An Exchange with Honourable Gbajabiamila

By Bunmi Makinwa

Introduction: For those who may have missed the story. Pictures and videos of Honourable Olufemi Gbajabiamila, Majority Leader of the House of Representativesand his wife, have been circulating frequently in the social media for days. He wore a fancy suit, allegedly of Gucci brand, worth 1.2 million Naira ($3,300). His wife whose 50th birthday was being celebrated, wore an equally very fancy dress. The wife received her husband’s gift of a brand new Mercedes Benz G–Wagon jeep, allegedly bought for 75 million Naira ($208,333).

The pictures and videos have drawn a lot of attention, mostly negative. Mr. Gbajabiamila felt that it was unfair criticism. Reportedly, he wrote on the WhatsApp platform of his “class of 84” and listed from 1 to 15 items of his side of the issues. Below is a verbatim (unedited) text of his explanation, along with my response to each of them as a possible exchange between himself and this writer.

 

Femi Gbajabiamila and his wife Yemisi dressed in Gucci

The Exchange

Gbajabiamila: My dear “friends” I thank you for all your comments. I ordinarily was going to keep a dignified silence on this whole sordid matter and indeed I have. This is the first comment I am making in all of this. I honestly thought this was a platform of classmates and of lawyers. I thought the legal training was that there were 2 sides to every story and maybe sometimes even a 3rd. Many have said you’re only saying the truth but I don’t know how one gets to the truth by hearing only one side and not giving the benefit of doubt but passing a hurried judgment. I would have expected those who seek the truth to reach out even if privately like Frank did. 3 of our classmates were at this very small private gathering of family and friends namely Candido Johnson Mike Igbokwe and Folabi Martins. Now What are the issues?

Myself: Dear Hon. Gbajabiamila. I am an outsider, neither in your class of ’84 on which platform it was said that you had posted your message. Nor of the House of Representatives of which you are a Majority Leader. We are linked because I am a Nigerian who resides in Lagos, where your primary constituency is located. I had huge admiration for your party (APC). Now only a little hope is left. Above all, I am concerned that you are a political leader, my leader. I cannot keep quiet. Your classmates are Nigerians and you occupy a public position. They also could not keep quiet about your actions.

1. My wife of 26 years who I love to death turned 50 and I decided to do something special for her. Her 50th did not happen unexpectedly. I knew a couple of years God sparing her life she would turn 50 and I prepared for it. This is a woman who has been with me through thick and thin and stood as a pillar of support and who at one time was the breadwinner. Hell I may even have saved up for it or sold an old car to make up the numbers you guys do not know. I believe the cost of a vehicle pales into insignificance when you consider the sacrifices our wives make on the daily.

Myself: Your total, deep, absolute love for your wife is great. She deserves you, and to be loved by you. Everything that you do for her is unquestionable. When you bring your expressions of love and especially its materialistic interpretations to the public domain, then all comments, reactions and inferences are fair.

2. We are all educated and can look up the cost of the car. Not even half of the 100m in social media.

Myself:  The cost of a new Mercedes Benz G-Wagon ranges from 50 million Naira to 100 million Naira for special models, and gold-plated ones. Yours may be closer to the high-end ones because you wanted to show wealth and opulence. The high-end car and those highly expensive dresses exhibited by yourself and your wife were public confirmation that that you have a lot of money. It is the nature of many corrupt politicians and public officials to demonstrate ill-gotten wealth and lavish spending in Nigeria.

The G-Wagon Gbajabiamila bought for his wife



3. What I wear is non of y’alls business as I’m sure there will be people who’s attire or jewelry or shoes on this platform I may not like but will not deride them for it. 

Myself: What you wear and indeed what you do not wear is our business. Just like what you say, where you go, who you go with. You are elected by us and you are there to serve us. We know that you do not care about our expectations and we do not matter as long as your godfather(s) are satisfied. But do you have to throw it in our faces?

4. I had a tear to plan for this and I did.

Myself: You and your colleagues in the House of Representatives have had more years to plan to make the country better but look at where we are. The scandals and misdeeds of the House where you are Majority Leader are too many to be repeated. They are too well known in the public sphere.

5. We had a family gathering and few friends of about 30 in all in my house for thanks giving and prayers. It was a breakfast get together. My wife’s pastor prayed Gave a sermon, praise n worship and guests had breakfast. The whole affair was meant to

have ended by 6. Unfortunately some people came after work as it was a weekday.


