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‘Just do good’: A June 12 story – By Reuben Abati

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I used to have a friend we called Alhaji Bashy. He was not a Muslim. No. But he called himself Alhaji Bashy, even if that was not his real name. You want to know his real name? It was Theophilus. And his wife was named Ruth. His children? He was yet to have one. Even Ruth was called his wife by designation. We were all young in those days, and any woman to whom you wrote regular love letters and poems, and she gave you attention was your wife. In those days, you didn’t have to give a woman a N100 million worth of car to assure her that you were in love, you did not have to go as far as Offa to rob a bank so you could earn a living.
Once you grabbed a woman and you could send her titillating love poems and shebelieved, you gained the right to press all buttons, and shake every table in her body. The Vice Chancellor of one university in those days became very notorious.

He said his students were among the brightest in the country but that he could not vouch for those students’ tendency and ability to explore the internal anatomy of the female homo sapiens! The laughter that greeted that announcement stretched from one part of the country to another

And the women didn’t complain. They were happy to have a man who loved them genuinely. You didn’t have to put a ring on their fingers. They would cook for you, wash your clothes, kneel down to greet your mother, your father, your siblings, pray for you, and even if you didn’t marry them at the end of the day, they would still not take offence. They would resolve that the will of God had been done. The moment they agreed to become your friend, they became automaticallyyour wife and some of them even if they married other men later, would remain on pension in your life forever. Yes, in this country, women used to survive like that on such anticipatory approval that had life-long consequences. I confess that I am still paying pension but I won’t name the women.

As you can see, anticipatory approval started in Nigeria a long time ago. Not just with girlfriends who became bush meat or fiancées or eventually wives, or other people’s wives. In those days, even persons who had no bicycle, and were professional trekkers boasted about their leggedes-benz. They turned their legs into a brand of the Mercedes Benz! Those who could barely afford a pair of slippers insisted they would one day ride the Mercedez.
Now come on, that was a popular luxury car in those days. Only important folks could afford it.

So rugged, that car was nick-named “the German mistake”. Alhaji Bashy, even when we all smoked garri with groundnuts and watched the big boys who came from town to toast campus babes with ordinary suya, had big dreams. Hebelieved he would also one day be able tobuy his girlfriend the barbecued meat called “’suya” and a Mercedes.

And Ruth was happy to hear that one day she too would ride a car. She was happy with Alhaji Bashy.
It was a different country we lived in. The men appreciated the women. Whatever went wrong, the women knelt down and begged their men and the men reciprocated by honouring the women. Nigeria was a community of happy people, anyone that behaved anyhow was ostrasized. I recall even being referred to on many occasions as Mallam when my only connection with Mallam things was to wait for the eid-el-kabir season to eat the generous portions of ram meat that Muslims gave their Christian compatriots.

We all ate together and enjoyed together and married across religious and ethnic divides. Our country was then just one happy place. Oh, what a happy place. Muslims and Christians played with one another and the festive season was the best time to show boundless amity. Cows didn’t pose a threat to farm produce. Every disagreement was resolved either in the bedroom or the beer parlour or at communal associations. Alhaji Bashy used to joke that Muslim girls were better than Christian girls and if we reminded him that his Ruth was Christian, he would laugh from one end of his mouth to the other, his 32 teeth in full display, and he would say:

“It is good to be good, when you are good to a woman, or any person, he or she will be nice to you, Christian or Muslim. Love knows no religion. Nobody is a Mallam or pastor in the bedroom.”

“Alha-ji Bay- sheeey”, we would all scream
“It is nice to be nice, because nice is nice, ” he responded.

Bashy was a good guy. He was incapable of hurting another fellow. No matter how serious the situation was, he reduced it all to laughter. The only thing that mattered to him was Ruth, the sugar in his tea, the puff-puff in his mouth, the woman he loved, the hope of his future. Ruth. I remember Ruth. She was that type of woman God created in a relaxed mood. You know how it is: some women look like God created them in a busy and tired moment, and hence they come out looking anyhow. But Ruth: God took his time. Any time she walked into a gathering of men, all the men had their instruments standing at attention in honour and in respect, and in anticipation. But she had eyes only for Bashy, and many used to wonder what he saw in the guy and his gross features. We all sulked and grumbled believing that God sometimes gives the best to the ugliest.

Then all of a sudden, June 12 happened. June 12, 1993 was the day our country held its freest and fairest election since 1922 when the first democratic elections were held. After colonial rule and influence, a short period of civilian rule and a prolonged military rule, another democratic interregnum, Nigerians eventually became tired of military rule. The rest of the world was moving towards democracy. The Berlin wall had collapsed.

