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Makinde: I’m ready to waive my immunity to ensure accountability

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Makinde: I’m ready to waive my immunity to ensure accountability

Mr. Seyi Makinde, an engineer, chaired the Makon Group of Companies until his election as the Governor of Oyo State on May 29, 2019. In this interview, he talks about the place of accountability and probity in running the Pacesetter State and the core areas of focus for his administration. Excerpts:

 

Let’s start with the twin issues of probity and accountability. During the induction programme the state held for members of the 9th Assembly of Oyo state, you made some commitments to probity and accountability, when will the promises come to fruition?

 

The task before all of us now is to make Oyo State better and I look forward to us working together with the legislature. I want us to de-emphasize party affiliations. I want this ninth Assembly to the best ever in the history of Oyo State. I know we can do it. The Assembly is blessed with a blend of experience, youthful energy and commitment. So, we won’t have any excuse not to deliver.

 

On the side of the Executive, I give you the assurance that we will work together. The relationship will be cordial. I know that one thing members want to hear from me, which is also a major issue in the national space, is the issue of financial autonomy for the legislative arm of government at the state levels. You want financial autonomy. Well, we will work on it together and if it is possible for Oyo State, being the Pace Setter, to set the pace in this regard, we will do it.

I told the lawmakers that as soon as they settle in, I will almost immediately bring Executive Bills. We have four major areas that our government will focus on. We want to expand our economy and lift as many of our people as possible out of poverty. We want to use agriculture to expand the economy. It is not by just saying it; we have to see real action and most of our infrastructure will be made to target our economy. We need to work together on this.

You have also spoken about the plan to establish the anti-corruption agency. What really are you driving at?

I have told the state Assembly that the first Executive Bill we are bringing to it is for us to set up an Anti-Corruption Agency for Oyo State. And I will waive my immunity, if I am found not to be above board, to face that agency.

So, why did you make the decision to ban the NURTW – this was one of your first actions as governor. They are a registered body under the law?

As I have said, we are going to take the security of lives and property seriously. Few days after I was sworn in as governor, we proscribed the NURTW. I told them that we were not interested in stopping them from running their union, because it is registered under the law. But we cannot allow a few people to hold the state to ransom in the name of running a union. I am talking to the security agencies in the state; we know the flashpoints and we know exactly what needs to be done.

 

Oyo State has the largest landmass among the South-West states, four times larger than the size of Lagos State, though Lagos has the population. So, I said that security-wise, we would do what we deem best for Oyo State and we intend to make Oyo State one of the safest states in the country. We are still studying the situation with keen interest.

 

The four-point agenda you launched how will that work?

 

We are going to focus on four issues. Number one is the economy. We have to take the state away from waiting on federal allocation. That is a task that has to be done. How do we do it? We are going to have to expand the economy and we are going to leverage on the willingness of the private sector to invest in Oyo State. I just left an investment forum and the responses have been really great, because we have made commitments to run an open and transparent administration.

It means that if people can bring their money into Oyo State, they can be sure of return on investments and they can be sure that they have an administration that is pro-business because of my own business background.

Number two, we are going to focus on education. We promised to lighten the burden of the parents by scrapping the school fees that they currently pay. We are sure that by the next school year, that will kick in.

Number three is health care. We want to really re-energise the system, if I may use that word. We are looking at the Health Management Board, looking at the inefficiencies in there and the inability to attract talents, because doctors, nurses and other health workers, going by the current system, will have to be on the civil service salary scale. Some of them are unwilling to come in and so we will be creative in tackling that.

As I said in my inaugural speech, we are not building any new health centres. We all know that when the immediate past administration came on board, they promised to build primary health care centres in all the wards in Oyo State; 361 of such. But it didn’t happen. They built some primary health care centres but most of them were just mere buildings and we have to make them functional. I don’t care if the glory goes to the outgone administration as being the ones that built them. I know that government is like the saying, ‘soldier goes, soldier comes but the barracks remain.’

So, what is important to us is to make life meaningful for our people. If they already built the health centres, then we will equip them. These are the things we want to do in the health care sector and we will also need to tinker with the Oyo State Health Management Board. We have to explore possibilities to see if we can have a different result.

We want to explore the possibility of some of our secondary and tertiary health care centres having their own boards; giving them some kind of autonomy such that they can function without so much bureaucracy

Number four is the issue of security. We know that if we are talking about Foreign Direct Investment and investors coming to Oyo State, even the residents going about their lawful businesses, it has to be in a secure atmosphere. So, we will focus on security.

These are the major pillars, but it does not mean that we will not pay attention to sports or we won’t pay attention to tourism and things like that. But these four areas are those that will take the chunk of our attention.

Your pronouncements on education have also been received with mixed blessing, especially the cancelation of the N3,000 levy…

Of course, we have also identified education as another area of focus. During my speech at the inauguration ceremony on May 29 at the Liberty Stadium, I said that the N3, 000 education levy has been scrapped and a lot of people have been condemning the action, saying I should have waited to occupy the governor’s seat and see the magnitude of the challenges before making that move.

We did our calculations and we found out that with the enrolment of students, we only require N1.2 billion yearly to take care of whatever the N3, 000 levy was being charged for. In any case, I have given the commitment that the state’s annual budget will be jerked up to 10 percent for the education sector. That would help greatly in addressing some of these things.

To improve the standard of education, we have quite a lot of programmes that we think will help the state in lifting the standard of education. One of them is that we need the commitment of both the parents and the teachers. We will engage them.

 

The teachers have to be motivated. They are currently working under very unusual conditions. We have been to some of the schools; basic things like chalk sticks, dusters, chairs and tables are not even available. I don’t believe in having six or seven mega schools; the outgone government talked about six or seven though it only built two model schools located on major roads, but the schools must not be mega in structure.

They must be functional. You should put things in those little schools and that is what we have done in the past as private individuals and it produced results. I am a living example of how a functional public school system can turn out productive and successful individuals.

I went to Bishop Philips Academy (in Ibadan) and some of my classmates are also doing very well to the glory of God. I believe that if teachers are motivated and rewarded; if you reward hard work, they will want to do more.

In a recent interview you were quoted as saying you had planned to work pro-bono for the state government even before your swearing-in, was it that you were eager to take over?

Yes, after my victory at the last elections, I became jobless because I had already resigned from my paid job. I was ready to do some jobs pro bono (for Oyo State) but the last administration insisted that they would be in power until the last hour of the last day, which was 11:59 of May 28. In that period, I actually visited a couple of countries, Botswana being one of them. They are big players in mining; they are the second largest producer of diamonds in the world.

That ties to what you have in your policy document regarding mineral deposits in Oyo State. Now what plans do you have pursuant to lifting the sector in order to actualise the improved IGR drive?

 

The point I was making goes together with the question of IGR. I think Botswana also has the largest deposit of coal in the world, so the country is very good as far as mining is concerned. A delegation from the business community in Botswana actually came for my inauguration. So, we are talking to the mining countries out there. If you recall, in 2015, during our debate at the University of Ibadan, the issue of mining came up and I suggested that area as an area that the state can explore to boost employment in the state and also to expand our economy.

 

You have mentioned the readiness of your government to promote investment, how will that happen?

 

Well, we will leverage a lot on Public-Private Partnership (PPP). I will give you an example. Let us talk about the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH); government has not been able to put one block on the other in the university in eight years. For us, we have planned to run with the PPP model of BOO. That is Build, Own and Operate. What we are saying is that we can begin to derive value from those investments from day one. You bring in an investor, allocate a land to them in the school; they build the structure, they own it and they are operating it. You will look at the sharing formula between them and the government and what that does for us is that government is realising certain revenues from day one.

 

And in keeping with our campaign promise to make Oyo State the preferred investment destination in Nigeria, one of the bills that will get to the State Assembly soon is the Oyo State Investment Promotion Agency (OYSIPA) Bill, 2019. The bill, when it becomes law will birth an agency that will initiate, promote, facilitate and co-ordinate investments in the state through Greenfield, Public Private Partnerships, Privatization, Commercialization of state-owned assets, and transform the economy of the state through strategic Asset Management.

Your victory at the March 9 election seems to have been against the run of play and you are the only PDP state in the South West, how did you make it?

I think basically we have to appreciate the people of Oyo State, because they were resolute in pushing forward their preference. Four years ago, it was a little bit different, because I ran on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

We moved into the SDP in December 2014 and the general election was to take place in February 2015, so we didn’t have enough time to reach out to the people at the grassroots level. We managed to let the people know the kind of programmes we intended to pursue if they give us the opportunity to serve the state.

That message was out there; that if given the opportunity, we would do things differently and the message resonated with the people; they kept it in their hearts. Some of the people told me in 2015 to wait till 2019 and I was angry at that time. But we waited and here we are.

 

Another major factor that made the 2019 experience different was the fact that, at the last minute, we had a coalition of political parties, with people like Baba (Rashidi) Ladoja, Senator (Olufemi) Lanlehin, Barrister Sarafadeen Alli, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde and a host of other leaders leading different parties, which all came in to team up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that pushed the game beyond the reach of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Makoko community: Where residents defecate in water, use same to cook

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Makoko community: Where residents defecate in water, use same to cook

A lot have been said about the Makoko community, a slum in Lagos State, where residents live in suspended shanties built on water. However, Sunday Telegraph’s investigation revealed that apart from waterfront settlement of Makoko community, where people live on water, a certain percentage of the settlers dwell on solid land. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports that the residents defecate in water and depend on the same water for their domestic needs

 

akoko Community, Yaba Local Council Development Area, Lagos means different things to different people. To some, it is only a body of water which can be seen while travelling on the Third Mainland Bridge. Others see it as an island.

 

 

However, Sunday Telegraph investigations revealed otherwise as only a small fraction of the community is built on water – Floating community.

 

 

Part of the myth is that only a single school is cited in the community, but Sunday Telegraph also observed that there are a number of other schools in the community including public and private schools though there is the need for more serious schools to be established in the area to reduce the rate of illiteracy among the dwellers.

 

 

This also necessitated the construction of first ever floating school in the area to enable a more number of children the opportunity of going to school and thereby promoting literacy among the residents of the community.

 

 

The floating schools, which are sponsored by non – governmental organizations and the Yaba Local development Council, make waves across the shores of Nigeria.

 

 

Makoko slum is considered the Venice of Africa due to its construction on the Laos Lagoon requiring canoes for transportation. A third of Makoko’s community is constructed on stilts above Lagos Lagoon.

The community is located across the Third Mainland Bridge in the coastal mainland of Lagos.

 

 

According to one of the leaders of the community, Ovie Erukhewe, the popular community comprises of six distinct villages – Oko Agbon, Adogbo, Migbewhe, Yanshiwhe, Sogunro and Apollo which spread across land and water.

 

 

He noted that Makoko is an interesting slum lying on water with a beehive of activities throughout the year. The Community, a fishing village, came into being over a hundred years ago when fishermen from Benin settled in the reclaimed Lagoon from debris on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

Today, he stated, Makoko slum is home to over 100,000 residents, majority of whom are migrants from West African countries trying to make a living in Nigeria, saying that residents in Makoko depend mainly on fishing as the main economic activity.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph observed that since the community came into existence, many people as well as NGOs are flocking the community due to its floating nature and other unique features.

 

 

The most captivating attraction of the slum is the floating school which was designed by a team of architects who built it from plastic barrels that have space for classrooms as well as a playground.

 

 

In 2013, a Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyemi of NLÉ proposed to transform the water slum status of the Makoko waterfront community to a floating island by creating a functional building prototype.

 

 

He collaborated with non Nigerian Non-Governmental Organisations including an Abuja-based Heinrich Boll Foundation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Federal Ministry of Environment Africa Adaptation Programme, Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and Makoko Waterfront Community to execute the project.

