The Drug Journey Of Kingsley

By Bunmi Makinwa

He responded courteously to my “good morning” greeting as I took my seat. I looked at the young man again. He was staring at the clouds from the window of the aircraft. An empty seat separated us in the largely empty economy section of the aircraft.

There was a lot of choice for seats. I considered going for another seating place too. I could have three seats to myself. Why not? Three for the price of one…what a nice way to cheat on those people who paid so much more for business class seats that appeared crowded as I passed through the privileged cabin on boarding the aircraft.

The young man looked well-fed and well-dressed in a tee shirt over a pair of jeans. His neck chain seemed to be expensive and his wristwatch appeared high-priced too. Perhaps, I thought, he was returning home from college abroad. Judging by his comfortable, expensive appearance, he must have parents who have considerable wealth.

We were airborne and the aircraft steadied into a smooth flight above the clouds,

Perhaps I should have a short conversation with the young man before I leave him for the free seats. I like to meet new people and I pride myself on being good at starting conversations with strangers. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Kingsley.

“How are you?” I started.

He looked at me shyly, or so it seemed, and responded, “I am fine, sir.”

“Are you going home to Nigeria?” I asked further.

“Yes, sir,”

“Where are you coming from?” I asked another question.

His answer shocked me. Perhaps I did not hear him well. He was soft-spoken. I leaned closer to him and repeated my last question. He repeated the answer softly but clearly, “Prison, sir.”

I could not hide my surprise well but I tried. I did not want him to see that I was flustered and could not relate his answer to the image of him that I had formed earlier.

My original idea to move to an empty row of seats disappeared. My curiosity needed to be satisfied. I would rather continue our intriguing conversation. I wanted to know so much immediately, but experience prevailed. Slowly, over food, drinks and in a relaxed atmosphere, our camaraderie grew. The full story emerged.

Kingsley was returning to Nigeria from Thailand. He had been in prison in Thailand for four years. He was jailed at age 18. He had left Nigeria for Indonesia where he spent three months. He passed through Myanmar to enter Thailand and was successfully received in Bangkok by a group of traders who spoke the same language as himself and came from the same part of Nigeria. They prepared him for his next journey – to carry illicit drugs somewhere in Europe. They did not tell him where.

One early morning, security agents came to the house in Thailand, arrested Kingsley and three other persons, and carried away everything inside the house. According to Kingsley, there was a room that was almost full of drugs that were packaged for him and other carriers to travel within a few days

He did not remember if he was tried in court because he did not see a judge. He only knew that some weeks after his arrest, he found himself in a big commune and recognized that he was in prison. He did not know which town it was.

Kingsley’s life in prison was very sad and frightening until the situation changed for him. There was a lot of canning and beating initially. At a point in time, he thought that every sound of approaching step towards him at night or daytime was bringing another round of flogging by any of the tough guys. Kingsley would cringe when he heard footsteps as he imagined that his tormentors were approaching, although it could be any persons that merely passed by.

As he narrated, his cell was occupied by about twenty prisoners. It was like a small hall, and it had a toilet. There was a leader in the cell, or better still, an enforcer who was able to use any brutal means and weapons to dominate the rest.

The leader had three to four bullies who carried out his orders and often just enjoyed making others suffer more. The leader and his bullies ate first and had good meals. The other prisoners in the cell would eat whatever was left of the food. There were times that Kingsley had nothing to eat or that what he had was so little that he felt like he had nothing to eat.

Kingsley could only move about in the cell if he was ordered to carry out an activity. Otherwise, he must sit or lie still in his given space throughout the day and night. There was a hierarchy of authority in the cell. The leader was superior in all ways and for all things. Everyone else deferred to him. The bullies maintained “law and order” and they would do whatever pleased the leader, including beating anyone who showed resistance until the person bled seriously.

One day, the leader in the cell ordered Kingsley to be taken to the boss. The boss was the leader and strongman of the entire prison. All cell leaders deferred to him and feared him. The boss had the power of life and death over every prisoner.

Kingsley had heard about the boss but had never met or seen him in about two years of his life in prison at the time. Kingsley had learned that the area occupied by the boss was a no man’s land for him. He could not approach it. On the day in question, two of the bullies from his cell took Kingsley to the boss.

“I could not even look at him when we arrived in front of the boss. He asked me if I knew where I was. I told him that I was with the boss. He said, yes, but where was this place? I told him that I was in his domain. That was what others used to say. He said that I was respectful. I told him that I feared and respected him. He told me to raise my head. I looked at him and he smiled.

“I had heard from some other inmates that several Africans had been killed or maimed in prison for misbehaving or challenging the boss. Some were killed when they challenged their cell leader. I knew that my life could end at any time as I knelt down in front of the boss. Perhaps this was my final day on earth. The boss, I had been told, could cut the hands, fingers or ears of anyone as he wished. I was feeling better that he smiled.”

Kingsley continued: “The boss spoke to me. He had heard my name from someone and I should tell him exactly what I was called.”

“Kingsley, ” I said.

 “The boss looked at me and asked, “Are you a son of a King.” I answered, “Yes.””

“From that day my life changed in prison. I was moved to one of the small cells near the boss. There were three of us in the cell. I was in the presence of the boss all the time except when I went to sleep. I had special food. I was not threatened or beaten any more. I enjoyed life.”

Kingsley’s life was transformed. The boss had decided that as a prince, Kingsley deserved to be given privileges and respect by others.

Kingsley saw people being beaten and some almost to death on the orders of the boss. Often the boss would watch the suffering person crying and begging for mercy. But no harm came to Kingsley. He was a protégé of the boss.

I looked at Kingsley as he spoke to me about his life. I imagined that his expensive tastes came from the good life that he had as a favoured subject of the boss in prison. He looked well-nourished and had a calm demeanour. His respectful manners came from living in the “palace” of the prison. His life as a special ward of the big boss has taught him to be princely in a prison setting where his boss was the emperor.

My next question was eating me up but I did not interrupt Kingsley’s long story of life in the court of his boss until I was satisfied that the story was ending. Kingsley could not hold back as he explained to me that he was so well treated that he would adore his boss for life.

“What brought you to be on a flight to Lagos?” I asked.

The King of Thailand bestowed a royal pardon on prisoners as a gesture of forgiveness. As Kingsley explained it, the prison authorities also respected and recognized the boss in the prison. The boss was consulted and asked to name some prisoners to benefit from the pardon.

“My boss asked me if I was missing my parents. I told him that I was and that they were constantly worried about me,” Kingsley said.

He explained that he had shown the boss some pictures of his mother in the past and from time to time he would ask Kingsley how his mother was doing. The boss told Kingsley a few weeks ago that he would leave soon for home. He had put Kingsley on the list of beneficiaries of the royal pardon. Soon thereafter, Kingsley was told to pack his belongings, including the numerous gifts that the boss had given him. He was put on a plane to Addis Ababa, and from there he boarded the flight to Lagos.

I asked him if he was glad or relieved to be going home. He shrugged his shoulder to signal his indifference.

“But aren’t you happy that you are out of prison?” I probed further.

“It depends,” he said.

“On what?” I was astonished that he seemed to see no difference between going home to his mother or staying in prison.

“Life was good for me in prison. My boss was a good man. A very good man.”

I weighed his response. I could not quite see how he would compare the two situations, especially now that he had a new possibility to restart his life and become somebody.

He was reading my thoughts, or so it seemed. “Sir, when I was in prison I had many things that I may not have anymore from now. I was even able to send money home. After I finish the money that I have on me what shall I do?”

I did not have an answer to his question. Instead, I gave him a long lecture. I advised him also to start a small trading business that would serve him well. I reminded him that others like him have started in a small way and had built big trading enterprises especially as other members of his family and village could support and “train” him. He could even learn something new by having a formal education in a school setting to assist him to run a business.

