Saturday, 24 February 2018

NEWS AND STORIES

In an address read by Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos and Conference President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) want President Muhammadu Buhari to act as a father to all by tackling “some glaring failures of government” and lopsidedeness in federal appointments to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging.

We, the representatives of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, bring you our cordial greetings and blessings. We desired this meeting, in order to continue the dialogue we initiated with you even before your election as President. We therefore thank you for granting us this audience, which affords us the opportunity to share with you, once again, our thoughts and concerns on some issues affecting our dear country, Nigeria.

First, we thank God for bringing you back to us after a period of ill health. We hope and pray that you continue to make progress on the way to full recovery, in order to be able to face the enormous challenges emanating from your exalted office.

Your Excellency, needless to say that, as President, you are the father of our dear country Nigeria. It is therefore pertinent that as loyal citizens as well as informed members of the society, we come to you from time to time to express not only our willing cooperation with the government in working for the progress of our country, but also to share with you the feelings of the multitude of Nigerians at this moment. We work with the people at the grassroots and therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through.

There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption.

Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice. Else, we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.

Our concerns

Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, fear… the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.

There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.

Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.

We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes.

We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states which has caused national shock, grief and outcry.

The silence of the Federal Government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take laws into their hands.

We therefore earnestly urge the government to take very seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur.

Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood. We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought, rather than introducing “cattle colonies” in the country.

While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation.

In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country.

The government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern and high-tech devices that would help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law.

The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: “The Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies (Section 14, Sub-section 3-4.

Disregard for this Principle in some Federal Government appointments, as well as perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities, has created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalisation, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring.

These and many more of such problems are, in our opinion, grave matters that should be worrying all political leaders in our country today, rather than any bid for re-election.

Conclusion, assurance of prayers

Our Church has always complemented the efforts of government in such areas as providing quality education and primary health care services to our people.

We continue to make our contribution to nation-building through our prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy. Nigerians whenever we can. As the voice of the voiceless, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion.

We strongly feel that everybody in government at this moment has to take more decisive steps to restore the confidence of the Nigerian people in our governments.

Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy, such as true federalism negotiation and consensus building, as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country and good governance.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria on Thursday told President Muhammadu Buhari that the enormous goodwill with which he assumed office in 2015 is being fast depleted by some “glaring failures” of his government.

The bishops said this when they paid the President a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Their address at the visit, copies of which were made available to journalists, was jointly signed by the CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama; and the Secretary who is also the Bishop of Gboko, Most Rev. William Avenya.

“There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption.

“Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this goodwill is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government, which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders,” the bishops told Buhari.

They regretted that there was too much suffering in the country, with poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence and fear, among others, pervading the land.

They said, “Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.

“There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.

“Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.

“We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed.

“Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes.”

The Catholic Bishops said they were still saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by suspected terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states, which has caused national shock, grief and outcry.

They said the Federal Government’s silence in the wake of the attacks was shocking.

Thursday, 08 February 2018 00:56

Nasarawa Tiv flee to Benue

There is an influx of Tiv residents from Nasarawa State into Benue State, following sustained attacks by suspected Fulani militia.

Suspected Fulani herdsmen are said to have launched attacks on Tiv indigenes in Nasarawa State.

The busy Lafia/Makurdi road has been overtaken by victims of Fulani attacks who are heading towards Benue.

Areas mostly affected are Kadarko, Awe town and the border communities.

Women with children on their back were seen trekking long distances, looking tired and hungry. Some of the children were half-naked, just as men carrying mattresses and personal belongings also fled.

A Nursing mother, Juliana Uma, said her husband and two children were killed after suspected herdsmen attacked their village.

She said she doesn’t know where she was going, but just fleeing for her life.

“Since they killed my husband and children I have to run for my life,” she said.

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom said there are seven IDPs camps with over 100,000 people there. He appealed to the Federal Government to assist with relief materials.

