Nigeria surely has a long way to go. And with the present leadership that lacks creativity, innovation and skills, the way has become longer. Nigeria is in pains. It is suffering the pains and pangs of poor leadership. The leadership poverty of the country has gotten to a crescendo, leaving Nigerians in dire straits and unimaginable consequences.
The government has become apparently rudderless and confused, relapsing into prayer to solve what deserves an urgent practical intervention. The polarisation across the land is too palpable. The government has become disconnected from the people. The narratives have assumed North versus South dimension, and tending towards the biblical cliché “to your tent O’ Israel. The North and its huge population of almajiris and street urchins have now become a tinderbox, some kind of explosives waiting to explode.
The Northern leaders have chosen the path of conspiratorial silence because of the menacing force of the almajiris who have now become armed bandits, kidnappers and dare-devil armed robbers. When a country’s moral fibre is anchored on hypocrisy and nepotism, what you get on the menu list are a combination of self-righteous indignation that makes one permanently blind to the real issues. It is not in doubt that this government is one driven by nepotism, oiled by cronyism, fuelled by favouritism and electrified by selective amnesia.
The president loves to be praise-worshipped like one Egyptian god, looking unperturbed by the helpless voices of the masses who have grown to become skeletons in their country of plenty; a replay of Bob Marley’s lyrical note: “in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty”. Unlike Bob Marley’s lyrics, the people are no fools save that they have been conquered and subjugated by government’s high-handedness and dictatorial tendencies. They have become slaves who have no choice to determine the oscillation of their fate. They wake up hopeless. They go to bed hopeless. They wake up hungry. They sleep with hunger. They roam around the streets looking for where the next culinary aroma would filter through their sense of smell.
They assemble around there waiting for leftovers, and in a jiffy, you see them scavenging for leftovers, with flu dripping down their nostrils, their unclad bodies looking spent and uncatered for. Most of them are without clothes. A lot more without education, not even elementary formal education.
The picture of an average Nigerian youth from the North is one that evokes pity, nostalgia and total abandonment. With votes doctored from the Northern axis to return a clueless President, their salvation seems forlorn. They now feel the pangs of neglect, and they have started reacting in a most criminal manner, through kidnapping and armed banditry.
They have seized the highways, taken over our farmlands, arrested our barns, and have continued to unleash mayhem on us without the slightest remorse. They look at us with scorn and scary eyes, as if to slaughter us as a form of revenge for abandoning them for so long. Youths from the Northern part of Nigeria have become endangered species already exploding and keeping our highways under their wrap.
The Southern part of the country is also sharing from these criminalities, kidnapping, ritual killings and armed robbery. Just take a count: Kaduna-Abuja highway has become headquarters of kidnapping. Benin-Ore highway, at Ofosu end of it, has become a hot spot for kidnapping. Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna highway has become almost a no-go area. Sokoto-Gusau road is taken over by armed bandits. Katsina, the home-state of Mr. President, has reportedly been under siege. Eight local governments have fallen under the control of armed bandits and terrorists. Daura, where the president claimed to come from, has also witnessed a kidnapping.
Ebonyi State is also not spared. Delta State has its own share of kidnapping and other crimes. Between Akungba-Akoko and Owo, thank your God if you escape being kidnapped on that lonely road that has become kidnapper’s den. Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, that cerebral journalist, essayist, writer and author was mauled down in cold blood travelling on that road. Kaduna State as a whole, under the “body bag” Governor, has become a theatre of killings and mass burial. Taraba State is permanently in the news for the wrong reasons, let alone the North-East that has become synonymous with Boko Haram.
The entire country is in turmoil and crimes are growing by the day. What is government’s response to the avalanche of internal insecurities? It is proposing to hand over a whooping N100 billion to the Miyetti Allah Association as part of its effort to curtail these unwholesome acts. N100 billion naira? Yes! That is what President Bubari has reportedly promised to pay the herdsmen through their association, the Miyetti Allah Association, in a meeting held in Kebbi State last week. It is like paying reparations for rustled cows, and abandoning the families that have been victims of these herdsmen onslaught. It is a payoff, to literarily plead with the herdsmen to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign. When over 100 persons were murdered in cold blood in their sleep last year in Plateau, government spokesmen blamed politicians for “sponsoring” the killings and being masterminds of crimes.
Not one member of Miyetti Allah has been arrested till date. At least, not one that I am aware of. Now, as if to rub first grade insult to our collective injuries, government is planning to empower our oppressors with such humongous sum. In fact, there are two set of countries in Nigeria. While the Federal Government is finetuning arrangements to ensure the payment of N100 billion, citizen Ochefu Emmanuel, a Lance Corporal in the Nigeria Army, who has reportedly fought like a gallant soldier in Boko Haram conclave of the North-East, to keep Nigeria safe, is languishing in the hospital for kidney failure. I saw a sorry picture of Ochefu Emmanuel on African Independent Television (AIT) yesterday, Monday, 6th April, begging Nigerians for help to enable him carry out kidney transplant in India. He needs N8.4 million. What a national shame.
This is a Nigerian citizen who was ready to sacrifice his life so that we all can remain safe. He puts his life on the line in warfront to ensure that we are not overwhelmed by insurgents. Rather than sponsor this young promising Nigerian to seek medical help elsewhere, the Nigerian Army was busy issuing statement threatening to deal with the Non-Governmental Organisation for daring to expose this inhuman treatment, yet government is planning to settle Miyetti Allah Association with such bogus fund of N100 billion. Wonders shall never end in Nigeria. As if to compound the issue, the Nigerian Army said it has assisted in carrying out 20 dialysis for N50,000 adding up to a mere N1 million. What a shame. Probe into the accounts of those potbellied Army Generals, you will find billions of ill-gotten naira and dollars. Ask them to account for all the budgets and released funds, you will see them stammer. This is the Nigerian story. A story that often looks untrue but manifestly a reflection of what we are and who we truly are. The case of citizen Ochefu Emmanuel presents the irony that dominates our public discourse in Nigeria.
A country of so many ironies cannot ignite any passion in the minds of the citizenry. A country of many contradictions and hypocrisies. I remember my encounter with an American soldier in June 2004 when I went for a sixweek course on anti-corruption and good governance sponsored by the USAID. We stayed at Marriotte Hotel in Washington DC overlooking the Pentagon. Each day we raced down to the restaurant to have breakfast, we saw a huge population of Americans who were also staying at the hotel. The manner of their friendly banters aroused curiosity in me. I had to engage one of them who later told me that they all belonged to the armed forces and were just returning from Iraq where they had participated in the war. Their mission at the hotel was to demobilise and become “human” again having been faced with shootings and killings.
That was a four-star hotel. A four-star treatment for soldiers who have been called out on national duty. And they were expected to stay in that hotel for three months in order to fully integrate them into the American society. Citizen Ochefu is just like those American soldiers in terms of national service, but the difference in terms of welfare and care is huge. While the Nigerian Army sees the N1 million already expended as huge, and seeing Lance Corporal Ochefu’s case as almost irredeemable, they might have chosen to watch him die slowly. There are so many Ochefus in the security agencies in the country.
There are so many soldiers who have died in warfront without appropriate care rendered to their families. Ditto for policemen who also die in their line of duty, and their families left to face their own destinies. It is a Nigerian disease not occasioned by lack of funds, but mostly promoted by the slavish doctrine of “obey before complain”. An American soldier has the right to question his superior on any given directive if in his estimation, it will not be in the interest of the country.
His oath of allegiance is to the American Constitution and not to one big officer out there who loves “Isi-ewu” and “Nkwobi”, when the boys are doing justice to insecurity in the field. Nigeria Armed Forces need to change their orientation from this command structure and allow a little bit of democratic engagement in getting the job done. Citizen Ochefu must not die. He deserves to live. And the Nigerian Army should do the needful to save his life and save itself from national embarrassment. Stop the N100 billion planned gift to Miyetti Allah Association before you plunge this country into another avoidable crisis.