Across the world, everyone wanted the people to be the owners of power and masters of their own destiny. In our country, everyone wanted to escape the trap of authoritarianism. On June 12, 1993, the military had asked the people to choose a President – one of their own. Bashy was one of those who supported Chief MKO Abiola, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). MKO promised Nigerians hope, progress and abundant welfare. One Baba Gana Kingibe was his running mate. The two of them were Muslims, but nobody raised any questions. Nigerians voted for their Muslim-Muslim ticket. It was a national unity ticket. The Christians didn’t mind. The people wanted change and it didn’t matter to them whatever shape the revolution took.

But the military stood in the people’s way and the entire country went adrift. The military annulled the election and aborted the people’s hopes. Alhaji Bashy was one of MKO’s men. He worked for him. He followed him. He became his disciple. “MKO-o o-oooooo is our man oooo” became his national anthem.” He was one of those who believed Chief should stand up to the soldiers and claim his mandate. He reported at MKO’s home in the morning and left at night. He attended meetings he didn’t need to attend, but he did all the same because he believed in democracy.
He told me once that if Chief was allowedto claim his mandate, Nigeria would become one of the best countries in the world. But the military hierarchy, after an overdose of peppersoup diet, obviously and in retrospect, refused to hand over Abiola’s mandate to him. People like Bashy insisted on a revolution. He was at Epetedo where MKO claimed his mandate in a historic statement. History was made at that moment and MKO’s followers were proud of his courage and resolve. When Alhaji Bashy returned from that event and I saw him, I knew something had gone wrong. His eyes were blood-shot. ‘MKO or nobody”, he screamed throughout the night
Those were sad days. Two days later, Ruth, the centre of Bashy’s life was attacked by a group of men. They raped her. They slashed her throat. They dumped her in front of Bashy’s flat. Alhaji Bashy wasdetained for a month. They said he killed her. But he didn’t. I was one of the people who went to the police station to testify that Bashy was a lover-boy, not a killer and that Ruth, with her buttocks that rolled as if it was responding to unheard music was all that he lived for. Bashy was released. The revolution that he wanted did not happen, because shortly after, Chief MKO Abiola was arrested and detained by the military authorities. He never came back alive. They said he drank tea and he died.
Bashy was devastated. He took to the bottle. He drowned his sorrow in alcohol. He became a shadow of himself. He owned a rickety Beetle. The Beetle, a Volkswagen star brand in those days, was known for its ruggedness. Bashy managed to buy a used one for N22, 000 – a lot of money in those days. The only problem was that his Beetle had to be pushed before it would move. Some of us who were his close friends knew this routine. Whenever Bashy wanted to leave, we would start moving away strategically to prevent being forced to jump-start his notorious Beetle.
It was really a tug of war, so difficult to know who was driving the other between Bashy and his wretched car. The only problem was that once you helped to push and the car jumped alive, a huge of volume of smoke escaping from the exhaust would suddenly emit onto your face. Pure carbon monoxide: Bashy would speed off, but you would be there struggling for oxygen and cursing that you’d never do it again. The more alcoholic Bashy became, the more unpredictable he also became. He was a shadow of his former self. It was as if the light that kept his life aglow had been switched off.

One day, on his way to his abode in Ajangbadi; armed robbers accosted him. Our country was extraordinarily lawless and ruthless and unsafe. Hadji Bashy told me the story himself, a day after. They stopped his car and asked him to come down. Come down! Come down! They pointed guns at him, each of his three assailants holding a gun. Bashy was dead drunk. He was dead to the world.

“Eyin boys, bawo ni. What is happening?”

“Are you crazy? You think we are joking with you?”

“Shut up” he said he told them. “I know you. You people are thieves. Armed robbers. Idiots”.

“Since you know, oya give us everything you have”, one of them replied.

“What do I have? I am coming from a June 12 event. You people should join us to make Nigeria better. Join hands with us to create Hope for this country.”
“Ha. Pastor ma leleyi oh, Ti Nigeria ba good, you think we will be here on this road robbing people. Gbagbe e o omo. Gbori n be. Irin tutu re oh,” one of the boys reportedly said. “Irin…Irin ise. Iyalaya anybagga”

The boys behaved as if they were drugged. Bashy himself was drunk. They kept their guns pointed at him.