In what could be described as a total humiliation of his health minister, President Muhammadu Buhari has reinstated the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf.

Mr. Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in June 2017, following allegations of gross misconduct.

A panel commissioned by the minister after Mr. Yusuf’s suspension later found him culpable of infractions that ranged from nepotism to theft of public funds.

An administration official familiar with the development told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday evening that Mr. Buhari did not consider Mr. Yusuf’s indictment by a ministerial panel before asking him to return to work.

According to the source, the letter of reinstatement was sent to Mr. Adewole on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Adewole confirmed receipt of the reinstatement letter to PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday night, but did not elaborate on when Mr. Yusuf would resume or under which terms.

“It is true that the president has reinstated him,” Mr. Adewole said.

The reinstatement letter urged Mr. Yusuf to work closely with the minister upon resumption.

Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, did not immediately respond to requests for comments about the development.

For the minister to cooperate with Mr. Yusuf will not be easy, said Eluma Asogwa, a legal practitioner.

“This is a humiliation of the minister,” Mr. Asogwa told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Tuesday night. “He has sent a wrong signal and encouraged insubordination amongst heads of agencies against ministers.”

“This has now become a growing trend that does not portend well for our polity, it does not even augur well for the anti-corruption war of the president,” he said.

Mr. Yusuf did not immediately respond to requests for comments about his reinstatement Tuesday night.

The House of Representatives had demanded Mr. Yusuf’s reinstatement shortly after he was suspended, saying the minister was wrong and absolved the NHIS boss of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Yusuf had also replied the minister that he would not obey the suspension, saying the minister had no powers to suspend him.

Mr. Yusuf, 54, was suspended on July 6 over corruption allegations.

He took over the state-run health insurance provider on July 29, 2016.

But his reign at the agency has been fraught with graft controversies.

The suspension came weeks after the Senate launched investigations into his activities as the NHIS chief.

The lawmakers accused Mr. Yusuf of “corrupt expenditure of N292 million” which he allegedly spent on health care training “without recourse to any appropriate approving authority.”

The NHIS chief denied any wrongdoing.

The panel established by the health minister indicted Mr. Yusuf following which he was suspended indefinitely.

Mr. Adewole in a letter to the embattled NHIS chief, dated October 5, indicated that the committee that investigated Mr. Yusuf had submitted its report.

He said the report had been forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for further action.

 
 

A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, yesterday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that she was holding plea bargain talks with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mrs. Akinjide, Senator Ayo Adeseun, and a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief, Mrs. Olanrewaju Otiti, were accused of laundering N650 million.

EFCC said they allegedly received the money from former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was named in the charge as being at large, ahead of the 2015 general elections.

Trial was billed to resume yesterday with EFCC set to call its witness. But Akinjide’s lawyer Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) said the N650 million had been returned to the Federal Government as part of the plea bargain.

He said: “My lord, the charge before this court is essentially in relation to the PDP campaign funds for the 2015 elections in Oyo.

“Before trial commenced, the defendants, who were chieftains of the PDP in Oyo at the time, acting on the collective decision of the party, decided to refund the monies mentioned in the charge.

“In the light of the above, before the trial commences full-blown, we are imploring the court to allow parties to explore possible amicable settlement.

“I have had a talk with the lead counsel for the prosecution, and so, going forward, we think it wise not to subject this matter to further adjudication, so as not to waste the time and resources of the court.

“In that light, I have suggested that all counsel meet, so as to look at a way forward on this charge, especially considering the fact that the monies complained of, has already been refunded.

“My application, therefore, is that this court adjourns further hearing, pending the outcome of discussion by counsel.”

Prosecuting counsel Rotimi Oyedepo confirmed that the money had been returned, adding that the case was not only about the money, but the fact that the defendants allegedly dealt “with proceeds of unlawful activity”.

He added that the N650 million was recovered from Akinjide and not from chieftains or principal members of the PDP.

