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).

Judges Who Will Not Sleep Comfortably

By Bunmi Makinwa

In any country, when judges of the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, are bundled out of their homes with half-open eyes in the middle of the night, it is not pretty. The “invaders” were not robbers, hooligans or protesters that came from the streets. They were officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) whose mandate is to gather intelligence, forestall enemy actions and generally ensure the security of the country.

Something drastic and impactful happened to corruption in Nigeria, and it was thanks to the DSS.

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Supreme Court of Nigeria (The Will)

The cries were loud and widespread and they came in opposing directions. Those who wanted President Buhari to call the DSS to order versus others who asked that the judges who were involved should account for their actions before the law, in equal measure as do any citizens. The many judges arrested included those of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal in various parts of the country.

Let us not tarry on the arguments from either side. They are copiously available in the news and social media. For here, let us dwell just a little on another point.

Under normal circumstances, no security officer, no law enforcement officer comes visiting anyone. Least of all at night time, and to haul people away to interrogation venues. Under normal circumstances, no government looks the most respected citizens in the eyes and calls them out to prove their innocence. Judges are not thieves, nor are they breakers of the law, in normal societies and circumstances. Judges are dignified and respected.

But is the situation in Nigeria normal?

If the revelations of official stealing and corruption that have been made in the past one year plus were seen in a Nollywood movie, the movie producer would have been prodded to notch things down a bit, maybe a lot. Movie critics would have said that the stories were exaggerated, way too much. The movie audience would have been saturated to numbness with too many scenes of thieving and stealing. It cannot happen, they would say.

But here it is. We have witnessed revelations after revelations, and just when one thinks there cannot be any more surprise, another un-imaginable amount of money is mentioned as stolen by someone who used to be, or still is, a “leader”.

The highest aggregate forum of elected “distinguished” persons at federal level, called the Senate, is a mockery of seriousness. The second highest house of legislature, called the House of Representatives, is similarly clothed in corruption accusations and trials – cap, kaftan and trousers. The state houses of assembly spend more time waiting for the governors to share money or “something” than to do any serious thinking on solving the many problems facing their citizens.

It is known by all that to aspire to occupy an elected political office is to attempt to invest in the most thriving money-making lottery of the country.

In the midst of this dysfunctional arrangement, a few good people exist. It must be said. But their uphill struggle against the status quo cannot solve the gigantic problems that face the nation. Therefore the country totters on the brink, with millions of suffering people, and in hopelessness.

If you listen to the noise on the arrest of the judges, you would hear the Nigeria Bar Association and similar heavyweights who argue about human rights, legal doctrine, warrants of arrest, distinct roles of DSS and National Judiciary Council on discipline of judges, and several such matters. Yes, you would hear tactical manoeuvering and technical high-sounding language about bringing DSS to order.

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You would also hear, perhaps not so loudly, the rumbles of other people and ordinary Nigerians who want the judges to explain how they come about the wealth that they display or that was allegedly found in their homes, bank accounts and with families. You would hear people who say that maybe this Buhari government is finally getting the point.
It is well known that the corruption within the judiciary from the magistrate court to the Supreme Court is humongous, and done with audacity.

While it is important to uphold human rights, should the right of an elected or appointed government official entitle him/her to unbridled stealing? Does the right to fair hearing in court mean that justice be rendered impossible as cases are enrobed in legal brake dancing for years to no end? Where lies the rights of ordinary citizens, millions of Nigerians, who because of official corruption lack basic means of life, including salaries, employment, health, education, roads, water…electricity? Where does the aggrieved person take his/her case when the police have to be bribed, court officials have to be incentivized, and judges have to be bought?

Corruption permeates all facets of daily life, and is found at all levels, including by judges. The current government is fighting corruption but cannot get a case prosecuted in court in large part because of technical and tactical maneuverings between lawyers and judges. Citizens cannot seek justice unless they are armed with monies to buy their way at all levels of law enforcement and prosecution.

It should not be forgotten that when systems do not work, people will boycott them and seek alternatives. Let those of us who are comfortable, whether through honest or dishonest means, beware. Nigerians are tired of more of the same.

President Buhari’s government was elected as a possible remedy to some of the problems facing the country, especially to reduce corruption. If it succeeds, there may be a chance yet for people to have confidence in government. If it fails, either by its own commission or omission, or due to frustrating tactics of those who have the means to create obstacles in its way, then any alternatives may emerge. Already, kidnap for ransom is looking like a suitable “employment” for many, and a substitute for the “419” fraud and armed robbery.

If the DSS can tackle corruption by judges and other highly-placed officials, well and good. Corruption is a security risk and judges who have clean hands will sleep peacefully whilst those who are dishonest can say goodbye to sleeping in comfort.

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


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.


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

Donald Trump: Not Good for America, or the World

By Bunmi Makinwa

Abrasive, accusative, aggressive and abusive, Donald Trump at initial stage of primaries for a Republican Party nominee for president of the United States, seemed a joke. He was notorious for having insisted that President Barack Obama was not born in the USA. As the number of contestants increased in the primaries, Trump was expected to drop out. Surprisingly, he kept on waxing stronger. Unopposed, he was nominated as presidential candidate of the party. He had sent his 14 rivals crashing out one after the other.

