Fashola: Making a case for the next FCT Minister

By Aliyu Bala Aliyu

 “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand” ~ Vince Lombardi

When the establishment packaged and gave the “reborn” Nigeria Gen Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 following Abacha’s death and a hurried transition led by Gen Abdusalam Abubakar, expectations were high that the giant of Africa was hopefully going to regain her place of pride in the sub-region, the continent and the community of nations at large. 16yrs down the road, Nigeria, sadly, is still in the limbo; and for whatever it is worth, Nigerians seems to have come to terms with the need for atonement and redemption on the altar of the change movement. Indeed another great opportunity presents itself.

Obasanjo, it was said, and he proved it, had a nose for talent hunting and spotting. To his credit, he drafted the likes of Chukuwuma Charles Soludo, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Nasir El-Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili, and Nuhu Ribadu, late Dora Akunyili among others to his right hand side. They were the shining lights of the Obasanjo administration of yore. However history chooses to judge them, they were the active stirrers of the Obasanjo broth which he served Nigerians.

Like Obasanjo, Bola Ahmed Tinubu too it was said, and so proven, had, and still has a nose for talent sourcing. With the likes of Rauf Aregbesola and Kayode Fayemi , commissioners in the Tinubu led administration of Lagos state, going on to become governors in their states, Tinubu can lay claim to a successful political empire that transcends his home turf. But of all these, his greatest gift to Lagos, a state he governed for 8yrs, and perhaps one of his most successful political moves, was the gift of Babatunde Raji Fashola. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Fashola was Tinubu’s chief of staff; and was never in contention for the governorship race in 2007 or better still, its expression of interest. But Tinubu knows good stuff when he smells it. He knew what the man had in him and was not prepared to let all of it go to waste. He prevailed on the popular contenders and the rest as the say, is now history!

Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola

Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola

President Elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari will have to hunt diligently and discover his own men and women who would help him execute the enormous task ahead. With the plethora of tested hands and achievers that abound, Buhari’s task should not be extremely difficult. On the contrary, the challenge would be making his own fresh discoveries. One of the low hanging fruits is Fashola but that should not prevent Buhari from embarking on the journey of discovery to help bring to Nigeria’s benefit the services of potential Charles Soludos, Sanusi Lamidos, Oby Ezekwesilis, Nasiru El-Rufais, Dora Akunyili and many more Fasholas.

The enactment of Decree 6, of 1976 which gave birth to what is today’s capital of Nigeria, Abuja, was the approval of the 6months assignment given to the late Justice Akinola Aguda panel to search for a new capital for Nigeria hinged on two main reference points – a region sparsely populated; and centrally located. The other critical and perhaps unspoken aspects of the need to relocate Nigeria’s capital away from Lagos border on National security vis a vis the location of Lagos principally. Others include the exploding population of Lagos relative to landmass and series of challenges associated with the urban sprawl of the city. So like Brasilia, a planned and deliberate new national capital was inevitable.

From 1976 –date, the list of FCT ministers are as follows: Mobolaji Ajose-Adeogun (1976-1979), John Jatau Kadiya (1979-1982), Iro Abubakar Dan Musa (1982-1983), Haliru Dantoro (1983-1984), Mamman Jiya Vatsa (1984-1985), Hamza Abdullahi (1986-1989), Gado Nasko (1989 -1993), Jeremiah Timbut Useni (1993-1998), Mamman Kontagora (1998-1999), Ibrahim Bunu (1999-2001), Mohammed Abba Gana (2001-2003), Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (2003-2007), Aliyu Modibbo Umar (2007-2008), Muhammad Adamu Aliero (2008-2010), Bala Mohammed (2010-Date). Of all of them, no one has impacted the Federal Capital like Nasiru El-Rufai and it is quite tragic that the shoes he left behind since he bowed out in 2008 have been difficult if not impossible to fill.

As is often said, “to the victor belongs the spoils of war”. However, the war that has just been fought and won by the Nigerian people, which saw to the emergence of Gen Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the March 28 elections call for both magnanimity in victory and exceptional leadership as the great first steps towards the arduous task of nation rebuilding.

Fashola is no stranger to limelight. He earned his stripes with his performance as a two term governor of Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre. Although he is not a northerner, and I am not aware of any law that makes it a criterion for the appointment of an FCT minister, Fashola has distinguished considerably. He has done to Lagos what El-Rufai did to Abuja. Both men have made their marks and raised the bar considerably in the administration of both cities. I must be quick to point out however that neither city as the fore runners of urban success has gotten to the Promised Land or contemporary world class “urbanness” which we dream of but by the third world standards we judge ourselves, they have done their bit in moving towards that destination.

Abuja's city gate

Abuja’s city gate

What Fashola brings to the table is neither in doubt nor in need of mention for such evidence abounds beyond measure. His stewardship of Lagos stands him out in a class of his own – different from most of the pack of governors that have held sway across the length and breadth of this country not only in the last 8yrs but since the return to civilian rule in 1999. With the panache, finesse and strong work ethic Fashola has displayed in Lagos in the last 8yrs governing Lagos, and his occasional contributions to national discourse, Abuja would be better for it with his stewardship. It is therefore my humble recommendation that President-Elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, gives the FCT ministerial slot to this gentleman and outstanding outgoing governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola. That no non-northerner has been minister of FCT since Ajose Adeogun, its pioneer minister, is a fair raison de’etre to appoint Fashola as the next FCT Minister in the New Nigeria we seek to create.

Many a joke have been trending on social media since the victory of Gen Muhammadu at the polls and one particular one that struck me was the hashtag #BabaNowThatYouAreThere. The hashtag listed a number of dos and don’ts for incoming President Buhari; and recommended that Fashola be given ten (10) portfolios – He can handle them! Though crafted in such joking manner, it was a testimony to the national recognition of Fashola’s workaholic disposition.

Personally, I feel Fashola fits into five portfolios perfectly well with the last of the listing being my preferred and for which I am in no doubt, as millions of Nigerians that he will deliver. They are: Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF); Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF); Minister of Works, Minister of Power, and lastly Minister of FCT. The suggestion about making him Chief of Staff to Buhari as is being spoken of in hushed tones would be to cage all that action and put the show man behind the curtains. Nigeria needs him out in the open where, with his sleeves all rolled up, he can inspire, lead, and help transform FCT; and contribute his bit, at the centre this time around, to making Nigeria great again.

Aliyu Bala Aliyu

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Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


Buhari: Now that our Abraham Lincoln is here…

By Aliyu Bala Aliyu

 “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.” ~ Og Mandino

The image of Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as he broke down in tears in 2011 while delivering the speech that brought his campaign to a close was the lowest point of that campaign season. It was indeed an emotional moment at the International Conference Centre, Abuja – venue of the international press conference. A lot of people laughed him off, scoffed him, and all sorts of uncharitable and unprintable things were said about this great patriot and lover of Nigeria who had since 2003 been seeking to help liberate Nigeria from the grip of political buccaneers – the establishment. Thrice he ran for the president of the world’s most populous black nation; and thrice he lost.

Having traveled round the country campaigning for votes and seeing firsthand the plight of downtrodden Nigerians, his pain that a country blessed with so many resources and potentials but which had been sentenced to a life of poverty and suffering by the ruling class was enough to bring forth his tears. Unfortunately, the clip of Buhari sobbing and wiping his tears became a propaganda tool in the hands of NTA and AIT.

Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) wiping tears off his face as he read his speech to close his campaign at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Wednesday 13th April, 2011

Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) wiping tears off his face as he read his speech to close his campaign at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Wednesday 13th April, 2011

Like Abraham Lincoln’s story of many trials after defeat and epic falls, Buhari’s story is one of never giving up; being principled and holding on to one’s dream; staying focused and being true to the cause. There are countless lessons to be learnt from Buhari’s political journey. In him, the saying “he who laughs last, laughs best” couldn’t be truer. For the first time since the return to civilian rule, the opposition has defeated the incumbent and broken PDP’s 16yr reign; and Buhari is the face and soul of this historic feat.

But much more significant than Abraham Lincoln’s unrelenting pursuits of his dream and eventual victory as the 16th president of the United States is the fact that he left many legacies that have made him one of the greatest if not the greatest presidents in America’s 239 years of independence. The Miller Centre’s website said of Abraham Lincoln: “His great achievements historians tell us was his ability to energize and mobilize the nation by appealing to its best ideals while acting ‘with malice towards none’ in the pursuit of a more perfect, more just and more enduring Union. No President in American history ever faced a greater crisis and no President ever accomplished as much.” In Buhari’s hand is the golden pen; and upon his laps is the book of legends with a blank page for him. His name is already penciled therein. I am positive that he will ink it in.

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria

…Shall we make a Madiba of him?

When Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela walked free from a 27 year term in prison to become the first black President of South Africa, at age 75, he made history in mor than one way. But most significantly was that while Mandela was constitutionally entitled to seek another four years in office; and perhaps morally entitled to run for life, he quit the stage despite immense pressure to seek one more term. With that singular act, Madiba as he was fondly called secured his place in the pantheon of legends and his immortality in the consciousness of the world assured. And in a continent bedeviled by the sit tight syndrome, Madiba did the unusual – something quite ‘strange’ and ‘unthinkable’.

However, whether Buhari will/should quit the stage in 2019 after a single term and give Africa another Madiba is a debate that will be properly x-rayed hopefully in 2018. Four years no doubt is a long time in politics and Buhari can help Nigeria achieve significant things. That is the frame of mind with which he should enter Aso Rock Villa on May 29, 2015 when he is formally sworn in. What is certain is that Buhari will not have the longevity of tenure which the likes of Deng Xiaoping of China, Muhammad Mahattir of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore had to transform their countries remarkably, but there is no doubt that May 29, 2015 – May 29, 2019 will be eventful.

Post-Apartheid South Africa and post-genocide Rwanda may not have gotten to the promised land just yet, but their journeys have been remarkable thanks to the leadership of Madiba and Paul Kagame respectively. In post-civil war Nigeria, the blight of terrorism, ethno-religious clashes and other savage and barbaric acts that should ordinarily have no place among civilized human beings have significantly widened the schisms of our nationhood and darkened the country’s map. President-Elect Buhari has a task to help blot out the stains, close the gaps, or significantly bridge them with far reaching gestures of reconciliation, reintegration, rehabilitation, redemption and where necessary, retribution and recompense. Like Buhari said in his acceptance speech, he is now for all Nigerians – including those who did not vote him and those who didn’t vote at all. True to type, “Maigaskiya” (meaning the honest/ the truthful one), Buhari’s sobriquet, has been magnanimous in victory as evidenced in his speech. I have no doubt in my mind that he will walk the talk both spoken and unspoken. It is interestingly worthy of note that Abraham Lincoln was also known as “Honest Abe”!

R-L, President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and Vice-President-Elect, Prof Yemi Osibanjo shortly after receiving their Certificates of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on April 1, 2015

R-L, President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and Vice-President-Elect, Prof Yemi Osibanjo shortly after receiving their Certificates of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on April 1, 2015

There will be no quick fixes and no miracles to be performed. But the near hypnotic cum messianic bond that have bound Buhari’s followers to him since he stepped foot on the path of partisan politics in 2003, culminating in the wave of change that has swept him to victory in the elections of March 28 will need to be fed a steady diet of achievements to make the wait worth the while. Personally, I have no doubt that Buhari will be a success story. The only question we may need to bother about is how soon the diets will be served.

Change is finally here and hopefully, we will sing that song of freedom: “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last.” From the mountain tops and through the valleys; hand locked in hand; shoulder cemented to shoulder; we shall sing as brothers and sisters; and the echoes shall reverberate through the north, south, east and west. #NigeriaShallBeGreatAgain!

Aliyu Bala Aliyu

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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


No, Buhari is not late: The Chatham before Chatham

Following General Muhammadu Buhari’s spectacular outing at the Chatham House in London on Thursday, 26th March, 2015, Nigeria, no doubt, received an image boost internationally. With a squandered image on the continent, the world’s most populous black nation has in recent times become the butt of jokes and snide remarks across the globe – a laughing stock we had become – to put it mildly among the community of nations.

As Nigeria braces up for the extra time in her all-time defining election, (what many have described as the battle for the soul of the country) the international community seems to have come to terms with the fact that Buhari stands an exceptional chance of winning the elections which was clinically subverted and prevented from holding on its earlier scheduled date of February 14 to March 28. He is the candidate to beat. Both spoken and unspoken words point in that direction; and short of calling him the President in waiting, the treatment of Buhari as such is obviously so. It is the crystallization of such sentiments from Washington to London that have been reflected in the editorials of The Economist and New York Times among other others as has the seeming consensus from global political pundits, allies and partners. The world’s most populous black nation goes to the polls and the implication for the stability of the severely fractured country, her weak institutions, the sub region, the continent and the entire black race is of no trifling significance.


Buhari delivering his speech at the Chatham House, London

Buhari did give a good speech at Chatham House, London, within the time available; and bearing in mind the turf. However, those who continually question his democratic stand; his belief in it; his commitment to it; and his struggle for it need to do a deep soul searching and answer the question: “What makes the Dictator?” “Is it the garb and the gun?” or “is it the manipulation of state institutions and the accompanying deception and rhetoric?”. The cynicism with which anti Buhari elements keep asking the deriding question which has become a propaganda pastime of acute sufferers of political and historic amnesia is a despicable exhibition of ignorance for whatever it is worth. They spend millions of naira on paid advertorials and syndicated documentaries asking the question “can General Buhari truly be/become a democrat?” and saying “Buhari is a latecomer to democracy” Really? Is being a democrat an exclusive club reserved for certain types of people? Is it a royal lineage that admits only those with blue blood?

Does their convoluted logic also presuppose that an ex-soldier cannot be a teacher, preacher, farmer, an entrepreneur etc or engage in any other vocation or activity of his choice? Does serving in the military equal a life sentence of damnation and ignominy? Aren’t there countless politicians dotting our political landscape that are ex- service men; most prominently among them being the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, himself a retired Brigadier General and former governor of Niger State and Minister?

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was a former Head of State and twice a civilian President from 1999-2003 and 2003-2007. Dipreye Alamyiesiagha, former governor of Bayelsa state is a retired Squadron Leader. Ahmadu Ali the current Campaign Director of PDP and former Chairman of the Party is a retired Colonel. Jonah Jang, the current Governor of Plateau state is a retired Air Commodore; Bode George is a retired Commodore among many others. Many of them abound in the NASS and are active members of political parties of their choice. Of America’s forty three (43) Presidents, about thirty (30) of them thereabouts were ex-service men! So what exactly is the problem these people have with Buhari?