Lukaku sparks off rivalry with Ronaldo, others
…as Serie A kicks off
Serie A recaptured some of its lost glory with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer and not a few football fans will expect something like a spark in the division this season as Romelu Lukaku appears for Inter Milan. France legend Frank Ribery is also in the mix after he joined Fiorentina from Bayern but it is the Belgium all-time goalscorer that is expected to launch some rivalry with Ronaldo especially in terms of goals. Lukaku arrived from Manchester United as a proven goalscorer after he netted more than 100 goals in the English Premier League and it will be interesting to see how defenders in Italy will handle the striker.
His sojourn at Old Trafford didn’t end in the way that was earlier scripted; the Big Rom was largely under-appreciated in his three years at the Theatre of Dreams but 28 goals in 66 EPL matches is not a bad return for a striker who also hit 27 strikes across all competitions in his first year at the club. Ronaldo did not end as Serie A top scorer, he actually finished in fourth position with 21 goals, five behind top scorer Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria although the Portuguese played six matches less.
The five-time Balon d’Or winner has now understood the dynamics of Serie A and is expected to strike more goals this term but he will have Lukaku to fight with for the Golden Boot. “He had a great pace using the spaces. You may not have many spaces in Italy, Italians have great defensive skills.
It may be a little difficult for him, but he has a great technical touch,’ Lukaku’s coach at Chelsea Andre Villa Boas said of his former ward. “His challenges in the air are amazing. I do not know how Conte will play and exploit the best of Lukaku. “He’s obviously a good player. He’s a very good person, humble. I knew good times with him.”
Lukaku whetted the appetite of Inter Milan faithful with four goals in his first appearance in the club’s shirt in the 8-0 rout of Virtus Bergamo during preseason friendly, and if the Nerazurri are to challenge for the title this term, they will rely on the goals of their £74m signing.
Separation: Why moms should stay
More often than not, it is the woman that moves out of her matrimonial home in case of separation. It became a norm because she moved into her husband’s house to make a home; so it behooves her to move out when the marital contract is either suspended (separation) or terminated (divorce). This practice became entrenched through the ages because the man owns the house or the apartment as the case may be. From the ages past, the man customarily gets married into his father’s home. This makes it difficult for the woman to enforce any right or lay claim to anything other than her children in the family.
In our modern day, women still suffer the same fate as of old. They have conditioned their mindset to quitting either for other women their husbands are dating or because they want to give space for peace in the case of domestic violence, deprivations or abuse. I think this norm should be challenged and possibly reviewed especially from the legal point of view. This becomes needful as more women are daily losing their matrimonial homes for sundry reasons: whether on genuine or flimsy reasons. They squat with family and friends under inconvenient conditions. Conducive accommodation is the prime need of single mothers. A safe and peaceful environment where children can be nurtured without fear of danger or negative influence is germane to their healthy growth.
Meanwhile, the man is most likely to have moved on with his life immediately without missing his estranged wife. In some cases, it would be ‘celebrated’ as a good radiance to bad rubbish. He would only miss his children if he’s the type that loves and plays with children; but unfortunately, many men are not. They will lay with other women on their matrimonial beds, violate the sanctity of their marital vows and commitments without sparing a thought about their actions. Men naturally are hornier than women. I know women who have remained for years without having romantic relationships with men but such are not so common among men. Men are physiologically wired differently from women. While an average man enjoys sex merely as fun or bedroom exercise, a woman, after a sexual encounter will begin to see her bedmate differently. She would begin to build a castle in the air around him; addressing him as her “boyfriend” or “fiancé” or possibly “husband” as she relishes in the world of fantasy! Her emotions will run riot immediately she notices divided attention from the man. In a confirmed case of double-dating, she will break down in tears, claiming another “disappointment” or “heartbreak” from a man who never proposed either dating or marriage to her. Habitually, women do allow self-deceit, fantasy and misconception to inflict emotional pains, as it were, on themselves while they conveniently heap the blame on men.
Back to the issue at hand. In a case where the couple already owns a building or has bought over the apartment wherein they live, must the woman be the one to move out if there’s any cause for separation? Since the union has produced children, can’t the man quit the house for the wife and her children? Legally speaking, he’s obliged to provide for the upkeep, feeding, schooling and shelter for the children. And in most cases, despite court rulings to that effect, men do flagrantly violate the order. And rather than throwing the innocent children into quandary and vulnerable atmosphere because of their mom, I think it is much safer, reasonable and fatherly as well if the woman, courtesy of the children, is allowed to stay while the man finds his own level. After all he is just one person in a family of about four or five or more people.
Let’s be honest here, since the man never doubted the paternity of his children, obviously his estate would eventually be bequeathed to his children. Even if he has other children outside, his Will should fundamentally favour his children, notwithstanding the number of other possible beneficiaries. So, why not be man enough to walk away selflessly in the interest of the children? I propose this idea because it is sheer wickedness and act of injustice to send a woman packing with children while the man alone stays back in the house. Many men don’t care about how decent or convenient is the place their children live in. The issue here is not about the woman but the children. Even the few men who undertake to pay rents because of the children often pay irregularly; and in several cases, they default. They can decide to stop paying the rent anytime; in fact, it’s the last item on their budget. It is such a parlous condition for the products of broken homes and the unlucky woman.
I think the law courts and welfare offices should enforce compliance with the welfare package for children. It is obligatory for men to be so responsible. And men, too, should not hesitate to report mismanagement of money meant for the upkeep of the children by their estranged women. Many women do divert school fees, rents, even feeding allowances to their businesses and daily or weekly thrift contributions while the children suffer hunger or stay out of school until they are able to recoup the money. This is also callous and unmotherly attitude.
The message from Nuremberg
“Since oppression is maintained by force, it is only possible to remove that oppression by a counterforce.” – ‘Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
Since last weekend the media space has been awash with reactions from Saturday’s unfortunate attack on the former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu in the Southern City of Nuremberg, Germany in Europe. All the social media platforms especially the ones dominated by Ndigbo have literarily been on fire over this matter with the divergent views of contributors. Not a few feel that Ekweremadu was just an accidental victim given his antecedents in Biafra struggle.
Ekweremadu aside his numerous stirring attack against the establishment on the injustice against Ndigbo had contributed significantly in the freeing of IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from prison. As a matter of fact yours sincerely was privy to the critical role of Senators Ekweremadu and Enyinnaya Abaribe, the current Senate Minority Leader in the freedom now being enjoyed by Kanu.
In fact, after his release Kanu was taken to the Abuja home of Ekweremadu for initial rehabilitation and counselling on how to maximize the gains inherent in his needless incarceration which was at time enjoying enormous popularity among Ndigbo. Kanu was properly admonished by South- East Senate caucus to return home and join forces with other Ndigbo liberation fighters being coordinated by the indefatigable and inexorable President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, former Information Minister John Nnia Nwodo. Whether Kanu heed the advisory or not is a story for another day suffice to say however that if he did, the Nuremberg attack probably would not have happened. In fact, Kanu and IPOB continuous attack on Nwodo whose leadership of Ndigbo is highly rated might be their nemesis if not halted.
The humiliation of Ekweremadu is highly condemnable and a show of ingratitude from IPOB and Kanu. It shouldn’t have happened at all but having occurred what is in it for us as Ndigbo, as Nigerians and as leaders of our people. Is this not a measure of the crisis in our kinfolk? Where do we go from here? When armed robbers invade your home, steal, rape your daughters and instead of seeking how to avert a repeat you spend your time lamenting, asking why me, why should people do such outrageous and startling thing, you probably will not solve the problem. If the robbers are as rational as you to provide answers to your questions, they would not have indulged in the crime in the first place.
If two people are provoked at the same time and over the same issue and one decides to carry gun in reaction and the other decides to carry placard shouting his disgust. The duo are reacting quiet alright but each is based on their individual idiosyncrasies. What should concern an intellectual mind most on a circumstance like this should be why the reaction at all. Why should an Igbo debase an Igbo in a foreign land? Unfortunately most discussants among Ndigbo on the attack on the former Deputy Senate President have not taken time to address the real issue.
