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#EndSARS: Picking up the pieces

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 -By Simon Kolawole

How can a peaceful protest end up with killing and maiming, burning and looting in a matter of days? For those of us who have seen plenty “peaceful” protests in our lives, it is not too hard to explain. The moment you hit the streets and fail to read the road signs — so that you will know where and when to turn, reverse or park — you are at the risk of losing control of the steering wheel. You will end up carrying all kinds of passengers — thugs, hoodlums, gangsters, cultists, politicians and all manner of opportunists. In fact, you may unwittingly provide cover for state agents to target the assets and possibly the lives of perceived opponents and rivals. So it goes.

In the best of times, peaceful protests can go awry — much less in these hard times, with oil prices down, government revenue falling, the currency losing value, prices of goods and services rising, and, to add fuel to the fire, COVID-19 taking our breath away. A majority of the people are already bleeding and groaning with the removal of subsidies on petrol and electricity. And with the huge population of unemployed, underemployed and unemployable youth, we knew all along that an uprising was a strong possibility at some point. That a peaceful protest against police brutality, tagged #EndSARS, would spark off this massive carnage was what we probably did not budget for.

With the protests infiltrated by rogues, the anarchy was inevitable. My biggest fear was military involvement. Those who witnessed the massacres by soldiers during the pro-June 12 protests in 1993 and other riots under military regimes would agree with me that it was not a pretty sight. I was praying that troops would not be called in to quell the #EndSARS protests. But I was wrong. On Tuesday evening, soldiers invaded the Lekki ground and started shooting. Initial reports said there was a massacre, although there is yet no identified victim: no names, no addresses, no relatives; just grainy videos with tailored commentaries. Hopefully, we will have a much clearer picture soon.

This is my “executive summary” of the #EndSARS campaign. It started as a genuine protest on social media. It went to the streets. Government saw the danger and accepted the five demands of the protesters. Police disbanded SARS. States set up judicial panels to probe police brutality. Despite getting these concessions, protesters remained adamant. Then came the partisan and sectional dimensions — with #BuhariMustGo and #EndNigeria added to the hashtags. Mayhem started. Looting. Shooting. Lynching. Curfew. Then Lekki happened. And President Muhammadu Buhari, silent for so long, finally addressed the nation, basically declaring: “The fire next time!”

After Buhari’s broadcast, I could see defeat on the faces of the youth. Many started tweeting about relocating to Canada, declaring a total loss of faith in Nigeria. #ItIsFinished began trending. This is sad but I would like to appeal to the Nigerian youth not to give in or give up. The #EndSARS protest did not fail. For one, the protesters got the government to act on their demands — which is a major victory by any definition. SARS has been disbanded. I can bet that whatever police unit replaces SARS will come under stricter scrutiny. Judicial panels have been set up. We expect to see the murderous police officers face justice. Police reform is now an imperative. These are big wins.

Moreover, the youth have shown that they have the ability to organise. These are the same youth we condemn for voting more in Big Brother Naija than in general election. We have often described them as lazy, entitled and obsessed with Instagram, fast cars and bling. By starting a campaign against SARS and taking to the streets to protest police brutality, they brought the country to a halt and attracted international interest. Everybody started paying attention to them. We started celebrating the coming of age of our youth. Older people started scrambling to associate with the cause. Ladies and gentlemen, this is surely a positive development. Let’s not discard it.

What next? According to data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released before the 2019 general election, the youth — described as those between ages 18 and 35 — made up about 51 percent of the 84 million registered voters. If you expand the age bracket to 50 years (to accommodate other young Nigerians like me), the figure jumps up to 81 percent. That is mind-boggling. What the youth should be thinking now is how to use these humongous figures to bring about new things in Nigeria in 2023 — rather than flee to Canada. They should realise Canada was not built in a day. Its people fought hard to build the country with their sweat and blood.