Donald Trump & Senator Ted Cruz (via slate.com)

The primaries witnessed unforgettable profane language, mainly dished out by Trump against his opponents. For example, he characterized former Governor Jeb Bush as having “low energy” and was “Dumb as a rock!”. Senator Ted Cruz did not know whether to laugh or cry when Trump posted an unattractive picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, juxtaposed against that of Melania, his supermodel wife. To Carly Florina, the only woman in the group, Trump said: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that as the face of our next president?” Senator Marco Rubio had taken to calling Trump “Big Don” whilst he was “Little Marco” to Trump, a thinly veiled reference to their exchange earlier on sizes of their masculine organs. Trump’s supporters hailed him as authentic, straight and not corrupted by the establishment. But around the world, media reports and many world leaders could not comprehend how Trump could be America’s best candidate for any office, least of all aspiring to become president of USA.

In December 2015, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron disagreed with Trump’s comments on London police, and called them “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that they “were ill-informed”. Sadiq Khan, who later became Mayor of London, said Trump “can’t just be dismissed as a buffoon – his comments are outrageous, divisive and dangerous”. Britain, the closest ally of USA is hardly known to express such official views on American presidential candidates.

But Trump was unusual and his personality draws ire, as it attracts unwavering following. “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said of Trump. “His discourse is so dumb, so basic,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Mexican President Enrique Pena said, “That’s the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived.” “Trump is an irrational type,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei. The numerous world leaders who admonished Trump included French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, and Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

Somehow, those who cried,”No” were drowned out by the “Yes” noise. Trump’s increasing high opinion poll in the USA was surprising, to put it mildy. Fawning crowd filled his campaign gathering.

Donald Trump at a rally in Dallas, Texas (via decodedc.com)

How could a country that has so much to offer be imprisoned by such limited viewpoints? America has produced more breakthrough research findings, more discoveries, more knowledge in almost any field of human endeavour, than the rest of the world combined. It is the country with the largest foundations, charitable organizations that give to causes and people in lands that some of the donors have no idea whether they actually exist. It is the land of refuge for most people where needs and hopes are met in more ways than they ever imagined. Yet Trump was against outsiders, tolerance and collaboration.

America is a democracy. It was founded and built on the notion of freedom, unfettered and unlimited, except by agreement in areas that are institutionalized. It is a country where to be yourself is real. And what is different is right…unless it is wrong.

The tension between theory and practice of democracy finds all kinds of expressions in peoples and places all over America. Trump is the “kick-arse” American. Loud, brazen, daring and with a must-win compulsion. Even when he loses he makes it look like he wins. Tony Schwartz, co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography, said in The New Yorker magazine that if he were writing The Art of the Deal today, he would have titled the book The Sociopath. “Lying is second nature to him…More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true,” said Schwartz.

It is not what the world says or thinks that will stop Trump. The strongest opponent of Donald Trump is the phenomenon that Donald Trump represents, and that he champions. Among his unhinged believers it is necessary to be daring, angry, even obscene and, why not, fascist.

American Presidential Candidate Donald Trump (via thehawkeye.com)

There are many reasons why Trump’s election as president of USA is a major problem for America’s leadership position in the world. Here are five reasons his victory cannot make America great again.

Firstly, beyond the notion that a character of his type can emerge from a most admirable country, it would confirm that through a democratic expression of votes, such a leader could indeed be accepted. Trump, repulsive as he may be, would become the face of “real” America.

Secondly, it would legitimize the use of crude, abusive language in American campaign politics at a level never witnessed in the modern era, and perhaps ever before. Trump as presidential candidate during TV broadcast denigrated a female journalist, Megyn Kelly; mocked a handicap journalist at a campaign rally; dismissed the service of a most respected veteran of the Vietnam war, Senator John McCain; and disrespected parents who lost their son fighting a war for his country.

Thirdly, it would confirm that being a bully is normal, accepted, even admired by most Americans.

Fourthly, it will undermine the two-party system which is the basis of America’s politics. Trump has fragmented the Republican Party. His victory would help him consolidate the division and effectively he would re-mould the party as his new empire. Such a situation would render very difficult coalescence around the middle range where balance is attained; where neither far left nor far right can dominate, and where both right and left converge in elections that have been won in turns over time almost rhythmically by Democrats and Republicans..

Fifthly, Trump as president would put to rest the belief that a woman could reach the highest political office in the USA. Despite criticisms of her, Hillary Clinton has had the best preparation and experience that can be required for the presidency. Absent Clinton, the political horizon is not replete with strong possible female contenders. Not only would Trump’s triumph, if it happened, kill the enthusiasm generated by Clinton as a possible next president, it will send a message that the country is not prepared for such a change.