Myself
: A private affair by someone of your status should be done as if the walls have ears, eyes and mouths. I repeat, you are a public personae. Everyone watches your every move. Do you get it?


6. I purchased my wife’s car from the US and unfortunately the car was delayed at the ports for 4 days. She was meant to get her gift at midnight of her birthday in the privacy of our home. 

MyselfBy now you probably understand at least a little that every move you make is watched, seen and spoken about. A car for your wife is a good thing. Given the responsibility that the people have placed on you, do your show-off actions reflect how a true leader behaves? Yes, other “Honourable” Representatives and “Distinguished” Senators act often in this same manner and show excessive, extravagant lifestyles. The inept leaders make Nigeria a poor country despite abundance of resources. By African standards, the country lacks the most basic infrastructures, has the lowest social and economic indicators, and lowest quality of life for its citizens. Political leaders should be busy changing the situation and not engaging in”see-my-new-car” recklessness.

7.  I called Mr Folabi Martins the day before her birthday ( he happens to be the lawyer to Maersk the shipping co) and he made frantic efforts to call the md.

 

Myself: It shows that you could move mountains when it benefits you. Sadly, you do not change things for the improvement of your country and your peoples.

8. Man proposes Gid disposes and there was little I could do the car never came. 

MyselfI am shaking my head. The tendency to always blame God for abuses and misbehaviours is all too common.

9. It came as a surprise to me when the car was driven by the agents into my compound at 7.30 pm with a few guests and my family members still present. There was little I could do. 

Myself: I am shaking my head even more. It reminds me of the police. More efforts are made to serve VIPs and escort politicians than to protect lives and properties of Nigerians. Everything was done to get your car into your compound. How about making maximum efforts to ensure that your constituents have electricity, for example. How many mountains have you moved to reduce deaths on the roads and to canvass for employment for young people?

10. How the above facts can draw such vitriol from this platform shocks me to the marrow but then like they say it is what it is.

MyselfYou still do not get it. People are angry. They are mad at you, and all signs of wealth and waste of resources confirm all the negative impressions of Nigerians about you and the political class. All “big men” are seen as thieves. People will take whatever they can get from you but they will join hands with others to hound you.

Your classmates are mostly “big men” and they are afraid too. What ordinary people think of “big men” because of your type of flaunting wealth is very very scary.

11. My “brother” who commented above that I crave publicity or wanted this on social media I’m sorry we may be classmates but you do not know me.

Myself: Everyone knows you, Honourable Gbajabiamila. You have been in the House since 2003. You occupied various important posts and positions. How are you not part of the problems of Nigeria today? People observe your peers and their actions, both at the House and Senate, and they see you too. You as the Majority Leader have confirmed by your recent act that Nigerians are right in who they say that you are.

12. Guys I have paid my dues in this country. I did not gift a car to a girlfriend like many do. I gave it to my WIFE!!


Myself
Gentleman, the hundreds of thousands of pensioners who do not receive pensions at all or who get paid once in a long while have paid their dues. The hundreds of thousands of civil servants who get paid once in seven months, or who get half pay for a year have paid their dues. The multitude of young people who studied hard and finished well in their colleges and universities but have no jobs or get paid monthly wages that do not support them for even a week have paid their dues. The police, military and security officers who live in wretched barracks where toilets and shower rooms are so dirty you can smell them from 100 metres away; and whose salaries cannot pay for their children to attend any decent primary or secondary schools – they have paid their dues. Honourable Gbajabiamila, the language of this explanation is despicable, irresponsible and insensitive.

13. Now assuming this was a public display which it most certainly wasn’t does it warrant the things I am reading on this platform the extent of venom and crucifixtion from you guys ? Or is there something else here?

Myself: I refer to everything I have stated above.

14. I must say a big thank you to Frank and to Afolabi who has called me severally and stood in support. I also thank you Mike Igbokwe for the staunch support you put up on anothe platform of yours. 

Myself: Your friends were either being polite or they were fake, or they were loyal for whatever reasons.

15. I am surprised that no one here is discerning to see that this is a political hatchet job but I will continue to focus on my work. Enough said God bless our class of 84

MyselfIn other societies a person of your political status would listen, reflect and apologise profusely for the error of judgment. He would vow not to make such a grave error ever any more. He might even resign his position. But alas, Nigeria of such a time is hardly in the horizon yet. The rumour was that you were positioned to occupy a higher post when this eighth House started in 2016. But a sharper hatchet job by opponents cut you off. From what we have seen to date, we cannot celebrate their gain, nor can we regret your loss. God bless you.

