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The trial of Yemi Osinbajo by Sonala Olumhense

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I am delighted that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has entered the fray for the presidential ticket of the APC.  His candidature presents the potential for some answers Nigerian democracy desperately needs.

Two decades ago, Professor Osinbajo served in the government of one Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the current National Leader of APC who is also running for the ticket.  Some of the children who were born at that time may vote for the first time in 2023.

Of course, we only hope there will be an election. I doubt that even the Vice-President believes there will be one: the most significant achievement of his administration is that Nigeria has descended into the category of the unsafe and insecure.  Of course, should he emerge the APC candidate, he will campaign safely in an official government bubble despite its being an unofficial activity, but everyone knows that for voters and election officials, the challenge will be different.

And that is the principal problem which confronts Osinbajo: his candidature is trapped between ridiculous and incredulous.  In his declaration, he claims to have thoroughly known Nigerians in the past seven years, having travelled widely and been with most of them.

“I stood where they stood and sat where they sat,” adding, “I believe that the very reason why the Almighty God gave me these experiences, these insights, and these opportunities, is that they must be put to the use of our country and it’s great peoples.”

I will not challenge Osinbajo’s faith; that is between him and God.  But I will confront his presumptuousness and arrogance.  His government worked to make Nigeria increasingly unlivable.

He anchors his presidential quest on Buhari, a man he describes as “a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, and a man of integrity,” and positions his effort as being to “complete what we have started.”

But of which nation is Buhari a patriot?  Perhaps Niger, which he does not hesitate to serve, or the United Kingdom, where he enjoys squandering Nigeria’s scarce resources on himself?  Certainly not Nigeria, where he is a remorseless nepotist who pens obituary and birthday messages in place of statecraft.

A patriot is a man who makes sacrifices for his country ahead of himself and would give his all for her.  Buhari is no such animal.

Integrity? It is not claiming to be something that makes you that thing: it is being so much of that thing that everyone identifies you as being that.  You cannot be honest and hypocritical at the same time, and Buhari is a hypocrite.

A man of integrity is a man of his word, but the past seven years prove that Buhari is a man of many words but not of his word.  A man of integrity is one who is not afraid to hold out his hands so people can see he has neither blood nor fecal matter on them.  He is one who is not afraid to open his front door to demonstrate that he has nothing to hide.

How did Buhari reward Nigerians for buying his propaganda about how he would combat corruption? The moment he got into office, not only did he “cleverly” refuse to declare his assets publicly, but he also began to assemble around him the nation’s most corrupt men and women.

“As far as the constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country,” he had promised at his inauguration. “For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”

It was startlingly untrue: He ducked the public disclosure of his assets, ducked compelling his ministers to publicly disclose theirs, ducked his ‘First 100 days’ promises, and scandalously ducked naming the nation’s top kleptocrats as he had promised.  And that is how Nigeria commenced its descent into ungovernable, the world’s poorest and hungriest, with death and distress everywhere.

Integrity?  The Fifth Schedule of the constitution affirms that a public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself, stating that “the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention of the said sub-paragraph unless the contrary is proved.”

And yet, within weeks of taking office in 2015, Breaking Times, an Abuja newspaper, fearlessly identified the new Nigeria leader as the owner of a lake front N2.1 billion mansion in Asokoro, near Aso Rock, providing lavish pictures of activities at the property.  The report was neither denied nor was the newspaper sued.

Similarly, in 2018, Buhari accepted a N45m gift from a shadowy organisation called the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN), which paid for his APC presidential primaries forms.  NCAN then conveniently—and triumphantly—disappeared into the shadows.

In other words, Buhari indicated he was open to presidential gift-receiving, contrary to the constitution.  How do we know what else he has collected in the past seven years, and from whom? Nigerians and members of the international community are left to make up their minds whether Buhari simply does not care about Nigerians or about the constitution.

Among those watching eyes is the United States. EVERY year that Buhari has been in office, it has said in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights: “Although [Nigerian] law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not consistently implement the law, and government employees, including elected officials, frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government, including the judiciary and security services. The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office. There were numerous allegations of government corruption during the year.”

The Buhari government has never contradicted this indictment.  The truth is that to describe the impact of the Buhari administration merely as a “failure” is an act of self-deprecating generosity.  The appropriate term for their work is “betrayal.”  Former President Goodluck Jonathan did not perform as abysmally as this when Buhari demanded he resign.

