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How to stop judicial coups against democracy in Nigeria – Farooq Kperogi

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How to stop judicial coups against democracy in Nigeria – Farooq Kperogi

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), one of Nigeria’s most prominent pro-democracy NGOs, invited me to make a virtual presentation from my base in Atlanta to a national seminar it organized last Thursday on “targeted judicial reforms and enhanced judicial integrity in post-election litigation.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it, but here are the thoughts I would have shared on the topic.

It’s oddly ironic that the judiciary, which should be the bulwark of democracy, has become such a dreadful terror to democracy that people are seeking to protect democracy from it. The courts have become the graveyards of electoral mandates. Judges have not only descended to being common purchasable judicial rogues, but they have also become juridical coup plotters.

The major preoccupation of pro-democracy activists is no longer how to keep the military from politics and governance but how to save democracy from the judiciary. In other words, in Nigeria, our problem is no longer fear of military coups but the cold reality of frighteningly escalating judicial coups.

A “judicial coup,” also called a juridical coup d’état, refers to a situation where judicial or legal processes are deployed to subvert the choice of the electorate or to unfairly change the power structure of an existing government.

In other words, a judicial coup occurs when the courts are used to achieve political ends that would not be possible through standard political processes. In a judicial coup, the courts make rulings or interpretations of the law that drastically alter the balance of power, often favoring a particular political group or leader.

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This can include invalidating election results, removing elected officials from office, altering the constitution through interpretive tyranny, or other significant legal actions that have profound political implications.

Before 2023, judicial coups happened in trickles and were barely perceptible. The big, bad bugaboo used to be INEC. When the Supreme Court made Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the governor of Rivers State on October 25, 2007, without winning a single vote, we thought it was merely a curious, one-off democratic anomaly that was nonetheless morally justified because Celestine Omehia—who won the actual votes cast on April 14, 2007, and sworn in as the governor on May 29—was illegally replaced as PDP’s candidate after Amaechi won the party’s primary election.

Our collective toleration of this strange supersession of normal democratic procedures to produce a governor conduced to more aberrations.

On January 14, 2020, the Supreme Court produced its first unofficial “Supreme Court governor” in Hope Uzodimma of Imo State when it used dazzlingly fraudulent judicial abracadabra to subvert the outcome of the governorship election in the state.

The Supreme Court’s judicial helicopter zoomed past PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha who won 273,404 votes to emerge as the winner of the election; flew past Action Alliance’s Uche Nwosu who came second with 190,364 votes; zipped past APGA’s Ifeanyi Ararume who came third with 114,676 votes; and glided gently into the yard of fourth-place finisher Uzodimma of APC with only 96,458 votes.

It then declared that the fourth shall be the first, enthroned Uzodimma as the governor, and dethroned Ihedioha whom Imo voters and INEC had chosen as the legitimate governor.

I recall being too numb by the scandal of the judgment to even experience any sensation of righteous indignation. Then came the Ahmed Lawan judgment, and I was jolted to my very bones. A man who didn’t run for an election, who admitted he didn’t run for an election, and who gave up trying to steal an election that he himself admitted he didn’t run for, much less win, was declared the “winner” of the election.

Because I closely followed the case and shaped public discourse on it, I was so incensed by the judgment that, in a viral February 6 social media post, I called Supreme Court justices “a rotten gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits,” which prompted an unexampled official response from the Supreme Court, which dripped wet with undiluted bile.

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However, many judges, including some conscientious Supreme Court judges, agreed with me. For example, in his farewell speech last month, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad re-echoed my sentiments about the Supreme Court and cited former Court of Appeal justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie who, in her own farewell speech, approvingly quoted my description of Supreme Court justices as “a rotten gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits.”

The judicial banditry I talked about has assumed a different, worrying dimension. It has now become full-on judicial sabotage against the soul of democracy itself. In unprecedented judicial roguery, the Appeal Court has invalidated the election of all 16 PDP lawmakers in the Plateau State House of Assembly and handed unearned victories to APC. It also nullified the victory of PDP’s Governor Caleb Mutfwang and asked that APC’s Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, who lost in the actual election, be declared the winner.

