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Shehu Sani’s Cracked Mirror-By Philip Agbese

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One of the greatest and terrible fallouts from the rise of Trumpism is the penchant for the cloning and replication of copycats across the globe, individuals that are deluded enough to believe they can replicate the wonder of rising from relative obscurity to winning elections.

The tragedy is that some of them are succeeding. Trumpism, at the level of those seeking political office, consists chiefly of causing the wildest outrage to garner populist votes. It has worked for a handful of right-wing extremist leaders, some of who gained office only for the electorates to discover that the only substance about their persona and cult is the raucous rhetoric they use to deceive the people.

Nigeria is not short of this class of politicians, who, having nothing to offer, resort to the brashest of behaviours and unguarded utterances to win followers. They are succeeding. They have the corresponding gullible section of the population that believe they have found messiahs that will give them their dream Utopia. Even when that Utopia is a sure path to doom and ruination.

Nigeria’s Trumpists has its current symbolic head in the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central district, Senator Shehu Sani, who has recently, since the conclusion of party primaries taken his penchant for causing outrage to a theatrical level. He is now in the business of marinating his dubious credential in populist juice served up to the unsuspecting and the elixir of reason. It is poison to those that consume it even in its diluted form.

Shehu Sani, possibly buoyed by a false sense of an activist past that now stands largely discredited, has attacked just about anyone that he believes to be against his ambition to reimpose himself on Kaduna Central – has largely abandoned their assignment at the Senate to focus on packaging himself as Nigeria’s reply to Trump. He has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari, he has attacked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; he has issues with some military top brass for attending the launch of #NextLevel.

Of course, Shehu Sani had running issues with Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, which ultimately led him to renounce the All Progressives Congress (APC), jumped into the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), and intensified his drive to cause the widest outrage possible. Had he but engaged in the least form of introspection, the kind he demands of other people, he would have known that the problem is not with the mirror but with his sullied self. In the whole time he has been fencing with el-Rufai, not once has he been able to show that he had at any point offered a hand of fellowship to the governor. He has instead tried his best to rubbish whatever positive the state scored.

In the short time of joining PRP, the Kaduna Central Senator has succeeded in achieving what four decades has not done to the party, taint its ideals. He has hijacked the PRP for use as a ranting platform that will rebrand the legacy party as a vehicle for clowns and electoral jesters. He has promised his activities in the fold of the party not on its welfarist ideology but as an avenue for hitting back at persons that had rocked his boat. If this so-called activist is today dissing the APC that gave him the ticket to the Senate one can only wonder what he will do to the PRP in the vent that he wins re-election on its ticket.

This misguided stance, like the one adopted by the real Donald Trump, is a danger to the country. The danger is not that he will use his bad grammar to corrupt the already perverted syntax of his social media followers, the danger is far more insidious. The many instances that he has reacted to national issues do not come with the warning that his opinions and utterances are conditioned by a desperation to use outrage for garnering followers and sympathizers. They, therefore, follow him blindly with the consequence that he leaves in his trail a network of the children of anger that wrongly believe they have been wronged. These settings may be in the minority but they remain a danger.

The country is fortunate that more of its citizens are tired of the theatrics of Nigeria’s edition of right-wing fanatics frothing at the mouth as they peddle all kinds of lies, notably against those they want to edge out of power. Shehu Sani’s tantrums fit the pattern. Would he have been critical of the other government officials if they had granted increased access to the loot? Like the people he attacks, Shehu Sani knows the answer – one does not talk while eating is a cultural code that has endured in the political sphere, so a handful more crumbs from the commonwealth to chew on would have quietened this pseudo-activist faster than a pacifier will calm down a bawling infant.

Another thing that has rendered Shehu Sani’s rants uninteresting is the glaring double standard he has adopted. Here is the latter-day crusader of transparency, accountability and good governance that has not deemed it fit to let Nigerians in on what the actual pay of Senator in Nigeria is. If he is truly uncorrupted as he tries to make people believe he would have at least shine a flicker of light on what he gets as a Senator – we will not worry about how he managed to raise the N10 million he tried to buy the APC senatorial ticket with. But like in the case of the Apostle of Common Sense, Omerta is the code.

That he was the only aspirant to attempt bribing the APC election panel speaks volumes about the show of piety he has put on for the benefit of his electorates. It is not surprising since the distribution of cattle and camels is among the leading achievements he has to flog in asking the people of Kaduna Central to again come queue in the sun to give him another four years of earning undeclared jumbo allowances.