The 1920 presidential election was the first in which women were permitted to vote in every state, more than a century after men had dominated political life of the country. It may then take about two centuries before a woman would emerge as president.
Within the Republican Party, many have dissociated themselves from Trump and would like to see the end of the phenomenon that he extols. His attackers call him “insane”, “reckless”, “unfit”, “temperamental”, “racist”. He is seen as lacking patience, curiosity, knowledge, character, and balance. The surge against him from within is the force that can destroy the Trump phenomenon.

The view that Trump and his views represent America is not false, nor is it correct. This is the crux of the matter. In fact, it is the paradox of the country’s democracy. America is like the pendulum of grandfather clock. It swings between two tendencies, right and left. But it does not hit the walls of the clock.

Donald Trump Versus the United Nations and the African Union

By Bunmi Makinwa

Invariably, the conversations on elections amongst Africans at home and in the diaspora centre on supposed Republican party candidate Donald Trump and the fears that he represents regarding the November 2016 USA presidential election. If Africans could vote from wherever they are, Mr. Trump would lose massively. His divisive rhetorics, ill-informed attacks on minorities and immigrants, and his lack of tolerance for differences run counter to the nature of Africans. Suddenly, the USA seems like a scary place, full of hate. The presumptive democratic party candidate Hilary Clinton looks like a goddess who brings rains during a serious drought, in comparison to Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump

Whilst the world and Africa’s attention is on the American election, two other elections that have as much implication on African economic, political and social well-being are in full steam. The new Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) will be decided in a few days (alongside the commissioners), and a new Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations (UN) will be known in a few months. Both of these offices can and should serve Africa’s interests and heighten Africa’s voice in local and global affairs.

African Union HQ

The African Union (AU), the highest political platform of African heads of state and government, meets in July in Kigali, Rwanda, to elect the Chairperson of the AUC. The post, currently occupied by former Foreign Minister of South Africa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, became vacant when she decided not to go for a second term. In a heated contest in 2012 against then incumbent Chairperson, Mr. Jean Ping, former Foreign Minister of Gabon, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma won after a third round of voting, and a deadlock that took two summits to resolve.

If Dr. Dlamini- Zuma is leaving the office to pursue other political interest at home, she is not saying. But her political path over the past forty plus years indicates that she is not retiring yet into the sunset, and the African Union has served only as a step towards the longer term interest.

After her four-year mandate, the AUC is perhaps a little different from when Dr. Dlamini-Zuma took over as Chairperson. One of her major achievements is the formulation and agreement on Agenda 2063, a far-reaching strategy for economic and social development of Africa. As the first woman to hold the post, her election also represents a leap forward on gender matter in the continent, and she is said to have championed advancement of women in the organization and in continental affairs.

The expectation that she would bring major transformation to bear in the organization has not happened. The Commission continues to be hobbled by limited funding to lead on its key programmes, including its peacekeeping functions. Whilst contributions from within Africa has not improved, some of the key donors have withdrawn their support due to dissatisfaction with AUC’s processes. Its heavy reliance on external financing means that its “African-ness” continues to be questioned. The structure of the Commission curtails the authority of the chairperson over the elected Commissioners who as heads of all key departments owe allegiance to their countries, regions and constituents rather than to the head. The unattractive working conditions and remuneration of staff makes the Commission a poor partner in the linked network of African key institutions that include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma

These limitations persist and await the next chairperson’s possibly high level managerial know-how and political weight to resolve. Yet it is doubtful that the search for the new head had seriously sought for a set of competences that would yield such a result. The short list of three proposed candidates available as at the stipulated three month date prior to election are: Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Mr. Agapito Mba Mokuy, 51; Botswana’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, 51; and former Ugandan vice-president, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, 60.

Murmurs of discontent with candidates have come from regional groups and countries. It is unlikely that any one candidate among the three can garner the two-thirds votes of countries that are required to be elected to the post. The depth of displeasure is visible in the fact that outside of the closing date for the post, Senegal nominated another candidate, Dr. Abdoulaye Bathily, currently UN Special Representative for Central Africa and former minister, for the post of Chairperson.

In anticipation of a deadlock where no candidate emerges at the end of the Kigali summit on July 17, several scenarios are possible. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma may be asked to continue for a specified time until another summit is held. Or it is likely that Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, and former Tanzanian President, Mr. Jakaya Kikwete are proposed to act in the interim. Should the entire process of nomination be reopened, many more candidates may join the race.

How important is the post of Chairperson?

There are two strong views. One states that it is a glorified office of a titular super secretary who manages egos and interests of heads of state, and who cannot be assertive or determined. There are stories of conflictual decisions by the Chair (sometimes also called Chairperson) of the African Union, a ceremonial role which is held in rotation by a Head of State for a year, and the Chairperson of the AUC. It is unwritten but assumed that when a head of state decides, the Chairperson can only obey and implement. Even when Mali’s former head of state, Mr. Alpha Konare, was Chairperson of the Commission, Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as Chair of the AU in 2005 overruled Mr. Konare’s unilateral appointment of an envoy to mediate the crisis in Togo.

