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Pendulum: Why President Buhari is Not Getting it Right

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, if I had any iota of hope or expectation left in me that our President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) has any chance of pulling some productive stunts in the less than two years to complete his second and final term, it evaporated and vamoosed into thin air a few days ago.

Let me start by congratulating the Thisday/Arise team that succeeded in persuading a usually taciturn and reluctant President Buhari to agree to speak to ordinary mortals at home instead of giving scoops to his favourite foreign journalists. Trust me, it was a landmark achievement for which the Group Chairman, Prince Nduka Obaigbena must be applauded. He once again demonstrated his famed daredevilry and nose for stories at the most opportune moment, at all times. The team of Segun Adeniyi, Reuben Abati, and Tundun Abiola, that he assembled also tried strenuously to ask all the right questions even if they got some wrong answers, for very obvious reasons.

I wish to disagree with those who have been disparaging the President and saying his performance was dismal and disappointing. In my view, the President performed above expectations given the seeming cold indifference with which he has come to be associated. As it is often said, water can only rise above its level. At nearer 80 than 70, the President cannot be expected to reinvent himself. He has never pretended to be a tech savvy wizard that modern leaders are expected to be. He has never shown himself to be anything more than a member of the analogue generation in imagination and innovation. He has little or nothing in common with the modern ways of life and it is clear that he is not prepared to ready to stress himself unnecessarily. He is perpetually and stoically stuck in his mindset. That is a fact.  We must also consider his health challenges for which God has been extremely kind.

I know you’re likely to ask me, so why did you guys support him in 2015? I will never get tired of giving my standard answer. One. We were tired of PDP after 16 years of profligacy and all kinds of bad behaviour that seemed to make General Abacha begin to look like a Saint. Two. In the days of tribulations, you sometimes run to the elders of the family in order to tap into their uncommon experience and wisdom notwithstanding their shortcomings. We perceived Buhari to be such an elder. Three. We reasoned that whatever is lacking in the President would be covered by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who is recognised not only as a cerebral and knowledgeable man, but also an outstanding and accomplished administrator, given his stint at the helm of affairs of the Ministry of Justice in Lagos State. Four. We expected the President to cooperate beautifully with some of the bright people in his Party, who know their onions and can guide him in the right direction. Five. We never thought in our wildest imagination that any leadership, no matter its background,  would ever have the temerity and audacity to lead us back to the dark days of the military. Six. We expected the President to have accepted the reality that the world has changed so drastically since he was forced out of power in 1985 and it is virtually impossible to continue to run government in analogue fashion.

It would certainly be definitely unfair and unkind to conclude that the President was totally bad in his responses and that he could be excused by the foibles and weaknesses that we recognise have become notable chinks in his armour. I’m happy he answered all questions honestly, frankly and sincerely. He deserves to be congratulated as well for even finding the confidence and courage to sit through the obviously harrowing interview session. I will now try to dissect this much talked about scoop of the year.

Setting. I loved the relaxed setting and atmosphere. The President dressed down and the interview must have taken place in his official residence and not in the office. It was obviously organised and presented to put the President at ease in an environment that he was most familiar and comfortable with. There would be no need to be guarded because he was in his natural habitat. One could see this confidence playing out in the course of the interview. Two of the very senior reporters, Segun Adeniyi and Reuben Abati were no strangers to the presidential villa where they had both respectively served as spokespersons to two previous Presidents, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. So, they came with intimidating credentials as brilliant journalists with verve and experience. The only lady in the team, Ms Tundun Abiola, the daughter of the winner of the June 12, 1993, Presidential elections, Chief Moshood Abiola, is also a very brilliant and intelligent lady, one of the most admired presenters on television today. She combines beauty with brains. Led by the Chairman, Nduka, it could only have been a perfect team operating in an equally perfect environment.

The session. The interview started well. The questions poured in from every direction but in a decorously gracious and graceful manner, without being the pugilistic affair that it could easily have been. Though pre-recorded, I doubt if there was much editing of the content. The President oscillated from one mood to another depending how lovely or irritable he interpreted or misjudged the questions.

The President was more vocal than I expected that he would be. He seemed prepared to answer as many questions as were posed without attempting to fudge. It was like one determined to lay bare everything on his chest and exorcise the demons. Nevertheless, many people complained of not hearing him loudly and clearly enough, and sometimes, even lucidly. However, I think that had to do with his natural accent and intonation and nothing sinister or amiss. Many people are also too bitter and biased to listen properly to what he was saying and the views he was espousing, and for that reason might not really have heard him. On my part, I enjoyed the interview for the mere fact that he granted one at home. And also, of course, because it answered several questions about the President’s health and well-being as well as his level of control. It is difficult now to blame others, and not the President, for the ills and woes from this government. Several myths were busted!