Kingsley listened to me keenly. I seemed to be more convincing to him than I would have imagined. The intensity of his eyes and some admiration showing on his smooth cheeks and chin made me feel like I was a priest administering a Godly message to a faithful churchgoer.

I finished speaking and waited for his response. Kingsley looked through the window of the aircraft at the sky as the announcement was made of the imminent landing at Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. He kept looking at the sky.

I asked a question to prompt his response, “Kingsley, so what trade are you likely to be interested in?”

Without hesitation, he responded, “I am going to try my luck, sir.”

“What do you mean?”

“As soon as I land in Lagos,” he explained, “I shall look for the people who can get something for me. They will find some other nice load for me to carry. I shall carry it for them. This time I shall not go to Asia. Their governments are too tough. I shall go to Europe directly. The people there are soft, and they are nice people.”

“But you may not be lucky this time. You may end up in prison forever,” I cautioned him.

He responded, “God has been good to me. He will help me again. I trust him. I also heard that if I am caught in Europe, their prisons are better than the ones in Thailand. If I am not lucky to have a big boss in prison, I can have a better prison in Europe.”

I looked away from Kingsley, past him and at the window of the aircraft. I could not see the sky; I saw nothing as my mind whirled, pondering at unclear musings.

Since the day I waved goodbye to Kingsley many years ago at the airport in Lagos, thoughts of Kingsley keep coming to my mind ever so often.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Trump Knocks On Doors Of Fate

By Bunmi Makinwa

Those who have underestimated former United States President Donald Trump do it at their loss. Trump is a non-conformist, contrarian, relentless and energetic fighter. He does not accept that he cannot get what he wants; he doesn’t seek peace with anyone who disagrees with him; he feels strong enough to knock on any door and will gladly break the door if it does not open. But current indications are that the doors ahead of Trump will be much stronger and may be impossible to open.

He lost his attempt to have a second term as president in 2020 when President Joe Biden won the election. Trump continues to claim without any proof or evidence that he won. And he has announced that he wants to be the next president of the USA in the future 2024 election. However, the number of obstacles in his path is mounting and his sworn enemies won’t play the game as gently as they did when they underrated him at his first major appearance in the political scene in 2016.

At the time, Trump overwhelmed every challenger. He dominated his party and public, and ignored the established tradition of decorum to political colleagues. All credible polls gave his main rival, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of the Democratic Party, the lead and certainty to win the 2016 presidential election. It did not happen. Although Clinton got about three million more of the popular votes than Trump, the latter won the more superior electoral votes having 304 to Clinton’s 227.

In 2020, when time came for another election, Trump was already well known in politics. His supporters admired him greatly and his opponents disliked him intensely. He had polarized the USA like never before and the political turmoil has affected social relations. Trump lost the election but he did not fade away. He has kept his supporters busy, raising money from them and reminding them that he remains the best president ever, a claim that he makes about himself on every matter.

The immediate thorn for Trump emerged in full glare on April 4 at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City after he was indicted by a grand jury for paying an adult film woman (another name for a pornographic movie actress), named Stormy Daniels, to keep her mouth shut about her outing with Trump. This was not a crime in New York and many places. The crime was that Trump got his then attorney, Michael Cohen, to make the payment and he reimbursed Cohen and charged the payment to his business account – falsifying business records. Worse still, the court heard that the payment was made to mislead the public regarding Trump’s integrity and standing – amounting to illegal influence of outcomes of the election.

Trump faces a total of 34 charges on this matter and related others. Cohen will testify against his former boss and he has already served a prison term for his part in the offence, and also disbarred in May 2019 by New York State from practising law.

Other charges against Trump are likely to come up. In Georgia State, Trump is being investigated for attempting to tamper with the 2020 election by seeking changes to the votes counted to favour himself, using his position then as president.

In another ongoing investigation, in January 2021 whilst the House and Senate were meeting to formalize the already concluded election of President Biden, thousands of armed and furious protesters stormed the Capitol and clashed with the police. The mob vandalized the offices, whilst the senators and representatives managed to escape. Trump may be charged for what he said and the roles that he played in supporting and actively encouraging the protesters that carried out what amounted to insurrection.

Also, for carting away loads of classified documents from the presidency to his private home at Mar-a -Lago in Florida, Trump is under investigation. He did not readily release the documents when the incident became known, unlike Joe Biden and Mike Pence who returned the documents immediately and pled their innocence when found with similar situations. Pence was the former Vice-President of Trump.

Any number of charges will arise from the plethora of investigations and the distraction will take money and time away from Trump who wants to focus on winning the support of his party.

His die-hard supporters are not easily discouraged though. They see the legal challenges as diversions and an attempt to discredit him. His loyalists seem to harden their positions and point to Trump’s successes in strengthening the economy when he was president. They also like Trump’s policies especially his anti-immigrant rules.

There are competitors for the Republican Party’s nomination but Trump remains the leading candidate to date. The former president is busy raising money to fight the legal battles. At the same time, he must raise money to fund his campaign. He will also be faced with finding the means to keep his businesses running as the Trump brand has lost a lot of clientele. His name has become toxic to many Americans and those who associate with him have become pariahs to millions of people across the world.

Yet Trump commands a superior chair where he sits with his supporters, especially one-third of the voters in the Republican Party who “worship” him. Trump’s supporters will do anything to get him back into the White House. His committed followers also believe sincerely though wrongly that Trump won the election of 2020.

Presently, Trump already stands uncomfortably as the first president of the USA – sitting or former – to be indicted by a jury for a criminal offence. The closest case was President Richard Nixon who was accused of involvement in the Watergate Scandal and he resigned as president in August 1974. Nixon was never tried and was pardoned by President Gerald Ford, who was Nixon’s deputy and who assumed office when Nixon resigned.

In many instances, what Trump wants Trump must get and when he knocks on any door it opens or he will force his way. Trump has been knocking on doors of fate and it has been kind to him in most cases.

The fourth of five children of his parents, Trump became the privileged one, much beloved by his wealthy property mogul father who showered monies on Trump and handed over most of his businesses to him.

Whilst he was studying at Fordham College in New York, Trump found his way to be accepted into the prestigious University of Pennsylvania where he got a bachelor’s degree, although the details are controversial.

Using his father’s wealth and business connections, young Trump showed personal talent in making bold moves. He got property deals with government officials and well-connected individuals. He is highly skilled at using the media and giving prominence to his assets and appearances. He usually makes claims about his abilities, business and wealth that are far beyond realities, according to many writers on his life and businesses.

Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography, “The Art of the Deal”, said in The New Yorker magazine that if he were writing the book today, he would have titled it “The Sociopath”. The author explained, “Lying is second nature to him…More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump can convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Trump had boasted in the past that he could shoot a person dead on upscale fifth avenue in Manhattan, New York, and it would not affect his popularity in the election of 2016. He tweeted many reckless statements, accused people wrongly and made many false claims, and he still got elected at the time.

But he does not always get his way. He failed in the 2020 election as his brazen claims did not convince the majority of voters. In addition, his mismanagement of Covid-19, inability to keep his friends’ loyalty and fate denied him the election. Cohen, his lawyer, was one of the closest trusted aides of Trump. Cohen changed his loyalty and is arguably today the leading enemy of Trump and has provided more damaging information on Trump than anyone else.

With the possibility of many criminal cases and possible convictions during the future campaign season preceding the 2024 election, Trump may become a huge liability for his party and the United States electorate. The question remains still whether the damage to him can weigh negatively enough to affect his chances to obtain the Republican Party’s nomination, and ultimately win the election as president in 2024. The answers remain open for the time being.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Development in Africa: TICAD and Both Sides of The Coin

By Bunmi Makinwa


In attendance were a King, Presidents, Vice-Presidents,and Prime Ministers from 40 African countries. From the rest of the continent were Ministers and senior political leaders. It looked very much like a summit of African heads of state and government in Yokohama, Japan. But it was not a summit.

