Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Videonews: Obama Taps Rice For National Security Adviser

Opinion: The Co-Habitation Of Extreme Wealth And Extreme Poverty In Nigeria


By Jaye Gaskia

I have been recently reading a report which depending on how you look at it, could be said to be a sad development or joyous news!

I am sure many of us like me have been treated to snippets and details of the most recent report from Forbes on the wealth of the wealthy! Interesting isn’t it, how the substance of economics ‘used’ to be about the ‘wealth of nations’ or conversely the ‘poverty of nations’; and of course along with this, the contrast between this national wealth or poverty and the status and conditions of individual citizens! But alas now the voodoo economics of world leaders [including our own leaders] celebrates individual wealth [the more stupendous, the greater the celebration], while disdainfully dismissing poverty of the immense majority, even criminalizing the poor and blaming the poor for his poverty.

So it is now officially confirmed that Nigeria’s and Africa’s richest man has become the first African to be worth more than $20bn making him to become the world’s 25th richest person!

There are quite a number of historic and monumental ironies involved here; first it was only in 2008 that he entered the Forbes’ record of global $ billionaires with a wealth of $3.1bn. And now over a period of less than 7 years, that wealth has increased more than 600 fold to more than $25bn with $19.5bn of those coming from the worth of his 93% stock in one company - Dangote Cement alone; an irony!

Another irony lies in the fact that this personal wealth of over $25bn is more than 50% of the total [combined] external savings [external reserves + excess crude account] of the country, Nigeria, at just about $50bn!

A far greater historic irony, is not only that this contrasts sharply with the fate of more than 112 million [69%] fellow Nigerians living in poverty; but also that this phenomenal growth in personal wealth has occurred over a short period of 7 years; in the context of increasing national wealth; consistently high GDP growth rate; increasing joblessness and homelessness; and astronomical increase in the scale and scope of corruption.

It is little wonder that as a nation we are in the upper bracket of nations with the highest and most unsustainable gap between the rich and the poor [with the richest 10% owning 40% of national wealth, and the poorest 20% owning a mere 4.1% of national wealth].

Some may be tempted to celebrate that a Nigerian has ‘achieved’ this ‘uncommon feat, this uncommon personal transformation’, I instead will query how it is possible for such phenomenal growth in individual wealth should be possible in the midst of equally phenomenal and historic growth in mass poverty, and steep deterioration in the conditions of living of a majority of citizens.

One can say on the basis of the foregoing that this generation of stupendous individual wealths at one extreme, while mass producing generalized poverty of the immense majority at the other extreme, has been the most significant cumulative outcome of the policies of governments and the ruling class presiding over them over more than 5 decades [52 years] of ‘flag’ independence!

What kind of society is this where the individual wealth of a few citizens, counted in their tens, maybe hundreds, can pay off in one single transaction the total national debt [currently standing at $7bn] of their country?

What manner of transformation agenda is this [bearing in mind that this phenomenal accumulation of wealth began from 2008]; that ends in such historic transformation in the scale and scope of inequitable distribution of national level?

How viable can a state [national state; state in national, country context] be, if the individual wealths of certain persons is such that it accounts for significant percentages of national forex savings? How can national security [it is already obvious in the wide disparity between the rich and the poor that human security has long been undermined] be guaranteed in the medium to long term, when the end result of national economic policy formulation and implementation is the production of oligopolies, and the emergence of oligarchs whose personal wealth rivals that of their country?

What more proves do we need to establish the fact the impoverisation of the majority is the condition for accumulation of stupendous individual wealth?

This is the clearest indication yet that the Nigeria thieving, light fingered, treasury looting Ruling Class/Elites, have ruled, and continue to rule, solely and exclusively in their own greedy and gluttonous interests.
It is the most significant indication of the fact that our national salvation and social emancipation can neither emanate nor be led by this thieving lot!

It is why we must urgently organise and mobilise ourselves politically, autonomously of their parties [mere platforms for treasury looting], and independently of individual ‘GodFathers/Mothers. It is the only way we can take our destinies into our own hands, and Take Back Nigeria.

Photonews: Imo State Deputy Governor In Naira Rain

Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere Spraying Dancing Women  With Naira At  The Coronation Ceremony Of His Father Recently

Article: Ombatse; A Different Kettle Of Fish

Arrested Ombatse Suspects

By Felix Oboagwina
Finally, I caved in. My curiosity got the better of me. Since media hawks (local and international) swooped on the sensational news of how a battalion of policemen and allied security operatives (citing figures between 40 and 100), perished at Lakyo village, somewhere in Nassarawa State, my inquisitiveness began to itch. I knew someone from the area and I yearned to learn from him more about the incident.
Ombugadu and I met last year, at a small radio station in Osun State, where I did a six-month stint, and we quickly struck up a friendship. He taught full-time in a public school in town, but doubled as a freelance Programme Presenter with the radio station. My chance to talk with him came last week Friday. While waiting for Honourable Wale Oshun (Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG) to join me for an early morning meeting in his Okota, Lagos home, I had time to kill –enough time to ring up Ombugadu in Abuja.
“My friend!” Ombugadu’s smooth baritone tickled my ear.
“My brother!” I answered back, picking up our customary line of opening our usually long phone chats.
It was always a pleasure to speak with this very cerebral, multitalented school teacher cum musician cum music promoter cum author cum husband cum father. He from Nassarawa in the Middle Belt and I from Edo in the old Mid-West, we had enjoyed memorable fellowship with each other in the land of our sojourning. By a twist of fate, both of us had since moved on. While he was settling into another teaching job in Abuja, I was back to media consultancy in Lagos.
“How is Abuja?”
Francis updated me on his relocating efforts. Apart from successfully picking up a teaching appointment, he had settled in Karu, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, in a two-bedroom flat owned by a retired Police Commissioner. Although without running water, the apartment came at N250,000 per annum. Even then, visitors, he said, commended his good fortune in securing “choice” accommodation in a city where Shylock landlords are notorious for demanding an arm and a leg to farm out accommodation to tenants. His workplace equally gave him good cheer.
“In fact, I can see Aso Rock from my office.”
“Wow, you mean you are next-door neighbour to the President!” I gushed. “I hope they don’t relocate your school for security reasons.”
The suggestion sent us both chuckling. And Francis quickly clarified the geography for me.
“Actually we can see the rock but nothing of the Villa,” he said. “So there are no security implications.”
Again we laughed simultaneously. But I had found the perfect aperture to insert my curiosity. Now I quickly baited him.
“This Ombatse matter....” I stuttered.
“What?” he said.
“This Ombatse sect incident, where so many policemen were killed, what really happened? Immediately I heard the news, my mind jumped directly to you because those first three letters of your name rhyme with those of OMBATSE.”
His laughter roared loud and long –going on and on. I waited. About 20 seconds of raucous laughter passed, and then my friend finally brought himself under control.
“Yes, I know about the Ombatse people. They are of my tribe, the Eggon tribe.”
 “Seriously?” I could hardly believe I had struck gold. “They are your people?”
“Oh, yes!” he confirmed. “And I too will be joining the Ombatse soon?”
“You?” my voice recoiled with astonishment. “You are Catholic now; do they admit people like that?”
“Ombatse is for the tribe, for Eggon people,” Ombugadu went on. “If you join, no bullet can kill you –for a fellow man to kill you, it will be impossible.”
“Is the shrine that potent?”
“Felix, Ombatse is a disciplined group,” he dragged his words for emphasis. “As an initiate, you enjoy all these protections. But in turn, you cannot afford to steal; you cannot do wickedness; you cannot kill another person; you cannot commit adultery with another man’s wife. Ombatse stands for almost all the discipline and virtues the Bible preaches.”
“And you say it is a tribal thing for Eggon people?” I threw in. “Is that the same tribe Labaran Maku hails from?”
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Labaran is Eggon like me.”
