In this column last week, I applauded and defended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari  (PMB) to honour late MKO Abiola and his vice-presidential candidate, Babagana Kingibe for their victory in the June 12, 1993 elections, a victory which had been denied in the last 25 years. All fair minded people accepted that it was a good thing to happen, though many said PMB was scoring a  'cheap political point' questioning his democratic credentials including being on the side of Abacha, and some others said Babagana Kingibe did not deserve the honour as he was said to have abandoned the struggle or even sabotaged Abiola by accepting to serve in Abacha's cabinet. Every body is entitled to his opinion but I remain convinced that PMB, irrespective of his motives scored a bull's eye with this June 12 recognition and re-validation.

Indeed, PMB in my view scored more points by what he did and said at the award ceremony on June 12, 2018. Hear him "The recognition is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put RIGHT a national WRONG". He further said "We can not rewind the past but we can at least ASSUAGE our feelings; recognize that a WRONG has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections. Nigerians would no longer tolerate such PERVERSION OF JUSTICE". After taking the unusual humane step to openly apologise to the Abiola family and the entire nation for the injury done by the annulment he concluded thus "Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the NATIONAL INTEREST.It is aimed at setting NATIONAL HEALING Process and RECONCILIATION of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of June 12 elections." (All capitals mine). Very strong and unusual words and sentiments from PMB! These are the kind of actions and kind of speeches we have long wished and prayed that PMB would take and make since he came to power in 2015 and I have written many articles urging him to take actions along this path to unite the Nation which has further fractured under his watch.Therefore how would I not be impressed when it seemed that my prayers were being answered.

When IBB annulled the election and saw the anger of Nigerians especially the Yoruba of the South-West Nigeria, he tried to appease the Yoruba by appointing Chief Ernest Shonekan, a fellow Egba man as MKO to be the head of State and to lead the Interim National Government (ING). When that did not work, Olusegun Obasanjo was recruited to become President in 1999. When that seemed not to have fully assuaged the Yoruba Nation, PMB finally accepted the demand to honour Abiola and to officially declare June 12 as Nigeria's official Democracy Day, some how trying to bring this national debacle to a closure. Abiola's family, the entire Yoruba Nation and the democracy activists seem to have a sense of relief and a feeling that some Justice has been done by this largely unexpected gesture by PMB. Other Nigerian Nationalities that love Justice, Equity and Fair Play generally feel the same way. Indeed, this is not the first Nigeria's effort to right wrongs and assuage feelings of different nationalities in the Nigerian Federation.

We recall the efforts made by Nigeria to assuage and correct some of the wrongs done to the the People of Niger Delta. Though all the wrongs have not been fully righted but the efforts to increase derivation to 13%, create the NDDC, create the Ministry of the Niger Delta, offer the Niger delta Militants amnesty and rehabilitation and the current cleaning of the Ogoni land are all in the right direction and indicate a desire to right wrongs and heal wounds. More recently, the Federal Government has been investing hugely to right the wrongs done by Boko Haram against the people of the North East. The North East Development Commission (NEDC) is receiving budgetary allocations from the Federal Government and financial support from local and international organizations. The Federal Government is paying huge sums of money to assuage the Boko Haram insurgents to have them release some of their hostages and some others are being de-radicalized and reintegrated into the normal civil system at the expense of the government. Huge rehabilitation of displaced persons and rebuilding of infrastructure are ongoing in the North East. Many other examples abound. Jonathan's rise to the Presidency was helped by a desire to heal the hurt of the Niger Delta People following Odi; Umaru Yardua's choice as President was helped by a desire to right the wrongs done to the North West by the unnatural death of Shehu Yardua in prison etc. All these are well and nice and fit into the move to right wrongs, cause healing and national reconciliation.

I believe it is fair to now ask when it will be the turn of the Igbo nation? When shall we begin to right the legion of wrongs done to them? When shall we begin to assuage their feelings? When we talk about national healing, is the Igbo nation not currently part of Nigeria? In line with the statement of PMB last week, I do not want to open old wounds, but every fair minded Nigerian must agree that so much wrong has been done against Ndigbo in Nigeria and it looks like no one really cares to right any of the wrongs or to assuage their feelings of hurt and alienation. After the supposedly retaliatory counter coup in July 29,1966 when General Aguiyi-Ironsi and over 300 military officers of Igbo extraction were killed, millions of Igbo civilians-men, women (including pregnant women),and Children were murdered in cold blood in a well orchestrated progrom across most of Northern Nigeria. No body apologized. When the remnant Igbo ran home for safety, Nigeria's Government unleashed a 30-month gruesome military hostility to force them back to Nigeria. This onslaught took the lives of nearly 3 million Igbo both in military combat and civilian casualty, including the well known and completely unprovoked Asaba massacre that involved men & women who came to welcome the Federal troops. No one has admitted guilt and no one has issued open apology as PMB courageously did last week. I was a young combatant in the war and have first hand evidence that Nigeria fought the war without any restraint or mercy. If as PMB announced recently that General Gowon asked them to fight the war as one between brothers, I need to inform him that the order was not obeyed at al. Nigerian armed forces fought as if they were fighting their fiercest enemy, strafing civilians with Airforce jets in market places and using hunger as instrument of warfare. Even after Biafra was forced to surrender and Gowon had declared  no Victor, no vanquished" Nigerian Soldiers shot and killed in my presence Biafran ex-soldiers, returning home in whose bags were found any item that showed they were soldiers( eg caps, T-Shirts or emblems). This narration is contained in my book - THE PORTHARCOURT VOLUNTEER - Experiences of a young combatant in theNigeria-Biafra  War, published by Kraft books in 2015 (chapter 11, page 106), now available on Amazon. The scene was similar to what happened to the unarmed IPOB boys last year. And since the Igbo returned,after 'abandoning' their property in parts of Nigeria and receiving only 20 pounds for whatever amount of money they had in the banks, they have suffered uncountable wrongs and injustice.

The South East for example has the least no of States, least no of LGAs, least number of representatives in the National Assembly, least number of ministers in the Executive cabinet,has never been allowed to produce a Nigerian President since we retuned to democratic rule and since 2015 has suffered the highest level of marginilzation ever, with no Igbo holding leadership in the Security agencies and the police and many young Igbo are unable to get places in the Federal MDAs. When the Igbo youth protest, they are mowed down in cold blood, and many incarcerated despite the fact that unlike the militants and herdsmen, they are never armed. Ndigbo have been threatened with drowning in lagoons and their businesses and property easy targets for destruction. It is bad enough to beat a child and worse when you force the child not to cry. Let it be known that Nigeria may never know true peace and wholesome healing if nobody makes a decided effort to right the series of wrongs and acts of manifest injustice against Ndigbo. General Gowon needs to reflect on why his 'Nigeria Prays ' seems to produce no result. The more we prayed, the more Nigeria became more  violent and more disunited. Nigeria needs to borrow from the spirit of June 12 and if the statements made by PMB, which I quoted earlier on are genuine,and not just made to score cheap political points in pursuit of a second term, then this is the opportune moment to begin to right the wrongs against the Igbo and indeed other Nationalities like our Neighbours in the middle belt. One lowest hanging fruit will be to set free all those IPOB & MASSOB youth languishing in detentions and prisons and de-proscribe IPOB. What is good for the goose is also good for the gizzard- according to Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 4.30. Ultimately a determined effort to radically restructure Nigeria using Geopolitical zones or what the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) calls Autonomous Ethnic nationalities as Federating units will help to prevent continuing wronging of any nationality,reduce frictions,reduce dependance on Abuja and set Nigeria free to achieve global competitiveness in peace and greater harmony. Let's not miss this moment!

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR


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THE GROWING MISERY INDEX OF NIGERIANS AND THE SEARCH FOR GOVERNMENT Nigerians readily point out what Governments ought to do which they are not doing. Indeed, virtually every problem in Nigeria is blamed on the government. And for many Nigerians, the government to be blamed often is the Federal government. Many are oblivious of the other tiers of government, especially the local governments. It is as if the local governments have no responsibilities or may be the people have come to expect little from them. The many years of over centralization fostered on the Nation by the military now makes most Nigerians think and act as if the Federal government is the only government in Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution sustains this misnomer by granting the Federal government a long exclusive list and the freedom to dabble into every other matter, some of which should better be left with the traditional councils in the states. This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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