In all these cases, the judiciary invoked matters that were extraneous to the actual vote (called “technicalities”) to decide whom to crown as winners of the elections.

It’s now so bad that courting the votes of the electorates is no longer an important component of the democratic process since politicians can get from the courts what they lost at the ballot box. That’s a dangerous state for any democracy to be in.

The judiciary is becoming an unacceptably treacherous but overpampered monster that is exercising powers that are beyond the bounds of reason. It needs to be stopped through a holistic reworking of the electoral act.

The first thing that needs to be spelled out more clearly and more forcefully in a revised electoral act is that pre-election matters are not litigable after the winner of an election has been announced. All pre-election petitions should be litigated before the conduct of elections. Post-election litigations should be limited to the conduct of the elections. Since this happens once in four years, it should not be too much of a burden for the judiciary.

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The second change that needs to be enshrined in a revised electoral act is a provision that divests courts of the powers to declare winners and losers of electoral contests. I am the first to admit that this is problematic because it limits the mechanism for redress available to politicians in cases of INEC-engineered electoral robberies.

But in situations where courts can glibly overrule the will of the electorate by invoking procedural inanities that are extrinsic to elections to declare winners and losers, I would rather deal with INEC alone.

The conduct of elections can be improved in the future to the point that manipulations can be significantly reduced. But I can’t say the same for a rapacious, unjust, and mercenary judiciary such as we have today.

In any case, in all functional democracies, it is voters, not the courts, who elect and remove people from positions of political power. If the courts find sufficient evidence of irregularities in the conduct of elections, they can order a rerun. But they should never be invested with the power to declare winners and losers.

The last suggestion I have for the revision of the electoral act is to constitutionalize the imperative to finalize the adjudication of all election petitions before the inauguration of elected officials into their offices. There are two reasons for this.

First, it is disruptive to put elected officials through the hassles of post-election litigation while they are already officially in office. Governance is often put on hold during the pendency of litigations, and lots of state resources are expended to bribe judges, hire lawyers, and bring witnesses. That’s unfair to Nigerians.

Second, at least at the presidential level, once someone has been declared the president and is inaugurated, they automatically assume enormous symbolic power that is almost impossible to reverse. They also have access to enormous resources that they can deploy to influence the course of justice.

Whatever we do, we must curb the excesses of our out-of-control judiciary before it finally murders what remains of our democracy.

How to stop judicial coups against democracy in Nigeria – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States based Professor of Journalism.

Opinion

APC digging its own grave in Edo – Azu Ishiekwene

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Azubuike Ishiekwene

APC digging its own grave in Edo – Azu Ishiekwene

Nigeria’s politicians have perfected the art of burying themselves with one foot sticking out. And it appears that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will, once again, stage this rite of self-destruction in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State.

The party’s primaries on Saturday was such a shambles, it has now been forced to conduct it again, with no guarantee of a sensible outcome for an exercise involving perhaps less than 500,000 members (parties routinely inflate their roll). If Governor Godwin Obaseki’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), had paid to put a spell on APC, the outcome would not have been more potentially devastating.

Yet, this is a governor whose bet to install a successor from his own party is not necessarily based on his own record, but on the gift of an opposition in disarray.

After the turbulent last four years at Osadebey House between Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, it looked all but certain that the divided house of PDP would collapse when elections hold again in September.

And this was not wishful thinking. Not only has the common political front that paved the way for Obaseki’s ascension to power in his first term eroded; in his second term, he has been fighting both internal and external political enemies, severely limiting his attention and performance.

If his first term was uneventful, it was precisely because that was when the seed of the state’s future political crisis was sown. Even though his benefactor, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, had installed him in office in the hope of replicating the Tinubu-Fashola model in Lagos, Obaseki had other plans.

