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The Unfinished Arab Spring

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In 2011 when the popular uprising began in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria known as the “Arab Spring, most analysts thought it would spread throughout the Arab World but surprisingly it did not.
While it brought about changes in Tunisia and Egypt, that of Syria later snowballed into a civil war which terrorists such as ISIS capitalised on to create mayhem and mass killings.
However, nine years after, other Arab sit-tight dictators in Algeria and Sudan have had a taste of what a popular uprising looks like. Both Presidents, Abdulaziz Bourtoflika and Omar Al-Bashir were removed from office following months of protests without gunshots. All what was required were chants, strike actions and street demonstrations against injustice, corruption and an end to dictatorship. In essence, what the people wanted were changes in their economic situation and the restoration of democracy.
In Algeria, Abdulaziz Bouteflika who had already had a stroke and is wheel-chair bound refused every entreaty to step down due to his ill-health and inability to tackle the high unemployment issue affecting the country. To make matters even worse, despite his health condition and at the age of 82, he still wanted to contest for a fifth term in office after ruling the country for 20 years.
Though he is out of office, the protesters are still unrelenting and are calling for the removal from office, the old guard that has been ruling the country since its independence in 1962.
Likewise in Sudan, the protesters are also calling for the removal of all military presence in the proposed transition process. These calls are not without some merit as the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution has shown them that if proper safeguards are not put in place, Sudan or Algeria will end up in the hands of another military dictator who will hijack the revolution to perpetuate himself in power.
In most revolutions, those who topple and kill their opponents are likely to turn against their allies and people with equal vengeance. That’s why the protesters are saying that though some elements in the military were motivated by them to remove the former presidents from office they should handover the transition process to civilians to manage. Despite pleas so far, the protests are still ongoing.
Although the new political change is exciting, but its long term success depends on consistency and perseverance. This is because once there is any lapse in the coordination of the change made so far, the surviving elements in the status quo will re-strategise not only to survive but think of ways to use the system to either infiltrate the opposition movement and utilize the opportunities thus created to perpetuate themselves in power by removing their military toga and don civilian clothes to contest for the presidency as was done in Egypt.
One unique feature in the Sudanses uprising was that for the first time in the country’s history, Muslims had to invite the Christian minority population to join them and work as a team to fight for the restoration of freedom and true democracy.
Already because of the mounting pressure the military in both countries are in a dilemma. While in Algeria the head of the military Gaed Sala said they are looking for options to end the imbroglio as soon as possible, in Sudan all entreaties by the ruling military council to placate the opposition have been rebuffed.
In essence what this means is that there is high level of suspicion by leaders of the uprising that if they relent in their demands they might end up being fed the Egyptian menu… where those who led the uprising ended up behind bars.
What are the lessons that can be learnt from this second phase of the Arab awakening, especially in Africa as Sit-tight dictatorship seems to be on the wane?
Gadaffi is gone, likewise Robert Mugabe, Yahaya Jammeh is no more in office, the remaining presidents who for the last 20 to 30 years have been in power should start thinking of an exist route as to receive a soft landing. Meanwhile, Omar Albashir is now in a maximum prison in Sudan never to enjoy the trappings of power again. Maybe if he reflects over his mistakes, he will realize that his actions to cling on to power would eventually be fruitless as the momentum of the protest which started in December 2018 had no alternative than for him to relinquish power when the situation would have given him the opportunity to negotiate his exit with honour.
Maybe he thought he was a better politician than Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
One thing every African leader should begin to understand is that they should never take the people they rule for granted and overstay their terms in office. African leaders must as a matter of fact; especially for their own sake avoid being that to be disgraced at their old age, showed respect the constitution of their countries; respect the rule of law and learn to know when to quit office when the ovation is at a high crescendo.
A look at years past saw how presidents who were held in high esteem ended.
Laurent Gbagbo, Blaise compoare, Samuel Doe, Yahaya Jammeh, Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bakassa, Kwarue Nkrumah, said Barre and Hastings kamuzu Banda. They all ended in disgrace or exile.
Hopeful the level of maturity shown by the protesters in Algeria and Sudan is an indication that popular protests don’t have to be bloody for a change of government as lot does not really, need gunships, civil war or killings. Once a people expresses their feelings as to have a change of government let both the government and the opposition sit down and negotiate on how to move the nation forward. No one individual has the monopoly of wisdom in ruling a country. This is because after being in power for over 20 or 30 years with no tangible development what than can a man in his 80’s offer in a modern society where youth now form the majority of the population.
Though every society has its own unique feature, one common denominator is that people need an infuse of new thoughts, technology and ways of doing things that are in tandem with modern realities. So the days of jackboot democracy are over. The people now have the destiny in their own hands and should not relent in their demand for a true democracy where the freedom to choose who rules is determined by the voters card and not the wishes of a cabal or one man sitting on a throne.

