#ENDSARS As Hope In The Future

By Bunmi Makinwa

Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of 'leadership'
People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Days of protests have shaken Nigeria in a way that is different from any other protest since “Alli Must Go” in 1978, a nationwide student protest against military government over increased costs of feeding on college campuses that rocked the country to its roots.

The apparent lack of organizational structure for #ENDSARS is unique. It has no visible arrowheads, no visible locations of its births and no prior building blocks. “Ali Must Go” had university student union leaders in charge, it had tertiary institutions for convergence of ideas and tactics, and it had many years of fervent student unionism and activism against the then dictatorial military governments.

What #ENDSARS owns is the Internet and its limitless uses. Even more important to the burgeoning protest is the sudden awareness that real power belongs to the people. Our young people should have known this fact. They waited, watched, lost direction as the leadership in all sectors failed the nation. But it is better late than never.

In a country where 70 per cent of its 200 million people are below the age of 35, young people must seize the moment and turn the tide in their favour. They can shape the country to make their future a place not just to survive, but also prosper. The young people are the future, and it starts today.

Although #ENDSARS started as a robust reaction to wicked, abusive and oppressive policing by a special arm of the force, it has become a staging platform to review the excesses of governments, poor leadership, loss of values, economic hardships and corrupt systems.

Due to the trend in number of deaths and births, Nigeria has more young people than old. About one-third of Nigeria’s population are between the very active age of 15 to 35. This is a potent force for good, but if it is abandoned to its fate, it can turn deadly and become a rampaging troop of destruction.

In a well-managed economy, the country’s large working age population with a low dependent non-working population should translate into a development boom. But Nigeria has lost the time and the essence of the demographic dividend as a large part of its young vibrant population of working age is left out of its economy. Young Nigerians between age 25 and 34, the most vibrant working class, have 30 per cent unemployment. One in every three employed Nigerian is under-employed. This means that only about half of the productive workforce is actually fully making contributions to the economy.

EndSARS now | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World NewsOpinion —  The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
Demonstrators carry banners during a protest over alleged police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

Nigeria has some of the lowest indicators of social, economic development. #ENDSARS should be a beginning for meaningful turn-around. Leadership is about making life have meaning for people, and making tomorrow a pleasure, or, at the minimum, tolerable.

Young people in Nigeria do not have any future to look forward to. Not unless you have access to the few plum jobs, not unless you have parents or mentors who open the doors, not unless you are “lucky” and somehow get access to something that gives you a break. The number of young people keeps diminishing who can have a normal life, even as the population of young people increases.

A people who do not have today and cannot dream of a future that is worthy of existence is a danger to itself and to others. The Nigerian young people are getting desperate and are boxed into hopeless, cynical corners. Young people are on their knees. They beg for grades in schools and colleges, they beg for jobs no matter that they are qualified, they beg for living wages even when they are employed, they beg to deploy their acquired skills after being  well trained.

EndSARS: Street demonstrations banned in Abuja - FCTA | Nairametrics

Young people, especially women, even pay to emigrate to become prostitutes who sell their bodies in expectation of jobs, income and support. Many choose to engage in any dastardly act as a means of survival or for a better life. They do not pray for God “not to lead us into temptation”. The temptation to sin has been legitimized by a society that makes normal routes impassable. They do not see hope in the future.

When young people know what power they have, Nigeria will change. As I have written elsewhere – “Young people overwhelmingly constitute the largest majority of the population. They have no meaningful future ahead of them. They have no means of running out of the country. They may have to force renewal and give the country a new breath”.

The power to choose who leads us has been taken away by the systemic corruption that makes access to political office available only to higher bidders. Scholarships and funding support to study at tertiary institutions is often used as political patronage and not granted to the needy. The way to get a decent job is made impossible no matter how well a young person performs in his/her studies. The opportunity to own a business is closed because the banking system and financing is laden with insurmountable obstacles.

In systems that open doors to its young people, it is possible to plan to have a job, have a home, have a vehicle, or afford organized public transport, and look after one’s children within one’s means. In such situations, and in most cases, entry to jobs is merit-based, mortgage facilities are available for use throughout one’s working life.

#ENDSARS should become the beginning of making Nigeria a great country, not one that is crippled by wanton looting, poor leadership, and deep-seated corruption.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Communication Takeaways from Edo Elections

By Bunmi Makinwa

Daily Trust - Edo 2020: 1.7m voters to determine Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu,12 oth
Edo Elections

The recent gubernatorial election in Edo State which Governor Godwin Obaseki won convincingly over his rival, despite running on a new party platform that he joined only a few months earlier, gives a glimpse on how interactions around politics create deep favours or intense dislike for key political personalities in Nigeria.

Human activities of significance provide insights to confirm existing norms, indicate new ones as they appear, and above all yield pointers to managing future similar or related activities. The recent gubernatorial election shows communicative characteristics. This article explores some of the communicative expressions and offers comments. It is a glimpse into how the interactions of the gubernatorial candidates and their political parties with the electorate and public in general might have shaped the final outcomes.

An important point about the turbulent campaigns and rallies in Edo State is that voters’ interest did not increase despite the strong characters of the candidates and the high stakes. Obaseki scored 307,955 votes, which are slightly lower than 319,483 votes that he garnered in 2016 when he ran for his first term. His opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, received 223,619 votes this time, also lower compared to his 253,173 votes of 2016 when he was also the chief opponent to Obaseki.

Edo 2020: Coast clear for Obaseki in PDP as court strikes out case after  settlement - Businessday NG
Governor Godwin Obaseki

It is indeed surprising that what appeared as serious mobilization around the elections did not create high enthusiasm for voters’ turn out. Why?

The results of the state elections, won handily by Obaseki despite running within a new party, pointed to the strong likelihood that voters’ decision was based on personalities and not allegiance to political parties. Obaseki on one side versus Ize Iyamu, tightly supported by former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole on the other side, were the key characters. The last two formed a union that failed to convince voters. Obaseki was adjudged the better choice. The decision confounded those who had relied on Oshiomhole’s apparent popularity, based largely on his major victory for his second term as Edo governor in 2012.

Election campaigns present an opportunity to throw missiles of all types at opponents. The two major political parties and others were responsible for the brickbats of accusations, allegations, and blames that featured in audio and video messages of all types. One of the videos showed a candidate as homosexual and therefore undeserving of being Governor of Edo State. The video did not explain how it knew the sexual orientation of the candidate, nor how being homosexual would affect his performance. It was a just-use-anything attempt to bring an opponent down.

