Sunday, September 27, 2020
MARKET UPDATE
Advertisement

TheCable

Advertisement
 ON THE GO

Mr President, take charge!

Mr President, take charge!
July 18
23:12 2020

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari, I come to you in peace. Nevertheless, I do not have a nicer way of putting this to you: your government is falling apart. I do not know how to make it sound less brutal. That is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth — at least judging from where I stand. I have not seen a government so openly at war with itself like the one you have been heading since 2015. I will be honest and say when you were being inaugurated on May 29, 2015, I expected a lot of negative things to be said about your stewardship, but I never for one moment thought you would be accused of heading a government devilled by chaos, indiscipline and corruption.

Advertisement

Where do I start from? Is it the 2017 spectacle when you nominated Mallam Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Mallam Lawal Daura, your appointee as the DG of the Department of State Services (DSS), wrote to the senate to counter your choice? Or the latest episode of indiscipline when police officers were deployed to the house of Mrs Joi Nunieh, former MD of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to intimidate her on a day she was supposed to testify about the massive corruption in the agency? I never knew it would come to this and it breaks my heart to be discussing these curious anomalies with you this morning.

To be sure, Mr President, I do not discount the progress you are making in several areas of our national life. I will be the first to applaud you on the infrastructural projects across the country despite the paucity of funds. I usually tell people that if you were president when crude oil was selling for $100, Nigeria would be one huge construction site. I am definitely impressed with the progress on road construction, the second Niger Bridge, railways and, to some extent, power. I am also very happy that in agriculture, you have taken concrete steps to lift us out of dependency on certain food imports. That you are also pursuing more key reforms is something I appreciate.

However, Your Excellency, you would also agree with me that Nigerians expected more from you in terms of security of life and property. We thought Boko Haram was our biggest headache when you came to office, but we have witnessed an explosion in farmers/herders clashes and your body language has made many conclude, even if unfairly, that you are treating the herdsmen with kid gloves. Banditry is overrunning the north-west and kidnapping appears intractable. We can argue from today till tomorrow on the remote and immediate causes of the insecurity, but the long and short of it is that you were not elected to give excuses. All that Nigerians want is result.

Advertisement

Most disturbing, Mr President, is that even your unique selling point — the war against indiscipline and corruption — is becoming a subject of public ridicule. There are a million examples I can cite as proof of evidence but I will limit myself to a few today. Just a couple of weeks ago, Dr Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and productivity, said he had your approval to suspend the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). The management wrote back to reject, as it were, your directive. Some of them even reported for work the following day. This is anarchy, Mr President. You would agree with me that this is far below our expectations of you.

The civil wars in your government are an open sore. A few weeks ago, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, and Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), were at each other’s throat on Twitter over the forceful ejection of NIDCOM staff and property from the building of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). That a government agency will eject another government agency should be enough embarrassment; that you did not take any step to address this (well, maybe you did secretly) is even more disturbing. Things continued thereafter as if the incident was just a rude interruption.

Your Excellency, should we talk about the glaring lack of co-ordination in your government? On June 16, 2020, Mr Sale Mamman, the minister of power, said he had approval from you to ask Ms Marilyn Amobi, the MD of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), to proceed on terminal leave. Same day, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, said she also had approval from you to ask Amobi to serve out her tenure till July 24. Mamman even had an approval from you to appoint a new MD for a company that is under the supervision another ministry! And, by the way, Ahmed is the chairman of the NBET board. This is nothing both unprecedented chaos, Mr President.

Advertisement

The power-drunk minister of power had, in December 2019, also suspended the same NBET MD (Good grief! There must be a lot of ogbono soup in this NBET) and the MD of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Security agencies were immediately deployed in their offices to ensure compliance. A few days later, the decisions were reversed. This was clear dissonance. When the perpetually power-drunk minister sacked Usman Gur Mohammed as the MD of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in May, Mr Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), issued a statement that smelt of exasperation. What’s going on in your government, Mr President?

Your Excellency, by far the most distressing development is that the anti-grant war, which used to be your major feat, is now all over the place. Magu, the anti-graft Czar, has himself been accused of various infractions — some of them contained in reports submitted to you as far back as many years ago. Why did it take you so long to act? If indeed those allegations are true, it should be a major indictment on you, Mr President, that right under your nose, all these things were happening and you did not act swiftly. Magu has vehemently denied the allegations, but the way the whole thing has been handled is damaging to the anti-graft war and hurtful to the EFCC as an institution.

