INEC Over Promised And Under Delivered
By Ehi Braimah
After Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the presidential election which held on February 25, the opposition parties and their supporters accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of “lack of transparency” in the electoral process.
This is actually an old story because there’s no election in Nigeria that has not been rocked by controversies. Even in 2027, allegations of rigging will not go away. What is important is for us to improve on the process with each election cycle.
We have had 24 unbroken years of democratic rule since 1999 which is a major achievement –despite of our imperfections. I was not expecting INEC to tick all the boxes even after its chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, assured all Nigerians that they were fully ready.
As some commentators rightly noted, Prof Yakubu “over promised and under delivered,” whereas it should have been the other way round. Understandably, some hopes were dashed with the outcome of the presidential election result. As bad as INEC’s role may have been portrayed, we should not crucify the electoral body.
But what exactly were the splintered opposition parties expecting? In a sense, when compared with the All Progressives Congress (APC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was no longer a “dominant” party against the backdrop of the following breakaway groups: Peter Obi of the Labour Party; Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples party and the G5 governors led by Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers state.
PDP scored an own goal when it gave Atiku Abubakar its presidential ticketagainst the party’s zoning principle. The expectation was that power should shift to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
Secondly, it will be foolhardy to believe that the political capital that president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, amassed over the last 30 years – including the risk to his life when he joined other democratic forces to fight the late General Sani Abacha, a tormentor and dictator, to a standstill – would not count for something.
The APC presidential candidate was always going to be a formidable forcedespite the wide-ranging and stinging efforts by his traducersto damage his chances.
Thirdly, Asiwaju Tinubu, in my view, had the best resourced campaign in terms of stakeholder management, messaging, media outreach, mobilisation andbroad appeal. He also achieved more top-of-mind awareness than the other candidates.
Peter Obi benefitted largely from the protest votes – mostly from young Nigerians – against APC and politicians who generally do not keep their promises. He represented an organic and vibrant third force that was not his creation. Obidients believed strongly in him as the much-awaited “messiah”.
After 16 years of PDP and eight years of APC, the general feeling was that life was not getting better but it was doubtful if Obi was ever going to achieve the critical mass needed for a pan-Nigerian mandate at the first attempt under a new party.
He should have stayed back in PDP and worked with others (North and South, Christians and Muslims) for the presidential ticket to be zoned to the South East region.
Maybe, the story could have been different.
But Obi must note that other parties also have their supporters and followers in a country where identity politics is the main meal on the menu. There are so many Obidients who are disappointed that Obi did not win after investing raw emotions into his campaign.
Chimamanda Adichie, a prolific writer and our highly respected “global brand ambassador” whom I admire greatly as a public intellectual, is one of them. I want to assure her that Nigeria will not remain in a “hard place” forever.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo (Baba Iyabo) and Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the Afenifere chieftain, are also disappointed. Overall, Labour Party recorded impressive and significant victories that the party and Obidients can build on in the future.
In a typically dysfunctional environment in which we operate, how was it possible for INEC to score 100 per cent with the process of accreditation and collation of results? I concede that INEC’s overall score of the entire process could have been better, especially in the area of logistics management.
But have you tried to transfer funds lately to see the gravity of the failure of the banking tech platforms? What of telephone calls that are usually frustrated by “poor networks”?
Nonetheless, these shortcomings should not be excuses for the delayed delivery of election materials to any part of Nigeria for the exercise because getting the job done does not require rocket science. If voting commenced at the same time nationwide which is possible, it would have earned INEC a huge approval rating.
Even if we account for unforeseen circumstances, delayed voting can still be managed to the barest minimum. Report after report condemned the late deployment of election materials and the incompetence of some INEC officials and those that allegedly compromised the voting process.
There are professional event management and activation agencies that INEC can work with under the auspices of the Experiential Marketing Agencies of Nigeria (EXMAN) to achieve a seamless experience with voting materials arriving on time for 93 million voters at all the 176,606 polling units nationwide.