 

 

According to the then Public Relations Officer of the Germany origin Heinrich Boll Foundation, Armsfree Ajanaku, residents of Makoko comprise of immigrants from Benin and Togo, who settled in the reclaimed Lagoon in the late 18th century.

 

 

Economically, he stated, Makoko Lagoon was the main supplier of tilapia fish in Lagos and neighbouring countries, saying that the residents have found ways through which they coexist with their natural habitat even when it poses environmental hazards to their existence.

 

 

“Majority of all structures in Makoko rest on wooden stilts constructed from hardwood driven deep into the waterbed. Each household in Makoko owns a canoe which is used for transportation around the village. Hence Makoko is village in the water,” he added.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that children learn to paddle canoes when they are five years of age since it is one of the major skills required to survive in the slum.

 

 

The waterways in Makoko are a beehive of activities as the residents move around conducting business activities in their canoes, making it the most interesting slum in Africa.

 

 

Though many people are interested in this community and seeking ways to improve its living conditions, the reason the community has become a Mecca of a sort in Lagos, yet Makoko is, in itself, a threat to human existence due to its dilapidated structures.

 

 

One of the greatest problem of the residents of this community is lack of government presence in the community and the consequent none availability of any form of social amenities.

 

 

The residents do almost everything on their own which has also attracted philanthropists, NGOs and sympathizers to the community with the aim to alleviate their deplorable conditions.

 

 

“For decades, the inhabitants have had no access to infrastructure ranging from clean drinking water, electricity, and waste disposal, which have created severe environmental hazards to the residents and surrounding aquatic life,” said an environmentalist, Jimmy Peters.

 

 

He said that the communal latrines are shared amongst households and the wastewater flows straight into the water they live on, saying that the oily black water resulting from increased waste disposal over the years no longer supports marine life.

 

 

However, “efforts by the government to displace the people in the past years have been futile as it creates a bigger problem of relocating the homeless people. Residents believe that Makoko is their only culture and should be preserved by the government,” he added.

 

 

Recall that in July 2012, Lagos State government under then governor Babatunde Fashola, ordered that the stilts on the Iwaya/Makoko waterfront be demolished and dozens of stilts were demolished within 72 hours of notice to the residents.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that nearly 3,000 people lost their homes to the demolition exercise. Two months after the partial demolition, a SERAC housing affiliate known as the Urban Spaces Innovation developed a regeneration plan for Makoko that would bring the community together with academics, non-profits, and international consultants.

 

 

The plan was submitted to the Lagos State Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning in January 2014. Its population is considered to be 85,840; however, the area was not officially counted as part of the 2006 Census and the population has been estimated to be much higher.

 

 

Also, during Sunday Telegraph’s visit to the community where almost all the women are either fisherwomen or fish mongers, petty traders, foods vendors  as well as fashion designers, it was discovered that these residents like their environment and consider their  it as their friends, hence they said ‘this our home.’

 

 

While residents in other parts of the state spend money molding blocks to build their houses, these people do not have such time building houses rather they use thick and strong timber to build their houses on the water.

 

 

Ironically, their attitude of defecating in the water where they fish and get their sea foods, they eat their own fecal waste. For the jobless ones, who shun fishing and other economic activities, they sat in certain corners of the community smoking Indian hemp and indulge in alcoholism.

 

 

One of the canoes paddlers who spoke to Sunday Telegraph on the condition of the area, Edafe Iriruga, said he didn’t have the opportunity to go to school due to his fishing   profession which he started with his father as a child.

 

The 13 years old, said his environment made him a fisherman as that is the only job he saw his parents and other children in the community do.

 

 

“I enjoy fishing because I normally cash fish in the water and sell them to the women who sell fresh fish in the market. Some of them roast the fish and sell later,” he said.

 

“I also learnt how to swim in this environment. I can swim any water. I was born here and I grow like. In this area, everybody knows how to swim and we play in the water. If you don’t know how to swim you cannot fish in big water,” he added.

 

For another fisherwoman seen off-loading her catch in a wooden basket, Aisha Musa, every family has a canoe with which they conduct themselves or transport themselves round the community as they do not live on the land.

 

 

“Here, every child knows how to paddle a canoe, if not he will stay at home all the year round and will not go to school. Our children paddle canoe to the school the way children ride bicycles to the school,” she said.

 

 

She noted that fishing is their major economic activity apart from petty trading and craftsmanship. “Our people where among the people that build that floating school on the other side,” she added.

 

Prior to the commencement of the floating school project, the children of Makoko had access to primary schools which were inadequate, built on reclaimed land, which were frequently threatened by recurrent flooding.

 

According to Executive Director, Heinrich, Christine K., Makoko floating school comprises alternative sustainable buildings and structures designed to adapt to the resident communities’ aquatic lifestyle.

 

She noted that the floating school utilizes local materials such as bamboo, timber and resources to produce architecture that applies to the physical, social needs of people and reflects the culture of the community.

 

 

“Wood is used as the major material for the structure, support and finishing of school building. The form of the school building is a triangular A-Frame section with about 1,000-square-foot play area.

 

 

“The classrooms are located on the second tier and are partially enclosed with adjustable louvered slats. The classrooms are also surrounded by spatial public greenery. There is a playground below the classroom while the roof contains an additional open air classroom,” she said.

 

 

She noted that the classroom spaces can be used for communal functions, especially during out-of-school hours, saying sustainable features include application of solar cells to the roof, rainwater catchment systems and composting toilets.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that the structure is also designed to use about 250 plastic barrels to float on the waters and be naturally ventilated and aerated. There are considerations to use the building prototype to provide additional infrastructure for the community including an entertainment center, a community hub and health clinics.

 

 

The floating school design won the 2013 AR+D award for emerging architecture and was shortlisted for the London Design Museum’s 2014 Design of the Year award. It also received a nomination for the 2015 International Award for Public Art.

 

 

On June 7, 2016, it was learnt that the Makoko Floating school structure was adversely affected by heavy rain, and collapsed. No casualty was recorded as the students and teachers had relocated three months earlier due to safety concerns.

 

 

However, in 2016, a second iteration of the Makoko Floating School, called the Makoko Floating School II (MFS II), was unveiled at the Venice Architectural Biennale.

 

 

This updated version was designed to be a prefabricated, rapid-assembly version of the original. It was awarded the Silver Lion prize, recognised as a powerful demonstration, be it in Lagos in Venice, that architecture, at once iconic and pragmatic, can amplify the importance of education.

 

 

A third iteration of the Makoko Floating School (MFS III), was displayed in 2018. Located in Bruges, Belgium, MFS III aims to redesign the floating school to be more structurally sound, claiming a 25 year life span.

 

 

“One of the major benefits of this water is that it developed the sense of craftsmanship in our people. Because of the water, our people are good in lumbering. We float logs on the water until it get to our milling area where we can bring it out and mail them,” said Layinka Ogunbumi, one of the millers on the dry part of the community.

 

 

He continued: “We have all types of roofing timber and their sizes. If you want to buy timber and come to this place you will find them cheaper because the cost of transportation is not much here. This a good place to be but you can’t compare it with other places that have drinking waters.

 

 

“We buy our drinking water from tankers and private tanks. We can’t boast of any good health centre apart from few private ones.”

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Buhari won’t ask Senate to do illegality, says Kalu

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Buhari won’t ask Senate to do illegality, says Kalu

The Senate Chief Whip and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, in this interview with journalists speaks on some critical national issues, including the proposed RUGA Settlement, his perception of President Muhammadu Buhari and senators’ alleged jumbo salary. CHUKWU DAVID was there and presents the report

 

 

Are you not worried that senators’ offices are not ready, almost one month after inauguration?

 

The issue of offices affects all of us. As an individual, I still operate from the office of the Senate President whenever we are out of the plenary and come back to my personal office latest by 8pm or any time the Senate President leaves. I think it is something the Clerk of the National Assembly has explained to us that they are looking into and that once we go on recess, they would be able to fix it.

 

 

As a very strong voice from the South-East, is the present government really marginalising the South-East and if it is so, what should be done about it?

 

 

Let me be honest with you. Since after the Nigerian Civil War, things have not been the same; there have always been marginalisation but I think with what we are doing today, the story is changing.

 

You remember my quarrel with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when I was governor, over the same Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu Expressway. That expressway was abandoned, that I had to remove the tollgate. It was based on that my move that all the tollgates in Nigeria were removed. The tollgates were there but there were potholes at the tollgates.

 

 

I came one morning and removed the tollgate at Lokpanta and the other one at Isialangwa junction, and President Obasanjo called me to asked why I did that, and I told him because there was no road for people to pay toll and I meant every word. I am sure that there are few governors that could have done that then. I removed the tollgate and said no Abians or non-Abians plying that road should pay a dime again. So, after six months, the President ordered for all the tollgates in Nigeria to be removed. It is good to collect tolls but you can only toll a road that is motorable.

 

 

So, for marginalisation, yes I cannot lie or look at anybody’s face but again, our people are not better politicians because you have to flow like any other region. But by building the Niger Bridge and doing the Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu Expressway and Enugu-Awka-Onitsha Expressway, which even President Buhari we did not vote for is doing. Those we voted for were not productive, they are repairing 9th Mile to Makurdi.

 

 

Those our people voted for genuinely for 10 years didn’t touch those things. So I believe that President Buhari has tried. I am not talking in terms of appointment because the constitution says that every state should have at least one minister. That is statutory. It is good to also spread the service chiefs, and I will like people in the Senate to bring a bill, so that we can make a law that every region must have a service chief.

 

 

But when you look at it, service chiefs are like personal staff of the President; their appointments are not really constitutionally backed because you only work with military men you trust. That is the truth whether you want to hear that or not.

 

 

I can take you down memory lane on all those that have been Heads of State; they just did the same thing the President is doing; so there is nothing new.

 

 

Who was President Obasanjo’s Director-General of SSS? He was Col. Kayode Are; he was not from my village. Who was President Goodluck Jonathan’s DG of SSS?  He was It Ekpenyong; he was not from my village. So, everybody goes back to his region. It might not be the best but that is the trend because everybody wants to be in control of his security.

 

 

So this is why when I see people shout they are marginalised, sometimes these things are not real. We should rather look for productive things that would be done by the government. I don’t care about who is appointed. What I care about is what services are they giving for people to move about their businesses; for people to be secured, for people to be saved; for armed robbers to stop harassing people, kidnappers to be tamed?

 

 

I was one day, maybe one and half years ago, joking with the President. You know he jokes a lot; you would wonder, is it this man who doesn’t laugh? We were joking and I said, Mr. President, we are marginalised. He said how? He said the previous government had all your brothers who could have done what they supposed to do but they didn’t do what they supposed to do.

 

He listed them: you had the Secretary to the Federal Government; you had the Minister of Finance, Minister of Aviation, you had this, you had that; you had Deputy Senate President, you had everything, people who would have put projects in the budget and executed them. I was just looking. So, you can see, whether you like it or not, the President was partially right. You know me, I don’t fear anybody; if the President is wrong, I will tell him he is wrong. If he is right I will clap for him.

 

 

For me, the eastern part of Nigeria has been neglected for a long time and now we have started to address the issue. The Second Niger Bridge is coming on board. I can tell you from the 70s, since 1975, every administration has promised the easterners the Second Niger Bridge and the benefit is not only for easterners; it is for the Nigerian people.

 

 

And every other person that got into power spoke big grammar, and they did not do anything but President Buhari is implementing it right away. So, somebody will say he did not give us minister. We don’t need minister if he can do the Niger Bridge; if he can do all the roads and there is security so that you people would not be kidnapped.

