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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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Samoa Agreement: They gave our fathers mirrors, now, they give us SUVs

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By Sunny Igboanugo

Picture this! Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (MoF-CoMoTE) in Nigeria. During this period, her official movement was like that of an Arabian monarch. Pomp and circumstances, pomp and pageantry, pomp and ceremonies, whichever is applicable.

It was chaos – blaring sirens, breakneck speeding pilot cars, swerving and dangling along the road with dark-goggled, war-like-well-kitted policemen hanging or perching dangerously on them – a convoy of luxuriant Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), looking as if freshly-minted from the factories in Japan, squeezed in the middle and trailed by backups with equally well-kitted operatives. You would never miss it.

Today, the same Okonjo-Iweala, is now the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a global entity worth zillions of times in rating and influence than a mere minister of a country, not the least, in Africa. But spot the difference. Today, the same woman goes to her office in just one car and a driver. All the chaos is gone. In fact, the only ceremony to underscore her present status, was when she assumed office on March 1, 2021.

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What was it like? On that day, a welcome party was organised, comprising no more than a dozen men and women, probably only staffers of the organisation, who lined the corridor leading to the entrance of the building, clapped, shook hands and led the way. End! No speech, no food, no drinks, no party. The ceremony did not even last up to 10 minutes.

Pan to Number 10 Donning Street, home of the United Kingdom Prime Minister. On Friday, July 5, 2024, Rishi Sunak, stood at the foyer of the building to give a farewell speech after 19 months in office as PM. After a short speech which lasted for less than 10 minutes, he stepped into a waiting Audi sedan, and drove away.

Enter Kier Starmer, his successor, few minutes after. He even came in a smaller car alongside his wife into the welcoming cheers from a large crowd that gathered at the same venue, went about shaking hands and exchanging kisses. No airs, no chaos, no security forces with whips in hands brandishing all manner of firearms to scare away citizens.

That session ended and with his own speech, equally short and pointed, he moved into his residence and that was it. From now on, all that would come from him are policies of how to make UK better and leave the country better than he met it. He would never give approval to any contract, let alone sign one. It will be the duty of the bureaucracy to prepare all his budgetary items, which would be geared towards this end. Nobody would hear him making budgetary provisions of billions of British Pounds for feeding in that residence or billions more for either the purchase of more vehicles or the changing of tyres of the ones already acquired.

In fact, if he needed an extra pillow for his bed, he would have to buy it from his own pockets. If he needed to repair the air conditioner, he simply alerts the maintenance team that are probably inhouse.

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Now, does anyone think that even without any single person wielding a gun without an open show of the paraphernalia of security presence in that arena, the British PM is more vulnerable to attack than an African President on a day like this? Certainly no! Any fly that posses a threat at that event would be dead before it could even get close to achieving the aim.

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Do not forget that the UK is home to the most impressive, exotic and expensive automobiles in the world. Rolls Royce, reputed as one of the world’s most prominent vehicles only fit for the royals is a British product. So is Range Rover, Jagua, among others. So, the PM, could as well order hundreds of the latest and most luxurious of these cars, have them fitted with state-of-the-art contraptions to deliver maximum comfort only fit for royals.

But why are they not doing so? Simple answer! Restraints! Both official and personal fetters, ensures that such a route would never be travelled. On the official side, the workload and the proclivity for government office as problem-solving arena as opposed to a place for maximum enjoyment, strips them of any impetus towards such a life of ease and pleasure. Besides, it is completely impossible, for such a demand to be met, assuming a PM with such mindset finds his way into office. Official checks and balances would make sure of that.

From where would he start to make such a requisition? Would it come from watertight chain of bureaucracy where every official is put in check? Certainly impossible. Even a mere mention of that or a shadow of it could cost him his job. So, no official limousine, no long official convoy. Even an official plane is not there. Why? The PM is just like any other British citizen and sees himself as so.

On the individual level, it is all about values, about honour. How would a British man of high office feel with the insinuations, side glances and snide comments given to politicians and people in high places in Nigeria, let alone being labelled a thief? He would probably lock himself in a room and put a bullet in his scull rather than live with the shame. Yes, it is an ample incentive for suicide.

