Babatunde Raji Fashola: Great Promise, Hope Inspired By Reuben Abati

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Babatunde Raji Fashola: Great Promise, Hope Inspired . By Reuben Abati

Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos state, 46, is The Guardian's Man of the Year. In a country where leadership is considered an opportunity for vainglorious indolence, Fashola since his assumption of office in 2007 has shown that it is possible in the midst of so much rot to provide leadership, to act with a sense of purpose in official corridors, and to bring to the task of governance such transparency that inspires and attracts admiration. It is refreshing to find in the midst of so much mediocrity an example that is worthy of celebration. Deciding on Fashola however was no easy task. There were questions as to whether or not he showed up on the short list for this year because of the proximity of his seat of government to the media in Lagos.

Afterall, Governors in other parts of the country also appear to be making an effort. Members of the opposition have also claimed elsewhere that Fashola's government appears productive because Lagos state enjoys a high revenue profile. To this may be added the observation that generally many state governors tend to do well in their first two years or first term, only to falter woefully when they win election for a second term in office. In Fashola's case, it would appear that his troubles may have just started in the face of cynical statements about him by the leadership of the State House of Assembly and controversies as to who between him and his predecessor in office is "the better administrator." This is a needless comparison that has occasioned curious newspaper advertorials. How he manages the challenges would in the long run determine the final shape of his stewardship.

Will Fashola falter and be distracted? Will he lose the will to perform and excel? What is clear so far is that Fashola has made the greatest impression on the public imagination, with the concrete and verifiable manner in which his administration has given the state of Lagos a new face lift, the rigour that he has brought to the leadership process, the high standards with which he appears to be leading the Lagos team, the passion that he has brought to the job. Governors of other states, foreign dignitaries and visitors, as well as ordinary citizens arrive in Lagos and they remark, following the evidence of their eyes, upon how much has been done in Lagos within such a short time. The popular adulation that Fashola has enjoyed should draw attention to a major crisis in the Nigerian process; the failure of leadership.

The standard assumption that the arena of governance is an arena of primitive accumulation of wealth; the sense of power being a personal property often results in the discounting of the electorate. Every man or woman who is privileged to gain access to the levers of power, soon responds to personal greed and so-called pressures from others, these being the well-entrenched rent collectors in the Nigerian environment and gullible hangers-on, and in due course, governance is abandoned, public wealth is frittered away and unnecessary excuses are made for failure and inefficiency. Fashola has been able to side-step this major encumbrance to focus on the assignment that the people of Lagos gave him in 2007, and it is this that accounts for his differentness, and perhaps also, ironically, his hubris. The lesson of his achievement is that Nigerians are actually not looking for saints, and we do not by any measure assume that our Man of The Year is a saint; we have no evidence to that effect. Nigerians are looking for leaders who are willing to pursue an agenda and see such through. They want leaders who appear well-meaning and also defend the people's interests. Fashola has made concrete efforts that the people can point to.

What we celebrate about him is ironic: in the first place, governments are supposed to do what governments are constitutionally meant to do: act in a manner, provide facilities and policies, which promote the well-being and happiness of the people, and yet it is for this reason that we celebrate Fashola, the Governor of Lagos state. That this is so is a reflection of the state of Nigeria's underdevelopment and the poverty of its political culture. What in concrete terms has Fashola done to merit our attention? He has proven in the last year to be not just a hardworking Governor, a Governor who makes promises and keeps them, but also an emerging leader of great potential. When he showed up on the political rostrum in 2007, barely 44, ahead of the Gubernatorial elections, he had engaged Nigerians with a simple but telling slogan: Eko o oni baje o. One possible translation is that it shall be well with Lagos, or that the state of Lagos will continue to excel. Under his watch, Fashola has kept this promise by focussing passionately on service delivery, by making the people, the ordinary people of Lagos state, the centrepiece of his administration's focus and concern.

A major bane of the development process in Nigeria has been that elected officials or persons in leadership positions make fine-sounding promises to the people but they do so in vain. The moment they seize the reins of power, they do the precise opposite; they renounce the social contract, there is therefore such insufferable disconnect between election-time campaigns and actual performance in office. Fashola is of a different mould. The city of Lagos, the state capital to start with, bears all the marks of a city that is under the careful watch of a responsive government. Obviously inspired by the example of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, the miracle worker who moved Singapore from the Third World to the First, Fashola's government began with the beautification of the city of Lagos. A vast urban conurbation, the city-state with its close to 18 million population, presents special challenges. It is one of such cities that requires all-round, unrelenting attention. Out of the chaos, Fashola's government has been able to show that which is possible; he has in this and other regards demonstrated that hope is not lost in Nigeria, and that with a little effort so much can be achieved. Many streets in Lagos are now lined with beautiful flowers, and parks, Central Lagos wears a new look, dark spots, once the rendezvous of petty crooks have been fitted with street lights. Oshodi, once a fearsome haunt of lawless merchants of everything include flesh, has also been transformed into a welcoming ambience. Gone are the irreverent traders and their shacks blocking the highway and the railway tracks; gone are the marijuana-smoking underlings of the neighbourhood; gone are the crazy drivers turning every corner into a bus stop; gone also are many illegal shops across the city.

All of a sudden, the Oshodi of old vanished to give room for order. In other parts of the city, such orderliness has been imposed, be it on Ikorodu road, or the Airport-Maryland stretch, or on Western avenue. Many side streets whose residents never expected government to remember their neighbourhoods have had their roads been tarred. Across the city and around the state, there is so much construction work going on. The streets are swept clean on a daily basis, the government is committed to climate change as well. Whatever the government sets its mind to do, it makes an effort to accomplish it, and the people can see and experience this, proving the point that governance is to be measured in terms of quality and impact and its promotion of the common good.

Fashola's strides can also be seen in the health sector, in transportation, education, and even more in security. There was in the course of 2009, a number of security glitches in Lagos including the attack on Atlas Cove jetty which caught the security agencies napping. There were also cases of assassination, murder and armed robbery but significantly, government-private sector and public partnership under the auspices of the Lagos State Security Fund has resulted, as admitted officially by the Lagos State Police Command in a sharp reduction in crime rate.
The evidence of that success can be further seen in the high level of co-operation that the state government's initiative continues to enjoy among members of the public, possibly the most remarkable in this respect being the eventual acceptance by Landlords Associations across the state to keep gated streets open till midnight. Hitherto, Lagos had been seized with such fear and anxiety that most streets were kept under lock and key for hours on end, to prevent outsiders from using such streets as thoroughfare. This had serious implications for security and free vehicular and human movement. In the last one year, the gates have gone either down or they are kept open: an acknowledgement of the improvement in the security situation. With its support for the Rapid Response Squad and the fund-raising and management efforts of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, and the reduction in crime rate, the Lagos State Government under Fashola's watch has succeeded in making a much stronger argument for the introduction of state police.

The Fashola government is however by no means perfect. The local councils appear indolent, conceding innovation and creativity to the state government which in its relationship with the councils also appears unduly overbearing, a strange scenario given Fashola's continuing insistence on the rule of law and federalism and his pedigree as a lawyer. The Fashola government has also had a few conflicts with the public on issues of taxation, particularly the land use charge, and allegations of multiple taxation. Generally, land allocation, and approval processes in Lagos remain veritable signals of inefficiency and absent-mindedness even if so much funds are spent regularly advertising government's commitment to make the process painless for the public. The hypocrisy of such declarations and the corruption within the system clearly indicate that there is still a lot of work to be done by the Fashola administration.
More attention also needs to be paid to the disposal of environmental waste, the provision of regular electricity, and providing an effective, multi-modal mass transit system in Lagos. The Fashola administration often likes to boast about how it has raised the state's internally generated revenue considerably within the last two years, and quite significantly in the past year. Prudence may have been an enabling factor, but an irritating exploitation of the tax and charges option is more the reason. During the presentation of the Lagos State 2010 Budget before the State House of Assembly, the Speaker of the House in a rather abrasive speech, had accused Governor Fashola, in passing, of over-concentrating on the Lagos metropolis and ignoring other parts of the state, in addition to admonishing him not to get carried away by too much praise. The Speaker's statement may have been politically motivated but there is no denying the fact that the Fashola development effort needs to be more evenly spread, despite the continuous assurance that the government has invested in infrastructure in the state's 50 towns and 300 communities. What he is guilty of however, is not neglect. Budget performance in Lagos state is well above 80%.

