizing her husband in the public rather than having “pillow talk” conversations with him that symbolizes spousal affinity and interaction, she replied, “there is no pillow in the villa. No,” She however attributed this to their busy schedule.

Again, the brawl at the Villa between her and the leader of Aso Rock’s cabal, Mamman Daura, revealed an ugly underbelly of the relationship between Aisha and her husband. What came to the limelight was that the two live in different apartments in the Villa. The brawl between Daura’s daughter and the First Lady showed that there was an attempt to de-room Mrs. Buhari in favour of Daura’s daughter. On top of this, a couple of years ago, the First Lady packed her belongings out of her «matrimonial home» and made the UAE her home. These absurd revelations should interest scholars of the social health of Nigeria’s seat of power.

The psycho-analysis would need to be made of these mis-matrimonial manifestations in the First Family, so as to decipher whether Mrs. Buhari’s current fly-off the handle had a direct correlation to her matrimonial frustration. It was the same despotic disposition that Ondo State people saw in Feyi George, wife of their military governor, Naval Officer Olabode George, in the 1990s. The “couple” had left office before it came to the fore that that marriage was for the press and in actual fact, the two actors were miles apart and merely acting marriage. Scholars would thus need to help us unravel whether Nigerians are witnessing another marriage of convenience between Aisha and her husband, the Nigerian president. If this is it, we may then begin to see a connection or corollary between some disjunctive manifestations in power at Aso Rock and this spousal spat.

No woman would live with a fib that intent analysis of Aso Rock matrimony portrays as a presidential family without an occasional urge to bare the fangs of a tiger. It is not unlikely that what the world saw in the Adamu tackling was an attempt to grasp at a straw which the “power wielder” mis-perceived as power through that unnecessary anger at Adamu. This is because Mrs. Buhari looks too charming and matronly to behave in a manner that could only have been advertised by Mrs. Idi Amin Dada.

What Mrs. Buhari did with Adamu was a crude and naked abuse of power. If she wasn’t wrong by her act, then our fathers and mothers who died in the bid to dethrone military rule and embrace democracy died in vain. People died and were maimed for us to be where we are today, the courtyard of free speech. Free speech can only be checkmated by defamation and not the baring of a wolf’s claws. It is the antithesis to use the democratic office to harass anyone like a despot. Why what Aisha Buhari did to Adamu was an oxymoronic tragedy to the Nigerian people that, by that act, she got our people to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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