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Posts tagged ‘Reno Omokri’

President Jonathan’s Curious Silence On Wendell Simlin – Karo Orovboni.

By Karo Orovboni

If you are reading this article then you are privileged and fortunate enough to afford internet connection; I say privileged because there are millions of Nigerians who cannot afford to eat three square meals a day, not to even conceive paying for an internet service.

Regardless of whom you speak with, they would concur when you pose this statement that we need a better Nigeria. Having agreed on that, it would be difficult for some to agree to certain facts based on their sentiments to issues or loyalty to personalities and their pockets. The fact remains that Nigeria is what it is today because some people, through their actions or inactions have directly or indirectly affected Nigeria.

Another fact is that Boko Haram has hitherto been a thorn in the flesh of Nigeria; their recent attack and show of bestiality was on a boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State; school children were killed. Now, please pause for a moment, think slowly about what would be going through the thoughts of the parents of those innocent children that were killed in their school. Think about how the parents would look back to the last time they saw their children, the last time the children said goodbye mum/dad. The parents would never have thought it would be the last goodbye they would say to their children, not to even conceive the children would be killed in such gruesome manner.

As this was still fresh in the minds of the parents and Nigerians at large, reports broke on how the special assistant to the president on new media, Reno Omokri, posed as “Wendell Simlin”. He sent out a write-up to media outfits, trying to link the suspended Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the increased violent activities of Boko Haram in the north-east region of the country. But Reno Omokri was exposed, as the document was linked back to him, with various examples of seemingly concrete evidence.

Now imagine what would have happened had Reno Omokri (Wendell Simlin) succeeded in his smear job, he would have successfully sent Nigerians on a wild goose chase while Boko Haram continue to maim and kill innocent children. The media has been thronged with calls for Reno Omokri to be investigated, but this has been met with robust silence by the presidency, possibly in the hope that there will be calm or there will be another issue to cover this up and people will gradually forget that this ever happened. Well, we may forget, oh yes we may, but not until the parents of those innocent children that were killed forget about the pain of the death of their children.

Some have said Reno was just doing his job; I would advise that if a job description desires a candidate who must be able to: lie to his conscience, morals, and integrity – it’s not worth applying. A job that would be insensitive to the killings of innocent children is no job; but an insult to mankind; which further raises questions surrounding the integrity of your paymaster. Many will rather the status quo continues, for corruption, and injustice to remain, as long as they continue to make their money, but what about the downtrodden and the poor? What about those who have no voice and cannot be heard? You have a voice but what are you using it for? It is written that those that shut their ears to the cry of the poor will one day cry and will not be heard.

So I will like to join my voice with others and implore the president to break the silence on Wendell Simlin as the robust silence from the presidency is deafening. The president had promised to spare no sacred cow in bringing to justice all those involved in the evil perpetration and early termination of innocent souls, this is just the perfect time and avenue to do so. The fact that the story emanated from the presidency should itself prompt the president into swift action and make sure he gets to the bottom of the issue. Reno Omokri’s action is a grievous national security issue and should be treated as such.

There are some very important questions that are begging to be answered. Why did Reno Omokri write such a document? Was the purpose of his piece to disseminate false information just for political gain; are the lives of the children that cheap for people to play politics with – if this is true? Did he act alone or was he under orders? Does Reno know something about the incessant killings by Boko Haram that he may want to avail the security agents with? He may just know something that will help Nigeria nip Boko Haram in the bud once and for all.

We all owe Nigeria a duty to make sure issues like this are not swept underneath the carpet irrespective of what your bias is. If we choose to be silent, our silence on issues such as this may well turn out to be sinful silence. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke. Whatever we do, posterity will judge us all by the role we played in whatever this nation becomes.

You can engage Karo on Twitter @Karo_Orovboni


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

A National Insult Rejected By Okey Ndibe.


Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe

For those unaware of its source, I might as well state from the outset that the title of this column is not original. It’s adapted from a statement released last week by Wole Soyinka. The statement, which bore the Nobel laureate’s stamp of revulsion at moral impunity, chastised the Goodluck Jonathan administration for its bizarre line-up of 100 personalities worthy of honor at a ceremony marking the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation.

The centenary list, typical of such rolls in Nigeria, was a hodgepodge. It bracketed imperial personages, so-called “contributors to the making of Nigeria”—including Queen Elizabeth 11 of England and Lord Frederick Lugard, first British overseer of the forcibly amalgamated territory—with such notable nationalist fighters as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Anthony Enahoro. It squeezed Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Michael Imoudu, Aminu Kano, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, John Pepper Clark, Chike Obi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Dagogo Fubara, and Moshood Kashimawo Abiola into the same tent as Sani Abacha. In an even weirder development, Mr. Abacha shows up—along with Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida—under the category of “Outstanding Promoters of Unity, Patriotism and National Development”.

How did we quickly forget that Abacha’s looting of public funds from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria was a patriotic act? Or that he gave his cronies licenses to import toxic fuel into Nigeria because he so fiercely loved Nigerians and fervently desired their development? Or that Babangida’s annulment of the June 12 presidential election was a recipe for Nigeria’s unity?

Anybody who only followed the Aso Rock version of the centenary could have run away with the impression that Nigerians are ever grateful to the coalition of British merchants, bureaucrats, adventurers and royals who cobbled their country together—and named it Nigeria. But the deeper truth lies elsewhere. There were two sets of memory at play last week, two attitudes to Nigeria—a so-called nation bereft of a national spirit, a space that is unformed, ill-formed and malformed.

Those who preside today over the looting of billions of dollars of Nigeria’s resources may deceive themselves that the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria is an occasion for celebration. Many—I’d argue, most—Nigerians think otherwise. For several months, the Internet was abuzz with speculations that the legal instruments of amalgamation stipulated one hundred years as the event’s expiry date. With a great sense of expectancy, many looked forward to the formal cessation of the tragic, nightmarish, and blood-soaked experiment called Nigeria. Was the Jonathan administration unaware of this swell of hope that Nigeria should cease?

