Towards 2019, Which Way Nigeria?

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are many voices in Nigeria that express regret for having chosen then candidate Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 presidential elections. In understanding the present, the past must be made clear.

Muhammadu Buhari raises fist after registering to vote on Saturday in Gidan Niyam Sakin Yara. Pic: The Telegraph.

In the choice between All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s candidate Buhari and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, Buhari was the right decision. The Jonathan government had outlived its relative usefulness. It was hardly breathing under the weight of corruption, insecurity especially Boko Haram’s numerous willful attacks, false economic growth, inept leadership and rampant official unresponsiveness to peoples’ needs.

President Buhari is in office today because most Nigerians decided that they had enough of bad leadership of former President Jonathan. Yes, there were some very commendable achievements under Jonathan, but the decay was more.

At the time, Buhari and his coalition of “progressives” offered a possible alternative. Their three-pronged campaign themes of economic development, security especially arresting the growing territorial expansion of Boko Haram, and stopping or reducing corruption resonated well with electorates. It was the appropriate time for the country to climb out of a known sinkhole, and to firmer ground, though it was not to a solid rock.

A New York Times article that I quoted in my write up of March 2 2015 titled its strongly worded editorial, “Nigeria’s Miserable Choices”. Buhari did not come with a pedigree that could rescue Nigeria from its abyss of under-development. But compared to where Jonathan had led the country, “anything but the same” was acceptable.

Two and half years later, as the debate escalates on what is the next road to take for Nigeria, it is appropriate to consider whether the country has made strides under Buhari. And whether the successes are sufficient to justify a continuation of the same government come the 2019 presidential selection.

In a democracy, elections present the opportunity for reflection, reconsideration and action. It is a time for people to exercise their democratic rights by voting for political leaders. Nigeria has the opportunity once every four years to confirm a sitting president or welcome a replacement, according to the constitution.

It must be said that Buhari’s government tackled Boko haram convincingly, and heralded confidence in the nation’s military machine. It revealed many facts about massive stealing and corruption in the previous administration. It exposed humongous monies and wealth that were stolen and often hidden by so-called leaders and their surrogates.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari presents Lance Corporal Kenneth Kulugh with the Purple Heart medal for gallantry. Pic: BBC.

Unlike the Jonathan government, it reined in unbridled and reckless spending and began to save for possible difficult times ahead, despite major fall of petroleum price. And Buhari talked tough a few times about how to make the country gain traction in reducing imports.

Notwithstanding, the enthusiasm and positive “moment of actions” that accompanied Buhari into office was wasted by the new government. Rather than send out unequivocal actions to build on the high level of credibility that was shown by voters towards him, Buhari went literally into exile. Strangely, appointment of his own cabinet proved difficult and took six months, and other important offices were left unoccupied for a long time.

Many cheerleaders of Buhari, including my humble self, wondered if he was the same person who had aspired to rule the country numerous times.

Perhaps Buhari’s illness accounts for the slowness in many spheres where urgent actions were needed. Yet, it is not justification to absolve the leadership from its accountability to the people. It is correct to assert that, in many aspects which are explained daily in public discourse, Buhari has not done as well as expected.

Albeit, there is a greater problem.

Beyond the lack of performance of the government according to public expectations, there is a major concern that Buhari is leading the country progressively into territories of no-return. The actions and decisions of his government undermine the country’s nationhood. The country is tottering.

A few critical issues will serve to illustrate the point.

The commendable actions of the government on Boko Haram and engagement, though less successful, with the Delta area insurgents gave the impression that former military general Buhari understood security and could protect the country.

Still several security threats have ensconced themselves. The problem is not only that they should have been contained before they assumed serious importance, but that they were allowed to fester and grow. Kidnap, inter-religious fighting, open ethnic rivalry, insurgency by local militias, horrendous actions of herdsmen have all become serious threats to national cohesion. The government has been careless and ineffectual, to say the least. To date, there is no clear sense of urgency and actions to reclaim the girls, women and people abducted by Boko Haram or explain the lack of serious progress.

In appointments, assignments, and placements of senior officials, the government has been as partisan as it has been in sleeping on official reports, decisions on investigations. Management and containment of crisis within the presidency, executive arm and ruling political party leaves much to be desired.

