Thursday, April 30, 2015


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Prior to the 2015 general elections, Nigerians were divided between those who wanted more of Jonathan and those who preferred a return to Buhari rather than a rerun of Jonathan. Among the Jonathanians were a number of people who unrelentingly worked to slander General Buhari and to distort public perception of the man; then there were the others who unabashedly lapped up whatever broth Buhari's slanderers chose to serve. 

In the aftermath of these elections, many of these people have remained in denial of the reality on the ground, the reality that, despite their lies and half-truths, this country will be led by President Muhammadu Buhari over the next four years. But there are other Jonathanians who have embraced reality, who have chosen to remember that ours is Project Nigeria, rather than Project Buhari or Project Jonathan. This class of Jonathanians have, while preserving their preference for Jonathan, accepted that the 15 million other Nigerians who thought differently should have their way - at least for the next four years. 

In accepting that however, they have - as true Nigerians - begun to make their own contributions to nation-building by giving advice - advice that Jonathan would have profited from had he been given and had he listened; advice that Buhari may yet profit from were he to listen. One of these Nigerians is Senator-elect Ben Murray Bruce. In this article, he draws Buhari's attention to a number of issues that, in his opinion, need careful attention. While I may not agree with every letter of his article, I admire the fact that this gesture has come from a "Jonathanian" and I hope some other ones I know can learn a thing or two from this. Most importantly, I hope the President-Elect picks two things or three from this.

The power to bless Nigeria may rest in the Hands of God, but the power to change Nigeria is in our hands - yours, mine, Buhari's. Let's get started. The clock never stopped ticking.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

It Doesn't Matter if the Cat is White or Black...

Ben Murray Bruce

Now that Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has been chosen by the Nigerian people, it is my duty as a patriotic Nigerian to help him succeed even though my candidate was President Goodluck Jonathan, a man to whom I will always be loyal and appreciative.

General Buhari is about to mount the saddle and I for one am in a very good position to tell him some home truths because as a senator-elect, I have a very fulfilling job awaiting me and I do not need a job or favours from Buhari so I do not have to play nice.

Looking at the personalities he has appointed to his transition council, I am wont to believe that General Buhari needs to expand his circle of friends and advisers.

As a military strategist, the president-elect must be familiar with the principle that the people you use in subduing an opponent are not necessarily the same persons you will need in rebuilding the territories you took. I may be using military terms, but I am sure General Buhari is aware that politics is war by other means and therefore many of the rules of war and peace apply to politics.

The General will be best served if he thinks of what is best for Nigeria rather than what is best for his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and its chieftains.

He must remember that in Nigeria’s subjective politics, it was his person that the people voted for not his party and he should therefore serve the people the dish they are angling for.

And what are the expectations of Nigerians from General Buhari? Definitely not business as usual.

The president-elect ran on a promise of change and while that change was not really defined by its chanters, Nigerians defined it as a change in their situation. To borrow from the famously potent prayers of Mountain of Fire and Miracle members, the Nigerian masses defined change as a situation where wealth and power must change hands from the elite to the masses by fire by force and they see General Buhari as the enforcer angel that will bring about this change.

With this type of expectation, Buhari’s honeymoon period with Nigerians will not last very long if he does not take drastic steps to adjust Nigeria’s economy to the realities of falling oil prices and a dearth of buyers for the Bonny Light Sweet Crude.

To put things into perspective, when the United States started buying less and less of Nigeria’s oil, we looked to China as an alternative buyer of oil but it has since come to light that whereas America spent $101 billion on clean energy between 2012-13, China spent $125 billion within the same time frame. The above data should alert Nigeria and other nations that look to China for oil markets to the fact that China is even ahead of the West in the search for alternative to fossil fuels as a source of energy.

Buhari may wish he did not win the 2015 elections when the reality of our economic situation sets in. In his December 2014 Channels Television interview, Buhari said he was going to “stabilise the oil market”. The General will learn soon enough that today’s oil market is a buyers’ market. And the General’s choices are limited because he cannot (unless he is extraordinarily brave and politically callous) do the obvious and sack civil servants. Yes, he will eventually have to reduce the over bloated federal civil service, but before he can do that, he has to build up political capital by reducing the overhead of the Executive and persuade the Legislature to follow suit.

Austerity measures must start from Aso Rock. This means that luxurious multi car convoys must be reduced. The presidential air fleet has to go, by way of being auctioned off or sold to local airlines. Estacode allowances must be slashed and the president’s entourages should be lean while non-essential foreign travels should be banned.

The president-elect should not underestimate the big difference these small changes can make and their capacity to buy him enough credibility with the labour unions, the kind of credibility that will see them accepting cuts in the federal workforce and reduction in pay and entitlements.

