Saturday, 23 September 2017

ENTERTAINMENT

Items filtered by date: September 2017

A Senator is in trouble with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for obtaining a N1.2billion loan from the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) to buy electrical equipment but he allegedly  ended up diverting the facility to personal use.

Three years after securing the loan for his firm, he has only paid back about N150million.

Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) has been summoned by the EFCC for interrogation through the Clerk to the National Assembly.

Besides the loan, Nwaoboshi is under investigation for collecting N1.580bilion contract to supply some construction equipment and trucks to the Delta State Direct Labour Agency in 2010.

The senator allegedly supplied mostly refurbished trucks as new vehicles. This has been confrmed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), The Nation learnt.

The senator is among the 18 of the nation’s 109 senators who are either under investigation or trial for over N367.5billion alleged fraud by the EFCC.

Nwaoboshi may face trial for alleged abuse of office in securing the loan, alleged diversion of the facility and contract fraud.

Nwaoboshi is said to have secured the N1.2billion loan, under the Local Industrial Growth Scheme when he was sitting on the Board of Directors of NEXIM Bank.

Although Nwaoboshi excused himself on the day the NEXIM board approved the facility for his company, the anti-graft agency said “the deal signifies of internal abuse”.

An EFCC document said: “The loan, which was approved for the senator when he was a member of the bank’s board of directors, was meant for the purchase of equipment and electrical materials but the senator allegedly diverted part of the funds to acquire properties in Lagos.

“Criminal diversion is a serious offence and NEXIM may have to report him to the Central Bank of Nigeria. As a director of the bank, the circumstance of the award of the loan is one that raises fundamental conflict of interest and corporate governance issues.”

The senator is said to have been defaulting in repayment.

“He has not honoured the invitation of this commission but since he has no immunity, our detectives are on his trail,” an EFCC source said.

The Senator is also under probe for allegedly using one of his companies, ‘Bilderberg Enterprises Ltd’,  to secure a contract from the Direct Labour Agency, Delta State to supply construction equipment at N1,580,000,000.00.

But, instead of supplying the equipment according to the specifications, the company allegedly supplied used equipment, contrary to the Bill of Quantity which specified new ones.

Also  Bilderberg Enterprises Limited (previously known as Bilderberg Enterprises Nigeria Ltd) was alleged to have  secured  contracts from Nine local government areas in Delta State worth over N2billion when the said company was yet to be registered under the Company and Allied Matters Act.

The senator is also under the searchlight of the EFCC for allegedly using a firm, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited, to buy a 12-storey building in Apapa, Lagos belonging to Delta State Government at N805, 000,000.00.

It was learnt that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had no record that the senator “declared all the companies and bank accounts he has interest, despite being operational prior to the time he made the declaration.”

A document from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) confirmed that the senator supplied refurbished trucks to the Delta State Government as new vehicles.

The EFCC’s brief said: “Nwaoboshi, who has failed to respond to the commission’s invitation, is battling to stop the Commission from moving to secure the final forfeiture of his property.

“He has filed two actions before a court in Lagos and a Federal High Court in Asaba, asking that the interim forfeiture order of Justice Abdulaziz Anka be vacated. The Federal High Court Asaba refused the ex-parte application, further hearing is slated for October 3, 4 and 5, 2017.

“A Federal High Court in Lagos in April ordered the temporary forfeiture of a 12-storey building belonging to the senator over an alleged contract scam of N1.5bn.

The said building, which the court ordered Nwaoboshi to forfeit to the Federal Government is at 27, Marine Road, Apapa.

“Justice Anka made the forfeiture order after entertaining an ex parte application brought before him by the EFCC.

“Joined with Nwaoboshi in the application were his two companies – Golden Touch Construction Project Limited, and Bilderberg Enterprises Limited.

“The EFCC told the judge that Nwaoboshi, through his company, Bilderberg Enterprises Limited, got a N1.580bn contract to supply some construction equipment to the Delta State Direct Labour Agency sometime in 2010.

