Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The story of Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba, the man who died for President Jonathan, is uncommon in these parts. Mr. Orevba wholeheartedly supported and campaigned for the president’s victory in the last elections, saw his dreams come true, but alas his heart gave up in excitement. His was one of the stories President Jonathan expertly wove into an inauguration speech long on inspiration and talking points but a tad short on specifics.

Unlike his predecessor four years ago, President Jonathan spoke like a man with a credible and broad-based mandate. He ran the gamut of the nation’s problems –economic development, power sector reform, infrastructure rebuilding, job creation, quality education, improved healthcare delivery, food security, fiscal responsibility, Niger Delta and national security. Those who waited to hear specifics on strategy though, were left disappointed as he papered the speech with grand rhetoric and high-sounding inspiration. Personally, I found the positive beat of the speech quite fitting.

Just as in his campaigns, the president continued with his transformation catch phrase. “The leadership we have pledged is decidedly transformative.” “The time for lamentation is over. This is the era of transformation.” “The day of transformation begins today.” I agree with the president that we need national transformation. I want to believe in the president’s sincerity and his ability even. But a word of caution –efforts which aren’t total, complete and dramatic, cannot count as transformation. And there my doubts come alive.

The president’s sincerity to transform will be judged on the issue of national unity. “We will not allow anyone exploit differences in creed or tongue, to set us one against another,” he said. Nigerians will be looking up to him for example, hoping that as has been the case sometimes in the past, he will not don the ethnic toga when it suits his politics. That he would fish out and punish the conspirators in our midst.

In the speech, he thanked his wife for “galvanizing and mobilising Nigerian women for democracy.” We would be waiting to see him fulfil his pledge of thirty five percent ministerial and ambassadorial positions to women as a show of appreciation. The president also said that “all Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad are to accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority.” He has the opportunity to show how seriously he meant that by how he deals with the issue surrounding the Nigerian ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Chijioke Wigwe, who bruised and battered his wife, soiling Nigeria’s image in that country. The man should be removed and his diplomatic immunity stripped so that proper investigations can take place.    

We would judge President Jonathan’s sincerity to transform on corruption and placing the “common good before all else.” He must be the first enlistee in the fight against corruption. The wealth of the nation should be for the commonwealth and not to be indiscriminately and lawlessly doled out to associates and sycophants. We would expect him to dissociate himself from those who have pauperized the nation in the past. We will not stop reminding him of the ceaseless promises he made on the campaign trail. Common good must guide him as well, in his choice of ministers.

President Jonathan said: “Being a Nigerian is a blessing. It is also a great responsibility.” I am sure that Mr. Jonathan knows that it is even more so for him. I agree with him that the “moment is right” for Nigeria’s transformation but I don’t agree that “the signs are heart-warming.” How he handles himself and the economy in the coming months would go a long way in changing the signs. Personally, I would endeavour to heed his call when he says: “Cynicism and scepticism will not help our journey to greatness.” I hope he wouldn’t mind my constructive criticism though. The president ended his speech by saying that he will “never, never let you down.” I can imagine the family of Mr. Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba hoping earnestly that that will be the case. I too am hoping.

LAST WEEK IN THE NEWS (with a pinch of salt)2

1.     The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, surprised the nation on Children’s day when he announced a nation-wide kids’ storybook writing competition. The emirate is calling on aspiring authors to submit their entries for a kids’ story book titled ‘Sambo, the Latecomer.’ The spokesman of the emirate has strongly denied claims that the book title was chosen to shame Vice President Sambo who arrived four hours late for a meeting with the emir last week. He claimed that the only interest of the emir was to encourage writers to write books that would give readers of all ages, “thought for food.” The winner of the competition will receive a free copy of the book –‘Time Power’ by Brian Tracy.

2.     In the build-up to the 2011 elections, Nigerian youths organized a presidential debate tagged: “Legislators dey chop, D’banj dey chop, what about us?” The president chose then not to debate, but it seems he caught the bait, as he hosted ‘youth leaders’ to a pre-inauguration lunch last week. After the lunch, ‘transport fare’ ranging from N50thousand to N150thousand was given to the visiting youth leaders. The president’s strategist, Mr Oronto Douglas defended the extravaganza. He said: “...considering the severity of the traffic jam expected to follow the president’s presence at the lunch, the youth leaders deserved a private chopper ride home.” Meanwhile, one of the youth leaders and speaker at the event, Mr Chude Jideonwo –who conveniently failed to mention anything about the event to the youth followers he represents –posted a facebook update saying, “I thank God for the grace to speak truth to power and still be paid mega-fully for it.”