When Socrates told the youth of Athens to stone the bourgeoisie in the society, he did not demarcate for them the type to be stoned and the type to be slapped. If Igbo youths are angry and unhappy with their leaders anybody in that class of leadership should consider him or herself vulnerable to the reaction from such group.
The kind of treatment from them to you will depend on a number of variables including but not limited to the weapons available to them and how they perceive you. The very clear message from Nuremberg is that Ndigbo youths are angry and how they pour these anger doesn’t have to be the way their potential victims expect it. Most of those Igbo youths in Nuremberg and indeed others in diaspora didn’t desire to be there ab initio.
They actually went there out of frustration from a failed leadership in their country who blatantly refused to address their challenges. Ekweremadu went to Nuremberg very enthusiastically as a Nigerian adorning an Igbo fabric with Nigerian coat of arms conspicuously emblazoned on it. As a cultural gathering of New Yam festival in a foreign land, Ekweremadu was being patriotic in his wears but politically given the situation back home, where a Catholic Priest Rev. Paul Offu was killed in his own constituency and was yet to be buried at the time of the new yam festival and also the royal father and his wife from the same area just regained their freedom after ransom was paid to Fulani herdsmen who kidnapped them few days after killing the priest.
The coat of arm of Nigeria that couldn’t protect these mindless killing of innocent souls in Igboland is not only provocative, repugnant, but extremely repulsive. Ekweremadu to his aggressors at that time was symbolizing Nigeria their tormentor.
The very clear message from Nuremberg therefore is that the people of the South-East in particular and Nigeria in general are not happy with their leaders. Their leaders are not endeavouring, they are not meeting their aspirations. What is the aspirations of Igbo youths you may want to know? Simple! A just society where fairness should be the guiding principles. This land evidently is not a fair place as it is currently. Anybody expecting Igbo to be happy at a society where their will is flagrantly thwarted when they cast their votes, where equal opportunity is not available to them, where even their God-given talent are not allowed to blossom. To expect an oppressed person under bondage to keep mum and keep shouting that all is well is akin to flogging a child and asking him to be smiling at it. Under such circumstance if you force such child to smile instead of crying at your punishment when he escapes and finds himself outside your control as is the case with the Igbo in diaspora, sorry for you if you appear there wanting to showcase your leadership. I think that was the scenario Senator Ekweremadu found himself.
It did not matter that he has also been so upset with the happenings in the country in the past four years that he once wrote an open letter to the President on the plight of Ndigbo. In fact in one of his frustrating remarks he yelled at the floor of the Nigeria Senate ‘who says military cannot come back’. What happened to Ekweremadu therefore should be seen as an alarm bell heralding an impending danger that awaits all leaders in an oppressed society not only for Igbo, it’s just a matter of time for everybody. We can vividly recall that it was anger against political leadership that made late Mohammad Yusuf go berserk against Borno State citizens that eventually snowballed into a war against the entire country. By the time Yusuf was killed enough structure already existed to throw up an Abubakar Shekau to succeed him. Also recently a self-confessed bandit commander in Zamfara State, Hassan Dantawaye revealed how their agenda was to kill 50 persons for every herdsman that dies in the hand of Nigerians.
The truth is that what we are witnessing is uproar, a revolt of some sort from the agelong oppressed people in our society. All the hypocritical attitudes of our leaders to the exasperated issue of injustice in the land should have expiring date because a push that takes a victim to the wall is bound to experience a counter reaction. In conclusion, as we rue Nuremberg incident I would like to re-share this personal story for the umpteen times. It is my encounter with late Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 2005 as the Group Political Editor of THISDAY Newspaper.
I had finished interviewing him in his Enugu home about the state of the nation then and was already at his exit gate going when he called me back and prophetically said. “Your newspaper is very influential and a powerful voice in Nigeria, you people should use it to tell Nigeria to treat Ndigbo justly as the war had since ended. The war weary Igbo are giving way to post-war kids who will not understand why they are being unjustly treated.”
Yes, Ojukwu was correct, the Nigeria civil war ended 49 years ago, most active IPOB members home and in diaspora including their leader Mazi Kanu are post-war children. Nuremberg incident therefore should send some signals for concerned Nigerian leaders to decode accurately the developing events in the country taking into cognizance the far-sighted warning of this indomitable Biafra hero. The clear message from Nuremberg is that henceforth it would no longer be business as usual for our leaders. Native intelligence demands that leaders apply wisdom when interacting with the led in their frustrated cocoon and not expect an alleluia song especially when they perceive them to have a hand in their crabbiness.
Nigerian roads and the leadership question
I had the misfortune of travelling on the Abuja to Okpella roads, then to Benin City last weekend, and was confronted with the grim reality of the inhuman condition of our roads. I never thought these roads have got to this level of decay and rot until I experienced it last weekend. What ought to be a journey of three hours from Abuja to Okpella, a border town between Kogi and Edo states, ended up seven hours later, after a most harrowing, debilitating, energy-sapping and nerves wrecking experience.
It was like going to hell. The fun ended in Lokoja once we headed towards Okene and from there to Okpella. Aside from Police checkpoints that ubiquitously littered the roads and creating unnecessary delays and traffic logjam, the pothole-infested roads, were enough benchmarks to confirm our status as a developing country, burdened by poor leadership and quiescent followers. From Okene to Okpella, it took us about two hours to cover a distance of barely 44 kilometres. The road has been taken over by fractures, huge craters and gullies.
At some point, you are forced to gaze ahead the road, in search for slightly convenient escape as your vehicle communicates with the craters, dragging its belly on rough edges amid a long queue of heavily loaded lorries and trailers. As we wangle through the permanently cratered road, the thought of kidnappers flashed through my consciousness. I can now understand why kidnap activities flourish so well on our highways. The roads are in terribly bad shape, making them vulnerable to kidnap activities. Road users are compelled to drive at snail speed, as they wander through the gullied road, which makes it easier for gun-wielding kidnappers to prowl on them, coupled with the unhelpful situation that police checkpoints present to an already bad situation. As you are flagged down and made to park beside the road, you see a shabbily dressed Policeman walked up to you with a bellowing voice; “Oga, park well”, where ya particulars”? His colleagues are also engrossed in similar routine, and a gridlock easily builds up to the admiration of the policemen, knowing full well, that errant drivers won’t just speed off. Having checked your vehicle papers, and seeing everything to be in order, he lets out a patronising smile with a salutary obedience; “anything for the boys”, a common malaproprian bluff that has become notoriously popular in Police circle.
I gazed into his eyes, as if to unleash my bottled up anger. “Yeah, there is something for the boys. There is bad road for the boys.” At this point, he motioned to his colleague in front and asked I should repeat what I just said. Knowing full well that portion of the road won’t allow easy access, he thundered in very unfriendly voice, this time asking for tinted glass permit. Seeing that everything he asked for was presented, he took over the services of Federal Road Safety Commission. “Oga, where ya fire extinguisher? Where ya C-caution”. Still searching for the fault-line, he told me that my fire extinguisher has expired. I said it is possible, but the real danger is that the policeman in front of me is seriously expired. “How dare you tell me that”, he exploded. To cut a long story short, the superior police officer in mufti who rode with me, tried to appeal for his calm without betraying his identity. Without prompting, he dished out the first insult; “my friend, keep ya mouth shut. Get into your car, no put ya mouth for this matter.” When the officer now displayed his Identification Card and seeing he was a far senior police officer, he suddenly became a comedian; “Oga, shun sir! Na play we dey oo”. “All correct sir. God bless you sir”. We couldn’t help but to let out gale of laughter to puncture an already frenzied situation, seeing the 360 degree about-turn of a policeman who had delayed me for about 20 minutes.