Using a mapping model and optimisation theory, 45 EXMAN agencies with excellent track records of performance – working with INEC as consultants –can manage the entire voting process where all the polling units will serve as“experience touch points” in the 774 local government areas.
Each agency may be assigned a cluster of 18 local government areas and 4,000 polling units. If you break down these figures further, you will have an average of 223 polling units for each local council and 550 voters for each unit.
INEC needs to correct the anomaly whereby some polling units had less than 300 voters and by the time you walk a few metres away, the next polling unit will have over 1,000 voters. That is poor distribution that disregards the law of averages and cluster mapping.
No polling unit should have more than 550 voters each – based on 93 million registered voters across 176,606 polling units – so that voting can start and end within schedule. It means there will be no late night voting where torch lights or headlamps of vehicles are used or extension of the exercise to the following day
The primary objective is to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised in the absence of violence. By the way, who recruitsthugs? Is it INEC? Your guess is as good as mine.
From available data, less than 40 per cent of registered voters usually turn up to vote. Voter apathy is still a huge challenge in our elections.
Assuming 50 per cent of the registered voters show up (for the 2023 general elections, that would be about 47 million voters), each polling unit will not have more than 275 voters which will reducelogistics management of election materials and voters by half.
I am aware the president of EXMAN, Tunji Adeyinka, is willing to lead his colleagues to make a formal presentation at the invitation of INEC to sort out these re-current logistics nightmaresin subsequent elections.
To illustrate the point further, there was a time a well-known milk brand sold in every part of Nigeria sponsored a national mathematics competition for secondary schools for 15 years back-to-back. The exam had the distinction of being scandal-free – including leakages that would have compromised the integrity of the competition and damage the image of the brand.
One of the EXMAN agencies was tasked with the organisation of the competition. The maths exam was for junior and senior secondary schools in two parts (theory and objective) in line with WAEC syllabus.
The first stage exam held for both categories in all the 36 states and Abuja at the same time on the same day in more than 200 centres nationwide. Each state had a minimum of three centres based on the senatorial zones.
It meant that sealed question papers and answer sheets were distributed a few days to the exam weekend with non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed by all the relevant partners.
The answer sheets were then sent to the examiners in Lagos. After assessment, the best two students in each state and the FCT – one each from the junior and senior categories – and their teachers were invited to Lagos for the second stage exam. Usually, they would arrive on Friday and depart on Sunday.
From the 74 students, (37 students from JSS and 37 from SSS), the top 10 in each category and their teachers were invited to Abuja for the national prize-giving ceremony and lodged at Transcorp Hilton for two nights. It was an experience the students always looked forward to. Parents were also free to attend at their own cost.
Were there challenges? Oh yes, the agency had a lorry load of them. Some school principals who wanted to win the top prizes at all cost hired mercenaries to write the maths exam. Such cheating efforts were anticipated and the affected schools were blacklisted.
Now, if such school principals could devise schemes to cheat in much the same way some parents shamelessly procure question papers for their children in an equal-opportunity exam, is it surprising that some bad eggs may also have been recruited by INEC?
We cannot set a different standard for INEC in a society where the prevailing code is to cut corners amid a culture of widespread impunity. The people INEC hires are our friends, brothers and sisters, colleagues and associates; they live with us and did not drop from the moon.
If Nigeria is going to become a better place, everyone must take responsibility for his/her actions and not blame others. It does not matter whether the anomaly is voter suppression, ballot box snatching, vote buying or cheating in an examination – what is bad is bad.
Individually and collectively, let us stand up for what is right because no section of Nigeria is immuned from egregious behaviours that have eroded our values and damaged the moral fabric of society.
Let us wait and see the improvements INEC will make on Saturday March 11 when the gubernatorial and state houses of assembly elections take place.
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)
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Thepledge Big Story: 2023 Polls: Which Way Nigeria?
