[ Masterweb Reports: Hafsah Abubakar Matazu reports ] - Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Petroleum Minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is to forfeit the sum of $153,310,000 to the Federal government. The funds were allegedly looted and stashed in the banks. According to the court ruling, the money which the former minister is accused of siphoning from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government pending its prove of legitimacy or otherwise. Daily Trust asked Nigerians what they consider as appropriate punishment for what she has done.
Maryam Mohammed, 34, IDP, Bama, Borno State
The money she stole belongs to the Nigerian people and even if she returns it, she has already betrayed the trust of the people she served and God will definitely punish her for that. I cannot imagine how your conscience will allow you to gain a position of power and then take advantage of the public like that. If she has or intends to return the stolen funds, then afterwards she should be brought to justice before the courts and get a minimum sentence of two years in prison.
Okuma Solomon, 27, unemployed
If she is truly remorseful for her actions and returns the money, she served this nation so I think she deserves to be pardoned for what she has done. I am not a lawyer but I believe the judiciary knows best how to handle her case, so whatever course of action they choose is okay with me. We are all human and make mistakes, some worse than others, so if she is sorry for what she has done, that is what matters.
Ifeanyi Eze, 34, designer
The law will determine what her punishment should be. What she did is corruption, so even if the law says she should be sentenced to death, then so be it, that is why the constitution is there. But again, why should there be a possibility of her going scot-free when I am here suffering because of her selfish actions?
Abraham Augustin, 25, undergraduate
The masses have suffered and the country is in the situation it is now because of what these people have done. Once she has returned the money and has been taken to court, the Federal Government should use her as a scapegoat so that any other person with intentions to steal public funds will remember her as a lesson. She should be locked up for a span of ten years and seize all the properties she acquired with the stolen funds.
Ali Habu, 34, mechanic
First of all, when she returns the money, it should be used for purposes that will benefit each and every Nigerian. Diezani should be punished for her crimes according to the law. She is a human being too and so not above it. If she is to be imprisoned, then she should also have the right to bail too. All I want is for every person, regardless of who he or she is to be charged for his or her crimes accordingly without exceptions.
*Photo Caption - Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Petroleum Minister
[ Masterweb Reports: Gov Shettima's address to Chairmen of councils of Northern traditional rulers ] - Let me place it on record that the decision to invite Your Royal Highnesses and other stakeholders to this crucial meeting was the collective decision of all the 19 Governors under our forum and was borne out of the recognition of the fundamental - if not indispensable - position and role the traditional institution occupy in the grand scheme of things in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern region. For us in Northern Nigeria, our royal fathers are, for the most part, custodians of both our cultural and religious values, highly revered and hold their traditional offices in virtual perpetuity. Indeed, quite a few instances abound in all parts of our region, like their Highnesses the Emir of Lafia Dr. Isa Mustapha Agwai, the Emir of Zauzau Dr. Shehu Idris, and the Aku-Uka of Wukari Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa Ibi Kuvyon ll, where our traditional rulers ascended their thrones long before even the creation of the states where their domains are located, or have so far worked with, and outlasted in office all the governors of their States, military and democratically elected. Your Royal Highnesses, these three instances, drawn from the lives of our longest serving traditional rulers with first class status, are but few out of many. Governors of the 19 Northern States do recognize, respect and cherish the fact that while others serve for certain periods, traditional rulers mostly make lifetime commitments to the service of our communities. This naturally makes Your Royal Highnesses very significant stakeholders in the affairs of Government across the 19 Northern States.
Even more crucially, it gladdens the heart to note that our traditional rulers have sustained the time tested and noble tradition of championing the causes of their people. To cite one example, only last week, His Royal Highness, the erudite Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi ll spearheaded the thought provoking debate surrounding the significance of the education of the girl-child and how it can positively impact the progress, development, prosperity, peace, security and stability of the North and, by extension, Nigeria.
This very fundamental debate bordering on the educational backwardness, pervasive poverty and underdevelopment as well as persistent insecurity of Northern Nigeria, should not only form the underlying basis for holding this extraordinary meeting but must continue, in our enlightened self-interest as leaders, to perpetually preoccupy our thoughts, plans, programmes and actions.
Managing multiculturalism and heterogeneity is a major challenge and indeed a litmus test for leadership, good governance and progress not just in Northern Nigeria but in the entire global society. However, as leaders of government, traditional rulers and community as well as religious leaders we must unite to tackle the challenges that stare us in the face. Like all the Northern Governors acknowledge, development is not just about building roads, bridges, houses or what we refer to as infrastructure and the provision of social services. Yes, these are very important, but then, there are pro-social livelihoods, peace and good life which are the fundamental attributes of meaningful existence. Our core challenges in the North today revolve around intolerance, absence of peaceful coexistence, poverty, illiteracy and lack of unity. How can we address these critical concerns? We, the 19 Governors of Northern States believe that a gathering of some of the key leaders of the North, is more than able to provide solutions to our problems. As Governors, we are more determined than ever, to sincerely walk the talks generated from this important meeting.
