Chief Festus Odimegwu (l); Kano State Governor, Mr. Rabiu Kwankwaso (r)
Rob the poor, slaughter the weak. Distort the law, perfect deceit (Otep)
There had been no credible census in the country since 1816 because of manipulation. Even the one conducted in 2006 isn't credible. I've the records and evidence produced by scholars and professors of repute. This is not my report. If the current laws are not amended, the planned 2016 census will not succeed. During the 2006 census, workers locked out the commissioners over the creation of new areas. When the NPC did its own census in 2006 and said Lagos State was 9 million, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was the governor then came out and declared that the population of Lagos was 17 million (Chief Festus Odimegwu)
Nigeria has run on falsehood for too long. We must stop this falsehood and put a stop to all of these. The Boko Haram problem is partly as a result of that. Because the 2006 census wasn't correct, the former board of the NPC was unable to publish the figures. If they try it, there will be an uproar. We must make Nigeria work. We can't do that unless we know the statistics. We can't build infrastructure without demographic data. As long as the figures in Nigeria are wrong, corruption will continue to thrive. We must have an organised data before we can plan for Nigeria (Chief Festus Odimegwu)
his writer is aggrieved beyond words can express. The pain is too much, because, we thought that we were making headway, but, unfortunately, things are getting worse than imagined. This writer, who has refused to give up on Nigeria unlike some of his contemporaries and friends, and, who has been an oasis of optimism in the desert of pessimism, is disappointed. The news that the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Chief Festus Odimegwu, has resigned his appointment is like a stab on this writer’s back.
The northern governors and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have been kicking against Chief Odimegwu’s appointment, and they forced President Jonathan to issue him a query. Remember that the Christian Association of Nigeria, in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, asked the government then to withdraw the query which it said was political. When the query didn’t work as they wanted, the northern governors then instigated the NPC commissioners from their respective states to write a petition, and to pass vote of no confidence on Chief Odimegwu. In the petition, 24 out of 35 commissioners insisted on the removal of Chief Festus Odimegwu, by asking President Goodluck Jonathan to direct him (Odimegwu) to step aside due to alleged high-handedness and unguarded utterances capable of undermining preparations for 2016 Census. That was “the hands of Esau and the voice of Jacob”. But Chief Odimegwu was vindicated when the petition filed by Lagos State, at the Census Tribunal against the figure NPC gave it in 2006 census, got a favourable judgment. During the 1991 headcount, Lagos had 5.686 million people while Kano had 5.632. Then Jigawa State was carved out of Kano Sate. Then, in 2006, 9.014 million people were recorded for Lagos State compared to Kano's 9.384 million, despite the fact that Jigawa was no longer part of the state. The Lagos State government’s parallel headcount recorded 17,553,924 people. In the first week of September 2013, after reviewing the figures and facts, the census tribunal adjudicated by agreeing that Lagos State was undercounted, and then ordered a repeat headcount in 14 Local Councils, namely: Alimosho, Ojo, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Apapa, Lagos-Island, Lagos Mainland, Ikeja, Ikorodu, Kosofe, Mushin, Badagry, Oshodi-Isolo, Shomolu and Surulere.
Who can take Chief Odimegwu’s place? Dr. Sam Ahaiwe, the commissioner representing Abia State in the commission, has been appointed the acting chairman, pending the appointment of a substantive chairman. This column has lost hope that there ever will be somebody bold enough to confront these entrenched interests and deceits associated with census figures in Nigeria. If Chief Odimegwu, an independent minded person, a pace setter cum goal getter couldn’t stand, who else can? One thing is clear: Chief Odimegwu leaves with his integrity intact; he has satisfied his conscience, and has a freed mind now, just as Robert Frost (1874 –1963) wrote that “Freedom lies in being bold”, and, a French Proverb has it that “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience”. Chief Odimegwu had to let go, not because he was tired or doesn’t love Nigeria, but, because his heart can no longer hold on to this game of deceit. From New York, he (Chief Odimegwu) told THISDAY, on the phone, that he was relieved that the federal government has finally accepted his resignation. He said: "With the whole nonsense that was going on, I decided to throw in the towel. I had offered to resign previously, but it was turned down, so I am happy that Mr. President has finally accepted my resignation". On the controversies that arose when he was the chairman of NPC, Odimegwu said: "If they think they can conduct a credible census, let them go ahead to do so. If they want to play politics with the census, they should take the job. But given my pedigree in the private sector, I was not cut out for such and I had to leave with my dignity intact".
