Friday, February 27, 2015


Friday, February 27, 2015



When the Commander-in-Chief takes command and is seen to be in actual command, well then, I will concede that leadership has been demonstrated, albeit only superficially.

Yes, Mr President. Your visit to the troops was a great morale booster, both for them, and for those of us fellow voyagers who had begun to wonder how long the captain would remain below deck, asleep while the storm of insecurity raged and the ship of state tossed wildly atop the angry waters.
Some clips from Mr President's visit with the troops
Thank you Mr President. I will not forget this. It is but poor compensation for all the other issues that yet burn, but in doing this, you have proved yourself, in some small but significant way, the president of all Nigeria.

Although you have won back my respect, you have not won back my vote. That valued property, that franchise, that vote, is a precious one, to be delegated only where competence either has been amply demonstrated or is likely to be amply demonstrated. In 2015, it belongs to another.

Once again, Mr President, thank you. Daalu.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Saturday, February 21, 2015


By: Funke Egbemode

Bareheaded, barefooted and breathless, the king ran through the woods, like his life depended on it. It did, in fact. The king, the lion of Ayedire was running for his life, both royal and physical. The people who one worshipped him had just rejected him and ejected him from the stool of his ancestors. No, they were not really out to kill him, all they wanted was their throne, their palace, back from him.

Oyewumi, the Alaaye of Ayedire until a few hours ago, could still hear the youth chanting war songs and the women, each holding just one broom stick, cursing and threatening him. It was an unbelievable day, a nightmare that would haunt him the remaining days of his life. That is, if there were any days remaining for him.

Oyewumi continued his lonely and lone flight through the forest, seeking a place of refuge in this coolness of the day, a day that had broken like any other but one that would end like none other. Who would have thought that this day would come, when he would wake up in all his royal majesty and end up under a tree, without royal apparels and being pitied by the birds and squirrels? Who indeed!

He choked on his rage and regret, wondering where he went wrong and how things got so bad without him knowing. Did he not do all that his advisers told him? Did he not go to war when Balogun (the head of his army) told him to do so? Did Oluode (the head of the town secu­rity) not tell him his people were sleeping with both eyes closed? Should he have doubted and cross-checked what Iyalaje (the leader of the market women) reported as the state of commerce and commercial activities was in his kingdom? Who would have thought the walls of the palace were not as impregnable as the Olori Eso (head of the royal guards) made him believe? The fat idiot almost got him killed.

So, where were all his chiefs now? How did he end up the only one without even a cap, half-naked, hungry and haggard? Where were the people who told him all was well and that there had been no king like him since the first Alaye settled in Ayedire? How did he end up being the homeless one while the fat cats he made rich with royal patronage were probably sound asleep in the arms of their wives? What kind of fate had befallen his own queens, especially the beautiful one he had just taken, just three moons before? A short brown snake crawled past, he almost jumped out of his skin but the reptile didn’t seem to notice his royal presence.

How did Oyewumi end up a refugee in his own kingdom, with only disrespectful snakes and squirrels as companions? It is a sad twist of fate and a sad turn in the road that the king was not told existed. Yes, for his royal majesty was not the first king that Ayedire rejected and he most likely would not be the last. Oba Oyeniyan too was dis­graced out of the palace, chased into the cold dark on a rainy night. It is the way of the people of this kingdom, they hate with the same intensity with which they love.

With open arms they had welcomed King Oyewumi. They danced and sang for seven days when he ascended the throne of his ancestors. They prayed for him and gave him gifts. They worshipped him and treated him like the representatives of the gods that he was. He was a welcomed relief from the days of drudgery and poverty of the last king.

For a while, things went well. The rains came when it should and the harvest was plenty. The women went to the river and farm and returned safely. Then things start­ed going awry. Children got missing on their way from the farm. Women got raped on their way to the stream. The neighbour­ing kingdoms became so bold they not only refused to bring their annual tax (isakole), they also started raiding border farms and compounds. Soon, everybody started feeling uncomfortable. The rains still came on time and the harvest increased but the people of Ayedire were no longer happy with their king. What was the use of the new beads and ‘Alaari’ they could now afford if their wives lived at the mercy of rapists? What was the use of the tu­bers of yams that got bigger by the year if the markets were not safe? Where would they sell their farm products if nobody came to buy? And if a man lost two sons in one day, who would he leave his wealth to?

Tension rose and side talks soon became loud protests. The young ones stopped prostrating for the chiefs and then stopped greeting them altogether. The people of Ayedire stopped attend­ing the king’s festivals. The people of Ayedire were simply done with Oyewumi. If he could not protect them and their families, he was no longer fit for their palace. And just like that, in the middle of the day, the sun high and hot, these people forgot every and any good thing this king had done and chased him out of town, far out of town and deep into the forest.

A rodent defecated on Oyewumi’s crownless head. The squirrels bounced up and down the short bush path. The birds continued to sing. As if all was well with the world, as if nothing significant hap­pened that day. Though a male tree is not expected to produce juice, tears welled up in the blood-shot eyes of the king. Was this really the end of the story, the end of the road for him? Had he actually become ‘yesterday’s king’? He imagined Ayedire crowning a new king, the maidens danc­ing seductively, boisterous laughter all over town, everybody drinking free palm wine and eating pounded yam like it is going out of fashion. Though his heart failed him at that point but he took evil delight in the sure knowledge that his people would soon tire of their new leader and send him to this lonely place of for­mer kings where grasscutters and rabbits are the subjects.


Funke Egbemode writes for the Sunday Sun, from which website this article was retrieved on February 21, 2015.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Monday, February 16, 2015


Whence does Obasanjo's courage to criticize someone for not adhering to the "Rule of Law" come? I remember well that the "Rule of Law" was a foreign language between 1999 and 2007. When did Obasanjo learn to speak a new language? 

Or is he really speaking a new language? Might this just be a new dialect of an old language, a language we all remember, a language that some of us referred to in those days as the Third Term Project?

Obasanjo is a dogged fighter. That is why the view that his motivations for becoming a "statesman" are entirely selfless is a difficult one to accept. It is more plausible in fact that he is applying the finishing touches to becoming not a statesman as he seems to say, but the State's Man, which is what he may really be saying.

Naijaman - "Respecting" The President

Monday, February 16, 2015



I have repeatedly referred to President Jonathan as clueless in matters of governance. I still think he is clueless in that regard. I think so because his leadership has shown “no knowledge, understanding, or ability” in successfully handling the myriad of Nigeria’s problems, from the economy, to security, to internal democracy, to corruption.

A number of people, in their reactions to my posts, especially recently, have taken strong exception to my characterization of President Goodluck Jonathan as clueless. They have premised their objections on their shared perception that calling him clueless is insulting, and that insulting the president amounts to insulting the generality of Nigerians. They are entitled to their opinions.

In my own opinion, which, needless to reemphasize, I am entitled to as well, the individual who elects to offer himself to the citizenry for public service either in an elective position, or as an appointee of government to a cabinet position, by that same token, submits himself to the intense glare of public scrutiny. His every action and inaction will be second-guessed, analyzed, applauded, derided, or ignored by all and sundry, each according to their personal persuasions and leanings. Assessments of how the president has handled his job are made by citizens and non-citizens alike. These will come to their conclusions on the subject. The words they choose in describing those conclusions are their own prerogative.