There is no gain saying the North is a poor, pathetic shadow of its former self. A well-endowed, promising geographic space which accounts for over 70% of Nigeria’s land mass, up to at least 60% of its population, with huge solid minerals resources, with potentials for hydrocarbon resources, a growing mining industry, rich arable lands, a blossoming agro-industrial economy, Nigeria’s wealthiest region by GDP and the region with the brightest prospects for accelerated economic growth; in short, arguably Nigeria’s most thriving region, has literally conspired against itself to be reduced to the laughing stock of the world. Northern Nigeria today is blighted by a deadly (albeit retreating) insurgency, rural armed banditry, cattle rustling, ethnic and religious conflicts, the underlying causes of which are poverty, illiteracy, social exclusivity and severely limited economic opportunities.
We all, of course, know these issues. What is of considerable importance to the Northern Governors Forum and I am sure, to our Royal Highnesses, our most respected elders and other stakeholders, is how to urgently and collectively, address these problems starting with our priorities. While we look forward to tapping from the priceless experiences, vast knowledge and eternal wisdom of Your Royal Highnesses and elder statesmen, we have since begun doing some ground work. For instance, the Northern Governors Forum has last year, set up a committee of Attorneys General of the 19 Northern States to review the criminal justice system of Northern Nigeria with a view to amending the penal code to stipulate penalties for criminal offences prevalent in the North today which were not envisaged by the penal code.
The Forum verily recognizes the direct correlation between the collapse of education, industries and agriculture with most of the violence and restiveness in the north. Individual States are deploying different measures to address their peculiarities but as a Forum, we have established the Northern Nigeria Global Economic Re-integration Programme under the leadership of Dr Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, a very resourceful, internationally connected Northerner, and Chief Economic Adviser to late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Dr Kurfi and his team are already following up with the Islamic Development Bank on areas of science education in northern Nigeria. The platform is also driving our ongoing commitment with General Electric for the construction of solar power plants in five States within the North. Kurfi’s group is also going to drive some funding arrangements with financial institutions and development partners on key areas of Agriculture. Thankfully, Dr Kurfi himself is very keen about the north reclaiming it’s lost glory in cotton production and textiles manufacturing which was the predominant industrial activity in Northern Nigeria, as well as the creation of international markets for our farm produce with emphasis on value chain.
We shall hopefully have Dr Kurfi to give updates on what his group is doing but then, we know for sure, that we cannot achieve much without Your Royal Highnesses and our other valuable elders who not only have so much experiences but also influence public attitude, mobilization for mass participation and other integrated processes of developments at the grassroots. Using your highly organized and time tested system of administration, Your Highnesses are strongly present in all streets, wards, villages and districts under your heritage. We seek to work together in order to deepen the good works majority of our Royal fathers are already doing, so that we can form a stronger front that will strikingly change the narrative of northern Nigeria from being a basket case to that of strength in peace, strength in productive population, strength in economic prosperity and strength in unity. Our forum’s secretariat has furnished me with a note that gives details of problems confronting most parts of the North and even suggesting ways of addressing them. However, as my colleagues would say, there will be no point inviting Your Royal Highnesses and distinguished elders if we know the problems and the solutions to them. We will rather prefer to hear from you as we go into a closed door session.
We look forward to valuable and free minded conversations that should focus on solving our challenges. Once again, on behalf of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, I welcome Your Royal Highnesses and other invited guests to this meeting. For our good friends and important partners in the Press, we hope to see you when we have a communiqué either by the end of today’s session or perhaps, tomorrow, after the Governors meet to conclude the two-day session.
Thank you so much for listening.
*Shettima, Governor of Borno State and Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum, delivered above address at the opening of an extraordinary meeting with Chairmen of councils of traditional rulers in the 19 Northern States and the FCT held on Monday, January 23, 2017, at the Government House in Kaduna.
*Photo Caption - Governor Kashim Shettima
[ Masterweb Reports: Hamisu Kabir Matazu reports ] - Alhaji Lawal Kaita was the former governor of Kaduna State in 1983, under the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He lasted only three months in office before the 1983 coup brought an end to his rule. Between 1980-1982, he was a Special Assistant to President Shehu Shagari. In this interview, he spoke about the Southern Kaduna crisis, and the shocking political changes that have taken place since the second republic. Excerpts:
In 1983, you were the executive governor of Kaduna State, and shortly after your exit, many crises happened. What do you think is responsible?
Well, I remember when I was a governor of Kaduna State. We were fighting for the creation of Katsina State, and the late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi came to my office and tried to persuade me to stop the agitation. He said Kaduna State without Katsina will be a trouble spot. There would be constant trouble between southern Zaria and Northern Zaria. But I told him, sir I can`t stop it because we want our own independence.
At the time, many people were against state creation, just to avoid these crises. General Shehu Musa Yar`adua was against it, and so also was Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Abubakar Gumi foresaw this and told me to stop, but here we are today, Katsina State was created and Kaduna is in crisis.
But why did you continue with the agitation despite all the persuasions?
Because we were suffering too, and why should we continue to suffer? At that time, the best thing to do was to fight for our own state. That was why we continued.
Can you tell us some of the sufferings that triggered your quest for the creation of Katsina State?
Of course yes. You see, even the federal statutory allocation at that time was a blessing. The fund helped in developing your own area. Look at Katsina now, we are peaceful and development is everywhere.
But, what do you think is responsible for the crises?
It’s all about selfishness and struggles for religious and political relevance. Nowadays, people lie without tolerance and respect for each other, and obviously, it’s the result of bad behaviors.
As a governor then, how were you able to steer the state without such crises?
I was only there for three months, so there was no crisis throughout that time. More so, we ran an honest and transparent government that respected everyone’s culture and religion.
Recently, a sitting governor was said to have called on Christians in Southern Kaduna to come out and defend themselves. What is your view on that?
It`s highly irresponsible for a sitting governor to address his Christian counterparts to come and defend themselves. As a public figure, he should learn to encourage peace not violence.
What political changes have you noticed between the Second Republic and now?
The political changes in Nigeria are shocking. In our time, there is dedication and commitment, and money was not our priority. What people so much care about is ideology not money. You cannot influence people with money.
When I was ousted from government, I just had N133,000 in my wife`s account. I only survived with that N133,000 and this house. But now, governors are billionaires. I keep wondering how somebody could have such huge amount of money as a public office holder.
There were calls, especially from the southern part of Nigeria, to restructure the country into viable regions, what is your take on this?
I will not comment on that.
Buhari overthrew the government when you were a governor and you would later go on to help him. Why?
He overthrew us, but we feel he should be given another chance to prove himself.
President Buhari has spent 2 years in office, do you also believe he has good intention for the country?
Yes, very good intentions.
But, there are complains even by his wife that he is being caged by a cabal, which has affected his performance. What can you say on this?
The Buhari I know has good intentions for Nigeria, and cannot be caged. I know Mamman Daura personally. He is very nice, very intelligent, very committed and hard working. So, for those who still believe that Buhari is caged, they are wrong. He is strongly independent.
Maybe the economic recession is biting people very hard and there is no good response from the government. And for ordinary people, even food to eat has become increasingly difficult. So, however much you try to persuade people that Buhari is doing well, people will not believe you.
They said, during our time, we the PDP people, we were stealing money but people were happy eating. But now, nobody is stealing anything, according to them, but we are not eating, we are suffering. Where is the money?
I don’t think Buhari is caged. He is doing what he thinks is right and his people are supporting him. But, what is right in their own opinion is not what we Nigerian believe is right for us.
What is your assessment of the government?
Well, the assessment of the government is that it`s doing what it believes is right. They said a lot of money has been stolen by the PDP people, they are recovering the money but yet the ordinary people are suffering. People are suffering.
At 84 years old, you still look healthy and agile, what is the secret?
Luck and contentment. I am quite happy with what I am. Money is not my problem. But, this interview should stop here. For 20 years I have not given such interview, and it`s because of you.
*Photo Caption - Alhaji Lawal Kaita
[ Masterweb Reports: Isiaka Wakili reports ] - President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on a ten-day medical vacation. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement.
According to Adesina, the leave is part of the president’s annual vacation and he (Buhari) is expected to resume work on February 6, 2017.
The presidential spokesman also stated that during the vacation, President Buhari would also undergo routine medical check-ups.
He said in line with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara have been duly communicated.
Adesina noted that while the president is away, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would perform the functions of the office of the President.
As of the time of filing this report yesterday, the vice president was in Davos, Switzerland, for this year’s World Economic Summit.
A statement by the spokesman of the vice president had earlier in the week said Osinbajo was scheduled to return to Nigeria on today.
Shortly before Buhari departed the Presidential Villa yesterday around 12.20pm, his wife, Aisha, was meeting with the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda, at the First Lady Wing of the Villa.
This is the third time President Buhari would be embarking on vacation in less than one year.
The president had on February 5, 2016 and on June 6, 2016 embarked on vacations and transmitted power to his vice.
*Photo Caption - President Muhammadu Buhari
[ Masterweb Reports: Hir Joseph & Lami Sadiq report ] - The first commander of the United Nations/African Union (UN/AU) combined peacekeeping mission in Darfur, General Martin Luther Agwai (retired), has advised proponents of Nigeria’s breakup to take a look at South Sudan. In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Agwai said the civil war rocking the new country should serve as a mirror for secessionists.
Soon after you landed in Dafur, South Sudan, the BBC quoted you as telling the people of the troubled country that you were not there to compel peace on them but to work with them for peace. Where did you derive this inspiration?
In conflict resolution you apply force. In conflict and war you force and defeat the person. And the person has nothing to do but to accept what you want. In conflict, there is the enemy to defeat. But peace is when you and I sit together and talk. Sometimes, when two of us are fighting, we need a third person to come in to broker peace; to mediate between us to resolve problems. As long as we are not ready to compromise and mediate, we will never have peace. Therefore, the term I have always used is peace resolution, not conflict resolution.