In other words, concerning Nigerians, Osinbajo has not “stood where they stood and sat where they sat,” but with Buhari.  If he wins the presidency, will he denounce the betrayal of which he was a part, as an honest starting point?

Clearly, it is because Tinubu knows how rotten Nigeria has become that he has found no reason why he should seize it as he has Lagos State. It is why he immediately dismissed Osinbajo as a ‘bastard,’ declaring: “I have no son grown enough to declare [for president].”

VP Osinbajo may never become President, but with Buhari to his right and Tinubu to his left, it is an act of courage for him to have determined he must run.

But if Osinbajo claims loyalty to God, he is the one who is now on trial.

This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.

Strictly Personal

Nigeria’s Currency Crisis: Time to deploy Amotekun, By Chinedu Chidi

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I have thought long and hard about just the right solution to the downward spiral of the Naira, and confidently believe I have come up with the perfect response. It is my humble proposal that the time is right to deploy the dreaded Amotekun to arrest this situation. I’ll explain why.

 

Since it is now clear that the Naira’s salvation is not in the hallways of the CBN or the gold-plated policy rooms of Bretton Woods, but in the battle grounds of the nook and cranny of Nigeria, all patriotic Nigerians must now rightly ignore suit-wearing technocrats and search for militant solutions with real promise. As a patriotic citizen, I have risen to this challenge. I would humbly like to thank the patriotic Nigerian leadership, from the CBN to the Executive, for leading us into this new era of mortal combat.

 

Only a few days ago, we were greeted with the live action scene of security operatives combating BDC operators in the nation’s capital, discharging live ammunition in broad daylight in an open civilian space like fearless patriots at the battle front. The EFCC and accompanying security operatives charged forward and backwards as the enemies of state dared challenge them. It was almost like a combat scene from Gibson’s Braveheart. I was touched. I’m not too sure, but I may have heard the humming of the national anthem from these fearless patriots as they battled the savage saboteurs. What a touching moment! Someone who was at the scene mentioned that these patriots recited the pledge before the onslaught. I can’t confirm this for sure, but if it did occur, it would be consistent with the new nationalistic fervour of the Tinubu administration as reported in the news recently that citizens would be required to recite the pledge at events. I also hear the operation is going on in different parts of the country. All these, coming only days after Sahad Stores, a retail supermarket in Abuja, was forcibly shut down for “economic sabotage”, fill me with great joy. Some unpatriotic citizens had shockingly opposed the move, claiming Sahad Stores was one of the good ones, and that deploying force would not resolve the inflation crisis. Cowards and co-conspirators! They’re too distracted by textbook ideas to see that we’re in war. Shame.

 

Normally, I would have recommended the army for this most important national assignment, but they’re overstretched. They’re battling terrorists, bandits, armed robbers, secessionists, their welfare; just about every violent aggressor around. The police would have been my second option but they too are preoccupied and, as some mischievous people claim, have a special DNA for compromise. For these and some other reasons which I will explain, Amotekun has my blessings.

 

I know Amotekun is also seriously engaged with battling bandits in the South West, but they must be pleaded with to spare some personnel for this all-too-important national emergency. Their stealth, daredevil disposition, and my favourite—charms from the gods— will come in handy.

 

I have heard rumours that some of the BDCs hide their stockpile of dollars in forests. This is the domain of the Amotekun warriors. Through their local intelligence gathering and tactical navigation of the forests, they can uncover these dollar chests and win for the country a huge deliverance. Their spiritual protection against wild animals and attacks from dark forces will be very useful here.

 

I am also confident that what has for so long appeared to be the near-impossible goal of finding the dollars some loud-mouthed people claim are hidden by politicians, bank executives and— I struggle to even contemplate it— CBN officials will be spiritually detected by Amotekun. We desperately need this.

 

It was with great joy that I also received the news that our gallant security personnel are now stopping truckloads of food from leaving the country. What took them so long! How can any patriotic businessman think of trade and profit at a time of economic crisis? This beats my imagination. I am even more infuriated by the argument of their unpatriotic defenders that we don’t have food scarcity, just food unaffordability, and that we can’t seriously let them abandon their goods in warehouses while the vast majority of Nigerians can’t purchase them. This is so inconsiderate and sad. Their argument that the exports bring in needed forex at this time of forex crisis is also another textbook nonsense. Shame on them.

 

I am particularly touched by Cardoso’s sincerity and humility. Realizing that the air-conditioned policies have hit the brick wall and that the fight has morphed into street combat, he did not try to deceive the populace about it. This is uncommon (apologies to Akpabio) pragmatism.