 

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

 

Ibori: Ten Answers to The One Question

by Bunmi Makinwa

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Ibori raises his hand to acknowledge supporters after leaving Asaba High Court in Nigeria’s Delta State (BBC)

It is loud and quiet at the same time. The conversations on James Onanefe Ibori. On the streets and in homes. In minds and thoughtful reflections, people ponder and wonder – why would a self-identifying criminal emerge as a hero, a star that appears to shine like no other in Nigeria?

What makes a known thief to stand out as a beloved child, hugged and embraced by a teeming crowd of supporters? Loved by people from the communities that he robbed so dastardly?

Ibori is a name so very well known in Nigeria and perhaps in the United Kingdom where he and his wife, Theresa Ibori, were arrested for theft in 1990 and fined £300. In 1991, he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card, and fined £100, still in the UK.

He returned to Nigeria afterwards and became a successful politician advising the presidency. At age 40 in 1999 he was elected as governor of Delta State, a post he held for two terms of eight years.

Always of a criminal mind, in 1999 Ibori changed his name in the UK to whitewash his tarnished trail. He fitted easily into the mostly corrupt-ridden system that is Nigeria’s political space. Delta State is one of the poorest of the 36 states of Nigeria yet one of the richest as it is naturally endowed with oil wealth, and therefore entitled to receive a large chunk of the regular federal allocation of funds every month.

Ibori as executive governor in a federated political structure had unlimited control of the state’s funds which he converted into his personal expense budget. As he wished, he used it for himself, the state, friends, well-wishers and patrons. He was lavish and generous. He was kind to his cohort and made them happy with official resources. He put up some visible official infrastructures and buildings in the state.

Above all, he made sure that if he lived for another 200 years, there would be no lack of funds to use for himself and to help whoever pleased him or whose support he needed.

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After he left office as governor, Ibori was set upon by the anti-corruption agency in Nigeria. Like many others, he ran circles around the Nigerian criminal justice system using his abundant wealth. He left Nigeria for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he had properties and business interests. There, the unrelenting UK government found him and extradited him to London for trial.

He was accused of stealing US$250 million from Nigeria’s public funds. Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for his crimes. Among possessions confiscated were: two properties in the UK worth £2.2m and £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in South Africa; several vehicles – a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000, a £120,000 Bentley Continental and a Mercedes Benz valued at €407,000.

James Ibori was released from prison in December 2016 after serving over 4 years of the jail term.

As soon as he came out of jail, jubilant supporters paraded around Ibori in London, and welcomed him home to Nigeria in unprecedented show of support. They openly praised and identified with him, no matter what he did in the past and despite his lack of open remorse or change of ways.

The story of Ibori provides many answers to the riddle of corruption and its “octopustic” tentacles that wrap around a nation that keeps struggling with its expanding problems.

From comments, opinions, and discussions, here are ten answers to the historic drama of obvious popularity of ex-convict Ibori.

  1. Stealing of public funds may not count as actual stealing. An elected official must have “invested” a lot of funds to get to office. It is logical that he “recovers” his funds whilst in office, and makes much more to take care of the future and his retinue of hangers-on.
  2. A public official who manages public fund can use it for private purposes. Everyone does it. A state governor can do it more easily because he is hardly ever accountable to anyone.
  3. If, like Ibori, a public official re-distributes a small part of stolen wealth among the people, such “generosity” cleanses the official of any accusations of criminality. Most public officials hold on to their stolen wealth; only kind ones give anything back to their constituencies, friends and supporters.
  4. All politicians steal. Stealing is not corruption. When one has a God-given opportunity to have access to funds or wealth anywhere, he/she had better acquire enough of the wealth to last many lifetimes. (Do not laugh!)
  5. A convicted person from one’s ethnic group or community is still a part of the community. As “one of us”, we have a duty to defend him socially, politically… Other persons also steal anyways, and finally one of our own has the opportunity.
  6. Going to jail is immaterial if the criminal comes out of jail with sizeable wealth to give away. Far too many people will accept money and materials from anyone – prisoner, convict, robber or killer. A former prisoner who is wealthy is likely to be much more generous. He needs supporters. Get to him quickly.
  7. A rich criminal gets to keep so much of stolen money that he/she has the capacity to make others rich still. Politicians who are accused of official looting are financially capable sponsors of candidates for elective offices. It is a smart way for the criminal to purchase immunity from prosecution.
  8. By stealing abundantly, a criminal can comfortably finance his/her own political campaign to get elected to an exalted office. Once successful, immunity and public recognition is conferred on the person by law and society.
  9. In most cases, politics is not a call to service, but a game of power played with money. The more stolen funds are available, the easier it is to aim for selection and election to higher offices.
  10. There is so much poverty that anyone who can distribute money, food, materials to people gets immediate title to relevance. Poor people and needy populace do not link their despicable socio-economic conditions to official stealing and corruption from which they get served trickles of what was originally theirs. The source of wealth is least important as new norms support wealth possession no matter what the sources are.

