When a Billionaire Goes to Jail

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for Orji Uzor Kalu

Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu

Billionaires do go to jail but only rarely. In any country, a billionaire who pays for his crime with a jail term makes headline news. In Nigeria on December 4, 2019, wealthy, former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He wiped away tears, he asked or begged security officers not to be placed in handcuffs as he was being led out of court. “Please don’t handcuff me. I will follow you.”

Kalu, a senator and Chief Whip of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) political party, will most likely appeal the judgment. It took 12 years to prosecute the case to this point. For now, he sits in jail for committing fraud of over 7 billion naira of funds meant for Abia State which he ruled from 1999 to 2007. He will forfeit huge personal assets to the government.

In the public space, he has acquired an ignominious title of criminal, fraud and corrupt person.

In less than five years of APC’s rule by President Muhammadu Buhari, three other former state governors have been sentenced to prison, also for defrauding their states. They are: Jolly Nyame of Taraba State – 12 years; Joshua Dariye of Plateau State10 years; and Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State, whose conviction of 4 years imprisonment was later upturned by the Court of Appeal.

The rate of imprisonment of such all-powerful former governors is unprecedented.

The prosecution of cases of “grand corruption”, as it was labeled by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, appears to have sharp teeth. They bite deep and bloody. The injuries are being spread around in a way that makes people shudder, even if they are “insiders” – members of the APC and strong, well-connected political persons. The expectation that “Once you have joined APC, all your sins are forgiven” as famously stated in January 2019 by APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomole may be far from reality.

Related image

A Federal High Court, Lagos sentenced former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison

Kalu’s case is a model of a person who did all the “right” things to wash himself clear of his sins. He had abandoned his political party that took him to governorship position, and joined APC; he campaigned vigorously, visibly for APC and presidential candidate Buhari in 2019 elections; he fought his way through electoral and legal hurdles to become a senator in 2019, a usual guarantor of immunity from sanctions for crimes perpetrated as governor; and he purchased his way to Katsina the home state of Buhari to have himself turbaned as a Moslem leader, showing total disdain for his Christian roots and life-long religion. Yet, he ended up paying for his sins.

It may be too early to draw conclusions. But some questions are appropriate.

Is the government in its second term in office showing its new hands – no friends, no foes, and anyone who falls into the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) net can be convicted and will serve jail term and suffer punishment?

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Shehu Malami said on December 19, 2019, that 22 ex-governors are under probe or on trial. This is in addition to many high-level officials and political heavyweights who are being investigated or facing criminal charges. Are the graft fighting arms of government, especially the EFCC, more proficient and more certain of their abilities to get convictions in courts hence they are emboldened? Will more billionaires go to jail?

The legal defence squad of billionaires who face criminal charges in Nigeria has demonstrated over the years its ability to stall the legal process, frustrate and ultimately overcome the prosecution in most situations. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a recent law, is credited by some legal analysts as having equipped prosecution with more capability to limit the technical manoeuvering that draws out cases sometimes for decades, defeating and making nonsense of trials. Will the use of the Act strengthen the administration of justice and encourage upright judges to determine cases within a reasonable time?

Are various arms of government, especially the executive and judiciary listening more attentively to the cries of the general public who are daily being scammed by their elected leaders?

And by confiscating the gains of crimes through forfeitures of large assets, is the judiciary waking up to the reality that political criminals even when convicted live a sumptuous, obscenely wealthy lifestyle after jail? That the fruits of a crime stay with the criminals rather than return to the people whose life is diminished by corruption?

We should also not forget to ask: Do we as a society contribute to creating many fraudulent and criminal billionaires? A system that makes it imperative to have many millions and even billions of Naira to run for election in any political position has created political commerce from which “investors” must recoup their capital and ensure quick returns whilst in office.

When billionaires go to jail, there is often dancing in the streets. The real joy, however, lies in people reaping fruits of democracy through a vast, noticeable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. A change of ways by governors and political leaders towards a life of service and commitment to reducing poverty in the land is a worthwhile goal.

Then, fewer billionaires will end up in jail.

Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Buhari and Sowore – The Road to Change

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for buhari and sowore

Image via Daily News Gh

One is lean, slow, deliberate and often distant as he stares into space. The other is compact, quick, agitated and often preoccupied with his mobile phones. I am describing, respectively, my impressions of President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Omoyele Sowore from watching them both up close physically.