“Ewo eyin boys, I have just 2, 000. We will share it. You people will take N1, 000 and I will keep 1, 000 because I will have to buy fuel into this jalopy tomorrow morning . If you don’t agree, let me know now.”

He said the robbers burst out laughing. Bashy went about with a carton of beer since Ruth died. He drank as he drove. He went to the back seat of the car. He had four bottles left. He took two bottles and gave to the robbers. He asked them to take two and he would keep two bottles for himself. He then turned on the car radio, inserted a cassette and asked the robbers to let them have fun. He started dancing, after opening two bottles of beer. Two of the robbers couldn’t believe what they had just seen. They laughed. One of them said:

“There is something in this Lagos oh. What will somebody not see on this job? This one doesn’t even know he is being robbed. He is too drunk to be aware.”

“June 12, my brothers. June 12. Let us show these bloody soldiers that on June 12 we stand,” Bashy told them.

The robbers collected two bottles of beer and the N1, 000 and drove off. I saw Bashy the following morning. I found him with a bottle of coke in his mouth. He was listening to the music of Reggae artist, Ras Kimono, a rhumba styleee…stai-leeee.

He looked so dejected. I was alarmed. He told me his story.

“Bashy, what happened?”

“Nothing”

“No something happened. You are drinking coca cola in the morning. What happened to schnapps?”

“I will never taste alcohol again”

“How? Why?’

“Can you believe that I encountered armed robbers yesterday and they didn’t shoot me? I told them off. I abused them, I told them I am a June 12 man and they still allowed me to go. I will never drink again.”

Bashy kept to his promise. He has not been invited to the special national honours ceremony for Bashorun MKO Abiola. He died two years ago. He is survived by a daughter. Ruth’s daughter…

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Opinion

Chamberlain Adiaso: The Ukwa Ngwa Man who stood up for Uche Ogah – By Okechukwu Ezebuike

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The just concluded APC governorship primaries in Abia State was an opportunity to discover that there are Nigerians who are grown beyond cheap primordial sentiments which has become the bane of our underdevelopment and poverty.

So, that exercise was an opportunity to salute the courage of the Ngwa nation, a people who are by nature very independent, liberal and very mature minded people, to the extent that even when some political elements attempted to divide the Abia APC and to cause disharmony between the Ngwa nation and their brothers by fostering the agenda of the PDP, it was men like Chief Chamberlain Adiaso (The Agu Ji Egbe 1 of Abia State) that stood up to be counted.

A governorship aspirant himself who did an honest assessment of the party’s standing in the upcoming general election and came out with a factual conclusion that Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah remains the best amongst many qualified aspirants in the APC that could beat the incumbent PDP governor in Abia State.

Chief Chamberlain Adiaso displayed unparalleled courage and sense of leadership for being the first Ukwa Ngwa man to have openly endorsed Uche Ogah irrespective of contrived ethnic interest being pushed around by some elements in Abia State politics in order to gain undue advantage.

Chamberlain Adiaso showed that indeed, the collective conscience of society can only be nurtured by truth.

Furthermore, the constitution guarantees the right of citizens to free speech, assembly, association and worship according to the dictates of their consciences, which some elements in Abia State politics does not want to happen by seeking the use of ethnic sentiment and intimidation to subvert the popular will of the people.

Therefore, the rare courage displayed by Chamberlain Adiaso in the build-up to the last APC governorship primaries in Abia State must be commended, as it is difficult to see a man of such repute and towering standing concede to another aspirant whom he considers aptly qualified to lead the struggle to liberate Abia State in this season.

The ruling cabal in Abia State have perfected a gimmick of pitching Abia indigens against each other using ethnic and and zonal rhetorics. In the end, their so called zoning agenda has never benefited any zone so imposed. Rather, it has become the basis for bad governance and abysmal leadership. The last administration in Abia State was considered to be that of Abia central. But 8 years after, the people of the zone like other parts of Abia State became worst than it was before the zoning shenanigan.

Currently, the Abia South people and the entire Ukwa Ngwa who supposedly lays claim to the governorship seat is in bad shape; notwithstanding that a so called Ukwa Ngwa man is in power. Like every other part of the state, there is excruciating hunger, mass unemployment, failed infrastructure and financial stagnation. The governor being from that part of the state has not made any difference in the lives of the people of the zone.

This is why we must appreciate a man like Chief Chamberlain Adiaso who saw beyond the deception being bandied as zonal interest to endorse Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, a man that is well known in the state for his positive impact in the lives of the people of Abia State. Chief Chamberlain Adiaso has by his open endorsement endeared himself to the people of Abia State. His support and loyalty to Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah epitomizes the courage of leadership required to build an egalitarian society.

