Kaduna: Linking Investment Drive to Development by John Shiklam #KADInvest

John Shiklam writes on the second edition of the Kaduna Investment and Economic Submit which kicked off on April 5, noting that it is the pathway that can lift the state to a higher economic pedestal

Between April 5 and April 6, the Kaduna state government, in a summit, is billed to showcase investment and business opportunities that abound in the state to both local and foreign investors.

The occasion is the second edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit, tagged KADINVEST 2.0. The maiden edition of the summit which was co-hosted by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) held in April, 2016.

Focal Point

The summit, which was conceived in 2016, according to the Executive Secretary of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), Alhaji Gambo Hamza, is to open Kaduna for business and investment by bringing together the world’s savviest investors to explore the great potentials that abound in the state.

In particular, the summit seeks to broadcast the State’s investment promotion messages to potential investors; to lift the profile of Kaduna State’s economy within the international community; to highlight opportunities for investment, joint ventures and trade in the state; to target investors both locally and globally and engage them for short term, medium term and long term investment partnerships with priority in different investment sectors.

These include transportation, housing, power (renewable energy) Information and Communication Technology (ICT), hospitality and tourism, agriculture, agro-allied, Waste to Wealth, manufacturing and solid minerals/mining.

Pioneer Edition

The 2016 maiden edition was attended by prominent personalities within and outside the corporate world, foreign and local investors, among them Chairman, Flour Mills of Nigeria, John Coumantaros; Country Head of Olam Nigeria, Mukul Makur; Opeyemi Awoyemi of Jobberman; Audu Maikori of Chocolate City; Uche Orji of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Eme Essien of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Others were the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, Paul Arkwright; Rachid Benmassaoud of the World Bank; United States Deputy Economic Counsellor, Joel Kopp; Filippo Amato, EU Trade and Economics Department; Country Head, General Electric, Lazarus Angbazo, Ibrahim Boyi of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), Charles Ojei of Samsung; Harprite Singh of Reliance Rice Mills; Maryam Uwais, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Social Investments, Toro Orero, Draper Dark Flow, Yusuf Bashir of Coders4 Africa and Seun Onigbinde of BudgIT.

Apt Theme

With the theme ‘Making Kaduna a destination of choice’ Hamza said the 2017 edition is expected to be very robust, with the presence of the European Union, the British Government through DfID, the US government, corporate organisations, donor agencies and captains of industry from around the globe.

According to him, Kaduna has demonstrated firm commitment to achieving sustainable economic growth by legislating to make it easier to do business and aligning its budget to capital expenditure to build human capital and infrastructure.

While expressing delight that Kaduna was recently chosen as the best state in terms of ease of doing business by BusinessDay Magazine, Hamza explained that the purpose of KADINVEST 2.0 “is to ensure that we move to the world by the commitment we signed last year”.

“We want to prove to the world that we truly have what it takes to attract investments, based on our areas of comparative advantage. We hope that at the end of the day Kaduna state would be able to achieve its developmental goals as clearly enunciated in the state’s development programme 2016 to 2020.

“We have very significant and important guests to grace this occasion; from foreign dignitaries to local investors that we believe will have a role to play in investing in the state,” the KADIPA boss said.

Consolidation Strategy

Also speaking on the event, a member of the Planning Committee and Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Dr. Daniel Manzo explained that KADINVEST 2.0 is aimed at consolidating on the gains of the 2016 edition.

“As we all know, last year, we made some gains (following the summit) that are very visible on the ground and we will like to showcase those gains. We have the Olam group investing $150 million in the establishment of the largest poultry farm with integrated feed mill in sub-Saharan Africa in Kaduna.

“We also have Vicampo Potato Farm (located in southern part of Kaduna state). These are the gains we made during the last edition of the summit. We hope to have more investments in the state by consolidating on those ones,” Manzo said.

He said state government was doing everything to attract businesses to the state, Kaduna has a population of about eight million people and now the estimated population of the state is about 10 million people; at the growth rate of 3.3 per cent.

“We have to create jobs; we have to create 200,000 jobs annually between now and 2030. If we fail to do that, definitely, population explosion will catch up with us and therefore, we are looking at various sectors of investments. We are looking at agriculture, we are looking at services, and we are looking at e-business. These are areas that we are working seriously to bring our youths and develop their skills to favourably compete.

“We have a lot of initiatives such as Kaduna Start Up and Entrepreneurship Programme (KADSTEP) and others aimed at improving the skills of our youths and sharpen their entrepreneur acumens” he said.

According to the commissioner, one of the new things the government is bringing into its investment portfolio of the state is tourism.

“We have quite a number of interesting tourism sites across the state. For example the Emir’s palace, the second oldest church in Northern Nigeria is in Wusasa, Zaria. We have a castle in Kajuru, the place of abode and retirement of the famous Queen Amina is in Igabi local government with all the materials that she used.

“There is the Nok civilisation, one of the oldest civilisations known to mankind. We have the Gurara dam, the largest man-made water body in Nigeria. These are some of the things that we hope to highlight at the summit,” Manzo said.

Novel Charter

Other events that are expected to feature during the summit include the unveiling of a charter of ease of business in the state by Governor Nasir El-Rufai.

The charter, according to Hamza, is to explain to the world the commitment of various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in the state how they would interact with any business entity operating in Kaduna or anyone starting a business in the state.

Also, the state’s infrastructure master plan on how the state wants to deliver on its infrastructure requirements and expectations would be launched. Furthermore, El-Rufai is expected to launch the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) scheme by unveiling the Kawo-Lugard Hall road which was expanded to ensure that bus services are introduced into Kaduna to make transportation very easy.

Similarly, the ICT Centres on Hospital Road and Independence Way, Kaduna which are Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by Zenith Bank would be unveiled as well as the signing of a donor coordination framework with various donor partners.

New Potential

Kaduna has the potential of becoming one of the business hubs of the country, like Lagos, Kano and Anambra states. No doubt, the initiatives introduced by governor El-Rufai will lift the state in the next five years if they are sustained; given the steps being taken to ensure lasting peace and security.

Kaduna has abundant resources that can propel investments and boost its economy. The state also has mineral resources, especially gold deposit in Birnin Gwari and nickel in Jama’a local government area, as well as abundant agricultural resources.

The temporary closure of the Abuja international airport has also helped to open up the state to more visitors who are afforded the opportunity to view the different pull factors in Kaduna. For the state, the future appears brighter than ever.

This piece was originally published in ThisDay newspaper of 06/04/2017

How Saraki and friends will plunge Nigeria into its next recession – By Mayowa Tijani

Dear Bukola Saraki, Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Just in case you have not got anyone real enough to tell you the truth, here it is — for free. The chamber you lead is on its way to plunging Nigeria into its second economic recession in three years, and here is how.

When Nigeria was officially announced to have got into an economic recession in August 2016, I ran a study on all economic recessions in the history of Nigeria and the United States of America. One thing was striking: the US has had more recessions on the average than Nigeria has. Nigeria has been through seven economic recessions in its 56-year history, and World Bank data show that the current economic recession is raising that tally to eight.

According to National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the private firm known for monitoring recessions in the United States, the world’s largest economy has been through recession, at least 49 times in 240 years. In context, US has had at least, one recession in 5 years, while Nigeria, on the average, records one in seven years.

This goes on to show that recessions are normal phenomena, even for the best economies in the world. But the reason for every recession must be well understood, and avoided for in years to come. When in period of boom, countries with foresight prepare for the days of bust. They save, they build, the invest in the kind of infrastructure and fiscal buffers that can keep them afloat when the rainy days come.

WHAT HISTORY TEACHES ABOUT NIGERIAN RECESSIONS

According to World Bank figures, Nigeria’s first economic recession is what everyone will call a pardonable recession; the nation experienced an economic crunch between 1966 and 1968, which was as a result of the tensions around the nation’s civil war which ran through 1967 to 1970.

After the war, which claimed between one to three million lives, Nigerians returned to their quarters, everyone knew the next thing for a nation as this was to build up itself from the relics of war. By 1970, the economy recorded growth of 25 percent – the highest in the country’s history throughout the 20th century. Within these period, oil prices declined by over 12 percent (1966 to 1970) yet the economy grew massively. A nation was riding on the wings of her industry and the brains of a teeming youth population.

From 1970 to 1973, oil prices soared from $3 per barrel to $11 per barrel on the global market. Petrodollar began weaning Nigeria off Agriculture. In 1975, oil prices dropped by a few cents, from $11 to $10.43, but Nigeria could not weather the storm, which was accompanied by some political undercurrents. The nation fell into its second recession.

Within 1978 and 1983, Nigeria was at the mercy of falling oil prices and political instability. The country therefore recorded five annual gross domestic product (GDP) decline. Some economist argue that the country plunged into a depression at the time.

From 1984 to 2016, Nigeria’s economic recessions had always been tied to one oil slump or the other. Once, there is an oil slump, a recession is just a few months away — with the exception of 2008, which was averted by the fiscal buffer built by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. This is the story of Nigeria’s recession.

SARAKI’S STROLL INTO A RECESSION

With a clear history and vivid pattern of Nigerian recession, the easiest thing for Nigeria to do is to avoid wars, political instability and pray against an oil slump.

As a nation, we can be resolute in our resolve to avoid wars, we can be determined to avert political instabilities, but we have no control over oil prices on the international markets!

In view of this, and the lessons from 2016, Udo Udoma’s ministry of  budget and national planning worked with an oil benchmark of $42.5 per barrel in planning the 2017 budget. The ministry, in conjuction with the private sector went a step further to strategically craft an economic recovery and growth plan, with the view of recording economic growth in the territories of seven percent by 2020.

The ministry engrafted all  ministries, agencies and departments of government into a plan that seeks to move Nigeria away from its oil addiction, and redirect the country’s recession pattern. But Saraki and friends do not see the urgency of now.

The senate raised the 2017 oil benchmark from the prudent $42.5 by the Udoma’s ministry to $44.5. With an increase in US shale supply on the global market, there are fears that oil prices may fall below $44 before the end of 2017. This will drive the nation’s budget further into huge deficit territories.

As if that were not enough, while the nation was being distracted by the certificate scandal of one of Saraki’s closest “friend”, the senate also decided that the 2017 budget which was presented in December 2016, will not be passed until May — nearly six months after presentation.

Saraki and friends, who are also expected to be deliberating the speedy passage of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB, anaspect of PIB) are busy debating the regalia of the customs boss, who is enacting a controversial law that makes life less desirable for the average Nigerian.

Need I speak about the laws to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria? Since it does not “embarrass” him and his friends, it does not need the speed used in “dealing” with Ali Ndume, who was suspended for embarrasing Saraki and friends.

Here, there is no middle ground. If these senate does not help Nigeria with the kind of laws and urgency that can help us move away from oil, then we would, once again, be victims, strolling with eyes open into an oil-driven economic recession.

#KADInvest: How Kaduna State is investing in its Future by Abdulhassan Rabiu

When she was 7, Amina watched her father lament of financial woes as he sat by the fireplace, it was also there he shared his plan to ensure financial gain by withdrawing her from school and gifting her in marriage to a much older rich man. She watched on silently as her life automatically became one of endurance. In that instant, her chances of completing an education diminished, her father’s decision put her at higher risk of being abused by her much older rich husband or developing fistula during labour and even dying in pregnancy or child birth.

 

It is for the reason that the above scenario can easily be any Northern Nigerian girl that the El-Rufai led Kaduna State Government considered it a priority to domesticate the Federal Child Rights Act 2003 and make it state law. The law was passed by the Kaduna State House of Assembly and assented to by the State Governor in March 2016.

 

Over 3 million children live in Kaduna and as opposed to being in school gaining knowledge that ultimately will benefit society, a good number of them work as street hawkers, child labourers or are being used for criminal activities. At its very core, the Child Rights Act aims to ensure that the dignity and right to a decent living, education and protection is restored to these children.

 

After all, if we expect these children to grow into law abiding citizens, it is only required that society provides them with every necessary protection.

 

Make no mistake, there is a direct correlation between violence and poverty, Kaduna State knows this and is therefore committed to creating economic options that lift families out of poverty. The thinking is that as more families are lifted out of poverty and conditions that allow violence thrive are diminished, relevant laws are alongside enacted to ensure accountability.

 

Northern Nigeria has the highest rate of child indignities anywhere in the country, particularly street begging and hawking, this rate has dropped in recent time due to increased sensitizations and concerted efforts at speaking out against this injustice by community leaders and social media influencers.

 

As at 2011, 24 Nigerian States had domesticated the Child Rights Bill and 12 were yet to develop a Child Rights law.

Of these 12 states, 11 are Northern and would not even consider this bill as it was seen to be at odds with religious and cultural provisions. The twelfth is the South-Eastern state of Enugu.

 

Now, there is still much more progress to be made but seven of the 12 states are studying the bill with a view to domesticating it. While Kaduna State has passed the bill, Kaduna is one of only 2 North Western States that have domesticated the bill, the other is Jigawa State.

 

In addition to prohibiting child marriage and child betrothal, the Child Rights Law categorically states that the best interest of the child shall be of paramount importance in all considerations. The law emphasizes the child’s right to survival and development, its right to a name and registration at birth, and the right to protection and all necessary care.

 

The law also provides for freedom from discrimination on the grounds of community, ethnicity, origin, sex, religion or the circumstances of birth.

 

The goal for the Kaduna State Government is to reduce the infant mortality rate by providing adequate medical and health care, improved nutrition and safe drinking water. These efforts will lead to hygienic, better sanitized environments and a reduction in disease prevalence and malnutrition.

 

For the Kaduna State Government, enacting such a law that is beneficial to child development is an investment in its future: safer, more accessible and free education translates as more children in school and therefore a more knowledgeable population capable of contributing to the growth of society. Also, when you empower children with knowledge, they are less likely to be abused or be abusers themselves.

 

This is where Kaduna heads with its future, a state where every child is empowered, informed and protected to the extent that they have all the opportunities they need to ensure that there is no limit to their aspirations.

 

Abdulhassan Rabiu is an architect based in Abuja (rabiuabdulhassan@gmail.com)

Adefarati: Untold Stories of Political Repression And Inherent Lessons for Akeredolu, SAN & Other Incumbents – Kayode Ajulo

Like an eclipse, swiftly, the years passed. And it’s striking to know that it’s exactly 10 years that we lost a political juggernaut in the person of Chief Adebayo Adefarati, former governor of my dear State, Ondo.
Baba Adefarati, as I knew and addressed him, even before his ascendance to governorship of Ondo State, was appointed twice as a commissioner under the late Yoruba and Afenifere Leader, Pa. Michael Adekunle Ajasin. He was the State Commissioner for Works and that of Ministry of Transport between 1979–1983). Baba was also a prominent member of the then dreaded NADECO that fought against the military during the slippery General Sani Abacha days.
He reigned as a governor between 1999-2003 and lost his re-election bid, majorly due to separation from many of his associates and lieutenants such as  erstwhile comrades, major supporters and the stars of his administration, namely Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Late Chief Rufus Giwa, Dr. Akerele Adu, Dr. Olu Agunloye, Chief Yele Omogunwa, Senator Nimbe Farunkanmi, Dr. Awolowo Ajaka, Dr. ‘Tayo Dairo, Chief Bamidele Awosika, Col. Akin Falaye (Rtd.) etc which gave Dr. Olusegun Agagu leeway to defeat him when he ran for re-election in 2003.
In 2007 Baba Adefarati was the presidential candidate for the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He died at a ripen age of 76 after a brief sickness few weeks before the election.
Baba Adefarati, indeed, lived a life worthy of emulation. He was an astute leader of men, effective manager of resources and passionately in pursuit of peace in our society.
Commemorating Baba’s after life, especially the 10years anniversary of his departing the earth as political titan that he was, his kins and associates led by the incumbent governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, last week roll out drums to celebrate Baba Adefarati.
Much as I recognize the full worth of Governor Akeredolu and others for playing  significant roles as we all remember Baba. I feel a strong urge, as a conscripted actor in the history of his life after leaving the seat of power, to do a quick review into the latter life of the deceased old man and leader. In addition, I will also point out an important lesson from this for the wielders of might and  holders of power of our days.
I grew up to know Chief Adefarati as one of the school Principals that are close friends to my late father, S. A. O. Ajulo, a book merchant. He was a frequent caller at the CSS Bookshop, Aminigun, Ibadan and sometimes, being an Anglican, he worshiped with us at The Cathedral of St. James, The Great, Oke-Bola, Ibadan.
He was one of the ‘very few’ visitors, who called my father by his corrupted first name, Solo (from Solomon).
I had hearty curiosity about their cordiality which got me to know after insistent enquiries that their friendship dated back to their primary school days as young schoolboys at Oka-Akoko. They became close till deaths despite the fact that Baba became a governor and  my father was apolitical with no political value in the scheme of things. Baba Adefarati cherished old and good friends irrespective of the gains involved.
Baba Adefarati, a progressive politician of the old order lived a simple lifestyle and cannot be accused of using his office to acquire wealth for himself. I have, up to now, my strong doubt, as to whether or not he used the seat of power to amass wealth for himself  as such possibility has pointedly was cleared when I became the Head of Chambers of the law firm of Tunji Abayomi & Co., Abuja in 2003.
Dr. Tunji Abayomi, the Founder and Principal Partner of the firm was Baba Adefarati’s lawyer. Three months into his exit as governor, the law firm was briefed on the need to ensure the payment of Baba Adefarati’s severance entitlements. Pursuant to the brief, I visited Baba at his home town, Akungba and I became a front row witness of Baba’s spartan lifestyle, travails and philosophies of life.
During one of our discussions, in his house, he narrated his ordeal with his then successor – the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu, particularly on the fact that his successor has refused to pay his severance entitlements and that he is left broke. He urged that the law firm expedite action to get this money paid. I can remember vividly his word; “Kayode, as you can see now, I have no drink to offer you as my visitor in this house, because there is no money to buy”. I was shocked to my bones and couldn’t believe my ears.
Again, I had my first practical experience of Political Repression, when after few weeks of taking up the case as the head of chambers, my boss’s Abuja chambers, a rented office apartment located inside the Owena House owned by Ondo State Government was burgled, all the books and furnitures inside thrown out, and we were forcefully evicted from the building by the then new government of Ondo State for no just cause than the fact that Dr. Tunji Abayomi belonged to Baba Adefarati’s old order.
I was however surprised, when the same Dr. Agagu-led State government rolled out drums to celebrate the life and death of Baba Adefarati at the announcement of Baba’s demise. The governor allegedly spent over 150 Million Naira on baba’s burial arrangements, and invited one of Baba’s wives to his office despite his outright neglect when he was alive.
Thorough study has revealed that political Repression although takes various forms, it however points toward an end. It is the systematic hostility or ill-treatment  of an individual or group within a society for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of a society, thereby reducing their standing among their fellow citizens. This,  weighing the issues about Baba after office as governor, can be said to have been meted out on him.
Political persecution can manifest, beyond and besides shades of political persecution, in deliberate discriminatory policies, such as human rights violations, states sponsored media trials, malicious prosecution, imprisonment, state agents brutality, unlawful removal or suspension from office, denial of entitlements, extra judicial punishment and its likes.
Baba Adefarati, as history points to, did his best for Ondo State as he did for the County -Nigeria. Whether he was done a commensurate honour after exit or not is a debate that will last the length of time.  However, as we celebrate Baba, it is only proper that we learn from the significances of his successful life and glorious exit. It is imperative that freedom from disturbance; and tranquility reign in the conduct of the affairs of men. Peace must be made a pivot in our art of politicking if we must genuinely celebrate and honour of departed leaders,as this was the hub of the late governor’s philosophy of life.
Political repression must cease to be part and parcel of governance. it was a cheering that the immediate past administration in Ondo State, against all odds, gave the new administration of Governor Aderedolu, SAN ultimate cooperation, in a committed, seamless and historical transition procedures that made the inaugural ceremony of the incumbent one of the best in recent time. This was exemplar, and it’s hoped that this will be nurtured as a tradition.
Justice and fairness is the ultimate panacea for peace, it will be therefore instructive and wise for Governor Akeredolu, SAN and others in power to learn and imbibe the lessons of living in harmony and tolerance with their political rivals in steering the ship of their States to the full benefit of all.
What is good for the goose, the wise say, is also good for the gander. In governance, and in accordance with the dictates of their oath of office is to do right to all manner of people, irrespective of their political lineage of inclinations.
As it is certain that he who is incumbent today, one day, would become a former someday. I agree with the insightful words of Jacques to Duke Senior in Act II, Scene VII of Shakespeare’s  As You Like It;
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances”.
Peace, one palpable beauty for which Ondo State is reputed, is debatably a legacy seeded by late Chief Adebayo Adefarati. It has since endured through the years to this time of Arakunrin. While we extols the greats feats and ideals of this giant son of Ondo State, we indulge in the hope that under governor Akeredolu, Baba’s legacy of peace and tolerance will not only be preserved but also be taken for granted.  That, for me, is the minimum we must do to immortalise Chief Adefarati.
Dr. Ajulo is the Principal Partner, Kayode Ajulo & Co. Castle of Law, Executive Director, Egalitarian Mission for Africa and was the National Secretary, Labour Party.

Oga Saraki, when does ambition go overboard? – By Richard Tayo

Senator Bukola Saraki, I greet you sir, I salute you. How is the senate fairing under your leadership? I was very happy when you became the senate President on the 9th of June 2015 no doubt. I argued with my cousin and some friends for almost a quarter of the day why I think you are the best man for the position of the number three man in Nigeria.

 

Back to my question sir; How is the senate fairing under your leadership? Ofcourse my question is a mere rhetoric because we all know how the senate is doing under your watch.

 

I do hope you don’t mind the truth because i’m going to say some very hard truth here. Can you imagine a fluffy whiff of cloud hanging between heaven and earth? That’s how our life is right now. We are just hung there without movement. Just because of one man and that is you.

 

The senate belongs to you just as Kwara state belong to your family. No one challenges you because you are simply unquestionable, unbeatable, untouchable and unstoppable.

 

Each time you are in the news sir it’s always for the wrong reasons and why is that? Talk of the one who was alleged to have mortgaged the future of Kwara state, Panama Papers & the swindlers, the one who decry public criticism and still got 330 million exotic car, the one whose case is with CCB for false declaration of assets. Haba na only you waka come?

 

I have often quoted that “Our fear of hypocrisy is forcing us to live in a world where gluttons are fine as long as they champion gluttony “That’s why your little lap dog ; my 3rd class senator and your wife’s bodyguard will always do your bidding.

 

We are in recession and our lives are spiraling out of control yet our NASS is malfunctioning, making mess of our lives. All that bothers you is wardrobe allowance, exotic cars, Magu’s removal, Hameed Ali’s uniform but no single legislation to help get our economy out of comatose. You and your fellow Senators seat most of the time for no discernible reasons, perhaps to appropriate sitting allowances.

 

You want to summon everyone to the senate but no one can summon you. Each time someone try as much as ask you questions as regard your stewardship in the past you raise a false alarm then use the paraphernalia of your office to subjugate the fellow. Meaning it’s no longer democracy when offenders are made to pay for their sins. Can’t you see now that the idea of democracy has been stripped of it moral imperatives and come to conote hollowness?

 

Some of you senators are just making the transpose from here to there like Johnny Walker but doing nothing. Our common patrimony have become bargaining chips and human shield. That was why you gave senator Kabir Garba Marafa a notable critic of yours, a juicy committee chairmanship just to buy his support and shut him up and it worked. Congratulations!  Your insatiable quest for power made you and your cronies suspend Senator Ndume and it’s making you want to ask the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to come grovel before you. When does ambition go overboard Mr Senate President?

 

The National Assembly that we all respect so much has become the house of jesters. Perhaps you don’t understand that the cost of maintaining you jesters has dug deep holes in our national treasury. You can imagine the percentage of our budget that goes into your upkeep. You all literally live at our expense only going through motions like somnambulist.

 

No one can put a hand to why we deserve the kind of treatment meted out to us by you and your fellow greedy law makers. You do these things just because you know that the cumbersome recall process which has never happened before is holding us bound.

 

Senator, when does ambition go overboard? Remember that everything that has a beginning must surely have an end. Meaning a time will come when your highness will be dethroned. You will look back and you won’t find those urging you on now. That includes my 3rd class graduate senator.

 

Go to @aminugamawa on Twitter and see the result of the poll that “Between the @officialEFCC under Magu and @NGRSenate under Saraki which one do you trust more?” and see how Nigerians feel about your leadership of the Senate.

 

Sir, you may want to arrest me, invite me for questioning on the floor of the senate or refer me to Ethics and privileges committee. I am not hard to find just tell me the kind of uniform to wear to appear before you.

 

My regards to Dino, tell him I said ” Ajekun iya ni o je, Eni ti ko represent wa daadaa ni Kogi west to fe contest ni 2019, Ajekun iya ni oje.

@RichardTayo

OPINION: There’s a drop of Dino in all of us – By Niran Adedokun

Psychologists talk about a condition known as narcissism. I understand it could have varying degrees of effect on people but pathological narcissists are said to be in love with an idealised self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling and being perceived for their real, sometimes internally wounded self.

Narcissists are usually identified as haughty, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They also generally dwell on grandiose fantasies about their own successes, beauty or intelligence in addition to living with an obsessive sense of entitlement.

Experts say that in sustaining the attempt to pull one over people, narcissists are willing and able to tell lies and exaggerate to no end. All in a bid to gain the respect of people and remain on that high horse which they have set for themselves.

So, it is not out of place for such people to claim to have attained degrees that they have not attempted, journeys they never embarked on and possessions they never owned. And when they have indeed attained these milestones, they flaunt their accomplishments without consideration for the feelings of others!

Thoughts about this have nagged since allegations began making the rounds about Senator Dino Melaye’s certificates. While I had indications that the senator indeed graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University pretty early into the controversy, I found Melaye’s boast about being on his seventh degree consistent with tendencies to seek unnecessary attention and feel superior to others. Then, consider the unsolicited display of flashy automobiles and houses and Tuesday’s infantile adornment of an academic gown to the National Assembly!

But I then wonder whether Melaye is different from a lot of other Nigerians in any substantial detail. Here is a country where a vast number of the people are drunk on the pursuit of self and selfish interests. Good enough, psychology attests to the fact that there is a measure of the narcissistic in virtually every human being. In other words, as our world gets increasingly individualistic and goal driven, levels of narcissism, ranging from mild to severe are becoming more widespread.  It is doubtful that any Nigerian would want to dispute this, given that we see so much vainglory and covetousness around; it is sickening!

In the less than two decades of return to democracy, four instances of false certificate claims have reverberated nationally. The first scandal was blown open by The News magazine in 1999. It involved a young man with the name Salisu Buhari, who had just been elected speaker of the house of representatives. The News reported that Buhari did not attend the University of Toronto as he had claimed and that he falsified his age. After a series of denials and the magazine’s insistence on its scoop, Buhari admitted that he indeed forged documents and perjured himself.

Not long after, Tell magazine went to town with the alleged fraudulent educational claims by the then Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In some sense, the claims against Tinubu were a tad more grievous than Buhari’s. He was alleged to have lied about information regarding his primary, secondary and tertiary education.

There was also the accusation that a former minister of aviation, Stella Oduah, might have lied about her qualifications. According to the report, officials of St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States, where Oduah claimed to have gained a master’s in Business Administration, told an online news platform that no such programme ever existed in the institution. The report further insinuated that the woman might not even have obtained her first degree from the institution.

After we “ooed” and “aaed” for a couple of weeks, these allegations died natural deaths with each of those alleged to have infracted moving on with their lives. In fact, the only one of these allegations that the nation had the tenacity to resolve was the case of self-confessed Buhari, who later got a “go and sin no more” presidential pardon, and an appointment on the governing council of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to boot.

Tinubu has gone on to be one of the heroes of Nigeria’s democratic growth and the seeming poster boy for what is the most progressive of our politics.  Of course, queries about the school certificate of President Muhammadu Buhari have met their untimely death given the inability of the people to agree on the morality behind giving Nigerians closure by proving the availability or otherwise of the certificate. But that is just by the way. Only God knows the number of our compatriots in and out of high office who walk the corridors of power and corporate offices armed with bogus educational achievements.

Why the theory of the possible prevalence of the narcissistic personality disorder is appealing, especially amongst seekers of public office in Nigeria is the fact that no one, including the President, needs more than a secondary school certificate, which they do not even need to pass to attain to any office. This is according to section 131 (d) of the 1999 constitution (as amended). So why do people lie about higher certificates which they did not acquire when the same is not a prerequisite?

This says a lot about our values as a people. In this same world in which three of the most influential people in the last century voluntarily dropped out of universities, Nigerians are cooking up stories about degrees that they neither attempted nor got.

For most of the past decade, the founder of Microsoft and one of the most benevolent givers to Nigeria, Bill Gates, has remained on top of the list of the wealthiest people in the world. Strikingly, Gates voluntarily dropped out of Harvard University.

Steve Jobs,  late founder of Apple, was quoted by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, as saying in an address at Stanford that: “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay.” Even in death, he remains one of the most talked-about personalities from the United States of America.

And then the much younger Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to devote his time to his startup social networking site, facebook.com, in 2005. Ten years later, the company was worth $12.5bn with 1.5 billion active users monthly. Yet, Nigerians are falling over each other to acquire certificates which literarily have no meaning to their lives.

A corollary to the diminished value of our paper qualification is the premium that we suddenly began to place on the class of degrees that people earn. Companies, even those without any iota of academic objective, started to insist on employing candidates with first class or a minimum of second class upper degrees.

To beat them at their game, some dumb blonde, whose only aptitude is a pretty face, would succumb to the devices of a randy lecturer, settle herself and curiously come up at the top of her class. Not to be left in the cold, the young man who is not so endowed would bring out some money (usually nothing enough to prosper anyone), and buy any class of degree that he wants ready for sucker companies that value certificate over the quality of the personality that they intend to employ. No wonder so many companies end up employing incompetent impostors who cannot help themselves when confronted with the reality of the task at hand.

This is the tragedy of a nation without class. A nation which stifles the ability of its people to attain their best potential would most definitely breed manipulators, some of who will falsify things just to survive or for an ego trip, a desire to lord it over others. We are a people who build houses that we don’t need, drive cars way out of league and send our children to schools we cannot afford, all just to “belong” or make some people envious.

The only thing that is worse than our vain disposition is our enthusiastic dishonesty, the inability to own up to our malady and redress.  The way it is in Nigeria now, we are all holier than the Pope until we are caught in the same malfeasance for which we condemn others. Reminds me of something a musician once said to the effect that: “we all steal, but it is the thief that is caught red-handed that we join the mob to lynch” But until Nigerians sit down as a people and reassess our values, those wrong-headed values that drive the leader and the led in Nigeria will continue to clog our progress.

I am not a Nigerian – By Anifowoshe Titilope

I must confess choosing to write a topic like this, is one of the greatest challenge I have ever encountered in the whole of my existence. I had sleepless nights thinking about the title to use for this work.

I am well abreast of the fact that choosing a topic like this will generate a lot of questions and controversies in the minds of my readers but I thought it would be wise of me to shed some light on the issue of my origin and nationality, I wrote this piece not only because its a part of the compilation of my ghetto script but to also huff-puff my mind and correct some misconceptions of people regarding their perception of me.

It is with deep sense of utmost necessity that. I’m writing to let people (those whom I have met and those whom I’m yet to meet) know that I AM NOT A NIGERIAN, even though some irreversible circumstances make people identify me as a NIGERIAN which I will discuss in the preceding paragraphs but before I explain the irreversible circumstances, I will like to talk about the two types of slaves that I know.

First, is the natural slaves (natural slaves are slaves who had been enslaved mentally and look up to other people for help). Second, is the artificial slaves (artificial slaves are those slaves who are captured in war or bought in the market as a commodity).

Let us go down memory lane here, before the Europeans first came in contact with Africans in the 15th century and for much of the 18th and 19th century, there was nothing like a place called Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Republic of Benin, Ghana and what have you.

All we had then in the African traditional society where so much emphasis was placed on respect for elders and culture and where Africans had been developing quantitatively and qualitatively was a kingdom or an empire like the OYO empire, ASHANTI kingdom, KANURI kingdom, DAHOMEY kingdom and many more. But when the European great powers came to Africa through exploration and trade, they abolished most of the African system and way of life in other to advance their Agenda to improve their society at the expense of Africans.

The idea of colonialism was to explore all around the world and gain access to territories where there was little or no military power in other to exploit their resources, enslaved their people and compel them with force to be subjected to the way of life of their colonial masters.

To forestall this, several congresses were held and treatises were signed among the European great powers. After all said and done, the great powers came into Africa with their heavy military resources and as such used their military power to force, enslaved and colonised Africans.

It was after this that many African states were shared among the European great powers like the Britain, France, Portugal and spain. During this time, some part of west Africa were shared among the French and British government. Nigeria in particular, was granted to the British government which colonised, enslaved and exploit their (African) resources at the expense of the people. While Togo, Mali, Republic of Benin and the likes were granted to the French government.

The Name Nigeria was coined from River Niger flowing through her territory. A name given by flora shaw in 1898, a wife of the British Administrator in the region as at that time. A colonial name or more or less like a slave name given to all the inhabitant of the Land.

During this colonial period, the colonial masters succeeded in dividing and sharing Africa and Africans among themselves, exploiting the resources of Africa to advance and improve their society at the expense of Africans through trade and their imperialist style (imperialism is a system whereby the rich and powerful nations control the less powerful nation.

It describes colonial and territorial policies, it also explains economic and or military influence. It is sometimes used to describe the indirect political and economic influence of the weak states by powerful ones. I. E if the dominant country is felt in social and cultural circle.

For example, if the latest style of fashion in Britain, America and France is also in vogue in Lagos, Accra, kinshasha and lome that’s imperialism. Or a gentleman dancing on the street of Lagos, Lome, Abidjan, Accra and Nairobi to the latest music in paris, london and new york, that’s another example of imperialism).

Till today, this slavery ideology still persist even after the abolishment of slave trade and colonialism. Little wonder, Africa is categorized by the United Nations as an underdeveloped nation while those who exploit the resources of Africa to advance their societies were categorized by the United nations as developed nations.

Africa must be underdeveloped since the great powers in the United Nations security council had successfully divided Africa among themselves so that Africans can look up to their country for help.

Saddening ! Any diagnosis of underdevelopment in Africa will reveal not just low per-capital income and protein deficiencies as stipulated by the united nations, but also the young man dancing on the street of Lagos, Accra, Lome, kinshasha and Abidjan when music is played in Paris, London and New york OR A foreign investor who establish companies in Lagos, Accra, Lome, Abidjan etc and exploit the resources of Africa to advance its country. Just like, J. E Casely- Hayford, An African(gold coast) nationalist once said in 1922 “before even the British came into relation with our people, we were a developed people, having our own institutions, having our own ideas of government”

I was born into this world about two decades ago among the black race (Africa), where the heat is like a second skin in the Yoruba land. I was never born Nigerian (Nigerians are those natural slaves discussed earlier, who had been enslaved mentally by the great powers and look up to them for help. No wonder! Nigerians are smelling and packaging people. Little wonder, everyday Nigerians live in destitute, despair, pain, sorrow and poverty), I was born black and free(African) in the western part of Africa which is today known as “Nigeria”(an artificial state created by the colonial masters in the 19th century).

While I was growing up in this part of the world, I knew I will be a voice in this world, I speak my mind without fear or favor, so I deserve to be heard. I also knew I am a light in this world and I’m going to shine till the end. That was why I have embarked on my historic journey from ghetto to globe.

I met diverse kind of people from different tribes, background and origins, many of whom perceived me as been radical, some of them think I am arrogant, friendly, humorous, dull, calm, smart and industrious while majority of them perceived me as a human right activist. Often times, I got confused about these people’s perception of me even though I pay leap ears to most of their perceptions.

Like every other African child, I received an education which the contents and pattern of the curriculum is cantered and structured in the colonial style. I remember while in the elementary school, speaking my mother tongue(vernacular) in class is prohibited and attracts fine while speaking English(the colonial masters’ language) is the only generally accepted mode of communication in class.

I was given an alien name(Tawakkaltu -arabic name). All this experiences never made me see myself as an African coupled with the fact that I was confused in choosing between the religion of my ancestral forefathers and that of my some far away Arabians even though I love the holy prophet SAW of ISLAM but often times the I am confused. These confusion led me to many rational thoughts which made me rethink the past. My inquiry into the past made me realize that under normal circumstances I am truly not a NIGERIAN.

I will end this piece by sharing this little information with my fellow Africans, those who always wonder if Africa will rise again. Yes! Africa will surely rise again, if only Africans are ready to revolutionized their social instinct, if only Africans are ready to emancipate their mental slavery, if only Africans are ready to detach themselves from the so called great powers whose puppets are in the helms of affair in almost all Africa countries and if only Africans can come together to live as one and develop themselves with the abundant resources in the Continent.

 

LegalEagle is a student at Nigerian Law School Abuja.

She can be reached via titilopeanny@gmail.com

OOTC: The high standards to which we must hold our leaders – By Chude Jideonwo

I have heard this bit of nonsense constantly – seen it sometimes on social media, in comment boxes or random commentary: that because I actively, enthusiastically and unrepentantly threw personal and professional weight behind the election of a political office holder, I have somehow lost the moral right to speak out against him.

 

Nonsense.

 

As long as a president or a governor or a senator, or a representative is a public servant, paid for and employed by the Nigerian people (tax paying or not), no one loses the right to question him, to declaim him, to demand from him.

 

Wherever we learnt this nonsense from, as a matter of national urgency, we need to go back to that particular spot, and unlearn it, and while we are at it, get our basic self-worth back.

 

This is cognitive dissonance. And it is one that we have to begin to address, if we are to have a nation worth having, and if we are to stop getting the types of governments that we currently richly deserve.

 

Let’s use the current and immediate past presidents of Nigeria to understand this trend.

 

When you look critically at much of the online conversation, one thing quickly strikes you about the young elite supporters (and by elite I mean university educated, technology enabled, conversation starters) of Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari – the latter is quick to admit the failings of the man they voted, while the former insists incongruously, ridiculously that their man was not just good, but one of Nigeria’s best leaders.

 

The argument isn’t that he was a good man. But that he was a good leader.

 

Wait a minute, am I living in an alternative reality?

 

Even a series of governors and ministers who supported Jonathan actively for their own narrow reasons, businessmen who contributed to his incumbency, and random people who worked in the villa, when you sit down with them outside of the cameras, they routinely confess without hesitation: “Jonathan was a weak leader”, “He wasn’t prepared to be president”, and “He always listened to the last person in the room who spoke to him, and had no mind of his own.”

 

What are we even talking about? While he was president and many people worked with him, I routinely met his own appointees, his own employees, people benefiting from his government, who would not hesitate to confess that the man was a disappointment and an ongoing letdown as a democratic leader.

 

This was a man without a political philosophy, without a governing ideal, without an economic blueprint, without the basic apparent capacity for formulating ideas, principles and directions, without the presence of mind to engage complex problems in the public domain, without the integrity of consistent positions, without the pretense to an operating ideology, without the benefit of vision or hindsight and apparently no capacity for self-reflection.

 

Under him, we lost last swaths of Nigerian territory, lost lives and families to domestic terrorists, lost the respect of the international community, lost the ability to cooperate with nations in and outside Africa, were held hostage by corrupt politicians in cahoots with devil-may-care businessmen, and experienced widening income inequality while he celebrated the personal expansion of wealth of one citizen, and the obscene accumulation of questionable private jets. Under him, militants walked around with the swagger of validation, and soldiers lost morale, and foreign reserves took a beating. Our foreign reserves were depleted, and our oil politics polluted.

 

Yes, he had admirable qualities. Of course, he had admirable qualities. Yes, he took young people seriously. He loved the creative industries and respected civil society (even though some would tell you that, it was in fact his cerebral aides who loved both the creative industries and civil society and simply nudged him to follow their lead), he allowed his ministers a free hand (more out of cluelessness than deliberate strategy, but let’s even allow it), and he made giant strides in infrastructure (that in turn made available abundant sums for misdirection, but again, let’s allow it).

 

But what are we even talking about? Every leader has the capacity to do some good. Was it not Sani Abacha that delivered the Petroleum Trust Fund? Was it not Ibrahim Babangida that supervised our freest and fairest election? Was it not Umaru Yar’Adua that re-established federal respect for the rule of law?

 

The question for leaders is not: Was he a good man? It is not: Did he have good intentions? It is certainly not, did he do some good things? It is a more detailed question: Considering the resources that he had, and the opportunities that existed, did he achieve a basic minimum that we should be entitled to as citizens?

 

This is even more urgent in a democracy, because in a democracy, mentally competent people voluntarily decide to run for an office based on the promise that they know what they are doing, and they can do the job.

 

Getting into office and complaining that ‘you didn’t know how bad it was’, ‘the forces in the country are frustrating you’, ‘the country is very complex’ is beneath contempt.

 

What are you even talking about? You didn’t know the country was bad when you started running for elections? You didn’t know that principalities exist around our politics and governance? You did not know that running a country or a state, or even a N100 million business is hard? You didn’t know that you must expect the worst and be prepared only for the best?

 

No one votes a governor or a president, or a local chairman to ‘do their best’. Or, at least, no one should. You are not voted to do ‘your best’. You are not supposed to limit us to the extent of your capacity. You are supposed to rise to the occasion. You are supposed to meet the moment. You are supposed to get the job done, period.

 

That is the standard to which we must hold our governments. That is the standard to which we must past governments. And that is a standard to which we must hold Muhammadu Buhari.

 

You should not reduce those standards to make yourself feel better. You should not reduce the standard because you don’t want to accept that your choice did not meet the occasion. You should not reduce the standards so you can win an argument on social media. You should not reduce the standard because the other person’s candidate was worse. This is not a video game. This is not a social experiment. This is the business of making people’s lives better.

 

If Olusegun Obasanjo failed, then he failed. If Yar’adua failed, then he did. If Jonathan failed, then he failed. Assess his failure on its merits, irrespective of whether you think his successor is doing worse. If Buhari is disappointing, then he is disappointing, irrespective of whether Jonathan was a worse disappointment.

 

All of them were hired by all of us to do a job, and each is to be judged on its own merit. They are not to be defended and protected simply because you like the one and you dislike the other; they are to assessed independently based on the job they were given to do, and how they did that job.

 

That is what we deserve. No less.

 

You are a citizen. You deserve a government that works. And you deserve a government that works optimally.

 

Whether you like these guys or not, whether you supported these guys or not, whether you feel cheated by one part of the country or not, whether you violently disagree on an issue or not, there should be a basic, common sense agreement on this: we deserve, as a people, the very best that any government has to offer. We deserve leaders worthy of the positions that they are given.

 

When they fall below that basic minimum; regardless of party affiliation, economic interest, ethnic positioning, or simply to win an argument on Twitter, we should be able to say no, hell no, and demand better, and keep demanding better, until we get better.

 

If you can’t speak up, at least shut up, and let those who are able to find their voices use it for the benefit of all of us.

 

Enough of this tomfoolery, please.

 

*This series takes a break in the month of April. It will be concluded in the May, the month of Nigeria’s annual Democracy Day.

Adejoh Momoh: An end to Southern Kaduna’s 37-year-old crisis?

From efforts at dialogue and reconciliation to security; if the strength of the El-Rufai led administration is going to be measured by how effectively it deals with the 37-year-old Southern Kaduna crisis, then it might be safe to conclude that the administration has shown itself to be breathtakingly competent.

There is a peculiar way that most crisis start in Kaduna; a man offends another man, every so often, one of them is from the largely Christian South and the other is from the largely Muslim North, one party decides to take laws into his hands and the offense quickly escalates to a crisis. At the point when law enforcement is brought in or made aware of the crisis, it would have assumed the dimension of a group dispute.

The Kaduna State Government has come up with a three-pronged approach to effectively end this crisis. The approach ideally begins with guaranteeing physical security and forestalling further violence, this will make way for peace building efforts including consultations with relevant stakeholders and the final prong is strengthening law enforcement to the extent that perpetrators of these violent crimes are brought to book.

For El-Rufai, the immediate goal is to protect the people of Southern Kaduna and stop further bloodletting. Already, 10 platoons of Mobile Policemen have been deployed to maintain the peace in Southern Kaduna and patrol the surrounding forests where herdsmen attacks have often been reported. A government owned estate has also been converted to a permanent base for Mobile Police operations in the Kafanchan area.

Despite the fact that the foundation for a military formation was destroyed in the very same Southern Kaduna sometime last year, the government has gone ahead with plans to construct two military formations in Kafanchan and Kachia Local Government Areas. These formations will ensure that the military is resident in Southern Kaduna and can carry out Internal Security Operations locally. The formation in Kafanchan is almost at completion and is equipped with 3 helipads that allow for improved air surveillance and monitoring.

It is in getting these security agencies to work in an environment of easy synergy that a quick resolution for the Southern Kaduna crisis will be found. And this quick resolution is particularly important to El-Rufai seeing as the current crisis thwarts all his economic renewal efforts for the area.

Secondly, El-Rufai takes the responsibility to consult with the Kaduna State citizens seriously. This is why alongside consulting with critical stakeholders like traditional and religious institutions, security forces, youth groups, Southern Kaduna and Fulani groups or associations, he has also made official contacts with states that have dealt with similar crisis situations in the past. These consultations are in a view to understanding the measures they adopted in resolving these conflicts and ultimately domesticating these tactics to the extent that they are effective for Kaduna State.

These contacts have led to very significant partnerships with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the United States Institute for Peace as well as other organisations working in the area of conflict resolution.

Perhaps, most prominent is the partnership with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue that has resulted in a peace pact between 32 warring communities in Southern Kaduna and the Kafanchan Peace Declaration.

Thirdly, El-Rufai knows that no peace is possible without a foundation of justice, this is why he is firm with improving the capacity of law enforcement and apprehending all those who are investigated and found culpable of inciting violence in Southern Kaduna.

For most of its conflicts, previous Kaduna State administrations have always commissioned panels of enquiry, issued white papers, identified indicted persons and always stopped short of prosecuting them. This is the sense in which El-Rufai differs, he has stated a commitment to prosecution and these efforts have begun to yield results.

The Joint Tactical Operations Squad commissioned by the Inspector General of Police late 2016 has already arrested 17 suspects. The suspects mostly consisting Fulani herdsmen and a few Southern Kaduna natives were paraded at the Police Force Headquarters on 1st February, 2017 following investigations into the violence in Kafanchan and other environs of Southern Kaduna. Prior to this, troops of the 1st Merchanised Infantry Division intercepted and arrested two men conveying live ammunition in Kagoma Chiefdom in December last year and many more ammunitions have been mopped up since then.

El-Rufai is determined not to relent in his efforts until lasting peace is restored to Southern Kaduna and all Kaduna State citizens are assured of safety wherever they choose to dwell. This is a right enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution and El-Rufai has made it his goal to ensure that all citizens are guaranteed this right.

 

Adejoh Momoh writes from Kaduna.

Make It In Nigeria – By Toibudeen Oduniyi

Nigeria’s population has grown tremendously since from 45.2 million people at Independence 56 years ago, to an estimated 182.2 million people in 2015.  Unfortunately, our population growth has not been matched with an increase in our capability to produce all the things we need and consume as a nation. As our population increased, we became increasingly more dependent on imports to satisfy our booming demand with a huge undesirable impact on the nation’s economy.

Despite numerous industrial development plans in the 60s and 70s, the little industrial base we developed has been decimated by the tough economic environment over the last 25 to 30 years. Even agriculture has not been spared this shame with the country spending astronomical amount of money on food importation because of terminal decline in farming. Policies like Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, etc. driven by governments in the past has failed to stem the rural urban migration as flocks of people head to the cities in search of white collar and blue collar jobs – a common feature of rural-urban migration.

A study of the traffic at seaports and land border posts today will lay bare the dire situation we have where we practically import most of the things we use – food, clothing, machinery, etc. All the big industries of the 70s and 80s have been in decline, with many of them becoming extinct. Paradoxically, all the gains we made during this era has reversed with most of the goods we use today being imported. Most of our industrial areas have become desolate with empty factories, some have been turned into warehouses for imported items whilst others have become derelict.

Our current account has persistently remained in deficit and growing, with a huge chunk of our export earnings being gulped by imports. In some instance, the government has in the past even had to resort to borrowing to finance imports. Nigeria simply spends too much on imports; we cannot produce even the barest things like tooth picks!!! This is one of the reasons why our currency has been under pressure with the naira depreciating significantly over the last 12 months, though it is beginning to recover some lost ground as a result of recent CBN actions. Our current account deficit grew from $14.5bn in 2010 to $20bn in 2016, a very worrying trend.

Today, Nigeria is the largest importer of US hard red and white wheat worth N635 billion annually; world’s number 2 importer of rice at N356 billion; we spend N217 billion on sugar and N97 billion on fish. By 2050 our population is projected to be around 450 million. With the country spending in the region of $22bn annually importing food, in the face of oscillating and declining foreign exchange receipts from crude oil, we need to take drastic action to arrest the situation.

It is imperative that we as people resolve to use what we make and make what we use. This implies a conscious decision for us to patronise locally made goods and find substitutes for the goods we currently import. The public needs to buy-in to this program and philosophy to ensure that our country’s economy not only stabilises but strengthens our local manufacturing base with the multiplier effect on other areas. In addition to using price as an instrument of adjusting consumption habits, the government must actively sensitise our people about the need to produce locally, patronise local producers, and consume locally made goods.

First and foremost, the government must lead by example by ensuring all Ministries, Departments and Agencies patronise locally made goods where possible. I have just returned from Imo State where I was very delighted to see that the State Government only uses Innoson buses for all their bus requirements. This is a highly commendable action that must be imitated by other state governments and the federal government. We need to see more government support and patronage of locally made tools and machinery. The government being a large purchaser can also use this opportunity to drive up standards and enforce strict adherence to the rules around manufacturing such vehicles. There is no reason why this company cannot grow to become the Tata or Hyundai of Nigeria. Countries like India with Tata and Malaysia with Proton used this kind of strategy to develop a booming local car manufacturing businesses that not only saved them considerable foreign exchange but also became good sources of foreign exchange receipts through exports.

It is not all doom after all; there are encouraging news in the three sectors below;

 

Cement

Nigeria has moved from a being large importer of cement to a net exporter of cement due to cement production explosion from the large cement plants built by giants like Dangote. As at 2011, Nigeria was one of the world’s largest importers of cement, buying 5.1 million metric tons of foreign cement at huge expense to the country’s balance of payments. This ended with Dangote Cement Plc exporting 0.4 million tons of the product to other countries in 2016.

 

Rice

It is estimated that Nigeria spends around N1 trillion naira on just importing four food items – rice, wheat, sugar and fish. Clearly this situation is unacceptable, as a result of this, various rice growing schemes has been developed with very positive results in many states. We have Umza rice from Kano, Mas rice from Gombe, Mama Happy rice from Niger, Labana rice from Kebbi, Olam rice from Nassarawa, Igbemo rice from Ekiti, Ofada rice from Ogun, Ebonyi rice from Ebonyi, Anambra rice from Anambra and Lake rice form Lagos/Kebbi partnership. This has led to drop in the volume of our rice importation with the country expected to become self-sufficient in rice production by 2018.

 

Petroleum Products

Though today we still import large volumes of petroleum products, by 2018 when the $14bn Dangote Refinery in Lekki with a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day capacity comes online, it will be producing enough petroleum products to meet Nigeria’s consumption needs and also exporting refined crude products to other countries. The factory will also be producing petrochemicals and fertilisers by the end of the decade.

 

Stimulating and nurturing the entrepreneur spirit in our people is key to triggering a Made-in-Nigeia explosion in our daily consumption goods. The government needs to promote its numerous Entrepreneurship programs to ensure people know and understand how to tap into these schemes. A good example is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) driven Youth Entrepreneur Development Program (YEDP) – a N210bn fund dedicated to supporting small and medium scale enterprises. Another is the Bank of Industry (BOI) Youth Entrepreneur Scheme (YES), a N10bn fund set up to support the establishment and/or expansion of enterprises promoted by Nigerian youths across the country. There must a concerted effort to ensure that a huge chunk of these funds are channelled into making what we use.

The public needs to have more confidence in our locally produced goods, and for this to happen organisations like the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) needs to step up their act in enforcing good quality to ensure that goods produced in Nigeria meets international standards. If we fail to do this, the public will lose confidence in the locally produced goods. Doing this well will encourage the public to use what we make.

We have pockets of innovation in places like Aba in Abia State that developed a huge indigenous industrial base in the 80s but has since lost momentum. The government needs to find ways to stimulate economic activities in these areas by providing essential services like regular power (as opposed to the present dependency on diesel powered generators) and economic incentives through grants and taxation. This can lead to an explosion in light in consumer goods at the low end of the value chain which can grow to include light industrial tools and machineries.

To achieve the government’s target of Nigeria becoming self-sufficient in food production by 2019, we need more dynamism in our agriculture sector. It needs to be made sexy, a nation that cannot feed itself (be able to meet at least 90% of its food needs) is highly vulnerable and at the peril of fluctuations in international trade. Already we have witnessed a flurry of activities in this sector as people warm up to the government’s numerous incentives and programs, this needs to be sustained and remain in focus of policy makers. We must also move to becoming an exporter of agro-allied products rather than just being an exporter of commodities. Towards this end there needs to be greater co-operation and collaboration between Entrepreneurs and Research Institutes, Universities of Agriculture, Polytechnics to encourage the evolution of machines that will promote mechanised agriculture and enhanced crop yields.

It is my hope that the discussants and speakers at the upcoming Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium, which has the theme, “Making It In Nigeria,” would come up with solutions to the many challenges Nigeria faces in its drive to become a producing country. The event, which holds on Tuesday, 28thMarch, at the Eko Hotels and Suites, has lined up some of the most successful young entrepreneurs, manufacturers, government officials and policy makers ready to converse on this critical subject.

Beyond this, we also need to stimulate our exports to boost our non-oil revenue and insulate our economy from the volatility in the global oil markets. Countries like India, Brazil and South Korea have managed to enjoy export led growth as lifting a huge chunk of their population out of poverty in the process. Nigeria can take a cue from this….

The Cost Of Reforms: Hadiza Bala Usman As A Case Study – By Theophilus Opaleye

The evolutionary trend of Nigeria’s socio-political journey since Independence has shown a clear path for the permeation of corruption, from an alien concept to the statutory way of getting business done. Corruption has become the existential reality of the ordinary man or woman in Nigeria trying to eke out a living for himself or herself.
 
The effect of this moral decadence is evident in both the political dysfunctionality and economic debilitation of the Nigerian state. The implication is that those who seek to do the right thing often find themselves alienated by the system while battling forces that are loyal to the status quo for various reasons.
 
It is a trend that takes vast amount of political will to undo as systemic reformers battle against the devastating current of blackmail, libel, insubordination and sometimes direct threat to their lives by machineries of the beneficiaries of corruption. The latest survivor of this onslaught is Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority.
 
Hadiza Bala Usman’s appointment as MD of Nigerian Port Authority by President Buhari in July 2016 came on the back heel of dwindling revenue from crude oil and the urgent need to diversify the federal government’s income sources. The move signalled President Buhari’s resolve to make NPA one of the most efficient economic drivers of his administration. And Hadiza was the woman he trusted to make that happen.
 
Hadiza’s appointment sent ripples through the fabric of Nigeria’s civil service structure – it is an anomaly to have a 40-year old woman head one of the most important agencies of government in Nigeria. For stakeholders in the ports sector, it marked the end of an era of doing business at the ports the corrupt way, the end of defrauding the Nigerian state and people through sharp practices at the port.
 
Since her appointment, Hadiza has set about cleaning the Augean stable at the NPA, bringing to bear major reforms in the way stakeholders conduct business at the nation’s seaports. Under Hadiza, NPA became the first federal agency to fully adopt the open governance model and open its books to the scrutiny of the public and civil societies. By integrating the operations of the NPA with the federal government’s single treasury account policy, she ensured monies meant for remittance to the federation account were not locked in private accounts yielding interests for corrupt elements in high places.
 
Also, the high and mighty who had made defrauding the Nigerian people the norm, by not paying due import duties suddenly found themselves locked out in a system where transparency and accountability reigned supreme. Those who had enriched themselves by using their influence to bring goods into the country without paying the appropriate fees are being forced to do business the right way.
 
These and more are reform policies introduced to the operations of the NPA that did not go down well with a section of the Nigerian elites that made Hadiza Bala Usman a target for the campaign of calumny and character assassination as characterized by the recent report as published by the faceless online platform – The Breaking Post NG.
 
The powers that be who are used to having their way have now decided the best way to do it is no longer through the ports because illegality has been blocked there but now through internet infestations of lies, half truths and alternative facts. Their latest effort in dragging Hadiza’s name through the mud in which they themselves have permanent residence have failed, but they are not likely to stop.
 
Less than 24 hours after posting with all glee and certainty, an “exclusive” report on Hadiza targeted at painting her as corrupt, The Breaking Post tweeted an excuse-ridden apology to save face after Nigerians rose in Hadiza’s defence. In the interest of a just and equitable society, and to serve as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to make themselves available as tools for the propagation of falsehood on social media, Hadiza’s determination to go ahead with a lawsuit against the fake news platform is a welcome development.
 
There is perhaps no better visualization of the cost of doing things the right way and enforcing progressive reforms in a society as ours as the barrage of falsehood against the person of Hadiza and her position as MD of the NPA. It is however heart-warming that rather than dampen her morale, this campaign against her by the enemies of the Nigerian people have strengthened her determination to see through ongoing reforms at the NPA.
 
Theophilus Opaleye is a public finance expert based in Lagos.

OOTC: How it came to be that Jonathan is an option in 2019 – By Chude Jideonwo

I got a lot of panicked responses after my last piece; the panic focused on one small nugget of information buried within it: the fact that, as things stand today, former president Goodluck Jonathan is the strongest candidate that the People’s Democratic Party can present in 2019.

 

So I decided to run slight interference, and do a follow up.

 

What I apparently have taken for granted – not just as a result of insight into Nigeria’s political space cleaned from years of first, activism, then consulting; but also as a result of any number of PESTLE analyses that I have been involved in over the past 10 months – was a surprise to many.

 

It stood out especially for some respondents because my assessment of Jonathan’s presidency has been consistently, unshakably – and remains to this moment – harsh: he was, in my opinion, an ineffectual leader; one whose feckless cost the country greatly in corruption and insecurity at the minimum.

 

But personal desires are one thing, and honest political calculation is another. If anything, the latter is needed if the former will be fulfilled in any meaningful, practical way.

 

So let’s take some time to talk about how people get elected in a country like ours.

 

Actually, no, that’s a matter for another day’s piece. What this actually will do is try to explain the three broad categories that lead people to emerge as candidates in the primaries of the major Nigerian political parties, at least the gubernatorial and presidential elections.

 

There are three basic requirements:

  1. Name recall
  2. Access to finance
  3. Establishment consensus

 

Name recall

I call this the test of ‘If we should your name in the market place, will people know who it is’?

 

It’s amazing how many sophisticated, intelligent people searching for complicated answers to simple questions often overlook this crucial factor in the way candidates are selected.

 

And it’s not just about countries like ours with primitive electoral environments. The singular reason Donald Trump was a viable candidate for the American president elections without previously holding any political office, or belonging to any political structure, was simply because Americans knew his name.

 

And the reason Sarkozy, the former French president, returned as party leader and then made another run for the presidency last year, despite what was a les than glorious first term, both locally and internationally, is because he possesses an electoral asset that it is immensely difficult for new players to quickly gather: the voting public knows his name.

 

This is why America’s politics can seem like a dynasty: political operatives impatient with experiments routinely look for tried-and-tested surnames like Bush or Clinton or Obama (if Michelle runs, which – for everything we know about American politics – is a distinct possibility) is because everyone knows their name.

 

And that applies even more significantly in a largely illiterate country like ours, where citizens do not have access to the body of information that is usually necessary for making informed choices. They typically have to employ shorthand to make decisions i.e. Does this person lay claim to Awo’s legacy? Does this person have an Igbo mother? And usually the most important question can be this – Do we know who this person is?

 

This is the fundamental driver behind the massive, and unshakeable electoral margins that President Muhammadu Buhari continued to rack in the North of Nigeria. They knew his name, they ‘knew’ what that name stood for; they were familiar with it. It was easier for them to vote for it.

 

It is the same reason Odimegwu Ojukwu continued to rack up wins for the All Progressives Grand Alliance through election cycles, despite having no realistic chance of winning anything beyond a gubernatorial election – you could call his name in any part of the South-East, at any day at any time, in any market; and they knew exactly who you were talking about.

 

It is the reason the PDP confidently presented the now-quickly-forgotten Hilda Williams as gubernatorial candidate for Lagos after her husband died. We knew the name Williams. It was easy to connect with.

 

No strategist worth his salt plays with the power of name recall.

 

Access to finance

If you think this only applies to startups and businesses looking to expand, you haven’t been paying enough attention to the politics of your country, at least over the past 17 years.

 

Access to finance is distinct of course from personal wealth. You can, like Olusegun Obasanjo, emerge from prison dirt-poor and yet find the critical mass of people and institutions ready to pool the resources you need for you to win electoral contests.

 

But, whether it is you money or it is other people’s money, there is no chance in heaven or hell that you are able to win elections in any part of this country without significant financial resources.

 

Now, while naivety or self-deception can lead people into viewing this as essentially negative, there is nothing at all wrong – ab initio – in the idea that it takes money to win an election.

 

By the very nature of democracy, it is inevitable that it will be expensive. And this can be said without even referring to the $1.2 billion Hillary Clinton spent last year or the $1.12 billion Barack Obama spent in 2012.

 

You just need to be a reasonable person looking at the reasonable steps that any reasonable person would have to take in winning a typical election.

 

To be governor in Lagos state for instance, you need a few things in order to communicate your personality and your ideas to the 1,678,754 who voted in the last elections.

 

You need to print banners, and you need to print fliers. You need to print posters, and you need to print your manifesto. And in doing this, you are thinking about reaching the about 2 million people, or at least the 1milloon half of it that you will need to thumbprint for you in order for you to win the election. And that is just basic printing cost. Without talking about the ‘excitement tools’ e.g. t-shirts, face-caps, and other livery.

 

We have not factored in the planning and hosting of the events you will have to do, repeatedly, across the Local Government Areas where people will vote. A typical event has sound, canopies, decoration, food and drinks, and others. Multiply this by the number of local governments and by the number of the times you need to make the visit to consolidate gains.

 

On and on and on – campaign buses, campaign offices, campaign staff, road shows, and all of this minus the modern imperative for TV and radio adverts, as well as online exposures. This is without the personnel costs that attend to running any mid-size enterprise.

 

There is a reason politics is called the art of ‘selling’ yourself and your ideas.

 

So if there are people that think financial resources in elections only come down to buying party forms, bribing whoever they think is usually bribed and distributing rice to random voters, they are talking about incidental costs rather than actual cost of sale.

 

Without the financial resources, or the ability to get those who have those resources to part with said resources, you are a non-starter.

 

Establishment consensus

To be honest, I have sat in any number of establishment meetings; by this I mean, meetings by the ‘movers’ and ‘shakers’ of Nigerian politics, from across the two major parties and some of the fringes, and here is the truth of discovery – there is not a lot of sophistication that goes on in those spaces.

 

That is one of the shocking revelations I have had from seven years of engagement from multiple angles in this space.

 

Most of the decisions come from gut, and perception – perception mostly coloured by location, experiences, interests and relationships. In essence, many of these decisions are narrow and parochial. They are not well thought out, and don’t exist based on verifiable facts.

 

That, of course, is why our country is the way it is. Think about it: if the minds that have been manipulating our affairs for 50 years have been engaged in the art of sophistication and depth, is this the kind of country that would result from that process?

 

Unfortunately, whether these are the brightest or not, they are the ones who determine our political affairs, and they are the ones who largely make decisions as to candidates, candidacies and political reflexes.

 

Many times their decisions come down to – ‘it is the turn of this part of the country’, ‘this is the guy that won’t upset the apple cart’, ‘a woman cannot win in that part of the country’, or ‘we just don’t like that guy’. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to political decisions in this country.

 

I remember being shocked at the beginning of my professional life about 15 years ago years ago, to be seated (they ignored me because I was 17 and they knew I was harmless) in a discussion, from whence one of the ‘powers that be’ in a South-Western state simply decided he wanted a woman to run for one of the offices under his influence. And that’s she was elevated for life into a force to reckon with.

 

That’s the consensus that gave us Goodluck Jonathan as president, ultimately, in 2010. Those principalities in the PDP decided that Peter Odili could not be Vice President to Umaru Yar’Adua and Donald Duke could not be Vice President, and any number of people couldn’t be – not for reasons of capacity, competence or character, but simply because they were too ambitious. The least ambitious person was selected, and the least ambitious person, by default, became the president of this country for 5 years and ended it by losing large swaths of Nigerian territory to terrorists and 276 girls from Chibok.

 

So how will Jonathan again become a potential presidential candidate in 2019? Well, because these powers that be will come together and finalise a year before those elections that he is the best bet to unify that party, without alienating any of those groups.

 

They will conclude that having him as candidate will help complete the second term that the South-South is ‘entitled’ to and he will have the experience to run the office and run the country simply by the fact of having been there before.

 

They will look around and they will most likely find nobody else who can fill that position. Nobody else whose name you can shout on the main-road of Onitsha market and random people will know his or her name. Nobody who is so ‘formidable’ that he or she will immediately attract cross-regional resources to wage an electoral war, and nobody else whom the powers that can be can establish an unsophisticated consensus around.

 

The calculation will fall on: Who can face Buhari in 2019 and neutralize his huge advantages in the North?

 

And that is how; if Buhari decides to run for president again in 2019, the old fault lines will re-emerge, and we will probably end up with Buhari versus Jonathan again for the presidency of the federal republic of Nigeria.

 

When that happens, we will have no choice but to play the hand that we are dealt.

