Friday, March 25, 2011

Of Presidential Debates, Short Memories And Hypocrisy - Reno Omokri

Imagine my surprise at waking up this morning to read the news that the trio of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and General Muhammadu Buhari had decided to boycott the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) debate because the President did not participate in the NN24 debate broadcast on the DSTV network.

I was a bit disappointed by their actions and most especially by the action of General Buhari in joining the other two candidates because he at least is a former leader and ought to have been guided by nationalistic motives in the things he does.

Now let us consider the action in some detail. The reason given by the trio is that they are boycotting the BON debate because the President did not attend the NN24 debate which they claimed is more credible. But the question that begs an answer here is this-Are they debating for the President or for Nigerians?

Leaders ought not to be reactionary. It has been said that leaders do not do things as a reaction because another person has done something. Rather they do things out of an exercise of their will by electing to make a choice based on their principles. That is called being proactive. If we are to be reactive then our actions are being controlled by the person we are reacting to.

The Presidential debates are meant for the education of Nigerians and boycotting them to pay back the President for not attending the NN24 debate only portrays the trio as being more interested in settling a political score than in communicating to Nigerians.

And one other aspect of the reason they jointly gave for refusing to participate in the BON debate goes to the heart of our national attitude to our own culture and institutions. Saying that they have little confidence in the institutions that make up the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) but have confidence in NN24 gives me pause to wonder if these Presidential candidates have national pride. Leaders ought to promote the culture and institutions of their country. They should never portray their institutions in bad light because if they do then what do they expect outsiders to say. If you price your mother at 10 kobo who will buy her at 1 Naira?

Now politics aside, how are we projecting Nigeria positively if we have our Presidential debate on a station exclusively hosted by a foreign network? And not just a foreign network, but on DSTV a South African Pay Per View service. What then is the essence of democracy? Is it not the government of the people by the people for the people?
How many of “the people” can afford to watch DSTV? How many of “the people” can afford to watch online? Only a very small percentage of Nigerians who are invariably the elite can afford this. So are we now practising a government for the elite?

For those who will see reason in the statement signed by the Presidential campaigns of the trio, I want you to answer this very basic question;


Nigerians are too quick to denigrate her own institutions. In the U.S. for instance, once the candidates emerge, the Presidential debates are organised by the Bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (which is soon to transfer its powers to the Citizens Debate Commission) on the Public Broadcasting Service which is an American network that is freely available without subscription so that even the poorest American can afford to watch it.

In the United Kingdom, it used to be the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that exclusively hosted the Prime Ministerial Debates. But last year, for the first time, other British networks were added including ITV and BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting) (after my first note on this subject some emailed me mistakenly referring to BskyB as an Australian network due to the fact that James Murdoch is the non executive chairman of BskyB and owns a 38% stake in the firm, however, BskyB is a British Network operating exclusively in Britain see

Even in South Africa where DSTV originates from the government will not for one second consider hosting their Presidential debates on a foreign network.

For those who may not know, NN24 is completely and totally hosted by DSTV which is a South African network under the regulatory control of the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC)

So first of, it was wrong for any of our leaders to have agreed to participate in the NN24 debate. And they did not have to participate only on the BON debate. If they say they do not trust BON, there are a number of Nigerian stations with their own networks such as African Independent Television (AIT) and Channels Television on which they could have had their debates.

The trio of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and General Buhari should not punish Nigerians because of their grudge against President Jonathan. And I am in particular pained that General Buhari allowed Yinka Odumakin to even give the reason he gave about not trusting BON. Coming from a former dictator like Buhari who passed decree #4 which provided that if anybody publishes anything which if even if true but which in the opinion of the Chief of Staff Supreme Military Council embarrasses the government that person has committed an offence. It is most surprising that a man who would pass such a law would now be in a position to complain about Nigeria’s television station.

Having said that, permit me to turn to the issue of Buhari’s spokesman’s petition to the Independent Corrupt Practises Commission (ICPC) requesting that the ICPC probe Mr. Nduka Obaigbena the publisher of Thisday newspapers

First of, Mr. Obaigbena has never held a governmental position in his life. Secondly, it is trite law that he who alleges must prove. Yinka Odumakin is a member of the Human Rights community and he must know that you cannot just write a petition asking law enforcement agencies to probe somebody just because you do not like the person.

You have to give reasons. Why does he want Nduka Obaigbena probed? Did Nduka Obaigbena steal his money? Did Nduka Obaigbena steal Buhari’s money? No.