Chief Chamberlain Adiaso must be celebrated for his foresight and genuine love for the Abia people. His preference for quality leadership that will benefit the entire people of Abia State is a testament in the pursuit of what is the greatest good for the greatest number of Abia people. His loyalty to his friend and brother, Dr Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, exemplifies the the quality of thinking required for Abia’s development. The spirit of oneness and commitment to the overall interest of the state. The spirit that encourages unity of purpose rather than the narrow interest clutched in ethnocentrism.

I salute Chief Chamberlain Adiaso’s foresight and courage of leadership and also recommend him highly for public service in any major capacity in Abia State and Nigeria.

Mr. Okechukwu Ezebuike writes from Abia State.

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Atiku and the rise of Peter Obi – By Reuben Abati

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Shortly after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar became the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on October 6, party members and other stakeholders began to recommend running mates for him and a short list began to feature on the front pages of Nigerian newspapers. Some of the names that were mentioned included former Governor Peter Obi, former CEO/Managing Director, Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) – Mustapha Chike-Obi, former Minister of Agriculture and AfDB President – Akin Adesina, former Minister of Finance and Supervising Minister of the Economy – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former CBN Governor -Charles Soludo, and Deputy Senate President – Ike Ekweremadu.

For about five days, there were theories and permutations, and a comparison of the credentials of the proposed running mates. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has acted pro-actively by quickly putting an end to the speculations. He met with the party leadership, consulted with other interest groups and promptly announced Peter Obi. If this is a sign of how he intends to run Nigeria if he becomes President, then he is off to a good start. In the past week, he also did something else that was clever. He made peace with his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. He asked for Obasanjo’s blessings and Obasanjo, wearing his hat as a seasoned political pragmatist and ebora strategist, endorsed Atiku.

The speech delivered by Obasanjo on that occasion is an elegant study in the art of being important. President Obasanjo said he has forgiven Atiku for his many sins, which he Obasanjo had complained about previously. He described him as someone who has a knowledge of business, who is less inflexible and a “Wazobia” man. There were subtle digs at the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, when Obasanjo advised Atiku not to recruit only kith and kin and try to run an inclusive government. In the same speech, Obasanjo reminded Atiku of his indebtedness to the Obasanjo legacy and the need to sustain that legacy. He also set an agenda for the man he described as Nigeria’s President-to-be. He even said “Insha Allah”. Obasanjo in that well-composed speech, practically killed many birds with one stone in many incantatory voices: boss, statesman, and letter-writer.

It was Atiku’s second biggest endorsement since he got his party’s ticket – the first being his victory in Port Harcourt. Obasanjo’s endorsement is particularly significant given the history of the relationship between both men. To add that Obasanjo has voice, influence and authority is to state the obvious, and we need to tell those who argue that Obasanjo has just one vote that they are politically dumb! Atiku’s boss has given him a new testimonial that has refurbished him. Obasanjo who once tore his membership card of the PDP, has also more or less re-oxygenated the party’s Presidential aspiration. The panic that this has caused in the Buhari camp is perfectly understandable even if the resort to name-calling and abuse by the President’s foot-soldiers may be counter-productive in the long run. It won’t make Obasanjo and his associates change their mind. Atiku’s gain is Buhari’s loss.

Then came the rise of Peter Obi… Without a doubt, all the persons on the shortlist of running mates for Atiku have relative strengths. They have all proven their mettle in the public arena. But with Peter Obi already chosen, we need not indulge in any detailed comparison except to note that very important to the selection process would have been, not just geo-politics, but also such factors as the temperament of the individual, the chemistry between the principal and the deputy, electoral value, international exposure, acceptability by key stakeholders and public persona.

My take is that former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi is bound to strengthen the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the scheduled 2019 Presidential elections. He will prove to be an asset to the Atiku campaign and also to the Nigerian government if the PDP wins the Presidential election. The announcement of his name has generated so much excitement in Igboland, particularly in his home state of Anambra where people broke out in dancing jigs at beer parlours, and free drinks were declared. Across the South East, his Igbo kinsmen are also similarly excited. Those who know him in politics and business attest to his good character, self-discipline, competence and fair-mindedness. I want to congratulate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for choosing wisely and I want to disagree with those who argue that the Presidential candidate of the PDP should have chosen his running mate from the South Western part of the country.