 

Unless something gives now. Unless someone else builds the momentum to cross at least two of these three imperatives. Unless someone else has the kind of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Marine Le Pen (yes), Olusegun Mimiko, Peter Obi-guts to stare the dragon in the face, and to decide that this thing is not further mathematics, and this kind of history can, should, and must be made.

 

There is no such person on the scene as we speak.

 

And, as you and I know, two years before the next general elections as we are today, time is already running out.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Dino Melaye needs our urgent help – By Abdullahi O Haruna

When you are humble, taciturn and mindful, your shortcomings are easily overlooked, even in war, only the arrogant and pompous fighter suffers death fast. My father would always say, not every breast is ripe enough for a man to touch. In life, not every fight should a man fight. Regardless of what, we must choose our fight wisely.

Dino Melaye is perilously intelligent, he is an uncommon fighter. With sheer doggedness, he defined a template of survival. From an abysmally poor background, the Okun born lad extricated himself from the intimate embrace of poverty.

That he is where he is today, is a testimony that where you come from is never a limitation to what you are today. Using empirical measurements, I dare to say that Dino has broken the ceiling of limitations. He has redefined what struggle for emancipation is. He is a walking reference of grass to grace.

Tragically, instead of being celebrated for his feat, he succumbed to the weaknesses of mortals. He began to play the god. He dares the gods to wrestling match. He brags and puff in arrogance. He become rambunctious, irritating and discourteous . He could challenge anyone to a fight. He climbed the high horse and attributed his divorce from poverty as his sole efforts.  He wears anywhere the garment of arrogance and self worth.

Instantly, he lost the admiring gaze from the public. He became a nuisance reference, a defender of absurdities. He goes violent and uncivil in his manifestations.  Within a blink of an eye, a promising lad transformed to a scornful reference. His unguided show of wealth didn’t help matter, he flaunt his wealth before his poor companions, instead of using his possessions as motivating tools, he turned them to oppressing teachings.

Instead of reliving himself in people, he found solace in the esoteric affluence of life, Forgetting that like erection, nothing last forever in life. Those who live forever are those who recreate themselves in others.

Playing the devil’s advocate all the time leaves you sapped in moral, value and dignity. Not every fight is your fight. You can’t be more intelligent than a body of 109 parliamentarians.  You can’t always speak their minds. Leave the microphone for once. Your thunderous voice should be reserved for the good of humanity. The world should regard you as a model of hope and not the monster of the parliament.

Ordinarily, the world would have come to your defense when the case of not graduating from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria came up, instead the public have joined in thorough search of your ABUSITE status. That you went to ABU to them isn’t enough, arguing in stoic defense that not everyone who went to the market returns with wares. Some even said that you may have earned a degree in ABU but not the character that comes with learning. Majority of Abusites are even saying that you quickly come clean by putting forth your degree before the public so that the issue of forgry can be lay to rest.

This is what unguided heroism can cause, it makes one vulnerable, exposed and opened to needless harms. The chick survived the fury of the hawks because it lay low from the prey of the hawks.

 

Please save your promising rise by choosing the fight that suits you as the furious rise of a child is usually not lasting especially when the child is against nature.

Proactively musing

OOTC: Will the third party candidates please stand up? – Chude Jideonwo

Nigerians talk a good game about third party candidacies, especially Nigerians on social media.

 

They speak often about this utopia where Nigerians have had more than two options for president of Nigeria, and we could have chosen any of these options instead of what they consider less-than-ideal alternatives in our last two national election cycles.

 

So let’s talk about third party options in Nigeria.

 

Or no, let’s talk first about the idea of third party options globally.

 

For a third party candidate or party to be taken seriously in an election by the generality of the voting mass, there has to be a basic standard of viability. Viability, in essence, lies in the question: is this candidate an effective vehicle with a reasonable chance of winning an election?

 

Let’s switch this as a question voters must ask themselves: am I wasting this vote or not?

 

This is because essentially, democracy is a game of choices, not a game of wishes. It comes down at the base of it to, for most voters: who is the candidate most likely out of all the options that I have, most of whom I did not willingly choose as the options from the parties, to best represent my interest?

 

I would wager that this is indeed the foundation upon which democracies that function are based – the fact of choice between available alternatives.

 

There is a certain petulance in any set of citizens claiming that ‘I did not go to vote because none of the candidates fired up my passions’. In a country like Nigeria, for instance, there were approximately 29 million who voted in the last presidential elections. Think about the chaos that would ensue if all of them decided to vote only if they found the candidates that fit their exact or proximate specifications.

 

For most ordinary citizens of the world, that luxury of desire doesn’t exist. For Americans, it can be a binary choice: which candidate will give me free healthcare and which one will not? For Nigerians it can come down to the same: which one will be less corrupt and so will free up monies for poverty alleviation programmes?

 

I would dare say, for responsible citizens, even if they are not the mass, that luxury does not exist as well: the choice will come to, in a field of undesirables, who is the candidate that will do the least damage, at the very least?

 

In making this choice, voting for third party candidate simply because you can, regardless of passing the test of viability, is both petulant and indulgent.

 

It is particularly indulgent because it sets the bar very low for third party candidates where the pitch then becomes: if we have undesirable options, then just because you are a third party candidate, whether you are qualified or not, whether you do the heavy lifting or not, we will vote for you as a protest option.

 

Think about the American elections in 2016, where both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had the worst favourabiity ratings of any modern candidate since Richard Nixon. A third party option became mainstream conversation.

 

But who were the options? Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), one of only two third party candidates polling above 5 percent, was not only was deeply unaware of the world as it exists typified by his ignorance of Syria’s war dynamics, but even his deputy turned out not only to be uninspired by him, but actively rooting for the Democratic Party candidate.

 

To that extent, the question to those who would vote him in as a protest candidate: do you think this is a joke?

 

But Americans had actual third party options in 2015, in fact. By the test of viability above, that would be serious candidates with serious, practical ideas who were also ready to do the heavy lifting of organization, mobilization and persuasion. These candidates existed; they just didn’t run on the platform of actual third parties.

 

There was Bernie Sanders, a life-long Independent Senator from Vermont. Even though he ran under the Democratic party, Sanders was to all intents and purposes an independent candidate, no less validated by the fact that independents rushed into the primaries to vote him.

 

Donald Trump – Republican-today, Democrat-today – was also in effect a third party candidate. He was not beholden to Republican party orthodoxy, did not run on any of the existing political structures that deliver Republican victories, and – most remarkably – ran against BOTH the Democratic and the Republican establishments.

 

But to be viable, both candidates decided to get serious, and concluded that a hostile takeover of the present mainstream political options was more sensible than mounting quixotic bids from the fringes of political life.

 

Both candidates were also highly serious-minded candidates, with massive track records, either in business or government, who had – each in their different ways – been pusing a particular, stubborn agenda in the full glare of public attention; Bernie Sanders with his multi-decade message of socialism, and Trump with a 30-year war against ‘America losing’.

 

By the time they mounted bids, preparation, profile and purpose had met opportunity. And yet, even they had to mount this takeover bid through existing mainstream political structures.

 

This thing is hard, serious work.

 

So when Nigerians say: We had third party candidates in 2015. We should ask ourselves: did we really?

 

Was KOWA, for instance, a serious third party option? Did it have a popular agenda, did it possess a truly inspiring candidate with a clear track record and a concrete alternative reality beyond ‘I exist, I am not one of them, I am different, so vote for me?’ Did it have, as a party, a serious presence in 12 states of the country at a minimum, able if not to win elections at least to mobilise people with the idea of another option?

 

The answer is clearly no.

 

Beyond the (without prejudice to her character) triteness of the candidate it presented for national election, it just couldn’t marshal a central argument that could galvanise a political base.

 

You see, candidates and parties are not voted simple because they exist. Candidates and parties are voted because they prove that they can and should be taken seriously by voters serious about affecting electoral outcomes.

 

And, for that matter, if KOWA or other third party candidates were serious, Nigeria has indeed had third party candidates that are worth their weight in gold, they just haven’t stood for national political office.

 

Peter Obi launched his bid to be governor of Anambra, even before he was a registered member of any political party, driven – as legend would have it – simply by a desire to shake things up for the citizens of the state.

 

After he had decaled his ambition and circulated posters across Anambra, having deployed extensive financial resources to make the seriousness of his intention known, only then did he begin the search for a political party.

 

His search began with the All Nigerian People’s Party, going round a number of political parties before he arrived at the perfect host body of the All Progressives Grand Alliance. He finally led that party into a rare gubernatorial victory that has maintained its hold over that state in the past 12 years.

 

Olusegun Mimiko did the same thing in Ondo, defying the threats of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and daring the giants of all the All Progressives Congress (APC) to launch his own effective third party bid with the otherwise-powerless Labour Party.

 

Effectively, it wasn’t the party machinery – such as didn’t exist – that powered his electoral victory; it was the seriousness of his candidacy and the substance of his message that only at that point needed a legal vehicle to establish its efficacy.

 

There was even Lagos’s Jimi Agbaje, who parlayed a third party candidacy into national acclaim.

 

He did not win an election, but only because the Tinubu machinery in Lagos was (and is) finely honed and well oiled. It was the seriousness of the Democratic Party Alliance-candidacy of Agbaje (complete with the viral ‘JK is OK’ message) that finally made him such an irresistible candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), enough to incur the wrath of the formidable Musiliu Obanikoro in 2014.

 

If KOWA and others want to be taken seriously, then they must pay attention to these models.

 

These are solid Nigerian models that have worked or that have captured the popular imagination. They are worth talking about, and worthy of the victories that they have won. Only issue is that none of these models have been transformed into a national arena. And that is a tragedy as we move into the 2019 elections.

 

It is noteworthy, and tragic, that two years before our next federal elections, there is – yet again – no serious-minded presidential candidacy on the scene beyond the usual suspects.

 

The reason for this is simple: many Nigerian politicians are making the bet that the only two viable options in 2019 have to come either from the APC or from the PDP. And rather than mounting mainstream messaging that can capture the hearts and minds of the voting public, many of them are insisting on internal horse-trading; trying to win the affection of the power brokers in those parties first, and using that as the only foundation for deciding whether to run for office or not.

 

For many of them, if you won’t win the support of the owners of the political structures within these parties (many of them former political office holders or military power players), then there is no point mounting any political challenge, because you just will not win.

 

This is a shame.

 

It is a shame because it speaks to the fundamental lack of grit on the part of the players on the national political space. And it is a shame because if there will be any opportunity for a third political force to emerge and to enhance the competitiveness of the center stage, the time is now.

 

Having dislodged the ruling party in 2015, the field has been thrown wide open now for other players to further weaken the political center, and widen the options for the composition of a new political establishment.

 

Without the appearance of a third party candidate, it appears that the two options for 2019 – at least, as today stands – will yet again be Muhammadu Buhari and (wait for it) Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

 

Yes.

 

In the absence of any alternatives with name recall, or establishment consensus, these are most likely to be the default candidates by the time competition kicks off at the end of this year.

 

Now, whether you are a die-hard supporter of any of these two or not, this is not an optimal state of affairs in a country where both parties, have been less than impressive in federal office (and that, being perhaps the understatement of the year).

 

At this point, after the foundational two-party disruption of 2015, Nigeria’s democracy is ripe for a new level of disruption; one that, at the minimum, scares the establishment out of a dangerous binary reality, into one that refocuses, not on internal political calculation, but on the citizen.

 

At the very least, it will shake off the complacency now that seems destined to re-present a repeat of 2015.

 

The need for this is even more acute because both of these parties do not possess an ideological difference that presents real options beyond personalities.

 

In a situation like this, a sign of health will certainly be the multiplicity of options that engenders healthy competition. That healthy competition will in turn force parties to compete no longer on the level of personality, but then on the level of ideology, a coherent architecture of consistent ideas.

 

I am aware that there are many solid candidates that are considering seriously a presidential run. Many of them are younger political stars who have an impressive track record in government.

 

Even better, in a country with unavoidable ethnic fault-lines, I am aware that many of these are candidates from the South East and South South – which means the coincidence of opportunity and minority agitation presents fertile ground to run real interference.

 

They need to find the courage to take the plunge.

 

Either the way of the Obis and Mimikos, or perhaps the way of Adams Oshiomhole, a viable third party candidate who only needed a serious minded party and machinery to make the possible finally inevitable.

 

There is a place for third party candidates in Nigeria. But the space only exists for serious minded third party candidates. They call for the serious minded, with serious minded capacity, and an actual game plan for capturing electoral victory.

 

That’s the least the Nigerian electorate deserves.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Illegal directive on wearing of uniform by customs boss – By Femi Falana

The timely reaction of the senate to the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service to compel all vehicle owners to pay appropriate duties has once again questioned the extent of the oversight powers of the national assembly.

In contributing to the interesting debate I shall examine the legal validity of the policy, the legal competence of the senate to summon the comptroller-general of customs to justify the policy and the legality of the directive that he should appear before the senate in uniform.

Illegal policy of Nigeria Customs Service on payment of appropriate duties.

We are aware that the Nigeria Customs Service has announced the suspension of the implementation of the policy to compel all vehicle owners in Nigeria to pay appropriate customs duties from March 13-April 12, 2017. Notwithstanding the suspension we deem it fit to point out that the policy is illegal as the Nigeria Customs Service is completely estopped from collecting additional duties from vehicle owners who had paid the duties charged at the time of importation. Under the doctrine of estoppel by conduct the Nigeria Customs Service cannot be permitted to deny the payment of what was charged and collected as appropriate duties from vehicle owners several years ago.

In Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji v Board of Customs (1982) 3 NCLR 552, the armed agents of the defendant invaded and raided markets in Lagos and seized contraband goods. In the process, some of the traders were brutalized. They sued the defendant for damages in the Lagos high court. Apart from condemning the violations of the traders to dignity the Lagos high court cautioned that “Those in authority in customs and excise matters ought to intensify methods for apprehending offenders at the point of entry of goods into the country as it becomes more difficult to do so afterwards.” In Margaret Stitch v Attorney-General of the Federation (1986) 2 NSSC 1389 the Supreme Court held that the appellant was only liable to pay the customs duty based upon the rate of duty payable when she imported her used Mercedes Benz car. It was the view of the apex court that it was unjust and retrospectively punitive to impose an additional financial liability of about N13,000 on the appellant.

In view of the settled position of the law on the matter what is required on the part of the management of the Nigeria Customs Service is not a suspension of the illegal policy but its outright annulment without any further delay. Of course, the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service cannot be precluded from arresting and prosecuting highly placed individuals who usually forge importation documents in order to evade the payment of the appropriate duties to the coffers of the federal government.

Incompetence of the senate to summon CGC on policy matters

Under the pretext of exercising its oversight powers last week the senate summoned the CGC to appear before it to justify the policy on payment of appropriate duties from March 13-April 2017. Since he did not appear in uniform the senate decided to adjourn its debate on the matter to enable him to comply with the directive. In spite of the importance attached to the trifle and diversionary directive on uniform it is submitted that the senate lacks the vires to summon the CGC on policy matters. Indeed the oversight power of either house of the national assembly is not at large but limited by section 88 (2) of the constitution to enable it to “make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws and expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriate by it”.

Since the decision of the senate has nothing to do with making laws or exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the disbursement of funds appropriated by it the summoning of the CGC constitutes a blatant violation of the constitution. No doubt, the policy was designed to generate revenue for the federal government. To that extent the senate may be accused of shielding criminal elements who have engaged in the evasion of the payment of customs duties. If the senate had wanted to protect the interests of vehicle owners including themselves they ought to have entered into dialogue with the minister of finance. There is no legal or moral basis for the arrogance of power being displayed by the senate whose leadership has recently being linked with the illegal importation of a bullet proof limousine with fake papers to evade the payment of appropriate customs duties.

In El-rufai v House of Representatives (2003) 46 W.R.N 70 the court of appeal placed heavy reliance on the case of senate of the National Assembly v Tony Momoh where it was held that “no power exists under the section for general investigation not for personal aggrandizement of the house”. So the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance. In the instant case, the senate is not conducting an investigation but challenging the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service on payment of duties. With respect., the summons served on the CGC is illegal and unconstitutional as it cannot be justified under section 88(2) of the constitution.

Illegal directive on wearing of uniform by CGC

However, the senate engaged in another illegality when it exceeded its powers by asking the CGC to appear before it in customs uniform. Neither the constitution not the rules of procedure of the senate has conferred on it the power to compel the CGC to wear customs union when he is not a serving customs office. Indeed, the directive is a reckless usurpation of the powers of the board which is the only competent body to decide on the wearing of uniform by customs officer.

In many countries including South Africa customs officers do not wear uniforms. It is on record that the first 4 heads of the customs department in Nigeria never wore uniforms.

Under the defunct military junta, officials of the security agencies wore uniforms as they claimed that they were either military or paramilitary forces. With respect to the customs service, its officers are required to wear uniforms in accordance with section 8 of the customs excise and preventive service regulations which provides that “clothing and equipment shall be of such pattern and worn in such manner as the board shall determine.” The suit challenging the legal validity of Col Hameed Ali’s appointment has been dismissed on the ground that the President has the power to appoint a non-customs officer to head the customs service. Since a competent court has held that he is not a customs officer, Ali cannot be made to wear any uniform by the senate.

If I am said to be wrong I challenge the senate to refer to any law that supports the wearing of uniform by the head of the customs service who is not a serving customs officer. The EFCC has been headed by 3 serving police officers and a retired police officer but the senate never mandated any of them to wear uniform whenever they appeared before it. Even the embattled acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu who appeared for confirmation in the senate last week was not directed to wear his uniform even though he is a serving police officer.

I should not be understood as saying that the senate deserves to be treated with disdain. All I am saying is that the senate should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the constitution. Thus, instead of playing into the hands of the CGC by invoking the provision of section 88 of the constitution, the senate could have summoned the minister of finance to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision. That would have been in consonance with section 67 (2) of the constitution which has imposed a duty on every minister to attend either house of the national assembly to explain “the conduct of his Ministry, and in particular when the affairs of the Ministry are under discussion.”

Finally, the Nigeria Customs Service should be directed by the minister of finance to cancel the illegal policy on payment of appropriate excise duties. If the federal government remains recalcitrant on the matter we shall not hesitate to challenge the policy at the federal high court. However, if the federal government is seriously committed to end the importation of vehicles into Nigeria via neighboring countries it should direct the Nigeria Customs Service to reduce the prohibitive duties charged on imported vehicles.

President Buhari And His Letter Writers – By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me begin by welcoming our dear leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, back home from his medical vacation in London. We have every cause to be thankful to Allah, the Merciful. The Yoruba have a very apt adage for what happened to President Buhari: we should be grateful to the death that wanted to kill us but chose to blow off our cap only. President Buhari is a very lucky man. Indeed, he is a cat with nine lives. From the pictures, we saw of him while he attended to his ubiquitous visitors, it must have been a close shave. I’m happy Baba was given another chance by the Almighty. Not everyone gets that fortunate.

As I wrote before Baba came back, many Nigerians were beginning to give up on his government. They believe this ruling party, APC, has virtually derailed. That they have failed to deliver on the phantasmagorical promises made when we all conspired and collaborated to sack the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. But surprisingly, things began to look better during the short span the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo acted as President. The synergy between him and the team appeared very cordial and proactive. His biggest achievement in Baba’s absence was the effort he put into uniting Nigeria and Nigerians. Everything he did looked too good to be true. Knowing a bit about how things work in the corridors of power, I was troubled about the possibility of a few powerful people misreading and misjudging Professor Osinbajo’s innocent moves and great intentions.  It is to the Vice-President’s credit that he did not let those kinds of people detract from the good work he was doing probably because he knew he had the full backing of President for the steps he was taking.  After all, as the Vice-President has pointedly remarked he was in constant consultation and dialogue with the President even though Baba had told him not to bother and carry on as he was doing.

I saw in Professor Osinbajo a man determined to rescue this government from the terrible jinx that befuddled its predecessors.  I saw a perfect gentleman who wanted to hold fort for his boss by ensuring that things did not fall apart before his return. I did not see a man scheming to take the position of his boss for whatever reason.  It was apparent that Professor Osinbajo’s only desire was for the nation to progress and for his boss to meet a better country and continue from there upon his return. This is the type of deputy we all pray for in life. This is the kind of assistant every leader would wish for, and be proud of any day. Therefore a few of us wrote to support and encourage the Vice President but some persons misconstrued our motives. That is no longer news. It was the same way we were pummelled in the past for speaking truth to power. But we must continue to do so because this is our government.

Baba needs to take his time to feel the pulse of the nation. I plead, in the name of Allah, that he listens carefully to the wailers, as his people have labelled those who have been advising government and grumbling aloud about the seeming inertia of this government. He can afford to ignore the messengers but should never discard the loud messages. They can’t all be wrong even if we read right or wrong motives to their action. The truth is that we all want Baba and his team to succeed because his success is the success of the nation. I find it difficult to understand why people cannot appreciate that simple fact.  It is not everyone that would be forced out of power and can return triumphantly after 30 years. It is one of those miracles we only read or dream about but never witness. This more so, after four attempts of presidential campaigns.

I was particularly moved by the letter from the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai. Here is a well-known protégé of President Buhari. Here is a man projected as a possible successor in case President Buhari decides not to seek a second term. I shuddered as I read and raced through his 30-page missive to our President, I couldn’t believe anyone that close to Buhari could fire those salvos. In that massive letter, I read the bitter truth even if many would read sinister undertones to it. Governor El Rufai really poured out his heart as candidly as decorum permits. Baba should in fact thank him for this. It takes love to openly criticise, even chastise, what is yours. It was an admission of acute frustration in the system that has long experienced systemic failure. Baba should find time to read and digest that letter. I’m sure he would know how to sift the grain from the chaff. Undoubtedly, El Rufai is one of the brightest stars we have in Nigeria despite the many controversies around him. When he speaks, we should not discountenance his wise counsel. I’m reasonably convinced that he means well for the President and our troublesome country.

Many things are being said behind Baba that he would never get to hear or read due to the hypocritical nature of human beings. Only the bold ones would dare speak up and damn the consequence. But anyone who loves Nigeria and the President would stand up at this difficult time to be counted amongst the brave. Baba should maintain the tempo he met on ground when he landed last week. He should encourage Osinbajo to carry on with a system that was already bearing fruits, by delegating more tasks to him. His health challenges, for now, would not permit him to operate optimally and he should not even overstretch his luck. It is too dangerous to overwork when one is just returning from such an intensive medical check-up. I pray Baba and his team, including the Vice President, are already working at that same speed and tempo that we have become accustomed to in his absence and that some of us are just paranoid for nothing.

Nigeria was in a big mess when President Buhari took over the reins of power and in nearly two years, we’ve not even scratched the surface of dealing with the sorry state of affairs that he inherited. Yet, the battle for 2019 elections has already started in earnest. This government has so much work to do in less than two years if the APC is to retain power at the Federal level and this can only be done if all hands are on deck.

Let us pray for President Buhari and praise the letter writers for their uncommon courage in this season of anomie.

A TOAST TO GOVERNOR AMBODE

I know this would come as a surprise to the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, but that is the whole idea. If a man is doing well, the least we can do is to support and encourage him.

I wish to confess today that Ambode has surpassed my expectations in under two years. I remember getting an invitation to meet with him sometime in 2014. A call came through to me in Ghana from his close aide, Idowu Ajanaku. The caller was very confident that the next Governor of Lagos State would like to meet me at my earliest convenience to solicit my support. I had wondered what support ordinary me could render when the man was amply surrounded and motivated by political juggernauts, especially the irrepressible Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. All the same, I accepted the invitation, if only out of curiosity and left everything to fly to Lagos.

I met Mr Ambode somewhere on Glover Road, Ikoyi. We had never met nor spoken before then. He came across to me like a very simple and humble personality. He divulged his plans and I felt honoured that he consulted me at all. He spoke eloquently about his plans for Lagos. I knew he was going to have to fight a major battle to become the Governor of Africa’s most powerful state government but he had God and the human backing of the former Governor of Lagos, Tinubu. I believe only God can bequeath or take power and so knew he had a good chance. Ambode radiated pure confidence and at the end of our meeting, he saw me off to my car and I wished him well.

He fought a gallant battle to get his party’s ticket. Between Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, a political wizard, and I, we did everything we could to support him. I was particularly willing and ready to back him up heavily on social media. I couldn’t get over his simple mien and this made his matter compelling for me. Besides, Asiwaju Tinubu, had mentored a few of us while we were in exile in London after the June 12 imbroglio and this was payback time. The general elections came and Ambode won and we were all happy and jubilant.

Since then, I visited him once on a courtesy visit, in company of my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and we met the same Ambode I had met before he became Governor, humble and simple. Like the first time, he saw us off to our car, and we chatted freely. On another occasion, I saw him on the Third Mainland Bridge and sent him a text and he called immediately to exchange greetings. But what has impressed me the most is not his interpersonal relationships but the manner he has simplified governance. In less than two years, he has improved drastically on the great Lagos the then Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola handed over to him. Fashola himself had laboured hard to emulate the giant strides of Tinubu in Lagos.

I’m very proud that the three Governors of Lagos since the return of democracy in 1999 have all done a lot to make Lagos such an enviable city and a success story. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is obviously determined to surpass the humongous achievements of his predecessors, including the great veteran journalist, Papa Alhaji Lateef Jakande, and the legendary military Governor, Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson.

Prince Adedamola Aderemi and I were stunned when we drove recently through Epe, from Ijebu-Ode, where we had gone for the 40-day funeral festivities of Bimbo Ashiru’s mum. The transformation we encountered was truly massive and impressive, more so, because we had passed that same route a few months earlier. Within the Lagos Metropolis itself one can see the stellar work that Ambode is doing but our experience in Epe made us realise that the Governor is touching all parts of the state and not just the showpiece capital.

Ambode’s operational smoothness, typified by the novel but simple way in which he has changed the traffic situation on the Lekki-Epe Expressway by removing roundabouts and replacing them with intersections and flyovers, shows the lack of clutter in his mind and a willingness to innovate and be creative.

Lagos used to be badly polluted but Ambode is working at the speed of light to clean up the environment urgently. Cleanliness is said to be next to Godliness. The Cleaner Lagos Initiative is a bold and ambitious project that seeks to rid Lagos forever of its traditional filth. The plan is to expand the scope of LAWMA and enforce the regulation of the waste management process to the highest international standards. This will also create jobs for thousands of residents.

The vision of Ambode is very impressive and he has started driving a social infrastructure revolution in Lagos. His style is recommended to his colleagues who must think outside the box to improve on their states. While I agree that Lagos is a rich state, Ambode must be commended for spending the resources of Lagos judiciously and positively.

He deserves our support and prayers.

Anthony Ademiluyi: Ibrahim Magu’s Long Walk To Golgotha

Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe was asked a question by some bewildered journalists why he was serving the government of Lt-General Joseph Arthur Ankrah which deposed the government of his supposed political mentor, Osaygefo Kwame Nkrumah. His reply was that they needed his expertise in public relations and he was serving them diligently in that capacity with no hard feelings for the man who gave him his first political breakthrough which enabled him to purchase his first Rolls Royce before his 23rd birthday in 1961. When South Africa faced unbearable sanctions as a result of the apartheid regime, the then President Pierre Williem Botha turned to the legendary gun runner for public relations aid. In 1981, the United Kingdom boiled with much loss of lives and property as a result of the Brixton riots. Nzeribe hurriedly stepped in by getting the British Broadcasting Corporation to flaunt his wealth for three days and then offering two million pounds to the then Margaret Thatcher led government to clean up the mess. The hypocritical British government rejected the ‘Greek gift’ opining that he should use the funds to help his people back home in sleepy Oguta. How asinine! The same government accepted Umaru Dikko’s loot, collected funds from him in the form of school fees when he studied for his law degree and prevented the then Buhari/Idiagbon government from deporting him back home to face corruption charges at the military tribunal. The Brits were simply envious at Nzeribe’s PR coup and couldn’t stomach the agony of a black man coming to their rescue as a deux machina.
The image of Buhari being an anti-corruption crusader is nothing short of a smart pr creation. There are many questions urgently begging for answers which his spin doctors have cleverly avoided. As Federal Commissioner for Petroleum in 1977, 2.8 billion naira simply disappeared. The late Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang about it in a hit song. We won’t forget the scoop of the late Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo in his expose of the 53 suitcases which was proven to have an indirect imprimatur of the then lame duck Buhari who preferred his deputy, Idiagbon to govern the country. As PTF Chairman, many projects were left unexecuted and he served a dictator who was mulling the idea of succeeding himself and ruling for life which makes him an odd choice for a democrat.
He suppressed his intellectual deficiency by proclaiming to the High Heavens that he would tackle the hydra headed monster called corruption. This easily resonated with the emotionally traumatised and psychologically battered masses who blindly gave him their mandate in a manner akin to a junkie sniffing opium puppy. How did he get the funds to bankroll the very expensive education he gave his children in the United Kingdom? Was it from cattle rustling or an undisclosed inheritance?
He appointed Ibrahim Magu as the acting Head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in November 2015. Within the space of three months, his ‘anti-corruption’ czar has been rejected twice by the Senate.
Buhari’s lack of political sagacity has tragically become his undoing and made his feeble attempts at battling the corrupt mafia worse than a cruel joke. ‘Nemo Judex In Causa Sua’ (You cannot be a judge in your own cause) is one of the many Latin maxims I still recall in my criminal law class at the University of Lagos before I dropped out. How can he send Magu’s name to a Senate with many of its members facing mind boggling corruption charges including even the Senate President and his wife whom he arraigned? Nearly one-third of the members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly are being tried for corruption with Magu not willing to shift grounds to give them a soft landing and you expect them to confirm the appointment of such a threat? Is Buhari too senile to clearly read the writing on the wall?
Astute politicians accurately read the signs of the times and change the game to suit their personal interests. Ambassador Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the father of the United States 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was appointed by the only US President to rule for four terms, Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the pioneer Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. What did the first Irish-American Ambassador to Great Britain do upon assumption of office? He swiftly outlawed insider trading which ironically was the secret behind his gargantuan wealth. He showed in practical terms that the only permanent thing in the murky waters of politics is interest.
Majority of the Senators aren’t facing corruption charges. A smart thing to have done would have been to get their support to change the law requiring Senate Confirmation of the EFCC boss and made it solely a presidential directive. The appointment of presidential aides, Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation doesn’t require Senate confirmation. That of the EFCC helmsman should have followed suit given the sensitive nature of the appointment and the fact that his adversaries in the hallowed red seats chamber would make it impossible for his confirmation to see the light of day. We are in the age of the digitals and we expect Buhari to catch up with the times. His recent health challenge shows that he can’t cope with the demands of his office but will he do the honourable thing by throwing in the towel? Will he shame Robert Gabriel Mugabe? Will he put aside ethnic sentiments and etch his name permanently in the sands of time by being humble in admitting that his health makes him unfit for the exalted office?
ONE MORE THING
I have written extensively on the need for Nigeria to spearhead the struggle to rid the African continent of imperialism. I say a loud nay to the obnoxious practice of western liberal institutions that aggressively back gay rights and abortion in the funding of the EFCC. This is wrong as it undermines our political sovereignty and suzerainty. After the Union Jack was lowered in 1960, the Anglo-Nigerian Defense Pact was nearly passed in 1961. The import of the bill was that it would have put our military institutions in the hands of our ‘erstwhile’ colonial overlords. I commend the students of the University of Ibadan for spearheading the protest and not making a mockery of the nationalist efforts of the Great Zik of Africa. You may ask the question: why such a bill so soon after political independence? The answer is crystal clear. The first indigenous Inspector-General Police, Louis Orok Edet didn’t assume office till 1964. General Welby Everard was still the General Officer commanding the Nigerian Army until 1965 when Aguiyi-Ironsi took over. Technically, our independence was a sham and the same scenario is still playing itself out now with the unfair incarceration of James Onanefe Ibori. The question to ask is why the British Department for International Development funded his trial with the view to shamelessly laying their hands on ten percent of the supposed ‘loot?’ How many more compromised EFCC trials have we secretly had and will still have?
For the purpose of the independence of the EFCC, I propose that the agency is barred completely from accepting foreign funding as this has sadly been used to witch hunt real and perceived foes.
TONY ADEMILUYI
Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its Associates

Should We Now Be Worried About Drinking Fanta and Sprite? – By Simbo Olorunfemi

But then, this is even beyond Fanta and Sprite. The more pertinent question brought to the fore by this are – Are there more things we need to be worried about? Can we be sure there is someone out there really looking out for the safety and best interest of Nigerians? To lose faith in an agency such as NAFDAC with charge over Food and Drugs is no good for the system.

So, here we are, the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc finally responds to the decision by the Court that the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) orders it (NBC) to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.

There are many troubling dimensions to the matter at hand. But first, we must dispense with some preliminary matters. Though one is not fully privy to the particulars of this case, yet one must wonder why the court is ordering NAFDAC to order NBC to take action, having found favour in the objection raised by the UK authorities. Why can’t the Court simply not order the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc, which is a party to the suit, to take action?

Even when one might understand why a window of 90 days is given to the company to put “a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C”, one still wonders why the court did not deem it necessary to also order for a recall of the bottles already in the market to make them judgement-compliant. If a matter this sensitive has been caught up in the slow-grinding wheel of the court system since 2008, are we saying that even when judgement is finally delivered in 2017, it still did not call for an emergency action and order for the company to take immediate steps to prevent further risk of a possibly poisonous combination for Nigerians?

Also, still without the benefit of having read the judgement in full, it is curious to find out from the excerpts available that even though the court “is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria bottling company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of colour or creed…(and) that the knowledge of the Nigeria Bottling Company that the products were to be exported is immaterial to its being fit for human consumption,” there is no record of sanction on the company or order for it to pay damages to either the claimant or those who might have been victims of what it considers gross irresponsibility on the part of NAFDAC “in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company.”

It is shocking, to say the least, that NAFDAC, having not deemed it necessary to take any action on receipt of the concern expressed by the UK laboratory nine years ago, will still fold its arms and not issue a statement alerting the public to the possibility of this danger, weeks after the Court has entered judgement on this matter.

But importantly, it is the silence in which this sensitive matter has been shrouded that is even more worrying. Judgement in this matter was delivered on February 15, 2017, yet it does appear it did not make into the news chain until more than three weeks after. Indicting as that seems to be of the Nigeria media that a matter this sensitive ran a course of nine years in court without any record of coverage in the news speaks in eloquence to the state and mind of journalism practice in the country. It is shocking, to say the least, that NAFDAC, having not deemed it necessary to take any action on receipt of the concern expressed by the UK laboratory nine years ago, will still fold its arms and not issue a statement alerting the public to the possibility of this danger, weeks after the Court has entered judgement on this matter. All round, this speaks to the levity with which matters to do with the health and safety of Nigerians is treated by almost everyone charged with a mandate to stand in gap for the people.

Now, to the crux of the matter, which has to do with the level of benzoic acid, a preservative, in two of its products, which United Kingdom health authorities were uncomfortable with and on which basis the products were adjudged not fit for human consumption in that country, it is noteworthy that the defence by the Nigeria Bottling Company, from the excerpts of the judgement available, is that its products are meant for local distribution and consumption, as it does not produce for export, a position rightly not considered tenable by the learned Justice Oyebanji.

In a statement issued to the public, Nigerian Bottling Company has now gone further to shed more light on the matter. According to it, whereas, “the UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX.”

In other words, it is well within prescribed limits set nationally and globally and does not see the rationale why its products meant for the local market have to be assessed on the basis of the UK Standard. NBC argues that “the permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.”

I find it difficult to see how that premise justifies the conclusion arrived at there and will rather advise that we tread with more caution on this combination until, or unless the claim here, is that there is sufficient scientific backing that as long as the benzoic level is within that set standard, there is no risk that it becomes poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.

But then we must ask questions. Can we have a comparative analysis of the preservative levels of other tropical countries? What happens in countries that swing from one weather type to another, depending on the part of the country? Do they operate a uniform level or are products made region-specific within the country? In fact, what do we have to lose by aligning ourselves with the standard set by the United Kingdom, for instance? What have they found in UK that other countries might not have found? Or is still simply a factor of the nature of the climate there, as NBC has submitted? These are the questions both the manufacturer and regulatory authorities need to immediately provide reassuring answers to. That NAFDAC can be this quiet in the face of what one considers an emergency, both for the company and consumers, is troubling.

Whatever the case might be, I am concerned about the link between the premise and conclusion in Paragraph 6 of the statement by NBC in which it submits that “given the fact that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta as well as the benzoic acid level in Sprite produced and sold by NBC in Nigeria are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX, there is no truth in the report that these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.” I do not think it is sufficient or right to summarily conclude that on account of the fact that the benzoic level is within accepted standards, it then automatically means it cannot become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C. I find it difficult to see how that premise justifies the conclusion arrived at there and will rather advise that we tread with more caution on this combination until, or unless the claim here, is that there is sufficient scientific backing that as long as the benzoic level is within that set standard, there is no risk that it becomes poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.

But then, this is even beyond Fanta and Sprite. The more pertinent question brought to the fore by this are – Are there more things we need to be worried about? Can we be sure there is someone out there really looking out for the safety and best interest of Nigerians? To lose faith in an agency such as NAFDAC with charge over Food and Drugs is no good for the system. It has a lot of work to do redeeming itself.

Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy. Twitter: @simboolorunfemi

Has This Generation Failed The Nation? – By Orebanwo Adewale

A wise man once said “legacy is what a father leaves for his children”. This phrase highlighted in my pool of thoughts the words of our former president, Olusegun Obasanjo which made the headlines on the newspapers some few days ago: ‘My generation has failed Nigeria’. It takes a lot of boldness to come out to say this, I thought. I ran my eyes through his speech only to find out that he ran away from the theme he started with to a point where he excluded himself from the blame with respect to the state of this nation. Shoveling blames does not erase the fact that accountability is a necessity from anyone on whose laps responsibility falls on.

His generation which includes majority of those in power now have made a mess of what is supposed to be left as legacy for us the coming generation. At a point in his speech, he said “my sons and daughters, what will your generation do? Condemnation is easy but what will you do?” This part of the speech left me thinking; what exactly do they want us to do? To clean up their mess or wallow in the filth they have created.

Narcissism is the order of the day as our fathers take little thought of what life will be like for the coming generation and they major on the quest to make their comfortability their sole priority.     Every election process has brought back the same set of people only that their offices have changed. Some of them take offices with virtually no knowledge about it but still they clamour about serving their fatherland. Education has plunged deep into the abyss with no means to resuscitate it. Students graduate with knowledge acquired in the 80s’ and degrees that cannot be defended confidently in the corporate world. Security eats a chunk of our annual budget but we don’t feel safe yet. Nigeria is no more “the giant of Africa” because we have ignored ‘strategic planning’. John C. Maxwell highlighted that “Strategic Planning does not deal with future decisions; it deals with the futurity of present decisions”.

The phrase made by this elder statesman is clarion call to the youths of this great nation to rise and take responsibility for their lives and this nation. Are we not tired of being used as political thugs to fuel the selfish ambitions of our fathers, isn’t it high time we stop living as leaders of tomorrow and take hold of our today? “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain” has been caressed by our small mouth till it was filled with teeth but that phrase has been taken with levity and contempt. Let us make this our drive and refuse to remain as babes because it is only a child that eats his resources. The wisest man that ever lived said “woe unto a nation whose king is a child and thy princes eat in the morning”. The names of our founding fathers cannot be removed from the sand of times because they laid a legacy for the generation coming and did not squander that which is to be inherited. What will be said of you is determined by the decisions you take today. We are endowed with the power to be whosoever we want to be.

Take that step, make that decision and let us stop giving irrelevant excuses. Remember, what will be said of us is determined by what characterizes our actions today. “Help our youth the truth to know”; the truth is before us now, don’t let it slip away.

I will leave us this wise quote to ponder on: “Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless when facing them” – Rabindranath Tagore.

Orebanwo Adewale is a fresh graduate from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. He is a leader with a core value in human capital development. He is a creative writer and a prolific speaker. He can be reached via Email:orebanwoadewale@gmail.com or through +2347063643099. He can also be followed on Instagram: @orebs_adex.

Saheed Animashaun: Excessive Veneration of Public Officials And The Quest for Accountability

Discussions around the quest for greater accountability in government are a never ending one. It takes center stage in several citizen education platforms round the globe.

The importance of accountability and transparency in government can never be exaggerated. It is the thread that holds democracy together. Democracy is touted as being a form of government where power resides in the people and as such, they are supreme in determining the issues of the day. It reasonably follows that if the government is elected by the people; it has to be accountable to these people – It has to transparently render stewardship of the trust placed in it by the people.

Government accountability in Nigeria is largely non-existent. Interestingly, this anomaly is more attributable to the people rather than the government itself. Power has a way of ingraining a false sense of invincibility in its holders. This depravity is further empowered by the docile citizenry. Governments naturally want to disclose as little as possible to the public. Their day is therefore made when citizens do not show any desire to know. A classic example is in the case of Lagos. As exposed and educated as Lagosians are, the state still isn’t as accountable as it should be.

A key factor that has emboldened the anti-accountability stance of governments at all levels in Nigeria is the excessive veneration of public office holders. The average Nigerian holds public officials as demi-gods who should be worshiped. The default posture on office holders is aptly captured below:

“We deserve nothing from our leaders. Therefore, we have to be grateful for every little thing they do. We kanot Kuku do anything to them if they do nothing.”

No citizen might say this out loud; however, this docility is aptly reflected in his interactions with public office holders.

Anytime I see or read about the excessive display of veneration by citizens upon commissioning of a laudable project, I am quick to ask: “What on God’s earth were they elected for”? To add salt to our injuries, they get ludicrous salaries/allowances for it!

For instance, a governor constructs a pedestrian bridge in an area that has badly needed one for decades. On the D-day (commissioning day) he waxes lyrical about how his government is a responsive one and how the previous governments have neglected that area. The residents, in turn, roll out their red carpets and sing praises of the governor to the high heavens. The traditional ruler offers a chieftaincy title; religious leaders secure donations from him to build churches and mosques in his name.

No one bothers to ask; how much was this bridge constructed? Who was the contractor? How was he selected? How much was approved for the project? How much was he paid? How much do such bridges cost normally in relation to the approved amount? What is the quality of the materials used in construction? How many times has the same contract been awarded?

Any citizen that dares asks pertinent questions may be reproached by fellow citizens, “what is your own? Is he not better than those governors that don’t do anything! There’s nothing wrong with stealing part of public funds as long as you do some work! Wouldn’t you do the same if you were there?”

In fact, as a public office holder, if you loot the treasury dry and by chance get convicted, you would get a rousing welcome upon completion of your prison term! While in prison, you should be rest assured that your Pastors and Imams are burning the night candle, praying fervently for your freedom, and releasing the wrath of God on your “enemies”.

Some years ago, I witnessed the arrival of a Speaker of a State House of Assembly at a function. I counted no less than eight vehicles in his convoy. His arrival was greeted with fanfare; chants of his nickname rented the air! No one was disturbed enough to accost him and ask him why he had to go out in such a large convoy. Perhaps more aptly, no one had the guts to air their inner rage! The function organizers were more concerned about securing generous donations, while some attendants were eagerly awaiting the wads of Naira he would throw into the air when leaving.

An interesting puzzle in the quest for accountability is the role of religious bodies. On the pulpit, they urge office holders to eschew corruption and embrace accountability. In a remarkable twist, they invite these same office holders to fundraising events and expect them to donate millions of Naira!

Sadly, this is our reality as a people. The average relative of an office holder expects “returns” the moment he attains public office. Such office holders are quickly labeled as “stingy” if they don’t give in to their ludicrous demands for money and various forms of enrichments.

A couple of organizations are already championing the cause to reverse this regressive phenomenon (BudgIT, EIENigeria, and others). In the case of BudgIT, it has gotten to an enviable level that some government agencies (NEITI and NPA for instance) work with them in coming up with their budgets.

An easy way to quicken the journey towards improved accountability is to start from the grassroots. Demand to know how much is allocated to your Local Government on a monthly basis! Demand to know how exactly the money was spent! Demand to know how much the Local Government approved for a project and how much was actually spent! An immediate effect would be that government officials would be more conscious of how they loot public funds. They may devise more devious or more creative means; however, they would always have it in mind that questions would be asked and stewardship has to be rendered.

Government agencies like BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) also need to up their game in order to fulfill their role in the quest for accountability. At the federal government level, the recent moves by BPP to update their price list is highly commendable. This would make it quite impossible for different government MDAs to quote different prices for the same budget item.

Saheed Animashaun (@anigene) is an accountant and social commentator. He can be reached via Saheed.animash@gmail.com

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates

Our Dr. Ajiboye has gone Overboard – By Seun Awogbenle Boluwatife

When I first received a call from my brother of a lifetime, Oyawale Olabode Bodewrites, to seek clarification on a rumor mill which was already on overdrive and had traveled to him within a brisk space in Lagos.

He asked”is it true that Eminent had been slapped” the question hit me like a thunderbolt and I was equally exasperated, I held myself and swiftly gestured, this can’t be true Bode, in a rather stern manner, I promised to get back to him ASAP as I was in company of top union officials where we were representing the university at the opening ceremony of the 137th Meeting of the Joint Tax Board, which was held at the Kwara state banquet hall.

I was quick to hint the Publicity Secretary of the Student Union, Com. Ahmed Damilare Yayi, he hurriedly confide in the Vice President (permanent site) the amazing Com. Iromini Tohira Omolola, we quickly made frantic calls to impeccable sources, as the president could not be reached but all our efforts proved futile and abortive.

We broke the news to the rest of the team, after all said, we dismissed the story as a mere vituperation and falsehood which must have emanated from the quarters of mischief makers, we quickly got back to our cheerleading duties as the university was currently engaged in a verbal fray with the University of Benin, we had our eyes set on the price and the rest was history.

Once we were done, we made our way to the Bus, we were largely nervy, but on the one end pretended that all was well and prayed it was just a jocular attempt. Until a call had come in from God knows who, Ooops, it was the President trying to relate to the Sub Dean his ordeals, it was unbelievable, our fear had been made known, lo and behold Eminent had been slapped!

I turned to Yayi, in utter incredulity, Eminent was slapped! Holy Jesus I exclaimed!for a moment we were thrown into turmoil, our discontent knew no bound, it was an endless rage!

I was devastated, it was the unimaginable, the person must have picked on the wrong customer I told myself, it offended my sensibilities and I was perpetually perplexed.

Shivers had run through me, who had dare to touch the tail of the lion! This is an unpardonable hara-kiri, I reverberated.

The reason for my agony was pure and simple, the president of over 35000 students had just been severely brutalized. This is the height of lawlessness, impunity, threat to National Security and more importantly our peaceful coexistence as a university community.

It is a ridicule on the entire student union institution, we had been collectively dehumanized. It was an injury to all!

Our Dr. Ajiboye went overboard, by unleashing horror on our beloved president, he should be ready for the adversity of what he had inadvertently courted for himself as a result of his own self indiscipline! Never again must he throw caution to the wind!

His action negates the spirit and ideals upon which this university was formed, It is a departure from the acceptable norms and ethics, it was a case of an ethical dilemma. His inability to have a reign on his temperament leaves much to be desired and puts a question mark on his credibility as a lecturer in the University of Ilorin.

It is my hope that the university Management, will treat this show of shame, act of indiscipline and abuse of public trust with the seriousness it deserves.

No student regardless of age, size, race, color, tribe, religion, deserves to be publicly maligned, maltreated or mishandled. It is a bad trend that must stop here, now!
My Observation is that Dr. Ajiboye must serve as a deterrent and Eminent Sanity must be restored to our public institutions!

Let us all now remain above-board and not overboard!

Seun Awogbenle is an emerging leader, writer, Public policy and Sport analyst. He tweets @Primebaba

Leadership and Challenges of National Unity in Nigeria – Nuhu Ribadu Delivers Nnamdi Azikiwe University Convocation Lecture

Leadership and Challenges of National Unity in Nigeria

By

Nuhu Ribadu

 

Convocation Lecture Delivered at the 11th Convocation Ceremony of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.

February 15, 2017

 

 

Protocols…

 

I feel highly honoured to be invited by the Governing Council of this great university to give this year’s pre-convocation lecture. The significance of a pre-convocation lecture as a platform for reflecting on burning issues and charting a course forward for our country is not lost on me. Another significance of this event is the venue; this respected university, located in the heart of Igboland and named after our first president, a great Nigerian, a revered leader and outstanding nationalist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Looking at the foregoing, it is easy to see why being here today is a momentous opportunity, especially because we are addressing key issues of leadership, unity and peaceful coexistence in a united Nigeria, at a time agitations to reconsider the basis of our existence as a country continue to dominate national discourse. I am therefore happy for this rare opportunity.

Distinguished audience, allow me, with your kind indulgence, to appropriate this lecture and remake it as a tribute to our own Zik of Africa. Without doubt, the departed sage must be proud of this institution, as he looks down on us today, for creating a platform that allows us to talk and reflect on the seminal challenge of unity in Nigeria, a theme that was at the heart of his politics and life.

The sage that he was, Dr. Azikiwe, was the symbolic incarnation of the concept of unity. Born in Zungeru, northern Nigeria, to Igbo parents, but living most of his late youth and adult life in Lagos and the western region of Nigeria, Dr. Azikiwe became one of those moving and itinerant symbols of our collective aspiration to forge oneness despite our differences.

There is a huge message here. History, and the conscious choice of the life he lived, elected him to the role of a missioner for the cause of unity and the representation of the concept of unity in diversity.

It was therefore not surprising that in most of his politics and social action, national unity was an enduring theme and narrative path to the meaning of national development. If there are those in this hall therefore who wonder why, in the face of potentially overwhelming challenges to the unity of this country, we remain steadfast, the answer is in part located in the legacies of ideas and thoughts that people like Dr. Azikwe planted to shepherd us to the land of guarantees.

Today again, therefore, I salute our countrymen and women who refuse, in stubborn association with progress, to give up on the promise of our unity, and the strength and greatness it promises.

As the wisdom of our elders continuously reminds us, a port of arrival is just as much a port of departure, and for this reason, the important task of remaking our nation and cementing its yawning cracks are crucial and urgent.

We wake, in other words, to the day-to-day challenge of that difficult monster called the “national question” –the challenges of our nationhood. While some people believe that the existence of Nigeria as a country is largely settled, agitations to revisit the basis of this existence continue to rise but in truth, every nation is a work in progress and it is therefore important to have a healthy debate on the issue.

Some suggest that after 56 years of independence and over a century after the 1914 amalgamation, there is need to continue to look at ourselves in the mirror in order to identify grey areas of our existence and find ways of perfecting our union.

For all these years of our existence as a country, Nigeria has grappled with several challenges. There is mutual suspicion and ethnic jingoism that has deprived us of reason, sense of justice and fairness. We laugh and hug in public and plot against each other when we retire to our ethno-religious enclaves. Once in a while, this mistrust finds grotesque expression among our people as we witness bloodbaths premeditated by ethno-religious contempt for each other. Development is low in almost all parts of our country and there appears to be nothing to be proud of in almost all spheres aside cases of personal achievements of resilient citizens. Basic amenities are lacking. Issues that other nations have long taken care of are still hard for us to crack. Nigeria still ranks poor in many development indices while the menace of corruption is threatening to choke the country to death due to the excessive stealing of our resources by some handlers of our affairs.

Clearly, our challenges of nationhood are linked to the inadequacies of some of our leaders at all levels. Yet, another compelling argument explaining our developmental backwardness is failure by citizens to take ownership of their country. A lot of us, to quote late Chief Bola Ige, prefer to adopt a siddonlook attitude in the affairs of our nation. Therefore, addressing the leadership question without tackling the absence of this fundamental emotional investment in the country, would not be enough answer to our challenges.

The Leadership Question

It is said that if other countries are afflicted by natural disasters, Nigeria’s own disaster is leadership failure. This metaphor may be exaggerated, but it is certainly not too far from the truth. We have burned out decades of self-rule moving in circles from one problem to the other, often caused by poor leadership challenges.

This leadership inadequacy has contributed in compounding a number of our problems, from widening the parochial divisions among the citizens to active participation in plundering our patrimony.

On this issue, I have been an advocate of top-bottom approach to solving societal problems, convinced that leadership is key to whatever social change is desired. It is the leader that charts and navigates the way for the flock to follow and it is the leader’s action, inaction and body language that dictate the tunes for the dance steps the public will take. As I have noted before, if a leader eschews corruption, it will be difficult for those below him to indulge in such practice; and if the leader is deep neck in it, it becomes a free-for-all.

What we missed at independence and for most of the years that followed is a true national leader with a clear determination and focus to unify the country. Having such a unifying person would have been one big leap because it would have taken care of the most central challenges of our country.

Modern nation states, as we have seen from examples in sister African countries and elsewhere, succeed largely when you have a leader that is focused, open-minded, cosmopolitan, yet firm and unrelenting. The leadership examples of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and much later, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Paul Kagame after the genocide in Rwanda, point to the importance of how a good leader can shape the fortunes of any nation. Outside Africa, we can also point to the shining examples of Singapore and Malaysia.

Addressing the ‘National Question’

The widespread belief today is that Nigeria is an artificial creation. The truth is that, as late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman pointed out, not a single region in what is now Nigeria was home to just a single ethnic nationality living all by themselves before the coming of the colonialists.

Exclusive ethnic identities are inventions of our political elite. Nigeria was a stretch of land hosting many city-states where in the South-west, the Ijebu and the Egba people didn’t consider themselves as one, talk more of being Yorubas.

In the South-east, it was a taboo to infer that the people of, say, Arochukwu and Onitsha were one—none accepted identification as Igbo. Hausaland too was not homogenous as today’s Hausamen from Kano or Katsina would rather identify with their city-states than with any corporate ethnicity. But while they each had their distinct identities, they also welcomed anyone who could come and contribute to the city or state. They welcomed anyone who desired to be a citizen.

As I illustrated earlier in this speech, nothing illustrates this more than the biographical sketch of Zik, an Igbo man from Onitsha, who was born in Zungeru in Niger State and succeeded in dominating the politics of Lagos for a long time.

The framers of our constitution at independence had this kind of diversity in mind when they came up with the idea of federalism. The aim was not to play up our ethnic or religious differences by ascribing each region to a particular ethnic group, but for each region, made up of Nigerian citizens from diverse ethnicities, to work to the best of its abilities for the benefit of those who call the region home.

However, practitioners of the system eventually ended up distorting this important principle of the constitution by skewing the system in favour of ethno-religious groupings. Smaller groups within those regions found it difficult to aspire, giving rise to cries of marginalisation. This has been part of the reasons for the continuous agitations of state creation, and lately, the calls to review the federal system.

These concerns are expected in a country as diverse as ours. The issue is not that these problems exist but that we have not been able to confront them in a way that is enduring and holistic. That is where the question of effective leadership comes in.

The leader of the Nigerian renaissance must therefore be strong, tough, and inclusive in his or her own capacity. He or she must not be an opportunist who grows on the back of citizens to entrench a regime of dictatorship that weakens our institutions and in turn end up annulling our democracy and its values of freedom.

Looking Down the Line

In the past 56 years, this country has recorded significant milestones. We have survived severe cold similar to what led some countries to sneeze to death. Fortunately, we remain standing, though someone once wrote that we are standing still! Yes, he could be right! But we also have a lot to be grateful for.

The country is endowed with abundant natural resources and brilliant human capital. Yet, the paradox is there is widespread poverty due to misused resources and untapped potentials. It is therefore true that wherever Nigeria is mentioned, what comes to mind is Boko Haram, oil theft, kidnapping and corruption.

This is not to surrender to pessimism. I strongly disagree with those writing off Nigeria as a failed country. Agreed, we could do a lot better based on what we have in terms of natural resources and demographic advantages. Nigeria’s problems have shifted from the actual, which is the collapse of our institutions after many years of military, political and bureaucratic imprudence, to an invented assumption that suggests that our peoples are unwilling to live together.

The foundation of this country can only be understood when you go around the country and interact with the larger masses, who are the actual patriots, from markets to schools, and to social gatherings where identifications are based only on our humanity and individual characters.

Nothing exemplifies the Nigeria we should aspire for than the gregarious nature of the Igbo man. It is a common joke that whichever village you go in Nigeria and you don’t see an Igbo man, you should take to your heels. Though taken simply as a joke, this speaks to the industrious and adventurous nature of a typical Igbo persona and illustrates how rooted the Igbo are in this country.

In many cities and towns across Nigeria, if the Igbo decide to wind up their businesses, they could bring that city, whether it is Lagos, Kano or Abuja, to its knees.

In the same mould, you can talk about the Fulani herdsman, who combs the length and breadth of the country with his herd, in search of opportunities. The Fulani herdsman is blind to political borders, the language we speak or religion. Like the Igbo, what matters to him is where it is convenient to survive.

There is no clearer demonstration of our interwoven existence than this. It also signifies true unity in diversity.

It is pertinent to state here that our strength as a country is not in oil or any other natural resources that dot our country. There is no doubt that these resources have given our nation immense prosperity and a pride of place in the comity of nations. But they are finite and may not be there forever. So our real strength, which is likely to endure forever is in our population and other demographic wealth, which are anchored on our resolve to live together peacefully.

Our people are bound by a common goal, the desire for individual progress and to have their lives improved by those in the helms of their affairs. They are united in the same struggle to have functional public institutions because their sufferings, their poverty and deprivations, have neither ethnic nor religious identities. And the exclusive sufferings amongst them, like insecurity as a result of religious and ethnic differences, can as well be traced to our politics and ill-advised political decisions and indecisions.

Permit me to dwell a little more on this issue which, to my mind, has been neglected so much to the detriment of our progress as a people and as a nation. Conventional view and discourse around the most urgent challenge we face as a nation today tends to revolve around difference or what the social scientists among us here conceptually term as othering.

But let’s take a minute to review the case against homogeneity a bit and see if there is balance in the argument. Let us address the metaphor of Somalia first and ask what lesson it offers us. Somalia is a unique country that projects the fact of one ethnicity, and one religion. On the basis of the argument of those who scorn diversity, Somalia ought to be a model country of unity, of growth, and of development. Almost all its population are Muslims, and speak a language. But what is the reality on the ground? Somalia is indeed our region’s best case of state failure where lawlessness and mindless acts of terrorism dragged the country to its knees.

Let us also look at South Sudan. Before it broke away from Sudan, the assumption was that it would know more stability, prosperity and unity after its independence in 2011. But the country has continued to suffer ethnic violence and has been in a civil war since 2013. As of 2016 it has the second highest score on theFragile States Index.

Leadership therefore has meaning only when it emphasises unity in diversity, and lifts up the people, investing them with hope and promise. It is so when it sets up purposeful action through the force of example. I am convinced that the leadership that will lead us to the next mile cannot tolerate degenerative values that allow discriminatory practices to thrive; and cannot stamp its feet to affirm than an ‘injury to one is an injury to all’- that violence and impunity will not be tolerated and will be met with overwhelming counter violence in the interest of the larger Nigerian community.

To be sure, ladies and gentlemen, no prize is higher than ensuring political stability in this land because it is the bedrock of any possible growth and development. Stability has the rifling effect of sparking development and addressing challenges of struggle over resources and even the corruption bug.

Moving Forward

We need a paradigm shift in governance that urgently allows us to tackle the alarming inequality in our country as well as the mass poverty and misery it nurtures. This really is the ticking time bomb that is about to unravel our common destiny, and our collective future. History is rich of great civilizations and nations who ignore to address the social compact and ended up in regret.

If we have a society of one religion, one ethnicity but ignore to address the ravaging threat of inequality and poverty, the outcome will be worse than Somalia, more so in a diverse society like ours.

I spoke about Somalia earlier on. But let me also say something about Rwanda, a country that is substantially ethnically homogenous but which descended into one of the worst incidences of genocide known to man in 1994? When a segment of the country held out against the other, the combatants ended up slaughtering thousands in the fastest mass massacre ever known to our world. What that incidence taught us all is that the homogeneity of a society in terms of religion and ethnicity is not necessary an antidote to disunity and mindless violence. The solution to those problem, to my mind, is a more just world, rooted in good governance and social justice.

Related to the question of inequality is the challenge of ensuring that we build a society that offers security and which safeguards the rights of citizens. Security of life and property are not flaky concepts. Without security, society easily degenerates to its worst Hobbesian prehistory. It is for this reason that I strongly make the case that for a society of opportunity and progress to emerge, both citizens and leadership must partner to eradicate inequality and poverty, as well as provide security in a tangible sense that makes human rights vivid and real.

Let me illustrate the meaning and import of this social compact for easy appreciation here. We must ensure freedom and relative ease to access the opportunities of education, housing, health, jobs and justice. It is not enough to make provisions for them in the constitution, they must breath with life and meaning. Above all, they must be concrete and tangible rights. This is the social compact we must invest in as quickly as possible.

Contrary to some popular notions, attempts at continuous tinkering with our national architecture through policies like state creation and micro-ethnicity will never, I repeat, never get us to the promise land. The truth is that a minute after a new state is created, the agitation for smaller unit is triggered.

Breaking states into small entities have not helped much in this country. Agitations that triggered the formation of new states have largely remained in the entities created. Because of lack of time, I will only cite a case here. When Akwa Ibom was created from Cross River in 1987, the assumption was that the cries of marginalisation would end with the emergence of the new state. That has not happened. The state remained divided along its ethnic lines, with the Ibibio, the Annangs and the Orons consistently feuding over access to political power and resources. The same situation exists in my own state – Adamawa. We still facing challenges of cohesion despite having clamoured to get out of the old Gongola state.

The answer I insist, is for us to invest heavily in social Justice; in political justice; and in the promotion of a regime of freedom as broadly as possible. It surely makes no sense for me as a Fulani man to complain against injustice from a Yoruba, Izon, Ibibibio or Igbo man. If I fail to recognize that injustices exist in my own community also, as indeed inside every community that constitutes the larger Nigerian family.

Thus, let’s give consequence to the statutory language in our constitution but above all let us move with a bold determination to create a national identity in the country such that any child regardless where they are from in this blessed land, can look up and be proud to be a Nigerian.

Conclusion and recommendations:

Our continued existence, I make bold to say therefore, as one indivisible entity, very much depend on how we decide to be each other’s keeper. We should consciously refuse to give in to the weight of that which divides us.

Rather we should celebrate our shared experiences, connections and togetherness, which, I believe, far outweigh whatever differences we may have. We must resist all temptations by enemies of our collective progress, and resist the influence of hate mongers be it politicians or religious leaders. This can be achieved by increasingly showing respect for one another and deliberately promoting peace among our people through carrot and stick approach.

This approach should include investment in law and order to ensure that there is zero tolerance for violence and hate speech. On the other side, fairness and justice should not be only notional abstracts, it should be seen to be on display through every action of the state and our individual leaders.

There should be a deliberate policy on campaign for the love of Nigeria and patriotism in various ways, including promotion of religious and cultural tolerance. To achieve this, we should build more bridges and strengthen the existing ones like the NYSC and Unity Schools.

The demography in our universities should also as much as possible reflect our ethno-cultural diversities. I am sad to note how our universities are becoming increasingly provincial in terms of students and teachers’ population, thereby ending up producing narrow-minded graduates. Government should do everything to change this, perhaps including considering giving special assistance to students studying at universities far away from their states of origin, and making a quarter of staff to consist persons from other regions.

We should de-emphasise factors that underscore our fault lines such as regional socio-political associations. We should look into our common bonds as basis of our shared humanity and associations, not Arewa bloodline, or as members of the Igbo race, or as Yoruba, or any other tribe or religious groupings.

Recently, a university owned by the Katsina State Government, did something commendable in this regard by recognising only essential students’ unions, thereby banning all small intra-religious associations and tribal unions. That university demonstrated clearly that it would not allow religious, ethnic and local governments divisions on its campuses. I think this is a lesson not only for other universities to follow but also for the country to emulate at all levels.

I am a believer in the age-long saying that united we stand, divided we fall. It is in unity that we can find strength and ability to conquer evil. If we are not united we cannot fight corruption, insecurity, or anything evil.

It is therefore right to say that what the country needs is honest and modern leadership that would be a rallying point for citizens, one that can tame the consuming tides of corruption and evolve creative solutions to our myriad of problems. It is my belief that firm and sincere leadership is the precursor for industrious and patriotic followership.

This will enhance national development and bring an end to current mutual mistrust that is shaking the foundation of our nation. Managing Nigeria’s diversity in the context of justice and fairness is a pathway to progress. If we address these existential and leadership challenges, we are more than half-way into addressing all our problems.

Thank you all for listening.

The FOREX Debate: What Is Emefiele Up To This Time? – by Theophilus Opaleye

An underlying economic principle that is often lost in translation in public discourse on the operations of foreign exchange market in Nigeria is the dynamic relationship between demand, supply and price. The technical terms often used by economic and financial analysts in explaining the forex situation has robbed most Nigerians of a true understanding of the true state of the economy and the impacts on everyday life.

Nigeria depends on revenue from crude oil sales for 90 percent of its dollar earnings. Consequently, the higher the price of crude oil, the more dollars the Nigerian government has in its disposal to meet demands for manufacturing, medical tourism, services, education etc.

This scenario played out to Nigeria’s advantage from 2010 to 2014 when crude oil sold for between $88 and $102 per barrel and production stabled at above 2 million barrels per day. During the same period, the forex demands grew exponentially but the official exchange rate managed to stay just below N200 to a dollar as a result of Nigeria’s bumper dollar earnings from crude oil sales.

By 2015 oil crashed to $48 and in 2016 it went further down to $36 coupled with a drastic reduction in production as a result of renewed uprising in the Niger Delta region. Nigeria could no longer meet the demands for dollars within its economy and the relevant economic principles kicked in. The exchange rate has witnessed unprecedented turbulence as a result, going as high as N500/$ until the recent intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Nigeria is not the only country that has had to deal with this experience in the last couple of years. Countries like Egypt, Argentina and Russia have all had to devalue, or fully float their currencies since 2015 to cope with the pressure of declining crude prices at the global market. Nigeria has also devalued the Naira once but the question about a full float persists.

