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Second Niger Bridge: As Ndigbo roll out the drums, go on bended knees to Buhari

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By Sunny Igboanugo

In my almost three decades in journalism, my encounter with General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), as he then was, was clearly one of the most memorable for several reason(s). At the risk of sounding immodest, I have met and had encounters with the most celebrated Nigerian leaders, dead and alive including Presidents and former Presidents – the great Zik of Africa, the late Owelle of Onitsha, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Balogun of Owu, Olusegun Obasanjo, et al. In fact the only people missing on that list were the late military despot, Sani Abacha, no regrets, Ernest Sonekan, some regrets and the sage himself, Obafemi Awolowo, plenty regrets.

But of the tall list, the encounter with Buhari remains quite remarkable. More than any other personality, I had approached the assignment with a mixed feeling of trepidation and excitement. Why? His reputation. First the excitement! The first time I saw him, flesh and blood, outside television appearances, was as a small boy fresh from secondary school and preparing for higher school. I was among the group of compatriots along the expressway on the approach to the Niger Bridge in Onitsha waiting in anticipation during his visit to the old Anambra State. It was just a glimpse. As his car sped past, I saw patched daintily at the corner of the back seat, a figure that could only be described with one word – regal! That image had remained plastered somewhere in my mental firmament thereafter and ever-after.

But their was a flipside. In the same Onitsha, where I had gone from Lagos, for a temporary stay with my elder sister during my search for admission, I had seen the brutal side of the Buhari imprimatur. Before my eyes, I witnessed military brutality in real terms.

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The image of that particular building in Onitsha going down has never left my memory till date. Many people had watched the demolition exercises that were carried out by the Buhari government. Before then, that building was the cynosure of all eyes – the most magnificent building in the commercial town of Anambra at that time, you would say.

It was impossible for anyone to contemplate such a damning fate for it, let alone the reality. But, as people watched, some stupefied, others wincing and others wailing, it came down all the same, no thanks to the the impact of the massive blade of the Monday Ikpeazu bulldozers. Who remembers Ikpeazu? He was the Group Captain, in charge of the environmental sanitation agency of the old Anambra State. His name, sent shivers down the spine of many.

The offence of that particular building in Onitsha, as with many more, was that it was built close to a high tension. But, you could also read other meanings including sheer jealousy and bad blood. But much as the young military officer was feared the real dread resided elsewhere – Dodan Barracks – residence of Buhari and his Man-Friday, Tunde Idiagbon.

However, the brutality of that era or the impression of it, was not only in pulling down buildings and indiscriminate arrest and detention of people, it was actually crawling in the streets. I recall on a particular incident on a Saturday in one of the routine sanitation exercises of that period, how one military officer highlighted this.

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Apparently the leader of the team that was arresting and torturing people who did not comply with the exercise, he had appeared as any other passerby. On mufti and incommunicado with both hands hidden in his agbada, he had walked towards a small crowd watching the drilling of the said culprits. In a split second and without warning, he pulled out a long whip – I only saw that special make in Arabian films – and began landing it on the people in the crowd. You could see that this was far worse than the usual koboko from, the reaction of the people as they writhed in pain on its impact.

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So in my flight, my hotel room and in the car that took me to his residence, in Kaduna, these images and experiences were tumbling in my head. Besides, another impression I had was that he was a very arrogant person – quite spartan and unfeeling, partly from what I heard and from my own conjecture.

Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for the pleasant surprise from the warmth that morning as he finally stepped into his living room, where I sat fidgeting. Don’t forget this was a former Head of State and a General to boot and me, an ordinary reporter. So, I was prepared to accept whatever treatment I got, having even seen worse in my career even from far lesser personalities.

To say that I was totally taken aback by the entire experience would be an understatement. First, it didn’t take me more than a minute to complete formalities at the gate. The appointment, was actually arranged by Mike Ahamba (SAN), my friend and ally. So, his aides simply looked into the notebook on the table where they were seated, saw my name and that was it. The rest was easy.