The President remained true to his old self and beliefs and refused to persuade anyone that he is a born-again Democrat, which was one of the borrowed garbs we dressed him in prior to the 2015 elections. The man I watched was a proud, haughty and arrogant military officer, with no apologies for being a ruthless dictator.

The President reflected a deep disappointment, resentment and anger against the youths of Nigeria, whom he described as being overtly recalcitrant. His view was one of whatever suffering they are going through must have been self-inflicted and they deserve to suffer for it. He would not empathise with them. For me, the President probably considers the near collapse of the Nigerian economy as something which the populace and, especially the youths need to go through if they are to appreciate life. I am also sure that he sees it as a form of punishment for the pesky youths who have dogged his tenure with unacceptable and impossible demands almost as soon as he took office.  Let me chip in here that he is obviously misinformed about Twitter. A country with our multitude and army of unemployed you would never ban social media, especially Twitter which has become a veritable tool of international business.                                                                                                                                   The President is without any fear of contradiction or apology a Fulani irredentist. He practically revealed that the itinerant Fulani herdsmen must be granted the rights of passage through the grazing routes established since the 1960s. This is a skilful way of telling the Southern Governors and whosoever is lamenting like the Biblical Jeremiah in the North Central to shut up. The President clearly does not seem to be concerned about the mayhem and carnage that these so-called Fulani herdsmen are leaving in the wake. Every Fulani is welcome in Nigeria regardless of the fact that most of the deadlier ones migrated here uninvited from the Sahel regions and are thus not Nigerian citizens.  Once again, he made no effort to hide his pathological hatred for the Igbo nation, a people he sees as wholly Biafran. He kept his threat against them but no one noticed the same degree of venom against the people causing maximum mayhem in every part of the country. He told us to ask the military who are fighting the bandits. Unfortunately, we haven’t really seen much. As a matter of fact, we have lost most of our brilliant soldiers in the North than in the South East.

The President justified spending billions of dollars on over-stretching our resources to build infrastructure to and within Niger Republic. Again, no remorse, no apologies. In a country that has not completed one of its most important motorways, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, in the last six years, it is preposterous and unfortunate to listen to the Commander-in-Chief romanticize his first cousins in Niger Republic. He even told us the only way to defeat Boko Haram and banditry is to take good care of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. But should charity not begin from home? Or maybe it does!

The President stoutly defended his now infamous lopsided appointments by anchoring it on merit. One would have thought from this answer, that most people in the Southern States of Nigeria are certified dullards who couldn’t pass their professional or other exams and interviews. Since we know the reverse is the case, we can not only wonder how the President can sit with a straight face and make the kinds of statements that he did about his lopsidedness that is clearly hinged on unbridled nepotism. And the President kept a straight poker face while justifying the biggest mistake of this government. Nothing has contributed more to the near disintegration of Nigeria than the feeling of those treated like second- and third-class citizens in their own country. That the President could seriously take the view that he did, and feel comfortable about it, demonstrates a personage who has been cut off from the outside world and whose depressing isolation is compounded by the fact that he has lost touch with reality. It is further distressing that the aides you have, who are at least blessed with some truth and knowledge of our excruciating conditions will not properly advise their Principal and set him on the right path whenever it seems he has derailed and needs to be reined back, out of monumental fear and trepidation.  However, it appears that the President’s subordinates are content with the role of lackeys and silent clowns in order to remain unseen and thus keep their jobs.

Rome is burning and the Emperor is busy fiddling away and regaling his captive audience in the villa and outside with tales of his supremacy, mastery and position of maestro in ages gone past.

On Democracy Day, it is  sad and depressing, a monumental tragedy, that we do not have a democrat in office as President. May God help Nigeria survive this misfortune and its backlash!

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Atiku Hails Judgment on Full Financial Autonomy for LGs, Says It’s a Win for Nigerian People

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The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections, and a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court, ordering that henceforth local government allocations be paid direct into various local government accounts, saying it is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The Waziri Adamawa made his views public via his social media handle, saying categorically that “I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.”

He wrote:

The judgment of the Supreme Court earlier today affirming fiscal autonomy to local government councils in the country is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The court’s ruling is a step in the right direction and a major corrective action in greasing the wheels of national development across the country.

The decision by the Federal Government to consolidate disbursements of local councils’ revenues into the state government accounts was a decision that was borne out of politics of hasty compromise.

I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.

I also share the belief that fiscal autonomy to the local governments should not be limited to revenues from the Federation Accounts, but indeed, should apply to Internally Generated Revenue from the respective local government authorities.

Many of our states, especially those in the ultra urban areas with high density economic activities, have become notorious in muscling local councils from generating revenue on items that border on motor parks, outdoor advertising, rents and many more.