Respect for the man who is the president and respect for the president are not exactly the same thing. To my mind, there is a difference between both “respects” that is not even so vague. In the first, the respect that is due the man is the same respect that is due any other man. No more. In the second, the respect that is due the man is the respect that is due the office of the president, the respect that is due the people he represents, the civilization he stands for, the institution that he embodies…in two words, the presidency.

Respect for the office of the president dictates that you stand when the president enters the room and remain standing until he sits or indicates otherwise, even if you think this president assaulted your mother. Respect for the president means you don’t heckle when he speaks in his capacity as president, whether he is addressing the National Assembly, a business community, or a town hall meeting, whether you agree with what he is saying or not. Respect for the president means you don’t throw stones at him or his motorcade when he comes campaigning for reelection in your area. Respect for the president embodies all those responsibilities you have as a citizen to the personality that occupies the office of the President, not to the person that is the president. In speaking of the president in his capacity as president, we owe his office the respect it deserves. Therefore, in formal national and international gatherings, at public functions which he attends in his capacity as president, his presence must elicit from us all the courtesy that his high office demands. In those situations, he is not just any other man. He is an institution. He is a people. He is a civilization. In characterizing this or any president as an individual however, in referring to his performance on the job, any adjectives employed are at the discretion of the assessor. Others may agree or disagree with the adjectives used – some may even see them as insulting – but those may be seen as the necessary evils of the freedom of speech we enjoy – freedom of speech, not information.

Disrespect shown to the office of the president – which means, in effect, disrespect shown to the person of the president when acting in his official capacity as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – amounts to disrespect to all Nigerians. That is why, on my Facebook wall, I was unequivocal in my condemnation of the stoning of the president’s motorcade in some northern states some weeks back. Nothing excuses that kind of behavior. A PHYSICAL attack on the person or the surroundings of the president is an attack on the presidency and so, an attack on all Nigerians. I condemned that behavior without reservation. To my knowledge, none of those who now query me for using that clueless tag on Mr President condemned that behavior.

In contrast, a scathing criticism of the president on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, satellite television, radio, or newspapers – even if seen by some folks as insulting – is not an insult to Nigerians. Nigerians are not responsible for the president’s decisions. Some enjoy them, some endure them. Those who endure them cannot be expected to clap for him like those who enjoy them do. Instead, they are expected to call very loudly for things to be done differently, where possible, by different people. Respect for the president does not mean you cannot disagree vehemently with his policies, and with him.

I respect the president. But I disagree heartily with him on security, on the economy, on his approach to corruption, on defense. I don’t think he should continue to be president. I think he is unfit to lead. That does not mean that I think he is unfit to be a respectable Nigerian. It just means that I have not become so focused on seeing the president as to be unaware that I am also seeing Jonathan. Perhaps another way to say this is that we must separate the president of Nigeria from the PDP presidential candidate for the 2015 general elections, even if both personalities coalesce into the same individual who has been president for the past five years.

All that said, I hope the misunderstanding generated by some of my posts in some quarters will now be laid to rest.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Friday, February 13, 2015


Amakeze, Michael Chigozie

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. You see, I have known Hugo from my secondary school days, more than a decade ago. In those days, he was a young man with an exotic name-Hugo Davy. He walks in a measured manner and speaks French. For me, there was not a nobler man. Judge O ye gods how dearly I admired him.

Hugo is gifted with the pen. His ink is new every morning. He can weave a tale, gripping and racy. I have neither wits, nor words, nor utterance, nor the power of speech to stir men’s blood like he does. I am no orator, as Hugo is. I follow his blog and his writings like a morning devotion.

Then politics came. Make no mistake about this. Hugo is entitled to his choice. Now the problem isn’t that Hugo makes a swansong of his choice, making himself an Archbishop (maybe TB Joshua ordained him) and procuring for his use, a miter cap and a crosier staff for worship in the temple of APC.

The problem is that Hugo in a selective manner, plays down the deficiencies of his candidate, and in a very smart manner, makes those that haven’t joined the ‘change’ bandwagon feel like they are on the wrong side of history. Hugo accuses us of silence, of connivance, of blind support for the incumbent, and paints his intentions with the brush of patriotism. He calls it his ‘convictions’. But he, in a subtle manner, questions our own convictions.

Hugo Naijaman glorifies in the ‘anti corruption’ antecedents of his messiah who is to come. He calls him a disciplined man. Now lets put Hogo (sic) and his ilk right. Coup is a political armed robbery. It is the worst form of corruption. All coupists are usurpers of legitimacies that belong to the people. It is a travesty of language, a corruption of the purity of concepts, of the human civilization and dignity to call coupists incorruptible, no matter their intentions. They never owned the power they flaunted. They only possessed it. Every rookie lawyer knows the difference between ownership and possession. The logic of coups is that you are an animal, a pre-civilized being, and possess no right to own your life or fate.

So how on earth can a coup maker be disciplined? Or satan (sic) be saintly? Is it possible to practice ethics without morality? The next best thing Buhari should do before we grant him a baptism in the assembly of the faithful, ie humans, is to confront the demons of his past and show some remorse. He hasn’t shown any atom of remorse.Given the opportunity, he will do so again. Now that is sin against the holy spirit-obstinacy, and it is enough to deny him paradise.

Hugo makes a mountain of corruption allegations. I had expected him to push for restructuring of the power architecture in Nigeria which is the reason for corruption in the system. Corruption is wholly and entirely power, not a function of persons or countries. It is the system that co-opts or precipitously pushes persons into corruption. Assuming, without conceding, that Buhari is not corrupt, it is foolhardy to think that he will stamp out corruption because it is institutional. He was propped up by persons who are neck deep in the corruption game. The system makes it impossible for political eunuchs to achieve political erection. They can only be propped up by political godfathers, like Tinubu. They become vassals in the hands of their benefactors.

The answer remains with reconstituting the power architecture, decentralizing the enormous powers in Abuja. Will Buhari risk it? Will he dismantle a system he benefits from, as a Northerner, a system skewed to favour the imperialists, the feudal North, of which he is a member?

Hugo says he writes for posterity. But I haven’t read a work by Hugo on what is at stake in Lagos Gubernatorial election where he lives, earns his bread, and sometimes butter. Everybody knows that Lagos is tethered to the whims of one man, someone whose words are laws, whose wealth is so humongous he can buy the atlantic (sic), who literally owns half of Lagos. I haven’t heard Hugo complain about the activities of touts in Lagos who are ostensibly given a State protection, who constitute themselves into terror groups of a more virulent strain. Hugo doesn’t want posterity to know about his home state Governor Rochas Okorocha who indulges in governance by billboards and deceives his people with wishy washy greetings nay ‘My people my people’. Maybe he doesn’t want posterity to remember that. O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason. Bear with me.

Hugo’s pastime can be summed up in one word-HATE. It is not criticism. It is pure hate. That’s why he attacks any thing emanating from the Presidency, good or bad. Once it is Jonathan, it is bad, including attacking an innocent mistake on the President’s Facebook post, and comparing it with Buhari’s certificate scandal. It is akin to what the Republicans do to Obama, to the extent of questioning his citizenship. The objective is one thing, to ridicule his person and undermine his Presidency. To achieve that, they indulge in massive propaganda and sustain the tempo. Recently, they even accused the President of deploying Soldiers to Tinubu’s house. None of such happened. Hate is like stagnant water, and stagnant water becomes dirty, stinky, disease ridden and poisonous.

O how I missed Hugo’s write ups when he was objective, when he was alive. My heart is in the coffin with Hugo and I must pause till it comes back to me. Here was Hugo. When comes such another. He died leaving mums and kids behind. I have no idea what kiled (sic) him. In any case, it saddens me. Death is a bitch.