In the build-up to the centenary, the band of Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram carried out one of their most savage and outrageous attacks yet. They stormed a secondary school in Yobe under the cover of darkness, slaughtered 60 boys, and set their victims’ dorms on fire. In any serious country, one such act would forever scar the collective conscience, provoking a resolve of “Never again!” Not in Nigeria, a place where a human life is worth far less than a chicken. How did Nigeria’s “transformational” leadership respond to this latest callousness by Boko Haram? It responded in its accustomed soft, indifferent manner. It issued the same tiresome, obligatory condemnation of the carnage, nothing more. The Presidency did not consider the shocking abbreviation of so many innocent lives an occasion to devise and announce a bold, effective plan to assure the safety of all citizens, especially school children, in the Boko Haram-plagued, terror-infested areas. It was, as usual, a do-nothing stance.

But then the government did something even worse than habitual abdication. Apparently, Reno Omokri, Mr. Jonathan’s point man on social media, orchestrated a release that sought to link Nigeria’s suspended Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, with a spike in Boko Haram’s gruesome activities, including the Yobe slaughter. Apparently Mr. Omokri did not reckon with the fact that many Nigerians are quite adept at cyber intelligence, deft at the kind of detective work that can unmask those who exploit the seeming anonymity of the Internet to slander others. Mr. Sanusi is the Jonathan administration’s Public Enemy Number One. The sacked CBN Governor committed the unpardonable sin of telling the world that a major agency of the Nigerian state had failed to deposit $20 billion earned from crude oil exports. In response, the government accused Mr. Sanusi of squandering the funds of the bank he ran, awarding contracts without following requisite laws, and dispensing Nigeria’s funds as if they were his private treasury.

If Mr. Sanusi committed these crimes, I’d like to see him prosecuted, convicted and punished. I’d also like to see the administration account fully for the funds that Mr. Sanusi alleged to be missing. Here’s what the government doesn’t have a right to do: sending Mr. Omokri, its cyber warrior-in-chief, to concoct and disseminate horrific lies against Mr. Sanusi or any Nigerian. Unless Mr. Omokri can demonstrate that he did not mastermind the craven forgery, he ought to resign immediately. Or be fired.

It’s tragic that the Nigerian government, from the president to his aides, continues to fiddle while the country burns. It’s shameful that President Jonathan and Nigerian legislators prioritize a phantom war—going after gays—when the country is besieged by mindless, well-armed zealots who see unarmed Nigerians, including children, as fair game. How does the targeting of gays solve Nigeria’s infrastructural problems? Are gays the reason elections are massively rigged in Nigeria; public funds looted with depraved greed; our educational system a shambles; our healthcare system ghastly?

Nigeria fought a civil war that claimed anything from one to three million lives. It was a war to defend a British-made idea, to uphold the sanctity of a space wrought by British imperial fiat. The mantra was: To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. To their credit, the British had an excellent reason for keeping Nigeria one. Nigeria was their largest holding in Africa (and their second largest anywhere, after India). It was a prodigious source of raw materials for British firms as well as a huge dumping ground for British-made goods. It made sound sense, from the British point of view, to keep Nigeria one.

As British rule ended, the Nigerian elite who inherited the spoils of the state adopted as an article of faith the idea that Nigeria must remain one entity. But they shied away from asking the hard questions. What’s so sacred about Nigeria? Why should we remain one? What ends are served by remaining one? What does Nigeria represent? And—if unity was not negotiable—then what must be the irreducible terms of our engagement?

I’ve argued before that a central part of Nigeria’s tragedy arises from the fact that the country fought a costly war, but has never permitted the lessons of that war to inform its conduct, to shape its ethos. It’s as if we went to war to defend the right of a few to continue to plunder, to continue to feed fat at the expense of the rest of us, to perpetually rig themselves into power, and to add their contemptible names to every roll of honor, even though they refrain from doing anything that is remotely honorable.

As Mr. Jonathan feted the so-called giants of Nigeria’s centenary, a different, oppositional narrative played itself out. The collective memory of the vast majority of Nigerians beheld Nigeria, not as a splendid monument, but as a sordid, wretched edifice. They saw what Mr. Jonathan and his ilk refuse to see: that the Nigerian state is a provocation, a moral affront, a failed, misery-dispensing state.

Soyinka captured part of the spirit of that deep split in the way Nigeria is regarded. He acted bravely by excusing himself from the insouciant official ritual that amounted to an insult to the outraged sensibilities of the majority of Nigerians. In a statement of renunciation titled “Canonization of Terror,” Mr. Soyinka called attention to the wasted lives of the students in Yobe. He drew our attention to “the entire ethical landscape into which this nation has been forced by insensate leadership.” He would not succumb to the summons to collective amnesia, the only condition under which an ogre like Sani Abacha would be invited to arise, ghost-like, to accept national veneration as a patriotic champion of Nigerian “unity and national development.” Stated Mr. Soyinka: “Under that ruler, torture and other forms of barbarism were enthroned as the norm of governance. To round up, nine Nigerian citizens, including the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged after a trial that was stomach churning even by the most primitive standards of judicial trial, and in defiance of the intervention of world leadership.”

In the end, Soyinka spoke for me—and I suggest, for many other enlightened people—when he stated, “I reject my share of this national insult.”

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe




Wish Me What You Live Abroad Or Get Thee Behind Me, Buddy! By Pius Adesanmi.


Pius Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi

In recent lectures, interviews, and essays, I have suggested consistently that our struggle for Nigeria has shifted to the psychology of the Nigerian. I have claimed that even more than corruption, the psychology of the Nigerian is Nigeria’s deadliest enemy. Rewire that wrongly-wired psychology and all other things shall be added. What I have thus far failed to address in this line of thinking is the role of location in the actuations of this wrong psychological wiring.