Without doubt, the Centre for Democracy and Development in collaboration with the departments of political science, history and philosophy would do us a great deal of good to organize a great debate series along this line. There is no doubt that cataloguing state sponsored assassinations, extra judicial killings, assault on the press and citizens’ freedom and others (that seem to have been mistakenly assumed to be the exclusive preserve and ability of the military) on a comparative basis will be as illuminating and debating them. Like Buhari said in London “I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch”. I only wished he had also gone the extra mile to mention that civilian dictatorships abound.

Nigeria returned to uninterrupted civilian rule in 1999 but in truth we have not had democracy flourish in the real sense of the word. The military may have been returned to the barracks and coups unfashionable, but can we truly say we have a democracy? Is there truly a separation of powers? Has the judiciary dispensed justice equitably and fairly? Has the National Assembly been true to the people they represent? Have they discharged their oversight and law formulation functions honourably to keep the executive in check?

Under which decrees and edicts did civilian presidents kidnap a sitting governor in this country? Under which decrees and edicts did civilian presidents use the security forces to clamp down on the press? Several instances of the invasion of media houses by soldiers, policemen and operatives from the Department of State Security abound. The opposition (which is a natural ingredient for a robust democratic culture) has not been spared. Late Dr Chuba Okadibo, Buhari’s running mate in the 2003 elections, was tear-gassed and it led to his death. Social media critics of some governors have been harassed and even jailed. Peaceful protests which are legitimate aspects of democracy have been halted as was the case when soldiers were deployed to put an end to the Occupy Nigeria protests in 2012.

The Gestapo style-invasion of Osun state in the August 2014 gubernatorial elections and the clamp down on members of opposition; the invasion of the National Assembly by policemen and the tear-gassing of opposition politicians including the speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; the desecration of the Judiciary as witnessed in Ekiti State with the invasion of a court of law and the beating up the judge. All of these and many more speak volumes on the convoluted nature of our walk towards democracy for in truth, we are not yet one in the real sense. Democracy is not all about campaigns, ballot boxes and elections. It is much more. It is also about institutions, systems, processes, the rule of law, a free press, the right to peaceful protest, and above all citizens’ awareness and participation devoid of fear and intimidation. The price of freedom/liberty as Leonard Courtney says is eternal vigilance.

On the fact that coups were fashionable in Africa at the time of his assuming office through a coup d’état, Buhari was spot on. Again, political scientists, philosophers and historians would be doing justice in analyzing that epoch in its time capsule. But the tragedy of today’s attempt at analyzing that era is in the (mis)judgement of yesterday’s events by today’s standards. The result is, more often than not, never a fair assessment of the subject under review, investigation or analysis.

The bush fire effect of nationalism and the clamour for independence from the colonialists is similar to the bush fire effect of the coups that spread across African countries majorly between 1960 and 1970 (which has been referred to by scholars as the decade of coups). Once the coup that felled Late Sylvanus Olympio of Togo in January 1963 was successful, it set the continent on a path of serial coups and counter coups of which Nigeria’s has been no exception. The 1983 coup that brought Buhari to power was interventionist. The politicians of the second republic had pushed Nigeria to the brink; and she needed to be salvaged. However, before the Buhari administration could stabilize and set her on the path of development; to fully occupy her place of pride among the community of nations; and among her peers like Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, India etc, the administration was thrown out in a palace coup in August 1985.

Buhari’s said in London: “We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.”

But even as Military Head of State, Buhari still put memos before the Supreme Military Council to debates and voting! Prof David Tam West attests to this aspect of the cabinet of which he was a key member. Whatever the shortcomings of the Buhari military administration, whatever he did, he did for the love of Nigeria. In trying to get things done mistakes were made. The consensus or axiom is that Military governments are unlike civilian governments just as communist governments are quite distinct from monarchies etc. Buhari’s words in London were: I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.”


Khaki to Mufti

After the Buhari regime was brought to a sudden end by Babangida in the coup of 1985, Buhari automatically and unceremoniously was out of the army. Like every soldier, the options are always three: die in active service; get dismissed, or retire voluntarily or compulsorily. Buhari fell into the last bracket by virtue of the coup. The world over, Ex-service men are highly respected individuals and their foray into politics is not treated with the kind of ignominy and opprobrium it is treated in Nigeria (albeit selectively). While every country’s history is shaped by its peculiar events over time, it is understandable that the fatigue of military incursion into Nigeria’s political space between 1966 and 1998 has not been lost on the people. But where do we draw the line of condemnation? Are the civilians who served under military administrations also as guilty as the very dictators they now point fingers at or are they exempt? Is it not also interesting to note that Gen Jeremiah Useni (rtd) alleges that civilians have always been part of the military coups in Nigeria? Does the saying “What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander” not apply to Buhari too? If Obasanjo, David Mark, Bode George, Ahmadu Ali etc why not Muhammadu Buhari? The answer lies in the fact that it is not Buhari’s military past that they viciously kick against. No! It is what he represents that gives them (the enablers and promoters of the status quo) endless nightmares.

Buhari emerged from his post coup house arrest and moved on with his life. He lived a quiet life away from public glare until Abacha appointed him as Head of PTF in 1998. Buhari distinguished himself excellently in the discharge of that responsibility. That post military assignment has been a reference point in what purposeful, committed and visionary leadership can do to touch lives. While Buhari talked about his converted democratic status in Chatham House, London, and which the PDP wishes to use in lampooning him, he has never missed the opportunity of telling whoever cared to listen that the fall of the Soviet Union was it for him. In his words: “With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.”

But he had as far back as 2002, in ABU championed the cause of democratic culture and norm. In a speech at the Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre at the behest of The Students’ Democratic Forum titled “Discipline and Accountability Under Democratic Leadership”, Buhari had eloquently dissected the challenges of our journey towards representative, multi-party democracy. That speech delivered thirteen (13) years ago seems quite prophetic. It captured was then the reality of our calamity which sadly has not only abided but has metamorphosed over the inglorious years that the PDP has held power since 1999. In my opinion, it was the Chatham before Chatham; not just for the significance of Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre as the choice of venue then, but for what ABU as an institution represented as a summit of leftist leaning and intellectual discourses shaped by the likes of Abdullahi Smith himself, after whom the great lecture theatre was named, the likes of Patrick Wilmot, late Yusuf Bala Usman and their contemporaries.

I dare then ask the question “is there any politician alive today who has contributed this much to stabilizing our democracy, making it tick, giving it bite, and preventing our inglorious descent into a one party state as General Muhammadu Buhari? As Ambassador Olisaemeka said in his article “The Buhari of My Personal Experience” (

“Buhari represents, in my opinion, the last opportunity we have to get things reasonably right before the baton passes permanently on to the next and coming generation. After him, the generation of the ‘founding fathers’ would have faded away; with their legacies, left behind, hopefully for good. He should be given the chance to restore and consolidate the disappearing values of that ‘golden age’ so sadly disrupted by the military, to which paradoxically and tragically, he and those in that generation, and that before him, were willy-nilly pressed into being a part of.

He carries on his frail, ageing but reliable shoulders a historic responsibility and burden of getting it right. He has a bounden duty to realign the nation towards achieving its manifest destiny.”

Below is the paper Buhari delivered in ABU in 2002:

Discipline and Accountability Under Democratic Leadership

Text of an address by General Muhammadu Buhari at the Student Democratic Forum Lecture at Abdullahi Smith Lecture Theatre, Ahmadu Bello University Main Campus Samaru, Zaria Saturday, July 20th, 2002 at 10.00 a.m.

