ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Month: March, 2014

Pestilential Beggary, Pictures of Poverty and Plenty Palava in the European Union

I must have stopped by on the wrong side of Brussels on my latest trip to the Capital of the European Union (EU). Having finished my purpose of visit in the city, I had more time to sightsee. The train to Dortmund was scheduled for mid-afternoon. I had actually noticed two or three beggars on my first trip two weeks ago, but I had not thought it was indeed this purulent until this recent trip. Besides, I did not stay this long when I came two weeks ago. I saw with one of the beggars two children who were most certainly under the age of ten years. They accompanied the adult beggar. I believe the woman beggar must be their mother. I was scandalized when I saw this, but for the fact that I stood the chance of loosing my train if I stayed too long to observe what exactly went on on my first trip, I pushed the thought aside. I told myself it must be that I was only being too sensitive as usual. I thought the incidence with the children who were being used as a bait to coerce compassion of unsuspecting passers-by in order to extract alms from them, might be a one-off occurrence; I had thought this impossible in the EU. My second trip proved this line of thought absolutely wrong. A shocker was what I got when I passed through the city center of Brussels. Without the singlest sense of exaggeration, one would not be wrong to assert that parts of various main stations in Brussels are being taken over by beggars of different kinds, sorts and formations.

Even if I do not share that opinion which seems to support the unavoidability, or rather the permanent existence of the socially downtrodden in any society, I will be sincere enough to realize that some menace cannot be curbed outrightly in any given society. I will be quick to add notwithstanding that I believe this is achievable. What I however found appalling and terribly disturbing is the trend I noticed in Brussels: I was shaken beyond measure to see women in group of twos and threes, sometimes larger, with harem of children, sometimes babies and infants, begging for money from passers-by. This was an assault on my humanity. I was angered beyond words. Understandably, anybody could go begging for whatever reason. As passer-by, one is not compulsed to give alms. Unacceptable is the unfortunate fact however, that children, babies and infants are now being exploited for this shameful act. And come to think of it: This is happening right in the capital of the EU, one of the world’s richest and safest part to live in.

These beggars have a face. Their appearance gave them away very quickly. They belong largely to Roma and Sinti group of Eastern Europe origin. Beyond this group of people I saw some handful with distinguishable North African and Arabian outlook. When one is befallen with too many disasters, one is hit with the sad realization that one disaster could be better bourne than the other. In this light, particularly disturbing was a woman I saw with a baby in her arms. The child was most certainly less than four months old. She sat in the lukewarm, barely friendly weather on the road-side looking up to me for alms. I hardly could wait to even look at her. I walked away as fast as I could. I was shaken to the bones. If I stayed too long I was sure I was going to throw-up. I could not believe my eyes. I had shortly seen a beggar-woman who pushed her daughter towards a man for money. The man promptly turned her away. I crossed the road and moved towards the woman. I almost spoke to her when I thought otherwise. Telling her it was unacceptable and shameful to use children as bait for alms will certainly fall on deaf ears. In fact, I was already much too angered I knew I could not find the right words to tell her this.

Being confronted with such bizarre inhumanity nearly made me loose my mind! I was forced to ask if I was still in the EU of the 21st century. Come to think of it: Brussels is not only the capital of the EU, it houses some very important decision-making bodies in the EU. Another shocker: The G-7 will gather here very soon for a meeting of world-leading industrial countries. What a stark compromise of EU values.

Beyond the pestilence of beggars, the pictures I was opportune to see on the streets of Brussels, particularly those parts which I visited, are pitiable. I saw able-bodied young men and women who loitered the streets and road-sides. One might want to posit that there presence on the road-sides was only a coincidence. I would be careful to think it off as a coincidence. Their various postures strongly supported the supposition that these are jobless young adults and middle-aged people.

Another troubling truth which one cannot but mention is the fact that many of these people, beyond being engaged for menial and strictly unskilled labour like cleaning, cutting of grasses, beautification of garden under strict instruction of a skilled fellow just to mention a few, are most times unemployable. For some, their outlook gave them too quickly away for drug- and street-crack-dealers, whom they rightly are. I saw some few, whose addiction to drugs, cracks and alcohol need not be doubted for a second. One even dosed at interval, waking up only to fall back on his neck into sleep. He was African. I pity Mother Africa for yet another lost son in a far-away strange land. There was another African brother whose attire clearly confirmed he was out of his mind. I saw him some houses away from the point I had seen the other brother. My sadness only got bigger, really.

Then, there were the dilapidated houses and those which beg for urgent renovation. I sat at a round-about, which was planned to be recreative in purpose. I could not but laugh at the poor and hurried work wasted on this patch of land. The idea of a green round-about is good, only that the realization was clearly a waste in that the beauty that ought be brought to the fore was clearly not present.
At a point, I thought I was out of Europe. From a shop, right on the road, a seller blasted music from a lowly mounted loudspeaker. I imagined what chaotic and barbaric atmosphere we would create if everyone would play just as loud as he played. This was not the Europe of any sojourner’s dream. This was a confused and displaced humanity in exhibition.

At that round-about I just mentioned were seated many people, but one woman particularly struck out. Her overwear, made of material very close to that of a pullover, was indiscriminately holed and tattered. Around her were children whose garments were much better than hers but for a boy whose jeans-trouser is washed out and too old. Like mother-hen, the women shouted out at intervals to wandering children to stay clear of passing trams, cars, buses and pedestrians and not to stray too far from the rest.

While I looked on with astonishment, a woman, who also was not less-angered by this new-trend of beggars-syndicate, turned away a child, whose mother had pushed towards her to beg for money. She turned to the woman, and spoke some words I did not hear. I guessed she warned her, because I could see her raise a finger towards the beggarwoman. Then she looked towards me, and said in French: “School is free! Everything is free! Even me without paper, my children goes to school! I work! I get money! These people are terrible! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Before then, I had not even reasoned along that line. My anger had actually been one-sided. I was angered that a city condoles children being used exploitatively. The frustration in the voice of the protesting woman brought to the fore what I had hitherto not taken into context. These adult-beggars are blackmailers, who not only exploit the children via street-begging for personal gain, but also cashed in financial benefits on these children from various social offices and institutions. Worse still, they do not send the children to school.

That frustration in the voice of the protesting woman confirmed on the one side what a resilient spirit is. She would rather earn her living and lead a dignifying life. I respect her greatly for this. And can only wish many would borrow a leaf from her. On the other side, she successfully summed up what shameful malpractices are being engaged in by residents, especially foreigners, in various cities across the EU.

As a matter of fact, social security and benefits are planed to be a temporary relief and safety-net, financially, for families who might not be able to weather life-terrain successfully without state support, while they willingly and actively/seriously attempt to secure for themselves a life free of state support. It is thus expected that this kind of resolution be taken only into consideration as a last and emergency resort when all other options had been exhausted. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands, most times foreigners, who see in this a permanent window through which they believe they can finance themselves for a life-time. The saying that poverty is a disease could not be truer than in the case of these people, who exploit not only the system, but also their children for money as evident in extreme cases visibly represented on the streets of Brussels in those Roma, Sinti and (North) African faces.

I mentioned this experience while I talked to one of my course participants. She only smiled. She was not surprised by this revelation. She went on to tell me of more terrible practices people engage in to dupe the system. Here is an example: A pregnant woman left her husband in Spain, came to Germany, paid thousands of Euro to have a Germany-resident father for the unborn child. The reason: She heard Germany pays three thousand Euro to parents of newly born babies! So she wanted to get her share of the “German booty”. Meanwhile, her true husband and father of the unborn child is resident in Spain with Spanish citizenship. She intended to claim benefits in Spain as well after the birth of the said child.

The Roma and Sinti are only a tip of the iceberg, exemplary of financial desperation and perpetuation of a mentality largely traceable/connected to poverty, which these migrants had lived-in for too long. Unfortunately, they forgot to dump this mindset back in their various countries of origin. It is also traceable to illiteracy. Actually, a critical investigation of the root causes will most likely not leave out cultural consideration. There are cultures which neither clearly support nor denounce exploitation. The celebration of sudden (undeserved/unexplainable) wealth acquired solely in the name of good-luck and possession of a “good star” is a good example in this regard. People with such cultural inclination will definitely throw caution to the wind when it seemed they stand a very good chance to catch in big on the system. This is a very plausible explanation to situations described by my course participant.

I was told there are those who wear tattered clothes and worn-out shoes for a purpose. I had not realised this when I saw these women in tattered clothes back in Brussels. When the course participant pointed this out to me, I was shocked beyond measure. The probability is very high that they put on these tattered materials in order to weep up sentiments from those they meet in offices or anywhere they go. This is not very far from the truth, if not the absolute truth.

A newspaper report published a similar line of thought. Recently, a young migrant of Palestine descent in Denmark published a collection of poems in which he talked down, and that rightly so, on the practices of hypocrisy and exploitation among his people resident in that part of Europe. Here was a sincere young man who talked about the shameless and sheer exploitation of the social benefit system. The people referenced in his poems are so desperately in search of money they care less even about their health. All they see is the monetary benefit! They turn their wives into childbearing-machine. The trick is: The more children they have, the higher the monetary benefit cashed in on these children. They divorced their wives to marry new ones, while the so-called divorced wives still live under the same roof with the said estranged husband so they can get more children! Undoubtedly, these men, and probably the women too, do not bloody-care about these children. All they are interested in is the social benefit accruable from the enterprise, i.e. “profitably gaming” the system at any expense. What a life to live.

I could go on and on, but I choose to spare readers of this endless palava. The list of social benefit crimes, stories of exploitation and other malpractices of many sojourners and residents in this part of the world are endless.

I will round up with a quick return to Brussels. My train eventually arrived in Brussels Nord as scheduled. I moved to the platform and boarded. I was greatly relieved I was leaving Brussels behind, but not the burden to unburden the sadness. I had seen too much sadness for a day. I brought out my laptop, press the swtich-on button, opened a word-document and began jotting down thoughts to tell the world not only what I had seen in the capital of Europe, but by extension what is also obtainable in cities and countries across the EU. This, I believe, is well summed up in the title of this piece: Pestilential Beggary, Pictures of Poverty and Plenty Palava in the European Union.

Caribbean Self, African Selfie by Professor Pius Adesanmi

Prof. Pius Adesanmi dressed with a Baba-Awololwo-styled cap.

Prof. Pius Adesanmi dressed with a Baba-Awololwo-styled cap.

(Keynote lecture delivered at the inauguration of Connections Week of the Caribbean and African Association of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, March 10, 2014)

I bring you warm greetings from Accra, Ghana, where I am currently based. I understand that winter has been particularly brutal this year. You could use some of the warmth I brought from Africa in my hand luggage. I am told by the organizers of this event – to whom I owe immense debts of gratitude for inviting me to deliver this keynote lecture – that “loud and proud” is the theme of your Caribbean-Africa Connections week this year. In other words, the Caribbean and African Association of the University of British Columbia has decided to scream the cultures of Africa and the Caribbean from the rooftops this week. You want to proudly highlight what connects Africa and the Caribbean in the arena of culture – and in defiance of the Atlantic Ocean. You want to inscribe your so-called otherness loudly and proudly on this beautiful campus of UBC. When I thought about your theme on receiving the invitation for this lecture, it evoked a sense of drama. How do you proclaim Caribbean and African connections “loud and proud” without being dramatic? I have therefore taken the unusual route of plotting this lecture as a one act play in five scenes. At any rate, on my way here from Accra, I did get into some drama in London…

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE

Date: March 6, 2014. Location: Terminal Three, London Heathrow airport. Mission: awaiting an Air Canada connecting flight to Ottawa en route Vancouver for this lecture. I was coming from back to back keynote lectures in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Accra, and Lagos. Although I was jetlagged and tired, I already had a draft of this lecture in the bag. Nevertheless, there was something I wasn’t quite satisfied about. I was trying to look at the Caribbean-African thing beyond the routine of memory. Must the ties that bind always be about memory? I wasn’t sure that what I had in the first draft had satisfactorily answered that question. I had seven hours to kill at Heathrow. I decided to shell out sixty pounds to rent a room and shower cubicle for three hours in one of the “capitalist” lounges of the airport. I needed that space and time to continue my reflection on what lies – or what ought to lie – beyond the horizon of memory-making and memory-reliving whenever Africa and the Caribbean actuate a handshake across the Atlantic.

In essence, I did not need anything or anybody to remind me of how memory ties the Caribbean and other parts of the black Diaspora to Africa. I wanted to move conceptually beyond that paradigm. As I moved wearily through the familiar mass of fatigued bodies dragging a cornucopia of hand luggage through the malls of Heathrow, making my way to the F Lounge, I bumped into just the one thing I wanted to avoid: memory. It came in the exact body shape, height, skin tone, facial features, and even dressing style of Professor Ato Quayson. I am sure you all know Professor Quayson? If you don’t know him, you have a very urgent problem that only google can help you resolve.

In the engaging business of theorizing Africa and her diaspora in academe, Professor Quayson has been one of my formidable mentors in the last decade and a half. I had not seen him since the African Literature Association’s meeting in Dallas in 2012. I’d been to his University of Toronto base to deliver lectures on occasion but he’d always been out of town. And there he was before me, like an apparition, in a crowded airport lounge in London. I screamed and grabbed him in a hug that certainly wasn’t a bear hug. Loads of back patting. Deft feet movement and shuffling that you could call some kind of esoteric dance. Strings of jazzed up sentences delivered in a mishmash of English, Pidgin, and West African slang intrusions. These happened in seconds.

In other words, I was performing, right there in the open in London, an unscripted and impromptu reunion ritual which I somehow expected Ato Quayson or any other African brother to connect with and respond to appropriately. “I’m not Ato”, screamed the bemused figure in my arms, struggling to set himself free from my black hug while laughing in bemused acknowledgement of the accompanying semi-dance rituals. Remember, all this was happening within seconds, a succession of quick-paced actions and events. I realized to my utter embarrassment that I had grabbed the wrong man! The guy I grabbed and held in such a warm embrace was not Ato Quayson, just his Siamese look-alike!

I was going to start apologizing profusely when my “victim”, very friendly but obviously relieved to be released from my grip, assured me that no apology was necessary. In fact, he was very intrigued by my enactments of recognition and the effusive ritual of warmth I enacted when I thought he was Ato Quayson. According to him, everything about that instinctive, unplanned, impromptu but ritualized performance was also native to him. He would have done exactly the same thing in my shoes, he reassured me.

“And where are you from?” I asked. “Trinidad”, came his swift response. At this point, ladies and gentlemen, I knew I had to offer the brother a beer. I mean, here was my Nigerian self thinking it was engaging Ato Quayson’s Ghanaian self in ritualized modes of African warmth and connection only for those cultural enactments to be claimed by a Trinidadian also seeing himself, his people, his culture, his story, and his memory in those moves. On my way to an airport lounge to think beyond culture and memory in terms of how best to reconceptualize African and Caribbean modes of engagement, culture and memory beckon, saying, “Ogbeni Pius, we’re not done yet!”

ACT ONE, SCENE TWO

Maybe I should have known that memory and culture wouldn’t lend themselves to the easy glossing over I was going to do at that airport lounge before I received a Trinidadian jolt of reality. After all, another place, another time, memory and culture had served me notice of their power of persistence in any evocation of the linkages between the Caribbean and Africa. That other place is none other than this lovely city of Vancouver in this beautiful Canadian province of British Columbia. That other time was the 1990s when I pursued my doctoral degree right here in this very University.

padesanmi_large-carleton-uBack in those hectic days of doctoral work, some of us needed the occasional escape from the cast of French poststructuralist thinkers who, in the hands of North American academics, had turned postcolonial and postmodernist theory into an obscurantist terror machine. In a good week, your migraine was limited to struggling to blend the impenetrable prose of Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha into a deconstructive paradigm for the novels and cultures of Africa and the Caribbean. In a bad week, you had to add Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray and so many other usual and unusual French suspects to that mix.

To reinforce that overdose of high theory, you were required on occasion to rent a few names from the Frankfurt school of theory. You completed this theoretical cocktail, which left African and Caribbean novels struggling for oxygen, with Antonio Gramsci and a necessary throwback at Karl Marx. In preparing one’s theoretical paradigm for African and Caribbean fiction, one often felt like Getafix the druid preparing the magic potion for Asterix and Obelix. We threw so many names into the pot of that theoretical magic potion. Trust me, ladies and gentlemen, when you have spent a week trying to foist Foucault’s power/knowledge combo on Chinua Achebe and Mariama Ba or attempting a Derridean deconstruction of Edwige Danticat and Patrick Chamoiseau via différance-speak, you needed to unwind desperately. Ah, the good old days of graduate school!

For those of us in the African and Caribbean communities, unwinding twice a week happened ritually in one watering hole: the Anza Club, close to Main and Broadway here in Vancouver. That night club was not just the place where we went to booze and do all the wild and unmentionable things that students do in their riotous twenties, just before other realities of life set in, it was also for us some sort of pilgrimage to a location of culture and memory. The Anza was the only night club in Vancouver at the time dedicated to African and Caribbean music. We went there to swing to reggae, calypso, zouk, soukouss, makossa, and soca. We went there to subject our waists to rhythms of high life, afrobeat, juju, and the kora and balafon offerings of the sub-Saharan African sahel.

Whatever we danced to, the cut was in how we all danced and what we all recognized. Recognition of source and of origins. When the Caribbean students danced, we, their African cousins, would marvel in recognition of rhythms, styles, and movements that took us all the way back to our respective villages in Africa. And when we, Africans, danced, our Caribbean folks remembered. They just remembered. Like the Trinidadian reacting to my reunion rituals at Heathrow, Caribbean students of my day at UBC watched us, Africans, dance at the Anza club and remembered their respective homes in the black Atlantic. “Ah, we have this dance in Saint Lucia!”, you would hear somebody exclaim if I was enacting variations on the “elele kure” shoulder dance of the Okun people in Kogi state, Nigeria.