The time is past when established media organizations exclusively report on election campaigns, votes and results. No matter the rules that guide news and media organizations, they do not apply to most of the popular and citizen media. Everyone who has a telephone or any communication device uses them to record and disseminate information. There were any number of reports, purported news and information on the elections. The public and audience had to struggle to sift wrong from right information, often an impossible task.

Nigerians react as APC suspends Adams Oshiomhole - Daily Post Nigeria
Governor Adams Oshiomhole

Popularity of video and audio recordings by individuals and groups has greatly increased the availability of raw information materials on the present and the past. Gone are the days when valuable footage of important events and actions are kept in institutions or organized locations. When a leading public figure makes a claim, just about anyone could do a Google search, for example, and dig into several archival materials available through social network services online to provide verification.

It is still possible that politicians can manipulate or influence the media by force, using money, position or their power of coercion. In this manner, adversarial information or news may be prevented from spreading or being known to the public. Wrong. It is no longer easy to stop unfavorable information or news. Information of all types can be generated and spread by anybody using social media and online network services.

The major traditional media do occupy some pride of place and can be very influential in formation of public opinion. But they no longer stand alone and can sometimes be less powerful in shaping public agenda than the small media or social network services. Increasingly, the separation of media platforms is becoming less distinct. Most of the large established media organizations use social media as much as they use information that may originate from social network services.

A politician facing an election in the future, or one who does want to maintain great influence in his or her community should keep in mind that staying on the correct path in public and private is sound advice. If something should not be known, then it is much better that it does not happen. Once it happens, be prepared to explain, or face the consequences and accept the blame.

Politicians often use attendance at their campaign rallies as a gauge of support that the public accord them. In the new sophisticated environment, opinion polling is another measure of what people do and how they will vote. Opinion polls also inform politicians on how to orient their audiences and steer people to support an agenda. However, heavy turn-out at political rallies have become a very uncertain gauge of support as many people turn up at events for many reasons including to collect gifts, monies, or in expectation of material assets. At times the turn-out is just another social outing in communities where nothing much happens.


Opinion polls are useful though not necessarily effective sources of information. Hilary Clinton led in most results of opinion polls in 2016 and she lost the election, although she won the majority votes. That was not sufficient to get her access to the White House. A serious search for reliable means of measuring political support and voters’ interest is still wide open.

The total number of voters in Edo State during 2020 gubernatorial elections is 537,407 out of about 2.2 million registered voters. In 2016, a higher number of voters – 613,244, was recorded out of about 1.9 million registered voters. The 2012 gubernatorial election of Oshiomhole versus Mr. Solomon Airhiarvbere recorded still higher number of 630,099 voters out of about 1.5 million registered voters.  The significant reduction in voting in Edo State over the past 12 years deserves more scrutiny. It may be due to several barriers such as apathy, social or economic reasons, and perceived insecurity.

In the apparently religious society that is Nigeria, political campaigns use faith terminologies, labels and ingredients to colour their “preachings” for political support or conversion to their own side. It is not unusual to begin bitter and divisive political rallies with prayers. Speeches are filled with allusions to the almighty and his powers to deliver victories to the candidates. Spiritual songs are used to lift up enthusiasm, just as thugs dress up for violent confrontations to mail or even kill. Yet aspirants to political offices try hard to convince the public that they belong in the spiritual kingdom.

Whether overtly or subtly, political campaigns and processes around elections remain vital in forming public opinions and making decisions on voting.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.


By Bunmi Makinwa

EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu reportedly detained after he ...
Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu (via The Interview NG)

Once in a while the unexpected happens in life and there is drama. If it is very unexpected, it can be called high drama. It is too early to say whether the issues surrounding Mr. Ibrahim Magu, until recently acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is just drama or if it qualifies as high drama.

An important point – drama may reflect life but it is not reality, nor does it change reality. Drama is (usually) fiction. The Nigerian political establishment is a world of unending drama.

Within weeks, historical drama shows debuted. Magu was on centre stage, facing a probe panel on allegations of corruption. The opponents of Magu, who until then has been leading anti-corruption efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, were overjoyed. They would like to see him in more trouble, perhaps in jail. Magu’s supporting audience hailed him for his good deeds and accused Attorney General Abubakar Malami of being the chief architect of Magu’s predicament. The pro-Magu people hauled loads of accusations of corruption on Malami.

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) opened its can of worms to the public. An allegation of 40 billion Naira corruption within NDDC was being probed. Former acting MD for NDDC, Dr. Joy Nunieh, exchanged strong accusations with Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, on mismanagement of the agency. The public struggled to comprehend how billions of Naira were doled out for strange and non-existent projects. The drama took a new turn when NDDC’s acting managing director, Prof. Daniel Pondei, fainted during his session with the House Committee questioning him. Since it was established in 2000, NDDC is reported to have created many corrupt billionaires whilst development of poverty-ridden Delta region has stood still.

Buhari restructures NDDC after Joy Nunieh's sack | Nairametrics
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)

More drama still as preparation for elections shifted into top gear in Edo and Ondo States. The governor of Edo State could not win the nomination of his All Progressives Congress (APC) political party to run for second term as governor. He left the APC and joined the arch rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that immediately made him its gubernatorial candidate. As if in exchange, APC brought in PDP’s former governorship candidate to take APC’s seat. Overnight, the candidates started to denounce their previous political parties.

In Ondo State, deputy governor of APC ruling party abandoned his principal and joined arch rival PDP with his eye on being the governorship candidate. He did not get PDP’s nomination. Immediately, he left PDP and joined yet another party, Zenith Labour Party. He has belonged to three parties in less than a month. How dramatic!

The political campaigns in Edo and Ondo States consume as usual all the time, funds and resources of the two states. The campaigns, as usual also, suck in resources from other states and the centre. Many political jobbers, contractors and anyone who is well positioned push hard to get contracts for electoral activities. Many ordinary people push hard to get hand-outs and “palliatives” from politicians during campaigns because it will be dry days once elections are over.

In all of the drama of Magu Versus Malami, NDDC’s revelations and political shifting sands in the two states, what is in it for Nigeria? Zero is the answer.

Many years ago, whilst he was former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo accused for the first time then ruling military President Ibrahim Babangida of running a corrupt government. A friend, on hearing the news, screamed that Nigeria was in somersaults. Nigeria would undergo a turn-around, he chanted. Real, indeed, I screamed back sarcastically.