It might also look like some version of the World Economic Forum. There were many roundtables, side meetings and events at a secure location where one ran into the top figures of politics, business, entertainment and development at every corner.

In reality, it was the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TIKAD IV) being held in the famous Japanese city from May 31 to June 1 2008.

Many UN agencies were represented at the highest level, and Thoraya Obaid was there as headof UNFPA. Bono, Bob Geldof, and Jeffrey Sachs – well-known spokespersons on development in Africa – were also there.

Those who could not attend the high-level event wrote opinion pieces in a special English edition of the Asahi Shimbum of May 31 – June 1, 2008. The opinion writers included Bill Gates, Kofi Annan, George W. Bush, Giorgio Amani, and Sarah Brown, wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the U.K.

There was no question that it was a gathering of big names. They would take yet another look at the past, understand the present, and prepare for the future development of Africa.

Talks Continue

The conversations on African development were taking on a new impetus. The TICAD IV provided a window into how the conversations were shaping up – issues, actors, players and actions come together to check positions and decide on the next actions.

But the reality might be different. Whilst commitment was obvious, there was no convergence on how to bring about development in Africa.

Maybe this was indeed how it should be – the notion of development could be seen from different optics. Although there is one African continent,it ismany countries with varying challenges, and the countries show different levels of progress and limitations.

The statements and speeches from African political leaders and their declared partners showed some clarity on what was required for African countries to develop. Problems were stated and solutions were proposed. Many of the statements were similar to the ones made previously by the same persons at international meetings and conferences. Less clear though was whether the continent has made progress because of what was said and repeated so often.

It made one wonder if underdevelopment in Africa was in large part due to too much being said and too little being done.

In this century, will Africa become a principal player inthe globalagenda? Or to put it starkly, will major development take place in a critical number of African countries in a way that would catalyse the resurgence of the continent as one of the major poles in the discourse of world political, economic or social directions? Would a more developed Africa evolve shortly? Would Africa set itsglobal agenda?

Promising Openings

Going by the efforts and preparations put into organizing TICAD IV by Japan, and the convincing attendance by African leaders, the two parties would seem to believe in the future of Africa. They were sure that they could work together towards it, both in symbolic ways and in concrete actions.

For the African continent, the statistics were promising. Most countries have recorded solid economic growth over the past several years. Real GDP has increased steadily since 2000 with an overall annual average rate of about 6percent,well beyond the world average. Besides the global commodity boom and its effects on resource-rich African countries, most of Africa made progress. The good outcomes were attributed mostly to sound economic management and expansion of trade and investment which resulted from political stability.

Even innon-resource-richAfrican countries (those mostly without petroleum or huge mineral wealth), some commendable “prosperitywasapparent, going by macroeconomic indicators.

The exceptions were countries that had major conflicts, or those countries in post-conflict stages, where rebuilding the economy was a major challenge.

What was the reason for such positive growth in Africa? Perhaps therein lay the answer to the key questions.

Rich But Poor

Despite the noticeable growth, poverty remained acute. Social development was very low and for many peoples, almost non-existent. Economists, who made positive statements about strong macro-development in Africa, admitted that there wasa hugedeficiency in micro-development. It was another economic jargon that translated as “there are good economic indicators in the country, but the life of the common citizens has not improved”.

Many African political leaders questioned their economic advisers on whether economic development, especially macroeconomic development, could bring about desirable social development. And when would it start to manifest in the human advancement trajectory?

The new and obvious plurality of political parties and democratic governance in Africa forced elected political leaders to become impatientwith dry statistics on economic and social development. The politicians were keen to point out that infrastructural development and access to social services were available due to their (leaders) governance.

Trade Needs

It was no wonder therefore that President Jayasha Mrisho Kekwete of Tanzania, the then President of the African Union, called at TICAD IV for more trade and not aid. He noted that direct investment by Japanese firms in sub-SaharanAfrica only accounted for 0.4 per cent of Japan’s total foreign direct investment of US$108.5 billion between 2002 – 2004. “Africa is a far-off land, too risky to invest in” for Japanese investors, he chastised and urged that the wrong perception of the continent should change. “Returns on investment in Africa are much higher than are available in the traditional low-risk, more stable world,” he declared.

Discriminatory policies and trade practices against African countries were some of the major obstacles imposed by Western countries to deter economic prosperity. To further make the point, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni jokingly said that he could provide beef for Japanese consumers at $20 per kilo compared to the price of about $200 per kilo paid for the famous Kobe beef.

He said that the Japanese farmers would not have to play classical musicor provide body massage and wine any longer to their coveted cows. Museveni said that Uganda would providehigh-quality beef at much cheaper prices. “In such a trade, huge savings are possible for Japan, and great benefits would accrue to Uganda,” he said, “merely by removing self-imposed and expensive care for cows just for having good beef!”

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of Japan pledged to double Japan’s annual net official development assistance to Africa to US$1.8 billion by2012 and to extend up to $4 billion in new loans over the next five years. Most of the support will go into the bilateral cooperation that was already established.

The investment will focus on infrastructure improvement, and agriculture, especially rice production. On the “soft development” side, mother-child health care would get substantial support from Japan., according to the Japanese leader.

Future Steps

The conference had a four-pronged thematic direction – economic growth; human security and MDGs; peace and democratization; and environment and climate change.

The outcomes of the TICAD IV conference would feed into the coming G8 summit of July 7-8 where sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and AIDS would also feature prominently.

Achieving the MDGs and related social development was seen as a crucial part of economic and infrastructural development. The challenge was how to make policies and implement them to attain both economic and social development – the two sides of the coin. From experiences in some parts of the world, it was possible.

In a few African countries, infrastructural development was moving ahead at a brisk pace, despite the late start. However, most African countries had very limited number of the basic infrastructures needed.

Some African leaders and individuals were listed amongthe world’s richest. But huge segments of the population remained far from having any meaningful access to decent means of livelihood. The gap between those who have and those who could not have was still growing, rather than narrowing.

Bunmi Makinwa

June 2008

Diversions as Political Campaigns

By Bunmi Makinwa


When the elections to be held soon in Nigeria would have been done andthe results announced, will itbe more of the past or some changes will be seen? Elders tell the same story again and again, and young people, who have no choice, suffer the boredom of hearing it until perhaps they can walk away from home.

National elections in Nigeria will take place on February 25, 2023, for 18 presidential candidates, 1100 senatorial candidates vying for 109 seats, and 3112 candidates competing for 360 House of Representatives seats.

On March 11, 2023, 420 governorship candidates will run for offices in 28 states and 10,231 candidates will run for the 360 seats of the House of Assembly in the states.

The drama of electioneering is entertaining, yet it is boring. For many who watch, analyze and embrace debates of electoral politics, the campaigns are attention-grabbing and can consume unlimited time. For most of the population, the campaigns, judging from previous ones, are sporting games featuring the same people acting theirparts. Only from time to time donew characters emerge, and often their garments and voices are strikingly similar.

Here are some major characteristics of the 2022/2023 campaign drama that are worthy of recall.

1. Money speaks and only the money matters. The major political parties announced that only members who could afford hefty payments for nomination forms would qualify for any consideration to vie for elective offices. Their prices for the sale of forms for candidates to contest in the party primaries effectively rigged the election in favour of only the wealthy, filthy rich and wasteful spenders. Purchase of forms is onlythe beginning and will be followed by the fact that contestants have to “finance” delegates who will vote at the primaries. The prices just to obtain the forms for the two main parties:

APC- House of Assembly – N2 million; House of Reps – N10 Million; Senate – N20 million; Governorship – N50 million; Presidential – N100 million

PDP – House of Assembly – N600,000; House of Reps – N2,5M; Senate – N3,5M; Governorship – N21M; Presidential – N40M

For parties that stood little chance of winning many seats, and for which winning the presidential election is only a dream, the prices for forms to contest the primaries as possible presidential candidates were still very high: SDP – 35M; NNPP – 30M; YPP – 20M.

