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Amnesty programme should focus more on education –Otuaro

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Amnesty programme should focus more on education –Otuaro

In this interview, the Ibe-Uyadonwei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Dennis Otuaro, speaks on sundry matters. Excerpts…

 

 

You’re already a successful businessman. What propelled you to go back to school for a PhD?
I see the PhD as a something for self- fulfillment. After going to school, you need the PhD so that you can break new grounds in learning. Right now, I am working on a research on the Challenges of Researchers Objectivity on the Niger Delta Crisis. From my research at the PhD level, I have realised that the people have so many challenges; some border on education while others center on basic needs, even before oil was discovered at Oloibiri.
The Winnick Commission Report of 1957/1958 made it clear that this area needed special attention but sadly after the country’s independence, that report was abandoned and the government of the day recommended the Niger Delta Development Basin which was an agency that was deliberately made not to work. Before the military intervention in our politics, there was derivation formula was enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. But immediately after the military left the stage, the allocation concept was inserted into the new constitution. The concept of revenue allocation is alien; it is a criminal concept in operating constitution of Nigeria.
As a father, you cannot allocate what your son has. When your son is wealthy, it is his duty to maintain you, it is not you as a father taking everything that belongs to your son, then you now give him 1.5 percent, 13 percent or whatever percentage. It is only here in Nigeria that the constitution is taking something from the state and then allocating it. Revenue Allocation is alien to federalism. For now the 13 percent is not even enough. The constitution says at least 13 percent. But at the end of the day, we only need a policy will of the government to make it a policy statement or declaration about reviewing the 13 percentage and increase in the percentage as the constitution does not stop any government from increasing the percentage from 13.

Do you agree that most of the crises that erupted in the Niger Delta were due to the acts of multinational oil companies?
As stakeholders, over the years, we have keenly observed and we have done our part bridging the gap between the communities and the government; bridging communication break down between the communities and the Oil Multi Nationals as well as the government. That was the role I played as Chief Protocol Officer; to let the youths to understand the project determination of the government had and the commitment towards development agenda of the government. But as of today, things are getting worse the attitudes of oil companies, it’s even getting worse. There are many cases of oil pollution that are deliberately blamed on host communities by the oil multi- nationals may be in connivance with the government and security agencies such that when a spill occurs they will categorise it as sabotage. And in some of these investigations, the communities and the stakeholders are not even involved; only the oil companies and the security agents will go and do it on their own and categorise it with any name at the end it is the community and the environment that suffers. And you know in Nigeria, how it is with the culture of settlement.

You seem passionate about the Niger Delta, what sustains this passion?
I am a product of the Niger Delta struggle; I volunteered for the struggle against the challenges facing the Niger Delta at a very early age of 18, since then I have been in the struggle. The only person so far from the Niger Delta area who has ever called for secession was the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro. That was the only person who called for a republic which was quashed after 12 days by the Nigerian military. At the end when he was being taken to prison, he still fought for the government during the civil war but after that era. All we are asking for is a fair share constitutional practice. Under Ken Saro Wiwa, the protest was a peaceful one but the people were visited upon with the force of the state. It was violence that was visited on the Ogonis. Even the Ijaw youths, when Ijaw youths went on peacefully Ogele (match) the famous “KAIAMA DECLARATION” the process was visited with state coercive force and violence, since then it has become very difficult task to hold Multi-National Corporations and Governments accountable to the prevailing situation in the Niger Delta.
The region cannot be giving much to the centre and remain neglected. The oil accounts for 90 percent of the country’s export. The neglect and underdevelopment of the Niger Delta is very pronounced, despite years of government intervention. It is something that is notorious. It doesn’t need any investigation. Question is, are we going to remain like that? Those of us who are not running away from the country to pay allegiance with other countries will continue struggling for a better Niger Delta. We will not relent in the struggle to make this place a better place.

How can you bring your two doctorate degree programs to bear in the struggle?
Many scholars have written a lot about the Niger Delta and I will not be the last. What I am trying to do now at my study level of PhD on Comparative Politics and Development Studies is to give a real focus, real meaning and background to what is fueling the agitation. Civic nationalism; a citizen call for fair deal in the polity. the people of the region are saying what we want is equal rights in the Nigerian project and that in the Nigerian project in the days of cocoa and groundnut it was derivation formula; and now that it is oil and other minerals (which the government is not focusing on due to oil), let us review derivation formula upwards according to the constitution provisions. And when you do so, it will give the oil and mineral producing areas more money from the resources extracted from their land to deal with the developmental challenges in their various states. These are administrative issues that do not need constitutional amendment to achieve especially for the people of the Niger Delta.

If given the opportunity, what would you do differently?
I would engage stakeholders and make to work vital recommendations to address relevant issues facing the Niger Delta. The people of the Niger Delta will be engaged meaningfully, because we already have basic documentation that are on ground in the archives that we can dust come up a good developmental blueprint to give short term, midterm and long term solutions; and not to be engaging stakeholders in marathon workshops and conferences That are not productive . It is time to make the youths, the women and the men of the Niger Delta productive.
When you go to the Niger Delta states, apart from the civil service, there is nothing generating employment; even the oil companies are not in the Niger Delta. You only see them in Abuja and Lagos and when those from the Niger Delta go for employment, it is always a problem as indigenes of where the companies are located are given preferential treatment. They are even under pressure from indigenes of those areas not to appoint Niger Delta sons and daughters. There is no industry in the region. Any amount of money you give to the people, they can hardly invest it there; the money will go out. That is why we must light up the Niger Delta, now that we’re talking about electricity, connect the region to the electricity and good road networks. So when the investors are coming, they will already know there are roads and it will open up the markets and make any investment accessible. Thereon, the security challenge can now be easier to deal with. It will then become easier for the government or security agents to mobilise when there are security challenges;

How effective has the Amnesty programme been in addressing these challenges?
What the past advisers of the amnesty programme have succeeded in doing from the initial stage is disarmament de-mobilisation, and now training is going on in some aspects. But the amnesty package that was given as at 2009 is more than that. So anyone in charge of the Niger Delta amnesty program should know that. How could these people have access to the resources in their region? It is one of the critical aspects of the amnesty program that stakeholders and the governments still need to discuss. Under the program, late President Yar’Adua, agreed on 10% equity stake for host communities in the petroleum sector as part of the amnesty deal. This 10% will be focused on long term development and investment for the region, so those are areas any special adviser in the amnesty and the minister for Niger Delta should be thinking when they convene for stakeholders meeting or advising the government to enable the people access their wealth. That is it and not just sending them to training and abandoning them without even determining the type of trade that is relevant in their respective localities. The NDDC has a serious role to play in even in the amnesty program because when we’re talking about opening up the communities by road, the lighting up of the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta ministry and the NDDC have big roles to play.

How successful is the Amnesty program in reintegrating the militants back into the society?
For me it is not effective but as for the training and other things they’re doing, they say they’re doing some things. Recently, when they got some Boko Haram members reintegrated about a hundred of them, we already knew they’re integrating them into the Nigerian military service. If you say you’re reintegrating people, where are you re-integrating them into? You give them some starter pack for some trade that may not even be relevant to their locality.
You’re not telling us that you’re re-integrating them means that you are resettling them from their Local communities. At the end of giving someone starter pack, the way the program is being done now, you’re sending them to go and start business in their communities. So when you are training them for projects, do you take cognizance of the viable trade in their domains? No. There are cases of misplaced priorities in the reintegration process. But those that went to school, I know for the students after graduation maybe 60% can survive on their own. As students they can invest even if there are no jobs as is the Nigerian situation. Out of the ten university graduates, six can survive on their own. For me, they should even focus more on the education of the people because the level of illiteracy is very high in the Niger Delta and not only in the north as many believe. If more people are educated, the problem in the region will further reduce to the barest minimum. We have a high level of illiteracy. So, the Programme should focus more on education; and with respect to that they can also focus on the polytechnic and technical education aspects and not just formal university students education. Some people will be ready to go to the polytechnic for two years and garner the capacity to understand any business they may want to do.

As a very busy person, how do you balance academics, work and family?
Work, family and academics are tasking situations, only mitigated by the love and care of my wife, who is always playing the role of a mother. I will give the credit to her on how i cope with work, academics and the struggle, after God.

Do you have any political ambition?
I don’t have any political ambition for now but my mission is to serve my country anytime the opportunity comes. I always tell my friends that the greatest endeavor is service to your fatherland.

What fervent wish do you have for the country?
At the moment, my only appeal is to the political class. The elections have come and gone, so it’s time for them to heal the wounds and move on, especially to our President, whom I would implore to look very deep, refocus on the security architecture of the Niger Delta and carry critical stakeholders along, especially High Government Ekpemupolo ( TOMPOLO) . He should not rely on the political leaders alone; they cannot give the all the needed solution. There are critical stakeholders that as a country can be reached out to in a bid to restore peace and restore security and engender development In the Niger Delta region; somebody like Tompolo I believe is very critical to peace in the region. Wherever he is, he remains critical as a serious stakeholder. He’s somebody that everybody respects. Majority of the people respect him. They know that he’s not a politician, and when you go to the Northwest, there are stakeholders like that as well. So in trying to solve the insecurity issues we face at the moment, the president should look for people like that and they will open the way for a good developmental strategy for the Niger Delta and other parts of the country in similar circumstances.

Do you have a favorite food?
When we talk of food, if I’m in this town (Warri), I don’t go to eateries as a local person, and my favorite food is starch, with any native soup. You hardly see me at fast food outlets ; you will never see me at the eateries.

What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to our traditional Ijaw music. You know I am a chief so it is incumbent on me to keep the culture going.

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Interview

Seven years every Sunday, my husband produced Village Headmaster –Bimbo Oloyede

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Seven years every Sunday, my husband produced Village Headmaster –Bimbo Oloyede

Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede is the widow of the former producer/director of the foremost and longest drama series- on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) – The Village Headmaster, Mr. Tunde Oloyede. As the members of the crew and cast of the popular sitcom prepare for the 50th anniversary next month, she told FLORA ONWUDIWE her commitment for the anniversary, her husband’s role and how they worked

 

The late Tunde Oloyede was one of the crew of the longest running drama series on television – The Village Headmaster (VHM). What do you know of his role as the producer/director, before he left the NTA?

 

 

I believe that he made major impact on the programme. He created new characters like Chief Eleyinmi and Okoro, who became firm favourites in the progamme. I also know that for 7 years plus he held rehearsals twice a week and spent every Sunday at the station, because VHM was aired on Sunday evenings and in the early days it was broadcast live.

 

 

He sought for sponsorships with some cast to ensure that the VHM comes back on the nation’s airwaves, what went wrong?

 

 

It is difficult to say but I know he made a huge effort on several occasions to bring it back on air. Maybe there was a marketing formula that the project did not get right or maybe it just was not the right time. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to click but when the time comes, no one can stop it.

 

 

And you were also instrumental in trying to resuscitate the drama series too?

 

 

As his wife, I had no choice but to be part of some of the strategy sessions and I recall going with him to make a presentation to a would-be sponsor. However, it was not to be. I also recall a weekend several years ago, when we hosted about five actors and producers of the VHM in Iyin Ekiti – my late husband’s home town. It happened that these men had become traditional rulers in their various towns and they were also interested in bringing back the programme. They spent three days looking at script ideas, coming up with new characters etc. It was quite a weekend.

 

 

We learnt that Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) would be celebrating VHM at 50?

 

 

Yes, since it was one of their flagship programmes and apparently many people still ask about VHM, the NTA and VHM cast/crew are partnering to commemorate the programme at 50. Quite a lot of activity is on-going to make it a befitting ceremony.

 

 

What is your level of involvement for the commemoration, because this was one of the programmes that your husband was passionate about?