The supporters and admirers of Ibori and his likes are everywhere. They are products of deeply corrupt political system, social norms gone awry, downgraded values and economic malaise.

Whilst arresting, prosecuting and jailing of corrupt officials is very important, it is equally critical to revisit the political systems, re-value norms, and transform drivers of need and greed.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

What Is Next for Yahya Jammeh – Even a billion years will end.

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junjung Jammeh

Had he accepted defeat in the election of December 2016, Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, 51, would have been one of the few African presidents or heads of state who, having been in power for more than ten years or have had more than two terms of office, decided voluntarily to have a peaceful transition of power.

Notable presidents who stayed in power for a long time, yet organized or supported peaceful transition are Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor who left office in 1980 after 20 years, Cameroon’s Ahmadou Ahidjo who left office in 1982 after 22 years due to ill health, and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who quit voluntarily in 1985 after 21 years. Others are Zambia’s  Kenneth Kaunda who left in 1991 after 27 years when he lost election, and Benin’s Mathieu Kerekou who also left in 1991 when he was defeated as military leader after 19 years. They were all the first presidents of the countries after independence.

In several African countries, the governments suspend the constitutional limits to presidential terms of office, and enable the leaders to stay in power perpetually or for a long time. From such strong positions, the incumbent presidents generally win elections using any means.

Jammeh, as a 29 year old army lieutenant took over power in a coup d’etat in 1994 and was elected president in 1996. Subsequently, he has been re-elected four times. Under Jammeh, Gambia changed its constitution and removed term limits for the president.

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A young Yahya Jammeh

ECOWAS dropped its plan for mandatory two terms for heads of state in West African countries when Gambia and Togo refused. Jammeh is reported to have said in 2011:  “I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so.” It was clear that he did not see himself leaving office at any time in the foreseeable future. It was not an unusual scenario among his peers.

In 2015, the outcomes of presidential elections were predictably “favorable” to all long-term leaders in Africa.  In April that year President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan won by 94 percent in a poll that was largely boycotted by opposition parties. He had ruled Sudan for 26 years. In Togo in the same month, President Faure Eyadema, 50, won a hotly contested election for a third term after being in power for 10 years, a successor to his father’s 38 years as president. Togo has no term limit for the president.

During 2016, all presidents who have been in office for at least ten years or more than two terms won the elections or were declared winners of contested elections.  The list includes leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Uganda.

The scheduled elections for the Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2016 could not hold due to serious civil disturbances as opposition parties and protesters demanded that President Joseph Kabila could not be a candidate. He was pressured to abide by the constitution adopted in 2006 and leave office as required after his second mandate expired in December 2016. Kabila, who came to office in 2001 following the assassination of President Laurent Kabila, his father, was first elected in 2006 as president. In a compromise on 23 December, an agreement, yet to be formally adopted, was proposed by the main opposition group and government under which the president would not alter the constitution and he must leave office before the end of 2017. 

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Congolese voters queue outside a polling station during presidential elections in Brazzaville, on March 20, 2016. (IBT)

Despite the numerous sit-tight leaders, there have been smooth transitions, and changes of ruling political parties and presidents in many African countries. In 2015, election results were accepted by all parties involved in Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.  In 2016, Benin and Ghana witnessed superbly smooth transition of power.

Whilst Gambia’s Jammeh has acted true to character by rejecting the results of the election that he had accepted initially, the mood within Gambia and internationally suggests low tolerance of his stalling tactics. Whether Jammeh’s swagger and belligerence can outshine the resolve of internal critics and combined pressure of regional leaders and the international community will be clearer in the near future.

In 2014, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore tried to force through a constitutional amendment to have a fifth term in office, but his 27-year regime was forced out by a combination of popular mass actions and military disenchantment with the government.

He had won elections four times previously under circumstances that were often similar to those of Jammeh.

The Gambia, as it is known, is the smallest country on mainland Africa. It has a population of about 1.8 million and economy largely dependent on tourism. Fishing and farming are also important.  The country is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal, and its western part opens to the Atlantic Ocean. Its military strength is generally characterized as small with no major exposure to combat. The president is minister of defence and head of the military forces.