2. So-called delegates or representatives of constituencies came for party primaries and returned home with huge pockets of cash. For major parties, especially APC and PDP, the reports were that cash in Naira was too heavy to carry. Payments were made in US dollars.

3. Party primaries were not limited to the topmost positions but were used to decide candidates for all positions. This ensured that the monies from prospective candidates trickled down to “active” party members at all levels. Many party members claim that this is the only time that they get to “chop” something from the elected members. The politicians do not trust even their colleagues,why would the citizenry believe their electoral promises?

4. Having won the party primaries, many candidates use the opportunity to raise money from all possible future beneficiaries and stakeholders. A lot of expenses are ahead. Those who invest money or materials, assets or efforts in the candidates can look ahead and perhaps reap the returns many folds if the candidates get elected. Like all investments, some “investors’ will gain and many will lose.

5. The process for determining contestants for the party primaries effectively warehouses transactional politics. It sets the agenda for elections showing that only those who have hugely disposable monies can become candidates for the parties that can win. Whether the funds generated by the parties are used for campaigns, official expenses or to support legitimate costs of running their organizations is immaterial. The fact remains that such a fund-raising system, whether legal or illegal, undermines democracy and robustly diverts attention to money rather than issues or serious discourse on political ideologies and directions.

6.There are a few serious and energized people who want to make change possible through politics. Theywant to have a better country, but they have no chance. The huge amounts of funds involved to get attention from the electorate and media make their goal impossible. The efforts and resources needed to mobilize people who do not believe in the genuineness of politicians and any agenda for development are daunting. The voices of the few creative, well-meaning, and aspiring politicians are drowned in the screams of the established parties and their candidates.

7. Whatbecomesof the aspiring, serious-minded politicians with their genuine enthusiasm for re-making Nigeria? Some give up their ideals and allow their hopes to die. Some drift on with feeble and ineffective political campaigns and pretend that they too can still win. And some join the establishment, hoping that the old maxim of “if you cannot beat them, join them” will enable them to recover their losses or perhaps get returns.

8. Finally, the idealistic few vocal politicians who invest little money because that is all they have, and puttheir professional careers, their solid and relevant experience and their carefully-prepared plans in the future of Nigeria gasp, for breath. There is no space as the dominant few politicians continue their perpetual hold on the country.

9. Whether it is based on ethnic nationalism, geographical delineation, age attribution, or interpersonalagreement by peers, the finality of who leads a major political party is based on “it is my/our turn” logic. As it happens at every stage of electioneering, it helps greatly if the claimant of “my turn” can back his claim up withthe money. Otherclaimants can be “wooed” into submission if they suddenly find money cascading on them like the downpourof rain. The more the “rain” the better the recipients can feel fulfilled that their long-term expectations have been met quickly. If the payment is right, many political aspirants give up their demands for offices.

10. In the noisy discourse about who rules the nation, state or any given area, the more important considerations such as quality of preparedness for office, the viability of ideas that are presented and demonstration of qualities of leadership fade away. My people, our people, our turn, and our chance are far more prominent factors that resonate with communities and the people.

11. In the ongoing political season, a group of five governors has added more flavour to the menu. They travel frequently and in super luxury to London because they cannot find a quiet house in Nigeria. They wear uniforms of many colours, eat gourmet foods and pretend that they are working for the good of their people. They provide a comic sight and confirm that personal agendascan be fashioned as public interest. Public money can be wasted wantonly by governors because accountability atthe statelevel is zero.

12. Despite efforts, it is difficult to keep track of how many new projects are launched, started or finalized droning the electoral campaign. The frenzy is high as groups of governors with or without the president crisscrossthe country to showcase which projects are the best and biggest. Elections have the magnetic power of waking up the sleeping projects in forgotten places. As usual, many of the projects that get media attention at this time will go back to sleep after the convoy of cars and loads of VIPshave returned to the state houses.

13. Competing with the number of projects launched is the number of politicians who change parties. All politicians believe that they will win theirelections, or so it appears from their demeanours. They change though when significant money comes their way. Or when they get a promise of a better position by a candidate who is a more likely winner. The politicians switch parties like they change clothes. Party and politics are married forlifebut politicians are not wedded to any programmes, policies or development objectives.

14. The political theatre would have ended as just another ordinary drama if the permanent president of Nigeria did not add a touch of history to it. He does not disappoint. He wrote yet another letter. He criticized the friends that he had loved to hate and he embraced new friends. He does not live people in doubt that his voice must be heard to affirm his importance, and especially his allegiance to some principle, no matter how temporary it lasts. OBJ will be OBJ!

15. Bigger and more impactful is the entry of the new Messiah. Even if the voice was familiar, the garb is different and his energy has been infectious. He has provided the space for unhappy citizens, politically excluded, dissenters, eager optimists,permanently discouraged, separatists, unemployed, poorly-employed, saviour-seeking, young-and-tired, and just-to-be-different groups of people. Whether it will be a definitive change of direction in the campaign trajectory will soon be known after the election.

16. There is also an enthusiastic crowd of party supporters who are a permanent feature of party politics. They appear at every rally and many of them will show up for any party provided that there is something for them. They come in buses, cars, kekes, okadas and also on foot. Many of them have PVC (Permanent Voters Card) and they brandish them to show the cash-distributing party agents at rallies. The PVC, like a credit card, is often their certificate for food, materials, cash, and gifts that are given at political rallies.

17. At the end of the voting, several millions of votes would have been cast for all the elections. INEC has a budget of 355billion Naira for the 2023 elections, which is more than a rise of 61 percent compared to the budget for the 2019 elections. The question is hardly asked if the money spent in 2019 has contributed to entrenching democracy or undermining it. The windmill of election spending by electoral bodies keep turning and the wind is not even felt by the country. Whilst the turn towards more use of technology to ensure that voting is correctly done is useful, it is not at all sufficient.

18. From 1999, the new democratic dispensation asprovided in the new Constitution is being tested during each election. It is time to ask deeper questions about the allocation of resources to deepen governance. Having such humongous investment in a system that produces only certain types of characters as determined by the party system outlined in the Constitution is wasteful. A nation that spends such a budget on an important output should seriously review the quality of the results obtained.

19. Every four years, the electoral system yields political leaders whose major focus is to get rewards from their “investment” rather than serve the electorate to improve the well-being of people and society. Is the problem the people or is it  the system that produces such leaders? Without re-visiting the question thoroughly, the election in totality is a diversion from governance.

20. The kind inputs that are made into elections appear to define the outcomes. In the 2023 elections that will take place soon, the inputs and process will generate outcomes that are not different from those that were obtained in every election cycle since 1999.

Voting is only but just a step among many towards electoral democracy. There are many more steps preceding voting. The preparations and inputs that go into voting and the entirety of the exercise show that there are many hurdles to be cleared going forward. The usual diversions take the electorate on the journey to nowhere. Beneath the surface and all around the country, there is outright disenchantment with politics and political leaders.

The diversions and so-called elections continue to douse popular anger and resentment against the perpetual exploitation of the country. People nourishthe hope of a better future and invest their hope in the diversions that only take attention awayfromseriously understanding the games that politicians play.

Even though the ploy has not changed and has been employed time and time again, voters remain caught in the election shows. The citizens and electorate waltz along to the music of political parties that are on a journey that at best goes around but only ends up at the same spot. END

February 14, 2023. New York

Obasanjo: You cannot Referee Your Own Game

By Bunmi Makinwa


What a pathetic figure he struck today as he spoke at the press conference that he called on the 2023 elections. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo loves the media space. He loves to be the centre of attention and he loves to act in the drama that he writes.

But he does not know when his act smells of odour that comes from his past – recent or distant. Yet again in the 2023 elections, Obasanjo wants to be a referee at a football game where he plays centre-forward.