By Augustine Akhilomen
Legendary Highlife and Afrobeat Musician Sunny Okosun in February 1983 sang a prophetic song with the above title. In the music, the Ozzidi Master asked: Which way Nigeria? Which way to go? I love my fatherland. I want to know which way Nigeria is heading to.
Almost 40 years later, the questions asked by Sunny Okosun in that song are still relevant and still resonating with more than casual observers.
The much awaited 2023 general elections have come and gone, but the memories of some of the negative and positive vibes that characterised the election, such as violence, voters’ intimidation, harassment and suppression by thugs deployed by some of the politicians will continue to linger in the minds of many Nigerians that came out to exercise their franchise and even those in the Diaspora.
No doubt, Nigerians expected so much from the outgoing President, Mohammadu Buhari and also the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC), Professor Mohammed Yakubu, that the conduct of the elections will be credible, free and fair. So much faith and trust were invested in it and many were of the view that with the preparations and resources expended, we were going to have a much better outcome.
But the result was not the case, as the problems that marred previous polls reared its ugly heads. Some critics were indeed quick to criticize INEC for the failure of the polls. They are of the view that INEC’s failure ‘deliberate’ act to ignore the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in uploading results right from the polling units across the country contributed largely to this failure.
Prior to the election on February 25, there was growing excitement from Nigerians after INEC assured the electorate that the use of BVAS and IReV won’t be compromised regardless of anything. This good news forced Nigerians out to cast their vote with the mindset that results will be transmitted electronically,
In truth, the Presidential and National Assembly elections witnessed more voter turn-out and security operatives were more effective in making sure voters were not molested or intimidated. The reservations expressed by Nigerians was largely because results were not electronically transmitted as promised by INEC and as stipulated by the Electoral Act.
However, an election is seen to be free and fair when there are political freedoms and fair processes leading up to election day; a fair count of eligible voters who cast a ballot; and acceptance of election results by all parties. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what we had in the 2023 presidential election. There were reports of ballot snatching and destruction of election materials in Lagos and other places. People were bullied and forced to vote against their will in some places. In some other places, elections were falsified and some were not even recorded.
Prior to the election, President Muhammadu Buhari had assured Nigerians of their safety. The police and even the army made the same pledge before election-day, but what we got was on the contrary.
Nigerians were forced to fight for themselves against thugs and defend their votes. A woman in Lagos was badly injured and left with a bleeding face just because she wanted to perform her civic right by voting for her preferred candidate.
Again, during the governorship and State Assembly elections, Nigerians had gone to the polls to elect new leaders but were disappointed with what they saw.
From Lagos to Ondo, Edo, Delta, Kaduna, Kano, Enugu, Rivers and Cross River states, violence was a common thread in the election, as various arms of security agencies were put to task in maintaining sanity, while the electorate rose to the occasion in some instances to protect votes.
Lagos As Epic Centre Of Violence, Voters’ Oppression
Lagos was the epic centre despite the security architecture the state Police and other agencies supposedly put in place. Sponsored hoodlums and thugs overran the state as they unleashed violence on voters and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
From Surulere to Oshodi, Mile 12, Ejigbo, Bucknor, Oke-Afa, Bolade Oshodi, Surulere, Amuwo Odofin, Berger, Ojo, Agiliti, Ago Palace Way, Okota, Mushin, Igando, Ibeju Lekki, Alimosho, Ijegun, Ijesha, Ikeja, Magodo, Elegushi, Fadeyi, and many other areas, these thugs ran amok unchecked.
Backed by local militia and touts, the hoodlums brutalised and maimed voters who were not out to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC). While three people were suspected to have been killed in different parts of the state, including a 68-year-old man, who was allegedly killed at a Somolu polling unit, dozens of others, including celebrities, were brutalised, with their properties destroyed, before they were prevented from voting.