Unlike in many countries, the interactions within the foreign exchange market in Nigeria as well as the relationship between the exchange rate and the overall macroeconomy is atypical and unconventional. This reflects the sentiments, abuse and rent-seeking behaviours that drive foreign exchange related pricings within the Nigerian economy.

For instance, round tripping is rife both among corporate entities and individuals, while businesses that were privileged to execute critical imports via FX from the interbank market price their goods to local consumers at parallel market rates. This does not only exacerbate domestic inflation it also encumbers the comprehensive understanding of the exchange rate pass-through in Nigeria.

HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano and himself a former Governor of the Central Bank attested to the fact in a recent interview. As such, while the CBN is dealing with the effects of dollar scarcity brought about by the reduced foreign exchange earnings from crude oil sales, the bank also has upon its shoulders the responsibility of dealing with corruption and currency manipulation perpetuated through hoarding and round tripping.

The clamour for a complete liberalisation of the foreign exchange market and the argument against the continued presence of CBN in the FX market does not take the second factor mentioned above into cognizance. Indeed, the need to liberalise the market and fully float the Naira cannot be denied and the CBN understands this. However, a “cold-turkey” approach to floating the Naira may have adverse long-term implications for the economy.

This is where argument within the financial analysis community in Nigeria runs at a tangent. While there is a consensus on what the CBN must and should do, thoughts on the methodology and timeframe for such moves differ widely. A cobweb analysis of the impact of a complete and sudden withdrawal of the CBN from the market suggests, for instance, that given the relativity of elasticities of FX demand vis-a-vis FX supply, the exchange rate may explode rather than converge.

This is because the demand for dollar in Nigeria is presently relatively more inelastic than our dollar supply. The indeterminate equilibrium that ensues means that value of the Naira will plummet exponentially and very quickly too; even in the long-run. This angle is often completely ignored by the CBN’s most vocal critics who just want the Naira floated and without recourse to the implications.

So, the strategy of the CBN at eventually attaining an equilibrium exchange rate is a gradual fine-tuning of the FX market to rebalance the relative elasticities of FX demand and FX supply with a view to ensuring that a cobweb analysis leads to a rate convergence in the long-run.

When scarce supplies are met with limitless demands, allocation of resources in the most judicious ways are employed to ensure prices don’t spiral out of control. While in the long-term demands are either managed or supplies increased. This is essentially what the CBN has been doing over the last 18 months to ensure Nigeria does not witness a total collapse of the Naira.

This explains the countervailing actions taken by the CBN to gradually fine-tune the outturns at the FX market. These actions in many respects involve the steady but deliberate build-up of official reserves while providing the available but highly limited foreign exchange to meet the most critical needs of the economy.

The introduction of a flexible interbank exchange rate system and priority FX allocation to the importation of raw materials, plants, and equipment have significantly reduced rent-seeking and arbitrage abuses. So also, the 60:40 rule which allows for 60 percent of FX allocation to critical manufacturing ventures and 40 percent to others has resulted in a spike in the volume of locally made goods.

The CBN has also ensured the availability of the highly limited foreign exchange to meet critical demands for payment of school fees, medical expenses, business and personal travel allowances and related expenses. Without these moves, the recent injection of dollars by the CBN would have had little to zero effect on the exchange rate.

Such steady injections will hold the Naira closer to its true value in the FX market while the CBN continues with long-term reforms to tackle corruption rent-seeking and round tripping that has been the order of the day for several years.

Theophilus Opaleye is apublic finance analyst based in Lagos.

OPINION: Arsenal fans must return to ‘fandom’ – By Baba Grumpy

We all leave in a new world. A world of instant gratification, a world of me first where people’s feelings trumps any other consideration. Welcome to this wonderful new world.

These me first ism has resulted in the return of the Wenger Out protesters in the last few days. The ‘Wenger Outers’. They took a smack in the face last season during the Norwich game when the fans inside the stadium without prompting started signing the praise of Arsene Wenger.

Sit back, take a deep breath and reflect on that occasion. The spontaneous Pro Wenger chant was smack bang at a time when we were on course to lose our bragging rights against the pesky little Middlesex neighbours. A majority of fans forgot that for a long moment and paid homage to our greatest manager of modern times – Arsene Wenger.

The protesters didn’t learn back then. They have started again this season. They are quite vocal online. I hope this is not a case of empty barrels and all that. The protest march before the Bayern game attracted the media but had less than a 100 people participating according to observers / onlookers.

A fan who wanted to organize a pro Wenger march was apparently dissuaded by threats of bodily harm. It is a big shame if those who are exercising their rights by marching turn around to deprive others of the same rights just because they are at different sides of the Wenger debate.

The Wenger Outers clearly don’t want Wenger. It is their right but they do not speak for the fan base. The miniscule support for their protest marches and the lack of support inside the stadium evidence this.  These minorities are turning the club and its fans into a circus act. They are helping the media feed a narrative of crisis and failure. Two scenarios that clearly does not describe Arsenal. Narratives only designed to fill the ‘sheepy’ click links of the media and ravenous pretentious bloggers. The protesters are helping charlatans disguised as fans feed fat on the pain and suffering of all genuine fans.

Yes we have had a torrid January & February in our two top competitions. Everybody knows that, the club; the manager; the players; and the fans. It hurts everybody. The only people who are not hurting and who revel in the run of poor results can never be called Arsenal fans. It doesn’t matter if the great satan is Arsenal’s manager, a TRUE Arsenal fan will never wish the club ill for any reason.

You don’t like Wenger? Hold your nose and support your club. Support the boys in red proudly. Create a frightening atmosphere for opponents inside the Emirates. Lets turn our home turf into a boiling cauldron for those competing against our players. Let us well and truly be the famed 12th man not organizing all these purposeless marches designed to turn everything about Arsenal into a joke.

For me, Wenger’s position is assured in the history of world football especially in England and Arsenal. The way football is going there will never be another manager to go the whole season undefeated. Wenger is in a peer group of 1. Mourinho for one desperately wants to crack that group and is even more horrible to Wenger because he can never attain that goal or the status Wenger has with all the top guys in football.

Yes the stats speak for themselves, the last time we won the league was 2004. Yes FA Cups no longer counts except Manchester United wins it. True 4th place finishes are irrelevant except Wenger and Arsenal drop out.

But what has not changed is Wenger keeps Arsenal at the top table achieving something The Spuds will die for. Something Liverpool will kill for. Something Man U will pay £100m for right now. Yes those three and many others have changed their managers multiple times but they still cant lay hands on Arsenal & Arsene’s records.

WE ARSENAL FANS UNDER RATE CONSISTENCY AT OUR OWN PERIL

Mr. Wenger’s time will come soon. Maximum, in four years time, he will retire. Maybe he will consider the French Football Manager’s role then who knows but at the moment, his life work is Arsenal. He wants to finish his career at our great club. Not because of the £8m per annum salary as some ignorantly infer, not because he doesn’t have other options as some sneer but because he is loyal to this club he has helped modernize, this club he has given a fair share of his working career to.

Arsene is a decent man. A very decent man. A thoroughly decent man. I believe  him when he says his commitment to the role is still as strong as ever and he himself will walk away when he thinks he can’t contribute positively. I believe Arsene, I trust Arsene more than any of the protesters especially the ones who we are now aware have criminal records. The ones who appear to be failures in their personal lives and are feeding fat and getting multiple 5 minutes of fame by denigrating The Arsenal. These ones who who appear to be clinging to Arsene Wenger’s good name to make a notorious name for themselves and other Arsenal fans.

Mark my word, these Wenger Outers will be the first to turn on whatever new manager is appointed when Wenger leaves in 2 or 4 years time.

My message to all Arsenal fans, SUPPORT THE ARSENAL. Let us return to ‘FANDOM’. The support for Arsenal should be for the squad of players, the manager / coach and his staff and the Board.

SHOW EVERYBODY THAT WE ARE THE ARSENAL.

 

Baba Grumpy works in Financial Services in the United Kingdom. He blogs mostly about football at http://babagrumpy.blogspot.co.uk. His Twitter handle is @BabaGrumpy

Xenophobia: South Africa and a peculiar problem – Guardian

It is a tragedy that the spate of xenophobic attacks by South Africans on fellow Africans which this newspaper described the other day as a snake only scorched and not killed has, indeed, continued to bare its fangs with more ferocity. Despite international outrage, the xenophobic protests have continued across South Africa, with violence spreading to Pretoria, the country’s capital. The South African police said they arrested 136 people, as the anti-foreigner protesters clashed with African immigrants in the capital.

In Pretoria, a march organised by a group calling itself the Mamelodi Concerned Residents escalated into a tense confrontation between protesters and foreigners, some of whom carried rocks, sticks and machetes, which they said were to protect their property.

The police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators on both sides. Video footage from the protests showed angry South Africans chanting and calling for African immigrants to be sent home.

The protesters accused African immigrants, including Nigerians and Somalis, of being involved in crimes, such as drug and sex trades. The incidents have prompted an angry response in Nigeria, where protesters in Abuja marched to the offices of South African telecommunications firm MTN and cable service provider, DSTV.

Also, civil rights groups have threatened to embark on a series of coordinated actions that would send a strong message to South Africans to refrain from further xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.

It is, however, an irony that the Federal Government which had earlier asked the South African government to investigate and punish those involved in the killing and end extra-judicial killings, immigrants profiling and xenophobic attacks is facing opposition from angry legislators at home for what they called complacency in responding decisively to the latest attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

Nigeria’s first response came after a citizen, Tochukwu Nnadi, was extra-judicially killed by South African police officers for allegedly dealing in hard drugs. According to reports, more than 116 Nigerians have been murdered within the last two years in inexplicable circumstances either by South African citizens or even officials of the state.

Certainly, governments of Nigeria and South Africa as well as others need to look beyond verbal darts and move from rhetoric to reality checks or actions that can defuse tension on all fronts.

Poverty and desperation, of course, are only a part of the cause of this gory xenophobic tale in South Africa.Extensive research by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) has shown that South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, are among the most xenophobic countries in the world and that South Africans hold by far the harshest anti-immigrant sentiments. Furthermore, these anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments cut across all major socio-economic and demographic categories: young and old, black and white, educated or not. They display an extraordinary consistency in their antagonism towards foreigners, particularly those from other countries in Africa and especially those deemed to be “illegal immigrants.” Even refugees are viewed negatively.

Suffice it to say that the goodwill once lavished on South Africa by people from across the globe is now being squandered. With those attacks on foreigners, South Africans are betraying the foundation laid over so many years by those who dreamt that their country would take its place as a leading moral force in the world.

Unemployment and economic distress may have been cited as part of the motivators but unnecessary envy also plays a part. Some South Africans are known to be outraged at the competition offered by foreigners and the spectacle of Africans who are more successful than they are. Perhaps because of South Africa’s culture of entitlement, the entrepreneurial spirit and hard work so evident in immigrant communities have become sources of resentment. This is so sad.

As part of cosmetic measures to address the fundamental causes of the ‘twisted nationalism’ the other day, the country’s Interior Minister, Malusi Gigaba, told South Africa’s Parliament that authorities would crack down on the employment of illegal migrants by local businesses. South Africa’s labour law requires 60 per cent of a company’s employees to be South African or permanent residents of the country. The country has experienced periodic outbreaks of xenophobic violence in the past. In 2015, at least five people were killed in attacks on African and international migrants in Pretoria and Johannesburg, while property and businesses owned by foreigners were looted or burnt.

The authorities and leaders within the African Union should realise that the barbaric violence on immigrants in South Africa is not just an issue of xenophobia. The problem is attributable to a crisis of governance and poor leadership.

It is obvious that government officials hardly see poor governance at the core of the current challenge. For instance, in Nigeria, does it worry the leaders that citizens of the “largest economy” in Africa are being forced to search for opportunities in South Africa, a country infamous for one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world? South Africa is incredibly one of the most unequal nations in the world.  Is it not a worthy political project to debate the condition of Nigerians emigrating in desperate circumstances because they cannot find fulfillment at home? If Nigeria were properly governed, not many Nigerians would be searching for opportunities in the slums of South Africa. The failure of governance to create an inclusive economy in Nigeria should be blamed therefore for the fate of Nigerian economic migrants to South Africa, among other countries from where they are being daily deported.

It is the same story of poor governance in South Africa. Over a quarter of the South African population is unemployed and protesters have blamed foreigners for taking local jobs. The founder of a new anti-immigrant political party called South African First, Mario Khumalo, said recently that over 13 million foreign nationals were living in South Africa.

But South Africa’s last census in 2011 estimated that only 2.2 million people born outside the country were living there.The United Nations put the number of foreign migrants living in South Africa at 3.1 million in 2015.

This is not to condone lawlessness by any foreigner in a sovereign nation. Those found guilty of any offences or crimes should be punished according to the South Africa laws. But the laws of the jungle should not be used. When MTN violated regulatory rules here, the Nigerian response was not to burn down its office and kill its South African executives. The regulator imposed a fine.

The poor economic immigrants are not the problem of South Africa.  President Jacob Zuma and the ANC should therefore take a serious look at a political system that has failed to meet the needs of the majority of the people. They should resolve the crisis of governance that has diminished the stature of that great country. The message to African leaders, including Nigeria’s, is that the material conditions that produce economic migration to South Africa and other places should be looked into and stemmed. After all, welfare and security of the citizens must be the primary purpose of government.

Nigeria: Is The 2019 Elections Programmed To Fail? – Samson Itodo

The independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the dates for the 2019 elections. The Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 16, 2019 while the Governorship and State House of Assembly will hold on March 2, 2019. This according to a statement on their website is to allow for proper planning by the Commission and all stakeholders involved in the electioneering process. However, it seems the proactive disposition of INEC may just be mere aspiration as 23 months to the 2019 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to appoint Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).

 It is no longer news that five more Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have bowed out of office following the expiration of their term. This brings the number of states without RECs to 33.   In July 2016, there were 22 states without RECs. In the space of 7 months, 11 RECs completed their term bringing the total number of states without RECs to 33.   With this development, only Taraba, Delta, Rivers and Kaduna have substantive RECs with 3 of these RECs also expected to bow out of service by July 2017, leaving only 1 state, that is Kaduna with a REC. This is unprecedented and worrisome considering the fact that we are less than 484 working days to the 2019 elections. Incidentally, all the states with off cycle governorship elections do not have RECs; Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states. Whilst Ekiti and Osun governorship elections are slated to hold next year, the Anambra governorship election will hold on 18 November 2017; less than 176 days away.

Commendably, the Mahmoud led INEC is visibly taking positive actions to ensure improved elections in 2019. The appointment of additional six national commissioners has no doubt boosted the capacity of the electoral commission. Despite being overburdened with organizing over 165 elections in the aftermath of the 2015 polls, the commission is demonstrating will and commitment in ensuring credible and peaceful elections in 2019. So far only one election out of the 165 election has been nullified by the Court. Significant reforms have been introduced as well. Internally, qualified staff of the Commission are being promoted and staff welfare prioritized. The will to prosecute indicted INEC staff involved in electoral malpractices is impressive. The 23 electoral officers indicted in the investigation into the Rivers rerun election of December 10, 2016 have been suspended with half salary pending the determination of their cases in court.  In its quest to improve the electoral process and in addition to the standing committees, the Commission constituted some committees to review electoral constituencies; polling units and registration areas; suppressed constituencies; Global Information Systems laboratory and diaspora or out-of-country voting (OVC). In addition to this laudable strides, the commission is at verge of completing the review of the implementation of its 2012 – 2016 strategic plan and her 2017 – 2021 strategic roadmap. A committee was set up in September 2016 to review the Commission’s 2012 – 2016 strategic plan and develop a new roadmap for 2017 – 2021.

The planning for the 2019 elections commenced immediately after the 2015 elections. Unlike the 2011 and 2015 elections where INEC had the full complement of its leadership, the 2019 election planning process is without RECs. Until December 7, 2016, INEC had only 50% of its leadership. It took about 18 months (1 years, 6 months) since the expiration of Prof Jega led commission before the new leadership got the full complement of its National Commissioners. This has grave implications for electoral planning and implementation in diverse ways.

 

Why the RECs are important

According to the 1999 Constitution, the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) must be persons of unquestionable integrity; not less than 40 years and shall be appointed by the President. The RECs exercised delegated powers in furtherance of the commission’s statutory functions. The RECs are too critical for the success of any election. In practical terms, the RECs head the Commission at the state and they provide oversight on the implementation of the policies and programs of the commission. The functions of the RECs at the state level is too significant that any delay in their appointment weakens the commission and diminishes its effectiveness at the state level. Once a REC is appointed, he/she must understand the state of assignment, this involves deeper understanding of the electoral geography of each local government in the state; demography and building relationship with the staff of the Commission. This tasks takes time and effort.

Experience shows that the commission hosts periodic meetings to plan, design and implement policies and programs. The RECs are an integral part of such meetings as they contribute to the design and planning of electoral policies and programs. As a nation, we are losing the opportunity to benefit from the intellect, skill and energy of competent and capable individuals who should be making positive contributions in the commission. The current reality implies that the newly appointed RECs will only implement a strategic plan and an election plan that they weren’t part of its design process. Currently, the administrative secretaries head the commission in states without RECs. Interestingly, most of the current administrative secretaries holding forth in the states will be due for retirement before the 2019 elections.

Why elections fail

Elections are complex, sensitive, highly technical and multi-faceted. The intricacies and mechanics of election management requires high level of planning, competencies and capacities. It is conventional wisdom that effective planning is central to the success of any election. This entails ensuring all procedural, administrative and operational issues are addressed in line with legally defined timelines. Despite its cumbersome nature, elections are defined by timelines. Failure to meet deadlines could adversely affect the entire electoral process. Consequently, all decisions relating to elections must be treated with a high sense of responsibility and sense of urgency.

Based on international standards on elections, ability to plan, organizational and management structure, access and adequacy of resources are requisites for successful elections. INEC has not been availed of the human capacity it requires for the successful conduct of the 2019 elections due to the non-appointment of its management structure at the state level. The failure to fully constitute INEC by appointing RECs is setting the ground stage for the 2019 elections to fail. There has been sustained calls by stakeholders on the Presidency to appoint RECs in states with vacancies, for instance the Senate and other APC Brethren of the President have all implored the President to make these appointments but all to no avail. One begins to wonder if this reluctance to appoint RECs is a Grand Strategy by the Buhari administration to weaken INEC’s ability to deliver credible elections in 2019.

Our poor attitude towards planning diminishes our efficiency and productivity. We plan to fail when we fail to plan. This is basic rule of project management. Our elections fail to meet standards or inspire confidence because of poor performance attributed to lack of effective planning. We are less than 484 working days to the 2019 elections and only 4 states have Resident Electoral Commissioners. Although the commission is planning for 2019, however the planning and design process would have received a boost with a fully constituted commission. I also argue that adequate planning requires assembling the requisite human assets to deliver on a task. There is an unquantifiable value in achieving unity of purpose and adopting a fully participatory approach in planning for a highly technical enterprise like elections.  Our last-minute approach to election management results in poor electoral output. When election officials are not appointed in due time, when procurement processes are delayed, when ad-hoc officials are not recruited and trained early, we are planning to fail. Impressively, there’s a growing culture of designing strategic plans in INEC. However, its implementation will be determined by a range of internal and external factors. The reluctance exhibited by the President in appointing RECs is undermining the commission and depriving her of the human resource it requires for the successful planning and execution of the 2019 elections.

Wasted opportunities

In the life of this administration, the President has made two significant appointments to the Commission. The first round of appointments were made in October 2015 with the appointment of the INEC Chairman and five national commissioners.  The second round took place in September 2016 with the appointment of 6 additional commissioners who were later sworn in December 2016. As July 2016, 22 states had no Resident Electoral Commissioners. How come the Resident Electoral Commissioners were not appointed? The President would have utilized the opportunities to appoint RECs but he failed to do so. Considering the rigorous process of appointments to INEC which requires Senate confirmation, it is my strong view that it was a wasted opportunity. Let’s assume the reason for the staggered appointment to INEC is to guarantee institutional memory within the commission and create opportunity for continuity and knowledge transfer. This argument may not be tenable in relation to the RECs.  In a situation where vacancies exist in 33 states out of 37, it simply means all the RECs will have their term of office terminated at the same time. By this act, the President has set a bad precedent in the annals of our electoral history. Less than two years to every general election, we will have new sets of RECs if their terms of the former RECs are not renewed.

It is usual practice for INEC to deploy RECs to state with off-cycle elections as a strategy of enhancing capacity of its staff. This peer learning contributes in no small measure in building the technical capacity of RECs in the states. The 165 elections conducted so far by INEC since 2015 presented an opportunity for learning especially for the RECs who are saddled with the responsibility of superintending over elections at the state level. The opportunity has been wasted due to this non-appointment. The forthcoming Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship presents another opportunity.

Is the delay legal?

Under Section 14 (2) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the President is vested with the power to appoint RECs. However, there is no constitutionally defined timeline for appointment to the Commission. Presumably, the President’s inaction is informed by this strict interpretation of the constitution. Whilst there may be no express constitutional provision in relation to timeline for appointment, the Constitution is clear on the need for appointment of RECs for each state of the Federation. What remains clear is that the President has failed to perform this function. The President swore the oath of office to defend the constitution in the discharge of his duties. His reluctance to appoint the RECs is contrary to the spirit and letters of the Constitution.

The framers of the constitution contemplated that a President should be permitted to exercise discretionary powers in determining the timeline for such appointments. In their wisdom, they expect the President will be guided by the doctrine of reasonability in the exercise of his powers. Sadly, this is not the case. The non-appointment of RECs in 33 states with 484 days to the 2019 elections constitutes abuse of discretionary powers.

In Conclusion, we can’t afford to retrogress in elections management in Nigeria. Consolidating on the gains of the 2015 elections and charting a new course requires vigilance from every citizen. This is the price we must pay for liberty and freedom. The President should ensure appointments are made into existing vacancies at INEC without any further delay. Only individuals with high moral integrity and capacity should be appointed as RECs. The National Assembly should rise to the occasion and compel the President to urgently fill the existing vacancies at the Commission. The Senate should ensure all nominees are thoroughly screened and not adopt the take a bow model. The confirmation of the REC should adopt the precedent laid with the screening of the incumbent INEC Chair and commissioners. Such scrutiny will repose confidence in the hearts of citizens. INEC’s ability to deliver credible and peaceful 2019 elections will be determined by the level of support and cooperation it enjoys from different stakeholders especially the executive.

Samson Itodo is an elections enthusiast and he is the Executive Director of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). He tweets at @DSamsonItodo

What Professor Osinbajo Told Me On His 60th Birthday – Bolu Akindele

This whole episode started when Kiki Osinbajo called me that evening. I rushed through my meal and finally picked the call the second time it rang. You see, there’s this thing with our conversations that just makes us keep talking on and on such that we never get fed up of it. From one issue to another and before you say Jack, we would have talked for almost an hour. So, now you understand the reason why I had to finish the meal before answering the call.

As usual, we went on and on with the gist and after some time of whining her about the political life, discussing some other pressing issues like the project we’re both working on, and giving reports of how far we had gone individually in pursuit of career fulfilment, she finally brought up the issue of her Popsy’s birthday. Her Popsy needs no introduction. If you couldn’t recognize her surname alone, I don’t know what to do with you. The exciting thing about her father’s birthday coming up in our discussion was that I had been given a special VIP invite to attend the special family and friends worship session at their home. Not only that, I was attending not as a photographer but as a guest. To say that I was excited is an understatement, I was extremely elated.

As much as I’m a regular friend of the family, I had only met Prof. Osinbajo a few times and it was understandable – his busy schedule. The first time we met one on one was when we both shared the stage to speak at one United Nations Symposium in 2015 and the other was when I had to photograph his grandson’s 1st birthday in 2016 but at those times, I couldn’t really say we met because we didn’t exchange much words. Just a few pleasantries here and there. So, now you know why this was such a big deal for me.

Right there on the phone, I had began to plan my clothing and flight arrangements as the Abuja airport had been scheduled for closure on Tuesday and all other logistics. Interestingly, Kiki had made arrangements for my accommodation at their house. That lady is just bae!

After a few minutes of her whining me about my new haircut (which I don’t want to talk about now), the loss of my phone and some other random things, we ended the call and I began my planning in earnest.

I arrived Abuja on Monday and I could literally feel the excitement in the air. There was so much buzz internally about it. I could literally feel 60 myself. Maybe it was because I’m practically a part of the family or maybe not!

Wednesday came so fast and we all gathered in the morning at the living room as planned. The worship was really tight! Unscripted and very real. You could check a few clips on kiki osinbajo’s IG handle @kikiosinbajo. I couldn’t do any updates cuz I was super electrified with the session. I just decided to enjoy and savour the moment while it lasted.

After about 45 minutes, Grandma (Prof’s mother) took centre stage. First, with her surprise cake and her many Yoruba choruses of thanksgiving to God and then she prayed for her son. In a couple of minutes, Prof himself admonished us all and it was all done, he had some other things to do. Prof left us in the living room whilst the rest of us continued in the celebration.

Then….

“Bolu!”

I could tell my heart skipped like 5 beats.

He called me again and this time was so sure it was Prof that called me. I wanted to enter the ground. I didn’t even know that he knew my name.

Was I expecting it?

Never!!!

How I walked down the stairs I can’t remember. All I can recollect now is that I met him down the stairs and errr.. I remember stealing glances at Kiki. She could see my nervousness clearly and was just having a good time smiling.

He held my hands and we walked into his room. He explained how that he had always saw the need to engage me in a discussion after we shared the stage at The UN symposium. Since my glasses were on, it was easy to dodge his eyes a couple of times. I was clearly shy. I looked around the room. It was massive. If this could be the other room, Buari talked about I think I want to remain in the other room abeg. It was a combination of both class and taste.

One word from him and I was back to reality.

He started by encouraging me not to give up on Nigeria. He shared some secrets of some of the things he currently envisions about Nigeria and our position globally. He clearly stated that it was of essence that I don’t give up on Nigeria and also carry this message to as many people as I could and ensure that they believe in the nation and do all that they can in their capacity to move Nigeria forward.

He also told me to build capacity now that I have the chance to do so. Reading books, listening to people of value, strengthening my relationship with God, Spending more time working rather than having fun are just a few ways of building capacity and ensuring that I am fully prepared for the future. He specifically said something about a transfer of the mantle of leadership to the youths and how that many of us young people who are clamouring for positions of leadership still aren’t fully prepared for what’s coming ahead hence the need for us to go back to our closets and grow deep.

He told me leadership isn’t always about the number one person. At this point, he smiled and then expressed his pleasure at how much work I was doing in this respect. He said he had read about 3 of my articles where I talked extensively on this and how it was necessary to rub this mindset into the heart of every young person. At this point, I glanced up into his eyes, my mouth hanging agape in wonder. That Osinbajo reads my blog posts came as a surprise to me. That meant that I was of course doing something right.

He told me to value my wife. He explained how valuable this instruction is if I would hold it very dear to me. He said people never know that the strength his wife possess has carried him thus far in his life. He stated clearly that it’s important to choose very wisely as that decision could make or mar ones destiny.

He also told me to respect the people ahead of me. To cherish, value and honor them with all of my heart.

He enlightened me on the need to pour all of my being into whatever my hand finds to do and be very diligent and skilled at it.

He moved on to share some other things but space wouldn’t allow me to share. He stretched out his hand and reached out for mine, closed his eyes and began to pray. I felt strength, freshness and peace all around me as he did this.

It was at this point during the prayer that I heard faint footsteps of movement which later became louder and louder till I finally opened my eyes.

It was my big sister leaving home for work and her movements in the house woke me from my sleep!

Spoiler!!

You see, this might just be one of my dreams but I still won’t forget what Prof. told me in the room. I’d hold them very firm to my heart and work hard to see these virtues at work in my own life

It doesn’t matter what anyone says, I met prof yesterday.

PS: It would also be nice if you took a cue or two from what prof. told me during his 60th birthday because of a truth, they are values I have learnt from his life.

 

Bolu Akindele is a young creative generalist with an incredible passion for excellence amongst young people. He shares his thoughts on twitter @boluakindele

UNILAG Students: Slaves In Love With Their Chains – By Elias Ozikpu

In his 1983 book, The Trouble With Nigeria, Professor Chinua Achebe aptly remarked thus:

“Our inaction or cynical action are a serious betrayal of our education, of our historic mission and of succeeding generations who will have no future unless we save it now for them. To be educated is, after all, to develop the questioning habit…”

It is this questioning habit amongst students of the University of Lagos that constrained me to pen this essay. Education, especially at the university level, is not the ability to accept everything that is pushed down one’s throat. It is rather the ability to develop a critical mindset enabling one to question and disagree with certain things. Being educated creates a striking synonym with the principle of gatekeeping in mass communication – accepting and discarding information presented for publication.

On Monday, the 6th day of March, 2017, I joined in solidarity the “Save UNILAG” protest. The protest was aimed at reinstating the eleven students of that university who were unjustly rusticated for advocating for the general welfare of students at the institution. Beyond the reinstatement of the victimised students, we had aimed to achieve a number of other issues in order to create an environment free and conducive enough for learning in an ideal world. Some of these issues include:

1. An immediate end to all anti-students policies at the institution.

2. The restoration of UNILAG’s students’ union, dissolved in April of 2016 after the union had peacefully protested against the deplorable living conditions at the university.

3. The immediate improvement of students’ welfare on campus.

4. The immediate reversal of all outrageous accommodation fees, including the fee for a fictitious laboratory.

5. To stop the brewing conspiracy aimed at victimising the 40 PhD students who wrote in protest against the hike in accommodation fee, etc.

Prior to the protest, some of our comrades had visited the university campus to sensitise the students ahead of March 6th – the day of the protest. The sensitisation included the distribution of leaflets and other relevant materials. But rather than joining a peaceful protest staged to liberate them from the shackles of oppression and tyranny, oppressed students of the University of Lagos streamed out in their numbers only to look from a distance with arms folded across their chests. But their problems were quite weightier than mere looking. A good number of them were riled, with the risible claim that we had come to disturb them.

For the past one month or thereabouts, we have been on the street telling our oppressors in clear terms that “our mumu don do”. But in what appeared to be a striking contrast, the gullible students of the University of Lagos told us unequivocally that: “our own mumu never do”, leaving the protesters with no alternative but to re-christened the institution “MUMULAG”. It occurred to me at a later time that these gullible students needed a group of well-trained psychologists to subject them under the Augean task of returning their mindsets to normalcy, for it seemed quite obvious that their oppressors had not only robbed them of their fundamental rights as guaranteed by the law, they also disarmed them of their psyche. It is a terrible state to be in, and one must commiserate with these students. I hereby commiserate with them.

A disturbing problem prevalent amongst the current group of students at the University of Lagos is that they often live under the self-delusion that they are a special breed of Nigerian students, studying at the world’s most prestigious institution and as such consider themselves too important to engage in any revolt against anti-students policies on their campus. They are so irritated by protests that they see it as a thing meant for charlatans only.

The result is that their oppressors have capitalised on the deceptive mindset of their victims, and have introduced a myriad of anti-democratic policies to prevent these victims from speaking up when oppressed. The so-called indemnity forms hurriedly accepted and signed by these “special students” is one of such policies.

At this time, reference must be made to Chinua’s remark, which had been used at the start of this essay:

“…To be educated is, after all, to develop the questioning habit.”

From the foregoing, we are left to wonder whether or not a student who hurriedly embraces and signs an indemnity form aimed at silencing him and to robbing him of his fundamental human rights can be said to have developed a questioning habit. We are further left to wonder whether or not a student at the university level who cannot protest in the face of a full-blown oppression can indeed be said to have developed a questioning habit.

It is my sustained argument that if at degree level a student remains ignorant of his inherent rights as a human being, then he CANNOT claim to be more enlightened than the illiterates.

Elias Ozikpu is an activist and author. 

Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs, Delivers Address Against Xenophobia Before National Assembly

Address by Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba MP, on the occasion of the debate on ‘Promoting harmonious co-existence and respect for the rights of all persons, inclusive of foreign nationals, as enjoined by our Constitution’ in the National Assembly on 7 March 2017

At the June 1994 OAU Summit in Tunis, President Mandela said:

“Finally, at this summit meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of Apartheid South Africa. Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance.”

On the occasion of this important debate, which has seemed in recent years to visit these hallowed Chambers with greater frequency, and having listened to the speeches made this afternoon, I wish to pose the question, could we confidently assert that are we walking in Madiba’s footsteps!

The passage of time must not distract us from the path set for us by our forebears; and neither must the challenges of the moment obscure our vision as to what we must do to contribute towards Africa’s renaissance.

South Africa is built on the values of freedom, respect for human dignity, Ubuntu, and unity in diversity.

We also recognise our singleness with fellow African countries and peoples, and that we share together a common past and a common destiny.

For these reasons alone, incidences of negative sentiment towards foreign nationals have no place in South African society.

Ultimately, we are not judged by how we treat people in good times, but how we do so them in times of difficulty.

That we are a society preoccupied with the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, and the frustration of so many of our people at the unfinished work of the fundamental social transformation of our society, is frankly then, no excuse at all.

As Africans, when our harvest is meagre, we do not turn our neighbours away, we divide the little we have and share it together.

This debate is an apt reminder that we must lead society in remaining true to these founding values.

As we abhor recurrent incidents of negative sentiment towards foreign nationals in some corners of our society, we should do so with perspective.

The vast majority of foreign nationals in South Africa are documented and choose to be here because South Africa is one of the most dynamic, diverse, tolerant, Afropolitan countries on the continent, in which people with differences of race, culture, gender, class, sexual orientation, live in harmony.

We are not perfect but we have a lot to be proud of.

We do not have much, yet we strive daily to make significant social progress.

Sometimes, some among our citizens misdirect their frustrations at foreign nationals.

In covering these issues, some amongst us want to fixate on whether government acknowledges that xenophobia is an issue in South Africa.

Interestingly, we never hear that Americans, Britons and Germans are xenophobic when some of their citizens attend anti-immigrant rallies or vote patently xenophobic leaders.

Whilst these are surely not the standards by which we should measure ourselves, still no, I will not accept the statement that South Africans are xenophobic, or Afrophobic.

The issues are more complicated than that, and if we are to address them effectively, we need to acknowledge their complexity.

Yes, there is anti-immigrant sentiment among some sections of our society, but these are in the minority.

But unfortunately, it is a social reality that in times of difficulty or scarcity, there are people in society who use immigrants as scapegoats for their problems.

This negative phenomenon is observable in many countries; it not unique to South Africa.

Where our people are complaining about the scourge of crime and other social and economic problems in communities, we must work with them to confront it decisively.

Government must go back to the basics of doing what government must do to deliver on people’s expectations, and politicians must refrain from seeking cheap popularity by stoking the fires of xenophobia, intolerance and conflict.

We must never attribute crime or causes of unemployment particularly to immigrants.

All crime is an ill to be fought; the effect on the victims is the same whether a crime is committed by a South African or a foreign national.

We have also observed that criminality is a factor in incidents of so-called xenophobic violence.

All of these facets of the problem must be confronted by leaders at various levels of our society without seeking to trivialise them or score political points because the cost to human lives far outweighs whatever gains one party may score.

We must firmly reject the tendency to target African immigrants and associate them alone, and altogether, with lack of documentation, crime, moral depravity, illegality, and to view them as necessary targets for abuse, exploitation and physical attacks.

International migration is one of the major issues of our time, with enormous political, social, economic and moral dimensions.

Democracies around the world are responding to it in different ways.

It is causing difficulty to much older democracies than our own, and has become a major issue in the politics of Europe and North America.

Much as we have our own problems relating to international migration, arguably South Africans are more open and tolerant of foreign nationals than citizens in wealthier countries.

It is also worth noting that most countries easily admit foreign nationals they need for economic purposes, especially those with critical skills and investment muscle.

We have recently proposed a new approach to managing international migration, which we hope will go some way to addressing these issues.

We believe South Africa must unite around a positive, pragmatic vision for managing international migration which advances our national interests and reflects our values.

We have proposed that management of international migration is not a matter for Home Affairs alone, but must follow a ‘whole of government, whole of society’ approach.

One of the most contentious areas is around managing economic migration from the continent, as this affects poor and working class communities and immigrants.

I think this has less to do with South Africans being xenophobic or Afrophobic, but more to do with poorly regulated competition for jobs and resources between locals and economic immigrants, as well as lack of enforcement of existing rules.

We should not dismiss poor and working class South Africans as xenophobic when they are raising genuine social and economic issues affecting them, especially relating to unscrupulous employers who use desperate economic migrants to exert downward pressure on wages and working conditions.

After all, the middle and upper classes are largely shielded from such challenges.

These unscrupulous businesses exploit equally South Africans whom they do not employ and immigrants whom they employ below the minimum standards as prescribed in law.

In acting this way, they demonstrate the brutality of the capitalist system which does not care for the humanity of its employees, so long as the system has the workers available in abundance and employers can pit them in fierce competition against one another and make super profits out of all of them.

In fact, research shows that it is for exactly this reason that businesses tend to lobby governments for more liberal immigration policies.

While this debate is not primarily about international migration, I think it is important to highlight several points.

Firstly, we are clear and unapologetic that the South African government must prioritise its own citizens for employment and economic opportunities.

This is true of most, if not all countries, and we are no different.

Immigration policy is inherently protectionist in all countries – outside of regional integration arrangements which are exceptions to this – and we will continue to regulate immigration in our national interest.

In this regard, we insist that businesses operating in South Africa must comply with the regulations to ensure that no less than 60% South Africans are employed in those businesses, including those owned and run by foreign nationals in South Africa.

Joint business inspections have been carried out in 56 business premises, resulting in 7 employers charged for employing undocumented migrants and 147 undocumented migrants were arrested.

As well as meeting businesses and their federations to seek a collaborative and proactive approach, we shall persist with the inspections.

However, we must emphasise that whilst we carry out these inspections, we do not blame foreign nationals for high unemployment in South Africa, but we place the blame squarely on our untransformed racialized economy.

Secondly, we must acknowledge that there are factors which limit our ability to regulate immigration such as large, porous land borders.

Despite the best intentions, few, if any countries, including those with far more means, are able to police their borders such that they can ensure that no human being crosses their border unauthorized.

We must manage our borderline and ports of entry to the best of our ability, to protect our sovereignty, security, economy, and travellers themselves, South African and foreign.

The Border Management Authority (BMA) will aid this, in providing a structure for integrated, professional, specialized border management capability.

But it is neither possible, nor desirable, to seal our borders.

Thirdly, all growing, competitive industrial and knowledge economies are enhanced by an enlightened management of international migration.

No country produces all the skills it needs all the time.

Immigrants bring skills, knowledge, experience, resources and human connections which enhance societies and economies, increasingly so in a globalized world.

To think of immigrants only in the context of taking jobs from locals is therefore a mistake and short-sighted.

By contributing to growth, they directly and indirectly create new opportunities for South Africans to take advantage of.

Fourthly, we must swiftly and emphatically reject and bury the idea underlying too much of our public discourse around international migration, that Africa is a burden.

Madiba already directed us at the very advent of our freedom to contribute towards the renaissance of Africa.

Our region of SADC and our beloved continent of Africa are our future.

They are our partners in development, fellow members of an indivisible African civilization which is in the process of rebirth.

We will not develop despite Africa, but with and because of Africa.

Africa is a continent of 1.2 billion dynamic and aspirant people, increasingly urbanized, with a large and growing middle class.

We are a young continent, whose workforce can, must and will power a social revolution, especially as the populations of industrial powers such as Europe and even China, age in the coming decades.

Our future lies in intra-African trade and regional economic integration.

The advantage of being late developers is that we are the last, exciting global growth frontier.

We must bind together to bring about a common future.

South Africa is a leader in our continent.

Our commitment to democracy, peace and stability, and common development is respected and embraced.

Our companies are leading investors and players in many African countries.

We cannot aspire to play a leadership role in Africa’s development, while closing our door to all of our fellow Africans who come to South Africa seeking economic opportunities.

Neither can we provide leadership in isolation, secluded from the rest of the continent.

Nor can we, and a handful of other countries, absorb the economic migrants of sister countries, absolving them of their own development responsibilities.

We must find a balance.

In this regard, as leading powers on the continent, South Africa and Nigeria must not fall into the trap of mutual suspicion and discord.

The development of our respective countries, and the African continent as a whole, requires that we draw closer to one another politically, socially and economically.

Let us never allow our common challenges, however difficult they may be, to cause antagonism between us, but let us rather confront them with a spirit of Pan-African and brotherly partnership and dialogue.

Finally, now and ever, we must ground ourselves in our values.

The issue of ‘Who belongs?’ has too often bedevilled African countries throughout the post-colonial period.

It has been at the heart of political divisions, violence and even civil war; and this is not unique to South Africa as many other countries, both in Africa and abroad, have been subject to political contestation based on identity, at times resulting in civil wars.

We must remember the wisdom, vision and humanity we displayed when we proclaimed in the Freedom Charter of 1955 that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and when we adopted a Constitution which recognizes the dignity and human rights of all persons, not only citizens or documented persons.

This is a high standard we have set for ourselves, but it is the right standard, which we need to continue to strive to live by.

We are a people of Ubuntu.

We cannot deny the human dignity of others but expect our own to be upheld.

These human values were the social genius of freedom loving South Africans who were the midwives and architects of our young democracy.

Now as ever, we must affirm those values by living them, in good times and in difficult times.

Ultimately, the most urgent challenge Africa faces with regard to migration stems not from the individuals migrating, but from our continent’s economic underdevelopment which, coupled with colonial borders, has created inequitable migration patterns.

In his Preface to Adekeye Adebajo’s book, Professor Ali Mazrui says:

“Africa, since its partition, has seen its mineral wealth exploited for the benefit of others, its fertile land left undercultivated, its rich cultures destroyed, and its brain-power ‘drained’ to other parts of the world. At the centre of this calamity is the role of the West in creating an international system that reduced proud Africans to the lowest caste of the twentieth century. How will post-colonial Africans overcome this condition in the twenty-first century?” (The Curse of Berlin: Africa After the Cold War).

Fortunately, the question Mazrui posed addressed itself not to victims any more, but to the masters of their own destiny.

It was to provide such clarity that Uncle Jack Simons said to MK combatants in Angola that African independence had concentrated on the transfer of political power but not on implementing a programme of economic and social change.

He thus concluded that:

“The tendency in many African countries has been to maintain the old economic as well as political system. There has been continuity and not revolution.”

Herein lies our answer, Honourable Members, not to fight immigrants, but to implement a programme of economic and social change that would hoist the current neo-colonial relations at their own petard and bring total emancipation to all of Africa!

I thank you.

How Northerners were excluded from movie “The Wedding Party” – Bello Shagari

Filmmaker and grandson of Shehu Shagari, Bello Bala Shagari, recently expressed his thoughts about the exclusion of Northerners from “The Wedding Party” movie.

His tweets were received with a strong negative reaction by a large number of people.

Bello Bala has released a detailed explanation of his comments to Pulse Nigeria. According to the documentary filmmaker,
a foreigner who sees “The Wedding Party” will conclude that Nigerians are not more than Yoruba and Igbo people, thus jeopardising our diversity.

Read detailed explanation below;

The wedding party movie is certainly one of the best movies out of Nigeria. The quality, the storyline and the humor are just amazing. Without any doubt, it appears to be a breakthrough in the Nigeria movie industry and marks the beginning of many goodies that are yet to come.

 The movie I believe is set out to be not just for Nigerians but the global audiences, given the standard in which it was produced. Financially, it is budgeted beyond the Nollywood usual standard; it consumed sixty million naira. Indeed, It is unlike the usual local content.

However, throughout the film, one can feel and sense the Nigerian culture put into play, although inconclusively. There was no justifiable sense of diversity, contrary to a review by Temitope Adeyemi on thenet.ng. who wrote “The Wedding Party is a comedy, and even though there are many lessons that could be drawn upon from the issue of intertribal marriages.”  She also added, “If you have ever attended a Nigerian society wedding, all the people you meet there are well represented in this movie.” Here she’s implying the idea of inclusivity has been achieved.

The movie is about a wedding between a Yoruba and Igbo families and the kind of drama that comes with it. Inclusivity in filmmaking and other endeavors have become critical to professionalism today, gender-wise, race-wise and otherwise, it is a global practice.

For Instance, you’ll hardly see a Hollywood film shot in the U.S these days without coming across one immigrant or another, sometimes even a tourist, because that is the reality. It is strategic to marketing too. But to my dismay, that didn’t happen in the wedding party.

Consequently, to a foreigner, the film will appear as though Nigerians are not more than Yoruba and Igbo people just like the Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda, thus jeorpadising our diversity, because it is neither true nor a good impression. Nigeria is a home to over 350 different ethnic groups. In contrast, to really depict the true picture of what is typical about the Nigerian elites, there was a white girl who plays the friend of the bride. It is a norm that the children of the elites often invite their foreign friends to their wedding, but how not other Nigerians respectively?

Notwithstanding, I took the debate to my twitter handle and wrote “#TheWeddingParty movie is such a wonderful development in the Nigeria movie industry, but the northerners were excluded unfortunately.” Due to the shortness of the statement, it could easily be misunderstood because it was not elaborating.

The contrast between people of the south and those of the north is relatively much, and that’s why I particularly mentioned “north” because it is what I can easily identify.  The tweet has indeed got some interesting responses and a number of insults. Many have also argued that my point is either invalid or irrelevant.

In fact, one twitter verified Henry Okelue said this in reply to me “how would northerners have been included if the story line does not have any northern situation in it?” It is the same way we neglect collective responsibilities. Some even thought I meant including Kannywood stars in the cast!

It wouldn’t have been a bad idea too but that wasn’t my point. We must be able to look beyond producing local content, whereby Nollywood sticks to what is southern, west and eastern if you like. Kannywood is simply local, as they don’t even speak English.  Sadly, in some inclusive Nollywood movies, the northerners have easily been ridiculed and limited to playing the role of a gate man! gate man?  And vice versa all in the name of humor.

We have a duty as filmmakers to unite our people in movies like The Wedding Party even if it is not true about us just to foster unity. I was even more disappointed when someone replied with a tweet that “But the thief at the party dressed like he’s Hausa na… please manage that one.” Implying that that the thief in the movie is a Hausa man. He may be right, the thief dressed like a northerner, even though I convinced myself, and many others who believed so that he was Yoruba as the name “Lukman” is relatively more common with them. But I doubt if my senior colleagues will make such a mistake with the intent of ridicule because they are professionals.

The Wedding Party

Finally, I believe it is time to forge ahead, and act as nation. I am not commenting here as a northern representative or defendant, and I passionately defy the idea of being identified with any region but as Nigerian. This is simply a criticism rather than a protest with good intent of calling for improvement. Nigeria is a multicultural and multilingual country, and should be depicted as such for professional and strategic reasons.

Apart from that, The Wedding Party is a very successful breakthrough in the Nigeria movie industry, I love it and I am proud of it. A Nigerian doesn’t stand alone because he is not one, he is many in one; Meaning, wherever a Nigerian finds himself should put it at the back of his mind that he is an ambassador to more 350 different people.

The Wedding Party” follows the drama that happens during the planning of a wedding between a Yoruba bride, Dunni, and an Igbo Groom, Dozie.

A collaboration between EbonyLife Films, FilmOne Distribution, Koga Studios and Inkblot Productions, “The Wedding Party” was directed by Kemi Adetiba.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is not a ‘Nigerian’ – By Emmanuel Ufuophu-Biri

After watching the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in Benin City, Edo State, on TV live during his fact finding meeting with the good people of Edo state, I realized that he is totally not a Nigerian. He listened to all speakers with rapt attention and concentrated interest.

One could see him practically and personally experiencing the pains of the abandoned and abused people of the Niger Delta. Even when there was a mini riot in the hall he remained calmed and probably prayerful as an ordained man of God.

If the mild drama of mini riot that played out in the hall had happened in a situation where even a local government chairman was in charge, the chairman would have ordered the security men to shoot at sight.

If the person in charge was a state governor or a president, he would have ordered a massive arrest and inglorious shot at perception and at sight, but the learned and erudite scholar and legal luminary of international acclaim did not do any of that.

Rather when he responded he said he equally shared the grievance of the aggrieved Niger Delta people.

This is un-Nigerian.

For a leader to share in the pains of the people and not to deal with them for daring to engage in mini riot in his presence shows that the goddess of pride, the delusion grandeur and megalomania tendency usually associated with the average Nigerian leader at virtually all levels are not in the acting president.

For him to order all the oil companies to move their headquarters to the Niger Delta is a wonderful act of justice and healing of the age long injury inflicted on the Niger Delta people.

That he visited the Niger Delta states differently and interacted directly with the people and even visited the creeks to personally access the horrible situation is worth more than commendation.

No Nigerian leader at his level has acted like this.

This is the reason I doubt if Acting President Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, is a Nigerian. Probably he is a Moses in the making to the Niger Delta people.

Emmanuel Ufuophu-Biri is a lecturer and head of department of Mass Communication at the Delta State University Abrak.

Commercial Intellectual Writer/Activist: The saint Farooq Kperogis of this world – By Mu’awiyyah Yusuf Muye

Since the coming of this government, a lot of critics have emerged as expected. What has been hard to swallow is how some critics allow their selfish agenda to becloud their sense of reasoning. One of those critics is Professor Farooq Kperogi, who has been the hardest non-partisan critic of President Buhari, at least as far as we know for now. But the way and manner in which the Professor of journalism and emerging media has gone on and on about criticising the President in a misguided way has made a lot of people that used to respect him, question his sincerity and even the danger his style of journalism portrays for our society and aspiring journalists.

Journalists these days, both local and international, have formed the habit of reporting issues without research or investigation. They just report based on sentiments, depending on their agenda or from which divide a brown envelope is handed to them. This is quite ironic, considering the fact that the three arms of Governments (Executive, Legislators and Judiciary) are supposed to be kept on their toes by critics and Media, but when these same media people are compromised because of their personal or Partisan affiliation, it then becomes a cause for alarm.

In 2015 after President Buhari assumed office, Our Dear Professor Kperogi wrote a piece titled: “6 Reasons Why Incoming Buhari Government Fills Me With Hope

In the piece, he praised both President Buhari and his now SSA Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, laying down things we should expect and not expect from this government. In his own words, “the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration won’t be perfect by any means. It will disappoint us in some areas, betray us in others, even annoy us sometimes, but I am confident that, after all is said and done, this incoming government will represent a qualitative departure from the legalised banditry that has passed for governance in Nigeria for so long. There are at least 6 reasons for my hopes,” he concluded before going into the details of the reasons.

I am personally glad President Buhari hasn’t disappointed. Going by Professor Kperogi’s forecast, there is nothing that has happened in this government and is still happening that he didn’t predict and which we unanimously believe is as a result of the excesses of the past and successive administrations. The question now is, what CHANGED for Mr Kperogi that he has turned into a vicious critic? Is it possible that Mr Kperogi was expecting an appointment or brown envelopes from the Government and seeing that it’s not forthcoming has resorted to chastising the government and switching up his style of criticising President Buhari to get noticed? I personally have pondered for sometime now on why He has chosen to be some sort of nuisance in his write ups, but I think I have finally come to the conclusion that Mr Kperogi might not be the Angel he is portraying himself to be. After all, he admitted himself in the article above that he had to blackmail his way into Obasanjo’s government by writing scathing Articles against the government before he was appointed into the then Presidential Communication Unit (PCU).

Mr Kperogi has repeatedly bragged that he is comfortable and contented in his position at the moment, but his style of writing begs to differ. He has consistently held on to the issue of the so-called Buhari Media Centre in which he claims the organisation is a covert centre aimed solely at engaging in propaganda, but Mr Kperogi has refused to name one propaganda this organisation has peddled. He also claimed that the members are unknown, but it has been proven to him time after time that members of the so-called BMC always indicate in their profiles that they belong to the group and having the aim similar to the work Mr Kperogi did in PCU during Obasanjo’s tenure.

The members of the so-called BMC like Ayourb, Barrister Abdullahi, Johannes Tobi, Ayo Akanji to mention a few have been appearing on television and radio programmes, defending and shedding lights on the policies of Buhari Administration as well as rebutting the lies and propaganda peddled against the Buhari Government by the corrupt agents of past administration and characters like Mr Kperogi himself. So what else does he want? Except there is something, of course, he is not letting the general public know, his actions have become an act of desperation and a ploy for attention to either get appointed or get monetary reward, an expectation I believe will never see the light of day because Buhari as I know him is not the kind of person to give bribe or give in to blackmails.

Mr Kperogi claims the so-called BMC members open anonymous accounts on social media to write propaganda for the government and attack those that write against the government in comment sections, but has refused to provide facts to back up his claims or even mention those handles and yet he calls himself a Professor of journalism. Maybe He needs to go back to school of journalism to refresh his knowledge of the profession.

There are many Farooq Kperogi’s in Nigeria today who feel the best way to warm their way into the government is by writing scathing
articles or forming lies against the government. Some of them are either sponsored by our past corrupt elites who are having a hard time now or are motivated by their own selfish agenda after they dine with people in government, but become as silent as a catacomb.

The new lucrative business in town is to pretend to be activists or intellectual activists who peddle blatant lies just to advance their selfish agenda. I call them Emerging Commercial intellectual writers and activists who gets paid by corrupt and dubious politicians to write propaganda against the Buhari government. It is a dangerous precedent being laid by today’s intellectuals. To make matters worse, these same set of critics don’t like being criticised.

Farooq Kperogi on social media blocks every one who fails to agree with his write ups, but nags all the time about Buhari supporters lacking tolerance to criticism. Such a double standard.

Perhaps he thinks he is entitled to an appointment in this government since he contributed to writing against the last administration which is commendable, but you can only be entitled if you contested for an election and won. If you don’t, then the right to appointing people into the government is reserved for the elected officials. If He or any intellectual for that matter who aren’t card carrying members of any party feels entitled, then they should feel free to stand for election, campaign vigorously and win to bring the necessary Change they feel Nigerians deserve. but I for a fact know they won’t, because they are opportunists. All they will continue to do is blackmail their way in to the arms of governments that give in to their tricks. They are too lazy to stand for election, but tricks and opportunism are their tactics. We will continue to rebut the Farooq Kperogis of this world and expose them for who they truly are.

In His own words “Ultimately, the people Buhari will disappoint, I hope would be his visceral critics and his hyper-partisan supporters who want him to be a northern version of Jonathan—petty, vindictive, small-minded, and intolerant. This fills me with hope.

My ‘ordeal’ inside Kirikiri prison – By Yushau Shuaib

This is not a joke, but a real-life story. I still wonder how my family members, friends and well-wishers would feel about my ‘ordeal’ inside the Kirikiri medium security prison in Apapa, Lagos.

In fact, this write-up commenced in the Prison. All my life I have tried to avoid any act or behaviour that would warrant me being sent to any solitary confinement whether cell, house-arrest, guard-room, or prison not to talk of the most popular (or is it notorious) Kirikiri Prison in Nigeria.

In the past and up till now, I deliberately try to avoid visiting offices of friends whose mandates are to detain people even when, professionally, I engage in crisis communication which involved relating with security agencies.

Meanwhile, I have also realised that the only person that could be sure of not going to be detained either in cell, house-arrest or prison must surely be the dead person in the grave. Influential leaders have been detained and incarcerated at various times; some went to detentions straight from highly powerful positions while others moved from detention centres to privileged posts. Nelson Mandela, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Obafemi Awolowo, Wole Soyinka and even Sambo Dasuki who had been granted multiple bails are very few of personalities that have tasted state confinement and imprisonment, where their movement and freedom were not only restricted but denied.

Sometimes last year, I received an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an investigation of a company involved in crisis management for the security sector. I felt embarrassed by the reckless and baseless indictment of the firm by the controversial and unceremoniously disbanded AVM Jon-Ode arms probe panel. I was nevertheless treated with dignity by the anti-corruption agency without being detained after providing necessary information on the issues at stake. Meanwhile, as a man, I have always prepared for the worst scenario in case of untoward eventualities.

Before I give the reason for my journey into Kirikiri prison, I know for sure that the right of prisoners in relations to physical integrity must have freedom from arbitrary arrest. No matter the situation, I know that potential detainees, by right, should be informed of the fact and grounds of any arrest. In fact, victims of emerging professional whistle-blowing enterprises deserve some respect because they are innocent until proven guilty in competent courts.

I must state that I had no hesitation when the Prison officials in Abuja, insisted that I must be conveyed to Kirikiri Prison. I was flown to Lagos and transported by a bus to the Prison in Apapa. I must also be very sincere to state that I was neither maltreated nor harassed from Abuja to Lagos even though we had flight delay.

At the entrance to the Prison I became scared to the marrow when I read a notice which stated that the Kirikiri Medium Security Prison was overcrowded. On that day, March 1, 2017, it accommodated 3051 prisoners instead of 1700 of its official capacity. More shocking was the fact that 2627 detainees were not convicted by any court but they were awaiting trial. Some awaiting trial inmates were immorally detained for frivolous offence of fighting, walking at odd hours and petition writings.

Rather than conveying me straight to the cell, the officials at the Kirikiri Prison took me to a barbing saloon where imprisoned barbers and trainees provide the services. Next to the barbing saloon were tailoring and shoemaking workshops where inmates were trained in the production of clothes, shoes, bags among others. I learnt some religious bodies and Non-Governmental Organisations purchase the items for sale outside the prison yards.

At another corner of the Kirikiri prison was a Library and a Computer Centre where some inmates study for examinations. Some even graduated with flying colours from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), I learnt. By conventions, further education is to be provided to all prisoners while schooling of illiterates and young inmates are made compulsory. Even though Prison is not a place for recreation and relaxation, in this prison, there is a playground, a volleyball court and table tennis facilities. Such recreational activities like sports, music and other hobbies are by the same conventions required to be made available in prisons.

Strange enough, I noticed that most of the inmates were not malnourished but looked healthier than I had thought. I suspect that they are probably offered better medical examinations and treatments than it is imagined or believed.

While being led towards the prison accommodation, the official said that by law cells for individuals should not be used to accommodate more than one person while communal cells should only house prisoners who had been selected to share them. He added that all facilities should meet the requirement regarding health, heating, ventilation, floor space, sanitary facilities and lighting.

My ‘real ordeal’ inside the prison was how to convincingly inform my family members and well-wishers that I was never arrested but was actually on an official assignment and Special Tour of prison facilities in Lagos with some media executives including editors, columnists, broadcasters and journalists. We were being led and guided by the spokesperson of Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), Francis Enobore and the officer in charge of the Prison, Emmanuel Oluwaniyi.

As a proof of the tour of the prison, I requested the spokesperson of NPS to take my picture while standing at the Window of the Computer Centre. He obliged. After the tour, we returned to our hotel for buffet and attended a three-day workshop on prison reform organised by Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA).

After spending nights in the hotel, I returned to Abuja without spending a night in the Prison.

 

Shuaib is publisher PRNigeria

5 Ways to Manage Your Time Effectively – By Ogundimu Oluwadamilola

One of my passion is to help people and share experiences to provoke them to believe they can do more than their limited expectation. Lately, I discovered that in our quest to “Step up” and change the pace of development in our personal life. It all begins with the mind. Your biggest asset is your mind. Today as we spend time discussing time management, if you will not accept these thoughts I share intellectually with your mind and decide to take action with your mind, today will just be an occurrence and mere say. One of the qualities of a serious person suffice is the art of time and life management. As students, we need to be aware of the fact that the University community is a complex one. It’s a world of no man’s business full of activities and funny enough, unlike primary school and high school, we got no teacher to follow us up and make sure we do the assignment, you read the book, you attend the classes.

Effective time management is very crucial to academic success. As endless as time is, you cannot hold onto it. Time is a free but it’s a non-renewable resource. Many students are controlled by activities instead of controlling activities.

So, what therefore Is time management?

It includes a range of skills used to manage time in accomplishing a set goal. The measure of a productive life on campus depends largely on how one manages his or her time.

The best students are not necessarily those who are smarter but those who use their time effectively.

Also, craving for academic excellence doesn’t mean shutting down all other facet of your life and spend the whole 24 hours in the library. That’s a boring life. As much as you aim for excellence, you must put God first and also develop other areas of your life.

Frankly, in today’s highly competitive world, if you are lucky enough to be in school you are holding a highly coveted spot desired by many.

The following are Five basic ways to manage your time effectively

Man, know thyself

The first step in determining a schedule is to know yourself.

Get Organised

AT the beginning of every semester purchase or make some type of scheduling note book. This may seem simple but you would be surprised how many people do not use this necessary instrument.

Always prepare a to-do list

There is this common saying, “Fail to plan, Plan to fail”. Daily set out what you want to achieve and jot them in your schedule pad and mark them in this kind if order; Your fixed commitment such as classes, tutorials, church and part time jobs are first considered.

Add in your study time, block off that section of your day reserved for studying. Organise your study time to coincide with times of the day when you are most awake and alert.

Mark in other non study activities; these are important but lower priority items. Always go round with your to-do list to review what’s next

Evaluate

After the end of each day, evaluate how much you have invested your time into the days activities and wherever you faltered improved in the next to-do list.

Lastly, plan some down time.

You are not a robot; I have a funny but true statement I say in Yoruba, “OKU O LE GBA B.Sc.” meaning a dead student can’t acquire B.Sc. Take time to rest and treat yourself.

Academic excellence comes with a price. Someone said its not easy living a programmed life. I would rather say its not easy living an organised life, So make efforts to be organised.

Henry Wadsworth said, the height by great, they weremen reached and kept were not attained by sudden to the night flight, but why their companions slept, they were busy toiling upwards in the night.

Ogundimu Oluwadamilola is a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. She is a life coach and motivational speaker. She can be reached via Email: dammyabike95@gmail.com

Is Big Brother Naija our problem? – By Niran Adedokun

When you hear Nigerians, who tend towards pietism speak about the ongoing Big Brother Naija reality show, you would imagine that the casual debauchery engaged in by the youngsters on the show was the most depravity that could be told about Nigeria.

But that is far from the truth. Here is a country with loads of stories about baby-making centres where teenage girls are conscripted into random copulation with men and delivered of babies, who are mostly sold to ritualists or sometimes handed over to childless couples for a fee.

It is  a country where the recurrence of bloodletting literarily bears the seal of the state, where agents of the state turn equipment of war on harmless citizens for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to associate, where citizens lord it over other citizens, rampaging and ravaging without repercussion. A country raped into submission to hunger, disease and despair by successive leadership which, ironically, sometimes joins the self-righteous denunciation of indulgences that television programming like the BBN offers.

The argument is usually about the hedonistic nature of the show. People complain that nudity and free for all sexual tendencies of the youths are alien to our culture. And each time I hear that I wonder which of the hundreds of cultural inclinations of our country we mean in particular.

Just a few years back, Christian missionaries discovered a tribe of Nigerians who lived their lives oblivious of the need to clothe. And talking about sexual proclivity, the level of promiscuity even amongst married people of both sexes in Nigeria is left to the imagination. Didn’t a recent survey conducted by condom manufacturer, Durex, rank Nigerian women among the most unfaithful in the world? That is not to talk about men who when they do not keep loads of girlfriends are married to a battalion of women! So, how is what we find on the BBN different from the way we are?

But let us even pretend for a moment that this was a valid argument? That the BBN and the frivolous opportunities it offers its housemates are strange to us. Can it not also be argued that television, the medium through which this show is aired, is also an invention alien to Nigeria? If we did not create the television, how do we then expect the device to conform to our own culture?

In its essential functions of educating, informing and entertaining, the broadcast industry has also acquired its own ethos which governs its operations. This is why it is really difficult for you to accept the device and hope to deplore the attendant responsibilities that follow.

It is true that some of these governing principles are reviewed time and time again. But even if these reviews always take the commercial essence of operators into cognisance, they also respect the reality that society comprises of people with different demographics and persuasions, and as such, make room to respect the sensibilities of people.

This is why programmes are censored and classified into different categories. This classification is done in such a way that it leaves no one in doubt as to the suitability of the content of a programme ahead of any in-depth contact with it.

In the case of the programme under discussion, you have a restricted categorisation indicating that viewing is meant for adults-people who are above 18 years of age! This eliminates the viewership of children, the same way in which a lot of movies shown on a lot of other DSTv channels exclude children.  And here, we should note that programmes like this reality show have the same categorisation even in societies that we self-righteously regard as depraved. This explains the universality of the principles that guide the television industry and the fact that every society respects the right of children to innocence.

In the case of the BBN, the content providers also availed subscribers of a parental control option, which allows parents to block the access of adventurous children who may want to explore the channel in the absence of their parents.

Not just that, I also read on the DSTv website that subscribers are offered the opportunity to opt out of having that channel on their decoders at all! Watching Big Brother Naija was therefore rendered a personal choice, which a lot of Nigerians have chosen, given reports about the phenomenal rating the programme is receiving.

You then wonder why the BBN has become so much a subject of interest that Nigerians do not only condemn but have even gone ahead to initiate petitions for its termination. Are those angry with the show worried about themselves, their children or people who choose to watch it? Is there a way in which the programme affects our collective fortune as nationals of the same country or are we just worried about the eternal fortune of the folks, who participate or patronise the programme, what exactly do people who live in a nation where religion is so often substituted for righteousness aim to achieve with shooting down an independent television programme that offers some youths the opportunity to actualise themselves even if falls short of our own moral gauge?

If the worry is only about moral purity, then why doesn’t every one of us take care of ourselves? First of all, ensure that you do not watch the programme to avoid the moral pollution attending it. In addition, restrict the chances that your children, wards and family members will ever get to watch the programme. You should also go a step further to ensure that you bring up your children to not place values the gains associated with such programmes. Having done all that, you can rest assured that the immorality of programmes like the BBN will never affect you and your immediate family.

If your concern is founded on bringing people closer to God however, you should do more about convincing people about seeing the value that God brings into their lives.  With where our country is today actually, we could use a lot more of God and the holiness that he teaches through all the major religions that we practise in Nigeria.