Referring to Sections 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Oyedepo said the law allows for such “settlement discussions” by parties.

He said EFCC was not opposed to such discussions even though his witness was in court.

Justice Muslim Hassan adjourned the case to enable parties conclude the talks.

He said: “In line with Section 270 of the ACJA, which allows parties to explore plea bargain, this case will be adjourned.”

The section reads: “The prosecutor may receive and consider a plea bargain from a defendant charged with an offence either directly from that defendant or on his behalf; or offer a plea bargain to a defendant charged with an offence.”

The defendants, who pleaded not guilty, were re-arraigned on a 24-count charge of conspiring to obtain the N650 million from Mrs. Alison-Madueke, a sum EFCC said they reasonably ought to have known “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act”.

Justice Hassan adjourned till February 22.

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 04:03

Metuh brought to court on stretcher

•Trial for March 14

Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Olisa Metuh was brought to court yesterday on a stretcher in compliance with an order of a Federal High Court, Abuja that he must attend court or have his bail revoked.

Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling on January 25, rejected a medical report tendered by Metuh’s lawyers, claiming he was on admission in a hospital.

Instead, the judge ordered Metuh to attend court yesterday or have the bail earlier granted him revoked.

In compliance with that order, his lawyer ensured he was brought to court early yesterday in a white ambulance, belonging to the National Hospital, Abuja.

He was later taken into the courtroom on a stretcher, with the assistance of some medical personnel, friends and relations.

He was covered with a white cloth, with an opening only in his head area, possibly to allow him breathe. He had bandage on his legs and neck area.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited, are being tried on allegations of corruption and money laundering.

When proceedings opened, Metuh’s lawyer Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) told the court that his client was in court in obedience to the court’s order, but was not in a good state to stand trial.

He sought a month’s adjournment within which he said Metuh would have been fit enough to stand trial.

Lawyer to Destra Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN) agreed with Ikpeazu’s position.

Lead prosecution lawyer Sylvanus Tahir said he appreciated the first defendant’s (Metuh’s) health condition, having seen the manner he was brought to court.

Tahir said he was not opposed to the defence’s request for adjournment for a month.

He noted that none of the papers tendered by the defence suggested the length of time that the first defendant will be hospitalised, but added: “We leave the decision about the time to the discretion of the court.

“May I disabuse the mind of everybody (the court, the gallery and the defence team) that we are prosecutors, not persecutors. And in doing that, we have no ill-will or ill-feeling against anybody,” Tahir said.

Ikpeazu appreciated Tahir for his understanding. And, as regard when his client will be fit for trial, he said the doctors were not categorical.

He said: “We believe that within the one month that we have asked, and we pray extensively to that effect, that the first defendant should be fit to continue with his trial.

“That period is a reasonable period for the medical doctors to enter a proper evaluation and assessment of the state of health of the first defendant. We fervently hope and pray that he will be fit to continue with this trial,” Ikpeazu said.

Justice Abang , in his ruling, said he was mindful of granting the adjournment sought by Metuh’s lawyer in view of his state of health and since the prosecution did not oppose the request for adjournment.

The judge added: “A court of law must be firm in its decision. A court of law must be fair to parties in a matter placed before it. And, when occasion demands, a court of law must also be humane.

“I have seen the condition that the first defendant is in the courtroom. On the account of the condition in which I have seen the first defendant in the courtroom, I am inclined to exercise my discretion in his favour in adjourning this matter, at his instance, to enable him receive medical treatment.”

Justice Abang adjourned to March 14 for possible continuation of trial in the case.

At the conclusion of proceedings around 10.15am, Metuh was again moved out of the courtroom, still on the stretcher, into the ambulance stationed close to the court’s main entrance.