 

 

I am very much involved actually. I am a member of the Planning Committee and though I cannot fill his shoes, I am trying to do things he would have done to make sure the commemoration is a successful one. He was very familiar with everyone involved, having worked with them for several years. I only know some of the cast who featured in the mid-1970s, when I worked as a floor manager on the programme, before being deployed to the News Department. I recently met newer cast members.

 

 

As some cast have joined their ancestors, who are the surviving legends, the audience would meet live during the celebrations?

 

Thank God that some of these actors are still with us. The people who played the parts of Amebo, Teacher Fadele, Okoro, Chief Eleyinmi’s wife, Chief Dagbolu, Garuba’s wife, Babalawo and Doctor will be part of the commemoration. I know there are other actors but I can’t remember their names right now and some of our crew members will also be there but as behind-the-scene people their faces are not usually recognized.

 

 

Former producers like Rev. Bayo Awala, Jimi Odumosu, Tade Ogidan are members of the VHM family and some people who were producers who are now traditional rulers in their towns, will also see be there to celebrate.

 

 

What are the activities lined up for the golden Jubilee celebrations?

 

 

There are three main activities. We are holding a round table discussion on Drama – the tool for national development. There will be a live Command Performance of the Village Headmaster and we are also going to have a     gala night where NTA will give out awards and the Village Headmaster Family Foundation will be launched. These will take place within the second week of October.

 

 

After the commemoration, would the drama series hit the air waves?

 

 

Honestly, I cannot say. I know many would like that to happen but I think it depends on the NTA and the possibility of raising funds to produce the programme.

 

 

Production is quite different these days from the time when I worked on the set of VHM. It would take a lot of planning but I know it can be done if the decision is taken.

 

 

Would you say studying Theatre Arts was accidental or a wrong decision, you ever took in life?

 

 

When you say Theatre Arts it sounds as if I studied to be an actor. Actually my course was in Stage Management, which focused on lighting, sound, costume etc., the physical side of theatre.

 

 

Does this pay your bills?

 

 

In a way, it contributes towards paying my bills, although it is just part of what I do. However, if you consider that I was employed by the then NBC/TV as an assistant producer, based on my course on study, you could say that was my entry point into broadcasting, which has and still does pay my bills.

 

 

Could you tell us, what were your experiences like as a foreign student in the United Kingdom?

 

 

It was a very interesting experience and one that I am very grateful for, because it paved the way for my career in broadcasting. Living with strangers in a boarding school setting from a very young age, taught me to be independent and self-reliant. It also helped me to be adaptable to most situations and tolerant of most people. Since I also had elocution lessons from a young age, it paved the way for me to eventually become a News Anchor.

 

 

What were your major challenges?

 

 

Children adjust quite easily and I did not lack the basic things of life but it was difficult sometimes thinking about family back home and there were times when we had school programmes that I would miss not having my parents around to watch the things I was doing.

 

 

What would you recall as major productions that you participated in the UK?

 

I took part in fringe productions while I was a student but actually, after leaving school, I did not stay in the UK long enough to participate in any major productions. I returned to Nigeria quite quickly and was fortunate not to have to wait too long, before getting a job I was happy with.

 

 

What makes the VHM differ from other drama series that people are yearning for the programme to come back?

 

 

I think it was its simplicity, its characters, its humour and the messages it shared. Each episode had a message that could not be ignored and the characters were amazing too. Their language was insane. You never knew how else the English language was going to be destroyed. All these features added to its popularity and acceptance. Of course it also featured characters who represented major parts of the nation, so it was a mirror for viewers who could all relate to the situations and characters. After all, we all know our village schools, our local palace, the village square, the local beer parlours etc. These were perspectives that resonated with everybody.

 

 

In what way has your course of study helped you in other areas of life?

 

 

Production and presentation, whether in the theater or on television takes a lot of discipline. You cannot work haphazardly in either field and expect a reasonable result. It does not happen. So my background and work have taught me how to be disciplined, how to work within certain time frames and also how to be time conscious.

 

 

Could you tell us some major drama programmes that you featured in Nigeria either stage or television?

 

 

I only spent one year in the drama department working as a floor manager on the Village Headmaster and an assistant producer on On Stage. On Stage featured local drama groups, whose productions were in various Nigerian languages. Then I was deployed to the News Department. Many decades later I had a minor role in a TV soap opera called Heaven’s Gate.

 

 

Your husband was a graduate of Theatre Arts and so are you and that made the union a perfect one, do you agree?

 

 

He actually majored in Sociology before studying drama and my area was originally in stage management so we definitely had common interests. We understood each other’s jobs and accommodated each other’s schedules, which were sometimes hectic, to say the least.

 

 

We learnt that your husband was dreaded by the cast of the VHM because he inculcated some levels of discipline among the cast and was professional, how do you explain that?

 

 

I told you that there has to be discipline in the theatre and that was where he trained before being employed in television. There was no way he was going to run a production on sentiment. You either shaped up or were shipped out or edited out if you like. Since he was also a writer, he was ready to re-write scenes on the spot to exclude those who did not attend rehearsals or who disrupted his production. Don’t forget, in those days VHM was broadcast live from the studio, although it was recorded during transmission.

 

What would you take away from your husband professionally?

 

He was focused, disciplined and creative.

 

The cast of VHM were people from different walks of life, but they took to acting as a hobby with passion, is there anything that was not done professionally that you can recall as a floor manager?

 

 

I think there were times when some people would come late for rehearsals, until they realized that whoever they were, they were not indispensable.

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Interview

I’m Akekaaka; I broke Agodi Prison lock and released our imprisoned people, says Agbekoya leader

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I’m Akekaaka; I broke Agodi Prison lock and released our imprisoned people, says Agbekoya leader

 

Alhaji Lalekan Lasisi Akekaaka, is in his early 100s and an acclaimed original living leader of the famous “Agbekoya” Farmers Association, who revolted against the then Western Region Government of late General Adeyinka Adebayo between 1968 and 1969, over Marketing Board imposition’s of flat and hefty 8 shillings tax on them, as opposed to the 1s10p they wanted on their farm produce, especially cocoa. The Agbekoya Parapo Revolt (the union of farmers who reject suffering), popularly known as “Agbekoya” or the “Egbe Agbekoya Revolt”, was a peasant revolt in Nigeria’s former Western region, home to the majority of the country’s Yoruba population. The peasant revolt led to colossal carnage at Olorunda Village in the Akanran Area of Ibadan with casualties on both sides of the farmers and the policemen. In this interview with SOLA ADEYEMO at his Akinode Village residence along Akanran in the Ona Ara Local Government Area of Ibadan in Oyo State, the traditional warrior bares his mind on various issues concerning the security of Nigeria, particularly, Oyo State in the South Western part of the country, opining that if the government wanted the spate of insecurity to have subsided, they would have done it. Excerpts

 

 

Baba, how old are you now?

 

 

I am already a bit above 100 years of age. I cannot say precisely because there was no record of date of my birth then.

 

 

Okay, with your age and vast experiences in life, how will you describe the Nigeria of yesteryears with the Nigeria of today?

 

 

This was not the way we met the world. The Nigeria I knew was that full of truth and sincerity of purpose. It is no longer so. The world is now full of deceit. Fathers no longer act as fathers. The children are now speaking on behalf of their fathers. They now direct their fathers on the way to take.

 

 

But does it mean that the children are not acting well?

 

 

If they say that an elderly person’s eyes are sunk or his head has gone bald, is it not experience that has made it so? “Paaori, paori, lo nje ki ori agba o pa” (Head of an elder gets bald owing to appeal that he should just accommodate everything, however, unsavoury). Can the child have the same type of experience which his father has gathered over the years?

 

 

What are such areas that you can pin point as having changed for the worse unlike in the past?

 

 

In the past, if a child was going to show his father or an elderly person somewhere he did not know, the child would allow the father to be in front while he would be following. He would say that is the way or that is not the place. But now, the child will be in front while the father will be running behind him.

 

 

Blood was very sacred in the past. People dreaded shedding it unless there was war. But these days, shedding of blood has become an everyday happening and government not doing anything. What is your feeling about this?

 

 

Can’t you remember what was said in the past that when the world is coming to an end, very many strange things would be happening? That is the case of this country called Nigeria.

 

 

You are a Muslim. There are Christians; there are even traditional worshippers, as well as, humanists. With the evil things happening in the country these days, do we say that God does not answer these worshippers’ prayers or what?

 

 

Like I said, when the end of the world is near, many strange things will be happening. The Bible says that children will rise up against their fathers. Nations will rise against nations. The Quran also has similar reference. It is gradually coming to manifestation. If we want things to be put right, it can be. It is the will to do so that matters.

 

 

But what do we say of the Boko Haram attacks, kidnappings, ritual killings, Badoo Boys attacks that are giving people sleepless nights? What is the way out to these incidents of insecurity?

 

 

All these are manifestations of what the Holy Books have said that there will be a time when brothers will be rising up against one another; nations will be rising up against nations. What we are now witnessing are precursors of such prophesies. But if we don’t want it to come to manifestation, it depends on us. But are we not working towards it?

 

 

In 1968, there was the revolt by farmers against the then military government over imposition of harsh taxes. I learnt you witnessed it. How did it go?

 

 

You are right. It was not a case of witnessing it. I was a major actor. Then I was working with the Ministry of Agriculture. During the period of Civil War of Ojukwu, I said I wanted to go and participate but my parents did not allow me. But when the Agbekoya revolt began, I left the Agric Ministry and joined the Agbekoya Farmers Association. I decided to go with the revolting farmers and because people knew I don’t, by nature pretend my intention and I won’t hide it, they gave me the alias of “Akekaaka” (Blunt speaker).

 

 

They christened me Akekaaka loju ija (Blunt speaker during fight or war). This was because anywhere I was going; nobody would dissuade me once I believed in it.

 

 

The genesis of the revolt was assessment made by the government of General Adeyinka Adebayo on farmers. They would assess the father and also assess his children. Then we did not say we would not pay tax, but the assessment on tax imposed on us was too heavy.

 

 

Adebayo said he would use his power on us and so he unleashed his policemen on us to be killing us. We said we would be paying 30 shillings as tax but Adebayo said he would not agree. We even went to (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo to intercede on our behalf but Adebayo refused.

 

 

On the 1st day of July when he said he would use his sword on us, we went to meet them at the Olorunda Junction along Akanran Road close to this village. When they came, our leader Baba Tafa Adeoye was at Akanran while we stayed at Olorunda Junction. Baba had said that we must not do anything to respond to whatever the government did to us until he was around personally. He said we should not talk until after he must have responded to whatever they asked him.

 

 

As the policemen were marching towards us, they were singing that we were stubborn people who were playing with death. Immediately they got to Olorunda Junction, they shot at two of us.

 

 

Once they shot two among us, the rest of us went into hiding because Baba Tafa had instructed that we must not respond. The news got to Baba and so he headed back to Olorunda. As soon as he got to the policemen, one of his guards who was standing beside him saw that someone beside him had been felled by a police bullet.

 

 

He said, ‘so you people indeed came to fight?’

 

 

Baba Tafa was not holding any gun then, but he just snatched a gun from one of us and shot at the police. It was that single shot that triggered the unrest, making many of the policemen to start falling that day. That was how it went.

 

 

Okay, if I can understand you properly, many policemen fell and eventually farmers emancipated. Why can’t you Agbekoya farmers use the same power you used then to put a stop to the menace of bandits, notorious herdsmen and other kidnappers that are ravaging the South West?

 

 

The so-called bandits are not disturbing the masses o. They are just having understanding relationship with the government. They both know what they are doing. It does not concern us. its govt that brought those killing people. The government that brought them will know what to do to them.

 

 

But how do we explain the situation where people were travelling to Ile Ife from Ibadan and on the way, they were ambushed? Some killed while others were kidnapped and dragged into the forest. Is it the government that was responsible for that?