An opposing view is that a diplomatic, bold and visionary Chairperson of the AUC can use the office to effect progress both for the organization and for the continent. Mr. Ping is said to have been able to make the Commission more effective thanks to his ability for engaging heads of state and using diplomatic incisiveness to get agreement. That the success attributes were not enough to get him re-elected to a second term raises several issues though.

Meanwhile, for the first time in its 70-year history, the United Nations is conducting election of the Secretary General in an “open and transparent” manner. As the symbolic head of the UN, the SG serves as both its top diplomat and its chief administrative officer. The holder of the post makes pronouncements for an organization with 30 separate agencies, funds and programmes and 40,000 staff. He or she reports to 193 member states.

As part of the preparation for the election that will announce a winner before current SG Mr. Ban Ki-moon leaves office on the first of January 2017 after two terms of four years each, a new style of involving interests and groups has started. In April, the UN put aside its traditional secrecy of the process and asked all candidates to face the public. For two hours, each of the eight candidates was questioned by member states. The process has continued and includes new candidates as they apply. On July 12, a town hall meeting of candidates, staff of the UN, observers and member countries was live streamed by Al Jazeera network and was on various social and traditional media worldwide.

Mr Ban Ki-moon

All candidates for the post have to post their curricula vitae online . A vision statement of 2,000 word was also required to be put online by candidates to articulate their positions.

The list of candidates are: Ms. Irina Bokova, Bulgaria, Director-General of UNESCO; Ms. Helen Clark, New Zealand, Administrator of UNDP, former Prime Minister; Ms. Christiana Figueres, Costa Rica, Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; Ms. Natalia Gherman, Moldova, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. António Guterres, Portugal, Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal; Mr. Vuk Jeremić, Serbia, President of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Srgjan Kerim, Macedonia, Former Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly; Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs ;Mr. Igor Lukšić,Montenegro, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Susana Malcorra, Argentina, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Vesna Pusić, Croatia, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Danilo Türk, Slovenia, Chair of the Global Fairness Initiative, former President of Slovenia.

Besides the search for top candidates, two major issues are at stake – the election of a woman into the revered position is a popular demand, and the region of choice should be Eastern Europe which has never produced a Secretary General. To date, two Asians, two Africans (Mr. Kofi Anan and Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali), one Latin American and three West Europeans have held the post.

The President of the General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, who is shepherding the entire process, explained recently that already the public exposure and inclusiveness has yielded important outcomes. “There is now significant global public interest in the process. The world’s media has been reporting extensively on the SG hearings and millions of people have been following on Twitter, watching online, or participating in various related events inspired by the overall process. More than ever before, the world is watching.”

He added that “anyone who was watching the dialogues could see which candidates are best suited for the job and which are not… How would the world react if the Security Council recommends a candidate who most would deem to have been among the poorest performers in the SG Hearings? “ The process has also confirmed what member states wanted from a candidate for the job, he affirmed.

Despite the transparency, the final decision will follow tradition – the five permanent members of the 15-nation Security Council — the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France — will agree on a candidate and give the name to the General Assembly to assent formally. But it is unlikely an obvious laggard in the public appearances would be decorated in private with the title of UN Secretary General.

Unlike the AUC which already has a female head, the UN has never had a female SG and that will be a big win if one emerges in 2016.

Lessons abound for the election of chairperson and leaders of the AUC from the ongoing SG identification process. Such an approach ensures more transparency, inclusiveness and openness. By interrogating candidates in public, there is bound to be enthusiasm by people. It will result in some level of familiarity with, and ownership of the organization. It will also confirm that there is at least an attempt to give the African continent the best leader to head its apex political organization in a democratic way, with a keen eye on performance.

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

The Change We See And The Change We Await

By Bunmi Makinwa May 19, 2016

There is a lot of public discussion around what has changed since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration assumed office. In the media and on the streets the debate continues. When during the acute fuel scarcity recently attendants at a petrol station refused to sell fuel into jerrycans, a customer who had been waiting for a long time exploded in frustration, “This na change, hey? No light, no fuel for generators.” Another customer rejoined, mockingly, “Na change be dat.” A third customer said, “I voted for change but not like dis.”

It is frequent to read and hear that nothing has changed, or that the country is worse off now than it was in the past. Given the hardship all around on many fronts, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety and frustration. If one does not have electricity for days, weeks; and fuel to run generators is not available, if fuel is very expensive when available; if stories of kidnap for ransom are frequent; if the news is often that cattle herders kill people wantonly; if many employees of state governments are not paid, and university graduates have no jobs, and prices of foods, consumables, rent…keep increasing, there is a lot to be unhappy about.

Yet one should strive to have a sense of balance. Especially in written discourse, there ought to be deeper reflection and analysis, no matter how easy it may seem to lean on negative generalities. There are serious changes that are taking place in the country, and for good, despite the numerous problems facing the populace at present. Many of the difficulties being witnessed are attributable to years of bad governments, misrule, abuse of office and corruption. Some of the hardship are pains that accompany reversal of official misdeeds and mis-management of the country. And, yes, some of the hardship are due to inadequate grasp of implications and effects of policy changes by the new (relatively) government and slowness in making corrections.