As much as I found the experience distasteful, I also lamented at the level of rot that has enveloped us as a nation. I was thinking of the road ahead and how I would negotiate my passage without causing colossal damage to my vehicle. After one hour delay caused by a broken down lorry, I contemplated making a detour, to Abuja. But I was trapped in-between vehicles. Making a detour might just be another exercise in futility. To proceed was hellish, to make a detour was unthinkable, some kind of arrested development, no movement. I had to deploy sign language to ask drivers coming from the opposite direction what the situation was like. I got a few responses which foretold that my hardship has simply not started. We gradually proceeded until I got to my village, feeling totally spent. As I branched off the ever busy highway to my village, I was just sympathising with those who still had some good kilometres to cover.
Our federal roads infrastructure are in complete shambles. They are death traps. They are attractive to kidnappers. They stink to hell. They explain away our barbarism and backward disintegration. Driving through the present state of our roads gives credence to the quantity of our present leadership. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.
The last time I rode on such eyesore was in 2004, in Monrovia where I had gone as election observer to witness the run-off between the incumbent president, George Opong Weah and now former President, Sirleaf Johnson, in what was the first general election after 14 years of civil unrest. The journey between Monrovia, the capital of Liberia and Gbanga City, was supposed to last for four hours, but we ended up spending seven hours. We drove through a lonely road that visibly explained long years of abandonment. The road was in terrible state as we meandered through thick forest and plantation before we got to Gbanga City, which was Charles Taylor’s stronghold. We saw houses with bullet holes, nostalgic relics of long years of civil unrest spanning 14 solid years in that part of West Africa sub-region. The few bridges we encountered on that road were as narrow as the narrow-mindedness of those who provoked the unrest and carnage in the first place. I haven’t been privileged to travel on that road in recent times, but my friends in Liberia told me a couple of weeks back that nothing significant has changed. Each time I travel on any of such terribly bad roads in Nigeria, my sense of nostalgia of the Monrovia to Gbanga City comes streaming. If I could excuse the abandonment in the case of the Liberia’s as a reflection of the 14 agonising years of civil unrest, what can one say about the case of Nigerian roads?
For sure, the Abuja to Benin road under reference was not bad some seven years ago. It was not a death trap some six years ago. The previous government had commenced the dualisation of the road, but in a typical Nigerian sense, abandoned before any serious work had started. The present government had witnessed five dry seasons but nothing tangible has been done to recover this dilapidated road. What you see in some portions of the highway is equipment of road construction companies, doing skeletal earth works and further adding to the pains, tear and wear of the already bad road. This decay and utter neglect just explains who we are, how we are and what we are. It is not about partisanship on the basis of political party affiliation. It is just about us as Nigerians carrying about very backward and awkward attitudinal orientation that rewards insolence and mediocrity, and punish merit and decency. There is no reason for us to remain this backward in our infrastructural renewal initiatives. Sometimes, I wonder what goes on in the minds of these leaders when they travel on these bad roads. The Abuja-Benin road is just a metaphor for our collective guilt. It gives graphic details of our backwardness. Our roads across the country are in pathetically sorry state.
It is not about what political party is in power. It is about the leadership content of anyone who is in power and his quality of mind to square up with the challenges of governance. Both APC and PDP members and supporters ply all the roads, depending on their day-to-day engagements. Roads carry 20 years duration and at times, 25 years. The bad roads today were either constructed or refurbished during the early days of the PDP-led Federal Government. Our roads were not this bad some six or seven years ago. It is the failure to plan, or planning to fail that has led us to this sorry state. Public works department that used to be the attraction in the 80s and 90s is no longer in use. It has been abandoned and replaced with Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), that exists mostly by name and little action. Our roads’ side lanes are covered up with forest, begging for intervention and attention. Road transportation has become nightmarish as a result of the nefarious activities of kidnappers caused by poor condition of the roads and general unemployment.
The Federal Government needs to wake up from slumber. It must take a deliberate step to arrest this ugly trend and redeem the sorry and gory image of our roads. If the roads are smooth, road transportation will be a thing of relish, while kidnapping would be drastically minimised. It is a huge embarrassment to see the present sorry state of our roads in a 21st Century world, where road infrastructure should expectedly enhance the domestic economy. We need mobility, but not mobility with tears. I get sick each time I travelled on Nigeria roads with their decayed state and obvious abandonment.
Our leaders must open their eyes wide to see the inhuman condition that our roads have become. We need to speak the home truth to ourselves devoid of partisan politics. We need infrastructure in whatever shape and form. We need a government that devotes time on seeking solutions to our problems and not one that becomes a problem to the solutions. There is a huge responsibility waiting in the wings for whoever becomes the Minister of Works, that also depends on the seriousness of government to invest heavily on its road infrastructure.
Power sector: A glimpse into the near future
ndeed, in the past few years, resolving the power supply problem has been top priority for the Federal Government of Nigeria. Permit me to give a brief update on the state of the power sector today and a glimpse into the very near future.
Today, we have about 13,427MW of installed capacity, and an available capacity of about 8,342MW. This was achieved through the efforts of government and its private sector partners in the rehabilitation and commissioning of turbines in Shiroro, Egbin, Delta Power, Sapele and Gbarain.
Before the end of the year, new generation is expected from Gbarain, an extra 115 MW; Kashimbilla (40 MW); Afam III Fast Power (240 MW); Gurara (30 MW); Dadin Kowa (29 MW); and Kaduna (215 MW).
In the long term, several solar plants will come on stream. The national grid already has the capacity to transmit 7,000MW, an increase from less than about 5,000MW in 2015 and this is due to the completion and improvement of several transmission projects. We have been told by the MD of NDPHC, Mr. Chiedu Ugbo, the completion of projects already done by TCN, like the Ikot Ekpene switching station and the completion of the Ikot Ekpene-Ugwuaji-Makurdi-Jos loop, which was done by the NDPHC in 2017. But distribution capacity in the 11 DisCos are significantly low, hovering at around 4,000MW on average with a peak of about 5,400MW.
So, despite the availability of 8,000MW of generation and 7,000MW of transmission capacity, the lack of DisCos’ infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end users has largely restricted generation to an average of about 4,000MW and sometimes falling below 4,000MW.
Apart from the lack of infrastructure is the inability of DisCos, first, to provide distribution assets generally and also metering, there is also the unavailability to provide metering to consumers. In resolving this issue, the Federal Government stepped in through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (NERC) Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulation of 2018. This is essentially regulation to provide metering, through independent or third parties to consumers all across Nigeria.
On May 1, 2019, MAPs commenced meter rollout; over 250,000 applications have been received and processed by DisCos to date and of course, that is then supposed to be forwarded to MAPs for installation. This figure is expected to quadruple by the end of 2019, and double by the end of 2020, largely closing the current metering gap of about 5.3 million consumers.
But it is evident, despite all the efforts that has been put into trying to expand the national grid and do a lot more, and of course, we have also heard that there is need to recapitalize the DisCos, but despite all the efforts so far, it is evident that the structure of the market today cannot deliver on the government’s promises to give power for domestic and industrial use. A substantial change of strategy is necessary. What we have done in the past has taken us to a point but clearly, there is a need for change of strategy.
At the heart of that strategy is the recapitalization of DisCos. We have to simply come up with more resources. Part of that recapitalization process is in the Siemens Phased Electrification Roadmap which was commissioned by the President recently.
Now the whole idea of the Siemens Electrification Roadmap is to deploy financing and technology on commercial terms agreed with transmission and distribution companies in partnership with the German Government and Siemens to: [in Phase 1] increase transmission and distribution capacity to enable power delivery of at least 7,000MW to consumers; [in Phase 2] eliminate bottlenecks in transmission and distribution, to enable full utilization of existing generation for power deliver of 11,000MW to consumers; and [in Phase 3], upgrade and expand generation, transmission and distribution for end-to-end power delivery of 25,000MW.
The Siemens Electrification Project must not be seen as all there is to enhancing transmission and distribution. The TCN still has a major role to play in all the various projects that the TCN itself has dedicated itself to doing. At the same time, the DisCos must come up with more capacity and resources to upgrade what they have been doing and ensure distribution assets are available including metering.
Second is the opening up of the market to new investors in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, transacting directly with each other to serve willing customers, including deploying off-grid power and using micro-grids, especially for deployment of solar power.
We must ensure that we open up the space for other investors or end-to-end generation to distribution. We cannot restrict the space that we currently occupy, we must ensure that we open up the space.
Now we have successfully done this in Sabongari market, Kano; Ariaria market in Aba and recently, we launched the first of several solar power plants in universities with the 2.8MW plant at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Ebonyi State. Over the course of the next few months, the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun Delta and Bayero University in Kano will have their off-grid Solar Hybrid Systems commissioned.
In each of these places, a private power provider is licensed to provide end-to-end power for a particular community or cluster, usually on a willing-buyer-willing-seller basis.
The policies and regulations to empower customers to get the services they want at prices they agree to, are largely in places because we already have the law that allows willing-seller-willing-buyer arrangement and the different categories of those laws.
The first is the Independent Electricity Distribution Networks (IEDN) 2012. This allows for the installation of an independent distribution network with the minimum capacity of 1MW where there is currently no distribution network, or where existing distribution network is not sufficient to serve existing customers. That is the first regulation that we have.
The second is the Mini-Grid Regulation, 2016, which was issued on the 24th of May 2017. This allows for unserved or underserved customers of a distribution company to be supplied power on agreed terms by a developer of a grid-connected or an independent electricity distribution system, with an embedded power station of up to 1MW.
Then we have Eligible Customer Regulation issued on the 1st of November, 2017. This allows for unserved or underserved consumers of more than 2MW of power, to buy power on agreed terms, directly from generating companies who have contracted with providers and operators of transmission and distribution infrastructure for its delivery.
The last is the Electricity Distribution Franchising Regulation, which is still in public consultation and preparatory to its issuance of regulations that will govern it. The whole idea is that it sets out the rules for a distribution company to appoint, or be compelled to cede consumers who will be connected to a 33kV or 11kV feeder, or a designated area to an agent or third party, willing to make investments in lines, metering, transformers and other equipment to serve the customers better at a mutually agreed tariff.
Now with a lot of these policies, the whole idea of it is to create a regime whereby there can be more willing-buyer-willing seller arrangements. It is in my view completely impossible, to satisfy Nigeria’s power demands from the national grid alone. There must be independent power suppliers and this is why we have all these regulations for micro-grid and other willing-buyer-willing-seller arrangements and that is the way by which we can go forward and ensure that we are able to serve many of the unserved and underserved communities that we have today.
These polices when fully implemented, will enable the opening up of the market to new investors in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, transacting directly with each other, to serve willing customers and this is the way which the Federal Government will proceed to ensure that we increase some more opportunities to existing DisCos and to other investors who may wish to serve Nigeria’s huge power market, which of course, at the moment is terribly underserved.
I want to say that the Federal Government is committed to ensuring that we have adequate power supply both in our homes and also in our various places of business. Power supply is the life blood of any economy and we will remain committed to ensuring that power supply is adequate everywhere. Just as you heard, it is certainly not going to be a short walk, but as we have seen, from all what we have heard so far, there is so much to be done and we are committed to doing it.
λAn excerpts of a speech delivered by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the commissioning of power projects in Abeokuta on 15th August, 2019.
Why and how history defines who we are (6)
THE KINGDOM OF BENIN: A QUINTESSENTIAL REMINDER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY INTRODUCTION
History and experience tell us that moral progress comes not in comfortable and complacent times, but out of trial and confusion.
Last week, I started my discourse on the Kingdom of Benin. I have so far shown comprehensively, on the origin of the Benin Kingdom, demonstrating how the kingdom started in 900s, when the Edo people settled in the rain forests of West Africa and how it was later annexed by rampaging merchantilsitic British Colonialists in 1897. Today, I shall continue and beam our search light on what made this Kingdom stand out from other contemporary Kingdoms and Empires.
THE GOLDEN AGE
In 1440, Oba Ewuare, also known as Ewuare the Great, came to power and expanded the borders of the former citystate. It was only at this time that the administrative centre of the kingdom began to be referred to as Ubinu after the Yoruba word and corrupted to Bini by the Itsekhiris, Urhobos and Edo people who all lived together in the royal administrative centre of the kingdom.
The Portuguese who arrived in an expedition led by Joao Afonso de Aveiro in 1485 would refer to it as Benin and the centre would become known as Benin City.
The Kingdom of Benin eventually gained political strength and ascendancy over much of what later became Midwestern Nigeria; then Bendel State; and now Edo State. The Oba had become the mount of power within the region.
Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into a city-state, from a military fortress built by the Ogisos, protected by 50ft deep moats and walls.
It was from this bastion that he launched his military campaigns, furthered his conquests and began the expansion of the kingdom from the Edo-speaking heartlands. A series of walls marked the incremental growth of the sacred city from 850 AD until its decline in the 16th century.
To enclose his palace, Oba Ewuare commanded, the building of Benin’s inner walls, an 11-kilometre-long (7 miles) earthen rampart girded by a moat 6 m (20 ft) deep; great thorough fares and nine fortified gateways.
This was excavated in the early 1960s by Graham Connah. Connah estimated that its construction if spread out over five dry seasons, would have required a workforce of 1,000 labourers working 10 hours a day seven days a week.
Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways. More excavations later uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 6,000 to 13,000 km (4,000 to 8,000 mi) long, all of which would have taken an estimated 150 million man-hours to build and must have taken hundreds of years to build. These were apparently raised to mark out territories for towns and cities.
Thirteen years after Ewuare’s death, tales of Benin’s splendors lured more Portuguese traders to the city gates.
At its height, Benin dominated the entire trade along the entire coastline from the Western Niger Delta, through Lagos to modern-day Ghana. It was for this reason that this important coastline was named the Bight of Benin.
The present-day Republic of Benin, formerly Dahomey, decided to choose the name of this Bight as the name of its country.
Benin ruled over the tribes of the Niger Delta, including the Western Igbos, Ijaws, Itshekiris, and Urhobos, amongst others. It also held sway over the Eastern Yoruba tribes of Ondo, Ekiti, Mahin/Ugbo, and Ijebu. It also conquered what eventually became the city of Lagos hundreds of years before the British took over in 1851.
The state developed an advanced artistic culture, especially in its famous artifacts of bronze, iron and ivory. These include bronze wall plaques and life-sized bronze heads depicting the Obas and Iyobas of Benin.
The most well-known artifact is based on Queen Idia, now best known as the FESTAC Mask after its use in 1977 in the logo of the Nigeria-financed and hosted Second Festival of Black & African Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77).
By the late 1400s, the capital of Benin, Benin City, was already a large and highly regulated city.
Europeans who visited were always impressed by its splendor and compared it to the major European cities at the time.
The city was laid out on a clear plan, the buildings were reportedly all well-kept, and the city included a massive palace compound decorated with thousands of intricate metal, ivory, and wood plaques (known as the Benin Bronzes), most of which were made between the 1400s and 1600s, after which the craft declined.
In the mid-1600s, the power of the Obas also waned, as administrators and officials took more control over the government.
The first European travelers to reach Benin were Portuguese explorers under Joao Afonso de Aveiro in about 1485. A strong mercantile relationship developed, with the Edo trading slaves and tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm oil for European goods such as manillas and guns.
In the early 16th century, the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the king of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin City. Some residents of Benin City could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century.
The first English expedition to Benin was in 1553, and significant trading developed between England and Benin based on the export of ivory, palm oil, pepper, and slaves.
Visitors in the 16th and 19th centuries brought back to Europe tales of “Great Benin”, a fabulous city of noble buildings, ruled over by a powerful king. On his part, the Oba began to suspect Britain of larger colonial designs and ceased communications with the British until the British Expedition in 1896-97, when British troops captured, burned, and looted Benin City as part of a punitive mission, which brought the kingdom’s imperial era to an end.
A 17th-century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668 says.
The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town. It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles. Another Dutch traveler was David van Nyendael, who in 1699 wrote an eye-witness account.
Military operations relied on a welltrained disciplined force. At the head of the host stood the Oba of Benin. The monarch of the realm served as supreme military commander. Beneath him were subordinate generalissimos, the Ezomo, the Iyase, and others who supervised a Metropolitan Regiment based in the cap ital, and a Royal Regiment made up of hand-picked warriors that also served as bodyguards. Benin’s Queen Mother also retained her own regiment, the “Queen’s Own”.
The Metropolitan and Royal regiments were relatively stable semi-permanent or permanent formations. The Village Regiments provided the bulk of the fighting force and were mobilized as needed, sending contingents of warriors upon the command of the king and his generals. Formations were broken down into sub-units under designated commanders.
Foreign observers often commented favorably on Benin’s discipline and organization as “better disciplined than any other Guinea nation”, contrasting them with the slacker troops from the Gold Coast. Until the introduction of guns in the 15th century, traditional weapons like the spear, short sword and bows held sway. Efforts were made to reorganise a local guild of blacksmiths in the 18th century to manufacture light firearms, but dependence on imports was still heavy. Before the coming of the gun, guilds of blacksmiths were charged with war production-particularly swords and iron spearheads.
(To be continued).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.” (James Baldwin).
I thank Nigerians for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D. I enjoin you to look forward to next week’s treatise.
• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN
After you say ‘I Do’
What happens if, as a man, after you had proposed or as a woman, after accepting a marriage proposal you saunter into somebody that is the exact description of your dream life partner? What will you do? Perhaps it happens after your wedding, how will you feel about it? Before you respond, read these true-life stories:
Recently, a Pastor sought my intervention in a family squabble between a man and his wife. The wife is a member of his church while the husband, I was told, do show up occasionally or whenever there’s any special programme. After listening to both parties, I asked the man a couple of questions; his answers provided the pointer to the root of their conflict. Further probing questions eventually revealed the reason why the man was feeling like the eight-month-old marriage was ‘hasty’ and actually a ‘mistake’ on his part. He was ‘no longer interested in the marriage’ for reasons best known to him alone. It took expertise to make him open up to me; by this time, I had excused the wife to allow a ‘man-to-man talk’. You care to know his reason? Please read on:
There’s a lady in his place of work who is the exact description of his kind of a woman. She was employed into the company after she lost her job at a new generation bank in the wake of economic downturn early in 2016. Interestingly, the lady in question, still unmarried, found a friend in him as they relate freely, warmly and seamlessly. The friendship became highly treasured to him that he can’t wish it away; more so, he had dreamt of a lady that has a striking semblance to her a few years back. The wife later confirmed that he had told her about the dream before they married. He decided to marry after waiting and scouting for two extra years without seeing any woman that came close to his desire. His wife was his ‘Option B.’ Therefore, when the ‘real woman’ appeared, regardless what the consequences of his action might be, he wanted to quit his marriage!
A lady had accepted marriage proposal from her fiancé shortly before she went for her national youth service. At the orientation camp, she met a handsome, fair guy on whom she instantly had a crush! She was ready to throw off her engagement ring if this Adonis could look in her direction. Apart from his physical appearance matching the desired look of her dream man, the guy was a law graduate while she read accounting. Interestingly, she had made her fiancé promised that he would read law after they are married even if it is on part-time studies because she had wanted her husband to be a lawyer.
What finally sealed her conviction while on a date with her crush was when he asked if she will like to live overseas because he’s a British citizen by birth and his parents and siblings live in the United Kingdom but he has chosen to stay and practice in Canada afterwards. Meanwhile, a two-year plan with her fiancé was already in place as she had hoped the two years savings would be enough to make them relocate abroad after wedding. Yours sincerely, that was the beginning of a dramatic break-up that got both families rattled.
Several people have tall dreams about the look, profession, nativity, age, complexion, religion, social status and academic background of who their would-be spouses should be. There are those who decide based on dress sense, eloquence of speech, dancing skill, culinary ability, proficiency in the bedroom games and spiritual fervency. Somehow, people make their choices but the interests of their partners do not count when their preferred choices emerge even when it’s practically too late.
Are you having a similar experience or challenge at the moment or you know anyone passing through unexplained issues in his/her relationship? In my findings through personal encounters with such folks, there are symptoms that are manifest in the conducts of people having divided interests or shifted attention in their relationships:
λ The first symptom is that the disgruntled partner becomes intemperate. He/she will complain about everything, every time and everywhere.
λ Two, the partner will become unduly hostile, easily provoked, ready to magnify simple or joking matter to a serious issue. They become frenetic about every issue be it minor or major.
λ Three, the ‘unhappy’ partner will often threaten to quit the relationship/marriage or abandon the home by blaming the spouse for everything including cockroaches or lizards found in the vicinity.
λ Four, the irked partner will be staying late outside more than necessary. Traffic, heaps of urgent jobs at work, breakdown of the vehicle on the way home are common excuses at the beginning.
λ Five, the partner will begin to skip meals, especially dinner many times a month by giving tiredness or because he/she had a lunch at work as an excuse for loss of appetite.
λ Six, the partner will always express regret over the marriage at every point of minor argument.
λ Seven, the about-to-quit partner will no longer appreciate his/her spouse; rather, will choose to compare the spouse with some other ‘angelic or faultless’ spouses out there in a provoking manner.
λ Lastly, the partner won’t like to welcome a third party or family intervention or peace meeting from any quarters until the situation is way beyond easy resolution.
Let me assure that a confused situation like meeting a preferred choice after you say “I do” is not beyond remedy. Through counselling, frank talks, family intervention and prayers sanity would prevail. However, sometimes it is better to allow the disgruntled partner to quit. Otherwise, apart from making the home hellish for the spouse where neglect, malice, provocation, abuse and assaults will reign, if care is not taken, the emotional storm might result to an unpredictable end.
Living with Jonathan’s nemesis
“I am the most abused and insulted President in the World but when I leave office, you will all remember me for the freedom you enjoyed under me” – Goodluck Jonathan in 2014
Since 2015 any sign of adversity befalling any Nigerian who directly or indirectly contributed or showed excitement in the political downfall of former President Goodluck Jonathan is easily seen as retributive justice. Such unfortunate condition is usually viewed as a downfall caused by an inescapable agent. The common word easily used to describe such state in political circle is nemesis.
According to dictionary explanation of nemesis, it is a cause of punishment or defeat that is deserved and cannot be avoided.
This word has continued to play up with the way and manner most of the persons who wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari or who contributed to the downfall of Goodluck Jonathan Presidency in 2015 are biting their fingers. Buhari Presidency has become such a regret mission for many and Nigerians have not failed to always look back to remind them of their roles in bringing the situation to fruition. As events unfold it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the Jonathan nemesis theory being bandied about.
Rather than look at every event from the point of its current origin, Nigerians have preferred to link every action to the past of the thespians involved.
When activist publisher Omoyele Sowore conceptualized his #RevolutionNow idea he was actually responding to the state of the nation where all the ingredients that make for a nation state were vanishing. He was retorting to a very glaring inability of the government in power to respond adequately to the challenges on ground and instead was creating them.
As the young man watched his beloved country go down without any sign of anybody working towards arresting the drift, he thought of starting something. His idea and dream was actually revolutionary but his scope for its execution was pedestrian. Revolution couldn’t have been as simple as just producing a WhatsApp message and throwing it to the cloud without any structure or proper coordination. Nigeria state is not a student union parliament where everybody is virtually on the same wavelength. The effect was to show when the bureaucracy came for him and ended the project at least for now.
If it was a real well coordinated revolution, taking away the dream ring leader would have been the catalyst for the subsequent actions and reactions. For example, when Boko Haram was created, the government operative then thought that eliminating their leader Mohammad Yusuf would mark their end but instead it became the fuel that inflamed the fire for nearly a decade now with thousands of souls wasted and a whole geo-political region of the country destroyed.
Because the Sowore revolutionary dream failed at least for now, discerning minds are trying to decipher the reason why and are asking the pertinent question. Whether the Sowore project was really a revolution or just blackmail stuff with mercantile underhand?
This idea joggling then brought them to the Jonathan nemesis theory as Sowore was at the forefront of those who actually collapsed the Jonathan structure and paved the way for the reigning King. Irrepressible social media actors and actresses have divulged Sowore’s past bringing to the fore all he did that facilitated the coming to power of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari. Sowore was actually on marble to have said that President Jonathan era was and would remain the worse in the history of Nigeria. To now turn around trying to create a revolution against a baby he helped to midwife into existence rightly called for the ensuing joshing on him in the social media.
In truth Sowore is not alone in this finger biting and teeth gnashing regrets for helping to bring President Buhari to power. Many prominent Nigerians are in it. Our own ebullient Baba Obasanjo has since rerouted his caustic letters he used in chasing away Jonathan to Buhari but it appears the letters have no much effect this time, apparently because the current addressee is not the reading type and may not have read any of it. To say that Obasanjo is not regretting his role in bringing Buhari to power would be like saying that American elites are not regretting Donald Trump Presidency.
The likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Governor of Kano State Rabiu Kwakwaso who massively supported Buhari coming against Jonathan have all long apologized publicly expressing regret for their political misadventure.
Even among the activist community, Sowore is certainly not alone in this Buhari mishap. Our highly revered Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, human rights activist lawyer Femi Falana and our dear Obiageli Ezekwesili have all seen their political reasoning put to question with the Buhari/Jonathan discernment. Perhaps the literary giant Soyinka would be more pained against the backdrop of the certificate scandal unfolding around his 2015 preferred candidate against a PhD holder. But realistically they have to see whatever agony they are going through in Buhari presidency as a prize for poor political judgement and learn to cope with it as a Jonathan nemesis.
The undisputed truth remains that the fallout of Buhari presidency has evidently put to question the political shrewdness of these hitherto heroes who have been influencing our political thoughts and directions for years.
At this juncture, there is absolute need to underscore the fact that the analysis in this musing does not in any way give a pass mark to Jonathan Presidency, not at all. After all if his administration had not lowered governance to such embarrassing level, the frustration would not have led to all these nosedives. It was his regime’s steep downward plunge and dramatic deterioration that led to that dangerous power grab regrouping that has now turned into a clear political disaster.
If our leaders had been more circumspectly and not driven by ego and personal aggrandizement in handling Jonathan’s weaknesses or even taken time to do some laboratory analysis of the person they were choosing in his place, maybe today’s grieve would have been averted.
The political tragedy of all these is that sincere and judicious criticism of regimes is suffering. Rather than see and digest issues from points and contents, the populace now indulge in comparison. Obasanjo writes a letter whose body totally captures the heart and minds of the majority but the attention instead is on asking him ‘are you not the one who brought him’. Sowore looks at the distasteful happenings in the land and moves even if unrealistically to stem it, the people who are victims of this vile rule turns and instead of providing support to him begins to herald his role in the coming to power of the tormentor-in chief. Erudite Soyinka furiously berates Buhari and compares him to the nation’s late maximum leader Gen. Sani Abacha, the people respectfully possibly because of his age says to him, ‘Prof, but you supported him?’
Until we get it right and escape from this malady of poor leadership circus, we may continue to leave in the nemesis of rejecting a lesser evil.
Clearly, our situation now in this country has become like that of Old Testament story when the people of Israel told God to give them King like other nations, that they are tired of Judges as their political heads, their creator subtly reminded them the implications of what they were asking for but they insisted and he gave them King Saul and what followed is now both scriptural and political history.
Similarly, Nigerians saw in President Jonathan a weakling and desired a strong leader, a military General who will take the security challenges headlong. Few voices that tried to remind us of the yore were drowned by the backing of respectable leaders like Obasanjo, Soyinka among others including the civil society groups. Here we are now bemoaning from all corners as the chicken arrived home for roosting. What a confused nation we really are.
Corruption is a ‘minister’ in Nigeria
Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), raised the alarm last weekend in Kaduna during the graduation of 328 intelligent superintendent cadet-trainees at the Nigeria Defence Academy. He spoke about the ferocity of corruption and how it was killing the economy of Nigeria. Even though he stated the obvious, one would have thought that given the present APC-led Federal Government’s “avowed commitment” to combat corruption, the rewards ought to have abated this endemic scourge. But five years on, since this government came on stream, we seem to be drifting in different directions, leaving substance and chasing shadows, in our anti-corruption fight.
I can understand the pressure on Ibrahim Magu, a man who has remained in acting capacity for four years now. I can also understand the politics of politics that has made his confirmation a subject of sustained horse-trading amongst the power oligarchs around the corridors of power. But the subject matter remains the same: corruption is eating deeper into the mainstream of our nationality.
Fighting corruption with corruption has its own telling contradiction on a system and the expected impact it ought to have in checkmating the growing incidences of it. While the APC-led Federal Government rode on its so-called anti-corruption mantra to get itself into power, it has looked the other way each time there are copious cases of corruption amongst its leaders and chieftains. From the leadership position to the followership buffer zone, there are inherent contradictions that are making the anti-corruption crusade not to gain the maximum traction. First, the president’s refusal to make an open declaration of assets has rubbed off on the seriousness of the crusade.
The President of the country should have done what the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, did with respect to open declaration of assets. The governors in Nigeria ought to be taking inspiration from a president whose handlers easily call “man of integrity”. Aside from Governor Makinde, I am not aware of any governor who has publicly declare assets. If a man so reputed for possessing a large dose of morality and integrity could not publicly declare assets, what else should we expect from lesser mortals in the political power corridors? The blatant refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to declare his assets publicly has set the tone for the contradiction in the anti-corruption crusade.
If the APC leader seen with bullion vans in his compound could not be interrogated and arraigned for money laundering, I am just wondering why the EFCC would shout blue murder over the $2 million allegedly found with one of Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers, and his son in-law, Babanlele. If the parameters for assessing corruption intent are anything to go by, applying selective amnesia on similar cases, easily kills the objective, motive and level playing field which anticorruption crusades are known for. A critical anti-corruption crusade is one that is blind to all persons no matter the relationship they enjoy with those who control the levers of power.
An anticorruption crusade is one that applies the rule, without exception. Any fight against corruption must be devoid of sensationalism and media trial. It must be a fight that applies the rule of law and not the rule of man. It must be a fight that derives its loyalty from the constitution and to the constitution. It is a crusade that sees everyone as equal before the law, from the president to the ordinary Nigerian on the street. Once, an anti-corruption crusade fails these basic tenets, it amounts to mere sloganeering, and certainly not a fight against corruption.
I used to think that when a nominee for any appointive position is said to be undergoing security check and screening, that it is an opportunity to run due diligence on such an individual to ascertain his suitability for such position. I had thought that the “eagle eyes” of the security goons would help to unravel hidden and dirty details of such nominee to prevent him or her from securing such position. I was sold to such belief until I realised that former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun “passed” through security screening without any detection of her “oluwole” (scammed) National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) certificate.
When the exposè dominated the public space, I was arguing with my inner mind that Kemi Adeosun was being unnecessarily harassed until she capitulated under the weight of compelling evidence. And later took the exit door in the full glare of a government that prides itself as anticorruption fighter. Who is fooling who? Not done, the same security screening could not unravel the fact that Adebayo Shittu, former Minister for Communications, did not carry out the mandatory one year NYSC programme, yet he was “screened” as suitable for ministerial position. Nothing else should remind us that all these oversight functions are products of corruption.
If a security agency could not unravel such fraudulent practices, it tells of the level of rot in our system. Not done with bizarre themes in a government of anti-corruption, some of the latest nominees for ministerial position, are persons who still have questions to answer with the relevant anticorruption agencies. There are ministers-designate who have questions to answer with EFCC.
They have no business being part of a team to deliver the anti-corruption agenda of President Buhari. But in a country of sins without sinners, I am told that political patronage mostly favours those who spend illicit funds to install a government. While the anti-corruption crusade of this government has become a huge joke, those nominees have become mere jokers.
The only pain is that it is the ordinary Nigerian on the street that suffers the contradictions and hypocrisy of the system. I have really wondered aloud why it was difficult for President Buhari to make good choices from the 200 million Nigerians without recycling old brigades and persons with cases to answer with EFCC. While the APC-led government easily derides the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for being responsible for the heist in the system, the declaration by Ibrahim Magu at the weekend that corruption is still killing Nigerian economy, shows that the practice has not abated. It means that corruption is still prevalent in the country.
It means that the present effort of government and its own internal contradictions, are just a drop in the ocean of corruption. Just imagine what difference it would make to the anti-corruption fight if President Buhari declares his assets publicly, and directs all his ministers to follow suit. He would have set the right tone for a holistic fight against a scourge that has left us prostrate.
To state euphemistically that corruption is a minister in Nigeria is to understand the position which corruption occupies in the scheme of things in Nigeria. And to use corruption to fight corruption is to miss the point altogether. Government must live above board and be transparent in its conduct. Government must insist on the right approach to combat corruption and reduce the incidences of monopoly, which is often subjected to abuse by public officials. It must be ready to take punitive action against persons irrespective of their party affiliation or the position they occupy in the society.
The law must not be a respecter of anyone no matter his religious status, ethnicity, political stature or financial muscle. The law must be law. And it must apply across board from the president down to the ordinary person on the street. A lawful society is one that courts civilisation and globalisation.
A lawful society guarantees freedom of speech for the citizens as well as promotes constitutionalism. We cannot afford to be caressing incompetence and cuddles nepotism, and pretend to be building an egalitarian society with equal opportunities for all. Leadership of the country must know when to play politics for the sake of politics, and when to be nationalistic for the sake of our common identity. We need transparent government. We need openness in government to create the right atmosphere for confronting corruption and other financial crimes. This present approach and indices are a bile in the dish.
Buhari’s shocker that reshaped JAMB
hree years ago, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede was appointed the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). This announcement was made precisely on 1st August, 2016. The appointment was greeted with a lot of expectations given the strategic position the Board occupies in the education sector.
True to the vision and expectations of those who nominated him, Prof. Oloyede from the outset stated that his mandate was to build on the legacies of successive Registrars of the Board. His appointment should be seen against the consensus within government circles, as enumerated by the then Minister of Education, that there was a necessity to rebrand the Board for improved performance in terms of delivering credible and fair assessment.
Armed with this resolve, the new Registrar launched a five-point agenda. Chief among which was the need to partner with relevant stakeholders to develop a robust technological infrastructure that would ease the operations of the Board and boost organisational efficiency.
However, it was not until much later that we were to gain valuable insights into the aptness of the four philosophical underpinnings of his convictions, which if imbibed by a nation, are capable of taking her to the Promised Land. These four attributes are highlighted as follow:
Patriotism: The veritable antidote in addressing the plethora of national challenges we see today is to develop a very robust system that would produce very patriotic leaders who will see the responsibilities placed on their shoulders as a clarion call to render selfless service to the fatherland. By so doing, any vestige of allegiance to tribe, religious or self would be annihilated.
The love for one’s name: Attachment to one’s name and the fear of such a name being besmirched if one does something wrong is a great quality in leadership. A man that fears nothing, including whether his name is dragged in the mud, is one that should not be placed in any position of responsibility.
Courage: One of the greatest attributes of leadership is to be courageous in taking critical decisions. As such, unless one is courageous, one may not be able to alter the status quo. This is because daring to change the status quo in a corrupt society is to incur public opprobrium and attract flaks from all quarters. As such, to dare to do things differently is to incur the wrath of the corrupt. It is, therefore, a truism, as asserted in a presentation recently by Prof. Oloyede, that in taking the decision to do the “abnormal”, public officers who desire to change the usual narrative should know that they will suffer infamy and censure of those who thrive in an atmosphere of dishonesty and underdevelopment. However, he had always maintained that whoever desires to make any positive change must not only be angry with the status quo but also be sufficiently equipped to deeply reflect on and consider all options including the possibility and reality of change-induced resistance. This is obvious because most landmark transformational policy directions are often rejected out of hand by the public, thus it will take a courageous leader to stick to his guns by not allowing the fear of backlash or possible removal from office deter him from his noble path.
Determination: This is a consistent desire to make an impact irrespective of whether support is available or otherwise. Most times, one’s effort is not appreciated but the determination to achieve a set goal should always keep one going.
It is the culmination of all these qualities in Oloyede, the uncommon transformer, that has helped in greatly repositioning what is today known as the sanitised Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
As we celebrate three years of Oloyede’s iron-clad determination to imprint his name on the sands of time, we call on Nigerians from all walks of life to see his numerous efforts as his patriotic contributions to national development.
Never has someone done so much to arrest a systemic rot as has been done in the last three years by the Oloyede-led management of the Board. Oscar Wilde probably had Oloyede in mind when he said: “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
Oloyede had committed many “sins” in the last three years of his stewardship in JAMB than he had probably “committed” throughout his life as a transformer. This is because doing things properly is seen in our clime as challenging the status quo. Yet, Nigeria is highly endowed with all that she needs to become a superpower. For instance, she has multitudes of very intelligent people who are knowledgeable in all aspects of nation building. The problem is that many of these people are not ready and determined to challenge those daunting and highly-ossified societal norms. Change is daring the status quo to do things differently and more importantly, producing positive results.
The Board has become the darling of many public examination bodies globally owing largely to its giant strides in many fields. The nature and extent of its service delivery could only be likened to those obtained from private concerns. This is largely owing to the board’s long-term and strategic perspectives on good governance and human capital development coupled with a good grasp of Nigeria’s heterogeneous complexities.
As a manifestation of the foregoing, the Board, in the last three years, has increased the number of CBT centres from 300 to 700 to ensure proximity of centres to candidates as well as for ease of examination administration. It has also revolutionised the registration process such that candidates initiate the process at their own convenience by just sending their names to a code; introduced telcos as vehicles for the conduct of examination without necessarily using the Internet; introduced mock examinations to give candidates the opportunity to have a hands-on experience on the computer and above all, he renegotiated all processes involving third parties thus yielding surplus to the tune of N20 billion which was promptly remitted to the federal treasury. When the remittances were made, some vested interests raised issue with the humongous remittances not knowing that Section 22(2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) mandates the Board to make such remittances. Perhaps they would have prefer the money stolen.
The Board would not be daunted as it sees such a step as its patriotic duty to the nation. However, it is saddening that this uncommon display of patriotism was not employed as a unique opportunity to interrogate other systems and proffer lasting solutions to burning national issues.
Meanwhile, commendations to the Hon. Minister of Education would very much be in order for his uncommon courage of appointing very credible individuals as heads of parastatals and agencies under the Federal Ministry of Education. It was this support that makes these remittances possible in the first instance. Mr. President should also be commended for taking keen interest in the affairs of the Board particularly monitoring the remittances which led to his prompt directive for the slash of the registration fee from N5,000 to N3,500.
Furthermore, the Oloyede-led management of the Board also ensured that 90% of the service hitherto rendered by contractors is now offered internally by staff thereby guaranteeing the sanctity of the Board’s examinations. This is an apt demonstration of the fact that in every organisation there is always capacity if the right atmosphere exists.
In conclusion, the whole essence of celebrating Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their various fields is to encourage many others to do same as well as put the records straight for posterity. If they had done otherwise they would have been rightly castigated as well. As such, the system should not only be seen as punishing wrongdoings, it should also celebrate and reward intelligence, hardwork and creativity. The remaining years of Oloyede leadership look very promising. Changing a system is like entering a shopping mall, for every choice in the mall, there is a price tag and Prof. Oloyede having made his choice is determined to pay the price.
λDr. Benjamin is the Head of Media, JAMB
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