Meanwhile, the government of the United States on Tuesday said the gubernatorial and state assembly elections in Nigeria on March 18 were marred by violent voter intimidation and suppression.
The U.S. diplomatic mission in Nigeria which disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja said its members observed the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of these incidents first-hand.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the disturbing acts of violent voter intimidation and suppression that took place during those polls in Lagos, Kano, and other states.
“The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning,” it said.
The U.S., therefore, called on the Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process.
“The United States likewise will consider all available actions, including additional visa restrictions, on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Nigeria,” it added.
In the same vein, the European Union Election Observation Mission in Nigeria on Monday faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC for failing to live up to the expectations in Nigeria’s electoral process.
The Mission said, “Throughout the mission, we saw that Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and are keen to engage in various civic activities. However, in many parts of the country, their expectations were not met. Many were disappointed and we witnessed voter apathy that is in part, a clear consequence of failures by political elites and, unfortunately, also by INEC.
“Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged on 25 February due to lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the federal level polls.
“Up until the postponement, INEC continued to abstain from providing information, limiting its communication to a few press releases and ceremonial statements and hence failing to address public grievances and rebuild confidence in the electoral process.
“From 11 March onwards, despite compressed timeframes, INEC introduced various corrective measures to render a timely delivery of electoral materials, efficient use of election technologies, and ensure prompt publication of result forms, some of which were effective.
“Positively, INEC introduced some corrective measures ahead of Saturday’s polls, allowing a timely delivery of sensitive materials and improved use of election technologies, yet the institution continued to lack transparency.”
Some Positive Moments
Despite some shortcomings experienced at the just concluded election, there are however some positive moments that Nigerians can be proud of. Some states like Kano, where the battle for the seat of power between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) was settled with the declaration of NNPP’s Yusuf Kabir as the governor-elect.
Kabir scored 1,019,602 votes to defeat his closest contender, Nasir Gawuna of the APC who polled 890,705 votes.
The two main contestants were backed by political gladiators in the state which boasts of high numerical and voter strength. Kabir was backed by former Kano governor and NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso who has a “cult-like” following in Kano with his socio-political and religious movement known as the Kwankwasiyya.
Also, in Oyo, it was a peaceful process devoid of violence as candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Governor Seyi Makinde, was declared winner of Saturday’s governorship election for a second term.
Makinde polled 563,756 votes to beat his close rival Teslim Folarin of All Progressive Congress who scored 256,685 votes, while Adebayo Adelabu of Accord Party scored 38,357 votes.
In the same vein, PDP’s 24 years reign in Abia was brought to an end as INEC, Wednesday, declared Alex Otti, the candidate of the Labour Party winner of the March 18 governorship poll in Abia state.
Interestingly, in what may be described as the biggest upset of the general elections, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate Dauda Lawal unseated incumbent Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle.
Even the outcome of the Presidential poll that saw Peter Obi of the Labour Party winning 12 states was a reflection of the positive outcome of the polls.
What Then Is Buhari’s Legacy?
On 16th February, 2023, Buhari had urged Nigerians to vote for their candidates of choice in the February 25 and March 11 elections, assuring them that “their vote shall count”. He also assured them that adequate security has been provided to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
However, it is so disappointing to note that those words were just a mere statement as security operatives in some instances failed in their responsibilities of ensuring adequate security during the election. Some of them even went to the extent of aiding the consummation of these atrocities.
As May 29 gradually draws near, Buhari may have left a bitter sour on the lips of many Nigerians with the poor conduct of the 2023 general elections. It is a far cry from what many Nigerians expected despite the huge amount of taxpayers’ money that was spent on the preparation of the elections. And for a president who had wanted to leave the outcome of the elections as a legacy, it is difficult to comprehend if the Nigerian electorate will give him a passing mark.