Would you see your statement as a prediction of what happened afterwards: the break-up, and by extension, the new country, South Sudan starting a civil war soon after the secession?
When we hear people in this country say they want to break away, we laugh because we know it is not the solution to the problem. Let me tell you, if you are breaking away because you are a minority and the majority is lording it over you, at the end of the day, one of the minority zones will now become a majority; you will never have an end to it.
That’s why I told one of the newspapers during an interview in Kaduna that I won’t support the argument for the creation of another state for Southern Kaduna. It will never end their problem. If you know why Kaduna should be broken into two states, then we can sit down and see how we can use the situation to our advantage and remain together.
With all sincerity, are you saying that with 36 states, Nigeria is more peaceful than when we had four regions? Has the creation of several states solved our problems? It has even aggravated our problems. The truth is that some of us, the elite, see break-up as an opportunity to achieve political relevance and become senators, governors, commissioners, etc. It is not for the interest of the people.
There is no problem in this world that doesn’t have a solution. You can only say there is no solution if you are not determined to solve the problem. People do a lot of things ignorantly. So the thing is to sit down, trash out your differences, talk about it and move on.
In this country, if we had sat down and honestly discussed our problems and removed all those things that are stopping us from moving forward, we would have gone far beyond where we are today. This is a very rich and blessed country. Honestly, if Nigerians knew what God has given us and we harnessed and used it positively, we would be a force to be reckoned with in the world, not only in Africa. A Hausa proverb states that if there is a crack in your wall, the lizard can come in. So because we allow cracks in our wall, external people will find them, get in and expand their own interests and divide us the more. How many people want to see a strong Nigeria? Not many. Nigerians should understand that we will be better off in collective security than individual and sectional security.
It was reported that you had 26,000 peacekeepers under you in Darfur, the largest ever in peacekeeping operations. How were you able to handle such enormous responsibility?
Again, what we should understand is that we are talking about peacekeeping, but we are using more and more arms. I don’t believe in that. There has to be confidence building among people, not fear. There is a limit to fear. If you are stronger than the other person you will kill him and dominate. And as long as you dominate, the person will look to fight back to regain what he has lost so that he can be at par with you or dominate you. I do not believe that might is right, and that is part of the challenges we are having - we believe that the more you arm yourself and you can demolish and destroy the other person, the more you become stronger and whatsoever you want to do is right. That is not possible, especially with the level of information technology and social media in the world today.
I still believe that an all-inclusive way of approaching our problems - dialoguing to understand, respecting other people’s rights so that they also respect yours, eliminating or reducing the degree of ignorance among people and finding a meaningful way of living in peace with everybody - will reduce most of the conflicts bedevilling this country. And you have to invest on those who are to maintain the peace, such as the security forces. But they must also be answerable and accountable to the taxpayer. They should be held accountable for any wrong they do. It is the same thing with the judiciary, executive and legislature. If we live collectively, honestly, this world will be a beautiful place.
Recently, you predicted a worse security situation in the country if the factors that forced people to carry arms against others are not addressed. How would such a situation affect our already overstretched military?
It will leave our military and other security agencies in a very difficult situation. They are going to be overstretched the more. And the mistake we are making is that we are looking at these crises with the mentality of conflict resolution. It should be peace resolution, not conflict. In Nigeria today, most security organs are becoming more armed, and we think that is the solution. It is not. This is because the more the security forces are armed, the more the warlords who are creating rivalry will be armed. So, what we will always have is clashes by armed people. But when you start talking about peace resolution, you are sure of removing conflict out of it to create confidence and close ungovernable space.
Those who know how the Boko Haram insurgency started have said that the current faceoff between the government and Shiites movement is the making of another group of insurgents in the country. Considering justice as a critical factor in peace resolution, what is the best way to handle the crisis?
One of our challenges in nationhood is that people seek convenience when some cry out about a wrong somewhere. Some people feel it is okay or that time will solve the problem. And when time does not solve the problem it becomes a bigger issue; then we start getting worried. We know the reasons behind Bako Haram insurgency and the issues around the Shiites movement. The Shiites did not start today in Nigeria. Anything happening today was there before, but what have we done about it? There are other movements in the country, and what are we doing about them? We have to nip them in the bud.
I will always say that government at every level should not be afraid to dialogue with groups of people to find out what is wrong. I am not saying that government should negotiate, they should dialogue. But government should not dialogue out of fear. When you dialogue with groups and discover what the problem is, you take charge of it. You don’t allow such a problem to get out of hand. Once you allow it to get out of hand it becomes war and you start creating no-go areas, ungovernable space or rivalry with the government. That’s why we have what we have today.
Recently, Governor Nasir el-Rufai came under heavy criticism for saying that, to avoid reprisals, his administration was negotiating compensation for Fulani herdsmen who lost their cattle to attacks. The governor reportedly said he was acting on the recommendation of the security committee, which you headed. What informed such a controversial recommendation?
I have heard such rumour; but my report is open. What the committee recommended was for the government to dialogue and compensate all the aggrieved parties, not an aggrieved party. If the Kaduna State government cannot do it alone, it should appeal to the federal government and international organisations for assistance. So, if the government of Kaduna State has paid one group and quoted our report, I feel that is partial.
However, I don’t believe it is true. But if it is true, it is not our recommendation. Also, we said in our report that you cannot take away problems in the new dispensation of things, with the social media and mobile phones in people’s hands. You cannot say that one area is creating problems. For example, we found out and reported that the crisis that led to the killings in 2011 did not start from Southern Kaduna. Records are there to prove that. It was when indigenes of Southern Kaduna started receiving phone calls from their brothers and crying over the phones that emotions and perceptions were whipped and we got to the level we got to. So, if there is going to be dialogue it should include everybody. If there is going to be compensation it should also include everybody.
Our report even went further to say that in the interim, government can talk about grazing reserves, but in the long run, ranching is the solution to the problem. We should bear in mind that because cattle are increasing, the owners of the cattle are also increasing. In the same vein, farmers are increasing and the quest for farmlands is increasing. But the land itself is constant, it does not increase. And if you want to have a proper mechanised and profitable farming, you need a land of over 100,000 hectares. Everybody is trying to use the land; hence we cannot continue to graze from place to place.
Look at South Africa and Zimbabwe; they have more cattle than what we have here. But they don’t have problems because they are now ranching. But this cannot happen now. We understood that in our committee findings and recommended that it should be a long term project so that government can start sensitizing people about the way forward through ranching. And with today’s sophistication, how can we dismiss the fact that some people will carry arms as they move about?
I want to say with all sincerity that there was no place in our report where we said that government should dialogue and compensate the herdsmen only. I don’t know if the government is saying that it has started following our recommendation and the first phase is to start with the herdsmen before coming to the other people.
You retired from active service eight years ago, how have you been adjusting to life in retirement?
I want to thank the Almighty God. Adjustment has never been a problem for me because I have been a very lucky person. Apart from those who became heads of state, I think in the upper part of northern Nigeria, I am the first person who wore every rank, from second lieutenant to a four-star general. I thank God that I have been basically physically and emotionally well. I am working very hard to become spiritually well. I am also thankful to the government and people of Nigeria for educating and giving me the privilege to hold all the offices I held. I was privileged to be a deputy force commander in a UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone. I am happy that I was part of the group that got the Sierra Leone issues resolved.
They have been having elections till today. I am also proud and grateful to have served at the United Nations headquarters as their deputy military adviser. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to head the army in my country. That is what anybody who joins the army prays for. To crown it up I was able to head the armed forces: the army, air force and navy as chief of defence staff. I thank God that when we created the first hybrid force in the world, that is the AU and UN force working together, I was the first commander of that group. That also exposed me to so many other things. That is why I am able to adjust very easily in my retirement life.
Frankly speaking, I have hardly had time to rest. This is because I have been called upon by the UN, AU and other organisations to serve as mentor and presenter for leadership courses for those who will serve in the UN and AU as peacekeepers and pacemakers.
As I speak to you today, the African Leadership Centre of the Kings College, London, has appointed me as a visiting professor. I go there to discuss about leadership in Africa, peace building and peacemaking. That is where we learnt that the world should stop focusing on conflict resolution but peace resolution. As long as we focus on peace, peace does not go with guns and bombs, but conflict goes with guns and bombs. Few companies and organisations have invited me. I am also a director in some boards and organisations. I thank God that my hands are full.
In retirement you are still busy. Do you have the time to pursue other passions?
Unfortunately, two passions I had in the past have been left unfulfilled because of other engagements after retirement. I remember Isha Sesay of the CNN asking the same question when she interviewed me in 2009, just before my retirement. She asked what I would do after leaving the peacekeeping force as commander in Darfur and going into retirement. I said I would go to my farm. I love rearing chickens and cattle. I said I could get my animals to obey me even if human beings did not obey me while in service. She laughed and said I would not be allowed to remain in the farm. The truth is that I wanted to go to the farm. I had acquired a land for that purpose, but I never had the time because people and organisations keep demanding for my time and services. And I believe you should share your experiences and let people build on what you have. Because of that, I have really not been able to have that passion fulfilled.
My second passion is to pursue and pay the debt I owe humanity. I believe I owe humanity a lot. I remember that was the promise I made to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan when I met him last before leaving Sudan as a force commander in Darfur. He said he hoped I would write my experiences, and I said I would. But I have not written my experiences. I have not even written a biography or commissioned someone to do an autobiography for me. But I think I owe the society and people the duty to tell my own story - what I understand and what I have been able to achieve, by the grace of God - so that they can build on it. People should also be given the opportunity to criticise me and find a better way of doing things. Those are the two things I have not been able to achieve, and I hope that God, in his infinite mercy, would allow me to accomplish them before I move to the next world.
Are you considering a political career as has been the trend among retired generals?
A documentary was run on me in 2009 when I was leaving the Army. The reporter asked a similar question and I told him I had no interest in an elective office. But again, you can’t rule out everything in life because the world itself is very dynamic, so many things can happen to change you. I cannot rule out the possibility completely. Let’s be honest, I may not want it, but if my people insist that it is me they want to do the job, I can’t run away.
But on my own, I have not got that thought. I thank God for pushing me up to the zenith of the career he gave me. I learnt a lot of things and I will be willing to use them for the development of humanity. Honestly, what I said in 2009 still stands. I am not interested in politics at the level of running to the Senate, but I can help those in the Senate. I can discuss with them and share my experiences. But if at the end the people want me to execute and exercise my experiences, then I would have no option.
Do you have any regrets?
In my career, there were some things I wish I had done differently. But that will be left for history. By the grace of God, I will come up with my memoirs, and I pray they would come out very clearly.
There are a lot of high points in my career. That I participated in peacekeeping was one of them. This is so because I had always wished to be part of peacekeeping. Funny enough, I never took part in peacekeeping until I became a major-general. That is very rare. I had lost hope, then I found myself in Sierra Leone as a deputy force commander. And God knows I contributed my quota with all sense of humility to what happened in Sierra Leone at the time. I introduced what is called hotspot disarmament; and that fast-tracked the peace process in that country.
Another high point was becoming the Chief of Army Staff. I was very grateful to God for taking me to that level in my career. With all sense of humility and sincerity, I came up with the programme of transformation of the Nigerian Army. I was the first person to talk about such transformation. In 2004, I told them that the way we would fight would be different. I said the Army should be prepared to go to the battlefield. And I put the nucleus before I left; some were followed and some were not. That’s why I said I had regrets. I feel I didn’t sell the programme out properly. If I had sold it out properly, people would have bought it. I did my best.
Check a paper I wrote in the National Defence College, then known as National War College. I wrote on “Irregular Forces Defeating Regular Forces: A Lesson for Nigeria.” That was in 1994 when I was a student in the college. In 2004, I said the battlefield and the training of officers and men would change. People can say we have a lot of people to join the army, but how about the training? It takes years to make a pure professional. There are evidences; all we need to do is to study them properly. We know some of them but we sweep them under the carpet. Until we bring them from under the carpet and address them squarely, we will remain where we are. If we don’t, they will pursue us and we will keep running away from them. This is because the security forces can always give you a stable environment; that is all. To keep the peace and move the peace is the job of political leadership, not military leadership.
*Photo Caption - General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd)
[ Masterweb Reports: Olalekan Adetayo reports ] - Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said there was no truth in a media report accusing her of colluding with some government officials to fleece the Nigerian High Commission in London every time she travels to the United Kingdom.
An online news portal, Sahara Reporters, had on Thursday reported that the High Commission spends a minimum of £7,000 for hospitality on each of Mrs. Buhari’s trips to the UK, with the President’s wife visiting at least seven times in 2016.
But in a statement by her Special Assistant on Media, Adebisi Olumide-Ajayi, the President’s wife said she had never traveled to London with a large entourage as published in the report.
She said individuals on her delegation had never exceeded her three children, her Aide-De-Camp and her personal physician.
The President’s wife said the Nigerian High Commission had never cater for her needs during the trips based on her husband’s position that public offices must be separated from the private lives of the occupants.
The statement read, “The Nigerian Commission in London has never offered any favour either monetarily or materially to her (the President’s wife) or her so-called entourage on any of her trips to London.
“The State House in Abuja caters for her meal when necessary, and other healthy food or variety needed by her children are her personal responsibility.
“It is on record that the Nigerian Commission in London does not receive Aisha Buhari at the airport with any official distinction or privileges as was accorded other First Ladies before her.
“Her drivers are privately arranged without any recourse to the embassy for staff.
“She has never complained or raised dust about any of these acts by the High Commission because of the understanding, as clearly spelt out and practised by her husband, that public office must be separated from the private lives of the occupants.
“She has always been an advocate of good governance where officials of government are responsive and appealing to their constituents, it therefore baffles the imagination that one could believe she would corroborate with any government official however highly placed either at home or abroad to shortchange the Nigerian people.”
The President’s wife said the report which suggested corruption and abuse of privileges clearly negates the fundamental principle upon which the present administration thrives.
She challenged the authors of the report or any member of the staff of the High Commission to provide concrete evidence to contradict her position as it concerns her trips to London.
She said they should come up with the true position of things as it concerns her London trips if not for her reputation and that of her family, but for the sake of good Nigerians who deserve to know the truth at all times.
*Photo Caption - Aisha Buhari
[ Masterweb Reports: Isiaka Wakili reports ] - The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved a whistleblowing policy to check fraud in both public and private sectors. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun disclosed this to State House reporters after the FEC meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said the policy, devised by her ministry, is to encourage anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on Nigerians and government to report it.
She said the policy was aimed at increasing exposure of financial or financial related crimes; supporting the fight against financial crimes and corruption; improving level of public confidence in public entities; enhancing transparency and accountability in the management of public funds; improving Nigeria’s Open Government Ranking and Ease of Doing Business Indicators; and recovering public funds that can be deployed to finance Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit.
According to her, information that can be submitted include: mismanagement or misappropriation of public funds and assets (e.g. properties and vehicles); financial malpractice or fraud; collecting/ soliciting bribes; corruption; diversion of revenues; fraudulent and unapproved payments; splitting of contracts; procurement fraud (kickbacks and over-invoicing etc.)
She said a whistle-blower is any person who voluntarily discloses information in good faith about a possible misconduct or violation that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur.
The minister, who noted that there was a secure online portal where information could be submitted, said: "If you have already submitted your information, you can also check the status of your report on the portal."
Noting that the policy does not apply to personal matters concerning private contracts or agreements, she said whistleblowers could submit their information through the online portal by e-mail or by phone.
On whether a whistleblower is entitled to a financial reward, she responded: "It depends. If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5% (minimum) and 5.0% (maximum) of the total amount recovered.
"You must have provided the government with information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other publicly available source to the Government."
Asked if there is protection from false or malicious claims, she said: "Yes. A first level review will always be carried out to determine credibility and sufficiency of information received. If you report false or misleading information, it will be referred to the enforcement agents for investigation and possible prosecution."
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Tony Edike reports ] - An Enugu High Court on Tuesday, December 6, granted bail to leader of the pro-Biafran movement, Biafran Zionist Movement (BZM), Mr. Benjamin Onwuka, and 100 members of the group who were arrested by the police on November 5, 2012, after re-declaring the Republic of Biafra in Enugu.
Presiding Judge, Justice L. Okereke granted the Biafran activists bail in the sum of N1,000,000,(one million naira) with a surety who must be a civil servant above grade level 14, a member of the National Assembly from the South East Zone or a member of the State House of Assembly as well as a reputable traditional ruler.
Defence counsel to BZM, Okologu Njoku, had while moving the bail application, told the court that his clients did not commit any crime against the state as they were not caught with any weapon of destruction as gun, axe, club, machete, etc.
Onwuka and his supporters were arraigned before an Enugu Magistrate Court on November 5 on a one count-charge of attempting to wage war against the state and were subsequently remanded in Enugu Prison since the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Speaking with newsmen after the court ruling, the second in command to the detained BZM leader, Mr. Samuel Edeson pointed out that Nigeria did not deserve to be among the comity of nations where human rights are being observed because, according to him, Nigeria violate human rights of its citizens, hence their agitation for self-rule and autonomy.
"We were intimidated, arrested and detained because we aired our views. We said what we believed; we don’t believe in Nigeria, we believe in Biafra. We are not hiding, we know definitely that one day, Biafra will be actualized," Comrade Edeson states.
Hundreds of men and women believed to be supporters of the detained pro-Biafra members stormed the court in solidarity with the activists who they said were fighting for the emancipation of the people of South East.
It would be recalled that the group under the aegis of Biafra Zionist Movement had converged on an open field in Coal Camp area of Enugu where their leader, Mr. Ben Onwuka, addressed them on November 5.
Policemen led by the Enugu Central Police Station Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Ike Mba, arrested Onwuka and members of his group, who displayed Biafran, American and Israeli flags during a procession that preceded the re-declaration of Biafra Republic.
*Photo Caption - Map of Defunct Republic of Biafra
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Plans are underway to transport petroleum products by rail to some parts of the country, Mr Goddy Nnadi, General Manager, Corporate Services, Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), has said. Nnadi made the disclosure on Sunday in Abuja in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“We are moving into something else. Our pipelines are not effective because of age and vandalism and so the emphasis now is moving petroleum products by rail.
“As we speak, members of the committee [looking into the option of using railway to transport petroleum products] are in Lagos to collaborate with Railconnect, a private company and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
“NRC has a lot of rail tanks that are lying idle; if you go to Apapa there are lots of these tanks along the rail lines but because nobody bothers to use them they are there.
“If we switch to rail, the pressure on our roads will be reduced,’’ he added.
Nnaji said that in 2005, Oando Petroleum Company tried the rail option to transport petroleum products, but the exercise was not successful.
“I think they are willing to try again. A lot of marketers including Pipelines and Products Marketing Company are collaborating with us.’’
The GM explained that the rail option would not make tanker drivers redundant, adding that it would instead complement their jobs.
He said: “the Nigerian economy is growing and the more it grows, the more you need the rail option. In the next one or two months, we hope to kick-start the project.
“It will not be very fair to say that the country’s rail service is not effective. Trains have been moving from Lagos to Abuja so cargo trains will be useful.’’
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Hon. Ibegbu Speaks On Trump`s Victory & AFOT ] - Chuks Ibegbu is the Nigeria Coordinator of Africa Friends Of Trump (AFOT). In this no-holds-barred interview, he looks into some issues concerning the recently concluded USA elections.
Q. Sir, may we know the objectives of AFOT?
A. AFOT, which is the abbreviation for Africa Friends of Trump, was formed way before the US presidential primary elections, and borne out of the phenomenon which Donald Trump’s presidency represents for America in particular and the world at large. It is a group of like-minded Africans who, having followed the United States’ elections closely and especially on how they particularly often bear on Africa, came together and agreed with voices from America that the need for a presidential candidate who is from outside the box of organized and controlled-by-few political establishment now far outweighs every other need in the present political transition. The singular aim of this organization is to bring home to Africa the very phenomenon which Donald J. Trump’s emergence will entail for Africans: to be able to persuade the citizens of each African country to vote for electoral candidates who are not part of the corrupt systems which have kept Africa grounded despite the abundance resource deposits and, in doing so, bring true and lasting political change which will interpretatively enthrone true democracy all over Africa. AFOT is a body for all pro good-governance Africans, no matter their location, color or tongue. Our full descriptive objectives is seen on our Facebook page, https://web.facebook.com/groups/AfricaFriendsOfTrump
Q. What role did AFOT play in the victory of Donald Trump?
A. Just as our Facebook group page clears, Africa Friends of Trump (AFOT) did not set out purposely and solely to support the election of Donald Trump. We, having studied the American electoral processes and having also considered the time in which we are, firmly believed that Americans were fed up with the status quo and were, therefore, in dire need of change. Now, who would have been in the better position to be taken seriously where the need and push for a new America is concerned if not Trump? He is an already-made man, was never in the system, and calls a spade a spade. So, you see, we didn’t set out primarily to support his emergence; we knew he would win. The Trump we are for is a phenomenon emanating from Donald Trump because we believed he was going to win for what he stood for. However, we played a role in his victory through our members some of who actively participated in hundreds of pro-Trump pages and forums; Akindele Olayomi Peter was amongst them. Some resident in the USA took it upon themselves to candidly persuade many Americans and non-Americans from both color and political divide on the urgent need for the type of change promised in the person of Trump. We also have members, people like Henrietta and Charles O. Okereke who were members of Trump’s campaign organization (TrumpTeam). An American solidarity anthem was also released by one of our member, Chief Charles Okereke long before the primaries were carried out.
Q. How will Africans benefit from the Trump Presidency especially with the insinuation that Trump hates blacks, immigrants and Muslims?
A. AFOT firmly believes that if America does well the world will do well because he is setting an example that will be emulated throughout Africa. He was not part of the system but he was chosen by Americans to bring the long-sought-for change. So, in Africa, looking at Trump’s victory, if we want a change, we will have to vote for and elect people who are entirely out of the system, out of the mess. We will have to vote those who are not part of the system that have messed everything up. The reason for this is because, the case of voting for people who are not part of the system is that they will either do well and bring the change they promised or they do not do well, whereas in the case of the old stock, the result cannot be different from what it has always been: they will take us one step forward, two steps back because they are part of the mess. That is the starting point: getting people who are not part of the establishment into elected offices. Take for instance America’s economy: America is now the most indebted country in the world whereas the financial records of those who have led her down this drain remain sparkling clean. What does that tell you? The people have suffered long under the establishment and needed change. They also believed that Trump will bring that change, not only to them, but to democracies the world over. This is the vision we are selling to all Africans: let us change the way we do things and Africa will be great. On the argument that president-elect, Donald Trump, hates blacks, immigrants and Muslims, well, that simply and clearly holds no sand; it is unfounded. Just as the USA is trumped, every African country needs to be trumped far beyond and above the old blocks and establishments. That will be our benefit.
Q. Some supporters of Hillary Clinton have been protesting Trump’s victory in all USA cities calling for her to be declared winner. What do you think about that?
A. (Laughs). My friend, you know, that is the beauty of democracy. Freedom of expression is the rights of every citizen of a democratic country and, in fact, the right of every citizen of this earth. However, where that freedom becomes misinterpreted is when those expressing themselves begins to get violent. By the way, what are they demonstrating about? Did Hillary win? No! Trump won the election! Those who think that majority (popular) vote gives a candidate the win in America is uninformed about America’s electoral process. The United States’ electoral win is based on winning a majority of the states and not winning a majority of the votes (which could come from one or two states). So, you see, there is absolutely ignorance in their protests: Trump won, Hillary conceded defeat and even the incumbent president, Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Donald Trump on his victory and invited him to White House without delay. Trump’s supporters are all over the place and they are not doing anything to unseat the calm in the country. They have quietly carried out their patriotic duties and voted for a better America. The way I see it, if you don’t want Trump to be your president, simply leave the country until his time finishes. You are part of the establishment, part of the problem.
To be continued
Interview by Africa Media Network
*Photo Caption - Hon. Chuks Ibegbu