They are two different people, as different as two people can be, including in their age and life experience. Yet, they are two very similar persons. In so many ways that this article will explain, their trajectories have been different, but their ways have been very similar.

In taking a stand against the establishment, Sowore has lived a life of protests. He was a relentless advocate for civil and political rights as a student union leader at the University of Lagos. Later on, he founded Sahara Reporters, one of the early online alternative media that champions agitation against all governments of Nigeria since 2006.

Buhari as a professional military officer might be perceived as conformist and obedient to military tradition. A closer look, however, reveals something different. His most visible form of protest has been that within and outside his military career, he has demonstrated a non-conformist mien. He has been described as austere, withdrawn and often aloof. In his political roles in military uniform, he has not been given to the physical and social excesses that characterized several of his contemporaries who assumed political roles.

Just as Buhari has held several political appointments and worked within the political structures, Sowore has been around and within politics, including engaging institutions of government to criticize them, and sometimes to collaborate with them as sources of his investigations. Buhari and Sowore came to the same conclusion. Neither was happy with the government and the regular politicians.

Both men sooner than later, in their typical day, are apt to show their angry demeanours in social and political discourse. President Buhari and Omoyele Sowore in many ways have led lives that reflected their dissatisfaction, even anger, about Nigeria’s political leadership and parties.

Image result for buhari military

Buhari as a military officer has been one of the leaders of several coups d’etat against military and civilian governments. For example, in December 1983, he was one of the military leaders that overthrew President Shehu Shagari. Buhari and his deputy Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon ruled Nigeria for some two years, a regime that was characterized by their “War Against Indiscipline”. They jailed many people,
punished many others and made draconian laws. Buhari has not led a quiet life of conforming to the established order.

Similarly, Sowore has never been short of negative words to describe what goes on in Nigeria. His lifelong pursuit of activism against the government has been loud. He has been intolerant of corruption, misrule, abuse of office and exploitative social norms.

President Buhari, after his military career, found his voice within a new political party, the All Nigeria People’s Party, and later in the Congress for Progressive Change. He ran three times unsuccessfully to become president. He won only at his fourth election campaign using the All Progressives Congress party platform. He has fulfilled his desire to rule Nigeria.

Sowore, who had established a powerful, successful media platform, Sahara Reporters, to destabilize the political space, also found a political party, the African Action Congress, in 2018. The party lost resoundingly at Sowore’s first attempt to use the electoral system to become president.

When President Buhari lost his earlier elections, he did not keep quiet. He spat fire. His frustration with the electoral process was heard loudly. For example, Buhari claimed that the 2011 elections were rigged. He angrily stated that “if what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”.

Sowore after his electoral loss did not keep quiet. Moreover, he concluded that open agitation to upend the system was perhaps more effective. He spoke angrily too.
In their characteristic ways, neither of the two men accepted their losses nor did they settle down to parley with the winners. They did not go quietly into the night.
Sowore, reacting against the electoral process of 2015, called out other instruments of persuasion. He brandished a new slogan of “Revolution Now” and led street campaigns.

Unfortunately, for seeking new avenues to change the political discourse, he became the enemy that must be stopped by the forces of law and order.

It is written and said by many people that Sowore was the nemesis of President Jonathan’s government and that Sahara Reporters was a most potent media that charted the way for the end of Jonathan’s government and the entry of President Buhari into office in 2015.

Image result for sowore

Sowore, especially through Sahara Reporters, has campaigned in the public arena consistently against the ills of every government from 2006 to date. Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan were not spared, nor were their ministers, appointees and other political associates.

Some of these leaders have had their wives painted in undignified portraits in the online media, especially for corrupt activities.

How did Sowore who acted in support of, advocated for Buhari, and his political party’s “change” agenda, become the “enemy” of Buhari and his government?

Buhari was fed up with poor governance, he campaigned in support of a new order and fought hard to get into power. Both Buhari and Sowore swear that Nigeria must change.

Sowore’s impatience with slow or lack of change leads him to seek possible pressure points to accelerate change. What differentiates the two in the new sphere is that whilst Buhari is bound by the fences of government house and its dictates, Sowore chooses to try the paths not taken, using mostly words.

