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Friday, October 20, 2017

Between Buhari and governors

…also published in Daily Trust

Since the beginning of President Buhari administration, the underlying dynamics of power politics between the president on the one hand, and the state governors on the other have been quietly and steadily changing. Until recently, successive Nigerian presidents and state governors have maintained a mutually serving relationship that has kept their respective political interests quite interdependent.

Usually, for instance, a president serving his first term in office while looking forward to getting reelected to serve his second term in due course, state governors in a similar situation and with a similar ambition, and also outgoing governors serving their second terms and pursuing senatorial ambitions or simply looking forward to remaining politically relevant enough to secure ministerial or ambassadorial appointments, would always maintain such a mutually serving relationship,  of course at the expense of the people.

Being closer to the people, state governors who are also effectively the leaders of their respective political parties in their respective states, which enables them to control and manipulate the parties at the national level, have hitherto collectively maintained a huge influence on the president taking advantage of his irresistible ambition to get reelected (when he is serving his first term) or, (when he is already serving his second term) equally taking advantage of his obsession with post-presidency political influence strong enough to keep him politically indispensable in the country’s politics hence effectively immune from any probe or judicial prosecution for the rest of his life. They would manipulate and, in fact, even blackmail him into doing their collective bidding so as to maintain their support for his reelection bid. Likewise, in the event of irreconcilably conflicting interests between him and some of them, he would equally employ the vast instruments of political and/or financial enticements under his disposal as president, or use blackmail tactics, threat or persecution to get his way. Yet, their collective interests, which after all wouldn’t turn out to be that different from his, would in most cases prevail.

However, this situation has been apparently changing since the start of this administration thanks to president Buhari’s different approach. The relationship between the president and the state governors appears to be gradually becoming more transparent; a development that of course doesn’t go well with most of the state governors.

Contrary to the situation in the past, Nigerians now have a president who despite being constitutionally constrained from intervening in the states’ administrative affairs, feels morally obliged to publicly lament the failure of state governors to do the right things in their respective states. He has done this in both direct and tacit ways. Recently, for instance, he received some state governors who represented their colleagues, and lambasted those of them owing workers’ salaries wondering “how can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months”. During the meeting also, he rightly, albeit quite tacitly, attributed their failure to pay salaries to the lack of transparency in the management of public funds in their respective states, by emphasizing that “he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in order to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.” Obviously, by this particular remark, he was rightly urging them to follow suit in this regard.

Besides, on different occasions, he has urged them to complement relevant federal government’s economic reform policies and economic recovery measures at their various states to facilitate people’s access to the economic benefits they provide.

Though, President Buhari is already certainly aware of the possible political implications of this approach on his expected reelection bid in 2019 considering the sheer influence of state governors on political parties including his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), yet his personal integrity appears to have outweighed his personal political interests anyway. This isn’t surprising for a person who has over the decades consistently maintained a track record of proven integrity, which has earned him his unique reputation that even his critics can only pretend to deny as they simply can’t cheat their conscience.
On a lighter note, this explains why despite his simple appearance, one can’t fail to observe that, whenever he is attending to some top government officials including governors and ministers, the self-confidence he effortlessly exudes unnerves most of them. This is what happens when a leader proves too honest to be approached with an inducement in return of facilitating thievery of public funds or turning a blind eye to it. This, however, does not dismiss his shortcomings, being a human being. Yet, many of what are being peddled as his shortcomings are quite excusable if only they would be objectively examined in the grand scheme of things in the country.
Now, while President Buhari should continue to publicly lament the failures of state governors in their respective states, Nigerians must not allow the governors to sabotage his expected reelection bid in 2019. This can be achieved when the electorate grow wise and responsible enough to vote according to their conscience at all levels in the country.

Friday, October 6, 2017

President’s tacit indictment of Ganduje and others

....also published in Daily Trust

The conspicuous absence of Kano state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his Katsina state counterpart, Aminu Masari among the thirteen governors commended by President Muhammadu Buhari in his National Day address last week, for their contributions towards the steadily growing success of his administration’s economic diversification policy in agriculture, captured the interest of many observers. The thirteen state governors who earned the Presidential commendation were the governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Imo, Cross River, Benue, Ogun, Kaduna and Plateau States.

