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.

Advertisements

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).

Ekitis and Fayemi: Moral Values and Integrity of Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are new lessons and confirmation of old ones that have emerged from the July 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.

Image result for ekiti state

Ekiti State

The first time that I witnessed an election up close was in 1983 in Ibadan. No, I was not an observer or a politician. I was “inside” the political campaigns, sitting next to gubernatorial candidates of political parties. I saw political thugs of candidates in cars and trucks that drove recklessly on town roads. I observed thugs using dangerous weapons to attack other thugs and supporters of political opponents of their leaders. I saw men lying in their pool of blood and barely breathing whilst policemen watched them dying. I was a terrified, fairly new reporter covering the campaigns.

At the then capital of Oyo State, I also witnessed heavily armed policemen who guarded the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) whilst vote counting went on inside. Only the returning officers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that constituted the federal government were allowed inside. The NPN agents were fully protected by the frightfully armed policemen. The officials of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the opposition party that governed Oyo State were prevented from entering FEDECO premises to witness or observe the vote counting.

As results were announced on radio stations, the city was locked down by security forces. The winning candidates circulated freely. The candidates of the opposition party were locked up in their homes or detained in police stations. According to the security forces, the security actions were necessary to “maintain law and order”.

When a political party constitutes the federal government in Nigeria, it has control of the security forces, and with it the power to manage and decide outcomes of elections is almost unlimited. The federal government uses this power when the stakes are high.

Image result for voting in nigeria

Voting in Nigeria (via Techpoint)

In 2014 in Ekiti State, candidate Peter Fayose defeated sitting Governor Fayemi with a near 100 per cent vote count in the gubernatorial election. Fayose had the backing of the strong Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that formed the federal government. The party hence was in charge of the security forces and they backed candidate Fayose. During the election the state was locked down by security forces.

In the recent July 2018 elections in Ekiti State, sitting Governor Fayose’s hand-picked PDP candidate, Mr. Olusola Eleka, deputy governor, was defeated by former Governor Fayemi. The latter had the backing of the strong All Peoples Congress (APC) party that forms the federal government. The state was locked down by security forces.

Image result for fayemi

Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

 Lesson one – the party at the centre with control of security forces can use the so-called “maintain law and order” in ways that are open to various interpretations . The security actions that were taken by the federal government during elections in Oyo State in 1983 do recur in several elections. They were similar to the security actions taken in Ekiti State in 2014, and again in Ekiti State in 2018.

Lesson two – money has become absolutely crucial to win elections among Ekiti people. And the amounts needed to influence voters and buy results of party primaries and elections has increased significantly. The use of money is more public than ever. The Ekitis were general perceived as tough, stubborn and fiercely loyal in their political beliefs. They would hold a position, support a candidate and protect their beliefs with their lives, if necessary. The Ekitis have changed. Money has become the dominant factor for the voters. They guard their stomachs with their lives. Governor Fayose used “stomach infrastructure” as official governing policy. His opponents adopted it for the elections. At every stage of the recent electioneering process, within their means, for all parties, including APC and PDP, money was the currency of engagement.

Lesson three – the more money is spent by candidates to win their elections, the more money the candidates have to recover once elected. In addition, the successful candidates have to look after their party, members and their personal future interest. What do people expect from their governments, governors, elected politicians? Having spent huge amounts of money to buy party delegates during primaries, and also to buy voters during elections, there must be a lot of holes to plug once in office.

Lesson four – Nigeria has become more homogeneous in expectations from political leaders, especially during elections. Ekiti people are no longer an exception. “What we get NOW from the candidates for political offices is the only benefit to us. Once they assume office, we get nothing”, say the voters. For various reasons, including poverty, loss of confidence in the political leadership, pressing needs and sharp “marketing” by politicians, people have given up on higher standards of politics as service to the people.

Lesson five – election results are almost invariably contested. Only in rare instances do candidates accept their losses and cheer the winners. Campaigns and elections are desperate, win-or-die times for politicians to attain power and wealth. The reports of observer groups on Ekiti elections vary. Whilst some say that it was reasonably free and fair, others say that it was unfairly conducted and over-militarised. Both APC and PDP are accused of carrying out activities that could undermine the proper conduct of voting and determination of results. Several cases are in court to ascertain whether party primaries and state-wide elections were done properly.

Can the in-coming government of Fayemi recover some of the lost moral values of Ekitis? Can he rally his people to bring back the personal integrity of Ekitis on choice of political leaders? Can he rekindle the high ground that he took when he lost gallantly to Fayose in 2014? Can he raise the “bar of excellence” as he stated while conceding defeat? Or faced with the realities of desperate politics of acquisition wealth and power, will he fall further into the “stomach infrastructure” miasma?

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

Nigeria Air: New Era of Waste and Worries?

By Bunmi Makinwa

Related image

Air hostesses in the 1980s of the now defunct Nigeria Airways

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, was one of the scheduled destinations of Nigeria Airways in the 1980s. Despite the legendary tolerance of the Senegalese to foreigners, people of different faiths, and ideas, the mere mention of Nigeria Airways would shift discussions to a boiling point. There in 1988 Nigerians who lived in Dakar, including this writer, acquired a soiled reputation simply because their national carrier was Nigeria Airways.