Popular opinion in many quarters is that Fashola is currently Nigeria's most impressive Governor. From almost relative obscurity, he has built a name for himself as a go-getter. He is a role model to many youths who look up to him. His example reassures them that there is hope still, whatever level of uncertainty may exist in Nigeria. Fashola's style is also part of the factor of his success. Football-loving, unassuming, he comes across like a regular professional in government whose sole interest is to make a difference. Unlike many Nigerian governors, he is not the party-going, extravagant, siren-blaring type. Those who are close to him report that he does not keep a band of thugs at his beck and call, nor does he hold special meetings to attend to rent collectors whose sole interest is to milk the treasury dry. The weight of perception favours him. But he is accused nonetheless of being too aloof. In the consideration of his critics, he may be "the best Governor," but they insist that he is probably Nigeria's worst politician. True, because he does not appear to know how to walk the tight rope of Nigerian politics. His forthrightness is unusual in an environment where deception is part of the game. He seems to believe that "by their fruits, ye shall know them", which may be naive. Dyed-in-the wool Nigerian politicians would insist that a little bit of negotiation is required in Nigerian politics. Sadly, this is what has brought Nigeria to the present sorry pass. It also accounts for Fashola's nemesis.
Every attempt by him and his aides to reassure the public that there is no conflict between him and his predecessor, former Governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu appears to have been compromised by two advertorials in the newspapers this week, one insisting on Tinubu's imperishable legacy, and the other, Fashola's veiled response, expressing commitment to his predecessor. The Godfather phenomenon remains one of the tricky aspects of Nigerian politics. It belongs to the realm of clientelism and often conflicts with the freedom of choice and actual performance in office. The brewing conflict between Fashola and his predecessor is absolutely uncalled for. In 2007, Fashola was practically hand-picked by then Governor Tinubu. Fashola had served Tinubu as his Chief of Staff. Tinubu wanted a man who had some inside experience of governance as his successor. When he anointed Fashola who had no known interest in partisan politics, Tinubu's close associates and loyalists who had shown interest in the position of Governor were livid with rage. In Nigeria's rather underdeveloped political system, the man who controls the levers of party influence and the grassroots could exercise much bigger influence than even the voters on election day.

It is a tragic fact of our political process. In the past ten years, conflicts have been reported between party leaders and their proteges, but in the Fashola/Tinubu case, the issue seems to be one of performance, who should take credit for the achievements in Lagos, and the mischief of others. There is no denying the fact that Governor Fashola is a major beneficiary of the foundations that had been laid by the Tinubu administration. Having been part of that government, he came into power armed with a clear road map and a picture of what more needed to be done. Not too many state Governors in Nigeria enjoy such head-start. Too many indeed get into office before beginning to imagine what they would do with power. There should be no controversies: former Governor Tinubu should be pleased that he had made the right judgement in choosing Fashola. After all, another successor could have destroyed all that legacy that the Tinubu group now insists upon. Tradition is critical in governance as in other aspects of life. Indeed, more than the roads or the infrastructure that have been built, Fashola is the authentic legacy of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who it would now appear has justified the popular saying that there is no success without a successor.

Fashola has close to two more years in the saddle before the end of his tenure. Sustaining his present achievements and building a continuous profile as a public-spirited and focused leader would determine his eventual place in the hall of fame. Strengthening his demonstrated potential and refusing to be distracted, while honing needed political skills, and making amends in areas of obvious shortcomings may well be all that he needs. In the end, there is much anticipation about his political future; what lies ahead may be more important than what is past.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

A short gun marriage and honey moon that will not last by Dr.Wumi Akintide.

By far the most insightful, factual and brilliant appraisal of the Deji's ongoing crisis I have seen, is the Guardian Newspaper article titled "A monarch's many enemies, battles and victories" authored by Mr.Niyi Bello and published by the Guardian newspaper of November 13, 2009. I would urge anybody interested in the crisis to look out for that article and read. It was a masterpiece.

Mr. Niyi Bello has gone far beyond the call of duty, as a correspondent, to lay it all out in very lucid language. He has taken pains to brilliantly, fearlessly and dispassionately make the case of the King makers and the Deji's response to those charges better than any rejoinders I have read, but he has left out some gaps, here and there, that need to be filled, so readers can connect the dots and have a better understanding of all the issues at stake in the Deji's epic battle with his chiefs..
. What I am about to do this in this write-up is to fill those gaps, and to effectively render a second opinion on the crisis and how well or how badly the Mimiko Government has so far handled it and why? I hope the Guardian Newspapers will be kind enough to also post this addendum.

As I pointed out in my first article on the crisis titled "A Note of Caution on the Deji's dethronement" widely publicized on the Internet and some Nigerian Newspapers in the United States, I drew precisely the same conclusion the Mimiko Government has drawn, that the final authority to remove or keep the Deji in office or any traditional ruler, for that matter, is either the Government or the Courts. The recent case of the Olugbo of Igbo Nla in Ilaje Ese-Odo is a case in point.The king makers and the chiefs taken together do not have the power or the authority to remove the Deji. But they could make a unanimous recommendation to the Government, and if the recommendation is not expeditiously acted upon, for any reason, they could make Akure difficult for the Deji to rule by boycotting his palace and refusing to co-operate with him in many other ways. It is clear to everyone including the Deji, if he is wise, that Government support alone cannot sustain him in office. The dynamics of that office demands that he earns the support, the respect and the loyalty of his own people. If he loses their respect and support, he is done. Period. No Government however powerful can manufacture that support for him. The Deji has to realize that he only remains an asset to the Mimiko Government, if his people support him. He will soon be seen as a liability to the Labor Party and to Governor Mimiko if he has lost that support. The Deji has only one vote just like anyone else. His worth and value are measured by how many of his people he can lure into the ruling party. He will remain a naked and lonely Emperor if he cannot lay any claim to that. It is only a question of time before the Governor and his Government abandon him, if they know he is of little use to them..

I placed special emphasis in my first article on"Due Process" which has to be followed and I caution that the king makers should act slowly and be right rather than act quickly and be dead wrong. The king makers have the power to recommend to Government on whose selection should be ratified as the Deji. They also reserve the right to withdraw that recommendation, if they are persuaded, the present incumbent is a wrong choice like happened in the case of Ileri Oluwa whose selection was torpedoed overnight, because his own family had disowned him after using him to establish the legitimacy of their ruling house because he has provided all the cash needed to do that.
Ileri Oluwa's case is very similar to what has happened in Osooro Kingdom which used to be a merger of Ilutitun and Idepe in Ilaje/Okitipupa area where Kabiyesi Idepefo was the one who single handedly fought the Bajowa Dynasty to break away Idepe from Osooro Kingdom and to establish Idepe kingdom with him as the pioneer Oba. Some powerful elements in Idepe are today raising doubts about the legitimacy of Idepefo himself and questioning his claim as a prince at Idepe. Can you believe that? That happens all the time with our people. There is a legal way to remove the Deji or start the process without encroaching on his right to self defense in a country governed by the rule of Law. No rational or self-respecting Government and Governor can force any traditional ruler on the king makers and the community at large, if the people remain firm and resolute on what they have decided, and if they strictly follow the laid down procedure for achieving that goal. Two wrongs don't make a right.

If the chiefs and the people by unanimity and consensus refuse to recognize or support their Oba or have anything to do with him, no Government can force them against their wishes. If the Government therefore decides to force such an individual on his people, such a Government runs the risk of being rejected at the polls in the next election because Democracy or winning is a game of numbers Such a Government would also have herself to blame when civil disobedience, violence and lawlessness get into the mix like the situation in Ugbo Nla today. How many people can the Governor arrest and put in detention?. I dare say that if all the charges that have been leveled against the Deji were leveled and proved against Mimiko himself, he would voted out of office like his predecessor in the next election. How Governor Mimiko handles this crisis says as much about him like it says about the king makers and the Deji himself.

I agree with the Governor that copy cats in other places like Upele could lead to anarchy that the PDP opposition in Abuja could use as an excuse to declare a state of emergency in Ondo State but that must not mean that Akure people must, for that reason alone, become captives to the Deji and whatever he has been doing to aggravate, provoke and oppress his own people like a dictator. The Governor has to make that clear to the Deji. Blaming the victim is not the way to go, if I were advising the Governor..
That is why I am describing the transient love feast between the embattled Deji and Governor Mimiko as a short gun marriage and honey moon that will not last, if the king makers and Akure people remain firm and resolute. Governor Mimiko will have to choose between the Deji and the people opposing him. If the Deji cannot be used by the ruling party as a conduit pipe to his people, he has become a liability to the Government.
A prima facie case would appear to have been made against the Deji from all we are able to see and hear. The Deji's response or defense has so far fallen short of credibility. He would need a lot more substance to break off off the double bind he has found himself. He is lucky the king makers are being faulted, for now, for not following due process, but that luck is likely to run out pretty soon as the king makers rethink their strategy, but the serious charges against the Deji have, so far, remain unanswered. Governor Mimiko ought to demand some credible answers to those charges before he puts his bet on the wrong horse.