 

 

 

 

But why would they be ambushed? They will also need to be prepared then. Our fathers have said it in a proverbial form that whoever will dine in a complex situation will also need to lock his door firmly. Anybody travelling will also need to be prepared for whatever comes his way then.

 

 

But not many people have such power to be prepared as you have said.

 

 

Then let him sit down and allow himself to     be killed or allow them to put rope on his neck. He has alternatives now!

 

 

 

Do you therefore support the position of Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Ona Kakanfo, with regard to commanding his followers to revolt if the banditry, killings and kidnappings in the South West do not stop?

 

 

No o. If one is not sent on an errand and he sticks out his neck into it, he should not blame anybody if he rubbished. Was I not with Gani at a recent meeting we had? I even left him there because some guests were waiting for me. But in the real sense of it, Gani and I are together.

 

 

But the question that many people are asking is that if all these were to be happening in the past, the Agbekoya Farmers would not allow the mess to befall them. They expect you Agbekoya and the OPC to have risen up to protect them but you are not. What do you have to say to this?

 

 

But does the government not have all the arsenals with which to combat the menace you mentioned? Let them use it now. It is the government that is concerned and not us. The government has not said that it is pained.

 

 

Why are you crying more than the bereaved? Those who are perpetrating the havocs are not doing anything against the government. It is what suits the government that they are doing. Is it not the government that owns the land? If a parent sends his child on an errand and some people waylay him and beat him, would the parent not stand up and go there?

 

 

What has the government said on it? Didn’t you hear what the government said in the years past, that if 10 persons died during a war, it would avenge with 100 persons? The government owns everything. We don’t have any say in it.

 

 

Many people were complaining that Fulani herdsmen were destroying their farms with their cattle but President Muhammadu Buhari said that governments in all the 36 states of the federation should create grazing lands in form of RUGA for the Fulani. Was that the expected solution?

 

 

Don’t you know that the government has interest in the cattle rearing business? They also have cattle among the Fulani herdsmen. Within our community around here, when we were complaining that cattle were eating up our farms, investigation we conducted revealed that most of the cattle involved were owned by policemen.

 

 

And nothing must happen to them. They were committing all those havocs because the government gave them the chance. Don’t you know that once one has soiled his fingers; he will find it difficult to tell the truth? That is the situation with what we are experiencing.

 

 

Are you therefore saying that with the way the Federal Government is handling the herdsmen’s matter, we are no near finding a solution to the problem at all?

 

 

The government is not concerned. They have not said anything and they have not done anything. If they are ready to put an end to it today, you will see that the problem will stop. Or why does the government have security in the Police and the Army?

 

 

Is it not to be able to curtail any excesses in the land? If we protest or talk with those concerned now, you will later realise that they would go behind, change the resolution, and do the contrary.

 

 

 

In terms of security in the Yorubaland, can we say that the leaders have unity of purpose?

 

 

We cannot have unity of purpose because those who are working with the government will always be taking sides with the government. I am not working with the government. As you have come now, if the government wants to get something, they could send secret police that will come to the midst of villagers, for example to act like a labourer to work on their farm. Through it, he will be able to gather whatever information he needs for the government. If any of the villagers claims he knows what does not concern him or he does not know, has he not put himself in trouble that way? That is the case with Nigerian situation.

 

 

There was a forum in Ibadan about two weeks ago where Professor Bamji Akintoye was elected as the Leader of Yoruba. You were also there. But some groups have kicked against the election, declaring that the professor of History is not qualified for the position. What is your reaction to that?

 

 

My own reaction is that I cannot get involved in any such argument. The whole issue will end up somewhere one day. The whole scenario is like that of a child that mounts a horse and says that his father should be drumming for him to dance. (Kangun kangun kangun, o maa kangun sibi kan lojo kan). After dancing for some time, the horse galloped and slammed the child on the ground. He hit his head on the ground and died. Everything will end up somewhere someday like that.

 

 

How can you assess President, Muhammadu Buhari, in terms of his style of administration since he has been in the saddle?

 

 

How can an illiterate assess an educated one? We the illiterates don’t have ideas where the literate ones are doing things. When we were fighting in the past, Awolowo came to us. He saw us as illiterates and when he approached us, he removed the garment (agbada) he put on so as to come to our level, and we both talked.

 

 

But like you have asked, you can see that illiterates cannot talk where the educated ones are talking. Wherever the government says we should go is where we will go.

 

 

But in view of your age and experience in life, I want you to advise President Buhari on what you think can make his administration perform better?

 

 

You want an illiterate like me to advise someone that is educated? Have you forgotten how our leader then, Tafa, was picked up by the then government and how we all suffered? We had to break the Agodi Prison (in Ibadan) then before everything went down.

 

 

On a lighter mode, please, how many wives do you have?

I have two wives and they are with me.

 

 

May I know the age of your last born child?

 

 

I cannot say I have a last born yet because I am not an educated one like you people who will say they have stopped procreating. If God gives me, what will I say is delaying me? If I have a young lady as a new wife now, I am good to go. But in the real sense of it, I have retired myself because what my children want from me now is just to be eating well.

 

 

People have been commending Governor Seyi Makinde for doing well within his 100 days in office. Do you also support this?

 

 

Yes, I support it. A government that is administering well and does not allow for crisis should be supported.

 

 

The roads that I drove through to this village are so deplorable. What is your message to Governor Makinde on behalf of your people in this area?

 

 

We had complained to the past governments on these roads of ours but they did not answer us. But I will use this medium to call on our leader, Governor Seyi Makinde, to please see to the repair of our roads to Akanran community in the Ona Ara Local Government Area. The roads that lead to this community right from Orita Aperin, are not motorable. They are not good. Many roads that lead to several villages like the one to Akinode here are in deplorable state.

 

 

All those we had voted for in the past always reneged on their campaign promise to repair our roads for us. I implore our government of Makinde to be merciful on us villagers. That is what seriously affects us farmers. We find it difficult to transport our farm produce out of our villages to the major markets. This should not continue to be so.

 

 

You are an Ibadan man Sir. What do you see to the crisis between the Olubadan and his crowned High Chiefs?

 

 

They are all our traditional fathers. I don’t want to comment on that but just to appeal to them to allow for peace. I nevertheless commend our Governor, Makinde, for his interventional moves. May God help him to resolve the crisis finally.

What is your message to President Muhammadu Buhari also?

 

 

Our President should know that many of us under his very big tree whose branches have covered, are not comfortable. Our smaller trees are not thriving because of the shed from his branches.

 

 

Many of us in the villages are not enjoying at all. We farmers in the villages are not enjoying at all. He should be merciful onto us. Our roads are not good. The Federal Government should help us. They have all along been promising us all these years. When are they going to do whatever they will do? Time is going please!

 

 

What of the area of employment opportunities? Many youth now go into banditry, Yahoo Yahoo, kidnapping business because they don’t have jobs to sustain their living. What is your advice to President Buhari on this?

 

 

The issue is that many of the youth that are having jobs are the children of those big ones on top. You can see, these are some of my own children. When they could not get jobs, we asked them to come and be farming. Our own children cannot steal or go into armed robbery. But are they encouraged to do any meaningful farming? When it comes to provision of fertilizers, those big farmers in the cities are the ones that will corner it. Talk of loans; it will not get to us real farmers. If they want to talk of caterpillars, they would ask us to bring money to purchase it; they would ask us to buy diesel for it if they provide one.

 

 

But where will peasant farmers like us get such money if they don’t assist us? Whatever we are able to clear and hoe is what we are doing. The government is not assisting us. It is every day that they keep promising. If they say they want to give out loans, they always gave it out to farmers in the urban centres. They don’t extend it to us in the villages. I hereby appeal to the government to remember us in the villages if they want to extend any help on agric.

 

 

They should not continue to limit it to the so-called farmers in the urban areas who will just keep the money in their pockets without extending it to us real farmers in the villages.

 

 

Many communities have been complaining about cattle of Fulani people eating up their farms. Hope you residents of this area are not having similar experience.

 

 

Like I said, it is the government officials themselves that are buying and keeping cattle with the Fulanis who are causing havoc on innocent people.

 

 

If anybody does anything to harm their cattle, such person must be killed. They must protect the property of their bosses. We had such experience where our farms were destroyed, and when we investigated it, we discovered that powerful people were behind the scene. And what can we do?

 

 

But on this insecurity issue, kidnapping and armed banditry, my prayer is that they don’t come here like they have been attacking some other communities.

 

 

They will not come. They cannot come. If they attempt to come here, they will just perish on the way by the power of the ground they will pass through.

 

 

Baba, we know you to be leader of the Agbekoya Solidarity Movement, but Agbekoya Movement has got about three or four different leaders now. How do we reconcile that?

 

 

If anyone calls himself an Agbekoya leader, ask him where he fought his own war. This is the Akekaaka that went to break the Agodi Prison and released our imprisoned people. I was the one that Tafa sent to go and break the lock of the prison and release our people. I am the successor of Tafa today.

 

 

Ask them who among them fought war along with Tafa Adeoye. Where did they fight their own war? Go and ask them. Those claiming to be Agbekoya leaders are only looking for what they want to eat from the government.

 

 

Go to the house of Tafa at Elekuo near Orita Aperin, and they will tell you that Lalekan Lasisi Alekaaka remains the successor of Tafa Adeoye as the authentic leader of the Agbekoya Farmers Association.

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Interview

Decriminalise, exonerate Saro-Wiwa, others –MOSOP president

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Decriminalise, exonerate Saro-Wiwa, others –MOSOP president

Fegalo Nsuke is the President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). In this interview with EMMANUEL MASHA, he spoke on the Ogoni cleanup among sundry issues. Excerpts…

 

From your interviews, comments and statements, it appears you have lost faith in the Ogoni cleanup. Is it impatience or because your expectation and those of some Ogoni have not been met?

As a people, we advocated for the cleanup of Ogoniland and paid prices, made sacrifices for that to be achieved. Now we have the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in place to implement the UNEP report on Ogoni. Though we know that the report had been funded and written in favour of Shell, we still accepted its implementation with the hope it could lead to a cleanup Ogoniland. But the problem is that the report is not followed. The report is not implemented to bring benefits to the communities and all aspects that should benefit the people are jettisoned.

When you are implementing a remediation programme in an area where the drinking water had been polluted and much damage had been done to livelihoods, the first thing you do is provide an alternative source of safe drinking water.

The next thing is to assess the extent of damage done to sources of livelihood, so that you can pay compensation for the damages. You simply cannot do a remediation without compensation for damages. These are the critical aspects of the remediation which concern the people and have been neglected.

Back to the UNEP report on Ogoni, it was also recommended that an assessment be done on the health of the people. A health audit does not mean conducting a one day program to treat malaria, give Panadol and flagyl.

What we expected is a complete upgrade of existing medical facilities to enable people visit the health care centres for an assessment and get further help. A department can be dedicated within the hospitals to conduct the audit and this would be on a continuous basis and not an ad-hoc one or two day intervention as we saw with HYPREP.

So, we are disappointed that the implementation is not delivering on our expectations and the primary recommendations, which should positively impact the Ogoni environment. HYPREP has instead focused on enriching certain individuals.

Contracts are being awarded to unqualified firms and even those who were not registered during the pre-qualification assessment are making the list of contractors. The entire program had been ridden with corruption. And that is why we have called for the dissolution of the governing structures that have promoted the corruption in HYPREP.

 

You have consistently faulted the handling of the clean-up by HYPREP; what is your main grouse with the body?

The trouble is that the Ogoni people continue to drink polluted water whereas HYPREP has spent billions of cleanup funds without addressing the water crises which is a direct consequence of Shell’s pollution in Ogoniland. HYPREP was initially given US$10million to take off, that is an estimated NGN3.6billion. All of that money had been spent on internal processes without any move to address the water and health problems raised in the UNEP Report.