Whether it’s in the passenger mall of an international airport or on the dance floor of a Vancouver night club, the Africa-Caribbean nexus, spelt out in terms of encounters between continental Africans and their cousins in the Black Atlantic, has spawned imaginaries of the self rooted in memory and culture since the historical moment of separation. If you are from the continent, you frame narratives of source-culturehood around these issues. If you belong in the black diaspora, you weave imaginaries of cultural survivorhood around the same issues. What lived, what survived, and how you produced newness from the old become, for you, the loom of identity-making in the present. But, mostly, you remember in order to re-member.

ACT ONE, SCENE THREE

The literature and discourses of both sides are rich in constructions of the self rooted in the politics and memory of remembering. For the Caribbean self, return narratives are crucial to the architecture of remembering and re-membering. The business of remembering and re-membering sometimes involves, among other gestures of reconnection, symbolic voyages to Africa to visit the sites of memory. Those voyages to the Atlantic slave coast of Africa, those emotional narratives about returnee sons and daughters breaking down in tears in Gorée, Elmina, Cape Coast, and Badagry, are all part of a multilayered ritual of reconnection. For the Caribbean self and other black diasporic selves, the return narrative, especially its 20th century enactments, was one way of trying to answer the query in Countee Cullen’s famous poem, “Heritage”. The poem speaks for itself and we need not remind ourselves more than its first stanza here:

What is Africa to me:

Copper sun or scarlet sea,

Jungle star or jungle track,

Strong bronzed men, or regal black

Women from whose loins I sprang

When the birds of Eden sang?

One three centuries removed

From the scenes his fathers loved,

Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,

What is Africa to me?

Not all return narratives romanticize Africa like Countee Cullen and our friends in the Negritude movement did. Some, like Henry Louis Gates, belong in the dirty linen school of return narratives. They return to Africa to see the faces of the descendants of the greedy ancestors who sold them to slavery. Their problem is not with the white slaver but with my ancestors who sold their ancestors. One model of return narratives romanticizes Africa and demands reparations from the descendants of the white slaver, another criminalizes Africa and demands an apology from me for the sins of my ancestors who sold their ancestors. However, both models meet at the crossroads of meaning. They share a desire to make Africa mean. The question thus arises: what exactly feeds the impulse of these return narratives on the part of the black Diaspora and their modes of actuation? Why were return narratives so crucial to the making of the Caribbean self in the 20th century?

ACT ONE, SCENE FOUR

The answers are myriad and complex but I think we should focus here on one possible reason why the 20th century offered us the return narrative as one of the major routes to identity-making by the Caribbean self. Despite disagreements on modes of engaging the continent as source-culture – were we stolen by white slavers or were we sold by our heartless African cousins? – there can be no denying the fact that, before the mourning after independence set in, the 20th century was the moment of Africa’s heroism and African heroism. It was the century which saw Africa successfully challenge, undermine, and overcome some five hundred years of truth claims by modernity; five hundred years of placing a question mark on the humanity of Africans and black people elsewhere. It was the century of political and cultural nationalism, of decolonization, of the anti-apartheid struggle, of coming into peoplehood, of coming into postcolonial statehood.

Indeed, the 20th century was an extremely auspicious time for black people all over the world to plug into this African spectre of global heroism. Your source-culture was heroic. What is more, the making of this grand narrative of heroism – that is, the challenge to and dismantling of colonialism – was not an isolated enterprise undertaken by continental Africans behind the back of their cousins in the black Diaspora. In fact, the intellectual, cultural, and political bases of these forms of African heroism were mostly born in the Diaspora and devolved from an organic collaboration between Africa’s emergent political, nationalist, and intellectual class and their counterparts from the black Diaspora.

Pan-Africanism and Negritude are two good examples of the collective contributions of continental Africans and the Black Diaspora to the making of Africa’s 20th century anti-imperialist heroism. A great deal of the intellectual energy that later went into African nationalism was honed in London and Paris in collaborations between the nascent African nationalist class and their counterparts from the Caribbean and black America. So formidable and far-reaching were these collaborations and joint efforts that two of the most famous theorizers and chroniclers of Africa’s 20th century heroism were from the black Diaspora. I am thinking here of the Frantz Fanon of The Wretched of the Earth and the Walter Rodney of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

If the pervading sense of having participated in the heroic self-recovery effort of the mother continent was a contributory factor to the flourishing of the return narrative, the principal mode of African heroism in the 20th century greatly enhanced it. The struggle for cultural and political freedom yielded the persona of the nationalist-statesman as a towering African hero. He was that colourful and charismatic character, that brilliant and powerful orator who became a transcendental African moral and ethical figure (before tragically becoming other unmentionable things in a good number of cases). The magic of this figure made association with Africa as home, memory, and source-culture very appealing to the continent’s sons and daughters in the Diaspora.

Think of the magnetic charisma of Kwame Nkrumah and how many Diasporic Africans made their first pilgrimage to Ghana largely or partly because of him – the Ghanaian trajectory of W.E.B du Bois can hardly be discussed outside of the politics, appeal, and charisma of Kwame Nkrumah. Think of the beehive of black diaspora activism that was the Conakry of Sekou Toure. Stokely Carmichael and Harry Belafonte stoked the fires of black cultural and musical internationalism with Mariam Makeba and Hugh Masekela when they were all in Conakry. Think of Leopold Sedar Senghor, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Patrice Lumumba and so many others in their league whose leadership and praxis of heroism made Africa such an appealing proposition to her children in the Diaspora in the 20th century.

This model of African heroism, I believe, found its culmination in the praxis and brand that was Madiba Nelson Mandela. This global icon made return narratives very compelling and irresistible for the black Diasporic self. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t tell me that you do not know that Oprah Winfrey’s emergency discovery of her Zulu ancestry back in 2006 had a great deal to do with the Mandela magic and appeal. Ms. Winfrey was not alone. We need not run through the list of African American celebrities who discovered their South African ancestry because of Nelson Mandela.

If you look at things closely, the discovery of African ancestry tended to move to wherever the star of a great, transcendental African nationalist hero and statesman was shining. All roads of ancestry discovery once led to Accra before the fall of Kwame Nkrumah; then the roads made a detour and led to Conakry before Sekou Toure became what he became; then the roads migrated to South Africa because of Madiba. If, tomorrow, Nigeria gets her act together and produces a towering global leader of impeccable ethical stock, I wager that many Diasporans will discover their Yoruba, Igbo, or Hausa-Fulani ancestry.

ACT ONE, SCENE FIVE

The passing of Madiba Nelson Mandela to a glorious African ancestorhood has a special significance for our purposes here today. Mandela’s death effectively signals the end of the era of the modes of personal, transcendental nationalist heroism and statesmanship which his generation had held out to Africa and the black Diasporic world. His exit effectively closes the era of those who gave Africa and the black world such affirmative praxes as “African personality”, “black pride”, cultural nationalism, and political nationalism. These were the people who were so instrumental in providing the justification for the Caribbean self to seek psychic and cultural anchorage in a matricial idea of 20th century African heroism. When Countee Cullen and 20th Century black Diasporans asked, “what is Africa to me?”, Africa’s nationalists and statesmen and women provided answers in their words and actions, especially during the era of the anti-colonial struggle. You saw Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere and you had a pretty good idea of what Africa was to you.

But Mandela’s death also came on the cusp of a very significant moment for Africa and the rest of the world. Mandela made his exit at a time when what has been described as “the selfie generation” was taking over the commanding heights of global culture through the formidable power of social media. Charles Blow of the New York Times has appropriately defined the selfie generation as folks between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three. In other words, the selfie generation comprises young people. I am assuming that the members of the Caribbean and African Association of the University of British Columbia who invited me here to deliver this lecture today are all generation selfie. Ladies and gentlemen, is this true? Ok, Mr. Blow asserts, also correctly, that one defining characteristic of the selfie generation is that you are the first generation that has not had to adapt to the internet, to social media and allied technologies. In essence, you are citizens of the internet by birth. You are the original owners of what I suggest we call ‘appsland.’

If you are tempted to think that Mr. Blow is stretching things a bit by saying that members of the selfie generation are the only authentic natives of the internet who have not had to adapt to anything, just think of what happens to you when you are not a member of that generation and you try to do things like them without first learning the rules of engagement. Let’s say your name is Barack Obama. You go and take a selfie with the beautiful Prime Minister of a European country and you get into a load of trouble.

But taking selfies is not all they do in the selfie generation. Members of the generation are driving global culture and agendas in significant new ways. They are asking questions and raising issues. With them, the revolution is televised live in your living room. You saw them in Tunisia, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab world. You saw them in Turkey and Brazil. You saw them all over the streets of America in the Occupy Movement. You saw them live in Ukraine during the orange revolution and more recently. I live in Ottawa. I see them carrying placards in front of Parliament all the time. I saw them in my own country in Occupy Nigeria. One foolish aide of the Nigerian President who has tragically fallen into the wrong column of history even described them as “the collective children of anger.” All over the world, the selfie generation is the new cool.

I think it is unfortunate that the rise of this generation coincides with the collapse of that particular mode heroism that is tied to the praxis of genuine nationalists and statesmen and women in Africa. What is Africa to me? For the Caribbean self in the 20th century, that question was answered significantly by the quality of leadership that the continent had to offer especially in the context of political nationalism and the struggle for freedom. If the selfie generation in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the black Diaspora asked the same question today – what is Africa to me? – what sort of answer would they get? Just what is Africa offering them?

This is a question that has detained me since I delivered the keynote lecture at the International Leadership Platform Conference of the University of Johannesburg and the Africa Institute of South Africa a few weeks ago. Among the many issues raised by the brilliant and generous discussant of my lecture, Professor Peter Vale of the University of Johannesburg, was the question of leadership and role modelship for the youth of Africa after the demise of the continent’s nationalist and statesmen and women generation symbolized by the passing of Mandela. “Where are the leaders and role models that Africa is offering these young people?”, Professor Vale had queried. We kept citing dead African statesmen and women…

As a teacher in the classrooms of North America, I encounter variations on this question all the time from Nigerian students of the selfie generation. These are undergraduate kids born in Canada or the United States. They’ve never been home. When they pronounce their Yoruba or Igbo or Ijaw or Edo names, those names end up looking like mangled victims of a terrorist attack. They are Nigerian kids of the new Diaspora. And they stop you after class and ask: “Professor, tell me, why should I have a stake in Nigeria? Why should I visit Nigeria? What’s in Nigeria for me?” There are selfie generation kids from the fifty-three other countries in Africa torturing their Professors in Canada and the United States with such questions. There are African American and Caribbean kids of the selfie generation asking these questions. Whether they are Africa kids of the old or new Black Diaspora, the selfie generation is not asking – what is Africa to me? – for that is so old school, so Countee Cullen and his generation. Rather, these kids are now asking: what’s in Africa for me?

In essence, the selfie generation of the old and the new African Diaspora asks questions that cannot be answered easily. The nationalist, the statesman, the orator, the charismatic leader, the philosopher king – all that ended with Nelson Mandela. Today, the leadership landscape in Africa is so abysmal that you dare not tell the selfie generation to look up to the current crop of heads of state and heads of government across Africa as credible role models and heroes. To the Caribbean and black Diaspora self, Africa is currently offering a selfie of abysmal, uninspiring, and disgraceful leadership.

You only need to look at the current leadership of the two major states in Africa – Nigeria and South Africa – to appreciate the full extent of the tragedy. In South Africa, the current President is a certified clown, a huge joke. In Nigeria, aides of the current President consider an extraordinary achievement the rare moments in which he successfully places one incoherent sentence after another incoherent sentence in scripted or unscripted speeches. He is a dour, uninspiring, and corruption-friendly man.

Elsewhere, the news is not any better. Omar Bashir of Sudan and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya are customers of the International Court of Justice; Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon are scions of Presidents for life who may continue that continental tradition; Yayi Boni of Benin and Alassane Ouattara of Cote-d’Ivoire are offsprings of the financial philosophy of Bretton Woods. And we have not even mentioned the Paul Biyas, the Teodoro Obiangs, and the Blaise Compaores of Africa. There is just no leadership worthy of our attention at the moment in Africa. Among the current crop of African Heads of State, I’m afraid there are no transcendental statesmen and role models worthy of recommendation to the youth of Africa and the black Diaspora as worthy role models. Luckily, there are stateswomen in the ranks but their inspirational stories are the rare exception and not the rule.

In essence, in the absence of the Mandelas, Nkrumahs, Senghors, and Nyereres of this world, the selfie generation in Africa and the black diaspora is the first generation to stand in real danger of having to accept Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, and even George Zimmerman as heroes as Africa fails to offer them credible heroes and genuine role models in the public sphere. The selfie generation is growing up in a celebrity culture powered by American TV. Yesterday, as I prepared to fly here from Ottawa, George Zimmerman was on CNN signing autographs at a gun show somewhere in America. Occasionally, Africa has the good fortune of being able to ward off the danger posed to the selfie generation of Africa and the Caribbean by the globalized reckless celebrity culture of America. Africa tells those kids: don’t look at George Zimmerman, look at Lupita Nyong’o. But, like the female Presidents, these luminous examples don’t come in nearly enough numbers.

What’s in Africa for me? Perhaps the search for an answer is what has led Africans of the new Diaspora in the selfie generation (born in Europe and North America post-1980s) to Afropolitanism, the new cultural fad on the block. This is not the place for me to go into the debate on Afropolitanism. Google it. Beyond Achille Mbembe’s philosophic-discursive take on Afropolitanism, pay attention to what Taiye Selasie and her followers say it is. Pay attention to why Binyavanga Wainaina says he isn’t an Afropolitan. That is your google assignment.

What is of interest to me here is that Afropolitanism seems to be the last refuge of a new African Diasporan selfie generation in search of ways to log on to a continent that is offering very sparse cultural wifi access in terms of credible role models in the public sphere. But at least they’ve got Afropolitanism, those selfies of the new African Diaspora. What about the kids of the old Diaspora in black America and the Caribbean who cannot describe themselves as Afropolitans and who do not belong in the generation of those going to weep at doors of no return in Cape Coast, Goree, and Badagry? What’s in Africa for them?

Perhaps they and their Afropolitan peers ought to look in the direction of the collective cultural heroism of their peers in Africa. Out of nothing, their peers in Africa invented and developed Nollywood into the world’s second largest movie industry. Nollywood to a great extent has broken the monopoly of Western modes of representing Africa for the black diaspora. And out of Ghana, Africa and the black Diaspora is swaying to the rhythm of Azonto. Transcendental nationalism heroism and statesmanship of the Mandela type may be dead in Africa, Nollywood and Azonto, with all their warts, are powerful selfies of cultural heroism that Africa is offering the world as a window into the regenerative power of what Kwame Nkrumah once famously referred to as “the African genius”. The genius of the selfie generation is also taking over the African street and making very loud statements. I know that the Anza nightclub is still open in Vancouver. I know that it is still the place where Africa goes to meet the Caribbean on the dance floor twice a week. Perhaps, after listening to this lecture, some of you are going to make your way there this weekend to sway your hips to Azonto. I expect to see your selfies on Instagram!

I thank you for your time.

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind: President Goodluck Jonathan’s Politics of No-Good-Content

Tanimomo Oluwaseun

Writing your first piece for a blog, first as a guest-writer, then with the hope of a longer writing relationship is not as easy as it seems; there is first that saying about a first impression lasting longer. Secondly, there comes a nagging question from within: Can I really write? It is even more difficult when the last piece you wrote was an academic paper. And it is most difficult when you are supposed to ‘hand in’ your piece on a Friday and on Thursday night you still are not sure of what to write about. Yet, I have to write. I see it as a great privilege to be called upon to write; especially when it concerns issues of our common interest, about our country’s journey to nationhood. It is one call that cannot be rejected. It is a call, which cannot be left unattended.

The next question is: So how do I start? Do I start the Nigerian way of doing ‘ijuba’ (pay homage) to the host or plunge right into the topic?

I choose the latter.

Late 2013 was a season of letters in Nigeria; an ex-president fired the first salvo, while Nigerians were busy packing the debris of the fired salvo, a daughter to the ex-president stirred the waters and did what many Nigerians won’t do – she accused her father openly of many atrocities. Not to be out-done in the letter-war, the incumbent president, actually, I meant presidential aides, sent a seemingly benign letter that was pregnant with meaning to the ex-president who started it all. Well the content of the president’s letter has stayed with me since then. Not actually the whole content of the letter but a particular paragraph in which the president claimed to be the first president from a minority group.

Here it is: ‘While, by the Grace of God Almighty, I am the first president from a minority group, I am never unmindful of the fact that I was elected leader of the whole of Nigeria and I have always acted in the best interest of all Nigerians.’

Acting in the best interest of the country is left for posterity to judge but from what we know, the above claim is not absolutely true.

I believe the President routinely and deliberately reminds us of his minority status. Hence, when he is criticised for his inefficiency in what he was elected to do, his foot soldiers are always quick to respond: It is because he is from a minority group!

The President seems to enjoy the fact that he has a good excuse not to do well at what he was elected to do. So important is the President’s minority presidency that in the speech he made during the centenary celebration, he said: “Perhaps one of the most amazing stories of our political evolution in the last hundred years is that an ordinary child of ordinary parentage from a minority group has risen to occupy the highest office in our country”.