Why do I say that? I say so based on history and precedents in Ondo State and all over Nigeria. If the great Olowo Olateru Olagbegi can be dethroned by a military Government in similar circumstance, so can Oba Adepoju Adesina. You could say it is much harder to remove a traditional ruler favored by the Government in power, but that individual would have to be a political juggernaut like the late Olowo Olagbegi, and not a little-known individual like the current Deji whose only claim to fame is the title he currently holds. If you take away the Deji's title from him, he has very little to hang on to. He could therefore be fighting the battle of his life as he now has his back against the wall ,if the truth must be told. Blackmailing the chiefs and the king makers can only compound his problems as more incontrovertible revelations and facts come out.

He, the Deji should have realized by now that his claim to be the reincarnation of Deji Odundun or Deji Ademuagun is hogwash. He is neither of the two, because he lacks the bravery and their charisma and will power. Deji Ademuagun's academic pedigree and personal appeal as a brilliant attorney was enchanting. He did not believe in voodoo as much as this Deji, and he was a quick study in the History of Akure, and he was better prepared to learn from those who knew our History. This Deji has made a horrendous mistake to ascribe to himself the posture or imagery ofOdundun Asodedero who had a power like a lion and decided to use it like a lion because he could. That was then, this is now. Deji Odundun would never have gotten away with his crimes against humanity, if he was crowned the Deji in the colonial era. Having his wife beheaded in cold blood for sharing a joke with him like I recalled in my book, the Lion King and the Cubs" would never have been tolerated in a country governed by the rule of Law. The days of feudal Lords are over. The Deji should have known that.

The late Kabiyesi, the Alaaye of Efon, it will be recalled, had committed a less egregious crime in his domain, and he paid the ultimate price. If the current Deji were a student of History, he would have learnt that his claim to being a reincarnation of Odundun could easily have put him on a collision course with the Law and with his chiefs and people across the board.. It is absurd that a man who has lived and studied in the UK for many years could come back home and not allow any of the fine attributes of the British people to rub off on him. I am really surprised. I had thought he was going to be a far more congenial Deji than he has turned out to be, all things considered. Those who think that the Adesida descendants are behind his current problems just don't know what they are talking about. He has himself to blame for all of his excesses in office. Students of History would understand that Akure people are not called "Omo a muda sile, mogun erun pa ni" for nothing meaning that Akure tongues are more lethal than the sword. If you are dancing to Akure music and rhythm, you have to constantly look back to be sure the music has not stopped playing. The incumbent Deji has failed to do that. That is why he is in problems today. Period.

I recall Deji Afunbiowo, arguably the greatest Deji of all times, facing the first rebellion by his people in what is today referred to as "Ogun Okuta" The War of the stone pellets in which the Deji's palace was stoned because his people did not appreciate his support for the British colonialists' decision to introduce the payment of tax in Akure. It was explained to Deji Afunbiowo by the colonial Administration that paying tax was going to help Akure to grow and develop, but Akure people, at the time, in their ignorance, did not agree with the Deji's efforts to appease and persuade them to pay tax. It took the intervention of the District Officer (D,O) Ajele Agba and the Colonial Police Force to put out the rebellion on that occasion. Deji Afunbiowo did not commit any of the 20 serious charges the kingmakers have now leveled against the current Deji. He reigned for 60 good years without a break and Akure grew by leaps and bounds under his tenure. He did not improvise" the Omo ori ite" conditionality in the Deji's Declaration to permanently keep the throne to his family. He did it to uphold Akure tradition and to ensure that fake princes do not infiltrate our rank and file, or emerge to start asking to be crowned a Deji in Akure. Afunbiowo had been proved right again. Now the king makers have admitted they were misled into picking candidates that have turned out to be fake princes.
Genuine princes in Akure know themselves. The way we are going, an Okene or Imo or Zaki Ibiam man from Benue Plateau who has lived long in Akure and is filthy rich, could, one day, seek to be crowned a Deji in Akure like happened in 2000, and could happen again. Traditional rulers who run foul of their peoples' interest can be driven out of the throne. It happened to late Olowo. It happened before to Ewi of Ado Ekiti, late Oba Aladesanmi Anirare. In his own case, Deji Afunbiowo was among the individuals that helped him to reclaim his throne. Late Kabiyesi Adewumi the Ogoga of Ikere before Ogoga Oba Fabikun was driven out of his throne for much the same reason. There is nothing new in Akure people wanting to remove the Deji, if he has outlived his usefulness.. .

I recall Deji Ademuagun being summoned to Elemo's Court at one point in his 16-year (1957 to 1973) reign to answer to charges of high-handedness made against him by one or two individuals in Akure. Deji Ademuagun had attempted, at one point, to snatch the fiancée of a Reverend gentleman in Akure. He was accused of going to places under cover of darkness using the fictitious name of "Ojo Oru". The charges against him were not half as serious as any of the 20 charges leveled against the present Deji, and he nearly faced dethronement. He did not walk out on the Chiefs because he knew he just could not do it and still retain his title. High Chief Orisabinu Adedipe of Osun Oshogbo fame was the Elemo of Akure at the time, and High Chief Kole Oluwatuyi the Second was the Olisa. High Chief Falade, Ajoleyinogun, the father of current Odopetu Adelusimo Falade was the Odopetu. High Chief William Adu Falokun was the Sao, the General Officer commanding the Akure traditional forces GOC at the time. I waited outside the Elemo's Court with my father, Chief Samuel Akintide Gbangba who had come to the meeting to plead for leniency for the Deji. I was therefore an eyewitness to what transpired at the meeting. When the Akure Council of Chiefs and the people are united in their indictment of any Deji, no Government can stop them. Deji Adepoju Adesina should make no mistake about that. The Government can surely cause some delay, but it will have to buckle under pressure from the people. It is a prediction.

Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida was probably the most despised Deji of all times. Akure people did not like him too much because they had wanted Prince Adebobajo, to be selected as the Deji, but 9 out of 15 king makers had voted for Prince Adelegan while only 5 voted for Prince Adebobajo and one kingmaker, late Chief Ojumu voted for late Prince Adedeji Adesida.
The Government, in her wisdom, went with majority vote to approve the coronation of Otutubiosun Adelegan as the Deji in 1975. The only reason Deji Adelegan could not be removed was because the majority of the king makers and the chiefs were for him, and a cross section of Akure people also supported him. He served till he died in 1991 because there was no unanimity among the chiefs. If the chiefs and the people were united against him, he would have lost the throne, even though the Government supported him. Above all, he was a great Deji by any standard. His record in office was second only to that of his father in Akure.History. You can quote me on that.

Deji Ataiyese Adebobajo Adesida who was a Commissioner of Police before his selection was a very law-abiding and disciplined Deji who was never accused of any of the charges leveled against the current Deji. I knew him better than all the Dejis before him. He was a gentleman to the core and I was one of his confidants. I recall Akure people complaining about traditional rulers who went on a delegation to Abuja on the invitation of former Nigerian President Sani Abacha. The President had wanted to show them his proof that General Oladipo Diya, his Chief of Staff ,had been implicated in a coup against him. The Deji was among the delegation, but knowing Akure people and where the majority of them stood on the issue, Kabiyesi Adebobajo would not join the delegation in issuing a communiqué condemning General Diya. He also refused to share out of the kickback that was used to compensate them by Abacha. Deji Ataiyese was a man who took his oath of office very seriously, and would never do anything to tarnish his good name or the fine legacies of the Deji-in-Council and the Institution at large.

All of these Dejis would be shivering in their graves to hear all of the charges made against the present Deji. The incumbent Deji would be deceiving himself if he places too much premium on the transient support Governor Mimiko is giving him so far. I support the initial stance of Governor Mimiko, but I condemn the fact that he was only blaming the king makers and the chiefs for not following the due process. In so doing, he has shown that if the due process was even followed, he probably would not have listened to the king makers or the genesis of their grievances and their deeply held grouse against the current Deji. The king makers have no ax to grind with the Mimiko Government per se. The target of their grievance is not Mimiko Government at all, it is the man they said they were misled to recommend for ratification in 2005. I cannot say what the Governor might have been telling the Deji in private but if he is so open in blaming the victim, he must be seen to be fair to both sides for him to be a credible peacemaker..