Lest we have forgotten, I recall the following two articles that I wrote last year. In one, during the political campaigns, first published by Sahara Reporters on January 13, 2015, titled, “Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections- An End to Corrubration,”  I wrote:“People who fraudulently acquire enormous wealth or assets after serving in government for even a short time are welcomed with drums and dance in their communities. Military officers who earn limited salaries and allowances somehow can afford to pay for three to five students at the most expensive universities in the UK or USA, and can pay all the students’ expenses for one year at once, including for accommodation and feeding. Civil servants use their offices and authority illegally and own rows of houses in Abuja and Lagos in the most expensive places. Celebration and conspicuous display of extraordinary wealth in billions of naira is common and done with impunity even by people who cannot explain how they made a million naira. ‘Corrubration’, or celebration of corruption, has become a national norm.”

In a second article titled, “Buhari And Roots of Corruption”,also first published by Sahara Reporters on July 21, 2015, I wrote: “The new government is acting decisively and visibly and strongly on two major planks of the campaign promises – stopping Boko Haram insurgency and fighting corruption. This article is about how to expand and win the fight against corruption, on the long run. Unless corruption is put at bay, even the efforts against Boko Haram will be inconsequential. President Buhari, with the best of intentions, cannot and should not fight a “lone” battle against corruption, nor should he aim only at short term goals within his mandated period in office.  Corruption has become endemic and both its roots and trunks must be removed. His ongoing actions at the trunks should go further to the roots.”

I cite these articles to redirect our minds to the times we lived in preceding elections in 2015. My citations reflected the mood of many citizens. The disillusion and disenchantment with the previous government was borne out by results of the elections when voters dismissed the Jonathan government and welcomed overwhelmingly the Buhari administration.

Since the assumption of office by the Alliance of Progressives Congress (APC), the fight against corruption has been openly and soundly prioritized. Daily for the past months, the media of all types is replete with incredible revelations of official stealing, thieving, financial and material disrobement of country, conniving and unexplainable acquisition of monies by so-called leaders and officials in whom the nation entrusted authority and responsibility. No Nollywood script writer could have come up with a storyline that truly portrayed the extent of corruption that we hear and read about, thanks to President Buhari’s leadership. Corruption did not start with the Jonathan administration, but from what we know today, massive, unlimited corruption was aprime activity of that government.

The naming, trial and, hopefully, jailing of the big wigs that are subjects of today’s accusations and trials on corruption cannot lead to an end to corruption, yet it is a fundamental step in the cleansing. The recovery of stolen monies from these animals-in-human-skin, as chanted by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is also crucial. Other measures should be used too, such as permanent shaming of guilty persons. Looters of the nation, no matter how highly placed, should not benefit from the loot. It can no longer be the case that election into political offices, and appointments to government positions is seen as the highway to corrupt enrichment. At this time, there is already more care on illegal financial acquisition, more soberness and less unbridled acquisition of wealth through corrupt means than was the case. People can and will change, and the ongoing pressure on corruption is a key step towards change. Even those whose main focus in government and with government was to steal cannot be so carefree and open about it today as they did in the past. There are consequences. The celebration of corruption is no longer in fashion.

Despite what is being done, government appears to be tackling the first phase of its anti-corruption strategy. Other phases – mass education, re-orientation, structural refinement of judiciary and law and order institutions – should start and be done seriously during the life of this government.

Last year, Boko Haram’s rampaging menace was a glaring reality, and was almost accepted as unstoppable. Boko Haram overran states in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Nigerian military absconded, abandoned posts and barracks, escaping from advances of Boko Haram. The insurgents killed almost at will, abducted and chased people away from villages and towns. When some victory was recorded against Boko Haram just before the elections, the international media explained it as a good job done by forces from neighbouring Chad and hired mercenaries from South Africa. Abuja was under threat as the terrorists struck it repeatedly. The fear of possible Boko Haram’sactions in Lagos became so real that the then Governor Fashola’s government had to reassure the public that it would not happen. Not many people accepted the reassurance though. There were friends and well-placed Nigerians who started to seek alternative residence outside of the country.

Today, the situation is different. In Abuja and Lagos, the fear of  Boko Haram is no longer part of conversations. In the North-east, once a home turf of Boko Haram the main activities are to relocate displaced people to their homes, reestablish livelihood for people who have been turned into refugees, find abducted people including the Chibok girls, and make Boko Haram disappear altogether from Sambisa Forest. The glaring successful frontal attack against Boko Haram has been led by the same Nigerian military that was almost totally discredited and labeled as fatally demoralized. Today, the insurgency is contained. If this is not change, then what is it?

There is a long way to go to create a vibrant, secure and economically strong Nigeria. But noises that say no change has taken place are wrong. On corruption and on security in relation to Boko Haram, change is happening under our eyes. More change is needed overall, especially to develop infrastructures, create employment, improve the quality of life and improve power supply which is the root of growth.

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

Will President Zuma Zoom On No Matter What?

