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Did Bakare Shoot Himself In The Foot By Femi Akintunde Johnson

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It is somewhat curious that the January 5, 2020 ‘State of the Nation’ address broadcast a little over an hour on African Independent Television, AIT, was essentially collapsed into a one-tablet-cures-all condensation by the Nigerian media: that President Buhari should have a successor in place towards 2023!

Of course, the broadcast under review was by Dr. Tunde Bakare, the Serving Overseer of the Lagos-based Latter Rain Assembly (now renamed The Citadel Global Community Church). Periodically, the pastor and some kind of politician, puts an elaborate televised proclamation that is self-styled “State of the Nation” address.

Perhaps, it is not fair to imply that all the Nigerian media slept facing the same direction on this matter as only New Telegraph and Leadership newspapers towed a more robust path (unless I missed one or two others). The blogging chatterboxes, expectedly, simply sunk their teeth into the succession beef, splattering stews of conjectures all over the blogosphere. Some even inferred that Bakare was needling Buhari to pick him as his successor. The likelihood of that as a political exigency or deft partisan calculation was left to the imaginations of their readers.

As usual, the Presidency would not be found wanting in stoking political wildfire…a day after the broadcast, the president’s men were trumpeting their principal’s aversion to any succession plan directly involving him, insisting that the president would not “impose” any successor on Nigerians in 2023, in spite of the need to watch keenly over his enduring legacies. Maybe a calmer reading of the speech would pinpoint who could have shot himself in the foot. The Presidency or Bakare?

This is where my worry lies though: the media is expected to set agendas – not to set heads against each other. It is a notorious irony that while the media flourishes in the atmosphere of reading and writing, majority of its practitioners, arguably, hate reading… especially long-reads. So, it is not difficult to situate the “one-way” syndrome exhibited by the media in its attraction to the sensation of succession – an idea framed as the third leg of a pivotal subplot within more robust and ennobling ideas…in a long read.

Admittedly, Bakare’s epistle is an eloquent nightmare for many of our over-worked news editors and reporters – what with the intimidating challenge of wading through more than 5,700 words, formatted over 40 paragraphs, running across 27 pages!

The good pastor cannot, in all sincerity, say he was misquoted; yet, deep in his heart must remain a restless ache that the message has been disfigured, the import misdirected, and the essence mangled, unfulfilled.

However, my desire today is to plunge into the multi-layered treatise, themed “Unveiling The True Enemies Of Nigeria”, and attempt to turn my readers’ heads towards the more salient issues raised, wherein he proposed important palliatives, and made confounding reiterations of our stubborn problems. Perhaps, the Presidency and stakeholders, startled by Bakare’s scorching admonitions, can get off the Pontius Pilate high horse, and confront the ogres awoken.

The very long “Introduction” (about eight pages of 1,666 words) is essentially the bolts and nuts he used in welding Nigeria’s chequered trajectories of the diverse nationalities which cobbled some sort of nationhood that has endured all sorts of fissures in these 100 years (from 1920 to 2020).

So we don’t fall for easy excuses and cheap propaganda, his preliminary argument is to identify those who are NOT the enemies of Nigeria: it’s not the British who left us almost 60 years ago, and have morphed from masters to partners; it’s not self-determination groups and agitators, if their “activities are for the public good and within the ambit of the law”; it’s not those who challenge government… “champions of our democracy”….

After a cogent 542-word introspection, high on contemporary examples of civil challengers and civic champions, Bakare submits: “You may dislike their methods, you may not like their politics, they may be thorns in your flesh, but mustering the apparatus of governmental force against those who criticise the government by the words of their mouths or the strokes of their pens is nothing but a petty path of vengeance that will eventually boomerang…”

On the grumblings in government circles over the mounting spectre of social media disruptions, he argues: “the fact that some persons have deployed this tool in ways that have been less than honourable does not justify the attempted clampdown on freedom of speech by some legislators who major in minors. I, too, have been a target of social media vitriol. I have been misrepresented, maligned and falsely characterised by mischief-makers on social media, but I will not support the suppression of the most potent tool for citizen engagement in the 21st century through a misguided Social Media Bill….”