In actual fact, the president is not the only “ordinary child of ordinary parentage from a minority group (that) has risen to occupy the highest office in our country”. His is not the singular story of ordinariness that eventually made it to the highest office of their occupation in the country. In fact he is also not the only ordinary child of a minority parentage that has risen to occupy the highest office in the country. On national and political level, there is also General Yakubu Gowon, an Angas, Northern minority Head of State.

It seems that at the end of the president’s tenure, one of his greatest achievements will be that he was a minority, no-shoes president who became the president of the most populous black country in the world. When in actual fact the celebration of his achievement as the first elected minority president should not have gone beyond his first days in office. By now, we should be celebrating months of uninterrupted power supply, working refineries, a corruption-free government, good universities that are among the best in the world, good healthcare provision and a whole lot more.

On a final note, I wish the president would take this piece of advice: Please face your work! Stop the the play of politics of ad based on ethnic divide! Get your hands on the plough and do some real good job!

Then there will be better achievements to celebrate and they, like the belly of an overdue pregnant woman, naturally will speak for themselves and invariably for the president.

Mr. Tanimomo is student and resident in Germany. He is ahjotnaija guest-blogger. Readers will enjoy at intervals “Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind” like this one on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Suspended CBN Governor Long Response to Indictments of Financial Irresponsibilities

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), Suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor

Apparently, in a bid to clear the air over the politically motivated and questionable indictments upon which SLS suspension was founded and for the Nigerian people to make informed judgement/conclusions on the on-going controversies, which surround his suspension, SLS released the following long and detailed press statement.

Full Press Statement:

I am compelled to make this public statement to address the various allegations levied against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and cited as the reasons for my suspension from office as the Governor of the CBN on the 19th of February 2014.

As a matter of record, the allegations were made in the following documents:

i. Briefing Note of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) dated 7th June 2013, Ref: PRES/188/T&I/89 to His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan [the Briefing Note];

 ii. The Letter of Suspension dated 19th February 2014, which I received from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; and

iii. The petition dated 9th February 2014 by Mr. Erastus Akingbola.

However, before I go into the above issues, let me reiterate for the records, the achievements of the CBN during my tenure as the Governor:

The Record

Firstly, let me state that I have been extremely fortunate to have had a solid and supportive team led by the Deputy Governors and supported by the Departmental Directors, as well as thousands of hardworking and dedicated staff who must be given the credit for all that the CBN has achieved. I would also like to acknowledge for the record, the foundation laid by my predecessor, Professor Charles ChukwumaSoludo, in a number of areas. The CBN Act, 2007, which he championed, established the CBN as a truly autonomous entity of the Federation, and made it possible for us to take the difficult decisions necessary for restoring and maintaining macroeconomic stability. The FSS 2020 and PSV 2020 documents provided the principal strategic roadmaps that led to many of the innovations in payment systems, non-interest banking, financial inclusion, the Asset Management Corporation, IFRS, Risk-based Supervision, and the like.

Indeed, it will be impossible for me to review almost five years of revolutionary change made possible by the work of thousands of employees in the CBN in collaboration with other Regulators, Banks and Other Financial Institutions and Government Ministries in this press statement. However, I will mention a few of the key highlights.

On monetary policy, the Bank has improved the institutional framework for policy-making. A properly constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) with a clear mandate for maintaining stability has been established. The MPC has been supported by improvements in research, data and forecasting capacity, and we have also paid attention to clear communication of our objectives to the market. As a result, headline inflation has remained below 10 per cent since January 2013, from a peak of 15.1 percent and 13.9 percent in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Core inflation declined from 11.2 per cent in December 2009 to 7.9 percent in December 2013, while food inflation maintained a downward trend from 15.5 percent in December 2009 to 9.3 percent in December 2013. In addition to the conventional liquidity management products, the Bank approved financial products to manage liquidity in non-interest financial institutions. The CBN also promoted the formation of the financial Markets Dealers Quotations Over–the-Counter (FQDM OTC) Plc as a self-regulatory OTC operator.

In the area of safeguarding the value of the local currency and maintaining stability in the foreign exchange market for the overall sustenance of macroeconomic stability and growth, the CBN over the period has successfully maintained a stable exchange rate regime and a robust external reserve position conducive to sustainable growth and development.

On the Banking System, I was appointed Governor in the middle of a global financial crisis when the Nigerian banking system was on the verge of collapse. The Bank moved swiftly to remove the managing directors and executive directors of the banks where major corporate governance failures were discovered, provided liquidity support, pioneered the setting up of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to purchase non-performing loans, recapitalize the banks and pilot a process that led to mergers and acquisitions, as well as recapitalization of all the weak and failing banks. As a result, all financial soundness indicators – Capital Adequacy, Asset Quality, Liquidity and Profitability ratios – were normalized.

As a result of the work by the Bank, not a single depositor or creditor lost money in any Nigerian bank during or after the financial crisis.

In addition to the quantitative measures, we broke up universal banks and encouraged the setting up of specialized banks (including the first Non – interest Bank in the Country’s history), pushed for the adoption of IFRS and Basel 3, enhanced risk-based supervision, issued Competency Guidelines for the staff in the banking industry, established a Consumer Protection Department and developed a Financial Inclusion Strategy and Roadmap, among others for the CBN.

The Bank implemented policies aimed at reducing the excessive use of cash in the system to ensure safety, improve efficiency and curb money laundering. The transformation of NIBSS, the insistence on interoperability of channels, encouragement of electronic banking, the licensing of Mobile Money Operators, the Agent Banking and tiered-KYC frameworks have all led to rapid growth in volume and value of non-cash transaction and enhanced financial inclusion.

The Bank has played its leadership role in ensuring industry compliance with environmental sustainability and governance standards, including a strong focus on women and the handicapped.

The CBN in the last five years has taken a leading role in providing long-term low-cost funding to priority sectors of the Nigerian economy in a bid to help in bringing to reality the Transformation Agenda of the government of your Excellency. We have provided these funds at single-digit interest rates to micro, small and medium enterprises, as well as to companies operating in the power, aviation, and agricultural sectors of the economy, and also to large industrial enterprises with potential for structural transformation.

The Bank has invested in human capital, improved staff welfare and attracted and retained specialized skills in the areas of Banking Supervision, Information Technology, Shared Services and Risk Management.

On Financial Performance, the Bank has in the last five years kept a lid on overheads and cost of currency management. As a result, the Bank has continued to produce sterling results and contributed substantially to the Federal Budget. In the five years, 2009 – 2013, the Bank contributed N376 billion to the Federal Budget as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).Based on 2012 financials alone, we paid N80 billion to the Ministry of Finance. On the basis of the 2013 results and at the request of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME), we paid N159 billion to the Ministry of Finance in February this year; the same month the audited accounts of the CBN were approved by the Committee of Governors (COG). Indeed, due to the precarious position of Government finances, the CBN in February 2014, upon the request of the CME, gave the Ministry a further ‘Advance IGR’ of N70 billion in anticipation of 2014 profits.

May I add that, in 2008, the year before my appointment, the CBN contributed N8 billion to the Federation Account. Although the Bank is not a profit-centre, in the first four years of my term, the Bank alone contributed 75 percent of the total IGR paid by MDAs leading to commendation by the House Committee on Finance at several Public Hearings.

Recognitions

As a result of these achievements of my colleagues and staff, we received numerous recognitions consistently throughout my tenure from highly-regarded publications. These awards are based on a competitive process where analysts and economists rank Central Bank Governors across regions and the globe.

In 2010, The Banker Magazine, a publication of Financial Times in London, named me Best Central Bank Governor in the World and Best in Africa. At the Annual World Bank/IMF Meetings, Emerging Markets, a publication of Euromoney Institutional Investor named me Best Central Bank Governor in Sub-Saharan Africa for 2009, 2010 and 2012. The African Banker Magazine named me Best Central Bank Governor in Africa, 2012. This is in addition to being named Forbes Africa Person of the year 2011 and listed by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, 2011.

I have always regarded these honours not as personal accolades, but as a tribute to our nation and the committed and resourceful women and men of CBN.

Response to the allegations in relation to my suspension

On Wednesday 10th March 2014, I submitted a Memorandum to His Excellency, Mr President, with supporting documentation, effectively addressing all the allegations contained in the FRCN Briefing Note, the Letter of Suspension and the Akingbola Petition.

Having submitted my response to the President, I am further compelled, following the recent press briefing and comments by the Senior Special Adviserto the President on Media, as well as numerous other references to the allegations in both local, international and online media, to put to the public my responses, in the interest of transparency, accountability and my responsibility to the Nigerian people.Let me also state that I saw the FRCN “Briefing Note” for the first time when it was attached to the suspension letter. At no time was this report sent to the CBN either by the President or the FRCN for comments or explanations. As for the Akingbola petition, it is a rehash of baseless allegations he has been making since 2010 which apparently he must have been asked to reproduce on February 9, ten days before the suspension. It is indeed strange that the CBN Governor can be suspended based on allegations written by a man who ran his bank into the ground and against whom judgement has been obtained in a London court, and who furthermore is facing criminal prosecution at home for offences including criminal Theft.

A careful examination of the allegations contained in the FRCN Briefing Note to Mr President, will show that each of the allegations could easily have been resolved by a simple request for clarification or more careful review. There is no doubt that if the CBN had received the Briefing Note, which was prepared in June 2013, all the misconceptions, misrepresentations and erroneous inferences contained therein would have been cleared.

 I am publishing these responses to enable the general public see that each and every allegation levelled against the CBN under my leadership is false and unfounded, and that many of the allegations were malicious and fabricated, having been designed to mislead the President into believing that the Management of the Central Bank was guilty of misconduct and recklessness.

Having provided detailed explanations, backed by verifiable documents, it is my sincere wish that His Excellency, Mr President, in line with his adherence to fairness and justice, will apply the same rationale and rigour to other agencies of the Federal Government that have had serious allegations and queries levied against them, and prevail upon them to provide responses and explanations with the same level of clarity and transparency.

In closing, I would like to place on record the dogged professionalism and patriotism of the staff of the CBN. They have, over the years, conducted themselves very creditably, and discharged their duties with the highest integrity.

Memorandum Responding to THE FRCN ALLEGATIONS

1. Corporate Governance

 Briefing Note Allegation 1:that there is weak corporate governance at the CBN on account of the fact that the office of the Governor is fused with that of the Chairman of CBN’s Board of Directors.

Response:

i.This allegation ignores the fact that global best practice is that the Governor of the central bank is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the central bank. See Annexure A, which shows the composition of the Board of Directors of central banks in over 55 different countries.

2. Alleged Fraudulent Activities

Payments to NSPMP

Briefing Note Allegation 2:that the CBN’s breakdown of “Currency Issue Expenses” for 2011 and 2012 indicated that it paid the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc(NSPMP) N38.233 Billion in 2011 for printing of banknotes, whereas the entire turnover of NSPMP was N 29.370 Billion.

Response:

i. The expense item of N38.233 Billion to NSPMPwas made up as follows:

a. N28.738Billion payment to NSPMP in 2011;

b. N6.587Billion accrued liability in 2011 but paid in 2012 when deliveries were received; and

c. N2.829Billion audit adjustment journal entry into the account at the end of 2011 in respect of prepayments to NSPMP.

ii. See Annexure Bfor the evidence of payment to the NSPMP. Evidently, the difference between the numbers in the financial statements of CBN and NSPMP is a simple reflection of timing differences between recognition of expenses by the CBN and income recognition by the NSPMP, with both entities applying conservative accounting policies.

3. Charter Fees

Briefing Note Allegation 3: That the CBN made fictitious payments to (a) Emirate Airlines: N0.511 Billion which allegedly does not fly local charter in Nigeria; (b) Wing Airline: N0.425 Billion which allegedly is not registered with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA); and (c) Associated Airline: N1.025 Billion which allegedly did not have a turnover of up to a billion naira in 2011.

Response:

i. The CBNneither engaged, paid nor claimed to have paid Emirates Airlines. Rather, the CBN engaged andentered intoan Air Charter Services Agreementwith Emirate Touch Aviation ServicesLimited, which is a local Nigerian charter service company.A simple enquiry by FRCN would have clarified and avoided this misrepresentation.

ii. With respect to Wings Aviation Limited,the CBN contracted Wings Aviation Limited,which changedits name to Jedidiah Air Limited on 21August 2009 but only notified the CBN of the change on 28 February 2012.Please, see Annexure C for the letter from Jedidiah Air Limited notifying the CBN of the change of name.Here also, a simple enquiry by FRCN would have made this clear.

iii. With respect to Associated Air Limited,the CBN did in fact pay a total of N1.025 Billion to Associated Airline Limited.See Annexure D for the schedule of payments made to Associated Airline Limited.It is worth stating that the CBN is not responsible for how the company reports its turnover.

4. Deposit for Shares in Bank of Industry (BoI)

Briefing Note Allegation 4: that the CBN is yet to receive the share certificate for investments made in the Bank of Industry (BoI) since September 2007 and that the leadership of the CBN was not worried about the delay.

Response:

i. On 20 August 2009, shortly after I assumed office, I directed that a reconciliation exercise be carried out by the CBN on all its investments in parastatals and companies. Thereafter, the CBN wrote various letters to the Bank of Industry requesting for its share certificates. See AnnexureE for the letters from the CBN requesting for the certificate.

ii. On 20 September 2009, the BoI wrote to the CBN explaining that the delay in the issuance of the share certificates was as a result of the BoI seeking a concession on the payment of stamp duty and other statutory fees from the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with respect to the investment by the CBN and the FMF. See Annexure F for the letter from the BoI.Also find attached the letter dated 21 February 2013 forwarding the Share Certificate asAnnexure G as well as the certificate for the Debenture as Annexure H.

iii. It is evident that as at the time theFRCN Briefing Note was written, the share certificate and debenture certificate were already in the possession of the CBN. A simple check by the FRCN would have answered the query.

5. Currency Issue Expenses

Briefing Note Allegation 5:that the expenses made by the CBN on account of currency issues and sundry currency charges for the years 2011 and 2012 were identical and therefore difficult to understand.

Response:

i. It is incorrect to say that the expenses in 2011 and 2012 were identical. The sundry currency charges amounted to N1.68 Billion in 2011 and N1.87 Billion in 2012. This expense related to amounts paid to Travelex under an agreement to import foreign exchange for licensed BDCs. On the other hand, Currency Issue Expenses totalled N1.15 Billion in 2011 and N1.28 Billion in 2012, relating to expenses borne by the different branches and currency centres of the CBN in the movement and handling of cash.

6. Facilities Management

Briefing Note Allegation 6: that the CBN’s leadership uses this head of expense (Facilities Management) to capture what ordinarily should have been accounted for as their benefits-in-kind for tax purposes. It also alleges that this head of expense is used for ‘fraudulent activities’ based on the inclusion of items such as “Profit from sale of Diesel”.

Response:

i. The CBN outsources the management and maintenance of its landed properties across the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT. This involves three service areas: engineering services, building services and environmental services. These are operational costs relating principally to head offices, branches, currency centres and training institutes.

ii. On the specific allegation of ‘fraudulent activities’, based on profits from the sale of diesel,it should be noted that the CBN’s Facilities Management Agreements clearly include the supply of diesel for the operation of generators to power CBN offices in 51 locations across the 36 States and the FCT. The Diesel is paid for at pump price, while overhead and profit at 10% is paid to the service providers. This overhead and profit is presumably what the FRCN erroneously regarded as “profits from the sale of diesel”. These profits do not go to the CBN but to the service providers, which is why they are an “expense item”. The CBN does not operate in any sector of the petroleum industry.

7. Fixed Assets Clearing Account

Briefing Note Allegation 7:that the expenses under the Fixed Assets Clearing Account comprise properties acquired by the CBN without any expectation to derive future economic benefits and are written off by the CBN on a yearly basis.

Response:

i. Fixed Assets Clearing Account is used by the CBN to record the procurement of fixed assets, physical items and projects-related expenditure for the CBN, using the IT application Oracle ERP. However, some items, which do not qualify as fixed assets under the capitalisation policy of the CBN, are sometimes posted into this account.

ii. The transactions are periodically reviewed for the purpose of capitalizing those which qualify under the Capitalization Policy and posting such to the respective Fixed Asset Account and Fixed Asset Register with tag numbers. All other assets which do not qualify are expensed through income and expenditure accounts at the end of the year.

8. Operation of Foreign Bank Accounts

Briefing Note Allegation 8: that foreign bank accounts that were closed down were still operational in the General Ledger for over six months after the accounts had been confirmed closed by the offshore banks.

Response:

i. The balances on these accounts simply reflected the fact that the process of the transfer of gains and losses on them had not been concluded, hence their existence in the General Ledger. The process of closing the accounts has since been concluded and the journals evidencing closure are available in the CBN.

9. Unreconciled Real Time Gross Settlement Clearing Account

Briefing Note Allegation 9:that the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) Account had longstanding unreconciled items which could not be substantiated.

Response:

i. These items resulted fromepileptic operations of the RTGS system due to frequent system downtime, which in turn resulted in failure to seamlessly effect funds transfer. These items have since been reconciled and we have put in place an upgraded and more robust RTGS system, which would minimise reoccurrence.

10. Missing Stockpiles of Foreign Currency

Briefing Note Allegation 10:that the external audit revealed debit/credit balances of sundry foreign currencies without the physical stock of foreign currencies at the CBN Head Office.

Response:

i. Generally, losses or gains may arise out of the account balances, which in turn, may be occasioned by exchange rate differentials. In either event, once crystalized, the net position is then posted to the Foreign Assets Revaluation Account. As such, as at 20 February 2014, there was no physical stock of currency missing at the CBN.

11. Alleged Wastefulness

Briefing Note Allegation 11:that the CBN has been wasteful in its expenditure incurred in the course of 2012.

