“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Disclaimer: I do not write for anyone in this piece as I have never met the principal character of this article in person or ever spoken to him before. This is not a paid piece by person(s) close to him but a personal contribution to put to rest the raging political inferno that the defection has caused, for Deltans and Nigerians to decipher why certain things happened.
Last week Saturday, the mother of all defection in Delta State happened as the illegal former Deputy National of the factionalized Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Cairo Ojougboh packed his belongings, both human and intellectual to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
When a source called me on Wednesday of same week that something big will happen in Ika through Cairo, I thought it was just a normal gathering and even when another source squealed to me that he was defecting, I still didn’t take it serious, until they began to send me the pictures of the event.
As usual, the PDP and Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa’s kindergarten Executive Assistant Media aide, Mr Fred Latimore and the infantile PDP publicity Secretary, Ifeanyi Michael Osuoza went ballistic, pretentiously crying on how Cairo’s defection is a big relief to the state and the party. What a shameless bunch of creatures.
Rather than keep quiet and watch things fizzle away as experience media aides behave in sane clime, Latimore went for the jugular by attacking personality instead of dealing with the reasons posited by Cairo for his leaving the party. Instead of keeping sealed lips and allowing the State PDP Publicity Secretary to issue a response since it’s a party affair; the overzealous aide who cannot differentiate between a Governor’s media man, Government Spokesperson and a Party Spokesman decided to fool himself again.
The very loquacious aide in his wild goose dismissed the defection as irrelevant since Victor Ochei, Ovie Omo-Agege and Ogboru did not come. For a defection that has the Ibe Kachikwu who’s the Minister of Petroleum, Otega Emerhor and the South South Party Chairman and blessings of the three persons he mentioned, no other confirmation is needed that this was an orchestrated plan from above. When we all thought that Ifeanyi was going to be more professional in his reply, he still went crude, attacking the defector than the issues he raised. I will take on each of the paragraph as I wish, to expose the many lies in Ifeanyi piece titled ‘Cairo Ojougboh: A political chameleon’. Okowa should take out time out and check comments made by Deltans on the facebook walls of his media aides on the defection and judge for himself.
In 2014, when Former Gov. Rotimi Amaechi led six other governors to defect from the party to then opposition APC, the party bade them farewell as good riddance to bad rubbish. The National PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan media aides attacked them as persons with no political relevance to winning the 2015 elections. Today we are all witness to how the PDP is struggling to play the role of opposition in the country and how Olisa Metuh as PDP Publicity Secretary was silenced till he was finally kicked out, leaving the job for Gov. Ayo Fayose, Gov. Nyesom Wike and Fani Kayode. Even his successor is yet to find his feet.
How do you describe a situation where a party got victory through the instrumentality of the Supreme Court and decree amnesty for the other faction members that lost? Are they militants or criminals that deserve pardon or amnesty? They are party members who felt aggrieved and decided to have their own faction pending the determination of the Supreme Court, but rather than treat them equally; they were made to look like outcasts.
No single form of reconciliation was done. Not a single move for harmonization was done; rather the Non Elective Convention chaired by Okowa systematically ostracized them. No sane politician will stay in such party and be further humiliated. No politician worth his salt will stay in a party where they are seen as ‘Osu’. Not even a baby politician will stay in an already struggling party and allow his ego to be further bruised.
The step then is right by Cairo to pitch his tent with any party and if he feels the APC meets his political interest and aspiration; it’s not worth attacking his person for. What the Governor should do rather than folding his arms like President Jonathan and be listening to lies, rumors and blackmail stories against people like he has turned himself into, is to look into the grievances of party members and woo them to the party. But No, he has chosen to maintain the ‘siddon look na dog name’ posture and allow his new baby Executive Assistant on Communication and party secretary to throw shades at men whose shoes they cannot unlace politically.