EFCC grills 61 suspects

Director returns N240m

WHO GOT WHAT

•N839, 780,738.09 was remitted to Broadwaters Resources. The cash was diverted to liquidate a loan.
•N1, 629,250,000 was paid into the account of Global offshore and Marine Limited out of which about N840m went to Crystal TV Limited. The signatories to the account of Crystal TV are related to Stella Oduah
•About N780million was transferred to Tip Top Global Resources Ltd belonging to the family of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim. Anyim’s staff were discovered to be signatories to the account

There is N9.4 billion meant for the installation of security devices at the 22 airports?

This is the knot the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is battling to untie.

Its detectives have traced about N3.9billion of the N9.4billion to a company belonging to a former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Stella Oduah and five other firms.

The firms are Broadwaters Resources Company Limited; Sobora International Limited; Global offshore and Marine Limited; Tip Top Global Resources Limited and Crystal TV .

About 61 suspects have been grilled by the anti-graft agency in connection with the alleged diversion of the cash.

The EFCC has obtained a court order to impound six dredging vessels, quarry equipment and some equipment bought for Crystal TV under the Interim Forfeiture clause in its Act.

The commission has raised a team to interrogate Mrs Oduah, a senator.

According to a fact-sheet, which was obtained by our correspondent, Tip Top Global Resources Limited, which is linked with the family of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, was paid N780million for unknown services.

The document states: “The contract is for the sum of N9,443,549,531.25 for the procurement and installation of equipment in 22 airports. No evidence that due diligence was carried out before the contract was awarded.

“ This contract was initially awarded to a company called Cybernetics Limited. Ex- President Goodluck Jonathan approved the award to Cybernetics and  the Bureau of Public Procurement issued a certificate of no objection. But due to the reduction of  the cost from over N10b

to N9.4b., Cybernetics rejected the award.

“I-SEC, which was supposed to be technical partner to Cybernetics, was later proposed by the ex-Minister of Aviation for the contract.

”Out of the contract sum, N3, 911, 887, 753.56 was fraudulently diverted, misappropriated and laundered through some companies. Investigators have been able to trace the cash.”

A director of I-SEC is said to have refunded about N240million to EFCC out of the slush funds traced to him. The EFCC has located six dredging vessels, quarry equipment and equipment bought for Crystal TV.  An interim forfeiture order has been obtained on these equipment.

The N3, 911, 887, 753.56 was “paid to other beneficiaries who do not have direct or indirectly connection to the execution of the contract.”

“About N839, 780,738.09 was remitted to Broadwaters Resources Company Limited N839, 780,738.09 which had no relationship with I-SEC.   The cash paid into Broadwaters was later diverted into another firm called Sobora International Limited to liquidate an existing loan into First Bank. The shareholders and signatories to the account are people related to Stella Oduah. Her cousin, who is a staff in her private company called SEA Petroleum and Gas Limited was a signatory into the account.

Another N1, 629,250,000 was paid into the account of Global offshore and Marine Limited out of which about N840m went to Crystal TV Limited. The shareholders and signatories to the account of Crystal TV are related to Stella Oduah and the cash was used to liquidate existing loan by Crystal TV.

“From the same N1.6b, about N780million  was transferred to Tip Top Global Resources Ltd belonging to the family of  a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim where Anyim’s staff were discovered to be signatories to the account.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC has raised a panel to interrogate Sen. Oduah, who is scheduled to appear before the team on February 19th.

“We are set for the ex-Minister’s grilling, it is left to her to keep to the appointment date which she has fixed,” a top source added.

EFCC said: “Oduah was invited on three occasions to report for interview on the 13th June, 2017, 29th June 2017 and 13th November 2017 but she failed to honour any of the invitations.

Rather than appear to face a panel that was raised by the EFCC to interrogate her, Mrs. Oduah, through a letter dated  January 5, 2018, informed the commission that she would  honour the invite on January 29, 2018.

“The letter was duly acknowledged by the commission and just as the investigators were looking forward to her arrival Oduah played a fast one on the EFCC with another letter indicating that she would no longer be available on January 29.

“She cited an invitation by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to accompany him to London where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the House of Commons on January 25.

