November 5, 2010
10 mins read

If governors will seek to outsmart each other and manipulate a process that is fairly simple and straightforward, how can we expect that as leaders, we are all committed to genuine electoral reforms” —Governor Adams Oshiomhole

It was the worst example of a coup d’etat; b u t last weekend, it w as reported th a t “only 11 governors attended the meeting”, according to a statement issued by the secretariat o f the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, nevertheless, these men announced a leadership change in the NGF. For the plotters, the niceties of a democratic gathering did n ot matter (in any case, which one o f these governors was genuinely a product of free and fair votes?), b u t the pre-determined outcome. The 11 governors in attendance summarily announced the end o f Bukola Saraki’s reign as the chairman of the larger-than-life body, and in his place, “elected” Gbenga Daniel. As The Nation newspaper reported on Monday, November 1, 2010, “forces in the presidency, including President Goodluck Jonathan, and some governors loyal to him, had been uncomfortable that Saraki was still calling the shots at the forum”.


The plotters believed that chairmanship o f the G overnors’ Forum conferred undue advantage on Bukola Saraki, as a presidential aspirant. Saraki’s removal, like a witches’ broth, was cooked in the haloed precincts of Aso Villa, last Friday, the same day th a t governmentapproved billionaires like Femi Otedola, Jimoh Ibrahim, AbdulSamad Rabiu, Mike Adenuga and others, were corralled into donating money for the Jonathan/Sambo campaign. So n o t only was money collected, Jonathan and his governor-supporters also planned a coup’! “The (fund raising) event had hardly ended at about m id night when some PDP governors who attended headed for the presidential villa to visit the president. T hereafter, th e governors relocated to th e Ogun State Gove rn o r’s lodge in Abuja where Saraki was removed and Daniel enthroned”, according to THE NATION’S report. In the first outing after the ‘coup’ Gabriel Suswam of Benue, said (the irredeemably controversial) Gbenga Daniel had been installed “due to his exemplary leadership qualities (REALLY?), track record (WHAT MANNER OF RECORD?) and experience as a second-term governor”.

Gabriel Suswam might be pardoned for throwing empty words, in that first instance, but the clincher was still to come. Saraki was removed, he said, because he “is contesting th e presidential election in 2011”! But it is amost incredible reason to give, since Suswan appeared to have forgotten, in the trium phaltone befitting a plotter, that Gbenga D aniel is co-ordinator of Jonathan’s presidential campaign in the Southwest! Apparently in the new order of things, the only form of politicking allowed is that which promotes the candidacy of Goo d lu ck Jonathan. But like conspirators who hurriedly buried a corpse but ended with its leg sticking out from the ground, the Goodluck Jonathansuppo rtin g governors w ere caught out in their pants, when Adam Oshiomhole bluntly responded that “7 can confirm as a matter of fact that there was no meeting of the Governors’Forum. The Governors’Forum is going to meet on Wednesday. However, some Peoples Democratic Party governors met at a venue that was never a venue of our meeting at Governor Daniel’s lodge-and it was at that fo rum that they are now claiming to represent the Governors’ Forum”.

The sloppy m an n e r by which the coup was co n ducted certainly h u rt the amour propre o f other members o f the Forum, because the Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau also rejected the purported change of leadership: “a situation where some few PDP governors could sit and take a decision on behalf of 36 governors is n o t acceptable”. Governor Babangida o f Niger state added that even though th e position was a h o norary one, due process must be followed in choosing a successor to Saraki. “No person can go outside the forum to elect a chairman”. T hat 11 governors did ju st that at the w eekend, gives another indication o f the modus operandi of the people a round Jonathan. If they were th a t desperate to c a rry o u t th e ir own form o f a coup, they might as well have consulted with one o f the many retired w arrant officers from th e army that litter our country. The m an n e r th a t the n o ctu rn a l removal of Bukola Saraki was engineered, with the active support o f the presidency, underlines th e desperate incompetence o f the Jonathan camp!