Mr President, are you monitoring the developments in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)? Did you hear Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, the acting MD, tell a senate panel that he spent N1.5 billion as COVID-19 relief on the staff? Did you hear him brazenly tell the committee that “we took care of ourselves”, Mr President? Did you hear him? And he is still in office, Mr President? That any of your appointees could make such a reckless statement on record shows how low they rate your anti-graft war. If anybody ever told me, Your Excellency, that you would head a government in which such shenanigans are not instantly punished, I would have laughed maniacally.

Senator Godswill Akpabio remains a minister in your cabinet despite his reckless denigration of a woman’s marital status on TV! Grievous allegations were levelled against him and instead of him to go straight to the point, he said the woman had four husbands — pretending to be discussing anger issues when indeed he was denigrating her person in a clear case of sexism. I doubt he would have said such about a fellow man who had gone through divorces. That Akpabio even took the allegations lightly, turning them into a joke, is also a serious indictment on your government, Mr President. It is very clear that even among your cabinet members, there is no sense of responsibility.

Advertisement

No, Mr President, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying I expected you to stamp out corruption in five years. That would be magic. In my article of July 5, 2015 titled “The One Thing President Buhari Must Do” (five weeks after your government was inaugurated), my key argument was that while you cannot eliminate corruption 100 percent, you can deal with the impunity. I wrote: “If President Muhammadu Buhari would have just a one-point agenda, it should be an all-out war against impunity. In place of War against Corruption, I would propose War against Impunity… There is no corruption-free country in the world. However, what gives Nigeria the gold medal is the impunity.”

I’m afraid to say, Mr President, that the impunity has continued nonstop. The persona you brought into office in 2015 as “Mr No-nonsense” is disappearing. “If Buhari catches you” no longer scares anybody, as we all can see. The fear factor is gone. Every day, we hear mind-boggling allegations of financial recklessness, corruption and impunity. We are back to “normal service”. Dear Mr President, you came to office reputed as a president who would act decisively, firmly and swiftly. Where did the rain begin to beat you, Mr President? It’s time to take back your government, rid your cabinet of dubious characters and restore your reputation. We can do with some leadership at this stage.

I will tell you two things, Mr President. If things continue like this, we can only move from bad to worse. One, more ministers and more agency heads will lose control and we will continue to try and settle the matter week in, week out. Also, Your Excellency, remember that you effectively have only two years before 2023 politicking takes over the landscape completely. Those two critical years will likely be wasted if this drift continues, especially as political forces interested in 2023 will use the cover to try to cancel out one another. That is why you have to take control now, halt the civil wars in your government and come out of your shell to stir the Nigerian ship firmly before it is too late.

Please accept, Your Excellency, assurances of my highest consideration.

Advertisement

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…


RIP, TOLULOPE

Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, died in a reported “freak car accident” on Tuesday, bringing a blossoming career to an abrupt end. She was flying high, helping her fatherland combat banditry in the north-west and doing the womenfolk proud in a field where they have to be thrice as good as men to be considered good enough. Sadly, the 24-year-old soldier did not fall to enemy fire. She died in cheap and bizarre circumstances. It is comforting, though, that she lived her dreams. Her father, Akintunde, said when she was little, she pointed to a small aircraft and said, “Dad, one day, I am going to fly that aircraft”. What a loss. Devastating.

KEEN ON VACCINE

It was double good news on Wednesday: it emerged that two vaccine trials are showing good prospects in the race against time to contain the novel coronavirus. The trials in the UK and US indicate that the volunteers developed immunity against the virus, which has sent our world on a downward spiral. UK scientists are so confident that by September, the jab will be ready. AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, is on standby to roll out two billion doses. With over 14 million cases and 600,000 deaths worldwide, we can definitely do with the vaccine or cure now. The world needs to go back to as normal as possible in the meantime. Hopeful.

Advertisement

LAWLESS VIPS

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been complaining publicly about the disgraceful conduct of some Nigerian “big men” and their aides at the airports, where they are refusing to use hand sanitisers and are also not allowing their body temperature to be taken in line with the established protocols. They claim to be VIPs. That’s a big shame. VIP could also stand for “Very Important Patient”, in case they don’t know. With the number of high-profile Nigerians that have been felled by the coronavirus, you would expect normal human beings to respect themselves as well as other people by obeying the simple protocols for the sake of health and safety. Disgusting.