Some of the charges against the Deji have become subject of litigations in the Law Courts in Nigeria, as we speak. If they were not serious, how did those charges end up in Court? I do know of the charges filed against the Deji by one of my cousins in Akure. I am talking about retired military officer, Joseph Isijola who has taken the Deji to Court asking for a 20 million Naira in damages. What happens if the Deji is found guilty on such charges? What does Governor Mimiko have say on that?

Niyi Bello just drew our attention to a publication and an editorial in the Guardian Newspapers, not too long ago, when the Deji was lampooned for the position he took in the Cement Distributors Association grouse with a distributor who insisted on selling his bag of cement at controlled price of 1,600.00 Naira per bag in Akure. The Deji, for reasons best known to him, had sided with the oppressors and the extortionists against his own people as revealed by Mr. Bello. Governor Mimiko would be making a huge mistake to think that the king makers were just blackmailing their boss. They are not. There is some truth to their charges.

The Governor must remember that many of the king makers are old enough to be the father of the current Deji. They are serious-minded respectable individuals in Akure community quite apart from their titles. Retired Colonel Folorunsho David is a highly principled man. So is High Chief Adelusimo Falade, the Odopetu and so are High Chief Bolanle Adedipe, the Elemo, High Chief Amos Balogun, the Aro of Akure and High Chief Ojomu Oluyide and the new Asae not to talk of High Chief Asamo Olusanya, of the Ejua Group, High Chief Sao of the Ikomo group, to mention a few... The Governor would be making a horrendous mistake to dismiss their complaints with the wave of the hand. Like High Chief Lisa Bayo Akinnola in Ondo, these chiefs are not individuals to be taken lightly at all. To get to the bottom of this and to sue for real peace in Akure, Governor Mimiko must act as the impartial judge.and hear what the chiefs are saying.
The Governor must remember that the chiefs by speaking out against this Deji are like people riding on the back of the tiger. If they are not careful, they could all end up in the belly of the tiger when they disembark. The current Deji who sees himself as a reincarnation of Odundun could come back to hold them accountable one by one, using his big stick like he did to the Olisa, less than a year after his coronation. Those who do not learn from History are condemned to repeat it. The chiefs are no fools..

Governor Mimiko fears the possible declaration of a state of emergency in Ondo State by the PDP Government in Abuja looking for ways and means to take Ondo State back from the Labor Party by using the crisis in Akure and other places like Upele to forment trouble in Ondo like they once did in Ekiti, State, some years back. It is that backlash that Governor Mimiko fears the most, not the crisis the Deji is facing. This Deji must understand that, if he is wise. He must go down on his knees, so to speak, swallow his pride, and make an ironclad guarantee that the Chiefs in particular are not going to be victimized and punished one by one if the chiefs are persuaded to bury the hatchet and forgive him. The Deji cannot be removed unless the chiefs are united against him, but each of the chiefs can be removed one by one by the Deji, if he decides to play the Odundun on them after his bail-out by Governor Mimiko who is only going to be in office for 4 to 8 years, assuming that he wins a second term. The chiefs are all aware of that cul-de-sac and the suspension notice he served the Olisa within six months of his taking office. He could do it again.

It was Commander Ebenezer Obey who once composed a song stating "there is little or no modicum of respect for a king who does not have one "Olori". By the same token, if all Akure chiefs refuse to have anything to do with the Kabiyesi, and they abandon the palace completely, how is Deji going to function? He would probably go ahead and remove all of them like Olowo Adekola Ogunoye once did to Owo chiefs who were not loyal to him. Where is that going to lead Akure? It is a legitimate question to ask before it is too late. Governor Mimiko who is currently saying he wants peace in Ondo State must realize that peace can only come when there is justice.
Governor Mimiko may not know or understand the next point I want to make before I end this article. At the annual "Ikunle Ceremony" always held in the Palace, all Akure Chiefs without exception, are required to take an oath of loyalty to the Deji every year. With what is going on now, how many of those chiefs can, in good conscience, take such an oath after the announcement they have openly made against the Deji. The Deji is under no obligation to take such an oath before any of his chiefs. That was one big reason the Osolo of Isolo and the Iralepo of Isinkan who have now been elevated to minor Obas in Akure, could stand their ground and say they want to be recognized as Obas in their own right, regardless of any objection by the Deji and the Akure Council of Chiefs. Our founding fathers were not as naive as we thought They instituted the oath-taking ceremonies not only for the chiefs but also for all "Oloris" in the palace to minimize acts of disloyalty to the Deji by his chiefs and many wives. I mention this last point to let Governor Mimiko understand that the issue at stake are much more serious and complex than what you all read on the Internet or the pages of Newspapers..This Deji may well invoke his right under our tradition that says the Deji can pick anybody to fill a vacant post of the Olisa in Akure because previous Dejis have done that with impunity in the past, and they have gotten away with it. The same thing goes for the Sashere title in Akure. The Deji can pick anybody he wants for that title like Deji Afunbiowo once did in selecting one of his former palace servants, late Sashere Gidi, Olowu Opotopata. Deji Adelegan did it by picking late Sashere Robert Akesogie Agbayewa to compensate him for his support when he was vying to become the Deji.

If this Deji decides to invoke such rights after this crisis is settled, what is left for the chiefs to do? It is a legitimate question to ask. Those who want this crisis settled quickly and permanently must remember that. I still believe the crisis can be settled, but as an Akure historian, I would not like the chiefs to be ambushed by a Deji who takes special pride in being toasted as the reincarnation of Odundun.. Need I say more?
I rest my case.

Critical Observations on the State of the Nation

Critical Observations on the State of the Nation by Femi Falana

Being the text of the Obafemi Awolowo University Distinguished Alumni Lecture Delivered by Femi Falana at the Oduduwa Hall, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State on Monday, December 7, 2009

Introduction: Many alumni associations in Nigeria are known for organizing dinners and other social programmes for their members. Others are in the habit of dishing out questionable awards to men and women of dubious reputation. I have however noted that the Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association is among the few that deem it fit, from time to time, to raise critical issues concerning the lack of adequate funding of education and the crisis of governance in the country. In particular, the Association has been involved in addressing the issue of welfare of staff and students in order to create an enabling academic environment on this campus. It is on account of its relevance to the society that I am proud to associate with the Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association.

Mr. Chairman, permit me to state that I am not here to deliver a lecture but to invite the staff and students of this Great Ife University to join the progressive forces in Nigeria in the struggle to create an egalitarian society out of the debris of the decadent neo-colonial capitalist arrangement that has been foisted on the nation. As no society has genuinely developed without the critical intervention of the intelligentsia members of the academic community should fight against a political system that has continued to throw up charlatans as political leaders of our potentially great country.

In reviewing the State of the Nation therefore, I intend to address issues arising from the health of the President, the 2010 Budget and Deregulation, the planned repression of students’ rights and the 2011 General Elections.The President’s HealthSometimes last year, President Umaru Yaradua stole out of the country. He was away on medical vacation for 17 days. As the President did not hand over power to the Vice President as required by Section 145 of the Constitution, the Presidency was hijacked by Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Upon his return to the country the President dismissed Alhaji Kingibe from the Government.

A few months ago, the President had cause to return to the hospital. In order to give the false impression that the President was hale and hearty it was reported that he was in Jeddah to commission a university. That was the official excuse for not attending the General Assembly of the United Nations! Since the federal universities were then on a 4-month old industrial action the Administration was exposed to ridicule in the local and foreign media.

About two weeks ago, the President was rushed out of the country for urgent medical treatment. This time around the trip was announced and the reason disclosed. Apart from saying that he had pericarditis no other details were given. Those who heard that the President was in coma for days at the Intensive Care Unit of the foreign hospital began to circulate dangerous rumours capable of threatening the security of the country.

As if that was not disturbing enough it was reported that the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had come under renewed pressure to resign to pave way for fresh presidential election. While the Constitution was being assaulted and political rascals were toying with the destiny of 150 million Nigerians we were all asked to pray and fast for our ailing President. The Senate President, Chief David Mark directed Nigerians to pray for 9 days.

Realizing the security implication of preventing the Vice President from standing proxy for the President a group of 53 Nigerians issued a joint statement calling on the President to either resign or submit himself to a Medical Panel appointed by the Senate President to examine his medical fitness for the office of the President in line with Section 144 of the Constitution which had been violated by the Government. The Federal Executive Council hurriedly met, pronounced the President hale and hearty and read treasonable felony in the suggestion that the President should step down to take care of his failing health. The nation was told that the Vice President was “in charge” of the country. The forum of governors also met and toed a similar line of official deceit.