“The senator is also alleged to have forged assets declaration documents before the Code of Conduct Bureau, where he concealed 46 different accounts to which he is a signatory.”

 
Published in Headliners

A new round of demonstrations is expected across Togo as the country grapples with an unprecedented political crisis, brought about by calls for the introduction of presidential term limits.

Faure Gnassingbé has been head of state since 2005 when he took over from his father Gnassingbé Eyadema, who seized power in a coup in 1967, seven years after independence.

The anti-government protests began in August and have spread to the whole country.

Demonstrations have largely been peaceful and their scale has been huge, with organisers claiming that as many as 800,000 people - out of a total population of 6.6 million - took to the streets on 19 August.

On Sunday, the country's bishops threw their weight behind the opposition.

Opposition supporters praying during previous protestsImage copyrightAFP
These oppositions supporters prayed during a previous all-night vigil
People throwing stonesImage copyrightAFP
Protests have been largely peaceful but there have been some clashes with riot police

Why don't the government and opposition settle their differences in parliament?

The government has tried this.

On Tuesday, MPs voted in favour of a proposed change to the constitution to introduce a two-term limit ahead of the next presidential election in 2020.

The change will require a referendum before it comes into effect.

The matter is settled then...

Not at all.

The opposition boycotted the vote, claiming Tuesday's parliamentary session was a ruse by the government to make itself look reform-minded and allow Mr Gnassingbé to stay in power until 2030.

Faure Gnassingbé (file photo)Image copyrightAFP
Faure Gnassingbé inherited power from his father but has since been re-elected twice

Some opposition politicians want the president to step down immediately, and none of them want him to be able to stand in 2020.

They say Mr Gnassingbé is already in his third term, since he took over from his father in 2005 and was re-elected in 2010 and 2015.

The opposition wants to revive a paragraph in the 1992 constitution that says "under no circumstances may anyone serve more than two terms".

The Gnassingbé dynasty is 50 years old. Why has it taken until now for the Togolese people to protest?

This is not the first time.

In 2005, an estimated 500 people died in a government crackdown against opposition protests.

What's different this time?

For many years, the south of the country was seen as anti-government but the Gnassingbé family drew all the support it needed from the north, where they come from.

Tikpi Atchadam, leader of the National Panafrican Party (PNP)Image copyrightAFP
Tikpi Atchadam has breathed new life into the opposition

This time some of the biggest demonstrations have taken place in cities like Sokodé in the centre-north and Dapaong and Mango in the north.

A new opposition figurehead, Tikpi Atchadam, leader of the National Panafrican Party (PNP), hails from the north.

What has the government done?

It has cut off all mobile 3G data to try and prevent people from using social media to mobilise.

The government has also called for its own supporters to demonstrate.

It accuses Mr Atchadam of links to Islamist radicals, but has not produced any evidence to support its allegations.

Published in Business and Economy

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said on Wednesday the Federal Government has approved the payment of N45billion severance package to former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways.

The national carrier was liquidated by ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2005, and the workers had been embarking on protests nationwide over their unpaid entitlements.

Sirika told State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that money has been approved for the settlement of the entitlements.

“Governments, in the past, decided just to liquidate Nigeria Airways without tending to the issue of the entitlements of the workers and they have been struggling to get that paid. We came in and took it very seriously. 

“I’m happy to announce that Mr. President has approved N45 billion which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of these workers and Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay the money. The ministry wrote to me last week that they have received the instruction to pay these workers, and therefore, they are setting up the modalities to pay.

“You should know it won’t be paid through my ministry before somebody will say I take some of it. It will be paid by finance through a process, and that process will commence very soon,’’ he said.

The minister disclosed that the Council approved the procurement of operational vehicles for Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

NAN

Published in Business and Economy

A journalist from north-eastern Nigeria has won the third BBC World News Komla Dumor Award.