 

 

Yes, how do you see this issue of kidnapping?

 

 

Remember this kidnapping started in Rivers and Delta states when they kidnapped about 25 white men and President Obasanjo called Governors Ibori and Odili. He woke us up at about 2am to ensure we secured their release. So, all of us went into action, we contacted some of the boys we knew and they produced them. I made a statement then that these kidnappers would finish white men and they will turn over to kidnapping Nigerians. If they told anybody then that there would be kidnapping in the North today, would they believe? That is how we are going.

 

 

I have said it times without number that the Federal Government should invest money in education in the Northern Nigeria. I took my friend to the North during the last Sallah: Abuja to Kaduna to Kano, Kano to Katsina and to Jigawa. So, when we came back he told me that what I used to talk about the North he used to think it was just a phrase. I said it is a reality. He saw so many educated people;  he also saw so many uneducated.  Everywhere we went, he saw people who could defend their ground; he also saw people who could not defend their ground and he saw the population. Whenever I am in argument with them, they used to say we the Ibos need help more than the North but I say no, they need help more than us.

 

 

To be honest with you, if I have opportunity, I will address issues of education in the North, I will address the issue of almajiri in the North and nomadic education and save the nomads and provide quality education to help stop the killings of people but attend to their cows. Because these are things we are not doing.

 

 

What is your view on the RUGA thing?

 

 

When people talk about RUGA, I wonder.  In 2001, I did a RUGA in Abia. In Lokpanta, I built it and the cows were being sold in Umuahia and Aba. In 2001, I invited the Hausa Community and they said we needed to decongest Umuahia and Aba. The location where we have Shoprite in Umuahia today used to be Hausa settlement; the same thing in Aba. We had an honest meeting with them and agreed that I provided them land and water electricity, everything but this would be your location. I travelled in five coaster buses to show them the land. I had meetings with the communities and they settled for Lokpanta and that is the biggest cattle market both in South-East and South- South of Nigeria today. So it is about the attitude of people to issues.

 

 

Yes, Federal Government should always do a further consultation whenever they want to embark on such issues. It is not just to go and put a deliberate policy and say ‘I want to do RUGA.’ People in the village don’t understand what RUGA means; they will panic and say they want to kill all of them. Some of us are the largest sellers of cattle. I started selling cows as far back as when I was in the university. I am still selling cows till tomorrow because it is profitable. So most of the cows you see are also not owned by Hausa people. We trade in cattle.

 

 

So people should have information because information is power and power is information. They have kept criticising tribe, criticising government. There is too much hatred by politicians among themselves. Everything is politics in Nigeria. When people in Nigeria cannot eat, politicians are busy politicising everything. Nobody is talking about the interest of the country. Anybody you meet talks about the interest of his village. It is high time our politicians started being Nigerian politicians, not their village politicians. They should see themselves as people who represent Nigerians.

 

 

In the last 21 years, you have been one of the key players at the national level on the workings of the Nigerian project, but with the problem of the systemic dysfunction in the system, do you think the Nigerian project can give the desired result in terms of genuine development as it is in other federations?

 

 

What I want to assure you people of is that our colleagues in the Senate and myself led by Senator Ahmad Lawan will ensure we make a very good Senate. The reason is that the Senate President is a reformer right from when we were in the university. He was my roommate in the university; we were not in the same class but we were roommates. He has never changed like I have never changed. He is supposed to be a comrade; he is straightforward. He also thinks about the people. I believe we are going to bring about a lot of changes than what it used to be in the past, but bringing about the changes, if those who are going to bring about the change should have the capability of executing the change.

 

 

We are not afraid of taking decisions. Many of you have been writing that this Senate is a rubber stamp; even President Buhari himself knows we are not going to be rubber stamp. We are afraid of President Buhari but we think more of the Nigerian people and for the President of the Senate; Nigerian people come first before friendship with Buhari.

 

 

For me, friendship will be for the needs of the Nigerian people but we are not going to openly wear our hand-gloves and start exchanging blows with the President because we just want to be independent. No. We need to sit down, agree and to disagree and tell him, ‘Mr. President, you cannot do this one because the law says so.’

 

 

The Buhari I know will never ask anybody to go against the law. When they were working out those that would head the National Assembly, the moment they told him that I was not qualified, that it is against the rule that I should run for the Senate President or deputy, he said they should remove me. That is who the man is. He would not look at your face and he owes you no apology. He would say ‘but you wanted to go against the law.’

 

 

What is your impression of President Buhari?

 

 

Buhari is a leader people greatly misunderstood. I have known him now for 32 years; he and former President Ibrahim Babangida. He has not changed. Think of it, a man that ruled Nigeria as a military Head of State has no house in Abuja or Lagos, neither does he have house in Port Harcourt or Ibadan! If you go to his house in Daura, it is the same house, the same small house he built long ago. The television I saw there when I went there last year for Sallah, that television must have been bought in 1973.

 

 

This is a reality of a man that has made up his mind that way. Like you can see here, there are modern things. Tomorrow, if this television is not good I will replace it with another one. I am not thinking that way, that is the fact. So this man, the only story you can tell him is to say there are poor people in Aba and you help them a lot to eat and tarred the roads for them to move about, that is how Buhari will like you, not that I have bought a private jet. You cannot go and tell Buhari that story whether he is President or not, he would not hear you because it makes no sense to him. I want to tell the Nigerian people to be patient with him and the National Assembly.

 

 

What do you make of the jumbo pay of the federal lawmakers?

 

 

I will also address the issue about jumbo pay. I have received my salary for June and it is far below what you people are writing. If a minister is travelling to Lagos would he use his leg? What you call fat salary are monies used to run the constituency because they don’t give us additional funds when we travel to Abia, Lagos, Badagry or Kaduna; this is the money they use. Next meeting, I will unveil to you. So you can see that you are maligning and criticising the National Assembly for nothing. Most of my colleagues said they did not know it was going to be like this and I said we came to be senators. That money they have given them is not going to be enough.

 

 

have seen them crying already.  They came to me to complain because I have seen the good and the ugly. I think that the media is not fair to the National Assembly. I call on you people to change your minds because there is no jumbo pay; honestly I have not seen one. If I see jumbo pay that does not represent my conscience, I will speak.

 

 

When I was governor, the state bought my food, bought my clothing, ticket, the state paid for everything, but as a senator nobody does that. The money you have is for your constituency, for your staff and travelling allowances. That is what it is meant for. Tell me the ministers we are going to clear, there is no one senator that will have more than one car, have you heard of that? No, because they have only one car. So, Nigerian people should be patient with this Senate. Before now, honestly I used to think that senators don’t have any job to do but I have realised they have a lot of work to do. I have been there for one month now; I go to the office to have leaders meeting, had one courtesy call or the other and leave by 7pm every day. Before you know it, the Senate President is calling for another meeting somewhere. I was complaining to my family that I never knew I could be so engaged.

 

 

Few years back, you and two other senators, Eyinnaya Abaribe and Theodore Orji from Abia State, were all in the same camp. Later you parted ways and now you are in the National Assembly. How do you feel and what is the relationship like?

 

 

It has been a very faithful movement. You can see that even now within the last few days, former governor, Theodore Orji, is putting his best better than his first four years. So, it is a good development. And you can see that Senator Abaribe is making every effort to do the work given to him very well.

 

 

We are friends now for the interest of Abia State. That must hold us together: the interest of the Senate must also hold us together. There would never be any division in decision-making. What concerns our people and what concerns the Nigerian people, we must be together. Interest is the same and you should realise that I was their boss, both of them.

 

 

I was governor, one was deputy and the other was my Chief of Staff. They have never given me any cause to doubt their loyalty. They have always respected me and I have always respected them. That is how we find ourselves in the Senate. There is no division; we are one strong family and will continue to be one strong family in the Senate.

 

 

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Ojiowenya’s ability in disability

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Ojiowenya’s ability in disability

oordinator, Children of the Farmers Club (CFC), a Non Governmental Organization, Comrade Christopher Okwuosa, has been a regular face at the Ministry of Youth Entrepreneurship and sports Development in the past one year.

 

 

Okwuosa has been pursuing the government partnership for his pet project that won the Millennium Common Wealth African Regional Service Award on behalf of Anambra State in Lusaka Zambia which is known as Agro-Technical craft village project.

 

 

True to the unpopular nature of the Nigeria civil service, where records of memo’s files are not kept religiously, Okwuosa’s files were said to be missing and cannot be found.

 

But on that fateful day he worked into the office of the director of the ministry and met a fifty five years old blind man on seat and to his chagrin, the blind man began a fresh search of the files with his foot and about six minutes later he shouted.

 

“It appears it is this file, yes it is the file, call my secretary to pick it up for me,” he requested.

 

When his secretary came in, she walked straight to the hip of files on the floor and picked exactly the one her blind director found and behold it was indeed the file.

 

Moved by this startling experience and the assistance accorded the NGO and the success recorded so far, the body nominated the blind director Mr. Chike Ojinweya Vincent for the Regional Youth Service Award at the forthcoming Mother’s Summit in Anambra State.

 

When this reporter visited Ojionweya at his office the encounter was not only revealing but instructive on the plight of the blind in the society.

 

Ojionweya is a graduate of sociology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. He obtained the degree while in the civil service after he had graduated from Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Onitsha in 1985.

 

He began his career as a clerical assistant at the Ministry of Education and later transferred to the Ministry of Youth and Sports where he rose to the position of a director.

 

“I have put in thirty four years in the civil service and I will be retiring next year at the age of fifty five due to years of service and not age.

 

He recalled the challenges that he faced at the DMGS where it was said that no blind student in the school has ever cleared his papers in one attempt which he indeed saw as a task that must be accomplished.

 

“Yes I had to bend down and work towards it and in just one attempt I made four Alphas and two credits. The record is there at the Dennis Memorial Grammar School for all to see.”

 

However, Ojionweya lamented that as a blind person he has continued to face challenges in the line of duty.

 

“The Administrative Officer has been directed to write to the state government for it to provide money to assist the handicap in the state to function optimally and we are expecting responds.

 

“We need air conditioners, special seats and other office equipment for the blind and other physically challenged persons.

 

“But I must confess that the current Anambra State government has been helping the handi capped and Gov. Obiano made a special order for the qualified physically challenged persons to be given automatic employment and so far over sixty of them have been employed by the Anambra State government.”

 

Ojionweya further narrated a touching story of how the wife of the Governor Mrs. Ebele Obiano has been of great help to the blind in Anambra State, despite what he called all manner of allegations against her.

 

 

“When Her Excellency Ebele Obiano visited the School for the Blind at Isulo-Orumba South Local Government Area, she increased the schools subvention from N50,000 monthly to N500,000 and l am sure it must have been increased again up to N700,000”.

 

Continuing he said:  “Ebele Obiano has a large heart for the handicapped in our society. She bought white canes for the mobility of the blind people and also equipped them with Braille equipment, provided wheel chairs for the cripples. The woman is sent by God to help the needy and helpless in the society.

 

“There are automatic scholarships by Obiano Administration for the blind persons and a nongovernmental organization have been providing lap tops and paying school fees for the blind. These have been through the instrumentality of the Anambra State government”.

 

By and large, Ojionweya is an accomplished family man and has stories to tell about his life so far.

 

“I live in Awka.  I am married with two boys and two girls. My first son graduated in physics and is a member of the National Youth Corps Service (NYSC), servicing in Rivers State. My daughter is currently studying Anatomy at the University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi and it is from my salary that I take care of them.

 

“My wife is a civil servant and she is still in the service. She has been there for me and has been the greatest support to me and the entire family”.