We also saw again an example o f the PDP m anner o f doing things w ith impunity, at a time w hen Goodluck Jonathan never ceases to mouth his commitment to democratic norms. Not even an iota o f respect for th e ir colleagues in th e Forum. While the tru th is that given his vulnerable position; his lack o f charisma and a near-absent grip on the ma chinery o f politics and party, Jonathan can only to the level th a t he able to in so many things since his assumption o f power, b ut especially in recent weeks. That the G overnors’ Forum became another tu rf o f contestation is indicative o f the fact th a t Jonathan and his supporters are in the fight of their political lives, reflecting Dr Tafida’s statement that Jonathan would pay any price to nick PDP candidacy It should n o t even surprise us if at the en d o f the day, they score a pyrrhic victory, given the PDP dominance within the Forum!

The portents for the 2011 elections cannot be bright in the context that we have w itnessed in recent days in the NGF. The PDP and its governors have been cultured within a tradition o f impunity and have themselves been some o f the w orst expressions o f all that is wrong w ith Nigeria’s politics from 1999. They have been products o f cloak-and-dagger politicking and most carry tainted mandates. The employment o f transparent democratic processes is alien to them and their party. It is this which Adam Oshiomhole captured very well. T he Governors’ Forum, he argued should behave with responsibility and lead by example, but the act o f nocturnal coup plotting against the ir chairman, was “completely d istasteful and embarrassing” and furthermore, “whatever the governors do, make several statements about their commitment to democratic norms and values”. We do not need soothsayers to tell us that the rumbling within the Governors’ Forum merely reflects the desperation of the governors working at the behest o f Goodluck Jonathan and, by extension, o f the m an himself.

Alhaji Magaji Dambatta: A fateful pull My relationship with Alhaji Magaji Dambatta dates back to November 2003, when I was editor o f Daily Trust. Over the years, he w ould call to discuss a piece I have written or point out an error in our publications. He stands out as a remarkable fighter for our country’s freedom, as a founding member of one o f the truly authentic radical political movements in*Nigeria, NEPU, as well as being a journ alist of note. Alhaji Magaji Dambatta provided outstanding leadership for the Northern delegation durin g the disgraced despot, Obasanjo’s constitutional conference and worked actively to lay the basis for the defeat o f his Third Term Agenda. Last week, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta’s autobiography, Pull of Fate was publicly presented; he autographed a copy for me, and his w ords about me, aptly describe him: “To a friend and brother… who is recognised as a professional to the core and an inspiration to all those who look to up to the future with hope.

Labour and the poor have many reasons to strike “President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to withdraw the national minimum wage is illegal. Under the labour law it is the federal government that is empowered to fix the national minimum wage. What President Jonathan announced on May 1st was national minimum wage and not federal government minimum wage….The federal government is stopped from abrogating the national minimum wage on the basis ofthe objections o f state governors. If the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission can fix the emoluments o f the president, governors, legislators, councillors throughout Nigeria, it is sheer hypocrisy to talk offederalism when the federal government decides to prescribe a national m inimum wage fo r workers” — Femi Falana, a c tiv is t an d human rights lawyer.

Nigeria’s political elite pressed the panic mode this week; and when it matters,

they know how to rally their forces. The basis of panic is the threat by the NLC to commence a three day warning strike, because of delay in implementation of a much advertised national minimum wage. When the habitually incompetent Goodluck Jonathan announced the 18,000 naira minimum wage, on May 1st, he was obviously playing politics rather than a genuine effort to ameliorate the conditions of the working people in a season of deprivations arising from the world-wide crisis of the capitalist system and the peculiar pattern of mismanagement central to Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalism. There has been systematic erosion in the income of working people over the years in Nigeria, an ironic situation, given the incremental earnings from oil, since 1999.

There is a deeply, entrenched inequity, in terms of accruals to different segments of Nigerian society. The working-people and the poor are the damned of the income divide, and Nigeria has one of the most pitiless and inequitable class divisions in the world. Our rulers incrementally removed the social net from the poor, and have fostered a socially uncompassionate society. As Ngugi wa Thiong’o said of the African bousgeoisie in his book Devil on the cross, if the Nigerian ruling class can bottle the air we breathe and own it exclusively, they would have done it without hesitation. So the strike threat jolted them, not because they care about the economic consequence, but the political effect a strike can have on calculations for 2011 elections. A strike will explode the yarns about Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged “divine” choice that Dr. Dalhatu Tafida has turned into a sickening mantra. A strike will reveal a typical- neo-colonial ruler, who does not keep promises. And who can deny that Goodluck Jonathan’s main political baggage is the fact that he is not honourable because he does not respect agreements, as the zoning controversy in the PDP has shown? A man who flouts agreements within his party cannot be trusted to keep a promise about minimum wage. That is why a strike is the weapon to knock sense into their heads!