That again reflects the corruption in HYPREP, an organisation that does not need more that 10 support staff running over 40, and wasting money on frivolous items, all of which is to cover up the loots that are currently going on in HYPREP.

The other thing is that livelihoods had been destroyed in Ogoni and Shell and HYPREP are not talking about how to compensate the people for their losses. They are spending billions on themselves and remain silent about families that barely survive daily due to the destruction of their farmlands and fishing businesses.

When you take a look at the contractors, you will see that they were all selected out of a compromised process. Over 70 per cent of the contractors were unqualified firms that would require signing a different contract with another firm to do the cleanup on their behalf.

The Ogoni cleanup had been converted by HYPREP into a self-enrichment programme and a tool for political patronage. Those compromises are the reasons we have called for an the dissolution of the HYPREP governing Council and an investigation into the cleanup contracts because we have seen clear compromises on the part of the governing council of HYPREP.

 

But Marvin Dekil, the head of HYPREP has kick started the cleanup process and has assured that he would ensure that the environment is cleaned up. Recently he reeled out some of the milestones HYPREP has reached in the cleanup, don’t you agree with him?

We have asked them to explain to us how they are handling the contaminated soil in the absence of the Integrated Soil Management Centre which was recommended by UNEP to handle the contaminated wastes. They have not been able to answer that question because they have no plan in place to handle the contaminated soil.

So it’s all a cover-ups of the oil spills and not a cleanup. If you do an investigation into the activities of HYPREP and their unqualified contractors, you will find a link between the contractors and at least a member of the HYPREP Governing Council. That is why we have called for the dissolution of the current governing council and that a new one should be put in place, so we can have an independent investigation.

We i n s i s t that there is massive corruption going on in HYPREP and a government that claims to be fighting corruption cannot be silent about that. I attended a town hall meeting organised by Social Acton in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, July 31. A representative of HYPREP was there to tell us they were working with the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CERHD) to draw up key performance indicators. That tells you that they have no plan in place.

We have asked them to make their plan public because it should be a public document when you are dealing with the people; they have not been able to. They are just trying to set key performance indicators, which essentially tell you that HYPREP does not have a plan in place. Yet, they have awarded contracts.

The fact is that the entire process had been driven by personal gains and not to deliver benefits for the Ogoni people and with the way HYPREP is going, they are bound to fail and Ogoni will remain polluted after their work and expenditure of billions of dollars.

But we think we can get things reversed and set on the part of progress by reconstituting the governing council, recovering the stolen funds and implementing the program openly so that people can start having confidence in what HYPREP is doing.

What exactly do you find troubling with some of the contracts that HYPREP has awarded on the cleanup?

The Ogoni cleanup should not begin with contract awards; it should have commenced with the addressing the water crises. At least 50 Ogonis die weekly in the communities where spills have impacted strongly and the rate of strange sicknesses is alarming. That means the health audit and the need to improve the medical facilities are paramount. The people must also be compensated for their losses occasioned by the massive spills. HYPREP cannot skip these critical areas affecting the people to award contracts because contracts give them money.

The other thing is that the contracts have been awarded to unqualified firms. For instance, the registration details of Basic Nigeria Technology Limited, w h i c h w a s hired to do o i l spill remediation job at the Oboolo site, revealed that it is in the business of oil palm plantation and refining. Pacrim Engineering Ltd was incorporated two months after the bidding process had closed, and yet was able to make the list of successful companies.

Mosvinny Nigeria Limited, which was allotted a site in Debon, is in the business of agricultural farming, mechanized farming, poultry farming, livestock breeders, animal husbandry and agricultural services in all its ramifications, yet it made the list of contractors to clean Ogoniland. Louizont Ferretti Enterprises Ltd, which was contracted to do the cleanup at Buemene Korokoro, is in the business of supply services and maintenance of oil field equipment, dealers in all types of cars, fashion house, imports and exports, trade, general merchants, general goods, buying agents dealers, dealers in textiles materials and merchandise of different description whether consumable items or not and general maintenance of office equipment. Rey & Reina International Limited, which was allotted another section of Debon, was set up to sell and distribute general goods.

Maiduguri-based Shamsa Resources and Services Ltd, which was set up to carry on the business of management training, finance and development consultancy services in all aspects of the development sector, to plan and conduct survey and study, project management, business analysis and change implementation, was also allotted a remediation job at Debon. So you see that the integrity of the process has been compromised by the Governing Council of HYPREP.

 

Some persons have condemned your criticism of the cleanup, claiming that you are not happy because you are not being ‘carried along’. How true is this?

It is normal when you stand on the side of the people to hear such accusations. But they also needed to tell us when, how and where I requested to be carried along and which company I have backed or recommended for remediation contracts. That kind of accusation tells you that for them, it is about “being carried along” and not rescuing Ogoni and that accusation also reinforces the massive corruption in HYPREP which we are talking about.

There is news making the rounds that MOSOP is divided and the division among some Ogoni stakeholders is a sign of disunity among Ogoni leaders. Doesn’t that bother you?

The expectation of the Ogoni people is what I have earlier stated. There is some scrambling among the businessmen over contracts and that is normal. But as a people, and as far as the cleanup project is concerned, we want to drink clean water, we want compensation for the damages they have done to Ogoni, we want our hospitals to be able to deal with the sicknesses and mas-sive deaths we are currently experiencing, we also want to have a credible and transparent process that accounts for the billions spent without results. MOSOP will continue to galvanise every community and sector of Ogoni to get positive results from the cleanup program. So, we are actually not divided over the primary purpose of the cleanup. The division is between those who are embezzling the cleanup funds and those of us who want to see it benefit the Ogoni people. MOSOP is not divided, we are a product of a credible election and the Shellbacked attempt to have a sit-tight president who favours forceful oil resumption with potentials for conflicts and killings in Ogoniland has failed and will continue to fail. We cannot allow personal interests to drive MOSOP. We are guided by a constitution and we will remain committed to the common good of the Ogoni people.

What is the way out of the insecurity in Ogoniland, fuelled by cultism?

An immediate intervention, I would think, should be to boost Police presence in Ogoni and immediately transfer all police officers that have served over two years in Ogoni. We say so because we have credible information linking the police officers to be focused on arrests and taking monies for bail instead of helping to secure Ogoni. We have also seen a link between security officers and a flourishing illegal oil business. Gangsterism in Ogoniland is sponsored by politicians and the Nigerian oil industry. I am sure government intelligence should be pointing to that but their inactivity could be politically influenced. The way out would be to stop the politicians and the companies sponsoring these crimes. The desperation of the Nigerian oil industry to resume oil exploration in Ogoni against the wishes of the people is a big problem. For instance, our resistance against forceful oil resumption has set the promoters of Shell and oil resumption against us and they now try to protect a compromised former president of MOSOP instead facing the realities. But the fact is that we cannot submit to any form of intimidation. MOSOP has a clear mandate from the Ogoni people and that is clearly expressed in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. We will continue to protest the injustices done to Ogoni until they are properly addressed. What actually stuns me about the much orchestrated insecurity in Ogoni is that the boys perpetuating these crimes have openly come out to admit that they are sponsored yet, government has done nothing. If the government is sincere about fighting insecurity, it should immediately commence an investigation into the matter and act on the outcome in an appropriate way.

 

A few days after Governor Nyesom Wike announced a N30 million bounty on Bobosky, the leader of the Greenlanders in Gokana, the army captured him. Should bounty be placed on his likes to rid Ogoniland of other criminal elements wreaking havoc?

The issue of Bobosky’s capture had been disputed by the army, but placing bounties on his likes won’t really address the problem if the Police are not supported to be effective in Ogoni and the sponsors continue to fund the gangsters. The other issue is job creation for Ogoni youths, Ogoniland seem to have been abandoned by the government and this appears to be a deliberate policy designed to create these kind of situation in order to break the resistance against Shell’s return to Ogoniland. If government will see our commitment to a peaceful Nigeria and our agitation to be a simple demand for basic rights which can be addressed through dialogue, then I think there would be progress.

 

MOSOP is against the resumption of oil exploration in Ogoniland by Shell or any other oil company. Why have you maintained this stance? What should be done for drilling to return to Ogoniland?

The solution is to respect the political rights of the Ogoni people for self-determination, as demanded in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, ensure a proper cleanup of the massive oil spills in Ogoni, pay compensation for the destruction of livelihoods in Ogoniland, apologise and review the death sentences which led to the state murder of our heroes on November 10, 1995. The solution is not to force oil resumption which would be strongly resisted by the people and cause more deaths in Ogoniland.

The fact is that forceful oil resumption will prompt a strong Ogoni resistance and the government and Shell will as usual, call in the soldiers to kill Ogoni people and we do not want that. We also advice against forceful oil resumption because we know that the entire Niger Delta looks up to the Ogoni people in the struggle for freedom and killing the Ogoni people could draw the sympathy of the rest of the Niger Delta. That has the potential to throw the region into another round of crises.

The solution therefore would be a peaceful dialogue facilitated by credible international negotiators and we are ready for such dialogue which we believe will address the problem. Finally, we emphasize the decriminalization or exoneration of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight hanged by the Nigerian government on November 10, 1995. Their decriminalization has become a key component of Ogoni demands. We see it as hypocritical for the government to name a Polytechnic after Saro-Wiwa, name streets after him, acknowledge that he was a hero but simply cannot acknowledge that they murdered him in his innocence. All of that has to be addressed.

I do not think that as Ogoni people fighting for Justice in Nigeria, we can truly celebrate freedom for Ogoni until Saro-Wiwa and the other eight are decriminalised, their names cleared and their innocence acknowledged by the Nigerian state.

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I inherited gift to cure ear, eye, tooth ailments from my dad –Traditional doctor

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I inherited gift to cure ear, eye, tooth ailments from my dad –Traditional doctor

Chief Sunny Olu, popularly called the ear, eye and tooth doctor has won the hearts in Edo State and its environs because of the potency and efficacy of his treatment. In this exclusive interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on his challenges, experiences, how he was inspired by God. Excerpts…

 

How did you come about the special gift of healing people with tooth, ear and eye diseases that has earned you fame in Edo?

I just want to thank God Almighty for the gift of life. You see every human being created by God has a particular gift deposited in him or her; it is left for that individual to discover the area in which God wants them to function. In my own case, I’m called by God to serve people and help in the little way that I can. So, I grew up and inquired from God and I discovered that my calling is using herbs and leaves created by God to cure and heal people that have deficiencies in health issues particularly ear, eye and tooth problems. As a young man, I worked closely with medical doctors and discovered that not all health cases orthodox medicine can cure. So, when I see people spend huge amount of money trying to get medical attention yet the problem persists, I would advise the patients to seek traditional help. You know that before colonization came to Africa, our fathers used herbs and leaves to cure all kinds of ailments. As a man ordained by God to use herbs and leaves to cure people, I know a lot about them. I know that God made these leaves and herbs for our use, so I keyed into it. Again, I also inherited it from my late father, and I learnt a lot about how to use herbs from him, because he was very good in using herbs and leaves to cure people of their ailments. In the old days, life span of people was longer than what we have today because they did not eat the kinds of fried foods people eat today. Everything they consumed that time was natural, but today because of the quest to make money quick people put chemicals on fruits so that they can get ripe quickly. All these things are detrimental to our health, and from there people contract dangerous diseases that put their lives at risk. So, with the gift God gave to me, I decided to establish a centre to help people with these problems. I thank God that I’m doing it so well and people are coming to give good testimonies about the effectiveness of my treatment.

 

 

What are the challenges you face in this calling of yours?