The new “tuke-tuke”

Once he was ensconced in office, he made a point of telling the remnant of the Oshiomhole crowd still hanging around the corridors of power, that power had changed hands. No longer, he reportedly said, were the days of “tuke-tuke” politics, a carryover from the era of Tony Anenih, which former Edo State Commissioner for Information and presidential aide, Louis Odion, once described in Louis-pedia as a political variant that empowered touts and prioritised rent for politicians for doing little or no work.

Obaseki, the blue-eyed Lagos Boy and financial consultant, advertised as the answer to Edo State’s private sector woes, should know. He was a core member of Oshiomhole’s cabinet, now determined to carve his own path.

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When after taking power, however, he began to cut off the supply line to the trough, starving the APC’s political structure in the state of nutrition, the battle line with Oshiomhole was drawn. The former governor who had also become the Chairman of the APC at the time, used his position to block Obaseki from getting the party’s ticket for a second term.

Obaseki of course milked public sympathy and later decamped to the PDP where he contested and won re-election. As a result of his defection, he governed with a hostile, hobbled parliament. Fourteen – and later 10 – out of the 24 members of the State House of Assembly were in the opposition and they operated mostly from a hideout provided in Abuja by Oshiomhole.

Significantly damaged in legitimacy, there was very little Obaseki could do. He has spent a greater part of the last four years watching his back for a deputy who, were he in the opposition, could not have plunged more daggers in the government’s back.

Residents have borne the brunt. Not only has Obaseki replaced the old cult of “tuke-tuke” with the new cult of “yes-men,” reports from the state also indicate that there are few paved roads and other social infrastructure such as water, hospitals, and schools, especially in areas outside the capital, Benin City.

The more you look…

Not unlike a good number of the states, the doubling of the state’s internally generated revenue from N1.8billion monthly in 2016 has barely been felt in rural areas where homes are still without water and school buildings are still largely without roofs and students without teachers.

Although Edo is currently ranked above its peers in the South-South poverty league with 1.4m (out of the state’s 3.9m population) living in multidimensional poverty, a government determined to make its mark could have done far more to lift the people.

Obaseki has done well in cultivating an elite in smart suits, while keeping up a façade of performance, especially with high-profile media events like Edo Best, Alaghodaro Summit, and the renovation of the Secretariat. But as surely as the ball of pounded yam never fails to press into the straying fish crumb in the soup, these projects have been criticised, particularly by the opposition, as the government’s conduit pipes.

Edo could not have been riper for the taking than in its present state, but Oshiomhole’s ambition may well be the wrecking ball. In my forecast entitled, “What you might expect in 2024,” published last December 28, I said, “The biggest danger to APC’s victory is Oshiomhole…except the APC finds an overwhelmingly appealing candidate, the party could be in for a surprise.”

The result of the party’s “inconclusive” primaries on Saturday, showed that the surprise came early. From reports, Oshiomhole, APC’s certified nemesis in Edo, managed to suborn forces in the Presidency to hand over the party’s flag to Dennis Idahosa – a candidate that Oshiomhole’s government had once described as “untrustworthy,” the most flattering of the government’s description at that time.

But suspects have their moments of redemption. Except that in this case reports on the conduct of the primaries on Saturday showed that even the redeemer seemed so far gone in his waywardness, he suborned not only Abuja, but also one of the most notorious political conductors to supervise the primaries.

A crime scene

The result, of course, was parallel primaries. One with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officers present – as it should be – that produced Monday Okpebholo; and the other, which invariably produced Idahosa, became a crime scene.

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The outcome was neither organised, even from the point of a common heist, which it was; nor was it politically strategic. Idahosa, the beneficiary of that crime scene, is from Edo South, where Obaseki, who is backing Asue Ighodalo, a candidate from Edo Central, could significantly undermine APC’s votes. A third candidate, Anamero Dekeri, even emerged from the woodwork, to claim victory!

It’s true that whether a political party holds its primaries in the motor park or at a brothel, it is not the business of non-party members. The point, unfortunately, is that we have seen that in the end, voters pay for the travesty, corruption and incompetence in the parties.