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There, values and honour far outweigh any form of vainglory. Thus, because the essence of such opulence and individual display of it, would be lost, or be swallowed in belly of high value, nobody would travel that road. In other words, instead of attracting admiration the result of such open display, would conduce public disdain, ridicule and rejection. It is an environment, where the littlest veneer of mistrust would not only individual rating in the society, but also consequently destroy political fortunes.

Unfortunately, those values as found in Britain and other western nations, are intrinsic. They are confined within the territories of those countries. They are never carried beyond the shores of the land. Elsewhere, particularly in Africa, those individual and official restraints are not encouraged among leaders. Rather, the same British officials, loathing of the slightest act of malfeasance in his country will do everything and use every means to encourage African leaders to steal, as long as the proceeds would end up in their country in the form of buying expensive goods and properties or simply salting away raw cash.

Indeed, because leadership evolution in Africa is still tied to the apron-string of these western nations, those who want to copy western styles are not allowed to do so. Because directly or indirectly, African leaders secure, hold and enjoy power at the pleasure of these controlling forces abroad, the recruitment process is careful and deliberate to ensure that government offices from top to bottom are populated by economic brigands – mindless thieves without mercy for the common till.

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This is what the west look forward to – simple application of different dynamics, in pursuance of the ubiquitous term – national interest – a dangerous phenomenon that is as ruthlessly delivered as it is destructive to the recipients.

Ask yourself what happened to all African leaders, who tried to live like a British PM. First, they were dubbed rebels and marked as dangerous. Is it a coincidence that the likes of Zaire’s Patrice Lumumba, Nigeria’s Murtala Mohammed, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, and most recently Tanzania’s John Magafuli, virtually all met some sort of unpleasant, and in some cases, brutal ends? The case of the sudden death, through “COVID-19 complications,” of the late Tanzanian President, reputed to have rejected foreign loans and foreign pressures that he believed could further fetter his country, controversial as it is, remains quite revealing.

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The rest and many more of these leaders, were brutally mowed down in their primes to stop their ideologies from taking firm roots, in sequence of events, with the overt and covert imprimaturs of western plots. Of course, their places were supplanted by individuals with diametrically-opposing ideals, such as dominate the continent today.

So, because, one way or the other, they have the dominant role in the recruitment process, they choose very well by ensuring that only those with the mindset of extravagance, unquenchable greed, insatiable knack for egocentrism, narcissism make to the leadership podium, as opposed to what is acceptable in their countries. Frugally-minded leaders with sound national agendas are never allowed close to power.

Why? The enduring argument is that the west needs bad leaders in Africa and elsewhere to thrive. Indeed, it is stressed that the day leadership in Africa finds expression in prudence, moderation and uprightness, a heavy hammer-blow would be delivered to the heart of Europe and America. Not only would it end the mindless feasting and pillaging of the rich natural resources of the continent, but it would also end the tendency of African being a dumping ground for luxury goods from the west.

So, while Members of Parliament (MPs) in Britain would ride in trains and buses to work and legislators in the US resort to car-pooling to save cost, their Nigerian counterparts, would apply proceeds of loans obtained from their countries to buy SUVs. While the Governor of New York would drive to work in one car, the governor of Zamfara, one of the poorest states in Nigeria will do so in a convoy of 10 cars.

While the PM of The Netherlands rides bicycle to work, his Nigerian counterpart, goes to the mosque, church or his private home in a convoy of 120 SUVs, all fuelled at the expenses of the common purse. But also picture the difference in the societies created therefrom. Again, they are as sharp and contrasting as night and day.

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The result clearly show in the development of public infrastructure. So, while those in power in Nigeria use public money to purchase SUVs to navigate roads ridden with craters, muds and ditches, the roads in western countries, in contrast, provide a completely different picture. There, public funds are used to pave their roads into classy, durable and enjoyable structures for the public, but here, only few enjoy the SUVs cruise while the rest have to survive on what is left. Even at that even the SUVs offer little succour in the end. Many of them had even imprisoned their owners either in stretches of immovable traffic or impassable spots on the same roads.