The economy is one of the foremost areas of strength of Buhari’s government. Unlike many other sectors, there is a blueprint and direction. There are promises of results and often a timeframe is defined. However, the results are far too few and lightweight to deal with the problems on the ground. It does not matter that the previous government caused enormous damage to the nation’s economy. The solutions must come from the current government. Despite overwhelming control of states by APC, the sad non-payment of civil servants’ salaries on time or at all persists.

Unemployment, high food prices, high costs of fuel and transportation, high costs of education and health care, among others, are common and becoming normal.

Characteristically, religion – arising in part from the general insecurity, economic deprivation, poor governance, loss of confidence in government’s capability to be fair, firm and honest, – has become the only straw to which many people hang their hopes and trust. In the absence of official decisive actions and communication, people revert to religion or faith to explain many issues. As a result, a much polarized nation has become even more divided by religious differences.

Nigerian Naira notes. Pic: Daily Times Nigeria.

This government shows poor understanding of the dynamics of the country. It deliberately or inadvertently allows ethnic arguments to thrive; accusations of partiality in government appointments appear germane; and government often waits for inter-ethnic attacks to germinate and take roots, before it shows its feeble hands.

On corruption, Buhari’s government shows a consistent desire to act. It demonstrates commitment to tackle it. But the actions are too little, too limited, too weak, too narrow, very incomprehensible and more laden with failures than successes. The greatest fear is that Buhari’s government may leave so much disillusion due to its poor showing on corruption that apathy may set in – if Mr. anti-corruption, straight-as-a-rod Buhari cannot succeed in fighting corruption, maybe nobody can. Then, as many pro-corruption advocates argue, “corruption is a Nigerian, and let us live together”. It is a wrong thesis and corruption should and can be fought successfully. This government’s anti-corruption approach lacks honesty, strategy, direction and it is devoid of mobilization of people. It cannot succeed.

What is next towards 2019?

There should be an admission that Buhari’s government did succeed in changing some things for the better. Though far below what is expected. Much more can and should be done. There are four possible new directions to take.

One is to have the current government change its tempo and change from not being “in a hurry to do anything”, as Buhari himself admitted recently. The problems are known and by re-organising to have the right people around him to think and implement decisions in the best interest of the country, much more can be achieved.

The second possible way is for Buhari to be a statesman and accept that due to his health and factors beyond him, he cannot lead the country. His party, APC, may be able to find a capable replacement.

The third one is for Buhari to step aside and also opt out of APC. His illness and political party have made it difficult for him, he says, and he becomes a most respected statesman by such a wise step. He can provide a rallying point for an alternative force to the big political parties.

The fourth possible route is to re-invent the political fundamentals of the country. It should be possible for independent candidates and candidates of smaller political parties to run for presidential and other offices. Time and test have shown that APC and PDP are two sides of the same coin.

Buhari came into power to arrest the drift under Jonathan. It has done some of it. As things stand, the government cannot do better. It can most probably get worse. PDP does not have known leaders of the quality needed to handle Nigeria’s current and future challenges. It means that in 2019, as in 2015, presidential election may be a repeat of “miserable choices’.

Given the numerous proven corrupt people who may present themselves for the coming elections, strong are the chances that Buhari will have a second term in such a situation. It will be unfortunate.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).




For the world 2018 is new!
2018 brings in another year!
What becomes of the past news?
What sadness yesterday could not bear
Has passed on in painful whispers?
Tomorrow gallops in for us to bear
Burdens of future hopes that compel brains to stew.
Many seek explanations for things dear
That make today much less than we knew.


2018 greetings – Happy New Year!
Questions of the past make today
Yet a bigger question as tomorrow comes near.
2017 was so much hope that wrought only decay.
To cope, the world moves on in whispering embers.
Then tomorrow gallops in with no delay
As brains and minds continue to wonder and decipher
Seeking explanations in forms that stray
Far and away from hard realities that we remember. 



By Bunmi Makinwa.
New York. December 31, 2017.


Ibori: Ten Answers to The One Question

by Bunmi Makinwa

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Ibori raises his hand to acknowledge supporters after leaving Asaba High Court in Nigeria’s Delta State (BBC)

It is loud and quiet at the same time. The conversations on James Onanefe Ibori. On the streets and in homes. In minds and thoughtful reflections, people ponder and wonder – why would a self-identifying criminal emerge as a hero, a star that appears to shine like no other in Nigeria?

What makes a known thief to stand out as a beloved child, hugged and embraced by a teeming crowd of supporters? Loved by people from the communities that he robbed so dastardly?

Ibori is a name so very well known in Nigeria and perhaps in the United Kingdom where he and his wife, Theresa Ibori, were arrested for theft in 1990 and fined £300. In 1991, he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card, and fined £100, still in the UK.

He returned to Nigeria afterwards and became a successful politician advising the presidency. At age 40 in 1999 he was elected as governor of Delta State, a post he held for two terms of eight years.

Always of a criminal mind, in 1999 Ibori changed his name in the UK to whitewash his tarnished trail. He fitted easily into the mostly corrupt-ridden system that is Nigeria’s political space. Delta State is one of the poorest of the 36 states of Nigeria yet one of the richest as it is naturally endowed with oil wealth, and therefore entitled to receive a large chunk of the regular federal allocation of funds every month.

Ibori as executive governor in a federated political structure had unlimited control of the state’s funds which he converted into his personal expense budget. As he wished, he used it for himself, the state, friends, well-wishers and patrons. He was lavish and generous. He was kind to his cohort and made them happy with official resources. He put up some visible official infrastructures and buildings in the state.

Above all, he made sure that if he lived for another 200 years, there would be no lack of funds to use for himself and to help whoever pleased him or whose support he needed.

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After he left office as governor, Ibori was set upon by the anti-corruption agency in Nigeria. Like many others, he ran circles around the Nigerian criminal justice system using his abundant wealth. He left Nigeria for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he had properties and business interests. There, the unrelenting UK government found him and extradited him to London for trial.

He was accused of stealing US$250 million from Nigeria’s public funds. Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for his crimes. Among possessions confiscated were: two properties in the UK worth £2.2m and £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in South Africa; several vehicles – a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000, a £120,000 Bentley Continental and a Mercedes Benz valued at €407,000.

James Ibori was released from prison in December 2016 after serving over 4 years of the jail term.

As soon as he came out of jail, jubilant supporters paraded around Ibori in London, and welcomed him home to Nigeria in unprecedented show of support. They openly praised and identified with him, no matter what he did in the past and despite his lack of open remorse or change of ways.

The story of Ibori provides many answers to the riddle of corruption and its “octopustic” tentacles that wrap around a nation that keeps struggling with its expanding problems.

From comments, opinions, and discussions, here are ten answers to the historic drama of obvious popularity of ex-convict Ibori.

  1. Stealing of public funds may not count as actual stealing. An elected official must have “invested” a lot of funds to get to office. It is logical that he “recovers” his funds whilst in office, and makes much more to take care of the future and his retinue of hangers-on.
  2. A public official who manages public fund can use it for private purposes. Everyone does it. A state governor can do it more easily because he is hardly ever accountable to anyone.
  3. If, like Ibori, a public official re-distributes a small part of stolen wealth among the people, such “generosity” cleanses the official of any accusations of criminality. Most public officials hold on to their stolen wealth; only kind ones give anything back to their constituencies, friends and supporters.
  4. All politicians steal. Stealing is not corruption. When one has a God-given opportunity to have access to funds or wealth anywhere, he/she had better acquire enough of the wealth to last many lifetimes. (Do not laugh!)
  5. A convicted person from one’s ethnic group or community is still a part of the community. As “one of us”, we have a duty to defend him socially, politically… Other persons also steal anyways, and finally one of our own has the opportunity.
  6. Going to jail is immaterial if the criminal comes out of jail with sizeable wealth to give away. Far too many people will accept money and materials from anyone – prisoner, convict, robber or killer. A former prisoner who is wealthy is likely to be much more generous. He needs supporters. Get to him quickly.
  7. A rich criminal gets to keep so much of stolen money that he/she has the capacity to make others rich still. Politicians who are accused of official looting are financially capable sponsors of candidates for elective offices. It is a smart way for the criminal to purchase immunity from prosecution.
  8. By stealing abundantly, a criminal can comfortably finance his/her own political campaign to get elected to an exalted office. Once successful, immunity and public recognition is conferred on the person by law and society.
  9. In most cases, politics is not a call to service, but a game of power played with money. The more stolen funds are available, the easier it is to aim for selection and election to higher offices.
  10. There is so much poverty that anyone who can distribute money, food, materials to people gets immediate title to relevance. Poor people and needy populace do not link their despicable socio-economic conditions to official stealing and corruption from which they get served trickles of what was originally theirs. The source of wealth is least important as new norms support wealth possession no matter what the sources are.

The supporters and admirers of Ibori and his likes are everywhere. They are products of deeply corrupt political system, social norms gone awry, downgraded values and economic malaise.

Whilst arresting, prosecuting and jailing of corrupt officials is very important, it is equally critical to revisit the political systems, re-value norms, and transform drivers of need and greed.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)


What Is Next for Yahya Jammeh – Even a billion years will end.

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junjung Jammeh

Had he accepted defeat in the election of December 2016, Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, 51, would have been one of the few African presidents or heads of state who, having been in power for more than ten years or have had more than two terms of office, decided voluntarily to have a peaceful transition of power.

Notable presidents who stayed in power for a long time, yet organized or supported peaceful transition are Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor who left office in 1980 after 20 years, Cameroon’s Ahmadou Ahidjo who left office in 1982 after 22 years due to ill health, and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who quit voluntarily in 1985 after 21 years. Others are Zambia’s  Kenneth Kaunda who left in 1991 after 27 years when he lost election, and Benin’s Mathieu Kerekou who also left in 1991 when he was defeated as military leader after 19 years. They were all the first presidents of the countries after independence.

In several African countries, the governments suspend the constitutional limits to presidential terms of office, and enable the leaders to stay in power perpetually or for a long time. From such strong positions, the incumbent presidents generally win elections using any means.

Jammeh, as a 29 year old army lieutenant took over power in a coup d’etat in 1994 and was elected president in 1996. Subsequently, he has been re-elected four times. Under Jammeh, Gambia changed its constitution and removed term limits for the president.

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A young Yahya Jammeh

ECOWAS dropped its plan for mandatory two terms for heads of state in West African countries when Gambia and Togo refused. Jammeh is reported to have said in 2011:  “I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so.” It was clear that he did not see himself leaving office at any time in the foreseeable future. It was not an unusual scenario among his peers.

In 2015, the outcomes of presidential elections were predictably “favorable” to all long-term leaders in Africa.  In April that year President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan won by 94 percent in a poll that was largely boycotted by opposition parties. He had ruled Sudan for 26 years. In Togo in the same month, President Faure Eyadema, 50, won a hotly contested election for a third term after being in power for 10 years, a successor to his father’s 38 years as president. Togo has no term limit for the president.

During 2016, all presidents who have been in office for at least ten years or more than two terms won the elections or were declared winners of contested elections.  The list includes leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Uganda.

The scheduled elections for the Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2016 could not hold due to serious civil disturbances as opposition parties and protesters demanded that President Joseph Kabila could not be a candidate. He was pressured to abide by the constitution adopted in 2006 and leave office as required after his second mandate expired in December 2016. Kabila, who came to office in 2001 following the assassination of President Laurent Kabila, his father, was first elected in 2006 as president. In a compromise on 23 December, an agreement, yet to be formally adopted, was proposed by the main opposition group and government under which the president would not alter the constitution and he must leave office before the end of 2017. 

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Congolese voters queue outside a polling station during presidential elections in Brazzaville, on March 20, 2016. (IBT)

Despite the numerous sit-tight leaders, there have been smooth transitions, and changes of ruling political parties and presidents in many African countries. In 2015, election results were accepted by all parties involved in Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.  In 2016, Benin and Ghana witnessed superbly smooth transition of power.

Whilst Gambia’s Jammeh has acted true to character by rejecting the results of the election that he had accepted initially, the mood within Gambia and internationally suggests low tolerance of his stalling tactics. Whether Jammeh’s swagger and belligerence can outshine the resolve of internal critics and combined pressure of regional leaders and the international community will be clearer in the near future.

In 2014, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore tried to force through a constitutional amendment to have a fifth term in office, but his 27-year regime was forced out by a combination of popular mass actions and military disenchantment with the government.

He had won elections four times previously under circumstances that were often similar to those of Jammeh.

The Gambia, as it is known, is the smallest country on mainland Africa. It has a population of about 1.8 million and economy largely dependent on tourism. Fishing and farming are also important.  The country is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal, and its western part opens to the Atlantic Ocean. Its military strength is generally characterized as small with no major exposure to combat. The president is minister of defence and head of the military forces.

There is no documented information of any former African president who accepted unfavourable election results only to reject them later. The question is whether Jammeh can willfully discredit the electoral system which his government had established and which results he had used in three previous elections to confirm his re-election. If he gets away with it, he will become the first African leader to say “yes” and “no” to the same election result.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)


How Trump Will Deal With Post-Election Loss

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Donald Trump will go through post election loss syndrome, also known as PELS, and his party will undergo transformation that will shed a new light on the United States.

PELS is characterized as anger, denial, blame. PELS includes impulses of public tantrums and claims of victory, lower self-esteem, self-doubt, shock, depression and anxiety. It is doubtful that Trump will handle PELS well by accepting responsibility for the results of the election.

Several pointers can show how Trump will handle his PELS, both at personal and relational areas. Over the course of the U.S. political campaigns, there are many reports that assess Trump’s personality. The reports are based on books, interviews, statements and activities that he has engaged in. Also, his future life can emerge through a comparison of Trump with what happened to some past losers of U.S. presidential elections, and the after-election life of the only independent billionaire presidential candidate, Ross Perot.

By understanding Trump’s personality, it is possible to have a fair glimpse of his PELS, which will also affect both his politics and business.

Seeking a deeper understanding of Trump, The Atlantic, a news magazine, featured an article recently by Dan P. McAdams, a professor and specialist on personality psychology. It had as its central idea “to create a psychological portrait of the man. Who is he, really? How does his mind work? How might he go about making decisions in office, were he to become president?” The article relied on concepts, tools and a body of research in psychology, psychoanalysis and similar studies.

Absent a clinical visit by Trump, the McAdams examined the presidential candidate in four major areas, namely, disposition, mental habits, motivations and self-conception. It summed him up as narcissistic, disagreeable, grandiose, and consumed with a streak to win at any costs in personal business matters, and in anything else that he was involved in.

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“Trump’s personality is certainly extreme by any standard, and particularly rare for a presidential candidate… Across his lifetime, Donald Trump has exhibited a trait profile that you would not expect of a U.S. president: sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness…Prompted by the activity of dopamine circuits in the brain, highly extroverted actors are driven to pursue positive emotional experiences, whether they come in the form of social approval, fame, or wealth. Indeed, it is the pursuit itself, more so even than the actual attainment of the goal, that extroverts find so gratifying.” The article explained further that, “People low in agreeableness are described as callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy.”

Some reports state that Trump started his political quest for the presidency only as part of his relentless marketing and showmanship. He only probably wanted to get himself well known and

push his business frontiers. He was his explosive, rude, lying, attacking usual self. It worked more than he ever thought possible.

By the end of a few weeks of the primaries campaign for the Republican party’s nomination, more people in America and the world would have heard the Trump name more than they ever did. It would mean more money coming through so many products that will carry the Trump label. This is how Trump has always done it. To his surprise, getting rid of the political elites of the party proved much easier than Trump ever expected. He knocked the 16 other contestants off by poking and jabbing them, and messing them up in language that they had never heard used in such an arena.

Each day as the party’s primaries went on, Trump must have wondered why he was a superstar whilst all he wanted to do was have fun. Suddenly, he could see himself as potentially president of U.S. He decided to go for it. His abrasive and aggressive style of campaign continued to baffle many as it attracted a growing flock of followers.

Now that the immediate political quest is over, what will become of Trump?

Over the past 20 years, eight presidential candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties have lost elections. They are Walter Mondale (1984), Michael Dukakis (1988), George W. Bush (1992), Bob Dole (1996), Al Gore (2000), John Kerry (2004), John McCain (2008), and Mitt Romney (2012). All of them were practicing politicians and had held elective political offices. All of them have continued to play some roles in their political parties, and some continued to occupy public offices either by elections or appointments for some time. Most of them took up teaching either as full or part-time professors in universities and colleges.

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Trump has not been in politics until his run for presidential election. He has been a businessman. He appears to fit more into the mould of Ross Perot, a billionaire who ran as presidential candidate twice, in 1992 as an independent and in 1996 as a candidate of the Reform Party which he formed. Perot lost both times and continued his life in business with occasional involvement in politics by endorsing candidates. He has not spoken much on political issues and he was the 129th richest person in the U.S. in 2015.

Trump has, perhaps inadvertently, achieved several things that no recent presidential candidate can claim. His anti-immigrants, anti-hispanics, anti-blacks, anti-handicapped people, anti-media, anti-women, anti-party rhetoric has bruised the Republican party and revealed fault lines that will not go away. A new Republican party is likely in the near future, and some writers said that it would be a culmination of the “Trumpism” effect, a “revolt” of predominantly white blue-collar workers, seeking a strong political platform for their agenda. It is doubtful though that Trump will find a comfortable room to advance such an agenda given the enmity that he created within the party’s leadership.

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According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign donations, a third of the topmost Chief Executive Officers supported the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, during the 2012 election. However, none of the 100 top CEOs supported Trump, and 11 have backed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 election.

Hotel bookings for Trump hotel chain has plummeted by as much as 60 per cent compared to last year’s figures whilst similar hotels show rising clientele. Trump’s businesses generally are showing decline performances and the Trump brand has not attracted significant sales, according to business reports.

Clearly, Trump will have to spend time to shore up his businesses and make efforts to harness whatever goodwill may remain to rebrand his name.

The Republican party will go through surgery and resuscitation and neither the party nor its arch rival, the Democratic party, will stay the same. Nor will the U.S. be seen the same way from now on given the portrait of Trump as its possible leader.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Judges Who Will Not Sleep Comfortably

By Bunmi Makinwa

In any country, when judges of the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, are bundled out of their homes with half-open eyes in the middle of the night, it is not pretty. The “invaders” were not robbers, hooligans or protesters that came from the streets. They were officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) whose mandate is to gather intelligence, forestall enemy actions and generally ensure the security of the country.

Something drastic and impactful happened to corruption in Nigeria, and it was thanks to the DSS.

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Supreme Court of Nigeria (The Will)

The cries were loud and widespread and they came in opposing directions. Those who wanted President Buhari to call the DSS to order versus others who asked that the judges who were involved should account for their actions before the law, in equal measure as do any citizens. The many judges arrested included those of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal in various parts of the country.

Let us not tarry on the arguments from either side. They are copiously available in the news and social media. For here, let us dwell just a little on another point.

Under normal circumstances, no security officer, no law enforcement officer comes visiting anyone. Least of all at night time, and to haul people away to interrogation venues. Under normal circumstances, no government looks the most respected citizens in the eyes and calls them out to prove their innocence. Judges are not thieves, nor are they breakers of the law, in normal societies and circumstances. Judges are dignified and respected.

But is the situation in Nigeria normal?

If the revelations of official stealing and corruption that have been made in the past one year plus were seen in a Nollywood movie, the movie producer would have been prodded to notch things down a bit, maybe a lot. Movie critics would have said that the stories were exaggerated, way too much. The movie audience would have been saturated to numbness with too many scenes of thieving and stealing. It cannot happen, they would say.

But here it is. We have witnessed revelations after revelations, and just when one thinks there cannot be any more surprise, another un-imaginable amount of money is mentioned as stolen by someone who used to be, or still is, a “leader”.

The highest aggregate forum of elected “distinguished” persons at federal level, called the Senate, is a mockery of seriousness. The second highest house of legislature, called the House of Representatives, is similarly clothed in corruption accusations and trials – cap, kaftan and trousers. The state houses of assembly spend more time waiting for the governors to share money or “something” than to do any serious thinking on solving the many problems facing their citizens.