“Oduah stated that her next convenient date to honour your invitation is 19th February, 2018.”

 

Transparency International has accused the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, of acquiring properties in the United Kingdom with proceeds of corruption worth £15 million.

The properties are located at 7 and 8, Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London.

According to Transparency International, the report was conducted by Unexplained Wealth Orders, a new investigative power designed to help law enforcement agencies act on corrupt assets.

TI said the houses at the two addresses are owned by Landfield International Developments Limited and Renocon Property Development Limited.

The report said the companies are managed by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the Senate president, and one of Saraki’s personal aides.

“The report is particularly useful where there is no realistic prospect of cooperation or conviction in the country of origin, but there are sufficient grounds for suspicion that an asset has been acquired with the proceeds of corruption,” UWO said.

Other people indicted in the report include Igor Shuvalov, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister; Ahmed Mahmoud Azwai, former Libyan Major General; Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan; and First family of Azerbaijan, a country in Asia.

It could be recalled that in 2015, Panama Paper exposed Saraki’s ownership of at least three secret offshore firms, which he allegedly used in concealing assets abroad.

Also In November 2017, Saraki was named among over 120 politicians and leaders in nearly 50 countries who have reportedly been utilising shell companies in tax haven to conceal assets, evade tax or launder funds.

 
 
Sunday, 04 February 2018 23:07

2019: IBB denies statement on Buhari

Former President I brahim Babangida has denied a widely circulated statement in which he urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election  in the 2019 election.

The statement was issued on his behalf by his media Prince Kassim Afegbua.

Babangida  said he has unfettered channel of communication with the highest authorities in the country and does not need to resort to what he called “sensational public correspondence”

According to Babangida, the views  expressed statement  are personal views of the writer.

The statement containing Babangida’s denial is reproduced below:

MY COUNSEL TO THE NATION–BY GENERAL IBRAHIM BADAMASI BABANGIDA, GCFR

Distinguished Members of the Fourth estate of the realm.

It has been drawnd to my attention a press statement on the State of the nation, particularly 2019 general elections and beyond.

Let me categorically state that as former President and Statesman, I have unfettered channel of communication with the highest authorities without sensational public correspondence, therefore those views  expressed over there are personal views of the writer.

However, with due respect to individual opinion and constitutional rights,  it is worrisome that Political events and civil unrest in many part of the country, has raised many questions on the governance and unity. Indeed 2018 is inundated with seasons of literatures on the corporate existence of this country. Many of such literatures have shown concerns of the corporate existence of Nigeria beyond 2019 general elections.

It will be recalled, that in my message to this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, I specifically expressed the dire need for proactive measures to stop farmers/herders clashes in the middle belt, Cattle rustling, armed robbery, Kidnapping, gangsterism and Cultism. Our security agencies have to step up surveillance with more efforts on intelligence gathering for maximum success.

Recent happenings and utterances by political gladiators is alarming and not in the interest of common man that is already overstretched and apparently living from hand to mouth due to precarious economic conditions. Despite all these challenges, I am optimistic that the political actors will play within the ambits of political norms and decorum to ameliorate the problems facing our society now.

I am a realist that believes in all issues in a democratic atmosphere are sincerely discussed and resolved in the spirit of give and take. Since after  my military years that metamorphosed to the only Military President in the history of Nigeria and my civilian life, I always have one clear objective that freedom can only be achieved through democracy. Some people find this freedom as an avenue for eroding democracy by antics of hate speeches under the guise of religion, tribal or self imposed mentorship. This trend of pitching political class and the people is unhealthy and skewed.

The clamour for re-alignment of governance in the country as we are approaching 2019 election year is a welcome development only if the agitations are genuinely channeled through legislation and total supremacy of the constitution . Any attempt outside this circle of democratic tenants is deceptive and divisive idea capable of plunging our political journey into disarray.