 

As he faces the departure lane of the Civil Service Ojionweya, the native of  Umuoji,  Idemili North Local Government Area, said  after retirement  he would go into full pastoral work.

 

“I am already a person with divine ordination and at my retirement next year I will go into full pastoral work and establish my own ministry. I am currently a member of the Deeper Life and I have been assisting in preaching the word of God till date”.

 

But he expressed sadness over the way the society at large have been assisting the blind. “The state government cannot do everything for the handicapped”.

 

“It is my view that corporate bodies and public spirited individuals would come in to help us no matter how little. Not all of us are as lucky or privileged as I am, just lend a helping hand to the blind”.

 

 

“We still have most to them in the remote communities who have resigned to their fate and to them all hope is lost but there people who are wealthy or connected that can help them,” he noted.

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How Airforce resuscitated C130 aircraft, saves Nigeria huge foreign exchange

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How Airforce resuscitated C130 aircraft, saves Nigeria huge foreign exchange

The resuscitation of dead C130 by Nigerian Airforce didn’t come cheap as the Airforce had tried it in 1980 but failed. FLORA ONWUDIWE reports that such achievement has saved the country huge foreign exchange

 

Nigerian Airforce’s resuscitation of the dead C130 Hercules did not come easy. This is against the background that several attempts in the past (1980), was a failure. With the recent attempt, the men of the Airforce have saved the country huge foreign exchange which would have depleted its external reserves.

 

According to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall, Sadique Abubakar, the C-130H fleet in particular has been one of the key fulcrums in providing sustainment to the troops’ involvement in ongoing internal security operations through airlift and movement of troops, equipment, and armament among other materials. Air Marshal, Abubakar, who inspected the C-130 aircraft and commissioned the renovated one said the “Big Bird” has also been critical to NAF’s response to emergencies or in fulfilling Nigeria’s responsibilities to international peace keeping operations and ensuring stability, not just in the West African sub-region but also across the continent.

 

He noted that some of the operations in which C-130H has played critical roles include ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1990 to 1991, extensive airlift of troops to Congo, Mali and Sudan as well as a host of other peace keeping operations in support of African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peace initiatives. He said: “Recently, the C-130H played a key role in the success of the ECOWAS Military Intervention Group (ECOMIG) operation of January 2017 in the Gambia, through the airlift of troops and materiels to and from the theatre of operation.” He considered the event remarkable when he said that the decision to carry out the PDM of NAF 917 in-country to ensure the transfer of technical know-how and experience from the army’s technical partners to its engineers and technicians was the right one.

 

“This is in line with our plan to build in house capacity to ensure that we domicile the skills and expertise required to carry out maintenance activities in order to better support and sustain NAF air operations, especially in the face of competing needs for national resources,” he said. He continued: “This is also the main thrust of all our other aircraft maintenance, reactivation and Life Extension Programmes as well as PDM efforts being carried out in partnership with other technical partners on the Alpha Jet, L-39ZA, Mi-35P, EC-135 and C-130H (NAF 913) currently docked for Periodic Maintenance (PDM) in this hangar.

 

“These efforts are also in tandem with our Research and Development (R&D) drive which has started yielding results in many areas such as local fabrication of tools and spares, some of which were utilised in the conduct of the recently conducted PDM.

 

“These efforts are also in line with my vision, ‘to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national defence imperatives’. “Strategically, our aim is to build up capacity such that in the near future, the NAF is able to carry out all levels of checks and maintenance activities up to PDM on all NAF platforms.

 

“We must also keep in mind that our inability to successfully carry out major maintenance activities on our aircraft will ultimately impinge on the ability of our pilots to safely and effectively complete their missions which ultimately affects our ability to project air power in support of national security imperatives.

 

“Therefore, given the pivotal roles the C-130H plays in ensuring that NAF fulfills its roles and objectives, it is most appropriate to celebrate the return of NAF 917 to service as it would enhance the operational effectiveness of the NAF.”

 

However, the Nigerian Air force (NAF) with its foreign technical partners, Messers Sabena Tehnics may have saved the Nigerian government billions of dollars in resuscitating Army aircrafts for internal security operations, especially in the crisis areas of North East. The C-130H aircraft (NAF 917) conducted locally had completed another cycle of Periodic Maintenance Depot (PDM), ready to fly to any part of the country.

 

The Chief of Air Staff, (CAS), Air Marshal, Abubakar, who inspected the C-130 aircraft and commissioned the renovated project, was in company of the Air Officer Commanding, (AOC), Logistics Command (LC), Air vice Marshal Abdulganiyu Olabisi. Others in his entourage were the representatives of the Service Chiefs, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Oladele Daji and General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division ,Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Musa Yusuf, along with NAF’s Senior Personnel of both men and women, and Sister agencies.

 

The Air Chief revealed how important C-130 meant to them, especially in the troubled cities in the North East, carrying bombs, rockets and even distribution of food and other materials in the North East when there were shortages as a result of conflict. He explained: “During the crisis in The Gambia, it was the same C-130 that carried our troops, both the Air force and the army there and supported the Gambians.”

 

On his achievement and other attempts made over decades to get some of the moribund aircrafts flying failed. He said: “This is the first time in the history of NAF that we are conducting successful periodic depot maintenance within Nigeria and I think that is sending a very good message. “It is very important because it is all about capacity building, we have technical partners, but we also have technicians that are Nigerians, who participated actively in ensuring that the PDM is conducted locally. “It has saved us foreign exchange; if we are to carry this aircraft outside Nigeria, we have to pay for cargo.

 

And for it to be moved, it has to be dismantled and you have limited number of personnel that can participate. “And because it is done in Nigeria, everybody in that unit had the opportunity to be part of the process.

 

This is why we are so excited with what we have been able to achieve. “I am very excited, we attempted this in 1980, but it failed. But along the line those two aircrafts are still there now, we have done this year. Within a year and few months, we are able to get these aircrafts out.”

 

“They were 13 aircrafts initially, now we brought in three aircrafts in Kano, that is 16 and this one we have just conducted a PDM on it, we are reactivating one in Port Harcourt. So, altogether, we have 20 aircrafts.

 

“We are really proud that this milestone of complete PDM in-country has been achieved not just because we have made some huge foreign exchange savings, but due to the fact that this marks the beginning of a new dawn in our strategic plan to develop a robust capacity for in-country maintenance and sustenance of Nigerian Air Force platforms and equipment.”

 

According to the Air Chief of Staff, “the successful execution of the PDM also reinforces our belief that with the right attitude, dedication and encouragement, it made huge progress and achieve success in its human capacity development drive.”

 

The Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Headquarters Logistics Command, Ikeja, Air Vice-Marshal Abduganiyu Olabisi said, “To achieve this objective, the administration accorded top priority to human capacity development for self-reliance and exploration of strategic partnership with reputable aircraft maintenance organisations and research Institute. “Today’s acceptance of NAF 917 marks a successful completion of the Periodic Depot Maintenance, which is a calendar inspection conducted at six years intervals or after every 5000 flying hours, whichever one comes first.

 

“The inspection involves extensive disassembly of the aircraft parts, inspection, repairs and over haul of components amongst others. The programme for NAF 917 was deliberately structured to expose NAF technicians and engineers to every stage of the maintenance work.

 

“The Depot witnessed reactivation of serviceable hanger infrastructure and training of our personnel in the use of some special equipment which have been lying idle in our warehouse since the C-130 fleet were delivered in the 1970s.”

 

The Command’s Public Relations Officer, Wing Commander, Kabiru Ali said that, “The aircraft was inducted into the inventory of NAF in February 1985 and since then the Airforce has been effectively maintaining and utilising the aircraft.

 

He said that, “The in-country PDM of the aircraft commenced in November, 2017 and was completed in June, 2019.”

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Okorocha’s failing legacies

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Okorocha’s failing legacies

It has often been said that every work done by man, shall be tested. It shall be tested in quality, it shall be tested in quantity. The raw materials, the workmanship and the expertise deployed shall all be put to the test.

 

The quality of work done by any man, may, to a large extent, be a reflection of the state of his mind.

 

There is no leader in 21st century Nigeria who would assume office as the governor of a state and still presume that his people will not, in the short or long run, appraise the work he did for them, for whatever it is worth. It is wise counsel, that most times, what it takes to mellow down the impact of public scrutiny, is an honest self evaluation and several moments of speaking truth to self long before the tenure is served out. From all indications, and with the unfolding realities in Imo state, the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Rochas Okorocha, it appears, rarely stopped to take stock.

 

Apparently full of his own ideas, he was perhaps, in a hurry to deliver on his ideas without giving a thought to the quality of goods being delivered to the people of Imo state, whose mandate he enjoyed for eight years. Okorocha served two tenures as governor of Imo state. Even before his first tenure elapsed, he had already projected his presidential ambition for 2023. It goes without saying that most of the governing had a huge of politics of raising a successor and growing his war chest and political structure for 2023.

 

 

Hence, what would have been his flagship projects became ‘political’ projects – impulsive, poorly thought out, designed to suit the need of the moment without considering the test of time – a flash in the pan, they became.

 

Okorocha enjoyed the accolades accompanying his claims of building more than 1000 projects across the state without stopping to check how many of the touted projects outlived his tenure as governor. In spite of the projected figures, projects executed by former governor Rochas Okorocha in Imo state that are still standing strong and unblemished can be counted out in one hand.

 

Many of the roads built by the late former Governor Sam Mbakwe of Imo state about three decades ago are still in use; roads built by ex-governors Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim are still in uses but one may need to convene a search party to be able to find one unbroken road built by the Rochas Okorocha administration. It would appear that while his predecessors built for posterity, Okorocha may have been building for the galleries.

 

All the fly-overs and bridges that have Okorocha’s imprint on them have repeatedly failed infrastructural integrity tests, largely rendering them unsafe for public use. The Orji fly-over, the Amakohia-Egbeada fly-over, Njaba bridge, Urashi-Umuchima bridge and the 5th inland bridge are all at different degrees of dilapidation less than 20 months they were completed and opened for public use. The two tunnels built by Okorocha in Imo state from the first day they were opened for public use were failed projects. Not even the additional ameliorative works done on the tunnels could salvage the dreadfully poor workmanship deployed in the construction of the tunnels.

 

The Concorde Hotel-PortHarcourt road tunnel and the House of Assembly-PortHarcourt road tunnel are death traps as they easily flood-over at the slightest 15 minutes rainfall. In the usual impressionistic development plan of Okorocha, the former governor had invested enormous time, energy and resources in working on the capital city of Owerri and the municipality, throughout his eight years in office.

 

It is a tragedy that for a governor that spent the greater part of his tenure building, demolishing and reconstructing the state capital under his administration’s pivot policy, the Urban Renewal Program, to leave behind such failed legacies that have reduced Wetheral road (leading to Government House) and the Government House roundabout to a horrible flood plain; that would be flooded and rendered impassable with the slightest rainfall.

 

The Works Layout, Owerri was recon structed more than by Governor Rochas Okorocha , yet it remains a dilapidated stretch of intracity macadam. The Control Post roundabout and the Imo State University roundabouts were reconstructed at least three times, yet they are far from repaired.

 

The World Bank and Umuguma areas are no go areas as far as road construction is concerned. A drive through ther World Bank would leave one wondering if Imo really had a governor in the last eight years.

 

The Government House road that runs through the State Police Command connecting the Bala Suya road is still in an ugly state despite reconstruction work by the Government. The Government House road leading through the Mosque to Amakohia is no longer in use due to unmotorable dilapidation of the road. While some of the roads built by previous administrations in the state are still motorably good, the inland roads which are some of the landmark projects of the Okorocha administration are rampantly developing buckets and potholes to the chagrin of road users.

