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Strictly Personal

Osinbajo: No, Prof. Farooq Kperogi, No! By Ozodinukwe Okenwa

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Professor Farooq Kperogi is a Nigerian-born Journalism and Emerging Media lecturer at the Kennesaw State University in Atlanta Georgia, the United States. He is one of the writers I read religiously week in, week out. Few others are Azu Ishiekwene, Olatunji Dare and Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo. He is insightful, intrepid and patriotic. His profundity of thoughts, analysis and delivery marks him out as a great mind worth giving attention to.
Prof. Farooq knows the inner workings of power in Nigeria that sometimes his predictions or submissions turned out to be true turning him into a glorified oracle with authoritative takes on power and the wielders back home. He spares no one, muslims or christians, and calls a spade a spade no matter whose ox is gored.
I have never met Prof. Kperogi before but we had exchanged a couple of emails last year or thereabout. Of course, he is a great writer and through his public commentary he has a lot of reach with readers (online and offline via traditional media outlets) following his social activism.
Prof. Kperogi recently called out the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in a scathing article he published on his popular blogging website known as “Notes From Atlanta”. Entitled “10 Reasons Osinbajo Will Ignite a Religious Civil War” Kperogi sounded more like he had an outstanding issue awaiting settlement with the number two citizen.
Displaying his usual verbosity and grammatical superiority complex he had sought to take down the Vice-President hammering out ten reasons why the affable VP could unleash a religious civil war in the event of his election as President post-Buharism.
In the diatribe he had described Osinbajo as “a suave, charming but toxic Islamophobic bigot who clothes his bigotry with oratory. He is only associating with Muslims because of his political agenda…He visits mosques (with his shoes on — in a betrayal of his ice-cold disdain for the religion) and awkwardly utters salaams only as a stoop-to-conquer strategy.”
And quoting a ‘Nigerian Tribune’ columnist, Festus Adedayo, he revealed that while Buhari was sick and away in London, Osinbajo attended a Redeemed Christian Church of God prayer in his home state of Ogun where the resident Pastor prayed for Buhari to “die” so that Osinbajo would take over as president “with the VP shouting (a) thunderous ‘Amen’.” The article from which he quoted was dated Nov. 10, 2019, in a column titled “The trials of Brother Osinbajo”.
I had read that article by columnist Adedayo but what he said in it was a bit different from the interpretation it was given by Prof. Kperogi. He said the RCCG Pastor had indeed prayed for Osinbajo to rise to the top as President but not at the expense of Buhari’s ailment or death!
I am not a fan of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Nor that of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo or Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the ruling party’s so-called National Leader. I believe both of them deserve to be beaten electorally when the time comes for the successor of President Muhammadu Buhari to be chosen next year in the event of any of the two throwing their hat into the presidential ring.
President Buhari’s presidential scoresheet is null, so any party could easily defeat the ruling party next year. The 8-year presidential pestilence, Buharism, must be sent back to the showers no matter who holds the broken broom next year as the APC flagbearer. Whether Osinbajo or Tinubu, for us, it is akin to six and half a dozen!
We believe religion in general and God in particular should be removed from our national politics. God does not play politics! Again, the constitution does not allow a President to be elected as a religious leader or on religious ground. The last time we checked Nigeria is still a democracy and not theocracy.
If God should be put in the larger political picture then the monumental failures of the system could have been averted long ago. To His utter consternation God must have turned His back on our national woes after observing from above the oppression and repression of our elite; their penchant to pauperize Nigerians and steal what would have made them comfortable.
If God is the issue, politically speaking, then China and Japan, for example, cannot be leading the world economically and technologically. Now, Nigeria with our thousands of churches and mosques, millions of worshippers and hypocrites little or no progress is being made on every front. Who is fooling whom!?
The national power grid had recently collapsed leading to more darkness. At the best of time it was obscurity galore in many villages, towns and cities and now with the generalised power failure coupled with toxic fuel supply (which had led to steep increase in PMS pump price) the nation is living its version of hell on earth.
If Osinbajo was in attendance at the religious event where a prayer was offered for Buhari’s demise and he, instead of condemning it vehemently, applauded it then he must have committed a criminal, nay, treasonable offense worth investigating thoroughly and dealing with. If the veracity of the claim was proven to be true (which is not the case) then VP Osinbajo ought to have been sacked long ago for insubordination and disloyalty.
Osinbajo is often accused by critics (including yours truly) of being blindly loyal to the system, to Buharism that he is willing to sacrifice anything or everything to please his boss. Despite their religious differences Osinbajo and Buhari have governed together in harmony and deep respect for each other’s faith.
We refuse to accept the controversial submission made by the respected America-based Professor concerning Osinbajo especially where he said the diminutive VP shouted a resounding ‘Amen’ to a prayer for the death of his principal and his consequent enthronement as President.
No, Professor Kperogi, no! We disagree!