Amina Yuguda is a news presenter on local network Gotel Television, where she has reported on high-profile news stories, including the Boko Haram insurgency.

She will start a three-month placement at the BBC in London in September.

The award was created to honour Komla Dumor, a presenter for BBC World News, who died suddenly aged 41 in 2014.

Ms Yuguda said her win was a "huge honour".

"I was overwhelmed with joy. Storytellers have always had an important role in Africa... this is what defines us. Today journalists are taking on that responsibility."

 
Amina Yuguda: "I want to tell stories from an African perspective"

She impressed the panel with her story-telling and her ability to convey complex ideas in a way that resonates with a wide audience.

She is excited to work at the BBC, given her understanding of the corporation's impact among pastoralists in her hometown, saying in her application:

"With little or no formal education, my countrymen can hold their own in a variety of topics, including the Trump presidency in America, North Korea's defiance, Russia's foreign relations under Putin, and more."

BBC World Service Group Director Francesca Unsworth said Ms Yuguda was a worthy winner:

"To find someone who possesses many of Komla's qualities is something for us to celebrate, and we are very excited about working with Amina."

Previous winners of the Komla Dumor Award were Ugandan news anchor Nancy Kacungira and Nigerian business journalist Didi Akinyelure.

Published in Arts & Culture

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said on Wednesday the Federal Government has approved the payment of N45billion severance package to former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways.

The national carrier was liquidated by ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2005, and the workers had been embarking on protests nationwide over their unpaid entitlements.

Sirika told State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that money has been approved for the settlement of the entitlements.

“Governments, in the past, decided just to liquidate Nigeria Airways without tending to the issue of the entitlements of the workers and they have been struggling to get that paid. We came in and took it very seriously.

“I’m happy to announce that Mr. President has approved N45 billion which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of these workers and Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay the money. The ministry wrote to me last week that they have received the instruction to pay these workers, and therefore, they are setting up the modalities to pay.

“You should know it won’t be paid through my ministry before somebody will say I take some of it. It will be paid by finance through a process, and that process will commence very soon,’’ he said.

The minister disclosed that the Council approved the procurement of operational vehicles for Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

NAN

Published in Business and Economy
Thursday, 21 September 2017 02:23

Federal High Court proscribes IPOB

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order proscribing the pro-separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The court has also declared illegal all activities of the group, particularly in the South-east and Southsouth.

It restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any of the group’s activities”.

The Acting Chief Judge of the court, Justice Adamu Kafarati, granted the orders after hearing an ex-parte application filed and argued yesterday by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

Justice Kafarati directed the AGF to ensure the publication of the IPOB proscription order in the official gazette and two national dailies.

With Malami in the court were the Solicitor-General of the Federation (SGF), Tayo Apata; Acting Director, Civil Litigation, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru; and other lawyers in the Federal Ministry of Justice, including T. A. Gazali and Oyin Koleosho.

Specifically, the judge said: “That an order, declaring the activities of the respondent – Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria amount to acts of terrorism and illegallity, is granted.

“That an order proscribing the existence of the respondent (IPOB) in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-east and South-South regions of Nigeria either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called and publishing same in the official gazette and two national dailies, is granted.

“That an order restraining any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (IPOB) under any other name or platform, however called or described, is granted.”

Published in Headliners

Kenya's Supreme Court has blamed the country's electoral commission (IEBC) for its decision to annul the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The judges said the 8 August poll was "neither transparent or verifiable".

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu said the IEBC did not verify the presidential results before they were announced.

Mr Kenyatta got 54% of the vote against opposition leader Raila Odinga's 44%.

Mr Odinga went to court alleging that he had been cheated out of a win and that the IEBC did not follow the law in the conduct of the election.

The Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of annulling the election on 1 September but it has only now explained why it took the decision.

It was the first time in Africa that a court had agreed with an opposition demand to cancel a presidential election over rigging allegations.