By Bunmi Makinwa

The political end of Mr. Zuma was at hand in 2004 when his financial adviser and businessman, Mr. Schabir Shaik, was put on trial for taking bribes from arms deals and accused of channeling funds to Mr. Zuma. The sensational trial attracted a lot of public and media interest. Mr. Shaik was found guilty in June 2005, and began in November 2006 to serve a 15-year jail term after his appeal to the Supreme Court failed. During the trial, Mr. Shaik denied ever soliciting bribes for Mr. Zuma and said that the monies that exchanged hands were only interest-free loans to help Mr. Zuma, then Deputy President.

In passing judgment, the court said many unflattering statements about Mr. Zuma, so much that his critics called on him to resign but his supporters rejected such demands. The most powerful trade union in South Africa, COSATU, said that the trial judge went beyond his brief in implicating Mr. Zuma who was not involved in the trial at any stage. However, in deference to public opinion, Mr. Zuma resigned his seat in parliament.

President Thabo Mbeki, in whose cabinet Mr. Zuma was serving, relieved the deputy President of his responsibilities. Mr. Zuma was openly investigated and charged for corruption, which charges were dropped as unlawful, politically motivated and technically flawed, after years of political and legal wrangling. Judge Nicholson found Mr. Zuma not guilty and the African National Congress (ANC) embraced Mr. Zuma with songs and applause. On 12 January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously overturned judge Nicholson’s judgment, but no new trial was started. Mr. Zuma had then assumed position as president of the ANC.

In the fateful 2005 that heralded larger than life problems for Mr. Zuma, he was accused of rape and charged to court. In a most sensational trial at the time, Mr. Zuma admitted that he had consensual sex with the woman in question, but no rape took place. He also said that he had a shower afterwards to prevent possible HIV infection as the woman was positive for the virus. Mr. Zuma was cleared of the rape charge but his shower explanation as antidote to HIV infection was loudly ridiculed for someone who should have known better. The situation was thought to signal again Mr. Zuma’s adieu to politics. But it was wrong.

In a masterful political dexterity, Mr. Zuma, who had been a member of the ANC since age 17, worked his way back up the party ladder. In a contest between himself and then President Mbeki, Mr. Zuma won and was elected ANC president in 2007, a most powerful position in the country. The ANC, as the ruling party, determines the actions of government. Mr. Zuma’s victory went a notch higher when the party recalled President Mbeki in September 2008. This is a euphemism for asking the president to resign which he did, nine months before his term ended. He was replaced by ANC deputy President, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, who served as interim president before the elections of 2009.

President Zuma is not new to challenges. He was brought up by a widowed mother and he had no formal education. Like many in the ANC, he had devoted his life to the anti-apartheid struggle. He left the country for military training and actively worked as a member of ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military branch. He took part actively in the insurgency against the white, segregationist, oppressive, apartheid regime. He was arrested and jailed in Robben Island for 10 years along with Mr. Nelson Mandela.

Gifted with a personality of bonhomie, ordinariness, and a political sagacity that must be the envy of his enemies, JZ, as he is called by his admirers, became President in May 2009, a foregone conclusion once he had assumed leadership of the ANC. Since then, his capacity to make small gestures hugely attractive and to deflect big political bullets has stood him in good stead. With natural ease, he continues to ride over turbulent waves.


Global Wire News

In April 2013, a private plane full of wedding guests landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria. The plane belonged to a wealthy, business-owning family called the Guptas, well connected and very close to President Zuma. Originally from India, the family’s businesses include IT, media and mining. President’s Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is known to be a business partner of the Guptas. The irregular landing of a civilian jet at a military enclave caused an uproar. A ministerial task force was set up to look into the matter. Fortunately for President Zuma, the task force found that the president did not have any role in the wrongdoing. President Zuma was relieved but there were many who insisted that as president he should assume responsibility for the security lapse of his friends’ actions.

The year 2015 was ominous for President. Zuma. A deluge of major problems ensued, fanned into billowing flames by his antecedents, critics, opposition parties, and ever-watchful media. Within the ANC itself, cracks began to show as some high-ranking members spoke directly and indirectly of their discomfort with the president’s many problems.

Since 2012, complaints had been lodged with the Public Protector, Ms. Thuli Madonsela, by some members of the public and political parties over alleged misuse of state funds to refurbish the private residence of the Zuma family in Nkandla, his place of birth. A security appraisal of the compound done after President Zuma took office showed that additional measures were required. Ms. Madonsela in her report of March 2014 stated that some modifications and additions done were beyond security upgrades. They included the construction of a swimming pool and a cattle kraal . The report also found the president wanting in protecting and making judicious uses of state resources. She concluded that President Zuma had benefited unduly from the Rands 246 million ($16 million) that the state spent on the upgrades and asked him to refund an amount to be determined by working with the Treasury and the South African Police Service for elements that were not related to security.

Through 2015, the president explained that he had no say in what was done at his residence. Senior government officials for security characterized all upgrades done as security measures.

The ANC-majority parliament cleared the President of any misdeeds. President Zuma had nothing to pay for. But Nkandla-gate, as it became known, continued to generate public interest and calls for the President to refund money would not go away, thanks to the opposition parties, especially the Julius Malema-led Economic Freedom Front (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA).

For a while, another series of missteps pushed Nkadla-gate to the background. In a sudden decision, on 9 December 2015, President Zuma replaced Finance Minister. Mr. Nhlanhla Nene, with an apparent loyalist, Mr. David Van Rooyen, a member of parliament. Mr. Nene was said to have opposed increased subsidy of the persistently under-performing South African Airways, refused the government to make a huge investment in a nuclear facility and rejected buying a presidential jet. In reaction to the sack, the South African Rand dropped famously and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange lost 177 billion Rands ($11.6bn) on the announcement.

A cabinet minister said that the decision was a surprise as it was not discussed at the cabinet meeting of the same day that the official decision came out. The ANC was at a loss to explain it either as it appeared not to have any information. The ensuing public uproar was so much that four days later the President changed the decision and redeployed newly appointed Mr. Van Rooyen to another post, and named Mr. Pravin Gordhan as new minister of finance. Mr. Gordhan had served reputably in the same post from 2009 to 2014. It was historic that South Africa had three finance ministers in four days. President Zuma, to deflect the rancor, was projected as a listening leader who bowed to the wish of the people. There were many though who said that the decision showed poor judgment, lack of consultation and tendency to cater to special interest.

South African President Zuma waves at national memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Did the Gupta family have any hand in the sacking of Mr. Nene? The question was on some lips but was not openly stated as such. The cat was let out of the bag, literally, by former ANC member of parliament, Ms. Vytjie Mentor. She stated that the Guptas had offered her a ministerial post provided that she would “drop the SAA flight route to India and give it to them”. The deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Mcebisi Jones, publicly declared that before President Zuma announced the change of ministers, members of the Gupta family made an offer to promote him to Minister of Finance and that he categorically refused it. He said that such a proposition “made mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers”. A former cabinet spokesperson, Mr. Themba Maseko, revealed that the President asked him to help the Guptas out by favouring them with government adverts. The “state capture” of South Africa by the Guptas and special interest went from a rumble to an eruption.

The heat around the president became intense. Would President Zuma resign? Would the ANC recall him? Would he announce something about cutting short his term of office which is three years to go? The usual voices pressured that Zuma should go or be impeached. The supporting voices asked for time to look deeper into the matter.

Another blowup was just around the corner. A court case by DA and EFF on Nkadla-gate came to a conclusion at the Constitutional Court. The unanimous judgment was that President Zuma should refund the money spent on his homestead of Nkandla which were not security upgrades. The presidency, the Parliament, the ANC, and President Zuma had been wrong in their position on the non-security categorization and expenses on them. The court ruling stated that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land…”

It was the last thing that President Zuma would have wished for. Yet another major slip that could erase any of his good actions, such as his leadership of a national surge to rein in HIV and AIDS, his success at getting many highly qualified and deserving South Africans into senior posts in the international system, including Dr. Dlamini Zuma, his divorced wife and long-serving senior official of ANC and government, as Chairperson of the African Union, and his continuing to provide leadership for South Africa’s roles in peace keeping and peace building initiatives in conflict and war-torn countries. The President’s string of scandals increasingly make his friendly description as comical, colourful, charismatic, and convivial to be subsumed by his critical characterization as controversial, corrupt, crooked, and cronyistic.

Again the usual voices demanded impeachment or resignation. What was new was that unusual voices added new dimensions to the anti-Zuma groups. A joint letter by the foundations of Oliver and Adelaide, Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, some of the founding fathers of the ANC and notable leaders of liberation, urged the ANC leadership to “take urgent corrective action in the best interest of South Africa and its peoples”. “We are deeply concerned about the current course on which our country is headed. We believe this course is contrary to the individual and collective legacy of our founders”.

A strongly worded statement signed by Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa , Ziphozihle Siwa, said that the president should “do the honourable thing and resign to save himself, the ANC and the nation as a whole from further embarrassment and ruin…If this does not happen, we the people of South Africa must put pressure on the ANC and Parliament to ‘assist’ the President to vacate office peacefully and constitutionally. The president’s embattled term of office has been marred with too many unresolved claims and scandals including Nkandla, the arms deal debacle, and the recent revelations of alleged State Capture by the Guptas and the time has come to put the country first.”

What is next for President Zuma? Following the ruling by the Constitutional Court, he went on the air to apologize and blamed his erroneous decision on advice from lawyers. The ANC has started its own investigation to assess the extent of “state capture”. The opposition parties have tried another of the many parliamentary motions for impeachment of President Zuma though it was dead from its conception given the ANC super majority.

With his expanded laughter and a reassuring wave to the crowd, President Zuma may just zoom on as he has done in the past, counting on his strong bases within the various arms of the ANC and his reputation as the man who has many lives.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

President Mugabe’s Legs And How The Mighty Fall by Bunmi Makinwa

For a long time, the question of who will succeed Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has remained a most difficult puzzle, both within the country and outside. It still is. But the resolution may be more imminent than ever, due to a combination of rapidly developing events. It is a few weeks to his 92nd birthday, and President Mugabe’s legs are no longer what they used to be. Not a terrible thing to happen at his age, but they have serious implications for Zimbabwe.

In the second part of his 35 years as leader of the country, there has been constant dire speculation on President Mugabe’s health. Usually, the speculation heightens during his December-January holiday.

APTOPIX Zimbabwe Mugabe Fall

Beyond mere guesses, events of recent past have led credence to the fact that President Mugabe’s health and state of mind is not what it used to be. In the past year, President Mugabe, at various times, fell, stumbled and was immobilized whilst trying to walk – all in full public view.

At the G20 Summit in Turkey in November 2015, President Mugabe, who attended it as Chairman of the African Union, showed great difficulty as he gingerly walked the short distance from his car to the door of the meeting venue. It was the most recent of the awkward situations that mirrored his physical degradation.

During the India-Africa Summit in October 2015, President Mugabe was helped by summit host India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to maintain his balance as he almost fell backwards whilst mounting a one-level dias to the podium to shake hands with Prime Minister Modi. The host helped and steadied him to walk back, down the podium. About a month earlier on September 15, President Mugabe read the wrong speech at the opening session of parliament in Harare. He read it out entirely without realizing the mistake. It was a speech that he had used for his state-of-the-union address on August 25. In February, President Mugabe fell on his knees and hand as he came down a podium after addressing supporters at the airport in Harare on returning from an African Union Summit in Ethiopia where he became Chairman of the African body.

All the incidents were disseminated widely on social media, in photos and video. Their impact was direct and official explanation and denials did not alter the facts.
President’s Mugabe health has served as the proxy indicator that fuels the intensity of succession discourse in Zimbabwe and in the outside world. In 2008, President Mugabe affirmed his president-for- life desire when he said: “Only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British.” The Movement for Democratic Change or MDC was a once strong opposition party but which has withered into factions through co-opting, violence, internal differences and repressive actions by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party which has been in power since independence of the country in 1980.

Any leading official of government or the ruling party who has ever being touted as a possible successor to President Mugabe had fallen by the wayside. Until she was ousted from her position in 2014, first female Vice President Joice Mujuru, 69, seemed like the chosen one. She had impressive preparation, access and support from President Mugabe. Mujuru was in cabinet by age 25. A firebrand nationalist of the ZANU-PF, highly educated, thoroughly mentored by President Mugabe himself, she was Vice President for ten years. In a move spearheaded by first lady Grace Mugabe, Mujuru was accused of a plot to kill President Mugabe, expelled from government and party, and branded as arch enemy. She is busy putting together a group called Zimbabwe National African Union – People First (ZANU-PF), a play on the ruling party’s name. Her party will oppose President Mugabe’s leadership.

At some time in the past, current Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, 60, was seen as the anointed next leader. Mnangagwa has held various cabinet positions since 1980, including head of security under President Mugabe. He became Vice President in 2014 to replace Mujuru. Mnangagwa has maintained that succession was not an issue for discussion. In response to a member of parliament who raised a question about President Mugabe’s health, Mnangagwa said: “I can assure the MP that the President is healthier than him.”
In 2014, President Mugabe appointed Phelekezela Mphoko, 75, as a second Vice President, but politically junior to Mnangagwa. The action obviously weakens any assumption of hierarchy of succession. When President Mugabe travelled abroad with his wife for his annual leave in December, Mphoko assumed the interim position for several weeks before handing over to Mnangagwa. It would appear that no Vice President was to be seen as directly in line for the highest office.


The first lady, Mrs. Grace Mugabe is said to be frantically preparing herself or somebody of her choice to become the next president. In less than two years, she has acquired enormous powers both in the party and in government. She became head of the women’s wing of ZANU-PF, which conferred on her a position in the cabinet. She has become exceptionally outspoken at political rallies and in public events. She has established herself unequivocally as the mouth-piece of the president.

Rising stoutly in defence of her husband, Mrs. Mugabe, 50, said that he was fit. In obvious recognition of his frailty though she was quoted as saying: “We are going to create a special wheelchair for President Mugabe until he rules to 100 years, because that is what we want.” She added that she was prepared to push the chair.

The ruling party is internally being dismembered by the succession issues. President Mugabe has appealed often at recent party meetings for stronger cohesion and unity. Party cadres and members are lining up behind Grace Mugabe and the Vice Presidents. Recently, the President called on security forces not to join the factions in the party.

Ahead of the presidential election of 2018 all leading voices – the first lady, the two Vice Presidents and ZANU-PF officials – said that President Mugabe would be the people’s choice. He has been nominated as the party’s candidate to stand for election. He will be 94 years old.

But his legs, the locomotive appendages that help humans to maintain gravity on earth, will receive closer attention, when and if President Mugabe appears in public forums in 2016. And the legs may well impose the imperative of choosing another leader for Zimbabwe.