The simplicity of the process was quite shocking. I’d been in the home of big men. That was my job. So I knew what to expect at the entrance of a home like Buhari, not only as a military officer but a former Head of State. There would have been dozens of soldiers, some perching on trees, others on rooftops and many more on patrol. This is no exaggeration. I would have been kept waiting at that gate from that morning till evening. It wouldn’t have been the first time. I had had such an experience many times over – the lot of journalists. So, I would have waited and borne it like I bore others in the line of duty. That’s the job. My editors would not ask me whether I was beaten by rain or a fly flew into my eyes if I returned empty-handed. After all the trip was fully on their account.

If I was fascinated by the treatment I got, I was completely overwhelmed about the ambiance and peace around the compound – the ornamental birds and the trees – they were so enchanting – that I kept wondering what else Garden of Eden would have looked like. Spellbound! That was more like.

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I could have spent days in this friendly ambience discussing Nigeria – in complete comfort and conviviality. I recall that back to the newsroom, instead of the usual two-three paragraphs to introduce the interview, I spent a whole full page, because of the desire to pour out my experience. That was how stuck I was – completely sucked in. So, much so that I remained one of his most virulent campaigners of Buhari thereafter. In fact, despite my being somewhere in Abuja, close to the seat of power around 2015 when Buhari was contesting and being aware of the implication of his winning, and Goodluck Jonathan losing as he did lose, a substantial part of me still went out to him.

I was so sure that the man I spent those hours with on that day and maintained a link with thereafter, would fix Nigeria. With what we discussed outside the interview I had no iota of doubt. That’s why, today, I remain one of the most devastated by what he has turned out this past seven years, plus. I’ve not stopped asking myself what happened. Was it error of judgement on my part or was it something else?

Forget his clear incompetence. Virtually all governments in Africa share the same trait. They’re all wired that way – in incompetence. It’s in the blood, in their stars, notwithstanding the person’s pedigree. If not, the continent wouldn’t have been such an eyesore and complete global disgrace.

You just saw a video of the President South Sudan drenching himself in his own urine in a public function the other day. You’ve heard about Cyril Ramophosa of South Africa, stashing $580,000 in a sofa in his house – did anything come out of it? You heard how Nana Akufo-Addo spent billions of dollars to build a church while inflation is killing his people.

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Before he was ousted by the military and later died, Robert Mugabe held the record of the most educated President in the world at his time, with multiple degrees in different disciplines. But at more than 90 years, he was still contesting elections. Look at the mess Congo Democratic Republic has become, despite being the most richly endowed country in the world.

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So, incompetence is part of Africa. I’m sure nobody would have overly complained about the question of Buhari’s underwhelming performance beyond taking it as one of those things the larger continent has seen over the decades of their being since individual independence, of which Nigeria has shared largely. Yes, we would have let it pass.

But what I couldn’t and still can’t fathom is Buhari’s other side, his unabashed doting of his Fulani race to the point of embarrassment. But more than that, I have nowhere to place his apparent hatred and wickedness for the Igbo people. Outside the wartime, there has never been a time in the nation’s history that Ndigbo have been so badly treated than what has happened in the Buhari years. Of course, the issue of nepotism where you must be a Northerner and particularly a Muslim and more particularly a Fulani, to get anything under his government, is shared across the board by other ethnic groupings.

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Even those who put him in power from the South are not smiling. Forget the face the likes of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, John Oyegun, Chris Ngige or Ogbnonnya Onu, ar putting up. Noobody is smiling behind the curtains and out of earshot. We all hear Remi, Tinubu’s wife lamenting the other day. If you didn’t hear, I did. It was a demonstrable example of what is.

That may even account for the apparent desperation of the Jagaban Borgu. That may be the reason he is fighting so hard, even at the point of life and death. He might actually be seeking an opportunity to make amends to the bad market he sold Nigerians, or better still, to have his pound of flesh. Who knows? Who would blame the Jagaban, if he felt licked and battling to repay his ego. After all, is he not supposed to be Nigeria’s sharpest political guru, as to be so deceived by Buhari’s Takiya, tactics?