When Chief Paulinus Akpeki defected to the APC, the government and his crèche media team termed him as a spent force who have lost political relevance. But as soon as he was wooed back to secure strategic victory for the Governor in 2019 in Sapele LGA following his cold war with the former impeached Speaker, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya; they hailed him as a Daniel come to judgment. Today, he’s the government Chief Strategy Officer! What manner of people are these, without direction and purpose of existence? Like liars and bad losers that they are, they brood over every strong politician they lose, but rather than keep quiet and make silent moves on how to bring them back, they turn to blackmail and names calling.
Cairo listed the wasteful spending of the Paris Debt Fund as one of the ills of Okowa that made him decamp, but the PDP publicity secretary want us to believe that the money was judiciously spent. I will not play the role of the opposition APC to follow how money is spent in the state. Cairo may not be far from the truth as the breakdown of the N10 billion is the most ridiculous and unintelligent I have ever known in all my years of studying mathematics. How the State Commissioner for Information broke down the details and not a single kobo was left in the bank’s account needs immediate auditing. We challenge Okowa to allow the citizen bring independent auditors to audit how the N10 billion was spent and zero Naira was not found in the account it was lodged.
It is most pathetic that Ifeanyi who has good prospect politically started off worse than Lai Mohammed of the APC by brazenly lying on how Okowa has engaged citizens on how the money accrued to the state has been spent and constantly engaged Deltans in townhall meetings. No Sir, the so called townhall meetings were subtle form of campaigns for second term and no one asked question on how our money has been spent. All the questions asked during the wasteful townhall jamboree were all programmed!
For Ifeanyi to lie before his creator and man that Okowa enjoys “overwhelming support and understanding of our citizens and indeed their decision to invest their trust and confidence in the capacity, capabilities and the honest, transparent leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa” is most uncharitable to him and Deltans. I hope he’s able to look at the mirror after writing the speech and smile at himself? I hope he’s able to pray that God runs his life the way Okowa has run Delta State and say Amen to it? I really hope he can forgive himself when posterity opens the book of records and he finds himself among the sycophants that are leading Okowa to his Gethsemane.
Ifeanyi, Esiso and Okowa should disguise themselves and walk the street of Asaba, Warri, Ughelli, Sapele, Oghara and even his own Agbor, to ask question on his street credibility since he came into power, and compare it with 2014/2015. If he gets 5/10 as his score, I will publicly organize a rally where I will apologise to Deltans and then quit journalism for life to go into farming, just like Okowa advised Delta youths, even when his brothers are not farming but enjoying the state commonwealth. I dare Ifeanyi and his EA on Communication to take up this challenge within one month!
While we cannot wash Okowa’s laudable project in many area, Ifeanyi and the State party goofed by leaving his area of strength to focus on where the governor can easily be punched. According to his write-up, Okowa has “created over forty two thousand direct and indirect jobs, through the YAGEP, STEP, PPSP, Micro Credit Scheme and its Agricultural Initiatives”. Pray, where are these jobs?
We only know the names of such initiative but there are NO success stories attached to any of them. What Okowa has done is to create new set of Ika millionaires to man the Job Creation Office. Simple! The party and government should show us just REAL hundred persons who were trained and empowered by these programmes and are doing well and have employed other persons through it, and I will point out two thousand persons who are currently regretting going for such programme and have been impoverished worse than they were; before they were deceived into applying for it. I have the proofs.
From all that we saw in the Ika defection, it will be self defeating for Okowa and his party to pretend that all is well. From Patani to Warri; from Ughelli to Agbor; it has been loss of popular politicians leaving the party for a safer haven and leaving the party to Okowa who wants to run a one man show and never tolerates dissenting voices. Woe unto him who deceives himself when the worst form of deceit is self deceit. Like we say back then in the University, “He who do he, do he”.
The real Chameleons are Okowa’s aides who praise you today once you are with them and curse you once you leave them, only to hail you as a juggernaut in your field when you are back to their fold. Those who will never sing the songs of sycophancy are quickly issued ban from Government House and any Government premises with instructions to SSS to arrest and charge the person for ‘wandering’ (Only heaven know where such laws come from) whenever they are seen in Asaba.