 

The most painful of what is now known in Imo today as Okorocha’s China roads is the road leading to Okorocha’s hometown of Ideato; the Orlu-Mgbee-Ideato road which was reconstructed by Okorocha slightly more than a year ago, has totally collapsed. A lane of the road has since caved in leaving behind a massive crater. The road collapsed at the bridge section of the road. It was realized on inspection that no rod was used to reinforce the bridge making its collapse inevitable. Former Governor Achike Udenwa built and commissioned the Stateb Secretariat for Imo workers.

 

The roofs of the secretariat blocks were still intact when Okorocha deroofed the entire secretariat and re-roofed it with a thin and substandard roofing sheet. Today, offices at the secretariat are leaking from hundreds of places with workers collecting raindrops with buckets and basins to avert soiling their offices. Following his working visit to the State secretariat, Governor Emeka Ihedioha said: “When I visited the State Secretariat, I saw different types of I-better-pass-my-neighbour generators chained togerther. There had been no power supply to the secretariat for eight years.

 

Everywhere was leaking. But my predecessor was always on AIT and Channels Tv saying he was performing. It is the height of wickedness.” While Okorocha was in office as Governor of Imo state, COREN warned that the flyovers being constructed by his administration failed critical infrastructural integrity tests and as such were unsafe for public use. The Okorocha administration swiftly countered the council describing the views of the council as politically motivated.

 

Less than one year after the Orji fly-over was opened for public use, the Infrastructure Integrity, Investigation and Analysis Committee of the Nigeria Society of Engineers has advised Government to shut down the fly-over as it posed a major risk to the public due to its many structural defects while the committee probes the integrity and safety of the fly-over.

 

Most recently also, the members of the Imo State House of Assembly unanimously raised the alarm that the House of Assembly Complex has become a death trap due to the level of decay and dilapidation of the complex which was renovated by the Okorocha administration in 2018 with the sum of N500m. The Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Okey Onyekanma urged the House to go a step further and probe former governor Rochas Okorocha for allegedly spending more than N500m to renovate the State House of Assembly complex with nothing to show that such huge sum was spent on the complex.

 

The call followed a motion moved by the majority leader, Chigozie Nwaneri, demanding the urgent renovation of the Assembly complex . Contributing to the motion, the Deputy Speaker, who represents Mbaitoli state constituency had noted that it was worrisome that the complex was currently in a sorry state despite reports that the Okorocha-led administration spent N500m to renovate it in 2018. “While I wholeheartedly support this motion, it is very important that we demand for an account of the huge amount which was spent in 2018 to renovate this Complex, yet this structure is still a disaster waiting to happen. “The civil servants need to assist in this matter.

 

Those who spent the over N500m in renovating this complex which has become a death trap in less than a year, need to account to Imo people,” he said. The Majority Leader had in his motion warned that “the lives of the staff and honorable members of the Imo State House of Assembly would be in grave danger if the complex was not urgently renovated. What would have been left behind as former Governor Rochas Okorocha’s legacies seems to have all crumbled.

 

Projects that could not last beyond the tenure of its builder would not find a place in the records of developmental efforts of the state in the last two decades. With all the fanfare attached to his claims of building more than 1000 projects in record time, the failing legacies of former Governor Rochas Okorocha apparently speaks of the fact that the former governor lacks the taste for qualitative service delivery.

 

 

It seems such a sad tale that after eight years in office as governor, one reaches back to his legacies and all he could get for his boasts, are bubbles. It is the hope of Imo people that Governor Emeka Ihedioha would fix the errors of his immediate predecessor and for once in a long decade, build for posterity.

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Why cattle rearing wasn’t fashionable among Southerners

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Why cattle rearing wasn’t  fashionable among Southerners

Cattle rearing was not fashionable in the southern part of Nigeria, post independence era; but that is no more. This Sunday Telegraph learnt, is caused by the changing ecological system of the south and reduction in the menace of the animal disease known as trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness, also called Nagana, a livestock disease caused by the bite of a tsetse fly.

 

The development it was disclosed is the reason for the rising surge of the Fulani pastoralists who are running away from desertification in the north for a settled life in the south.

 

It was stated that one of the changing conditions that made the southern/humid region of the country habitable for cattle rearing was the drastic reduction in the incidence of tsetse fly (Glossina spp) infestation- a vector of trypanosomoses in the region.

 

The reduction in the incidence of tsetse flies, it was further disclosed, was brought about by considerable transformation of the southern region’s forest-base to derived savanna arising from continuous and expanded land clearing for agri culture and human habitation; and the emerging incidence and severity of bush burning.

 

These actions respectively lowered the region’s humidity and heightened its heat intensity, thereby making the environment less conducive for the tsetse flies’ survival or lifecycle completion.

A 2014 report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), indicate that with the changing ecological condition of the southern Nigeria and its conduciveness to cattle survival, the animal have become common in the region, though with the Fulani and Hausa tribes that have chosen to settle in the southern region with their herds of cattle.

 

In added that cattle resistant to tsetse flies, could as well have been enhanced by the government importation of breeding stock of disease-resistant strain from Gambia in the 1980s; and the tsetse fly eradication and control programme that was put in place during the 1970s and 1980s.

 

Based on this cattle, sheep and goats, as commonly found in the northern region of Nigeria, are as well found in the southern part of the country, though in less proportion to that of the northern region, the report concluded.

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FG must implement RUGA policy –Tanko Yakassai

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FG must implement RUGA policy –Tanko Yakassai

Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has been an active player in the politics of Nigeria right from the colonial era. In this interview with ONWUKA NZESHI, the elder statesman weighs in on the raging controversy of the Ruga Settlement policy and why it is the right way to go

 

The controversy surrounding the RUGA policy has refused to go away even after the Federal Government has dropped the idea. What do you think is going on?

 

The Federal Government has not dropped the idea, it only suspended it.  I think it is taking stock to allow for more consultations.

 

You think that the Federal Government will still come up with the policy?

 

Certainly, it would and I support it.

 

Why do you support it?

 

Yes, because I can’t see governnent building markets for traders and refuse to create Ruga Settlements for herders. Their roaming about has brought us to a lot of crisis, resulting in herder/farmer conflict and the sooner we settle these people in one place, the better for the country.

 

I think many Nigerians don’t know that Fulanis are Nigerians like the Hausas, Yorubas and Igbos. They came to Nigeria about the same time like   all of us.  The only difference is that some came earlier than others. I don’t know who came first between the Fulani and the rest of us.

 

 

If they are Nigerians and cattle rearing is their livelihood, and their occupation, if there is a problem with the way they carry out their occupation, we should find a way to solve it.

 

 

At first, government thought of ranching, people kicked against it; they went for cattle colonies, people kicked against it and they shelved it. Now they decided to consider the option of Ruga. I know it is a new thing to you people in the South but it’s not new to those of us in the North. We were born to meet it. In every community in the North, where there are human beings, there is a settlement for Fulanis which is called Ruga.

 

In those days, they go to the traditional ruler and apply for a piece of land and the piece of land will be allocated to tbem to accommodate them and their livestock. Ruga used to be located near the river bank, pond or some water bodies so that they can graze their livestock and find water to drink.

 

When the rainy season is over, the Fulani can decide to move to other areas where there is grass to graze their cattle.

 

For a very long time, what they do is to follow the rain and as the rain is withdrawing and grass is becoming more scarce, they will move to where grass and water are still available into they reach the sea side either in Lagos, Port Harcourt or Calabar or wherever.

 

But when the rains become too much for them, because they cannot stay with livestock under heavy downpour, they will begin to retreat back to the North.

 

How did this seasonal movement become controversial?

 

When the British came, they created officially grazing areas for Fulanis which we call Forest Reserves. Nobody was allowed to touch Forest Reserves except the Fulanis because they were grazing their cattle there. When there was no more grass in these Forest Reserves, they go to somewhere else.

 

They also created the routes for them from the beginning of the country to the sea. They followed those routes with their animals to avoid damaging farms and if they caused any destruction to the farmers’ crops they were made to pay damages. It is still happening.

 

Now, the conflict in Plateau State where the local people started fighting them, killing their livestock or driving them away was what started the clashes.  These crises continued to happen in Plateau, Benue, Taraba  and crossed over to  Yorubaland and other parts of Southern Nigeria.

 

So in the face of this crisis what should the government do? I am of the opinion that this Ruga will solve the problem once and for all. They will stay in one place, they will graze there, everything will be provided for them including water, clinics and schools, so that they don’t move to anywhere.

 

Do you think that this Ruga policy is ideal in this twenty first century?

 

It is because they will be stopped from moving around forever. That is the idea of setting up Ruga; the government wants to create special areas for them and make them settle there permanently for ever. Don’t let them move anywhere except they are taking their livestock to the market. If anybody wants to buy, go to the market and buy but they the herders should remain in one place forever. This is the idea. It is to stop the conflict between them and the farmers.

 

The map of Nigeria shows that much of the land mass is in the North. Why are the herders not interested in being resettled in these large expanse of open land in the North?

 

That’s why it is optional.  Nobody will be forced to settle the Fulanis on his land.  It is only the governor of a state who has land to spare that will allow it to be established.It is not compulsory. It’s voluntary. Anybody who says that the Fulanis are not indigenous to Nigeria, let him come and show me where the non-indigenous Fulani are in this country  It is not enough for somenody to go to the NTA and AIT to say the Fulanis are from Mali.  You have to go   and get the police and show them the Fulani that are from Mali, Chad, Niger or Senegal.

 

Unknown to many Nigerians, of all the tribes in Nigeria there is no tribe that has the kind of spread in West Africa, as Fulanis. They are indigenous communities in 15 West and Central African countries. They are there. They have been living in Nigeria just as they have been living in these other countries without any conflict.  The conflict we are witnessing today is a matter of recent history of three, five

How did this conflict begin?

 

 

It began during the military era. The military governors with their friends and families distributed the pieces of land that were meant to be Forest Reserves. They gave the lands to their friends and loved ones and this is why the Fulanis have to roam about with their cattle looking for where to graze. This is is the reason why there is conflict. The cattle doesn’t know the difference between a cash crop, good crop or ordinary grass. All they need is to graze.

 

What do you make of the allegation that the Fulani herdsmen have been engaged in a systemic land grabbing war  with the indigenous tribes of the Middle Belt, particularly in  Southern  Kaduna and that Ruga is part of  that agenda?

 

It’s a lie. It is a lie. The indigenous people in Southern Zaria constitute about ninety percent of the population. The Fulani people do not constitute up to five percent of the population because you have Hausas and you have other tribes. They cannot constitute even two percent of the total population of the area.

 

How can two percent drive away eighty- nine percent of the population? If it is true, then the people would have driven them away. What stopped the people from driving them away? It’s a lie. I wish I could see those making these allegations so that they can show me where the Fulanis are driving away the indigenous tribes when the police, military and the traditional rulers are all over the place .

 

 

In fact, when one man from Kano was the Military Administrator of Kaduna State initiated a programme of creating chieftaincy institutions for the indigenous people who were complaining that the Ward Heads and District Heads were related to the Fulanis and therefore not doing anything with them. The governor or administrator decided to abolish the traditional institutions controlled by Hausa/Fulani and allowed the indigenous people to have their own traditional rulers from District Head to First Class Emir.if you go there now, you will find out that every traditional ruler except in Jama’a, which is a traditional home of the Fulani for hundreds of years, nobody in Jama’a now who is a Fulani can tell you where his great-great grand father came from because they are indigenes just like every other person there.

 

The other areas have new traditional rulers from among the indigenous tribes who were appointed and they are the people who are ruling.

 

What is your reaction to insinuations that the Ruga programme is designed to create settlement not for the indigenous Fulanis but  Fulanis who have infiltrated our country?