The choice of a running mate of Igbo extraction is a politically deft move. The last time Igbos held the number 2 position in a civilian government was way back in the Second Republic (1979 -83). Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, they have either been Senate President or heads of key agencies (under President Obasanjo) or Deputy Senate President and generally junior operatives (under President Buhari) or held critical Ministerial positions or headship of agencies and departments –indeed the entire economic sector (under President Jonathan). But Ndigbo’s main interest is the big job: the Presidency of Nigeria. The choice of Peter Obi and his likely emergence as Vice President of Nigeria brings Igbos much closer to consideration for Presidency either in 2023 or 2027. For a people who believe that they have been short-changed by other Nigerians and that the civil war has not actually ended, the possibility of one of their own returning to the Presidency, 35 years after Ekwueme, is bound to promote a sense of belonging. By choosing an Igbo man, Atiku is also exploiting prevailing sentiments in Igboland. The average Igbo, either in the South East or in diaspora, is certainly not impressed by the Buhari administration.

The circumstances of Operation Crocodile Tears and the crushing of the rebellion of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra Movement (IPOB), pitched Igbos against Buhari. Atiku is seeking to bring them back into the fold. Call it opportunism, but that is politics. A Yoruba running mate would have looked like the Buhari template. Atiku also probably knows that the Yoruba in the South West do not always vote as a bloc and that the South West is far more divided today than ever. The electoral value of the Yoruba man, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is Buhari’s running mate for now, except he changes him, lies more in his being part of a political group in the South West, and right now, even that group is divided, it has lost part of its grip, and its leader is fighting many political battles of his own. An Igbo running mate can guarantee bloc Igbo voting, in Igboland and from Igbos who are all over Nigeria. The votes may not necessarily be for Peter Obi as a person but for the Igbo nationalistic interest.
I say this because I have heard some people say Peter Obi may not even be able to deliver Anambra. I say to such persons that even the incumbent Governor of Anambra, Willie Obiano of APGA, who has issues with Peter Obi, or David Umahi, Ebonyi Governor (PDP) and Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, would dread being found out to be working against the possibility of an Igbo man emerging again as Vice President of Nigeria. In terms of political strategy, it can be taken for granted that the South South, still angry over how the Buhari government has treated President Goodluck Jonathan and others from that region, will also naturally vote en masse against Buhari. Technically, Atiku may have locked down the South South and the South East and can be sure of substantial votes from the South West where his promise of restructuring resonates well with the socio-cultural and political elite.

But why Peter Obi? Obi, Governor of Anambra State for eight years, survivor of election battles, has proven himself to be an astute politician and leader. As Governor, he blocked the leaky buckets. He reduced wastages and leakages. He led by example. He served the people. He left a healthy balance behind in the treasury. He was known across the South East as Peter the Rock or Okwute, and he more than any other former Governor has spent his time out of office, to prepare himself for a bigger role in Nigeria. He didn’t disappear from the radar. He didn’t take the option of going to the Senate which has become a retirement home for former Governors who go there to sleep and snore during plenary and collect heavy retirement benefits for saying nothing.

Peter Obi returned to school. He chose the lecture circuit where he shared his experience as Governor with Nigerians, mostly young Nigerians. He was always on point: he preached good governance, prudence, accountability and gave personal examples. He granted the media access to him and he granted interviews as frequently as he could. He became an analyst and something slightly close to being a public intellectual. He built a public persona as someone who understands business, politics, the economy and governance. He attended international programmes and built a network of contacts. He was my course mate at the Said Business School, University of Oxford and I can attest that he can hold his own confidently in the company of persons of extreme intelligence and superb skills. Above all, he is humble and approachable. He can fit into a team. He is young. He is also rich, but I hear he does not like to spend money! He is a strong member of the Catholic Faith, and he bears the name Peter. From what we know about him, his Peter will not deny Atiku whenever the cock crows. He has recognition, respect and relevance.

So, there you have it: the Atiku-Obi Presidential team of the Peoples Democratic Party. Good to go. But how will Atiku handle the North, his own political zone? That is the other question for analysis to be addressed shortly.

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Opinion

Good Manners Opens More Doors Than Good Looks and Books – Reno Omokri

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It is good to read. It pays to dress to impress. But above all these things, the bottom line is that good manners will open more doors for you than good looks or good books.

Your intelligence is God’s gift to you. Your character is your gift to God. Develop it.

Never slam a door on any relationship, because you may need to reopen that door and a slammed door is the hardest door to reopen.

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