SIT-TIGHT CLERK

The Nigerian civil service rules are so clear — you retire when you clock 60 years of age or on the 35th anniversary of your appointment, except for specialists such as lecturers and judges who are allowed to stay a bit longer because of skill scarcity. But the national assembly would have none of this. Through some unbelievable amendment, it raised its own threshold to 40 years of service without due process — allegedly to reward Mr Mohammed Sani-Omolori, the clerk, for whatever reason. Sani-Omolori has been fighting tooth and nail to sit tight till he spends 40 years, but even if he spends 50 years, he will still have to retire one day and leave the “ogbono” soup behind. Myopic.

3 Comments

  1. Nuhu nimlan
    Nuhu nimlan July 19, 06:05

    It saddens me to read this but they say the truth shall set you free,this is the truth like it or hate it.mr president do the needful.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Patriot
    Patriot July 21, 04:56

    This is a very epic and sober article and piece that if President Buhari would read and carefully reflect upon will help him change and do the needful. I really pray the President reads this and also that he will resist the sycophantic and hypocritical antics and assurances of the acolytes and beneficiaries that he has surrounded himself with such as Garba Shehu and the attorney general who would not tell the President the truth.
    God bless you Mr Kolawole.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Abas
    Abas July 24, 13:32

    *RE: MR PRESIDENT, TAKE CHARGE!!!*

    Dear Mr Simon Kolawole, I read your article with the above-mentioned caption. I wish to make a response to some of the issues you raised because I am compelled as a good citizen of Nigeria to let the truth go out there. I happen to be a strong advocate for empathy and respect for the situational challenges leaders in third-world states like Nigeria face; and I am glad that you’ve been very respectful and factual in your issue-based query of the Buhari administration.

    A convenient place to begin would be the 2017 “spectacle” concerning the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman. It is unfortunate that you should presume that the fact that Mr President appointed the DSS DG somehow renders the appointee a puppet or robotic simulation of all the wishes and desires of the President. I like to assume that a great many people would have been heckling that Mr Buhari is stifling the intelligence community if he dared interfere with the lawful purview of the DSS to carry out background checks on appointees of the federal government. The truth of the matter is that the intelligence community would always make reports and counter-reports irrespective of the man who appointed them. That is clearly not a matter of “chaos” as you erroneously rendered it; it is a commonsensical instance of the independence and functionality of strong institutions (which public commentators have not relented in calling for).

    On the issue of Joi Nunieh’s “intimidation”, you seem to assume that Mr. President is the sought of person who is always snooping round to see what the security forces may potentially come up with or had a degree in mind-reading. It was clear that Madam Nunieh was needed for questioning and these are effectively matters of law enforcement for which the President’s schedule should not understandably place him at the origins of. It was not the President who intimidated an appointee of his; or instigated the Police to do so.

    I appreciate you immensely for highlighting the positive strides of this administration in terms of infrastructure. Too many people rather choose to be oblivious of the hard work this government has put into redeeming the country’s infrastructure.

    On the issue of security, I would like for some things to be made abundantly clear. On the Boko Haram part, we must not gloss over the fact that the attack capabilities of the group have been effectively reduced to the fringes of the Lake Chad region and soft targets within that area. Before now, Abuja was unsafe to live in; and the stories of bomb blasts at markets, religious centres and parks were all normal news items. We must understand that the war on insurgency is not one wherein we can channel our arsenal as we like and blow them all to smithereens. While targeting Boko Haram, special care is taken to avoid civilian casualties and rescue captives. The insurgents make use of human shields and hostages because they know that armed conflict laws would punish our forces for targeting those vulnerable populations. Our troops on the ground cannot commit war crimes or conduct indiscriminate attacks, and this is a key factor stalling the annihilation of Boko Haram elements. Be assured that our forces are working hard to overcome these setbacks by cutting supply lines and blockading them into surrender- but these take time.

    On the herders part, it would be unfair to target entire members of a trade as security threats. The truth is that a lot of elements erroneously named “herders” are actually cattle rustlers and other bandits that are trying to sustain their looted cattle. The genuine herders are trying hard to live with their host communities and cooperate. When this issue is raised, many Nigerians think about the Benue situation, wherein numerous instances of alleged “farmer/herder” crises were reported. Much later and nearer to the truth, it emerged that the crisis was largely due to the long-standing Tiv/Jukun Tribal clashes in the area. You may avail yourself of media reports wherein Gov. Samuel Ortom intervened to settle those communal clashes and the stories of alleged “genocide” died naturally. Does this not point to the fact that someone was trying to make a group look bad?