Response:

i. This allegation is clearly at variance with the reality of the financial performance of the CBN under my leadership. For example, in the year 2008, just before I took over office at the CBN, the contribution of the CBN to the Federation Account was N8Billion. Based on the 2012 annual accounts, our contribution rose tenfoldto N80Billion,while in 2013, our contribution, based on the audited accounts, was N159Billion.

ii. It is noteworthy that inthe 5 yearsof my tenure as CBN Governor (2009 – 2013), the CBN has contributed N376Billion to the Federal Budget as IGR (Internally-Generated Revenue). Indeed in 2012, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance publicly commended the CBN for being the highest contributor of revenues to the FGN among MDAs – accounting for 75% of the total IGR contributed by MDAs between 2009 and 2012. The CBN has been able to achieve this through prudent management of costs, including currency expenses and overheads. For example, we brought down currency expenses from N50.8 Billion in 2009 to N29.08 Billion in 2012.

iii. It is worthy noting that the Ministry of Finance has already receivedits IGR from the CBN in full, based on our 2013 accounts and the Ministry even requested and received an advance of N70Billion in anticipation of surplus that is yet to be earned for 2014. With this level of prudent financial performance, it is puzzling to imagine the basis for the levied allegation of “Wastefulness”. It must be underscored that central banks all over the world are not considered as profit centres. The primary task of the CBN is the attainment of price stability rather than revenue generation. However, the CBN under my leadership has strived to deliver on its key mandate, while also maximising revenues for government.

12. Promotional Activities

Briefing Note Allegation 12:that the sums expended on promotional efforts of the CBN in 2012 were too high.

Response:

i. The allegations do not suggest that proper procedure was not complied with in making the referenced expenditure. The Board of the CBN approved all the promotional expenses.

ii. In the year under review, 2012, the CBN initiated several reforms and policies in the execution of its statutory mandate of promoting a sound financial system in Nigeria. Some of these policies included:

iii. the introduction of the Cashless Lagos Initiative and mobile banking;

iv. thePower and Aviation Intervention Fund (PAIF) campaign, for which the FG took credit. The PAIF campaign helped to stimulate growth in the power sector and raise investor confidence generally;

v. the National Microfinance Development Strategy; and

vi. theNigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), which supported the FG’s renewed focus on the development of agriculture as a major income earner for the country.

vii. Essentially, what are characterized as ‘promotional’ were actually necessary education, enlightenment and awareness campaigns and conferences on initiatives which were, and remain,essential to economic growth, expansion of financial inclusion and the achievement of the policy objectives of the CBN and the FG.

13. Training &Travel Expenses

Briefing Note Allegation 3: that CBN’s expenses in relation to training and travel went up from N7.65 Billion to N9.24 Billion.

Response:

i. In 2012, the Board of the CBN took the strategic decision to invest in the development and training of CBN staff across all departments. We trained our staff in the most prudent manner possible and this led to the outstanding achievements recorded by the CBN during my tenure. We had to send CBN staff to international finance and regulatory institutions for training; and overseas training comes at a steep cost.

ii. Furthermore, in 2012, to match the increased need for bank supervision, CBN staff strength was increased. Thisfurther necessitated orientation and other training programmes to bring the new entrants up to speed with the CBN policies and practices.

14. Expenses on ATM Offsite Policy Change

Briefing Note Allegation 14:that expenses on the ATM offsite policy change came to N1.045 Billion.

Response:

i. Prior to my appointment as the CBN Governor, the CBN had initiated a policy of increasing accessibility to financial services through the use of ATMs. This was geared towards ensuring financial inclusion for all Nigerians. To achieve this, the CBN licensed independent ATM deployers (IADs).

ii. However, it soon became apparent that these IADs had neither the capital nor the capacity to roll out ATMs and manage them at a rate consistent with our cashless Nigeria ambitions, and that a roll-out on the scale envisaged would require allowing banks to deploy ATMs outside their branches. As a result of this change in policy, the IADs incurred losses due to prior investments made based on the previous policy.

iii. It was therefore in the interest of equity and fairness that the CBN agreed to negotiate some compensation payable to the IADs after verification of claims of the IADs by the CBN. The verification process resulted in the CBN paying only about 40% of the original claims of the IADs.

iv. The implementation of the policy of increasing accessibility to financial serviceshas been very successful with immense benefits to the country. It has led to an increase in ATM penetration and efficiency of the payment system along with all other benefits associated with this channel.

15. Expenses on Non-Interest Banking

Briefing Note Allegation 15: that the expenses on Non-Interest Banking went up from N0.977 Billion in 2011 to N1.359 Billion in 2012 and speculation was made as to whether this had any relationship with the CBN’s investment in the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILMC).

Response:

i. For the record, this expense item is not connected with the investment of the CBN in the IILMC. As such, there is no basis to make such an assumption. Rather, the item relates partially to the CBN’s specialised and non-interest banking policies and includes other expenses of the Financial Policy and Regulation Department such as (a) consolidated supervision; and (b) Consultancy fees for the adoption of IFRS & Basel II/III.

16. Expenses on Private Guards and Policemen

Briefing Note Allegation 16:that the CBN’s expenses on Private Guards and Lunch for Policemen went up from N0.919 Billion in 2011 to N1.257Billion in 2012.

Response:

i. In 2007 (before my tenure), the CBN adopted a policy to outsource non-core functions, including security services. This decision enabled the Bank to focus on its statutory mandate and to reduce its overheads. Accordingly, the CBN retained the services of about thirteen (13) private security companies to provide access control and security check services. In 2012, the CBN budgeted N600 Million for security services but spent N582.2 Million on private guards. See AnnexureI (A-B) for the breakdown of the costs incurred in this regard.

ii. To complement the efforts of private guards, the CBN also requested the services of security agencies, in light of the increased security challenges, especially the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group. These security personnel were engaged on a daily basis; and were attached to (x) senior CBN officials; (y) special assignments such as security coverage for currency movements; (z) static guard duties at the bank’s premises nationwide, and other sundry engagements. About 2,406 Policemen are currently deployed on a daily basis to various branches and other locations of the CBN. These security personnel were paid a daily lunch and transport allowances totalling N675.02 Million in the year under review.

17. Project Eagles

The Briefing Note Allegation 17: that the expenses of the CBN on Project Eagles went up from N63 Million in 2011 to N606 Million in 2012.

Response:

i. Under Project Eagles, the CBN caters for all expenses incurred in the course of an internal restructuring of the CBN on the understanding that central banking, by global standards and best practice measures, is an ever-evolving enterprise, with constantly changing requirements and frameworks that require adaptation.

ii. In 2012, the expenses on Project Eagles included the following internal restructuring initiatives: Strategy Execution Framework Project, Transformation of the Procurement and Support Services Department, Transformation of the Finance Department and the NIPOST PPP Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication for the purpose of using NIPOST locations as outlets for our Financial Inclusion Strategy.

iii. Project Eagles was carefully designed, well budgeted for and wasapproved by the Board. The objectives are being achieved in light of the improved efficiency of the CBN.

18. Newspapers, Books &Periodicals

Briefing Note Allegation 18: that the expenses of the CBN on newspapers, books and periodicals (excluding CBN’s publications) went up from N1.670Billion in 2011 to N1.678Billion in 2012.

Response:

i. The CBN’s peculiar status as a regulator underscores the need for its staff to be informed as to every development that has a bearing, however tangential, on the object and functions of the CBN in the economy. The expenses incurred were made in subscriptions for, and acquiring, local and foreign journals, magazines and periodicals for the CBN. These educational and information material are directly useful for the operations of the CBN.The CBNincreased the number of employees entitled to access to newspapers, Books and periodicals.

19. Legal &Professional Fees

Briefing Note Allegation 19: that the CBN paid excessive legal and professional fees of N20.202 Billion in 2011.

Response:

i. The CBN, like any other public entity, is not immune from liabilities that arise from judgments and orders of the Nigerian courts. The referenced N20.202Billion spent under this head covered the CBN’s judgment debt liabilities in the year under review.

ii. Of particular reference is the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Amao v the Central Bank of Nigeria, [SC 168/2007]delivered on 21 May, 2010, wherein the apex Court directed that the CBN pay employees of the Bank who had retired prior to 2000, pension under the harmonised structure introduced by the FG. Note that the negotiated litigation liability that arose from the above-specified matter was approximately N19.8Billion. SeeAnnexure J for the judgment of the Supreme Court in question.

20. Reduced Expenses on Ethics &Anti-Corruption

Briefing Note Allegation 20: that the CBN, under my watch, reduced its expenditure on Ethics and Anti-corruption and this reduction is purportedly an instance of ‘financial recklessness and wastefulness’.

Response:

i. In response to the need to improve ethical and best practice standards in its operations to bring it at par with international standards and the code of conduct requirements, the CBN expended N34Million in 2011 to develop the Code of Business Ethics and Compliance (COBEC) as well as the Code of Conduct for staff, the implementation of which spilled over into 2012. This explains why the expenditure dropped from N34 Million to N18 Million.

21. Auditor’s Fees

Briefing Note Allegation 21: that the CBN paid an additional N140 Million over and above the agreed fees for the external auditors.

Response:

i. The 2012 financial statements of the CBN stated that the amount paid to the two firms of external auditors for the 2012 financial year was N200Million. The subsequent graduating revision of the fee was to the sum of N230Million effective from 2013.

ii. The N140Million purportedly paid to the external auditors as “additional fees”, was paid as reimbursement of the expenses incurred by these firms in the execution of their mandate as external auditors of the Bank for previous audit exercises. See Annexure K for evidence of payments made to the auditors. Payment of reimbursables is a standard contractual practice when dealing with professional service firms.

22. Alleged Abuse of Due Process

The MoU for the Banking Sector Resolution Cost Sinking Fund

Briefing Note Allegation 22: that the CBN issued treasury bills using themoney in the Banking Resolution Costs Sinking fund (Sinking Fund) without the constitution and approval of the Board of Trustees as required under the MOU signed by the CBN and all the deposit moneybanks operating in Nigeria.

Response:

i. The contributors to the Sinking Fund are the CBN and all deposit money banks in the country. All the parties agreed at Bankers Committee that the monies contributed should be invested in treasury bills for safety. The CBN, as custodian, simply implemented that agreement. The board of trustees for Sinking Fund has not been constituted as the legal framework for the Sinking Fund i.e. the Banking Sector Resolution Cost Fund Bill is still pending before the National Assembly.

ii. It should be noted that AMCON redeemed its due bonds on 27 December, 2013 from this account.

23. Write off of N3.85 Billion Loan

Briefing Note Allegation 23: that the leadership of the CBN wrote-off loans supposedly made to staff members to the tune of N3.85 Billion in 2012.

Response:

i. The write-off above was not made in favour of CBNstaff. Rather the Board of the CBN approved the write-off of the loan as forbearance to Heritage Bank on 17 December, 2010 as part of the process of facilitating its resumption of business as a regional bank. See Annexure L for the board approval given on 17 December 2010.

24. Overdrawn Accounts by Ministries, Departments & Parastatals

Briefing Note Allegation 24: that the deposit accounts of parastatals have debit and overdrawn positions and that this is contrary to government policy.

Response:

i. MDAs generally maintain bank accounts with the CBN. Overdrawing of banks accounts is an incidence of banker–customer relationship. However, the CBN experienced some technical problems prior to mid-2012, which affected about 6 of the over 1000 bank accounts maintained by MDAs at the CBN, but the error has been rectified since the middle of 2012. There were some insignificant over drawings on about six (6) of the accounts and the attention of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation has been drawn to the matter. See Annexure Mfor the letter to the Accountant-General and the Accountant-General’s response ofJanuary 29th, 2014.

25. Investment in International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation

Briefing Note Allegation 25:that the investment in the IILMC was not brought to the attention of His Excellency, Mr President, and was not within the exception in Section 31 of the CBN Act.

Response:

i. Nigeria, through the CBN, is signatory to the establishment agreement of the IILMC. Before proceeding with the investment, I requested for and obtained the written approval of His Excellency, Mr President,via a letter dated 8 December, 2010. His Excellency, Mr President would recall that he approved this request on 22.12.10. See Annexure N.

ii. The investment in question is permitted by Section 24 of the CBN Act, in pursuance of whichit was made as investment of Reservesby the Reserve Management Department of the CBN. If at any point, the CBN wishes to divest from the IILMC, one or more of the member central banks will purchase this investment.

iii. It is worthy of note that in the letter seeking Mr President’s approval for the investment, it was stated explicitly that all the member central banks were treating their investment as part of their external reserves.

iv. It was also alleged that, till the date of the issuance of the Briefing Note (7th June, 2013), the CBN had not received its share certificate for the apex Bank’s investment in the IILMC. However, the said share certificate, dated 6th April, 2013, has indeed been received and is hereby annexed as Annexure O.

26. Non-adoption of IFRS Standards

Briefing Note Allegation 26: that the CBN did not comply with the IFRS accounting standards in preparing its 2012 financial statements.

Response:

i. It has been and remains a cardinal policy of the CBN to comply with statutory requirements and policy guidelines of regulators. In recognition of the peculiar nature of the CBN as a central bank and its peculiar responsibilities, its migration to the IFRS would require extended time to comply with the Act.

ii. In view of this reality, I wrote the FRCN via a letter dated 14thFebruary 2013, requesting for a temporary exemption to allow the CBN prepare the 2012 financial statements based on the existing financial reporting framework.

iii. The FRCN waived the requirement for the CBN to comply with the IFRS standards in preparing its 2012 financial statements by its letter of exemption dated 26 February 2013. See Annexure Pfor the FRCN’s letter.

iv. In January 2010, the published Report of the Committee on the Roadmap for the adoption of IFRS in Nigeria (the Roadmap), allowed Public Interest Entities, in the nature of CBN,to delay the adoption of the IFRS financial statements until 31 December 2013. See Annexure Q for the Roadmap.It is probably for the same reason the FRCN itself did not prepare its audited financial statements in accordance with IFRS for the year ended 2012.

v. It is worth noting that very few Central Banks in the world are able to comply with IFRS due to a number of factors peculiar to the nature of central banking, especially in the following areas:

a. Accounting for Change in the value of Gold reserves.

b. Management of government foreign exchange reserves and exchange rate fluctuations.

c. Disclosure challenges around monetary policy interventions and its activities as lender of last resort to financial institutions, and guarantor to government borrowing.

d. Valuation of assets held in foreign currencies.

e. Challenges around weekly Treasury Bill sales.

f. Management of years of deficit after surplus has been transferred to the government in the year of surplus.

g. Funding government deficit financing as enshrined in section 38 of the CBN Act 2007.

27. Non-Compliance with ITF Act

Briefing Note Allegation 27: that the CBN failed to comply with the ITF Act by not paying the mandatory one per centum of the amount of its annual payroll to the ITF.

Response:

i. The CBN, at the time, contested in court its obligation to pay one per centum of its payroll to the ITF on the ground that the CBN is not engaged in commerce or industry, which under the ITF Act is the basis for an employer to make payments under the ITF Act.

ii. However, upon further considerations, the matter was amicably settled by the CBN and ITF. The CBN has duly complied with the ITF Act and has paid all levies up to the 2012 financial year. See Annexure R, which bears this out.

28. AUDITING

Briefing Note Allegation 28: that the joint auditors of the CBN’s financial statement did not certify that the accounts give a true and fair view of the financial position of the CBN as at 31 December 2012.

Response:

i. Without any iota of evidential proof, and in a most sweeping statement,the FRCN Briefing Note alleged that the joint auditors’ opinion was a technical qualification; that the accounts should not be relied upon for decision-making.

ii. To set the records straight, auditors do not certify accounts but only express opinions on the financial statements.

iii. The joint auditors stated that the CBN’s 2012 financial statements were properly prepared and accorded with accounting policies and the provisions of the CBN Act 2007 and other applicable regulations.

iv. The opinion, as expressed by our auditors, is consistent with what obtains in respect of central banks in a number of other jurisdictions. We enclose by way of example, a sample of opinions relating to the central banks of the United States of America, South Africa and Ghana. See Annexure S. The allegation made by the FRCN in relation to this aspect of the auditors’ report is troubling when viewed in this light.

29. Non-consolidation of accounts with Subsidiaries

Briefing Note Allegation 29: that the CBN did not consolidate its account with those of its subsidiaries.

Response:

i. The CBN does not have subsidiaries and the assumption that AMCON is a subsidiary of the CBN is wrong. The shares in AMCON are held by the Federal Government as borne out by Section 2 of the AMCON Act. Furthermore, the accounting reporting period of the CBN is statutoryand does not coincide with that of AMCON.

30. Abridgement of Financial Statements

Briefing Note Allegation 30:that the financial statement was highly abridged, with poor disclosures of transactions and events of a financial nature.

Response:

ii. The financial statement cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as “highly abridged”. Rather, all transactions in the financial statement were substantiated and were prepared in line with the CBN’s framework with all relevant notes, schedules and disclosures copiously made for clarity.

31. Non- Challance and AMCON’s Operations

Briefing Note Allegation 31: that AMCON made a loss (after taxation) of N 2,439,701,422,000 (over N 2.4 Trillion) and also had a negative total equity ofN2,345,620,364,000 (over N 2.3 Trillion) at the end of 2011. The FRCN alleges that I should have brought it to the attention of His Excellency, Mr President, that a large portion of the AMCON bonds would be due for redemption by 31 December 2013 and that the inability of the Federal Government to fulfil the guarantee may affect the credit rating of Nigeria negatively. In other words, the CBN breached its statutory objects under Section 2(e) of the CBN Act by not drawing His Excellency’s attention to the matter.