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Now, the abiding question is why this difference. Again, simple answer. The sight of an SUV, does not create the same imagery in the west as in Africa. In Nigeria, it connotes arrival and announces wealth and influence. It is the sign of the Nigerian big man. In the UK however, it is rather a burden. Anybody on a regular salary could equally walk into a car shop and get it either on rent or hire-purchase on easy terms. But that also means higher taxes in all ramifications. So why travel the route in the face of alternatives.

It is this dynamics that remain at play. Recognising the influence of pride, egoism, self-conceitedness in the African leadership structure, the west knows that promoting these tendencies is the most potent weapon to preserve their leechlike relationship with Africa. So, not only do they pump in more SUVs, they ensure that only leaders that will buy more and more of them would get to office or survive in them.

They are aware of how these leaders act like little children lured with new toys and how they are fascinated with little things. They could not have forgotten how the forebears of these people sold off their children into slavery with mundane gifts like whiskeys, gunpowder and mirrors. It is not surprising that they are doing exactly the same today just to buy SUVs and other fancy products from Britain and other countries around the world.

So, do not be taken aback by the length Nigerian officials could go. When the white man gave their fathers those mirrors, they used them as symbol of wealth. People flocked their homes simply to use the mirrors to see their faces. For that privilege alone, they were able to take other people’s wives and marry many for themselves from the numerous women making themselves available just to be called wives of men who had mirrors.

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Today, the raison d’etre is not different. In recent days, the controversy across the nation is about the Samoa Agreement and the implication of Nigeria and African countries signing it. Stop asking why they did. The alluring smell of money is such a binding factor. For $150billion loan, they could willingly sign off anything after perceiving that irresistible smell. For that money, they are willing to allow half of their citizens being corralled into slavery to go and work in foreign factories as before or sign off their entire continent into colonialism once again.

When they do, never ask why. The reason is staring everyone in the face. Just like their ancestors received mirrors, and to demonstrate the I better pass my neighbour mentality, sold out their children to slavery, their sons might all but be willing to repeat the same just to be the toast of the society. They will do it. All for what? Today’s mirrors – SUVs!

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

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Can Tinubu release Kanu without appeasing Buhari?

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By Sunny Igboanugo

On Sunday, June 23, 2024, about 50 members of the House of Representatives wrote a passionate letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with one request – the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the Leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

“Your Excellency, we are concerned members of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a strong belief and trust that the Renewed Hope agenda and the various positive reforms would be seen and felt by all.

“It is against this backdrop that we, the undersigned, hereby beseech Your Excellency to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, to invoke his powers of nolle prosequi under the provisions of Section 174(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Section 107(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, and cause the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from detention and discontinue his trial.

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“We collectively believe this is long overdue and would be instrumental in opening the door for much-needed conversations surrounding peace reformation and inclusivity, as well as addressing the issues that led to the agitations, especially at this time when Nigeria is going through several constitutional reforms,” they wrote.

Quite significant as it might seem, assuming it is not another political move in itself to hoodwink unsuspecting Nigerians, my take is that the lawmakers are in the wrong place. Instead of Tinubu, their destination should be Daura, in Katsina State. They should be talking to Muhammadu Buhari, the President’s predecessor. He is the one that has a problem with Kanu, not Tinubu.

Since the last appearance of the IPOB leader in court, there has been this report that he has opted for out of court settlement, which some people see as capitulation and begging. I don’t know to what extent this could be valid. But assuming, but not conceding that this were so, then even Kanu and his team, have also missed the road. It means that they have no knowledge of where the rain started beating them and where it will eventually stop. Certainly, it will neither be in Lagos or Abuja. Destination is Daura, Katsina State.

Indeed, if there is any way to pull Kanu out of his current abode in the gulag of the Department of State Services (DSS), take him to Daura, and make him lie prostrate and clean Buhari’s feet with his tears in utter supplication for mercy in a manner that could create a thaw in the former Military General’s frosty and stony heart, that should be the clincher. Anything else would be akin to misfiring. Tons of letters to Tinubu and, or, any other manner of rapprochement move to or with Abuja, will not work.

That is my current reading of the situation. There is no way Tinubu would order the release of Kanu without offending Buhari. It is only when he is ready to damn the consequences of being at a crossroads with Buhari that he could take such audacious step. Trying to spring the IPOB boss out of his current situation without first appeasing Buhari, would be akin to knocking their heads together.