This Facebook post was first published on February 12, 2014.


Friday, February 13, 2015




Hugo Naijaman

I have worked on drafts in an attempt to appropriately respond to the (Facebook) announcement of my obituary on my birthday, February 12, 2015 (link below). I am not sure whether to react to the figurative announcement of my death, to the announcement of my figurative death, or to the probably more sinister spectacle of having figuratively died from “causes unknown”. In the last few minutes however, I have decided to discard all the drafts and post this response instead. It is my will, which circumstances have forced me to write post-mortem, and which I bequeath to those I have figuratively left behind.

Many a man is not allowed the opportunity to read his own obituary, figurative or otherwise. Tributes and eulogies are traditionally rendered at a time when the words we speak and write can neither be heard nor read by the persons we refer to, as they are then already dead. The man has a singular opportunity therefore, who lives to see how people would react when he dies. Not many such men have passed before me. Not many more will come “me-after”. 

Although the title of the post professes ignorance of the cause of my death, it does seem that the body of the obituary notice is an autopsy report of sorts, featuring within it a body of small evidences – pointers to what may have killed me. Central to these pointers, it would seem, is a political disagreement, a disagreement about a choice freely made to support one candidate over another, and the fallout from making a choice that is at variance with that made by people around me. It is not my intention to defend that choice here. Dead men do not make representations on their own behalf.

I bequeath to all those who now consider me dead, their memories of my life. 

To those I inspired to be better people, to be thinking people, to be analytical people, I can only say I am happy to bequeath you that inheritance. 

To those I inspired to be less than they could otherwise have been, well, I was not an inspiration at all. You may need to learn to look upward for inspiration, not sideways, definitely not downward.

To those I did not affect at all in any way, well then, news of my death should not matter either. I pass from your lives like I have lived, playing no part, having no effect whatsoever, and so bequeathing nothing.

This article has been written in response to the article by Amakeze, Michael Chigozie of February 12, 2015, entitled: "Hugo Is Dead (Figuratively). I Have No Idea What Killed Him"

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

To my mind, it is simple.

Should Jonathan win, and continue to render us all unsafe by his cluelessness, no one can say they were not warned.

Should Buhari win, and fail to deliver on his promises, no one can say we have not tried. Plus the added bonus that we will vote him out just as we did his predecessor.

Imagine a Nigeria where public/political office holders worked hard at good governance because they knew that was the sole way to acquire political capital.

For, by voting Jonathan out in 2015, a precedent will have been set, a point made: one that assures the political class that incumbency is not an automatic pass to reelection, and that the misdeeds of governance will come back to haunt the perpetrators at the polls, however long those polls take in coming.

And then, our democracy will go from nascent to young and budding.

God bless Nigeria.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: DEMOCRACY DEFERRED

Tuesday, February 10, 2015.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Last week, Victor, a carpenter, came to my Lagos home to fix a broken chair. I asked him whom he preferred as Nigeria’s next president: the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, or his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari. 
C. N. Adichie
“I don’t have a voter’s card, but if I did, I would vote for somebody I don’t like,” he said. “I don’t like Buhari. But Jonathan is not performing.” 

Victor sounded like many people I know: utterly unenthusiastic about the two major candidates in our upcoming election. 

Were Nigerians to vote on likeability alone, Jonathan would win. He is mild-mannered and genially unsophisticated, with a conventional sense of humor. Buhari has a severe, ascetic air about him, a rigid uprightness; it is easy to imagine him in 1984, leading a military government whose soldiers routinely beat up civil servants. Neither candidate is articulate. Jonathan is given to rambling; his unscripted speeches leave listeners vaguely confused. Buhari is thick-tongued, his words difficult to decipher. In public appearances, he seems uncomfortable not only with the melodrama of campaigning but also with the very idea of it. To be a democratic candidate is to implore and persuade, and his demeanor suggests a man who is not at ease with amiable consensus. Still, he is no stranger to campaigns. This is his third run as a presidential candidate; the last time, in 2011, he lost to Jonathan. 

This time, Buhari’s prospects are better. Jonathan is widely perceived as ineffectual, and the clearest example, which has eclipsed his entire presidency, is his response to Boko Haram. Such a barbaric Islamist insurgency would challenge any government. But while Boko Haram bombed and butchered, Jonathan seemed frozen in a confused, tone-deaf inaction. Conflicting stories emerged of an ill-equipped army, of a corrupt military leadership, of northern elites sponsoring Boko Haram, and even of the government itself sponsoring Boko Haram. 

Jonathan floated to power, unprepared, on a serendipitous cloud. He was a deputy governor of Bayelsa state who became governor when his corrupt boss was forced to quit. Chosen as vice president because powerbrokers considered him the most harmless option from southern Nigeria, he became president when his northern boss died in office. Nigerians gave him their goodwill—he seemed refreshingly unassuming—but there were powerful forces who wanted him out, largely because he was a southerner, and it was supposed to be the north’s ‘turn’ to occupy the presidential office. 

And so the provincial outsider suddenly thrust onto the throne, blinking in the chaotic glare of competing interests, surrounded by a small band of sycophants, startled by the hostility of his traducers, became paranoid. He was slow to act, distrustful and diffident. His mildness came across as cluelessness. His response to criticism calcified to a single theme: His enemies were out to get him. When the Chibok girls were kidnapped, he and his team seemed at first to believe that it was a fraud organized by his enemies to embarrass him. His politics of defensiveness made it difficult to sell his genuine successes, such as his focus on the long-neglected agricultural sector and infrastructure projects. His spokespeople alleged endless conspiracy theories, compared him to Jesus Christ, and generally kept him entombed in his own sense of victimhood. 

The delusions of Buhari’s spokespeople are better packaged, and obviously free of incumbency’s crippling weight. They blame Jonathan for everything that is wrong with Nigeria, even the most multifarious, ancient knots. They dismiss references to Buhari’s past military leadership, and couch their willful refusal in the language of ‘change,’ as though Buhari, by representing change from Jonathan, has also taken on an ahistorical saintliness. 

I remember the Buhari years as a blur of bleakness. I remember my mother bringing home sad rations of tinned milk, otherwise known as "essential commodities"—the consequences of Buhari’s economic policy. I remember air thick with fear, civil servants made to do frog jumps for being late to work, journalists imprisoned, Nigerians flogged for not standing in line, a political vision that cast citizens as recalcitrant beasts to be whipped into shape. 

Buhari’s greatest source of appeal is that he is widely perceived as non-corrupt. Nigerians have been told how little money he has, how spare his lifestyle is. But to sell the idea of an incorruptible candidate who will fight corruption is to rely on the disingenuous trope that Buhari is not his party. Like Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party, Buhari’s All Progressives Congress is stained with corruption, and its patrons have a checkered history of exploitative participation in governance. Buhari’s team is counting on the strength of his perceived personal integrity: his image as a good guy forced by realpolitik to hold hands with the bad guys, who will be shaken off after his victory. 

In my ancestral home state of Anambra, where Jonathan is generally liked, the stronger force at play is a distrust of Buhari, partly borne of memories of his military rule, and partly borne of his reputation, among some Christians, as a Muslim fundamentalist. When I asked a relative whom she would vote for, she said, “Jonathan of course. Am I crazy to vote for Buhari so that Nigeria will become a sharia country?” 