The optimist friend believed the drama and I did not. I could not see what benefits the dramatic spat between the two political friends would bring to Nigeria. Since the time, Obasanjo’s letters to sitting Presidents in Nigeria, including the current one, have become regular shows and predictable comedies. The reality has dawned that the letters only draw a lot of attention to the writer and provide him a stepping board into the next political stage.

The list of high and low drama is unending: top politician Mr. Abubakar Atiku left one political party and joined another, and left again, and returned to the original party; former governor Ibori was jailed, Ibori is welcomed home by crowds of supporters and political stalwarts; probe of fuel subsidies in billions of Naira paid for non-existent fuel, and no outcomes; Mr. “Integrity” Farouk Muhammed Lawan of House of Representatives was shown on video as he packed wads of allegedly bribe US dollar notes into his pockets and cap, life goes on; PDP wins, APC loses, and vice versa, yet same names are in charge; Babangida wrote President Goodluck Jonathan on wrongdoings, Babangida denied writing; former minister of defence General Theophilus Danjuma’s crusade against cattle herders, then he visits Aso Rock and his businesses remain intact; Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano stuffed US dollars allegedly bribe money into his flowing robes, and then wins for second term; then Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that $20 billion was missing, and later on he himself will be remembered as emir of opulence; former governor Orji Uzor Kalu was jailed for corruption, Kalu is released….

Presidency, APC React To Orji Uzor Kalu's Conviction – The ...
President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu

The dramatis personae no longer change much. When their political parties or the names of parties change, the political drama remains constant. All for self and nothing for the country and its people. Or at best, very little service, here and there. The known names appear on stage to feast, pose, stay on, or disappear to the wings until another day.

The drama scenes are characterized by poor governance, use of masses as canon fodders, corruption, continuing insecurity, huge unemployment, low wages, dilapidating infrastructure, weak economy, poor well-being of humans. The sad situation has become etched in the meaning of what is called Nigeria.

It is almost wishful thinking, but can there be some “incident” where drama awakens its own actors to a new reality and metamorphosises to nation building? Either by accident or purposefully, can a change of heart or mindset happen within the political kingdom and result in a sense of duty, leading to transformation of the nation?

Whilst waiting for water to come out of a rock, a feeling or sense of nation-building should keep right-thinking people awake. Such people should repeat at every opportunity goal and aspirations that can improve and meaningfully turn Nigeria around, especially to the hearing of youth and young people in general.

As the known names bring their dirty linens into the open, Nigerians should accept the fact that the key characters in the political drama are stained badly and cannot make this land a better place. It is important to think seriously and work strenuously towards a new leadership cadre for the country.

In the ongoing drama of neglect and abandonment of young people to a sordid future, perhaps desperation will lead some people to demand a new compact for the society.

From the consequences of unhappy drama that manifest ceaselessly, perhaps some inspired leadership will emerge and truly redirect the country. It is possible that current social and economic disillusionment will inspire a new direction.

Perhaps also the inordinate acquisition of wealth that leaves most citizens in penury and wanton neglect may force a sympathetic view. Such a new direction may awaken the conscience of people, stir unexpected strong followership that breaks the cohesion of dominating political parties. Perhaps it will beckon to a new generation that will take advantage of it.

Young people overwhelmingly constitute the largest majority of the population. They have no meaningful future ahead of them. They have no means of running out of the country. They may have to force renewal and give the country a new breath, beyond the drama of Magu’s probe panel, and the rest.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Coronavirus in Nigeria Will Get Worse

By Bunmi Makinwa


The COVID-19 situation in Nigeria will continue to get worse and the virus will remain a serious problem for a fairly long time in the country. The reasons are numerous and the logic is obvious, as dictated by common sense, science of what is known about the pandemic, and the context of the country.

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It appears that there is a high level of awareness amongst Nigerians on COVID-19. While such awareness is very useful, it is more important how many Nigerians know what to do to avoid the virus, and are capable of doing it day after day and time and again. Despite lessening of lockdown and some reopening of business life in most of the country, the rising novel Coronavirus presence means that people must take actions to avoid getting infected and infecting others. People must also be capable to manage suspected cases and infected people.

In very simple language, humans change behavior when awareness becomes knowledge, and translates into action. There must be the means and support to carry out the new or modified behaviour consistently over the required period of time. It is not easy to change people and society, but it is achievable. The preventive and coping measures for COVID -19, including personal hygiene, wearing face masks and social distancing are new behaviours that must be internalized and done repeatedly.

How many people in Nigeria will be infected with COVID-19? How many people will die of the disease?

The answers to the questions on the future trajectory of the disease are done through modeling and calculations or by building scenarios. The resulting projections and conclusions, though, are only as good as the information and data that are fed into the models.

Here are a few data and facts on Nigeria. First case was on February 27, 2020. Two months later on May 3, 2020, there were 2,388 people infected and 85 people have died, and 351 people have recovered.

The progression of the disease in Nigeria can be glimpsed as follows:

Screenshot 2020-05-04 at 18.30.43

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, responsible for testing among other functions, will be the first to admit that the extent of testing coverage is too little to allow for any reliable projections to be made. Besides, there are several other factors at play, some of them are peculiar to Nigeria and others are on the novel virus about which much is still being learned.

Despite the limitations, it is clear that there has been a rapid increase in the number of infected people as testing increases, and within a very short period. The increase has happened mostly during lockdown period, and given that the disease thrives best in the course of human social and daily interaction, more infections will be seen as lockdown is reduced or is lifted.

The point made is not an argument to continue lockdown, rather it is about how to manage life with COVID-19 as a permanent, constant, invisible enemy. Are people ready for the new life?

There are no good records of deaths in the country. People die on roads, at their homes and in churches, mosques, and at places of traditional healing. There is no reason in tradition, beliefs and customs to report the deaths. The costs and processes of filing reports and getting certification of deaths can be cumbersome, and they do not encourage people. No autopsy is needed for burial of dead people. The fact is that we do not have now reliable numbers of deaths, nor shall we know how many people will die of COVID-19. Period.

If more organized countries with better record keeping could not accurately account for COVID-19 deaths as distinct from deaths caused by other diseases, it will be too much to expect Nigeria to do better.

Many parts of Nigeria are already in the community transmission stage of the virus and it will become nationwide. The number of COVID-19 positive people will increase and the very likely different expanding interplay of cause-and-effect can be seen as a bulging concentric circle which is described below.