Nigeria is ripe for change. The road to change is already littered with promises not kept, accidents caused deliberately by agents of the status quo, and obstacles that hinder progress for the largest segment of the population. Sooner than later it may become a stark reality to decide which path can truly lead to change – within the existing order, or its overturn to give way to drastic shifts. Patience may have an expiration date.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Judges Should Rebuild the Temple of Justice

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image via Quartz

There was a time, and it was not too long ago, when in many communities the name or job of a parent qualifies a child for kindness or disdain.

In the of qualification-by-association mindset, if one’s father or mother was a school teacher, the child was seen as disciplinedand dilligent. The offspring of a well-educated person would get abundant respect. Similarly respected were the offspring ofhonest, reputable, hardworking folks.

Some professions also bestowed respect and admiration on their practitioners. The legal profession was highly considered. Andwithin the legal fraternity, a magistrate was the first step into the dignified chamber of justice. As one went higher in the judiciary, the higher was the adoration too.

A judge was a special being, above many others. If a judge wore only golden shoes in people’s imagination, a justice of the Supreme Court wore only diamond dresses and they would walk only with angels– still in people’s imagination. It used to be rare for people to meet justices of the Supreme Court anywhere other than at the Supreme Court, or at dignifying national official events.

South African Judge Thokozile Masipa at the Oscar Pistorius trial over the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: AFP.

Suddenly the cookies have been crumbling. Judges homes have been raided and searched for stolen wealth. Judges were accused of selling their golden stools for a bagful of Naira and various currencies. And not a few have been tried, sanctioned or dismissed over the years.

The sad story started a while back. The search for wealth and the need for money is pursued by people in various ways. Whilst hard work and opportunities are favoured by some people, there are other people who use their positions, connections and skills to acquire wealth illegally and in criminal ways. The combination of politics as quick-investment-for-quick-returns, importance of personal material well-being and general loss of honesty and ethical values in the society aided amplification of abuse within the legal profession and judiciary.

In an interview in November 2016, Mr. Olayinka Ayoola, former Supreme Court Justice, expressed regrets at the arrest of some judges by agents of Department of Security Services at the time. He foretold that the implication “was too serious to be quantified now”. The former Chief Justice of The Gambia, said it was debasing for judges to be accused of corruption. Nothing should tempt a judge to seek or collect a bribe, Justice Ayoolasaid.

He disclosed that he had never received bribe because nobody ever approached him to offer a bribe. “I feel …that I never had the opportunity of rejecting bribe because nobody has ever approached me throughout my career as a judge, here in Nigeria or elsewhere.”

In the current situation, the quote above seems like coming from a long gone era. The unheard of has happened. A few weeks ago, then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr. Walter Onnoghen, faced serious allegations of misdeeds, and was tried both in the public arena and in judicial institutions. He resigned in a cloudy gloom of dirt that should not have been associated ever with the exaltedoffice, nor with his name.

1C3E0BF6-901B-43DD-A8C4-14F3CE505033

CJN Justice Walter Onnoghen

In a widely quoted story, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) was traveling by train to Washington, D.C., and a conductor came to check his ticket. Justice Holmes searched everywhere for it but could not locate the ticket. The conductor merely said, “Don’t worry about your ticket, Mr. Holmes. We all know who you are. When you get to your destination, you can find it and just mail it to us.”

Unfortunately, the distinguished positive characteristics andconsideration for judges do not appear merited in Nigeria any longer. It is perhaps due to the actions of a few, but the negative implications are far-reaching.

The judiciary has not collapsed yet. There are, like in any group of people or profession, judges who cringe at the injustice that some of their colleagues have done to the judiciary. There are judges who live a life of dignity and respect with full understanding and acceptance of their responsibility. They refuse to be seen in the marketplace of financial misdeeds and abuse of office. There amongst them lie the saviours. They must protect their oath of office against the bad eggs, no matter how difficult or challenging it is, at this crucial time.

They must refuse to be bought by politicians who will only pay, use and dump them.

During and after elections, hundreds of cases come before the various courts and tribunals for decisions. Ours is a do-or-die political climate where very large monies are spent to purchase nomination at party primaries, and to buy votes and win elections. It is the same logic that drives politicians to spend huge amounts of money to corrupt justice, seeking out possible judges at any price to be bought.

Mr. John Marshall (1755-1835) USA Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and remembered as perhaps the most influential justices of all time in the country, made pronouncements and rulings that permanently uplifted the judiciary to its rightful place as an equal part of the three layered branch with the executive and the legislature. History remembers him.

Justice Salihu Modibo Alfa Belgore

When retiring from the Supreme Court in 2007, Justice Salihu Modibbo Alfa Belgore appealed to the legislators: “All elected officers are entrusted by the electors with the sacred responsibility of governing well and making laws for good governance so that there will be law and order in the nation…There is absolute nothing wrong with the constitution if the operators manifest loyalty to the nation.” He had made an important ruling at the Supreme Court against the illegal impeachment of a governor who he ordered to be reinstated after the governor had lost his cases at the lower courts.

There are many cases currently where pronouncements of courts and tribunals will mar or make the judiciary. In the states, from Ekiti to Oshun, from Rivers to Imo, and from Kano to Zamfara, the reasoned arguments of our judges and logical conclusions can strengthen the faith of the people in the judiciary and the country.

Hear Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, fondly referred to as ‘The Socrates of Supreme Court’: If you are a judge and you are corrupt, where do we go from here? Then everything has come to a halt. If the legislature is corrupt, you go to the judiciary for redress. If the executive is corrupt you go to the judiciary for remedy. If the judiciary itself is corrupt, where do you go from there?

Judges should rise up to the highest standards expected of their positions and affirm the famous saying – the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Presidential Election Gives Nigerians No Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

Related image

President M. Buhari (Getty Images/P. Ekpei)

If President Muhammadu Buhari figuratively rode on a horseback to assume office in 2015, as at today, he barely rides a three-legged donkey. A wobbling government has frittered away the goodwill of the expectant millions who brought him to office.

However, his main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, does not have a donkey to ride on. His questionable past and close embrace of proven and perceived corrupt political actors and ruinous leaders do not make him attractive. Despite the weakness of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party or PDP is not the shining star.

Yet one of the two is most likely to emerge as president come the election of February 16, in a few days.

The PDP governed Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. Its three successive presidents, and with control over most of the states, reinforced a faulty political system where massive looting of government coffers became the norm. Provision of services and improvement of peoples’ well-being receded and disappeared in most of the 36 states and at the federal government level.  Politics was the quickest gateway to wealth, riches and power.

Under PDP rule, when political leaders have taken their large share of the official budget, the little that was left could not maintain Nigeria’s elaborate political and administrative systems. Infrastructures became dilapidated. Salaries remained little and unpaid in many states. Social tension heightened.

Nigeria’s political system is problematic too. The “investment” needed to win votes or buy oneself an elected position has kept rising. The demand presses elected persons, in turn, to hustle to recover their wealth, equip themselves and their acolytes for future political positions. Many elected officials aggressively privatize official funds to their pockets for use as future powerful political kingmakers.

Amongst the citizenry, high and low, a culture of primitive self-preservation and material aggrandizement developed. Reliance on system and order gave way to brazen self-reliance, hopelessness in hard work, and spiritual solutions to routine life issues.

People scramble for “money by all means”, especially through political favours, in a situation where material well-being is a primary determinant of people’s self-worth. Absent the government, all basic needs are met by each person according to whatever access is possible to any resources, state or privately-owned.

Image result for nigeria voting elections

Nigeria Votes (guardian.ng)

On February 16, 2019, Nigeria will pick either Atiku or Buhari to rule the country for another four years. It is not because there are no qualified, capable and exemplary candidates among the more than 40 other presidential aspirants. It is mainly because the political system is cast in stone, and only the candidates of a few major political parties can have the resources and means to meet the demands stipulated by the constitution, political tradition, and corrupt processes that produce candidates for political offices.

Several of the other aspirants have qualifications, experience and drive that will make any country proud of its possible leaders.

The political system is dominated by political parties that can afford enormous resources to set up structures, reach out to a sprawling, federated country of 36 states and one federal territory, use mass and social media that communicate with some 180 million population, and provide reliable security for themselves and supporters.

Candidates for elections must dole out monies to members of their own parties and voters who have given up on what elected leaders do when they are in office. Rather, party officials and voters want immediate gratification – whatever materials, food and money that they can get from candidates during the election campaign. Elections are costly, not only for the official organizers but also for candidates who must deploy huge amounts of money for every step of the election process, from seeking the nomination of political parties to seeking votes of the electorate.

For the coming election, Nigeria faces yet again the sad choice of having to choose between two leading politicians neither of whom can take the country to its level of development and realization of its potentials.

The gargantuan victory of President Buhari in 2015 over then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan gave Buhari a powerful entry. But his three-pronged campaign on corruption, a stronger economy, and security with special focus on ending Boko Haram insurgency are nowhere near being successfully prosecuted.

Image result for nigeria atiku

Atiku (image via News24; File, AFP)

At the same time, Atiku will only be Atiku – focusing on further enriching himself, his cronies and beloved others.

Those who strongly support Atiku claim that he is different from Buhari and will perform better given the weaknesses of the current government. They say that Atiku will make the expected noise to discourage the rampage by herdsmen and organised attacks on certain people and religious groups. He will choose his lieutenants from various parts of the country. He will enable the South-eastern part of the country mainly the Igbo ethnic group to contest strongly for the presidency. He will make public money spread around through his customary largesse. He will unite the country that appears to be fragmenting. Yet, the claimants have only weak arguments to explain how the expectations will be met.

The strongest criticism of Atiku is that the popular demand to combat and at least reduce corruption will suffer greatly if he becomes president. But his supporters maintain that if corruption is the price to pay to have a more united country, a stronger economy and less structured federalism, it is time to let corruption continue under Atiku’s rule. It is a sad bargain to accept.

Whether 76-year old Buhari or 72-year old Atiku wins in the soon to be held election for the next president, Nigeria loses because neither of the two persons has the disposition, experience, appropriate mindset, nor determination to make Nigeria a better place for its people. The current political system presents only the rich and mighty, not the best that the country can offer.

Asked about February 16 election for the president, someone retorted: “Some people will vote for Atiku. Some will vote for Buhari. One of the two will win despite a large number of frustrated people who will spread their votes among the numerous other candidates. The status quo will remain because Atiku and Buhari are from PDP and APC which are two sides of the same coin.”

To buttress his point, the person explained that Atiku was in PDP before he joined APC, and then returned to PDP a few months ago to buy the political platform to aim for the presidency. The leadership of both parties boasts of the same persons who have led Nigeria’s politics for the past 30 plus inglorious years.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

CJN Case – Buhari a Dove or a Hawk?

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for cjn
President Buhari and former CJN Onnoghen (image via pulse.ng)

In his initial actions on assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was painstakingly slow. The list is long. He took six months to appoint a cabinet. Many important organizations and parastatals continued to be led by nominees of the previous government. Management boards of key governmental organizations and ambassadors for important foreign offices were not appointed or confirmed.

For a considerable time after becoming president, Buhari was not known to have articulated any clear policy statements on the three key areas of his campaign- security, economy, and corruption. 

As time went on, he accepted the label of “Baba go slow” and explained that it would not stop him from reaching his goal on retrieving stolen monies. Perhaps the slow posture helped to demonstrate his change of image from that of a past military dictator to that of a democratic president.  Maybe his ill-health explained the slow pace too, but the disappointment was real.

Related image
‘Go slow’ in Lagos, Nigeria (image via cmgsite.com)

Meanwhile, the high profile cases of corruption that his government made loud noises about went nowhere or stalled due to court processes, also known as legal technicalities. Yet, many cases went to court, and large amounts of monies and assets were confiscated. But extremely few of the major allegedly corrupt persons got convicted.

Very quickly, the more than 15 million voters who brought Buhari into office settled into the new reality. The new leader and his government appeared to succeed reasonably in limiting the effectiveness of Boko Haram, which was a good thing. But the government would not be able to find an effective way to reduce corruption. Not in court, not in the mobilization of people, not in policy clarity. At best it would scare some corrupt politicians within its ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party and in the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) party.

The system, thoroughly soaked in corrupt ways from top to bottom, has won. Despite his experience as former head of state, holder of several political offices, and his hunger to rule Nigeria, the new Buhari was a dove who would play the political game and not hurt. After all, the dove is a symbol of peace.

Many people were disappointed because they wanted a hawk – an aggressive and war-like leader who would find ways to correct the ills. But the political realities emasculated the government.

Image result for chief Justice Tanko Mohammed
Acting CJN Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed (image via BBC)

Like a thunderbolt, the allegation against the Chief Justice emerged. Buhari acted rapidly. His unusually quick and decisive step caused a massive uproar. The opposition and other critics found a rallying point.

It is probably the most controversial decision of Buhari’s government – the suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen and appointment of acting Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed to replace him. The CJN was allegedly found to have misrepresented his financial standing in the sworn declaration of assets.

The whirlwind of opinions, protests, and statements on the decision continues within and outside Nigeria. Legal analysts and professionals voiced strong but opposing views on the situation There can only be finality when courts pronounce.

Buhari’s APC and the main opposition PDP hold diametrically opposing positions on the CJN issue. For APC, it is right that a CJN who “forgot” to state in his official papers that he had millions of dollars in bank accounts was guilty of misconduct. But the PDP differs.

Public opinion is an aggregate of the views and thoughts of the general public. The coming elections will reflect where supporters of APC and PDP and other parties stand on several issues, and perhaps, more importantly, the decision on the CJN, taking three weeks before the crucial election.

Many people and organizations have spoken and demonstrated against the decision. And as many have spoken and manifested their support for it. The supporters find the decision bold, correct and necessary.  Can it be the kind of decision that many people expected when they voted massively in 2015 to support APC and made sure that Buhari clinched the presidency?

USA’s president Donald Trump during his campaign did several things that were unorthodox. The more he showed Americans and the world that he was not a typical politician, the stronger his support base became. The more Trump angered mainstream America the more his followers cheered.

A large number of Americans were fed up with the political system. They were seeking a president unlike their politicians in the Senate, House of Representatives and Washington D.C., the political capital. The forgotten Americans wanted to turn the tables against politics as it was being played. They wanted a non-political leader.

In the USA, the media, opinionists, commentators, and experts did not get the message of the disgruntled, voiceless people in open and hidden corners of America.  Trump got the message. He acted the part and played ball with the coalition of immigrant haters, faith fundamentalists, blue-collar workers, and such-like others. He fitted the bill and he won.

In so-called democratic Nigeria today, the average person has no right at any place or institution. It is a well-known fact that who-you-are and what-you-have are the sole determinants of what you get. Yet, the elites and dominant office holders are quick to claim the rule of law as the answer to resolve the disagreement.

More than some of the controversial issues of Buhari’s presidency – the cattle herders’ rampage, the allegedly Northern-bias in the appointment of key federal officers, and general un-hurried attention to crucial national issues – the public perception on the CJN issue may be the decisive factor of Buhari’s re-election.

The president has shown he could find a way within the rotten political and legal system to take a vital blow on seeming corrupt behavior. The action may turn out to be the most populist decision by his government. Or it may be the most foolhardy. The decision of President Buhari will be validated or rejected by the result of the elections of February 16 when he squares up with his main rival, former Vice-President and candidate of the PDP, Abubakar Atiku.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. 

 

More Fake News Here.

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for fake news

Can one avoid fake news? It is highly unlikely.

Anyone who uses social media, also called social networking services, will receive fake news. The more frequently one uses social media, the more fake news one receives. The challenge is to identify and ultimately avoid spreading fake news as the personal and social impact can be damaging. In fact, it may also have legal implications.

The growth of technology, media technology in particular, in combination with the ease of creating one’s information through cheap mobile telephony, has democratised “news” both for good and bad uses.

An active user of social media receives information many times each day from friends, families, casual acquaintances, and unknown people. It has become easier than ever to generate and spread information. It can be about anything. In several formats, including text, video, photo and voice, anyone can use just a smart telephone to express views, ideas, wishes and news that can reach numerous people across the world in rapid time.

Such shared information may be fake news which contains misinformation and inaccuracies. The information may be designed purposefully to deceive or mislead the receiver. Or it may be used to inform, or promote a viewpoint, sale, generate interest in an issue, or perhaps to entertain. Most people re-post information quickly and hardly spend time to verify its authenticity.

Fake news varies in appearances and implications. As Nigeria’s 2019 elections for president, governors and other offices draw nearer, fake news will increase in frequency and sophistication.

The relevance of newspapers, radio and television notwithstanding, social network services are very effective means of communication. Their impact on political discourse and communication is significant in Nigeria.

Image result for nigeria elections

(image via pulse.ng)

According to available statistics, Nigeria’s active users of social media increased from only 52 million in 2013 to about 90 million users in 2017. With a huge population of young people, the country will most likely surpass its hitherto growth rate of about three percent for active users. Especially if the costs of mobile telephony decreases and the economy picks up in the near future, more young people will use the Internet with social media as primary means of communication. The mobile telephony subscription in the country rose from 1.6 million in 2002, to 87.4 million in 2010, and it is now at about 154 million.

Some fake news can be sighted from a mile off. Especially by astute communication and media professionals. A casual observation will show if the name of the purported media organization is wrongly portrayed, or if there are wrong spellings, unusual language or style of presentation. In some cases the hyperlink used as source of the news or information does not exist. Or the statements made are simply doubtful.

Yet, fake news can be cleverly done. It is possible to use modern innovations to modify photos, voices, images and scenes, and combine them to look credible. In such cases, it is difficult to spot the manipulations. More advanced analysis or technology is required.

Recently, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke of a fake website that had his identity all over it. He succeeded to trace the originator but the person has not taken the website down.

Many wealthy people, celebrities, well-known persons, leading brands and organisations have fake information about them and attributed to them on the social media. Facebook, Twitters, websites and blogs, WhatsApp and Instagram are popular in Nigeria, and they contain a lot of fake news despite deliberate efforts by the platforms to identify and eliminate fake news and their creators.

Whilst there is general agreement that fake news should be discouraged and stopped, there is little common position on how it can be done. Current libel laws may be already adequate. Others ask for special policies and laws to counter fake news, whilst some countries place special taxes on use of social media. There have been several instances where national authorities closed down access to the Internet.

Just as one does in daily lives, one must apply common sense to determine what is fair, right or wrong. There are no better ways than to question claims and appearances.

For ease of doing things, you may want to consider the following ten points for social media messaging (text, voice, video, cartoon, photo and other materials). I call them my intuitive 10 laws of social media scams. They are particularly relevant in Nigeria as the political space heats up with ongoing campaigns.

  1. All freebies on social media are scam. If the freebies are actually free, everyone and too many people have already taken whatever was available before I get to know.
  2. If it sounds like fantastic news, a truly phenomenal happening, I hesitate. If it sounds untrue, it most probably is untrue.
  3. Who said it? The same liar. He/she lied about things in the past. Forget it.
  4. Oh, this story is credited to a well-known person, a public figure etc. If it is really true then I should find it on websites of the relevant major media, including newspapers, radio and TV. Is it there?
  5. This does not sound like the same person I knew as a public figure. He or she would never do it, or say such a thing.
  6. Does this quoted person have the qualification or experience to speak with authority on the issue? Can I find his background information or depth of knowledge through a regular Internet search?
  7. Alright, this item quotes a reputable major news organization. Let us check it on the website or in the information area of the news media.
  8. The fact that it is written does not make it true. Anybody can write anything about anybody at any place at any time for any reasons. Where else can I check the truth of it? Who should know?
  9. Allegations of corruption and abuse of office stated about every top politician is likely to be true. But proof is hard to come by. Choose which ones to accept and act upon. Avoid the ones that may lead to a libel case.
  10. Buhari does not hate Atiku. And Atiku does not hate Buhari. They are friends, and will remain friends after the elections. Please, do not send me these hate stories.

Bunmi Makinwa is the Chief Executive Officer of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Kofi Annan’s Unmet Wishes

By Bunmi Makinwa

Image result for Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan, who passed away on August 18, 2018, at the age of 80, can be situated within the select group of aspirational Africans of his time. Within their generation, the group was imbued with huge dosages of hope, logic and grit. They had numerous wishes but only few were met.

His generation started life when Africans who had opportunities saw no limit to what they could achieve. They hungered after acquisition of education, combined with hard work, and they would use both to conquer the world. They would move Africa, poor and lagging behind, ahead of the world.

Annan was one of the most successful representations of his generation.

In 1957, 19 years old Annan graduated from high school as Ghana his country became independent. He earned degrees from universities in Ghana, USA and Switzerland.

Image result for Kofi Annan young

A handout photo made available by the United Nations shows Kofi Annan (L), Secretary-General of the United Nations, with fellow students, during his younger years, as an MIT Sloan Fellow, studying copper industry, in Zambia, 1971

By the time Annan was 40 years old in 1978, almost all African countries were ruled by Africans. The colonial era was past. Putting an end to apartheid was a political and emotional ambition of Africans under the umbrella of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), founded in 1963. Development, peace and stability were seen as beacons in the horizon.

Annan was fluent in English and French. His first wife, Ms. Titi Alakija, was from Nigeria. After his divorce, he married Ms. Nane Lagergren from Sweden. Annan was culturally assimilated into many parts of the world.

In 1962, he started work with the World Health Organisation as administrative officer. Within the various organs of the United Nations, he rose to become Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping in 1992, a senior political role in an inter-governmental institution where one’s emoluments allow a comfortable and cushioned life, though not a wealthy one.

