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Atiku, Wike and burden of conscience



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By Solomon Bob

In the weeks since PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar announced Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running-mate, his frontmen have sought to outdo themselves in recasting the facts leading up to Dr Okowa’s picking. They’ve tried to sell the falsehood that there was no vote, that rather candidate Atiku was left with the prerogative of choosing one from a list of three that the selection committee recommended.

The first person to spin this was Dr Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman who flaunts his biases and continues to call into question his suitability for the assignment he has chosen. But Dr Ayu cannot lay claim to exclusive knowledge of what transpires in party meetings.

Truth is that a vote was called on Tuesday 14 June between governors Wike and Okowa and the former was the choice of party honchos by a staggering majority of 16 against 3. No shame in that, neither is it surprising. Everyone knows that Governor Wike has been PDP’s lifeblood over the last seven years and, but for his singular efforts, PDP would be dead and Nigeria would most likely be regressing into a one-party dictatorship.

But the gist I’m interrogating in this article is Atiku Abubakar’s integrity and moral content as a leader. And I start off by confessing that I once thought him likeable – judging by his mien only, even if dull. But my view of him has developed rather rapidly – not by osmosis – over the last several weeks to the point where I now dismiss his suitability for office and regard his politics as realpolitik – totally shorn of principle.

Firstly, Atiku cannot claim ignorance of the darts his minders have been directing at Wike even as he pretends that he’s seeking reconciliation. An example is ex governor Babangida Aliyu’s extraordinary diatribe in a recent television interview. Aliyu is a frontman for Atiku and his foul-mouthed put-down bore the imprimatur of a higher-up because it was completely unprovoked and coming one year after he started a run-in with Governor Wike.

It would seem that despite having secured the ticket for which he sought and endorsed the breaking of every party rule, Atiku still has a field day when his followers thrashtalk Wike.

Like Atiku himself, Mr Aliyu was one of those who succumbed to Nigeria’s twin demons of tribe and religion to betray and sink the PDP in 2015. While Atiku defected to APC to implement his hegemonic designs, Mr Aliyu wrecked havoc from within and even boasted about it!

But consciously or unconsciously, Atiku is promoting an act of self-harm. Like it or not, Wike is PDP’s biggest draw bar none. Atiku might be the flag-bearer but he’s dour and does not have Wike’s energy and charisma; nor his troubleshooting nous. Wike is one of only two politicians in the whole of southern Nigeria who can command the attention of a room by his very presence – the other one being Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Atiku’s presidential run would be dead in the water were Wike to work against him.

Secondly, Atiku it was who went to Wike with the offer of running-mate, but he has done everything to conceal this fact. He and his camp loathe to admit this, or are butthurt in their conceit and arrogance to let it out. Instead, they’re doubling down on the spin that three candidates, including Wike, indicated interest – read lobbied – for the position. The intent is clear: rope Wike into a low bar and diminish him.

Atiku knows that Wike never lobbied to be running-mate, either to him directly or indirectly through others. But it serves the strategy of demystifying Wike well.

What is also clear is that the choice of Dr Okowa was foisted on Atiku by certain forces who thought Wike was too powerful and wanted a liveried footman (I’m not by any means saying Okowa is one, mind). But never mind that he’s being passed off now as one who “complements” Atiku, Okowa wasn’t his go-to man. Okowo himself unwittingly alluded to this in his TV interview on Thursday when he referred to someone as “one of the very strong voices” that got him the nomination. However, his response to the name mentioned to him was a mere play to his base in Delta, which is commonsensical.

When Atiku came unstuck with powerful interests over his choice of Wike, rather than defending it, he wilily used the party to convey a different impression and make way for the preferred choice of his captors. Unfortunately for him, that too ran into a hitch. The rest, as we say, is history. But what sort of leader resiles with abandon from a commitment he willingly entered into, is dodgy with the truth and teeters like a reed in the wind?

My third point relates to the horrific 12th May tragedy when Deborah Samuel, a young college student, was murdered and burned in Sokoto for alleged blasphemy by Islamic extremists. Happening so close to the PDP convention, Atiku was on the hustings putting himself about in bromide-laden platitudes and typical Nigerian virtue signalling. But he soon ran into a buzzsaw which I think defines him.

His twitter account manager, correctly discerning that what had just happened was a tragedy of monstrous proportions deserving of instant condemnation, dutifully put up a tweet condemning same. What happened next remains a tragedy for Atiku’s moral standing and speaks to his primordial pandering beneath the veneer of his vaunted cosmopolitanism.

As the tweet went viral, Atiku received a backlash back home in his native north, and, pronto, he ordered the tweet deleted claiming it was done without his consent. The implication is that because the horrific incident happened in his native north, he wouldn’t have given his consent anyway for fear of offending his followers. In the south where he’d face no such inhibitions, he would have been loudest as a moral champion.

A leader’s moral judgment cannot be situational, but Atiku’s clearly is. Similarly, a leader who can’t make his mind up but surrenders to captive interests is anything but. His frontmen claim that Atiku creates jobs, but Nigeria’s biggest problem is taking the hard decisions for sea-change constitutional reforms that will pump oxygen into an asphyxiating patch of geographical territory falsely labelled a federation. Joblessness is a symptom of that challenge, not the challenge itself.

Atiku strikes me as a status quo maintainer without the candour, will or interest to confront Nigeria’s challenges. Were he to win, he would mollycoddle the present unproductive imbalance for his tribe and religion and the country would be treading water still. Would he prove me wrong?

Bob, a lawyer and member of the House of Representatives from Rivers State, wrote from Port Harcourt.

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Re: Kogi East Senator Isah Jibrin, Killer Squad, Echocho Boys, Launches Violent Attacks on SDP Supporters




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When the news of Senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Jibrin Isah Echocho was published in several online platforms on September 28, 2023, “titled: Kogi Guber: Kogi East Senator, Jibrin Isah Killer Squad, ‘Echocho boys’ launches violent attacks on SDP supporters”, it aroused my interest and of course, any other person who has flair for investigative journalism would have waded into such dastardly act by a sitting Senator with a view to making news headlines.

Ajiolo Ojaji is a community in Dekina Local Government Council and home to the two term lawmaker. Before now, Echocho has ‘cult-like’ followership because of his antecedents when he was working in the banking sector. His magnanimity and philanthropy earned him respect not just among his contemporaries, elders, and youngsters.

His commitment to philanthropy over time influenced the choice of some families naming their born male children after him, “Echocho” . It is paramount to know that when he was in the banking sector, he was into his philanthropy without envisaging that he would one day delve into politics.

His professional background forms part of his decency and decorum after he had made foray into politics, first as a Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2011, when he contested for governorship primary and won before the turn of events at the time of the former governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. In the past eight to nine years he became active in politics, he has never been associated with political violence not even at a time that injustice was done to him.

Thus, the “Echocho boys”, as it were, are names named after him in admiration of his lofty contribution to the development of the communities in and around Dekina Local Government Council and were never evil intended as being portrayed in some sections of the media.

Though, it is understood that at this political period, politicians of his standing are vulnerable to media vituperations by the opposition and those harboring empty grudges, hence one is not taken aback over reports alleging that he has killer squad as findings revealed that the altercation at Ajiolo Ojaji that led to violence was a usual fall out among brothers.

It was also discovered that those who were involved in the fracas, and the victims were once members of the same political family in the past, but have now divided interest, a development that has led to the nursing of animosity among themselves.

Despite the accusations and name callings, Echocho visited the victims, and cautioned the youths , as a Father.

More worrisome is the fact that one of the alleged victims, who was captured in their publication laying on the stretch was never part of the saga, but pretended to have been attacked and he was reported in the media to have been receiving medical attention in the hospital as a result of the crisis. All these were their desperate intention to damage the sterling reputation of the Senator.

It was clearly affirmed that the article was deliberately written and sponsored to project the Distinguished Senator in negative light, but unfortunately, they failed.

Interestingly, from our investigation, we have unveiled the pseudo name behind the libelous article to be one, Yusuf Abubakar.

We would follow due process as our lawyers have been briefed to ensure that justice is done through court processes. Those involved behind the scene will be summon soon.

– Atekojo Samson Usman, a journalist, writes from Abuja.

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Edo 2024: Obaseki’s ‘divine’ forgiveness of Shaibu’s ‘political follies’




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By Ehichioya Ezomon 

“He who is begged or pleaded with is king,” is an adage that the average Edo person doesn’t take for granted, mostly if the act for which forgiveness is sought is committed publicly – such that the aggrieved feels slighted and injured – and the mollification is also displayed openly.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki aptly symbolically assumes a kingly position lately, as he exhibits the spirit of divine, to forgive Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, who’d “erred” by aspiring to succeed Obaseki in 2024.
It’s Shaibu’s inalienable right to aspire to be governor in an off-season election in September 2024 to round off Obaseki’s eight-year tenure in November 2024. But Obaseki reckoned the act as in bad faith and taste.
Deputy governors aren’t satisfied with playing second fiddle, and they begin plotting how to become the Chief Executive the day after their swearing in. To justify their aspiration, some deputy governors boast of influencing the governor’s pick for the position.
But woe beside the deputy governor, who thinks the influence of their godfather will carry them through after the governor has assumed the full powers of office. Most times, their political benefactors become their first victims. 
 In Nigeria’s brand of democracy in which the Constitution clothes the  governor with powers of overlordship that subsume other authorities – ancient and modern – the deputy governor is laughably a “spare tire,” who owes his stay in office to the benevolence of the governor, and thus should be heard and not seen, or they risk being rendered redundant in the scheme, or hounded out of office when they want to assert their authority.
 A deputy governor can hardly survive risking relationships with their principals on account of aspiring to succeed them. It’s either the governor engineers the mostly pliant members of the State House of Assembly to impeach the deputy governor over nebulous allegations of “gross misconduct,” or their powers are curtailed, and access to the governor and state activities limited or frozen.
Such was the fate that befell Shaibu in his undisguised ambition to be governor in 2024. To clear all roadblocks, he filed suits in courts to pre-empt Obaseki deploying the State Assembly to impeach him and scuttle his ambition.
  Obaseki felt that Shaibu had gone about the project in a manner that betrayed their cordial relationship since they came together in a joint ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2020.
 To Obaseki, who’d dealt with his acclaimed political godfather and predecessor in office, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – culminating in the now Senator for Edo North being sacked by the courts as National Chairman of the APC – Shaibu’s a small fry to make mincemeat of.
Thus, he cut communications with, and barred Shaibu from accessing him; stopped him from certain official activities, and relocated his office to outside the Government House, Benin City, via a two-para memo dispatched by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie, dated September 15, and received on September 19. 
The memo, “Relocation of Office Accommodation,” reads: “I write to inform you that His Excellency, the Governor, has approved the relocation of your office accommodation to No 7, Dennis Osadebey Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City. 
“You are therefore requested to ensure your compliance in line with Mr Governor’s approval, please.”
 Surprisingly, Shaibu, after resuming in the new office, tendered his apology to Obaseki. 
  The months-long political feud between Obaseki and Shaibu had the potential to threaten the peace and security of the proudly homogeneous Edo State dubbed the “Heart Beat of The Nation”
 Particularly on the verge of getting dragged and enmeshed in the murky waters of politics and personal ambitions were the people of Edo South and Edo North, where Obaseki and Shaibu hail from, respectively. 
 But before Obaseki could twist the screw further, well-meaning Nigerians stepped in to engender truce, leading to Shaibu’s withdrawal of his writs in the courts, and offering “sincere apologies” to Obaseki for whatever his follies.
 Shaibu told journalists in Benin City on September 21 that: “I will use this medium to appeal to Mr. Governor, if there is anything that I don’t know that I have done, please forgive me so that we can develop our state together. 
 “If there is any mistake that I have made as human, is (sic) not an act of maybe wickedness, because I’m not wicked. I have a very clean heart. 
 “So Mr Governor, please, if there is anything that you think I have done, I am sorry. I need us to work together to finish well and strong because that is my prayer for you.”
Shaibu vouched for his loyalty to Obaseki, and said he’d taken a personal vow with God to support the governor, stressing that, “If I have a vow with God, there is nothing that will change it.”
 He hoped for a return of the good old days with Obaseki, saying: “And I can only wish that the relationship that we had, in the next few days and weeks, I know it will come back… We’ve been the envy of the entire country; it (cordial relationship) is still possible.” 
Exactly one week after, on September 28, Shaibu’s prayers were answered, as Obaseki, touting himself as a “person of faith,” said he’s “under obligation to accept the apology” 
In a letter, “Re: Public Apology By The Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu,” Obaseki said: “I have noted the public apology made by the Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu. This apology followed an aberrant behaviour that contradicts what the people of Edo State stand for.
“To name a few, the Deputy Governor needlessly filed unfounded petitions in the Nigerian courts restraining me, the State House of Assembly and Security agencies from a non-existent impeachment process, followed by repeated breaches of protocol; unwarranted and unprovoked attacks in the media on my person and the State Government.
“The media frenzy as a result of the above and more, provided an impression of crises that has been precarious and distasteful to Edo people in the State and across the world.
“Although these unwarranted provocations caused me severe personal discomfort, as a person of faith, I am under obligation to accept this apology because as they say, ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine.”
“In good faith, I trust that the public apology as expressed by the Deputy Governor is genuine and followed by contrite steps to improve his conflict resolution skills.
“I also enjoin the Deputy Governor to guide his proxies to act in accordance with his piety.”
“It is my sincere hope and that of my other colleagues in government and all well-meaning Edo people, that these rhetorics will be put to an end forthwith to enable this administration finish strong and deliver the dividends of democracy to the greatest number of Edo people over this final twelve (12) months.”
Governor Obaseki deserves some plaudits! Yet, the swords sheathed and the guns silenced, the lessons learned should endure, as political ambition dies hard. For Shaibu – and many in his shoes – the ultimate is to be in full control as the executive governor, despite being deputy for eight years. Nothing else suffices!
So, unless the “terms of the truce” for apology and forgiveness include the total surrender of Shaibu’s ambition, the battle may be over, but the war will continue until September 2024. And it’ll be epic in proportion and ramifications on both sides! 

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Communicating the President




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By Tunde Olusunle

I was opportuned to serve in the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar administration at the beginning of our Fourth Republic. Obasanjo was a rather controversial personality. The media had stereotyped him as unfriendly and adversarial over time. The very fact that he opted for a medical doctor in Doyin Okupe as his very first spokesperson, broadened the hiatus between Obasanjo and the press. Okupe cut his dentition as public communicator, when he was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention, (NRC), one of the two political parties established by the regime of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, in the run up to the actualization of Nigeria’s botched Third Republic. He was a good communicator in his own way. Fortuitously, a critical core of Obasanjo’s appointees were tested and respected journalists who added steel and spine to presidential communication in the nation’s nascent democracy.

There were Onyema Ugochukwu, Emeritus Editor of Business Times, West Africa and Daily Times newspapers and Stanley Macebuh, (of evergreen memory) whose footprints straddled several publications, including The Sentinel, The Guardian and Post Express. Haroun Adamu, former university scholar and proprietor of the rested The Nigerian Economist magazine and Ad’Obe Obe who succeeded Ugochukwu in West Africa in London, were also in the loop. Younger elements like Steve Itugbu and yours sincerely contributed to making up for observed lacunae in the management and communication of the voice of the president. I was in my 30s. We made friends for him. Tunji Oseni and Remi Oyo both accomplished professionals, (both sadly transited), occupied Okupe’s position at various times during the Obasanjo presidency, adding perspectives to presidential communication.

The preceding parade of presidential communicators was consistent, actually upgrades in instances, on the qualities of previous holders of the office. They were hitherto referred to as “Chief Press Secretary” to the Head of State, or the President, as the case might have been. Alex Nwokedi who was spokesman for the defunct National Electricity Power Authority, (NEPA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), was Obasanjo’s spokesman in 1976. He was succeeded by Charles Igoh who was once Sports Editor of the Daily Times, upon the ascent of President Shehu Shagari in 1979. Wada Maida who later became chief executive of the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN), was appointed into the position when Muhammadu Buhari became military ruler in 1984.

Duro Onabule had served as Editor of the now rested National Concord one of Nigeria’s best selling dailies in its time, before he was appointed to the same office by Babangida. Sola Atere who retired a few years ago from the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) as Executive Director, occupied the position during the brief stint of Ernest Shonekan as Head of the Interim National Government, (ING). David Attah a former federal parliamentarian who also had editorial and management stints in the Daily Times, Standard and The Voice newspapers variously was appointed to the position by Abacha in 1993. Haruna Mohammed, a former managing director of New Nigerian Newspapers served in the position during the 11-month transitional rule of Abdulsalami Abubakar as Head of State.

Equally vibrant and respected professionals like Olusegun Adeniyi, chairman of the Editorial Board of Thisday and Reuben Abati, former Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian were spokesmen for former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, respectively. Femi Adesina was Editor-in-chief of Sun newspapers after working with the Vanguard and Concord newspapers before becoming spokesman to Muhammadu Buhari. Garba Shehu was managing director of Triumph newspapers at 37. Adesina and Garba were both Presidents of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), the umbrella body of Nigeria’s topmost media professionals.

It is compelling, even impelling to establish the foregoing trajectory to properly situate the professional quality, cognate experience and broad network expected of a potential presidential spokesman. Bola Tinubu, present occupant of Nigeria’s topmost political office desires to be seen as very pan-Nigerian in the complexion of his administrative apparachik. He also wants to be portrayed as a believer in the capacity of the youth as important contributors to the Nigerian project. These considerations must, however, not be sacrificed for merit and experience. While attorneys may be assigned to administer the nation’s capital, or a seasoned journalist deployed to the solid minerals schedule, presidential communication requires a lot, lot more. It is neither for greenhorns nor for apprentices. The output of the current holder of the office thus far is at best amateurish, randomly unprofessional and notably un-presidential. The margins of error in this job are thin and minimal.

On two occasions in less than two weeks, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu’s spokesman has played the ultimate propagandist. He dished out false narratives and had the unpleasant task of doing a recant on both occasions. While reporting the highlights of Tinubu’s engagements with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) about a fortnight ago, Ngelale told the world that the subsisting visa ban on Nigerians travelling to the UAE had been lifted! It turned out to be embarrassingly false. Officials of the country put out a disclaimer. A few days ago, the overly excitable Ngelale told us that Tinubu was the first African leader to ring the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, (NASDAQ) bell in New York. This again turned out a hoax. Jakaya Kiwete a former president of Tanzania rang the NASDAQ closing bell in 2011. Fact-checking has long been simplified by information technology.

Presidential communication is beyond press statements which seem to be Ngelale’s forte. Even here, he is not in the least impressive. His releases are wordy and characteristically riddled with grammatical errors. Sentences wriggle and wind around and about in serpentine motions. Writing is a very intricate vocation guided by strict rules and regulations. Press statements are all about keeping it tight, sticking specifically and holistically to the facts without unnecessary embellishments and gerrymandering. Leave that to us creative writers and essayists. I should know having written quite a handful in my communication handling career on behalf of Abubakar Audu, Paul Omeruo, Bzigu Afakirya all former chief executives of Kogi State for whom I was spokesman at various times. Not forgetting my years with Obasanjo in Aso Villa.

Sentences are best kept laconic, at manageable lengths not exceeding three dozen words. There must be symmetry between the sound and semantics of the written word. Reclining into the big-manism of having press officers generate drafts for his blind endorsement is unacceptable and dangerous. Ngelale needs to get off his buttocks and face the job very squarely. He must forget the fawning aides around him opening his car door and making his coffee. That is if he’s convinced he truly has quality to offer. With every alacrity, he needs to mitigate his wobbling and waffling which are anathema to information dissemination at the highest levels.

Ngelale comes from the background of the electronic segment of the media. He launched out from the African Independent Television, (AIT) and crossed over to Channels Television. He was on the media team of Buhari in 2019 and was rewarded with an appointment as a presidential aide on public affairs. He also functioned on the Tinubu presidential organisation which culminated in his current recognition. At 37, he must be the youngest occupant of the Office of Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, if I’m correct. If he desires to retain his brief and flourish in it, he must deliberately avail himself of the quantum residual wisdoms of previous handlers of the schedule. Growth and perfection come by deliberate humility and diligent questing. Can Ngelale turn a good patch after his initial stumbles and adjust to the responsibilities of his seat? Tinubu by the way has never been in short supply of savvy associates at the topmost pedestal of the media. Where are they?

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE)

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