Current Minister for Information, Labaran Maku served as the immediate past Deputy Governor of Nassarawa State, after being Information Commissioner. Nowadays, Maku has his name tagged to a gubernatorial ambition. Like Ombugadu, Maku is an Eggon indigene as well as a member of the Catholic Church. Their people constitute a sizeable Christian population in this Northern region, and their diversity and plurality demystifies the myth of a monolithic North. Nassarawa thus has the same checker-board configuration as Adamawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Kwara (all in the North-Central and North-Eastern belt), where animism rubs shoulders with Christianity and Islam in a social demography that sometimes proves explosive. Most times, the well-organised Gwandara, a Sultanate and Emirate-backed tribal stock, dominates local politics in Nassarawa. For the other tribes, this domination can prove irritating.
“But this problem with the police; what is the real story?”
Ombugadu said soberly: “Don’t believe all the falsehood they have been peddling. Nobody touched those policemen. Nobody killed any security person. It was the Ombatse juju that dealt with them.”
My friend then unreeled for me a tale that had all the trappings of the Ombatse’s official version of the events of that dark day on May 8, 2013, in Lakyo village, barely 70 kilometres from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Lakyo is in Nasarawa South Local Government Area.
“Those policemen came in the middle of a festival –a ceremony– going on in the town; and they quickly opened fire on the gathering, killing seven people instantly!”
“That is a lie!” I shouted, astounded. “The police simply shot seven people holding a ceremony! How could they do that?”
“They were sent by Governor Tanko Al-Makura. The Governor is already thinking 2015. And he perceives Ombatse (Eggon for “This is Our Turn”) as a stumbling block to his ambition. And without provocation, without rancour, he ordered the Commissioner of Police to dispatch policemen to capture the leader of Ombatse, decapitate him and submit his head on his table at Government House, Lafia.”
“I read that in the newspapers,” I said. “You mean that was the instruction actually given the police?”
“Yes!” Ombugadu roared. “And the police came in 13 vehicles loaded with heavily-armed men. Some of the men were even juju men and marabouts, some were ordinary thugs, quickly kitted in police uniforms for the assignment. The juju men were hired by the Governor in the hope their own spiritual power will neutralise that of the Ombatse.”
According to Ombugadu, while journeying to Lakyo, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, who led the operation, annexed two lorry-loads of Mobile Policemen (MOPOL) –travelling to Plateau from Kaduna. The Ombatse shrine is said to be located just off the Kaduna-Abuja- Plateau expressway. These MOPOL men were told to strengthen the team; they immediately complied having been assured that the assignment would last 20 minutes, at the most, and they could thereafter continue on their way.
“They all perished together,” Ombugadu reported.
“Poor souls!”
Something however did not quite jell for me: “But how were these killings possible –seeing these were highly trained, highly-skilled security personnel?”
Ombugadu filled me in. According to him, as soon as they sighted the festival crowd, the police and security operatives opened fire. Seven people fell down dead. Infuriated, like a lion robbed of its cubs, Ala Agu (the Ombatse’s Chief Priest, aged 76) invoked his anomalous powers and charged the assailants to begin to dance. Something strange and extraterrestrial instantly possessed the invaders. The policemen and security operatives dropped their guns and began to dance. They danced and danced and kept on dancing.
Apparently, the cops had been hypnotised and turned to zombies. According to Ombugadu, the two rearguard lorry-loads of cops arrived moments later, only to find their colleagues doing this peculiar dance. They were astounded. How could full-fledged, licensed-to-kill policemen (specifically and specially assigned on this day to spill sorrows, tears and blood) take to dancing? Quickly sensing that the dance going on was far beyond the ordinary and that something unnatural and strange had possessed their companions, the rearguard police vehicles quickly reversed and escaped.
“But from dancing, how did they come to dying?”
“They had spilled the blood of seven innocent people, which infuriated our people. By the way, those killed were innocent spectators because bullets have no impact on Ombatse initiates. Thereafter, all it took was a word of command from the Ombatse priests; and the surrounding grasses belched flames and fire consumed the policemen.”
“For real?”
“Yes, for real!” Ombugadu confirmed. “Felix, I will take you to the spot. Not a single inch of ground, not a single blade of grass, was scorched or burnt. They remain green and fresh. Only this killer police squad got consumed.”