They realize its import, lienee the panic that took over political society. In truth, the working people have several reasons for strikes. Take the peasantry; they contribute 40% of the GDP and yet get little in terms of support from the state for extension services, improved seedlings or sucft general improvements that can take the peasantry into modernity. The annual importation of fertilizers is a political scam and a monumental fraud. The situation o f the urban working people is only marginally better. Meanwhile, according to Daily Sun of Monday, November 8th, between January and June 2010 alone, the 36 states shared N 1 trillion, most of which went into projects to facilitate the stealing needed to rig elections. Many states did not properly implement the old minimum wage, so the new one is an unwelcome intrusion! The inequity of income is best illustrated by the emoluments of members of the National Assembly. Last week, Professor Itse Sagay, at a lecture in Lagos, revealed that a Nigerian Senator in 2009 earned N240million in salaries and allowances, while his House of Representatives counterpart earned N203.8m. In other words, a senator earned about $1.7m and a Rep, $1.45m per annum, earning more than US President Obama, who earns $400,000 per annum and British Prime Minister earning 190,000 pounds. By contrast an American Senator earns $174, 000 and a UK parliamentarian about $64,000 per annum; adding that “Nigerian legislators… awarded themselves the highest salaries and allowances in the world”. Furthermore in 2009, Federal legislators received a total of N102.8billion comprising N11.8billion as salaries and N90.96billion as allowances. So 5% of Nigeria’s annual budget is spent on 109 senators and 360 Representatives. The Senate president is reported to be earning N250m quarterly or N83.33m monthly, while his deputy earns N50m per month. Senate allocated N1.02billion to its 10 principal officers as quarterly allowance, at N78m every three months or N26m per month.

These legislators are simply consumers of national resources, just as much as their counterparts in the Executive, with a retinue of ministers, advisers, special assistants and personal assistants. Yet they dither about a minimum wage for working people, until faced with the threat of a strike. Nigeria’s inequitable society is not sustainable. We grapple with low intensity warfare in several

places as our uncompassionate society, leaves many citizens on the margins of existence. Over 44 million young people are unemployed, many without requisite skills for modern jobs. The economy is not creating new jobs to absorb them while over 60% ofthe urban population lives in dire straits and the hopelessness foster antistate criminality and loss of belief in Nigeria. Anarchy is rife, as kidnap gangs roam ilrban and rural areas all over. These give an indication of the depth of crisis and failure of the ruling class project. A strike is no solution but an expression of the class struggle and a national malaise; but the working people must speak out forcefully for all the poor!

Samson Siasia: Now that we got who we wanted Last week the Nigerian Football Association finally appointed Samson Siasia, as coach of Nigeria’s national team. It was long in coming, and in the Nigerian manner of doing things, it almost didn’t come. While lovers of the beautiful game in Nigeria rooted for Samson, he is not popular with the cabal which holds our game by the jugular. He is too independent-minded with a stubborn determination to achieve success. They tried to frustrate him in the past, despite his consistency of delivery, but Siasia soldiered on with bravery find unrelenting patriotism. So when he was interviewed along with his erstwhile colleague, Steven Keshi, not a few felt we were in for another manipulation. Thankfully, they chose Siasia. He has to re-build our team, bringing back the attacking flair. He will need the understanding and patience of all. Siasia’s appointment reflects the subtle movement in the subsoil of Nigerian football. Even though the administration is part of Amos Adamu’s suffocating stranglehold, the Mafiosi’s exposure, in a sting operation last month in London, forced the hands of the football house somewhat. When we finally break Adamu’s control, as

likely to happen soon, Nigerian sports just might, turn a corner. In the mean time, I wish Samson Siasia well in what is one of the most difficult jobs in world football; coaching and finding success with Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

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