Nigeria’s political space remained as vibrant as ever last week. Among others, unease was reported in the Ministry of Information and Culture headed by Lai Mohammed, while Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State did the craziest thing since Boko Haram was born by recommending that eligible Nigerians be licensed to carry gun.
As usual, the stories are not just served to remind you of what happened but to let you know why they may be critical in shaping the country’s political future. Enjoy!
1. Revolt in Lai’s house
The Board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Thursday, August 13, accused the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, of usurping its powers and amending the country’s broadcasting code without due consultation with the commission.
The NBC’s board chairman, Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, who made the allegation in response to a hike in the fine for hate speech from N500, 000 to N5 million, and various recent amendments to the broadcasting codes said: “… instead of studying and following the law, relevant rules and regulations, and direct the appropriate authorities as stipulated by the law to act on, he (Mohammed) erroneously embarked on the review alone.
“The NBC was set up by law and there is an Act that guides its operations. The Honourable Minister, therefore, cannot usurp the powers of the board as clearly stated in the Act. Any such action by the Honourable Minister is illegal.”
Why it matters
The position of the NBC Board shows the growing dysfunction in the Buhari administration where inter and intra ministerial squabbles have become rife. An earlier incident was witnessed in the Ministry of Labour and Employment where Chris Ngige was accused of hijacking the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by the suspended Managing Director of the agency, Adebayo Somefun.
The revolt in NBC technically rubbishes Lai’s recent order imposing N5 million on Nigeria Info, a radio station in Abuja, for allegedly broadcasting ‘inciting views’.
The Board’s rebellion also raises posers as to the real motives of Lai Mohammed and, by extension, that of the Buhari administration. By allegedly usurping the powers of NBC, the Minister fuels the suspicion of critics that the various amendments in the broadcast codes and the attendant hike in fines are intended to intimidate and gag the media, as well as perceived opponents of the government.
Beyond the hit on Nigeria Info, the recent invitations extended to Obadiah Mailafia and Umar Ghaili Na’Abba by the Department of State Security must, therefore, be seen as red flags indicative of government’s readiness to hound or silence perceived enemies.
It is left for the Buhari administration to prove its critics wrong by ensuring that the fundamental rights of citizens, as enshrined in the constitution, are not violated.
2. Ortom’s ‘crazy’ idea
The governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on Wednesday, August 12, prescribed what, according to him, would help solve the ever-worsening security challenge in Nigeria.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase and titled ‘National Security: Gov Ortom proposes the way forward,’ the governor said the Federal Government should “grant licenses to responsible citizens to carry sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 to deter criminals from attacking innocent and helpless Nigerians”.
Why it matters
Ortom’s recipe is a frightening admission that the Nigerian state has failed to deliver on the important function of protecting lives and properties, a primary responsibility of government as contained in the constitution.
The Benue governor is not a lone voice. He joins the likes of retired Army General, Theophilus Danjuma and, most recently, the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, who threatened to mobilize citizens to match on Baga if the military cannot deliver on its mandate of securing the town.
A country that can no longer police itself and ensure order for purposeful government risks being listed or branded a failed state. Is Nigeria headed in that direction with terrorism and banditry spreading very fast from the Northeast, Northwest, to North-central Nigeria?
The answers may be blowing in the wind. However, the hypocrisy of the Ortom formula lies in the fact that it cannot pretend not to know that the rising wave of criminality is majorly attributable to maladministration and the irresponsible conduct of politicians who arm these criminals for political and other nefarious reasons? The country faces a time bomb, and it’s no time to play the Ostrich!
3. Buhari’s local content jibe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, August 13, harped on the need for local content enforcement to ensure Nigerians produce what they eat and use.
Speaking at the virtual commissioning of the 17-storey building of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) tower in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, he said: “The impact of the pandemic has further shown that we have to produce what we eat, and make exports. All these policies directives and programmes are also meant to address some of the causative factors of insecurity and provide employment opportunities for our citizens. It also helps businesses to compete, compete and grow our social means of livelihood.”
Why it matters
Buhari restates the obvious by admonishing the citizens to think local as a way to enhance the country’s productive capacity, earn more revenue and steer the the nation away from import dependence.
But has this been an honest pursuit? Perhaps, yes, in the area of agriculture with the ban placed on rice imports and support given to local farmers, through the CBN-driven Anchor Growers Programme, to produce the commodity.
However, beyond the push in agriculture, the Buhari-led administration appears not to have pushed stridently at reforming the country’s taste for everything foreign. From the executive to the legislature, and from the judiciary to other tiers of government, the apparatus of government is clothed in foreign goods.
Should local content enforcement not be extended to all items for which Nigerians have capacity to produce? What about medical tourism and the bare-faced frittering of scarce resources through car imports?
Until a radical change is effected in the style of leadership, and commitment shown to empower local industries through support for innovation and research, the talk about local content enforcement can only be mere lip service. A value re-orientation must begin at the presidency!
4. And Diezani preaches value system
Media reports on Sunday, August 9, quoted a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who had since been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)) for allegations of corruption, as lamenting that societal values had been badly eroded in Nigeria.
Diezani, who spoke at a virtual event organized by the Ijaw National Development Group and attended by former President Goodluck Jonathan said, “The ones that have swag, the Yahoo Yahoo boys as my son would say; these in short, are the role models they are looking at. These are the ones that reinforce negative societal norms and values. This is a travesty of an unfolding tragedy for us.”
Why it matters
Diezani, according to law, remains innocent until proven guilty. By extension of same argument, she cannot be denied her rights to free association, assembly or right to speech.
Her audacity to dabble into talks on role modeling, however, speaks to the irony of the Nigerian situation. The lack of diligent prosecution of her case and the conspiracy of the political class to desperately protect one of their own can only be the reason why the matter has stalled for ages.
Like many of her ilk, Diezani’s pretentious disposition to rebuilding the nation’s value system should be seen as a smokescreen to launder an image tainted by years of mindless looting in a government agency she supervised, conceding though that she is yet to be pronounced guilty.
5. Mailafia’s bombshell
On Monday, August 10, 2020, a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official, Obadiah Mailafia said on a Nigeria Info Abuja 95.1FM ‘Morning Crossfire’ programme, “I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders – one or two who have repented – they have sat down with us not once, not twice.
“They told us that one of the northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. They have a sophisticated network. During this lockdown, their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown.”
Why it matters
Mailafia, a presidential candidate in 2019 general election, ordinarily should know the implication of making reckless and unsubstantiated claims.
Admitted that the country seats on tenterhooks, the former CBN deputy governor’s claims must be subjected to closest scrutiny. Has the country not been led to believe that a governor in a key northern state once traveled to a foreign country to pacify its herders with money for alleged atrocities committed by some Nigerians?
Was Mailafia playing cheap politics? Could he be alone in the pursuit of an agenda that seems targeted at shaking the table or rocking the boat? As someone whose close links with the current government cannot be denied, what could be his real motivation in going public with intelligence at his disposal?
With only possible conjectures, it would seem that the Obadiah ‘revelations’ might just be indicative of a sharp disagreement within a collective for which the weary Nigerian public has been invited to observe and take sides.
6. Ajumbe’s skewed logic on Ndigbo
A chieftain of the APC and former chairman of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), Vitalis Orikaeze Ajumbe, on Tuesday, August 11 said the South-East were not ripe to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023.
Ajumbe, a former commissioner of Information, Tourism and Public Utilities in Imo State told newsmen, “The Igbo’s are not united, they will fight themselves. An Anambra man will not want another person outside Anambra to succeed. Who is the rallying point; the only thing I can say is that we need the Vice President, then we can have a rallying point.”
Ajumbe supported the view recently expressed by President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, that the presidency should be based on merit and not rotational.
Why it matters
Ajumbe, like any other Nigerian, enjoys the liberty to freely hold an opinion. His postulations on a President of Igbo extraction come 2023 manifests a shallow appreciation of the dynamics of Nigerian politics. Should the public believe his porous arguments on in-fighting as the major reason why the zone should not make a bid for the presidency?
Certainly, Ajumbe cannot push his position very far because there is no section of the country where there exists no internal contestations for power. Indeed, he may do well to explain how the supposed internal wrangling in the South-East makes the zone unqualified for the presidency but qualifies them for the position of the vice president.
Ajumbe’s clamour for merit cannot be faulted but he must also query why the same concept should not be applied across board as Nigeria seeks to enthrone excellence in every facet of its national life.
Until next Sunday, do enjoy your weekend.
By Ebere Ndukwu…
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