 

These people you’re talking about are living peacefully in their own country. Why should they leave their country where they are living peacefully to a place where there is conflict? Does it make sense? I can’t leave my country where I live in peace to go to another area where there is conflict.

 

What if by such movement you are going to benefit from the conflict like grabbing the land of your hosts?

 

This is why I said, let them show us the Fulanis who are not indigenes and let’s drive the people away. But those raising these accusations cannot be more indigenous than the governor’s themselves who were elected by their people.

 

They cannot like Kano people more than the Governor of Kano State. They cannot like Adamawa people more than the Governor of Adamawa State who was elected by the people.  If the people don’t like him, they would not have voted for him.

 

They did not just vote for him, they also voted for members of the State House of Assembly, members of the Local Government Councils, members of the House of Representatives, members of the Senate and even the President.  So they cannot say we like the local people better than their leaders.

 

 

Have you heard testimonies by some Nigerians including northerners who say that sometimes they encounter some herdsmen who can neither speak Hausa nor English but only French? 

 

Those are lies.  I saw one of such people saying that on television the other day. He was lying. Why didn’t he go to the police station and report them?  What do you do when you find illegal aliens in your country? What do you do when you find people who are breaking the law?  Why not go to the police and say: ‘Look, I saw Fulani from Mali?’  I watched one man who was making such an allegation and he said he met the herdsmen in Katsina State at a community called Kwatarkwashi but that is not correct. 

 

The name of the village is Kwatarkwashi and it’s is located in Zamfara State.  It is about   10 miles away from  Gusau. It is not in Katsina State. The man was just making up the story.  I don’t believe him because it doesn’t make sense to me.  If what he said is true, he should as a patriotic citizen gone to any nearby police station to report what he saw. He could also have interacted with the people around the area to testify whether these herdsmen were Nigerians or not. But he did not adduce any evidence that the people he saw were not Nigerians. He just told that story to raise tempers to bring more unnecessary conflict in our country.

 

Given the nature of our borders, don’t you think it is possible to find Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring Francophone countries straying into Nigeria?

 

Yes, because our borders are porous. The borders are porous across Africa because they are arbitrary.

 

 

Don’t you think that it is possible to have herdsmen from Mali, Niger, Chad and Central African Republic entering Nigeria without authorisation?

 

 

This is speculation; it is not established yet. When the Ruga settlement has been established and we find people other than Nigerians living in the settlement, you can point them out so they can be driven away. The settlement has not been established yet.

 

 

Given the level of opposition and ethno-religious tension the Ruga programme has generated, would you still advise the government to go on with it?

 

 

I want every Nigerian to bring a solution. Government has already proposed Ruga but if it is not acceptable to some people, let those who do not accept it bring their own idea. Let us bring out solutions to the problem. I don’t want to be negative all the time. If I don’t like something, I propose my own idea as an alternative to the thing I don’t like.  They said it’s voluntary but who has the right to deny any Nigerian his right to settle anywhere he chooses to live? 

 

 

People can go to court and say the decision their governor took in allowing Ruga Settlement is wrong and the court can make the pronouncement. The settlement has not been establushed, why should we begin to split hairs on something that is not on the ground? Let us wait first till she it is established. If it is abused, then let us go to the proper authority and complain and see whether action will be taken.

 

 

A few days ago, you were reported to had asked the South East people to accept Ruga or forget 2023 Presidency? Did you really say such a thing?

 

It is correct but I didn’t say if they are opposed to Ruga.  I said that if they are opposed to anything northern, then they should not expect northerners to vote for them and which is a simple truth. It’s true and it will come.

 

It is a great mistake for Chief Nnia Nwodo (President General, Ohaneze Ndigbo ) to begin to attack northerners because of this Fulani matter. In the North, Fulanis do not constitute up to five percent of the population. Why should you attack the entire North because of Fulani?  I’m a northerner and I’ve been fighting for the unity of Nigeria right from 1940 to 1946 when the NCNC (National Council of Nigerian Citizens) came to Kano. I was 21 years old and I joined them from where I joined NEPU  (Northern Elements Progressive Union) and till today, I have been supporting national unity. It us wrong for a young man like Nwodo to ignore me because I have suffered more than him for the preservation of the unity of this country.

 

 

I’ve been to prison 10 times because of my support for national unity. I was either in prison or detained two times under the colonial era; two times during the First Republic; two times during the military era, because of my political activities. I am not one of those people who have gotten everything on a platter of gold. I have travelled round the country sitting at the back of a lorry.

 

 

I went to Sokoto from Kano, sitting on a bench at the back of a lorry. There was no bus in those days. I went from Kano to Maiduguri; I went from Kano to Lagos and to Port Harcourt just to promote national unity. I am grateful to God for giving me life and my children who are looking after me. I don’t need any government position. The last time I held a government position was during the Shagari era and that is over 30 years ago.

 

I’m getting frustrated that some people don’t even know those who fought against the local oppression in this country. I was a member of NEPU right from its inception in 1950. We formed alliance with the NCNC and we were together with the NCNC up till 1966.

 

Some of us have always fought for the interest of this country. Does it mean that I don’t have the interest of my country that I will allow Fulanis from Mali and other countries to come and settle here and drive the Igbos or anybody away from their own lands? Haba. It doesn’t make sense. It is very annoying.

 

What would be your final words of advice to the Federal Government and Nigerians on how to proceed from here?

 

The way to proceed? I doubt know why they suspended the Ruga programme but maybe they want to perfect their strategies before bringing it up again.  I don’t know where the programme will eventually be but if you take Niger State, it can settle the whole Fulanis in Nigeria without disturbing the local community. So the government can forget about the South East. They didn’t ask anybody to vacate his land for the Fulanis. This should be understood clearly.

 

 

My advice to the government is that they should go on with their own proposal but they should be prepared to accept better ideas which anyone may propose to them on how to solve the problem. The intention of the government is to stop the clashes between the Fulanis and farmers; to settle the Fulanis as citizens of Nigeria because they cannot drive them away. But if any one has a better idea on how to solve the problem, let him bring it and let the government implement it.

 

 

 

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How I survived four assassination attempts –Osoba

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How I survived four assassination attempts  –Osoba

Chief Olusegun Osoba, a foremost journalist and politician, is a former Managing Director of Daily Times Newspapers and Third Republic governor of Ogun State. He will clock 80 on July 15. In this interview, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain speaks on his 341-page memoir titled “Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics”, journalism practice, politics and governance, landmarks issues and events in his life, among other national issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports

 

How did you feel celebrating 80 years?

I feel elated that the Almighty God kept my life till now because I had major medical challenges few years ago that could have taken my life. I survived major assassination attempts on my life, which was by the immense grace of God. That is why I take every day as an extra day from God to me and I do thanksgiving daily.

 

Can you give an insight into why you choose journalism as a career while growing up?

I found myself in journalism by accident. I was to study law because my closest teacher in school, the late Chief Adenola Oshuneye, wanted me to study law. He was even furious that I decided to go into journalism because I had gained admission into the University of Lagos to study law, but Alhaji Babatunde Jose persuaded me to jettison the idea of reading law and take up journalism. In my school days at the Methodist Boys High School, Abeokuta, I was a regular writer in the school magazine called “The Magnate”.

What attracted you to journalism because some of your age category said they ran away from the profession because they felt the proceeds from it wouldn’t take care of their family?

The attraction to journalism was the challenge because a good journalist faces challenge every day. Journalism is adventurous and educative; you learn every day. Journalism gives exposure. And for someone, who is streetwise like me, I found journalism a great profession because you have the ability and training to relate with all sectors of the society including armed robbers, prime ministers, parliamentarians and even petty thieves. For instance, I started my career as a journalist covering little crimes. A journalist must be comfortable with all sectors of the society. It is a great training ground that helped me in my years as a politician. Journalism trains someone to be a leader and to be objective. The profession trains someone to accept other peoples’ opinion because most of the times, we publish articles and stories that we disagree totally with. A journalist’s duty is to report issues so that the public would make their judgment.

How did you break the news of the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa?

The story is in my book. People talk of the assassination of Balewa as perhaps the only major story that I wrote. I wrote many exclusive stories. For example, when Joseph Tarka ordered a Mercedes Benz, which became a controversial thing. I exclusively covered the issue. Bolaji Ogunsanwo and I covered the exclusive story. I had many exclusives stories during the civil war and even in my later years when I got to Sketch and Herald Newspapers. The assassination of late Head of State, Murtala Muhammed, and the capture of Colonel Bukasuka Dimka that had held the country to ransom, I was there and I have the full details of all that transpired then. All of these are in my book. When then Military Governor of old Kwara State, Col Ibrahim Taiwo, was assassinated, I was the one who went with the Secretary to the State Government, Obatoyin, to discover his the body on the road to Offa. The case of Shugaba, who was then Majority Leader of the Borno State House of Assembly, who was taken physically and thrown across the border like a stone was another landmark. I witnessed the impeachment of then Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa. There are many others, but there is much emphasis on the Tafawa Balewa case as if it was the only feat. However, it was the major beginning that threw me into the hall of fame.

You said you survived major assassination attempts on your life. Can you give us insight into some of the assassination attempts on your life?

There are people, who I call vicious characters. I named them in my book. One of them is Wale Oshun, who wrote a book and created the impression that I was nobody in the struggle (June 12). (Femi) Okunrounmu, for years tagged me as an Abacha turncoat, because he wanted to be the governor of Ogun State.

I have had occasion to challenge them to state if they suffered as much as I suffered during the struggle. If they suffered as much as I did, they have the right to insult me but if they didn’t go through what I went through, they should keep their mouth shut forever. I have documented the things that happened in my book and I want any of them to challenge the things I wrote and reply in details the way I have put the documentation in this book, the way I have put the names of witnesses.

I was the first to be arrested after the formation of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) by (General Sani) Abacha and I was taken to Kan-Salem House. I mentioned Oba Rilwan Akiolu who was then the Commissioner of Police that gave me his office to use after the closing hour because I was sleeping in a big hall infested with rats. I was the first to be charged to court along with Bola Tinubu and Commodore Dan Suleiman before Justice Sonowo. We were to go to jail but Justice Sonowo ruled on the matter. When we were not given bail, late Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Belgore, intervened and gave us bail. Before then, we were transferred from Kan-Salem House to Alagbon Police Station where we were taking our bath in the open as early as 6am. Apart from Tinubu, Dan Suleiman and myself, there were others who were among us.

Subsequently, the attempt on my life started on August 24, 1994, when Chief MKO Abiola had returned and had then been arrested. We were to go and celebrate his (Abiola) first birthday in detention when he came to my house on the night of August 23 they had attempted to bomb Dan Suleiman’s house on August 22, they had also attempted to set late Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s chamber on fire. When all theses attempts on Fawehinmi and Suleiman had occurred, I went into hiding.

I was lucky to have escaped because they were out to eliminate me but I was not at home. They gained access into my house without using any key. Unfortunately, the State Security Services (SSS) attached to me as a former governor, Stephen Itokpa, didn’t know that the invaders were security people; he engaged them in a shootout but after exhausting his ammunitions, he escaped through the fence. That was the first attempt on my life in 1994. The rest I didn’t know until Sergeant Rogers, the government’s hit man came to give evidence in court and Tell magazines did an interview where he revealed     all that transpired.

The third attempt was September 1995 when they wanted to set my house on fire in Abeokuta. I also managed to escape because I didn’t sleep early on that day. I just heard a spark and smoke engulfed the entire room. I have all the narrative in my book. The fourth attempt was the evidence given by Rogers in court that they were sent out to go and kill late Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, myself, late Publisher of The Guardian Newspaper, Dr. Alex Ibru, Bola Ige and others.