As a matter of fact, Yinka Odumakin did not allege any wrong doing against Nduka. He just asked that his wealth be probed. Is this envy?

The issue is why did Yinka Odumakin not ask for a probe of Mr. Ogbaibena’s wealth before Thisday newspapers released the Ipsos polls which indicated that President Goodluck Jonathan would win the coming elections by a margin of above 60%?

And why Nduka Obaigbena? Why not any other wealthy person in Nigeria?

There is such a thing as hypocrisy. There is also such a thing as priority.

Mohammed Abacha was received with fan fare by General Muhammadu Buhari, Yinka Odumakin’s principal, at his home in Kaduna last year. Not only was Mohammed Abacha received by Gen. Buhari, the young Abacha was also registered as a member of the CPC in Gen. Buhari’s house.

Mohammed Abacha and Atiku Bagudu were both indicted by Switzerland under Swiss legislation for money-laundering, fraud and for taking part in a criminal organisation. Mohammed Abacha also forfeited hundreds of millions to various European governments. These are monies that would have solved many a problem back home but are now swelling the treasury of already rich Western nations.

The question now is why hasn’t Yinka Odumakin written a petition to the ICPC to probe the source of Mohammed Abacha’s wealth? The same Mohammed Abacha that is now the CPC gubernatorial candidate for Kano state!
Nigerians should please open their minds. Let us think! There are so many strange bed fellows sleeping together that we may just allow ourselves fall into the trap of being led by the nose. Let us think clearly and lucidly.

Yinka Odumakin belongs to the human rights community. This community was terrorised by the late Gen. Sani Abacha. Testimonies at the now rested Oputa Panel by Major Al Mustapha, Gen. Ibrahim Sabo, Sgt. Rogers, Katako, and a host of others revealed how this same Gen. Sani Abacha apart from looting Nigeria was also involved in state sponsored terrorism. Yet after the man was proved beyond reasonable doubt by courts in England, Luxembourg, Switzerland and a host of other European countries of being involved in treasury looting and money laundering our own very dear General Muhammadu Buhari on the 8th of June, 2008, told us that this same Abacha never looted Nigeria.

If Yinka Odumakin and those behind him have not got power yet and they are willing to use law enforecement agencies to witch hunt those who publish things that they do not like is that not a pointer to Nigerians that they will resurrect decree # 4 if they ever get into power?

And it is really sad that Yinka Odumakin said he and his team knew before hand that Nduka Obaigbena and his team at Thisday were planning to do a fraudulent poll. This actually exposes the lie in Yinka Odumakin's letter. If anyone knows Mr. Yinka Odumakin they would know that if indeed he and his team knew that Thisday was working with Ipsos international to "procure" a fraudulent poll they would have forestalled the plan by exposing it before the poll was released. This is their classic modus operandi and you do not have to take my word for it. Just read the papers and the evidence abounds. These guys will not keep quiet and wait for Thisday/Ipsos to release the poll before they discredit it.

If I might ask Yinka Odumakin this simple question;

WHEN, in 1994, the late General Sani Abacha asked Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to serve as head of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), Buhari gave one condition for this acceptance: He must be given the title of Executive Chairman, and he must have a free hand to run the Fund as he saw fit, without any interference.

In 1999 an Interim Management Committee was appointed to wind down the affairs of the PTF. They hired Internationally respected independent consultants who investigated the running of the fund and concluded that of the N181 billion that accrued to the PTF in the five years of its existence between July 1994 and July 1999, as much as N25 billion was either stolen or improperly expended.

When Gen. Buhari was invited to comment on the findings of the committee's consultants regarding the conduct of the empire over which he presided, he was reported to have retorted that he was not aware that such massive fraud went on under his watch, but that in any event, he could not have benefited personally from the hideous looting of the PTF treasury.

Yet former president Shehu Shagari was kept in detention for nearly one and a half years by Buhari, and almost lost his sight, when Buhari seized power on December 31, 1983, not because he was found guilty of any criminal offence, but because Buhari was convinced that the buck stopped at his desk, so as President, he had to pay vicariously for the purported crimes of his lieutenants. Some state governors were jailed for 200 years and more, because they could not account for how they spent their security votes with some dying as a result.

Using this same logic who should be held responsible for the monumental fraud and corruption that occurred at the PTF while Buhari was at the helm of affairs?

BY: Reno Omokri

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