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The current moves by the lawmakers, which, surprisingly, but perhaps understandably, does not have anyone from the South West among them, from the list of 44 names I saw, can not be more potent than similar ones embarked by South East leaders, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Ndigbo socio-cultural organisation and the apex decision-making body of the Igbo people.

If Tinubu, was ready to rebuff the highest authority in Igboland, which could be interpreted as a big snub on the entire ethnic group that is the third leg of the Nigerian tripod, what is a group of 50 people? But he has evidently shown that he is ready to commit that political hara-kiri for obvious reasons.

The lawmakers might do well to find out from the ex-President how much Nigeria must have shelled out from the commonwealth to conduct such a high-octane operation that successfully brought Kanu back from Kenya. They might be surprised that the dent the operation made in the national till, might have contributed to the parlous situation of the entire economy Nigeria is presently contending with. I won’t doubt it if I heard that he practically opened the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to achieve the feat.

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Better still, if Buhari is too far to reach, Asari Dokubo, could be another option. He has been high on gloating in recent days, and has made a video to emphasise how he has fulfilled his promise of putting Kanu away. Remember how he told the world last year after his symbolic visit to Tinubu in Abuja, that he signed a military contract with Buhari. Obviously, the capture of Kanu, must have been part of the deal. An idea of how much he was paid for the job, could be another way of ascertaining what the Kenya operation cost Buhari and his government.

Surely, with his current mood, where he is mocking the IPOB boss – for begging and reducing himself to a mere puppy, and especially regarding his propensity for flippancy, he might just be too willing to spill the beans. After all, was he not the one recently listing his assets including choice houses across the globe and some of the most exotic automobiles from the factories of western nations to prove how stupendously rich he is? Certainly, that military deal done in darkness, could have contributed substantially as a veritable source for the acquisition of such assets.

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But that is just one entity. On Tuesday, July 29, 2021, Abubakar Malami, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF-MoJ), had in a joint media interaction with the leadership of the DSS, announced that the arrest and return of Kanu, from the East African country, was through what he described as “international collaborative effort.”

That statement could also help anyone to add up the cost. Add top officials of the Kenyan government, add to the middle and lower officials, add to the security and others in the international chain including the informants and those who tricked Kanu into Kenya, before the Nigerian boys that all worked to ensure the operation was successful this time. That would give anyone the idea of what must have gone into the operation.

Recall that Buhari, had attempted a similar operation as Military Head of State, when he tried to bring back the late Umaru Dikko in a crate from the UK. It was a mission that failed at the last second. He must have put extra effort and extra funding to ensure that the Kanu mission, was not only top notch, but a full success this time around.

Just imagine how ecstatic he would have been the day he saw Kanu in handcuffs and the alluring feeling of waking up every morning from the Villa in those days to realise that he was still cooling his heels in the dark dungeon of the DSS. It is obvious that even today in Daura, one of the first things he would do each morning would be to run a check through the channels to ascertain that the situation has not changed. Imagine the kick he would be getting from Igbo leaders falling over themselves on bended knees to beg him to free Kanu – something that was denied him some 50 years ago with Dikko.

In the first place, Dikko, did not do half of what the IPOB leader did. Not even a quarter. Dikko did not declare him dead. Dikko did not call him Jubril of Sudan. Kanu did all that. Yet, he went after the ex-NPN big wig. What he was denied decades ago by the eagle eyes of the British security is handed to him on a platter and someone wants him to throw it away. How possible.

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It would even have been more manageable were it another person. Any other broad-minded leader, would have let Kanu’s obvious slight, slide, especially when they are at best, what the Igbo call, cannons fired with the mouth, which have no real effect or poses any threat to anyone, particularly when they are only part of political disputations. Agitators all over the world use heavy words to draw attention to themselves and that is what Kanu seems guilty of.

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But it is not Buhari to ignore such and certainly not in this situation. He takes it to heart. To him it is a personal fight – a personal war. Don’t forget that Kanu is an Igbo man – a dot in the circle – the 97-5 per cent – the group of Nigerians Buhari never wanted to have anything to do with – who probably needed not have existed on the surface of the earth were he to have the chance.