Nigeria has predictable voting patterns, as all democratic countries do. Buhari can expect support from large swaths of the core north, and Jonathan from southern states. Region and religion are potent forces here. Vice presidents are carefully picked with these factors in mind: Buhari’s is a southwestern Christian and Jonathan’s is a northern Muslim. But it is not so simple. There are non-northerners who would ordinarily balk at voting for a ‘northerner’ but who support Buhari because he can presumably fight corruption. There are northern supporters of Jonathan who are not part of the region's Christian minorities. 

Last week, I was indifferent about the elections, tired of television commercials and contrived controversies. There were rumors that the election, which was scheduled for February 14, would be postponed, but there always are; our political space is a lair of conspiracies. I was uninterested in the apocalyptic predictions. Nigeria was not imploding. We had crossed this crossroads before, we were merely electing a president in an election bereft of inspiration. And the existence of a real opposition party that might very well win was a sign of progress in our young democracy. 

Then, on Saturday, the elections were delayed for six weeks. Nigeria’s security agencies, we were told, would not be available to secure the elections because they would be fighting Boko Haram and needed at least another month and a half to do so. (Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram for five years, and military leaders recently claimed to be ready for the elections.) 

Even if the reason were not so absurd, Nigerians are politically astute enough to know that the postponement has nothing to do with security. It is a flailing act of desperation from an incumbent terrified of losing. There are fears of further postponements, of ploys to illegally extend Jonathan’s term. In a country with the specter of a military coup always hanging over it, the consequences could be dangerous. My indifference has turned to anger. What a staggeringly self-serving act of contempt for Nigerians. It has cast, at least for the next six weeks, the darkest possible shroud over our democracy: uncertainty. 


This article was first published online on February 10, 2015.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Monday, February 09, 2015


Sonala Olumhense

Up until last Thursday, the 5th of February 2015, there were people in Nigeria who thought President Goodluck Jonathan still had a chance to be re-elected president next Saturday. 

Among that number, some mistook the pageantry and pomp of incumbency for the power and pump of Nigeria’s fledgling democratic heart. 

As Mr. Jonathan stumbled and wobbled in poll after poll—several of them operated or commissioned by operatives and hirelings in and around the administration—they looked for scapegoats and escape holes. 

As politicians trooped from his PDP into the suddenly-attractive APC, Jonathan’s team deployed abuses and excuses.

As organizations and important individuals around the country and abroad endorsed Mr. Jonathan’s principal challenger for the presidency, his cheerleaders encouraged him to disburse more promises, dismissing forecasts of his imminent electoral demise.

Well, not entirely. At first they clung to the strategy of trying to destroy the claims to character of Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate. 

That lost steam.

They shifted into blame mode, questioning the readiness of the electoral commission. 

That, too, lost steam.

Then they—they who thought the “Independent” in the Independent National Electoral Commission was ridiculous and refused to honour its budgetary and programmatic requirements; who refused to encourage Nigerians to collect their voters’ cards; who refused to protect the rights of the internally-displaced to vote—these emergency philanthropists argued Nigerians had not received their cards.

That track also lost steam.

Then they dropped the P-word: postponement. They wanted the election postponed. 

At first they wanted six months. Then, dawn and reality closing in, they wanted eight weeks.

Eight weeks?

Eight weeks. They had had four years—or five, or even eight, depending on how you looked at it—to prepare for the 2015 elections. They had had all the time in the world to grant the electoral commission all the support it needed to be absolutely prepared, but did not.

They had had all the time to support the IDPs, including those displaced by floods, but did not. 

They had all the time in the world to revamp the military and Nigeria’s entire Boko Haram strategy towards making the Northeast safer and more election-friendly, but they did not.

It came down to begging and crawling to try and gain eight weeks. 

To be sure, they gained a few voices. They got some minor political parties to whine on their side of the fence. They hurled a few moles in front of television cameras and radio microphones and Internet keyboards. They refused to grant visas to foreign journalists heading into Nigeria to report the election.

But it was hopeless, as opposition to postponing the election was substantial. Asserting itself, the electoral commission said, “We are ready. We are as ready as we are ever going to be!”

And then on Thursday, four days ago, the Council of State detonated a bomb right in the heart of the government, saying it had failed to find a shred of evidence why the election could not go on.

In other words, the Council did not fall for the tenure-elongation schemes of the Jonathan presidency in the face of the clamor of the populace to speak at the ballot. 

These were gargantuan, seismic shifts.

It is not difficult to imagine that the presidency, after being doused with such ice-cold water on a bitterly-cold morning, did not crawl into alcohol and refuse to be consoled. It was not difficult to see that Nigerians simply wanted an opportunity to vote out Mr. Jonathan and the PDP. 

It may be clich├ęd, but Nigerians wanted change.

This bothers some people, who argue—bravely you might say—that Buhari and the APC do not offer change. That argument is what emerges when you fail to clean your ears. 

Buhari and the APC, I assert as someone who has openly denounced the PDP since the 2003 elections, are change. They offer a change from the PDP in the elementary sense that someone—anyone else—is hope, and something of a new beginning. Anyone and anything but the PDP is the definition of change. 

Now, is APC the change Nigerians want? Well, that is a completely different animal. The truth is that you cannot have the second without the first. To say that APC is not the change Nigerians want should not be to say that PDP and Jonathan are a nightmare they want to maintain. It is the nature of homo sapiens, when confronted with pain or injury, to try something…different.

As for me, I am reformed. For five years, I have pointed out how weak and unsuitable for leadership Mr. Jonathan was. But it is all clear to me now: his mission in politics was never to be a conqueror or an achiever, for he is not so equipped; it was to show Nigerians how nasty life can turn when they are not vigilant. 

Nigerians were not, and they got Jonathan. 

The PDP were not, and now, it is about to be de-mystified and detonated.

In the process, Jonathan’s luck seems to have run out, and he is being unveiled as an impostor, the passerby in the mask of the King. Unveiled not just as the man who didn’t give a damn, but as one who couldn’t spell it. He will spend a lot of his old age trying to explain how he got to Aso Rock; how he got to the University of Port Harcourt, if he did, how long he spent there, and what he did there; and even the loyalties of those who cheered when he did not give a damn. 

Speaking of Uniport, Mr. Jonathan may have singlehandedly damaged that brand. Every alumnus is now on his own.

Unless you are wearing damaged ethnic or regional blinkers, the only reason for any passionate support of Jonathan is because he upholds a lootocracy to which you belong. There is nothing about his public voyage that fills a normal man with anything but contempt. 

But let us be clear: this election is not about Jonathan. It is not about Buhari. It is about Nigeria, as a country that has for too long been taken for granted. 

This is also why Buhari, his team, and the APC must be on notice. It is not about you, and if you win, it would be the final tragedy should you act as if there is one day to waste, or as if the standards of measurement will be lowered because you enjoyed popular support on your way to the kingdom. The support is for the country, not you, and not your party.

Actually, your journey will be a lot more difficult because in the period since your much-admired presidential party primary, a lot has changed, and the resources that will be available to you on Friday, May 29, 2015 will be considerably less. 

The comfort is that if you really and truly give a damn, you will have plenty of company and help on the road to restoration.

Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense


This article was first published online on Monday, February 09, 2015.


Monday, February 09, 2015

The plot thickens. Reports like this fly about. But the populace is mum. 

Nigerians were warned in a similar report several weeks ago of a plot to postpone the elections, of a plot to force the issue by paying several groups and briefcase political parties to "protest" INEC's going ahead with the vote as scheduled, of a plot to raise questions about the competence of the umpire immediately after the postponement and effect his removal before the date of the elections as rescheduled.