Just a brief journey into Canada’s history: there were two rebellions against “bad governance” between 1837 and 1838. The rebels were arrested after the uprisings and put on trial. Samuel Lount, one of the organisers of the Upper Canada Rebellion, was publicly hanged. He is regarded as a martyr till today. Over 100 rebels were sentenced to life imprisonment. What the rebel leaders wanted was political reform. They had a common agenda for Canada. Even though they paid the ultimate price, Canada was never the same again. Reform came. Today, Canada is one of the most developed countries in the world. But Canada was not always like this. People paid the price.

What’s my point? The youth must begin to conceive a new political order and the role they can play in birthing it. The #OccupyOjota protests of 2012 helped in building the momentum that uprooted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power in 2015 and installed the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2023, the #EndSARS momentum can become a movement that will help uproot both APC and PDP from power and birth a new political culture where government officials will begin to pay less attention to the perks of office and more to their responsibilities to Nigerians. And I mean at all levels — local, state and federal. That would be the best legacy of #EndSARS.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it would be for Nigerian youth to unite in the quest for good governance!  They can be more politically active. They can be more involved in choosing councillors, council chairpersons, state lawmakers, governors, federal lawmakers and the president. It does not mean only the youth will occupy these positions. In addition to contesting, the youth can engage with the aspirants and candidates, scrutinise them, advance the agenda of good governance, monitor the performances of those elected or appointed, and mobilise for recall or removal if they fail to deliver. Canada was not built in a day. Nation-building is not a sprint. It is a marathon.

I hope the youth have also learnt their lessons from the #EndSARS fiasco. One, you don’t go to war without visible leadership. You will end up creating anarchy and mob action. We can now see the consequences. Things completely went out of control and there was nobody to call the mobsters to order. Leadership is key in every life endeavour. Two, you don’t go to war without a plan. There should be Plan A, Plan B and even Plan C. I did not see any plan apart from “we no go gree o”. Three, because of lack of leadership and strategy, the protests continued when they should have been called off. Now over 70 people are dead. This is extremely disturbing and disheartening.

Four, you must take your wins and know when to retreat without surrendering. When SARS was disbanded and judicial panels set up, that was the time to retreat. That was the time to say: “We are suspending the protests. If nothing changes, we will return to the streets.” Some people were even demanding that Buhari should sign an “executive order” to show that SARS had been disbanded. It got that ridiculous. Some rejected the panels because there was no “youth” and declared a boycott. I have come to learn that boycott is not an effective strategy. Campaign for youth inclusion in the panels but mobilise to engage with the process and follow through to get justice.

Five, you must stay the message. Nigerians were united in the call to stop police brutality. It was nationwide. Contrary to the propaganda, there were #EndSARS protests in Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Nasarawa, Adamawa and some other northern states. It was not a purely southern thing. Unfortunately, some people sneaked in their #BuhariMustGo and #EndNigeria agenda and things began to fall apart. More so, protesters started losing focus when they moved from the unifying agenda against police brutality and expanded it to an omnibus campaign for restructuring and ending corruption and bad governance. It is impossible to achieve everything at a go.

Finally, the youth must learn from their elders. As the Yoruba would say, no matter how many Gucci shirts a child has, he can never have as many rags as an elder. Some youth actually think the story of Nigeria started in 1999 or 2015. Actually, people have been fighting for a better Nigeria for 100 years. Our forefathers played their roles and left. We are still fighting for a better Nigeria. We cannot all adopt the same style and strategy. Ultimately, we need to engage constructively to change the rigged and warped system. From my little experience, starting a mass action without a strategy, without a fall-back plan, and without giving an inch can only lead to anarchy. Lessons learnt?

Simon Kolawole is chief executive officer of The Cable, an online news platform.