 

Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye

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Still On Security Votes

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When Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), spoke at the induction programme for returning and newly-elected governors, he did not mince words in accusing governors of misusing security votes.
He alleged that some governors deliberately fuelled insecurity in their states just to collect more money as security votes.
He noted that some of the governors “now covertly promote insecurity as justification to inflate their security votes.”
Magu also alleged that there was a link between corruption, banditry and terrorism.
His allegations were contained in a paper, titled,  “Imperative of Fighting Corruption/Terrorism Financing in Nigeria.’’
Magu told the session that a debate on the legality of security votes enjoyed by the governors was ongoing.
“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors,  cashing in on the insecurity in their states.
“Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired.”
A study carried out by the University of Nigeria, agreed with Magu on the abuse of security votes.
The study is titled “Legitimising Corruption in Government: Security Votes in Nigeria.’’
It was authored by  Obiamaka Egbo, Ifeoma Nwakoby, Josaphat Onwumere  and  Chibuike Uche, of the  Department of Banking and Finance, University of Nigeria.
“The tendency among Nigerian politicians, particularly the executive arm at the various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains is widespread.
“This has been fuelled by the abuse of security votes, an ‘opaque fund’ reserved for the executive which is not appropriated, accounted for or audited through the legislature.
“ Sometimes, a state governor could (mis)appropriate as much as N100 million monthly as security vote.
“Such slush funds are channelled into the secret funding of militias and gangs of government enforcers.’’
The appropriateness or otherwise of security votes was at the centre of discourse at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)  second Quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue Series.
The dialogue focused on Accountability for Security Votes.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who spoke, agreed with Magu that security vote is an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds.
According to him, it is also a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment and ironically the escalation of insecurity.
“It has pushed up insecurity somehow, that is not to say we do not need security vote.
“In the 2019 budget as appropriated, for example, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had money appropriated for them as security votes.
“These MDAs span boards, centres, committees, ministries, commissions, councils, hospitals, schools, law enforcement agencies, obviously the armed forces and intelligence offices.”
Owasanoye said that the number and categories of MDAs given security votes, suggest that something was wrong with the parameters for determining those who are entitled to security votes.
“This then provokes some question as which MDAs are entitled to security votes and how should security votes be accounted for?
“It is clear from our present approach, that we do not have any rational principle being followed at the moment.
“If there is one, I will be happy that my ignorance will be diminished and removed,” he said.
The chairman explained that it was clear from the current approach to budgeting for security votes, that no principle was being followed.
He said that this is clear from the quantum and range of sums appropriated in the 2019 budget for MDAs, where the lowest amount for security vote was N3,600, while the highest amount was N4.20 billion.
“What on earth can anyone do with N3, 600, and I am not talking of an individual.
“If the N3, 600 is the security vote of an individual, most likely it will take him from somewhere to his house. That is the safest place to be.
“But what on earth can an agency do with N3, 600 as security vote, as appropriated?”
With this disparity, what then should security votes be used for?
Owasanoye opined that it was pertinent because MDAs with budgets for security votes also have separate budgets for other security related matters, such as the production or procurement for security or defence equipment.
“In the case of defence and core security and law enforcement agencies, some of these items and the votes are undoubtedly justified. But the quantum and use is open to scrutiny,” he said.
He, however, explained that it was apparent that security vote was not for any of those other security items mentioned, because they were often separately covered in the budget.
“There is the erroneous impression that security votes are not being accounted for with our recent experience as a country, that almost lost a geo-political zone to insurgency.
“Whereas billions of dollars were appropriated for security, but diverted by corruption to matters like engaging prayer warriors demands that we reflect very closely and ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue on the same trajectory of lack of accountability for security votes.
“We need security votes; we should give the votes to those who deserve to have security votes and we should demand some framework for accountability,” he said.
On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”.
He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces.
“Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity.
“We have funding for Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes?
“However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity,
“There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said.
Buratai explained that even though there was security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines set out on utilisation, the issue will be laid to rest
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, described  security vote as the budgetary or extra budgetary allocation ostensibly for security, received by the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen.
This allocation he said, is spent without legal obligation to account for how it is spent.
Fayemi said that security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because of the assumption that such funds are being abused by state governments.
He said that the problem really is not about the security vote but about its usages and the character of the people administering it.
“Security votes attract more attention because of the seemingly non accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision.
“There is widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal.
“This is not correct because in the Nigerian constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification.
“The fact that huge amount of monies are routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice
“The act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading, covert or overt, legalises the concept. The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for is not true,” Fayemi said.
Like Magu said, the legality or otherwise of security vote is ongoing, and must continue until it properly defined. The earlier the better to avoid misuse and diversion of public funds in the guise of security vote.
Sharang writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

 

Naomi Sharang

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Politics

Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President

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Voombalistic Uncle P, National President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), says grudges among Nigerian musicians is not healthy for the music industry.
Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) is an umbrella organisation that guides, protect and promotes the interests of musicians in Nigeria.
Dr Obi Okwudili Casmir, popularly known as Voombalistic Uncle P, who spoke with our source in Lagos, advised musicians to shun grudges to avoid resentment in their relationships.
“Grudges amongst musicians is not healthy for our industry and will only create further resentment in their relationships as musicians and may affect what we represent or present to the public.
“Being emotionally immature when composing or writing your songs means you can not control your emotions or reactions towards your colleagues.
“Having quarrel is a fact of life amongst best of friends but you don’t take it too hard on yourselves because it might graduate to what happened in the case of 2pac and Biggie.
“I advise we settle our differences internally if we have any, rather than taking them to the studio and then streets/homes. That doesn’t project us in good light,” he said.
It was gathered that Nigerian rappers Jude Abaga popularly known as M.I and Olanrewaju Ogunmefun (Vector) are currently expressing grudges against each other in songs which had been trending on social media platforms.
The grudge, which reportedly began over supremacy in the rap category of the music industry, has being described as publicity stunts, while some saw it as real disagreement between the two rappers which had been brewing over the years.

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Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),  yesterday,  charged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)  to recind the N5,000 fee for national identity cards immediately.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary,  Kola Ologbondiyan,  said the new fee is repressive and an attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to further impose hardship on the citizens.
The opposition party noted that the idea of an ID card fee is offensive to the sensibilities of Nigerians, as it amounts to stripping Nigerians of their constitutional rights in their own country..
“Our party holds that issuance of national identity card to citizens, as an obligation of the state to its citizenry, must remain free as established by the PDP. The N5000 levy must be immediately rescinded before it triggers restiveness in the nation.
“Already, the fee is generating tension in the country as Nigerians have continued to register their rejection in the public space.
“The PDP notes the increasing penchant of the APC administration to impose all sorts of taxes on suffering Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed five bills passed by the 8th National Assembly into law, Mr Umar Yakubu, his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) has said.
Yakubu who made the announcement at a news conference last Wednesday in Abuja, said that the Acts were to ensure good governance in the country.
The bills include the Obafemi Awolowo University Transitional Amendment Act, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi Amendment Act, the University of Maiduguri Amendment Act, the National Fertiliser Quality Control Act and the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Establishment Act.

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