To Play Safe or to Play Strong: A Response to Chike Ofili’s Buhari and Sambo Certificate Questions Begging for Answers

An elegant writeup as usual, Chike! You raise profound issues and leave your readers with no doubts as to what is good for Nigeria.

However, there is a little bit of that overkill, which, alas, is also associated with your writing. It strikes one as if you are acting in a drama, ala Nollywood – highly entertaining in a few places, and, to be honest, mostly boring and makes for a painful watching, or, in this case, reading. Again, that is your opinion, which sometimes, you mold into ‘gospel truth’ (my reading of your writeup).

The subject of your letter is lack of educational certificates of the APC presidential candidate and the PDP vice presidential candidate or rather that they have not provided evidence that they indeed have achieve formal education certification.

Now, mostly all this is in the realm of speculation as nothing as been proved as conclusive. Agreed, the silence on the part of the subjects does not help their case. However, given that these guys are not new entrants into our polity, there is much more that needs to be verified and disposed of before we begin to sit in judgement. Of course, it’s easier for you to take the speculative route again and wish away the ‘misdeed’ as Jega’s collusion with his kinsman, both members of the privileged Fulani. Others have consistently said that Professor Jega has been leaning more towards PDP. How we can reconcile this paradox is left to be seen.

Mind you, there has been numerous cases of certificate scandals in the country, and there will be many more, but you have chosen to colour these ones with Fulani privilegism, if I may coin a word. You may be right in doing so, given that most certificate scandals from the North may have been those involving people of the Hausa and Fulani stock. And the apparent educational gap in their part of the North.

The Constitution is not as watertight on this issue as you think. I am not a lawyer so I may be out of my depth here. Now, if one lies about getting a certificate, that’s criminal and one should be prosecuted. But if someone says their certificate is missing or kept somewhere, then it’s not so clear cut.

Now if Buhari does not have a school certificate but swore an affidavit that he has it and that its with the Army, then he has lied. But INEC cannot prosecute him, neither can APC. Someone who feels aggrieved by this should. You can! As an interested citizen, you can go to court. PDP can! As an opposition party, they stand to gain a lot if the courts can convict Buhari of lying! But first, sir, they would have to prove that he doesn’t have a certificate!

Our Constitution is fraught with difficulties. It says one thing in a section and cancels it out in another, except in a few cases. Some lawyer, it was Abdul Mahmud, posted on Facebook thus (I don’t know how to provide link to his Facebook post):

For those accidental constitutional lawyers, please this is a gentle reminder. On the Presidential Certificate saga, to quote S.131 CFRN 1999 isn’t enough. Please, this section, particularly subsection (d), must be read in conjunction with S.318(1) CFRN 1999 to understand what it means to be “educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”. Well, the CFRN 1999 says “ability to read, write, understand and communicate in English language” is equivalent to School Certificate. This is the minimum level of presidential eligibility. Oya, I am off to the British Council to do The Proficiency in English Language Test. The drafters of our constitution must be stupid. Stupid (Abdul Mahmud, on Facebook).

Of course, Olu Oguibe thinks differently. Nevertheless, INEC has said they cannot prosecute Buhari (according to Kayode Idowu, INEC spokesperson).

Don’t get me wrong, I think having a school certificate is great. But in this case, there are graver things at stake than a mere piece of paper. The man can read, write and communicate and that should suffice. I am a believer in literacy, functional literacy. There is a difference, for me, between ‘ilmi’ (education) and ‘kwakwalwa’ (intelligence). Buhari has gone to some of the best military schools in the world and has risen to a General. If there was a faulty foundation, then let us try and rectify the system that promoted it. Now if he is proven to have lied, that’s an entirely different thing. Different entirely!

My opinion of this issue is that if Buhari lied about having a certificate, he should be prosecuted and if proven guilty, he should be disqualified from the presidential race. I think that in the last contests, Buhari was not seen as a threat and the possession or not of a certificate did not matter. Now that Buhari is seen as a real threat, some mischief has been cooked up. I am willing to change my opinion if he is proved to have lied!

In your conclusion then, that Buhari, your man, does not deserve to be president on the basis of his being of the Fulani stock, you have taken a gracious helping of assumption and arbitrary sentencing!