Where do you start to recount Buhari’s whipping of Ndigbo? Is it in ensuring that no Igbo man is nowhere near the Villa or any important position or that those already there were removed and replaced or is it that at every point they are reminded about how they lost the war? Ask that National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) member who joined his colleagues to pay Christmas homage to the President in Daura, his home town in Katsina State,  some years back what it feels like to be singled out and profiled the way he was.

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Ask the parents and relations of the victims of Operation Python Dance, executed so clinically by Tukur Buratai, former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), or those of the youths mowed down in a hail of well-aimed bullets for no other offence than carrying placards at the Head Bridge Onitsha to seek for Biafra, a completely legitimate quest by world standard or those similarly dealt with at a primary school in Aba as recorded in the video which the President declined to watch during his interview on Aljazeera.

Now, I hear the ululations about the Second Niger Bridge. Understandably, it seems to be coming from outside more than those that are supposed to be on bended knees thanking the President. Else, nobody seems to have rolled out the drums from the South East, at least, not in the manner they are supposed to. Of course anybody slightly above the capacity of an imbecile is supposed to know or at least guess why.

Naturally, the relief inherent in the opening of that bridge to traffic is enough to put smiles on many faces. But would it compensate for what Ndigbo have suffered in the hand of Buhari? Would it make him a friend of Ndigbo as would a Shehu Shagari or an Ibrahim Babangida, who though did not build the Second Niger Bridge? That’s the koko!

 

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Sanusi’s acquittal of Tinubu: When truth is coloured by ‘vested interest’

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Sunny Igboanugo

I couldn’t believe that it was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that spoke on Sunday in the manner he was quoted to have spoken at a religious event in Abuja. I’m sure those who invited him to the programme must have been surprised too that of all the things he said, he completely exculpated President Bola Tinubu of blame from the current suffering in the land.

The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is known to shoot straight from the hips and with some rare courage that could only be attributed to his parentage. After all a king does and says what and as he wishes.

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Indeed, it was this same courage that put him in trouble and ended his plum job as the nation’s number one banker when he openly exposed the rot that he suspected was going on with the government of Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria at the time, who ordered his removal in 2014 after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) fraud saga.

Even after ascending the throne of his forebears as the 14th Emir of Kano, it was the same courage that put his monarchy in harm’s way when his lacerating criticisms became too much for Abdullahi Ganduje, former Governor of Kano State, that he had to move against him by first, splitting his kingdom into four emirates as part of a pushback that culminated into his dethronement and eventual banishment from the state.

Just this December 8, 2023, while speaking at the Bank Directors Summit organised by the Bank Directors Association of Nigeria (BDAN), Sanusi was on song as usual, when he again turned to the NNPC, now a private company for accountability, virtually questioning the whereabouts of the dollar it is earning, which the country is supposed to rely on for most of its foreign exchange undertakings.

Hear him: “We are no longer paying subsidies so where are the dollars? It was under recovery during the subsidy era and that has been stopped, so where is the money? This was the issue I raised for which I was suspended, well you can suspend me again. The NNPCL is the most opaque oil company in the world.

“When I was in the central bank for 15 years, they had not been audited. We have to follow the money from production to export to return, where is the money going? We paid N11trillion in subsidy and there is no accountability up till now. The National Assembly called the NNPCL to bring the documents, but they refused.”

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This was vintage Sanusi, piercing the boil at the ripening point. But, last Sunday, it was different. The boldness, forthrightness and courage appeared to have gone to the market. How could anyone on earth, when even a little baby learning to talk is blabbing his name, acquit Tinubu of blame in the current parlous situation in Nigeria, let alone a Sanusi, who has travelled beyond the legendary seven seas and seven forests to see it all? But that was what he attempted to do.

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Hear him: “If I am to be fair and just to President Bola Tinubu, he is not to blame for the current hardship. For eight years, we were living a fake lifestyle with huge debt from foreign and domestic debts. The Central Bank of Nigeria owes over N30 trillion, which resulted in debt service surpassing 100 percent. I can’t join other Nigerians criticising Tinubu on the current economic hardship, and I am not saying he is a saint free from wrongdoing, but in this current economic situation, President Tinubu is not to be blamed. I will also speak if I see any wrong economic policy of the Tinubu administration in the future.