Another time was when they followed me to Shagamu Interchange because they wanted to get to a quiet place to do their job. Unfortunately for them, the military boys at the checkpoint recognised me and asked me to go. As a result of the few minutes they were stopped, I drove away. Four times I escaped attempted assassination. So when Oshun and Okunrounmu start talking, I look at them as small boys in the struggle. If they didn’t go through the kind of things I went through, they should remain silent.

What about the reports about several attempts on your life during the administration of former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel?

He accused me of wanting to kill him on October 19. 2003. It was a lie. He got me arrested and I was taken to Zone 2. It was a makeup story by Gbenga Daniel but it is all over. They are all in my book.

 

How come the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, described you and two others as three musketeers?

I keep saying that the three of us were the youngest people, who were close to Awolowo. Of the living, those closest to Awolowo, who are my elders are Lateef Jakande and Ayo Adebanjo. The Awolowo family knew that we dined with Awolowo and got tutelage from him. We did our ‘P.hD’ in public life by being mentored by him. He made us part of all Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), organs. There was no organ of the party that the three of us did not belong to. I can challenge them to produce the kind of photographs I took with Awolowo in Yola. I was with Papa Awolowo in Ikenne during the last broadcast that he made before 1983 election. I have the action photographs of those events. Can any of them produce such photographs? I have the record of all the minutes of UPN. I want people to react to my book and I want anyone who is going to react to counter the things I said with documents. If I were to use the photographs it would become a voluminous book. If I were to use all the documents I have, I would have ended up writing an encyclopedia. But I restrained myself from using much documents.

How would you describe the impact of your parents and that of others, who added value to your life till this moment?

I give the greatest thanks to my father, who was a disciplinarian. We were trained to wake up at 6:00am in the morning. Most times, we woke up before 6:00am and still remained in bed but when we hear the sound of his footsteps, we would wake up to avoid being flogged. He taught me how to be frugal. For example, when I was in secondary school, he always told me to go to UTC and Learnads Stores to find out the prices of shoes before making my choice. He chose the cheapest ones. I learned from him that the best material to use is guinea brocade and Aso Oke.

My mother was a reserved person who taught me how to respect people. Another great influence on me was my uncle, Joseph Ayo Babalola. People don’t know that I am related to him. He was one of the founders of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). I spent most of my holidays with him. He was the one who named me Oluwasegun, because my mother had some children before me who did not survive. Joseph Babalola named me Oluwasegu, saying I would survive.

 

I am 80 today and I am grateful to God and Prophet Babalola. The religious aspects of my life were learned from Babalola. The rascality side of my life was learned from Lagos. I was a member of virtually everything. I have a picture of myself, which was taken in 1964, when I was a member of Alakoro Boys and Girls Club in Ebute Ero. We were trained on how to be streetwise. We were trained on how to serve humanity and how to serve the people. My exposure was not limited to academic as I was virtually involved in many societies including Red Cross, Scout, Debating Society, and Yoruba Cultural Group, among others. I had broad education.

To what extent did the legendary doyen of Nigerian journalism and Chairman of Daily Times Newspaper, Alhaji Babatunde Jose influence your rise in journalism?

Alhaji Jose stopped me from studying law and immediately made me to go to University of Lagos in 1965. Alhaji Jakande brought the International Press Institute Training at the Nairobi to Lagos. We were the pioneer people, who studied journalism in University of Lagos. The course later metamorphosed into the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Lagos. In 1965, expatriates were sent from the International Press Institute in London to the University of Lagos. And at the time I left the University of Lagos, Alhaji Jose sent me to the United Kingdom for a course under the Commonwealth Press Union. Within two years of joining Daily Times, I had done two major courses in journalism. As at 1970, I had gone to Indiana University, Bloomington for another diploma course in journalism.

It was as if Alhaji Jose was preparing me early for something big in journalism. When people say that I didn’t go to the university, I wonder if someone who attended these institutions and attended Harvard University for a postgraduate course is not educated in their sight. What did they do that I have not done. To have been qualified as Niemen fellow is one of the greatest honours in America because the fellowship is limited to 15 people annually and I did a year postgraduate course in Havard University.

But Oyebola has said severally that Jose liked you more than him…

They said I was Alhaji Jose’s lapdog. That was why I decided to go to Herald after the crisis in Daily Times to prove myself. If I was that lapdog or favourite, who didn’t know the job, how come the paper succeeded? Without being immodest, there is no newspaper I managed that I ever collected subvention from the Federal Government. I made profit in Herald and turn around Sketch when I started managing it. At Sketch, I build new office complex, and bought new equipment. By the time I came back to Daily Times, the NPN had destroyed it but I turned it around to the extent that we were paying dividends to shareholders.

Would a man, who didn’t know his left and right and who they said became editor by favouritism, have been able to lead Daily Times? I am proud to say that I am one journalist in Nigeria, who managed three major newspapers and made them profitable. I paid salaries as and when due and provided housing and car loans.

Apart from managing three successful newspapers, I am involved in The Vanguard and The Guardian, which are major newspapers. When people talk, they don’t know that the idea of starting The Guardian was Alex Ibru and mine. That was why the managing directorship was reserved for me for years.

Can you recall your days as a member of the defunct Constituent Assembly?

That was the beginning of my foray into politics. I was a member of the Peoples Solidarity Party (PSP), which metamorphosed into Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Would you now say that two party systems is better?

Two party systems are the best for Nigeria. That is why I said the mistake Babangida made on June 12 was destroying the political engineering that was put in place by Dr. Cockey. The two-party systems placed the progressives on one side and the conservatives on one side. At that time, nobody defected from SDP to the National Republican Convention (NRC) or from NRC to the SDP.

Nobody did that no matter the problem in the respective parties because the ideological divide was very clear. For example, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor became a senator with two votes. The primary that was used then was the Open Ballot system where people queued behind the candidates of their choice to vote.

What happened was that Wahab Dosumu was in the forefront to win but there was a disagreement, which made them to boycott the primary. Bucknor-Akerele stubbornly said she was not going to boycott and only two people queued behind her and she won because the SDP said they were boycotting. Her two votes were upheld and she became a senator. In spite of that, neither Dosunmu nor the other person left the party. The party still accepted Bucknor-Akerele despite the fact that she was not the first choice.

If we had gone with the two parties system, Nigeria would have been a better country today. There was only a little difference between the number of SDP and NRC governors. It was also the same in the Senate. The caliber of those, who became governors at the time were high-caliber people. Chief John Odigie-Oyegun (Edo), Chukwuemeka Ezeife (Anambra) and Saidu Bada (Katsina) were all retired Federal Permanent Secretaries. The late Dabo Lere of Kaduna State was a retired General Manager Essential of Commodities. Shaba Lafiagi of Kwara State was the General Manager of Bacita Sugar Industry. I was the Managing Director of Daily Times. Sir Michael Otedola, who governed Lagos State, was a Personal Assistant to Awolowo. Bamidele Olumilua (Ondo) had a successful Foreign Service career. I can go on to name other governors who were people of high caliber exposure. It is different from what we have now.

How do you feel returning as governor in 1999, six years after the aborted Third Republic, which led to sack of civilian administration?

Abacha kicked us out on November 17, 1993. Six years after, the state asked me to come back. In any of my elections, I was never challenged in court. In 2003, I won the election but Obasanjo wrote the figures. The details are in my book.

You once said that you grew up with top military of the leaders of the old. Since you were close to them when they were in leadership positions as young people, how do you feel hearing their names often mentioned anytime Nigeria’s leadership crisis is discussed?

Of course the military was in control for many years. Two weeks ago someone said that I was a security agent during the military era. What they don’t know is that many of these officers were Second Lieutenants when I became famous as a result of the Tafawa Balewa story in 1966. I met some of them in 1961 when I went to Cameroon for Man’O War drills.

I always tell them that they are Generals in the military while I am a Field Marshal in my profession. These are people who I grew up with. (Ibrahim) Babangida was one of them. The greatest “terror” in our days was Air Marshal Abas. That was when we used to visit nightclubs all over Lagos. How can I now be an agent of the people I grew up with? Is it not insulting?

For instance Babangida and I had interesting social life in Lagos as young people. For instance, in the war front, General Danjuma (rtd) was a Major serving under the late General Shuwa at the First Division, which was the first military formation to start the war. I met all of them in the war front. Danjuma was then a field Lt Colonel, can the man I met in the war front intimidate me?

I had hobnobbed with Tafawa Balewa, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Okotie Eboh and others in the parliament, how could my mates intimate me? I covered Sarduana of Sokoto and Awolwo as well as moving with other high people. Those who called me an agent are limited in scope, they lack contacts and they are envious that I had contacts and influence.

As at 1964 I had a telephone, which made it possible for me to relate with ministers and other top people. Wikileaks have been releasing names of agents, have they ever found my name on the Wikileaks list? As the officers were growing in the military, I was also growing in my profession. They must be stupid to think that I was a military apologist. I couldn’t have been an apologist and still ran successful newspaper businesses.

 

With these explanations, are you dismissing the insinuation that you are a military apologist?

 

They must be stupid. If I were a military apologist, would I have been able to run newspapers under the military regimes and made profits, which means that what I was giving out was acceptable to the readers. I replied them in my book. For instance, every newspaper has its editorial policy and all staff in the paper must lean in the direction of that policy otherwise you leave. There is no newspaper that is totally free. The freedom of any reporter stops where the editorial policy of the paper starts.

 

Those saying that we that run newspaper under the military regime are military apologists don’t know anything. I think I deserve some respect from those tagging me as a military apologist because of the achievements I recorded in all the newspapers I managed under the military without collecting subventions from governments. We walked a tightrope under the military governments and still made the newspaper profitable.

 

Was there a pact between the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 and did he betray you?

 

That is stating the obvious. It is in my book. In fact the last chapter is on the issue of how Obasanjo hoodwinked all of us. He deceived us by promising true federalism, fiscal responsibility and genuine census and our leaders believed him.

 

The pact we had was that he would do major restructuring in his second term but he failed us. I have no regrets that he did what he did to truncate our second term because my landmark achievement of projects across Ogun is still a benchmark of a successful governor. I have had two governors 16 years after I left office but if you go to any village in the state they will still refer you to what I did for them.

 

I thank God that Obasanjo truncated my second term but that made me relevant even at 80. How many of my pairs has God given that grace to be respected to still remain relevant and endowed to see through all manner of tribulations that I survived?

 

How do you view the situation of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, which is divided today?

 

Our elders started the breakup of Afenifere with Bola Ige issue. The D’Rovans election was the beginning of the end of Afenifere. The details are also in my book but I feel bad that even in his grave, Ige is still been attacked in writing.

 

And I have challenged the Afenifere elders how many young people are with them now and whom would they hand over the leadership of the group to? When we all go there would not be an Afenifere because our attitude does not accommodate contrary opinion.

I will give you examples, we the Afenifere were registered under AD and Oyegun was part of us. We had a meeting in Kaduna where Oyegun made a suggestion that AD needed a spread to enable it win the presidential election and why don’t we collaborate with the All Peoples Party (APP) under Mahmoud Waziri? If you see how our elders lambasted Oyegun to the point that he was kicked out of AD yet Oyegun suffered more than anybody in exile.

 

He was kicked out and at the end of the day our father didn’t provide alternative because they are one-way thinkers. But they later returned to what Oyegun had suggested earlier but by then the elected APP governors were against us.

 

If they had cooperated with us, there was no way Obasanjo could have won the 1999 presidential election. That is why I always hit hard at all the elders that they are the ones who destroyed AD’s opportunity of winning the 1999 presidential election because the whole country had conceded the presidency to Yoruba and Olu Falae was in the forefront to win. Our leaders were always one-way route and once you come up with alternative suggestion, you become an enemy. They don’t read history. When you are fighting for a course, there must be alternative agenda.