'Could have been hacked'

Ms Mwilu also said that the commission had not complied with a court order to allow its electronic voting system to be scrutinised.

She said that the IEBC's refusal to comply with the order to grant access to its electronic voting system led the court to believe Mr Odinga's claims that the system "could have been hacked".

The electoral commission has disputed that its system was tampered with.

Opposition coalition Nasa has been pushing for the sacking of IEBC officials whom it blames for bungling the polls, saying that a new team should be in charge of the re-run scheduled for 17 October.

Doubts have however been cast on this date because OT-Morpho, the French company that provided the voting kits, has said that it needs to reconfigure the more than 40,000 kits and that the process would not be complete until at least the end of October.

The judges had ordered for the re-run to be held in 60 days.

Published in Headliners

Shareholders of Oando Plc from across the South-West states on Tuesday staged a protest in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and demanded that the company’s Managing Director, Wale Tinubu, should step down because of the firm’s poor financial position.

Making reference to the report of the last Annual General Meeting of the company, which was held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where the External Auditor, Ernst & Young, stated that Oando reported a comprehensive loss in 2015 and 2016, the National President, Renaissance Shareholders Association, Olufemi Timothy; and the National Coordinator, Proactive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr. Taiwo Oderinde, condemned the meeting, saying it was stage-managed to continue the mismanagement of the company’s finance by the current management.

Timothy stated, “Oando Plc is practically dead because it is no more a going concern. Its contemporaries are doing well and bringing glory to their shareholders. We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Senate Committee on Capital Market to intervene before it is too late. 

“We are dying because our investments in the company have grown wings. The share we bought for N90 has come down to N5 under Wale Tinubu’s watch. A proper probe should be carried out. Tinubu should step aside. The company has gone with its current reported N263bn negative working capital.

“We worked hard to invest in the company but what did we get in return? Absolutely nothing! The poor shareholders are suffering and many have died. We have a lot of retired people dying because their investments have gone. Under the current management, Oando suffers a lot and we cannot tolerate it again.”

Oderinde said that Transparency International rated Nigeria poorly in its global corruption index because of alleged corrupt practices within institutions like Oando.

“Enough is enough and Wale Tinubu must go. If you go to the Transparency International’s website, you will see their rating of Nigeria on the global corruption index and it was stated therein that not only individuals are corrupt in Nigeria, but institutions too. Little did we know that TI was referring to companies like Oando,” he said.

The protesters also visited the NSE office in Dugbe, where the Branch Manager, Mr. Kayode Ogun, urged them to write a formal letter to the bourse, stating their demands, while calling on them to exercise restraint while the NSE looked into their petition.

Published in Business and Economy

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have visited two mansions in Dubai allegedly belonging to a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The properties, located at E146 Emirates Hill and J5 Emirates Hill, are said to be worth 74,000,000 dirham (N7.1bn).

Emirates Hill, which has been described as the Beverly Hills of the United Arab Emirates, is home to some of the richest men in the world including billionaire Chairman of the Stallion Group, Sunil Vaswani.

Others, who are Diezani’s neighbours, include the immediate past Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif; a former President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari; and Robert Mugabe junior, the son of the President of Zimbabwe and one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, President, Robert Mugabe.

A source within the EFCC told our correspondent that the anti-graft agency was already applying for the forfeiture of the properties through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

If the commission is able to clear all legal hurdles and ensure the final forfeiture of the property, it would bring the total amount of cash and assets finally recovered from Diezani to $200m (N70bn).

A detective, who did not want his name in print, said the anti-graft agency would exploit the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty the Federal Government had recently signed with the government of the UAE.

The agreements, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, are Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and an Extradition Treaty.

The source stated, “We have informed the UAE authorities that from our investigation, we believe Diezani bought the properties with the proceeds of crime. The whole process is still ongoing but with the MLAT, signed by President Buhari, it has made work a lot easier for us.”