“It’s injustice for anyone to blame the Tinubu administration for the current economic hardship because there is no other alternative than the removal of the fuel subsidy. After all, Nigeria cannot even afford to pay the subsidy. In the last eight years, the Central Bank continued to print more money, and the Naira continued to depreciate. There is too much naira in circulation because the CBN is printing the currency without restraint.

“The economy was poorly managed, and they are not willing to take advice; in the last eight years, apart from sycophancy, nothing has been done; those sycophants are those buying the dollar at the rate of N400 and selling it at the rate of N600 to N700. A boy who has no record of service has a private jet and owns houses in Dubai and England just because he is buying dollars at so a rate and selling them.”

Phew! What the ex-CBN boss failed to do however is to take a simple peek into the Tinubu Presidency in the last eight months. Yes, he had no option about subsidy removal and perhaps equally had no option about floating the Naira, the two immediate culprits in the current economic crisis. But what about the other decisions he took? What about the other activities?

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Was it Buhari that appointed 50 ministers he currently has in his cabinet? Or has the royal father forgotten what it would cost to maintain each of the extra 13 ministers and their aides? Was it Buhari that asked Tinubu to borrow foreign currency to purchase a N5billion worth of a yacht for himself? Was it Buhari that budgeted N28billion for purchase of vehicles for the Presidential Villa? Were there no vehicles there before?

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Pray! Was it Buhari that ordered another set of vehicles at the cost of N1.5billion for the First Lady, an office that is not recognised by law? Was it Buhari that released the presidential plane from the fleet for Seyi Tinubu to transport himself to Kano to watch the game of polo? Don’t we know the cost of fuelling the jet alone? Was it Buhari that took a historic 1,400 delegates to the climate change summit in Dubai?

Okay, since Tinubu should be overlooked, in what other sane country of the world would a government official still keep his job after asking for a N1.8billion for the inauguration of a 37-man committee to fix minimum wage? What was the N500million the selfsame Tinubu approved for? Was it to engage Elon Musk as a consultant or to drink tea or coffee specially prepared in Fiji with special properties capable of resetting people’s brain?

Yes! Let’s excuse the monarch for failing to notice the rot in government. Perhaps he was too busy to hear details of the Betta Edu scandal and missed one of the elements, where a whopping N4billion was budgeted to verify recipients of the Federal Government’s poverty alleviation largesse. Has he asked any questions about whereabouts of the savings from the subsidy removal?

If he did, he would have gotten a snippet of how the President has been dishing them out like a drunken sailor, outside what goes into private pockets from direct stealing by his appointees in various offices, who now see the country as a bazaar ground.

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A video has just emerged of Femi Falana (SAN) while speaking at this year’s memorial of the late Beko Ransome Kuti, revealed to the world how the same Tinubu, shared a whopping N123billion to governors to fight 2023 to fight COVID-19. This was the same pandemic that the World Health Organisation (WHO), declared over in May 2023. Yet by December, Nigeria is still fighting it with such a huge amount.

“Do you know what I’m talking about? Last December, they gave out N123billion to fight COVID-19. Furthermore, and this must be our demand from here – this regime, must – even if we have to go to the streets on this because it is so fundamental – must warehouse the gains of subsidy removal and channel it towards alleviating the poverty of our people.

“In April last year, what the three tiers of government – Federal Government, state government and the local governments shared was N655billion. When subsidy was removed, since June, according to the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, there’s no month that less than N1trillion was shared. You can quote me on this, in June last year, what they shared was N1.9trillion. People were embarrassed! Where is this money coming from, where did you see this money? They had to save N900billion.”

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Perhaps the same Sanusi also missed that the 469 federal lawmakers, each got their own share from the same largesse – N200million each for Senators and N100million for House of Representatives, for the purchase of Christmas rice for their constituents. The fact that nobody seemed to benefit from the largesse, clearly informs the hollowness about Sanusi’s position.

Imagine what channelling the subsidy removed from petrol to subsidising public transportation could do to the economy. Imagine the gains derivable from procuring additional 500 vehicles per state, through public-private partnership to provide cheap transportation? But no! The money would rather go to governors, NASS members and government officials who are likely going to pocket them.