3.     Annoyed by the over N1billion earmarked as expenses for President Jonathan’s inauguration, a group of hackers shut down the NDDC website, threatening to do worse if the “waste” continued. The group released an online statement saying, “WeNaijaCyberHactivists are therefore joining voice with other well-meaning Nigerians and we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” An activist, Barr. Old News however dismissed the hackers in a telephone chat with A Pinch of Salt, saying “The ones chopping lunch now, is that not how they started? Enough is Enough ko, Enough is Enough ni! Abeg let me hear word jor.” Then he hung up. Efforts to get a reaction from Aso rock failed, but considering the inauguration expenses, they probably do not give a hoot.

4.     A fight broke out last week between Lola Shoneyin (author of the well received Baba Segi’s wives)/Eghosa Imasuen (author of To Saint Patrick) in the blue corner and Dr. Seyi Adigun (ANA Abuja president)/Ikechukwu Okeke (ANA Abuja PRO) in the red corner. The bone of contention was the Abuja launch (not lunch oh) of President Jonathan’s Bring Back the Book Campaign. Ikechukwu Okeke drew first blood by accusing Lola (who was a consultant to the FCT administration for the launch) of three things –shaming Abuja authors at the event by not properly recognizing them so students could clap clap clap for them; elevating Nollywood over Abuja’s Bookyworld and importing mercenaries like Eghosa Imasuen from Benin to come and read for the kids in their Abuja home zone. Lola fired back, describing the man’s grammar as terrible and arguing that ANA lacked understanding of what they are supposed to do, talk less of what her role as consultant was. Eghosa supported her by hollering “Gboyah!” Dr Adigun said Lola did not try and should be called to order, while Lola told him “same to you.” Meanwhile the Nigerian Guild of Readers, Writers and Fight Spectators has called on the FG to immediately constitute a 23-man panel to look into the immediate and remote cause of the brouhaha and submit the findings so that a new committee can draft a white paper on it.

CLOWN OF THE WEEK: The crowned clown for this week is Nigeria’s ambassador to Kenya, Chijioke Wigwe who is accused of bruising and battering his official wife. Despite picture evidence that shows the brutality of this diplomatic pugilist, the man continues to deny it, saying, “I know she wants money which unfortunately I don’t have; I am just a humble civil servant.” In another breath, the humble civil servant accused her of “breaking into his bedroom and taking away some of his Rolex watches.” I wonder how many humble civil servants have Rolex watches stashed in their bedrooms. Pinhead!   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LAST WEEK ON THE NEWS (with a pinch of salt)

  • .      Former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared last week that he was retiring from active politics because he expected to be “raptured with the saints,” and there wasn’t any room for partisan politics in heaven where he was headed. He argued that with all his good works plus a degree in theology from the Nigeria Open University, heaven would be making a huge mistake not to take him along on the rapture cruise. It remains to be seen what happens now that the rapture has been postponed indefinitely. Already, politicians from the Southwest have been pleading with the Owu chief to perish the thought of retiring so soon, especially now that the ACN hurricane is sweeping through the land.

  • .      In furtherance of his ongoing consultations with critical stakeholders in the national project, president-elect Goodluck Jonathan hosted ex-convict Lucky Igbinedion in the state house last week. According to the presidential spokesman, ex-prisoners were too powerful a constituency to ignore if the nation must achieve quick transformation in the next four years. It would be recalled that the president had shown a strong commitment to engaging ex-cons when he attended the homecoming thanksgiving of famous Lagos ex-con Chief Olabode George. Goodluck Nigeria!

Still on the 2011 elections:
  • .      OandO SHARES PLUNGE BY OVER 50%: In the aftermath of the April 2011 general elections, it has been discovered that the stocks (votes) of OandO (not Oando) nosedived by over 50% in the presidential elections. OandO (aka Okotie and Owuru), the candidates for FRESH Party and Hope Democratic Party (HDP) respectively saw their votes plummet by more than 50% compared to 2007, when they also ran. Okotie’s votes dropped 54% (74,049 to 34,331), while Owuru’s dropped a whopping 58% (28,519 to 12,023). Already, Owuru has filed action to contest the result at the tribunal but analysts agree that it is an unwise move that would most likely end in futility. Looking ahead to 2015, many have suggested that OandO hang their political boots. Or better still, consolidate and merge into the Fresh Hopes Party (FHP).

  • .      Still basking in the euphoria of their strong showing in the 2011 elections, the Invalid Votes Party (IVP) has released a statement in Abuja saying that “with projected better voter turnout in 2015, the IVP would give the winning party a run for its money.” With total invalid votes of 1,259,506, IVP performed better than every other party apart from the PDP, ACN and CPC. In fact, all the other parties combined managed only 3.6% of the votes, while the IVP alone got 3.2%. The question that arises is that if the IVP wins the elections, who becomes the president? A renowned activist, who did not want his name disclosed for this piece argues that if such a situation were to happen, the INEC chairman would have to randomly pick a president from one of the many Invalid Peoples Home in Nigeria. Meanwhile some have argued that the expected strong showing of the IVP in 2015 is responsible for the clamour that David Mark remains as senate president in order to invoke a doctrine of necessity when the need arises.