The detective explained that before the Federal Government signed the treaty, the UAE law prevented foreign officials from having access to properties in the country without the express permission of its owner.

He added that with the new treaty, the UAE authorities were more cooperative and would readily give information of properties from their Land Registry System.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay(SAN), who hailed Buhari for signing the treaty, told The PUNCH that some corrupt senators, who also owned properties in Dubai, would be made to forfeit them.

Sagay also disagreed with some legal experts who said the Dubai treaty would need to be ratified by the National Assembly before it could be activated.

He said, “The UAE MLAT is not a treaty as such but an agreement; so, it will be operated without their (senators) approval.

“So, let that start worrying them (senators). He (President) will implement it directly. So, those of them that have acquired properties in Dubai and other Middle-East countries should kiss their properties good bye.”

Published in Headliners

A professor of political science and former Minister of External Affairs, Bolaji Akinyemi, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE on Nnamdi Kanu’s agitation, how Buhari can save Nigeria from collapse and why corruption persists

Do you think Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra are asking for too much that the Igbo should opt out of Nigeria?

There are different peculiarities under which there can be peaceful separation. An example is what happened in the old Czechoslovakia, when the Czech and the Slovak went their separate ways, because it was possible to draw clean lines of separation. But in most cases, separation had actually been through civil wars that carried heavy costs in terms of loss of lives and destruction of property, leaving a legacy of a lasting bitterness

A good example is India and Pakistan. Seventy years after, the lines of demarcation are still being hotly contested through militarily engagements.  In fact, India and Pakistan fought many wars in those 70 years. Achieving a peaceful, non-violent separation, by all means, is debatable along theoretical and practical lines.

For instance, what does Kanu mean by ‘Biafra’? There are states he included in Biafra and the people in those states have said they would have nothing to do with his proposed country. Already, there is a contention over where the lines of demarcation will be. I believe that we can still peacefully resolve the issue of the Nigerian question at this stage, provided we address the twin issue of fears of domination and marginalisation. We must address that. We must admit that there is something wrong with the Nigerian federal system as it is. We must look at the system that we operated, using the 1960 and 1963 constitutions with the necessary amendments. There has to be less arrogance and intolerance shown towards constituent elements of the Nigerian nation. You cannot use the temporary acquisition of power to impose a system on others, thinking everybody will be happy about it. Most of the problems in the world have come about through miscalculations – not deliberate (actions). Many wars fought in the world were as a result of miscalculations with various parties, underestimating how far-reaching their actions would be.

All I’m saying is that, I hope those who are in control of the Federal Government will not become complacent by ignoring the fact that other people are feeling hurt and are dissatisfied with the system that we have now. We shouldn’t because doing so will be a calamitous mistake. Who will win the confrontation, I don’t know. But what I know is that all parties will pay a heavy price – it will not be like the 1966/1967 (coup) all over again. It will not be like the 1967 to 1970 civil war all over again. Right now, there is a proliferation of weapons all over the country and the diffusion of grievances will create war fronts. The Nigerian military is stretched thin with all the challenges it’s currently coping with internally. I don’t think you want to put more pressure on it. We must seek a non-violent way. We must engage in dialogue. There must be, on the part of the Federal Government, the readiness to adopt a more sophisticated approach in promoting the dialogue and a preparedness to change the country.

In his address to the nation after his return from the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari said the restructuring of the country will be handled by the National Assembly. How will you react to that?

Which president are we talking about?  Is it the president who gave that speech or is it the president who embarked on consultative engagements with different stakeholders in the country the following week? Obviously, I would have preferred that we’re confronted with a president who engaged in consultations and also probably brought in more stakeholders. In a way, the presidency of any country is a critical agent for change. The Americans call it the bully pulpit syndrome. The buck stops with the president. The body language of the president can determine the outcome of an engagement. I hold the belief that President Buhari has a critical role to play in moving the nation forward in averting the oncoming tragedy and in heading the country away from collision to a cooperative destination in arriving at the kind of federalism that will be acceptable to all of us. He has a responsibility to do that.