Our present political parties and their structures need parameter pillars that will make them more strong with unique ideologies. However, our present political parties need surgical operation that will fusion them in to a reasonable numbers. I have been an advocate of two party systems but in our present reality in Nigeria, our political parties can fusion into strong political association/party that can form a formidable opposition to a ruling party.

As students of history, we are aware that many advanced democracies have two distinct ideological political parties, with a handful of smaller political parties that serve as buffer whenever any of the known political parties derailed or became unpopular. I still believe in two party systems as the best option for Nigeria.

It is high time that, we dialogue more on any issue in order to have a political solution on any problem affecting us. It is sad that, Nigeria had its fare share of conflicts, and we cannot continue to fall back to those dark years of bloodshed.

As a people, now is the time to come together to address all Communal conflicts and criminality under any guise to further unite the country in line with the vision of our founding fathers so that as a nation, we can forge ahead in the task of building a more prosperous nation.

SIGNED:

GENERAL IBRAHIM BADAMASI BABANGIDA GCFR, FORMER MILITARY PRESIDENT & COMMANDER IN-CHIEF OF NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES.

1 UPHILL DRIVE, MINNA.

SUNDAY, 04TH FEBRUARY, 2018.

Barely two weeks after a similar advice, ex-Military President, Ibrahim Babangida has asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
He urged Buhari to complete his first term and allow a new generation of leaders to take control of the affiars of the nation.
Babangida gave the advice in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday through his media aide, Prince Kassim Afegbua.
 
“In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29th, 2019 and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country.
 
“While offering this advice, I speak as a stakeholder, former president, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running. While saying this also, I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest,” Bababgida stated.
 
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a recent statement advised President Buhari against re-contesting for the presidency in 2019.
 

FULL TEXT OF IBB'S STATEMENT: 

TOWARDS A NATIONAL REBIRTH

In the past few months and weeks, I have played host to many concerned Nigerians who have continued to express legitimate and patriotic worry about the state of affairs in the country. Some of them have continued to agonize about the turn of events and expressly worried why we have not gotten our leadership compass right as a country with so much potential and opportunity for all. Some, out of frustration, have elected to interrogate the leadership question and wondered aloud why it has taken this long from independence till date to discover the right model on account of our peculiarities. At 57, we are still a nation in search of the right leadership to contend with the dynamics of a 21st century Nigeria.

Having been privileged to preside over this great country, interacted with all categories of persons, dissected all shades of opinions, understudied different ethnic groupings; I can rightfully conclude that our strength lies in our diversity. But exploring and exploiting that diversity as a huge potential has remained a hard nut to crack, not because we have not made efforts, but building a consensus on any national issue often has to go through the incinerator of those diverse ethnic configurations. Opinions in Nigeria are not limited to the borders of the political elite; in fact, every Nigerian no matter how young or old, has an opinion on any national issue. And it is the function of discerning leadership to understand these elemental undercurrents in the discharge of state responsibilities.

WHERE WE ARE

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at a major crossroads at this moment in its history; the choices we are going to make as a nation regarding the leadership question of this country and the vision for our political, economic and religious future will be largely determined by the nature or kind of change that we pursue, the kind of change that we need and the kind of change that we get. A lot depends on our roles both as followers and leaders in our political undertakings. As we proceed to find the right thesis that would resolve the leadership question, we must bear in mind a formula that could engender national development and the undiluted commitment of our leaders to a resurgence of the moral and ethical foundations that brought us to where we are as a pluralistic and multi-ethnic society.

Nigeria, before now, has been on the one hand our dear native land, where tribes and tongues may differ but in brotherhood we stand, and on the other hand a nation that continues to struggle with itself and in every way stumbling and willful in its quest to become a modern state, starting from the first republic till date. With our huge investments in the African emancipation movements and the various contributions that were made by our leadership to extricate South Africa from colonial grip, Nigeria became the giant of Africa during that period. But having gone through leadership failures, we no longer possess the sobriety to claim that status. And we all are guilty.

