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

Bukhastari: The Man Who Did Not Win

By Bunmi Makinwa

The dream was long. As she woke up, she remembered vividly all of it.

It was in a country called the Goliath of Africa. A rambling discussion is going on about a character called Maybaloon Buhkastari. Across generations and geographical demarcations, people speak about him in tones of veneration and wonder. The air of nolstagia about what could have been was palpable. 

A political party has ruled the country for almost eight years and people were  complaining about almost everything. Nothing appeared to have improved except for some roads, bridges and limited train transportation which have consumed more funds than they were worth. 

If only Buhkastari had been voted as president in 2015, he would have reversed the decline of the country and many things would have been better, the people said.

In newspapers, columnists wrote about Buhkastari in glowing terms. “He saw the problems of the country in practical terms. He had nothing to lose or gain. He only wanted to set the country right. He was committed, honest and prepared,” a newspaper editorial affirmed.

A famous critic of governments, Soho Kalaga, who was known for his radical views, lauded Bukhastari. A musician and activist, Kalaga, repeated everywhere that he performed, “The people deserve the leader that they have. You, my people, refuse to elect Buhkastari or give him a chance. See where you are.” Kalaga was said to have put together for imminent release a new, openly political song that had a popular chorus that goes thus:

“He promised us 

Our strong security

Our strong economy

Our strong people

Our dead corruption

Our new nation

But you did not allow him

Buhkastari should have been our President.” 

Buhkastari was born in 1942 in the northern town of Katsimau. He was nothing but a thorough military-bred. At 17 he started military training and soon became a young officer. He was lean, tall and frugal in his ways. When the military ruled the country, he served in various key posts – military and political. He was garrison commander, military secretary, state governor, and minister at various times. 

The story, true or not, was that he could not tolerate corruption. He did not like politicians. He vowed to people around him that any mention of bribes or anyone who lived beyond his means would go to jail after a summary trial hearing that he would head.

An introverted and generally self-effacing character, Buhkastari did not share the prevalent reputation of military officers as carefree, reckless or openly asserting authority. He took part in many coupsd’etat to overthrow civilian and military governments which he labelled as corrupt and useless. The people deserved much better was his watchword. He could not care less if political leaders rot in jail.

Several decades ago, Buhkastari had the opportunity to prove himself. After leading a successful coup to change the ruling government, he became head of state. Heavens had never seen such draconian laws and measures put in place in such a short time. 

Top brass in government ministries and institutions who were deemed untouchable hitherto were sacked, redeployed or jailed. The security branches of government had the power to detain for three months anyone suspected of sabotaging the economy or suspected of planning or breaching state security. Strikes and demonstrations were made illegal. 

The media, academics and critics, in general, were handcuffed ab initio with a special decree. “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement … which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offence…”.

For the media specifically, offending journalists and publishers would be tried by an open military tribunal, whose ruling would be final and without appeal in any court. Anyone guilty would be fined and also jailed for up to two years.

The military government of Buhkastari did not just pronounce the laws and measures, it implemented them and dealt with so many people in its fashion. His government created a slogan, Win Against Indignity, to wake people up and compel adherence to the new ways.

At the time, most people cheered Buhkastari. His regime was seen as a bulwark against the many failures, indiscipline and corruption of the ruling elites. Despite some criticism of high-handedness, the regime was popular in most parts of the country.

When in 2003 Buhkastari first reappeared in the new garb of a retired military officer who had turned politician and declared that he would re-direct the country to the right path, only a limited number of people paid attention to his message. Under the emerging democratic political setting, he repeated the same message every four years during the presidential campaign seasons but his audience did not increase. 

In 2015, and for the fourth time, Buhkastari, despite his frustration and previous message not to speak any longer on the matter, presented himself still as a presidential candidate. He pointedly noted that the country was adrift and would sink if it continued under the same leaders. He promised that he would use civilian and democratic ways to rule. 

He preached, raved, danced and wore unusual cultural dresses to woo voters. He went to many parts of the country that he never visited in the past to show his face and convince people about his good intentions. 

He did not succeed. The results of the election showed that he was not wanted as president. He retired to his farm and said not even a word any longer on politics in the country.

As time went on, people started to talk about Bukhastari and what he would have done to reset the country. And the whispers and conversations became louder. People wished that Buhkastari had been chosen and elected in 2015. By now he would have had almost eight years to repair the country.

“He promised us

Our strong security

Our strong economy

Our strong people

Our dead corruption

Our new nation

But you did not allow him

Buhkastari should have been our President.” 

(Kalaga’s chorus continues)

Bukhastari had campaigned in 2015 that if elected he would change the lives of people, the economy would be strong, insecurity would disappear and corruption would almost be eliminated. Early in 2023, almost eight years later, and because he was not elected, all these issues worsened. 