 

I want to enjoin the President to rally leaders in the South West towards mass mobilization of Amotekun for this national assignment. We can’t afford to fail!

 

Chinedu Chidi is a public affairs commentator. He can be reached via: chiobe24.cc@gmail.com

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Strictly Personal

The problem of DRC’s beautiful wife, maize it planted by roadside, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Watching the upheaval in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent days, one is tempted to invoke the African proverb that “the man who marries a beautiful woman and the farmer who grows maize by the roadside have the same problem.”

The police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse protesters who burned tyres and US and Belgian flags near Western embassies and UN offices in the capital Kinshasa, angry about insecurity in eastern Congo.

The protesters claim the West supports Rwanda, which they and their government accuse of backing the M23 rebellion, whose advance could see them seize the strategic border city of Goma in the east.

This is a new phase of what has become an entrenched tradition of the Congolese oscillating between blaming everyone else but themselves for their problems, and demanding that other people solve these problems, including fighting for them.

In recent years — rightly — the Congolese have railed, then attacked, the long-running and ineffectual United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) for not ending the rebellion in the east.

In late 2022, DRC’s kin in the EAC dispatched the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to separate the warring sides. Before long, Kinshasa and the people had risen against them, hounding them to go out to the jungle and fight the rebels for them. At the end of last year, EACRF left DRC with its tail between its legs.

Because the Congolese are our brothers and sisters, and we have a responsibility to love them, we also have a duty to tell them uncomfortable truths that will help them overcome.

So, we will return to our proverb. African proverbs are complicated. First, one needs to know that they passed into society through the mouths of men who were not feminists, so too many of them tend to portray women in bad light.

This one paints a heroic hard-working farmer (although it is mostly women, not men, who work the land in Africa) whose maize is stolen by passers-by, in contrast with the beautiful wife who betrays her husband and falls to the charms of other men.

However, African proverbs are also layered, so there is what they say, and the many things they mean. In this case, that people will covet a good thing — a good crop, a beautiful woman and, if we may add, a handsome, enterprising man. The “problem” here is how to keep your maize, beautiful wife, and enterprising husband. If you are better than all the men who hit on her, your beautiful wife will stay faithfully by your side.

Having your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend run off with someone else can be very hurtful, but if you have a cantankerous truth-telling African aunt or uncle, they will also whisper to you that a partner whom no other man or woman has ever or will ever want is probably not worth having.

In real-world Congo politics, then, the reality is rebels will have friends and allies at home and abroad. Even Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as despicable as a rebel group can ever be, had friends outside who backed it.

The thing that should terrify everyone is a rebel group that no one wants to touch with a 10-metre pole, both in the day and night. The opposite is also true of rebels fighting to overthrow a government. If it is a government that doesn’t have a single friend even in the cynical world of geopolitics, then it’s probably worse than a cabal of cannibals.

For Congo, what is left is how to solve this “problem”. To stay with the farmer and the beautiful wife, what the Congolese are doing is like the strapping young man in old Africa who spent all his time attacking his parents, relatives, neighbours, and their friends because they failed to give him cattle to pay a bride price for a wife and build a hut for him to live in with her.

The scale of surrender of agency by many Congolese, including the political class and the government, is unsettling.

It’s partly understandable, too. The unusually brutal Belgian rule; the exploitation of all sorts of vultures for its vast minerals lasting over 100 years now; and an unbroken long spell of corrupt and cruel rule, have broken its self-confidence. The way to come to terms with the scale of failure and remain sane is to externalise all the problems to evil forces.

It has led to national paralysis, a belief that they can’t do much on their own to overcome.

DRC’s neighbours to the east, Uganda and Rwanda, offer good lessons. When President Yoweri Museveni took to the bush with his small band of rebels in 1981, the odds were stacked up against them. The British had a big programme with a special police force; the Tanzanian army that helped overthrow military dictator Idi Amin was on the side of the government, and hardy North Koreans soon got into the fight against them. They still won.

The prospects were even worse for the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front when it crossed from Uganda and took to treacherous hills in 1990. Apart from Uganda, it was alone against the world, including one of the world’s superpowers at the time, France, which was in bed with the government in Kigali. They suffered setbacks, picked themselves up, and won.

Congo can win, but first, it will have to plant its own maize and fight its war for its own beautiful wife.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». Twitter@cobbo3

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