Five Nigerian campaigns you should know about


“Stop the theft is a campaign to raise awareness about the scale and consequences of the illegal theft of oil in the Niger Delta and to work with partners and other interested parties to propose and advocate for long term and tangible solutions. The campaign is led by Ambassador Dr Patrick Dele Cole, the former international relations advisor to President Obasanjo and an indigene of Abonnema in Rivers State which has been affected by the illegal trade for many years.”


“Think of 234Give as a tunnel. On one end are all those who want to help. On the other end are all those who need it. 234Give is the connection to link donors and fundraisers with deserving charities and needy projects. In other words, we help you make an impact!”


“The objective of this initiative is to secure a vote for each Nigerian in the Diaspora.  To achieve this objective, it is my desire that every Nigerian in the Diaspora will rise up and support the initiative. It is also my desire that every Nigerian living at home will also support the initiative. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we need to build it together. This initiative does not seek any monetary contribution from you to support it. All I want is for you to register your support and get your friends and family to do the same. There’s power in numbers and the support of everyone is needed.”


“At GAPS (Grow, Advance, Produce, Succeed) Academy, we aim to empower everyone to learn, share and bridge the gaps in their knowledge and experience. Our mission is to enable everyone to teach and mentor at least someone in Africa. We are crowd sourcing the learning process! We are using collaborative technology to bridge the knowledge gap in Africa.”


“BudgIT is a creative start-up driven to retell the Nigerian budget and public data in a finer detail across every literacy span. We aim to stimulate citizens interests around public data and hence trigger discussions towards better governance.”


[Op-ed] Nigeria in the spotlight: ‘The Brinks’ vs ‘The Brincs’

By Tolu Ogunlesi

[originally published in Ongoing Concerns, a weekly column in NEXT newspaper, May 2011)

In one corner is John Campbell, diplomat, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria between 2004 and 2007, and now a Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In the other corner is Jeffrey Sachs, economist, Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and a Special Adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

I have chosen to name the Campbell camp “The BRINKS” – coined from the title of Mr Campbell’s unambiguously-titled book, “Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink” (2010).

The Sachs camp I will refer to as “The BRINCS.” In a May 30 New York Times op-ed, Sachs wrote: “In practical terms, Nigeria would like to make the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the BRINCS by the end of the decade. To those who only know Nigeria as a country that squanders its oil wealth, this ambition might seem outlandish. But for those of us who have had the chance to work with its leadership, this goal seems fully within reach.”

Weeks before Sachs’ piece (May 2), Mr Campbell wrote an op-ed piece for the same paper, titled: “Nigeria: The Morning After” (which I somehow keep misreading as “The Mourning After”).

Coming from the author of “Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink”, it is not a piece that will surprise many. When Campbell writes that “the elections have polarized Nigeria and resulted in likely underreported bloodshed in the northern parts of the country”, he unwittingly gives the impression that until April 2011, Nigeria was polarisation-free and the North was a haven of peace.

The pre-eminent weakness of Mr Campbell’s position, in my opinion, is his insistence on viewing Nigeria – and interpreting his observations – through a “predominantly Christian South versus predominantly Moslem North” frame.

I find that perspective utterly misleading, ignoring, for example, the fact that the not-insignificant south west (which includes the uber-populous Lagos) is almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

Mr Sachs’ perspective is refreshingly different. In the opening paragraph of his piece, titled “Nigeria’s Historic Opportunity”, he declares:

“This country of nearly 160 million people, about one in five of sub-Saharan Africa, is on to something historic. The people feel it. After a sometimes agonizing half-century since independence, Nigeria is on the verge of a takeoff.”

He goes on to list “five solid reasons for optimism” (I’m sure you could easily pick “five solid reasons for pessimism” from any Campbell article).

Perhaps aware that those comments make him liable to accusations of being overly-optimistic, Sachs adds: “Of course, Nigeria still faces very real risks. The country’s population is enormously diverse, with sharp regional and religious divisions. Violence continues to flare…”

This helps create a much more balanced and nuanced picture than Mr Campbell’s jeremiad.