There is no documented information of any former African president who accepted unfavourable election results only to reject them later. The question is whether Jammeh can willfully discredit the electoral system which his government had established and which results he had used in three previous elections to confirm his re-election. If he gets away with it, he will become the first African leader to say “yes” and “no” to the same election result.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

How Trump Will Deal With Post-Election Loss

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Donald Trump will go through post election loss syndrome, also known as PELS, and his party will undergo transformation that will shed a new light on the United States.

PELS is characterized as anger, denial, blame. PELS includes impulses of public tantrums and claims of victory, lower self-esteem, self-doubt, shock, depression and anxiety. It is doubtful that Trump will handle PELS well by accepting responsibility for the results of the election.

Several pointers can show how Trump will handle his PELS, both at personal and relational areas. Over the course of the U.S. political campaigns, there are many reports that assess Trump’s personality. The reports are based on books, interviews, statements and activities that he has engaged in. Also, his future life can emerge through a comparison of Trump with what happened to some past losers of U.S. presidential elections, and the after-election life of the only independent billionaire presidential candidate, Ross Perot.

By understanding Trump’s personality, it is possible to have a fair glimpse of his PELS, which will also affect both his politics and business.

Seeking a deeper understanding of Trump, The Atlantic, a news magazine, featured an article recently by Dan P. McAdams, a professor and specialist on personality psychology. It had as its central idea “to create a psychological portrait of the man. Who is he, really? How does his mind work? How might he go about making decisions in office, were he to become president?” The article relied on concepts, tools and a body of research in psychology, psychoanalysis and similar studies.

Absent a clinical visit by Trump, the McAdams examined the presidential candidate in four major areas, namely, disposition, mental habits, motivations and self-conception. It summed him up as narcissistic, disagreeable, grandiose, and consumed with a streak to win at any costs in personal business matters, and in anything else that he was involved in.

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“Trump’s personality is certainly extreme by any standard, and particularly rare for a presidential candidate… Across his lifetime, Donald Trump has exhibited a trait profile that you would not expect of a U.S. president: sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness…Prompted by the activity of dopamine circuits in the brain, highly extroverted actors are driven to pursue positive emotional experiences, whether they come in the form of social approval, fame, or wealth. Indeed, it is the pursuit itself, more so even than the actual attainment of the goal, that extroverts find so gratifying.” The article explained further that, “People low in agreeableness are described as callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy.”

Some reports state that Trump started his political quest for the presidency only as part of his relentless marketing and showmanship. He only probably wanted to get himself well known and

push his business frontiers. He was his explosive, rude, lying, attacking usual self. It worked more than he ever thought possible.

By the end of a few weeks of the primaries campaign for the Republican party’s nomination, more people in America and the world would have heard the Trump name more than they ever did. It would mean more money coming through so many products that will carry the Trump label. This is how Trump has always done it. To his surprise, getting rid of the political elites of the party proved much easier than Trump ever expected. He knocked the 16 other contestants off by poking and jabbing them, and messing them up in language that they had never heard used in such an arena.

Each day as the party’s primaries went on, Trump must have wondered why he was a superstar whilst all he wanted to do was have fun. Suddenly, he could see himself as potentially president of U.S. He decided to go for it. His abrasive and aggressive style of campaign continued to baffle many as it attracted a growing flock of followers.

Now that the immediate political quest is over, what will become of Trump?

Over the past 20 years, eight presidential candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties have lost elections. They are Walter Mondale (1984), Michael Dukakis (1988), George W. Bush (1992), Bob Dole (1996), Al Gore (2000), John Kerry (2004), John McCain (2008), and Mitt Romney (2012). All of them were practicing politicians and had held elective political offices. All of them have continued to play some roles in their political parties, and some continued to occupy public offices either by elections or appointments for some time. Most of them took up teaching either as full or part-time professors in universities and colleges.

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Trump has not been in politics until his run for presidential election. He has been a businessman. He appears to fit more into the mould of Ross Perot, a billionaire who ran as presidential candidate twice, in 1992 as an independent and in 1996 as a candidate of the Reform Party which he formed. Perot lost both times and continued his life in business with occasional involvement in politics by endorsing candidates. He has not spoken much on political issues and he was the 129th richest person in the U.S. in 2015.