Response:

i. A major achievement of the Central Bank was that the AMCON bonds in question that matured at the end of 2013 were successfully redeemed without any budgetary appropriation or call on the Federal Government to guarantee the repayment as referenced above.

ii. It must be emphasized that AMCON bonds are not instruments issued by the CBN. On that score, it would be most inappropriate and against every known principle of standard accounting convention for the CBN to incorporate full disclosures on the maturity profile of AMCON’s bonds in its audited financial statements (balance sheet and notes).

iii. Rather, in accordance with international best practice, the CBN is only required to disclose in its accounts, the portion of the bonds held by it (the CBN). To this extent, the CBN made appropriate disclosures in the financial statements on the bonds it held as at 31 December 2012. See Annexure T – which is note 6 to the CBN’s 2012 financial statements showing the amount CBN has invested in AMCON bonds.

32. Non-approval of 2012 financial statement by CBN Board

Briefing Note Allegation 32:that the date of the Board’s approval of the financial statements was not indicated or disclosed and accordingly, the response provided to the President’s request for clarifications indicated that the management letter on the financial statements was yet to be discussed by the Board Audit and Risk Management Committee.

Response:

i. The financial statements were presented to the board and approved on 26 February 2013. The date of approval was stated clearly on the balance sheet page behind the signature of each of the directors. (See Annexure Ufor a board approval dated 26 February 2013 approving financial statements).Issues of a material nature requiring adjustments had been fully incorporated into the Financial Statement prior to presentation to the Board.

ii. The items in the Management Letter were suggestions for improvement made by external auditors and these were subsequently considered by the Board Audit and Risk Management Committee and are being implemented by Management on an on-going basis.

33. Compliance with the PPA

Briefing Note Allegation 33:non-compliance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA).

Response:

i. The only issue that has been raised to the knowledge of the CBN, is that the CBN,over a period in the past,did not obtain ‘Certificate of No Objection’ from the BPP before awarding contracts.

ii. On 11 August 2008 (before my tenure), the CBN wrote to His Excellency, President Yar’adua, requesting for certain exemptions in CBN’s procurement process.See Annexure V.On 20 August 2008, the President gave his approval to the CBN’s application. See Annexure W.

iii. In line with this approval, the CBN continued to approve its contracts in full compliance with the Public Procurement Guidelines, with the only exception that it did not apply for a ‘Certificate of No Objection’ based on the Presidential waiver.

iv. It should be noted that the CBN’s own procurement process is more or less identical to the procurement process under the Public Procurement Act(PPA). Indeed, the BPP has had occasion to write in the past commending the CBN’s commitment to transparency and making recommendations for further improving the process. See Annexure X.

v. In the course of the CBN interaction with the BPP on this subject, we provided an explanation by way by a letter of 11 August 2013, informing the BPP of the Presidential waiver. After an exchange of correspondences between the CBN and the BPP on this issue, the BPP disagreed that the Presidential waiver constituted an exemption from the requirement to obtain a Certificate of No Objection and insisted that the CBN should start doing so.

vi. The CBN, out of an abundance of caution, immediately began to obtain Certificates of No Objection in respect of subsequent procurements within the stipulated threshold. In this regard, the CBN did obtain Certificates of No Objection dated 17 December 2013, 31 December 2013 and 14 February 2014. See Annexure Y [A-D] for these.It is important to note that the contracts for which these Certificate of No Objections were issued were approved based on the same process that apply to all the other contracts approved by the Bank. This, in itself, is testimony that the Bank has always complied with the provisions of the Act.

vii. It is also important to note that in October 2013, the BPP-appointed consultant (Messrs SadaIdris& Co) also gave the CBN a good bill of health after reviewing the bank’s procurement processesfor 2010and2011.See Annexure Z. In its final report, the consultant in fact mentioned that the CBN satisfactorily complied with the provisions of the PPA.

viii. Furthermore, the CBN has facilitated compliance with the provisions of the PPA by making it a requirement for entities seeking to access the CBN Intervention Projects Fund, to comply with the PPA and to obtain a Certificate of No Objection to Contract Award, where required. See Annexure AA for the BPP Letter of No Objection of 12 October 2010in relation to procurements by the Nigeria Police Force.

34. Unlawful Expenditure on CBN Intervention Projects

Briefing Note Allegation 34: that CBN Interventions in areas like Education,Community, etc. are unlawful.

Response:

i. A principal focus of the CBN Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy in the last decade (even before my tenure) has been the Educational sector in Nigeria. The CBN Act lists its objects, functions and prohibited activities, and the Board is empowered to approve the budget and formulate policies of the CBN. The Intervention Projects mentioned are CSR interventions that fully comply with the CBN Act and were duly approved by the Board.

ii. It is worth noting that the CSR policy of the CBN is consistent with the activities of many other central banks of developing countries including, Bank Negara Malaysia, the Bank of Namibia, the Bank of Botswana and the Bank of Indonesia.

iii. The Federal Governmentof Nigeria has been aware, supported and encouraged the CBN intervention projects, in recognition of their positive contribution to development.

iv. During the recent strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU), the CBN intervention projects in universities were an important fulcrum in the settlement negotiations between the FG and ASUU as borne out in the Memorandum of Understanding between the FG and ASUU, where the Intervention Projects were recognised as part of the contributions of the FG to Education in tertiary institutions.

v. Furthermore, the FG standing committee on the Implementation of Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities requested that the CBN channel a portion of its annual budget to the identified projects. See Annexure BB- TheInterim Report of the Technical Sub-committee of the Committee on the Implementation on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities.

vi. A major aspect of the CBN intervention projects is the Centre for Excellence, which are not merely physical structures. The CBN entered into Memoranda of Understanding with partner Universities to develop a holistic and multi-faceted scheme which includes the establishment of Centres for Excellence under which the CBN would, in the principal areas of Economics andFinance, fund the endowment of Professorial Chairs, create access for Nigerian students to participate in virtual and remote learning with foreign tertiary institutions like Harvard, Princeton, Oxford Universities, and special programs for students of Business and Economics. In this regard, the CBN is in the process of establishing Centres for Excellence across the geo-political zones of the country including:

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

· University of Nigeria, Enugu

· University of Ibadan, Ibadan

· Nigeria Defense Academy, Kaduna

· University of Lagos, Lagos

· University of Maiduguri, Borno

· University of Port Harcourt, Rivers

· University of Jos, Plateau

· Bayero University, Kano

vii. Consistent with our policy of development, upon the instruction of His Excellency, the President, the CBN intervened by paying N19.7 Billion to the Ministry of Police Affairs for the purchase of armoured helicopters and other security equipment.

viii. Also, upon the application of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the CBN paid N2.1 Billion for the automation and renovation of the Federal Executive Council Chamber. See Annexure CC.

ix. The CBN also initiated, with His Excellency, the President’s approval, the construction of the International Conference Centre for Nigeria. See Annexure DD.

x. His Excellency, the President, also requested that the CBN pay N3.2 Billion for the construction of a new counter terrorism centre for the office of the National Security Adviser.See Annexure EE.

xi. The FRCN itself is a beneficiary of the CBN’s intervention policy as the CBN paid the sum of N220 Million to the FRCN and also organised the banking sector, through the Banker’s Committee, to payN280 Million, totalling a sum of N500 Million, for the construction of the IFRS Academy. See Annexure FF.

xii. All of these requests were duly submitted to the CBN Board of Directors and were duly approved.

xiii. It is also important to emphasise that the grants under the Intervention Program were duly budgeted for, and made on a limited and selected basis.

xiv. Intervention in National Security: At the height of security uncertainties in Nigeria, the Ministry of Police Affairs petitioned His Excellency, the President, for access to the CBN Intervention Fund. His Excellency approved that this be done in his letter of 6 October 2010 referenced MPA/PSD/S/0243. See Annexure GG. The CBN Board of Directors then reviewed and approved this request. See Annexure HHfor the issuance of a grant by the CBN from the Intervention Fund to the Nigerian Police Force, for the procurement of:

o Armoured Helicopters,

o Armoured Patrol Vans,

o Anti-Riot Equipment;

o Hand held Communication Equipment.

35. Akingbola Petition &the N40 Billion Loan Waiver

Allegation 35: attached to the my letter of suspension was a petition written by the former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc (ICB now Access Bank Plc)- Erastus Akingbola (MrAkingbola), on an alleged waiver of a N40 Billion loan to a Nigerian bank.

Response:

Before responding to the allegation, it should be stated that the said MrAkingbola is a man found by a final judgment of the Courts in England to have been liable for financial improprieties in the management of the affairs of ICB.

i. In his self-serving petition, MrAkingbola alleged that the CBN, on my watch, wrote-off a loan in favour of Dr. Bukola Saraki. This is untrue.

ii. The CBN was at no time involved in the decision of ICB (or any other bank for that matter) to write-off its loans. The CBN never gave prior approval to the Management and Board of ICB to write-off any particular loan. It is important to state up-front that all the non executive directors on the Board of ICB were appointed by its shareholders while Akingbola was CEO and they were the majority on the Board that approved the write-offs.

iii. From the submissions of ICB to the CBN, the said loan write-off, involved over 1000 customers accounts, totalling N49.07 billion – including accounts held by companies related to Dr. Bukola Saraki.

iv. It is well known that decisions on loan write-offs in the process of recovering non-performing loans are taken by the management and board of banks in line with their internal credit policies. The outstanding amounts are then written off the books of banks after receiving approval of the CBN. ICB therefore only approached the CBN, after it has completed all its negotiations and agreements with its customers, to seek CBN ‘ No Objection’ approval to write-off the loans. Indeed, after a careful review of the submission by ICB, the CBN initially raised objections to the justifications provided for the write-off of the debts on the accounts related to Dr. Bukola Saraki. See Annexure II.

v. In response to these objections, the Management of ICB wrote explaining the rationale for the Board decision. (This is also contained in Annexure II). It is important to note that decisions on loan write-offs involve significant exercise of judgement by those involved. Usually a number of factors come into play including whether or not the loan is secured, the value of collateral and if the bank is in a legal position to realise same, the general liquidity in the secondary market and the liquidity position of the bank itself which determines if it is negotiating from a position of strength or weakness. Ultimately, while we may debate these issues, the judgement has to be exercised by those actually managing the bank in the best interest of shareholders and the responsibility lies with them.

vi. In the case of ICB it is well known that the bank was in a grave situation as a result of years of mismanagement by Akingbola. The loans in question were largely loans secured by shares in the capital market and therefore were vulnerable to what is called Market risk. The collapse of the Nigerian capital market following the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 meant that the collateral for these loans had been totally wiped out. The losses suffered by the bank were therefore a result of very bad credit decisions taken by Mr. Akingbola himself which led to the bank taking on huge amounts of risk that crystallised. In this situation all that was left for Management was to minimise its losses and recover as much as it could before the situation got worse.

vii. With specific reference to the ICB loans to companies related to Dr Saraki, the bank’s Management explained that there were four loans totalling N9.489 billion, of which three were margin loans secured by shares and the fourth was secured by real estate. The value of the collateral underlying the Margin loans had been eroded and the bank was compelled to give waivers to make some recovery while still retaining the shares for sale at a future date. It should also be added that the real estate used to secure the non-margin loan were not perfected by the management under Mr. Akingbola – which is another indication of bad credit policies under Mr. Akingbola.

viii. There was no waiver granted to Dr Saraki on the fourth loan as it was paid in full (plus accumulated interest). Of the N9.4 billion, a total of N4.04 billion was repaid, representing a waiver of 57.42 %. Losses on Margin loans were common at this time in the entire industry. To illustrate this, when AMCON purchased margin loans from Intervened banks on December 30, 2010 it offered a premium of 60% above the average price of the shares in the preceding 60 days. In spiteof these generous terms AMCON paid an average of only 24.27% of the value of margin loans purchased. Without the premium AMCON would have purchased the loans at 15.17% of their book value. This actually would suggest that the Management of ICB did get a reasonably fair deal for the bank in these circumstances. The best construction we can place on Mr Akingbola’s petition is that he is complaining that the Management that succeeded him could have done a better job of cleaning up the mess he created and left behind.

ix. As for Akingbola’s allegation of fraud, conspiracy, forgery and stealing against Dr. Saraki in connection with Joy Petroleum Ltd, the Central Bank was in the process of collaborating with law enforcement agents involved in the investigations when we received a copy of a letter written by the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Justice declaring that these allegations were unfounded and there was no basis in law for any criminal investigation in respect thereof. See Annexure HH. The Central Bank therefore cannot be held in any manner responsible for this decision as this was a position taken by the nation’s chief law officer.

36. Conclusion

i. It is now clear that each of the allegations made by the FRCN in the Briefing Note could easily have been resolved upon a simple request to the CBN for clarification or a little more careful review. There is no doubt that if the CBN had received the Briefing Note, which was prepared in June 2013, all the misconceptions, misrepresentations and erroneous inferencescontained therein would have been cleared, and the misleading of His Excellency would have been avoided.

ii. It is now my sincere hope that, having painstakingly provided detailed explanations, backed by verifiable documents, His Excellency, Mr President will find the response satisfactory, and in line with his adherence to fairness and justice, revisit and redress the issue of my suspension.

iii. Furthermore, it is my wish that His Excellency, Mr President, will apply the same rationale and rigour to other agencies of the Federal Government that have had serious allegations and queries levied against them, and presume upon them to provide responses and explanations with the same level of clarity and transparency.

iv. In closing, I would like to place on record the dogged professionalism and patriotism of the staff of the CBN. They have, over the years, served this country creditably, loyally and diligently.

I hereby restate my enduring passion for, and commitment to, our great country Nigeria.

Signed:

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, CON

Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria

2015 General Elections: Season of Good Intentions and Mammoth Promises in Preparation for yet Another National Farce?!

It is an open secret that Nigeria is barely a year away from the 2015 General Election. Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will declare open the campaign season. I read a post on Facebook today which seem to indict President Goodluck Jonathan of breaching the rule of the game. He was accused of making statements in his tour of the country which was as good as campaigning. The post claimed Mr. President prophesied that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will win back states hitherto in the hands of the opposition or which have by defection of the governors in those states fallen into the hands of the opposition. The post cautioned Mr. President pointing out it was not yet time for campaigning.

The post went on to list the failings of the Jonathan Administration and what I believed will be the selling points of the opposition in the forthcoming election, namely the various scandals of the present administration among many other failed promises. I need not list them one by one. Readers, especially Nigerian readers are by now familiar with the unfortunate reality that the Jonathan Presidency is a catastrophe. I will spare them the trauma of having to read of the woeful performances once again.

No doubt, the post is most certainly from a concerned Nigerian (group), who is tired of a failed government. Really, I doubt if there is anyone who is still not tired of this present government. I will want to correct a particular impression very quickly though, which is that anyone who speaks against bad government is Anti-Jonathan or that this group of persons hates President Jonathan. Nobody hates Mr. President! What we dislike and cannot wait to have it done with is the failed administration President Jonathan stands for, leads, represents and seem to promote with his body language and many gaffes. Take for instance, if today President Jonathan commits to good governance in action (mark the emphasis: in action!), I will be the first person to say so. So far so good, Mr. President has done nothing good for the country. He has kept none of his promises.

I am yet to read the response of the opposition, that is from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the declaration of Mr. President. I can but already guess what they are likely to respond. The reaction of the opposition will be to counter with a sharply formulated press release pointing out that Mr. President must have be joking when he made those prophesies. If he thinks the opposition will sit still while PDP regain this state, then he had better woken up from his sleep. I can imagine the possibility of a counter counter-response from the presidency; this time around, not from President Jonathan himself, but from one of his attack-dogs, Dr. Abati or Doyin Okupe. The latter is always good at such counter counter-responses.

What exactly is the import of this short narrative? Here is it: A good watcher of election into political offices in Nigeria in the current republic will be clear about the unshakable fact that the tone for forthcoming general election in 2015 had already been set long before INEC even released timetables for the conduct of elections. This recent talk by President Jonathan is yet another confirmation of the kinds of words that will be traded in during the campaign season. I need warn the electorate they better gear up for yet another season of declarations and yet lots more declarations of the intentions, from the ruling party and equivalent counter responses from the opposition. The opposition too will make declarations upon declarations and the electorate can be sure the PDP will not be slack in counter-responding.

What exactly is wrong with making declaration(s) and promises? Absolutely nothing! I definitely have nothing against it(them) so long the declarant in truth meant to be taken by his word(s). And that is exactly where the problem lies. It will be stating the very obvious to say for instance that hardly could one get three of the present governments at the state level who has been working based on the templates of their declarations and promises prior to their elections. Due to a special form of political amnesia, they seem to forget almost instantly all the declarations and promises made once they get elected.

I decisively did not reference President Jonathan in this regard because nobody doubts that he has failed already even before his four year term ends. By the way, in order to comprehend how terribly hard Mr. President is hit with this kind of political amnesia, readers only need google series of articles by Mr. Sonala, which he wrote shortly before the last general election, which President Jonathan was declared to have won. Anyone who read the lists of promises and declarations made by President Jonathan on his many campaigns would certainly have given up on him as a credible candidate. He promised too much more than he himself could even believe. At a point, I was sure to conclude this candidate is a good joker, who understands quite well the art of his trade, especially in a country where the electorate forget too quickly and forgive too easily. He had his eye only on the presidency. He cared less about anything he said. He would have even promised his head as trophy only to get elected!

I will easily bet my shirt on the assertion that hardly can be found two governors in Nigeria who went into the election with any clear-cut programme of what (s)he intends to do if elected into office. They have at best blurred vision and carelessly tailored agenda, barely written down map of action on what they will do year after year for the four years of their administration if eventually elected. Same is applicable to President Jonathan. Beyond the promises and declarations of good intentions on campaign trips and trails, it is doubtful if there is a written-down programme detailing his plans for the country. I am not talking of party manifesto. Anyway, why talk of party manifesto when, even if available, can only be taken on face value. There simply is no reliable goal saving corruption.