A small change like flying commercial instead of by private jet saved Britain a whopping £200,000 when the thrifty British Prime Minister, David Cameron, flew to America to meet President Barack Obama on a regular BA flight.

Nigeria is in for very desperate times if we do not tighten our belts while our major foreign exchange earner is facing global challenges. Russia, a nation that many will say is more prepared than Nigeria for the shocks occasioned by the drop in the price of oil devalued its currency by 11 per cent in just one day. 

While Russia is taking these steps, the world is watching to see if Nigeria will continue to spend hundreds of billions annually sponsoring its elite on pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem. I mean, no economist will get why a nation with over 60 per cent of its people living in poverty at the best of times, will spend almost 1 per cent of its annual budget sponsoring pilgrimages for its elite who can afford to go to the Holy Land on their own dime. I for one do not get it. A pilgrimage is meant to be a sacrifice of a believer. How is a pilgrimage still a sacrifice when someone pays for you to go? The Nigerian government is sending people on holidays not pilgrimages! I daresay that the money being spent by the Nigerian government to airlift pilgrims to both Holy Lands is enough to educate all the almajiri in Northern Nigeria. Wouldn’t God and humanity be better served if we looked after the less privileged in our midst?

General Buhari has his work cut out for him and he does not have time to be bitter about who said what, when and where. He must let go of any desire to pay any of his traducers back whether they be from the last 16 years or as far back as 1985. Four years is only enough time to fix Nigeria. Any time spent on other ventures is time taken from this most important of assignments.

And let me say that General Buhari should not allow himself to be pigeon holed by people who dangle ideologies instead of realities. Yes, the APC may have styled itself as a progressive party, which in itself is a contradiction because Buhari is a conservative, but Buhari should not bother about that.

Whether the philosophy is progressive or conservative or liberal or free market, he should go with what works because as Deng Xiaoping once noted: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat.”

And it is fitting for me to end with a mention of Xiaoping. No other contemporary world leader, in my opinion, closely mirrors Buhari as does Xiaoping.

In 1966, Xiaoping was dethroned from his powerful party positions by loyalists of Chairman Mao as was Buhari in 1985 by loyalists of his Chief of Army staff. Xiaoping suffered house arrest, loss of earned privileges and was consigned to political limbo for almost a decade as was Buhari. But then Xiaoping bounced back into favour and became China’s leader in 1976 and thereafter jettisoned his life long belief in Mao’s Cultural Revolution and introduced the “one country, two systems” policy that allowed communism and capitalism to coexist in China. This is similar to Buhari’s conversion from an anti-democrat who believed power flowed from the barrel of a gun to a democrat who accepted democracy as the best form of governance and capitalism as the natural economic policy of a democracy.

But this is where Buhari has to learn from Xiaoping. Xiaoping refused to demonise Chairman Mao, his predecessor who had purged him from power and placed him under house arrest after stripping him off his privileges. Instead of bitterness, Xiaoping believed that Mao’s “accomplishments must be considered before his mistakes”. This is how Buhari must treat his predecessors. He must not demonise everything that was done by previous administrations and mark those who served in those government as persona non grata. He must take the bitter with the sweet and make use of the best brains Nigeria has to offer, for as he said on December 31st, 1983, “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria”.

• Mr. Murray Bruce is a Senator-elect and CEO of Silverbird Entertainment Group

This article was originally published on ThisDay Newspapers from which online edition it has been culled.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


April 02, 2015


APRIL 01, 2015

I am immensely grateful to God for this day and for this hour. I feel truly honored and humbled that the Nigerian people have so clearly chosen me to lead them. The official announcement from INEC was the moment the vast majority of Nigerians had hoped and been waiting for. Today, history has been made, and change has finally come. Your votes have changed our national destiny for the good of all Nigerians . INEC has announced that I, Muhammadu Buhari, shall be your next president.

My team and I shall faithfully serve you. There shall no longer be a ruling party again: APC will be your governing party. We shall faithfully serve you. We shall never rule over the people as if they were subservient to government. Our long night has passed and the daylight of new democratic governance has broken across the land. This therefore is not a victory for one man or even one party. It is a victory for Nigeria and for all Nigerians.

Millions of you have worked for this day. So many have risked life and livelihood; and others have died that we may witness this moment. And it is with a very heavy heart that I report many deaths and injuries amidst the jubilations yesterday. We send our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives; and wish speedy recovery to those who suffered injuries. I appeal to all our supporters to celebrate this victory with prayers and reflection instead of wild jubilation. May the souls of those who died rest in peace. Let us take a moment of silence to honor all of those whose sacrifices have brought us to this fine and historic hour.