The more people test positive the more their contacts that have to be identified through contact tracing. The more contact tracing is done and the more it is effective, the more people will be available for testing and the more people will be found to be positive for COVID-19. The more people test positive, the more the numbers of people who will go into Isolation Centres. Self-quarantine requires special knowledge and competence by individuals and families.

Screenshot 2020-05-04 at 23.41.25

Snapshot of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria (Source: NCDC)

At the same time, many people will be asymptomatic – they are infected by the virus and they do not show symptoms but they can, and do infect others. The ratio of asymptomatic people, according to studies across countries (no study of Nigerian situation is available), has been found to be as high as 40 to 50 per cent of all infections. Such people unknowingly constitute a silent growing source of infection. It is dangerous but real.

Contact tracing is very difficult in the Nigerian context given the difficulties of identification of people, poor access to several areas and reluctance to self-report. Cultural norms that encourage protection of family members and political interference are additional problems. For these and other reasons, many infected people will not be found.

In the same context, more people will show up at hospitals with “regular” illnesses and some of them will turn out to be COVID-19 cases. They will cause infections within hospitals and amongst health providers. The increased infections within hospitals and of care providers, coupled with the diversion of care, materials/equipment and attention to COVID-19 will put a strain on medical facilities in general. It will also weaken provision of medical and health care for many chronic and serious ailments. More patients with other diseases will die or have prolonged illnesses.

In the order of things, number of deaths will increase overall, which in turn will heighten the panic on COVID-19. Hospitals and clinics will become un-inviting for people who are slightly unwell as they will want to avoid perceived possible infection of COVID-19. Their health will further deteriorate and their immunity will become fragile.

Meanwhile the Isolation Centres, following major increased number of COVID-19 patients, will become overwhelmed; staff, equipment and materials will become inadequate.

In the natural cycle of COVID-19, as infections grow many infected people will in turn infect others.

The possible heavy infections of health care providers will affect overall health care provision for all kinds of diseases and bring down the quality of care that has been poor in general.

The concentric circle of infections, poor level of care, deaths and more infections will continue to expand, as it has been demonstrated in Italy, Spain and USA. It is bad news.

The good news is that many people that are infected by COVID-19 will survive, as experience across the world has shown. Another good news is that concerted efforts are being devoted to responding to COVID-19 by the federal and state governments of Nigeria. Some states have shown high level competence and significant capabilities in handling stages of the pandemic.

Perhaps the most important saving factor is that the rich and powerful are forced to rely almost exclusively on the available local facilities for health and medical care at this period. Invariably, some much needed improvement being accorded the health sector to cater for the privileged class will trickle down to benefit the generality of citizens.

Societal and individual behavior change and modifications must accompany any serious, determined attempt to limit the impact of COVID-19. Mere awareness of the disease does not result in sustained changes by society or individuals. Studies and practice of behavior and social changes over decades demonstrate that carefully construed approaches tailored to categories of people are needed.

The really good news is that the behavioral approach, alongside medical and clinical care, can limit the impact of the virus on Nigeria.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Buhari needs another “Abba Kyari”

By Bunmi Makinwa


Abba Kyari

Those who admired late Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, praised him loud and clear. And those who hated him have resoundingly castigated him and his actions. The tributes reflect public perception and feelings about a person who stood out as the key figure of the administration.

Perhaps more than anyone in government, late Kyari defined the Buhari government and carried out its mission seriously and correctly. The tributes reflected this much.

As an un-elected official, he was uncharacteristically well known without making public appearances; unusually famously labelled and categorized by the public without saying much; and generally attributed superior authority and great influence by all including the spouse of his principal.

As Nigerians wait for the choice of a possible next chief of staff, several names are circulating. No matter the guesses and suggestions, one issue that looms largest is that Kyari served Buhari as the president wanted to be served. Kyari consistently spoke for and interpreted the president to all who he came across. Kyari’s appointees served during his principal’s first and ongoing second mandate, unless he chose not to keep them.

Still relying on the tributes, the conclusions are, without prejudice, that Kyari ran the government and the country very well for Buhari. The president confirmed his confidence in Kyari by reappointing him during the second mandate. The president needed Kyari, perhaps more than Kyari needed him.

Given the conclusions above, the next chief of staff will have to be another “Kyari” – meaning a Kyari-like personality. He does not have to be a look-alike in physical and material ways. But he must be similar to the former chief of staff in mind, spirit and temperament.

Some key characteristics of Kyari that Buhari will seek and prioritize in his choice of the next chief of staff are as follows and you should consider them as you weigh your interest in the job:

The health problems of Buhari impose certain physical limitations on his activities. The presidency is not a part-time job, and it places great physical burden on the occupier of the highest office. It is not publicly known whether the health conditions impair other faculties of the president. No matter the facts, the president must be shielded and cushioned from formal and informal demands of the office that may jeopardize his health. The new chief of staff must manage, deploy, arrange the presidency in name and style of his unseen and absent principal.

Very good educational background is important. Whilst what was studied may count for little, attendance of notable educational institutions is critical. The candidate’s former colleagues and mates will form a band of supporters that testify to his strengths, character and personality when he was in school, no matter how irrelevant such testimony may sound relative to today’s realities.

In all choices of key positions in government, families and friends are prime choices. Occasionally well-known people make the grade. Others when appointed to important positions must keep perpetual social distance from the president. And such people will act only within the wisdom of the known but unwritten rules of loyalty. Critics and advisers who do not share prevailing visions must never be allowed any merits.

All defence, security, and intelligence posts are made with hundred per cent “cultural sensitivity”. The appointments are important in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. They are useful to reduce corruption, but only as defined internally.

The work of running the presidency is hard and demanding. The candidate should be on top of all issues no matter how it appears in public as if he is not. Hence appearances must be a cool exterior whilst interior is boiling with tactics and definite agendas.


President Buhari and Abba Kyari in happier times (image courtesy State House)

The candidate must seek no publicity and obvious attention. The more the silence the better the options that can be applied as the situation demands. Do not show your hand quickly. Even when there is a lot of noise, maintain a poker face and stay impassive. Distance is important from the public. The political campaign has stopped the day the results of elections were announced.

Have a lot of room to wiggle. The space to take a stand or make a u-turn on issues and decisions grows bigger the longer the silence by the presidency. At times, the issues will simply disappear, no matter how loud the noise is. Know how to buy and use time.