What is however clear is that the unholy trinity between the ruling party, police and the electoral body that is normally at play during elections in the country to circumvent the process, by not working in consonance to the rules, still subsist. Yes, the election was not perfect and there are visible areas where the process was compromised, but generally it was a reflection of the wishes of the people.
The onus is therefore on stakeholders to rise above the surface, be more patriotic and make sure we continue to work hard to get it right. “We have to find a way of prosecuting electoral law offenders. The only way to prevent future occurrence is to make sure that people who break the law are put behind bars”, says Tunde Adeyemi, a Lagos based lawyer.
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My Bola Tinubu Odyssey
By Festus Adedayo
Since Wednesday, March 1, 2023, as Persians, Carthaginians and Romans did in penal sanction, I have been literally hung up for crucifixion. It began the moment Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, announced ex-Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of last Saturday’s presidential election. Diatribes, sarcasms and mild verbal whiplashing were reserved for me. Like ice cubes, rebukes of me got generously intermixed with cognac of victory celebrations.
It reminds me of celebrated Nigerian journalist, May Ellen-Ezekiel’s piece, Over Cognac, in her column in the Quality magazine of the 1990s. Battling personal medical privations that resulted in delayed childbirth, Ellen-Ezekiel lamented how her bosses made mockery of her as they drowned their guts with cups of liquor. It was at a time she frequented one dibia over another in search of metaphysical remedy to her childlessness. It was an award-winning piece.
Navel-wracking posts on social media celebrating “my loss” in the presidential election sprung up to taunt me. While some very sarcastic ones who encountered me asked what route I would flee out of Nigeria to avert the dangers that lie ahead of me in a Tinubu presidency, others harangued me outright. Some even looked me in the face to argue the bastardy of my opposition to his presidency. A Yoruba man should support the aspiration of his fellow Yoruba, they waxed sanctimoniously. You would think I was on the ballot against the announced winner of the election and I lost my deposit. Or, that I made a career of raging criticisms against his candidature.
Perhaps, I did? By the way, congratulations to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, INEC’s declared winner of the 2023 presidential election. If, for a minute, you take your mind off allegations by the opposition parties that the election was grossly manipulated, you cannot ignore the humongous grits, energy and persuasion that Tinubu invested in this ambition. It is good for him that it culminated in the historic breasting of the tape. For about four years now, I did not hide my opinion that Tinubu should never be Nigeria’s president, to the chagrin of many. I pursued that conviction relentlessly, supplying what I was persuaded were concrete evidence against such ludicrous ambition. I felt that if Nigeria elected him, it would be an all-time low moment in her leadership moral history. On February 25, 2023, Nigerian electors unanimously told me I was talking absolute balderdash. They chose Bola Tinubu. Once again, congratulations to the president-elect. Very few people are ambition marathoners as he was.
My resentment to his presidential ambition was four-pronged. On each count, I have been grossly blood-nosed by careerist bootlickers. One was his moral pedigree which I submitted was abysmally low for Nigeria’s leadership. I argued that at a time like this when Nigeria’s leadership should use self to exemplify the need for a moral about-turn, Tinubu would aggravate the slide. I made allusions to allegations of his amorphous ancestry and romance with the globally banned white substance. Severally, seemingly supervening interventions were provided to trounce my arguments. One was that, Nigeria is not desirous of the pretentious messianism I sought. Second, that one of Tinubu’s greatest achievements in Lagos State was the reorganization of the Lagos judiciary, in spite of allegations of corruption leveled against him. Third in their lines of interjection is that, granted that the allegation of corruption was true, virtually everyone, including even leaders of the western world, have, at one time or the other in their lives, made ignominious nocturne dashes, like the proverbial African witch. The witch, while making dashes to the coven, if she gets drenched by a midnight downpour, would keep sealed lips by daybreak on cause of her sodden dress. Tinubu shouldn’t be imprisoned by this forever, they said.