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Yet Sanusi says nobody should blame Tinubu. Come to think of it, at what point did Buhari and Tinubu cease being political Siamese twins? Virtually all political moves Buhari took since their coming together, had always had Tinubu’s imprimatur and vice versa. Never for once did Tinubu condemn or speak out against the issues Sanusi spoke about.

Even in the 2019 election, when it was obvious that Buhari was completely bereft of all elements that would enable him hold office, didn’t Tinubu and others continue to prop him up, resulting in the eventual disaster that he turned out four years after. Didn’t Tinubu tell the world that he would continue where Buhari stopped? Even now that Buhari is no longer in power, how much of his footprints have Tinubu erased? Is he not digging deeper into the hole Nigeria has since sunk?

What about that boy that has no experience, that has now bought a private jet and owns houses in Dubai and England just because he is buying dollars at so a rate and selling them? Has Tinubu asked him to account for his deeds? Shouldn’t Buhari himself be standing in the dock at this moment to answer questions the same way Godwin Emefiele, Sanusi’s successor is doing now?

I have since taken time to revisit Sanusi’s elaborate treatise, on August 18 2013, where blamed vested interests for the ills of Nigeria. My conclusion is that he has also caught the same bug and now, perhaps, as a Lagos Home Boy, there’s too much affinity with Tinubu and perhaps too much more at stake for him to avoid the poison of that phenomenon. Too bad!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo and I’m The Tiny Voice!

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Yes! If NFF says it’s for Tinubu, don’t blame S’Eagles for losing AFCON!

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By Sunny Igboanugo

There is no doubt that the most underwhelming performance of the Super Eagles in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), 2023, the 34th edition, was Sunday’s final match with the host nation’s Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire, who eventually won the trophy, for the third time, equalling Nigeria’s records as three-time champions.

The question on the lips of many, has remained, was this the same Super Eagles that dealt with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, its traditional foe in African football, so decisively in the round of 16, before piping Angola after another superlative performance in the quarter finals. What then happened thereafter?

Doesn’t the answer to that question look simple and quite obvious? Isn’t it clear that it was at the moment the envisaged victory was now being tailored to fit into a President Bola Tinubu triumph that things started getting awry? Yes, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), had already started telling all ears that cared to listen that if the trophy was won, it would be for the President.

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Hear Ibrahim Gusau, the NFF President: “You heard what he said. He said, ‘Boys go there, believe in me. You don’t have any problem and whatever issues you are facing, just believe in me. Go and do the job and you’ll see the result. That’s exactly what he told them; you can see them doing the job.

“By the grace of God, I know he is going to reward them handsomely, which has never happened before in the history of Nigeria. We promised him that we were going to give him the trophy, and by the grace of God, we are going to do just that.”

Reiterating the NFF’s promise to deliver the trophy to Tinubu and called on Nigerians to continue supporting the team, he added: “We have just two matches to go and by the grace of God we will continue to do what we are doing. We call on all Nigerians to pray for us because prayer is the key to whatever we are doing. So, we call on all Nigerians to continue to support us with prayers.”

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Aisha Falode, NFF Executive Board Member, was even more emphatic, when she added: “We got that mandate, ‘go win the cup for Nigeria,’ and we are on the way to doing that. It is a mantra of a renewed hope. A renewed Super Eagles for a renewed Nigeria with one mandate; to bring the 2023 AFCON trophy back to Nigeria for Nigerians to celebrate. That’s what we are going to do. We are on our way to the final. We love Nigeria.”

Now, what would you do if you were a Super Eagles player, hearing this? First, the direct interpretation of this mindset is that your victory would be used to advertise and endorse a bad government that has seen to the suffering of your parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, friends and Nigerians in general. Would you go ahead and do it?

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Imagine the picture of William Troost Ekong, or Ahmed Musa, handing the AFCON trophy to Tinubu at a time that a bag of rice is at N77,000 or the Naira is at N1,580 to a dollar. What message would such a picture be sending to that young iyaloja at Katangwa Market, who was threatening on a now viral video that if Nigerian workers did not march into the street to protest the hardship in the land, women traders with her would be ready to “open our ny*sh and breast to protest in the streets,” because the suffering is too much?