The fewer the people with whom there is any social or political interaction the better. The candidate will not mount the soap box readily, or accept to have the klieg lights turned on him. It violates the silence and detached demeanour. In fact, stay within the friends-family-and-well-known others’ circle unless it is absolutely essential. When public interaction or statements are required, be brief. Curt the soap box and lights only when it can lure the unwary and divert attention. Or do it when there is too much pressure that the costs of not appearing in public may cause irreparable damage.

Be wary of politicians, all politicians. Even those within your own party. Let them stay divided if it happens. The longer they fight amongst themselves the easier it is to use them to attain set purposes. Keep in mind that they have served their important objectives already by getting the votes or doing whatever was necessary to win elections. They also have prices and interests. Know them well.

Nigerians will always revolve around ethnic groups and regional alliances. Know the country and its peoples, and make very good use of these fleeting conclaves. They are valuable resources to exploit for the vision and agenda of the presidency.

There is no national interest wherever you look, but it is important to pretend that it is the only reality to which the government is committed, and unwavering.

There are the media and their sponsors. Know them. Almost every story and article is either from our own people or from their own people. Their own people relentlessly sponsor attacks against us. Be aware. Read and study their ways. Enemies are enemies and they will pay dearly when we strike, in our own time.

Be persuasive and eloquent with your friends, not the masses. Your friends will talk with conviction on your honesty, integrity and incorruptibility. The masses will deride you anyways.

Using the criteria above, President Buhari is seeking the right candidate for the most powerful office.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Bill Withers, Musical Genius Of Nobody

Bill Withers Dead At 81 - Essence

Bill Wither by Andrew Zukerman

The name Bill Withers (1938 – 2020) hardly comes to mind among the top musical personalities of the era. But his music does. Hits like “Use Me”, “Lean on Me”, “Aint No Sunshine”, and “Just The Two of Us” are highly popular and often associated with other musicians who actually only produced versions of these songs. The originator, singer and producer of the award-winning numbers was Bill Withers whose full name is William Harrison Withers.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages, “Lean on Me”, with vocals of “We need someone to lean onAll we need is somebody to lean on”, stirs deeper meanings in people than Bill would ever have imagined in 1972 when he released the chart-topper number.

His death on March 30 was not due to COVID-19, which a few days earlier had claimed Manu Dibango, a great saxophonist, famous for his “Soul Makossa” which dance steps took off also in 1972 from Cameroon but spread its African-ness far and wide.

Bill Withers will long be remembered for his music. He should be known and remembered for far more than that, although left to him alone,I just want to feel good”, he would say typically.

There are many sides to this son of a miner father who grew up in the small mining town called Slab Fork in West Virgina, USA. He was raised mostly in Berkeley, California, by his mother and grandmother. His father died when Bill was only 13 years old.



Bill grew up shrugging away anything that came his way – racism, creativity, fame, wealth, death and celebrity status, indeed anything that would normally preoccupy the life of an average human being. To him, nothing mattered much, and he lived in total opaqueness to seemingly important material things. In an interview with BBC in 2009, he reasoned: “The most important thing is to be okay…I just like to be able to accept everything before I die. You know how unhappy you would be when you feel that the way you are is not okay? I started out my life like that. I don’t want to end up like that.”

His family was one of two black families that lived in the white part of town. But Bill would describe his time there as one of acceptance by all. He was calledLittle Brother and played with the neighbours’ older white kids with no sense of his racial difference. The attitude to look beyond challenges and mould his own realities somehow brought him popularity, fame and wealth without overly courting them.

At age 17, Bill wanted to move on with life beyond small towns and limited economic possibilities. The military provided an obvious entry place and he joined the navy where he trained and served for nine years as an aircraft mechanic. It opened up opportunities for other future jobs which he did until he was 32 years old.

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June Pointer, Muhammad Ali, Bill Withers & Don King in Zaire, 1974 (Lynn Goldsmith)

In the 70s when Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross were among rising black stars who were opportuned and nurtured in the legendary Motown studio, Bill started a new career in music as a fully grown man with no experience in the music world. Until that time, his songs were

personal tunes that he sang to himself as he worked to earn his keep. Despite the limitations, he signed on with Sussex Records and became the label’s best-selling artist.

His first album, “Just As I am” was released in 1971 and he won a Grammy Award for “Aint No Sunshine, a single which sold millions of copies.

Fame and money continued to follow Bill. His second and third albums, “Still Bill” and “Use Me” also sold millions of singles and confirmed that Bill was wanted by the world. Listen to Bill’s songs – Grandma’s Hands, Lovely Day, Who’s He and What’s He to You, Everybody’s Talking, Harlem, Let Me in Your Life… and the words and ballads lure you into reminiscences, sleep, dreams and inspirations.

As he would say much later, if you think that you have something to offer, put it down and let the world take you up on it. Bill was taken sky high.

Early in his musical career, Bill showed his individuality and personal inclination. Music was an art, and if wealth and adulation accompanied it, art should take precedence.

When asked who he had in mind when he sang his famous love songs his answer was unusual: Nobody. He explained that he wasn’t even thinking then. Keep on using me, until you use me up – the widely loved phrase just came to him, and it sounded original, and he used it. The meaning was up to whoever heard it.

Bill Withers revealed later on that he had a rough start in life as far as women were concerned. For close to thirty years of his life, he had a strong stutter which placed a heavy social burden on his interaction with females. Besides, he earned so little money that dating was almost out of his life. His songs were rather a reflection of how he saw life and society. His inner thoughts, he confessed, were more turbulent, closer to an outlier existence that bordered on “manic depression”.

Why we need to lean on Bill Withers and his great music more than ever

Fortune smiled on Bill not only in music but in his personal life too. Although his first marriage was short-lived (1973 1974) and ended in a divorce, he married again in 1976 to Marcia, a very well educated lady, with whom he had two children. They lived together in comfort until his death.

At the height of his popularity, Bill stunned the world by retiring from music in 1985. He contested the word “retirement”. “I did not retire, I merely did something else”, he responded often to questions on the subject. He took a position – he would not accept to be told or advised by producers and marketers to play in certain ways or use some instruments or equipment. “Don’t confuse music with music business…Let your reward be in the doing of it. If you can turn it into business, go for it, but don’t bet your life on it.”

He explained further: Don’t value your gift according to where you fall on the scale of commercial professionalism. Enjoy it. If you can lock up yourself in your closet and just groove, don’t cheat yourself out of that.” He spent his “freedom” years writing music, playing at his own home studio, receiving awards, speaking to groups and doing just whatever he wanted to do.