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Why Buhari can’t forgive Fani-Kayode, by Tunde Odesola

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The suya burnt his palms, but he was stoic, like a true Christian. Initially, he tossed the hot suya from palm to palm ping-pong, then flung open the Holy Bible with his left hand, and ripped off pages from the New Testament, placing the hot suya on the word of Christ. Calm embalms his palms.
A disciplined disciple, Mr Femi Adesina, Special Assistant on Media to Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), gently washed down his suya with a gourd of chilled farm-fresh cow milk. Belching is a sign of delicious satisfaction.
With chunks of oil-dripping suya and an unending availability of cow milk, the fatalities accompanying cow breeding in Nigeria, such as Fulani blood-feast on farmers and farmlands, and northernised grazing routes, can be left to roam freely for eight tenured years or forever.
For good or for bad, there’s a coin to every issue. To eat meat in our land, something must give; Nigerians must bow to cow or die by bullet. This is our new normal. You can’t have your cow and eat it too. Life is give-and-take: give meat, take life.
Though many Nigerians would call him a ChriSTAIN, rather than a Christian, I’ll never call Adesina a stain. But I won’t call him a saint, either, because the hyssop leaves Adesina is using to wash the Buhari regime has turned scarlet. Why? I do not know. But I know red is the sign of danger. It is also the colour of blood, fear and death.
Adesina is not in government to steal, to kill, and to plunder. As an ardent Bible reader, Adesina is in government to serve the authority in Aso Rock, Buhari, and to be a fisher of men for Buhari’s murder-condoning regime.
Black, reserved and handsome, Adesina, as a fisherman in the Aso Rock vineyard, is casting his net into the deep, like other sinless cabinet members and angelic political lions across the land, catching plenty of fishes. For, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone…”
Verily, verily I say unto ye Nigerians, the god of Aso Rock, Buhari, appears to have given an unquestionable order, Herod-like, to all cabinet members and disciples, to win the vilest of men into the kingdom.
According to a scroll he wrote a day before Sabbath, Adesina gave reasons why the Kingdom of Aso Rock was prepared to accept all manner of questionable characters, ranging from the corrupt, to the prostitute, and the vomit-eating dog.
The megaphone of the war general, Adesina, likened Slanderer-in-Chief and Party-Hopper, Femi Fani-Kayode, to a prodigal son, in the scroll he wrote to defend the presidential pardon given to the defecting Fani-Kayode, whom he described as eating his vomit.
Adesina recalled that Fani-Kayode had wished Yusuf, the son of the General of Aso Rock, dead, when he had a motorbike accident in December 2017, stressing that Fani-Kayode had opened his mouth to cast aspersions on Buhari and his entire family countless times.
If Adesina had stopped at listing the uncountable allegations Fani-Kayode’s mouth ran against Buhari and his regime, he probably would have been counted among the prophets.
But in the manner of fake prophets, Adesina likened Buhari to god, saying, “By agreeing to the readmission of FFK to APC as the leader of the party, and hosting him at the Villa, President Buhari displayed amazing capacity to forgive, to show mercy, and let bygones be bygones…”
Quoting William Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice, Adesina added:
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blessed him that gives and him that takes…
It is an attribute of God Himself.”
If led by the flesh, Adesina affirmed that Buhari ‘would have told FFK to go to hell, and stay there. But Buhari didn’t. He displayed an attribute of God: forgiveness’.
This is the very point, where Adesina ascended the Tower of Babel, and lost his tongue, unable to make decipherable meaning henceforth – like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist.
This is the very point when Adesina tore the pages of the New Testament, and twisted the parable of the Prodigal Son by Jesus Christ to suit the narrative of his paymaster, Buhari – to earn his daily bread.
In the words on the scroll issued by Adesina, the driving force behind the ‘forgiveness’ was a compelling desire to change Buhari’s long-held image as an unforgiving fascist to a benign overlord.
By the way, what does Buhari mean by saying he has forgiven the garrulous Fani-Kayode? Forgiveness for what? For alleged looting? Mark you, Fani-Kayode, on July 13, 2021, along with a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, still stood trial before Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, for allegedly receiving part of the N4.9bn security vote purportedly shared by a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
In another corruption case, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on February 23, 2021, dragged Fani-Kayode before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, alleging that he received money stuffed inside a Ghana-Must-Go bag from the account section of the Office of the National Security Adviser, Abuja.
Is it in the same spirit of Buhari’s forgiveness that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), withdrew the N25bn fraud case against a former Gombe governor and current Gombe-Central senator, Danjuma Goje – after the case had gulped N150m of taxpayers’ money?
Sadly, all the indicted heavyweight politicians, who called the shots during the Goodluck Jonathan ruinous years, and have defected to the All Progressives Congress, have had their passports and seized properties returned to them, making Buhari’s anti-corruption fight an Aki and Pawpaw comedy show.
If Buhari’s forgiveness of Fani-Kayode was on a personal note, taxpayers’ resources shouldn’t have been utilised to publicise the irritating event on national TV, radio and in newspapers.
By making a show of his act of ‘forgiveness’, Buhari has acted like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. For broadcasting and justifying the ‘forgiveness’, Adesina, like Buhari, is guilty of hypocritical holiness. And Jesus Christ says Pharisees and Sadducees, who do not desist from religious eye-service, will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
The sycophants singing into Buhari’s ears should be told in plain language that the N4.9bn financial corruption sin Fani-Kayode allegedly committed was against the Nigerian state, and not against the President.
Thankfully, Buhari has a pastor as a deputy. Pastor-Professor Yemi Osinbajo should teach Buhari the lessons inherent in the forgiveness Jesus Christ granted the robber on his right hand during the Crucifixion.
During his crucifixion, two robbers tied to crosses, flanked Jesus Christ. The one on the left taunted Jesus, telling him that if he was the Son of God, he should save Himself and them. But the one on the right acknowledged Christ as the Lord, and begged Him to remember him when he got to His Kingdom.
Because the robber on the right acknowledged his wrongdoing and confessed Jesus as Lord, he was saved, but the robber on the left wasn’t saved because he failed to repent and accept Jesus as Lord.
The lesson herein is that Fani-Kayode hasn’t confessed his guilt or proved his innocence before a court, so, he cannot be forgiven. President Buhari should know that Nigeria is not his herds of cattle that he can lead by the jerks of his ego. Nigeria must be led by the rule of law.
In a telephone chat, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, said Fani-Kayode wasn’t worth the dust raised over his defection, warning that bad advertisement could sway undiscerning members of the public.
I agree with the revered teacher, broadcaster, TV producer and author.
I’ll never waste my time recalling the innumerable curses, abuses and evocations Fani-Kayode has poured on Buhari, birds of a feather, they say, flock together.
But I’ll take exception to a 78-year-old mortal playing god, and his media acolyte, polluting the air with rancid tartuffery.
I hate nonsense!
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola
TundeOdesola.com
Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 27, 2021

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Opinion: Nigerian embassies of shame by Tunde Odesola (2)

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(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 20, 2021)

With a tongue roughly twice the length of its body, and a brocade of dubious colours for skin, the chameleon is the ultimate invisible animal predator.

Without premonition, small creatures like worms and insects searching for daily bread disappear suddenly into the Bermuda Triangle in the belly of the dodgy chameleon via a sticky, snappy tongue.

Like worms and insects, in June 2021 alone, 1,032 Nigerians met sudden death in the hands of gunmen and kidnappers across the country, according to a fresh security report.

Approximately, the 1,032 casualty figure translates to 34.4 wasted lives per day, excluding deaths by sicknesses, auto accidents, extrajudicial killings, ritual killings, etc in a peaceful country in pieces.

Home or abroad, the fate of the average Nigerian is mournful.

Home-based Nigerians are plagued by physical and psychological deaths just like Nigerians abroad are not spared psychological torture and humiliation in Nigerian embassies.

The overwhelming corruption yet pervading most Nigerian embassies despite numberless media reports in the last six years attests to the failure of the retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari led-regime in curbing dishonest dealings that have cemented the green passport in the hall of infamy.

Lamenting the nasty treatment she went through in the hands of officials at the Nigeria High Commission in the UK, a registered nurse, Kemi Samuel, who has lived in England for over three decades, said she suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder whenever she visited the commission.

A registered nurse with more than 30 years under her belt, Samuel recalled that every Nigerian in England, notwithstanding their locations, was required to physically come to obtain visas, renew passports or get new ones.

Samuel explained that it was ridiculous that she renewed her 10-year British passport within two hours at Her Royal Majesty Passport Office, Globe House, London, while she laboured to renew her five-year Nigerian passport after visiting the high commission on seven different occasions.

She said, “If you want your British passport to be done as an emergency, you need to visit the passport office, but if you want to follow the normal process, it will arrive in your mail within four to five days.

“The reverse is the case in the Nigeria High Commission, where officials allow applicants to shunt the queue after bribing them. The officials were nasty to young and old, and they’ve no regard for children, women and the physically challenged. I was breastfeeding my baby and I had to leave my work each time I visited, meaning that I was losing money.

“In 1997, an immigration officer wanted to steal my passport at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. He hid my passport among the documents he was clutching and he said I didn’t give him my passport, and he was trying to walk away. I raised my voice and told him to bring out my passport from among the papers in his hands.

 

“In 2010 when I wanted to renew my passport, they said there were no booklets from Abuja, so I had to use my British passport.

 

“Between February and August of 2016, my daughter and I visited the high commission over 20 times to renew our passports! Nigerians came from other European countries to renew their passports, too.

 

“There was the pitiable case of a female Nigerian student who needed her passport to renew her studentship. She said that was the 11th time she had come to the commission.

 

“When we got to Nigeria, the carousel didn’t work as there was no light at the airport, prompting passengers to use the light of the phones. All that was strange to my daughter who suddenly felt pressed to use the toilet. She ran out of the toilet when she saw heaps of maggots.”

 

A Nigerian resident in Houston, Texas, who doesn’t want his name in print, lamented that he was asked to pay an unreceipted $20 as car park fee at the Nigerian embassy in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

The 50-year-old applicant, who is from southern Nigeria, said, “The embassy won’t process applications for more than one year, and after the expiration of one year, the applicant will be required to pay a fresh $195 as passport fee. Since it was the embassy that failed to produce passports as and when due, applicants should not be made to pay twice for passports.”

 

Nicknamed BB, the sad Nigerian also alleged that his online application was changed and ‘sold’ by embassy officials to another applicant who had bribed them.

 

“I picked up my American passport that can enable me to enter about 200 countries visa-free in my mailbox. I don’t know why my Nigerian passport, which nobody wants to see, is so problematic,” he  said.

 

Complaining about the terrible treatment meted out to visa and passport applicants at the Nigeria High Commission in London, a Nigerian, Sunday John, said applicants were never given appointment when they apply online.

 

He said, “They won’t give you an appointment when you apply online because they make money by giving appointments to those who have bribed them.

 

“Passport fee is 75 pounds but they will charge you between 300 and 700 pounds through the backdoor. I refused to pay, and I’ve since not been able to take my wife and three children to see my mum in Nigeria.

 

“I wanted to open a business account but because I’m not British yet, my nationality was required. The non-issuance of a passport to me has put the business I’m planning to do on hold. I’ve vowed not to bribe them because if I do so, I’ll be encouraging corruption. Sadly, other African nationals in England get their passports in a matter of days.”

 

Sharing his ordeal, another Nigerian, Mr Frederick Oluwole, who has lived in New York for over 30 years, said passport production at the Nigerian embassy in Manhattan was delayed because of lack of ‘nylon’ covering for passport pages.

 

Oluwole said, “They took my unsigned money order from me. They didn’t allow me to write my name on it. What they would later do is to write their own name on it and collect the money on the order, and pocket it.

 

“They talk down on you as if they’re doing you a favour. An official had to fly to Nigeria to bring common ‘nylon’ which could have been sent through courier.”

 

It’s the same hopeless song in Ottawa where the Nigerian embassy in Canada is located.

Narrating his nightmare, a Nigerian, Valentine Abiodun, disclosed that calls to the embassy were never picked.

“When someone eventually picked my call after weeks of calling, I told him I had been calling the embassy repeatedly, the officer said he travelled. I was shocked, and I told him the embassy wasn’t a private business that should be held up by an official.

“I told him I had sent in my passport for renewal. He told me they’ve not received it. Because I was tracking the passport, I told him who received it at the embassy.

“Then, he said I should call back. When I called back, he said he had seen it, adding that he would stamp and send it to me through mail. I said he shouldn’t. By 2am that night, I got a car and travelled down to Ottawa, getting to the embassy in the morning to pick my passport.”

A young Nigerian living in Mississauga, Ontario, Emmanuel Ogunlade, said he just received his renewed passport, which he had been processing since January 2020, two weeks ago.

Ogunlade said, “It was a terrible experience. I travelled to the Nigerian embassy, Ottawa, a journey of 427km, thrice after uncountable calls that were not answered before my passport was renewed even as I paid $23 twice for prepaid envelopes. They sent an email saying that they’ve sent my passport to me, but it was false. They later admitted they’ve not sent it.”

An anonymous female resident of Dubai said Nigerians now go to Abu Dhabi from Dubai to obtain their passports because of the hardship encountered at the Nigerian embassy in Dubai.

Uhhmm, Nigeria, under Buhari, is rich in corruption, home and abroad.

Sai chameleon!

(Concluded)

 

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @tunde odesola

Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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Opinion: Nigerian embassies of shame (1) by Tunde Odesola

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(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 13, 2021)
Lacking the speed of the cheetah, the strength of the bull and the ferocity of the tiger, the chameleon, with its camouflage of many colours, tip-toes daily in cautious slow-motion, living on the wisdom of adaptive wits.
Appearing unconcerned, unpurposed and uninterested, the chief of stealth and the lord of disguise, the chameleon, is the cunning thief embroidering the environment in stolen identity. The chameleon is the motion without movement, the heat without temperature, the echo without sound.
For some, the chameleon is unbeautiful. Big bulging eyes above an endless mouth on an oblong head attached to a sickle body upon four wobbly legs define the chameleon and its clumsy tail.
The chameleon is seen in its slow and deceptive colours by the members of the Nigerian public, who daily come under the crunch of government insensitivity and ineptitude.
To this long-suffering group, the chameleon connotes arrested development, reward for corruption and a sense of entitlement by people in opportunistic leadership.
For some other group, however, the chameleon is swift, breathtaking and ubiquitous. This chameleon-is-fast group comprises political profiteers who sit magisterially by the public cauldron, dishing out the broth to relatives, friends and flunkeys, and smashing the plates of opposition with the ladle of vendetta.
In today’s narrative, I wish to be an unbiased mouthpiece for the group that sees the chameleon as faster-than-the-cheetah and the group that sees the chameleon as a moving statue. I’ll place side-by-side narratives from the members of the two groups, and leave the reader to judge.
Again, I promise not to be meddlesome. I won’t condemn, I won’t judge for I don’t want to be judged. I’ll simply state the narratives by the two groups, and leave the reader to fix the narratives in the proper boxes they belong. The boxes are two: chameleon-is-slow box and chameleon-is-fast box – truth versus lie.
After a 2-1 away victory over Cape Verde last week, the Nigeria Football Federation announced that Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, has hit a centenary in national colours, contrary to a report by The PUNCH, saying Musa had only played 98 times for the Eagles.
Characteristic of its past embarrassment of the nation, which saw the country fielding overage players in FIFA competitions and filing out for a match in makeshift jerseys, the NFF had counted for Musa a 3-0 friendly win against Togo in Paris, wherein both Nigeria and Togo made more than the regular number of changes, thereby making the match uncountable.
Also, the NFF recorded for Musa the 1-1 draw match against Algeria, in which Nigeria fielded an ineligible player, prompting FIFA to award the 2018 World Cup qualifying match to Algeria even as Nigeria had qualified for the World Cup before the tie.
Instead of the NFF to apologise to Nigerians for the national embarrassment, its chairman, Amaju Pinnick, said: “We have our own data and that is what we are using, even if it is 50 caps for the national team in a country where you have an abundance of talents.”
It took a statement from FIFA confirming that Musa had only played 98 times for the Eagles, and not 100, for Pinnick to eat the humble pie. In which box would you put Pinnick? Chameleon-is-slow box or chameleon-is-fast box?
A few days ago, a former Governor of Benue, George Akume, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to thoroughly investigate the incumbent Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, after Ortom berated President Muhammadu Buhari for keeping silent while Fulani herdsmen turned Benue into a killing field.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, a few days ago, Akume said, “We call on Governor Samuel Ortom to tender an unreserved apology to President Muhammadu Buhari for using foul language and for operating outside the set rules of engagement between the state and the federal governments.
“We call on the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE the application of the total federal allocations to Benue State from May 29, 2015 to date.”
In which box does Akume belong? In which box does Ortom belong? The chameleon-is-slow group or the chameleon-is-fast group? Remember, one group is telling the truth, the other isn’t.
Let’s step outside the shores of the country and head to the US, touching down at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, where a Nigerian-American, Azuka Aghenu, narrated his ordeal in the hands of embassy staff.
“Another name for the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC is hell. They operate the embassy as if they’re in a secret cult or a black market,” Aghenu, who is a senior bank executive, said.
“The officials operate a coordinated syndicate that extorts Nigerians who come to renew or get fresh passports. They charge you $30 for a United States Priority Mail envelope that costs about $13 – depending on the state. They go to the post office and pack the envelopes free of charge, and take them to the embassy to sell to members of the public.
“They collect cash for the free envelopes but for the visa fees, you pay with your debit or credit card, which suggests that the fees you pay with your cards go into the government coffers while the fees paid for in cash are open to manipulation,” Aghenu said.
Alleging that the embassy was hot, unlit, shabby and not child-friendly, Aghenu said officials attended to applicants on a man-know-man basis, leaving applicants who had ‘no connection’ unattended to and frustrated.
Aghenu also alleged that applicants’ data were pulled up from a large hand-written register instead of a computer, stressing that applicants needed to grease the palms of officials for them to be attended to.
“If you don’t bribe or get a referral from a big man known to them, you won’t be allowed inside the embassy. When you’re inside, they will take you into an oven – a big room, no air conditioner, no light, it was dark, we saw by natural light, two standing fans were misting out water.
“They told us to come along with the photocopies of our documents. The question is, why can’t they pull up on a computer the info applicants filled online when applying for passports? Why do they have to rely on the applicants’ photocopies when they already have the information in their database? It means someone can show up and collect someone else’s passport,” Aghenu said, adding that the embassy operations were intermittently disrupted whenever the server feeding the embassy portal from Abuja was down.
Aghenu, who has been living in the US for over 30 years, revealed that more than 10 officials of the embassy went to the mosque for Jumat prayer during official hours.
In which box would you put Aghenu? Chameleon-is-slow box or chameleon-is-fast box? Do you think he’s telling the truth or is he lying?
Narrating her ordeal at the Nigerian Embassy in Atlanta, Georgia, another Nigerian-American, who lives in Illinois, Maria Reyes, (not real name), said months after filling her application online and getting an acknowledgement, all the calls she made to the embassy to book a date to come to the embassy were not picked.
Reyes said, “People came from various states, leaving their jobs, families, and risking their lives. I travelled down from Illinois. The place was like a hajj camp. The officials talked down on you; the whole place was hot.
“Eventually, I had to use the connection of a big man in Nigeria for them to attend to me. When I mentioned the big man’s name, I was allowed to go in. I went in and I was told to pay $133 apart from the $195 passport renewal fee. They said the $133 was the fee for appearing without an appointment. I paid because I came from outside Georgia and I had no place to sleep. The $195 charge was payable only through debit or credit card, but I was told I could pay the $133 charge in cash. I smelled a rat, so I opted to pay with my card. I think the $195 fee goes to the Nigerian government, I don’t know where the $133 fee goes,” Reyes said.
Explaining that an official of the embassy sells bank drafts and money orders to applicants right inside the embassy collecting cash, Reyes said the bank drafts and money orders should have been paid for with debit or credit cards in order to generate receipts and ensure proper accountability to the Federal Government.
(To be continued)
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