Those reports were published and we did not react to them, did not read them. And when the government fed us their security concerns-coated pill of deceit, we, a people made gullible by choice rather than by extenuating circumstances, lapped it all up like thirsty dogs would do to water.

Now, the government is at it again. It has organized the paid rallies. It has gotten the elections postponed. It is now trying to get the INEC chairman out of the way. Reports to that effect are flying about. We are once again paying little attention.

The drums that beat the notes of war begin to play from the heart of the forest. The animals that live on the fringes may not always hear the first notes, but when they see birds of the hinterland flying outward, they know that all is not well.

Mr President, Nigeria does not have to go to war because you want to remain president.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Sunday, February 08, 2015


By Wole Soyinka

First, let us not simplify the challenge. There are no blacks and whites. It is not a contest between saints and demons, not one between salvation and damnation. If anything, it is closer to a fork in the road where uncertainty lurks - whichever choice is made. Someone in the media has called it a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, another between Apocalypse and Salvation. The reasons are not far-fetched. They are firmly lodged in the trauma of memory and the rawness of current realities. Well, at least one can dialogue with the devil, even dine with that creature with the proverbial long spoon. With the deep blue sea however, deceptively placid, even the best swimmers drown. The problem for some is deciding which is the devil, which the deep blue sea. For most, instructively, the difference is clear. There are no ambiguities, no qualifications, no pause for reflection - they are simply raring to go! I envy them.

​Let all partisans of progress however constantly exercise self-restraint in assessment and expectations. Facts remain facts and should never be tampered with. Verification is nearly always available from records and – the testimonies of witnesses. Yet memory may prove faulty, so even those who were alive during any political regimen should exercise even greater caution and not get carried away by partisanship in any cause, however laudable or apparently popular. In the interest of truth, embarrassing though it is, we are obliged to correct all such tendencies openly, since revisionism is a travesty of history, and never more treacherously so than in a time of critical democratic choices. I apologize in advance to the authors of the instance that I must now use as an example, apologize because it does not come close to the most atrocious revisionist stances propagated in the past few weeks. However, it is one of the most recent, is born of noble intent, but serves to remind us of the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. From that same origination however also came a corrective, and that very adjustment offers us optional routes in the way we deal with historical facts, especially when we find ourselves on the same side of commitment to the positive in a political cause. 

​In recalling, or commenting on any event that involves victim and violator, there is a difference between “It never happened” or “it was the accepted norm for the time” etc. etc. on the one hand, and, on the other, “we have forgiven what did happen”. Both positions converge at the point of “moving on”. One, the first, however disparages and trivializes the suffering of – in this instance – victims of the abuse of power, dead or alive. In so doing, it also desecrates the memory of these and other victims. The second approach insists on its entitlement to justice, waives that right by drawing on a store of magnanimity and even – places the violator on notice! Its example also challenges the adamantly unforgiving, challenges them to join in an exercise of their own capacity for obliterating the past, acting in the collective interest, and perhaps attaining closure. 

​When I read the statement attributed to a scion of a political family that his father was “not jailed” but was merely “invited for interrogation as required by military tradition and policies then”, I felt deeply offended, but mostly saddened. For this adjustment of reality provided evidence of yet another lesson unlearnt. Exoneration through denial, and without evidence of remorse or restitution by a violator is a serious lapse in public accountability, and an invitation to a repeat by the offender – or other aspiring emulators. In any crisis, it is not unusual to find oneself in bed with ideologically embarrassing partners. Let it be understood that this does not require that we actually begin to dress them in saintly robes. 

​What makes our situation especially galling is the fervid intrusion of some opportunistic sanitizers who bear direct, sometimes even originating responsibility for the plight in which a people have been placed. These are individuals who should be doing penance, walking from one corner of the nation to the other covered in the equivalent of ‘sackcloth and ashes’ for their role in bringing the nation to its lamentable condition. Yet they insist on remaining obsessively in the public face, preening themselves up for recognition as the primary forces behind a nation’s renewed efforts to redeem and re-determine itself. They are the promoters – actively or by default – of the current national trauma of a Boko Haram malignancy, the anti-corruption rhetoricians who however believe that they have literally got away with murder. Rather than make reparations in any number of unobtrusive ways, they impudently exploit a permissive, and despairing atmosphere for regaining relevance. The nation should watch out for their antics, even while exploiting them to the hilt for the overall remedial purpose. They owe the nation. We must ensure however that they are incapacitated from making more mischief. I am consoled that not all the Nigerian electorate is as simple-minded and gullible as they believe. 

​The nation finds herself at a critical turn, where the wrong choice places it beyond all hope of remaining intact – and by ‘intact’ I do not refer to breast-beating mantras such as the “non-negotiability of Nigerian sovereignty”. I am speaking here of the viability of whatever calls itself the Nigerian nation, its functional proof, the ability to generate its very existence and cater for the future. Since I still have some time invested in that commodity, the future – with apologies to impatient Internet Obituarists – it becomes impossible to refrain from direct participation in the process of, or the encouragement of others, in the process of making a choice. In any case, I am compromised by the wiles of unprincipled campaigners whose pastime is to propagate a choice I have never declared. It is meagre consolation that I am not alone in being subjected to such fraudulence. Even the dead, who cannot answer back, have not been spared. In and out of context, the ongoing campaign appears to have appropriated any public figure as free-for-all material, to be quoted out of turn, his or her utterances mangled and distorted, forced into incongruous contexts, and sometimes, even in a counter-productive manner, although such desperate campaigners appear blissfully unaware of this. What is being overlooked however is that, while facts remain constant, the environment evolves, and may play a tempering role in the very evocation of a record of the condemable acts of governance. I am not speaking of time now – as a dulling agent of painful memory - but of the very actualities of the present as an advocate of – at the very least – remission.

The era of this election offers an incontrovertible proof of that reminder. Let us leave aside for a moment the parlous condition of the Nigerian landscape and look outwards for some inspiration. We live in an era that we, on this continent, may be forgiven for inscribing as the era of The Mandelan example. Mandela’s life trajectory remains a lighthouse in any voyage into uncharted waters – anywhere and any time that a people’s history is cited. Confessedly, we can only adopt bits and pieces of this Monumental Examplar. The bit that is called upon in this instance is a virtue that is aptly designated civic courage, an aspect of courage that enables one to make a leap of faith when confronted with a near intractable choice.

​Let me state, right on the heels of that exhortation that the acceptance of this imposition by society demands in its turn a massive reciprocity, a condition of individual moral courage that manifests itself in the ability to express contrition for the past, with its implicit commitment to an avoidance of such acts as violated the loftiest entitlements of human existence such as – freedom. We have no apology for declaring that our civic Muse is, summatively - Freedom. The right of choice. Volition. The Right of participation in the modalities of collective existence including its rituals, the sum of which is routinely known as – Democracy. Its antithesis is enslavement, and we who have undergone centuries of enslavement and disdain from the imperious will of outsiders, have no intention of changing slave masters, irrespective of race, colour, religion, social pedigree, profession or political ideology. This is why, apart from a few deranged species that have removed themselves from the definition of humanity, we are united against the tyranny of Boko Haram and other proponents of chains – visible and invisible - as the rightful portion of their fellow beings. 