He titled his statement, “An Appeal For Caution And Rectification”. A fundamental principle of trusted communication is the credibility of the source. If the source of information is not credible or trusted, the information content is at best doubtful. No matter how well-intentioned the information is meant to be.

Obasanjo lost credibility as a voice of reason and good judgment in Nigeria’s 2023 elections when he declared his support for a presidential candidate and the party. He spoke publicly about his choice and preference, a bold and admirable thing to do. But he gave up objectivity with the choice that he assumed.

Obasanjo in the opening paragraph of his statement said, “I crave the indulgence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency General Muhammadu Buhari, to make this statement because I have had the opportunity to keep him aware of what I know is happening and the danger looming ahead.”

He called the president “General” to remind him of many things – that Buhari and himself were military colleagues; that they are Generals and of course, Buhari would know that Obasanjo is the senior General whose order must be obeyed; that Buhari had heeded his (Obasanjo) past advice on danger; and that he Obasanjo knew when to smell danger and how to avoid it.

The references to the military roles can be attributed to Obasanjo’s wish to intimidate President Buhari or perhaps to curry favour with him. After all the negative statements that Obasanjo had made about Buhari in the past and that yielded no result, including campaigning against Buhari’s second term election, it is not likely that Buhari will be intimidated at this time. And if it is to court Buhari’s goodwill, then it is very cheap.

He restated his love for Buhari even further: “But as far as the election issues are concerned, the President has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he will want to leave a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.” Flattery can get you everything. But this comes too late at this time.

Obasanjo’s past showed that he had missed many dangers and avoided even deaths. He has had many successes. But he has also had many failures and the claim to smell danger and avoid them would depend on what criteria he uses to assess himself. Of all the living past presidents or heads of state of the country, he is arguably the most controversial and mostly due to his perpetual desire to hug the limelight.

In the statement, following the pretext of warmly embracing Buhari, Obasanjo launched a blistering attack on INEC and its Chairman. “It is no secret that INEC officials, at the operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not work and to revert to the manual transmission of results which is manipulated and the results doctored.”

“The Chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that the election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and Server are not a true reflection of the will of Nigerians…”

In the truly confounding logic reflected in the quoted statements above, Obasanjo’s argument takes off from “allegedly compromised” to “election process has been corrupted and most of the results…are not a true reflection”. Obasanjo went from allegation to conclusive judgment and “sentenced” INEC to jail, as it were, without trial. Talk of a ruse to draw his gun – “give a dog a bad name and hang him” is an old expression that describes how one can knowingly give a negative label to something or someone and justify a pre-determined conclusion.

From thereon in the statement, Obasanjo offloaded his gun on INEC: “At this stage, we do not need wittingly or unwittingly to set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act of those who allegedly gave money to INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money. Let me appeal to the Chairman of INEC, if his hands are clean, to save Nigeria from the looming danger and disaster which is just waiting to happen.”

The conclusion that Obasanjo arrived at is clearly stated above. In the usual posturing, he knows what is good for Nigeria, and he can deliver Nigeria from trouble. Or else he can destroy Nigeria. Heil the King!

Suddenly, he remembered something, and he added it in the statement: “Your Excellency, President Buhari Muhammadu…” Oh, President Buhari, not just General Buhari? Obasanjo had spoken of General Buhari in his opening paragraphs, and now in the closing paragraphs, the same man becomes President Buhari. This nomenclature is not by accident. Obasanjo knows the significance of calling Buhari a General who should obey his order, and a President who should save the nation, at different points in the statement.

Obasanjo also remembered in his statement that “… tension is building up and please let all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency test be cancelled and be brought back  (sic) with areas where elections were disrupted for next Saturday, March 4, 2023, and BVAS and Server officials be changed.”

For someone who has seemingly shouted earlier in the statement that the elections were not “true reflections of”, he backed down, retraced his steps and proposed that only some changes may be needed in “areas where the elections were disrupted”. Really?

He went on to make recommendations and suggestions on what could be done “To know which stations and polling units where elections were manipulated…” – a tone that is vastly different from the overbearing and majestical posture of wrongdoings and discredited elections with which he had started this press statement.

Obasanjo would not end his statement without further crawling before President Buhari to convince him of his genuine love. “Mr. President, may your plan and hope for leaving a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible election be realised.”

And whilst seeking to please Buhari, Obasanjo threw another straight dirty dart at INEC’s Chairman in the statement: “When the die is cast, it will be your (Buhari) problem as the Chief Executive of the nation. The Chairman of INEC may sneak out of the country or go back to his ivory tower.”

The struggle of Obasanjo to rise to the level of a statesman suffered another setback with the press statement that affirmed his bias. The statement discredited any notion of the possibility that the former president strives to play the role of arbiter for the largest interest of Nigeria.

He has chosen to use his democratic right to declare his support and allegiance to a political party for the 2023 election when he could have remained neutral and served as a voice of balance, reason and national stability.

The incoherent and incendiary statement that he fired into the public space today may cement his final loss of likely eminence in more ways than he would ever imagine.

Unfortunately, when history consigns Obasanjo to a small corner of darkness, Nigeria loses yet another possibility to have a national figure, leader and voice of reason when most needed.


New York. February 27, 2023

Twenty Reasons For Lagos

By Bunmi Makinwa

The conversation with my friend distracted me from paying attention to the streets as he drove away from Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. It struck me that he was not taking the usual roads. More surprising was that he seemed headed for the Oshodi area and would probably continue through Mushin. He continued and we passed through Oshodi and the usually crowded areas. No refuse heaps. No traders cluttering the streets. Traffic flow was smooth all the way through Mushin too.

 “What happened?” I exclaimed.

“This is the reason that I drove you through this roundabout way to go to Ikeja. I want you to see the new and changing Lagos,” my friend explained.

The incident above was in 2008 or 2009 during a visit to Nigeria. I saw a Lagos that I had thought was almost impossible. During two weeks in Nigeria and visits to four states, Lagos stood out in its cleanliness, orderliness and general improvement.  Governor Babatunde Fasola was in office at the time and his government was changing the city of some 14 million people at the time.

At the time, some other friends said that the changes were going on throughout Lagos State. I started from then on to pay more attention to Lagos State, where I had largely grown up and worked as a young person. By the time Fasola left office in 2015, his performance in Lagos was widely recognized as the rebirth of Lagos city and Lagos State, a continuation of a certain master plan of transformation.

Fast forward to many years later, succeeding Lagos State governments have created a state that is widely known to be ahead, despite the numerous problems that have hobbled the country as a whole.

As a public commentator and analyst on governance with the benefit of having lived in more than ten cities in various countries, it is timely and appropriate that I put on record my personal experience as a witness to the recent impressive development of Lagos State. In my opinion, there are many areas where the state has done well and continues to improve the well-being of ordinary inhabitants, under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The list below is not in any order of importance. It reflects my personal experiences and observations of situations, incidents and activities that come to mind as I watch the trajectory of growth of Lagos State and Lagos, the most populated city in Africa which is about four times the size of Johannesburg or Addis Ababa, and about three times the size of New York city.


1. There is a striking improvement of roads in many communities, including pedestrian walkways and good evacuation of flood water, although more work needs to be done to reduce flooding.

2. The improvement of educational facilities and buildings is remarkable, despite limited spaces for open and outdoor activities in certain areas.

3. Bus stops and parking spaces for commercial transportation are better in designs and usefulness, and often have seating places.

4. Pedestrian bridges are situated for ease of use, including being wheel-chair accessible in some places. Many more of safe bridges are needed and getting them used by more people is an important next step.


5. Traffic services by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) largely keep traffic flowing, despite the overwhelming crush at certain locations. The nightmarish traffic blockages that occur when LASTMA staff are not on the roads are testimony to the effectiveness of LASTMA’s efforts. Remember that traffic police used to attempt to provide the same services and the difference is clear.