Strictly Personal

Umeme, grain and coffee: Why Kenya should fear Uganda’s economic gamble, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Uganda, the 1990s shining Africa poster boy for privatisation, is engaging in what could be East Africa’s biggest economic liberalisation reverse gear. Last year, the Uganda government formally announced it would not renew the contract of electricity distributor Umeme in 2025, when its concession expires, and that it will form a state-owned entity to take over its business.

The government’s main criticism of Umeme is its margins are too high, so it has failed to lower electricity costs, and the expensive rates have hobbled Uganda’s industrialisation ambitions. Umeme counters that it is just a distributor, and the high electricity costs are passed on from the power generators.

In two years, the debate will be resolved. Uganda will be in the midst of campaigns ahead of the January 2026 election, when President Yoweri Museveni, weighed down by the wear and tear of 40 years in office, will likely be bidding for a record-shattering ninth term, with his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, among those trying to wrestle the crown from his head. It will be the worst possible timing because incumbents rarely make the most enlightened decisions during heated election campaigns. As the West Africans say, there will likely “be a lot of cry.”

Distribution concession

Umeme was formed in 2004 when the government of Uganda granted the distribution concession to a consortium belonging to Globeleq, a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Development Corporation of the UK, which held 56 per cent, and South Africa’s now inept utility corporation Eskom, which had 44 per cent. In 2006 Eskom exited the consortium, and Globeleq became the sole owner of Umeme.

The regional impact could be significant because, among other things, Umeme shares are cross-listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. If it unravels, Kenyan shareholders would be left crying in their bowls, and we could be back to the feud over regional assets that followed the break-up of the first East African Community in 1977.

Too messy to swallow

The renationalisation of Umeme will not be unique. Kenya just tried to renationalise cash-haemorrhaging national carrier Kenya Airways but found it too messy to swallow. The recently elected new government of President William Ruto has decided to throw it back on the block.

The difference in Uganda is that Umeme is just the shallow end of the pool. There are other moves to renationalise the very lucrative liberalised coffee sector by granting a near-monopoly to a Vinci Coffee Company, owned by controversial and shadowy Italian “foreign investor” Enrica Pinetti, to process and export Uganda’s coffee. That would take Uganda back to the early 1990s when the disastrous Coffee Marketing Board was disbanded.

A similar move is being made to give the Grain Council of Uganda, on paper a non-profit membership organisation, the kind of sway over the country’s grain last seen in the colonial era.

The force behind the Grain Council is the otherwise amiable president’s younger brother, retired Lt-Gen Salim Saleh (Caleb Akandwanaho), a sly operator who is the second most powerful figure in the land. A nationalist and statist, Saleh has led a quiet but effective assault against laissez-faire liberalisation, which he argues has mostly benefited foreigners and left Ugandans with only holes in their pockets. He has taken over a large chunk of the country’s agricultural budget and several “development” functions under the amorphous state-created vehicle Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) that he heads and inserted disciples in key national economic institutions.

Return to old roots

This state of affairs is a dramatic return to old roots. Uganda launched the first of a series of economic liberalisations in the 1990s that were deemed impossible in Africa at the time and anathema in the hyper-nationalist traditions that were entrenched in post-independence Africa.