After the maelstrom of who are not the nation’s enemies, the Pastor waxes lyrically on the “true enemies” of Nigeria. Here, I have to deliver massive cuts to avoid the knife of my editor for exceeding space limit: “…The true enemies of Nigeria are those who, paraphrasing the words of George Washington, seek to build their greatness upon their country’s ruin…. As it is with the leadership, so it is with the citizenry… In Nigeria, the vast majority of our people regularly take turns perpetuating the cycle of corruption either as beneficiaries or benefactors. These enemies in citizens’ clothing are those who choose to be spectators while the nation goes down the drain on their watch; those perverts on the pulpit who hide under togas of godliness to manipulate the vulnerable; those economic behemoths who window dress their underhandedness with ‘filthlanthropy’; those who are perpetually “not on seat” because they can’t “come and go and die;” those who rob, rape, raze, pillage, abduct, murder, dismember in the name of hunger or misguided rage; those who sell their votes or connive with political bandits to short-change their children’s children; those who partake of loot and celebrate looters from the same ethnic group or religious organisation; those who say of the looters, ‘We know say na thief, but this thief na our thief’.

“At the local level of government, the true enemies of our nation are those agents of oppression who place excruciating multiple tax burdens on often defenceless Nigerians – the petty traders, okada riders, keke drivers, bricklayers, pepper grinders, carpenters, vulcanisers, mechanics and other artisans…

“At the state level…are those state governments that feed fat on unaccounted-for security votes…; those who paralyse local governance structures in such a manner that discredits genuine arguments for restructuring and devolution of powers….

“At the zonal level, the enemies of Nigeria are those who have perverted their influence and turned the states within their zones of influence into personal estates…

“At the federal level, the true enemies of Nigeria are in every arm of government. In the judiciary, they are judges who pervert justice and auction judgements to the highest bidder. In the legislature, they are those legislators who rob the nation “under the guise of constituency projects” and are quick to pass laws that undermine our national freedoms… In the executive arm… are those who deploy the machinery of state against hapless citizens; those who serve self rather than the people….”

Zeroing on the presidency, Bakare suggests three pivots that could birth a worthy legacy for the Buhari persona, and provoke the stirrings of a truly new and progressive Nigeria. Understandably, only the last leg of the three pivots captured the imagination of the media. Here are some cut-outs of the two critical pivots. Deconstructing Barrack Obama’s iconic uppercut to African despots while visiting Ghana in July, 2009 (“Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”), Bakare affirms: “A strongman is different from a strong leader… Africa does need strong leaders; men and women who will build strong institutions. Therefore, providing strong leadership must be the first pivotal agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the next three years… It means now, more than ever, being not just the Commander-in-Chief but also the Unifier-in-Chief of an increasingly fragmented and disillusioned populace; to offer hope, inspiration….”

The second pivot is hinged on the mainframe of strong leadership: “We must strengthen institutions of justice by adherence to the rule of law and respect for court judgements…We must also strengthen institutions of accountability by enforcing transparency in government revenue and expenditure….”

The third pivot is where the robber missed the road. We don’t need quotes to make that clear. In spite of extensive borrowings from the succession paradigms of Deng Xiaoping, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew…our agenda setters still muddled up the prairie, and substituted successor for succession as holistic approach to legacies of quality, committed and responsible leadership cadre.

Here’s a parting shot, a warning for Pastor Bakare: When next you give your broadcast, you may spend as long as you want on air – fervently dividing and delivering the word as you’re led…when it’s time to deal with the media, it is advisable you munch your text equivalence to far less than a quarter of your speech. You see, those copious Biblical passages and parables you so much love to contextualize your statements, to the media controlled by a tribe deeply irreverent and devoutly irreligious, that’s all mumbo-jumbo embellishment.

This angst will often enable them to miss the spine of your arguments, and set you on a path that you have not envisioned. Simply put, less is much better. And less stressful.