The verdict of the court is in tandem with the core functions of the Supreme Court as an arbitration court between and among governments. -AA

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Supreme Court Grants LGAs Full Financial Autonomy

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria has ruled that the 774 local government areas (LGAs) be given a full financial autonomy across the federation.

A seven-man panel of Supreme Court Justices led by Justice Garba Lawal delivered the ruling on Thursday, July 11, 2024.

The apex Court initially heard the suit between the Federal and State government on the autonomy of local government on June 13 and reserved judgment.

The suit marked SC/CV/343/2024 was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), and it sought full autonomy and direct fund allocation to the 774 local government areas (LGAs) in the country.

Fagbemi requested the Supreme Court to order that funds for LGAs managed by caretaker committees appointed by governors, rather than elected chairmen and councillors, be withheld.

However, the 36 state governors, represented by their attorneys general, oppose the suit on various grounds, including their argument that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

In its ruliing on Thursday (today), the Supreme Court ordered that full financial autonomy be granted to the LGAs, recognizing them as an independent segment of the federation.

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Wike vs Ireti Kingibe: Time to Stop the Bully

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By Eric Elezuo

It is an understatement to say that there’s no love lost between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesom Wike, and the Senator representing the FCT, Mrs. Ireti Kingibe. Their relationship has turned more soured than the proverbial cat and rat. In fact, both cannot see eye to eye, in as much as they are saddled with the same responsibility of promoting and developing the FCT.

While Kingibe, one of the four female senators in the Senate, is operating on the mandate of the people, having been duly elected under the Labour Party in a well contested election in the 2023 General Elections, Wike is an appointee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

No one has been able to explain the origin of the beef between the two political figures, but source close to The Boss, has said that differences in political affiliation may have triggered the initial animosity before it blossomed into full time hatred and cross verbal attacks, leading to the bullying of the Senator.

Senator Kingibe had complained earlier in the life of the administration that the FCT has shun all her approaches to synergise for the benefit of the Abuja residents, since she’s a direct interface of the people as an elected representative. But Wike, in his response tackled the Abuja Senator, asking her to stay away from him that he does not wish to be friends with her.

Wike had lambasted the Senator, accusing her of blackmailing him instead of communicating her problems through the right channels or better still focusing on her oversight functions.

He stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, stating that the lawmaker is aggrieved because the Senate President snubbed her for the position of the Senate Committee on FCT.

“I don’t want to be personal…she’s the Senator for FCT. She went around saying ‘oh, oh Wike is busy scraping roads…I should leave the roads till when the potholes come?” Wike said.

“Somebody wants to be your friend and you say ‘I don’t want to be your friend. Is it by force?’ The problem is that she wanted to be Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT and the Senate President said ‘I’m not giving you’.

‘What are you going to supervise me? You cannot supervise me. What is her interest, that I must see her? If I have a problem I’ll go and see her. I don’t have a problem. Nobody can intimidate me. Look, I was a Minister before. I became a governor of one of the most important states in Nigeria and she thinks that the only way you can bring me down is to go to Channels, TVC, saying the Minister is not carrying me along.

“I don’t have the back to carry. It’s not about blackmailing. Do the right thing. You know her problem? She ran election with my friend Philip Aduda and she sees me taking Philip everywhere instead of her being the Senator. Should I abandon my friend because he failed election?” Wike queried.

However, while the Senator has refused to stay bullied, Nigerians have said that time is now to tame the bully, and save the bullied from any further acts of disrespect.

Kingibe has made it clear however, that she is not in any interested in the friendship of Wike, who she only knows from a distance, but in working together to answer to the needs of the FCT residents, whom both of them have been mandated to serve at the moment.

Speaking on Arise News interview, the Senator reviewed as follows, taking into cognizance that Wike addresses her as one, who claims her senatorial role:

“That’s what he says. I am the senator, but he said in interviews that I claim that I am the senator of the FCT, and he is not obliged to deal with me. But I am saying that by sections 122 and 124 of the Evidence Act, he is bound by the judicial notice of the occupier of the seat of the senator of the FCT.

“I am also saying that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, imbues on him a duty, that is, the honourable minister, (I am not calling any names because anybody who is the minister is bound by those same laws and duties) to abide by the constitution, to respect all its ideals, institutions and legitimate authorities entirely.

“So just the same way that some Nigerians would have voted for the president, and some would not have, but as soon as he is declared the president, he becomes the president for everybody, and nobody can pick and choose who would rather be the president. And therefore, same applies to all offices regardless of party or any other position.”

She added, “Please what constitutes friendship between two people who have never met each other? I have never sat in the same room with the minister except in the senate committee. So how does friendship arise? Why would I want to be the friend of somebody I do not know?