By the time he became United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) in 1997, Annan had probably fulfilled his hopes and wishes. He was at the peak of an illustrious career, and a political peer of heads of state and government.

His continent had matured politically, but it remained seriously under-developed. Africa was ravaged by conflicts and hobbled by extremely poor execution of otherwise laudable policies. Under-development was becoming chronic, and it went hand in hand with diseases and attendant epidemics such as HIV and AIDS. Unemployment, poverty, high mortality of infants and mothers, droughts, corruption and poor access to infrastructure were common.

Annan was a high-flying African; he had international recognition and acclaim, but the successes were diminished by the sad state of the continent. Africa, despite its immense potentials, remained the least developed region of the world, a basket case of world’s political and development agenda. The situation must have affected the number one global diplomat sorely.

Image result for nelson mandela premio nobel

In 2004, six years into his tenure as UN SG, Annan, speaking at a summit of the African Union, created in 2001 as successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), called on African leaders to refrain from changing the law once in office to extend their mandates. The audience comprised presidents and representatives of countries that were guilty of such mandate extension, and others that were scheming for it. They included Gnassingbe Eyadema, Robert Mugabe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Omar Al-Bashir, Muammar Gaddafi, Jose Dos Santos, Paul Biya, Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and Meles Zenawi.

It was an unusual speech for the audience. As this writer looked around in the hall at the United Nations Economic Commission (UNECA) where the summit was held, the tension was high. Some presidents looked away from the podium where Annan stood. Some others shifted in their seats, obviously unhappy, uncomfortable.

Annan told the summit that national constitutions were meant to protect society, not to advance “the short-term goals of the ruler”. He said the days of one-person or one-party governments that hung onto power were over. “There is no truer wisdom, and no clearer mark of statesmanship, than knowing when to pass the torch to a new generation. And no government should manipulate or amend the constitution to hold on to office beyond prescribed term limits that they accept when they took office.”

Annan prescriptions were clear and direct. Every country in Africa must have free and fair elections, a credible opposition, an independent judiciary, a free and independent press, and civilian control over the military.

Looking his usual unflappable self, it was clear that the medium size-framed diplomat had decided to use his office to take the moral high ground. He was the voice of the people. He would not merely please presidents nor be cowed by the fact that there in the hall were the leaders of the organization that he coordinated.

At many public forums, Annan continued to be the champion of term limits for political leaders, the spokesperson of good governance, and a shining light calling for much-needed progress in Africa.

At the World Economic Forum in South Africa he maintained the pressure on African leaders who clung onto power. He pointed out that there was a “leadership deficit” in Africa and little was being done to create jobs and lift millions out of poverty.

A highly respected moral authority and voice, he spoke to African leaders as nobody else dared to do. Unlike some past African leaders who would berate their peers for bad deeds for which they themselves were equally guilty whilst in office, Annan’s integrity and impeccable standing made his position unassailable. He was strong though he had no army to fight with, nor did he have money to give as incentives.


The Kofi Annan Foundati
on, which he created after he left office as Secretary General, pursues the same agenda of service as leadership. Annan spent his life and used his moral authority to advance themes of good governance and democratic ideals directly with African leaders.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan shakes hands with South African President Nelson Mandela in a meeting on the sidelines of the 12th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). September 2, 1998.
AFP/Getty Images

At the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2007, Annan cited Mandela and several other past presidents as examples of former leaders who have shown that “the center stage is not the only place from which you can make a contribution”. 

In 2017 at the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, Kofi Annan said that elections were being conducted by leaders in ways to keep themselves in office. Such elections contributed to conflicts in the continent.

In similar vein, in August 2017, delivering a lecture at his former high school, he decried how African leaders subverted their people by organizing elections that “lack integrity”. “We need true democratic leaders who understand that they are at the service of the citizens… Leadership is service. Leaders must understand that they hold power in trust of the people… Unfortunately, Africa has had too few of enlightened people of this kind.

Annan was a Nobel laureate whose accomplishments put him shoulders and head above his peers anywhere in the world. Another African Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, born in 1934 in the same era, once said that he belonged to a “wasted generation” as his country’s political leadership has fallen short of expectations. Like Soyinka’s, Annan’s life remained incomplete because his wishes for a stable, peaceful and developed Africa remained unmet. Whence comes another honorable, strong voice to challenge the selfish and inept leadership by many African leaders?

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