Meanwhile, those who called for prayers in the daytime began to hold nocturnal meetings to plan their succession agenda. One of them who described the position of the G53 as “ungodly” is noted for fixing results of fraudulent election in alliance with the Devil. The fellow was alleged to have diverted a large chunk of the N300 billion earmarked for maintenance of Nigerian roads. Today, Nigerians are being killed on those death traps. Yet we are not asked to pray for the repose of the souls of the victims of grand corruption perpetrated by satanic forces in the land.

It is pertinent to review how such matters are handled in other countries including the United States from where Section 145 of the Constitution was copied. On two occasions President George Bush II handed over power to his Vice President, Dick Cheney on health grounds. On June 29, 2002 before going to the theatre for a 20-minute operation for colonoscopy he handed over officially to Vice President. He wrote to the Senate. After the operation he wrote back on the same day. On the morning of 21 July 2007 Cheney once again served as Acting President for about 21/2 hours when the President went for another operation that required sedation. On both occasions President Bush transferred his powers because of the possibility that he might die in the theatre.

In 2006, the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon suffered from cerebral hemorrhage. He quickly handed over power to the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert who completed his term. About the same time, President Fidel Castro resigned when he had to undergo intestinal surgery. He handed over to his deputy, Raul Castro. In his resignation letter, Fidel wrote “It would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than am physically able to offer”.

Those who have said that it is “unafrican” for Presidents to transfer powers to their deputies should be reminded that the Zambian President once did so on health ground. On June 19, 2008 President Levy Mwanawasa had mild stroke while attending a meeting of the African Union in Cairo, Egypt. He handed over power to his deputy, Mr. Rupiah Buezain Banda. Even though, Acting President Banda regularly briefed the nation on the state of Mwanawasa’s health a South African radio once reported that he had passed on. President Thambo Mbeki asked South Africans to observe a minute silence for him. As it turned out to be a rumour Mbeki expressed deep regret and prayed for the speedy recovery of President Mwanawasa. Even though he died a month later Mwanawasa’s compliance with the Zambian Constitution saved his country from political instability.

Our “prayer warriors” may also want to learn a lesson from President Nelson Mandela who once transferred power to his arch political rival, Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelesi. That was in 1998 when the President and his deputy, Mr. Mbeki were out of the country on state assignments. As Acting Commander-in- chief of the Armed Forces for 48 hours, Chief Buthelesi authorized the South Africa’s military intervention in Lesotho to restore the elected government that had been removed by a gang of soldiers.

It is gratifying to note that Alhaji Balarabe Musa and other progressive leaders in the North have dissociated themselves from the power mongers who are bent on provoking ethnic and political crisis in the country. Some of us cannot be blackmailed by those who were in the forefront of the “Abacha for President” and “Obasanjo for Third Term” campaigns. We insist that the issues arising from the hospitalization of President Yar’adua be handled in strict compliance with the Constitution. Afterall, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who imposed the ailing President on the nation said at a book launch in Lagos last week:“If you do not leave the job that you are doing to rest, then the job you are doing will leave you for other people to take charge of that job”. (THE NEXT Newspaper, Saturday, December 5, 2009).

Just one last word on the issue of the resignation of the President. Captain Moussa Daddis Camara was wounded last week in an assassination attempt by a section of his presidential guards. He was flown to Rabat, Morocco for treatment. As he may not be returning home soon the Vice President of the junta, General Sekouba Konate who was outside the country on an official engagement has rushed back to take charge of the affairs of State on the orders of the military president.

Before the shoot out in Conakry, Guinea President Yaradua had, in his capacity as the current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, mounted pressure on Captain Conte Camara of Guinea and President Mohammadu Tandja of Niger Republic to vacate office and return their countries to constitutionalism. When both of them failed to heed the call the ECOWAS has since imposed sanctions on their countries. If it is not ungodly on the part of President Yar’adua to call on fellow Heads of State to resign why is it sinful to call on him to call it quit on health ground in line with the provisions of the Constitution? It is significant to state without any fear of contradiction that we have not called for a coup. Neither have we called for the inauguration of a Government of National Unity. In asking for Yaradua’s resignation to afford him the opportunity to take of his health we have not gone outside the Constitution. It is those who are saying that the President should not hand over to his deputy that are hell bent on provoking constitutional crisis in the land.

The 2010 Budget and Deregulation .

President Yaradua has stated that the 2010 budget is a stimulus to address the challenge of the so-called global financial meltdown, tackle domestic economic mismanagement and bolster the critical sectors such as education, power, transportation and other key areas of infrastructure. I am not going to bore you by analyzing the Budget because it is not going to be implemented. With profound respect to the President, the N4.1 trillion budget is nothing but a design to enrich and maintain public officers without commensurate service to the people.

Even though Nigerians are being told to tighten their belts due to the so-called global economic meltdown, the sum of N16.2 billion has been allocated to meals, refreshments, honorarium and allowances for National Assembly members. Food supplies to the Presidential Villa will gulp N365 million, averaging N1 million per day. Rats and mosquitoes are to be fought with N15 million in the name of fumigation. That is separate from refreshment of meetings fixed at N68 million, State Banquets (N125 million); Rehabilitation of the Banquet Hall, presidential aides houses (N522 million) servicing of debts (N571 billion) etc.

In order to increase the burden of the Nigerian people the Federal Government has decided to increase the prices of petroleum products. The new term for the policy is “deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry”. It would be recalled that from 1999- 2009 the Federal Government juggled the pump price of fuel not less 15 times. At the end of the day it was increased from N20 to N70 per litre.

The country’s 4 refineries with an installed capacity of 445,000 litres of refined petroleum products per day were not properly maintained. In the last 10 years over $1 billion was spent on Turn Around Maintenance of the refineries. As the funds were diverted, Government resorted to unbridled importation of refined products. President Yaradua identified the cartels and cabals that have profited from the N2 trillion allocated to subsidy in the last 4 years. But his hands are tied with respect to challenging the large scandal in the business of fuel importation. Worse still, the Federal Government does not know the volumes of litres of oil produced and exported from Nigeria!

Unlike what obtains in other oil producing countries the multinational oil companies are smiling to the banks while Nigerians are undergoing excruciating poverty. Just recently, an oil company offered to renew three expiring 40-year lease the Federal Government responded with $2 billion counter-offer from a Chinese company. A few days ago, the Minister of Information, Professor Dora Akinyuli hosted the Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria, Enrique Arrudeh.

In requesting Venezuela to invest in Nigeria the Information Minister painted a rosy picture of a deregulated economy. Without mincing words Arrudeh told her:“In Venezuela, since 1999 we’ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank of a car. What I pay for with N12,000 here, in Venezuela, I will pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of foreigners. You have to have your own country, the oil is your country.

The oil is your country’s. Sorry, I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of Venezuelans. Before 1999 we had four foreign companies working with us. That time, they were asking 80 percent and giving us 20. Now we have 90 percent and giving them 10. But now we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.

It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 percent of the income goes to social programmes. That is why we have 22,000 doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to hospital, doctors go to their houses. That is because the money is handled by Venezuelans. How come Nigeria that has more technicality manpower than Venezuela with 150 million people and very intellectual people around, not been able to get it right? The question is if you are no handling your resources how are you going to handle the country?

So, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated in the university without paying one cent and take three meals everyday, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for Nigerians. It is enough. It is enough, Minister.”

It may be said that Venezuela has succeeded because of her population of 28 million people. But Gabon is an oil producing country with a population of less than a million people. Her oil wealth has been stolen by her rulers. Those who say Nigeria is poor may want to demand for accountability in the management of the economy. I have just stumbled on the minutes of the September 8, 2009 meeting of the representatives of the Federal and State Governments. In that meeting it was disclosed that the Federal Government under the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration did not account for several billions of dollars of revenues from signature bonus, excess crude account, privatization proceeds etc.

On its own part the Socio-Economic and Accountability Rights Project (SERAP) has found that “the Administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between May 1999 and January 2007 failed to collect over $18 billion owing to negligence to propose relevant amendments to the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Contract Act to the National Assembly” in line with Section 16 of the Act which states that “the provisions of this decree shall be subject to review to ensure that the price of crude oil at anytime exceeds $20per barrel, real terms, the share of the government of the federation in the additional revenue shall be adjusted under the production sharing contracts to such extent that the production sharing contracts shall be economically beneficial to the government of the federation”.

Anyone who says Nigeria is poor should be taken to a mental home. I believe that Nigerians are poor because the Government has continued to violate Section 16(1) of the Constitution which requires the State to “control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.” This can only be achieved if ‘the economic system is not operated in such manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group”.

Planned Repression of Students’ Rights.