While not justifying or excusing manifestations of wrong psychological wiring in a large number of Nigerians based at home, I daresay it is largely understandable. If he is fifty years old and below and has never left the shores of Nigeria, no matter how educated, cosmopolitan, urbane, polished, and refined he is, you must remember that he has never ever experienced responsible and accountable governance for one second of his life. He has never experienced the humility and ordinariness of power.

He has never experienced anything outside of the arrogance, rudeness, corruption, crudeness, and utter stupidity of Nigerian government officials. He has never experienced anything other than the unbridled irresponsibility of power in Nigeria. He is not in possession of any alternative realities and experiences that would make him know that it is wrong for soldiers and mobile police men to dehumanize and whip him off roads built with his tax money just because Goodluck or Patience Jonathan is coming to town. When he sees pictures of David Cameron riding the London tube or of the Canadian Prime Minister quietly waiting in a queue behind ordinary civilians for his own coffee, he thinks there is something stage-managed about all that for he has never seen even a mere local government chairman wait for his turn behind ordinary Nigerians. When he hears that some world leaders have no official planes, travel light, and stay in average hotels to cut costs and save money for their countries, he marvels for the only world he knows is one in which irresponsible government officials commute in private jets or helicopters, ride only bulletproof jeeps and limos, stay in the world’s most expensive hotels, ordering caviar and choice champagne like there is no tomorrow. He does not know that this is crass, galling impunity; that these bacchanalian boys and girls in government in Abuja have no right to do any of these things on the public dime. How could he possibly know?

I could go on and on. You’ll be amazed at the things that this ordinary and well-meaning Nigerian does not know simply because he has never experienced responsible and accountable governance in a genuinely democratic setting and is therefore unable to project mentally into a universe of different realities. When I wrote about Colonel Texas Chukwu, the idiot who stormed the Guardian’s office in Jos with his men to arrest a civilian for publishing a story he did not like, I was surprised by the large number of emails I received from ordinary Nigerians all over the country. They were thanking me for that piece of civic education. They simply did not know and had never imagined that soldiers have no powers of arrest in a democracy. They can be forgiven.

Considering Nigeria’s terrible postcolonial romance with impunity, how is a Nigerian who has never left the shores of that country supposed to know that soldiers flogging and arresting civilians in our streets are breaking the law and ought to be court-martialled and dismissed from service? How is this Nigerian supposed to know that police men who bark, “open ya boot!” without a search warrant signed by a competent judge are breaking the law? How is he supposed to know that the soldier and the policeman have no right to do any of these things in Nigeria? They do only because the masses hardly know better and the oppressors in power ensure that there are no consequences for they themselves are guiltier of impunity than the soldier and the policeman.

It is this lack of a lived experience of the real thing, of the real deal, that sometimes transforms the Nigerian regular Joe into the most vociferous defender of his own oppression. If you know better and you hit the airwaves and the public sphere with tales of alternatives, the wrongly wired Nigerian could become your deadliest foe. He is going to come after you with all he’s got. He is going to defend with his last breath the same irresponsible government officials who are raping his present and mortgaging his future. If you look at things closely, this is to be expected. You are rocking the boat of the only world he knows. You are talking scornfully about the only experience of the world he can boast of. You are saying that his world is inadequate, corrupt, hopeless, unacceptable, and indefensible. You are saying that the only national space he knows is inferior to the paleolithic age. He will fight you. He will abuse you. This is what makes him the most reliable weapon in the hands of folks like Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, Reno Omokri, Ahmed Gulak and all those who make a living by retailing lies, deceit, and illusion on behalf of Nigeria’s corruption and impunity. The wrongly wired Nigerian is their greatest asset. Here, they have an army of volunteers ready to be used in the schemes of their own very oppression. They will defend the status quo and the shitstem. They will defend the sadists who sell lies on behalf of the status quo. They will tell you to bugger off.

But you must not bugger off. You must understand that you owe it to Nigeria to persist and to insist. You owe the wrongly wired Nigerian, no matter how much he screams and abuses you. You owe him empathy, sympathy, compassion, and understanding. You owe him a great deal of patience. You owe it to Nigeria not to abandon him in the hands of the government sadists for whom his wrong wiring and lack of civic awareness are assets worth more than their weight in gold. You have to understand that the rapists of Nigeria rely on his wrong wiring to be able to continue and sustain their successful rape of that country. And the way to do that is to under-educate or mal-educate him, keep him permanently in a state of blissful civic unawareness, fool him into believing that he is being patriotic by defending them in the name of religion and ethnicity. You need a lot of patience to cut through five decades of deliberate psychological miswiring of this Nigerian by the oppressor he is defending. Look up Stockholm syndrome in the dictionary and you will understand why this Nigerian deserves your patience.

However, you must understand that the Nigerian who is wrongly wired at home has a formidable ally abroad. This foreign-based ally of the home-based defender of the status quo is one of Nigeria’s most dangerous enemies. Unlike his partner at home, he does not possess the valuable excuse of ignorance. He has lived long enough in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, and the United States to understand the real meaning of responsible and accountable leadership. He has lived long enough in those places to understand that what obtains in Nigeria does not even vaguely resemble what the rest of the civilized world calls governance. From what he has experienced abroad, he understands perfectly that Nigeria is a coalition of 170 million people ruled by crass impunity and unbridled, unaccountable irresponsibility.