Actually, there is nothing good that comes so easy; in anything one does there is bound to challenges. We are talking of health-related issues, anybody that finds himself in this kind of field must be careful in doing it because you are dealing with different kinds of human beings from different backgrounds. In my own way I try as much as possible to be professional in my duties. The challenge I have is that government is not looking at our practice, we need government to complement our little efforts, there are some equipment I needed to make my work easier. I need financial support because after treatments I give drugs to patients to help reduce the pains. I need a bigger office, because a lot of people come to me for treatment. I take just little token from them because many of them cannot afford to pay huge hospital bills being given to them by medical experts. And most importantly, herbs cure more effectively than orthodox medicine when it comes to ear, eye and teeth issues. Not everybody wants their teeth extracted.

 

 

What do you think is responsible for these diseases?

It is nothing other than the kinds of food people eat. For tooth problems, people eat a lot of sweet things. If you can avoid sweet things you will be free from tooth diseases. Many times, I have seen worms falling out of people’s teeth during treatment. When a patient goes to the hospital, the doctors would tell you that you have bacteria in your teeth. They cannot tell you that there are worms in the teeth, but when the worms suck the marrow inside the teeth, it develops into holes. After the dentist has examined you, he will give you drugs and pull your teeth out. However, when you pull out the teeth, the worms are still inside the gums. It does not make sense when you keep extracting the teeth in your mouth, one day there may be no more teeth to extract. So, herbs are simply the best medicines to cure such ailment. For the eyes you must keep away from sharp objects and places where there are dusts. Using of unclean material to clean your eyes should be avoided. Identifying cases of eye problems and going for treatment will help patients.

 

How do you cure people with herbs?

I will use a client, Mrs. Nneka Nwankwo, who came for treatment, as an example. All I do is put a quantity of this liquid water medicine in the person’s mouth, and tell them to hold it there for some time; the medicine will attract the worms and they will start coming out. After some minutes you pour the sub-stance out of your mouth and see worms coming out. With the toothpick, I carefully remove them from their comfort zone under the gums. When Mrs. Nwankwo came to me after she had gone round hospitals in the state, her jaws were swollen she could not even talk because of the pains she was gone through. She said there was pus coming out of her mouth and this had been on for two years. She said the only reason her teeth were not extracted was because she was pregnant. After I treated her she was shocked to see what came out of her teeth. She told me that it was a medical doctor that recommended my place to her, and today she is a happy woman. So, anybody that comes here must have a good testimony to give and I thank God for this gift.

 

 

 

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Interview

South African govt has failed to deal with xenophobia over time – Swart

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South African govt has failed to deal with xenophobia over time – Swart

Monique Swart, a South African and founder of African Business Travel Association (ABTA) spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in her country, and the aftermath. Excerpts…

 

What is your view on xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African nationals in your country?

Along with the vast majority of South Africans, I am horrified by the xenophobic attacks and general lawlessness that is currently gripping our country.

Do you think this is justified in anyway?

There is no reality in which these attacks are justified. There are currently some reports circulating on social media around the drug epidemic in South Africa, and the role some Nigerians are seen to play in this, but my honest opinion is that these opinions are currently circulating simply to try to justify totally disgusting, inhumane and unjustifiable actions by a very small percentage of our population who is throwing the morals of the entire country into disrepute.

Do you think that the South African government has before now addressed the issue in a forthright manner?

No, I don’t. I think there are many issues the South African government does not do enough to address or fix, and xenophobia is one of them. The level of lawlessness in the country, the corruption and the inability of the police force to vehemently and powerfully uphold justice is something our country has been struggling with for many years. Currently, one of the issues is that the government does not have a complete understanding and a way to analyse what attacks are random criminality and what are xenophobia related. What this means is that without a classification, and related data that can be attached to it, they are not able to create a strategy to deal with it.

What is your reading of the present situation and what do you really think is responsible for these attacks and killings?

My sense is that there are forces at work that are attempting, in various different ways, to undermine and destabilise an already very unstable government structure. Crime rates in South Africa have been unacceptably high for many, many years; abuse against women and children has reached shocking levels – even in this current week – and the level of media exposure around every possible negative element arising out of South Africa at the moment is leading to intense economic pressure.

What is your perception of Nigerians over time given your relationships and interactions with them both in Nigeria and South Africa?

I have had the opportunity to work closely with Nigerians for the past 15 years. Over that time, I have developed many relationships that are very important to me, from both a professional and personal standpoint. I value my relationships greatly, and I know that my colleagues and friends in Nigeria will continue to value me and the work that ABTA does. I believe that the vast majority of Nigerians understand that the vast majority of South Africans are good people and that the actions of a small minority of lawless and immoral people should not be allowed to jeopardise relationships and trust built over many years. However, it is so distressing to me that my African colleagues, from anywhere across the continent, would see South Africa as an unsafe place for them to visit, due to the actions of these twisted minds.

What is the implication of this current situation on both countries and African continent as whole?

One of the things I love most about our continent is our ability to just ‘get on with it’. African people are strong, tough and resilient – sometimes to our own detriment, I think. I believe this situation will blow over as it has in the past, and I believe we will continue to trade, interact and hopefully visit each other’s countries and cultivate our African unity. However, the concern with our resilience is that I think those in power are often quick to ‘forget’ the destruction that has come before, especially when its people stop talking about it, and thus finding long term solutions to prevent the ‘next time’ are not prioritised enough.

Who stands to lose or gain if this persist?

The South African economy will continue to lose dramatically, and the same people who are causing the destruction, along with every other law abiding South African, will suffer under the reality of less investment into the country, crime begetting crime, poverty begetting poverty and required resources to maintain our infrastructure either not being available or being squandered, and lastly a continued downward spiral under a government that is quickly losing the respect of its people.  No-one stands to gain, other than shortsighted leaders who might see the opportunity to take power from a destabilised government, and using that power for their own gain, not for the good of the country as a whole.

Talk about the effect of this on South Africa tourism, especially from your perspective as a tourism expert and stakeholder

Like any crisis, I think it is important for people to understand the realities on the ground. During the 2013 Ebola outbreak, I had German delegates cancelling a trip to Johannesburg because of Ebola.  Geographically, they, in Germany, were closer to the outbreak in West Africa than we were in Johannesburg. But like so many foreigners, they see Africa as ‘one place.’  There are thousands of Nigerians and foreign nationals from many African countries currently living in or visiting South Africa.  One cannot paint everyone with the same brush and respond in a knee jerk reaction like we often see around the world, often through ignorance.

As much as I understand the fear, we all have as humans for our lives and the lives of our families, we need to understand where violence is occurring and by whom. Many of these instances are isolated and being perpetrated by a minority of destructive individuals. From a safety perspective, I believe that the vast majority of foreign nationals in South Africa are safe. However, I also believe that even one life taken is one too many, and if Nigeria (and any other African nation) chooses to withdraw support, investment, or planned visitation etc from South Africa from a moral standpoint, I cannot argue with that. 

Do you see this impacting negatively on your programme, especially given your November conference, where you expect Nigerians to attend and now Nigerians are cancelling their various engagements in South Africa?

I plan to visit Nigeria in October, and will not be changing my plans. At this point, we have not yet had any cancellations from our Nigerian colleagues for our conference in November, and I expect that once the situation stabilises over the coming weeks, all will continue as planned. The majority of ABTA’s Nigerian colleagues have visited South Africa before, and are armed with confidence and an understanding of the myriad of positive aspects of the country and the vast majority of our people.

How best can this issue by resolved by both countries?

Firstly, our government needs to vehemently and sincerely stand up against these xenophobic attacks and sentiments. Currently their words hold no power or sincerity. This must change. Secondly, the police force needs to develop effective strategies to deal with xenophobic attacks. Sadly, the police force remains powerless against many criminal elements in our country, so without a massive influx of well-managed investment into our police force, added resources and correct training, I don’t see this happening any time soon.  Thirdly, I would urge nations affected to try not to have kneejerk reactions and not to paint all South African’s with the same brush. The vast majority of us do not support any form of violence and are sickened, saddened and embarrassed by these xenophobic sentiments and attacks.

What is your advice to South African nationals on this matter?

Continue to travel into the African continent. Take additional precautions where you feel needed, but continue to support countries outside of our borders and continue to spread the word that South Africa does not support the lawless and destructive behaviour of a small minority of its people.

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Few individuals can’t destroy Nigeria’s values –Runsewe

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Few individuals can’t destroy Nigeria’s values –Runsewe

Otunba Olusegun Runsewe is the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC). He spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA and ADEDAYO ODULAJA on the efforts to bolster Nigeria’s image through culture, among other issues. Excerpts…

 

How has your experience at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), impacted on your achievement since taking charge of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC)?

 

So far, I have been able to change the two major events in the area of culture in Nigeria, which are the National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) and International Arts and Craft (INAC) Exhibition. Today, state governments have come to see a high level of seriousness in NAFEST. Last year, we had over 29 ambassadors in attendance, so we are really committed to hosting a world-class event for Nigeria.

 

Also, you know that I am now the President of the World Craft Council (WCC), these are things Nigeria will benefit from in due time. Let me correct an impression though, tourism is only about marketing and promotion while culture is actually the base of developing a brand’s identity, which tourism will market. So, I thank God that I am here now and many people are now asking whether this agency was there before.

 

That sums up the efforts put in so far because of the results we are getting. How can Nigeria achieve the muchneeded synergy among art, culture and tourism since they are terrains you understand so well? Like I said before, since tourism is about marketing and promotion, we are to develop the cultural content for marketing through tourism.

 

Today, over 11 countries in Africa depend on this sector. So why not Nigeria?

 

 

With the new strategy we have put in place, within the next few years, we will be making a major impact in this industry, which is to change the face of culture and tourism in Nigeria. How will your time as president of the World Council for Craft, Africa region, benefit Nigeria as well as Africa? Every activity of the council will come to Nigeria first since I am the president.

 

 

So it brings Nigeria closer to the world and it gives me an easy access to communicate and strategise with the entire world. It also gives me a platform of sending out messages to Nigerians and reaching the right public in no time, so the benefits coming to Nigeria are enormous. I am the face of government on that level: so, we depend on what we get as the feedback mechanism from supporting the sector, which of course has created another platform for Nigeria to have and make use of first class information at anytime the council is doing anything.

 

 

What aspect of your current job do you consider most challenging?

 

The most challenging aspect of this project is that a lot of people misunderstand what we are working to achieve. For instance, within the last 24 hours, two people have called me to apologise for their utterances, because they didn’t understand that we are trying to correct and re-orientate our youths about what they should be doing.

 

 

Thank God it is paying off now because a lot of them are beginning to see the light. I told those people coming to apologise that they didn’t understand the damages. Folding our hands and watching these things could cause the country a lot of damages, but thank God the challengers have turned out to become champions now.

 

 

More people are now beginning to understand why we embark on this enlightenment programme. You strongly condemned the recent displayed of nudity by Tekno and his crew in Lagos and said the government would make a scapegoat of him. What exactly does that portend? We must first and foremost establish the fact that this person brought some nude girls to dance in a glass truck. Having done that, the Lagos State Government sanctioned him and the advertising agency he used. When they did that, I issued a statement commending the Lagos State Government and the police for arresting him.

 

He went back and dared us, after the third day, to release the video, which was when I said we are going to use him as a scapegoat. And then I took it up with him and said we were not going to take any such behaviour going forward but that is just the beginning. What they are doing is not our culture. I am the DG of NCAC, not for local government, not for state but for Nigeria. I am the custodian, promoter and defender of Nigerian culture. So what they have done is not part of our culture and we have said if he tries it again, we would do the needful and that is all that concerns the case of Tekno.

 

How far have you gone with the proposed Bill against nudity?