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My Civil War Experience – IBB

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In this interview monitored on Channels Television, former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, reflects on his experience during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. He also bares his mind on the unity of Nigeria and the need for quality leadership in the country.

Experience of the civil war

I was a very young officer just trying to become a captain in the Nigerian Army. When the war broke out, I was away on a training in United Kingdom. We stayed there for a very short period and then we came back. I was posted to one division in the Nigerian Army. We served together with people from other parts of the country, and then suddenly, you discover that you are fighting against one another. I can recall a case of one of my very good colleagues; we faced each other and I saw him die. It was very a horrible experience for a young officer at that time. It was tragic that somebody with whom you trained together, went to India Military Academy together, and suddenly, in July of 1967, we found ourselves fighting one another. It was a very pathetic experience. It is something I pray we never experience again in this country.

Thoughts on fighting against former colleagues

That showed us how things can go wrong in the running of a country. There were some civil disturbances that began to manifest at that time. Immediately after independence, elections were not going properly, there were riots in various parts of the country. These culminated into the civil war. The leadership at that time believed very strongly that nothing should be done to break the unity of the country and we were all brought up and trained to believe that we should be able to defend the integrity of the country. So we resisted any effort to disintegrate the country because of our training and political indoctrination.

Reaction to end of the war

Yes, I got a sense of relief. I was somewhere in Ukigwe when my commander, General TY Danjuma, brought the news to us that the war was over. It brought a sense of relief. What I wanted to do immediately I heard the war was over was to reach out to my colleague who was fighting on my front. I trained with him in the Nigeria Training College, Kaduna, as we used to call it then. I really wanted to see him so that we can shake hands. He eventually turned up and we greeted ourselves, talked about our days as cadets and so on. And then, jokingly, he asked me ‘Ibrahim, is it you fighting me’ and I also asked him, ‘Amos are you fighting me’. But today we have every reason to thank God because none of us was killed during that war and we become friends again.

On the policy of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (Three Rs)

I think we were informed enough to know that quite a number of countries in the world – we studied military history – went through civil wars and that afterwards, they came back together, settled down and integrated the people into the main stream of the society. This is what was in our minds and fortunately our head of state then. General Yakubu Gowon brought the Three Rs. He was a passionate believer in the unity of this country. So I think having finished the war, since he said there is no victor and no vanquished, we quickly began to adjust to remaining as Nigerians.

State of the military after the war

It was small in size. When we started, the military was not more than five battalions, not up to 10,000 soldiers. By the time the war was over, we had 250,000 because of the obvious mobilisation. So from a small number of 10,000 to 250,000, the immediate problem was how to reorganise the army into a much more manageable size, cohesive, well-trained and well-oriented for the purposes of building a stronger nation.

Perception of Nigeria’s unity among his contemporaries

The way we saw it, the unity of Nigeria, as far as we were concerned, was an article of faith amongst my generation. Nobody would like to see this country go through another civil war, nobody will like to see this country disintegrate because we will be unfair to those who put their lives on the line and died for the purpose of keeping the country one. So if we let it go, we will not be fair to them. Millions of thousands of people were killed and maimed. Some were permanently disabled. So we will not be fair to those people who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country, that is why we are so passionate about the unity of this country.

The Three Rs 50 years after

Well, quite frankly, I think we did well. Again, if you compare other countries that went through a civil war, you will find out that we have done reasonably well indeed because the war finished in 1970. We had a military government from 1966 to 1975. Another military government took over from 1975 to 1979. We had a civilian government from 1979 to 1983. We later had a military government from 1983 to 1984 and from 1984 to 1993. We succeeded in keeping the civilian administration in place. This is all thanks to the military for it’s determination to install a democratically elected government in the country.

On NYSC and Unity Schools as a means to foster integration

To a certain extent, I think we have succeeded, especially with the NYSC programme because, most of the people who went into NYSC are students from universities and other tertiary institutions. They were intelligent enough to read about what happened at the time. They were able to go through history and even mingle. So it was quite easy. It is a very good thing that it was done at that time. So if you find the generation of 1973 up till now, they are mostly very strong believers in the unity of Nigeria. So that is one thing that those polices succeeded in doing. At the secondary school level, students, at a young age were taught about the country and the civil war. So they grew up with history of the country in their minds, so I think it was good for the country.