In the wake of the nationwide protests staged which greeted the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programme from 1987- 1988 the Ibrahim Babangida junta clamped down on student unionism with the enactment of the Student Union (Control and Regulation) Decree No 47 of 1989. The PDP-led Government has decided to strengthen the anti-student law. To this effect the Student Union (Control and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2008 has been forwarded to the two Chambers of the National Assembly.

The amendment bill, while pretending to be out to remove clauses which infringe on the fundamental human rights of students, seeks to empower the governing councils of universities to suspend or rusticate students without any legal challenge. Specifically, section 2(2) thereof provides that nothing shall prevent any governing council, the highest decision making body or any authority or person in charge of any institution of higher learning from regulating the activities of the unions or prescribing the union.

My immediate reaction is that the planned existence of student unions at the pleasure of governing council violates the fundamental rights of students to freedom of association guaranteed by Section 40 of the Constitution. In INEC V. Balarable Musa (2003) 10 WRN 1 the Supreme Court struck down stringent conditions attached to the registration of political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Contrary to the provisions of the laws setting up each institution of higher learning which require the authorities to observe the rules of natural justice with respect to the discipline of students, Section 4(2) of the proposed bill is seeking to empower the governing councils to suspend or expel any student whenever “it is of the opinion that public interest or public safety so demands….”

In order to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts from entertaining any allegation of human rights violations from students, it is stated that representation can only be made to the Visitor to the Institution “whose decision on the matter shall be final and conclusive”. Let me say straight away that the right to fair hearing cannot be wished away by any law as was held by the Court of Appeal in Chima Ubani v. Director of State Security Service (1991) 11 NWLR (PT 625) 129 where Oguntade JCA (as he then was) stated:

“Suffice it to say that Decree No 12 of 1994 and the ouster clause therein are ineffectual for the purpose of preventing the lower court from assuming jurisdiction in the case of an infraction of the rights recognized and protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria”.

Even under a military dictatorship the Court of Appeal never agreed that the original decree ousted the jurisdiction of the Court. According to Ogundare JCA:

“It is my respectful view that there is nothing in Decree No 44 of 1989 ousting the jurisdiction of the Courts in respect of matters convened by the Decree. Nor is there anything in the Decree which makes a representation to the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces a condition precedent to the exercise of the right conferred on an aggrieved student by section 42(1) of the Constitution”.

The bill is essentially designed to prevent students from fighting for their rights as the Federal and State governments have decided to increase tuition and accommodation fees in tertiary institutions. For instance, the University of Ado Ekiti has just increased tuition fees to N90,000 – N120,000.00 per student per session. Added to the cost of accommodation, books and maintenance an average student will require not less than N500,000.00 for university education in Ekiti State. The jejune justification for the skyrocketing fees is the lack of funding on the part of the state government. Meanwhile, in addition to the UNAD the state government has just established two new universities – the Ekiti State University of Education and Ekiti State University of Science and Technology. A new airport is also going to be constructed by the State even though it is battling to pay the poor wages of its workers.

The 2011 General Elections. Following the highly flawed 2007 General Elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) President Umaru Musa Yar’adua set up the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) headed by the Honourable Mohammed Lawal Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria. In view of the vital role of an electoral agency in the conduct of credible elections the ERC was specifically assigned the responsibility to recommend the establishment of a truly independent electoral commission for the country.

Consequently, the ERC recommended that the positions of the Chairman and members of the INEC be advertised by the National Judicial Council (NJC). The NJC is only required to outline the requisite qualifications, receive applications, shortlist qualified persons to each position and forward nominations to the Council of State. Since the President is a member of a political party and may be a contestant in the presidential election the ERC recommends that the Council of State should select one candidate for each position and forward the nominations to the Senate for confirmation. With respect to State Electoral Commissions the above recommendation cannot be faulted having regard to the manipulation of the electoral bodies by state governors.

Before 2003, Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities were appointed by the President in his capacity as the Visitor to those institutions. But as the system was riddled with abuse the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) fought for university autonomy. Consequently, the Governing Council of each university has been empowered to appoint its Vice-Chancellor and merely inform the President in line with The Universities Miscellaneous Act. By virtue of Section 3 of the Act the position of a Vice-Chancellor is advertised by the University Council which sets out the prerequisites. Upon the receipt of applications, a Joint Council / Senate Committee is constituted to consider the applications, conduct an interview and recommend names of three candidates to the Council. The Council shall select and appoint one candidate from among the three candidates recommended to it and thereafter inform the Visitor.

The Adjudication of Election Petitions

The ERC recommended that all disputes arising from elections should be concluded expeditiously before the swearing in of winners of elections or the inauguration of a government. This recommendation was rejected by the Yar’adua Government on the ground that it violates the fundamental right of litigants to fair hearing. This is misleading in that election petitions were concluded in 1979 and 1999 before the inauguration of incoming governments. Yet no petitioner complained of the violation of his right to fair hearing.

Whereas Section 132(1) of the Constitution provides that the Presidential election shall be held on a date not earlier than 60 days and not later 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the incumbent the ERC has suggested that the election be held not later than 6 months to the expiration of the term of the incumbent office holder.

This in effect means that the prosecution of election petitions and appeals arising from shall be concluded within 6 months. Once parties are given equal opportunities to seek redress in a law court the issue of violation of their rights to fair hearing does not arise. The on-going practice of allowing election petitions to remain in courts for 2,3 or 4 years can only be stopped if election petitions are concluded before the expiration of the terms of office of incumbent office holders.

The application of the Evidence Act should be relaxed in the interest of justice and fair play. Election Petition Tribunals should operate like Commissions of Inquiry set up under the Tribunal of Inquiry Act. Therefore, the Electoral Act should contain a provision to the effect that:

“An Election Petition Tribunal shall have power to admit any evidence – whether written or otherwise, and act on it, notwithstanding that such evidence might have been inadmissible in civil or criminal proceedings before a law court”.

The onus of proof to show that election was not conducted in accordance with the law shall always be on the INEC provided that the Petitioner shall only need to introduce evidence of mismanagement of the election.This recommendation is in line with several decisions of our courts. For instance, in cases dealing with the violations of the fundamental right to personal liberty of any citizen the Applicant is only required to show evidence of arrest and detention. From that point the onus shifts to the detaining authority to justify such arrest and detention.

It is in the collective interests of Nigerians that the far-reaching recommendations of the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee be adopted as a basis for the 2011 General Election. Nigerians should defend their votes and stop rushing to tribunals where they are required to prove grave electoral offences beyond reasonable doubt and thereby subvert the democratic process on a permanent basis. At this juncture, I charge the few state governments that are not under the control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to adopt the Uwais Report and begin its implementation. Through this approach which is in line with true federalism, Nigerians will be encouraged to appreciate that “one man one vote” is a reality.


From the foregoing I have attempted to challenge you to join other progressive forces to reclaim the soul of our country from the agbero bourgeoisie that has colluded with imperialism to keep her underdeveloped. In spite of the frustrations and disenchantment that our people are going through they are ever ready for change if we organize them with commitment and sacrifice.

Let me conclude this address by drawing your attention to the recent decision of the ECOWAS Court in the case of SERAP v. FRN (unreported) suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/08/08 of 27/10/2009 where it was held that “the right of every Nigerian to education is an enforceable right by virtue of Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.”. Nigerian people should take advantage of such historic judicial pronouncement to enforce their human right to free and qualitative education at all levels. The resources to fund free education are available. It is a question of the political will to implement it.

Women 'line up to claim affairs with Tiger Woods'

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Women 'line up to claim affairs with Tiger Woods'

Tiger Woods was braced for new trouble last night amid reports that at least two women are set to go public with claims that they had affairs with the world’s highest-earning sportsman. a celebrity news website, reported that several women had come forward claiming to have had sex with the billion-dollar golfer, including one who purports to have “explosive” answerphone recordings.

Jaimee Grubbs, 24, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, tells this week’s edition of Us Weekly magazine that she had a 31-month affair with Woods, starting in April 2007, and that she has more than 300 text messages — some of them described as “racy” — to prove it.
The magazine invites readers to log on to its website today to listen to a voicemail that Woods allegedly left Ms Grubbs on Tuesday of last week, “in which he suggests his wife might suspect he is having an affair”.

Meanwhile a nightclub hostess said to be at the centre of a violent showdown between Woods and his wife insisted yesterday that allegations that she had had an affair with him this year were “just dumb stuff”.
Surfacing for her first full-length interview since Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade while reportedly fleeing from his furious wife, Rachel Uchitel lamented: “I look like a homewrecker and an a**hole”.
“I do not have sex with celebrities and I have not had an affair with Tiger Woods,” she told the New York Post.