It was the same story in London, New York and other destinations of Nigeria Airways’ flights.  The national airline was notorious for delays, cancelling trips, failure to take on board travellers with boarding passes, among its litany of very bad services.  

Between 1987 and 1995, Nigeria Airways had six documented accidents and a hijack, almost one disaster per year.

Whilst a phone call to the Aeroport Yoff in Dakar (renamed Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport) would result in needed information on arrivals and departures of airlines, Nigeria Airways flights were an exception. The airport information desk would have no information, nor could they tell whether the flights would come at all on the day, or one or two days later. The Nigerian national airline competed with Air Afrique, owned by some francophone countries at the time, for the poorest record among airlines.

Established more recently, another national carrier was born through a joint venture with the Virgin Group. Named Virgin Nigeria Airways, then Air Nigeria, it did not fare any better. After a mere four years, Virgin Airlines withdrew from the partnership and after only eight years of operations, Air Nigeria collapsed.

Image result for virgin nigeria air

Virgin Nigeria Airways

 

Air transportation is a low margin business. If managed well the sector can create massive employment and fuel the economy. There is a consensus amongst experts that Africa has huge potentials for growth in civil aviation.  The experts add though that rarely does an airline in Africa succeed. Over the past 12 years nearly 37 airlines were launched and almost all of them had failed, 25 of which were from Nigeria. Many others were started in South Africa.

The main carriers in the continent currently are Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airlines, Egypt Air, Air Maroc, and Air Rwanda. There are several small carriers mostly flying the domestic routes, with varying degrees of successes.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry regulator and coordinating authority, says that most of Africa’s airlines operate at 70 per cent capacity whilst the industry average is 80 per cent.

It is not too low overall. But the improved average is probably due to the death of many African airlines. Only few capable ones are standing and more than 90 per cent of them rely hugely on governments’ support.

IATA expects growth in air traffic this year and significant profits, but Africa will post a


With the bad experience from Nigeria Airways
and Air Nigeria, coupled with high level of uncertainty in the sector, and great tendency to mismanage parastatals, why would Nigeria start yet another national carrier?

According to Nigeria’s minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria Air as a new venture will be profitable in the first three years of operation. But the statistics say otherwise. Given the track record of Nigeria’s failings in the aviation industry, how credible is the minister’s statement? What basis could be in the business proposal that he received to assume such a future? Where is the transparency on this critical issue?

Image result for Hadi SirikA

Nigeria’s minister of state for aviation Hadi Sirika (via The Cable)

In 2017, Kenya Airways remained in the negative territory despite cutting its losses by 51 per cent to $97.6 million compared with $249.7 million posted the previous year.

As usual, South African Airways recorded a loss of $153.3 million for the year ended March 2017.  It relies on government bail out to survive every year.

Rwanda Air is running on the good name of the country despite its struggle to maintain decent services. A new entrant into the civil aviation industry, its future is tentative. It relies extensively on government support and goodwill of regional powers.

Nigeria Airways took on the name in 1971 and once had 30 aircraft, including the best available aeroplanes at the time. By the time it closed up in 2003, its fleet had dwindled to only one aircraft and two leased ones. Its debt was estimated at about half a billion US dollars.

Ethiopian Airlines, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest carrier, is an exception. It posted a massive 70 per cent increase in net profits in 2016 to $261.9 million, from $150.9 million the previous year. The airline has recently launched its 100th aircraft, and its fleet boasts of many modern, top-of-the-line aeroplanes.

Nick Fadugba, CEO of consulting firm African Aviation Services and former secretary general of the African Airlines Association, said: “The main reason why few cargo airlines have been successful in the past in Africa is that they lacked the critical combination of an efficient fleet, viable route network, strong customer base, strategic partners and adequate financial resources.” It is the same problem with passenger airlines.

Besides the management and operational deficiencies of airlines and aviation, Nigeria would have to scale up its efforts to attract more visitors to the country. Nigeria hardly has a developed tourism industry.

Some obvious “hub” potentials of Nigeria are to build on faith or religion, Nollywood, music and other related industries, that encourage travellers to the region. There are no obvious policy and set programmes to build and support the faith and entertainment industries vigorously. Despite the setback, many private business owners and entrepreneurs work against the odds not only tsustain these industries, but also to attract foreign investors and make the country attractive to foreigners.

Related image

Nollywood is Nigeria’s homegrown film industry

 

There are many more things to do. The online visa application is a step in the right direction. The improved baggage checking and security at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos has decreased very much the blatant corruption and mistreatment of passengers.

Yet Nigeria has far too many failure factors, including poor and unreliable infrastructure, security challenges, weak brand name, poor marketing, far too many untrained and demotivated staff at international airports, and a weighty tradition of corruption.

Ask any foreigner whether he or she would like to stop at or transit through Lagos airport, or any airport in Nigeria. Their consistently negative answers are very indicative that the country as a major airline hub is a dream which time has not yet come.  

Addis Ababa, Cairo, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Lome, and Nairobi are among the major airline hubs in Africa. Lagos and Abuja do not have the infrastructure, perception of security and favoureddestination appeal that compare well with any of the cities listed.

There are many reasons for establishing a national airline, and making profit or having a well-managed business may not be one of them. Perhaps the mere fact that Nigeria has a national carrier may suffice, for political and bragging purposes.  Government should be open about its goals. Nigeria Air of waste and worries will worsen the reputation for the country.

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