Nevertheless, you can’t help thinking that perhaps Sachs is still guilty of misreading the situation in some way, even if not as grievously as Campbell.

Sachs writes: “The president’s senior adviser on the Millennium Development Goals, working with the National Assembly, has been leading a bold mechanism to transfer federal funds to state and local governments in a robust and accountable manner. All over the country, schools, clinics and water points are being built.”

While there may be no doubt about the impressive work Amina az Zubair is doing with the MDGs (she has been publicly commended by Bill Gates, and NEXT columnist Jibrin Ibrahim recently wrote a tribute in which he referred to her as “a shining star”), I’m curious about that “bold mechanism to transfer federal funds to state and local governments in a robust and accountable manner.”

And which National Assembly is Sachs referring to? The same loan-and-allowance-and-contract-loving House-of-Bankole? I’d also like to know more about those schools and clinics being built “all over the country.”

While I essentially share Sachs’ optimistic stance, I am tempted to dissociate myself from some of his pronouncements. My own optimism is, at the moment, founded less on concrete achievement than on the ordinary, yet powerful possibilities for change that a relatively fresh beginning offers. (Hope-for-the-sake-of-hope is how I described it in a recent column).

Anyway, there we have them: Sachs versus Campbell. Two influential Americans, putting forward their thoughts about Africa’s most populous country and one of the leading exporters of crude oil to theirs.

One thinks Nigeria is falling apart (and his voice is unfailingly loudest whenever signs emerge that the end is near), the other thinks Nigeria is coming together.

Let’s make one thing clear: sentiments will always be involved in the business of argument and debate. From his article we get a hint of Sachs’ closeness to Nigeria’s corridors of power, and specifically to Goodluck Jonathan.

Mr Campbell on his own part is closely associated with Jonathan-opponent Atiku Abubakar, and is a member of the board of Abubakar’s American University of Nigeria in Yola.

Perhaps that partly explains where both men are coming from.

So, back to the ring. Where do you belong? Are you a ‘BRINK’ or a ‘BRINC’? Is Nigeria coming together – or falling apart?

In 2015, which of these two Americans – Jeffrey Sachs and John Campbell – will say: “I told you so!”?

And, most important question of all, what role will President Jonathan play in the ring: Bricklayer – or Demolition Man?


by Tolu Ogunlesi

(first published in NEXT in January 2009] 

Forget all evidence and gossip to the contrary; this present Government loves Nuhu Ribadu! And contrary to reports that they want to “finish” him, I am pleased to let you know that they will do no such thing!

All that the Yar’Adua administration was interested in (and which they have succeeded in doing) was redeploying Mallam Ribadu from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (and by extension, the Nigeria Police Force) to the newly-created National Distraction Commission (NDC), where they have since found him immensely useful as a ‘Brand Ambassador.’

This Commission is charged with (according to the bill that created it) “creating, regulating, reinforcing and institutionalizing significant National Distractions with a view to ensuring that citizens and the mass media are kept occupied to such an extent that they are left with no time or energy to ask relevant questions about the future of the country.”

The Government created this Commission in 2008, when it realized that the Obama Season would not last forever.

I know you’re now thinking: What the hell does Obama have to do with a newly-created Nigerian government parastatal? 

Simples. As long as Obama remained a ‘leading contender’ for the most powerful office in the world, the Nigerian Government did not need to unveil a National Distraction Commission. No! All through 2008, as Bro Barack ‘inspired’ his way towards the White House, people the world over forgot their problems. Hunger and AIDS and Global Warming all took the back seat. Nigerians, ever in need of reasons to jollificate, organized Obama-themed parties. They stayed glued to CNN and BBC, mesmerized by Obamagic. In their vicarious identification with America they consigned Yar’Adua to the dustbin of irrelevance. Good riddance, eh? They stopped allowing themselves to be disappointed by him. They unhitched their expectations from a green-and-white babanriga and instead affixed them to a purplish-blue designer tie.

Was Yar’Adua happy? Of course he was. He no longer had to carry the burden of his people’s foolish, unrealistic, unfair, nonsense expectations. He could disappear for three weeks confident that only a few people would miss him, because the bulk of his subjects had relocated to a virtual estate somewhere in suburban Obamaland, free from the terrorism of PHCN and armed robbers.

Yar’Adua could add PLC to Nigeria’s name for all Nigerians, sorry, Naimericans, cared.

But, as they say, whatever goes up must come down. It dawned on the Nigerian Government that all those millions of virtual visas that Obama had issued to Nigerians earlier in the year contained an expiry date.  November 5, 2008.

They realized they would need new ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction’. And in a fit of proactive and creative thinking the (in)famous kitchen cabinet decided that a new parastatal, devoted solely to this all important task, was the answer.

Yar’Adua’s government is one that understands the importance of ‘Distraction’. Which is why it is Number 4 on the 7-point agenda, behind Abdication, Banality and Confusion (in that order).

Ergo the National Distraction Commission. The commission has since been busy. Its first official action was to unveil Nuhu Ribadu as “The Face of Distraction 2009”. The Mallam has since gone on to grace the agency’s many billboards and print and news media advertisements.

And Nigerians are now busy talking. Ribadu this, Ribadu that. Why shouldn’t they talk, when the NDC is flooding the streets with original copies of its bestselling ‘Ribadu’ action movies – “No Induction”, shot in Kuru; “The Dismissal” and “No Going Back” shot in Abuja. And we hear more are currently in production. (“The Handcuff”?)

The months ahead are going to get even more interesting. If past performance is any indicator of the future, our government is cooking exciting surprises.

Don’t say I revealed this to you: I hear that if the NDC had had its way, Prof Dora Akunyili would not have been appointed Minister of Information and Communications. Their reason: “she was not controversial enough”. In other words, her appointment would not generate enough “opinions and counter-opinions necessary for the purposes of grand distraction” across the country.

Their recommendation?

Igwe Dapo Oyebanjo. Also known (by a few people) as D’Banj.

Brilliant stuff! Just imagine how cool it’d have been, to have Government press releases issued as hit singles. To enter Swe Bar and find a band of half-tipsy upwardly mobile young men and women dancing yahoozee to the lyrics of the 2009 budget.

To watch the NTA network news on a Wednesday and see D’Banj emerge from the Executive Council Chambers, harmonica in hand, and declare: “My name is D’Banj. My Jamaican friends call me Ski’banj. The President calls me ‘Minister Banj!’”

No long ting!

(ON)GOING CONCERNS: December 16, 2006 – The night of the giant Tipp-Ex

excerpt from my most recent column article, published in Next, Wednesday June 15, 2011

Let’s turn to former FCT Minister, and Obasanjo-era insider Nasir El-Rufai, to hear his own account of that same December 16 night (contained in a now widely distributed profile of Yar’Adua, published online in 2009)

“At the night of the primaries, Umaru Yar’Adua sent for me and came out of the State Box at Eagle Square and intimated me of this. An acceptance speech had been prepared for him, containing the announcement of Peter Odili as running mate. This was not acceptable to him, but he was also unwilling to disagree with Obasanjo so early in the game. I suggested that he rallies the governors to oppose the decision to announce Odili as running mate, and decline the nomination if all else failed.”

So, while a meeting was going on in Uba’s house, another equally frantic one was going on at Eagle Square, between El-Rufai and a nervous Yar’Adua; both sharing the same purpose: “Odili Must Go!”

Never in the history of Nigeria have so many been united against the Aso Rock ambitions of one person (apart from Ibrahim Babangida, that is).

Absolute authority on the matter lay in the hands of god: Olusegun Obasanjo, ably supported, El-Rufai tells us, by “Tony Anenih, Ahmadu Ali and Ojo Maduekwe” – in my opinion the supreme council of lesser gods of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

El-Rufai tells us that he had to settle for a “last resort”, as follows: “I sent people to wake up Nuhu Ribadu, then Chairman of EFCC to help persuade Obasanjo since all else appeared to have failed. It was not until about 5am that Ribadu succeeded in getting Odili off the ticket.”

Read the full article here