I was also wary of a sacred cow government that Tinubu would run. I reckoned that it would be intra-systemic irruption if Tinubu rose against a system he nurtured throughout his leadership foray. Like Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu is enveloped by one of the most atrocious systemic leeches ever. They are the pullers of the levers of the awesome political machine he commandeers in the last 24 years. That machine is hyper-efficient, precise, delicate, deadly and amazingly functional. Its effectiveness has not ceased to amaze pundits since the Tinubu phenomenon hit the political firmament in 1999. This machine spans the entire gamut of Nigeria’s system. It is political, media, judicial, economic, intellectual, name it; comprising of the most audacious underworld apparatchik ever, to the most venal; it is yet unassuming. It is serviced by a conscience-purchasing system of graft that would buy off an angel’s loyalty to God.
I was also bothered about the optics of a failing health, especially the glaring disconnect of cognition. My argument was that you needed a very robust, not necessarily unassailable, health and presence of mind to become the president of Nigeria. I suggested that Tinubu doesn’t have both. I have witnessed the quantum of energy deployed in the service of administration of states in Nigeria and I come out wondering if it isn’t foolish to want to govern vast people and places with a failing health. I felt Nigeria would be a killing venture for Tinubu in his present circumstance. On this count too, arguments have been proffered to counter my take. Administering Nigeria is not about brawns but brain, they said. You didn’t need the pugilist prowess of an Anthony Joshua, nor his physique to be in Aso Rock. All you need is your brain. More fundamentally, they ask, is there any man who is above 50 years of age who is not carrying one health crucifix or the other?
Underneath however, following his trajectory in the public space, I saw a systems disrupter and a valiant bullet-biter in Tinubu. He seems to me to be one who wouldn’t be afraid to confront the python of power, head on. Nigeria needs this quality this time. It was one of those qualities that recommended Muhammadu Buhari for Aso Rock in 2015. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that what we saw was a mirage. Nigeria’s main challenge today is sacred cow-ism, if you like. Like the python encircling a buffalo and trying to suffocate it to death, entrenched forces with buttons to press in high places are responsible largely for Nigeria’s stymying. A leader with an eye on making noticeable changes in Nigeria must be a disruptor of existing decadent configuration. As a member of that decadent order, a complexity arises if that same man seeks to rise above his membership of this destructive clan. How can such person disrupt that calculus? Tinubu has to be like the proverbial python’s fetus that is fated to ensure the death of its mother to be that disrupter.
Of a truth, I had been very despondent that Tinubu became Nigeria’s president. I had earlier been sad about the quality of candidates the political parties’ primaries sprung up. However, my hope for Nigeria’s redemption was buoyed not long after. My calculation was that anyone as inexplicably opportune as he is would change the system. Tinubu would or should desire to use this presidency as opportunity for personal redemption. General Murtala Muhammed, Nigeria’s late military Head of State, did just that. He was generally perceived to be corrupt and divisive. These allegations were exemplified by his infamous role in the Asaba massacre and partaking in illegal acquisition of property during the Nigerian civil war, Mohammed spent his six months as Nigeria’s Head of State erasing his infamy in history. He is today seen as a hero. I feel Tinubu would want to spend his last years on earth being a Murtala, especially, in the hearts of his Yoruba people. They continue to make copious and panoply of lines of demarcation between him and their heroic avatar, Obafemi Awolowo. I suspect Tinubu would want to go down in history working towards being given same honor as the Yoruba hero.
Since the announcement of Tinubu’s win, I have vowed to stand back and constructively engage his presidency. My engagement will come in the form of what I have generously and freely donated to Nigeria’s presidents since 1998 when I began column writing. God willing, I will dispassionately critique and criticize his government, without my stand being flavored by our mutual ethnicity or fear of any repercussion of power. At the risk of being considered immodest, from the government of General Sani Abacha who was in office when I began writing a column for the Sunday Tribune in 1998, till date, I have unapologetically held Nigerian leaders to account, at the risk of my life. Permit me to slide into the immodesty of recounting some of the routes I took.