Cairo Ojougboh has gone, but the real blow is yet to come. During Ovie Omo-Agege’s campaign, one of his slogan was “you dey look am, e dey go”. This is currently the nemesis of Okowa who instead of winning back aggrieved members who left like Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom is doing, Nyesom Wike of Rivers has done and still doing as well as other governors; he’s chasing away the few ones left. It is such a shame that it happened in Okowa’s backyard, right in Ika where he comes from. He has lost every moral justification to tell party leaders to hold their members together when he could not hold his from defecting.
This is the crux of the matter; this is the reality on ground for “Reality denied comes back to haunt.” ( Philip K. Dick).
May his lot not be like Ex Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan who as a Governor of a ruling party could not influence the emergence of his choice successor. Ise.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, an Investigative Journalist, Media Consultant and Human Rights Activist is also the Co-Convener of Coalition of Human Rights Defender (CHORD) and can be reached on +2348022050733 (SMS ONLY) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86.
DSO Nigeria: Beyond Devil’s Advocates, by Hamid Hendrix
Freedom without responsibility continues to pose a great challenge to the realization of the full potentials of our democratic dispensation and it is rather unfortunate that foremost beneficiaries of such liberty are too often also the major culprits. Though measures have been taken to curb the excesses of abusers of civil liberties it is obvious that the more needs to be done to safeguard public interest.
One area where this menace continues to rear its ugly head is in the rowdy ranks of human rights advocacy groups which were once credited with facilitating the successful liberation of several African nations from the scourge of oppressive military regimes but are now becoming misfits in democratic settings due to loss of focus and desperation to remain relevant.
Rather than shifting their attention from the initial agenda of campaigning for democracy to the equally relevant aspects of ensuring free and fair elections and dividends of democracy, several of the advocacy groups have been overtaken by pecuniary impulses that turned them into rentable rabble-rousers, willingly lending themselves to the begrudged and disgruntled elements. Such groups end up mired in miscellaneous advocacy of discordant diatribes as they drift into charlatanism under the counterfeit canopy of human rights advocacy.
A typical example of such mischievous misadventures masquerading as human rights advocates is the recent statement issued by Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) claiming that “under the President’s nose a minister allegedly mismanaged N2 billion from the National Broadcasting Commission for digitisation of broadcasting but till now both the minister of information and DG of NBC are walking the corridors of power free.”
This single sentence of spurious speculation casting unsubstantiated aspersions on the unblemished reputation of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and attempting to discredit the highly–rated successful switch over to digital broadcasting (DS0) in Nigeria was purported to be an exercise in human rights advocacy ! Incredulously, this fabricated defamation was an isolated insertion lacking relevance or corroboration in a libellous list of politically-motivated wild allegations against the person and administration of President Muhammadu Buhari contrived by one Emmanuel Onwubiko, coordinator of the so-called human rights group.
It is manifestly outlandish to portray the deliberate misrepresentation of the nationally acclaimed resuscitation and diligent implementation of the previously paralysed DSO project and callous assassination of the character of the two government functionaries responsible for such an achievement as a human rights infringement, just as it is absurd to smear the hitch-free scheduled switch over to digital broadcasting across the country with the brush of “mismanagement” of a bogus two billion naira. These malicious distortions of verifiable facts amount to gross violations of the principle of public accountability, which is a fundamental right of citizens in a democracy.
To set the records straight, it is worth recalling that the DSO was formally launched in Jos, Plateau State, in April 2016, followed by the FCT, Ilorin, Kaduna, Enugu and Osogbo while the process of installation of equipment for the roll out in Gombe and Delta states have reached advanced stages. The NBC expects to achieve DSO roll out in 12 states soon. This impressive performance was the outcome of zealous commitment of Minister Lai Mohammed and NBC DG Modibbo Kawu to break the four-year jinx that stalled the project prior to the debut of the Buhari Administration’s change agenda.