At the centre of the faiths that are rooted in our country is the requirement for unconditional love for God and other human beings. If we all take that serious and don’t get spent on fighting unnecessary wars, none of the atrocities that were highlighted at the start of this piece and threatening to tear us apart as a people would have the hold that they have on us.

Making Nigeria a country of pride is a far more serious task than the corruption that the BBN brings or the spectacle that we make of it. Let every man and woman who preaches morality be found doing what they preach before we preach it to others. Then we will find that with our conduct; will win more people to us than our sanctimonious clatter would ever achieve.

2016 in Nigeria’s History Books – By Orebanwo Adewale

A wise man once said that “life itself is a learning process”. With this thought floating amidst the ocean of thoughts in my head I decided to pick it out and see why it is waving the white flag. After much pondering on the subject I understood fully well that every stage in life we get to or every part we experience teaches us something that will be needful in the coming years. With the euphoria of this newly acquired knowledge, I decided to look back and see if truly have learnt one or two lessons from the year 2016 and here began my adventure to revisit my school of thought.

The teacher employed in my school of thought decided to do a quick revision on the lessons learnt during the ‘2016 value-adding session’; he reminded me how in our quest for change, we could no longer afford, the demands Change was pushing to us. It seemed as if the change we were clamoring for was going to be our own demise but we still hanged to the hope of a better Nigeria. From this lesson I learnt “Change is not in a person’s words but in a nation’s mindset”.

He also highlighted the stress we went through trying to keep the virus of recession from eating holes into our money bag. The word ‘recession’ is on every lips whenever you try buying something below the fixed price or when you call home for reimbursement or when you even board a cab. The poor now believes it is a distant cousin that has now decided to come pay them a visit, the rich believes it is an opportunity that can be exploited to their advantage while the government believes it is a period to sell our assets. Yet with this, many are not affected by this virus because they have skills, they have added value and they have wisely utilize it to stay at the top of the food chain. I learnt from this topic that “recession is also an opportunity depending on your viewing point”.

He further explained how we were caught in the crossfire when trying to fight for what was supposed to be our right as students (reparation saga). We tried speaking out so our voices would be heard but we only ended up talking but with no sound emerging out of our mouth, we fought hard but only succeeded in beating ourselves hard in the back. I could not forget how this experience caused a university that runs two semester in a session to automatically have a third session. In this topic I learnt something important and valuable, which is; “You can’t fight a brand until you are one”.

One lesson I won’t forget is that of the President of our great nation Nigeria. Tracing back time to his interview with a news media. I remember what he said about his wife ‘belonging to the kitchen and the other room’. This harmless phrase took a toll on the social media and it was rephrased in different ways that almost could paint him as a conspirator in the discrimination of the female gender. From this short lesson I grabbed a great deal of life essentials which is; “Talk is cheap, so don’t waste it blabbing around”.

Furthermore, a lesson that most Nigerians are still learning from is the advent of online schemes and platforms to increase wealth. I won’t say much on this but I learnt something critical to living life to the fullest which is; “Not everything that glitter is gold”

In order to manage time, other lessons were overlooked but my teacher emphasized one that cannot be ignored which is the election of the “world president” as everyone has accepted them to be. Despite the distance of the country in question from the shores of my fatherland, I could see the impact of whosoever emerges on education, standard of living, technology and terrorism. I learnt two lessons from this topic, which is; “influence is a proof of greatness” and “there is no resting until you cross the finish line”.

Despite the failures and success in this year, I was made to believe that the panacea to most of the failures in the year 2016 is centered on adequate planning and willingness to accept that life is a process and must be followed one step at a time. Before my teacher relinquishes his role, he stated clearly that the central theme in the 2017 impact-full session will be more of value-adding activities and spiritual growth.

Stepping out of the adventures my thoughts took me on, I remembered the words of a wise man: “Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out”.

  • Orebanwo Adewale is a fresh graduate from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. He is a leader with a core value in human capital development. He is a creative writer and a prolific speaker. He can be reached via Email:orebanwoadewale@gmail.com or through +2347063643099. He can also be followed on Instagram: @orebs_adex.

Before it is too late: My 2nd epistle to Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri – David Iyofor

My Dear Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri,

If you are astonished that I am writing you a second letter so soon, barely 24 hours after I lovingly admonished you in my first epistle to you, kindly pardon me.

I do not mean to belabour you with this letter (it’s not like you have anything else to do with your life, anyway). Your response early Tuesday morning to my first letter was so mortifying. It’s only pertinent I write you a second one. Again, I crave your indulgence and I would try not to take too much of your time.

Before I delve into the issues you raised, actually you didn’t raise any, all you did in that utterly disgusting piece you wrote was to attack, abuse, insult and call minister of transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, all sorts of denigrating names. And this is the crux of my worry for you, brother Wendell Simlin.

I am deeply troubled by your state of mind. You were intensely bitter and obsessed with infinite sadness. Your words were ominously dark, your thoughts deviously vengeful, replete with so much bile, unbelievable and unbridled anger as you displayed a debilitating self-destructive hate. I am afraid you may have completely lost it.

Whoever spews that kind of garbage you wrote truly and urgently needs help, psychiatric and perhaps spiritual help. It’s far more worrisome and urgent when that person is a duplicitous character with multiple identities, who boldly puts “pastor”, like a moniker in front of one of his multiple names. That piece was a clarion urgent call for help by Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri.

I took you on, exposed your lies, fake news and multiple fake personalities, but you left the issues and went after Amaechi who has always completely ignored your endless hateful and vengeful attacks on him. Yours is a classical case of been beaten by Mr. A but you left Mr. A to go after Mr. B who has always ignored you. I know you crave a fight with Rotimi Amaechi, for him to trade words with you; sorry to burst your bubble – that will never happen.

You avoided the issues I raised in my first letter and refused to respond to the questions I asked, but rather took the highway of the mundane and the ridiculous.

You wrote two paragraphs, yes two paragraphs on the clothes Amaechi wears as if Amaechi’s fashion style will answer the question of whether the then Central Bank of Nigeria governor, the same Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that you faked documents to demonise, wrote a letter to your boss and idol, that $49 billion cannot be accounted for and so was missing from NNPC account and not paid to the federation account? Come on! If you really think that Nigerians care more about how ill-fitting or well-fitting Amaechi’s clothes are than their missing billions of dollars, then your problems are far more profound than I had ever imagined.

Like a buffoon, overly excited new zookeeper, you childishly and unintelligibly wrote about lions, monkeys, lizards and alligators but no sane person could fathom how that answers the question of why you created a fake document and circulated fake news that sought to portray our former Central Bank Governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as a sponsor of terrorism; shamelessly and callously using the name of your brother-In-law’s innocent young son, Wendell Simlin to demonize Sanusi? Brother Wendell, was it because Sanusi had the guts and courage to write the letter of the missing $49 billion to your god and idol?

You gleefully wrote about Amaechi’s supposed potbelly and eating habits, but how does that answer the question of whether Amaechi lied when he said your god and idol did not save money in spite of the huge savings he inherited from previous administrations and was surreptitiously spending alone the money meant for federal, states and local government councils?

Was Amaechi lying when he said your principal’s administration refused to call national economic council meetings for about two years, in contravention of the constitution, so that the central administration you were part of, can covertly continue to spend unilaterally, the money meant for the three tiers of government; and that was why State Governors took the federal government to court to share the proceeds from the excess crude account(ECA)?

My dear Reno, regularly billions of our money in naira and other currencies are been recovered from operatives of your principal’s past administration; yet you want us to believe that Sanusi was wrong when he wrote that billions of Nigeria’s money was missing. You must really think we are all fools and daft.

You went on to say a whole lot of balderdash that were neither coherent nor made any sense. You blabbed continuously, throwing up and joining diverse and different items that are entirely unrelated. Severally, you presented alternative facts as facts and wrote fake news as news. Significantly, all these were done in a very incoherent and disjointed manner, which tells a lot about the state of your mind. I do not intend to dignify baloney and contemptible behaviour by responding to them.

There is a saying in my village that when translated, literarily means one do not wait for his brother to remove clothes and run stark naked in the market before you acknowledge that he is going mad when the signs are all obvious. That incoherent tirade against Rotimi Amaechi by Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri is an obvious cry for help. Family, friends and well-wishers (if you still have any) urgently need to rescue you from this self-destructive voyage of hate, bitterness, anger and misplaced vengeance against Rotimi Amaechi before it is too late.

 

Iyofor wrote from Abuja

Osinbajo struggles to not outshine sluggish, bumbling Buhari – By Chinedu Ekeke

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is struggling not to be seen to outshine his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, whose sluggish approach to governance has rallied critics against him and frustrated supporters in his nearly two years of exercising presidential powers.

Buhari is currently in the United Kingdom attending to an undisclosed ailment, although his handlers insist the president is hale and hearty, only receiving a much-needed rest. But the president made an abrupt departure to the UK on January 19, even though a letter he transmitted to the National Assembly to that effect indicated he was going to commence a 10-day leave on January 23. He left before the date he indicated he would leave. The speed of his departure raised concerns about his health.

However, in the same letter, the president handed over to his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo, a wonky professor of law who served as Attorney General in Lagos state for eight years. After the ten days the president had sought, he again wrote to the legislature, this time seeking an indefinite extension of his stay abroad.

Within the period the president has been away, Osinbajo carried on with the basic tasks of governance, tasks which have earned him accolades home and abroad. First, Osinbajo recognized the right of people to freely assemble for protests and acknowledged that on February 6th when Nigerians protested in different cities against the hardship brought upon them by the country’s current economic recession. He told protesters that the government heard them ‘loud and clear’.

Under Buhari’s watch, the Nigerian Military, described recently by Transparency International as ‘Human Rights Abusers’ killed scores of peaceful protesters seeking an Independent State of Biafra in the South East. Many public affairs commentators are of the view that if Buhari was around at the time of the February 6th protests, there might have been incidents of brutality from security agencies.

Osinbajo also sent the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the National Assembly for confirmation. Onnoghen was sworn in as acting CJN on November 10, 2016, by Buhari, even though the National Judicial Council (NJC) had long forwarded his name to the president as the next in line to replace then outgoing CJN Justice Mahmud Mohammed. The NJC recommendation was in line with tradition that the most senior justice of the Supreme Court at the time of the retirement of a sitting CJN takes over. The president did not forward Onnoghen’s name to the legislature. No reason was given for the action.

As his three months acting period was going to elapse, many citizens began to agitate about the delay in converting the judge to a substantive CJN. The presidency quickly packaged a line of defence, claiming security agencies were carrying out a background check on Onnoghen. But many understood the background check could have also been carried out soon after the NJC recommendation, while Justice Mohammed was still the CJN.

But that sluggishness is in tune with Buhari’s known modus operandi in governance. It took him nearly six months to assemble a cabinet after inauguration, even though he had two months between when he won the presidential election and when he took oath of office.

Currently, only three out of Nigeria’s 36 states have resident electoral commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yet Nigeria has just about two years to another general elections. Those vacant posts need to be filled with presidential appointments. That has not been done., and no reason has been given for leaving the posts vacant.

Exactly a year ago, Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi died in a ghastly accident on his way from Kaduna to Abuja. The president is yet to nominate a replacement for him. In Nigeria’s constitution, each state should produce a Federal Minister. Failure to replace Ocholi means Kogi state doesn’t have its fair share of representation at the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The Vice President also undertook tours to the Niger-Delta states where he interacted with the people, speaking frankly to them about government’s desire to develop their communities and make life easier for them.  The visit to the region was in search of lasting peace to the perennial crisis of insurgency that has stalled development in that part. Some leaders of the region said after the VP’s well received visit, that such visitation was all the people of the region yearned for, just to be involved in their own affairs.

Prior to his medical vacation, President Buhari had remained holed up in Aso Villa, visiting only about five states in nearly two years. Part of the states he visited were Edo, for campaign and Ondo, also for campaign. APC, the president’s party, contested for the governorship seats in the two states. He however did visit 35 countries since his inauguration.

On the economic front, Vice President Osinbajo presided over the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting wherein it was agreed that $250 million be injected into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was advised to adjust its forex policy. Subsequently, the apex bank came up with an action plan, and also released $371 million into the inter-bank market. Less than 48 hours after, the naira, which was exchanging for about N510 to a dollar crashed to between N400 and N450.

Since the appreciation of the Naira, Osinbajo’s stock has risen before Nigerians, and many of Buhari’s critics have publicly joked that the president remains abroad permanently since it seems his Vice is doing better.

But the Office of the Vice President which, initially, was out to promote the VP’s competence seems to have recoiled as it is increasingly appearing like more Nigerians prefer Osinbajo’s style of leadership. This became quite pronounced in a press statement sent out by Osinbajo’s Media Aide on Monday.

Unlike before when the headline would name the Vice President’s action, Laolu Akande’s Press Release headline shouted, “BUHARI PRESIDENCY ACTIVATES $20B OGIDIGBEN GAS INDUSTRIAL PROJECT”. In place of “Buhari Presidency”, FG (Federal Government) could have been apt for the headline. But observers read what the news release was designed to achieve: remind citizens that the presidency was still Buhari’s.

The statement went lengths to inform readers how President Buhari instructed the VP to embark on the Niger-Delta tours. It reads in part; “Before he went on vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the Vice President to embark on visits to oil-producing communities to demonstrate the resolve of this administration to the pursuit of a new vision for the Niger Delta.”

Yet critics have wondered why the President could not personally embark on the tour in nearly two years which he’s been on the saddle, if he considered the visitation important.

The Presidency has since struggled to spin the narrative that Buhari and Osinbajo are on a joint ticket. Special Adviser to President Buhari on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, said what Nigerians are seeing under Osinbajo’s temporary leadership reflects the maturity of government policies implemented earlier. He blasted those he called ‘mischief makers’ for promoting divisive tendencies in the government. Ojudu said; “The same people who said we never had economic team, no policy, nothing are the ones saying this. “It is now that the policies we are implementing are maturing and they are seeing the result. It is not a question of one person being better than the other person.

“There is nothing that has been done since the Vice-President started acting that is not something that started far back in the past. A good example is the Niger Delta initiative.

“The President called the Vice-President and said ‘I am giving you the mandate, go into the Niger Delta and meet with everyone who is a stakeholder, all the communities, talk to the militants and make sure you solve this problem for the benefits of Nigerians.’

“We are losing 1.2 million barrels of oil per day, all the gas pipelines powering the turbines are being blown up. And the President has said unless and until we resolve this problem we will not get out of recession. The VP took up the mandate and went to the Niger Delta, it is the initiative of Mr. President not that of the Vice-President.

“These are mischief makers, those who do not wish this country well, who are always promoting crisis, who will not allow the people to benefit from this democracy. They are the ones promoting this kind of divisive tendencies” the presidential aide said.

But analysts say service delivery is idiosyncratic and dependent on the individual involved. In Osinbajo, the nation is witnessing a leader who identifies with everyone, including states politically opposed to his party, whereas in Buhari, the nation saw a leader who insisted on only addressing issues affecting constituencies he considers politically friendly.

OOTC: Why I am an entrepreneur in the business of nation building (2) – Chude Jideonwo

Then there is the long-term advantage – and this is the more important one for the future of our nation: what roles can business thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit play in reshaping the Nigerian society?

To answer, you may first ask the more fundamental questions: what is the role of business, and how can business deploy its unique capacities to transform Nigeria in a way that civil society and public office has yet failed to do up until now?

The tragedy of capitalism has been that, business, a beautiful thing that – like other organs of society – is supposed to contribute to the building of the nation, has been narrowed to a vehicle solely for profit.

This is an aberration. Profit is the engine of business, but this engine has purpose: the purpose is to surrender to the discipline of the market, so that that it is forced to innovate, to iterate, to adapt; to respond to the world as it is, and make it into what it can be.

Nigeria’s problem, caused by its poor leadership is, at the base of it, a collapse of order, of the systems and the architecture that provides sustained value. It is a complete failure of systems thinking.

This is where entrepreneurs thrive. In the absence of systems, they create them. Where people look and see darkness, they see opportunity. From the stones of failure, they map out value. They bring order to chaos, and replace waste with profit.

Others see red tape, and the entrepreneur sees a virgin market; they see pioneer status, and they see first mover advantages.

Unfortunately, in response to this abundance of opportunity our country’s challenges throw up, what have a new breed of businessmen and women been focused on?

More e-commerce companies. As if we live in a different reality from the rest of our nation.

Is Nigeria’s problem the lack of yet another online mall, or is it a collapse of basic infrastructure, the social fabric and the demonstrable power of good governance?

Why are we so dedicated to solving the problems we do not have, when the problems that we have demand urgent solutions? Why are we dead-set on replicating solutions designed for other climes with different sets of challenges, when we have enough of our own?

It is to this voice that entrepreneurs must turn their gifts.

So the question is: how can we apply the fundamentals of business strategy, and the underlying demands of creating a national competitive advantage to regenerating our country?

The challenge is stark. We need investors and creators in health care, human resources, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, in entertainment and across sectors who can get right to the task of building solutions that will actually make governance work, and work for the people.

We have tried to work around governance as entrepreneurs – and all it has done is enriched our pockets while leaving us in an unsafe country with decrepit hospitals.

We have successful businesses all around us now, but what has their narrow focus on making profits done for us as a people – how has the massive shareholder value they have created helped move Nigeria to where it can be? Desperate times call for innovation.

This is where companies like StateCraft are proud to step in – its key product line being people-power; and, when this product line works at optimum, electoral victory.

Thankfully, it is not alone. Andela is solving the problem of our national human resource gap, BudgIT is solving the problem of corruption via access to government data, and my favourite company LifeBank is tackling head on the urgent life-and-death issue of providing blood for the many who need it in emergency situations.

Some of the companies above have not yet, like us, found a business model that drives their economic engine (i.e. who will pay for this product/service continuously), but it is a shame that many of them remain afloat today not by the urgency of Nigerian investment, but by the charity of foreign visionaries like the Zuckerberg-Chan Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

Nigeria has a blood bank problem. Unlike South Africa that meets its donor needs on a volunteer basis, we only survive based on paying people for blood, and yet we are functioning at below 10 percent capacity, according to Temie Giwa, who founded LifeBank.

To solve this problem, she has decided to run a business, to ensure sustainability. That business functions as an enterprise marketplace for hospitals and blood banks, helping clients source for the best blood and blood products that patients need and delivering the product to patients on time, via an inventory of all the blood available in the country at any time.

She needs the financial runway to keep thinking until she arrives at a business model. But where are the helpers? Where are the investors?

Giwa’s business is literally – literally – saving lives. But she cannot scale yet because local investors are still stuck in an old, warped paradigm where saving lives is something separate from the demands of successful business.

This has to end. Old models must be overturned, old paradigms discarded, and traditional boundaries pushed forward – those lines that separate corporate social responsibility from the core of a business or that isolate advocacy from the core idea of what business should stand for.

Those are false lines, they are lines drawn by the selfish and the insular who have inverted the beauty of capitalism and distorted the pure idea of corporate value.

Business, like any other organ cannot, and in a new world should no longer, be separated from the public good.

Business, like other pillars of society – clergy, civil society – can and should stand in the gap where government has failed, driving social good, and expanding social value. The imperative is not to focus on profits as end for itself, but for profits to be incentive for innovation and creating the future.

It is possible.

Now, of course I understand the reluctance that business people traditionally have had for getting involved in the morass of Nigerian governance and its gaps.

Of course, you will face criticism, sometimes rabid, for problems you did not create and for solutions you are providing with purity of intention. Indeed, there is the great risk to be misunderstood in a deeply corrupt system, where profit is viewed as a dirty word, and self-interest is hardly enlightened.

And there will be those, caught in a cognitive dissonance, themselves disconnected from the imperatives of intervention, who will tell you that because you are in business, you have no business with building your nation.

But that is nonsense.

It is nonsense because whether activist or entrepreneur, painter or pastor, you are first and foremost a citizen – and it is immoral to focus only on protecting your business and winning contracts, feigning disinterest and blindness in nation desperate with need.

I was excited to convince one of the leading lights of the new entrepreneurial movement in Nigeria last year upon speaking at the Oxford Africa Business Conference.

“The first time I had the opportunity to speak to Chude of RED at length was at the Oxford Africa Business conference in May. It was a very pleasant conversation. At least, so I thought,” wrote the founder of iROKO TV, Jason Njoku, wrote after that talk. “Literally 20 mins later, he called me and mine cowards in front of 100+ people. That’s hyperbole. He didn’t call me personally a coward per se.

“He railed against all those men (and women) of means in Lagos who live in their gilded cages. Flaunting their prosperity, who speed past the problems of the masses. In a country where someone’s monthly salary is the same as an expensive meal on the Island. That those of means had a moral responsibility to do something about it.”

So yes, it is nonsense for anyone to tell you to mind your business. It is your moral responsibility to mind your country, too.

It is also nonsense because you have a unique talent, gift and proposition – the entrepreneurial, outcome-focused thinking that is crucial for a country of many problems.

And, most importantly, it is nonsense because the nation badly, desperately needs you.

At times of luxury, we can all afford the luxury of being part time citizens. But in a country so damaged, we surely cannot afford the luxury of disconnect, and we cannot rely on tradition and convention.

We need activist judges, activist academics, activist celebrities, activist lawyers, activist media, activist government officials (see former United States Attorney General, Sally Yates standing up to Trump or former Nigerian minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili being called ‘NADECO’ in the Obasanjo government), and we need activist businessmen and women.

At times like these, when governments have proven themselves incapable of doing the jobs they have been asked to do, it is time for a different type of thinking from other organs of functioning society.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg unleashed what I call his magnum opus on how he sees the world and the role of business in that world.

Facebook, according to him, is not just a technology tool to upload photos and publish videos. It is an instrument to remake society.

Facebook, as Vox.com put it in a review of Zuckerberg’s essay, is poised to be a platform on which to build a global civil society, crating a service that encourages communities and cooperation and political participation on a translational scale.

In short, Facebook is not just in business to make money, even though money is crucially important. Facebook is, cliché or not, in the business of changing the world; providing alternatives that address the limitations of governments and civil society.

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present,” Abraham Lincoln sagely reminds us. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, act anew.”

This is the kind of challenge that a new world poses to the inventiveness and innovation of businessmen and women.

And, for Nigeria and much of Africa, it is a desperately urgent call.

We can choose to answer it.

Or we can wait until this whole thing comes crashing down, on all of us, destroying the illusions of safety that we have, and the broken-down society that we have chosen to ignore.

I wonder what will happen to all those shareholder profits if that day and time comes.

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance consulting firm, StateCraft Inc (www.statecraftinc.com). Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

JJ Omojuwa: NOA, Big Brother Naija and the National Hypocrisy Commission

The other day, the Director General, National Orientation Agency, Dr. Garba Abari, speaking, said: “A significant percentage of our younger ones will not even remember that Nigeria is the original name of our country” as he pushed for Nigerians to stop calling the country Naija.

I engaged Mr. Olateju Oyelakin, the ace comedian popularly known as Teju Baby Face, just before his interview with Garba, two weeks ago in Lagos. I wanted him to take up the DG on why the NOA acts like it is set up to propagate agendas in the interest of the party in power instead of a national agenda that defies the interests of whoever is president per time or whatever party is at the centre. Mike Omeri, the immediate past DG of NOA, ran the organisation like it was the media and propaganda arm of the last government. If the NOA is 90 per cent dead and irrelevant, Omeri, in my opinion,  contributed 89 per cent of that. But the current DG, while seemingly now interested in an agenda that is about our collective interest has started off by missing the point completely. This is a big example in how to miss the point. Calling Nigeria Naija is not the issue.

Small Lesotho is defined as The Kingdom In The Sky; picture-esque Madagascar is also called The Red Island; Rwanda is called the Land of a Thousand Hills and South Africa is the Rainbow Nation. The United States is Uncle Sam; Chile is the land of Poets; Iceland is the Land of Fire and Ice; what is Nigeria? We do not know at the moment! Someone should tell Mr. DG that Nigeria will always be officially Nigeria, that it is okay to funkify it into “Naija” for cool points, that there is nothing wrong with that, because Naija is part of our identity now and our younger ones will not have issues remembering ‘Nigeria’ because the older ones know when to use Nigeria and when to use Naija. Or are the teachers in their schools now teaching them ‘How the British Colonised Naija’ now? Or the “Constitutional Development of Naija from 1914 to 1999” is a topic now? Please! Let us not try to justify the existence of the National Orientation Agency because really, it is free to die if it can’t find a reason for it to be funded.

Another recent Nigerian anomaly is the Big Brother Nigeria. Nigerians are asking tough questions about the reality show but we are mostly asking the wrong question as usual. We are complaining about the so-called immorality being espoused by the show as though whatever is being reflected in the show is not a telling reality in Nigeria. Or is it our usual, ‘it is okay to do bad, but at least keep it in the house’ mentality? The show is rated 18, it means that before you commit to watching it, you must know that there is a likelihood that there will be pictures and sounds that should not be fed children and teenagers. If you, an adult, then goes ahead to watch it, only to complain about immorality, sorry, you are a hypocrite. And it is impossible for your kids to feed on it consistently, if you, the parent or guardian is not also binging on it. Back at school, their friends with the abnormal liberty to watch anything on TV in their own homes can tell them stories about what went down but the chances of your kids seeing a lot of Big Brother Naija without you seeing a lot of it yourself is pretty low!

If you want to make change happen in a system, fighting against the prevailing reality is not your best bet. Life comes with contradictions; such that, the more you fight certain things, the more people want to indulge in it. To make change happen, you have to offer an alternate reality. Let people have a competing choice. I’d rather schoolchildren tune in to Cowbellpedia Mathematics Quiz competition instead of Big Brother. But if you as the parent continues to complain about the show you don’t want the children to see while completely ignoring the one you want them to see, you’d have made the un-preferred the popular. We shouldn’t always be about what we do not want; we should always pay more attention to what we want. If you want better content than whatever goes on in Big Brother House, create it; if you can’t create it, propagate what someone else has created it. We are a country of some 170 million people; some of us cannot decide what the rest of us watch in our homes. Let people choose what they want to feed their eyes on. Until the Federal Government sets up the National Moral Police Force, the National Hypocrisy Commission must keep its cosmetic morality to itself.

On the issue of the show being hosted in South Africa, here is another misplaced anger. Where is our recuperating President currently being hosted? Where do private jet owners in Lagos prefer to park their jets due to the expensive cost of parking them in Lagos? Ghana! Where do our political thieves save their stolen money when not saving it andreyakubucally? Anywhere but Nigeria. Where do the rich send their kids for studies? The US, UK, UAE, Malaysia etc. Where do the not so rich Nigerians send their kids when they can’t afford private universities here? Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Sudan etc. Where do our fruits often come from? Benin Republic. If most Nigerians had a choice, where do you think they’d rather be? You know the answer. Let us stop pretending about our reality. Life in Nigeria is hard and tough, the more we pretend about the effects of this reality, the more we ask the wrong questions. Big Brother Naija will cost the organisers a lot more to host in Nigeria because they’d need an extra budget to power the house for starters and they’d need to move several hi-tech equipment over; they’d need to house the technical team in expensive hotels after finding it pretty tough to get them visas and while at that, they’d need to protect them from the now ubiquitous kidnappers.

Patriotism is a beautiful ideal and you cannot say President Buhari is not a patriotic man. But you see, when it comes to life and death issues, when it comes to making rational decisions like, “what kind of education do I want my children to get?”; “when it comes to ‘what’s the best holiday my money can afford?”, patriotism often takes a humble seat, because it knows enough to know that it is not built on a vacuum. It is built on a two way street; your country cannot ask patriotism of you if it does not even care enough whether you are dead or alive. Or do we now know the names of the thousands of people killed by Boko Haram? Do we have the names of all the citizens killed extrajudicially? Let us even start by protecting lives and property then go a step further by dignifying the dead whenever we fall short of protecting citizens.

One day, we can justifiably wonder how irrational a company can be; to leave Nigeria where it is much easier and cheaper to host a world class show, then take it to another country that offers less value at a more expensive price. Because you know what? Big Brother is not a charity show; it is a business. The winner gets N25m and an SUV. You can bet though, the organisers make at least that amount via the daily voting to keep housemates in the house. Then, do the numbers for the 11 or so weeks it gets to run for, do the numbers for the advertising and then the numbers for the partners. Why is no one asking why Big Brother Naija is hardly even a Nigerian idea. It is just a foreign idea being served to a Nigerian audience using Nigerian ingredients. We can do better as a country but we must start by deciding to get angry at the right things. And people.

This piece was originally published in Punch newspaper of 01/03/2017. Republished here with permission.

The ‘Nigeria prays for Buhari’ competition – By Reuben Abati

After the publication of my column last week, titled “I want to go to London… to see Buhari”, I received a lot of feedback from persons who were either amused or dead serious that they had been overlooked in my compilation of the list of persons who should go to London.

One fellow asked:

“Abati, you left out the Miyetti Allah and the cattle herders of Nigeria.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, they too will like to go to London”

“With due respect, to go and herd cattle?”

“No, to visit the President and reassure him about the welfare of his cattle”

“My friend, are we talking about cattle or the health of Mr. President?”

“We are talking about everything and anything that can ensure the President’s speedy recover.”

“Speedy recovery!”

“Speedy recover!”

“My friend, it is speedy recovery, not speedy recover!”

“That is your problem. You spend too much time worrying about grammar and big words you don’t oftentimes know what to do. Look at you, you even left out local government chairmen. You left out an important organization like ALGON, the umbrella body of local government chairmen. You also did not insist that there should be a special resolution of the National Assembly in both chambers authorizing that a formal joint delegation should be sent to London to see the President, instead of the Senate President and the Speaker sneaking to London, behind every one else’s back.”

Candidly, I didn’t know what to say.  But just about then, I received a text message and a phone call.

“Abati”
“Yes?”

“I don’t like that your article. An old man is ill, and you are mocking him with your pen.”

“No. You are misreading the article.  That is not my message. I understand that a President is a human being. No President has supernatural immunity. It is not unusual for any human being to have a medical challenge.”

“I didn’t get that message. You sounded like you were having fun, with your article dripping with cruel sarcasm. You have to be careful how you come across.  You were just busy throwing yabis up and down. Are you Fela?”

“Calm down. My point is that the President’s stay in London should not become an opportunity for eye service, which is the biggest enterprise in Nigeria. Before you know it now, everybody will start trooping to London to see the President, and that will create too many leaking buckets, a lot of waste. I tried to use the vehicle of humour and laughter to ridicule and stop that.”

“I have said my own. Maybe you should re-read the article. When they decide to do something about you, don’t just say your friends abandoned you. If you want to be a stand up comedian, make up your mind.  But this one that every time you carry your pen, you’ll start making jest of serious national matters in the name of writing, well, na you sabi oh.”

No writer should be placed under pressure to explain his own message.  Language is invariably embodied, iconic, symbolic, semiotic and hence open to interpretations relative to levels of perception.  So, I gave up on that conversation. But I was vindicated a few days ago. Another friend called, also anxious to discuss the most important subject in Nigeria today: President Buhari’s health and absence.

“Ore, ki la ri wi, ki l’on sele, ewo lewo, omo boy”

“Abati”

“How are you?”

“Have you noticed something?”

“What?”

“Since you wrote that article on your plan to go to London, people have stopped going to London or they have stopped them. When last did you see anybody posing for a photo opportunity with Sai Baba in front of Abuja house?”

”They are probably still going. London is Nigeria’s new Holy land. It may well just be that they are no longer publicizing the visits.”

“If there is no publicity, then very few people will go. A handshake with the President shown to all Nigerians, while the President is on medical exile, can open many doors for many people.”

“Medical exile. I like that phrase.”

“Forget that. I am not here to discuss grammar.  I have a business idea that I think we can discuss.  What you don’t know is that some people are already exploiting the business opportunities involved in Sai Baba’s absence.”

“How?”

“I pity you. The only thing you know is to speak and write English and lift your head to the clouds. You can’t smell business. The biggest business in Nigeria today is to be seen to be loyal to President Buhari.”

“I don’t quite get the business angle.”

“This is my proposal, then. We have to do something.  In this season of recession, you have to think creatively. That is the best way to beat recession. We also have to organize a solidarity rally or a prayer session for Buhari.”

“How is that a business?”

“Very strategic business”

“How?”

“First things first. Do you think all the people who have been organizing rallies and prayer sessions are doing it for fun, or free of charge, or for love?”

“I am aware that they are doing it out of love for the President. They have all said they wish him well. They are praying for his good health and for the well-being of the nation.”

“Is that why there is so much competition to pray for Buhari, then?”

“What I am aware of is that prayer sessions have been held in parts of the country, in Kano by the Governor, and the Emir, in Kaduna by the state Governor and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), In Katsina state, where 50, 000 youths gathered in Daura under the umbrella of the Buhari Youth Congress for Change.  In Nasarawa, Muslim faithful from 13 local councils and 18 development units spent 4 hours praying in Lafia. Security was even provided by the Nigerian Army, the Police, the Civil Defence Corps and other government agencies.  The same thing happened in Kwara State, and Jigawa where the state chapter of the Jama’atul Nasril Islam also conducted prayers.”

“I am glad you have been following the trend.”

“You should trust me. Let me also tell you that all mosques across the North have been placed in a prayer mode, under strict instructions from the Sultan. Not even the private sector is left out: The Pyramid Radio Mosque in Kano held a prayer session for Buhari, attended by over 200 Muslim faithful.”

“And you still don’t see the business opportunity in all of this?”

“No. My only concern is that Nigeria is a secular state. The Constitution says so. When we begin to involve the state in prayer sessions, we are violating the law.”

“Leave that matter. The Constitution says we are a secular state. It does not say the people must not pray for their leaders.”

“Not quite so”

“I beg. Let’s talk business. See, I have a business proposal in my head. We can beat all these people to it. Instead of all these, small, small, prayers-for-Buhari that they are organizing, we can have a grand prayer rally, at every stadium in this country.  I know people who can link me up with all the big Pastors and Imams in Nigeria, and every week till President Buhari returns, we can have inter-denominational prayer rallies and vigils from one state to another.”

“But where is the business in that?”

“We will buy tickets, keep people in hotels, organize transportation from every local government to the state capital, we will put money in envelopes, pay for venues, provide refreshment, and we will ensure we surpass the prayers warriors of Nasarawa who prayed for only four hours. We will make our own 8 hours. We will also involve evangelical musicians and prayer warriors. These prayers don’t come cheap or free.”

“How? Where will the money come from?”

“I can’t give you all the details. You see this my head, it is full of business but to give you an idea, we will get the state governors and local chairmen involved, corporate Nigeria and SMEs will also be mobilized. They will bring money. They won’t want to be seen to be opposing prayer sessions for the President. They too will understand the business implications.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You still don’t get it? What don’t you get?  Can’t you see that even the People’s Democratic Party and all their Governors are also talking about holding prayer sessions for the President? Last year, when the President went for an ear infection vacation, the PDP – Governors, National Assembly members and other stakeholders held a prayer session. This year, with the President now on medical exile in London, the PDP is planning an even bigger prayer session from Delta state to Bayelsa to Ekiti. Fayose who once predicted that the President would fall sick is now a Buhari prayer warrior. Bet with me, the way this thing is going, you would wake up one day and Fayose will hold a prayer rally in Ado Ekiti. I know what I am talking about.”

“I don’t know. So, why are you telling me?”

“You know people. You can provide relevant contacts and we can get this thing done.”

“But what if you don’t make any money?”

“We can’t fail.  The business model in my head cannot fail. People are making gains already. Everything is not money. The President made a phone call to the Governor of Kano while a prayer session was going on at the Government House in Kano. Just 300 Imams and Islamic scholars oh, but the Governor made sure the phone call was broadcast live on all local radio stations in Kano state. Calculate the cost of that in business terms.  An ordinary phone call from President Buhari at this time is worth its weight in gold. Since that phone call to Governor Ganduje, other state Governors have been falling over themselves to organize prayer sessions.  The Governors of Katsina, Kebbi and Gombe have also received their own phone calls.”

“I am confused.”

“You will soon get it. The day we succeed in organizing our own prayer session, with over a million Nigerians, I will make sure President Buhari makes a direct, live telephone call to the stadium.  He will mention the names of Governors, CEOs, VIPs, media executives, and the whole thing will be on skype, whatsapp, snap chat, instagram, you tube, live streaming.  And the prayers will go straight to heaven, because we will make sure we invite only those pastors and imams who have been saying they have direct telephones to God.”

“There are such religious leaders in this country?”

“Yes”
“But you seem to have left out the diviners, the aborigines, the herbalists…”

“Sai Baba is a devout Muslim. We can’t bring such people to the public domain, but we’d find a way of providing for them. We’d give them cows, rams, goats, clothes, palm oil, kolanuts, alligator pepper… and they will pray and be happy in their underground covens.”

“And you, what will you do?”

“If Sai baba can just make that phone call, I will jump in the air and dance like Dekunle Ajokete.”

“But what if something goes wrong and the network connection fails. Or your phone runs out of battery.”

“A text message from Sai Baba will be just fine. If I get just that, Walahi, I will twerk publicly like Tiwa Savage.”

“Tiwa Savage? Does Mummy Jam Jam twerk also, with that her small 2G package? To twerk properly, you need 3G, 4G, or wifi Bakassi. What you are proposing sounds like Kwa-ra-pption.”

“Dey there. You think any judge will indict or convict anybody for praying for the President? Even the Judges may soon organize a prayer session for Buhari.”

“Let’s talk a bit more about this twerking business. “

“Get out. I am talking business; you are talking twerking! You have no business sense.”

Your Royal Highness, Where Do You Stand? – By Muhammad Karamba

The recent statement by His Royal Highness the Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanisu on his plan to ban the poorest of his citizens from practicing polygamy spiked arguments on social media, about the legitimacy of his call.

Pro-Polygamist claim he can’t strip them of their spiritual rights while some said it made perfect sense.

While I was pondering about the issue, a question struck my cord. Do the Royal Highnesses have the constitutional right to legislate?

Until the coming of colonial masters, Emirs were solely in charge of all the affairs of their people. They enjoyed a lot of praise and respect. They legislated, executed and judged.

However, the coming of the colonial masters changed something; it meant the Emirs were not totally in control anymore.

As the new nation (Nigeria) was coming up, the Emirs were gradually loosing there powers bit by bit until they were left with only the respect their people have for them.

Nothing beats being sincerely respected. However, we are in a different world now. Unfortunately (to the Royal fathers) people understand and know their rights. Going by our constitution, there are three arms of government.

The Executive, which is in charge of administration, the Legislator which gives laws and the Judiciary which enforces the laws. Where do our Royal fathers fit in the equation? Going by the little I understand, a Local government ward counselor has more constitutional power than a Royal father.

Emir Sanusi’s point is logical. But sometimes, especially when dealing with things that have to do with religion or belief, logic is the last thing you want to introduce. People want to practice as they have known it.

I am no Islamic scholar to know whether it’s the right call or not. But, in my opinion, there are lines our Royal fathers should not try to cross. Frankly, respect is all they have now and when they put themselves in situations where some citizens decide not to respect them, they might lose it all.

With all due respect to our Royal fathers, they should stay on course. They have been doing a good job but, legislation is not theirs; at least for the time being. They should continue to advise governments on what’s best for us. May God guide them and increase them in wisdom.

 

Muhammad Karamba

@Mukib_

A letter to Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri – By David Iyofor

My dear Wendell aka Reno,

I am not sure how to address you, whether to call you Reno Omokri or Wendell Smilin. This in itself is a fundamental problem. Your multiple identities send a profound message about your character and duplicitous personality.

For the benefit of those who may not remember, I crave your indulgence to remind them that Wendell Smilin is one of your multiple names, the fake name(like the fake opinion articles, replete with fake news you write), you used to create a fake document that sought to portray our former Central Bank Governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as a sponsor of terrorism in 2014 when you worked as the lead social media attack dog for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Your role was simple: disparage and demonize anyone who attempts to disagree with, and criticize, most times constructively, your principal. I have no qualms with how you decide to put food on your table. However, I quiver whenever I recall that you used and faked the name of your brother-In-law’s innocent young son, Wendell Simlin to demonize Emir Sanusi. Who does that? What kind of a human being are you? You’re at liberty to sell your conscience, soul and even your entire being (both physical and spiritual), for a mess of porridge; but must you drag the name of your innocent young relative into your mess?

Before I dig into your niggling obfuscating article- Time to question the pot bellied Amaechi’s sanity- on Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation (by the way, one of our finest administrators), again, indulge me to make a confession. I sometimes sympathize with you, especially during the early days after you and your principal were unceremoniously and shockingly (to you) voted out of Aso Rock Villa; no thanks to Rotimi Amaechi and other gallant democrats. I imagined your abysmal pain, your colossal loss, and the awful, dreadful end to your Aso Rock meal ticket; and tried to situate your profound angst, uncontrollable anger and intense hatred for Rotimi Amaechi because of the key role he played (which was noble) in dislodging your principal, which inadvertently took away your source of livelihood. Honestly, I tried to understand how you felt and that made it less difficult to ignore your early meaningless and nonsensical vituperations against Amaechi. But for how long will you stay angry and mad at Amaechi for playing a key role in the removal of your boss? As a pastor (that is one prefix in front of one of your names I can’t seem to wrap my head around), you ought to know that the Bible tells Christians not to hold a grudge or stay angry. In your case it’s been such a long time-almost two years after your principal lost the Presidential election.

My dear Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri, your recent tirade, like the previous ones targeted at Rotimi Amaechi clearly signposts a dark vengeful heart. You called Amaechi a ‘confirmed liar’ and questioned his sanity; while the reality is that you are the one who had consistently lied and is still lying to Nigerians, faking documents and faking news to deceive Nigerians.

Tell me where, when and how Amaechi lied? Did Amaechi lie when he said recently in the interview with some national newspapers that the then CBN(Central Bank of Nigeria) governor, the same Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that you faked documents to demonized, wrote a letter to your principal our then President, that $49 billion cannot be accounted for and so was missing from NNPC account and not paid to the federation account?

Was it because Sanusi had the guts and courage to write the letter of the missing $49 billion to your principal that made you fake documents and social media accounts that designed to portray Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as a sponsor of terrorists?

Was Amaechi lying when he said in the same interview that if the missing billions of dollars were deployed for developmental projects by your principal’s administration, the infrastructural gap we suffer today won’t be this huge and half of the missing money is enough to build the rail projects we are now going to borrow money from China for?

Did Amaechi lie when he said your principal did not save money in spite of the huge savings he inherited from previous administrations and was surreptitiously spending alone the money meant for Federal, States and Local Government Councils? Was Amaechi lying when he said your principal’s administration refused to call NEC (National Economic Council) meetings for about two years, in violation of the constitution, so that the administration you were part of, can covertly continue to spend the money meant for the three tiers of government?

Does it not trouble you that there seems to be an obvious link between the missing billions Sanusi Lamido Sanusi wrote about to your principal and the billons of naira and other currencies that were allegedly squandered on frivolities like the N2 billion supposedly given to marabouts to pray for your principal’s election victory or the N4 billion for propaganda work and many others? How do you even sleep at night?

You say Amaechi lied and no money was missing; yet billions in Naira and other currencies are being recovered regularly from top operatives of your principal’s administration.

You even went as low as writing that Amaechi consistently betrays his benefactors without mentioning one benefactor he betrayed; and the accusations from matters that are in court. How low can you go?

While you questioned the sanity of Amaechi, many Nigerians feel pity for you and know that you are the one who needs psychiatric and perhaps spiritual help. You are like a mad man in the market square that points his fingers at sane people, calling them mad. The Amaechi I know will not apologize for the prominent role he played to remove your boss from the Villa. Your principal is gone and gone for good; perhaps, he may never return to Aso Rock as its landlord. No amount of demonizing Amaechi would reverse this. The earlier you get over the loss, the better for you, mentally and otherwise, Wendell Simlin aka Reno Omokri.

Iyofor wrote from Abuja

Guardian: Saying bye to the Danfo in Lagos.

The desire to give Lagos a world-class transportation system apparently informed the recent disclosure by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that he intends to remove the yellow mini-buses popularly called Danfo from the city’s roads by the end of the year. The Danfo experience in Lagos is a cocktail of sadness and joy. But there is no denying that the city deserves better and the government’s plan is in order.

Daily, commuters go through hell in the hands of miscreant Danfo drivers and their assistants who molest, assault and even rob at will. Ambode’s move should therefore be encouraged if only to curb hooliganism and touting, as well as sanitise intra-city transportation.

Although, Danfo has, over the years, become an integral part of Lagos city transport, phasing them out would create a more decent environment befitting of a modern city. But apart from the mini-buses, the menace of tricycles and motorcyclists should, at the same time, be looked into with a view to phasing them out too.

He explained the significance of the infrastructural projects his administration had been executing in strategic sectors of Lagos economy, noting that they were directed at up-scaling the status of the state.

According to him, the establishment of massive lay-bys, rehabilitation of inner-city roads and construction of flyovers in different parts of the state were designed to end the challenges of urbanisation.

He said the main objective of his administration is to make Lagos the third largest economy in Africa from the current fifth position. To realise this prime goal, he insisted that the yellow buses would be removed for a more efficient and well-structured world-class mass transportation system that would facilitate movement.

He decried the present connectivity mode in the state, which he said is not acceptable and befitting for a modern city of Lagos’ status. The solution, he stressed, is to banish yellow buses this year.

There is no doubt that for decades, Lagos has been battling with a chaotic transport system in which all manners of rickety vehicles operate. There are few cities in the world where such chaos exists as it does in Lagos.

But the state government wants to turn things around by modernising the transportation system and infrastructure. The bus-stops are being modernised. Roads are widened, among others. These are commendable efforts that should be stepped up.

From the colonial times up to the 60s, train services operated efficiently and movement was hassle-free in Lagos due to low population. But the situation has been chaotic since the 70s, when mini-lorries popularly called Bolekeja and Molue dominated intra-city transportation amid high influx of people into the city. Efforts to improve the situation have been on but hardly enough to catch up with an ever growing population.

Interestingly, while the old rickety Bolekeja has totally been phased out, Molue is also on the verge of extinction, having been banned from commuting into Lagos Island.

Over the time, the Lagos Municipal transport, which operated in the 70s and 80s, has been replaced with the Bus Rapid Transfer System with modern, clean buses which started in 2007.

The train service that practically came to a stop for some time is being revived. The Lagos Monorail track lines are being constructed in order to integrate train services the overall city’s overall mode of transport. The situation will definitely change when these plans are accomplished.

The focus at the moment is on the infrastructure. The infrastructure facilities in Lagos need up-grading given the teeming population in the city. Hopefully, the plan is part of the Lagos Master Plan to make for integrated urban re-development framework.

Ambode is working very hard. But a lot still needs to be done. The endemic traffic gridlock in Lagos shows the fundamental defects inherent in the city’s transportation system due to planlessness. Dilapidated inner city roads in particular. Lack of effective mass transit system in form of rail and water transport has contributed to making movement in Lagos a nightmare.

At the moment, some private operators are involved in water transportation with rickety and sub-standard boats that expose users to risk. That explains the frequent accidents on Lagos waterways. The state government should therefore integrate water transportation into its overall transport plan and private investors should be encouraged to come in.

Lagos is the fastest growing city in Africa with a growth spurt of 77 people per hour. That calls for long term planning which, happily, the current leadership seems to appreciate.

 

Source: Guardian

Keeping up with Yemi Osinbajo – By Shola Oyeyipo

President Muhammadu Buhari, determined to see a Nigeria of his dream, might have cleverly borrowed from the quote of a former President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, who once said: “Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way”.
Closely folowing Buhari’s political trajectory, he probably has a penchant for picking eggheads and persons with equal commitment and passion for national development as his running mates. That can be established in his initial choice of Pastor Tunde Bakare as his running mate in one of his many attempts at the presidency.
As it is today, the choice of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as his deputy might have been informed by his ability to stand in for his principal at a crucial time like this, when the president is on an indefinite leave, apparently to attend to his health and, it is beginning to pay off.
Consistent with Section 145 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, President Buhari, in his letter of Thursday, January 19, 2017, wrote to the National Assembly that during his 10-day leave, Osinbajo would act as president. And in another letter to the lawmakers at the expiration of the initial time-frame, the president elongated his leave indefinitely.
Though there have been complaints from a majority of Nigerians on the details of the president’s true state of health, which have been shrouded in secrecy, there have not been such about Osinbajo’s ability to stand in for his boss. The reason is simple. The vice president has been effectively representative.
Just as preempted in Section 145 of the 1999 constitution as amended, he is bringing some more pep into leadership and at the same time making some dexterous political moves that are capable of providing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) an inroad into the South-east and South-south.
Already, government has shown more than a passing interest in sorting out the issue of resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region that has led to dwindling revenue from oil production. It was why Osibanjo visited Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, home of Chief Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State on a facts-finding mission in January.
The second leg of his peace and dialogue tour of the oil-rich Niger Delta region, which took him to Bayelsa, Rivers and Imo States has in fact had far-reaching impacts because the acting president did not only reaffirm government’s commitment to addressing the sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta, where Nigeria gets its major income, he openly agreed that the region has been largely neglected and promised that the federal government would discontinue the ugly trend.
Osibanjo, who went to Gbaramatu in company with the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Minister of State (Petroleum), Dr. Ibe Emmanuel Kachikwu, said the Niger Delta people have a genuine need as special economic zone for special developmental attention.
Later in Bayelsa on February 12, he assured the people that the federal government would provide rapid development for oil-producing communities in the region.
According to Osinbajo, while addressing the Bayelsa State stakeholders’ meeting, since oil is the dominant source of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria, it is only proper that the country adds value to crude oil. To him, adding value to crude oil will bring enormous economic benefits to the oil-bearing communities.
The tour train berthed in Rivers State between February 13 and 14 in Port Harcourt, the state capital, where Osinbajo held another town hall meeting with governors, former governors, community leaders, women and various youth groups in the region.
He underscored the fact that Rivers was critical to the development and stability of the country. He also urged vandals of petroleum infrastructure to desist from act, assuring them that unlike at any time in the past, the current administration is prepared to ensure that the needs of the region are met.
It was at the Rivers State meeting he hinted that the federal government had secured funding of over $1 billion from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to develop the Niger Delta region, a piece of news well received by the people. He also noted that the template for the ‘Clean up Ogoni’ project of the federal government would be replicated in other oil producing communities affected by oil exploration.
From Rivers, Osinbajo made a stop in Imo State on a one-day working visit. There, he informed the people that he was there at the instance of President Buhari to consult with stakeholders in the oil producing communities of the Niger-Delta region, of which Imo is one.
Just as he did in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers, Osinbajo, while at the palace of Imo State Chairman of Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Samuel Ohiri, owned up to the fact that the people of the state have been largely marginalised as an oil-bearing state of Nigeria, reiterating that the federal government would correct the anomaly.
Overall, that he was received with pomp and pageantry in the three states of the South-south is noteworthy. This is because the three states are controlled by opposition Peoples Democratic Party ((PDP). Again, that the people were convinced somewhat that government is truly ready to walk its talk is a pointer to an enduring peace in the region as leaders in the region are already enjoining the militants to give government the chance to make good its promise.
Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, seized the opportunity to re-echo that dialogue and consultation remained the most effective solution to Niger Delta crisis as against the military option. That is an indication that the people of the region are ready for peace as long as their aspirations are met.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State, Simeon Nwakaudu, in an article written after the acting president’s visit, said “The popular leadership of Rivers State always keys into opportunities to attract development to the state,” and that “On issues concerning  development, politics  is relegated and the interest of the Rivers State enthroned  for the benefit of the people.”
In Gbaramatu, renowned militant leader, Tompolo and his kinsmen rolled out the drums to welcome Osinbajo. Hence, some lessons could be learned from the Niger Delta tour. First, that irrespective of party affiliation, every Nigerian should have equal access to the federal government. The second is that the people in the oil-producing communities, who have been agitating for a better deal from government, could be pacified if government is committed to genuinely meeting their needs.
Above all, no one is oblivious of the fact that the South-south and the South-east regions are going to play very important roles in determining the next president in 2019. One politically savvy presidential hopeful is already covertly investing considerable time and energy into tilting the region towards himself, the more reason Osinbajo’s move is expedient.
The recent federal government activities in the regions could be a saving grace for the APC and the incumbent government, if they are considering winning the next presidential election. This is more so that issues of restructuring and true federalism are going to dominate the discourse ahead of the next election.
In addition to this was the recent tour of the two regions by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola to access the state of the roads, housing projects and the power situation with a view to synching them with the new vision, after 16 years of PDP’s failure to provide succor in the regions.
Aside the Niger Delta region parley that promises to bring better rapport between the people and the federal government, Osinbajo got the support of the duo of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr.  Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogora, to approve the federal government’s $1 billion Eurobond this quarter.
The Eurobond, amounting to $4.5 billion, formed part of the federal government’s three-year $30 billion external borrowing programme, which was rejected by the National Assembly last year.
But Saraki and Dogora reportedly told Osinbajo that the emergency session would not be necessary since the National Assembly had already approved $3 billion external borrowing, including the $1 billion Eurobond, in the 2016 Appropriation Act, so they assured Osinbajo that National Assembly’s rejection of the $30 billion borrowing plan would not impede the $1 billion Eurobond issue.
On Thursday, February 16, few days after its issue, the $1 billion Eurobond started trading on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the offer was oversubscribed about eight times, with the order book closing at approximately $7.7 billion. The listing also secured high quality investors’ support from the U.S. and Europe and it is expected to support Nigeria in financing its long-term infrastructure development.
Also, since he has been acting, Osinbajo has assented to seven bills passed by the National Assembly. The acts that were mainly amendments to the principal act include Oath (Amendment) Act 2017, Defence Space Administration Act, Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act), National Film and Video Censors Board, Pension Rights of Judges, Nigerian Institute of Social Science Establishment Act and Mortgage Institutions Amendment Act.
Now 35 days since ailing President Buhari has been away, Osinbajo has been holding forth and headlining the news for several positive presidential initiatives. And in spite of assumptions that President Buhari was not disposed to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, Osinbajo has forwarded his name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
Buhari, on November 10, 2016, appointed Onnoghen as acting CJN following the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed at the attainment of the mandatory age of 70 years. The National Judicial Council had earlier forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the president as the new CJN based on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission but he had remained in acting capacity until Osinbajo forwarded his name to the lawmakers for confirmation.
In another instance of personal example, the Vice-President rejected the new official residence built for the vice-president by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo was satisfied with living in Aguda House built in the 1990s by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration
Although this one issue had almost created a friction between the executive and the legislature, however, while Buhari is still on medical vacation, Osinbajo, in a letter to the Senate re-presented the name of the acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Ibrahim Mustapha Magu for screening and subsequent confirmation as the substantive Chairman of the anti-graft agency. From all indications, Magu is likely to scale through this time around.
Hinging its argument on the unknown health condition of President Buhari, and probably the fact that government seems to be running smoothly with the acting President, an international human rights organisation, Opinion Nigeria (ON), advised President Buhari to tender his resignation letter without delay to pave the way for Osinbajo as president. Whilst this demand may not be popular with a majority of Nigerians, there is the perception that Osinbajo might actually be taking directives from President Buhari.

Ambode, don’t sign this bill – By Wale Fatade

A perfect definition of irony in the Nigerian context is when legislators break their recess to pass a bill. For the farce that passes for legislation in our part of the world, citizens should be wary of a hastily passed bill. When you then factor in the incestuous relationship between the executives and legislators in most states, the suspicion gets heightened.

Just last week, I mentioned in passing about the opacity surrounding the Lagos State budget not knowing that the state would be the focus this week. On February 20, the Lagos State House of Assembly broke its six weeks’ recess to pass a bill titled, “A Bill for a Law to consolidate all Laws relating to the Environment for the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development of the Environment in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes.’ Forget the long winding title, the bill harmonises eight environmental laws in the State to one and two issues the bill seeks to address are major for this column.  The first concerns waste disposal in Lagos which feelers from the state government indicate that it is planning to contract it to foreign managers and privatization of water supply.

Funnily, the assembly took the first and second reading of the bill in one week and also its committee on environment held a public hearing where some activists picked holes in the bill but their voices were drowned in the cacophony of deafening government voices. Pronto, after it was passed, the assembly went on recess again. Mudashiru Obasa, the speaker, directed the Clerk to send a clean copy to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for assent. But the governor should have a rethink and refuse to sign the bill into law as it seeks to mortgage the future of Lagos State. The bill is divided into 10 parts: administration, integrated pollution control, solid waste management, statutory nuisance and litters, wastewater management, flood and erosion control, conservation and ecology management, citizen participation, establishment of environmental sanitation corps, general enforcement power and establishment of law enforcement institute.

Part of the bill criminalizes sinking of boreholes and imposes fines and sets prison terms for any Lagos citizen that sells or transports water, among others. Truly, we should all be concerned about the indiscriminate way we sink boreholes in Lagos but the right question is, what alternative do we have for the residents? As a Lagos resident since 1993 that had lived in five different areas from Egbeda to Mushin to Ilasamaja among others, I’ve never lived in a house with public water supply. Naturally, boreholes and wells supply a large proportion of the water residents use, why denying us this source without ensuring that access to public water is guaranteed before criminalization? A group comprising Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and African Women Water Sanitation and Hygiene Network among others is campaigning against this proposed law.

Let’s consider some figures in this year’s budget of Lagos State: total recurrent expenditure is N305. 2 billion, of which N30.07 billion is for debt charges; this is important as part of the bill guarantees payment for contractual services and concessions with an irrevocable service payment order as the first line charge on the state’s internally generated revenue. This indicates that private corporations will be involved in provision of essential services for residents of the State. Overheads in the budget are projected at N170.39billion and personnel cost will gulp N104.7billion while capital expenditure is N436.26billion. Our state expects total revenue of N642.84billion of internally generated revenue and federal transfers. As far back as 2014, the state government had constructed some waste transfer loading stations “where thousands of tonnes of waste would be processed” as the government claimed then, what happened to those stations that we now require “foreign experts” to manage our waste.

Another reason why the governor should withhold his assent is the blatant contravention of Schedule 4 of our Constitution as seen in parts of the bill. That part speaks about the functions of a local government council and with the array of lawyers at the state’s justice ministry, Ambode will surely get sound legal advice. Possibly it’s the blurring of lines between the state government and local councils that confused our legislators that they thought usurping local councils functions is no big deal. Wonderfully enough, the state’s electoral commission is planning to hold local government elections this year, maybe, just maybe, that would give a new lease of life to the councils.

The bill itself is secondary to the optics of Lagos State seeking to increase the burden of the state residents. With a planned increase of BRT bus fares and all manners of sundry taxes, why making life more difficult for people whose comfort should be paramount? Is it also true that a certain person’s business empire expansion is the raison d’état behind this bill?

Xenophobia in South Africa and Nigeria – by Omano Edigheji, PhD

Nigerians are rightly outraged by the xenophobic attacks by some South African against Africans from other parts of the continent. The attacks bring shame to the country of Nelson Mandela.  In condemning the attacks, there should not be the mistaken belief that all South Africans are xenophobic – the xenophobes are the minority.

It is also justifiable for anyone to criticise the South African government for not doing enough to stem the tide of xenophobic attacks that first started in 2008 because if it had, xenophobic attacks will not be reoccurring.  It will also be right to be critical of the South African media for their reportage of crimes involving Africans from other African countries that profiled such criminals by nationalities. Such reporting fuelled hatred against African nationals. The South African Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba has rightly said crimes should not be associated with nationalities. When people commit crimes, they are not representatives of anyone other than themselves, hence it is wrong to profile criminals based on nationalities as a section of the media tend to do at times. Criminals are criminals, short and simple, and should be treated as such. More important, most Africans from other parts of the continent in South Africa are living legally and are law-abiding) citizens. And they are contributing to the growth and development of South Africa.  Furthermore, there is no correlation between illegal immigrants and crime. Most illegal immigrants are not criminals. Again, as Minister Gigaba said during his press conference this week, criminality and immigration should be treated separately. The South African media has a role to play in this regard by not profiling criminals by nationalities.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed South Africa as a rainbow nation, it is not only for those who were born in the country but all those that live in it. Its rainbowness captures its diversity.

Those who are arguing for stricter immigrations regime in South Africa should have a rethink. They need to have a better understanding of the pull and push factors of immigration. It is puzzling that a European bag packer without a cent in his or her pocket can come into South Africa without a visa while Africans, including Africa’s richest person, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka are required to have visas to enter South Africa.  Generally, African countries, including South Africa need to liberalise their visa regimes to ensure free movement of African across the continent; and here they could learn a lesson from Rwandan and Ghana that issued visas to Africans on arrival.   It will be a clear manifestation of African integration.  African countries cannot continue with immigration regime that objectified Africans.

South Africans, including political leaders, business people, scholars, religious leaders and representatives of civil society organisations need have a way to grapple with the problem of xenophobia that is denting the image of the country across the globe.  One thing the government needs to do is to introduce History as a subject in high schools. Another issue for consideration is exchange programmes between education institutions in the countries and their counterparts in other African countries.  These way South Africans from a young age will have a better understanding of the continent. In the same vein, Africans from other parts of the continent will have a better appreciation of South Africa and its challenges.

At this juncture, it is important to point out that xenophobia is not peculiar to South Africa but something pervasive across the African continent. I will use the Nigerian situation to illustrate this point.

It is therefore important to understand xenophobia and see how it manifests itself in other African countries.  Xenophobia is hatred of those considered as the “others” or foreigners. By this simple definition, xenophobia is pervasive in Nigeria. In this country, the “foreignness” is along religious and ethnic backgrounds as well as states of origin. Thus, those born in a state which is not the state of origin of their parents are considered foreigners even when they have lived their whole life in that state. Consequently, they are discriminated against in employment and other areas.  Besides Lagos where those from other ethnic backgrounds are in the state cabinet and state, most states only have those who are considered indigenes in their Houses of Assembly and cabinets. I doubt there is any state in Nigeria that has a senator or member in the House of Representatives who are not so-called indigenes. This too is xenophobia.

Just as they are outraged about the xenophobia against Nigerians in other countries, Nigerians should be equally outraged by xenophobia within Nigeria, which is based on religious and ethnic lines. We cannot condemn xenophobia based on nationalities abroad while we are silent about xenophobia based on religion and ethnicity at home, Nigeria.

Nigerians should therefore be outraged about the Southern Kaduna crisis and similar others that are based on the “otherness”. The Southern Kaduna crisis has been going on for more than thirty years. Hundreds of lives have been lost and properties worth billions of naira have been destroyed. Yet some Nigerians are calling on people to arm themselves in self-defence. There is no difference between such people and the xenophobes in South Africa.

History teaches us that justice, peace and development cannot be achieved through violence and wars. The intra-ethnic crisis in Plateau state is abated not because of self-defence by people who armed themselves but through dialogues among the warring factions. And just like foreign criminals in South Africa should not be profiled by their nationalities, disagreement between John and Salisu should not be framed along religious and ethnic terms.  Such disagreements might be personal or due to competition for economic resources. They should be treated as such without bringing in religion and ethnicity.  And where there are genuine religious and ethnic disagreements, they should be addressed as such. Just to be clear, attacks and counter attacks will not bring peace and development to Southern Kaduna and any other parts of Nigeria. Peace and justice can only be achieved through dialogue.

Every Nigerian must be treated as equal irrespective of religious and ethnic backgrounds and so-called state of origin. How do people live in a particular state and community for generations and still be considered as foreigners?

It is also a foolery to argue for secession as some people tend to do. Every part of Nigeria is a victim of the poor management of the country by inept political leaders since independence. Secession is unlikely to bring development to any part of the country and we do not look any further than the quest for states and local governments – the creation of more states and local governments have not resulted in the desired development of the country.  With the right leadership, Nigeria’s diversity can be its strength.

Nigerians should embrace their common humanity and citizenship for the country to prosper. All Nigerians must become ambassadors of peace and unity. As such, we must speak up against the wanton killings and destruction of properties taking place within Nigeria against those considered as the “others”.

Xenophobia against people of other religion and ethnicity in Nigeria is as inhumane as xenophobia abroad against so-called foreigners in South Africa and elsewhere.

Follow Omano Edigheji on twitter @omanoE

The scary truth about commercially produced bread – By Bunmi George

Last Christmas, I decided to prepare stuffing from scratch to take along with my turkey to our family Christmas dinner. I went ahead to buy four loaves of bread from our neighbourhood supermarket. I used three loaves to prepare my dish, leaving one loaf on my kitchen counter for almost 3 weeks, but to my surprise, the bread didn’t grow any mold. It was as soft as the day I bought it. This got me really concerned as I examined the length and breadth. Immediately I knew the bread was full of preservatives. Preservatives are bad, and I try to avoid them at all cost.

When bread is freshly-baked, it is usually very soft and a bit moist, now this moistness serves as a good breeding ground for mold. Although you cannot see these molds, millions of their spores are found in the air around you as they are airborne. These spores settle on the bread when exposed to air and when the bread is stored in your cupboard or on the provision shelf, the spores begin to multiply. Mold on bread reproduces as long as there is a food source. Sometimes, mold reproduces very rapidly and can sometimes double in size in an hour.

Bread should mold, when it doesn’t, there is a problem. Remember, it only takes 4 ingredients to make bread – flour, yeast, water and salt. Most commercially-produced bread these days are full of ingredients that are not healthy such as dough conditioners – these are unnecessary in traditional bread making and only make the process faster and cheaper for the food industry to make bread in big machinery. Many dough conditioners like azodicarbonamide (which is banned all over the world), DATEM, monoglycerides, diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate are linked to health issues. Many dough conditioners start with manipulating fat– like soybean oil or corn oil, which is also most likely GMO.

GMOs – Most commercially available bread contain one or many genetically modified ingredients like soy lecithin, soybean oil, corn oil, corn starch or soy flour. GMOs have not been tested long term on humans, however, we know that the pesticides sprayed on them are toxic and considered to be poisonous. Some GMOs are created by inserting a toxic pesticide into the seed itself to make an insect’s stomach explode when they try to eat it.