Apart from being the president, he (Buhari) probably right now, is the only Nigerian that can ensure that we don’t end up in a ditch; in spite of what he says at times, he is the only Nigerian. Not that he stands the chance; he is the only person. Whether he will do it or not, is a different kettle of fish. Now, why do I say that? The present system that we have is skewed in favour of the North and the way forward will have to be the surrender of issues from the 1999 Constitution controlled by the Federal Government to the states.  Some issues on the exclusive list should be moved to the concurrent list and possibly, there should be a creation of the reserved list. So, it is the North that needs to make the concession. But if you’re going to be rational in your approach, the North has to be persuaded that it is not being asked to commit political or economic suicide and the only person right now that the North truly trusts and believes will not play politics with their interests is Muhammadu Buhari. He stands now in the kind of position that the (late) Sardauna stood in the sixties. An average person on the northern streets believes in Buhari in the way that they don’t believe in (former Vice President) Atiku (Abubakar) or my former boss, IBB, because those are the people who have spoken out forcefully calling for restructuring. The northern streets will conclude that these persons are playing with their interests.

But Buhari stands in that position of trust in the estimation of the northern streets that ‘if he should say that we need to give up these issues, he’s not selling us.’ What we need to do is to find people in the North that Buhari trusts – people who can discuss with him, that he believes are not setting a trap for him. The Yoruba leaders’ meeting in Ibadan and this interview will not get through to Buhari. But there are people in the North who can speak with him. There must be mutual trust between Buhari and those speaking with him.

Should Buhari reshuffle his cabinet?

For what reason or for what purpose should he reshuffle the cabinet? It appears to be the pastime of the public to want to see people disgraced and humbled. But again when you look at the people who were appointed in the first place, what was the basis for their appointment? I don’t embrace cabinet reshuffle just for reshuffling’s sake.

Buhari and the All Progressives Congress were voted into power with their promise to deal decisively with corruption in the country. Is that promise being fulfilled?

Do you believe everything a political party says? When you look at the people who fund parties – not just the present ruling party, I am talking about any of the political parties in Nigeria – where does the money come from? Look at the financiers, are they clean? Are their hands clean? Do you expect any political party to commit suicide? Until the foundation of your politics is clean, you cannot expect a clean government and you cannot expect it to get into power and go after the financiers. You can’t do that.

We want the country to be united first. We want the country to solve its problem of stability before tackling corruption. Part of the problem of dealing with corruption is that a government has to be in power first and be stable. But when you now depend on corrupt people to win your election and to remain in power, how can you deal with corruption? Is the government stable? Is Nigeria stable?

What do you think about the recent gathering of some Yoruba leaders in Ibadan to take a formal position on the restructuring of Nigeria?

What’s called the Yoruba Agenda is something that is about 20 years old. Various groups and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have come to the conclusion, especially after the debacle of the June 12 (presidential election in 1993) that we have a system that is not working. The Yoruba agenda has been constant. The constituents of the agenda were re-confirmed at the conference held in Ibadan recently; which is regionalism and states within it and other constituent elements in terms of economic devolution. So, I am not surprised by the outcome of the meeting in Ibadan. There was the need for such a meeting because it reconfirms what the position of the Yoruba has always been. Two, it gives a ready-made answer to anyone who may want to ask: ‘What do you people want? What’s your own contribution to the debate on restructuring?’

Are you bothered that the South-West governors were not at the gathering?

What I often find funny but at the same time disruptive, is the proverb that says,  ‘we cannot all sleep and maintain the same position.’ As Wole Soyinka once said, you can come up with other proverbs that you can all sleep and maintain the same position. If you’re fighting a war, there is the need to have a unity of purpose; there must be a unified focus. Therefore, to that extent, it is worrisome that the (South-West) governors were not there. But this is an issue which has confronted the Yoruba nation from time immemorial. Several attempts have been made to address that issue unsuccessfully.

The most disastrous occurrence in the Yoruba nation was the Kiriji war which lasted for years between Ekiti Parapo and the Ibadan Alliance, (and) practically turned the Yoruba nation upside-down. If you look at the Yoruba history, either to say from then on or maybe even before then, it has always been a case of a divided nation. Even when the Action Group, headed by Baba (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo, was in power, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons gave the Action Group a run for its money electorally. We never had a situation where the Action Group won 80 or 90 per cent of the votes – it was always winning just a little over 50 per cent with the NCNC very close behind it. At times, while the AG won the regional election, in the West, the NCNC actually won the federal election. The consolation then was that such reality did not stop the Action Group under the late Chief Awolowo from recording tremendous successes in the running of the Western Region such that, to date, those achievements are still regarded as the benchmark in the development of Nigeria – because in a way, that was what led to what I would call cooperative but competitive federalism. If one region was doing something, the other region would want to do it as well. But you needed somebody with a vision to start it. So, that is the consolation whether the governors were there or not, – it will slow it down – there is nothing that will stop the march of the Yoruba nation towards having the kind of political system which its people desire.

But – I hope I will not be misunderstood because I don’t wish to be misunderstood – the Yoruba nation will not get what it wants because in a federation, whether that federation is in terms of a village community, a state community, a national community or even a global community, one constituent element never gets everything that it wants. You’ve got to negotiate with the others and hopefully, you arrive at a consensus that all of you can live with. In the 1960 Constitution, the Northern People’s Congress led by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, didn’t get everything it wanted for the North. (Dr. Nnamdi) Azikiwe, leading the NCNC, didn’t get everything he wanted for the East. And, Chief Awolowo, leading the AG, didn’t get everything he wanted for the West. But there was sufficient consensus on critical issues that allowed them to say, ‘This is a constitution we can sell to our people and this is a constitution we can live with.’

Do you agree with the Yoruba leaders that the country should return to the 1960 and 1963 constitutions?

I do. But you need to spell out what you mean by that. We need to address our language of engagement, which is, we talk in generality. Demands are made (by all sides) in generality. So, the answers are given in generality because each side is reading its fears into the debate. When you say ‘we want to restructure’, those against restructuring are wondering, ‘what do they mean exactly?’. They want to take power away from us. They want to deny us what we’re benefitting from the system. It’s all a plot to enable them to dominate us – that’s what they mean by restructuring.’ But, if you say, by restructuring, ‘we mean political devolution and consequently, economic devolution.’ After all, you cannot transfer executive responsibilities to the states over some issues and not give them the means to carry that out.

I say this because when they (Yoruba leaders) said we need to go back to the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, what they meant was, if you look at the reserved list and the concurrent list; you look at the subjects that are on the lists that had been transferred to the federal authority, you’ve turned Nigeria from being a federal system to a unitary system. So, we want to go back; let us look at those subjects again and return what should be the ‘returnable’ to the states. Why do I say the ‘returnable’? The capacity to execute what a region had in the sixties is not the same thing as the capacity to execute by a state – the state is smaller. It’s not a question of the economic capability. So, it would have to be in an amended version. We’re talking about what the West – the Yoruba nation – wants. But keep it in mind that what you want may not be perceived as being beneficial to others who are even your allies.

Let me give you an illustration: one of the things people have found baffling is the decision reached at the 2014 National Conference. It is the resolution, calling for the creation of 54 states. Many couldn’t understand it as they argued that the current 36 states are struggling due to inadequate funds. People seem to have forgotten that in a constitutional conference – which the national conference really was – you bring to the table your own demands, a regional system and you go to others to ask them for their support. I know definitely that the Middle Belt and the South-South don’t believe in the regional system. But since those who want regional system are their allies, they can say, ‘all right, but what we want, to protect our interests as states, is the creation of more states. So, if you agree to our state creation, we’ll agree to your regional system.’ Since you cannot force your demand on them and they cannot force their demand on you, you negotiate – you bargain – and that was how that proposal (of 54 states) came about.

The Yoruba nation must understand the need to negotiate with others who have their own agenda as it pushes forward its regional government agenda. We’ve got to show cleverness, wisdom, and acumen in the negotiation that will follow to make sure that we don’t lose the core of our own demands and interests. The important thing is for us to deal with the question of domination; to ensure a system where there is no automatic domination of any group by another group. The other issue is what the European Union called the issue of subsidiarity, which is that what is best handled at the local level. They should be reserved for the local government level. That means that there are things which the local governments should be allowed to handle; same thing at the state and federal levels.

Part of the pronouncement made by the Yoruba leaders is that Nigeria will not know peace unless it is run as a federal state. Do you agree with that?

I do. We are too large and our interests are diverse, not necessarily antagonistic that it makes a lot of sense for us to give this breathing space to each constituent units of the nation and that can only be done under the system of federalism. Fortunately, federalism is such an elastic concept that we don’t need to lose sleep over the kind of federalism that is achievable for Nigeria. But one of the things that we will need to jettison in our mind is the concept of true federalism. There’s nothing called ‘true federalism’. Each federal state adopts a system that addresses the core issues which that nation needs to address. The Canadian concept of federalism is different from either the German or the American federal system. It doesn’t really matter what name it is called. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name is still a rose. Like the Americans will say, ‘It looks like a federal state. It smells like a federal state. It works like a federal state. Damn it, it is a federal state!’ What we should be seeking is a Nigerian federalism that’s unique to Nigeria (and) that allows us to live together without the fear of dominance and marginalisation. It’s those who are dominated who talk about marginalisation; it’s those that are doing the domineering that have the fear that unless they have powers in their hands, they’re going to lose out. They fear being marginalised.

The spate of crime and insecurity has continued to increase. What do you think is responsible for this?

These are hard times but the manifestations are global not just local. I doubt if there is any country in the world that says it feels safer now than it did 10 or 15 years ago because you’re dealing with phenomena that are global in nature. Trans-continental, non-governmental alliance and movements that are not under the control of a government and therefore, the kinds of constraints and restraints that normally govern inter-governmental behaviours are totally absent and Nigeria is not immune to that. Another reason is the lack of an elite consensus in our politics – it’s detrimental to national development.

Perhaps the only time we had elite consensus was between 1953 and 1963. The moment a state of emergency was declared in the South-West in 1962, it destroyed the post-independence elite consensus. It also destroyed the political values by which we maintained stability in the country. I am not saying that era was perfect; we had a system that was predictable. Predictable in the way it was run, predictable in its outcome, and predictable in the objectives by which the country was run – that was what I meant by a competitive federalism. It was destroyed in 1962 because it meant a seizure of power in the West by the Federal Government, by the North and the East. In an attempt to destroy the West, they triggered off forces that ended up destroying Nigeria itself and we have never known peace since then.

Do you think Nigeria is a failing state?

Yes, I do. I think we’re driving down the road to becoming a failed state. But I don’t think we are a failed state. There will always be contestations and some of them could be violent but they’re not sufficient to term a country a failed state, otherwise, nations like the United States of America and Spain may fall in that category. We’re in such an unstable position than we were in the 1960s.

What now is the way out of it?

It has to do with the creation of an elite consensus. Imagine if the elite can get their acts together and we run an honest political system – a political system of governance that delivers dividends. I’m not talking about dividends of democracy. I’m talking about dividends of governance where roads are properly constructed, the challenges in the educational system being effectively addressed, among others. The political gerrymandering that goes on instead of governance where bridges are built where there are no rivers or build river under the bridge.

Published in Business and Economy
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