As the results of the election have shown, their labor has not been and will never be in vain. Democracy and the rule of law will be reestablished in the land.

Let us put the past, especially the recent past, behind us. We must forget our old battles and past grievances — and learn to forge ahead. I assure you that our government is one that will listen to and embrace all. I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status.

I pledge myself and the government to the rule of law, in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection.You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation.

My love and concern for this nation and what I desire for it extends to all, even to those who do not like us or our politics. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own. I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all. We all live under one name as one nation: we are all Nigerians.
Some unfortunate issues about my eligibility have been raised during the campaign. I wish to state that through devotion to this nation, everything I have learned and done has been to enable me to make the best possible contribution to public life. If I had judged myself incapable of governing I would never have sought to impose myself on it. I have served in various capacities and have always put in my best.

But despite the rancour of the elections, I extend a hand of friendship and conciliation to President Jonathan and his team. I hereby wish to state that I harbour no ill will against anyone. Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president. He deserves our support and permanent respect by virtue of the office he has held. This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs; and this is how Nigeria should be. I look forward to meeting with President Jonathan in the days to come to discuss how our teams can make the transition of administrations as efficient as possible.

Here, I want to thank my party for selecting me as its candidate. I thank our party leaders and members for the steadfast contributions they made to bring our dream to fruition. I thank INEC, the police and all other government agencies for performing their tasks in a proper manner and for refusing to be induced to undermine the election and the democratic process. I also wish to thank religious Leaders, traditional leaders, the media, labour unions, Civil Society organisations, organised private sector, youths and students for their roles in this election. I give special thanks to President Obama and his timely intervention and support for peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria and for sending Secretary John Kerry and other United States officials. The European Union – especially the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other nations that were actively involved in ensuring the success of this election are equally appreciated. My sincere thanks to the United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban-Ki Moon. The Commonwealth, China, India and other Asian and Gulf states are also hereby appreciated. Finally our brothers in the African Union and ECOWAS have truly and clearly shown and demonstrate their commitment to our democratisation process. Former Presidents John Kuffour, Amos Sawyer, Bakili Muluzi and his team are well appreciated. I must also add my appreciation for the role played by civil societies, national and International observers, other world leaders in ensuring that Nigeria holds free and fair elections.

I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against terrorism and in other matters of collective concern, such as the fight against drugs, climate change, financial fraud, communicable diseases and other issues requiring global response. I want to assure our fellow African nations that Nigeria will now stand as a more constructive partner in advancing the matters of concern to our continent, particularly with regard to economic development and eradication of poverty.

Former head of state and president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, General Yakubu Gowon, Alh. Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Abdulsalami Abubakar deserve commendations for their statesmanship and words of caution and counsel for peace during the tense moments of this electoral period.

Most of all, I thank the people of Nigeria for reposing their confidence in me at this trying moment.

Our nation wrestles many challenges including insecurity, corruption, economic decline. I pledge to give you my best in tackling these problems.

The good people of Nigeria, your obligation does not end with casting your ballot. I seek your voice and input as we tackle these problems. This will not be a government democratic only in form. It will be a government democratic in substance and in how it interacts with its own people.

No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram. There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency we have a tough and urgent job to do. But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism. Furthermore, we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism — the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly-enriched people. Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation.

I ask you to join me in resolving these and the other challenges we face. Along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, be rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of wilful neglect and indifference. We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle. We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do. I realise that the expectation of our people today is as high as their commitment to change has been strong and their belief in us unshaken. While we pledge to begin doing our best without delay, we would like to appeal to them to appreciate the gravity of our situation, so that we become more realistic in our expectations.

We will govern for you and in your interests. Your vote was not wasted. This is not the first time Nigerians have cast their votes for us, and this is not the first time they have been counted; but this is the first time that the votes have been allowed to count. With the help of God, we pledge to do our utmost to bring forth the Nigeria you seek.

Thank you for your patience and attention.

General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
Federal Republic of Nigeria

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Opinion: Buhari the Winner, Jonathan the Statesman, Jega the Hero

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Buhari the winner, Jonathan the statesman, Jega the hero

Fisayo Soyombo

Buhari is the first man to overthrow - by the ballot - a sitting Nigerian president.

When Muhammadu Buhari is first addressed as Nigeria's president-elect on April 1 - a day when people traditionally play hoaxes on one another - he will be forgiven for thinking someone is playing an "April Fool" on him. For many reasons, this is a victory that will not immediately sink in.