Added sugar – This is where you really need to watch out. There’s nothing wrong with a little honey to bring out the sweetness in bread, but most manufactures are using excessive sugar, and this can pose health risks. Almost all commercially-baked bread brands have some form of added sweetener. Watch out especially for “light” breads, which often contain more added sugar.

Remember to always choose bread that is made with real, certified organic ingredients. The wheat that is used to make most bread is heavily sprayed with pesticides and by choosing certified organic products you will avoid exposure to GMOs.

WhatsApp launches Snapchat-like features.

WhatsApp could put the brakes on Snapchat’s international growth with today’s launch of WhatsApp Status, a new tab for sharing decorated photos, videos and GIFs that disappear after 24 hours. It’s another Facebook-owned Snapchat Stories copycat, but the twist is that it’s end-to-end encrypted like WhatsApp messaging.

WhatsApp tested the feature for beta users in November, and now the Status tab is rolling out worldwide on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Users can watch updates from friends and reply privately, shoot and adorn their imagery with drawings and captions and send their creations to all their contacts they’ve chosen with a persistent privacy setting. Sending media to specific friends is still done through message threads.

Status could also open up new advertising opportunities for WhatsApp. If it followed Snap and Instagram’s lead, it could insert full-screen ads in-between friends’ Statuses.

The new Status feature replaces WhatsApp’s old AOL Instant Messenger-style away messages. That was actually WhatsApp’s only feature when it launched almost exactly 8 years ago.

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The new WhatsApp Status replaces this old My status feature

“The original idea behind the project was to build an application that lets your friends and other contacts know what you’re up to,” CEO Jan Koum writes. But the company tells me it saw so many people quickly updating these statuses to communicate in real time that it pivoted to chat, but always kept the away Statuses.

Now WhatsApp has 1.2 billion monthly users, with users sending 60 billion messages per day, including 3.3 billion photos, 760 million videos and 80 million GIFs. WhatsApp is parleying this success in messaging back into broadcast social media in a way that could spell trouble for Snapchat. If WhatsApp Status takes off, it could hinder Snap’s global growth opportunity in user-generated content, forcing it to rely on squeezing more cash out of existing users, or earning more revenue from hardware or professional content.

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WhatsApp’s new camera creative tools

Instagram Stories, now with more than 150 million daily users, showed how appealing a good-enough Snapchat clone conveniently bolted onto a popular app could be. TechCrunch first reported that Instagram Stories was stealing Snapchat usage and lowering its view counts, according to analytics providers and social celebrity managers. And Snap’s IPO filing showed a massive 82 percent drop-off in its user growth rate from 17.2 percent in Q2 2016 before Instagram Stories launched to 3.2 percent after in Q4.

Instagram was bold enough to stick Stories in its main tab above its feed, while WhatsApp is burying Status a lot more in a separate tab. But Status has the opportunity to spread the Stories slideshow format to parts of South America, Eastern Europe and the developing world, where Snapchat doesn’t have strong traction yet. If these users aren’t already on Snapchat, they won’t even see Status as a clone.

WhatsApp had been positioned as few-frills utilitarian chat while Facebook Messenger sported all the bells and whistles. But late last year, WhatsApp adapted to the visual communication age with the launch of additional camera features. Now the question is whether WhatsApp can eat some of Snapchat’s lunch abroad without watering down its core product.

When Will the South-East Shut Up? – By Immanuel James Anyanwu

The Nigerian government should redress these injustices and allow for conversations to happen. Genuine discussions, once and for all, for the stirring components to work out an equitable formula for our nation-being. That is the way to shut up the clamour, not by supression… The government is making patriotism difficult for Igbo Nigerians dedicated to a united country.

Many things are certain, like the fact that there will never be peace in the world. Nothing is perhaps as certain as human violence, never mind all the efforts at ensuring peace. Two abiding situations on the human experience are that: there will always be oppression, and there will always be those who won’t take it. The history of human civilisation is the history of repression and freedom.

Between repression and freedom, the problem, many times, is actually speech. The oppressing system demands a total silence that will never happen, hence a vicious plot is animated. Men are unable to maintain a dictated silence for too long, which leads us to another certainty: that no degree of violence can make men to shut up forever. But nobody has yet whispered this little truth to all agencies of human subjugation.

Take IPOB, for instance, an acronym for the Indigenous People of Biafra; a group agitating for an independent South-Eastern state out 0f Nigeria. On May 30, 2016, the agitators had gathered to mark the Biafra Memorial Day, itself symbolic of oppression and struggle. The day commemorates the Biafran struggle of 1967 to 1970, led by the late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, in which over two million Biafrans died for the soul of the aborted Igbo nation. The war had been sparked by an aborted coup and its attendant pogrom against the Igbos in Northern Nigeria.

Amnesty International reports that the Nigerian military invaded the memorial service and gunned down over 150 people. Spaces for Change, a rights advocacy group, reports that over 40 people were seriously wounded, but that was not even the end of the story. Soldiers raided hospitals in Anambra, arresting patients with gun wounds. Those arrested were never found again. The manhunt for IPOB leaders continues, and those arrested remain in detention. Some others have been extrajudicially killed with no consequence.

A heavily bandaged eyewitness at Eke Nkpor, who narrated his experience to Spaces for Change, pleaded anonymity for the fear of arrest. “We were on a peaceful procession. I was making a phone call when a combined team of the Navy, Army and the Police rounded us up, and started shooting… They asked me to stand there. When I refused…they shot at my hand. As I was running away, the navy man shot at my legs, I fell down. While he advanced towards me, a ‘fellow Biafran’ quickly rushed at me and dragged me inside somebody’s compound and locked the gate. The security operatives then went back. When they went back, they dragged four corpses on the floor away with them.”

Despite these killings and acts of repression, IPOB persists in defiance. The analysis is simple: Where injustice chips away at the dignity of men, they will hardly shut up, even at the cost of lives. From the classical age to the post-modern world, violence has failed to guarantee the silence of people itching for expression.

The memorial mayhem was not the first of targeted killings against the group by the Nigerian government. Earlier protests had been met with soldiers firing at and killing unarmed protesters, even as they continue to do so till date. The indictment goes to the federal government, otherwise how does one explain its silence despite reports by both local and international rights groups implicating the military? Not a single soldier has been arrested or tried for these atrocities.

The lesson is wasted. Despite these killings and acts of repression, IPOB persists in defiance. The analysis is simple: Where injustice chips away at the dignity of men, they will hardly shut up, even at the cost of lives. From the classical age to the post-modern world, violence has failed to guarantee the silence of people itching for expression. The lesson may be wasted on Nigeria, especially as these killings boast of impunity, if not official endorsement. But the suicidal resilience of the agitation should be an element of worry to those who understand the character of desperate expression.

That desperate expression has a familiar narrative—that South-Eastern Nigeria is politically marginalised. The conversation is often ignored, but acts of violence by state and non-state actors against the region, with no consequence, further entrench that narrative. On April 25, 2016, some 500 Fulani herdsmen invaded Nimbo, a town in Enugu State, killing over 40 people and injuring tens of others. A church and 11 other houses were burnt. Four months later, the herdsmen attacked Ndiagu town in Enugu, killing a seminarian and leaving a trail of destruction. Villagers fled and the invaders took over farmlands, which were often the contention in these attacks between farming and grazing. And because these attacks have little been punished, the separatist agitation has gained more momentum.

There have been responses from the Enugu State government, meanwhile. Some of the alleged attackers were arrested in neighbouring Kogi State and arraigned. The Kogi court referred the case to Enugu for the lack of jurisdiction, and the Enugu State Attorney-General wrote the Inspector-General of Police requesting the case file to be transferred to Enugu for proper adjudication. There have been no response on that, unless recently. This further deepens the suspicion of federal conspiracy in the South-East suppression.

The federal approach is counter-productive. With repression comes more agitations, perhaps from the pique of ethnic pride, besides the higher issues of marginalisation. Then come the herofication of the struggle, the provocation of pro-IPOB empathy, and the blight of patriotic emotions for Nigeria.

Rather than dispassionately address the political issues spawning the agitation, the Nigerian government has chosen the path of blatant repression. A militarisation policy tagged “Operation Python Dance” was unleashed on the region in the just-ended Yuletide season, and for beyond. Military checkpoints abound virtually at every stretch of major roads, causing untold traffic gridlocks, not without reported cases of abuse and torture. “We are being treated like a conquered people”, said John Nwodo, a former minister of information and current chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the region’s sociopolitical organisation. Mr Nwodo, an otherwise shinning member of the Nigerian political elite, expressed sympathy for IPOB. State-sanctioned repression is winning converts, winning the argument for the separatist group.

The federal approach is counter-productive. With repression comes more agitations, perhaps from the pique of ethnic pride, besides the higher issues of marginalisation. Then come the herofication of the struggle, the provocation of pro-IPOB empathy, and the blight of patriotic emotions for Nigeria. The scale of attacks and the lethargy of the government response create more Igbo enemies for the nation, undermining genuine efforts at national cohesion. Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, himself a member of the ruling party, notorious also for often expressing anti-Igbo sentiments, recently made a volte-face: “We have nothing to show that we are part of the Nigerian project. Neither do we have any sense of belonging in the present government at the national level.” A local oppressor notwithstanding, his position at least highlights a link between political dissatisfaction and separatist agitation, which cannot be quelled by repression.

Expression, as earlier noted, is certain. Even within equitable democracies, agitations persist. Run for years by military autocracy, Nigeria has been rendered incapable of decent dialogue. Its military-concocted constitution frowns at protests and makes it difficult to hold peaceful demonstrations. Not once has President Mohammadu Buhari addressed the IPOB agitation at least with some unifying rhetoric. The father of the nation who should reassure his restive children of their place in the polity rather maintains a hateful grimace, lacking the temperament needed to run a modern democracy. What was more, he assumed power and declared, to the shock of all rational, that he intended to shortchange regions where he got less support, as if the nation’s patrimony were his personal estate to share as he pleased—as if he was entitled to everyone’s vote. He failed to recognise that those who did not support him have the democratic right to do so, and on no account should they be punished for making a constitutional choice. Worse is the fact that any orchestrated injustice against the region fails to take into account the people there who voted for, and still support the present government.

The Nigerian government should redress these injustices and allow for conversations to happen. Genuine discussions, once and for all, for the stirring components to work out an equitable formula for our nation-being. That is the way to shut up the clamour, not by supression. The South-East has become one huge experiment in official duress. Democracy is deepened by speech, and never by enforced silence. The government is making patriotism difficult for Igbo Nigerians dedicated to a united country. For them, to retain allegiance to an unjust entity is to inherit the burden of its moral corruption, and to denounce the same is to incur charges of treason. Government must stop these repressions and desist from making the Nigerian patriot of Igbo extraction a laughing stock among his kinsmen.

How bad will Trump’s mass deportations get? – By Greg Sargent

THE MORNING PLUM:

Over the weekend, two memos signed by new Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were leaked to the media, revealing plans to dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants who will be targeted for deportation under President Trump. Though the memos are not yet official policy, they suggest Trump’s vow of mass deportations could, in some form, soon become a reality.

But buried in the memos is a separate provision that is worthy of attention on its own. That provision, immigration lawyers tell me, raises the possibility that under Trump, enforcement officers will have an easier time than under President Obama of arresting undocumented immigrants who are in schools or hospitals or are seeking sanctuary in churches.

This would be politically explosive if it came to pass, and a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security just told me that the Obama-era protection of people in such venues will remain in place.

DHS to raise the bar for undocumented immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security drafted new guidelines that would speed up deportations and make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum. The agency plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants prioritized for deportation and enlist the help of local law enforcement. (Reuters)

But immigration and civil rights lawyers tell me they still want to see a much firmer assurance to this effect once DHS formally announces the new deportation policies. And they say fears are already circulating in immigration communities that these protections will not meaningfully exist under Trump.

The worry arises from a line in one of the newly leaked memos stating that “all existing” Homeland Security “memoranda or field guidance” regarding enforcement “are hereby immediately rescinded,” with a few exceptions. What this means is that the Obama DHS memos implementing his enforcement priorities — in which longtime residents and low-level offenders were deprioritized for removal, focusing enforcement resources on criminals and recent border-crossers — are getting scrapped. This is in keeping with Trump’s recently released executive order doing the same and is the basis for the belief that a much bigger pool of undocumented immigrants will now be targeted for removal, meaning mass deportations are coming.

One undocumented woman’s solution to deportation? Seeking sanctuary in a church.

Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, is under a deportation order and was supposed to check in with authorities on February 15. Instead, the mother of four and immigration activist is seeking sanctuary 15 miles away in the basement of First Unitarian Society of Denver. She plans to remain there indefinitely. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

But this line could also mean something else: If all previous Obama DHS memos are rescinded, this would theoretically include another Obama-era memo, one that protects undocumented immigrants in places such as schools and churches. That memo is known as the “sensitive locations memo,” and it establishes that enforcement actions will not take place in “sensitive locations” such as schools, hospitals and places of worship, without express consent from agency supervisors, and must be exercised with excessive care. It was most recently affirmed under Obama in a 2016 version, and advocates say this is necessary to ensure a fundamental humanitarian commitment: that undocumented immigrants can attend school or places of worship or seek needed medical care.

“The new memo raises the question of whether DHS will abandon or narrow the sensitive locations policy,” Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, tells me. “For decades, immigration enforcement has refrained from conducting actions at certain community sites, recognizing that they are sacrosanct and must be kept open to all people.”

“A rollback of this policy would make immigrants think twice about seeking medical care and make parents doubt whether they should send their kids to school,” adds Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center. “It would destabilize day-to-day life for communities.”

Asked for comment, Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for DHS, emailed: “The sensitive locations memo will remain in place.”

But advocates insist this is not yet a firm enough commitment, for several reasons. DHS will soon release the final version of its deportation guidance memos, and David Nakamura reports that the newly leaked draft memos are currently being reviewed by White House counsel for potential changes. If the final versions rescind all previous memos and do not make an exception for sensitive locations — as is the case with the current drafts — the commitment to defending sensitive locations will remain ambiguous. The final version needs to explicitly exempt the sensitive locations memo.

What’s more, the ACLU’s Lin points to reports that Latino men were recently arrested after leaving a church hypothermia center on a winter night. In that case, DHS claimed the sensitive locations policy had been followed, but Lin points out that this raises questions about the administration’s commitment to “actually upholding the spirit and purpose of that policy.”

Now, it’s perfectly plausible that Trump’s DHS may clarify that it remains fully committed to the sensitive locations policy and may do so in practice. But it’s worth noting that Trump and his advisers have deliberately kept their intentions on deportations vague, sometimes suggesting that only criminals will be targeted, even as the concrete policies that are emerging seem to target many millions more. This ambiguity, some advocates think, is deliberately designed to instill fear among undocumented immigrants, perhaps encouraging them to “self-deport.”

“If the commitment to the sensitive locations policy also remains vague, the broader effect may be that undocumented immigrants and their families stay away from schools, hospitals, churches, and mosques,” immigration attorney David Leopold says. “That could serve the larger end of instilling fear and panic in the community, which could encourage people to leave the country, regardless of their contributions and family ties.” So this bears watching.

* PRIEBUS DEFENDS TRUMP’S ATTACKS ON MEDIA: On “Face the Nation,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus repeatedly defended Trump’s claim that the media is the “enemy of the American people,” blasting anonymously sourced, supposedly bogus stories about the Russia connection. And:

“We have done so many things that are noteworthy…The storyline should not be about bogus Russian spy stories. They should be that this president has accomplished more in the first 30 days of this presidency than people can possibly remember in a very long time.”

Yes, why won’t the media stop reporting on Russian efforts to undermine our democracy and instead uncritically amplify laughably absurd White House propaganda? So very unfair.

* REUTERS CONFIRMS FBI PROBE INTO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONNECTIONS: Reuters reports that ongoing FBI investigations are trying to detail how Russia meddled in the election and are probing financial transactions between Russians and people linked to Trump. And:

The [sources] also corroborated a Tuesday New York Times report that Americans with ties to Trump or his campaign had repeated contacts with current and former Russian intelligence officers before the November election. Those alleged contacts are among the topics of the FBI counterintelligence investigation.

Remember, this report is what set off Trump’s latest unhinged assault on the free press. But it’s not working: Reporters continue to dig.

* RUSSIA PLOT THICKENS: The Post reports:

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City last month with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow.

This suggests a search for what The Post calls an “informal conduit” to Trump by “some in the region aligned with Russia.” All of these disparate floating pieces should, in theory, help build pressure for a full, independent investigation.

* GOP VOTERS SUDDENLY QUIET ABOUT OBAMACARE: The New York Times reports that GOP lawmakers are now seeing much more muted support for repealing the health law now that it’s a real possibility, even in conservative districts:

From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office…In a nationwide CBS News poll last month, 53 percent of Republicans said they wanted to change the law to make it work better while 41 percent said they wanted to abolish it.

Why, it’s almost as if GOP voters’ desire to see the health law destroyed had more to do with who was in office than with policy reality.

* FRAUDULENT ECONOMICS ARE NOT UNIQUE TO TRUMP: Paul Krugman looks at the news that the Trump administration will rely on grotesquely inflated growth projections and argues that this can’t be disentangled from the economic fraudulence of the entire GOP:

Belief that tax cuts and deregulation will reliably produce awesome growth isn’t unique to the Trump-Putin administration…we hear it from congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan…The evidence, then, is totally at odds with claims that tax-cutting and deregulation are economic wonder drugs. So why does a whole political party continue to insist that they are the answer to all problems? It would be nice to pretend that we’re still having a serious, honest discussion here, but we aren’t.

Meanwhile, isn’t Trump supposed to be ideologically different from Ryan and other Republicans on economic matters?

* NO, THE U.S. WON’T TAKE IRAQ’S OIL: Trump recently said we might get “another chance” to take Iraq’s oil, but Defense Secretary James Mattis, in Iraq on Monday morning to discuss the offensive against the Islamic State, shot that down:

“I think all of us here in this room — all of us in America — have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future,” Mattis said during a meeting with reporters Sunday night. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”

Weak. Why does the United States always get taken advantage of? Seriously, Mattis appears to be on a tour designed to reassure foreign allies (he also visited Europe) that Trump isn’t as crazy as he appears.

OOTC with Chude Jideonwo: Don’t be annoyed o, but please, who spoilt Nigeria?

There is something curious that you might have noticed. Something as strange as it is weird. And it should worry you.

We don’t appear to know who ‘spoilt’ Nigeria.

‘Spoilt’ of course is the colloquial shorthand for all that ails our nation – corruption, poor leadership, stillbirth policy, diving quality of life, and gaping income inequality.

We complain about these things everyday. We moan and point fingers, bitter over the legacy handed to generations that are yet unable to bear them. We are frustrated because the smattering of best efforts don’t appear to lead us anywhere. The foundation is destroyed.

So we know that Nigeria is ‘spoilt’.

But who exactly ‘spoilt’ the country?

It turns out; no one ever takes responsibility for the state of our nation.

Let’s start from the beginning.

The quartet of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, not alone, who altogether led the team that secured Nigeria’s political independence and ensuring economic decline already escaped responsibility for our state of affairs.

These days it is impolitic to state certain ‘imperfections’ about these legends, as it were. That in 1943, the Saduana of Sokoto was accused by his cousin Alhaji Abubakar Saddique of misappropriating tax revenue as District Head of Gussau. That Dr. Azikiwe was accused of corruption in 1962 and a panel was set up by the chief whip of his party to investigate the misapplication of 2 million pounds under his watch as premier, a cloud under which he never emerged.

And of course, famously, that the great Obafemi Awolowo was, also in 1962, accused of diverting the funds of the Western Region’s government to his political party, conduct apparently confirmed by the Justice George Coker panel of inquiry.

“Before independence, there have been cases of official misuse of resources for personal enrichment (Storey, 1953),” notes a paper by University of Lagos professor of history, Michael Ogbeidi. “Over the years, Nigeria has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the citizens. The First Republic under the leadership of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, and Nnamdi Azikwe, the President, was marked by widespread corruption. Government officials looted public funds with impunity. Federal Representative and Ministers flaunted their wealth with reckless abandon. In fact, it appeared there were no men of good character in the political leadership of the First Republic. Politically, the thinking of the First Republic Nigerian leadership class was based on politics for material gain; making money and living well.”

He is talking about Nigeria’s “founding fathers”.

Instead of being held responsible for the parts that they have played, that they must have played, (since 1 plus 1 is equal to two) just after independence, in laying the foundations of a squandered promise, in addition to the Civil War that their actions precipitated, they are dealt with as benevolent fathers that bestowed the beauty of this nation unto us – a legacy one must assume the country is proud of since it celebrates them so urgently.

And Yakubu Gowon? The one who took after them? This is the president from under whom Nigeria’s oil boon began, where many historians can track the beginnings of our institutional waste and who oversaw a civil war the country has yet to recover from. He does not take responsibility for the state of the nation.

Shehu Shagari was 5-time minister from independence in 1960 – 1970 before he became president in 1979. His government was defined by corruption, and it is to him that we owe the pleasure of the Ajaokuta Steel Black Hole which he spent hundreds of millions in dollars on – with the raw material of rumoured kickbacks.

His programme to encourage mechanical machines in farming was hijacked by friends of the government who were retired military officers, and by the time oil prices began to fall in 1981, , the center could no longer hold.

“It was claimed that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost between 1979 and 1983 during the reign of President Shehu Shagari. It became quite common, for federal buildings to mysteriously go up in flames, most especially just before the onset of ordered audits of government accounts, making it impossible to discover written evidence of embezzlement and fraud. No politician symbolised the graft and avarice under Shagari’s government more than his combative Transport Minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, who was alleged to have mismanaged about N4 billion of public fund meant for the importation of rice.”

Failure heavy enough that when General Muhammadu Buhari took over in a coup on December 31, 1983, the nation breathed a sigh of relief. Shagari was released from detention for personal corruption in 1986, and banned from politics for life.

Has he ever taken responsibility for anything, yet?

Then, of course, there was the legendary Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, under whose government Nigeria’s made leaps and bounds in corruption, ruining our reputation in narcotics trade and advanced economic fraud and whose government oversaw the disappearance of the $12.4b (or less, but certainly billions of dollars, based on the thorough Pius Okigbo Commission Report) from what we now call the Gulf War Windfall of 1991.

“If anything, corruption reached an alarming rate and became institutionalized during Babangida’s regime,” Ogbeidi reports. “Leaders found guilty by tribunals under the Murtala Mohammed and Mohammadu Buhari regimes found their way back to public life and recovered their seized properties.

“According to Maduagwu: Not only did the regime encourage corruption by pardoning corrupt officials convicted by his predecessors and returning their seized properties, the regime officially sanctioned corruption in the country and made it difficult to apply the only potent measures, long prison terms and seizure of ill-gotten wealth, for fighting corruption in Nigeria in the future.”

Asked, in 2015, how he built his mansion in Minna, Babangida told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (so that the irony can be complete), that it was generous, benevolent people who will remain unnamed that built it, of course.

“I know what my friends spent. No, my friends contributed,” he said, because we are all fools and reason is dead. “They were friends before we came into government and friends while I was in government. I started building it in 1991, took two to three years so that by the time I finished, I would have a house to sleep in.”

More than once you must have heard Babangida bemoan the state of the nation, complain about the collapse of morals and enjoin Nigerians to work hard and believe in the country,

We have really suffered.

“If what I read in the newspapers is currently what is happening then I think we were angels (in my government),” he said, without falling off his chair and hitting his head on the floor from shame. “My government was able to identify corruption-prone areas and checked them. If you remember in this country, there were things they call essential commodities. These are also sources of corruption. You go and buy ‘omo’ or food or whatever it is and we got government to take its hands off such activities. Let people use their own brains, hands and labour, nobody has to do it for them. I am proud to say that was much more effective. I give you an example; in a year I was making less than $7billion in oil revenue. In the same period, there are governments that are making $200billion to $300billion.”

Not even a dollar of responsibility taken, despite holding leadership of this country for the longest, his irresponsibility costing us the results of a free and fair election and plunging us into half a decade of pure Abacha-rian madness.

Babangida too does not know who spoilt Nigeria.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who oversaw the democratic transition that led Nigeria into Shagari, apart from playing his own questionable part in the carnage against the citizens of Biafra, and whose grand gestures as temporary president in the 70s did not translate into positivity for nation, would also say he is not part of those that spoilt Nigeria.

Then he returned to leadership and (though I consider him the most impressive Nigerian leader in my lifetime) left the country at the end, deliberately, in chaos – first by the damaging desire for an unconstitutional third term in office and then by arrogantly inflicting on all of us a sick man who transferred his illness to the nation’s soul and rolled back the small inches of progress we had made.

He too, who has led Nigeria twice – for almost a decade in total – would claim that he bears no responsibility for the state of our nation.

Not to speak of Muhammadu Buhari. He could previously claim, and indeed that claim held currency for 20 years, that he (much like the canonized Murtala Mohammed) spent too little time in office to be assessed responsible.

But on his second coming, we have had two years to interrogate his capacity and his legacy, two years during which we have seen fortunes decline, and citizens lose hope, without the cushion of leadership that inspires.
Even as he sits in the office and holds the ultimate responsibility for the state of affairs as I write, even he is not taking responsibility.

Buhari (whose candidacy I vigorously supported as, vastly, the better of our two options in 2015) points to everyone but himself. He points to all of those who held the office before him, he points to the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he points to the opposition that won’t give him breathing space, he points to civil servants working hard to sabotage him, and he points to that most significant of Nigerian bad guys: ‘the system’.

It is not just our ex-presidents that have this affliction.

You see your friends whose fathers and mothers led this country at the highest levels, even those whose names have been demonstrably involved in corruption or at least negligence, and even they complain about the state of Nigeria.

They insist on presenting themselves as decent, reasonable people who had no part, magically, in the Nigeria that we have today.

Ask them who we should blame, and they point at others: ‘them’, ‘they’

Who are these ‘they’?

The faceless ‘they’ who always stand against change. You’ve heard every government speak about them, this unnamed powerful, omnipresent people who frustrate every good intention of the government but are never held accountable; these indeterminate group of people who sit like gremlins in Aso Rock and take over the brains and hearts of those who lead. Every president has pointed to them as the problem with the country.

Those indeterminate ‘they’ are so resolute that they were even there fighting against Diezani Alison-Madueke, despite her consolidation of oil administration power, the distribution of the wealth across questionable characters, and the ostentatious display that allegedly powered the obscene spend of the 2015 elections.

But despite all of the circumstantial dodginess, even our former oil minister says she was also victim of this indeterminate set of people who keep spoiling Nigeria – people who she, like those many innocents before her, did not name, did not shame, and did not hold accountable.

Of course, there is Jonathan, whose presidency accelerated an atmosphere of permissiveness and corruption, ceded large swaths of Nigeria to terrorists and lost 276 girls under his watch for which he yet has shown no remorse, at all. The less about him to be honest, the better for us all.

Ask the good doctor for who spoilt Nigeria – and he and his triumphal supporters who insist on crying over the spilt milk of a man who deserved to be voted out, will take no ounce of responsibility. No hoots give. If you don’t like it, they appear to say to us, go and die.

The truth is that Nigeria has been an unfortunate  (‘oloriburuku’ as the Yoruba excellently would put it) country.

We have been a desperately unfortunate country for so many years, the unfortunateness springing from our classless, clueless successive set of leaders.

And lest the point is lost in subtlety and euphemism: they are the people that spoilt Nigeria.

The question really is simple: if our succession of leaders were so sterling, so high achieving, and so distinguished – then how exactly did our country collapse?

The so-called founding fathers, the super permanent secretaries, every single person who has been president of this country, a vast majority of ministers and commissioners, governors and local government chairmen, and the dirty pack of colluding traditional rulers. Heads of parastatals, and members of boards, business leaders who have benefited from ungodly monopolies and the oppression of an unprotected competition, those who helped politicians funnel and launder illegal monies that they then deployed to set up banks, insurance companies and a hodge-podge of now ‘respectable businesses’, defense chiefs who allowed our arsenal to be depleted and outdated, putting all our lives at risk, each and every one of the inspector generals of police as far as we cannot find anyone whose legacy stands apart or possesses a highlight, who ruined the country if not them?

It’s time for us to have the clarity of intent and purpose to say to them, especially now – you did this; you caused this, take some responsibility for heaven’s sake.

On the first of January this year, I was invited alongside a respected academic and a former defense chief to the Nigerian Television Authority to speak about ‘Making Nigeria Great Again’.

This tragedy – of our unfortunateness – was again on display.

Every word this military chief (one of our points men in the fight against Boko Haram) uttered was grounded in vapidity. His responses to questions were devoid of reflection, strategy, or philosophy. He simply didn’t have anything useful to say.

And I panicked: This is the man who has been making decisions for our country? This is the man we trusted to keep us safe? This is the mind that informed the president?

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” Chinua Achebe already informed us.  “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

Think about it: if all the leaders of our journalism from the past were credible and competent, then who holds responsibility for the decay in our journalism? Who ruined the Nigerian Television Authority and made it a carcass of the greatness we are told that it once had? If all the people who ran businesses in Nigeria in the past were heroes and visionaries with the capacity for transformative ideas, then, please, sorry, where are their businesses? If all the leaders in our health sector had been such healthy, sterling examples of wisdom and brilliance, then please who is responsible for the state of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital or that of the University College Hospital?

These guys have a lot of experience, but as political economist, Pat Utomi has said, it is bad experience. It is the experience that comes from simply existing and being rather than from achieving, excelling and improving.

They are the ones who mouth the inanity about Nigeria’s “strength in diversity” and that its “unity is non-negotiable” as if all of us have not been living in this same country since 1960 and seeing that if there is one thing that we have always had, it is certainly not strength.

The people who have led us have not been the best of us. Veterans only of bureaucracy and form, their experience is useless, their relevance is overstated, and their capacity is, at best, questionable.

To be sure, we have seen evidence of brilliance in Nigeria. We have witnessed citizens build the creative industries into a system to be admired. We have seen young people recreate the music industry and push its significance across a global market. We have seen technology innovators recreate an entire system from scratch.

We have seen brilliance in politics too; Anambra’s Peter Obi and Lagos’s Babatunde Fashola being two contemporary examples, as well as the sterling system of succession that Lagos has modelled.

Unfortunately – as will be the same if my generation doesn’t significantly reboot Nigeria and set it on the path to truly transformative growth (and we still have an abundance of time to make this right) – it will be fine for the next generation to look at them; to look at us, and to say that for the most part, we were failures, and we bear responsibility for the state of our p nation.

It will be fine for them to look back at the long past of Nigeria’s desolate history and for them to curse the darkness, thoroughly.

Yes I know that come 2019, because of the terrible fault lines of democracy, we may yet be so unfortunate that one of these will yet be the only option for president of Nigeria – because, where are the alternatives on the scene today? And it will sadly fall to us, agan, to perform a civic duty and support the least of the bad options.

But at least let us be clear that we are drinking gutter water, and not coconut juice.

What is the reason it is so important to correctly locate the provenance of Nigeria’s problems?

  1. a) So that the responsible party approaches its duties to make amends with sobriety and perspective.
  2. b) So that a new generation leaders understands the urgent need to unlearn from the past and to be discriminatory on the conventions and traditions it chooses to perpetuate.

“Permanent secretaries, diplomats, vice chancellors have been here over the past two days telling us about how government can work for the people,” I said in a speech February 2016 at the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, to an audience of these ex-leaders. “We have spent the past days hearing these leaders tell us what to do, when they had ample opportunity to show us what to do – an did not do so.

“One wonders as a generation if we have a lot to learn from these people, or if indeed we have so much to un-learn.

“Do you guys really have anything to teach us?  Who were the permanent secretaries who stole billions in the 70s, the soldiers who ruined Nigerian in the 90s, the ministers who stole us blind after 2000? Are they the same ones still talking to us today? If things were so great in those days, then how did Nigeria get to this sorry stage where corruption was once only a cankerworm, but now has gone viral?

“There are too many billionaires whom we don’t know how they made their billions and too many politicians who used to win with landslides that disappeared when card readers emerged.

“We must be honest in noting where you people have failed and where you presented insurmountable obstacles for our generation: gerontocracy that didn’t exist in 1956, a collapsed education system, institutions that were interrupted and then declined, a lack of authentic moral fibre and no workable models of businesses that succeed or governance that works for the people.”

Of course these vestiges of the past can still be part of building the future – that, after all, is a model we have seen work in many places across the world. But, first, they have to repent.

Based on what we have seen over the past 16 years, and what we are looking at today, first they must have the humility to take responsibility for the part that they have played in bringing us to this sorry state – and then to commit to making amends.

Either that or, as my people used to say in Ijeshatedo where I grew up: abeg make them comot, make we for see road pass.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Want to end the poverty cycle? Empower women – By Chioma Dike

Of the 960 million illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women. Startling? Read on. And in well-functioning economies, we know that the education level often has a direct positive correlation with the economic enrichment of one’s household and professional prospects. To compound that fact, women make up 70% of the world labour but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Meaning women’s labour contribution is uncompensated especially in the rural areas in being caretakers of the sick and elderly, farmers and more. This leads to a greater poverty rate, it slows down economic growth and lowers the standard of living. As if that weren’t enough, women make 30-50% less than men worldwide. With these facts laid out, it is no wonder this article will be tailored toward the female population in addressing ways in which to factor gender into the agenda of poverty alleviation.

What does the future hold for the girl child living in poverty?

A girl living in poverty is statistically likely, to be married off early, lack the funds/resources to continue her education, have children at an early age and to continue the cycle of poverty. The health risks of her children are also heightened not only because her education level is likely low due to poverty, but she would also lack the funds to seek proper treatment and care to aid in preserving the health and the lives of her children. It is a known fact that women and girls invest 90% of their earned income into their families and communities, and for this reason alone women and girls should be empowered economically if a nation is to be brought out of poverty and any other form of economic shortfall.
Unfortunately, pervasive underlying factors, such as inadequate structural conditions, including insufficient policy framework to integrate gender into poverty alleviation efforts and gender norms and discriminatory social norms keep many women from contributing to the household income and national GDP as agents for economic progress.

One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century is the gender pay parity. In this time in human development it makes absolutely no sense for women to be making a fraction of what men make given the ever-changing household models and unique circumstances of building a home and raising children. Economic empowerment for women through policy insists on equal pay between men and women and also closing the employment participation gap between men and women is crucial to bring women out of vicious cycle of poverty. I repeat, increasing women’s percentage share of the world’s income, and closing gender pay parity will not only substantially bring nations out of economic slumps but also drive sustainable growth and economic power for generations to come.

Service delivery providing women with access to property, assets, and financial services lead to their social protection. Secondly, increasing women and girls’ education, and providing technology tools for digitization skill building and internet access leads to women and girls moving out of poverty at vast rates. Currently, women are more likely than men to report lack of skills as a barrier to Internet use. A survey of women in developing countries found that of women using the internet 75 percent use the Internet to further their education which sustains the wealth-building efforts and prevents future generations from regressing back to poverty.

Speaking of tech, in the age of technology, it is almost impossible to be upwardly mobile without a good grasp on tech skills even at the most basic level. When rural and urban women are provided with technology access and computer skill training, studies show that this increase in internet connectivity leads to a $21 return on investment for every dollar spent on poverty alleviation efforts and giving internet access to women could contribute between $13-18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.

When women have access to formal financial institutions and avenues to join saving mechanisms like cooperative savings groups and organized sectors they utilize the network for family enrichment. For example, the United Capital Wealth for Women Fund is a great new avenue tailored specifically for women to prevent poverty and make women economically independent.

As mentioned earlier, women do much of the unpaid labor that makes the world go ‘round and by providing a wider variety of occupations and enterprises beyond low-productivity activities and informal sectors, unpaid women can become lucrative service providers and business- owners while enhancing the skills of which they are already accustomed.

Poverty affects the young, the old, the healthy, and the frail and empowering women to break the cycle of poverty is the number one way out.

For more information on The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation and to find your nearest Skill Acquisition Centres in Lagos for free skill training courses and other poverty alleviation tools visit http://wapa.lagosstate.gov.ng/

Bonny Cantonment: Where Some Of Buratai’s Mad Men Reside – By Elias Ozikpu

After several years of military harassment and dictatorship in Nigeria, a period which is often painted as Nigeria’s darkest moment, it is blindsiding to learn that the men in camouflage still believe that ‘bloody civilians’ (whatever that means) should continue to fall at their feet in worship. Whilst growing up back home in those dreadful days, I witnessed the horrifying public degradation of young ladies by military men who sometimes stripped these ladies naked for the offence of wearing trousers they purchased with their hard-earned money!

Even at that young age, I recall vividly that they were wild street jubilation in my hometown upon our return to democracy in 1999 as the people thought that the terrible days of brutality would naturally die with the ruthless and excessively corrupt military administrations. But that has not been the case. The men in camouflage have continued to harass and assault people on Nigerian roads, most times with stupendous impunity.

As recently as February of 2017, two military officers meted out the most horrendous treatment to a crippled citizen in Onitsha for wearing a camouflage. So spine-chilling was the attack that even onlookers could not intervene for fear that they might be killed by the bloodthirsty men in camouflage.

In early 2013, military men from Bonny Cantonment (popularly known as Bonny Camp) humiliated another citizen on a scorching afternoon in Victoria Island for urinating into a gutter. Not only was he brutally beaten to the point of bleeding, he suffered the ignominy of getting buried into the virulent gutter and was asked to swim from end to end, in what was an eyesore. As if the above was not enough, the victim was further pushed to climb a nearby tree with his head facing downward.

Both incidents as narrated above violently violate the fundamental human rights of the victims.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides as follows:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Corroborating the above provision, Article 5 of the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights echoes thus:

“Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”

Maddened by the injustice meted out to the young man for merely urinating into a gutter, I wrote to the Commanding Officer (CO) of Bonny Camp at the time, protesting against the cruel treatment and asking him to properly educate his men, most of whom lack the basic understanding for joining the Force.

On the morning of Sunday, 19th February 2017, less than two weeks after dehumanising the disabled citizen in Onitsha, this writer had a direct confrontation with the Bonny Camp soldiers, which almost resulted into assault. The incident occurred under the bridge directly facing their barracks’ gate. The military man, walking so unconcernedly on the road, was alerted by the sound of our vehicle’s horn to remind him that he was on a public road. Rather than leaving the road to pave way for vehicles, the Lance Corporal, so full of himself, got infuriated and said that he would deal with us “for blowing horn on top of his head”. So serious was he that he made several efforts to smash the window glasses of the vehicle.

I alighted from the vehicle to address the Lance Corporal and tried to make him understand that there was not a scintilla of justification in the way he had behaved. But no sooner had I alighted than I got surrounded by several of Buratai’s armed men, as if the erred Lance Corporal had sounded a whistle for their intervention. And without asking what happened, Buratai’s men faced me with ferocious aggression, asking where I got the guts to challenge an officer on uniform. One even said, brandishing his rifle with vicious looks:

“I can kill you here now and nothing will happen.”

And just when they were on the verge of launching an assault on me, some military women on mufti from the same barracks, along with some concerned citizens who witnessed the incident, intervened and strongly resisted the attack, and subsequently blamed the Lance Corporal for his unruly conduct. This writer learnt that later after the incident, infuriated Bonny Camp soldiers subjected one of the women to severe threats, to the extent of denying her access into her house for stating in clear terms that the Lance Corporal was wrong in the way he had behaved.

There is the urgent need for the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to call his bloodthirsty men to order and have them properly educated. Cruelty against citizens by men in camouflage has become pervasive in Nigeria. The uniform and gun given to some of these men, most of whom are illiterate, make them feel as though they were demigods.

In January of 2016, The Punch newspaper published an editorial under the title: Military Brutality Should End Now. Part of the editorial reads:

“Incidence of assaults by military personnel against civilians is rising again, leaving a stain on Nigeria’s march to a truly free society. From Lagos to Abuja, the federal capital, to the east and north, reports are frequent of military personnel brutalising the citizens they were recruited, trained, equipped and paid to protect. Leaders and civil society at every level should take a resolute stand today to end impunity by undisciplined soldiers… The lawlessness of some officers and soldiers is so pathetic. Last week, one soldier with the name tag, Emmanuel B.J, brutally beat up a commercial bus driver at Ojodu-Berger, Lagos, ostensibly for “disrespecting” him. In August last year, a newspaper photograph graphically captured a group of soldiers battering a man in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, leaving him half-dead in the mud. Such “perks” have apparently attracted sadists into the officer corps. A video clip trending online shows a group of NA cadets, including a female, torturing a young man in Abuja, while in December, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State rescued a truck pusher from the brutal assault of two NAF cadets who had already loaded their battered victim onto their car boot…”

It is worthy to note that Boko Haram have been destroying innocent lives and properties in the North East of Nigeria since 2009 or thereabouts, to the extent of declaring a caliphate on Nigerian soil, yet the Nigerian Army has been unable to unleash similar brutality on these demons. In fact, the Army fled from Boko Haram’s attack to neighbouring Cameroon a few years ago and shamelessly called the escape a “tactical manoeuvre”. Below is the extract of a report published by Premium Times in August of 2014:

“The Nigerian military has admitted that hundreds of government troops have fled heavy fighting with Boko Haram, but said their apparent escape to neighbouring Cameroon was a ‘tactical manoeuvre’”.

The question therefore is, does the Nigerian Army now run away from enemies of our country but enjoy/prefer brutalising innocent citizens they ought to protect? Well, my answer is quite simple. As an African child, I have learnt from my people that one is not said to be a warrior when he abandons the battlefield in terror and resorts to chop off the heads of children and women in a bid to show off the depth of his strength. Only cowards do so.

 

Elias Ozikpu is a literary author and an activist. He was almost attacked by armed soldiers at Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Lagos, before eyewitnesses stepped in and resisted the attack.

Has Social Media Tampered with our Reasoning Abilities? – By Otolorin Olabode

It seems social media has come to stay in Nigeria especially among our youths and adults. After the successful penetration of Facebook, subsequent entries of Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn have been greeted with lot of views and reviews.

However as it is with everything in Life, an advantage of a thing likewise has a disadvantage. Social Media has benefited various classes of People in Nigeria. From The Bloggers (Omojuwa, Linda Ikeji, OloriSuperGal) to the upcoming artistes, social media has been a huge benefit to a lot of people.

Nevertheless, it seems Social Media has altered our brain’s configuration settings. An average Nigerian wakes up and the first thing he does is to check Whatsapp messages. Thoughts like “Has He replied” “Has She accepted to go out on a date with me”, are always popular on the minds of the Nigerian Youth.

Another may decide to check on Instagram if his recent post has garnered likes or how many followers He has gained overnight.

Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook all rank high in the list of social Media Apps on an average Nigerian Youth smartphone. Especially on Twitter where all kinds of savages are recorded. An average Nigerian can spend 10hours tweeting, retweeting and replying on mostly trivial and unnecessary issues. Why have we not tried to convert those hours of Joblessness to ones of making money.

Especially our celebrities who most Nigerians troll and condemn on these social medias, these people are making money off those controversies. Remember the time when Linda Ikeji got embroiled in a fight with Wizkid? Truth is she had many visitors, views and comments on her blog due to that controversy.

It’s time for every Nigerian to make judicious use of social Media.

Stop wasting time and energy begging for likes to win a competition on Instagram when you could make far enough money through efficient use of social media.

Many have abused social media to the extent of taking photos in heir friends’ clothes just to post on Instagram or rather taking photos in their lingerie or posing half-naked.

Relationships have been formed on various social media sites but it’s on record that Social media has also destroyed some “once upon a time fruitful relationship”. The thing is news and information spreads much faster on social media.

Accusations of infidelity ranging from the husband seen in company with another woman to the wife captured in an hotel with another man, what about the nude photos and video of ladies released by their ex-boyfriend? Even our parents are on Instagram stalking and monitoring their children!

Definitely, Social media has tampered with our brain’s configuration settings!

 

Otolorin Olabode is a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. He is a Creative writer and also a seasoned content writer. He handles Latest9ja, a news and entertainment website. He can be reached via Email: otolorinolabode@gmail.comor through +2348064717949. He can also be followed on Instagram: @ viewsfromthebod .

I want to go to London to see Buhari – By Reuben Abati

When 15 million plus Nigerians voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 General elections, their expectation was that he would be available to serve them 24/7/365, and that those who fielded him as their candidate had done their home work to avoid what is curiously becoming the Katsina problem in Nigerian politics.  Katsina! But we have now found ourselves in a situation whereby our President is now in London, for more than one month sir, ma, and we are here, and we have an acting President, who according to everybody, including the extremists and the mischievous, and the politically partisan, is beginning to try his best, with his admirers, now praying for the worst.

For that reason alone, we have an emotionally, politically and spiritually divided country on our hands. Don’t mind what they tell you, and don’t deceive yourself, the Nigerian Presidency is in turmoil. It is not our wish. It is not what the voters asked for. But that is how democracy works. You cannot predict the results that democracy produces.  Not even in America. Or Russia.

Now that we have found ourselves in this situation, anyway – an absentee President trying to remain relevant and an acting President struggling to put up appearances, and struggling harder not to be seen to be ambitious (sorry, Prof. I was your student but I have something to say sir, I don’t mean any harm – truth be told), where should the Nigerian people stand? For the past one month, we have all been trapped in a post-truth situation, pretending as if all is normal. We should stop pretending.

Those who supported and are supporting the APC that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power and office cannot talk. They cannot talk due to embarrassment and shame. They are busy putting up a face. But for how long can they do this? The Nigerian media is also on its knees, looking so pitiable, with the exception of a few blogs, newspapers that we can’t even trust, professional media consultants who are in disarray, a few bloggers and then some gentlemen: Pa Ikhide, Farooq Kperogi, Sonala Olumhense, Omoyele Sowore, Pius Adesanmi and Okey Ndibe who have since been specially illuminated as they journeyed to Damascus.

I will return to this subject some other day. But I think right now, we should begin to take the subject of the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari more seriously. Bukola Saraki, our Senate President has visited him in London, twice, within two weeks. I don’t think we should leave this business of visiting the President to party chieftains, the executive and the Federal Legislature.  If care is not taken, Senator Saraki may be tempted to visit the President again next week. And the week after and he may even be tempted to travel with all the members of the National Assembly. There must be equity in this matter.

Figure it out as follows: we all know that President Buhari is now in London and he is the man Nigerians chose as their President in 2015.  We cannot forsake him. He is in London on working leave, for more than one month now, and we don’t know when that leave will end. We have been told it will end soon. Later. One day. Whenever. We are not God. Let the leave end when it will.  But we, the people, have a duty to stand by our President. This is the point of this article. We are Africans. We have traditions. We respect elders. We don’t joke with old age. The time has come, right now, for Nigerians to behave like Africans.

We should therefore, not leave this business of visiting to Senator Busola Saraki alone. Party chieftains have visited Mr. President.  The leadership of the National Assembly has also gone to London to be part of President Buhari’s working leave. I think Vice-President-Acting-President Yemi Osinbajo should also visit his boss, this week, next week, or ASAP. Henceforth, he should be in London at least once a week.  Let us stop pretending that the President is not in charge. He is.  If Aso Villa is now in London, let us make it work. The Acting President and the real President need quality face time.  If the acting President must go to London everyday, let him do so, but don’t let us run Nigeria by telephone or DHL Am I making sense? I am not talking about common sense. I mean real sense. So, do I make any sense at all?

After the Acting President’s visit, all former Presidents should also start going to London to see the President. Those former Presidents are not as harmless as they pretend to be. They are projected to the public as advisers but they are more than that: they all left something in Aso Villa that makes them eternally powerful.  It is like leaving your DNA in a woman’s body. They should be allowed or perhaps encouraged to visit President Buhari while he is on working leave.   I think our Baba in Abeokuta, Ota and Ibogun should be the first to visit. That may negate the order of seniority, but trust the Ebora Owu to return from London with front-page news! After him, the others can start visiting and probably advise on the possibility of holding a Council of State  meeting in London.  As it were, the Nigerian Constitution does not insist that the Council of State Meeting must be held inside Nigeria. The main subject of that first historic, diaspora, Council of State Meeting should be phrased by OBJ in his own unique way: “Momodu: are you well or sick?”

There is something called the separation of powers. I don’t want to disrespect mi’lords but I think they too should go to London.  The National Judicial Council (NJC) should put together a high-powered delegation of judges from every part of the country, from all divisions, and level, to proceed post-haste to London to visit, no, to confer with President Buhari on matters of judicial interest to the nation.  But Sirs, don’t go there and talk about the welfare of judges, or the non-payment of your entitlements – if you try that, well, I won’t be in a position to tell you what awaits you on your return. You know mi’lords, as well as I do, that the law in Nigeria is now being made to look truly like an ass!

After the judges, okay may be the Nigerian Bar Association should also send a delegation, but I don’t trust many of our lawyers. They think they know the law, and they could go to London and say things that will disrupt the President’s working leave. To make that impossible, members of the NBA should be booked on an Arik flight to London, please. But if they get there, fine. The next delegation should be that of Permanent Secretaries. These ones should spend more than a week in London with the President. In fact, they can stay with him till he returns. If they also have medical issues, they should use the opportunity to ask for tests, with the condition that they must return immediately the President leaves London, notwithstanding the status of their own medical tests!

Once the Permanent Secretaries have been fully accommodated in London, the Ministers, those who were once dismissed by their own employer as “noise-makers”, and who have proven to be no better, should also visit London.  They can go ahead and make as much noise as they wish in London and even enjoy the benefit of a full Federal Executive Council Meeting.  I suspect that this will be a particularly productive FEC meeting. If the people in the Foreign Affairs Ministry know what they are doing, however, they would arrange ahead of that meeting in London, a special meeting with Theresa May, Prime Minister of Great Britain, followed by a dinner with Her Majesty the Queen of England, with a proviso, please, please, please, that nobody should bring up the issue of Biafra or Southern Kaduna after shaking the Queen’s hand, and there should be a strict guarantee that President Buhari will be accompanied by his extremely beautiful wife, Aisha, and he will not, meeting the Queen, no matter how excited, make the mistake of referring to “za oza room”.

Stop laughing, my friend; this is how you people cause problems for innocent writers.  What I am now trying to add having made all these points above, is that the Governors’ Forum should also visit President Buhari in London. The Governors have already signified their intention to do so and that seems to be fine with the Nigerian public.  The Governors should therefore appoint representatives who should proceed to London. When they meet with the President, they should hold a special prayer session with three prayer points: one, that President Buhari will not work for another person to come and eat; two: that the demons of Aso Rock will spare and forgive him and his family; three: that President Buhari will return to Nigeria with his two feet. The Governor to lead the prayer should be Peter Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.

If he starts sounding as he has been sounding in recent times, Nasir el-Rufai should be asked to take the microphone from him. And if Nasir sounds like he is playing politics, as he has been doing, Adams Oshiomhole who will like to be there anyway, as a Governor ex-officio, should be given the microphone and asked to pray for the President as best as he can or as best as Trotsky could.

I have left out some people. In the past month, some Imams and ulamas and concerned relatives have been reported in the media, holding prayer sessions for a hale and hearty President who is just in London to enjoy the weather and do some quality check-ups, private and public. These prayer warriors have prayed and prayed in Abuja, Daura, Borno and everywhere else. The matter is so serious that nobody should be surprised if Rochas Okorocha or James Ibori organizes a prayer session for Muhammadu Buhari. This is the biggest business in Nigeria at this moment.

I think, therefore, that we should also encourage the ulamas and the imams to visit. Let them go to London and pray for their President. We have been told they have been sending prayers through skype, whatsapp and the air, the same channels that GSM service providers in Nigeria now want to block. Let the imams go to London then and let the verses of the Holy Quoran rain down. It will be unfair not to allow Christian leaders to go to London too. They are also anxious to go to London. Pastor Tunde Bakare, my beloved, secondary school senior should lead that team. His job should be to screen out any Pastor with Biafra, or Southern Kaduna or pro-PDP blood in him or her.  I mean Pastors like Reno Omokri, Ebun Adegboruwa…. you get what I am saying? The prayer should be commissioned!

Traditional rulers, bloggers, public intellectuals, trolls, and journalists! Oh, I almost forgot. I think we should also be invited to London to have tea with the President. I volunteer to lead that team but if I am considered unpopular, since they say I am not one of them, let @ikhide, @akaebube, or @dejiadeyanju, @realFFK, or @YeleSowore, be the team leader. But please, make sure we have on that list, @lindaikeji, @SDimokoKORKUS, @emepretty1, @bellanaija, @omojuwa, @ChiomaChuka, @AbangMercy, @toyeenb, @MrStanleyNwabia and… and… My friend, STFU!  I am not planning a special episode of #bbnaija. I just want to go to London and see …my President.

Remember that thing Governor Ajimobi said? – By Chude Jideonwo

Last month, the Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi shocked the nation.

Footage of the governor speaking to students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) who had been grounded at home (for eight months from 13 June, 2016 due to a shutdown announced by the Rector), showed a white-hot rage: “If this how you want to talk to me,” he blasted the students for their effrontery in protesting the closure of their school. “Then do your worst. Eight months. Eight months? Is that something we have not seen before?”

Even now retelling the statements, I am shaken.

Let’s stop there and unpack the statement and its many ugly layers: you will find arrogance, you will find insensitivity, and you will find a distinct lack of compassion (if we wanted to get right to the point, we would call it wickedness).

Let’s ask a common sense question: How does a public servant defend a failure of duty based on how he or she is spoken to?

And then let us recall what exactly the issue is here.

LAUTECH is owned by the Oyo and Osun state governments. The two state governments are to each give the schools N295 million as subventions monthly. Oyo owes the institution N2.3 billion and Osun owes N5.3 billion. With this dereliction of responsibility, naturally, teachers in the school have been owed for 13 months. So five months ago, workers went on strike, and the school was shut down.

I know our country has degenerated so badly that the unacceptable has found its place into mainstream tolerance. But it is important to understand this: having students of a university sit at home for eight months is certainly, to put it mildly, not normal.

It should never be acceptable for students to have disruptions to their academic schedule. It sends to them, a clear message – that their country does not care about them. It fundamentally alters any pretentions to structure and order, and the reality of governance.

It costs the nation significantly because we spend more per student in multiple ways when sessions are interrupted – depreciation costs, inflationary consequences, loss of manpower hours as employees are paid for periods of low value (and still have to retire at age limit), double costs with each resumption, cost of maintaining the school at gap periods (including electricity and water bills). Remember that none of these costs are value-driven because they are incurred when the primary reason for the institution’s existence is absent.

Then there is the unbearable cost to the students, and then to the guardians of the students – all of the above doing their part to sustain a vicious cycle of national waste.

It bears repeating, however, that its most important damage is that it else sends a message to young people finding their way in the world that this is a fundamentally messed up country, where hard work isn’t rewarded, patriotism isn’t logical and the system eats its young alive.

It is important to restate this, even if tertiary school shutdowns have become a tradition since the Academic Staff Union of Universities organized its first national strike in 1988 and military dictators, who ruled Nigeria for a better part of the 80s and 90s, decided that wanton school closures are the solution to student dissent.

It is important to restate this for the sake of my own sanity even if I have been a victim of the most ridiculous shutdowns as a student of the University of Lagos in 2005.

Because things have now deteriorated so badly, that an elected governor can stand at a podium – after eight months of institutional silence as these students have begged and pleaded for audience – unafraid of consequence, to tell them, essentially, to go to hell.

This is not normal.

In response, rather than apologise, or pretend to contrition, his team decided that a more effective strategy was to share its own edits of the exchange, claiming that the governor ‘apologised’ to the students.

First, in the apology video, he did no such thing. “I am not angry,” was the best he said, and from a place of entitled smugness.

The fact that this public servant even thought the full video of his patronizing statements would make any part of the exchange acceptable is proof further than the events in themselves that the man’s style of governance is also… not normal.

“Students need to learn to engage,” he lectured them after failing them for 13 months. Makes one wonder, isn’t it the job of the leader who is also servant to first engage, to explain, to establish a frame of understanding, and to empathise?

How do you expect calm and restraint from young people whose progress has been cut short for eight months? Is it possible that this man would be restrained and orderly if his children were stuck so?

It bears asking if there is an understanding of the basic nature of service.

Because beyond the evident failure of governance that his action shows, there is an absence in understanding the massive failure in the value chain. He doesn’t know that he has failed, and so he doesn’t know that he should be ashamed, be sorry about it, and be apologetic.

That should shock us. Not because we didn’t know how these guys have always viewed the rest of us; not because we didn’t know the primitiveness that undergirds the thinking of our leadership set, but because, now, they have killed shame.

There is that.

But perhaps we should ask ourselves – how did the governor come about this misguided confidence?

He explained it in the video: constituted authority.

According to him, the fact that he is “constituted authority” means the students should have kept shut, listened to him, and accepted his justifications uncritically.

He fully expected that his sheer presence of his superfluous ‘agbada’ was such a gift to the students that they should have been stunned into ecstatic silence.

And so “His Excellency” was shocked – shocked – that the young, educated people of his state, who were agitated after eight months of abandonment, could still find their voice.

Now, that, right there, is where we should get frightened.

That an elected leader – and there are many like him – still believe, even in a flourishing, adversarial two-party democracy, that they are constituted authority against which questions are disrespect, and questioners risk punishment.

Right there, stands the root of our particular brand of problem.

The respect, and, yes, the fear that leaders should have for citizens is mostly absent in the version of a social contract that Nigeria has.

Unfortunately, the fault for this anomaly doesn’t come only from those who lead.

Today, we have citizens who have ceded their right to be treated with respect. You only need to pay attention to conversation online to see a citizenry that has not only ceded that right, but actively denigrates those who would exercise theirs. People who believe that political affiliation means blind loyalty. Those who believe that relationships with government mean silence whatever happens. Those who believe that those who make high demands of government are being ‘troublesome’ or ‘unreasonable.

But if citizens want respect from their leaders, they have to demand it – and they have to demand it without reservation.

The defense of “constituted authority” is jabber. There should be no respect for leaders who have defaulted in duty.

There should particularly be no regard for Nigeria’s distinguished set of consistently, and aggressively, failing leaders.

Many of our leaders lack empathy. The steady erosion of incentives for demonstrable empathy and consequences for its lack has ultimately led to this death, of common sense. And so they have become, in essence, abnormal.

In that case, it becomes imperative to turn up the heat.

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Governments should be worried about how the public receives their decisions and interprets their actions. Government activity would thence be made only against the background of what citizens thinks, what the voters’ reaction will be, of the consequences of each step.

Even if it leads to pandering – that is only a small price to pay for the bigger gain that comes.

But it has to matter that the decision of those we have chosen to lead us must reflect our desires, our wishes, our imperatives and our preferences – and that their reactions must reflect an understanding of who truly calls the shots.

That is how a functioning democracy works. Unfortunately, Nigeria is a long way from this balance of power.

These guys in public office, and their band that lose perceptive when they get a job in government, don’t get it.

They don’t get it, at all.

Our urgent, continuous task is to make sure that they do.

PS: Upon going to press with this piece, it is important to remember that while LAUTECH has technically re-opened, students have yet to continue academic activity because lecturers have not yet resumed. So, indeed, the value chain remains broken.

 

Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Is fake news the new normal? – By Simon Kolawole

Heard the latest? The Central Bank of Nigeria has been selling the elusive dollar to some end users at 61 kobo/US$1, while the rest of us are busy buying the stuff at over N500/$1 in the parallel market. Goodness Gracious! It is time to fire Mr. Godwin Emefiele as the CBN governor. He should not only be sacked, he should be jailed. This is simply getting too much. Since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, Emefiele has not only conspired with himself to destroy the naira — singlehanded and cold-hearted — he has even gone to the extent of selling the almighty dollar to his cronies at 61 kobo! The information is right there on the CBN website! Emefiele must go!

Now, I don’t need to do any research to know that what you just read is an excellent piece of fake news. Terrific fake news. I will give just three reasons on the spot. One, the CBN does not sell forex directly to bank customers. Anyone with the faintest idea of how the financial system works knows this for a fact. When you request for forex from your bank, the bank bids at the central bank. If it sails through, your bank debits the naira equivalent from your account and transfers the forex to your designated beneficiary. These transactions, as recorded by the bank and approved by the CBN, are then published in the newspapers and on central bank’s website.

Two, since the CBN does not deal directly with bank customers, will a bank buy $1 at N305 from the CBN and then sell to customers at 61 kobo, thereby making a loss of N304.39 on every dollar? Is that the new attribute of Father Christmas? Even Father Christmas charges a gate fee! Let’s even say the CBN sells directly to end users. Why would it sell at 61 kobo to one customer and at N315 to another and have the audacity to publish the information on its website? Are they that dumb at the central bank? Something like: “Dear Nigerians, we sold $1 at 61 kobo to Chief Kudi and another $1 at N497 to Eze Ekeshi. If you doubt us, check our website. Thanks for your understanding.”

Three, when we started using the naira as national currency on January 1, 1973, it exchanged at 65 kobo/$1. From then, the best rate has been 61 kobo. In fact, only in one year did the naira average 61 kobo to the dollar — and that was as far back as 1981. Are we now saying 36 years after, the dollar would still be sold for 61 kobo? Even when our foreign reserves, including excess crude earnings, hit $65 billion, dollar did not exchange for 61 kobo. Even when crude old sold for $147 per barrel, dollar did not exchange for 61 kobo. Even the generous Hajj rate, Jerusalem rate and DSS rate are more than 61 kobo. On what economic or political basis would it now be 61 kobo?

I did not pay attention to the allegation until I read that Mr. Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, had couriered a query to Emefiele based on a petition that a dollar was sold for 61 kobo. The CBN issued a statement dismissing the allegation, insisting that the transactions in question were not conducted in dollars but “in a third currency”. Let us say, for instance, that the bank transaction is in South African rand. Since $1 goes for R13, someone will just take a look at the rate and conclude that $1 was sold for N13. It becomes a scandal, goes viral on the social media and produces a query from the attorney-general. And Emefiele must go!

Nevertheless, I would conclude that there is always a basis for fake news, no matter how tenuous. There is a vacuum that fake news seeks to fill — or create. Since Buhari went on “medical leave”, the fake news industry has been very buoyant. He said he was going away for 10 working days. He, curiously, extended it. The wife, Aisha, went to UK, headed for Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj and then returned to Nigeria. This was a very good tonic for fake news: Buhari has been moved to Saudi Arabia for further treatment. After all, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua swapped Germany for Saudi Arabia in 2009 in his last days. In the final analysis, fake news feeds on something.

I did not buy the Saudi Arabia story in Buhari’s case because if indeed he is critically ill (or bedridden), his wife would not leave for Nigeria. To come and do what? Pack some clothing and toiletries? It doesn’t make sense. When Yar’Adua was terminally ill in 2009, his wife, Turai, was there from the beginning to the end, till her husband was flown back to Nigeria, under controversial circumstances, in February 2010. She never left his side. I don’t know how many women would leave the bedside of their dying husbands and return to Nigeria, no matter what. But in the world of make-believe, the deal is to make you believe everything.

There is a sense in which we can say the Yar’Adua experience influenced perception in the ongoing Buhari saga. Yar’Adau was critically ill in Saudi Arabia. It was reported that he was brain dead. He then granted the BBC an interview to prove that he was still awake. He even wished the Super Eagles success in the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. But many believed his voice was cloned. It was believed that a “cabal” wanted to create the impression that Yar’Adua was healthy enough to be issuing orders from his sick bed. The attorney-general at the time, Mr Mike Aondoakaa, famously said the president could rule from anywhere.

As a result of this experience, Nigerians have become very sceptical of any bit of information from government. This scepticism provides the perfect setting for fake news. When Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande visited Buhari in London and the pictures were released, a fake news manufacturer grabbed his phone and started typing a “denial” by Tinubu, claiming Tinubu said he was in Ibadan and could not have visited the president. It soon went, as they say, viral. Some still insist Buhari did not speak with US President Donald Trump, that Buhari is unconscious and cannot talk to anybody. All pictures taken with Buhari so far have been declared as “photoshopped”.

Fake news — that art of concocting stories from your bedroom because you have a smart phone with cheap data —  is becoming the biggest thing in town. No, it is not new. It was not invented in this generation of social media. We have been living with fake news most of our lives. The SAP riots of 1989, for instance, were sparked off by fake news. Some highly talented rumour mongers printed leaflets claiming that the military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, and his wife, Mariam, had the biggest wristwatch company in Switzerland, the best fashion house in Paris, etc. It was spuriously attributed to Ebony magazine. Riots broke out and several people lost their lives.

Can we do anything about fake news? It is a global phenomenon, as we saw in America last year during the presidential electioneering. Last year, an attempt by Nigerian lawmakers to hold fake news purveyors responsible through legislation was soundly rejected. There was an outcry, with some merit, that the law could be used for censorship. Yet we know that mischief makers who propagate fake news need to be held responsible at some point. But as I have argued before: ultimately, consumers of rumours and fake news will have to determine for themselves what is believable, what is speculative, what is fable and what is mischief designed to mislead the gullible.

My conclusion, though, is that fake news will continue to blossom. Information has never been this free in the history of mankind. It is free as a right — social media is a lawless society. It is virtually free in terms of cost — since your data subscription is for all purposes. Anybody who dreams of a world free of fake news needs to quickly wake up. Every mischief maker with a mobile phone and data subscription can set off a fake story anytime. There are thousands of eager sharers waiting to rebroadcast with the obligatory caveat, “shared as received”. Fake news is going to be very normal in the years ahead. Authentic news will become an endangered species. Quote me.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

GOD BLESS DICKSON

The people I admire the most are not those who say there are problems. Identifying a problem may be a good attribute on its own, but I prefer those who proffer solutions. Even more to be admired are those who take practical steps to solve the problems. Thumbs up for Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state for creating 1,200 hectares of land at Pame, in Yenagoa, for the Fulani herders. It may solve a political problem, who knows, and contain the farmers/herders conflict. But it is certainly also an economic masterstroke. The livestock will be healthier and yield more beef and milk both in quality and quantity. The herders, after all, produce the beef we eat in Nigeria. Win-win.