On the post-war Nigeria and pressure on government to enhance national unity

I think old habits die hard like they say. There has been this tendency to recline and go back to the old habits. If you find yourself in politics, for example, people tend to recline into their own cocoon because we didn’t have what I will call a re-orientation on what politics is all about. We didn’t do much in trying to get people indoctrinated through political interactions and so on. So the moment you reintroduce politics, the first thing that came to our minds was what political parties and systems used to be before the civil war. People saw that as a starting point and once you see that you could hardly change it.

On Rwanda’s post-war integration model

In the case of Rwanda, I will say that it is leadership. They have a very strong person as a leader who believes very strongly in that country and therefore would like to see the country united. It is the leadership that can change the whole environment.

On whether the Rwanda formula can work in Nigeria

If you get a strong leadership at the national and state levels, I think we should be able to do it.

His experience on managing Nigeria’s diversity

I think you should build supporters who believe strongly in what you are trying to do. We tried it with NYSC and Unity schools. I think we did not push it hard. We should have pushed it harder so that we will have people who attend unity schools together not having problems interacting with one another. So that they don’t have to return to their cocoons saying this is where I come from. I think we allowed it to slacken a little bit.

Creation of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja to ensure cohesiveness

I think we did. Don’t forget that the whole idea of Abuja came about in 1976 by General Murtala Muhammed. He had a vision because of the sheer size and ethnic groups in the country. He wanted to keep the country one so that they can have something to call their own such that everybody belongs to it. I think the idea was good and the whole concept came about in 1976. Those of us who came after Murtala Muhammed believed very strongly that that vision was the correct vision for the country and so we pursued it, including the civilian regime. Shehu Shagari tried to make it realisable. And when the military came because we believed in it strongly, we made sure that it remained what it was designed to be.

The place of military in Nigeria’s unity

You cannot convince me for example that this country should break. I would not talk to you for a long time because I know that people died in keeping the country one. I got maimed keeping the country one. So my generation will always insist that this country remains one. We fought for it, we know the consequences of war, we know the pains people went through. It is not too much demand on us to keep the country together.

On how leaders inclined to unity of Nigeria can emerge

The whole thing depends on the leadership election. One of the things I would loved to see is that if you want to pick a leader, you should be able to assess his thoughts about the unity of the country, that he will not jeopardise it and he will try to use everything within his power, legitimately to make sure that the country remains one. We have more than 200 million people in this country. My generation and the generation below mine will always believe in this country and they will move this country forward.

Nigeria’s unity after his generation

My generation is committed and they will use everything possible, including applying logic and advise to make sure that the country remains United.

On military and civil relations

Immediately after the second world war, the military became more civilized and more educated. There is a need for us to understand that the soldier knows that he is supposed to be obedient to the democratically elected government because it represents the people. I can tell you now that only a stupid soldier will think of a coup because it is no longer in their psyche. It is no longer acceptable in Africa, West Africa and in the whole world generally. So the soldier is intelligent enough to know that if he does that the country will be ostracised from the community of nations. For example, the people you want to represent will rise against you in your own country so it is no longer fashionable to stage a coup.

On deepening national cohesion, reconciliation and reintegration

Our selection of leadership is the most important thing. By this I mean leadership at all levels be it political, military and economic. Once this is done and every sector believes in it, I think we will have no problem.

On success of federal character principle so far

To some extent I think it worked because, it created some sense of belonging and balance in what government strives to do. But you cannot carry it on to a ridiculous extent. You cannot take a mediocre to do a job because of federal character. It shouldn’t be so. We have now reached a stage where in every part of the country and in any community, there are graduates and professionals. So you cannot sacrifice quality in the name of federal character and put an unqualified person in a position.

On his administration and legacy
belong to Winston Churchill’s school of thought when taking about about historical legacy. He said history will be fair to him because he is going to write it himself. So maybe because I share that view, I will write my legacy by myself, and I believe God will lead me. So I want to write by myself so that history will be fair to me.