Trump has, perhaps inadvertently, achieved several things that no recent presidential candidate can claim. His anti-immigrants, anti-hispanics, anti-blacks, anti-handicapped people, anti-media, anti-women, anti-party rhetoric has bruised the Republican party and revealed fault lines that will not go away. A new Republican party is likely in the near future, and some writers said that it would be a culmination of the “Trumpism” effect, a “revolt” of predominantly white blue-collar workers, seeking a strong political platform for their agenda. It is doubtful though that Trump will find a comfortable room to advance such an agenda given the enmity that he created within the party’s leadership.

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According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign donations, a third of the topmost Chief Executive Officers supported the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, during the 2012 election. However, none of the 100 top CEOs supported Trump, and 11 have backed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 election.

Hotel bookings for Trump hotel chain has plummeted by as much as 60 per cent compared to last year’s figures whilst similar hotels show rising clientele. Trump’s businesses generally are showing decline performances and the Trump brand has not attracted significant sales, according to business reports.

Clearly, Trump will have to spend time to shore up his businesses and make efforts to harness whatever goodwill may remain to rebrand his name.

The Republican party will go through surgery and resuscitation and neither the party nor its arch rival, the Democratic party, will stay the same. Nor will the U.S. be seen the same way from now on given the portrait of Trump as its possible leader.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Where “change” begins in Nigeria

By Bunmi Makinwa

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President Buhari hands over ‘Change Begin With Me’ flag to Alhaji Mohammed (thenewsnigeria.com.ng)

The “change begins with me” campaign of the federal government of Nigeria is running into obstacles. One of the latest undesirable hitches is plagiarism of President Obama’s speech in the text of President Buhari’s statement delivered at the recent launch. News, opinions, reports, commentaries and jokes in print, electronic and online media are full of subtle and scathing attacks on the campaign.

A major argument of some critics is that change begins with the leadership that had promised change but is backpedaling on its responsibility for it, and turning it over to the populace. Another line of criticisms is that the targeted change is undefined, nebulous and opaque. The nuts and bolts of “change begins with me”, it is argued, are as unclear as many policy issues that the President Buhari administration pursues. Put together, the contextual issues around change do not align with the new campaign.

In communication theories, change is a well-trodden area. Human communication is replete with uses of communication to effect change of knowledge, attitudes, practice and behavior. Change communication underlies the intellectual discourse of behavior and social modifications as a critical step towards change. The “change begins with me” campaign, whether stated or not, is premised on the thesis that change of behavior by Nigerians can and should result in change of the Nigerian society. The behavior change of citizens will, over time, aggregate to social change of the Nigerian nation. It is, theoretically, a solid basis to build an action programme. This must have been what Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had in mind.

It is widely accepted that change of behavior, and ultimately change of society, is complex. It is hardly linear. It requires collaboration of communication with sociology, psychology, anthropology and related fields of human interactions. Extensive studies in change communication show that “good intentions” are far from adequate. In other words, no matter, how well intentioned a change idea is, it does not by fiat materialize into acceptance by the community or society where the change is advantageous or sensible.

In development communication, examples of good intentions leading to bad outcomes are soberly common. Whether it is smoking, driving while intoxicated or use of seat belts, change of habits and behavior is arduous. For example, health promotion campaigns that focused on negative health impacts of smoking achieved little for decades. Facts on the nefarious health effects did not discourage reasonable, knowledgeable smokers. The breakthrough came in many countries by making smoking appear so “un-cool”, unfashionable, repulsive, anti-social to “right –thinking” persons. And it was combined with treatment medications, psychosocial approaches, alongside policies and legislation that made cigarettes expensive; smoking was barred from public spaces; and smokers were restricted to corner spaces of undesirability.

Campaigns against driving whilst intoxicated are witnessing increasing successes in countries that combine special attention to what should be done when one drinks – designate a driver who does not drink alcohol at that occasion, have colleagues monitor each other’s alcohol consumption levels, have bar tenders take charge and restrict drunk drivers, use taxis to return home – with stringent checks by police officers as people leave parties and drinking places. Tough legislations penalize drunk driving, including heavy fines, temporary or permanent ban from driving.

Advertisers and marketers, to mention a few, use change communication extensively to create acceptance of new products, or to effect change from existing services to newly available ones. It works.

Success in change of behavior and society is grounded in theoretical understanding of people and society, and adaptation of knowledge from empirical studies. Behaviour modification and change does not happen quickly. There are short, medium and long term phases, and some successes can be recorded, even in the short term phase when norms begin to be questioned and re-ordered.