​Through participation, direct or vicarious, we find ourselves landed within a system that has thrown up two choices – realistically speaking, that is. Formally, we dare not ignore the claims of other contestants. Of the two however, one is representative of the immediate past, still present with us, and with an accumulation of negative baggage. The other is a remote past, justly resented, centrally implicated in grievous assaults against Nigerian humanity, with a landscape of broken lives that continues to lacerate collective memory. However – and this is the preponderant ‘however’ – is there such a phenomenon as a genuine “born-again”? 

​It is largely around this question that a choice will probably be made. It is pointlessly, and dangerously provocative to present General Buhari as something that he provably was not. It is however just as purblind to insist that he has not demonstrably striven to become what he most glaringly was not, to insist that he has not been chastened by intervening experience and – most critically - by a vastly transformed environment – both the localized and the global. Of course we have been deceived before. A former ruler whom, one presumed, had been purged and transformed by a close encounter with death, and imprisonment, has turned out to be an embodiment of incorrigibility on several fronts, including a contempt for law and constitution. Would it be different this time round? Has subjection to police tear-gas and other forms of violence, like the rest of us mortals, and a spell in close detention, truly ‘civilianized’ this contender? I have studied him from a distance, questioned those who have closely interacted with him, including his former running-mate, Pastor Bakare, and dissected his key utterances past and current. And my findings? A plausible transformation that comes close to that of another ex-military dictator, Mathew Kerekou of the Benin Republic. Despite such encouraging precedents however, I continue to insist that the bridge into any future expectation remains a sheer leap of faith. Such a leap I find impossible to concede to his close rival, since we are living in President Jonathan’s present, in an environment that his six years in office have created and now seek to consolidate. That is the frightening prospect. It requires more than a superhuman effort to concede to the present incumbent a springboard for a people’s critical leap.​

​I address only those who require no further persuasion that the present is untenable and intolerable – and from virtually every aspect of national life. All men and women of discerning can separate actualities from their exaggerated rendition, can peel off the distracting gloss that is smeared all over our social condition by those who seek to blind us to an unjust and avoidable social predicament. We have tasted the condiments of an incipient police state. We recognize acts of outright fascism in a dispensation that is supposedly democratic. We have endured a season of stagnation in development and a drastic deterioration in the quality of existence. We are force-fed the burgeoning culture of impunity, blatantly manifested in massive corruption. We feel insulted by the courtship and indulgence of common criminals by the machinery of power. The list is endless but above it all, we understand when there is a failure of leadership, resulting in a near total collapse of society. We are now brought to a confrontation with choice, when we must make a leap of faith, to open up avenues of restoration.

​Leadership is, I acknowledge, an often imprecise expression, conveniently absolving those who invoke its absence of the burden of proof. When I make that accusation, it is based on hard instances for which proof is not only demonstrable in all spheres of governance – and superabundantly so - but can be provided if challenged by anyone, including the obscene convocation of the cretinous, who even believe that they have earned the right to poke their messy fingers into strictly family travails of a political contestant, that the medical challenges within a family are matters of public relevance or offer the slightest evidence of that individual’s ability to discharge public responsibility. Some tactics deployed in the process of this political campaign remain some of the most vulgar and sickening that the nation has experienced on its democratic journey. Perhaps it is just as well. The exercise on its own offers warning of fascism in the offing if the wrong choice is made, if the crucial leap of faith is rejected by the faint-hearted! Of course, it has not all been one-sided, but let us leave the exercise of assessment to every individual capable of applying the most stringent objective yardsticks. 

​Has the campaign in itself thrown up any portents for the future? Let all beware. The predator walks stealthily on padded feet, but we all know now with what lightning speed the claws flash into action. We have learnt to expect, deplore and confront certain acts in military dictatorship, but to find them manifested under a supposedly democratic governance? Of course the tendency did not begin with this regime, but how eagerly the seeming meek have aspired to surpass their mentors! 

​We must not be sanguine, or complacent. Eternal, minute-to-minute vigilance remains the watchword. Whatever demons got into a contestant to declare the spread of Sharia throughout the nation his life mission must be exorcised – indeed, are presumed to be already exorcised. Never again must any leader ban the discussion of democratic restoration in the public arena. Nor must we ever again witness the execution – even imprisonment! - of a citizen under retroactive laws. This persistent candidate seeks return, but let him understand that it can only be as a debtor to the past, and that the future cannot wait to collect. If this collective leap of faith is derided, repudiated or betrayed under a renewed immersion in the ambiance of power or retrogressive championing, of a resumption of clearly repudiated social directions, we have no choice but to revoke an unspoken pact and resume our march to that yet elusive space of freedom, however often interrupted, and by whatever means we can humanly muster. And if in the process, the consequence is national hara-kiri, no one can say that there had been no deluge of warnings.

​The art of leadership is complex and unenviable. Among its most basic, simple demands however, is the capacity for empathy, since a leader does not preside over stones but palpable humanity. Thus, in asserting a failure in leadership in a rivaling candidate, I pose only one question, a question of basic humanism that is directed at a leader who equally demands that a nation make a leap of faith for him also, that a people presume his capability for self-transformation. That question is this: 

​“If you had received news of your daughter’s kidnapping, how long would it take you to spring to action? Instantly? One day? Two? Three? A week? Or maybe TEN days?”

​While we await the answer, the clock of Change cannot tick sufficiently fast!


This article was first published online on February 08, 2015.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Friday, February 06, 2015


When sometime in 2009, I joined my voice with those of the progres­sives and other well-meaning Nigerians to demand that President Goodluck Jonathan, then Vice-President to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, be sworn into office as Nigeria’s President, at a time when Yar’Adua’s cronies were play­ing the “Nigerian roulette” with Yar’Adua’s illness, I did so believing in the spirit and letters of the Nigerian consti­tution. I did so, believing that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan will excuse the failures of past Nigerian leaders, given his intellectual background, with a doctorate degree, and give the country a robust, focused, responsible and responsive leadership.

Six years in the saddle, President Jonathan has proven to be incapable of managing the dynamics of the intricate and complex web of Nige­rian politics. Either, he chose delib­erately to bury his head in the sand like the ostrich or he is simply in­capable of grabbing and managing the dynamics of Nigeria’s complex socio-political and economic prob­lematics. What has become glaring to all, Nigerians and the interna­tional community at large, is that more than ever before, Nigeria is haemorrhaging to the marrow. The country has become more divided along religious and ethnic lines. Ni­geria is once again on the edge of a precipice.

Yes, one can argue that the crisis of the Nigerian state today is not the making of President Jonathan. One can make the point that the man in­herited the mess of the Nigerian rul­ing class: lootocracy, cabalocracy, incompetence, political grandstand­ing, culttology and sheer political baby-sitting. But, the point remains that “leadership calculus” has com­pletely disappeared from the politi­cal turf in the last six years.

Well over 70% of Nigerians are still living below poverty index of the World Bank. Several industrial and manufacturing concerns that started collapsing way back in the 1980s remain fallow. The govern­ment’s so-called economic manag­ers led by agents of imperialist in­stitutions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have continued to implement the neoliberal economic policies, which frustrate growth of the national economy. The government theoreti­cians and so-called technocrats are committed to the market economy policies, which promote liberaliza­tion at the expense of growth and protection of the country’s infant in­dustries. And so, what have we seen in the last six years of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency? It is a slow, non-committed attitudinal predilec­tion to investments in infrastruc­ture, expansion of the real sector of the economy, and economic eman­cipation of the Nigerian people. What Nigeria has witnessed in the last six years of Jonathan presiden­cy is the promotion of higher stakes of the philosophy and principles of economic liberalism of Adam Smith, and the latter-day followers of free market ideology led by the late Professor Milton Friedman of the Chicago School of Economics in the United States of America. For the economic managers of the Jona­than government, the only known economic management theory is the market theory. Most countries are not denying liberalization or the so-called free trade philosophy. The experience in today’s international economic relations is that they are embracing the philosophy of nation­alism and adopting economic pro­tectionism.