On the current state of insecurity in the country

I think a lot needs to be done quite frankly because if what we read in the papers and hear on radio is true especially in most of those areas that we assumed that the security situation has been stabilised. I read in the papers of the young governor of Borno State telling the defense minister that there are still few places that people can’t go in the state. He said so because that, at least, will give the military high command some way of thinking. The governor is the security officer of the state and he knows the people. There are a lot of challenges. What they need to do is to get a lot of intelligence. It looks to me that there are people who are thinking for the insurgents. There are people who think for them. We need to find out those who are thinking for them, leading them and supplying them with weapons, and put a stop to that. That is probably the way I access it.

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Buhari heading to London for a summit — first foreign trip in 2020

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President Muhammadu Buhari will on Friday depart Abuja  for London to participate in the inaugural UK-Africa investment summit scheduled for Monday. 

Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, said the summit is expected to bring African leaders, international business chief executives, heads of international organisations together “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” in Africa and the UK.

“Apart from highlighting new perspectives on UK-Africa Partnership for Prosperity, issues of Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Future African Growth Sectors and Clean Energy and Climate,
are expected to dominate presentations and discussions during the Summit, ” he said in a statement.

“With the expected take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mid-2020, the London investment summit will provide Nigeria with the opportunity to project itself as a leading investment destination for new industries.

“In addition, the summit will deepen Nigeria-United Kingdom investment ties post-Brexit given that Africa currently represents just two percent of British trade activity, with Nigeria accounting for only 10 percent of that total.

“The Nigerian delegation to the investment meeting will further showcase what the Federal Government has done through policies and legislations to improve the investment and business climate in the country.”

According to the statement, Buhari will also hold a meeting with Prince Charles, head of the Commonwealth, in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and heads of multilateral organisations.

Among the governors who will accompany the president are Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Muhammad Yahaya (Gombe) and  Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia).

The ministers are Geoffrey Onyeama (foreign affairs), Nìyí Adebayo (industry, trade and investment), Zainab Ahmed (finance, budget and national planning).

The remaining people in the president’s delegation are: Babagana Monguno, national security adviser and Ahmed Abubakar, director-general of the National Intelligence Agency.

The president is expected back in Abuja on Thursday. This will be Buhari’s first foreign trip in 2020.

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Sylva: FG making plans for fuel at N97 per litre

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Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum resources, says the federal government is working to make fuel available at N97 per litre, using the compressed natural gas (CNG) as an option to premium motor spirit (PMS).

CNG is a fuel that can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It is used in traditional gasoline/internal combustion engine automobiles or specifically manufactured vehicles.

Fielding questions from reporters at his office in Abuja on Thursday, the minister said the common man would not notice that subsidy on PMS has been removed when they have CNG as an option.

“If we are thinking of reducing pump price for fuel? I could easily say yes and I’m sure all of you wonder why I am saying that,” he said.

“We are thinking of giving the masses an alternative. Today we are all hooked on PMS, what we want to do going forward is to see that we are able to move the masses to CNG gas.

“CNG unit for unit costs less than even the subsidised PMS. Per litre the subsidised rate of PMS is N145/l. CNG will cost N95 to N97/l that is why I could say we want to reduce the cost of fuel, that way when we are given an alternative Nigerians will not notice when the subsidy on PMS is removed.”

The minister said he is hoping that the petroleum industry bill (PIB) will be passed by the national assembly before May.

According to him, the PIB “has taken us back for too long.”

“We are very ambitious about the PIB and we are hoping that it will pass before May this year which is the first anniversary of this administration and second tenure of this government,” he said.

“We are counting on the excellent relationship between the executive and the legislature but I must say that it is a hope and that is why I am mobilising the support of all of you. We are also mobilising the support of the national assembly and everybody else in the industry.

“Let us build a consensus around the PIB because the PIB has taken us back for too long, it has held us down for too long and we need to get it passed quickly. It is taking us a while to tidy up because we want to take every interest on board.”

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