HOPE RISING

With oil production returning to 2 million barrels per day, price hovering around $54 per barrel, and an expected inflow of $1 billion from the eurobond issue (plus a rumoured $2.5 billion World Bank facility in the works), the cup is suddenly looking more like half-full than half-empty for Nigeria. But the dollar at $510, in spite of these positive signals, is no good news at all. The naira has lost too much weight in two years. Nevertheless, what we should all crave at this time is stability. If the naira will fall to N550 and stay there for the next four years, I can live with that more than it falling by N5 every day. With stability, we can plan much better. Hope.

IN MEMORY OF WALI

Today, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Ambassador Isa Wali will be remembered on the 50th anniversary of his death. He was at various times Nigeria’s high commissioner to Ghana and permanent representative to the UN. A progressive politician of the Aminu Kano school, Wali was a known critic of religious and political suppression, and a campaigner for the underprivileged. His family, in collaboration with the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, will hold a lecture and fundraiser in his memory today, with the minister of environment, Hajia Amina Mohamed, delivering the keynote. The memory of the upright is always blessed. Remarkable.

CORRINGENDUM

In my article, “The Drama Republic of Nigeria” (February 12, 2017), I wrote that even if President Buhari had not written to the national assembly that he was going away, “Osinbajo would still have legally started acting as president after 21 days”. I attributed this to the amendment of the 1999 constitution to correct the Yar’Adua scenario when Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan could not act because there was no letter to that effect from the president. In fact, the proposed amendment did not sail through. The position of the constitution remains that the president has to write before the VP can be acting president. Apologies.

 

Source: The Cable

AMCON, Arik and an urgent public need – By Lekan Fatodu

To many close observers, particularly the travelling public, the news of Arik Air, Nigeria’s biggest airline, being taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) over the reported huge indebtedness of the airline wouldn’t come as a surprise.

For the past few months, the wholly Nigerian airline has been in the news more for problematic reasons than records of any major accomplishment.

The airline’s challenge took an ugly turn in January when passengers on both its local and international routes reeled out in anguish about being stranded at various airports. Others who were lucky to fly out of the airports later discovered, on getting to their destinations, that their luggage didn’t arrive with them.

Things actually got so messy that at a stage some passengers, out of frustration, almost lynched a manager of the airline at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. Yes, it was really that bad.

Obviously the adverse effects of the airline’s ineptitude on the socio-economic activities of passengers most of whom operate in different sectors of the Nigerian economy presently gasping for breath in the midst of a nasty recession has proven to be enough to make many people go gaga.

Sadly though, the management of the airline itself did practically nothing to tackle the real issue afflicting its services in a manner that will deepen public understanding, engender necessary solution and prevent such debacle that played out from repeating itself.

And this, amongst other now failures of the airline that are now public knowledge, has unsurprisingly resulted in the intervention of AMCON to rescue the airline from the sea of troubles threatening to drown it.

Following is what AMCON had to say after taking over at the airline.

“The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, has discovered deep rooted rot at Arik Airlines, which would require over N10 billion to fix before the largest local carrier would resume full and uninterrupted flight operations to its regular routes across the country and beyond.

“The situation is so bad that only nine aircraft out of the 30 in the fleet of the airline is operational. 21 of them have either been grounded, gone for C-check in Europe among other forms of challenges.

‘’As if these problems are not enough, the airline does not have money to procure aviation fuel for the nine operational aircraft because no dealer wants to sell aviation fuel to Arik if it is not on cash-and-carry basis.

‘’This also calls for public understanding because flight schedules may be realigned based on the nine aircraft that are available, technically sound and ready for flight operation.

“It was also discovered that Arik also owes its technical partners and also in perpetual default in its lease payments and insurance premium, leading to regular and embarrassing squabbles with different business partners, which account for why 21 aircraft are off the fleet for different reasons.

“All these problems, in addition to huge staff salaries, which have remained unpaid for 11 months; vendors that supply different items to Arik Airlines that are also owed, meant that Nigerians may have to tarry awhile to allow the new management clean up the huge mess at the airline before Arik would finally resume uninterrupted flight.”

Expectedly, the dissolved management of Arik hit back at AMCON dismissing most of the claims made by the government agency. According to it, AMCON’s excuses for the takeover were well crafted decoy made to enable the easy conversion of the private airline to a national carrier.

Indeed, the present government has mooted the idea of running a national carrier as a way of advancing the economy by harnessing and maximising the massive benefits in the country’s aviation sector.

But the way the Nigerian Airways, the rested national airline, and many other monumental and profitable public assets were run aground, has cast doubt in the minds of many on the government’s ability to operate profitably a new national airline or any business enterprise for that matter.

However, the assessment of the efforts of AMCON now that the government agency is on the wings of Arik should be the major test of the workability of the national carrier proposition.

Actually, before any other thing, the main focus of the new AMCON team at Arik should be to make a fast move in resolving all the issues that have hindered the airline from reaching its true potentials.

It is really disheartening seeing that an airline that enjoys between 55-60 per cent share of the air transport market in Nigeria is faced with challenges that are in the real sense a no-brainer, especially when most of the other airlines that constitute the remaining 40 – 45 market share are not better off.

The Nigerian government and air travellers who use the aviation line for various businesses and engagements need reliable, efficient and safe air services to support in building a virile economy.

Countries that are deemed prosperous attain their glorious heights by ensuring sound and excellent operations in all critical areas of the economy amongst which the aviation sector is accorded a worthy attention.

The situation of Arik is a peculiar one given its position amongst others and the condition of its workforce which is said to be over 1,800 people, many of whom were being owed salary arrears of four to six months at the time of the takeover. That is why the new AMCON team should direct their energy and expertise towards the urgent need to deliver a truly dependable Arik that will meet the expectations of the majority of Nigerian air travellers.

OPINION: One Arsene Wenger – By Baba Grumpy

You have read the reports especially after the match against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. “Arsene Wenger snatches candy from kids”. “His team can never do it again”. “They don’t have mental strength”. “He needs to go now” etc. Overreaction I call it.

Apart from the fact that I am still hurting from the result, I am also incensed primarily at the Arsenal fans without a single sense of history. Those whose horizons are limited to any team currently winning the league or the nearest trophy. Those whose sample size for comparing Arsenal and Arsenal is severely limited. The ones that really annoy me are the “Wenger used to have it but he no longer does”.

Funny old game football. Its not like we have gone to Munich before and lost 5-1 after beating the same team 2-0 at the Emirates. Its not as if Petr Cech wasn’t the goalkeeper on the night as well.

When will people stop behaving like sheep, lapping up every nonsense from the media and pundits who clearly have a job to do and bills to pay. Click Click Click is the new Baa Baa Baa. Sheep the lot of them.

Let me help you out. For me, today, tomorrow and forever, The Invincibles will be a touchstone to Arsene’s INVINCINBILITY. TO HIS MAGIC. TO HIS IMMORTALITY. FOREVER. If any other manager were to achieve that in my lifetime, he can only but be accepted as a junior member into that special class of one, exemplified by Arsene.

To those with short memories, you might want to consider this.

The Invincibles were Arsene’s best team. The best team in England. Arguably the best team never to win the Champions League. They lost Nil 3 to Inter Milan at Highbury. Below is how the good ole BBC, ‘always looking to stir up sh*t’ reported the match.

“Arsenal’s Champions League campaign got off to the worst possible start as they were humbled at home by last season’s semi-finalists Inter Milan. The Italians destroyed Arsenal with a spectacular first-half display in which they scored three times and could have had more”.

Sound similar to the stuff spewed out after Wednesday night. But guess what that same team that was destroyed at Highbury went to the San Siro and stuffed Inter’s backside with five unreplied and sumptuous goals. That is football. You win and you lose. You get the highs and the lows. It is unrealistic to expect only highs.

At the time of that loss to Inter, Arsenal had the miserable record of six European Cup /UCL home matches without a win. I will hate to imagine the riot on the streets of North London if Arsenal were to dare have that type of record today. The meltdown on Arsenal Fan TV will be reported in the North Korean media and on CNN Breaking News.

In 2001/2 when we won the league, we lost 4-0 to Blackburn in the League Cup. In the 2000/1 Champions League Group stages, we shifted 3 unreplied goals against Shakhtar Donetsk and broke an 18 year record as we had never lost by such an heavy margin in Europe. In the 2nd group stage, we shifted four against Spartak Moscow and managed to squeeze into the knock out stages courtesy of the Head to Head rules.

So if you started following Arsenal yesterday or you deliberately blocked of some of the historical result in your Wenger hatred, there you are. Fixed it for you.

Wenger’s Arsenal record in the Champion’s League & its predecessor competition include the following 10 Round of 16 exits , 4 Quarter Finals, 1 Semi Final and 1 Final appearance.  The recent exits at the Round of 16 are what appears to be at the forefront of the mind of many. As for me and apart from the Monaco exit, I put all of these exits to a combination of bad luck and skullduggery from officials. We have been unfortunate to meet giants of European football, teams that were significantly better than us and when fortune could have favored us, the referee intervenes by sending one of our players off at the Nou Camp.

Good teams get bashed occasionally. Bad teams get bashed often. Bayern Munich has lost by a similar margin to Barcelona under the great Pep Guardiola.

So I am sorry, please miss me with your doom mongering. I still believe in Arsene, Arsenal FC and also the players who are committed to the cause.

We have not won the league for many reasons in the past 12 seasons. There was a time when the unity of the squad was threatened by a few players who are no longer with the club and because of financial issues. The players obviously have a path to play and if the stuff we are reading about the current squad is anything to go by, a disunited dressing room is unlikely to do well. The management of any group of people is challenging as anybody who has the remote chance to manage personal or professional relationships will tell you and there are may factors that can trip up the best. What happens if your best player is at the crux of the problem and clearly has a few people behind him?

Definitely, people can talk about 12 seasons without a trophy all they care but for me, we were simply unfortunate last season to come 2nd to a team that performed exceptionally well. A team performing the feat of a 100 lifetimes in one season. A Team who will never repeat the same feat in 5000 years. This season we are playing 2nd fiddle to a team that has gone on an exceptional run and equaled the feat set by another of Wenger’s team.

The fact that Wenger and his team can be competitive is evident by his performance against other teams. This season can still end like last season with Arsenal coming 2nd or in the event of an exceptional collapse by the current leaders, Arsenal can profit and win the league in extraordinary circumstances. I am holding to this dream until it becomes mathematically impossible.

In this 12 seasons that many keep harping on about, only 4 teams have outperformed Arsenal and Arsene – Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City & Leicester. In effect, there have been 15 failed clubs and managers in the Premier League in each of the last 12 seasons. Arsene’s one failure to me is the fact that he has made consistency appear too easy. He has created a sense of entitlement in Arsenal’s fans. Our people now expect Caviar & Champagne with every meal.

To juggle memories further, none of the critics who are mouthing off now gave Arsene & Arsenal a prayer  at the start of the season. Pep & Motormouth were going to knock everybody off their feet. Klopp will give the Anfield choir renewed hope. Conte will bring some Italian magic  with him and Pochettino is a better manager than Arsene.

On head to head aggregate results and goals for & against, Wenger has outperformed Conte this season.  At the moment, there is not much of a difference between him and the others. Yes it is so tight that we might fall out of the top 4 for the first time in like ever, but there is also a very decent chance we might still win it or end up 2nd.

If you think Arsene has failed. Please allow me introduce you to 18 other failed managers in the Premier League.

Just so you know, those who are determined to force Arsene out, will soon turn on the owner and the Chief Executive. Which will be great if their protests genuinely achieve the  desired results of helping Arsenal win a league title or the Champions league but all we see is the negative effects on the pitch.

They have tried to force out some of the wonderful talents amongst the playing squad, they are trying to force out the manager, they have tried same on the owner. When will they stop? Where will they stop?

The manager knows what the issues are better than any one on the outside. The Chief Executive is savvy enough to know what is going on within the playing squad and around the club. If the Chief Executive, the Owner & the Board are satisfied that the team is performing to expectation and pre – set targets, as fans we should get behind that decision and back the manager and our players on the pitch.

Confidence plays a huge part in playing and winning football matches. Do not ruin the confidence of our players and moan that they are not winning football matches.

So please stop the doom mongering and the negativity. Nail your colours to the mast. Rally round one of the greatest manager of all times in Arsene. And support the team.

 

Baba Grumpy works in Financial Services in the United Kingdom. He blogs mostly about football at http://babagrumpy.blogspot.co.uk. His Twitter handle is @BabaGrumpy

Between Buhari & Osinbajo: The Missing Ingredient – By Muhammad Karamba

Buhari’s absence has brought to light some interesting aspects of the current government which Nigerians should be proud of.

The Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is doing an excellent job while his boss is away. Some are already calling for Osinbajo 2019.

But who is to take credit? What is the reason for such disparity between the stewardship of a Boss and his deputy?

One thing is for certain, Prof Osinbajo was chosen by President Buhari. Whatever good comes from the former came as a result of a decision by the latter.

The least we could do is to give Buhari the credit of choosing such a capable hand to be in charge of this Nation in his absence.

Moreover, Osinbajo cannot make any critical decision without contacting his boss. Everything the Acting President has been given credit for has to be sanctioned by the President himself.

The only area where the VP has superseded his boss is one which I call “The missing ingredient”

The success of any government depends greatly on its Public Relations management. Buhari doesn’t have the best of PR management teams.

His PR team is characterized by either making statements and systematically retracting them or staying mute when the nation is asking for answers or refusing to give the voice of the people a listening ear. This has mostly been the case.

A good PR team is one which scrutinizes the meaning of every word or statement that should be said in the name of the Presidency down to the comprehension of the most biased Nigerian. It is one which forces the President to make statements when the need arise and vice-versa.

It is one which understands that citizens deserve comprehensible truth when they demand for them and even when they don’t. It is one which understands that, it is the makeup artist which determines whether citizens see good president or an ugly one.

Prof Yemi Osinbajo has a good PR team and we all have seen the difference it has made. Few days and people are already appreciating.

This is the litmus that has exposed a flaw in Buhari’s administration.

It is time for the President to look beyond political affiliation and choose the best artists to paint a picture of his administration.

I wish the President a healthy return and a successful tenure. God bless Nigeria

 

Muhammad  Karamba

Twitter: @Mukib_

Reno Omokri’s Amnesia and Illusion of Knowledge – By Richard Tayo

You might not know me but my name is Richard Tayo. I am the same guy who wrote a letter to a certain ally of yours titled “Stellar Hypocrisy on Show: Letter to Senator Ben Murray Bruce”. You may seek to block me on Twitter as it is customary of you but here is a spoiler alert; I am not your follower.

For one Reno, or can I simply address you as Wendell? I read that you are a Pastor. I want to say that if you are truly a pastor then I respect the anointing upon you. I have no grouse with Reno Omokri the Pastor.

However I have every bone to pick with Reno the critic. I have problems with Reno the hypocrite and I certainly have problems with your amnesia and illusion of knowledge. I feel compelled to ­reject the views of hypocrites. I see hypocrisy as a vice and a symptom of incompetence or insincerity, I think you should be exceedingly careful about letting your emotions color your judgments of substantive issues.

This letter is not about Ex President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ). Howbeit I can’t properly address your amnesia and illusion of knowledge without reference to GEJ. The rate at which you sing praises of GEJ to high heaven is alarming. Actually, I observed that our democratic process has brought us some sense of loyalty which is a good ingredient for development. The loyalty between leaders and followers recently has increased tremendously and this auspicate good tidings for our national development. However, I wonder if your case is loyalty or plain sycophancy.

Now let me touch on your amnesia a little. You are so unoriginal, you are just like every other guy before you who hates President Buhari. You seem to have forgotten that everything you’ve tweeted about PMB’s administration to date as it’s shortcomings are not what you can exculpate the administration you served from.

All you seem to have on this administration is the economic recession, forgetting that the administration you served laid the foundation. Now let’s peruse a little; OBJ saved $67billion, spent N27trillion in 8years and left almost zero debt.

GEJ inherited about $47.7billion, spent N51trillion in 6years, left a debt of about $63billion. All these were inspite of the unprecedented oil boom during his regime yet as GEJ apologist you never stopped your cacophony of Nigeria been the largest economy in Africa under him. What a pity

Now to your illusion of knowledge and your so called #RenosNuggets. Where were the #Nuggets you flood twitter with on daily basis when your actions made you a liability to GEJ’s presidential ambition? Little wonder your vile marque of overzealousness was responsible for your replacement with Obi Asika. One would have expected your little #Nuggets to be your watchwords. Obviously your #Nuggets are only applicable to the gullible followers you placate daily on Twitter. What a shame!

The more I see you refer to Lai Mohammed as a liar the more I wanna smash my phone against the wall. It’s a visible case of pot calling kettle black. Imagine Reno ‘Wendell Simlin’ Omokri called someone a liar, this world done spoil finish.

Imagine a world full of honesty, a world without deceit, a world deprived off lies. It all sounds wonderful, but beware of what you wish for. And that is because the likes of you Reno Omokri might not be able to survive in such world.

 

#RichardTayoNuggets

@richardtayo

How my government is tackling #SouthernKaduna crisis from the root – Nasir El-Rufai

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai spoke with reporters in Lagos on his style of governance, the rift between him and Senator Shehu Sani, the violence in Southern Kaduna and how to end the crisis.

Could you shed light on the protracted Southern Kaduna crisis?
The crisis would start with a dispute between two people; as long as those two people are from different ethnic groups, different religious persuasions, they don’t get resolved by community leaders or law enforcement agencies. They get escalated into a group conflict between one ethnic group against another or one religious group against another.

The conflicts, according to the Agwai Committee, arise from the semi-settled Fulani people. In at least two cases out of the 11 we have had, it was a clash between indigenous ethnic groups that are mostly Christians. So, I want people to understand this; this has been a pattern; 11 times it has happened and not necessarily religious, and it is mostly ethnic. It was only once in 1992 after the Zangon Kataf crisis that the Federal Government under Babangida established a judicial tribunal, which tried Zamani Lekwot and others for killings, and they were sentenced to death. Babangida politically commuted their sentences to life imprisonment, and thereafter, they were released. It was the Federal Government that did it, not the state government. The state government has never prosecuted anyone. And this is the pattern, and then, we wait for another conflict.

Why is the area addicted to crisis?
In 37 years, we have had 11, and if you do the maths, you will see that it happens almost every three years. So, when we came into office, I asked for all the reports of the commissions of inquiry and I read all of them; the only one that I have not been able to find is that of the first one, the Kasuwa Magani crisis. I read all of the White Papers because I knew sooner or later that in our four years, we might have one. So, we were ready for this. But we took steps to ensure that it did not at all happen. The first thing we did was to try to understand ‘why were communities in Southern Kaduna attacked?’ We set up a committee under Gen. Martins Agwai to study the problem and tell us what is the problem. The committee was inaugurated, submitted a report in August 2015. They had some findings and recommendations that were very, interesting. They found that there were three kinds of Fulani – the settled Fulani that don’t have cattle; the semi-settled who have cattle, but don’t go very far, maybe within the confines of the state and then, the transhumane Fulani, who come from West African countries.

There is an ECOWAS protocol that allows them to move across these countries and it appears there are international stalk routes that had been marked in pre-colonial times to enable them to move their cattle up and down. What has happened is that, over the years, expansion of population, urban development, need for farmlands have encroached on these international stalk routes.

So, as these Fulani, mostly from outside Nigeria, come. they get on farms that in their minds were part of the international stalk routes but have now been overtaken by need for agricultural land. This is where the conflicts come.

What were the findings of the committees set up to probe the crises?
The conflicts, according to the Agwai Committee, arise from the semi-settled Fulani who move cattle within Nigeria and the transhumance Fulani who come from outside Nigeria. The second finding and recommendation of the committee was that under Governor Patrick Yakowa, this dichotomy was understood by him and that when the attacks on Southern Kaduna communities persisted, he figured that it had to do with the 2011 post-election violence and he began to send delegations to reach out to the transhumane Fulani and offer them compensation to stop coming to kill.

To some extent, Yakowa was successful until he died; because at some point, the attacks stopped. But, when he died, the successor government did not continue, and the attacks resumed. The Agwai Committee recommended that we should try to reach out to these transhumance Fulani because they are the main cause of the attacks. The committee established that it is not the Nigerian Fulani that are doing most of the attacks and that the bulk of it was coming from abroad.

We said to them, ‘look, we offer you compensation for deaths, for livestock lost, provided you agree that these reprisals stop. Leave our people alone; this has happened, it happened in 2011.’ We were very successful because from August 2015 when we started the outreach, following Agwai Committee report, till May 2016, there were no attacks in Southern Kaduna. There was silence. We thought that we had dealt with more than one-half of the problem – the transhumane Fulani. Once we started sending delegations, even those who were planning to attack heard that the government was going round apologising, offering compensation. so, they waited because the Fulani have their informal ways of communication and we thought that we had solved that problem.

What is your relationship with the three senators from your state?
One of the things that I initiated was a monthly meeting with members of the National Assembly from Kaduna State across party lines. Because I believe that their job is to advocate for Kaduna State’s interest at the federal level and that we should all work together.

I hosted them to a dinner immediately after the inauguration, but the senator from Southern Kaduna did not come, the two APC senators came, and most of the members of the House of Representatives came. I told them that we needed to work together to influence budgetary provisions for Kaduna, to influence projects and so on. I was doing that monthly, until the Governors’ Forum started fixing monthly meetings the same time I was having dinner with the members of the National Assembly. That disrupted it, and I have not met with them now for about four months, but we have now agreed to a monthly late lunch meeting. The senator from Southern Kaduna maybe considered himself a PDP senator and, maybe, thought we would not be fair to him; so he has never attended these meetings.

I think that, once elections are over, you are governor of everyone and you should try to bring everyone along. That does not mean that I don’t have separate meetings with APC House of Representatives members or House of Assembly members; we do when we have to meet over party issues, and I meet monthly with House of Assembly members across party lines. They come, and I host them to dinner. They ask what we are doing, and we explain.

We are on one page, and I think this is why our House of Assembly, I think, is the most prolific in Nigeria. It has passed something like 25 laws in two years.

What is your relationship with Senator Shehu Sani?
Shehu Sani’s history is that he is an activist, of some type and it is up to you to determine the adjective. He contested the APC primary and defeated the candidate that I supported (General Sani Saleh), and after the primaries, I brought everyone together and said we have to win this election. I got Saleh to support him, and we supported him fully. I think the problem is that because Shehu Sani’s mind is that of an activist, he thinks that the way to position himself…he thinks politics is being in the media all the time. Activism is different from politics. Sometimes in politics, you don’t want your name in the media, but activists’ oxygen is the media, and he thinks that the way to remain visible and prepare him for running for governor of Kaduna State in 2019 is to criticise everything I do.

Even, if I breathe air, he will criticise it. I told my media team not to respond to him; we are a government of everybody, including Shehu Sani. Let the party apparatchik respond to him, let people in the streets respond to him, and I also told them to let’s work, let’s produce results because we will get to the point that nobody can come and criticise us. Because of the things he has been doing, criticising the president, saying all sorts of things about me, the party disciplinary process was initiated against him, but he blames it on me. He thinks I engineered it. But, frankly, I don’t care about Shehu Sani. I don’t think he is a threat to me politically or in any way. In 2018, when the whistle is blown we will see who has support on the ground in Kaduna.

It is claimed that you empowered General Saleh’s supporters…
I can choose who to empower. I am the governor of the state, and I have to make appointments, and in making the appointments, I have to balance merit, loyalty and paying off other debts. I don’t owe Shehu Sani anything. I asked all of them, Shehu Sani, to give me names of people that I will appoint to positions. They gave me, and I looked at them, and none of the people from Shehu’s list is good enough to be a commissioner in my cabinet.
Shehu Sani’s first anger was that the list of commissioners came out and none from his list. In a state where there are about 10,000 PhDs that I have in my data base; I am not going to take a diploma holder and make him a commissioner just because he is Shehu Sani’s man. I don’t operate like that. When President Obasanjo called me and said he was going to make me a minister, I gave him a condition that ‘you don’t appoint members of my team, I will appoint my team,’ and that is the person that appointed me. If you have a difficult job, you have to appoint your own team. One of the commissioners we appointed has a Ph.D in Physics; he was a director in the Federal Civil Service. I never saw him until the day that I swore him in.

We just looked at his CV. Somebody brought it, and we appointed him based on his CV because there is a job to be done. Do I do this all the time? No! When we were appointing local government chairmen, I didn’t get involved. I said let us go and look at those who worked for us at the grassroots and appoint them local government chairmen and councillors. There are 225 councillors in Kaduna State, 23 local government chairmen; I did not appoint one! I left it to the party and our leaders, I said go and do it. I looked, and there was no woman, I said it is not possible, 23 chairmen and no woman?

So, I looked I saw one woman councillor in one local government, and I made her chairman! That was the only thing I did. I got two women to be local government chairmen! That was what I did. I did not appoint one person because they are not working directly with me. But the people that work directly with me, I must have confidence that they can deliver. Many politicians don’t like this because the PDP system of distribution has become so engrained that people feel entitled that once they help you win an election, you must give them commissioners or so.

Even Obasanjo that made me minister of FCT did not send me one person to work with me! On his membership of the Abuja Cabal It is not correct. Am I very close to Buhari? Yes. I worked very closely with him in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) when everyone had given up on him. I know him, I know how he thinks and he trusts me. Primary assignment He knows that I am driven by public interest. Do I participate in federal decision making? I don’t. I am too busy addressing Kaduna problems to be part of it. When I am called for an opinion or when I happen to be around, and I have an input or if I see something going seriously wrong; I drive and go and see Mr. President I have heard A, B, C, D. I don’t think it is right, you should consider doing C, D, E. I do that and I drive back to Kaduna. My primary assignment is Kaduna. I am not involved in the Federal Government. People like to say and attribute so much to me, and sometimes it is good for me, it gives me a larger than life image!

Is there a cabal?
There is always a cabal. Even in your own newspaper, there is a cabal. Nobody can run an institution without a coterie of two, three, four trusted people. There is always a cabal; the issue is whether it is a positive or a disruptive cabal. Am I a member of the cabal? No, I am governor of Kaduna State, I work for Kaduna State 24/7.

Why have you not transmitted some good things you did in Kaduna like the attachment of portfolios to commissioners-designate to the president?
Every leader has his leadership style, and every governor has his own culture. The culture in the Federal Government is to send names without portfolios. But that was the culture in Kaduna before you came? But I have decided to change it. I am not the president. If I am the president, I probably may do things differently, but if I am the president, also, I may get information and briefings by officials and security agents that may help me do things differently. You don’t know how much briefing or information he has. Every leader has his own style, information that guides how he decides. So, I can’t say that what I have done in Kaduna is necessarily relevant to the Federal Government.

The marking of Inuwa Abdulkadir’s house?
I don’t know that. I didn’t even know Inuwa Abdulkadir had land or house in Kaduna. I know that he has a wife that lives in Kaduna, I would assume that like most northern elite that he has a house in Kaduna, but I really didn’t know. I don’t know about this. These things are done as a matter of procedures and duties, and if he has his title and approved building plans, nobody would touch his house.

Of course, there is a problem between us because he is trying to mess up our party in Kaduna State in pursuit of an agenda and I have told him that if he doesn’t stop doing that, that I will deal with him and I got three witnesses to that. I am not a guerrilla warrior, if I am going to fight you, I will give you notice so that you will prepare. If Inuwa Abdulkadir has a house in Kaduna and he built without title or permission, I will not ask KASUPDA not to demolish just because he will blame me for it; I don’t care about that.

On the other hand, if he has his title and approved building plans, you better ask him to produce them to KASUPDA because this KASUPDA is three or so levels below me and I don’t get to know what they are doing.

The Rich Also Cry: The 1004 Housing Estate Experience – By Babs Dara

The crisis rocking upscale residential estate, the 1004 Estates, Victoria Island, Lagos, has taken a new dimension with the sack Maintenance Committee led by Mr. Tayo Soetan. The committee had the responsibility of maintaining facilities on the estate.

At a meeting held at the 1004 Estates Cluster Club House, residents said the sack of the Maintenance Committee, also know as House Owners and Residents Association (HORA), was inevitable because it failed to deliver value.

In Jan 2016, Mr. Soetan led a team of armed security operatives to take over the electricity and water supply operation in the Estate. Soetan also claimed the association won suit No LD/3744/2014 filed by 1004 Estates Limited against The Incorporated Trustees of 1004 HORA at the Lagos High Court. He said the ruling delivered by Justice Dawodu on December 2, last year recognised the association as duly constituted and ordered 1004 Estates Limited to render accounts of money collected to the association.

Based on the ruling, he said the association was at liberty to appoint a facility firm for the estate and determine its fate. But a certified copy of the ruling obtained by our correspondent showed that the association was indeed recognised by the court based on the relief sought by 1004 Estates Limited as to whether it was the same association it envisaged in the sub-lease contractual agreement it signed with residents.

The court went ahead to also rule that since the firm had been relating with the association, it would not be out of place to render accounts of its stewardship, especially on service charges collected from residents.

The ruling went ahead to affirm that 1004 Estate Limited is vested with the “management and administration of the Estate”. It then said:  “The defendant (HORA) is at liberty to give suggestions and advice on management of the estate and there should be corresponding understanding between the residents and management of the estate.”

Mr. Tayo Soetan claimed that the N 450,000 annual service charge proposed by Samuel Ukpong led 1004 Estates Limited was exorbitant. He also claimed that energy tariff of N 70/KWH was also a rip off. Our investigations revealed that after Mr. Soetan assumed management of the Estate, he increased the service charge to N 581,000 annually and also arbitrarily increased energy tariff to N 100/kWH without providing adequate accounts to HORA members who he claimed to be representing.

Another major reason given for the sack of the committee, headed by Mr. Tayo Soetan, is the squalid state of infrastructure on the estate. Mr. Soetan was sacked along with other members of the committee that included Mr. Ochuko Akposibure, the Vice Chairman; Mrs. Sade Babatunde, Mr. Ehiosu Oviawe and Mrs. Femi Romiluyi. Underneath this was a variety of allegations of misconduct and incompetence, including lack of transparency and accountability, arbitrariness in the increase in power tariff, failure to guarantee adequate water supply and non- provision of befitting children’s playground.

At the meeting, the disenchanted residents who claimed their property values have been eroded also sacked IG4 Power Limited, an electricity firm that supplied power to the 1004 Estates. They claimed the company’s tariff of N100 per kilowatt was too high. The company, they also alleged, is owned by one Mr. Owumi Ikomi, a tenant on the estate.

The meeting, co-chaired by Mr. Soetan, also resolved to dissolve the 1004 Estates Board Of Trust (BOT) headed by Chief Dele Ogedengbe. It directed members of the Board to immediately vacate office. The residents replaced the sacked Management Committee with an eight-member caretaker committee, which will be in office for 60 days pending the constitution of a new Management Committee.

A January 2016 Lagos High Court order returned the management of the Estate to 1004 Estates Limited. But the order was disobeyed by the ousted Management Committee, with one of the outcomes being the poor supply of electricity to the estate by IG4 Power Limited.

An overwhelming majority of the residents at the meeting insisted the estate was better managed under 1004 Estate Limited before the takeover by the sacked Management Committee.

Examination Malpractice: The Seed of Corruption – By Muhammad Karamba

This is mid February. For most O’level students, this means hustling by all means to get the minimum required grades. It means making connections to get leaked papers. Miracle centers have already registered their candidates and are arranging a smooth ride for them. This is the reality our educational system is in today.

The saddest of it all is that, we have accepted the status-quo. Parents give their children money to register at miracle centers. Teachers get involved in all forms of malpractices.

School managements pay officials of examination bodies so they turn a blind eye. It has become a norm and we hardly see anything bad in it. Are we then being sincere when we call our leaders corrupt?

The SSCE examination is the first (and most important) ticket that introduces a student into the intellectual realm and it ultimately defines his success in it. Unfortunately, he could have that ticket without earning it and almost everyone in his society will be ok with it; some will even congratulate him.

How will he appreciate scholarship? How will such a student dedicate his time to studies when he could take shortcuts to the certificate? Come to think of the poor hardworking student who dedicates everything to rightfully earn his certificate.

We voted for change but indeed change begins with us. Maybe we restrict the meaning of change to only apply to the change we see on the elites. But if we are really sincere about it, we will begin here.

Just like the popular saying “be the change you want to see”. We are betraying our brothers, students and children by letting them go into this path. They would one day be the leaders of this nation and should we expect a corrupt free government from someone who has known shortcuts all his life? We need a serious campaign against this and it has to start from our immediate homes and communities.

Our governments are virtually doing nothing to remedy this cancer that has crippled our educational system. I thought examination malpractice was a form of corruption. Apparently, it is yet to be in Nigeria. A serious task force needs to be put in place.

There has to be a resistance. Probably a whistleblowers act too. It is the duty of the government to enforce the law.

I have met quite a number of people who are disturbed by this issue but have given up due to societal pressure. You soon become an outcast when you stand for causes like this. But no positive change has ever been welcomed in its initial stages.

We say we want change but what we mostly actually want is for the system to work whenever we need it to and vice-versa. Let’s fight examination malpractice now. CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME.

 

Muhammad Karamba

Twitter: @Mukib_

How Nigerians Are Finally Waking Up To Their Responsibilities – By Chinedu George Nnawetanma

It was a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, Robert H. Jackson, who said that “it is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.” Nigerians, it seems, are beginning to wake up to this responsibility.

Over the years, Nigeria, like many of its counterparts in Africa, has been particularly plagued with bad leadership. The late literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe, singled out bad leadership as the bane of Nigeria’s development as a nation in his 1983 seminal work, The Trouble With Nigeria.

In his words, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

Since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, Nigeria’s democracy has been truncated thrice: in 1966, 1983 and 1993; spawning a total of 8 military juntas in the process. And it’s not that the civilian leaders have been paragons of virtue, either.

The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, toppled Nigeria’s second civilian administration in 1983 as a young military officer. As a “democrat,” he rode to power in May 2015 on the mantra of a CHANGE from the status quo. But almost two years on, Nigerians are yet to discern any distinction between his administration and what they are accustomed to.

The country entered its first recession in two decades in mid-2016. The unemployment rate has soared to 13.9%, inflation is at 18.3% and the local currency, the naira, has plunged from an exchange rate of N210=$1 in March 2015 to about N506=$1 in the parallel markets as of February 10, 2017.

Much of this worsening economic condition is due to the government’s laxity and fitting of square pegs into round holes. For instance, it took President Muhammadu Buhari nearly six months to appoint his ministers while the country virtually drifted in autopilot. When he eventually did, he conflated three of Nigerians most critical ministries – Power, Works and Housing – and handed it over to a lawyer; appointed a scandal-plagued ex-governor of an oil-rich Niger Delta state into his cabinet; and named a sports minister who would go on to declare that he was against Nigeria’s participation in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Ordinarily, Nigerians would have taken this lying down. But, empowered by the social media and exposed to happenings in other parts of the world, they’ve had enough. A popular musician, TuFace Idibia, organized anti-government protests in many cities of the country, leveraging his celebrity status to galvanize support from the masses.

Though he would later pull out at the last minute, citing security fears, the protests went ahead as scheduled on Monday the 6th of February, sparked off several other protests and became the top trending story in Nigeria during the week.

What is heartwarming is not the protests themselves. Protests have been organized in Nigeria before, even during the military interregnums, with some recording higher turnouts than this week’s. The take-home is the fact that the latent activist in many Nigerians was awoken.

As more and more Nigerians become equipped with the internet and other channels of information, they will not only learn from history, but also from current world events the importance and gains of imbibing the culture of holding elected officials accountable. I hope that these demonstrations represent a giant leap in this direction, rather than a fad whereafter everyone retreats to their comfort zones.

 

Chinedu George Nnawetanma is a Nigerian writer and social commentator. He can be reached via chinnawetanma@gmail.com and followed on Linkedin.

Crude Oil Theft: Navy-EFCC-NNPC And The Web Of Sordid Details – By Ifeanyi Izeze

In his 2017 budget defense at the House of Representatives, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, while presenting the operational scorecard for his service for 2016 disclosed that the Nigerian Navy confiscated crude oil and diesel worth about N420 billion from oil thieves and illegal refinery operators. According to him, the “specific quantity of crude oil and diesel stood at 810,725 and 1,078 metric tons, respectively.”

Using the OPEC conversion factor for Nigerian crude oil, one metric ton has about 7.420 barrels of crude oil while one metric ton of diesel would give 7.22 barrels. So the declared volume of crude oil seized by the Nigerian Navy in 2016 is about 6,015,579.5 barrels. Also for the diesel, one metric ton is approximately 1130 liters. So 1,078 metric tons would be about 1.23 million liters.

Now, as said by the Chief of Naval Staff, the combined proceeds from the sale of the seized crude oil and diesel are about N420 billion. This is just for 2016 alone where we are meant to believe that this administration through its security apparatuses has drastically curtailed the magnitude of the menace. So from 2015 backward, we will be talking of multiples of 6 N420 billion generated from the sale of recovered stolen oil from Nigeria.

Without a doubt, this disclosure is throwing up again very serious issues of accounting for the proceeds from sales of crude and products recovered from oil thieves and pipeline vandals. There is an obvious aberration in the transactions involving the warehousing and selling of recovered stocks.

First, who actually owns these recovered crude oil? This question is pertinent because most of the stolen crude were supposedly tapped from oil facilities, particularly trunk lines belonging to either a foreign international oil companies or a Nigerian indigenous operator or both. So when these crude oils are recovered, whose produced crude account does it go to?  Does it now belong to the government/NNPC or the Navy, or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? Are serious efforts actually made to ascribed whatever recovered volumes to the rightful owner – the producer(s)?

Secondly, when the Navy seizes stolen crude oil from oil thieves and pipeline vandals, where does the recovered stock go – to the Navy, NNPC, or EFCC?  Who are the buyers of these seized or rather recovered crude oil – the traditional government certified crude oil marketers, another group of contractors, or the same criminal cartels that also buy from oil thieves that escape the Navy?

If the mind-blowing figures of volumes of crude oil recovered by the Navy have been going to the NNPC, how has it been accounted for – as NNPC productions and from what well/field? These issues need to be explained because severally we have heard of conflicts of interests between the Navy, NNPC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on whose responsibility it is to sell off recovered stolen crude oil.

It would be recalled that at the wake of the Salt Pond crude oil theft scandal, the company involved disclosed that it purchased crude oil legally from the Nigerian government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the authority with primary responsibility for cracking down on financial crimes, as oil theft is classified as one. As said then in a statement issued in Ghana by the chief executive officer of the accused company, Fenix Impex, his company has been one of the official EFCC contractors that help the commission to dispose of (i.e., sell) crude oil consignments seized by the Nigerian military and law enforcement agencies from oil thieves and illegal bunkerers. His words: “The only crude we take from Nigeria…has been seized by the government. We have invoices that we pay to EFCC Nigeria.”

Does the EFCC have offshore or coastal receptor facilities (tank farms/floating storage facilities) where they warehouse recovered crude oil received from the Naval authorities? If yes, where are these facilities located in the entire stretch of the Nigerian coastline?

And if the Navy and the EFCC have no facility to store recovered stolen crude oil from Nigeria, how are the buyers (now the EFCC or Navy or even NNPC contractors) picking up the stock for disposal abroad – onboard naval ships, seized barges/ships/boats/drums in the custody of the Navy? Who ascertains the correct volumes and price before the contractors pick the consignments? We also need to know the actual volumes and dates of the consignment(s) lifted by the contractor(s) on behalf of the federal government (in this instance the EFCC).

Above all, how much has the EFCC, Navy or NNPC generated from the sale of crude oil recovered from oil thieves since this transaction started some years ago? The figure the Chief of Naval Staff dangled at the National Assembly, was it proceeds from sales by the Navy or the EFCC? The monies generated over time from these transactions, where were they lodged? Is the revenue with the anti-graft commission or handed over to the NNPC or transmitted directly to the Single Treasury Account (TSA)? Do we have records of these sales with the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) or even the Federation Account?

The federal government seriously needs to address these issues in its efforts to convince Nigerians and even the international community that this administration is sincere in its fight against corruption in the country, especially as it affects the mismanagement of oil proceeds. We need more a serious and detailed explanation of the involvement, if at all, of the Navy, EFCC or NNPC in the serial sale of confiscated crude recovered from oil thieves in Nigeria. It is not enough to tell us that millions of metric tons of crude oil were intercepted and captured by the Navy and then we end the story there. The illegal bunkering economy bleeding Nigeria as ascertained by various respectable international financial and security agencies is estimated to have an average annual value of about $17 billion. So we need accountability and transparency organizations, particularly the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (NEITI), to actually live up to their mandates and do the needful. God bless Nigeria!!

 

Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. He can be reached at iizeze@yahoo.com

Valentine, Baba’s vacation and other stories – By Reuben Abati

“Happy Valentine’s day, my friend”
“You don’t wish someone Happy Valentine’s day with ordinary mouth, my friend”
“Are you a woman? The gifts are for women, not male friends.”
“You see, yourself? You are a bush man just like one of my friends who got a text message from his girlfriend, and he started asking what is the meaning of bae and boo. The girl used those words and our friend was lost.”
“Bae. Boo. I have no idea either.”
“Of course, you are old school. You better stay away from young girls.”
“I don’t carry girls. I am a responsible man. So, I am not into this Valentine thing.”
“What will I do with you, this man? Valentine’s Day is not only for boys and girls. It is a day of love. You can show love to everyone around you. It is a day when you show that you care.”
“This whole thing about Valentine’s day is just a business idea. You know even schools collect money from their pupils to celebrate Valentine Day and the kids are asked to come to school, wear red, and bring gifts for any member of the opposite sex that they admire.”
“Primary schools? “
“Yes.”
“Children?”
“Yes. Those who profit from Valentine’s Day are beginning to catch them young in order to grow a future market. Virtually every business outfit is into this madness. But if you ask me, I think every day should be Valentine’s Day in Nigeria. We should love one another. We should learn to be each other’s brother’s keeper.”
“Keep preaching. The only thing that bothers me about Valentine’s Day is a certain report I read somewhere indicating that last year, February 14, one particular condom-making company recorded its highest sales worldwide on that particular day in Nigeria!”
“That is precisely the problem. It is all about sex, no longer love. I hear if some women don’t get a gift or some form of special attention on Valentine Day, they would feel as if they are washed up. I once settled a quarrel between a friend and his wife, because he forgot it was Valentine’s Day and he came home very late. The wife refused to talk to him for weeks.”
“On a day like this, every woman will be monitoring her man.”
“Well, may be because we have reduced the idea of love to nothing but sex and waywardness, and that is probably why they have had to ban Valentine’s Day in Pakistan.”
“Ban Valentine’s Day?”
“Banned. The Islamabad High Court ruled this week that there should be no celebration of Valentine’s Day in public. The Pakistani media has also been banned from reporting any Valentine Day activity.”
“What kind of court of law is that? Of all important matters to worry about in Pakistan.”
“Obviously the matter of Valentine’s Day is very important in Pakistan because even the President of the country has declared that Valentine’s Day is not a Muslim tradition, but a Western one.”
“Oh I see. It is a Sharia thing.”
“Not necessarily. What of the situation in Japan where a group of men, the Kakuhido or the Revolutionary Alliance of Men that Women Find Unattractive have staged a public protest calling on the Government of Japan to ban Valentine’s Day.”
“Are there some men that women find unattractive?”
“Apparently.”
“What kind of men are those ones?”
“They obviously exist in Japan. And they claim that public smooching on Valentine’s Day is a form of terrorism, oppressive love capitalism and they feel marginalized, completely discriminated against because women find them unattractive.”
“They actually sound as if they will take the law into their hands. But definitely there are no such unattractive men in Nigeria. I have seen poor, ugly, impossible Nigerian men with some of the prettiest women around and you are forced to ask: what exactly did she see in him?”
“Nigerian men are better lovers than the Japanese. Even oyinbo women don’t joke with our men. That was how one Kenyan athlete came here for the Lagos City Marathon last week and she didn’t want to return to Kenya. She said she would remain here if she could find a Nigerian man to marry her because Nigerian men are wonderful.”
“Oo-o-shey! Our brothers! They must have shown her some good, good loving…”
“But talking seriously, you know, I think love is all we need in this country. Our leaders should love the people and the people should love their leaders and we would be a much better country.”
“I hear Baba sends his love.”
“Which Baba?”
“Our Baba in London”
“I won’t join you to comment on that subject. We are all human beings. We can have medical issues at any time.”
“Who is talking about medical issues? What we know is that Baba is on working leave in London and he used the opportunity to do some medical tests”
“Working leave”
“I was in fact going to say that those tests should have been conducted in Nigeria here. It is sad if Nigerian doctors can’t conduct ordinary tests.”
“If you are President of Nigeria, you’d go and hand over yourself to Nigerian doctors, you will? The same doctors who are always complaining about allowances and threatening to go on strike. These same doctors, many of whom are card-carrying members of the opposition, MASSOB and Niger Delta Avengers. It’s alright.”
“Medical tourism is a threat to the Nigerian economy. We have good doctors here. Nigerian doctors are among the best in the world.”
“I know somebody who wanted to buy Nigerian medical practice. Whatever it was they diagnosed after carrying out tests was completely wrong. When he eventually went to London, he was told he had been on wrong medication for three years! So when you become President, Governor or Senator, carry your body and give to a Nigerian doctor for trial and error diagnosis.”
“But when will Baba return?”
“When the results of the tests are released”
“When?”
“I am not a doctor but I hear some tests could stay in the medical lab for up to three months”
“Wha-a-at?”
“Why are you screaming? It is a working leave. Anywhere the President is, that is where power is. After all, Baba spoke with Donald Trump yesterday and he is also likely to have a telephone conversation with South African President, Jacob Zuma. He is also constantly on the phone with the Acting President.”
“Zuma. Zuma. Zuma. I hope Baba will remember to sympathise with President Zuma over the embarrassment he got at the parliament the other day when the red-jacket wearing members of the Democratic Alliance started calling him a thief. Baba should give him some tips about how to deal with rude and arrogant lawmakers.”
“No. Baba should not meddle in South African affairs. He should talk to President Zuma about the continued attack on Nigerians living in South Africa. Some South Africans will just wake up one day and start attacking Nigerians, and they don’t get arrested for doing so or punished. We must let South Africa know that Nigerian lives matter!”
“What I have even noticed is that those South Africans only attack Nigerian men. They don’t attack Nigerian women.”
“I have information on that.”
“I am all ears”
“I hear our Nigerian brothers in South Africa are into South African women like ki’lode. And the South African women love them back like crazy, because you know your guys, when they want to impress a woman, they really go all out.”
“Hmmm”
“You just look at it. Only a few days to Valentine’s Day, some South African hoodlums started attacking Nigerian men and their businesses. I am surprised that the South African Ambassador to Nigeria has not yet been summoned, even the Foreign Affairs Ministry has not uttered a word. Is it because Baba is in London?”
“Well, well, well, I think the new oga on top is trying his best to be on top of everything.”
“Who is that?”
“Acting President Pastor Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN”
“He is doing well”
“A child of the Most High. An erudite, loyal, hardworking…”
“Una don start oh. That is how you people will cause problems for the man. As far as I can see, he is focused on the assignment that he has been given and he is humble and hardworking. The Christian body in Nigeria and you, Yorubas should not distract him. Some Christians are already saying their time has come. And all of a sudden, some Yoruba Obas want to visit the Villa. I saw some Yoruba boys the other day, they were very busy weaving conspiracy theories and suddenly quoting the Constitution.”
“What I know is that there is no way a man will ride a horse and his head will not shake.”
“Just be careful how you shake your head.”
“You don’t have to worry about all that. You said the truth when you said the Acting President is doing well. In the last two weeks, the man has been working as if he does not know how to do anything else other than to work. Even primary school students in seven states are beginning to eat one hot meal a day, free of charge. About 12, 000 cooks have been employed, farmers are also involved.”
“The hot meal per day should be extended to some households, street beggars and em…em. There must be a mechanism in place to make sure the teachers don’t end up diverting the hot meal. Some teachers are so hungry, they’d take the food home to their families and deprive the children.”
“What kind of teacher will do that?”
“I am telling you the truth”
“But there is another scheme that should cover the teachers. It is called the Social Intervention Programme (SIP).”
“That is for the poorest members of our society -N5, 000 per month. Teachers don’t fall into that category.”
“You are sure about that? You think if the Federal Government offers you N5, 000 every month, you won’t take? With N5,000, you can buy recharge card.”
“Look, the best thing to do is to just share the money from oyel every month. They can start with every Nigerian who has a bank account. Instead of state governments going to collect the money on our behalf every month, just put the thing directly into every Nigerian’s bank account.”
“That is not how to run a government.”
“We have to start thinking out of the box. Look at the benefits. If we adopt that strategy, all Nigerians abroad will come home. There will be nothing for anybody to steal, because the cake will be shared equitably. Everybody gets a share of it.”
“And the Nigerians who have no bank accounts?”
“You don’t get it. They will all rush and open one. Oyel money, na im you dey take joke like that? In due course, we will have accurate census figures.”
“You are beginning to sound like those Niger Delta people who gave James Ibori a heroic welcome party.”
“Those ones? They were defending African culture.”
“And what culture is that?”
“You better don’t bother yourself about things you can’t understand. You and I will be here one day when a certain James Onanefe Ibori will hold brooms with two hands and declare for the APC… Enjoy the rest of your day. Go home and make your bae happy.”

Nigerian youths as ‘selfenemies’ – By Bolaji Abdullahi

In the last couple of days, I read two articles by two of Nigeria’s most talented youths, Chude Jideonwo and Ohimai Amaize. The two articles were asking essentially the same question: why are African youths voting for old men? This is a very important question indeed.

“It’s odd to see so many engaged, empowered and angry youth turn to symbols of the same old order to make change happen in countries desperate for a turnaround,” Chude wrote, and then gave reasons why it may not be so odd after all.

He said when young people are confronted with a choice between a bad candidate and an old candidate, a sense of “responsibility” makes them to overlook age as a factor. “Pragmatism”, “cynicism” and a “ferocious mix of anger and hope” he said, are other reasons young Africans are helping to bring old men to power.

For Ohimai, everything boils down to a “conspiracy of the elite class”, who has continued to disempower young people, using the potent tools of illiteracy and poverty.  In other words, youth participation in politics has been limited largely to playing in the supporters’ club of the same older politicians who have denied them the means and the opportunity to take to the field themselves.

Both writers have offered us valid interpretations. However, I tend to disagree with Chude where he appears to suggest that the political fortune of young people on the continent are changing. Young people, he said, have “only now begun to build the street savvy that can win elections or hijack political systems.” In particular reference to Nigeria, this would appear a little like an overstatement. I have not seen the evidence anywhere that young people are developing the essential capability that could win elections or “hijack political systems.” Worse still, I can’t see even a theoretical movement in that direction.

On his own part, Ohimai has tried to frame the youth as hapless victims of some elite conspiracy. This may not be completely correct. Young people are victimised by many things and at different levels, but in recent times, they are no longer as passive as Ohimai would want us to believe. And as Chude rightly noted, 2011 was the age of “real” participation in politics for the youths. That was also arguably the golden era of youth enlightenment and participation in social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Interestingly, Ohimai himself is a prime example of this coming-of-age, when he became the youngest Nigerian to manage a presidential candidate at the age of 26! It was the era of “Futures Award”, pioneered by Chude and his irrepressible companion, Debola Williams, which recognises and celebrates exceptional young people. It was the era of “Enough-Is-Enough” and “Occupy Nigeria”.

I was Minister of Youth Development at the time. And I experienced quite intimately, the sheer energy and ingenuity of the Nigerian youth at the time. While so many factors combined to make Goodluck Jonathan president in 2011, his “Breath of Fresh Air” arrival was surely a creation of Nigerian youth. It is also clear that the decline of the Jonathan presidency started when he lost the youth population with the fuel subsidy removal of January 2012. If ever there was a time that the youth were going to truly come to their own in this country, it was 2011 and 2012.

However, if 2011 was the golden age of youth political participation in Nigeria, 2015 would go down as the age of decline. Shortly after the election, I asked my friend, Chetta Nwanze, another incredibly talented young man of that era, what went wrong. Ever perceptive, he pointed out that ‘youth’ is a finite identity.  Many of the youths of that era have grown to become men and women with their own families. I think there are bigger issues as well.

The Nigerian youth was a powerful force in 2011 because they were able to build a consensus and mobilise around a common political agenda. Even though a 2011 report indicated that being Nigerian was a fourth-level identity to most young people at the time, Nigerian youth were able to subordinate those other primordial identities of tribe, religion and region that mattered to them to an overarching considerations for good governance, rule of law and social equity. This was not the case in 2015. Things, literally, fell apart.

Looking back at the 2015 election, one should ordinarily be delighted that youth participation in politics was even more intimate and more clearly defined along political party lines than on the previous occasion. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a destructive force, at a level we have not witnessed before.

Two years after, the youths are still carrying on as if the election was not over. Those on the losing side are still smarting from defeat and have allowed their pains to determine their reaction to everything. They have proudly adopted the banner of the “wailing wailers” that was thrown at them and appear to constantly be in need to justify the political choice they made two years ago. When they should be sober, they have been gleeful. When they should be reflective, they have been vengeful. Their political affiliation appeared to be more important to them than the Nigerian nation itself.

On the other hand, those on the winning side have indulged in suicidal triumphalism. They are intolerant of even the slighted criticism and have gone round with annoying sense of entitlement and exaggerated patronship. Meanwhile, the people that really mattered, the political elite class that Ohimai blames for the disempowerment of young people,  have responded to new realities; they are now busy working on new relationships and building new alliances. They have forgotten about 2015. The Nigerian youth is however, still there, locked in a fight-to-finish, abusing, cursing, caricaturing, falsifying, and doing everything to win a battle that had long been over. The actual players are busy seeking new opportunities, the Nigerian youth is locked in a mortal combat over who could blow the loudest vuvuzela.

It speaks to the weakness of our political parties that a single electoral defeat would lead to the collapse of one of the strongest political parties in Nigerian history, the PDP. However, despite its factionalisation, we could see efforts being made to rebuild the party. One would expect that this presents a good opportunity for the youths be truly involved and ensure that whatever comes out in the end reflects their aspirations. But you don’t see them do this. Rather, it is the same “elite class” that Ohimai said is the problem that is now left alone to be the solution. The “PDP youths” appear content to just play their politics on social media.

A couple of weeks ago, the APC inaugurated its constitutional review committee. Given the frustrations and grievances that the so many “APC youths” have shared with me in private conversations, one would expect that they would see this as a great opportunity to push for a real youth agenda by actively engaging the committee members. Regrettably, you don’t get a sense that this engagement is happening. Our youths are rather busy returning “fire-for-fire” and tearing at one another on twitter and Facebook.

If we are to see the kind of savviness that Chude mentioned in his article, which would bring the youths to the centre of political power, Nigerian youths will have to be guided more by what they can think, rather than what they can feel. They have to rise above sheer egotism and cultivate the social skill that would enable them to understand that a political opponent is not necessarily a personal enemy. Nigeria is in desperate need of a successor generation. This can only emerge incredibly talented youth population. However, as long as the youths remain trapped in a culture of hate, cynicism, talkativeness and self-destructive egotism, young people will continue to see themselves running back to the past to find a solution to the future that belongs to them.

 

Abdullahi is a former minister of youth development and sports, and the National Publicity Secretary of APC. This article is a personal opinion and does not represent in any way the opinion of the APC.

Chude Jideonwo: If we want to change our country, we have 15 lessons to learn from BBOG (II)

This continues Monday’s piece on the 15 disciplines behind the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign.

 

The discipline of leadership

 

On 18 January 2016, the journalist Kadaria Ahmed tried out a few tweets about the BBOG movement.

 

The sum of her thesis? Its leaders needed to change. According to her, the ‘activists’ have become the story rather than the girls.

 

“Campaigns should not be static,” she said. “To succeed, they should be alive and evolve based on prevailing circumstances.”

 

This was on the face of it, a non sequitur.

 

The criticisms that the movement was facing were the exact same they have always faced, only this time Buhari’s supporters had taken the place of Jonathan’s supporters. The girls were still missing. Their mothers were still weeping. As @anwana_ime asked her that morning: “What is the prevailing circumstance. And how has it changed from the previous circumstance?”

 

But of course, ultimately, this criticism was a hammer by by the irritated to shut down BBOG by targeting its leaders. It had become apparent that the movement itself could not be delegitimized successfully, and this was the next best thing.

 

Now, it is true that BBOG protesters can be combative on occasion, but it is as true as it is inevitable. History doesn’t have records of strong, passionate campaigners on major potentially divisive issues that haven’t, in that moment, at those times been seen as belligerent.

 

We remember Martin Luther King Jr now with the afterglow of hindsight, now that the world completely agrees with him, but at his time, the prevailing peacefulness of his protests were seen by ‘polite people’ as offensive – and his leadership, corrosive.

 

Reviewing Gallup polling from King’s time in a 1995 piece, political scientist Sheldon Appleton made this clear. “The overwhelming approval with which king is remembered today stands in ironic contrast to how he was perceived … while he was alive and active,” he reports. “A number of survey items asked about King in the mid-sixties show him more reviled than revered – in fact, as one of the most disliked American political figures in that age of public opinion polling.”

 

The first time King was assessed on a scalometer in 1964 – the year just before he was awarded the Nobel Prize – the only person the majority of citizens i.e. white Americans disliked more than King was the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.

 

You can’t evoke strong passions in people and retain your likeability numbers. Criticism of movement leaders – whether they are national icons like Gani Fawehinmi or global legends like Nelson Mandela – for being strong and attracting the disdain of those who disagree is therefore both unoriginal but, as in examples past, disingenuous.

 

Of course, where this attack works, it can be very effective:  once you are able to cut off the head, the rest of the body dissembles. No movement is truly without a leader, formal or informal. The way the human being organizes is around passions, directed by a leader.

 

Beyond Ezekwesili, the attacks have also found another easy target – Aisha Yesufu, a strong voice who has put her neck on the line.

 

She is too loud, some have said, too strident. She has been accused her of focusing too narrowly on this one issue (rather than broadly, one would have to assume, on all the issues that concern Nigerians), and in one case someone actually asked why her husband wouldn’t keep her in check.

 

It is the kind of vitriol that can fell lesser (wo)men. But BBOG has disciplined itself to avoid this trap.

 

It has stuck with its natural leaders mostly because they have led by example. Those leaders have also been disciplined in lifting up those within the movement – elegantly ceding authority, credit, voice and authority in turn over the course of almost three-years.

 

Even corporate institutions with clear hierarchies and formal appointments, not to talk of robust remuneration, do not often achieve this feat.

 

The discipline of amplification

If BBOG has understood anything intuitively, it has been the strategic importance of media and messaging.

 

In addition to a consistent message, it has maintained opened lines with the media, been transparent with its affairs, opened its hands to scrutiny and maximized social connections and conversation.

 

To be sure, all of this is not of its deliberate making. The media has been drawn by the righteousness of the cause, willing itself as its champion, the Guardian placing a daily countdown on its homepage cover page, YNaija.com tracking each milestone, Channels TV leaving an open door.

 

But, there is also the fact of the leaders’ huge moral authority, the movement’s towering integrity, and its ability to handle itself both with dignity and with common sense.

 

There is also its practical skill in commanding attention by its strategic protests (speaking to 2000 young Nigerians protesting the corruption at the Nigerian Immigration Service memorably advised them that to be effective, they had to suspend their Saturday protest and resume on Monday when the president would be at work), its crystallising of the issues, the marking of crucial milestones, and its partnership with organisations like EnoughisEnough Nigeria and arm-linking with strategic voices like Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission.

 

The discipline of integrity

I spoke about this above, and it bears speaking about again: BBOG’s integrity.

 

There is the fact that it is very quick – and smart – to loudly disavow those who seek to deploy its name or its goodwill for dodgy gains including the ambiguous October 2016 fundraiser by the president’s daughter, Hadiza Buhari-Bello.

 

But that is simply icing on the cake for an organization that holds itself to the highest standards of demonstrable integrity.

 

There is nothing that it has done or said that has been a lie – and it has severely curtailed exaggeration. Even at the times when it has been misconstrued and deliberately mis-interpreted, it has been aggressive in ensuring that the truth, or at least a balanced narrative, prevails.

 

It insisted on the fact of the girls’ kidnap, on correct numbering of the girls, on a consistent message, ceding the stage where necessary to the parents, refusing to be drawn into an artificial conflict with Malala Yousafzai courtesy of the Jonathan government, altogether earning immense credibility for its integrity.

 

That integrity continues to serve it well.

 

The discipline of financial responsibility

Linked to the above is the matter of financial probity.

 

BBOG made the wisest decision from the start of the campaign not to raise any money, not to open any account, not to accept funding from any outside forces.

 

It is impossible to overstate the significance of this step.

 

Every organization needs money. Especially one like BBOG that has been sustained optimally for over two years. And if BBOG had chosen to raise money, its immense network and credibility would have been enough to pull in millions of dollars.

 

The uses of the funds are easy to identify: the education of the rescued girls, the sustenance of their poor parents, the administration of a group with several networks.

 

However, BBOG understood that the easiest way cynics bring down a movement is to accuse it either of financial impropriety or pecuniary interest.

 

An accusation with legs can run. One without legs often dies on arrival.

 

So at great pain to the pockets of the members and its leaders, it has stuck with contributing monies within itself and spending those small amounts on the barest of minimums – water for those who gather, printing of documents, transportation for protests, the very basics.

 

Of course, many organisations will find it incredibly difficult to be effective without financial resources, and neither should they. Impact, after all is more important than naysayers.

 

But what BBOG teaches is that it is important to identify what activities or projects need resources and what activities do not.

 

It is useful to know what kind of monies are useful, and what kinds of monies are destructive.

 

The disciple of consistency

Then there is consistently, already alluded to above, but necessary to isolate in its particular case.

 

For those who insisted that BBOG was a tool of the All Progressives Congress to delegitimize and remove President Jonathan, immense confusion emerged when the movement continued the exact same agitation, with the exact same aggression, upon the change of guard at the Presidential Villa.

 

Even the new government cannot believe it. After all, it hosted that lavish photo shoot where it bestowed hugs on the mothers of the girls and blew kisses at the conveners of the protests.

 

But as it was with Jonathan, it has been with Buhari. And history has repeated itself.

 

Just like the former, the latter has attacked BBOG with everything – the army, the police, spokespersons and recently, with the information minister tarring them as an opposition party.

 

This has been a gift to BBOG.

 

The attacks have had the unintended effect of making it clear that it is a non-partisan movement that would approach and confront anyone that stands against its mission.

 

That consistency has enabled it to weather the storm of cynics who cannot identify selflessness, and the status quo, that would fight accountability.

 

The discipline of essence

Whoever has left the movement; BBOG has remained unstoppable.

 

Hadiza Bala Usman left to join the APC government, Maryam Uwais left to join the government (assuredly, this transition into governments would have happened whatever party won the presidency) and the movement continued, stronger.

 

The politicians who joined in for their own selfish interest inevitably left, those who took on jobs that required separation also left, and yet the movement continued stronger, better leading ultimately to the release of many girls.

 

The essence of it remains; through thick and thin, beyond agenda and personality.

 

Ask yourself, where the #ChildNotBride, #OccupyNigeria, and other popular protests and campaigns have ended up despite the endurance of the problems, and appreciate the beauty of a movement that will not die.

 

The discipline of courage

They have continued on this mission without care for their lives, without care for their pockets, without care for the friends they lose and the enemies they gain.

 

They have, many of them, travelled to Chibok to see things for themselves (they inspired me to also visit Chibok for myself) and to connect with the communities, and they have spread across the dangerous cities and villages of North-East to draw the nation’s attention to the twin carnage of terrorist violence and government abandonment.

 

Then the Nigerian government decided to test their resolve by inviting them, inelegantly and with transparent bad faith, to come to the Sambisa Forest for themselves to search for the girls. They considered it, ignored the double speak, and decided: it was worth the sacrifice.

 

Their critics, especially those aligned with the government, had already begun to snicker, confident in the belief that these women would not undertake a journey very many would not dare undertake.

 

With that singular act of courage, entering into enemy territory (not only of the terrorists but of a hostile government) Yesufu and Ezekwesili forever established the credibility of their mission and the courage that gives it authority.

 

But in addition to the public sacrifice, there is the more instructive matter of personal sacrifice, refusing to trade the focused demand of the movement for the ability to be liked by people who just want them to ‘tone it down’.

 

In a remarkable (to me, shocking) instance, in January of 2016, the writer Molara Wood switched on an attack on the mothers of the missing girls for faking their tears.

 

“2 years on, Chibok parents, once there’s a camera about, grab their heads almost in sequence, wail and weep and shed tears demonstratively,” she complained, lecturing a movement. “There is no nuance to their grief, sometimes no dignity. A tear doesn’t trickle out in silence. They shed tears that demand: see me, see me. Nobody wails two years without variance/exhaustion. Chibok parents seem able to cry and thrash on cue. They’re beginning to look rehearsed.”

 

Around these worrisome tweets, she took the time to highly praise the personal integrity of Ezekwesili, as if to inoculate herself from deserved criticism.

 

In return, Ezekwesili impressively ignored the praise, and focused on the issue.

 

“This is the UNKINDEST THING to say to those parents, Molara. I heard those deep agonizing cries as we marched with them. SAD,” she tweeted. “Yes. Another’s pain can look like Drama. Who are we to JUDGE another’s EXPRESSION of their grief?”

 

In that reaction, she proved that the adoration of an influential culture critic was less important than the underscoring of a national tragedy. The pain of the Chibok parents of higher priority that those who would not give them help, or allow them dignity.