That is why it is much more convenient for elected officials to spend most of their time looking for perceived political enemies to expose, fight and conquer. If they could get none, they create one. Phantoms saboteurs are sighted everywhere and these elected officials are quick to cry wolf even before a wolf is sighted! One wonders how credible it is for example when barely a week or two of being elected into office a governor comes out to declare that he and his new (wo-)men in office have uncovered mammoth scams and scandals left behind by former administration. They would simply cry foul claiming that the previous administration left the state in mountains of debt and that the former governor had robbed the state blind and beyond redemption. They met empty or bleeding treasuries. This is a common claim.

Clearly, I am not doubtful of the fact that the previous governor might be a thief. In fact, I believe he is a thief and treasury looter. But it still boils down to the question of credibility of claim from the newly elected governor: How could he have been able to uncover such scams and scandals and mammoth debt, and reliably so, within few days of being elected into office? Even well-established accounting firms would require far longer period of time to come out with a (un-)clean bill of health if employed to audit the financial activities of a small company, let alone a whole state government! No doubt, the newly ushered-in government sees it convenient to cry foul right from the on-set, discredit his/her predecessor, who is anyway a discredited rogue. This trend of bulk-passing continues however throughout the tenure of the newly elected governor. If unseated in the next general election, his/her replacement continues the same pattern!

An observer will recognise without much ado a government that has not only good intentions but a road-map on how to navigate the murky water of political deal-cutting, which is beneficial to the people without being reduced to a mere sit-out-your-term-of-office-government! To emphasize this point, I will cite the Lagos State Government under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF). BRF is a governor, who had even commenced implementing his programme for Lagos state long before he was officially inaugurated. Think of the special Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses already ordered in their hundreds, if not thousands, and parked in various garages across the state! Think of the BRT special lanes cut-out on Lagos-roads! In fact, one could at the time notice there was a coming of some real good fresh air into the Lagos State Government House. The people were not disappointed. He came in to confirm what they had already sensed. He landed running like a aeroplane. Governor Fashola has since not stopped.

This is a man who would go as far as threatening to severe relationship with perceived political godfather if the latter would constitute a nuisance to the realisation of his goals. How else can it be interpreted when he was once quoted to have said only a failure will and must repeat. He cared less about being elected for a second term if that would mean he would be hindered from delivering on his election promises. He cared more about implementing his well-defined plans, which he promised during campaigns. He left his fate in hands of the electorate. It paid off.

The determination of a governor like him has only brought to the fore the failure of his counterparts in other parts of the country. It goes further to confirm my fear that these other men had before election nothing beyond good intentions for the state over which they govern. They laud the achievements of their Lagos State counterparts, wish they had comparable financial weight to Lagos State, then they clamour for more money in order to perform. On the one hand, BRF became a reference point for good governance in a corrupt environment bankrupt on good ideas. On the other hand, these money-hungry fellows find in BRT achievements a tool for blackmail; they wanted more money in order to (out-)perform this epitome and standard of planned and objective governance.

To understand how terrific and catastrophic the effect of planlessness can be on a large scale when one brings it to the national stage, one only needs change the context of application: Imagine this scenario of I-have-only-good-intentions in a bid to occupy the office of president of Nigeria. Within seconds of a successful imagination, it will be as glaring as day and night why good governance has thus far eluded Nigeria in every sense.

Not even a blind man would doubt by now that President Jonathan has so far not fulfill on his promise to deliver regular power supply in the country! He is barely a year to the end of his first term in office! In an interview with Christine Amanpour of CNN last year, he claimed the country was enjoying better electricity supply and that the people could confirm this claim is true! A man that can make this kind of claim about electricity supply in Nigeria, knowing fully well it was (and is still) a lie, undoubtedly needs his head checked. The question is: Why promise what you know you cannot deliver politically or realistically? The answer is not far-fetched: Say anything just to impress the electorate! President Jonathan had and presently has no plan for the power sector, neither in the short nor long term. The power sector is one of his failures!

Come to think of it: This man did not on his own intend or plan to be vice president when he was like a thunderstorm struck down on Nigerians by President Obasanjo. He eventually went ahead to become acting president and was later elected on his own ticket. Except we are in a different country, a man who was brought into office by pure chance, sheer good-luck and regional sentiments could not be expected to do anything good for Nigeria. Here we are still very much doubtful, and that rightly so, that even those who by their own choice contested, had no cut-out plans beyond good intentions for the office if elected! Does anyone need tell Nigeria that she is doomed for the next four (eventuall eight) years with the election of a man brought to national limelight by sheer good-luck, ill-fated political machinations of his benefactors and godfather?

Before I go on, I need point out another open secret: President Jonathan was a bad payback for Nigeria and Nigerians for not being grateful to a former president who thinks the country need be eternally grateful that Mother Nature bequeathed him on us. Since we did not give President Obasanjo a chance to run for a third term in office, we therefore need be punished. Nobody by now still doubts that President Jonathan is a best punishment anyone could imagine appropriate for Nigeria. Even the punisher, namely Chief Obasanjo himself could hardly believe his luck with the jackpot he won in the Jonathan candidacy! He wanted a disastrous replacement for himself. He got it. In fact, he got more than he bargained for! He must have been happy beyond words. His open letter confirms this.

A wise reader of that letter would be smart to read beyond the words of that letter in which Chief Obasanjo laments the failings of President Jonathan. Here is the irony: Chief Obasanjo cautions President Jonathan to be statesmanly in his approach and dealings. He should unite the ruling party instead of encouraging a drifting apart. He talked about accusations against President Jonathan’s financing the training of snipers in preparation for the forthcoming elections. He talked about and wished for many other things in that letter. Now, for crying out loud: This is a disaster, whose election as vice president Chief Obasanjo personally supervised and consequently installed. Chief Obasanjo was not in doubt Alhaji Yar’Adua, the president on whose ticket Goodluck Jonathan ran as vice president, would not survive his first term of office! Could it be then that he was so short-sighted to know that President Jonathan would be a good-for-nothing replacement of himself? No, he was not!

Let us return to the issue at hand, namely the forthcoming 2015 general elections. We need not be pretentious of the certainty of what awaits us during this season. The campaign season will be fully maximized by both the ruling party, namely PDP and many other parties in the country. The elections will be hotly contested. The season is a time in which the polity will be hotter than the preceding four years. Politicians will explore every tool available to them, ranging from outright blackmail to crudest forms of abuses and name-calling, from unnecessary bad-mouthing and physical battery to broad-day-light election-motivated assassination of intral- and inter-party opponents. In order to be nominated as candidates, there will be sharing of monies (actually peanuts!) and gifts to the selection committees. The real big monies will go to party chairmen and chairwomen. Perceived kingmakers like Chief Bode George and Chief Anenih of the PDP will surge in importance. They will be sighted on campaign platforms endorsing all forms, breeds and types of candidates. Prominent leaders of the opposition will gladly cut out deals for themselves without any show of shame or remorse at outrightly jumping at whatever alliances that offer them the best grab and gains; alliances they had earlier sworn never to enter will suddenly become the only alternative overnight. They will show muscle and heavyweight in the choice of nominated candidates for different levels of political offices in the country.

In short, money, and blood too, will flow in abundance in the country in the next one year. There shall be accusations of corruption and cheating. The PDP will deny any foul play and the opposition will counter with cries of alarmingly high rate of shameful and disgraceful rigging. We shall also not miss the mammoth promises which shall be made on campaign trails and trips. Many good intentions shall be made public by contestants. INEC will assure that it shall try its best to be an impartial commission. Names of candidates and voters shall be missing while INEC keeps promising to rectify these humanly unavoidable errors. Indeed, INEC will try its best. But we must be clear about one fact: Everything that will be done will be a repetition of what we already know and have gone through before. There could be a more perfection of the various rigging methods available to both the ruling party and the opposition.

Among all these things that shall happen, I must not forget to mention what will be the most unfortunate highlight, whatever eventually came to be in the 2015 general elections: The singular looser will be electorate! At the end of this national farcical show, the electorate will have at all levels successfully mortgaged the next four years willingly into the hands of known thieves, new incomers with higher corruptible characteristics than those they dis- or replaced, popular and potential national looters. The conglomeration of people who will end up holding mandates as the peoples’ representatives shall, with the exception of some handful, mirror the worst make-up the country can offer!

Let me zero in on the president. In the past months, close to a year now, the president, though officially yet to declare if he is running for president come 2015, has discovered a pot of gold which will probably be very strategic in his victory in the forthcoming elections, namely the pulpit. Like Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters pointedly brought to the fore in one of his articles, the president’s visit to churches almost every Sunday is not a coincident. He is a religious man, no doubt, but the fact that he weekly adorns pulpit is very telling. In any circumstances, all the Nigerian electorate need be told is the possibility of the impossible in religious tones and metaphors.

Besides telling them that nothing is impossible in the name of God, by mounting the pulpit confirms that President Jonathan is not ashamed to be identified with the people’s sentiment, their emotion and most importantly their faith! He is a practical Christian and president! What is more, pastors and leaders of these congregations (will) hug, share jokes and spiritual food with him, they (will) pray for him among many other church rituals which are supposed to guarantee success.

In short, the name of God, the bible and the cross are three powerful elements on the president’s way to victory. Now, we should not forget, one thing that is as sure as day and night in Nigeria, if not even surer than this earthly reality, is to bet on the side of God and religion. Even self-declared moderates on both sides of the divide will not shy away from literarily wielding the clubs and swords in the name of religion to prove a point. A Christian Northerner will rather vote in a President Jonathan because he is Christian than a Northerner who is not! A Christian Southerner will not vote for President Jonathan because he is form the South, but because he is first Christian. He is identifiable with Christ and will promote the benefits of the Cross! These voters will not remember to ask what exactly he intends to do if elected. The voters, who probably vote for the other side of the divide, will unfortunately not vote because they know better to ask what their candidate will do. No! They will have been drawn (un-)willingly into election by religious identification. They would rather vote for a Muslim president or not vote at all!

Here is the point: Good intentions are all we are confronted with. We hear narratives, which are appellants of religious sentiments, potentially divisive and very dangerous recipes. These narratives are anything but clear-cut agenda on what these potential political office holders will do if elected. They are electioneering strategies, which if employed, will/can assuredly guarantee landslide victories in Nigeria. But are these enough? No, certainly not! Do I need to remind readers that the road to hell is full of and paved with good intentions!? It needs no repetitions that elections are not supposed to be based on, campaigned or contested for only on good intentions an mammoth promises without concrete presentation and road-map to their realisation! Unfortunately, this is what is currently obtainable in the country. Good intentions, lots and loads of them! Mammoth promises on what the future holds for Nigeria if the right persons are voted into political offices! Lots and loads of these mammoth promises are what we have! The Nigerian electorate are not unfamiliar with this kind of approach.

This submission brings me to the next crucial matter: I call it the W-questions. On this I will round up. The W-questions to ask are numerous, but here are some of them:

Why are Nigerians then so easily short-changed if they know so well the class of people who short-change them every four years?

Why would they return a government, who promised them regular power supply, only to generate still the same 4000 megawatts after nearly four years in office?

Why will they not stand up for their vote to be counted when they see their votes are not being counted or they are rigged/manipulated?

Why will they sit-down-look while looters, corrupt godfathers and even more thieves and looters are elected into political office?

Why will they not face-up to their oppressors, who live right among them?

Why will they be promised that a litre of petrol will sell for less than 100 Naira only to be sold on the black-market for over 180 Naira?

Why will they not even have petrol or other refined crude oil products to buy even when they are ready to buy even at exorbitant prices? Mind you, this product “grows” in their own backyard o!

Why will they know for sure that Chief Anenih, to mention just one popular corrupt face, is a thief, who stole billions of money meant for road construction and this man is still a highly respected chieftain in the ruling party and yet condole7accept this party as the ruling party?

Why will a country whose first set of leaders after independence are largely less than 40 years old, but today parade only old nonentities and people in their late youth while the majority of people below 40 years presently are mostly underemployed or barely surviving, and yet they do nothing beyond hope for a miraculous turnover in the nation’s politics?

Why will a political party allow a President Jonathan to (re-)contest election on any platform at all in the first place?

Why … (you fill in the gap) ?

 Maybe later I might be able to answer these questions, but for now my best response is this: I don’t know!

News Update: Nigerian Students Protest Financial Recklessness in Nigeria Embassy Berlin

Occupy ABuja via Berlin: Protesters at the Nigeria Embassy Berlin

Occupy ABuja via Berlin: Protesters at the Nigeria Embassy Berlin

Two Nigerian students in Germany yesterday left the virtual world of Social Media to protest against the Nigerian government financial recklessness and insecurity in the country. The protest took place on Neue Jakobstrasse, the street that lodges the Nigeria Embassy in Berlin.

The protest which started by 10 in the morning had the German police on ground all through the protest. The protest lasted for four hours.

Fliers which served as cahier de doleance were distributed to passers-by and the embassy callers. The fliers read:

‘168 Million Nigerians are under siege. At the mercy of a reckless, fascist government that has made corruption its deadly official policy. The Nigerian people demand sanctions and travel bans on political officers and global attention to the economic terrorism. There are 100 million destitute Nigerians while government officials loot billions of US Dollars every year. We call for global attention to the crises to the largest African nation and a very important nation in Africa and the world. What affects one man, affects all men’

They also bore placards with messages like:

‘It is easier to find a needle in a dark room than to find 20 Billion Dollars in Nigeria’

‘Boko Haram kills innocent citizens, Nigerian government celebrates centenary. Hundreds of Nigerians (Including school children) dead within a week.’

Helen, an embassy staff took note of the petition and queried if the protesters were members of any organization. The protesters responded to the negative revealing that they are citizens that are concerned with their existence and future. Oladapo Ajayi, one of the protesters said: ‘As it is now, our collective future is threatened.’

At the end of the protest, two Embassy officials also gave the assurance that the message of the protest will be conveyed to the government.

The officials were also informed that plans are in top gear to mobilize for protest whenever the President and/or his wife are in Germany on their ritual medical trip.

The group has opened a Twitter account @OccupyBeyondSM to press home their demands.

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Photos from Occupy Abuja via Berlin: Nigerian Students Protest at the Nigeria Embassy in Berlin

Sodiq Abacha: A Case of The Proverbial Bicycle in A Country Run by Thieves

I have overcome my shock over Nigeria a long time ago. Anyone would have learned to keep his/her shock-absorber in good condition if he/she is Nigerian who daily is bombarded with bad news and competing terrible occurrences that take place in Nigeria. One can however not be surprised once in a while when one “hears with one ear” or read about certain “open letters”. Involuntarily, one is forced to say: Wonder shall never end! After a momentary expression of surprise over the content of the particular open letter, one cannot but be filled with holy indignation at the writer’s stupid assertions and claims.

For those who might be unaware of the emphasis intended with reference to open letters, let me inform that one can safely conclude that Nigeria is presently experiencing a serious boost in this art of expression. It was notably triggered off by one former military head of state and president in the country. Since the advent of this widely acclaimed open letter to President Jonathan, there seems to be no ending to this new discovery. Open letters have since not stopped to be written in the country. One open letter trails the next!

The son of late military despot and brutal dictator General Sani Abacha is the latest among those who have chosen to employ this means of communication in passing across a message to the person intended. Sodiq Abacha addressed his open letter to the Noble Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka. It must be immediately emphasized however that it can be said as well that he invariably addressed this letter of insult to the whole country in that his open letter is not only an insult to Nigeria past and recent history, it is very clearly a revisionist attempt of national memory.

Nigerians have in the past few days of getting this open letter from him responded overwhelmingly, making it clear that Sodiq’s delusion is not in anyway national. Sodiq, like the very few in his world of spin-doctoring, is alone. Before I go too far, let us be clear on who exactly Sodiq’s father, namely the late General Sani Abacha is. This clarity is of urgent importance for posterity sake. General Sanni Abacha is, among many other worthy qualifications:

A military despot and dictator

A coup-plotter per excellence

A bastard and traitor of Nigeria project and her heritage

A national disgrace unworthy of any mention or remembrance for good in Nigeria

A killer, promoter and hirer of paid killers

A repellant of everything democracy stands for and a national killjoy

The embodiment of everything wrong with the Nigeria state

Ayo Sogunro’s counter-response to Sodiq, which is also an open letter on SaharaReporter is a perfect response anyone could wish for. Thank you Ayo Sogunro for speaking for Nigeria and Nigerians as a whole. Ayo’s response is one among many responses on various social media and platforms. Apparently, it cannot be that all these people who have nothing but bad news and memories of Sodiq’s father are wrong altogether? It must be said without mincing words, that Sodiq’s father is an evil man. I have no good memory of him either.

I dare say that General Sani Abacha is certainly unhappy right now in his grave because one of his sons attempt to clothe him with a garment he does not deserve. How would anyone who is not sick in the head claim that General Sanni Abacha was any good to Nigeria? Reading the letter, one could not but be appalled at the list of achievements reeled out by Sodiq. Come to think of it: Did Nigeria or Nigerians ever want or call on the late General Sanni Abacha to come rule them? The answer is clear: No, we did not! We did not vote for him! He came to power at a time in our history when we had clearly made our choice known. We were for democracy. We had voted and our mandate was about to be manipulated. The people were resistant to the interim government installed by the terrible Babangida regime upon stepping aside from office! Then Sanni Abacha came! He overthrew the interim government with the butt of the gun! We never wanted General Sanni Abacha! Not even for a day!

General Sanni Abacha is a proverbial bastard who turned around to bite the finger that fed him. He is best compared to such scoundrels who slept with his mother, raped his siblings, cursed and brought shame on his father. Nigeria did not deserve this from a nonentity who normally would be a nobody, were it not for Nigeria who gave him life. The country was good enough to conscript General Sanni Abacha into her military. She trained him and gave him shelter, food and every good things anybody can wish for a good life. In return the country demands of General Sanno Abacha loyalty and readiness to serve in defense of the country when situation demands. Alas! What did the country get in return? She got a monster of a man who will stop at nothing to desecrate and dehumanize the country and her citizens that did so much for him! General Sanni Abacha is a man of dishonour unworthy to be called a soldier!

Sodiq in his open letter seem to be privy to some very important inner-circle information which we the people, and particularly Professor Wole Soyinka, are not, upon which the decisions taken by his father were informed and made. Thus, he concluded that we cannot conclude, being outsider, or judge the situation and actions of his father by mere hearsays alone! I must point out at this juncture that Sodiq’s claim is strange and far from the truth. He ranted about President Obama’s criticism of the Republican Party and the choices made when he became president! Sodiq probably had drunken too much when he wrote this open letter. Really, I cannot find any other explanation other than this because only a person of unstable mind could dare find any similarity between a government with no singular trace of democratic tendencies with the world’s best flourishing democracy. What has President Obama’s decision making mechanisms got to do with the style of decision adopted by a despot and a dictator who kills and maim at will. It is best seen as a rash comparison of day and night, life and death, hell and paradise. These are two parallel lines which can never meet!

Sodiq probably can tell us more about what made his father kill and maim lives of Nigerians in their hundreds and thousands. He certainly might have a good and reasonable justification for the atrocities of his father! Really, Sodiq need be told, and that continuously, that he was trained with stolen and undeserved money. He surely is aware that he is the son of a terrible thief and national looter. Much of the money stolen is still at large and even those in possession of Sodiq Abacha are not his!

Let me reference Ayo Sogunro. Like he rightly posited in his response, if we were in a sane country with sane people at the ruder of affairs, Sodiq Abacha would not be a free man right now. He would surely be battling to free himself of loads of court cases, given that he is not already in prison. It is beyond comprehension that this rascal offspring birthed by a national thief, who lives on the people’s money now thinks himself fit to tell us that his father deserved to be honoured. He even went as far as claiming that Professor Soyinka is corrupt! He could as well have told us that Nigerians are bunch of ingrates for General Sanni Abacha’s rule! Actually, Sodiq literarily said that with his claims of achievements and other good works his father did for Nigeria.

Fortunately for Sodiq Abacha, we are in Nigeria where it does not matter if you are a political thief so long you support the government in power. One could not expect anything different. Sodiq had a word of advice for President Jonathan: He counseled President Jonathan to ignore the likes of Professor Soyinka and focus on the centenary celebration! I would not have expected a different counsel from a Sanni Abacha offspring!

On a closer look, the letter seems very much familiar. Anybody familiar with the writing style of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will find it very easy to link the tone of both men. Both men whine and talk about “what ought to be and how things are best done”, but their actions are never in tune with what they preach. They give an impression of someone to be taken seriously, but their actions confirm that they are men whose words are best taken with a pinch of salt. They are insincere in their dealings. Sodiq might seem to be defending his father, but he clearly confirms he is not different from any other crook politician in the country. Only that this time around he must be told he chose the wrong turf to display his madness.

Thanks to many Nigerians, who made it clear they shall not standby while Sodiq Abacha attempt to manipulate the course of history via his stupid open letter. Sodiq Abacha’s open letter is a is a national insult. He would have done better if he joined the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) like his brother did. The people would not have cared if Sodiq Abacha’s open letter was a declaration of his intention to join the PDP or the opposition party, namely APC. Beyond the fact that this is his civic right to do so, we all know the kind of people and the alliances of whom the leadership of those parties court, ranging from common and fraudulent tricksters to outright thieves and national armed robbers. We therefore would never have cared a bit.

By the way, the letter is a pointer to several other things which Nigerians (must) understand. One of them is this: The writer confirms invariably he would most probably have acted in like manner if he were in his father’s shoes. This deduction is the easiest to draw from the careless letter from the son of this nation plunderer, from whose reign of terror the country is yet to fully recover. In a saner atmosphere, a person like Sodiq Abacha would be placed on a watch-list of dangerous people. In fact, should there be reasons to doubt Sodiq’s sanity because of his the careless assessment of his father’s government, it would not be out of place to commit him to a forensic clinic, where he would have his sanity and other psychological abilities tested. This is given we live in a country where the government in sane!

Let us consider a legislation in Germany for instance: To deny the Holocaust and many other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazi party is punishable. Were we in a country where common-sense is a necessary tool to be part of the government, it would have long been legislated that an attempt to deny the crimes or talk irresponsibly of the evils of General Sanni Abacha against Nigeria, thereby making the devil incarnate look cosmetically good, is punishable. It will restrain careless revisionists like Sodiq Abacha from throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to cosmetically work on his father’s image.

In the letter the writer seem to take for granted that his father was never a legitimate occupier of the office in which he paraded himself for nearly four years. The writer then went on to grave for unity, wanted the past forgotten so we can move ahead! This kind of nonchalance and careless summary wish to dispose off the past in the hope of focusing on the future is a dangerous one. This mindset that one can get what he does not rightfully deserve must be denounced vehemently. Otherwise, it sends a wrong signal that perpetrators will not only get away, but all that is needed is a son like Sodiq Abacha who will stand up for the defense of a non-existent dignity of his father. Nigeria must not allow such a terrible precedence. The crimes of the past must be carefully identified and brought before a competent court. Offenders must be meted with the punishment they deserve. There can only be a coming to terms with a past when those who occupy the present ensure that particular past is not laden with the burden of uncleared crimes. Crimes, be it from the past or present, cannot and should not be swept under the carpet.

Here is yet another salient matter which the letter brings to the fore. There is no doubting the fact there exists a total disconnection between the ruler and ruled in Nigeria. This is how it has always been in the country. This disconnection was only much too obvious during General Sanni Abacha’s reign of terror, in that he threw all caution to the wind in order to perpetuate himself in power. He was far too reckless and careless beyond redemption. Sodiq’s un-cautioned response to criticism by vehemently denying the very obvious and attempts to repress the truth are in furtherance of clear characteristics of a disconnected rulership. Such government or her mouthpiece will think it normal to tell the people that an addition of two and two can give five. A disconnected government will then pass her own failings on the daunting task of leadership. She will want to make the folks see that criticism is easier done than doing the job. The observer, namely the people from every shades of life who seek to keep the government on her toes, suddenly become a threat in that they dare to talk about the ills of a failing government. Professor Wole Soyinka did just this when he clearly pointed out that the late dictator was a bad man, a liability to Nigeria in every sense of the word. Sodiq, clearly is and identifies with the ruling class. He was prompt to fill in the gap of the criticised leadership, who is unfortunately too drunk on power to see that his father’s image is beyond redemption and that no attempt at revising history will safe him.

Sodiq Abacha is the proverbial bicycle at the petrol station! The bicycle and its rider need be asked what exactly their mission is at the station. Like that bicycle and its rider, Sodiq Abacha need a real good verbal bashing. Ayo Sogunro gave a good one in his response. Nigerians need do more. They should please tell their Nigeria(n) story(ies), especially that part which brings to the forefront the terrible years of the General Sanni Abacha regime. Hardly will there be any common man in Nigeria who did not feel directly the negative impact of this tyrant ruler. This will further help (re-)state our recent history and the disgraceful and evil role played by General Sanni Abacha in it, which Sodiq Abacha wish to revise. Nigeria will this way banish Sodiq’s attempt to where it rightfully belong: In the realm of wishful thinking!

To round up, here is a piece of good news: Barely two days after Sodiq Abacha wrote his open letter, it was further confirmed in a document released in far away America that Sodiq Abacha’s father was a corrupt dictator who stacked away Nigeria’s money in foreign banks and properties. I bet that news is just a tip of the iceberg.

Igbo Re, Ona Re: The Nigerian Constitution And The Awo Road Not Taken By Pius Adesanmi

Prof. Pius Adesanmi dressed with a Baba-Awololwo-styled cap.

Prof. Pius Adesanmi adorns himself with a Baba-Awolowo-styled cap.

I was not a very happy man during my last appearance on a national lecture podium in this country back in October 2013. Pastor Tunde Bakare, and my good friend, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, had given me the unenviable task of ruining an unsuccessful man’s birthday celebrationby inviting me to deliver a public lecture marking the occasion. What do you tell such a man? How do you celebrate the birthday of a man still wearing diapers in his fifties without telling him to his face that his life has been a colossal failure and an irredeemable calamity?

At the risk of being labelled a spoiler and a party pooper, I knew I had a job to do. So I came to Lagos to rob the nose of that particular birthday celebrant against the cold iron of reality. I told the celebrant that if you are still bedwetting in your fifties, what you need is a sober reflection party and not a birthday party. The celebrant in question, I’m sure you all know by now, is an elder brother of mine whose name I arrived at through a play of metaphors and personification. He is none other than Boda Nigeria.

Today, Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu and the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation have given me the task of commemorating another birthday, albeit posthumously, with a lecture. But this time around, the face being the abode of discourse (oju l’oro wa), you should be able to tell just by looking at my face and the cap that I am wearing, that today’s task is one in which I am infinitely well pleased. My pleasure, obviously, derives from the fact that we are gathered here on account of a celebrant of a decidedly different hue.

We are gathered to celebrate and reflect on the momentous passage of our celebrant and his ideas and ideals through the life of this country at extremely significant moments of its history. In other words, we are gathered here on account of a masquerade who, for everyday it pleased his maker to grant him among us between March 6, 1909 and May 9, 1987, danced exceedingly well. Danced well for himself. Danced well for his wife and children. Danced well for his people. Danced well for his country. Danced well for Africa. Danced well for humanity. And when your masquerade dances well, that Yoruba proverb authorizes you to indulge in self-congratulatory chest beating.

Because the masquerade for whom we are gathered here today danced well, we are not going to sing dirges like we did the last time, we are going to celebrate even as we reflect critically and regretfully on “could have beens” and “had we knowns”. Last time, we did the body count for the celebrant, we looked at the mountains of corpses, a tragic consequence of wholly avoidable errors of the rendering, and we marked that birthday by singing, “oro nla le da”. Today, when we think of the man whose ideas we are here to engage and celebrate, when we think of his dance, and how he danced so well to help us avoid the path of self-destruction onto which we pigheadedly launched ourselves anyway, we are in order if we flagged off these events leading to the 6th of March 2014 by singing: “Happy birthday Papa Awo, Happy birthday to you”.

Now that we have paid our dues to the celebrant, now that we have cleared the path before us by saluting that great and illustrious ancestor of ours, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, if I continued this lecture beyond this point without other salutations, I risk the fate of the goat which entered the homestead without saluting the assembly of elders; I risk the fate of the ram which entered the homestead and did not acknowledge the elders in council. A tight leash around their necks was the last thing the insolent goat and the rude ram saw before they joined their ancestors in the bellies of the elders. I must therefore crave your indulgence to perform a ritual of salutation with which you are already familiar if you have ever attended any of my public lectures in this country:

To Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu – iba!

To the ObafemiAwolowo Foundation. – iba!

To Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Chairman of this occasion – iba!

To Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Osun State Goveror, present here with us – iba!

To all the Kabiyesis and Chiefs present in this hall – Iba!

To the esteemed discussants of this lecture – Iba!

To you, the audience, whose ears are here in this hall to drink my words – iba!

I pray you all,

Unbind me!

Unleash me!

Let my mouth sway words in this lecture

Like efufulele, the furious wind which

Sways the forest’s crown of foliage

Wherever its heart desires.

Dr. Dosunmu, members of the high table, distinguished audience, having saluted the homestead and the farmstead, do I now have the authority to proceed with this lecture? We should be thankful to the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation for placing the theme of our assignment today within the philosophical purview of paths, of roads, of journeys through space and time, and ultimately, of choices made or not made in the unavoidable human destiny of movement. But to each culture, to each civilization its particulars of framing the philosophy of roads and paths; of framing the cultural underpinnings of choice – the choice which places your feet as an individual or as a people on this road and not that road. Furthermore, whether you must set forth at dawn or not and how you go about propitiatory interventions to avoidending up in the ravenous jaws of the famished road fall within the province of cultural predilections.

Different cultures, different approaches. Thus it was that in 1916, seven years after Chief Obafemi Awolowo was born, a certain culture that is conventionally associated with individuality – call it the imperialism of the singular subject – gave us one of the most famous poems of all times (as far as I’m concerned) in the English language. Almost a hundred years after its publication in 1916, philosophers, philologists, writers and artists, literary critics, and even, cultural dilettantes are still debating and trying to interpret its meaning and intent, with some even claiming that it is the most misread, most misinterpreted, and most misunderstood poem in the history of English poesy. That great poem, ladies and gentlemen, is entitled, “The Road not Taken”, authored by the famous American poet, Robert Frost. Please forgive me one more indulgence. That poem must be read entirely if only to highlightthe particularity of Chief ObafemiAwolowo’s nation-buidling roads and constitution-making paths within the Nigerian equation. Writes Frost:

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

 I doubted if I should ever come back.

 I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

This poem gives us the title of today’s proceedings. It is also the unsung and always unreferenced origin of the use of that phrase – the road not taken – in much of our national discourse. Perhaps, the deciders of the theme of this symposium weren’t even aware of the fact that they were drawing a straight line all the way back to this poem. However, for our purposes today, what I want you to pay attention to is the overwhelming evidence of individuality in this poem. There is only one isolated subject speaking of individual choice, destiny, and consequences in this business of taking or not taking a particular road. Notice that thiswayfaring Western persona in the poem describes himself as “one traveler” and treats us to a generous deployment of “I” in three of the four stanzas of the poem.

If only the speaking subject in Frost’s poem had been an African of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s ethnic stock! He would have been faced with an entirely different, and I daresay, more auspicious proposition. For one, he would not have been alone, for in this business of forked or bifurcated roads, the Yoruba worldview allows for the presupposition of the presence and guidance of either those who have gone before and have therefore acquired the requisite experience to guide he or those who “follow behind”, to borrow a popular Naija-speak; or the presence of those who, even if still here among us, possess such superior intellect and vision as could be deployed for the collective benefit of a people at the critical moment of choice – the choice of roads and paths.

In essence, to the aloneness, singularity, and individualityof Frost’s confused fictional character who stands at that critical bifurcation, saying, “me, myself, and I” must decide which of the two diverging roads to take, the Yoruba world responds with a co-presence which banishes aloneness, a voice of wisdom, prescience, vision, and experience; a superior intellect saying to the lonely traveler: “You are not alone. Igbo re, ona re”. This voice, we must insist, is not an intrusion into the private recesses of individual agency at the moment of choice. Rather, it is evidence of a communalist telos designed to deny the validity of lazy alibis and excuses in the event of sad and stubborn wrong choices and decisions. For the remainder of this lecture, whenever I scream “Igbo re”, your chorus shall be “Ona re”. For none Yoruba speakers, “igbo” is bush, signifying here the wrong way, full of thorns, serpents, and wild animals. “Ona” is way, road or path, signifying here the right way. When a Yoruba elder tells you “igbo re, ona re”, he is saying “here is the bush and here is the road, the choice of which to take is yours”!

Make the appropriate substitutions and that singularly forlorn persona in Frost’s poem, standing splendidly alone at the point of divergence of two roads becomes Nigeria at the parturition point of project nationhood in the first half of the 20th century. But Nigeria was never going to be alone in that long march to the choice of a road to national destiny. The she-goat was never going to be left alone to suffer the pains of parturition. Project Nationhood, that new space of civic and psychic belonging that was going to be forged out of the inchoate desires of different ethnic nationalities yoked together by colonialism, was singularly blessed by the presence of a stellar cast of nationalist heroes and sheroes, of statesmen and women, some destined for demiurgic roles, some destined for vatic roles, some destined to combine both and even more roles as they screamed at that emergent nation at the crossroads: igbo re, ona re!

It is my contention that as far as the constitutional history and trajectory of Nigeria is concerned, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was at once demiurgic (creator, originator) and vatic (visionary) and that, for me, is what makes his own voice the loudest in the assembly of founding fathers who tried to tell Nigeria: igbo re, ona re!But let us pause to probe this “igbo re, ona re” business further before we begin to unpack how Chief Obafemi Awolowo specifically applied it scrupulously to Nigeria’s process of constitutionally becoming and what we may learn from his proposals as we march yet again Abuja for a national dialogue.

The privilege of not being alone at the crossroads, the privilege of enjoying the guidance and co-presence of that cautionary voice of wisdom, does not in any way conduce to intellectual laziness and ethical demission at the moment of choice. The role of that voice is purely advisory. The exercise of choice is still your responsibility. In essence, nothing in the Yoruba world compels that patriarch, that matriarch, that visionary voice which stands beside you at the fork in the road to do more than point out which is the road and which is the deceptive option which hides thorns and thistles, potholes and gullies after the very first sharp bend.

In essence, if Chief Obafemi Awolowo had done nothing more than stand with Nigeria at that critical fork in the road to constitution-making in the 20th century; if he had done nothing more than show her the choices and possibilities, saying, “Nigeria, igbo re, ona re,” before turning his back to return to the warm embrace of his wife and children in Ikenne; if he had done nothing more than this, he would still have more than largely satisfied the imperatives of his culture. He would have done his bit. He would have done his best. Nothing in that culture compels him to tarry perpetually, to linger permanently in the company of a wilfully blind and voluntarily deaf customer like Nigeria, hanging on to the feet of this customer, and trying to place them on the right road.

