CJN Case – Buhari a Dove or a Hawk?

By Bunmi Makinwa

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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.

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‘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.

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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

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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.

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(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.

Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections – An End to Corrubration

About a month to the elections, already something hidden about Nigeria has emerged.

Is it a fact or fiction – that a certain Nigerian politician is not corrupt? Is it a fact or fiction that a presidential candidate for a political party in the current political system is not corrupt and cannot be identified with any instance of corruption? Is it fact or fiction – that General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the main opposition part, All Progressives Congress (APC), has served as governor, federal commissioner (minister) of petroleum resources, president of Nigeria, and chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, yet does not have the material acquisitions that have become characteristic of Nigerian leaders and political leaders especially?

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Elections 2015: The World Speaks (part 2)

Many African countries are holding elections in 2015. Of some 14 scheduled elections a few are predictably fraught with problems and may not be held at all. The most doubtful ones are Central African Republic and Mali – countries that have had serious political and violent crisis preceding their current fragile peace. In that vein, that Nigeria’s election was postponed and its certainty is still in dispute may expectedly raise questions about the country’s stability and how peaceful it is.

The first part of the article, before announcement of the postponement of elections in Nigeria from Feb. 14 (presidential) to March 28, looked into what the world thinks of the elections through comments, advice and analysis from various reports and media sources outside Nigeria. The article characterized the information as: first major election that shakes the dominant political Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999; the electoral contest is mainly between two major political parties – PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) key opposition; highly polarized electorate that has dug in its heels in the face of rising importance of faith and ethnicity, resulting in a divided nation; violence during electioneering and very likely potential for violence after results are known; questions on readiness, capacity, credibility of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); democracy will shake the country to its roots but Nigeria will remain one; and huge presence of international observers and media.

In this second part, we shall review information and analysis that is available from announcement of postponement to date. The facts obtained can be sorted into: explanation of the reasons for postponement and speculations on unstated reasons; recurring violence and how it can deteriorate; deeper issues on nitty gritty of campaigns by leading contenders of the two dominant parties – General Muhammadu Buhari, who is a former President under military rule, and current President Goodluck Jonathan; visible importance of positions taken publicly by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; and speculations on degrading security and further possible postponement.

We shall take the issues one by one and delve into each briefly.

Immediately following the announcement of the postponement on February 7, reports stated that Boko Haram’s offensive and lack of readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were the main offiCIAL reasons behind the postponement decision. There was obvious reluctance among several analysts to accept the official reasons stated and allusions were made to decreasing popularity of the ruling PDP and government’s intention to arrest the losses. Some reports wondered how Boko Haram’s conquest could be reversed within the six-week period of postponement.

There was near total agreement that violence was going to accompany the election campaigns. Overwhelmingly, any further postponement was seen as a lighter that would ignite violence, which, in any case, could be a preferred scenario for those who would rather not have elections held anyway. The calls made by governments, institutions and persons to hold the elections as scheduled were reaffirmed in the interest of Nigeria and the world at large.

Some reports, mainly from the USA, went deeper into the nuts and bolts of electioneering by the PDP and APC. In explicit details, two top consulting firms of US Democratic political party were cited to have worked for the two parties in Nigeria. AKPD Message and Media, owned by David Axelrod a confidante and close associate of President Obama, worked for the APC whilst Joseph Trippi of The Potomac Square Group worked for PDP. Trippi is reputed to have worked on campaigns of UK’s Tony Blair, George Papandreou of Greece, Italy’s Romano Prodi and President Jonathan’s last election. These advanced, expensive consulting firms claim capability to deliver results for their clients. The reports elaborated on the sharpness of messaging and use of multi-media outreach including the social media to canvass support of voters.

Jonathan’s public adverts featured students, new building projects, and generally a lot of Nigerians smiling and working and .Buhari’s campaign had an aggressive social media strategy that made “change” a persistent theme. The competing demand to get attention of voters is not likely to change voters’ inclination appreciably during the six-week postponement span.