The perplexing vagaries of politics have consumed Chief Odimegwu; the dirty politics being practised in Nigeria has taken a good man down. No wonder; a lot of good Nigerians are shying away from serving Nigeria in any capacity. Chief Odimegwu went down because of his honesty, as Noel Coward (1899 –1973) wrote that “It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit”. The politics of succession for 2015 is turning out to be the last straw that may break Nigeria’s back. President Jonathan acquiesces to the stupid northern demand that Chief Odimegwu be relieved of his post, because of the need to appease them (the north) so as to support his re-election in 2015. The north is the winner, while Nigeria, as a whole, is the loser here. For Nigerian rulers to be allowing the north to deceive everybody with fake census figures, when they know the truth, means that they are stupid, because, according to Carissa Aydaa, the “Definition of stupid (is): Knowing the truth, seeing the truth, but still believing the lies”.
Nigeria will never get it right, unless it gets the census figures right, because, census figures are indispensable for correct national planning, and are the basis for the allocation of revenue, political seats and posts. That’s why the north wants the continuous retention of the fake census figures which are advantageous to it, so anybody who tries to count Nigerians accurately, is marked out for elimination. The north doesn’t believe in Nigeria, but, has hanged on to it because of what it has been gaining at the expense of the south. Just as The Bible in Proverbs 12:20 says “Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil”, the north receives more revenue allocations derived from oil that’s in south, more than the southerners, the oil owners; the north has also more local governments, states, senators, House of Reps members than the south, all because of the fake census figures manipulated in its favour. So, any accurate head count in Nigeria, will do away with all these cheatings, and that’s why the north has been highly critical of Chief Odimegwu.
It’s unfortunate that Chief Odimegwu’s resignation is coming as Nigeria prepares for national conference. The issue of inflated national census is one of the cardinal points the national conference must address and resolve for equity purpose. The Nigerian leaders should know that previous censuses were based on lies and deceits, and because Nigeria lays on a foundation of lies, the ruling class has built a structure of mistrust with it. The process for national re-birth is about to start. For the national conference to be useful and effective, there’s no reason for deception and games anymore. Truth and openness are the only solution for healing and a better Nigeria. The north wants to retain the inflate census figures, because of the revenue it receives from the federation account, but, if in future, based on the report of the planned national conference, Nigeria reverts to regional system of government, and the current census figures are maintained, the north may then start shouting that its census figures are not correct. Because, by then, the regions will have to be funding the federal government and not as it’s now, and then, the regions will contribute to the federal government coffer based on what it produces, and will pay in taxes based on its population and economic strength. Then, the north would be forced to acknowledge that the figures, recorded for it all these years, since independence, was inflated, and may request a new census that will be accurate, so as to prevent it from paying more, into the federal coffer, than its actual population strength.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 –1919) was right that “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it”. President Jonathan failed to show strong leadership here; he should have stood his ground by supporting Chief Odimegwu, because, he, the president, knows that what Chief Odimegwu said is correct, and that he’s one of the few Nigerians who can conduct an accurate census. All he (Odimegwu) needed was the presidential support and protection, but, President Jonathan left him in the cold, because of the exigencies of politics. What’s the point in giving a man a job when the president, who appointed him, can’t protect him to do the job? President Jonathan should know that if he really wants to be a good leader, he must instill in people, especially his appointees, a hope for success and a belief in themselves, and should then empower them to accomplish their goals. The president should have known that the north has no love for Chief Odimegwu, and whatever it (the north) said against him was for selfish reason and not for the love of Nigeria, just as Dejan Stojanovic (1959) wrote that “Whatever others may say, they say it to deceive and comfort themselves, not help you” There’s a lot President Jonathan must learn from President Obama, who stood his ground and refused to blink when the Republicans closed down the American government for weeks. For the first time in 17 years, the Republicans in American Congress chose to shut down the American federal government. President Obama said then: “As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hard-working Americans”. 6 times Obama promised he wouldn’t blink, and he didn’t. The Republicans were then forced to re-open the American government without getting any major concession from President Obama. That was the mark of a leader.
President Jonathan wants to please everybody, and that’s wrong as Herbert B. Swope (1882 - 1958) wrote that “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody”. It’s wrong for President Jonathan to think he can win back the seven PDP rebel governors, who are mostly northerners, by sacrificing Chief Odimegwu. Caving in to the demands of the rebel governors now, who knows when and where their further demands will end? What will happen if the president is not able to meet their future demands? By now the President should have known some of the governors so well. They would act like they're so nice, they can act like they really care, they can act like they truly love Nigeria, they can act like they understand, they can act like they want to see the president happy and re-elected, and then they will give him (the president) their prices for their support. The president should have told them to quit their deceit by seeing right through them and their lies, and then ignore them, because, if he depends on them, they will fail him at the end. The President shouldn’t forget the words of Alexis Taylor Usher that “ That moment when your best friends says that they're going to have your back, but in the end, they're the one who stabbed you in it!”, and , what Jehan Fostanes Nayga wrote that “ You know, it's better to have an enemy who lets you know that he hates you than to have a trusted friend that will deceit you, slander you, and destroy your reputation secretly without expecting that he can do it”.
If President Jonathan is looking for those to sack for under-performance, he doesn’t need to look far as the “two beauties” he has as ministers are incompetent and have failed in their respective duties. Hopefully, the two ministers weren’t appointed because of their facial look, because, “no be beauty Nigeria go chop“. The minister of petroleum, Ms. Allison-Madueke, has failed to protect Nigerian oil from thieves, and has failed in her oversight function on NNPC, as the organization can’t tell us the quantity of oil Nigeria exports daily, the people buying our oil, and are not paying in the proceeds, from oil and gas sale, into the federal government accounts as at when due. The beautiful minister of aviation is the worse; not only that she carelessly said that the two major air crashes that have occurred under her watch were “inevitable acts of God", but, for forcing the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to acquire two bullet-proof vehicles (black BMW 760 Li HSS vehicles) worth $1.6m (N255m) for her. By taking the two vehicles from the NCAA, the minister has compromised herself and her position, and will not be effective in carrying out oversight function on NCAA again. Infact, the “beautiful” minister has lost the moral authority to lead the ministry.
This column is not against the “beautiful” minister riding in bullet proof cars; she’s entitled to them, afterall, even some private citizens have armoured vehicles, and in Nigeria, where’s there’s no security, the minister can’t leave herself unprotected. Where this column has a problem with the procured vehicles is the cost. It’s wrong for a mere minister to be using official vehicle more expensive than the presidential limo. Worst still, the vehicle procured for this minister is more expensive than Barack Obama's official limo - 'The Beast' (about $300,000), and, David Cameron's official Jaguar (terrorist-proof) (about £200,000). It was also wrong for the minister to force NCAA to buy the vehicles for her. Why didn’t the ministry procure the vehicles for its minister? When and why did NCAA become the procurement unit of the Ministry of Aviation? It was wrong for the minister to emphasis her own safety when planes are falling off our skies, and when there’s near air mishaps every now and then. Read more below, to understand that the price of those vehicles was inflated, and that warrants investigation and prosecution, if any law was broken. Different auto dealer worldwide have given slightly different prices for such vehicles, but, none came close to the amount we were told NCAA bought the vehicles. More to that, the President has to sack the minister, as we can’t afford to continue ennobling corruption in this country!
But who will safe Nigeria? This writer sees nobody on the horizon, as the oppositions are not better! Elombah.com just revealed why APC has kept silent on Stella Oduah's Bullet-proof car scandal. It wrote: “Babatunde Raji Fashola and his political Godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, two years ago took delivery of new acquisitions: N600 million bullet-proof Jeeps. Source identified Fashola and Tinubu's purchase as three bullet proof cars- Jeeps- with bomb detector apparatus and surveillance cameras. Findings revealed that two of the purchases are with Governor Fashola for official usage as the helmsman of Lagos state. Asiwaju Tinubu is said to have one to his name as party leader. The brand of the bullet proof cars is identified as Toyota Prado Jeep. The cost of each jeep- including handling, registration, insurance and other fees- is two hundred million naira. The three jeeps are valued at six hundred million naira. This is double the amount spent by Ms Stella Oduah in the current bullet-proof jeep scandal. The three automobiles were reportedly bought for Asiwaju Tinubu and Governor Fashola on grounds of 'security'. Insiders say that the two political figures have not gone public with their jeeps for fear of attracting public opprobrium”.
This writer used to think that good people could save Nigeria, but, they will never get the chance. It’s time to face the facts; Nigeria has withered (dead). We no longer have a constitution; the moral foundations on which any great country was built on has eroded in Nigeria, unlike before. Day after day, we see blatant corruption in our government. Examples of these corruptions are no longer hidden, but are so out in the open. Just as someone asked: Where is the outrage? Where is the anger? If it were countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria etc, the people would have taken to the streets and showed their government who is in charge. But, in Nigeria, everybody have looked away and moved on. How can things change in a country that tells itself lies?
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was right that “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands, even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished”. Chief Odimegwu didn’t commit any sin by being vocal, as there’s nothing wrong with that. We all can’t be docile at the same time, as docility amongst the officials and Nigerians has been one of the banes of Nigeria. This writer thanks Odimegwu for standing his ground, and if ever there will be a “new Nigeria”, he will be one of the few to be counted as those who meant well for Nigeria, as he stood his ground and refused to be compromised in the midst of rot, as John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote that “In this age, the man who dares to think for himself and to act independently does a service to his race”
For Nigeria to survive and progress, political hand-wringing, arm twisting and deceit must stop, and then, people with integrity, such as Chief Odimegwu, should take over the leadership positions at all levels of government, as Edward Kennedy (1932- 2009) noted that “ Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins”.
This was the article this writer wrote, stoutly defending Chief Odimegwu, in August 2013:
The Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, said the vehicles were purchased to protect the minister from some external threats. In his words: “Yes, it is true that some security vehicles were procured for the use of the office of the honourable minister in response to the clear and imminent threat to her personal security and life following the bold steps she took to reposition the sector. When she came on board as the minister, she inherited a lot of baggage in terms of the concession and lease agreements in the sector, which were clearly not in the interest of the government and people of Nigeria. And so, she took bold steps and some of these agreements were reviewed and some were terminated, and these moves disturbed some entrenched interests in the sector, and within this period, she began to receive some imminent threats to her life; therefore, the need for the vehicles. It should be noted that these vehicles are not personal vehicles and were not procured in the name of the honourable minister; they are utility vehicles and are for the office of the minister, and if she leaves the office, she will not be taking the vehicles along with her. Normally, you don’t buy one utility vehicle but you buy two at a time because you must have a back-up for public officials. The level of exposure which came with her job warranted the purchase of the vehicles. As a private citizen, she never had these vehicles”.