My consistent followers from 1998 will glean a philosophy of standing by the weak against the strong in my writing. If as president, I see that there is a gang-up against Tinubu, I will queue behind him. I promise. This does not preclude my picking my cudgel after the rampaging foxes have been scared off.
Immediately he assumed office in 1999, I celebrated Olusegun Obasanjo, even when the Yoruba belonged largely to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). I believed his near-execution by the demented General Abacha was penance against his decades of working against his people. When Chief Bola Ige, Awolowo’s heir apparent, decided to take up appointment under Obasanjo, I wrote against him, using the newspaper of his hero, Awolowo, for this task. I felt if Papa Awolowo was alive, he would do same. God bless his soul, Ige, who had the power to ask for my immediate sack, openly sought my friendship.
The fusillade of criticisms from me against the Obasanjo government was intense. When I was invited to the Presidential Media chat circa 2000, I continued the critiquing on the NTA live broadcast. I was unsparing. Mr. Tunji Oseni, the presidential spokesman, aghast at my criticisms of the president, told me I must have been sponsored to attack Obasanjo. A couple of years after when then Governor Chimaroke Nnamani chose me as his image maker, I learnt the presidency reached out to him to stand down the appointment. I had unfairly and vociferously denounced the president, they claimed. Brilliant man that he ever is, Nnamani reportedly told them that if he had their enemy in his fold, he had helped them reduce the rank of adversaries by one!
Then came Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Speaker of the House of Representatives. No sooner did he get into office than he and Obasanjo began a tiff in office. I immediately appointed myself as a one-man army to dislodge his bile against the president. The criticisms reverberated so much that Eziuche Ubani, then Special Adviser to Na’Abba, visited the Tribune and sought explanation for my trenchant views against the Speaker. The ballistics didn’t stop. Na’Abba and I today are best of friends.
President Umaru Yar’Adua too received same mettle of critical dosages from me. When he deserved praises, I gave them effortlessly. When the cabal surrounding him, made up of his wife, Turai, his Economic Adviser, Dr. Tanimu Yakubu and others schemed to continue to foist him on Nigeria, despite his obviously failing health, I was at the vanguard of the resistance. The doctrine of necessity received vociferous analyses from me. I saw all these as a gang-up against a southerner, Goodluck Jonathan. The facts are in the public domain to be verified.
Then Jonathan became the Nigerian president. The romance with him didn’t last. In my column on the back page of the National Life newspaper, the Bayelsa-born president soon lost the comradeship of my pen. By the time I left the newspaper in 2011, my pen did an unrelenting weakening of public estimation of his government.
Of course, you all know what I did in the last eight years with President Muhammadu Buhari. It will be difficult to believe that the critiquing of our leaders was not sponsored. It is why it is necessary for readers to do psychological and historical analyses of those who seek to mould opinions for them. Permit me to be overtly modest: I am irreverent for bulwarks against national good.
The states were not left out. Take for example ex-Governor Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State. I had never been to the southeast by the time Egwu began to face the heat of attacks from Abuja-based politicians from his state. It was led by Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim. It was a bloody fight which culminated, one day, in a near massacre between the two political flanks at a point close to Abakaliki. Right there in my Imalefalafia office, reading through the report, I felt the Goliaths wanted to take advantage of David and wrote passionately against it. I stood by Egwu. Almost a year after when I met him, the governor almost promoted me to the rank of pantheons. As he sunk into panegyrics of how he had never seen my kind of commentator before, I almost shed a tear. I disconnected from him ever since.