For your information, the North has changed a lot. While I was growing, we, the minority peoples of the North, were bamboozled by the Fulani and Hausa elites. Then, they said we were all Northerners and should unite for our common goal. Afterwards, they differentiated between the Hausa and Fulani on one side and the other ‘yare’ (tribes) on the other; and between Muslims and Christians. Secondly, the majority of Hausa and Fulani citizens are not beneficiaries of the elites like say Namadi Sambo or Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. They have been worse off by the privilegism of the elites. In fact, as you pointed out, it can be argued that the local populations of the Hausas and the Fulanis and other parts of the North have fared better under non-Hausas and non-Fulanis. Nomadic education in Nigeria was greatly boosted by the appointment of an Igbo Professor as the first Executive Secretary of the National Council for Nomadic Education! And as you are wont to point out, Goodluck has invested in Almajiri Schools! I might even hazard a point that the effect of Dangote’s billions might not really be felt by the ordinary Hausa or Fulani person, or the minority peoples for that matter! If the masses from the Hausa and Fulani stock are shortchanged by privilegism, you don’t want to know what we, the Minorities of the North, go through.

So you see, the talakwa (masses) of the North do not really benefit from Hausa or Fulani privilegism. They, like you, would like to see the end of these elites. But we have people who have sided with the ordinary people such as Aminu Kano. You can also attest to the fact that Buhari has not lived in that cloud of privilegism. Yes, he might have climbed up on it as you rightly said, but he has parted ways with it. You call him ‘my Buhari’ so I assume you know the kind of life he lives. I would not bore you by listing the proves of his austere way of life and his regard for rule of law. We need that kind of example irrespective of his Fulani roots. I don’t need to point out to you, anyway, that generalisation can be an injustice!

On the subject of privilegism, you must know that the Hausa and the Fulani do not have exclusive rights to it. It exists in all parts of the country. It manifests in being from a particular people or clan, attending a particular school or being in a particular profession, and so it goes on. No sir, privilegism is not a preserve of the Fulanis or Hausas. Look around you and you will find it everywhere.

I was in my first year in Vet School when Buhari overthrew the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and there was a semblance of equalisation in his dealings with all classes. I say semblance because I agree that there was favouritism in his testament of Shagari and Ekwueme. That is a fault that he must account for. But during his brief dictatorship, he did not pay too much attention to people’s privileges. Emirs and Obas were treated just like you and me. Again, I say there is a semblance of hope that he can hit privilegism where it hurts.. But first he needs to win and election and then get everybody behind him.

Now to conclusions. Whereas you prefer that we return an ineffective, albeit ‘safe’ government as you posit, just so the ‘privileged’ Fulani do not come to power, I prefer we try the ‘strong hand’ as you so put it. This is because, in my opinion, we need a strong hand to right the injustice perpetrated by the privileged class in our society, which you know, learned as you, that they are found in every part of Nigeria.

Playing a SAFE hand would maintain the status quo and keep Nigeria in bondage. Playing a STRONG hand would bring about change and propel us to greatness as a nation. Devoid of any sentiments except the good of the nation, let us lay aside our SAFE hand and play our STRONG hand!


Thrilling Awoonor Tribute as AWF Hosts Obemata and Egwudah By Elvis Iyorngurum

It was not part of the original plan for the Abuja Writers’ Forum’s Sept 28, Guest Writer Session    but then Kofi Awoonor’s death was also unexpected, and given his eminent role in the development of modern African poetry in English, it made sense to have a tribute.

In a thrilling poetry performance supported by background  guitar and violin music,  Actor Jide Atta threw the audience into a solemn mood as he recited the poems of Awonoor, who is one of Africa’s renowned literary icons. He read ‘The Cathedral’, “The Weaver Bird,” “This Earth, My Brother,” “Across a New Dawn” and “Dzogbese Lisa Has Treated Me Thus.” Emotions rose high as he recounted Awoonor’s history, lamenting his untimely death by the hands of the Somalian Al-shabab militants and the painful loss it portends to the continent’s literary community. Someone  hearing about the Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor for the first time through Atta’s reading would have felt very familiar with him and felt the pain of his demise like that of an old friend. The presentation received a prolonged and resounding applause. Kabura Zakama and Obemata also read poems dedicated toAwonoor.

Although Temi Sode could not make it to the venue because she was indisposed, the other two originally billed for the event did not disappoint. Activist, lawyer and poet Abdul Mahmud, popularly known by his pen name, Obemata, read from his debut collection of poems titled Triptych. The collection  he said was inspired by his urge to express his frustration on his identity crisis, being an Abdul Mahmud from the south; his years in exile during Nigeria’s dark years of military rule and his deep love for his fatherland.

Obemata’s recollection of the history that inspired his writing of Triptych revealed the travails of a young man who as the president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), organized the largest students protest in the history of Nigeria, against the plans of the Babangida regime to remove government subsidy for petroleum products. Obemata was arrested and detained in 1991 at the Kirikiri Prisons under the dreaded State Security and Detention of Persons Decree Number 2 of 1984, on account of his opposition to the military dictatorship led by General Ibrahim Babaginda. He was again arrested in 1996 and detained by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and the State Security Services (SSS), following claims that he knew or participated in the killing of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Abiola.