Famously, Bill refused to play with Elvis Presley because he disagreed with the title of the number, “In the Ghetto”. “That just pissed me off. I don’t know no nothing about no ghetto…If you see me in the ghetto, brother, I am passing through.” Yet another confirmation of Bill’s originality, belief in his personal values and total contentment in who he was.

Rarely is a person so clear about his place in life and happy to stay there no matter what temptations and ambitions lurked around as Bill personified through every stage of his life.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership


Can Africa Keep Coronavirus Under Control?

By Bunmi Makinwa

The map that is emerging of the global situation of coronavirus disease, better named as COVID-19, is strange and surprising.

Coronavirus Map: Distribution of COVID-19 Cases Worldwide, as of March 17, 2020. Credit: WHO

Take a map of the world with an all-white background and put black spots to mark the places where COVID-19 cases are high or significant. Africa stands out as the only continent that remains mostly white. The other continents have a large number of people who have COVID-19. Many of the countries with a high number of cases also have a correspondingly substantial number of deaths from the disease whilst African countries have recorded very few deaths.

What is strange about Africa? Why is COVID-19 unusually bypassing Africa?

Epidemiology is the study of incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. It uses a lot of data and statistical information to reflect its conclusions or findings. It gives an account of fundamental factors that influence course of diseases.

As in similar studies of humans, nature and society, when no coherent explanation is possible to explain a phenomenon, epidemiology infers, extrapolates and uses conjectures.

In understanding why Africa is spared to date of many cases of COVID-19, there are a lot of inferences and suggestions, but very little coherent or solid explanation. It is understandable. COVID-19 is a new and rapidly evolving disease. The scientific knowledge is growing but It is too early to draw conclusions.

Compared to the rest of the world, cases of COVID-19 are low in Africa. As at this time of writing, Egypt leads with 196 and also has the highest number of deaths at 6. South Africa is a distant second with 85 cases, followed by Algeria with 61 cases, Morocco has 38 cases and Senegal has 27 cases, in that order. Morocco has recorded 6 deaths and Sudan has one. All other African countries with COVID-19 cases are in single units.

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South African Development Community unites to tackle COVID-19. Credit: WHO

The current situation on COVID-19 does not say a lot about where things maybe tomorrow or in the near future. Whilst China was dealing with the first major epidemic and a high number of cases, most countries that became almost overwhelmed with the disease did not foresee the trend. Within weeks, Italy has a raging epidemic with 31,000 plus cases and over 2,000 deaths, and Iran has more than 16,000 cases with almost one thousand deaths. Spain, Germany, France and the USA are battling with rising numbers.

There is, therefore, no valid reason to celebrate or be lackadaisical about the current situation in Africa. Rather, it is as good a time as any to adopt an active and serious preparedness stance. African countries should anticipate any eventuality. There are already lessons to learn from other parts of the world.

African countries cannot be over-prepared, because its best preparedness situation in medical and health services will be not anywhere as strong as the services in China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France or the United Kingdom – which health care and management capabilities were overwhelmed fast by the epidemic. According to WHO, healthcare and services in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are the weakest in the world.

“Keep it out and be prepared”. This is my shorthand of a combined strategic imperative that should drive Africa’s readiness on Coronavirus or COVID-19 given the facts and data available regarding the disease.

From reports and personal observation, African countries have set up testing facilities at airports to monitor travelers and identify possible infected persons. This is excellent. It is doubtful that the same kinds of facilities are available at land borders which are often too numerous to count, and very porous.

COVID-19 is said to have an incubation period of between 14 and 21 days based on current knowledge. It means that an infected person with no symptoms yet may pass through the temperature recording tests at airports and manifest the disease later on. It has probably been the case with several international travelers who have been identified with the disease days after their arrival in countries.

It is also assumed that COVID-19 or a variant of it is not indigenous to African countries. If it exists already, it is most likely to be passive or not as virulent as the type that is ravaging other parts of the world. The assumptions are reasonable until facts prove otherwise. If the assumption proves wrong with time, there will arise a need to respond to emergencies.

For the above reasons and others, the efforts to “keep it out”, may not be as successful as it is touted to be. Therefore, the second part of the strategy, “be prepared,” becomes even more important.

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Senegal partners with UK lab to develop a hand-held coronavirus test kit. Credit: CNN.

Most African countries have Centre for Disease Control (CDC), or National Institutes of Public Health and similar bodies that are a repository of knowledge and skills in control and preparedness for communicable and non-communicable diseases. They have capabilities to test, confirm COVID-19, treat and manage cases locally, including the capability for contact tracing, isolation and follow-through medical services.

However, medical and care services are most beneficial and effective when disease burden is limited. The fact that most people in the continent do not have reasonable access to health care facilities is a grave complication when epidemics strike.

The maxim, prevention is the cheapest cure, cannot be more appropriate at this time. In order to “be prepared”, African countries should adopt a preventive approach premised on behaviour change, a well-developed public health and change management field.

COVID-19 is a communicable, infectious disease. Unfortunately, merely reviewing measures taken by African countries to date reveal that less than 10 countries out of 54 have taken the preliminary steps of behavior modification and change that can enable people to “be prepared” to overcome the disease. Measures such as limiting the gathering of groups, enforcing reduced movement for social activities, and continuous enlightenment and education with rehearsals for practical understanding are very important.

It is difficult to ask people not to socialize, greet, congregate to celebrate, meet up with family and friends, as they normally do. It is challenging to ask people to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds every so often; not to touch mouth, nose and eyes; and to avoid handling public facilities. People just like to do what they normally do. It is human. The social and cultural practices of African peoples have proved tough and resistant to behavior changes that place individuals above groups and community. We have seen it in HIV and AIDS programmes, and in combatting Ebola.

Now with COVID-19, people must be ready and comfortable over time with the disruption of normal life and daily routines. It is difficult to stay home for days, weeks and maybe months, but people must be geared to practice and adopt the new behavior.

Official announcements setting stringent requirements to reorganize life in new ways, cancel public gatherings and events relating to education, work, leisure, and social life, are in order. People must be prodded towards changing their lifestyle.

Behavior modification and change are what it means to “be prepared” for COVID-19 in Africa. It is known that behavior change takes several steps from awareness to understanding, through acceptance, adoption, and ultimately the sustainability of new behavior. It also takes several supporting factors, including policy, politics, faith, social and economic contexts to effect a change of behavior in institutions, societies and amongst people.

The time to begin implementing a behavior change movement to contain COVID-19 in Africa was yesterday. There is no justifiable reason for any country to be taken by surprise having seen how the disease has evolved dramatically in several countries.