Who will believe such a tale? Not those sceptics who fear for 2015, and who have already cast Ombatse in the same kettle of fish as Boko Haram in the North, Egbesu and other Niger-Delta militants in the South-South and the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the South-East, all of whom will make 2015 a tricky election year for Nigeria. However, like Ala Agu, the Ombatse Chief Priest, Ombugadu tried to convince me that Ombatse and politics are strange bedfellows. Or did Governor Al-Makura perhaps misunderstand the literal meaning of Ombatse, THIS IS OUR TURN? Did His Excellency (who quickly issued N1 million for every dead security man) view the Ombatse’s clarion call as a direct challenge to his 2015 ambition, and sent the police to squash these gadflies?
If that be true, then on the Ombatse assignment, can we say that where they should have exercised more circumspection and sagacity, the police made a mortal mistake? Why did authorities quickly give the Nassarawa Commissioner of Police the boot? Why did the SSS say it has forgiven the death of its security operatives who died in the Ombatse misadventure?
These security details should have gleaned lessons from the past. For this would not be the first time a Military force collided with spiritual forces and lost woefully. In the Bible, 2Kings 1, Elijah engaged in a confrontation with soldiers of King Ahab, resulting in the roasting of 100 soldiers whose tyrannous captains the Prophet sentenced them to death with the legendary words: “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.” And fire fell. The rest is history. Back here in Nigeria, Yoruba farmers of the Agbekoya guild became legends when they fought Awolowo’s cause against Federal forces in the 1960s. The encounters ended in the mysterious deaths of policemen, who reportedly returned home and found it impossible to remove uniforms, glued to their bodies supernaturally.
The Ombatse control similar extraterrestrial powers, according to Eggon myth. Indigenes regale their children with folk-tales of their heroic ancestors, who, backed by these invisible Ombatse spirits, successfully defended their territory against incursion by the Jihadists of Usman Dan Fodio and Queen Amina. According to Ombugadu, the shrine had existed for over 200 years, was neglected, but witnessed a revival around 2002, after illustrious and upwardly mobile sons and daughters of the tribe died in strange circumstances suspected to be instigated by negative witchcraft and voodoo. Also, morality had become lax with cases of adultery, stealing, murder and robbery assuming alarming proportions. The Eggon people revived the erstwhile neglected Ombatse shrine, and charged it to save the tribe from these threats. This revival of their ancestors’ touch with nature, they tagged, OMBATSE, “This is our turn.”
Although its native Eggon people have always resisted perceived subjugation by the Hausa-Fulani-favoured Gwandara tribe of Governor Al-Makura, the nucleic Ombatse group supposedly lacks interest in politics.
From what one can glean, Ombatse operates purely as a traditional prayer cult, minds its own business, maintains a canon of strict discipline and controls and formidable mystical and paranormal powers. Its base, Lakyo village, one of those making up the sizeable Eggon tribe, is itself one of the 15 tribes making up Nassarawa State. Ombatse devotees hold regular worship and prayer sessions akin to a regular church service. Strictly out of bounds to non-indigenes, its membership is monopolised by the Eggon people around the environs of Lakyo, a backward ancient town with no roads, water, electricity or any state or Federal Government presence. Lakyo lacks a functional secondary school, and indigenes claim it spots only one school, a mission school having two classrooms.
But Ombatse devotees prefer to leave these infrastructural neglects for politicians to tackle. They instead funnel their energy towards worshipping their strange gods and guaranteeing the morality and security of Eggon land and people. For their creed, they find cover in Section 38(1) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which guarantees their “Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Despite the negative dust raised by the encounter between the Ombatse and security agents on May 8, can government afford to clamp down on the Ombatse without infringing on their constitutionally-guaranteed right to worship the gods they choose? Far-fetched, maybe, but can any good thing ever come from the Ombatse? Ombugadu thinks so.
“Ombatse priests have challenged politicians to come and take their oaths of office in this shrine,” he said. “That will be the end of corruption in Nigeria.”
Time flew. The network soon announced my credit was depleting –19.45 minutes. I relayed this to my pal –time to go.
In closing, Ombugadu threw me an invitation.
“Felix, come to Lakyo and see the Ombatse,” he said. “I will personally show you their place; I will take you to the spot. No harm will befall you. As long as you harbour no evil motive towards the land or the people, you will go and return in one piece.”
Good talk: But am I curious enough to visit Ombatse in the lion’s den?
(Oboagwina; A Journalist, Lives In Lagos)