Without enough understanding of the work – theories, studies, processes – that inform Nigeria’s “change begins with me” campaign, it is difficult to say much about it. However, given the official actions and criticisms of it, some points are well in order.

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A poster of leading opposition All Progressive Congress presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari and deputy Yemi Osinbajo (www.news24.com.ng)

President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party was voted in on the platform of “change”. The massive voters’ support confirmed that change was awaited and would be supported. How will change occur? The first positive signal is that the leadership should demonstrate change.

Whilst the government, during its 16-month tenure, succeeded convincingly in dealing decisively with Boko Haram, it is yet to show that it can deal with security in its many ratifications. See how long it took to have any serious official pronouncement on herdsmen who ravage farms and villages, kill and maim people.

Also, whilst government struggles to rein in the spreading kidnap menace, the Niger Delta insurgents appear to thrive under various names. And the initial official commitment to locate the abducted Chibok Girls has fallen by the wayside. Rather, the Police harass peaceful protesters who serve as a constant beacon of the historic tragedy bleeding the nation.

Corruption, another pillar of the campaign manifesto of the government, has seen some positive efforts at curbing it. But even the consternation and anger of people as revelations of massive looting were revealed is now being dulled by time and inconclusive lengthy processes that drag on. It is apparent that some officials, especially civil servants and law enforcement agents, are falling back willfully into old ways of public bribe-taking and oppression of the people for the slightest reasons. Not only national budgets are “padded” under the nose of the change leadership, contracts are being padded heavily again. The fight against corruption is being cast as “Buhari’s thing”. His immediate entourage, collaborators and, especially, state governments are not even remotely part of any obvious anti-corruption efforts.

The dark cloud that covers the nation right now is economic and financial difficulty. It hangs like a giant elephant tusk on the neck of the masses and so-called middle class. It drags people down, into anger, intolerance and hopelessness. The people want to hear more on how and when it will change.

Candidly, everything seems right about the wording and need for “change begins with me”. But political communication of contradictory verbal and non-verbal exchange is problematic. The entirety of change should be manifested in many more areas and should be read, heard, seen, and interpreted – without doubt. The government, with its main pillars of change agenda in doubtful suspense, cannot expect its subjects to trust that it can lead or sustain change.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership and former Africa head of United Nations Population Fund

Elections in Africa in 2015: So Far, How Fair?

By Bunmi Makinwa.

Predominantly, African countries are known as places where electioneering and political elections are synonymous with riots, fighting, violence and killings. Some of that is changing, but many things remain the same.

Holding elections to elect representatives of the people does not equate attainment of democracy. There are countries where elections are organized to legitimize authoritarian, despotic and dictatorial regimes. However, to some extent the process of organizing and holding elections can often reveal the quality or extent of democratic principles in a country. Elections can expose governments to closer scrutiny than they would have wished for.

(President Pierre Nkurunziza via Burundi image)

During 2015 in Africa, ten elections were held to date and two more are expected in November and December. In only one of them, Burundi, did law and order break down. The election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to a third term mandate in Burundi has led to violent demonstrations, protests and more than 200 deaths so far. And problems continue in the landlocked, historically troubled East African country, bordered by Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The parliamentary and presidential elections that returned President Pierre Nkurunziza, 51, to power for a third time were widely criticized. Opposition parties claimed that the amendment of constitution and subsequent favourable decision by the court to allow the President to contest after the stipulated ten years in office, was manipulated and against the wish of the generality of the people.

Paradoxically, the East African leaders who have championed a process to negotiate a rapproachment between the belligerent parties in Burundi are themselves compromised by circumstance. Of the four other countries in the regional group, only Tanzania and Kenya have constitutions that mandate a maximum of two terms in office for their presidents. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, the doyen of the East African Community, has been in power for 29 years and will contest the 2016 elections. In Rwanda, the lower house has given the nod to President Paul Kagame, 58, to contest the next elections for another seven year term, and possibly to stay on till 2034. He has been heading the country since 2000.

(President Paul Kagame via The Times UK)

Zambia, which had witnessed unusual deaths of two Presidents in office in the past seven years, was the first African country to hold an election this year. On January 20, its presidential election saw Mr. Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front party winning a hotly contested poll of 11 candidates. He will serve out the remaining term of the deceased President Micheal Sata until 2016 when a new voting will take place. The opposition denounced the election but took no further action.