 

The Bill was first sponsored in 2008 but it didn’t have enough bite, so we are going to study it, make some inputs, make it stronger and present it again to the National Assembly, because we need a legal framework to defend our actions. What is your view concerning the transgender, Bobrisky, whom you have condemned as not a true model for Nigerian youths? It is unfortunate that a person like Bobrisky is being celebrated for the wrong reasons.

 

Bobrisky said he is a transgender, there are countries in the world that accept that, he can move there but he cannot try that rubbish in Nigeria. A lot of people don’t know what is going on, many of our youths are on drugs and that is what makes them get involved in a lot of criminal activities, including robbery, and kidnapping. So Bobrisky is not part of our culture and that is not the model we want Nigerian youths to copy. He was a man few years ago and now he says he is a woman, we don’t accept that here and we are making it very clear that to do that freely the best thing is to move out of the this country. Let me share this with you for the purpose of this interview. Do you know that a very popular Nigerian woman sent the daughter abroad to study only for her to learn that the daughter is married to a woman like herself; she is a lesbian. As I speak with you, the woman is in the hospital in Abuja on account of the shock and she is claiming that if she sights that girl she would commit s u i – cide. What is the meaning of all these? That is not part of our culture. I need to also reveal this to you; I had an engagement with two people that asked what had my agency got to do with all these? I told them why my agency was established and I said I am ready to resign my job if they could say amen to the prayers I offered; that God should make their daughters to be dancing naked on the streets and they responded that it is a curse. Also, I asked them to pray that God should make their son to be like Bobrisky, and they responded in the same manner.

 

So I asked them that whose children should be in that position. Let me tell you something, 80 per cent of those wondering why we got involved or discuss these things, their children are in the best schools abroad. So, we must put a stop to this rubbish because Nigeria has such a rich cultural profile and we will not allow a few individuals to destroy our value system.

 

 

You also spoke about BBNaija, especially the live sex scenes, is government taking a second look on the show? Let us look at it this way; even in the developed world, they frown at it. Look at the police lady from London for instance, she is being investigated and could be removed from the system because of that. Do you know that they make love on TV? I don’t have a problem with Big Brother Naija, I would have loved to support it fully but the content of that programme is wrong.

 

The content is what I am after. Why should they be making love on screen like that? Let me give you another shocker, there was a wedding that was to take place in Lagos three weeks ago, the husband-to-be only found out that the bride-to-be had tattoo on her back and he said there is no marriage any longer between them, saying what does she needs a tattoo for? He said it means she is involved in one cult or the other; the truth is that a lot of our young people are being destroyed by this western culture. We cannot continue to fold our hands and allow our youths to be destroyed.

 

This is the position we have taken and if organisers of Big Brother Naija want to continue to have the liberty of using Nigerians then they have to change the content. You cannot be making love on live TV.

 

Who is going to marry those girls? It is creating a bad image for the country and I wish all the Nigerian media platforms could understand this; we are not making a case for our families and ourselves but for the entire country.

 

In fact, an NGO in Kenya sent a release to commend the action we have taken on the matter, saying if this happens in Nigeria and no action is taken, then the rest of Africa is in trouble.

 

 

So only those who think what they are doing is right will go against the fact that we must all join hands and fight this battle of rooting out practices alien to our culture. You recently talked about Nigerians expecting another Big Brother Naija from next year, what really does this mean? Big Brother Nigerian is a brand on its own. We are looking at a kind of festival profile documentation, which will be about Nigerian food,

 

 

Nigerian clothing and which will be speaking for Nigeria alone. Is that also going to be a reality TV show?

 

 

No, it won’t be a reality TV show; it may just be in form of a documentary that will discuss each state, each region, each Nigerian food, everything from every state, we take them one after another. You entered a funding agreement with the Bank of Industry not long ago, which is basically about the creative sector.

 

 

How is that coming up?

 

 

Those at the Bank of Industry are working out the modalities, which is their right as professionals to look at people so that they don’t get the funds and then refuse to pay back. They promised to get back to us pretty soon so that is where we are on that.

 

 

NAFEST is billed to hold in Edo State in October, what should Nigerians expect given the major improvements being brought to bear on the festival?

 

 

Nigerians should look forward to a rebranded festival and don’t forget that the festival will coincide with the anniversary of the Oba of Benin, which means we are going to have some royal events like Royal Nite, and Royal Splendour among others to propagate what the Oba of Benin means to his people.

 

 

We also plan to turn the popular Igun Street in Benin, where the bronze and art works are made, into an arena that is going to be active for the duration of the festival. We will get more people to go there, buy more items and appreciate what is being done in Edo State. How about INAC, which is billed to come up just a month after NAFEST this year? For INAC, we are in contact with more embassies to open a new frontier so that industry players will have the opportunity of linking up with the big players in the world.

 

 

We are bringing Nigeria closer to the world through INAC as we are focusing more on the international community than NAFEST, which is a festival that unites the nation.

 

As a former DG of NTDC, do you get to offer government’s insight regarding exploring opportunities that abound in the sector more?

 

 

I am part of government, telling government is like reporting myself. What we do is that where we see that there are some lapses, we meet, strategise and see how we can make things work better because the whole idea is that everybody is working towards one goal. And once that goal is achieved, we are good to go and that is my focus every time.

 

What is your expectation from Alhaji Lai Mohammed as he returns to the ministry?

 

 

Well, if you understand your job and you are ready to appreciate that one person appointed all of us for different reasons and different purposes, then one must be ready to work with everyone that comes. For me, I had a good working relationship with Alhaji Lai Mohammed and I look forward to working with him again and we will enjoy working together because this is one sector I am very committed to giving the best to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southern president in 2023, an illusion –Babatope

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Southern president in 2023, an illusion –Babatope

Chief Ebenezer Babatope, popularly called Ebino Topsy, is a former Minister of Transport and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he spoke on the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, Babatope. among other issues. Excerpts…

 

As a former minister, what are your expectations from the newly sworn-in ministers?

 

Every government that is formed after election must have a cabinet. President Muhammadu Buhari has announced his cabinet even though we, of the Peoples Democratic Part (PDP), are disputing the verdict of that election, because we believe that it was manipulated. That notwithstanding, we must manage what we have. So, he has named the cabinet and they should go ahead and give Nigerians good governance.

 

They must ensure that they bail Nigeria out of the current economic, political and social mess. Things are very bad in the country. So the cabinet must begin to live to the expectation of a government set up by President Buhari.

 

We are in the tribunal; we are hoping for the best but what we have now is a cabinet; let them go ahead and make sure that they bail Nigeria out of this quagmire. The hunger is too much. If Buhari is not told the truth, I am saying it as somebody of his own generation because Buhari by what he declared as his date of birth is only one month and nine days older than me; we are both 76 years old. Things are very bad in the country; people are suffering. So, let him and his cabinet team get together to bail us out of this mess. Why do you think Nigerians are suffering that much? I am part of the society.

 

The hunger is much; the hunger is biting, people are unable to provide three square meals a day for themselves and honestly, it is a very difficult thing. Added to it is the security problem Nigerians now face.

 

I hope Buhari and his cabinet will also put their heads together and see how they can bail the country out of the great security problem. To what can we ascribe the cause of the hardship in the country today? Poor governance, bad leadership and everything added together have brought us to where we are now. No respect for the people who have legitimacy of enthroning a government. When electorate votes are manipulated, that shows no respect for them and therefore we must bear the consequences of that and that is what we are having now.

 

 

Are you implying that Nigerians are bearing the consequences of outcome of the last general elections? Yes. Apart from that, what happened at the last election added to the economic problems we have had.

 

That is what has brought us to this hardship whereby people are unable to maintain three-square meal a day. I am a privileged Nigerian. I was a minister in this country and apart from that, I was brought up politically by one of the greatest African leaders, the late Papa Obafemi Awolowo. But the suffering is terrible. Added to my problem is that I am not well. I don’t want to blame anybody for the ill health; it is what might happen to me but I know God will bail me out of the ill health.

 

Things are so bad. Your party, PDP was in power for 16 years before the All Progressives Congress (APC) came in; talking about poor governance and bad leadership, don’t you think PDP contributed to what led Nigeria to the present state of hardship and hunger in the country?

 

Things were better when we were there. Things were better for Nigeria and Nigerians when my party was in power than what we have now. Honestly what we have now is chaotic, abnormal and just unpredictable. On Wednesday August 28, people told us that we have a worst traffic between Ibadan and Lagos. Some people who were coming to have a meeting with us in Lagos were diverted to take a bush path.

 

They spent six hours on the road despite that they have not effected the close-up of that road for rehabilitation. It shows lack of planning on the part of government. What is going to happen from Monday when they close part of the road? So, people are going to spend about 12/13 hours on the road between Lagos and Ibadan. It shows lack of planning on the part of the party in power, it shows their mismanagement in the affairs of Nigeria.

 

 

But your party was in power for 16 years and they couldn’t fix the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, don’t you think the PDP government should be blamed for the state of that road?

 

I am not saying that we should be absolved from some of this blame but you must praise the ingenuity and the vision of former President Goodluck Jonathan when he was the man in charge. It was he who started the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway expansion. We were promised by Buhari that the road would be opened but up till now the road has not been opened. We were promised of railway extension; it only functioned for a few days during the elections to confirm the fact that they were working.

 

You can’t blame our government; our government of PDP tried its best. I am not saying that everything was perfect when we were there but we tried our best.

 

APC had accused the PDP on several occasions that some of the problems they are battling with were caused by PDP. Isn’t that true?

 

When are they going to stop shouting that kind of nonsense? They were there for four years now, why are they still talking about PDP? Government is continuous; there must be a government and there must be problem in government and any party that gets power after election must reconstruct to ensure that it better the lives of the people. We haven’t seen that sign after four years in government and they are now serving their fifth year in government. You said President Buhari-led APC government has not met the expectations of Nigerians.

 

What are your reasons?

 

I said so, not because I want to be partisan, I said so because I know that the APC government under the leadership of Buhari has not performed at all. Every day brings us chaos and more chaos and honestly, lives of Nigerian people under this government are a mere tragedy. Things are bad. If things are good, I will say so. I am not saying everything was good with PDP. PDP had been enmeshed in different crisis; some were resolved and some lingers.

 

How do you intend to solve these challenges?

 

 

I belong to the PDP; PDP has problems, which we ourselves know but we are battling to ensure that we solve the problems. We intend to solve the problems by ensuring that we open our gate to democracy and democratic practices. Your party is presently at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal challenging the victory of President Buhari in the 2019 general elections.

 

Do you see something positive for PDP in the tribunal?

 

 

We pray for the best but with what I am seeing, starting from the replacement of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen with the one we now have and topping it up with the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, where the Supreme Court announced that they were basing their judgement on technicalities, I am not optimistic about anything. I pray that, if it is possible, we will copy the example of Kenya whereby the Supreme Court there reversed an election. But it is not possible in Nigeria.

 

I listened to the CJN addressing the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) saying that things are rosy; things are not rosy. Let him go and prove his own mettle that he is a Chief Justice who wants to ensure that there is justice in the land. Aside being a politician, you are a lawyer.

 

Shouldn’t you repose and profess confidence in the judiciary?

 

I don’t have confidence at all even though we are optimistic. We politicians are incurable optimists, and you think judgement will come our way? But from the depth of my mind I know that with what we are seeing in Nigeria, starting from the programmed retirement of former CJN, the enthronement of the new one and the outcome of the Osun tribunal, we would be engaging in mere dreams.

 

 

Based on your assumptions, if PDP loses at the tribunal, what would be the next line of action? What can we do?

 

 

We will prepare for the next election and prepare until God says ‘my children, you have done enough I am the One Who is going to give the Supreme judgement’.

 

For as long as we have God, nobody can be more powerful than God. So if they extract all the powers of this world to suppress justice, one   day God will open the gate and that is what somebody like me hope for.

