Wherever and whenever they spoke, it was at three different venues and three separate occasions. They all made remarkable impact and were duly reported on the same day among various media. Tony Momoh, Tanko Yakasai and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi were highlighted both for their personalities and controversial views.
The three are being re-reported here not necessarily along their status or importance. First was Tony Momoh, my boss at Daily Times, later Minister of Information and one of the very few (especially from the South) who stood firmly by Muhammadu Buhari in those years of dim prospects in contesting for the Nigerian presidency. Tony Momoh has a reputation for measured utterances and, therefore, is taken seriously.
Obviously, Momoh could no longer disregard increasing public criticisms of the APC federal government, from various sources. There are those who are still reeling in the shock and frustration of change of government in 2015. For that group, whatever government performance can never be appreciated. The second group who might have attracted Tony Momoh’s concern are the genuine critics, who dissect government performance and are well-meaning even if unintentionally or unconsciously impatient.
The third and most important group and to whom Tony Momoh directed his assurance and challenge comprises those Nigerians, who made history and effected a peaceful change of government in the country. These latter two categories must have been Tony Momoh’s intended audience. But the language was risky. A weekly national newspaper reported the ex-Information Minister to be so sure of improvement in government performance failing, which he asked disappointed supporters to “stone us if within two years, current government fails to reverse the situation.” Seeming very brief assurances. But so toxic.
First, it is unclear when the deadline of two years would end. In two years’ time (2018) only a year before the next elections? Or two years since 2015, which means only a year from now? Neither should be dared. The fact is that, all over the world, governance is plagued with imponderables. Inscriptions on public transport vehicles on Nigerian highways best captures the situation that “man proposes, God disposes.” When APC assumed power ten months ago at the federal level, who could have foreseen the present fuel supply standstill? The causes? Dwindled foreign exchange, fraud in the foreign exchange sector, blackmail and sabotage of oil importers, hoarding by oil marketers of even available fuel? Deterioration in power supply? Uncertainty in prospects of the national budget. A big task lies ahead. Whatever the reasons, God does not dispose maliciously. On the contrary, as in the hymnbook, God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. However humanity perceives it.
On the other hand, within the stipulated two years (even this time next year), miracle might have happened to make the APC Federal Government excel noticeably. But which government ever excelled in the past and was so acknowledged in Nigeria? When, therefore, potentially frustrated APC enthusiasts were offered to display their anger, that was risky. Any anarchist can exploit the two-year deadline for a better atmosphere. In the language of modern day social media, that freedom to stone classifies into “selfie” incitement to hatred.
Another angle of the possible impact is from the opposite source. Suppose a critic called on disappointed citizens to stone APC figures if in two years’ time, the current situation subsists? Hence, last time when former President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, incited party supporters to stone APC politicians, she was reported to International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. More than on that occasion, potential targets this time are more widespread – state governors, federal ministers, state commissioners, national and state house of assembly members, etc.
Tony Momoh might have been figurative but Nigerians would take literally. The only saving grace is that, with his assurance and deadline, Tony Momoh has set a standard for APC people in federal and state government. They will perform rather than risk being vulnerable to stone attacks.
While Tony Momoh was offering service to the people in assurance of improved performance, the same cannot be said of Tanko Yakasai, said to be chairman of a bogus Northern Elders Forum, which emerged in the early days of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration with the sole mission of collecting free money from Aso Rock under the fraud of bribing innocent prominent Northerners to support Jonathan. Yakasai laid the foundation for that task by initially publicly threatening that Northerners would make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan. Desperate and mischievous elements were later to falsely attribute that threat to Muhammadu Buhari during the election campaigns.
Yakasai and co-conspirators were later to visit Jonathan at Aso Rock. After the meeting, Yakasai came out a born again politician, as he told the press corp that Jonathan would win the 2011 elections but also in the first round. It was in that same capacity that the same Tanko Yakasai was listed among those who collected the millions of naira public funds freely shared in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Since he was exposed, Yakasai has been struggling to save his neck. While others were arrested and forced to refund their loot, Yakasai remains one of those who have been daring Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, the EFCC is too scared to invite Yakasai ordinarily for questioning or ordered to refund. And if Yakasai is a sacred cow, why must others like General Isa Jafaru and Olu Falae be scandalised?
Now, Tanko Yakasai, arrogantly, has turned the table against President Muhammadu Buhari. Indeed, Yakasai has put Buhari on the defensive. Not only is Yakasai claiming stolen public funds to be legitimate expenditure, expenditure not appropriated as required by law. Yakasai, in desperation to escape refunding unlawfully acquired public funds, is now claiming that Muhammadu Buhari (Federal Government) owes him outstanding sixteen million naira. The cheek of it.
For once, is that not a point for those claiming that the anti-corruption war is one-sided? Yakasai should stop being cowardly. He must go for the kill. Nigerian lawyers are available for him to institute an outstanding debt claim on his behalf against President Buhari’s Federal Government for the said sum of seventeen million naira. Part of the outstanding debt suit should be for the accumulative interests since Buhari assumed office and failed to pay the debt. With that, Buhari will wake up to the problem he has on his hands. He (Buhari) must pay Yakasai the debt he is owed.
For more than two decades, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has been prominent in the politics of Rivers State. From the state governor’s Chief of Staff, to Speaker, state House of Assembly, to state governor for the statutory two terms and now, Minister of Transportation in the slot for Rivers State. Still, Amaechi is too young to be old for continuous politics.
Yet, for all his contributions to the politics of Rivers State, the time has come for Amaechi to compel others to join him in further development of Rivers State. Let’s put it that way. Amaechi’s latest claim is Nyesom Wike is a threat to democracy in Nigeria. An understatement. Any such threat is against democracy in Nigeria. Whether true or not, Amaechi should allow time to vindicate or discredit him. (Amaechi)
Every Nigerian is aware of the situation in Rivers State. But are the people of Rivers State bothered? Where are the elders, politicians, retired military men, retired judges, retired state security and paramilitary personnel? All are keeping quiet either because they are satisfied or because they value their lives (which is sensible) or because they have fled from the state. Even the Federal Government in which Rotimi Amaechi is serving maintains total indifference.
What is the difference between the situations in Rivers State and Kaduna State? Nigeria Police preferred declaring emergency in Kaduna State.
Last line: A professional colleague, Rufai Ibrahim, has just died, while struggling to recover from what was described as a protracted illness. From the then Plateau (and now Nasarawa) State, Rufai Ibrahim was one of us in those exciting days at the Daily Times in the seventies, leading to the 1979 elections. A complete gentleman, very urbane in dressing and comportment, he mixed easily and was nationalistic in political views. As young boys, we regarded a 66-year-old man as old. We now know that Rufai Ibrahim died young. May he rest in peace.