Obemata is widely represented in poetry magazines and anthologies, notably Sentinel, African Writer, Wordriot, African Writing, Origami, Liberty, Swalelife, Blackbiro, Next, Ijele, The Nigerian Guardian and ‘Witness’: anthology of war poetry (Serengeti Press, Ontario, 2004).

The story of the devastation that was brought upon Ibaji, a Local Government Area in Kogi state by the floods that ravaged many communities along the coastal lines of the rivers Niger and Benue in 2011 was told in a documentary produced by a non-governmental organization, the Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE) and International Rescue Commission (IRC). The NGO had intervened, bringing succor to the people of the local government, with funding from ECHO, a donor organization based in New York, United States. Peter Michael Egwudah who represented CISCOPE recalled that in 2011, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) issued a flood alert that the agency said would affect communities along Nigeria’s coastal line. He said governments at the national, state and local levels did not heed the warming and so were not prepared for the disaster when it eventually struck. The documentary detailed the calamity the affected communities faced with thousands of families losing their homes, farmlands and other sources of livelihood. Visuals of whole communities submerged along with their sources of livelihood painted a picture that to many who had not witnessed the floods, was shocking, to say the least.

The greatest tragedy of the situation was the inability of the government to make a timely response to the disaster. CESCOPE’s intervention in Ibaji saw the organization inject 1million Euros, which was a grant it was offered by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a United States based aid agency.

While answering questions from the audience, Mr. Egwudah said the government of Kogi state had initially refused to cooperate with them in their relief efforts. He said the Deputy Governor of the state on a certain occasion, threatened to arrest them, accusing his organization of bringing ‘terrorists and spies’ to the state and at some point fumed at why such a huge amount of money had got to the organization without passing through the state government. Responses from the audience praised CESCOPE and its partners for their humanitarian gesture which had brought hope and survival to thousands of distressed members of our society.

Egwudah said working with CISCOPE has enabled him support the poor and vulnerable in different communities in Nigeria with skill-acquisition, education and advocating for pro – poor policies for the vulnerable as well as support and rescue people who are affected by one form of disaster or the other.

Film producer and director Kasham Keltuma, Jide Atta and Obemata, also presented certificates of participation to the second introductory class of the AWF’s Creative Writing Workshop. The participants had undergone intensive training on creative writing techniques spanning the four Saturdays in the month of September. One of the participants, Oluchi Agbanyim responded on behalf of the class. She praised the forum, for the great initiative which has provided writers and aspiring writers, the opportunity to develop their writing skills and take the quality of their literary output to a higher level.

It was also a reward day for winners of the forum’s monthly writing challenge as they receivetheir prizes for winning the contest in various categories. Other features were  musical renditions by Tokunbo Edward who showed up this time with a backing duo including a violinist and soul rock singer Adzer David.

The Guest Writer’s Session of the Abuja Writers’ Forum began in 2008 and has remained consistent, creating a platform to celebrate published authors resident in Nigeria and abroad. The Forum also runs Creative Writing Workshops, as well as a critique session that holds every Sunday at the Internal Institute of Journalism, Asokoro, Abuja.

Iyorngurum is a Writer, Poet, Editor and the Secretary of the Abuja Writers’ Forum. He writes from Abuja.

Why China will Rule the World by Madaki O. Ameh


by: Madaki O. Ameh

In the past 12 months, I have spent a total of 109 days in China, pursuing different business transactions. During this period, I came into China on three different occasions in June, 2012, January 2013 and May 2013.  Since my first ever visit to China in October 2010 for the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, South China, which is undoubtedly the biggest trade fair in the world, I have never ceased to be fascinated at this country. The Chinese have been able to demonstrate in a consistent manner, that they have all it takes to rule the new world.  But in a different way from what the world has been accustomed to with the dominance of Western countries of Europe and America.

To start with, the Chinese economy has been growing consistently at double digits for almost two decades.  It is now no longer news that most companies produce in China, largely due to the efficient production processes in their factories, leading to more competitive prices.  The furore generated by the production of American jerseys for the last Olympic Games in China, and the impact this had on the American national psyche, is still quite fresh in the minds of well informed watchers of world events.  But I guess all those are stories for another day.