We have experimented with Parliamentary and Presidential systems of government amid military interregnum at various times of our national history. We have made some progress, but not good enough to situate us on the pedestal we so desirously crave for. It is little wonder therefore that we need to deliberately provoke systems and models that will put paid to this recycling leadership experimentation to embrace new generational leadership evolution with the essential attributes of responsive, responsible and proactive leadership configuration to confront the several challenges that we presently face.

In 2019 and beyond, we should come to a national consensus that we need new breed leadership with requisite capacity to manage our diversities and jump-start a process of launching the country on the super highway of technology-driven leadership in line with the dynamics of modern governance. It is short of saying enough of this analogue system. Let’s give way for digital leadership orientation with all the trappings of consultative, constructive, communicative, interactive and utility-driven approach where everyone has a role to play in the process of enthroning accountability and transparency in governance.

I am particularly enamored that Nigerians are becoming more and more conscious of their rights; and their ability to speak truth to power and interrogate those elected to represent them without fear of arrest and harassment. These are part of the ennobling principles of representative democracy. As citizens in a democracy, it is our civic responsibility to demand accountability and transparency. Our elected leaders owe us that simple but remarkable accountability creed. Whenever we criticize them, it is not that we do not like their guts; it is just that as stakeholders in the political economy of the country, we also carry certain responsibilities.

In the past few months also, I have taken time to reflect on a number of issues plaguing the country. I get frightened by their dimensions. I get worried by their colourations. I get perplexed by their gory themes. From Southern Kaduna to Taraba state, from Benue state to Rivers, from Edo state to Zamfara, it has been a theatre of blood with cake of crimson. In Dansadau in Zamfara state recently, North-West of Nigeria, over 200 souls were wasted for no justifiable reason. The pogrom in Benue state has left me wondering if truly this is the same country some of us fought to keep together. I am alarmed by the amount of blood-letting across the land. Nigeria is now being described as a land where blood flows like river, where tears have refused to dry up. Almost on a daily basis, we are both mourning and grieving, and often times left helpless by the sophistication of crimes. The Boko Haram challenge has remained unabated even though there has been commendable effort by government to maximally downgrade them. I will professionally advise that the battle be taken to the inner fortress of Sambisa Forest rather than responding to the insurgents’ ambushes from time to time.

 

THINKING ALOUD

In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29th, 2019 and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country. While offering this advice, I speak as a stakeholder, former president, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running. While saying this also, I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest. This is the time for us to reinvent the will and tap into the resourcefulness of the younger generation, stimulate their entrepreneurial initiatives and provoke a conduce environment to grow national economy both at the micro and macro levels.

Contemporary leadership has to be proactive and not reactive. It must factor in citizens’ participation. Its language of discourse must be persuasive not agitated and abusive. It must give room for confidence building. It must build consensus and form aggregate opinion on any issue to reflect the wishes of the people across the country. It must gauge the mood of the country at every point in time in order to send the right message. It must share in their aspirations and give them cause to have confidence in the system. Modern leadership is not just about “fighting” corruption, it is about plugging the leakages and building systems that will militate against corruption. Accountability in leadership should flow from copious examples. It goes beyond mere sloganeering. My support for a new breed leadership derives from the understanding that it will show a marked departure from recycled leadership to creating new paradigms that will breathe fresh air into our present polluted leadership actuality.

My intervention in the governance process of Nigeria wasn’t an accident of history. Even as a military government, we had a clear-cut policy agenda on what we needed to achieve. We recruited some of the best brains and introduced policies that remain some of the best in our effort to re-engineer our polity and nation. We saw the future of Nigeria but lack of continuity in government and of policies killed some of our intentions and initiatives. Even though we did not provide answers to all the developmental challenges that confronted us as at that time, we were not short of taking decisions whenever the need arose.