If, as time goes on, Africa remains unaffected by the ravages of COVID-19, nothing would have been lost by being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Indeed, it would be a much better situation than saying “had we known” after the unexpected havoc that the epidemic can wreak on a fragile continent.

Bunmi Makinwa was the first head of behavior change communication of UNAIDS at the global level from Geneva. He is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Facts and Lessons on Coronavirus

By Bunmi Makinwa

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It is highly unlikely that you will be infected by Coronavirus, code-named COVID-19, according to prominent facts from the ongoing epidemic of the virus. This is not what you would think given the hysteria, myths and information that spread every day on the disease.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans or animals. Among the most well-known coronaviruses are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Swine Flu. The most-recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease and has been code-named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is known so far to have originated from an animal.

Prevention and avoidance of infection is easy and possible through simple actions that each individual can take, and which organizations, companies and communities can facilitate.

The chances of recovery from the disease are also very high compared to other recent viral epidemics. Facts and data on COVID-19 reinforce the positive conclusions stated above. Yet the spread of COVID-19 is real and new facts are likely to surface as the epidemic becomes scientifically more familiar.

The caricature of Chinese people as being carriers of COVID-19 is incorrect. Though the first known cases of the disease and the largest number of infections and deaths were in Wuhan in Ubei province of China, COVID-19 has appeared in at least 64 countries, three of them are in Africa – Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria.

Egypt was the first African country to report a Coronavirus case, a Chinese person who has since tested negative and has been discharged from quarantine. Algeria has two suspected cases and one of them was confirmed for infection. The two cases were Italians. Nigeria has reported a case and the Italian who travelled to Lagos on February 25 had his case confirmed on February 27. He has been quarantined at a facility in Lagos.

According to the government of Lagos State, the patient’s symptoms have subsided. It means that his potential to infect others has decreased. If the trend continues, he will be released as he will no more pose any danger to others.

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It is likely that more Africans will be infected by COVID-19 as time goes on, especially Africans who live in or visit places that have a high number of cases of the disease. For example, two South Africans were detected to have the disease on board the cruise ship, The Diamond Princess, in Japan. The Diamond Princess has recorded 705 cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths to date. It carried 3,711 people and was sailing from Singapore to Japan when the first case was discovered.

Unfortunately, infected people may carry the virus for many days before they show symptoms, and they can infect others. Infection takes place through droplets when infected persons sneeze or cough. Fomites, object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another, also may carry the virus through to others. Metals and metallic objects are said to be efficient fomites for COVID-19.

Estimates by credible organizations are that infected people have 98 per cent recovery rate from the disease. The two per cent of patients who die from it are predominantly vulnerable

persons such as older people above the age of 50 and most of them have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease or cancer. It means that young people have a very high capability to recover from infection based on what is known to date about the virus.

In a larger context, whereas SARS has 9.6 per cent and MERS has 34 per cent mortality rates, COVID-19 has about 2 per cent mortality rate.

How does one avoid COVID-19? Remember the following simple measures.

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Wash and rinse hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Do it frequently and encourage others to do the same. The hands are the major carriers of viruses and washing hands with soap and water properly kill most viruses. In the absence of water and soap, sanitizers are also effective but not as well as soap and water. Water alone if it is all that is available is useful but very weak as a cleaner for viruses.

Avoid touching the nose, mouth, eyes with hands. The hands pick up viruses and transmit them easily through these parts of the body.

Stay a good distance, about one metre or three feet, away from anyone who sneezes or coughs. The droplets from their sneeze or cough cannot reach you at this distance. Anyone who sneezes or coughs should cover their noses and mouths to avoid spreading droplets to others.

Fomites, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture, also transmit viruses. In public places especially, use fomites sparingly and clean hands frequently when public objects are used.

Stay at home if you feel ill and seek medical care as soon as possible if the illness persists.

It is important to be informed and to obtain new information on the new virus. However, avoid misinformation and myths. For example, the WHO recommends the use of face masks for those who are taking care of patients with COVID-19 or for those who may have a cough, cold, or sneezing. Wearing masks is not a substitute for regular hand cleaning.

There is a lot of wrong information about the current epidemic given the power of social media that turns just about anyone into specialists. Each country has credible sources of information and there are various international organizations that competently provide information. Top of the list is the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, National Public Health agencies, and well-established, reputable media organizations.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

The Real Amotekun is Yet Ahead

By Bunmi Makinwa

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The sound of “Amotekun” has drowned out all other issues in the Nigerian public space for many days, and there is a great likelihood that the Yoruba word will have meanings and connotations beyond the original meaning of leopard. Soon enough Wikipedia will include Amotekun. Maybe the word will also enter into the Oxford English Dictionary as was recently the case for several words of domestic Nigerian uses.

Listening to and reading about the loud pronouncements that have accompanied the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network, also known as Amotekun, one has to be deaf not to conclude that Nigeria is “not at ease” – to borrow a line from the title of the famous book by Chinua Achebe.

From its outing, there were whispers, gasps, exclamations of relief and contentment by many people who found the Amotekun security outfit a very appropriate step taken by five governors of South Western States. At last, the security situation might improve, and life might become normal, many people concluded.

But there were also hisses, jeers, facial contortions, by many other people on how unnecessary Amotekun was. Nothing could be farther from establishing better security than Amotekun because it would be manipulated to foster violence, the others contended.

Whilst the murmurs were still germinating and mounting gradually, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami threw fuel into the low fires and the explosion started. He said that Amotekun was illegal and unconstitutional. Those who support Amotekun or similar policies would have none of Malami’s points. They found that his statement was not only wrong, but it confirmed the status quo. In simple terms, it showed how the Northern ruling class wanted to perpetuate their hold on the rest of the country’s security architecture and other important spheres.

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Abubakar Malami

Who is right and who is wrong? This is the debate that is going on. It is loud and angry.

And the leadership of the country is silent. President Buhari has not made any pronouncement. Nor any of his proxies. Characteristically. The highest Federal Government official who has spoken on the issue remains the Attorney General. From a communication point of view, his statement is the official position of the Federal Government. This is the interpretation of the current silence in communication.

Silence has been used frequently as an instrument of governance by the current government, and it is a strong communication tool. Whether the government has used silence strategically, or merely by accident is less important than what effects the use of it has created.

After a heated political campaign and delicate elections in May 2015, President Buhari emerged as the winner on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party. The manifesto of his party which was used as the preaching instrument across the country by APC had promised to change the country. The new APC government was going to repair the economy, forge a secure nation, and reduce if not eliminate corruption.