A former member of the House of Representatives and Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption Network, Dino Melaye, said the actions of Oduah bore the hallmarks of "recklessness and wastage", adding that the contract for the procurement of the two controversial cars was inflated far above the cost price, noting that the new armored cars were even more expensive than the Presidential armored cars. Melaye also called on the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to explain to Nigerians where the fund was raised as the N255 million funds used to purchase the armored vehicles was not captured in the 2013 budget. Melaye wrote: "It has never been this bad. This government, through the action of the minister of aviation, has further confirmed the wastage and recklessness that have become its hallmark. In a country where the Academic Staff Union of Universities is on strike, poverty everywhere, a minister has the effrontery to buy two bullet-proof cars with tax payers' money. With this naked robbery, how can you tell ASUU that government doesn't have money? I have two bullet-proof cars, B7 grade. One BMW and a Land cruiser jeep, both cost about N100million. Where did she buy her own, abeg? The National Assembly must tell us if those cars were appropriated for? How did the Due Process office allow this purchase? The docility of the youth and masses fans the ember of corruption in Nigeria". Ogunlesi wrote: “I’m pissed off by Oduah's action. Even the United States President Barack Obama's official limo - 'The Beast' - as well as British Prime Minister's official Jaguar costs far less than what Oduah acquired. The Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is a cattle market. But someone thinks the priority is to spend $1.6m on two cars. This woman thinks fatal plane crashes are an act of God, but doesn't think the same of death threats against her. Interesting! Do we need a psychiatrist? You don't need to be an activist to be pissed off with Stella Oduah and this overwhelming act of foolishness and irresponsibility. Barack Obama's official limo - 'The Beast' - reportedly costs about $300,000. David Cameron's official Jaguar (terrorist-proof) reportedly cost about £200,000. Even then the Brits are complaining. How then does a Nigerian Minister use a $750k on one official car? I'm not saying she shouldn't buy armoured cars; public officials in Nigeria need all the security they can get, but the issue is that spending $1.5m on two cars in a country where the planes and airports run on luck pisses one off big time".
The Stop Impunity in Nigeria (S.I.N), a group campaigning against all forms of impunity in the country, has condemned the alleged purchase of two bullet proof vehicles worth $1.6m (about N255m) by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah. Two bullet proof vehicles were reportedly bought amidst frequent complaints of underfunding of the NCAA which is said to be cash strapped and unable to afford new equipment to replace the obsolete ones it is using.
The group said the alleged purchase of the two bullet proof vehicles by the NCAA clearly typifies the worst form of impunity in the public finance management sector. Describing the purchase of the vehicles “at such ridiculously high price as gross and wanton waste of public resources”, S.I.N also noted if both the NCAA and the Minister were alive to their responsibilities, the amount should have been more appropriately channeled towards addressing the rot in the aviation sector which is resulting in unnecessary loss of lives. In S.I.N’s words: “It is obvious that the luxury of the matriarch of the Aviation Kingdom far supersedes the value and importance attached to human lives in Nigeria. The two questions begging for answers are: Whether the purchase of the vehicles was necessary and, if so, whether they could not have been purchased for less?” The anti-impunity campaign group further stated that it finds absolutely no justification whatsoever for the purchase of the cars, adding that its research showed that such vehicles are sold for less than 30 percent of the claimed amount, suggesting underhand dealings in the purchase of the bullet-proof cars.
SIN further noted that “Sahara Reporters research further revealed that Vista BMW in Coconut Creek in Florida stated that a fully armoured BMW 760 Licar built to withstand AK 47 – 7.62 x 39 ammo and lower caliber weapons costs only $162,195 approximately N25,951,200. It also disclosed that a quote provided by the armoured car ballistic Centerville, Utah, revealed that each BMW car could have been provided to the NCAA for $200,000 or roughly N32, 000,000 which would have included the cost of shipping them to Nigeria. Other automobile sales company in Europe who were contacted by Sahara reporters gave slightly lower prices. It is clear that there was no public tender for the purchase of the vehicles in accordance with the Public Procurement Act 2007, but that “someone, somewhere, took it upon him/herself to purchase them single-handedly in gross breach of the law”. S.I.N therefore called on the President and relevant law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies to ensure that the Aviation Minister, the Director-General of the NCAA and other government officials involved in the scandalous, reckless and fraudulent waste of public funds are held accountable. The group also called for their immediate removal from office and prosecution (African Examiner).
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