“The truth of the matter is that the minister refuses to speak or communicate in any way with the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory. So, how are the wishes and the needs of the people to be communicated to him? Please tell me if you know a way.”

Responding while inaugurating the construction of Mabushi Bus Terminal, Phase I, in Abuja, came hard on the senator for her remarks threatening to unseat her as a serving senator in the next election.

Referring to her as a nameless person, Wike asked her to go hug the transformer, in a most derogatory attempt to inform that she does not matter in the scheme of activities in the FCT.

Wike said: “I overheard somebody in Arise this morning. Unfortunately, I hear the person is a member of National Assembly and it is unfortunate I say so. With all due respect, what you don’t know, you don’t know, what you know you know, and the good thing for you is to tell people you don’t when you don’t know, then people will educate you.

“The Honorable Minister of State and my humble self have not been in office for more than 11 months and the person is angry that they are praising us. If you don’t want to or you are angry about that, go and hand yourself in a transformer. If we have done well, we have done well. If we haven’t done well, we haven’t done well. I’m proud to say that in the short time that Mr. President has appointed us, we have done well.

“You said there are no hospitals and there are no hospitals. You, as a legislator, what have you done? How many bills have you sponsored for us to improve our education and health sector?

“I challenge that legislator. If you are very popular, 2027 come and run under Abuja, we will fail you. Do you think that what happened last time, will happen again? It will not happen again. Luckily for me, I am the FCT Minister now. So that is my territory and I’m not afraid.

“So, People should be able to come out and be able to accept the truth. We are not begging for anybody to become our friend, we have so many friends that we cannot even carry along. So how can we go and beg people to become our friends? We are not interested in that.

“If you are angry that people are praising us, by next year your BP level will go very high because the praises you would see would be too much.”

Many legislators were at the event, and they clapped for the minister at the remarks.

In another commissioning activity, the Senate President was on hand to deliver a speech, but ended up talking down on his colleague.

“I saw one of the legislators on television talking about you (Wike) and mentioning the fact that she was not carried along.

“Well, she is a member of the Senate. Once a decision is taken, she is bound by the decision. So, please ignore every distraction (from her) and be rest assured that no matter what you do, not everyone will praise you. Others will still try to find faults,” Mr Akpabio told Mr Wike, who was beaming with smiles.

Many other Senators were present at the event.

But Nigerians have come hard on the FCT Minister for his unguided utterances against an elected public officer, who is also a septugenarian, accusing him of lacking respect and playing God in the affairs of men.

In their response, the Labour Party, FCT branch, accused Wike of falling out of line, saying that Kingibe did nothing  y calling his attention to main needs of the Abuja residents.

The FCT chairman of the party, Comrade Diugwu Chukwuemeka, said by Wike’s outburst, he showed that he is not at home with the peculiarities of the FCT, nothing that the area is a conglomeration of different persons from across the length and breadth of the country.

“Does he not know that he is a tenant in FCT merely appointed by  the president and  if Mr. President decides to remove him, he will be removed without any ceremony,” the LP chairman queried.

On his part, the National Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr Ajuji Ahmed, described Wike’s attack on Senator Kingibe as verbal violence.

He said that Wike does not have the power to stop other politicians’ re-election because he is not the one that brought such politicians to the office in the first instance.

“That (the attack) amounts to verbal violence because there is no reason why he (Wike) should do that. He is not in the LP. It was LP that elected her. He has nothing to do with LP and he is not the entire electorate of the FCT. There is no way somebody can stop someone from being re-elected in three years time. It’s not a savoury statement.”

Also speaking, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, also described the verbal exchange between Wike and the FCT as bad.

He appealed to the two public officers to sheathe swords and collaborate for the overall progress of the FCT.

“For me, it is all politics. But it is unfortunate that they allowed their political differences to affect their service to the people.

“The senator representing FCT represents all Abuja and the entire Abuja has one FCT minister.

“It is the National Assembly that presides over Abuja. One would have expected the two to work together. But it is bad that they are fighting each other,” he said.

However, in total condemnation of Wike’s bullish approach to the administration of the FCT and attacks on Kingibe, the women of Abuja have held a protest, asking that Wike be checkmate in his untoward utterances against Kingibe.

“We, the Concerned Women of FCT, Abuja, are therefore calling on all women in Abuja to rise against Wike’s antics,” the women noted.

While Nigerians expect the legislators to come to the rescue and support of their colleague, the contrary is playing out, encouraging Wike’s bullish attitude. But Nigerians are stepping out of their comfort zone to curb the menace.

Nigerians also understand that Wike’s bullish stance extends to his Rivera State primary constituency, where he is slugging it out with the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Siminalayi Fubara, over the control of the state. The state has,  in recent months, been a subject of political intrigues and violence as the parties fight for supremacy.

But time will tell.

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