Yet, our friend has perfected the art of experiencing his world in Euro-America with one set of standards and Nigeria with a different, lower, inferior set of standards. Whatever it is he would never accept or tolerate as a member of the civic community in Euro-America he joins up with career rationalizers of mediocrity on the ground in Nigeria to praise to high heavens. That which he rejects for his base in London he justifies and rationalizes for his fatherland in Nigeria. In the unusual circumstance that a snowstorm disrupts power to his neighbourhood in America, Canada, or Europe, if power isn’t restored within hours, he is on the phone screaming, “this is not acceptable at all” at a poor customer service representative who is assuring him that “we are doing everything to restore power sir”. But when he hears that an entire city has not had power for two weeks in Nigeria, the career rationalizer of mediocrity for Nigeria in him takes over. He joins forces with his local teammates to shout at and abuse the collective children of anger for complaining about power failure. He takes over Facebook and Twitter, preaching patience. While flipping channels between baseball and basketball in his New York living room, he tells Nigerians coping with darkness that Rome was not built in a day. He churns out constipated data about how many electrics poles Goodluck Jonathan erected last year all over the country and urges the people to be grateful to their President.

Yet, in all the donkey years he has spent in America, Canada, or Europe, he has never encountered that strange beast called gratitude to government officials and public servants by members of the public for doing the job they are supposed to do with tax payers’ money in the first place. He has never opened the Guardian of London, New York Times, Toronto Star and encountered members of the public taking centrespread ads to thank the Mayors and officials of those cities for tarring roads, clearing snow, providing electricity to neighbourhoods, building and renovating classrooms in public schools. It’s their freaking job! Yet, when his sycophantic and obsequious team mates in Nigeria want to thank a Governor, a Minister, a Senator, or President Jonathan for awarding the contract (same contract previously awarded by Presidents Obasanjo and Yar’Adua) for the construction of an expressway, they may even ask our friend abroad to contribute to the cost of buying advertisement space in ThisDay. Joro jara joro, our friend will rush to Western Union in London, Washington or Toronto to contribute money to the “worthy cause” of buying newspaper advertisement space to thank a government official for doing his job in Nigeria.

Take the behaviour of this fellow during the recent controversy surrounding President Jonathan’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem – accompanied by the obligatory bloated entourage. Now, in all of this guy’s years abroad, he has never encountered such galling impunity as a public official dipping his hands into the treasury to sponsor a personal religious obligation. It cannot happen and will not happen where he lives. Of course we all know that President Jonathan and the members of his huge entourage are well within their constitutional rights to undertake a religious pilgrimage. I have even written in a social media statement that were President Jonathan be inclined to renounce Christianity in favour of Candomble, I will support his right to go on pilgrimage to the Orixa shrines of Salvadore de Bahia in Brazil, em…em, so long as he is paying his way to Brazil out of his personal earnings. Simply put, as the head of a secular state, he has no right to dip his hands into the public till to sponsor his religious pilgrimage. That’s impunity. The President was breaking the law. That his Moslem predecessors have been doing it is no justification for his own act. Just like him, his Moslem predecessors were breaking the law.

Some of the idiotic rationalizations we encountered for this brazen impunity can only happen in a mad country like Nigeria where it is culturally okay to cite yesterday’s crime as justification for today’s crime; where it is always somebody’s legitimate turn to be a criminal on the basis of his or her ethnicity or religion. President Yar’Adua also went on pilgrimage using public resources so that justifies the re-enactment of that crime by President Jonathan. Impunity, breaking the law, is now the turn of southern Christians. You’d of course expect a Nigerian with lived experience of the behaviour of governance in genuinely secular dispensations to understand these issues and help with the urgent task of public instruction. For where?

The Nigerian abroad, blinded by Christian partisanship, became the arrowhead of woolly-headed rationalizations. Our friend, who would be the first to scream blue murder were Angela Merkel or David Cameron to fund personal religious obligations with public funds, joined forces with his teammates at home to chant “go on s’oun” to President Jonathan and the bunch of corrupt clowns who accompanied him to Jerusalem at the expense of the Nigerian tax payer. Now, what does one owe this species of Nigerian in Euro-America? Certainly not the compassion, patience, and understanding one owes his teammates in Nigeria. I believe that one owes him only contempt and disdain for he is wicked at heart and there is no truth in him. One must treat him like an Orisha who chances on your destiny and does not improve it. You tell such an unfavourable Orisha to leave your destiny alone jeje as e meet am and not worsen it for you. The time has come for boda Nigeria to tell this foreign-based career rationalizer of mediocrity: wish me what you live abroad or get thee behind me, buddy!


Official Denial, Appeal To Ethnicity, Diversionary Publications And Media Blackmail: Desperate Measures Employed By Mrs. Oduah To Stave Off BMW Scandal.

Nigeria‘s Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah
By SaharaReporters, New York

When SaharaReporters broke the news of the scandalous purchase of two BMW armoured Cars by the cash-strapped Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah and her collaborators went silent, hoping that the two-day Muslim public holiday would blunt the report.

Instead of responding the allegations Mrs. Oduah reportedly called on the Reno Omokri, the social media man at the Presidential Villa to handle scandal.

Reno’s job includes using a loose network of paid “anti-bloggers” to attack the credibility of such reports by leaving comments on Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry Messengers and the comments sections of websites.

The “anti-bloggers” went straight to work by claiming that Mrs. Oduah’s signature was not found on the documents SaharaReporters published and as such, that she could not have been involved. As that argument didn’t seem to hold water, they quickly started a new line of argument to the effect that she was sufficiently wealthy before becoming a minister and thus could afford the cars.

That line of argument was the first official reaction from the minister’s office through the spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority, Yakubu Datti.

If Mrs. Oduah thought Mr. Datti’s intervention would work, it turned out to be a failure as the response outraged the Nigerian public which was reeling from recent accidents in the aviation sector.