In other words, as far as the philosophy of “igbo re ona re” is concerned, any gesture, any action beyond the utterance of that caution is an extraordinary privilege enjoyed by the person or entity being advised. It is jara, it is supplementary. No sage is compelled to go that far. Ladies and gentlemen, that is precisely why Chief Obafemi Awolowo stands out in terms of his decades-long commitment to Nigeria’s constitutional development in particular and to the overall envisioning of the country’s destiny in general.

Decade after decade after decade; in book after book after book; in essay after essay after essay; in speech after speech after speech; in action after action after action, what we confront in Chief Awolowo’s extraordinary output, especially with regard to constitution-making, is precisely that extra mile, that extra gesture, that jara after the solemn and repeated utterance of “igbo re,ona re”. I would therefore want us to consider his expansive body of work, an intellectual tour de force, as fulfilling the dual function of showing Nigeria the difference between the right way and the wrong way to constitutional bliss and also going the extra length of painstakingly mapping out strategies for travelling on the right way.

The theme of this symposium, we must remind ourselves, insists that there is an Awo road to the Nigerian constitution that was not taken. The temptation is great to begin any analysis of the nature, character, and prescriptions of that road and why we refused to do any mileage on it by focusing on the statesman’s 1966 book, Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, because its title bears the most direct resonance not just to our objectives today but also, and perhaps more importantly, to Nigeria’s ongoing quest for constitutional direction at fifty-three. Doing this would be starting the story in medias res for the said book is but a significant culmination of a long maturational process of intellectual rigour and prescience with regard to the articulation of a constitutional path for Nigeria.

A clear hint of the incipience and long evolution of Chief Awolowo’s thought on Nigerian constitutional issues can be found in Awo, his 1960 autobiography. Chapter twelve of the autobiography is entitled “evolution of a federalist”. Here, the thinker declares: “In 1951 when the controversy on the form of Nigeria’s constitution began, I had already been for more than eighteen years a convinced federalist.” The path to this conviction, Chief Awolowo informs us, started as early as 1928 when he encountered the thought and work of Indian nationalists and the the Indian National Congress. And we are informed in the preface to Thought on Nigerian Constitution that our thinker has played “a leading role in the work of constitution-making in Nigeria since 1949.” What these temporal milestones in the origin and evolution of Chief Awolowo’s thought on constitutional federalism confirm is the fact that almost 30 years to independence in 1960 – again, I’m thinking of the hint that the seeds of his convictions on the necessity of constitutional federalism for Nigeria were sown as far back as 1928 – a visionary mind was already rigorously applying itself to the constitutional destiny of this country. From the very womb of the colonial incubus, Chief Awolowo was already telling Nigeria, igbo re, ona re!

When one looks at Chief Awolowo’s extensive oeuvre, one is struck by the recurrence of certain registers, themes, and concepts. He has hardly a book in which a chapter is not dedicated to reiterating the importance of getting Nigeria’s constitutional framework right. We already cited Chapter 12 of his autobiography. The 1947 book, Path to Nigerian Freedom, written in 1945, contains a Chapter, “Towards Federal Union”, which, as usual, makes the case for a federal constitution. In 1968, The People’s Republic, offers two significant constitutional chapters. Chapter 5 is entitled “constitutional basis” and Chapter 10 is entitled “suitable constitution.”

And this is not counting the volume of essays and speeches in which these keywords and registers appear. Indeed, wherever the word, “constitution” appears in the Awolowo opus, you can almost always count on encountering the qualifiers, “suitable”, or, even more frequently, “federal”, which the thinker always poses in a binary opposition to unitary. Wherever or whenever that binary opposition occurs in his work, he resolves the argument, always unambiguously, in favour of federalism, recommending it forcefully and repeatedly to Nigeria as “ona” and always pointing atunitarianism as what – “igbo”. Igbo re, ona re!

We must hasten to point out that Chief Awolowo’s use of the word “federal” or the expression “federal constitution” bears no resemblance with the blasphemous use of that word in Nigeria’s contemporary political discourse and practice. In a reversal of semantics possible only in Nigeria, what we in fact call federalism today is what Awolowo consistently critiques and decries as unitarianism in his work. Not content with launching us onto the path of this asphyxiating unitarianism, the direct heirs of the unitarianscritiqued in Chief Awolowo’s work are in fact those claiming to be the Federalists of our own day, criminalizing dialogue, imposing no-go areas on national discourse, and mouthing constipated clichés about national unity, corporate existence, and indivisibility of nationhood. They take the dog of unitarianism and go to town to present it to the people as the monkey of federalism.

Unlike the political jokers ruling Nigeria today, Chief Awolowo was no victim of conceptual confusion. He was no trafficker in semantic jibiti. Hence, in making true federalism the foundation and the essence of the Awo road to Nigerian constitution and nationhood, he applied himself to a rigorous methodology of definition, explication, exploration, and analysis. This much is evident in Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, by far his most extended reflection on the subject. What should detain anybody willing to find answers to the contemporary dilemmas and discontents of project nationhood in this book is, however, neither the rigour with which the author identifies some thirty-three accusations leveled against the constitution of the First Republic after it was suspended nor the unimpeachable brio with which he delivers his submissions in favour of a genuine federalist constitution.

After all, given the condition of Nigeria today, given our report card after fifty-three years of this experiment, it should by now be visible to the blind and audible to the deaf (apologies to my good friend, Patrick Obahiagbon) that the author of Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution was right on the money about the factors he identified as weighing heavily in favour of true federalism. Those factors are: ethnic divergence, geographical separateness and diversity, different economic visions and divergent resources, religious differences and, above all, linguistic differences. Identifying these factors which compel federalism is the easy part. How the author arrives at hisunshakable conclusion that any nation in which these factors are assembled but which insists on foraging in constitutional pastures other than federalism is doomed is an entirely different proposition. Let’s hear Chief Obafemi Awolowo in subsection three of Chapter Two of the book under consideration. This is the part where he declares federalism a necessity for Nigeria – and not the unitary beast we currently misname federalism:

“Our own stand in this matter is well known. We belong to the federalist school. Nevertheless, we have elected to adopt a completely objective and scientific approach to our present search and are prepared to abandon our stand if we sound reason for doing so. Accordingly, we have made a much more careful study of the constitutional evolution of all nations of the world with a view to discovering whether any, and if so what, principles and laws govern such evolution. We have found that some countries have satisfactorily solved their constitutional problems, whilst others have so far not. In consequence of our analysis of the two set of countries, we are able to deduce principles or laws which we venture to regard as sound and of universal application… there are altogether six continents in the world… we will take the continents one by one…”

I do hope that the central claim of this passage has not escaped any of you. To arrive at his scientific conclusions about an appropriate constitutional path for Nigeria, the author assures us that he undertook a study of the constitutional evolution of all the nations of the world, of every country in every continent. And if you are tempted to think that he couldn’t possibly have done that, he assures you thus: “we certainly cannot and should not be expected to give full details of our investigation in this discourse. But we can and certainly will state, as briefly as possible,the facts from which the principles or laws are deduced”. And what, we may ask, is the most significant deduction that our thinker makes from this empirical methodology? Hear him:

“…in any country where there are divergences of language and of nationality – particularly of language – a unitary constitution is always a source of bitterness and hostility on the part of linguistic or national minority groups. On the other hand, as soon as a federal constitution is introduced in which each linguistic or national group is recognized and accorded regional autonomy, any bitterness and hostility against the constitutional arrangements as such disappear. If the linguistic or national group concerned are backward or too weak vis-à-vis the majority group or groups, their bitterness or hostility may be dormant or suppressed. But as soon as they become enlightened and politically conscious, and/or courageous leadership emerges amongst them, the bitterness and hostility come into the open, and remain sustained with all possible venom and rancour, until home rule is achieved.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I have questions for you. Does the scenario above sound familiar? If between 1928 – when the seeds of these ideas were sown – and 1966 when Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution was published, the cripple named Nigeria was given repeated forewarnings of war and doom, does this particular cripple have any excuse for being caught up in wars and rumours of war in 2014? What do you call a cripple who gets caught in war even after receiving the benefit of repeated forewarnings and foreknowledge of the impending war? Do you believe that a man who puts decades into a systematic study of the constitutional experiments of every nation in the world, drawing valuable experience, lessons,deductions, and insights therefrom has earned the right to be listened to by his own country when he tells her igbo re, ona re?

Igbo re, ona re. Apart from true federalism and its associated advantages, the minority question constitutes another significant signpost on the Awo road to constitution-making. Indeed, he treats this question with so much empirical minutiae that a detailed outline of his breakdowns and permutations would have to wait until the discussion part of our proceedings. Suffice it to say that he warns that a federal constitution must at all times be sensitive to minorities and sufficiently malleable to take care of their legitimate fears of domination whenever the need arises. Says Chief Awolowo of ethnic minority groups:

“We must not group them or any of them with any of the larger and self-sufficient linguistic groups. If we did, we would be placing the small linguistic group or groups concerned in a state of comparative political and social disability. A minority problem would thereby be created which would demand solution… with great respect, we do not think that it is possible to charm the minorities and their problems out of existence… the truth is that minorities do and will always exist in Nigeria… Vis-a-vis the majorities, these minorities, these minorities have their fears –real or imaginary – which can only be allayed by unequivocal and entrenched constitutional arrangements.”

The minority question can only be handled with unequivocal and entrenched constitutional arrangements! Igbo re, ona re! Ladies and gentlemen, what do you think has been Nigeria’s answer to this particular aspect of the Awo road? You need not look beyond this podium for Nigeria’s answer. Given “igbo re ona re” and other cultural deployments in this lecture, some of you can be forgiven if by now you’ve concluded that I am Yoruba. Well, Nigeria disagrees with you. Nigeria says I’m a northerner. In fact, technically, Nigeria would rather have me silence my Okun-Yoruba identity and blend into some northern lapland in which the beneficence of an umbrella Hausa-Fulani identity would take care of all my problems in the Nigerian family.

Constitutional guarantees of the financial viability of the constituent parts of the federating unit is a key feature of the Awo road. This need not detain us beyond the observation that we have done the exact opposite of this requirement.And I believe that other key areas of Chief Awolowo’s thought such as the importance of separation of powers, secularity of the Nigerian state, and the need for local government autonomy (p.149) can be examined in fuller detail during our discussions.

What I propose to do for the rest of the time that I have is to examine a number of issues which, Chief Awolowo himself admits, may strike the average person as trivia and unworthy of discussion in the context of constitutional considerations. However, the significance of these false trivia can only be measured by the heavy price Nigeria pays today for failing to pay adequate constitutional attention to them. Perhaps the attention that Chief Awolowo pays to such issues as would appear to the ordinary man as trivia is also because he understands that they can combine to vitiate what he calls the social objectives of a federal constitution. It is under these social objectives that he addresses a wide range of issues in consonance with his socialist persuasion, such as education, health, human capital development, employment, poverty. If you are tempted to think that a constitution is not a party manifesto and should not be dabbling into social objectives, Chief Awolowo already anticipates your train of thought and pre-empts you in this passage:

“It may be objected that all we have been saying has nothing to do with constitution-making. Our emphatic answer is that it has a mighty lot to do with it. Our experience during the past six years has shown… that though we are ostensibly free as a nation, yet as a people we remain tightly shackled in the chains of ignorance, disease, want, and native tyranny. It is a duty which we owe to ourselves, and to future generations of Nigerians, to ensure, as far as human ingenuity can contrive it, that the demons which held us in thrall under the old constitution are fought and destroyed under the new constitution.”

Igbo re, ona re! What then are the false trivia that could stand in the way of a constitution achieving its stated social objectives? How many of you in this hall have ever given a thought to the fact that the convoys of our government officials could stand in the way of the constitution and national progress? If you’d never made a connection between the constitution and the convoys which always drive you, Nigerian citizens, off the road whenever an Oga at the Top is passing, here is what Chief Awolowo has to say in making that critical connection:

“In the fourth place, some people may wonder whether it is necessary to make provision in the constitution forbidding the Prime Minister and Premier and their ministers to make use of the services of police orderlies and outriders, and to inspect a guard of honour. The unfortunate thing, however, is that these little and trivial-looking things had contributed in no small measure to tenacity of office on the part of those who held these offices under the First Republic. They had imagined that their individual ego would be deflated almost to the point of political extinction if they were deprived of these empty and vain trappings. They had, therefore, been driven to practise all kinds of chicanery and vice in order to remain in office. We must not allow our public men to develop this type of warped sense of value in the future.”

Poor Chief Awolowo! How could this phenomenal thinker have known that aalmostthree decades after his death, these public men would even allow their constitutionally unrecognized wives to develop a warped sense of value, shut down Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt whenever they come to town, harass elected state governors, and dip their hands into our national treasury at will to fund ephemeral monuments to their ego that the next First Lady will erase entirely! If Chief Awolowo had imagined that the degree of travesty we witness today in the name of First Ladyship would happen even in a million years, my wager is he would have proffered constitutional checks which we would have ignored anyway! Those going to Abuja may want to think seriously about this First Lady business. Chief Awolowo would not have remained constitutionally indifferent to such unspeakable travesty.

There are other issues the discussants may also want to take a look at in the light of Chief Awolowo’s exhortation to his readers to assess is views and proposals with “constructive objectivity”. Chief Awolowo, for instance, was in favour of a bi-cameral federal legislature. Perhaps, the circumstances of his times dictated this conviction. Given the fact that to describe our National Assembly in Abuja today as corrupt and indolent is to be nice to it, do we still need two chambers today and should our lawmakers be working full time?

There is also the question of independent candidacy in elections. Chief Awolowo views this very negatively and proposes its non-recognition in the constitution. Do our circumstances today support this stance? Given the climate of ideological poverty in our contemporary party politics where the two leading parties in the country are currently trading migrating herds of corrupt and ethically-challenged politicians, is it not time to start giving serious constitutional considerations to the question of independent candidacy?

A suitable constitution, Chief Awolowo, declares again and again in Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, is the bedrock of political stability. But he also recognizes the fact that even the best and most suitable constitution is useless if a country is hostage to corrupt and visionless leadership. And because he is convinced that “the only alternative to Federalism for Nigeria is the wide road to national impotence and ruin”, he presses the question of leadership, qualitative leadership in the service of a suitable constitution. For him, the constitution must somehow find a way to guarantee qualitative leadership and weed off moneychangers from the temple before they get a chance to turn it to a den of robbers. Luckily for those currently ruling Nigeria, they hardly read books! Imagine if they read books and stumbled on Chief Awolowo’s idea of a good leader that could deliver on the promises of a suitable constitution:

 “Good leadership involves self-conquest; and self-conquest is attainable only by cultivating, as a first major step, what some applied psychologists have termed ‘the regime of mental magnitude’. In plain language, the regime of mental magnitude is cultivated when we are sexually continent, abstemious in food, abstain totally from alcoholic beverage and tobacco, and completely vanquish the emotions of greed and fear”.

You think this is too severe? Papa Awolowo is not done yet. Listen to this:

 “There are those who would regard these prescriptions for leadership to be too stringent. They are welcome to their view; but for the good of the fatherland, such people should steer clear of the affairs of State, and confine their activities to those spheres where their excessive self-indulgence cannot incommode the entire nation, to the point of threatening its very life”.

 Igbo re, ona re! Well, much to our misfortune, such people did not listen to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They did not steer clear of the affairs of state. On the contrary, they dragged the state and her affairs towards “igbo” where Awolowo had prescribed “ona”. When a musician saw the tragic consequences of their preference for “igbo” and hatred for “ona” and began to sing “Nigeria jagajaga, everything scatter scatter, poor man dey suffer suffer”, they clobbered that musician, abused him, said that it was his father and mother who are jaga-jaga, and subsequently went to Abuja to receive Centenary honours in recognition of their illustrious contribution to fifty-three years of national bedwetting and diaper-wearing. Nigeria jaga-jaga…

(Keynote lecture delivered at the Obafemi Awolowo Birthday Anniversary Symposium Convened by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation. Lagos, March 4, 2014)

Announcement of a Protest: Nigerian Students to Occupy Abuja via Berlin

Corruption in Nigeria are presently bizarrely high. We cannot afford to be silent. The cost of doing so is too big a price to pay. All possible avenues, so far it is within the means of reason and acceptable standards, must be employed to make our voice heard. We as a people are clearly against government mismanagement of our common wealth and heritage in Nigeria. We must speak out against corruption of every form in and of the Federal Government, represented by the Jonathan Presidency. Many state governments are just as terribly bad and corrupt as the Federal Government. They care less about the people. We must not be silent about them. Every Nigerian must speak out against this monster of corruption which has successfully taken-over our country. This is an urgent and immediate task for all of us.

In view of the urgency and immediacy of the matter, certain Nigerian students resident in Germany have taken it upon themselves to make their voice heard in Abuja Nigeria. They will visit the Nigerian embassy in Berlin on the 10th of March 2014 to protest the missing 20 Billion Dollar oil revenue, for which Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is yet to account for.

Any Nigerian and like-minded people in Berlin on this date can join them at 10.30am in the morning. The German Police in Berlin has been duly informed and they have have promised to provide adequate security for the protesters.

Actually, this missing money is one among many other issues on the list of the angry students. On top of the insult, the championing vanguard who exposed this scandal in Nigeria has since been relieved of his job as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the guise of indictment of irresponsibility in and abuse of office. Clearly, this is a pointer to the fact that anyone who speak against the government is a possible target for witch-hunting and blackmail from the government. We must not be silent.

The missing money is the last straw that eventually broke the camel’s back. This is one slap too many for any Nigerian to bear. The voice of the people must be heard. The Time to speak-up is now!

Videos and photos of the protest shall be uploaded. We shall keep readers informed and up-to-date.

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