Nnamdi Kanu – Letter From Reuben Abati

nnamdi kanu

Read the letter Reuben Abati, former special adviser for media and publicity to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan sent to Nnamdi Kanu

Nnamdi Kanu is the acclaimed ruler of Indigenous People Of Biafra group (IPOB). One that seeks to secede from Nigeria

We have never met. I only know you by reputation and I have had cause in the last year to write on your activities within the public arena and offer my own views about you, your persona, and your interventions in the Nigerian debate. I sincerely hope you would get to read this letter wherever you may be, that is assuming you are still alive.

Your father’s house was recently invaded by the Nigerian military (surprised you don’t have a house of your own!). We were later told that you simply disappeared into thin air, along with your parents. The murderous Operation Python Dance II that was unleashed on Igboland by the Federal Government of Nigeria has since become a subject of national interest. Many people have proclaimed that you have been killed, abducted and that many members of your family and movement – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have been wasted. Some people said you were called The Lion, but when trouble came, you were the first to run away from the zoo.

You had boasted that you will deal with any invading force from Abuja. You also said it would be “Biafra or Death”. But when death came calling in the shape of Operation Python Dance II, your enemies insisted that you should have waited. Don’t mind them, oh. I have defended you in another piece where I argued that it is probably better to run away so you can live to fight another day. Of course, it is not every revolutionary that runs away.

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Che Guevara died in the struggle, and Martin Luther King, Patrice Lumumba, and so on. Nelson Mandela was jailed for life, but he lived to tell the story. In your case, the way the Nigerian state has been carrying on, it is clear they don’t want you to tell any more stories. You have been charged for treason. You have now been labeled a terrorist. Your organization has been proscribed, and labeled an enemy of the Nigerian state. A week after soldiers stormed your state, neighbourhood and home, the Nigerian Air Force began to drop its men from helicopters all over Igboland. They call it show of force.

I guess all of that is to let you and your men know that wherever you are, the Nigerian state is determined to hunt you down. If you are on land, they will grab you. If you hide in the skies, the Air Force will bring you down. And if you hide in the seas, the Nigerian Navy and the Amphibious Brigade of the Nigeria Army will fish you out. Officially, we have been told that you and IPOB are worse than violent herdsmen and the Boko Haram who have killed thousands of Nigerians in the last year alone. The Boko Haram has been declared the fourth most violent group in the world, but the Nigerian government insists that you pose a greater threat. In fact, a government spokesperson sounded as if there is a secret plan in place to give herdsmen and the Boko Haram national honours.

There is probably something that the Nigerian government and state actors know that we do not know. You were dealing with the charge of treason, now there is the additional allegation of terrorism. Don’t ever deceive yourself that if you get arrested again, you’d be released, except perhaps you change your identity and claim that you are now a herdsman or a member of the Boko Haram. There may be many people who have Nicodemus access to you who may be telling you to come and confront the Nigerian state. That is how Nigerians sweet-tongue people to their death. I am sure that by now, from your hiding place, you would have learnt some lessons.

Nnamdi Kanu

The Nigerian state may be against you, but the people you really have to fear are the same people you claim to be leading, that is the same people who used to call you messiah and who followed you about, kneeling before you and kissing the ground on which you walked. Of what use is a change-agent without committed followers? Of what use is a revolution without the people’s buy-in? Of what use is an ideology without foot-soldiers? The moment the Federal Government activated Operation Python II, most of the people who used to support you have gone completely silent. The Biafra Secret Service is nowhere to be seen.

The Biafra National Guard threw away its uniform. Some of those boys who used to wave the Biafran flag and wear the Biafran cap have thrown them away too. One or two persons are still issuing statements on behalf of IPOB, but even those statements sound like they were issued from business centres. Your own kinsmen have called you a tyrant and an opportunist. Many of them have written social media pieces advising the Federal Government to deal with you, because you don’t listen to advice. They even say you are not a true revolutionary but a gold-digger.

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In all manner of ways, the Governors of the five Igbo states are using you to play politics. They have declared IPOB an illegal organization. They are openly abusing you. All the big men in Igbo land are as quiet as the dead sea. Igbo traditional rulers have refused to support your father who is their colleague. Some of them have in fact asked the Abia state Governor to withdraw his certificate and staff of office and appoint another person in his place. Even the big men who signed your bail documents have refused to defend you. You used to boast about international support for the Biafran cause.

It has been said that the government now knows some “treasury looters” and international groups who are funding you and that IPOB accounts have been traced to some countries, particularly France. The French and the Turkish promptly distanced themselves from you. But the European Union and the United States spoke nicely. America says IPOB is not a terrorist organization and America will know.

But the Nigerian government that may not know half of what America knows is insisting that it is now a crime for anybody, even as young as five years old to identify with Biafra, regardless of the Constitutional right to the freedom of speech and association and the right to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter.

Indeed, it would appear as if the Nigerian Government has been able to break the spine of your movement, at least for now, and certainly, the way things are, the November 18 election in Anambra state will take place – with or without you. If anybody expected that there would be a massive protest in the South East over the treatment that has been meted out to you, that has not quite happened. All the markets in the South East are open; Igbo traders across Nigeria have moved on with their businesses. Life is so normal in the South East, the Nigerian military is dancing and beating its chest.

Northern and South Eastern Governors are holding meetings and congratulating each other. You turned 50 yesterday, apart from a few messages on social media, everywhere was quiet in the South-East. If this had been a month ago, the crowd that would have gathered at your doorstep would have stretched from Isiama Afara to Afikpo, and the cakes you would have received would have been uncountable. Rochas Okorocha recently got 27 birthday cakes, presented by 27 women, representing the same number of local governments in Imo State, you probably would have received a cake from every local government in the entire South East! 

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Since your disappearance there has also been little talk about self-determination or Biafra among Igbos. The sound of the narrative is gradually changing. There is more talk these days about Igbo marginalization, and the need to appoint Igbos into offices. One prominent Northerner from Kaduna has since gone to Chatham House in the UK to say Igbos should not complain about marginalization when they didn’t vote for President Buhari in 2015, and that it is foolish for any Nigerian to expect to reap where he or she did not sow.

Nnamdi, you’d be surprised that appointment-seeking Igbos will mobilise your people, including your followers, to vote massively for the same people who are currently hounding you, in 2019. You can be sure this will happen. In fact some people are already boasting that the only way to have peace in Nigeria is to make an Igbo man President or Vice President in 2019. While you were shouting “Biafra or death”, some people were eyeing the business and political side of things. Every proposed revolution often runs into its own contradictions.

But don’t worry. It may be fashionable now to criticise Nnamdi Kanu but the wisdom of the mob is not always the best guide. I sincerely hope that you are alive, and that you’d not end up as an Abogunrin. Not every man has the opportunity to witness what life would be like after his own funeral. Treachery is one of those unsavoury ingredients of the change process. The deserters of the cause would claim they prefer to survive. The coffin maker prays fervently for business but he would never wish that his own family members should die. But take heart, hope is not lost. The fire that you have lit will continue to burn. Your struggle speaks directly to the subject of the national question. You have reminded all and sundry that Nigeria remains a troubled country and that there are many unresolved issues. Every effort has been made to kill your voice, and your movement, but the ideas that you have forced out of the cupboard will continue to resonate.

The good news also is that there are Nigerians in diaspora who have taken up the struggle. They went to demonstrate at the 72ndUnited Nations General Assembly in New York and on the streets of London. Your friends, FFK and Ayo Fayose are still standing by you. There are many others out there who also do not agree that you are a terrorist, even if they do not agree with your methods and rhetoric. You have also exposed the hypocrisy of the Igbo elite. You have exposed the desperation of the ruling class. Don’t let your head swell, though. If I must tell you the truth, you over-acted. Too much acting dey spoil cinema. You paid too much attention to ceremony. You were obsessed with your own heroism. 

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As you read this piece and reflect on your life at 50, let me remind you of the following statement which you made on August 27, 2017:

Where we are is Biafra land. Aba is the spiritual capital of Biafra land. We started in Aba in 2015 at CKC. That day, heaven authenticated our move that IPOB will restore Biafra and that’s what we have come to do. We died in Aba at National High School. They shot and killed us in other places in Biafra land where they were protesting for my release. As our people rest in the grave, we’ll never rest until Biafra is restored. I don’t care what they say in Abuja.

I don’t give a damn what they say in Lagos. I’m a Biafran and we are going to crumble the zoo. Some idiots who are not educated said that they’ll arrest me, and I ask them to come, I’m in Biafra. If any of them leaves Biafra land alive, know that this is not IPOB. Tell them what I said. Tell Buhari that I am in Aba and any person who comes to arrest Nnamdi Kanu in Biafra land will die here.

I’ll never go on exile I assure you. Some people talk about restructuring, are we doing the restructuring of Nigeria now? Are we doing fiscal Federalism? Are we doing devolution? What we want is Biafra! Forget all the nonsense they write about us. We are not slowing down and no man born of a woman can stop us…

Words on marble, Mazi Kanu, these are strong words on marble… Whatever happens, the fight of the python and the lion is a defining moment for Nigeria.

 

Favour loves to read, sing, write, dance and play. A curious cat.

Reuben Abati On Operation Python Dance’ The Python Does Not Dance

python dance

Reuben Abati, always outspoken has voiced his thoughts on the recent operation ‘Python Dance’ as named by the Nigerian Military

Here is what Reuben Abati thinks about Python dance:

Operation code-names have been an important part of military operations since the Germans first applied them in World War 1 but it may be said that the recent (or ongoing?) controversial military exercise in the South Eastern part of Nigeria codenamed Operation Python Dance II is the first major incident in Nigerian military history to draw attention to this seemingly routine aspect of military operations worldwide. An operational code name requires creativity, it is meant to be a cover up, hide the real intentions of the operation, achieve a public relation stunt if possible, and ease communication and strategic documentation within the military hierarchy.

The Nigerian military has never been so clever in coming up with operation code names: many of them are dead give-aways (Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Pulo Shield, Operation Maximum Safety, Operation Crackdown) or so stupidly incongruous they evoke instant suspicion (Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Smile). Pythons don’t dance. Crocodiles don’t smile. Wars have been fought over the use of wrong codes; nations have been sabotaged due to poor communication. Whoever came up with the code name – Operation Python Dance- (sometimes a code name may be computer generated) may have been aiming for irony, but it was strange irony given the facts of the situation and the manner of operation. I make this point to argue that the Nigerian military has messed up Operation Python Dance II in the South East conceptually and operationally, and the attendant arrogance does not serve the Nigerian state well in my view.

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A dance is accompanied by music, it is celebratory in its kinetic and spatial expressions, and it is probably one of the most ingenuous explorations of the human frame. Accompanied usually by music and the symbolism of movement and flexibility, a dance, vertical, horizontal or earth-bound is one of the wonders of human creativity and the most universal of human languages. There is something called snake dance. It is of course celebratory. To say a python is coming to a community to dance is a revelatory oxymoron. A python swallows, it cuts off blood, constricts and suffocates, it is a pretentious animal that curls itself up when it is ready to eat, and then strikes, employing the techniques of velocity, ambush and surprise.

In December 2016, the pythons of the Nigerian military went to the South East on Operation (I) but they did not blow their cover. They said they wanted to help reduce crimes during Christmas. In September 2017, they blew their own cover, and revealed the absurdity of their cryptonym. They did because they behaved exactly like pythons. If that was meant as a covert operation to protect the sovereignty of the country in the face of “seen and analysed threat levels” in the South East, the Nigerian military got it terribly wrong. There is every reason for other military authorities in the international community to laugh at Nigeria.

The military admittedly can conduct routine exercises to prepare its men, to tune up or to check out the country’s territorial integrity. Before and even shortly after the civil war, Nigerian soldiers occasionally came out of their barracks and drove round the town. They used to sing, march on the streets and dance inside their trucks and wave at the people. The people waved back, and in due course, many children mastered some of their songs. In our neck of the woods at the time, there is an Alamala barracks in Abeokuta, one popular song was: J’amala n si ko, mo ti j’amala ki n to lo s’ogun, j’amala n siko”.

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Soldiers were honoured in those days for protecting and saving the country, but since the Nigerian military became politicized and greedy, soldiers have lost so much respect. The proposed demilitarization of African governments, long after the second wave of democratization in Africa has not yet yielded significant outcomes. The soldiers tasting politics has been like the tasting of the forbidden fruit. In and out of uniform, they have retained their hold on power and when one of their own manages to return to power in a civilian dispensation, they simply lose their nerves. The Nigerian military has fallen victim in this regard on many occasions since 1999. This is what we are dealing with.

The latest instance is the bungled operation in Abia State. Operation Python Dance II did not have to take place in the streets of Isiama Afara in Umuahia, Abia State, close to Nnamdi Kanu’s father’s house. The public show of force could have been done anywhere else in the South East. Strutting military force close to the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who in the last year has been busy mobilizing his people, and making demands on the Nigerian state is an undisguised act of provocation with all the pythonic elements of invasion, surprise and suffocation. It was the equivalent of the state descending to the level of rabble-rousing. This happens when an institution like the military opts for street politics, and our military certainly exposed itself in ways that called its professionalism to question in the last few days.

One, the Nigerian military has consistently usurped police functions since the return to civilian rule. The functions of the military are properly spelled out in Sections 217-219 of the extant Nigerian Constitution. But the leaders of the Nigerian military and their retired masters in partisan politics like to behave differently. They’d rather do police work in pursuit of a responsibility expansionist agenda. In a statement issued by Colonel Sagir Musa, of the 82 Division, we are told that Operation Python (II) is meant “to sharpen the skills of the participating troops in the conduct of Internal Security Operations” and these include challenges such as “kidnappings, farmers-herdsmen clashes, secessionist agitations and insurgency of any form… armed robbery and traffic gridlock.” Colonel, sir! There is no insurgency or insurrection in the South East, and it is not the duty of the military to focus on armed robbery and traffic gridlock!

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If the issue is the country’s sovereignty, the simplest thing to do would have been for the police to invite Kanu for questioning, or ask the courts to revoke his bail, or declare him and his associates wanted if they fail to cooperate. The continuous reliance on the military for virtually every national security matter overstretches it and renders it less efficient for its core mandate, and by the same token weakens law enforcement agencies.

Two, the military performed a political function and committed a procedural error when on its own, it declared IPOB, a terrorist organization. Senate President Bukola Saraki has already dismissed this as an ultra vires act. The grounds for declaring a group a terrorist organisation in Nigeria is already defined in the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011 (as amended), and as outlined in Sections 3-15 thereof.

I admit that IPOB may have engaged in acts of provocation within the purview of these provisions given the establishment of the Biafra Secret Service and the Biafra National Guard, but it is not the duty of the military under a democratic dispensation to act as judge, jury and executioner. What exactly is the level of threat actually posed by Kanu and his followers? The military talks further about “unauthorized blocking of access roads, extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks and militant possession and use of stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles…” The Nigerian military is now looking for machetes and stones? It is also in charge of the monitoring of hate speech?

The Governors of the South East also announced that the IPOB had been proscribed in all five states of the South East. They simply made a pronouncement, without any legal backing whereas in a decided matter, the IPOB had been declared legal and legitimate and that Federal High Court ruling has not been vacated. The panic response by the Governors can probably be excused. It must be clear to some people that with Kanu’s increasing messianism and popularity, the South East was clearly one step away from Operation Python Dance II to the declaration of a state of emergency. But the Governors may just have been more interested in their own political survival.

What has been achieved in the South East right now is a profit and loss situation for all the parties concerned. The military is certainly not looking professional enough. The reported abuse of human rights in the wake of Operation Python Dance II is bringing nothing but shame to Nigeria in the international community, and many Igbos at home and in diaspora who were aloof towards the IPOB campaign have suddenly been woken up to express concerns about the politics of being Igbo in Nigeria.

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These new members of the cause are already mobilizing international opinion against the government of the day as can be seen in one contribution that is being circulated online which has reduced everything to the old, and problematic formula of religious and ethnic conflict in Nigeria. Serving Nigerian military chiefs can beat their chest and claim that they have helped the President and Commander in Chief to prove that he meant business when he threatened to deal with anyone and anybody engaged in “terrorism” in a recent speech, but they have also in doing so, done great damage to his politics in the South East, if not the entire Southern Nigeria.

Nnamdi Kanu gains in losing and loses in gaining. I had argued previously that by taking wrong steps and focusing too much attention on him, the Federal Government has more or less turned Nnamdi Kanu into an Igbo hero and symbol. They even helped him to run away before Operation Python Dance got to his father’s house. The military over-dramatised their own ambush tactics. Now that Nnamdi Kanu has been declared a terrorist, he would probably have no reason to place himself in a situation where he can be easily arrested, and with IPOB driven underground more or less, that organisation has been made more potent.

For all you know, Kanu is most likely now in a neighbouring African country from where he can conveniently find his way to Europe or North America and from that distance, he can become a political refugee doing even far more damage. The international community will listen to him, and he needs do no more than complain about all possible ills in Nigeria and the rights of Igbos to self-determination, even if the process of self-determination is not as easy as he and his followers make it sound.

Other Nnamdi Kanus will also emerge if fundamental issues at stake in the Nigerian union are not addressed. Technically, this particular Nnamdi Kanu’s job may well be done. He has awoken the ethnic nationalistic consciousness in not only the Igbos, but all Nigerians, and whether the powers-that-be like it or not, Nigeria would still sooner than later return to and address the subject of restructuring and the same open dialogue that has been resisted would still take place. Even if Nnamdi Kanu is not part of that dialogue, the role that he has played will be part of the story to be told.

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I speak in these terms because his decision to go into hiding or to run away has been interpreted as cowardice. He had asked his followers to stand up and fight for their rights, but when the Pythons headed towards his abode, he and his parents opted for a rapid dialogue with their feet. Not all revolutionaries run away…perhaps it is better for Nnamdi Kanu to live, so he or others can fight another day.

This is no time for the critics of Kanu and IPOB to heave any sigh of relief. The Python does not dance. Nnamdi Kanu couldn’t dance either. Those who leave fire on their roofs and go to bed will harvest an inferno.

 

Favour loves to read, sing, write, dance and play. A curious cat.

BBNaija 2017 Show Was A Big Distraction- Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati has said that the Big Brother Naija 2017  Television show was Madness.

Read what Reuben wrote below:
What a relief! So, the Big Brother Naija reality television programme is finally over. It ended Sunday evening with 23-year old Efe Michael Ejemba, University of Jos graduate of Economics and singer winning the N25 million + SUV at stake, with 57.6% of the votes from over 24 million voters across Africa. Warri, where Efe’s family lives, erupted in excitement. At the Multichoice viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, where Katung Aduwak took charge so brilliantly, there was a similar eruption of incandescent joy. I was relieved because for about 70 days, the Big Brother Naija show was a big distraction, crass capitalism at its most cynical edge, a source of unmanageable madness in homes and on the streets. Now that it is over, it is time for some honest frank talk for the attention of all stakeholders involved.

Let me start with the lessons, on a positive note, before delivering the blows. Lesson one: In a very instructive manner, the Big Brother Naija reality television show promoted the ideas of choice and people power at the heart of democracy. Televised across Africa, the viewers had the final say in determining who stayed in the house or left during eviction moments on Sundays. The votes were collated, audited and confirmed by Deloitte, a firm of auditors and thus, the viewer as the voter determined the outcomes. In that regard, a reality show of that sort promoted a consciousness of democracy, choice and influence and it further explained why the people from Nigeria to Cape Agulhas all the way up to the Mediterranean sea took fierce ownership of the programme. In a continent where power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and every access to power, fame and influence is seen as an opportunity to oppress and demean, whatever is done to promote a consciousness of choice and the civil society is laudable. Multi choice, thanks.

Lesson Two: in every business concept, perseverance pays. Multichoice has been running its Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Africa concepts for a number of years. Apparently, this year’s Big Brother Naija has been the most impactful, the most profitable and probably also, the most exciting. In one week, over 11 million persons voted to determine the eviction. In the final week of the programme, over 24 million persons voted – that is more than the total number of persons who voted in the Nigerian Presidential election in 2015. This year, Multichoice has made more money from the Big Brother franchise than it has ever done. The programme was sponsored by PayPorte, and with all the voting, and the money spent on recharge cards, Big Brother and Multichoice are the biggest winners. In the end, it is all about business and profit. Everybody has been used. In business, once you have a good, attractive product and you can capture the market, you can fool everybody and make profit. Multi choice, weh done – in Falz, the bad guy’s voice.

Lesson three: humility pays. At the end of the day, in the last week of the programme, the decision by the viewing public was a moral, sentimental one. The biggest star of the programme was, I don’t know what you think, TBOSS (real name: Tokunbo Idowu), half Nigerian, half-Romanian. She dominated the space with her Jezebelic antics, even got some of the male participants ousted by entrapping and outsmarting them with her sexual wiles. She projected herself as a sex object, the ultimate manipulator, the champion Delilah of the Big Brother Africa series. She even made a joke of the entire Big Brother concept by saying she didn’t need the money and if she won, she would spend it in two weeks to pay off debts, and in any case, she had men hitting on her, offering to take her on a ride in their private jets. She played the role of a female barracuda.

Given her looks and talents, she would have been a perfect winner. She would have looked good on the billboards. But she lost because of her arrogance. Attitude is everything: this is the lesson of TBOSS’s disgrace and humiliation. When she was sent out of the House as the second runner up, the viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, including Kemen whose nemesis she was, danced in joy. “They are taunting me?” she asked Ebuka, the anchor. No, sweetheart, they were making a far more serious statement about you. The melodramatic ending of Big Brother Naija 2017 is its only redeeming outcome. Bisola, the first runner up does not even have a degree but she showed talent and resolve, even if her whorish flirtation with Thin Tall Tony is so cheap and self-denigrating. Her One-Nigeria consolation prize is something big she should take seriously. Efe won because of his humility. He is considered the poorest and the most needy of the contestants. Patrons of the programme chose to vote for the contestant who looked and sounded like he would need the money and the opportunity. They gave him a chance in life, although the organizers must ensure that going forward, the show does not become a poverty alleviation scheme. Bisola came second because she too looked like she needed help. Debbie Rise and Marvis also made the finals, but that was meant to be a great compliment to their good conduct, but they didn’t have enough support to make it to the top. TBOSS is the main star who lost. I hope she was taken out of South Africa with a private jet or maybe a submarine! Beauty is not everything, baby.

Lesson four: Marketing helps. Branding is everything. Propaganda is profitable. Packaging is nice. Big Brother Naija is nothing but marketing, branding, propaganda, and packaging. A reality show is supposed to be nothing but reality, virtual reality as it happens, but let no one deceive you, everything that happened in the 70 days of BBNaija was packaged, marketed, carefully branded and manipulated. Ebuka, the Big Brother, thumbs up, the scenic designers, kudos, the content developers, three hearty cheers, Multichoice, you guys are the smartest capitalists around, well done! The finale was a bit overdone though, dragged out, over-delayed. Tiwa Savage (hey baby, watch that growing fat around your waist and thigh), Tuface (thanks TuBaba but next time tell Annie to twerk for us- what was that!). In all, the power of television was well advertised.

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Now the hard knocks: I rate the theatre high but I consider the whole show a sham, a 419 manipulative effort by a corporate agency, long overdue for an ethical review and scrutiny, a bad influence on corporate ethics. The owners of the programme are just a bunch of insultive, manipulative and exploitative capitalists, feeding on public need for distraction and the negligence of the authorities. Big Brother Naija 2017 is something that should never happen again in the shape we have seen. If Multichoice as a corporate investor wants to make a contribution to Nigeria, it must find ways of doing so in more meaningful forms.

Reality shows have become an established form on television, but whereas there are reality shows that promote talent, music, human capability and genius, enhanced relationships, and intellect, Multichoice, through its Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Africa franchises seems committed to the promotion of base values, chiefly adultery, prostitution, love of money, nudity and sex. What just ended as Big Brother Naija 2017 was nothing other than the corralling of some human beings into a zoo, pressured to behave like nothing but animals. The organizers made money devaluing other human beings. Multichoice and Payporte, the sponsors, turned alcohol and pornography into legitimate sport.

TBOSS and the other girls kissed and got groped by the boys on live television putting their upbringing to shame. TBOSS, who claimed she didn’t need the money even exposed her breasts on live television more than once. I have seen better breasts TBOSS. I am not too sure those private jet owners will be excited by your fluffy, South-looking, slightly bigger than mangoes breasts. If the same men see bigger assets, I mean, those interesting Ojiakor-like ones that look like papayas, pineapples and watermelons, they will not send private jets, they will deploy submarines and fighter jets! And that ‘s why you got N500k in the end, way back behind Bisola with her hard facial features, and Efe whose victory is based on poverty logistics and appeal. But I have no doubt that TBOSS will end up doing better in the larger, outside market than the other finalists, because even those who did not vote for her, know in their hearts that she represents the message of the programme.

It is a wrong message and that is why Big Brother Naija drew more audience in Southern Nigeria than in the North. In the last week of the programme,, every town in Southern Nigeria was seized by the #BBNaija fever. Prayers were offered in churches for Efe. One lady threatened to commit suicide if Efe did not win. Another one said she would not stop crying until Efe won. Nollywood stars declared support for housemates. There was Team Bisola, Team Efe, EfeNation, TBOSSNation, TeamDebbieRise (small), TeamMarvis (even smaller). There were public processions even in universities. We were told how to vote. Twitter was on fire. What I saw was nothing but sheer madness. T-shirts were printed. One musician turned his personal car into a billboard. Nigeria became a mad house because of one reality television show. It looked like mass hypnotism at work.

But it should not be allowed to happen again. BBNaija should not be hosted and staged in South Africa as has been the case. Multichoice, Payporte and their partners made crazy money and got brand promotion off the back and sweat of Nigerians. Do the maths; we got peanuts in return. We were told BBNaija could not be staged in Nigeria due to electricity problems so the studio had to be in South Africa. And the Nigerian government looked the other way. Wawu! All the billions that the South Africans are running away with, after giving our boy a Kia SUV and some N25m, who is going to collect the Value Added Tax on that? Nigeria or South Africa? See the real Gobbe! All the staff who worked on the programme with extremely marginal exception were South Africans. Where were the Nigerians? Abi, Lobatan oh.

The Nigerian government must assert itself. Nobody henceforth must brand anything involving primary production, Nigerian off Nigerian soil. We can’t get far by wearing made-in-Nigerian clothes on Mondays and Wednesdays, turning the country into an extension of Nollywood, but we can gain a lot by insisting that economic production and profit based on Nigerian talent and resource must have significant Nigerian content.
Congratulations Efe; the grace of God is forever sufficient, but sorry Nigeria.

Aliko Dangote at 60
Alhaji Aliko Dangote is 60 and understandably the entire country is busy paying tributes. He is the richest man in Africa, but more than that he is one of the most successful, forward-looking and resourceful entrepreneurs in the entire continent. He has investments and connections virtually everywhere.
I think a special remark should be made about his less known attribute – his humility and humanity. Aliko Dangote, for all those who have related with him closely, is a very humble man. His life is not driven by money, but belief in hardwork and the impact that he is able to make. He is helpful, supportive and kind, always believing he can make a difference. I offer a special testimony.

Many years ago, before the Abuja job, I used to visit Aliko at home, sometimes on my own and sometimes with my family. On one occasion, he gave my first son money as he saw us off to the door. It was that kind of money that caused a fight between father and son. My son wanted to hold on to it, and there I was insisting the boy must hand over the money because it was enough to pay his and his sibling’s school fees. The innocent boy said the money was for him. How could it have been for him? We resolved the fight, big fight, right there, with Aliko pretending not to notice.

On another occasion, Aliko asked if I had built a house and I told him I was building a house somewhere in Ajah. This was in 2006. He said we should go there. He jumped into my miserable Tokunbo car and followed me to the uncompleted building. He walked round the building and asked me what I wanted. He ended up giving me enough cement to complete the house and the money to paint it. He told me I should contact him if I wanted to build any other house, but after that other house, I stopped bothering him, because it was obvious the bricklayers knew cement was free, and they were busy taking advantage.

I went to Abuja to work. The true story of that job is best told by Aliko Dangote, Mr Alex Ibru, Rotimi Amaechi, Femi Otedola and Ojogbane Adegbe. They supported me as best as they could without interference. It was Oronto Douglas who made the phone call. One day, every story will be told. Thank you Alhaji, for being a friend and a brother. Thank you. May you see many more seasons.

Ayo Al is a graduate of English and literary studies from the University of Ibadan. She writes in her sleep and does the same when she is back to reality. She is currently working on her work of fiction which she hopes to release later this year.

Reuben Abati: Before Abuja Airport Is Shut Down

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A few years ago, the Federal Government of Nigeria shut down the Port Harcourt International Airport to carry out what they called repairs or was it renovation? It was supposed to be an exercise for a few weeks, but it took more than an entire year.

 Flights were diverted to an airport in the city at great cost to travellers, but the so-called renovation took forever. The Port Harcourt airport became a grazing field for cows, at other times, a vehicle-driving field, and for more than one year, travel to Port Harcourt, one of Nigeria’s most strategic cities was a nightmare.

Each time the Nigerian government talks about fixing the airports, using the words, renovation, rehabilitation or reform, it is better to be cynical. The Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, for example, was once touted as a major hub in the South East, and government spent so much money turning it into an international cargo airport for the East, but that same airport soon became flooded during the rainy season and planes could no longer land.

Both the Port Harcourt and Owerri airports are currently in a permanent state of renovation. The lives of those who wanted to renovate them at any level whatsoever are ironically and scandalously, imaginably better renovated. The airports failed, the managers smiled to the banks. In those two airports, travellers were put through enormous strain because the entire airports or sections had to be shut down. But the people, expectant as they were had no choice in the matter. The Nigerian government is so powerful; the people are helpless. The same government the people elect with their votes punishes them unjustly. The people themselves behave as if they are in bondage.

This was what happened in particular when the Port Harcourt Airport was being renovated. Travellers were abused. Airlines subjected them to enormous indignity. Businesses suffered. Government failed to keep its promise. The airlines and their staff even became arrogant, failing to realize they were victims too. They treated customers shabbily and there was no way anyone could blame them when government itself was uncaring.

Looked at differently, the biggest problem is not necessarily the politicians and their appointees who sashay in and out of power, but the civil servants who run the engine room of government and who over the years have perfected a culture of graft and incompetence. They look the other way when politicians dismantle the rules, often times out of sheer cruelty and for the better part, the political leaders are guided to do so by the civil servants.

Which department of government is responsible for the maintenance of airports?: The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). I believe everybody in that agency should be lined up and caned publicly and investigated according to the law. Should they have any stories to tell about the poor state of Nigerian airports, despite the enormous amounts that are budgeted yearly, they should tell us as each stroke of the cane descends on their buttocks. I don’t consider corporal punishment a tool of governance, so I speak metaphorically, but the rot in the aviation section is so terrible, a feeling of outrage commands something extra-ordinary. Weigh that against the plane crashes, loss of lives, and the agony of air travel just because some incompetents have had to superintend over Nigeria’s aviation sector.

I am this outraged because a sad story is about to repeat itself. The Federal Government of Nigeria is proposing to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, beginning March 8, for six weeks: to build a second runway and to carry out renovations. During the period, flights will be diverted to Kaduna Airport and passengers will be required to travel by rail or road to Abuja. The excuse is that the runway in Abuja is almost collapsing. The life span of a runway is 20 years and this particular runway in Abuja has been there for 34 years.

Politicians come and go but one significant fellow has suddenly woken up in either the FAAN or the Ministry of Aviation and a proposal has been submitted for renovation. And that proposal is now causing so much commotion. All the characters responsible for this costly neglect and delay should be lined up and sanctioned, and that should include a thorough investigation into the possibility of this “new” project having being proposed, budgeted for and cash-backed before now. At what point did it occur to FAAN that the airport needs a second runway, and who is the brain behind the hair-brained proposal that is now before the public?

We have been told that for six weeks, flights will be diverted to the Kaduna airport. The Minister of State for Aviation (by the way, who is the Minister of Aviation?) has been quoted saying he wants “knowledge” as to how this can be managed. The Ministry has also summoned a meeting of stakeholders after taking the decision. This has been a classic case of acting before thinking, making it all appear ridiculous. The international airlines are insisting that they find this kind of thinking inconvenient.

Truly so: Local airline operators are not excited either. The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) are protesting. Common sense, a scarce commodity at this time, should have dictated that a meeting of stakeholders should have been held before the decision was taken. But the arrogant position-holders took the decision first and then decided to invite the stakeholders as an after-thought.

Ask these questions: is there an ulterior motive? Ignore common sense and present the public with a fait accompli? Is that their plan? Is politics, in the shape of further Northernization involved? And why? Make Kaduna a new hub? Shift aviation travel further North? The failure to maintain runways and observe best practices is a reflection of the Nigerian problem: our national nonsense. Besides, Nigeria is forever a victim of last minute decisions. We remember to think when it appears too late to do so. Conspiracy theories are thus enabled when those who should act rightly behave as if they are busy thinking with their orifices.

Get it: The decision to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and move traffic to the Kaduna airport for six weeks has not been properly thought through. Poor thinking is the enemy of good governance. There is no guarantee to start with, that the renovation and rehabilitation can be completed in six weeks. Remember Port Harcourt and Owerri. We have been told nevertheless, that this is a good decision. But the timing is unwise. We are moving passengers to Kaduna at a time that same state and city is in turmoil. Thousands are being slaughtered daily in Southern Kaduna. The crisis has both religious and ethnic undertones. And now we are moving more Nigerians to the North, so they can get killed at the airport on or their way to Abuja? Who in his or her right senses would like to travel through Kaduna at this time?

A standard travel advisory should be: travel through Kaduna at your own risk and commit possible suicide. And to this: let no paid vuvuzela tell me the roads are safe and that the rail line to Abuja does not pass through Southern Kaduna. Also consider this: Government says it will provide buses. Who will bear the cost? Traveling from wherever to Kaduna to reach Abuja is likely to be more costly in every sense. Will the airlines bear the cost? Or the already aggrieved travellers will be subjected to extra cost and pain? Foreign airliners have already rejected the Kaduna airport. It is by every international standard a poor airport. It can’t even accommodate a crowd. Why would government subject travellers to obvious chaos and behave as if it does not matter. Copy this:

“The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, however, said total closure of the Abuja airport runway was inevitable, judging from the worrisome level of dilapidation…. (I see)

The minister assured of adequate security of travellers on transit by road from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa, adding that the Ministry of Defence, the Nigeria Police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Directorate of State Security and other agencies will provide cover for airlines and passengers. (Really?)

“We’ll increase the number of security personnel around Kaduna Metropolis; we’ll have traffic officials in every village and intersection. There’ll be members of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire fighters and ambulances at certain strategic positions. Police and the Air Force are to provide aerial patrols, complemented by ground police. (Bribery and extortion loading…)
There will be intelligence gathering. There will be bus coaches, train services, specialised car hire services and helicopter shuttles from private operators. But government will provide shuttles for passengers,” he assured. (Talk is cheap, truly)

This is precisely why the Ministry of Aviation should reconsider its stand. Stakeholders including foreign airlines should be carried along before any further step is taken and that has to be in line with international best practices. Everybody involved should admit that we are dealing with a Nigerian crisis. Nigerians who travel by air don’t deserve to be punished. They have suffered enough already. The airlines can’t even get enough aviation fuel in Abuja, not to talk of Kaduna.

Let no one forget this: Abuja is a strategic city. Those who travel there do so with a purpose. It is the city of adventurers not settlers. It is the city of the Federal Government. People go there to sort out government matters including contracts and other matters. Shutting down the Abuja airport is like shutting down the city, and perhaps the entire country. The Ministry of Aviation makes it sound as if this is inevitable, but we must tell them, and tell them again, that the Kaduna airport is not ready and to repeat the Port Harcourt experience in Abuja would be sad and counter-productive.

 It is not for nothing that the international airlines are already protesting that they don’t want to go to Kaduna. The argument about fixing the runway to make it safer is okay, and we all know why nothing is ever properly maintained in this country, and why projects of six weeks end up taking one year, and more, so don’t tell me the obvious, but government decisions no matter how well-meaning, should be governed by good thinking. A mismanaged renovation of the Abuja airport could result in months of avoidable agony and disaster for the Nigerian economy.

Tope is an English and Literary Studies graduate of Ekiti State University. She has intense passion for writing and enjoys listening to music.

Reuben Abati – Is Aisha Buhari Furious… Rendered Powerless?

reuben abati

Reuben Abati has composed another thought provoking piece on the topic that has made news for days – the First lady’s interview with BBC

Read Reuben Abati’s piece below:

Public communication is one of the most delicate challenges that people in public life face, either in the corporate or the public sector. Many people suddenly find themselves in high places, and they become a source of news, a potential interview subject, and they get chased around by journalists and other media figures who want a story, in fact, not just a story, but a scoop. 

I used to explain in communication coaching classes and to the bosses whose media I managed, at one point or the other that they should never feel obliged to say things they do not want to say. No matter how aggressive the journalist may be, they should be careful what they say. 

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A journalist would make you feel at home, he or she may even reassure you that whatever you don’t want published could be edited out, and that if you don’t feel comfortable with a question, you should feel free to keep quiet. But a good journalist knows how to push you into a corner and get you, through follow up questions, to say things you may not ordinarily want to say. By the time the tape starts rolling, and you are encouraged to feel like a star, and your own tongue starts rolling, you’d be surprised the kind of emphasis, what you consider an innocent remark, would receive when it is published.  Point is: journalists, while on duty, are not working for politicians or big men and women; they are working for organizations that need stories that can sell. They want scoops that can make the headlines. That is what makes them journalists: getting the good story, the good comments, the good shots.

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After reading the interview granted by First Lady Aisha Buhari on BBC Hausa Service, I was tempted to conclude that this is what may have happened. She could have said the same things in a more delicately phrased manner.  I have always held the view that anybody at all in a public position should be sent for media training (including how to deliver speeches, poise, pronunciation skills, even basic grammar lessons) before they are unleashed on a Nigerian public that has learnt to subject the lives of public officials to utmost scrutiny.  The Aisha Buhari interview also fell short in this regard. She just gave the BBC Hausa service a scoop, which in my view has done more damage to her husband’s politics than good.

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Given the enormous effect that the interview has had on the public, I would have expected that by now, she would perhaps have tactically disowned it, put a spin on it somehow, and make it clear that it is not intended in any way to discredit, or criticize her husband’s administration. But nothing of such has happened. And what does that mean? That the interview was deliberate and that she is standing by every word she said. She has been called the “good lady in the Villa.” She has been praised for being a modern wife who can speak up, and exercise her right to free speech. She has been called fearless and assertive. The only thing I have not heard from some of the hypocritical commentators is that she would be a good Presidential candidate for 2019.

I have also been told that she must have spoken out of frustration and that her public outburst about the existence of a cabal in the Villa, which determines who gets what appointment, to the disadvantage of members of the All Progressives Congress is making APC members who feel left out of the power-sharing process, very unhappy. But her outburst is nothing but a poor understanding of power politics. There will always be cabals around the seat of power. Power is so potent the people around the corridor will never leave it alone to the President.

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And if it is true that this cabal or the President has recruited non-APC members into the government, then that is a positive thing, it is also a positive thing that the President does not know many of the people he has appointed. He doesn’t need to know them personally as long as they come from all parts of Nigeria and they are competent men who can get the job done. The First Lady seems to assume that only card-carrying members of the APC should work for the Buhari administration. On a positive note, however, she doesn’t want anybody to hijack her husband’s Presidency and she believes those who are trying to do so do not mean well. But what does that say about her husband? 

The First Lady is also of the view that if the present trend continues, she cannot campaign for her husband in 2019 should he decide to seek re-election. She sounded pleased with what is being done to ensure security in the North East, but she gave the impression that she doesn’t think her husband has done enough to merit a second term in 2019. Hear her:  “What I fear is the uprising of 15.4 million people”.  And consider this: “…Nobody thought it is going to be like this. But now that it is so…Sometimes when one is doing something wrong without him knowing, but when people talk to them, they should listen”. Who is that person doing something wrong and who does not listen?  

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Altogether, Mrs Aisha Buhari has passed the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in her husband, and the people around him.  This is a kind of  “home trouble” brought to the public. The biggest challenge a man can face is to have his own wife “fight” him in public. And what has happened is both unprecedented and significant considering that a Hausa-Fulani couple is involved.  It is probably the first time a lady in this position would publicly upbraid her husband and his team. Is she furious because she has been scorned, ignored, rendered powerless?

Well, even if we were not privy to other details, she was publicly scorned when her husband sent a volcanic message from Germany that she should go back to her place in the “kitchen, the living room and the other room.”  Feminists and critics of misogyny have protested over this, quite rightly too, at a time when women are leading countries and corporations, it is incorrect and insensitive to say that the best place for a First Lady is to be a cook, a living-room-soap opera-watching detainee and a bedroom object. But given the cultural circumstances involved, this may well be the future Aso Villa fate of First Lady Aisha Buhari. She could be marked out as an ambitious woman who wants to share power with her husband, and as a threat to her husband’s politics.

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See how much damage has been caused already by the President’s counter-response: The German Chancellor glared at our President when she heard that comment about “the kitchen, the living room and the other room.”  She quickly ended their press conference. Angela Merkel is married, and she is Chancellor, but I don’t think her husband would dare tell her she is best fit for the kitchen and the other room. And imagine if Theresa May, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Grace Alele-Williams, Omobola Johnson, Chimamanda Adichie, Joke Jacobs… had all been chained down in the “other room”.  No wonder, President Buhari’s local opponents are already making big political capital out of his un-Presidential comments, and the German public is shocked that any world leader could be so politically incorrect. The number of jokes and memes that have been designed around this husband-wife exchange are thoroughly amusing. Mrs Buhari has also handed over to critics of this administration, speaking points that would be exploited all the way till 2019, and she may well end up not as a powerful force in the Villa but as a strong voice for women’s rights.

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It is possible she may be advised soon to recruit spin-doctors to do damage control, but she may have left that rather late already. On the other hand, there is no amount of damage control that the President’s spin-doctors can sell to anyone. Whatever happens, she is cultivating a reputation as a different kind of First Lady.  Since independence, every Nigerian Head of State or President has enjoyed the support of his wife while in office: strong, fanatical support. Mrs Maryam Abacha was so supportive of her husband, while everybody condemned him, and long after his death, she has continued to celebrate his memory. Before her, Mrs Maryam Babangida brought greater colour and celebrity status to the Office of the First Lady and added much value to her husband’s tenure. 

Mrs Fati Abubakar was a dignified presence behind her husband, the same with Mrs Margaret Shonekan. President Olusegun Obasanjo had as First Lady, the very elegant and beautiful Stella Obasanjo who mobilized support and goodwill for her husband. Turai Yar’Adua, wife of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was also so devoted to her husband’s cause, she was declared the head of the Aso Rock cabal. No one doubted her determination to protect her husband’s interest during those critical moments. You all know Mrs Patience Jonathan. She was as First Lady, her husband’s most vocal supporter. This brought her at loggerheads with some sections of the public who objected to her prominence and controversial statements, but not once did she or the other First Ladies before her, criticize their husbands in public.

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Elsewhere, First Ladies also support their husbands. With all the reported cases of dalliance and cuckoldry during the Bill Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton stood by her husband.  Michelle Obama has also proven to be a very good role model in this regard.  Certain positions require careful grooming. Any form of tension in the home could distract a political leader and make him seem vulnerable in the eyes of the public. Mrs Aisha Buhari may have spoken her mind, but she should not make a habit of assuming the role of a radical, in-house critic, throwing her husband under the wheels.  She ought to be thoroughly embarrassed by all the fun being poked at her husband because of that BBC Hausa interview she granted. How this matter is resolved between their kitchen and “the other room” is a family affair into which we cannot dabble.

 

Favour loves to read, sing, write, dance and play. A curious cat.

Femi Kayode – Buhari Is Possessed By Strange Entities

femi kayode

Following the attention that Reuben Abati got with his article on the spiritual side of the Presidential Villa, Femi Kayode has composed his to support him

Femi Kayode wrote:

I read Reuben Abati’s excellent write-up titled “The Spiritual Side Of Aso Villa” and I concur with his submissions. I worked in the Villa for three years as President Olusegun Obasanjo’s spokesman on public affairs and a lot of very strange things happened there. Amongst them is the fact that the two people that served as Senior Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on Media and Publicity one after the other, namely the much-loved Mr. Tunji Oseni and then later Mrs. Remi Oyo, both contracted a terrible terminal illness whilst in office and died a few years later.

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Apart from that many other aides that worked in the Villa at that time were also afflicted with strange diseases and a sudden and tragic end. Amongst them were Col. Solomon Giwa Amu, Obasanjo’s hard-working and good-looking ADC and Mr. Stanely Macebuh, his brilliant and cerebral Senior Special Assistant on Public Communications. I was so moved by Abati’s piece that I decided to share the following thoughts about the spiritual challenges that those in power have faced.

When our President can get up and tell the whole world all the way from distant Germany that his wife “belongs to the kitchen, the living room and the other room” simply because she dared to speak her mind to the BBC then you know that he is in the grip of something evil and that demons are speaking through him. It is all part of the spiritual dimension of living in the Villa that Abati was referring to in his essay. The President’s mind has become twisted and he is now possessed by strange and powerful entities. He needs a lot of prayer.

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Yet the problem is much bigger and wider than that. When one studies the history of our country critically and takes the time to do the appropriate research, one thing becomes very clear- that, in Nigeria, politics and the power game is a dangerous calling and terrible business which, more often than not, comes with a heavy price tag. That price tag includes pain, anguish, betrayal, humiliation, persecution, misfortune, hardship, loss, death, strange ailments and tragedy for those who reach the top and their loved ones. 

It is rather like playing Russian roulette- there is one live bullet in the six empty chambers of the pistol and one doesn’t quite know when that bullet will go off when the trigger is pulled. The gamble and risks taken are not only compulsive but they are also addictive and at the same time utterly deadly.  Sadly the result is as follows- virtually every single one of our national leaders and those that have ever ruled this country has suffered immeasurably at some point or the other in their lives, whether it be before, during or after they came to power. They too have shed tears in the loneliness of their closets and have eaten portions of what the Bible describes as the ”bread of sorrows”. Yes, even the rich and powerful cry and even they suffer loss and tragedy. This is the case for leaders all over the world but in Nigeria it is far more pronounced and common than anywhere else. 

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Here the angel of death, misfortune and sorrow seem to stalk those that find power and, like an ugly old crow plucks out the pink feathers and precious eyes of a beautiful flamingo, she cuts short and plucks away their lives or the lives of their loved ones. 

Like a light bulb attracts a moth and leads it to a sudden end, so power attracts those who seek it with equally tragic consequences. As painful as it is, let us look at the facts. In the early  60′s Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the Western Region, lost his first son and years later his second son and second daughter were cut short in the prime of their lives. Chief S.L. Akintola, his bitter political rival and the second Premier of the Western Region also lost his first daughter in the early 60′s and a few years later lost his third and youngest son.  His second son was also cut short in his prime a number of years later. 

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My father, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region, who was a close ally and second in command to S.L. Akintola, lost his second son. Sir Adesoji Aderemi, who was the Ooni of Ife, a close ally of Awolowo  and the first ceremonial Governor of the old Western Region, lost his first son. Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Premier of the old Eastern Region and Nigeria’s first and only ceremonial President, lost his first wife. President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected President lost four wives and one son many years ago whilst Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region, lost two sons and one daughter. Awolowo and Obasanjo went to jail for three years each whilst Ahmadu Bello went to jail for three months. S.L. Akintola was killed in the prime of his life just as were Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first democratically-elected leader and Prime Minister. 

As a matter of fact they were all killed on the same night- the night of January 15th 1966. President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected leader and first executive President lost four children whilst he was in power and was locked up for over two years after he was toppled. Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election, lost two wives, was locked up for 4 years and was eventually killed. Chief Bola Ige, the first democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state and the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation lost his first son and he himself was later murdered. Chief Bisi Onabanjo, the first democratically-elected Governor of Ogun state lost his first son. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first democratically elected Governor of Lagos state, lost his first daughter. Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, the second democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state lost his son. Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the first Minister of Finance of Nigeria was killed. Chief Alfred Rewane, one of the founding members of the Action Group and a leading figure in NADECO, was killed. The list is endless and I could go on and on. 

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Alhaji Musa Yar’adua was Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic. He was blessed with a long and peaceful life. However two of his sons were not so lucky. His first son, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, who was number two to General Obasanjo when he was military Head of State and who for many decades was one of the most powerful men in the country, was murdered whilst he was in prison. His second son, President Umaru Yar’adua, was cut short in his prime by a strange and inexplicable ailment after he had been President for only three years. He was succeeded by his number two, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan lost his brother and his mother-in-law one year after the other after he became President. Worse still those that he had been deputy to throughout his political life, either as Deputy Governor or Vice President, always suffered one form of misfortune or the other, whether it be death, shame, incarceration or impeachment, and he would end up stepping into their shoes and taking their place.

When it comes to our military rulers the story of consistent tragedy is no different- General Aguiyi-Ironsi, our first military Head of State was killed. General Yakubu Gowon, our second military Head of State, was toppled from power, exiled and lost his brother. General Murtala Mohammed, our third military Head of State, was killed and lost both his son and son-in-law. General Olusegun Obasanjo was our fourth military Head of State and we touched on his misfortunes earlier. General Muhammadu Buhari, our fifth military Head of State, was toppled from power, locked up for a number of years, lost his mother whilst he was in detention and was not allowed to attend her burial, lost his first wife, lost his daughter and now he has publicly described his second wife as nothing more than a “kitchen, living room and ‘other room’ wife”.  His number two, General Tunde idiagbon, was cut short under very strange and suspicious cirumstances.

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General Ibrahim Babangida, our sixth military Head of State, was eased out of power and compelled to ”step aside” amidst massive controversy and turmoil and later lost his wife. His number two, Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, lost his first son, Chief Ernest Shonekan, our first and only Interim Civilian Head of State, was badly humiliated and toppled from power. General Sani Abacha, our seventh military Head of State, lost his first son, was removed from power and was killed. General Abdulsalami Abubakar, our eight military Head of State, as far as I am aware is the only exception and appears to have escaped any misfortune.

Yet the picture is very depressing. This is indeed a catalogue of tragic events. Sorrow and pain just appears to be following sorrow and pain. It is a vicious circle of misfortune and calamity. Yet the most curious phenomenon and bizarre series of events of all is the fact that every single Head of State or President that has ruled our country from the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, Abuja for three years or more has either ended up dying whilst there or has lost a spouse before leaving office. 

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President Jonathan stayed there as President for four years in a stretch but the travails of his wife and her series of illnesses and medical complications which suddenly and miraculously ceased and abated after he conceeded the 2015 election indicates that had he continued in office after 2015 he may have lost her and the demons of Aso Rock Villa would have come for their prey. Thankfully he left before they could lay claim to it and before the curse was activated. Babangida did not stay in the Villa in Abuja for up to three years so he and his wife escaped what has come to be known as the ”Villa curse”. It was the same for Chief Ernest Shonekan who, wisely, never stayed at the Villa at all but who chose to preside over the affairs of the nation from Aguda house next door and who remained in power for barely six months. General Abdulsalami Abubakar stayed at the Villa but he remained there for less than a year. However Abacha, Obasanjo and Yar’adua were not so lucky- each of them stayed at the Villa for three years or more and before the end of their tenure they either lost their own life or the life of their spouse whilst there. 

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The story is that once the three year mark is passed the curse sets in and the clock begins to tick. At the end of the day only one of the two spouses comes out alive. When one considers all these facts and series of misfortunes that have trailed our leaders in the last 56 years of our existence as an independent nation one cannot but conclude that there has indeed been a harvest of hardship, pain and death attached to the highest, most powerful and most prominent offices in the land and to those that are close to or have occupied it. The truth is that power comes at a terrible price and those that wield it have, more often than not, experienced terrible pain and anguish in their lives. That is the price that virtually every single one of them has had to pay. What a tragedy. Yet at the end of the day I wonder whether it is all worth it. 

For as the bible says, it is nothing but ”vanity upon vanity- all is vanity”.

Favour loves to read, sing, write, dance and play. A curious cat.

Reuben Abati – Aso Rock Is Full Of Evil Spirits

reuben abati

Reuben Abati has composed an article explaining critical things that Nigerians need to know about the Presidential villa, Aso Rock

Reuben Abati wrote:

People tend to be alarmed when the Nigerian Presidency takes certain decisions. They don’t think the decision makes sense. Sometimes, they wonder if something has not gone wrong with the thinking process at that highest level of the country. I have heard people insist that there is some form of witchcraft at work in the country’s seat of government. I am ordinarily not a superstitious person, but working in the Villa, I eventually became convinced that there must be something supernatural about power and closeness to it. 

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I’ll start with a personal testimony. I was given an apartment to live in inside the Villa. It was furnished and equipped. But when my son, Michael arrived, one of my brothers came with a pastor who was supposed to stay in the apartment. But the man refused claiming that the Villa was full of evil spirits and that there would soon be a fire accident in the apartment. He complained about too much human sacrifice around the Villa and advised that my family must never sleep overnight inside the Villa. 

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I thought the man was talking nonsense and he wanted the luxury of a hotel accommodation. But he turned out to be right. The day I hosted family friends in that apartment and they slept overnight, there was indeed a fire accident. The guests escaped and they were so thankful. Not long after, the President’s physician living two compounds away had a fire accident in his home. He and his children could have died. He escaped with bruises.  Around the Villa while I was there, someone always died or their relations died. I can confirm that every principal officer suffered one tragedy or the other; it was as if you needed to sacrifice something to remain on duty inside that environment. Even some of the women became merchants of dildo because they had suffered a special kind of death in their homes (I am sorry to reveal this) and many of the men complained about something that had died below their waists too. The ones who did not have such misfortune had one ailment or the other that they had to nurse. From cancer to brain and prostate surgery and whatever, the Villa was a hospital full of agonizing patients. 

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I recall the example of one particular man, an asset to the Jonathan Presidency who practically ran away from the Villa. He said he needed to save his life. He was quite certain that if he continued to hang around, he would die.  I can’t talk about colleagues who lost daughters and sons, brothers and uncles, mothers and fathers, and the many obituaries that we issued. Even the President was multiply bereaved. His wife, Mama Peace was in and out of hospital at a point , undergoing many surgeries. You may have forgotten but after her husband lost the election and he conceded victory, all her ailments vanished, all scheduled surgeries were found to be no longer necessary and since then she has been hale and hearty.  By the same token, all those our colleagues who used to come to work to complain about a certain death beneath their waists and who relied on videos and other instruments to entertain wives (take it easy boys, I don’t mean nay harm, I am writing!), have all experienced a re-awakening. 

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Every one who went under the blade has received miraculous healing, and we are happy to be out of that place. But others were not so lucky. They died. There were days when convoys ran into ditches and lives were lost. In Norway, our helicopter almost crashed into a mountain. That was the first time I saw the President panicking, The weather was all so hazy and he just kept saying it would not be nice for the President of a country to die in a helicopter crash due to pilot miscalculations. The President went into a prayer mode. We survived. In Kenya once, we had a bird strike. The plane had to be recalled and we were already airborne with the plane acting like it would crash. During the 2015 election campaigns, our aircraft refused to start on more than one occasion. The aircraft just went dead. On some other occasions, we were stoned and directly targeted for evil. I really don’t envy the people who work in Aso Villa, the seat of Nigeria’s Presidency. For about six months, I couldn’t even breathe properly. For another two months, I was on crutches. But I considered myself far luckier than the others who were either nursing a terminal disease or who could not get it up.

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When Presidents make mistakes, they are probably victims of a force higher than what we can imagine. Every student of Aso Villa politics would readily admit that when people get in there, they actually become something else.  They act like they are under a spell. When you issue a well- crafted statement, the public accepts it wrongly. When the President makes a speech and he truly means well, the speech is interpreted wrongly by the public. When a policy is introduced, somehow, something just goes wrong. In our days, a lot of people used to complain that the APC people were fighting us spiritually and that there was a witchcraft dimension to the governance process in Nigeria. But the APC folks now in power are dealing with the same demons. Since Buhari government assumed office, it has been one mistake after another. Those mistakes don’t look normal, the same way they didn’t look normal under President Jonathan. I am therefore convinced that there is an evil spell enveloping this country.  We need to rescue Nigeria from the forces of darkness. Aso Villa should be converted into a spiritual museum, and abandoned.

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Should I become President of Nigeria tomorrow, I will build a new Presidential Villa: a Villa that will be dedicated to the all-conquering Almighty, and where powers and principalities cannot hold sway.  But it is not about buildings and space, not so?. It is about the people who go to the highest levels in Nigeria.  I really don’t quite believe in superstitions, but I am tempted to suggest that this is indeed a country in need of prayers, We should pray before people pack their things into Aso Villa. We should ask God to guide us before we appoint Ministers.  We should, to put it in technocratic language, advise that the people should be very vigilant. We have all failed so far, that crucial test of vigilance. We should have a Presidential Villa where a President can afford to be human and free. In the White House, in the United States, Presidents live like normal human beings. In Aso Villa, that is impossible. They’d have to surround themselves with cooks from their villages, bodyguards from their mother’s clans and friends they can trust. It should be possible to be President of Nigeria without having to look behind one’s shoulders. But we are not yet there. So, how do we run a Presidency where the man in the saddle can only drink water served by his kinsman?  No. How can we possibly run a Presidency where every President proclaims faith in Nigeria but they are better off in the company of relatives and kinsmen. No. We need as Presidents men and women who are wiling to be Nigerians. No Nigerian President should be in spiritual bondage because he belongs to all of us and to nobody. 

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Now let me go back to the spiritual dimension. A colleague once told me that I was the most naïve person around the place. I thought I was a bright, smart, professional doing my bit and enjoying the President’s confidence.  I spelled it out. But what I got in response was that I was coming to the villa using Lux soap, but that most people around the place always bathed in the morning with blood. Goat blood. Ram blood. Whatever animal blood. I argued. He said there were persons in the Villa walking upside down, head to the ground. I screamed. Everybody looked normal to me. But I soon began to suspect that I was in a strange environment indeed. Every position change was an opportunity for warfare. Civil servants are very nice people; they obey orders, but they are not very nice when they fight over personal interests. 

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The President is most affected by the atmosphere around him. He can make wrong decisions based on the cloud of evil around him. Even when he means well and he has taken time to address all possible outcomes, he could get on the wrong side of the public. A colleague called me one day and told me a story about how a decision had been taken in the spiritual realm about the Nigerian government. He talked about the spirit of error, and how every step taken by the administration would appear to the public like an error. He didn’t resign on that basis but his words proved prophetic. I see the same story being re-enacted. Aso Villa is in urgent need of redemption. I never slept in the apartment they gave me in that Villa for an hour. 

Favour loves to read, sing, write, dance and play. A curious cat.