On every indicator of development, the country was doing badly. Prices of consumer items have increased beyond what was ever thought possible. Bread, yam, gaari, tomato or onions were three to ten times what they cost when Buhkastari asked to be elected in 2015. 

Students at public universities had spent some eight months at home due to strikes by their teachers. Even after the universities resumed teaching many problems remain. Payments arrears of salaries of the Academic Staff Union of National Universities remained unpaid. 

Fuel subsidy by the government has increased by about 1000 per cent from 2015 to 2023. Diesel and kerosene were no longer subsidized and their prices have become excessively high without any obvious palliatives to citizens. The country inched gradually to a situation where its debt servicing payments would consume almost its entire budget. Petroleum remained predominantly the major source of income just as it has been for all the past years.

Since 2015, unemployment has increased four-fold and data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that 33% of potential workers were out of jobs, and those who were employed mostly earned subsistence wages given especially the huge increase in costs of living. Youth unemployment was 43 per cent and the actual unemployment figure was said to be worse. Electricity, the motor that drives industrialization and growth, was as rare as it ever was. 

Insecurity was rampant and common so much that the movement of persons and goods has reduced significantly. The national currency exchange rate to the dollar which in 2015 was 190 has risen to 445 at the official rate. In the more readily used parallel market, it increased from 260 in 2015 to 740 in 2023. Buhkastari had specifically vowed that the national currency would not be devalued if ever he was elected, but his commitment failed.

People and voters in particular blamed themselves and criticized their sense of judgment. If only Buhkastari was elected in 2015 the story would have been different, people said. The former military and retired army general would have eliminated terrorists and kidnappers. The scam on fuel subsidies would have been stopped and the corruption in and out of government would have been reduced significantly. The dependence of the economy on only petroleum would have started to change. 

“We are going to secure this country. We are going to manage it properly. We will continue to improve the situation, security, and economy, and fight corruption,”  Bukhastari had said. When he did not get the votes, he returned to his farm. He is widely seen as a hero, a mystic and the best leader that the country ever had.

In the dream, she saw Buhkastari, gazing endlessly at his cows on his farm. He could hear the voices of regret. He wondered what history would have said of him had he won the election. He pondered on whether after eight years in office he would still have been seen as a hero and exceptional leader. Had he become president in 2015 would he have been demystified?

She remembered clearly that the dream ended just as Bukhastari asked himself the question – By 2023, would I have become in the public view another failed leader of the country?

Fully awake, she gave the answer.  

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Archbishop Tutu Was Drum Major For Justice

By Bunmi Makinwa

In many situations, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu did not lack words. He would say it as he saw it and he could not care less.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Desmond Tutu

If the quote reminds you of Wole Soyinka’s “The man dies in all who keep quiet in the face of tyranny”, then you are in good company. Tutu was a Nobel Prize Laureate for peace and Soyinka received the Nobel Prize for literature. 

Tutu’s quote above is one of my most beloved representations of Tutu’s principle or philosophy of life. He did not share the view that for the sake of peace, one should let powerful people get away with wrongdoings. For Tutu, the uniformed services must not be allowed to perpetrate injustice; governments must not make the lives of their people intolerable whilst few share the wealth of the nation. 

When he passed on at the age of 90 on December 26, 2021, Tutu secured his position as a historical figure against the apartheid regime in his country, South Africa. But he was much more.

He spoke, led and participated in protests and contributed to ending institutionalized racial injustice in South Africa, and he stood up for many other causes.

Borrowing the words of Martin Luther King Junior, Tutu can be described much more correctly as a drum major for justice. In many spheres and against all forms of oppression and suppression, Tutu stood tall. He combined theology and politics and broke rules and norms to affirm his stand against whatever was wrong.

Born and bred in the townships of South Africa where the black population was consigned during apartheid rule, there was the least access to education, health, public services, meaningful jobs and opportunities for growth. 

In the situation, Tutu could have been just another “boy” as a driver, gardener or cleaner – the kind of jobs officially allocated to black people under the oppressive regime. In the South Africa of his time, Tutu’s entire life would be determined by his “boss” – a white man or woman – who saw nothing good in the black boy besides serving his masters. But Tutu did not allow the system to determine his future.

He got educated and ordained as a teacher and priest. After his education in theology in the United Kingdom, he took on senior teaching positions at theological schools in South Africa and universities in Lesotho and Swaziland. As time went on he had jobs that took him across European and African countries. He was Bishop and Archbishop, among many roles and he used his positions to elevate his voice in the public domain, beyond his pastoral duties.

In whatever position he was, he spoke and acted against oppression and its manifestations, including those that were not so obvious to other people. 