By Wednesday, Mrs. Oduah had instructed her media aide, Joe Obi, to own up to the purchase of the cars but to claim that they were made because the minister faced “imminent threats” from certain forces in the aviation sector. While the admission was aimed at creating a sense of siege and thus capitalize on the insecurity in the country, that argument only incensed more people, such that, Presidency sources said, President Goodluck Jonathan began asking questions on what to do to appease Mrs. Oduah’s enemies.

As the condemnation grew, Mrs. Oduah reached out to leaders of Aka-Ikenga, an Igbo social cultural group, to help frame it as an “ethnic issue” in view of the fact that the two main culprits in the transaction are Igbos.  She figured a response by Aka-Ikenga would scare off the public and help mobilize her ethnic group in support of the corruption involved in the car purchase. Mr. Omokri’s crew also went on to strengthen that argument, attacking newspapers, websites and blogs republishing the stories as being “anti-Igbo.”

They claimed the attack on Mrs.Odua was because she upgraded the Enugu Airport to an International Airport. Even though this argument helped mobilize some unsuspecting Nigerians, it didn’t serve her too well as several individuals from her ethnic group condemned the purchases.

Meanwhile, several newspapers had picked up the story.  By Thursday, Mrs. Oduah had urged her crew to try another trick: getting some blogs to publish the story that the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had bought three armored cars for N600 million, one of which he gave to his predecessor, Bola Tinubu.

The only lacunae with the strategy was that Mrs. Oduah’s supporters could not produce the compelling evidence to prove that Fashola bought the cars, but even if that were to be true, many argued, it could not be used to justify the Minister’s monumental corruption.

By Friday Mrs. Oduah tried another strategy: she invited the media to a press briefing in Abuja.   However, lacking the courage to come out of her office to address the media, she sent the Director General of the NCAA, Fola Akinkuotu to take the stage.  A befuddled and clearly confused Akinkuotu then addressed the media in the most bizarre manner, making claims that further embarrassed the Minister as to the rationale for purchasing the cars.

An unprepared Akinkuotu spent more time accusing whistleblowers in his agency for leaking the documents. When he was rounding up the press conference, he promised to take reporters to see the vehicles, but quickly disappeared when two reporters volunteered to follow him.

Later in the night, Mr. Akinkuotu did what most Nigeria officials do best: offer money to newspaper editors to help kill the report.  The problem was that most of the newspapers had already concluded production and couldn’t reverse their publication.

Dateline Sunday: Mrs. Oduah and media aide, Joe Obi, commissioned some writers to pen articles to defend the minister, blaming union leaders andcertain voices critical of her for wanting to destroy the aviation sector.  Such an article penned by one “Capt. Ore Kingsley”, titled “Why Stella Oduah Must Be Punished” admitted that the BMW purchases were egregious but went on a rant to blame Captain Dele Ore and others for the “gang-up” against the minister.

A few minutes later   Mr. Obi had circulated another spurious report claiming that Fashola bought N600 million worth of armored cars, claiming that a Ghanaian website, Modernghana, made and published the findings. But the sad part is that the Mrs. Oduah and her aides didn’t understand that is an aggregation website that collects news from any source without verifying authenticity.

As of the time of publishing this report, Mrs. Oduah had recruited Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) party elders and the Secretary to the Federal Governmen, Pius Anyim, to embark on outreach to critical segments of the Nigerian society and to help appease her  opponents, it is  unclear if this will work as President Jonathan has already claimed he wants to look into the scandal.

Gold IPhones: Jonathan Administration Back In Familiar Denial Mode:

By SaharaReporters, New York

The government of Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday evening again shifted into denial mode as its damaged image suffered further humiliation following the revelation it has ordered 53 gold Iphones to “celebrate” Nigeria’s 53rd anniversary next month.

First reported by The Independent newspaper of London yesterday, the denial followed a new claim by Gold & Co, the company which first said it got the order directly from the government, PREMIUM TIMES said this evening.

In a twitter conversation with a Nigerian social activist, the company, perhaps under pressure, seemed to back off a little bit from its earlier claim.

“These have been ordered not by the government but by an individual who is gifting them to people [in Nigeria] to celebrate [the independence anniversary]” a tweet from Gold&Co said.

But Simon Usborne, who reported the story for The Independent, has contradicted the company, asserting, “I can only confirm what the boss of @goldandco told me.”  The reporter also suggested that Gold and Co is trying to re-script the interview after the fact, perhaps in view of the attention and angry reaction of Nigerians.

“Seems boss of @goldandco got carried away,” Usborne tweeted. “He now tells me a Nigerian individual – not the govt. – ordered 53 anniversary gold iPhones.”

In plain English, that means the government, through one of its officials, placed the mind-boggling order.

Phone calls and Text messages sent to President Jonathan’s media aide, Reuben Abati, by Saharareporters were unanswered.

However, President Jonathan’s social media aide, Reno Omokri, seized the sliver of opportunity.  “Be advised that the story that the Nigerian Government has ordered 53 Gold iPhones is false,” he said. There is no truth to the story whatsoever.”

But neither Omokri nor anyone else identified the Nigerian that is rich or patriotic enough to place a single order worth N662 million from his own pocket, or what he hopes to get in return.

While the Minister of Information, Joseph Mutah, has conveniently disappeared during the controversy, his Press Secretary stepped forth, armed without facts, to deny the report.

“We have never heard of anything like that,” he said, as if his ears and the facts always match. “The story is utterly false and mischievous, there is no any (sic) order like that at least by this government.”

Nigeria’s government under Mr. Jonathan labours under a heavy credibility deficit, routinely issuing denials as it moves from one bizarre controversy to another.

In October 2011, PT Pertamina, the Indonesian state company, announced that it had signed a deal under which Nigeria would spend $2.6billion to build three oil refineries in the country.

Once reported by the influential Jakarta Post, it was rapidly denied by a spokesman in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, who declared it as fictitious without providing any facts.

While the Indonesian authorities insisted the story was true, the Nigerian government never officially investigated it.