It was the first country in Africa to radically liberalise its foreign exchange market and still maintains one of the least-interventionist approaches to the money market on the continent. It was also the first in East Africa to pass laws that gave the central bank extensive independence.

It was the first on the continent in the early 1990s to liberalise the fuel market and scrap fuel subsidies. Again, in East Africa, at least, it is the government that meddles least in setting the price of gas at the pump. When fuel prices skyrocketed everywhere following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, it alone was the East African government to flatly refuse to even consider a fuel subsidy and price cap, as all the rest of the EAC states did.

Price of food

Uganda, too, is the country where the price of food is most considered none of the government’s business. When Ugandans read stories and political fights over maize in Kenya, and the government setting the price, to some of them, it sounds like a tale about an alien planet.

The country and economy that Uganda is today are about to change. Some of the changes have to do with the politics of the Museveni succession and how the family and vested interests that have coalesced around the State House view their future security. A lot of it, though, is because of some good things: the rebirth of the EAC; the end of the wars in Uganda and the ushering in of the country’s longest spell of peace; the rebound of a post-KANU Kenya; and the Rwanda post-genocide recovery.

If there are two people in East Africa outside Uganda, who have edged Uganda to the fork in the road where it is today, they are Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and former Kenya president Mwai Kibaki.

The author is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». Twitter@cobbo3

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Strictly Personal

In honour of Komla African scribes should lead renaissance, By Elsie Eyakuze

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Somehow the only news we watch on the TV at home is offered by the Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation or any one of several Kenyan stations that the person who holds The Power chooses. As a result, I have been on an imposed “news diet” for a few years now.

It is nothing serious, just a touch of burnout with a soupçon of ennui for flavour. There are newspapers, too, but I am a decade past my paper-chasing days and I have noticed the click-bait flavour of headlines and I don’t like it.

In other words, I am growing older, crankier and particular about my news. This led me to believe that I am bored by the business that the industry might indeed be floundering — a position I do not really hold. After all, my job as a journalism-adjacent writer is to support the news and the people and institutions that bring it to us.

Maintain my optimism

I can’t afford to be cynical. I have to maintain my optimism and commitment, even through lazy editing in Tanzanian newspapers, and ulcer-inducing anxiety over Freedom of Expression when it is threatened.

But, yea, you know, it is 2023 — a year that honestly belongs in science fiction, not in real life. Like you, I get most of my news online these days, in small doses, and only when I want it. I have meandered off the path of keeping abreast into the woods of barely knowing what is going on, and it is has been wonderful for my mental health.

And that would have been that, but an energetic young journalist decided to invite me to the launch of the BBC’s Komla Dumor Awards, which took place last week in Dar es Salaam.

Apart from it being the Komla Dumor Award, there was a clear intention to spark some enthusiasm in Tanzanians to apply for the prize.

Observing old journalists encouraging young journalists while enjoying free snacks was just what the doctor ordered.

I watched young master Dingindaba Jonah Buyoya expertly handle a live recording of a show, saw a lot of familiar faces, and got reminded that journalism “is a calling, a vocation.”

Power of a calling

Nothing will kick the stuffing out of your cynicism like understanding the power of a calling, a vocation. There is a largely positive compulsion that drives people into journalism: Most of them are trying to help. They are hopeless romantics with a vision that the work that they do matters, that it can make the world a better place like a Michael Jackson song. So they take their notebooks and their electronics and venture forth to cover stories and bring them back to us in the comfort of our homes and devices.

If you spend any time thinking about it, this is a pretty radical thing to do. And we cannot live this modern life without the people who make it happen. The Komla Dumor Award is about fostering excellent African journalists, and I know exactly why young Tanzanians are hesitant to apply. I was a young Tanzanian once, I know.

They should take heart: If I managed to charm hard-nosed editors in Nairobi into letting me keep this gig, they can certainly conquer Africa, the BBC, and the world news.

We — I — need that from them more than they realise.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email elsieeyakuze@gmail.com

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