It is this questionable character that Shehu Sani is projecting onto others because he can only relate with the kind of behaviour he knows himself to have. That is why he sees everything from the perspective of a commercial transaction in which the actors have benefitted money; it is the reason he cannot divorce ethnic jingoism from decisions that are taken on the strength of facts and indices. He only sees in others the reflections produced by himself, a cracked mirror that at best distort even perfection to cast eerie shadows.

His thoughts will grow darker as the realization set in that he is in the final months of deriving benefits from the mandate entrusted to him by the electorates while his utterances will become even more inciting. He will punch imaginary enemies and box shadows. This should not surprise the discerning because Shehu Sani can only become more desperate.

Agbese writes from the United Kingdom

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Opinion

#EndSARS: Knowing When To Fight And When To Quit – By Philip Agbese

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The positive public perception; the overall consensual verdict and even desirability of the more than 10 days #EndSARS protests have faded. It is fizzling out with the speed of a tornado surprisingly.

By this development, the general consensus among Nigerians is clear-#EndSARS protests originally conceived by Nigerians as peaceful expression of grievances against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an outfit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) over years of extrajudicial killings, brutality, bribery, extortions and unlawful arrests/ detentions have ostensibly become public nuisances.

Apparently, the protests have been hijacked by some politicians who are allegedly sponsoring hooligans, miscreants, criminals and deviants to cause massive public unrest, attack law abiding citizens, breach public peace, torching of public buildings and personal properties, prison breaks, vandalization and looting of businesses. The latest tales from the protests are the targeted assault on prominent politicians and personalities in cities rocked by the protests.

It is daybreak for the protesters now because the #EndSARS protests have become violent and bloody. Its mutation into such violent and undemocratic character has prepared its grave and coffin early enough. Indeed, the death knell has sounded for the protesters.

The reasons instigating the protests are genuine and the concern of every Nigerian. This is irrefutable. But its concomitant abuses have dealt a fatal blow on an otherwise noble cause. Nigerians have won the battle against SARS by drawing Government and global attention to the evils embodied by SARS, a microcosm of the NPF.

And at the same time, Nigerians have lost the battle in the sense that the veiled infiltration of the #EndSARS protests by reprobates and the conspicuous rebranding of its original agenda and concept signifies the defeat of the same populist cause and struggles. It now appears more like a replication of the aborted planned mass disruption of public peace before the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second tenure, the mild version, which later surfaced as #RevolutionNow protests.

Therefore, when the protests morphed from #EndSARS into the display of placards with inscriptions or hashtags like;” #EndBuhari; #BuhariMustResign; #EndMarginalization; #EndbadGovernance; #EndNepotism #OnResourcceControlWeStand; #EndNNPC; #EndModernSlavery; #FreeNigerDeltaRegion; #ShameOnNDDC; #LegalizeNigerDeltaLocalRefineries;#EndBadDrinkingWater #LegalizeNigerDeltaPetroleumProduction; and #EndGovernmentFraud among others signaled a trouble at its explosion stage.

And the sensed trouble is very near; lurking in the corner and dark rooms of Nigeria. The obvious politicization content of the #EndSARS protests gave rise to another group of Nigerians who displayed a poster in Abuja with the counter hashtag, #March4Nigeria. The messaged was lucid that a ten million -man march will be organized to appreciate President Buhari as a listening leader who granted all the requests of the original protests and engineering the needed reforms at the Unity Fountain, Abuja on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020.

These are not only worrisome signals, but witting romance with the path to anarchy, chaos, disruption of public peace and total breakdown of public law and order. No responsible government, unlike emperor Nero, would go feasting while the country is on fire. If times have ever been tough for Nigerians, they would now become tougher.

Let Nigerians take this precaution from Yobe state Gov. Mai Mala Buni, and APC national caretaker chairman, “… the protests should have ended since the Federal Government has responded and promised to address all the demands of the protesters; demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria and total reform of the entire Police Force…The ongoing protests show that there is a hidden agenda after the government has responded to the protesters’ demands. There are criminals who see the disbanded police unit as threat to their criminal activities.”

Dear protesters of #EndSARS and whatever other identity or agenda infused into the remonstrations’, the time to quit is now that the ovation is loudest. There is a strong sense in what Kimberly K. Jones uttered; “The time to quit is before you wish you had.”

The unpleasant howls of the chickens in the poultry yard signifies ominous danger of a prying hawk. Elvis Presley admonished that“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”Knowing when to fight and when to quit the stage with dignity, unbruised and unscathed defines the strength of one’s character.

A wise man who is fighting a battle knows when victory has come and when to accept defeat. Nigerians have earned the most important victories in the #EndSARS conundrum with Mr. President disbanding the discredited police outfit, and a promise of overhauling and reforming the NPF. In fact, Mr. President has promised to meet all the demands of the #EndSARS protesters.

Now, it is crucial for all and sundry to realize that actions on some of the demands of the #EndSARS protesters are immediate, which the President has responded accordingly; while others will definitely take weeks and even months. Therefore, continuous occupation of streets, cities, breach of public peace, violence and destructions can never be the panacea. This will only cause avoidable carnages and deaths.

Quite bluntly Nigerians, with the recent developments in the country on the #EndSARS protests, it’s obvious, the goal post has been missed after all the beautiful dribbles on the playing turf. But the protesting Nigerians failed to locate the 18-meter yard box when the goalkeeper was on the ground. The glory of the protests is also discloured by the alien and unacceptable tenor of the protests.

No one tells a blindman that it is raining, he feels the downpour. Nigerians again, it is time to quit the struggle honourably and give government time to act on the demands. Let compatriots learn from the quip of Sakeya Barns whosaid; “I refuse to let this house become my grave”or Lauren Oliver’s, “There’s always some relief in giving up;” because according to Curtis Tyrone Jones, “Life is never too heavy to pick up where we left off.”

The brazen breach of the democratic rights of other Nigerians in the guise of asserting and exercising what the protesters feels it’s their own liberties is pathetic display of dimwit and has irrevocably hamstrung the struggle. The ongoing criminal activities in the country in the name of #EndSARs protests should prick every conscience. In this regard, Nigerians won the battle, but lost at the same time. It is a time-honored lesson for all.

There is no victor nor vanquished! Definitely, Government has learnt from its past mistake of docility over the unlawful oddities of SARS; also, individuals have learnt a pile of lessons too. An American author, Dan Crenshaw in his book, “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Change,” unknowingly counselled the #EndSARS remonstrators; …. Quitting isn’t about succumbing to reality or failing to change what can’t be changed. Quitting is not the same as failure. Quitting means giving up – in a context where there are other options. Options you know you have.” The time to quit the #EndSARS protests is now! #

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Exercise Crocodile Smile: Before We Crucify Lt. Gen TY Buratai – By David Onmeje

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Exercise Crocodile Smile VI commenced today , the 20th of October 2020, and is scheduled to last to the 31st of December. The exercise has been a huge success in dealing with criminals and scaling down the level of crime in many parts of the country in the past five years in areas like the Southwest, Southsouth and others within its scope.

But since the Nigerian Army made the announcement to launch this year’s exercise, some have gone to town with the wrong interpretations saying it is a ploy to unleash soldiers on EndSARS protesters. The mischief in that line of thought exposes in the fact that since they launch Crocodile Smile in Warri, Delta State, in 2016, the exercise has been relaunched in five different phases every year within the same period of the year.

How the bid by the Nigerian Army to continue in that tradition became an issue this year due to the ongoing EndSARS protests befuddles the mind as there’s no link between the commencement of the Exercise Crocodile Smile VI and the ongoing protests if not for the sake of mischief.

The EndSARs protesters from Day One had made it clear that their angst is not with the Nigerian military but a unit of the Nigeria Police which they accuse of wrong doing and sought that it be disbanded and the Federal Government has complied with that.

They also sought the reform of the Nigeria Police due to perceived professional misconduct, which process again, is in place.
At no time did any of the protesters list any act of wrong doing against the Nigerian Army though it has been in the field of operation and engaging terrorists and bandits that were making life hard for the people.

Since 2015, when the Nigerian military took the fight to the doors of the insurgents, it has maintained high professional standards in the fight against terrorism and banditry and has adhered strictly to the rules of engagement that not even the insurgents have accused it of any professional misconduct or crime.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai has even opened channels for people to report any act of abuse or professional misconduct by any soldier or officer. So, it is clear that the protesters hold the Nigerian Army under General Buratai in high esteem and have absolute regard for how it has conducted its affairs in the last five years .

This is why the Nigerian Army has insisted it is wrong to say the exercise is targeted at protesters explaining that this year’s exercise has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.

Said the Nigerian Army:“For the records, Exercise CROCODILE SMILE is a yearly exercise in the NA Calendar/Forecast of Events which traditionally holds from October to December of each year.

“Thus, to now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing ENDSARS protest is to say the least highly misinformed. Exercise CROCODILE SMILE VI has nothing to do with the ongoing protest and the NA has never been involved in the ongoing protest in any form whatsoever. So far, the army has acted professionally since the civil protest started over two weeks ago.”

But beyond that, the Chief of Army Staff has built a reputation for himself as a General with high respect for human dignity and one who is a staunch defender of democracy and it values that no such fears should be entertained in the first place.

Gen. Buratai has brought many reforms to the army to foster military/ civilian relations and to defend democracy and rule of law.

It was the current Chief of Army Staff who introduced the Corporate Social Responsibility into the Nigerian Army to make the institution give back to the society in terms of projects and other services.

Under him, the Army Medical Corps have been deployed several times to assist civilians in getting medical care and health services. Such that as the Army is fighting criminals in many parts of Nigeria, the soldiers are helping people pick up the pieces of their lives.

In that bid, soldiers have organised classes in warring and war ravaged communities, helped in clearing blocked drainage through environmental sanitation exercises as well as construct bridges in communities to ease transportation.

General Buratai has also made it a policy to interact with the populace at the highest level by personally going to communities and engaging them in discussions. To further demonstrate his commitment to democracy and rule of law, the Chief of Army Staff also commissioned Situation Rooms for election monitoring to stop violence and other ugly incidents that go with elections.

He has also partnered several times with media executives and Civil Society Organisations to foster a better understanding between them and military. With the measures he has put in place people’s perception about the military has begun to change and it is now common sight to see troops being welcomed anywhere they are sighted in any operation unlike before when people take to their heels.

It is high time people begin to appreciate the Exercise Crocodile Smile as it has achieved a lot in curbing crimes such as crude oil theft, kidnapping, banditry and others.

Through the exercise, the Army have destroyed several criminal hideouts and made further attacks on the public difficult for the criminals.

Its intention to extend the current exercise to cover cyber warfare to identify, track and counter negative propaganda on social media is highly commendable as it would help track suspects from their bases.

Its inclusion of a positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country is also brilliant. It will not be asking for too much giving the Nigerian Army benefit of doubt as it launches Exercise Crocodile Smile VI.

Onmeje wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.

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#EndSARS: GOs As Protest Puppet Masters – By Philip Agbese

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We may just be nearing the end in the head scratching search for the financiers of the gourmet food being served on a daily basis to the #EndSARS protesters. The protesters have persisted on staying on the streets even after government has agreed to meet their five-point demand for reforming the police. The offer of food and other freebies, like free of charge repair of vehicles damaged at the protests and the social attraction of women and exchange of phone numbers, has been a magnet for some youth, who said they are participating in the protest as much as for the food as the principle of demanding change.

However, with the protesters vowing to remain on the streets, and growing belligerent, there is increasing suspicion that there are indeed powerful vested interests teleguiding the protests. They were behind the scene at the backend, particularly with the inane claim that the protest has no leaders – never mind that a five-point demand was articulated and presented to government, possibly by a ghost.

But on Sunday, Mr. David Oyedepo, presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church, in keeping with his tradition of toxically abusing the sanctity of the pulpit, exposed himself as potentially being one of the financiers and sponsor of the protests. In a Trumpesque rant during the second service to his captive audience, he carried on about how the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is the equivalent of the biblical evil king.

On the surface, the Bishop appears to be another senior concerned Nigerian citizen expressing displeasure over the state of affairs. But a deep dig shows that he is rather an instigator of violence against the government of the day, total collapse of law and order that could lead to total anarchy. There is no doubt the bishop has motive, means and malicious intent to tarnish the reputation of the present government and disintegration of Nigeria obviously for selfish reasons.

A few things stand out on which Oyedepo has clearly indicated his anger at the government’s actions as they directly affect his business empire. First was the stoppage of free parking of private jets that the Bishop and his associates had enjoyed under the previous administration, whose anti-corruption drive also caused the amount of money that Oyedepo’s church members are able to remit as planting of seeds, donations, offerings, tithes, pledges and sundry funds payable to his church. Another source of his unjustified anger is the requirement to comply with Financial Reporting Regulation that would have tenured the leadership of churches if its implementation where not stood down. The amended Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law was particularly distressing for the ostentatious capitalist Bishop, who did not hide his disdain and anger at the law that could impose a governing board to ensure financial transparency in the running of churches as charities.

It must not be forgotten that Bishop Oyedepo tried to mislead Nigerians that COVID-19 was caused by non-existent 5G telecommunications facilities. When he was proved wrong, he rose against the COVID-19 control protocol that required places of worship to shut down for a duration of time. In the weeks that churches and mosques were shut down, the earnings of Winners’ Chapel took a bad hit. His inability to corral people into the expansive halls of his church and threaten them with the horrors of hell meant that they were not blackmailed into parting with money they do not have; of course as a savvy businessman, he was quick to embrace the digital platform and virtual church service but expectations that people will donate digitally were woefully shattered. Indeed, the Bishop became distraught and desperate.

On his part, the Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche, contributed to corralling #EndSARS protesters into deviating from the objective of pursuing reform of the police to asking for broader reforms. Possibly, unable to tinker with psyche of protesters from the background, he delivered a talk on “The Way of Peace,” which video was highly circulated in which he egged on protesters to oppose massive injustice, unfairness and lack of equity, oppression, suppression and subjugation of one people by another, nepotism, tribalism, regionalism, religionism and every form of such prejudice deprivation, poverty and hunger.

One would wonder what kind of doctor Enenche would have been if he were to be in full practice. He possibly would have been the type that will attempt carrying out a radical surgery to remove cancer that has spread all over a patient’s body instead of first dealing with knife stab wound that brought the patient into the accident and emergency ward, for that is what the #EndSARS protest can be likened to. The pressing national emergency at this point is to deal with the issue of right abuses by the police and then confront the other undesirable issues in the land in successive layers.

For Pastor Folu Adeboye, wife of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the strategy for keeping the #EndSARS protest on the streets is to ensure that protesters don’t get famished, so she delivered three truckloads of food and water to them. Hubby, Pastor Enoch Adeboye previously voiced support for the protests when he wrote on his Instagram page that “Our daughters will not be able to prophesy, and young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive. I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they “speak up” to #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS #ENDSWAT”.

It is interesting that these expressions of support, and, in Oyedepo’s case, open incitement, are in spite of the clear signs that the protests have turned violent with protesters chanting anti-government, anti-Buhari and pro-violence slogans. So far, there were over 12 persons dead. If things degenerate further, the clergymen have prepared alibis for themselves by rounding off their inciting acts and comments with the lame appeal to the protesters to be orderly, peaceful and law abiding. It will be interesting to hear from them how young people will remain law abiding when induced to wholesomely hate the leadership of their country by people in the kind of position of trust that the clergy occupied.

Knowing that every single thing being protested today predates President Buhari’s administration, one wonders why these clergymen did not find it pertinent to incite the youth in the manner they are doing now. Could it be that the excesses of SARS just surfaced or could it be that corruption was oiling their businesses so effectively then that they did not notice the anomalous conditions under which we live in Nigeria?

If religion is described as the opium of the masses, then people were weaned of their addiction to the sermons of commercial clergymen in weeks of the COVID-19 induced lockdown. A lot of them simply did not return for their fix after the lockdown was lifted, which has left these businessmen in dire financial straight as revenue keep dwindling. They also lost their hold on congregant since the lockdown period exposed the truth – people did not die for not given to the extortionist activities of their spiritual fathers in the period they did not show up to mark the register.

These clergymen are happy that the youths are protesting and the gloating tone in their sermons suggest their joy at the prospect that the end of President Buhari’s government is near. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that if President Muhammadu Buhari goes down in the manner they have orchestrated then, the country will be in flames for the next 50 years, there are people who will ensure that the puppet masters of these protesters become first set of casualties by obliterating their business centres and converting their worship centres to warehouses and declaring an end to theocratic interference and religion in Nigeria.

A timely counsel for these businessmen-clergy is to play the role expected of them. Their religious centres should run as real charities, with the bulk of the money they extort being spent on genuinely addressing human suffering, and without the pointless political posturing. They should allow the police reforms agreed by all involved to go ahead so that it would be concluded in time.

The other matters, like corruption and ethno-religious schism, they have introduced to the protest will take time and deeper efforts to fight. On the part of the clergymen, it requires that they stop accepting stolen money from their members who are in government and they must also limit their get rich-by-any-means sermons, popularly called prosperity gospel. As for the government, it is time for those in charge to fully deliver on the constitutional expectation that Nigeria is secular state. The undeserve waivers they usually give to these religious businessmen have to stop with the full powers of the Financial Reporting Council and CAMA unleashed on them. After all, they have proven that they are part of the problem.

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