But, the economic policies of the Jonathan administration have turned Nigeria to a dumping ground for the goods of Europe-America- Japan axis and now Chinese goods at the expense of the country’s small and medium scale businesses. While the government opens up the Nige­rian economy for foreign capital prioritization, local capital and local initiatives are sacrificed. Of course, the budgets are never expansive of massive infrastructural develop­ments which will put the economy on the pedestal of progress.

Nigerians can now see that all the noise about Harvard-trained econo­mists knowing it all, and branding other ideas as “old fashioned” is but propaganda of neoliberalism and opportunism of its worshippers.

More countries are now inebri­ated in their nationalistic aqua, the hoopla and brouhaha of globaliza­tion, notwithstanding. Even the celebrated advanced economics are going to be more concerned about their skins than pandering to the dictates of neoliberalism and its surrogates. Nigeria cannot continue to open its doors and windows to manufactured goods from the ad­vanced economics while the coun­try’s emerging small and medium scale enterprises suffer neglect and their products lack patronage. Nige­ria cannot continue to be a dumping ground while Jonathan’s economic macossa spin doctors continue to front for imperial institutions which have become monochromatically monothematic in solving the coun­try’s economic challenges.

Nigeria’s failure to make a quan­tum leap in socio-economic growth and development with plenty of oil money that rolled in when the price of oil was good smacks of the failure of the market policies of Jonathan administration. It smacks of the failure of privatization, marketiza­tion and liberalization of the econ­omy. It simply shows that time has come for policy change. Time has come for new thinking and fresh ideas. Time has come for commit­ted patriots and nationalists to run the country’s economic and political affairs. The World Bank and IMF-imposed economic policies of Presi­dent Jonathan, which largely favour so-called foreign investors while the local markets in Nigeria are closing up, cannot bring the desired eco­nomic prosperity the country needs. Such policies cannot even promote the so-called diversification of the economy, which the government cronies merely sloganize as state policy.

The present disorder of Jona­than’s administration has come to its end. Additional four years for Jonathan will deepen the country’s calamity. The Nigerian ruling class therefore has a responsibility to rescue the country from the moral decadence, economic quagmire and political phantasmagoria, which the Jonathan administration has plunged the country into. To say the least, elite consensus for change is crystallizing a great deal.

The APC and the Buhari presi­dential campaigns have fast become a socio-political movement, a na­tionwide phenomenon which must crystallize to a change of guards at Aso Rock come May 29, 2015. The General’s records of self-discipline, incorruptibility, Spartan simplicity and anti-imperialist commitments over the years will serve the coun­try’s national interest, especially now. The Nigerian voters must therefore take advantage of this moment in our national history and vote for this political and economic martinet to rebuild our battered, shattered and marooned country


Friday, February 06, 2015

In late 2013, Nigeria's then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan claiming that the state oil company had failed to remit tens of billions of oil revenues it owed the state.

After the letter was leaked to Reuters and a local news site, Jonathan publicly dismissed the claim and replaced Sanusi, saying the banker had mismanaged the central bank's budget.

A Senate committee later found Sanusi’s account lacked substance.

Sanusi has since become Emir of Kano, the country's second highest Islamic authority, and has smoothed over relations with the president. He declined to discuss his earlier assertions.

Before he was sacked, though, the central banker submitted to Nigeria’s parliament more than 300 pages of documentation in support of his claim. Reuters has reviewed that dossier, which offers one of the most comprehensive studies of waste, mismanagement and what Sanusi called “leakages” of cash in Nigeria’s oil industry. Detailed here, the dossier includes oil contracts, confidential government letters, private presidential correspondence and legal opinions.

Sanusi’s letter and documents do not state whether he thinks the money was stolen or lost through mismanagement. Nor did he make allegations of illegal acts against any specific individuals or entities. Both corruption and bad governance are perennial problems in Africa’s most populous nation, and central issues in elections due on Feb. 14.

Nigeria’s oil industry accounts for around 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. If Nigeria continued to leak cash at the rate described in his letter to the president, Sanusi said at the time, the consequences for the economy would be disastrous. 

Specifically, the failure of state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation “to remit foreign exchange to the Federation Account in a period of rising oil prices has made our management of exchange rates and price stability ... extremely difficult," he wrote. 

"The central bank of Nigeria is always blamed for high rates of interest,” but “given these leakages, the alternative is a devalued currency ... and financial instability."

That is exactly what has happened.

As oil prices have plummeted to around $55 a barrel, half their level at the beginning of 2014, Sanusi’s successor Godwin Emefiele has devalued the naira, Nigeria’s currency, by 8 percent, and raised interest rates for the first time in more than two years.

Nigerian foreign exchange reserves are down around 20 percent on a year ago, while the balance in the country's oil savings account has fallen from $9 billion in December 2012 to $2.5 billion at the start of this year, even though oil prices were buoyant over much of that period. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told reporters at a press conference in November that a significant portion of that money was distributed to the powerful governors of Nigeria’s 36 states instead of being saved for a rainy day.

Nigerians are rarely shocked by stories of billions going unaccounted for, or ending up with politically powerful individuals. Africa’s largest oil producer has for years consistently ranked toward the bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Sanusi handed his documents to a parliamentary inquiry set up last February to investigate the assertion in his letter that billions of dollars in oil revenue had not reached the central bank. He told the inquiry that state oil group NNPC had made $67 billion worth of oil sales in the previous 19 months. Of that, he said, between $10.8 billion and $20 billion was unaccounted for.

A spokesman for the president declined to comment on the specific contents of Sanusi’s dossier. He referred to a statement made at the time the banker was pushed out. It said the government “remains committed to ensuring integrity and accountability and discipline in every sector of the economy ... And indeed we look forward to a situation whereby Mr. Sanusi will continue to assist the legislature in their investigations.”

Those investigations include a “forensic audit” of the oil industry set up by Okonjo-Iweala. The audit was given to Jonathan on Feb. 2 and he said he would hand it on to Nigeria’s auditor general. NNPC said on Feb. 5 it had received a copy of the audit, before it was made public. The firm said the audit cleared it of wrongdoing, although it found NNPC owed the government $1.48 billion for a separate shortfall.

A spokesman for NNPC rejected Sanusi's allegations and referred Reuters to last August’s Senate inquiry. The inquiry expressed satisfaction that most of the money not remitted was withheld for legitimate reasons. But it urged the NNPC to remit $700 million that the committee said it could not account for.

Diezani Alison-Madueke, the oil minister who oversees NNPC, did not respond to a request for comment. She told the inquiry at the time that the correct sum for money not remitted was $10.8 billion, which was to pay for subsidies.

The NNPC has consistently said it did nothing wrong. The oil company said last year that Sanusi’s allegations came from his "misunderstanding" of how the oil industry works. The central bank is “a banking outfit ... how will they understand petroleum engineering issues?" then managing director Andrew Yakubu asked journalists. "They are not auditors."

Sanusi’s claims were seen by some Nigerians as part of the historic tensions between the country’s wealthy, Christian south and poorer Muslim north. Jonathan and oil minister Alison-Madueke are Christians from the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south. Sanusi is a Muslim from the country’s north, as is Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler of Nigeria who is the main presidential candidate running against Jonathan. The two regions have historically taken it in turns to hold the presidency. Since 2009, though, Jonathan has broken with this tradition.

