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THOUGHTS OF NIGERIA FROM ABROAD

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I have spent the past week in Hamburg, Germany, attending the 17th World Editors’ Forum. I have never been to Hamburg, with its intense beauty and very friendly people. During the 1980s, I was a radio Disc Jockey, and do remember that Ghanaian musicians in exile in Hamburg revolutionized highlife music, creating what became world famous as “Hamburger Highlife”. It is also my first visit to Germany since 1986, when I was a student at the Hochschule der Gewerkshaften in Bernau near Berlin, in the former German Democratic Republic. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Stalinist states of Eastern Europe were swept off the maps; imperialism became triumphant in the ideological struggle and in Third World countries, the so-called Washington Consensus imposed neo-liberalism as the ruling economic mantra in our countries. Africans lives had been sapped by imperialist Structural Adjustment Policies which were the base of the dictatorships which turned our lives upside down in more ways than one. So the African people’s yearning for democratic renewal was constructed around the implementation of neo-liberal policies that essentially were SAPs by other means!

There will be a need to study in the future how the African yearning for democracy was effectively hijacked and became stillborn from conception. But in Nigeria, the democratic process has been everything but, and in one of the most cruel ironies of our existence, Nigeria in 1999 instituted a process that threw up the worst possible elements as inheritors of the struggle to achieve democracy. And true to form, those who caine to power, represented especially by the old despot Olusegun Obasanjo, used the excuse of neo-liberalism to sell the assets of Nigeria to themselves and cronies; they concluded that the removal of the state from economic life translates into helping themselves to the treasuries of local governments, states and the federal, while the people were left high and dry. Leadership recruitment processes that will throw up some of the indi viduals parading as our leaders in the past eleven years tell a story of how serious the problem of Nigeria is. If the truth be told, a serious country will not saddle itself with some of the individuals in the corridors of power such as Goodluck Jonathan to even be local government chairmen; but the gentleman is our president!

I have nothing personal against Jonathan and the more he bungles the essence of leadership, the more pity I feel for the man. However, we can leave grovelling sycophancy to the Ganas, Lars, Sambawas, Yugudas and others like that, but nation-building is a far more serious business and emotion is never the best method to understand its essence. Nigeria is clearly in trouble; believe me! Jonathan lost it with his comments in the aftermath of the Abuja bombings, never mind his efforts in recent days to spin the story and his statements. If ever there was a reason why he should not be allowed to become our president after 2011 the bombings gave us the perfect clue. Goodluck Jonathan lacks all the leadership qualities that befit our very complex country. But if people think he will give up his effort to nick it somehow, anyhow, the past few days have revealed a creeping authoritarianism in Nigeria that should worry all of us. While Jonathan and his vice, the equally dour Namadi Sambo, can go around the country hiding under the rubric of leadership to play politics, others are being denied the opportunity to find space under the political sun.

Babangida was not allowed to open an office in Kaduna, using a pretext of “security”; General Buhari was denied the opportunity to enter Plateau to launch his party and it is the same state that Goodluck Jonathan was allowed to enter with pomp, even when all of us know that underlining his visit is the politics of securing PDP candidacy. However the most brazen effort to steal PDP candidacy by Jonathan is the emendation he seeks to the Electoral Act to allow his appointees to become delegates to the party convention. It will be unforgivable to manipulate legislation just to serve the interest of one individual, even if that happens to be Goodluck Jonathan! These are thoughts I have wrestled with in the past few days as I arrived in London on my way from Germany. It is obvious that we cannot escape Nigeria’s problems and we should not even try to.