I have always argued that Tinubu’s sudden antagonistic attitude towards Ndigbo was influenced by Buhari. Apart from being naturally open and receptive to all, Tinubu, as Governor of Lagos State, actually threw his doors open for the Igbo people, both in Lagos and elsewhere, surrounding himself with his Igbo friends, all which disappeared since his Buhari contact in the All Progressives Congress (APC) political marriage.

Nobody needed to be told that one of the criteria to be friends with Buhari is to hate the Igbo. It is one of the ways to make him happy. So, even as President, Tinubu knows that to turn around and embrace the Igbo, even if he desired it, was the surest means of losing Buhari’s friendship. In the 2023 presidential campaign, he almost ignored Ndigbo completely and only managed to visit few places. That obviously would have increased his place in Buhari’s heart to enable him break the door with impunity to ensure that the Presidency was his.

When he pledged to continue with Buhari’s legacies, keeping Ndigbo as far away as possible from the leadership of the APC and from government appointments, must certainly be part of it. In fact, something tells me that for as long as Ndigbo are never given a pride of place in Tinubu’s reckoning, Tinubu could go ahead and do as he wishes. Buhari would not be too perturbed with the President upping the ante in the manner he has since filled virtually every federal position with his Yoruba people.

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So, yes! The lawmakers are right in their assertion. There are more than a thousand ways of officially freeing Kanu, except for one glitch – the Buhari factor! Ordinarily a typical open-minded politician like Tinubu would have let all the supposed sins Kanu committed against Buhari ride were he the one involved.

For instance, the hollow ritual on June 12, 2024 in the name of Democracy Day, in Abuja, could have been given a strong impetus as a national event, if Tinubu had announced the release of Kanu. It would have shown that he was ready to shelve the vengeance mentality that saw the late military despot, Sani Abacha ignore all pleadings including the Catholic Pontiff, the Pope and other global leaders to keep the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola in detention, until providence intervened to solve the problem.

Such a gesture would have been more meaningful and more nationally rewarding than banal, insipid and totally empty speech that preceded the fanfare at the Eagle Square. It would have shown a certain semblance to Abiola’s robust politics and open mind, which would have done much good to his memory than unveiling a giant painting of himself on that occasion, which further took away the shine.

Most certainly, the report of the entire event would not have been eclipsed by his tripping and falling, which the Nigerian media and their foreign counterparts gleefully feasted on, because the Kanu story would have attracted more attention.

But certainly not with the Buhari factor dangling around like the sword of Damocles. An Igbo! Except Femi Fani-Kayode was lying in that revelation of his encounter with the former President, no one should be left in doubt about the obvious. The former Minister of Aviation, had explained that he had never seen the type of hatred and anger against a people as Buhari expressed against Ndigbo for “killing our leaders.”

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So, this account must not be lost on the lawmakers or anyone indeed, who might wish to dabble into the Kanu issue. Though the civil war has ended some 53 years ago, Buhari is still at it. Kanu and the numerous acts of malevolence of Buhari towards the Igbo, which were clearly evident in his eight years in power, were demonstrable examples. It is up to G-50 to contend with the situation. But I still maintain that going to Tinubu is the wrong route.

Indeed, if the passage of time of about six decades could not wipe off Buhari’s memory of the January 15, 1966 coup incident, if the wiping off of scores of Igbo military officers, if the blood of millions of Ndigbo killed in the several pogroms that followed or millions of others wiped out during the civil war proper are not enough to quench Buhari’s thirst for vengeance against Ndigbo, I wonder how far the G-50 could even go should they toe this line.

Yes! The lawmakers are equally right that there are many reasons the release of Kanu would impact positively on Tinubu and indeed Nigerian as a whole. They are right to believe, for one that it would address the current security crisis in the South East and clear the air about the nebulous atmosphere in the area. Today, every crime in the zone is linked to IPOB. Even the usual armed robbery and burglary seem not exist anymore. They are now grouped as IPOB. Nobody seems to be thinking outside the box as IPOB presents a ready answer. Of course, Kanu’s continued detention, remains a good cover for this to endure.