Only last month, a whistle-blower group sent a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accusing the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, of squandering millions of dollars of public funds in illegal rentals of private jets allegedly for her official activities.

Following previous allegations by a variety of reporters and groups, the group, “Crusaders for Good Governance” called for Ms. Allison-Madueke to be investigated, saying that she spends as much as $300,000 on an average international trip outside of Nigeria, and as much as $500,000 on trips to places like China, Malaysia and North American countries.

As is the normal practice, the EFCC, and the government, ignored the petition.

Eebu O So: Tinubu, Buhari, and their Supporters By Pius Adesanmi.

Pius Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi

It’s been ‘eebu tins’ (insult extravaganza) in the arena of political discourse and public commentary since this column decided to award itself an extended vacation five weeks ago. So massive has been the scramble for pottymouthing by critical segments of our commentariat that one was compelled to punctuate one’s vacation in favour of the occasional Facebook commentary on the matter. And the Nigerian penchant for flourish and exhaustiveness in negative matters means that we invaded the house of ‘eebu’ (insult) and appropriated all resources therein.

Name calling, bullying, catfighting, mudfighting, and roforofo became the building blocks of a colourful national orgy of insults and pottymouthing: Presidency versus Opposition; Presidency versus NGF; Presidency versus Media; Presidency versus former Facebook friends suffering from buyer’s remorse; NGF versus PDP Governors Forum; PDP versus PDP; PDP versus APC; APC versus APC; APC versus PDP; Jang versus Amaechi; Amaechi versus Jangjaweed Governors. In the middle of it all, the triumvirate of sophistry and chicanery, Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, and Reno Omokri, migrated their mouths from the gutter to a more scatological habitat in the pit latrine, trafficking in words unbecoming of any presidency as they engaged the Opposition while servicing the lies of a glaringly inept President Jonathan. With these three clowns throwing insults all over the place, D.O. Fagunwa would refer to Jonathan’s Aso Rock as ‘Eebudimeta’.

Sadly, the season of ‘eebu tins’ was contagious. It would have been an occasion for rejoicing had the season of national pottymouthing been restricted to the pestilential ranks of corrupt government officials and political actors for one’s heart is always gladdened when the rapists of Nigeria tear at each other while dancing naked in the public sphere.

President Jonathan fighting the NGF, Tambuwal and Wamakko clawing at Bamanga Tukur, Rotimi Amaechi and the Jangjaweed Governors pottymouthing one another are all occasions for rejoicing by the people. These are all instances of the Yoruba philosophy of ‘fun ra won ni won o ma fun ra won l’ogun je’. In other words, o ye people of Nigeria, rejoice and be merry whenever the corrupt rapists of our commonwealth feed each other poison. You do not need to inherit their cant and chicanery; their bickering; their pottymouthing; their pettiness; their irrationalities. For in the dead of night, when all doors are closed and you guys are still outside abusing each other along religious, tribal, and geopolitical fault-lines and lining up behind one political gladiator against the other, these guys close ranks, embrace, and declare aloota continua behind your backs.

There is one group of fellow citizens who, apparently, does not subscribe to the notion that we, the grass beneath the feet of the gorging elephants in the political class, do not need to tear at each other and spread the contagion of ‘eebu tins’ just because we support a particular political actor and believe that he is Junior Jesus and Deputy Mohammed combined. I am talking about the formidable armies of social media marketers of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and General Mohammadu Buhari who have taken on the task of marketing these two prominent figures of a very amorphous opposition to the broader Nigerian electorate. The methodology and strategies of these marketers have very serious implications for the democracy we all envisage and the Nigeria we all envision.

Asiwaju Tinubu’s claim to an oppositional/progressive patina stems from his investment in NADECO and the anti-Abacha struggle of the era, his relatively successful tenure as Lagos State Governor during which, we must admit, the foundation was laid for much of what Raji Fashola is doing today. It was also during his tenure in Lagos that the state became a model of resistance to Federal brigandage as he was largely able to resist what I call our “almajiri federalism”, which has state governors singing “asiri a bo bam bi Allah” all the way to Abuja, becoming cowering and conquered houseboys of an omnipotent President in the process. Rotimi Amaechi’s laudable resistance to Goodluck Jonathan’s arrogance of power today is nothing new. By successfully resisting Obasanjo’s crudeness, Tinubu paved the way for any Governor willing to remember that Federalism does not mean that states should become vassals of an arrogant centre with irrational powers. Is the pathetic Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa really a state governor today or Goodluck Jonathan’s palace eunuch?

Nigerians know the answer. Lagos is also where Asiwaju marshaled strategies and resources to eventually rid the southwest of the ruinous stranglehold of the PDP. He resisted Obasanjo in Abuja and also brought in new brooms to sweep away all the corrupt PDP governors that Ebora Owu had rigged into office in the southwest.

This is a broad summary of the achievements that have earned Asiwaju the right to become he who must be obeyed and never questioned in the world of his supporters. If these supporters were content with just sacrificing their own right to civic questioning, becoming marionettes, and letting Asiwaju take over the responsibility of thinking and deciding everything for them in the political and democratic sphere, that, I guess, would be their own kettle of fish. We must concede to every Nigerian his democratic right to be the political toilet paper of his own chosen hero among the gladiators in our public sphere. But Asiwaju’s fans are not content with worshipping their ordained orisha. They fan across social media as onward Christian soldiers, sorry, onward Asiwaju soldiers, trying to force-feed their idol intravenously into the Nigerian electorate in a manner that brooks no argument, opposition, or genuine debate.

Asiwaju, the argument goes, liberated the southwest from the PDP and his reward must be the everlasting silence of all Nigerians, even beyond the southwest. We should just all submit ourselves uncritically to his every whim, his every caprice, his every political calculus. We should just all become eternally grateful citizens of the nebulous empire that Asiwaju is building, no questions asked. To ask any question is to attract the ire of his supporters who mass in and rain insults on the critical questioner, blind as they are to the essence and meaning of democratic citizenship.