For HURIWA to single out this glorious chapter in the remarkable record of progress in the nation’s broadcast industry for a vicious vendetta is a pathetic pointer to the ulterior motives that have hijacked the group and falsified its declared mission. In fact, a cursory review of its recent outings reveals a revolting surrender to the most ridiculous and irrational advocacies imaginable, such as campaigning against the ban on production of the much abused codeine cough syrups because it has “led to great financial misfortunes for over 30 legitimate pharmaceutical companies,” urging the Federal Government “not to stop expectant women and nursing mothers from participating in National Youth Service Corps (NYSC),” appealing to “ the government of the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Nigeria” and dismissing the terrorist classification of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB “ as a charade and a plot to initiate violent crackdown on the members of this substantially unarmed and peaceful group”.
Even the EFCC has dismissed the occasional anti-corruption posturing of HURIWA as “ethnic and political agenda by some mischief makers masquerading as human rights writers” in one of its rebuttals of the pseudo human rights advocacy group’s capricious campaigns. This was also endorsed by Emmanuel Otairu of the Centre for International and Strategy Studies, Abuja whose article titled “HURIWA As IPOB’s NGO Arm” in The Nation edition of September 18, 2017 concluded that it was “ a tool for extortion, paid activism, ethnic propaganda mouthpiece and most recently a terror organization’s NGO arm”. The steadily expanding coverage of the DSO in Nigeria under the diligent implementation of Information Minister Lai Mohammed and DG NBC Ishaq Modibbo Kawu has surely switched off anomalous advocacy groups like HURIWA along with analogue noise.
- HAMID HENDRIX is a communications writer in Abuja
Repositioning the NNPC and Baru’s knack for openness
For decades, the oil corporation has consistently been in the bad books of Nigerians who see it as a behemoth that has been appropriated by successive administrations to service political interests and private ends.
However, the decision of the NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD), Dr. Mikanti Baru, to continually open up the corporation for public appraisal and promote transparent and accountable management is novel in the ecology of the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade. Baru is committed to seeking strategic partnership where necessary in a deliberate bid to erase the negative perception that the NNPC cannot achieve the desired results or apply standard best practices in operations.
There is no doubt that leadership is key to every organisation that seeks to succeed. Since coming on board, the GMD has committed himself to doing things that will give the corporation a positive outlook. But one must quickly admit that it is not always easy turning things around in a corporation where corruption has been entrenched and reforms frustrated for years. But what is going well for Baru is his willingness to take on challenges and search for solutions. Apparently, that is why he is succeeding.
That Baru has chosen not to grandstand over the recurring question on the actual volume of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, being consumed in the country, says much about his ability to be above the fray.
He has not been imprudent in his disposition. He has not created any ballyhoo over the matter that has been understandably politicized. There is a sense in which the management of the nation’s oil sector has become a political decision under the watch of successive federal government.
But credit must be given to the exceptional leadership and sincerity of purpose that Baru has brought to bear in the management of the NNPC presently. For instance, as part of its expanding strategic partnership, it is a welcome development that corporation has agreed to work with the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Finance to finally lay these decades of concern about the opacity in the public finance management of the subsector in which the corporation plays a very significant role to a rest.
It gladdened the heart when I heard the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Downstream, NNPC, Mr. Henry Obih, say that the decision of the corporation to abide by the directive of the National Executive Council (NEC) to work with the finance ministry and world bank to finally unravel this mystery. That such efforts have been frustrated in the pas attests to the financial discipline that President Muhammadu Buhari has inculcated into governance. On this score, the leadership of Baru has demonstrated its support for the president’s philosophy of prudent financial management. He has shown by his disposition that he has nothing to hide.
In a widely reported Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition held recently in Abuja, the NNPC COO, said that: We (the NNPC) are presently in a joint project with the Federal Ministry of Finance. We are doing a study around consumption to determine the actual consumption by the people. He explained that “we have to put it on scale to see what we call the daily load or the evacuation, as against the actual consumption, that is, what people go to the pump every day to buy for their cars and generators at homes and for other uses.”
Obih said: “This is why the National Economic Council has mandated that we work with the Federal Ministry of Finance. We also had meetings with the World Bank about six weeks ago, and we are trying to progress in a global study that would help us get around the actual numbers of what we consume in Nigeria.” This is forward-looking. While awaiting the outcome of the tripartite investigation, it is equally good that the NNPC has chosen to set some records straight against the backdrop of the ongoing campaign of calumny sponsored largely by the mafia in the sector.