The main plank of this piece is to examine why China is well positioned to play a dominant role in world affairs in the years to come and into the foreseeable future.  With an unusual version of democracy, where there are no periodic expensive and rancourous elections, as the rest of the western world is used to, China has been able to establish a stable and secure country, where everyone, both citizens and visitors like me, can feel genuinely secure to go about their businesses without any fear of attacks, molestation or arrest, and this sort of environment really helps to foster business transactions.  The impression of China created by the Western world of a place where people are not free, and are always looking across their shoulders for fear of being arrested and detained on trumped up charges, cannot be further from the truth.  Indeed, because the Chinese mind their own business and do not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries in an obtrusive manner, the country has been able to foster bilateral relationships with other countries based on principles of equality of nations and mutual respect, which has made it virtually immune from being a target of international terrorists.

In fact, the approach to internal security in China is so sophisticated that you can hardly ever see an armed security man on the streets.  Throughout the period of my stay in China, I have only seen armed policemen on two occasions, and on both occasions, bullion vans were delivering cash at two banks in two different cities.  And on both occasions, I did not feel threatened in any way. The ever present, gun totting policemen and soldiers, virtually ready to shoot at the slightest provocation or suspicion of one being a terrorist in America and Europe since 9/11, is completely non-existent in China. The unfortunate fate that befell a young Brazilian a few years ago in the London Underground, where he was mistaken for a terrorist and shot in cold blood by the Metropolitan Police in London still leaves a harrowing memory. Yet, the vast majority of the huge Chinese population which accounts for easily 20% of the world population, are law abiding, in the sure knowledge that there are laws in the country, and that the Government has the will and the resources to enforce them in a consistent manner.  Whenever there are issues of internal security, the situation is quickly brought under control and normalcy restored, such that it is almost seen as a miracle how such a huge country can be carrying on without major incidents, practically year in, year out.

On the social side, the Chinese are very proud of their cultural heritage, dating back thousands of years, and do not make efforts to become other people, in order to be seen to be socially correct.  Every day, Chinese and foreign nationals troop to their world class national monuments like the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and several such tourist sites spread across the country, to savour the wonders of their ancient life, drawing inspiration from the great heritage of their ancient heroes and Emperors, who achieved great feats which remain wonders in Engineering and science, even today. I have never ceased to wonder how, over 700 years ago, when there were no earth moving machines, cranes, helicopters or other equipment known to modern Engineering, the Chinese were able to build the Great wall, on top of a very mountainous area, spanning practically hundreds of kilometers, a feat which remains a wonder today, as it was hundreds of years ago when it was constructed.  And this, by an Emperor who was reported to have been married to 3,600 women and lived in the Forbidden City, clearly outclassing the famous King Solomon of the Bible with his 1,000 recorded women!

From my close observation of the Chinese, they just love to be themselves and to live their lives without pretence. The Chinese are the closest specie of humans to the Africans that I can imagine, as their traditional lives are very close to nature, and the way they raise their kids, tell tales my moonlight, and cook their food, is very much like the practice in typical African villages.  It may therefore be no wonder why the Chinese have increasingly endeared themselves to African countries, and are increasingly widening their influence in Africa in a symbiotic relationship based on trust, mutual respect and a desire for genuine development, rather than an all-knowing, master-servant relationship that African countries have had to endure these many years in their association with the West.



As a patriotic Nigerian, I am personally excited at the prospects of a better political, social and economic relationship between Nigeria and China. On the eve of my return to Nigeria during my current trip, I am aware that the Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is coming to China on his first State visit since becoming President, on 10th July, 2013.  This historic visit is very exciting because it is the very first such visit by a serving Nigerian President in recent times. There is no gainsaying the fact that after this visit, Sino-Nigerian relations will no longer be the same.  As the largest and most influential country in Africa and the entire Black world, Nigeria stands to benefit a lot from China’s positive posture towards Africa, and only needs to take that leadership role by fostering sustained diplomatic contacts with the Chinese authorities in a way that ensures that all the benefits of such engagements flow to Nigeria, and by extension, the rest of Africa.

I am aware that the staff at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing are doing a great job in identifying opportunities for sustainable partnerships between Nigeria and China, and they deserve the support and encouragement of the Nigerian Government to ensure that all these efforts come to realization, to the mutual advantage of both countries.

There is no doubt in my mind that, with the approach of China towards economic management and international diplomacy, the country is well positioned to be an all round leader in the new world, and indeed the entire world will be better off for it, because it is obvious that after so many centuries of Western domination of world affairs, the world can do with a breath of fresh air under the leadership of China.

Madaki O. Ameh, an Oil and Gas Consultant and Public Affairs Commentator, is the Managing Partner of Bbh Consulting based in Abuja, Nigeria.