By receiving 15,424,921 votes to Goodluck Jonathan's 12,853,162, Buhari becomes the first man to overthrow (by the ballot) a sitting Nigerian president. He becomes the first man in Nigeria's 16-year fourth republic to defeat a PDP candidate. When he takes over in May 2015, he will become the first septuagenarian to assume the country's highest office. This is the same Buhari once derided as a "perennial presidential aspirant" after three previous attempts all ended in resounding defeats.

For the first time, Buhari is no longer a leader of northern Nigeria. Statistics of this election show he now has the national acceptance he sorely lacked. This is the first time in four attempts that Buhari has won more than one state in the north-central zone. Before now, he never won a state in the southwest. But this time he not only won his first southwestern state, he won four more.

Jega, the unruffled umpire
All these feats would have been mere tantalising phantasms without Attahiru Jega, the same electoral umpire who was demonised in the lead-up to the election by both Jonathan's PDP and Buhari's APC. Only in January, Buhari claimed that Jega's INEC programmed its computers to short-change his votes by 40 percent.

Meanwhile, PDP's anti-Jega crusade began back in September 2014 when he announced additional polling units, and then reached a head with his insistence on checking electoral fraud with the use of voter card readers.

The last few weeks have been particularly difficult for him, especially seeing plans being mulled to relieve him of his job, and being literally coerced by the security chiefs into shifting the elections. This is why, notwithstanding the lapses that accompanied this election, Jega deserves nothing but ovation.

On the third day of elections, some people in Jonathan's camp were still making last-gasp efforts to scuttle the electoral process. For some inexplicable reason, some state collation officers were "deliberately" refusing to turn up at the national collation centre to turn in their already-compiled results - that was after INEC offered to fly them to Abuja, even though that was the duty of the officers.

Jega faced his stiffest test of the election on Tuesday, when Godsday Orubebe, a man so inappositely fascinated by the title "elder", acted in a far-from-elderly manner by rascally stalling the opening of the day's collation. For more than 30 minutes, Orubebe, who has nothing to show for his four years at the saddle of the Niger Delta ministry, screamed and hurled expletives at the INEC chairman.

Jonathan will be remembered as the first civilian president to peacefully hand over power to another. That, matter-of-factly, is an undeservedly glittering end to what has been an unflattering four years.

But Jega, to the admiration of millions of Nigerians, responded calmly, reminding Orubebe of his duty to the country as a former minister of the federal republic. It was a moment of immense embarrassment for Nigeria, but it was also a moment when Jega showed the world that for every Judas Iscariot, Nigeria probably has 11 other disciples. In the decades to come, the story of Nigeria's 2015 election will be incomplete without detailed reference to the integrity, impartiality and conscientiousness of Attahiru Jega.
Jonathan's ultimate victory
My impressions about the scale of corruption, mediocrity and failed promises that have defined the Jonathan years are well-documented. But he will have my credit for helping to enthrone peace during and after the elections, much to the consternation of the international community. On Saturday, when four INEC card readers failed to clear him, Jonathan preached peace and urged Nigerians to support the INEC. A moment of madness from him at that time could have sparked violence.

Additionally, once the president realised the game was up, he telephoned Buhari to concede defeat, thereby setting the tone for a peaceful handover. After failing to sign the results sheet, Jonathan's PDP looks primed for a fruitless legal tussle - but it is of no consequence.

By conceding defeat, Jonathan succeeds in masking his numerous inadequacies with one final show of statesmanship. In the developed world, this action will amount to nought. At this phase of Nigeria's democracy, it should be praised. In the final analysis, history will be kinder to Jonathan than his underwhelming four years deserve - because he will not be remembered as the one who made life difficult with fuel price increases less than a year into his tenure; or the one under whose watch Boko Haram blossomed; or the one in whose time the naira fell to its all-time low; or the one in whose care billions disappeared without consequence; or the one who granted state pardon to one of Nigeria's most notorious and ignominious public-office thieves.
Jonathan will be remembered as the first civilian president to peacefully hand over power to another. That, matter-of-factly, is an undeservedly glittering end to what has been an unflattering four years.

Buhari's victory triggered wild jubilation among his supporters all over the country, and he quickly released a statement to say the celebrations should be instead "sober". Perhaps this is the first sign of a man who will not get easily carried away.

Buhari will do well to remind himself of how quickly a leader in Nigeria can fall from hero to the fall guy. His party has promised so much during this campaign; the work needing his attention his even much more.

The General needs to look no further than the man whose political downfall he has just masterminded. Some of the men who marched on the streets of Abuja to demand Jonathan's installation as substantive president (during the late Yar'Adua's illness) were at the forefront of the campaign that uprooted his government. There is little margin for error, else it is Buhari who would be conceding defeat in 2019.

Fisayo Soyombo edits Nigerian online newspaper TheCable

Source: al-Jazeera