Different consumption figures had been put out there in the social media to deceive the unsuspecting public. This tripartite intervention should, in the interim, put to rest the associated concerns while the investigation will, expectedly, assuage the frayed of Nigerians. Meantime, in terms of daily truck out from depots around the country and in terms of the records of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) the NNPC trucked out 48 million litres daily in 2016 and 50 million litres in 2017.
The problem of rising volume of fuel is compounded by cross-border smuggling, because Nigeria remains the cheapest source of PMS in the West African sub-region. Unfortunately, Nigeria has a network of oil mafia that cuts across the entire chains of oil businesses in the country. The mafia group is very big and powerful and has been operating for decades. It is also feeding fat on segments of the country’s pipeline network. It will take consistent and persistent efforts to defeat the oil cartel. At every point, it is fighting back and this has made the work of the Baru-led NNPC a little bit more difficult.
Obih, confirmed the challenges facing the corporation. Read him: “But again, one significant challenge is the fact that we have cross-border smuggling. Nigeria remains the cheapest source of PMS in the West African sub-region. All our neighbouring countries are selling at over 200 per cent high of the price that we pay at the pump. We have challenges in the pipelines that run through land, specifically, the System 2B, for instance; the one that runs around Lagos. It remains a big challenge, because there is a mafia that lives and feeds on those pipelines.
But it is not entirely bad news about the NNPC. Good things are happening under Baru as revealed by the COO, especially in the area of Joint Venture cash call payments. According to him, “What is heartening this year is that we can, at least, say that in a couple of the areas, we can see attempt to address them. For as long as I have been in this industry, we have been discussing cash calls as a never-ending issue. I think we were able to sit down together as an industry and government to try and tackle that issue and we should not underrate the importance of that.
“What is of significant today is that argument is off the table. For the first time, we finished a year without NNPC owing cash calls. That just essentially opens up the appetite. What that has done is that it opens up the appetite to have a conversation about investment. Nigeria is competing for capital with every other country in the world and sometimes we forget that and think that we are world unto ourselves, but the reality is that each of these companies operates in 20, 30, 80 countries and people are competing for capital. The whole JV process, we all need to put our hands on the plough to ensure it does not derail. We cannot take it for granted that we have a funding structure that works and assume it will continue to work.”
It is incumbent on Nigerians, especially stakeholders who have been yearning, over the years, for the NNPC to truly deliver on its mandate, to support the ongoing process to reposition the corporation. Baru can deliver with the right support and climate. However, the NNPC must now ensure that a strong technology-driven mechanism is put in place to ensure the real-time monitoring of the pattern of consumption in the country. This is what should engage attention and not petty issues that distract.
Managing crises: The Lagos example, by David Adegoke
An oil truck explosion of apocalyptic magnitude occurs in Lagos, fatally charring a frightening number of lives and maiming several others. Many more vehicles are burnt, some to ashes, with scores of stampeding citizens severely bruised in the process. Pronto, denizens of social media go into action, sending pictorial, video and textual coverage of the gory scenes into the virtual space.
Soon, the phones of Nigerians begin buzzing with calls and messages from anxious compatriots in the diaspora eager to know the whereabouts of their loved ones in the country. Are they caught in the blaze? Are they close to the area of the accident? Are they safe? Where no immediate response follows, there is an urgent request to send back a message to reassure the agitated inquirer.
But in the midst of this bedlam, something else causes a stir: the sudden appearance of the governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, within hours of the tragedy, attired in simple short sleeves and trousers looking like jeans. Those around are surprised. Why? There are two reasons: Nigerians are not used to seeing their leaders arrive at locations of disasters just moments after such mishaps break.
Secondly, because he isn’t dressed in suit or agbada which is the ‘uniform’ of their leaders, there is more curiosity surrounding the presence of the man. Word goes around that Ambode has got to the scene without notice, without fanfare. That swells the crowd of onlookers. The entire development deepens the bond between the led and the leader who would make a difference in governance by his acuity of empathy when the people are bereaved.