Opinion: Imo State Deputy Governor; Naira Spraying And The CBN Act

Prince Eze Madumere

By Emperor Iwuala

Recently, the father of the Imo State Deputy Governor H.R.H Eze Henry Madumere was coroneted as the traditional ruler of Achi Mbieri in the Mbaitoli L.G.A. of Imo State. The occasion which was held at the monarch's Achi-Mbieri home town was well attended.

However, it was a very nauseating sight when the son of the celebrant who is the current Deputy Governor of Imo State Prince Eze Madumere (MFR), in an unreserved excitement, was seen spreading some naira notes on some women who were dancing at the occasion.

However, this act which is supposed to be a criminal offence would not have been noticed by many who did not attend the ceremony except for the publication of some of the photographs of the event in the print media which included a photograph where the Deputy Governor was spreading money on some women.

When I first saw the said picture where the national honoree was spreading some naira notes on the back page of 27th -28th May Edition of one of the owerri based newspaper, I could not believe my eyes. Consequently, I put a phone call to the person who is presently acting as the chief media assistant to the Deputy Governor Mr.Uche Onwuchekwa and he confirmed that he sent and sponsored the photograph to the media.

Interestingly, Section 21 of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act 2007 provides as follows:

(1) A person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the Bank is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.

Subsection (3) of the same act further provides that:

For the avoidance of doubt, spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued  by the Bank (CBN) during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section.

Regrettably, the vigorous campaign by the CBN against subjecting the Naira to various abuses seems to have fallen like water off a ducks back across many areas in the country. The culture of spraying new naira notes at social ceremonies resulting to squeezing and trampling has remained a recurring scene at major events in the country. The abuse of the naira even by highly placed government officials in many locations in the country seems to justify public fear on the failure of the CBN campaign.

In spite of the warnings, the abuse of the Naira has never ceased. At social ceremonies, people are still seen spraying new Naira notes like unguided missiles on people.

In a recent ceremony I attended, many guests bluntly ignored the earlier plea by the organisers for cash envelopes to be dropped in a basket provided for the purpose. Rather, they took to the dancing floor armed with bundles of crisp notes, and as if in competition for the highest giver, left large volumes of crumpled notes on the dusty floor.

On a more serious note, if highly placed leaders in our society like a state Deputy Governor could jettison the law which he swore to uphold, I wonder the rationale behind the law against spreading of Nigerian currencies in public functions.
The irony is that I am yet to see one single person convicted on the above criminal provision which is more obeyed in violation.

Laws are meant to be obeyed. However, the Sociological School of jurisprudence advocates that obedience to laws is highly influenced by enactment of laws that are in line with culture of a particular place.

Therefore, it is my opinion that if the above section of the CBN Act is not being accepted and complied with, it should be repealed for laws are meant to be obeyed and not otherwise.