 

The discipline of hope

“Hope is inexhaustible,” Ezekwesili preached to the audience at The Future Awards Africa 2014, leading the hall to tears. “When all else fails, hope yet remains, and it springs eternal. It is that hope that keeps us looking for the girls, no matter how dim the chances are.”

 

And BBOG has continued to hope.

 

Indeed hope is all that it has armed itself with. Hope that, I must confess, even I grew weary of, because it appeared to me in 2015, after a year of no results, that these girls were never going to be found.

 

But all real change movements need to have real hope. They need to have real hope that the problem will be solved, that their campaign is not just about the motions.

 

It must come down to the conviction that the work matters, that the outcome is possible, and that collective action is powerful.

 

The discipline of action

And at the end of the day, action.

 

BBOG is not just about words, BBOG is decidedly about action.

 

It does its research, it keeps fidelity with its weekly sit outs, it calculates its numbers, it responds when called to Sambisa, it undertakes those long walks under the sun to the Presidential Villa.

 

It keeps track, it stretches itself, it shows up, it walks the talk.

 

At the end of the day really, that’s what it comes down to: do what you say you will do, act how you say you will act; stick with the issue until it is resolved.

 

Never stop, never let go.

 

Whatever happens, keep moving. Because change is always possible.

 

Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his syndicated essay series.

Opinion: Democracy, Corruption and Countrymen – By Lukman Sarumi

Across the world today, Athens jusxtapositional  system of government is the most widely practiced form in every sphere of a nation’s affairs, indirect democracy is adopted in replacement of the direct form practicable in the ancient Greek city state as the best system of government. This is however unconnected with it basic principles which provides utmost fairness for the governed populace. In Africa, the tenets of a democratic system of government in replacement to the junta sit tight administration is been adopted. Akin to the experience of many countries in Africa, Nigeria returned to a democratic-civilian rule in 1999 after the “Say, touch, do and Implement” theory of the military governments.
 Latent rosiness and renewed hopes filled the air upon the return of a democratic-civil rule in Nigeria, the hopes wore was in celebrating the future of seeing economic development rise to it peak, sustenance of  security of lifes and property, accrument in her citizenry welfarism and above all regard for a vital feature of democracy “rule of law”. Dismally this optimism seems to be a mirage, disapppoinment was borne in the breed representative democracy provided us with, money bag politics, corruption, impunity were the end result.
Article 21 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights stipulates: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”. Once again the polls were approached and the cornerstone rode on the platform of change and gracefully the will of the people prevailed.
Just when the hearts saw giving up as an option, a sheriff who refused to give up on his mission came running again however on a major collaboration and he is fit  to be conferred the honor of an old tenant, One who knows the nooks and crannies of his abode, one who knows what to do when he needs discharge an overstaying visitor. He lives in a majestic ‘aso’ at the top of a rock coupled with vast royal diadem. His story is that of a general whose cycle of progression enabled him leave behind his khaki for agbada, this evolution can as well be linked to what is called the cycle of progression or movement pattern.
A land filled with milk and honey was what we use to have, in abundance we ate, without worries we transacted, daily we woke up to the news of how big and mighty our giant was within it peers, in it simplest form haggling was minimal they had lots to deep into hence they had no reason to beat the price, all that mattered was the end product.  A cleansing process is required, our sheriff was willing to restore sanity, the yam eaters he was willing to curb, our system he wanted to set right only to be met with our hypocritical demons, with a head raised with pride we stood and marched for the goats accused of eating our common wealth, with utmost disregard for our moral values we sang praises of witch hunt, regional, ethnical alongside religious rants succeeded in becoming the basis. Gullibility at it peak, the eaters are united in amassing the collective wealth while we fall prey to the divide theory.  In the front line are those who we call the future, agog they went upon the arrival of a sentenced goat.
 Once again our optimism for a better democratic system via the mantra of change is a mirage, old wines are back in a new bottle.  Our milky lands are losing it source and a river that sets to forget it source will cease to flow, your hands must be clean in a bid to cleanse a land you all brought destruction to. The never relenting not too young to run campaigners seek not to extirpate the act of corruption rather within their various jurisdiction they exhibit acts advocating the opposite.
Sarumi Lukman Oluwapelumi is a final year student of political science at the university of Ilorin, kwara state. 
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Nigeria’s conflicting love for President Trump – By Ernest Danjuma Enebi

Over the last few weeks I’ve largely avoided the sinkhole of social media debates surrounding President Trump’s seemingly daily executive orders that seem to be getting more absurd, because I’ve seen them mostly as toothless policies meant to fulfill partisan campaign promises. But the controversial Muslim ban; which sparked protests nationwide and was ultimately halted by a panel of judges, forced me back into the arena because it revealed a surprising and conflicting alliance between some religious conservative Nigerians and President Trump. One that excuses his character and temperamental flaws in favor of his anti-gay and anti-abortion policies. One that struggles to reconcile support for his anti Muslim rhetoric with apprehension for his xenophobic and anti immigration ideology which could threaten Nigerian visitors and migrants to the United States.

Few days after the US elections, a friend in Nigeria posted a campaign video in our Whatsapp group chat, which had made its rounds through churches in the US and around the globe. The video featuring then Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, targeted the socially conservative Christian evangelicals seeking to allay concerns about Donald Trump who had been married 3 times, was clearly unfamiliar with Biblical teachings, was previously on the opposite side of social issues and who had been caught on tape in the waning days of the campaign violating at least 9 of the 10 commandments. The calmer, more devout Mike Pence highlighted his religious beliefs, while assuring voters that Donald Trump would appoint conservative supreme court justices that would overturn laws legalizing abortion, gay marriage and separating church and state, in favor of ones supporting Christian values, and “religious freedoms” which is just Christian freedom.

While the sentiments of foreign nationals positive or negative have little or no effect on the outcome of US elections, the fact that this campaign video made the rounds within the Nigerian Christian community, spoke to an undercurrent of support for President Trump that didn’t show up in opinion polls or casual conversations. When I raised questions about Trumps personal misgivings and the hypocrisy of supporting someone who clearly wasn’t a practicing Christian, they excused his insidious character as an imperfect vessel for Gods message, but celebrated what they see as a return to the moral values.

Of course no religious tolerance lesson would be complete without the gratuitous “Muslims need to do an internal house cleaning and reorientation”, but this lesson had a uniquely Nigerian twist. One I’d never seen before. It recommended that Muslims around the world visit Western Nigeria to learn the “tolerance and civilized” version of Islam practiced by the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Where there are interreligious marriages and all religious holidays are celebrated. While I found this hilarious in its absurdity and dismissed it as just another forwarded message, I soon realized that the sentiments in the message were widespread and indicative of attitudes about the Muslim ban. While it’s not terribly surprising that people of faith might support efforts to persecute those of religions other than theirs, it was surprising that Nigeria wasn’t on President Trumps list given the unrelenting insurgency in the North-East. The irony is that the same Nigerians who support the ban, share the same concern that Nigeria may be on the list should President Trump decide to expand his arbitrary list of countries on his banned list.

While the hysteria around the Muslim ban has brought this conflict into focus, it in no way resolves it. It is highly unlikely that the conservative right abandon President Trump, even if they are inadvertently harmed by his policies. As long as he continues his assault on the progressive values they so vehemently disagree with, they will continue to support and excuse even the vilest of his policies. The question then becomes: does this lead to the further erosion of the rights of persecuted groups within Nigeria now that the United States; which was able to use the power of the purse to moderate human rights abuses, seems to be heading down that path itself?

How Birth Attendants Cut Umbilical Cords With Broken Bottles – By Abang Mercy

In a world filled with absurdities, this news report compiled by Freelance Journalist Abang Mercy is about maternal health. Read the compelling true life story that bothers around the challenges indigenes residing in a riverine community of Ondo State face in terms of affordable healthcare especially, maternal health;
After losing her fourth child during delivery at the house of her regular traditional birth attendant (TBA), 42 year–old Kemi Ariyo contracted spiritualists to get to the root of her problems. “I was widely accused to be a witch as a result of the demise of my babies,” Kemi said. “So I approached the spiritualists who pray for pregnant women and see to the delivery of their babies”.
The delivery of the fourth happened in a thatched roof house with three spiritualists around her in her native Ode Ugbo, a riverine community of Ondo State. But in spite of their weekly prayers and their presence during the delivery,  the baby was lost to still birth.
Ariyo’s case may be extreme but generally indicative of the problems that women in rural Nigeria face. Almost on a daily basis, women in her situation consult spiritualists who charge between 15000 naira and 25000 ($48 -$79 ) per delivery – who claim to be praying and fasting and would consistently administer local herbal concoctions (Agbo) to these women between the period of pregnancy and delivery.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey, 2008, Ondo state had a maternal mortality ratio of 742 per 100,000 live births with worse indices at the facility level. Nigeria records one of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths, with the country being the largest contributor of maternal deaths globally and second largest of under – five deaths with India being the first.
Most families especially those in rural communities – characteristically uneducated and economically disadvantaged – are at the mercies of spiritualists, and unskilled traditional birth attendants that they consult to deliver their babies. “We trust the outcome will be divine, we never trusted government hospitals” explains 60 year- old Taye Idowu in Yoruba.
One day however, Madam Taye, a former traditional birth attendant now maternal health evangelist approached Mrs Ariyo and appealed to her to stop patronizing spiritualists, “I told her that the unskilled birth attendants are the reasons she has been childless” she said.
Taye is part of a corp of maternal health evangelists, mostly reformed traditional birth healers under the Ondo state government’s ‘Agbebiye’ programme – an incentive based referral programme. The TBAs are encouraged to refer their ‘patients’ to the orthodox clinics and earn money. She and others in the 18 local governments of Ondo State are part of the Agbebiye Initiative – a community – based approach and a primary health care model aimed to further improve community ownership to reduce maternal health to zero.
When questioned how she succeeded in persuading the health care providers to stop tending to Ariyo, she explains that she simply reiterated the birth techniques and the dangers she was now aware of. “We were all together in the same community, and I was part of the trade – we use broken bottles to cut the umbilical cord immediately the women deliver their babies, some get home and die from infection. We did not know it was bad.”
I paid a visit to a Comprehensive Health facility Centre in Oba’ile – Ondo South where a 34 year- old trader, Aderoju Fumilayo strapped her new-born baby who was obviously dazed with the heat and noise to her back. As she waited within the premises while women gathered for antenatal care to be attended to, she narrated her experience birthing three of her four kids. She compared those births by the traditional birth attendants to what is obtainable at the health Centre.
“I was normally asked to give them kerosene, Omo, Dettol, Detergent, and 10,000 naira as payment and conduct my babies naming ceremony there before they deliver my babies – I lie on a bench (typically made of wood) sometimes on the bare floor to deliver my babies”, she said.
Standing beside Funmilayo at the health Centre is a 65 – year –old, Olayiwola Fagoroyo, observing as a middle age nurse attends to Funmi. I am told she’s an “Agbabiye Vanguard” – she moves around with the women she refers to this health Centre’ making sure they go for antenatal, deliver the babies at the referred health Centre’s, and ensure the children are properly immunized to prevent mortality.
Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, the state Health Commissioner explained that ‘Abiye’ (safe motherhood program is a prelude to “Agbebiye” a word in Yoruba that means “Safe Birth Attendant” which could also mean “Safe Pregnancy Delivery”, and conducted in partnership with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs).
“The Programme strives to ensure Universal Health Coverage for comprehensive sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health care” he said. “The traditional birth attendants refer their clients to the health facilities for a cash reward and training on vocational skills acquisition (soap making, hat and bead making, catering services and tie and dye making”.
For the commissioner, the incentive provided by government was the major driver in a country like Nigeria that ranks amongst the 10 worst countries in sub-Saharan Africa to birth a child – according to Save the Children Mothers’ index.
But for Madam Kikelomo, a former traditional midwife now registered with government in downtown Akure, “we’ve seen that traditional birth attendant methods are harmful to our women which is why we had to enroll in the “Agbebiye program” – reducing the number of women and children dying during child birth”.
With two dedicated Mother and Child Hospitals, the Ondo State Government has been able to reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by 84.9 per cent. From 745 per 1000,000 live births in 2009 the indices have drastically reduced to 112 per 100,000 live births in 2016 – a feat which made the state a recipient of a 400 million dollars grant from the World Bank.
“The women are treated free, from natural births and those that undergo caesarian operation, it is also done at no cost – that has helped us to scale – up the numbers”, the Chief Medical Director, Dr Adesina Akintan of the Referral centre (mother and child hospital) Oke’ Aro in Akure tells me. “Our objective is to make sure no woman dies during pregnancy or trying to birth a child”.
Another expectant mother, Mrs Oluwakemi Fagbe at the referral centre in Oba’ile, within Akure Municipality, tells me, “- They have specialists in this place and that is why I am here, Pregnant women from neighbouring states also visit this place to deliver because it is free, they even provide free blood donation for our children from age zero to 5 years.”
Outgoing governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, a medical doctor, boasts of meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets “between 2010 and 2016, we were able to crash maternal mortality by over 75% since we came on board and of course that can be linked to the Abiye and Agbebiye scheme we introduced”.
“We created an incentive scheme, with every referral by the Traditional birth attendants to access healthcare by expectant women, they are given a coupon, which is N2000 each per referral – with that method, they convinced most of their clients to orthodox hospitals for proper care” said the governor.
For Mrs Ariyo and Mrs Fagbe the knowledge gained by attending antenatal will be passed on to their children as they were all birthed at home through the risky and life threatening traditional birth attendants methods.
A state government document explaining the concept of Agbebiye initiative claims that among those referred by traditional birth attendants, there was no single maternal death with 99% neonatal survival – and facility utilisation increased by 20.4% in the primary health care facilities and there was a reduction in the facility utilization of the apex tertiary hospital.
Whether the Abiye programme can be sustained, as fiscal allocations to states continue to decline is a question that time will answer.

 

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist – Media Fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.

This E-Book is a Complete Guide to Business Sustainability in Nigeria (DOWNLOAD)

With organizational risks from climate change, resource depletion, environmental regulations, social pressures and customer perceptions, businesses now have to find more sustainable ways of operating that will maximize their positive impacts on people, planet and profit.

Two young women, Adiya Atuluku and Jennifer Uchendu who connected on social media for the love of Sustainability have launched a downloadable e-book following their weekly articles on Business Sustainability in Nigeria. The series which lasted for thirteen weeks covers a myriad of issues and concepts of Business Sustainability in Nigeria.

The e-book explains just how Nigerian businesses whether small and large can embed sustainability into their corporate strategies and why they should too, it discusses concepts like CSR, corporate philanthropy and stakeholder engagement in simple terms that everyone can relate to and understanding.

In this e-book, young professionals and businesses can find simple steps to reporting, financing and most importantly learning from some of the mistakes other large corporations have made with regards sustainability operations and communication. The idea that sustainability is too expensive to achieve has now been completely debunked and demystified.

According to Jennifer, the decision to begin this series came from a long discussion and realization that content on business sustainability by thought leaders were not very appreciated by young people, and so there was need to bridge the gap and provide content that young people can discuss on and in turn emulate in their respective businesses.

“Our guide on business sustainability brings this home to Nigeria and shows business leaders how they can become more sustainable so that they can deal with these risks and take advantage of new opportunities” says Adiya.

The E-book ends with both authors’ personal experiences in business sustainability and how their interests and experience in the subject matter is driving them into new opportunities in the sustainability sector.

The e-book is free, downloadable and can be downloaded here

Navigating the Economic Landscape: A Guide for the Masses – By Rasheed Olaoluwa

I was inspired to write this piece by the questions I was asked during a recent panel discussion on Nigeria’s economic outlook for 2017. From the interactions, it was evident that many Nigerians are genuinely confused and unsure what steps to take to improve their lives, especially in the light of the current economic difficulties.

 

It is important to clarify that we’ve always had high poverty rates in Nigeria. It has only been aggravated by the current economic recession. Even during the period of high economic growth, many ordinary Nigerians were left behind, because the growth was not inclusive.

 

The Economist magazine wrote a piece in December 2011 titled “Africa Rising” which was based on the optimism induced by the sustained increases in commodity prices and related export/ foreign exchange earnings. African economies which are dependent on the export of crude oil, solid minerals and agricultural produce sustained average GDP growth rates of 5.5% for nearly a decade. Notwithstanding the “economic growth” recorded by Africa during that period, a large segment of the population never benefited.

 

Millions of people have been excluded because, in many cases, African governments failed to provide economic windows of opportunities for the masses of their citizens through sound educational systems, vocational skills training, small business loans, etc. However,  the introduction of various economic inclusion programs in response to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is very reassuring.

 

The point must be made though that millions of Africans may have also excluded themselves by their inaction and failure to acquire relevant skills. To  appreciate how an individual may become included or self-excluded, it is important o understand the dynamics of economic activities and the place of economic actors.

 

Gross Domestic Product(GDP) is the sum of all economic activities in the economy, regardless of the concentration of economic sectors or economic actors. It doesn’t matter if 1% of economic actors account for 99% of economic output and 99% of the populace account for 1% of the GDP. This explains why macro-economic indices such as GDP growth rate is a very inappropriate measure of the economic development and welfare/well being of the people.

 

With UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Inclusive Growth has become a very topical issue in many developing countries, with the introduction of several programs aimed at the people at the Bottom of the Pyramid. What has been missing is a proper articulation of the individual’s role in getting him/herself included. Human beings are rational people, not objects. And governments must not assume full responsibility for their future

 

Every African has a responsibility to seek to “enlist” him/herself or participate in the economic activities that ultimately lead to economic growth. To people who enlist, governments have a duty to provide support. But first, how does an individual determine where, within the economy, to enlist or participate .

 

Let’s use the analogy of a Pyramid to explain the economic terrain, since most people are familiar with the Egyptian Pyramids. A Pyramid is a structure with a square base, and triangular surfaces converging to a single point at the top. Now, imagine that a Pyramid has four(4) levels or floors: Ground floor, Lower Middle floor, Upper Middle floor and Top floor. Imagine further that ALL economic activities take place inside Pyramids.

 

Given this scenario, I postulate that there are six(6) Economic Pyramids in any country. Each Pyramid has two wings: the Domestic Wing, which is much bigger, and the Diaspora Wing, which is much smaller. Economic activities within the countries are domestic(hence Gross Domestic Product), while Africans who live abroad constitute the Diaspora wing. Gross National Product is the combination of both domestic and Diaspora economic activities.

 

Let’s now examine the economic activities that take place inside each of the Pyramids:

 

  • The Trading Pyramid

 

What goes on here is basically buying and selling of goods. You have Retailers such as the street corner kiosks or the market stall owner operating on the Ground floor. The Wholesalers operate on the Lower Middle floor, the Major Distributors or Chains  on the Upper Middle floor and the Importers on the Top floor.

 

  • The Farming Pyramid

 

The economic activities here relate to agriculture. Subsistence, Smallholder Farmers operate on the Ground floor, the Smallholder Farmers with Tractor power occupy the Lower Middle floor, the Medium-sized Farmers with Tractor power occupy the Upper Middle floor, while the fully Integrated and Mechanized Farmers are on the Top floor.

 

  • The Services Pyramid

 

The provision of services to people in the same or other Pyramids is the economic activity in this Pyramid. On the Ground floor are Micro-Service Providers such as barbers, hairdressers, drivers, cooks, masons, plumbers, electricians, etc, for whom the basic requirement is the handyman skills. On the Lower Middle floor, you have Service Providers such as Restaurants, Dry Cleaners, Cinemas, Auto Workshops, Hauling & Logistics firms, etc, where more advanced equipment and facilities are required, in addition to vocational or technical skills.

 

Operating a level higher on the Upper Middle floor are the Professional Service Providers such as Accountants, Lawyers, Medical personnel, Estate Valuers, Financial Advisers, building/construction companies, film-makers,  etc. At the Top level are the Regulated Service Providers, who are licensed and regulated such as banks, telecommunications companies, broadcasting houses, airlines, etc.

 

  • The Extractive Pyramid

 

The actors in this economic space extract naturally occurring minerals from the grounds. On the Ground floor are the Artisanal Miners who basically extract whatever minerals they can get in  their communities, within shallow depths, using basic implements. On the next level up are the Small-Scale Miners who have the benefit of technical knowledge and a few Excavators to dig deeper into the ground.

 

The Medium-sized Miners occupy the Upper Middle floor. They have extensive operations involving several Excavators and very deep burrows into the ground. At the Top of this Pyramid are the Big Mining companies with long-term mining concessions and the Oil companies with Oil blocks from the governments. They have or acquire the mining or drilling technologies which enable them to go several kilometres into the ground to extract Gold, Diamond, Copper, Coal, Crude Oil, etc.

 

  • The Manufacturing Pyramid

 

Processing or Value-addition takes place in this Pyramid. On the Ground floor are the One-Shop Micro-Processors such as Metal Fabricators, Furniture Makers, Bakeries, Shoe-makers, etc. Small Factories with multiple-machine production lines operate on the Lower Middle floor. Such manufacturers produce items such as biscuits, floor tiles, roofing sheets, plastics, textiles, etc.

 

On the Upper-Middle level are the more advanced electro-mechanical producers of items such as electrical appliances, electronics, mobile devices, etc. At the very top are the Heavy-duty, high-technology producers of items such as automobiles, aircrafts, high-speed trains, turbines, etc. Unfortunately, the Top two floors in this Pyramid are unoccupied in most African countries, because we do not have the technologies required to operate at those levels. Only Industrialized nations have economic activities at the Top of this Pyramid.

 

  • The Government Pyramid

 

The actors in this Pyramid operate at the Ward, Council, State or National levels. They are either employed, appointed or elected. This Pyramid has the unique role of enabling the actors in Pyramids 1 to 5 and regulating their activities. The effectiveness of actors in this Pyramid in enabling the players in other Pyramids has become debatable in recent years. It would seem the actors here are more interested in enabling themselves. For instance, in Nigeria, this Pyramid consumes 70-80% of the National Budget through their Personnel Costs and Overhead Expenses, with little left to enable other Pyramids through the provision of infrastructures.

 

Pyramids 1 to 5 are collectively referred to as the Private Sector while Pyramid 6 is the Public Sector.

 

The Diaspora Wings

 

Economic actors  in this space are Africans resident outside their countries of origin, in Europe, America, Asia and Middle East. They operate on the different floors of Pyramids 1 to 5 in their foreign countries of residence, from the Ground floor all the way to the Top level, and make significant contributions to Africa’s economic growth. For example, Diaspora Nigerians remit funds to family and friends in Nigeria in excess of $20 billion annually.

 

The Pyramid in which you choose to do business and the level/floor at which you operate is, generally speaking, a function of the skills, expertise, experience and network of contacts you have acquired from formal training, on-the-job training, skills upgrade, self development and social networking. People with the minimal skills tend to occupy the Ground floors of the Pyramids. As you acquire more skills, experience and network, you increase your ability to migrate vertically upwards from the Lower to the upper levels.

 

There is a special class of people known as Entrepreneurs who start businesses in Pyramids 1 to 5 and employ other people with the requisite skills. Unfortunately, there is little room for unskilled applicants, who are condemned to menial works such as laborers,, cleaners, cart-pushers, road sweepers, hotel porters, etc.

 

So, there you have it. Choose your Pyramid. Start from the floor commensurate with your current skills, and work your way upwards through part-time studies, online/eLearning courses, self development, on-the-job training, etc.

 

Doing nothing is not acceptable. Not enlisting or participating in the economy is tantamount to self-exclusion. You stand the risk of being left behind, wallowing in poverty. All of us have a personal responsibility to navigate the economic landscape, enlist in the Economic Pyramid that suits our profiles and become economic agents. This in my opinion is how we can collectively achieve Inclusive Growth. So, what’s your Economic Pyramid?

 

 

Rasheed Olaoluwa

Former MD/CEO,

Bank of Industry

The Time For The Nigerian Revolution Is Ripe – By Elias Ozikpu

Since securing political independence from Great Britain in October of 1960, Nigeria has consistently churned out political oppressors armed with the sole objective of raping the nation and its people to a state of nothingness. Nigerians, primary victims of this persistent grand scheme, have been overly malleable to challenge the atrocities of these villainous men and women.

The placid nature of Nigerians toward their political oppressors is not a deliberate choice by the people, it is a result of the defective orientation codified into our bloodstream soon after independence. This, for example, comes to life when a Nigerian looks another in the face and says:

“O boy, NEPA don try today o!”

The above is a typical reaction one elicits from a Nigerian after experiencing two or three hours of uninterrupted power supply. In Nigeria, such a duration of supply is a miracle because the people are used to only five to ten minutes of power supply in an entire week. This questionable commendation as seen above becomes necessary because the oppressors governing our country have told us, and we have gullibly agreed, too, that it is impossible for uninterrupted power supply to exist in our country. With such a damaging orientation embedded in our DNA, it is sometimes a herculean task to make some Nigerians see things differently.

However, the rising privation in the country resulting from the extreme mismanagement and pillaging of public resources by our elected oppressors has recently turned Nigerians into a questioning people. It started with the subsidy scandal in January of 2012. In fact, the public awareness and consciousness about the deceptive conduct of our political office holders is growing well and fast these days. It has acquired a broader shape and size with the woeful and disastrous administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who rode to power on the back of ‘change’ and a well-publicised campaign against corruption. Curiously, not only has the Buhari government aborted the promise to wage an unrestrained war against corruption, the President and his accomplices have now produced what is obviously one of the most fraudulent government administrations Nigerians have had since 1960.

The recent demonstrations across the country indeed confirm that the expiration date placed on our collective foolishness and docility is approaching its last days. Although the crumbled administration of President Buhari may have arranged a counter-protest through an indoctrinated set of Nigerians who have equally been impoverished by the ineptitude and overly corrupt APC government and the successive ones, what this administration is yet to learn is that there is no force on earth capable of stopping a people who are ready to take charge of their destinies. And when a people have reached such a firm decision, they will move with one strong voice knowing that they have nothing to lose in their fight for justice and self-emancipation.

Now that we have realised that the goats we trusted with our yam barn have depleted and left the barn in a state of obliteration, there is a need for us to change the conversation from peaceful protests to organising a major revolution which should consume the oppressors. What is deducible is that the drums of peaceful protests are too weak to salvage the Nigerian ship from the path of perdition which the calamitous administration of Buhari has chosen to face.

At this time, oppressed Nigerians must begin and continue to mobilise for major mass action with a united mind until the country is fully rescued from the jaws of a vicious group of sharks threatening our collective existence on our own soil.

What invokes more vexation at this time in our grief-stricken history is just how the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari, in a desperate attempt to keep the people in check, has made spirited efforts to shut down unwavering media organisations and outspoken citizens who continue to question the anti-people policies of the administration and its endemic state of corruption. Sadly, President Buhari and members of his battalion are yet to realise that with the acute economic austerity they have imported into the land, the people have suddenly realised that there is dignity in speaking and marching on the streets than dying beneath their beds with sealed lips.

Indeed, the Nigerian revolution is ripe and the time for it is now. The oppressed must rise in their numbers to liberate their nation from the gaping abyss of shame and disaster.

In rounding off this treatise, I shall leave you with the words of American activist and preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. Hear him:

“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals… Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
Elias Ozikpu is a literary author, thinker, essayist and an activist.

That Andrew Yakubu – By Charly Boy

The other day, I was in the midst of those I thought were reasonable people – a small group of lawyers, engineers and realtors or real estate guys, and as usual, the topic of conversation was our dear country Nigeria. Then someone said, “Abegi President Buhari should bring back our corruption,” and to my surprise, everyone was laughing. I missed the joke, but I could swear the speaker was expressing the sentiment of the people I was with who were engulfed in a mumu laughter.

Who in Nigeria wey go say him no know say corruption na 99% of our wahala? Abeg why e be say na so so mumu mumu people full dis country? How can anybody govern a people who celebrate corruption the way we do and then cry foul when the damage is done, as though they had no idea where it came from? Kai, weytin be our problem Sef!

Walahitalai, even Jesus cannot govern a country wey still dey celebrate a president who presided over nothing but the wanton pilfering of its resources. And some Mumu Nigerians go dey wish make him come back to power. Na wa o.

Most people for Naija dey Craze. We dey Sick. And many of us dey Mental. I am sure you must have heard/read about the former NNPC Boss, Andrew Yakubu, who typifies what is damaging the Nigerian brand. Of course there are many Yakubus in Nigeria, even in my village of Oguta. The evil in the hearts of these men and women who are mindless and mean is for sure the bedrock of our recession; unemployment; suffering; hunger and infrastructural decay as billions and trillions of our monies are often pocketed by political criminals.

In the space of two years, see how much of our looted money was recouped by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari:

$153 million = Diezani Allison Madueke;
$15 million = Patience Jonathan;
N4billion = NIMASA boss Patrick Akpobolokemi
Heartbreaking N1trillion = Ex-Service chiefs
N111million = INEC Staff
$9.8 million & £74,000 = Andrew Yakubu
4.7bn arms fund = Obanikoro/Fayose
N11.7 billion mansion built by Deziani in Banana Island, Lagos.

Haba! Haba!! Haba!!! Is this a stealing competition?

But Andrew Yakubu own vex me die. Look at the clandestine place that $9.8m and another £74, 000 was found! Who would have thought there was such magnitude of national treasure there? See ehn, this stunning discovery by the EFCC makes me wonder how a soulless criminal of Andrew Yakubu’s ilk could have received $10million in cash as gift – as claimed by him – and how much gift would have been given to many other thieves, evil peoples and demons who had over the last decade, dotted our government. Oh… Where is my gun? I dey seriously feel like shooting somebody! In the end, common man go die by jungle justice ooo.

My people, I no dey fit sleep again. I no fit comprehend how a human being go thief him generation money come go church go do thanksgiving. The supposed Man of God who is his pastor is a bastard and that church is a fraud; in fact, the God to whom they pray sef Na LIE. Nigerians must rise up and in unison fight this corruption, because if we fail today, this our suffering no go end o… and many of us go die for nothing. Our failure as a country is our fault as a people. Andrew Yakubu dey for every family for Naija. You wan get money but you no wan work. Looking for miracles in churches and mosques. If we fail to work, we can only steal to survive and that is where the change must begin – with us all. A country where people spend more time on their knees more than they do on their job will not stand; a country where the mind of the people has been buried in the erroneous mentality of getting rich only by praying; daily spiritual diet; where men of God openly fraternize with certified and indicted thieves and drool over their loot – is  a country on its way to hell. My people, let us become a people who work so that we can collectively fight and fix this country. This madness of looters no go stop if our miracle-stricken mindset no change.

I hear say government dey give whistleblowers 5%, good. As the President of Frustrated Nigerians, I go ginger anybody wey know any government worker or politician wey dey hide money, for this our jungle. No fear, stand up because me go fight your fight. I am willing to provide further support for those who are afraid and I am willing to stand and fight to ensure that nobody go intimidate you – whether na the looters or agencies of government wey wan dey act funny. I cannot stand back and watch my country, my Naija, my home get looted to the point of monumental destructiveness while those who are capable of helping the government recover loots for the benefit of us all are intimidated by FEAR of DEATH. All man go die nonetheless and e fit be anytime.

I am prepared to lead a national revolution against corruption and in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war. I will go to meet with the EFCC boss, the ICPC boss, the police boss and all those who are trying to give this country renewed hope. Very soon the voice of ordinary Nigerians will be so loud that the interest of the frustrated Nigerians will be a national priority. For decades, I have never heard thieves return so much money back to the system. And for this reason alone, I go clap small for President Muhammadu Buhari. As the President of All Frustrated Nigerians, I enjoin all of us to shine our eyes and act right so we no go take our hand decimate what is left of our land. This mindless stealing and looting is just too much. Na God go punish bad people.

#OurMumuDonDo !!!

Charly Boy (Areafada)
President, All Frustrated Nigerians.
Twitter: @Areafada1 

Pastor Adeboye’s handkerchiefs – By Bisi Daniels

What about handkerchiefs? Well, it is just a small piece of linen, silk, or other fabric, usually square, used (especially) for wiping one’s face.

But not when it is from Pastor Adeboye, the spiritual leader and global missioner of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).

A handkerchief revolution is ongoing in that church; there is an increasing number of miracles performed with his handkerchiefs, as was the case of Apostle Paul.

At the February Holy Ghost service of the church held at its massive auditorium, called the arena, a smiling Andrew Omatsola from RCCG, Taraba province, Taraba state, stepped forward to testify proudly: “Since the hanky Daddy blessed for us landed in Taraba, it has been series of testimonies.”

He cited three examples, including a case where a relation of a man the handkerchief had healed, seized it.

Before him, a pastor had shared how a member of his church had died during his sermon without them knowing. Church closed, it was time to go home and they discovered the horrific scene. Pandemonium broke out!

But he was calm enough to remember pastor Adeboye’s handkerchief. “I placed the handkerchief on the man’s head and he came back to life immediately,” the pastor said.

A month before, Foster, a pastor from Ibadan had shared a similar experience.

“Ten days after the December, 2016 Holy Ghost Congress, I received a call from my hometown that my mother has passed on. And the news put me into confusion.

“I was crying for mercy in my house in Ibadan, when I remembered the mantle (handkerchief) I received during the Congress. And suddenly, I also remembered that one of my younger brothers in my town attended the Congress and also had the handkerchief.

“So I called him to go to our house and place the handkerchief on my mother. He said he was afraid but I encouraged him to do so.

“He went to our house and placed the handkerchief on my mother and called me that he had done that. We just had a short prayer, and to the Glory of God my mother came back to life.”

In all the above cases, the handkerchiefs were those pastor Adeboye laid hands on to anoint for his pastors to use to anoint members of the congregation. It was practically impossible for him to personally anoint the millions of people there. After the exercise, he told the pastors to keep the handkerchiefs.

Handkerchiefs for all

There is another set of anointed handkerchiefs. That is the more awesome case. All he does is to ask the millions of people to wave their handkerchiefs, while he prays from the altar to anoint them.

Considering that some of the congregation are sometimes more than a kilometre away in the three-kilometre-by-three-kilometre arena, the transmission of anointing could be difficult to understand in the physical.

But as examples from Daddy GO below show, the handkerchiefs blessed in the air from the altar or transmitted through other means are equally potent.

Lagos: A member of the church attended one of the programmes at which handkerchiefs were anointed. Some days later he was driving to Lagos and saw a crowd gathered on the road. Out of curiosity, he came out to see, and discovered that a motorcyclist had been knocked down by a vehicle and he lay dead by the road side.

At that point, something said to him, “You have that handkerchief in your pocket, bring it out.”

He brushed aside the crowd, laid the handkerchief on the dead man and said, “get up.”

The onlookers were wondering about his sanity until they saw the man who was dead coming back to life. Not only did he rise up, the wounds had disappeared. It was a miracle, the miracle of my salvation that brought me to the level where I can wave my hand and handkerchiefs will receive power.

Port Harcourt: The Full Gospel Men International had a convention in Port Harcourt, to which they invited me to speak on a topic, “A New Anointing.”

As I spoke, I gave some examples of what God, in His infinite mercies, has done through me. Soon, it was time to go home; the crowd began to surge forward, so much such that I was smuggled into my car.

But there was a woman who decided she would touch my car if she could not touch me. So, she took out a handkerchief and dropped it on the car I was in and took it back before we could drive off.

This lady had a sister that had gone completely mad. Even though she was a little girl, it took six men to hold her down. They were happy when the woman got back because they didn’t know how to handle the situation.

“No problem, I have the solution in my hand,” she said, waving the handkerchief. She took the anointed handkerchief and laid it on her mad sister and the girl became normal again.

United States: A women came to me to say her daughter in the US was about to deliver but the doctors checked and found that the baby was too big to come out on his own. They also discovered that if she was operated upon, she would bleed to death because there was no way they could stop her bleeding.

I told her to bring a handkerchief so I could pray over it for her to take there since I couldn’t go to the US that moment. But as I was about to say one handkerchief, I said two. I didn’t know why I said that. She brought two handkerchiefs, I prayed over them and said travel quickly to the US since the doctors said they couldn’t wait for three days.

Upon her arrival there, she gave one of the handkerchiefs to the daughter, they prayed and slept. By the time they woke up they couldn’t find the handkerchiefs. It had disappeared! She was convinced then that the battle she was facing was not an ordinary one.

She thanked God there were two handkerchiefs. She then took the second one and tied it so tightly round the hand of the daughter that anyone who would take it would have to cut off the hand.

Time ticked away and the doctors said they had waited enough and that by 10.00 o’clock, they would commence the procedure because they needed to save the child, which meant that its mother could bleed to death.

By 9.00 o’clock the baby came out – mother and child safe.

POST SCRIPT: Let me admit the source of this piece. As Pastor Adeboye prayed a closing prayer for the congregation at the Holy Ghost service, a small still voice in me said, “his handkerchiefs.” Just that!

Even if I was mistaken about it, the instruction that came in that same voice as I left the church later was clear.

“Make it clear that the handkerchiefs may not work for everyone. They don’t commit heinous sin and reach out immediately for the handkerchief to perform miracles. Remember his (Pastor Adeboye’s) key success factors, holiness, obedience and faith.”

Chude Jideonwo: If we want to change our country, we have 15 lessons to learn from BBOG (I)

You know the tragedy already. The world does. And it’s one we have yet to recover from: 276 Chibok girls kidnapped from their schools under the watch of a functioning Nigerian government, and just under 200 of them yet to be recovered as we speak.

Now, this is the point at which many of us replay our shock, as to how 1036 days after, in a state that is not failed, we still have these girls missing.

Then we remind ourselves that the Chibok girls are not the only victims of this state of affairs. Hundreds of boys and girls, men and women, have been kidnapped by the terrorists of Boko Haram since its 2009 resurgence; many of them remain un-named, untracked, and un-accounted for.

But the Chibok girls are top of mind. We have been unable to forget them, and because of them we are been unable to, as usual, dismiss the uncomfortable fact that fellow Nigerians are living in a war zone from which lives have been disrupted, families have been dislocated, and futures have been dislodged.

The singular reason for this, is the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group.

Because of BBOG, we have been unable to forget the Chibok girls. We have been unable to move on from that point in our national conversation. We have been unable to get to a place of comfortable ignorance.

This has happened because BBOG proved to be a completely different kind of group, wholly unlike anything Nigerian had ever seen before this, and even after it.  And because ultimately, BBOG has been that most rare of Nigerian occurrences: effective.

It has been effective in focusing global spotlight on the missing girls. It has been effective in wooing and winning public and media support. It has been effective in commanding and sustaining stakeholder attention especially government.

And most importantly, it has been successful in actually bringing back our girls.

In a society lacking in and disdainful of institutional memory, I am aware of the heartening amount of scholarly research undertaken, at least in the last one year, on the phenomenon that BBOG has become. Generations of change makers interested in understanding the context, culture and imperatives of affecting outcomes in this particular civic space will do well to pay close, and grateful, attention when that body of work hits the body politic.

In the space between now and then however, it is useful to establish a framework within which to understand the success of BBOG as a movement, and its imperative as a model.

I will outline them as the 15 disciplines of the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

The discipline of standards

There has been a clear marker from the beginning of the movement, from the first protests in Abuja, as Obiageli Ezekwesili, Habiba Balogun, Bukonla Shonibare and others stepped on the streets to demand an institutional response to the matter of the missing girls: they demanded that all the girls be rescued, alive.

It looked like only a slogan then. Not so much today.

That demand made clear a marker on the sanctity of human life, and that nothing lower than the restoration of the girls the way their parents deserve to find them, would be accepted. That standard has neither been discarded nor lowered since the first demand, no matter how hard it appeared the request was, no matter how wide the Sambisa Forest is, no matter how much time had passed since the girls were taken. The sanctity of human lives. Now and alive.  

The discipline of focus

It is a miracle, to be clear, that the BBOG movement is still standing today. That its unpaid members and leaders are still standing tall and strong, and that they continue to maintain global credibility. Because typically, no movement in Nigeria, save for a military coup or an election, has lasted this long.

But the miracle is heightened by the fact of all that have been thrown at the campaigners. They have been attacked by those who detest the moral pulpit of Ezekwesili and cohorts because it speaks to their own lack of action, have been attacked by those who interpreted the movement as an political gang-up on Goodluck Jonathan, have been attacked by those who view every civil action in Nigeria as hypocrisy, by those who are waiting for Jesus himself, complete with celestial perfection, to lead any popular movement; those who are irritated that the movement did not pack up when Jonathan was sent packing, and now those who feel it must treat Muhammadu Buhari differently from his predecessor.

But one of the more resonant criticisms has always been this question: why the singular focus on the Chibok girls?

Many Nigerians have been kidnapped; why the disproportionate attention on the Chibok girls?

In response, BBOG has, from get go, ignored the noise. It came into being because the kidnap of the Chibok girls was one kidnap too far, and it has stuck with that purpose.

The understanding comes no doubt from the fact that no one person or group can change the world, and these ones had chosen their corner. To be effective, they must stick with that corner.

Of course, there has always been an immediate, and rational response to this criticism: That the girls from Chibok clearly stand as a signpost for all the named, nameless and faceless who have been abandoned by the Nigerian state; a indicator of the limits beyond which we cannot allow ourselves go as a people.

But, remarkably, BBOG desisted from making this point for itself. Because it is unnecessary.

What was (and is) necessary is its mission, from which it would not waste time on debates and arguments, and on dissipating energy.

The focus has been iconic.

The discipline of clarity

When trivial people ask the campaigners to go over to Chibok themselves and rescue the girls, the response has been a beauty of precision: we are an advocacy group, not a military organization.

That sense of clarity has always been the most effective thing about BBOG. They have an unnerving clarity about who they are, what they stand for, what they want, the viability of their demands, and the solutions they seek.

This is what BBOG is: an advocacy organization focused on ensuring the freedom, alive, of the missing Chibok girls, doing this by confirming the identities of each of their girls, tracing the timeline and chain of reactions from, making clear action, response, and marker of success.

There is no ambiguity in anybody’s minds about any of these.

The discipline of empiricity

Nigeria has never been a nation of precision. Our government doesn’t have proper records for its citizens; data is antiquated in many spaces or limited to for-profit desks.

Our media has in turn reflected this distinguished chaos. How many times have three news stories about the same tragedy, sometimes from the same paper, had three different number tallies for its victims?

Into that chaos came the matter of Nigeria’s missing girls. The first service BBOG did us was insist on precision in numbers, and then aid the eventual calculation: 276 girls were missing.

That desire for empirical evidences has defined the campaign.

The movement has delicately tracked the changing numbers as girls have been found, holding government accountable when it has claimed that girls from other parts of Nigeria were from Chibok, coordinating with the community on direct verification with the community. And it is from BBOG that we have a running tally of how many girls remain to be rescued: 196 as at today.

In making demands of the military, they have demonstrated facility with strategy, terminology and pattern. And they have drawn from that the authority to be listened to because they come armed with the knowledge that effective engagement requires.

When people have claimed the girls were kidnapped by A, married off to B, and flown away to C, BBOG has refused to be distracted.

Where there is no evidence to the contrary, they have stuck with the last know locations of the missing girls. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo declared that the girls would never be found, and they ignored him. As if he didn’t matter.

Because he didn’t (and doesn’t) matter. All that matters are the facts.

This has earned respect, avoided distraction, and enabled efficacy.

The discipline to be unreasonable

The one plea that those comfortable with the status quo often demand from activist movements is to be reasonable, by which they often mean to move at a pace dictated not by the urgency of action but by the comfort of the negotiator. The one error these movements can make is to fall for the blackmail.

BBOG knows where the banana peels lie.

Like Jonathan, the Buhari government has treated the protesters as high-impact irritants.

Jonathan did this from a place of incompetence, Buhari does it from a place of entitlement: this government believes that, unlike its predecessor, it has (initially) treated the campaigners with deference. And for that ‘goodness’, it expects breathing space. It also believes that, since it didn’t lose the girls, it bears no direct responsibility. It is only a friendly partner trying to clean up another’s mess.

It cannot understand why the protesters will not afford it an extended runway of goodwill. And its supporters, many of whom actually agreed erroneously with the Jonathan government that BBOG was a tool of the APC, also cannot come to terms with it.

In response? BBOG has turned up the heat.

The reason is simple to those who pay attention: the target of its campaign has always been the responsible party who can find and return the girls. And that party is the Nigerian government.

Once Buhari came into power (and especially since rescuing the girls was a focal point of his campaign messaging), he automatically took responsibility for the assets and liabilities of the government he is now in charge of. And in that case, as government is a continuum, it is now the machine that lost the girls two years ago.

That might be literally unreasonable, but in terms of the philosophy of democratic governments, it is entirely judicious.

The Buhari government, like all governments, serves at the pleasure of its citizens. The citizens owe it no special concessions. It just needs to do its job.

In refusing to give this government and the one before it (and hopefully none after it, since we pray the girls are soon found) any breathing space, BBOG shows a remarkable discipline.

Nigeria’s peculiar breed of irresponsible governance demands no less. We have learnt with the #OccupyNigeria and other popular citizen action that once you relax the pressure, governments revert to type: passivity and mediocrity.

No Nigerian government deserves patience. Especially not this one that campaigned on a promise of urgency.

BBOG has made that irreducible minimum – results or nothing – abundantly clear.

The discipline of organisation

It looks like a rag tag team of young and old gathered together under a tree every week in Abuja to demand better. But do not be deceived.

Without the benefit of an office, of funding, in fact of anything but a determined group, BBOG is one of the most highly developed change organisations Nigeria has seen in its history.

The biggest miracle is in maximizing a small base to achieve maximum global impact.

Ezekwesili has constantly spoken at recorded public events of the need for advocacy institutions to move from ‘noise’ to ‘voice’; being able to organize frustration and agitation in a way that earns respect and achieves targeted outcomes. With BBOG she has walked that talk, role-modeling behaviours through her co-leadership that others can only learn from.

At the start of the protests, she whipped dramatists like now-Senator Dino Melaye into line when he tried to corner the movement, they disavowed and excluded those who either attempted violence or even considered violence as a viable tool and when the writer, Elnathan John complained publicly about the regimented structure of the movement (a strict set of demands, orderliness in front of the villa, programming of speakers and representatives), the response was simply that movements cannot be allowed to derail via the wanton, reactive passions of its front liners.

In response to government letters, it has issued its own with detail and restraint. In response to government pronouncements, it has issued its own releases. In reaction to propaganda, it has armed sympathisers with its version of events. And it has managed to coordinate several stakeholders – media, community, partners, international institutions and Malala – with deft strategy.

In this century, an organization doesn’t need an office, or titles.

If that has been the defining philosophy of scholars of modern organizations, then BBOG is the ultimate demonstration of the capacity of a people bound together by a common vision, a definite mission, and a determined capacity.

 

Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his syndicated essay series. Part 2 of this piece will be published on Wednesday.

Anthony Ademiluyi: Why Protests Fail In Nigeria #OPINION

I did my NYSC in the Shell Development Company, Warri as a human resources executive. This was my initiation into the practicalities of what I read in Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power.

It was my duty to influence the posting of corpers as well as industrial attaches to the Dutch headquartered company. Senior members of staff always swooned around me as I had the raw power to decide if their children or wards would have the privilege of being admitted into the inner sanctum of the multinational. I was also the intermediary between the management and the corpers & industrial attaches in terms of information management which largely exposed me to the reality of the power of information and the enormous influence that the purveyor wields.

All what I needed to do to get the creamiest of ladies in town was to ‘mistakenly’ let my ID card drop on the floor. That did the magic without speaking a word. Did I hear you say a picture speaks a thousand words?

After service ended, the management had taken a decision to divest most of their interests in Warri and so those of us who had some hope of being retained as contract staff had it violently dashed. A mass wave of warriexit hit us and I fled back to Lagos with my tails in between my legs.

I was reluctant to take up a 9 to 5 because of my peripatetic nature and handled some freelance gigs to bring home the bacon.

 

I was privileged to work on the book written by the current Minister for Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who was the Ekiti State’s helmsman at the time. It was aptly titled ‘Long Walk To A New Dawn’ which chronicled the three year battle to reclaim his mandate from the courts and election petitions tribunals.

I was fascinated with his background as a war studies cum development expert. His active participation in the running of radio kudirat and his role as a roving ambassador where he delivered speeches all over the world to make the claim for the recognition of Abiola’s mandate made me hold him in awe as a somewhat esoteric firebrand.

I then wondered why I didn’t really hear about his role in the democratic struggle until then. The answer lay in his earlier book ‘Out of the Shadows.’

I have been a good student of history and have soaked up lots on information from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that brought Lenin to power to the Cultural Revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong that led to the partitioning of the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan in 1949, the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba, the Arab Spring that saw the toppling of three dictatorships in Algeria, Libya and Egypt.

It has led me to ask a fundamental question: why don’t protests or revolutions ever work in Nigeria? My position has evolved over the years. I took an active part in the Occupy Nigeria protest of 2012 and concluded that the deep-seated corruption and balkanization along ethnic lines were chiefly responsible for its becoming a fiasco despite the great promise it initially held.

The heckling of Innocent Idibia a.k.a 2 baba or 2 face over his alleged ‘betrayal’ made me view protests from another lens.

Consider these facts carefully: The Union Jack was lowered in 1960 because the nationalists made the masses believe that their problems would be over once the colonialists departed. After power was transferred, the lot of the proletariat was no better. The military came to power and swayed the hoi polloi that their fate would be better if the foes – the politicians were completely taken out of the picture. This set the trend for coups and counter coups with the masses reduced to penury which must have inspired the late Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo- Kuti to sing the hit song ‘suffering and smiling.’ The annulment of the June 12 presidential elections made the pro-democracy activists come alive again. Some smart alecs used the struggle to seek economic asylum in the west and some became emergency millionaires with no value created other than chanting democracy slogans with their protruding bellies and shrunken necks no thanks to the three vices of wad, wine and women.

Democracy finally returned in 1999 and the masses have been so emotionally traumatised and psychologically battered that they seek salvation in the crumbs thrown to them piece meal from their oppressors. What can one make of the ‘hero’s welcome’ that James Ibori received from the people he ‘loved’ so much?

Here is the raison d’etre why protests don’t appeal to me in this country – the masses and the masterminds are not on the same page. True change is brought about by great personal sacrifice. Zik of Africa nearly stowed away to obtain the Golden Fleece in America, battled hunger and poverty, almost committed suicide and was nearly deported. After the nine year struggle, he couldn’t get a job and had to turn down the one offered him by his alma mater, Methodist Boys High School because the pay was so parsimonious that he would set a bad precedent for the younger generation intending to take the then unpopular route of obtaining an American education. He eventually took up his first job in Ghana as Editor of the African Morning Post before returning home to set up the Zik Group of Newspapers which almost didn’t happen as Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s father withdrew his investment at the last minute. If not for the financial intervention of Green Mbadiwe, the flagship of the group, the West African Pilot may never have been allowed to berth.

Fayemi gave up his job in the British Civil Service and was living a Bohemian life because of his belief in democratic ideals. I can go on and on. One thing rings true, the initiators of protests are always sacrificial because they know that they are their own messiahs. The belief in an external saviour is what has crippled the minds of the masses and would forever make them the doormat of smooth talking liberation fighters. Until the masses realise that true change is internally driven, the gains of the protests will only be for a few members of the elite.

The problem Jesus Christ had was that he was a different kind of messiah that his people expected. His kingdom was in the hearts of men and not domiciliary edifices.

The masses should take a cue and have a change of mindset in the existence of a deux machina that would come to liberate them from their woes.

TONY ADEMILUYI

 

 

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates

Opinion: An Ex-Convict and A People Without Shame – By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Shame on all of you who set bad examples by taking advantage of your status and or position. Ibori has not answered for the crimes he committed in Nigeria. He must be made to answer. Ibori should be arrested. Nigeria must make an example of its anointed thieves or nothing will change.

What is shame? Shame is a painful emotion caused by the consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. It is doing something that brings censure or reproach. Shame is a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute. Shame arises when we compare our behaviour with the ideal social standard. That is why shame is based on self-regard and volition. When we draw comparisons that makes us feel shame, it is against existing standards that are primarily enabled by socialisation. Even though shame is often considered an emotion, it is also a state, a condition, cognition and an affect based on philosophical and psychological considerations.

Upon deep reflection and introspection, I wrote here a few weeks ago that what truncated Nigeria’s path to greatness was the systemic corrosion and erosion of values. It is shameful that Nigeria has lost its moral compass. Actions that would have brought enormous shame to an individual, and his family, in the 1960s and 1970s are accepted as normal these days. We no longer have a sense of wrongdoing. There is a general acceptance of shamelessness in our day to day living. Oh! How Nigeria has changed! In today’s Nigeria, men and women commit crimes eagerly, aggressively, arrogantly and with impunity without a sense of shame! The collective behaviour, attitude and reasoning has become twisted and accepting of a corrupt way of life. People commit crimes without fear because they are convinced that they are authorities unto themselves. There is no hesitation in committing crimes or engaging in disgraceful conduct because they have no fear of being unaccountable. We live in society where the conscience no longer condemns, where the law no longer forbids, where choices are made on the basis of individual appetites, instead of acceptable standards of behaviour.

The Nigerian society has lost its shame, from top to bottom. That is why a Director of the State Security Service will meet up with an ex-convict to celebrate his return. That is why jubilant crowds welcomed an ex-governor who is a convicted felon back home from prison as if he had just won a Nobel Prize, without a sense of propriety or shame. Someone with astonishing temerity even compared the just released ex-convict to Jesus Christ! What a shame! What a people! What a nation! Many years ago, our people avoided shame as if it were leprosy. A suspension or expulsion from school brought shame to the family and our fathers meted out punishments that fit the crime and in proportion to the shame brought on the family. It is a different ball game now. Students belong to cults, they cheat in exams with the help of their parents, take drugs and engage in institutionalised prostitution. No one is alarmed because they have seen their elders do worse things. For long, authority figures recruits students and the youth to source girls for their orgies. They use them to fight political opponents and train them for a life in the service of the criminal enterprise. All these are commonplace and hardly worth a second look on the headlines. Nothing shocks us anymore.

…a people or a culture without shame cannot stand. Nigeria’s shameless trajectory is a path to hell. No nation subsists this way. We must repudiate the Iboris in our midst. We must find our bearing and get back on track. The choice is simple and it is ours to make. We either find our way or we are lost.

James Onanefe Ibori was a governor. He cheated, lied, stole and embarrassed himself to the applause of his people. General Murtala Mohammed wiped out a whole generation in the civil service for an infinitesimal portion of what Ibori did. In the 1960s and 1970s, these actions would have caused Ibori to go quietly into the sunset and no one would have given him excuses. Oyenusi faced the firing squad for stealing next to nothing compared to Ibori. The distinction was in the choice of weapon; Oyenusi used the gun, Ibori used the pen. When we elevate and celebrate the Iboris, we not only denigrate ourselves, we stink up the present and destroy the future.

When did the rain start beating us? Some have traced it to the military. Well, government officials bear the responsibility for enabling and encouraging the degradation of our moral fabric. For too long, they showed no respect for uprightness and decency. Immediately the oil boom began, they started promoting lifestyles that are hedonistic and inherently perverse without any sense of responsibility for their constitutional obligation to uphold basic standards of virtue. From the mid-70s up till date, gradations of perversity percolated our individual and collective psyche such that we embrace, promote, and defend that which is bad and counter-morality. We took it further by demonising those who seek to uphold, guard and encourage good behaviour. From the level of looting in this nation and how we celebrate our thieves, oppressors and tormentors, disgrace no longer exists because nothing is disgraceful anymore. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, not what is right by the law.

I heard he was a model inmate but I saw no remorse in him when he exited the prisons. I expected him to enter Oghara quietly and issue a trite and penitent statement as a way to jumpstart his self-rehabilitation. He did none of these. Instead, he was smiling for the cameras, clenching his fists at times and waving at other times.

When you do the crime, you do the time. Ibori did his time for his crimes in the United Kingdom. I heard he was a model inmate but I saw no remorse in him when he exited the prisons. I expected him to enter Oghara quietly and issue a trite and penitent statement as a way to jumpstart his self-rehabilitation. He did none of these. Instead, he was smiling for the cameras, clenching his fists at times and waving at other times. Shame on Ibori, shame on those who hailed him and shame on all who have raped this country. Shame on all of you who set bad examples by taking advantage of your status and or position. Ibori has not answered for the crimes he committed in Nigeria. He must be made to answer. Ibori should be arrested. Nigeria must make an example of its anointed thieves or nothing will change.

Finally and for the record, a people or a culture without shame cannot stand. Nigeria’s shameless trajectory is a path to hell. No nation subsists this way. We must repudiate the Iboris in our midst. We must find our bearing and get back on track. The choice is simple and it is ours to make. We either find our way or we are lost.

 

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for the PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

Naira struggles: The missing 42nd item – By Nonso Obikili

The 41 item exclusion list is no news. In June of 2015, in response to the collapse of foreign exchange inflows, thanks to the crude oil price crash, the central bank decided to change tactics in its quest to maintain a “stable” naira. It abandoned the policy of drawing down on the foreign reserves and opted to just ban certain market participants from the official foreign exchange markets. This, it argued, would reduce pressure on the exchange rate. Demand management they called it. In doing this it drafted a now infamous list of 41 items that were banned from buying foreign exchange from the official markets. The list included things like palm oil, rice, toothpicks and eurobonds.

The logic was simple. If foreign exchange is scarce then we have to prioritise what we spend it on. We can’t keep spending scarce foreign exchange importing things that we can produce locally. In the abridged words of the central bank governor; “why do we continue to import when our vast quantities of comparable quality products are being wasted or simply ignored”. I mean, why spend scarce foreign exchange importing palm oil when we have it in the South South. Why import rice when we can grow it locally. The tacit assumption was that if certain items were banned from the foreign exchange market then people would not import them, and we would produce them locally. And it all kind of makes sense, especially if you don’t know much about economics.

Now I’m not writing this to convince you that the policy works or not. I am here to tell you that there is one item missing from that list. There is a 42nd item that, for unknown reasons, was excluded. A product that Nigeria should be known for. A product that we have all the necessary ingredients to produce locally. A product that we really should not be importing but should even be producing a surplus and exporting. That product is premium motor spirit, popularly known as fuel.

Finally, we have the market for fuel. We consumed about 51.5 million litres of fuel per day on average in 2016. We consume so much fuel that it is has been the single largest imported item for decades. In terms of value, we spend 250 percent more foreign exchange importing fuel, not including diesel or kerosene, than we do for all food, including rice, palm oil, wheat and everything else. In fact, I would argue that if we somehow stopped importing fuel today, our foreign exchange crisis would be over, albeit temporarily.

So just to recap, we have the raw materials, the skills, and the market, and if we stopped importing fuel our foreign exchange crisis might be over. If the central bank really believed that banning products from the official markets really led to local production of that product, then why isn’t fuel on the list. Surely fuel should be the 42nd item.

Fortunately, discussing the crude oil industry is a national pastime. We talk about it every other day and we know, beyond the shadow of doubt, the challenges in moving from drilling oil to producing fuel. We know that in reality producing fuel is a lot more complicated than banning fuel imports or banning fuel importers from foreign exchange markets. We know that if we banned fuel importers from buying dollars then all that would happen is the pump price of fuel would go up. We will probably still import it and not produce it locally.

If the central bank really believes that its 41 items exclusion list does anything other than create distortions in the foreign exchange market, then it should ban fuel importers so we know it’s real. Else it should be abandoned for causing more problems than it solves.

 

Nonso Obikili is an economist currently roaming somewhere between Nigeria and South Africa and tweets @nonso2. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the views of his employers.

OPINION: The two faces of Tuface – By Reuben Abati

Tuface’s decision to lead a protest to register the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with the performance of the incumbent administration and to reiterate the value of government’s responsibility to the people was his finest moment as a citizen and artiste. But it is also now, with his Jammeh-like volte-face, his worst moment. His transformation into a champion of democratic values and voice of the masses brought him added stardom and value. His retreat has turned him into a revolutionary manqué. He deserves our understanding and sympathy.

When on 24th January Tuface (Innocent Dibia) announced that he was going to lead, under the umbrella of the Tuface Foundation, a mass protest against the economic policies of the Buhari government, he immediately attracted public interest. A multiple award-winning musician, a naturally talented stage performer and author of at least two evergreen songs: “My African Queen” and “If Love is a Crime”, TuBaba, as he is also known, sounded like he was moving from art to politics, and seemed ready to answer to the true calling of the artist as the conscience of the people.

Artists and creative persons have always led protests and lent their voices to progressive causes. That much is the case in the United States at the moment, where artistes have raised their voices and joined protests to remind the “insurgent in the White House” that America is a land of freedom, democracy and justice and not bigotry and tyranny. Here at home, Fela, and his cousin, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and others as well, have shown the power of creativity and stardom as a veritable vehicle for social change and justice. Artists and their art, and their movement from stage, or the printed page, to the public arena of action have always saved humanity, by humanizing man. This has been the case from Sophocles, all through time and history to Olanrewaju Adepoju, Beyonce and Kanye West.

But activism comes with a price. Tuface obviously didn’t bargain for that. He received enormous support. His announcement of the February 5, later February 6 protest energized the angry, frustrated Nigerian base, and drew our unrelenting “children of anger” back into an overdrive on social media. The international community also became interested, waiting to see the effect of a protest driven by star-power in Nigeria. It was coincidentally a season of protests across the world: in the Gambia, there had been protests against Yahyah Jammeh with a positive outcome, in the US, the UK and elsewhere, Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and his misogyny led to protests on both counts, and in the case of the former, a Federal judge has given a ruling that has resulted in the suspension of the ban. In Cameroon, concerned citizens are protesting over discrimination against English-speaking Cameroonians. In Romania, a sea of protesting citizens has just had its way. There is all around the world, right now, a resurgence and affirmation of people power, be it Brexit or left-wing activism in Europe. Individuals and groups lead such moments in history- what makes them different is the fire in their bellies and their readiness to command the revolution, at great personal risk.

It looked initially as if Tuface had that burning fire in his belly, but he couldn’t make that leap between self-preservation and the risks of rebellion. He had appeared on television. He spoke confidently about the need for real change in Nigeria. He encouraged Nigerians to come out en masse to support the movement. He even announced the colour and dress code of the protest. His wife stood by him and she, too, talked about her husband’s convictions about national progress and good governance. Each time Tuface appeared in the media, during those five minutes in the sun, he looked bright and determined. But everything changed late Saturday evening. The recorded video of Tuface’s volte-face, announcing the cancellation of the Feb. 6 protest showed him looking dispirited, broken, ashen, as if he had been shaken up and chastised. He looked unsettled with his scraggy, uncombed beard. It is not difficult to know when a man’s balls have been squeezed.

Tuface actually deserves our sympathy. He must have gone through a lot of pressures that broke his spirit. His capitulation makes us appreciate even better the heroism of those who always stood up to dictatorships. His example is indeed a great lesson…And I mean that positively for the fact that…Despite the massive support that he received, he also received a lot of discouragement. An old ally of his, some guy appropriately called Blackface was one of the first persons to blacken the idea of the protest. Some Nollywood, belle-forever-face-front-chop- money-money-finish-carry-go characters also opposed Tuface. Some musicians too, although in the long run, Tuface was able to mobilise the support of every section of the Nigerian community at home and in diaspora. By Saturday when he poured cold ice on the whole thing, the protest had even grown beyond him, much larger, with others seizing the initiative and turning what he had thought would be a small show into a nationwide and diaspora event.  At that point, Tuface was no longer the singer of sultry songs, but the symbol of a rebellion. The enormity of that potential must have frightened him. He didn’t have the courage to see it through. Leadership is about courage. A coward can never lead a rebellion.

But we should struggle to understand his situation. He was accused of having seven children from three women, which is an absolutely stupid point. An artist does not have to be a saint. We relate to their art and their engagements with society on the basis of the positive value that they bring forth.  It is also possible that Tuface received pressures from his multiple in-laws, and even the Baby Mamas defending their stakes in his life.  The official wife must have been accused of trying to encourage him to get into trouble so he could get killed and she alone can sit on his estate.  The Baby Mamas and all the in-laws must have called to remind him that his children are still very young and he needs to be alive to be their father and so he should think twice before going to use his chest to stop Nigeria Police bullets. Family members, to whom he is obviously a breadwinner, must have advised him to stay with his singing and dancing and not get involved in politics. They would remind him how Fela’s mum got killed and how Fela’s house was razed down, and how every artist who dared the Nigerian government ended up in exile or in prison or with a strange motor accident.

The Nigerian government was of course unhappy with the planned protest, and the idea of it created enormous confusion in Abuja and Aso Rock. While the office of the Acting President spoke about the right to protest and the government not having anything against the expression of fundamental human rights, the Office of the President on vacation made it very clear that the would-be protesters are enemies of the government of the day and sore losers. Those two seemingly contradictory impressions from Aso Rock can only point to one thing: high-level intrigue within. That is probably why the Nigeria Police kept shuffling: we don’t approve of the protest, we do, we don’t, we beg.  The timing says it all also. With the President out of the country, and the plan of the protesters to welcome him with a Trump-like protest from Abuja, to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Akure, and in parts of the Western world, the damage would have been incalculable. And Tuface would have been held responsible for leading the sabotage.  No Nigerian government since 1999 has benefitted from any mass protest. The anti-third term protest hobbled the Obasanjo government. The Jonathan government never recovered from the pro-fuel subsidy protests of January 2012. Tuface and his planned protest had set the stage for a similar prospect for the Buhari government.

What Tuface imagined was a clean-hearted civil action would have resulted in absolute panic, with some informal voices in and around government doing dangerous analysis on ethnic and religious grounds.  Reckless hypotheses such as the following: (a) “so, as Baba hand over this thing to Osinbajo so, the only thing his Christian brothers think they should do is to organize a protest in Baba’s absence?” (b) “You don hear say Osinbajo’s office say people have right to protest? So, Baba cannot even travel on vacation again. Walahi, these Yoruba people cannot be trusted.”  (c) What are these security people doing? If they are loyal to Baba, by now they should have invited that Tuface, and ask him about the two SUVs that Akpabio gave him and his wife when they got married. They should show him strong evidence that the SUVs were bought with Akwa Ibom state government money and he should pay back the money or get ready to be sued for being an accomplice in a case of diversion of public funds.  (d) Or you could have some people affirming the narrative that was put out by the APC and friends of the government of the day viz:  “this is the PDP at work. Tuface must be an agent of PDP. Why are our own APC people sleeping? Baba no dey around, they want to pull down the country. So, Tuface is now working with Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, to embarrass Baba? This Osinbajo, can we trust him?”