Democratic citizenship starts with my fundamental right to ask questions and probe the practices and politics of any participant in the political destiny of my country. If you are selling a political hero, democratic citizenship starts with my right to haggle, to critically examine the product you are attempting to sell to me, to ask questions about the provenance, usefulness, and durability of your product. Questions of worth and value are pertinent.

To put it in a popular Nigerian parlance, if you are selling Asiwaju to me, it is my right to price your market. Pricing your market in this respect means that I can raise very serious critical and ethical questions about the ruinous financial slavery of Lagos state – and increasingly the southwest – to one man today. I have the right to ask questions about tax collection processes in Lagos state. I have the right to raise an alarm over tolling at Lekki and where the money goes.

If you are selling Asiwaju to me, I have the right to wonder if you are not asking me to replace the corrupt dictatorship of the PDP at the centre with the no less corrupt one-man show of an aspiring emperor. I have the right to ask if you are asking me to replace Nigeria’s failed Federalism with Tinubu’s political empire, which is emerging somewhat parallel to and somewhat in opposition to that failed federalism at the centre. When I peep into this emergent political empire and I see things injurious to the spirit of democracy, I have the right to ask you questions if you persist in selling that product to me.

I could tell you that looking at the untidy way in which Asiwaju’s wife was imposed as a Senatorial candidate, the untidy way in which his choices are imposed as Local Government Chairmen everywhere he holds sway, the untidy way in which his choices are imposed as Governors everywhere he holds sway (until the Ondo rout), the untidy business of attempting to impose his daughter as the new Iyaloja of Lagos, the untidy way in which he and Chief Bisi Akande have privileged a rigid babacracy over internal party democracy in the political party over which they preside and, now, the absolutely horrible, undemocratic, and arrogant way in which he is trying to abort democracy in Ekiti by asking Opeyemi Bamidele to wait for his turn – I could look at all these things, all these dictatorial tendencies, the recurrence of the word ‘imposition’, and decide that the corrupt democracy of Aso Rock is better than the corrupt babacracy of Bourdillon Road. At least the pretense of democracy exists in Aso Rock whereas there is no room for even democratic pretense in Bourdillon road. Indeed, the unfolding outrage in Ekiti has confirmed my long-held suspicion that Bourdillon road is the most formidable antithesis to democracy in Nigeria now. I certainly hope that Opeyemi Bamidele will be buoyed by the precedence of Ondo and defy imposition and empire building.

When bold and patriotic compatriots raise these legitimate issues, Tinubu’s social media supporters, who have no liver for debate, resort to knee-jerk ‘eebu tins’. They rain insults and curse and curse again. They bully and intimidate the same people they are trying to persuade to adopt their orisha of Bourdillon. Yet, the very next minute, these devotees of the orisha of Bourdillon begin to hold out the southwest as an example of democracy to the rest of the country. They purport that the southwest has lessons to teach the rest of the country in democracy and its practices. I always wonder who dashed them the mouth to make such spurious submissions. Until the southwest deals with the untidy legacy of Tinubu’s impositions and his long-winding trail of subversion of democratic principles, they must understand that they have lost the mouth with which to contribute to broader national arguments about democratic ethos. The rest of the country would be justified if they told the southwest: abeg, make we hear word.

What goes for Tinubu’s supporters also goes for a vast majority of General Buhari’s supporters. Indeed, General Buhari’s avowed online loyalists make Tinubu’s supporters look like kindergarten pupils in the department of ‘eebu tins’. Unlike Tinubu’s supporters who are trying to sell a political orisha because their principal is trying to consolidate an empire rather than openly jostling for an elective office, General Buhari’s supporters are trying to sell a political candidate jostling for the office of President. They insist on the General’s personal capital: simplicity, integrity, leadership, zero-tolerance of corruption, sound moral and ethical stock. According to this narrative, corrupt politicians would scamper out of Nigeria were General Buhari ever to be elected President for he would not spare them.

So far so good. Things get a bit more complicated for General Buhari and his loyalists the moment you move beyond the General’s impeccable personal capital to other things you need to be acceptable to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and creed. General Buhari’s loyalists are quick to insist that he is a pan-Nigerian statesman. His statements and actions suggest otherwise and when concerned Nigerians insist on raising that significant issue, the General’s loyalists, like Tinubu’s supporters, recourse to ‘eebu tins’ to sell their product. They curse and curse and curse. They rain insult upon insult on Nigerians for being simpletons who just can’t understand the General. One wrote an article in Sahara Reporters advising the General to withdraw from politics because he is too good for Nigeria or Nigerians aren’t good enough for him. The stupidity of claiming that 160 million of us are not good enough for or are undeserving of one of us was not apparent to this Buhari loyalist. I’ve encountered more bellicose variants of that insult coming from General Buhari’s army of online loyalists. Nigeria, they insist, is not ready for him because Nigeria is not good enough for him.

But the Nigerians who are being insulted by Buhari’s loyalists are not the people responsible for the persistent question mark on the General’s pan-Nigerian credentials. The General is and the blame must be placed firmly and unequivocally at his doorstep. General Buhari has done more in the last two decades or so to forge an image of himself as a closet geopolitical irredentist and very little to encourage perceptions of himself as a pan-Nigerian statesman. This is not limited to his healthy syllabus of northern and Islamic irredentist statements – his supporters are ever ready to insult us that we are just not intelligent enough to understand those statements – but also to his inaction. I will explain the bit about inaction presently.