Nasir El-Rufai vs Babangida/Buhari: Punching above his height Last week Nasir El-Rufai talked down the presidential ambitions of Generals Babangida and Buhari. El- Rufai thinks these former military leaders are too old to be Nigerian president; the new mantra is “generation shift”, a most meaningless charade, given the corrupt role that the younger politicians and so-called “technocrats” have played in Nigeria since 1999. El-Rufai said Buhari was Head of State when he was 23 years old, in 1983. True enough, but he did not remember to tell Nigerians that he was metely 16 years old when the disgraced despot, Olusegun Obasanjo was Head of State, in 1976. Nasir El-Rufai served the despot as a privatization enforcer, controversially selling our national assets including the worst crime of them all, the PENTASCOPE scam against NITEL that he was centrally involved with (this alone should have shut his loud mouth forever in a rational and law-governed society!).

Nasir El-Rufai obviously suffered amnesia when he spoke about age and politics as regards Buhari and Babangida, because the despot he served, Olusegun Obasanjo, probably did not have a birth certificate, but every Nigerian knew that the man was far older than Babangida and Buhari at the time El-Rufai was one of his attack dogs! When politicians selectively attempt to deploy facts, they ought to double check. Yes, El-Rufai needs a place under the lucrative sun of public service and needs to demonstrate to his new master, Jonathan Goodluck that he is still an effective Rottweiler, but I honestly think he has punched far beyond his height. El-Rufai served the despot Obasanjo he is therefore the last person that should talk about the lack of qualification of other people on the basis of their age. Besides, what has age got to do with politics? We saw what the “younger generation” of Nasir El-Rufai, Femi Fani-Kayode, Liyel Imoke, Saminu Turaki, Ahmed Sani Yarima, et al., did to Nigeria, and there was nothing dignified about their record anyway!

Politics is about commitment to principles, patriotism, honesty and service. It is not about a dubious “generation shift” being promoted by individuals who have looted our country and now believe it has become their right to inherit the mantle to further fleece us! The young and the old have their place in the building of our country. El-Rufai is as confused as he is deluded and there is no doubt that he suffers a withdrawal symptom from the absolutist power he wielded under his disgraced master, Olusegun Obasanjo. That is why he hugs the wheel of the Jonathan wagon, thinking he will somehow find a back door back to relevance in Nigeria.

Fayemi’s victory; Amos Adamu and the obscenities of Nigerian life was trying to purchase a set of toys for my children on Londons Regent Street, when a text message came confirming that Kayode Fayemi had finally been returned as the rightfully-elected governor of Ekiti state. But every right-thinking Nigerian knew that he won in the first place in 2007, and was robbed in the gangster manner perfected by the PDP. Someone reminded me that time has now come to fulfil my vow to eat pounded yam in Ado Ekiti. But the issues are far more fundamental and in one of the texts I sent to Kayode, I stressed the importance of commitment to values and being dogged in the struggle for righteousness while at the same time, like a goldfish in a bold, his every action will be closely scrutinized by Nigerians just as the expectations to be met are tremendous. We can only wish him well, while noting the irony that the Goodluck Jonathan, who was part of the PDP team charged to cook the re-run, ended up sending a congratulatory message to a man they openly robbed!

The Ekiti scenario, just like Anambra and Ondo before it, shows why our political system since 1999, has delivered so much aborted hope for our people rather than the fulfillment which the investment of toil and blood had envisaged. Nigerian democracy resembles an early morning wayfarer attacked by bandits and consequently lost all that he had on him. He has walked too far away from his homestead to just turn back, but is still too far from his destination. The bandits in the Nigerian story are members of the political elite who steal the present and future of the Nigerian people. The platform is the systematic electoral heists which became the order of the day from the beginning of this dispensation. The Nigerian people wanted to build a democratic life as the anti-thesis of the dictatorship of the military period, but did not properly appreciate

that democracy cannot be achieved without democrats and people are not born democratic. It must be learnt and that platform of building democracy devolves to the political elite of the society but Nigeria’s political elite is very problematic, with far more negative than constructive propensities.