It is not that anyone is trying to dissuade the lawmakers. My take is to advert their minds to the other side of the argument. Who knows? They might just succeed in scraping the scales of Tinubu’s eyes. He might one day decide to take the bull by the horns. He might decide to address the South East question.

He might realise that inheriting Buhari’s enmity with the Igbo might not be the best way after all and make a detour. That will be the day he will tell himself that keeping Kanu in detention while the likes of Sunday Igboho, Yoruba nation agitator, accused of similar crime is breathing the air of freedom is bad for national health, as it bespeaks of nothing else but unfairness, if not outright hypocrisy.

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Perhaps, someone might remind him that now Buhari is out of the way, the implication of a Bello Bodejo, leader of the Myetti Allah Kautal Kore, who was recently arrested and charged for terrorism, strolling the streets a free man, while Kanu is in the DSS gulag, would no longer be a Buhari issue but would be traced to him at the end of the day, especially if anything happens to him.

He might just realise that the gains of releasing the IPOB leader, would certainly be more than the pains of giving political offence to one man, for the simple reason that with that move, he would have allowed the people of the South East breathe some fresh air for once in a long time and they might not forget it in a hurry.

Maybe, by then he would realise the need to extricate himself and severe the bond that has put him at the centre of a war he did not create and from which he would hardly benefit anything positive. That may be the push for him to do the needful. But until then, efforts of the G-50 and those that might come after, will remain the same – wasted!

 

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

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Tinubu’s Abuja Greek gift: Dancing Fuji on Achebe’s grave

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By Sunny Igboanugo

“For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.

“Forty-three years ago, at the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I was given the first Nigerian National Trophy for Literature. In 1979, I received two further honours – the Nigerian National Order of Merit and the Order of the Federal Republic – and in 1999 the first National Creativity Award. I accepted all these honours fully aware that Nigeria was not perfect; but I had a strong belief that we would outgrow our shortcomings under leaders committed to uniting our diverse peoples. Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honour awarded me in the 2004 Honours List.”

That was Chinua Achebe, Ugebelunenuoji (Eagle on Iroko) of Igboland, globally-acclaimed novelist and story-teller, scuffing at the award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), honours award, given to him by the Federal Government in 2004. He practically three the award in the face of then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the derisive manner only he could do.

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May be the former President had taken the low-profile, nondescript, ordinary man, lifestyle of the author of Things Fall Apart, which he had maintained even after achieving the height of such global acclaim, the 1958 epic novel, had been translated into more than 50 languages across the world, for granted. May be he did not see, or was advised to ignore the subtle warnings in Achebe’s Anthill of the Savannahs, or The Trouble With Nigeria, where he directed a sharp dart at the heart of bad leadership.

Like it is wont of government circles, they must have thought to themselves that Achebe was on the shelf like many Nigerians, to be picked up at a price – just throw maize at him like a hungry hen and he will swallow – every Nigerian loves titles – every Nigeria loves belong with government – he will love it – CFR (Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic – the third highest honour in the land? Who is he that he will not fall for it – no – he will crumble on his knees to accept – then we will be home and dry – our impunity will continue! This must have been their thinking.

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But, they misfired! Achebe was no easy prey. Perhaps they did not read him enough to understand his mindset to things of the world. May be nobody showed them that BBC documentary, where, in spite of his global reckoning, he was still sharing kola nut and palmwine with the common folks in his Ogidi, Anambra State, country home, using the same cup the “wrinkled, dirty, old man” sitting beside him just drank with. They soon discovered – the hard way perhaps.

They must have been so shocked that a Nigerian could actually throw away such a prized gift – like a woman looking at a glittering diamond ring and turning her head in derision that for the remaining three years the government was in power and conducted the same ceremony, they never looked his way again.

Recall that the hand that would have been used to hang that “medal of honour” on his neck, was the same hand that was used to make the call or received the briefing about the abduction of Chris Ngige on July 10, 2003. Yes, it was believed that the same Federal Government, which wanted to honour Achebe, was behind Ngige’s infamous abduction on that day.