It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today. I would first of all, like to thank members of the Students’ Democratic Forum for inviting me to talk on Discipline and Accountability under Democratic Leadership. 

  1. The importance of this topic for present day Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Indeed so important are the two, i.e. democracy and accountability, meaning, unless they are there, democracy will not be able to deliver any of its expected dividends. The topic coheres well enough and most appropriate for us today. Accountability, so to speak, is a form of self-discipline, and, while it is possible to be accountable without democracy, it is impossible to be democratic without accountability. I therefore understand from the topic of my talk that you want me to tell you what makes democracy tick.
  2. When we talk of democratic leadership we usually mean representative, responsible government i.e. a government freely elected by the people and is truly responsible to them. Let’s agree at the outset that, whatever the ideology in question, we recognize democracy as perhaps the best, form of government today, provided we agree on a definition of what democracy truly means.As Reinhold Niebuhr rightly observed “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
  3. The democratic system itself is in reality a culture, i.e. a culture of elections, rights, obligations, checks and balances. Like all cultures, it requires believing in, nurturing, tending and participation.

The most prominent aspect of democratic governance is the development of a democratic civil culture that sets out, and itself obeys, the rules and practices that characterizes the ability of a people to govern themselves according to constitutional provisions. In short subjecting everything to the rule of law.

In theory, which we must translate into practice, the democracy that Nigeria needs is one that is founded on periodic, free and fair elections; and in it, the majority rules while the rights of the minority, are respected and guaranteed by law. It should be anchored on the independence of the judiciary, freedom of faith, expression, association and aspirations. All these must be based on the principle of the rule of law, due process and the equality of all persons before the law.

  1. The functioning of this democracy must be based on the concept of the demarcation of powers, with adequate checks and balances to guard against the arbitrary exercise of power and ensure accountability in governance. And here we might as well paraphrase Reinhold; and, for our purposes, say:

“Man’s capacity for accountability makes democracy possible but man’s inclination to corruption and lack of accountability makes democracy unnecessary.” Essentially, therefore, democracy is about making the leadership accountable to the people and the people themselves disciplined.

  1. It is an understatement to say that there has been a clear lack of accountability in the conduct of public affairs in this country. The public service, as the executive agency of the government of the day at various levels thus, federal, state and local levels, wields enormous powers, where the government of the day allows it to function within the normal guidelines and regulations laid.

Nowadays, this power is wielded with much arbitrariness and abuse of procedure. In the democracy Nigerians are asked to practice and which we are being told is the one being practiced; the public is entitled to know what policies, activities and development projects are approved by the appropriate agency. In addition, the people must have access to the estimates made for public expenditure in order to ensure that expenditures of public funds are limited by approved estimates.

Even when all these transactions have been carried out lawfully, the public is entitled to demand that they must be properly kept in the appropriate books of accounts and independently audited and accounted for.

Weather this is being done in the very democracy we are practicing today; is a big question that I will like to leave the answer to the public.

  1. As I observed on a different occasion, the last time the annual financial account of the Federal Government were prepared and submitted for audit was, I understand, in 1980.And at the 1984 conference of Auditors-General of the Federation and State’s Directors of Audit, it was revealed, to the astonishment of no one, that eleven states last submitted their annual accounts for audit in 1967! During the tenure of our government 1984-85 we instituted a programme to update audited accounts and publish them. But, as usual, this was soon forgotten away by the Nigerian penchant for lack of implementation and follow-up.

There must to be consistency in policy planning and clarity in stating policy objectives so that we always know what we are doing and why. This can only be done if we have a purposeful public service in place. No doubt, recent events have badly dented the service, but this situation is not irreparable or irreversible.

For our democracy to succeed and the regime of accountability to prevail, Nigeria’s public service must rediscover itself. It must find its way back to the pre-1966 Golden Age.

  1. Today the lack of accountability has, for instance, helped to create wide distortions of income distribution throughout the society.

And because little is being done to the culprits, this has also fueled the scramble for appointments, especially to executive positions, which, because of the same lack of accountability, enable their occupants to do as they please.

The mad rushes for the presidency, and the unending clamour for its rotation among the zones, derive directly from the rich pickings which lack of accountability confers on it. This is a very serious matter, which ought to be remedied.

But more serious are going to be some of the longer-term after-effects on the younger generation that did not know that at one time a system of accountability existed in this land. But simply knowing this without doing anything about it is unlikely to help our nation. The prosperity that embezzlement and other fraudulent practices conferred, especially in the recent past, is a direct result of this failure to investigate and punish.

In general, corruption and every aspect of lack of accountability benefits from the fact that ours is a nation that doesn’t ask the right questions. But in some instances, there is no need to ask questions because the evidence talks louder than words.

However, whether questions are asked or not, we all know that in no distance past many public officers controlling votes, awarding contracts or belonging to task forces enforcing any kind of law became lords unto themselves.

They did as they pleased, generated revenues for themselves and their families, and they competed with each other in erecting mansions and indulging in conspicuous consumption – with money largely derived from public sources. And many still do.

  1. Moral absolutes that used to be the pegs on which our society’s values were anchored had, by design and default, been abandoned, so totally that one could, with justification, wonder whether it would ever prove possible to revive public morality. Neither the hold of religious precepts, nor the sanction of public shame, nor yet the eyes of society, or the fear of the penalties nor even secular civic pride or the plain responsibility of being just human would make people behave according to the rules and follow laid down procedure.

The fact remains that we will not overcome these manifold problems by mere act of democratizing. Of course democracy is not an end in itself.

It is only a means to an end, which for us is good, representative, responsible governance and its other dividends. Certainly not the type of dividends our ears are daily fed with today.

And if Nigerians want to fully realize the gains of democracy which I believe they do; people must be ready to play according to the rules, and pay the price required. They must be their own watchdogs and guard against the many forces that look capable of subverting the system.

“That people naturally prefer freedom to oppression can indeed be taken for granted,” said Chester Finn, Jr., “but that is not the same as saying that democratic political systems can be expected to create and maintain themselves over time. On the contrary, the idea of democracy is durable, but its practice is precarious.”

  1. In Nigeria it is not just voter-apathy that threatens democracy and responsible governance. It is what, for want of a better term, I call system-apathy. At one extreme end people are impatient – they don’t have sufficient patience to play according to the rules of the system; while at the other extreme end, they are too patient (docile is the word) to accept any determined corrupt money-bag to produce election result he wants in any constituency in the country today.

So much so that this docility has turned corrupt public officers into statesmen. We should all be worried enough to want to do something about it.

The first antidote against such subversion is to ensure that elections are free and fair, and representative of the popular will. But that is not enough to deliver the goods. The leader elected must have what it takes and have vision for the polity and be a person of integrity. The leader must be able to communicate and have a proper sense of history; but, above all, he must be ready to lead by example.

In addition, what our country needs in its leader now is astuteness in crisis leadership and courageous enough to confront corruption head on.

  1. The second antidote is to have effective checks and balances to curb arbitrariness and any creeping despotism in the leader. These checks, which ought to emanate from several different sources, must be patriotic and strong enough to deter the most determined dictator. Firstly, there must be a return to the party supremacy and discipline of the first and second republics. The leader elected must be loyal to his party and its programmes; and be respectful to its by-laws. This is very important since the electorate normally elects on the strength of party programmes; and without this type of respect for party supremacy the leader becomes an unguided missile let loose among the people.