GROWING INSECURITY ON OUR HANDS

The unchecked activities of the herdsmen have continued to raise doubt on the capacity of this government to handle with dispatch, security concerns that continue to threaten our dear nation; suicide bombings, kidnappings, armed banditry, ethnic clashes and other divisive tendencies. We need to bring different actors to the roundtable. Government must generate platform to interact and dialogue on the issues with a view to finding permanent solutions to the crises. The festering nature of this crisis is an inelegant testimony to the sharp divisions and polarizations that exist across the country. For example, this is not the first time herdsmen engage in pastoral nomadism but the anger in the land is suggestive of the absence of mutual love and togetherness that once defined our nationality. We must collectively rise up to the occasion and do something urgently to arrest this drift. If left unchecked, it portends danger to our collective existence as one nation bound by common destiny; and may snowball into another internecine warfare that would not be good for nation-building.

We have to reorient the minds of the herdsmen or gun-men to embrace ranching as a new and modern way to herd cattle. We also need to expand the capacity of the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Army, the Navy and Air Force to provide the necessary security for all. We need to catch up with modern sophistication in crime detection and crime fighting. Due to the peculiarity of our country, we must begin community policing to close the gaps that presently exist in our policing system. We cannot continue to use old methods and expect new results. We just have to constructively engage the people from time to time through platforms that would help them ventilate their opinions and viewpoints.

THE CHANGE MANTRA

When the ruling party campaigned with the change mantra, I had thought they would device new methods, provoke new initiatives and proffer new ways to addressing some of our developmental problems. By now, in line with her manifesto, one would have thought that the APC will give fillip to the idea of devolution of powers and tinker with processes that would strengthen and reform the various sectors of the economy. Like I did state in my previous statement late last year, devolution of power or restructuring is an idea whose time has come if we must be honest with ourselves. We need to critically address the issue and take informed positions based on the expectations of the people on how to make the union work better. Political parties should not exploit this as a decoy to woo voters because election time is here. We need to begin the process of restructuring both in the letter and spirit of it.

For example, I still cannot reconcile why my state government would not be allowed to fix the Minna-Suleja road, simply because it is called Federal Government road, or why state governments cannot run their own policing system to support the Federal Police. We are still experiencing huge infrastructural deficit across the country and one had thought the APC-led Federal Government would behave differently from their counterparts in previous administrations. I am hesitant to ask; where is the promised change?

LOOKING AHEAD

At this point of our national history, we must take some rather useful decisions that would lead to real development and promote peaceful co-existence among all the nationalities. We must be unanimous in what we desire for our country; new generation leadership, result-driven leadership, sound political foundation, demonetization of our politics, enhanced internal democracy, elimination of impunity in our politics, inclusiveness in decision-making, and promotion of citizens’ participation in our democratic process. The search for that new breed leadership must start now as we prepare for 2019 election.

I get worried when politicians visit to inform me about their aspirations and what you hear in terms of budgetary allocations for electoral contest does not cover voters’ education but very ridiculous sub-heads. A typical aspirant in Nigeria draws up budget to cover INEC, Police, Army and men and officers of the Civil Defense, instead of talking of voters’ education, mobilization and sensitization. Even where benchmarks are set for electoral expenditure, monitoring and compliance are always difficult to adhere to. We truly need to reform the political system. And we must deliberately get fresh hands involved for improved participation.

We need new ways and new approaches in our political order. We need a national rebirth. We need a rebranded Nigeria and rebranded politics. It is not so much for the people, but for the institutions that are put in place to promote our political engagements. We must strengthen the one man one vote mantra. It is often ridiculous for me when people use smaller countries in our West Africa sub-region as handy references of how democracy should be. It beggars our giant of Africa status.

The next election in 2019 therefore presents us a unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realized in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus. I pray the Almighty Allah grant us the gift of good life to witness that glorious dawn in 2019. Amen. I have not written an open letter to the President, I have just shared my thoughts with fellow compatriots on the need to enthrone younger blood into the mainstream of our political leadership starting from 2019.

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