 6. Waste removal and cleanliness is organized and payment systems are in place. The roads are generally clean to high standards.

 7. There is a seamless payment of land use charges online, and official, polite acknowledgment of payments made. During former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s term, the land use assessment rose astronomically and many people refused to pay the new assessment. The issue was resolved by Governor Sanwo-Olu’s government and a new, reduced assessment was done. A negotiated lump-sum payment was accepted at a further reduced amount. I found it a very modern and progressive way to negotiate a settlement that benefitted both the government and the people.

8. All payments that I make to the state are done in banks or through electronic banking services. This has eliminated the time wasted traveling to government offices, waiting in long queues and attendant under-the-table transactions with go-betweens. It should reduce the stealing of government money. There would have been a significant increase in the internally-generated revenue through this policy.

Abuses and Social Work

9. A policy or law to eliminate Omo Onile (so-called descendants of land owners) has made it doubly difficult for the “area boys” to harass or intimidate people who purchase land or embark on building. I see that the traditional area boys are less frequent and are less assertive.

10. Women abuse, child abuse, and infringement of rights of vulnerable people is no longer taken for granted as there are offices and designated institutions to handle the cases in a timely manner when they are brought forward. There is an active and well-organized civil society that beams its antennae on the issues. School authorities are less likely to shirk their responsibilities or allow abuses of their  students because of a more aware society, backed with governmental teeth.

11. I testify to quick responses to lapses or failures in adhering to official stipulations such as when buildings collapse. The quicker responses by governmental agencies to fire incidents and emergencies show a higher level of assumption of responsibility for citizens’ welfare.


12. It has been possible for aggrieved persons and regular citizens to seek audience with government officials. From very senior officials such as commissioners to local government councilors, there is a readiness to listen and act on matters that are brought for attention. In many cases, it has also been possible to hold the officials to account.

13. The governance system from grassroots to the top has been put to test in our own community residents’ association. There are regular interactions with local and state government officials. Sometimes the request for meetings, knowledge and information sharing emanates from the government.

14. One of the critical steps for Lagos State residents to have access to government as a community is the registration of a Community Development Association. Our own group of residents submitted our documents, as stipulated, and received the certificate of recognition without making any inducement to any officials or agents.

Health Care

15. One major indicator of development is the level of health care that people have. From testimonies by family members, friends and others, the health and medical care that is provided by government clinics and hospitals in Lagos State is of very high standard. On many occasions, I advised people to seek health services at government hospitals and they have had positive experiences. The costs are relatively low too, although the waiting time may be long.

16. The standards of health and medical care providers in Lagos State are high. From direct interactions with several medical and healthcare professionals who work for the state, there is no doubt that the government has done commendably well to retain them despite the serious outflow of such professionals away from Nigeria.

17. On a busy weekday in August 2022, I saw a man who suddenly fell down as he walked along Oba Akran road in Lagos. I approached him with other bystanders. As we were having a quick exchange on what to do, a siren came from the distance. Right before my very eyes, an ambulance stopped, two emergency care providers attended to the fallen man, wheeled him on a special stretcher into the ambulance and quickly ferried him away for more attention. The scene staggered me. What a delightful surprise to see emergency care operated on a Lagos street as if it was in a developed economy.

I have since the incident paid more than ordinary attention to official ambulances that are parked in some parts of Lagos. I look with renewed respect at siren-blasting ambulances that try to wiggle through the dense traffic in Lagos and urge drivers to give them passage. Until the personal experience that I had, I used to see ambulances as another Lagos vehicular nuisance and opportunists who use special lights and sirens to harass other road users.


18. In the diplomatic community in Nigeria, Lagos is one of the few places where diplomats and staff of international organizations such as the United Nations are allowed to go. Due to the security challenges of Nigeria in general, the country is not a popular destination for international meetings and conferences. However, Lagos and Abuja are easily approved for travel, although with restrictions. Many other states are absolutely no-go areas for diplomats. When, or are done briefly under severe restrictions and security support.

19. Very often, the government and police in Lagos issue security information to guide communities and the messages come through Community Development Associations.


20. In July 2021, Princeton University in the USA and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) approached some state governments and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) in Nigeria to take part in a multi-country review of government activities on the epidemic.  Lagos State COVID response was acknowledged as a gold standard. A wonderful insight to information and materials developed thanks to the special efforts of former National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi. They organized with their colleagues in government and its agencies, leaders in the organized private sector and civil society to have high-level exchange with the Princeton study group. Of all the states contacted in Nigeria, Lagos State was the most organized, forthcoming and professionally engaging.

In my opinion, the momentum of the development of Lagos State points in the right direction under Governor Sanwo-Olu’s government.

This notwithstanding, the state is blighted with many problems; some are unique to the characters of Lagos and others come from the general array of problems that affect Nigeria.  Among others: How well are the resources of the state spent to improve the state? How can the sixth-largest economy in Africa operate effectively without a regular electricity supply? Rather than continue to increase taxes for small and large businesses, would the state do better to increase opportunities for wealth creation and spread its taxation among many more enterprises?

Why does the state allow thugs to act as a “guerilla army” on roads and public places where they forcibly collect monies from hapless citizens? Why would hoodlums be given free rein to use violence at major events and social functions to extort money? To what extent are the state contractors vetted to ensure optimum performance? Why is allegiance to the party allowed to override due diligence and obtaining results for some contracts? The Lagos name brand is not reputable internationally – what will be done to rebrand it and successfully improve its image?


Overall, the current development trend of Lagos State should continue. In a new phase for the future, regular performance analysis and evaluation is needed and changes must be made to overcome the drawbacks. At this time, I shall not take chances with the future of this important state, and I will not embark on a novel adventure which direction is unclear.

Bunmi Makinwa is the former Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Election Time Is Rough

By Bunmi Makinwa

The results of presidential and national elections in Nigeria show that there are more changes than were anticipated by many analysts and commentators. Many politicians must be shocked. Some unexpected turns have happened in the political landscape and a lot of rethinking will go on. Perhaps there may emerge a better country coming in large part from the combination of the failures and successes of democracy.


Has rigging taken place? An elder politician who had seen almost all the elections in Nigeria once told me. “All parties rig elections where they can. But you can only rig successfully where you have the support of most people. Results of voting largely reflect voters’ wishes in almost all the previous elections.” It is the same in these elections. Those who wish to believe it will do and those who won’t believe it will not. No facts, documents or evidence can convince those who shout, “No.”


On violence, Nigeria has never had any elections without some level of violence. Unfortunately, the trend has continued. There are always those who stoke embers of hate and anger. And there are those who are willing to die for nothing. Both groups must be reined in quickly and stopped. Let normal people refuse to join them. More importantly, let citizens and those who wish the country well dissuade the goons, thugs and users. Denounce them, stop them and report them.

Burning, arson and killing does not profit any society. When normal lives resume, the hate and destruction perpetrated during this period will remain and fester. We must reduce hate and destruction. 


On the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there will be blame and commendation. This is just as usual in every election. Few losers of elections accept the results. However, INEC should strive for maximum communication. It should provide as full information as possible to the public at all times.

The reported hacking of INEC’s servers and spreading of fake results are expected. How well is INEC prepared for it? When servers are being hacked, INEC should inform Nigerians. It should also explain what it is doing to counter the hackers. Where there are lapses or failures, INEC should admit them and also state its successes. If INEC decides to make important changes of policy directions, the public deserves to know. When there is no official information, other types of information, mostly wrong ones, will fill the space. The erroneous and false information will be consumed by the public and form the basis of actions.

Trust in government is very low and agents of government, including INEC, are generally seen as only doing the bidding of certain interests. 