Secondly, the legislature and the judiciary must provide the constitutional checks and balances required. When this is missing, especially in the instances where the people’s elected representatives pursue goals other than the public good, the leader simply becomes a constitutionally elected dictator, and the people’s watchdogs become cheerleaders as the republic is raped.

Thirdly, the media must provide the most immediate, open check on the excesses of the leadership. As watchdogs of the people, the media, relying on the peoples right to know, report on the successes or failures of leadership. The media must continue to inform and educate and be an alert watchdog over government and society’s powerful institutions.

The media of this millenium must be able to operate beyond religio-ethnic and regional lines. They must cross over to addressing issues rather than sentiments. The press must be agents of unity and understanding. Sensational captions and stories may obviously attract buyers of newspapers which is good business, but the consequence of that may produce environment with no one to purchase subsequent editions. In plain language our media must be patriotic enough to reduce areas that are likely to produce crises in society.

Benjamin Franklin once said, given the choice between government without newspapers or newspapers without government; he would, without hesitation, choose the latter. I would too, but they must be newspapers that told the truth and tried to reduce crises in the polity.

Holding aloft a standard of independence, fairness, and objectivity and drawing on the strength of its tremendous resources, the media is best suited to expose the truth behind all claims made by leadership and hold officials accountable for their actions or inactions. Journalists must wield this power of the media, which has often been seen as even greater than that of the other two Estates, with a great sense of responsibility by journalists.

  1. With all these checks, counter checks and balances in place, it remains for the leadership to give the right direction so that democracy may sprout, grow and sustain itself. And here I know of no better or more functional definition of democracy than the one given by Seymour Lipset. I quote:

“Democracy in a complete society may be defined as political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders of political office.” End of quote. And I would like to assure that democracy can’t do more than what this definition made for you.

It only gives you the power to change leaders when they fail. It cannot guarantee a successful government. The success is largely determined by the quality of the leadership.

A leader, according to one of the American presidents, “is one who has the emotional, mental and physical strength to withstand the pressures and tensions, and then, at the critical moment, to make a choice and to act decisively; the men who fail are those who are so overcome by doubts that they either crack under the strain or flee.” But here at home, even if one is overcome by doubts and plagued by failure, all he wants to do istazarce.

  1. Tazarce and other subversive maneuvers can hardly take us anywhere; it will only take us backward. And unless we change our way – of sit-tight leadership and chequebook politics – we shall never know democracy in this land. Within the last three years, for instance, we cannot in all honesty, be said to have tried our best to lay down the foundations of a stable democratic polity or the ground for good governance. What we observe in this country is not the responsible exercise of power, but an intoxication of the leadership by it.

Democracy gave us a chance, but we fail to grab it to take corrective action.Instead we went on the path of punitive action in full blast.No wonder we lost the way; and this, in turn, led us to the path of self – deceit.

We were promised better days ahead; yet we only saw days that are worse. We were promised light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel only got longer – and we are still enveloped by its darkness. We were promised an end to corruption, but we only witnessed its ascendance and triumphant coming of age. We were made to listen to endless lamentations on the deterioration of public education system, and we were promised its revitalization; but we only witnessed its near total collapse, with burial arrangement already made with talk of privatisation of our universities. We were promised enhanced security for lives and property but the police itself went on strike.

The promises were endless and the failures countless, but these are celebrated by the leadership as successes. They said they had made a difference, though few indeed believed them.

It was clear that we were slowly moving towards the situation that says, “Never believe anything until it is officially denied.” And in a situation where the leadership was trying not to be accountable you may suspect everything until it is officially confirmed.

  1. But democracy is not about the accountability of the leader alone. It is about building a system that guarantees not only rights but also imposes obligations on all those who are in it. It is part of the responsibility of every one of us to speak out when things go wrong. But the silence coming from our campuses is deafening. And for want of a proper description, a very bad omen.

Isn’t there a greater responsibility and clear obligation on the well informed? Every one of us is a shepherd and, sooner or later, the auditor will come round to count the sheep. Time was when there was this robust debate on campus, not just on the salaries and allowances of teachers, but actuated by a genuine desire to improve the objective conditions of the people. But unknown to us outside, and perhaps even to you inside, the campus has long ago given up its true tradition.

There is today the absence of involvement by intellectuals in the everyday affairs of society. Gone were the days the likes of Dr. Bala Usman, whose struggle, almost single-handedly, established a tradition of dissent on this campus in the 1970’s.What in the world happened to that tradition?

And whatever one may say about the ideology that provided the basis for his struggle, there is little doubt that campuses across the country are today all the poorer for the lack of it. You must therefore wake up before it is too late. Or is the teacher waiting to be taught?

  1. Long ago one of your class had prodded you. “ You are all the same, you intellectuals; everything is cracking and collapsing, the guns are on the point of going off, and you stand there claiming the right to be convinced. If only you could see with your own eyes, you will understand that time presses,” Jean-Paul Satre said.

And as time draws to a close, there are only two choices facing our academics – involvement or escapism, fulfillment or betrayal. There is no third choice. Today you can’t sit on the fence because the fence, uprooted by people’s anguish and resignation, is no longer there for you to sit on.

No doubt, our campuses had seen better days. Perhaps time for the turn around has not yet dawned for this nation that prefers building stadium than funding universities. A nation that loves identity cards more than improving agriculture. You shouldn’t make matters worse by betraying your own trusts. Leadership at all levels has to, as it were, renew its contract with its constituency.

Your constituency is people; your political party is intellect; and your ideology is whatever intellect dictates – the fearless pursuit of the goals of humanism. But today I see neither fearlessness nor pursuit after any worthwhile goals. I hope I am wrong.

Where are the informed voices of Academics and students in the reported cases of high expenditure outside approved budgetary allocations?

Where were these voices when the unilateral increment of petroleum products was made? Where are these voices when we have started seeing the return of the untidy interim court injunctions? Where are these voices when the very foundation of democracy is being subverted? I am referring to the registration of only 3 political parties out of more than 20 applications.

Yet among those denied registration were NCP, MDJ and PRP the last two who even under the military were given provisional registrations, in spite of having council chairmen and councilors, four years after; someone is telling us that they are yet to qualify for registration. Looking at the profile of these parties, I tend to believe that they belong to the masses – and I guess this in the very constituency of the academics. Is the academics endorsing the system that allow only the money bags to form political parties?

At the risk of being accused for campaigning in the university, I make bold to challenge you to come out loud and clear to lead the way.

You should all return to your constituencies and enlighten your parents, brothers and sisters to play their civic duties first by registering, then voting, and above all ensuring that the true winners are the ones declared. Otherwise posterity will not forgive you for allowing selfish people to tinker with the rule of the game.

Permit me to recall, what I said about leadership in my Arewa House lecture in 1998. I quote: “The aspiring leadership must be able to inspire loyalty in the followership and imbue it with the desire and willingness to follow and be law abiding.

It must set the example for people to follow.And though it has often been said that people get the leadership they deserve, it is even truer today to say that the leadership gets the followership appropriate to it – the one it begets and nurtures.And, painful as it may be, we must accept that no corrupt and unaccountable leadership can beget a responsible, disciplined community. The leader must be the embodiment of the people’s aspirations and be competent, upright, of positive disposition, able and willing to take bold, painful, unpopular decisions and be able to meet unpleasant situations with tact and equanimity, as and when required. The leadership must symbolize the qualities of sacrifice, integrity, patriotism, competence, vision and acceptance of the spirit and burdens of democracy.