Sanusi has said any notion there were religious or ethnic politics behind his allegations is absurd. He has declined to be interviewed since becoming the Emir of Kano.

But last April, two months after he was sacked but before he took on his new role, Sanusi told Reuters he worried that the sheer quantities of cash going missing were “unsustainable.”

“You are taking what doesn’t belong to you and transferring it to private hands,” he told Reuters. “The state is captive to vested interests.”


Sanusi’s documents identify three key mechanisms through which Nigeria has allegedly allowed middlemen to channel oil funds away from the central bank. Among the recipients, Sanusi alleges, are government officials and high-flying society figures.

The three mechanisms are: contracts awarded non-competitively to two companies that did not supply services but sub-contracted the work; a kerosene subsidy that doesn’t help the people it is meant to; and a series of complex, opaque "swap deals" that might be short-changing the state.

Sanusi’s concerns around the first of these mechanisms center on the 2011 sale by Royal Dutch Shell of its interests in five oil fields. The blocks were majority-owned by NNPC. The government, keen to end the domination of the oil industry by foreign oil majors, had been encouraging Shell and others to sell to local firms.

Shell sold its interest in the fields to companies in Poland and Britain. But the new owners did not get the same rights Shell had. To promote local control, the NNPC gave the right to operate the fields to its own subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

Without soliciting bids, the NPDC signed "strategic partnership agreements" worth around $6.6 billion with two other local firms to manage them.

One firm, Seven Energy, signed for three fields; another, Atlantic Energy, for two.

Seven Energy was co-founded in 2004 by Kola Aluko, an oil trader and Christian southerner. Aluko also co-owned Atlantic with another southerner, former oil trader Jide Omokore. Atlantic was incorporated the day before it signed the deals.

Geneva-based Aluko is a high-profile member of Nigeria's elite. He owns a fleet of supercars, including a Ferrari 458 GT2 that he races with Swiss team Kessel Racing. He also owns a $50 million yacht, according to Forbes magazine, and divides his time between a $40 million home in Los Angeles, an $8.6 million duplex on Fifth Avenue in New York, and homes in Abuja and Geneva. A colleague describes him as a "work hard, play harder kind of guy. He’s extravagant. That’s just his style.”

Aluko, whose stake in Seven is now minimal, did not respond to emailed questions.

Omokore has also become rich from oil and gas. Forbes has estimated annual revenue at another of his companies, Energy Resources Group, at $400 million. His jet-setting lifestyle is a regular feature in the local press. Omokore could not be reached for comment.

Reuters has reviewed the contracts the firms signed with NPDC. They give Seven Energy 10 percent of profits in the three oil blocks it operates, while Atlantic gets 30 percent of profits in its two blocks. The contracts also show that, unlike Shell, neither firm pays royalties, profit tax or duties to the state.

Both companies quickly sub-contracted production work to other operators, according to Sanusi's submission to parliament and several market sources. The companies did not disclose terms of these contracts.

Atlantic does not publish accounts, but Seven’s 2013 annual report shows its deal with NPDC helped its revenue more than triple to $345 million.

In May 2013, Nigeria’s parliament threatened to investigate the NPDC contracts because they were not issued through competitive tender. But the NNPC argued no tender was needed because the contracts involved no sale of equity in the oil fields; the probe did not go ahead.

Sanusi did not accuse Seven and Atlantic of any illegalities, but he did question why the NPDC chose those companies. His report said the deals’ only purpose seemed to be “acquiring assets belonging to the federation (state) and transferring the income to private hands."

Asked about this, NNPC referred to the Senate report, which found that no-bid partnership agreements are not new. It also said that "it may be good policy to encourage indigenous players by giving them greater participation," but called for such deals "to be conducted in a transparent and competitive manner."

Seven did not comment. It says on its website its agreement with NPDC pre-dated the Jonathan administration and included an allowance for taxes. The company says it has invested more than $500 million, more than doubled production from its three blocks, and paid $48.8 million in taxes in 2013. Atlantic did not comment.


The second mechanism Sanusi’s report identifies as problematic is a decades-old state subsidy provided to retailers of kerosene, the fuel most Nigerians use for cooking.

Nigeria lacks the refining capacity to make kerosene, so imports it instead. The government then sells the kerosene to retailers at a cheaper price than the import price. This subsidy is meant to make kerosene affordable for the poor. In reality, though, retailers have long hiked prices so consumers pay much more than official levels.

In June 2009, Jonathan’s predecessor, Umaru Yar'Adua, ordered a halt to the scheme on the grounds that it was not working. But the subsidies carried on regardless. The NNPC told parliament last February that it still deducts billions of dollars a year from its earnings to cover it.

In his report, Sanusi called the kerosene subsidy a "racket" that lines the pockets of private kerosene retailers and NNPC staff. The report estimated the cost of the subsidy at $100 million a month. It said kerosene retailers – there are hundreds of them around the country – routinely charged customers much higher prices than the government pays to import the fuel.

Sanusi’s report included an analysis of kerosene prices across Nigeria’s 36 states over two years. It found that the government buys kerosene at 150 naira per liter from importers and then sells it to retailers at just 40 naira per liter. Sanusi’s analysis found consumers pay an average of 170-200 naira per liter, and sometimes as much as 270 naira.

“The margin of 300 percent to 500 percent over purchase price is economic rent, which never got to the man on the street,” Sanusi wrote.

NNPC said in a statement last year that it can't force retailers to sell kerosene at the subsidized price.


The third mechanism Sanusi identified involves other types of refined petroleum products, such as gasoline. Like kerosene, these are also imported. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer but it depends on imports for 80 percent of its fuel needs because its refining capacity is tiny.

To pay for the imported products, Nigeria barters its crude oil. Sanusi’s dossier focuses on these barter exchanges, which are known as "swap deals." The idea is that importers who bring in refined fuel worth a given amount receive an “equivalent value” in crude oil.

How that equivalent value is determined is unclear. Sanusi said he was uncertain how much, if anything, is lost in these deals. But he expressed concern at the sheer value of oil that changes hands and the lack of oversight. His report estimated that between 2010 and 2011, traders involved in swap deals effectively bartered 200,000 barrels of crude a day – worth nearly $20 million at average crude prices over the period - for a loosely determined equivalent value in refined products. It is impossible to tell, he said, if all the refined products were delivered, let alone if the terms were fair.

“It was clear to us that these transactions ... were not properly structured, monitored and audited,” he wrote.

Sanusi wrote in his report that mismanagement and “leakages” of cash in the industry cost Nigeria billions of dollars a year.

Since the price of oil has fallen by around half since the start of 2014, such losses are even more significant. As it approaches elections, Nigeria faces plummeting oil revenues and a lack of buffers to shield the economy. Construction projects are on hold and the government is struggling to pay its sizeable workforce.

Multiple scandals in the oil sector since Jonathan took power have boosted the popularity of his rival, former military leader Muhammadu Buhari. Remembered by some for deposing a civilian government in a 1983 coup and trampling on civil liberties, the sandal-wearing general often promises to "free Nigeria from corruption."

Jonathan, too, says he will “clean up” Nigeria. By using technology and strengthening institutions, “I will solve the problem of corruption in this country,” he told a crowd in Ibadan in January.

(Edited by Sara Ledwith and Simon Robinson)

This article was retrieved Friday, February 06, 2015 from the Business Insider.