 

But I must confess to you, it is sheer hopelessness to express miracle from the tribunal based on those things I have analysed.

 

Some people are silently hoping that there would be a change of government…

 

I will never pray for a coup in this country, because I have passed through the gamut of coup d’état and I know that it is senseless to say you want to have coup d’état. I will never pray for coup in Nigeria.

 

We can’t have a coup in Nigeria. Any soldier that announces it; we have had their examples before. What is he coming to do? He will also continue to perfect the social, judicial and economic and political implications of governance that we have seen in President Buhari’s regime. President Buhari administration is more or else an extension of militarism. So, we have to accept and fight.

 

 

That is why we are begging the authority and those in the affairs of PDP to ensure that they open the gate of PDP to proper democracy and not to manipulation. If they do so, they will be assisting the Buhari-APC to move ahead to continue to govern Nigeria. Some people have been calling for revolution in Nigeria…

 

Which revolution? Forget about it.

 

 

When I was hale and hearty and I could write, I have written a lot of books; all together I have written about six books; all praying for change in Nigeria, political, social and economic change. But revolution, which revolution?

 

 

Omoyele Sowore is a young man and if he knows the implication of what he is saying, he won’t say we are going to have revolution. Revolution where? Papa Awolowo served this country with all his might. If Papa had been allowed to govern this country; if he had not been manipulated out, this country would not be what it is today because everything that is happening now had been predicted by Papa Awolowo. Papa said in 1982 or 1983 that if the current democratic experiment should collapse, those of you younger than I may never know democracy again in your life time no matter how long you live.

 

 

He said so. Is it not happening now?

 

Papa said as long as Nigerians remain what they are; nothing good would ever work with them. Is it not happening in Nigeria today? They didn’t allow Papa Awolowo to rule and therefore Nigeria continues to remain in this political, economic and social quagmire. What do you think is the way out? It is to pray to God to change the hearts of those who are in government to allow proper democracy to take its root because our path lies with democracy. Coup is not the solution to problems of Nigeria. From 1966 coup come to the last one we had, I witnessed them all.

 

The 1966 coup brought Biafra. I was pro-Biafra when I was in the university because I wanted a change. At one time in the history of this country, it was impossible for anybody outside the North to say he wants to rule Nigeria but we have been able to have Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan administrations who were Southerners. But as it is now, APC has continued to delude itself by saying that it’s go ing to produce a southern president in 2023. It is not true. All the southern elements who are jumping up, saying that they are preparing for 2023 are wasting their time; we are back to square one.

 

What Biafra removed had been brought back through Fulani herdsmen. It is one of the things brought by the North to ensure northern oligarchic rule of Nigeria and that is very sad. That is why the South-West particularly led by Afenifere is saying, restructure this country. When we restructure the country and we spell out proper federalism and guided by federal principles, then we are going to have solutions to our problems. That was what was said during the 2014 National Conference under Goodluck Jonathan which Buhari has refused to implement its report. Let us hope on, pray on and one day will be one day when monkey will go to the market and will not return. But many people don’t believe in restructuring… I wish them the best of luck. Restructuring is the stand of Awolowo’s disciples and I am one of them.

 

Restructure the federation and let us have proper federalism to guide the nation. When we do that we are helping the nation. I will never pray for instability in Nigeria. Like Papa Awolowo used to say that you can only be a good Nigerian citizen when you are first and foremost a good person from your area of birth, town, state, region and then Nigeria. So, I subscribe to that. I was born a Nigerian and I want to remain in Nigeria. Look at what is happening in sports, whenever we are playing football all of us are always happy whenever Nigeria wins a match.

 

Some of us were also happy with Nigerians winning gold in the ongoing All African Games in Morocco. Buhari government did something by promising cash to those who win gold. Even though I am one of the hardest critics of the administration, I like what he did. It is not about the money, it is about encouraging them participating in the game. Let the sportsmen and women of Nigeria know that we think about them and we love what they are doing and the fact that they want to make Nigeria great. Let us imbibe that spirit to ensure that we move ahead positively as Nigerians.

 

Let those of us who are politicians, particularly those in government know that we have to live in the spirit that Nigeria must survive. The next general elections are still about three and half years away but the battles for who will succeed President Buhari has already started with tussles between the North and South over who will produce next president in 2023.

 

What is your take on that? I can’t talk about other party but my take about it is that within the PDP, let us have the best material as we did in the last election by presenting a candidate to face APC. I know very well that God will guide us to have a candidate.

 

But in the PDP, we are not guided by this narrow North, South thing. It is there. If they give it to the South, yes; but then we are guided by the supreme interest of Nigerian people. The candidate that will make sure that we win should win. And we must never allow our doors in the PDP to be opened to internal political war and struggle. Don’t you think it can be negotiated and would only be fair for power to return to the South in 2023 after President Buhari who is from the North would have completed his two terms? I can only talk of my party. I am waiting for the directive of my party.

 

That is why we are appealing to those who are managing the affairs of PDP now to ensure that we are guided by the best interest. If the best interest includes fielding somebody from the South at that time, they will tell us. But I believe that we should not say that we are closing our eyes to the fact that we in the South must provide leadership. I am saying that we must ensure justice. For example, if it becomes absolutely difficult to present Atiku Abubakar again, let us present a candidate that will win. Even if that candidate comes from the North or South, let us have that candidate that will push APC out of power. The APC government is an aberration.

 

The APC government is a terrible regime. We must put a stop to it and God Almighty will guide us on how to put a stop to it. Are you suggesting that Atiku should re-contest in 2023? I am not saying that but if it is to re-present Atiku that is the stand of the party, good and fine. And if it is another candidate, good and fine. But I am saying that Atiku was a good candidate in 2019 elections and that mobilised our party to the last election. Anybody to be presented must be a good candidate. But we are not guided by the narrow definition of South and North. Those in the APC who are deluding themselves that power would be given to them in the South and they will present Mr. A or Mr. B are wasting their time.

 

Those who control the spiritual movement of APC would never allow the South-West or anybody in the South to rule. But again, let me say that I don’t see anything wrong in having anybody from the South-East claiming power. We should allow the South- East also. It is a part of this country. I can even canvass that within my party, PDP. But if all the heads put together say let the South-East wait, let us know that we owe the South- East that chance to vie for leadership.

 

Last week, an elder statesman and Second Republic member of the National Assembly, Prof. Banji Akintoye, was elected as the new Yoruba leader by many groups in Yoruba land. What is your take on this?

 

 

I must say that Afenifere still remains the guiding political movement of South-West no matter your disagreement with them. I am not a member of the Afenifere as defined by them but I accept that that group is the authentic group that can speak for us. But Prof. Banji Akntoye is a great man in his own right.

 

We served together in the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). I know him very well. He is a fantastic fellow; very innovative, visionary. They said he has turned it down but if tomorrow Prof. Banji Akintoye says I am going to do this, I am going to do that, I will not disapprove of it because I know him to be very nice fellow. You talked about Afenifere being the voice of the Yoruba race but the group is divided into two factions led by Chief Reuben Fasoranti and Senator Ayo Fasanmi.

 

How can they have one voice?

 

When we talk, the people of South-West know who to rely upon. There is Senator Ayo Fasanmi who unfortunately by political division and affiliation belongs to the APC.

 

But I know Senator Ayo Fasanmi will never rock the boat of Yoruba leadership because he himself is a part of it. He is a great man. Senator Fasanmi fought against corruption in Nigeria. The Yoruba people know that the group that can speak for it is the Afenifere group. Some of us are now incapacitated by ill health but we are part of what is going on in the group and we will tell our people who still respect us to tilt toward Afenifere because that was the movement Papa Awolowo founded and that is the movement that can give us the best.

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Interview

Doctors shouldn’t be poor but mustn’t toy with Hippocratic Oath –Ighedosa

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Doctors shouldn’t be poor but mustn’t toy with Hippocratic Oath –Ighedosa

Dr. Stephena Udi Ighedosa (Ph.D) is a former Head, Centre for Disease Control (CDC), University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) and the first female medical graduate of the institution. The one-time consultant to WHO on community health services, speaks with OJIEVA EHIOSUN on the exodus of Nigerian medical experts to foreign countries and why oath taking by medical doctors should not be undermined, among other issues. Excerpts:

 

Some present day medical personnel appear to value money more than saving lives as against the practice and norms of the profession. As an old hand in the profession, was that what was obtainable is your days?

Not at all, far from it. In fact when we graduate, there is an oath every doctor is subjected to, swearing, and you know an oath is something you are committed to, it is a covenant that is supposed to guide you along that line, and in this case for medical profession, you are bound by that oath and one of the key statements in that oath is that you put the patient first. The patient is the centre of attention, and in this case a human being. Your life is priceless, money should not be the first consideration because money is subject to man, so we take it as an oath to save life and put life before any other consideration. And that oath also provides that you treat your teachers as your parents and revered and honour them the whole of your life. If you forget that oath, perhaps you are lazy and lousy. You must remember it in honour of your teachers who taught you. In fact, it is a violation of the oath to put money first. So for those of us who hold the profession in great reverence and we are carrying it out properly, of course we must never fail because what I tell my students is that you will never be poor as a doctor, you will never lack because every worker deserves his wages. It may not be directly from the one you have saved, nature is so benevolent. To the glory of God, as you sow, you reap and if that particular need is as a result of the process of your being diligent and dutiful, it would be fulfilled by an Angel of some sort. The goodwill, the prowess of that person you have helped who had not rewarded you would be filled up and compensated by the goodwill of the persons nature will use to reward you.

Nigeria is losing good doctors to foreign countries, our medical experts are leaving for America, Canada and European countries, what reasons can you give for this?

Well, first and foremost, prophets are never revered in their homes, and you have demand and supply. Nigeria is perhaps producing more than it can handle now, more than it can provide for now. When you place that against the frame work of the existing political climate and the standard of governance, it is almost inevitable. Good governance should provide for adequate medical personnel to meet the needs of the people, but then that will depend on careful planning, adequate planning that looks ahead and makes its decision on the basis of the population of facts and figures. But a situation whereby decisions are influenced not by equity but by other considerations which solve no problems, which are in fact unsustainable, so you find that the actual needs of other personnel and even materials are not congruent with the actual needs, they are not needs-driven which is what equity is based upon. So what it means is that we are producing wonderful doctors but the environment is not enabling either in terms of employment or equipment to work with. So they are seeking greener pastures, and facts abound that when they get there, they excel because the environment is enabling and then all they have learnt they are able to put it to practice.

The medical profession lost an icon in Edo State, the Late Dr. Benjamin Oni- Okpaku, a former medical director of UBTH. How did you receive the news of his demise?

I must confess that I was deeply grieved, I wept for a million reasons because for over a decade I have not made contact with him, because I relocated from the old GRA close to the Golf Club where I used to stay. I relocated to UBTH premises where I work. So our paths didn’t cross much until about two and half months ago, because periodically I go to renew my dues with the Benin Club. I felt very strongly that I should sustain my membership, I had concluded the process, and as I stepped out, there he was coming and he shouted, you, you, you, Stephena. He held my hands and took me back into the hall where elders do seat. If you are familiar w i t h B e n i n Club, there is a place meant for the elders, on getting there, there were about five elders of his age. In his usual style and way we started to crack jokes, talking about old memories of life, then after a while I begged that they should release me that I had a lecture later in the day, so reluctantly he permitted me to leave and in his usual way, laughing and being the happy man he was. So, I was very glad that after so many years I found myself in his arms, you can imagine that was my last memory of him, little did I know that that was a goodbye. In fact we parted on a very rewarding note, very happy note in deed, so I was struck.

Has his death created any vacuum in the profession particularly in Edo State?