The leader and his group need not only to be good leaders in the partisan political game, or in running the country; but they must also be good losers, who will respect the voice of the people when it speaks.” Again I quote:

“The leadership must be able to guarantee peace for the land and prosperity for the individuals within it. It should be clear that at all times and in all places the issue that is absolutely non-negotiable, is the question of law and order. To many, it has become quite desperate as they leave home everyday in fear for their lives with armed robbers, secret cult gangs and assassins on the prowl. For the majority life is indeed brutish and short.”And even now, for many, under our so-called democracy, nothing has really changed.

The thievery goes on unabated; and people see no reason to attempt to be disciplined. Perhaps when you consider all this you may begin to appreciate efforts of past leaders of this country who struggled to instill discipline and accountability under a non-democratic setting. It was a difficult, almost impossible, task. And it is a task that we must carry on within order to save the present and preserve the future of our great country.

And we can best do this within a pluralistic, democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria. Which is what we must now create and nurture.

And we must keep in mind that the price for the ability to do this is careful vigilance.

“People may be born with an appetite for personal freedom but they are not born with knowledge about the social and political arrangements that make freedom possible over time for their children,” Chester Finn. Jr. said. “Such things must be acquired. They must be learned.” But that is not all.

“Democracies,” he said, “ flourished when they are tended by citizens willing to use their hard won freedom to participate in the life of their society – adding their voice to the public debate, electing representatives who are held for their actions, and accepting the need for tolerance and compromise in public life.”

We can only do this by internalising the culture of democracy. As democrats in Nigeria we must learn to eschew rigging, indiscipline, and other corrupt electoral practices in order to avoid the perennial crisis of succession that always threatens our polity. Our elections must be free and fair; our practice of democracy must be by negotiation and reading mutually acceptable compromise; our leadership must always be held accountable by the people and their representatives, and the followership must be disciplined watchdogs for the democratic process. And this is the only way out.

Thank you very much.

Aliyu Bala Aliyu


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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Election Postponement: Jega’s fair share of the blame

When the history of Nigeria is analyzed in the years to come and the events of this republic are put into their proper contexts, Prof Attahiru Jega’s name will surely come up as an umpire to whom much was given but whose shoulders proved too frail to bear. He seems to have done or is it doing his best but that best is just not good enough. A second chance is always an opportunity to take stock and redeem oneself but the Professor sadly didn’t learn much from his 2011 experience.

Professor Attahiru Jega typifies the very Nigerian attitude to public policy and engagement. As a professor of Political Science in a Nigerian Institution and not one who transplanted from abroad, the underlying assumption is that Jega has a working knowledge of the Nigerian political environment and history beyond average. So his announcement as INEC chairman on June 8, 2010 was welcome across board. His reputation as a no-nonsense ASUU President in the 1990s in the hey days of the military added bite to his credentials in the eyes of the public. Jega was described as a fiery Unionist and of independent mind. It seemed only natural for nearly all the activists who passed through the furnaces of countless confrontation with the military authorities when they held way in Nigeria’s political landscape in the 80s and 90s.

As at the the time of his appointment, he was the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and it seemed his CV and and personal qualities stood him out and gave Nigerians a shot of refreshing hope of a what an electoral umpire should be – a far cry from what his predecessor, another Professor of Pharmacy, Maurice Iwu had made of the commission. Maurice Iwu would go down in history as having superintended Nigeria’s worst elections in history both in scale and brazenness. The 2007 elections were so badly rigged that the chief beneficiary of the heist, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua admitted to its “wuruwuruness” on the day he was being sworn in! Under Iwu, INEC was simply PDP’s Electoral Commission.

Jega came on board in June 2008 with so much goodwill and reputation that Nigerians were hopeful for a credible election in 2011. Alas Jega proved himself overburdened by the task at INEC. Although the PDP would have still won the elections in 2011, they left nothing to chance in the execution of their stock-in-trade – Advanced Classical Rigging (ACR). Evidence for the abnormality and advanced rigging systems (ARS) deployed abound. The anomalies include but are not limited to 100% voter turnout in certain areas; total number of votes cast exceeding total number of registered voters and then the knottiest of them all was the “Trojan In The Computer” as celebrated columnist of Daily Trust Adamu Adamu put it. I have for the purpose of brevity left out the military clampdown on supporters of the then opposition CPC.

After the election results were announced; and the spontaneous violence that followed; and the dust settled, the logical thing for INEC to do was to start preparation in earnest for the 2015 elections. But like everything Nigerian, Jega and company went to sleep only to wake up far too late to make effective preparations for a credible 2015 election very shaky. This was the same Jega that was a consultant to the former wuruwuru INEC boss Prof Maurice Iwu. So to all intents and purposes, Jega was no stranger to INEC and its challenges. Jega it will be recalled had to postpone the 2011 elections by one week – his lack of proper planning being the chief reason. Jega had assured us all that he was ready for the elections up until Friday, 1st of April, 2011. Unknown to Nigerians, the sensitive election materials which were printed abroad had not yet arrived the country. The plan, as word had it, was for the materials to arrive in the dead of the night Friday 1st of April and be transported via airplanes to different states and then bused to their final destinations in the wee hours of Saturday morning (the election day proper!).

As in a lot of instances, Murphy’s law (typically stated as: “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”) came into effect and the sensitive materials could not arrive Nigeria as scheduled. Jega was still hopeful that he could pull the election through even if the materials arrived late that Saturday morning and as such he did not announce the postponement until about noon on that fateful day when it became obvious that it was practically impossible to conduct an election that late in the day. The elections had to be shifted. The elections earlier scheduled to hold as follows: National Assembly Elections, Saturday, April 2; Presidential Elections, Saturday, April 9; and House of Assembly/Governorship Elections, Saturday, April 16 were thus rescheduled as follows: Saturday, April 9, Senate and House of Representatives Elections; Saturday, April 16, Presidential Elections; and Tuesday, April 26, State House of Assembly and Governorship Elections. Sensitive materials arrived; Nigerians went to the polls; and all as they say is now history; but Jega was scathed. The natural thing would have been for him and his staff to learn from that lesson and device a full-proof strategy with plans A, B and even C – worst case scenario. Jega had four years to prepare for the 2015 elections but waited till the last minute before embarking on frantic fire-brigade approach to things in the typical Nigerian fashion.

Truth be told when Jega announced the postponement of the February 14 and 28 polls to April and blaming it on the military, he was in effect absolving himself of culpability. But in actual fact, Jega’s shoddy and late preparation created the atmosphere for the military to cash in. There were several agitations from all quarters of a significant number of people who were unable to collect their PVCs. INEC’s poor and unprofessional manner of distributing the PVCs shames everything about the words organization and planning. The media was awash with complaints, hue and cry about the unprofessional conduct of INEC staff in the distribution of PVCs, the inability of people to locate theirs after countless visits to the collection centres among others.

But how did INEC get to this sorry pass? Why are government institutions this shabby in their planning/preparations and communication? What happened to INECs strategy and communications department that it had to wait for Fashola to raise an alarm before explaining/clarifying things? Is the import of the word “proactive” lost on them? Would it not have been a better and more effective a strategy for Jega to have asked the REC in Lagos and indeed all the states to meet with representatives of the political parties, civil society, the media, NANS, National Youth Council of Nigeria, representatives of religious organizations and traditional institutions among other stake holders?