“It’s horrible to Tiger’s family. His wife must feel horrible,” she said, adding of her accusers: “It’s just their word against mine and Tiger’s.”

“I have not had an affair with Tiger Woods. I’m a recluse, I don’t go out, I stay home with my dogs and friends,” she said, despite numerous photographs of her out partying, including cavorting on the Caribbean island of St Bartholomew this year with Ryan Seacrest, the host of American Idol.
Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating last Friday’s incident, in which Woods, 33, was found lying unconscious outside his mansion in Orlando at 2.25am after smashing his vehicle into a fire hydrant and a tree.
Officers are examining whether any crime was committed, and looking into suggestions that Woods may have been driving without shoes, which is illegal in Florida, and that he may have been assaulted by his golf club-wielding wife, Elin Nordegren, before the crash.
The couple’s neighbours, Jerome and Linda Adams, today sent lawyers to stage a press conference to tell how they took blankets and pillows to make Woods comfortable after their son, Jarius, spotted him prostrate in the road and rang for an ambulance.
“He was lying in the road. Mrs Woods was beside him trying to help him and he couldn’t get up,” said Bill Sharpe, an attorney for the Adams family.

“They did not witness any domestic violence and Mr Woods’s minor injuries were not consistent with somebody being beat up with a nine-iron.” Mr Sharpe added: “Mrs Woods was with him, had him down on the ground . . . she was sitting there. She was really, a lot, upset, and he’s unconscious . . . she was trying to help him. She weren’t trying to do any further damage.”
Woods remained bunkered in his Florida home last night. He has denied an affair with Ms Uchitel, condemned “the many false, unfounded and malicious rumours” surrounding last week’s crash, and described the episode as a private matter. He has refused to yield to questioning by state troopers.

In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1, 2009
In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap

Johnny R. Williams, 30, would appear to be an unlikely person to have to fret about the impact of race on his job search, with companies like JPMorgan Chase and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago on his résumé.But after graduating from business school last year and not having much success garnering interviews, he decided to retool his résumé, scrubbing it of any details that might tip off his skin color. His membership, for instance, in the African-American business students association? Deleted.“If they’re going to X me,” Mr. Williams said, “I’d like to at least get in the door first.”Similarly, Barry Jabbar Sykes, 37, who has a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, now uses Barry J. Sykes in his continuing search for an information technology position, even though he has gone by Jabbar his whole life. “Barry sounds like I could be from Ireland,” he said. That race remains a serious obstacle in the job market for African-Americans, even those with degrees from respected colleges, may seem to some people a jarring contrast to decades of progress by blacks, culminating in President Obama’s election.

But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven. College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent. Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did. The discrimination is rarely overt, according to interviews with more than two dozen college-educated black job seekers around the country, many of them out of work for months. Instead, those interviewed told subtler stories, referring to surprised looks and offhand comments, interviews that fell apart almost as soon as they began, and the sudden loss of interest from companies after meetings. Whether or not each case actually involved bias, the possibility has furnished an additional agonizing layer of second-guessing for many as their job searches have dragged on. “It does weigh on you in the search because you’re wondering, how much is race playing a factor in whether I’m even getting a first call, or whether I’m even getting an in-person interview once they hear my voice and they know I’m probably African-American?” said Terelle Hairston, 25, a graduate of Yale University who has been looking for work since the summer while also trying to get a marketing consulting start-up off the ground. “You even worry that the hiring manager may not be as interested in diversity as the H.R. manager or upper management.”Mr. Williams recently applied to a Dallas money management firm that had posted a position with top business schools.

The hiring manager had seemed ecstatic to hear from him, telling him they had trouble getting people from prestigious business schools to move to the area. Mr. Williams had left New York and moved back in with his parents in Dallas to save money.But when Mr. Williams later met two men from the firm for lunch, he said they appeared stunned when he strolled up to introduce himself.“Their eyes kind of hit the ceiling a bit,” he said. “It was kind of quiet for about 45 seconds.” The company’s interest in him quickly cooled, setting off the inevitable questions in his mind.

Discrimination in many cases may not even be intentional, some job seekers pointed out, but simply a matter of people gravitating toward similar people, casting about for the right “cultural fit,” a buzzword often heard in corporate circles.There is also the matter of how many jobs, especially higher-level ones, are never even posted and depend on word-of-mouth and informal networks, in many cases leaving blacks at a disadvantage. A recent study published in the academic journal Social Problems found that white males receive substantially more job leads for high-level supervisory positions than women and members of minorities.

Many interviewed, however, wrestled with “pulling the race card,” groping between their cynicism and desire to avoid the stigma that blacks are too quick to claim victimhood. After all, many had gone to good schools and had accomplished résumés. Some had grown up in well-to-do settings, with parents who had raised them never to doubt how high they could climb. Moreover, there is President Obama, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that belief.

Certainly, they conceded, there are times when their race can be beneficial, particularly with companies that have diversity programs. But many said they sensed that such opportunities had been cut back over the years and even more during the downturn. Others speculated there was now more of a tendency to deem diversity unnecessary after Mr. Obama’s triumph.

In fact, whether Mr. Obama’s election has been good or bad for their job prospects is hotly debated. Several interviewed went so far as to say that they believed there was only so much progress that many in the country could take, and that there was now a backlash against blacks. “There is resentment toward his presidency among some because of his race,” said Edward Verner, a Morehouse alumnus from New Jersey who was laid off as a regional sales manager and has been able to find only part-time work. “This has affected well-educated, African-American job seekers.” It is difficult to overstate the degree that they say race permeates nearly every aspect of their job searches, from how early they show up to interviews to the kinds of anecdotes they try to come up with.“You want to be a nonthreatening, professional black guy,” said Winston Bell, 40, of Cleveland, who has been looking for a job in business development.

He drew an analogy to several prominent black sports broadcasters. “You don’t want to be Stephen A. Smith. You want to be Bryant Gumbel. You don’t even want to be Stuart Scott. You don’t want to be, ‘Booyah.’ ”Nearly all said they agonized over job applications that asked them whether they would like to identify their race. Most said they usually did not.

Sarah Palin's photo

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Nigerian officials: "District 9" not welcome here

Monday, September 21, 2009

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria's information minister says one of the summer's biggest blockbusters is not welcome in Nigeria because it portrays Nigerians as gangsters and cannibals.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili says she's asked movie houses to stop screening "District 9" because the South Africa-based sci-fi movie about aliens and discrimination makes Nigerians look bad. Akunyili says she has asked Sony for an apology and wants them to edit out the Nigerian antagonists and the name of the main Nigerian gangster Obesandjo, whose name closely resembles that of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The movie's representatives in South Africa did not comment when contacted Saturday.
The film brought in some US$37 million (euro25.16 million) during its U.S. debut weekend in August.

Nigerian officials: "District 9" not welcome here by Associated Press

Oprah Winfrey chooses short story collection

Oprah Winfrey chooses short story collection

Oprah Winfrey has blessed the book world's eternal underdog: the short story.
Publishing's surest hitmaker announced Friday that her latest pick was Uwem Akpan's debut collection "Say You're One Of Them," practically guaranteeing hundreds of thousands of sales, numbers generally unthinkable for short stories beyond works by Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever and other giants of the art form.

In making her 63rd book selection on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the queen of talk said she never before had given a book of short stories the nod because, she explained, "usually short stories leave you wanting something and you're like, `Huh, what happened?"

Akpan's book, she went on, was an exception.
"This is a first for me because each one of these five stories really just left me gasping," she said in brief remarks toward the end of her show. "Just an incredible book."

Akpan, 38, is a native of Nigeria and an ordained Jesuit priest who in 2006 received a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan. His work is set in Nigeria, Rwanda and other African countries and often centers on children in distress. In 2005, The New Yorker featured him in its debut fiction issue.
Winfrey did not interview him during her show Friday, though Akpan was in the audience, and he stood up and waved.

Each of the separate stories in "Say You're One Of Them" is told from the perspective of an African child, the narratives touching on the hardships and joys of growing up in Africa.

The audience applauded enthusiastically and cheered when Winfrey concluded by saying everyone would leave with a free copy of the book.

Until now, Akpan had endured the common fate of short story writers: well-liked by reviewers and little known to general readers. Combined hardcover and paperback sales for his book, first published in 2008 by Little, Brown and Company, were 32,000 before Friday, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 75 percent of sales.

Winfrey's previous selection came a year ago, when she chose another first-time author, David Wroblewski, for the novel "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle."
Friday's announcement caps one of publishing's most memorable weeks, beginning with the release of the late Ted Kennedy's "True Compass" and continuing with Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" and Jon Krakauer's "Where Men Will Win Glory."