    As to the matter of banditry, we must understand the fluidity of the situation. This sought of security threat is deemed in defence circles as non-conventional warfare with the specific type being guerrilla warfare. The US Army has had a long-running battle with Taliban Guerrilla groups in Afghanistan for nearly two decades. In the last couple of months, the Nigerian Air force had scaled up surveillance in affected regions, deploying attack helicopters, drones and reconnaissance devices to perceived hideouts. Additionally, as at December 2019, Mr President had approved the acquisition of attack drones by states compounded with challenges of banditry in addition to those of the NAF. Unexpectedly, the importation of drones was made undesirably in the face of this pandemic. While Mr President was not elected to “give excuses”, we must learn the fine distinction between stating the obvious or making factual reports to the citizens and the claim of “making excuses”. The President needs results more desperately than you can imagine, but we shouldn’t be obtuse about our demands.

    As to the disagreements between ministries, departments and agencies of the government, we must remember the famed comment “this is not a banana republic”. Mr President understands the due process of the Civil Service. Anyone expecting the President to attend to squabbles and circumvent laid-down channels for resolution such as the Head of Civil Service, the SGF or even the Chief of Staff to the President is merely displaying a want of administrative wit. Maybe one expects the President to be absent from the affairs of state and become a dispute resolution officer with adults who have a structure for containing and dealing with their malfeasance. You refer to Twitter allegations and counter-allegations as an open sore: What would you say of high-level disagreements among officials in the US happening through different administrations; or disagreements between cabinet members in the UK government? We should have grown beyond this primitive idea of a kindergarten President who demeans himself with issues which would be resolved if both parties cared enough to see it through. Somehow a lot of people incorrectly think that the issues begging for the President’s attention are worth comparing to the mundane public shows by officials which fascinate so many Nigerians.

    As to the issue of mistaken authority to sack or relive of other officials of this government, I would like to make two points: First, what if someone was lying or misrepresenting some facts or assuming undesignated authority? Secondly if there was some misunderstanding among these officials, why should we assume that they are immune to the natural dispositions of regular human beings like us? Do we want to fanaticize a utopian government where MDAs don’t disagree? What makes it so much of a chaos if the matter has been resolved and parties have moved on?

    On the Magu investigation, you rightly mentioned that some of these infractions were reported years ago. At that time, the report included issues such as Magu flying in first class, his act of taking files home from the office, and so on. Maybe Mr. President decided to give him a probation period; maybe he felt that the man didn’t have the opportunity to defend himself; maybe the allegations had not reached the threshold in law as to show reasonable cause why Magu should not be confirmed. As you have pointed out, Magu denies the allegation; and until they are proven, they are all merely unsubstantiated allegations.

    As to the NDDC issue you raised, I think we are all shocked at the revelations coming to light. You seem to forget that these matters are a subject of probe and investigation. The Acting MD has to stay at his post and remedy his wrong. The issue of sacking him might leave the Commission without an official to walk us through the extent this mess goes. I am speaking plainly from a personal view, but I think letting a corrupt person go when he oversaw something this grand is definitely not helpful. He should be prosecuted of course, but he should tell us all he knows through the hearings. I trust that we should be glad that a forensic audit of the commission is happening under this administration. No one would have heard of the institutionalized corruption in that agency had it not been for Mr. President. We know he’ll see this through.

    About Minister Akpabio, I think we should be clear with the difference between allegations and counter-allegations in relation to tangible facts and hard evidence. I know for a fact that criticism would start pouring in all the same if Mr President responds to every rumour peddled by anyone in the media space. I would like to refer you to the US congressional confirmation hearings for Judge Clearance Thomas, wherein allegations were made against a judge but the Reagan administration was not impulsive or temperamental enough to sack him. Maybe we want a brash leader who goes on a sacking spree anytime some channel carries a story!

    It is simply cheering that you recognised the “no-nonsense” persona of Mr President. We miss that side of him together. But we should have remembered that he was serious when he stepped out of military fatigue and adorned the civilian attire. Already, many citizens have the delusion that Mr. President is some dictator or an absolutist. What do you think they would all do if he “restored the reputation” of “if Buhari catches you”? I can only imagine more fake news and demeaning public comments and a hail of unrest. Times have changed and the government of Nigeria needs to become that of laws and not of men- Mr President is consciously working to deliver that sought of Nigeria. It might not do the trick immediately, but that is certainly the kind of nation he knows we deserve. Regarding the ministers and officials, it is time to make our words become action and implement the solutions we think we have as appointees: Get the needed skills and integrity, position yourself with the needed qualification, and build the needed network whether through the relevant political parties or independent of them. Thank you for your letter: I am sure your issues have been addressed.

    – Abasibiangake Akpabio

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment