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Open Letter From Colonel Dangiwa Umar (rtd) To President Muhammadu Buhari

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OPEN LETTER FROM COL. DANGIWA UMAR (RTD) TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI
Sunday 30th May 2020

Muhammadu Buhari,
President,
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,
Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Dear Mr. President,
MR. PRESIDENT; PLEASE BELONG TO ALL OF US

“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a Kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favor to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near” Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio.

I have been prompted to write you this open letter, Mr. President, by the loud sounds of drums, singing and dancing that erupted within many groups in the last few days on the grounds that you attained the 5th year in office as President of Nigeria. It comes as no surprise that enthusiasm for the celebration is not shared equally by segments of the public. While your admirers and supporters believe you have performed well, many others believe the five years you have been in office as our President has not met the yearnings, expectations and change promised Nigerians.

Mr. President, you know me well enough and my position on issues to realize that I can be neither a rabid supporter nor a fanatical opponent of yours. I believe being a responsible citizen is enough reason to wish you well and to work for your success. As we have seen all too clearly these past few years, your success is ours as is your failure. We swim or sink with you!

You might wish to recall that after the results of the 23rd of February 2019 presidential elections were announced, giving you victory, I addressed a press conference during which I urged the runner-up, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, to concede defeat. The reason was clear: tensions were running high and little missteps by the leaders might ignite violence, as often happened after major elections. Some supporters of Abubakar Atiku disagreed with me and told me off. As it happened, Alhaji Atiku went ahead to mount a legal challenge to the outcome of the elections up to the Supreme Court. Mercifully, his actions did not result in an outbreak of violence as we feared.

At the same occasion, I counselled the declared winner, your good self, to use the opportunity of your second term to redeem your pledge of being a leader and president of all Nigerians.

On the occasion of the first-year anniversary into your second four-year term, I feel there is an urgent need to revisit this subject matter.

Mr. President, you have often expressed the hope that history will be kind to you. It is within your competence to write that history. But you have less than three years in which to do it. You may wish to note that any authentic history must be devoid of myth. It will be a true, factual rendition of the record of your performance.

And truth be told, Mr. President, there are quite a lot of things that speak to your remarkable accomplishments, not least of which is that for the first time in our democratic history, a sitting President was defeated. That feat was achieved by Muhammadu Buhari. The reason was the public belief of you as a man of integrity.

The corollary to this is that at the expiration of your 8-year tenure in 2023, your achievements will not be measured solely by the physical infrastructure your administration built. An enduring legacy would be based on those intangible things like how much you uplifted the spirit and moral tone of the nation. How well have you secured the nation from ourselves and from external enemies?

At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr. President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarized and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.

Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.
Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favoring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation.

I need not remind you, Mr. President, that our political history is replete with great acts of exemplary leadership which, at critical moments, managed to pull this nation back from the precipice and assured its continued existence.

A few examples will demonstrate this:
In February, 1965, the NPC-led Federal Government was faced with a decision to appoint a successor to the outgoing Nigerian Army General Officer Commanding (GOC), General Welby Everard, a Briton. Four most senior officers were nominated; namely, Brigadiers Aguiyi Ironsi, Ogundipe, Ademulegun and Maimalari. The first three were senior to Maimalari but he was deemed to be more qualified due to his superior commission. He was the first Sandhurst Regular trained officer in the Nigerian Army. His being a Muslim Northerner like the Minister of Defense, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu and the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa granted him added advantage by today’s standards. But to the surprise of even the Igbos, and opposition from some senior NPC members, Minister Ribadu recommended Ironsi, pointing to his seniority. The Prime Minister concurred and Aguiyi Ironsi was confirmed as the first indigenous GOC of the Nigerian Army.

When on 13 February 1976, the Commander-in-Chief, General Murtala Muhammed, was assassinated in a failed Coup de tat, General Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy and the most senior officer at the time, was sworn in as his successor. The Chief of Army Staff, General T.Y Danjuma, a Northern Christian, was next in line to succeed Obasanjo as the Chief of Staff, SHQ and Deputy Commander in Chief. General Danjuma however waived his right and recommended a much junior officer, Lt. Col. Shehu Musa Yar’adua, for the post. Shehu was promoted two steps up to the rank of Brigadier and appointed Chief of Staff SHQ and Deputy Commander-in-Chief. Lt. Col. Muhammadu Buhari was appointed Minister of Petroleum. This was done to placate Muslim North which was deemed to have lost one of its own, Murtala Muhammed.

Both the chief of staff, Mr. Sunday Awoniyi, and the personal physician Dr Ishaya Audu to the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, a direct descendant of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, were Christians.

Barely nine years after the civil war in 1979, the NPN Presidential candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, picked an Igbo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, as his running mate. They enjoyed a truly brotherly relationship as President and Vice President. President Shagari’s political advisor, Dr Chuba Okadigbo and National Assembly Liaison, assistant, Dr K.O Mbadiwe, were both Igbos. His economic advisor, Prof. Emmanuel Edozien and his Chief of Personnel Staff Dr Michael Prest, were of Niger Delta extraction. Remarkably, all his military service chiefs were Christians with the exception of his last Chief Army Staff, General Inuwa Wushishi under whose tenure he was removed in a military coup de tat.

Mr. President, as a witness and beneficiary, it is our expectation that you would emulate these great acts of statesmanship. Which is why we have continued to engage with you.

You may wish to recall that I had cause to appeal to you, to confirm Justice Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria a few days before the expiration of his three months tenure of acting appointment to be replaced by a Muslim Northerner. We were saved that embarrassment when his nomination was sent to the senate by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. When he was finally confirmed a few days to the end of his tenure, he was removed after a few months and replaced by Justice Muhammed, a Muslim from the North.

May I also invite the attention of Mr. President to the pending matter of appointment of a Chief Judge of the Nigerian Court Appeal which appears to be generating public interest. As it is, the most senior Judge, Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, is serving out her second three-month term as acting Chief Judge without firm prospects that she will be confirmed substantive head. I do not know Justice Mensem but those who do attest to her competence, honesty and humility. She appears eminently qualified for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal as she is also said to be highly recommended by the National Judicial Council. If she is not and is bypassed in favor of the next in line who happens to be another northern Muslim, that would be truly odd. In which case, even the largest contingent of PR gurus would struggle to rebut the charges that you, Mr. President, is either unwilling or incapable of acting on your pledge to belong to everyone — and to no one. I hope you would see your way into pausing and reflecting on the very grave consequences of such failure not just to your legacy but to the future of our great country.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President.
COL. ABUBAKAR DANGIWA UMAR (RTD).

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Opinion

Politics in Nigeria as elites’ consensus, by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah

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Politics is just the affair of the elites. The voting population (‘the people’) are mere instrument for the realization of elites’ interest. Politics in Nigeria has been in this direction for many decades. It is the elites that determine who becomes who when and how or even get what when and how. Reading some fascinating books on Nigerian politics and governance will not only mesmerises you or leaves you standing akimbo on the way politics is played here but pushes you into high tensed political oblivion. Decisions and indecisions on who to or not to lead, rule or govern are taken solely by the elites with little or zero inputs from the ‘people’ and this is done for the protection of the people’s interest as elites would always say. In reality, a man who is not consulted can not be represented and a man who is not represented can never be given what he needed and he who is missing in these dots or circle (apology to Preisident Muhammadu Buhari) is just a mere follower.

The people are mere followers in the comity of national affair for many decades. After his emergence, the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, the NPN, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari was determined to choose his running mate from the Igbo extraction. Shagari sought to place the name of the wife of a diplomat from Onitsha but elites from Southeast within the circle of NPN rejected her nomination. Shagari had to constitute a “search committee” which later came up with the name of another woman Mrs. Abigail Ukpabi, a lecturer from the Alvan Ikoku College of Education. As if Mrs. Upkabia was not from the Southeast, elites again demanded her nomination to be withdrawn citing today’s most controversial issue. Her gender! Mr. K. O. Mbadiwe, a party stalwart from the region met with President Shagari and told him without any equivocation that if the Vice Presidential slot belongs to the region, then it shouldn’t be “woman”. Because according to him in Igboland “It is the woman that goes to man not the other way round.” (Read Bolaji Abdullahi, 2017 On a Platter of Gold. How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria) if anyone were to doubt Mr. Mbadiwe’s claim one need to read or be reminded how Prof. Chinua Achebe presented Igbo woman in his book the “Things Fall Apart” as a subservient gender during the precolonial society. I can’t imagine what would happen if Dr. Christ Ngige stalled the nomination of a woman as Vice President from that region today. I believe another Aba women riot would have unfolded itself. The decision by the elites from the region gave birth to the emergence of Dr. Chief Alex Ekwueme as running mate to Shehu Shagari’s presidency. I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Ekwueme when he attended the inaugural lecture by Prof. Ifeoma M. Onyemelukwe of the French Department, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on the 14th October, 2015. Dr. Ikwueme jokingly said he regretted not becoming professor in his life. Now the rest is history.

Elites have been the alpha and omega in the politics and policy decisions in Nigeria, in 1998 when the military administration of General Abdussalami Abubakar (Rtd) determined to hand power to the civilian rule another power tussle within the elites circle unfolded. Northern elites, the ‘Kaduna Mafias’ a most powerful elites in the history of politics in the country had the latitude to select who will replace the military administration. The formation of political party has since paved way for the selection of candidates that will participate in the country’s 1999 general election. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP having being the favourite by most of the First Republic bureaucrats and politicians on one hand, and retired senior military officers in the region on the other hand begun permutations and combination on which of the faction would have his candidate in the ballot paper. The Generals’ favourite was their fellow General in struggle while the retired First Republic bureaucrats such as Malam Adamu Ciroma and Ahmad Joda had Dr. Ikwueme as their candidate. Where is the ‘people’ the over hundred million Nigerians whom the civilian administration, the “democracy” seeks to served? The elites have taken everything and living everything to themselves. The Chiromas’ faction had since forgotten their fellow Comrade after noticing his show during the 1999 Jos Convention. It was reported that Igbo community appeared in their traditional regalia dancing and singing ‘kwenu’ which systematically or logically sent a message that the country’s leadership is leaving a united Nigeria to a particular community that neither forgive nor forget the incident of civil war that took place with its people. The deep seated animosity that characterises the community was quite open to notice. And this is how President Olusegun Obasanjo got the ticket on a platter of gold. Although, Gen. Obasanjo was not the favourite of his community, the support he received from Northern elites gave him a reason to win the 1999 Presidential election leaving Olu Falae, a fellow Yoruba from the Southwest complaining of election malpractices.

Prior to this, the 1993 power tussle which saw the Chief MKO Abiola on the ballot paper was purely elites consensus. Although Abiola was known to be a most acceptable candidate in his time largely due to his philanthropic activities, it was the consensus of the elites that paved him way to emerge winner of the presidential ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Jos Convention of the 1993 returned him the leading contestant with a 3, 617 votes while the second and third contestants scored 3, 255 and 2, 066 respectively. This meant that a run off election would have to be conducted if consensus was not reached. A consensus was reached under the supreme guidance of another Northern elite General Shehu Yar’adua who forced his political godson Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to step down to MKO Abiola but to be given a running mate slot. Unfortunately, Atiku couldn’t make it to the ballot box in 1993 until six years later when the same elites that scuttled his first Vice Presidency felt the need to compensate him. Although, Abiola emerged ‘winner’ of the country’s 1993 Presidential election, elites consensus saw his coming as unwise decision. So he never came and the rest is history now. But the question to ask here is where is the ‘people’? Where is the so called mandate of the people? Elites have agreed within themselves to consume it. But, even the recent posthumous recognition of his victory was a consensus reached by the elites for the realization of their political interest.

The power tussle that saw Late Umaru Musa Yar’adu, a younger brother to one of the Nothern elite, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, the former Second in command under the military administration of General Obasanjo was entirely elites consensus. The emergence of the former Katsina State Governor, an alleged ‘sickler’ as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 general election was largely due to the connection he enjoyed with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an elite in his own right. Although it was apparent to Nigerians, Obasanjo hand picked Umaru despite many contenders, elites within the circle of the party reached a consensus before his emergence. General Buhari defeats were not without the interest of the elites. Although his inability to belongs to a national party or a party that had a national outlook had been a contributory factor for his earlier predicaments, his 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections defeats were largely a consensus reached by the elites.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan emerged President after a consensus had been reached by the country’s elites. Jonathan rode to power as Vice President when the Presidential candidate of the PDP felt impossible to work with Obasanjo’s annointed candidate Peter Odili. Odili was the choice of the outgoing President Obasanjo as per as VP slot is concerned, but Umaru feared Odili will not be loyal to him looking at his exposure and age. Umaru could not tell his godfather this but had people around him to guide him on how to approach the matter. Former EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu was quite handier in this fight. Ribadu used his office to remind President Obasanjo Odili’s case with the EFCC. Obasanjo could not do better than to stand on his preferred choice but Ribadu maintained that Peter Odili’s case reached alarming proportions to the extent that the United Kindom and United States of America became aware of it. At this juncture, President Obasanjo had nothing to do but to allow for the choice of different person to work with Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Jonathan came into being when Ribadu identified him as a humble guy who neither interfered nor intervened in the processes of investigating his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Jonathan sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State when the State Assembly impeached his boss. GEJ was invited to the Villa for the purpose. He was intimated of the purpose for the invitation but rejected the nomination as it was presented to him. A well acknowledged humble man said, he was satisfied with his governorship position. After given it a second thought, GEJ accepted to work with Umaru as running mate. The long term health issue and the subsequent transition on to glory of President Yar’adua created room for elites to converge again for consensus. The persistent calls by the elites from different circle of power in the country to relinquish the office of the president to GEJ on acting capacity created a lot of political commotion in the country.

Having completed the remainder period of his boss, GEJ indicated interest to contest for the first time the office of the president which he was occupying. His decision to contest had caused serious lamentations from the ‘people’ specifically from the Northern extraction. Elites within the Peoples Democratic Party gathered yet again and reached consensus within themselves that President Jonathan should contest the office. He contested and won by the power of elites’ consensus. Before consensus that paved him way to contest was reached, elites had agreed within themselves that power should move to the Northern part of the country. Upon the fulfilment of his six years in office, GEJ was reminded of the agreement he entered with party’s elites before he was accepted to go for the highest national position. Having surrounded by a faction of the party’s elites from across the country, he was advised not to listen to the callers, they are merely power mongers whose ‘born to rule’ mentality will never corrode. Jonathan heeded to the ‘assurance’ given to him and contested for the second time but elites consensus was against his ‘selfish’ ambition. Jonathan paid for not fulfilling the promise he took during the elites’ consensus and he had his name tarnished as the most corrupt and clueless president to preside over the national affairs. Moreover, GEJ lost his power to the opposition candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd).

But even the emergence of President Buhari in 2015 was not without elites intervention or in the real sense of the matter it was purely elites’ consensus itself. Post election antecedents would remind us how he became a periodical customer of election tribunal. From 2003 to 2011 Muhammadu Buhari registered his grievances on election malpractices that saw him a loser of those elections. After series of disappointment, elites from different circles and parties across the country reached consensus to support their arch rival this time round, to at least ‘save’ the country from the incompetency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration. Elites agreed within themselves to support Buhari in order to defeat Jonathan and he was defeated handsomely.

Elites consensus has been the definitive term or a determination factor of winning or losing political seat in Nigeria. At all levels of government, elites’ consensus determines who wins or loses in every contest. The over 200,000,000 population are more of noisemakers whose voices are hardly heard or at most heard in disguise because even the recent ‘direct primaries’ by the APC was acknowledged to favour the interest of the elites. Politics in Nigeria is indeed a consensus reached by the elites for reaching their selfish interest.

Written by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah
25 June, 2021.

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Opinion

Palestine and the Quest for Justice, by Dr. Aliyu Tilde

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In the 1970s, Patrick Wilmot, Bala Usman and other progressive scholars instilled in their students the quest for justice. With that Nigeria supported anti-apartheid movement and the independence of nations like Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. No one ever asked whether they were Muslims or Christians.

Today, so many youths are taught to support injustice based on sentiments. On the one hand, many clap at the massacre of members of other sect as we saw in the Zaria massacre. On the other, many relish to see homes seized from and towers are collapsed on their Palestinian residents. Both are fed the toxins of sectarian politics by clerics and politicians.

A youth who does not hate injustice has lost the sweetest ingredient of life. He matures with a barren and dark heart. He grows to be like that blind dog that barks south of the Niger when blood is spilled and thousands are rendered homeless elsewhere.