By pulling the trigger at this time, Tuface simply put a lot of people under pressure and placed their jobs and loyalty at risk -no doubt about it, they must have come after him with a sledgehammer to stop and discourage him. Clear evidence: a counter-revolutionary #IstandwithBuhari protest has already been announced to last for two days. The Tuface revolution that has been abandoned by its main motivator teaches us more lessons about the dynamics of power in Nigeria and the temperament of the resident power elite. Will the protest now take place on February 6, without Tuface? Or will everyone hold fire and down their tools of anger? What is certain, however, is that Tuface is likely to sit at home tomorrow with Anne, his temptingly pretty wife by his side, watching the latest episode of Big Brother Naija on TV, with chicken and salad before him, and a bottle of wine, and one of his hands, innocently setting the stage for the amorous prelude for child number eight. With his wife telling him: “don’t worry yourself dear, Nigeria is not worth dying for. Who wan die make e go die. You have tried your best, my darling husband!”.

That is how many would-be heroes become anti-heroes, and their dreams die a-borning. If the protests go ahead on February 6 as many are threatening, nonetheless, Tuface would lose a lot. If it doesn’t go ahead, he would still lose. The torch of protest that he has lit may not burn on the streets of Nigeria; it is burning already in the minds of the people. He may have chickened out, but he has already achieved the goal of his initial plan. He has by lending his star power to an anti-Buhari protest, expanded the population of angry Nigerians. He has given voice to their anger and fears. His withdrawal from action will not excuse him. Whatever anyone tells him, in the long run, he would still be punished for his bravery and cowardice on both counts. He should not be surprised if for the next few months, he doesn’t get invited to any concert, or performance contract, or if he gets to perform anywhere, he could be booed off the stage. He should not be surprised if his phones stop ringing, or if it rings at all, he could be told: “call me on what’s app I beg, I don’t know if they are monitoring your calls.”

Let no one blame Tuface. His stage name Tuface is the name of Janus: the two-face Greek god, who looks in two directions. When it mattered most in his career, Tuface Idibia answered the call of his name!

OPINION: “Mangoes are out” (Nigeria’s Portfolio of Waste) – By Adewunmi Emoruwa

I often say?—?we (Nigerians) are an unserious people. Though I blurt jokingly most times, the severity of this statement remains intact. Earlier this week, on Monday, I received a message on my WhatsApp from an unrelenting, serial pusher of broadcasts which I usually would not bother reading, but this one caught my attention, luckily. It reads:

Despite all that has been happening in Nigeria, the fight between APC and PDP, Army and Boko Haram, Buhari and Jonathan, EFCC, Subsidy, Fuel scarcity, increase in dollar and decrease of naira, unemployment, inflation and hardship I have good news for you…. Mango is out!!”

It was a widely shared joke, as I happened to see this same post on Social Media with some of the most funny and imaginative comments?—?as usual.

It wasn’t funny to me, not anymore, as soon as the message sank. “Mango is out!”

My mind raced back to the roots of my upbringing that chastised the habit of waste and early social science definition of Economics in respect to scare resources.

Mango is almost free in Nigeria and a lot of it gets to waste as people who live or pass through Gboko or some other rural community in Benue can attest to. Mango eventually becomes scarce in Nigeria and Mango in packed juice form is expensive as a result of rising cost of imports amid the foreign exchange scarcity.

“Mangoes are out and what about that?”

‘No jokes’, Nigeria is the 9th largest Mango producer in the world followed by the Philippines.

Feeling proud, guess what? Nigeria has no place even in the top 30 in terms of exporting the same commodity, and not even top 10 in Africa.

Precisely, Africa exported mangoes valued at about $178.8 million with the following countries topping the trade 1. Côte d’Ivoire: $38.7 million; 2. Egypt: $32.7 million; 3. Ghana: $25.9 million; 4. South Africa: $21.3 million; 5. Senegal: $17.9 million; 6. Mali: $11.1 million; 7. Burkina Faso: $10.7 million; 8. Kenya: $10.4 million; 9. Gambia: $4 million; 10. Cameroon: $2.2 million. To make matters worse, no other country in Africa is on the Top 10 list or close to being at par with Nigeria. 

Meanwhile, Philippines that is a rank beneath us in terms of production, exports about $91million worth of mangoes and Peru which is only about 1/5th of Nigeria’s population exports $194.2 million worth of Mangoes?—?more than Africa’s combined exports?—?and the country is not even a top 10 producer!

In Abuja, One (1) big fresh Mango is sold for about N100 (30¢) but a pack of imported Stute Mango Juice made from concentrates retails for about N1200 (almost $4). In other places, people only sell mangoes in baskets and beg customers to buy. 

Mango to a Nigerian can be likened to the biblical Manna from Heaven, one does not even have to harvest it, it just falls and our part is to pick and eat, saving none for tomorrow. Beyond Mangoes, this is the tale for other fruits such as the Citrus family, which Nigeria is also among the top 10 producers of.

But it is not all doom and gloom, certain Nigerians in the private sector are not just aware of these opportunities but have gone further to harness them. The Agriculture subsidiary of Tony Elumelu’s Transcorp Plc invested about 1 billion Naira in the Ben Fruit plant in Benue state which can produce about 26,500 metric tonnes per annum of fruit concentrates (Mango, Orange and Pineapple).

Affiong Williiam’s Reel Fruit is another inspiring story, the small start-up ventured into the production of dried fruits with decent packaging, initially targeting the middle class, health conscious demographic in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve but is now available to every demography across the country.

Nothing more can drive my point home than the story of Seun and Seyi Abolaji who started the Wilson’s Juice company with just N2000 (about $5 at the time) and turned squeezing lemons into a million dollar business.

The point is?—?Nigerians have shown that success is possible against all the odds and with little resources. It is up to government to remove the odds, among which include infrastructure, access to power, storage and credit facilities and policy push etc. Whenever the Mangoes come out again, we should get all we can out of them and must get them out!

On 2019 Igbo presidency: who shall we send? – By Sheyi Babaeko

The Nigerian ex-president, a life senior fellow cum elder stateman, Olusegun Obasanjo during this year’s thanksgiving service in his palatial mansion, Ottah Ogun State called for an Igbo President in 2019.

Though this has generated mixed reactions among Nigerians, the call for Igbo presidency according to the elder statesman is in the “interest of Justice and Fairness”. I quite agree with the position of Obasanjo, and I would like to add that the high “Egba Chief” has right to voice his personal opinion whether anyone agrees or not. It will be unfair to attack Obasanjo over his opinion.

While Obasanjo remains a controversial figure in the political history of our dear country, providence have always laid on him the responsibility of navigating the ‘ship’ of Nigerian state away from predictable collisions with “political icebergs” that would have pushed us ashore or sink this country totally and finally. We may not always agree with him but there are credentials we cannot just take away from him.

Baba came back into lime light when he became the Nigeria civilian president in 1999 and many of his achievements are noticeable. I peculiarly respect him for keeping his promise of “reinstatement” of student union activists. Prominent among these was the reinstatement of Anthony Fasayo (Dr Anthony Fashayo was the student union activist who spent 21 years in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife before graduating. He sacrificed all his energy and ambitions to fight for Nigerian students).

Now that Baba has lent his voice to those calling for Igbo presidency in 2019 general election, who shall we send? The issue of Igbo presidency is expected to generate questions and tensions and we all know that Igbo presidency is long overdue, but the question again is “who will go for us?” These are questions begging for answers.

Igbo race lack unity, and this lack of unity has caused a bi-polar trend within them. Some have opted for “self-determination” while the other extreme believes that “Igbo presidency” in the future is a better option that will address their yearnings and aspirations. Nigeria needs a visionary leader to reposition this country and redirect the sinking ship to its serene watercourse.

The south eastern part of Nigeria is the most marginalized, underdeveloped and neglected region. Hence, the clamor for an Igbo presidency cannot be said to be an inappropriate call. If opting for an Igbo President in 2019 can right the wrong, calm secessionist movements, satisfy their yearnings and re-unite this country, so be it. This call is understandable and I support it without being immodest.

In my own personal opinion I urge the Igbo people particularly the youths to unite and quickly call for a summit of Igbo sons and daughters with the view of producing a credible candidate for this noble task ahead before it’s too late (Perhaps If providence will offer them this golden opportunity). We should go beyond “sermony” of peace and Justice when we are not ready to entrench them on the altar. Peace and Justice are like the South Pole and the North Pole of two ‘lodestones’. They attract and embrace each other; there is therefore no peace without justice. Justice MUST prevail for peace to reign.

I am committed and resolute towards Igbo presidency in 2019. It is in view of this that I am joining Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, well meaning Nigerians at home and abroad and the Igbo race in particular for an Igbo president come 2019. May God continue to bless the federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Babaeko, a policy analyst and security adviser, is based in the UK.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism – By Eric Teniola

 

With inflation on the rise, daily kidnappings everywhere, religious intolerance on the increase, competition and rivalry among the nationalities, no restructuring of the polity in sight, the operation of a costly presidential constitutional system, anxiety and discomfort in many homes, and no electricity… no other phrase could be applied on Nigeria today better than that of Dr. Ukpabi Asika – “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

“Nattering nabobs of negativism”. This was one of the phrases used by the then administrator of East Central State, Dr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika (1936-2004) in 1972 to attack the former President, Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1904-1996).

The old East Central State was made up of the present day Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi States.

The major offence of Dr. Azikiwe then was to advocate for an increase from the 12 states at the time to 22 states and to complain about the neglect of the then East Central State, especially the roads in the State.

Dr. Asika felt offended and launched a tirade of attacks on Azikiwe calling him an “ex this”, “ex that”, who harbours “nattering nabobs of negativism”. Dr. Asika died on September 14, 2004 and I accompanied my then boss, Chief Ufot Ekaette, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the time, to his befitting traditional burial in Onitsha. His wife Chinyere Asika (1939-2015) died on May 3, 2015.

The phrase, no doubt, best describes the nature of things in the states right now.

It was gladdening that the governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, was on January 13 able to pay pensioners and workers in Osun State their due up to December last year with the sum of N9.5 billion naira. I know of some states that have not paid the salaries of workers and judges in the past nine months, not to talk of paying pensioners.

On May 27 this year, it will be the golden anniversary of the 12 states created by General Yakubu Dan Yuma Gowon in 1967. Towards creating these states, he told the nation in a broadcast on November 30, 1966 that, “I wish to make it clear to the nation that honestly I personal have no vested interest in the creation of any particular state. But there is no doubt that without a definite commitment on the states question, normalcy and freedom from fear of domination by one Region or the other cannot be achieved.

The principles for the creation of new States will be: (i) no one State should be in a position to dominate or control the Central Government; (ii) each State should form one compact geographical area; (iii) administrative convenience, the facts of history, and the wishes of the people concerned must be taken into account; (iv) each State should be in a position to discharge effectively the functions allocated to Regional Governments; (v) it is also essential that the new states should be created simultaneously.”

He then named 12 Governors for the 12 states he created at that time.

They included Brigadier General Mobolaji Olufunso Johnson, first governor of Lagos State. His father Joshua Motola Johnson was of Egba Heritage. Mobolaji Johnson’s administration was responsible for the demolition and disinterment of people buried at Ajele Cemetary in Campos area in Lagos Island, such as Samuel Ajayi Crowther, James Pinson Labulo Davies, Madam Tinubu, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and many others. The demolition met with a lot of criticisms.

Brigadier General David Femi Lasisi Bamigboye was the pioneer governor of Kwara State. He is from Omu-Aran, like Pastor David Olaniyi Oyedepo, founder of Winners’ Chapel Church in Nigeria, in the present day Kwara State. He was enlisted in the Army in 1960. His classmates then were General Julius Alani Ipoola Akinrinade, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Major General Samuel Ogbemudia, Colonel Ayo Ariyo, Chiabi (from the Cameroon), Philemon Shande, Ignatious Obeya, Brigadier General Pius Eromobor, Simon Uwakwe Ihedigbo, Ben Gbulie, S.P. Apolo, Major General Emmanuel Abisoye and Brigadier General Godwin Alabi-Isama.

A zoologist, police commissioner Joseph Dechi Gomwalk (1935-1976) was the first military governor of Benue Plateau State. He was an Ngas from Ampang in the present Kanke local government of Plateau State. He was executed by a firing squad for his alleged role in the coup attempt that killed General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976. There are disputes till today over the alleged role of Mr. Gomwalk in that coup.

Major General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo was the pioneer governor of the Western State. He is from Iyin-Ekiti in the present Ekiti State. He joined the army in 1953 and by 1957, he was already a regiment signal officer.

He was an aide-de-camp to the last British governor general of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson (1899-1983).

General Adebayo told the people of the Western State on May 3, 1967 that, “I know also that in spite of appearance and occasional outbursts, we nevertheless are a united people dedicated to the noble course of doing honour to the Yoruba race, and our country, Nigeria. As a gesture of my abiding faith I have today ordered that all persons in detention should be released in the hope that the people concerned will do everything possible to justify my confidence”. His son, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo was elected the first civilian governor of Ekiti State in 1999.

Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff was the first military governor of Rivers State. He was 25 when he was appointed. In 1973, a correspondent for Nigerian Observer, Minere Amakiri wrote an article which was published on Diette-Spiff’s birthday on July 30, 1973. Taking this as a deliberate insult, Dite-Spiff’s aide, Ralph Iwowari, had the repoter’s head publicly shaved and had him beaten with 24 lashes of cane. At present Diette-Spiff is the Amayanabo (King) of Twon-Brass, Bayelsa State.

General Abba Kyari was the first military governor of North Central State. He was appointed the chairman of the National Defence Committee during the 1994 National Constitutional Conference. After retiring, he was appointed to the Board of the First Bank of Nigeria, Standard Alliance Insurance and Merchant Bank of Commerce. He became chairman of Gamah Flour Mills and of Alif Engineering and Construction Company. General Kyari is no relation of the present chief of staff to the president, Alhaji Abba Kyari.

Alhaji Usman Farouk was the pioneer military governor of the North Western State. In a 2006 press interview, he said that the poor pay and equipment of the police could not be justified and was the cause of the state of insecurity in the country. Usman Farouk was awarded Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in September 2006. In July 2009, his sixth son, Police Superitendent Abdulaziz Faruk, was killed during violence in Maiduguri, triggered by the Boko Haram extreme Islamist sect.

Brigadier Jacob Udoakaha Esuene was the first military governor of South Eastern State, made up of the present Cross River and Akwa Ibom states. A stadium is named after him in Calabar, and under President Obasanjo, his wife, Hellen was appointed a minister of Environment in January 2006. She became a Senator in May 2015, succeeding Mrs. Ufot Ekaette, wife of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette. Mrs Esuene built Villa Marina Hotel in Eket in 2000.

Brigadier Musa Usman was the first military governor of the North East State. After retirement, he became a Director in First Bank of Nigeria, and died at the age of 50 on September 19, 1991. The former North Eastern State comprised what we now have as Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states.

General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia was the pioneer governor of the old Bendel State, now divided into the Edo and Delta states. According to Mr. Nowa Omoigu, an authority in military history, during the counter-coup/mutiny of 1976, an attempt on Major Ogbemudia’s life was made by the then Lt-Colonel Buka Suka Dimka, but he managed to escape due to a tip from Colonel Hassan Katsina, the then military governor of Northern Nigeria and Major Abba Kyari. He was later elected Governor of Bendel State in 1983.

Alhaji Audu Bako was the first military governor of Kano State. After his death early in 1980, the Tiga irrigation dam, built during his governorship, was renamed as the Audu Bako Dam. Following his retirement in 1975, he began farming and died at a farm he had in Sokoto State, leaving a widow and eleven children, including Dr. Lawal Bako, a doctor, and Hajiya Fatima Yusuf Imam Wara.

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the state’s creation on Saturday May 27 this year, the pertinent questions are: Have the objectives of states creation been met? Should we have reverted to regionalism or a confederation? We seem not to be getting it right these days as a nation. With inflation on the rise, daily kidnappings everywhere, religious intolerance on the increase, competition and rivalry among the nationalities, no restructuring of the polity in sight, the operation of a costly presidential constitutional system, anxiety and discomfort in many homes, and no electricity. Also, with insecurity everywhere, no good roads, no pipe borne water, no national objectives and with Boko haram refusing to be tamed, suspicion and division among us, the paucity of funds, recession worsening, no other phrase could be applied on Nigeria today better than that of Dr. Ukpabi Asika – Nattering nabobs of negativism.

 

Eric Teniola, a former Director in the Presidency, Writes from Lagos.

Nigeria’s Undying Love of Multiplying Parastatals – By Jibrin Ibrahim

…it is really important to get the National Assembly to realise that the multiplication of agencies is not a sign of effective work; it’s a process of creating more difficulties for the future. Currently, many agencies get just enough budgetary allocations for salaries and maintenance of ministers or boards. The victim of the system is the citizen for whom there is no public service.

The Daily Trust of January 30, 2017 carried a report about the National Assembly’s plans to create about 25 additional federal agencies through laws that are being processed. Almost every draft bill has a proposal for the establishment of a new agency to run whatever is being proposed in the bill. The 25 mentioned are just those that are about to be finalised. There are actually about 150 new agencies being considered by our legislators at this time. The Daily Trust report shows that about N2.98 trillion or 40.1 percent of the N7.28 trillion 2017 federal budget will be used to run 541 existing federal agencies, departments, commissions, institutes, bureaux and other bodies.

After an enormous effort, the Buhari Administration has succeeded in reducing the percentage of recurrent expenditure and raising capital expenditure to N2.4 trillion or 30 percent of the federal budget. However, the path we are on, of multiplying agencies, would take us back to where we were two years ago when over 90 percent of the budget was allocated to recurrent expenditure to run ministries and agencies. Most of the federal agencies that are annually guzzling trillions have duplicated roles; dozens hardly do anything apart from paying salaries and pretending to work.

It would be recalled that in August 2011, the Federal Government had established a Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by former Head of Service of the Federation, Steven Oronsanye. The Committee had recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161, the complete scrapping of 38 agencies, the merger of 52 and the conversion of 14 to departments in ministries. The Committee had also recommended the removal of all professional bodies and councils from the national budget in order to slash the exorbitant cost of governance. On assumption of office, President Buhari had established an implementation committee to ensure that the recommendations are executed but nothing has happened so far. It appears that the government is worried that scrapping the agencies would mean less membership of boards would be available for the ruling party members who have been agitating for appointments. I am not sure what this means as we are approaching almost two years of this Administration without the board appointments being made anyway.

Nigeria has a long history of establishing committees on restructuring and rationalisation of government agencies but the recommendations are never implemented. For example, the Ahmed Joda Panel Report on the Review, Harmonisation and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Institutions and Agencies in 2000 made recommendations about some parastatals and agencies which government should scrape, commercialise, privatise or be made self-funding. The recommendations were never implemented. Twelve years after Joda, Oronsanye was appointed to do a similar job. The latest recommendations have now been on the shelf for over six years and nothing is happening about its implementation.

The Buhari Administration is clearly averse to making political appointments. This means ministers remain in charge and in most cases chief executives operate in an acting capacity. The implication of this is that the process of setting targets and objectives by new boards does not happen and the organisations are run on a day-by-day basis.

One of the reasons the reports never get implemented is that ministers rely on parastatals under their control as cash cows to secure slush funds. Ministers therefore do everything in their powers to ensure the reports never get implemented. Way back in 1995, the Allison Ayida Panel Report had seriously criticised the relationship between ministers and the parastatals under their control and had proposed that ministers should not control parastatals. What has happened is that ministers delay the appointment of boards of parastatals so that they remain the sole authorities in control. The Ahmed Joda Committee had also strongly condemned ministerial interference and control of parastatals and pointed out that their effectiveness is reduced by the greed of their ministers. When boards are appointed, the members are drawn from party members who see their appointment as payoff for political support and therefore spend their time seeking to milk the parastatals for personal benefit. One of the clearest reasons for the increasing cost of governance is therefore the system of multiplication of parastatals and their operations by ministers or boards who see their value as payoff rather than public service. The organisation of wasteful governance is therefore systemic.

The Buhari Administration is clearly averse to making political appointments. This means ministers remain in charge and in most cases chief executives operate in an acting capacity. The implication of this is that the process of setting targets and objectives by new boards does not happen and the organisations are run on a day-by-day basis. I believe that sometime this year, pressure from the ruling party would force the president to appoint boards. The new boards would realise that they would have a life span of two years or less and would be determined to get something to “eat” as quickly as possible. They would also realise that the next election would be around the corner. It is therefore difficult to see how focus on the public service function of parastatals would get any priority. Now that it appears the Oronsanye report whitepaper will not be implemented, and all the wasteful organisations remain and the National Assembly is creating more of them, its difficult to see how rationality would return to the system.

The problem with the implementation of the Oronsanye report, if it is attempted at all, is that many of the parastatals are established by law and would require the National Assembly to enact legislation to eliminate them. The current tension between the legislature and the executive would make collaboration on the issue very difficult. Meanwhile, it is really important to get the National Assembly to realise that the multiplication of agencies is not a sign of effective work; it’s a process of creating more difficulties for the future. Currently, many agencies get just enough budgetary allocations for salaries and maintenance of ministers or boards. The victim of the system is the citizen for whom there is no public service. Someone should remind the APC-led Federal Government that they did promise Nigerians that they would take the task of reducing the cost of governance seriously.

 

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.

OPINION: We Can’t Afford To Be Pawns – By Muhammed Karamba

Recently, there has been an uproar with regards to President Buhari’s decision to keep EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu and SGF Babachir Lawal. The President is under pressure from the public and the National Assembly to replace the two. I find it interesting how we have become so invested in such an issue that should probably be at the bottom of our list. Are we playing somebody’s game? I doubt if it is far from the truth.

It’s quite funny how, all of a sudden, the legislature decides who amongst the executive is corrupt or not. This is an arm of the government who hasn’t answered a lot of crucial questions being asked by Nigerians. It has failed to keep up to its promise of an open NASS. It has suspended a member turned whistle-blower and are yet to give comprehensive answers as per his allegations. I am not saying this disqualifies them from their officials. But it begs the question, are these probes done in the interest of Nigerians?

The media of today is doing a wonderful job at keeping us updated and exposing stuffs we probably otherwise wouldn’t have known. Most of us have one or a couple of media outlets which we trust hundred percent and will always believe anything that comes from them. But how sincere is the media of today? There are bad eggs; a lot of them. Now, all it takes to have a media outlet is money.

Have we ever sat down to think that maybe one of this media is there to defend the interest of a particular entity or group? It might even be as simple as a social media account. Politicians have social media “warriors” (one of whom is might be an account you trust so much) who get paid to spread propaganda. We have become so gullible that a simple twitter account operated by a fellow citizen is what we depend on, to get “credible” info. It’s saddening.

Would we know these people better than Buhari? These are people he would probably deal with on a daily basis. The thing is, being the spectator, we might have this feeling that the president is just there seated while his cabinet devours our wealth without his knowledge. If that happens, then we would have the worst leadership. Yeah, they would try as much as possible to hide their corrupt practices from him. Do we thing it is that easy to dig up something the president hasn’t? But the thing is, the president has the tedious job of knowing when an allegation is in the interest of someone or in the interest of the state.

It is very good for citizens to feel disturbed when we “see” a corrupt top official. We know what we don’t want. But most at times, we don’t know what we want. These guys might be corrupt, but president Buhari knows what he enjoys about working with them. You don’t employ a plumber and tell him which tools to use. Who are we to say no when the president says he wants them? If that’s what it takes to fulfill his campaign promises, then so be it.

The bottom line is, there is a political battle going on and we do not want to be pawns. Regardless of who is in this government, or priorities should not change. What we demand is Transparency and accountability, security, fight against corruption, good stable economy, proper infrastructure and the list goes. That’s it.

Author: Muhammad Karamba

Pius Adesanmi: Air, you’re under arrest!

President Buhari’s administration, its supporters and well-wishers, do not want Tu Baba to have his say in a democracy. They do not want him to organize a protest against the direction of Nigeria under President Buhari’s supervision.

They have denigrated him.
They have abused him.
They have abused his father and mother.

Those who defend the musician’s right to agonize and organize in a democracy have been surprised by the ferocity of those determined to silence the man.

I think that Mr. Innocent Idibia’s traducers – the Buhari administration and its voices in the public sphere – have a better understanding of history than those who are acting surprised and are blindsided by the ferocity of the opposition to Mr. Idibia’s planned protest.

Let’s be clear: I support and endorse that protest and the spirit which informs it. If I were in the country, I’d join it to protest against the failures and the shortcomings of the current administration and insist on better, responsible, and accountable governance.
If we cede Nigeria to the crude and primitive instincts of those who would have us perish even the mere thought of peaceful and legitimate protest in a democracy just because they deify President Buhari, we are totally finished. A Nigeria in which the right to protest is demonized cannot contain us and such people.

It is instructive that many of those who are attempting to prevent legitimate protests against President Buhari in Nigeria see no contradiction whatsoever in hailing legitimate protests against President Trump in another democracy in faraway America. Perhaps we should not be surprised because irony and the Nigerian have never been good friends.

I said that the Buhari administration and its supporters who are trying to block Mr. Idibia’s right to dissent have a better handle on history than those who are surprised by the state’s reaction.

Come with me.

Centuries before Christ, in ancient Greece precisely, a fellow called Orpheus became the perfect embodiment of poetic genius in music. It was said that his father, the god Apollo, gave him a lyre and taught him to play it. Orpheus became the greatest musician in the universe. The world obeyed the command of his art. Rivers, mountains, animals, and humans all melted when he played the lyre. He fell in love with a beautiful lady called Eurydice.

Misfortune happens to this perfect love story and his wife died and descended to Hades – the underworld. Orpheus had one power, one weapon that no force could withstand – his music. With his lyre, he was able to descend to Hades, cross the dangerous Stygian realm, charm Cerberus the monster with three heads, and gain admission into the presence of Pluto, the god of the Underworld, whose heart he melted with music and retrieved his wife.

Nothing was able to withstand or block the liberating capacity of the music of Orpheus. Orpheus had served notice to humanity that music liberates. Music frees people from tyranny. Such is the awesome power of the musician.

Such is the awesome power of the musician. Fast forward to several centuries after Christ, in 13th-century Germany, the people of the little village of Hamelin were in bondage. The bondage of rat infestation. Doctors could not save them from that bondage. Armies could not save them from that bondage. A single musician and his pipe saved them. He also, of course, had the capacity to punish them for failing to compensate him as promised. Just as the Pied Piper of Hamelin used his music to lure the rats away, he lured the children away. Such is the awesome power of the musician.

Such is the awesome power of the musician. In Jericho, the invading Israelites had to make the transition from professional soldiers to professional musicians. They laid down their arms and blew trumpets. And the Wall of Jericho fell. Such is the awesome power of the musician.

Such is the awesome power of the musician. In folktale after folktale after folktale after folktale, Ijapa the tortoise uses song and music to conquer, to overcome, to liberate, to bring down tyranny in the Yoruba world. Such is the awesome power of the musician.
Such is the awesome power of the musician. If you watch the documentary, Amandla (find it on YouTube), you will gain an understanding of the fact that it was song and music that brought down Apartheid in South Africa. You will hear former Apartheid police officers and security forces declare that they were more afraid of the song and the chanting “of the blecks” (Blacks in South African English) than the stones and the bullets of the anti-apartheid fighters. Such is the awesome power of the musician.

The man who finds favour with the Muses and they invest the art of music in him immediately becomes an existential threat to power because he is in possession of a weapon that has been the nemesis of power throughout history. Whether he is singing or just operating in the secular realm of a protest beyond musical performance, he is still an existential threat to power.

This explains why the Buhari administration and its supporters are so afraid of Mr. Innocent Idibia. This explains why they are so jittery. And this explains why their reaction and hysterics should be familiar to those who have read enough books to understand the history of such reactions to the musician.

The Nigerians trying to stop the artist have ancestors dating all the way back to ancient Greece – agents of power and forces of reaction who have always tried to catch the wind and arrest the air. Sadly, they will go the way of all those who have tried to arrest the air before them. They will go the way of those who have tried to “arrest the music”, to borrow the title of Tejumola Olaniyan’s excellent book.
If you are a blind Buhari supporter, Mr. Innocent Idibia is not your problem. President Buhari is. Face him and tell him to up his game and deliver on his electoral promises. You did not elect him to run Nigeria catastrophically on auto-pilot as he is currently doing. At any rate, if you are a patriot, your loyalty will always be to Nigeria and not to any President.

If you belong in Team Nigeria, the team of transcendental non-partisan patriots who believe that Nigeria is bigger than anyone, including the President, and his supporters must consequently not be allowed to reduce Nigeria to a theocracy run by their god, defend Mr. Innocent Idibia’s right to protest. Support him.

Physically, they may shut down that protest or even prevent him from holding it. Don’t worry. Mr. Idibia is an artist. He has song. He has music. He is beyond them.

Let them continue to arrest the air.

It’s their funeral.

 

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada

Nigeria NOT leaving ICC – Foreign Ministry

Nigeria will remain with the International Criminal Court (ICC) despite the recent pull out of some African nations, the ministry of foreign affairs has said.

Clement Aduku, spokesperson of the ministry, made the federal government’s position known on Wednesday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

Aduku said Nigeria’s stand on the issue as explained by the foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, had not changed.

The African Union had in January during plenary at the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, called for collective withdrawal of its members from the court.

The summit had said that African countries were not fairly treated by the court.

But Onyeama says Nigeria and other countries believe that the court has an important role to play in holding leaders accountable, hence Nigeria fully stands by it.

“Nigeria is not the only voice against it; in fact, Senegal is speaking very strongly against it. Cape Verde and other countries are also against it. What AU did was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.

“After, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision,” he said.

Onyeama said that a number of countries had requested for more time to study the decision before acceding.

He said Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and a host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.

“Each country freely and willingly acceded to the Treaty and not all of the members of the AU acceded; each country acceded individually, exercising its own sovereign right.

“So, if each country wants to withdraw, it has the right to do that individually.’ AU, which was not a party to the Rome Statute that established the court, should not be developing a strategy for a collective withdrawal for something that each country entered into individually.

“Those who feel they want to withdraw should do that individually,” Onyeama said.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia have publicly announced their intention to pull out of the ICC while Namibia, Kenya and Uganda are said to be contemplating withdrawing.

 

Source:

http://www.nan.ng/news/nigeria-will-not-quit-icc-foreign-ministry/

#IStandWithNigeria: Let us not make this protests about Tuface – By Yemisi Adegoke

With back to back protests all over the world, it was probably inevitable that one would spring up in Nigeria, but rather than being a straightforward affair it’s threatening to derail before the first placard hits the street.

When 2Face first announced plans for nationwide protests calling for good governance, almost immediately it started trending. On social media, Nigerians are split; the pro-2Face camp are lauding his past efforts to promote civic engagement and speak out against poor leadership, “no one is perfect” they argue and “at least he is speaking out.”

The critics however, are citing a series of reasons why he isn’t fit to lead the march, ranging from the bizarre accusation of his supposed ‘lack of personal governance’ to claims of his ‘illiteracy.’ While the sceptics are asking if he or any celebrity should lead the march due to the cosy nature of relations between some entertainers and politicians.

Conversation about the protest has been dominated by talk of who is sponsoring it, or pulling strings from behind the curtain, what APC politicians think, what PDP politicians think, what the presidency thinks, what celebrities will show up and 2Face. At the center of it all is 2Face. Questions keep rolling in about what his motives are, if he’s being paid, what artistes are supporting him, what artistes are not, if this march is a launch pad for a political bid and so on.

While I agree that it’s right to have questions and to ask them, the intense concentration on the man shifts the focus away from the message. Ideally such a movement would spring organically from the everyday Nigerian, like the Black Lives Matter movement or even closer to home in Zimbabwe. Last summer, Zimbabweans took part in an organised stay-away day, where schools and businesses across the country completely shut down in protest over a government policy.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and the power and draw of celebrity is undeniable. Let’s be honest, if an unknown Akin or Ijeoma from Mushin tried to galvanise a protest, how many people would listen, and more importantly, come out to take part in the protest?

While it might be honourable to lend a powerful voice to a cause, it’s important that focus on that voice doesn’t shift and become bigger than the cause itself.

Worse still is the danger that this voice will become the long-desired hero, idolized and relied upon to magically solve everything with the wave of a hand. There’s a tendency in Nigeria to pin hope on a hero; a politician, an activist, someone that will not only lead us, but save us. This mythical figure will do the hardwork of thinking, fighting and preserving our freedoms so we don’t have to.

In one of the videos he released on Instagram 2Face clearly defined what the march isn’t about: politicians trying to hijack the movement to score cheap points and highlighting of political leanings and tribal differences. And he’s right, it’s not about any of that, so let’s not make it about him either.

Pumped on codeine: Rising cases of substance abuse among youths – By Nini Iyizoba

A 23-year-old male was rushed to the doctor’s office because of severe right-sided abdominal pain, headache, nausea and vomiting. On physical examination, there was severe tenderness and noticeable swelling on the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. Lab tests reveal markedly elevated liver enzymes. On further investigation, the patient reveals that, he had been drinking 3 bottles of a certain popular brand of cough medicine with codeine daily in order to get high. After several months, the cough syrup alone was not so effective anymore, so his friend introduced him to a stronger mix which comprised of Vodka, Sprite and the cough syrup with codeine. This patient has been taking this mix almost every day for about a month which most likely caused the drug-induced Hepatitis.

Whenever we hear the word drug abuse, we automatically think of cocaine or marijuana because they are the two main substances that people would normally use as a means to get high. Well nowadays, things have changed. You would be surprised to know that people, especially teenagers and young adults are getting high from medicines that you would never expect, and one of the culprits is Cough Syrup. Cough Syrup with Codeine is typically used for treatment of cough but in recent times, some young people in Nigeria have turned to it as a drug of choice for getting high. Now, not everyone that misuses the directions for cough syrup is trying to get high. There is a difference between drug misuse, drug abuse and drug addiction and I would define all three for the sake of clarity.

Drug Misuse: This is when a person ingests a drug for purposes other than that for which the drug is intended. Majority of the people that misuse a drug are not necessarily trying to get high. For example, if you have pain and you are instructed to take 2 tablets of an analgesic and after a few minutes, you still feel the pain, then you might decide to take another two tablets so that the pain relief will be faster; that is drug misuse.

Drug Abuse: This is defined as the unwarranted use of a drug in order to achieve a ‘high’ or for performance enhancement. People that abuse drugs usually don’t have a prescription for the drug. Abusing a drug usually leads to dependency and addiction.

There have been instances where the addicts drink 3-5 bottles of cough syrup at a time in order to get high. In the Northern states, there have been tales of wives that drink approximately two bottles daily because it puts them in a better mood for their husbands and also, for the fact that their religion forbids alcohol. Unfortunately, the young addicts that abuse cough syrup underestimate the harmful effects of this drug abuse. The dangers of overdosing on codeine far outweigh the short period of euphoria and ‘high’ it gives. Codeine is an opioid and opioid overdose affects almost every organ of the body.

Heart: Codeine overdose can affect heart rate and blood vessels. It causes the heart rate to dramatically slow down and causes blood pressure to drop to severely low levels. This can easily lead to heart block or cardiac arrest.

Brain: Codeine overdose causes excessive sedation. In addition, lack of oxygen supply to brain makes the user to slip in and out of consciousness. This overdose affects the breathing centers in the brain and causes slowed breathing. This is called respiratory depression. This respiratory depression leads to respiratory collapse which leads to death.

Liver: Most times, codeine is found in medicines combined with acetaminophen and cough syrup. In that case, overdose of codeine also means overdose of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen toxicity causes severe liver damage as the liver is not able to break down this substance when in excessive doses. Most drug abusers would also drink alcohol just like the above patient, so in addition to the drug, the alcohol would even further exacerbate the liver damage. This is known as Drug-Induced Hepatotoxicity.

Digestive System: Codeine overdose slows down the digestive system and causes paralysis of the intestines. This leads to constipation and in severe cases, small bowel obstruction. This usually requires emergency surgery.

The government also has a lot to do in nipping this issue in the bud before it becomes full-blown. Regulations should be put in place for drugs that have addictive substances. We also need to enforce laws that ensure that a person cannot get these medications without proper prescriptions by authorised medical personnel. This would at least control how often these youths have access to such medicines.

No one usually thinks drug abuse would affect them on the long term, but the risks are quite real and dangerous. If you currently use medications to get high or know of someone who does, I would advise you seek medical help urgently as it can greatly affect overall health and wellbeing.

 

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment

Lagos and the open graves no one is talking about – By Philip Amiola

As a dewy-eyed boy growing up in the tranquil town of Ile-Ife, Osun state, I felt nothing but pity for the people who have willfully subjected themselves to the throes of living in a big city like Lagos when they could have had a much better quality of life in their village or perhaps a nearby town.

 

Why would anyone endure the notorious gridlocks, high population density and other challenges that are peculiar to Lagos? I simply couldn’t understand. “I can’t live in Lagos,” I would often say, without even thinking about it. I could live in Ibadan, Jos or even Kaduna but Lagos? No way!

 

Then came National Youth Service and I was posted to Anambra state where in the course of my primary assignment I stumbled upon my dream job at the time and alas, the company was in Lagos! After an unsuccessful attempt to initiate a remote work arrangement so I could work as a freelancer from Ile-Ife, I took up full-time employment with the company and relocated to Lagos. That was in September 2012.

 

It didn’t take me long to realise that Lagos is not just a centre of excellence; it is the centre of excellence. In a way that no other city or state does, Lagos represents the broad spectrum of the multifaceted entity called Nigeria.

 

Little wonder the state is bursting at the seams with a continuous influx of people from everywhere. Lagos has remained ever attractive to job seekers, businesspeople, foreign investors and virtually all ambitious Nigerians seeking to improve their lot.

 

Among other impressive things about Lagos, I am especially delighted at the speed with which the state’s emergency service responds to distress calls from ordinary people. I have had to make a few such calls, the latest being on December 1, 2016 when my brother and his fiancée (as she was then) were involved in a ghastly road accident just outside Lagos.

 

By the time we got to the scene of the incident around OPIC, after Berger, not less than four agencies were already on ground to rescue the victims and take them to the well-equipped Accident and Emergency Centre between Alausa and Ojota. That might not be a big deal in saner climes but in a nation like ours where very few states have a functional emergency response system, Lagos should be commended for setting the pace.

 

Coupled with the impetus provided by a forward-thinking and responsive government, one factor that has facilitated the development of Lagos is a prevailing attitude that does not put the entire burden of growth on the central administration at the state or local government levels but shares it with the body politic through private sector partnership and community development associations (CDAs).

 

It is not unusual to see communities building their own roads, providing streetlights and executing capital/labour intensive projects towards improving their living conditions. What baffles me however is how government and CDAs pay attention to apparently huge problems while totally losing sight of seemingly small, yet very important issues especially as regards health, safety and environment. One that I want to particularly highlight in this piece is the menace of uncovered drains and gutters.

 

On December 17, 2015, my colleague and I were returning from a business meeting in Ikeja GRA when we saw a motorcyclist lose consciousness and plunge into the wide drain that ran alongside the road. Apart from the physical impact which is enough to knock out anyone, the microbial load in that gutter is lethal. Good Samaritans gathered to get the victim out and give him the little help they could while my colleague and I called 767. The Lagos State Emergency Service responded swiftly but whether the man survived is left to be determined.

 

And that’s only one of several such instances. I have personally witnessed four which could have turned fatal to various degrees. The very first one would have been tragic for me as I jogged excitedly to the e-branch of Guaranty Trust Bank along CMD Road to withdraw my transitional stipend so I could take care of basic needs before receiving my first salary. The JJC that I was, little did I know that the pavement on which I was running was actually a huge drain that was only partly covered.

 

It was late in the evening and no one would have discovered me if I had not been providentially held back right at the edge of the last concrete slab that separated me from certain death. I still tremble each time I remember the incident. But not everyone would be so fortunate; hence my decision to write this piece in the hope of getting the message across to the right quarters. It’s a terrible thing to have people die needlessly or suffer permanent disability simply because we are not careful to keep our environment reasonably safe.

 

Amiola wrote from Lagos, Nigeria. You can connect with him at PhilipAmiola.org or engage him via his Twitter handle: @PhilipAmiola

Everything You Need To Know About The #IStandWithNigeria Peaceful Protest March

Since the idea of a nationwide march was first mentioned, the need for urgent solutions to the challenges facing Nigerians has become very clear. The people have hoped for a better Nigeria since 1999 but things are not getting any better for the majority.  We are still where we are – poor and desperate. I will be no longer be quiet.

I want to thank EiE, The 2face Foundation, numerous colleagues and countless fellow Nigerians for stepping up to partner with me. I am just a musician with a point of view and the ear of my fans.

I have dedicated my time and resources to peace building, voter education towards peaceful elections and youth engagement in governance in Nigeria. This time around, my partners, colleagues and I have come together to present a platform for real Nigerians to communicate their real pains to government at all levels in a peaceful and articulate manner with a view to getting lasting solutions to our problems.

This march is about demanding that all saboteurs of good government policies should hands off.

This march is about encouraging positive minded Nigerians to continue to work without intimidation.

We have a system that is clearly designed not to work for the majority.

 

What is this match not about?

 

It is not a platform for politicians of any party to manipulate. I know you will still spin it but for one second leave your battles aside and just listen to people without trying to score cheap political points against one another. It is not a point scoring exercise. It is certainly not personal.

It is not an organized labour platform. With all due respect to our comrades who have done much for Nigeria, this march is for the unrepresented.

It is not a ‘my religion or tribe is better than yours’ matter. All our blood is red.

I, Innocent Idibia, am a living example of a Nigerian who owes their success to Nigerians of every tribe and religion. None ask what religion or tribe I am before supporting me. I am grateful.

 

 

 

Therefore, it is with every sense of humility that I say that with this march, I want:

1)        Security

All Nigerians lives MUST matter. My religion, ethnicity or what part of the country I live shouldn’t determine the type of protection I get from my government.

According to the Constitution, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

2)        Education

To develop beyond oil, we have to invest in our human capital. Every child must have access to quality education. If our teachers are not paid, how will we raise the next generation to lead the country and run our businesses?

3)        Health

Health is wealth. People die daily from lack of basic, affordable health care. We can definitely do better.

4)        Power

Government needs to make it easier to generate power at the state and local government level so everything is not tied to the center. We need electricity to be productive. The cost of generating our own power is crippling.

5)        Unemployment

Poor education plus a struggling economy means a lot of people are unemployed. Unemployed people are hungry and angry.

6)        High cost of living

Food, transportation, medicine, everything is 3 times, 4 times more expensive but our salaries haven’t increased. What do we do???

7)        Social Justice

According to the Constitution, “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.”

There cannot be one set of rules for the poor and another set for the rich.

8)        Transparency

The best way to kill corruption is to increase transparency. Government finances and contracts must be open and available to all. Who got the money, to do what and by when?

9)        Cost of government

Our governance is TOO expensive – federal, state, local – cars, housing, allowances. We must reduce the cost of maintaining our public officials

10)     Patriotism

I stand with Nigeria. There is enough in Nigeria for all of us to “chop belleful”. Enough is enough. We must put Nigeria first and keep all the greedy & selfish people away from leadership.

Call to Action

Between now and Monday, February 6, I ask you to share via videos, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, SMS to 0902-355-5335. How are these issues affecting you? What are your daily struggles? How is it doing you? No matter what part of the world you are, I encourage you to share your stories. And join me on Monday in Surulere or online

Use any of the hashtags #IStandWith2Baba #IStandWithNigeria #OneVoiceNigeria on social media.

We will take all the reports and send them to our elected representatives as ONE VOICE of Nigerians across party, ethnic and religious lines – as they hear real people talk about real issues.

On Monday, February 6th, meet me at the National Stadium at 8AM and we’ll walk to the National Theatre – 2 national icons that epitomize our decline – as we state clearly and peacefully that #IStandWithNigeria and Nigeria must work for all of us and all of us must work for Nigeria.

Imo air, the ghost of Virgin Nigeria and other matters – By Maduka Onwukeme

In July 2005, the maiden flight of Virgin Nigeria was launched with fanfare. Virgin Nigeria was the brainchild of a partnership between the Obasanjo administration and the Virgin Group which owned and operated Virgin Atlantic airline.

It became the official national carrier which would replace the dead Nigerian Airways. Nigeria owned 51% of the equity while the Virgin Group owned 49%, however the Virgin Group was given the all powers of planning, setting up and management of the enterprise with no Nigerian input as well as all the rights accruing to national carrier.

The government shunned all protests against the deal which was clearly against the interest of Nigeria. An aviation activist Capt. Jerry Agbeyegbe had gone to court to stop the deal but was assassinated before the case was heard. The case was swept under the carpet as one of the unresolved assassinations under the Obasanjo administration.

By July 2009, the party had crashed, as the Virgin Group pulled out of the deal and of course left with an estimated US$35m to cover for its equity contribution and brand royalty fee for Virgin Nigeria’s use of its brand. This was coming barely one year after the CEO of Virgin Nigeria, Conrad Clifford, had told the national assembly that the airline would acquire 40 aircraft and employ over 6,000 Nigerians by 2010 (wishful thinking).

Virgin Nigeria left a legacy of an operational debt estimated at about N35.5bn in just three years of operation which surprisingly was in excess of the estimated operational debt profile of Nigeria Airways in the 10 years leading to its liquidation. Worse still, Virgin Nigeria added no value to the aviation industry in the form of training or assets of any kind.

The Virgin Group recovered more than its investment but left a huge unsecured debt burden for the airline’s bankers, the United Bank of Africa (UBA).

An aviation consultant, Chris Azu Aligbe, described the lesson learnt as follows: “In all, it is a classic lesson of how not to hand over our patrimony, without a national oversight, to a foreign investor whose ulterior interest is not known.”

On January 24, 2017, the Nigerian media space was agog with the news of the launch of Imo Air by the Okorocha administration and photographs of a plane branded Imo Air and Dana Air which Okorocha claimed was one out of five acquired by the state government to provide airline services to indigenes of the state.

Okorocha admitted that the Imo Air was yet to get an operational licence hence the partnership with Dana Air which would last for 10 years for the management of the airline and boasted that Imo Air would become a full blown airline by 2018.

The launch of Imo Air has been dismissed by many as a publicity stunt and the Okorocha administration has not made available any other information beyond the governor’s speech at the launch.

Imo state like other states has been severely hit by the recession despite denials by Okorocha to the contrary and therefore all avenues to raise revenue is being explored, but like they say in Nigerian parlance, setting up and running an airline business is no beans.

What is the state’s equity contribution in the deal and can the Imo public be availed a copy of the agreements signed with Dana Air? Dana Air operates an airline which will fly the same route as Imo Air, so what then is the role of Dana Air in the whole arrangement? Are they just technical partners or managers of an airline which would be in competition with them?

The Virgin group, while operating Virgin Nigeria dominated the local and West African routes, but was reluctant to fly international routes as demanded by the government. The reason was clear, Virgin Atlantic, its parent airline dominated those routes and even when they bowed to government pressure, Virgin Nigeria’s international flight was deliberately poorly operated.

Why even the choice of Dana Air? Nigeria has made 10 attempts to float its national carrier without success due to low capitalisation and lack of required expertise for an airline launch. The airports are littered with relics of dead airlines so what is Dana Air’s operational profile in the industry to be trusted with such a huge financial venture?

Who are the members of the board of Imo Air and how much control does the state exercise over the board?

The Imo state government should come clean on these questions as Imo people deserve to know how their collective patrimony is being utilized as they will bear the consequence of a bad investment.

Except the launch of Imo Air is the mere wishful thinking and publicity stunt of the Okorocha’s regime, the Imo public deserves to know.

The author is grateful to Chris Azu Aligbe, whose writings on the Aviation Industry were relied upon in writing this article.

 

Source: The Cable

REUBEN ABATI: Donald Trump and the Muslim world.

I am not a fan of Donald Trump, the incumbent President of the United States. I didn’t stand with him. I stood with her- Hillary Clinton- in the last US Presidential election. No other election in recent American history has been more international in terms of interest and emotional involvement. Trump’s election even divided the Nigerian middle class. Majority of Christians in Nigeria stood with Donald Trump. They liked his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and in a country where religion is such a volatile subject and the Christian community feels as if it is under siege from radical Islamic extremism, it was easy for a category of Nigerians to see Trump’s politics being in sync with their own fears and expectations.

Pro-secessionist, Biafran and Christian protesters in the South East also supported Trump. On his Inauguration Day, they organized a rally, some of them were killed, in the process, by Nigerian security agents. It is always so easy to read American politics into every other politics globally because of America’s status as a superior power and the global dominance of its culture. Many Nigerians who opposed Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party also did so, for example, for partisan reasons, because they felt the Democratic administration of President Barrack Obama was responsible in many ways for the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria. They wanted a pound of flesh – they wanted the Democrats out of the White House, the same way the PDP exited Aso Villa. The funny thing is that Nigerians who do not hold American citizenship, were not in a position to vote in the US election, but this didn’t deter us from weeping more than the Americans. In my case, I opposed Trump because I consider him a vile, navel-gazing, crude, child-like nativist, whose Presidency could pose a threat to the free world.

I have been proven right. The United States is in trouble because of Donald Trump. In less than two weeks in office, President Trump has signed executive orders, which amount to an assault on the liberal international order. America is great because it became the dreamland and the symbol of freedom, prosperity and fulfillment for persons and families across the world. It is great because it became the melting pot for global genius, the preferred destination for generations of talented persons in all fields of human endeavour. America is great because its diversity and multiculturalism became pillars of its exceptionalism.

Donald Trump, on twitter where he spends his waking hours, and on the podium, where he rants, says his ambition is to “Make America Great Again” (#MAGA), but it is beginning to look as if Trump will end up making America small. The Executive Orders which he has signed so far, are intended to upturn America’s foreign policy in the last 50 years, isolate the country from the rest of the world and turn it into an island. America appears destined to become a pariah state for the next four years. With Trump, America now sees the rest of the world as an ocean of enemies, with this persecution complex dressed up as national interest.

The most pernicious of the Executive Orders is Trump’s suspension of the US refugee programme for four months and the entry ban for 90 days imposed on nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Is the action legal? Section 212(f) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (1952) empowers the President to restrict immigration access to the United States: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants and non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” The sentiment behind this legal provision is protectionism, which is ironic in a country of immigrants.

This is Donald Trump keeping his campaign promise to protect America for Americans and review immigration policies. Is this new? No. Over the years, America has always tried to control the influx of immigrants. This was the case even under President Barack Obama. Trump reminds us of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which turned back the Chinese, and a similar law in 1924, which targeted Asian and African immigrants, both of which were corrected by the Immigration Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin, ancestry and race. The only problem is that Trump’s approach is crazy, a case of policy mixed with bigotry and narcissism, and an unconstitutional gambit which violates the First Amendment, hidden under the banner of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry.” Given the contradictions between the 1952 and 1965 Acts and the First Amendment, Trump’s actions are perhaps better tested in the court of law.

He wants to build a wall at the Mexican border. This has already caused a rift with Mexico. He is also holding radical Islam responsible for security breaches in the United States, and this is certainly because foreign-born Muslims have been responsible for many acts of terror in the US: the 9/11, the Boston bombing, the Nigerian underwear bomber; across Europe, radical Islamic extremism has also proven to be a problem. Trump’s solution is to demonize Muslim-majority countries and arrive at the simple solution that the best way to protect America is to shut out the Muslims. He insists that “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.” I don’t believe him.

The chosen seven countries that have been shut out have not in any way been responsible for most of the acts of terror in the US in recent times. Trump leaves out Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim-majority countries, but the kind of chaos that has been generated makes every Muslim going to the United States vulnerable. You don’t have to be from the seven targeted countries, once you bear a Muslim name, you could be subjected to greater scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection Officers. Some of the people who have been harassed at the borders since last Friday when the Executive Order was passed are American citizens with dual nationality.

While Donald Trump is proposing greater vetting and scrutiny of the influx of Muslims, and refugees, he is nevertheless willing to allow more Christians into the United States. This is the message that comes across: Christians are welcome. Muslims should be carefully scrutinized before they are allowed in. In other words, Christians are better than Muslims. This may sound like an over-simplification, but that is just how it is. President Trump is likely to make the United States more unpopular in the Muslim world, damage established friendships and promote a culture of hate that has proven a threat to American foreign relations in parts of the world.

American liberals are justifiably upset and angry. President Trump’s policy moves and rhetoric depart from the America they have known for the past 50 years. But right now, America is so divided, nobody can comfortably sit on the fence, and that is why public opinion is so viciously divided too. Trump addresses the fears of those Americans who, like him, don’t want more immigrants and asylum seekers. This is the ultimate rise of American xenophobia and an attempt to turn that country into “a camp of saints.” But there are limits to nativism as seen in Jean Raspail’s novel, The Camp of the Saints (1973) and The Slums of Aspects: Immigrants vs. The Environment (2011) by Lisa Park and David Pellow.

But no matter the tone of global outrage, Donald Trump obviously doesn’t give a damn. Mexico has cancelled a meeting with Trump, a protest calling for signatures to prevent his proposed state visit to the UK has attracted over a million signatures, Iran is threatening reciprocal action, the entire Muslim world is outraged and inside America, California is threatening to secede because of Trump! And Trump? He wants to be President of the United States, not President of the world. He wants to serve the American people who voted him into power, not some immigrants coming from the slums of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Across the world, there are millions who look up to the United States as the land of freedom. Trump is saying America is no longer ready to be the world’s Atlas nation. It is not just immigration that will be affected: trade, aid, military relations as well. This has created a regime of fear among many who depend on the United States.

There are millions of Africans living in the United States, particularly Nigerians. They don’t all have the papers granting them the right of stay. There are asylum seekers, refugees and many who are still processing their residency papers. An American for Americans only policy is likely to place them at the risk of rejection and eventual deportation. When you talk to some of them, you can actually sense panic, fear, despair. They panic because America has become their adopted home. It is their place of work, their source of hope, and the best place in the world where they are happiest.

They panic because their original homeland offers them little hope. They don’t want to return to a Nigeria where there is no regular power supply, employment opportunities, good roads, communications or transportation system. Living in America confers a special status on them among friends, family members and the community at home. There are others who are already naturalized Americans, and who may have nothing to fear, and there are those Nigerians who have helped to build America with their talents and intellect, and who don’t really care on what side of the bed Donald Trump is likely to wake up tomorrow morning.

Then you have the big crowd of I-must-go-to-America-by-force set of Nigerians who are daily trooping to the American embassy in search of visa. Since the Executive Order by President Trump, that crowd has not been smiling at all. I know many of our compatriots who have suddenly become experts in analyzing American immigration rules. Nigeria is not one of the seven countries on the Trump list and the review and restriction are supposed to last for 120 days, but long-time US visa applicants in Nigeria believe that what a typical American immigration officer has actually been looking for is a President like Trump. An inconsolable applicant tells me he is no longer sure he will ever get a visa to the United States.

I assured him that the world will always need America and America will always need the world. Isolationism discounts the ideal of an interconnected global order. President Donald Trump’s success will be determined in the long run not by the arrows he shoots in the international arena from North Korea, to China, to Mexico and Somalia, but how well he fulfills the promise to make America greater than he met it. If they don’t want you to stay in America, come home, please. Stay at home, e go better… or go to Canada or Taiwan.

Defining the Challenges of Helping the Poor – By Precious E. Ohaegbulam

Living  in  a  country  of  unequal  opportunities.  Is  this  really  a  “defining  challenge”  of  our time? Assertions by the trio of Nigeria’s President, Finance Minister and CBN Governor always produce lively debates across social media platforms, beer parlours and even bedrooms (yes, I think) with some supporting and others opposing them whilst arguing that unemployment is worse than corruption in itself.

 

The former US President, Barack Obama once opined that “it is the combination of “a lack of upward mobility” and inequality that is the great challenge of the day”. This strikes a  lot of Americans as the right way to go about it: get people to move up and thus create a thriving middle class. If, in the process, the Google guys stay rich, so be it.

 

When I catch bus rides across Lagos, especially the ones going to the “Island”, and I hear depressing discussions about inequality, these psychologically-battered people are often talking about three different issues: the astonishing rise of the very rich, the stagnant wages and weakening prospects or outright lack of existence of the once popular Nigerian middle class, and the large number of people at the bottom of the ladder. Those running the daily rat race – as a lot of people are wont to call it.

 

These are interesting times. There is a lot of debate, and some good research, about whether these issues are related — whether the rise of the rich has caused the obliteration/stagnation of the middle class and the poor. I think it is mixed.

 

There are rich countries and they are growing each day, but the United States is at the head of the pack. This is because of certain factors:

– structural (globalization and technology); large and liquid financial markets make the rich richer) and political (lower tax rates and the political influence of the financial sector).

 

The United States has all of these factors — technological innovation, global reach and huge capital markets but also tax cuts, deregulation, a powerful financial industry — so it’s not that surprising that it has experienced the biggest rise in the super-rich.

 

Reviving the middle class in Nigeria is clearly the most important challenge, involving the most people. It’s also the hardest. I believe that there is strong proof to show that rising inequality is crowding out the middle class. But there is also a powerful story to be told about how technology (sheer bare-knuckle everyday “Nigerian” invention) and declining education and skills have contributed to the stagnation or reduction of wages for the low-income earner.

 

Now, to the question, would higher taxes on the rich create a more dynamic middle class? Perhaps, but it’s not clear exactly how. It’s also worth noting that the U.S. tax system — which relies mostly on income taxes — is more progressive than European systems that raise a much greater percentage of their revenue from sales taxes.

 

Here’s a howler for you to chew on: The top 10?percent of American earners pay about 70 percent of all federal income taxesIn New York City, the top 1?percent pay almost 45 percent of the city’s income taxes.

 

Some Nigerians will argue to the death that the real link between the rise of the rich and the fall of the middle class is political. They say that the rich have captured the political system and milked it to their advantage. And it’s also true that — because of the role of money in politics — the well-off (and well-organized) can often get tax breaks – popularly called “waivers” – and regulatory relief. (I can see someone nodding in agreement here).

 

Of the three problems, the easiest to fix is the one we spend the least time talking about: the fate of the poor. The Nigerian government does not devote much energy or money to the problems of the poor, especially those of impoverished families who suffer from malnutrition, bad health and poor education, which cripples their chances of escaping poverty. The resources needed to change this would be a fraction of what we spend on taking care of our big “ogas” at the top.

 

I sure don’t have all the answers. It would be a crime to pretend to. But if you are all looking for that silver lining, tell our government officials to focus on formulating policies that would likely have the biggest effect on increasing social mobility and reducing inequality, let’s shift the attention from the rich and focus on the forgotten poor, so that some of them can even enter the elusive middle class.

Corporate Communications Pitch Competition 2017; Call For Entries

Sesema Public Relations, a leading Public Relations and Marketing Communications firm in conjunction with Theinsiderng.com, is calling for entries into the second edition of the “Corporate Communications Pitch Competition”.

This year’s competition will focus on two different categories; Public Relations and IT/Graphics Design. View highlight of 2016 Edition   CCPC 2017 call for entry

Grand Prize: Six (6) month paid internship with Sesema Public Relations which may lead to full employment and One Hundred and Thirty Thousand Naira (N130,000) cash prize for each category.

And other prizes

As part of the selection process, applicants for the PR/COMMUNICATIONS ASPECT are requested to write an essay on “How PR agencies can manage negative perception of government in a dwindling economy” while applicants for the IT/GRAPHICS DESIGN ASPECT will be required to “Design an AD banner to promote a new talent management company (The Company in focus engages in managing talents in music, acting and fashion)”

The Corporate Communications Pitch Competition is supported by Jobberman, Business Day, Myschool.com.ng , Olorisupergal and The Alpha Reach

 Follow the link to submit your entry: http://ccas.org.ng/pitch-2017/

The call for entries will run from Friday 27th January till Monday 27th February, 2017

 

History and results of the power of women in civil protest – By Chioma Dike

On the heels of the largest protest in US history, the numbers keep coming in and the magnitude keeps rising. This past weekend, the Women’s March on Washington took the world by storm, in protest of the 2016 Presidential race and election results which was laced with the dismissal of women’s rights, reproductive rights, civil rights and more. From women in Los Angeles chanting “My body, My choice”, to Barcelonan protestors chanting “Love trumps hate”, and protest signs in DC that read: “I march for my baby girl” to London with signs reading: “though she might be little her voice is fierce”, women, girls and their male supporters all came out in historic numbers to stake claim in their position regarding women’s rights as human rights.

 

A much higher number of people showed up for the Women’s March at 3.2- 4.2 million participants and counting in over 500 cities in the United States alone compared to the 250,000 who attended the inauguration. In Los Angeles alone, 750,000 showed up to march for women’s rights and in DC (500k), New York (250k), Chicago (250k), Boston (135-150k), Seattle (130k), Denver (100-150k) to name a few. But the protest was not limited to the US, protestors took to the streets in their marching shoes in London (100k), Canada (50-60k), Australia (10k), Paris, Cape Town, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Tokyo, Dublin, Vienna, Mexico, Berlin and even Antarctica with a total of 616 “Sister marches” around the globe.

 

While the organizers of the marches are working for a continued effort to seek results, all this strategic use of woman-power has got me thinking of some other examples of the power of the unity of women being used in civil unrest and their yielded results. With leaders like Chief Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, a 20th century pioneer of women’s rights in Nigeria, it should be apparent that Africans are not new to women taking the lead in resistance efforts.

 

During British colonial Nigeria, when Igbo women sought to gain representation in native leadership as well as fight excessive colonial taxation, in what was birthed Ogu Umunwanyi-also known as the Aba Women’s War, or the Women’s Market Rebellion of 1929. Over 10,000 Igbo women participated in anti-colonial, anti-tax-efforts. Ogu Umunwanyi was mainly organized and led by rural women, and spread rapidly throughout south-eastern Nigeria among the Igbo and Ibibio of Owerri and Calabar provinces, covering about 6,000 square miles and involving a population of two million people.

 

In the Abeokuta Women Anti-taxation Demonstrations, more than 100,000 women waged demonstrations against the Alake (King of Egba, a city in Abeokuta, Ogun State) and his supporters for exploitative policies during colonial rule which he supported including negotiating land contracts with foreign traders without seeking consent of the native owners; setting food and price controls; favouring European companies in leasing space by forcing the eviction of market women’s stalls and other exploitative acts. Using native forms of protests like songs, sitting-on, protest demonstrations with a combination of foreign methods at the time, such as petitions, court actions, and press conferences, the Abeokuta women succeeded in forcing Alake Ademola II to relinquish his throne on January 3, 1949, four women were placed on the Native Administration Egba Interim Council, the flat-rate taxes on women including the water rate, were ended, among other changes.

 

The most modern and sustained protest in Nigeria of the 21st century for women’s and girl’s rights has to be the Bring Back our Girls campaign for the return of all 276 kidnapped Chibok school girls from the grip of Boko Haram terrorist group since 2014. With over 1,000 days and counting, the protests and demonstrations requests, with undying hope, for the safe return of all kidnapped Chibok girls and also for the right of girls to receive an education. Since 2014, a number of the girls have been returned but not all, and the protest continues.

 

In 2003, when the women of Liberia united to encourage peace negotiations for the unrest in their country, they were kept out of peace talks but it was their efforts of sit-ins, demonstrations of praying and singing at town halls, parliament buildings and even outside of the building when peace talks had commenced that pressured the government and rebel groups to come to a solution to the long-standing fighting.

 

When the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) engaged in a fierce conflict with the abductions of thousands of girls and boys by the LRA, displacement, rape and other atrocities women activists decided to mobilize to play a direct role in finding a negotiated settlement. During peace talks to end the war in northern Uganda, women marched hundreds of miles, from Uganda to the site of the talks in Juba, Sudan, to pressure a successful negotiation.

 

It was Angela Davis who said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept”, who was also a key player in the resistance to the oppression of Blacks in the Civil Right era.

 

The launching start of the Modern Civil rights movement in America, is accredited to the brave women Claudette Colvin and later, Rosa Parks (strategically) who refused to give up their seats on the public bus for white passengers in Montgomery, Alabama. This was followed by boycotts of major state revenue- generating commerce such as buses, sit-ins defying white/black designated public areas and non-violent protests and marches. These demonstrations were of course accompanied by lawsuits, talks between prominent African American leaders (mainly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and federal/ state government officials and lawmakers which ultimately resulted in desegregation of public areas (one year after Colvin refused to give up her seat, federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama), voting rights for African Americans and the adherence to civil rights for all American citizens despite their cultural and lineage differences.

 

Most crucially, are the actions during and after protests that bring forth most change. Actions in the form of coalition-building, sustained advocacy campaigns, inter-sectional programs, direct communication with lawmakers and representatives that result in grand shifts. These are the shifts that oftentimes push the world to marvel at the vast amount of strength stored in women who are determined to rise beyond any limitations.

UFUK Dialogue And The Message Of Peace In Nigeria By Abiye Festus Abibo

Sometime in 2013, I got an invitation from a friend of mine to attend a break of fast dinner (Ramadan Iftar) organized by a Turkish NGO, UFUK Dialogue. I protested that I was the wrong person for such an event because I am a Christian. But my friend insisted stating that though a Muslim event, the idea is not only to break the fast but to provide a platform for close interaction between adherents of both faiths with the aim of achieving love and tolerance. He said I would be glad I did attend the eve