Mixed metaphors: Winners and losers

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By Sonala Olumhense

First, a few notes of appreciation.

Top of my list this week: the members of Nigeria’s Winter Olympics team: skeleton athlete Simi Adeagbo, and bobsledders Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere.

On account only of their heart, strength and resilience, they defined a historic presence for Nigeria in PyeongChang, setting down and setting up the nation’s flag in unfamiliar winter sports, and in the process telling a million feel-good stories.

I also congratulate the EFCC for affirming that it will not negotiate with former First Lady Patience Jonathan, who wants to settle out of court the serious financial crime issues she faces.  Responding to her January 30 proposal, the commission announced last week it would not negotiate.

Mrs. Jonathan’s situation worsened considerably on Wednesday when former presidential aide Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, a principal character in the saga, testified in her arrogant N200m fundamental rights enforcement suit against the EFCC how he obtained from Mrs. Jonathan, and her husband then President Goodluck Jonathan, the large sums he often deposited.

Regrettably, the EFCC was last week also appealing to former Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah to come to the commission’s offices.  In the past three years, the agency said, Mrs. Oduah, who has been investigated by the commission, had spurned five invitations.

“If she fails to cooperate, we will either obtain a warrant for her arrest or declare her wanted,” a source said.

Three years and five invitations, EFCC?  It is a shame that after the first two letters, you continued to invest in postage stamps, while allowing Mrs. Oduah to live in affluence in Abuja.  Show some character and pride, EFCC, and arrest this woman, NOW!

With Nigerians lamenting the impotence of his government, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday chose to praise himself, declaring in Adamawa State that he has fulfilled his electoral promises.

The praise-and-be-praised session took place at the palace of the Lamido of Adamawa, Muhammadu Barkindo.  Seizing the microphone himself, the Lamido said of Buhari: “They are burying their heads in shame and telling people that (the Buhari-led) Government has done nothing.”

He cited the Treasury Single Account, the economy, security, and the anti-corruption propaganda as Buhari’s accomplishments.

But fate would challenge the praise-singers, as it turned out that just hours before Buhari’s Yola party, Boko Haram had strolled into the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School (GGSTSS) in Dapchi, Yobe State, and—just as it did in Chibok in 2014—abducted dozens of students.

The bizarre incident took place two weeks after I warned in this column that it was too early for the government to celebrate the so-called “defeat” of the militants.

How bad is the latest abduction, keeping in mind that the global outrage over the Chibok girls helped Buhari’s APC offensive in 2014 and 2015?

First, for days the government said nothing.  On Wednesday, the police in Yobe State confirmed the abduction, but did not give any numbers. The Yobe State Government then claimed—wrongly—that the military had rescued some of the girls.

That claim was denied on Thursday morning by the army. “We cannot confirm,” Defence spokesperson John Agim told a reporter.  By then, Buhari—his government in sixes and sevens—had cobbled together a panel to travel to Dapchi to “find” the facts.

“Cannot confirm” was still Abuja’s position on Thursday afternoon.  Arriving in Dapchi, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed appealed for time.

Mr. Mohammed was answering the wrong question.  The right query is whether the government, perhaps for election reasons, had overstated its anti-insurgency success.  Boko Haram did not sound like a defeated force upon arrival in Dapchi, the villagers saying they came in at least 10 trucks.

The government described Boko Haram’s audacious assault upon Dapchi as an effort to “embarrass” Buhari.  Really?  Perhaps the militants felt no embarrassment as the government drank, sang and danced in Maiduguri, claiming the group was dead and buried, and its leader fleeing in women’s attire.

So much for the claim about having conquered the insurgency.  So much for claims of Nigeria being secure, despite cattle herdsmen overrunning forests and towns and airports, and kidnappers and robbers taking roads and towns and villages as APC and government bigwigs fly around in executive jets they swore they would sell.

And then, just like Boko Haram hurting the government’s feelings in Dapchi, a new Transparency International report confirms that Buhari has been combating corruption with propaganda pellets.  TI’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index places Nigeria in a dismal 148th in a ranking of 180 countries, corruption marching on undisturbed in the Buhari years.

It is over one year ago that, in “The Fall of Buhari, And the APC,” I described Buhari’s Nigeria as a “farce” and a “hoax.   “Buhari marketed a product he could not manufacture, and the APC used Buhari’s legend to grab power in the centre,” I declared.  “He has compromised his own cause by treating it as if it were a private skirmish, perhaps to be drawn out over two terms of office and fought in the media rather than in the court of law and the court of personal example, and in which only the opposition, can remotely be guilty.   And he gives economic management a bad name.”

But we are on the eve of the 2019 election now, and the government is unable to understand that the propaganda of attack does not work when you are defending, particularly when the audience has seen your nakedness.

Only last week, Buhari, continuing the propaganda, affirmed that his government will sell all unclaimed looted assets it has recovered.  He made the declaration in Daura, his hometown.

I fully support that plan, except that without a full identification of these properties and their owners, the effort is meaningless, even dangerous.  If the government merely sells just so it can claim it “put the money in the treasury,” that would be deception because the original owners and their friends would be the ones laughing after they have bought back the properties.

There is no evidence Buhari will provide this information.  In the past two years, he has gone back on promises to name looters and their loot.  In 2016, in a singular demonstration of condoning—not combating—corruption, Buhari published a listing of funds recovered, without naming anyone.  In effect, the criminals had returned a slice of what they stole, or nothing at all. That is how you nurture impunity.

In a similar way, although the government continues to swear by the rule of law, it has refused to publish the two looting accounts ordered by two courts.  That is how you nurture corruption and become a damaged brand.

Finally, towards the 2019 re-election effort, Buhari has appointed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the APC, to undertake the task of healing the fissures within the party.  And last week, Tinubu accused party chairman John Oyegun of sabotaging that assignment, citing decisions Oyegun has made in recent weeks.

No, Mr. National Leader, the Chairman is not sabotaging you.   It is the APC which is sabotaging the hopes of Nigerians.  Even if it somehow wins next year’s election, it will not win back their goodwill.



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