Lesotho, a landlocked country, completely surrounded by South Africa, held its general elections on February 28. When no clear winner emerged, opposition parties formed a coalition and used its parliamentary numbers to name Mr. Pakalitha Mosisili of the Democratic Congress party as its new Prime Minister. Mr. Mosisili had served earlier as Prime Minister from 1998 to 2012. The small country of about 2 million, with more than its fair share of political turbulence, had a smooth election. Generally though, “Big brother” South Africa sleeps with one eye permanently open to moderate political crisis of Lesotho.

With bated breath, Nigeria held its elections in February and March. Despite reported incidents of violence and upheavals in some parts of the country, the much-feared conflagration that some predicted did not happen. The major opposition party coalition of the All Progressives Congress won and former military leader General Mohammad Buhari came into office as President after running unsuccessfully for the post in three previous instances. The ruling party lost and accepted defeat.

In April, both Togo and Sudan held elections and re-elected sitting Presidents Faure Eyadema and Omar Bashir, respectively. President Eyadema, who succeeded his father who died in office, was relected for a third term. The Eyadema family has ruled Togo for 48 years. President Omar Bashir had ruled Sudan for 26 years and he won by 94 per cent in a poll that was largely boycotted by the opposition. In both Togo and Sudan, results of the elections were dismissed by opposition parties.

Ethiopia’s elections on May 24 was a reconfirmation of the position of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn which he assumed in 2012. After 17 years as Prime Minister, Mr. Meles died in 2012 and the ruling Ethiopian People’s Republic Democratic Front (EPRDF) replaced him with the then deputy Prime Minister Desalegni. The EPRDF won 500 parliamentary seats of the 547 positions, further demeaning a largely non-existent opposition.

Guinea, reeling from the effects of Ebola, and in serious economic distress, had its election on October 11. President Alpha Conde was returned to a second five-year term. The opposition shouted fraud and refused to accept the results but their challenge in court failed.

Both Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) had general elections on the same day, October 25. After 50 years of being in power, Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduizu (CCM) faced a stiff opposition led by Mr. Edward Lowassa, formerly a Prime Minister on the platform of CCM and right hand man of current President Jakaya Kekwete. But CCM candidate Mr. John Magufuli won the poll. Election results were cancelled in Zanzibar, the small island complement of mainland Tanzania. The opposition claimed that it had won the elections in Zanzibar, and refused to concede in Tanzania.

In Cote d’Ivoire, a first election after its civil war returned President Allasane Outtara decisively to power for another five-year term. Some key opposition figures had refused to take part in the elections saying that it was improperly organized. However, some opposition leaders accepted the results of the poll.

In Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho Nigeria, Zambia, the losing political parties accepted the final results of the presidential elections. Only in Nigeria was the ruling party defeated. In all other countries, incumbent political parties were returned to power – Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo. Change of leadership took place in Lesotho, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

Two very important elections are still in the horizon for 2015. On November 29, a reawakened Burkina Faso will go to the polls after a people’s uprising that pushed former President Blaise Compaore into exile after 27 years in power. A similar mass uprising this year routed the short-lived coup by the Presidential Guards and returned an interim government to manage the country.

(President Blaise Compaore via Arab.com)

On December 13, wobbling under heavy load of violence since 2013 and amidst uncertainty, Central African Republic plans to hold its general election.
Elections in 2015 have been more or less good stories out of Africa. There has been improvement over the past situation, both in electioneering and polling. Political analysts will look deeper into whether the situation marks a turning point, what changes there are, factors responsible, among other questions. However, the road is far yet when elections will truly represent a fair opportunity for people to choose their representatives.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria.

Connect with him on:
Twitter: @bunmimakinwa
Blog: bunmimakinwa.com

Will Mugabe Replace Mugabe?

Any doubt about who really rules Zimbabwe was erased by the outcome of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party congress held in November. President Robert Mugabe is still nominally in charge. First Lady Grace Mugabe has emerged as the power that shapes the throne.

Over the years, President Mugabe has rendered the once strong rival opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) completely ineffective as the opposition lost popular support and splintered into factions. Its former leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, once beloved by some powerful foreign governments and many people at home, no longer holds sway over even his peers. Tsvangirai, who in the 2008 presidential elections led the party to a first round win over ZANU-PF, was co-opted into a unity government as prime minister by Mugabe and then jettisoned once the old man regained full control.

Before the party congress the only thing that stood between Mugabe and life presidency was a decision of his own party. The congress removed any such obstacle, if it ever existed, and added more powers to Mugabe’s authority. As things stand, the president has made sure that even if the natural order of old age renders him mentally incapable of making decisions, Grace Mugabe, 49, will help him carry on.

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