More than 15 million voters, constituting 54% of total votes cast, who favoured Buhari waited for the beginning of a new Nigeria to emerge as soon as Buhari came into office.  Silence. There was no team or energetic principals to run the affairs of state. President Buhari took about six months before he broke the long silence to appoint his cabinet.

The president’s frequent travels abroad for medical treatment were usually accompanied also by silence. His health was poor, a situation that was beyond him and anyone for that matter. But the silence, not informing the country, not appointing an acting president often, or not handing over to a designated official publicly, made his silence seriously problematic.

The herdsmen phenomenon generated national furore for a long time. Silence reigned on the matter from the number one political head of the country until it became uncomfortable to be silent.

Silence at critical times when serious issues are at stake seems to have become the norm. You may remember the following:

– The tense relationship between two principal security agencies, namely DSS and EFCC, which at times became public stand-offs.

– Closer to home, the President’s wife and First Lady Aisha Buhari has become a megaphone of how the domestic life in Aso Rock resembles an interesting soap opera of Nollywood. But Aso Rock is not meant to be a Nollywood stage. Silence is being used as an instrument for managing the crisis.

– The agitation by several groups from the South Eastern parts of the country for a re-establishment of Biafra which started as little noises and has become a storm.

– The power-play at the presidency that appeared to place the Vice-President under siege.

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Buhari departs Daura after INEC postponed the February 16 general election (image courtesy State House)

Operation Amotekun will mother many children. The ferocity of future Amotekuns will be determined by competent handling of the babies from birth. Security of people and assets cannot be compromised.

Those who use silence as a strategy for results state that “actions speak louder than words”. There are certainly uses for silence as a veritable instrument of management, leadership and communication. Silence is powerful when silence will bring solutions, healing, unity and contentment. Silence cannot stop disaffection that is obvious. A deep sense of insecurity and distrust permeates the country. Timely interventions and clear statement of positions forestall eruption of latent anger and misinterpretation of situations.

If there were any doubts in anyone’s mind, Amotekun has confirmed that Nigeria’s security situation is broken and needs mending.

In a country where the president is all-powerful and his voice can direct and influence thoughts and conclusions, the perpetual withdrawal and silence of Buhari leaves serious issues unresolved. There is too much dust in the air, and when the dust settles, we shall have yet another crisis swept under a bulging carpet covering the dirt. Silence has become a liability, and it will spawn more Amotekuns.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

When a Billionaire Goes to Jail

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu

Billionaires do go to jail but only rarely. In any country, a billionaire who pays for his crime with a jail term makes headline news. In Nigeria on December 4, 2019, wealthy, former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He wiped away tears, he asked or begged security officers not to be placed in handcuffs as he was being led out of court. “Please don’t handcuff me. I will follow you.”

Kalu, a senator and Chief Whip of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) political party, will most likely appeal the judgment. It took 12 years to prosecute the case to this point. For now, he sits in jail for committing fraud of over 7 billion naira of funds meant for Abia State which he ruled from 1999 to 2007. He will forfeit huge personal assets to the government.

In the public space, he has acquired an ignominious title of criminal, fraud and corrupt person.

In less than five years of APC’s rule by President Muhammadu Buhari, three other former state governors have been sentenced to prison, also for defrauding their states. They are: Jolly Nyame of Taraba State – 12 years; Joshua Dariye of Plateau State10 years; and Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State, whose conviction of 4 years imprisonment was later upturned by the Court of Appeal.

The rate of imprisonment of such all-powerful former governors is unprecedented.

The prosecution of cases of “grand corruption”, as it was labeled by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, appears to have sharp teeth. They bite deep and bloody. The injuries are being spread around in a way that makes people shudder, even if they are “insiders” – members of the APC and strong, well-connected political persons. The expectation that “Once you have joined APC, all your sins are forgiven” as famously stated in January 2019 by APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomole may be far from reality.

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A Federal High Court, Lagos sentenced former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison

Kalu’s case is a model of a person who did all the “right” things to wash himself clear of his sins. He had abandoned his political party that took him to governorship position, and joined APC; he campaigned vigorously, visibly for APC and presidential candidate Buhari in 2019 elections; he fought his way through electoral and legal hurdles to become a senator in 2019, a usual guarantor of immunity from sanctions for crimes perpetrated as governor; and he purchased his way to Katsina the home state of Buhari to have himself turbaned as a Moslem leader, showing total disdain for his Christian roots and life-long religion. Yet, he ended up paying for his sins.

It may be too early to draw conclusions. But some questions are appropriate.

Is the government in its second term in office showing its new hands – no friends, no foes, and anyone who falls into the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) net can be convicted and will serve jail term and suffer punishment?

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Shehu Malami said on December 19, 2019, that 22 ex-governors are under probe or on trial. This is in addition to many high-level officials and political heavyweights who are being investigated or facing criminal charges. Are the graft fighting arms of government, especially the EFCC, more proficient and more certain of their abilities to get convictions in courts hence they are emboldened? Will more billionaires go to jail?

The legal defence squad of billionaires who face criminal charges in Nigeria has demonstrated over the years its ability to stall the legal process, frustrate and ultimately overcome the prosecution in most situations. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a recent law, is credited by some legal analysts as having equipped prosecution with more capability to limit the technical manoeuvering that draws out cases sometimes for decades, defeating and making nonsense of trials. Will the use of the Act strengthen the administration of justice and encourage upright judges to determine cases within a reasonable time?

Are various arms of government, especially the executive and judiciary listening more attentively to the cries of the general public who are daily being scammed by their elected leaders?

And by confiscating the gains of crimes through forfeitures of large assets, is the judiciary waking up to the reality that political criminals even when convicted live a sumptuous, obscenely wealthy lifestyle after jail? That the fruits of a crime stay with the criminals rather than return to the people whose life is diminished by corruption?

We should also not forget to ask: Do we as a society contribute to creating many fraudulent and criminal billionaires? A system that makes it imperative to have many millions and even billions of Naira to run for election in any political position has created political commerce from which “investors” must recoup their capital and ensure quick returns whilst in office.

When billionaires go to jail, there is often dancing in the streets. The real joy, however, lies in people reaping fruits of democracy through a vast, noticeable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. A change of ways by governors and political leaders towards a life of service and commitment to reducing poverty in the land is a worthwhile goal.

Then, fewer billionaires will end up in jail.

Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.