Whilst HIV/AIDS was ravaging many countries and was especially high in South Africa, Tutu criticized the government for not adopting and using newly-available anti-retroviral drugs for treatment. He said that those who fought against apartheid “would be glad that a more realistic plan was in place but they would lament that too many died unnecessarily because of bizarre theories held on high.”

Against the prevailing public opinion and stigmatization of people living with AIDS, Tutu spoke against discrimination. He chastised the large pharmaceutical firms for blocking access to new drugs through their prohibitive costs, especially for developing countries. “People, not profits, must be at the centre of patent law for medicines,” he affirmed.

China, a giant country in all ways, does not tolerate any visibility from any country in favour of Tibet and its leader, the Dalai Lama. South Africa, swung by the weight of China refused for the second time in 2014 a visa for the Dalai Lama to visit the country. Tutu found his voice and spoke loudly: “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government.” 

South Africa overcame apartheid and became a darling country for most of the world. But internally, the political leadership was less than upright, especially when President Jacob Zuma ran the affairs of the country. Tutu was unforgiven of the government. “Mr. Zuma, you and your Government don’t represent me. You represent your interest and I am warning you… One day, we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC Government. You are disgraceful. I want to warn you. You are behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood.”

Tutu must have upset many leaders. It did not matter to him though. When he visited Kenya in 1988 as President of the All-Africa Conference of Churches, in his sermon he spoke about how African countries were less receptive to criticism of government and detention was common. The media blackened out his speech. “Sad and bad” was how a minister in Kenya characterized Tutu’s speech. On departure, “President Moi was not happy with me. But he still allowed me to use the VIP lounge,” Tutu observed.

In Zimbabwe, at a church conference, after then-President Mugabe had spoken, Tutu pointed out that the church would keep the government on its toes and would be the conscience of the society. 

Tutu accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom and President George Bush of the USA of human rights violations in Iraq. “The immorality of the United States and Great Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history,” he said, adding that, “In a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.” Tutu refused to participate in a conference in Johannesburg because of Blair’s attendance.

“The so-called ordinary people, God’s favourites, are sick and tired of corruption, repression, injustice, poverty, disease and violation of their human rights,” he summarized his position.

Tutu spoke harshly about Nigeria’s dictator, General Sanni Abacha, and often criticized the Israeli government on the Palestinian issue. 

Tutu and Nomalizo Leah, his wife, had four children who took up various roles and professions. One of Tutu’s daughters, Mpho Tutu van Furth, is a priest and married to a woman. She cannot serve as a priest because the South African Anglican Church forbids same-sex marriage, although it is legal in South Africa. Mpho has since left the country.

Gender norms became more nuanced especially in the North as Tutu continued his spiritual, political and social activism. LGBTQIA is a short name that covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. 

In Tutu’s world, human beings are essentially personalities that are inherently individual and social. No matter what sexual orientation a person has, Tutu maintained that every human person was God’s creation and loved by God. “Who am I not to love who God loves?” I heard Tutu ask repeatedly in several ways at international conferences. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid.” 

Tutu would not be constrained by the regular norms of society or of his career as a senior church official. In full priesthood regalia, he would dance in public often with a wide smile on his face. He would weep openly in public or break down and have to be consoled and held by people around him as he did during the period he was the Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The horror stories of tortures, killings, disappearances and ill-treatment of families, people and young ones by agents of the apartheid government brought hot tears to his face. 

He was so given to showing his emotions of joy, sadness and somberness that his key staff often wondered how and when is the appropriate time to present him with issues and events that gravely hurts the psyche.

In many ways, Tutu did not accept the usual way to view issues. He generated controversy even among many staunch Christians when he said: “If you say God is a Christian, what happens to God’s relationship with the Jews? What about devout Muslims? The Dalai Lama is a person of unquestionable holiness. I’ve experienced God in a Buddhist temple.” How open a heart he must have had.

Tutu was full of humour. At an international conference that this writer attended, Tutu told the story of how he was gifted a cap at a high military institution in the USA. The officers struggled to make the cap fit Tutu’s head. His wife, observing the almost futile efforts, lightened up the situation by saying, “Never mind, just give it to him to take away, my husband has a big head.” And Tutu said, “Just imagine it. Sometimes I can’t even have my wife on my side of things.”

Tutu never shied away from being explicit in his humour. At a speech at the University of Michigan, also in the USA, hear the mischievous Archbishop: “One day I was in San Francisco, minding my own business, as I always do when a lady came up gushing. Oh, she was so warm and she was greeting me and she said, ‘Hello, Archbishop Mandela!’ Sort of getting two for the price of one.”

In human, humane, and humorous ways, the Arch, as he was fondly called by his staff and admirers, redefined the meanings of pastoral leadership as a purposeful, lifelong, shepherding of the weak, the meek and the strong. He strove hard and longed to make living a better world.

(Dec. 2021)