Oh yes indeed, looking around, he should be one of the oldest doctors living as at that time, a man who had remained in the news and in the service lane for most of his life. So adversely he has created a vacuum especially of the old order, he was certainly one of the first set of colonial-trained doctors in Nigeria and at that time as a firebrand surgeon. So you can imagine a very high ranking level he was as at that time within the medical field. And having been trained in Britain, as a surgeon then, a surgeon could actually be called a Mister, because historically surgeons were barbers who used to cut hair. If you h a v e anything growing in your body or outside that you didn’t want, they used their knives to cut it off. So that is how the surgical career emerged and then with time it merged with internal medicine and became one of the areas of specialty in medicine.

As an experienced medical personnel in UBTH, would you say that you are fulfilled?

I’m sure you can predict my answer, the answer is 100 per cent. I’m fulfilled in the sense that in the medical field when you have done well you will be the first to savour it, your own life should reflect your success. If it does not, then you have not. It’s like a book I wrote on ‘Mercy’, which the church has now adopted, it is a religious book, which the Catholic Church buy for their priests. I have been the biggest beneficiary of it, writing the book unveiled my mind to the issues of medicine, which I didn’t know too well before.

Now we are talking about professionalism because as a medical student, I chose a specialty that I love at a time when within the medical profession they were discriminating against it as the debris of medicine where people who couldn’t make it in other specialties that went there, when they have failed all their exams. In fact I had three distinctions as a medical student. So for a distinction student to choose the debris of the medical profession, I offended my teachers, they saw me as a disappointment, but I saw that as a future since I was a student, and during the youth service, I had an opportunity, that was when the primary health care was being developed by the United Nations. It was first called Basic Health Services at that time 1977/78.

Then they were still experimenting and they selected some parts of the country, just a few local government areas were selected. Incidentally, I was posted to the old Anambra State. Above all, I am fulfilled as a medical doctor, though there were a lot of resistance.

So the big lesson is; don’t compare yourself with another person. I am confident that I am blessed, I am confident that the hand of God is around me. I am confident that He has fought my battles, I am confident that when God fights He finishes it and by God’s grace, by this time next year, we would be celebrating my full professorship. So from all ramifications, I am fulfilled.

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Interview

PDP must conduct early congress or lose Edo again –Igbinoba

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PDP must conduct early congress or lose Edo again –Igbinoba

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, Influence Madona Igbinoba, has warned the party executives to conduct party congresses early enough in order to save the PDP the risk of remaining an opposition party.

Igbinoba, an executive member of the Ikpoba Okha Local Government chapter of the party told Saturday Telegraph that early conduct of the state congress would enable the party to resolve all the grievances that may arise from it, before the governorship primary election. “A state congress for March or April 2020 will certainly keep the party in perpetual opposition as there would not be sufficient time to resolve whatever grievances that may arise from the congress, let alone that which may arise from the governorship primaries.

“Waiting till March 2020 will again be counterproductive to the party’s desire and aspirations to win Edo State.” She noted that for the party to reclaim the state in the 2020 governorship election, the national, zonal and state leadership of the party must ensure that the congress is conducted before the end of 2019.

The chieftain, who expressed confidence that the PDP would win the gubernatorial election, noted that the feat could only be achieved if the needful was done by the national leadership of the party by ensuring that the state congress was conducted on time. She warned that failure to do that which was right and appropriate would again be tantamount to losing the state to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). She said: “The national, zonal and state leadership of the party should join hands together to do the right thing. Not doing the right thing will make the party fail again in the next governorship election.

“The only way out, for me, is for the leaders to conduct congresses early enough, probably by October or November this year. The entire people in the state are tired of being in opposition; our members at the grass roots level have started indicating interest to vie for various positions in the party executives. “So, as the Edo people still believe in our great party, we must do something urgent now before it becomes too late”.

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No police, army can stop anger against injustice in Nigeria –Rev. Gado

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No police,  army can stop anger against injustice in Nigeria –Rev. Gado

Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gado is a prominent Christian leader in Northern Nigeria. He was also a governorship aspirant in Gombe State during the 2019 generation elections. He takes a swipe at the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari while X-raying current challenges in Nigeria, in this interview with Tai Anyanwu

 

 

 

How do you feel about the state of the nation’s security?

 

 

The poem by W.B Yates “The Second Coming” describes how I feel about the state of the nation’s security. It says “turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall  apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence, is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity’’.

 

 

Late Professor Chinua Achebe used part of this poem to title one of his famous books Thing Fall Apart to describe the impact western culture had on the community life. The coming of Buhari has had an adverse effect on the security agencies of this country. The morale in the Army, the Police and DSS, and so on. is at its lowest ebb. The rank and file are doing their best with the antiquated arms and ammunition. His priority is on fulanization and Islamization. Look at how much he earmarked for the Fulani Radio Station and RUGA, see who he had or has for ministerial positions, National Security Adviser, and the Judiciary?

 

 

Who and who is being promoted, who is being appointed and who gets the contract and who and who is being prosecuted or not prosecuted?

 

 

The intention is clear, disarm the people and arm the herdsmen and the bandits so that the communities can easily be dislodged and taken over.

 

 

What is your take on the issue of Fulanisation and Islamization of Nigeria?

 

 

Fulanization and Islamization has been an open secret in Nigeria. Some of us have been shouting since college days. I am glad and thankful to OBJ for shining the spotlight on it even though OBJ and some of his powerful colleagues help Buhari get into office in spite of Buhari’s open confession for the implementation and expansion of the Sharia.

 

 

I am surprised though, at the reaction of Nigerians to the Fulanization and Islamization agenda of President Buhari. Fulanization and Islamization is alive and well. It has been going on before independence, at independence and after independence. Fulanization and Islamization is a done deal and we all are to blame for it from our military, political, community, religious traditional leaders and the electorate. Barely two weeks after our Independence, the Patriot Newspaper quoted Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto as saying “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our grand-father Uthman Danfodio. We must ruthlessly prevent the change of power. We use the minorities of the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to rule over their future”.

Sardauna of Sokoto provided the blue print that has been meticulously and judiciously followed without a single error. At about the same the West African Student Union based in the UK wrote a letter to the conference of Northern chiefs asking them to support the constitutional evolution of Nigeria into an independent nation. In reply to this letter the Chiefs declared that “holding the country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet. If they want unity let them follow our religion.”

 

 

Under General Yakubu Gowon’s administration missionary schools were forcefully taken over while in many instances their names were changed to Islamic names. In 1990 all members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council were Muslims except for General Ike Nwachuku an Igbo whose mother was a Fulani Muslim. Also in 1997 all commissioners of police during Abacha’s government were Muslims. General IBB surreptitiously registered Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference which up till today has not been changed.

 

 

When Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe the then second in command told the world that he only heard of it in the media like everybody else. He was promptly removed and forcefully retired from the Navy. The same IBB hosted the first Islam in Africa Conference in Abuja and he donated funds from the Federal Government of Nigeria for operations including the vision of transforming Nigeria to an Islamic State and enthroning the Sultan of Sokoto as its “Supreme ruler”

 

 

I wished General OBJ, who raised the alarm did so in his second coming because between 1999-2007 the Sharia Code of the Islam law was re-introduced in the North in an expanded version, Islamic Police (Hisbah) was introduced. Christian girls were abducted, forcefully converted and forced into marriage. Buhari has never hidden his desire to fully introduce the Sharia. In 2001 or so he called for the introduction of “total” Islamic law. He said “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country”. If he said that while seeking for office, we would be foolish or naïve to think that he will not fulanize and Islamize Nigeria in office. Just look at his appointments in his first four years and the current list of ministers. Among the ministers waiting to be assigned portfolios is one who years ago led a riot in a higher institution against the Christian body in the school (Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS). The leader was killed and some Christian students expelled simple for trying propagate their faith.

 

 

Some ethnic groups have resorted to self-help to tackle the issue of insecurity. What is the import?

 

 

That means these ethnic groups no longer trust the government to protect them. It is a vote of no confidence and a serious disappointment in the administration. It’s like the days before the civil war broke out in 1966. Loss of trust led to people taking the law into their hands. Before the coming of the colonial government ethnic groups had their own defensive mechanism in place and it worked. They relinquished that because the colonial government protected them from physical attack that could come from another ethnic group.

 

 

Now that it seems the centre is failing to hold, ethnic groups have to fall back to what they knew best. If they fail, they have nobody to blame but themselves. That has been the call from well-meaning leaders of the country that communities should protect themselves. The number and places of attacks are too many for the securities to handle considering the fact that they provide security at political rallies, for governors, Senators, House of Reps, Ministers and commissioners and since more police are busy protecting government functionaries the people are left to source for their own security.

 

 

Besides that, there is a serious allegation that the army is colluding with the Boko Haram or the herdsmen and bandits. Wow, when the protector becomes a predator it is every community for itself and God for us all.

 

 

Buhari is slamming those who are critical of his government, accusing them of not being patriotic. What is you take on that?

 

 

My first take is that he should thank and commend them just as he did when he was sick and Nigerians prayed for him. The same people who prayed for him and wished him well when he was sick are some of the people criticizing his government.

 

 

My second take is that I am not surprised at all because that is what we should expect from a Sharia based administration. It is absolutist and fascist in nature. 34 years ago, August 1985, Buhari’s government was toppled in a coup by IBB. I remember that coup very well. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing. In his inaugural address to the nation, IBB said that one of the reasons they staged that coup was because Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance and that his government arrogated to itself the knowledge of the problems and solutions of Nigeria.

 

 

To call critics unpatriotic instead of inviting them for a dialogue seems to suggest that Buhari has answer: I feel dehumanized, lied to, cheated and taken for granted. My dignity as a human being created in the image of God has not been treated with dignity especially when you factor the fact that these politicians and governments come in the name of God or claim to fear God. In the north alone we have over 13 million children who are rooming the streets and preyed upon by Boko Haran and herdsmen yet we have the richest man in Africa from the north and since Independence almost 60 years ago Nigeria has been mainly ruled by people from that area:- Tafawa Balewa, General Gowon, General Murtala, General IBB, General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalam, General Buhari 1983-85, Musa Yar’Adua and now Buhari again; and 13 million children are out of school, why won’t people feel disenchanted? I have said it and I say it again the problem of Nigeria is failed leadership as we are currently witnessing.

 

 

The bill seeking to transfer control of water banks to the Federal Government has been resubmitted for consideration by the legislatures. Do you see any hidden motive in the executive bill?

 

Everything Buhari introduces now is suspect even when it is good intention. The government should stay away from taking any land or water ways until the country is restructured. You know when you lose trust and integrity, it is hard to regain it back. I pray he recovers. The quickest way to recovery is restructuring. If he does then and only then would he regain some of his cult-like figure

 

 

What is your opinion about the feud between soldiers and the police over the killing of the policemen on the trail of a notorious kidnapper, by soldiers?

 

First, I empathize with the families of the dead police officers.

 

 

Their good testimonies will follow them. Nigerians are grateful to you and we pray that God through Nigerians and fellow human beings arewill not forget their families.

 

 

On the feud between the army and the police, it is rather unfortunate. I read in the print media that the Captain who gave the orders that killed the police officers communicated with the alleged kidnapper 191 times or so. You see that is what happens when there is no king as in the days of Israel everybody did what is right in their own eyes. President Buhari is quoted as saying only the army, the police, the NYSC and DSS, is keeping Nigeria united so when two of the four units that is keeping Nigeria unified are at logger heads then Nigeria is in deep trouble. As I said earlier the morale in the army and the Police is at its lowest (unfair promotions, issues related to payment of salaries and allowances, inadequate equipment, injustice) and now you add feuding within and between the army and police spells doom. I pray justice and equity will prevail. Bad things happen to all of us the difference is in how we address it. Justice and equity must not only be done must be seen have been done. This is called the rule of law.

 

 

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