By implication, this commendation is also a tacit indictment of the other governors. Of course, as Bakano, I am particularly interested in the implications of Governor Ganduje’s absence in the list, being also governor of the ruling All Progressives Congress’s largest stronghold in the country. Governor Masari’s absence is also quite interesting, being governor of President Buhari’s home state i.e. Katsina, which is also arguably the second largest stronghold of the ruling APC.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state

Now, unsurprisingly, no sooner had the President finished his address than some Ganduje’s critics began to ridicule him and rejoice for what they consider their vindication for insisting that he has failed to live up to expectations. His political opponents from Kwankwasiyya faction of the APC in particular gloated over what they regarded as President Buhari’s show of disappointment in him despite his purported loyalty to him (Buhari). Interestingly, since falling out with his former boss, Rabi’u Kwankwaso, Governor Ganduje has been increasingly portraying and promoting himself as a staunch Buhari loyalist in his apparent attempt to neutralize the looming threat that Kwankwasiyya followers and other disillusioned Kanawa pose against his re-election bid in 2019.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Stealing the limelight at UNGA

…also published in Daily Trust 

The annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held at the organization’s headquarters in the US city of New York sees the largest gathering of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and other heads of governments to supposedly discuss various challenges hampering the achievement of a secure, politically stable, economically prosperous and environmentally sustainable global community.

Ironically, however, while frankness in discussing issues and real commitment to addressing them are supposed to define the UNGA proceedings inasmuch as the attendees are after all the leaders of the world, the occasion often turns out to be an event where almost all the attendees take their turns one after another to feign commitment to solving issues and doing the right things purportedly to address the challenges and crises bedevilling the world.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Looming scenario in Rohingya crisis

…also published in Daily Trust

The systematic persecution of Rohingya Muslim minority by successive Buddhist governments of Myanmar (formerly Burma) over the decades isn’t likely to stop anytime soon, in view of the apparent reluctance of the international community to end it.

Though acts of persecution against them have been widespread since the end of the British rule in that country in 1948, the perpetration began to assume a systematic manner culminating in the formulation of laws and issuance of decrees to that effect, e.g. the 1982 law that effectively denies them the right to the country’s citizenship. Their right to free movement in the country is also restricted as they are also excluded from state-funded schools and government jobs.

In the meantime also, from time to time, a government’s crackdown and a public lynching campaign targeted against them are launched simultaneously resulting in a massacre that spares nobody including children, women and the elderly. Their already poverty-ravaged settlements are also torched. 

By the way, though the current round of recurrent lynching campaign against them is indeed atrocious, yet it isn’t necessarily the worst ever, contrary to some assumptions. However, being the most widely covered round by the general public thanks to the availability of social media platforms, it attracts more public attention and, of course, instigates more outrage particularly among Muslims around the world. This is despite the apparent lack of appropriate interest in the crisis that the major global mainstream media networks, with the exception of Aljazeera, betray. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Expectations of Nigeria-UAE pacts

…also published in Daily Trust

A few days following President Muhammadu Buhari’s return from his recent medical vacation in Britain, he ratified some treaties and pacts with a number of organizations and countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Unsurprisingly, due to the particularly obvious anti-corruption dimension of the bundle of bilateral agreements between Nigeria and the UAE, it attracted more media attention hence more public interest in Nigeria. It includes Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and Extradition treaty.

Over the years, many corrupt Nigerian government officials aided by their accomplices among some businessmen have exploited the UAE’s liberal foreign investment system to launder huge amounts of stolen public funds and/or invest in the country’s various economic sectors especially the real estate sector. Either directly or through accomplices, they own expensive properties in different locations in the country including some of Dubai’s most expensive areas e.g. Emirates Hills, The Meadows, Palm Jumeirah, JLT, Marina etc.