APC should have learnt that lesson in Zamfara four years ago when a court ruling invalidated the entire state election over shambolic party primaries, never mind a recent Supreme Court ruling that has further muddied the waters.

At elections, voters often have uninspiring choices – Tweedle-dee and Tweedledum – inflicted on them by party primaries that were anything but primaries. The crimes committed by politicians behind closed doors soon become public bastards, often leading to voter apathy, bitter wranglings or needless court disputes. It’s incredible that parties that can’t even manage their own affairs want a chance on the bigger stage.

PDP may laugh – and indeed it should, as it appears that the APC has already handed it the shovel to finish off the burial rites. But with Obaseki’s deputy, Shaibu, threatening to bring down the roof, it would be interesting to see how the PDP and the Labour Party, which is also having its own troubles, organise their own primaries.

If Nigeria’s elections – party, local council, state or federal – has taught anything, it is that as surely as a stumble precedes a fall, shambolic primaries lay the foundation for turbulent electoral outcomes and unstable governments.

Once again, Edo is proving that the story is not about to change.

… Azubuike Ishiekwene is the Senior Vice Chairman and Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP Newspaper Group. NNL.

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Opinion

Should elected Nigerian leaders undergo psychiatric tests?

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Tunde Odesola

Should elected Nigerian leaders undergo psychiatric tests?

Tunde Odesola

(Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, February 23, 2024)

Guitar Boy, Sir Victor Uwaifo, is dead. But the ‘Mami Water’, which he saw at the Bar Beach and sang about in 1966 when he was just 25 years old, lives on. Today, the ‘Mami Water’ swam all the way up from the deep and boomed through a giant loudspeaker at the Ojota motorpark in Lagos, singing: “Guitar Boy/Guitar Boy/If you see mami Water o/If you see mami water o/Never, never you run away/Eh, eh/Never run away, Victor Uwaifo…” Even angels in heaven can’t resist dancing to the electrifying guitarwork of the song. 🎶Pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/ 🎶dun-dun…Guitar Boy!…If you see mami water o…🎶.

A garage thug, Kilimanjaro, sings along with Uwaifo in a gruffy voice, cigarette smoke billowing down his nostrils like a fumes-belching locomotive driven by a grumpy engineman.

“That time wey Mami Water dey tell Victor Uwaifo make e no run, Nigeria never turn into jungle. Now, na Mami Water herself don dey run from Nigerians. If Mami Water and Papi Water show for Naija now, Nigerians go chop dem with dem bones and fins,” Kilimanjoro bellows, coughing big phlegm up his throat, “twah!” he spits it out. “E no go better for my enemies!”

Lepa Shandy, a busybody hawker in the park, moves from one vehicle to the other, selling a jambalaya of medicines. “If you no get wife, girlfriend or olosho, no buy dis medicine o. Make you no go tamper your landlord wife or daughter if you no wan live under bridge,” Lepa Shandy announces.

She brings out another medicine in a colourful pack. “Dis one name na Caterpillar! Make una lift una joyful faces up and behold this one-cure medicine, epa gbogbo ise. Na New Delhi in New York City dem make am. E dey cure hepatitis, glaucoma, leprosy, COVID and AIDS. Dis medicine no dey cure HIV o. Me, I go tell you di truth. Just drink am with rainwater or well water. Das all.”

“Ehs! Ehs! Wos! Wobi!,” Kilimanjaro calls out to Lepa Shandy, “Shey you still get ‘Total Restoration’?”

“Ha, e don finish, people don rush am but I go get am next tomorrow. Na dollar cause di go-slow. How many packs you want?” “I want half dozen.” “OK, I go bring am next tomorrow.”

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Lepa Shandy: “Shey, una dey see so, na my medicine those wey sabi dey ask for so o. ‘Total Restoration’ dey cure all types of worms, obesity, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, bone marrow, diarrhoea, diabetes, too much sweating, poor hearing, weak vision and fear.”

Kilimanjaro: Shey you hear say lion kill person for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife?

Lepa Shandy: I hear di news o. Man and animal just dey vex for Nigeria. Suffering too much. No difference dey between the Ife lion and Nigerian leaders. Both no get mercy. Both wicked well well.

Kilimanjaro: Di lion for go Az-o-Roc, after e visit Az-o-Roc, make e enter legislature, judiciary and the ministries one by one. After Abuja, make e come dey enter states one by one?

Kilamanjaro: Ha! Dem go kill am!

Lepa Shandy: Kill wetin!? Na Layon I dey talk about o, no bi lion o. Layon na combination of lion and ‘anjonu’ spirit. Even bomb no fit kill Layon. You no sabi say black power dey?

Kilimanjaro: Look, me I believe in action. Make we all comot for street, block everywhere, no work, make everywhere standstill. Na di only language wey our leaders dey hear bi dat.

Lepa Shandy: You don forget wetin happen for Lekki Tollgate?

Kilimanjaro: Dem stop Lekki riot because na only Lekki di riot take place. If to say other states of the federation join, government for negotiate nah. Government dey tighten poor masses belt, dem dey loose dem own belt. All dia pikin don turn billionaire finish. Poor man no fit chop one meal a day again. Wo, me I wan listen to the great national debate for radio, biko!

Lepa Shandy: Na wah o.

Kilimanjaro: After Buhari ride Nigerian donkey to coma, e kari half-dead donkey give im paddy, Tinubu, wey no fit complain publicly because dem bi Taiwo and Kehinde, different sides of di same coin.

Kilimanjaro: (Tuning the stereo in the road transport union office) When dem go begin di debate sef?

The secretary of the park, Acapela, tells Kilimanjaro to tune the stereo to Radio Enlightenment and Freedom 700.07 FM.

Kilimanjaro: Ha! Dem just dey start di debate. Rich man pikin school versus poor man pikin school. E go loud!

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Debate Moderator: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the Great Debate! We have two schools slugging it out today. They’re Overlords Private College, Ikoyi, and Bondage Public School, Ajegunle. The topic of today’s debate is, ‘Should elected Nigerian leaders undergo psychiatric tests?’ Overlords Private College are saying NO to the topic while Bondage Public School are saying YES. The lead speaker of each school has five minutes to speak while the supporting speakers have three minutes each. I hereby welcome the lead speaker of Bondage Public School to the podium.

Bondage Lead Speaker: My name is Idris Ayomeye. I’m from Bondage Public School. I greet the distinguished chairman of this august occasion, the incorruptible panel of judges, the accurate timekeeper, my co-debaters and the esteemed audience.

(The audience roars into applause)

Bondage Lead Speaker: I’m here to support the motion that Nigerian leaders should and must be subjected to psychiatric tests. Permit me, Mr Chairman, sir, to open my speech with these two Bible quotes: Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”; and Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin and expect grace to abound?” These Bible quotations sum up the story of Nigeria, a country, where wickedness and injustice rule. It’s a country where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission prosecutes and secures the conviction of a Nollywood actor, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, for ‘spraying’ the naira while the same EFCC looks the other way when Fuji musician, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, and one undignifying monarch, the Olu of Owode, Oba Kolawole Sowemimo, engaged in criminal abuse of the naira. I must commend the Egba Traditional Council for suspending Sowemimo over his disgraceful act. He should be sent back to ipebi for proper tutoring. I don’t know how some characters become obas in Yoruba land.

(Deafening applause. Kilimanjaro, Acapela and many people listening to the debate in the garage jump up in jubilation)

Bondage Lead Speaker: Mr Chairman, sir, Nigeria is a country of promise-and-fail leaders. President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Oputa panel to try the wrongs of the past, but General Badamosi Babangida, who was accused of many wrongdoings blatantly refused to show up, and nothing happened. Babangida never appeared in court despite incriminating allegations over the death of Dele Giwa. Those who killed MKO Abiola and his wife, Kudirat Abiola, are walking freely today. One of them, a Major, is even pontificating all over the country.

(Kilimanjaro grabs a chair, puts it on his head and dances, shouting, “More! More! More!)

Bondage Lead Speaker: The Presidency, police, ICPC, rights activists, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, etc see how people abuse the naira daily, yet they look away. Nigeria looks away as public hospitals have turned into morgues, public schools have become havens for hoodlums, roads have turned into deathtraps, electricity supply has turned to darkness supply! If a country can so brazenly exhibit injustice and brutality, tell me why its elected leaders shouldn’t undergo psychiatric tests. Please, tell me why.

(Shouts of ‘Tell them!’ ‘Tell them!’ Tell them! from the audience fill the hall)

Mr Chairman: (Hits his gavel on the table) Order! Order! Order! (The hall becomes less rambunctious)

Bondage Lead Speaker: (Wipes his face with a handkerchief and sips some water) General Muhammadu Buhari promised to jail the looters in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Who did he jail? Were we all not in this country when Patience Jonathan sought a plea bargain? Were we not all in this country when Buhari and his cabal brought in a fake airline as a national carrier, spending millions of dollars on the fake airline? Can someone tell me why our leaders shouldn’t be subjected to psychiatric evaluation? President Tinubu has been in the saddle for almost a year, chasing shadows, haunting the worst Central Bank Governor in the history of the country, Godwin Emefiele, but conspicuously leaving out Buhari, whose bidding Emefiele did. Can someone tell me why our…

Kilimanjaro: Ha!!! NEPA!!! Dem don cut light for studio o! Dem don become uncomfortable o. Haa! Naija and government magic…

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola

X: @Tunde_Odesola

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Yoruba are cultured, classy, refined people, Omokri says as he condemns northerners

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Yoruba are cultured, classy, refined people, Omokri says as he condemns northerners

Reno Omokri, former presidential aide to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, has praised the “good virtues” of the Yoruba people while berating the Northerners.

Describing the Yoruba as “such a cultured and refined people,”  Omokri noted that they are “a reflection of class and breeding.”

In a statement posted on his verified X page on Wednesday, Omokri made the remarks while backlashing the North’s approach to criticisms aimed at ex-president Muhammadu Buhari during his tenure.

Omokri noted that “the Yoruba are teaching the rest of us a lesson in tolerance and persuasion” in their defense of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

On the other hand, he condemned the North for being “aggressive” in their reaction to criticisms directed at Buhari.

Omokri, who noted that the North perceived an attack on Buhari as an attack on the entire Arewa race, argued that “for eight years of General Buhari’s misrule, too many of our Northern brothers defended him rather aggressively and would not tolerate any criticism of the then President.”

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However, he opined that “when you criticize President Tinubu, his kith and kin from the Southwest take a different approach.”

Extolling their virtues, Omokri noted that “Even when they politically disagree with you, the Yoruba will still kill you with respect.”

Omokri’s statement reads, “Things have changed in Nigeria, only that we are not noticing. The Yoruba are teaching the rest of us a lesson in tolerance and persuasion.

“For eight years of General Buhari’s misrule, too many of our Northern brothers defended him rather aggressively and would not tolerate any criticism of the then President. To attack him was often perceived as attacking Arewa.

“However, when you criticize President Tinubu, his kith and kin from the Southwest take a different approach. You observe more persuasive responses. ‘Sir, it is not true’. ‘Egbon, I won’t agree’. ‘E sir, please don’t talk like that’. ‘ Give Akanbi time. Eight months is too short. (Akanbi is Yoruba for child of destiny).

“Even when they politically disagree with you, the Yoruba will still kill you with respect. Why won’t you love them?

“Such a cultured and refined people. A reflection of class and breeding. They stoop to conquer. Even when they disagree, by and large, they agree to disagree without being disagreeable. If everybody in Nigeria could imbibe their philosophy, Nigeria would be a paradise!”

Yoruba are cultured, classy, refined people, Omokri says as he condemns northerners

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