Recall that the Governor of Lagos state Babatunde Raji Fashola addressed a press conference last year and raised the alarm that INEC had delisted about 1.4million people in Lagos. INEC had to issue a statement in reaction to that and clarify that because it had adopted a detection software cleansing tool, it was able to detect multiple registrations hence the drop in number of registered voters from what was available in public domain since 2011. Of course it was in Fashola’s interest as a politician with stakes in the election to raise such an alarm and INEC has always been on the defensive ever since responding to endless salvos rather than being two steps ahead and pre-empting them all or at least most of them.

The substantial number of people who had not collected their PVCs included the Sultan of Sokoto, Governor Fashola, General Abdusalami Abubakar and even Doyin Okupe. This was the very catalyst in the postponement of the February elections. Despite the assurances and claims of INEC that it was prepared for the elections, the evidence on ground as relates to the PVCs indicated the contrary. INEC did not also do a good job of sensitizing the public on its card reader machine and the contingency plans it had put in place in the event of glitches or outright failure.

Armed with such fertile soil of alleged official disenfranchisement of sections of the country by INEC, the PDP propaganda machinery got to work in earnest. Edwin Clark, Alex Ekueme and Femi Okuronmu, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Walter Ofanagoro among others called for the sack and even arrest of Jega!

Then the NSA had on the 22nd of January at the Catham House in London flew the postponement kite. Unbeknownst to Nigerians, NSA Dasuki and the Service Chiefs were stewing something. Insecurity was not mentioned as an excuse for the postponement but INEC’s state of unpreparedness. In the words of NSA Sambo Dasuki he said: “…there is nothing wrong with us delaying to ensure that everybody who ought to vote get that card to vote. Because the comment everyday is that you can’t vote unless you have permanent voters card. If you can’t vote without permanent voter’s card what sense does it make to vote three months early when we have 3o million people whose cards have not been issued and are still with INEC. That’s my position. INEC makes the determination. If you can distribute those cards today, we would all be happy. But if you can’t please consider. Look at the other option.”

And despite the Council of States’ meeting and the overwhelming evidence that elections have indeed taken place in far more crises ridden environments than ours, the NSA, Service Chiefs and the PDP pulled a fast one on Nigerians by playing their last joker that they will not be available to give security cover for the elections owing to their new found energy and determination to flush Boko Haram out in 6weeks starting from February 14!

Jega had no choice but to cave in having being boxed into the corner of no maneuver. And in doing so, he attempted to defray the blame(s) to the NSA and the Military. But in trut, Jega does share a large chunk of the blame. He created the room for the heightened angst and the agitations that followed. The NSA, Service Chiefs and the PDP only cashed in; and as such have left us torn between those who are unhappy with the postponement and wished the elections had taken place despite the doubtful preparedness claims of INEC and those who have heaved countless sighs of relief that the extension would afford them the opportunity to get their PVCs. On the other side it seems the PDP is happiest in that it has bought itself additional time to re-strategize on its impending defeat.

If Jega had finished all matters pertaining to PVCs in November/December of 2014, we would have all seen clearly by now the arm twisting tactics of the military glaringly. But as it stands right now it is an extremely blurred call to make. How do you explain it to the millions whose PVCs are either yet to be manufactured or the countless ones INEC lacks the skills to distribute effectively without chaos and confusion?

But again this wasn’t the first pressure Jega bowed to in the countdown to the 2015 elections. He had come under serious fire for proposing an addition of 30,027 polling units across the country. The reason for the creation of these additional polling units was to make each polling unit manageable with an approximately sizable 500 persons per polling unit. But in a country riddled by inherent mutual suspicion along the fault lines of religion and ethnicity, Jega who is not new to system ought to have known that such land mines and boobies lay in wait. Rationally Jega’s argument made sense but like a prescription drug timing is equally important. Jega simply messed up a good case with his poor timing and poor communication. How do you in Nigeria’s ethnically and religiously coloured and charged mileu decide to review the polling units distribution 5months to the general elections? What was Jega and his staff doing since 2011? The best way to have sold that idea justifiably and with the least resistance to have started as early as 2011-2012 and to carry all stakeholders I mentioned earlier on along. As usual his press conference to address the issue was not a proactive one it was in reaction to the noise that had been making the rounds when word got out that that was what INEC was planning! Read full text of Jega’s address here:

But underlying the resistance of Jega’s alleged favouritism and so called northern bias in the reconfiguration of the polling units is the deep seated myth among the people south and east of the Niger that the north’s population is padded with the counting of cattle and spatial huts!

It is much in doubt if Jega did an internal cleansing at INEC to weed out moles and partisan staff. It is also not on record that staff who have been found wanting to the extent of unethical romances with politicians have been sanctioned to full extend of the law. Sadly politicians have been emboldened by the re-enforcement INEC has handed them by not punishing them enough if at all. In giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s I give to Jega his fair share of disappointing us twice or even thrice depending on the prism one choses to view from.

In conclusion, however this elections turns out, Prof Jega should be allowed to go back to the University. I think we have had enough Professors heading INEC. There seems to be a challenge marrying theory and practice in these parts. INEC should be headed as someone suggested by an engineer or a project manager or as another has opined someone with vast experience in the field of logistics management on a massive scale. I hope Jega will settle down to writing his memoirs in between. He owes us that little.

Aliyu Bala Aliyu


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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


The Falling Gates

One after the other

the city gates are falling

to bloodbath and horror.

Each day the victory of death

keeps advancing with savagery

and ruin unimagined.

The hordes claiming territories;

renaming towns and hoisting flags

upon bloodbath and horror.

Who then is it that’ll stop the merchants of death

who gorge on the anguish of girls

they take against their will?

Is it the men who have sworn the oath

to protect us but flee

at the sight of the hordes?

Upon smouldering houses,

behind shattered homes, and the skies above

echoing the raining shells

The violated, and us unarmed

breathe at the mercy of darkness…

terrified and unsure.

First it was Gwoza, then Buni Yade,

then Askira Uba, then Madgali,

then Chibok, then Mubi, then Ashaka.

Into bits and pieces Nigeria falls

and all we do is pray

in our bits and pieces of earth.

They have marched on.

They seem unstoppable.

Bloodbath and horror seem unstoppable…

The violated, and us, unarmed,

breathe at the mercy of night…

with shivers down our spine, it sure hurts.

Gwoza they have now declared a new caliphate

and Mubi renamed Madinatul Islam,*

but it is in Madinatul Majaanin**

These savages deserve to be

locked behind steel bars forever

or executed at the stakes of ignominy.

What hope awaits the violated and the unarmed

awaiting their end in fear? Have the gates

fallen to a deluge of horror unstoppable?

Is there a man with a mind to act?

To put an end to the bloodshed

and restore dignity to our land?

Or shall the children cry on

as mothers wail in widowhood

and the merchants of death celebrate?

But as you bet on the Champions League,

glued on TV with popcorn and coke

and watching Big Brother with relish,

Men die and nobody remembers their names.

Will you then spare a thought

for these victims whose voice no one hears?

When then you check into the VIP lounge

and fly the exclusive cabins of the birds above

with your briefcases gently tucked away

And you melt into seamless boardrooms;

closing deals on conference calls,

souls expire.