If Kayode Fayemi s victory has been a most uplifting story underlining a suspicion that there was probably not a single state in the South West which the PDP won fair and square 4 in 2007, you can imagine my delirium in the early hours of last Sunday, when news of the sting operation conducted by the Sunday Times newspaper of London, which nailed Amos Adamu, broke. It was the international confirmation of what many passionate sports lovers have long spoken about. Amos Babatunde Aremu Adamu (to give his full names) has held Nigerian sports, and especially its cash cow, football in a stranglehold from the period leading to Nigeria’s first-ever

qualification for the World Cup final, in 1994. The man constructed a power base to bestride our sports like a colossus while accumulating stupendous wealth in the process. Adamu might not have come under intense scrutiny if his control has not also seen an alarming decline in the sporting fortunes of Nigeria. He employed cronyism to dominate and punish whosoever did not toe his line while a well-oiled system of rewards percolated Nigeria’s sporting system. Adamu “owns” sports, especially football and so powerful has he been that he serially engineers FIFA threats to ban Nigeria anytime an attempt is made to audit his control of Nigerian football. Hopefully, the well-publicized demand for $800,000 bribe in return for vote could see the beginning of his monstrous stranglehold that has caused us so much sporting sorrow. Someone reminded me that Amos Adamu is a cat with nine lives, but I believe every life eventually expires!

This week Goodluck Jonathan said he has kept all promises he made to Nigeria in the past five months. He probably forgot what he said about the unconstitutional nature of a First Lady’s office, in his first television interview. Just two days later, a certain Patience Jonathan gave a kick in the teeth to our president and her visibility has ballooned ever since. If anyone had doubts about Patience Jonathan’s position, he should ask Governor Amaechi of Rivers state, who was given a short shrift by the First Lady (unknown to our constitution) who happens to be the wife of our (equally unelected) president. Her4 reign” has even been propitiated with the blood of three innocent Nigerians, as she attempted to distribute political’ rice around Abuja. We have not been told where the money used to purchase the rice came from. The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka could well have written a piece titled ‘Death and Patience Jonathan’s Rice’, but the denouement came last week, when Abuja was locked down so that Patience can bring women from all around the place to be mobilized to eventually vote for Goodluck Jonathan, if as they envisage, he steals the PDP’s candidacy.

Sunday Trust reported Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, DG of Jonathan’s campaign as saying Goodluck Jonathan will pay ANY price to become our president in 2011. The man has shown his hands, by unconstitutionally increasing the amount of oil money’going to his Bayelsa. If we allowed Goodluck to ever become president next year we would harvest more self-serving illegalities into the future. Reflecting upon these points in the past few days has further deepened my disgust at the depth of obscenities reigning in Nigerian political life!

N.B: Is Goodluck Jonathan actually “Gbomo Jomo”? Why does he serially defend MEND and Niger Delta “militants”? Professor Dahiru Yahya: A life of service and commitment This week Bayero University, Kano is hosting an international conference to honour the distinguished academic, Professor Dahiru Yahya. He is commemorating 40 years of life as a teacher and researcher. My first encounter with Professor Yahya was in his office. He was reading Maxime Rodin – son’s biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); I initiated a discussion Rodinson’s Marxist approach and that marked the beginning of our relationship. Apart from teaching, Professor Yahya has made other remarkable contributions to the building of our country. I have been invited to do a paper for the conference which unfortunately was not completed because of my recent trips, but it will be sent forth this week. Professor Dahiru Yahya is an exemplary citizen of Nigeria. Congratulations sir.

Aliko Dangote: A positive turnaround? I have written critical pieces about Aliko Dangote in recent years, because of the domineering manner he was perceived to have carried on, especially under Obasanjo. Not to mention the feeling that he is not giving back to society. Things seem to be changing for the better. Dangote has given millions of naira to victims of floods in Sokoto, Jigawa and even in far away Pakistan. It is rumoured that there are other philanthropic plans in the pipeline. That is the way it should be! When successful men give back to their society, they help shore up the legitimacy of the political economy which helped the accumulation of their wealth. Aliko Dangote has made a positive turnaround in that respect.

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