Suffice it to say for now that the insults and curses rained on Nigerians daily by Buhari’s supporters are far worse than the treatment we get from Tinubu’s supporters. My stomach churns whenever I encounter pro-Buhari statements starting with such illogicalities as “Buhari is the only living Nigerian capable of this and that”. Really? Please! There are 160 million of us. There must be limits to hyperbole. And there is no greater insult than saying that 160 million of us are either too mischievous or too unintelligent to understand the repeated careless statements of your hero. Personally, I’m loath to have a President of Nigeria who constantly needs the service of the extra-talented geniuses in his core support base to explain his constant stream of misstatements and misspeaks to 160 million unintelligent simpletons. We must ask the question again: why is it that only fundamentalist loyalists have found the key to understanding General Buhari’s statements?

Now to Buhari’s inaction. We must ask his supporters: exactly where is Buhari’s national presence, say, since 2011? His statements, careless or reasonable, mostly get to the south of the river Niger whenever local journalists are lucky enough to monitor an interview he granted the Hausa service of BBC or VOA from his Kaduna base. I know that he was at my friend, Nasir El Rufai’s book launch in Lagos and was, also, recently at the funeral of Asiwaju’s mother in Lagos. There may be other unreported low-profile ventures outside of the north by the General. However, if I were in Buhari’s shoes, I would have been all over the Nigerian map physically since 2011. My social and political calendar across Nigeria would have been very busy and active. I would have been attending well-publicized events all over the country, delivering speeches on critical national issues in Universities all over Igboland, all over the south-south. I would even have ‘invaded’ Professor Bolaji Aluko’s fief in the Federal University, Otuoke, by delivering a significant lecture on critical national issues from that pregnant location. I would have been all over the southwest, the MiddleBelt – everywhere – engaging people and issues, strategizing about the way forward with critical stakeholders. Newspapers would be reporting that some of my national statements and interviews were monitored in Isanlu, Kabba, Amawbia, Nnobi, Calabar, Nsukka, Enugu, Okene, Owerri, Osogbo, Ore, Ibadan, Abakaliki, Ogwashi-Uku, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Ijebu Ode, Akure, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Warri, etc.

If , rather than cultivate this broad national praxis in the service of my presidential ambition, I cocoon myself mostly in Kaduna, releasing northern and Islamic irredentist statements to the rest of the country in interviews granted the Hausa service of BBC and VOA, going as far as to carelessly equate a legitimate clamp down on Boko Haram with a war against the North, I should be prepared to accept responsibility for a certain perception of myself and work very hard to address the issue. Genuine supporters of General Buhari have serious work to do. I know many of them, patriotic compatriots working tirelessly for Nigeria, convinced that General Buhari is a far better option than the disgrace currently residing in Aso Rock. They are not into the business of insulting Nigerians to sell their product.

They are my friends: Adebayo Adeneye-Adejuwon, Marian Iyabode Awolowo, Kizito Agba-Injo. One of them, Tunde Asaju, is my cousin. What these believers in the Buhari project must understand is that their genuine efforts to sell Buhari online is largely crowded out by the ill-reflected strategies of the more fundamentalist Buhari supporters who believe that the best way to sell their product is to constantly insult and bully Nigerians. Adebayo Adejuwon and co must understand that they have their work cut out for them. Not only must they continue to try to sell their product using the time-tested strategies of democratic debate and superior argument, they must also work harder to convince those who are trying to sell the General via insults that they are damaging Buhari’s brand – to borrow a way of speaking made popular by my sister Bamidele Ademola-Olateju. And unless they believe that General Buhari is infallible, they must be prepared to reach out to their hero, engage him, and see how he could work on the statesman and de-emphasize the northern irredentist. Accusing those asking questions of ill-will or inability to understand the General will not cut it.

Personally, I’m not on the Buhari train because I am not convinced me that we cannot find a Nigerian in the age bracket of 40-55 among 160 million people who fits the bill for 2015. As a friend of mine, Kemi Sisi Eko, once observed, there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you are a Nigerian in your  20s, 30s, or  40s and you insist that a septuagenarian is the singular and the only answer to your problem in the age of Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Harper, and Hollande. If I raise this issue, it is your responsibility as a Buhari loyalist to engage or confront me with superior logic and try to persuade me. Don’t come hurling insults at me, avoiding serious issues by claiming that I harbor some undefined animus against the General. That is the lazy strategy that General Buhari’s loyalists often deploy to kill genuine debate.

Building democracy is not just about the struggle to rid our country of a corrupt, comatose, and visionless leadership such as we currently have in Goodluck Jonathan; it is not just about the struggle to build credible and genuine institutions; it is also mostly about the need to forge, inform, and instruct a critical and civic-minded followership. A democracy without a followership that questions is doomed. And questioning does not mean criticizing Jonathan endlessly while being intolerant of any criticism of your own political orisha. By resorting ever so often to ‘eebu tins’ in the marketing of their heroes, too many supporters of Asiwaju Tinubu and General Buhari are endangering democracy. They are part of the problem. They are tolerating democracy only to the extent that their respective heroes shall neither be critiqued, questioned, nor engaged. Those of us whose singular premise is Nigeria – and not sacrosanct heroes – shall not allow this to happen. We shall continue to question, to critique, to engage.

Perish the thought that we shall ever allow the emergence of a Nigeria in which it would be possible for some citizens to crown political orishas that are deemed too good for some undeserving 160 million people. If you belong in the group of workers for Nigeria who are not beholden to any political orisha, then by all means  continue to raise very pertinent and critical issues whenever and wherever the loyalists of Tinubu and Buhari sell their heroes on social media. That is the stuff, the essence of democracy. Followers must be able to ask legitimate questions of other followers without being intimidated or insulted. That is the Nigeria we envisage and envision.

If Buhari’s or Tinubu’s loyalists insult you for asking questions, shrug your shoulders and tell them that insults do not grow on the forehead of the insulted or, as the Yoruba would put it, “eebu o so”.


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