It must be difficult for ex-Governors Adebayo Alao-Akala and Adewolu Ladoja to believe I was not sponsored to attack them while they were in office. The impression was so huge that our highly respected egbon – Dotun Oyelade, Alao-Akala’s image maker then, scribbled a note to me that I should not allow “them” to use me against his principal. I still kept that note. He must have presumed that Tinubu, who I never met during my years of sojourn in his newspaper, dictated to me what to write against his political enemies. Years after leaving office and Mrs. Kemi Alao-Akala met me in the family’s Ibadan house, she said, matter-of-factly, “If not for my Christian faith, I shouldn’t allow you to enter this house. You abused my husband too much!” Alao-Akala sat watching the mild exchange between us. By the time of his passage, Alao-Akala redrew his image in my heart. I doubt if I ever saw a more humane politician than this late petrel of Oyo State politics.
Ladoja and I met for the first time about three years ago at the University of Ibadan. I was honoured to be on sane high table with him at the Babatunde Oduyoye Annual Lecture. He shook my hands like a long-lost friend. Then, he shocked me with what I felt were unearned accolades: “I was one of those who literally carried placards against your being made aide to the Senate President. Your brain is beyond such job!” he told me. I stood there looking petrified. That was a man I spent almost half of my column-writing years denouncing.
I did all these at grave risks. Friends delink me and adversaries abhor me. Financially, it is a barren path. It lands the columnist by the island of Siberia. It is more profitable praise-singing politicians so that you can get considerable chunks from their stolen loots. Those who can help you at times of need distance selves from you, lest they be identified with your toxicity. I feel immensely satisfied that even if I was the lone voice in this wilderness, I will not back out. What would have made me miserable even to my grave is if someone is financing my opinions against these leaders.
On the Tinubu presidency critiquing, I suffered beyond people’s imagination, even up to the point of ostracism. I however do not regret a jot of all I have written against him or previous Nigerian leaders. I will write them all over again if the situation presents itself. I am persuaded that I acquitted myself very well and that the wellbeing of Nigeria was my bother. I must however thank these leaders I have been critiquing. It is either my unflattering critiquing had no effect on them or they just saw me as a public nuisance acclimatized to ranting and needed to be ignored. When I see public comments which many times commend my stand, I derive immense gratification therefrom.
So, once again, I congratulate the man who would be Nigeria’s next president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I wish I would one day eat my vomit on this page and roll out the drums in his praises. I would, God willing, do this if he chisels a better Nigeria from this penkelemes he will be inheriting. I will do it with mirthful abandon.
3,126 total views, 11 views today
Twitter Suffers Major Outage Days After Elon Musk Sacked More Staff
Social media giant Twitter has been hit by a major outage, just days after another round of lay-offs at the company.
The hashtag #TwitterDown and the term “My Twitter” were trending on Wednesday morning as users struggled to access their accounts.
The users of the site reported the outage on the Down Detector website, a site that monitors outages.
Down Detector also reported that the issues affecting the microblogging platform started just after 2.15 am pacific time and affected users worldwide.
While it is not clear what caused the outage, some users lamented that the issues are affecting their timelines.
Also, regular users complained of being greeted by what appeared to be a welcome page, which encouraged them to click and find their first followers.
“Welcome to Twitter!” read the message. “This is the best place to see what’s happening in your world. Find some people and topics to follow now”.
As well as long-time users not being able to reach their profiles, others who received the message noted not being able to see their own tweets or others from their existing followers in their feeds, Euronews.com reports.
The number of reported issues on Twitter spiked at 11.47 am CET with 5,223 reports on Down Detector. Most of these issues – 66 per cent – concerned the Twitter app, according to the site.
Billionaire owner Elon Musk let dozens more staff go last weekend, including those described as “hardcore loyalists” who publicly embraced his vision for the company following his takeover last year.
According to media reports in the US, some 200 staff were fired. It comes after thousands of jobs – around half of Twitter’s worldwide workforce – were fired in November.
Many users took to the platform sharing memes poking fun at Musk’s leadership at the company and his decision to fire so many staff in light of the outage.
There is no indication as yet as to whether these latest lay-offs had any bearing on the outage but many core teams at Twitter are now operating with fewer staff.
4,477 total views, 8 views today
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