It is known by all that to aspire to occupy an elected political office is to attempt to invest in the most thriving money-making lottery of the country.

In the midst of this dysfunctional arrangement, a few good people exist. It must be said. But their uphill struggle against the status quo cannot solve the gigantic problems that face the nation. Therefore the country totters on the brink, with millions of suffering people, and in hopelessness.

If you listen to the noise on the arrest of the judges, you would hear the Nigeria Bar Association and similar heavyweights who argue about human rights, legal doctrine, warrants of arrest, distinct roles of DSS and National Judiciary Council on discipline of judges, and several such matters. Yes, you would hear tactical manoeuvering and technical high-sounding language about bringing DSS to order.

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You would also hear, perhaps not so loudly, the rumbles of other people and ordinary Nigerians who want the judges to explain how they come about the wealth that they display or that was allegedly found in their homes, bank accounts and with families. You would hear people who say that maybe this Buhari government is finally getting the point.
It is well known that the corruption within the judiciary from the magistrate court to the Supreme Court is humongous, and done with audacity.

While it is important to uphold human rights, should the right of an elected or appointed government official entitle him/her to unbridled stealing? Does the right to fair hearing in court mean that justice be rendered impossible as cases are enrobed in legal brake dancing for years to no end? Where lies the rights of ordinary citizens, millions of Nigerians, who because of official corruption lack basic means of life, including salaries, employment, health, education, roads, water…electricity? Where does the aggrieved person take his/her case when the police have to be bribed, court officials have to be incentivized, and judges have to be bought?

Corruption permeates all facets of daily life, and is found at all levels, including by judges. The current government is fighting corruption but cannot get a case prosecuted in court in large part because of technical and tactical maneuverings between lawyers and judges. Citizens cannot seek justice unless they are armed with monies to buy their way at all levels of law enforcement and prosecution.

It should not be forgotten that when systems do not work, people will boycott them and seek alternatives. Let those of us who are comfortable, whether through honest or dishonest means, beware. Nigerians are tired of more of the same.

President Buhari’s government was elected as a possible remedy to some of the problems facing the country, especially to reduce corruption. If it succeeds, there may be a chance yet for people to have confidence in government. If it fails, either by its own commission or omission, or due to frustrating tactics of those who have the means to create obstacles in its way, then any alternatives may emerge. Already, kidnap for ransom is looking like a suitable “employment” for many, and a substitute for the “419” fraud and armed robbery.

If the DSS can tackle corruption by judges and other highly-placed officials, well and good. Corruption is a security risk and judges who have clean hands will sleep peacefully whilst those who are dishonest can say goodbye to sleeping in comfort.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Where “change” begins in Nigeria

By Bunmi Makinwa


President Buhari hands over ‘Change Begin With Me’ flag to Alhaji Mohammed (

The “change begins with me” campaign of the federal government of Nigeria is running into obstacles. One of the latest undesirable hitches is plagiarism of President Obama’s speech in the text of President Buhari’s statement delivered at the recent launch. News, opinions, reports, commentaries and jokes in print, electronic and online media are full of subtle and scathing attacks on the campaign.

A major argument of some critics is that change begins with the leadership that had promised change but is backpedaling on its responsibility for it, and turning it over to the populace. Another line of criticisms is that the targeted change is undefined, nebulous and opaque. The nuts and bolts of “change begins with me”, it is argued, are as unclear as many policy issues that the President Buhari administration pursues. Put together, the contextual issues around change do not align with the new campaign.

In communication theories, change is a well-trodden area. Human communication is replete with uses of communication to effect change of knowledge, attitudes, practice and behavior. Change communication underlies the intellectual discourse of behavior and social modifications as a critical step towards change. The “change begins with me” campaign, whether stated or not, is premised on the thesis that change of behavior by Nigerians can and should result in change of the Nigerian society. The behavior change of citizens will, over time, aggregate to social change of the Nigerian nation. It is, theoretically, a solid basis to build an action programme. This must have been what Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had in mind.