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Recall that not only was Ngige kidnapped, his office at Anambra Government House, Awka, was razed down completely. But the more grievous aspect was that the actors of this mayhem, were not unknown. They were familiar faces, but who could not be restrained because they supposedly got the backing from above. That was why, operatives from the police and other security agencies that were supposed to intervene, either stood by and watched, but in some cases became active participants.

So, when the renowned novelist, talked about “openly boasting its connections in high places,” he not only knew the renegades he was referring to – the Uba political family in Anambra State – who were in in the thick of the disputations with Ngige – but was particularly pointing at the Villa, from whence their supposed authority flowed, and more particularly the President, who would have been the one to decorate him with the award.

Funny enough, in 2011, Jonathan tried again even when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had upped their ante and increased their tempo of impunity, not only in its anti-democratic behaviours without any checks, but in the plummeting economic governance, with members practically feasting on the commonwealth like in a bazaar.

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Was it then difficult to understand or agree with the Eagle on the Iroko, that: “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made, have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again!” So, the plan which, was obviously to seduce him into the Villa with the aim of propping up the sagging image of the government, naturally fell flat on its face, simply because Achebe, knew the game before it started and could be decipher what was earned and what was induce.

Imagine what the same Achebe would have said today, with this Tinubu’s Greek Gift. Would he not have smelled the motive from afar and dismissed it for what it was – another ungodly attempt to drag gold into the gutters? Is the condition under which he rejected the previous awards not worse today? Pray! What credentials do Tinubu and people at the Villa, possess to succeed where Obasanjo and Jonathan failed?

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Economy? At the time of Obasanjo and Jonathan, a bag of rice was between N4,000 and N6,000 respectively. Virtually every family in Nigeria, could afford to eat rice, if not daily, at least on Sundays. Every Nigerian, civil servants inclusive, could drink tea with milk and bread daily. Not only was Nigeria as acclaimed as the investment destination of the world, but the debate in Nigeria, was even which, between it and South Africa, was the biggest economy in Africa?

Today, the same Nigeria is competing with the rest of the world on who is the poorest. Today Nigeria’s insignia to the world is about multi-dimensional poverty. Instead of investment destination, companies – multinational entity, whose history is as old as the country itself are leaving in droves to find business elsewhere, with the government in power not caring a hoot.

Nigeria is the only country in the world with the wacky stories you hear these days, which would have made Achebe’s churn with disgust. Is it not in Nigeria that you hear that a whole shipload of crude is set ablaze with the entire supposedly stolen content, instead of preserving them as evidence to prosecute those responsible in court? Is Nigeria not the only oil-producing country in the world, which only does not meet its quarter, but steals more than it officially produces?

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In which other country of the world outside Nigeria would gunmen, descend on a community and shoot for several hours, killing people and burning houses without let or hinderance? Where else does an ordinary citizen come out to boast of having a military deal with the President of his country and parade able-bodied young men as his foot-soldiers and still be sleeping in his house without question?

In which other part of the globe would a new government, obtain a loan to buy a N5billion yacht, 469 exotic Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at the cost of N160,000 a unit to enable its lawmakers navigate unpaved roads and highways instead of fixing them? Where else would a President dip his hands into the proceeds of a foreign loan, to purchase N1.5billion vehicles for his wife in the midst of children going to bed on empty stomach?

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Yet, these examples, all which Nigerians have watched unfold before their eyes under the nose of Tinubu are not exhaustive. In fact, they are just like scratching the surface of the massive of the parlous situation in the country, which have birthed the massive discontent in the land.

Indeed, Achebe would have practically puked at the audacity of Tinubu offering to honour him with the name of a road with the quality of the 2023 presidential election that brought him to power. Such temerity! How does Tinubu think that he Achebe would have seen his government being encircled with such outlandish show of naked nepotism and still accept such insult of naming an Abuja road after him?

Besides, was it not even an afterthought coming days after the first gesture was offered to Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, who has suddenly become the darling of Tinubu and his APC government? Who told Tinubu that Achebe would mind not receiving the same gesture as his friend in the literary world?

The question, again, what was Tinubu thinking, toying with Achebe’s memory? Must he take such an inglorious and utterly dishonourable step to injure the soul of a man resting in peace, knowing that he had fought the good fight and deserves his rest? What insult!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo, I’m The Tiny Voice

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