Former President Obasanjo has criticised INEC strongly and accused it of wrongdoings as election results were being released. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to impose new directives on the agency. Against the background of Obasanjo’s choice several months ago of one of the political parties, his voice cannot be credible nor respected. He has campaigned eloquently for the party of his choice and its presidential candidate, hence Obasanjo’s advice can only be seen as a protest when his chosen party was not able to reach the goal that he had in mind.

The role of giving advice and finding compromises belongs rightly to a statesman. Obasanjo cannot be a referee at a game in which he is a player. Obasanjo knows what it means to be a statesman. He cannot be the voice of reason, or balanced and objective viewpoints when he has chosen a path of alignment and partisan politics.

Let other past leaders intervene. Former President Abdulsalami Abubakar has called for rational discourse and given his support to the current electoral process. This is important. It is timely and desirable that other leaders of various callings seek to calm the restive populace and commend those who remain calm. Law and order must prevail.


Governance in Nigeria is burdened with many failures. There are far too many challenges and problems to be overcome. Within such a situation, it is highly unlikely that any perfect outcomes can emerge.

There are no elections in Nigeria that have gone quietly and smoothly. This one is not different.

Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

My Cashless Week in Kenya

By Bunmi Makinwa

As soon as I stepped out of Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JKA) to the impressively well-lit parking areas, I regretted my decision to defer the change of foreign money to Kenyan shillings at the exchange kiosks within the airport offices.

I had glanced at the exchange rates illuminated on the screens of the Bureau de Change desks and decided that I would get better rates at my usual exchange places around Kimathi street in the centre of Nairobi. It was November 2018. JKA staff were their usual welcoming selves.

“How long will you be here?” the immigration official asked me.

“Wiki moja, rafiki yangu,” I responded. (One week, my friend)

His face lit up, “You speak Kiswahili?”

Not the one to avoid the opportunity to show off at that point, I responded laughingly, “Ninajaribu kidogo.” (I try a little)

The happy engagement went on for another two minutes after he had finished and handed my passport to me. I collected my bags and exited the airport feeling already very much at home in a country where I had lived in the 90s, and where I always felt like I had not even left each time I returned.

The hailing taxi service arrived within three minutes and I was on board. Another conversation started with Margaret who said that I was the second client that she would take to the same hotel the same day. My top concern as we drove through the well-lit streets and free-flowing traffic of late in Nairobi was how to get cash for payment of the courteous and friendly driver.

The sooner I verbalized my problem to her the better. I explained to her that on arrival at the hotel, she would have to wait whilst I change money at the front desk. Or would she accept the US dollar equivalent of the charges and tip added. “You seem to be a local, aren’t you?” She asked and before I could respond, she added in surprise, “Don’t you have M-Pesa?”

I registered for M-Pesa (Swahili word that means Mobile Money) during my last visit to Nairobi and put some money into the mobile money account. But I have never used the service. Margaret said that it was very easy. As directed, I dialed a combination of numbers with the stated amount and she showed me her phone to confirm that she received the money within seconds.

Feeling empowered the next day I put in more money into my mobile money service at a nearby kiosk on the street where one would buy recharge cards. As long as I had my telephone, I did not need cash, nor my wallet, or any bank card or banking service.

A phone number, sim card, and any kind of phone are adequate and one can receive money and pay for anything. I gave tips, paid hawkers on the street, bought a bottle of water, and put away some savings using the service. There is no need for a bank account. No ATM or banking card is involved to use M-Pesa.

As more people arrived in Nairobi for our programme activities at the time, we told them about M-Pesa, They subscribed to the service. From their bank account, my friends and others would transfer money online into their M-Pesa. Those who chose to use an ATM would transfer money from the machine into their M-Pesa. Those who had cash paid it into M-Pesa and avoided the security risks of carrying cash around.

There was no POS needed at the petrol station. The driver of our taxi service paid his bill using M-Pesa. At the restaurants, their M-Pesa number was on the screens to make payments. At the church service, the M-Pesa phone number was written on three projectors.

In 2007 when M-Pesa started its operations through Safaricom and Vodaphone in Kenya, many people did not understand what it meant to life, business, and social interactions. It was a new service that seemed to offer many advantages. No disruptions took place and nobody was forced to change their lifestyle.

The subscription on M-Pesa in Kenya has climbed to about 30 million persons from about one million subscribers in 2008. Although dominant, M-Pesa service is not the only mobile money company in the country which has a population of about 50 million.

“Give me your telephone number,” is the most important statement for money to change hands. Deposits were made, goods were bought, debts were paid, and loans were given – all by telephone wherever one may be in the village, town, or abroad. No cash is needed, requested, or wanted as mobile money has become more and more popular. A study found that 64 per cent of people using M-Pesa had an income of less than 10 dollars per month. They were mostly regular citizens.

As one moves around Africa, one finds mobile money in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

The banking services have evolved rapidly in Nigeria to make banking transactions fairly easy and reliable. But the currency swap policy failure has shown that the cash economy is more extensive than the Central Bank of Nigeria understands. There is sufficient experience even in Africa for any country including Nigeria to copy or learn from and create a cashless economy. It can be done without having a crisis.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Peculiar Characteristics of 2023 Elections

By Bunmi Makinwa

In a few days, voting will begin for the new President and Vice-President, Governors, Senators and Members of the Houses of Representatives and Assembly in Nigeria. About 15,000 candidates will contest the numerous offices.

Elections in Nigeria have many characteristics which are defined by the nature of the political life, electoral campaigns and voting. Since 1999 when the new democratic dispensation started, each election has brought along some peculiarities and the four-yearly election cycle for the president and others shows the most striking trend or evolution of a new direction.

This article will look at some distinguishing features of the campaigns and preparation for the elections of 2023.

It is the first since 2003 where the name of President Mohammed Buhari will not be on the ballot as a candidate for the office of the president. He contested the five preceding elections and won in the last two of them.

It is the first election since 1999 that the four leading contestants are billionaires. All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s Bola Tinubu, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, Rabiu Kwankwanso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are listed variously as politicians, businessmen, wealthy and billionaires.

Two presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar and Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress, have run previously two times as presidential contestants but did not win the elections. Abubakar has run as well in numerous party primaries to qualify as a candidate for different parties. Sowore, an anti-establishment voice and untypical politician, has been able to gain national attention despite very limited resources and many odds.

It is the first election where a presidential candidate, Peter Obi, emerged from a relatively small, hitherto inconsequential party to constitute a national movement in a short time. The movement of a motley group of people comprising disenchanted voters, angry young people, and sectional groups who feel alienated, among others, is impacting on campaigns and will affect election outcomes.

There is no basis for comparison yet but it would appear that this election season has witnessed extensive arson on assets of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and perhaps most destruction on INEC of any previous elections.

Just ahead of the elections, INEC’s arbitration and capability as umpire were put in question by the Osun State Elections Petitions Tribunal ruling of January 27, 2023 on the Ademola Adeleke and Adegboyega Oyetola dispute on the winner of the Osun State gubernatorial election of July 16, 2022. INEC, according to reports on the judgment, appeared to have presented two different results of the election figures from INEC’s Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines to Adeleke and Oyetola.

INEC’s BVAS can read Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters using the voters’ fingerprints and will be used nationwide for the first time to decrease election malpractices.

As elections approach, propaganda is used more heavily to misinform and mislead people. Through the advancement of technology, fake news propagation has become easier. Very little skills are required to manipulate audio and video settings – change images, voices, appearances of people and mislead even the most vigilant. Party supporters have devotees who use the social media to spread wrong and biased information.

Parties and politicians hire experts who are adept at using fake news and combatting fake news, and also at manipulating information to achieve their objectives. There are about 170 million mobile phone subscriptions in Nigeria. Among the country’s population of about 220 million, most Nigerians can be reached by phone and some 90 million people access the Internet using mobile smartphones. WhatsApp is the number one social media access of information followed by Facebook in the country. The influence of social media is huge and will continue to grow.