It is widely accepted that change of behavior, and ultimately change of society, is complex. It is hardly linear. It requires collaboration of communication with sociology, psychology, anthropology and related fields of human interactions. Extensive studies in change communication show that “good intentions” are far from adequate. In other words, no matter, how well intentioned a change idea is, it does not by fiat materialize into acceptance by the community or society where the change is advantageous or sensible.

In development communication, examples of good intentions leading to bad outcomes are soberly common. Whether it is smoking, driving while intoxicated or use of seat belts, change of habits and behavior is arduous. For example, health promotion campaigns that focused on negative health impacts of smoking achieved little for decades. Facts on the nefarious health effects did not discourage reasonable, knowledgeable smokers. The breakthrough came in many countries by making smoking appear so “un-cool”, unfashionable, repulsive, anti-social to “right –thinking” persons. And it was combined with treatment medications, psychosocial approaches, alongside policies and legislation that made cigarettes expensive; smoking was barred from public spaces; and smokers were restricted to corner spaces of undesirability.

Campaigns against driving whilst intoxicated are witnessing increasing successes in countries that combine special attention to what should be done when one drinks – designate a driver who does not drink alcohol at that occasion, have colleagues monitor each other’s alcohol consumption levels, have bar tenders take charge and restrict drunk drivers, use taxis to return home – with stringent checks by police officers as people leave parties and drinking places. Tough legislations penalize drunk driving, including heavy fines, temporary or permanent ban from driving.

Advertisers and marketers, to mention a few, use change communication extensively to create acceptance of new products, or to effect change from existing services to newly available ones. It works.

Success in change of behavior and society is grounded in theoretical understanding of people and society, and adaptation of knowledge from empirical studies. Behaviour modification and change does not happen quickly. There are short, medium and long term phases, and some successes can be recorded, even in the short term phase when norms begin to be questioned and re-ordered.

Without enough understanding of the work – theories, studies, processes – that inform Nigeria’s “change begins with me” campaign, it is difficult to say much about it. However, given the official actions and criticisms of it, some points are well in order.


A poster of leading opposition All Progressive Congress presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari and deputy Yemi Osinbajo (

President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party was voted in on the platform of “change”. The massive voters’ support confirmed that change was awaited and would be supported. How will change occur? The first positive signal is that the leadership should demonstrate change.

Whilst the government, during its 16-month tenure, succeeded convincingly in dealing decisively with Boko Haram, it is yet to show that it can deal with security in its many ratifications. See how long it took to have any serious official pronouncement on herdsmen who ravage farms and villages, kill and maim people.

Also, whilst government struggles to rein in the spreading kidnap menace, the Niger Delta insurgents appear to thrive under various names. And the initial official commitment to locate the abducted Chibok Girls has fallen by the wayside. Rather, the Police harass peaceful protesters who serve as a constant beacon of the historic tragedy bleeding the nation.

Corruption, another pillar of the campaign manifesto of the government, has seen some positive efforts at curbing it. But even the consternation and anger of people as revelations of massive looting were revealed is now being dulled by time and inconclusive lengthy processes that drag on. It is apparent that some officials, especially civil servants and law enforcement agents, are falling back willfully into old ways of public bribe-taking and oppression of the people for the slightest reasons. Not only national budgets are “padded” under the nose of the change leadership, contracts are being padded heavily again. The fight against corruption is being cast as “Buhari’s thing”. His immediate entourage, collaborators and, especially, state governments are not even remotely part of any obvious anti-corruption efforts.

The dark cloud that covers the nation right now is economic and financial difficulty. It hangs like a giant elephant tusk on the neck of the masses and so-called middle class. It drags people down, into anger, intolerance and hopelessness. The people want to hear more on how and when it will change.

Candidly, everything seems right about the wording and need for “change begins with me”. But political communication of contradictory verbal and non-verbal exchange is problematic. The entirety of change should be manifested in many more areas and should be read, heard, seen, and interpreted – without doubt. The government, with its main pillars of change agenda in doubtful suspense, cannot expect its subjects to trust that it can lead or sustain change.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership and former Africa head of United Nations Population Fund