There is no difference between Zionism and apartheid as Prof. P. Wilmot repeated said in the 1970s. I support Israel whenever it seeks peace with its neighbours. I even hope to visit it one day. But I condemn it strongly—and will continue to do so—on its Zionist agenda of apartheid and other forms of injustice to Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Be on the same page with me.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
16 May 2021

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Opinion

My message to the Nigerian media By Kadaria Ahmed

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It is with a heavy heart, worry about Nigeria and a sense of impending doom that I am sending this message to my colleagues in the media.

Let me begin with a question, what exactly will we gain if Nigeria descends into war? How does it advance us, if our fellow citizens turn on each other and begin large scale ethnic killings, against each other? Let me even assume that a few of us don’t believe in Nigeria anymore and want to see it broken into its constituent parts. How does enabling ethnic strife help achieve this objective in a way that guarantees the outcome you want?

For sometime now, many of us have thrown away the book on ethical reporting, propelled by emotion, we have betrayed every moral consideration that assigns our noble profession a role so significant we are seen as the last hope of the common man, so much so our jobs are constitutionally protected.

Despite numerous examples that exist which have proved, including not too long ago in Rwanda, that the conduct of the media can help in, promoting, starting and perpetuating violence and ethnic strife, we have turned a deaf ear to pleas to not become a tool that enables hate. But we have failed to heed these warnings.

We have given platforms to the worst among us, the extremists and the blood thirsty. We have turned militia leaders and criminals into champions. Instead of us to lead calm and rational discuss on the existential challenges we face with a view to promoting actionable solutions, we have succumbed to hysteria and the next exciting click bait headline.

And yet for many of us, especially media owners, this place called Nigeria has been relatively good.

This country has given many of us more opportunity than the majority of our fellow citizens. We have reaped a bountiful havest from this place. We have done so well that, if God forbid, this country is consumed, and chaos reigns, many of us will hop on a plane and bugger off to the many different countries abroad where our families live in peace, even though they are not native to those places.

We will run off and leave our foot soldiers, our reporters and headline writers, who we allowed maybe even ecouraged to go down this path to navigate a country at war, alone and perhaps without the ability to fully protect their families both immediate and extended from the horrors that will follow.

And there is no doubt it will be horrific. The play book is written and tested. We saw it in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Rwanda and more recently in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

There will be killings in the thousands, limbs will be chopped off with machettes, women and girls will be raped, food will be scarce, fear will reign. The most brutal among us will take charge. And their word will be law. They will not tolerate journalists who try to hold them accountable.

And these horrors will not always come from the bogeyman we have been at great pains to create and project. It will come from the militia leaders fighting to take control of our neigbohoods and increasingly scarce resources. This is not a film script. This is the reality of war.

Our job is to hold power accountable and it is exactly what it should be.
The focus on those in charge, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, should be relentless and loud and insistent.

But when the killings happen and they seem to have already begun, it is not the President’s family, nor that of his Ministers nor indeed anyone with any kind of serious influence that will mostly die.

It is regular folks, people already forced to travel and move in order to eke out a living , settlers, across all of Nigeria.

The ignoble role we are now playing in bringing this country to chaos is at odds with most of our history. We have always being the ones Nigerians could rely on to lift our voices, together for the betterment of this country.

Our proud history of fighting colonialist masters, carried on with the fight against military dictatorship, to standing up to civilian governments that tried to perpetuate themselves in office.

I don’t know at which point we decided that a focus on ethnic profiling despite the repeated warnings about where this leads, would be a good idea.

So here we are today about to be consumed by the hate we have stoked.

They will write about us , just as they wrote about our colleagues in Rwanda. That we fanned the flames of ethnic hate, and enabled them consume our country.

They will write about us in the first person, because we live in a digital age and the internet never forgets and records last forever. They will identify us individually, and sooner or later a few of us will end up before an international court.

What we do today and what will count is whether we had the courage associated with our profession to buck the trend, jump off the bandwagon and do what is right instead of getting swept away by the moment, forgetting ourselves and the ethics that should guide us all .
In the end, we all die, but while we live, we write our legacy. It is not too late to make it one that saved our country from the brink.

By Kadaria Ahmed

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