Gani: legacies of an icon

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gani: Legacies of an icon

Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN) did not depart without monuments. His footprints are visible in law, politics, human rights, education, religion and philanthropy.

He was the most incendiary spokesman for the civil society in Nigeria. In fact, two fundamental principles seem to have propelled the lion of the human rights movement since January 15, 1965, when he was called to the bar.

First, the irrepressible attorney believed that Nigeria, his country, must be governed by the rule of law and not by the rule of brute force.
Second, everybody, including the government, must be subjected to transparent norms.
Before his sentence to 12 months imprisonment on January 4, 1990, for contempt by the Lagos High Court, he told the judges that his ordeal would not deter him from his avowed commitment to the pursuit of egalitarianism.

"Both the governed and government must be equally subjected to the rule of law and due process. If that is not done, the alternative is chaos, anarchy and instability," he stressed.
There is no legal luminary in Nigeria who has relied on the court processes to challenge government excesses in court in the last 44 years more than Fawehinmi.

As early as 1965, the Ondo-born lawyer had become the homo viator and a source of hope for a generation of rights activists that mushroomed after his coming unto the state of rights activism.
Projecting into the future, he knew that governments would change from time to time, with the unpatriotic citizens being recycled. Many of the activists he raised teamed up with him in later years to confront the military rulers who were reluctant to yield ground to civil rule.
Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrington held him in awe for his crusade against injustice. As lawyer to the family of the slain journalist, Mr Dele Giwa, murdered activist Ken Saro Wiwa and outspoken critic of June 12 annulment, he said: "If there were a Nobel Prize for human rights, it would have been given to Gani."

Fawehinmi was not limited to rhetoric. He was instrumental in organizing peaceful rallies, street demonstrations against military dictatorship and civil disobedience. He was reputed for using his personal resources to advance the course of justice."He has filed more than 300 cases in court," noted Adindu Ugwazor who dedicated a book to him when he clocked 64. The book catalogued Fawehinmi’s exploits in human rights and other facets of life.

A Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), delegate, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, a lawyer, likened Fawehinmi to the late Edward Kennedy of United States. He said the similarity was their passion for human rights and the dignity of man.

"Gani, like Kennedy, fought doggedly for the less privileged Nigerians, in spite of his outstanding position as a wealthy lawyer. He used his wealth to fight for the masses.

Fawehinmi was consistent in critical moments. He suffered bruises under General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime over his opposition to the gross human right abuse of the dictator.
But in death, even his foes adore him. Reflecting on those principled positions of the lawyer, Babangida who put him in detention several times turned round to pay tribute to his resilience.
The former military president said: "If there is one man I respect, it is Gani. It sounds strange. I appreciate you that you have a strong conviction and fight for it consistently. This is the context in which I see Gani.

"I was a consistent "evil" and he was a dogged fighter and I respect him for this. In fact, there are three of them I respect like that. They are Gani, late Prof. Awojobi and Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman. None of them says anything without doing him home work first."
To his credit, law became a veritable tool for enriching the political order. When the Obasanjo Administration attempted to restrict the numbers of political parties through stringent conditions, he challenged the move and won the battle for the enthronement of multi-party system at the Supreme Court.

In the seventies, eighties and nineties, Fawehinmi was known as the laywer to the student’s movement. He identified with and supported the cause of the Nigerian students. He saved the academic career of many students who were wrongly rusticated by the authorities.
His interventions were legendary. In 1971, at the University of Ibadan, when a student unionist, Mr. Kunle Adepeju was killed and the country was incensed with anger, Fawehinmi represented the students at the sitting of the Commission of Inquiring headed by Justice Oladiran Kazeem. More than 80 per cent of their demands were later met.

When the crisis that rocked the University of Benin led to the expulsion of student leaders, he came to their rescue. They won the suit instituted against the university authority at Benin High Court.

Fawehinmi was also the star lawyer during the Ali-must-go crisis. When the apex students’ body, was outlawed, he converted part of his chambers to the headquarters of National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS). He gave them legal and financial assistance.

Similar services were rendered to the students of Universities of Ife, (1981) Maiduguri (1983) University of Nigeria (1990) and Obafemi Awolowo University (1991).

Many of the students he saved are now showing signs of leadership at the bar.
"There is a standing rule in his chambers that "students are not to be charged fees when they come for help," said Ugwazor.

Legal profession

Through sheer courage and exemplary determination, Fawehinmi changed the course of legal practice in the country. That he did through the democratization of knowledge. Not only did he practice law, he wrote and published law.

Fawehinmi’s Nigerian Weekly Law Reports is a must-read for lawyers, judges and researchers. It is excellent in innovation, content, style and regularity.
He also had other legal works to his credit. They include ‘Digest of the Supreme Court cases (1986), Nigerian Law of Habeas Corpus (1986), Nigerian Law of the press under the constitution and the Criminal Law (1987), Nigeria Law of Libel and the Press (1987), law of contempt in Nigeria (1980). The Bench and the Bar in Nigeria (1987), Murder of Dele Giwa: the Right of a private prosecutor (1988), Court’s System in Nigeria – A guide (1992), June 12 crisis – the illegality of Shonekan’s Government (1993) etc.


Fawehinmi was an unconventional politician. He took off as a rebel when he declared the National Conscience Party (NCP) a full-fledged party on October 1, 1994 when political activity was banned by the late General Sanni Abacha.

He was promptly arrested and detained. Later, he was charged to court for forming an illegal political party. On October 1994, he was discharged and acquitted. That was the tonic for the massive street procession organized by him and other members of the party.The procession started from the court premises.

On April 22, 2002, he declared his presidential ambition. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a congratulatory letter to him. It was a hypocritical message. In 1978, the same General who was military Head of State detained Fawehinmi at the Inter Centre detention camp, Ikoyi, for defending students during the Ali-must-go crisis over the resistance to increase in school fees.

In 1978/1979, Fawehinmi had wanted to become the first civilian governor of old Ondo State. Then, he wanted to identify with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). But, he could not achieve his dream because of the leadership recruitment conditions which did not favour him.
On April 22, 2002, he explained why he wanted to lead the country.

"Poverty, in all its dimensions and ramifications, is more pervasive today than ever before. Rather than improve the quality of material life of the people, governance in Nigeria has been synonymous with infliction of pains and pangs on the populace, high level of blood-letting and blood-shedding in all the strata of the society, lack of serious national leadership and general atmosphere of fear and utter hopelessness virtually culminating in a state of anomie," he declared.

He said: "Unlike Obasanjo and Abacha, I do not share the view that without an individual, the nation is doomed."

The 10-point programme of NCP covers employment, food, health, housing, education, water, electricity, transportation, telecommunications and security.
Besides, Fawehinmi sounded a note of warning to corrupt politicians and officials.
"Corruption must be confronted frontally, decisively, courageously and brutally. We must approach the culture of corruption from the epic centre of the Nigerian society, the corridors of power," he stressed.
To achieve that, he said, "an executive Ministry of Anti-corruption would be set up to compile the names of all those who had held public offices as heads of government, heads of state, ministers, governors, commissioners, legislators, heads of parastatals, either military or civilian from January 15, 1966 to May 29, 2003 for investigation." The party failed at the poll. Its revolutionary tendencies jolted the rulers.


Fawehinmi’s scholarship schemes underscored his commitment to free education. He was therefore, not only a Senior Advocate of Law, but also a Senior Advocate of Education.
While schooling in London, he faced a lot of odds. His finances depleted. His financial problems nearly made him a drop-out. He vowed never to allow people around him to suffer the same tribulation.

In 1971, he instituted his Scholarship Scheme. Beneficiaries were brilliant indigent students. More than 1000 poor students savoured the scheme yearly. They cut across the geo-political zones.

In 2000 alone, he gave scholarship to 45 tertiary students. On July 25 and 26, he traveled to Kaduna to meet the beneficiaries at Arewa House. On 28 and 29, he came to the South to meet their counterparts.

His belief in free education endeared him to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He traveled to many countries, including France, to collect research materials in 1973 and 1974 for his book titled: "People’s Right to Free Education." In 1975, he launched the free Education Association of Nigeria.


While he instituted scholarship in memory of his father, the late Chief Saheed Tugbobo Fawehinmi, Seriki Musulumi of Ondo Kingdom, the eminent lawyer set up a foundation in memory of his mother, Alhaja Muniratu Fawehinmi, the Iya Olori Egbe Adini of Ondo Central Mosque.
The foundation caters for the needs of the poor, widows and disabled.

Gani: legacies of an icon by Emmanuel Oladesu
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