When you cast away your cloaks at night,

and loosen the royal turbans upon your heads,

and hang your suits and fling those ties

As you set your headgears free,

and take inventory of your jewelries,

souls expire.

When you bubble-bathe and dry your hair

and wax your skin and wink at the mirror,

souls expire.

Across the doors in places far flung and done,

Children wander; widows wonder

Still souls expire

A nation gently slips away,

brains beneath the hat freeze away

and give no damn to perishing souls.

The flag drips with blood

Yet promises and lies are peddled

buttered against the same slice.

But rise up we must

from this leprous grip of chaos

and throw back in their faces their filthy crumbs.

The dead are gone and gone for good

Let the living fight to live; and stop this hell

With dignity and pride that’s worth its name.

Is there a man with a will to act?

To put an end to the bloodshed

and restore dignity to our land?

Aliyu Bala Aliyu


11th Nov 2014



*    Madinatul Islam: [meaning city of Islam (peace) in Arabic] which Boko Haram has renamed Mubi after its capture on 4th November, 2014.

**  Madinatul Majaanin: (meaning city of the mad in Arabic). majnun: (sing. mad); majaanin: (plural. mad)

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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Gospel According to Dele Momodu

      By Aliyu Bala Aliyu

Dele Momodu, (Bob Dee, as he is popularly known; the Baba Jaiye-Jaiye I; and Gbajumo-in-Chief of Ovation worldwide, which he obviously is) dedicated his column – “The Pendulum” – of 30th August,2014 in Thisday Newspaper to St Ikimi; which he titled: “The Gospel according to Tom Ikimi”. It is to that epistle I have written this rejoinder. Once again, Dele Momodu, as is typical of him – oscillating without taking a position – said so many things in his epistle that confounds and confuses at the same time. He seems to have forgotten that in life, you cannot eat your cake and have it.

Tom Ikimi has done himself and a lot of APC folks and her millions of supporters a great deal of good by decamping to where his heart truly belongs and belonged all along – in the warm embrace of the maintainers of the status quo. I join in wishing him well. It is to the eternal glory of God that the party chairmanship of APC did not fall to him. Those who are too impatient and erratic to endure the pain of building a system should be allowed the honour of walking away lest they poison the atmosphere for the rest of the players.

Mahatma Ghandi talked about 7 immortal sins viz:

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

In Nigeria, corruption and impunity would make it to the first of these sins; and the impatience of political actors to build, nurture and stabilize systems / institutions would be the eight.
In one breadth, Dele Momodu claims that the older generation of politicians in the party should have given way to the younger generation in the fold. And he goes on to regale us with names like Ribadu and Shekarau. But the questions to ask are: “is being young the only qualification to being a purposeful politician now? Is being young a guarantee of vision, selflessness, patriotism, drive, principle, forthrightness, and loyalty?” Conversely, “is being old and an experienced hand a recipe for ruination?”
Should it not be to the eternal glory of God that Ribadu, Shekarau, Bafarawa, Ali Modu Sheriff and Tom Ikimi have all gone where they actually belong – where their bread will be abundantly buttered, rather than remaining in APC and undermining her? Should APC not be happy that that loquacious political slut called Femi Fani Kayode has gone back where he rightly belongs? So in Dele Momodu’s thinking, APC should have just handed down her Chairmanship to some boisterous Ribadu or a Femi Fani Kayode simply because they are young!
Since Dele momodu takes pleasure in drawing parallels with UK, US and other sane climates, might I ask Dele Momodu how old Alan Greenspan was as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank before he left. How old was Kissinger and how many Presidents did he serve before he left the stage? Would Dele allow a mechanic work on his bently for the simple reason that he is young or would he opt for experience and a pedigree to do the job? Would Dele allow any of his family members or himself at that to be treated by a Doctor whose credential is that he is young at the expense of the experienced and decorated consultants?

Dele and his likes who are always in the habit of drawing ridiculous parallels with UK and US always miss the point.  They forget that we are not in the same league. That we aspire to be as advanced and developed as them does not mean we are there yet.
Dele Momodu seems to suggest that because bachelor Ed Miliband has been named the Labour Party leader in England, Nigeria should have copied them hook line and sinker! He conveniently forgot to add that Nigerians have been given the opportunity to contest elections in countries such as UK, US, South Africa, Poland and many others but cannot contest elections in Nigeria in states other than theirs even if they have spent eons in such sates, paid taxes and contributed to the growth and development of such societies in their own way(s). Did Dele forget that governors Theodore Orji, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Muazu Babangida Aliyu have at various times deported “non-indegenes” to their home states in the same country we call Nigeria where citizens should have the right to reside where they so choose?
The thinking that it is the young / youthful generation alone that will salvage Nigeria from the mess she is currently in is as flawed as the thinking that only the old brigade can redeem her. The solution is a mix of both generations. There is abundant evidence on ground already to suggest that the so called “young” generation of Goodluck Jonathan, Allison Madueke, Stella Oduah, Diprieye Alamyiesiaga, James Ibori, Patricia Etteh, Farouk Lawan, Femi Otedola etc. are no different from the old generation of Olusegun Obasanjo (The Ebora of Owu), IBB (The Evil Genius), Sani Abacha, Bode George and their likes. In fact the “younger” generation has already started warmimng up for the spoils of perdition even before they get into the main arena. NANS’ recent outings and NYCN’s non- challant stance on issues of germane national importance are sorry testimonies of the beginning of a sad end. It lays credence to rotten abyss to which Nigerian youth have descended and the disaster that stares us in the face if the Nigerian ship is not as a matter of urgency salvaged and redeemed.
Let the Ikimis, the Ribadu’s, the Shekaraus, the Fani Kayodes, the Modu Sherrifs and the Bafarawas go wherever they want to. It is an absolutely free world; and the constitution of Nigeria guarantees the freedom of association. People come, people go, history records. Democracy is not a balloon you blow in an instant; it is a house to be built brick by brick. Since they are too much in a hurry to eat, they should know that it was some people who built PDP from nothing. So too shall APC crawl, walk, run, and then fly.


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Posted by on September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


Diamond Hero (For Gen. Muhammadu Buhari @ 71)


                Aliyu Bala Aliyu


Unto us was born a legend

The skies above Daura smiled upon his birth

Heroism isn’t to be born of a woman

We all certainly are

Heroes stand on the side of the people

Greatness isn’t conferred by mortals

Your life of service and uprightness have stood you out

Fortitude and consistency unparalleled so

His resolve unshaken he kept his drive

Consistent his ways have been

Unperturbed by the villains around he stands so tall

In pain and sweat and tears you shared your agony in time

Before the world our pains you shared

Like a Prophet you spoke and warned of the agony ahead

 Never a weakling and your traducers concur

Battles he fought and emerged therefrom

Wearing the badge of veterans and heroes

His resolve unshaken he kept his drive

His determination unshaken

For in blazing the trail of honour

Few men will stand the test

Honesty like a cloak he wears

His passion for country yet unmatched 

 Three scores and ten have been his days

Still a patriot like days gone by

Greater shall be the years ahead

But while we await history to be the judge

It steps forward and passes its deafening verdict

Impatient to await your glorious exit

I have a hero and sure you are

Glittering like diamonds

And I am proud to say it before the world


Aliyu Bala Aliyu



twitter: @AliyuBalaAliyu

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized