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IDEAS Radio 28 August 2020
Final IDEAS Radio broadcast
Ayo Obe: Wow!
AgO: … and she hasn’t been here since the Corona virus pandemic happened. And so Rotimi Sankore and Ayo Obe have practically left me alone …
AO: We ran away o! Ah!
AgO: … in the Square. And so today is also a big one because it’s the grand finale of IDEAS, so another [shakes rattle] for IDEAS because it’s done a lot for everyone. And we’re going to be talking about what IDEAS has done for us in the last … three years …
AO: Two years, it feels like three years Aghogho, but it was only two years.
AgO: In the last two years, what IDEAS has done for every single one of us. And you get the opportunity to call in all through. Remember you can watch live at Nigeria Info FM on Facebook so this is being streamed live beginning from now, any comments, any questions on Twitter you can have and you can talk with Ayo all through this. And so we are ready for IDEAS Ayo.
AO: Indeed we are.
AgO: So IDEAS pervades the entire Public Square, and where Rotimi is I’m sure he’s probably also listening too, because he was here from the very beginning..
AO: I think he’ll be otherwise engaged.
AgO: Ah ha, exactly, he’ll be engaged. A lot of stuff happening. Alright so Ayo, so let’s begin with IDEAS, what it stands for which is always the first question we have to ask. And I’ve found myself every now and then, on every show I am, even on TV too, to ask political office holders, anyone who is … who has the public trust to protect, whether the decision has been taken on the policy through the eyes of Integrity, Development, Ethics and Accountability. Such a wonderful concept, but let’s hear from the horse’s mouth.
AO: Well the thing is Aghogho, you know – I mean I should say that this IDEAS segment has been funded through the MacArthur Foundation’s anti-corruption programme, and I was invited by CITAD (the Centre for Information Technology and Development which is based in Kano) to come up with a project that would emphasize the issues of anti-corruption. And I have to say that my philosophy is (and I discovered recently that it’s actually an ancient Chinese philosophy) that you become what … you act as if you are what you want to be. And so my feeling was that by constantly harping on corruption and corruption … it was as though we Nigerians had decided to say that: No, no, nobody else should be considered in the corruption stakes it’s only Nigerians. And it was as if we were talking ourselves into it. At the same time, the reality is that nobody really likes to think of themselves as involved in corrupt behaviour. So … and that’s why when they talk about corruption, it’s always about somebody else’s corruption. So what I wanted to do by calling the programme IDEAS, was to try and highlight the role that Integrity, Ethics and Accountability will play in our Democracy. And you actually called it Development because it’s part of the same issue: that if we accentuate the positive, then we might be able to ask ourselves: Ok, I did this: can I really say that I was behaving with Integrity? I took public money, can I really say that I have properly Accounted for it? Was my behaviour Ethical? And then we look at how do these things stack up if we want to build a Democracy in Nigeria. So it’s really to encourage people to say: Yes there are a lot of negative sides about corruption, but if we only talk about eradication and we don’t think about what we’re going to put in its place, then we run the risk of everybody saying “Well I’m not corrupt, he’s corrupt, I’m not corrupt!” But if we turn it around and say: Does my behaviour measure up to it? And of course … speaking as a miserable sinner myself, I can see that there are times when I take the easy way out. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was behaving corruptly, but I wouldn’t say also that my behaviour really measured up to the highest standards (or quite frankly any standards) of Integrity. These things happen at the small level, they happen at the high level, the point is that we should continue to aim high and continue aiming high.
AgO: See, was it some sort of … test. Maybe not like being on the truth test … to find out everyone who had the opportunity to be on IDEAs to answer to the questions whether the IDEAS standard has been met, in saying: Did they pass the test, or to consider?
AO: Well it’s not really a test in the sense, because really … it’s a bit like the Holy Ghost, it’s indwelling. Whatever ever we say in public, and whatever boldface we put up in … when we are challenged, inside, we would ask ourselves: “But did I really meet up to the standards of Integrity?” I mean things like Accountability are a bit more obvious because you can say: Look, you took money, have you accounted for it? You have been entrusted with public power, have you accounted for your use of that power? And so on. So I think that … it’s a test, but it’s not one that we say: Have you passed the test or not? Because of course everybody would say: Yes, I passed the test! (Don’t ask me that question, it’s embarrassing!)
AgO: Ok. So, remember that throughout the course of this IDEAS segment, IDEAS Public Square, you can send us messages on WhatsApp, at some point we’ll also … at several points we’ll open the phone line, because people have always said: Ah, we never get the opportunity to talk with Ayo on IDEAS, but you will have the opportunity today. 08095975805 is the number on WhatsApp. Again, 08095975805.
So Ayo you know, during … before the Public Square, we had the Countdown to the elections.
AO: Yeah, Countdown 2019
AgO: So IDEAS has always been with Countdown and IDEAS in the Public Square. So we had the opportunity to deal with several issues, especially in the lead up to the 2019 general elections and one very interesting interview I remember was with Bankole Wellington, popularly known as Banky W.
AgO: And he did ruffle a lot of … well, not necessarily feathers, but people did think it was really interesting to see an artiste in the pop culture get involved with politics.
AO: Well I think that, as you said, we had a lot of … we tried to … every time we had somebody who was involved in politics on the programme, we did try to ask them … about the IDEAS content in their programme and their platform. In fact I remember our first … our first interviewee was the representative of the Action … Africa Action Congress who were running Omoyele Sowore for President. And we had other presidential candidates. But one interesting thing about Banky W was that he was not … going for the Presidency. He was starting small by running for the House of Representatives. And I do remember that he had expressed a lot of optimism about the electoral mathematics, because he said that: “The largest constituency in Nigeria, if you will, are the people who don’t show up.” And he said that … I mean, he called them disenfranchised, but in a way, one would say that they disenfranchised themselves. He said that those were the people who were frustrated, who don’t believe the system works or will ever work. And then he gave the mathematics of the constituency that he was contesting in, which was the House of Reps, and he said in … there were two hundred and fifty-something thousand people who had been registered to vote in his constituency, but in the actual election, only fifty-six thousand had voted, and that the person who won, won with just thirty thousand votes. So he felt that if he could energise the remaining 200,000 who had not voted but were registered to vote in his constituency, then … he’d be able to get … he might pull off an upset. Um, I mean, we call it ‘Voter apathy’ but of course, in the end we remember Aghogho, that the voter turnout in the 2019 elections was even lower than it had been in 2015!
So I think that it’s still something that Nigerians also need to ask themselves about, that we complain a lot about the offerings when we only look at the two major parties. But I think that … of course the two major parties, some of them did come onto the IDEAS programme and a lot more of them were … appeared in the Countdown 2019, but on the whole, there was a sort of: The contest is just between the two of us. And so they were not feeling so obliged to turn up. We had candidates who had a lot of interesting ideas, both in the IDEAS sense and in terms of policy who came on to the programme, and they were able to showcase themselves. But I think that when we as voters complain about politicians and then we are thinking only in terms of major parties. We’re not really thinking in terms of people who are outside the mainstream and could in fact make a difference. So I think that that was … I think it’s a problem.
I mean we talked about Vote Buying, Aghogho. We talked about the role of the media, I remember Kadaria Ahmed coming and talking about how it was important for the media to act with Integrity, to live up to their professional Ethics and so on. And … as I say, just to show that history is always repeating itself, on the 8th of February we had a programme in which we talked about the comments that had been made by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, when he had talked about interference by foreign election observers, and he had said that if they don’t take care, they’ll be returning in ‘body bags’! And of course, naturally the statement was ‘clarified’ I should say, or/and modified, but as I say, history tends to repeat itself in some of these things.
But Aghogho, it wasn’t just elections that we talked about, even in the Countdown 2019 period, because we had these bizarre and very messy circumstances that surrounded the issue of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
AgO: Right. Just a week to the election, and then he got suspended by the Federal Government. By the President rather.
AO: Well, it was … it wasn’t by … it was partly by the President, there was also the role of the Conduct of … the Code of Conduct Bureau which was acting on a petition filed by … a group that nobody had heard of before, I mean it really had a lot of the … it really smacked of (you won’t remember this) but in the days of the Association for a Better Nigeria which stopped the June 12th 1993 election …
AgO: Of course, Arthur Nzeribe, I remember very well.
AO: … you suddenly had an association coming up and saying and we are … and they were able to change the course of Nigerian history. Well, we don’t know whether the Nigerian history was changed by the removal of the Chief Justice because it did seem to us that the allegation, or the concern was that he might do some things, but …
AgO: And then there was a lot of concern thinking maybe, as he was supposed to inaugurate the election petitions tribunals, how that would affect the elections if it happened …
AO: But I mean at the end of the day, the … it’s a fact that Nigeria’s Supreme Court has never yet set aside a declared result in a presidential election. Even on … even the election that we had in 2007 where the ballot papers were not even numbered. … and of course … I mean I was … I’ve been attending virtually the Nigerian Bar Association Annual Conference, and I notice that the President who spoke through the Vice President, talked about how long it takes for cases to be heard, and he referred to his own experience in election-related litigation. But the … it is actually very difficult in a Presidential election, particularly now that there are time limits, because the size of the constituency is so huge. But when it comes to a basic factor like the ballot papers had no number, that is a technical matter that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to call witnesses from all over the federation. I thought that that could have been a reason for setting aside the election, but it never happened and as I say, it’s never happened.
But then we’d had this experience, or this example of what had happened in Kenya and it may be that it was felt that the Nigerian judiciary also wanted to show that: We too, we fit do am, … we also get liver for this kind of …
AgO: And Ayo I remember we had Richard Akinnola on the show then. I’ve got a short track from Richard Akinnola on IDEAS when he did appear. Let’s listen to this and then we come back and talk some more.
Richard Akinnola: “And the same scenario is playing out again, because the petition by that NGO, I mean, there’s one line in that petition that says that “… in view of … that the election is coming and that the judiciary is important both for the pre-election and the post-election period”. Again that raised some alarm that perhaps the whole thing is being orchestrated because they want to get this guy out because of post-election petitions. Perhaps!”
AgO: Okay, so there you have Richard Akinnola … does this smack of desperation eventually Ayo?
AO: Well yes, because certainly there were issues that had been raised against the Chief Justice, and there was also the concern that because he’s in charge of the … the bodies which are supposed to investigate petitions against judges. But of course the Chief Justice himself did not say: “I’m going to sit over everything”, he properly stood down and I’m sure that if the body had been meeting, they could have entertained whatever questions there were, and they would have said: “This concerns you My Lord Chief Justice, kindly recuse yourself or excuse yourself from this meeting.” And I don’t think that that would have … I don’t think that the Chief Justice would have said: “No, I’m not going, I’m going to stay!” I think it would have … and then the … sort of iron hand of the government would not have been visible, or rather, you know when you have a puppet, you don’t want to see the strings, you don’t want to see the hand inside the … inside the glove puppet. But here … you could see the strings were being pulled, so it was … that’s why I said it was both bizarre and untidy.
AO: And they … I mean Aghogho, we talk about doing things and behaving with Integrity. The truth is that some times you have to pretend to be behaving like somebody with Integrity as I said, so that you grow into the person who behaves with Integrity. But also, because when you don’t … when you are very obvious about the fact that you are not sticking to the rules, or that you are manipulating the process, then what you do is that you increase the cynicism, the lack of trust in your government. And you may think that: “I’ve got my own way” in this regard, but – and we’ll come back to it when we talk about the whole COVID-19 thing …
AO: … when you want people now to trust you, and to believe in you and to accept what you’re saying, they have this backlog of: “This person, when did they ever speak the truth?” And so it does become a problem. And they could have left … we could have … they would have … they may have been manipulating things behind the scenes and … But the … what we would have seen would have been the … the National Judicial Council meeting, sitting on the matter, asking the Chief Justice to step aside while they discussed the matter, and then it would have … that’s what we would have seen. We could have talked about: Ah, this matter … but instead …
AgO: So many options available. Alright Ayo, let’s take a break and pay some bills. Usually around this time IDEAS would have been over, but this time around, all the way until the end.
AO: I no go go!
AgO: Alright, welcome back to the Public Square and it’s half past four. How time flies when you’re having a fantastic discussion. The Grand finale IDEAS, Public Square, Ayo Obe’s live in the studio, so you can go on Facebook and you can watch the live stream. If you’ve got any questions you can also put … I see some questions already on WhatsApp, our WhatsApp number 08095975805. You can join us by telephone now also too: 0700993993993, again 0700993993993. Keep your comments short, just a minute I hope, I ask kindly so that we can be kind to the others who will be on the queue who will also want to contribute. So we’ve talked politics. We’re going to go to what IDEAS did with … what IDEAS did on security and the War against Terror shortly, but let’s get your reaction to the politics, then I’ll get back to you.
Okay Ayo, while the calls are going to come in through maybe I’ll take this first comment I see here on WhatsApp from Ope Kehinde he says that he’s from Ijebu. He says:
“Ayo Obe is very right. Except we the citizens take the challenges by ourselves a master will never release the slave. It is a slave that will fight for freedom. The last presidential election, the ruling party had 11 million votes. We have 64 million youths who do not vote. If we all come together I think we can win the Presidential election. I urge all social groups to come together.”
Interesting. … Let’s see who we have here. Okay. Hello and good evening.
Caller 1: Hello?
AgO: Yeah, hello, kindly turn … okay, he’s just testing. Okay. Hello and good evening.
Caller 1: Good evening. Can you hear me? This is Emmanuel calling from Surulere.
AO: Hello Emmanuel.
Caller 1: I called in to play Just a Minute.
AgO: I am sorry, you called in at the wrong time! The money for Just a Minute is gone, this is IDEAS and … on the Public Square, so, no Just a Minute for you sir, sorry about that.
Hello and good evening.
Caller 2: Hello.
Caller 2: Hello. Yeah, good evening. Good evening Madam, and good evening Aghogho, Mr. Aghogho.
This is Mahmud from Ikeja.
AO: Hello Mahmud.
Caller 2: Yes, Madam, I’m always, you know I enjoy your programme especially weekend like this, when I come back from Friday, I know first thing I will remember is to listen to the programme, … I quickly get my radio around and then start listening. So very very nice programme. And what you guys are discussing is very nice, and what I want you to do is that please, you have your station already in Abuja, that’s for the North Central. We need it in the North East and the North West also, so please, get your people there. Where’s the other man used to call on … through the phone, and used to talk about the northern and all this. So please, you people keep talk about it, I want it! We want Nigeria to move forward. We have a lot of problem in the northern Nigeria. Some of them they are not even reporting. So the media also they should help us, they should not be biased. When they are reporting, they should report the both sides. They should not report one side and leave the other side. Okay, so please, they should do more. And I’m very happy for you people, so please, continue to be doing a good job. Thank you very much. Bye bye.
AgO: Alright, thank you very much Mohammed. Ayo, maybe Rotimi will go to the North East to …
AO: Well yeah, I mean Aghogho, I remember when I was on the Police Service Commission, and one of the things that we did was a tour of the training institutions of the Nigeria Police, and we did go to the Mobile Police training camp at Gwoza, and it’s just strange to me now to think about Gwoza, I mean the Senator for … for that area who said that he can’t even go to his home town at Gwoza now, because of the threat of terrorism. But the fact is that people are living there, people are having to live there and they’re under the threat, and … while a public officer may be a bit more of a target, the fact is that ordinary Nigerians don’t have the luxury of being able to say: Ah, let me go and stay in … well Maiduguri is not always … but at least let me go and stay in Maiduguri or in Abuja. They have to stay where their houses and their livelihoods and their farms are.
AgO: Very true. Very true. Alright, let’s take in some more calls. … Sorry about that … Hello and good evening.
Caller 3: Hello. Good evening.
AO: Good evening.
Caller 3: Yeah, This is Olatunji from Badagry.
AO: Good evening Olatunji.
Caller 3: I’m happy to get through today to Ayo Obe. Yeah, concerning the idea Transparency and Accountability. The youths will love to come out to vote, but the nature of the voting is too appalling, the violence. Just check out what is happening in Edo State and Ondo. We should push for the signing of the Electoral Bill. You will see more youths coming out to vote, even maybe online or other means. Let’s push for this Electoral Bill. More people will come out to vote. Thankyou.
AO: I think that it’s … one can say that youths are being deterred by violence, but the fact is that the violence is not all over the place, and in a way, when you have only one fifth of the people turning out to vote, I mean, I’ll just go back to the figures that were given by Banky W: How much violence was there in the Eti-Osa axis that prevented youths from coming out to vote? I think that yes, there’s a risk, but … if there’s a risk, you run away! But you don’t say that: Ah, because there’s a risk, I won’t even step outside! Sometimes you have to make the first move. And you know, with a lot of these … this violence and bullies and thugs, you find that when they see the crowds that are there, they have to shelve their plans. But when … I think we tend to discourage ourselves by saying: Ah, the worst could happen. Sometimes … as the saying goes, you have to “Just Do It!” and yeah, if problems arise, I’ll be the first to run away! But … don’t … they say that “Cowards die many times before their death.” Don’t let us die before somebody has even said “Boo!”
AgO: Let’s take in maybe one or two more calls before we move over to Security and the War on Terror. Hello and good evening.
Caller 4: Hello.
Caller 4: Yeah, good evening. Please Aghogho, I want to deviate a bit, I don’t … I no longer hear Mr. Sankore. Is he on vacation or something?
AO: I told you!
AgO: He’s not on vacation, in fact he should have been in here today, but he had some issues, domestic issues to deal with, but he’s great, he’s fine. He was on last week also too, on Public Square for a long while.
Caller 4: Please, he’s a great analyst, and a very intelligent man, you people should not let him go. Bye!
AgO: Alright thank you, Rotimi isn’t going anywhere, I still spoke with him this afternoon.
Okay, one more call. Hello and Good evening.
Caller 1: Hello, good evening, this is Emmanuel who called you from Surulere. Yes, as regards the voters not turning out, that is youths not turning out en masse to come and vote. I believe it just boils down to the level of education these young ones (that’s the youths) get, because growing up – I’m 25 now – growing up I could observe that youths have lost trust in the government. That’s why there was a lesser turn out in 2019 election compared to 2015 elections. So I feel the youths themselves have lost that trust, they don’t see their leaders any longer as someone that can offer them anything of good value, so that’s my thought on that.
AgO: Alright, thank you very much.
AO: I appreciate the sentiment, but … the point about Democracy (because the D in – as I said in IDEAS – is also for Democracy) the point about Democracy is that you have the tools in your hand to change your government, and you know … the vote that is not counted is the vote that you don’t cast. I mean, that’s the one sure way to make sure that your vote isn’t counted, is to not bother to cast it at all. And for some people it actually is in their interest to discourage you, to be telling you that: Ah, don’t bother, there’s no point, and all the rest of it. And I’m sorry if I keep on … it’s just that he actually gave the figures, but you can imagine if, instead of 200,000 people staying home, half of those had turned out to vote in that Eti-Osa House of Reps, people would have been saying: Eh, an upset! What has happened? What’s going on in this Eti-Osa? Why have people turned out to vote? And it would have been a big surprise, and it would also have been … it’s not the presidency quite alright, but it would have shown the people who are feeling: It’s just between the two of us … you jump into my party, I jump out of yours, this and that; that … basically it’s one hand washing the other Then suddenly, something will come out of left field, and they will say: Enh? Who is this new player, and … of course, they will try to suborn them and bring them into their camp, but the point about that candidate is that some of them were saying: No, you can’t suborn me, that I’m here for the long haul.
AgO: Right. Very true, very true. Let’s move on to security and the war on terror and which also very dear to Ayo also too. Ayo’s been in this fight together with a number of people since 2014, Bring Back Our Girls group of girls who were abducted in the dead of the night, and every day and year, something about the BringBackOurGirls that Ayo Obe is directly involved in. So Ayo, we had a number of discussions around the war on terror. I think one big discussion we had was with the Country Director Amnesty International Country Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, a report they had put out in terms of what was going on with the war on terror in the North East especially I remember, with what the security operatives were doing.
AO: Yeah, Aghogho because the issue of Accountability, as we’ve always said, it’s not just about money, it’s also about Accountability for the lives and security of Nigerians. But … and that’s why … as I’m sure as you will know – that I’ve … the concept behind the Bring Back Our Girls campaign is that government is Accountable for the lives and security of the kidnapped children. It’s not that it’s responsible for the actual kidnapping or for the crime, but that it is responsible to account for them. And the same thing happens also when it comes to the way in which the government is waging the war on terror and the war on insurgency, the war against banditry and so on, because we may think that these problems just arise out of nowhere and … I’ve often heard Rotimi talking about the importance of the governance issues which are at the root of some of these problems, but also you have the push factor, of when the war is waged in a way that is not in accordance with the human rights and humanitarian requirements, then what it does, is that it pushes more people into the arms of terrorists and insurgents and … it’s very clear that Nigerians really don’t want to know: How did you get there? They … as we see from the reaction to the rehabilitation programmes, they just want to say: Well, if you got there, however you got there we don’t want to hear from you, we just basically want you not to be there. So I think that it is important that we don’t … that the war is waged in a way that does not keep on feeding the beast. … As you say we had Osai Ojigho…
AgO: Yeah, they have been in the eye of the storm especially with the state actors, in trying to understand what their role is when they ask questions about how the war is being fought, and many times … to the point where you even had protesters demanding that Amnesty International leave the country!
AO: Well I mean the thing is that the people who are in Amnesty International Nigeria are Nigerians and they are … what they are saying is that: Because we are Nigerians, we want our country to do a better thing. I mean it’s one thing to want to win the war against terrorism and insurgency, banditry and even criminality … kidnapping and so on – but if … we want to win it in a way that would make us proud as Nigerians, and in a way that will prevent it from coming back bigger than it was, or worse than it was. And I do remember that Osai Ojigho, she did ask questions about … If the government is arresting people and they are reviewing their training practices for soldiers in the field, the issue was that: Have those who have transgressed against international law, have they been brought to account? Have they been tried? … It’s not enough to say that we are dealing with it, if people are held to account, then it’s also a warning to others, and it also sets a standard for others, and it tells people that there is a standard. Because what she pointed out (and I’m going to quote her if I may). She said:
“And the general insecurity we are seeing in the country is because people do not trust the security forces to keep them safe, and that they will be fair, and that those who have committed these crimes will be held to account. And instead the cycle of violence continues.”
And … Aghogho, on the 12th of April last year we marked the 5th anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls, and … we’ve now had the 6th anniversary, but on the 23rd of February this year, our guest if you remember, was … sorry, Ier Jonathan-Ichaver of ‘Nigeria Mourns’ and … they had produced a report on Mass Atrocity Deaths. I don’t know if we have …
AgO: Yes, let’s listen to Ier here:
Ier Jonathan-Ichaver: Ok. So for some years now, I think for about two years now, we started … we had started the process of basically tracking the killings. Because one of the things we saw that was coming out, first with the Boko Haram insurgency, and then various things happening around the country, was you just hear these sensational reports, this has happened in this place, a thousand people have died, or three hundred people …
AO: Unnamed people.
IJI: Unnamed, one, so we’re not even naming …
AO: Not properly counted.
IJI: Not properly accounted for. And then one group of … one set of authorities is saying: That’s not true, it was less. Another group of people are saying it was more, and sometimes the communities affected would say this or say that. I remember we had things like that in Agatu. And several places and so on and so forth. Even when, for example, Abuja bombing happened, if we remember that bomb that happened on the outskirts … you know, we didn’t have a clear figure. And what struck me is that till today, there’s not been a consistent list of victims, you know, that we can say, or the government can authoritatively say, that this has happened. Some of that has started happening. So what informed this was that we need to really be able to say: Ok, these are the numbers of people that have died, and corroborate the … these happenings.”
AO: Yeah. So I think what that is really trying to do is to really put the issue of Accountability front and centre, because of the way that we are … you know Africans are often accused of taking life cheaply, and it’s not that we take life cheaply, it’s just that … there’s nothing for us to expend our energy on, there’s nowhere for us to go for redress, there’s nowhere for us to say: Did my … relation, my loved one … were they affected in this incident or not? Because the government cannot tell you, I mean you compare it with the 9/11 situation in the United States. Every single person who was killed in that atrocity has been …
AgO: … had to be accounted for. You do see memorials going back to the Vietnam War, the Korean War in DC, where all the names of the people are there, and you have relatives go. And people have pressed for such … maybe we have memorials, the Civil War every single conflict so that we know that these are the people and they have relatives who can come there and pay their tribute every now and again.
AO: Exactly. And I think that we … that it’s not just that we take life cheaply, it’s just that we have nowhere to show that we care, and part of the problem of that is that our government doesn’t care and it doesn’t give us an outlet. But I think that not having that outlet is not good for Nigeria, it doesn’t really … it doesn’t address the issue of Accountability. And when there isn’t that Accountability, as I said, what we try to do at IDEAS, is to let people know that: We are not saying you killed these people. We’re not saying that you kidnapped them. We’re saying that you have to account for them because the whole purpose of our having a nation that has come together, it’s one of the first reasons that people come together is security, and we have entrusted you with powers, and … we get to the stage now, where the state no longer has the monopoly on violence, okay, but nonetheless, the state has the accountable, is accountable for the force that we put into its hand. If we put a gun into a soldier’s hands we expect that soldier to be able to account for it. If we give a police officer the right to lock somebody up, we expect that police officer to be able to account for it. And we can’t have a situation where it only applies to the known people, the people who know somebody and so on. And of course yesterday I was listening to – as I said, the Nigerian Bar Association, and we had Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode, and that’s the … she was talking about an assault on her brother, who is the son of a former head of state. And … again, the … the perpetrator alleged to be ‘somebody who knows somebody’ … the file disappeared. And when you have a situation where such things can happen, and you think that it will only stop at the level of … the ordinary man on the street, you find that it creeps up and up and up, and that’s why you have this situation where people say: Well, the government thinks it has a monopoly on violence, but it doesn’t. And so we need to, if we are going to bring it back, then we have to see that government is treating every life as an important life. There’s no point in our saying “Black Lives Matter” and wagging our fingers at the United States: it is terrible what’s happening there, but … I always feel a little bit somehow, if … I always hope that our government will just keep quiet, so that nobody turns round and says: Well they don’t matter in your country!
AgO: So true, so true. I’m seeing … maybe we’ll take a couple of calls on this one before we take a break for the news at the top of the hour. 0700993993993, let’s talk about security and IDEAS, whether … those discussions have happened, questions have been responded to in a way you think … so many messages on WhatsApp. I’ll take one very quickly while the calls are populated. This one Ayo is from Chukwuma in Okota who says that … they’re still on the politics issue: Reginald Chukwuma says: “Coming out to vote is not just the issue, but security of voters is vital. We were harassed at Okota when we came out en masse to vote and at the end of it, our votes never counted. How sure are we that electoral violence would not happen another time?”
AO: No I … let me say that when I said that it is not everywhere, that’s not to say that it is not somewhere, and the truth is that in certain parts of Lagos there were serious issues. But even then, people were still able to turn out to vote even within that place, many of them were able to vote, and as I said it’s … if it’s me, I too will run away. I don’t blame people for running away, but what I think is very disturbing is when they are … they have so taken hold of our mind that we don’t even come out. I salute those people who did come out, I don’t criticise them for running away in the face of violence though.
AgO: Alright let’s take one call before we go on a break. Let’s see … sorry about that. Okay, hello and good evening.
Caller 5: Hello? Yes, good evening sir.
AgO: Good evening, we’re here. We can hear you, Ayo is here too.
Caller 5: Yeah. Good evening the lady in the studio. Wonderful. Yeah, let me also use this opportunity to thank Mr. Rotimi, he’s always doing the feature very well. My name is I Square Okore, I’m calling from Ojo.
AgO: I Square, go ahead.
Caller 5: Now, if you are looking at war on terror, you demand sincerity and seriousness. If you look at the war on terror in Nigeria, it’s just some group of people who are trying to create environment for Al Qaeda and Taliban to be in place in this country, because most of all these war on terror in Nigeria are man made …
AO: All of them are.
Caller 5: Hello?
AO: I said that all of them are man made.
Caller 5: Hello? Just listen carefully, listen carefully: If you look at, one cannot continue to do something that he did yesterday that has failed him, there must be a change. For instance, when the US they were fighting War on Terror, they had a general called General Stanley McChrystal. The man was not giving them a good result. US figures and others gathered together at a point called West Point, they changed the man to General David Petraeus. Not up to a year, Bin Laden was found. So why not change like … the General we have, I mean the Chief of Army Staff, the Defence Staff, to somebody who is not a Muslim, who is not from the North, so that let us know whether these boys they are just serious people or they are just girl scouts they are being pampered and giving us headaches … to make it appear as if they are strong.
AgO: Alright, thank you I Square.
AO: I think that the point that he has made, because we’ve often mentioned it, that the President is particularly slow and reluctant about changing what is seen not to be working. And the point is that he may be very patient, but his electorate, his constituency (and that means everybody in Nigeria) does not have the time to be patient. And … he’s given these people five good years now to tackle the problem. Yes, we accept that there have been fewer bombs … we haven’t seen bomb attacks in Abuja, we haven’t seen … you know, we’ve had some of the kidnap victims returned, but we’ve still had kidnappings, and in fact, insurgency or the lack of security has spread from just the Boko Haram and ISWAP in the North East, to the North West and so on. So the … there’s … its really difficult for many of us to understand that these people that you have entrusted with the power to preserve and to secure our lives, they are found wanting.
AgO: Absolutely. Alright Ayo, let’s take a quick break. We’ll take a break, when we come back … the headline news at the top of the hour, and then Public Square will continue. Stay with us.
AgO: Alright welcome back to Public Square, and Public Square Special today with Ayo Obe, IDEAS Grand Finale. How I wish we’re not going to say so and we have Ayo Obe every other Friday from what we’re getting, but it’s what we’re doing, looking at what a wonderful two years it’s been with IDEAS, looking at all of the big talking points. Remember you can join us online @PublicSquareNG, @NigeriaInfoFM, @ideasradiong, @naijama, any of these handles, questions, comments, we will entertain them and more importantly we are also streaming this live on Facebook which means you can watch and see everything happening. Also remember on WhatsApp 08095975805 is the number to send messages and comments to, and we are also taking phone calls every now and again.
So! Ayo, we’ve talked about security, and the politics in the lead up to the 2019 elections. And now we’re going to look at Accountability which has always been … well a lot around the political office holders and how they handle the money. I remember you had joked once and said that if any journalist worth his salt is going to do something, he will land up in trouble or hot water if he goes after the money: they will definitely come after you.
AO: Well I think generally that … I mean it’s what we saw under the military dictatorship, that once you start asking about … they don’t mind human rights, democracy and so one, but once you start looking into where they’re getting their money and where they are keeping it, then you become a danger, and we’ve seen it …
AgO: Who is bankrolling who?
AO: I’ve been made to understand that that phrase is … can be seen in a very negative light. So you could be asking who’s sponsoring me, just as I might say … I mean you could ask me who’s sponsoring, who’s bankrolling the IDEAS segment, but it would be nicer if you were to say: Who is sponsoring the IDEAS segment on the Public Square? And I would tell you that it’s the MacArthur Foundation through the Centre for Information Technology and Development! But of course, that … I don’t mind being asked the question: I might ask that it be rephrased, but I don’t mind being asked the question because really, I dare say that I don’t have anything to be ashamed of in the fact that this programme is being sponsored. So … and I think that … we do talk about the money, I mean I’ve tried to explain that IDEAS is a concept that goes into every … it permeates every aspect of public life in Nigeria, you can look for it everywhere. But of course, it’s a lot about the money, and that’s why it was … we were really happy, very glad or we were actually very fortunate, that first of all we had … I know that I’ve always said I’m a big fan of TrackaNG: they follow the money! And what they’ve been doing for several years now, as they said, they started when they found that funds that had been donated for flood relief were just going … that political party bosses were drawing up lists and that was where the money went. And so they started tracking how money is being spent, money that’s meant to get to ordinary people. Particularly they were looking at Constituency Projects. And so, we had the head of Tracka, Uadamen Ilevbaoje.
I should say that Tracka is actually a division of BudgIT, which again, is one of those organisations … you see, we in … Nigerians … we like the romance of … “Let’s overthrow them!” “Let’s have a …” but at the end of the day, whether you have a revolution now or you have it today, we had revolutions yesterday, and at the end of it, you still have to make sure that whoever comes in after your revolution, is going to be held Accountable. And that’s why … it’s not necessarily the glamourous … We can all get out! But when the dust settles, you still have to come back to that issue, and that’s why groups like BudgIT and Tracka which have made … they’ve made that accountant’s job exciting, interesting. Because people can see that it’s having an effect. You know, I will just remember Uadamen: he said that they’ve been doing this Constituency Projects implementation, and that … they found that … a lot of it was being tied to (quote and unquote) ‘empowerment’, or you will say that you are buying motorcycles to empower people to do okada …
AgO: Grinding machines …
AO: … and so on, and they would say: Well, if you are buying motorcycles, who are the beneficiaries? Can we see the basis on which you are distributing these? And so on. And then we found that … I remember asking him why is the price of these individual items so high? Is it that the … when you get your okada or your grinding machine, you get also get some training in running a business, and so on and so forth. And he said … I remember he said, I’m just going to quote him, he said that “There was a
N60 million provision to supply grinding machines …” So I asked him: How many grinding machines? And he said that he had called a lawmaker, or that a lawmaker had spoken to him (he didn’t want to give the person’s name) that the lawmaker called him and said that he said a constituency project, and he had priced a grinding machine, but that … and that the price that he the lawmaker found was between N30,000 to N36,000, but that the Ministry, Department or Agency to which they had awarded the project, was costing it at N250,000 for one grinding machine! You can see the level of inflation of the cost. And in fact … we were saying that: Ah ah, so these pepper grinder, they must be millionaires! And he said that he, the lawmaker, this particular lawmaker said that: No, no no no, I can’t be party to that, you want to buy a grinding machine that costs N40,000 or thirty-something thousand naira for N250,000; no no no no no, that he’s not going to be in that. And he also gave the example of kẹkẹ NAPEP: he said that ordinarily it should cost N400,000 but that if you look at the way they calculate it, they were pricing a kẹkẹ NAPEP for N1.2 million.
AgO: 300% increase … ridiculous!
AO: I mean, it’s really quite … it’s …Aghogho, it goes beyond ridiculous, it’s actually obscene if we have to be truthful, it’s obscene. And … but fortunately … I mean Tracka had also given examples of these legislators, when they are asked about it, they say: “No, I only nominated it, it’s nothing to do with me!” And then they found that some of these legislators are keeping the items. There was one of them that they found, he had hundreds of motor cycles and sewing machines in his compound! He wasn’t giving them out. Maybe he was waiting to release them the run up to the elections. But the point is that these are people who were saying: “No, nothing to do with me, I don’t have anything to do with it!” and they had their fingers all over it, they are hand in glove … they take it – as they said – to agencies where they can control things and so on. But … we also, after we had Uadamen, we also had the Chairman of the ICPC, because you may know that the ICPC started working with Tracka on this issue of Constituency Projects, you know, the inflation of costs, the non-performance; the ones that do perform, they make sure that they put their name all over it and say: “Donated by …” and so on and so forth. So the ICPC came in, and they talked about this issue of apparent price inflation, I don’t know if you have the clip.
AgO: Yes, so let’s hear Professor Bolaji Owasanoye.
Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye: “First of all, the value for money component, ok, needs to be reviewed. So whereas the majority of the projects were actually done, but they were not very well done. Because we took quantity surveyors along with us. So if you built a school or built a hospital, and you said it cost
N100 million, and a quantity surveyor is saying: What is on the ground, yes, there’s a building there, but it’s N50 million. So then we question that. So we need to change the practices that in a way …
RS: And in that kind of case, what then happens?
BO: Ok, so a lot of things can happen. We could ask that the quality be improved. We could ask for the balance, and in some cases we have asked for the balance. We could then use that report to say: Ok, how did you arrive at these figures? So that they can reconcile professionally. The reason we took quantity surveyors along is also in case we need to go to court, the evidence of expert in court will stand the test of scrutiny, not our own evaluation, not our own assessment and all that. So we brought, and they did it pro bono with us all the projects that we looked at, so that if we need to take any matter to court. But what we want is what can deliver value to the people.”
AgO: So, Chairman of ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye there.
AO: Yes, and I think that if we see more of that, it’s … again, it’s not the: We’re on the streets, but it’s the kind of systemic change that we need to have in this country if people are going to get it through their heads that you cannot just be stealing public money and put it in your pocket. … That’s it. And another of the systemic changes that came up, was this question of the … I remember is the Open Portal …
AgO: Yeah, Open Treasury
AO: Open Treasury Portal, where the money that is voted is being tracked, and we had Mr. Tunji Andrews last December on … I know he’s a favourite of the station, but he also came on to the programme:
AgO: Yes, so let’s listen to Tunji Andrews here:
AO: Ok. Can I also ask, I mean, I know that my time is coming to an end, but I mean, this was launched with a lot of fanfare and … a great deal of, … but I just wonder, does that mean that we are pioneering in this, or …
TA: Oh no, no!
AO: You mean that other countries …
TA: Not at all, in fact we’re so behind on it!
AO: Oh, we’re late to the party?
TA: We’re late. That’s probably why the EU paid for it in the first place! They were like: You guys don’t have it? Alright, we’ll pay for it. So yes, well. It should be standard practice in any country that generates data, and that means any country basically. There should be a standard practice of … publishing existing data, and the National Bureau of Statistics and the Central Bank do it in silos, but this is a first step in to making all those things, expenditure more public, and we appreciate it, but we are saying we can do more.
AO: Well, I mean, I think in the end …
AgO: … in the end.
AO: And what … what … I think I was going on to say was that it may be put out in a form that is supposed to just bury us in figures, but that there are groups like BudgIT which are going to say you can’t … you can’t bamboozle us with that kind of thing, and they will go through it and they did, they went through these figures and they have come out with …
AgO: And interestingly, we work a lot with the Bureau of Statistics and all those reports that come out, but it’s amazing that you still have state actors who doubt the veracity of those reports. I think it was the Governor of Delta State the other day saying that: “I don’t understand how they came up with this underemployment and unemployment figures, they need to come to my state and they will see the farmers who have been employed.” … but …
AO: I mean, no problem and the thing is that even if he does his own surveys and his own statistics, he will still be asked to show what is your methodology and so on. And that’s what the National Bureau of Statistics does, it gives its methodology. But I think the point is that … Governors are sort of treating figures that are … that are not favourable, instead of treating them as an indictment, they need to see them as a challenge, so that they can say: Well, last year it was this, this year it is that, but if you start off lying, when things improve, who’s going to see that you have made an improvement and … and congratulate you for that. I think it’s a problem where we want to conceal the facts. The great thing about the Open Treasury Portal is the transparency that it’s going to bring. Now as I said, there was an attempt to obscure that transparency, but groups in Nigeria are not going to allow themselves to be fooled, and of course, eventually the government will end up having to put those figures out in a way that we can all take advantage of them and see what is being voted for, for what. So I think that … the importance of openness … it’s one of the IDEAS principles that we want to see carried forward.
AgO: Like a culture.
AO: I mean, as I say, we all like to say that it is the indwelling Holy Spirit that makes us holy and behave with Integrity. But it also helps if you know that there’s somebody watching over your shoulder to see what you are up to and … the combination, the push and the pull can take us to the promised land.
AgO: Alright Ayo, let’s go 360. We’re live on FaceBook, and I see several comments in, so the FaceBook people saying we’re not giving them attention, but thank you for watching, we’re on to you now. Tony Egemonu says: What of Mr. Sankore? He’s fine. Isaac watching from Ikeja, sorry Ziko … I hope Ikeja is OK now after that helicopter crash. Good to watch live for the first time. Why do you want to stop IDEAS? This is Godfrey. I’ve missed Mr. Rotimi in the studio, Bring him Back. He’s not going anywhere. Well done Madam Ayo Obe. Watching live, thank you O Sanni Bright. Joe, Joseph says: Nice seeing Ayo on Public Square. Nice seeing you too Joe. Kingsley asking about Mr. Rotimi. He’s fine.
AO: I said it Aghogho, Rotimi’s fans will say: I hope you are not replacing Mr. Rotimi with that woman. And no, don’t worry, Mr. Rotimi is not being replaced with this woman.
AgO: Yes. And IDEAS is with us always. But let’s take some calls 0700993993, remember when you’re patched … when I patch you through, in fact move away from your radio set so that we don’t get the feedback. Hello and good evening.
Caller 6: Hello.
AgO: Okay, move away from the radio very quickly. Good. We can hear you now.
Caller 6: Please, I want Mr. please, please, I’m interrupting you, very sorry about that. Please, I want Mr. Rotimi’s telephone so that I can console him please, for the death of his father.
AgO: Ok, if you go on Twitter … he will reply …
Caller 6: I don’t have Twitter o! No, I don’ t have anything. I have just only telephone please.
AO: Well they can’t be giving out his number.
AgO: We can’t give his number, I wish you could go on Twitter, he will respond to you on Twitter. If you have any loved one there, your children or friend, they can help you with that.
AO: Anyway, when he sees the recording of this he will know that somebody called in to wish … to condole him.
AgO: Yes, yes. Hello and Good evening.
Caller 7: Hello, good evening. Paul from Egbeda. How are you doing?
AgO: We’re fine.
Caller 7: Okay. My sympathy for Mr. Rotimi.
AgO: Yes, I’m sure he will hear.
Caller 7: Yeah. Concerning Accountability and security, I want to ask your guest a question about the last election. There were some individuals, like in Lagos State here – precisely Okota Ago area – where some individuals came to pick up the ballot boxes, and they were mobbed and even almost being killed, we saw it on television and in the … it was reported nationwide. I want to find out what happened to that individual, have the journalists or this organisation taken it up to find out if that individual was let to go scot free after disturbing the peace of the public and also violating the Electoral law? That’s number one. Number two: all those that were caught on electoral malpractices, up to today, because I listen to Nigeria Info, Wazobia they are wonderful people, I read newspapers up to today, I’ve not heard anybody that are being sentenced or jailed for election malpractices. And those that shot people and killed, I’ve not heard or read where they were taken to court, tried and jailed, and election is fast approaching again. By next year we’ll be counting the next two years or thereabouts.
AgO: In fact next month Edo has elections …
Caller 7: Okay, so … one of the things that I’ve found not too interesting in this part of the world, is that we make references to things in America and Europe, and we try to copy it without implementing it.
AgO: Ok, before you start to answer the question, let Ayo Obe respond, thank you very much.
AO: But I think he makes the very good point about impunity. Because the … and in a way it’s our fault, both as … and I’m very happy that he said that he continues to listen, and to monitor, and to see what is the fate of these people? Because the fact is that the media eye goes off these things. Now if you remember when President … late President Yar’Adua came to power he set up an Electoral Reform Commission and one of the recommendations of that Commission was that there should be … that the obligation or the duty of prosecuting people for electoral offences should be taken away from INEC and put in the hands of a separate commission whose job is to deal with electoral offences. Now obviously murder and assault, firing weapons, those are criminal offences whether they are being done under the cover of election or not. But if you had a separate body, then it would also have responsibility and it would be able to monitor whether these things are happening. But as it is, the expectation is that the media will say: Well, nothing is happening. And they don’t continue asking, so that when you see the electoral … the INEC and … does … do those who have access to INEC and so on at press conferences and so on, say: On such and such a day in Lagos, nine people were killed during the course of the 2019 elections. What has happened to the cases against them? You know, I think that there’s always this expectation of amnesia on the part of people, that we will get tired and go away, that … it’s one of the reasons why I continue to hammer on the Bring Back Our Girls, we say that whether you like it or not, we’re going to continue asking, we’re not going to live up to your expectation that the Nigerian people have short memories and will soon go away. So I commend that last caller actually, for not forgetting, and I would hope that his call will remind some enterprising journalists not only to talk about bankrolling, but also to talk about … when they meet the appropriate people, say that: What has happened? What is going on? Impunity is … we think it helps, but in the end, it destroys. We need to deal with it.
AgO: Absolutely. It destroys. Okay, we’ll take a quick break and we’ll come back for the final half of Public Square with Ayo Obe. Lines are open, I see lines buzzing as well as the messages on all our social media platforms. We’ll try as much as possible to take them. Please stay with us.
AgO: Oki-doki. And this for the final half as we touch base on Public Square and with IDEAS the Grand Finale, Ayo Obe live in the studio believe it or not [shakes rattle]. And because of the Corona virus is why Ayo and Rotimi haven’t been in the Square, but they’ve been joining of course via the telephone all the conversations. And so we have the IDEAS interestingly also, it’s the last …was it last time you were in the studio? Yes.
AO: Yes, in fact it’s interesting Aghogho because you know, we were just facing this … up to the reality of Corona virus, and I remember talking about what was coming down the line. I mean, I had … I had referred to – as I said – to the United States and Iran which were countries which were having quite a lot of Corona virus cases and contrasting the fact that in the United States, they were always fact checking their president and finding that he wasn’t speaking the truth; and that in Iran, the people were being asked to … make these sacrifices for Corona … to prevent the spread of Corona virus, but they were in a country where their government had shot a plane out of the sky, and the government had denied. It was only when the accident inspectors, we are coming to inspect, and the black box is going to show … and then the government had to say: Oh, yeah, actually, we did shoot the plane. And so the people were sort of: You know? So our government can lie like this! … and so it became, after the government has lied like that, then the government is now telling them: Eh henh, you have to trust us that this is what you need to do to combat Coronavirus, and so … it’s the same thing with our government here, that the government is telling us things. And it’s been a constant refrain: People don’t believe in the reality of Corona virus, I think you have a clip where I’m talking about it?
AgO: Yes, let’s … let’s roll back the months!
Ayo Obe: “… and you might say to yourself: Well why does it matter if people believe or don’t believe? But we’re asking a lot of people when we say that we need to be responding as a nation to the Corona virus. And if people are sort of doubting everything that government says, doubting whether they … I mean, from the beginning they were on top of … they said they were on top of the matter, and people were doubting them. And then the Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was reported as saying that the virus is caused by corruption. Now, most people felt that … it’s a strange thing to say, but unfortunately his organisation said: No, what he meant was that the effect would be worse than, or as bad as corruption. And then they tried to put some spin on it, and they were busy dressing it up, and people were bringing out the tape and saying: But this is what the man said. If he meant to say something else, then he should say … he can say: Oh, my words … tongue twisted, I meant to say … But they were busy putting out this story! And he was … then he came out and said: Yes, it’s caused by corruption (because there was now somewhere else that somebody had said …) and the point is that it seems to me that the end result of all this is to say that: What is these people … What are these people saying that is the truth? And I think it’s an important factor, because you’ve seen the situation in some cities in China. A whole city closed off and shut down: that demands a tremendous amount of sacrifice on the part of the people. In Japan, schools closed for …
AgO: Right, and in Japan, the Prime Minister has resigned today. Oh dear, so how time flies. But the Coronavirus, it’s the Corona year we’re beginning to find out.
AO: Because it’s … in fact the Coronavirus is an encapsulation of the IDEAS issues … Integrity. The Integrity of the figures: we had a … an organisation that said it’s going to be testing millions of people by the time as we’re sitting here now, we’re nowhere near that: we’re not even … I don’t think we’ve even … have we even reached half a million?
AgO: Just about … we’re still under half a million.
AO: This is the … so the Integrity of the testing. The Integrity of raising huge amounts of money and saying some … I mean it’s interesting because BudgIT published a map showing the states which have accounted for the Corona virus funds that they have received. I’m happy to say that Lagos State is one of the states that has accounted, but the vast majority of the country has not … the State Governments have not accounted for the funds that they have received, and on top of that there was the Central Bank. I think I mentioned that I had put in some money into the Central Bank fund, so that I would be there like that irritating shareholder who can say: Yeah, what did you do with my
N10,000? What do you mean, what is your N10,000 when other people were asked to put in half a billion? I don’t care, I want to know what’s happened to my … because if you are exact in small things, you will be exact in large things. Fortunately Mr. Femi Falana SAN has actually taken the matter up and is asking the Central Bank to account for the money that it collected. And the point is that … it’s a bit like this whole CAMA thing. The issue is not that you are to be presumed to have stolen the money, but that you are supposed to account! And when you have the knowledge that you have to account as part of your operating system, then you know that: I’d better not try some things, and honesty becomes a habit. As I say, let’s pretend to be the thing that we want to be so that we can grow into being that thing. But if we sort of say: I don’t have to account to … I’ve spent it on this, I’ve spent on that. Because even these things like … as Professor Owasanoye was saying, the cost at which you buy things is an important factor, … that when people feel that there’s so much money available, then they begin to charge and to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion!
AgO: Hmmm, hmm, very true. So Ayo, let’s take … we just have some time now to open the phone lines, we can get people’s reactions. On WhatsApp 08095975805, again 08095975805, that’s on WhatsApp only. And then you can go to the phone … I didn’t realise there’s a call handler, so the calls were being screened. Okay, I see that Joy is calling in from Okota, so Joy, we will take you in straight away. Hello Joy.
Caller 8: Hello, Good afternoon sir.
AO: Good afternoon Joy.
Caller 8: Good afternoon Mummy Obe Ayo.
AO: Ayo means Joy!
Caller 8: Ayo means … Thank you for the good work you are doing Mummy. Yes, we appreciate you. Mummy, I am calling you with pain in my heart. You are talking about of transparency, concerning our money in this nation. And every day we keep hearing people looting billions. And we, because we lost our sight, we are suffering, we are going through pains! For the past three days … I live alone, I know the hell I’m going through. They are not giving us job, we cannot see our Honourable or our Senators, we cannot see our own Chairman, [weeps] My God! And this pain is getting too much. Please Mummy Obe, they should help people with disabilities …
Caller 8: I’m one of them. But since Wednesday I’ve been trying to commit suicide because I’m just tired.
AgO & AO: Don’t do that. Please don’t do that.
Caller 8: And NDDC … for … I didn’t remember again, look at the billions of money they looted. It was not … there’s nobody to accountable for anything. Is it not worth it me jumping into the Lagoon. [Weeps]
AgO: Now no, Joy, no Joy.
AO: Now Joy, please, let me urge you. I actually feel very affected by what you are saying, and I think that sometimes, when people take money in the way that you’ve described, looting our money, they don’t seem to, they act as if it doesn’t have any effect on people. It does have an effect …
Caller 8: I want to fill a gas …
AO: No, don’t …
Caller 8: … just N300 but I can’t afford it.
AgO: Okay Joy, we have your … this is painful but we have your number, the call handler will get in touch with you. This is really painful.
AO: Because then they can get your details and get some assistance to you directly.
AgO: So call handler, please help us save Joy’s number. Ebuka I see, is calling in from Mushin. Hello Ebuka.
Caller 9: Yeah, Good evening. Very very sad and unfortunate. I listened to [inaudible] and at the end of the day. [inaudible] Look, this COVID-19 has done us more harm than good it’s unfortunate that …
AgO: Ebuka are you there?
Caller 9: Hello? … We’ve been left, we’ve been presented with so many realities that we are confused of what to really say this is this, because of there is no transparency because there is no communication. Let us know the real thing, if COVID-19 … like in the market, anywhere you go, my people face, they are not … mask is just thing of the past social distance na tire. So the communication they should just let us know, all this lockdown of a thing …
AO: Well Emeka, I would …
AO: Ebuka sorry. Ebuka, I would say that we should … we thank God, for one reason or the other, whether it’s because we … God looked at us and said: I beg, please leave those people. But for one reason or the other, we have not been as badly affected as … I mean, I talked about the testing, but the truth is that if we were really dying in large numbers from COVID-19, it would certainly be … it wouldn’t be possible to hide it. But the point is that this was an opportunity for us. This was an opportunity for us. We looked at our health system and we said: Ah, there’s a big gap there! The private sector rushed in and so on but what has happened since then? Have we said we need to sustain this so that we don’t have to go abroad to treat neck pain and all these other things? Let’s make our health care system one that can be responsive to these sorts of situations? Or we talked about education, the impact that it had on education when people had to stay home. What … have we taken advantage to say: all this money that was going to go into building … isolation centres and so on, we can still put it to good use. And I think that this to me, is the possible real tragedy that COVID-19 will have, because we had Joy, we’ve had Ebuka, we’ve had others who can tell you that it’s not just that they stayed home to try and preserve their lives, but that in staying home, they have had their livelihood destroyed. It’s possible that we can go to the market and to various other places … there are shops that will not allow you to enter and so on, but the truth is that it’s an eco-system. People may be having birthday parties, but if you … if I want to invite … I didn’t invite anybody to my 65th birthday because … so that industry is gone. And people depend on those industries, and it has a feeder effect. So we need to realise that if we … that even though we may say we are no longer worried about COVID, there are still enough people who are, and whether it’s because it’s seen as a one that primarily affects the richer people in society, they are the people who are the ones who are not keeping, oiling the machinery of life in our towns and cities and our country. So I think that we do need to understand that the money that we could have spent on those things, there’s a good way to use it. There are good places to use it. And you know, whether it’s in training, whether it’s in airtime, whether it’s in all … being able to operate businesses for the digital age with social distancing … we have to go into those and the money that had been collected could go into those to alleviate, not just by handing people food every now and then, but actually to equip them for the future that is coming, because we’re not, even though people are going back to markets and so on, the reality is that we are not going to go back to quite the same way that we were.
AgO: Very true. I see we have Paul, is it? Thank you for holding on.
Caller 7: Yeah, that woman that was crying, Please, how can one make a donation? I was touched. Instead of her committing suicide …
AgO: No, she’s not going to commit suicide, we’re in touch with her, we have her number, so … don’t worry about the contribution, we’ll take care of it from here.
Caller 10: How do I reach her? How do I send something.
AgO: No, it’s a difficult thing right now, because we don’t have that platform here to, but I assure you we’re going to get in touch with her, but just go ahead and make your contribution
Caller 10: No, I just want to … Yes, I called before, I just … it’s because of her cry, it touched me, I just want to make donation, yeah.
AO: … and get back to you, about what the outcome was. I hope that …
AgO: Thank you for your kind heart Paul.
AO: This just reminds us that Nigerians are not the devils …
AgO: No, they’re not.
AO: … that’s why I want to stress these qualities, Integrity, Ethics, Accountability.
AgO: Mmmm, mmm. Ok, I think I can get on WhatsApp before … let’s see who we have here. This is … Joseph who says: “It is surprising that since the church reopened in Lagos State, the COVID-19 starts to decrease! What is happening?”
AO: Well it’s because the … it has been decreased that people have been able to go back to churches.
AgO: Yes, Oluwafemi at Apapa says: What is Democracy without Accountability? What is a system without free and independent thinkers? It is really unfortunate we lack these in large quantity. God bless IDEAS. So who will bring sanity to a systemic lunacy. We need IDEAS!”
AO: You will have IDEAS. I mean, definitely the programme is ended, as I said, it was a two year project with the MacArthur Foundation and CITAD, but my hope is that you will try to always look for the IDEAS component. Whenever you see something and you want to find … think of a way, how to unpack it, ask yourself: Did this meet up with the virtues or the values that would be in accord with IDEAS, and to always look for that, whether somebody is campaigning for your vote, and … it could be your local society, it could be your neighbourhood association … they … they … it’s everywhere, and it’s something that we can all apply in our lives and when we look at what is happening in public affairs too.
AgO: Absolutely. Leke calling in from Shagamu in Ogun State.
Caller 10: Yes, Hello? Ok, I just want to greet … Mr. Sankore, you listen to me wherever you are listening, I just want to greet you and … console you with your father died. And … also I want to ask Nigeria that they should please support me, I am physically challenged, I have just released a song titled “Player sing on” by Leke Akorede you can find it on YouTube. I need the support of all Nigerians to please go to my YouTube page and subscribe and download the song, Leke Akorede on YouTube.
AgO: I’ve gone, it’s a great song. I’ve gone on YouTube the other day. Take this opportunity …
Caller 11: Hello, Hello?
AgO: Alright, John, great to have you …
Caller 11: Hello, thank you very much. I am calling from Unilag. See oh, I’m not happy with Nigeria. Let me tell you the truth right now. Our problem is us. Do you imagine that Nigerians will be talking about how they will go and protest for federal level. Federal level … Federal Government are giving State Governments money. State Governments are giving Local Governments money. The money is in the Local Government they are spending that money on nothing. People are there suffering. They will give Local Governments maybe like three billion or four billion maybe monthly. I don’t know. Imagine, Nigerians cannot go there and protest, people in that area, in that Local Government, go and protest for their Local Government Chairman. Do you think they will not bring that money out? If we do that thing like six months like, on a regular, do you think Nigeria will be like this? What kind of thing is this one? They will give them money they will not bring the money out, and they will allow people to be suffering, road is not good and they are giving them the money. What are they keeping the money for and Nigerians are keeping quiet? They are talking about Buhari, is Buhari our problem? Let’s start disturbing Local Government Chairman. Nigeria will be changed. Thank you.
AO: I think it’s something for us to say that … and Joy’s case reminded me, because when I was President of the Civil Liberties Organisation we had a remarkable young man, David Anyaele, and he had been in Liberia, and his hands had been cut off by the rebels, and he came home. And he did not approach the matter from: Please give me charity. He approached it from the matter of: People with disabilities have rights. And that’s why he found a home in the Civil Liberties Organisation before they were able to set up their own. And there have been … since then, there have been others, and it’s no longer a matter of “Do charity” to people with disabilities, but treat them as equal citizens and give them their rights. So I think that it’s the same thing: what that young man was saying. I mean whether it’s done in the form of demonstration, whether it’s done in the form of requiring accountability, sending messages and raising campaigns, the issue is that you have to be accountable to the people that you are supposed to be governing, you can’t just say: I know better. Ah, this money has come in, and you look around and you see well, nobody is actually dying from this thing, so I can do what I like. It doesn’t work like that.
AgO: Absolutely. Let’s take this call from Thomas. Thomas is calling in from Surulere.
Caller 12: Good evening Mr. Aghogho. God will continue to reward you guys for the good work you guys are doing at Nigeria Info. And to my aunty in the studio, Mrs. Ayo Obe, God will continue to bless you and your family as well.
AO: Thank you very much.
Caller 12: I sympathise with Uncle Rotimi Sankore as well on his father’s death. May his soul continue to rest in peace as well. I just called to thank you for the good job you guys are doing. You people are the reason why we Lagosians and Nigerians as a whole are smiling right now, because our government are not giving us anything to smile about, we really do appreciate Nigeria Info crew, every body in the house, every member of Nigeria Info, God will continue to bless you guys.
AO: But can I say that Nigeria Info … what Nigeria Info is doing is that it’s giving you the tools and the power and the confidence to demand what your elected representatives are supposed to deliver to you. So that it would … if it’s just Nigeria Info saying things, it could just fall into an empty well. But if you as a citizen take up your Office of the Citizen and say: Yes, it’s a job … my job is as a citizen and I’m entitled to have Accountability, then it feeds through. People in Lagos know that we’re paying taxes and we want something to show for those taxes. So I think that that is where you, your part – as part of the Nigeria Info team and dare I say part of the IDEAS team – comes in.
AgO: OK Ayo, this will be our last call on Public Square and IDEAS, and Austin from Lekki, thank you for holding on.
Caller 13: Mr. Aghogho, I greet you greatly.
AgO: We greet you too.
Caller 13: Good evening my able analyst. Good evening, God bless you.
AO: Good evening.
Caller 13: I want to deviate a little bit from your discussion this evening. I want to talk on the Southern Kaduna killing.
AO: It’s part of what we’ve … effectively it’s part of what we have discussed, so it’s not a deviation.
Caller 13: Okay, thank you very much. I wonder why, if we have a sitting President, and equally a sitting Governor of Kaduna State, a lot of bloodshed has been happening in Southern Kaduna, and to my … to our total dismay, up to now no … no common commission of inquiry has been set up to look inward in what is happening in Southern Kaduna. At least, we’ve been talking about Mali and how to keep, maintain peace in Mali, whereas here at home, a lot of souls are being wasted on daily basis, and nobody is talking about it! Our President is not talking about anything that that. Kaduna State Governor is not talking anything about that, what he’s busy doing is to want to come and address the Nigerian Bar Association. Is that what we elected him for? Is that …
AgO: Alright Austin. Thank you very much.
AO: Well we did talk about the issue of the NBA invitation and why these issues of citizenship actually also feed into the Southern Kaduna issue. The issue of whether or not the Governor is speaking or not, has come and gone.
AgO: A lot is going on, I’ve seen a number of …
AO: Peace initiatives
AgO: … peace initiatives, signing of memoranda, so a lot of things are going on.
AO: Things are certainly happening, and whether the people who have made it an issue can say that: We have forced it onto the national agenda, one way or the other, it is certainly on the national agenda. And what is … as I said, government is Accountable for our security, it doesn’t matter the … what our face is, but as I say, at the same time, we either have to move forward with solutions or we can look back to the past. But I want to say … I do say that there’s an IDEAS component in everything, and that’s really my response to the last caller. There is Accountability that Government owes us, Integrity, Ethics, if we’re to have a functioning Democracy, and as I say goodbye and ring off on this programme, I want to please … [AgO shakes rattle] You have a bell Aghogho, I know you’re keeping that bell somewhere, you want to drum me out of the studio! I just want to say that don’t say that because IDEAS is not there to drone on about Integrity Democracy, Ethics and Accountability you’re no longer going to look for those things, rather I’m expecting that you will be able to identify where those things are lacking, to demand that they should be put in place, so that we can say that even though I’m not with you in person, that the spirit is living on.
AgO: Thank you very much, and I assure Ayo Obe that the rule of thumb for IDEAS continues to ring always true in all the discussions we have. Thank you very much Ayo.
AO: It’s been a pleasure. It’s been a great two years. Thank you very much.
AgO: Á bientôt!