The media has played its traditional role. With the inherent biases of the newspaper. television and radio organisations in mind, one can better comprehend how they may slant their reports. Government-owned media will claim to be more objective than privately-owned media, but such a distinction has to be checked with their practice. Some outstanding professional journalists have emerged from the coverage, interviews and reporting carried out. The line is blurred on the separation of social media from traditional media as almost all traditional media organizations also have online presence.

There have been reports of polling reportedly done by reputable pollsters. From previous political campaigns, reliable expectations on actual election outcomes from polling is tenuous. In one of the most disappointing polling known, most polling in the USA projected that Hillary Clinton would win by as much as 70% to 90% in the 2016 presidential election against Donald Trump. The convincing projected victory did not happen and Clinton lost.

There has been unprecedented demand for security support from both government and private agencies. About 15,000 candidates for the elections will rely on various levels of security support. The total number of polling booths is 176,606 after 240 polling booths were dropped from the initial number. INEC has said that it would deploy over 500,000 security agents to service its activities. Given the general state of insecurity in the country, there will continue to be a lot of security work needed.

Printing of posters, flyers, and information documents has increased at this period. Transportation of candidates and their supporters is important. Organising rallies and events require the use of equipment and workers. Consumption of foods and drinks is very important for crowds. Gifts are packaged, handed out and mementos are distributed to supporters. These functions and many others engage macro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) around the campaign and electoral processes. Whether the volume of transactions involved does compensate for the MSMEs that are hindered from their normal business during the period is not known.

A major highlight of the current electioneering is the new policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to redesign the currency and enforce currency swaps under strict deadlines. No matter the good intentions of the policy, its implementation has caused massive disruption of the economy at all levels. The policy has negatively affected especially small business owners who rely on cash transactions. It has reduced the movement of persons and the flow of transactions in all parts of the country.

As a result of the policy, protests and arson against private and public facilities have started and are continuing in many places. Planning for private and official activities has been curtailed or stopped. As usual with major official policy changes that are hardly ever properly analyzed and understood before implementation, the CBN action has sorely made life difficult for ordinary people. The poor have been more impoverished and carry heavier social and economic burdens.

The anger and deprivation will affect the elections in ways that will be seen later on. It is not an exaggeration to say that no previous financial or economic policy has had such a disruptive effect on any election since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The extent of its negative effects at this time has been more visible than the positive expectations, and only time can show whether the policy is beneficial in certain ways.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Elections Trend Towards 2023 in Nigeria

By Bunmi Makinwa

There have been six major political campaigns and elections in Nigeria since 1999 when the new democratic arrangement started and for which the 1999 constitution has served as the basis for determining the electoral combinations.

The past 24 years may be a short time in the history of a nation, yet it provides some glimpses into how the political system has fared. Perhaps it can serve to elucidate certain pointers to future political campaigns, elections and winners of major political offices, especially for the presidential election of February 2023.

Despite several voting periods that take place at irregular intervals, the presidential election is uppermost in people’s estimation for voting. It is also the four-yearly cycle when most other elections are held – gubernatorial, the senate and house of representatives at the federal level, and the house of assembly at the state level. 

In 1999, only two major candidates contested the presidential election. They were Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). With Obasanjo polling 18.7 million and Falae having 11.1 million of 30.2 million total votes cast, the trend for the presidential elections to date appeared to have been set, whether by design or simply by happenstance. 

Since the 1999 election, only two to three political parties have had prominence in presidential elections. Although many registered political parties presented candidates for the presidential election, the votes have favoured a very limited number of parties. Many parties share a measly number of votes, as will be shown in the following explanation.

In the 2003 presidential election, coming four years after 1999, three major parties sharedan overwhelmingly large number of votes although a total of nine parties were registered for the election. The topmost winners were PDP, All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). PDP’s Olusegun Obasanjo polled 24.4 million, ANPP’s Muhammadu Buhari had 12.7 million and APGA’s Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu got 1.2 million votes. The six remaining political parties divided among themselves the left-over four million votes, making a total of some 42 million votes cast.

The number of political parties contesting the presidential election in 2007 increased significantly to 25. However, similar to the outcome four years of the immediate past election, only three parties took almost all the votes cast in the election. PDP’s Umaru Musa Yar’dua got 24.6 million, ANPP’s Muhammadu Buhari had 6.6 million and Action Congress candidate Atiku Abubakar received 2.6 million. The next party came a distant fourth with 608,803 votes of the total number of 61.5 million votes cast.

Four years later in 2011, there were 20 political parties registered for the presidential election, a reduction from the previous 25 parties of 2007. The outcome was not different though as only three parties featured prominently in the final results. PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan had 22.5 million, Congress for Progressive Change’s candidate Muhammadu Buhari took 12.2 million of the votes and Action Congress of Nigeria’s Nuhu Ribadu had two million of the 39.4 million total votes cast. ANPP’s Ibrahim Shekarau came fourth with less than a million votes.

In 2015, the number of political parties decreased to 14 and two parties dominated the results of the voting in the presidential election. After three losses in the previous election, Muhammadu Buhari of APC won with 15.4 million votes and PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan came second with 12.8 million. The third position was taken by African Peoples Alliance’s candidate Adebayo Ayeni who had 53,537 votes that were not significant. The total number of votes cast was 33.4 million.

Although the presidential election of 2019 witnessed an increase in the number of political parties to 39, the largest ever, the results again showed two political parties with an enormous number of votes. Similar in many ways to the outcome in 2015, APC’s Buhari led with 15.2 million and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar got 11.2 million. The third contestant Felix Nicolas of the Peoples Coalition Party only had 110,196 votes. The 36 other parties had nothing important to show for the 28.6 million total number of votes cast.

With the benefit of the results of the six past presidential elections, what is the likely outcome of the presidential election, coming only a few weeks away? Currently, the foremost presidential candidates are PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Labour Party’s Peter Obi and New Nigeria Peoples Party’s Musa Rabiu Kakwanso. How will voters favour them on 25 February 2023 at the presidential election?

There are 18 political parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the election which reflects a sharp drop compared to 2019 when 39 parties contested the presidential election. According to INEC, the number of registered voters has increased from about 84 million in 2019 to about 93.4 million in 2023, marking a considerable rise. 

There are 52.8 million males to 47.1 million females registered, a ratio that is similar to the situation in 2019. The registered youths stood at 51.1 per cent in 2019 for ages 18 to 35. The new figures released by INEC indicated a change in the age brackets. The data shows age 18 to 34 at 39.6 per cent of registered voters and the age group 35 to 49 has 35.7 per cent registration. If the two age brackets are combined as 18 to 49 they will form over 75 per cent of registered voters, almost reflecting the actual demographic dominance of young people in Nigeria’s population. This article does not delve into how demographic delineations have affected voting patterns in past elections.

In the past six presidential elections, despite a large number of registered political parties by INEC, two political parties dominated in 1999, 2015 and 2019 whilst three parties had the most prominence in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

There is no major alteration in the profiles of the foremost candidates for presidential elections of 2023. The leading contenders are traditional politicians who have shared several similar political platforms or belonged to the same political groups. The major political parties and their campaign promises or agenda do not differ substantially from previous ones. The ongoing campaigns by political parties for the 2023 election so far reflect a pattern similar to the past six presidential elections since 1999.

Also, the ratio of registered voters by gender and age appears similar to the past situation. Although more people are poised to vote given the increase of some 10 million in the number of registered voters in 2023 compared to 2019, the level of interest of voters to cast their ballots on election day and their accessibility to the actual voting points are unknown factors yet.

The situation is such that the play and cast has not changed. But is the audience the same too? As we look ahead, the conclusion seems obvious that the trend in election results will continue and that two to three parties will dominate election outcomes in 2023. Two and at most three political parties will have large absolute figures in votes. The constitutional provision on how parties’ votes are spread across states and other criteria on national representation in 2023 will require further analysis.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership