Monday, 30 August 2010

Censorship chief escapes lynching for soliciting sex from minor


August 29, 2010

The director general of the Kano State Film and Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, was nearly lynched over the weekend when a mob attacked him for soliciting sex from an under-aged girl.

Mr. Abdulkarim, the former Hisbah commander was trying to escape from a patrol team which had accosted him when they saw his car parked in a secluded environment - with a young girl inside - when he ran into a motorcyclist. Other members of the Okada union quickly surrounded him and he was only saved a lynching by the police who had been in pursuit of his car.

The censorship board, under his leadership, has waged a scorched earth campaign against actors, musicians and producers in the state for allegedly promoting immorality. As a result, many artistes fled the state and now ply their trade elsewhere.

Mr Abdulkarim, who insisted that the girl he was found with was his niece, said he was not having an affair with her. But when the former enforcer of Sharia law discovered he could not convince the contingent of policemen on night patrol on the propriety of having an under-aged girl in his car at such an odd hour, he panicked. The whole thing looked even more suspicious because for some curious reason he had parked behind a shopping complex along Maiduguri Road that night.

A police source said when the patrol team attempted to arrest Mr Abdulkarim he took flight in his car.

Double trouble

While trying to escape however, he knocked down an official of the Kano History and Culture Bureau who was riding on a motorcycle. This incurred the wrath of Okada riders, who thought that he had knocked down a member of their union and promptly proceeded to give him a thorough beating.

Ironically, it was the patrol team that he had been trying to avoid that finally came to his rescue, although by then the okada riders, who saw he had a girl with him, had damaged the car and were already on the verge of beating him to death.

He was later taken to the Hotoro police division where he was made to write down a statement.

Not a wayward one

When contacted, Mr Abdulkarim said members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, and film practitioners, were responsible for his ordeal.

The man, who has been having a running battle with film makers and writers in Kano in his attempt to force them to comply with the Sharia legal code, spoke to NEXT before he travelled to Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj.

“The girl found in my car was my niece and not a wayward one as insinuated,” he insisted.

Spokesperson of the Kano State police command, Baba Mohammed, said he was not aware of the incident because he was in the hospital at the time. The police commissioner, Mohammed Gana also said he couldn’t speak on the matter because he just returned from Saudi Arabia. He however promised to find out the details from his men at the Hotoro Police Division.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Kano Chief Censor In Alleged Child Abuse Scandal

LEADERSHIP, Monday, 30 August 2010

By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, KANO

The Director-General of Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, is enmeshed in a case of an alleged illicit sexual affair involving a minor whom he allegedly abused.

Though it is unclear whether the chief censor had actually penetrated the girl or not, investigations by LEADERSHIP revealed that he was trailed penultimate Sunday in Kano by patrolling policemen who saw a car parked around a bushy area along Maiduguri road by Rukayya House, in Kano around 10 p.m.

The police on patrol beamed their vehicle's light on the parked car and the DG, who was in the car, started the car and zoomed off to escape the approaching vehicle. LEADERSHIP learnt that the police used the siren of their vehicle to alert the DG that they were trailing him but he refused to stop, engaging the police in a car race.

Rabo raced frantically through the Eastern by-pass road and through Unguwa Uku quarters with the police trailing him. This led him to ram into a motorcyclist around Unguwa Uku Shago Tara. He, however, forged ahead accelerating the vehicle.

It was learnt that the motorcyclist he ran into was wounded, as a result of which some other commercial motorcyclists joined the police in trailing the director general. They subsequently caught up with him around Filin Kashu area of Unguwa Uku.

The angry mob of motorcyclists began to beat the DG, while some aimed at the car, causing serious damages to it, before the arrival of the police who dispersed the people and arrested the driver, who turned out to be Rabo.

The director general was then taken to the Hotoro Police Station where he identified himself. On searching the car, according to a LEADERSHIP source, a young girl was found in the car, and a pant, suspected to be the girl's. Rabo claimed that the girl was his cousin and he was coming from his family house. He was released at the time.

Rabo, LEADERSHIP learnt on good authority, departed for Saudi Arabia a day after the incident. When our correspondent called him last Thursday, as soon as he mentioned the reason for the call, the Chief Censor replied; "By Allah I don't know about it."

However, Rabo had confirmed the story to other journalists, saying that the girl was his cousin whom he was conveying from his parent’s house to his own house.

He also appealed to the journalists to let the matter die as exposing it amounts to ridiculing Islam.

Rabo's argument, according to a clip of an interview with him obtained by LEADERSHIP, was that the whole drama was a set up to blackmail him by PDP stalwarts in the state who had been looking for a way to eliminate him. He said those people had been meeting for about three weeks at Shagari quarters, on how to nail him.


This is another story on the Rabo sex scandal story. It gives additional detail. I heard that the Hausa movie industry's main union, MOPPAN, is going to hold a press conference on the matter today.

Rabo arrested for alleged sex related offence

Sunday Trust magazine - The Arts
Written by Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu, Kano
Sunday, 29 August 2010 00:09

The Director General, Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim has been allegedly caught in a sex scandal involving a minor, following an alleged incident along Maiduguri Road in Kano metropolis last Sunday, August 22.

Reports indicate that Rabo was allegedly with the girl in his car late in the night when a police patrol approached. He panicked and fled on high speed, eventually knocking down a motorcyclist around the Na’ibawa area. He was allegedly apprehended by a mob that vandalized his car before the police intervened.

The police took him to Hotoro Division where it was discovered he was a top government official. He was then released on bail.

A police source informed Sunday Trust that some incriminating evidence pointing at a possible sexual relationship between Rabo and the girl was found in his car. “When the car was searched, the police found the girl’s pant but you know, when such issues involve big people in town, it dies a natural death but he was actually arrested for alleged sex relationship with the girl as well as for hitting a moving bike,” the source said.

Rabo, during interrogation, allegedly told the police that the girl was his niece and he had fled the scene when the police approached because he suspected they might have been thugs sent after him by actors in Kano.

Rabo has led a crack down on the Hausa film industry following a leaked explicit video featuring a Kannywood star. He has since jailed several film makers in the state and his name has been synonymous with the puritan attempts to sanitize the film industry from indecency.

This has set him on a war path with filmmaker in the state and elsewhere, who have on several occasions dragged him to court, the latest coming barely a couple of weeks ago.

When Sunday Trust contacted Rabo, who is presently away in Saudi Arabia to perform the lower hajj on telephone, he said it was a mere plan to tarnish his image by people at odds with his progress in sanitizing the industry.

“What happened was that I invited friends and relatives on that fateful day for a feast during iftar at my house, he explained, “and because the work was much, I invited some of my in-laws to come help us prepare the dishes and therefore had to drop them at the family house after everything and it was on my way back that I noticed a vehicle approaching me. Knowing the kind of threat and information on attempts to harm me, I sped for my dear life. I drove blindly, not knowing what I was really doing owing to the pressure of the moment when I hit a man on a bike and suddenly, a mob gathered and vandalized my car, thinking I stole the car. It was then the police arrived and rescued [me]. They eventually released me on realizing that the girl I was with was my niece,” he said.

On if he could give details about the girl for further clarification, he said he wouldn’t want to say much on his family members to the public but maintained that the said niece has been under his care since her father, his elder brother, died.

The Deputy Police Commissioner, Kano State Police Command, Tanko Lawan when contacted on the issue confirmed that there was an accident involving Rabo and a bike man. He said Rabo was sighted in suspicious circumstances and when the police attempted to inquire, he sped off causing the accident as the police gave chase. Lawan further said investigation into the matter has since commenced.


This story is making waves in the Hausa movie industry right now.

Above picture, taken by Carmen McCain, shows Rabo making a presentation in Niamey, Niger Republic, during a meeting of writers there between 8n - 10 December, 2009.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Muryoyin Zuciyar Sa’adatu Baba

Daga Ibrahim Sheme

Fitacciyar marubuciyar nan Malama Sa’adatu Baba Ahmad ta wallafa sabon littafi na wak'ok'in Hausa mai suna ‘Muryoyin Zuci.’ Littafin, mai shafi 80, ya na d'auke da rubutattun wak'ok'i har guda 30. An kasa su zuwa gida uku, inda kashi na 1 ya ke d'auke da wak'ok'i shida, shi ma kashi na 2 wak'ok'i shida, sai kashi na 3 mai wak'ok'i 18.

Wad'annan wak'ok'i, kamar yadda za mu kawo maku nazari a kan su nan gaba kad'an, sun ginu ne bisa jigogi daban-daban na rayuwar mu ta yau. Amma sun fi karkata ne ga fad'akarwa kan rayuwar duniya da buk'atar yin tanaji don rayuwar gobe k'iyama. Akwai wasu da aka yi su kan wasu mutane da marubuciyar ta sani ko ta ji labarin su, kamar marigayi Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sanusi, da k'awar ta Talatu (Carmen McCain) da wata Halima, da Farfesa Attahiru Jega, da wasu ’yan unguwar su marubuciyar, wato Fagge, wad'anda su ka riga mu gidan gaskiya, da dai sauran su. Shi ma gidan rediyon Freedom na Kano ba a bar shi a baya ba, an wak'e shi.

Masana biyu sun yi gabatarwar littafin. Na farkon su shi ne Dakta Yusuf M. Adamu, sai kuma Farfesa Abdulk'adir D'angambo, dukkan su malamai a Jami’ar Bayero, Kano.
A gabatarwar sa, Dakta Yusuf ya fad'a wa mai karatu abin da kowane kashi na littafin ya k'unsa. Ya yi nuni da cewa kashi na 1 ya k'unshi wak'ok'i ne da su ka shafi Musulunci da gargad'i da kuma ta’aziyya da abokantaka. Wak'ok'in kashi na biyu sun maida hankali ne a kan matsalolin Nijeriya kamar na za~e. Kashi na 3 kuma ya k'unshi wak'ok'i ne da su ka shafi soyayya da mutuwa da rubutu da hassada.

Dukkan masu gabatarwar, wato Yusuf da D'angambo, sun yi la’akari da hikimar marubuciyar da irin basirar ta, musamman wajen amfani da kalmomi da kuma salon wak'ok'i masu k'war d'aya, wanda ba a cika samu ba a fagen rubutun Hausa a yau.

A littafin, har wa yau, wasu masanan guda uku - wato Malam Isma’il Garba, Malam Zulk'ifil Adam Garba Dakata da Malam Bala Muhammad - su ma sun yi sharhi, inda su ka yaba da wannan gagarumin aikin.

Ita dai Sa’adatu Baba Ahmad, wadda mata ce ga Alhaji Shehu Sunusi Bayero, sananniyar marubuciya ce. Ta rubuta littattafan Hausa sama da 20. An haife ta a Kano a ranar 27 ga Yuli, 1984. Ta yi karatun addini da na boko duk a Kano, inda a yanzu haka d'aliba ce a Sashen Koyar da Harsunan Nijeriya a Jami’ar Bayero. Memba ce kuma a K'ungiyar Marubuta ta Nijeriya (ANA), reshen Jihar Kano.


An buga a LEADERSHIP HAUSA ta ranar Juma'ar makon jiya

Hoton da ke sama: Sa'adatu Baba ce tare da mijin ta Alhaji Shehu Sunusi Bayero

Cholera’s Killing Fields

It is not easy being a poor man in this country. You either live in abject penury, barely on the verge of emasculation, or you are brutally scythed by one mishap or the other. Security of life is not guaranteed, or available. Unnatural causes of death are too many. There are many diseases prowling all over the place, claiming innocent victims. For women and children, their killer diseases are well known - childbirth, malaria, polio. And for the men (and women), there is cholera, HIV/AIDS and (at least in Zamfara State lately) lead poisoning. Many of these diseases are wreaking their havoc all year round, but some are seasonal. Each one of them comes with its special brand of brutality, dispatching its poor victims to the great beyond. The sad part of it all is that most of the diseases killing people in Nigeria are curable and are in fact a history in many parts of the world. It only takes a responsible and responsive leadership to do away with them.

One of such “simple” diseases is cholera, an acute intestinal infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to serious dehydration. It is caused by drinking contaminated water. And there is a lot of it in the country. In the north, where most of Nigeria's poor live, sources of water in the rural areas and indeed in many urban centres are mainly open wells, ponds and streams. People defecate and throw trash irresponsibly–in open spaces like bushes, uncompleted buildings and dung-hills. Now when the rainy season comes, rainwater washes the dirt into the water reservoirs, contaminating them. When people drink the water, which is collected for personal use or vended by street traders, they can be infected by the cholera virus. Cholera can kill fast if not properly treated.

Health experts say that cholera can be easily treated by giving an infected person some fluids, including an informed mixture of ordinary salt, sugar and clean drinking water, as soon as its symptoms appear. But as with all diseases, prevention is better than cure.

Ignoring this simple but essential dictum, however, often portrays us as an unserious nation. It is happening just as I write this. Within the past two months only, at least 352 persons–all of them poor people–have died from a cholera epidemic now ravaging most of northern Nigeria.

The Public Health Department of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) reports that the states affected are Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, FCT, Cross River, Kaduna, and Rivers. A cursory look at this list shows that most of the devastation is taking place in the north, although the ministry said that epidemiological evidence indicates that the entire country is at risk.

Health officials also fear that the infection may spread further afield, taking more lives. These fears are not far-fetched. In 2001, when a similar outbreak of the disease occurred, the absence of coordination between the three tiers of government, as well as the lackadaisical response from the governments, led to more devastation. Within a short period of time, more than 1,000 people were killed, over 700 of them in Kano alone. The Kano State government only admitted to the outbreak and began a half-hearted response after that huge loss had been recorded.

We shouldn't forget, also, that the 2001 epidemic began in October and carried on through to the first weeks of the new year, claiming over a hundred more lives in Jigawa and neighbouring states. We are–this year–just in August, which means that if the disease is going to kill more people, it has just begun. Mansur Kabir, the then health commissioner in Kano, had said wistfully as the ugly figures rolled in: "The epidemic has been worse than we expected," echoing widespread belief that state officials had always underestimated the potential ravages of an oncoming health challenge.

Such underestimation appears to be playing itself out even now. As many northern state governors travel out to Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj, and others ponder their electoral fortune come next year, the cholera's killing field is becoming messier. Official response is still below average. As such, if the worst onslaught finally comes, God knows what the tally will be.

The northern state governments should declare an emergency on the cholera devastation now. No stone should be left unturned in the task of arresting the worsening situation. Governments at federal, state and local levels should embark on a big campaign to sensitise the people on the disease, telling them the simple methods of avoiding it. One of these methods is observing good hygiene. People should stop defecating or throwing trash anyhow. They should also imbibe the culture of washing their hands after going to the toilet or before eating anything. All foodstuff should be washed before eating.

More importantly, people should watch the kind of water they drink. Consuming water drawn from open wells and other sources carries the risk of getting infected. The awareness campaign should be on radio and television, as well as on posters, handbills and through town criers. The role of community leaders in this is vital. In the good old days, there were sanitary inspectors who went from village to village, and street to street, ensuring that the people's sanitary habits were correct. People were punished for defaulting. Why not bring back the tradition?

As I argued above, preventing an outbreak of a disease is better than the attempt to cure it. Governments should know exactly when to start preparing for an outbreak and work hard on it. Cholera comes around this time every year, so why should we wait until people have started dying in droves before jumping up to provide drugs and other relief materials? Such knee-jerk approach is responsible for the ugly scenes we are seeing today in public health centres in states where cholera is hitting hardest.

The federal government should also consider increasing the budget for the health sector. Statistics show that 70% of Nigeria’s health budget is spent on urban areas where 30% of the population resides, thus leaving 70% of the populace to rely on a paltry 30%–the dregs–of the health care allocation. I daresay that the 30% is spent not on the health challenges of the common man only, but also on the perks–salaries and allowances–of the health workers and irresponsible government officials, who also eat huge chunks of the donations from our foreign development partners. The figures also show that only 5% of our federal budget is allocated to health; to actualize the goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and solve most of our health care problems, Nigeria is required to spend 15% of its total budget on health. When will that happen? Or should we continue to watch our communities being depopulated by diseases that are not ordinarily beyond our control?

Published in LEADERSHIP, on Saturday, 28 August 2010

Above photo: Cholera has killed at least four people in this village in Kaduna State as a result of contamination of open wells

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Opposition War Games

Opposition is an ingredient of a true democratic system. As such, something serious is supposed to be cooking in the camps of the opposition parties in the run-up to the general elections in Nigeria. Sure, you will be forgiven if you wonder whether we do have any real opposition party. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which gave the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a run for its money in the last three general elections, is wearing the toga of the biggest opposition party in the country. That is so due to the fact that it is ruling in three states. But, its fortune has declined drastically in the last eight years. In the 2003 polls, the party won in seven states, all of them in the north, but by 2007 the number had crashed to less than half. One had actually expected the remaining three to decamp to the "biggest party in Africa" by now, given the acrimony that had dogged it in recent years. Somehow, the governors of Borno, Kano and Yobe have stayed put, struggling to sustain its last gasps. That of Kano has already announced his intention to run for president under the party. Good luck to him.

The ANPP is a shadow of itself. Many of its founding fathers have abandoned it, finding comfort in the big arms of the PDP. Its main selling point, Muhammadu Buhari, whose singular integrity ensured that its opposition credentials remained high, is now in the CPC, coasting to become its presidential candidate in the 2011 polls. His departure caused the biggest upset in the party, robbing it of his numerous supporters. Now the ANPP is not as formidable as it was before the 2003 polls. One wonders if, in its present status, it can present a significant threat to any other party in states of the federation outside its three enclaves of Borno, Kano and Yobe. Indeed, there is a growing impression that some factors are questioning its sustained hold in these states. While the PDP has vowed to retake Kano and seize the other two, the CPC appears to be growing a formidable following in Kano, making it the party most favoured to secure the state in the next elections.
There are no signs that the ANPP is making an inroad in any state in the south.

Therefore, with its influence defined and limited to the north, it is easy to surmise that it could well become history after 2011 if it fails to retain its hold on the three states. It is impossible at the moment to think that the party will take any state outside the three.

The ruling party can derive pleasure from the fact that the ANPP's dour performance and unimpressive profile are reflective of what obtains generally in the opposition camps. The other three "main" opposition parties - the newly renamed Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Labour Party (LP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) - are busy putting their houses in order. Buoyed by the apparent commitment of the Jonathan administration to conduct a free and fair election, all are exhibiting a greater sense of purpose, confident that votes would count.

Unfortunately for them, however, they are all wracked by divisive tendencies. This has made it difficult for them to go beyond their narrow borders and become what their high-sounding names claim they are. Stalwarts within them who feel that they are their founders are holding tight to their control levers, thus running them as private fiefdoms. They tend to forget that this was what contributed immensely to the collapse of the ANPP in the last eight years.

But by far the biggest ailment of the opposition parties is their lack of a proper political ideology. Apart from the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) - hello there, ask Balarabe Musa if it still exists - and at least by name the LP, all can be said to represent tendencies that are not different from that of the PDP. They have also unwittingly turned themselves into regional, not to say, tribal institutions, with visions that fail to see beyond the noses of their founders.

An elementary reading of politics will show that you cannot build an effective opposition party system without a defining political ideology. We have seen that in the UK and the US. Unfortunately, it is in today's Nigeria that you find the political parties operating like market stalls, each resembling the other albeit with different faces of promoters. That is why their rank and file can flit from one party to the other without fearing any backlash on election day. That is why state governors can change parties simply on the basis of fearing corruption charges from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or because they have married the president's daughter. Only recently, a senator decamped to the PDP because Dr Jonathan has made him a minister, pegging his reason on the so-called patriotic zeal of the president.

In years past, we saw how real democrats played politics of ideology. Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim stuck to their beliefs to the end, and they were respected for it. Even the republicans, the Sardaunas, the Tafawa Balewas and, in later years, the Shagaris, did not flinch when it came to holding onto a defining political belief. They were not bread and butter politicians who would jump from one boat to the other when they saw that there was more gravy on the other side. A pitiable example of this tendency was exhibited in recent years by Atiku Abubakar, who switched from the PDP to found his own party, the Action Congress (AC), only to abandon it midstream and returned when he erroneously foresaw an end to Olusegun Obasanjo's overbearing influence in the ruling party following the pledges made by Umaru Yar'Adua to reform the system. If Atiku had remained in the ACN today, he would have helped build a bigger and better opposition party, thereby helping to invigorate the democratic space in the country.

The only chance the opposition parties have of making any recognisable impact in the next elections is if they merge and present consensus candidates nationwide. The ACN, which has two state governors in its fold, is the second largest opposition party. More importantly, it has demonstrated that it can attempt to grow bigger through forging alliances, with its national convention held on August 9 in Lagos. At the convention, it formalised its merger with DPP, DPA, AD and NDM, as well as admitted top stalwarts from ANPP and PDP. The CPC should consider making similar moves. Already, people have been trooping into it in many states. Recently, it admitted former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari, and his group in Katsina State, not to talk of its huge harvests in Kano and Nasarawa.

Forging alliances would secure a better future for the fractious opposition parties that lack a defining ideology. As ACN leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu said during the Lagos convention, "Do you want power or the party? I have always said that power is not served a la carte. 'Poverty Development Party' will not surrender power easily. You have to fight for it."

Yes, they have to. But how ready they are for such a fight remains to be seen.


Published in LEADERSHIP, Saturday, 21 August 2010

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

My Fear For Shekarau

Usually, a Malam does not engage in a gamble. But Malam Ibrahim Shekarau is now in the game. His, however, is not commercial gambling, the one we call caca in Hausa (pronounced chacha). His is political gamble. In contrast to the sinful Vegas-type gambling, the politics game is for all comers, including malams. On Thursday, Malam Shekarau threw his hat into the ring of those wishing to become president. At the crowded event in Abuja, the Kano State governor told Nigerians that he wanted to become president in order to save our country from its sorry situation. "Let us make our country great so that it takes its rightful place as a leader in the African continent," he intoned. To Candidate Shekarau, PDP was fair game, naturally. His assertions were full of truism. He said: "PDP has ruled this country for almost 12 years but they have nothing on ground to show apart from inconsistency." On this, one cannot fault him. The political party ruling Nigeria is responsible for our present condition of living as privileged slaves in our own country. Everything is in a shambles, caused by years of PDP misrule. Certainly, there is need for change. As Shekarau argued, we cannot go on like this.

Our dilemma, however, is how to do it. The main debate in the country today is about the zoning of the presidency between the North and the South or, better put, between somebody in PDP and President Jonathan. It is a big hoax that has been turned from a particular party's policy to a national issue. Unless we get out of the suffocating deceit of this debate and realise that there are options outside the PDP and its zoning logjam, we will never free ourselves from the clutches of a leadership that has failed the nation.

Shekarau is one of those options. He is one of the three state governors that have refused to abandon the ANPP when it was falling apart. All the others have turned coat and joined the PDP. But whether he is a credible option depends on the prism through which you view his politics. On this, the governor attracts different perceptions from different people. While many see him as a consistent, God-fearing and patriotic leader, others consider him an opportunist, one who betrayed his mentor Gen. Muhammadu Buhari after he had pocketed state power in Kano. Others insist that there is a lot of corruption in his government, perpetrated mainly by some officials whilst he looks the other way.

The truth may not be known for sure at this time. His falling out with Buhari, a very credible person whose own leadership credentials speak loud any day, was the classic stuff politics is made of universally. But on the issue of performance, I am a witness to what Malam did in Kano. Love him or hate him, one cannot dispute the fact that he has achieved a lot in the provision of roads, water, health, education, moral reawakening, etc. The Kano of the pre-Shekarau years is incomparable with the one of today. Of course, there are many lapses (even scandals) such as his brutal and directionless war against filmmakers and writers. But compared to the 11 locust years of the PDP at the national level and in some states, Shekarau's Kano would turn out to be a sterling example of how a nation should be governed. Many of the achievements of Malam would be appreciated only many years after he has gone.

Shekarau is one of the good options available to Nigerians when it comes to choosing between him and our PDP rulers. Others include Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and - if he eventually agrees to run for president - Nuhu Ribadu. I'd rather vote for a less-than-perfect Shekarau or any of these patriots than the pitiless behemoth calling itself the biggest party in Africa.

Nevertheless, I have an apprehension for Shekarau. It is couched in the knowledge of what happens to people like him in Nigerian politics: a man with good intentions failing to secure power, thereby coming to ruin and degradation. One good example is Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, who ran for president in the 2007 polls under his new party, the DPP. Bafarawa - credible, patriotic and eager - made his bid for the top post from his comfortable lair as governor of Sokoto State. When he left Sokoto to carry his campaign to all parts of Nigeria, pity, the homefront became wide open for exploitation by the opposition PDP, made up of some of his former lieutenants such as Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako. Worse, the PDP at the national level had vowed to take Sokoto at all cost. With its octopus-like spread nationwide, it was unthinkable that Bafarawa would defeat it and set up government in Abuja. When the elections took place, he lost both at the top and at home. Although he scarcely questioned his Abuja loss, the home loss - which was more painful - has been a subject of litigation ever since. And, due to the cloak-and-dagger nature of the contest, Bafarawa soon found himself being harried by the Wammako administration, which indicted him for corruption charges and set the EFCC after him. The bile left from that experience is a life-long one, indeed.

Bafarawa's Sokoto has a striking semblance to Shekarau's Kano. It made me ask: why didn't Shekarau just play safe and run for the Senate? Has he become over-optimistic? Shekarau, a former school teacher, gambled his fate on the political field in 2003 and was voted as governor against the expectations of pundits. The PDP-led government in the state had an iron grip, with a seemingly impregnable Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso seeking a much-coveted second tenure. He was unquestionably in control of everything - money, security outfits, government apparatuses, etc. But the people of Kano - who he cannot control that much - wanted change. That - together with the critical Buhari pedestal - helped Shekarau, who lacked money and materiel, to ride to power easily. Kwankwaso was dramatically replaced the way Caucasian America elected Barack Obama on the wing of the desire for change from a hawkish, suffocating establishment.

Shekarau's present gamble appears to have been inspired by that surprising upset. I am not sure whether he has money and materiel now. Yes, Nigerians want change, but will the hawks allow them to have it? The PDP hawks in Abuja (under the discredited former chairman Vincent Ogbulafor) have vowed to re-take Kano next year. The mood has not changed in Wadata Plaza. Second, the ANPP in Kano is in disarray over Malam's choice of his successor. Third, the Buhari factor, now represented in the opposition CPC, is gaining ground in Kano. My fear is: if by any chance, due to these factors and others yet unseen, Malam loses both Abuja and Kano, wouldn't he find himself in a hole similar to the one in which Bafarawa fell? This is not a prayer, but a pragmatic reading of the crystal ball of Nigerian politics, using events that happened before our very eyes. But as malams are wont to say, all power belongs to God; He gives it to him whom He wants. So be it.


Published in LEADERSHIP, on Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday, 6 August 2010

Give Jega What He Wants Now

After attending an interactive session with Prof. Attahiru Jega midweek, one could easily see why the man is in a big dilemma. The question of the election Czar's personal integrity is not in doubt at all. Everything has been said about that by Nigerians, to the extent that the university don cum chairman of the INEC says he has no words to describe how he was humbled by the national outpouring. One only hopes that Jega will leave this new office with his integrity intact.

There is no gainsaying the fact that organising successful elections in Nigeria is one of the most sensitive jobs in the country. I cannot think of a more difficult task even though one has at the back of one's mind such jobs as heading the whole country a la Goodluck Jonathan's calling or keeping an eye on national security like Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau is doing. Heading the Independent National Electoral Commission just as the general elections loom closer is like being in the grip of a cyclone. And this is because of our experience since 2003.

The elections that brought about the civilian government of Olusegun Obasanjo were adjudged to be free and fair. In retrospect, that was due to the fact that those elections were not midwifed by Obasanjo himself. Fast-forward to four years later when the nation went for another general election, this time under the firm control of the president. Obasanjo, a man of redoubtable character, was not prepared to conduct free and fair polls - the type that brought him to office. He saw quite early in the day that such an election would not guarantee his continuity in office, the people having discovered the big mistake they had made in voting for him in the first place. There was a smell of revolution in the air; the president was bound for failure. So he did everything necessary to "win", of course, through hook or crook.

The rest is history. By 2007, a culture of ramming candidates down the throats of Nigerians had been established. The Peoples Democratic Party had become the behemoth that it turned to be, a winner of all seasons. Seeking office under its platform was a sure-fire way of winning hence the impunity of winning, winning and winning. Candidates were imposed, and they were declared as the winners in elections that never took place.

Of course, all that was done with the active connivance of the INEC. The commission, under the leadership of another university don, Prof. Maurice Iwu, was an appendage of the presidency. Iwu was answerable to both the president and the ruling party, effectively compromising the critical middle name of the electoral body, i.e., "independent". His chairmanship practically made INEC "dependent" on the powers that be. The president called the shots at the federal level, while the governors did the same at the state level.

A fortnight ago, we heard the appalling revelations by former Governor Donald Duke of how he and his colleagues connived with INEC to rig elections in 2003 and 2007. Duke said the governors worked together with the so-called resident electoral commissioners (RECs) to wreck havoc on the unsuspecting electorate. Ballot boxes were stuffed with extra ballots that gave the PDP an overall edge nationwide. Although Duke said all the other political parties participated in the unholy game, we know who out-rigged everybody else.

How can Jega avoid falling into a similar chasm? Answer: he should be given what he requested, and then he could be watched. In Duke's story, which was not new anyway but quite tantalising because it came from the horse's mouth, we were reminded that most times the RECs did not have adequate resources when they arrived in their states of posting. They ran cap-in-hand to the state governors, begging for accommodation, means of transportation and money. The governors, wily and forged in the art of deception and subterfuge, obliged them, using the huge security vote at their disposal. On election day, you knew who the REC (and the police commissioner, who also had a hungry belly) would want to please.

Prof. Jega has already warned his RECs to avoid the governors like a plague. He warned that any one of them caught hobnobbing with corrupt persons to undermine the commission's integrity will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land. I hope they will listen. But he has not yet given them the kind of money that would discourage them from falling into the old traps that did their predecessors in. Reason: he has not yet got the money himself. During his chat with media executives this week (and also during his Thursday appearance before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters), he reiterated the need to get the funds needed for the voters' registration exercise. The bill: N74 billion, to be paid in full by August 11. This whopping amount will be used to buy the direct data capturing machines for use in the 120,000 polling units across the country. The general elections cannot be conducted using the 2006 register, which carried funny names such as Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson. There must be a register which contains clear names, addresses and photographs.

The National Assembly and the presidency appear to be ready to give INEC the money. They have publicly and in private promised to give it maximum cooperation. The question is when the money will be released. Time is money. Someone does not seem to be bothered that this all-important resource is still yet to come. Why the prevarication? I used to think that money is not Nigeria's problem but how to spend it. We should not expect Jega to deliver free and fair polls on the score of his personal integrity alone. Tie his hands with lack of funds, and he is a goner. No doubt, that is not what Nigerians want. So much hype has been made around the need to break with the ugly past. The government should, therefore, make the money available as quickly as possible. As the chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Musa Sarkin Adar, hinted, the money will be given on the condition that the commission will not fail the nation.

Jega has sworn to uphold the highest ethics in discharging this historic task. "I will not take bribe from anybody," he told us during the chat. "Neither will any national commissioner (in INEC)". Personally, I know he wouldn't. I cannot, however, swear on his colleagues, though I know that without an environment such as the one Obasanjo and Iwu provided, it would be stupid of any INEC senior staffer to be corrupt. But would Jega resign in protest if he finds himself not succeeding due to conditions beyond his control? This question was also posed to him. Yes, he might, was the answer, which was said in a different way: "I will not cross the river until I have come to it." May he not reach such a river, because with the kind of commitment he is displaying, one only prays for credible polls in this country. Amen.

Published in LEADERSHIP, on 31 July 2010