To any keen observer, the evidence that the Super Eagles players were not too cozy with Abuja, could have loved to be excused from the monumental mess it has made of Nigeria since last year, was splashed in that viral video in their dressing room with them keenly embracing Nwankwo Kanu, and practically ignoring the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, who was there with them after the semi-finals match with South Africa.

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It was in a subsequent video that the players were seen embracing the same VP and having photo-ups with him, in what looked quite arranged, because their countenances, which appeared quite placid, did not betray any form of excitement or emotions similar to that shown to the former Eagles striker and two-time African Footballer of the Year (AFOTY).

So, if you ask me, I would safely assume that the loss on Sunday was deliberate for the reason cited above. In fact, from the look of things, they could have thrown the trophy early enough with the Bafana Bafana only that the South African side, probably failed to take the chances thrown at them.

Last Sunday, the Ivorians, a team that practically rose from the ashes of defeat, losing two matches at the qualifying stage, one to Equatorial Guinea, with a whopping 0-4, saw the chances being thrown at them by the Super Eagles, who never lost a single match before then and seized it.

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Those who might argue that it is conspiracy theory, should remember that these are the same players, who in their various clubs conspire to deliberately lose matches, to get their coaches sacked, or to protest over one issue or the other.  So, there is nothing strange in their actions, if actually true.

Nobody should forget that the players are Nigerians as well. Yes, they may be billionaires in foreign currencies, but Nigeria is their country as well. So, they are open to the daily taunting and embarrassment that the nation has become in recent years to the rest of the world. Even if they could afford to take care of themselves and their immediate families and communities, they cannot totally be insulated from being victims of the odious situation in the country one way or the other.

So, it is apposite to expect them to reject any plot to put them in the mix as agents to enhance the rot in the country. They may not have a voice or the powers to stop anything, but they could at least refrain from being enablers, knowing the consequences.

See also  Sanusi’s acquittal of Tinubu: When truth is coloured by ‘vested interest’

Yes! From the buildup trajectory in government, it is obvious that the Super Eagles would have handed Tinubu the weapon to confront those presently holding his feet to the fire over his sole responsibility for the horrible state of affairs in the country.

It is true that since the loss, the whole is nation grieving. The entire country went silent from that dark night and has remained so ever since. The foods and drinks many were enjoying before the thunderbolt suddenly turned sour and tasteless in their mouth. Many more even literally abandoned theirs on the table out of immense grief. Too bad!

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But what would have been the alternative? The flipside would certainly have been graver. For months, if not years, the complaints of Nigerians would have been met with how Tinubu won the AFCON as a defensive mechanism by the army of Presidency goons and their likes elsewhere. Wouldn’t that have been worse than not winning AFCON, whose euphoria could only last for mere days and fizzle out?

In 2014, then President, had tried to inelegantly incorporate the name of Blessing Okagabare into his campaigns to shore up his sagging image for the 2015 presidential election. But the celebrated Nigerian track queen and Olympic medalist, would have none of it and quickly called him out.

Just like she told the President then to leave her out of his plans, it might be that the same message has just been passed to Tinubu by the Super Eagles – Oga Jagaban, alias Emilokan, leave us out of it – look elsewhere! And what a patriotic message, if so!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo and I’m the Tiny Voice!

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Nigeria in distress: Peter Obi’s solution, the only solution

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By Sunny Igboanugo

I’ll start with a simple narrative. In 2021, there was a news flash that went viral on the social media and even the traditional platforms that Peter Obi, had donated a whopping N1billion to the Nigerian effort to curb the menace of COVID-19, the deadly pandemic that was ravaging the world at that time.
Whoever initiated that story, might have done so with negative intentions, either catch cruise, to chase clout or simply to rope the former Governor of Anambra State, into a particular corner. On the other hand, the person could have also have had the positive intention of promoting the former governor, who by then had become a household name, after running as vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), alongside Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, who was the Presidential candidate.
The person might have supposedly thought that linking Obi with such a huge donation, was likely to paint him in good light as a philanthropist in the mould of the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, whose proclivity to public spiritedness and philanthropy was believed to have opened so many doors for him during his quest to become President of Nigeria, which he would have been, had the military that prosecuted the 1993 presidential election not annulled it in the infamous June 12 saga.
So, give or take, it could either have been for the reasons above or anything else. However, what appeared strange at that time and now was that Obi, instantly debunked the story. Unlike many other politicians, who would have hugged the story, true or false, for the obvious advantage of projecting them as, first, well to do as to give out such an amount freely for public purpose, or humanitarians with the heart of gold, he flatly denied doing so.
What is more? He was named alongside Aliko Dangote, Africa’s Richest Man, said to have donated the same amount for the same purpose. Which politician would not seize such a moment to shine? But not Obi. Rather, in a statement, by Valentine Obienyem, his spokesman, he wished those who were making the contribution then under what was later dubbed Ca-COVID, well.
But do you know what? That same week, Obi established his own intervention programme. From his personal finances, he supervised the procurement of the essentials for the same COVID-19 initiatives and their distribution to target groups and practically witnessed all the processes from point A to point Z.
What was the result of that? The Ca-COVID initiative, which netted over N21billion at the last count, with individuals, banks and groups, making huge donations, as with other Nigerian public institutions, became mired in controversy with a lot of questions hanging on its head because of the opaque nature of the management of the huge funds.
In the end, what came out of the loud talks of erecting infrastructures, procurement of machinery and drugs and the concomitant programmes of testing, isolation and treatment centres and other tall projects, simply evaporated. Yet, that of Obi, became a reference point in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
While nobody actually came out to testify to benefitting from the former, pictures and videos of beneficiaries from Obi’s little efforts were all over the space.
From the available picture, he must have spent a lot far beyond the N1billion he was said to have donated. But even though that huge financial commitment was a mere fraction of the Ca-COVID effort. Yet, the difference was clear in terms of the result.
The reason for this outcome ought to be clear even to an imbecile. It simply adumbrates the fact in the traditional saying that a goat fed by the public usually dies of hunger, because nobody actually takes responsibility.
This is exactly the sickness with Nigerian. The truth is that running of Nigeria must be taken as a personal business. Those leading the country, must have the capacity and the presence of mind to go through the gamut of its daily activities with a fine-comb. In other words, Nigeria must not only be run by a leadership with the right sentiments and national emotions, but one that is not only present, but involved always.
This is what has been missing over the years, especially since the infamous years of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was worse than an absentee President. From the look of things, it appeared that Buhari’s ultimate ambition was to be called President and that once he achieved it, the rest was left to the elements. Those who hired him to get to the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, simply took over.
Accentuated by his debilitating health issues and the fact that he chose to run the most parochial and nepotistic government that virtually turned the Villa into a Fulani province, the country became a bazaar ground with auctioneers practically selling off everything. It even got worse with a pliable National Assembly, which swore never to question any action from him, or request thereof in doing the yeoman’s job.
Loan approvals were simply mere formalities, regardless that they were obtained in hard currencies with sometimes, outrageous and even laughable conditions. Now generations of Nigerians will be subjected to pay for loans that practically grew wings without any trace of their whereabouts.
Tragically, the tradition has continued even with Tinubu. What many Nigerians had believed was mere politics of appeasement in the form of saying some nice things to please Buhari, has now turned out a reality in every material particular. In this case, loans are being obtained to satiate the unquenchable desires of the new leaders.