A governor may build great bridges and roads along with other physical infrastructure. That would put him at par with others who do so too. A leader may deliver moving speeches such as the Gettysburg Address by US Civil War President Abraham Lincoln. But he would only be in the circle of other orators like the ancient Roman senator and late President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. None of these distinguishes him from the pack. You don’t excel if you walk the beaten track; history would trap you among the ‘also-ran’ group. It’s a footnote category, hardly reckoned with on the pages of a country’s annals.
When he showed up at the scene of sorrow, blood and tears (to quote the lyrics of one of legendary Fela’s songs), Ambode brought both hope, comfort and lessons in empathetic leadership that is missing in our clime. Assessing the situation, the governor commiserated with the victims and took solace in ‘’the fact (his government’s prompt response) was able to save more lives’’. He added: ‘’We will continue to do our best and ensure that we mitigate things of this nature in future…Nobody knows when this kind of incident will happen next but the most important thing is that our response time should be up and running and able to save lives.’’
Observers have commended the Lagos administration for putting in place a disaster management infrastructure that made it possible for rescue trucks to get to the scene within 10 minutes. This was fast, according to experts, who argue that given our environment and the choked traffic of the hour the casualty statistics would have been astronomical, exceeding the nine lives lost and over 50 vehicles burnt.
Truly, it could have been worse with a fuel truck carrying 33000 litres of PMS on the loose that fateful evening. “’That was death on the prowl,’’ as a commentator Tope Ajayi put it, even while he advised Ambode to continue to invest more in the personnel and agencies saddled with accident response functions. And seeing how the Lagos model has worked quite efficaciously, the writer admonishes that ‘’other states should learn from Lagos.’’
But as we said at the beginning, if you had all these security and rescue paraphernalia in place without a human face, you’d end running a normal system, undistinguished by the exceptional touch that makes a difference. That evening the Lagos State governor provided the uniqueness we need in leadership and governance in Nigeria.
Ify Onyegbule, a well known radio presenter in Lagos, captured the superlative performance of Ambode in these hardly exaggerative terms on her Facebook timeline: ‘’ If you ask me, I think AkinwunmiAmbode would do well as Nigeria’s President! He didn’t wait till morning before going to the scene of the disaster. He never went to put on his danshiki and buba plus fila to go there just so he looks nice on camera. He never asked that a red carpet be spread so he can walk on it at the scene.
Ambode didn’t get there blaming the tanker parked or the danfo thatthe brakes failed! In fact the presidency needs to come and the Lagos model…quote me on this! Enough of all the rubbish going on in Nigeria!’’
Our leaders must not pride themselves in adulation when they provide us the dividends of democracy as we often term them. No doubt we shall always hail them when they do so. But there is more to administering human beings, just as there is more to being a father in the home than merely supplying money for the upkeep of the family. How about meeting the emotional demands of the wife and children, which represent the fiber holding the home? Nigerians, like the spouse and her children, only honour the male head of family they can identify with.
They don’t cherish a distant leader, as it were. Of course, they expect he must fend for them. But the point is that he must be there, or show up for them at a short notice, notably when they are grieving. At that stage, nothing else matters, not even the multi-billion naira state-of-the-art projects you may have given them!
Ambode’s succinct understanding of these dynamics of leadership is what is earning him accolades.
But we should realise that in the long run, greater applause is for the government of which Ambode is a member. For, he without an equally committed group of administrators would have earned little praise. He has an accompaniment of capable accident management and rescue agencies that performed a yeoman’s job last week on Otedola Bridge.
What is the lesson here? Government must build on that success by strengthening such institutions for the security and welfare of the people of the state as they are poised to stand the burgeoning status of Lagos as Africa’s foremost megacity of our era. In other words, it is durable institutions of state that accord honour to government. That was what enabled us all to salute the Lagos government last week.
*Adegoke, a journalist, wrote from Surulere.
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