 

Take for example, restructuring; we are all for restructuring and true federalism and you keep saying you want it right and now. Is there any provisions in the constitution where the president is empower to decree restructure?

 

I have been telling them to let us engage the National Assembly but they will go to the pages of the newspaper shouting to the top and by the time these elders met the 8th National Assembly under Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara the Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively late last year and discovered many of the things that have been done and how far the lawmakers have gone to approve certain provisions in the change of the constitution they were surprised. I challenged them to come out and tell me what they came out with after their engagement with the National Assembly. This country, whether the 1999 Constitution is perfect or not, we have to engage the National Assembly to get restructure even if we want referendum.

 

The legislature is the only body that can pass an act and cede its powers to that referendum. They will shout and when election comes they cannot produce a single legislator. Which way are we going get this nation restructured?

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has given us example when he was the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Lagos State. They went to court to get a lot of things changed. They got the Supreme Court to rule that local government is out of the control of Federal Government but for the state and Tinubu created Local Government Development Council (LCDA), which I also replicated in Ogun State. Osinbajo also gave example of how Lagos got the Supreme Court to rule that all federation money must go to the state and they succeeded. Why is it that our elders don’t think and many of them are lawyers? I am still waiting to see how we can restructure without engaging the National Assembly.

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Sunday Extra

Lagos-Badagry Road where residents pay N200 to be piggybacked out of flood

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Lagos-Badagry Road where residents pay N200 to be piggybacked out of flood

• I make over N4, 500 each day for backing people –Cart-pusher

• Bad road, flood affecting our business –Traders

• Road reconstruction inflicting much pains on us –Motorists, pedestrians

 

Eking a living by backing pedestrians and customers on their back to cross the flooded areas of Lagos–Badagry Expressway, particularly at the popular Lagos Trade Fair Complex’s junction, is what jobless Nigerians do to survive the harsh economic conditions. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

Residents, motorists, traders, customers and pedestrians along the Lagos–Badagry Expressway, particularly at the popular Lagos Trade Fair Complex’s junction and Alakija ‘under bridge,’ are currently suffering the outcome of continuous flooding of the axis caused by 10-year-old road reconstruction project.

This situation has spurred a number of jobless youths, who resorted to carrying pedestrians on their back as a mother would back her suckling as a source of livelihood.

The flooding of the axis which gave rise to the situation has been blamed on the snail speed with which the Lagos-Badagry Expressway rehabilitation projects is being executed by China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), which was awarded in 2009.

According to some residents, traders and motorists who spoke to Sunday Telegraph on the suffering of the masses as a result of the manner and attitude with which the project is being executed on the axis.

“This is what we face every day going to work or going to market. Those who have cars will pack it at home and board either commercial bus or motorbike to anywhere they are going to because of this flooding and destruction of our roads. I can’t say if this project is still on or it has been cancelled because I can’t imagine that it’s still on after the government told us it would end within four years,” said Mrs. Bukola Oluwanishola.

Bukola, who laments the delay and neglect of residents around the axis, is of the belief that the contractors and other casual staff who are part of the road reconstruction will do better if monitored by the government at all levels to ensure that motorists and other road users will face less suffering going about their daily businesses on the road which has become valley of death.

She said irrespective of how gorgeously one is dressed; he or she has to face the decision making whether to pay N100 and pass through the flood on the back of a poorly dressed cart-pushers or kaya, or remove his or her shoes and walk like Israelites walked through the red sea.

“We now go out with slippers in our bags while wearing shoes so that we can change to slippers when crossing the water. But for me, I prefer to be backed across the flood than putting my leg in that water regardless of my weight,” she said.

“It’s the same water that people defecate in and spiritualists throw in their sacrifices that I will put in my legs. I can’t. We are begging the state and federal governments to do something about the manner this people break our roads and leave them unattended to,” she added.

More so, during Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the scenes, especially at the ‘underbrigde’ Trade Fair, a number of pedestrians were seen trying to maneuver the narrow pavement alone.

In the process, a number of unaided pedestrians ended up inside the water. Those who could part with N100 or N200 as the case may be were backed out of the water while some others stood on the pavement and held their client’s hand in order not to fall victim.
Sunday Telegraph observed a woman who was on the pavement while the cart-pusher was carrying her load on his head, held it with one hand and used the other hand to hold the woman as they walked together to cross the flood.
According to Mrs. Chikwue Uga, this has been the situation of the axis, especially whenever it rains.

She said, “If you must pass through this axis, you have to put off your shoes and sandals. For us who have noticed the situation, we don’t bother to put on shoes except for strangers in the axis. In one situation that a vehicle broke down inside the water, it was the malams that back the passengers out of the water before they could board another vehicle in the front.

“They paid N100 each to cross. You can imagine how the abokis dress and look but when it happens, you do not have any other option than allow them to bring you out of the water. This is what we suffer here.”

For a motorist, Mr. Rafiu Alabi, who plies the road on daily basis, there is no punishment as asking one to drive through the road. He stated that while one is negotiating with the truck drivers and containers, they risk armed robbery which has been on the rise since the motorists can’t speed off. `

He said, “Those working on these roads do not care about the motorists. They dig up holes everywhere without thinking of damages it does to our vehicles. Sometimes, you would have traveled far before you discover that the road has been closed. Of course, you can see what is happening here. We have to pay people back masses like babies across the water.”

While some people pay for carrying them like a baby on the back, in another location, one has to climb the narrow canal pavement, and another person will be inside the waist-level water and holds his or her hand so that his feet does not slip off the pavement and falls inside the water. This is done at a service fee of N50. With load, the person will pay according to his load, say N500 or N100.

“I make over N4, 500 every day for carrying people at my back. They fear water but I don’t fear water. I make money by entering water. So because there is water, people don’t follow here again,” said Ishaku Ishaya.

Until this lucrative business, Ishaku, was a cart pusher, who was unable to make such amount of money in one day being a cart-pusher. But he can now stay at a place and    make more money.

“All those fine girls that used to do shakara are my customers. I carry them on my back,” he said.

“Anytime rain falls, I became happy because I know I will make more money. To some people, I will collect N100 but if you are heavy or carry load, I will charge N200 or N300. That woman I helped now paid N150 because of her load,” he added.

In the same manner, traders at the market said they are losing money as soon as rain falls as customers don’t come out considering the state of the roads.

“Like yesterday, I was sleeping in my shop all through the day. You an igbo so you will understand. No right thinking person will visit Trade Fair on a day like this except what he wants is matter of death and life,” said Ikechukwu Obioma, a trader at the Complex.

At Alakija under bridge, containers fall down on regular basis as a result of deep potholes on the road which are not tarred. The hole appears as if they were dug purposely. One expects that as the work is going on the under bridge which is the only link for vehicle negotiating to Old Ojo Road or back to Mile 2 and the ones coming from Badagary to Mile 2, Festac, Ago, Ejigbo and other areas.

Responding, the General Manager of the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC), Mr. Bill Bian promised to speed up work and ensure palliative measures to ease traffic in the course of the project.

Bian said the scope of work included provision of Lay-bys, pedestrian bridges, flyovers, toll plazas, road signs and traffic lights.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat has urged residents to cooperate with road contractors and help monitor the continuation of the reconstruction of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.

He said the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration had recognised the importance of the project and promised to ease the inconvenience being faced by citizens on the road.

He said: “You will recall that on June 2, just three days after the inauguration of the Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, we were here to show Lagos residents that this s a critical road for us, and that work will start again on this road. We are here today to fulfill that promise.

“As you recall, it’s a massive road project, from four lanes to 10 lanes. It’s a 60km lane from Eric-Moore all through to Okokomaiko. This is to say that we will again begin work on this road, and by the grace of God, the road from Agboju to the Lagos International Trade Fair will be completed by the end of this year, from four to 10 lanes.

“Then, palliative measures will be put in place from Trade Fair to Okokomaiko to make the road motorable for our people while construction will be going on.”
He noted that the state and Federal Government are working to make the road accessible to border Seme roundabout.

“As at today, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, which is in charge of road maintenance, has awarded the rehabilitation of the four lanes from Igbo-Elerin to Agbara.

“This is because on that axis, you have pipelines and various infrastructure that need to be preserved, but at least, it will be motorable for residents and there will be no bottlenecks.

“The Federal Ministry of Works has also awarded from Agbara to Seme border. That will be six lanes. So, this will make it easier for residents to move around without obstructions.”

He urged the affected residents and road users to maintain orderliness, obey traffic laws and cooperate with the contractors handling the project.

He continued: “It is important to note that on our way here, we saw a lot of vehicles facing one-way. In the process, we stopped some of them and their excuse was that “there is no road.’

“Unfortunately, on that same road, we saw a young man that was hit by an ‘Okada’ who was driving against traffic. That young man can be somebody’s brother, son or cousin. So, we cannot say because the road is in a bad shape, we will now break the law.

“In the course of this project, there will be diversions, and we are appealing to citizens to be patient and cooperate with the contractors so that people will not get injured, because machines will be moved in here.

“We need to cooperate to make the work easier for quick delivery and for the benefit of residents. Help government to monitor the reconstruction project and the pace of work, send SMS to us so we can take action,” he said.

Furthermore, the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Olujimi Houtonu, said the road was one of the gateways of Nigeria that connected Seme, Republic of Benin and other countries in the west coast.

Houtonu said that the road was heavily congested, with a journey of 15 to 30 minutes now taking between three to four hours.

He said: “This extreme congestion has a significant impact on economic activities, reduces the potential for future growth and is largely detrimental on the quality of life of residents on this axis.

“During the period of lull, the right of way and the work done so far have been compromised, and there is urgent need to recover them from shanties erected for illegal trading and habitation.

“There is also refuse and vegetal nuisance that needs to be taken care of to restore sanity to the road. “There will be a task force to maintain order and clear refuse on the road to make it nice for all of us,” he said.

 

 

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Sunday Extra

I trekked 12km to confirm the war has ended –G.U Okeke

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I trekked 12km to confirm the war has ended –G.U Okeke

Chairman, Board of Directors, G. U. Okeke Transport Services Company Limited, Chief Godwin Ubaka Okeke said he ventured into transportation business immediately after the civil war in 1970.
Chief Okeke who is also the Chairman, Board of Directors, ANAMMCO Ltd. said the moment it was announced that the war has ended, he and his brother trekked a twelve kilometre distance from his Adazi-Ani community to Nnewi, Anambra state just to confirm the report.
He noted that after the confirmation that the war has ended, he took his parent’s Peugeot 404 saloon car to Onitsha to check if the family business was still intact.
Chief Okeke said as he was about to return to Adazi Ani, when many passengers going to Enugu were milling around his car.
“They were asking me if I was going to Enugu and it was obvious they are not sure if any other vehicles would come around, so I took eight passengers to Ogbete in Enugu and charged them one pound each.
“Interestingly, when I got to Enugu, immediately the ones I picked from Onitsha alighted, the ones going to Onitsha rushed to my car and I took them charging them the same amount, ” he recalled.
He said he would have made another trip to Enugu that night because many passengers were waiting, apparently stranded.
“In view of what happened that day, I arrived Onitsha from Adazi-Ani as early as 5.00am the next day to resume conveying passengers from Onitsha and Enugu and this was how I ventured into transportation business.”
Okeke said he later bought a Volkswagen Combi bus to convey passengers from Onitsha to Lagos.
“I also introduced two Mercedes 911 trucks for haulage and interestingly that was how my transportation business gathered steam.”

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