Worse still is that Tinubu too, has now also followed Buhari’s pattern of choosing politics over competence. Today, to up the ante, virtually all the appointments outside the statutory ones allowed by law, are not only occupied by the Yoruba, but by the ubiquitous Lagos Boys. The result is that the bazaar Buhari introduced has not only continued, but increased in tempo. Just a few weeks ago, the nation was regaled with stories of mindboggling corruption in Tinubu’s poverty alleviation programmes.
The noise generated from the Betta Edu affair, was quite deafening as usual at the initial stage. But what has happened since then? The din has suddenly dimmed, while the putridness and ugliness from the can of worms, seem to have either evaporated or crawled away. Like all incidents of its kind in the Buhari years, it is calm again. Those who know could guarantee that it is only a matter of time for all the dramatis personae in that ugly encounter to find their ways back to their original positions or even climb to a higher grounds.
That is why today, even the greatest critics of Buhari, who had prayed fervently to see his back from the Villa are wondering whether they did not pray too quickly too soon. Shouldn’t they have tarried in wishing him back to Daura? Who could have contemplated or imagined that anything would be worse than the Buhari era? Who could have imagined a picture where the Naira, which exchanged for just N400 to a dollar less than a year ago, would plummet to more than N1,500? Who could have anticipated this steady progression from the critical condition of Buhari to the fatal state of Tinubu?
But what could have been done differently? Simple answer – the Peter Obi solution! Right from the outset, Obi had shouted himself hoarse that the solution to Nigeria’s current crisis is production and more production, hence, his slogan – from consumption to production. The vast land in the North, he echoed to even the deaf to hear, would be transformed from the current wasteland to huge agricultural enclave. Who is thinking or talking about that now?
Now, imagine where the N5billion earmarked for the purchase of a presidential yacht for Tinubu is invested in importing high-yielding cows from Mexico for farmers in Borno alone to produce milk and meat. Replicate that in 10 other states in the North and see how it turns out. Imagine what the economy of the South East would turn out like if five million palm seedlings are developed in each of the five states of the South East every year for the next four years.
Imagine what investment of a similar number of cocoa seedlings in the South West, accompanied with processing factories for beverage, chocolate and other finished products for export to neighbouring countries, or siting of mango canning factories in each of the local governments in Benue, Nasarawa or Taraba or machines for making potato chips in Jos, could contribute to Nigeria instead of using the dollars borrowed from foreign to buy exotic cars for Tinubu and his wife.
Picture the amount of foreign exchange that could have been saved if Tinubu, had shunned the present mindless extravagance and profligacy trailing his government. A cursory peek into the 2024 budget, would convince anyone as to why Nigeria is currently living in its current parlous state. Just imagine the odious stories coming out of the Villa!
For emphasis, Peter Obi, will never allow the National Assembly to purchase exotic vehicles of N160million per unit to navigate Nigerian bad roads. He would fix the roads instead. Obi will not appoint 50 Ministers at a time like this. Obi will not borrow money to buy vehicles for himself, not to talk about his wife. Obi will never travel in and outside the country with an entourage of 500 people. Obi will not run a government where N4billion is used to verify 15million beneficiaries for a poverty alleviation programme.
Yes! Obi will be decisive and brook no excuse for the wanton carnage being unleashed in the country by either bandits or terrorists, which has prevented people from either accessing their farms or engaging in other meaningful daily activities. Obi will not permit the continued stealing of oil from the Niger Delta. He will ask questions and plug all the loopholes. He will stop the bleeding of the country.
That was exactly what he promised during his campaigns for the job. He not only promised so, but stated in clear terms how he would go about it. Anyone who was able to achieve the development he did in Anambra State, and still save a whopping N75billion, refuse to steal it and keep it for his successor could save Nigeria.
What it means is that the person has conquered the basic disease afflicting Nigeria – greed. Greed either by himself of preventing the greed of family, friends, associates and allies from getting to public till. This inability for Buhari to do so and the clear indication that Tinubu is not succeeding either is the major reason for the current crisis in Nigeria today.
At this stage, Obi, may just be a metaphor. It may not be him per se. But the template is there. First, shed weight individually by divesting yourself of worldly desires, such as the dream of owning the best buildings in the world or riding in the best cars or being richer than Elon Musk. Then shed the weight of government by reducing the crowd and feeding less mouth. That is the template.
Incidentally, Obi has said that he is not desperate to be President, but desperate to see Nigeria work. So, even Tinubu could adopt the Peter Obi template and by so doing, instead of taking over from Buhari as the worst President of Nigeria, which is becoming quite evident by the day, he would have succeeded in creating the New Nigeria everyone desires. Why not?

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