Notably, a respected but usually conservative magazine, The Economist, has run series of reports on the elections, and their titles speak volumes – Nigerian politics: Bad luck for Nigeria; Nigeria’s election: The least awful; Nigeria’s postponed election: A powder keg; Why Nigeria has such poor election choices; Nigeria: Grim reading. In the “Least Awful” article, the weekly explained why “a former dictator is a better choice than a failed president”. In the same vein, the liberal-leaning newspaper, The New York Times, titled its strongly worded editorial, “Nigeria’s Miserable Choices”. According to NYT, “That Mr. Buhari, who helped launch a coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 and ruled until late 1985, has emerged as potential winner is more of an indictment of Mr. Jonathan’s dismal rule than a recognition of the former military chief’s appeal.”

Looming increasingly large over the elections are two different personalities – former President Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Soyinka. Both of these well known figures have ceaselessly commented on the elections and their views and positions are reported worldwide. Criticisms have also trailed their views, especially those of President Obasanjo.

The national elections, presidential and national assembly, are to hold on March 28, 2015; governorship and state assembly elections are to hold on April 11, 2015. It does appear that skepticism continues over the postponement and whilst INEC’s state of preparedness is an important item, the security angle looms larger as the primary obstacle. INEC’s ill-preparedness may be overcome within the time. The non-readiness of the military to provide security for the voting exercise in February, twinned with declared intention of government and military to suppress Boko Haram is “the elephant in the room” – an obvious difficulty that cannot be resolved easily. What will happen if the security situation does not change for the better within the postponement time?

Least reported are several ongoing court cases which decision can halt the leading presidential candidates General Buhari and President Jonathan, rumours of possible interim government arrangement to further delay elections, and suggestions of military intervention – all unpopular choices. With so much at stake, and yet such darkened skies, it is correct to say that the world will watch closely the coming elections.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post first appeared on Sahara Reporters.

Elections 2015: The World Speaks (Part 1)

Africa is witnessing some 14 elections this year. Nigeria is one of the countries expected to have elections early in the year, after Zambia that voted in January to elect President Edgar Lungu to serve through two years only, being the unfinished mandate of President Michael Sata who died. Lesotho will vote on the last day of February to resolve its political turmoil that almost set the country on fire but for intervention by South Africa.

Of all African elections in 2015, a whole lot is at stake in Nigeria. USA Secretary of State John Kerry signaled this much with his visit and messages to President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari. When anything goes wrong in giant Nigeria, Africa rattles and the world quakes. Prevention of upheavals is best.

Nigeria attracts attention for many good and bad reasons. For the present, let us deal with the good reasons, many of them obvious – its enormous population, economic attraction including huge oil reserves, citizens who are present all over the world, many of whom are distinguished men and women, Nollywood, faith and religion tourism… In the past months, the well known Boko Haram insurgency and its seemingly unstoppable horrible acts, and elections have concentrated world’s attention on Nigeria.

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Nigeria Elections: Letter To My Friends

Dear friends in many parts of the globe: You asked me for my thoughts on the recent Nigerian elections. Not what you have seen on the broadcast and television networks, nor what you read on the various online forums and websites. You wanted to know many things, and each of you has his/her priorities. It is difficult to answer all the questions individually and I have combined them into groups and responded accordingly. You have always been interested in Nigeria and we all agree that it is not just another country.

You asked for my views and that is what you will get. Some of them are joyful. Many are troubled and others are depressing. I do have profound views on my well endowed country, as you well know.

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

On the presidential elections of March, you wanted to know whether I agree with the uproar over President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession as an extraordinary issue. I do and I do not. It was a statesman-like decision that became a popular gesture. It was extraordinary for us in Nigeria. It was the first time that a sitting president was voted out of office. It was the first time that a presidential candidate who was losing accepted defeat and did not shout “robbery”. It doused tension and suppressed ill-intentions of agitators. That was important for us, and for the rest of the world. Forget about what we said here that it was the first in Africa, deserving of platinum medals. Like many large countries we pay little attention to what happens around us. We forgot that in several African countries elections take place regularly; fairly and peacefully organized to a large extent. Senegal, Botswana, Tanzania, many of the islands, and joined more recently by Ghana, Zambia, Lesotho, and post-apartheid. South Africa, to mention examples. In these countries and others, conceding defeat before winners are officially declared is usual. However, give it to us, we can now be counted among those countries where democracy is taking a foothold.

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